Friday, December 21, 2012

No end in sight

So no matter what time zone you live in and what part of the world, the end of days associated with the Mayan calendar was as anti-climatic as Harold Camping's failed rapture call. So perhaps the end of the world will not come with a bang, but through a slow process of attrition like a river wearing down a rock. The rock doesn't explode. It just wears down.

Many people joked about the end of the world (including me). But I have to wonder if there was this niggling idea in the back of many people's minds wondering "what if?" And I think there may be just a bit of a sense of relief (or disappointment) that nothing happened.

There is a certain "carrot and stick" aspect to human nature. We are motivated by the potential of events happening. We, as a species, seem to need something (positive or negative) to look forward to. It could be as simple as the weekend or as complex as the end of the world. We need something to look forward to in order to escape the mundane.

Perhaps it is how we deal with the inevitability of our own death. It would somehow be easier to accept our own end if everything else was being snuffed out at the same time.

I write this as I watch yet another documentary about the Mayan prediction of the end of the world (or the Western world's interpretation of the Mayan prediction). I suppose it is the last day when they can screen such a documentary. Because tomorrow, it all gets filed as bull shit and we will move on to the next ancient text prediction of the end of the world.

Just please don't let it be Harold Camping who comes up with it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It can't rain all the time

In a drought, rain is a blessing. When it never seems to stop, it is a curse. We experienced record days without rain in Seattle during the summer and fall. It is making up for it now.

The consequences include an unplanned indoor swimming pool in my basement, frequent mud slides that have blocked the tracks of the train I normally commute on; and I broke down and purchased a pair of rubber boots that I normally wouldn't be caught dead in.

I attribute the flooded basement to a curse triggered by cutting down our own Christmas tree this year.  You would think I would have learned my lesson about cutting down trees. The contractors are still rooting around (pun intended) trying to find out why the water all of a sudden began flowing into my basement. This was after we had to pay $1000 to have the wet carpet and half of the walls removed and sprayed with chemicals to prevent mold.

So far they have determined that the problem is not with the French drain that already exists in the basement. Before this I didn't even know what a French drain was let alone that I had one. The only way they determined that the French drain was okay was by punching a hole in the cement floor. So now we have a working French drain, but a hole in the floor that matches nicely the demolition motif we've got going down there.

Apparently the problem has now been traced to one of the outlets for the French drain that snakes under our deck and down to the slope that was slipping last winter due to the rain. The retaining wall we had repaired so far appears to be holding despite the efforts of the rain and the mountain beaver to compromise it. I have a hunch the mountain beaver has something to do with the plugged drain outlet as well. We won't know until they rip up some of the deck to get to it.

The irony in this all is that none of the damage or repairs are covered by our homeowner's insurance. There is some clause that doesn't pay out for damage caused by ground water coming into your house. It would be different if a pipe had burst. And the claims adjuster said it wouldn't have been covered by flood insurance because we aren't eligible for flood insurance since we don't live in a flood plain.

And the rain continues. It turned to snow briefly yesterday which added to the fun of my daily commute that used to be a pleasant train ride along the shoreline of the Puget Sound. Now it involves driving to a park-and-ride lot, parking next to a guy who is living in his VW van and catching a packed bus for a 45-minute bus ride into downtown Seattle.

Now is the winter of my discontent.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Maybe absolutely not

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." --Ralph Waldo Emerson 

 One of the things I've learned about my life as I spiral through middle age is that the only people who believe in absolutes are the very young or the very stupid. There is no certainty about anything. It's what makes life frustrating and interesting.

This may be disconcerting to people who seek consistency in a random world. If we believe Darwin, nothing would have evolved for better or worse if everything was consistent and static.

And I'm not just waxing macro philosophic jibba jabba. We start out believing that there are absolutes when we are children. We believe our parents know everything or know nothing. We believe doctors have all of the answers and can cure all. We believe that the next politician really does want to change things for the better. We believe we'll be best friends forever. We believe that the one true religion will save us. We are absolute sure of all of these things until they turn out to be absolutely wrong.

Well, not absolutely wrong, because there are no absolutes. Life is full of footnotes and disclaimers. Your parents don't know everything or nothing. Most doctors are doing the best they can, rolling dice and hoping they don't cut out something you really need. Some politicians really do want to change things until they realize they can't or they meet the right lobbyist. Friends come and go. There is no one true religion.

You feel betrayed when you first start to realize that things aren't always what you believed they were. One of the most idiotic phrase ever uttered is, "That's not fair." Fair to who? Fair by whose rules? Something may suck, but it has nothing to do with not being fair. The zebra may not think it is fair that the lion has chosen him for dinner when he just met the zebra love of his life, but the lion thinks it is pretty darned fair (or fare).

I'm not suggesting that we settle or accept everything under the guise of "Shit happens." I think what makes use strong is the struggle to create the closest thing we can to absolutes in our own lives. The operative statement here is "our own lives." My absolutes are not going to be the same absolutes as someone else. They may come close. But no two people or snow flakes are alike (as far as we know).

My parents didn't know everything but they did the best they could. Doctors are best consulted only if you have a gaping wound that is too big for a bandage you have at home. Never vote for politicians who advocate for change and claim to have been abducted by aliens. Enjoy the friends you have when you have them. As for religion, if you meet the Buddha by the road, kill him.

I'm not absolutely sure about any of this, however.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

I would be remiss if I didn't post on the only 12-12-12 date in my lifetime. Not that it truly has any significance since a calendar is as artificial measurement of time as is a clock. I don't imagine nature crosses off the days the way humans do.

The mountain beaver in my backyard probably doesn't know or care that it is 12-12-12. It doesn't wake up, look at a clock and say, "Time to get up and randomly dig through shit. Oh, it's 12-12-12! I should eat some bark and ferns to celebrate."

Not that I think the mountain beaver ever sleeps. It just seems to dig.

I'm digressing again, aren't I?

It just occurred to me that there will never be a 13-13-13. What's that all about? There will be an 11-12-13.  I wonder what the mountain beaver will be doing then? I suppose it depends upon whether world ends when the Mayan calendar winds down.

Oh well. Happy 12-12-12!




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm not running as fast as I can

I hate running. I used to tell people the only reason to run is if someone is chasing you. I still feel that way, but I have accepted that the only way I can truly keep weight off is by doing the thing I hate.

I know that some people love to run. I have heard about people getting in the zone and the brain releasing chemicals that make them feel euphoric. The only thing my body seems to release when I run is sweat and pain.

Now granted, the only place I normally run is on a treadmill in the gym. And unless I am on a machine with a built in television, boredom adds to my hatred of running. Because the only thing I seem to be able to think about when I run is when I can stop running. And when you want something to pass quickly, it turns into the slow motion sequence from the Bionic Man (for the young and the pop culturally impaired, the Bionic Man was a bad series from the 70s starring Lee Majors as a man who lost several limbs in an accident and had them replaced with super powered bionic ones...so he could run and jump at super fast speeds that they always showed in slow motion to avoid having to spend money on better special effects...after all, it was the 70s).

I don't think I really started hating to run until I was in 7th grade PE and had a sadistic PE teacher named Mr. Ackley who would make you run two cross-country's (the equivalent of a mile) if you were the last one to get dressed and stand on your number in the gym before the bell rang. I developed a psychosomatic cough that year due to the stress around running. To add to the stress, I had an English class right before PE with a teacher who wouldn't let anyone leave when the bell rang until everyone was quiet. So we never got released on time. I started wearing sweater vests so that I could unbutton my shirts under the sweater to safe time changing once I got to the locker room.

It didn't help that I was what my mother called "a stocky kid" in grade school and 7th grade. It made running even a single mile agony. But by the time I completed 7th grade I had become borderline anorexic and was as skinny as a rail right up until I approached 40.

Middle age severely impacted my middle. And this was despite years of taking aerobic classes. I just foolishly clung to self-delusion that I could still eat and drink just about anything I wanted. I learned where the old adage "You are what you eat" and "bread basket" came from. My real moment of truth came when I weighed in for a physical to qualify for life insurance after my son was born. I realized then that I was twice the man I used to be--literally.

So I faced the thing I hated the most (right after being fat) -- I added running on the treadmill to my routine.I also turned away from some of the things I liked the most like bread, french fries, and most sugar. I stopped eating out for lunch and reduced my portions. And I weighed myself regularly to avoid self-delusion. Eventually much of the weight was dropped.

The exercise has become more or less second nature and I don't feel like puking after jogging for a mile. I don't think I will ever truly love to run, though. I try to mix it up with elliptical and rowing machines just to cut the boredom. I've managed to maintain my weight for several years now.

But I still sweat like a pig and I curse Mr. Ackley every mile I run.

Friday, December 07, 2012

I am un-a-Mused

At the height of my blogging days (2006), I logged in 292 posts. Six years later, in 2012, I've posted 35 (well 36 after this post). That's an 88 percent drop in the number of posts (you can tell that research is part of my day job). Though in 2009 I only posted 23 times. I think it had something to do with having a baby boy and toddler girl in the house and the distractions of being a new, but pretty old, parent.

I don't know what's wrong with me this year, though. I'm not as amused by my muse anymore. And maybe it is because I've been blogging for more than eight years and it has lost that new blog smell. Now it just smells like stale french fries and coffee.

In 2006, I had a lot more fellow bloggers reading and commenting. It helped feed the muse.Almost all of them have dropped off the radar. The only comments I get anymore are from Baggy over in England (which I appreciate).

I don't know if it is just that blogging has changed and primarily been taken over by business blogs and technical blogs.I don't follow many blogs anymore. I imagine there are still personal bloggers by the millions but I just don't have any desire to hit the "next blog" button and venture into the wasteland to find an interesting one.

I subscribe to marketing guru Seth Godin's blog and screenwriter Kevin Levine's blog (he was one of the writers for Cheers). They are both well-written blogs, but they post everyday (and sometimes twice a day) and frankly I have an aversion to overachievers so I only read them sporadically.

Sometimes I think it is better to just post once or twice a week. Less is often more (more or less). And I know this is just my way of rationalizing why I don't fire out 292 posts like I did in 2006. But hey, if I did, 90 percent of them would probably be about not having anything to write about.

Sigh.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Repent: The end of the 13th b'ak'tun is near

I hate to break it to you, but the end of the 13th b'ak'tun (a cycle from the Mayan calendar) is coming up in just three weeks. And everybody knows that when the calendar ends, so does the world. So come Dec. 21, you won't have to worry about any last minute Christmas shopping.

I haven't seen as much hype about this "end of the world" as there was for Harold Camping's much ballyhooed end of the world and the resulting rapture (not to be confused with the Debby Harry song from the 80s).

BTW, "ballyhooed" is not a word I get to use very much but it just sort of slipped naturally into that last sentence. It refers to sensationalized marketing efforts. Its origins are said to be associated with a mythical creature called the ballyhoo bird that an 1880 Harper's magazine article described as having four wings, two heads and the ability to whistle through one bill while singing through the other.

Which just about describes Harold Camping.

But I digress.

End of the world or not, let's face it, all of our days, like the calendar, are numbered. Everything ends (except for Buddha and Friends reruns). Whether the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012 with a bang, or slowly chokes from Global Warming, it doesn't change the fact of our mortality. If nothing ended, there wouldn't be any room for anything else to begin.

I'm not trying to sound like a Debbie Downer, just realistic. Even if the world ended tomorrow, odds are something new would grow in its place. And down the road that world would grow arrogant about lasting forever and eventually implode or explode as well. It's that cycle of life and death that only Buddha seemed to have overcome.

I suppose it is why mankind invented the afterlife. Because it is a lot easier to face mortality if you know you have somewhere to go after you die. If there is an afterlife, I hope it doesn't involve having to be reunited with all of your dead relatives. Because I have a shitload of them and I really didn't know or particularly like any of them. So being reunited with strangers isn't my idea of paradise. And I would rather not be reincarnated unless I could come back as someone like Brad Pitt (though who knows if he is really happy).

I am actually amazed at the elaborate institutions and complex myths mankind has concocted to stave off ceasing to exist. There seem to be a infinite number of religions claiming to be the one, true path to salvation. And ironically religions are probably the number one cause of people fighting and killing each other.

And where did civilizations like the Egyptians come up with their elaborate rituals and ceremonies that were supposed to guarantee passage to the after world (for those rich and powerful enough to warrant it)? Who is giving these people all of these instructions? As far as I know, the dead still don't have a 4G cell phone plan that includes unlimited calling to this world. The only people I know talking to the dead are those mental midgets on Ghost Adventurers and the only thing the dead seem to be capable of saying are barely audible, garbled words about Zak's bad haircuts.

Oh well, I suppose we will all find out on Dec. 21.

Or not.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Smart phones are dumb

I was approaching a revolving door in my building lobby the other day and the guy in front of me stops in his wedge of the door and reads a message on his smart phone. Seriously? Who does this? Apparently a guy focused on whatever text or e-mail he is getting does. Who cares who is behind you or around you when you are in the "connected" zone.

So I have come to the conclusion that the smarter the phone, the dumber the person using it.

Being an admitted hypocrite, I do have a smart phone. But I've only had it for a couple of months. Before that I had a Blackberry which as phones go is as sharp as a river rock. For one, they don't have a touch screen and all of the apps you get for them are pretty lame.

My Android smartphone has the potential for thousands of useless apps. So far I only use one for solitaire and another for Angry Birds. The rest of the time I spend obsessively checking my e-mail which is pointless since a bulk of the e-mails I get (now that the election is over) are from Groupon or Living Social offering me great deals on Brazilian wax jobs.

I do miss the days when the closest thing to a mobile phone was a cheap walkie talkie that only picked up static and the occasional garbled word from one of my brothers. We couldn't even fathom the need to be connected to a telephone 24/7. I barely can stand a conversation with anyone in person for more than 30-seconds let alone walking around talking constantly through a Blue Tooth earpiece like someone with multiple personalities talking to people who aren't really there. We did have a few people who walked around talking to no one in particular when I was a kid, they just were more clearly identifiable as having lost the cheese off from their cracker than people are today.

Having said all of this, I pretty much can't cope without my smartphone. I begin to twitch if I go anywhere without it. And I panic and hold it up in the air if I don't see at least two bars on the signal indicator. I also feel a bit inferior that I don't have a 4G connection even though I haven't a clue what that is. I think it is the telephone equivalent to a Hemi (which I also don't have a clue about).

I remember an old Twilight Zone episode called, "Night Call"  about a person who started getting phone calls from some unidentified person every night. Anyway the person finally discovers that a telephone line had broken and fallen on the grave of her dead fiance (who was killed in a car crash while she was driving), thus giving them a direct line to the dead.

So I kind of wonder if the next generation of smartphone is going to offer an app that allows you to talk to dead people (another twist on unlimited family plan that I imagine ATT will manage to assess some new fees on). Maybe we'll even start burying people with smartphones. But then I imagine we'll get calls from our dead relatives complaining that we only buried them with a 3G phone.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Political spam

I'm glad it is finally election day and I won't have to watch any more political ads pointing out very matter of factly that someone's opponent is the devil, hates children, seniors and the middle class, will destroy social security, raise taxes and kick your dog (or cat). If any voter sitting on the fence is swayed by any political ad, they need to be nailed to the fence because they are truly a tool.

Although I support Obama and think Mitt makes even George Bush look good, I will not miss receiving multiple e-mails on a daily basis telling me that my $5 will save the nation and enter me in a contest to have lunch with Sarah Jessica Parker and the President. I have come to the conclusion that the Obama campaign is being run by Publisher's Clearing House and if Ed McMahon was a alive he'd be doing the President's fund-raising commercials.

I am not even sure how the President got my e-mail address. I assume I clicked something on Facebook and launched the onslaught. If that is the case, the least the President could do is "like" some photos of my kid's Halloween costumes before asking me for another $5. If I had indeed contributed $5 every time the President's campaign asked me for money, I would have contributed several thousand by this time.

Mitt has not asked me for a cent. But that is because I am not a right-winged, millionaire Republican asshole and don't make enough money to warrant an e-mail from him. So there is some advantage to being middle class with very little discretionary income.

And speaking of conspiracy theories, I am convinced the Republicans orchestrated the super storms that rocked the East coast in an attempt to tip the vote in their favor. I wouldn't put it past them.

But I digress.

Go Obama!


Monday, November 05, 2012

Sixty-one years

I just returned from four days in Boise helping my brothers sort through our family home to prepare for selling it after my mother died. My father had the house built in 1951 after he married my mother and it has stood for 61-years with various add-on's and remodels. But it has only been lived in by our family. And now that is about to end.

The house is only about 1700 square feet now. When it was first built, it was even smaller. There are only two bedrooms, one bathroom and a partial basement. But it housed five people for almost the first half of its existence. My current home has four bathrooms, four bedrooms and only houses four people.

In 61-years the house has been heated with coal, oil and now natural gas. It originally had its own well, but now taps into the city water supply. My parents added on a family room and garage in the late 60's and a utility room in the 70's. The living room became the dining room and my mother added a bay window that her dog always slept in. Some time in the 80's my father turned the garage into his reading room.

The apple and cherry trees of my youth are long gone, replaced by matured oak and pine trees. A huge maple still grows in front of the house. The original chain link fence still surround the house, but the privacy screen of lilacs that used to surround the back yard are gone.

The house sits on property that used to be part of my father's parents chicken farm. They gave him the property as a wedding present. Their house still sits on a small lot next door. My parents sold it after my grandmother died in the mid-70's. They sold it for $5000 to some "friends." My mother had sold it to them because she wanted a say in who her neighbors were. The friends fixed the house up and flipped it for $40,000 in a year. My mother had crappy neighbors from then on.

Some time in the early 90's, the neighbor on the south of the house sold to developers who put in a row of godawful townhouses that further brought the neighborhood down with a sea of renters. The townhouses were built right up to our property line.

Originally, I shared the front bedroom with my two brothers. They slept in bunkbeds and I slept in a twin bed (after I escaped from my crib). Later, when I was about 10, my brothers moved downstairs into the basement (which at the time had an outside entrance). I moved into the back bedroom and my parents moved into the front bedroom. After both of my brothers finally moved out, I moved downstairs into the basement. That's when my mother had the utility room built and the outside entrance to the basement became the inside entrance.

I moved out of the house when I was 19, but moved back briefly for a few months when I was 23 to save a bit of money before moving to Seattle to complete college. For years, I'd come home at least once a year and stay in the basement during my visit. After my father died in the early 90s, I started staying in hotels. I haven't slept in the house for at least 20 years.

My father used to have a workshop in an old shed in the backyard. It had once been a chick coop.  It started to fall down after my father died and my mother finally tore it down. You can still see the foundation.

Several pets are buried in the backyard, but the markers for their graves are long gone. The names of my brothers and I were scratched into wet concrete when my father poured our patio years ago.

When I was a boy, I used to wonder what it would be like to live in another house. I remember sitting in my father's workshop and writing my name in the sawdust behind a cabinet, wondering if someday someone would find it. I also buried some of my school papers from grade school in a can in the backyard, thinking my signature would be worth something one day.

It isn't (except on a check).

I used to pitch a pup tent in the backyard on warm summer nights and camp out in the back yard. I remember hating how big the yard was because I had to mow it. I also remember climbing the largest apple tree in the back yard and staring at the clouds wondering what my life would be life when I was grown.

I remember my dad building a dog house for our dog Shep. I drew pictures of a dog family and glued it on the inside walls of the dog house so Shep wouldn't feel so alone. I would also sometimes crawl into the house and curl up with him. He was hit by a car when he got out to go carousing because my parents didn't want to spend the money to get him neutered. Shep is one of the pets buried in the backyard.

There are many memories stored in the walls of that house. I would have almost rather that it been torn down than sold and occupied by strangers. Then the memories could scatter and be free and pure without confusing them with the lives of strangers.

But life doesn't really have time for nostalgia.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shades of gray


Given the title, I suppose this post could be another rant about aging and the transformation of my once brown locks to timber wolf gray. Or if I had tacked on "50" to the title I could have got all the traffic for the soft-core porn novel that women are swooping off the shelves. Or it could be about the weather shift here in Seattle back from the unaccustomed record days of sunshine back to the misty grays.

Maybe it is about all of those things (except for the stupid porn novel...I just threw that in to get more hits).

I grew up in an era of grays. Our televisions gave us a gray view of the world before flat screen, HD with 3D became the norm. I didn't know that Dorothy's world went from the stark gray of Kansas to the livid colors of Oz until I was in my teens. I had always watched the Wizard of Oz on a black and white television until color televisions finally came down in price enough that even lower middle class families like ours could own them.

My children look at black and white photos and ask me why the color has drained out of them. I just tell them that there was a time without color. Most of the photographs from my childhood were black and white. So many of my memories are forever gray (and often blurry) images pasted in worn photo albums.

What is color anyway, but a trick of reflected light. Perhaps the real world is only various shades of gray.

I look in a mirror and see gray everywhere. It's like a mask of age donned by my much younger mind. I remember having an old man rubber mask when I was in my late teens. I put it on once along with old man clothes and shuffled up to my mom's front door and rang the bell (I was still living at home in the basement with a door that opened up to the outside).  She came to the door looking vaguely frightened and asked, "Could I help you?" I laughed and spoke with my young man's voice, "Mom, it's me." It took her a few moments but she finally recognized that it was her youngest son. I took off the mask and we all had a good laugh.

The mask doesn't come off anymore.

Monday, October 08, 2012

All you can eat

Anytime I go to a restaurant that offers all you can eat or bottomless anything, I am wrought with anxiety. Perhaps it stems from childhood. Eating out was an event in our house because we could rarely afford to do so. When we did, we would go to places like Bower's 99'R, a place that offered a full meal for 99-cents and all you could eat. Later, after Bower's 99'R went out of business (eaten out of business I imagine), we went to places like the Chuck Wagon Buffet and later, the Royal Fork.

My anxiety at being faced with the promise of all you can eat is that, as a child, I really wanted to test the limits of all I could eat and I would fill my plate with a bit of everything. And part of the way into it I was unable to finish any of it. The sign at the Chuck Wagon admonished people to "Take all you want, but eat all you take." So I dined in fear that I would be judged by the servers who cleared plates for taking more than I could eat.

All you can eat was not a problem for my father. He was in his element when in a buffet. He could balance and fill three plates at a time and go back for seconds and thirds. He had an amazing appetite and always wanted to make sure he got his money's worth. Remarkably, my father was not a large man nor was he ever overweight.

The aspect of a buffet that inspires panic in me is the variety. I am always afraid that I am missing out on some item and I always feel obligated to try and cover as much ground as possible. So rather than enjoying the dining experience, I am anxious to empty one plate and head out again.

Ironically most places that offer all you can eat counter the urge to eat all you want by making it as unappetizing and tasteless as possible. This, however, doesn't deter your average buffet dweller. I learned at a young age that people went to these types of restaurants because a) they have large families, b) they are large people, and c) they don't have lots of money.

I stopped going to buffets after growing up and leaving Boise. Though when I lived in a college dorm I was faced with buffet style dining. Later in life I would try a buffet or two at casinos in Reno or Las Vegas. I remember being appalled that, while staying at Circus, Circus in Reno, they promoted their buffet on there in room televisions and boasted that they had the certified largest plates in Reno (presumably to attract some of the certified largest people in Reno who longed for big plates and helpings). I was equally appalled at the quality of the food at the Circus Circus buffet and the people who sought it out. It was like a scene from "Night of the Living Buffet." I wanted to scream running from the room.

Cruise ship buffets are just about as bad as Circus Circus. They epitomize all that is so very wrong about a buffet and attract lowest common denominator on a cruise ship. You have to endure people actually sampling food while in the buffet line and bitching loudly about the food as they pile their plates high with it. But they are there because they want to get their money's worth while on the cruise and the dining room experience doesn't give you the portion size you can score in the buffet (plus you don't have to wear a tux).

I hadn't been to a buffet in quite some time until this last Saturday. We were driving back home from an event in Tacoma. It was nearing dinner time and I had two tired and hungry toddlers in the car. So we decided to stop at an all you can eat place called Zoopa's. Zoopa's tries to disguise that fact that it is a buffet by saying it offers an extensive salad bar that they make you go through before you get access to the all you can eat past, soup and pizza bars. But the salad bar is just their ploy to fill you up on cheap and fattening salad items so you won't be able to eat all you want.

Zoopa's also tries to taper what people eat by providing one of the certified smallest plates I've seen in a buffet once you pass the salad bar. It is physically impossible to overfill one of their plates. But the chronic buffet goers that I saw at Zoopa's compensated by the simply filling their food trays instead of using the small plates. Large people who need all they can eat are resourceful people as well.

Anyway, I had buffet flashbacks while having my Zoopa's experience. And the atmosphere, poor food quality and the clientele definitely kept me from overeating.

It's definitely no Sizzler.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Icebergs


I have always somewhat fascinated by the Titanic. I'm not sure why. I know lots of people are. There are hundreds of books, movies and exhibits dedicated to the sinking of the unsinkable.

Perhaps it is because of the sheer arrogance of engineering challenging nature. Or perhaps it is because tragedy brings out the best and worst of human nature and peels back the facade of personalities.

Being the Captain of the Titanic is a euphemism for being doomed to failure. I'm sure Captain Edward Smith, the actual Captain of the Titanic wouldn't be pleased to go down in history as an albatross. But he was held in high esteem at the time by the sailing community for going down with his ship. It was more than the head of the White Star Line J. Bruce Ismay did. He jumped in one of the first available life boats.

The thing about the Titanic is that no one on board expected it to sink. I doubt Captain Smith thought his life would end that night. He was near the end of his career and I imagine he thought he had beat the odds and escaped the fate of many men who take to the sea.

No one probably expected to hit an ice berg that night, either. Because we all naturally assume that ice bergs are pretty big and visible and the odds of smacking into one in the middle of the Atlantic seem pretty slim.

It's a bit like life. You don't expect ice bergs. And you can't spend your life worried about them. Because if you do, you won't enjoy the cruise. You'll just be scanning the dark water wondering whether or not you should go to bed with your life vest on.

I go back and forth about whether or not life is random or everything happens for a purpose. It's a circular thought process. If everything happens for a purpose, what is it? Who decides and why? If everything is random, and shit just happens, then why does there seem to be a pattern to everything? Or is it just our brain forcing a pattern on randomness to avoid going mad and keep us from thinking that eventually, all of us hit an ice berg.

I wish I knew the answer. But then again, I'm glad I don't.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow


I just returned from a trip to Boise (The Treasure Valley) where I had gone to visit my 87-year old mother. On the third day of my visit there, she died.

I am not using euphemisms like "passed on" or "met her maker" because I am writing in my blog and not engaged in polite conversation with well meaning individuals who tap dance around the subject because let's face it, no one wants to talk about death.

It should not have been a surprise to me that my mother died. She had confessed to me four years ago that she thought she had breast cancer. But being a Christian Scientist, she refused any kind of medical examination or treatment. So she received none.

She managed to maintain relatively well for the first few years. But it was obvious, the cancer was taking its toll. It wasn't like my father's stomach cancer, mind you. When he was diagnosed 19 years or so ago with it, it ravaged his body in a matter of months. And his pain was painfully obvious.

Not so with my mother. She stood by her faith and walked through the valley of the shadow of death. She just moved much slower than she had before admitting to having cancer.

In defense of my own guilty conscious, I tried to convince her to see a doctor. I flew to Boise and tried to organize an intervention. But she stubbornly refused and everyone in my family (including my mom) skirted any further discussion about her obvious disease. From then on, we simply averted our eyes to the growing tumor and the signs that my mother was sick.

It became more and more difficult to ignore in the past several months. The first thing to fade was her mobility. Up until that past few months she had still been walking to the store and working in her yard. But then she began having trouble finding her way back home or locking herself out of her house.

Next came the memory loss. I noticed it more and more on my weekly calls to her. She would repeat the same story several times during the course of a conversation. Then she began to not recognize who she was talking to. Many of the conversations began to focus on stories of her childhood because it was firmly rooted in her brain whereas the present skipped away off the surface.

Two weeks ago, my mother didn't answer the phone when I called. A call to my brother living in Boise brought me the information that she wasn't getting out of bed any longer. I booked a trip to Boise.

I wasn't really prepared for how bad off she had become. I'd seen her in June when I drove my family there for a visit. Although thin and complaining about not being able to get around easily, she was still taking care of herself and eating. Now, after renting a car I drove directly to her house from the airport.  I walked in her house and found her in her bed looking more frail and emaciated than I could have imagined or bear.

She didn't really recognize me at first, but she smiled a gentle smile. My sister-in-law helped my mother sit up  in hopes she would make it out of bed to go sit in her easy chair. It was obvious that the effort was taxing. She made it to her dining room where a row of dining room chairs served as islands for her to rest as she made the trek. She made it to the second chair before saying she just needed to rest. Then she just wanted to go back to her bed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a chair next to her bed reading as she lay there, occasionally opening her eyes and pulling up a blanket tighter around her. Finally, I got up to leave. I asked my mother if she was okay and that I needed to leave to check into a hotel. She said she was fine and that I should go take care of what I needed to. I told her I loved her. She said she loved me, too and that I was very special.

The next day was spent trying to make my mother comfortable and get her to eat or drink something. It ended again with me sitting next to her bed, occasionally adjusting a pillow for her or giving her a drink of water. Towards evening I said goodbye and told her I loved her and returned to my hotel for the evening. My brother was spending the night at my mother's house at that point.

The next day when I got to my house, my brother wasn't there. I found my mother in her spare room. I asked her what she was doing there and she said that she had gone to the bathroom and it was as far as she could get. I asked her if she wanted to go to her room and she said she just wanted to lay there for awhile and rest. At that point my brother returned. He had been at the store picking up a few things. He tried giving my mother some water, but she couldn't drink it.

I got a wet wash cloth and wiped down her forehead and she told me that that felt good. Then she gasped and her eyes fluttered. Then she left the valley.

I won't go into the details of the tears and phone calls as we dealt with the aftermath of my mother's death and the emotional waves that still beat away at me. My mother had prearranged her own cremation, but it was up to my brothers and I to put together a memorial service and deal with the bureaucracy of death and its rituals.

Afterwards, as I walked through the empty house that I had grown up in, I was struck by the fact that it would soon pass on to strangers who would never know the history of this place that had stood for more than sixty years and seen the death of both my father and mother. It would likely be razed and subdivided to make way for townhouses or apartments. And the graves of pets and memories of flashlight tag and touch football in the backyard would be buried by concrete foundations and driveways.

I need to go back to Boise in a month or so and help sort through what is left of our family's life in that house before it is opened up to strangers to paw through the remnants for bargains or hidden treasure at an estate sale. My only hope is that my mother's faith has taken her to a better place and her spirit is free of the place. She never did like strangers in the house.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Worldview


I have noticed that my worldview has changed dramatically as I age. I suppose it is natural to evolve from concretely knowing everything in a rigid "this is how I see it" manner to my current river rock worldview. I have concluded that I really don't know squat.

But does anyone really know squat?

I have given up completely on any organized (or unorganized) religion and am totally baffled by people who actually go to church. Although I profess to being a Democrat, I really don't have any tolerance for politics of any kind. I just detest Democrats less than I detest Republicans. And don't even mention Libertarians or other splinter whack job parties to me.

I recently mentioned something in my usual flip manner to my nephew about one of the crappy things about being in your 50s is that you finally realize that you have accomplished just about all that you ever will. He muttered something about that being a depressing thought. It is easy for him in his 20s to say that. He still has a worldview that includes potential.

Oh, I've read the books about all of the stuff you can achieve after 50. They usually cite examples of people like Ronald Reagan which immediately makes me want to puke.

I guess my worldview is a bit pissy most of the time. I don't mean to be cynical and negative. I just seem to gravitate in that direction based on experience.

On the positive side, my children soften my worldview substantially. I want there to be hope for them. They make me remember that there was a time that saw things with a sense of awe having never experienced them before. They still believe in magic (though they are beginning to suspect much of it is created by papa and mama playing tricks on them).

I'd truly like to believe in magic again. I'd love to believe that our country is the greatest in the world and that we, as Americans always do the right thing. I'd like to believe that George Washington never told a lie, the Civil War was fought for human rights and that government works for your good.

But I know differently. Very little of what we were taught when I was growing up was true. We were victims of PR and marketing designed to make us believe a history that didn't exist. One need only listen to any political speech by any candidate to learn that nothing every changes in the political realm. Everyone is always claiming they will change things or return them to the way they were.

But they are always empty promises.  Always. Even candidates with good intentions eventually conclude that you can't beat the status quo. The American political machine has been around too long to change. And it is based on political machines that plowed along long before America existed.

But I digress...and rant...and verbally chase my tail.

The problem with successfully chasing your tail is that you are inevitably going to get bitten.

How's that for a worldview?




Friday, August 31, 2012

Once in a blue moon


There will be a blue moon tonight, so this is one of those once in a blue moon occasions people talk about. A moon is considered blue if it is the second full moon in a month (though Wikipedia claims a moon is considered a blue moon if it is the third full moon in a season with four full moons, but that is just crazy talk). Once in a blue moon actually takes place every 2.7 years. But saying something only happens once every 2.7 years doesn't have the same ring to it as saying it only happens once in a blue moon.

It is a sad, yet fitting fact that there is a memorial service for Neil Armstrong (the first person to walk on the moon)  is being held today.  I was eleven years old when Armstrong took his fateful first step on the moon. Coincidentally, the NASA mission was called Apollo 11.  I love these cosmic signs.

But I digress.


I saw the blue moon when I was walking to the train station this morning. I snapped this photo with my cell phone. The blue moon looked much larger than it does in this photo. I want to point out that I added the arrows so you could distinguish the moon from the trees, dumpster and fences that are also in the photo. The arrows were not there when I snapped the photo. That would have been really odd.

 I did not know it was a blue moon at the time. Blue moons look like every other full moon. Ironically, they are not blue and no one seems to know why they are called blue moons. Though Wikipedia offers several possible reasons. But again, that is just more crazy talk.

I think most of Wikipedia is crazy talk that results from letting any random individual spew opinion as gospel.

But I digress.

I am looking forward to showing the blue moon to my children this evening and trying to explain the whole second moon in a month, third in a season of four moons that aren't really blue but we call them that.

On second thought, I might just say, "Hey look at that full moon."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Art, where art thou?


I grew up in Idaho without lots of access to museums or great art. We did have a history museum with a pretty cool two-head calf, however. But that technically isn't art.

Since I didn't have access to museums or art galleries, much of my understanding of art came pictures of art in a set of Childcraft 1950s era encyclopedias we had when I was growing up. I spent hours looking at pictures of paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Manet, Gauguin, Lautrec, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Degas and other masters. I just loved the way they made me feel.

When I got older, I took a few art classes in college because I enjoyed art, not because I wanted an easy "A." Still, I never had an opportunity to view an actual work of classic art until I moved to Seattle in the early 1980s.

Not that I actually got to see any of the works of the masters in Seattle. It wasn't until I took a trip to London    in the early 1990s that I laid eyes on a genuine famous artist's work at the National Gallery. It was there that I saw works by Leonardo Da Vinci and Van Gogh as they were intended to be seen -- in person and at a leisurely pace.


Since then, I have joined the Seattle Art Museum and been herded around for special exhibits. Most recently I saw a exhibit of Gaugin's work (which I wasn't overly impressed with). There were so many people at the exhibit that you really couldn't stop and appreciate it.

On a recent business trip to Washington D.C. I managed to visit the National Portrait Gallery and the National Art Gallery. There I saw more art by famous artists than you could shake a stick at. But if you did shake a stick at the art, I imagine you would be swarmed by guards since there seemed to be one at every painting just daring you to touch them (the art, not the guards).

The amazing thing about the museums in D.C. is that they are free! And they aren't crowded, or at least they weren't when I was there. So I could actually stand in front of a Van Gogh as long as I wanted without being nudged out of the way by other art lovers (though the museum guards did start to get a bit twitchy that I was standing in front of the same painting for a long time).

The problem was, there were too many works of art. After awhile, I couldn't see the art because of all of the paintings (this is a weak analogy to not being able to see the forest for the trees). My head was spinning as I moved from room to room trying to soak it all in. After awhile, all I wanted to do was leave. I just couldn't look at one more work of art because it no longer had any impact.

How sad is that?

To me, art needs to connect with you at an emotional level. When you binge on it, you are going to get sick.

So I ended up at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where I got burned out looking at fossils and then the National Archives where I got burned out looking at old historical documents.

I sure miss my Childcraft books.

Blogger's note: Yes, this is post number 1000. But since I made such a big deal about number 999, I didn't really feel like hyping it up too much by saying something like, "That's 1000 small posts for a man, 1000 giant posts for mankind," (rest in peace Neil Armstrong).  Anyway, I did it. So there.

But I digress.

It's not like it's art or anything.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

999 posts

As of August 4, I have officially been blogging for eight years and this is my 999th post. I still haven't decided what the topic of post 1000 should be. I generally pride myself on not having a purpose for blogging. And I have maintained that philosophy for eight years.

I'd like to think of myself as the poster child of persistence when it comes to blogging. Despite a lack of readers, inspiration and purpose, I have kept cranking out posts when other, more creative bloggers have fallen by the wayside. Being mediocre helps.

Oh, I've gone through my share of phases. I started as Tim-Elvis, morphed into Tim-id and then became Time. I spent a great deal of time Photoshopping my face onto various animate and inanimate objects, animals and people. I don't think many people appreciate the labor required to Photoshop your face on a bowl of Kimchi stew. Nor did everyone appreciate my fascination with putting my face on famous paintings. I vaguely recall one person commenting that they found it offensive that I would butcher the masters by putting my face on them.

To which I believe I replied, "Smack my ass and call me Sally."

Regardless, my enthusiasm for slapping my face on paintings, animals and food has waned a bit. I even resorted to recycling many of my images because, hey, no one really looks at my blog so who will remember that I'm used the image of my face on a photo of Bigfoot at least four times.

Few people probably realize that Dizgraceland actually had three spin off blogs including the Monkey Playing Cymbals blog, Ich Bin Gunter blog and Quixotic, a blog in which I tried to explain Don Quixote chapter by chapter in a way even a Monkey Playing Cymbals could understand. Those blogs fell by the wayside as I realized that maintaining one blog was challenge enough when you also had to contend with real life.

Real life in the eight years since I began blogging included getting married, buying two new houses and having two children. Sometimes I am surprised I have time to go to the bathroom let alone write in my blog.

There have been times in the eight years I've been blogging that I have actually had people who commented on my blog on a regular basis (including people as far off as Australia and England). In the early years I felt like I had a community of blogger friends I could count on to insult me (in a nice way) on a regular basis. Sadly, none of them remain.

I've come to the conclusion that the virtual community of bloggers and people who comment on blogs mirrors reality. People enthusiastically pop into your life with the best intentions and then get distracted by brighter, shinier objects they see on the side of the Information Highway. You have to accept blogger friends as tourists stopping by long enough to point and take a few pictures before hopping back on the bus.

So as I approach the milestone of my one thousand posts, what will I write about? Should I make it my farewell blog and tell people how it is time to move on?  Or should I announce a major redesign of Dizgraceland and a new direction as I embark on my next thousand posts?

Well being that this is a .44 Magnum blog, the most powerful blog in the world, you got to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky? Well punk, do you?


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Taking crap from Yeti


I thought about calling this post, "Does a Yeti shit in the woods?" but I decided to take the high road and call it "Taking crap from Yeti." Regardless, it was inspired by a program I watched while on the elliptical machine at the gym the other day.

The program was "Mysteries at the museum" on the Travel Channel. The segment was about the International Cryptozoology Museum's Yeti scat sample. Apparently, Cryptozoologist Tom Slick (I kid you not) watched a Yeti take a dump in the foothills of Nepal in 1959 and picked up the Yeti-doo to prove Yeti's exist.

For some cryptic reason, the "International" Cryptozoology Museum is located in Portland, Maine. And in case you aren't clear on what Cryptozoology is, it is the study of animals or creatures who most people don't think exist, like Bigfoot, Yeti and a man who doesn't pee on the toilet seat.

I doubt Tom Slick considered himself  a Cryptozoologist. He was the wealthy son of a Texas millionaire and hung out with people like Howard Hughes. He went to Yale (which apparently doesn't really mean squat when it comes to higher education if you consider George W. went there too).

In addition to having lots of money and having a reputation of being a playboy, Slick also liked to lead expeditions looking for mythical creatures like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti and the Trinity Alps giant salamander (an alligator sized salamander reportedly living in Northern California). It was on one such expedition that Slick spied on an unsuspecting Yeti relieving itself, and, as the startled (and somewhat embarrassed) creature ran off, Slick swooped in to scoop its poop.

Slick shipped the poop off to a lab in Paris and had it analyzed to try and prove it was Yeti poop. Sure enough, the lab confirmed that the sample Slick sent them was indeed poop. They just couldn't say whose poop it was. They did discover a parasite in the poop, so one could conclude thatYeti would benefit from a few de-worming tablets.

What the Travel Channel didn't dwell on in the Mysteries at the museum episode was how the Yeti poop ended up in Portland, Maine near displays of Jackalopes and models of the Loch Ness monster. I'd wager someone bought the poop on eBay (although I did a search on eBay for Yeti poop and could only find a listing for fake Yeti/Bigfoot poop for $29).

The bigger question in all of this is not whether Yeti exists, but why so many people put so much energy into trying to prove it. If these creatures exist, they obviously don't want anything to do with people. Because the likely outcome of contact with people would be being locked up in a cage or killed and stuffed. I wouldn't want anything to do with a species that spies on you when you are taking a dump and then swoops in an puts your poop into a bag (not unlike most dog owners).

Perhaps it is because I am on the downward slope of my life's journey, but I have become more and more particular about my priorities in life. Chasing after Yeti's or Bigfoot is not one of them. Nor is gazing at Yeti poop in a museum (though I did spend 30 minutes watching a program about it). I don't want to be lying on my death bed recapping my life's accomplishments and shake my head wondering why I scooped up a pile of Yeti poop and thought that had significance.

Instead I can marvel that I wrote an unread blog dealing with burning topics like why clams are happy and explorers picking up Yeti poop.

Sigh...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

You can't elect a leader

Do you think any major corporation would ask all of it's employees to vote to pick their next CEO? Or, do you think any successful business would pick someone who has never had any experience running a business to run that business? So why do we continue to choose people to run our various governments by popular vote?

That being said, I am not one of those people who refuses to vote because they believe their vote doesn't matter (although I tend to feel that way). I have voted in every election I could since I was 18. Jimmy Carter was the first president I voted for.  I try to use my vote to at least minimize the potential damage any single elected official can cause by selecting people who at least appear to be mentally competent and don't say stupid stuff in the voter pamphlet write ups.

This rules out 99 percent of the Republican and Independent candidates.

If a candidate uses the term "Obamacare," they are toast.

I will not vote for people who include website addresses like: www.TheTruthRocks.com; scaryreality.com; colonizespace.blogspot.com; holisticgovernor.org.

I will not vote for people who state that they have no experience as an elected official but have been self-employed as a hair stylist for 19 years. I have nothing against hair stylists, but knowing how to color and perm hair doesn't qualify you for the Senate. Congress maybe, but not the Senate.

Having less than no experience is worse:

As an hourly employee I have developed the skills to lead and plan. The future will have many challenges and respect for many cultures is a part of my life and our communities. For a month the privilege to severe, would be a great honor, I sincerely would appreciate your vote.

Apparently you also don't need to know how to spell to "serve" in Congress.

I don't think being good with your hands qualifies you either:

I am hardworking, mechanically inclined and very detailed.Your vote will make the difference. Elect me to be your champion and get you back in charge.

I will not vote for anyone who includes nicknames like "Doc," "Stocky," or Goodspaceguy.

I also weed out candidates based on their voter pamphlet photos. I never vote for anyone who wears a hat in their photo, especially a cowboy hat or beret. I also don't vote for people who look constipated in their photos. Although I have a beard, I am not inclined to vote for people with beards (especially women).

I will not vote for people who use vague, hackneyed statements like, fight for you." Or, "carefully and constructively – securing a safe future for citizens of all ages, especially our children." And, "Our country has long been admired by the restof the world for her great example of liberty and prosperity—a light shining in the darkness of tyranny." (The guy who said this also had a goatee without a mustache...so a double whammy.)
I will not vote for people who state mindless drivel like:



I believe the number one issue in the 2012 U.S.Senate election should be impeaching President Barack Obama specifically for Obama’s decision to give America’s state of the art military spy drone technology to Iran (and through Iran to China and Russia).
Or:

I will not represent you, I will represent us. My experiences are vast and varied giving me a balanced perspective. I have military background, formal education, farming, travel and hosting of a hundred youth from around the world.
And:
Our moral compass is so far out of whack Americans don’t know North from right or left from down. I believe we have to return this great Nation to our Judeo-Christian values and beliefs in our God given rights. (This guy wore a cowboy hat in his photo.) Or:

I’m running for Governor on a single platform: I want to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $10.00 per pack. $5.00 will be added in 2015 and an additional $5.00 in 2016. The tax increases will reduce current consumption and stop kids from starting.
And:
I run to raise issues others avoid. For example, many water districts add industrial grade fluoride to drinking water – fluorosilicic acid. It contains lead and arsenic and leaches large amounts of lead from pipes. The body excretes these chemicals poorly; they accumulate lifetime. They are most harmful to fetuses and infants (reducing IQ), diabetics, those with arthritis and thyroid, kidney, and heart disease. Blacks and Hispanics are impacted more than Whites.
Finally:
I believe that all humans are good by nature. It takes a lot of hard work to turn bad. Here in Washington we must find good people to govern, we need to fulfill our destiny of justice and equality. I believe the time has come to speak of kindness and love. Those who speak of despair are practitioners of hate. They should keep away from our highways, from our homes, from us. (This guy wore a beret and had a beard.)
Let's face it, voter's pamphlets are about as chock full of BS as personal ads on the Internet. I wish someone would just say, "I want to be Senator because it sounds really cool and you get your own office in Washington D.C. with people to bring you coffee and you don't have to pay for it (the office or the coffee). I don't really plan to have any impact on anything, but I'll do my best not to fuck things up any worse than they already are. Oh, and I want to eat in the Senate cafeteria any time I want. I hear it has pretty decent sandwiches."

I'd probably get elected if I shaved my beard.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Failure to communicate

"What we got here is...failure to communicate."
--Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke
I'd like to think I am a fairly decent communicator. I've spent my entire career distilling words to make them understood by the lowest common denominator. But I'm beginning to believe that the Internet and electronic "communications" has destroyed most people's ability to actually communicate.

Case in point, Craig's List. For some reason, I got it in my head that it would be kind of fun to buy a moped to drive the mile or so from my home to the train station for my daily commute. Well actually the reason I had that idea in my head was a Groupon e-mail about half off on an electric moped. Even half off, the electric scooter cost about $1500 plus shipping. Even for an obsessive compulsive personality such as mine, $1500 is a bit steep.

So I did what I normally do, I Googled moped and opened up a new universe of transportation options using vehicles that reach maximum speeds of 35 mph but can get 90 miles to the gallon of gas. The electric versions only reach speeds of about 20 mph but eliminate gas altogether.

Why not just get a motorcycle? I don't want to go through the training required to license and ride a standard motorcycle and I don't really have any desire to be a middle aged man on a chopper picking bugs out of his teeth. Plus everything in the Puget Sound Region is either at the top of a hill or at the bottom of a hill. I've mastered driving around in a car, but I just don't have the energy to figure out how to master the local hills and freeways on a motorcycle. A moped/scooter that can't go over 35 mph and doesn't require any special license or training just seemed a more reasonable option when all I want to do is make a round trip to the train station.

Anyway, I set off on a quest to find a moped/scooter, gas or electric, that didn't cost an arm and a leg (or risk losing one). The prices were all over the map, but the cheapest vehicle I could find new was about $750 and still involved shipping. So that brings in Craig's List. I figured someone would be selling one locally at a bargain price.

One of the many downsides of Craig's List is that you have to do a lot of sifting to find what you are looking for. You can search for scooter or moped and get an ad for a Bowflex exercise machine (I'm not kidding). But I did manage to find quite a few scooters/mopeds including this ad:

2010 tao tao 49cc Runs Great pushstart and kickstart well kept, minor scratches from a fall goes 30-35mph depending on riders weight motorcycle helmet included comes with two keys just recently had them ordered must sell soon $500 for pictures text or call: Dell xxxxxxxxx
Not being a text or call kind of guy, I used the e-mail address provided by Craig's List and sent the following message:

Hi, 
If the scooter is still available, could you send me photos? 
Thanks 
The next day I get this reponse:
whats ur mobile phone number
That's it. No photos. No "thanks for your interest in my scooter." So I reply with my cell phone number assuming the seller doesn't know how to send photos via computer but can send them via a cell phone. 

But I don't get any reply.  So a couple of days go by and I decide to text the person thinking that perhaps they don' t check their e-mail often and are more comfortable with text messages. I send the following text:
Could you send photos of the scooter listed on craigs list? Thx
I threw in the "Thx" as a concession to the moronic text language I believe this person was used to. In a few minutes I get the response:
There already posted.
Okay, I had checked Craig's List the night before and there were no photos with his ad. But I go back and sure enough the seller has added two blurry photos of a scooter. Plus he had lowered the price he was asking.

I realize that I am in marketing and take for granted that anyone selling something would go out of their way to be at least polite to a potential buyer. But this was ridiculous. Would it have killed this person to have responded with something like, "I've posted a couple of photos on Craig's List. But I've attached some as well. Just want you to know that I've reduced the price and it's a super bargain. Let me know if you have any questions or want to schedule a time to see the scooter."

I really wanted to text the person back and say, "Gd luck sellin ur scooter moron :)." But I imagine the mental midget would have responded with "So ru goin 2 mk offer?"
Anyway, I've pretty much given up on the scooter idea. I've done enough research to determine that owning a cheap Chinese scooter without a minimal mechanical aptitude would probably be a move I'd regret. Apparently you have to adjust carburetors and clean spark plugs a great deal to keep the things working. I have difficulty keeping my Sonic Care toothbrush running. So I don't want to spent each morning trying to kick start a scooter and then give up and drive my car or walk anyway.

I have had many similar experiences with Craig's List. I realize it is free, but I wish they would require people posting to take a rudimentary literacy test. In the meantime, I'll stick with eBay.



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Out damned Spotify!


Actually I like Spotify. And in case you don't know what I am talking about (which is highly likely), Spotify is an application that let's you listen to what seems like an endless supply of music on your computer for free. Sounds like Pandora you say? Not. Pandora only lets you type in a song or musician you like and then plays stuff like it. Spotify actually plays what you want when you want it.

I haven't a clue how it works. You download an application (that so far our IT people haven't forbidden) that pops up when you log on. It looks like a media player. You can browse new music or type in your favorite musician or song and it will pull up an amazing number of songs by that artist or cover songs of that artist's work. You can then create your own playlists.

For example, when Doc Watson died recently, I had a hankering (country word for urge) to listen to the song "Tennessee Stud." Not only did I find Doc Watson's version of the classic blue grass song, I found 21 other versions by various artists. Now I can listen to an hours worth of "Tennessee Stud" non-stop to satisfy my OCD nature.

I also have a playlist with twelve versions of "Con Te Partiro" including one by Donna Summer (which is pretty sucky). Right now I am listening to the Beatles. Well, actually, it is Beatles cover music, because apparently not all artists have bought into the Spotify model and allow their works to be played for free. This can be kind of annoying when you are trying to listen to Pink Floyd and all you can find is versions of the Wall played on pan flute.

I am not sure how Spotify makes money. They do have premium versions that allow you to play the music without ads, offline and on your mobile device. But I don't really have the need to pay $9.99 for the premium when the free version works just fine for me. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

I suppose I shouldn't say that. They may take away my free version. And what would I do without 40 versions of Cotton Eye Joe?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Pondering the grim reaper


There is nothing like going to a funeral to make you think about the inevitability of death. Technically it wasn't really a funeral. It was a memorial service. The person had died a couple of weeks earlier and had already been cremated.

I did not know this person well. They were not a a close friend or family. I had worked at the same company with them at one time and had mutual friends and acquaintances. But I had known the person for years. And then one day I heard that she had died unexpectedly in an accident in her home.

The term "died unexpectedly" seems so odd. We all know that eventually we will die. We just don't expect to die. We don't wake up in the morning expecting to die that day.

But I digress. Bottom line, I went to the memorial service for this person I knew but hadn't seen in years because I couldn't really fathom that in the blink of an eye she was just gone. I stood in the foyer of the church greeting acquaintances who also knew this person, chatting awkwardly trying to ignore the reason we were all here.

It was an abbreviated Catholic service interspersed with hymns, Bible readings and incense. I am sure it was a standard type thing organized by a shocked family not prepared for an untimely death (Untimely death. Now that is better than "dying unexpectantly"). Even the memorial program was obviously developed from a template. It hadn't been proofed and contained the name of some other person from a previous memorial service.

The priest checked his watch throughout the service and wrapped it up. I imagine the chapel was booked for the next event and he had a schedule to keep that couldn't be thrown off by death, untimely or not. We were herded into a reception hall where cookies, coffee and tea were served by church volunteers.  And then the testimonials began.

I looked around the room at the people in a circle beginning to tell their stories of the person who had startled everyone by passing. And almost all of them were people from her workplace. Like me they had passed her in the hallways or sat in meetings with her and were concerned when she didn't show up for work as expected on Monday.

But I noted sadly that outside of work acquaintances and some distant family members, there was no one else. Where were her friends? Oh, I realize that people can work together and be friends, but I've learned over the years that these people are only temporary friends. You are thrown together more often by circumstances than choice. So when someone leaves a workplace, people rarely stay in touch.

I left after someone noted that the deceased had always brought pastries to the parking attendants in the building she worked at.

People say that funerals and memorial services are for the living, not the dead. It is supposed be an opportunity for people to come to closure over the passing of  friends or family. I can't help but think that they end up just making us focus on our own mortality. So when we walk out the door of the church or reception hall, all we want to do is wrap ourselves with that comfortable denial of our daily routines that keep the inevitability of death safely tucked away where it should be.

Because life is about living, not about dying.






Thursday, June 07, 2012

Our days are numbered


No, Harold Camping isn't up to his old trick of predicting the end of the world. I was just fascinated yesterday when I noted the date was 6/6/12, because six plus six equals 12. I thought it was pretty profound and pointed it out to several of my co-workers. None of them seemed to share my enthusiasm about this phenomenon or see any significance in it at all.

Technically it isn't as impressive when you think of it as 6/6/2012, because six plus six doesn't equal 2,012 unless you were taught math in Arkansas. But 6/6/12 just reeks of profundity.

Oh, it's no 6/6/76 (which was the day the movie The Omen debuted in theaters...I saw it on that day so I know this is a fact).  The movie producers were trying to play off the significance of the mark of the devil (666). They kind of glossed over the seven in 6/6/76.

I suppose you can read something in just about every date if you play with the numbers long enough. Calendars are a bit ludicrous anyway if you think about it. They are a vain attempt to quantify something infinite (time) with something finite (number of days there have been people on the planet).  And the calendar we have is pretty arbitrary anyway. Who got to pick which day was 1/1/1 (which adds up to three and could therefore have religious significance...trinity an such)? I think it was Pope Gregory XIII. But who died and left him Pope? Well, technically Pius V.

But I digress.

I kind of wished I had written this on 6/6/12 instead of 6/7/12. Though six plus is 13 and 13 plus 12 equals 25. And two plus five equals seven which is today's date. Tomorrow is 6/8/12. Six plus eight equals 14. Fourteen plus 12 equals 26. And six plus two equals eight which is tomorrow's date.

 I think I'm on to something.

I just can't wait until 7/5/12 when every thing adds up to 12 again. Though 12 plus 12 equals 24 and two plus four equals six which won't be the date.  But six is half of 12.

Nevermind.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I don't always drink Tequila, but when I do, I drink Cabo Wabo



I just got back from a week in Cabo with my family. This sort of explains why I haven't been blogging religiously. Not that I have every been religiously blogging. I'm more or less an agnostic. I do pray if there is a god (or gods) he or she or they will forgive me.

But I digress.

This was probably my 6th trip to Cabo. Four of those were via cruise ship so they consisted of riding a boat to the pier at 8 a.m., grabbing a cab to downtown Cabo San Lucas, dodging souvenir sales people and time share sharks and stopping at Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo bar and downing a shot or two of Cabo Wabo tequila and buying a t-shirt before dashing back to the pier to catch a boat back to the cruise ship.

It wasn't exactly the way to get the true flavor of Baja, but it was best you could do on a three hour shore excursion. Plus you had to get back to the ship in time for the buffet. Life must have priorities.

The last two trips to Cabo we have stayed at all-inclusive resorts closer to San Jose Del Cabo, but we have kept up the tradition of going into Cabo San Lucas and we still stop at Cabo Wabo for my traditional shot of Cabo Wabo tequila with a bottle of Corona. I am not certain how much longer I can carry on this tradition. My young children won't buy the "daddy is taking medicine" line much longer when I'm conducting the "salt, shot, lime" ritual.





The Cabo Wabo ritual is changing in other ways. I have stopped buying Cabo Wabo t-shirts because they are pretty pricey and never seem to change. And if the truth were to be told, I never did like Sammy Hagar's music. I realize "I Can't Drive 55" is a classic, but it isn't really that great of a song.

But as tequilas go, Cabo Wabo is pretty smooth. When taken for medicinal purposes of course.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Silly love songs

"You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs."
-- Paul McCartney, Silly Love Songs
I am not sure why they call love songs, love songs. Most of them aren't really about love. They are about someone being in love (or lust) with someone who doesn't love them. So by all rights, they should be called stalker songs, loser songs or simply country songs. But I suppose they lose that romantic marketability if you tried to call them what they are -- whiny crap.

But a rose is a rose.

Not that I didn't spend a good portion of my youth moping around listening to "love" songs. The 70s and 80s were full of really bad ones. There's nothing like raging hormones to make a teen aged boy susceptible to lyrics like, "You left in the rain without closing the door, I didn't stand in your way" or "Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming around."

Of course, I also liked the lyrics from one of Harry Nilsson's songs that went something like, "You're breaking my heart, you're tearing it apart, so fuck you."

I still tear up at that one.

Barbara Streisand's song Evergreen was big when I was in my teens, too. It was from the movie A Star is Born starring who else, Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (singer/song writer who wrote Bobbie McGee that Janis Joplin made famous). If you aren't familiar with A Star is Born, it is about a drugged out rock star at the end of his career (Kristofferson) who meets an up and coming talent (Streisand), falls in love and gets her career on track. To make it a perfect love story, he kills himself in a car accident so he doesn't drag her career down.

I tear up on that one, too.

Let's no forget My Heart Will Go On from the movie, Titanic. It gets you all lovey, weepy about a one night stand between a young couple who meet on the Titanic (hooking up wiht someone on a cruise is never a good idea). Rose and Jack end up floating in the icy waters of the Atlantic after the ship sinks. Rose is floating on a piece of debris and Jack is in the water holding on to her hand telling her never to let go. He freezes to death and Rose romantically breaks off his frozen fingers from her hand and lets him sink to the bottom of the ocean and as the song says, Rose's heart goes on.

Ouch.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the nickname of time

Etymology of the "nickname": The compound word ekename, literally meaning "additional name", was attested as early as 1303. This word was derived from the Old English phrase eaca "an increase", related to eacian "to increase". By the fifteenth century, the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase "an ekename" led to its reanalysis as "a nekename". Though the spelling has changed, the pronunciation and meaning of the word have remained relatively stable ever since. 
 --Wikipedia

I have always had a nasty habit of giving people, even complete strangers, nicknames. Perhaps it is because my  legal name -- Tim -- is a nickname for Timothy. Ironically, many people call me Timothy thinking that is what my name should be.

But I digress.

Although I do give friends and family endearing nicknames, I have less than flattering names for strangers I see on a regular basis, say at the train station or on board the trains I ride every day to and from work. It is kind of a perverse hobby I have to pass the time while waiting for the train.

For example, there are a group of cackling women who walk their yapping little dogs along the train platform on a regular basis. I have nicknamed them the Haggis Sisters. They started out as the Harpy Sisters, but I kind of like the play on words of Haggis. There is also a man who shuffles by the station in a jogging suit on a semi-regular basis that I call Freddy the Fart.

I have nicknames for my fellow passengers as well. Since I am a creature of habit, I stand in the same spot at the platform everyday. It is precisely where the train door will be for the first car when the train pulls into the station. I am generally the first person there and I guard my spot very jealously because I like to be the first person through the door when it opens so that I can get my usual seat on the water side of the tracks. So I really get pissy when other people arrive late and try to crowd my spot. The three worst offenders are Lennie (a hulking man who invades my personal space and reminds me of the slow character in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men), Thumper ( a man who reads the Bible while waiting for the train) and A-hole (another guy who invades my personal space and races me for the door when it opens).

In the afternoon commute there is Phlegm, an annoying potbellied loud mouth who is constantly making disgusting sounds in between moronic pronouncements. And then there is Pepe Le Pew, a large man with questionable hygiene habits who gets pretty ripe when it warms up on the train.

Not all my nicknames are for fellow commuters. There is One-Note Johnny, the lousy saxophone player who plays the same song day after day in the plaza outside my office window. And there is Perry the Poser who works out in my downtown gym and never loses sight of himself in the mirrored walls around the weight room. Let's not forget Chia Pet, a woman with an unfortunate hair style who also works out at the same gym.

I think I would have made a great mafia don, what with my affinity for giving people nicknames.

Or not.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yet another opinion about opinions

I write a lot about opinions. More precisely, I write about people not drawing a distinction between an opinion and fact. Because nothing sets me off more than someone making a declaration about something they know nothing about and stating it as Gospel.

So it was with great pleasure that I read Seth Godin's blog post "Is everyone entitled to their opinion?" Godin is a best-selling author who writes about marketing in a very refreshing way. Anyway, Godin says there are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to: Lack of standing and no credibility. If someone has no influence over your work (i.e. they aren't a respected art critic or a frequent purchaser of art) it is okay to ignore their opinion if they diss on your art. And ditto if their opinion isn't based on experience or expertise.

Amen. Finally someone has pointed out that just because you have an opinion it doesn't mean it matters. It is one of the problem with many people's interpretation of democracy. They think it means that everyone's opinion is equal and needs to be listened to. Wrong. It means the majority of the people with same opinion get to give the finger to the minority (at least on any given election day) that have a different opinion.

Now I don't think Godin was really talking about democracy in his blog post. He was determining whose opinion matters in relation to the product you are marketing. He uses an example of someone in Accounts Payable hating the company's new logo.Godin says if you are the person responsible for that logo you should (and must) ignore that opinion. That person isn't the target market for the logo.

At one level, Godin is trying to encourage people to do great work without worrying about the negative reaction from people who don't matter. After all, you can't please everyone, so you might as well please the ones writing the checks.

In a kind of related topic, I went with my family to see a Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend. I was kind of stoked because I had a somewhat limited and romanticized view of Gauguin. I knew he had hung out a bit with Van Gogh. And I knew he had ran off to Tahiti to paint.

As we moved around the gallery with the hordes of other art lovers with our audio tour devices I quickly discovered that Gauguin wasn't the romanticized character I'd pictured him as. He'd gone to Tahiti in an effort to produce enough commercial art that would appeal to the Paris market and keep him from having to get a real job. And since Tahiti was the paradise he'd envisioned (it was actually quite up tight due to the influence of religious missionaries) he made up stuff to paint and copied picture post cards he bought.

And in my opinion, his art kind of sucked. It seemed crude and contrived.

But my opinion doesn't matter. For one, Gauguin is dead and is beyond caring what I think, and his art is worth millions despite my opinion of it.  Now if I was a mult-millionaire and donated large sums of money to the Seattle Art Museum, they might care that I don't like Gauguin's art. But because I am merely a dues paying member of the museum, my opinion only merits a blank stare and a call to security to "watch this guy."

But I digress.

In conclusion, I just want to say, "Bless you Seth Godin." Because the next time someone offers me their opinion and they have no standing in my universe or credibility, I am at liberty to say, "No thanks, I already have one."






Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A chip off the old writer's block


Having been a blogger since August 2004, an aspiring writer since junior high and a professional writer (in theory)  since I graduated from college, you would think that writer's block would not be an issue, especially for someone who could basically give you a thousand words about whale vomit without blinking. But you know, sometimes you just don't have anything to say.

This, of course, doesn't apply to my three year old son who always seems to have something to say. Just none of it makes  sense to anyone but him. But he states everything with a great deal of authority, so I believe he will be very successful someday.

I'm not so sure I am really suffering from writer's block as much as a lack of time and inspiration. I traveled more in the last month or so then I have in quite some time and I don't really blog when I travel anymore. It just alerts everyone that you aren't home (not a good idea from a home security standpoint) and frankly, when I am in my hotel room I'm pretty much occupied flipping through channels looking for episodes of Doomsday Hoarders and I don't have time to blog.

I think part of my problem is also being self conscious that I am approaching my 1000th blog post and feeling pressure to produce something really great to mark that auspicious occasion. I'm sure a thousand blog posts seems nothing to my fellow blogger Baggy who seems to crank out a thousand posts a week. But it seems like a pretty big number to me.

Not that everyone of my posts has been the most awe inspiring prose mind you.  I evolved like everyone who has blogged for some time has. You go through phases in the beginning of trying to hard, or posting mundane stuff (not unlike Facebook status reports). And if you get people following and commenting on your posts, you can fall into the trap of writing crap you think they'll want to read. But the best blog posts are those where you just forget anyone might be reading and write for yourself.

And that is usually the only person who is reading it anyway.  I have written some many random posts that I honestly forget writing some of them and read them with rapt interest when I stumble onto them in my archives. At times it is almost as if someone else wrote them. And if you subscribe to some of my drivel about space time continuum and multiple universes, maybe some one of my other selves did.

Since I missed my goal of blogging my 1000th post on February 29, I am now going to shoot for August 4, 2012 to coincide with my blogger anniversary. That shouldn't be too hard to accomplish. Of course I'll have to think of something to write.

That could be a problem.