Retirement Refinement..Two Gigs And A Splash

Ed-768x768Two years after “retiring” I now have two new jobs. Both part-time but still, it ain’t exactly lounging on the beach, or playing golf with the other alta cockers or pushing a shuffleboard stick at a condo in Florida.

Regular followers already know I’ve been contributing to Forbes.com since the end of July. Today, the super official news release  went out about my new gig…with the big boy pants title of Integrated Media Consultant at one of Detroit’s leading public relations agencies, Franco PR.

A reasonable person might ask, “what the hell’s the matter with you? You’re retired!” Let me clear that up. I retired from full-time work. I didn’t retire from wanting to use my skills, from creating, from collaborating with smart, creative, courageous people, from being excited at accomplishing something that fills me with pride and self-esteem. So now I have the best of all worlds. I’m old enough to retire from the full-time rat race but not too old to stop moving forward.

I did give full retirement a shot for about three months when I first left Fiat Chrysler but I got so bored I almost longed for a staff meeting. Almost. Well. Never. Then my series of part-time things began and that was just right.

I have just enough free time to be either of use, or annoyance to my wife and family, to go play hockey, paddle in my kayak, jump on my bike, scare myself on the ski slopes and bang on my drums and guitar and still be able to write for Forbes.com to maintain my reporting and writing chops and advise the awesome team at Franco that’s so skilled and open to new tricks..even from an old dog, who’s open to learning new things too.

A little work. A little play. Most afternoons around 3 p.m.? A tall glass of Jack on the rocks. Retirement? Nah..It’s living.

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Caught With Loyalty Stuck In The Cookie Jar

blog_image_4341_9894_Cookie_Monster_Day_Comics_201710241407Oh people, when will you realize there’s a quiet controversy polarizing this nation that goes far beyond the white noise surrounding the White House and directly into the hearts, minds and bellies of anyone who has ever had to take a stand to defend a vital personal choice.

Indeed, once one has chosen an option, that’s it–there’s no turning back and that person becomes a stubborn, surly, inflexible advocate, willing to take you to task for even suggesting some sort of equivocation.

Deep in your heart you know of what I speak, because you are quietly simmering the more you think about it as your pour yourself a cool, calming glass of milk, considering the move that will define you among family and friends with the fear your choice will blow previously warm relationships permanently asunder.

oatmealcookiesI tell you this because a discussion during a recent family meal quickly escalated into harsh words and accusations of questionable loyalty. You see, I innocently remarked I could be perfectly happy eating an oatmeal-raisin cookie. But, aha! My family turned on me with the force of the Pillsbury Doughboy’s belly with the barb, “you say that, but if faced with the choice of an oatmeal-raisin or chocolate chip cookie which one would you choose? Don’t lie! We know no one REALLY prefers oatmeal-raisin. You will guiltily go for the chips!” While not under oath, my personal code did not allow me to fudge my reply as I mumbled, “mmmyeah, like the chocolate chip but ok with oatmeal-raisin….IF NO OTHER CHOICE.”

BAKERY-STYLE-CHOCOLATE-CHIP-COOKIES-9-550x550“What a wimp!,” said a family member. “Your alleged loyalty for oatmeal-raisin is totally conditional on it being the only cookie in the jar. Most sane and honest people would just as soon go cookie-less than descend to the depths of the oatmeal-based outlier.”

Feeling further pressured in this would-be CA…”Cookies Anonymous” meeting I crumbled and admitted to a dalliance with an alluring Snickerdoodle. the-best-snickerdoodle-cookie-recipe-everWas it so bad to stray, just once? But my exposure as someone who cookied-around while trying to pose as an ardent oatmeal-raisin advocate was complete.

I helplessly asked the group, “are you telling me I have to stick with one cookie and make the same choice every single time?”

“Here’s the deal,” the biggest and bulliest family member shot back. “If you’re faced with the choice of chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin, you better pick the oatmeal -raisin. You may be the only one to save it from gathering mold at the bottom of the jar.”

But I suddenly rallied. I noticed something on the face of the family member who first launched the attack, smugly claiming to be a chocolate chip loyalist and fired my coup de grace: “What’s that on your face.??..OREO CRUMBS!” Indeed…there’s no victory for those caught in an argument half-baked.

Going Gut to Gut on Labor Day at Harbor Freight

harborfreightextOn this Labor Day during this second year of my sort-of retirement I would like to announce I sometimes like to labor with my hands–making things like Jack Daniels on the rocks or a thick steak on the grill, but sometimes I’m compelled to perform actual handiwork, building something out of wood or something electrical, yardwork and repairs with tools.

There are others like me and many of them join me in the same club–the mailing list for the bestest, most awesome store for guys with guts, too-tight t-shirts, ballcaps and an active email account. Yup it’s the Harbor Freight mailing list. harborfreightcustomersEvery single week you receive two, three, four pages of coupons that offer discounts on all sorts of stuff you may never need in your life, but crap, those coupons are like catnip for men like me who just like to buy stuff that either plugs in, spins, cuts, bangs, screws or wipes. At the top of the sheet are generally three coupons offering a free item with any purchase. The free item could be a bag of rags, a little battery-powered worklight, even an electric bug swatter in the shape of a tennis racket! labor-day-coupon2012Some are items of no actual redeeming value but you are compelled to buy and item so you can redeem the coupon for the free thing. But here’s the best part, for Labor Day, a one-day coupon offering 25 percent off anything! So off I went with my magic tickets ready to score some great deals.

I needed some cheap gardening gloves, and sure as hell, there was a coupon for $1.99 a pair. Score! My wife requested the free bag of rags. Got ’em, even though I had to fight off two guys with large wrenches in their hands, accompanied, of course, by the appropriate coupons.

25off_laborday_shortNow what would I use that awesome 25 percent coupon to buy? I don’t really need any more power tools, or an ax or even an extension ladder, lathe, plastic tie-downs, tarps, welding torch or drill bits. Ah! I just bought a new bike and there waiting for me was an industrial-strength cable and lock to secure that shiny new two-wheeler. Yes! What’s 25 percent of $10.99? Doesn’t matter. 25 percent is less than 100 percent!  I also ended up buying some attachments for my rotary tool, but there was no coupon for that. Sad face.

Bottom line? The $1.99 gloves and free bag ‘o rags I came for ended up costing me a little over 18 bucks. Bet you can guess who the real tool in the store was. But Harbor Freight, I love ya. Can’t wait for next week’s coupons. I think I really need that bug-killing tennis racket.

John McCain, A Lost POW Bracelet And A Nun

lcdr-john-mccain-iii-pow-mia-vietnam-bracelet_1_3ae852b88998cc38a1c109f98580b218 I had the honor of telling the story for CNN during the late senator’s first run for the presidency. Sadly, the video is long gone, but here is a transcript from when it aired during CNN’s “Inside Politics” Anchor Judy Woodruff read the intro.:

WOODRUFF: As we’ve been reporting this hour, our new poll shows John McCain with the highest favorable rating among the presidential candidates.

For one woman, a nun, the Arizona senator and his name carry special memories.

Our Ed Garsten reports from Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sister Mary Leanne long ago put away and forgot about this POW bracelet she bought back during the Vietnam War.

SISTER MARY LEANNE: This article appeared March 14th, 1973. I cut out the article and said, “Oh my goodness, this is my POW.” So I removed the bracelet, and I put it in a box of treasures.

GARSTEN: But then about three weeks ago, for no particular reason, the nun, who is now a high school principal, felt drawn to that box, and it was a revelation.

SISTER MARY LEANNE: And I said, “Oh my goodness, look who’s bracelet I have!”

GARSTEN: It was the bracelet inscribed with the name of a young pilot shot down and taken captive on October 26th, 1968, a man from Arizona named John McCain. Sister Mary Leanne knew there was only one thing to do. She had her opportunity Monday morning when McCain’s presidential campaign came through Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SISTER MARY LEANNE: I hope that this bracelet does not bring memories of pain and suffering that he endured while a prisoner of war, but to remember that while he was there a young nun in Garfield Heights, Ohio prayed every day for him and his release.

(APPLAUSE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, sister. I’m honored. And I would be doubly honored if you would keep that bracelet so that every once in a while when you look into your treasures, that you would remember me and all my comrades, including those who were not fortunate enough to return. And we still hope you’ll keep us in your prayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARSTEN: Carrying an inscription from the candidate in her copy of his book and what she calls a radiating warmth from finally meeting him, Sister Mary Leanne, previously an undecided voter, promises she will.

SISTER MARY LEANNE: I can’t assure that my prayers are going to get him to the White House, but I’m going to do my best. I’ll do my best.

GARSTEN: Ed Garsten, CNN, Harper Woods, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: Quite a story.

McCain

 

Playing By Baseball’s Numbers–My Personal Sabremetrics

statsWith just six weeks left in the regular Major League Baseball season I’m surrendering–surrendering to the endless babble of numbers, acronyms and abbreviations known as Sabremetrics…or as I call them….”WTFetrics”

As a lifelong fan of the national pastime I was content with knowing a batter’s average, a pitchers earned run average and other stats like how many homers a guy hit, bases he stole and runs he batted in.

I get that things have moved along and we now know esoterica that help managers, owners and players supposedly make better decisions on the field and off. Therefore, I’ve decided to go with the flow and adapt this development to my own life.

I started today at noon with my midday repast. As I lifted my ham sandwich to my piehole I asked my meal mate to take some video on their phones that I could later examine to better understand what I have designated my “Lunch angle.” Could I more effortlessly ingest my ham on rye by reducing the angle at which it enters my mouth? By  adjusting my lunch angle, I might be able to keep my mouth shut longer, thereby allowing me to listen to the gossip being offered before taking another sloppy, noisy bite. I love anything that improves cognition.

Another stat I find useful is how I measure and regulate complaining. I’ve set a hard and fast limit by establishing a firm Bitch Count. When I find myself getting too whiny, I cut myself off after four complaints within an 8-hour period. Then I engage in a self-enforced cool-down cycle by swilling two fingers of Jack Daniels on the rocks. The same goes for anyone I happen to be with. Hit the Bitch Count and you’re cut off–forced to join me for happy hour until you calm down. Could take several rounds.

The one baseball stat I find mind-numbing is OBP, or on-base percentage. Here’s now the pros figure it: On Base Percentage (aka OBP, On Base Average, OBA) is a measure of how often a batter reaches base. It is approximately equal to Times on Base/Plate appearances. The full formula is OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)

In real life one can use a similar formula to measure a person’s inability to use tact or diplomacy or Obtuse Bile Percentage. The formula would be expressed thusly as: OBP= Swear words + Corporate slang + Inappropriate hand gestures / Text messages with angry emojis + Selfish demands + Supportive References to Sean Hannity. A perfect score of 1.000 wins the designation as PTB or Perfect Trump Boor.

My final example is the fascinating, yet polarizing stat known as the WHIF…or Wife plus Husband per Issues Fought. It’s fairly self-explanatory and is considered an important predictor of future evenings bereft of connubial connection.

That’s just a start but I’m sure by the end of the season I will have established a new benchmark for UNR  or Useless Numbers Referenced. Play ball!

Track Me, Google!

googletrackingeyes

Are you upset Google can track your every move? I’ve decided I don’t care. Oh, I’m not naiive. I just look at this situation as an opportunity to have some fun. For instance, when I get in my car today to go buy some bagels, I think I’ll take a route through several church parking lots and the nearby Christian book store. Hopefully, someone at Google will catch wind of this curious route and deduce, “That Jew’s got identity issues..let’s make sure he gets ads for both the kosher deli and dating sites to find a shiksa.” I’m already married to one so Google’s already got the algorithm wrong. I wouldn’t mind knowing where I could buy a box of those tasty communion wafers, though..and a matching wine.

googletrackingI might decide to take circuitous routes to further confuse the nerds in Mountain View, Calif., say, driving to a gun range then directly to a shrink’s office and then Victoria’s Secret. I wonder what conclusions they might draw. Of course, I’m not actually getting out of my car at those places but the little “timeline” map I could call up on my phone would make a nice conversation starter while waiting in line at my ultimate destination..the pharmacy.

As a kid I became fascinated with maps when my uncle sent us a huge atlas of the U.S. that literally weighed 9 pounds. My father was an engineer so we always had pads of tracing paper around and I traced the maps of every state, learned the capitals and major cities and roads. I’m still that way.

When I traveled with my CNN crew they nicknamed me “Rand” as in mapmakers Rand McNally because I’d learn routes and cities I’d been to only once or twice. One time we were going through Findlay, Ohio..a place we hadn’t been to in five or six years, and it was lunch time. Shooter wondered out loud, “where the fuck are we gonna eat in this town?” “Oh,” I chirped. “There’s an Arby’s if you make a left here..about a mile down the road.” “No!” he yelled. “You shouldn’t  know that! Why would you?” “Well,” I replied tartly. “In case we were in Findlay during lunchtime some time.”  Yes, I believe I may have been the model for Google’s location tracking.

So it makes sense I would embrace Google’s awesome ability to basically make a map out of my life and have fun creating nonsensical itineraries just to screw with them.

To be honest, I wish technology had come along this far way back when I was an aimless teenager. Who knows? Maybe it would have helped me find myself.

Survey? My Opinion? Don’t Ask!

CustomersHateSurveysCan I ask you a question? OK. Can I ask you another question? And another, and another and another? If you’re like me, your email box is is stuffed with surveys that seem to pop up almost as soon as you’ve walked into a store, checked out of a hotel, debarked from a flight or stumbled out of a schvitz. It’s getting ridiculous.

One day I expect to receive a survey from my lungs asking how satisfied I was with my last 9,000 breaths and how likely would I choose them to process my subsequent breaths..on a scale of 1 to 5, of course.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a business asking for input as a means of improving their product or service. My only regret is, to respond to every survey I receive would mean answering to my family and friends as to what I’d been doing for the last six days. “Oh, just answering some questions,” I could reply, which would, I’m sure spark the rejoinder, “here’s a question. Are you an idiot?”

2013-12-04-survey

Sometimes I actually warm to the task, especially if I’ve had an extremely positive or negative experience. True story: recently we checked into a mid-priced hotel for a two-day stay. Everything seemed fine…at first. We went about our business for the day and when we returned for the evening discovered a little surprise in the shower..a still-wet washcloth hanging over the tub. Maybe the housekeeper needed to hose off after a vigorous vacuuming of our room, or the hotel offered “pre-soaked terry cloth” as an un-advertised feature. Either way, it was gross. I gently removed it and tossed it in a corner where we would eventually dump the rest of our wet towels. No, I didn’t ring up the front desk because honestly, we had a full schedule and didn’t want to get involved. I also knew I’d be receiving a survey by the time we got home, which we did.

In the section asking if there was anything about my stay that was less than satisfactory, I related my encounter with the wet wash cloth. The next day I received a very apologetic email from the manager who asked if I’d like to have a phone conversation about the incident, I guess, so she could ask me more questions. Seems pretty cut and not-dry. What more could she ask? Maybe, “did you not appreciate not having to soak the wash cloth before using it? Many of our busy business travelers appreciate saving those 20 seconds.” I graciously thanked her for her response but declined the phone call.

On the other hand, I’m very happy to point out excellent service or the fine quality of a product, if asked. Sometimes, however, even a compliment is not accepted well. I once wrote positive thoughts about our experience at a restaurant located in a Michigan casino. The manager thanked me for the nice review then asked, “what didn’t you like about our other restaurants? Huh? Oh..well..the restaurant we ended up at just had a shorter line but ended up serving fine food accompanied by super service. Sheesh. Take a compliment and shut up!

The airline survey is the one that gets me the most. Unless you’re in first class you know the experience is pretty much gonna suck from being herded through airport security, to wrestling for an overhead bin with a guy trying to store his cello up there, to having to hold your breath on a transcontinental flight because the guy sitting next to you is wearing Eau d’Possum cologne to gagging on the bag of trail mix you bought for a buck because they ran out of free beverages.

So when I ultimately receive the airline’s survey I find it’s much quicker and easier to complete by skipping all the “on a scale of 1-5” questions and going right to the field asking for comments where I can write, “my ordeal on your airline actually made me covet the experience of a feed lot hog awaiting its metamorphosis from living being into pork chops.” Curiously, I never receive a follow up email requesting I expand on my thoughts.

I think it might be fun sometime to turn the tables and reply to the survey senders with a a survey of my own.  I might ask questions such as:

1-On a scale of 1-5, how do you think you treated me?

2-On a scale of 1-5, how satisfying do you think your “free” breakfast offerings are which consist of toast, greasy breakfast sandwiches, watery oatmeal and a waffle maker that always seems to be fought over by 3 old guys who may not live long enough to see hear the beep when their waffles are done?

3-How would you characterize the stains on the carpeting?

   a-usual shit hotel guests drop and don’t clean up

   b-detritus from “trucker’s night” in the lobby lounge

   c-evidence in recent homicide disguised as “prom night faux pas”

4-Would YOU stay at your hotel? Only available choice, “NFW!”

So..what do you think? On a scale of 1-5, of course.