Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Somewhere in America

On a busy intersection in a small city the sun is shining brightly and the streets are coming to life with the bustle of the business world. A young boy sells papers to the rushing crowd, as the smell of coffee fills the air from a street vendor's espresso machine...

"Extra, extra read all about it! Say, mister, want to buy a paper?"
"Well I should say so; better give me a second one for my neighbor."
"Golly mister that's sure swell of you."
"You're the best kid, here's a nickel for you."
"Gee thanks mister."
"Don't mention it kid."
"Mister, don't miss the story on page one about the Reverend Wright; it turns out that whatever he says can be considered to have come directly out of Senator Obama's mouth."
"Thanks kid, any other stories I shouldn't miss?"
"Golly sir, since you asked:"
- "Page two explains that Exxon has broken it's own record for annual earnings three years in a row, even as gas prices approach $4 per gallon."
-"Also on page two, many areas had their worst winter in recent history...could it be global cooling?"
"You're a wealth of knowledge kid, here's another nickel."
"Jeepers, that's swell of you mister...oh, also, they are predicting that gas could reach $10 per gallon eventually."
"Holy cow son, what should we do?"
"Well sir, if we all don't buy gas for a day the oil companies will nearly go bankrupt and will have to lower gas prices..."

EDITORS NOTE: You could almost hear the whistling air and smell the smoke as the young newsy's stock went down in flames; in one misstep he was reduced from a wealth-of-knowledge to a nuisance.

"Aw heck kid, now I can't trust anything you said; for all I know the Rev. Wright's words may not actually represent Obama's thoughts after all."
"Gee sir, you just gotta believe me about the oil companies, they are pure evil."

EDITORS NOTE: His stock leveled off with this bit of insight, and began a slow ascent back to wealth-of-knowledge status.

"All right kid, see you tomorrow."
"Have a nice day sir."

As we withdraw slowly from the scene, the young newsy is enveloped in the crowd as he subtly mops his brow and shudders at how close he came to losing his "street savvy" credibility. Now, far enough away to give us a view of the whole city, we see a string of Rolls Royces entering Exxon headquarters. As they turn their cars over to valet parking, we see that most of them have dark moustaches that are twisted and curled at the ends. As they enter the building they remove black top hats, capes and monocles; one of them kicks a nearby puppy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 to avoid this one

The hands of time need to slow down a little. My daughter is older than I was when she was born, and that was only yesterday in some parts of my mind. In the years that followed her birth, the speed of times passing steadily increased, until it reached the point where Monday seems to be followed by Friday, which is just as amazingly followed by Monday again. Everything in between evaporates into tiredness and a growing list of things I should be getting done.

I apologize in advance for the following diatribe, feel free to skip it.

I saw the movie Stop Loss; it was not a good movie, neither happy nor enjoyable. It did make me think about the war in Iraq, which is a quality I always appreciate in a movie. It's really a mystery why we are still there; I don't see any good coming from it in any way. I think our arrogance misleads us: our way is the best, and everyone else should want the same things that we do. When we are no longer in Iraq, they will go back to living the way they prefer; the region has been politically and religiously unstable forever, so it must be the way they like to live. Also, a soldiers life has more value than this war assigns it, and yet we won't let these willing volunteers go home when their duty is done? What about the lady who protested her son's death in Iraq? she was simply labeled a fanatic and anti-American. The fact that she was able to protest outside the president's ranch is why being American has so much value, and this war is doing nothing to protect that value. Let's just state that terrorists and the countries that harbor them will be held responsible for their actions...enough said, we're done in Iraq.

If the government really wants to help our country, stop sending our jobs overseas. (Except Steve Jobs, he can go to Taiwan and oversee the production of his products) My company has sent many jobs to China and Mexico, we had to in order to compete with Southwest and JetBlue, who both sent many US jobs to middle America and are heralded as "The Perfect Business Models." We have been reduced to consumers in the US; the industry that made our country great is now making China great and Wal-Mart is a showcase for their talents. Perhaps the coming recession will make us appreciate hard work and sacrifice again.

I believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but we have our flaws and need to recognize them to improve ourselves. Life has been too easy for us and we're out of touch with what's important.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Drowning in oil

It has been an interesting week...

My company announced first quarter losses of 274 million, as well as a somewhat confusing imaginary loss of 6.1 billion. The imaginary part of the loss is the actual devaluing of the company based on the incredible rise in oil prices.
After the recent collapse of an irresponsible mortgage system, where lenders gave money to unqualified buyers, and unqualified buyers accepted loans they couldn't possibly pay off once the falsely low ARM expired, the rest of the iceberg is slowly revealing itself. By the time it's fully embedded in our hull, and Leonardo and Kate are balancing on the top rail as we go under, there will be no room in the life boats for most of us. Sam Walton's relatives will be jabbing at us with oars as they sail off to safety with the CEOs of EXXON and Chevron, a rainbow-ee film trailing behind them as they run their fingers through the water. In another boat Bill Gates and Steve Jobs cling to each other like long lost brothers, chuckling over the idea that he could have been named Steve Jobs-To-Taiwan.
As we sink slowly into the depths, our hair floating around us like Medusa, small bubbles emerging from our nostrils as we try to hold our breath, a friendly dolphin appears and guides to Atlantis. We live out our days in peace, harvesting kelp and achieving enlightenment through the tutelage of our Alien rulers. We will be relieved to find Amelia Earhart there, alive and in a better place...
Maybe not.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pinocchio in the moon

The sky was full of stars this morning, and a single band of clouds stretched across the sky from east to west in a narrow, unbroken strip. The nearly-full moon glowed brightly, its oval shape and the placement of its dark craters gave it the appearance of a sad face, filled with remorse. It looked like Pinocchio when he realized that Jiminy Cricket was right about choices and their consequences; as his tail swished, his eyebrows raised slightly and the corners of his mouth turned down, his lips parted slightly. A night spent partying with the lost boys had robbed him of his innocence and, more importantly, had taken years off Geppeto's life as he sat home and hoped for the best.

The trouble with puppets is that you can give them life but you can't decide what they'll do with it. You send them to the best puppet schools and set them up with decent duds and a good conscience, but the lost boys are always out there, lurking in the shadows, promising fun with no reprisals.

I looked at the moon again and thought, "you brought this on yourself, suck it up."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Global warming, cod and ineptitude

Just a few years ago President Bush the 2nd called into question the validity of the Kyoto Protocol, and wanted to open the protected wilderness of Alaska to oil drilling. Now, in 2008, he has outlined a plan to reduce carbon emissions somewhat by 2025. You can almost hear the conversation that provided the impetus for change. In a modest fishing yacht off the coast of Kennebunkport, ME, father and son rule the world.

"The warmifying of these waters makes it so a good American can't hardly catch a decent North Atlantic cod."
"Yes son, it's a problem the Democrats created."
"There must be something somebody can do!"
"Maybe you can do something son."
"Maybe I can get Colin Powell to come back and head up a committefication; I'll give it a catchy name and have a fall guy in case things go ungood."
"Not a bad idea son; remember my Thousand Points of Light scheme?"
"Hmmm...Thousand Points of Less Global Warmnessification."
"I wish your brother were President."
"...Thousand Points of Conservationalismitude."
"Just stop."
"Well dang Daddy, I just want to catch me a cod and these warm waters are preventing it; I wonder what Al Gore is up to, he certainly could use the work, heh heh heh."
"Even that you owe to your brother, for Floridas "hanging chad" controversy."
"I really need to call Jeff and thank him again."
"It's Jeb son...please be quiet now."
"Rrrrrrr, rasemfrasemelizingly."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Running lessons

In the wake of my companies announcement that we are merging with a rival, and the painstaking effort that was put into explaining why this is so good for everyone, even as the stock price fell considerably, I am reminded of a lesson that I learned the hard way on some cold and miserable runs: Always finish with the wind.

I left my hotel in Butte MT and headed east for an early morning 10 miler. The way out was cold but manageable; I ran hard and sweat considerably. The way back was entirely unacceptable and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. My wet t-shirt clung to me and My forehead hurt in the 30 deg wind; it was mid-June so the light snow was unexpected, so much so that I had no gloves or hat. Had I been fortunate enough to turn into the wind right away, I would have known what was ahead of me and that it would end well.

For the last 20 years I have run into the wind, mostly on midnight shift and in the rain. This was supposed to be the point where I headed home with the wind at my back. Instead, the damn wind keeps changing directions and I'm wet and tired with no gloves or hat again.

As enjoyable as this has been to read up to this point, here's where we head in a new direction.
I heard on the news that there is a 99% chance that in the next 30 years L.A. will experience a major earthquake. Where did I go wrong? That should have been my job, I could have gone nationwide with those sorts of predictions; following the rather large safety net of, "In the next thirty years there is a 99 % chance that," I could have predicted most things that are likely to happen, things like:

-Florida will suffer several devastating hurricanes.
-Sierra Nevada passes will be snowed in.
-Phoenix and Tucson will get very hot.
-Vancouver Wa will be cold and wet a lot.
-In Boston the Red Sox will win the world series as the curse of The Babe fades.
-Tiger Woods will win two golf tournaments on the same day in different cities. (while we will question this, there seems to be no limit to what he can achieve and we will ultimately accept it.)
-The presidency will become somewhat of a joke, and decisions will be made in weekly state of the union addresses with a magic 8-ball.
-Tom Cruise will star in a movie that focuses on quips and "money-shots" of his winning smile.

All right, all right...enough already. You attack Tom and you've gone too far. I'm a little weak on my L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics, but I think he can put a hex on me or something.

You have been most patient, and I appreciate it.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wireless dongle rides again

I just had another good laugh at wireless dongle's expense...I hope we're all on the same page here. My P seems to be weak; I keep having to go back to fix words like hoe that should be hope, which leads me to believe that I have P issues.

I saw on the news that some teens got together and filmed each other beating up another girl...what the hell is wrong with us? How do you get a room full of people that are so disturbed that not one of them can say or feel , "this is not right?" It makes my stomach hurt and is probably one of the reasons that I read the paper more than I watch the news; I can skip articles that I don't like, and I can conjure up much softer images to go with the story than the news insists on showing. I still haven't recovered from watching the forklift push the sick cows around and drop them from the back of a truck.

I need some peaceful insight into our collective soul... I wish I were the Dalai Lama, although this is not a good time to be in Tibet. Fortunately we have the Olympics to hold over China's head; if boycotting some sports can't make them be decent to Tibet, than probably nothing else will work.

Mozart is now soothing my senses, the sun is just ready to come over the horizon, and I have brewed a wonderful cup of coffee...things aren't so bad. Spring is here and I have some weeds with delicate little flowers that are almost making me not want to spray roundup on them; when weeds win your sympathy then life is good.

After missing some running due to the flu this winter, and then having a mild shin irritation slow me down, I have refocused my goals on the Portland marathon in the fall. That gives me five months to perfect my preparation for a good comeback.

This feels more like a group e-mail or monthly news letter than my usual ramblings, but that's okay. I must say that the word I shows up in abundance in my writing...I think I need to broaden my horizons so I have more to consider than simply what I am up to. I could make pictographs to represent what I have to say, but every other picture would be of an eyeball. I'm going to start mixing in some other languages into my writing, so don't be surprised to see things like: Yo, Ich, and Je.

Have a good day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wireless dongle

I don't have anything to say about dongles of any sort; I heard that term this morning and got a nice chuckle out of it so I thought I would share it with any of you who are dongle illiterate as I am.

As I ran this morning, a little old Datsun pickup went by me and reminded me of our ongoing fuel crisis, and how ignorant we seem to be. In the 70's my dad bought a couple little Datsun pickups; I can vouch for at least one of them as being nearly indestructible, and they were better on gas than today's small trucks. The industry average for fuel economy in the US in 1974 was better than it is today. How is that even possible? No one seems to care though, I work with many people who drive huge four door trucks with massive engines; they like the power and image, as the following clearly illustrates:
"It could pull a house!" he said, brimming with pride.
"Do they make anything bigger?" I wondered, "what if you need to pull two houses?"
"Smart ass!" he said; some of his pride was displaced by disgust.
"If it had two more doors it could be a limo-truck." I observed.
"I could drive right over the top of that little focus you drive!" pride once again winning out.
"That will come in handy; you're right, you have the better vehicle." I conceded.

As you can see, while I have good ideas about how things should be, I will never be a good representative for the cause. We just seem to be going backwards on so many issues, it's almost like the worse things get the more cavalier our attitudes become. When people won't buy small cars for reasons like they can't pull houses, or they won't be able to run over other vehicles anymore, then you know we have lost touch with reality. We need to come up with a really stiff fine for driving over other vehicles, and pulling houses should be illegal except at the fair. I guess we would just manufacture other absurd reasons to need big vehicles:

"If I get into some flaming quicksand, I just want to be able to blast right through it; try that in your focus!"

"If I get into a situation where I'm trapped under a semi, that just illegally drove over me, I want to be in a solid enough vehicle to survive so I can sue the jerk."

It occurs to me that I am ridiculous and it's time to go now.
Use less gas...Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A leaf on the asphalt

I arrived early for the carpool this morning and had a few moments to listen to Bob Seger and check out the vacant, dimly lit parking lot where we meet. There are a few perimeter lights that glow softly and provide minimal lighting; this is a church parking lot, so there is an assumed level of protection that requires little lighting.

On the ground next to my car was a single leaf, brown and crisp, that must have been there since last winter. In the middle of this sea of asphalt, this leaf was being denied a place in the circle of life. It's destiny was to return to the soil through a long, slow decaying process that leaves a trace of sweetness in the air, instead it lay there looking out of place and without a purpose.

We have paved over our planet; I wonder how many flooding issues are due to the lack of open soil for water to filter into. In heavy rains the street drains overflow, the streams they drain into overflow, and it all disappears into the rivers immediately instead being absorbed back into the ground.

Across the street, a tree caught my eye. A large sweet gum had grown up around a street lamp and was illuminated by it from the inside. With the darkness of early morning behind it, this artificially lit tree was beautiful. We have done some amazing things here on earth, they just don't get the attention they deserve because they are so common place that we just accept them and move on. The idea of having power available around an entire planet is phenomenal, we just need to be responsible about our consumption so the phenomenon can continue into the foreseeable future. Like so many other things that harm us, in America we have perfected the art of overindulgence.

I think I'll just show up on time for the carpool from now on.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Infinitely finite

And, for a penny the world fell away...
As I journeyed through my mind, some moments live forever as evolving remnants of a glimpse, one that could no more have captured a soul than a fleeting smile. I fell through a rainbow, briefly aglow in sublime imagination. I sailed past God and found an extraordinary answer cast powerfully by ordinary people, the peacefulness within divine.
On I fell, in and out of focus, purpose and meaning at times clear and tangible, then darkness squeezed the breath from my lungs. Immersed in cold emptiness to the limit of my ability to endure it, I was suddenly flooded with warmth and clarity... in the absence of pain it is difficult to remember its power.
I tumbled on as flashes of peace, passion, success and acceptance taunted my desire to just be.
I tumble on, but someday it will be complete, this mottled trail that has no answers, and rests solely on the hope that goodness is enough of a reason.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Goldfish syndrome

I was sitting here doing a little computer work and listening to Mozart, with my headphones so I don't disturb my is her office; after an hour or so I realized that the music was sounding very familiar, more so than just listening to a favorite CD, this was more like "I just heard this."

My cat walks over my portable CD player to get to my partially open desk drawer, which eventually leads her to a basket with a blanket in it on top of my bookcase. In the process today, she changed the mode on the player to repeat, not repeat the whole CD, just the one track. I'm not sure how many times I listened to symphony no. 40 in G minor, but eventually I caught on. In my defense, with no words it's easier to just get lost in the music, although I do have a history of getting lost, literally and figuratively. I once had to stop riding my bicycle about 15 miles from my house and wait until I remembered where I was; that one bothered me a little.

I heard somewhere that by the time a goldfish swims full circle around it's bowl, it has forgotten everything it once knew, and everything is new again. (if I could have worked a Gnu into the story it would have made for a nice homonym progression) Anyway, the goldfish theory would be difficult to prove. I suppose you could wait for them to go by the same spot each time, give them a little jolt of electricity and see if they kept coming around. That's where it gets sticky though, we would assume they had forgotten the previous shock if they kept returning for more, but we would be ruling out defiance, stupidity and nerves that don't actually feel pain the way we understand it.

I guess the point is that sometimes it's nice to be so relaxed and lost in thought that the world goes on without you and everything is still ok. The same beautiful music comforts completely, as it winds back into itself and the beginning and end are lost.

I think we'll be ok, but we'll know more tomorrow.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just reaffirming that I am simple

Star log entry:
Star date - 04/03/08
Star time - 0550 (that's 5:50 AM to you and me)
Star place - Sharpsburg

What began as what can only be described as a partially cloudy and mild morning, quickly turned into a partially cloudy and mild mid-morning. Rain is in the forecast, but our supplies are low and it is welcome.

Running is going well; the inspiration from witnessing last weekend's Atlanta marathon is still lingering. My mileage is slowly climbing, my weight is slowly dropping, the economy slowly withers, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I'm working on an idea for some sort of a strip that you put under your tongue, and then you compare its colors to a chart on the bottle. In short order, you receive an accounting of any deficiencies in your diet, and maybe even any chemical imbalances. Or, a talking strip reader may be the way to go. A soft southern accent could tell you:

"Y'all need a little vitamin C, some of Grandma's okra, just a smidge of ginkgo biloba, some lithium, half a fried green tomato, and two scoops of metamucil; Y'all follow that recipe and you'll feel better than a ring tail possum in a bag of eucalyptus leaves."

Peace be with you.