Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The world finally ended for Harold Camping


If you follow my blog (and I recommend that you leave at least a car's length between us if you do) than you know I have a special place in my heart for Harold Camping, the pompous ass evangelist who wrongly predicted the end of the world in 1994 and twice in 2011.  And though I don't like to speak ill of the dead, I will make an exception for Harold. Because Harold, aged 92, died yesterday and finally met his maker.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I know that I know nothing

"I know nothing, I hear nothing, I see nothing." --Sergeant Schultz, Hogan Heroes
Knowing that you know nothing is attributed to Socrates by Plato, but no one seems to know if that is true or not. Which kind of confirms the premise that no one knows anything. So does the Internet and Fox News.

It is one of the ironies of aging (along with hair growth in random places) that experience finally teaches you that you know nothing. I have, in fact, become an expert at knowing nothing. I can now state with confidence when asked most questions that I haven't got a clue. I take comfort now in my lack of knowing. When someone asks me for directions, I can  respond, "I don't know," instead of pointing and gesturing and conjecturing and sending the person off to god knows where because I don't want to admit to not knowing.

Monday, November 04, 2013

The source

Я помітив, багато людей з України, відвідайте тут. Чому? Як ви знаходите мого блогу?

 According to Google, a large number of visitors to my blog are from the Ukraine. And they are finding my blog via Ukrainian sites about caviar and other unrelated topics. I don't mean to look a gift visit in the mouth, but I have a feeling there is some spam trick that the Ukrainian sites are using via search engines to create this phenomenon. Because I have never posted anything about caviar. I don't like caviar. I don't particularly like fish.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who's to blame?


No, I'm not talking about the mess in Washington D.C. (it's quite obvious it's the Republicans and their rabid Tea Bag fringe of mouth breathers). I'm talking about who's to blame for who we are.

I get a bit tired of listening to people blaming their parents, especially since I am now a parent and understand it is a job that no one is really ever trained for and just when you think you are getting the hang of it, your kids move into their next stage and the job description completely changes anyway. Though I'm sure my kids will blame me for an uncontrollable urge to shout out, "Hay is for horses because pigs won't eat it" every time someone starts a sentence with "hey."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Confessions of a binge watcher (or why I'm going Ga Ga)




"Binge-watching, also called binge-viewing, is the practice of watching television for longer time spans than usual, usually of a single television show. Binge-watching as an observed cultural phenomenon has become popular with the rise of online media services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime with which the viewer can watch television shows and movies on-demand."
--Wikipedia 

Hi, my name is Tim and I'm a binge watcher.

 It started with getting Amazon Prime. I started watching seasons of My Haunted House and then Hauntings on my Kindle. Then I got a Smart TV and watched the first three seasons of Glee. That's when I discovered they won't let you watch the latest season on Amazon Prime for free. So I watched the first season of Smash only to discover you couldn't watch the second season for free. So now I am watching the first season of Under the Dome. And I can imagine I won't be able to watching the second season for free.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Harold Camping predicted federal government shutdown

Of course Harold Camping didn't predict the shutdown of the federal government. He is incapable of accurate predictions and is likely locked up in his Christian bunker still waiting for the rapture. I just draw a parallel between Camping's repeated predictions of the end of the world and the brinkmanship of our congress people threatening that the sky will fall if they don't get there own way.

Now that the federal government is technically shutdown and "non-essential" employees are being furloughed. And irony of all ironies, this doesn't include Congress. I would argue that they are about as non-essential as you can get.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shadow and light

It has been a year since my mother died. And though I don't really think the day someone dies should be the day that they are remembered, I couldn't help but note the milestone. I suppose I could have written something on her birthday. But somehow birthdays cease to be a milestone once the person has died. You have to preface everything with, "She would have been ___ years old today if she was still alive."

Sometimes I forget that my mother is dead. Sundays roll around and I am sitting at the table drinking my coffee and reach for the phone to make my weekly call. Then I remember that she is gone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Gleek to me

Naya Rivera who plays Santana on Glee
(Courtesy of my friend Michael Hopper)

One of the advantage of having deluxe cable television is that you have so many television stations to pick from that you don't really watch any of them. So, although the television series Glee has been on the air on the Fox Network since 2009, I never watched it. Being on the Fox Network was probably the primary reason I never watched it.

I didn't really have a clue as to what it was about or who starred in it other than comedienne Jane Lynch. I assumed it had something to do with a high school glee club and that Jane Lynch was their director.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weeping skies, breaking glass


It has been an uncharacteristically sunny summer in Seattle. So much so that when I stepped off from the train this morning I was shocked by some drizzle. How soon we forget. Because when fall comes, this is likely to be the norm, not the exception.

It actually rained a bit yesterday as well, but it more of the teasing variety that never really delivered. I was sitting down on the walkway below one of our decks picking up bits of broken glass when the drops descended. The broken glass was from one of the glass panels that line our upper deck. When we woke up on Saturday, one of them had shattered for no apparent reason. At first there was just an elaborate spiderweb of cracks throughout the panel. But later that night when I was getting ready to grill, the glass began popping out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to read

Year's ago, when CD's were just starting to hit the scene in the computer world, I imagined a world where books would eventually be replaced by some kind of digital reader. And since I have no way to prove that I had this idea long before Amazon existed and the Kindle hit the scene, you have only my word and faulty memory that this is true.

I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin (self-proclaimed marketing guru) about the death of book stores brought on by the proliferation of digital books. Along with the book stores going out of business, so is the publishing world that dictated for so many years who and what could be published. Because now, everybody and their dog can publish an electronic book. And trust me I've read a few books lately that seemed as though a dog had written them by licking kibbles and bits off from some keyboard in random order.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Kindle Fire and digital books. I am just sad that being a writer just isn't what it used to be. When I was 16 and got my first job shelving books in a public library, I dreamed that some day some pimply faced teenager was going to have to shelf one of my novels. Now, instead of shelving my book, the same pimply faced teenager would simply have to download it off Amazon and then only if he mistakes it for an App that contains nudity and violence.

While digital books are more accessible to a wider audience, they unfortunately cheapen the craft of writing. We used to put a value on writers. Now anyone with a computer can publish. And Godin points out that very few digital books are pirated the way music is. No one puts value on them the way they used to with paper books.

Amazon regularly offers "free" digital books for Kindle. I have found that most of the free books I download are well worth the price I've paid. Many are self-indulgent, loosely veiled memoirs masquerading as novels. Others are the first in a series that the authors are using to hook readers so they will buy the rest of the books in the series. And worst of all are the works of Christian fiction that don't state upfront that they are works of Christian fiction.

Digital books have cured me of the desire to ever write and publish a novel. They have become the vanity press for the masses. There doesn't seem to be a sense of accomplishment in publishing a digital book, especially if it is self published. It it kind of like writing a blog.

Wait a minute. Who am I to be critical of self-indulgent, self-published ramblings? It is my trademark. I wrote the book on it. Well, actually the blog.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Immortal


If someone gave you the opportunity to be immortal, would you take it? And there are no conditions on this like you have to become a vampire, sleep in a coffin, avoid sunlight and never have sex again (unless you count biting someone's neck and sucking their blood). And you wouldn't have to keep repeating the same day over and over again like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. You would simply live forever. Would you do it?

I don't think I would. Forever, after all, is a long, long time.

I boarded this train of thought after reading the cover story in Newsweek called, "You can live forever. Is immortality plausible? Or is it quack science?" The article is basically an interview with two experts on aging, Walter Bortz, an 85-year old doctor who still runs marathons and Aubrey de Grey, a middle aged expert on the biology of aging and co-founder of the Methuselah Foundation.

Bortz thinks the secret to longevity is exercise and still being able to have sex. De Grey thinks the secret is finding a cure for aging that would simply overhaul your body every ten years or so when you start to show signs of slowing down. Neither seems to think immortality lasts for more than a couple of decades past one hundred. The oldest person documented to date was a French woman who lived to be 123.

Okay, I kind of like de Grey's vision of curing aging, not just the ills it brings on. But unfortunately, he is an idea man and is only conjecturing what could be if (an it is a pretty big if) scientists come up with ways to alter cells and restore aging bodies.

I seriously doubt that this will happen in my lifetime. It will likely take place at the same time the medical industry works the bugs out of the billing systems  (which I am convinced is impossible).  Ironically I'll probably be on my death bed when a breakthrough is announced and my last words will be, "That sucks." Timing has never been my forte.

But regardless if they cure aging in my lifetime, I have never really had any desire to live forever, even if they could figure out a way that I wouldn't be a vegetable. I don't want to be one of those poor souls who hit one hundred and look like a carved apple doll, sitting there staring vacantly at the birthday cake muttering, "Who are all you people?"

So say they could keep you relatively young looking and your cheese from slipping off the cracker in the brain area, then would I want to live forever? I still don't think so. For one, you could never retire. And once you'd completed your bucket list, what would you have to do? Boredom would be the biggest challenge. And you'd just run out of things to say. Heck, I'm just over half way to a hundred and I can't think of much new to talk about (or blog about). After a few hundred years I think I would just stop talking (and listening) altogether.

Plus, if no one was dying, wouldn't overpopulation become a stark reality? Anyone who has seen Soylent Green knows what happens when the population exceeds the resources available (spoiler alert, Soylent Green is people). De Grey claims the birthrate would decline to compensate. I assume this means all the immortal people would get bored with sex. But seriously, death is a natural part of life. It's nature's way of recycling to make sure there is always enough resources for everyone.

And being around the same people for eternity would kind of be like having to go to your relative's house for Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of your life. So this may solve the overpopulation dilemma because I imagine the homicide rate would increase exponentially.

I think it would be difficult, too, to pick what age you wanted to stop aging. I'm probably in better shape physically now than I was in my 20s and 30s, but I ached a lot less. I'd hate to go through puberty for eternity.

Not being the religious type, I won't even go into the spiritual implications of curing us of aging. I imagine if there was a god, he or she would have made us immortal in the first place if they thought it was a good idea and would be a bit miffed that we were mucking about in the god business. But then again, if there is a god, why does he or she need online Christian dating sites to hook people up with their soul mate.

But I digress.

So my response to Newsweek's question about whether immortality is plausible or quack science is that I see a duck in the room.




Friday, July 26, 2013

My own Magic Eight Ball


One of the advantages of blogging random crap since 2004 is that I've amassed a large amount of data about just about every topic. So if I want to refresh my memory about what I think about any given topic, all I have to do is conduct a search of my archives for key words like "fools" and "friends."

It saves me starting a post about something and discovering I've already written about it (often using the exact same phrases). And it is much more entertaining than a Magic Eight Ball. But the outlook isn't always good.

For example, I read an article called "6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person" that was published in Cracked Magazine. And you know that if it was written for Cracked Magazine, it has to be true. Anyway, the author pretty much says that to be a better person you pretty much have to memorize the Alec Baldwin monologue from Glengarry Glenn Ross.

"Coffee is for closers" is one of my favorite lines and sure enough I wrote a blog post entitled "Coffee is for closers" back in 2005. It was about my experience closing on a new house.

Is that a freaky coincidence or what?

But before you waste time reading about the 6 harsh truths that will make you a better person I will point out once again that the author is writing it for Cracked Magazine and the publication doesn't really have a reputation for journalistic integrity (or proper journalistic style for that matter since you are supposed to spell out numbers up to ten so it should have been the "Six Harsh Truths...but I'm just being picky).

The harsh truth is that the author is just one more self-absorbed hack spouting opinion as if it were gospel. And I say this with the utmost respect for his lack of credibility to be giving advice, harsh or not.

But he did like Glengarry Glenn Ross even if it was all for the wrong reason. So he does have some redeeming factors going for him.

That is just my opinion. But at least I own up to it just being my opinion. And we all know that opinions are like assholes because everyone has them. The author of the 6 (that should have been six) article is just more of an asshole than most.

I'm going to go have a cup of coffee now.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Living stories


All of the memorial services I've been too in the past year have made me think a lot about our life stories. When you think about it, life is basically the sum total of our little stories stitched together. We can only hope that there is something truly interesting in there that makes it worth remembering (our life, I mean).

Unless you are historically famous like George Washington or the object of crazed fans like Elvis, no one really knows your entire life story (or particularly wants to). I don't imagine most people even recall most of their own life's story. And if they do, I don't imagine it really happened completely like they remember it.

There was a point I went back to Boise intent on recording my mom's life story while she was still alive to tell it. But I waited too long. All I got were bits and pieces of random stuff from her childhood, most of it not very pleasant. So when it came time to writing her memorial after she died, there wasn't much I could really tell other than she had come from a family of 13 kids and that she had married my father and had three boys of which I was the youngest.

At the time, I wasn't emotionally ready to piece together all of the stories I recalled on my own as a boy listening to my parents talk on long vacation drives and around camp fires on summer nights camping out. Or sitting in our old Chevy waiting for my father and brothers to return from fishing as I sat with my mother as she read her Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Occasionally she'd talk about some story from her life.

I knew she worked as a telephone operator in the late 40s and connected a call to her mother's phone when her brother died in a small plane crash. I knew she later worked in a bank, operating a 10-key business machine. I knew she lived in a small apartment when she met my father. And I knew she moved into his mother's house after they married while they waited for their house to be built in the lot next door.

I know my mother stayed home taking care of her children until I was in grade school. Then she got a job as a kitchen helper in a school cafeteria (which is ironic because she hated to cook). I know the job required that she get to work very early in the morning before I went to school and that I would often get myself ready and walk to school after both my parents left for work.

I know my mother cleaned houses with her mother for awhile to earn extra money. And she worked for many years at a place called Sioux Veneer Panel Company, operating a machine that glued vinyl onto batons that were used to cover the seams of vinyl panels used in mobile homes. They called the woman who worked on the machines "bat" girls. I worked with her one weekend when the factory had a big order and needed extra help. It was nasty, monotonous work.

The last job I know my mother had was working at a drive through dairy/convenience store called Sun Ray Dairy. That would have been in the mid 70s because I remember buying a couple of complete boxes of Star Wars trading cards from her wholesale.

Then my mother retired. But she never really stopped working. She loved yard work. And she hated dirt so she was constantly cleaning. We'd be walking out the door to go out to eat and my mother would decide at that moment to vacuum the floor. This would drive my father crazy, because he was always in a hurry, especially when it involved eating. So he would be in the car fuming while my mom attacked dust bunnies in the living room.

I don't recall my mother ever having a hobby, though. She used to sew a bit.  I remember her making us pajamas when I was younger. But she only sewed out of necessity.

It was the same with cooking. She didn't like cooking and she made it clear to us every night at dinner time. Meals were simple. I remember fried pork chops, meat loaf, plenty of potatoes, canned vegetables and Salisbury Steak (another word for hamburger). There was spaghetti too. Or macaroni and cheese. If she had the energy she would try something new like Spanish rice or Beef Stroganoff.

Most of the lunches I remember as a kid came from a can (Campbell's Soup, Chef Boyardee and SpaghettiO's). And we ate lots of Velveeta Cheese sandwiches as well as bologna and pimento loaf (an odd variety of sandwich meat). On Sunday's we'd often have Swiss Steak (a recipe used to hide cheap cuts of beef). In the summer we'd grill hamburgers or hot dogs.

Bottom line was, my mom wasn't one of those people who was trying new recipes or into exotic cooking. But she was particular about cleaning up after cooking. One of my chores was washing dishes. We didn't have a dishwasher, so everything had to be washed and dried by hand. I wasn't particularly fond of washing dishes, especially the greasy pots and pans. One reason I didn't like washing dishes was that no matter how hard I'd wash or scrub, my mother would manage to find something I'd missed and rewash it. Even when we eventually got a dishwasher, she still insisted on washing the dirty dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.

Though one thing did come from my years of hand washing dishes. I have a phobia about a sink full of dirty dishes.

When mom wasn't working on something, she was reading her Christian Science literature. She hadn't really been exposed to religion growing up. But after marrying my dad, his mother (a Catholic turned Christian Scientist) introduced her to the religion and for some reason it resonated with her. She kept her faith up until the end, though having been with her in her last moments, I can't say it gave her much peace.

To me growing up Christian Scientist simply meant I had to get up early on Sunday to make it to Sunday School. And it meant I stuck out like a sore thumb at school when other kids were forced to take hearing tests and eye tests at the school nurse and I was excused because of my religion. And other kids got to take aspirin for their aches and pains while I simply had to suffer and pray it out.

After writing all of this, I realize how much of my mother's story, at least the portion that began when I was born, became my story. It makes me realize how my story will also be my children't story. It makes me want to take more time writing it to make sure they live happily ever after in it.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Just in my head


I think 2006 was my best year for blogging. It was still new and refreshing for me. Which would explain why I managed to post more than 200 times during the year. And many of the posts were pretty darned good if I do say so myself. I'm lucky to crank out 40 or 50 posts a year these days.

I wonder at times if I'm just running out of things to say.  Or that I've come to the conclusion that blogging is a bit like talking to yourself and I've heard everything I have to say one too many times. I suppose since I always think I'm talking to myself when I blog, I get a bit startled when someone comments. I want to say, "Oh, was I talking out loud again? Sorry, I thought it was just in my head."

Free form blogging is kind of like having Tourette's. It can disturb those around you as you shout out your random obscenities. But there is this random absurdness to it all that I am drawn to. I don't tend to blog about anything in particular. Or be too particular about anything I blog about.

I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but sometimes I go through my blog archives and read old posts and marvel that I wrote them. It sounds so egotistical. But some of the posts are really entertaining. What really makes them entertaining to me is that more often than not I have forgotten writing them and it seems like new material written by a familiar stranger.

Could this be a bit what Alzheimer's is like? At least it tends to keep things fresh. On the other hand, it can be disturbing to barely remember writing about something and then to be impressed with how well you actually wrote about something you don't really remember.

Something tells me that this post isn't going to be one of those ones I reread a few years from now and marvel at what I wrote.

Sigh.








Monday, June 03, 2013

Going to the show


In baseball, going to the show means a player is brought up from the minor leagues to the majors. Its something I wouldn't have known unless I learned it from my friend Steve. He is the one standing next to the rocket above. I'm the one in the rocket. Steve died on May 6 after more than a year long battle with angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He was two weeks younger than me.

Although Steve didn't play major league baseball, he was the ultimate baseball fan and a beloved coach of his son's little league teams. It seems only fitting that his memorial service was held in Safeco Field, the major league home of the Seattle Mariners.

I know very few people who have touched so many lives that their celebration of life could be held in a major league baseball field. I was in awe as I stepped into the field and watched multi-media slide shows depicting various stages in Steve's life. And I was touched as 9 people, including Steve's two high school and college aged sons, delivered eulogies.

Steve had broke the news about his disease to his friends via Facebook more than a year ago. Then he shared his battle with the disease via an online journal. It was a touching story filled with optimism and humor that anyone who knew Steve could recognize.  Steve's last journal entry came just days before his death. It was titled, "Cue the harpist." In it, Steve shared that the doctor's had given him between a week and a month to live. He then went on to tell everyone he was at peace and thank them all for being part of his life. I was blown away by the courage and grace of this wonderful person. I couldn't even imagine if the situation was reversed, having that much strength and selflessness.

Steve died three days later.

I met Steve about 15 years ago when he took over as the account rep on my advertising account with the agency he worked for. Being almost exactly the same age, we immediately bonded over the popular culture we could relate to growing up. He shared my love for language and trivia. We spent many hours while taping radio spots or watching photo shoots, swapping stories and quizzing each other on random trivia.

About five years ago, my company switched ad agencies. But Steve stayed in touch, occasionally getting together with me for lunch. We'd take up where we left off, talking about family, life and health. It never occurred to me that any of these lunches would be the last time I'd see my friend. But it was.

The thing is, I wasn't Steve's best friend. But anytime I was talked to him, I felt like I mattered. And from what I gleaned from the outpouring of testimonies and eulogies after his death, many people felt like that about Steve.

As I sat in Safeco Field listening and watching Steve's life celebrated, I couldn't help but selfishly wish that I had been Steve's best friend. And I couldn't help but wish I was more like him. If nothing else, Steve's life, and sadly his death, has taught me that I could be a much better person. It has taught me to appreciate the moments I have and ask myself how I would be remembered if I died tomorrow. And Steve has taught me that, even faced with the tragic inevitability of dying an early death, it is possible to face it with grace, courage and dignity.

That truly is a testimony to a life well lived.




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Messing with the cosmos


After ranting about why being normal is sometimes a good thing, ironically, I've been going out of my way lately to break my normal routines. For example, for several years now, I've waited for my morning train in the same spot, boarding the first car behind the locomotive and more or less sitting in the same seat every day. Lately, it dawned on me that it would make more sense for me to sit in a car farther back on the train since it would put me closer to the station exit closer to my office building. So I forced myself to wait for the train in a different spot.

It really freaked me out, but I did it. It has also freaked out the people whose spot I've taken on the platform. Train riders are creatures of habit. Apparently so am I.

I've also been walking up eight flights of stairs at my office building instead of taking the elevator. This has been freaking out my legs.

So how has the cosmos been responding to my stepping out of the normal routine? The only thing I've noticed out of the ordinary since I started mixing up my routine was that the Chinese violin player who sits out in the plaza playing what I assume are traditional Chinese violin tunes almost every day was playing a version of "Old Suzanna" when I walked by him the other day.

That freaked me out.

Okay, so there probably isn't any connection between me riding in a different train car and the Chinese violin player playing "Old Suzanna." But it reminds me of how superstitious humans can be. I remember as a kid assigning cause and effect to everything. There was this plastic ring this kid had when I was in grade school that he swore caused him bad luck as soon as he'd got it out of a vending machine. Bad luck to him translated into being chased by some girls. I offered to take the ring off his hands because, even at age 8 or so, I didn't think being chased by girls was such a curse.  He gave me the ring. No girls chased me.  But I think it was because I'd stepped on a crack in the sidewalk. Wait. That's supposed to break your mother's back (which is a pretty sick thought).

But I digress.

I'm still going to mix things up. Because being stuck in a routine is like watching endless reruns of Pawn Stars because you are too lazy to change the channel.

Wait a minute...maybe I need to stop watching reruns of Pawn Stars, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why be normal? Well, I'll tell you...

Someone posted "Why be normal?" as their Facebook status a few minutes ago and I had to fight the urge to  unleash a torrent of reasons why being normal isn't such a bad thing. For one, it goes a long way towards keeping you from being locked up.

Pronouncements like "why be normal," "march to the beat of a different drummer," "think outside of the box," and "draw outside of the lines" are trite, hackneyed phrases that scream of hypocrisy and make my eyes roll back into my head so far I'm afraid I'll need to learn to read Braille. People use these phrases to justify why they are weird and often outcasts.

Let's face it, everyone really wants to be liked and to be liked, you have to fit in. So if you have a strong desire to keep wild badgers as pets and walk around without pants (not something I'd recommend if you keep wild badgers as pets) you definitely won't appear normal and you likely won't fit in and have a lot of friends. Often times people who don't fit in overcompensate by making themselves even weirder. Then they seek out other weird people and band together to make fun of normal people and mutually embrace their weirdness. Case in point: Star Trek conventions.

I'm actually torn on this issue. On one hand, I have always felt I'm pretty non-mainstream. I don't like convention for convention's sake. But at the same time, I have no desire to stick out like a sore thumb. The solution seems to be to conform in public and rebel in private.

Kind of a cop out. But there is a certain survival aspect to this as well. When I was a kid growing up in Idaho, sticking out was a sure way to get the crap beat out of you by normal kids. And when was the last time you saw someone promoted in a company for thumbing their nose at the corporate dress code by wearing leather, sporting a Mohawk and etching a Swastika into their forehead.

Ridiculous example, I know. A non-conformist, creative type wouldn't want to be in a corporation unless they actually wanted to make enough money to survive. But at the same time, they would realize that it is useless to go into a conservative environment and demand that they conform to your non-conformist views.

Normal, after all, is a relative term (and I'm not referring to any of my relatives, because god knows none of them are normal). It may be normal to drink tea made out of rancid Yak butter in Tibet, but I wouldn't try and order it at a Starbucks in Seattle.  Though asking for a "double-tall, lowfat, no foam rancid Yak butter tea" does have a certain ring to it.

Unique and creative people don't need to scream out their uniqueness. I've railed before about the irony of art students all dressing in raggedy black cloths and piercing various body parts to make them unique in a sheeplike way.

So why be normal, you ask? Because the world is crazy enough without Bohemian wannabe's whining about being oppressed by a vanilla world.  Sometimes wrapping ourselves in a nice, normal routine is comforting.

Oh, but it is okay to color outside the lines once in a while.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

VISA gift cards suck: A rant

A few years ago, someone gave me a $25 VISA gift card as a thank you for something. I thought it was a nice gesture, but tucked it away in a drawer. Then a few months later I was cleaning out the drawer, found the card and slipped it into my wallet. It eventually made it into my travel wallet as emergency money. But I never found a reason to use it.

Finally, on my recent trip to Boise I glanced at the card and noticed it had an expiration date of 8/2013. I figured I should use it or lose it. So I pulled it out at a store in Boise and tried using it. The card reader said the card didn't have enough money for the transaction (just under $12). I was puzzled, but didn't really think much about it.

I decided to go online to find out how much was loaded on the card. I looked on the back of the card and struggled to read type so tiny that it could have been used to inscribe the Bible on a grain of rice. It read:

This Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license from Visa S.A. Inc.  This card is distributed and serviced by either ITC Financial Licenses Inc. or IH Financial Licenses Inc. depending on the state or territory in which this Card is purchased. This Card is not redeemable for cash. Except where prohibited by law, a Service Fee of $2.50 per month will be applied to the remaining balance of this Card beginning in the seventh (7th month following the date of activation. Except where prohibited by law, a Re-Issuance Fee of $5.95 will be assessed for shipping and handling to replace the Card. By accepting or using this Card, Cardholder agrees to be bound by the Cardholder Agreement as amended from time to time. Cardholder agrees to notify immediately if this Card is lost, stolen or used without permission. For balance information go to www.vanillavisa.com or call 1.800.571.1376.

I'm no lawyer, but I immediately deduced that I had been screwed out of $25. Sure enough after visiting www.vanillavisa.com and entering the card information, eight $2.50 service fees were deducted from the card value. And although there were only $20 in service fees deducted from the $25 card, there was no value left on it. I'm not sure what happened to the remaining $5.

Adding insult to injuring, the website offers only a 1-800 number and a snail mail address for inquiries. Who in this century doesn't have an email address? My assumption is they no your average person doesn't want to waste the time and energy to write them knowing the response would be to read the user's agreement on the back of the card (which I could never have read without my bifocals). And who reads the user's agreement on a gift card? You would assume someone paid $25 for it plus a service fee up front. Charging $2.50 a month for the card if you don't use it seems borderline criminal.

And I love the legal mumbo jumbo line about "Cardholder agrees to be bound by the Cardholder Agreement as amended from time to time." How can you agree to an agreement that changes from time to time without your knowledge or review?

Shame on you Visa! Shame on you Vanilla Visa as well. I'm seriously thinking of getting rid of all my Visa cards and switching to American Express. And you can bet I'll never buy a Visa gift card for anyone for any reason.

But maybe I should check out American Express gift cards and read their user agreements first.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Man in Iron Mask with Starbucks


It has been a week since I returned from my business trip to Boise. And as usual, it was odd being a visitor in a town you grew up in. There is a sense of straddling two times that include the Boise of my past and the Boise that is now.

I like the Boise that is now much better than the Boise I grew up in. It is still laid back, but has a certain cosmopolitan flair that didn't exist when I was struggling through my formative years. The downtown I grew up with was fairly sterile and barren. The downtown now is lively and stoked with character and trendy restaurants.

Not that I had much free time to soak in the trendiness of it all. I spent most of my time in a parking lot in the countryside near Nampa watching television spots take shape -- a process not unlike watching paint dry. And although the weather was clear, it was unseasonably cold and windy for Idaho (not the ideal conditions for an outdoor shoot).


But we accomplished our job in the alloted three days and then hunkered down in an editing studio to piece together the puzzle of various takes and angles to produce a pretty great final product.

I caveat this all with an observation that I rarely talk about my work in my blog. I believe in a firm separation of  blog worlds and work worlds. But I made an exception here to explain why I've posted photos of me wearing an iron mask and one of me drinking out of a pineapple. They are simply props.

But I digress.

I did drive by my mom's house to see whether it had been torn down. I had mixed feelings when I pulled up to it unchanged except for a "FOR RENT" sign in the front yard. I really rather would see it torn down than to have strangers, especially renters living there. I truly hope my mom's spirit has moved on so she doesn't have to fret about things and people being out of place in her house.

Regardless, I enjoyed my time in Boise, surreal as it was. But it is good to be back in the land of the falling rain.

I miss that pineapple though.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A moment in time


I'm not sure why I typed my mom's address into Google maps.  The house I grew up in was sold to a developer after she died and was to be demolished to make room for what I assume will be hideous townhouses. I guess I was expecting to see a photo of a construction site or vacant lot. Instead I found a snap shot of the house from about a year before my mother died. She is working out in the yard while her dog rests in front of the door on the drive way.

I know some people question Google's efforts to capture these types of images. Although it makes me a bit sad, I'm actually glad they captured a moment of my mom's life that wasn't posed self-consciously and reflected something she loved, working in her garden. It is how I want to remember her.  It helps me try and get past the memory of her last days.

I kind of wish Google had existed throughout history and captured similar moments. I would love to see photos of the house at various times during my life. Photos of me playing in the yard with my brothers and neighborhood friends. Photos of me sitting with my parents on the front steps on summer evenings, enjoying a breeze and a break from the day's heat. Photos of life that didn't just involve people awkwardly posing in front of the camera at birthdays and graduations.

I am going back to Boise in a few weeks on a business trip. I plan to drive by the house (or where the house used to be). And I'm not sure how I will feel or react. It will be hard to believe that the place is gone, the tree, planted in the front yard when I was a small boy, cut down. The fence I jumped over torn down (the same fence I ran into with my bicycle when I was learning how to ride). The remnants of my childhood plowed under.

And it will be odd not to walk through the gate and up to the door as I did on countless trips home in the thirty something years since I left. Countless trips home. It just dawned on me that part of me subconsciously holds onto the place as my home when I haven't lived there for more than three decades. But now there is no physical place to hold onto, to ground me to my past. My mother was that anchor that held me to that place and now she is gone. And so is that home.

I couldn't wait to leave there when I was old enough to get my own place. After sharing a room with my two brothers for the first ten years of my life I longed for my own room. And then I longed for a place that was my own without other people's rules.

And I am nostalgic about the place being gone. Maybe we are like the salmon and other creatures who are drawn to the place of their birth.

Or maybe we are just drawn to moments in time.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Me loves the blog, me hates the blog!


I know, I know, the photo is pretty creepy. But then again, blogging isn't always pretty.  It is better than when I Photoshopped my face on the painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring.


Now that seriously creeps me out and it's my face. But then again I am drawn to look at it in the same way you are to look at a auto accident when you drive by one on the freeway.

But I digress.

I have a love, hate relationship with my blog. I check my stats several times a day on Blogger and bemoan the fact that, although there are a couple of hundred a people a day who wander in here, it is pretty pitiful compared to a blog about, say someone like Justin Bieber. But after nine years of blogging, I still don't really know what I am trying to accomplish.

I know, I know, I'm supposed to just be writing for the pure pleasure of writing..bla, bla, bla, bla, bla. It's the same rant I've made every other month for nine years. I should just be happy that I can write whatever I want without having to worry about pleasing anyone. But can I help it if I kind of would like a modest level of fame and fortune (heavy on the fortune side).

But I am not destined to be either famous or materially fortunate. If it was going to "just happen," it would have happened by now. Not that I believe that things just happen. You are who you are through where you have been and were. So I have to accept that the seeds I've planted over the years were eaten by birds or never sprouted.

Though as I've aged, I have grown to think if I were ever truly famous, I would greatly regret it. I don't really deal well with excess attention focused on me or my garbage.

Which for some reason reminds me of a friend of mine I'd gone to grade school, junior high and high school with. Just before graduation he dropped out of high school and joined the marines. I am not sure why. But he  stayed in for awhile but the pressure must have got too much for him. He ended up in the brig for hitting an officer. While in jail, his father died and they wouldn't let him attend the funeral. Then he really lost it. He ended up getting discharged from the marines and committed to a mental hospital.

The next time I saw him he showed up at the Boise Public Library where I was working at the time. He didn't look very good. And he didn't really seem to recognize me. I tried talking to him and he made a point of telling me to ignore all of the people with cameras around him. He said they followed him everywhere because he was famous.

I slipped away, gave his mom a call and she got him back to the hospital that he had walked away from. Eventually he was able to leave the hospital and ended up as a projectionist at a porn theater in Las Vegas. Then he was involved in a car accident that left him a paraplegic. He died a few years later.

Tragic life. But it shows you what fame will do to you.

My but that was a downer of a digression.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Plunder and lightening


I've been watching the Viking series on the History Channel and I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed in the whole warrior image they have given the Vikings in the series. In the second episode, they sail a dragon ship west and land in England and attack a monastery where they kill most of the unarmed monks (who think the Vikings are part of the Apocalypse sent by god to punish them) and steal all of the religious artifacts. Where's the sport in that?

The thing that struck me by this dramatization was that the Vikings thought they were impressing their gods with how great of warriors they were when all they were doing was butchering peaceful monks who happily transcribing manuscripts and making wine. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the cultural mindset that it is okay just to hop in a boat to find the nearest settlement to attack, kill and steal from.

In our society we call people who break into other peoples homes, rob and kill them thieves and murderers, not warriors. But although this is the History Channel, I imagine much license has been taken with how the Vikings are portrayed. One only has to look up Vikings on Wikipedia to discover (by sifting through some pretty dense academic text) that not much is really known about the Vikings. And they are portrayed as barbarians primarily by European Christians.

And much to my disappointment, they didn't wear helmets sporting horns. Such helmets wouldn't have worked very well in a battle and would more than likely poke one your fellow warriors eye out.

Someone should tell this to the Minnesota Vikings fans.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Still alive at 55


In honor of my 55th birthday, I am posting photos of myself as I actually appear today and not Photoshopped on some inanimate object, animal or food byproduct. Though I have to say I think I look better Photoshopped onto some inanimate object, animal or food byproduct. Although I am still startled every time I look into a mirror or look at a current photo of myself. This aged face is definitely not what my mind's eye thinks I should look like.


It is not that I mind being 55 so much. I just don't like looking 55 (or older). It shouldn't come as a surprise to me, though. My recently deceased 87-year old mother complained of the same thing. But getting old just isn't something you ever really believe will happen to you. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is just the folly of youth to imagine that it lasts forever.


Not that I would have wanted to be a teenager forever. God knows that was a miserable time in my life. At least now I don't have to deal with pimples, puberty or the urge to write bad poetry. Unfortunately I do have to deal with random hairs growing in the oddest places, a nose and ears that seem to defy logic and continue to grow while the rest of me shrinks. I feel like I'm turning into a Hobbit.



Ironically, I'm probably in better shape physically than I was in my youth. The only way you could get me to run in my 20s was to chase me with a knife. Now I can run several miles on a tread mill without coughing up major organs (though I sweat an inordinate amount). I am, however, not as flexible nor nimble as I used to be. I used to be able to sit cross legged on the ground without wondering how I was going to stand up again.  And while I could once put a foot behind my neck while standing, now I struggle at times to bend over and tie my shoe.

I am imagine that this is all way too much information for most people. But there is any point in writing this blog for almost nine years, it is to leave a time capsule of sorts. If nothing else, my children  will one day be able to read all of my blog posts and confirm what they believed all along. Dad was a very odd person.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It is easy being green


In preparation for St. Patrick's Day I have been listening to Irish music on Spotify non-stop. It has given me an insight into why the Irish drink. If their ballads aren't about someone dying in an IRA shootout, they are about drinking whiskey and attending wakes (presumably for someone killed in an IRA shootout) that they never sober up from.

Although my name is extremely Irish, genealogy has actually uncovered that it actually has its roots in England  and evolved into the Irish version in America. Add to that the fact that my father was adopted and I'm not related to the clan via blood and you separate me from the Irish even further. Plus, I was born the day after St. Patrick's Day adding insult to injury. The world parties the day before my birthday and throws up most of  my special day.

But still, I play the part of being Irish on St. Patrick's Day. For the past two years, my family has taken part in Seattle's annual St. Patrick's Day Dash, a 5K run/walk that encourages people to exploit all of the worst stereotypes of the Irish. You basically can't swing a dead (green) cat without hitting one of 7500 race participants dressing in green spandex, wearing fake red beards and t-shirts screaming, "KISS ME ARSE."

It is a definitely a family event. Try explaining to your 6-year old daughter why there is a man in gold lame' shorts, no shirt and a rubber horse head mask jogging past. I muttered something about "a horse's ass wearing a horse mask" and point out some jogging Guinness Cans. Then the Leprechaun with a goat jogs by and I'm saved.

I think the romance of the Irish stems from the beauty of their speech. And Irish speaker can meet you and basically tell you to "Go fock yer self and don ya know it" and the average America just melts. It is just a lyrical language. You then buy the person a drink they down with a "fock yer arse" toast and you laugh as if you've been recited poetry.



And although the Irish also have a reputation for violence, it is more of the drunken brawl variety. It's not like the Braveheart, screaming "Freedom" kind as they unwind his bowels like a garden hose. The Scottish seem a bit more noble when it comes to violence. The Irish seem to be just as proud of cleaning some one's clock for pouring a beer incorrectly as for fighting for freedom.

But I digress.

My favorite St. Patrick's Day was spent in New Orleans 14 years ago. I stood along a St. Patrick's Day Parade route near Bourbon Street catching green beads thrown by Irish Parade Princesses from floats that also tossed out heads of cabbage and condoms. There were tons of police cars in the parade as well since most of the police force in New Orleans are of Irish descent. I stood there drinking green beer when a large man dressed like a Leprechaun approached me, handed me a Irish wool tie and kissed me on the cheek screaming, "You are blessed amongst men."

It didn't seem weird at the time. In retrospect, I haven't a clue what it was all about.

But "Whale oil beef hooked!" Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stinky Cheese Man


"Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Stinky Cheese Man!"
--The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
 Of all the books I've read my children over the years, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales has got to be the only one that has entertained me much more than it does my kids. Shoot, I'd read it even if I didn't have kids.

The book is sheer genius. For one, it makes fun of the fairy tales that we've heard ad nauseum since we were kids and two, each story is no more than a page or two long and they are funny! And believe me, when your kid asks you to just read one more story before lights out, you'll appreciate a story that is no longer than a page or two and one that makes you laugh.

Sticky Cheese Man is my favorite story (though my 4-year old won't let me read it because for some reason it freaks him out). Stinky Cheese Man is loosely based on a more traditional story called, The Gingerbread Man. In The Gingerbread Man, an old woman bakes a gingerbread man because she and an old man are hungry. When she opens the oven door, the gingerbread bread man shouts, "don't eat me" and begins running. The old woman chases him and the gingerbread man chants, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

The gingerbread man outruns the old woman, an old man, a pig, a cow who want to eat him, all the while taunting them with his chant about not being able to catch him. Eventually he comes to a river where a sly fox offers to carry him across on his tail. The gingerbread man trusts the fox, but half way across the river, the fox convinces him to move from his tail to his back to his nose. Then he eats the gingerbread man.

The Stinky Cheese Man also starts out as something an old woman throws into the oven to bake because she and an old man are hungry. But instead of being made of gingerbread with raisins for eyes, a cinnamon drop for a mouth and chocolate chips for buttons, the Stinky Cheese Man is made out of, you guessed it, stinky cheese. His mouth is a slice of bacon and he had two olives for eyes. When the old woman opens the oven she is overwhelmed by the stench of the Stinky Cheese Man. He hops out and chants, "Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Stinky Cheese Man." But neither the old woman or man have any desire to eat or catch the Stinky Cheese Man.

Oblivious the Stinky Cheese Man taunts a cow, and a little boy and girl convinced that they all want to catch and eat him when all they want to do is get away from his smell. He too eventually comes to a river and meets a sly fox who offers to carry him across the river on his back. Half way across the river the fox says, "What is that funky smell?" It then begins choking and coughing and the Stinky Cheese Man falls in the river and falls apart.

Okay, so my synopsis of the story isn't as funny as the actual story, but trust me, it is hilarious. The true genius of the story is that it intentionally or unintentionally is a parable about many real life Stinky Cheese Men who dash through life thinking everyone wants to cut their cheese when everyone really just wonders who cut the cheese.

At least that is my take on it. But then again, I think fart jokes are funny, too.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

No one walks in L.A.


 I was in Los Angeles last week on a business trip around the same time as the Academy Awards were taking place (the above photo is of LA from my airplane...that small white dash on the hill in the background is the Hollywood sign...it's the closest I got to it). The conference I was at was in a hotel in downtown L.A.  And downtown L.A. is probably one of the last places you really want to be if you are in Southern California. It has all the character of  a "Three's Company" rerun, it is seedy and unless you have a car, you are trapped there.

Other than a few excursions with fellow conference attendees to a couple of local restaurants, I barely left my hotel. I tried walking around a bit and I discovered why no one walks in L.A.  Fortunately, it was a nice hotel with a decent work out room. And one morning, while working out, I looked out the window to a courtyard by a pool and saw this hawk swoop down and grab a bird that it proceeded to leisurely devour. It took so much time eating the bird that I had time to grab my phone and snap this photo.


It was about the most interesting thing that happened on the trip. I didn't even see any of the Academy Awards activity though I watched bits of it on the television in my room. I felt vindicated that Lincoln didn't win best picture after my anticlimactic viewing of it. And I was happy that Daniel Day Lewis won the best actor award since I thought he did a great job portraying our 16th president although he is a foreigner.

Why is it that the British can portray Americans easily yet most American actors trying to be British sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins? Love-leeee!

But I digress.

I am extremely happy that I do not live in L.A. The only thing it seems to have going for it is the weather (which they talk about a great deal on their local news...they seem obliged to explain why the Santa Ana winds are so warm ad nauseam). I realize that few people actually live in downtown L.A. (other than those camped out in Pershing Square and in tents along some of the streets). But I can honestly say that, other than Dallas, I have never been in a downtown so devoid of charm or personality.

But as I sit in my office staring out the window at the various shades of gray that make up Seattle, I do miss the sun. Wait, there it is. No. Sorry, that was the reflection of my lamp on the window pane.

Sigh.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Being honest about Abe


I have wanted to see Steve Spielberg's Lincoln since the hype started months ago.  I've always been fascinated by our sixteenth president, the myth and the man. And from the previews and accounts, watching Daniel Day Lewis portray Lincoln was as close to seeing the real thing as one can get (if you don't count Disneyland's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln...and I don't).

Since I have young children, I haven't seen a movie at a theater that didn't involve Disney or Pixar Studios and computer generated characters in at least five years. So I was resigned to not seeing Lincoln until it made it to cable or Red Box. But my wife, bless her soul, had a Groupon ticket to the local theater that expired this week so she suggested I use it to take my mother-in-law there where Lincoln was premiering just before President's Day.

The theater was packed, but we found okay seats towards the back of the theater and settled in for 2 1/2 hours of what I hoped would be greatness. The movie opens with a brutally disturbing battle scene that leads you to believe Lincoln is going to be an action film. But the few seconds of action in the opening is pretty much the last you see of the battlefield.

What follows is 2 1/2 hours of a 19th century version of the West Wing, fraught with enough political minutia to satisfy your most die hard wonk. The problem is, watching how 19th century politics works, although historically significant, is about as entertaining as watching paint dry while you are making sausage.

Don't get me wrong, the attention to detail in the film was amazing, as was most of the acting (though I don't think Tommy Lee Jones was acting and he looks old enough to have been in the Civil War). But if the costuming was accurate, ill-fitting suits were fashionable in the late 19th century. Daniel Day Lewis is amazing and he does portray a multi-faceted Lincoln who was a great leader and compasionate father. The problem is that the movie seemed too much like it was trying to make a dramatic version of a 50s educational film about how a bill becomes a law.

And, through Spielberg's intense lobbying efforts, Lincoln will likely win "Best Film" honors at the Oscars. But honestly, I don't think it is the best film. It's a good film and a significant film, but I'd be hard pressed to say it is the best film.

Though it was better than Madagascar 3, Brave in all honesty was more entertaining.

Perhaps I need to get out to films made for adults more often.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Feeding at the trough of disillusionment

I was at a meeting the other day where a guy flashed up a slide depicting something called the Gartner Hype Cycle that shows the life cycle of "new" technology. Normally my eyes roll back into my head when a slide containing a graph appears in a meeting. But this one had cool points on it like the Peak of Inflated Expectations, the Trough of Disillusionment, the Slope of Enlightenment and the Plateau of Productivity.

It was like something out of a Candyland board game for IT bureaucrats. Not that I imagine IT people play any games that aren't generated by an APP or an X-Box.

I have to say I was pretty enamored with the Trough of Disillusionment. I have spent many years there in blog land with my eye on the Slope of Enlightenment. But it is quite the slippery slope and I keep wallowing in the trough whimpering and muttering Marlon Brando lines from Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, the Godfather and Apocalypse Now (nothing from Don Juan DeMarco) . It sounds something like, "Stellaaaaaaaaa, I could have been somebody, I could have been a contender, but instead I'm a punk. But someday, and I'm not saying this day will ever come, I may call on you for a small favor, but tonight you sleep with the fishes. Oh the horror....Don Juan DeMarco...that's a film offer I should have refused!"

I realize it is gibberish, but what do you expect from the Trough of Disillusionment. 




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grim reaper with sombrero




I am often amused and baffled at the searches people conduct on Google that lands them on my microscopic piece of the Web. Apparently not one, but two people ended up at Dizgraceland while searching for "grim reaper with sombrero." Up until now, I have never written a post about a grim reaper with sombrero. So it just goes to show you that search engines do the best that they can with odd searches, but don't always deliver what you intended to look for.

 It's kind of like playing fetch with your dog. You throw a stick and sometimes they bring back a dead animal. Maybe not the best analogy.

 I don't claim to understand why someone would search for "grim reaper with sombrero." I think it may have something to do with a tattoo or motorcycle gang symbol. But if you do type "grim reaper with sombrero" in Google, you won't find the exact phrase, but it will pull up pages that use those words. And one of those was a series of my blog archives from 2011 where I talked about turning 53 and going to a Mexican restaurant where they would place a sombrero on my head and sing a Spanish version of "Happy Birthday." On that same page was a post about me putting my face on images of the grim reaper and calling them the "Tim Reaper." I don't think that was really what the searchers were looking for.

 It makes me wonder what we did before the Internet and Google when we wanted to uncover some obscure information. It wasn't like you could just drop by the public library and ask the reference librarian if they had any books about "grim reaper with sombrero." Though in the years I worked in a public library I heard some pretty bizarre requests.

 I for one don't know how we managed to do anything before there was the Internet. I forget how I found a hotel to stay at, purchased music, communicated with friend and family or found out what was going on in the world at any given second. I'm thinking of printing up t-shirts and bumper stickers that say, "I'll be wired until I've expired."

 Anyway, here's to all you random searchers. Without you I'd feel so alone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Uniforms

The universal "they" say that clothes make the man. It is unfortunately sad, but true. Every day I walk by people on the seedy streets on the fringe of Seattle's International District and shake my head in wonder at the uniforms people don to express themselves.

It's not that I am a fashion plate hot (or cold) off the pages of GQ. I'm definitely not. I tend to wear whatever makes me blend in, not stand out. Oh, in my younger days I tried making statements with my clothing and hair styles. I have many embarrassing "what was I thinking" photos to prove it. But middle age has taught me that trying to dress young simply makes you look absurd, not hip.

I imagine I've ranted about middle aged men trying to stay young by dressing the way they did in their 20s before. Although I admit to sporting a pony tail and pierced ears as a young man, I wouldn't be caught dead with either now (which becomes a very real risk as I pass middle age).

I defend my tattoo as art, however. Not that I can do much about it at this point. At least I can cover it up. And it is on my arm if you must know.

What triggered this random train of thought about people's personal uniforms was ironically my commute on the train last Monday (in between the train being cancelled by mud slides).  We were just a few minutes out of Seattle when a man came down from the train car's upper level to use the rest room on the main level. He looked as though he had just stepped out of a Marlboro commercial. He had one of those cowboy duster jackets on, a Stetson hat, jeans and big belt buckle with what looked like a steer on it. He also had a handlebar mustache.  He looked like someone who was going to rob the train rather than ride it.

It dawned on me that this was this guy's uniform. I doubt whether it occurred to him that there was anything odd about it. And there wouldn't have been anything odd about it if we were riding a commuter train in Montana. It is just that Seattle doesn't have a lot of cows to wrangle.

I would rather see a middle aged cowboy uniform than the gang banger wanna be's that populate the sidewalks outside my building. I will never get used to the stupidity of wearing pants that are ten times too big for you and letting them bunch around your knees to expose boxers. I see these guys shuffling along holding up their pants looking like a bad parady of a Tim Conway comedy sketch (very few of you will get this reference) and wonder what could they possibly be thinking.

The answer is that they aren't thinking. They are simple stuck trying to project something about themselves by donning what they think is a unique uniform. God only knows what kind of delusion they conjure up when they look into the mirror. To me they simply look like pathetic clowns.

In addition to the cowboy on the train there has also been a group of what I believe are art students riding to downtown Seattle. I assume they are art students because they all dress in black and wear what we used to refer to as "hot pants" but with tights (mainly the girls). They all look about 12, but I imagine they are in the 17 or 18 year old range since anyone under 30 looks 12 to me.  Other than being either shorter or taller than each other, they all look alike.

The point is that they fancy themselves as looking unique but they are dressed alike. So they are essentially sheep to fashion like everyone else, albeit black-clad sheep.

My advice to people who want to celebrate your uniqueness? Don't try to express your uniqueness through fashion. You don't stand out, you stick out or worse: disappear in a sea of unique wannabee's.

It's okay to march to the beat of a different drummer, just make sure the drummer is playing with both sticks.

I haven't a clue what that means.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Petty little cacophonies

One of my pet peeves is people who make annoying (and often disgusting) noises, oblivious to anyone around them. It is a cacophony that weighs heavily on my OCD nature.

I'm not sure why anyone would keep a peeve as a pet. They aren't very cute and cuddly (though they don't puke on the carpet or pee on my daughter's bed like our cats).

But I digress.

There is just something obsessively distracting about snorts, sniffing, wheezing, excessive throat clearing, hacking, phlegm rattles, grunts, sighs, heavy breathing and other similar sounds people make in public when they should only really make them when they are alone. Gyms and locker rooms are particularly notorious places for people to make disgusting sounds.

Maybe it is just me, but I find it hard to concentrate on my workout when someone is on the elliptical machine next to me grunting or clearing there throat every five seconds. The maddening thing about it is that you can't say anything to them about it. It is considered bad form to turn to the person and say, "Excuse me, but could you please stop making that disgusting sound or move to a different machine where no one has to listen to you?"

Why do people lifting weights have to grunt and shout all the time. Can't they be more Zen like about pumping iron? And I really get annoyed by overweight, naked people sitting in the locker room sighing heavily and wheezing after a workout. I also get annoyed by overweight, clothed people sitting in the locker room sighing heavily and wheezing after a workout. But at least they are wearing clothes.

Public transit is another source of disgusting people sounds, particularly buses. Doesn't matter where you sit, someone invariably sits next to you and begins "harrumphing" or clearing their throat of a phlegm ball the size of a small child. I won't even go into the smells that usually accompany these people.

I won't even go into the disgusting sounds that emanate from public rest rooms. Suffice it to say, I have a phobia about using one if anyone is in one of the other stalls.

My wife gave me a gift certificate for a massage for Christmas. It had been years since I'd had a massage and I was looking forward to it. When I got to the massage therapist, she took me to the therapy room and told me to undress and get under the sheets on the massage table face down. I complied and waited patiently for my relaxing massage, listening to the pleasant New Age music. The masseuse came in and began the massage. And then the noise began.

She snorted, wheezed and made sounds like a snoring elephant. I tried to ignore the sounds and enjoy the massage but it was like trying to relax in tuberculosis ward.

The sad thing is that I don't think most people are aware of the disgusting noises they make. Since I am annoyed by noises so much, I try to be aware of my own. My wife claims I snore, but I only have her word on it.  Other than that, I try and confine my obnoxious sounds to those times when I am alone and since they are my own noises, I am not really bothered by them.

After all if someone snorts, sniffs, wheezes, excessive clears their throat, hacks, rattles their phlegm, grunts, sighs, breathes heavily or makes other similar sounds and there is no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?

Pretty Zen, huh?


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

No cliff references and other resolutions



There is nothing like the threat of economic ruin to ring in the new year.

I find it very sad that the stock market sheep continue to fall for the brinkmanship in Washington D.C. The fiscal cliff was a bit like the Mayan End of the World without the parties.  But if they had hyped up fiscal cliff parties, they could have created a drinking game where you got to down a shot every time someone said "fiscal cliff," and there would be one heck of a lot of drunk frat boys making late night calls sobbing into the phone, "I lub youse guys" to their Senate and Congress people.

But I, like every other average Joe Bag of Doughnuts didn't really understand the importance of anything either the Republicans or Democrats were arguing about despite the mass media experts explaining it to me ad nauseum. I just know that every time the federal government is about to go belly up, they borrow more of the imaginary money to increase the national debt beyond the comprehension of anyone. It makes you wonder why all the world leaders don't just give every country a "get out of debt" free card and start over with no one owing anyone anything.

I was never very good at economics.

Regardless, it is the year 2013 and we have four more years until another presidential election and the Olympics. So that is something. I am a bit surprised that no one has made a big deal over the unlucky 13 in year 2013. I am sure that if 2013 has any of your average natural disasters, it will be blamed in retrospect on the number 13 (unless someone unearths an Aztec calendar that is missing a few pages).

I spent New Year's Day dragging our no longer "live" Christmas tree out into the yard and dismembering its corpse. This is not something I am proud of.  I much prefer simply disassembling an artificial tree and putting it back in a box as I did the previous day with my Elvis Tree.

As in other years with less ominous unlucky numbers, I have made no resolutions. At my age, I have pretty much accepted all of my faults and imperfections and see no reason to resolve to do anything about any of them.  Though I would find it refreshing to make resolutions like "I resolve to start smoking, eat whatever I want, drink like a fish and stop bathing altogether."

As it is, I simply settle for getting out of bed every day and getting the highest possible score I can in Angry Birds. I believe in setting the bar low enough to step over without breathing heavily.