Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We've Got A Long Haul Until November 2012

I've just come to a very important conclusion regarding the 2012 presidential election. I have decided I will cast my vote for whichever candidate can talk Keanu Reeves into completing the long-overdue Bill & Ted Trilogy (you know the other guy is sitting around waiting to be asked).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

While The Atlantic Raged

The Pacific slept.  Well, it didn't exactly sleep but it certainly lived up to its peaceful name.  So there we were at the Marina Saturday strolling and dreaming and resting while the same waters licking our feet swept people off of docks, toppled trees and threatened to close down Manhattan Island.
And, yes, the same people who hours earlier laughed about the east coast earthquake over the weekend watched the storm's journey up the eastern seaboard with dread.  The laughter ended.  Some things just aren't laughing matters.
It's not too hard to understand that the oceans' waters touch all shores.  Why, then, do we struggle with the notion that, like those waters, we touch each other.  All of us all of the time.  Your anger slaps me in the face with just as much force as the winds of Irene slapped the North Carolina islands.  And your laughter warms my soul.
There is no specific you intended here.  We are all the You.
And that, I suppose, is the hardest part to understand.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Teach Your Children" (or nieces and nephews etc...)

I have a Facebook account, most people do. It is a bit of a guilty pleasure to read "friends" posts because I typically walk away and think to myself, 'you can't make this explative up.' On occasion I read something that is not a glorification of years past and previous achievements (you were the starting quarterback in 8th grade??? you do realize you are north of 40 years old now...) that is thoughtful and means something. I saw the following post and re-posted it:

'Special request to all kids returning to school in the next few days . If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because they don't have many friends or because they are shy or not as handsome or not dressed in the most "in" clothes, PLEASE step up. Say hi or at least smile at them in the hallway. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone's life!!~Translation, don't be an A**hole.'

Okay, I added the translation. This was by far one of the most "liked" postings I have ever had. But what does that mean in the great scheme of things?..

...This past Tuesday my kids returned to school. When I got home that evening, my daughter (4th grade) approached me and said, "Miranda is my new best friend, she just moved here and she didn’t know anyone." I instantly became glassy eyed sort of like I am now writing this and thought to myself 'you can't make this explative up' and for at least a moment the great scheme of things had meaning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Perhaps We've Laughed Long Enough

Okay.  Perhaps we here in California were unkind to the first time earthquakers on the East Coast.  Perhaps we did have a chuckle and poke fun and say things like, "Why here in LaLaLand we call a 5.8 or a 5.9 (There seems to be some disagreement on the exact magnitude of today's East Coast whatever.) an aftershock or a car backfire.
We understand that this is all very new to you and that we should attempt some level of compassion.  Yes, a few of us did post that FaceBook image of a plastic patio chair tipped over captioned with things like 'Someday we will recover from this damage.'  And, yes, perhaps we were guilty of just a bit of hubris because we have been through so much more.
On the other hand, and come to think of it, you do laugh at us when the temperature here drops to the low seventies and we bundle up or when a few drops of rain fall on our famous freeways and we skid into each other and light poles and cartoon characters sitting in lawn chairs in the medians with balloons full of laughter hanging over their heads.

So.  Here's the deal.  We won't laught at you anymore if you don't laugh at us anymore.
Or, in the words of one of the world's most famous dead beats wasted lives once a victim always a jerk Rodney King, "Can't we just get along?"
Okay.  Enough of that.  Get over yourselves, Jersey.
Oh, wait.  There I go again.  Pardon.  Forgive me.  My apology may not be all that sincere but I must extend it otherwise, the humor of the universe being what it is, I will wake up tomorrow morning wearing water wings and floating in what used to be my street but over night with a little shaking became the Pacific Ocean.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Never Try To Get In The Door First

Yet another lucky and smart person ordered a book on line from Steel Cut Press.  The buyer is a member or our armed forces.  I knew this because of the APO address.  Yesterday I tried sending the book Priority Mail from the self service kiosk in the main post office.  Because of the APO address, the machine informed me, I needed to speak to an actual Post Office Department employee.
This morning at 8:30 on the dot (whatever that means) I pulled into a parking space in front of the post office.  Getting out of the car parked next to mine, a man was pulling boxes and boxes to be mailed out of the car with him.  No mean trick.
My intention was to get out of my car and into the post office before he finished loading up his parcels all of which, I knew from experience, would require special time and attention and that ultimately he would pay for the postage and the insurance and the return receipt requested with the change he had been saving for the past several months -- every day putting it in the band aid box next to his bed.
"Oh, no!"  I vowed to myself.  "Not this time."
And so I ran from the car, into the post office and to the front of the line.  Just before I began my Screw You Old Timer I Win dance I realized I had forgotten the book in its fancy for free from the post office mailer.  As I was walking out the door and to my car, I said a good morning to the guy and his packages finally making their way into the post office.
The new and humbler and possible less competitive I got back in line with book and chagrin in tow.  When I laid my arm on the counter to rest from the self inflicted assault on my dignity, my arm immediately felt weird and tingly.  I raised it and discovered that first the counter and then my arm were covered with tiny ants.  I began frantically and dare I say slightly hysterically shaking my right arm and brushing away tiny things that hopefully others saw as clearly as did I.  People stared but were kind enough to say nothing.  Not even the guy leaving the counter having successfully and quickly mailed his packages.
"You need to fill out this form," the Post Office clerk said to me in response to my pointing out the APO address on the Steel Cut Press shipping label.
She handed me a pen and motioned me to the counter next to her.  As I filled out the form I noticed that she, too, was brushing herself.  I felt vindicated.  Itchy but vindicated.
Just as I finished the form, the clerk asked the woman behind me in line to come forward.
"Do you have any stamps with pictures of famous people on them?" the next in line asked the itchy and brushing clerk.
"All sorts," the clerk said, ants flying from her shirt in all directions.
While the clerk recited names including Helen Keller, Ronald Regan, Humpty Dumpty, Jack In The Box, Grover Cleveland, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Amelia Earhart I stopped flipping off ants in preparation for flipping off the next in line person, the clerk, the United States Postal Service and the whole publishing project until I heard that final name.
Amelia Earhart!
I wrote a book about her.  People are buying the book.  And I, in fact, am sending it off to someone right now.  Someone serving our country and keeping us all safe.
And thus it was that my trip to the Post Office to mail a book turned into a courageous act of self sacrificing service to this country.
You may thank me at your leisure in your own way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

He Did What In The Aisle?

"Good grief" and a head shake for this one: Actor Gerard Depardieu, who drank five bottles of wine, and urinated in the aisle of an Air France flight, now faces charges of public intoxication, indecent exposure,... and proliferating a hilarious French stereotype. After the flight, Depardieu cursed French stereotypes. He then donned a beret, lit a cigarette, and hopped on his bicycle to go buy a baguette.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Looking From The Outside In

As a follow up to yesterday's post about law enforcement officers having the same job description and status as tree trimmers, I think a view from the outside of my corner office looking in would be appropriate.

In daylight no one can actually see into my office so this really is the view from the outside in.  At least once a week I open my blinds to new graffiti on the window.
This morning I reported the new 'art work' to the city tree trimmers.  They stared at me blankly for several moments before suggesting that I tell the police.  To which I replied, "I thought I just did."  To which they replied, "Do we look like we'd know what to do if someone tried to rob the bank?"
I'm even more confused now than I was yesterday.
What else is new?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just Like A Tree Trimmer

Pomona, California, has the third highest crime rate in the state.  It's number of homeless and mentally ill increases daily.  So the city, I was told today by a member of its police force, is doing the only logical thing it could come up with to balance its budget considering its alarming demographics -- cutting benefits and work hours and salaries of its police officers.
"We won't be getting holiday pay anymore," the officer said.  And then added that unpaid days off are already in place and salary and staff reductions are being discussed.
According to this officer, the city has for budget reasons placed its police officers in the same category as its tree trimmers.
During an armed robbery do you wish for the guys with the guns or the guys with the pruning shears?
Who would you rather have responding to your 911 call -- officers with sirens blaring or someone from an arboretum with a pocket protector?
Please, oh please, know that I hold no grudge against tree trimmers unless, of course, they show up when the warring gangs of Pomona have me surrounded because they thought I was someone they knew who may have in the past worn the wrong colors to work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Presidential Doubts

I’m not sure that Rick Perry, who is now something like the 53rd republican presidential candidate, should be written off because of his “inappropriate and unpresidential” tough talk about Ben Bernanke. I think he should be written off because he looks like a guy who brags about the resale value of his Cadillac, slaps people on the back and calls them “sport,” and, in meetings, always says, "Let's run this up the flag pole and see who salutes."

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Stole This From A FaceBook Friend

Who says without regret that she also stole it from a FaceBook friend:

Dear GOP, 
In regards to your religious crusade against “The Gays”: More than 1,000 churches were destroyed after being struck by lightning last year. There is no record of a single gay bar being hit by lightning. Thanks Lord… I think you’ve made yourself abundantly clear.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Perhaps We Should Consider Raising Our Own Children

As I get ready to go face another day of substitute parenting, wherein I get fifteen minutes to correct the poor decision-making skills that parents had fifteen years to help their kids develop, one thought occurs to me: I never met anyone who didn't have a "very smart" child. What happens to all these "special" children? At what point in these kids' lives did their parents just shrug their shoulders and say, "F@#k it. He'll be fine."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Getting To Know Rambutan

In the 1952 movie 'Pat and Mike' Spencer Tracy's Mike Conovan says of Katharine Hepburn's Pat Pemberton, "Not much meat on her, but what's there is cherce."
Hold that thought.
Looking over the organic produce in the Ralph's supermarket yesterday, I stood in wide-mouth, drop-jawed horror at a pile of something I immediately decided could only be from outer space.  And if not from actual outer space then certainly from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Over coming all sorts of primal fears, I not only touched one of the things, I held it in my hand.  I even carried it to another part of the produce department for a brief show and tell moment.  Then, I bee-lined it back to the produce bin to return it to its friends.
I still don't believe it was a fruit but the signs said it was Rambutan.  Or maybe those were name tags.
A summary of my research, skimpy I must admit, will tie this beautifully back to the Spencer Tracy quote.
By the way, if you doubt any of the information I'm about to submit for your consideration, I refer you to Yeah, really.  It has its own web site.
The rambutan is an exotic fruit from south east Asia.  Okay.  So far so good.  The web site tells us right away that the spines of the rambutan pose no threat and can be bitten into but never eaten.  Possibly no threat is posed because anyone fool hardy enough to eat the spiny rind deserves what they get.
But there's more.
Once the rind is pulled back (or apparently bitten back) a white ball shaped thing is exposed which is the fruit of the rambutan.  However, we are warned, there is also a seed hidden inside which should not be eaten because it is very bitter.  Apparently all of this boils down to a fruit about the size of a pea.  Getting to the pea takes some effort and involves dealing with the lethal looking but alleged harmless spines but is, according to the web site, well worth the effort because nothing in the world tastes quite as good as a rambutan.
Which brings us full circle to the Spencer Tracy quote.
I don't believe any of it, though.  My vote is that the Ralph's grocery store was invaded by creatures from outer space and that Kurt Vonnegut already wrote about it years ago.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

But This Is Different Now On Nook

Writing a novel doesn't end with The End these days.  In fact, writing The End now means that the other half of the writing project has begun -- the promotion, the marketing, the...all of those once negatively charged words now so essential to the miracle of getting people to read the book.
We're learning as we go and the learning is tough and fun and exciting.
Dealing with the two mega on line folks (Amazon and Barnes and Noble) has been often daunting.
However, we're pleased to announce that But This Is Different is now available on the Nook e reader.
Here's the link:
Check it out.  Buy the book.  Have yourself a good read.

Will An Apple A Day Really Help?

When it comes to the world of finance, I am generally more of a snarky observer than an advice giver. However, I was just reading that, according to the most recent available financial statements, Apple Inc. has more cash on hand - over $76 billion - than the U.S. Treasury. So, again, not telling you what to do with your money, but I'm taking all my cash and converting it to safe, stable iTunes gift cards.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Whole Lot More Impressive Than The Unbegun One

I had the stomach for neither news nor NPR yesterday morning driving to work.  Sometimes too much bad news becomes almost as tiresome as too much deep thought.  So instead of listening to one or the other of my commute regulars, I listened to classical music -- KUSC, the only classical music station in Los Angeles.
I wasn't paying too much attention until Dennis Bartel announced that the next piece would be Symphony No. 8 In B Minor begun but never completed by Franz Schubert and thus known most famously as 'The Unfinished Symphony'.  I wanted to give a good listen to this stopped in the middle of creation composition.  I turned the radio's volume up.  I didn't want to miss a single unfinished note.  I waited for the first of those notes.  The next thing I heard, though, was nothing.  This nothing - this silence - went on for so long that I thought Bartel had changed his mind and was playing the not famous at all piece by Schubert know as 'The Unbegun Symphony'.  Eventually Bartel and his station overcame their technical difficulties and I finished my commute delighted and inspired and captivated by incompletion.
All through the day I wrapped my mind around 'The Unbegun Symphony' and what I might learn from those moments of radio silence.
We all have a symphony or a painting or a novel or an I love you inside us unbegun because we're afraid to say the words or make the commitment or doubt we have the talent or the skills or the energy.  Or maybe we don't begin because we worry we won't have time to finish and heaven forbid we leave something begun but undone.
Here, though, is what I learned from Schubert yesterday morning even though I have no idea why his Symphony No. 8 In B Minor remained unfinished.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Plenty Of Nothing Isn't Okay With Me

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I really don't understand how the U.S. avoided a catastrophic economic meltdown by passing a measure that raises the government's capacity to borrow more ("debt ceiling"). But, based on the 266 points the DOW just plummeted, apparently Wall Street agrees with me that if the federal government were in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Post Office Miracles

So there I was this morning at the United States Post Office mailing some sold books to the people soon to be involved in the read of their lives.  But I digress.  The postage label for which I had already paid $4.95 on my credit card got stuck in the machine.  Forget that I had parked in the 10 Minute Customer Only Or We Will Heartlessly Tow You Away space at the nearby 7/11 convenience market and was now sweating cheap hot dogs for fear the old Jeep would really get towed away this time.  Forget all that.  I had already paid for the postage now stuck in the whirring gears of the automated do it yourself mailing kiosk thing.  And then it happened.  The first of the morning's and possibly the life's United States Post Office miracles.  The machine spoke to me!  No, not in a voice I or anyone else could hear but in a printed message on the screen of the machine.
"An error," the screen printed, "has occurred.  We will print you a smaller postage label."
And there it came like rain to a drought stricken desert.  The smaller postage label for the exact amount charged to my credit card.
That would have been enough to tide me over until the arrival of, well, some special agnostically unnamed being.  But things didn't stop there.
I stopped to get the weekly delivery of junk mail out of the post office box so my arms were full of stuff I didn't have time to put in the newly installed Postal Service recycling containers.  Remember that I was hurrying back to the 7/11 before the impound people got to the old Jeep.  Seeing my arms full of junk predicament, a woman went through the heavy door and then held it open for me.  Perhaps she was racing against the impound people, too, because she didn't notice that a man with arms full of stuff to mail was trying to get through the door.  So I made room in my junk to grab the door and hold it open for him just as the woman noticed what was going on.  She stopped and came back to me.
"Isn't this wonderful?" she asked and exclaimed and bubbled.  "I held the door open for you and then you held it open for him.  You thanked me and he thanked you so now I just feel the need to thank you to make this circle of kindness complete."  Whereupon she laid a hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't you think that life should be like this all the time?"
Whereupon she turned and disappeared around the corner.  I had no time to answer her question.  On second thought, maybe it was more of a prayer than a question.
Anyway, two Post Office miracles in one morning.
I'm good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How Many Clowns In The Little Car?

The circus is over.  The streets are littered with peanut shells and elephant shit.  Soon the big tent will come down to be packed away for just a little while before it's time again for the clowns and the men on stilts who really believe that they are tall.
Okay, while I'm waiting for my cotton candy I have a question.
If this whole three ring national shame thing was about money, why have the Republicans left town without doing something about the FAA impasse?  They just left town and the FAA and thus us continue to lose what will ultimately total by the time the Republicans get back to work (or whatever it is they call whatever it is they do in Washington) a billion dollars in lost taxes on the sale of tickets.
A billion dollars.  That's quite a bit.  Forget about raising taxes.  Why don't we just try and collect the ones already in place instead of leaving town and letting the money go into the pockets of the airlines?
I'm no political pundit and I certainly don't have the smarts of my favorite early morning political comedienne talk show host Stephanie Miller.  But come on!  A billion dollars in taxes because members of the House couldn't stay around long enough to fix the FAA.  The FAA?  Isn't that also the organization that makes sure airplanes don't fly into each other?
I have to go see how many clowns are getting out of the little car now.  No time to worry about this stuff.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Morning HInt

Here's a helpful little workplace observation for a Monday morning. As I stood, dumbstruck, in the courtyard, listening to a co-worker drone on about what a fun weekend she had with her dogs, it occurred to me that "Stop, Drop, and Roll" is not JUST an effective fire safety technique, but also a very effective and memorable way to get out of a boring conversation.