Monday, November 28, 2011

Sons Of Anarchy

I have been M.I.A. recently. The same busy routine has been getting the better of me, along with the skyrocketing caseload at my office and trying to get all our ducks in a row for a pending Holiday Party.

Still, every once in a while, Sue and I carve out a little down time just to 'veg' a bit, which usually entails watching a Netflix DVD or a Laserdisc. While shopping for some holiday decorations a few weeks ago in a thrift store, I came across a Box DVD set of "Sons of Anarchy - The Complete 3rd Season" and picked it up for $4.99. Based on the liner notes it seemed interesting.

Sue and I have watched all 12 episodes over the past 10 days and it is pretty engrossing. Considering that we have no back story from the first 2 seasons, we had to piece together some of the character development.

The show follows a biker gang called the 'Sons of Anarchy' and all the doings in and around the Northern California town of Charming where they hang out. It is sort of like "The Sopranos" with Harley-Davidsons, with a lot of intertwined plot development and interpersonal issues between the biker club members.

At the end of the third season, there is a surprise ending of sorts that I didn't see coming. Not to give it all away, but the ending involves the execution of a Federal ATF agent, and let me tell you, it was an 'execution' and it was 'bloody'. (as in Tech-9 to the back of the head at close range, squeeze the trigger and don't ease up till the clip is empty bloody). Actually, the entire series is very graphic, usually producing one or two corpses per episode.

But this execution was a bit more bizarre because, in the end, you really wanted this ATF Agent to get her head blown off. She was a real scum bag. This brings me to the point of this web-log entry.

I was raised on Mom, Apple Pie and the American way. As a child I still recall watching "G-Men vs Al Capone" and I pretty much grew up with the theme songs to 'Dragnet' and 'Adam-12' running through my head. The government and law enforcement were to be respected and obeyed. That isn't the case anymore.

In most of today’s shows, law enforcement is riddled with doubt, second guessing and bureaucracy. Every law enforcement professional now has to have emotional issues. The real leap came while I watched 'The Sons of Anarchy'. In this show, the Federal Government Agents are the inept, evil, bad guys and you actually cheer for the biker gang, which sells drugs, deals in prostitution and gun running.

I can't help but wonder if this is indicative of the underlying mood of the country. There isn't a lot of faith in the infrastructure that we have put in place to govern us. Now the Sons of Anarchy shows us that brotherhood and faith in our club, our tribe or our family is more important than what the government tells us is correct.

Interesting times,.......and I already have Seasons 1 & 2 cued up on my Netflix que.

Ride on SAMCRO.................

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recollections Of An Old Gizer


In front of our house, 10/31/2009

Last night was Halloween. In the neighborhood where we live, this is a big event. We had between 2,000 and 3,000 children pass by our house last night, all looking for free goodies.

That isn’t a misprint, we really do have that many. Last night, instead of handing out candy, we took a break, darkened the house and laid low this year. We needed the break, and buying candy for 2,000+ children usually runs us around $150.

The reason for the mass Trick or Treater invasion is varied. Our neighborhood has at most 150 Trick or Treat age children in it. So where do the other 1,850+ children come from? They are driven or trucked in from outlaying areas.

Back in my days of youth, this used to be a neighborhood thing, where we got to hang out with our friends after dark and get treats and play under the street lights. Things have changed a bit in the past 45 years and now it is more institutionalized.

We live in an old, restored neighborhood in downtown Phoenix. A place with curved streets, old growth vegetation, tall palm trees and every house looks different because they were all built in the 1930s before tract housing became the norm.

So lesser advantaged children from outlaying areas are trucked in by their families to Trick or Treat in a ‘safe’, ‘affluent’ neighborhood where they give out lots of candy. This is tag-team Halloween, where entire families of six or seven (including a toddler in a stroller) go to each house, each family member asks for candy, and then they dump their booty into the pickup truck that is following them, driven by their father or grandfather. They repeat the cycle for each block. After 10 blocks or so, they head home.

As I rode my Segway to work this morning, through the now deserted streets, there were thousands of candy wrappers, Circle-K cups, bottles of water and beer cans strewn everywhere.

I miss my youth, when it was just about the fun and the treats. Now it is more like collecting free food for the family until Thanksgiving rolls around.

Next up is what we used to call Christmas, but is now referred to, in the politically correct terminology, as “The Holiday Season”. It used to be about going to church and learning stories of faith and redemption. Now it is about propping up the economy and buying gifts for people through mass marketing.

Like I said, I miss my youth.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rigid Thinking


The wife and I have been making a lot of changes recently. Some of these changes have been referenced in many of my recent blogs. These changes have been difficult, but overall they are proving to be very beneficial.

This was highlighted in a meeting that I facilitated this week. We had some downtime during the meeting and I was conversing with some of the other people in the room about my experiences of building geodesic domes at the Burning Man Festival. They seemed fascinated about this and the concept of how the domes were built.

One of the attendees at the meeting questioned how I would section off the interior of a dome into rooms, since the structure is basically round. I looked at her somewhat comically and realized that she was totally rigid in her thinking based on a lifetime of ‘literally’ living inside a box.

I explained to her that if you take the time to lay out the design of the dome and construct it, the cost of making a second or third dome becomes one half to one quarter of the first. So instead of thinking in terms of rooms within the dome, she should think of multiple domes that are connected. Each dome is its own self contained room.

This got me thinking about how we as a culture are marketed to think that we need more than we do.

Last week, we owned three vehicles (four if you count my Segway). We had a small Lexus, a mid-sized Dodge Dakota pickup truck and my Lotus Esprit. My wife and I were thinking about replacing the Lexus with something that was more efficient, since she has a long commute each day. So we were looking into getting a Chevrolet Volt (that uses no gas).

But early last week the wife and I had a little pow-wow on our front porch and we both told each other ‘wait a minute’. What do we plan to be DOING in the next 5 years, as opposed to what are we DOING right now.

We plan on retiring, moving away, building a home in a remote location, taking our large dogs on trips to the vet and dog park and building a lot of large scale projects. How is the Volt going to benefit us in these scenarios? Add to this, that I don’t drive to work and we rarely used the pickup truck, except on weekends to go to Home Depot.

The end result is that we sold both the Lexus and the pickup and got one brand new big-ass full size quad-cab 4X4 pickup truck with a long bed. It gets awful gas mileage and is basically a road going tank that can tow four tons and haul 3/4 of a ton. So as a commuter vehicle for my wife, it isn’t ideal, but it is a great motivator for her to find another job closer to downtown where we live so she doesn’t HAVE to commute so much before we retire.

In retrospect, one new car is actually much cheaper than owning two used ones. Again, thinking outside the box. More cars do not make us happier, they are a burden. (but I still kept the Lotus, hell it is paid for)

Following up on this basic concept of less is actually more, the experiment of disconnecting our home from the phone / internet / mass media has actually worked out rather well. Sure, the first two weeks or so were sort of uncomfortable. Like someone giving up cigarettes. We lost the ability to check our e-mail and Facebook every 5 minutes, and didn’t know what the anxiety story of the day was on the local news, but this faded after a while.

We now find ourselves watching a lot more movies from our extensive video collection and making even better use of Netflix. The internet is free at the library and I read my e-mail at the office. The interesting side affect is, both my wife and I are much more relaxed. The world continues on without us knowing how many fatalities, or debt crisis and tsunamis are out there. We really don’t care anymore. We are looking toward a different future. Not the one that all those advertisement and local news bobble-heads were steering us toward.

What we have learned from all this, is that the media marketing of the American Dream is all a lie. To have something just ‘in case’ you might need it, only applies to insulin or a cell phone to dial 911. We don’t need a Hummer just in case a dam breaks somewhere upstream and we have to quickly scale a mountain to escape the flood waters. We don’t need 99 channels of forced media entertainment to know where the storms are, or god forbid, to know what Paris Hilton is doing. The burden of owning all these things far outweighs their value.

Cigarettes and Alcohol aren’t the only legal things that are addictive in this society. So is debt and anxiety. If you learn to do without and think outside the box, life is actually much better. But like the old saying goes, “We linger so long in Hell, because we know the names of the streets.” Find a different road map folks and don’t be afraid to make some changes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Love

I’m A Mormon

I am a little concerned about something. Despite my wife and I watching less television, we noticed something of late that is really odd. I am curious if this is going on in the rest of the country or if this is a regional thing.

Now I am not trying to bash religion in this post. I have stated before that we all have the right to believe and worship however and whoever we want. But there has been an ad campaign smothering the airwaves where we live (American Southwest) that I find disturbing for its political undertones.

“I’m A Mormon” commercials have been popping up during Primetime here for the past three weeks. They are so slick and well done, that at first I didn’t really understand what they were.

They are comprised of two back-to-back 30 seconds spots, showing a run of the mill average guy, housewife, artist or teacher talking about their life, and gosh darn it they seem awfully happy and normal in a real neighbourly sort of way. Then at the end of each spot comes the tag line, “I’m [insert name here] and I’m a Mormon”.

I don’t ever recall seeing religious organizations ‘advertise’ for worshipers, but in effect, that is what this church is doing.

Alright, so be it. Lawyers didn’t use to advertise, but their law firms are plastered on the sides of buses in our town now. Doctors never used to advertise, but they have billboards touting their surgical prowess all over the place as well.

So it sort of makes sense for cash-strapped tax-free organizations to seek out and recruit more followers willing to tithe 10% of their income. Hey, if it floats your boat and makes you feel good, become a Mormon.

Only, we are entering the political campaign season and the leading Republican front runner is a …………….Mormon. Hmmmmmmm.

Is it just me, or are the lines of segregation between church and state becoming a little blurry these days?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

For Those That Dream

....this is what it is like

An exceptional short film on Burning Man 2011 - Rites of Passage. If you want to know what it is like to attend the event, this pretty much sums it up in 6 minutes.

Go to the Burning Man Website for more information.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Essential Cinema - 52

The T.A.M.I. Show

The Barbarians
The Beach Boys
Chuck Berry
James Brown and The Famous Flames
Marvin Gaye (with backing vocals by The Blossoms)
Gerry & the Pacemakers
Lesley Gore
Jan and Dean
Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
The Rolling Stones
The Supremes

Directed by Steve Binder

Produced by Bill Sargent

From T.A.M.I. Show

Possibly the best Rock and Roll film ever made.

From T.A.M.I. Show

When you see the original Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger barely into his 20s, it really hits home that my generation is getting old. Comparing Kanye West and Lady Gaga to these performances, it becomes painfully obvious that newer is not always better. Here are the roots of rock and roll before they branched out into a million different genres. The pure stuff. The gold.

From T.A.M.I. Show

In their song "When The World Is Running Down", The Police mention this film in the lyrics. That was my first knowledge that it ever existed. I have heard about it since but had never seen it. So when I was updating my Netflix cue a few months ago, I found it and had the DVD delivered to our home last week.

I watched this with my wife and we were both blown away on several levels.

From T.A.M.I. Show

First of all there is the talent. This is raw stuff by very gifted young performers who were just entering their own or were already legends. There is no dubbing, there is very little editing and it is all performed live.

There are 48 songs performed in a little under two hours, with one act following the other on stage, and often times performing together. You can't get performers to do this sort of thing any more, either contractually or talent-wise.

From T.A.M.I. Show

Second is the technical expertise with which the performances were shot. Considering this was a live show and shot with modified television cameras, the sound and the imagery are exceptional.

Finally there are the songs. You know almost everyone one of them if you are over 40, and my wife was amazed to actually 'see' the performers that sang the songs that she listened to as a kid.

To get a glimpse of why this film is so astounding, watch the clip of James Brown that is linked above, or click on the title to go to the Wikipedia page for more details about film.

From T.A.M.I. Show

As for cons, there aren't any. Just watch the film to find out why.

For those that can't get hold of the DVD, go to You Tube to see clips of the show, there are many of them, but get ready to spend a whole afternoon watching them, they are that addictive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

The only things I would change in this post from 2008, would be to make it all in CAPITALS and BOLD it. Nothing has changed. If anything, it has only gotten worse.

A Nation Of Victims

First Posted July 2, 2008

Its All A Game

I have seen a growing trend over the years that has really been bugging me. With each new 'crisis' or 'disaster' that befalls mankind it just seems to get worse. It is a crisis of perspective and expectation. We have become a nation of victims and no one seems to be questioning it. I surmise that this is because there is more money to be made from victims than from people that can just 'suck it up' and deal with it.

A few of the long running list of examples that cause me to think this way.

The numerous people I known through the years that always blame someone else for something going wrong.

If they hit a tree with their is the trees faults, or better yet the property owner that owns the tree...he should have put reflectors on that thing.

The drunken person that stumbles on the curb and knocks his teeth is the cities fault for making the curb too high....or Budweiser's fault for not putting a large warning label on the beer.

The folks wailing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because they didn't have anyplace to is the governments fault for not being able to hold back the ocean. (Hello? You live in a city that is below sea level....)

The folks that are railing about high gas prices....but thought nothing of it when they bought that Ford Expedition 2 years ago, assuming gas would never get more expensive (have gas prices EVER gone down?).

And always there are the attorneys waiting in the wings ready to help you get what you are "entitled" to for a small fee. Because you can't collect anything if you aren't a victim.

We now live in a society of 'entitlements' where we all feel we are "owed" something and if we don't get it, we will kick and scream until we DO get it.

I guess THE memo sort of got lost somewhere along the way, but in case some of us didn't get around to reading it;

1. It is a dangerous world, if you don't pay attention, you are going to get hurt. If you get hurt...learn from it.

2. If you don't understand it, stay away from it until you do.

3. Floods, fires, lightening, hurricanes, tornado, earthquakes....they happen, be prepared. (Better to pay your insurance premiums before the accident than pay a lawyer afterwards, or worse yet rely on the government)

4. If you figure things out on your own, you learn and grow. If you pester others to do it for you or pay folks to get it done, it won't get done right and they will be enabling you to fail.

5. We don't all get a trophy just for putting on the uniform and sitting on the bench. Failure is a part of life, it is supposed to motivate us to do better. That is the way nature intended it and it isn't nice to fool with mother nature. I could never trust someone that has not learned from failure. It is what determines character.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Credit Rating = 0


We Are Doomed

Times are bad and most folks that I talk to don’t seem to think that it will be getting any better any time soon. Maybe not even in this generation. They may be right.

I believe that the reason for this is that the American culture no longer seems to be proactive in the long term and that somewhere along the way we became reactionary in the short term. We want instant gratification and wealth, without the long term commitment. Financial institutions are not planning or investing in the long haul. They don’t want to invest, because they have lost their shirts in the past when presidents and CEOs made really bad decisions that almost put them out of business.

Let me give you a little personal example:

We are doing some remodeling in our house and are paying a contractor to do it. It is an ongoing process that has taken about three months. As is usual, the cost of the estimate keeps going up and we are a bit over budget.

So I went down to the Credit Union where I bank and asked them to if I could increase my line of credit limit from $1,000 to $5,000 to help cover some of the cost.

Before I go any further, I need to give you a little background here.

My credit score is over 780, which is in the top 5th of all credit scores. Our combined household credit card debt is about $2,000, with a max credit limit of around $25,000. Unlike most, we are not upside down on our mortgage and have about half of the mortgage paid off since we put a huge amount down on our house.

My wife and I have been steadily employed for over 10 years. I have been at the same employer for the past 20 years. I have never declared bankruptcy or not paid a debt. My wife declared bankruptcy once, over 10 years ago before we were married. I already have a $1,000 line of credit that I owe nothing on, and have had it for over 5 years. When I have used it, it was paid off with a direct deposit from my employer. Of the three vehicles we own, only one has an outstanding loan balance, the other two we own outright.

Based on this financial background, the credit union denied my request to increase my line of credit by $4,000.

However, they DID tell me that I was eligible for a ‘pre-approved’ auto loan to the tune of $30,000, if I wanted to buy a new car!

Now, I might not be a financial wiz, but this is just F’ed-up.

If banks and credit unions are not willing to take risk (and a good risk at that) to get the economy moving again, but are willing to fork over $30,000 for a car I don’t need, only because they believe that the loan would be secure, because they can always repossess the car, means that there are serious problems with our financial institutions and cultural norms.

I don’t ‘need’ this extra $4,000 in credit. I have other ways I can pay for the contractor. But if I can’t get this sort of credit based on my financial history, then who can? I am assuming no one. Hence, we have a stagnant economy that won’t be moving anytime soon.

The wife and I have a very large piggy bank at home that we put all our loose change in. I suggest that you ALL get one. It might be your most secure investment in the future.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cardio Media - 1


Destination Gobi - Movie

Exercise Machine - Treadmill

Distance Traveled - 3.5 miles

Calories Burned while watching - Approx. 500

A guy movie from the 1950s. This was an odd film that I downloaded from the internet. A rather strange tale of a bunch of navy sailors stationed at a weather station in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia during WWII. Supposedly based on a 'true' story about 300 saddles that were ordered by the sailors to befriend Mongolian horsemen. The film is Saturday Matinee fair, with all men, doing manly things and eventually escaping back to the U.S. Fleet with the help of Mongols. I was surprised to find out that it was directed by Robert Wise, one of my all time favorite directors, although I would not rank this high on my list of his best films.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essential Cinema – 51



Directed by - Sidney Lumet

Writing credits - Paddy Chayefsky

Fred C. Caruso .... producer
Howard Gottfried .... producer

Original Music - Elliot Lawrence

Cinematography by - Owen Roizman

Faye Dunaway ... Diana Christensen
William Holden ... Max Schumacher
Peter Finch ... Howard Beale
Robert Duvall ... Frank Hackett
Wesley Addy ... Nelson Chaney
Ned Beatty ... Arthur Jensen

A major television network beset by low ratings and declining revenues seeks new and questionable methods to increase their audience share and boost profits.

As we age, things go crazy. While this is a dated film, released in 1976, it is still scary just how accurate and relevant it remains today. It shows the decline of the media into a pandering boredom killer that manipulates the masses in the name of global greed.

Since my distain for the media has been growing larger and larger over the past several years, culminating with my wife and I pulling the plug on cable television recently, I thought it would be a good idea to dust this copy of ‘Network’ off from my LaserDisc collection and watch it one more time. It has been years since I have seen it, but the last viewing left a pretty strong impression on me.

The concept of the film is still dead on. While it is very dated, shot in a world where there was no cable television, no internet, no cell phones and large gas guzzling cars, the message it deliveries is strangely more relevant today than it was back when it was made.

The film has several levels and plot lines, but most come back to center on the concept of those in power and how they use it for good or how they abuse it for their own gain. In the end the film asks the question, should we be human or should we be humanoids that just go through the motions and be happy with what television gives us.

The relationship between William Holden’s ‘Max Schumacher’ and Faye Dunaway’s ‘Diana Christensen’ is amazing to watch. They are both very good actors that get the most out of every scene and word of dialog, and back in the day Ms. Dunaway was a real looker.

But the best part of the film is without a doubt Peter Finch’s insane news anchor Howard Beale. His lunatic rants about society and the ‘Bull Shit’ of the networks still rings as true today as they did four decades ago. They still make me want to stand up and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”

There are some cons about the film. Its dated look makes it a bit harder to relate to today. The world has changed and it now seems odd to watch high powered executives reaching for rotary dial phones to make important calls, when cell phones and computers are now the norm. The film slowly fizzles at the end, and the final scenes sort of leave you wondering and disappointed, but then again, where could it go? The concept of planning corporate murder for dollars isn’t impossible, but seemed somewhat contrived in this film. It either has to end with a bang or a whimper. They chose bang, in the literal sense of the word.

I will add, that the scene between Peter Finch and Ned Beatty, where the Communications Corporation of America (CCA) CEO explains the ways of the world and how Howard Beale is meddling in things he cannot understand in the darkened corporate board room, is probably one of the best lessons in world politics and economics that has been put on film. It should be worth college credit.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Life - Post Connectivity


It has been about a week since my wife and I pulled the plug on the broadband wifi network that I had set up in our home. It was nice and all, but just not worth the cost for what it was providing to us.

In the wake of our ‘unconnected’ home, we have returned to the YMCA to try and get back to that healthy lifestyle that we always talk about, but seldom actually get around to doing.

One of the things that being a stud-like tech-geek offers me is the ability to find ways to use things that many other folks seem to overlook. For instance, the treadmills and exercise cycles at the YMCA are pretty much state of the art. So much so, that they actually have iPod connectors and USB connections on them to be able to program them and play media through.

I have never seen any other YMCA members utilize these options on the equipment, so I had to figure them out for myself. I am not the type of user that gets on one of these things for 5 minutes and the hops off thinking …..owwww, feel that burn. I am more of a long term cardio exerciser and what better way to spend my time ‘buffing up’ than by watching a movie or listening to an audio book while I spend upward of 1.5 hours on one of these machines.

So for your reading enjoyment, I am going to let you guys tag along on my workout / media journeys and give you a sampling of what I am listening to and watching while I excersize. This will be sort of like a continuation of my Essential Cinema blog series, but with a few added little twists. They will be short and sweet, without a lot details. Look for the first installment in a few days.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Droid Dump - Sept 2011


My smartphone is starting to fill up with pictures again, so it is time to dump them into storage and archive them for posterity in case I accidently drop my phone off a bridge or something.

These are not great pictures, and most will make no sense. Some of them I took and some of them were sent to me by others. Some are artistic and some are crap. I make no distinction or guarantees about their quality or content. But if you want to see what my daily life entails in pictures, have a look.

Click the blog title or click here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pulling The Plug


After a lot of contemplation and watching way too many episodes of ‘Hoarders’, ‘American Pickers’, ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘The Bachelor’, the wife and I have come to a conclusion…… This just isn’t worth it.

So we are pulling the plug and telling Cox Cable to shove it. No more television, no more phone service, no more broadband internet connection.

It isn’t like we can’t afford it. It is just that it isn’t worth it. The whole bundle is over $150 a month, and I am sorry folks. I don’t feel like paying to watch The Bachelorette AND be advertised to for 1/3 of the show. It is a lose / lose proposition.

The world is changing and everything is going mobile regardless. The internet and entertainment is going to be accessed through mobile devices that connect via 4G and public wireless in the future, so my own personal WiFi that I have in our home really isn’t all that necessary.

Besides, I get T1 Broadband at my office, WiFi for free at the YMCA, at the library, at Starbucks, at McDonald’s, pretty much everywhere. I would rather spend some quality time at home with my wife actually getting stuff done, than staring at the talking heads on the local news.

(Besides, there is my extensive LaserDisc collection that is going to take us about 10 years to get through.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

I won't be going to Burning Man this year. To many other irons in the fire and projects to complete. But deep down, I am going to miss being there. I have come to love that place and truely feel at home there. Next year, definately next year though

Alone In The Sand Box

(First Published December 23, 2009)

That Warm Feeling

This goes way back, to my earliest childhood memories. I assume that everyone has origins like this, and they must vary quite a bit. They are one of those core values / feelings / memories that follow us all through life and create the foundation of who we are. They are more like memories and feelings that keep resurfacing, they are a constant throughout our entire life.

For me, it was being lost in the fog. Not so much being lost, but alone. This isn't a scary feeling like some sort of phobia or nightmare. It is more of a dreamlike state. A waking dream where all your senses come into play and everything is a mystery to be discovered.

Every time I have come across these situations in real life, I am thrown back to that constant feeling from the first time I experienced it.

The first time was probably during a blizzard in North Dakota around 1962. It was nighttime and you couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of you. I was all bundled up and walking back to my house in the dark. But I was so disoriented, I had to walk up to each house to see if I recognized the door, and then stumble to the next one, and the next, before finally finding my home. I knew it was there somewhere, and when I found it, there would be warm blankets and coco waiting for me.

Fast forward four years and we had just moved to southern California. It was in the spring, and there was still a bite in the air. I saw ocean fog for the first time that spring, as it drifted through the groves of Eucalyptus trees behind our house. As I walked through the forest, the aroma of the trees mixed with the coolness of the fog. Eventually the morning mist was countered by the warm rays of sunlight struggling to pierce the canopy of the trees and chase the fog away. It was surreal.

A decade later in College, my friends and I rented a beach house on the Oregon Coast for a weekend. One morning after a heavy night of college partying, we awoke to a dense fog bank hanging over the coast. I walked down to the beach and headed toward the surf. I could hear the crashing waves all around me like a roaring freight train, but the sand was still dry and I couldn't see more than 10 feet in any direction. After walking almost a half mile toward the ocean, it sounded as though a wave would materialize out of the mist and swallow me. I slowly retraced my footsteps in the sand back to the beach house.

I left college in 1982 and moved to Arizona. On my road trip from college student to adulthood, I stopped in the Redwood Forest of northern California to sleep in my car before heading toward San Francisco the next morning. During the night there was no moon and low laying clouds moved in through the trees to block out what little starlight there was. I awoke in the middle of the night to experience total and complete darkness for the first time in my life. That lonely night in the middle of nowhere, the forest enveloped me. (A more detailed account of this night can be found in my blog entitled Deep Woods.)

It has been a while since then and these images have become fewer and farther between but their memory has not diminished in my mind. They are those periods of wonder and reflection when you have to question the world around you and also question who you are.

The last one was in September 2009. I was at Burning Man in northern Nevada. Burning Man takes place on a huge dry lake bed 70 miles from the nearest town. When the wind picks up (which is often) it creates huge dust storms that the participants have to weather. It sounds worse than it is. The dust is like a fine powder and is hypo-allergenic, there are no spores or pollen in it. So everyone always has a handkerchief and goggles at the ready to ride out the 5 to 30 minutes of zero visibility.

I was caught in one of these storms as I roamed the far reaches of the playa, thousands of feet from any structure. The dust engulfed me and I put my bandanna over my face and lowered my goggles to wait it out. As I knelt down on the ground, ghostly images of fellow Burners came and went on the fringes of my sight. Riding bicycles, walking, laughing, dressed in bizarre costumes. They drifted in and out of my world in another waking dream, and then the dust dissipated and the world was normal again.

I sometimes feel that this is what my life is really all about. In our day to day lives, we are just waiting for something to happen. But once in a while, we get a glimpse of what it is like to pass to the other side.

Thursday, August 25, 2011



I haven’t been around much recently. I won’t be around much in the future. I am trying to get my ducks in order so that I can start the final push toward retirement. It is still two years away, but in government, we measure things in cycles and I only have about three left. While dealing with those, I am also setting in motion plans for what I am going to be doing after retirement. This all translates to less time sitting in front of the computer, reading and writing blogs. But I will be around; you can’t get rid of me that easy.

So for today, I wanted to give you a little heads up about Big Brother. This isn’t some sort of a conspiracy rant or anxiety story. It is just a realization that I came across a few weeks ago, while cleaning up some stuff on my computer.

I use a bunch of software for doing photography and creating web logs. Some are in the ‘cloud’ and some are on my hard drive. Most of my blog images are stored on Google’s Picasa site. Picasa also has a standalone (downloadable) version of their photo software. I recently downloaded the updated version of it and came across something that I found disturbing. You can find this software here.

This is really powerful (free) image processing software, but it also gives a glimpse into just how far technology has come and how much it is going to change our lives. Once installed, Picasa will rip through your hard drives and find ‘any’ images you have and very quickly categorize them. This is pretty slick, since there were pictures on my hard drive that I had totally forgotten about, tucked away in long misplaced folders.

As I was getting acquainted with the user interface, I noticed a little folder on the side bar titled ‘Faces’, that I had not created. When I opened it, I found that Picasa had ‘searched’ all the images on my computer and found all the pictures that had faces in them. It then cropped the face and put a thumbnail in the ‘Faces’ folder. Further investigation showed that I could assign a name to a face and the software would then automatically scan all the other face thumbnails for matching faces.

So if I labeled a picture of myself ‘super stud’, Picasa would find all other images of me and label them Super Stud as well. And get this; it is really, really good at recognizing facial features. It recognizes me from the age of 54 all the way back to the age of 10, both front view and by profile.

Once I got over the g-whiz factor of this, I realized just how powerful this was. This is free software that you can download, can you imagine what the corporate version is like, or the government version?

I had always assumed that there was some underpaid security guard sitting in a dark room somewhere watching dozens of television monitors connected to security cameras at the mall, the light rail platform or at the grocery store. Guess again.

Hook this software into your security system and it can match faces of anyone instantly, tell where they have been and tell when they have returned and how often. Once they know you are a criminal and have your picture, they can tell when you pop up on ANY security camera that is networked with this type of software.

Big brother is here, he exists on your computer and you can tinker with him if you want. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee. You can’t be anonymous anymore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tear It Down - Addendum


This was forwarded to me in an e-mail, relating to the current situation with the United States Government. I am posting it here, becuase I beleive that it has merit regarding the discussion and the possible solutions to a government that is no longer relevant or capable of executing it's duties.

An ammendment to the constituion hasn't been floated for over four decades. The fact that we have not tried to modify this document given all the changes in the world of late, is sort of alarming.

If enough people demand change in the governence of this country, this is the avenue the founding fathers left us to try and effect that change. I would give it some serious thought. Left to their own devices, the elected politians aren't going to fix the problems on their own.


The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18-year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 . . . before computer, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land . . . all because of public pressure.

Let's Proclaim a Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. Term Limits

12 years max, some possible options are below.

A. Two Six-year Senate terms

B. Six Two-year House terms, OR

C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension

Members of Congress receive a salary while in office,

that salary ends when they leave office.

3. Congress members (past, present & future) are to participate in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system


All future funds flow into the Social Security system,

and Congress participates with all Americans.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan,

just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.

Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system

and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Members of Congress must equally abide by all laws

they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void effective 1/1/12.

The American people did not make the contract members of Congress enjoy,

Congress made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.

The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators,

so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people, then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Tear It Down

Sorry for the length of this post, but there just isn't any easy way to explain this.

There has been a lot of disgust going around recently here in the United States about several things. Most notably the economy and the government’s inability to adjust, control and regulate it. This has lead to several stalemates in Washington D.C. over opposing views of how to best ‘correct’ the direction of the country.

The majority in the Senate and White House feel that the economy has to be coaxed back into alignment with incentives and taxes to help fund them. The new right wing (Republicans and Tea Party advocates) believes that ‘leaning’ out government and reducing taxing and spending will right the ship of state.

I roll my eyes whenever the talking-heads on television debate these issues as each side blames the other for how bad things are. I am constantly amazed at how short sighted the American public is when it comes to these issues. They have been ongoing since the 1960s and only appear to get worse with each successive fix of the problem. It appears to me that the Democrats and Republicans are constantly arguing over how best to form the bucket line and bail water on the Titanic. One bucket line might work better than the other, but the end result is inevitable, the ship is still going to sink.

This is a problem that can’t be fixed by voting in a specific set of candidates with agendas or plans. This all started when Abraham Lincoln initiated the first ‘income tax’ to fund the War for States Rights (Civil War). This was followed up by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, to deal with the Great Depression and finally took the form of Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ to lift the impoverished out of the poor house. It seems that all these programs really gave us was Income Taxes, Social Security, and Food Stamps. Not really the best lasting legacies.

Since I have been watching the way this whole mess has been playing out for much of my adult life, I have come to the only logical conclusion of how to fix. Start Over.

I haven’t voted since the mid 1980s in any election. I often hear that I shouldn’t be complaining about the problem if I am not willing to participate in the process to try and fix the issues. My response is, “Voting for candidates in a failed system only perpetuates the failed system.”

I just got a little card in the mail the other day from my government employer. It was a thank you card for my 15 years of service to the state. I have been in my current position for that many years. In that time, I have seen administrations come and go, and crisis pop up and fade away.

What the whole journey has taught me is best summed up by a quote from Ronald Reagan, when I saw him campaign for President back in 1976. When asked about how government was going to solve a particular social problem Mr. Reagan shot back, “Government is not here to solve your problems…..government IS the problem.” I thought I knew what he meant when I heard him say it, but looking back now, I know what he was really talking about.

Let me try and explain it to you. I have been frustrated in most of my jobs in civil service. The various agencies and tasks that I have been given to perform often seemed mundane, inefficient, and produced no tangible results. Furthermore, pending changes were always driving our work model. We didn’t manage change, change was always managing us. This meant that we have always been behind the curve in dealing issues such as changes in laws, regulations, resource issues or technology. The key words in every office I have worked in for the past 20 years have been ‘triage’ and ‘catch-up’. Being proactive is a foreign concept in my world.

I was always baffled by my employer’s lack of foresight and planning, until I started to look at it from the employer’s perspective and not the workers perspective. You see, there is money to be made in chaos and triage. Not money from ‘profits’ but money from ‘budgets’.

Let me explain the budget world that I work in. In the public sector, everything is budgeted. Since in essence, we are a huge non-profit, we can’t get more funding for being more efficient. A government agency can only get more money by having its budget increased. You can only do this if you can show a larger client base, and therefore, the need for more staff / resources to service that base.

So if I come up with a new business process in my division that streamlines the process, uses less paper, requires fewer man-hours, and produces better results than the previous system……… will got shot down in flames just like the Hindenburg. An office that requires fewer people and less paper can’t justify the same budget as they had the previous year. If you can do the job with fewer resources, you get less money… here is the rub.

Management in civil service measures power and influence, not by how much money you make, but how much money you CONTROL. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a major industrial company can increase his firms production and earnings and be rewarded with a 2 million dollar bonus. The director of a state agency will never make more than $150,000 a year, but they can have control over 2 billion dollars in budget. With that much funding, they can hire, fire, purchase and influence almost anything. So what do you think they are going to say if someone floats an idea that could reduce their budget?

This is what Ronald Reagen was referring to when he spoke about government BEING the problem. Governments are organizations. An organization, like any ‘organism’ has one primary goal, which is to perpetuate itself.

You are never going to be able to find enough competent elected officials that can break this cycle. It is engrained in the organism like a cancer. You can try and cut it out, but only at great pain and risk of death to the organism. Therefore, tear it down and start over.

This isn’t a radical idea. It is the same idea that founded the country. In fact, the founding fathers wrote it into the Constitution. If the populace feels that the government is no longer serving their best interest, we can dissolve it and create a new one. That is why we have freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and the right to assemble.

The founding fathers knew that the world was going to change and that the Constitution needed to be a ‘modifiable’ document to change with the times. It served this purpose pretty well up until the 1930s, and then things started to change faster than the laws and codes of our country could keep up with.

Let’s face it, Tommy Jefferson and Bennie Franklin could never have envisioned things like the following;

1) The ability to destroy an entire country with the push of a button.

2) Being able to speak into a box in the palm of your hand and talk to another person on the other side of the planet, in a language that you can’t understand, and have the box translate for you.

3) Having a teenager walk into a school with a weapon that would allow him to murder 35 of his classmates in less than 2 minutes.

4) A world without borders where there was no segregation by class or ethnicity.

5) A mass media that can spread propaganda to everyone about radical beliefs or political views.

The list can go on and on. They could not have foreseen the world we live in, and I am positive that if they had, they would have written a different set of codes and laws to govern us by.

I think it is time for a revolution. It could be violent or it could be orderly, but he has to come eventually. The current system does not work. It hasn’t worked for a long time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

Back in the day (almost 6 years ago) I used to wax philisophically about the past and where I was headed. I don't do that much anymore...maybe when I retire I might start doing it again

The American Journey

First Published August 26, 2005

(thoughts that played through my head on my recent trip up north, all pictures taken along Interstate 17 and Interstate 40 with my PalmPilot)

Every once in a while my job sees fit to yank me form my desk and throw me up into the wild reaches of Arizona to handle some business because we can't retain staff to do it.

I don't mind these long trips, because they give me time to think and reflect on a lot of things.

I-17 North from Phoenix

The American Journey isn't just one from point A to point B. It is a journey of understanding and figuring things out. How our views change over time and from location to location based on our experiences and what we have learned.

Sedona Near Flagstaff

I don't know a lot of conservatives that were not liberals at one point in their lives and vice versa. Folks that were conservative and now throw caution to the wind. Their journeys brought about these changes.

Cabin in the Sky

I chuckle at how much the youth of today can't wait to get off the 'farm' and make it to the big city where anything goes and they can party all they want. Only to find out that by the time they have grown up, had kids, taken out a second mortgage and fixed their car for the 18th time to commute to work, that what they REALLY want is to go back to that rural lifestyle that they longed to escape from so many years before.


These cars were once shiny and new, speeding down what was then Route 66 in a country that was affluent, run by caucasians, where Coke had real sugar and there was no HIV or Ebola. Those days, like these cars, are gone, transformed by the journey.


Yet, in their decay, there is a certain beauty to them. They undergo the slow transition back to the minerals from which they were forged. Like the delicate bones of some pre-historic creature momentarily exposed by the wind before being covered up again.

Gas Pumps

Once these silent sentinels pumped petrol for .29 cents a gallon. Now, in the shadow of the speeding semi-trucks that race by on Interstate 40, they stand as tombstones for the coming end of the petroleum age. More road markers on the journey.

Fallen Dreams

In a way, the land is littered with the graveyards of our past. Those things that we held so dear (or were told to hold so dear) but have become obsolete because something new and better came along. But were they really better? Did we really 'need' them? Figuring that out is one of the purposes of the journey.

Cloud Ruins

In the end, the journey teaches us that many of the dreams we had were not our own. We followed road signs that told of us great destinations, lands of milk and honey, with things that were newer, cheaper, better. But when we got there we found that in the long run none of it was true. The signs were not put up for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, to lead us to them.

Empty Rooms

Some say that we should make our own signs and leave trails to follow, and not follow in the footsteps of others. But the insecurity that is inherent in all our lives holds us back. The older we get, the more we lose that insecurity and the more we finally realize how important it is to blaze those trails, but often we also realize that we have lost the vigor of youth.

Window Ruins

These are the thoughts that continually run through my head while taking these long journeys for my employer. A good use of the State's money, I must admit. In their never ending goal of finding new and inefficient ways of doing things with the taxpayers hard earned cash, they offer me the time and the distance to gage the journey and in so doing, show me just how far off course I am sometimes.

Desert Tower

As I stopped at many of these old places along Interstate 40, I saw all those old days, those slower days. This highway parallels the old Route 66 and it is still visible in many sections. I walked some of it to take these pictures. The mother road had a lot to tell if you just stood still long enough and listened.

I-40 Train

How many journeys? How many lives were changed by the wheels passing over this broken asphalt? A million miles, a million miles.

I-40 Windows

I hope the journey never ends; I have still have so much to learn.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Over Saturation

I can't stand this commercial. While it is cute and all, I have seen it so many times that it is starting to seem like a recurring "Ground Hog Day" nightmare whenever I see it.

Let me give you a little background here. This is a regional thing, so it may not be common knowledge in the rest of the country (United States) and certainly not the rest of the world.

As big fish gobble up smaller fish, the big fish wants to assure all the other fishies in the sea that nothing has changed and in fact, things are getting better. Such is the case when one of the major telephone / internet providers in the American Southwest (Qwest) got swallowed up by a bigger fish, called 'Century Link' recently.

Strangely enough, prior to the acquisition, Qwest was boosting how they had been around forever and would always be here to serve their loyal customers. Two months later, they were history. This was something that their major rival in telecommunications (Cox Broadband) was quick to exploit in some of their commercials. So much for longevity.

I learned in college that when this type of acquisition happens, it is common for the new company to put out 'feel good' advertising to assure the public that this is actually a GOOD thing and that they are going to benefit from the newer bigger company. Reality has shown that this is rarely the case, since acquisitions tend to mean leaning out the smaller fish to assimilate it, which usually means lost jobs and less customer service.

But my point here is, this is one of those 'feel good' commercials. An invasion of Slinkies that appear to take over the planet to a catchy little pop tune by some up-and-coming middle-of-the-road artist about 'moving forward'. Yet, in essence, this commercial tells you nothing. It just makes you tap your foot and smile. Thereby, making you think that, "Gee, Century Link must be a really swell company. They have darn cute commercials!" They could be employing child labor in Indo-China and overworking their employees to death, but you wouldn't know it.

If this were the case across the spectrum, when Lockheed/Martin acquired Northrup Aviation, we should have seen a bunch of school age children singing and dancing around a B-1 Stealth Attack Bomber singing 'Lockheed/Northrup is good for us all!'.

To compound the horror of the whole Century Link commercial, there is the repetition. I only watch about one hour of television a night and I SWEAR I have seen this commercial at least 100 times in the last 30 days. Often times three times in a single hour of network programming.

I'll cry UNCLE for Christ's sake, just make it stop!!!

....and don't even get me started on this commercial. I have seen it even more in the last 30 days, and until I linked to it on YouTube, I really didn't know who it was (ATT, I had assumed Verizon), although I knew it was for some cellular provider.

Considering that these companies have to be making money hand over fist, don't you think they could put together a more diversified ad campaign, instead of showing us the same commercials over and over until we puke?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bugity, Bugity, Bugity

I am gonna rant here for a second folks. Fasten your seatbelts. I have just come back from a four day weekend were I was once again working on a copious number of projects around the house. Working in the Arizona heat means I have to take a lot of breaks so that I don’t get dehydrated. I have to plop myself down in front of the television for about 30 minutes after every hour of outside labor to stretch out and cool off while drinking something cold.

While doing so this past weekend, I got to see the above mentioned clip at least 5 times. Every single news outlet seemed to think that this was the cutest and most funny piece of news on the planet for some reason.

A little bit of background here; I don’t like NASCAR. I have always been a Formula 1 fan. Driving as fast as you can in a circle for two hours has never been my idea of a fun thing to watch. Secondly, I am not a big fan of organized religion. You can worship anyway you want, but keep it in your church, your living room or your basement.

This video just hammered home how stupid the American media thinks we are, if this is something that passes for news and entertainment. There are debt ceiling talks, mass murder in Norway, train wrecks in China and famine in Somalia, and we get to watch a fat Baptist preacher talk about his ‘smokin hot wife’ at a NASCAR invocation.

Is it just me, or am I the only one that would find it odd for Jesus to bless an event that basically puts people’s lives at risk for the sake of winning a trophy? Wouldn’t that be like Christ pumping up the crowd before the Chariot Race in Ben-Hur?

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world thinks we are really f*cked up?

Then there is this whole debt ceiling debate in Washington, or as I like to call it, “So You Think You Can Vote – the D.C. Edition”. Because that is what it has come down to, a reality television show where everyone tunes into to see who gets the final rose or gets booted off the island.

The Republican right is trying to make a stand on this Tea Party movement for no new taxes. In so doing they appear to be willing to shut down the government and cripple the nations credit rating all to make the President look bad and be more ‘defeatable’ in the future.

Having worked in government for the past 15 years, I know how mismanaged it can be. The words government and efficiency cannot be used in the same sentence. So the Republicans seems to think that we can ‘lean out’ the system and make it run more efficiently by not raising taxes and giving tax breaks to create more jobs and ergo, generate more governmental revenue.

It doesn’t work that way. I don’t like higher taxes anymore than the next guy, but if I want things to work, I know that someone has to pay for the fireman, the policeman, the ambulance driver and the old folk’s social security. The economic landscape has changed folks, and cutting taxes to create more jobs in the future isn’t going to happen. Welcome to socialism. Don’t blame Obama, blame the past leaders both Democrat and Republican going back to Nixon. They led us down this path.

So stop scaring the old people and jockeying for the best time slot on network television to slander the opposition. Do it like the old days. Go behind closed doors, make a deal, come out smiling, say everything is going to be fine and let us get on with our lives. We know things won’t get better, they rarely do in government, just don’t make it into a reality sporting event.

That is all, you may now unfasten your seatbelts and move about the cabin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Project #23769


I finished a project this past weekend. All my weekends are comprised of working on projects these days. The wife and I are bound and determined to clean our slate by the end of the year and then start downsizing.

The project pictured here is the tiered flower boxes in the front of our house. This has been something that has been in the workds for a long time. I had experimented with making flower boxes in the past and knew how to do it. It was just a matter of cutting a lot of wood, doing a lot of painting and then planting flowers in 108 degree weather. What I thought was going to take about a month to complete, in reality, took about six months.


As with most projects, this one was pretty grandiose in the beginning. Needless to say it has be paired down a bit here, but the results still look pretty good. Originally, the boxes were supposed to wrap around the porch, but time and money sort of meant that original concept had to be downsized. The FlowerBox 2.0 upgrade that includes the sides of the porch may or may not get finished next year.

There was a reason for creating these beyond the ascetic of making the house look nicer. The summer sun rarely gets to the back of the flowerbeds due to the low wall at the front of the porch, which made it hard for most flowers to prosper and grow not to mention hiding them behind the flowers in front. By creating levels, the sun is able to hit all the beds equally and hopefully, make for more flowers and more color. Time will tell.


Now that the front yard is pretty much done for this year, I am off to the back yard, where I have an even bigger and more bizarre project about to commence. If I am luck, that one might be completed by November. It will make this project look tame by comparison.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Like A Good Neighbor.....


......well, not really.

I have written about this before, and will probably be writing more about it in the future. I don’t know if this a cultural trend, a social networking offshoot, or just a sign of our more repressed nature as a species, but there is a definite problem here. Based on my current mindset, this problem is really starting to piss me off.

My wife and I are doing some work on our home this summer instead of going on vacation. This work involves upgrading some appliances and re-tiling our bathroom among other various projects.

In updates that I posted online in the past several weeks I mentioned this summer long activity in the following paragraphs:

"The wife and I are engaged in numerous household upgrades and projects (picture wall demolition and multiple contractors on sight at any given time). There will be a bunch of pictures posted to document all this upgradeable goodness when all the projects are done. However, it might be the end of the summer before all the dust settles. "


“We have been doing some renovations on our home recently. This has entailed moving a bunch of stuff from one room to another to allow contractors to knock out walls and re-wire things.”

These seemed like rather innocent and un-noteworthy statements, or so I thought. These web logs are viewable by anyone online. But it seems that there are residents in my neighborhood that read them and found them to be disturbing.

So much so, that they contacted the City of Phoenix and informed them that we were doing ‘structural’ work to our historic home and we may not have the proper permits to do so. This resulted in a bright red “Stop Work Order” being pasted on the front of our house a few days ago.

Now the city is involved and we have to meet with them to ‘prove’ that we are not altering our historic home in violation of city codes. We knew we were not doing this when we started, since we know what we are and aren’t allowed to do with a permit because we have done this sort of work in the past on our house.

The tearing out of walls was in reference to removing drywall so that water pipes could be re-routed to our new tankless water heater. The contractors in question were the drywall person, the plumber and Southwest Gas to inspect the line and make sure it was up to code.

So because a neighbor has ‘concerns’ about what we are doing, the city is involved, and both the zoning office and myself have to take time off work to address these non-issue. All while the concerned neighbor gets to bask in anonymity with no repercussions what-so-ever.

I seem to recall my parents raising me to be civil and discuss issues and problems with people to try and work them out first. They did not teach me to call 1-800-SNITCH or go out and hire an attorney as soon as I found out someone was doing something that I did not approve of. I have always assumed that the good people that live near me would have dropped me an e-mail or commented on my web log post to be sure to contact the city to see if any of my planned home repair might require a permit.

Something like, “Hey don’t forget to check into possible required permits when doing your home improvement!”, kind of friendly reminder. In which case I could have responded about exactly what we were doing and if permits were needed.

But instead, I found, much to my dismay and sadness, that we have neighbors that would just as soon chuck a live grenade over our backyard wall and then scamper away into the bushes and snicker.

Thanks for making my friendly and well mannered neighborhood a little bit less of a desirable place to live neighbor! You are doing a great job of making everyone a little more suspicious and untrustworthy of each other. That was your intent, right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Wal-Martians Have Arrived


I have this secret fascination with Wal-Mart. I rarely go there, but once in a while my wife needs to pick up some bulk items at cheap prices. Things like 50lb bags of dog food, jumbo rolls of paper towels and paint supplies. Sometimes I tag along.

I tag along, because I find the people that populate these mega-stores to be fascinating. Lets face it, you don’t see these people anywhere else. They come out of their basement caves once a week to stock up on Twinkies and Mac’N’Chese before retreating to their dark cubby holes to watch reruns of Rosanne and Gilligan’s Island.

So as I was wandering the electronics section of our local Super-Store I came upon a new Motorola Xoom tablet. A Xoom is the Android version of the Apple iPad, and it was on display for all the customers to paw and play with.

Like the iPad, it has a camera that you can take pictures with, so I started flipping through some of the images on the tablet. I was immensely entertained at the parade of Walmartians that had played with the device since it had been placed on display. There were literally hundreds of portraits of the cave dwellers on this thing.

Then it dawned on me, an Android powered device should have Bluetooth file transfer capability, just like my Motorola Droid smart phone. By the time my wife found me 15 minutes later, I had downloaded about 50 of the best portraits to the my phone and then left the store.

So without, further delay, I give you the future generation of America. Remember, these are the people that will be taking care of us in our old age, defending our borders and running our factories and retail establishments. These are just the upper crust. To see the entire collection, click on the link at the end of the blog.

Be very afraid.

It appears that young teenage girls like to pose in outrageous group shots

Take Us To Your Leader!

The men seemed to be most concerned with showing off their hats

I assume this is some sort of 'gang' sign, but have no idea what it means.

Their parents must be so proud.

...and you are wearing sunglasses indoors because.....?

...we be gangsta bitches....Yo!


Click the image for the entire series

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

First published on March 23, 2006. A recollection of being young and free and the first steps toward adulthood.

Running Home In the Dark

There Are Monsters In The Woods

Changes in your life come at odd times. Often they are unexpected. Epiphanies that paint everything that comes after in a different light.

I don't recall the first one I had. But I recall one of the earliest.

I was living in Southern California in the late 1960s. We used to call it life in the fishbowl. My brother and I grew up on military bases. There wasn't any crime, political unrest, or domestic violence on a military base. Everything was orderly and neat. So we all got to stare out at the rest of the world as though we were in a fishbowl. The Vietnam War protests, the summer of love, Woodstock, Martin Luther King Jr., none of these things really had an affect on us back then. We were living in the last bastion of the 1950s. It was a place of cookies in the afternoon, sleepovers and playing hide and seek until long after dark.

When I turned 12 my parents decided to send me to a week long summer camp. I realize now that this was just an excuse for getting me and my brother out of the house so my parents could have some quality alone time. But for me it was a big step. I had never been away from family for that length of time. I was scared but at the same time I was also excited.

As it turned out, I really liked the whole camping thing. You got to stay up late and sleep in a tent. The camp counselors gave us all sorts of things to do to keep us busy. We were outside in the warm southern California weather, where the smell of the dirt and grass mixed with the coastal breeze and made a subtle perfume that I can still smell in my dreams.

There were about 30 of us. We were all young boys between the ages of 8 and 12. We didn't know each other, but we bonded pretty quickly like most kids do. We were living for the moment with a short attention span and lots of sugar and carbohydrates to keep us going. It was all a dreamy blur.

On the last night of the camping weekend there was a big jamboree. It was held near the center of the camping area and our tribe put on a skit that is so traditional when boys camp out in the wild. We had no television or radio, so we had to make our own entertainment. Lord, I would love see that skit on video tape (if it had been invented back then). When it was all over, the counselors told us that the first ones back to our campsites got to light the campfires and start cooking the smores. Smores are those chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow confections that every camping trip ends with. So we all scattered like rabbits and ran through the night back toward our tents.

I suppose that this was the height of childhood. Running like a pack of wolves through the cool evening air, heavily breathing in the summer night, flying through the darkness, not wanting to be the last one back to camp. As I ran through the trees and the tall grass I heard something. A faint scream. I slowed and turned my head and I heard it again. Even as a young boy I knew the sound or terror. It was a fearful scream and then sobbing. I stopped and started to walk back toward the jamboree area. My mind wrestled with the thought that I was going to be the last one back to camp, but I had to find something out. I was half curious, half afraid.

None of my other companions had stopped. Perhaps they hadn't heard the scream, maybe they were scared, maybe they didn't care. As I walked back a boy came stumbling out of the darkness, he was crying. When he saw me, he screamed and ran to me like a child lost in the woods. Which is what he was. He wasn't hurt, he was just scared. He had never been away from home. He was just a kid frightened of the dark. When everyone scattered toward their tents, he hadn't known the way and was left behind in his indecision.

To him, there were monsters in the woods. The Grimm's Fairy tales were still real. Some of us had learned to suppress our fear with bravado and logic. He wasn't able to do that yet. I put my arm around him and told him it would by OK. I knew what he felt like. Only a few months before I might have been him.

He tried to put on a brave face and not act scared while I walked with him back to camp, but the tears drying on his cheeks sort of ruined that charade. We were the last ones to arrive and the fire was already raging. The others were getting ready to toast their marshmallows. The frightened kid sat at the campfire and eventually joined in the comradery and laughter. We didn't speak of coming back last. He hadn't grown up as fast as the rest of us but he would catch up soon enough. He just wasn't going to catch up that night.

During that lazy California summer I realized there were more important things than running with the pack. That was a big step for a 12 year old boy. I think I understood compassion for the first time in the darkness under that starry night sky. It was the first time I started to become an individual and think for myself. After that week in the woods, I saw the world a little differently. I still do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dog Days Of Summer


Just a quick note to let all of you know that I am still alive and breathing out here in cyber-space (you do care don’t you?).

Things have been busy, which is nothing new. There are too many irons in my fire to count here, but I will be trying to document them in the future when the fire dies down.

The employment picture continues to be surreal but my long term readers knows that this isn’t anything new. But the level of the surreal-ness never ceases to astound me these days.

The wife and I are engaged in numerous household upgrades and projects. There will be a bunch of pictures posted to document all this upgradeable goodness when all the projects are done. However, it might be the end of the summer before all the dust settles.

In the meantime, I have been reading a lot of books and watching a lot of movies, because with the average temperature outside hovering at around 108 degrees (115 today), I am not in the mood to do a lot of yard work.

The books include "Catcher In The Rye" and Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue". Also unearthed some old journals that I wrote back in the early to mid-90s. Will be going through some of those in the future and posting some interesting tidbits. Boy have I and times changed.

The wife took me on a mystery date to the ‘iPic Theater’ in Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend, which was very interesting. This is an upper end movie theater with sofa seating, your own waitress who brings you food and drinks (wooo whooo Merlot) during the movie. Not cheap, but a fun thing to do. We watched Pixar’s “Cars-2”. If you liked the first one, you would like this one. But don’t expect anything really, really deep.

Watched “Albino Alligator” on Laserdisc a few weeks ago. A little known film by Kevin Spacey, starring Matt Dillon and Faye Dunaway. I have to admit it was interesting. Not a great film and bit implausible, but it made you think and had a very interesting ending.

So stay tuned for the long line of project blogs that I will be posting in the coming weeks, so you can marvel at all the handy work that my wife and I have lined up for this summer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

You're Not Helping


I would like to start out by saying, I am not racist, nor am I prejudice. At least not any more than the average American. I do have some qualms with stereo-typical ethnic behavior, such as wearing your pants around your knees so you underwear shows, or pushing a shopping cart full of Twinkies and frozen pizza 12 blocks and then leaving the cart in a local park for someone else to push back to the store.

This is a melting pot after all, and all those Irish, and Polish Europeans helped make this country what it is. They defeated fascism and made us into a great economic and political powerhouse on the planet. The Chinese helped build the railroads, and African Americans and Hispanics tamed the wild west and fought in the Civil War. People that come here, make a difference and work within the system to become part of the system are an asset.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really very common anymore. Many of the immigrants that I interact with at my job are here seeking the riches of entitlements. They want health care, good paying jobs, free food, and free assistance.

During this last week, I had to facilitate two hearings. These hearings consisted of numerous meetings that had to be coordinated and reviewed on a schedule throughout the day. The schedules started at 8:30am and typically ran till past 4pm in the afternoon. Many people are invited to these meetings since they deal with child welfare and and other social issues. Invitations are sent to all the interested parties to attend the meetings, both in English AND Spanish. The interested parties are not required to attend, so we never know exactly how many people will be at each meeting during the day.

So it was with a bit of disgust, that twice (2 times) this week, a Frito Bandito and his old lady showed up for a meeting, not being able to speak a word of English, and demanded that we supply them with translators so they could participate. We don’t have a problem with this, except for the fact that the invitations for the meetings state IN SPANISH, that if you need an interpreter, call ahead of time so one can be arranged for you.

These interested parties read the invitations, they knew when and where to show up, but they didn’t bother to inform us of their handicap before showing up. So the end result, is that we have to scramble to find an interpreter that can teleconference into the meeting for them to understand what is going on. This means that a 35 minute meeting runs 45 minutes overtime. In turn, this makes all the other interested parties that show up for their meetings have to wait an extra HOUR for their meetings to begin.

If that alone was not bad enough. Both of these individuals decided to cop an attitude in the meeting about how not enough was being done for them by the 'system'.

I have this sneaking suspicion, that if I got arrested for speeding in Mexico, and I coped an attitude with the magistrate in Ciudad Juarez and told them that their speed limits were stupid and then demanded an interpreter to explain that to everyone, I might not be seeing U.S. soil again for a very long time.

This is a ‘melting pot’ folks, not a smorgasbord. Learn how to blend in and become part of the whole instead of standing off to the side screaming for attention. You're not helping your ethnicity, your race or your cause.