Sunday, August 11, 2019

I Love my Jorts, and I'm Not Ashamed to Say It....

Why have 'jorts' (or 'jeans shorts', for those unfamiliar with the slang) gotten such a bad rap the last few years? I never understood the furor over wearing them. Here's an example - look up 'jorts' in the Urban Dictionary and you get, for sentence usage, this pearl -

Dude, why are you wearing jorts? You look like a douche.

See what I mean? Here's another example, in a tweet I recently came across -

I thought my uber driver said he was buying a pair of $900 jorts but he actually meant Jordans. I don't know which one was worse.

Why the uproar? Everyone likes wearing jeans, right? And most men I know live in shorts in the summer.... So why has the combination become so toxic in society today? I think it is essentially sexism - no one complains when a lady wears jorts, right? Especially if they are Daisy Dukes.

I will admit that a few years ago, I put away my jorts, much to the relief of my wife and children. My daughter, especially, was so thankful she almost cried when I told her. But I started wearing them again last year because, dang it, they are JEANS, and I like jeans but they are too hot in summer.... So, my riveted, 5-pocket Wranglers are back on me, and I love them.

Hmmm, maybe that is the issue, the fact that they are Wranglers...? Maybe if I spring for a pair of Lees.....

Monday, July 31, 2017

Driving in New Jersey

I wrote this back in 2012 (hence the quaint reference to 'MapQuest') but it is still true today...

Why New Jersey Hates Cars
By D. J. DiBiase

First off, let me state that although I am not a native New Jerseyian, in the 16 years I have lived here, I have come to enjoy it. (New Jersey is really more a state of mind than an actual physical place, although if you look at page 66 of my 2006 Rand-McNally atlas, you will indeed see a multicolored picture of a state claiming to be New Jersey.) But I digress.

The roads are not designed for cars in New Jersey. Have you heard of jughandles? No, those are not the protruding lumps of flab that stick out from your side, and I’m not talking ears. Jughandles are the way you turn left by going right in New Jersey. In other words, to make a left-hand turn, you must bear to the right on a curving road where you will just miss the green light to cross and therefore have to wait 10 minutes for it to change back to green.

Not a difficult concept to understand, and not a bad idea. The problem is that frequently, there are no jughandles and to turn left, you actually must ‘turn left’! This maddening lack of consistency causes you to have to straddle several lanes of traffic as you approach an intersection, until it becomes clear where you must go – whether to dart right to use a jughandle or shoot left to get into a left-turn lane. This causes many two-lane roads to become one-lane roads as drivers straddle both lanes in an attempt to keep their options open. Of course, if by some chance you cannot dart over to the right to use the jughandle and decide, ‘No biggie, I’ll just take the jughandle at the next intersection’, well, of course, the next intersection will have a left-turn lane which you will miss because you’re in the right-hand lane (behind a straddler) so you can get to the jughandle which isn’t there…. This could continue until you reach Bergen County or Delaware, depending upon your direction of travel.

Of course, you won’t know that you’re in Bergen County or Delaware because the signs indicating your location are probably faded to the point of obscurity. When I moved into the state, I wondered for months why they went to the trouble of hanging these large greenish-whitish boards next to the stoplights or on poles at intersections. Then a native told me they were the faded street signs. Oh.

Speaking of signs, New Jersey has a system of secondary roads that are maintained by each separate county (21 of them in NJ). These roads are marked by highly-visible dark blue signs with Gulden’s mustard-colored lettering, and they are approximately 12 inches by 12 inches in size and generally behind overgrown roadside vegetation. The Route numbers generally don’t show up on popular navigation sites such as MapQuest or Google Maps. The roads occasionally change route numbers when you cross a county line, and are more generally known by their street names (which also change). So, if you’re driving on Route 613 in Monroe, it will also be known more commonly as Spotswood-Englishtown Road in Spotswood or Devoe Avenue (also in Spotswood), depending on where you are. If you’re driving through Jamesburg and take a left onto County Route 612, it starts as Pergola and ends a few miles later as Matchaponix. Yet no one refers to it as Route 612! And while Beach Avenue in Cape May maintains it’s name on it’s entire length, because it is interrupted by erosion in the center, the part to the east is called West Beach Ave, while the part to the west is called plain old Beach Ave.

One of the major north-south roads in New Jersey is the Garden State Parkway. Being a Parkway, it is cars-only, no trucks. Umm, except for coach buses, which apparently are cars and not trucks. Except that they are extremely wide and the lanes on the GSP are slightly narrower than the norm (and your average full-size pick-up truck). Also, there are numerous bridges crossing the GSP, many of them an attractive stone-arched design. Of course, the height of the archway is tallest in the middle, so you can be cruising down the middle lane of the GSP at a leisurely 75, being passed like you’re standing still, when a bus blows by you. If you’re approaching one of these bridges, you need to immediately slow down as the bus will slew into your middle lane to ensure it will clear the bridge. Since you’re struggling to just stay in your lane because of the wake turbulence generated by the bus, it’s usually not an issue.

It is apparently a statute that all new developments in New Jersey have curbs made from Belgian block, which is a rough squared-off stone intended to decorate the side of the road and provide multiple, daily opportunities to shred tires and wheels. No other area I have lived in has as much of this miserable stuff. Having personally holed a tire when parking (albeit badly) at a doctor’s office, I can attest for the dangers inherent in Belgian block curbing. All four of the wheels on my Audi are marked, to various degrees, by their encounters with the curbs around the state. Because they even use it at the end of the driveway, I have a 3-inch lip that I have to negotiate just to park in my driveway (which I generally do looking over my shoulder to see if the neighborhood teens are screaming around the corner in their riced-up Civics as I inch my way over the lip).

Have you ever gassed-up in New Jersey? No, I’m not talking about the late, great Dayton Diner but our filling station industry. You know, the ones where you’re never allowed to pump your own gas? Admittedly, when it’s 10 degrees and the wind is howling, it’s certainly a benefit. But mostly it’s a curse to those of us that don’t like the sides of our cars stained and paint peeling from overflows and drips of gasoline from ham-handed pump jockeys. Or asking for premium and getting a tank full of regular rot-gut and having to live with the mistake through 350 rough-running miles. Or wondering why exactly they need your credit card when they start pumping, if not to run off 73 copies of illegal cards now sporting your credit card number.

One of the most exciting aspects of driving in New Jersey is the new driver’s road test. This is done on a road course set up next to specific Motor Vehicle Commission offices. The potential driver gets to navigate this road course with an evaluator sitting in the passenger’s seat, while the parent paces up and down on the walkway outside the test building, watching this process proceed, muttering under his breath ‘Use your blinker, use your blinker!’ ‘Slow down!’ Look both ways at the stop sign!’ And finally, the parallel parking! ‘Cut the wheel! Cut the wheel! Now the other way! No! NO! Too sharp an angle! Arghhh!’ I’m sure they have a defibrillator on site.

New Jersey is a wonderful place to live and visit, as long as you don’t have to drive here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Random Thoughts

A lot going on in my mind these days....

For some reason, I always set the climate control setting in my car to an odd number (71 degrees), while the radio volume is always an even number (12).... 

In the glut of ads for prescription drugs, a couple of things disturb me -

- There's the ad with the guy refurbishing an old house - looks like Kansas or something - where he removes a fireplace piece that supports the mantle - a curlicue sort of wooden piece - and takes it to be restored. But he only removes one - they show it several times during the ad - yet at the end of the ad there are magically two of these pieces restored!

- Another commercial has a woman hiking all through the mountains on trails while they discuss the benefits of this particular wonder drug. The entire time she is hiking, she is holding on to her backpack straps - the ENTIRE TIME.... Who hikes like that? 

- To this day, after years of seeing them, I still don't understand what the bathtubs represent in Cialis commercials.

I don't understand why people put old toilets out by the curb when they replace them - literally the day after garbage collection day! Wouldn't you be embarrassed to have your crappy old toilet (see what I did there?) on display for everyone to admire for a week? That's why there are garages....

It's getting harder for me to believe that Trump and/or the Trump Organization don't owe someone in Russia a lot of money. BTW, who names their company 'Organization'?

I think the smartest person in the world HAS to be Alex Trebek.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Farewell to '324553'

Wednesday, June 28th brought mixed emotions for me. It was the last day of 36 years at IBM - actually, 36 years, 7 months and 25 days to be exact. Or, 13,386 days, to be more exact. The mixed emotions come from not really leaving on my own terms, yet not being able to complain about a long career with mostly highs and very few lows.

I used to think about all of the changes that my grandmother, who was born in 1905, had seen in her lifetime, when she passed a few years ago. I guess I could play that same game. When I started with IBM, there were no personal computers. In my first job, as an Accounts Payable Specialist, I had no computer at all, not even a dumb terminal. That came about a year after I was in the job, and I actually shared a terminal with the person who sat in front of my! We had a 'Lazy Susan' sort of contraption that sat on my desk, that had the terminal and keyboard on it, that we would spin around to use. It was a massive, green-on-black screen sort of beast. Very futuristic-looking as well. Well, 1970's futuristic. 

Smoking was still allowed in the office. I started working in a small room with 2 other people, and fortunately, no one smoked. After about 18 months, I got a new position which moved me out into a bullpen area. Next to me was a guy who smoked 2 packs of cigarettes every day. He would wear those suits that came with 2 pairs of pants and had a reversible vest, and he came in every day with a pack of cigarettes in each vest pocket, and work his way through them throughout the course of the day. I must have smelled like smoke at the end of each day, but don't particularly recall that being an issue.... Just the way things were.

It was also the 'white shirt' years at IBM. Uniforms, indeed. When I got the job, I remember having a conversation with my Dad and him asking me how I was fixed for suits. I said that I had one but also a blazer and slacks I could wear. He almost had a heart attack and sent me money to buy a couple of suits and shirts - white, of course. One day I wore a white shirt with a very light pinstripe - very conservative, button-down, etc - and my boss asked me if I was on vacation that day! 

 My first interview for a manager's job was in Albany NY. In those days, they were not really interviews; if you were on the 'management list' the Area Administration Manager would basically kind of line you up with a branch office that would potentially need a first-line manager around the time you were deemed to be 'ready'. So, I was kind of slotted to go to Albany, NY. The branch Business Operations Manager was a guy named Joe Griggs, who at the time was a fairly hard-drinking character. I drove to Albany in the afternoon (I was working in Waltham MA at the time) and met Joe for dinner at a local restaurant. He was a Jack-and-coke drinker. For some reason, I felt it was important to match him drink-for-drink, so I had 2 beers before dinner then another 2 or 3 with dinner. I remember getting back to the hotel pretty smashed and looking at myself in the mirror thinking, 'What did I do?!'. The next day I was very hung-over, while Joe looked as fresh as a daisy.... I had the 'official' interview, which we had basically done over dinner, a tour of the office and then a sit-down with the Branch Manager. In those days, Branch Managers were like ship captains - they ruled their domains and were the final word. I was really feeling crappier and crappier as the morning wore on, and remember sitting in his office, hung over, with the sun glaring in on me, sweating bullets and being choked by my (white!) shirt collar and the Branch Manager's unfiltered Camels... I remembered nothing about the interview later. But I guess I did ok because I did end up with the job. But it was a premonition because it was probably the worst job I had in IBM, although I did learn a lot of negative lessons from it ("When I'm an Admin Manager I will NEVER....").

Probably one of my favorite memories is how the Area Administration Manager, Marlene O'Toole, cured me of carrying change in my pocket.... I was on the Area staff in Waltham, in the late 80's, after having completed by first-line manager job in Albany. This was a staff job in preparation for becoming a second-line Business Operations Manager. I did a presentation in front of the area managers and apparently was jangling the change in my pocket at one point. The next day, Marlene called me into her office and asked me to take the change out of my pocket and give it to her. So I did. The next day, same thing - asked for the change and I gave it to her. The next day, the same. The fourth day, I finally asked what she was doing and she told me that I had been jangling the change in my pocket during my presentation. I didn't even realize what I had been doing. But it took me 4 days before I realize what SHE was doing! But the lesson stuck, to this day I do not carry any change in my pockets! (Interesting aside - Marlene retired in the early 2000's and moved to The Villages in Florida, where she is now their representative in the Florida State Legislature). 

324553? Well that was my serial number (when I started they actually called them 'man numbers'!). Later in my career, you could always tell the old timers by their all-numeric serial number. Nowadays, most have one or two alpha characters. I guess they tell old timers now by having only one letter in their serial number! 

Lots of other stories and memories, but maybe for a later day. They do make me feel better about 'moving on'. IBM was a great place to spend a career, regardless of how it ended. It helped me straighten my kids teeth, house and educate them and gave me access to a lot of skills I used in my daily life and hopefully going forward. I also met and worked with a lot of wonderful people, many of whom are still friends. Can't be bitter about any of that.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Welcome Back.... To Me!

I recently came across the bookmark for my various blogs - one for each of my MGB's, a general auto-related one, and a blog I used to maintain for my son Rob's Scout Troop, Troop 888 in Dayton NJ. And this one. I thought I would resurrect this because, God knows, just like lawyers, we can always use another blog.....

I thought maybe I would restart this by talking about our dog, Bo. We adopted him in October of 2014, about 6 months after our previous dog of 15 years, Dixie, passed away. We felt like it was the right time to do it, and try to fill the void left by Dixie. We are dog owners, and you can't really escape that fact.... They add a lot to our quality of life and I especially enjoyed having some company at home while I work. That was the toughest adjustment for me, not having that daily companion. Just having a dog lying in the study while I worked was very comforting somehow. And dogs are always excited to see you.  

So, Bo. We adopted him from the Humane Society in Tinton Falls, and kind of fell in love with him as soon as we walked him outside of his cage. He seemed to have a good personality, which has been borne out over time. Unfortunately, he had a rough life up until the time he was rescued. He was a bait dog for a fighting ring in Newark, and when he was found, it was apparent that he had recently been in the ring. What they do with bait dogs - raise them to be submissive and when they are old enough, they duct tape their muzzle shut, put tape around their paws (so they can't injure the fighting dogs) and throw them into the pit for the fighting dogs to practice on..... Bo was pretty marked up when he was found, and still bears some scars from his earlier life. He was still pretty shy and submissive when we first got him, but has come out of his shell now and is a lot of fun.

Here is a picture of what he looked like - he's on the cover under his 'previous' name, Aslan -

That's him in the top photo, with the red collar. His story is on page 7. Still disgusts me to read it. He seems like a 'normal' dog now, although he likes to be around us most of the time. Which is fine with us!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Waiting for Joaquin....

Looks like we might have a direct hit from Joaquin early next week.... Last I saw was about a 30% chance for it to make landfall in NJ, as perhaps a Cat2 or 3..... Which would almost be a repeat of Sandy.... Oh boy.... Keep tuned to this (blog) channel for updates......

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Post #3

Noon ET Monday - still just lots of wind and rain, although the wind gusts are definitely stronger than earlier. Study window seems to have stopped leaking. Ran out to get more milk, since Kathleen was afraid we would run out. We normally drink about 1/2 a gallon a week, but since Friday night, when we had 1/2 gallon, they have been drinking it. I assume I will end up dumping this new one down the drain when it goes bad.

A lot of dumb people were out driving around and going to Wawa....