Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Amazon jungle

I got an e-mail from Amazon Associates today telling me my account was being closed because none of the ads I have allowed on my blog have generated any sales in 365 days. I was also told I must immediately remove all of the code that generates their ads from my blog. Then they thanked me for being an Amazon Associate.

Okay, I will be the first one to admit that my blog doesn't generate enough traffic to be a good place to advertise. I only do it out of this stubborn belief that some day I might actual get some revenue from blogging. Google has never cancelled my account because the Google ads that appear on my site don't generate traffic. I imagine they operate on the assumption that it doesn't cost them anything and even the occasionally hit on their ads on my site help drive the bottom line.

Amazon apparently has some standards and I don't live up to them. But don't blame me if your shitty ads don't get any attention. I'm just the messenger.

The irony is that I've pumped thousands of dollars into Amazon over the years. I actually think they they offer a great alternative to ever having to leave your home to buy anything. And I talk to Alexa all the time.

I do think Amazon has lost site of what they are in business for. Although I use them to buy lots of things, I've given up on them for last minute gifts for holidays like Valentines Day and Easter. One, their search function seems wacky and dredges up random items that don't match your search criteria. And although you can get crap you don't need delivered in one or two days, good luck having them save your procrastinating butt if you didn't buy Valentines or Easter gifts in advance.

I also don't like that you can't actually complain to a real person at Amazon. They have managed to successfully hide any avenue of providing real feedback to them. Oh, they are good at offering refunds or returns, but its all automated and you can't really tell them what you think or bitch about something taking a couple of weeks to get to you when it was supposed to arrive in two days.

Oh well, I got my resentment for being rejected by Amazon Associates off my chest.  But they will really regret it when my blog finally goes viral. I just need to consult the Mayan calendar to see when that will be.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dirt and weeds

Growing up, some of the chores I was required to do around the house included mowing lawn and weeding. Most of the weeding involved digging dandelions out of the grass. I didn't mind the weeding so much when it was in the vegetable garden, because I enjoyed planting things and nurturing them until they were grown plants. My favorites were corn and pumpkins.

I didn't like digging out dandelions because everyone who deals with weeds knows you pretty much have to get most of the root of a weed or it will simply grow back. Dandelions have huge tap roots that extend a remarkable depth into the soil. And our lawn was pretty dry most of the time, so getting a dandelion out with its tap root was near impossible for me. So I cheated and pulled the top part of the dandelion out so at least there was the appearance of being successful.

I also didn't much care for mowing the lawn because we had this old gas mower that was extremely temperamental and required cleaning spark plugs and messing with a choke. I don't do well with combustion engines, especially when there is a choke involved. Come to think of it, I don't even know what a choke is or does. But it could mean the difference between a gas mower starting and staying started.

I also didn't like mowing lawn as a kid because we had dogs. and inevitably you'd mow over dog crap. And in the summer heat, the smell of dog crap being mowed over just about made me toss my cookies.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Okay, I'm not that funny

It has only taken me almost 1300 blog posts to admit to myself that I'm really not as funny as I have always thought I was. I've mused about this over the years, but I really think I only did so that someone would pop up and tell me that I was just being silly and that I was the wittiest person alive.


My children have confirmed my lack of humor. On an almost daily basis they roll their eyes and mutter, "Not funny," when I spout some of my patented witticisms. For awhile I just figured their senses of humor just weren't mature enough to get my comic genius.  But the older they get (and I get), the less funny I seem.

It has become evident at work as well. I became annoyed at all of the random notices that were being posted next to the copy machine/printer. So I post my own sign reading:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?
These are part of the lyrics from a group called Five Man Electrical Band that was released in 1970 when I was in 7th grade. I consider it pretty iconic. But none of the people at work seemed to get it. One person thought it was a poem someone had written and posted. Eventually someone just tore it down.

Friday, April 12, 2019

There is no future in the pasta

There are carbs, however. So that's something. And they do weigh heavily on our future.

But I'm already digressing.

If you've followed any of my meandering ramblings about living in the now and time being an artificial construct you'll know I am fascinated by the concept of life being a series of "now" and no "then." Though I struggle with letting go of then. Sometimes it seems like a better place then now.

There was a time (even though time doesn't exist) that I fantasized that all of my past "now's" were playing out simultaneously and all I would have to do was figure out how to slip into them to relive great moments. And who knows, maybe shift things around a bit to correct a few mistakes.

But "now" I pretty much believe there is no then to go back to. And let's face it, what would be the point. You'd have a few good now's that would quickly become then's and then you'd be right back where you started.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Walk into the night

I think we should replace all of the existing euphemisms we use for death with the simple phrase, "walk into the night." It sounds so much better than "passed on," "kicked the bucket" (which makes no sense anyway), "bought the farm" (also senseless), "croaked," "departed," "called home" (which happens to mean a lot when one of my kids is sick), "no longer with us" (which is something we also say after someone in the office is fired), "with the angels," "gave up the ghost," "left this mortal coil," "went belly up," "cashed in," "bought a pine condo," "cashed in," "is pushing up daisies," or "crossed over."

"Walk into the night," sounds gentle like slipping into a slumber. And it sounds so much better than "walk into the light," with its connotation of harsh light. I would rather slip softly into darkness, like the embrace of an old friend.

It also sounds better than, "What happened to Fred?"
"Fred's dead."
"Oh, what's for dinner?

Instead, "What happened to Fred?"
"He walked into the night."
"Oh, that sounds nice."


Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about euphemisms for death. I did briefly when I was with my mother when she died. None of the euphemisms seemed appropriate. I was there. She didn't pass on or get called home. She died.

I didn't think much about it when my father died 21 years before that. I wasn't with him. So it was less that he died and more that he wasn't there any more. It's a subtle distinction, but you'd understand it if you'd experienced it.

We tend to say we are putting pets to sleep when we have them euthanized. And in fact the vets do put them to sleep before they kill them with a lethal injection. Hopefully it insures that they aren't suffering. But it is a sleep they never wake from.

Sort of like walking into the night.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How much is a thousand words really worth?

My post about my recent Elvis pilgrimage illustrates (no pun intended) that I tend to take a lot of photos. On my trip to Memphis, I took more than 450 photos with my Canon digital camera alone. And I must have taken another three hundred or so with my iPhone.

That's a lot of photos.

I have photo storage accounts on Amazon, Flickr and Apple. I gave up on physical drives to store images because I've had bad luck with disk failures. But I think I have close to 90,000 images in the Cloud.

That's a lot of photos.

I've made physical books using some of the photos, mainly highlights of big vacations. I made a huge book of the photos from my first trip to Graceland in 2018. I didn't think I'd be going back to Memphis the following year, so I'm not sure what to do with my new photos.

I accept that not all of the photos are great. Some are. I especially cherish the photos I've taken of my family. I'm less enamored of the photos of myself. Though that tends to be all I share on my blog. I do share lots of photos of my family on Facebook, however, but that is more of a protected environment.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019


"Poor boys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland"
Graceland by Paul Simon 
I have spent years denying that I am a hard core Elvis fan. This is despite years of posting on a blog called Dizgraceland and a having a past where I went by the name Tim-Elvis for a lark. And I protested that I wasn't an Elvis fan despite a pilgrimage to Las Vegas to visit spots where Elvis had been including Landmark Drugs where he had his prescriptions filled.

I suppose not everyone has an Elvis tree every year with a miniature Graceland at it's base.  And there is the bookcase chock full of just about every book ever written about the man. Okay and there is that complete collection of Elvis liquor decanters depicting the various stages of his life.

But the one thing that I felt separated me from the rest of the Elvis followers was that I'd never been to Graceland. Oh, I'd passed through the Memphis airport a couple of times, but I never had visited the holiest of all holy sights to those inflicted by King worship.

I stopped being able to claim that distinction when my wife surprised me last year on my birthday with a trip to Memphis to visit Graceland. And I'll be the first one to admit that I was pretty awestruck to take the VIP tour of the mansion and the museums across the street, marveling at the cars, memorabilia and minutia that are on display highlighting his short life.

And let's not forget the feeling of visiting the Meditation Gardens and the King's grave.

It was kind of a once in a lifetime experience that I thought I'd never repeat. And then low and behold circumstances led me and my family back to Memphis again this year and another trip to Graceland. And on this trip I also added a road trip to Tupelo to visit the birthplace of Elvis.

So I've pretty much run out of excuses for my fascination with the King.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Walk into the light

It is no longer dark when I stand at the station waiting for my morning train. I wish it was, because lately I've been on autopilot in the morning and sort of just want to sleep standing up while I wait for the train. It doesn't help that I've been listening to Moby's Long Ambients 2 album on my Calm meditation app. It was written to help you relax and sleep.

When the train finally arrives at 7:10 a.m., I am generally the first one through the second doors of the second car. It is less crowded than the first and last car and my favorite seat, one that doesn't require you to sit next to anyone, is usually open. My latest morning ritual is to grab the seat, swap my baseball cap for a stocking cap I keep in my backpack, remove my glasses and pull the stocking cap over my eyes. Then I settle back and let Moby sooth my commuting soul.

It is only a 25-minute commute. The last mile or so is through a vintage train tunnel under downtown Seattle that pops you out on the border of Pioneer Square and the International District. I usually pull off my stocking cap just as the train is pulling out of the tunnel and drifting by an acre of graffiti littered walls that face the train platforms. I rise and slip out of the door still listening to Moby and join the rest of the walking dead as we shuffle towards the stairs that rise from the train platform to the street level.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Seeing through me

I wrote my first post about turning invisible in 2005. I've repeated the sentiment umpteen times since. Considering I started fading in my early 40s, I am pretty much not here now.

I got my haircut Sunday at one of those franchise haircutting places. It's a cheap and quick haircut without frills like coffee, shampooing and head massages that tack about $40 onto the cost. The downside is that, like Forest Gump's box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get.

But when you are invisible, it doesn't matter.

I checked in on line and drove to the place. When I walked in, this person who has cut my hair several times greeted me and took me right back to cut my hair. There was no acknowledgement that she recognized me. But I imagine they cut quite a few heads of hair in any given week and they only see people every other month or so.

To her credit, she tried to make small talk (which anyone who knows me knows I love). At one point, she asked me what I did for a living. She had asked me this same question on an earlier visit and I thought when I responded she'd remember cutting my hair before, because I'd gone in greater depth than I like about being a public transportation marketing person.

But she didn't remember me or anything I'd told her before. She asked the same questions and seemed totally oblivious to what I did or the company I work for.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Who do you think you are?

Okay, it's is another philosophical question. I admit I don't really know who I am. I thought I did for years, but I kept surprising myself. It's part of the aging process. Enlightenment comes when you realize you don't know anything, including yourself.

Part of it is that the self we grow up believing in is, according to Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, is an illusion. Of course, so is everything else. If you accept that, then you have to wrap your illusionary brain around both creating the illusion and being the illusion.

Sometimes I think I'm pretty deep. Other times I worry that I'm just a windbag. I just came out of a business meeting with a consultant. At times I imaged I was witty and engaging. Everyone laughed at my jokes, nodded and took notes. But stepping out of myself, I realize they pretty much do all those things because I am the client. Inside they were probably thinking about what they were going to have for lunch.

Part of my anxiety about finding out who I am or who I am not is that I'd find out that I am no one. But if I engage in a bit of Zen word play, finding out you are no "one" could mean that you are many.

What's that? You heard the sound of one hand clapping? I did too. And it usually only happens when I show people the face I had before I was born.

It was 20 years ago, today...

I spent my 41st birthday in New Orleans, by myself. It was an odd time in my life. I'd weathered the milestone of turning 40 and wasn't quite sure what to make of things. I didn't have a relationship. I was on a career path I wasn't sure I wanted to be on. I felt lost.

I'd been to New Orleans three times. Two of the three was just to board a cruise ship bound for Cozomel. The other time was to attend a conference. I'd never really explored the city. So I decided to book a week in the French Quarter. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Chateau Lemoyne which ironically turns out to be just a block away from the Dauphine Orleans which I stayed at a few weeks ago.

I had no real itinerary. I knew I wanted to see what St. Patrick's Day was like in New Orleans. Other than that, I had no plan. And that is how I discovered that no plan is sometimes the best plan.

Every day I'd sleep in. Then I'd set out and just walk. Most times I'd head for Royal Street and enjoy the street musicians. Then I'd usually end up in Jackson Square. That's where I spotted the photo above of a street busker. I found out later that the performer was Amanda Palmer. Palmer was the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. But she'd started out as a street performer in San Francisco and New Orleans. I only found out that the performer was Palmer years later when I saw her on a TED talk about connections.

That kind of sums up the trip. I walked. I ate great food. I watched the St. Patrick's Day parade. I turned 41 and celebrated alone on the balcony of a restaurant on Bourbon Street. It was one of the most memorable unmemorable trips I've ever taken.

Now, 20-years later, it is my birthday and I am turning 61. I am married now. I have two children. I stayed on the same career path and can glimpse retirement down the road (but still several years away). But sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that I was strolling up Royal Street enjoying those unscripted moments of my life.

After all, they led me to where I am now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Blogging like it's 2006

As I stare forlornly at my blog stats, I regularly see posts I wrote back in 2006 being viewed now, thirteen years after they were written. And as I reread them, I can't help but think they were pretty darned good. I think 2006 was my peak year as a blogger. Which is pretty sad considering I was not quite two years into this medium that was relatively new at the time.

I suppose part of it was that it was a new type of writing and I was still having fun exploring the options. And I hadn't been blogging long enough to have started repeating myself. I had, however, been alive long enough to start repeating myself.

As much as I'd like to believe that I blog for myself and don't need an audience, in 2006 I had an active group of people who regularly read and commented on my blog. Their positive feedback did influence my writing at the time.

For whatever reason, all of the people in my blog community at the time moved on, dropped out, or found other outlets to amuse themselves. It's not like there were thousands of people who read my blog anyway. I think at the time there were maybe ten regulars at the most. So it's not like I ever went viral or was discovered.

This was before social media really overshadowed everything, too. In retrospect, I never really rose to any degree of success as a blogger. So I can't really lament languishing in relative obscurity now.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one with a lampshade on my head at a pity party.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Me, myself and eye

Everything I've been listening to philosopher Alan Watts say about reality and enlightenment pretty much nixes a sense of self and individual existence. This adds to my confusion about figuring out who I am and puts a dead end sign on my road to self discovery.

I don't pretend to totally understand what Watts is explaining. He tends to use a lot of Greek and other ancient language words that he spells out in his lectures (as if spelling them will make them any more comprehensible). I tend to listen to Watts lectures during my morning commute on the train. And I am usually half asleep while I listen to them.

Not that being fully awake would matter (in a literal, not a spiritual sense). Most of what I glean from Watts' explanations is that most of us mistakenly assume we are separate from the world around us. Watts conjectures that we are all connected to everything. So there isn't any "you" or "I."

That is the hardest part for "me" to accept. Because I have struggled my entire life with feeling pretty much alone trying to figure out what I am doing here.

I can't say that what Watts is saying is new to me. I have been fascinated for years with the concept that time isn't really linear. Our mistake is connecting a non-existent past with a non-existent future. In doing so, we ignore the infinite now. But it is hard to comprehend an infinite now because it seems impossible to pinpoint when now is. Because the moment you utter the words now, it has slipped into a seemingly non-existent past to make room for the new now.

I'll catch that tail some day.