I am not a well read man. I didn't read much of what are called the Classics in literature. Dickens, for instance, bored me to tears. Most of the classics seemed to bury great thoughts under ostentatious blathering. I just wanted to get to the point. I don't know why since, in most cases, I already knew the underlying point (or points). We learned those Great Truths mostly by the time we were sent off to kindergarten. They were the morals and lessons that nursery rhymes and bedtime stories taught us.
They were also the core of myths and legends. It is the same ideas over and over again. It's just the format that changes; the style of the story teller. What I learn from books, plays, and the like is not new ideas but new ways to look at old ideas.
I have tried to read the great philosophical works but I get bored and frustrated. Bored because it seems like they are preaching and trying to impress with their knowledge and wisdom. And frustrated because they make references to other philosophers which means I have to expend effort to research those Great Thinkers in order to understand the relevance. Not to mention I have to learn new words because they can't simply say what they mean in plain wording that anyone can understand. It seems like they are trying to impress those who they see as intellectual peers.
I fancy myself a kind of philosopher at times. The home spun type. I have always tried to understand human nature, why people do what they do. I have tried to piece together how and why groups of people form communities and cultures. And I have always tried to find the common thread of humanity.
My basic conclusion is that were are always at war with ourselves. The individual has, as Robert Louis Stevenson expressed so well in Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, two basic natures. The struggle between those natures is what life is all about. It may be that that concept is also expressed as the argument of nature versus nurture.
Unlike many, I think humans are born "bad". I think it is nurturing which instills the "good" in us, or tries to. This is entirely the opposite of what seemed to be the common belief of my youth, the formative years. There was this pervasive concept that said children were "innocents" who had to learn to hate. I went along with it for a number of years but it nagged at me, it just didn't seem right. Babies aren't moral, they aren't good. They are demanding, selfish, creatures. About age two, when they are deemed able to begin to understand abstract ideas, we try to civilize them. We teach them to share, to behave, that they are not the center of attention, that others are important. We also start consciously training them to accept control by others; specifically, we as the parents.
It is this training, this civilizing, which makes us human. Cultures form along common beliefs in what is right and wrong and those beliefs are taught as part of that civilizing. I think this is reflected in the myths, stories, and legends, as well as the histories, of all cultures.
It is also this training which adds the "good" nature to the "bad" nature of the human being.
Have I bored you sufficiently yet? I know this is dry and un-entertaining. But I was musing on this while reading a book by Robert B. Parker, one of his westerns... Brimstone... It is full of homespun wisdom and pragmatic morality told in a literary economy of words. It is not seen as a classic philosophical work.
Did I ever tell you about my workshop? Of course not. I'd have known if I had.
It's a wonderful place. Well lit, orderly, roomy. Along one wall are two workbenches. One longer than the other with a set of shelves in between. Above the workbenches are pegboards where my small hand tools are mounted, each one in its place, where I can reach them easily. Below the workbenches are some shelves where I store some materials and tools that are too heavy or bulky for the pegboards.
Across the room are more shelving units, each having 5 shelves. On the shelves are various supplies and materials. There is plenty of floor space where I can set up saw horses or a temporary work table, if needed. I still have another wall where I can put up more shelves if I find it necessary. There is plenty of lighting from the 5 foot fluorescent light units.
The workshop is well ventilated and insulated with a wall AC unit for the heat of the summer months and a small space heater for the few cold snaps we must endure in the winter.
Yes, it's a wonderful place.
It also doesn't exist. But if I had one, that's exactly what it would look like.
So I just clutter up one side of the garage instead where I haphazardly put stuff on rickety shelves that hopefully won't fall over. There is a workbench but I have to back my car out to get at it. And it's piled high with unfinished projects, old boxes, and miscellaneous junk that I have accumulated and don't have any more room on the shelves for.
I probably am not the one to give advice on getting ahead or succeeding. After all, I have striven all my life to attain mediocrity. That I achieved great success at this should count for something, though. I realize that almost anyone can be mediocre but I feel I am the only one who ever sought it as a goal. And managed to achieve it. Maybe I should write a book on the subject, being an expert and all, but it might sell and then I would become famous and no longer qualify as mediocre.
The path to mediocrity is surprisingly simple. It is the least difficult path, the one that gently angles downhill, is broad and smooth, and so inviting. It is almost always bathed in sunshine and pleasantness. There are few, if any, potholes and these are easily avoided.... or ignored.
So many people take the harder paths through life. They think that success is difficult and must be striven for, that they will face obstacles along the way. And they will. There's a reason for this. If the path to success was easy, everyone would be successful. That would be very confusing, I think, a bit like Congress.
Sorry, didn't mean to insert the political into this blog. Forget I wrote that.
I was once told of a career choice by a couple of teachers I had in high school. In that school, I only had two teachers. It was a private school for people like myself. No, we didn't take the short bus to school. This school collected the castoffs from the public school system. Call them the under-achievers, the indifferent, or (most accurately) the lazy.
Toward the end of my senior year, I was chatting with these two teachers in one of the classrooms. Both were women in their 30's, I believe. I mean they were definitely women, it's just the ages that I am unsure of. We were talking about what I should do once I left high school. Just casually, this was not a counseling session. Or an intervention. I am fairly certain of that.
At the time I was unsure of my future. In fact, I wasn't even sure I had one to look forward to. Not even sure I wanted to look forward at all. I had never set goals before and had no idea how to go about setting one. I was smart. I had been told that all my life. And I had used that asset to great advantage throughout school. After all, if you are smart, you don't have to work very hard at anything. Unless, of course, you set goals and tried to attain them. Since that was never a consideration for me, the toughest thing I had to do was stay awake.
In any event, we were sitting around discussing my possibilities for the future. I had, of course, no ideas on it. You might say I was a blank slate. Even then, without realizing it, I was searching for that easy path... but not too hard. One teacher did suggest an interesting career choice. Actually, it is the only one of several they mentioned that I recall. Mrs. Woodrum suggested, with a small but meaningful smile, that I might consider becoming a gigolo.
I am sure she was quite serious but, alas, I had to reject the idea. One might think that is a profession that is not taxing or full of great effort. Perfect for one such as I. One would be quite wrong. I considered it for a short while and found several reasons that it was not for me. All of the reasons involved effort on my part. I would have to study a wide variety of subjects so I would be an interesting and fascinating conversationlist. I would need to attend, and qualify for, a good college in order to meet the Right People. I would have to exercise in order to have an attractive body.
I would have to learn to make someone else think they were more important to me than I was.
No, it was never a good career choice for me.
But good fortune blessed me. I went on to seek out, with as little effort as humanly possible, the easy path and mostly found it. I dallied at a community college for a few months before enlisting in the least demanding branch of the military. I might have made a career of the Navy but it was way too un-challenging for even me. Instead, I left at the end of my enlistment and sought indolence instead. That path eventually led me to the phone company. And, there I found my niche. My One True Calling.
The most effort I found being applied while I worked (and I hesitate to use that term here) for the phone company was by those seeking to avoid it. So much wasted effort to avoid the a task that took hardly any. I was amazed. I had found a home. A job that required almost no effort and promised several weeks of vacation along with a generous number of days off.
There you have it. The secret to success. The Real Secret, that is. Don't search out that path, don't spin your wheels, just drift along the stream of life in that metaphorical inner tube with the warm sun gently caressing your face until the branch of mediocrity you so deserve snags you.
Each year, about this time, I start writing the correct year as part of the date. That's right, it takes me almost a month to burn the year into my brain. That's an average. Some years it took longer.
This year has been different. I have yet to make a mistake and use "09" or "2009" when writing a date. This may be because I have had so few occasions where I have had to write out a date. Being retired and dumping all the bills and correspondence onto Faye means I rarely pick up a pen except to jot down a note to myself. And notes to myself (I like to call them intra-personal memos) rarely have any dates on them.
While I am talking about the year, I hear this one being referenced in an unusual way. The guy said it was "two K ten". I usually, if I verbalize it at all, say it as "twenty ten". I have also heard people say "two ten" which, to me, makes no sense at all. 2009 was no problem, everyone seemed to reference it as "oh nine". In fact, the only one I never heard a short form for was 2000. That one was always "two thousand" unless they were talking about the non-existent disaster called the "two K bug".
Following that train of thought, we have a couple of ways of referencing a decade. One uses the tens digit; 50's, 60's, 70's, etc. The other uses something that is associated with the period; the Roaring Twenties or Gay Nineties or the Reagan Years (only 8 years but who's counting?). No one has come up with a good, catchy, name for the 2000 to 2009 decade. Maybe we'd just like to forget it. I think someone suggested the Noughties. But I don't think that will catch on, the sound-alike connotation doesn't really work.
So, have you caught up to the year in dating checks yet?
Another blogger reminded me of dreams I had vaguely formed in my twenties that I had never made real. He also reminded me that it is never too late to drag them back out from the dusty corners of wishful thinking and actually live them.
When the Navy and I parted ways, back in late 1969, my principal transportation was a 1966 BSA motorcycle. It was my third motorcycle and, I think, the finest of them. I had been a roamer since my teens. I would wander far and wide; hitchhiking, on bicycles, and later in my car. The travel by car was best. I was young and agile enough to actually get relief from fatigue by sleeping in a car. Seats are soft enough, there is protection from the weather, even a bit of privacy. They are, as many fathers of teenage girls might tell you, like motel rooms on wheels.
But there is something about the motorcycle that appeals to wanderlust like no other means of transportation. Especially when you are in the American West. Riding through the mountains or across the desert, the motorcycle lets you experience the environment; it makes you a part of it and separate at the same time. You begin to think you understand the reality of the lone cowboy or frontiersman. It is the most freedom I have ever felt. (Of course, you aren't. Free, that is. You are tethered to gas stations and diners by your need to refuel bike and body. And the bike is a bit more demanding than the body.)
As I approached the end of my tour, the dream started to grow. I would ride my motorcycle back to Florida. The dream of that trip began while I owned my second motorcycle, a `65 Triumph Bonneville. It was dashed by its theft shortly before I was discharged. Buying its replacement took all my available funds.
No matter. It was October when I got out of the Navy and it seemed to me that waiting until March to leave might be a good idea. The trip might take me a month or more as I was not planning on a direct route but more of a meander eastward, exploring interesting roads and places as I went. I would get a job, put away some cash for the Trip, and explore life in Los Angeles for a few months.
The job I found, since I was not looking for a career, did not pay well and Los Angeles is a very seductive (and a bit expensive) mistress so money accumulated very slowly and the dream was obscured. I felt I had plenty of time, 5 months, to prepare. And preparation only meant packing up and shipping off my stereo equipment and most of my clothes to my parents' home in Florida.
The Gods had other plans. The glitter of Los Angeles distracts. The drugs, booze, sex, and rock and roll dull the mind and sap the discipline (of which I had very little to begin with). And then disaster strikes. On a ride down to Laguna Beach one evening, the engine blew a bearing. More money taken away from the fund to get repairs done. The repairs were ineffective in the long term and the bike was eventually traded in for a van because transportation was badly needed. The girlfriends created another problem. Decisions had to be made. And I was never good at making those.
The Trip never happened. It morphed into a journey in a Dodge van with a pregnant wife. But the dream is still there in the deepest shadows of my mind...
It still wriggles in my brain, squirming enough now and then to remind me of things I had planned but have yet to do.
Normally, I play golf on Monday mornings but he weather wasn't cooperative today. So here I sit in front of the computer, my mind as blank as the screen of this word processor.
Ever wonder about that name for this utility? It doesn't really do that, you know. Process words. The user does that part. If it did do that, it would not only spellcheck (and replace the misspelled with the proper spelling) but insert the right word where needed and correct the sentence structure along the way. But it doesn't do all that, does it? You might get a spellcheck and there is a grammar parser available somewhere, I think. But do they underline, apply boldface, or italics as needed? I think not. No matter how hard I mash the key down, the letters come out the same as all the rest. No matter how slyly or cleverly I employ that nuance, the letters stay erect.
Back in the early days of computers, you used tricks to emphasize words. Things like the implied _underline_, or the asterisk *emphasis*, or just used ALL CAPS to get the attention to those oh so important words. because we always want our writing to be an echo of our verbalized thoughts. We write as we speak, do we not? I do. In fact, I speak as I type, rolling the words and phrases about in my head as I try to get the feeling I am trying to express to appear in print before me. And there are inflections in tone which I hear, even in my thoughts, as I type. And so often fail to express in printed word.
Perhaps one day some pimply-faced kid will come up with a way to read the brain impulses or the emphasis in your voice as you use that Voice Recognition system to write your blog and put it on the screen the way you intend it to be. And he will either make millions of dollars or be cheated out of it by some smart corporation.
Until that day comes, until we get Real Word Processors, we must struggle along on our own.
Golf is a four letter word that means many things. It also leads to other four letter words, most of which I refrain from using... on this blog. It is also a great source of income for some equipment manufacturers, clothing makers, and a lot of Hucksters. It is a sport that almost anyone can play and that requires no teamwork or coordination with others. It is just the player and the course... and the course has all the advantages.
Its attraction is difficult to explain to those who have never played it or have played it and don't like it. A character, Dr. Raymond Langston, on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation compared it to cocaine addiction. He was pretty much on the mark. Once you have hit the ball just as it is supposed to be hit, endorphins are undoubtedly released into the pleasure centers of the brain, the feeling is indescribable. And you then chase the little white ball hoping to regain the singular feeling. And mostly fail.
The average golfer takes solace in the fact that even the pros make mistakes. The difference between the professional golfer and the average player can be seen in the absolute reversal of the ratios of good shots to bad shots of each. The pro may make 4 or 5 bad putts in a round, the average golfer will only make that many good putts.
The equipment makers sell you the dream. As if it is only a matter of the right clubs... or balls... or even shoes. People will pay upwards of $400 for a single club which might promise 10 more yards off the tee. And then leave it in the garage to gather dust and cobwebs because it failed to deliver. The average golfer will have at least two full sets of golf clubs, a number of miscellaneous individual specialty clubs (i.e. "wedges") and at least 4 putters.
I first hit a golf ball when I was maybe 8 years old. I used to hang out at a golf club near my home. But it didn't take. Maybe I didn't hit it just right to get that feeling. I ignored it until I was 26 and a neighbor talked me into playing on a par 3 course in San Diego. I was hooked. For about 13 years. And then life intruded and the addiction receded into the background. The clubs collected dust and rust in the garages of the houses I moved into and out of. I didn't miss it. The urge just wasn't there.
Until I approached retirement. I would need a hobby for that retirement. One day, after some 15 years, I decided that I might want to take up the game again. I took my old clubs out of the garage, went to the nearest golf course, bought a bucket of balls, and headed over to the range. To my complete and utter surprise, it was like I had never given it up. I was still just as bad at it.
Maybe I was a little worse from lack of practice. But I was close to hooked again. It would take only one round of golf to return fully to the addiction.
My friend at Irish Gumbo occasionally speaks of hus culinary talents. He appears to have the right touch in the kitchen, making soups, putting together good meals, even baking bread. I do not.
I learned this when I was 6 years old. I was a "latchkey" kid. My mother was working, either as a part time legal secretary or at my father's bicycle shop, in the afternoons when I got home. My older brother and sister were both in school for longer hours than I and , so, I would be home alone for a bit. This was not a problem in a town of maybe 10,000 and was fairly common in the early 50's. There were neighbors at home, called "housewives" then (now called "stay at home Moms"), and I was a pretty independent kid.
But I was hungry. Since I only went to school in the morning, the school being overcrowded and having two sessions, all I got at school was milk and Graham Crackers for a snack. And that was around 10-ish. So I decided that I could easly make a cheese and bologna sandwich for myself.
Not being the brightest bulb at 6, I thought I should use that big, sharp, knife to cut some slices of cheese to put on my Wonder Bread. I managed to get one slice before I sliced into the index finger of my left hand. Being incredibly brilliant, I shook my hand. Do not ask me why I did this. It is my natural reaction to pain in my hands. I still do this today. However, it is not the smart thing to do when you are bleeding profusely from your finger.
I realized how wrong it was when I looked up at the wall and the venetian blinds on the kitchen window. Shades of a "slasher" movie"! (though these had yet to come out) There was blood spatter all the way up the wall and all across the blinds. It did not look good. I found a kitchen towel (undoubtedly full of all sorts of bacteria) and wrapped it around my hand and headed for the neighbor's house.
The neighbor lady almost fainted as I unwrapped the towel, slowly revealing a layer of blood-soaked cloth, but settled into full mom mode and washed off the cut before bandaging it. She was obviously not a former Army nurse and maybe her only child never had a cut of any kind since her bandaging work was only slightly smaller than that dish towel I had used. And then we called my mother.
Mom did not rush home, it seemed to me, but perhaps she did. I'd like to think she dropped everything and hurried home in fear and panic. But my mother was a practical woman and, being informed that everything was under control, probably took her time.
I was still at the neighbor's house, having a sandwich and milk, when Mom got home. She went into our house first and saw the evidence of carnage in the kitchen and then came running over to where I was. She relaxed when she saw that I was fine and took me home.
I received a lesson in how to use the wire cheese slicer that day. A lesson I have not forgotten. I am very good with a cheese slicer, even today in my doddering years. But the bologna that still sat upon the kitchen table? Spattered with my blood? I cannot look at pickle loaf without a twinge in the index finger because that is what the slice of bologna looked like.
And my parents never did get the blood off those blinds.
Did you ever have one of those dreams? You know... where you want to remember it because it was so strange yet so real and you got so involved in it that you wanted to know how it turns out? And you wanted to know so badly that you tried to go back into the dream after waking up?
Well, obviously I had one of those last night or I wouldn't be writing this. The details are fuzzy, as they always are even minutes after you wake up, but I was involved in some kind of a get-rich-quick scheme with guy who looked vaguely like Donald Trump. The scheme and Trump-lite didn't seem all that important. It was the journey.
What journey? Why the one I take through the strange Kansas City like landscape trying to find my way back to the hotel (whose name I didn't know even in the dream) after inexplicably getting lost. I say "inexplicably" because I like that word, not because it is important to my getting lost. After all, this is a dream and everything about such dreams is pretty much inexplicable.
My weird journey dreams always seem to hit me when I am sick and feverish. I am neither of those today nor was I either of them last night. Maybe that is why the dream bothers me so much. Does it portend some bout of disease I am about to suffer? Am I unknowingly suffering some dread disease? Or was there something not quite right about the swordfish steak I had for dinner last night? Or the Cuban sandwich for breakfast?
I don't think I should worry. After all, I did find my way back... just before I woke up.
My name is Douglasand I am an acrophobic. It has affected my life in many ways, mostly bad. But I didn't start out that way, I sort of grew into it.
Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort that share both similar etiology and options for treatment.
I do not know why it is described as "irrational"... What is irrational about the fear of falling to a horrible death? Irrational is being blissfully unaware of this potential fate.
I inherited this. My mother was an extreme acrophobic. She couldn't step one step up a ladder without going a bit pale and becoming shaky. She once revealed to me that the only time she ever overcame her fear of heights was a night, as a young woman, she got "drunk as a skunk" and found herself halfway up a telephone pole. At which point she froze and had to be helped down. I thought this was funny. Then. After all, I was a mere child when she told me this and I spent half my daylight hours up in the elm tree in the front of our yard. Or up on the hill near our house overlooking the town. Or looking out my window on the second floor of the house.
I had no problems with heights as a child. Even into my early teens. I climbed atop things, sat on the edge of bridges and tall buildings, dreamed of flying. I climbed on, and jumped off, the roof of our house any number of times. Even after joining the Navy at 19, I had no real problems with heights. At sea, or in port, I felt no concerns in the higher reaches of the ship, leaning over the rails.
It started later. In my twenties. I began to get dizzy when working on ladders. I became unsure of my footing. I clung tighter, my fingers aching from holding on after a short period. And, in my job with the phone company, I had considerable occasion to climb a ladder. And sit on something called a "ladder seat", a wooden (or metal) contraption that fit between two steps on a ladder so you could sit while you worked for any length of time.
The seats were shaky since the ladders themselves were shaky. The ladders, you see, were rolling ladders. On wheels and attached to a "trolley", they could be rolled along the 15 foot high frame. Standing while working, my toes would cramp up from trying to curl around the steps I stood on. I often wished for the talons of birds to replace those toes.
As I age, the fear has grown worse. I cannot watch movies, or even still pictures, of heights without my feet tingling and a bit of dizziness creeping into my brain. I dread climbing a few steps up a ladder to clean out the gutters of my home. I tremble at the thought of climbing onto my roof for any reason.
I sometimes feel it, twitching there in the back of my brain, while watching the screen when playing Combat Flight Simulator.
Ok, there isn't a song by the Mamas and the Papas (or anyone else) about Tuesdays. Nobody much cares about Tuesdays. Unless it's an election day. Why is Monday so special? Or Friday? Why not Tuesday?
Monday has a couple of songs about it. Friday is heralded for closing out the week. Even Wednesday has some significance as "Hump Day". I am assuming, for propriety's sake, that this refers to getting over the hump, or mid-point, of the work week and has no sexual connotations. Thursday was always important to me because that was when the phone company gave me my paycheck and, later, deposited my pay in my account. I loved direct deposit, still do. Who knows how much trouble I could get into having a significant amount of cash in my pocket? Much better that I barely have enough to buy myself a beer than the means to treat everyone at the bar... But I digress.
Tuesdays are days I do not play golf now. Also Thursdays but that isn't the title of this post and I refuse to get off topic... too much. I schedule various things for Tuesdays; doctor's appointments, auto repairs or maintenance, shopping jaunts, library visits, naps (well, these are actually done daily), and so on.
Today I went to the dealer for service on Faye's car. It's a Buick. And we intend to drive it to San Diego next month. Mostly because it has about the third of the mileage my car has. So it was a good time to get the oil changed, the car lubed, and the tires rotated. I thought all tires rotated automatically as the car moved, how else would the car move? But I guess they mean something else.
I dislike service visits. They always try to sell you something else. And the waiting rooms leave a lot to be desired. There's free coffee, of course. Not that it is good coffee. I suspect they make it on Saturdays after they close and store it for use the following week. My dealership doesn't provide donuts or other snacks but they have an overpriced vending machine with very stale treats. The seats are ones I would have rejected for a dinette set.
And then there's a TV. They didn't scrimp on that. It's a 42" plasma. I think it's a leftover for when the dealership was solely a Cadillac store. Across the street at old Buick place, pre-consolidation, they had a wonderful 19" tube type with a tuner dial. I think the snow was to make the snowbirds feel at home.
The problem with the big 42" plasma is what is on it. I do not watch morning TV. I might toss on the news if I noticed something of vital interest might be on but I do not watch the weekday morning talk shows. But I cannot avoid that on the days I take one of the cars in for service. Regis and Kelly makes me wonder about the sanity of the general population.
I bring a book. Any book. And I long for a nearby cafe.
Monday Monday, can't trust that day, Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be Oh Monday Monday, how you could leave and not take me.
[Mamas and Papas... 1967]
Mondays are problem days for me. First, it is the only one of three golf days which require I wake up before dawn. It is, therefore, the only day of the week where I must do that. I did not retire in order to be up and about before... say... 9 AM. Even before retirement I worked the Midnight to 8Am shift in order to avoid having to wake up to an alarm clock.
I am not a morning person. Unless I am still up from the night before. No, wait... not even then.
I know that from experience.
And so I played golf a tad more poorly than I had hoped.
And Sunday was not a great day either. I went to the flea market (being low on fleas of late) and found it almost deserted. I went to my favorite bookstore (Linda's Used Books) and found it closed thereby allowing me to procrastinate further on my plan to study up on HTML. Which left me unhappy and morose even before visiting my least favorite sister to work on her computer.
My sister is not a bad person. But she should not be allowed to own a computer. I get a call every now and then to come over and help her straighten it out or find some allegedly lost data. I always find a series of problems causing the machine to run slower than a turtle in molasses after determining that there is no lost data. An hour's visit then lasts 3 to 4.
I finally get myself out of there, picking up a pizza with which to properly watch a football game along the way. And what happens? Faye's beloved Chargers lose in an almost fiasco.
It was pretty quiet after that.
Even the premiere of "24" later that evening could not improve the mood.
It is difficult to explain all the things that California is, much less how it has come to its present state of affairs, in a single article. It is extremely difficult to explain it to someone who has never lived there for any length of time. Taking a vacation somewhere gives you a glimpse of something, reading articles about a place only gives you the impression of the writer (or what the writer intends for you to grasp) of the place.
I went to California in November of 1965, a new recruit of the US Navy. I was 19 years old, beginning my adult life, my 4 year enlistment cutting off any retreat to the security of my home. I saw myself as a Floridian, a rival state of California. The two states compete for tourist dollars, in some agriculture (citrus mostly), and for growth in population. We both tout our beaches, our climates, our entertainment, our lifestyles.
I was excited and fearful. Change like this almost always provides a dichotomy of emotion. Especially for me. It must be something I enjoy, that conflicting emotion because I have moved often in my life. As a nascent surfer, I had two places that loomed large in my imagination: California and Hawaii. Hawaii was almost imaginary, almost Utopian and unreal. California was there, real, solid (more or less... since they have earthquakes), attainable.
San Diego boot camp was my only demand from the Navy. I insisted on it as a condition of enlistment. I had no desire to go to Michigan in November, I knew what northern state winters were like. I had no idea that I wouldn't get near a beach in San Diego for 4 months. Nor that the weather would be so unlike the image I had in my head.
The make up of the company in boot camp was over 50% Californian. Most of those were southern Californians, predominantly from the Los Angeles area. California is really two primary states; southern California and northern California. It is actually more than two and the "northern" part is really the "middle". There are no borders and these divisions are subject to perspective and imagination.
Inside the two main divisions, are two city-states; San Francisco and Los Angeles. Each represents a certain life-style, a certain personality and view of life. And they also represent the two faces California most often presents as its image.
Southern Californians are blond, healthy, tanned, and always smiling. None of which is true. But that's the image. It is such a strong image that I once described my own son and his friends as "California Clones". And, of course, he and his friends were mostly blond, healthy, tanned, and smiling at that time.
Northern Californians were quirky, smarter, and paler. Tans, it seemed, were harder to come by.
Southern Californians were more arrogant. Northern more friendly.
Since most of the 20 years I spent in California were in southern California, I know it a little better and it more represents My California.
California seemed to want to be everything to everybody. Everything good, that is. It attracted people like some kind of biological magnet. And it provided for them. In southern California freeways, huge concrete ribbons going seemingly everywhere, spawned and encouraged a car oriented culture. And they seemed to ride above the city (actually, even Los Angeles is a complex of cities with hardly noticed borders) with off-ramps dropping down into little communities that had their own, often ethnic, flavor; Mexican, African-American, Asian, white suburbanite (a distinctly different suburbanite than you might find in New York, Ohio, or Kansas), all separated by the freeways that rode on earthen walls between them.
California catered to the influx by building. More freeways, more houses, more businesses, definitely more fast food places, more entertainment, all greeting more and more people. Welcome to the Promised Land!
And it is a monument to the fact that growth cannot continue forever, to be paid for by more growth and and future generations. The bill, it seems, has come due. That beautiful starlet has moved past middle age and the make-up and botox cannot hide the signs of a life spent in the fast lane.
I was thinking about winter just yesterday. Winter in Florida comes in fits and starts. It pops in and out as "cold snaps", a short period of relatively intense cold flanked by warm weeks. Usually. But I started life in a small town on Long Island where winter rolled in and set up camp for months. And I didn't much like that time of the year which seemed to stretch out endlessly. Drab and dreary and cold. Damp and barren and cold. Even sunny days seemed cold and brittle. I would lie on the hard, crisp lawn on those days and try to absorb the suns warmth.
But I was fortunate, my parents moved us to Florida; to the south end of it. And I loved it. The first year I don't think I wore anything heavier than a light jacket or sweater during those snaps. The years after that, I did. You get acclimatized. People say, "your blood thins." Which is unlikely but makes the point.
The Mamas and the Papas had a song, a big hit, called California Dreamin' back in 1965 or `66. It was a little depressing. I first went to California in 1965, in November. It was not warm, not to this (now) Florida boy, it was cold. And gray. And rainy and foggy. And even when the sun was out, it was like those days on Long Island.
I would spend almost 20 years mostly in California (cruises to the Gulf of Tonkin and a year back in Florida interrupting) and developed a different image of the state.
California is, to me, a place you could stand on a hillside overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, an endless black expanse under gray skies. It is that image which sticks with me. Especially when I think of winter there. The beaches were near empty during mid-winter, the air cold, the water freezing.
In the end, California wasn't sunshine and sandy beaches to me.
Over on Andreas' The Hannibal Blog there's a debate about what to do about cellphoning and texting while driving. One would think there wouldn't be much debate but since we stopped pilloring in this country sometime ago, what can actually be done that might be effective?
Andreas' idea is to use shame (remember shame, the idea that we should feel bad about what we do?) by taking pictures of people, and their license plates, committing acts of folly and danger while using a cellphone in a car and posting them on a blog.
I think we need to bring back the Pillory myself but then I have always been old-fashioned. It's great fun (at someone else's expense), good exercise (what with that throwing of rotten fruit and veggies), and a reason the community to get together. But, alas (and probably alack), we have become more civilized and no longer do such things. And, since public hangings are no longer a regular event, there is not much for the local mob to do on a Saturday night. We are left with TV.
We have also gotten deeply into the self-esteem thing. Can't have anyone feeling they are not entirely justified in hogging the road and paying no attention to pedestrians and such. Why, we'd bruise their egos! Can't have that! We might stifle creativity or impede on their right to be rather stupid. We try very hard to raise the self-esteem of our children, the idea being that this will help prevent them from becoming criminals and miscreants. Very enlightened, don't you think? Certainly has reduced the crime rates and bullying since its inception in the 50's, don't you think?
I think that last paragraph reeks of sarcasm and pompousness. My bad.
My only concern is that we have become such a litigious society (world, actually) that any attempts at shaming people could become quite expensive. The lawsuits may be found to be without merit but they could still be quite expensive to deal with.
Personally, I don't text. I hardly use my cell phone. I only have it for emergencies and rarely turn it on except for important and urgent things like calling Faye to tell her I will be even later than I thought returning from the golf course. To be honest, I hate the darn things. But, then, I hated telephones that were wired to the wall. Demanding little things.
"Pick me up!" (ring, ring) "Hurry!" (ring, ring) "It might be important!" (ring, ring) "Drop whatever you are doing and pick me up!!" (ring, ring)
And we always have. Dropped whatever we were doing and dashed to the phone. Or picked it up off the nightstand. Or fretted because, well, we were in the bathroom and, uh, "busy" at the moment and couldn't get to the phone in time.
Yes, I think of them as electronic Slave-masters that have bent us to their will. Even though I spent 34 years working in the industry, supporting their evil control over us all. I feel I was one of Satan's Minions. And I am ashamed... except when I get my pension check each month.
Sometimes, when I wax nostalgic, I recall a time before answering machines and even cordless phones. I remember a time where we might be out of touch with anyone not within a few feet of us for hours at a time. And, somehow, we survived. The sky remained above our heads, our fortunes weren't lost, friends remained friends, and life continued. I think. At least I thought it did.
I awoke this morning to yet another lightly frosted vista of my lawn. The little temperature gadget thingie on my desktop tells me it is 32F. Lawns throughout my neighborhood are no longer that perennial green we are accustomed to down here in the sub-tropics. Lawns are beige, trees are aflame with multi-colored (and dead) leaves. Well, not the palm trees, of course, who appear to shiver in the cold north wind... as do I and many others here.
Faye and Frances wrap themselves up in sweat pants and shirts and robes and wrap thick woolen scarves around their heads to sit outside and smoke (they voluntarily do not smoke inside this house and I am grateful).
We even kidnapped the lizard who lives on our back porch, Chester, and kept him in a Tupperware container on the kitchen counter for two nights and days. We had to protect the poor thing. I had to pry him off the wall (he bit me during this struggle but I persevered) where he had attached himself as he slid into a possibly lethal lethargic state. I placed him into the Tupperware, covered it with a metal piece with holes in it from a steamer so he would have air to breathe, dribbled in some V-8 juice in case he needed sustenance, and kept him comfortable.
You see, we didn't think he would survive the temps in the low 20's we were promised.
He seemed ungrateful. He eyed us warily. As if we intended to do him great harm, or barbecue him for our dinner. Still, we knew our intentions.
Faye kept wanting to put him back outside and made several suggestions about how we might. She also kept pronouncing hum "possibly dead" because he failed to move in front of her. I think she was afraid he would somehow shove the metal cover off (weighted down by a ceramic coffee cup) and attack her while she slept. So I encouraged visions of being slowly eaten to death by a 3" lizard as a form of humor and mirth.
But yesterday, about noon, I took him back outside and placed him on the leaves of the pineapple plant (which has yet to produce a pineapple) he seems to love. He didn't want to leave the Tupperware container. Even bit me again when I tried to coax him to get on the leaf. Ungrateful little wretch!
The worst of the cold seems over for now. We are promised days steadily climbing into the 7o's for the next couple of weeks. But still, there will be more.
The Evil Canadians are behind this. They do this each year. First, they send down hordes of their citizens to fill our restaurants and Wal-Marts, hogging the best tables and parking spots and then they send those cold air masses behind them.
I just realized I have not posted yet today. I have my reasons. No, that's not true. I have my excuses. Lame ones, of course, as most excuses are. So I will not bother insulting your intelligence with them or boring you with their banality.
The truth is that I have spent the day avoiding posting anything. Subconsciously. Consciously, I thought I was busy going around leaving insightful, yet somehow insipid, comments on other blogs. And then I had a medical appointment to go to.
The medical appointment was for a test. The test was regarding a vertigo problem I have been experiencing for a few years. The question is what is causing it and the test was supposed to help determine this. Indications are that it is related to my inner ear on the right side. It is that ear which has a hearing loss and intermittent tinnitus resulting, I think, from damage incurred while in the Navy. They had very big guns on the ship on which I served and it is not a smart thing to do to stand in a hatchway when one is fired. The air pressure on one side is immediately lower than the other creating a concussion effect. And leaves the ear ringing for, in my case, a few days. Coupled with some small arms firing I engaged in a few days prior to that, I was left with some hearing loss.
The test was not completed because the technician did not have sufficient electrodes to perform it. Instead, we mostly discussed UFO's. From space. Alien craft. Which she thinks visit us from time to time. I am, shall we say, a bit skeptical of that?
You would think that I would come home, realize I had not posted anything and develop something from that theme. You would. I would. But I didn't. Instead, I played solitaire games, surfed the web, and left dumb comments
And that's my excuse. Or you could just accept the following:
If you recall in TV or not TV, I complained about the treatment I got from a certain TV and electronics manufacturer and their practices regarding defective equipment. Well, I am not complaining about that today.
No, I have a different complaint. Not exactly a complaint, more like bit of commentary about the expectations of people and misleading statements by alleged experts. Since I am an alleged expert on various things, I feel very qualified to pontificate on this particular subject.
Warranties and replacement parts and so on...
In the about to be mentioned Consumer Alert column from the Boston Globe, the alleged expert is discussing warranties and expectations. Let me quote something from the column, something that I am about to do some commentating on...
It is probably more common than not these days to find warranties that allow the manufacturer to replace a defective unit under warranty with either a new one or a refurbished one. Is it really fair that the new, but defective, electronic equipment you purchased gets replaced with a repaired one that died in someone else’s house? Not really. Is it legal? If those are the terms you agreed to, yes.
You see, I am a bit pedantic. If you hadn't figured that out by now, you haven't been reading this blog. Especially this particular post No Way!. But I will forgive you for not being an avid reader, there aren't many.
To get back to my point here. The very fact that you have a device of some sort means it is used. You do not have a "new, but defective" piece of a equipment unless you brought it home, unpacked it, plugged it in and it immediately failed in some way. At which point, I would return it to the store and get my money back or a replacement off the shelf. If you have used the stated piece of equipment for any length of time, it is then (by definition) "used" and no longer "new." The manufacturer has every right (and it will undoubtedly say so in the warranty) to replace it with a refurbished device (or repair it) at his discretion. You are merely getting an allegedly repaired used unit in place of your defective used unit. There is nothing unfair about this. It is actually quite logical.
And, to be honest, nobody actually reads a warranty until something breaks, do they?
About the only thing I will consider being unfair is warranties that require you to return said broken piece of item to the manufacturer (at your own expense) rather than take it back to the store from which it was purchased.
This, of course, does not apply to this blog. If you find this post defective in any way, please try to remember that I have made no warranty (stated or implied) that you would find it to be otherwise. I will not replace it nor will I repair it.
On the other hand, if you find anything (except the blogger) defective or not working on this blog, please inform me of said defect and I will endeavor to correct the problem. Assuming I am capable of doing so. As stated above, this does not extend to content of any post.
I have some things to do today so I will keep this short (I hope... I never know once I start).
My sister-in-law, Frances, comes to me all worried this morning because she saw a piece on the local* TV station about a virus that will destroy your computer and make you pay. The news piece was both vague and threatening. It didn't actually name the virus nor tell you exactly how to deal with it, though an alleged expert offered the name of one free anti-virus program in passing at the end. Oh, the virus in question turns out to be the "Anti-virus XP Rogue" and it is fairly easy to avoid.
I don't worry about computer viruses too much. Most of them are easy to avoid with a little common sense. In my most paranoid frame of mind, I suspect them of being written and spread by anti-virus programmers to keep a steady run of clientele. But people do get hit with them and I am sympathetic. I have been most fortunate in that I have avoided most every threat there is to date.
I have been fortunate because I live in a constant state of mild paranoia and suspicion. I do not trust anything I see or read, I do not open any file attached to an email unless I know for absolutely sure that it is legitimate. I know what web sites and services I belong to. And, even when I get messages from them, I am wary.
Last night, while I was watching my DVR'd recording of John Stossel's (and, no, he wasn't fired) latest show on Fox Business News. Fascinating stuff regarding Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged which would be followed by watching a really good 2 hour report on 9/11 conspiracies on the History Channel. But I digress... when Faye walks in and tells me (in a very worried voice) "I think someone is trying to upload a virus to my computer."
So, I hit pause and and follow her back to find that her virus checker had already isolated the offending file and locked it away in the "vault". It seems she was sent an email claiming to be from MySpace and saying something about a password and she should use the attached file to correct the problem.
No big deal. First, she doesn't have an account on MySpace. Second, if she was and there was a password problem, they wouldn't send you anything to "fix" it, they'd might notify you but that is all. And, of course, her AVG Free scans all incoming mail for these things and quickly deals with them.
But it points out one simple thing: You cannot get a computer virus without your complicity. You have to execute a program, you have to "permit" it to get onto your system. In this case, it was disguised as a .ZIP file or was inside the .ZIP file. In any case, you would have to do something a little foolish (to my paranoid and suspicious mind) in order to be infected.
The same thing with the virus that worried Frances.
So, between using a decent virus protection program of known reputation (and I highly recommend AVG Free) and maintaining a reasonable level of paranoia and suspicion, you are quite safe from contamination.
I was commenting on some other blog, one much more entertaining than my own, when I realized I had not made any effort whatsoever toward posting something today. Some might say I make little to no effort on any day but they would fall in my enemies category or be relatives. Or maybe maybe just sarcastic friends. Who can tell these days?
But I have decided to ramble. Because that is how my mind works. A bit like a gnat buzzing around not quite sure where to land (though they often find their way into my ear, oddly enough).
One of the other things I hadn't gotten around to this morning was brushing my teeth. While doing that, I was reminded of forgetting things which led me to something else... the routines we develop. Get out of bed, scratch, go pee, brush teeth, get some clothes on (this may precede the teeth thing on colder mornings... such as today), get coffee, drink coffee, get more coffee, play various solitaire games on the computer, read some blogs, write something incredibly clever and post the dull and boring thing, play more solitaire games and so on. This pondering of routines reminded me of an advertisement on the radio:
Men, do you have trouble urinating? Do you wake up at night to urinate?
... at this point in the commercial, my mind starts wandering off into answers...
No, I don't bother to wake up.
And I am blissfully unaware of the details of the rest of the commercial which is selling some allegedly natural solution to all your prostate issues. Well, all of men's prostate issues because it seems that women do not have one of these.
We have a lot of these commercials. Not about prostate issues but about natural cures for various ills. We used to use almost all natural products for curing and alleviating ills, you know. Before we discovered test tubes and microscopes, that is. Some people think we should go back to the old ways, to those natural remedies.
I am not so sure. They seem to be more expensive than the newer stuff and aren't covered by most health insurance plans. And they never seem to work for me anyway. I'm not alone either. I just read the other day that Ginko Biloba turned out to not do anything to prevent the dementia I just know I am going to have. The good news is that it doesn't seem to do any harm... except to your wallet, I suppose.
Well, you see how I ramble and now I need to get prone again... as in lie down. Perhaps to nap.
I was watching the TV yesterday, it being what I often do in the early evening (and later evening, for that matter), and I came across an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like Star Trek:TNG (as we like to refer to it), it was a much better version than the original in so many ways. The special effects were better, of course. The acting was superior. The sets were less cheesy. All in all, it was a better show. Proven by the fact that it lasted almost twice as long as the original series.
It took me a season or two to get to like it. The first season seemed to be mostly a flashier version of the original, just updated FX; same old stories and themes, stilted acting, and shallow characters. But it changed and grew and greatly improved.
Anyway, the episode I watched was called "The Masterpiece Society" (Fifth season, 13th episode) and it naturally got me to thinking.
The episode involved a possible destruction of previously unknown colony on a planet thought to be uninhabited. The colony was originally set up to be someone's idea of a perfect ordered society. The people were all genetically designed to fit within the society. Not by gene manipulation but by selective breeding, it is hinted. The exact method, or methods, are not explained because they aren't essential to the story. What is essential is the concept of a perfectly ordered society where everyone is perfectly suited to the position they were intended to have in the society.
Now, I saw no janitors, plumbers, mechanics, maids, cooks, or any of the rest of the people who fill those absolutely necessary but mostly ignored jobs which every society has and needs in order to function. These stories always wrap around the elite, the leaders, of a society and never mention the farmers who provide all the food which overflows the tables in the palaces, do they?
Come to think of it, we rarely see those people in any story about the greatness of any civilization.
That's ok, it's the vision of harmony and paradise that we are supposed to be seeing and which will be threatened. And it was. Threatened, that is. First by a catastrophic event which would damage their biosphere beyond repair and kill them all and then by the tainting of the society by the freedom of will embodied by the crew of the Enterprise. In the end, some leave the "perfect society."
Seems that paradise is only paradise if you don't know you could have choices. And that maybe human beings were never meant to live in paradise. That paradise is just an illusion, something to strive for. Something we really wouldn't want if we actually attained it.
But there was a hidden story, a lesson, underneath the obvious one. That people would think they were happy and fulfilled as long as no one showed them another way.
And wasn't that the real meaning of the Biblical story of Eden?
As I look out my back window this morning... No, I don't really have a back window and that certainly isn't what I would see if I did have one and then looked out of it. I live in Florida! We don't have that kind of winter.
But today feels like it it should look like that. The little temperature gadget thingie on my desk top says it is currently 37 degrees Fahrenheit here in Sebring. I am seriously contemplating dashing off a complaint to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. This should not be allowed!
I am no longer capable of handling this thing called "winter." I do not know how you people do it. Well, that's not true. I do know. I have resided in colder climates. I spent the first 9 years of my life in New York, I spent almost 2 years in northern Virginia (where they denied that it ever snowed that much, really, even though it did... most every year). I realize that isn't Maine or Minnesota or Winnipeg or Siberia. But still...
I do not like days where it isn't possible to go out and play golf in short sleeve shirts (we call them "polo shirts" but I never see anyone playing polo in them). And it is sunny outside! Which seems such a waste.
And I look at the forecast for the next 10 days or so and I see no hope. But I keep looking. Because I have to believe it is all a big mistake, that tomorrow will be in the 70's, that it was just a joke... this cold snap that is lingering well beyond what is culturally acceptable in these parts.
And the worse part is the 70 degrees or so inside the house seems so much colder when the outside temp is low. I sit here in my sweat pants and sweat shirt and socks while I shiver and my nose runs.
I take solace in the fact that this cannot last the months it does in more northern areas, that this will pass soon. In a matter of days.
I was perusing some of the sites over there, on the right, and popped in on[daily dose of imagery] which a pretty amazing blog. Normally, it is a single photo. On occasion, there may be two or more. Today's had a video along with a still shot. The video was a collection of still shots to create a time lapse video. Watching that video lead me to other videos the blog author, Sam Javanrouh, had made. And I glanced through some of these. The one I have embedded here reminded me of a movie I once saw, called Koyaanisqatsi, which I enjoyed but seemed to put my date to sleep.
Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi word meaning, roughly, "life out of balance." But I saw it (the movie and life) more as an intricate ballet. All of these seemingly crazy movements are all choreographed so that they fit together. You want "out of balance?" Imagine the power grid shutting down about halfway through the video. There is a rhythm to life, even the mechanical life we create around us. The delicate meshing of gears that must be precise, the ebb and flow of traffic through a busy intersection, the delicate balance between slow and fast movements of the participants. Order out of seeming chaos.
There is a series starting tomorrow (1/5/10) on the History Channel called Life After People. It's an interesting look at what will happen after people are gone from the face of the Earth. While watching the previous (this is a new series based on an older one) incarnation of the series, I couldn't help thinking "But if no one is there, what difference does this make?" You see, the tales are told as if you are observing it happen but there would be no human observing. But I digress... the point is that we are an intricate part of life on this planet. And it is a delicate, graceful, and beautiful ballet.
So, here I am perusing the news and reading this interesting article about a little hole in the moon (213 feet across, 262-289 feet deep) where colonizing visitors might hang out in their off hours when I notice a small headline/link at the bottom of the article...
"Curious", says I (to myself... because my out loud mumblings often disturb Faye), "I wonder what that means?"
You see, I have this question that floats about in the empty space between my ears (and occasionally bangs into my cranium causing a severe headache) about what might happen if the earth's magnetic field reversed itself. You want a disaster movie? Try flipping the magnetic poles... especially with a collapse of the magnetic field in between and then toss in a solar storm about the same time.
Anyway, I learn that magnetic North (the direction your average compass points toward) is leaving somewhere near Canada for Siberia. What? You didn't know it was not pointing at True North (you know, where Santa has his workshop and all)? Doesn't matter as much these days with all the satellite driven GPS thingies we use. These modern devices obviate the need for what are called "magnetic-field maps" which have to be updated regularly because the field is a bit shifty and magnetic North moves a bit. Well, relatively recently, anyway.
It was fairly stable for some time and then scientists in 1904 noticed it had started moving in a northeastward direction at about 9 miles per year (15 km for you foreigners). Then someone put the old radar gun on it in 2007 and realized it had sped up to almost 37 miles per year. And now? Oh, it's pressed the pedal down further now and it is up to 40 miles per year. And I still don't understand how moving northeast from Canada is heading toward Siberia... but I digress.
There's a bit of stuff about the Earth's core and how it creates the magnetic field and all. And, while I am nodding my head in agreement whilst saying "yes, yes, I understand all that" (internally, of course, so as not to disturb Faye should she glance over at me), I glance to my left and see this little headline/link...
Oh, that's right, just throw out everything I've known to be true for the last 50 or so years. Of course, it is just theory and it is being derided by all those established scientists who had all reached a firm consensus about it not being the ocean movement and all. But still...
To get back to my main concern... the flipping of the magnetic poles... We don't have to worry about where North is because we use satellite positioning equipment now. Except that a flip in the poles is likely to mean a period where the magnetic field is weakened enough (or gone) and that will allow the solar winds to get through and disrupt satellites which, in turn, could foul up that GPS stuff we have become so dependent upon.
Not to mention how this might affect the migrating habits of various birds.
Is Al Gore paying attention to any of this?
If my GPS unit breaks down, how will I know how far the hole is on the golf course? I can't afford to hire a caddy... I just gotta stop perusing or I'll have to increase my visits to my therapist.
What is this celebration all about? Really. I mean, it is simply a day like any other. It was arbitrarily selected as the beginning of a year mostly by Roman Empire for a calendar they devised. Somewhere around 153 BC, it was moved up from March 1st. Of course, that was a different calendar than we use today, isn't it? Still, it gained popularity even after Roman culture began its decline (one which took several hundred years).
Time is an odd thing about which humans seem to obsess. The concept of a year was well established (even if its form was not agreed upon) well before we knew it marked the complete orbit of the sun by our planet. And it is not even accurate since we have to add a day at four year intervals to "reset" it. It might be more accurate to say 2010 begins (or began, depending on when and from where you are reading this) at noon today.
And all it really means is that we now have to remember to write "2010" on stationary and checks... something which many of us will forget to do for at least a month or more.
However, in keeping with the spirit of the event, I offer a simple puzzle...