Sunday, December 30, 2007

Joshua Tree

For our end of year foray to Palm Springs we decided to leave a day early and explore Joshua Tree a little and do our own version of "photowalking". We had a blast, going to a part of the park called Pine City. We hiked for about 4 hours, climbing rocks, taking pictures and having our picnic lunch. It was a blast. We left the park and stopped for some refreshments at a little liquor store outside the park. As I stepped out of the vehicle an asian fellow walked up to me and said in heavily accented English, "you help" and handed me a cell phone. There was a guy on the other end who was trying to help him get to his hotel in 29 Palms. It's amazing, no matter where I am, people ask me for directions.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another Year Older

I awoke this morning another year older and since my birthday is later in the year it serves a double purpose. It's a good time to look back on the entire year as a whole; reflect on my accomplishments and re-focus my energies on things I want to move forward on.

In 2007 I was able to lose weight, heal my injured shoulder without surgery, and get into better all around physical shape, dropping my cholesterol to acceptable levels and getting rid of the fatty liver disease. Amazing what exercise and diet will do for you. At work I was moving forward in a positive mode, making a difference with our customers and helping the management team make decisions. All of the good things in 2007 happened to me prior to Sept. 7th and then it all went to hell. Mitel and Inter-tel merged and life as myself and my co-workers knew it was literally decimated.

I'm going to spend 2008 re-focusing my efforts on creating a new niche at work and not allowing people to control my destiny. I will control my own financial, physical and emotional destiny. So look out world, there will be no more sulking over the things that were, the things that have changed and the losses that have happened. Only forward thinking and moving.

Dena and I had a wonderful road trip over the Labor Day weekend, exploring route 66 from Los Angeles to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was so much fun allowing us to re-connect to each other and re-connect with our adventurous spirits. In 2008 we'll spend the month of February in Antarctica, Chile and Argentina. Let the exploring never end.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I Believe in Santa

I'm old, I know that. I see it every morning in the mirror, but there is a part of me that still believes in Santa Claus. Sometimes I'm Santa and sometimes someone else is. Santa Claus or good 'ole Saint Nick represents a spirit of giving that unfortunately only comes out at this time of year for some people. He also represents mystery and wonder for little kids who still believe and as they mature and start to question how Santa can visit 6 billion households in one night we see their free critical thinking skills develop. Santa can mean alot to people if we can just get past this very consumption based society that we live in.

For example, yesterday I went to the Grove wearing my new $ 5.99 Santa hat that is totally cool and fairly unique. I got comments from probably 30 people, smiles from about 50 more and one woman even came up and jingled my bells. Who could ask for more. It's a good feeling to put a smile on people's faces. Speaking of good feelings, Dena and I stopped by my "little sister's" foster care house yesterday and dropped off a present for her and for the house mother. I was wearing my Santa hat of course. We chatted for awhile and all of a sudden she ran down the stairs and hugged me. Well, I was surprised, pleasantly. It seems that her older sister also just received a Big Sister and she didn't bother to show up for her first meeting. Isn't that shitty. It's shitty that she would do that at all and even more shitty that she would do that on the first meeting when developing trust is vital and even more shitty that she'd do it the weekend before Christmas.

Readers, this holiday season, keep believing! I'm hanging a stocking tonight and you never know, Santa may fill it. Oh, and by the way, my mom still signs the gifts she sends, "from Santa". I love that.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Tis the Season....

To give. I love to give. I love to make people happy. It's fun and makes me feel good. Speaking of feel good I had my first meeting with my "little sister" yesterday. She's 14 and quite an intelligent, well read, well spoken young lady. We actually had quite a bit of fun going Christmas shopping for her foster mother and then we walked around Venice Beach. She'd never been down there before. We ran on the sand dunes, chatted and watched the wierdos walk by. Just another day in paradise. By the way, paradise, and I do mean Los Angeles, was 70, sunny and just lovely today. I bet all you people freezing your asses off up north and in the NorthEast are jealous. hehe

Dena and I saw 2 movies this weekend, I am Legend and No Country for Old Men. Both were "edge of your seat" types with I am Legend just being an incredibly tense movie. I needed a martini after that flick, my heart was pumping hard in my chest for the entire 2nd half. They spend the first half of the movie lulling you into complacency then turn on the after burners for the 2nd half. Both movies were well written, very well acted and thought provoking. In No Country for Old Men, the movie ended and the theatre was dead silent as the credits rolled. No one got up to leave, no one spoke, everyone just sat there. It was quite something.

I'll be off the air for a few days, we're off to Big Bear to do a Christmas thing with Dena's Jewish family. hehe I love diversity. The stockings will be hung by the hide-a-bed with care; in hopes that some Jewish saint would soon be there.....

By the way, want to spruce up your Christmas stocking? Try this website....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Update

Mentoring:
I have been approved both criminally and personally for mentoring a foster care child. I met her for the first time on Tuesday and Saturday will be our first day together without the "foster care mother". We'll see how it goes, stay tuned.

Depression:
I've been taking Vitamin B complex, Omega 3 fish oil, and some other herbs from Dr. Lippman and seem to be feeling much better even though this would normally be the time of month where I'm severely depressed. I forgot one day and started to feel crappy again, amazing what vitamins and herbs do, eh?

Work:
I HATE WORK. I hate all the up in the air crap, I hate that I was so positive about this company merger and it's turning out to be shit, I hate the disparate benefits between the two "new" divisions, I hate everything about it. I was embracing change, I was being positive, all things I normally am not. I was the merger cheerleader and then the proverbial straw broke this camel's back and now I've seen the light, and it's a train coming!

So that's the update......all wine and roses, eh

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Playing Hookie


Dena and I escaped yesterday from the drudgery called work and went off to the Happiest place on earth.....Disneyland. Disneyland was decked out in all it's holiday finery and oh what fun it was. We watched the holiday parade which was awesome. Dena watched me get very queasy on Space Mountain, a ride I haven't been on in years and apparently for very good reason. We also went on Indiana Jones and Star Tours, 2 more rides I haven't been on in probaby 10 years. I got a little queasy on those too. What a wimp, eh. Then, Dena felt very obligated to redeem herself in the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride where she scored a dismal 1800 points when we went last year. As you can see, she's improved, but still not enough to beat me!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Depression

Every month about a week before my period I get what I can only describe to you are phenomenally depressed. My depression is so deep that it's interfering with life. I have these deep feelings of hopelessness. My life seems overwhelming during these times and I just want to crawl in bed, throw the covers over my head and remove myself from the world. I don't want to eat, I don't want to go out, I have trouble focusing and thinking and frankly, it's horrible. It's every month. I bet my male readers have either stopped reading or are really happy they are male. I would have to say that while this depression is deep and all encompassing I am aware that it's happening and have no thoughts of suicide. My logical brain is still out there during all this and trying to manage it. That's probably the frustrating part as logically I cannot wrap my mind around why this is happening. I have a good life, a great soul mate, a so-so job, etc so what do I have to be depressed about. Well, that's just it, there is no reason.

So, I've been to the gyno and I am not in peri-menopause despite what Oprah seems to think. I've done copious research on the Internet and it seems I have classic symptoms of severe PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder). There are multiple forms of treatment for this, but basically it's one of 2 ways, prescription anti-depressants or natural herbs and vitamins. So, I'm going to experiment on myself. I like doing that. I'm going to introduce Omega-3 supplements and vitamin B6 into my daily regimen and we'll see what happens. Now, this will have to be a long experiment as this lovely depression only occurs for 7 days before menses, and goes away as a day or so after bleeding ensues.

Wish me luck, and for my friends at Dr. Lippman's office---what do you think?

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Auspicious Day

Today is a day I have marked in my calendar since 2001. Today is the day I received INS approval for my permanent residency. A day I had been working towards for over 15 years and through attorney's for 6 years. It was a magical day to receive the email that all was approved and I would receive my green card in the mail shortly. It's actually pink, but hey, who cares. The magic green card that serves as a beacon of opportunity and hope for people all over the world. Or at least it used to. I wonder if that beacon is shining a little less brightly across the globe with the climate for immigrants getting icier in the United States.

Well, I don't take December 10th lightly, for sure. I raise my glass of Orange Juice this morning and toast myself for the patience that it took to get here and I toast my old boss and current friend Charlie Gentile who backed me up the entire way, paying for the adventure in bureaucratic red tape through his department. Something I'll never forget. My deepest heartfelt gratitude, thank you.

I know some of you were looking for a different kind of blog entry today but I have to tell you that sometimes life gets in the way. You'll just have to wait and you know who you are.....

Friday, December 07, 2007

Locavore -- 2007 Word of the Year!

Locavore [loh-kih-vohr] noun
n 1. A person who thinks globally and eats locally -- usually within a 100 mile radius n. 2. A gastronomical movement that shuns supermarket shopping in favor of farmer's markets or backyard gardens and argues that fresh and local produce packs more nutritional punch, tastes better and has less of an environmental impact. n. 3. The New Oxford American Dictionary's pick for word of the year.

So there.......

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Calmness is Shattered and the Calm is Gone

The elation of no dog shit on our front lawn lasted about 12 hours before our next door neighbor shattered the elusion of a peaceful holiday season. He asked us to move our new fence in 1 to 2' because it was on his property line. Now let me preface all of this by saying that the fence is just some cheapie green wire fence about 3' high that only cost us $ 100 to fence the entire yard. It is supposed to be temporary. When I went over to discuss this with him, as I had to go as smoke was literally coming from Dena's ears, he informed me that he was pouring a new driveway, wanted it wider and he needed to take back that 1' to 2'.

Well, first of all, he probably has a point, if you draw a line straight down from the backyard fence to the front parkway our front yard juts out approximately 12". I've not measured it however, I've committed to running a string line with him this weekend. Can't wait for that.....she says with deep sarcasm. It's extremely frustrating to be constantly bombarded with issues from him. Neighbors should be seen and not heard as far as I'm concerned. We've spent enough time and energy on this neighbor to last a lifetime. I suppose the old adage rings true: The grass is always greener.......

As an aside, if we really wanted to be snotty (and Dena does) the rule of "adverse possession" states that if we occupied disputed land that turned out to be on someone else's property for > 5 years then by adverse possession it becomes ours. That comes with all sorts of caveats of course, like we would have to pay the property taxes for that square footage, etc. I'm not sure that 12" of our side lawn that our neighbors for the past 12 years have driven over really matters that much. Our sprinkler headss are there and would have to move, of which I'm not to keen on paying for, so that's another battle.

Stay tuned

Monday, December 03, 2007

Calmness Descends Over the Land

As anyone who will listen to Dena and I know, we have an asshole neighbor with from anywhere from 2 to 4 Labradors who he let's run off leash and crap and play all over my lawn. He used to live 2 doors down and occasionally the dogs would leave nice big dumps all over our lawn and often he would throw their Kong's and Frisbees from his lawn over to ours. This of course did nothing to improve my grass nor did it allow me to keep the flowers alive under my palm tree. Usually it just pissed me off immensely. About a year ago he bought the house between us, to our dismay and 2 weeks ago he moved into it, selling the other.

Now, on a daily basis the dogs come outside, walk straight over to my lawn, piss and shit all over it and then go back inside. Normally he picks it up (sometimes right then, sometimes 24 hours later) but this leaves "shit scrapes" all over the lawn. Also, one dog has bad diarrhea so he misses most of that. So for 2 weeks, my lawn has smelled like shit. In early October my sister and her husband Ian were here visiting, Ian, witnessing the Frisbee affair with 3 labs running and tearing up my lawn he offered to go over and talk to the guy. Now Ian is a great guy, diplomatic and a true salesman and in hindsight I should have taken him up on it. But I didn't.

Throwing the shit in the guys lawn hasn't phased him and I'm not really the sort to put it in a paper bag, light it on fire and well, you know the story. That's just silly. And frankly, I just haven't been able to walk up to him and tell him to keep his dogs off my lawn. I guess I feel that nothing will change and that I probably couldn't keep my temper. So this weekend, Dena and I put a 3' high wire fence around the front yard. It's actually not too bad, only cost $ 100 and took about an hour to install. This morning, I'm proud to report that the 4 labs shit on their own lawn. I woke up to this news and I feel calm and happy. Amazing what $100 and a little passive aggressive behaviour will do for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Affecting Change

Dena is quite involved philanthropy speaking, she donates to quite a number of charities both religious and non-religious. She's been doing it for a number of years and I applaud her for that. Me on the other hand, don't really believe in giving money to people or charities. If I can help, I'll help but I'm not giving money. If I give them money then I have no idea where it goes and how it's being used and whose pockets it's lining. Cynical yes, but that's me. A cynic, born and bred. I do my own thing regarding charities, I've been involved in the past 7 years with a women's shelter here in Los Angeles, I fix their computers, their phones, bring all kinds of clothes and furniture over there and the like. I've turned many people onto this group but due to the nature of the charity and because they have to protect the battered women, mostly I'll pick up stuff and bring it there myself. They prefer that no one knows where they are or who they are. So that's my thing.

But the other night there was a 20/20 special on regarding Camden, New Jersey, the poverty there and the affect it's had on children. The episode was a follow on to a previous one and it discussed the changes that people have made in these kids lives and it got me to thinking. By the way, if you're interested in that 20/20 episode, there is much on the web about it, start here.

So I contacted this kid mentoring program. It focuses on kids in the Los Angeles foster care system, not the ones in trouble but before they get in trouble. Which is good because I don't think I'm ready to handle some kid who has already been in Juvenile Hall. But I do know that I could benefit a kid needing some confidence building, homework help, fun time and someone cool to talk to. I think I'm cool. So, I've already taken the first 2 steps, I've applied and been pre-screened and have been passed up to the next phase. You have to go through training, a criminal background check, etc. Makes sense, can't have a child molester mentoring kids, that would be bad.

Stay tuned, I'll let you know how it goes.....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Horror Films

These type of movies have never been my cup of tea. Frankly, they freak me out. They are however, the biggest money makers in Hollywood, netting significantly more cash than other genres. Think about it, you can use B or C actors(resses), special effects are really at a minimum and really, how much does fake blood and a chainsaw cost?

Speaking of freaking out, in my mind's eye I have several images of horror films etched in there. There is one in particular that is so ingrained in my pysche I think about it every week. I'm pretty sure it's from the original Friday the 13th where Jason Voorhees and the gang of soon to be murdered high schoolers are at some camp and he chases them around. The movie was released in 1980 and if I remember correctly, my cousin Robin and I snuck into the film, he convinced me to go, it was rated R of course, and we were both under 18, me just barely. I remember being scared out of my wits and scenes from that movie are with me today, 27 years later......ooooo I hated typing that number. Let me set up the scene for you......

The scene is the bathroom scene. So I walk into the bathroom at 10:00 at night at the UCLA campus after my class, and I walk into the stall and for some reason look up and around. There it is again, that feeling that someone is in the next stall, with a big ice pick and when I sit down to pee they are going to reach over the stall and stick that looped ice pick into my chin and drag me up to the top of the stall screaming, the blood catching in my throat, the breath leaving through the wrong hole........ah the horror of it all. How'd you like to have that scene play in your head everytime you went to a public bathroom at night?

Another scene from a movie that pops into my head at random moments is that scene from Aliens (I think it's the original Aliens wtih Sigourney Weaver) where the alien pops out of someones mouth or stomache. It's the alien baby from the momma's mouth. AAAARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHH!!! That movie freaks me out, too!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Miscellaneous Stuff

We drove through Santa Monica today and it's always the Farmer's Market on Sunday. A wildly successful market that recently expanded to include Valet bicycle parking. Read this bloggers report on it

Almost every morning (except when I go to the gym) I'm walking the neighborhood and I usually take the same route. Usually I see this older woman (I'm hoping she's older than me) power walking the same route. Picture this: she's about 5' nothing, with short little legs and I'm hoping about 10 - 15 years older than me. Well, maybe I shouldn't hope that. One morning she was behind me, and in my true competitive spirit I silently vowed not to let her catch up. She did, in no distance at all and smoked me. The next week, I found myself behind her as I turned the corner, I silently vowed I wouldn't let her get any further away, but off she went, smoking me again. It's kind of depressing really. I was walking as fast as humanly possible in my world.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Human Rights Campaign

This last Saturday night we went out on a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). It was a "women's only" cocktail and Hor'dourves affair hosted at a couple's house. I knew we were in for a treat when I pulled up the address on Google and it was in the Mt. Olympus area in the Hollywood Hills. I've ALWAYS wanted to go up into the area of mansions and see one inside, in person. Normally you can't really see what the house is all about because they are gated, or walled, hedged or whatever. So, I was thrilled. We pull up for the party and were greeted by female (cute I might add) valet parkers. They were very friendly and a nice change from the usual Hispanic valet guys that don't speak to you. They probably can't speak English anyways, but I digress.... If you ever want to hire a bunch of cute, young chicks to valet your party, go to Valet of the Dolls.

We walked in and made our way through this gorgeous house with the biggest kitchen I've ever seen and out into the back yard. The backyard consisted of a beautiful pool with a nice little waterfall and an incredible view of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Spectacular. The whole thing was awesome. What I felt when I was there was that this is where I belong....hobnobbing with Jane Lynch (of Two and a Half Men + and other fame ) and MSNBC pundit Hilary Rosen and the two minister ladies from Amazing Race. Who unfortunately got booted recently, but we didn't know that at the time, and of course, chatting with them, they are forbidden by contract from telling you anything. Must have been hard for them to sit there while everyone congratulated them and wished them good luck, meanwhile they didn't even make it thru the 2nd show.

As I stood at the railing watching as the fog rolled in from the west to blanket downtown Los Angeles, I thought to myself, this is where I'm supposed to be. Hobnobbing with the rich and famous. Why aren't I rich? What did I miss? What opportunity knocked that I didn't hear?

Launching the Dawn

Yes people that's right, I've got a spaceship named after me. HAHAHAHA The Dawn spacecraft is a direct dichotomy of it's namesake -- me. It's slow, actually, ultra slow (thus ultra efficient) and is very feeble, thus making it ultra light. It is scheduled to launch in September and is destined for anything but greatness.....another dichotomy for sure. It's mission is to explore the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres (which circle the sun between Mars and Venus). This spacecraft is propelled by Ion propulsion system that uses xenon gas (light compared to regular fuels). A stream of charged atoms shoots out the ass of the ship propelling the craft but its acceleration with patience. It'll take 4 days to get to 60 mph. You can read about the mission, it's propulsion system, etc here

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hollywood

Where a video game can become a block buster movie and traffic patterns are affected by whether or not it's a Jewish Holiday. Today is strike day. On one hand you have to empathize with the writer's, after all, they are paid based on their showing airing and are paid every time their show airs. Keep in mind however, that let's say you were a writer for Seinfeld, you'd think you'd be rich right? Wrong. Your residuals or paychecks drop in half for every airing down to a minimum of $1. So, for those writer's on the original Seinfeld series, they are getting one dollar for every episode that airs now, but they get nothing for every Season DVD package that is sold. You can empathize with that complaint.

Hollywood payment schedules and policies have not kept pace with technology and the Internet. That's understandable, technology moves very quickly and why would the studios want to give up $$ they don't have to. This is why unions are important. Also, writer's have suffered on their bottom line due to the proliferation of reality TV. Dancing with the Stars doesn't really need a team of writer's does it? It probably just needs one writer (and a crappy one at that) to write basic copy for the judges. But, it's hard to empathize with a group of people that can make a living working from a Starbucks for 5 hours a day.....

As far as what the viewers at home will be seeing, the impact will likely immediately affect some of the nighttime talk shows, like "The Tonight Show" and "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. Those are shows that rely on writers for everyday producing of programming.
The movie studios have stockpiled films in anticipation of a strike. Television networks have a lot of prime time programming ready, and should be okay for a little while -- but it depends on how long the strike lasts.

The strike will have a broad reaching effect if it lasts very long. I wonder how traffic will be today?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mirror Mirror on the wall...

Who is the scariest of them all? Well, that answer is obvious!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dental Damn!

This morning was my first experience at the dentist's office in a long time. I hate to say it, but probably about 8 years. This long time absence stemmed from a litany of botched and traumatic dental experiences both in childhood and adulthood which I won't bore you with here. I had also recently spoke with my Mother about her well known fear of dentists and she related her experiences. Apparently, she was worked on once by a drunk dentist. That seems appalling in this day and age, but remember, it was probably 30 or 40 years ago, in rural Canada. Also, my mom had a bad experience with laughing gas, whether she was allergic or just over gassed is unknown, but she ended up beating up the dentist. hehe. I would have like to have seen that.

Anyways, back to me....so this dentist uses nitrous oxide or laughing gas to chill you out as well as the usual Novocaine. I was pretty happy to find that out as anything to lesson my anxiety is a good thing. I cautioned her as to my mom's previous reaction and she set it on low. Nowadays, you can't screw up the mixture as its all regulated for safety reasons ensuring you get sufficient oxygen into your lungs as well as the nitrous. I was breathing in the nitrous and was feeling pretty good, laughing, making jokes, etc until I started to feel dizzy. It came about rather quickly and I told her that we should turn it down. So she turned the mixture down from a low 2.5 to a lower 1.5.

I continued to breathe in the gas, enjoying the lessening of the anxiety and the feeling of "I just don't care how much drilling you do" until all of a sudden I felt a little dizzy again, then really dizzy, then I started drifting away, my mouth felt like it wasn't a part of my face and I got very confused. As I started to black out I think a little panic set in and I pulled off the nitrous mask. I couldn't understand where my mouth was and I was about a breath away from passing out. The passing out feeling dissipated but I was very dizzy, bordering on nauseous. I thought to myself, it would be bad to throw up in a dental dam right? Fortunately, she took all the crap off my face that I don't remember her putting on. I guess I had a bite guard in and I totally don't remember that going on. It took about 15 minutes for me to get back to feeling normal again. We left the gas off for the rest of the procedure. This was a very frightening experience and frankly, I have no idea how I will make it through any more procedures.

Hours later: my jaw hurts like a son of a bitch and now my teeth are starting to ache. Oh joy. I love when the Novocaine wears off........

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Long Weekend of Homework

Wow, I've had a long weekend of learning, studying, quizzing and teaching not to mention the frustration that goes along with it all. This weekend we babysat Dena's niece and nephew, Jack and Ruby. We were instructed that Ruby had Math homework to do and Jack had to study for his History Midterms. They are in Grades 5 and 6 respectively. I had no idea what we'd gotten ourselves into.

Saturday I spent 2 hours teaching Ruby the concepts of dividing or multiplying to get the missing denominator or numerator in a fraction. The concept is called Equivalent Fractions. The concept is that if you have 8/10 = n/5 where n is some number that you have to figure out. In this case, the answer is 4.
8/10 = 4/5 <-- These are equivalent fractions
Seems simple, eh, just wait until you have to explain it to a 10 year old. Thank god we only had to do the even numbered problems. After all that was over Ruby informed me that she had another section of homework, she proceeded to read the first question and said "I know how to do this" and shooed me off. I sighed in relief and left the room. She presented me with the homework later for me to check, it was all wrong. I hated to deliver that news as I knew she'd blow up. She ended up crying in the bedroom. Before she went to sleep I explained to her that sometimes we just have to practice things and try and try until we get things right and then I promised her we'd work on the wrong section tomorrow. This stopped the tears and she went to sleep.

Sunday we spent another 90 minutes on the concept of Greatest Common Factor (GCF) and Simplest Form. I have to admit, I had to look up GCF on the internet in order to understand how and why they are teaching it. Simplest Form is easy, I cannot remember what they called it in my day but it's basically just reducing a fraction to its lowest.

Example: 4/8 reduces to 1/4.
1/4 is it's simplest form.

Greatest Common Factor is doing a factor tree and finding the common factor between the numerator and the denominator and figuring out which is the greatest. You then use the GCF to divide and get the simplest form of the fraction. Example, 30/50 -- it's greatest common factor is 10. You divide the numerator and the denominator by 10 and you get 3/5. 3/5 is equivalent to 30/50 but it is in its simplest form as 3/5. These are examples are simple and I'm putting in that way so that the 30 somethings, 40 somethings, etc will understand what I'm talking about. It's been a loooonnnnnnggggg time since we learned this stuff.

We managed to struggle through all of this and during this process I learned how important the foundation of math is. This would have been so much easier for Ruby had she known her multiplication tables. Even 2 x anything was a challenge. When I asked her repeatedly what the common factors of 14 are, it was a 5 minute process to figure it out, even when she was asked over multiple days. If she had the basic foundation of the multiplication tables down then it would be a simple process to determine that the common factors of 14 are 2 and 7. Simple, 2 x 7 = 14.

Well, I have to go now as I have to quiz Jack on Chapters 1 through 3 in his history book for his midterm. First, I have to learn it myself because you can't really ask questions about something you know nothing about. What is culture change? Shit, I don't know, I mean I know, but I don't. Explain the local and global effects of deforestation. I have to make sure I don't miss anything or tell him the wrong thing as I would be doing him a disservice and teaching him wrong. The pressure!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happy Belated Birthday Jackie!


Sorry for the lateness of this......but sometimes our busy lives just get in the way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire and Hair

Driving into Los Angeles from up north Sunday afternoon was a little surreal. Coming down the 101 I could see the plumes of smoke and slowly broad daylight turned to night. It was almost as if the day glowed yellow. An odd color to be sure. With the acrid smell of smoke in the air and the hauntingly clear freeways I emerged from the Camarillo pass down into Woodland Hills and clear, blue sky. The fires here were north of where I was and West (in Malibu) so the sky overhead was clear.

Sunday night and Monday morning it was incredibly dry with a relative humidity of about 5 %. Now that's dry. Today it's hovering around 15 % in the city and 10 - 12% out by the fires. I'm thirsty all the time. There's a layer of ash on the car as well but certainly not to the extent of co-workers and friends that live in and near the burn areas. Check out this blog for promised pictures tomorrow.

Hair:

I accompanied Dena to Rudy's for a haircut. Dena has been going to this garage style buzz and trim place for awhile now as its $ 21 for a "style", and I use that term loosely. Originally I had just wanted to accompany her and hang out but since we had to wait an hour and I needed a trim anyway I decided to get one. The stylist that Dena uses was booked but she suggested Natasha. Natasha, a tall, skinny, pink haired, harsh looking woman comes out from the back and she looks pissed. Apparently she was eating dinner and not in the mood to cut my hair. As I settled into the chair my mind screamed, "Get up!!! Get up and leave now!!" I ignored my intuition as I do most of the time and stayed put. A woman's intuition is a foolish thing to ignore and a vital piece of our existance. Why I continue to ignore mine I'll never know, but my logical side talks me out of listening to it more times than not.

I'm very used to having someone cut my hair with some sort of style in mind. I knew it was going to be bad when she said she was going to take about half an inch off. Then after I had very little hair left she said she was going to texture it. Then it was like she was taking another half an inch off. So I have no style and very little hair. Nice.......I'm never, ever going back to Rudy's. There is a reason why a real hair stylist charges $ 75! I've now taken to calling myself "cue ball".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Toilet Paper Usage

Dena and I have argued since we moved in together about the quantity of toilet paper I use. This weekend with my Lake Naciemento scrapbooking home girls (a bunch of straight wild women who turn into wild women when the are away from their husbands) we discussed this topic and how several of their mates complain about it as well. So we all decided to do a test. We all "pulled" our regular allotment of TP and compared who uses how much. The results are.....


Of 7 women 3 are "green" where they only use 5 squares, one using 7 squares. The other 4 are between 8 and 11 squares with the average being 9.


Some basic history of Toilet Paper



The first known use of toilet paper per se (as opposed to leaves, etc) is 6th century AD in China.

I love this quote below:

The 16th century French satirical writer François Rabelais in his series of novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, discussing the various ways of cleansing oneself at the toilet, wrote that: "He who uses paper on his filthy bum, will always find his ballocks lined with scum", proposing that the soft feathers on the back of a live goose provide an optimum cleansing medium.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stress

What does stress do to you? I've got so many things going on currently in my life that my stress level is astronomical. I'm not sure how I'm even handling it frankly, I think it helps that in the last 45 days I've taken 2 weeks vacation. I'm pretty sure that's whats saving me from a heart attack or a comatose mental breakdown.

The stress is caused by this company merger, new boss, doing multiple jobs, changing everything to do with my job (i.e. health plan, dental, 401k, etc) all the unknowns of this merger. Almost everyday I have stomach issues, often I'm angry and irritable, and I'm definitely not sleeping well and I'm definitely drinking more alcohol. I go to bed exhausted and wake up exhausted. And the aniety dreams! Wow. What am I going to do about it? Who knows? I find that going to the gym helps quite a bit however, I'm working so hard and long that there is often no time for the gym. It seems like an endless cycle that I'm becoming concerned about. For now, I'll just hang in there and hope. We have to have hope right?

Symptoms & Warning Signs of Job Stress
While the causes can be something other than job stress, here are the most common symptoms and early warning signs of job stress and burnout:
Apathy
Negativism/cynicism
Low morale
Boredom
Anxiety
Frustration
Fatigue
Depression
Alienation
Anger/irritability
Physical problems (headaches, stomach problems)
Absenteeism

hmmm, I have 99% of those things......perhaps I should try the last one -- absenteeism......

Monday, October 15, 2007

My UCLA computer class

I'm taking this Linux computer geeky class at UCLA this fall semester. I felt that with the company merger happening and all the rule and expense changes, I should capitalize on the lax old rules before they change. So I took the class. I'm a firm believer that opportunity rarely knocks and when it does it knocks very softly.

The Unix/Linux class is Intermediate and it's taught by a JPL rocket scientist who I'm pretty sure is on about 10 cups of high test Starbucks by the time he comes to teach. He talks very fast, gives us very complicated Linux commands and I am finding it incredibly stimulating. The other night I went to class exhausted and came out wired, excited and wide awake. Nothing like a little brain candy to wake up all the synapses, eh. I'm hoping this class will help me prepare for my Linux certification but who knows if I'll have any time to study to prepare as we are so busy that I'm already working 12 hours a day. Thank god I had some vacations planned or I'd be hosed and burnt out already. The stress of the merger alone is really affecting me. There is so much going on, we're splitting off, getting new benefits, changing benefits, changing bosses, it's just way too much change to happen all at once.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Crazy Out Here

These are just random thoughts.
You know what's cool -- losing 20 pounds lets you fit into the small 737 seats a whole lot better. Flying is actually sort of comfortable, well, as comfortable as flying nowadays can be.

Also, my sister was at LAX flying home with her family last Sunday and she told me about this TSA agent making a mother take a baby's bib off. I thought, hmmm, must have been some snotty TSA agent. Well, last Tuesday I went thru Burbank airport, I was wearing a t-shirt with a nice collared shirt over it, open, aka not buttoned. They searched me after I went thru security because I had lose fitting clothing. What a bunch of bullshit.

I'm exhausted, want to know what I did this week? Monday, worked like a dog, about 14 hours. Tuesday, took a 7:00a Southwest flight out of Burbank airport for PHX, worked 14 hours a day while I was there and flew home tonight in time for my Linux computer class at UCLA. Where I'm sitting now, until 10:00pm. Great. Think I'm tired yet? Well, how about Friday's agenda? Early morning flight from Burbank to PHX, work all day, fly home on 6:30p flight, and then....pass out.

Sounds like fun eh

Thursday, October 04, 2007

DisneyLand Day 2


19,800 steps on my pedometer later (for one day) and Disneyland is done. Wow. That's a lot of steps. Disneyland has a theme this year, "a million dreams". Well, Grace's dreams certainly came true on this trip with a 100% success rate in seeing princesses and a pretty much 90% success rate in meeting them. The only princess she didn't personally meet at least once was Tinkerbell but I don't think Tink really attends any events per se. She's like a night princess I think. However, during the parade, Tinkerbell was high up on her float waving to everyone with her wand and Grace was waving her little Tinkerbell stuffed doll up at her, Tinkerbell saw Grace, smiled, waved and put her hands over her mouth in a true "pleased" princess posed. Grace was thrilled. We're all dog tired but had a great time with even the adults getting on some rides. The haunted mansion was decked out for "Nightmare before Christmas" and it was awesome! I've never seen it in that state. Bye for now

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Heart to Heart Chats.....





Grace has a heart to heart chat with various Disney Princesses. The highlight of her day, I can assure you! I'm pretty sure they were solving the world's problems. Good thing, they need solving.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thoughts and Ramblings.....

I had to go to my neighborhood Von's grocery store last night to pick up a few veggies for dinner and got a nice surprise at the cash register. Now, let me just preface this by saying that our Von's sucks. It's small, has a terrible selection of fresh food and poor quality when it is there and frankly, it caters to a market segment that I'm not a part of. Ok, let's get real here. Some of you aren't going to like what I say, but, hey, it's true. Grocery stores, and other retailers use market research (like your Ralph's/Vons/Albertsons "savings" card) to gather buying habits and other data on their clientel and focus the stores' content on that information. Our Vons caters to black people, pure and simple. It's the only grocery store I go to that has grits, collared greens during Thanksgiving, gumbo, etc etc. Am I racially profiling and pissing you off? Well tough shit, it's the truth.

Wait a second, where was I going with this? Oh, right --- so at the cash register there was a stack of Melissa Etheridge's new release "Awakenings" with a big sign over the POS machine for donating to breast cancer. I thought, hmmm, this is novel, a lesbian, white woman's CD in a predominately black supermarket with top billing. How life continues to amaze me........by the way, I donated.

Next random thought, 6:00 am. I usually get up at 6 and go to the gym or for a walk. What happened? It's still dark when I go out there! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that the earth rotates and moves in it's orbit around the sun and fall is coming so the days are shorter, but still. It sucks. It feels like I should be in bed. Getting motivated is quite difficult when you get up and it's dark. When is daylight savings time anyways? Well this year, it's the first Sunday in November instead of somewhere in October. I think it's 2 weeks later.

Well, there are more random thoughts, but I'll get to those later.......

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Simpler Times.....

As I sit in the deep, dank ne'er regions of the Grand Del Mar computer room designing and programming their entire network, I think of how much fun this is. I know that sounds silly. I have no cell phone service, the toilets have no paper products, there are construction workers everywhere and a big smile on my face. Here, I can fix something, program something and receive relatively instant gratification that I've done a good job.

My job now is Customer Relations Manager. What does that mean really? The official explanation is that I provide a liaison between the customer and sales and the customer and our technical services people. You may even call me a customer advocate. I'm required to be technical in nature, salesy in nature but most of all, have excellent customer facing skills. I think I fit that bill. The job in theory is supposed to strengthen the customer relationship between the "company" and the customer. This should head off situations where all of a sudden the customer buys $ 1,000,000 worth of widgets from your competitor and tells you to hit the road because x, y and z sucks about your company, but you had no idea the customer was having that experience. I think it's a vital position and my company focuses it on higher $ value customers, as it should be.

So for these next 2 days, I have no customer interaction, I have only to talk to inanimate objects via my computer and make them do my bidding. A nice change for sure. I'm sure Monday I'll be happy to be doing my real job :-)

Addendum: well as I left the site at 9:00pm I'm wondering if I miss it all that much, my back aches from sitting hunched over a cardboard box as a table from my seat, another cardboard box.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Road Trip Day 8 - Friday - The Road Less Travelled

Dena and I believe in taking roads less travelled, off the beaten track and away from the everyday traveller. You cannot see the country from the Interstate. We left Santa Fe for the drive home at 6am MST, and began our long and scenic day. We stopped in Gallup, NM for breakfast at a Earl's Family Restaurant on Route 66. Believe it or not, I had been there before. The place is frequented by mostly Navajo Indians and is surrounded by Navajo artists hocking their wares. After a dirt cheap, filling breakfast we hit the road again making great time for Flagstaff, AZ. We jumped off Interstate 40 at Flagstaff and opted for the southerly State Route 89A towards the incredible Red Rock area near Sedona.

We stopped in Sedona for a quick pee and couldn't really recognize the town. We had been to Sedona ~ 14 years ago and we were doubting ourselves that it was the same place. The highway was surrounded by what basically was a .25 mile long mini-mall on both sides. Crazy touristy for sure, the shops 2 stories high and blocking the fantastic vistas and views that made Sedona famous in the first place. I walked into a shop and asked when this whole complex of shops appeared. The shopkeeper told me it was about 10 years ago and where we were standing used to be highway, just highway. That's what we remembered, highway and not this whole commercialized, touristy shopping area. We were appalled and glad we had come 14 years ago when it was more real. I suppose that's why we're going to Antarctica, the road (or ocean) less travelled.

From Sedona we continued south thru the back country of Arizona to a small little town of Jerome, pop. 400 souls. This is an old 1880's copper mining ghost town turned eclectic artists community now. We had a fantastic lunch at the Flat Iron Cafe. A small cafe with only 3 tables right at the point of a hairpin turn, run by 2 gay guys, transplants from Seattle. The town is very hilly and the little streets wind up the hill in sharp switchbacks. Stairs serve as pedestrian walkways and you can get quite a workout walking around. We bummed around, looked in galleries and shops and Dena reminisced about her visit here when she was a teenager. This really was the reason we stopped as Dena and her family had been here before. She admitted that they didn't stay long as someone was in a bad mood. I wonder who that was?

From there we continued our South Westerly drive over Mingus Mountain, then into Prescott Valley, then up into another mountain range, then down into another valley, and on and on that went for hours, up and down, up and down. I was getting a little tired of all this hanging on for dear life while we went careening around hairpin corners and hung off the side of cliffs but Dena had fun. She drove all day as she loves this type of mountain driving. I would have pulled over long ago for a glass of wine as I get too tired and stressed driving these kinds of roads.

After our over hill and dale trek we hit Highway 71 that marches through some of the most desolate land I've ever seen. Beautiful saguaro cacti all over though, but desolate. Finally we hit Interstate 10 and headed for Palm Springs, CA. We overnighted at our friends Al and Michael's having a nice swim and a couple glasses of wine. What a day.....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Road Trip - Day 7 - Thursday




Today we spent a morning of leisure bumming around shops and waiting for our massages.....
After that tough morning we were off to the Ten Thousand Waves for an afternoon of hot pools, sauna's and a massage. We were there for about 4 hours. We felt rejuventated after all that, I had thought we'd feel really tired. Good thing, as it was time for the Zozobra festival.

We met at the B&B we started at, the Turquoise Bear, as they had invited us to park there and walk to the Zozobra festival with them. What a great bunch of people they are. We started our trek to the festival park about 1.5 miles away with about 15 people. They showed us where to buy tickets, waited for us, and guided us up near the front of the 20,000 people waiting to see Old Man Gloom get burned. What an experience this was. You see, Zozobra or Old Man Gloom is an 87 year old festival in Santa Fe. To the people of Santa Fe, Old Man Gloom represents the hardships and difficulties of the past year. They burn him in effigy to clear away the gloom and bring in a new, better year. The burning is a kind of ritual, or symbolic act. To tell you the truth my readers, I had tears in my eyes as the crowd chanted "BURN HIM" and everyone cast their anxieties, hardships and problems up into the huge figure. You see, I wanted these anxieties about work to be gone and the symbolic new year to be a good one.

We had a great time and we sorry to see our new friends leave.




Thursday, September 06, 2007

Road Trip - Day 6 - Wednesday


Today we decided to drive up to Taos for the day. With sadness we checked out of the Turquoise Bear Inn. We had a wonderful time there, met many people and bonded with our innkeeper Steven. He was sad to see us leave and perhaps we'll see him Thursday night at the infamous Zozobra festival. We may be going with all the staff from the Turquoise Bear.


On the drive up our first stop was Santuario de Chimayo, one of the most famous churches in all of New Mexico. The story goes that over 200 years ago a man named Bernado Albeyta was leading a Holy week celebration when he saw a mysterious light coming from the ground. He began to dig at the source of the light and soon uncovered a crucifix. The crucifix was taken to the church of Santa Cruz, but miraculously continued to return, on its own, to its original location. The santuario was constructed around the cross so that it could remain where it belonged. It is said that people make a pilgrimage from all over to rub the dirt from that hole over their ailments and that it cures them. I rubbed dirt on my shoulder. It seemed to feel better, I forgot to rub it on my back as that was quite sore as well.


Then we drove up to Taos, shopped a little and visited the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge. That's spectacular, its about a 600' hole in the middle of endless prairies. The gorge cuts across the entire valley floor, which is quite extensive. All I could think of was the wagon trains coming across for the first time and riding on this nice flat ground then they run into the gorge and the only word out of their mouth would be "Fuck!". Because there really is no way around it.
From there it was the Taos Pueblo. That truly was the highlight of the day. We got a guided tour and met several artists, one being Tom Ready to Hunt. We purchased a few pieces of jewellery from him and enjoyed our stay. No running water, electricity or modern conveniences allowed within the pueblo walls. If you are Taos Indian you always have a home here anytime you want, a mud wall adobe home. About 20-30 families living there fulltime with the population rising significantly during holidays.
Dinner was at a wonderful place called Gabriel's near our new digs, the Triangle Inn. We are about 10 miles outside of town, it's quiet. Gabriel's had the best food we've had since we've been here. For $ 40 we had margaritas, fresh made at your table guacamole (Fantastic!), sopapillas (best I've ever had) and more food than we could eat. Dena had these chile rellenos that were pure perfection.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Road Trip - Day 5 - Tuesday

Tuesday started off up early for the short 30 minute drive to the Tent Rocks NM. We spent a truly spectacular day hiking in the Tent Rocks National Monument. I've not been to a slot canyon, unless of course if you count Petra, which in my opinion is the slot canyon to end all -- perhaps the 8th wonder of the world. But I digress. How about we just say this was my first American slot canyon. The scenery was breathtaking and around every corner was another adventure.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, is located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico (near Cochiti), is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed site that was established as a U.S. National Monument by President Bill Clinton in January 2001 shortly before leaving office. Thanks Bill.

After a snack we had to have a power nap after all that scenery and hiking. We then strolled to the plaza and shopped a little. But our heart wasn't in it. Dinner was at a restaurant called The Compound/ where we had a fantastic margarita called a Prickly Pear Margarita. We had a great dinner and spent the evening listening to the thunder and rain while watching A Fish Called Wanda. Great background soundtrack to a classic movie.

In regards to the Direct Services re-organization I heard yesterday that my job is safe and still the same but different.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Road Trip - Day 4 - Labor Day

Today was a low key day although a good one. We've met many people at the B&B's we've stayed at; one being a couple from Boston. They were going to some large as life art exhibit in southern New Mexico called the Lightning field. Apparently its a 24 hour experience. It looks boring to me and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to be standing in monsoon season in a huge field of 200 lightning rods.......but that's just me.

The day was full of gallery hopping and the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. We had a great time, had a little nap in the afternoon and then went to see Death at a Funeral. Not as funny a movie as the trailers led you to believe, but entertaining.

My nerves jangle with anticipation of the announcement tomorrow of our company's division merger. I find out what my new position is, assuming there is one, and what changes in the organization will take place. Perhaps the anxiety dreams will stop after tonight.......

Monday, September 03, 2007

Road Trip - Day 3 Sunday

We left Albuquerque (thank god as its hard to spell in a blog) after a wonderful breakfast among the humming birds at the Bottger Mansion. We had an easy drive up to Santa Fe, NM and of course, opted for the road less travelled. We took SR 14 which is called the Turquoise Trail . We stopped at a small little remnant of a mining town called Golden, then on to the big attraction, Madrid. They say that if you turned New Mexico upside down and shook it all the loose screws, nuts and dolts would fall out and land in Madrid (apparently pronounced "mah-drid").

Madrid is a great artist's community with wonderful shops and galleries. Apparently the area around Cerrillos is only able to be mined by 5 different people/claims. Cerrillos turquoise is quite a bit different from other turquoise found throughout the SouthWest. These miners can no longer use heavy equipment but must mine by hand, pick axe, shovel type equipment only. I don't really care for turquoise normally but actually found a gorgeous pendant that I had to have. Then as we walked around I found the artist in another shop. She mines it herself with one of the 5 claims which she inherited from her father Whalen. He taught her the mining techniques, jewellry making and the art of inlay. We enjoyed talking with her.

Our easy 60 mile side trip landed us in Santa Fe in time to check into our new digs, the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. A gorgeous B&B made in the old adobe tradition with 6" thick walls and ultra quiet rooms. We had a lovely wine and cheese reception, met people from all over the US and then went out to Los Mayos for a traditional New Mexician dinner complete with sangria. YUMMM!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Road Trip - Day 2 - Saturday

We awoke in Kingman, AZ to another beautiful day and hopped in the car. We started out immediately with a detour opting for the longer famous Route 66 section between Kingman and Flagstaff. We weren't disappointed as the scenery was spectacular and the drive easy. We stopped for breakfast in Seligman at a German restaurant, rumored to be fantastic. There we sat among all bikers and hunters eating our wonderful pancakes. Needless to say we were the only people not wearing black or camouflage.

We cruised through Flagstaff and decided to stop at the famous Meteor Crater . You can read all about it via the link however, it was huge, only 6 miles off I40 and well worth the stop. They trained the Apollo astronauts there as it was so moonlike. You drive up to it and you can see the impact (literally hehe) it had on the landscape. Miles upon miles upon miles of flat high desert and then the ground rises up to this. Amazing.

Next we cruised through Winslow, AZ and played the Eagles song, "Take it easy" in honor of that one horse town. We again veered off the main interstate, opting for the road less travelled and headed up SR 191 for the Hubbell Trading Post. This is the last still operating trading post in the United States and lies on Navajo land. The Navajo exhibit their rugs, jewellery and still trade for foodstuffs here. Dena purchased a beautiful ring whose turquoise reminded me of 2 flowers coming out of a vase. I decided her Indian name was going to be "two flowers".

From there we blew thru the Navajo reservation coming into Gallup and patted ourselves on the back as our timing was going to be perfect. We were going to arrive in Albuquerque around 7:30 - 8:00p in time to check in and then go to a late dinner. Apparently old town ABQ rolls up at 9:00. This was not to be as we hit a tremendous thunder and lightning storm, construction and bad traffic. We rolled into Albuquerque at 9:00p hardly able to see the street signs and struggled to find our B&B the Bottger Mansion. We found it and the rain was just raging. The inn was closed and I ran up to the door found our letter with how to get in, meanwhile shivering in the rain, soaked to the bone and cringing from the thunder and lightning bolts. We made it in the house both soaked and pissed off. All the restaurants were closed and we ended up going to bed with a protein bar. A bad end to an awesome day.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Road Trip Blog -- Day 1

What an adventure we've had thus far. We left Los Angeles Friday afternoon at around 1:30 and our timing was perfect. Even though it was a long weekend we seemed to skim right along. Starting over the Cajon pass on our way into the high desert on I15 we started to see some awesome lightning strikes, while awed by their beauty we thought nothing of it until we ran into probably one of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever driven through. We were driving uphill and there was probably 1" to 3" of water on the road instantly. Dena kept watch to the sides of the road as we were passing the "Wash Road Exit", an omen to be sure while I kept my eyes glued to what I could see of the road. We weathered that and several other rain squalls and passed thru Barstow in record time.

We stopped in the little shithole of a town near the Arizona border called Needles at 6:30p and it was a balmy 113 degrees. Can you imagine what the damn temperature was in the heat of the afternoon? We gassed up and were on our way. We found out later from friends that Needles is the highest priced gas in the nation. Thank you very much. As we drove across the Colorado River into Arizona we started to see lightning strikes that made the ones over Cajon pass pale in comparison. That constant lightning show went on for an hour making us cry out over in over in awe and surprise. We drove into Kingman, AZ and visited some old work friends of mine. They showed us a good time, made Margaritas with a killer mix that involves 1/2 bottle of beer and shared there star filled backyard with us.

For Saturday September 1st, who knows what adventures we'll have. Perhaps we'll touch on the famous Route 66.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Marshmellow Warrior


Bonfire on the beach at Huntington Beach State Park -- what a great night with great friends. Thanks to the Toes on the Nose guys we didn't have to "camp" our fire pit all day like most people. We arrived in the evening, they built the fire, stoked it all night, set out the lawn chairs, provided s'mores fixin's. All quite civilized actually. Don't you love LA, all it takes is money, baby.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to the Lottery

Well, another post lottery day let down......No one won either the Mega Millions ( $ 300 million) or the Super Lotto ( ~ 86 million) I suppose that's good since I certainly didn't have the #'s. If I can't win then no one should, hehe

Let's dream for a moment here. Let's start small...... If the California lottery gave me $1,000,000 what would I do? Well, the feds would take $420,000 so I'd be left with $ 580,000. I certainly wouldn't quit my job. That's not enough cash to quit. I think I would take $80,000 of it and pay off a few loans and take the $ 500,000 and buy a condo on Kauai, probably in Princeville. Or maybe, a house in Hanalei Bay. Regardless, 500k is only a down payment on either. Hopefully, and I would have to do the math, this would bring the mortgage down to such a level that renting it out would pay for homeowner's dues, taxes, the remaining mortgage and make me a little cash every month. I'm talking about renting it out to tourists, not to locals. More money in vacation rentals in Hawaii than on local rentals.


That brings up a good point. If I bought a 4 or 6 unit apartment building on Kauai or even the mainland perhaps, then that could be good income. hmmmmm.......but then if I bought a condo in Princeville for vacation rentals then we could use it to vacation.........hmmmmm, but then friends and family would want to use if for free. That would be inconvenient. If you're giving it away all the time then you're not making any money. AAACCCCKKKK!!!! Obviously, I have to win more money than 1 million dollars! Isn't it amazing, with money comes problems. I have lots of problems with this $ 1 million and I haven't even won it yet. Dena would say that's my pessimistic self shining through, but frankly, I'm just a realist.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Praying to the Lottery Gods

Ah Lotto fever has certainly hit California. The MegaLotto (which is a multi-state lotto of which California is part of) is at 250 million (draw tonight, Tuesday) and the Super Lotto (the original, California only) is up around 86 million and that draw is Wednesday night. The estimated pot for just 5 out of 5 numbers minus the mega number for the Mega Lotto is around 1.2 million. That means you didn't win the big one, but you got 5 out of 6 #'s. I'm not greedy. I could go for 1.2 million.

But what if I won? How does all that lottery stuff work? Cash value, 26 annual payments, etc? Well, basically, if you choose 26 annual payments of your 26,000,000 (let's use that as an easy example) then the State of California graciously sets you up an annuity guaranteeing an interest rate of ~ 6.68 %. All lotteries are annuities. The total jackpot you see advertised is bogus. That money is not available. In a typical state lottery, the cash value is roughly half the face value. Modern lotteries, you see, involve a bit of financial sleight of hand. You've "won" $X million only in the sense that you'll receive that much if you're willing to wait 20 (or 26 in some states) years to collect it. What you've actually won is the cash value plus the interest that accumulates. So what should you take, the cash value or the annual payments? Well, can you and your trusted financial adviser make better than 6.68% on that money if you took it all at once? Then you'd be better ahead taking the cash value.

Regardless, the IRS will take its share as well. You will be taxed based on the tax bracket you're in. Well, you've just won $26,000,000 so regardless of whether you collect now or over 26 years, you'll probably still be in the highest bracket (42%) unless you're a tax magician.

So this blog started out as going to be what I would do with the money, but perhaps I'll dwell on that tomorrow. I got down a rat hole counting my cash.........and how California and the feds were going to screw me out of a bunch of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ramblings

  1. When you're short, buying capri pants is not really an option. They just look like you bought regular pants that are floods.
  2. It doesn't matter how much lotion, face creme, etc nor how much many you spend on said cremes, you still get wrinkles. Getting old sucks.
  3. Aleve is a wonderful anti-inflammatory.......it is definitely helping with my shoulder pain.
  4. There is a family of vegetables called "nightshade" and they include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes(minus yams) -- the superstition is that they all contain a toxin that is poisonous to humans. Nightshade vegetables are the single most common staple in the middle eastern diet. Hmmmm......perhaps this explains why they are all insane.
  5. Since when did mom's start buying their kids lunches at 7-11? I see this more and more. What good can come of that? So they get a lunchables, a gatorade and a candy bar for lunch. Wow, that's healthy. No wonder American children are suffering such a high rate of obesity.
  6. Men are dogs. At the gym I see men leering at women half their age. Not even trying to hide it, just leering openly. I mean, get real. Do you think she'd even remotely give you the time of day?
  7. 90% of people at the gym have some sort of MP3 player, and of that 90% -- 75% of those are Apple Ipods........YAY! My stock appreciates your patronage.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kittens Invade Greek Restaurant




Aren't they adorable. A mommy kitty had 5 kittens outside the Greek restaurant that we went to Saturday night in Edmonton. I just had a thought, I hope they are not out there in the winter! Anyways, they were absolutely adorable, I couldn't help, despite allergies, petting and holding them. Momma kat was very, very skinny as it probably takes a tremendous amount of energy to feed all these brats. Someone had put cat food out for them but momma was very watchful and probably has little time to eat.




Friday, August 10, 2007

Segway Test Drive


While in the West Edmonton Mall I test drove a segway. I was able to have lessons and ride around on both models, both the first generation and the newest model. While all models are body intuitive the new model is even more so with turning done with a slight lean and a small movement of the handle. There are now many different models of Segways - a golf model, an off roading model, a police model, etc. Check out their website
I had an absolute blast in my test drive and was able to get the personal transporter up to significant speed fairly quickly. As you can see in the picture there was a rocky area, turns, ramps, etc. It was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shoulder Saga Continues

I went to a new orthopedic surgeon today. The one that stuck the needle in my shoulder while I was on the x-ray table has been rumored to be unethical, etc. I got that info from a variety of sources so I elected to change doctors.

I am happy to report that this doctor -- Dr. Robert Wilson (such a benign name, eh) is a very nice, attentive surgeon whose first inclination is not to cut you open. What a novel concept. He said that 80% of people with my injury (severe rotator cuff impingement due to AC hypertrophy i.e. inflamed) recover with specific exercise and avoidance. So I have some very specific exercises I must do and I think the key is to avoid specific motions. Like golf :-( Actually, any movement > 80% high for my arm is not allowed. So, anything over shoulder height I cannot do. 80 is apparently the magic number. The second injury, the partial tear of the labral whatever it is, is "partial" therefore in time, with exercise and care, it should naturally heal. Now I personally noticed that the tear seemed partial when reading my own MRI but no one else mentioned it until this guy. See, those internet MRI reading lessons have come in handy.........

This news and doctor's visit certainly buoyed my spirits especially since I've found out that arthroscopic shoulder surgery means a sling for 6 weeks, then physical therapy. I'm not really thrilled with that......

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's a sad day when.....

You have to increase the font size on your blackberry......

Friday, July 27, 2007

KD Lang and Lyle Lovett at the Greek

What an awesome night it was. We attended this concert last night with the expectations that K. D. Lang was our focus and Lyle Lovett an after thought. Were we wrong. KD Lang performed first and her billing on the marquis was almost as a warm up band. She played while the sun was still up (the Greek being an outdoor amplitheatre) and it was a little weird. People were still arriving up until her last couple songs. People in Los Angeles find it challenging to get to any event on time. I don't know if its the Hollywood fashionably late thing or traffic or just poor planning. They do the same at Dodger games, come around the 3rd inning and leave in the 7th. Anyways, I digress....

She sang all her old standbys, her voice and range spectacular as always. She is probably the worst dresser on tour and has become a little chunky. Someone needs to help her dress for concerts. I think you can be unique and eclectic and still look good. She did sing one song from her new upcoming album in February 2008 which I thought was awesome and made me anxious for its release. This album is a collection of her own recently written love songs. I look forward to an original release from her. We haven't had any of her own written songs since 2000's "Invincible Summer." The new 2008 album is currently untitled.

Lyle Lovett was definitely the standout. His billing is Lyle Lovett and his Large Band. Large it is. With 4 backup singers, a trumpet, trombone, sax, mandolin, electric standup bass, cello, regular standup bass, slide guitar, grand piano, conga drums, regular drums, lead guitar, etc etc etc etc etc the band is monstrous. What a lively, fun, touchy performance. They first performed songs from their new album, "It's not big, it's large". Well, it's so new its not released yet. Set for release 8/28/07. I enjoy his music and WOW what a performance! Another standout here was Francine Reed, a gospel? singer from Atlanta. She sang one song on her own and had the crowd on their feet.

KD Lang and Lyle Lovett's styles are different yet similar in their uniqueness. That's deep, eh. They both write, perform and explore whatever music styles suit them at the time and that makes it very fun for all of us. I was surprised they didn't sing together.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Shoulder Update


I managed to sneak into the ortho doctor this morning on a cancellation. I couldn't really see the need to wait another week to put off the inevitable. It was an interesting and long visit. He reviewed the MRI and decided that the main problem was my AC Joint. I've not really mentioned that to anyone before this as I was hoping it was just a genetic abnormality in me personally and not a problem. Apparently it is not genetic, but it is a major problem. I was bouyed by the fact that Dr. Kreitenberg wanted to perform one additional treatment prior to deciding on arthroscopic surgery. It makes you feel good about a surgeon who is not just a cut and sew man. Basically the AC joint is huge. He stuck a needle with cortisone and some sort of numbing stuff into the AC Joint,that was fun, left the needle there while they took an x-ray to ensure that it was in the right place. Just picture me laying on the x-ray slab with a god knows how big needle sticking out of my shoulder while they go develop the pictures and look at them. I was chanting to myself, "let the needle be in the right spot...." Fortunately, it was and then the fun really began. He then injected the cortisone and I just about lept off the table. The range of motion was almost immediately better and now I have 2 weeks of limited physical activity to see what will come of this. I thought I'd give you a pix of the AC joint for your perusal, that is actually from my MRI, not Internet downloaded.

The Labral tear is confirmed and will require arthroscopic surgery to repair but if this cortisone shot doesn't do any magic then they'll also shave a sliver off my collar bone to relieve the pain in the AC joint during certain movements. Sounds like loads of fun eh.

Here's the details of the "Mumford procedure"
The simplest type of surgery for AC joint injury involves resection or removal of the end of the clavicle using arthroscopic (mini-surgical) techniques (called a Mumford procedure). If the joint becomes painful because of DCO (weightlifter's shoulder) or arthritis, or the separation is only minor, this technique can be very satisfactory.

Official diagnosis is Hypertrophy of the AC joint and there is a pretty clear pic of it in this link. You can see on the Left a normal MRI (not mine) and you can see in the middle a MRI image almost identical to mine. Fortunately, it has not progressed to the image on the right. Definitely feel the pressing on the rotator cuff in terms of muscle pain in the front center soft tissue area of my shoulder. I think based on my internet research I'm destined for the Mumford.....

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Favorite Gas Station - Part 3

Well, I guess I had to go to 3 parts on this topic. In researching for the previous 2 posts I explored http://www.thegreencurve.com/ (the stations web site) quite extensively. I eventually made it to the personal section. I took the eco personal path test. I was a little startled to learn that I am only marginally above the average person in eco-friendly recycling. I guess I thought that I was doing my part. I learned I can do more. I've now moved 3 cloth bags, I get tons of these at trade shows and what not, so I have about 30 of them, anyways, I've moved them to the car so that when I shop I bring them into the store and use them and not plastic. That's certainly something....

I was surprised to learn that the plastic grocery store bags (from the Ellen show the other day) don't really decompose in landfills, that they just get smaller and smaller. The plastic kind of shrinks. And eventually an animal or bird will eat it or it gets into our water supply. It was a bummer to hear that. Also, we use like a million of these bags every minute. Just crazy.

Now I just have to convince Dena to change the AC powered lights in the backyard with solar and maybe I'll move up on the personal green curve a little. I don't like to be so close to average.....I prefer WAY above average.

A message to all that read this: Educate your kids, your grandkids, your nieces and nephews, no matter how young. They will change the world and hopefully begin to right the wrongs that us and previous generations have done to mother Earth. We must give them the beginning seeds of knowledge to motivate them and equip them to affect change.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My MRI on the Shoulder




I had an MRI (actually 3) on my shoulder this morning. Quite an experience I'll have to say. My orthopod prescribed 2 things -- a straight MRI and a magnetic resonance (MR) arthrography. The MRI had to be done twice, once each with the shoulder in a specific position and then one for the arthrography. I was in the office for almost 2 hours. I had no idea it was this sort of time committment.

So arthrography means they inject you with this lovely chemical dye (in this case a Paramagnetic substance - galadium) to highlight the joint area I guess. I have two pictures (not of my shoulder) but of what they do and what it looks like for you here. I can tell you that the injection was uncomfortable to say the least as there was a nice big needle stuck in my shoulder for what seemed like 5 minutes. My shoulder still feels very uncomfortable in the joint area. Almost like there is too much pressure in there. Wierd. Anyways, I'll see my orthopod in a couple days and tell you what is wrong with this damn shoulder soon!




Sunday, July 15, 2007

First Tomato of the Season


We've got 3 varieties - Yellow stripe (Although our 2 ripe ones have no stripes), orange and yellow pear. So far we've had one orange and 2 yellow stripes and they are unbelievably sweet and tasty! There are so many

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My Favorite Gas Station -- Part 2



There is SO much to tell about this station that I had to blog it twice. By the way, if you live in Los Angeles, GET GAS THERE --> corner of Robertson and Olympic.

More on the smart construction and the good people who work at this station:

--> Using construction waste - more recycling -- The small signs that identify the station’s earth-friendly features are made from scraps of steel left over from building the canopy. So is the restroom signage. And like the canopy itself, they can all be recycled years from now when the building is torn down.Little things add up. Recycling the metal in seven soup cans saves enough energy to run a 60-watt bulb around the clock. Our signs probably saved a few big dinners’ worth.

--> Lighting - efficient -- This station has “smart lighting” turned on and off in stages by timers and light-sensing automatic switches. This uses natural light as much as possible and only burns electric lights when needed, saving 1,400 kilowatt-hours each year. Also, This station uses LED (light emitting diode) bulbs in the sign, on top of the dispensers and in other places. They focus the light just where it’s needed so you can use a lower power bulb to get the same brightness.

The other day I stopped in there, as I try to do when I'm in the neighborhood and I met Simar. She's one of the staff that walk around talking to patrons every day at the station, educating them on the station, how to save gas and generally just making us happy. Simar gave me some of these little postcard things that are made from recycled paper. They contain tips on conserving fuel and when you're done reading, the paper is embedded with natural californai wild flower seeds. Last Saturday when our niece/nephew were over we planted these. They'll take about 3 weeks to germinate, but I'm stoked and the kids had fun while we discussed conservation. After all, isn't it today's up and coming generation that is going to make the biggest difference? Anyways, back to Simar and the other good folks at this BP station. Thanks to all of them, getting gas is a friendly, fun affair that makes you forget for a moment that you're in the big city of Los Angeles and feel like you're in small town USA.




Friday, July 13, 2007

My Favorite Gas Station --- Part I

First of all, my apologies for not blogging all week. Not only was it a busy week business wise but I just haven't felt like it. Personally, I have to be in the groove/mood to blog. So, I feel for all of you looking at my toes for a week.

On to my favorite gas station. BP -- British Petroleum has opened what I hope is a trend in gas stations. It's a green - eco friendly station. Certainly a dichotomy in terms - gas station - eco-friendly, but in BP's case I think it works and is very admirable. Let me tell you about the this station.

BP has created a working labratory in gas stations. They've taken an old, polluting station and used many, many different concepts to create something move environmentally friendly. E.G.

--> Solar panels on the roof, while this doesn't provide all the electricity the station needs it certainly helps. Gas stations need a lot of electricity due to pumps, valves and stuff under the covers we don't really see.

--> Recycles all the water it uses, and filters all drain water. Clean ocean. All the rainwater that falls on the big canopy above the pumps is collected and used to water the plants and flowers around the station. It keeps them nice and wet while it keeps you dry. It's about as low tech as tech can get, but it saves energy that would be used to pump water. And the plants seem to like it a lot. We’ve finally gotten smart enough to discover an idea that the Spanish settlers were using here 400 years ago.

--> Recycled glass in the concrete -- Certain kinds of glass can’t be recycled to make new glass containers. These include clear window glass and fluorescent light bulbs. But that doesn’t mean they have to end up in a landfill. The concrete in this station is made with crushed waste glass instead of sand. So the glass stays out of the landfill and the environment isn’t disturbed to get new sand. Also, the glass reflects the sun from the concrete instead of absorbing it. Concrete in cities stays hot/warm well into the night, contributing to global warming and micro climate changes in urban areas.



Check out the info on the station here.
A picture of the station will be up in the Part 2 of this segment.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My First Pedicure
Ruby and Jack are staying with us this weekend and Ruby and I went for a Manny/Pedy. It was my first pedicure ever. I had to be told what to do by a 10 year old because the people at the salon didn't really speak English --- I put Dodger Blue nail polish on and put a nice White "D" on my big toes for Dodgers, Dawn and Dena -- hehe


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sweeping up the Memories

We decided to do a purging of some of the items in the back house. A spring cleaning so to speak that has been going on for almost a year. It's been a process with that large almost unmanageable project, however, we're making progress. It's interesting as we proceed the memories that we have to wade through. First we started with the plethora of couches we had accumulated. Several of these couches were from both of Dena's grandmothers. It's only been recently that she's been able to part with them. We were able to donate several to a group that helps homeless women and the last one was purchased by a grandmother moving out of her daughter's apartment. The couches all seemed to go to good homes and causes and that made parting with them easier.

Recently we've purchased a new diamond cut shredder for the huge stack of boxes full of receipts and old bills, etc that I've collected. They went back all the way through 1985. Yes, I know you only have to keep 3 years. I was paranoid frankly that some group who remain nameless was going to audit me. I'm pretty much over that and over the course of several weekends we've shredded to our hearts content. We've oiled that poor shredder, it's over heated more times than I can count but we've got three 40 gallon trash bags full of shredded stuff. I feel cleansed.

Throughout all this shredding you come upon all the memories from the past 22 years. Dena and I's first major appliance purchase together (from Sears of course), the 3 accidents all in one year to my Black 4Runner. The Visa card theft, the purchase of our home, the refinancing of my condo, 3 times, our first joint checking account, my 6 months of working on my own in 1996 (where I worked like a dog and made a ton of $$ ), and on and on the memories rolled.

We still have a long way to go to turning that guest house into a usable space instead of a storage locker, but we're getting there. Along the way we're reminded of the past with every box top we crack. Some need to be remembered and treasured and some need to be just thrown away.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hanging at the Cemetary




Saturday night found us at another interesting Los Angeles event. All summer long the Hollywood Forever Cemetary in Los Angeles shows film screenings against the crypt wall. You come at around 7:30 pm bring a picnic lunch, a bottle of wine and listen to a DJ spinning tunes. At 9:00 the sun has set and they roll the film. Saturday was The Haunting ( B/W 1963 scary movie). I've got the girls circled up in the pix in blue, with the flix being displayed on the crypt wall in front of them.

Famous people buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery include Johhny Ramone (his headstone is a large bronze statue of himself, playing guitar), Cecil Demille, Fay Wray (original King Kong girl), Mel Blanc (his epitaph says, "That's all folks!", and many, many more.

Information about these events can be found here

The official cemetery site is here