Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tennessee Bills

Recently, I was perusing a sampling of the bills passed during the latest session of the Tennessee State Legislature and I came across these highlights. Enjoy.

SB2482 / HB2406 – “Serving Wine at Art Galleries”

If you are seeking unnervingly-specific legislation, look no further than this gem. It was created to allow the distribution of complimentary wine, by an art gallery, only if said gallery does not sell food or beverages and can demonstrate that at least 90% of its revenue is derived from the sale of artwork. The proprietors of the gallery must also ensure that the recipients of said gratis libations are not already intoxicated (presumably from the copious amounts of free wine they consumed at the previous gallery they were at). I wonder what the litmus test would be for “too drunk for an art gallery?” Does someone step in once you start botching impressionism references or are people so polite that you have to be caught licking the canvas before the owner intervenes?

I suspect plying prospective customers with free alcohol is not a bad marketing strategy. I can only imagine if this ability was extended to other local businesses. Some poor sap would be walking around a used car dealership with a glass of whiskey while the salesman kept whispering, “If anyone in this town deserves a new Porsche, it is a man who has emerged from his second bankruptcy with his head held high.” 

SB1771/HB1883 – “Allows the sale, loan, or gift of switchblade knives to minors”

I know what you are thinking: What took them so long? I think we can all agree that we are all better off without big brother looking over our shoulder every time Chuck-E-Cheese hands out a click-sticker. I would love to hear the story behind this bill. What crusading citizen stood up and said, “It is high time that we decriminalized switchblade raffles at local preschools!” I also enjoyed the specification of “switchblade loaning” as acceptable. In my experience, there are only a handful of reasons someone would ask to borrow your switchblade and all of them end with you pleading to an accessory charge.

In defense of our legislative body, the same bill did increase the fine for “employing a switchblade knife during the commission of a dangerous felony” from $3,000 to $6,000. So while more underage children may be totting switchblades, let it be known that they will be responsible for paying a hefty fine for their misuse. (Or at least they would have to if they were legally allowed to hold jobs.)

SB1777 / HB1952 – “Prohibits the use of drones to interfere with citizens hunting and fishing”

Nothing ruins a day on the lake like being constantly strafed by an MQ-1 Predator Drone. If I had a dollar for every time a government-operated sky-snooper ruined my haul of Pike, I wouldn’t have to keep robbing people with my recently-decriminalized switchblade. Tellingly, the legislation only prohibits “surveillance” by a drone but does nothing to discourage the launch of lethal projectiles from unmanned aircraft. Perhaps there is a truncated “hellfire missile” season that bookends bow season.  

SB2242 / HB1704 – “Third Offense of Observation without Consent”

You can rest easy Tennesseans, because that dirty old-pervert in the duplex next door is only allowed to window shop for so long before he earns the dubious title of “sex-offender”. While I completely understand the need to prevent and discourage “peeping tom” behavior in a civilized society, I imagine it would be pretty difficult to score the conviction trifecta on this charge. I can see a clever defense attorney arguing that his client was simply an overzealous participant in the local neighborhood watch program and feared that his victim was in danger of being attacked by the roving gang of switchblade-wielding toddlers that had recently taken over the area.  Although it was unclear whether the “three peeks” statute included drone-based observation without consent, I wouldn’t tempt fate and film your neighbor’s nude bass-fishing tournament with an RC Helicopter just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Target Math

A few months ago, I visited my local Target store with the objective of purchasing a bicycle. My wife had been eying a particular model with the intention of adding a child seat so that she could take our son out on nice days. While removing the bike from its rack, I noticed a tag that offered a 10% discount on any bike helmet with purchase of a bicycle. Knowing that we would need a child’s helmet for our son, I grabbed one and headed for the register.

Once there, the cashier rang up the bicycle and attempted to scan the 10% off coupon. Despite several tries, the register would not recognize the barcode. This forced him to manually enter the discount and, after keying in the UPC code, it prompted him for an amount. Now the helmet was priced at $19.99 and he was attempting to calculate a 10% price reduction in his head. After several seconds of staring blankly at the screen, he turned to me and sheepishly asked “What would 10% off be?”
Somewhat taken aback that anyone would look to me for mathematical guidance; I replied that it would be $2 since the helmet was essentially $20. Obviously relieved, he dutifully entered the new price and apologetically commented that “math was not his thing.” Unfortunately, we hit another snag and our transaction had to be rerouted to guest services.

Once there, I was assisted by a friendly young woman who soon discovered that the 10% coupon would not ring up for her either. She asked me if the previous cashier had been successful in applying the discount and I replied that he must have had to enter it manually because I had to help him estimate 10% of $20. The young woman laughed in disbelief for a few seconds before leaning in toward me with her hands on the keypad and asked without a hint of irony, “And what did you tell him?”

Incredulous that I was being asked for an arithmetic consultation twice in the same shopping trip, I responded (perhaps somewhat more harshly than was necessary) “It is $2! Just move the decimal!” These people must spend hours agonizing over whether or not they tipped appropriately at restaurants. By no means did I inherit my father’s mathematical prowess, but even I can mentally run those numbers.

It was only after we had vacated the store that I realized we are failing these youth. How in the world do our high schools produce personable, gainfully-employed young adults who cannot move a decimal effectively? Heaven help them if they ever find themselves negotiating for a raise or comparing interest rates on a loan.

My contention is not that every high-school student should be a CPA candidate, but we should work to equip each and every one of these people with a fundamental mathematical skillset to assist them in common decisions. Otherwise, this poor guy is going to hop on Twitter one afternoon and post:

“Just scored a sweet 29% interest rate on my car, they tried to offer me 2.9% but I wasn’t born yesterday!”  #FinancialBeastMode!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sleep Number

My wife has been experiencing intermittent back discomfort of late and after watching a few educational infomercials, it would appear that her uneasiness is the result of sleeping on a “traditional” coil spring mattress. Doesn’t her twenty-first century spine deserve more than a nineteenth-century support system? What kind of husband was I? Forcing her to slumber upon a Serta Pillow-Top I found at Sam’s Club instead of cradling her vertebrae to promote overall wellness. It was for this reason that I foolishly suggested that we visit our local Sleep Number showroom.

Upon entry, we were greeted by a courteous and friendly associate who eventually suggested that we subject ourselves to the Sleep Number pressure determination system. This consists of lying on a mattress while a pair of strategically-placed projectors display a silhouette of your embarrassingly-unrested body. During this time, you are asked to select your “sleep number” which is a level of firmness designated by a numeric value between 0 and 100.
Like all “non-traditional” sleep systems, I was informed that this one utilized technology “developed by NASA.” I have always wondered what the end of that statement is. “This was developed by NASA….. but was ultimately abandoned after four astronauts died from epidermal asphyxiation”.  Either way, I have never understood why NASA would be the leading experts on gravity-related ailments like spinal compression. I suppose that is still a better selling point than “technology developed by Waste Management.”

We perused the floor models until we settled on the i10 king with the independent adjustable bases. As I manipulated the bed’s remote control, the store manager printed out an estimate and gingerly handed it to me as I sank into the comfort layer. As I glanced toward the bottom of the page, he reminded me that the “$400 instant savings” is only good until Sunday. I was almost intrigued until I realized that the model we were currently reclining on ran just under $10,000. I came dangerously close to wetting the proprietary memory foam.  

The manager seemed taken aback when I asked, “Any wiggle room here?” and quickly informed me that they “don’t haggle” at the Sleep Number Store. I responded that if I was going to be asked to spend a Hyundai I should at least be given the satisfaction of quibbling with the sales manager. I further elaborated that for $10,000 it ought to alleviate marital problems in addition to providing a refreshing night’s sleep. Both he and my wife were conspicuously unamused.

Moving on, he highlighted the 90-Day in home trial whereby we could return the sleep system if we found that it performed less than admirably. Again, this was tempting until he revealed that the in-home trial did not cover the $3,000 adjustable bases and there was a return fee on the mattress itself. Even supposing we had 10K lying around, they recommended that we get a stain-repellent cover so as not to damage or discolor the top-secret astronaut stuffing. This added another several hundred to the tab.

Conveniently, they offer 24-month financing with a retroactive interest rate only slightly less than what was currently available from an organized crime syndicate.  I almost asked what the procedure was for mattress repossession in the event of non-payment, but I was afraid he would reply that it too had been developed by NASA. The more we spoke to him the more I was convinced that he was also sleeping on a Sam’s Club Pillow-Top. For this reason, I chose not respond as my wife and I were leaving the store and he reminded us that we only had a limited time to take advantage of the $400 price-reduction. Maybe there is a more economically-feasible bedding technology developed by the Russian space program we could look into.   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Too Much Information

As some of you know, I utilize Blogger to host this site. Blogger is an online publishing service that was acquired by Google in 2003 and has since received several design improvements along with some valuable analytical tools. Having just published my 400th rambling, I decided to delve a little deeper into the statistical side of Blogger learn more about my audience. What I found frightened me.

I was initially delighted to learn that I had a much larger audience than I thought. Who would’ve thought that hundreds of people were taking the time to visit my site and expose themselves to my admittedly juvenile observations? I was given about twenty seconds for this to inflate my ego before I clicked on the “Audience” tab to retrieve more detailed information about my newly-discovered fan base. Let’s just say that if I had been hoping for a large swath of redirects from The New Yorker, I was to be sorely disappointed.

I was stunned to find that outside the United States, my largest audience resided in the Ukraine. The United Kingdom and Canada didn’t even make the top five, which was surprising since they were the only other countries on the list that were predominately English-speaking. While this was a minor setback, I simply convinced myself that my literary prowess was potent enough to transcend any language barrier and the inconvenience of having my work translated was quickly overshadowed by its merit. Perhaps, given the political unrest in the region, some of the populace found solace in my musings on American culture.

Any delusions of grandeur were quickly dispelled when I clicked on the first referring link with a .ru suffix and found myself on a Ukrainian porn site. It would appear that nudity also transcends all language barriers. Subsequent links revealed more of the same (albeit with varying degrees of artistic integrity) until I finally stumbled upon a Russian newsgroup with an inordinate number of Teen Wolf movie posters and an animated Panda promising the cheapest hotels in Kiev. In all cases, I was unable locate a link to my site.

Since geographically-based analytics was quickly becoming depressing, I decided to look at redirects from Google occurring only in the United States. While many of the top entries were to be expected (various incarnations and misspellings of the phrase “exceptional mediocrity” and “reach inc.”); I was chagrined to find that much of my traffic was generated when people searched for “hot pharma reps.” While I have no doubt that these individuals sought thought-provoking exposes on the influence of pharmaceutical sales tactics on patient care, they did not seem to linger very long on the page before heading back to Google. Perhaps they were simply fast readers.

The other area of interest was the Google image search links. Again “hot pharma reps” made an appearance along with “denise richards tattoo” and “nudist.” What was disconcerting was the number of times this image (from a previous post) was returned:

I could not see the exact queries that would repeatedly return a picture featuring a young woman and a donkey, so you can draw your own conclusions about people's search habits.

At the end of the day, I decided that ignorance is indeed bliss and I choose to believe that those who spend their time perusing my page are academics searching for succinct essays of mild amusement rather than those seeking inexpensive Ukrainian lodging or connoisseurs of random images. For this reason, I have decided that just seeing the raw numbers is plenty.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Almost all of us have experienced marital discord at one point or another, and it is not unusual for couples to seek solace in the church. So it was no surprise that 23 year-old Church Hill, TN resident Stephanie Faye Hamman found herself at the altar of nearby Providence Church a few Sundays ago discussing her husband with the Lord. What was unusual was that it was 10:00 PM; she had driven her car through the front entrance, and had consumed an alarming amount of kush over the past two days.

While lying on the altar, she placed a call to her husband Steve explaining her current predicament and requesting that he immediately rush to her aid. As Steven approached his wife, she announced that “the devil is in me” and proceeded to stab him in the chest with a large kitchen knife. Steve fled the scene and alerted authorities from their apartment across the street. He was treated for his injuries and later released.
Stephanie Faye
Mrs. Hamman was located 30 minutes later in a nearby emergency room where, according to local police:

She stated God had told her that smoking marijuana all day and all night was not good for her, and that she only needed to smoke it at night to help her relax. Mrs. Hamman further stated that she felt her husband Steven was worshiping the NASCAR race at Bristol (Tenn.), which made her mad, and she began having thoughts that the devil put in her head.

Mrs. Hamman was charged with felony vandalism and attempted first degree murder but believes that all this had to come to pass so that “God would help me live right.”

I am by no means a marital counselor, but best practices would dictate a serious conversation about recreational pursuits before either party escalating to shedding blood at a communion rail. I realize I am speaking for Steve here, but perhaps he would have appreciated a heartfelt “I am concerned that your passion for NASCAR is detracting from your spiritual walk” discussion in lieu of a “the dark master requires the blood of an apostate” show and tell.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Stephanie Faye had attempted to broach the subject numerous times but found her spouse unreceptive. Perhaps she felt her only course of action was to spark a brick, grab a Ginsu and have her Toyota Celica respond to an altar call. In any case, her feelings about motorsports have been made abundantly clear.

I was also interested in how specific The Almighty was concerning her daily marijuana intake. Undoubtedly the Lord can speak to any of us, but this is the first time I can recall him utilizing divine revelation to prescribe weed for nocturnal stress. Mrs. Hamman further claims she selected this specific church because she had recently been baptized there, but the church indicated that she was mistaken and must have received the sacrament elsewhere. While Stephanie Faye could be confused, I fully understand if the church wasn’t chomping at the bit to place her in the win column.

I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they have to call in the claim on her car to the insurance company:

State Farm, How Can I Help You? 
Yes, I need to file a claim on my wife’s Celica.
Absolutely Mr. Hamman! Was she involved in an accident? 
In a sense….
Oh my goodness! Is she alright?
Let’s circle back around to that one…..
OK. Was anyone else hurt? 
I sustained a puncture wound to the chest and may have to reactive my e-Harmony account after the criminal trial…..
Alright…. Did the incident damage any other structures? 
As best I can tell we might be looking at a portico remodel, replacing a stained-glass rendering of Jesus cradling a lamb, and a half-dozen Presbyterian hymnals. Are you guys the ones that do accident forgiveness?