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I am a simple man in a complex world.  The Rant is simply this man's attempt at creating some semblance of order in this vast world of chaos.  Or maybe I'm just adding to the chaos ... you be the judge. 

Note the absence of disclaimers.  No need to tell you that "the opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the views..." blah blah blah.  Because the opinions expressed here DO represent the views of the management.  I AM the management.  Love it or leave it.

 May 1, 2009

On the Matter of Aging


There is something to be said for growing old gracefully... or so I hope. Lately, I've begun to wonder if gracious aging is a lost art, last practiced by our grandparents. Their dignity and poise seems like a quaint relic of a very different time and place.

This assumes, of course, that your grandparents have gravitated toward the “integrity” end of the spectrum, and are not currently lamenting the lack of chocolate pudding at the local blue-hair cafeteria.

Many cultures around the world honor the senior members of their society, viewing them as a treasure rather than a burden. Our own culture once respected the old and wise in such a way. Alas, those days seem to be well behind us. Today, it just isn't COOL to be old.

Don't get me wrong. I can't say that I'm especially excited about the compelling “features” of aging. I don't like it that I'm going bald. I frequently lament the state of my waistline. The lines on my forehead seem deep enough to store my spare change. And even my once-keen mind seems less sharp and quick-witted (thus my preference for the written word as my primary communications medium). Still, I can't understand the overwhelming opposition and resistance to the inevitable fate of growing old.

I am an unabashed people-watcher. Today, whilst sipping espresso and contemplating my next rant, I sat in the local coffee shop and witnessed a covey of stay-at-home moms enjoying a group chat. After observing them for a bit – frequently distracted by an errant child tugging at my shoelaces – I realized that these women had a common theme. All six of them were diligently striving to avoid the appearance of aging.

Each of these thirty-somethings was dressed in a manner that evoked a vision of a teenage girl. I was reminded of a clothing shop at a nearby shopping destination – a store called “Forever 21”. I suspect that many of these women, if not all of them, are frequent patrons of this store. Pardon the cliché, but here is a clear example of selling the sizzle rather than the steak. And there WAS a fair bit of sizzle, mind you. Just because I am attempting to age with dignity does not mean that I am immune to the guile of an attractive woman!

I'm not suggesting that a mommy should dress in a muu-muu or burlap sack, of course. But midriff-exposing, form-fitting, itty-bitty shirts from Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch?

The resistance movement is not limited to appearance. It extends to behavior as well, perhaps unconsciously. “Did I tell you about the text message my brother sent me?!” The latest cell phones were in prominent view, and conspicuously checked at regular intervals. There was a brief discussion about the thrill of Tweeting on Twitter. Then a discussion about the merits of Victoria's Secret lingerie (yes, I was tempted to cast a vote in favor). Eventually, the conversation waned, and the women corralled their children and hugged their way to the parking lot.

I counted three Lexus SUVs and two sports cars.

I'm not picking on stay-at-home moms, of course. The desire to stave off old age is not limited to this group. Quite the contrary … it is as universal and inevitable as … well, aging itself. And it is not the attitude itself that concerns me, but rather the overall societal disdain for growing old. It seems to me that maturity is not to be avoided, but to be embraced and celebrated. These years can easily be one's most productive, most important, and most meaningful. Honoring your elders is not just about being nice. It's about listening, and learning.

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Ah, but who am I to make such observations? I am, after all, a man who has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. However, I can be quite certain that there will be no hair transplants or sports cars.

Unless you think that would make chicks dig me.


 April 28, 2009

The Sameness of Diversity


I'm the weird guy who doesn't like a Hershey bar.
Yeah, I know.  EVERYBODY likes a Hershey bar.  Or a cute little Hershey's Kiss (tm).  Sorry ... not me.
My preference is for dark chocolate.  Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips aren't half bad - in fact, they're terrific in the classic Tollhouse cookies - but that's not really what I have in mind.  My palate longs for the complex intensity of a Chocolove or Dagoba or Guittard.  How I long to have sufficient disposable income to indulge in the luxury of rare "boutique" chocolate!
The joy of chocolate is multi-faceted.  Cacao is one of the most complex edible compounds on the planet, boasting many times more tastes and aromas than wine or coffee.  As if that were not enough, chocolate also contains caffeine, tryptophan, phenylethylamine (an alleged aphrodisiac), and theobromine.  Lastly, its anti-oxidant properties are off the scale.
At this point, you should stop reading, and go get yourself a Chocolove bar.  I'm serious.  Come back when your seratonin production has been stimulated.  I promise that all of my writings will be FAR more amusing.
People are like chocolate, only more so.  Every one is a new variety - a complex collection of intense flavors and aromas, unique in its impact.  Unlike chocolate, no two people are quite the same.  Some are deep and intense.  Others are light and fruity.  And some are Hershey bars.
There are folks around these days who very much want us all to be Hershey bars.  Predictable, compliant, consistent in texture, uniformly bland.  The concensus seems to be that there is no room in this world for phenols and anti-oxidants...  or anti-anything, for that matter.
Ironically, these are the same people who preach endlessly about diversity.  In this context, "diversity" becomes a truly odd word - its meaning perverted to promote uniformity, conformity, "equality", and "fairness".  The idea here is that EVERYONE is somehow ENTITLED to be a Hershey bar.  No matter who you are, or where you come from, or what values you may espouse, or what character you may possess...  you are entitled to a bright foil wrapper.  Everybody gets to be a S'more!
Do you know how they make Hershey's chocolate?  The secret to that smooth, creamy consistency is ...  sour milk.  You'll be sorry you read this, I promise you.  You know that odd, sour smell you get when you open a Hershey bar?  The one that smells vaguely of vomit?  Turns out, that's what makes a Hershey bar so consistent.  The secret to the sameness is sour milk.  Now that you know, you'll never enjoy a Hershey bar the same way again.  I TOLD you to go get a Chocolove!
In the long run, all the sour milk in the world will never make us all into Hershey bars.  We are all dark chocolate, of a multitude of origins.  Some are like an Ivory Coast cacao, others like a Madagascar or Ecuadoran.  Each of us has a thousand little nuances...  a plethora of flavenoids.  In the end, real diversity is not about skin color, or culture,  or gender.  Diversity is not achieved by making everyone the same.
Diversity is achieved through theobromines. 
I don't ever wish to be a sour Hershey bar.  I am an endorphin-producing, 87% cacao dark chocolate of unique origin.  Sometimes bitter, slightly sweet.  Stimulating and complex.  Feel your soul relax and expand as I dissolve on your tongue.
Now, go make your own chocolate.


 April 4, 2009

Let There Be Light


I have frequently been accused of not being the brightest bulb.  It's okay, I can take a little abuse.  At least I'm not accused of having an unpleasant spectrum.
I thought that I would never succumb to the nonsensical push to replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs … “Compact Fluorescent Lamps”.  My blood pressure elevates when I see that ridiculous Walmart commercial which touts their “Mother Earth” campaign to sell 100 million CFL bulbs.  Well, gee, I'm sure they WOULD like to sell 100 million CFL bulbs!  My personal rule:  always be suspicious of any supposed “philanthropic” effort that spends millions of dollars on television advertising.  No enterprise pays that kind of money for TV commercials unless they're making a fortune.
It's a variation of the broken window fallacy.  (Wikipedia is your friend).  While some would argue that installing 100 million CFL bulbs is a good thing … this position overlooks the obvious fact that 100 million perfectly good incandescent bulbs will likely be replaced and discarded.  And yes, some electricity will be saved.  But light bulbs are not the driving factor behind peak electrical demand – air conditioning is the real culprit.  How long until we're told that we must turn off our A/C and open our windows in July?
All of this aside, my REAL gripe with CFLs …  is that I DON'T LIKE THEM.  I confess, I replaced a few kitchen bulbs with CFLs.  I greatly prefer the warm, comforting light of incandescent floods.  But alas, I am unremittingly frugal.  I kept the flood over the kitchen sink.  Otherwise, I can't tell when the dishes are clean.  And the fluorescent light gives me a headache when I'm cooking. Bleah.
If you're a fan of CFL bulbs, that is entirely fine with me.  I don't mind if your entire house has an evening glow that gives it the charm of a gas station convenience store.  But I am dismayed and annoyed by the people who insist that CFL bulbs should be mandated, and incandescent bulbs outlawed.  For these people, I have two words:  BACK OFF.
A few days ago, the environmentalists were promoting “Earth Hour”, an hour when everyone was to turn off all the lights and sit in the dark, in support of … well, who knows.  Al Gore?  I hope everyone gets used to sitting in the dark … they may soon be doing a fair bit of that.  Next, we'll be asked to turn off the heat or air conditioning while we sit in the dark.  As for me, I turned on every light inside and outside of my house, and opened all the shades.  For one hour, my house was a beacon of reason and freedom in world of irrational darkness.  I shall not put my (non-CFL) light under a basket!
The next time you are encouraged to do something “for the environment” because it feels good, take a moment to stop and ponder..  Am I enriching someone else at my expense?  Am I succumbing to a form of subtle and subversive Socialism?  The answer is often a resounding YES.  Soon, you will be told that you can KEEP your incandescent bulbs, as long as you pay for “carbon credits”.  After all, you're generating too much carbon dioxide as it is (you're exhaling it as you read this).  If you haven't yet figured out that this is an incremental measure to redistribute wealth... you soon will.
By the way, you need to re-paint your living room  That shade looks AWFUL in fluorescent light.


March 25, 2009

Never The Same At Home


I have a deep-seated weakness for bread.  Crispy crust on the outside; and a warm, soft texture on the inside.  Piping hot, right out of the oven, with steam wisping gently to my nostrils as it melts the butter.  Life is good.
My mother used to make an amazing French bread.  There's a restaurant I know where the Italian bread is to die for.  And an artisan ciabatta!  Almost as delightful as a warm bagel with cream cheese.
Yes, I know.  Carbs are no longer in vogue.  But eliminating bread from one's diet seems absurd, given its ubiquity.  Every culture for thousands of years has eaten bread as a staple.  Naan or challah or bannock or Wonder... bread rules.
Unless I make it.
I've tried a dozen different recipes.  I've tried longer rise times, shorter rise times, more of this, less of that... the result is always a disappointment.  It's just never as good as what I find elsewhere.
Worse yet, my disappointment isn't limited to bread.  I also make lousy coffee drinks.  I buy the Starbucks espresso beans, and even the Starbucks vanilla syrup.  It never tastes like Starbucks.  Do I need a $4000 espresso machine?
It's a common theme at my house.  My lawn is not as green as my neighbor's, and his Lexus is obviously cooler than my ten-year-old Honda.  My shirts are never as smooth and crisp as the guy who sends his out for laundering.  My television isn't large enough, my decorating is outdated, and the clothes I buy always look better on the mannequin.
Truth is, none of this has ever really mattered to me.
But I DO wish that someone would open an artisan bakery within walking distance of my house.
The reader is politely requested to NOT email the author with the sole purpose of informing him that his writing is not as good as other bloggers. The author already knows.


January, 2009

Firewood Is Heavy 


It’s hard work carrying a load of firewood into the house.  And it’s messy: melting snow on the hardwood floor, and bits of bark and sawdust all over the carpet.  That’s the price you pay for the pleasure of a cozy, crackling fire on a cold February evening.  For me, it’s a price I often gladly pay.

It wasn’t always this way.  For many years, both fireplaces in my house remained empty and unused.  Though I had installed gas starters in the fireplaces shortly after moving in, neither fireplace had ever seen a fire.  Seems my Former Associate did not like the idea of “getting the fireplace dirty”.  All that nasty black soot!  SO unsightly.

Nowadays, both ceramic fireboxes are uniformly sooted, having seen a multitude of fires.  I suspect that the chimneys could also use a good cleaning.  There’s a reason why most everyone has converted his fireplace to gas logs:  instant fire, no mess.  But like so many things in life, there is a price to be paid for taking a shortcut.

A gas log fireplace CAN be comforting.  Many are quite convincing, with glowing embers and flickering flames.  And there is no mess - no bark debris, no creosote, and no ashes to scoop.  It starts instantly, and shuts off with the twist of a handle.  It also has no soul.

Firewood is heavy.  It’s hard work toting the frozen logs into the house, where the melted snow pools on the floor with a mix of dirt and bark.  As the logs warm up, an occasional ant or beetle staggers out of a tiny hole and escapes into the living room.  And let’s not forget the thrill of removing the ash.  By the way, how do you get soot out of an off-white carpet?

I enjoy my fire in much the same way I enjoy my life.  I prefer the more primal approach, despite the availability of so many modern conveniences.  In fact, I sometimes go out of my way to do it the hard (and messy) way.  It’s a wonder I don’t rub two sticks together to get things started.

I love a real fire.  I like the crackle, the flicker, and the smell.  Is it a pain to have a real fire?  Sure it is.  It requires considerable effort and inconvenience.  Few would call it “worth it”.  As usual, I am of a different opinion than most.

I don’t mind a little dirt and soot.  It’s the price I pay to thumb my nose at convention.


“Simplify, simplify.” - Thoreau

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Copyright 2009 Brian A. Moffet