Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Example

Saturday began with a quiet, peaceful fall morning, the perfect contrast to a fairly stressful week. I woke up early to take sunrise pictures in a nearby town. The temperature was a crisp 42 degrees.

There were very few people in Middletown Park. The loudest sound was the honking of geese on Kingsbury Pond. The sunrise was brilliant, with just enough golden clouds to compliment the yellow, orange and red of the leaves on the trees surrounding the water.

Fall has a different feel than the other seasons. The air flows with anticipation on its breath. Sounds echo a bit as the trees lose their sound-absorbing leaves. Shadows are long and linear.

Nature sheds its skin during fall as the beginning of a cycle of renewal and it can be a good time for humans to follow the example.


I had planned to attend the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear in Washington DC yesterday but chose to do some other personal things instead. However, I did watch some of it on C-SPAN and I wish I had gone.

Jon Stewart, the organizer and star of the show, is a comedian by profession and this rally was partly a spoof on rallies. But taken as a whole, this event came much closer than most to representing the majority of Americans and their beliefs.

Most of us live in the middle, we don’t always agree but we do compromise and our whole government and way of life is based on diverse people getting along.

I’m not going to attempt to describe the whole thing here. Just let me share some highlights:

- No accurate crowd estimate is available, but those who speculate on such things seem to think the crowd size of this rally was at least as large the Beck rally a few months back. One survey says it was twice as big.

- A wide range of famous people appeared on stage during the rally, including Sheryl Crow, The O’Jays, Sam Waterston, Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Tony Bennett.

- It seemed to some that this was a left leaning rally but I think it was more about balance and reality. One example to back that up: Stewart singled out left-wing media for equating Tea Party supporters with racists and right-wing media for equating Muslims and terrorists. Neither of those connections is true. You know that, right?

- The rally was cloaked in comedy and music but it ended in a mostly serious 12-minute summary from Jon Stewart. It is one of the best speeches I’ve heard in years. I urge you to watch the whole thing (below), but if you’re pressed for time, skip ahead to the last 4 minutes. It is worth the effort.

And to end this post on a light note, here are some of the messages seen on hand-made signs at the rally:

- Does this sign make my butt look big?
- Sanity Is A Pre-Existing Condition
- I can see America From My Back Yard
- Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War
- I Came Here Illegally. I Went 5 mph Over the Speed Limit On I-95
- Free Hugs from a Militant Atheist with a Gay Agenda.
- He's Black, Get Over It
- This Sign Contains Correct Grammar and Spelling
- Speak Softly And Carry a Bibliography of Statistics
- Minorities: They are Not So Scary When You Get to Know A Few
- We The People, Not We the Corporations
- I love America. Even Though We Get It Wrong Sometimes, It's Still a Nice Place To Raise a Family.

Last Day of October Randomness

- This year October had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. That won’t happen again for more than 800 years. Feeling pretty lucky, I played the lottery this week. And I matched (drum roll please): no numbers.

- I got up at the crack of dawn yesterday to take this picture. This is the last week this year that the crack of dawn is after 7:30 am.

- Some business surveys indicate that Halloween is the second most commercial celebration of the year, right behind Christmas.

- I’m used to getting Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, even Thanksgiving Day cards. This year I got a Halloween card. How cool is that?!

- Fall is my favorite season. Fall can also be a depressing season, but I am determined to keep most of my usual fall depression at bay. When it rears its ugly head, it’ll only be for minutes, not weeks. I’ll allow it to visit me for a couple of select days this year, but that’s all.

- Can you believe it’s already the last day of October?? Where did the year go?

- Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Ain't 'fraid of No Ghosts

Happy Halloween from BOOmer Randomness!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Good Run

I’ve had a pretty good run of creativity during the past couple of weeks. Lots of posts on this site, two new posts on the poetry blog, daily photos in my nearby town blog and some seasonal shots on my photo blog.

I am lucky to have a job that involves creativity, mostly with audio, but challenging myself in other creative outlets is good therapy for me.

I appreciate that you visit my various blogs, whether I know you or not. I enjoy sharing.

Musical Halloween Treat

Sharing an old song from my youth that always meakes me think of Halloween. That's not what the song is about but it has the right feel. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

They Still Make Those?

Sony announced this week that it will stop making the Walkman. Uhh, they still make that? I have one of those, somewhere in my cluttered home office. Two, in fact; one is very basic, the other has a radio in it. Haven’t used them in years. I think I still have a few cassettes, also buried in the clutter.

The Walkman was revolutionary when first produced three decades ago. You could now take your music anywhere, untethered. Joggers used them, although I don’t know where they put the cassettes other than the one they were listening to. Is that a cassette in your pocket, or …. Anyway. Now we have the iPod, a smaller portable media device that can store a few thousand of your favorite songs with no external 12-songs-a-piece thing like cassettes or CDs to carry around.

Did you know they still made the Walkman? I didn’t until I read an online article about it.

That story listed a few other technological entities that you probably thought were gone …

Film. It’s hard to find but it does still exist.

Library Catalog Cards. I just have one word for that one … why? It’s all online and on hard drive.

Encyclopedias. They look good on a shelf but even a tactile guy like me prefers the internet or my college’s online digital resource center. Little know geeky fact: I have owned two sets of encyclopedia in my life time. I’d donate them to a museum if I still had them.

Floppy disks. You thought they were done, didn’t you? Me too. They hold 1.44 mb of data on each. That’s not even a whole song. I have some in a box of old ones next to this desk but I don’t own a computer that can use them.

Fax machines. If someone faxes me something at work, the message light on my phone lights up and I go to my computer to open the fax. Why didn’t they just email the thing?

Phone books. OK, really, when is the last time you used one to look up a number? But I still get one or two dropped at the end of my driveway every year. By the way, Verizon charges you extra to have your number NOT listed. Yes I still have one those soon-to-be outdated things called a home phone, but I just switched to Vonage. This is not a commercial, just a bit of reality. BTW2, if I only give you my home number and not my cell it’s because I don’t really want you to call me.

Typewriters. Yes, they still make them. Do you use one? Last time I used one was three or four years ago and I actually had to remember how to use it – align the paper and crap like that. I wonder of Staples still sells typewriter ribbons? I wonder if any of the college interns at work know what a typewriter ribbon is.

Phone booths. You mean I have to put a coin or two in that thing to call someone? And I can close this door and have a relatively private conversation? Hmmm, if you’re an inventor, here’s a free idea: cell phone privacy stations. Put rows of them on street corners, hotel lobbies and airport concourses. The user steps inside, closes the door, sits down and calls someone using their cell phone. The twenty people standing within a two hundred feet of them do not hear the conversation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


In Boomer lit, reinventing oneself is becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion. The basic idea is that midlife is a great time to become the person you always wanted to be. For some Boomers, life got in the way of pursuing their childhood or adolescent dreams. Now their kids are no longer dependent on them because they’ve begun their own lives so there are fewer obstacles to taking some risks and charting a new path in life. Other Boomers are thinking about retirement but don’t plan to sit in the rocking chair all day and let their longer life spans wither away in boredom.

The funny thing about midlife is that demographers refer to it as ages 36 to mid 60s which means Gen-Xers are in the zone too. A typical upper-30s American is married with young kids not yet in high school. Reinvention and retirement aren’t words usually in their vocabulary just yet.

From the perspective of either generation, a significant point to be made about reinvention is this: it’s never too early or too late to begin.

Famous reinventors

George Bush, born in Connecticut, raised there and in Maine and Texas, graduate of Yale and Harvard (no doubt a great example of strategery), reinvented himself several times, from a Texas oil man to a Major League Baseball team owner, Governor, President and is now a motivational speaker.

Madonna is still a singer/actress all along but has completely changed her look and music style several times; also now a mother

Colonel Sanders was an elementary school drop-out, steamboat captain, insurance salesman, farmer, Army veteran. He eventually ran a gas station and cooked his ‘special recipe’ chicken meals for customers. The restaurant failed, so at age 65, in the 1950s, Sanders used part of his Social Security check to start another restaurant with a simple menu. That ultimately led to the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise (now know simply as KFC) and the rest is history.

Ron Howard, child actor, grown up actor, now director/producer

John Grisham, Arkansas native, later Mississippi lawyer/politician became an author in his 30s. Wrote The Firm, The Pelican Brief and numerous other legal thrillers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The If

I saw an insurance company commercial the other day with a slogan something like ‘we protect you from the if in life’. The visual showed the word IF in the middle of the word life. Clever. And somewhat thought-provoking.

One thought it provoked in my head was how much some of us are influenced by the question ‘what if?’ What if it rains? What if nobody comes to the party? What if I make the wrong decision about my 401k? What if I buy a house and then lose my job? What if I take this job and it doesn’t work out? What if she says no? What if I say I "love you" and we break up?

Do these ‘what if’ scenarios paralyze you? Does this self-guessing lead to inaction? Do you deny yourself opportunities in various aspects of your life because things might change?

In my career I moved halfway across the country three different times for job opportunities. I was ultimately fired from two of those jobs. If I had let negative answers to my ‘what ifs’ guide me, as I was often inclined to do in my youth, I would never have had all the good things that resulted from those jobs and the experiences that came from living in those new places. I also learned plenty about how to keep a job.

I am lucky to have been in love several times. Every one of those relationships eventually ended but if I had let the ‘what ifs’ stop me I would have missed out on some of the best emotional experiences of my life (some other experiences too). I also learned a lot about women and about my own attitude toward relationships. I still don’t understand women but I know much more than if I had let ‘what if’ stop me.

The commercial that led to these observations about the if word was designed to scare the viewer into protecting himself from some of life’s uncertainties. But it also provoked some positive possibilities for ‘what if’.

What if you had the party and everyone you invited showed up and retold the story of what a great party is was for years? What if you bought the house of your dreams, raised your family in it and eventually retired there? What if you gave up a lucrative job to pursue the career you really believed was right for you and it worked out? What if you said yes to a job offer and worked there for the next twenty years, eventually becoming the company vice president? What if you let yourself fall in deeply in love with your soul mate and eventually celebrated thirty years together?

What if you gave up on your dreams because the struggle to reach them was difficult? What if you told yourself the dream is worth it regardless of the obstacles?

What if you believed in yourself no matter how much others around you tried to squash your dreams and you ultimately got everything you wanted in life?

When you look at it that way, the if can be a good thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Have you ever seen the Jetsons, that ‘futuristic’ animated sitcom television show from the 1960s? The original only ran during two seasons but continued in syndication for decades. New episodes were made in the mid 1980s.

The premise included daily life of a ‘typical’ family of the future. The technology was purely imaginary at the time but many of the gadgets are now part of our daily lives, well ahead of the year in which the show was set.

A few examples, courtesy of LIFE Magazine, which is now an online-only publication:

• Videoconferencing
• Automated vacuum cleaners (Rosie the Robot then, Roomba today)
• Tanning beds
• Buildings that look like flying saucers (although the article points out that the Seattle ‘space needle’ building opened earlier in the same year the Jetsons first aired)
• Moving walkways (suspended between outer space buildings in the Jetsons, between concourses at many airports today)
• Automatic meals (in the microwave today)
• The daily newspaper on a screen instead of on paper
• The main part of a job was pushing a button (Many of today’s jobs involve pushing a button buttons on a computer)
• Jet packs (hasn’t become commercially viable … yet. But they are out there)
• Flying cars … still waiting (but they are being worked on)
• 3D TV and movies – they’re here

Writers were on the right track when it came to predicting technology, even in the context of a situation comedy, but they completely missed the mark on two societal aspects of their plot. First, George Jetson’s full time job was done in 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. Apparently the 1960s thinking was that technology would be work-saving and time-saving innovation. It does save time in many ways, but now we have the ability to get much more work done in the 40-plus hour work week that is still common.

And the Jetsons were the perfect ‘typical’ family portrayed on so many TV shows of the era: white, middle class, mid-thirties mom and dad with a boy and a girl. That was more the norm then but definitely not the whole picture. Today that model is much less typical. Star Trek was another show that predicted a future but they were more realistic in many ways, showing off a better representation of the multi-cultural society we live in today. And they predicted some cool gadgets we now have too, including smart phones and computers that respond to voice commands.

Some of what I just wrote probably makes it look like I expect television to represent reality. Not really. Just making some observations.

And here is another technological innovation for you. Back in the 1960s, if you missed the show you had to wait for a rerun. Now you can watch episodes on demand.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ansel Adams Randomness

For me, photography is a passion, an obsession, therapy and a small source of income. Like most people, I learn by modeling others with similar interests and one of the most inspirational photographers I have ever paid attention to is Ansel Adams.

He was born in San Francisco and grew up in a visually stimulating place with a great view of the ocean. Playing piano was his first creative passion as a youth but he developed a love for photography after his father gave him a camera.

His most well-known photographs are black and white shots of landscapes in the southwest United States, but that is just part of his body of work. He dabbled in color later in life but I have always preferred his monochromatic work.

In addition to being a fine art and commercial photographer, he was also, at various times, an activist, teacher, magazine publisher and author.

I mostly know of him through his photography but today I found a web site full of quotes attributed to him. Here are a few of them:

“Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art."

"I believe the approach of the artist and the approach of the environmentalist are fairly close in that both are, to a rather impressive degree, concerned with the 'affirmation of life'."

"A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed, and is, thereby, a true manifestation of what one feels about life in its entirety..."

"I hope that my work will encourage self expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us."

"I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Random Teacher Quote

If I ran a school, I'd give the average grade to the ones who gave me all the right answers, for being good parrots. I'd give the top grades to those who made a lot of mistakes and told me about them, and then told me what they learned from them.
- R. Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goodbye Mr. C.

Another one is gone … actor Tom Bosley died today. He was best known as Mr. Cunningham, the Dad in the 1970s/80s television series Happy Days. Later he had a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote and a starring role in the Father Dowling Mysteries. He was still a working actor into this year, playing a part in a Jennifer Lopez movie The Backup Plan.

Random TV Shows

I seem to have a television theme going through my last few posts. It is totally random, but I don’t have anything else to blog about right now, so here are a few observations about some shows I like.

NCIS and Criminal Minds are two of my favorites and I just started following a new one called Lie to Me. What they have in common is that all three involve law enforcement investigations. Like many similar TV shows, the plot takes viewers through twists and turns of one or more investigations during each episode. They often do a great job with surprise endings.

Criminal Minds and Lie to Me also utilize psychology and profiling as a main component of their story lines. That has always appealed to me. All three have their share of action too. Brains and brawn are a pretty good combination in drama.

Of the three, NCIS is probably my favorite. What sets that show apart is character development: you really start to care about the characters as if they were real people. Criminal Minds does that too and their episodes usually end with the voice of a character repeating a philosophical quote that had something to do with that story line. Lie to Me has less of that so far but the lead character is interesting and quirky.

Do shows like this last? Hard to tell. The average lifespan of a television series seems to be five to seven years. The original Law & Order, a former favorite, has or is about to set a record at twenty years. This is probably its last season but two of its spin-offs are still running and a brand new one just began this season, set in Los Angeles (the other three are in New York).

My prediction is that NCIS has about one or two seasons left; it is increasingly difficult to develop new story lines. Criminal Minds might have a few more years than that because they have done a better job of introducing new characters and new layers of personal complexity in existing characters. It is too early to tell about Lie to Me. They are doing a very slow reveal on the lead character. But that one is fun to watch.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

June Died

Even if you weren’t around then, you know about the television show “Leave It To Beaver.” It was one of those shows featuring the ideal but unrealistic American family of the late 1950s/early 60s era. June Cleaver was the ‘perfect’ housewife mom. Barbara Billingsly, the actress who played June, died today, just short of her 95th birthday.

My family actually was as boring as the Cleavers. We were the perfect nuclear family, with parents who never divorced and two lovely children; except in my case is was one boy and one girl, not two boys like in the show. Like June, my Mom was a housewife with good fashion sense but unlike June, my Mom did not ever dress up around the house. Dad, like Ward Cleaver, was wise, all-knowing and easy-going. He did wear a suit and tie to work every day, but unlike Ward, my Dad ditched the suit and donned khaki work clothes within seconds of getting home every day.

Billingsly acted in dozens of TV shows and movies but she was and still is best known for her role as June Cleaver. Her second-most notable role was in the 1980 movie “Airplane,” as the passenger who spoke Jive.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tom and Donnie Reinvented

Next week I plan to post something about reinventing yourself. Tonight I am showcasing two celebrities who have reinvented themselves.

Tom Selleck is an iconic 1980s television actor best known for his role as Thomas Magnum, a hunky, free-spirited private investigator with a cool gig in Hawaii. He has played many other characters since then but his newest starring role is that of Police Chief Frank Reagan in the new series Blue Bloods. Except for the weight gain, he still looks like Magnum – in a suit instead of a Hawaiian shirt and 80s style shorts.

Tom as Tom, left. Tom as Frank, right.

Donnie Wahlberg ‘s initial claim to fame was as one of the New Kids on the Block during the late 80s/early 90s. He has been working on an acting career for several years and now also has a major character role in Blue Blood, playing Selleck’s character’s son Danny, also a cop. Acting is a good career move for him; even with reunion concerts, you can only be a “new kid” for so long. You can be an actor forever.

Donnie in New Kids, left (in red, 2nd from left). Donnie as Danny in Blue Bloods, right.

A little Selleck trivia: he was originally cast to play Indiana Jones but couldn’t get out of his Magnum PI contract. Sad irony: shooting for Magnum was delayed that season and he would have had time to do Indy. Sad irony, part 2: some of Indy was shot in Hawaii while Tom was waiting for shooting to begin for the 1980 season of Magnum.

A little Wahlberg trivia: his brothers are in the arts too. His brother Mark was in the 90s group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (Donnie helped with the project) and brother Robert is also an actor. And Donnie has a brief but intensely creepy role in the opening scene of the movie The Sixth Sense.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Copied this comment from a Facebook friend whom I barely know. It’s her post about her but I see plenty of me in there as well as an attitude held by some of my close friends.

Life is meant to be lived! For me that means enriching it with experiences, activities, and people. I love that I'm always busy & that I always have stuff to do & that I have a bunch of friends. Some people bring it up to me with a tone of disdain as if they don't like or understand, but in truth it's not for them to understand. Their job is to live their lives to their best and not to keep track of mine...just sayin

Pretty good sentiment, isn’t it?

They All Made It Out Alive

One. Then another. And another.

The world watched as one by one, the 33 miners trapped a half mile underground in a Chilean mine were rescued. The 54-year-old shift captain was the last one out.

They were trapped down there for two months but perhaps the worst part was that for the first two weeks, they had no communication with the outside world and therefore had no idea if rescue attempts were being made; and rescuers did not know if the trapped miners were alive. The 33 miners somehow made 2 days of emergency rations last for the 17 days it took for them to be located and various methods were improvised to enable food and medical supplies to reach them.

Here are a few of my observations about the whole thing:

• It took 15 to 60 minutes to bring up each miner. During that time each man was in that small cage-like ‘basket’, in the dark, ascending through a tunnel just inches bigger than the basket that was dug through the same rock that caved in on them. Claustrophobia specialists will be studying this for years.

• A mining expert and a paramedic were lowered into the mine first; then each of the miners was lifted back out, one at a time. That means that at one point there were 35 people down there, not just 33. I wonder how the last guy down there felt while waiting for the basket to come back down to get him.

• One of the miners became a father during the ordeal and the President of Chile was at the mine to greet hims when he was rescued. How many once-in-a-lifetime experiences can a person handle at one time?

• Another miner asked that both his wife and his mistress be there to greet him; the wife declined the invitation.

• Many, if not all of the families of each miner made a pact with each other to remain together till all of the miners were rescued. That is an awesome example of solidarity.

I am impressed and pleased by the positive, global emotion that resulted from the continuous live news coverage. For one brief moment, the world united to celebrate a good thing. It is sad that it takes a tragedy to bring us all together.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yes, I Was a Geek

During the years from around 4th grade through the middle of college, I was a little bit of a science and technology geek. The first magazines I remember reading were Popular Mechanics and Popular Science; in fact, I had subscriptions to both. I also loved cars and regularly read Motor Trend Magazine.

If you were a kid in the 1960s and early 70s it was hard to not be interested in technology because every other day there was some new development connected to the ‘space race.’ The USA and the old Soviet Union were trying to one-up each other with achievements beyond the atmosphere. The USSR got a human into orbit first but the USA beat them to the moon. Fear of war drove that competition but now America and Russia are partners in the international space station.

Significant technological development resulted from space flight, in everything from computers to communication to miniaturization to fire-retardant clothing to health. Engineering, math, chemistry and electronics were popular college majors. America led the world in technological innovation and America’s universities had the best and biggest science programs.

Decades later, however, fewer American students chose science majors and many more students from other countries came here to study in our great universities. Yet another shift is occurring now: fewer American universities offer programs in science. In other words, other countries have taken the lead in available programs as well as student interest. Put more simply: we’re falling behind. Add science to the list of things being outsourced.

Science is on my mind this week because of a conversation I had with the organizer of the USA Science and Technology Festival, an event coming to Washington DC next week. Larry Bock and his partners and sponsors are trying to generate renewed interest in science and technology among American youth. I was initially reluctant to include him on the one of my radio shows that is non-commercial because I suspected this event was all about selling something. The main thing that changed my mind … his sponsor list includes Popular Science and Popular Mechanics Magazines. I’m serious.

And after talking with him for twenty minutes, I believe he is sincere in his goal.

Apparently the festival is very hands-on and utilizes technological innovations in music and entertainment as part of the connection between science and youth. Young Americans grew up with technology and are totally comfortable with it but fewer of them are interested in what makes this stuff work. Can a festival held mostly on the National Mall in DC turn things around? That’s a hard question to answer but his first festival, held in San Diego eighteen months ago, drew 250,000 people. This one could attract a whole lot more as well as the media attention that most large gatherings in Washington draws.

My own interest in science and technology never stopped. I chose other paths in my life but I still pay attention to innovation and I am still fascinated by how things work. I regularly watch Modern Marvels on the History Channel and today I bought the latest issue of Popular Mechanics. After I publish this post I am going to read about earthquake-proof buildings, curing cancer, affordable solar energy, kick-ass pickup trucks that get decent gas mileage, the Xbox backpack and a soccer ball that can power LED lights.

Yes, I am still a geek.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Get What You Expect

Years ago I read several self-help books and took one of those self-improvement courses advertised on late-night television infomercials. Each had their own approach to the topic of getting what you want in life, but my biggest ‘take-away’ from all of them comes down to these five words: you get what you expect.

That declaration is basically a form of goal-setting. If you set a specific goal, determine steps to take to reach that goal, then take the steps, you’ll probably reach it. Attitude also plays a significant role.

Getting what you expect works in both positive and negative ways.

Some negative examples: If you expect that you’ll get lost every time you drive into the heart of your city, you will definitely take a left when you meant to go right. If you expect that you’ll break up with anyone you get into a relationship with within six months, sure enough you’ll be celebrating the seventh anniversary of your first date drinking a beer while watching Saturday Night Live alone. If you expect to get passed up for a promotion because the boss always promotes the new person before promoting you, you won’t get the promotion; and being new has nothing to do with it. Your inner curmudgeon whispers those two magic words: “it figures.” It was your attitude that cost you the promotion.

Some positive examples: If you expect to solve nearly every new problem that comes your way, you will probably find a solution to most of them. If you expect to be in charge of that new project or department, you’ll get the promotion. If you expect to get the girl, you will.

No, you don’t always reach the exact goal you set just because you set it. But you often do reach an acceptable version of the goal. Or you redefine the goal based on new information gathered on the path to the goal.

Study some people around you to find more examples of getting what you expect. You have a co-worker who seems to be known for drama; something always seems to be going wrong in their lives. They have a reputation for being high maintenance and stories you hear from them (or stories you tell about them behind their back) are littered with problems and difficulties. Every day brings a new problem for that person and for anyone who lets himself be sucked into the vortex. That co-worker expects things to go wrong and things go wrong. It figures.

You have another co-worker who people always give praise for good work. People always say good things about him or her. That person gets another promotion or is asked to lead another team or gets another award. That person expected good things to come to them and it happens. They get what they expect.

This is not about entitlement, it is about expectation. Confidence and success are natural byproducts of positive expectations. Insufficient education, experience or intelligence are sometimes limiting factors but just as often they are mere obstacles to be overcome.

Expecting good things in your life often leads to figuring out the effective steps to take to live your dreams. At the very least, it is the best first step.

Holy Test

So how much do you know about religion? Yours, if you have one, or anyone else’s?

A talk show host friend recently challenged her guests (and me, as her show producer) to take the Pew Research religious knowledge survey posted on their web site. It is a 15-question version of a longer survey used as the basis for their recently published findings of how much we know about religion.

Much to my surprise, I correctly answered 14 of the 15 questions. The only one I missed was also the only one I totally guessed. I was fairly confident about the rest.

I’m not going to preach about my beliefs in this post. I’ll just say that if cynicism was a religion, I’d likely be a charter member. I am curious by nature and fifteen years ago I finally found a denomination that encourages congregation members to seek their own truth. That works for me; I don’t have to reject one thing to accept another. I can learn from many sources of spiritual wisdom.

Maybe that’s why I did so well on the test.

Basically, the study says that even though we consider ourselves a religious country, most Americans have little knowledge of the basic tenets of religion, even their own. Agnostics and Atheists scored better on most questions, followed by Jews and Mormons.

Take the test yourself and tell me your results. Right now there is a link to it on the Pew Research home page.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

How Do You Cope?

Different people cope with life’s difficulties in different ways. Some seek professional help, some talk with their clergy or their mom, some chat with friends or read self-help books.

I reach for my camera.

Taking pictures is therapy for me. Through the ups and downs of my past two years I have taken thousands of photographs. When I’m feeling depressed or stressed I grab one of my cameras and stalk a flower, a cloud or an architecturally interesting building. When some of my closest friends hear I’m feeling blue, they often suggest I go take a picture.

Jobs, girlfriends and wives come and go, but photography is always there. And sarcasm.

Shooting pictures is the single most consistent thing in my life. I first took pictures with a Kodak Brownie camera as a very young boy. My first 35mm camera was a Minolta. Years later I graduated to a complete Canon outfit with a 35mm body, three or four detachable lenses, numerous filters, a flash unit and a bag to put it all in. I have since become a Nikon snob and three years shelved all the Nikon film gear for one awesome Nikon D80 digital camera with two lenses. I also have a pocket-sized Canon digital camera which enables me to nearly always have a camera with me.

I am inspired by other photographers, pro and non-pro: John Shaw and David Muench for landscapes, Michael Halminski for wildlife and my friends Eliz and Josh for imagination.

This weekend I was feeling a little lost, emotionally. Rather than sulking or whining, I picked up my D80 and took a walk around my yard and a nearby town. This is one of the pictures I shot. Visit my photo blog for a few more.

How do you cope?

Random Sports

I don't play any team sports and I only know enough about various sports to follow along. But I do like several teams.

My faves are doing well so far this weekend. LSU and Arkansas both won football games yesterday. Maryland didn't play.

Today's events: the Redskins at 1pm, NASCAR at 3pm and the Saints at 4pm. I have a bunch of things to do today, but I'll never be more than a few yards from a television.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One Random Quote

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
- Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pink Travolta

To my music-loving readers/friends ... I’ve heard many mashups, but nothing quite like this one. Must share. Enjoy.

Driving Into the Sunset

The new car season is here but four brands you won’t see in the 2011 lineup are Pontiac, Mercury, Saturn and Hummer. Surprised? As a self-proclaimed car geek, I have to say only one of those surprises me and that one is Pontiac.

As car brands go, Saturn and Hummer are relatively new. Saturn first appeared in 1990 as a new design with new thinking. There were a few innovations, including the ‘no haggle’ pricing concept at the dealership, but there was nothing exciting about Saturn. Eventually the innovations were available on other cars and Saturn became an ‘also ran.’

Hummer started in 1992 as a consumer version of a successful military truck, but even in the days of cheaper gas and increasing popularity of SUVs, Hummer was always an expensive dinosaur. Seeya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya! Oh, and the civilian models didn’t handle all that well off-road. Oh, and GM bought the brand in 1992. What were they thinking? They discontinued it this year.

Mercury has been around forever (specifically, since 1939). It was a Ford product positioned as more upscale than Ford and less expensive than Lincoln. For the past twenty-five years or more, however, it was hard to tell a Mercury from a Ford. It seemed like a useless brand to me, and now apparently to many other people too. Even model Jill Wagner couldn’t save the brand.

But how could they kill Pontiac?! Pontiac was always GM’s performance brand, with hot cars like Trans Am and GTO. Even their big boat Bonneville was pretty hot. I rented one for a week once and was surprised at the awesome handling and acceleration; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Elsewhere in the GM line … Oldsmobile? Who needed it? Who misses it? Buick? Still around and still boring and not much different than a Chevrolet; it’s the Mercury of GM cars. They are attempting to proclaim it a modern performance car but the ads are not convincing; a modern performance car from GM would be a Pontiac, wouldn’t it? Well, not any more.

Some brands and models have been successful with attempts to reinvent themselves. Volvo, for example, is still one of the safest cars around but their models are much more exciting than the ‘ugly box’ versions of the past. Check out the “all-new naughty S60.” VW ditched the bug many years ago but eventually brought it back as a “still fun but more normal” car with the engine in front like everyone else.

Some performance models from the past are still hot, like the Mustang. Others have come back to fairly rave reviews, like the Camaro and the Charger. Pontiac could have remained as GM’s performance brand and could have re-invented the Trans Am and maybe even the GTO. GM wants us to believe their performance leader is the Cadillac GTS. Sure, it looks great and gets good reviews from car geek magazines and web sites, but I am just not buying a Cadillac; I still lump that brand in with boring, unnecessary brands like Mercury, Buick and Oldsmobile.

So what do I drive? A Honda Accord. But my specific Honda is just a notch below an Acura. It’s the Pontiac Bonneville of Japanese cars: a wolf in sheep’s clothing with great handling and acceleration. Like me, it’s not always what it seems and it’s full of surprises.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Words

The New Oxford American Dictionary recently released its 2010 words, some of which include:

BFF: a girl's best friend
Gal pal: a female friend
Hockey mom: a mother who devotes a great deal of time and effort to supporting her children's participation in ice hockey
Hater: a person who greatly dislikes a specified person or thing
Lipstick lesbian: a lesbian who favors a glamorous, traditionally feminine style
Tramp stamp: a tattoo on a woman's lower back
Unfriend: to remove from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking site
TTYL: talk to you later

A few others: bromance, webisode, staycation, megachurch, all of which get flagged by my version of Word as incorrectly spelled.

A few more new words that are actually two-word combinations used together as one word: wardrobe malfunction, credit crunch, exit strategy.

Language is not static; it evolves, so some of this should come as no surprise. Reading this did not make me LMAO but it is still amusing, isn’t it?

What ev!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hell Yeah

I’ve been a city kid, a suburban guy and a country boy. All three have qualities that appeal to me, but suburban guy is the most accurate for me, partly because it embodies parts of the other two. One of my favorite country bands is Montgomery Gentry and my favorite song of theirs is Hell Yeah. It is not the most sophisticated or meaningful song they do but there is a lot more to it than what’s on the rowdy surface. If you ever sought solace in a bar, you’ll identify with the players in the song. If you are ever in a place in your life where reality isn’t meeting your expectations, sometimes a bar the only physical place where you can be you and people will understand.

Here is the video for the song:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Giving Back

Most people I know want to give back to their communities in some way. Often that involves volunteering in soup kitchens or participating in fundraising activities for local charities. Two of my closest friends are able to do good for their communities through their jobs, one as a teacher and one as a psyche tech in a medical facility. One small part of my own job connects me with the community through radio interviews with local non-profit organizations. I have received praise and even a couple of awards for that involvement and I’ve been told more than once that those radio shows are the equivalent of volunteering for a charity. I am honored by that sentiment but at this point in my life I want to do something more direct.

Nearly twenty years ago, while lying in a hospital bed temporarily unable to walk, I promised myself that one day I would engage in volunteer work, either for people with mobility issues or as a walker or runner for charity fundraising. After all this time, I finally started what I hope to be an ongoing series of steps toward that goal. Specifically I walked in the Kidney Walk DC.

A thousand walkers gather at the start line along the Potomac River near Georgetown University

I chose this partly because it was an easy beginning and I know several people connected to the local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. However, a more important reason is that a friend donated a kidney to help save her father’s life many years ago and that act left a significant impression on me. It also turns out that the Washington DC area has the highest rate of kidney failure in the country, so this is a serious local issue.

Raising money for a worthwhile cause certainly feels good but the best feeling for me was the shared experience of doing something physical to help people with some kind of physical challenge. Kidney disease is physically debilitating and life-threatening yet many people survive. Many of those survivors were on hand to tell their story, and then they joined the walk.

My decision to participate and to form a team came late, only two weeks before the event. Although I only recruited one other walker my team raised more than $500. We have great co-workers and friends and the biggest single donation came from the friend who inspired me to walk.

Michelle (Kidney Foundation), me, Francine (event chairperson) and Alisa (the other half of Team Bernie)

I am not writing this to brag, but as a suggestion to do something like this in your own community. I am not a soup kitchen kind of volunteer but walking in an event is perfect for me. There may be something that is just right for you that can help others. There is plenty of validity to the concept of “pay it forward.” I also write this today as a way to publicly hold myself accountable for my goal of more frequent participation in activities like this. Don’t hesitate to remind me.