Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My next stop



I have been dreaming a great deal lately. Or I suppose I have been more aware of my dreams lately. My understanding is that we always dream, we just don't remember them unless we wake up soon after dreaming. Regardless, I have been remembering more dreams lately.

The irony is that most of the dreams I seem to be having are related to anxiety about  transportation (I work in the public transportation industry). In my dreams, I always seem to be in another city trying to get somewhere. In one dream I was at an airport checking about a flight that had been delayed until the next day. I went back to confirm and missed the tour bus I'd been on and I was stranded there without my luggage or passport. It was night and I was desperately trying to find a way to get back to my hotel painfully aware of the seedy part of town I suddenly found myself in.

Last night I was trying to determine which bus stop to wait at to catch bus either to the airport or near to my hotel. I don't know which. But the anxiety was trying to determine where to wait for the bus. Nothing seemed to be marked clearly and everyone else seemed to know where they were going.

I have similar anxiety dreams about trains, except I'm not so much worried about getting on the wrong train (since they operate on a fixed track, odds are pretty much 50/50 that you are going to get on the one going in the right direction). In my train dreams, I'm worried about getting to the station in time to catch the last train.

I also have dreams about cruise ships and getting stranded in ports. Or I'm on ferry boats on the Amazon passing through hostile territory.

I don't really have anxiety dreams about driving a car. This shows you how ingrained public transit is in my psyche.

Though not all of my dreams are about transportation. I had a dream last week about an odd masked character living in the crawl space of a dream version of the house I grew up in. He only emerged at night and skulked about the yard. I finally confronted him with a baseball bat. But in my dreams, I never seem able to pack any punch when I attempt to protect myself with clubs or other weapons. Guns never fire and knives or clubs always dissolve or lose momentum. Not that I want to hurt anyone, but if the bogeyman is going to inhabit my dream house, I think I have the right to bean him. In this dream I scared the bogeyman so much, I began to feel sorry for him and told him he could go ahead in live in the crawl space (which really looked quite  cozy...he'd set up a bed and some bookcases). I even asked if he needed more blankets.

I don't put much stock in these dreams. I'm sure you could read all kinds of symbolism into them like lacking direction or fear of the Rapture. But I tend to think of them as my mind releasing day to day pressure through dream brain farts.

And speaking of brain farts, is it just me or does the latest round of Dairy Queen television ads (blatant rip offs of the Old Spice commercials) seem a bit freaky? I can't get this image of the bunnies with a straight edge razor giving the Dairy Queen guy a shave. If I start seeing them in my bus dreams I'm really going to wig out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

At my post


I'd like to think that, although my blog posts are pretty random, I am a pretty consistent blogger. I will have been blogging for seven years come this August. And I hope to post my thousandth post sometime this year (which will probably be as anticlimactic as Judgement Day was).

One of the anomalies of blogging versus writing a book is that people reading a blog (or stumbling into one) start reading from the end versus the beginning. I realize that is a very linear way of looking at it, but it is true. Although very few people actually read a blog for the first time and then jump back to the first post to catch up. This is especially true in my case. It would be a lot to expect for someone to read almost a thousand of my archived posts to discover how I got to where I am.

I've toyed with creating printed versions of my blog. I have created photo books using blurb.com, an online self-publishing system. I even began creating a book called the Best of Dizgraceland that I shelved because of the need to truly prioritize my very limited free time for things other than creating a vanity press version of a blog no one reads so that it can become a printed version that no one would read even if they were willing to plunk down the rather pricey cost of a blurb book.

It's not as though you would find a clear thread to define what it is I am trying to communicate with my blog if you read it from beginning to end (or end to beginning). You would discover that I repeat myself a great deal and harp on many of the same topics over and over (one of them being the frustrations of writing a blog no one reads on a regular basis).

I've recapped much of my childhood and climbed my family tree on more than one occasion. But I found that sharing too much information on the Web can be an unwise thing to do. So I stopped naively blathering away about everything as though I was writing in my diary oblivious that it could be read by anyone with an Internet connection.

I'm smart enough not to write about work. Not that I have any interest in writing about my work. I blog to escape from thinking about my work. I also don't write about my wife or children here. I write about my life as a father in another private blog locked away from prying eyes.

I don't write about being away on vacation for the same reason I stopped checking in on Four Square. Common sense tells us that it is better not to broadcast to the world when you are away from your house and for how long. You might as well tell thieves which rock your front door key is hidden under.

Taking away much of my personal life as topics for blogging has definitely narrowed the scope of my subject matter. Sometimes I think I have just run out of things to write about. And then some whack job like Harold Camping comes along and gives me fodder for several posts. I'd be up a creek if he actually got raptured.

So, I'm not sure whether after almost seven years blogging, I've come to the conclusion why I do it. I don't harbor any fantasy that there would be a major outcry if I stopped. Pebbles don't make much of a ripple in a very large pond. But I stay at my post. There is a certain amount of satisfaction that I hang in there putting one foot in front of another.

Who knows, maybe someday I'll actually get somewhere.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dis Belief and Dat Belief

I really don't intend to keep beating the dead rapture horse, but I continue to be baffled that people believed so firmly that the end of the world was going to happen that they drained their life savings and uprooted their families in anticipation of the end. Perhaps this is why I am not a religious person. I can't think of anything I'd believe on faith alone.

It's kind of like me wanting to believe in ghosts. No matter how many episodes I watch of Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel, I still haven't seen anything that would lead me to the conclusion that ghosts exist. It would be nice to confirm that something about us continues on after we die, but logic seems to defy it. How can anyone claim to be an expert in paranormal activity unless they have died and come back? At least at that point you could speak from experience instead of just making crap up that sounds good. Of course, no one would believe you unless they made a leap of faith.

It is that mysterious "leap of faith" that seems to be the foundation of all religions. If something defies logic like walking on water or parting seas, the preachers blame your doubt on your inability make that leap of faith and just believe. Unfortunately, that leap of faith too often leads to draining bank accounts and drinking Koolaid.

Having been raised a Christian Scientist I was often faced with the dilemma of not believing enough. When I got sick as a child, I blamed it on my lack of faith. My mother's disapproving looks and quotes from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy reinforced that I was lacking in the faith department and thus was bowing before the toilet puking my little guts out because I didn't believe enough.

To this day, I feel guilty if I am sick.

So do I shake my head in wonderment at the rubes who believed the end was coming on May 21, 2011 because they were idiots or because I envy their ability to just have faith.

I think it is a little of both. But I still think Harold Camping is a whack job, especially since he now claims Judgement Day did happen but it was just a spiritual judgement and that the world will still end on Oct. 21, 2011. In the meantime he won't give any of the money back to the poor souls he bilked.

Now that is a a sin.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I reckon this ain't the day of reckoning

I suppose I could take the high road and not gloat that the rapture did not occur and the chosen are still languishing here in coach with the rest of us sinners. But screw that. Na, nah, nuh, nah nah!

I mean the day was not with out apocalyptic overtones. My wife's car (which I drive most of the time) had a flat tire. There was a screw in it. And I couldn't get the lug nuts off so we called triple A and a bald tow truck driver with freaky big ear rings changed the tire and put on our spare. But it was one of those stupid doughnut tires that are like the tire from a Shriner's go cart. So I drove to a nearby Les Paul Tire where they told me we of course needed four new tires. So it wasn't Judgement Day, but it cost me almost $400 for new tires.

But I digress.

So I can't wait to hear Camping's explanation as to why this wasn't a day of catastrophe. Perhaps he'll say something like, "Did I say May 21, 2011?...I really meant May 21, 2012. That give's a whole year to rake in more money for our radio network for the next end of the world."

Too bad there is not a law that states you can only predict the end of the world once ( or twice in the case of Camping) and then you are forced to go on national television and tell everyone that you are a major Dick and shouldn't be trusted. Then you should be placed aboard a space shuttle and launched into space without a space suit to truly discover heaven.

Karma's a bitch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Would the last person walking into the light please turn it off



I didn't think the world was supposed to end until December 21, 2012, but Harold Camping,  the leader of the Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide (an independent Christian ministry)  has calculated that May 21, 2011 is Judgement Day based on his reading of the Bible. Camping is an 89-year retired civil engineer, so he must be right. Though I imagine an 89-year old doesn't have much to lose when they say the world is coming to an end.

Technically, May 21, is the day of the Rapture when the righteous are taken up into heaven while the rest of us remain. The world doesn't really end until October. If this is true, I'm kind of looking forward to five months without the nutjob Rapture freaks pointing their holier than thou fingers at everyone.

Harold Camping doesn't predict that May 21, 2011 is Judgement Day, he guarantees it!
Camping apparently predicted the world was going to end in September of 1994, too. So we at least know he has some experience with these types of things. Camping claims that about 200 million people will be raptured and the remaining 97 percent of the population will simply cease to exist five months later.

The interesting angle to Camping's rantings is that the only way you can get on the rapture list is if god decided  before he created the world that you were going to be saved.  It doesn't matter what kind of good things you do or how much you pray, if you aren't on the list, you ain't getting into the rapture club.

So if everything is predestined by god, then what is the point of any of the hoopla about the end of the world? If it was all preordained then why are Camping and his followers driving around in vans emblazoned with "Judgement Day: May, 21, 2011?"  You can't recruit new members to a club that is already full.

If there were any truth to this crap, the ultimate irony would be that the rapture occurs and Camping and all of his followers were left sitting in their bunkers watching non-believers sucked up into the mother ship. Now that would be righteous!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unplugged

On my way out of the office last night, I forgot my Blackberry. I managed without it on the commute home because I had my MP3 player and my Kindle. Then on my commute in this morning, the battery on my Kindle died. So I was left with my MP3 player and the view of the Puget Sound out the train window that I wrote my last post about.

I realize I wasn't totally unplugged since I had my music, but it was an odd feeling to be alone with my thoughts for the twenty-some minutes left in my morning commute. As much as I love my Kindle, I had to admit you never have to worry about the battery on a book dying.

So I stared at the water and the different birds feeding a flying about. I think the little ducks are Mergansers. And I saw a hawk and what I believe is a bald eagle. There was even some color in the scenery this morning since part of the cloud cover lifted and you could see blue sky reflected in the normally gray water.

It is hard to imagine a time anymore when we aren't wired to some device. Yet personal computers as we know them only have been around since the early 80s. When I graduated from college and entered the workforce permanently, we still only had typewriters. So we wrote memos instead of e-mail. And blessings of all blessings, our phones were wired to our desks so we couldn't take them with us. There was no voice mail, so phones were answered by receptionists who took a message. We also used flip charts and slide shows instead of PowerPoint presentations.

Even when personal computers began making an appearance, they were clunky things that we shared at work stations. Word functioned more like a typewriter and less like the dashboard of a 747. And Lotus 123 crunched numbers a functional if not fancy way before Excel became the peacock of spreadsheets.

Before we knew it, bulky laptops appeared. And on the music front, cassette tapes began to give way to Cd's. Telephones began to cut their umbilical cords. But they were the size of a walkie talkie and didn't fit in your pocket.

I couldn't even tell you when a PC became standard on every desk. But before I knew it e-mail made an appearance and memos disappeared. Receptionists stopped taking messages and little lights showed up on our phones indicating someone had called. Then screens appeared on the phones and we were able to see who was calling and avoid picking up the receivers altogether.

Finally, someone put in the Information Highway and everyone rushed to jump on this new way of communicating with people half way around the globe without leaving your desk or dialing an annoying number of long distance codes.

Palm Pilots were overgrown by Blackberry's. CD players were eclipsed by iPods which evolved into iPhones. The Androids began to evolve to battle the iPhones and choke the Blackberry's. Lap tops became netbooks and then ditched keyboards altogether to become tablets. People stopped talking on their cell phones and just started talking via Bluetooth earpieces. Then many just stopped talking and began feverishly texting. OMG!

During this evolution film photography went the way of clay tablets. Cameras went digital and then became phones. Computer programs were replaced by software which was replaced by applications and then by Apps. Floppy and hard disks grew thumbs. Then they evaporated into the clouds.

All of this has happened in just about 30 years. It is difficult to fathom what will evolve in the next 30 years. It begins to make Terminator I, II and III seem more plausible. After all, 30 years ago, who would have believed Arnold Schwartzenegger would have become the governor of California.

In all of our advancements electronically, have we lost the ability to just sit and stare out a window? I wouldn't say I have lost the ability to function without being wired in, but it was pretty damned odd not being distracted by anything but the sight of water, boats and birds.

But my Kindle is plugged in and charging. I've been reunited with my Blackberry and I'm connected with my desktop. I only wish I'd have had my phone with me to take a photo of the beautiful views I saw this morning so I could remember them and post them to my Facebook page.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lost Horizons


I am one of the rare commuters whose daily commute is on a train that glides along the shore of the Puget Sound. Most people are stuck on freeways staring at the tail lights of hundreds of other cars or wedged into a bus seat, reluctantly sharing personal space with a total stranger who to often enough insists on providing TMI via a cell phone conversation.

I generally get a quad of train seats to myself and a window view of the Sound and the Cascade Mountains (if they've decided to slip off their robe of clouds). I also see a plethora of herons and an occasional sea lion. It is a view most people in land locked states would pay for. And I get it as part of my regular morning and evening trip to and from work.

Ironically, most of the people who commute on my train don't even look out the window. I have been tempted on more than one occasion to shake someone sitting on the water side of the train at a window who is sleeping and suggest that if they are just going to doze and not appreciate the view then they shouldn't sit by the window.

As beautiful as the view is, staring at the Puget Sound just isn't as mesmerizing as standing on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and getting lost in the horizon. Because when you stare at the Puget Sound, you are aware that it is a finite body of water framed by a mountain chain. The Pacific Ocean, however, gives you a sense of infinity and your own insignificance.

I was also struck by my view of the Sound this morning how devoid of color it is. Staring out my train window , I felt as though I was watching the nature channel in hi-def on a black and white television. The various shades of gray were beautiful, but I longed for some color.

Regardless, I am grateful for the water. Growing up in Idaho, I was surrounded by a sea of sagebrush. I would sit in darkened classrooms watching shaky films about life in the ocean and long to walk on a beach and explore tide pools. But the closest I ever got was Lucky Peak Reservoir, a huge man made lake just outside of Boise. The extent of life in that man made ocean was a large population of squaw fish and suckers (bottom feeding trash fish).

It was that longing for the water that pushed me northwest from where I was born. I don't miss the sagebrush, but I sure miss the sunshine. Seattle has been particularly rainy and gray this winter and spring. The rain is great for fostering lush growth everywhere, but without the sun, it is hard to tell that it is green and not a lighter shade of gray.

I suppose if I could have my way, I'd live in the Caribbean. But in addition to having to figure out how to make a living, I'd have to worry about the more than occasional hurricane. Every paradise seems to come with fine print.

I've even fantasized with living on a cruise ship. There is nothing like sitting on the balcony of a stateroom staring out into the vastness of the ocean that dwarfs even the largest mega liner. But again the fine print of cruise ship life would eventually eclipse the view. You can only dine on so many buffets and listen to Filipino lounge bands so many times before you understand where the phrase, "Ship of Fools" came from.

The thing about a horizon is that it is always on one. You stare at it knowing that it is always tantalizingly out of reach. But the best dreams always are.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sit down comic


I think I would have become a stand up comic if I wasn't introverted and basically a very shy person. Though it is just those characteristics that make me want to tell jokes to avoid the awkwardness of communicating with people face to face. If I was to pick which Friends character I could relate to, it would be Chandler. I am definitely not a Joey. Though I imagine every Chandler does wish he was a Joey.

Unless you watch reruns of Friends ad nauseum the way I do, that analogy means nothing to you. And the only reason I watch reruns of Friends ad nauseum is because it is one of the few programs that is on during the hour I work out at the gym.

But I digress.

I actually cringe when I have the gall to imply that I am indeed funny enough to be a stand up comic. Because as painfully self-aware as I am, I need to acknowledge that very few people who think they are funny are. I do know what I think is funny and I have been known to make people laugh on occasion. But I realize that doesn't in fact make me funny.

This always conjures up an anecdote of mine from college when I wrote a humor column for the school paper. When a professor in my philosophy class called out my name, a young woman turned around and asked, "Are you that guy who writes the humor column in the Spectator?" When I acknowledged that that was me, she said, "You don't look funny."

There are so many appropriate responses to that kind of statement, yet at the time, I couldn't think of a single one. She turned around and focused on the day's discussion of existentialism. I returned to staring out the window.

I realize I have told this story in my blog before, but it is not as though there are a steady stream of people reading every word I write on a daily basis. So in that sense, I could be a stand up comic doing a show with a different audience every night. I can keep repeating the same thing every day until someone actually laughs. I don't really have to change the material, just the delivery.

But I imagine I would get bored. 

I enjoy most stand up comics. I envy that they can spout obscenities like a teamster with Tourette's and people roar their heads off.  I also appreciate that many of them are so totally insecure about some aspect of their lives and they have chosen to use humor as their way to cope. I've always thought the reason I make jokes at my own expense is to beat others to the punchline.

Of course, not all humor is self-depreciating. Sometimes you have to make fun of people, systems and institutions just to dope slap them into not taking themselves too seriously. Humor can stick a pin in the pompous and restore the proper perspective on life.

Being comedic is just putting a different perspective on the tragic or in many cases the mundane.  I would much rather laugh myself into the grave than cry. So if I can't be a stand up comic, I can be a sit down one and blog my shtick. Because the way I see it, it's all a laughing matter.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Stating the obvious

I have avoided commenting on recent events in Pakistan because they border on the ludicrous and it isn't popular to express misgivings these days about the methods in which we dispatch enemies of the state. But, I think I would actually prefer if our government carry on covert operations covertly rather than make them something akin to real time reality television starring Gary Busey as a Navy Seal. Because I think it would have been less suspect if Public Enemy #1 just showed up dead and the US released a statement to the effect of, "Hmmm...we wonder how that happened."

Instead we are subjected to scripted rhetoric and half-truths about a "daring" operation that frighteningly seems to have been scripted by the same guys who wrote the Die Hard and Rambo films. The difference here being that no one let the bad guys go over their lines first and they didn't get the direction that they were supposed to put up a  fight.

I won't even bother to rehash all of the weird discrepancies the press has already rehashed to the point of making me want to vomit. But I do have to wonder about the notion that the focus of this seek and destroy mission (and I'm not naming his name because I don't want any Google traffic hits on my blog by right wing flag wavers) although unarmed was shot because he appeared to be moving in a threatening manner. Okay, if you were going to put up a fight and you were in a room with access to tons of weapons and you had a vague idea you were under attack triggered by the sound of helicopters (one of which crashed in your backyard), automatic weapon fire and 40 Navy Seals and CIA assassins tromping up the stairs, wouldn't you make your move for a weapon before the armed invaders crashed through your door?

I am also a bit disturbed that the house was then ransacked for computers, CDs, DVDs (that likely included some Netflix movies the occupants were going to return...possibly Die Hard I,II and III) and other portable electronics. It's a wonder the target's iPod playlist hasn't been published on the Internet.

A co-worker of mine did suggest that one of the good things that came of this highly-publicized execution was that it bumped the Royal wedding off from the front page. I will give them that.

But I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the afterthought being suggested by government officials that the death of this individual could increase the possibility of retaliation by his supporters. You think? Thanks for stating the obvious, because we all know that vengeance and violence is necessary to prevent further vengeance and violence. That is why we fought that one war to end all wars.

Wait, which one was that?