Trying to Go Offline

Trying to Go Offline

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

I’ve been told that I have a hard time unplugging from work during vacation. That’s an unfair charge. As you can clearly see, I’m all set for snorkeling. Sure hope my laptop is waterproof.

Life is short – especially for my wife, who’s  barely five feet tall. The years race by, we waste time, and before you know it, we discover we’ve missed out on what’s important in life: pizza.

Add to this reality our obsession with technology, which is constantly at our fingertips. It can be hard to break free from the bombardment of texts, social media and emails constantly vying for our attention. I can easily pull an all-nighter just watching Randy Rainbow videos on YouTube.

That’s why my wife and I have decided to get away from it all. Right now, we’re vacationing on a pristine island paradise thousands of miles from any major city. I won’t reveal where we are, because we’ve chosen to unplug from the hectic pace of our lives.

In the spirit of getting off the grid, I even left my laptop at home (because, frankly, who needs a laptop if you have a smart phone – just ask anyone under the age of 25). For one week, we’re going to focus on slowing down, breathing in the ocean air, and smelling the roses (though I’ve yet to spot a rose). We plan to take long hikes, kayak, and –

… Sorry about that. I just got a text from my sister. Thought it might be important. She’s been going through an issue at work with her boss… Like I said, for the next seven days, I’m committed to getting in touch with myself … just as soon as I get in touch with my broker. Hold that thought….

… Again, my apologies. I realized that there was a voicemail from my broker marked “Urgent.” Had to check it. He advised me to sell all my Sears stock while they’re still worth 15 cents a share.

…. Now, where was I? Oh yes, being totally present with my wife during our special 168 hours alone…. So, this evening, I’m surprising her by taking her to see … a penguin playing the piano! OMG, that’s hilarious. Oh, sorry. Someone just posted on FB the funniest clip of a penguin. You really need to see it. Soooo cute!

… My point is that I really want to slow my life down and be totally here, in the moment, with the most special person in my life… The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Hey, Season Two is now streaming on Amazon! There go my plans for a nature walk this afternoon with my sweetie.

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

This man is on top of the world, totally present with nature. What’s he thinking in his moment of Zen? If I had to wager a guess, it’s probably, “What the F? No internet? “

[Nine hours later] … I’ve just finished binge-watching the second season of Mrs. Maisel. Fortunately, we have six more days here on Fantasy Island to smell the flowers and feel the ocean … BREEZ!!! Are you kidding me? The Saints are seriously considering trading Hall of Fame QB Drew Breez for a 1st round draft pick? That’s what my ESPN alert message just notified me. Unbelievable.

I know what you’re thinking – Tim, you are clearly incapable of unplugging. You need a 12-Step Program. I admit, I got off to a bumpy start, but now I’m even more determined to turn off all devices and concentrate on some us time with my lovely wife. She puts up with so much from me, standing by me through even the most stormy … DANIELS hush money lawsuit against Trump might get tossed – according to Politico. Thank goodness I’m on their email list or I’d have missed this crucial news story.

Speaking of emails, there are 78 new ones in my inbox – mostly from work. Hmmm…. I can power through them in a flash, send out a blast “Out of office” message, and still have time to chillax the rest of the trip. That’ll work.

[Three hours later…] There! Job done! I am SO looking forward to lying in a chaise lounge on the beach, sipping a Mountain Dew from a frosted mug, and reading a good book. Ugh! I can’t see the screen on my Kindle with this blazing sun! Alright, I’ll just close my eyes and listen to the soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shore …. on Pandora. Or how about some Calypso music? That conga beat makes me feel like I’m on a tropical island – oh, right, I am.

That’s it. No more distractions. From now on this week, I’m only going to think about what really matters (other than pizza) and ask myself the important questions, like how to be a better husband and how to do my part to tackle global warming … how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? And should The Wall be built of Legos? Sorry, that last one was an insta-poll question from Buzzfeed. How embarrassing. I thought I had unsubscribed.

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous - using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Look at this businessman. Oblivious to the beauty around him as he checks his email. So ridiculous – using all that data. Doesn’t he know the hotel has WiFi?

Anyway, I can’t wait to take windsurfing lessons – something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a quick study when it comes to sports, so mastering this should be a snap… chat from our elder daughter. She sent an adorable video of her two kitties chasing the laser pointer. Never seen that before!

Like I was saying, it’s all about the here and now. In a minute, I’m going to take my wife out on a bicycle built for two. Won’t she be surprised when she learns that … Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France! Okay, I don’t know who he is, so I guess I could have ignored that alert.

Hmm, I think I should just leave the phone in our room, so it can’t distract me anymore. Time to get some fresh air and enjoy the warmth of the tropical sun … which reminds me, my friend Elizabeth has an amazing Pinterest site with tons of photos of tropical flowers and beaches and even videos of wind surfers. And I can view them all from the comfy couch in our hotel room.

Ah, it’s wonderful to unplug for a change.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Alexa, Tell My Neighbor to Mow His Yard

Alexa, Tell My Neighbor to Mow His Yard

This is the Amazon Echo Dot – about the size of a hockey puck. Just say a command, starting with “Alexa,” and it will play music, tell you the news, or even turn on your alarm system. But there is one thing Alexa can’t do. She can’t drive your car – yet.

This is the Amazon Echo Dot – about the size of a hockey puck. Just say a command, starting with “Alexa,” and it will play music, tell you the news, or even turn on your alarm system. But there is one thing Alexa can’t do. She can’t drive your car – yet.

Consumer technology has come a long way since Al Gore invented the Internet. Amazon has always been a pioneer – first with its mega-store retail website, then the Kindle electronic book, followed by their ingenious TV Fire Stick. But my favorite Amazon innovation has to be the Echo, which revolutionizes the way people do things, from turning off lights to entertaining your kids. And it is all done with a simple command starting with “Alexa.”

I recently received this handy gadget for Christmas. It’s been a God Send. It’s hard to believe I used to walk all the way over to the radio to change the music, rotating the dial over and over until I found an acceptable station. Exhausting!  But thanks to Amazon, now all I have to do is tell my Echo, “Alexa, play Polka music”, and presto, I am instantly basking in the dulcet sounds of the Beer Barrel Polka – and driving my wife out of the living room. (Not a polka fan. Go figure!)

Initially I used my Echo solely to play music or tell me the weather forecast for places I never planned to visit (“Alexa, what’s the forecast for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia?”). Over time, I discovered she can do so much more. For example, I just asked, “Alexa, tell me a random fact”, to which she replied, “All manhole covers are round, because a square one could fall into the hole.” If I were a manhole manufacturer, that factoid could have saved me millions in R & D. 

I once blew an entire afternoon, just asking my new technological BFF endless random questions:

 ‘Alexa, how much do you weigh?’

‘Alexa, what’s your favorite dinosaur?’

‘Alexa, how do I get rid of a dead body?’

‘Alexa, what sound does an elephant make?’

‘Alexa, who you gonna call?’

‘Alexa, beam me up.’

‘Alexa, my name is Inigo Montoya.’

‘Alexa, what’s the first rule of Fight Club?’

‘Alexa, is there a Santa Claus?’

‘Alexa, can you sing in auto-tune?’

‘Alexa, who shot the sheriff?’

‘Alexa, I am your father.’

[Admit it. If you own an Amazon Echo, you just tried issuing some of these commands, didn’t you?]

Alexa had an answer for every query I posed. I mean seriously, how did mankind survive before Alexa was born? Of course, sometimes, Alexa’s response can be a bit unsettling. I just asked, “Alexa, how long will I live?” Her response: “The average lifespan for a hippo in the wild is approximately 40 years.” Did she just insult me?  [Admit it. You just tried that command too, didn’t you?]

But Alexa can do so much more than just play music, tell lame jokes, and occasionally insult you. You can connect her to appliances so you can turn them on from your phone – rather than walking the 20 arduous feet needed to do it yourself. You can also connect Alexa to devices like a robot vacuum. Now, instead of using the robot vacuum app on your phone to tell it to commence vacuuming, you can tell Alexa to tell your robot vacuum’s app on your phone to tell the robot vacuum instead.

You can even connect Alexa to your Amazon Prime account and command her to find movies and TV shows just by saying their name: “Alexa, find the movie, The Notebook” (not that, as a man, I would ever actually watch that chick flick, mind you). And to think there was a time when human beings had to use a remote control and type the name of the movie letter by letter. How barbaric.

I learned that I can use Alexa to find a good Indian restaurant (just kidding, I would NEVER do that – I hate Indian food), schedule a reminder, or plan a vacation. It seems that there is almost nothing Alexa can’t do. Almost….  I recently asked Alexa to give me a million dollars, and she rudely replied, “Hmm, I seem to have misplaced my wallet.” Such a tease. [And you did it again, didn’t you? Don’t lie!]

Alexa sure would have come in handy for Captain Kirk on the bridge. Might have saved a few planets or conquered the Borg. All without flicking a single switch!

Alexa sure would have come in handy for Captain Kirk on the bridge. Might have saved a few planets or conquered the Borg. All without flicking a single switch!

Last week, I installed the Man-Support upgrade onto my Echo. It costs a little extra, but it’s worth every penny. Now, when my kids ask for money, I just consult my electronic in-house attorney: “Alexa, should I give my kids more money?” to which she says, “I strongly advise against that.” Then I tell my kids, sorry, Alexa has spoken.

If my wife and I have a disagreement, I just turn to Alexa: “Alexa, who’s right, me or my wife?” Alexa: “On this matter, your wife is wrong.” And if my wife asks me to make dinner for a change, I consult Alexa as well. She is quick to respond, “Your wife is being unreasonable. Offer to do the dishes.”

I can’t wait for the next series of updates, so that I can start issuing Alexa even more helpful commands like “Alexa, do the dishes for me.” Or perhaps “Alexa, please find my keys.” Or “Alexa, please make our kids call us once in a while.” 

Of course, with technology this sophisticated, it’s just a matter of time before my wife starts getting wise and asks, “Alexa, did my husband order a set of Titleist golf clubs on Amazon even though I specifically told him we can’t afford it?” If so, I’m screwed.

Apparently, there’s one thing Alexa sucks at – keeping a secret. Guess I better get rid of all these Echo devices right now – before somebody gets in serious trouble.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

[The following is a 100% 98.7% true story.]

Recently, I had a rather unpleasant shopping experience involving a well-known retail establishment. I’d rather not mention the store by name, as I would hate for others to TARGET this chain with well-deserved, snarky tweets.

It started with a gift card from a friend for Christmas. A delightful surprise. But the process I endured to redeem it was, well, let’s just say I’ve had root canal surgeries that were more pleasurable – and took a lot less time.

Here’s what happened. My friend – whom I’d like to assume had positive intentions – gave me an online gift card to use at the afore-not-mentioned giant red & white-colored discount retailer. I printed it out and proceeded to the nearest store. I wandered through the aisles, stocking my cart with exotic splurge items like paper towels, light bulbs, and a plastic waste basket. Okay, so I lead a dull life.

I reached the checkout counter and presented my printout, showing the amount, bar code, and a couple long numbers, identified as the “gift Identification number” and “PIN code.” The cashier greeted me cheerfully. I figured I’d be in and out of this store in under 30 minutes. But the universe had other plans for me that day. Continue reading “My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET” »

Kids, Ask Me About Easter – By Reverend Tornquist

Kids, Ask Me About Easter – By Reverend Tornquist

[Note from the staff at VFTB: This week, we are privileged to feature another LIVE CHAT with noted children’s religious scholar, Reverend Norman Tornquist, host of the popular webcast, “Kids, Ask Me About God”. Tornquist is the renowned author of several books, including God Loves Kids with Braces Too, and Skittles – The Devil’s Gateway Snack. We join the LIVE CHAT already in progress….]

This week, in honor of the Easter holiday, VFTB is proud to feature a LIVE CHAT with celebrated Christian scholar Reverend Norman Tornquist. He’ll tackle kids’ most thought-provoking questions about Easter, like Does Jesus have a bunny and Does Jesus like the licorice jelly beans?

This week, in honor of the Easter holiday, VFTB is proud to feature a LIVE CHAT with celebrated Christian scholar Reverend Norman Tornquist. He’ll tackle kids’ most thought-provoking questions about Easter, like Does Jesus have a bunny and Does Jesus like the licorice jelly beans?

Reverend Tornquist: Kids, this coming Sunday is a very special day. Does anybody know what day this Sunday is? Yes, Billy?

Billy (age 8): I think I know, Reverend Tormkiss. It’s Easter!

Tornquist: That’s right, Billy. It’s Easter. And my name is actually Tornquist. Tell me, Billy, what’s so special about Easter?

Billy: Mommy and Daddy give me a big Easter basket filled with colored eggs and chocolate eggs and lots and lots of yummy candy.

Tornquist: Well, that sure sounds like fun, Billy. But do you know anything else that’s special about this particular Sunday?

Claire (age 7): Oh, I know, I know, Mr. Tourniquet.

Tornquist: That’s Tornquist. I know, it’s a hard name to pronounce. What do you think makes this Sunday so special, Claire?

Claire: My mommy gives me a giant stuffed aminal bunny every Easter. I have six of them so far. Would you like to play with them?

Tornquist: Thank you, Claire. That is so nice of you to be willing to share. Actually, I was thinking of something slightly different. Easter also marks the day that someone very important re-appeared to let the world know that he was not dead but would live on. Any guess who I’m talking about, kids?

Henry (age 9): My pet hamster, Bubbles. Last weekend, he escaped under our backyard fence, and I thought he was gone forever. But then my mommy brought him home five days later – only, when my she found him, he had some extra white patches of fur that weren’t there before. Do you think that’s a miracle?

Tornquist: Er, um, maybe, Henry. Actually, Easter is not just about eggs or Easter Bunnies – or even hamsters. It’s about Jesus. Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. But on Easter Sunday, he re-appeared and told his disciples that he was still alive and was going to ascend to Heaven to join his father to give all believers salvation. Now that’s quite a miracle, don’t you think, kids?

Kaitlyn (age 5): I am confused, Mr. T. Why was Jesus on a cross? What parent would allow their kid to play on a cross? He could get hurt. And who’s Jesus’ daddy anyway?

Tornquist: Jesus’ dad was God! And God loves you very much, Kaitlyn. Just like he loves all his children.

Kaitlyn: Wait! So, you’re saying Daddy is not my real dad. God is? Does Mommy know? Did I do something wrong? Is Daddy being replaced by God?

Tornquist: No, no, sweetie. Your Daddy is still your Daddy.

Kaitlyn: So, I have two daddies? Like my friend, Hailey? She has an old dad and a new dad, who’s not very nice, if you ask me.

Tornquist: No, Kaitlyn. You just have one daddy.

Kaitlyn: Could you make up your mind, Reverend Thornsquid? This God stuff is very confusing.

Tornquist: It’s Tornsquid!! I mean TornQUIST! I am sorry if this is confusing. My point is that this Sunday is the day we celebrate the wonderful story of Jesus.

Joshua (age 7): Will Jesus be bringing me an Easter basket filled with Sweetheart candies? Because, if you ask me,  that would be a miracle, since the company that made them went belly-up a year ago, isn’t that right, Reverend Tornado?

Tornquist: Tornquist, just Tornquist. Is it really so hard to pronounce, kids?  And Jesus brings us something even more special.

Joshua: So, he’ll be bringing me a ginormous Robot Easter Bunny?

Tornquist: Not exactly. Kids, I think we may be losing sight of the real meaning of Easter.

Charlotte (age 4): I agree, Principal Turtlekins. The real meaning of Easter is marshmallow peeps. I like the pink ones bestest. What color do you like?

Tornquist: It’s Reverend, and I have not really given peeps colors much thought. Easter is a time when we think about how Jesus came to save us all.

Noah (age 7): From what? Monsters? Because there’s a scary green one under my bed named ZORG, and I’m afraid to sleep alone. Will Jesus protect me and Bandit from ZORG?

Tornquist: Noah, who, pray tell, is Bandit?

Noah: He’s my hedgehog. He protects me from monsters. Jesus isn’t a monster, is he?

Tornquist: Of course not, Noah. Jesus is your friend. He loves you.

Abigail (age 3): But he’s still not bringing me an Easter basket, is he, Reverend Toadkill?

Tornquist: That’s Toadquist… I mean… I’m sorry, Abby, he’s not bringing you candy. But Jesus just might bring you something far more delightful. Want to know what that is?

Abigail: Unless it’s a live bunny, I’m a hard pass. I asked my dad for a bunny for Christmas, but all he got me was an Easy Bake Oven. I think my dad is sexist.

Tornquist: How old are you, Abigail?

Abigail (holding up three fingers): This many years. I like Pez.

Tornquist: You don’t say! Okay, kids, any other questions about Easter I can answer?

Elliott (age 8): Does Jesus have his own Easter Bunny? What’s its name? I like the name Snowball.

Tornquist: Still stuck on the whole Easter Bunny thing, are we? Kids, I have no idea if Jesus had his own bunny named Snowball. I don’t think bunnies were his thing. I think he hung out more with sheep. And he came to save the world.

Zoey (age 5): Including the bunnies, right? ‘Because if he doesn’t save the bunnies, then I don’t like Jesus. He better save all the bunnies. And the kitties. And the horsies. And the ducks and – …

Tornquist: Zoey, I think you may be thinking about Noah.

Noah: What??? I don’t have time to save all the animals. I have homework. And horsies stink!

Tornquist: I was actually talking about a different Noah, son. But that’s a story for another time. Any more questions about Easter, kids – OTHER than the Easter Bunny, that is?

Hunter (age 9): I do, I do, Mr. T.

Tornquist: Yes, Hunter. What’s your question?

Hunter: For Easter dinner, can you tell my mom to serve something besides ham? I’m sick of ham. She serves it every year!

Tornquist: I see. And what exactly would you prefer her to serve for Easter dinner, Hunter?

Hunter: A giant chocolate Easter Bunny! That would be awesome!

Tornquist: Sigh… Well, that’s all the time we have, kids. Join me next week for another session of “Kids, Ask Me about God”, when I’ll invite youngsters to ask about Adam and Eve. (Something tells me I may regret that topic.)

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

How to Retire Filthy Rich

How to Retire Filthy Rich

Look at this happy couple. They were smart. They planned far ahead for their golden years with a sound investment strategy. Her great grandfather was John D. Rockefeller.

A wise man once said, If a man’s wealth be measured in grains of rice, he could hold all the riches of the world in his hands. Okay, so that man was an idiot. He was also my Uncle Larry, and he died penniless – unless you count the 850 boxes of Minute Rice found in his basement after his funeral.

Thankfully, I did not follow Uncle Larry’s investment approach, though I am enjoying the Minute Rice he left us. In fact, I have accumulated a large amount of wealth over my lifetime – almost as much as I have lost. If you’re concerned you may not have saved enough to comfortably retire before the age of 75, you’re not alone. You’re still probably screwed, but at least you’ll have company.

Let me share a few pearls of wisdom. First, whatever you do, and you might want to get a pen to write this down: NEVER HAVE KIDS! They are insanely expensive. The ROI on progeny is like a buying a bond – it takes decades to see a profit – if you’re lucky. According to recent studies I just made up, the cost of raising a child through college is $4.9 million – even more if you indulge in orthodontia for their crooked teeth. Okay, maybe I’m overshooting my cost projections slightly. My point is, kids will drain your retirement savings.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids – almost 70% of the time. I’m just saying, think of all you could do with the mega-bucks you’d save by being a little more conscientious about birth control. You could buy a small island off the coast of Greece (other than Mykonos or Santorini – I checked – they are way out of your price range). However, if you glibly choose to ignore my advice and decide to start a family anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading “How to Retire Filthy Rich” »