Monday, March 25, 2013

Burger King Bingo

I found myself with the kids in a Burger King the other day.  This wasn't just any Burger King though, but one with a full scale indoor playground for children.

These play areas attached to fast food joints are an ingenious marketing ploy and should be applauded; the behavior of many parents and their offspring in these places, however, should not.

Now, to be clear, taking your kids to any Burger King should be considered a form of child abuse, but at least they're happy while goofing around in the play area. The problem is they don't bore that easily while there and the same cannot be said about dad.

To pass time, I found myself playing BINGO with the posted rules to see how long it would take before I could successfully check off that every single one of them had been broken or ignored or challenged.

Rules To Live By?

1) Kids must be supervised by a happy adult! I guess the operative word here is "supervised". Can you supervise a kid (or two) while sitting fifty feet away with your face buried in a Whopper texting on your smart phone? Probably not, but at least the aforementioned adults ostensibly have the "happy" criterion covered.

2) Kids must be 4 - 10 years old to play here. I saw toddlers. I saw adolescents with hairy lips. All the more reason to make sure (1) above is being followed.

3) Remove shoes. Keep your SOCKS ON!!! Put shoes and all loose items in the shoe keeper. I suspect that the wise folks at Burger King H.O. needed to emphasize "SOCKS ON" by capitalizing every letter because it's the rule broken most often. Judging by the number of little blackened feet I saw, this isn't a place where you want kids barefooted. Of course, the over cautious parents just let their kids keep their shoes on, thereby breaking another rule, but at least they're not part of the group who have left their shoes strewn everywhere, except the specified "shoe keeper" where they belong.

4) No running! No climbing on the outside of the nets or fences. To be fair, most parents will try to enforce this one. In fact, it would appear that some haven't had their kids running or jumping anywhere, EVER. Shame!

5) No food or drink allowed in the playground structure. There's nothing like wading through ketchup, ice cream, and half eaten burgers while frolicking around in your sock feet.

6) If you see anything weird, tell the manager immediately. I'm pretty sure this is politically-correct-speak for "Watch out for pedophiles" and I'm just as sure that the manager couldn't spell it.

7) We are not responsible for lost or stolen items. Ah, where would we be without lawyers adding their value? Is anyone responsible for anything these days?

There are certainly more important rules in life that our children will need to follow as they grow, but if we are unwilling to enforce the simple ones, good luck with others.

Monday, March 18, 2013

People In Glass Houses

It appears that recently departed Venezuelan demagogue Hugo Chavez is destined to join the ranks of dead leaders whose embalmed corpses will forever be on display under glass.

If past inductees are any indication, it's certainly not a fraternity that anyone should be dying to join. While the oxygen-free environment might prevent the flesh from decaying, the same cannot be said about average mummy-club member's intended legacy.

Vladimir Lenin: Russians wept in the street upon learning of the death of the Soviet Union's founder. He was eulogized as the "greatest genius of mankind" who would "live on in the memories of oppressed people for centuries." While still somewhat revered in post-communist Russia, his "worker's paradise" experiment ended badly, most of his statues have been torn down, and gawking tourists and curiosity seekers are the only visitors to his glass tomb in Red Square.

Ho Chi Minh: The Vietnamese communist revolutionary's embalmed corpse is permanently displayed in Hanoi and symbols of his saintly status are ubiquitous in the nation. The truth is Uncle Ho created a climate of permanent fear in his country. He was a philandering authoritarian who built a regime on lies, oppression, and corruption.

Mao Zedong: The man who once called personality cults "poisonous ideological survivals of the old society" seemed to have little problem with fomenting his own. On display in Tiananmen Square in Beijing is the greatest tyrant of the 20th century responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people. His policies did little more than delay China's economic development and what we see today is in spite of Chairman Mao's philosophy, not a result of it.

Kim Jong-Il: No nation pulls off the cult of personality quite like the hermit kingdom of North Korea whose Dear Leader is now Dead Leader and stiffly displayed in Pyongyang. While the masses in North Korea believed that Kim invented the hamburger, could control the weather with his moods, never took a crap, and has a birthday celebrated worldwide, the truth was a little less mythological. Forced labour, torture, and starvation are the only enduring aspects of Kim Jong-Il's legacy.

Ferdinand Marcos: While history tends to remember his wife Imelda's excesses with much greater disdain, Mr. Marcos heads the class of corrupt leaders.  He looted so much wealth from the Filipino treasury that an army of investigators charged with the task of discovering it all after his death gave up in frustration. The true amount likely lies north of $10 billion. Marcos's glass-entombed corpse is on display in his own museum in Batac, Philippines.

Hugo Chavez: And that brings us to the man of the hour. While it's easy to comprehend the veneration paid to Chavez by Venezuelans so soon after his death, I doubt future generations will look back with the same admiration.  For now, the nation romanticizes about Chavismo with plans to embalm their departed leader and display him for all eternity. But a nation with the world's largest oil reserves should have done better than food and water shortages, electrical blackouts, crippling inflation, and staggering crime rates all consequences of a government determined to control every aspect of the economy.

People in glass houses - too bad the stone throwing didn't take place long before their deaths.

Monday, March 11, 2013

When Morning Comes

When Morning Comes
When morning came...
It was cold and alone
I searched for home
And found none.

In the afternoon...
It began to thaw
I found a pathway
And followed.

By evening...
The sun was setting, but it was warmed
The answer beckoned
And I was home.

It's not enough to be afraid to lose it.
You need to feel it
You need dream it
You need to speak it
You need to live it
When morning comes.
                                    ~P. Beckett

Monday, March 04, 2013

May The Bell Toll For Realtors

There was a time when elevators, gas pumps, and telephone switch boards needed some "body" to operate them. Technology effectively replaced those jobs. We are now bearing witness as technology does the same for cashiers at store checkouts. Unless you're a cashier, there isn't much lament and the biggest reaction is a shrug of indifference.

Futurists tell us that someday robots will replace taxi and bus drivers, computers will be our chidlren's teachers and professors, and drones will do the work of farmers and soldiers. It's all very wondrous and not hard to imagine.

If we can contemplate a world without farmers, teachers, and bus drivers where the most mundane tasks have fallen to technology, do we really need real estate agents? Their primary function after all is to simply "marry" a buyer in a specific market who has a list of wants and is willing to pay a certain price for those wants with a seller who can meet these criteria. It sounds like a dream job...for a computer.

A quick Google search of "Do we need realtors?" or a similar query will return thousands of bits and blogs mostly written by those who rely on this racket for their livelihood extolling the virtues of the profession. From my search, here's a quick list of the most common reasons for which we still need to rely on realtors:

Showing: Really? Wouldn't the best person to show a home be the person who has lived there? Only they would know why the Lazy Susan squeaks and how to unstick the bedroom window.

Advertising: If I can effectively advertise my car through a medium that is well accepted by the masses (ie. Auto Trader), then I'm sure the same could be done for a house.

Paperwork: It all needs to be vetted and approved by lawyers anyway and no one is suggesting replacing them (although that would be a nice corollary), so I don't see the value that a realtor adds here.

Price Negotiation: No one will look after your health better than you. No one will look after your kids better than you. No one will look after your money better than you. To argue that a realtor has your best financial interests in mind when they are being paid a commission on the sale is laughable.

Market Knowledge: Stop it. Do what they do -- a Google search. Can anyone really make the "access to information" argument anymore?

If a real estate agent received $500 for their work I think I'd be fine with it. To "earn" 5% of $380 000, however, to accomplish some tasks that could easily be done by a homeowner with a computer and an internet connection will spell the demise of this profession.

And when the bell tolls for the world's last realtor, I'm sure we'll collectively shrug.