Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talking on trains


I realize that not everyone commutes to work via train. So this post may not be relevant to everyone. Then again most of my posts aren't. But maybe people can relate to my annoyance at small talk in general.

If you use public transit, you are likely aware that there are two types of commuters -- introverts and extroverts. Introverts take their seats and tune out everything and everyone around them. They have headphones, books, tablets with them to help get over the fact that they are trapped in a small, confined space with strangers who don't always respect personal space requirements. Introverts also may curl up in a ball and pretend they are asleep (or dead) to prevent interaction on a train.

Extroverts, on the other hand, don't read, sleep or listen to music. They talk. They laugh loudly. They band together in noisy groups and bond for the 25 minutes to an hour they are on the train. And they are oblivious to the fact that they are torturing the introvert commuters who they occasionally trap in the seats around them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hearts and flowers


I thought about writing a post about the history of Valentines Day, but all you have to do is Google it, it didn't seem worth the effort of regurgitating stuff from other websites. I actually just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to Photoshop my face on a cupid anyway.

I do think the holiday (and I use that term loosely since we don't get the day off) is just another example of capitalism exploiting the masses with ritual traditions that require spending lots of money. If you are involved in any kind of relationship, it is pretty much expected that you better be sending cards, flowers, candy to your loved one and take them out to dinner.

I've taken to making my own cards these days, so I like to think I'm sticking it to the man. It's not so much the cost of the cards that gets me, it's insincerity of pawing through a rack of cards some schmuck copy writer has written and giving it to your loved one as a sign of your love. I prefer develop my own with Photoshop and a color printer. At least it demonstrates that I'm investing my time and talents to create the sentiment.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Screaming streets


I work in a colorful part of downtown Seattle, in a neighborhood that straddles the International District and Pioneer Square neighborhoods. It is generally an okay area to walk around during the day, especially if you make it to the more touristy parts of the International District and it's variety of foods and tourist shops. And Pioneer Square has been taken over by more trendy restaurants and condos.

But still the area has an edge. Our work campus has expanded over the years, so meetings can take you outside of your own building to run the gauntlet of street people, crack heads and Jehovah's Witnesses. I generally go out with my headphones on playing Spotify. It helps shut out some of the street noise.

It's an area where you pretty much always need to be aware of your surroundings. Today I was waiting at the crosswalk for the light to change and watched a very angry and agitated man across the street screaming and waving his arms. He had that erratic behavior either brought on by drugs, lack of drugs or voices in his head. I feel sorry for these people, but I still plot my path to avoid them as much as possible.

Fortunately the man just paced back and forth for awhile screaming at people passing by, threw what appeared to be an apple on the sidewalk and moved on down the street. I could still hear him as I scurried across the crosswalk and through the plaza over the International District bus and light rail tunnel station. I avoided eye contact of the Jehovah's Witnesses who stand there every day with their signs and literature racks. I have to admit that I prefer them standing passively on the sidewalk with their PR for god materials over them coming to my door trying to force me to take a Watchtower brochure.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Me and my shadows


It was rainy and gray here on Groundhogs Day, so no shadow to frighten the groundhogs. So maybe Punxsutawney Phil should move to the Pacific Northwest. If he lived here chances are he'd never see his shadow and we could get on with spring.

Though spring here just means more rain.

Being that it is cloudy and rainy here a great deal of the time, you don't see your shadow a lot. Though I suppose technically everything is in the shadow of the clouds, so we are walking around in a shadow all the time.

At least that's the way I feel at times.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How many Presto Logs could a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck didn't want to chop wood?


A woodchuck is simply a groundhog. But "How much ground would a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground?" doesn't have the same ring to it as a woodchuck chucking wood. But since groundhogs or woodchucks don't appear to spend too much time at the gym, I'm thinking they wouldn't spend too much time chucking anything that required a lot of effort.

That's why I pose the philosophical question about how many Presto Logs would a woodchuck chuck. Because I figure if they were tasked with dealing with anything so they could stoke a fire, they'd head on down to the mini-mart and stock up on pre-formed Presto Logs.

These are, unfortunately, the types of things I think about these days. The alternative is dwelling on politics, nuclear holocaust and the many offenses we heap on each other because of our gender, race or personal hygiene habits. I'm thinking dwelling on woodchucks is less depressing then bemoaning the world going to shit.

Pardon my French (though I suppose I would have said Merde if I was speaking French or shiest if I was using my high school German...though Herr Haddock, my high school German teacher didn't really approve of us using German expletives though they are all I seem to recall other than asking where the library is in German).


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

They might be angels


It snowed on Christmas Eve for the first time in umpteenth years. An while it disappeared within a day or two, it reminded me of the magic of snow to transform the world. It is a weather game changer.

Having it snow on Christmas Eve amplified the magic tenfold. Even I, a jaded adult who hates what snow does to the daily commute, was excited to see snow blanketing everything.  I helped my children make a snowman in the front yard and watched my daughter make snow angels. It was one of those moments.

Now, a few weeks later, looking at the photo of the snow angel triggered something. Why is it we picture angels and other magical creatures like fairies with wings? I Googled it and got a lot of religious bible babble about depicting the power of god. But nothing that explains why angels would need wings.

But then again, many demons and imps are depicted with wings, too. Though they are more like bat wings than the feathery angel wings. And fairy wings are more like butterflies. But the common link is wings.

Perhaps its because we envy creatures that can fly. And because our ancestors looked to the skies for heaven we associate flight with the divine.


Monday, January 08, 2018

For unto you was born a king



I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that today is Elvis' birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 83 years old. God only knows how much he would weigh.

Elvis died in 1977 when he was 42 years old. The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question was.

I wonder if Elvis knows what the question is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Out with the old grill, in with the new


I got a new grill for Christmas. My old grill was about four years old and had all but fallen apart and was crusted with burnt remnants of meat that was also likely four years old. The grills had burnt through and the burners were riddled with holes.  So it definitely was time for a new grill.

But what do you do with a derelict grill? In the past, when I had a truck, I would have hauled it to the dump. If it was in better condition, I would have wheeled it out to the sidewalk and put a sign on it that read, "FREE." So I spent the Saturday before New Year's Eve dismantling it.

I had originally assembled the thing when I bought it. So I knew the number of parts and screws I would be encountering. But years of grease and being exposed to the elements had left most of the screws rusted and frozen. So with a hacksaw, my Dremel tool with cutting wheel and a pry bar, I proceeded to dismember my old friend.

It wasn't pretty. But I succeeded in breaking it down into chunks that would fit in a trash can (albeit it will take several trash cycles to get rid of the entire thing).


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Alexa..Alexa...Alexa...can you hear me...hear me...hear me?


I started talking to Alexa, Amazon's AI assistant, when I purchased a new Fire TV box that was bundled with Echo Dot. I didn't really know what an Echo Dot was until it arrived and I set it up next to my easy chair where I watch television. My first question for Alexa (at the urging of Amazon Customer Support that I'd called to help me set up my Echo Dot) was, "Alexa, where is Chuck Norris?"

In reality, I don't really care about Chuck Norris, but she answered, "If Chuck Norris wants you to know where he is, he'll tell you. But when he does, it will be too late."

Okay, an AI with a sense of humor. But what else can she/it do? I asked her to play independent rock music and she sampled some songs from Amazon Prime Music. I asked her to turn on Netflix on my Fire TV and she complied. That saved me about three clicks on the remote. I then ask her to pause and eventually play whatever I am streaming on my Fire TV.  Again, this saved me from reaching over an pressing a button on my remote.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don't let the year hit you on the way out

I will not miss 2017. It has not been my favorite year. I'm hoping 2018 will be better. I like the even numbered years better for some reason. Perhaps it is because I was born in one.

I turn 60 in 2018.I'm still not sure how I feel about that. I have honestly never thought about turning 60. I thought about turning 30. And then about turning 40. I gave a little bit of thought to turning 50. But 60 just wasn't on my radar. But now it is jitterbugging in my face.

On the plus side, 60 puts me a little closer to retirement. I am definitely weary of working. Having taken off a week for Christmas, I am very conscious of the energy it takes to shift from being home into the work persona. I am longing for the day when I no longer have to think about work.

I wonder, though, what I'll do when I retire. Didn't seem to be a problem on my week off. Time slipped away quickly.  Most of it was consumed by basic things you do around the house: make breakfast and lunch for my kids, empty and fill the dishwasher, take out the garbage and recycling, repeat.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Bulbs in the socket but not all my lights are blinking


I've written in the past about my love/hate relationship with Christmas lights and decorating my house. Usually by the week after Thanksgiving I've unpacked crates of lights and headed up to my roof and undertaken the arduous task of clipping lights to the gutter and trying not to slip off the roof or electrocute myself.

This year I decided to only put up lights in places that didn't require going up on the roof. And the world did not end.

It's not that I don't enjoy the beauty of Christmas lights. But thinking about the labor required to put them along my gutters just made me depressed. I've invested hundreds of dollars in lights but there never seemed to be enough. And even if I tested them before I put them away for the year, it never failed that once they'd come out of storage, passed another test a section would inevitably fail once I'd attached them to the roof.

Then there was the complicated system of extension cords, timers and outside power outlets. And there are the blown breakers. I also have bags of spare bulbs I've accumulated over the years. Regardless of what the light manufacturers say, all of the other lights don't stay lit when one burns out and you have to test each bulb in a patch of lights that have gone out in order to find the bad one.

Even just putting lights on my deck railings and my shrubs and trees took a great deal of effort and a few trips to the store for more lights (despite all of the lights I own for the roof most of the sets had burned out sections and I just could deal with the mind numbing process of trying to find the bad bulbs).

But still we have enough lights out to stave off the neighborhood shaming for not decorating for Christmas.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Humbug


Saw "The Man Who Invented Christmas" this weekend.  It is the story of the internal struggle Charles Dickens went through when he was writing A Christmas Carol. I left the movie theater with a kind of "embrace your inner Scrooge" feeling.

Apparently, Dickens had many inner demons he struggled with. And A Christmas Carol became his personal tale of his rocky path to redemption.

The beauty of A Christmas Carol to me has always been that tipping point where Scrooge transforms from the dark, dismal miser into a man who once again has hope. Dickens does a wonderful job of revealing the journey that the man went through that turned him into the cold, heartless figure of Scrooge and then chips away the blackness to give him a second chance at life.

I don't know enough about Charles Dickens life to know how much of the movie was based on truth and how much was artistic license. But I know enough about writing to know that the characters you bring to life are often parts of your own psyche. It doesn't stretch the imagination to think Scrooge was a part of Dickens that he struggled with. And according to the movie, Dickens wasn't quite sure if Scrooge was capable of redemption. Fortunately, Dickens was able to give his demons the benefit of the doubt and let Scrooge turn his life around.

I hope it was an epiphany for Dickens. It's a message that we need in our current times where politics have turned our culture upside down.

I think Tom Robbins said it best when he stated, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Of course then Sees Candy ripped it off and used it in their advertising for awhile.

But the sentiment rings true.

God bless us, every one!