Archive for January, 2009

Simply the “best”

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Do you ever think about how loosely the term “the best” gets used? I’m being picky, but the other day I was told to go to a place because it had “the best Korean BBQ in the world.”

OK…I am going to go out on a limb here, but I would bet “the best bet” is that there is a restaurant in Korea that would disagree.

Then I needed to have the brakes worked on and they said a local guy was “the best” brake-person in the state…so who the hell is doing the busses?

Then, swear to God, I was in WalMart and a woman said the new Bruce CD was “the best he’s ever done.” Ummm…dearie…have you listened to the bootlegged stuff, let alone “Nebraska”?

But here’s the flip side of all that…I come off as sounding dismissive, but I am giving great praise. I can say it’s very good.” Blah. Then I can say, “No, it’s really, really good and you should try it.” I just can’t say best because it’s, well, not the best. But it IS really, really good.

Let’s say it was the “Best sushi I’ve ever had.”

Now, I know what that was, so best is appropriate. I know all my sushi I’ve had on three continents!

But let’s say I said it was great sushi. Really great.” Isn’t it obvious, there is something out there that is “the best.” Well, yes…I think. You fly to Tokyo and report back.

Or when you have someone tell you about a car wash, and they say it’s “the best around.” How clean does my car have to be and am I going to ship my car to Stutgaart to have it detailed? This is like the next teir.

And then there is my favorite that I’ve used, “It’s the best I’ve tried lately.” Shows you have a commitment to the place but not going so far as to declare it the best of anything other than your daily habits and rituals.

This is the best blog I’ve tried lately.

The single meeting I dread the most every year…

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

…went of without a hitch. Great to see everyone.

Why do I dread this shareholder’s meeting? Because it seems like someone has a beef about something every year. This year? No real beefs, per se. Some technical stuff that is kind of crappy for some people, but mostly, the people there, really just care about the airport.

I really need to get a pilot’s license and finish that whole thing. That’s what it reminds me every January. I just have to suck it up and finish the thing. I think I have ranted down this jag before…but I HATE flying unless I’m in one of the front seats. I hate it. But if you let me fly the plane, no problems, or at least feel like I can take control from the right seat, no problems.

This is a line of reasoning that is my great internal conflict…either put me in control or let me know I COULD be in control, it is ok. How bizarre is that? But I generally shy away from all the responsibility of being completely in control! If you handed me the keys to your Cessna or Cubbie, I could take it up and down, no problem. You sit a passenger in it, I don’t want to be responsible for their life, even though it’s the exact same freaking flight. And flying by yourself is no fun, hence my conundrum.

I’m even almost “too pilot” for my own good. I don’t trust not doing a pre-flight on anyone I go up with around here. But it’s not that I don’t trust them as pilots, I just want to see it all myself. So I guess I am a neurotic-paranoid or something.

My excuse is always, “Ground school.” But let’s be honest…I can ace that…it’s not that hard. And I’ve got the hours. I’ve got an airport in my freaking backyard, for chrissake! No, literally, you could fly in for a BBQ tomorrow if you wanted and taxi into my backyard (it’s pretty cool).

Yet, there is something I know about being a pilot that I just don’t have right now…the sheer balls to let someone give me permission to do it with someone else. And what’s the fun of flying around by yourself? Frankly, I have way to much respect for the people that do it to fake like I can do it and not be worried to the point of distraction. I am not saying I’m not a good pilot, just that I don’t have that extra “ooomph.”

Did I explain that in enough of an obtuse fashion?

But the meeting was fine. All the “t’s” were crossed and the “i’s” dotted. But I sit around in it, and I absolutely admire all of these people that fly planes almost every day on their commute to work or just for fun. It’s very impressive to be able to do that.

Meanwhile, I’m kicking my own ass to do the same thing…

Earthquake!!! Yawn.

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

We had an earthquake yesterday morning. It woke me up, but just because I had fallen asleep with my head touch the wall at the head of the bed. I woke up for a little bit, and then I slept again, but really sure if it was a truck on the road out front or an explosion at Ft. Lewis. I just know my head had slipped off the pillow in the night and the back of my head was resting on an exterior wall that moved.

This is something that has always kind of amazed me…I have no clue how I can go to sleep in one position and wake up in another. Big A does it, too. Our heads could show up anyplace in the room, the closet, and hallway, and it would not be a surprise. We sleep wrestle. That’s my term I’m going to coin for it.

Now, there are good things about this “problem.” I can sleep almost anyplace in almost any position. I have had a good night’s sleep in the back seat of a Honda Prelude. I love sleeper cars in trains. I can sleep for six hours on a red-eye flight and even grope my neighbor in my sleep!

The down side of this little, tiny earthquake was the reality I am jumpy about my walls vibrating. Imagine the fact I could sleep through an emergency landing of an airplane, but if my wall trembles for a split second at five-something in the morning, I am wide awake and ready to bolt to a doorway. That my friends is PTSD.

Now, this was a nothing earthquake, we just live in a place that seems to be prone to resonance (is that the word?). It just vibrates better than most places. I’m not a geologist or seismic expert, so I’m not sure why. I’ve only mentioned for years that the same thing happens when they shell on the military base.

Helicopters and ariplanes are buzzing around all the time…but if it’s a boom on the ground? Bingo.

I still think it’s clever because I can explain it!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

santa-smoking-printer.jpg

This is one of my favorite sketches I did that was inspired by a sick looking Santa outside a homeless shelter. He had the beard, the coat and a smoke, along with the bad leg.

But what I always like about it is that it captures the image of his face like a scarecrow. How scarey must a guy dressed like Santa smoking on a street corner with a crusty beard and a bad leg be to a kid? There is nothing jolly about it. I thought I got the scarecrow face well.

The funny thing is that I have fiddle faddled with watercolors on top over the years…and I hate them. My mud doesn’t match what I picture the scene to be when I saw it. That’s hard to explain. But I just can’t pain well, and I’ll leave it at that.

From the world of “What the fu…”

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I was actually watching this simmer and stew over the weekend…but the guy from Ohio that nodded at President Obama and kind of said hello with his nod, is getting clobbered in Ohio!

I can’t make this up.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/01/27/inauguration.drum.major/index.html

At least i can’t make up the fact that his union is pissed off about it, or something. Sheesh, people…give the guy a break. Waaaaay more important things to worry about. Can it and leave the guy alone whatever phantom ghosts are lurking to find something wrong. Save the rhetoric for when something really bad happens.

Huh. Waddya know…

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

So my passport expires this year. My third completely expired passport. Whoopee, you say…

But I found this rather odd when I was flipping through its pages today and it’s something I had never noticed.

I was suppose to travel 9/11/2001 from Seattle to Sydney and then on to Adelaide later in the month. Well, I ended up travelling on 9/13 and arriving 9/15 local time. But the stamp in my passport says I ARRIVED 9/13. I mean, on that day, there were bigger fish to fry, I get it, but it’s funny that the commission’s report says that international skies were closed. It’s kind of a cool collector’s item (I mean, personally). I hopped back on the bike and kept riding.

The thing is, I think we got hung up in LA, so I would question if it really should have been stamped 9/16/01. I just can’t remember…I only know there is no way I could have gotten from Seattle 9/11 and arrived in Sydney on 9/15. This is the same passport that has me stamped into Heathrow the day Northern Rock collapsed and the deck of cards for international financial markets started falling…9/13/2007 — my dad’s birthday!

But here is a reminder…keep passports updated and on you at all time when you travel. It’s not just a pretty document, it’s a way into the diplomatic world when you need the lifeline. (HINT HINT HINT P and Big A.)

Dell has got to be kidding

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

So follow along on this one…

I get a computer…it doesn’t work…I call and call and spend hours on making it work…it still doesn’t work.

So I say fine, and then I enjoy the holidays and the snowstorms…then I call them back and say it still doesn’t work. I work several more hours at it. And it STILL doesn’t work. I plug it into my system hardwire modem, it works. Then I have to leave for something and I put it off for another week.

So I call back again, and Dell says they can’t exchange it because it’s been more than 21 days since delivery. Fine, I get the rules, but look…I have tried like crazy to get it to work and with the holidays and snowstorms it took 23 days. There has to be some give.

Nope. Nada. Nothing. I can’t even get anyone to hear my complaint, at this point. This is the same company that kept replacing my orders and I kept sticking with them.

It’s a minor deal. It is still on warrenty…but I am in shock that there is no place marked “oooops” in the handbook giving superrvisors at customer care some wiggle room. Now they want me to spend almost $400 on a new computer to replace the one I have. So the solution? Send me an empty box to put the mini in. Why don’t they just send me a new mini, and I will send them back the doorstop. My problem? I worked in the system so long my 21-day window ran out! They are so rigid, it’s the nose despite the face syndrome.

There’s a nice feature of our economy…freakin’ cue cards become customer service.

The nice thing is that I don’t really care much. It’s a minor issue, since it’s the “toy ‘puter.” But it is kind of an interesting case study in customer service and the economy.

For example…everyone was pissed off how bad garbage service was in Seattle this winter. We never had a missed pickup and we’re in the hinterlands. A few trucks probably had problems, but they just sucked it up and kept doing what they had to do here, and people were willing to help back by moving their containers closer to the road and taking them to the bottom of hills. It’s a two-headed quarter. I give you money and I put a little sweat-equity in the service, you take the time to not use the automated arms and walk a few feet to pick up the garbage can. Then, I give the company money and all is cool.

This is what companies like Dell have lost. If I am fighting to give them money to fix my problem, we have a problem. I tried to kick my can to the curb, and just say, “Let me trade in this well-documented useless machine for a new machine with a different operating system. I’ll pay the difference.” Nada. They kept invoking the 21-day rule.  So I probed a little…do Christmas and New Year’s count in 21 days? “Get a calendar and just count. And not everyone care’s about Christmas, and New Year’s is different for every culture.” Ummm…ok.

My other favorite from the drones at Dell is, “It doesn’t matter who you talk to, the answers will all be the same.” Seriously, that’s what the guy says.

My dilemma continues to be the fact, “I REALLY LIKE THEIR COMPUTERS!” Does Michael Dell know this is happening to his company?

Let’s say my garbage doesn’t get picked up and the weather has been bad. But then the weather is ok, and it still doesn’t get picked up. It’s easy…you credit the customer and apologize while you send a garbage truck off-route just to make sure that person is taken care of promptly. You send me a bad computer, then string me along for a month, and then just offer to replace it with the same thing, but not let me upgrade at the same time…I don’t get it.

Now, I do appreciate it if they actually replace it, fine…but if you can’t figure out an “off-route” solution after several hours on the phone, oooops on you. And if the entire structure is so based on routes that weird weather throws it off, you got problems.

Brother can you spare some gas…

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

One of the fun things having so many thousands of songs, I’ve discovered, is to just let them play randomly while I work…hence this Ray Davies gem from 1979 in “A Gallon of Gas”: 

I’ve been waiting for years to buy a brand new cadillac
But now that I’ve got one I want to send it right back
I can’t afford the gas to fill my luxury limousine
But even if I had the dough no one’s got no gasoline

I went to my local dealer to see if he could set me straight
He said there’s a little gas going but I’d have to wait
But he offered some red hot speed and some really high grade hash
But a gallon of gas can’t be purchased anywhere for any amount of cash

I can score you some coke and some grade one grass
But I can’t get a gallon of gas
I’ve got some downers some speed all the drugs that you need
But I can’t get a gallon of gas
There’s no more left to buy or sell
There’s no more oil left in the well
A gallon of gas can’t be purchased anywhere
For any amount of cash

two extra verses from long version:
I love your body-work, but you’re really no use
How can I drive you when I got no juice?
Because it’s stuck in neutral and my engine’s got no speed
And the highways are deserted
and the air smells unnaturally clean.

It’s got power-assisted overdrive and carpets on the floor,
but it’s parked out front just like a dead dinosaur.
And I’ll be paying off the bank for 45 years or more.
It should go 100 miles an hour,
but it’s never moved away from my door.

Who needs a car and a seven-forty-seven
When you can’t buy a gallon of gas
Who needs a highway, an airport or a jet
When you can’t get a gallon of gas
There’s no more left to buy or sell
There’s no more oil left in the well
A gallon of gas can’t be purchased anywhere
For any amount of cash
You can’t buy a gallon of gas

Those are great lyrics. But it proves my rational-side thinking that keeps trying to creep in…this isn’t the first time things have been bad with the economy. It won’t be the last. My irrational-side has resorted to just not watching the news…but I remember gas lines and crap. This, too, shall pass. In fact, if you can find it, listen to the whole “Come Dancing” album. Pretty depressing, but a good reminder how bad it was in the mid-late 1970s.

Thus also my puzzlement with Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner…he spent all weekend just saying that nothing President Obama is going to do is going to help. I kept wanting to jump out at the TV, shake it, and scream, “You come up with something better!!!!” If this is the party line, just say “No,” they are in deep shit. But you don’t send your House leader out to be a henchman, alone. This is what worries me.

So I go back to The Kinks song…what finally helped solve things? A can-do POTUS and a can-do House Speaker in Reagan and O’Neil. We like doers. You can really fuck up, but do something different. This isn’t like the war on drugs or sex, where everything is just say “no.” Tinker and fiddle. But to be a talking head saying, “I just don’t think this will work” is so insane it’s almost beyond description; it’s crazy. Things will correct at some point, no matter the fuck ups. FDR even laid some eggs in the New Deal, I think.

But the point is that Boehmer is just saying “he doesn’t think it will work” and tax cuts are the solution, not more spending. I’m sorry sir, but that one-trick pony has left the stable. We’re at all hands on deck.

My personal belief…I think we spend our way towards a jump start. Let’s say Obama get all eight years to try this and see it through…it’s going to be bloody hell if Pelosi (argh) and other Congressional leaders don’t come along. Frankly, it’s going to be bloody hell in a shithole, no matter what. Some things are going to work and some will be failures.

But if we focus on infrastructure and really get things built and going, and if the country generally thinks that politics of the aisle are moving forward, the biggest war is solved: Crisis of confidence (which I think is in my top-5 speeches crib notes).

But at the moment, Republicans have to kind of just take it on the chin like the rest of us and look like they are helping, not hurting, the poking and prodding and crappity-crap that needs to be seen as working towards moving forward.

I know youve got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone its all been said.
So heres to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow youll find better things.
I know tomorrow youll find better things.

Another Ray Davies jingly masterpiece.

I’m crazy that everyone should read this…

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

From Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars”…

“Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat Turkey. Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method.

So they allowed it to begin…

I have read it three times and I flip through it on a boring Sunday night. I’m telling you, if you have not read this book, you are behind the eight ball on Middle East policy. The above was written in freaking 1922! We’ll be liberators in Iraq…yada yada yada…

I also love that this all is done before the stains of oil. It’s a very pure look at the whole thing. At times it is a little politically naieve, but the gist is pretty amazing. It’s on my “Eric Book Club” list permanently.

At least rent the movie version. Here’s some trivia…it’s the only best picture to ever win without a single woman speaking part. The nurses at the first aid camp are just background noise, briefly.

Anyway, the film kind of sums up what makes T.E. Lawrence go a little crazy. I don’t know if he was exactly right or correct, but he looked at it like a megliomanic game he couldn’t figure out how to win. It literally drove him a bit crazy. Imagine that you can explain the entire problem, but you spend time and blood figuring out the solution, only to still understand the problem better than anyone else, and not be closer to a solution for the problem. Sound familiar 21st Century? He completely had an understanding of the region, the people, the players the territory…but he could not solve it like a game. There is no bluff to call when the blood is on both of your sleeves.

Read the book. Or cheat and watch the movie and the documentaries (it is, frankly, one of the most beautiful movies ever put on film).

And you can’t even take it on road trips!

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

 $24,562.95  

 That’s the price of an ultimate souped-up MacPro right now. Without tax!

But I was fiddling with the Apple Store online and I built this one just for fun to read all the features. Yes, I am thinking about getting one of some kind. Big A uses them at school, and P & I should probably have some idea of how they work. It’s just complete sticker shock. I wonder if there are any Lisas out there…

Now, granted for the coin listed above, you could completely run the electrical grid of a small country, I bet, but the point is…I am the biggest MS-OS user in their history. The only Mac thing I ever owned was a Newton. (And I still fiddle with it because I think it’s cool even now, even though every other company has all the same  ”stuff” and I use that day-to-day.) And I am seriously considering getting a bottom-line Mac just so we have one. I probably won’t do it, but I am intrigued by the music-maker thingy and the photo editor with color correction for my art. Despite my Dell Hell, I still like their machines, it’s just hard to get the screens and the files to be synced and corrected if you are really playing with colors. I am admitting that as a weakness of all non-Mac machines, and it drives me a little bit nuts.

So I am building the case in my head to buy a Mac.

But if someone were to actually spend nearly $25K on one right now, would that be the computer-buying equivalent of earning a million flyer miles in a year? I am all for buying the very best computer you can afford when you can get it (in fact, I am ardent in this and will not be swayed), but you got to be kidding me anyone really needs this machine. Even the base model was about $3K, and that was with zero anything.

And it only comes with a hardtop…