My Thoughts... Exactly!

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Category: Observations (page 1 of 3)

Dishes in the Sink

I know people who “cannot possibly go to bed and sleep” with dishes in the sink. The kitchen must be clean. “Leave them until morning,” is taken as enthusiastically as cursing their firstborn.

Not me. That precious time before bed is my time for having a glass of wine and reflecting on the day. And having a glass of wine.

My morning routine involves recalibrating my vertical balance, teetering into the kitchen, filling up my Braun superheating electric kettle (See on Amazon) with water, starting it, letting the water run from the spigot to hot while I grind coffee beans (French Roast),subsequently dumping them in my French Press, then washing the dishes left in the sink from the day/evening before.

It’s my first competition of the day.

I race my speed-heating water kettle to see if I can sponge-wash everything in the sink — dishes, pots and pans, silverware, mugs and glasses and rack them all before the hot water is ready. This is usually a 4-minute window. I’ve gotten very good at it.

Why do you think they named the detergent Dawn?

Dishes before bed, or dishes when you wake? What's your routine? Click To Tweet

Under New-ish Management

In November of 2002, I saw this vinyl sign hanging outside a restaurant in Laguna, CA. I thought it was funny. Not the untold, implied story — that part is likely sad — rather, the boldness of Eva as depicted on the sign.

The restaurant is still in business in 2015, and managed, apparently, by Eva, sans-Drew.

Eva’s Carribean Kitchen website and Facebook Page.

Why Does This Look Familiar?

Let me state right off: I am not likening our president to Hitler or Stalin.

But let me add to that, I think it’s reprehensible to make use of children, who do not have enough maturity to make decisions affecting the society they live in, to position oneself politically, or attempt to soften one’s image, or appear warm and fuzzy by making use of children.

I say: If politicians want to visit a school and greet children, do it in secret, with no cameras or journalists.

That goes for Bush, Clinton, Obama… all of them.

In 2002, I and my wife at the time had dinner with a couple of friends from Germany, here temporarily on work visas, and we were chatting about the still-recent 9/11 event.

They talked about how interesting it was to see moods go from horror, to acceptance, to resolve, to getting to work immediately, and to see Americans join together in solidarity, all in the span of a few days. Then, almost as if they were confiding in a close friend, in whispered tones, they told me something I will never forget: It was frightening to them to see all the US flags coming out, being waved by everyone.

I presumed this was some leftover or handed-down fear of the American flag being associated with bombs or gunfire, but no, it was from a position of national shame. Germany, they explained, is still deeply embarrassed by what the Nazis did. And Germany is still embarrassed by all the enthusiastic nationalism, patriotism and “Germany’s the best!” attitude they all engaged in. And of course, the horror it all led to.

Germany, they had learned in school, had become a country of flag-wavers just prior to the Nazi takeover. To them, all the flag waving was, to my German friends, now, a dire warning of politicians winning the hearts of an entire country — because when you can do that, then you can do almost anything in the name of your country. I was so blinded and deafened by national pride and a “need for national vengeance” at that time that I thought they were crazy for comparing America to Nazi Germany in even the remotest way. But I noted that it was an interesting take on all that was going on… as the USA prepared to go destroy both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Over 10 years later, I can still hear their voices and see the looks on their faces as they talked about what could come after the flag-waving… and I am very inclined, now, to think they were right. There is much to be concerned about.

Watch what America’s leaders do. Does it resemble anything we have seen in the past? Does it matter much that we are America and they were the bad guys? Are America really the good guys like we’ve been taught? Are we really spreading democracy? And if we are a Republic (rule of law) why do we spread democracy (rule of majority) anyway? Our founding fathers went out of their way to avoid democracy. Do we have more flaws than we let on? Are our flaws as big as the Emperor’s naked behind? Are we the only ones who don’t see what we have become?

I see what’s going on with gun control, using crises, using children… I see that the Executive Orders of yesterday have little if anything to do with any laws that would have prevented what happened at Sandy Hook, yet they were leveled on the American people as a response to Sandy Hook. What is the bigger picture? What is in our future? What kind of world is my grandson going to grow up in?

My German friends may have been righter than they could have imagined.

Update — 2/19/2013

Since I wrote this it has come out, but not widely reported by the bought-and-paid-for Media, that Adam Lanza did not use a so-called ‘assault rifle’ (not even the AR-15 he was reported to have used) in the massacre. He used only hand-guns. This makes the Executive Orders banning guns as a response to the Sandy Hook massacre nothing but a political show, using the deaths of innocent children as a smoke-and-mirrors springboard for a political grab. Whether you believe in a person’s right to bear arms or not, you must in all honesty admit that the gun ban has no roots in Sandy Hook beyond showmanship and fantasy.

I hope we get to the truth of why and how these innocent, precious lives were ended. The official story, again, has a stench about it.

Economic Lessons From a Cupcake Factory

Hostess Brands — a lesson in economics and the job market.

By David R. Darrow

A young woman who was regularly in my life until a couple of years ago used to complain every day after work about how her job sucked, and how she was carrying most of the weight and how the owners rarely came in, and how she’s been there over a year and they have not given her a raise… She resented that they called her on Sundays from their boat in the ocean to see how sales were for the day. ‘Rich pigs.’

One day, when she was done ranting, I decided to voice my opinion, “The people you work for not only don’t owe you a raise, since you agreed to work for them for the wage you are getting, they also don’t owe you a job.”

From the look on her face, the idea that not getting an automatic and significant raise after a year was clearly a foreign thought to her, and I could tell she wondered how I could be so out of touch with reality.

At one point or another I have taught each of my own children the realities of the working world: You work for a dream and you work for wealth. If it’s your company, you work for your own dream and your own wealth, and if you work for anyone else, you are working for their dream and their wealth.

“They do not enjoy giving you money. They do not think you deserve a job. The only reason they hire you is because they will make more money if they do, or they will have more time to themselves and their other interests if they do.”

The problem I have always had with unions is where they fail to recognize (or believe) actual economics (“financial math”). They want to fight for all their members to receive “fair pay” and fair benefits, and so they make demands on other people’s money.

Well, the Union just killed 18,500 jobs at Hostess. All 18,500 jobs would still be occupied if there had been some flexibility on the part of all to take a little hit to the income to allow Hostess to attracted needed investor capitol. (Seems smart investors don’t want to put their money into a company whose operating costs are higher than their income. Weird, huh?)

Hostess’ CEO determined that there was a breaking point, a point of no return, and he named it in no uncertain terms.

An insufficient number of employees returned to to their jobs from the union-directed strike to operate the company at a profit, and the camel’s back snapped.

Just like that, 18,500 people are added to the unemployment statistics, falsified for political reasons though they may be..

And I will bet all 18,500 of them think they deserve their job.

The company is liquidating so they can pay back a portion of their debts to others who gave them credit. It’s more than just the company owners and the employees who lose.

Sometimes gratitude comes too late, when it could come, as a matter of the will, every day.

So it goes with Democracy, which America’s founders attempted at all costs to avoid: As one wise man put it, Democracy is two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

A time may soon be coming when all we’ll have is our wits. That’s when it will really seem unfair.

Interesting Documentary about Aspertame

I heard recently that “Aspertame sweetener is the excrement from E. Coli bacteria that have been fed toxic waste.” It sounded outrageous — and I have preferred diet drinks over sugared for several decades — so I started searching Google for answers.

I found this 1.5hr video that raises concerns.

For several years I have been mildly concerned about changes in people I meet: grown men I know going through long periods of debilitating depression, the changes in the health of entire populations, namely obesity, etc.

I remember buying chicken breast at a local Vons market, and the breasts were enormous. At the time, I was only thinking about a hearty barbecue, and was delighted to find ‘man-size’ pieces of chicken, but later I got to asking myself how ‘they grow chickens’ with such enormous breasts.” It has to be something unnatural, because when I was a kid, the chicken breasts my mom prepared were maybe 1/3 this size.

I’m not smart enough to know what the right answers are, but I’m getting increasingly concerned about any non-natural additives in food, manipulated growing techniques (genetically-modified foods, etc).

I think I am now done with diet drinks and artificially-sweetened foods. Why bother?

Jade Jewels

Several years ago — maybe 10? — my mother sent me off on my drive back home from visiting her, sending along the typical snacks and hot coffee for the 450-mile drive to San Diego, a traditional send-off. In the bag of goodies, she also included a snapped off branch from a Jade plant, with the message that this was from one of the same plants my grandmother had planted in the 1940s or 1950s.

They are easy to plant… you just stick the branch in the ground and water it once in while. They grow.

This plant is still with me, and today I noticed it has flowered. Raindrops bejewel it, adding interest and sparkle. Each flower measures about 5/8″ (1.6cm) across.

Amazon Gives Back

You know how it went down.

I got this idea in my head that I could make money from my website… turn my blog into a million dollars. Just build it and they will come. Free money just for tucking ads in your pages.

Sad reality: you probably did not know that any ads exist on this page. But they do. My first ads were placed on my site in 2001, and they were for Amazon.com. I figured that as long as I was going to mention some of a small handful of art books I would actually recommend, I may as well get a referral commission from someone selling the books. Amazon.

Between 2001 and 2007 I made $1. Yep, that’s one dollar. And it should further be noted that it is 1 US Dollar, which has gone down in value over that same time period.

They only pay out when you reach a specified higher balance in the account — which I have observed will never occur in my case if they keep taking my money back.

Also, in that same time period, Amazon determined that there was no existing live on my Mars, so they took away the dollar.

If you click on the thumbnail above you’ll be treated to my private information regarding the financial exchange between Amazon and myself, and will not that Amazon is a giver.

Amazon Gives Back.

To the State.

Cards and Letters

Birthdays are nice. You not only get e-mail greeting cards from friends and family, but also from every stinkin’ online service or membership you have given your birth date to. I had forgotten half my accounts.

I got a birthday greeting from Coca Cola, MySpace, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, ConceptArt.org, SmoothJazz 98.1, MovieLink, Blockbuster, Workworker’s Journal, WetCanvas, Southwest Airlines, and many others…

I feel very special, and somewhat famous.

Santa Ana / Santana Winds

Amazing how “small” the fires look from the heavens, and how far out to sea the smoke blows — over 100 miles, I’m guessing.

My daughter’s school is part of the Poway School District. That school system has 20 staff members without homes — and 320 students lost their homes.

Today, 7 days later, it is raining in San Diego.

Sundown

The Sun at 4:45pm yesterdayFirst of all, despite what it looks like, I am not yet in danger of losing my home, where I live here in Oceanside. Last evening, when I looked out of my south balcony window, this is what the sun looked like. It was literally the color of raspberry sherbet (or for those of you who never got past 3rd grade: sherbert).

Smoky SunFor those of you that are very concerned about my safety, and especially my own personal hydration, I want you to know that I did follow my instincts and drove down to the unofficial hydration center for Carlsbad, otherwise known as Carlsbad Brewing Company, or Pizza Port, to the locals. As luck would have it, Sharkbite Red Ale was on sale at $2/pint, so re-hydration was inexpensive and enjoyable. I was joined by Carlsbad Dave.

You might be surprised to know that even with all the smoky air everywhere, there were record crowds at Pizza Port, indoors and out.

I think everyone is very concerned about their hydration.

Truthfully, by the time I went down there — about 30 minutes after I shot these pictures — the air had gone still here, and it was a delight to get out of my closed house. I’d been indoors all day with all the windows and doors shut, outdoor temperatures over 90f-degrees, and no air conditioning.

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow…

8:25am smoky sunrise, looking east from Oceanside, CAIt’s a little unnerving to go to sleep in a county that is on fire, not knowing what one will awaken to.

I had a dream that Arnold Schwarzenegger flew to San Diego to praise our firefighters and promise State financial aid. Oh yeah… that really did happen.

Anyway, I awoke to this eerie sunrise — yes, to the left is a picture taken a 8:25am this morning — casting a reddish glow on everything, stripping all the green and blue from the visible spectrum. Red darkens things.

Out on my balcony patio, my glass-top patio table is covered with ash dumping out of the sky like a light snow-fall. It’s even piling up around the hose. For a guy who has only been in actual snowfall maybe 5 times in his life, this is kind of fun in a macabre way, and if it weren’t for a stiff neck, I might go outside and lie down and make ash angles.

I’d sit down, but the outdoor chairs are also covered, as is the towel I set out to dry in the sun the other day. Oops. (By the way, the chair and towel pictures are, in actuality, white not pink.)

Around 300,000 people have been “displaced” from their homes. Many of them will return to their neighborhoods and find a cement slab with ashes on it where their home used to be. I cannot imagine what this must feel like.

Sometimes I secretly wish for a fire to gut my house so I can just start over, with the decisions of what should I keep, what should I throw away already having been made for me. Perish the thought.

Fire is no respecter of persons. It has consumed homes in the poorest pars of Ramona just as easily as the mansions of Rancho Santa Fe (some of the most expensive homes and land in the USA). Fire is an Equal Opportunity Destroyer, too. No prejudice. It will eat your home if you are Black, White or Green, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Jew or Muslim, Gay or Straight, Rich or Poor.

More pictures on MSNBC

Fires

As of 5:30pm, I and my home/studio are safe, and as of the moment, I have not been asked to evacuate. But the situation here in San Diego is grim for many many people.

Earlier today 250,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. This includes my son Greyson and my daughter Lauren and their mother, who live in San Diego, near Rancho Bernardo, which is burning. They were ordered out of their home this morning, and are with friends in Del Mar, or at my oldest son Drew’s home in Encinitas (I am not sure at the moment).

My home is here, and recently I heard they are evacuating all the way to the coast as far south as the 76 highway, just north of me.

It’s just insane how many fires there are, and how helpless everyone is. Entire communities are burning, with not a firefighter in sight, because there are simply no more firefighters to get to all the areas that are burning!

An old friend of the family, Gerald Lemmonier, owner of Malibu Glass up in Malibu (Los Angeles area) lost his whole business yesterday in the Malibu fires).

[There are four things] that will not say, “Enough”:
Sheol (Old Testament: place of departed spirits),
The barren womb,
Earth that is never satisfied with water,
And fire that never says, “Enough.” —Proverbs 30:15,16

Jan Darrow Geist Memorial Service

We will gather at 10:00AM on Saturday, October 13, 2007 to celebrate my sister Jan’s life and the God she trusted, and with whom she now lives. Our celebration will be at Tigard Christian Church, located at 13405 SW Hall Blvd. Tigard (Portland), OR 97223.

In lieu of flowers and other gifts, please consider making a donation to Jan and Dan’s home church for the expansion fund: Grace Point Community Church Expansion Fund, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund, or Hospice of Washington County.

A reminder: I am putting together a collection of her artwork online. Please visit this other post for instructions on how to send me a photo of something that Jan painted for you.

Thank you for your continued prayers and care of Jan’s family.

Please feel free to pass this on to anyone that you know Jan touched with her life.

UPDATE
See www.jangeist.com

Words Fail Me

My Sister Jan, 1979It is a rare moment that I cannot think of anything to say in a situation. Sure, I can say the wrong thing, and often do… but there are times I can think of nothing.

Now is one of those times.

My oldest sister Jan, 55, is dying of cancer. Except for the occasion of an absolute miracle, her time on earth is coming quickly to a close.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago, and at the time it had already spread to other areas of her body… bones, spine, and eventually her brain.

She has undergone all the treatments the specialists can give her or even think of… and has survived some six years. This week the doctors sent her home from the hospital, and her husband Dan — one of the finest men I have ever met — has arranged for hospice care.

Dan and Jan Geist just celebrated their 32nd anniversary in June.

She always kept a sense of humor...There are just no words to describe how I feel. I have run out of words on all fronts. I don’t know what to say to them, to God, to my family. I don’t even have words in my thoughts.

It is, in the end, just a part of life.

The part I do not know how to talk about.

Klobber Your Kids

A couple of years or more ago, I was alerted to an e-mailing list started by a Canadian fellow enamored of artwork from the heyday of Illustration. Lamenting the passing of an era, Leif Peng, author of Today’s Inspiration blog, scans old-but-fantastic magazine illustrations and sends them out to his subscribers (free), usually including a story about the artist. He is quite the historian.

Today, he sent out this whimsical illustration with only the first page of the 2-page article scanned. I read as far as I could, then asked him if, by chance, he had the rest of the article.

He obliged with a new scan, and mailed it to me with a note of amusement that I was not the only one who had requested to read the rest.

Here is the article in its entirety:


From Coronet Magazine, December 1953

Klobber Your Kids

NOT LONG AGO, Bennett Cerf, noted humorist and literary columnist of the Saturday Review, got a letter from the equally renowned theatrical playwright, Moss Hart. Mr. Cerf thought so highly of the letter that he printed it in his column, thus starting a controversy in many American homes. CORONET, with thanks to Messrs. Cerf and Hart, and the Saturday Review, is happy to reprint the letter here. — THE EDITORS.

Dear Bennett:

Do you remember, one lovely starlit evening on the desert a few weeks ago, our discussing with a good deal of parental acrimony the proper method of bringing up children? That usually discerning and extremely wise lady, your wife, disagreed somewhat haughtily with the method we use in our house, but I thought you showed unusual interest in our experiment and silently longed to apply it yourself, so I pass it on to you and to any other frantic and harassed parents who, like ourselves, were about ready for the booby-hatch until The Klobber Method came into our household.

The Klobber Method was invented by Ernest J. Klobber, a Viennese psychiatrist who, at the time of the discovery of the method which was to bear his name, was a staunch believer in the modern and accepted formula for rearing children. Give them a reason for everything — watch out for traumas — plenty of love and security — and never a harsh word.

So great an exponent of this formula was Professor Klobber that, at the time of his discovery, ‘the Professor, who had six children of his own, was about to be carted off to a sanitarium in a state of nervous collapse a condition any modern parent will understand at once. As the hapless Professor was being carried out of the house on a stretcher, one of the children aimed a kick at it which, with unerring childlike aim, landed exactly where it was meant to land.

The Professor, though thoroughly used to being kicked by his children, was under mild sedation at the time, and it may have been this that caused a curious reflex action on his part. Bringing his arm up from the stretcher, he brought his hand down with a good sharp crack on the child’s head.

The effect
on the Professor
was startling
There was an anguished howl from the child — first time in its life no reason had been given for an action — but the effect on the Professor was startling. He leaped up from the stretcher and gave each of the other five kiddies in turn a good smart crack over the head — a Klobber, as he afterward termed it — and never went near the sanitarium. Instead, in suddenly excellent spirits and health, he began to develop The Klobber Method.

No reason was given for anything. “No” meant “no” and “yes” meant “yes,” and, trauma or no trauma, at the first hint of an argument the children got a Klobber, and life, for the Professor and his good wife, was livable for the first time since the patter of little feet had thundered through the house.

Like all great discoveries, however, The Klobber Method met with furious opposition on the part of leading educators and progressive parent organizations, and it was not until a refinement of The Method was suggested by an imaginative assistant of the Professor’s that it began to meet with popular, if necessarily secretive, approval.

The Professor’s assistant, one Heinrich Klonk, suggested that since a good Klobber usually left a telltale lump — a short sideswipe, or a Klonk, would do the trick just as well, and to hell with PTA’s and the like.

Heinrich Klonk is one of the unsung heroes of our time for, though he gets small credit for The Klobber Method, his little refinement worked like a charm, and the word “Klonk” echoes through thousands of peaceful homes like a balm.

The charm of the method is its utter simplicity. In place of long hours of dreary explanation that Daddy cannot work if junior bangs on the radiator, and if Daddy cannot work and make money, how will we go to the circus; in place of that tortured quiet between husband and wife in the long night hours as to which one warped the childish id by refusing to allow the hotfoot to be applied to Uncle Robert; in place of all that just “Klonk!” — and serenity reigns.

It is the greatest invention since the wheel, my dear fellow, and as your wife seems to object to it, try it on her first, instead of the children, and let me know the results. I’ll still be out here, three thousand miles away — but I’d like to know what happens.

Ever yours,

Moss Hart

Put Your Money Here

I had to cross a new threshold of trust with my bank. I have had my ups and downs with my bank, whose name rhymes with tank of M. Erica. For you hackers, with too much free time on your hands, my checking account number is:

Anyway, it was a bit of a step of faith to put checks into an envelope and shove them into a motorized, one-way slot and trust that somehow my account would be credited. It was another step entirely to put a couple of twenties (you know, unmarked bills; cash) into the envelope and run it through without writing my name on the envelope first.

If you find this envelope and you don’t know who gets the money my name is David Darrow and it’s my money.

It always throws me for a loop when I am there one day and come back the next only find that my bank has installed all new machines overnight, with stereo speakers, a full color display and movies — well, moving commercials for their bank (which is stupid because I am already there as their customer).

One Better
My bank
installed all
new machines
overnight
Well, yesterday I went to the ATM to deposit a $30 check, handwritten by a friend.

New ATM machines. Flashing lights around the card slot. Flashing lights around the deposit slot — very disco/Close Encounters-looking. But I needed an envelope… the old familiar envelope dispenser was nowhere to be found. Then I saw a clear box of “ads” with a picture of an envelope on them. I grabbed one.

In so many words, these cards were instructions on how to deposit checks or cash without envelopes. Hello?

I realize this will all be spoken about someday in such a way as to resemble discussions about 33rpm albums, but at that moment, I was stunned.

This brought out the gambler in me. It’s only $30 bucks. Let’s see what it does.

I held it near the slot that said (with arrows) Cash or Checks Here. I was sure a thief was watching me on camera laughing himself sick. I was thinking you’re actually going to stick your check in that slot with no envelope because they said to….

One-eighth of an inch in the slot, and it grabbed that check and pulled it in faster than a chameleon on fly. I jumped.

Now what?

My first reaction was somewhat like looking at the TV and having kidnappers show live video of my child being shoved in front of a remote camera to prove they have him and I cannot get him. I almost put my hand on the glass in an attempt to retrieve my money that had been snatched from my hand.

Five seconds go by, and on screen appears a scanned image of my check, right-reading, with the question “Is $30 correct?” — now, you have to remember that this check was handwritten, had a “write-over correction” (you know: where you mean to write something else as the first character, but you write something else by accident, and so you write over the first character harder and darker, and then continue…), and on the line where you spell out the amount, was a long hand-drawn wavy line, the handwritten, lower case word “thirty,” and another long wavy line.

The machine figured out that the check was made out for $30. It reads handwriting! And not-so-careful handwriting at that!

Amazed, I wished I had more checks. (Well, I still have that wish, larger amounts).

Anyway, my transaction was over, and I pressed the Return Card button, and got my card back, and also an unusually large receipt — which had a miniature picture of that check also printed on it.

That is crazy-scary-cool!

Ironic News Item

Denver, CO gears up to attack global warming issues with new restrictions and guidelines for its residents. Apparently these new restrictions have been zealously enacted, since Denver had its coldest June 2nd in 50 years.

Keep fighting global warming! It’s working! We really can change the weather. What could our Thoughtfully-Designed ecosystem possibly have over our superior knowledge and heartfelt regulations?

Obama’s Universal Health Care Plan

Nearly half of
all Americans
pay zero
Federal
Income Tax
I seldom make political comments in my blog, but as a taxpayer who understands that “the Government’s money” is really my money, because I [and many others like me] send them a portion of my income, and because I do not consider health care a right rather a privilege or a luxury, it really bothers me how many ignorant Americans will jump on the Universal Health Care bandwagon, thinking they are “getting something from the government” which they “deserve.”

Nearly half of the 300 million Americans alive today pay zero Federal Income Tax! And now there are candidates for the highest office in the land that want to raise taxes on “the rich” and corporations. People who pay no taxes will vote to take more money from those of us who do.

Do you people really think the corporations will just absorb the higher taxes and shrug it off? No. Corporations exist to invent products and services that benefit others, and to make profits for their shareholders. Taxes are a cost of doing business. As with any cost, when increases come along, the projected expense is factored into forecasts and planning, and adjustments are made so that the corporation can continue to make profit. This means they either have to raise prices on their goods and services, or reduce their other costs.

Very often, reducing other costs involves figuring out how to get labor cheaper (replacing laborers with computers, robots or other automation, or replacing higher paid laborers with lower-paid laborers). Ever heard of “down-sizing?” Are you old enough to have been replaced by someone with less skill and lower pay?

I have historically voted “no” on virtually every Proposition that increases taxes, because I do not want to vote myself out of any more of my income than is already extracted. When nearly half of Americans pay zero Federal Income Tax, why in the world would I vote for anything that will require even more from me, one of the actual tax payers?

Current DSL Speeds

Seems to have dropped since I moved 3.3 miles from my former residence.

Toto, We’re Not In Carlsbad Anymore…

Continental Breakfast in Wamego, KAAs if the gray-brown fields and barren trees as far as the eye can see, 360 degrees around, don’t convince one that this is not the beach town of Carlsbad, CA, a simple trip to the Super 8 Motel’s free continental breakfast room in Wamego, KS — that’s the hotel in which I spent the night last night — will convince you, these folks expect something different in their buffets. That much is easy to tell.

To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I have ever seen offered alongside the coffee and donuts a fresh serving of biscuits and gravy. I had to take some.

Back up a few minutes, though… I almost made a complete idiot out of myself. I lucked out: I only looked like a doofus. I was a little bleary-eyed, to be sure, compounded by not donning my glasses for the quick trip to to the breakfast room. I first grabbed my coffee, then got a big ladle full of what I thought was steaming hot oatmeal with cinnamon and apple bits. Lifting the ladle out of the crock pot forced the aroma quickly to my nose whereupon I discovered I was about to serve myself a bowlful of sausage gravy. At that moment, noting two ladies in line, I decided to put the bowl down, grab a small paper plate and toss a buttermilk biscuit onto it and quickly drizzle only a little of the gravy onto it.

I’m sure I looked like I knew what I was doing.

After my fine meal I wandered out to the car to grab a couple of items for the day, and snapped a few pictures of things you don’t see in Carlsbad, like ice on the ground [Picture], frost piled up against the curb [Picture], or the frost retreating from the ravenous sunshine sapping up the shadows [Picture]. The brown leaves and twigs trapped in the ice [Picture], and farm houses next door [Picture].

The world is full of art, anywhere you go.

I am totally loving this trip. I see God everywhere I look.

Ideas and Follow-through

Adopt A HighwayAt a wedding reception last night I sat next to a guy who is just about to retire from 35 years of working with the State of California, much, if not all, of it working as an architect with CalTrans (California Dept. of Transportation). My wife knew him from many decades ago — the older brother of the mother of the bride, her friend from childhood. My wife introduced us and told me that his claim to fame was starting the Adopt-a-Highway program in California.

He started it 15 years ago, springboarding off a similar idea he’d heard about in Texas. He developed a program that he said “saved the State $10 million the first year.” Having always believed the State receives money from the sponsors, I was puzzled, so I asked, “What do you mean it saved the state money? I thought it brought money in.

It turns out that before the program started, the State of California was spending $20,000,000 annually picking up litter on the highways. That alone is staggering with all the implications as to what pigs people are with their own environment. Anyway, this guy came up with a plan to ask large and small companies if they would go clean up a section of freeway as a means of giving back to the community. Some of them were enthusiastic enough to organize their own employees into weekend cleaning teams, while most others were just fine with hiring custodial help to do the work for them.

Either way, the highways were getting cleaned up a section at a time, and it wasn’t costing the State as much anymore. In exchange, the companies that did or hired out the cleaning got recognition by means of the familiar Adopt A Highway signs along the road.

Along came two young men just out of college who approached him with their own vision: they could see that most of the corporations involved were not actually doing the litter pick-up themselves, so these fellows asked if they could broker the cleaning crews for the State. Once they got the OK, they started the Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation which they sold a few years later to someone else.

Seven years ago, both of these young men retired. Millionaires.

Sugar, Common Sense and Personal Responsibility

sugarRecently a woman died from drinking too much bottled water and choosing not to urinate in an attempt to win a radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest a (the Wii [pronounced Wee] is a newish video game console). I didn’t know you could die from drinking too much water, other than the more common name for it: drowning — which I think is technically breathing too much water. But back to my point: I feel sorry for her and her family. She was trying to do something nice for her kids. She wanted to win them a game. And she died. This is sad, and it is tragic, and ignorant people such as myself now know not to drink a lot of water and not urinate. Lesson learned. No longer ignorant on that point.

A couple of decades back, a guy picked up his gas powered rotary lawnmower in an effort to trim his hedges flat. He did this while the mower was running. He cut off his fingers. Lesson learned. While I like to think I would have never thought of something that inept, I must cop to having jumped off my roof with an umbrella when I was 7. I wanted to float like Mary Poppins. I didn’t break anything, but the impact was memorable. Lesson Learned.

But the man with no fingers [found a lawyer with no scruples who] sued the lawnmower manufacturer for not warning that you should not pick up a lawnmower while it’s running. He won a lot of money, and now all American-sold lawnmowers have stickers on them that tell you it’s dangerous to pick up a lawnmower while it’s running.

I’m thinking “Duh!”

The Wii woman’s family is suing the Radio Station that ran the contest. Everyone involved has been fired. The family (or their lawyer) is calling for the FCC to take away the radio station’s broadcasting license.

Blame Game
Why does blame always have to be assigned to or shared with someone else? Why can’t people have a lapse of judgment resulting in injury and just say “Crap, I shouldn’t have done that!“? Why does the radio station’s janitor and his family, and the parking lot attendant and her family, and the mail room staff and their families all have to lose their jobs, their income, their security because someone’s mom decided not to urinate when she really, really had an urge to? (Incidentally, she came in second, losing to someone who drank even more water, and lived).

I feel very badly for the family that lost their mom. It’s probably going to be embarrassing to tell how they lost their mom. But it’s nobody’s fault! It’s just unfortunate!

Eating Oleander leaves will kill you. Poison Oak makes you itch. Rattlesnakes can really hurt you. You can cook and eat chicken eggs, regardless of where they appear to have exited the chicken. Jumping off a bridge will not kill you — but the inevitable and extreme Rapid Deceleration Trauma can. We know these things because of reason. Over time, we figured these things out by watching the success or failure of others.

Hey, Where’s My Sugar Bowl and Spoon?
In my lifetime, words began to appear on cereal boxes: Serving Suggestion. This is because someone sued a cereal company (and won) when they did not find fresh strawberries among the flakes in their box.

Am I the only one who wants to knock really hard on some people’s foreheads and shout “Hello?!”

I bought a bag of sugar last night. In the lower left corner there were the words Serving Suggestion.

What.

I will not find a sugar bowl or spoon in the packaging? I don’t have to use a full teaspoon when serving sugar to myself. A blue cartoon bowl and spoon aren’t the only way to use the enclosed product? There are not really blue and white dots in the product? What is the suggestion? What are they helping me with? What are they protecting themselves from?

We are only one lawsuit away from all bottled water having a warning on the label:

Warning: Consuming too much of this product and not heeding your body’s natural urge to urinate could result in injury or death. Use with extreme caution. Supervision is highly recommended for anyone born during or after the 1970s when all common sense was bred out of the human race (see that period’s clothing and hairstyles for substantiation).

Overheard at the Market

Strange Predjudice Revealed.
Last night at Albertson’s supermarket, I heard the following conversation between a husband and wife.

Husband: “Let’s go over to Wal-mart.” (This Wal-mart is across the street from Albertsons.)
Wife: I’m not going in there dressed like this!
The husband looks her over from head to toe. She is wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, maroon plaid pajama bottoms, pink socks and black, slip-on shoes.
Husband: Why in the world can you go to Albertson’s dressed like that, but you can’t go to Wal-mart dressd like that?”
Wife: At Albertsons’s it’s a fashion statement. At Wal-mart I would just look like one of them.”

Lost in Translation

I don’t think I would have ever guessed that if someone told me they were reading Juan Salvador Gaviota that they were actually reading the spanish translation of the famous book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Twisted Roots

Bob and Doris Darrow with Disguises 2003“Happy Hallowe’en.”

I wrote that in quotes because I am quoting it, not saying it myself. Don’t get me wrong… I do want this to be a nice day for you, and if you are going to a party all dressed up to look like something you’re not, here’s to your fun. Have a nice time. October doesn’t really have any other party days, as do all the other months. And Columbus Day parties just aren’t what they used to be.

But “Happy Hallowe’en” as a greeting only works because of the alliteration, if you ask me.

It’s ironic that they can say Happy Hallowe’en at Wal-mart, but not Merry Christmas.

If they ban “Happy Hallowe’en” as a greeting at Wal-mart, it is going to seriously tick off the Ancient Celtic Druids in America. And then there will be hell to p— well nevermind that.

Somewhere
along the line
my dad
had lost all
sense of shame
It’s funny how some religious folk approach the day: “We don’t celebrate hallowe’en,” they snub. Well, we have never celebrated Hallowe’en either. We have, however, dressed up in all manor of costume, participated in parades and costume contests, and gone door-to-door seeking free candy (hello?!) that was alledged to be given out with the one-day exception to the obligatory “please” — “Trickertreet!” (I swear, it totally works!)

The photo above (click it to see it larger) is of my parents and their favorite waitress over at Holder’s Country Inn in Cupertino, CA — photo taken on Hallowe’en in 2004, I believe. Somewhere along the line, my dad had lost all sense of shame. I don’t recall my mom ever actually having any.

For those of you who know me, this should explain a lot.

Update

She’s at it again. John sent me this today. This is Mom this afternoon. No her hair isn’t that bad… it’s a wig made from Yak hair. Same wig my dad was wearing in the 2004 picture. I figure the yak looked like an idiot, too.

I hope she gets pulled over for going too slow. The cop deserves to get a look at that mug!

Clocks That Are Not

Thanks to California’s adherance to Daylight Savings Time, I spent the better part of yesterday setting clocks back an hour.

I had to set the clock back for

  • The microwave
  • The oven/range
  • The coffee maker
  • The TV
  • The VCR
  • My digital camera
  • My video camcorder
  • The clock radio alarm
  • The radio/CD player in my car
  • The clock in the kitchen

It occurred to me that only one of these was only a clock. All the rest of them (except for the clock radio) have a main purpose that is radically separate from telling time, but have had clocks added to them. Only one of them has the sole function of telling time.

Fortunately, my Mac, my PC and the laptop, along with my cell-phone all automatically set themselves back.

Times have changed.

On Becoming Mortal

I became mortal a year ago today.

Prior to that, and unknown to those around me, including family, I was truly superhuman. Many of my unearthly powers are still with me: I can balance rocks, vanish coins and then retrieve them from the ears of astonished children, and move oil-impregnated globs of colored pigment on canvas substrates in an arrangement that looks just like someone you know. No, seriously!

Becoming mortal was a painful and slow process, and to this day, I am still realizing the intrensic limitations of my new condition.

Becoming
mortal
is knowing
you’re
slowly
dying
when you’re
not even
sick.
First there was a jolt I could feel both in my head and deep in my soul. Somewhere, Someone with Omnipotence had this shocking initiation delivered to me through—get this—an ordinary cell-phone. It was precisely at 10:15am on June 27, 2005 that my very own mother unwittingly delivered the anesthetizing frequency, apparently traveling within the soundwaves of the phrase, “Your father passed at 10:00am.”

I am sure she did not know that at the same moment I was being stripped of the immortality with which I had shrouded myself for as long as I could remember, which, to me was forever.

Much of the rest of the phone call is a blur. But soon a pressure built up behind my eyes causing an overflow of water.

And what followed in a day in which my whole body numbed was the realization that I was dying. That I am not going to live on forever. That, in fact, if I live as long as my father did, I have only 27 years left. That’s just 1400 weekends.

Becoming mortal is knowing you’re slowly dying when you’re not even sick.

And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

What a difference a dash makes

I saw a report in a newspaper yeaterday—and because it was in the newspaper, it must be true—that new blogs are being created at the average rate of 70,000 per day.

I don’t have a lot of faith that that many people were raised by the likes of my mother and father, and therefore learned the value of knowing the rules about stuff, like punctuation, and not using the word ‘stuff’ when a better one will suffice.

So here’s a little help for new bloggers:

One of the ‘rules’ that is too-seldom followed: for clarity, hyphenate any adjective-noun combination that is used as an adjective, or when the combination of words is, as a group, acting as an adjective. For instance, you should say small-business owner rather than small business owner, since one describes the size of the business, and the other the size of the owner.

Also… this is a good time to point out that an ellipsis only comes with three dots. If you mean to trail off… or if you’re pausing for a moment… the dot-dot-dot is considered an inividual punctuation mark, and it is called an elipisis. It is not a replacement for the function of a comma, as missused in the previous two sentences. An ellispsis, by definition, is a mark that indicates that something has been omitted, but what remains is satisfactory to contain the meaning, so…

See how that works? No need to hold down the period key for 9 seconds. Just three dots will do. Same goes for an exclamation point.

The absence of one does not mean you appear to lack conviction.

The addition of one merely raises your ‘voice’ and makes a point!

Adding more than one makes you sound dangerously manic!!!!! (If you think you need more than one exclamation point, you need to re-write your sentence, not add more punctuation).

That having been said, welcome to the Internet, you 70,000 new bloggers today. Where have you been?

Fantastic Forgery Unveiled

Norman Rockwell knowck-off by TrachteI will feel I have truly made it when someone forges my work.

A high school essay assignment in my Great Issues course received an A- but had the usual corrections for punctuation, style, run-on sentences, etc. That was back when most teachers were not afraid to tell you you were wrong, that there is a right way, and they were smart enough to know the difference. But one of his margin comments, written in his own hand, burned me.

My essay was a story about what I want to be and how I want to affect the world, and was to site someone I admire.

See, I wanted to be an artist. “Just like Norman Rockwell.”

My Great Issues teacher wrote in the margin on my paper “Norman Rockwell was an illustrator, not an artist.”

In the same instant I read that remark, my teacher became as insignificant to me as the A- on my paper. I never cared about, nor do I remember, anything else he taught that semester.


You have to stand in front of a Norman Rockwell original before you dismiss anything about the man, even if you’re inclined to write him off as commercial. In the estimation of virtually every painter I know, Rockwell was an artist’s artist. He was, first and foremost, inarguably the finest, most-skilled of draughtsman (he could ‘drawr’ real good). But the man could handle paint and brushes as masterfully as anyone ever has.

Beyond that, though, was his ability to evoke emotion in millions of people across America and the world, with his art that graced the covers of Saturday Evening Post, countless Boy Scouts of America ads, and even presidential portraits. Not only could he evoke emotion from observers of his work, but he possessed a unique understanding of the subtleties of human expression and body language, and you could see the emotions of his subjects in his work.

Fake Or Good Study?
Well, a replica or forgery of Rockwell’s painting Breaking Family Ties has been hanging in the gallery, or on display in his traveling exhibitions, for decades. And recently the original was discovered in a secret compartment built into the wall of the man who painted the forgery. He was a friend of Rockwell’s, and a collector of his work. He was also an illustrator, himself.

The not-known-to-be-a replica has bothered Norman Rockwell experts for a long time. Even the sons of the man who owned and hid the original, but displayed his own forgery, commented about the eyes of the boy in the replica. There was “just something not-quite-right with them.” Why did Rockwell go back in and “fix this painting” after it had been published? And why did he do it without his usual flare and skill?

In reference to the replica that has been on display, NPR’s online article says:

For decades, the painting’s flaws stumped Rockwell experts. Something about it wasn’t quite right: The colors looked dull; the wrinkles in the clothing didn’t fall quite the right way.

The owner of the painting was Donald Trachte, Sr., a former friend and neighbor of Rockwell. Trachte and his wife bought Breaking Home Ties in 1960, and he kept the painting after they divorced.

It turns out Trachte — who died in 2005 — had painted an almost perfect replica and tucked away the original in a secret compartment behind a bookcase in his home.

In an intereview of one of the sons of the now-deceased forger, it is revealed that the family didn’t even know that their father—who drew the Sunday version Carl Anderson’s cartoon creation Henry from 1932 — 1992—had stowed the painting away, nor that he could even paint with such skill.

Their parents divorced in the early 1970’s, and there is some speculation that maintaining possession of the original may have been a motivation for making a copy. Sounds like a resonable scenario. But his son asserts that he believes his father just wanted to protect the original for his family.

I offer that their dad was motivated more by the lessons that could be learned by copying the work of an artistic genius. If I could paint just like Norman Rockwell, I would be very impressed with my little self. And there are few better ways to learn to paint like the masters than to copy their work.

Calling Trachte’s copy a forgery implies planning, the intent to deceive, and all sorts of libelous things. That hardly seems fair with the known evidence. Calling it a replica has so much more of a positive feel to it. I mean, the man did purchase the original, and several others. The evidence would strongly suggest that Trachte really liked Rockwell’s work. Calling it a copy would be fair, I suppose, but given the high quality and complexity of the image Rockwell painted, I would have to call Trachte’s version amazing.

My hat’s off to the man. Well done!

Compare for yourself: Original | Replica

Listen to the NPR interview using Windows Media Player

New Front Porch Fish Tank



New Front Porch Fish Tank
Originally uploaded by David Darrow.

Last night I established my Front Porch Fish Tank in a 3.5 gallon Mason Jar. Population 8.

This morning they were all dead.

I have a little investigative work to do.

Current unknowns:

  • Are 28¢ Wal-mart ‘Common Goldfish’ prone to dying quickly?
  • Was the night-time temperature too low?
  • Were they hungry?
  • Was there too much chlorine in the water? (I let it stand for over 24hrs…)
  • Was it just their time to go? All 8 of them?
  • Did they drown?
  • Did I get 8 fish all of the same gender, and nature took its course?
  • Was their new home so unsatisfactory that they formed a suicide pact immediately?
  • Was there foul play involving the Garden Gnome? Perhaps a hex or evil spell…
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