Sunday, December 28, 2008

Status - Dream House

I haven't been able to write about this for a couple weeks and I'm not really sure why. It's interesting this blogging you know. I have to be able to express in words what I feel and want to say but sometimes the words will not flow about a topic, perhaps because I either want to forget it ever happened or maybe it still bothers me, not sure. But now, I feel I can speak of this now.

As I'm sure some of you have heard we put an offer on the dream house referenced in the blog posts below. The house is owned by a recently famous (young and blond) actress. It was her bachlerette pad before she was married recently. She will remain nameless in this blog. The offer was summarily rejected without a counter offer. They deemed it not a serious offer and I was insulted, for a moment. I suppose when money is no object you don't really have to be realistic about the value of your property. Our offer was not out of line with today's market conditions but alas.

A friend of mine who has seen the dream house aforementioned put the comparison of the two houses into perfect perspective -- Our current home is the "BBQ house" and this house would be the "cocktail house". Truer words have not been spoken. The comment has stuck with me since it was made and has caused much reflection on my part. Do I want to give up the BBQ lifestyle? Are we no longer BBQ types but cocktail types now? Who are we now?

Our friends and family are aghast that we would want to leave our current home. They say how wonderful it is, well appointed, and whatever else tickles their fancy about it. A home is where you hang your hat, a place you make your own and is a reflection of who you are and often what you stand for or believe in. After much thought about the BBQ versus cocktail point I realized that whatever house we live in it will be made into who we are. Just because some blond bombshell actress thought it was her party house doesn't mean it would have been our party house. Sure, I mix a mean martini but that doesn't mean that we are party animals entertaining every night serving only the finest wines and cheeses and we never BBQ. hmmmmm well maybe we've started doing that this year......weird.

I suppose it all doesn't really matter because it isn't our house. Somewhere out there, there is a house for us. The perfect house. A house we will make our own. Until then, we will live in the BBQ house and continue to enjoy it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me.

This morning at one minute after midnight I was wished happy birthday. Another year older. I couldn't be happier. These few short days in Edmonton with my family has been enjoyable, relaxing and crispy cold. I feel the happiest I've been in months. Perhaps it's the attitude around here.

People in Edmonton are out shopping, buying things, talking of the future in a positive light, going out to dinner and living life. It's a dichotomy from the current attitudes in Los Angeles and the United States in general for sure. In Los Angeles I felt stifled, muffled almost, and somewhat depressed. In LA where everywhere you turn there are empty houses, for sale signs and all conversations focus on the value of our 401k's (or lack thereof), the stock market, interest rates, and how long it will all last. Malls are empty and sales people chase you around the store like a pack of desperate, hungry dogs. Restaurants you used to go to are gone and the future looms like a big black crushing rock weighing down your every thought. I'm getting depressed just writing about it.

I will enjoy my time here away from the reality that is America's deep recession (or depression as some may say). I will no longer cling to fear that has become the only driving force behind every policy and decision that the USA makes. I will live my life and be damn happy doing it. Today is my day. It's a National Holiday in Canada for crying out loud.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Playdoh is so much fun!!!

Sienna, Krystal and myself work on our Playdoh skills. Auntie Dena made some rockin' penguins with Grace and I made lots of worms which Sienna promptly cut up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waiting in Line for Santa


It's a hard day when you have to wait in line for 3 hours to see Santa. But oh, so worth it.....

Monday, December 22, 2008

In the Air Today

I had an early flight to Edmonton this morning, 6:30 to be exact. I'm flying on my last 50,000 miles of United Airlines. The end of an era to be sure. The end of free business class to Europe, the end of security bypass lanes, the end of quick, personalized checkin, the end. But a good end.

In today's modern world of air travel one must check in via the internet 24 hours ahead of time. It's just a necessity now or your line at the airport will be worse. If that's possible. I checked in last night on United.com and was greeted with a plethora of questions. Of course, there was the usual, enter your passport, nationality and all that usual International stuff but now there was more. How many bags are you checking? Wow, do I really have to decide that now? I haven't even packed yet! Apparently I do because I have to pay for each one and if I pay online I save 3$. Whoopee!!

Then I was presented with an option of paying $ 40 to go in the "Premier" lane. This would allow me to basically go into the shorter security lane. I used to be able to do this all the time when I flew regularly and was United Premier Gold. Now apparently, I have to pay for it! Another option was if I paid an additional $ 80 I could get double the air miles. $80!!! Are you crazy?

So, if I would have paid the $ 40 I would have saved probably 30 minutes in the security line this morning. Was it worth it? Who knows. I have made it to Denver this morning and am anxiously awaiting a delayed flight to Edmonton. Wish me luck and wish all the travellers stuck all over the US of A luck as well. God speed and good weather.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lessons Learned

Life is full of little lessons. Some are painful, some inconvenient and some life changing. This lesson was inconvenient and chilly. About 6 weeks ago Dena smelled gas in our house and had figured out that it was our gas fireplace. She shut off the valve and the smell dissipated, problem alleviated. I called the gas company to come out and check it and also adjust the pilot lights on our 1940's vintage O'Keefe and Merritt stove This is a free service that they do.

The gas company came out and it turns out the old valve that we don't really use to turn on the fireplace was leaking even in the off position. It was leaking at 0.3 cubic feet per hour. For the record, a pilot light can use up to 1 c'/hour. So, the leak was very, very small. There was more than enough air circulation both above and below our house to disipate the gas. We couldn't smell it and a gas leak detector was required to even know there was a leak. Now for the lesson. If you suspect a leak and it is not an emergency, call your plumber, not the gas company. Obviouisly, if you smell gas, shut it off and call the gas company. That's my disclaimer. But if you've shut off the gas and wish to call your plumber, that would be best.

The Gas Company, when detecting any sort of leak, is required for safety reasons to shut off the gas. I understand that but they also lock the shut off valve so that only they can turn the gas back on. So how are you supposed to get it fixed? Their answer to that is to have your plumber shoot compressed air through all the lines to test it. This can be damaging to the pipes and the pilot light mechanisms and is usually expensive. The gas company doesn't care, they are just covering their collective asses.

We spent the night with no heat on a very chilly night in Los Angeles. We managed to survive and get our plumber out on Saturday to fix the faulty valve. The gas company responded within an half hour to turn on the gas but we were cited again for another safety violation. This time for not having our fireplace flue permanently blocked open. Doesn't that sound silly? Why would I leave it open and let the cold air in when I'm not using the fireplace?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Topping off Another Project


At our highest building under construction today we had the "topping off" party. This is a tradition in construction - you have a breaking ground ceremony and you have a ceremony (aka party) when you put the final piece of steel or concrete in to "top it off". This doesn't mean the building is complete, but it is as high as it's going to get. It was quite a media event as it symbolizes a major step in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Villaraigosa spoke, a couple council members, Laura Diaz was the MC and Jimmy Smits handed out the major safety awards. After giving a "Union" shout-out, Smits joked with the workers in the audience. "I'm in a union. It's not as good as yours".
Here is a picture of me getting my hard hat signed by Jimmy Smits (of NYPD fame and also the owner of the Conga Room, opening downtown tonight). He was quite gracious in mucking for photos and signing autographs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

When Dreams come too Close to Reality

Three weeks ago Dena and I were driving around one Sunday looking for open houses. We had a plan of certain houses to look at and stumbled upon one not on the list. We went in, just for the hell of it. It was spectacular. It was a dream. It was way over our price range. It was perfect. I was ruined.

Since then the economy has further worsened, if that was possible. We've researched, met with financial advisors, consulted mortgage bankers, talked with realtors, researched market values, and watched property prices drop. Time has passed and still we can think of nothing else but that house. It turns out after all our research and crunching numbers that possibly it isn't just a dream.

Today we are going to see the house again. We are taking our tape measure, our realtor and our hopes. What happens when a dream gets close to reality? What if we make an offer? What if they don't accept it. What if they do?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Charitable and the Bizarre

The other night we went to a fundraiser for Bosnian orphans. It was being held at a restaurant and they promised dinner, drinks at no charge, if you donated. Dena, my favorite philanthropist, was all in so off we went.

The event was in an small little restaurant on the west side. We walked in and immediately stood out like sore thumbs. We weren't blond, we didn't look like Martina Navratilova and we didn't speak an Eastern European language. Well I thought, at least there's food. There wasn't much of that and what was offered was a little different. Some sort of potato pastry thing, some dry salami, feta (?) cheese, bread and carrots. An interesting combination to be sure. Well I thought, there's alcohol.....and off I went drinking bad wine on an empty stomach. I'm sure you can imagine where that ended up.

I can say that we ate, we drank, we donated and then we went our for Ethiopian food. What can I say, I was hungry. As a parting piece of knowledge that I did learn about Bosnian orphans, is that they are not allowed to leave the country so people in that country are adopting them and using them as child labor.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

As is tradition in my extended family that are my in-laws, today around the table we will state what we are thankful for before we get to eat. A good tradition I think. Some people roll their eyes at the thought of having to think so deeply but I believe it is important to reflect occasionally. I believe it is also important to be thankful for ones bounty regardless of what that may be. Everyone's definition of bounty is different after all.

Today, at the table my statement will be thus:

Gratitude is not always a spontaneous emotion; often, it's a matter of choice. It's a perspective of appreciation that doesn't necessarily make life easier, but it always makes life better.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thoughts of the Holiday Week

The week of American Thanksgiving is once again upon us. It came so fast this year. Isn't it amazing that every year Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to arrive quicker and quicker? Is it a function of our modern, media driven, chaotic world that time seems to flow by us like a raging river? Or is it just a sign of age?

Last night through the driving rain we drove up to Cambria for our annual pilgrimage. I thought I would use that word, pilgrimage, apropos isn't it? I mean really, how often do you get to use that word.....but I digress. For those Canucks reading this blog the U.S. Thanksgiving occurs on the last Thursday of November, always. Most companies, except retail and restaurants are closed on Friday, making for a nice long 4 day weekend.

This morning I awoke to the quiet that is Cambria. I ventured out for a morning stroll and was greeted by hummingbirds, woodpeckers, blue jays and squirrels. It was like a scene from Snow White. As I walked up the hill my thoughts couldn't help but wander to a quieter, simpler time. Why couldn't I live in a place like this? Quiet, peaceful, filled with wildlife and beauty..... Do these thoughts date me? Do thoughts like these happen only to the older crowd? Is city life only for the young?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

AT and T uVerse - The Direct TV Switchout

Dena & I spent 2 weeks planning for this. I suppose I should have run it like a project with a written plan and all that but frankly, it's my everyday life and I don't have the ambition to do that. So, when I say planning, I mean writing down TV shows we watch and rabidly watching everything that we had stored on the DVR. Wow, that was tough. A couple nights that we were up past midnight.

So, yesterday we were supposed to get our new AT&T uVerse cable TV via fiber + high speed internet. After waiting all day the tech called at 3:30 pm to re-schedule it for this morning, Sunday, at 8am. Well, I want it installed so I suppose I'll get my ass out of bed early on a Sunday morning.....

I know there are issues with installations and I understand that but sometimes it can be very frustrating. I remember when I was working on VoiceMail systems and voicemail was a new service. No one really cared if it went down. Then, as it caught on we could only take it down in the wee hours of the morning as now it was considered vital. We've come full circle with voice mail as now people don't care again with the advent of text messaging and the proliferation of cell phones and email. Well today, DVRs , cable TV and high speed internet are the same way. We were beside ourselves with the 5 hour loss of services today. And now we have to set everything back up again, setup all the shows to record, change our email addresses and on and on it goes.....
As a word of caution, AT&T uVerse is affiliated with Yahoo! so your choices of email addresses is extremely limited as most good addresses have been used already. My new email address sucks.

Current issues:
We are unable to remove reruns from our recording listing and the internet was installed with 3mb instead of the 6mb I ordered. We are awaiting resolutions to both.

We'll see if this is all worth the $ 30 a month savings....and the promised awesome picture and the additional features. One feature I'm excited about it the programming of your DVR via webpage. If I forget to program a show to record, I can log in anywhere and do it. That's cool, but will it work?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pictures from the Edge

Sometimes I have the coolest job. I was fortunate enough to get to go on a tour of our Century project. This is the building that Candy Spelling bought the top two floors of for $ 47 million. I can tell you that I stood in her pool on the top floor, floor 42. The cement wasn't even poured yet, but I was there. I've also stood on her balcony and in her bedroom. It was quite a day with taking the manlift up to 37 and then climbing up ladders for the last 5 floors. It was dizzying and exhilarating. Attached are a few pictures.


<--- This is her balcony on 41. Avenue of the Stars -->


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Repeal 8 Rally




Today there was another rally in the Los Angeles area speaking out against the passage of Proposition 8, it's inequality, and highlighting it's broad reaching implications. Today it was at LA City Hall. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke as well as Robyn Tyler, Ricky Gervais, and some of the openly LGBT politicians in Los Angeles. The event featured a well rounded speaker line up, a well attended and behaved crowd with lots of poignant and amusing signs on a warm LA day. I couldn't tell you how many people were there. It was impossible from me to tell, me, just being one short little person among so many but there seemed like 1000's and 1000's. The news will tell us I suppose. Here's a pix of us with Los Angeles City Hall in the background.

As the Mayor spoke I felt myself welling up. Wow, I was a part of this. I called my sister and she said probably the most succinct comment of all, "It's ridiculus that you have to march and rally and protest for this." Of course, she's up in Canada where human rights are fully granted including the right for all to marry, the right to smoke marijuana and the right for women to go topless if they so choose. What a novel concept, equal rights for all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Travelling Again....

After six months of business free travel, I have hit the road again. It's only for 2 nights away but it might as well be an eternity. I can't remember what day it is and I'm breaking my cardinal rule for business travel, NEVER eat in the hotel. I've done that 2 nights in a row. They have a sushi restaurant in this hotel. You'd think I'd shy away from that wouldn't you? Well, you're right, I should have. Probably the worst sushi I've had in over a year.

But the real crux of the problem is the design of the hotel. I'm staying at the Crowne Plaza hotel on the San Francisco peninsula. The hotel is designed sort of like a donut where the rooms are the pastry all around the outside and inside, at the bottom or in the hole are the common areas. The bar, the restaurants and the pool. As I sit here writing this in my hotel room I can hear this one woman laugh in the bar. Everything richochets off the walls and up......up and up and up to the top floor so that I can hear every single noise. I feel like going downstairs and slapping this woman for her irritating laugh. This morning, I was awakened at 5:52 am by the sound of the bus boy pouring water into the glasses in the restaurant. I'm on the top floor and the sound travels so well that I can tell exactly the noise I'm hearing and where it's coming from. Last night I had to call downstairs and tell the front desk to turn the TV down in the bar, I didn't like the movie.

I should have known trouble was brewing when I walked into the room last night and there was this lovely little bag on the bed. It contained sleep aids. Ear plugs, a CD of calming sounds, lavendar linen spray and an eye mask. Ambien will hopefully save me this night. Please, I beg of you, save me.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Beauty of Ebay and Online Shopping

With the Internet now you can find just about anything. Gone are the days where I had to drive to several different stores to find the right this or that. I can just go look online, buy it and have it shipped right to my house. Sure, this doesn't work for everything. Brick and mortar stores still have their purpose.

For example, I will only buy clothes in a store where I can try them on. Oh, wait. Let's modify that. I bought underwear and bras online, however, this was only after I purchased the original from the brick and mortar store, walked around in them for a day or two to make sure, then went online and purchased a whole bunch more. In my opinion there's never too much of a good thing especially when it comes to bras and underwear.

What about that part you need to fix something? I needed bulbs for Dena's Porsche and could only find one in the regular auto parts store. I went online, and magically I received it. What about that lightbulb that just burnt out in the chandelier? Wouldn't you just run over to Lamps Plus to buy a new one? I didn't, I went online, found one and bought it. What is also great is that you can comparison shop. If I went to Lamps Plus and bought the bulb I would pay whatever they charged because I just spent an hour of my day doing it. I'm not going to visit multiple stores generally for this kind of item. Online, I shopped for the chandelier bulb, found one for $8 and then found a box of 10 on ebay for $ 13. I don't need 10 but I was going to buy two.

Our consumer based world is changing and only the creative, innovative and forward looking will survive from a retailer point of view.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blowing in the Wind


This is a picture of the cake we had at our friend's election night party. Don't you love it? I do. And how true it was....

As we drove home over to our friends house I felt a stir in the air. Looking up I began to see leaves rustle and palm fronds sway. Ah, a little breeze. How lovely for a California autumn evening. During the course of that night we gathered around that glowing orb, drank champagne and patted ourselves on the backs while listening to inspiration. A man who stood for hope had won the presidency. An electorate had spoken and that emotion that only homo sapiens can feel had won; hope. Forget that he was the first black electee or even elected president, forget that. That was but a footnote in the larger voter message. That message was Hope and she was who voted on November 4th.

As we drove home late on a night filled with emotion I rolled the window down. The wind whipped through the trees now, rattling trash cans and making the traffic lights sway. Something was in the air now and it was strong. The winds of change were blowing and as the election polls closed all across this great land the wind blew stronger. It blew until it had whipped itself into such a frenzy such that hasn't been seen in a century. Yes, I can feel it, did you?

Today as dawn broke the air was calm but as I stuck my nose out the door something was different. Yes, there it was, change. Ah.......change was finally here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Elation.....

Last night Dena set her alarm for early. The polling place near our house opened at 7am. She wanted to be there early. There has been lines all week at the early voting station that have been 3 - 6 hours long. It's been all over the news. Amazing how the news creates mild hysteria isn't it..... The news has mentioned they might run out of ballots, too. Dena wanted to make sure her vote was cast. She was at the polling place at 6:30, there were about 100 people in line already. She has never waited in line to vote, ever. She's been voting for almost 30 years.

Why is this country expected to turn out in record numbers for this election? Why now? Has the usual apathy wore off? Was the "get out the vote" message successful this time? Is it because it's a black nominee versus a woman nominee? Is it because George Bush is so stupid and we're all tired of it? Or is it because American's have been hit so hard in their own personal pocket books? Hmmm. Me thinks it's all about the money. Isn't it always all about the money.

Dena left the polling place at 7:30 am, the line now stretched around the block and she could not see the end. She called me all excited like a 5 year on Halloween Night, all giddy and chatty. She said she was vibrating. If only every election was so well tended.

Let's hope tomorrows post is also happy and full of elation.

Monday, November 03, 2008

This sums it up nicely

A little boy goes to his dad and asks, 'What is Politics?'
Dad says, 'Well son, let me try to explain it this way: I am the head of the family , so call me The President. Your mother is the administrator of the money, so! we call her the Government. We are here to take care of your needs, so we will call you the People. The nanny, we will consider her the Working Class. And your baby brother, we will call him the Future. Now think about that and see if it makes sense.'

So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has said. Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So the little boy goes to his parents' room and finds his mother asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.
The next morning, the little boy says to his father, 'Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now.' The father says, 'Good, son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about.'

The little boy replies, 'The President is screwing the Working Class while the Government is sound asleep. The People are being ignored and the Future is in deep shit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random Thought

I've had an ATM card since somewhere around 1981. That's, well, a really long time ago. Almost 29 years. I've been counting the money that comes out of ATM machines for 29 years. It's never been wrong. 29 years ago I used to take out $ 40 all the time, I'd count it. Then it went up to $ 60 then $ 100 and now it's up to $ 200. I count it, every single time. It's never been wrong. How do it know? And why do I still count it?

That's it folks....a random thought...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last Chance?!

I know it's a bad picture, but really.....who would buy condoms at a Last Chance sale? Do you really think they'll work?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Porsche Mechanic


There is just no end to my talents....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicks with Wheels

In the ever ending quest to continue to do new and interesting things last night we ventured out into the truly different. I remember when I was a kid watching Women's Roller Derby. They were rough, tough and fast and it was just plain good fun. There has been a resurgence in women's roller derby over the past couple years and it's back with a vengeance. We saw the LA Derby Dolls last night and was it ever a fun time.

An eclectic crowd to be sure, a mixture of twenty somethings, white trash forty somethings, dikes and rabid fans. Security was provided by a rough looking group of what could only be categorized as ex-gang bangers. Food was provided by Hot Dog on a Stick and beer was available in 16 oz. cans. You can see the demographic catered to here I'm sure.

My verdict? I cannot begin to tell you what a fun time we all had. We really got into it and laughed, hooted and hollered through all 4 quarters. There are 4 quarters in a roller derby. There are penalties and rules and when I was a kid I don't think I knew how complicated the game was. Watching it made me want to strap on a pair of quad wheel skates and some knee pads and get out there and kick some ass. If you ever have an opportunity to see Roller Derby, I highly recommend it. The 2008 championship derby is November 8th - I suggest you get your tickets now!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The NLCS in Pictures....
















4 Pictures for your viewing enjoyment - 1) Vince Scully and Fernando Valenzula stand for the National Anthem, 2) self explantory, 3) Joe Torre and the umps and that rotten Philly manager exchange lineup cards and last but not least 4) Me....holding my ticket and feeling all hopeful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Thrill of Baseball

There is something unexplainable that happens to you when you're at a baseball playoff game. Every strike is vital, every ball exciting or tragic. The roar of the crowd and beat of the organ pulsing through your veins. There is something very heady about it all.

We went to the NLCS (National League Championship Series) Game 4 with high hopes. So much hope that we were talking of the World Series as if it were a done deal. We would surely be at the fall classic. Baseball is a funny thing. You are up one minute and crushed the next. By the 7th inning we were flying on cloud 9 - fans waving their rally towels and chanting "Phillies Suck". Ah, how foolish we were. The top of the 8th sucked the life right out of Dodger stadium. You could hear a pin drop as the 2nd home run soared over the right field wall. It was 7 to 5, Phillies.

As I'm often fond of saying, hope springs eternal. The bottom of the 8th and the 9th brought little glimmers of hope but it was soon dashed and the crowd of 56,000 streamed out of the stadium, quiet as mice. We were down 3 games to 1. If ever there was a time for hope, it is now.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!


Can you hear the chants? I still can. One of the memories that will stay with me forever is the memory of watching the 3rd and final game of a best of 5 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers win it, 3 - 1, sweeping the poor cubbies in 3 straight. On to the Championship series we go!!! In the picture, Dena, myself and our good friends and big Dodger fans, Irma and Brian.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Another State of the Economy Post

Sometimes I do things that are stupid. I admit it. Back in April I was shopping for new clothes for my new job. Gotta look like an executive right? There I am at a major department store and in a very unlike me move, I was convinced to go for the spiel of "if you sign up for our store credit card you get 15% off". I usually never fall for that. I have enough credit cards. I know they charge almost 30% interest, I know, I know.....but I fell for it anyways.

Awhile later I get a bill. There was a trick with the 15% discount. You see, first you paid the bill in full then they give you a 15% credit back to the credit line, thus forcing you to go buy more stuff to reap the "reward". That ticked me off. Also, I was a little miffed as I wanted to return something and just couldn't get over to the store. Time slipped away from me and I forgot to pay the bill. You know, I started a new job and was very busy and frankly, it wasn't on my online bill pay.

Another month passed, another bill came with late charges and the madder I got. I did pay the initial balance in full but was just pissed at myself for falling for the usual scam and refused to pay the late fees. It got to the point that the "major department store" bill came each month and I refused to open it and threw it in a pile. I suppose some of you might think I'm stubborn. That's probably true.

So yesterday I'm sitting in our house minding my own business and the phone rings. Is this Dawn Armstrong. Yes, who is calling please? They wondered why I hadn't paid. I was surprised it took so long. I told them the story of missing the first bill and being upset at the late charges. They waived all the late charges and zeroed my balance. And that, my friends, is where our economy has gotten us. A department store so desperate to keep its shoppers happy and charging on their credit card that they credited me over $ 90 in late fees.

Perhaps stubbornness pays off? Usually not.....

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What Was I Doing? Update

So, for those of you following the blog, the post below this one with the funny picture of me holding a hack saw, container of Oil of Olay moisturizer and something else, let me tell you what it was all about. I like the Oil of Olay moisturizer as it contains no perfumes (which give me zits even at my advanced age) but the container and design of it all just pisses me off. It has a pump action but near the end of the bottle nothing will come out. There is usually about 1/2 an ounce left and for the last 2 bottles I've dipped the pump straw in and tried to get every last drop out. It is a $ 28 bottle after all. That stuff is valuable. This time however, I decided to just get straight to the point. I took a hack saw to the bottle to get to the remains. And yes, I did need a hack saw, that bottle is incredibly tough. So, that's my story.

Clarification:
Yes, I did tip it over on its side for a couple days and yes, I did tip it over upside down for a week. The moisturizer is very viscus and wouldn't move.

And mom.....The avon moisturizer gives me pimples. I'm too old for pimples.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words?


OK, not my best picture....but let's play a game. Click on comments and tell me what you think I'm doing, saying or whatever in the picture. For the visually impaired, one item I'm holding is a hack saw and one of the other things is a bottle of Oil Of Olay facial moisturizer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

View from My Office


And this is what I see every day.....I see the Hollywood Hills between the skyscrapers and I can see the tourists (rich ones too) swimming and drinking on top of the Standard, a shwanky hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Direct Buy - Scam or Consumerism at its finest?


Speaking of consumerism, let me tell you about our experience this weekend. Dena has been bugging me to go to this Direct Buy open house. You've seen the ads on TV? They'll save you money buy allowing you to buy direct! Yeah, right. I knew I was in trouble when I found out that it's an invite only, "open house" to a membership club. Sounded sort of time sharey to me.

But, in true supportive spouse fashion and a little "I'll do anything to make my girlfriend happy" thrown in for good measure, I went. I was a skeptic when I watched the ad on TV and turned more sceptical the moment we were greeted at the front door. We were immediately assigned a "greeter or guide" who takes us to a table, chats us up, feeds us donuts and coffee and tries to make us at ease. Mr. Slick #1 we'll call him. Then at the appointed hour we are ushered along with other "families" to the presentation room. Mr. Slick #2 gives a little spiel and we watch some truly horrible presentation. The presentation was so repetitious I thought I would knife myself. It was definitely written to the lowest common denominator but really points towards brain washing. Join and we will save you money on all your large purchases. After all, you're going to buy it anyways, right?

Also during the presentation Mr. Slick #2 engages the audience in direct participation, a very basic tactic in direct pushy sales. Near the end of the presentation the bomb is dropped. $6,000 to join for the first two years and $ 200 per year thereafter. You'll save that right, because after all, you "consume" ~ $ 15,000 in consumer large goods every year, so imagine what buying power you'll have now! Who are they kidding? In this economy? They tried to tell me that you buy a fridge every 8 - 10 years. Are you kidding??? I make that son of a bitch last til it leaks all over the kitchen!

After the presentation we are ushered out into the showroom (a big room with tons of manufacturer's catalogs) and our "guide" meets us. We're back to Mr. Slick #1. Dena wanted to find out about their kitchen cabinets. She wanted to know if they were green. I wanted to know their price on bamboo flooring because I thought it was my chance to find out inside info because G-D knows I'm not joining! I'll give you that six grand over my dead body. So we met their very inexperienced kitchen designer and during that process we are suddenly surrounded by 4 people. Seriously, surrounded. my mind immediately shifted to the flight or fight philosophy. Neither won and instead I gave an excellent barb into Mr. Slick #2. In his effort to "get to know me" he admitted he was Microsoft Certified. I replied, "If you're a propeller head then what the hell are you doing here selling memberships?" I left him speechless and the circle of sales terror was broken. hehe

I did however, find out the price of bamboo "hand shaved" flooring, $ 3.99 per square foot. It varies from $ 2.99 to $3.99 manufacturer's cost. I'll let you know if that's really a bargain when I go to the flooring store. You MUST join right then and there, no thinking about it. You wil never be invited back. That's some high pressure. Oh, by the way, if you join, you can never use the pricing info to bargain with retailers, an 8% "handling fee" is added to all orders except some electronics, all purchases must be picked up at the Direct Buy warehouse and there is like a five week delivery on just basic normally in stock stuff. Run I say, RUN!!! If you are susceptible at all to high pressure sales, do not even enter the building.

Search the web if you don't believe me, use direct buy opinions as a starting search.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gift Cards - the battlecry of consumerism

This weekend Dena and I finally used a gift card we were given about four years ago. Yes, that's right, 4 years. We received it from the tile/bath store called Waterworks as a thank you for buying $ 1000's of dollars worth of tile from them. It was for $ 50. I find gift cards both a blessing and a curse. They truly embody the American obsession with consumerism. Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with the purchase of material possessions and consumption.

We used the Waterworks gift card in the true spirit of why gift cards were invented by retailers. Buy stuff you probably don't need. We bought soaps and a sachet for ~ $ 55.00. So, the theory bears true. I have a card for $ 50. What I want to buy is either a few dollars less or more than that. If I buy something > $ 50 then the retailer gets additional cash from me and someone who might not have come into the store at all has just spent money. If I buy < $ 50 then the remaining balance on the card just sits there and my gift giver has effectively made a donation to the retailer. Both not positive for the consumer but all good for the retailer.

At least in California there are now laws protecting consumers a little. A gift card can never expire, a retailer cannot charge a few for you to use it or keep it and now if there is < $10 on the card they MUST give you that back in cash. I love cash. If there is a small amount left over on the card retailers are allowed to start drawing down the money once a card is left with less than five dollars and unused for two years. The reason why Dena and I did not suffer this fate and have a card worth nothing is that they cannot do it on an unused card. So if you have a $ 200 Best Buy gift card. You go into the store and end up using the card for only a DVD. You've just triggered the fee cycle. If you forget about the card and discover it two years later the retailer will have been allowed to deduct fees and who knows how much you may have left. So be careful.

Oh, and by the way, these rules do not apply to Visa, Mastercard and American Express bank issued gift cards.....they can do anything they want regarding fees, etc. Surprised? I would hope you are not.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It Really Must Be Bad When.....

Everyone says the economy is bad. The pundits can talk of nothing other than the jobless rate, the price of gas, the price of food on the rise, the demise of so many banking institutions, the mortgage crisis and on and on the bad news goes. You hear about these things, talk to people you know about their issues and you know that it is not good. But how bad is it?

The other morning I walked into my local 7-11, I have three of them that surround me and I frequent them all and pretty much know the main staff by name. I went to purchase lottery tickets because, hey, winning the lottery would solve all my problems, right? So in I walk to the 7-11 on the corner of Whitworth and Fairfax bright and early Sunday morning. Kahn, the regular guy who is always there, is snoozing in the corner and there is no one in the store. How odd. No one in a 7-11? I say "hi" to Kahn and wake him up. We chat, I get my lottery tickets and I ask him what's up with the empty store. He said for the last 3 months that business has been really down. Not as many customers and the customers he does have are not buying as much. We had a great talk about the impending election and how that might affect his livelihood and I left enlightened and thoughtful.

This morning I stopped at the 7-11 on Hauser and San Vicente. I wanted to speak with my Burmese friend. I don't come by as much anymore and he asks why. I tell him I'm trying to save money. He says me and everyone else. I tell him about Kahn and his plight and he says that their store is the same way. It must be true because when I pulled into the lot at 7am on a Wednesday morning I had my pick of parking spaces. About 6 months ago if I pulled into the lot on a weekday morning I'd have to wait for a spot. Things must be bad if 7-11 is suffering. Do you remember Reagan's trickle down economics? Well this is Bush's trickle down effect. Nice, eh?

Oh by the way, the Burmese 7-11 proprietor works 10 hour shifts (all co-owners of course, same family), 7 days a week. Ouch. He also wants to marry me for my US immigration rights. It's nice to be needed isn't it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th, 2001

I'm driving to work in the early morning fog listening to Michael Josephson's Character Counts on news radio. Then it hits me, it's September 11th. It hits me like a ton of bricks complete with tears welling up in my eyes. Memories flood my mind in quick flashes. My chest tightens. So many memories.......I remember having a drink with Arlene in the Top of the World bar in the rain. I remember the elevator ride up and up and up to the top. I remember seeing the sculpture in the lobby of the World Trade Center and then visiting it later at Battery Park. It's called the Sphere and I recommend clicking the link and reading about it. I remember the emptiness that now graces the skyline of Manhattan. I remember now.....

Anger soon replaces the sadness as I think of how our world has changed so much since that fateful day in 2001. The Republican Bush administration successfully turned the American pyche towards fear. We became a fear based society. Afraid of the next attack, afraid of terrorism, afraid of our own shadows. We changed our way of life in every way including surrendering our privacy and liberty in the name of fear. We are afraid. A public constantly afraid is easy to control and that's the entire point isn't it. Ironic that the World Trade Center will be replaced with the Freedom Tower. Are we truly free?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My First Baby Shower

Today I attended what I think was my first baby shower, ever. I might have been to one decades ago. Oops, did I say decades? But I'm not sure if I did. I don't think so. I'd remember such silliness. I was invited by the gals at the Los Angeles office. To be honest with all of you, I was kind of jazzed just to be invited. It was kind of cool to be "one of the gals". I've never had that "gal" office experience. Ever.

As I rushed across 6th street to the Daily Grille for the party I wondered how I would have 90 minutes of uninterrupted time. I usually only get maybe one lunch a week so would this be the lunch? I only got 4 phone calls so I suppose it was a success. The whole experience was fun but odd. I don't really fit in as my title puts me quite a bit further up the food chain than the "gals" but I know they sort of want to accept me but they sort of don't want to talk to me. Also, I'm the IT person. IT people are a cross between saviors and police. We save you from your problems but in a company we police the network. We record, monitor and police where you surf on the Internet, what programs you download, what kind of computer you get, what files you can look at, and the list goes on and on and on..... It's a weird situation to be in.

Then of course there's the whole gay thing. They are all straight, either looking for guys to make babies with or having babies with their guys. That's a bit of an outsider feeling to be sure. Wow, I'm just freaking myself out just writing this blog. I feel so alone.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Womanly Wiles

The word "wile" is kind of interesting isn't it? It's defined as "A trick or stratagem practiced for ensnaring or deception; a sly, insidious; artifice; a beguilement; an allurement " I know that men are frequently the victim of such behavior from women and that women love using this weapon. After all, each gender has it's weapons.

I'd never had the experience of having this particular weapon used on me that I can remember until this morning. A little early for weapons I might add..... but regardless, this woman at work walks up to me at one of the job sites. Being in IT now everyone wants something. They want you to fix something, help them with their computer at home, a newer faster laptop, get free software, get their music on or off their computer, they always want something.

So this assistant walks up to me in her tight dress (a little odd for a construction office) and high heels, leans over me, bats her eyelashes and starts asking me about a laptop with a bigger screen. Seriously, she batted her eyelashes. When I explained that currently we were out of large screeened laptops and that it would be months until we can deploy anything else to her she said, "well, would you save me one, promise?" There was a smile, some more batting of the eyelashes. I'm not sure if my jaw had dropped as I was quite shocked by this entire display. I kind of felt like I was watching it in the 3rd person.

Each time she's walked by me in the last 2 hours, I get another smile and eyelash bat. I guess she really wants that laptop, eh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's Starting.....

I have a big announcement to make. We've done it my faithful readers. Dena and I have put down a deposit and retained a kitchen designer. Finally. This is probably step 5 out of about 100 in getting the kitchen re-done, maybe 1,000 steps. I'm actually quite excited. We decided on Bradco Kitchens, an outfit not too far from our house. We interviewed many designers and had such a great warm, fuzzy feeling with this one we felt we could finally move forward.

It's amazing how hiring a kitchen designer can open your eyes to the possibilities in your kitchen, make your life easier now and for all your remaining cooking years. I'm scared, yet happy to report that we'll be demolishing 3 walls. Yes, three walls. She'll be out to measure Wednesday night and hopefully in a week or so I'll have a sketch to post up here on the blog, so stay tuned.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who?

John McCain announces his running mate for the Republican ticket.....it's who??? I was shocked but not surprised that McCain announced a woman for his running mate. What shocked me was that I had no idea who this woman was. I was not surprised because it just seems logical that the republicans would pick a woman. Who best to steal disappointed Hillary Clinton fans with but another woman. After all, a republican would reason, these women's libbers will vote for any woman regardless of party affiliation.

The new Vice Presidential candidate has the distinction of being in politics since 1992 and being a year younger than me. Now, I know........it's hard for me to be so sarcastic of a woman but come on.....seriously. Her political history starts off with her being on the city council of a small bohunk town on the coast of Alaska called Wasilla (1992 population ~ 5,000 souls). After that four years she graduated to mayor. Not a real big leap. At that time she fired the Police Chief (who also served as the library director because their just aren't that many people in Wasilla!!!!). She was sued for wrongful termination as it was alleged that she fired him because he supported her opponent.

Somewhere around here the Republicans noticed her. Probably not for her political distinction but because Pat Buchanan noticed her on a visit to Wasilla and her right wing views turned his crank.

After a 4 year dry spell of a couple failed elections she somehow managed to win the gubernatorial post of the State of Alaska. She took office in December of 2006. Yes, that's what I said, less than two years ago.

For the record, her name is Sarah Palin. Don't bother remembering it. She'll be but a minor footnote in history, perhaps even a trivial pursuit question.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

By My Bed.....

used to be my handheld football "video" game, a glass of water, an Archie comic book and an alarm clock with a little and big hand. That was a long time ago. As I grew up those things on the nightstand by my bed (and under it...) have changed. Today there are eye drops, a digital alarm clock, moisturizing creme, my Carmex, the book "Eat, Pray, Love" and a bottle of sleeping pills.

Eye drops -- laser eye surgery and dry eye sometimes at night
Alarm clock -- it has a temperature read out, too, so when I feel like I'm on fire in the middle of the night I can consult the clock and see what the temperature is and curse the fact that we don't have air conditioning
Moisturizing creme -- I wake up at night and my feet are dry and hot. Weird...but true
Carmex -- can't sleep without my lips all nice and soft with Carmex
sleeping pills -- well, frankly, I live in the USA where you are go, go, go and never relax
Eat, Pray, Love -- see above. I am searching for balance.

What's beside your bed?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trampoline?

We've been watching the Olympics quite a bit. I was stunned the other night when the finals for Women's Trampoline came up. How long has trampoline been an Olympic sport? I have always considered trampoline a kids plaything that they do in the backyard to occupy their time and hopefully not break their neck doing it.

It's quite an irritating sport to watch actually. I do use the word sport loosely in that sentence. I mean, they jump up and down, up and down, over and over again and my eyes kind of get a little bouncy and I get a little dizzy. Then flip, flip, flip and its over. I suppose its a combination of diving and gymnastics but an Olympic sport?

As for the Olympics in general, I'm enjoying them but I felt the judging for gymnastics and a few other of the discretionary sports were skewed towards the Chinese. But, hey, what do I know? I'm only an armchair judge. Well, that's all I have for now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What message are you sending?

So, I'm walking into the little cafe in my building in downtown Los Angeles. You know the cafe....they are in most highrises on the Terrace or Ground level and people get their lunch, breakfast and snacks there. Just ahead of me entering the cafe is a young black kid about 11 with his mother and younger brother standing outside. He's carrying his lunch box and appears dressed for day camp or something. I follow him in and he walks up to the condiment area and grabs a bunch of packets of Ketchup and Mayo. Just before he turns to walk out the owner of the place says, "what are you doing?".

At this point I'm standing there a little surprised by the audacity of the whole thing but yet mildly amused as I know how this is going to play out. The kid says, "I need some ketchup for my lunch.", the owner says, "so you're just going to take it?". The kids says, "um, may I please have some ketchup packets?". This almost made me giggle. So, stealing is ok if you ask nicely?

You can see the progression of this story and the outcome was expected. The mother yelled from the door, "Well, (huff and puff) I'm never going to buy lunch here again." and stormed away. The owner told me that she never buys lunch and that last week they snuck in and stole some ketchup before he could come out of the kitchen. Do you think that the kid learned that what he was doing was wrong? Yeah, I doubt it too. When you're being reinforced from your parents that stealing is ok and you should be upset when you don't get what you feel you're entitled to, then that is sending the wrong message.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cruising in the Porsche


This weekend Dena and I escaped for a few days onto roads less travelled. I'd thought we'd covered pretty much all the roads in Southern California, but apparently we missed a few. On the way to Palm Springs I read the owner's manual to Dena and together we discovered a secret compartment, how to pop the Targa fin up in the back, all about the on board computer and a variety of other things. It amazes me that my girlfriend has been cruising around in this Porsche 911 for three months and hadn't a clue how the AC worked. I suppose that old adage "all about the journey" rings true right about now.


We cruised through the high dessert and low dessert from East to West and eventually made our way to La Jolla. A beautiful and pretentious beachside town catering to the rich but invaded by the upper middle class. Kind of amusing. Saturday night we discovered a band that I'd love to use for our wedding, if one ever happens. They are called "The Trip Band". A stupid name, but they were good, playing Sister Christian, Cheap Trick and Guns & Roses pretty darn good.

The picture of the painting up top is something that really struck me in a La Jolla gallery. It's called Streetwise by Paul James (UK). What struck me about the painting (giclee) was that it said so much. Here is a duck amid so much urban sprawl and scrawl. How humankind has ridden roughshod over all that was there before and how species have had to adapt or disappear. This Mallard duck is thinking about grabbing that can of beer and cigarette stub and saying to the world, "well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Frankly, the painting moved me to tears as it is a depressing statement of what we've become.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Summer Harvest from Farmer Dawn

Here I am, a simple Snowback from Canada with my Los Angeles summer harvest. Figs and green grapes right from our backyard. I couldn't hold the blueberries and tomatoes. Not enough hands. Nothing like some fresh, homegrown, organic, delicious fruits and veggies to make your day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today in Los Angeles




Today I got my first LA City library card. The Los Angeles Central Library is about 50' from the door of the building I now work at in downtown Los Angeles. I thought, wow, what a beautiful, historic place filled with resources available literally at my fingertips. I should take advantage of it. So I trotted in during lunch, filled in the brief application form and walked away with my first ever LA library card. I was hopeful and feeling just a little bit proud of myself.

Being the geek I am, I meandered through the library dodging tourists, down a few flights of escalators on my way to the "Science and Technology" section. I thought that checking out a few computer geek books would be just lovely. I entered the "section" and it was the entire floor. A little confused I asked the librarian where the books I was looking for might be. Off I went in search. It turns out that any book I might have wanted was checked out and what was left was clearly outdated and yucky. Nothing worse than a dirty old book. Do you think we get that phobia from using every one's marked up, dirty, torn paged textbooks from grade school? Perhaps I do.

So I went to the head librarian in charge of this section (Mary Jean) and asked her what the deal was. I have been trying to find somewhere to donate my not really that old computer books to. They are certainly newer, more relevant and in excellent condition compared to what's in the stacks here. She said that if I brought them to her and they were newer ( I scoff at this comment ) that she would take them. She should be damn happy to get them.

Regardless of its relevance in my life, the library is a architecturally gorgeous both inside and out and a pleasure to stroll through.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake!

45 minutes before our little 5.4 magnitude shaker I had left our downtown highrise building and headed for our data center in Hawthorne. Lucky I guess. My co-workers on the 21st floor said the shaking and rocking was pretty scary and then they were stuck there for awhile as the elevators were out. 21 floors is a long way down for lunch.

In the data center I had just gotten into the bathroom to blow my nose. I've been sick for almost 10 days now and frankly, the whole thing is getting on my nerves. But that's another story. As I stood over the toilet blowing my nose on some toilet paper I thought, wow, I shouldn't blow so hard, I'm a little dizzy. I grabbed the wall for support and wondered why I was so stupid to make myself dizzy and then I looked at the toilet bowl. The water was sloshing about. Then it hit me.....EARTHQUAKE!! hehe It didn't last much longer than that entire thought process and I trotted out of the bathroom to lots of people running around making sure everyone and everything was alright.

5.4 in the grand scheme of things is not that big but, it is big enough to remind us that we do live in earthquake country and we should check those flashlight batteries and earthquake kits now. And all you people that have moved to AT&T uVerse and Time Warner cable modem telephones just remember.....when the power goes out, so does your phone service. And don't even think that your cell phone will work. I couldn't get a call out today even after our little earthquake for 15 minutes on my cell. But plain old dial tone works everytime.....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How Vicks Vapor Rub Saved My Life

As Tuesday dawned I knew I wasn't going to work. The cold had moved in to my chest and it had packed a couple suitcases so I knew it was going to be here awhile. I moped around the house, bored, sick and listless. I could feel the passages in my lungs closing up and rued the coming night. The nights are always the hardest it seems. Around 9 o'clock I knew I was in trouble. I was having trouble breathing and went straight to the medicine chest for my inhaler. The first one I grabbed was expired in 2005, panic started to build. It's never good when you feel you cannot get a breath and start to panic as it only gets worse. I grabbed another newer inhaler and sucked in but no relief seemed to come.

Dena got me to lay down and pressed an acupressure point in the middle of my chest between my last 2 ribs. I couldn't find anything on the Internet to support that this is a real acupressure point for asthmatics but frankly, there is so much information out there regarding acupressure for breathing difficulties that it was overwhelming. It never occurred to me that this was an option and here I've relied on an inhaler all my adult life. Here are just a few.

After calming me down doing the acupressure she then applied Vicks Vapor Rub on my chest and under my nose. I remember back that my mom used to do this too, although she used to use safety pins to put a washcloth between my jammies and the Vicks. I now know why she did this as the Vicks discolors your clothes. But alas, a trip to the emergency room was averted once more. Dena often jokes to anyone who will listen that she'd never been to an emergency room until she met me and now she's been to them all throughout California. Stick with me baby and I'll take you places..... As she jokes, I worry, about my weak lungs and what will happen next time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To "I do" or not to "I do" that is the question

In a previous post I talked about the recent California Supreme Court ruling to allow gay marriage in California. If you missed that one and would like to catch up, here it is. But now what do we do? We've never had the freedom to choose before. As a gay couple living in a committed relationship for over 17 years we've never had an option to get married. Oh, sure, we could have had a committment ceremony but we figured, if it wasn't legal then what was the point. We knew we were committed, sometimes to a looney bin, but always committed in one way or another. After all, 17 years for any couple has it's bumps in the road.

Heterosexual couples have a straight (pun intended) linear path to follow as their relationship develops. That path involves courting, dating, going steady, the proposal, a term of engagement and finally - marriage. The final step. This final step requires a melding of names, families and finances. For us gay people that are in a relationship we've been stuck somewhere between the last two steps. The families are pretty much melded, what's the point of melding names, and our finances are sort of combined. Now, we can go that final half step.

Think about it. All you straight people out there.....just take a moment to think.......if you legally couldn't get married and were together with your partner for a long time and then one day someone said, oh you can now.....what would you do?

The question begs......should we or shouldn't we? And if so, why?

Your thoughtful comments are always welcome.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Living High in Gay Hollywood

In Hollywood over the past few weeks it has been time for the annual Outfest film festival. A large venue for gay and lesbian film makers to showcase their films. We usually try to attend serveral films in order to "be among our people" as I'm fond of saying.

So the other night, tickets in hand, we jump into the Porsche, put the top down and roar down Sunset Blvd. on our way to the DGA (Director's Guild of America) for a women's film. We dressed up a little, I put on some dangly earrings and my best sandals and we were ready. We were standing in line waiting to get into the theatre and an Outfest worker informs us we were in the wrong line. We were in the priority seating line. Well, harummpf. I join Outfest every year but see no real value in paying over $ 300 for priority seating and the few other perks you get.

So Dena climbs over the velvet rope (I suppose that should have been our first clue) and I follow. Except, I get my foot caught on the rope and BOOM, down I go. Faceplant on the carpet, velvet rope all over me, what a sight I made. Dena was yards ahead of me racing to get into the "regular people" line so she thought I was right behind her. As I struggled to get up, my hands burning from carpet burns and more importantly, my pride majorly hurt Dena rushes over. As she cooes over me making sure I'm ok this outfest fellow says, "since you're obviously in pain you should probably come sit in the theatre". I sacrificed my pride for priority seating. Not too bad of a trade I suppose.

We enjoyed wonderful seats at a mediocre movie seating among the rich, powerful and highly cultured lesbians.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Canadian Ingenuity


This is a gas station in Nestor Falls, Ontario, a small lake community in the rural NorthWest. The two contraptions you see facing the $$ value of pumped gas are cameras, one in a PVC tube to protect it from the elements, that are basically just cameras bought from a computer store. There is a little wire coming from each running to a tube then into the store. This is so that when you say you pumped $ 30.00 worth of gas they can prove it without replacing their pumps with those fancy new fangled ones. Who needs those anyways?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back to Civilization

As Dena and I drive up the small township road from my Gram's house back towards civilization I'm overtaken with a swell of emotions. I'm looking forward to a nice long, hot shower and hotel room bed yet I'm very sad to be leaving my family behind. It seems that life is full of goodbyes and perhaps we are supposed to look forward to the hello's and not dwell on the goodbyes.

Everytime I think about the miles running behind us leaving my family further and further behind the sadder I get. I'm quite conflicted. I'm not sad to be leaving outhouses, mosquitoes and well water behind but I'm definitely sad from watching my little niece (held by my mom) wave bye bye with her big doe eyes.

We'll cross the border into the USA briefly, spend the night in Baudette, Minn. then drive back into Canada for our flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Los Angeles. Doing 4 - 6 border crossings a trip out here can become arduous as the US customs can make it quite difficult especially if you are driving a rent-a-car. We were in Morson, Ontario, home of my family. Here is a map to help you see where it is.

Well, our free breakfast calls from the hotel lunch room, so I'd better run. We'll see you all soon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On Top Of Los Angeles

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to aim a cellular construction camera at one of our jobsites. The camera is positioned on the Helipad of 865 Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles. This picture is of me with the camera pointing North. Those are the Hollywood Hills in the background. And yes, I'm standing that close to the edge. What a cool job I have. The building is ~ 43 stories tall. I can't remember exactly how tall. And yes, that's my Brooks Brothers no iron fancy pants shirt.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Butt Washing




Over the years I've stayed in hotels and some rentals with bidets. A bidet is basically a separate toilet type bowl that one washes ones behind in after tinkling or performing other business. Funny enough, bidet is a french word that means "pony" and these toilets (for lack of a better word) were so named because one "mounts" or "rides" one not unlike you would a horse or pony. Is that too much information? Well, the pictures should really be all you need.

I've never used one until yesterday. Sure, I've turned them on and watched and wondered why anyone would use one. But yesterday, it all became clear to me in the oddest of places. Dena and I went to this place out in Burbank to look for stoves. We are trying to collect information on our kitchen and finally move forward with the remodel. The place was overwhelming with appliances of all sort and well, everything including the kitchen sink.

Somewhere during the process I had to go to the bathroom. Surprise. The woman with the smallest bladder having to to to the bathroom. In the bathroom was the Toto washlet bidet. This intriguing electronic plumbing gadget allows one to do their business then wash and dry without moving. I fantastic idea. It allows you to move the direction of the jet to wash in the proper place, adjust the strength of the spray and even pulsate. Now that's scary. After washing one can also dry. I decided at that moment, what the hell. You only live once. I tried it. I adjusted the spray and giggled. Hmmmm, that felt lovely. The water was not too cold, not too hot, just right. Yes, I even dried but honestly, used toilet paper afterward as it was too freaky not to.

Dena was waiting for me outside the bathroom and I emerged giggling and smiling. She elected not to try hers in the other bathroom and has since regretted it. Never give up a chance to try anything new, you never know what you might find.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dilemmas

When I first started looking for a different, new and exciting job, like so many at the company I just left I thought the pickings were a little sparse. I started to shake trees as I call it, that's renewing old contacts, touching base with old friends, getting involved in things I'd let slide, etc etc <-- shaking trees. Things started to fall out and life was good. That is how I got the job I have now. I like the job I have now. It's interesting, new and the company has some incredible benefits.

But, the trees I started shaking are still bearing fruit and the fruit is getting ripe. Riper everyday it seems. I recently had a job offer for $ 145k. It was in Beverly Hills, what was a girl to do? It was a great opportunity but I decided to stay. Another opportunity has just popped up. Not as great as the job I have now and not as great as the previous offer, but with more responsibility and a greater location. What is a girl to do? You can rest assured that my mind will be a swirling and a whirling this weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First Opera

Dena has wanted to go to an opera for a long time now and being the fantastic partner I am I surprised her with tickets to the opera. Unfortunately, it was right during a very, very busy weekend around our house and during quite a heat wave in Los Angeles. It's hard to get all dressed up when your house is over 90 degrees.

I was dreading the opera. In my limited knowledge of it I assumed it was a musical, except in a language I didn't understand and that I'd have to read. What's worse than a subtitled musical? That is a good question but I was sure I'd be bored to tears. With that in mind I read through all the synopses and found that Tosca sounded the most interesting. It had murder and intrique with a firing squad thrown in for a bonus so I hopefully thought this would keep me entertained despite all the singing. I was right.

Basically a brief synopsis is that a guy escapes from jail, the evil police chief tries to capture him and in the meantime discovers that his latest romantic interest (Tosca), her boyfriend has harbored the escapee. He uses this information to get to her. They all die in the end. hehe We had the bonus of experiencing Plácido Domingo ( the world famous tenor and conductor), conduct the orchestra during the performance.

I learned that Opera is not quite as bad as a musical, there's the drama (over the top drama) of a theatrical performance, listening to Italian is not that bad as it's a nice language and I only fell asleep in Act 3. So all in all, I did pretty good. I did however have to promise Dena that we could go to one opera a season at the LA Opera House. Ah, the things we do for love.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gas Hits $ 5.00 a gallon


I definitely thought I wouldn't be typing this in during 2008. Why do they look so happy under that sign? Must be alcohol.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Family

As I sit here among Dena's family, joking and making inappropriate innuendoes with the adults, flicking and teasing the kids, I think of my family and how much I miss them.  As we age, or let me not speak for all of "us", but as I age family becomes more important, bordering on vital.   In my 20's all I could think of was escaping from my family, in my 30's it was all about career and in my 40's it's all about connections, family and friends.  

Each connection is important, from work and my www.linkedin.com connections to friends and finally family.  It seems that relationships are what it's all about.

I miss my Mom, I miss my siblings and most of all, I miss watching my little niece Grace and Sienna grow up.  I miss all of it.  I don't miss the weather in Canada, but I miss my family.  haha  So here I sit at Dena's dad's 75th birthday, part of a family, but not part of a family.  It's hard to explain.  I suppose blood is truly thicker than water.  

 Well, I've had a little wine and one shouldn't blog intoxicated, whether mildly or otherwise.   
Suffice it to say that my heart swells with the love within the Schwimmer family home yet cries from missing my own family.  And that really says it all.....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Life, Liberty and What??

Unless you've been living under a rock in California you've heard that on May 16th, 2008 the Supreme Court of California (not the first state I might add) voted in a 4 to 3 ruling that the state Constitution protects a fundamental "right to marry" that extends equally to same-sex couples. It tossed a highly emotional issue into the election year while opening the way for tens of thousands of gay people to wed in California, starting as early as mid-June. For those of you living under a rock, articles can be found here and here.

This is pretty exciting stuff. Imagine the boost to the California economy as gays and lesbians rush to the alter! Matter of fact they are expecting (based on census data and Massachusetts' experience) over 20,000 weddings before November. Why is there a magic date of November 2008? I'm so glad you asked as there is a catch to everything. There is a group called the Liberty Counsel (naturally a fundamental Christian group) that are fighting to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November stating that marriage is defined as a man and a woman.

What saddens me is the use of the word Liberty to define themselves. Liberty is defined by dictionaries everywhere as the following:

-- autonomy: immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence
-- freedom of choice; "liberty of opinion"; "liberty of worship"; "liberty--perfect liberty--to think or feel or do just as one pleases"; "at liberty to choose whatever occupation one wishes"
-- personal freedom from servitude or confinement or oppression

None of those definitions comes anywhere near the right winged, discriminatory, oppressive opinions that this group spews out from their websites, blogs and other media blitzs. It saddens me even more that this group and other groups like it have successfully certified a proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2008 ballot. It's a terrible thing that in a country founded by immigrants trying to escape religious oppression spends so much time religously oppressing it's people.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hell Has Frozen Over

Tonight I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and reached for the magnifying mirror and studied the new lines on my face. Then I reached for the night face creme, then the red splotch prevention creme, the under the eye creme, the wrinkle fill 'er inner creme and finally the creme to stop the wrinkles on my neck and chest. Yes, I used 5 different beauty cremes tonight. What the hell is happening to me? Does all this stuff really work? Does it combat gravity, UV rays, pollution and stress at all?

It must, right?

Please, please, I hope it does.....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sex in the City

This weekend we went to see Sex in the City, the movie. The theatre was packed with groups of women. Large groups, small groups, younger groups, older groups, all kinds of women. There were very few guys to be sure. I thought all in all it was an excellent movie, well representative of the series, funny, adult and just a little heart wrenching. The perfect chick flick. This little chick flick toppled Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull from the top spot for the weekend bringing in 56 million dollars. Not bad, not bad at all.

In the movie (and the series) all the women have fantastic wardrobes, are in excellent shape and have a real sense of style. As I stood in line at the theatre I looked at the different groupings of women and could see that many of them actually got dressed up in their own version of "Manhattan Style" to see the movie. Or was it just me being cynical and did they always dress this way? Did I dress that way when I was younger? Did I have that sense of style? Nah. I don't remember any style. We couldn't afford style.

I remember when I was a kid in junior high school I wanted Wrangler's so bad, for 2 years I wanted them. They were the "in" thing. Wrangler jeans with bell bottoms. Yeah baby. I couldn't have them. They were too expensive. I got my jeans at Sears. On sale...... No Wranglers for me. You know what's funny. I still buy my jeans on sale except now I own a pair of Wranglers and they are NOT in.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Day of Firsts


Today was our 3rd Dodger game in 7 days. A lot of baseball to be sure. 2 nights ago we witnessed our first Dodger rain delay in I don't know how many years and tonight was another night of firsts.

First, it was "On the Field Photo Day", which means that the players walk around and shake hands with people and you can take your picture with them. Ruby, the biggest Dodger fan I've seen in a long time had her picture taken with many players including starting pitcher, Brad Penny. She shook hands with Juan Pierre and had another photo taken with Andre Ethier who just happened to hit the game winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning.

The game was also full of firsts. Clayton Kershaw (recently called up rookie wiz kid) pitched in his first MLB game and struck his first batter out. Luis Maza (another rookie in the MLB although he's been in the minors forever), in for Jeff Kent who had the day off, hit his first pitch for his first MLB homerun. All in all, a very fun and exciting day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Body World Exhibit


I took my little sister (from the Big Brother/Sister organization) to the Body World exhibit at the California Science Center. She wants to be a plastic surgeon so I figured this would be good to see if she could handle the gore. She could, I couldn't. This exhibit is in it's 3rd or 4th iteration and has been going around the country in different venues and with different bodies for about 4 years. I've missed all the other exhibits but wanted to ensure I got to this one. All I can say is, Wow!

I'm not sure how you could come out of this exhibit not affected in some way. I found it definitely life changing. Let me explain the premise of the exhibit. All of the exhibits are real. Real organs, real people, real everything. These people have donated their bodies to science and their bodies were basically injected with some sort of plastic in a process called plastination. It's bizarre but really cool. The picture is of a fellow holding his own skin. This was the end of the exhibit and was about all I could take as it was the grossest.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

30 Days


Today is my 30th day at my new job and I have to say that I'm truly enjoying it. The people are still nice, the job is still fun and probably will remain exciting. It's a very fast and hectic pace where I look up one minute and it's 9 am and look up the next and it's noon.


I'm learning to view life from the other side. Before I was with the manufacturer where I supply goods and services to companies like the one I'm working for now. Now, not only am I in the end user roll but also in a support roll. My work is not core to the business, I'm just supporting our core business, construction. It puts a different perspective on things and I'm wondering if the job is not actually more vital to the overall productivity of the company. Well, whatever the importance, it's immaterial. I have a job I enjoy and I'm not on an airplane all the time. The above photo is the Century condo towers we are building. On Avenue of the Stars in Century City it is will be well over 400' tall and will take 2 years to build at a rate of concrete poring of a floor every 5 days.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Karma and the Dog

My days at work now always have some bizarre sight or event in them. I work downtown and there is always something going on. An immigration march, TV show filming with gunshots, crazy homeless people, and the list goes on and on.

Yesterday and today were our big Los Angeles cell phone roll out. Lots of work in a small amount of time. I got a call to run over a couple spare phones to the Hollywood and Vine project and as I was running about the office I notice two women in the conference room and a dog. I go back towards my cube and make some snarky remark about people bring their dogs everywhere. You know where this is going right? Well, come on, give me a break, in Los Angeles dogs are like accessories and people bring them shopping and out to meals, it's just ridiculous.

So the fellow that sits next to me says, "the dog has special abilities". Well, then it dawned on me. Duh. As I made my way towards the elevator feeling like an idiot the woman and her dog were waiting there too. She said, "oh, you're the new IT person". One thing led to another and it turns out she is working at the Hollywood and Vine location. I offered her and her dog a ride. She had taken the train over. She's a very nice person and the dog is a "puppy in training". She has him for 18 months and trains him on obedience, he has to go with her everywhere for socializing. It's a volunteer thing.

The dog was very well behaved in the car and sat quietly on the seat. She has to train him that while he's wearing the green seeing eye dog shirt, he's working and cannot play or anything. She says once he gets the shirt off he goes nuts. As we let him out of the car a quick 20 minutes later I notice that the light grey colored back seat of my new Highlander is covered in black dog hair. I almost screamed but surpressed it. I thought, well, this is karma. Half a roll of duct tape later and the truck was clean.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Slug Wars

I've planted all sorts of vegetables this year. I've been so excited watching my little seedlings start to grow. Each morning and night I'm out there watering and examining each little plant with great hopes and expectations. Hope is a pretty cool thing isn't it? We hope about all sorts of things. We hope we'll win the lottery, we hope dinner will turn out well and I hope that my tomato plants will survive and thrive.

My hopes are starting to wane as my tomato and broccoli leaves have holes in them. Lately I've been coming outside in the morning and I see these little slime trails all over the place, mostly leading to my veggie planters. Slugs. I'm told these are slug trails. My first introduction to slugs was many years ago when on the show Survivor the contestants were eating them. How absolutely disgusting. What the hell was I to do about slugs? They come at night and are gone by morning.

I tried these slug pellets. I came out each morning with great hope that the slug trails would be gone. Instead I see slug trails going around the pellets. Smart little buggers. They were on to me. Then my friend told me about this age old trick of filling a tuna can with beer, leaving it out, the snails crawl in, get drunk and can't stagger out. Cool I thought. But where am I to get a tuna can? I don't eat canned tuna. I tried the terra cotta planter bases. That didn't work, they are porous. The beer just soaked into the base. Don't tell Dena this, but I tried some Tupperware ops. Too shallow, they apparently crawled out before drowning in their drunken stupors. Finally my friend brought me one empty tuna can. I filled it and went to bed with hope. That morning I awoke early to check the can. Wow! Slug trails leading directly to the can and a couple drunk, dead slugs. YAY! It works. I wish I had more cans. Any of you that live locally, please save your tuna cans for the wars.

I also tried some of this English slug killer powder. That works really well, too. The morning check revealed slug trails through the powder and then death. The carnage in the backyard can be gruesome on some mornings but the battle continues. I'm not sure who is winning but I'm pretty sure it's not me.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Crappy Day.....

Actually it was a good day for awhile there until I left the office and during some huge brain fart I forgot my laptop at work. Wierd and terribly inconvenient. Thank goodness for my treo with all my email on it. Then I finally got home and decided to be proactive and make a run to the drycleaner then go to the gym.

I park at the dry cleaner, get out of the car and in front of me was an odd sight. A homeless fellow, sitting on a milk crate talking to someone named Little Freddy on walkie talkie. Now granted, I'm not sure Little Freddy was talking back, but nonetheless it was an odd sight. I beebop into the dry cleaners, drop off my stuff and on the way back to the car this black fellow comes out of the liquor store next door. He's grabbing his crotch and yapping on his cell phone. Something about having lots of 'ho's and he could get this guy any number of 'ho's. As I fumbled to unlock the door, wondering what kind of neighborhood I live next to, I noticed the homeless guy still talking on his walkie talkie and sipping an olde english 800 brewski out of a straw. Just then it hit me, literally......I felt and heard wet splats all over. What the...!!!! For a nanosecond I thought the homeless guy had thrown his beer at me but another nanosecond later I realized it had come from above.

You see, I had parked under a billboard. Pigeons sit on billboards. I stood there, incredulous for a moment looking all around me and feeling what I now know is birdshit on my head and shoulders. The homeless guy is looking at me and I think, there's some sort of irony here but I'm missing it. Just then, SPLAT, SPLAT, SPLAT, another bombardment from above. In reality, the spacing between bombardments was really only a matter of a couple seconds. I think I escaped unscathed from that blast and jumped in the car. I sat there for a second and all of a sudden I felt like crying as the birdshit is starting to run down my sunglasses.