Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Monday, October 30, 2017

I Am Suddenly A Fantastic Golfer

It’s autumn in Northeast Ohio and another season of golf has come to an end.  Fortunately, I was able to play all the golf I wanted this year. Which interestingly enough was the same amount of golf I have played the previous 12 years – none.

You see, I’m a terrible golfer.  I know many people say that, but they are merely bad golfers.  I however, am truly a horrendous, gawd-awful, putrid golfer.  I should had quit the game years before I did. I will now publicly apologize to anyone I have ever golfed with or anyone who has suffered pain or property damage from one of my errant shots. I am sorry, I am oh so sorry.

Some guys will sit in the nursing home regretting that they worked too much and did not play enough golf.  I will be sitting beside them regretting that I played any golf at all.  And it’s not like I played a lot of golf, because I hate golfing. Hate it oh so badly.

I began playing in high school because my good friend John golfed and it looked like fun.  I kept playing occasionally because friends would invite me or there would be work events in which you were “expected” to participate. Where your value as a business person would somehow depend on your skill as a golfer. Needless to say, my golfing ability never advanced my career, on the contrary, it may have helped to sink it – just like my normal tee shot on the 4th hole at the Legends Golf Course where you shoot over, (whoops!) where you are supposed to shoot over the lake.

I once even joined a golf league at church since it seemed like the Christian, holy, fellowship-type thing to do.  Even when provided with an astronomical handicap, my partner and I finished in last place both years I played.  I did make my mark on the league though.  Early in the second season, my partner Steve moved to South Dakota. I’m sure he did leave to take a new job and not to avoid finishing last again due to my awful scores.  I replaced him with my friend from work, Roger.  But Roger had a quirk.  If he hit a bad shot, he swore. Even if he hit it a good shot, he swore.  Roger liked to swear on the golf course and *#%&!!*, he sure swore a lot. While it was highly amusing to me, it was somehow not appreciated in church league golf.  Between my atrocious play and Roger’s potty mouth, I decided it was best for all involved to quit while I was behind.

I played golf on and off for over 30 years.  I would golf, golf terribly, and then quit the game. Inexplicably, I would try again.  I first golfed left-handed (the way I swing a baseball bat), then right-handed, then left-handed again and finally the last 15 years or so, right-handed.  I would joke and tell people that I could golf equally well right or left handed.  They would be impressed until they witnessed my tee shot. And I say “witnessed”, because the way I swing a golf club is a crime.

It is also interesting that my last round of golf was just as terrible as my first   In 30 years of trying to improve my game, I failed and I failed miserably.  And I did make an effort to improve, but I never did.  I couldn’t even work my way up from horrible to “fair”. Of anything I have ever attempted to do in life, golf is my biggest failure.

At one point I even bought golf shoes, just like a good golfer. As if the shoes ever had the ability to improve my horrible game.  These shoes would have had to possess more magical powers than Dorothy’s ruby slippers. “There’s no place like (the) hole”.

The whole idea of striking a golf ball never made sense to me.  The poor ball is just sitting there on the tee waiting for you to wallop it.  But you can’t just wallop it.  You have to keep your knees bent, head down, elbow in, eye on the ball, blah, blah, blah.  You also must clear your mind of all distractions and focus exclusively on all the mechanics required for a smooth shot.  I’m intelligent enough to know what I am supposed to do.  But somewhere between approaching the ball and hitting it a voice inside my head will drown out everything else. “KILL IT! KILL IT NOW! KILL IT BEFORE IT RUNS AWAY! 

So evidently my primal instincts believe the ball is food and must be subdued before it flees.  And even though I know it is wrong, I swing as hard as I can at that weak, defenseless ball and it goes flying off in some random direction.  Golfing with me was dangerous, but my fellow linksters soon learned that the safest place to stand when I hit an approach shot was on the green by the pin and they would point that out to me.  Those pompous bass-turds!

But I don’t have to worry about it anymore because this summer I gave away my clubs. They had sat in the garage, neglected for the past 13 years.  They would often mock me when I walked past. “Hey doofus, why don’t you use us?  We know why! Because you suck at golf! Boy do you suck! My young friend Colin, was taking up golf and looking for a cheap set of clubs. I was so eager to get rid of these things that I gave him my clubs (except for my putter which I kept for miniature golf).  No need to pay, just remove this from my life!  Usually
All that is left of my golf stuff
I have feelings when parting with objects that have sentimental value. But oddly, maybe sadly, I felt nothing as Colin drove away with my clubs.  I later messaged him to find out how his golf game is progressing, but there was no reply.  Perhaps my atrocious golf skills somehow got ingrained into those clubs.  Poor Colin! He probably sucks at golf and it’s my fault.

I never, ever enjoyed playing golf. It was like going to the dentist. I endured it, but I was so glad when the round was over. Why was it ever important to me to become a proficient golfer? Oh the good golfers will inflate it’s importance, because they are of course, good at it.  Some will even say your manhood depends on a low golf score.  But what is golf, really?  It is hitting an object, with a stick, at a target. In a sense, it is just glorified croquet.

Attaining a great golf swing creates no really useful skill whatsoever.  Cavemen probably hit rocks with tree limbs for utter amusement and then the Scots eventually turned it into a game.  No, not a sport, a game.  And in our wacked out culture we create special sticks to strike the object which can cost up to $1,300 each.  We also pay millions of dollars to our golf-gods who have mastered striking the object with these expensive sticks.  This would even confuse a caveman. “Ugg!  Me hooked it!  Stupid branch.”

However, a while back I saw a meme which read: “The object of golf is to play the least amount of golf”.  Brilliant!  How pleasurable can an activity be if the goal is to do it less?  This would imply that it is a dreadful, useless game which should be avoided at all costs.

This revelation changed my outlook on golf entirely.  I am not a horrible golfer.  I am a masterful golfer because over the last 13 years, none of these so called skilled linksters has played less golf than I have.

With this new, profound perspective, I immediately booked a trip to Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament. My scorecard from the day is shown below:

As you can see, I had a most exemplarily round.  I mastered the dog leg to the left on Hole #5 by doggone leaving it alone.  I made a tremendous approach shot on #7 by hitting my none-iron and skillfully avoided the pond on #16 by circumventing the hole all together.  If fact, I evaded every hazard on the course and didn’t miss a putt.  This enabled me to proceed directly to the clubhouse bar and talk some jive with the barmaids. It was just a fantastic day.

The life lesson here is to not waste your time, effort and resources on things you do not really enjoy and will never have proficiency in. Instead, find those things that bring you joy and experience these to the fullest.  So I encourage those great golfers to continue to strike that object, with that stick, to hit that target.  You do it well and I’m glad you enjoy it.  But I will not be joining you on the links (which is beneficial and much safer for you), because I literally have better things, for me, to do.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Transforming Into The Perfect Gentleman

I’ve reached the point in my life where I don’t need to compete with people and I can put the needs of others in front of my own.  I can be more charming, gracious, courteous, polite, well-mannered and chivalrous.  I strive to distinguish myself by carefully listening to what others say and then reply in a wise, well-spoken manner.  Yes, my personal goal in life right now is to become a “gentleman”.

Of course, this is how I should have behaved my entire life, but that didn’t always happen.  Okay, that didn’t happen enough. Alright, there were times it didn’t happen at all.  But now I am older, and wiser, with a much-improved perspective on life.

The peculiar thing is that most women expect men to act like gentlemen and are attracted to those who do.  But few men exhibit these traits. We don’t do this, because we are men, and we have a male brain, we have testosterone, and man parts.  Add that all together and we seldom resemble gentlemen. Sadly, from what woman tell me and what I see on social media, gentlemanly behavior is decreasing.   The older generations have forgotten how to be chivalrous and I sense that Millennial guys don’t have a clue on how to treat women.

For example, a few months ago, I attending a reception at a fancy country club (Yes, they invited me and I didn’t crash it for the free appetizers). I waited and held the door for a gorgeous young woman. She was so surprised by this gesture, she actually blushed.  Hey, when a guy my age can make a damsel blush, in a good way, it’s a great day.  Likewise, when I was polite on a recent flight, the foxy flight attendant cooed, “such nice manners”.  So Millennial guys, listen up!  If you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, work on your manners!  

I believe a major reason there are less gentlemen, and especially younger gentlemen, is the attitude of some “ultra-liberated” chicks.  These women feel the need to criticize men who hold doors open for them or perform other polite gestures.  Being criticized by a woman, and especially a beautiful woman, in public is crushing to the male ego, particularly the young-male ego.  But let me say this to the younger guys: If a woman berates you when you are doing something good, what do you think will happen when you do something bad?  You don’t want this type of woman, so why do you even care what she says.  Better to let her go become some other poor guys problem, regardless of how she looks.  And at my age, I am done with apologizing when I do the right thing and someone else has a problem with it. D-O-N-E - done.  If I encounter one of those ultra-libs, I just smile and say “You’re welcome” and if that fizzes them off more, uh, good.

So, I am making significant progress on becoming a perfect gentleman, but there are forces, nefarious forces, working against me.  This struggle is going to be much more arduous than I ever imagined when you consider this ……

Recently I joined a group of people playing euchre on Monday nights.  My first night there I was quiet and reserved (I’m serious) by design because as you know, Don Ake is an acquired taste and most people can’t handle the “full Donnie” right away.

Near the end of the evening, there was important hand in which Linda, a sweet, quiet, reserved lady, needed to take the final two tricks (the fourth and fifth) to win the game.  The fourth trick started with Linda playing third and me last. When it was Linda’s turn, she had a difficult decision about which card to play. She looked at the cards on the table, then looked at her cards, then more thinking, more hesitation.  Well, I knew by her indecision that she could not beat both of the cards I was holding. She was not winning the game. But she was taking way too long to decide. Finally, she looked at me for an indication (a tell, in poker terms) on what card I was going to play next. Without changing expression, or looking directly at her, I discretely lifted up my hand on the table and revealed my cards to only her.

“YOU @SS!” she shouted as she threw her cards on the table.

The players at our table were stunned.  Play even stopped at the other tables, everyone starring in our direction.  Andy, the group leader, rushed over to find out what despicable thing the “new guy” had done to elicit such a bad reaction from this pleasant woman.  But when he learned I was innocent, he still had a problem; a first-time player had just been publicly insulted.

Andy spun over to me with a worried expression. “You okay?” he inquired.

“I’m fine.  It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. However, I usually have to say something to get that type of response.  Maybe she’s just very perceptive,” I reasoned.

He looks at me incredulously, “You’re not upset?”

“No, I’m fine,” I assured him.

Andy grinned, and we have been friends ever since. Even Linda likes me, well tolerates me, now.  My nickname in the euchre group is now is “@ss”

I thought that was just a fluke, but the following week I was at a party, talking to my friend Lori. I was relating a recent conversation I had with a colleague. “You are such as @ss”! she exclaimed.

Then I realized my wife had recently used the term several times when she had been displeased by my behavior on our recent vacation.  When you’re in your 20s and women refer to you as an @ss, it’s a good thing. When you are in your 50s, not so much.

This was not a fluke, but a trend!  I couldn’t accept this characterization so I looked up the definition of @ss to see if my accusers were correct.  Well, according to the slang dictionaries an @ss is “a foolish or stupid person”. I knew this didn’t fit.  These women were not implying I was a dolt.   Definitions do evolve and even the Internet is slow to keep up sometimes, so I kept looking.

Then I saw the term “pompous @ss”.  Could this expression be changing in that people leave out the pompous part and just say @ss?  I was confident that in no way I am at all pompous, but I googled the definitions just to be sure.
The search returned: self-important, imperious, overbearing, domineering, magisterial, pontifical, sententious, grandiose, affected, pretentious, puffed up, arrogant, vain, haughty, proud, conceited, egotistic, supercilious, condescending, patronizing, portentous, turgid, vainglorious.

Come on guys, it’s just one word. If you take 23 other words to define one word, you are obviously trying too hard and you don’t know what you are doing.  I’m a busy, important person and I don’t have time for your cute, little word games.

But I am relieved that after quickly perusing this list that I am definitely not pompous.

Magisterial? – Never practiced magic in my life.

Pontifical? – I’m not even Catholic.

Sententious? Well maybe, but I’m an author so I have to use lots of sentences.

Turgid? Absolutely not! I use 24-hour deodorant daily and my Mary Kay cologne.

Egotistical? Come on, I’m better than that.

The sentence example used was:  "a pompous @ss who pretends he knows everything".  Of course, this doesn’t pertain to me, because I don’t need to pretend now, do I?

To be absolutely certain that I have no pompousness whatsoever, I made a list of these words and asked my wife if any of them remotely described me.  I read them to her one at a time. On the first two she just looked at me bug-eyed. After the third word, she started laughing hysterically, face red, gasping for air.  I decided to stop there for strictly health reasons.

I then read the list to my co-worker Ron, a pleasant guy who never says anything bad about anybody.  This time I started at the other end of the list.   It was weird.  Ron was silent until I got to the fourth word and then he claimed he had forgotten to finish a critical report and had to go. And strangely enough he had told me at the beginning of the call that he had plenty of time to talk!

I must conclude I have reached the age where I don’t care so much about what others think of me.  While this is liberating and has positive aspects, it also enables some of my irritating qualities to leak out.  Maybe I’m not as careful in hiding these deficiencies, or it could be I am now less skilled at it. At some point in life you accept who you are and concede that you are not going to change.  Call it the Popeye Principle: “I yam what I yam and dats what I yam!”.

So as I strive to become the perfect gentleman, I am also naturally transforming into a greater @ss.  As I exude more charm and graciousness, I also show more arrogance.  I guess trying to figure out who you really are never ceases, it literally takes a lifetime.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Devices Are Now Managing Me

Sometime around 2003 I traded in my portable CD player for something called an MP3 unit to listen to music while jogging.  I felt some remorse at this change because it was a high-end CD player with cool anti-skip and water-resistant features.  But it was bulky and I wore this ridiculous contraption called a “tune-belt” across my chest to hold the player when I ran.  I’m sure it looked like I was wearing a sports bra to passing motorists, but it did provide the secondary benefit of stabilizing my man-boobs when jogging over rough terrain.

I did like my new MP3 unit.  I was glad I waited until the “3” came out, which I assumed was an improvement over the MP1 and the MP2.  I was successful in magically “ripping” my CDs into a digital file.  I must be very good at this since I can still rip CDs without even damaging them at all!  The MP3 player was easy to carry, had superior sound quality, and stored all my music in one place.
Although I did not realize it at the time, I now had my first “device”.

Number of Devices = 1

In 2007, I got my first personal cell phone.  Up to this point the family had shared pre-paid phones.  I really didn’t think I needed my own phone, but we signed up for a family plan and I had my very own mobile phone number.  At first, I only used the phone to place an occasional call and no one but family had my number.

But then in 2008, my mother fell seriously ill and I had to give the hospital my cell number so I could be reached anytime.  I took my phone to work and placed in right next to my business phone so I could answer it quickly if necessary.  That morning I needed to go talk to a co-worker on the far side of the building.  I became anxious because I was concerned the hospital might call my cell phone (sitting there on my desk) while I was gone.  I actually sat there pondering this troubling situation before coming up with a solution.  Yes, they call it a mobile phone for a reason and being a middle-age person in the digital age has its challenges.

Number of Devices = 2

In 2010, I bought a Kindle.  It is my favorite device and is so wonderful I will never read a physical book ever again if I can help it.  Strangely, some of my writer friends don’t want one because they enjoy holding, feeling and smelling books.  This sounds a bit too kinky for me, could it be “50 pages of Grey?”.
I felt so technically advanced when my millennial co-worker Tim found out I owned a Kindle (he didn’t) and asked me a bunch of questions about it!  I even brought it to work the next the next day for “show and tell”.

Number of Devices = 3

I got a laptop computer in 2011 so I could type my blog posts while I watched television.

Number of Devices = 4

I was issued an i-Pad for work in 2013.  I had to learn “Apple-stuff” and I took my first selfie!  Beside work-related functions, I use it to download the daily newspaper if the delivery guy is late.

Number of Devices = 5

I bought my first fitness band in 2014 because apparently it is important to know the number of steps you take every day. For the first 20,000 or so days of my life I was oblivious, totally oblivious to my step count. But now I am obsessed by it. So much so that I will saunter outside at night in my pajamas just to make my “goal” for the day.

Number of Devices = 6

Of course, there have been upgrades and replacements over the years. Most notably the addition of the iPhone, the iPhone 6, (now the 7) in 2015 and the Apple Watch a couple months ago.  Now I am the proud owner of six devices, but maybe the devices own me? It is vitally important to manage all these devices on a daily basis. I have to keep them updated, upgraded, accessible and most importantly, charged so they don’t “die”.  It is a modern tragedy when we need one of our devices and it won’t work because the battery is drained.

Keeping them all charged is most challenging. You must monitor the battery icon and then find the right charger for the device.  Some bass-turd thought it would be a great idea to make each charger different. So I throw all the chargers in a drawer and try to remember which one I need.  Unfortunately, when I replace a device I don’t throw away the old charger.   After a while I forget what device the charger belongs to.  Then I can’t throw it out because I might need it to charge something, even though I have thrown away the device it belongs to a long time ago. Over time the number of obsolete chargers grows and grows.

So, these old chargers go in the drawer with the cables from my last five televisions and radios and cassette players and head phones. I bet I still have the one for my CD player!  But they do not just lay there peacefully.  Within that drawer all these cables engage in an orgy of Roman proportions.  The cords become spectacularly tightly intertwined into one large ball.  This is my best explanation for this phenomenon since it would take days for me to purposely entangle the cables this much and yet it happens naturally in that drawer. It gives a whole new meaning to the term hot cable sex.  Here is what my cable ball looks like. 

This massive cord entanglement caused a problem last week. I was on an important conference call using my speakerphone, but there was a motor running outside my home office which made it difficult to hear. I opened the drawer to get my headphones, but instead spent the next three minutes trying to remove them unsuccessfully from the cord orgy. Unfortunately, the meeting conversation continued and I wasn’t listening because I was distracted, desperately pulling and tugging at these cords every which way to get the head phones.  And then I do hear:

Boss: Ake, what do you think about all this?

Me: Uh, ah, uh … I think it’s a tangled mess, sir.

Boss: Brilliant observation Ake! That’s why you’re a V.P.!

Now if you are away from home and need a charge, it can cause some interesting situations.  When you need juice, it’s the most important thing that moment.  Every day, in a coffeehouse or airport somewhere, the same conversation takes place.

Guy: Can I plug my hub into your port, baby?

Girl: Why are you asking?

Guy: Just need some of your sweet juice, girl. I know you have what I need.

Girl: But I don’t know you.  Is it safe?

Guy: I’m clean. I use protection. My anti-virus software is up to date.

Girl: I guess you can stick it in.  Will you text me tomorrow?

Guy: Sure, if I have enough battery life. But I could be plugged into another girl’s port by that time.

And I do worry about how this device obsession interferes with human interaction as people interact more with their devices than other humans.  This may be why millennials are not getting married. You can’t form a relationship unless you actually talk. “Dude, did you see the way that beautiful woman is looking at you?”  Of course you didn’t, because you are staring at your phone. You poor pathetic putz, you. It used to be men search earnestly for a good wifey. Now they just settle for finding good wi-fi.

Who ever thought that “managing devices” would be part of your daily routine?  You know it’s bad when you try to send someone an email from your MP3.  And if you get “locked out” of your device, it causes you to panic until you get back in. I take solace in knowing that I am not the only one overrun by my many devices.  A speaker at a recent seminar claimed that there are now over five billion devices, more than the population of the earth.  If you are worried about the machines taking over, they already outnumber us.

I know you techno-masters are laughing at me right now for not using my iPhone for multiple functions which would eliminate some devices. But that would be too much work learning how to move all those files around.  I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way an older brain functions.

At one point I had no devices and was in control of my life and my time. But over the years my devices grew in number and importance, and now to a certain extent control me. So now you could say ---- I am left to my own devices.