Friday, October 30, 2009

Sleep is King: An extra hour!!!

Regular readers of this column know of my long-standing love/hate relationship with that ingenious innovation of modern man called Daylight Savings Time.

This weekend, we will once again conclude the annual practical joke we play on ourselves. DST is a harmless hoax, because we’re all in it together.

For my part, I hate it in the spring, but I love it in the fall...or at least I love or hate the specific nights when it starts and ends each year. That’s because, in the world of Rod-Boy, sleep is king. (Naps are nifty. Snoozing is super-duper. Dozing is dandy. And the Sandman is simply swell.)

I lost an hour of precious sleep in the Springtime… but this weekend, I’ll get it back. A whole extra hour of sleep. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.

Up until a few years ago, DST was always an April to October occurrence. But the good folks in the United States Congress, realizing they had legislated the only thing in history which actually seemed to work, and was okay with most folks, put their heads together and said, “It ain’t broke… let’s fix it!” “If nearly seven months of DST is working for us,” they wondered, “then wouldn’t nearly eight months work better?”

So we now have our extra hour each day starting in March instead of April, and ending in November instead of October.

Turns out, the end of Savings Time will be right smack dab in the middle of the World Series this year. (The extra hour of sleep will come in very handy for those folks who don’t get enough sleep watching our National Pastime’s most exciting games of the year.)

I was watching Jay Leno a few nights ago, and I saw a comic who apparently shares my fascination with Daylight Savings Time. He did an entire bit on the subject, which puts him in my league, if only in distant second place. (For the record, this past spring, I wrote three different weekly columns on the topic of Daylight Savings Time.)

I didn’t catch the comic’s name, because Leno comes on at 10pm, so, naturally, I was drifting off to sleep. (The mere fact that I was watching Leno makes me old… and old people can go to sleep at 10pm if they want to.) The comic, however, had done some research on the topic, and had determined that, from the beginning of Daylight Savings Time many years ago, if you total all the hours we have saved, we have now saved over 16 years. We ought to start spending some of it, he said. I like the way he thinks.

(It just occurred to me that Jay Leno could be the big winner with the end of Daylight Savings Time, since his new early time slot will all of a sudden be late again!)

As much as I will enjoy the extra hour of sleep, I’m still usually disoriented for a few days each Spring and Fall when the time changes, as I suppose most people are. Consequently, after the November 1st time change, we’re likely to have a nation full of disoriented people two days later… which is ELECTION DAY. Thousands of state and local governments will hold elections on November 3rd. It can’t really be a good idea to disorient the entire population while they’re trying to decide who they want as their leaders. On the other hand, it could explain a lot.

My biggest personal challenge with Daylight Savings Time is being forced to change the time on all the clocks twice a year. Once upon a time, it was much simpler. You just went to each of the three or four clocks in the house, and wound it backward or forward an hour. (When the big hand went around one time, the time was changed by an hour.)

But clocks don’t “wind” anymore. They click. Or blink. Or flash. Or glow. Or reset themselves. But they don’t wind.

And these days, clocks are everywhere. Radio. TV. Computer. Phone. Car. VCR. DVD Player. Microwave. Ink Pens. Alarm System. (And a whole host of newfangled gadgets I see kids with but I’m not sure what they are… but they mostly seem to be called fruit names, like apples and berries.)

Clocks are everywhere, and none of ‘em work the same as the others. You have to figure out how to reset the time on each and every one.

It was hard enough resetting all the clocks when we sprang forward in March and got an extra hour of daylight.

But now I gotta figure out how to set all those clocks in the dark!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mismatched Perspectives

It got a little nippy earlier this week, so I did something I hadn’t done since way back in March: I wore socks.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I haven’t worn socks in my regular daily routine since March, but I have worn ‘em for “dress-up-in-a-suit occasions”… like church or weddings (although, I must admit I don’t wear socks every Sunday like I should.)

Most days, I’ve been wearing flip-flops. That’s one of the advantages of living in the South. And not having a real job.

When the temperature dipped a few weeks ago, I traded in my flops for docksiders and Adidas… but still I didn’t feel the need for socks.

But then finally, this week, my feet were feeling a little frigid… so it was time to visit my sock drawer. Which caused me to start contemplating socks.

It’s not the first time I’ve sat around contemplating socks. I think about socks a lot. (Probably more than most people.)

As I wrote one Thanksgiving, I believe the “sock drawer” is an indicator of how much average Americans have to be thankful for, inasmuch as many people in the world don’t have access to a single pair of shoes, let alone a pair of socks to wear inside the shoes… and certainly not a whole drawer full of socks that average Americans take for granted.

Anytime I find myself nostalging back to the good ole days, invariably my mind lands back in the Sock Hops of the 50’s. Those were great socks. Bobby socks!

Mostly, though, I spend time contemplating socks because I’m frequently looking for one of them to match the other one. It’s not unusual for the sock segment of my morning getting-dressed ritual to take longer than all the other segments combined, including brushing my teeth and combing my hair!!

Ultimately, the socks always win. More often than not, I give up, and end up wearing mismatched socks, which is actually okay with me, because I don’t spend much time looking down at my feet, so within a minute or two of donning the uncoordinated socks, I’ve totally forgotten it.

I figure, what’s the big deal. After all, if I’m wearing socks, it’s a safe bet that I’m also wearing long pants, so the socks are only visible for about a half-an-inch underneath the cuff… sometimes, not at all.

Long ago, I figured out a really simple way to make people completely overlook my mismatched socks: Wear mismatched shoes!

Anyway, while I was contemplating socks this week, a few mismatched thoughts crossed my mind:

-- Socks are the only item of clothing that have a Major League Baseball team named after them. And actually, there are TWO teams, although they both abbreviate their names as “sox”… probably because it got a little embarrassing to them once they realized they were competing with such ferocious mascots as Tigers, Braves, Giants, and Cardinals. (Well, not Cardinals so much.)

-- Socks is one of the most popular names for cats. And, once again, you rarely hear of a kitty named “Pants”, “Shirt”, “Hat”, or “Cumberbund”.

-- When you go to the beach, you can easily spot the Northerners because of the socks. Black socks with Bermuda shorts is NOT a Southern thing.

-- The late Michael Jackson, The King of Pop, single-handedly revived the fad of white socks with black shoes. He made it look cool. Unfortunately, most of his millions of imitators simply look dorky.

-- If you Google the phrase “smelly socks” (on the Electronic Internet which Al Gore invented) you will find over 60,000 websites which mention that phrase. Don’t ask me why I know this.

-- The only one of those 60,000 websites which appears even remotely useful is the one which suggests vinegar, borax, or sudsy ammonia as possible remedies for smelly socks. Don’t ask me why I know this, either.

-- Here’s good news. Although holes occasionally occur in socks, the part with the hole is ALWAYS covered up by the shoes… so it’s always your little secret. (Note to self: Remember not to eat at those Japanese restaurants where they make you to remove your shoes.)

-- In 55 years, I have NEVER thrown away a pair of socks. I have, however, reassigned some single socks to other duties.

-- White tube socks are the best. Although they are frequently mismatched – short, long, stripes at the top, no stripes – nobody ever knows it, because all they can see under the cuff of the pants is white!

As much as I may disdain wearing socks in the summertime – and I do, because I have been told they do not go well with my flip flops – I love ‘em on cold winter nights AFTER I kick my shoes off. Walking around the house in sock feet is one of life’s little pleasures.

At least it’s a pleasure for me. Everybody else in the house keeps offering me vinegar and Borax.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More FREE advice… (and well worth it!!!)

I’m always stunned when I’m invited to speak to local groups or organizations. It happened twice last week. (I usually just assume they have some sort of betting pool: Will he wear socks? Will they match? Will he remember to comb his hair? Will he forget his name?)

I’m even more amazed when people ask for my advice. Of course, usually these people are only pretending to ask for advice, as an entre to asking for money. But, sometimes, even after they realize that I’m broker than they are, they still ask for advice!

Any time I’m asked for advice, I dish it out, fairly comfortable that no one’s gonna actually listen to my opinion anyway. Why would they? I’m old, tired, broke, worn-out, over-weight, crippled, hard-of-hearing and rapidly deteriorating: losing my hair, my teeth, and my memory. I dress shabbily, eat like a five year old, and have the social skills of a gnat. What is it about this picture that would compel anyone to say: “Here’s a good idea! I’ll ask HIM for advice!”????

Still, I sometimes get asked, so I feel compelled to comply. (Keep that card and letter coming in.)

There’s already some pretty good advice floating around out there in the cosmos, if you just know where to look for it. I recommend starting with really famous dead people, like Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.

Franklin, it seems, did little more than sit around all day making up advice to give to people: “Early to bed, early to rise… blah, blah, blah.” It’s sound advice. Boring, but sound.. He wrote entire books of sound advice, much of which, I suspect, was borne of his own personal mistakes. “Never fly a kite when it’s lightning.” Experience is the best teacher.

Lincoln’s advice was plain and simple. He offered gems like: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Good advice. Plain and simple.

Bill Cosby’s not dead, but he offered good advice… about giving advice. He said: “A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice.” Cosby’s smart. Of course, most dentists are smart.

While these famous people, both dead and alive, offer pretty swell advice, it sometimes seems a little over-reaching. Healthy, wealthy and wise are lofty goals… but most people I know need more practical day-to-day advice, like how to make the gas pump come on… or what’s the best color of shoes to wear with your lime-green leisure suit.

So, to help the masses along the way, I am today unveiling:

Rod-Boy’s 21 Axioms for Life
(Free advice, and well worth it!)

1. Time is NOT money. Time is time. But a lot of people TRADE their time for money. Ergo, the old (but incorrect) adage: “Time is money”. Of the two, time is actually worth a lot more than money.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And there ain’t really much big stuff.

3. Wear happy shirts.

4. Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.

5. Remember half the people you know are below average.

6. The sooner you fall behind the more time you'll have to catch up.

7. There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count & those who can't. (That’s not actually advice. It’s just an observation.)

8. Be nice to your kids. They get to choose your nursing home

9. It may be lonely at the top, but you probably eat better.

10. Wear happy shirts.

11. The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

12. If you ever need to make a list of anything, try to make it end up at exactly 21 items… because I think 21 is a lucky number. (Even if you have to include some of the same items more than once!)

13. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

14. The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.

15. Whenever possible, use words like “axiom”, “inversely” and “ergo”

16. A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.

17. Hard work pays off for your future. Laziness pays off now.

18. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal the neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

19. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

20. Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.

21. Wear happy shirts.

That’s it for this week. I’m done. (See Axiom 19.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We don’t need no educashun

Next month, we’ll be celebrating American Education Week, and, of course, I’ll be all “Rah, Rah!! Hooray for schools! Yeah, teachers! Go, team!!!” like the vast majority of the rest of the public. But first, I have a few things I want to get off my chest.

I distinctly remember questions being raised back during my school days about our curriculum. Specifically, the questions posed, about once a week, were: “Why do we need to know this? What good is this going to do me? How will I use this knowledge in the future?”

While plodding through the poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats for instance, we tried to figure out a point to it all. Most of us just couldn’t see these ditties -- classics that they might have been -- factoring into our future earning potential.

How to figure the hypotenuse of a triangle, as another example, seemed like fairly useless information.

And diagramming sentences never made a lick of sense to any of us from day one.

The question of “why do we need to know this?” was generally posed mostly rhetorically, since school-aged kids back then understood very well that they had no say-so in anything. Consequently, the usual answer to these musings – “Because I said so!” – was generally sufficient.

Occasionally, however, some of our more passionate teachers would attempt to explain that, although we couldn’t understand it now, we would, in the future, realize the reason for it and be thankful we had learned these things. (And, once, a teacher told us we need to study all these things in case we were ever selected to appear on a game show like Jeopardy.) But mostly, our mentors just allowed as to how “in our future” we would find this knowledge useful and meaningful.

So, now I’m old -- 55 years old, to be exact -- and I’m still waiting.

I’ve had about a half-dozen different jobs, operated three different businesses, published five newspapers, and done a whole bunch of other things… but I still haven’t figured out when Beowulf is going to come in handy.

Sine and cosine. Tangent and cotangent. Secant and cosecant. Even back then I understood that these things would probably be useful if we were gonna be rocket scientists. But, as it turns out, not a single member of the Lexington High School Class of ’72 actually DID become a rocket scientist.

Not that I’m not thankful for the education I received. I am. And, while the Palmetto State may have ranked near the bottom of the nation all those years ago just as we do now, we all came through it pretty well.

But, as a point of advice to prepare today’s youth for the jobs of tomorrow, I might offer the education professionals a bit of guidance:

Instead of trying to teach all of them the formula for rotating a parabola on its axis, you might want to train some of them to smile when they say, “Would you like fries with that?”

Now, just in case you too spent countless hours studying random topics which you have yet to put to good use, let’s have a little game show of our own: a contest!!!

Read back through this column, and see how many of each of the following you can find:
1. Dangling participles
2. Split infinitives
3. Misplaced modifiers

Send your answers to me by email (

First response with the most correct answers wins a trip to Rhodesia (a country I studied in the seventh grade which, apparently, doesn’t exist any more!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I’m a Gamblin’ Man

I’m undeniably a gambling man. Like most other people who decide to go into business for themselves, I do a little high-stakes gambling every week… you know, like gambling that there will be money left at the end of the week so I can get a paycheck. Most weeks, I lose.

I also gamble on a variety of other things.

Politics, for instance. I spend a lot of time grooming candidates for public office, in hopes that, on election day, they’ll get at least one vote more than their opponents.

And driving. I’m a really bad driver, mainly because, due to my increasing age and the accompanying absent-mindedness that seems to go along with it, my attention is rarely on the road where it should be. Instead, I’m usually somewhere else entirely. Anytime I drive, it’s a gamble.

And cooking. Mostly, the cooking I do involves tossing a slab of meat on the grill. It’s a major gamble whether or not I’ll remember the meat before its burned into charcoal. (See “increasing age and accompanying absent-mindedness” above.)

I do NOT, however, gamble on sports.

It’s football season, and sports gambling is in full swing. But not for me. Believe it or not, I’ve never bet on a sporting event.

We’ll, that’s not entirely true, because in grammar school, we always bet each other five dollars on the outcome of the USC vs. Clemson game. Only, we never paid off the bet, nor were we expected to, because none of us had ever even owned a five dollar bill, much less squandered one away in a bet. To us, “betcha five dollars” was simply a figure of speech… certainly not intended as a promissory instrument of any kind.

I don’t oppose wagering on ballgames. I think it should be legal, if that’s what you want to do. When I’m on a cruise or at some faraway destination, I have been known to light up a casino or two. (I should point out that I’m not a high-roller. I usually start small… and end up smaller.)

But sports betting lost me when I discovered what they called “the spread”. To me, “covering the spread” had always meant what I did with the strawberry jelly on top of a layer of peanut butter and a slice of bread. But now, it suddenly meant a “point spread”: my team not only had to WIN… it had to win by a certain number of points.

“So let me get this straight,” I remember asking myself, “If the Gamecocks win by 3 points, but the spread was 4 points, even though they won, I would lose my bet?”

Then I said to myself, “Self! You don’t want no part of that!”

It got worse.

As I investigated further, I discovered that lot’s of times, the “point spread” was not just a number, but it was a number and a half. For instance, they would say, “The Cowboys are a 5 ½ point favorite” or “The Falcons are a 4 ½ point underdog”.

I’ve watched a whole lot of football games in my 55 years, but I have never seen a team score half-a-point.

But then a light went off, and I figured out exactly what was going on here: It’s a money-making scheme!!! That half-point, I’m guessing, is sorta like everybody betting on those red or black spaces on the casino’s roulette wheel, when all of a sudden – KERPLUNK – the little ball lands in the green slot, and everybody who bet on red or black loses! I think it’s the same principle.

The point of betting on the game, I’m told, is to make it more interesting. I always thought that’s what the cheerleaders were for. Just sit closer to them, if you want it to be more interesting!

At my age, I probably don’t need ballgames to be too much more interesting. It couldn’t possibly be good for the heart.

Imagine the strain the following football game scenario could place on my cardiovascular system:

WHAM! My team intercepted a pass with 11 seconds left and runs it back 87 yards for the winning touchdown! BLAM! But they didn’t cover the spread, so I just lost the thousand bucks I bet! SLAM! The cheerleaders don’t know the games over… they’re still out there shaking their all-overs to the rhythm of “Beat It.”

Instant heart attack, except for….

SHAZZAM! Due to my increasing age and the accompanying absent-mindedness that seems to go along with it, my mind has wandered to a recent documentary I watched on The History Channel, and I’ve completely missed all three of the preceeding events, avoiding the heart attack and likely saving my life.

Now I wonder if I can persuade my bookie that “betcha a thousand dollars” was just a figure of speech.