photo by EfrankE

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Year, Another Birthday

Oh, it’s a long, long time
From May to December,
But the days grow short
When you reach September
. ‘September Song’ (Sinatra sang it best)

After making a few quick calculations based on family longevity, I’ve determined I’m at the margin between the second and third week in August of probable life span. So, I figure I’ve got about a week and a half of long-time span left before the short days kick in, if “Ol’ Blue Eyes” had it right.

In my very young days of the mid 1950’s, birthday parties and dressing up like cowboys were inseparably linked, like scandal and politicians today, or anytime. You just didn’t go to a birthday party back then without packing six-shooters and a couple extra rolls of caps. We all knew that.

This was my birthday party the year I turned three. I’m the cowpoke in the upper left hand corner who looks like he just left the saloon after downing a shot glass of Nyquil with a vodka chaser.

Saloon singers and dance hall girls were also allowed to attend the birthday party under the chaperonage of my mother.

Usually, there was one boy in attendance who either came dressed like a miner or sod-buster. He often, but not always, also was the designated town character, like Festus on ‘Gunsmoke.’ This boy often either came hatless or with the entire brim of his hat pulled down over his ears. The miner is in the middle, in the photo above.

My fourth birthday party was boys only. I think I was starting to feel self-conscious and awkward around girls. No, wait, that was when I was 13. That's right, back at age four it was just that I believed girls gave you cooties. No, that was age 9. Oh, yeah, the message we got from cowboy TV shows was that it was okay to rescue women, but if you hung around afterward, somehow ...well, it just wasn't right.

4th year birthday party: Town character at left middle.

By my 7th birthday party, I was totally consumed with the Lone Ranger, and had been for a couple of years. There was a period of two or three years where I wanted to dress like the Lone Ranger as often as possible and for every birthday party, Halloween and picture day at school (parents said no). This birthday was also males only; my little sister, the exception.

The Town character is at the lower left. Lesson one: If you want to avoid being seen as a town character, never throw your hat into your toybox before you throw in the rest of your toys. Lesson two: Town characters can grow up to be very successful commodities traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Oh, and his son, Robbie Hummel, today scored 23 points for the Purdue University basketball team in a 66-46 win over Penn State.

I can’t remember when we stopped dressing like cowboys for birthday parties. My last three birthday parties, if you want to call them that, have been get-togethers with friends to sing songs at Karaoke bars. Karaoke, for those of you who don’t know, literally translates, humiliating performance“empty orchestra” in Japanese. Karaoke started in Japan and then became successful in the Western World when we too came to understand that one man's misery is another man's entertainment.

This is a photo of last year’s birthday Karaoke group, at least the ones who stayed to the bitter end. We forgot to take a group picture this year.

I wouldn’t call us cowboys and saloon girls. Most people wouldn’t call us singers. What you could call us is enthusiastic, and we adhere to the first rule of Karaoke: What you may lack in pitch and tone is more than made up for with volume and intensity.

If you're approaching the September of your years and have never tried singing Karaoke style you might want to give it a shot. Trying to belt out a song you really only half know can be exhilarating. Still, some people may feel more comfortable singing Karaoke after a shot of Nyquil with a vodka chaser. If you decide to go that route, try to take the group photo beforehand.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Perfect Job Fit

What does an ex-leader of the free world do after his term is over? Okay, build a memorial library as a monument to himself, but after that, what?

Considering some of the names drug companies come up with for their products, I’d like to throw out an idea for former President G.H.W. Bush to help fill out his day: Why not become a highly-paid consultant who dreams up names for new drugs? Here’s the scenario:

Phone rings -“Hello, Dubya here.”

Big Pharma Executive: “Hello, Mr. President. We were wondering if you might help us. We want to market a new drug we've developed, one that helps people who have been incapacitated by deep depression. Our product lifts them out of despair so that they can begin to cope with their lives, return to their jobs and function productively. The only problem is, we're having trouble coming up with the right name for it.”

Dubya: “Hold on, let me see if I'm gettin' ya'. You're sayin' If these folks you're talkin' about take this drug, it will help to ABILIFY 'em?”

Big Pharma Executive: “Bingo! Thank you, Mr. President! May we put you on retainer?”

It’s a win-win any way you look at it. The former President gets a cruise job he’s almost uniquely qualified to do, with plenty of time left for golf, and the drug companies can streamline their marketing departments and come up with an endless supply of new drug names that actually describe their purposes!

I only hope the former president doesn’t misunderestimate the immense promise this line of work holds for him.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Can everyone hear me in the back…?

This is not a political blog but it is at times topical and does attempt to find some humor in the events and travails of life.

I tried to pass on this but it’s just too ripe with irony.

Below is a photo of the President speaking to a group of 6th grade students at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, on Tuesday, January 19, 2010.

This photo appeared in several news sites and has not been photoshopped. With two teleprompters and 3 large speakers, you have to wonder how many hundreds of 6th graders attend Graham Road Elementary.

I can only imagine the scene, but here goes:

President: “I’ll now take any questions you boys and girls may have.”

Student 1: “Mr. President, how many roadies do you have in your entourage?”

President: “I believe I’ll refer you to Mr. Gibbs on that one…Yes.”

Student 2: “Mr. President, why do you have the teleprompters set so high above your head? Isn’t it hard to avoid looking at the ceiling while you’re talking to us? Besides, it makes you to hold your head unusually high and then you look down your nose at us and...oh, wait…, never mind.”

Student 3: “Mr. Presidents, how DO you keep such a neat crease in your trousers?”

President: “If you’ll excuse me now boys and girls I have a lunch appointment with some important bank…,er,uh..., some important economic advisers. Thank you for your attention. It’s been a pleasure to speak to you.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Licensed to...

007 - Licensed to kill

Mike’itect - Licensed to
practice architecture

I apologize for the light posting lately. My licensure renewal for this state comes up shortly and I’ve spent evenings and the last couple of weekends attending to online courses to meet the required number of continuing education credits for this renewal period.

I can barely stay awake to explain this, much less expect anyone reading about it to find any excitement in the information. Which brings me to this thought.

Does there seem to be an element of danger missing in your life? And by missing, I mean do you miss it? Most teenage guys I knew back when I was one tried to imitate were caught up by the exploits of characters like 007. I can't say that that sort of influence was the primary factor motivating our behavior. More likely, as teenagers, we just did risky, dangerous things by nature. Action movies probably only added fuel to the fire. I remember trying quite a few risky things myself, only some of which resulted in (mostly minor) injuries. That seemed to be the way we tested ourselves, trying to find out whether we were “made of sterner stuff,” or not.

With the increased responsibilities of the passing years, experiments of that type are now pretty much only eyeballed in the rear view mirror. What is the most dangerous thing I do now? I suppose that would be sorting through and trying to find the right CD to put in the car player while in busy traffic.

What? Comes across as lacking a certain captivating quality, you say?

Okay, then, how about this? We raised five children over the last thirty years. Due to everyday family living expenses, moving over two dozen times, including traveling to where work was available, and family-unfriendly, confiscatory tax rates, most of that time I didn’t carry life insurance or health insurance.

Would you call that dangerous? Some people would call it stupid. I called it having had little choice.

The less-than-adventurous soul makes little distinction between dangerous and stupid. But the thing is, there are no guarantees in life. Danger in the form of risk tolerance, to some degree, is required to maintain sanity.

As adults, the risks and dangers most of us live with are not as glamorous, or thrilling as the fictional examples that inspired us in adolescence, but that doesn’t mean they’re not vital or compelling. Just required, and often just thrust upon us. Most of the time we learn to settle into that reality.

Still, if I had a chance to step into James Bond’s shoes for 24 hours…?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It ain’t the years, it’s the (air) miles…

It’s time to get ready to watch the personal odometer roll over again with another birthday anniversary looming.

In one’s thirties and forties, physical change seems to occur gradually, almost imperceptibly, which allows plenty of time to adapt to the resulting realization. In one’s mid-fifties, a good birthday present would be a portable, frontal airbag to help mitigate the unanticipated experience of rapid deceleration.

Let’s be honest. What’s left of my hair looks like something you’d see on a Muppet character. My complexion is as bumpy as seven miles of Saddle Road, Kona side. Some of my former, easily performed feats of physical daring are now precluded by interference from my waistline, especially those involving forward axial rotation.

These things I can accept. They are natural consequences of ageing. But what I find really perturbing about getting along in years is that, technologically, we still haven’t entered the era of the flying car.

The promise of personal ownership of flying cars by the time of the new millennium was all but guaranteed by our teachers to us as elementary school pupils back in the early to mid-1960’s, a time of optimistically-viewed technological progress, with the America of we young baby boomers still in ascendancy. The vivid images my teachers described of a coming age where each of us would be hot-rodding around in the air created a vision of a brighter future and a better tomorrow, a future that science failed to deliver.

At school, on days when the teachers must not have prepared adequate lesson plans, or perhaps when we were just in an uncontrollable condition, they would leave the classroom to go to the A/V closet and return wheeling in a reel-to-reel movie projector. Most of the films we watched would promote the supposedly imminent technological, economic and recreational gains, which, we were given to understand, would vastly contribute to a more comfortable, enriching life with lots more goofing off time.

Here’s an example of the type of films we watched. The narrative sounds remarkably true to the times back in the day, although the images appear to be of a more recent archive.

Enjoy the jaunt back in time to my idyllic childhood, or thereabouts…

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Me! Me! Me! TV

I’m not without awareness that my recent posts may have perhaps been unduly introspective. I’m reminded too that my mother always taught me that it was selfish and wrong to only think of myself and that I should also think of others.

So, this post is about what I think of others, specifically, others of the type that are featured in a certain sub-genre of reality TV programming.

I don’t even know the names of most of these shows. I’ve only caught bits and pieces of them while practicing the manly art of rapidly changing TV channels with the remote. So, these comments are based more upon general observation than research.

The shows of which I’m writing characteristically features several youngish, style-conscious women who are competing for the attention of one man (like “The bachelor”) on up to the whole world (something about a next model). Another variety is more focused on one particular woman (“Bridezilla”). Women with the worst of character seem to be reserved for display on MTV.

I cannot figure out what the point of these shows is. Why do networks produce them? Is there that much demand for programming featuring self-absorbed, unappreciative social-climbers plying their wiles?

Do the featured women realize the way many of them come off to the public? Here’s how they look to me: Selfish, immature, jealous, whiny, petulant, demanding, narcissistic beyond belief, false and emotionally manipulative. On the MTV shows you can add sluttish and frequently-drunk to the list.

In the face of all this is the astonishing level of qualification they think to demand of the men whom they expect to charm. “He has to have money, of course – oh, and he should drive a ‘hawt’ car.

Are all the good men really already taken or are they being scared off by what they see on these shows? I can’t imagine that very many men view the women on these shows and think, Yeah, that’s what my life’s been missing. I should probably think about the married life. More likely would they see the message as, I should probably think about running for my life. Perhaps these shows are meant to be educational in that regard. If that’s the case then they should be on PBS and have voice-over narration.

As mentioned earlier, I don’t watch these programs very far into the presentations as they tend to induce the gag reflex in me and start to reverse the direction of flow in the upper alimentary canal, so, it is a possibility that I might be missing something. Perhaps they have a pie fight every now and then to show that none of these women are serious.

On the other hand, if they are serious and are that desperately craving the attention of others, they really should find a more dignified way to satisfy their longings like, oh, I don’t know, starting a blog or something.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom...

& wishes for many happy returns!

With love, Mike'itect

Monday, January 18, 2010

Career Reflections

As the rest of the past week continued to be unhappily slow, work-wise, I remained in an introspective state of mind. In particular, I reflected on my career choice as an architect.

I wondered, Are most careers this exposed to the vagaries of the economy? Would there have been a better choice of livelihood? How did I end up in this profession anyway? I’ve been compelled by circumstances to review the whole process.

I followed up high school by enrolling at the Big Ten University located in my hometown. I had no particular occupation goal at the time. I partly enrolled because so many of my friends did also and to run on the track team. My first semester tuition and fees ran a total of $124.00, so it seemed like a relatively inexpensive, low-hazard experiment.

I began in the Urban Planning curriculum at the suggestion of my dad. I had little idea of what planners did, but the curriculum did include some art and graphics courses, which interested me more than the other freshman requirements. In my first semester, I took a sophomore level basic design course in the architecture curriculum.

Toward the end of the semester, my teaching-assistant instructor, who was working on a master’s degree in architecture himself, told me that I seemed to do well at the work and should give some thought to transferring into the architecture program. I said I would.

Upon leaving the class those thoughts consisted of mainly, I wonder how much architect’s make? and, I wonder if chicks dig architects? All I knew of architecture students at the time was that they seemed to pull an extraordinary number of all-nighters in their design studios. In spite of that, I had met a few at some social functions and none of the urban planning variety, so I concluded the risk was tolerable regarding my concerns and met with the dean that afternoon to transfer into architecture.

It was like reading from the wrong roadmap but somehow still driving to the right destination.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t know that I would have chosen a different path, although it might have been for more judicious reasons than my then 18 years old mind could conjure up. Anyway, it just seemed like a good fit at the time and still does.

That was close to four decades ago. This is the third significant (and worst) recession we’ve experienced over that period. The first two were tough enough on business, but as the economy now de-leverages, the fed issues a flood of fiat money and the government’s solution to the problem of overspending is to overspend with more zeal and increase the number of programs to be funded, it’s hard to see how this can end soon (or well).

Time will tell. I’m imagining they’ll need some architects in Haiti, but the economy there is worse than in our neighborhood. Pray for Haiti. Pray for the U.S. too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

People Who Resemble Me

Work has temporarily dried up. While awaiting a green light on our next job, I’ve engaged in a bit of introspection, taking stock of things, so to speak.

In that process, being predominantly a divergent thinker, I haven’t been able to ignore the feeling I keep getting that I’ve seen myself somewhere before.

Engaging in the type of research that profitable employment ordinarily prohibits, I’ve come up with a short list of people who provide a public face on my otherwise privately- led life - and body.

Beginning in my youth…Calvin.

I know, spooky, right?

I don’t know how the cartoonist came up with the idea of making Hobbes a stuffed tiger (I dragged around a silky, black, stuffed kitty for years, myself), but there’s little question that my young face was used as the model for the incorrigible human character in the strip.

In my teen years I exhibited the general, non-descript, gangly, misproportioned features of most other adolescents, so no use wasting time there, except to say I had a fulsome head of well-coiffed hair, just so you know.

Others have noted as well as I that LSU head football coach, Les Miles, though younger than I, resembles me as I looked during the better part of my mid-life years.

On post-game TV interviews, I’ve noticed that even Les’ speech and mannerisms mimic mine. Perhaps our ancestry converges a few branches up. Further, it’s almost surreal but I too might have become the head football coach at a major university, had I been interested at all in that career, had the right training, contacts and job experience and been extraordinarily lucky.

Which brings me to the last analogous face: Glenn Beck.

Glenn most resembles me during my annual, post-holiday, weight gain. I’ve heard him say that he hates exercise, so we’re different there, as I try not to say that out loud.

You’ve probably heard it axiomatically stated that everyone has a twin somewhere in the world. Fascinatingly, I seem to be closer than ever to discovering mine.

h/t to Baby Girl for help with Photoshop

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How Men Talk to Their Wives

Relating to yesterday's post, here's an example of a husband communicating with his wife (about 30 seconds long).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Men Don't Listen

Last week, while leaving from a pre-workday meeting at my friend’s garage, I walked through his kitchen as his wife and daughter were there getting ready to leave for work themselves. Apparently the two of them had been talking over the day’s plans.

“I hope our talking didn’t disturb you,” his wife remarked.

“Of course not,” I replied, “Men don’t hear women. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”

I know that it’s hard for women to grasp why this is. It’s generally a mystery to men too, but some research indicates it’s somewhat due to the way men’s minds are biologically wired.

According to this ABC news report, men hear women’s speech differently than the way they hear the speech of other men: “The research shows men decipher female voices using the auditory part of the brain that processes music, while male voices engage a simpler mechanism [of the brain]…this causes a more complex range of sound frequencies [in a female voice] than in a male voice…”

Am I reading this right? It takes more brainpower to listen to a woman talk than a man?

The report also notes that, due to the greater complexity of the structure of women’s vocal chords and larynx, they have a “greater natural ‘melody’ in their voices.”

So that explains it. Absent focused concentration - perhaps even with it - men’s brains have a tendency to hear women’s talking as innocuous music, I assume much like what is played in an elevator or supermarket to relax patrons. So sometimes instead of hearing the facts of what women are telling us (not to mention the unspoken, emotional subtext), our minds subconsciously just start humming along to whatever it is they're saying. I’ve noticed, myself, that this phenomenon sometimes even produces a soothing, lullaby affect.

So, women, what can you learn from this scientific revelation?

Perhaps this: If you want a man to "hear" you, keep your message(s) short, simple and stick to the main point(s). If it's really important, don't speak at all; write it down and pass him the note. That's your most effective communication mode. You also may find it helpful to refer to this chart I’ve created.

You’ll note from the chart that even if you limit yourself to one subject only in your communication, statistically, the likelihood a man will remember it is no better than about 80%, and it decreases exponentially as the number of subjects in your statement increases.

So, please don’t blame me(n) anymore for not hearing you. A man's brain just finds it too easy to hum along to the sweet song in your voice.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Banyans, Last Week

1-1/2 Minute long surfing highlights. Footage shot by EfrankE on January 6 & 7, Wednesday and Thursday, of last week.

Second to the last rider is Kona-grown professional surfer, Shane Dorian.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Elvis Presley, 1935-1977

Elvis Presley would have turned 75 years old today.

As singers go few others have left the building with such a sustained following. He still sells a lot of recordings, and tons of memorabilia, even at more than 30 years after his passing.

How many Elvis impersonators have him to thank for their livelihoods, today? Interestingly, most of them represent him in his "comeback" years, most often portraying him in a sparkly, caped jumpsuit in a Spandex weave. I guess it's pretty hard to fit into those Jailhouse Rock jeans for most of them.

The story goes that after a concert one time, a woman came up to Elvis and gushingly declared, "Elvis, you're the King!" Elvis replied to her, "No, ma'am. Christ is the King, I'm just a singer."

No argument there.

I imagine a lot of people will be humming favorite Elvis songs today. I'll be singing along to some of them on CD myself while driving about, windows up and sans sparkly, caped jumpsuit. Probably.

An artists depiction of a 70 year old Elvis, had he survived, published some five years ago. I Can't recall the original source.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

They Grow up So Quickly...

While deeply absorbed at my desk earlier today I was roused abruptly by a series of thunderous, wall-shaking, floor-crashing noises. Once I had managed to fix my eyes open, and realizing that I was actually in my home office atelier and not alone at night in the middle of a limitless field with bombs bursting around me, I rushed down the stairs to see if the bookcases had fallen over or my grandson had pulled the family computer off the desk.

“What happened?!,” I called out into the living room.

“Centipede,” one of my daughters casually responded. [Note to Midwest friends, centipedes have mandibles, which can inject painful, tissue-necrotizing venom into the unwary foot. The pain can last for hours. They occasionally show up in the house. Their bite is something you want to avoid.]

Centipede?, I reflected, and you didn’t yell for me to take it out with my shears or a hammer or a long kitchen knife? Turned out, she had repeatedly beaten the threatening creature with a hard-soled shoe until dead. She’s wiry, but strong, and probably missed a few times before finishing it off; hence, the noise.

I stood there for a moment, slack-jawed and speechless. Before, the girls had always called on me to handle centipede disabling and disposal duties. What just happened?, I pondered. Then, it struck me: My little girl had grown up!

Okay, admittedly, she’s been married for a couple of years to a good man and has a toddler, yet this was an unmistakable milestone of maturity, a point of passage from which there was no going back. No longer will she call for my heroics in moments of centipede crisis. Now she’ll be the one in cool command during centipede intruder battle. It will be she who will bring about house centipede doom, at least at times when her husband’s at work and I’m deeply immersed at my desk.

You know, you raise them the best you can and try to set a good example for them, and then all you can do is hope they’ll turn out all right. It’s instances like these that you finally get to see the rewards of your efforts.

I’m not ashamed to mention I experienced something I assume was some sort of emotion-related sensation, perhaps even a feeling, in seeing one of my babies pick up a shoe and carry on her heritage with the same focused, killer-attitude toward an invasive pest as I modeled in days of her youth. I’m just glad I was here when it happened.

The torch has been passed to a new generation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What, You Call This Global Warming?

This is nothing. Why back in the Little Ice Age,...

Recent national and international headlines...

Britain’s Big Snow Shuts Cities…
Cold Snap Spurs Power Rationing in China…
Winter Chill Could Be Worst in 25 Years in USA…
Midwest Sees Near-Record Lows, Snow by the Foot…
Iowa Temps ‘a Solid 30 Degrees Below Normal’…

And locally…

Mike’itect Has to Pull Sheet Over Self After Awakening to 4:00 a.m. Breeze...

That’s right, last night in bed while turning over between sleep cycles I was awakened with a start by a clearly detectable breeze passing through the bedroom, bringing an almost noticable chill to the air.

Reacting quickly to the shock with a surprisingly clear mind, my first thought was to get up to close the lanai slider, but after I thought about it more calmly, decided instead to yank a corner of the sheet away from my sleeping wife’s clutches, enough at least to cover my upper torso. This one bold act furnished me enough warmth to drift back into sound slumber until morning.

Last night's disappointing temperatures did, however, give way today to warming conditions under clear skies, and a western swell, with surfing conditions expected to improve through the weekend.

Caution remains, as disruptions do not appear to be over yet. Temperatures are expected to dip down into the upper sixties tonight, before rising to a predicted high of 81 degrees by mid-day.

Offering comfort and helping provide a solid mooring to us in the midst of continuing weather uncertainties, is the perspicacity of this young beachboy:

“The worst day eating sand at the beach is better than the best day eating snow. Anytime, anyplace.”

Kua Bay, North Kona Coast

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Say it Loud, Say it Proud

Over the past couple of days, various links from around the Internet led me to this website.

Here’s the accompanying text:

Say the year 1810 out loud. Now say the year ‘1999’ out loud. See a pattern? It’s been easier, faster and shorter to say years this way for every decade (except for the one that just ended) instead of saying the number the long way. However, many people are carrying the way they said years from the last decade over to this decade as a bad habit. If we don’t fix this now, we’ll be stuck saying years the long way for the next 89 years. Don’t let that happen!

Well! Let me just point out that the sci/fi movie 2001 anticipated the future before most people gave any thought as to how we would be living in it, much less pronouncing it, and that movie authoritatively was called Two-thousand and One, not the easier, faster and shorter, “Twenty Oh-one”. I also recall that the year 2000 was pronounced, “Two Thousand,” not, “Twenty Oh-oh.”

Were he consistent, the author of the text would have had to pronounce that year as Twenty Hundred, a term suggestive of a pre-schooler describing the biggest number he could think of after eleventy-seventeen.

Anyway, I'm thinking the greater problem will lie in describing the past decade in future years. Will it be the decade of the Aughts? The Naughts? The Oh’s?

And what about here in the islands?

“Eh, Honey, when we wen stay ovah da Kalahikiloas? Back in da teens, yah?”

“Not! Wen stay in da nah’tings.

Where I lived as a child in the Midwest at the confluence of Northern settlement and Southern migration, some pronounced the word insurance, “in-SHUR-ance.” Others believed the correct pronunciation was “IN-shur’nce.” Tomato-tomahto. We accepted each other’s pronunciations and dialects and managed to live without the compulsion to agree on only one.

But then, life was just clearer back there in the “Nineteen-hun'ert an’ Fifties.”

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Walk to Remember

Last summer, after months of suspense, Target - excuse me, Tar-zhay - finally opened in Kona. While the building was under construction, the buzz of anticipation had been pervasive, the excitement barely containable, at least concerning the women around me.

The lead-up affected men differently: Target? What? Some kind of store? Where? Will it have a hardware department?

I forgot about and missed the Grand Opening in July. Around October though, I dropped into the store to see if I could pick up a set of replacement headphones for my computer.

I had just left from an early-morning, Saturday, workout class at the gym. Walking into Target, the first thing that hit me was the smell of ... pizza cooking? At 8:15 a.m.?!! Sure enough, they built in a pizza counter next to the Starbucks, right off the entrance. Garlic smell mixed with coffee smell on an early-morning empty stomach. Blech!

I cast a sweeping eye around the store, trying to take in the basic layout, at least for as far back as the naked eye could see. It gave me that overwhelming feeling you get walking into the exhibition hall at a trade show, except without the funny-smelling carpet.

An employee was nearby, walking in my direction. “Excuse me,” I said, where is your electronics section?”

“It’s toward the back, in the middle. Walk straight ahead and turn left down there. Continue on until you see the TV’s.”

My feet were already sore from the gym. “It looks pretty far, is there some sort of shortcut?”

“Not really.”

“Well, do you know if the store carries headphones?”

“No, not really.”

“Uh-huh. Okay.” In spite of the cooking odors, I drew a couple of deep breaths before starting off, thinking maybe I should’ve stretched-out the quads again, first.

I made it to the electronics, found the phones and made the hard-floor hike back to checkout, wishing that big-box stores would provide free Segway use for deep store-penetration shopping. If I have to take a long walk, I’d rather do it on cushiony grass at the fields at Old A’s.

This last week, while my folks were visiting, my dad called up from the condo to ask me if Target had a grocery section. I didn’t know for sure. I’d never ventured all that far into the store. What about a men’s department? I didn’t know about that either. I didn’t recall seeing either one from along the route to electronics. I wasn’t much help.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like mom & pop, general merchandise-type stores better. You can see over the aisles, you’ll stumble upon whatever you’re looking for within a minute or so, it’s easy to find your wife if you get separated, you don’t have to walk a quarter mile to get back to the door, and you can park curb-side, rather than stadium-distance away.

I mean, could you even set up a store better than this one?

I’d like to see more stores like this, ones that cater to those of us who are part of the short-walk shopping demographic and who prefer the simplicity of fewer choices and more limited selection.

I expect though, not too long from now, you’ll only be able to find one in a walk down memory lane.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resting the Eyes Today

Did you watch too many bowl games yesterday, too?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes in the New Year

Three or four weeks ago, a buddy at the gym was recounting to me how, while he was working on something, his observing wife tried to tell him he was doing it the wrong way and proceeded to tell him how he should’ve been doing it.

He told me he stopped what he was doing, looked up and asked her rhetorically, if not ironically (and hoping she’d get the point), “How do you think I ever managed to do anything before you came along?”

With a wide-eyed look of perplexity and in all seriousness she replied, “I have absolutely NO idea.”

I believe he then resumed his task, as before.

What’s the saying? Women marry men expecting they’ll change. Men marry women expecting they won’t.

What do you think? Do people really change?

My wife of many years doesn’t think so, not very much, anyway - that as time goes on and people age, the nature of their character traits, rather than changing, only intensifies - at least in the absence of some event traumatic enough to force upon them a completely different way of looking at themselves or the world.

In contrast, the world around us is in a state of constant change. A few changes are foreseeable, but most exist only in the foggy future and remain a mystery until the time of abrupt unveiling.

The media this last week has been awash with all sorts of predictions about the changes coming along this new year. I never know what to make of most of it.

From way out here on a map-dot in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, circumstances on the Mainland or other countries can seem far-removed and non-concerning, yet, tipping point events in history that have caused momentous changes were often the result of small, unpredictable events in faraway places, the repercussions of which carried around the world.

No one can say for sure what the new year holds, but change is sure to occur. Will coming events force us to change something about ourselves in the process? Will we be willing and able to manage such a change?

Whatever events occur, the best preparations that can be made are growing and sustaining good relationships with family members, friends and work-mates.

If we get those things right, we can probably handle most any change the year might come up with.