Not that I’m complaining, mind you…

A Saner Policy

People struggle with morality. You know, all it really boils down to is “do what’s right.”

Most of the time, when I’m confronted with a dilemma, the choices are pretty clear. At work I see a typo on a plate headed for the pressroom. Each plate costs time and money to make, enough so that the bosses get kind of upset when we make a bad plate. My choices are clear – do I pretend I didn’t see the typo? The customer will probably never notice anyway… Or do I risk the boss’ ire and take half an hour to fix the typo and remake the plate?

I almost always remake the plate. I know that if I were the customer, I’d appreciate knowing someone was watching out for me. And if my boss fires me for that, well, I probably don’t want to work for that kind of boss anyway.

I realize that things aren’t always that simple, but surprisingly often they are. All you have to do is look at it from the other guy’s point of view. Or ask yourself what your grandmother would want you to do. Do you return that wallet you found in the street? Of course. Do you help your neighbor? Sure!

Why can’t our politicians do this?

Seems we can’t see the forest for the trees. We’re so hung up in procedure and laws and rules and regulations that we forget the spirit of those procedures. The spirit of the tax code in the US is to take a certain percentage of our individual incomes and use it for the good of the people. That way we don’t each have to finance our own private sewers and our own private armies. So why is it so complicated? Well, because some people think they don’t need to pay as much as other people, because of their circumstances. “Well of course I can’t pay all the taxes I’m supposed to pay, I’m saving for retirement. That money shouldn’t count!” or “I have kids,” or “I have to pay for college.”

So now taxes are a game. A person would be whacked in the head if he didn’t take advantage of the deductions offered, so now it’s a matter of finding all the deductions you can.

A few years ago Dagmar and I had to pay in at the end of the year; we hadn’t had enough taken out of our paychecks each week, so we owed a couple thousand dollars. I mentioned this to a millionaire I know. “You mean you have to pay taxes?” he asked. “You need a different accountant. I didn’t pay anything in last year at all and I still got $25,000 back.” He didn’t understand it when I told him that we didn’t earn enough money to get any deductions so we had to pay more. The system is tilted against people like us.

As a culture we’ve forgotten the spirit of the law. Politicians argue back and forth about tax loopholes and who is exempt from what… They’re squabbling over details that can only hurt people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. What needs to be done is a return to the spirit of the law. Everyone pays a little so everyone can enjoy the same protections and benefits.

This concept applies to more than just the lousy tax code. Look at our system of lobbying. People get paid to hang around and try to influence our politicians, buying them dinners, taking them on trips… Sure it’s legal, but what’s the spirit of the law? On paper, lobbyists are allowed to peddle their influence in order to ensure that “America’s voice is heard.” But can’t the spirit of that particular law be better served if lobbyists were banned so that our politicians could actually pay attention to us average citizens?

We need a saner policy. We need simpler morality. We need to get back to the spirit of things.

This sucks when you own a motorcycle…

I’m not complaining, mind you – it’s been a mild winter for the most part. But when the high is one degree, it seems ludicrous to even think about motorcycles.

But that’s all I can think about! The monthly American Legion Riders meeting has been cancelled (it was supposed to be this coming Sunday), so I’m not gonna be able to hook up with my dirty nasty biker buddies to get my monthly fix of discussing the relative merits of Bridgestone vs. Metzler tires. (Go with the Metzlers.) For Christmas my wife and I bought each other a brand spanky new seat for our motorcycle (a Mustang Wide Studded, if you must know) so we’ll be more comfortable on longer rides, and I also got some engine guards and matching leather studded engine guard chaps for my birthday. My bike’s in storage at the bike shop, so I haven’t even SEEN all this new stuff yet. I’m just itchin’.

In the past year I’ve finally got some good cold-weather gear (notably some good leather gauntlet gloves that come over my coat sleeves, and a switch from contacts to glasses), which has effectively extended the riding season from May-September to March-November — provided there’s no slop on the roads. Now I just gotta wait for March. (Spring riding makes me nervous, though. Around these parts they put a LOT of sand and salt on the streets in the winter. When the snow melts, we’re stuck with patches of sand at almost every intersection. I’d bet a good majority of all motorcycle accidents in between March and June are a result of skidding on sand.)

I Have Dreams

I’m hoping to do an Iron Butt ride this summer (long-distance motorcycling). I hope to do this every summer. It’s never happened yet. To do an Iron Butt, you need to choose your ride (there are different classifications – a Saddlesore is 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours, a Bunburner is 1,500 miles in 36 hours, a 50CC is from coast to coast in less than 50 hours, Ultimate Coast to Coast is from Key West to Deadhorse, Alaska in less than 30 days, etc.), find some witnesses to see you leave, document your trip with gas station receipts and photos, then hope the committee approves you to wear the Iron Butt patch on your vest. I wanna do the simple Saddlesore.

I figger from Sioux City to Fargo to Minneapolis to Des Moines to Omaha to Sioux City is right at 1,006 miles, all interstate… Not much time spent riding into the sun, either, except for the leg from Des Moines to I-29 north of Omaha. I figure if I do it at the end of June the weather should be fairly warm, and daylight will last longer. Since it’s interstate, it can probably be done in 14 or 15 hours if you do it on a weekday when traffic’s light, but I’d aim for 18, just ’cause I like to take a break every hour. Then if I wake up the next morning and go to St. Joseph, Missouri and back I might even qualify for the Bun Burner!

Most people who do this ride touring bikes, not cruisers like mine, so it’ll be a bit of a challenge. (Many of them attach external fuel tanks on their bikes so they don’t have to stop every 150 miles for gas. Myself, I need to stop about once an hour to stretch my legs. They’ll need to be short stops!) Cruisers are comfy bikes indeed, but the BMW’s and Goldwings are truly made for distance riding. (A quick look at the stats shows that 6,650 Harleys have completed the task, followed closely by Honda Goldwings at 5,917 and BMW’s at 4878. Kawasakis are fourth at 1,472. So, it’s easy to tell that Goldwings and BMW’s are probably the best distance bikes. Harleys are first on the list simply because they outnumber other bikes on the road by a considerable margin (I think), so proportionally more Harley owners give the Iron Butt a shot. There’s a BIG drop off from 4,878 BMW’s to third place 1,491 Yamahas.)

Dagmar’s not happy about any of this, though. She worries.

A Day to be Reckoned With

Valentine’s Day. Oh yay. I’m supposed to be nice to my wife ONE DAY A YEAR? Wow… What have I been doing the other 364 days? If someone needs to tell me to treat my wife nice, I have problems. Dagmar feels the same way. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because we love each other all year long.

The problem is that she’s sitting at work watching all her co-workers get flowers, and all she got was a stupid little card I made her. As intelligent and strong as my wife is, I can’t blame her for feeling a little overlooked. But still I refuse to buy her flowers on Valentine’s Day. It’s too expected. I just can’t do it.

If I break down and buy her something on Valentine’s Day it implies that I only value her on that one day. I can’t do that. I just can’t. I hope she understands.

But, on the bright side of a cold February 14, happy birthday, Pops! I hope your day is going well!

Oh! Speaking of which…

It’s my birthday Saturday. (Happy Birthday To Me! Happy Birthday To Me!) The tentative plan, if anyone wants to join in the festivities, is to head to hometown LeMars whereupon we shall feast upon steaks at the Legion Club’s monthly steak fry ($10 a person, serving from 5 to 7 p.m. if I remember right) and hang around in the Legion’s bar chatting and socializing for a while afterwards. We plan to eventually make our way back to Sioux City to catch a band play later than night, either at the Chesterfield or at Rhonda’s, most likely, depending on who’s playing. (Looks like Adam Douglas and the Deacons are at the Chesterfield Saturday night. That should be good! Just noticed that one of my favorite bands, the Chris Duarte Group, is playing there on Friday. That kinda sucks – finances force me to make a choice, and I’m not gonna skip my own birthday. Oh well… I don’t think bassist John Jordan plays with Duarte any more anyway, and for me he was two-thirds the fun of watching the band.)

Feel free to come and hang out with us! We’re plannin’ to have fun!

If you’re reading this on Facebook, you can see the original blog at, click on “Blog.”

9 thoughts on “Not that I’m complaining, mind you…

  1. ArtieLange

    Do the untimate Coast to Coast. Artie Lange has a brother in Alaska who would be glad to put you up.

    Happy Birthday, Chris. Steakbellie and I are going to the French Foreign Legion Hall and eat escargot and watch Abbott and Costello movies in your honor.

    Regarding the typos on a plate. Hasn’t the client already signed off on the project? In other words, whose mistake is it? I publish a membership magazine that had a screwed-up headline. My designer blamed the printer. My printer plamed the designer. They argued and I got no relief.

    In the end, the printer said he was sorry this happened and offered a discount while the designer kept saying it was the printer’s fault. I kept the printer and fired the designer (an ad agency) It wasn’t about whose fault it was; it was about who was going to be a stand-up guy and acknowledge that I am the one who got screwed.

  2. Chris

    Hiya Artie.

    By the time a project gets to the point where we’re making plates, it’s been signed off by someone, somewhere. But if I see a typo, I’ll still fix it, even if it costs the company a few bucks, just to avoid scenarios such as you describe. (It’s cheaper for us to eat a ten dollar plate and half an hour’s work than it for us to reprint the entire job two days later.) It doesn’t really matter who made the mistake, the finger will be pointed at my department (and understandably so – we’re the ones who muck around with that sort of stuff) even if we didn’t design the job.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself standing in front of the boss saying things like, “Push comes to shove, it was my mistake. I typed it. They proofed it five times and signed off on it, but I made the initial mistake.”

    As far as a printer catching typos and mistakes on jobs that come from outside (those that we didn’t design here), we don’t even LOOK at the text 98.7% of the time. It could be written in sanskrit for all we care – we’re just printing the thing. If we happen to see something odd, we’ll certainly call attention to it, but the bosses give me, literally, fifteen minutes to get jobs from disk to PDF through pagination to platemaker to press. There just isn’t time for me to read anything. That’s when it gets tricky if the customer finds an error later – how do we prove to them that we DIDN’T edit their job? They inevitably say, “it wasn’t that way when my designer sent it to me,” without even checking. That leaves us arguing with the designer… It gets kinda silly sometimes. An ad agency sends us a PDF (which we can’t alter even if we want to), then blames us later for typos, hoping for a discount.

    Ah well… I always recommend people get their jobs designed AT the print shop if their printer offers that service. That way if things go wrong, there’s no finger-pointing. (I’ve never seen anything come out of an ad agency that we couldn’t do here. They just get paid more.)

    It’s not even nine in the morning and I’m already making “vroom vroom” noises under my breath, dreaming dreams of open sun-drenched roads… Someday I’m gonna mount a video camera on my helmet and record my trips. I’ll mount a set of handlebars on my desk here at work and sit and watch the countryside roll past on my monitor… Vroom vroom.

  3. katrocket

    Happy Birthday Chris!

    The photo of you and Dagmar is so cute — you’re an adorable couple.

    I have so many things to say about finger-pointing in the world of print production, but I’ll curb my rant for another day. I just want to say that not all ad agencies are a-holes. OK, the majority of them are, but there are some of us who really do get it, and don’t screw-over our suppliers in order to save face in front of our clients.

    I manage the pre-press & traffic departments in a large ad agency in Toronto. Every PDF that leaves my studio has enough signatures on the back of the proof to resemble a petition — two proofreaders, every client who ever touched the project, production manager, lead designer, art director, copywriter, studio manager, and me. We create projects as a team and take responsibility for our mistakes as a team. I have no fear in admitting my mistakes, because my employer values honesty over perfection.

    In my 10 years of experience, 95% of reprints are paid for by clients because they signed-off files they didn’t bother to read. This is the advantage of having a rock-solid legal contract with a client (after you’ve educated them about the meaning of “signing -off” and the consequences of their actions).

    Our printers are only responsible for reproducing our file to the best of their ability. I expect the colour, registration and binding to meet my high standards, but I don’t expect them to fix our mistakes. There are times when they have caught things that have slipped past many sets of eyes, or helped us solve rip errors and mechanical problems. Whenever that has happened, I send over a case of beer for the boys, because I think saving my ass is a stellar example of exceptional customer service, not part of their damn job description.

  4. VJ Pulver

    Hey – let me get this straight. You love your wife all year around, but you use Valentines’s Day to prove some obscure point about it….this is kinda warped buddy. Love is not about proving points…Get her some flowers…take the high road. (Next year give them to her the DAY BEFORE V-Day…)


  5. vj pulver

    Oh yeah…the tax stuff…get this: Mark’s in the Peace Corps and I am here on a Wanda-Jeys grant. I have to pay taxes…this is crazy huh!!!???? Even during my military career, serving my country, we had to PAY each year. I cannot remember ever getting a tax return…and WHO can afford an accountant? Crazy world! But, the USA is a great place – after 27 months in Ukraine, it is will be wonderful to be back in the USA again! See You and yours soon! XX00

  6. Birdy

    I can’t believe you posted all of this in one day! A few things…

    My company just switched entirely to .PDF delivery for just the reasons you point out – quality control. However, they fail to understand that most front end designers are only skilled in back-end production by osmosis and have little if any formal knowledge or training in things like ink density levels. Yeah, quality control!

    As far as the spirit of the law goes, I agree 100%. But unfortunately you can’t regulate honesty and decency.

    Happy birthday!

  7. Bert Bananas

    Chris, I finally decided on which of your three blogs to read! Obviously I can’t judge if I made the correct decision because this is the only one I’ve looked at (and will look at), but I’m happy with my decision.

    I don’t celebrate birthdays and Hallmark holidays. So there.

    You asked one VERY interesting question during your morality homily: “Why can’t our politicians do this?” Meaning why can’t they see situations for what they are and then do what is right…

    I think the answer is that mostly we don’t expect them to or even want them to. Because the majority of Americans are greedy, they expect/hope to one day be in a position where they can purchase the services of a politician, and so it simply wouldn’t do to elect politicians who won’t sell themselves. America is about “getting ahead” (It was once about “getting a head” but our national sewage services policy has conquered that need.) Getting ahead if mostly thought to require double (and even triple) dealing, lying cheating, thieving, etc. So that’s why politicians can’t ‘do what is right’!

    Glad I could help, buddy.

  8. Ellie

    I just found your blog, very interesting. I have it in my favorites and will be back. Very well written thoughts.

    Ellie from over at The Cedar Chest

  9. Ellie

    Is the commentor..Artie…Artie Lange from the Howard Stern Show? I just had to ask…I am almost embarrassed that I know there that Howard has an Artie Lange working for him, or did have. I don’t listen to his show, but there was a time when I actually did, don’t mention my secret to anyone though!


Leave a Reply