Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sometimes It Really Sucks

I usually write about how much I like living near Washington DC … the history, the significance, the celebrities, the power, the buzz, the monuments, museums and grand open space.

But traffic here sucks.


A typical morning view from my windshield


I was invited to a reception earlier this evening for the outgoing Executive Director of a wonderful local non-profit organization. Mapquest estimated my travel time to be 41 minutes. I knew it would take longer because I’d be travelling on the Beltway right at the beginning of the afternoon drive time. My estimate was 60 minutes. Sixty five minutes after beginning my journey I had only driven one fourth of the way there. My total time, door to door, was two hours and I arrived half-way through the two-hour reception. The event was wonderful, but it is annoying that I spent more time getting there than staying there. I considered taking Metro (the subway), but the nearest station to the reception is a 15-minute walk away, which I didn’t want to do on a warm summer day wearing a suit and tie.

Most large cities I’ve lived in or visited have traffic issues. Too much sprawl and too many cars. As a society, we value our independence and cherish our right to drive everywhere alone in a car, but we pay for this privilege with stress and delays. It didn’t have to be this way. Until the 1960s, most urbanites used mass transit, primarily busses and streetcars. Families often had only one car, and the working parent used it to get to work or the stay-at-home parent used it to shuttle the kids around. My family’s car stayed parked most of the time because Mom didn’t drive and Dad took the bus to work.

I grew up on mass transit and still like it to this day … when it works. I tried taking Metro to a meeting on Monday. Driving would take thirty to forty minutes plus finding expensive parking. Metro to this particular location would normally involve a fifteen-minute ride to the 4th stop from where I got on the train. BUT someone decided to jump on the tracks in front of a train two stops up from where I started. Long story short, the “emergency” stopped all trains on that line; I sat in mine at the first stop for an hour, got out and boarded the only returning train to my original stop. Missed the meeting!

So is it really better anywhere else? My career success depends on living near big cities at this point. Technology is rapidly changing that dynamic, but for now I choose to remain an urbanite.
At one time, however, I did seriously consider moving to one of three cities that I really like but can’t really make a living in right now: Southern Shores, NC, Asheville, NC and Flagstaff, AZ. Southern Shores is on the Outer Banks, a wonderful ocean resort area in North Carolina. I looked at several houses with a real estate agent on several visits there. Off-season is wonderful … no traffic. In the summer, however, traffic is gridlocked there.

I did some neighborhood shopping in Asheville during my first visit there three years ago. Asheville is a beautiful mountain city with a great vibe and an entrepreneurial spirit. I was in two traffic jams within three days, even though it was non-tourist April. I encountered two moderate traffic jams during my visit there last summer. Certainly not the gridlock I get near DC, but traffic just the same.


Downtown Asheville


My one visit to Flagstaff involved very little traffic. A pleasant place … except there was a huge forest fire just outside of town last week. No place is perfect I guess.

So for now, I tolerate the traffic around DC because except for that, I like the place.

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Quotes 3

Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is.
-- H. Jackson Browne


Never look down on anybody unless you're helping them up.
-- Jesse Jackson


Be a best friend, tell the truth,
and over use 'I Love You'
Go to work, do your best
and don't outsmart your common sense
... and love like crazy
--Lee Brice

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Psychology of Temperature

Earlier this afternoon I was enthralled by the sight of the number 99 on my thermometer. It’s hot. A few minutes later the readout changed to 100. Damn, now it’s REALLY hot!

While it is true that 100 is only one degree hotter than 99, it feels much hotter. There’s that zero phenomenon again. Like with age. You might start to feel old when you wake up on your fiftieth birthday, yet you are only one day older than you were the day before.

Zeros.

A car that gets 30 miles per gallon seems so much more fuel efficient than one that gets 29 mpg. A fifty-dollar bill feels like more money than nine five and five ones.

Double zeros are worse, aren’t they?

“Man, I was cruisin’ at 99 miles an hour yesterday.” “That’s nuthin’! I was going 100.”

Your normal body temp is 98.6. When it reaches 100, you consider calling your doctor or calling in sick.

On your 99th birthday, a few nursing home staffers give you a cake your doctor says you shouldn’t eat and sing Happy Birthday loud enough for you to actually hear them. On your 100th birthday, your town throws you a parade and Willard Scott shows your picture on the Today show so a few million people can celebrate your milestone.

The last time I visited Phoenix, the temperature was 111 at the airport when I picked up my rental car, but I was more comfortable outside that day than I am today in Maryland at 100 degrees. Is it that age-old heat/humidity thing or is it the psychological impact of zeros?

Proofreading Is A Dying Art

Here are some newspaper headlines that were actually printed (or almost printed and were corrected at the last possible minute).

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“Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says”
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“Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers”

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“Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over “
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“Miners Refuse to Work after Death”
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“Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant”

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“War Dims Hope for Peace“

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“If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile”
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“Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures”
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“Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide”

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“Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges”
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“Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge”
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“New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group”
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“Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft”
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“Kids Make Nutritious Snacks”
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“Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half”
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“Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors”

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“Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead”

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Friday, June 25, 2010

His Peak

Michael Jackson wasn’t the first to do the dance known as the moonwalk; Cab Calloway, Marcel Marceau and James Brown showed off similar moves during their careers. But MJ’s version is the most famous and probably the most memorable.

I saw it live on TV at a party; everyone there was awestruck by the performance.

It’s hard to believe he died a year ago this week. It is equally hard to believe the downward spiral his life took during his last ten or fifteen years. I choose to remember his better days at the beginning of his peak: the night in March, 1983 when he first did this …..

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Music Randomness

I get plenty of free event tickets at work, so I shouldn’t complain when I occasionally don’t get tickets to something. But I’ll complain anyway. I must be networking with the wrong people at work because there is a concert tonight that I did want to see and every time I log onto Facebook from HOME I see posts from the co-workers who are at the concert. Some of those co-workers are younger than the songs being sung at this concert. Do they know the words to “You’ve Got a Friend”? Just sayin’.

One month from tonight I AM going to a concert for which I have tickets. I bought them – wasn’t taking chances. I often go to concerts alone, but I will be sharing this particular concert with the awesome friend who first encouraged me to pay more attention to this artist. That day can’t get here fast enough. I wonder if the concession stand will be offering “Alligator Pie” on the menu.

Yesterday I was scrolling through the website of my favorite local venue, a 400-seater with a performance lineup even more eclectic than my own music tastes. In October I might have another chance to chair dance to “What Is Hip.” Those tickets won’t be free. I don’t care.

I do have free tickets to the rescheduled concert of one of my favorite country music duos. It’s OK that I was never very good at the line dance for their most famous song because there isn’t enough room in the aisles for that anyway. Get down, turn around, go to town, boot scoot boogieeeeee.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Daylight

Today is the longest day of the year. OK, it’s 24 hours long, like all the rest, but today has the longest amount of daylight. I started writing this at 9:15 pm and there was still a little light outside.


The interesting irony of Mother Nature is that as the days begin to get shorter in July and August, the temperatures get hotter. Less sunlight, more warmth. Go figure.

If you are in Australia as you read this, you have just had the shortest day of the year. I guess that also means there is less daylight for this year’s World Cup games in South Africa.

Many cultures including Native Americans celebrate sun-related occurrences like the summer solstice. The Sun Father is one of the three major Zuni deities, for example, and the Zuni word for daylight is the same as the word for life. I can’t find that word, but if I could, I’d use it here.

Meanwhile, I’ll just say Happy Summer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Quote

"Nothing in this wicked world is permanent, even our troubles."

Charlie Chaplin

Friday, June 18, 2010

Father’s Day


I loved my Dad but I didn’t always like him. And I didn’t really start to appreciate him till after he died. Now I often see him in my mirror. When I try to solve a problem, I often hear him. When I look at some of the tools I inherited from him, I ask, “What the hell is that?” – I use the word ‘tools’ metaphorically AND literally in that thought.

He and I disagreed on more than we agreed on, but I always knew he cared about me and his family and he meant the best. He worked many years beyond when he could have retired so that there would be extra money available when the Parkinson’s really kicked in. He established credit so he’d have it but rarely used it; he preferred to pay for everything as he bought it. Why didn’t I learn that lesson from him?

I am a lot more adventurous than he ever was and I am much more open to new ideas, experiences and products. Yet most of my tools are Craftsman and most of my pants are khaki; both of those factors relate to him in some way. If I have to make a hard choice between ‘gut’ and ‘practicality’, I almost always chose the latter; although my free-spirited side usually directs me to avoid having to make that a hard choice. My own way is to find a balance. I do not think I learned that from him.

Of course I am thinking about all of this because Father’s Day weekend is here. I’ve been married more than once yet my only kids have been dogs and cats. It’s not medical or physical; anyone who knows me well knows that back story behind that claim. The timing was never right and now I believe that window has closed; I can’t imagine being the parent of a high school kid in my seventies. The irony, however, is that I’d be a better parent now than I ever would have been twenty years ago or more. One of my personal missions is to make people feel good about themselves in an honest way; it took a long time for me to understand that is what my Dad tried to do with me. He was just clumsy about it.

I wish I had all of this deep understanding when my Dad was alive. If I could do things over again, I would have tried harder to be friends with him, or at least spend more time with him. If your Dad is alive, visit or call him Sunday. In many ways, Father’s Day is your day as much as it is his.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another One

A few years ago I started tracking down friends and family from my past, the ones I had lost track of over the years and decades, just to see how things turned out for them. Facebook and Google have accelerated the process and up till a week ago there were only four left on my list. In the past seven days, that list was cut in half. Awesome!

Actually, the most recent two found me. You read about one a couple of posts ago; our catch up lunch was Saturday. The other one found me Sunday. So far we’ve only caught up by email but hopefully we’ll have a catch-up meal soon. Two big surprises about her: she and her husband still live in this area (I thought they moved a long time ago) and she had business with my company last year and was actually in the building, twenty feet from my office. I must have been out that day.

Anyway, kudos to whoever invented social networking on the internet. It’s raining friends! I love it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Totally Random 4.0

Fitness Score Update: Gym 13 - Vending Machine 3. Had I posted this as recently as six hours ago, the vending score would still have been 2, but I was so hungry around 4pm that my stomach started growling. A Snickers bar shut him up.


Wine and Price: I buy two bottles of wine every two or three weeks. Sometimes I get varieties or vintners I know, sometimes I experiment. When I branch out, my choices are either a recommendation from friends or something as silly as “I like the way the label looks.” For the past eight months, every bottle has had some redeeming quality until now. I finally found one I did not like at all; in fact my sink drank most of it. It was also the cheapest one I’ve purchase in years. Sometimes price does matter.


Truckers: My round trip daily trek to work is 84 miles, most of it on Interstate highways. I have two observations to make about drivers of large trucks. One, drivers of 18-wheelers consistently drive safely. Two, drivers of dump trucks do not. I don’t get it.


Trucks and a Storm: Another truckin’ observation: Wal-mart trucks are a lot bigger than Honda cars. For ten minutes of my commute today I drove through a blinding rain storm. As I was merging from one Interstate highway onto another, a Wal-mart truck drove partway into my lane. Visibility was almost zero, so I don’t blame him and he corrected quickly (and did not hit me). I could barely see the road and much of the other traffic because of the intensity of the rain and the road wash, but I could see the shape of his truck outlined against the setting sun. I used him as my beacon till I got to the next exit.

OK, that’s enough randomness for tonight.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Grillin' Randomness

I like to grill. One of these days I might actually figure out how to do it correctly. Today, the chicken came out perfectly but the burgers were undercooked. Sometimes it's the other way around. At least I keep trying.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friends Are Forever

I caught up with my old friend CG this afternoon. We first met almost 18 years ago and developed an instant friendship. We spent a lot of time together for a few years, with lots of long conversations, meals, the occasional movie; it wasn’t really dating (her choice, not mine), just spending nice time with a friend.

Over the years, we each got busy with other people and activities and struggled to keep in touch. Last time we spoke she had fallen in love with a man who lived in another country and she shared some humorous stories about their efforts to spend time together. Then we just fell off each other’s radars for six or seven years.

Last week her name came up in a conversation and just a few days later I got an email from her. Wow! Something cosmic going on there. We met for lunch in DC today and seven hours later, we’re mostly caught up. Seven hours! Amazing. Good thing she knows the staff at that restaurant and the coffee shop we visited after.

Things are still pleasantly complicated for her; her man is now her husband, even though they still live in two different countries. I’ll get to meet him later this summer. We talked about him, her job, her family, politics, my life, mutual friends and on and on and on.

I have an eclectic group of friends, most of whom do not know each other, but I think the one thing they all have in common: they love to talk. So do I (pause here for a moment while my friends who read this blog laugh out loud).

I rarely get to spend this much time with my closest friends, but I’m happy that I have many friendships that span decades. New and future close friends should be warned: I’ll be around awhile. Friends are forever.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yes, It's An Awesome Job

You might think working at a radio station is fun, glamorous and exciting. Well, here's the truth: sometimes it actually is all that. For most of my adult life I've worked at radio stations, half of my career as a DJ and half behind the scenes. Most of the time it is like any other job: good days and bad days, boring day-to-day duties mixed with fun activities, too much to do and not enough time in which to do it.

Unlike most other jobs, we often get to spend some time with music stars. This past Sunday I met six of the fifteen performers at our annual station-sponsored country music festival, including headliners Montgomery Gentry. They are one of my favorite groups and like many country artists, their songs are about small town life, growing up, love, lust, parties and patriotism.



Then on Tuesday, singer Dierks Bentley dropped by to play a few songs for some listeners and staffers in our performance studio. He has had several country-pop hit songs over the past few years but his new CD is bluegrass flavored. During his Tuesday visit he played some of the new songs but also played bluegrass style versions of his hits.



Yes, I love this job and although I believe I’m pretty good at it, I also know I’m damn lucky to have it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In The Valley


If anyone is interested, I started posting pictures again on my photo site for a town near where I live. As much as I want to move closer to the 'big city,' I have to admit there is something awesome about living near a town in the valley George Washington once described as "the most beautiful place I've ever seen."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yet Another Quote

I have become fascinated with quotes lately ... little snippits from various authors, writers, philosophers, self-help gurus and assorted people who make one-sentence observations about life. I heard this one during a television show this week. It was not written for the show; it just happened to be quoted during the show.

In youth we learn; in age we understand.

Marie Ebner von Eschenbach
(an Austrian author who wrote psychological novels in the late 1800s)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interesting Quote

I saw this on a friend's Facebook page today. The quote is older than I am but this is the first time I heard it. I'm surprised to learn who said it.


A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

- Winston Churchill

Tethered

I’ve figured out a few more things about myself on my self-discovery journey. One key characteristic, an analogy actually: I’m like a rowboat tethered on a long line. I bob around, up and down with the waves, north, south, east and west with the wind, but I have a very strong anchor and a very long line connected to it. Sometimes I travel quite some distance from the anchor, but the anchor is always there. That works for me.

Friends mean the world to me but most of my deepest friendships are with people who live more than fifty miles from where I live. Most of those friendships span at least two decades. At the risk of stating the obvious, deep friendship builds over time. Friendships often start at times of mutual volatility and each person helps the other through it. From the outside looking in, some of those friendships seem unlikely. Opposites attract on some level, but sometimes the similarities are what connect people.

My longest-lasting friendship started in high school. He and I are still in touch, mostly due to his persistence. Now that he finally discovered email, we are in touch more often and it is interesting to see some of the turns his life is taking. Our friendship began during our volatile teen years and our connection was our ability to share thoughts about what we were going through at the time. We also helped each other figure out girls. Clearly we weren’t much help in that regard but the conversations were interesting.

He is one of the few people in my life who can probably describe what anchors me and he can probably identify those parts of me that haven’t changed over time – the good parts and the bad parts. I wonder if he would understand the irony of his toast as best man in my first wedding: “This is one thing you can’t run away from.” He was wrong and yet part of that was based on an accurate observation. Sometimes that haunts me.

Another friend from high school who I am still in touch with (email is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?) probably knows more about me than anyone. That friendship was also born during a volatile time, but a time of learning and exploration of that magical, insane, unexplainable thing called love. One of the biggest ironies in that situation is that she and I are probably better friends now than we would have been if our high school romance had continued through college and beyond.

From the inside looking in, my life appears to be nothing but volatility. But to play off my analogy, I’m still anchored; I’m just in the middle of a hurricane. The anchor is holding and the line is strong. Part of that strength comes from friendships, both the long-lasting ones and the newer developing ones. I freely admit to using my friends, but in a good way: I use them to keep me sane. Some of them use me the same way. I welcome that.

I have been actively developing new friendships, one in particular. I’ve been actively reconnecting with older friends, especially the ones who live less than 50 miles from me. I am happy to say that some of those friendships are still solid and it feels great to see how things turned out in their lives; it’s also cool to see how some things still connect us. And I am grateful beyond words that I am still friends with the two friends from high school.

In some ways, all of my friends are riding in my rowboat with me. I appreciate that they trust the strength of my rope and my anchor. They are the reason those things are strong.