Tuesday, July 27, 2010

philosophizing

Over the weekend we saw a most excellent movie: Inception. Intelligently made, thought-provoking, and NOT an excuse to have a bunch of special effects parade across the screen (although this had them in abundance).

In case you don't know what the movie is about (usually I am the last to know or I don't ever know), it's about dreams. The subject of dreams and time travel are two of my favorite things to mull over in my mind and get confused about.

Last night I watched an episode of the original Outer Limits, this particular one a precursor to the Terminator series. An earthling from the future goes back into the past to stop an act that ruined mankind. He was successful, but as he went back to the future he disappeared because he was traveling to a world into which he'd never been born.

What if people were able to travel through time, from the future to the past, and change events and thus alter history?

The thing is, where would it stop? Because for every event that was changed, someone else would travel back to unchange it. You'd have people zipping back and forth through time constantly altering events and creating a topsy turvy existence.

Let's say this is going on right now. That means that your perception of reality, everything you know about the world and its history, is ever-changing because someone from the future has come back to change it. Except you are unaware of this. You are unaware because each conscious moment you experience is based on a history that keeps changing.

And suppose some action done by a visitor from the future directly affects an event that prevents you from being born, or causes you to be rubbed out earlier in your life? Then poof, you are not even here any more. But how would you even know that? You'd be gone like the snap of a finger.

Luckily that hasn't happened yet and here you are, but just think, every single thing you know is the result of people from the future changing your past and since they are going back and forth all the time, your past keeps changing.

Of course, with all these changes going on, that affects everything in the future so perhaps some of these time travelers fiddle themselves right out of existence.

Or, perhaps they need to come back here and fiddle with time in order to create their existence. Had they not traveled back in time, they wouldn't have existed.

Just something to tangle up your brain for the day..

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm still standing

Well it's been a few days since I made my last post and given its depressing nature I thought maybe I ought to just let you know I haven't committed suicide or anything like that, haha.. I'm still here.

The way I look at it, it is what it is. No country or person is invulnerable and no country is going to last forever. There is only one Kingdom that will prevail and will last for eternity and that's enough to give me peace of mind.

So.. last Tuesday we saw the final stop of the Carole King / James Taylor tour, at the Honda Center in Anaheim. This sort of completes a circle - the very first rock/pop concert I saw was 39 years ago in March of 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was headlined by James Taylor, with Carole King and Jo Mama as the supporting acts.

Carole King was ill that evening and only played a few songs. Now 39 years later I had the privilege of hearing her and James Taylor again. Jo Mama is defunct but their guitarist, Danny Kortchmar, is still around and he was on stage Tuesday along with Russ Kunkel and Leland Sklar. What a group of amazingly talented musicians!

While both JT and Carole King were great, I have to say Ms. King really shone. She exudes such joy in everything she does - such a totally uplifting person! You can't help but catch it from her - her enthusiasm is so contagious. The two of them are like old friends and I'm so glad for the opportunity to have heard them once again the other night.

You know, way back in the 70's, Amy and I were at J-Town and we saw Ms. King eating by herself at the counter of a sushi bar. My big regret is not bothering her for her autograph. I don't like bothering people but she is so special that this would have been the time to make an exception!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

History repeats itself

If you don't want to be depressed, then don't read today's blog because it's a downer.

Yesterday I wrote about how, because of feelings of mass euphoria or mass depression, people start talking about how "this time it's different," but it really isn't. History repeats itself. Not exactly the same way each time, of course, but it does to a degree where you can say you've seen it before. And you'll see it again.

The downer part of my post is just something that I think about now and then, and that is, the same thing is going to happen to the good old U.S. of A. One of these days, our country will no longer exist.

Every great civilization thought it would continue forever, and every great civilization has gone down the tubes. Sure, some have reincarnated themselves, but it is not the same civilization as it was before; they went through some very dark days and were conquered by other nations.

The same is going to happen to us.

This isn't some dire warning or my standing on the street corner shouting at people, this is simply my observation that no country can last forever. I am not sure what will bring us down - could be our own stupidity. Could be our economy just falls apart and the increasing amount of foreign ownership becomes too heavy and we collapse. Could be a number of things, but with the way everything is becoming increasingly global these days, we can't set ourselves apart as the most powerful nation on earth who doesn't need help from anyone else.

Alliances change, circumstances change, and sooner or later what happened to other great civilizations will happen here. I hope it is later rather than sooner, of course, since I surely don't want my kids or their kids or others down the line to suffer because of it, but I feel it is inevitable. History just repeats itself. There's too many people and countries out there gunning for us and too many stupid things we do in this country to weaken ourselves. Complacency sets in, or maybe arrogance does, or a combination of both, or whatever.. things happen.

Okay, that was the depressing thought for the day. Now you can go back to work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This time it's different

I started reading a book called When Pigs Go To Market, about the virtues of long term investing in the stock market as told through characters in a story.

It was written in 1999, presumably right before the dot com bust brought down the market.

I found it pretty interesting when the main characters have a conversation, with the expert explaining how this time, the market is different. That is, while there will still be ups and downs, it will not be like before but rather, the downs will not be so bad and the market will keep going up and up.

Another character plays devils advocate and reminds the expert how history repeats itself and each time the market has hit new highs, including back before the great depression, people were saying "this time it is different," i.e., the market is going to keep going higher and higher. She reminds him of the verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes that says whatever is has come before, and there is nothing new under the sun.

The expert acknowledges this, but then goes on to list a bunch of factors as to why this time it will indeed be different.

Of course, reading this in hindsight, we all know that it was NOT different, and history DID repeat itself.

Now, I am not saying the market will not eventually hit new highs. In fact, I believe it will, and sooner, rather than later (that is, within 3-10 years, not 20-30 or never, as some feel). If you look at a long-term graph, it will continue to trend upwards. But it is still going to look like a roller coaster, because history repeats itself.

People felt that real estate was going to keep going up and up in value. For a while it seemed like they were right, but.. it ran out of gas and so that time was no different before. History again repeated itself.

The way I look at it, this is good and bad. Good, because the market is going to hit new highs, just like it has done in the past. Bad, because there are also going to be bad times when it swings downward. You just have to immunize yourself from thinking that when the market hits the new high, that this time it is different and it is going to keep going up and up. And, when it bottoms out you have to remember that history repeats itself and it's going to swing back up. It will be no different than before.

That's all.. just felt I had to put in my two cents after reading that part of the book today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

60

I don't know what took me so long to buy it.. well, actually I do. I was waiting for the price to come down (which it didn't) and also, I was thinking the songs would be subject to new arrangements or theatrics or things to be cute. But finally after reading the reviews and looking at the set list, I purchased Elton John's 60th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, on Blu Ray.

Better late than never! What a great concert! The video and audio quality are superb, too. It's like sitting just a few rows back from the stage right in the middle; they got the acoustics just right.

Most of the songs are from his earlier albums, which matches my interest, which tailed off after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and after he and Bernie Taupin split up. The old songs are the best, and his arrangements don't stray very far from the originals, either. John's voice is lower; what I missed was the high notes in his vocals to punctuate certain parts of his songs, but that's okay, the melodies were there and untampered with. Cute stuff like letting the audience sing was at a bare minimum, thankfully. That's one thing I hate about concerts: when the audience is invited to participate and sing the lyrics in place of the performer. I don't want to hear some drunken fool or tone-deaf admirer in place of the person I paid money to see.

I know this came out nearly three years ago and I'm behind the times but I was so happy I wanted to write about it. I sat there smiling and of course even though he was in bytes and pieces on the disc, I wanted to give him a big thank you for being around so long and being so talented. Everything about the concert was superb.

Like the Carol King / James Taylor reunion concert at the Troubadour, this was another part of the soundtrack from my life. I was wowed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life

This morning when I stepped in the shower I noticed a Daddy Long Legs had taken up residence on one end. I pondered what to do about it. Normally I just leave spiders alone (black widows excluded) since they dispose of insect pests, but then I didn't want to be taking a shower and then feel something crawling up my leg.

I decided I would just leave it alone and if it got washed away so be it and if not, so be that, too.

Then I got to thinking about how you can categorize people based on the way they perceive "bugs."

There are those who automatically just stomp on any bug without giving any sort of consideration or thought; it's just something to be stepped on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who refuse to kill a bug because it is a living creature. Either they leave it alone or they catch it and take it outside.

In the middle are those who are either afraid of bugs or view them as miniature weapons of mass destruction so they eliminate them. They realize the bugs are alive, but they are also evil and it is a matter of either us or them.

There are those who realize the bugs are alive but kill them anyway and show a bit of guilty remorse by saying, "sorry bug" right before doing the deed to them as if they could understand, much in the same way people who drive monster SUV's buy carbon offsets.

When we are very young, much of what we do is patterned on our parents. We imitate them. At that age, most of the time we don't understand why we do it; our parents do it so that's reason enough.

But let's say we don't know how our parents deal with bugs. We've observed bugs and understand that they are alive, just like any other animal. So in those very early stages of life, what is our reaction to the thought of squishing a bug?

I just wonder if that carries forward into our adult lives.

By the way, that Daddy Long Legs got wet and they are so pathetic when that happens because they just crumple up into a ball. I left it that way but I expect it will dry out pretty soon. I figure, if it survived, fine, if it got washed away, well, then it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

1959

Today I received an e-mail from Classmates.com inviting me to preview a Dorsey yearbook. Of course I couldn't resist the opportunity so I clicked on the link and was taken to a web page that had the cover of the 1959 Circle on it. Besides this year, there were 1950, 1951, 1980 and 1984.

I started clicking through the pages of the 1959 yearbook ("annual" as I always called them). What immediately struck me was how many white folks were in there!

As with most things in life, you don't get something for nothing so after a few pages I was met with an ad inviting me to sign up for membership so that I could view the remaining pages, and all the pages of the other yearbooks.

Tempting, but not tempting enough, even the cheapest membership at $15 for 3 months.

I did run across a couple of my teachers who were there back in 1959:




And here's a couple of other pictures I snagged and posted for your nostalgic entertainment. I don't know any of these people.. maybe you do:




Monday, July 12, 2010

What are they thinking?

I think I've probably complained about this here already but since I'm not sure, I'll just do it again.. why do people think it is good to do a web site that starts playing music as soon as you arrive???

That is sooooooooooooooo annoying!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now a site like YouTube, yes, that makes sense because that's why you go there in the first place, to watch a video and it is already understood most of them have sound.

But when you go to sites seeking things other than video or audio, do the people who design the site think it is cute or classy to start having music play? It is especially bad for restaurants; for some reason many Mexican restaurants feel the need to blast you with mariachi music, or middle-Eastern or Indian places to start playing ethnic music, Italian restaurants play "That's Amore," often with no way to turn it off.

I think they should be more considerate and, instead of assuming you want to be bothered by this, they should ask: "May we annoy you with obnoxious, unnecessary music? If so, click here."

Really, stuff like this is no better, and in fact worse than those multi-colored web sites that have things flashing on and off and objects flying across the screen along with a counter that tells you what visitor number you are to the site.

Sorry, just had to vent about that one!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Smashed

The other day this young woman drove her pickup truck into our front fence.

I was in the back bedroom when I heard the sound of cars colliding, and then a car alarm went off. The first thing I thought was, this sounds just like listening to a blu ray movie. I ran up to the front of the house and looked out the window.

There, in front of our house, was a black pickup truck that was on our curb. She backed up, parked the truck and got out. I saw our next door neighbor outside, looking at his car that I could see had been damaged. I figured he's there, he's going to deal with her, so I went back. I was wondering how she managed to hit our neighbor's car that was parked in front of his house and then run up on our sidewalk.

About an hour later the doorbell rang. It was our neighbor. "Hey, did you see what happened?" He asked. I told him yeah, I sure did, and how did that happen, anyway??

"Did you see your fence?"

"My fence?" He motioned me to come outside and look. Then I noticed one section of our wrought iron fence had been bashed in. Actually it looked like a 1,000 pound person tried to jump over it and hit the top rail and bounced back. The rails were bowed in towards the house. Then I looked at the sidewalk and saw tire tracks going from the curb to the fence.

"I was wondering why you didn't come out," said our neighbor. I told him I heard the crash, looked out the window and saw him out there so I assumed he was taking care of his car. I hadn't even noticed our fence.

Meanwhile, the front driver side of his car was damaged. The tire was tilted in so she must have bent the axle, as well as partially knocked off the bumper and scraped the car.

"How the heck did that happen? What was she doing?" My neighbor just shrugged. He said she was so upset she could barely talk and was crying. He gave me her information but said to wait a while before calling. I told him I'd call that evening.

About an hour later the doorbell rang again. It was her stepdad. I was pretty surprised that he'd be so conscientious as to actually come over straight from work. He thought that was my car out front that his daughter hit. I told him it belonged to our neighbor. Then I mentioned the fence and he looked surprised.

"She didn't say anything about a fence," he said. So I walked outside with him and showed him the art work. Then I showed him the tire tracks on the sidewalk and he had an astonished look on his face. Poor guy. He just stood there shaking his head while he assured me he had insurance and he'd take care of everything. "That was my pickup she was driving," he smirked, and then pointed to his Maxima. "She put that dent in my car, too."

"Oh man," I told him, not knowing what else to say about that. "So, how did that accident happen?"

"She was taking some food over someone's house and I guess she must have been fiddling with it and didn't see where she was going," he said. "Maybe it's time to have her license taken away."

Right then Lindsay Lohan came into my mind. "Well," I said, "I remember I did some pretty crazy things when I was younger."

I gave him my name and number and he told me he'd report it to his insurance guy. The next day State Farm called. Now I need to get two estimates to send to them, meaning I have to find a couple of people who work on wrought iron fences. I really don't know how they'd bend something like that back into shape.

Since the fence isn't mangled, it doesn't look too bad. This whole thing was sort of amusing because I can't figure out how she would have hit our neighbors car then ran up on our sidewalk to hit the fence. It just goes to show you have to beware all the time when you're on the street (and on the sidewalk, too).



Saturday, July 10, 2010

Delivered

Well lo and behold, when I got home from work today there was a box waiting for me from Walmart. That order I had placed on Wednesday and that was supposed to arrive sometime next week was delivered today! (see yesterday's post if you don't know what I am talking about)

What is odd is that I was never able to track this package and I still can't get any tracking info on it. According to the Walmart site, you can click a button next to your order to get tracking info, but there is no button to click. I tried entering all the different numbers that came with my order acknowledgment and notice that my order had shipped, and got no results from the Dynamex web site. Every number comes up with a response that there is no such number in their system.

On one hand I am quite pleased at the speed of the shipment, especially since the box came from their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, but on the other, it is kind of disturbing how the tracking info is non-existent. Or rather, that trying to get results with what they send to you is non-existent.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Shipping

Yesterday (Wednesday) I placed an online order with Walmart. Nope, I am not one of those folks who refuses to shop there on principle. The store seems in many respects to be out of the dinosaur age but I have no qualms about shopping there, and don't see them as the most evil thing in the universe as so many others seem to do.

Actually I would prefer to make my online purchases from Amazon, which I normally do, but since the item was $20 cheaper at Walmart, that was enough of a difference for me to take a chance on them.

Why do I say, "take a chance?" Because I've never purchased anything from them online so I don't know what to expect. With Amazon I get everything within two days and don't have to worry about anything, whereas Walmart seems so technologically backwards.

Well today I received notice that my order had shipped, and to expect it sometime next week. That's the range they gave - from Monday through Friday.

It's being shipped via some company called "Dynamex." I never heard of them. Given Walmart's reputation, I would expect a name like DynaChina; I was expecting it to be something familiar like FedEx or UPS. I went to the Dynamex website and entered my tracking number but it came up blank.

I was wondering where they got such an unusual name for a shipping company and then it struck me, the name is probably pronounced like "Dynamics." I had put the accent on a different syllable and thought it was pronounced like "Dyna-MEX." Well, either way, it's a weird name for a shipping company.

The tracking number is still unrecognized by them as I write this, so I hope all winds up going well with this purchase.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Relaxing

It's kind of nice having July 4 fall on a Sunday and then getting the following Monday off. While that still results in the same number of days off, Monday acts as a buffer between the celebratory atmosphere of the 4th versus the depressing atmosphere of having to drag oneself back to work.

We had a pretty relaxing day. We drove down to the Seal Beach pier. There's a small collection of shops and restaurants right by the beach and we walked around checking them out, then had a very fine lunch at a place called Crema Cafe. I wish there were cafes like that around the SGV, and maybe there are but I haven't found any yet. The only cafes I know of are the Chinese ones that serve Chinese food and mutated varieties of American food - a far cry from where we had lunch.

There were lots of people, perhaps because of the holiday, but there weren't masses of people like what you encounter at other beach areas like Manhattan or Santa Monica. The GPS took us right there. Even though I knew the way back I left it on the dashboard and let it guide us home - on the 10 Freeway the GPS was actually bouncing up and down because the road was so bumpy. What are our tax dollars being used for??

This afternoon I watched a movie I hadn't seen in a long time, not since the 90's: Speed. What a fun movie! It was even better in Blu Ray because of the picture and especially the sound. Yes, it's totally unrealistic, especially with its premise that a bus could constantly drive at speeds over 50 mph in Los Angeles, but it sure was entertaining. Dennis Hopper made such a wonderful villain, and the rest of the cast really fit the movie. Such edge-of-the-seat fun, and it began from the opening scene. I was thinking it sure would be nice to go to work on a bus like that every day, just ramming into whatever is in your path and shoving it out of the way!

A drive out to the beach area.. a good movie.. I could get used to that kind of living..

Monday, July 5, 2010

Breathe

Today's post is kind of gross but what the heck. I've had pretty good luck with my sinuses until the past year or two, when at times I feel some pressure and get headaches from them. Or at least it seems that is what is causing the problem. Other than that, once in a while I'll get allergies, and about once or twice a year suffer through several hours in which I can't seem to stop sneezing.

Someone suggested a "neti pot" to clear out my sinuses. I looked into this, which involves pouring fluid in one nostril and draining the fluid and whatever mess is in your nose out the other one. The thought of that didn't sound very appealing.

I wound up buying something called "Sinus Buster" which is a nasal spray that contains capsicum (the oil that makes chili peppers hot) and some herbs. I tried it and indeed it makes your nostrils tingle like inhaling wasabi, but it really didn't work for me.

Then I also decided to see what sort of solutions were sold by my favorite store, Costco. I was surprised by how many products there are that deal with unclogging sinus passages - apparently this is something that plagues a lot of people. Well, since my sinuses really weren't bothering me too much I never did buy anything. The other day, however, I thought I should get something to have on hand just in case these sinus attacks make another appearance.

I ended up buying something called "Neil Med" after reading about it on Amazon. It's similar to a neti pot except you squeeze the solution into your nostril using a plastic bottle, and then the gunk comes pouring out the other side. Again, gross, but the reviews said it really is not as unpleasant as it seems.

It's $26.67 on Amazon but $15.99 at Costco for the same thing. Here's a couple of pictures:



My sinuses weren't bothering me but I decided to try it out just to see what it was like. I figured maybe some of you out there had wondered the same thing I did - how uncomfortable is it to use this stuff?

Well, I have to say if you follow the directions, it is not at all uncomfortable. Gross, yes, but it is more pleasant than putting capsicum up your nostril and a lot more effective.

The directions tell you to put 8 ounces of lukewarm distilled or drinking water in the plastic bottle they supply, along with a small packet of saline solution mix. Just shake it up, then put the bottle up to one nostril, squeeze gently, keep breathing and keep your mouth open, and use 1/2 the bottle for one side then switch and use the other 1/2 on the other nostril.

Works like a charm.

Some of the reviewers said that they felt like they were drowning, or they got water in their ear or it gave them a burning sensation, etc. I think those are the same people who too literally follow directions on a GPS and turn at the exact moment it tells you to turn so instead of using common sense and knowing the instructions mean to turn at the end of the block, they claim the device told them to turn into a brick wall, which they did.

If you squeeze hard on the bottle, the liquid comes shooting out which of course is not going to be pleasant. If you don't breathe, your nasal passage shuts and the liquid can't flow. So you have to follow the directions.

Like I said, my sinuses weren't in real bad shape when I used it so I am not sure how effective it is, but the process itself is not bad at all. But it is indeed pretty gross, haha.. Just make sure you do it over the sink like the directions tell you, and keep some kleenex handy.

Okay, that's it for the unpleasantries.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sign

Today at the beginning of my drive home from work I looked up at the freeway to see what traffic was like. It was pretty slow, but moving. It was slow enough to enable me to read the large sign that was on the side of one of those big tractor trailers (not sure if that is the right term, but this was one of those real big trailer trucks).

The sign said:

Jesus Christ is Lord!

It is not a swear word!

Amen to that! I thought it was cool that the owner of the truck felt strongly enough to emblazon it right there, in big red letters, across the whole side of the trailer.

Have a fun and safe 4th of July weekend!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Home Court Advantage

Okay, yesterday I posted about how depressing it is to have to return to work from vacation. However, I also have to say it is nice to be back home after being on vacation. Home sweet home is not the same as work sweet work.

Being on vacation and having to adjust to staying in other rooms made me appreciate how important it is having a home court advantage in sports. It isn't just the crowd cheering for you; it's the familiarity and comfort of being home and putting yourself into a more relaxed state because you know where everything is and you know what you are dealing with.

Every time I get back from vacation the house feels so big. It is so nice not to have to pack and unpack, and try and arrange the toiletries in a tiny little space in a strange bathroom. Even adjusting to the water flow from the shower and having different toilet paper throws me off track.

Vacations are to offset the adage of familiarity breeds contempt, and I certainly welcome the opportunity to get away. But after taking this antidote for a while, it is nice to come home again and enjoy the adage of home sweet home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On the Road - 5

I wrote all of these vacation posts on Saturday evening after we returned, and just set them up in advance to post on consecutive days.

By the time you read this, vacation will have ended and I'll have returned to work and will be suffering from post-vacation letdown. I don't have to guess about that, I know this will be the case because that's how I always feel. Not once have I ever been happy to return to work.

On the way home we stopped at the office to pick up an Amazon package that had come for me. I ran in and got it from my desk, noticing there seemed to be a lot more things on it than when I had left, but heck, I figured I'll deal with it later.

I've often wondered - is a vacation really a vacation if you have to work both sides of it to make room for it? A vacation should truly be a vacation - that is, it is where you put everything work-related into suspended animation and are giving a free ride past Go with no strings attached. Otherwise, how is it really a vacation? If you have to make room for it then that means you are actually working during a time that you normally wouldn't be working, which makes it more like time shifting.

Many workplaces also make employees feel guilty about taking vacation. Or some people think it makes them look better if they don't take a vacation, to show how dedicated they are to their job. Both of those things are crazy. My feeling is it is a person's right to take a vacation and everyone needs one.

Anyway.. let me just predict that as you read this, and I am now back at work, I am trying to think of ways to retire early and am also grateful that Monday July 5 is a holiday, haha..