Happy New Year

A lot of people are proclaiming “good riddance” to 2010 with the hopes that 2011 is a better year.  I realize the economy has sucked for many and that people are out of jobs, but I really hate to see this negative attitude.  Will 2011 be any better without an attitude change?  Isn’t life what we make it?  Haven’t people been overspending and living beyond their means for years?  Shouldn’t we be prepared to self sustain if there is a crisis?

For me, 2010 was a great year.  I’ve learned so much on my job.  I’ve had time to pursue my iPhone hobby and make enough to not only pay for the necessary equipment, but to also supplement my income.  There are lots of opportunities out there if we are willing to reinvent ourselves and stop complaining about the government or how we might have been screwed over by a company, a spouse, or whatever.  I like to think I’m a pretty tolerant person, but I have a hard time finding tolerance for people who complain without “acting”.  We live in a country where you have that option.  Find something you are good at and do it.  The mighty dollar should not be the end goal.  Happiness and healthiness should be.

I took a hike through the woods yesterday with my girlfriend.  Something we haven’t done for quite a while.  But it was exactly the thing we needed to start the new year.  We got to talk, share a lot of feelings, see some awesome birds, listen to the running water, and just enjoy a little intimacy.  I took these hikes daily during my divorce, and it’s what kept me sane.  I need to get back to this.  So if I have one New Year’s resolution, it’s to get out into nature more.

White House Visit Snafu

This past Saturday while visiting DC we had a confirmed reservation to tour the White House. The plans were made in advance and we had the confirmation number. Our scheduled tour time was 8:30am. We showed up around 7:45a (cuz I’m just anal that way). We got up to the podium (ya, seriously… that’s all they have… no gate, desk, computer, etc.). The girl looks through the hard-copy list (it might have even been printed on a dot-matrix printer) and our names aren’t on it. She checks our IDs and calls a guy over (he couldn’t have been over 23 years old — I’m gonna call him Skippy). Skippy proceeds to make a cell-phone call with our IDs and confirmation number in hand. He goes over to a bird-bath (I’m serious) and sets all the stuff down on his little workstation the government has so graciously provided for both him and the pigeons! He comes back to us and hands us back our IDs and tells us he’s awaiting an email… yes, an email on his blackberry, cuz they ain’t got a computer anywhere in site… and Lord knows how secure sending our social security numbers over 3g is.

In the meantime, more 8:30 people show up (we were the first — did I mention I’m anal?). More missing names. The girl is really starting to get panicky. So they start making a little corral for us to “graze” in while we wait. Soon the corral is full of 8:30 attendees. A security guard shows up on his Schwinn, also a little panicked that some of us are outside the corral. He instructs us all to back up while they extend the size of the corral. By this time, all 8:30 tour people are directed to the corral, whether they are on the list or not. I can see they suspect a terrorist plot. Some “Jihad Joe” infiltrated the computer system, sabotaged the 8:30 list, in hopes that they’d just let us all go through. But haha… they are smarter than that. Instead, Skippy is going to take each of our IDs individually and process us 1 by 1. Shouldn’t take more than say… SEVERAL HOURS.

Lucky for us… we were already being processed by the finely tuned line-processing team. Our names were called moments later and we were able to proceed. We mosey up to security gate #2. Showed our IDs. Oh crap… were not on the list. I say “Ummmm… we are part of the mixed up 8:30 list”. The guys walks over and finds the sheet over paper with our 3 names on it. Whew! We’re in by 9:00a.

What happened to the rest of the 8:30 group? We ran into one of them later at the White House visitors center. They were all asked to come back in a few hours. Not sure if any of them got to take the tour or not. We were lucky! The whole time I had to hold in my laughter. It was true poetry in motion. The epitome of our government at work. It would truly make a hilarious scene in a movie. Adam Sandler… feel free to steal this for your “Happy Gilmore: President Elect” movie.

What would have topped this all off? Jay was SO EXHAUSTED from standing he almost sat down on a 200 year old chair in the Red Room. OMG that would have been hilarious if it would have shattered. Luckily I caught him in mid-squat, even before the Secret Service did.

Want to see more of our trip? (BTW… no cameras allowed at the White House, so we didn’t get any pics)

Day 1: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=260050&id=705579767&l=c956220bbe

Day 2: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=260054&id=705579767&l=adb4b6c7f7

Day 3: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=260059&id=705579767&l=6bb51e60b2

Is Texting Harmful?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately.  I’ve observed kids (and adults) that are SO attached to their devices that they kind of lose site of the reality around them.  I know I’ve experience this with my iPad.  Is that a bad thing?  The person IS interacting with someone (or something), just through a different medium.  But that’s different than eye-to-eye interaction.  It’s hard to build intimacy through a text message isn’t it?  Plus isn’t it rude to be with someone else and dividing your attention between them and your offline conversation?  I’ve been at family gatherings where the kids are so busy texting that they aren’t interacting with each other.  That’s sad from the way I remember being raised and having so much fun with my cousins, etc.  I try to never respond to my phone during dinner, a movie, or time with family.

For me text messaging is great because it allows me and my girlfriend to interact throughout the day without interfering with each others schedules.  She can text me back when she’s not busy with a student and if I’m busy in a “train of thought” at work I can ignore the text for a little bit and respond later.  It’s not a distraction for us because we limit the interruptions to maybe a dozen or so a day.   But what happens to your brain when you are constantly texting and feel the need to immediately respond?  Is your brain rewired to always respond to the stimuli and you feel the impulse to do something about it?  How does this affect your real-world interactions?  Plus… what about all the time lost?  I know that after I’ve spent too much (unproductive) time on the computer or my iPad (playing “We Rule”) I feel kind of depressed.  Like… wow… I just wasted all that time and I could have been hiking, playing guitar, or working in the yard.

Then again, some may question if it’s a waste of time.  Is FaceBook a waste of time?  Isn’t it a good tool for interacting with someone?  Or is it just NOISE that we otherwise wouldn’t be “wrapped up” in?  I know I’ve spent many hours typing responses to messages that ultimately I really don’t care about and I probably wouldn’t have interacted with this person anyway.  In fact I recently “pruned” my FaceBook list to prevent just this kind of wasted time.

So… give me your thoughts.  I want to hear from those of us that grew up in the generation where we played outside and some dirt and a stick was sufficient entertainment to those who need constant entertainment and stimuli.  Of course, I don’t want you wasting too much time.  So make it quick! :)

Global Warming… It’s A Crock

globalI’ve been thinking about this for a while and wanted to write something about it.  Why?  Because I’m convince there is no such thing as global warming, and… if there is… there’s really nothing we can do about it.  After reading (listening) to Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything“, I’m convinced the Earth is doing what is has always done.  Cleansing itself.  For us to think we have any control over what’s inevitably going to happen, is ludicrous.

Does this mean I’m not committed to saving resources and doing my part?  Absolutely not!  I think we all need to do our part to make the world a safe and habitable place to live.  But eventually, Mother Nature will take over and we’ll either be frozen into extinction or burned up.  Is that pessimistic?  No… just realistic.  The Earth has wiped out whatever species has been dominant, several times.  It will continue to do so, and some other race or being will populate the planet.  Now of course, these things happen on huge timescales, that none of us will ever see (unless the meteor extinction scenario happen — but Bruce Willis will save us from that).

So the Earth might slowly be getting warmer or colder, but it’s gonna take thousands (if not millions) or years.  The Earth is 4.5 billion years old.  Man has only been around, at best, a couple of million years.  That’s a speck of time.  The dinosaurs were around a lot longer than we have been, but of course, they are gone, as in time, we will be.  So.. to whatever species is reading my blog (or whatever you species do), congratulations — enjoy the planet.  But don’t get too cocky.  It’s only for a short time.

High School 1959 vs. 2009

(Thanks Kim)

Scenario 1
Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck’s gun rack.
1959 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2009 – School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2
Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.
1959 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2009 – Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged them with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3
Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.
1959 – Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2009 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1959 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.
2009 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5
Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1959 - Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.
2009 - The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6
Pedro fails high school English.
1959 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.
2009 - Pedro’s cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro’s English teacher.  English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7
Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.
1959 - Ants die.
2009 - ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents – and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny’s dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8
Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1959 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2009 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison.  Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

Applebee’s (There She Blows!)

For Christmas I received a gift certificate for Applebee’s.  I hadn’t been there for several years, because the last time we were there we all got “colon blow’ incredibly bad.  So… thinking it was just a one time experience, we went back there today.  I ordered the appetizer-trio.  Within 5 minutes of leaving the restaurant, I had that uncomfortable growling in my lower intestine.  I knew I was in trouble… still 10 more minutes to the house.  Well, I held off the attack and made it home.  Did you ever notice that the urgency of the situation logarithmically increases as the distance to the house decreases?  I am now convinced there is something wrong with the food at Applebee’s.  A quick search on Google revealed I’m not alone.  Read this halarious review:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/applebees-san-diego-3#hrid:BQ3rhTTy33GorReKQkO_cg

Has anyone else experienced this?

Born With Talent

Are you born with talent or do you learn it?

I’ve been watching the progress of my girlfriend’s son.  We got him a guitar for Christmas 2 years ago.  Up until that point he hadn’t really played a musical instrument, but he showed the desire and always had a creative side to him.  He seemed to take naturally to it and each time I see him he has made tremendous progress.  He just has the knack to hear the music and reproduce it.  He got a drum-set this year (we celebrated last night) and the beats he’s putting down already show an amazing sense of timing.

I think computer programming is an art form as well, just as an artist with a brush, or a musician with his instrument.  I’ve met programmers who just have the ability to think logically.  As I TA’d in college I watched students who clearly did not have the knack, forcing themselves to take computer classes, not ever really getting “it”.  Perhaps they should have found their “born” talent and pursued that.

I believe we are each born with a “gift”, maybe multiple gifts.  Having parents and friends who help us recognize those gifts and cultivating them is a godsend.  My parents encouraged me to take things apart and see how they worked.  They bought me electronic kits, chemistry kits, etc.  I made “things” out of everyday “trash”. Thanks Mom and Dad!  My Dad is still a “tinkerer”.

I suppose talents can be learned, but I think those born with it excel at it.

Church v.s. State

I guess I was kind of disappointed to read this:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-protest7-2008nov07,0,3827549.story

I really don’t think religious groups should tell you how to vote, nor should they contribute to a campaign.

Some people might think we are going to Hell in a hand-basket.  Heaven forbid we have a black president, who is the best damn father I’ve seen and who is married to a woman who is going to promote family to our country.  Heaven forbid 2 people who love each other want to get married and raise a family.

I personally think intolerance and ignorance does the most harm.  Most wars are a result of this intolerance.  Thinking someone else should be living the way we do and enforcing our way of life on them.  We are a relatively new country.  How can we pretend to think it’s our way or the highway?  How can a country that’s only 5% of the world’s population think it’s the majority?  Most of the world is not white (http://anthro.palomar.edu/ethnicity/ethnic_5.htm).  The majority of the world is not Christian (http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html).  We ARE the minority!  We live in a world of many wonderful cultures.  Perhaps we should convert to their way of thinking?

P.S. I actually had people that would not let their children come up to my door to trick-or-treat because I had Obama signs in my yard.  Now that’s parenting!  Instill the fear into the children.

Obsession v.s. Serenity

I recently had a discussion about obsession v.s. serenity.  They are dichotomies of each other.  You can’t have serenity if you are obsessing and you won’t obsess if you have true serenity.  For those of you that know me, you know the last 4 years have brought big changes to my life, not only financially, but spiritually.  The one true gift I have been blessed to receive and understand is serenity.

Serenity for me is being content with what I have and satisfied with where I am at in life.  For me, it’s the only way to manage with the circumstances I have been dealt.  Obsessing about money, fame, job, material objects only leads me to not live in the present.  And when I’m not in the present, then I am either obsessing about the past or obsessing about the future, which gets me nowhere closer to serenity.  Some days it’s hard and I have to “snap” myself out of it (just read my post on lawyers — that was a tough day).

I have many people to thank for helping me and for being great examples.  I spent many years away from my Christian beliefs, and although I am not a church-goer… I strongly agree with living a spiritual, moral, giving life.  The saying “Life is too short” is too true.  It’s too short to have resentments, be angry with people, and cause yourself and others misery.  Enjoy the breeze through the trees, snuggling up with a good book, and communicating with the world around you.  Serenity…

Check out my cartoon on obsession.