Subscriber Services Weather

Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boycotting Bluetooth, sort of

For the record, I like Bluetooth technology.

I've loved my wireless cell phone headset from day one. Granted, I'm using a wired headset for now, 'cause I haven't seen my Bluetooth in months (probably vacuumed it up, accidentally, or something). But I love the technology nonetheless.

So I was watching the Boondocks last night on Cartoon Network. And while I often cite moments from 'toons like the Boondocks and South Park, I'd never suggest we build our personal moral platforms off the plot of a cartoon. Still, I think I'm gonna conduct a personal experiment based on something I saw on the show last night.

Two wealthy morons were sneaking around in combat gear, burglarizing homes in a high end neighborhood in the fictional Chicago suburb of Woodcrest. While one of them barked instructions and tried to engage the other in conversation as they drove to their crime scenes, the other kept saying bizarre things. Each time the first burglar was baffled for a moment till he realized the other guy wasn't talking back to him. The other guy was talking to a girlfriend on his Bluetooth headset that guy #1 couldn't see.

So for most of the episode, burglar #1 lectured burglar #2 on the "evils" of almost-invisible headsets for phones.

And you know what? He had a point. He argued that the reason we hold phones up to our heads is to let other people know we're busy. In fact, it's how phones were designed. But his logic was sound.

Holding a phone - excluding the 1980s lunchbox-sized cell phones that caused brain tumors and shrank testicles - up to your ear, tells everyone around you that your time, for the moment, is occupied.

It is a preemptive strike against interruptions. People are less likely to approach you and break into your conversation, if they see you're on the phone.

It is also a safeguard against angry reactions to any dumb thing you might say into your phone. Say something stupid into a Bluetooth headset, and you might get smacked by the person standing closest to you on your other side. Say something stupid into a handheld phone, and the worst you'll get is a harsh look.

Plus, there's something about holding a phone that demonstrates the person on the other end has your full attention. Free your hands by way of a headset while you're on the phone, and tell me with a straight face that in less than a minute you're not already using both hands to fiddle with something else that diverts some of your attention from the person you're talking to.

Since rude interruptions, lack of clarity, and divided attention are three of my biggest pet peeves, then for the foreseeable future (until I can't stave off hypocrisy any longer), I am going to hold my phone to the side of my head...and hope that nothing inside my skull or my shorts shrinks or glows as a result of my dedication to civility.

UPDATE: I forgot one exception. If I absolutely have to take or make a call while I'm driving, I'll use my headset.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back to the grind/Things I've learned

Hello, friends and frienemies.

As many of you know I've been off the farm for a couple of weeks now, because my family was grieving. I'm always torn about how much detail to give in posts like this, because I tend to be extremely private about my personal life, almost to the point of paranoia.

On the other hand, when I started this blog, Mrs. B and I agreed that I would be as open as possible about who I am and what's going on in my life, because I want readers to connect with me - to feel me, as the kids like to say. My unwritten rule is that once ground rules of respect have been established, then I will consider sharing anything I don't have to be ashamed about. And there's definitely no shame in this instance.

Besides, I make it a rule not to have too many secrets. It's hard to live that way. So my life is a relatively open book. If you wanted to know my bank account info, my street address, and where I'm tattooed? Well, that's a different story that falls under the none-of-your-business category.

All that being said, here's the deal: Mrs. B and I lost our baby. I won't go into great detail. Guys, you wouldn't necessarily get the details anyway, unless you're doctors or dads. And moms, and would-be moms, you'll probably figure it out. A couple of weeks ago, she began suddenly exhibiting symptoms that weren't quite right. The bottom line is after being rushed to the hospital, she was compelled to deliver early - months early - and the baby didn't make it.

We are still sad. We are still grieving and probably will be for the next few months. But, most important, I think, we're living. We're not curling up into little balls shivering in a dark corner somewhere.

I used to think - actually, after comparing notes, we realized we both felt this way - that it was terribly calloused for people who had suffered a loss to say "Life goes on," or anything to that effect. I thought it was mean. I thought it was insensitive. I thought it was an indication that the person uttering those words was in denial. Naturally, I had no idea what I was talking about until this happened.

We realized quickly that this was something that would be with us the rest of our lives, no matter how many more children we have. But we also realized that we needed get our heads and our hearts in order and keep living so that we can plan on the rest of our lives. And as cliche'd as it might sound to you, we don't think our child would want us to wither away, anyway.

And one other thing I've learned over the past two weeks: Those guys who say "we" are pregnant? I'll never make fun of them again. I know I've joked about it in the past. I've called those guys all manner of wuss, 'cause, I reasoned, we're not carrying a baby for nine months. Our wives/partners are. I am one of those guys now.

When your wife/partner is in pain, physical and emotional, over anything to do with your baby you feel it. I'll never know fully what Mrs. B went through that day. I was there. Just feet away. But I'll never fully get it. I do know though, that by the time all was said and done I had stopped referring to her and started referring to we, in terms of pregnancy.

So, my friends, when the time is right we will try again. In the mean time, I/we plan to honor the scant memories we were able to glean, and continue living.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Should Know...

that I have not abandoned this blog.

But, right now the Burnetts, the Aubergers, the McCittricks, the Nowells, the Melvins, etc., - all of us, 'cause families rise and fall together, right? - have suffered a family loss. And frankly, I'm grieving.

I will post again some time next week. But for now, I just don't have it in me to crack jokes, attempt witty insights on the news or skewer dirtballs and politicians - sorry for the redundancy. All jokes aside, I'm as close to crushed as I've ever been.

If you believe in a higher power, say a prayer for us. If you don't, and you're so inclined, then think a few positive thoughts for us.

After a little time - maybe next week, maybe not - I'll share more. Till then, be patient and know that this blog will be back on track in no time at all.

Peace and hair grease,

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weekend Roundup

I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I'm a huge fan of track & field, 'cause like most "retired" amateur athletes who lie on the couch on weekends and watch sports on TV thinking "what if," I really admire a great physique and above average athletic skills. And next to gymnastics, track & field probably produces the most near-perfect athlete bodies out there. That being said, I knew Marion Jones, star U.S. Olympic sprinter and long jumper, was on something. Jones is scheduled to plead guilty in federal court today to lying to investigators about using steroids over a two year period. She said that (like Barry Bonds) she didn't know the clear substance her coach had given her was 'roids. And by the time she found out, she was scared that she panicked and lied when asked about it. I don't know about that story, but I am somewhat relieved to find out she was juicing up, 'cause I was beginning to think in my Austin Powers frame of mind, that she used to be "a man, baby!" Not that there's anything wrong with that. But if she had been a dude, I would have expected her to compete in the men's division in the Olympics. It would only be fair.

Not to beat a dead horse, but double standards are always amusing, especially when the person holding them doesn't realize or acknowledge them. So I'm back on Bill O'Reilly. Understand, I don't think he's a bad guy. I just think that he's such a big guy, as in big shot, that he couldn't bring himself to admit that his description last week of the black people at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem sounded bad, regardless of his intentions. But in the same discussion, O'Reilly reiterated something he's said on his TV and radio shows before: that most of white America has no idea that the average black American is nothing like rappers and other numbnuts portrayed on entertainment TV and in music videos. The suggestion was that black folks need to be aware of that stereotype and that perhaps black folks, using that awareness, could do more to win over their white counterparts and convince them that not all blacks rap and dance or whatever. So here's the funny double-standard: Last night I was doing my usual chat show surfing in prime time, when I came to the O'Reilly Factor. His guest in this segment was a Filipino college professor, who was upset, because he felt a joke about Filipinos on last week's episode of Desperate Housewives cast his people in a negative light. And he was concerned that it would generate or perpetuate certain negative stereotypes about Asians. So, given O'Reilly's revelation that average whites perceive average blacks to be like rappers and other folks portrayed on entertainment TV, you would think he'd told the professor: "You are right. Why, just recently I warned black people that lots of whites assume...about black people, based on TV and music videos. So you are correct to be worried that this jokey stereotype will give the general public the wrong impression of Asians." Nope. O'Reilly told the professor he was taking a stupid joke on a stupid TV show too seriously, that it wasn't that big a deal. Here's my deal: I agree with O'Reilly. It wasn't that big a deal. But if he really meant that last evening, then he needs to go on his show, face the cameras and say something like "White people of America, I have warned black folks on a few occasions that many of you assume that all or most blacks mirror the images you see of black rappers on TV, and in music videos. Well, entertainment TV and music videos are stupid and not meant to be taken seriously. So, if you do harbor such stereotypes, then drop 'em. Because it isn't fair to the average black person, who is minding his business, earning his keep, and has never picked up a microphone or been on television." What's good for the goose, no? He said last week his long term goal was to eliminate stupid racial stereotyping. If his audience, as he says, is the largest among those prime time sort-of-newsish-talk shows, then it's his civic duty to tell his audience to pass their judgments after meeting people personally and not after watching a TV show.
And while I'm at it, let me just dispel another racial myth that I've heard in recent weeks on prime time television, this one in relation to O.J. Simpson's latest legal troubles. No worries, Mr. O'Reilly. I'm not putting this one on you. These other talking heads who've been saying in recent weeks that "black America" supported O.J. Simpson during his murder trial back in the day, and that "black America" believed he was innocent, are on crack. These guys are smoking left-handed cigarettes if they really believe the drivel they're spewing. The truth is the average black person knew back then, just like everyone else, that O.J. was a hack...literally. The average black person did not support O.J., because the average black person was aware through the wonders of television that O.J. had about as much use for them as Michael Jackson - none! Or at least none, until he was charged with a crime and suddenly in need of friends and public moral support. O.J. is like the atheist who prays in the face of danger. Finally, the average black person was not happy that O.J. was acquitted in his murder trial. On the contrary, I would argue the average black person may have been slightly amused that it took O.J. getting away with murder before such a travesty began to outrage the entire country - 'cause surely no one believes that he was the first rich person to get away with it. But let's not get it twisted. We know just like everyone else that this was a rich guy who got away with murder. What he looked like was a distant second, even to him.
Finally, hybrid cars kill! Relax, I'm not saying your Prius is widening the gape in the Ozone Layer. But according to a new report, blind people worry that some hybrid cars are too quiet for them to hear, and thus a safety risk. The report says that blind people who rely partly on hearing the engines of approaching cars before they cross the street are worried that they might unwittingly start stepping into the path of hybrid cars, because hybrids are so quiet. Hmmm. I'm gonna leave this one alone, I think. This definitely goes in the damned if you do category. But I do feel more at peace restoring that 442. It's rumble will prove that I love and support the blind.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, October 04, 2007

South Park and Tourette Syndrome

I don't know if anyone watches South Park. But if so, did you catch last night's episode, the season premier? In case you're a fan and didn't see it, I won't be too much of a spoiler. Suffice it to say the show's theme involved Eric Cartman pretending to have Tourette.

OK, now my disclaimer. I have a question. A serious question. As God is my witness I'm not teasing, nor am I making fun of anyone with an illness. I'd never do that.

But here's the deal: I'm familiar enough with Tourette to know that it's a neurological disease and that it causes ticks or involuntary gestures in people. Some people blink uncontrollably or at random intervals. Some have a random twitch. Other's periodically yelp. And some Tourette sufferers blurt things out.

I went to school with a kid who had Tourette. He had the blurting tick. But the things he blurted out, at least in school, were exclusively cuss words. No joke. I've seen the same from time to time with kids in department stores, parks, etc. - the blurting tick, and always swearing.

Seeing last night's South Park made me think of this again, though, and leads to my question: Do people who suffer from Tourette and have the blurting tick only shout out swears?

I'm not kidding. If anyone knows someone who has Tourette or if you have it yourself, I'm genuinely curious. I'm just saying, every Tourette sufferer I've ever encountered who had the blurting tick always, always blurted four-letter words. I've never heard a Tourette sufferer blurt out "dandelions!" or "little fuzzy bunnies!" or "sunshine and M&Ms!" or "peaches!"

Enlighten me, please. And again, my disclaimer: I feel for anyone suffering from any sort of disease. No one asks to be sick. I just want to know about the circumstances of one element of this particular disease.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mr. 500 & Isaiah Thomas

Greetings, friends. I've been in court most of the week working on the story I mentioned last week about child custody cases.

So, catching up, yet again, bully for me - this is my 500th blog post. If I didn't get lazy w/it from time to time I'd probably have hit that 500 mark six months ago. What can you do?

At any rate, the thing grabbing my eye most these days is the civil judgment handed down in New York City yesterday against the New York Knicks and head coach Isaiah Washington, by a former team exec who says Washington sexually harassed her.

A jury agreed.

So Thomas is a harasser.

This is strange to me on so many levels. First, I didn't know that Isaiah Thomas liked girls. I swear I'm not trying to be funny. I was a fan all through his NBA playing career in Detroit, but I always assumed he wasn't into women. Nothing wrong with that. I'm just sayin'. And don't ask me why I assumed that. Just call me brave or something for admitting my dumb assumption.

Moving right along, this case is also weird to me, because he and the plaintiff, the victim, were supposedly friends. At least Thomas says they were.

But the nuances of language and conversation can get very muddled between colleagues, friends, colleagues who are friends, friendly colleagues, any combination of such, OR between colleagues who aren't friends though one of them mistakenly thinks they are.

Using myself as the goat here, I can say with a straight face that over the years I have had exactly four really close female friends at work. And it has been in two different settings. When I worked in college as a machinist at the now-defunct Naval Aviation Depot on the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Air Station, I became friends with a woman, a fellow machinist, who was always trying to foist her chunky niece on me. I eventually went out with the niece, but that didn't work out. Ironically, I got my shallow comeuppance when I saw the niece about six months later and she was svelte enough to walk a runway. No, I did not get a second date. But I digress. The aunt and I were good friends at work. As you might imagine on a military base w/$20 million fighter jets all around us and weapons and all that crap there was a lot of testosterone. And the conversation was always locker room talk. And she was always squarely in the middle of it.

It never occurred to me that she might not have liked it, because she smiled and played along. In retrospect though, I wonder if she was just playing along to fit in. And I feel bad for her and how we talked around her...and how she talked around us.

In the other setting, I was at a newspaper - pre-Miami Herald - and I became close with three female co-workers at different stages of my tenure there. All three were like siblings to me. Our families met. Our significant others met. We even spent some holidays together. Our relationships started and remained platonic. But again, we were as tight as family, and as such we often talked trash to one another...the kind of trash that apparently got Isaiah Thomas in trouble.

I know the basics of not committing sexual harassment: don't say anything overtly sexual to a co-worker; don't touch a co-worker unless you're performing the Heimlich maneuver, etc., etc. But all the what ifs about when certain words and jokes are funny and when they're not confuses me, when the potentially offended person is a friend. My four female co-worker friends called me names from time to time that probably would have made my mother blush. And I'm certain I did the same with them.

Still, in the end I don't feel bad for Thomas. I guess you have to know when that smile and small talk at work constitute a real friendship and when it constitutes just passing the time. Might have saved the Knicks a few bucks. Plus that moron admitted in a videotaped deposition that if he had called the plaintiff a female dog - and he didn't actually admit doing as much - it was in jest, and he didn't think a black man calling a black woman the B-word was as bad as if a white guy had called her that.

Dummy. I hope the New York Knicks take every penny of the $11 million judgment out of his pocket.

Labels: , , ,