Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Z for ZorroFor those who grew up blindfolded, hearing deficient, or otherwise completely detached from American ‘culture’ in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Zorro is a Mexican culture hero introduced to American audiences well before the 70’s but found his entertainment niche by bringing his swashbuckling Sonoran style of slice-and-dice to the big screen and did pretty well for himself until the second Banderas Zorro flick, Legend of ZorroMask of Zorro was actually entertaining, though.

Point here is Zorro used his blade with elegant efficiency and made significant inroads until Hollywood sucked at his teat one time too many (it’s a figure of speech — get over it). Sorry again, Mexico.

Why “again”? I like cheap “Mexican food” once in a while like any other properly raised American, but Taco Bell is as authentic as canned ham. And don’t even get me started on Cinco De Mayo.

So what’s the connection between a Mexican culture hero and Harry’s, an internet-based men’s shaving product company? Why, blades, of course.

Important Disclaimer: Neither Harry’s, Antonio Banderas, nor any Hollywood studio has provided any remuneration, material compensation, or free goodies for my mentions here. Seriously.

One day, while reading my Dictionary.com Word of the Day e-mail, I noticed the 80’s orange-colored banner across the top of the message, an ad for Harry’s men’s shave products. I don’t recall the actual wording of the ad but it touched a nerve which has long been sensitive–paying up the you-know-what for replacement blades (take note Gillette). Now, while I’m known for being frugal . . . well, let me approach this with a quick anecdote . . .

When I was seventeen I worked with a guy who said something I have never–and will never–forget: “I like intercourse, but I like to be in on it.”

Yeah. Buying replacement blades for an Excel or Fusion razor is similar to the aforementioned lack of consent.

So the Harry’s offer of some German-engineered blades and a shaving cream 50 Shades better than what i usually buy was a song I happily would listen to, all for about $15 I think it was.

Obviously Harry’s is taking a cue from Apple in regards to its packaging and marketing: simple, elegant, putting the product front and center. Opening the package when I got it was like opening the box containing my Mac laptop–akin to a black tie affair for the eyes and mind, simple and unpretentious, yet an unmistakable air of “you made the right choice”. I could hardly wait to try it out the next morning.

For two weeks I genuinely enjoyed using my first set of blades and the new cream. Then, something entirely unexpected happened–the razor head itself snapped on one side . . . while shaving.

This experience was utterly counter to my initial impression of the products. Words leapt to mind, some of which shall not be offered up here, but I knew I’d be writing a little note to Harry’s after work that day, because, I obviously have sort of a thing for words.

My puerile fantasy of sticking it to the Razor Blade Man seemed to be crumbling before my eyes, and even, sort of, on my face. I took a picture of the fractured blade head and attached it to the e-mail which read as follows:

Was with a solid dose of intrigue that I placed an introductory order, eager to see what German engineered blades and a much better shaving creme could do for my shaving regimen. Up until this morning I was enjoying both.

I had been considering passing along my early considerations of the products to dad, my son, and some of the guys I work with at Facebook here in Oregon—but this morning, my first blade—only been in use two weeks—snapped at one of the ‘hinges’ (see attached photo).

I had been shaving under my nose when the blade seemed to grab then halted mid-stroke. Thankfully I didn’t get cut, but I was dismayed to see the strut had snapped clean in two.

Is this to be expected in the course of normal use? I had expectations of more durability and longer use duration. I don’t use excessive pressure which might result in such a failure.

If such a curtailed life span is the norm then I should choose to withhold my earlier advisements to others.

J.W. Nicklaus

Frankly, I know I didn’t pay a lot for the initial package of three blades, new handle, and shaving cream, so I mostly expected some form of acknowledgment from Harry’s and a dutiful if not polite message regaling me with tales of manufacture defect or user error. Part of my expectation was spot-on–I did hear back from Harry’s, the very next morning:

Thank you so much for reaching out, and I’m so sorry that this has happened – the last thing we could ever want for our customers is an experience like this.

It’s a rare case that our products arrive in less than perfect condition, and it’s crucial that we know when they do so that we can do everything possible to avoid it from happening in the future. My suspicion here is that you were the unlucky recipient of a blade that was improperly packaged in transit, leading to excess strain on the rubberize cartridge arms and, ultimately, the breakage you experienced. It’s a problem we’ve worked hard to resolve, and I’d love to go ahead and send you a free 4 pack so you can give us another go with brand new (and hopefully improved) blades.

I’ll get those sent out to you right away, and I just hope we can fix this for you. We really want to improve your experience with us, and hope you will still consider passing this along to your son and friends at facebook. Apologies again!

Now, sure, you can see some things you would expect a company to say. It’s by no means boilerplate, but the foundation is solid. More importantly, an explanation was proffered and not just one replacement blade but four have been sent in return. Honestly, I hadn’t expected this, and was very pleased to not have received the usual “sorry bub” response, or worse, sent a lame coupon I’d probably have to print out to use.

I whipped out my trusty iPhone and dictated a reply, and as you will see, didn’t give it the proper once-over I should have:

Oh how many companies claim or desire to be on the forefront of customer service it has been my rear experience to encounter such companies.

I thought I would hear back from somebody at Harry’s, if only to, at the very least, acknowledge receipt of my email and the issue at hand. I hadn’t expected the rapid nature of your response nor the outright willingness to go the extra mile and make things right.

Thank you for your sincerity and genuine good will. It is very refreshing to do business with a company which clearly values each and every consumer, not a specific demographic alone.

Before I forget I would also like to order an extra bottle of the shaving cream — it’s really quite good although much higher tier than I usually use. But I do enjoy it so if you could, please, add a bottle to an order for me.

Not too much later, before I engaged my brain and actually read my own message, I received another reply gracefully thanking me for my (butchered) 2nd e-mail and surprising me with another generous gift–they added the tube of $8 shaving cream to the order . . . free of charge.

I thought the replacement blades a most generous and appropriate effort, from a consumer perspective; to throw in the tube o’ cream was like getting to lick the beaters after mom mixed up chocolate chip cookie dough or chocolate frosting–yeah, you know what I’m saying . . . a whole lot of awesome!

I could not possibly have been more pleased with my interaction with Harry’s; they had gone over and above what I expected, which is, of course, a solid tenet upon which to grow your company. I was feeling pretty darn good about the whole episode–until I reread my prior e-mail.

If you are not familiar with the following word then, clearly, you are barely human or simply haven’t done enough stupid things in life:
mortification: to humiliate or shame, as by injury to one’s pride or self-respect.

The only salve to soothe my bruised conscience was yet one more e-mail, a digital Hail Mary to try and regain personal yardage lost:

I am compelled by some strange form of grammatical OCD to correct a couple of my previous errors (not that you likely care but it shall serve to soothe the nagging English demon currently gnawing on my brain):

• It has not been my “rear” experience, rather it has been my rare experience… That was an auto correct issue and while truly worthy of a laugh it is ever so subtly disturbing.

• I wasn’t overly cautious nor attentive as I dictated my first email to you, as the next error will glaringly point out. I mentioned that Harry’s appears to be a company that values each individual consumer and not “merely a demographic.” That deserves a major DUH! Obviously Harry’s caters to men, which qualifies as a single demographic. But, I’m sure you understood what I was trying to say.

Not pretty or elegant, but it got the job done. I’m not proud of such oversights, so let’s just move on.

I have little doubt many companies, large and small, are employing the same quality customer service which Harry’s has displayed with me. Alternatively, many seem to find their customer base more a nuisance than a blessing, among them Sears, Comcast, DISH Network, Sprint, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase (these companies earned their consumer disdain as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index). Hardly surprising that most of us can easily recall instances when we were treated more like rotten fish than Neptune.

Here I gladly pronounce my thanks to Harry’s; they made me feel like I mattered. As good as it feels to really hold a bad company’s ass to the flames it feels equally good–and I believe equally important–to hold up good companies for doing right by their customers.

Zorro would understand this implicitly, no translation required.

**If you’ve read this far (and you appreciate a good shave, good products, and good customer service) be sure to check out Harry’s**


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caveman using stone tool on rockMost readers of this blog will remember, with only the faintest nostalgia, the following watersheds along the timeline of communication and information dissemination:
・The pencil
・The pen
・Carbon copy paper
・Postage stamps (these are not relics . . . yet, although I am grateful for them because they helped put food in my belly, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head as a child)

With this small list in mind I offer the state of Arizona kudos for not only embracing some of them still, but also for its impressive efforts to encompass the breadth of human communication forms since chisel was first put to stone.

We are some years along since Al Gore invented the internet, and the web has offered us some disadvantages and some stunning efficiencies. Consider that we can not only download fillable PDF tax return forms but can electronically file those same documents, with no shortage of important personal information on them; in Arizona we can renew our vehicle registrations online, again with all the pertinent personal data in tow; we can manage our financial concerns online; and the whopper–the federal government has mandated that if you don’t have medical insurance you must sign up via the web and get it–this naturally requires a slew of personal information to be divulged.

There are no shortage of entities which can find us when it’s time for jury duty, send us gentle reminders if we miss a payment, or send any other marketing based upon our current residence and/or age.

No secret . . . we are ‘in the system’, each of us a statistical and numerical part of a brain-melting expanse of database.

So, given the aforementioned, I remain perplexed about the process for attaining a copy of ones birth certificate in Arizona.

It begins with a line. This is not unexpected. All state offices enjoy a good line. This line feeds one solitary public servant whose job is to dutifully sit in front of a computer terminal and look us up in ‘the system’. This fact alone should make the process practically state-of-the-art. But that would mean embracing efficiency and giving tradition the cold shoulder, and government loves tradition.

For the sake of tradition, they take my drivers license (another state-issued document with lots of personal data) and use a scanner to read the bar code on the back. Said servant then pulls a paper form and stamps it with the word “COUNTED,” unsettling in itself.

I am asked to fill out the form and wait for my number to be called; I think God does something similar.

Being no stranger to the digital paradigm I don’t carry a pen with me like I used to many (many) years ago. So I ask, “Do you have a pen?” She hands me the form . . . and a pencil. How quaint.

As I entered the building I could see others filling out forms with pencils, which triggered a series of grating texts to a friend:

“2014 and we have to wait in line to manually fill out a form”
“Christ, it’s practically the Stone Age here.”
“Excuse me, could I borrow your chiseled, pointy thing so I may chip out my info on this clay tablet?”
“How much more Cro-magnon could it get?”

“Feel better now?” she asks. Of course not, and I’m fairly certain she knows this and as any good friend would she patronizes me

“I’m wondering,” I begin again, “if I should use Cuneiform or early Arabaic.”
“Surprisingly, they actually use a verbal form of language communication here”
“I think grunts and rough gestures might be more in tune with the overall ambiance”

She’s come along for the ride, I can tell by her next reply. “Maybe you could move kinda ape-like to the window . . . grunting, of course.”

“That’s pretty funny!” I respond, “I’d do it if I didn’t think they’d deny my request.”

I take my early 17th century paper form–and pencil–and drag my knuckles to a table, whereupon the pencil lead actually breaks the moment I set it to paper. Seriously.

The form asks for all the same information on my license, the same info which I know damn well is staring them in the face on that terminal monitor. In addition they require you to actually fill in your credit card info on this form. Surprisingly, they don’t ask for the social security number, probably because they already have it?

I am pleasantly surprised by how short the wait time is until my number is called (not you, God, the vital records clerk). She, too, asks for my drivers license and the credit I want to use to pony up twenty friggin dollars for the copy of the certificate–$20! Perhaps I shouldn’t expect a happy ending, but at least a smile?

I can sense my annoyance meter slowly rising as I dig out the cards. The clerk at the first window already confirmed my identity and ‘counted” me, and my C/C info is on the stupid form. Why the hell do you need to see it, or, conversely, why must we write the number on the form if we’re going to give you the physical card anyway?


Okay. Whatever. I dole them over and she does her thing. I sign the credit slip, she staples it to yet another piece of paper and says “Take this to window 4.”

Window 4 is where the duplicate birth certificate is printed, from — wait for it — another computer terminal.

In case you’re wondering, in Arizona you can obtain a duplicate BC via mail, but they require the use of a carrier pigeon.

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light through forest treesFar above the clouds we’ve seen, beyond the purview of the stratosphere and troposhpere, the cloak of the universe wraps itself around us at a temperature barely above absolute zero Kelvin.

If God is out ‘there’ in a frozen vacuum then perhaps it makes sense that evil chooses to reside alongside us, where flesh is warmed by our nearest star and spilled blood dries and stains the earth it once lived upon.

How could any incarnation of beauty and purity, of salvation and hope, possibly prevent—much less allow—innocent children to be sacrificed as prodigal lambs at the hands of something so vile and inhumane?

Why would our “God,” as Obama said yesterday, “call to him” those twenty innocent children? I believe they will find their own place in heaven, but I can no more supplant iniquity than I can explain why benevolence would decree violence upon children.

Evil, or any other explicate of a dark nature, is not only inherent to Nature itself but necessary; it provides an uneasy balance, a discord which, perhaps, acts to keep our moral compass properly tuned. But unspeakable evil is a matter which the living can only struggle to conceive of . . . unless one is the embodiment of such fathomless depravity.

The breathable atmosphere which we rely upon for our very existence is but roughly 3 miles above our heads, if that. The processes which create clouds and rain, wind and vivid sunsets, are as wondrous as the glorious space that expands forever in all directions above our little shell.

Perhaps up there, out where mankind continues to pursue answers to profound questions, is Paradise. Perhaps this existence is our close brush with Hell. If peace is ever to be achieved then it must be found within . . . not without.

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Today Ms. Denyse Bridger has been kind enough to lend me her blog and is hosting a guest post I wrote titled Can we outspend our discontent?

Thinking we need a different approach to the Christmas ‘system’? How about, at least, considering a different mind set. Trot on over to my guest post to see what I mean!

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I would do it for you, right here, you know, make it nice and convenient. Thing is, I provide the definition at the end of my novella (I may have mentioned it in passing a time or two—The Apocalypse of Hagren Roose).

My guest post today over at Moonlight, Lase, and Mayhem contains a thread of relevancy due to its contextual kinship with Hagren’s story.

It’s entitled Gifts. I hope you can take a few moments to check it out.

Tomorrow will bring an interivew, and not your typical author interview either—I interviewed myself. Yeah, I know . . .

Until then, check out Gifts.

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Girl writing letter to SantaThe Roose’s only child, Alina, received the opportunity to write a letter to Santa. She may be a big girl now and on her own but her circumstances have pressed upon her a need to revisit the smallest glowing ember in her heart, that speck of Christmas magic that seems to stay with us for life.

Alina has no children so you may wonder what she wants from the right jolly old elf. Stop by Literarily Speaking and have a quick look. And if you’re moved to do so, come back here and leave a comment for her.

And my thanks to all of you who have been ‘liking’ my posts or following my blog. Know that I am very aware of your visits and hope to get around to visiting some of you soon!

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Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows of my feelings about the fairer sex, about the ethereal magic they can cast around us like a veil of early morning fog, about the sublime notion of capturing lightining in a bottle, the sole genie that embodies all three wishes.

Painting is not one of my favorite tasks but with my iPod in my pocket it makes things much more bearable—until just the right song or two randomly get sent to my headphones. Two songs that rarely ever fail to make me pause, to transport me, if only for a few minutes, into a state of heart that at once tugs and takes you by the hand. “Come with me,” they say, “it’ll only be a few minutes.” And so I go, slipping into the softest spot my heart holds.

Brad Paisley’s Waitin’ On A Woman is one of them. A little tongue-in-cheek, but underneath lays a golden kernel of truth, one which speaks to the silken alchemy and inner divination women possess. This one smiles and beckons, then squeezes tight toward the end. If you know the song then I’m sure you can understand the sentiment.

Buy Me A Rose by Kenny Rogers has long had its way with romantic nature. This one always reminds me that gold may glitter but nothing that glitters is near as precious as that which we can’t see.

Two simple songs . . . two more insufficient attempt to convey one of man’s greatest puzzles.

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drooling HomerYeah, I know. it’s been a while. Stuff happens. Life happens. This is not news.

But I ran across this today, and given my proclivity to take any opportunity to point out how pathetically stupid some of our fellow human beings are it warranted an airing . . . no pun intended.

I’ve been reading a lot about meteorology as it pertains to the mechanics of weather. Nothing too heavy but I like to get a look under the hood of things sometimes. Now, I can write the following and to most people it will be obvious: Weather is not only affected by, but also caused by a host of factors. Pretty basic, right?

Mountains affect air flow, vertically and horizontally; moisture in air causes condensation, thus snow, rain, hail, etc; temperature differences create pressure differences, and those pressure differences drive winds; ocean currents affect weather patterns; Earth’s rotation has an affect on pressures and winds, something known as the Coriolis Effect. Nothing super fancy there, and when you stop and think about them they make sense.

I don’t think it unfair to say most everyone has heard of El Niño or El Niña. Here’s some info from NOAA’s site (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration):

El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, as opposed to La Niña, which characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño is an oscillation (think of water in the bath tub when it sloshes back and forth) of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe.

Among these consequences are increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia.

You get the point. These two anomalies of our planet’s weather system can wreak havoc.

I would also bet that most people (before today I probably would have said “all” people) know that it is called El Niño. As it turns out, not so.

This little story doesn’t come from some bygone generation, so the excuse of “modern technological advances” can’t be used. This happened back in December 1997. This story is taken from the book Freaks of the Storms by Randy Cerveny. The story was reported by a reporter named Buck Wolf for an ABC News affiliate in California.

There was a 74-year-old “retired Nay seaman with the unfortunate name Al Nino. During the 1997 wet El Niño winter many people called Nino’s home, apparently holding him personally responsible for the rainy weather.

I know. I know. It sounds incredibly made up. Nobody’s that stupid, right? Sadly, this is a true story. Yes, there’s more.

Nino said that he tried to be polite to the callers but that he really didn’t understand why people would think the much maligned weather phenomenon would have its own telephone number. (Touchè, Al!) Nino’s strangest phone call was from a man who held Nino responsible for his daughters’s loss of virginity, because she was unable to get home one night after a major rainstorm. “I said I was sorry, although I assured him I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

Wow. I’m at a loss for words.

How do people of that particular strain of stupidity actually get through life? It’s a damn good thing the brain stem controls involuntary functions, like, oh, breathing. What amazes me more is these same morons figured out how to use a telephone. We can put people into earth orbit upon a space station but we can’t convince our own species that intelligence is in it’s best interest. As I have pointed out before we often reward stupidity, hell, we celebrate it!

Albert Einstein said it best: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” You can bet your last breath the latter is true.

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To be equal to, not greater than.

This is an idea contrary to our very nature. A man, when seated next to his dog, is not equal to the dog (although solid arguments can be made as proof of that concept).

Man with dogs on benchMan and dog have different natures; the ‘nature’ of something, that which makes it what it is, is held to account by laws insurmountable by man. Men (and women) and dogs — and cats and trees and birds and flowers and the rocks themselves — have different natures. Place a labrador next to a chihuahua and while the breed is different they share the same nature. Same with male and female.

That having been said, a chihuahua is by far the more comical canine. In that regard it has no equal.

Man, when seated next to his dog is superior to his canine friend. That is part of Nature’s law.

But let’s return to the man and woman.

Why should any man want to be superior to a woman when both share the same nature? Is there not a stronger balance and a more resonant harmony when one is equal to, not greater than, the other?

I’m not stupid enough to think we don’t have differences and disagreements, that we don’t come from widely disparate backgrounds and environments. These things are cause for friction, to be sure, but they are equal to both natures.

Indeed, we have different levels of intelligence and tolerance, different ideas about money and politics, about laughter and passion. Money and politics appeal to our material and corrupt natures. Laughter is a great purger, a perfect means to cleanse the soul of cancerous darkness; passion, in all its exuberant forms, gives our ambitions and higher selves wings and air currents to loft us closer to the touch of God.

I ask again: what elevates one above another?

I make no secret of my disdain for stupid people. Don’t deride me because the fact is I’m right and each of us knows it — stupid people are not figments of our lesser imaginations, they truly exist. A sad misstep in man’s nature to be sure. Perhaps in this regard alone would I consider myself superior to another.

I don’t mean “stupid” because someone doesn’t know what I know. That concept alone can most always make for wholesale improvements on both sides of the fence. We all know the kind of knuckle dragging, mouth breathing brand of idiocy I’m alluding to. [Congress, anyone?]

Notice the important distinction — not empirical but to-the-bone, flat out stupid.

Yeah, I’m better than that person.

I am not, however, perfect. I make no claim to that effect.

I am far more susceptible to the haunts of my demons than to the embrace of my angels. James Madison once wrote that there are no angels among the ranks of men, for if there were we would have no need for government. I petition for the intercession of my angels all the time. Why? Because I am human.

Angels are not to be confused with stupid people (or Congress). Angels are far better equipped to forgive morons. That makes them truly blessed.

Thayer Angel

I shall never be equal to — nor greater than — angels, certainly not while I still draw breath.

I shall forever be imperfect — for that is my nature.

I shall always seek and hope for the best in my equal. Surely she will be an angel.

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Lots of people make geneology a hobby. Some have long-lived family members who can tell stories of familial ancestors and to some extent fill in gaps where documentation is scant.

Our family isn’t much like that. I think we accept life for what it is and live the best we can in the here and now—sometimes that’s really all any of us can do.

But to satisfy a passing curiosity I looked up what my last name meant (and to see what history I could find in it), as well as what my first name meant. The results were intriguing.

Nicklaus apparently means “Victory of the people.” While I’m not sure how many other names share this meaning I choose to embrace as a moniker of wholly American virtue, at least in the context of our nation’s birth.

My first name apparently means “God’s peace.” No pressure there, right?

If you’d like to know more about me (moreso than simply my name) then pay a visit to my spiffed up website avomnia.com. The About Me page is new and different from the ‘about me’ on this blog.

What does your name mean?

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