If We Were Having a Beer

For the love of beer

The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

You would take a sip of whatever you’re drinking, look over at me and say “how many friends of a different race did your parents have?

Whaaa?

Seriously, that was one of the questions some bonehead in Seattle wanted your barista to ask you while she was messing up your coffee order.”

Fortunately, I avoided the encounter. I don’t like Starbucks coffee. I prefer Dunkin Donuts.”

Then I would tell you how that failed campaign, failed start I should say, I guess they are continuing the campaign, interfered with the start a series on my blog.

And you would say: “not that Star Trek thing?

Yes actually; wait, I thought you liked Star Trek?

I liked the show but I think that for every moral issue they tackled they probably left a few thousand aliens in worse shape than when they first encountered them. Not to mention the ones they just flat out killed.”

My facial expression would acknowledge your point. I’d offer to order the next round while I tried to reassemble my thoughts. I know from previous entries in this series that you may not be drinking beer. Order up, beer, wine, coffee, I got this.

I would try to explain that it’s not the overt message of any particular Star Trek episode I wanted to talk about, that’s why I thought I could do this without being Trek-heavy. It’s the hope for mankind that Star Trek offered.

You mean that we’d have replicators and holodecks and stuff like that?

No.

From its inception, Star Trek distanced mankind, well Federation-kind from racism. Putting an African American woman on the bridge was a bold move in the ‘60s. For that matter, so was putting a Russian and an Asian-American there. The message was that, over time, we had grown as a society to a point where race and origin didn’t matter. We were free to embrace our heritage without fear of offending anyone or being targeted by anyone. That’s all. Is that too strong a moral message? Is that too much to hope for?

You would nod, take another sip and I would be able to tell that you were going to try to confound me with your response. You like to do that. You’re not one to simply agree with me.

So how did Starbuck’s interfere with your plan?

I didn’t want my comments to seem like a lame response to the Starbuck’s campaign.”

If you run and hide from the issue of racism every time there’s a racial issue in the news, you’re never going to talk about it.”

Sigh…

We would settle down a bit, and I’d explain that it’s hard to touch on serious issues in 800-1,000 words and it’s hard to introduce serious concepts into a blog that’s closer to a random stream of consciousness than a man-on-a-mission kind of platform. I don’t have time to research “issues” and I don’t speak with any kind of authority. Search the Web about the Starbuck’s campaign; hundreds of people wrote thoughtful responses to that disaster of an idea. I have very little to add. Besides, that’s not my style.

My style is to pick on Starbucks’s for being arrogant. They are a retail operation, yet they insist on treating the customer as if we are just another logistical problem they have to solve. They don’t want to know my name, they just want to speed up the delivery.

I have to learn how to order their drinks. No “medium light and sweet” at their counter. That would probably be a “tall” drink, and “you can do the lightening and sweetening yourself, over there. Oh, and I heard you ask me to leave room for milk, but I don’t pour your coffee and the guy who does didn’t hear you, so just pour some in the trash like you always do. Next.

Yeah, and I’m supposed to believe these people want to have a conversation with me about race relations.

You would point out that it was a dumb idea but that the conversations do have to happen. You would suggest that they are better suited to places like this bar, between people who respect each other and who value each other’s opinions. You’d look at your watch and add that “Starbuck’s would have served 20 customers in the time we’ve been talking about this” and you would be right.

Posted in If having a beer, Opinion, Rant | Tagged , , , , , | 53 Comments

Thursday Doors – First Day

My friend Norm has a number of series running on his blog. One of them is called Thursday Doors and I’ve always found it intriguing. Norm has featured some fascinating doors in this feature. He has often invited others to join him, and I have often said that I might.

Last week he made it official. He setup a process whereby those of us who want to participate can share our doors with Norm and others. OK, enough talking, here’s my door.

Nixon House

That’s the front door of the birthplace of Richard M. Nixon. America’s 37th President. The house was reconstructed on the grounds of his Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, CA. I’m not quite certain that the door is prominent enough for this series, but I like it.

Posted in Photography, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Could I Have a Straw?

Soda

My ginger ale. Close at hand and safe to consume.

Late last week, a cold that had been playing hide-and-seek with me for quite some time decided it was my turn to be “it” and roared to life. Normally one to “sleep in” on weekends until 6:15 or 6:30, I found myself still comfortably buried under the covers at 8:30 and 9:30. On Saturday, my wife, who usually wakes me with a cup of coffee on work days, asked first if I wanted to use that or Ginger Ale to wash down a night’s worth of post-nasal drip.

Ginger Ale sounds good

Do you want a straw?

No

Do you want it in a glass?

No

You’re going to drink it from the can?

Yes, that’s how I drink soda

You don’t know where that can has been…”

[…pause…]

Can I have a straw please?

Honestly, I didn’t care where the can had been. I was already sick. Any germ clinging to the top of that can was going to feel right at home when it hit my mouth.

I do sometimes rinse off the top of the can, if I have a soda at work, but usually not here at home. It’s like I feel that the act of bringing the can into my house purifies it in some way. The germs it came in with meet all the airborne, catborne and dogborne germs already in the house and an unseen battle ensues. The invaders don’t have a chance against felinus-microbi.

It wasn’t the suggestion that there might be germs-of-unknown-origin, a.k.a. foreign contaminants (I had to add that link for my daughter) that caused me to change my mind. No, it was the deep memory of my Aunt Adel that did it.

Aunt Adel was my father’s youngest sister. Until I was about 10, we lived in an apartment building that my grandmother owned. Aunt Adel and her family lived in a detached house on the same property. I loved her very much and I spent a lot of time at her house. The geography of the buildings made it easy for her to watch me playing in the yard. Much easier than my mother. Adel could see me from her first floor kitchen window while my mother would have had to cycle between several second story windows in our living room.

Aunt Adel never bothered with direct discipline. Her main weapon was the threat of telling my mother what I was doing / had done. However, on some occasions, she tried to correct what she considered bad or dangerous behavior by planting a seed of evil in my impressionable young mind.

One day, I was “working” with my father as he was dismantling and rebuilding the back porch on Adel’s house. I was too young to be of any real assistance, but I wanted to be working too. My father gave me a hammer and a bunch of boards from the old porch. He told me to take the nails out of the boards and then straighten them so that he could reuse them. I realize now that this was the perfect task for a young boy, if the goal was to keep him out from underfoot.

I pulled and pounded until I had a coffee can full of reclaimed, albeit rusty nails. My father did reuse some of them, which made me feel good, but I wanted more, I wanted to nail something together. Of course, I was better at bending nails into useless shapes than driving them home. After a few failed attempts, dad told me that I needed to practice. First, I was to watch him. Then I could begin some hands-on training.

He sent me back to the pile of scrap, armed with my hammer and the nails I had removed and straightened. He told me to stack a few boards on top of each other and nail them together.

Watching him, I learned the technique. Hold a few nails in your mouth. Take one out, tap it into place on the board. Once free-standing, smack it lightly, then harder and then BAM – all the way home. I could do this.

A few days later, I was in the yard, still working on my hammering skills. Aunt Adel saw me through her window and was very concerned about the nails sticking out of my mouth. She came outside and said:

You know, at the nail factory, the men don’t get bathroom breaks. When they have to pee, they just pee on the nails.”

She returned to her house.

I’ve used a nail apron ever since.

Nail Aprons

The cloth one is one of the oldest aprons I own, I think my father gave it to me. The black nylon one is my favorite all around pouch.

Posted in Family, Humor, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

By Way of Introduction

imageI have been working my way through the DVD collection of Star Trek Next Generation (STNG). As I near the end of the series, I have been planning to write a couple of posts that are inspired by Star Trek, but not Trek-heavy and not a “series.” Just a post here and a post there that are based on the show. I wasn’t sure how to announce this idea until today. Aye, you have given me the perfect prompt lassie (Linda).

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “I/eye/aye.” Use one, use ‘em all – just make it yours. And have fun!

Star Trek is a more-than-meets-the-eye kind of television series. Star Trek leaves an aftertaste to your viewing. It’s similar to The Twilight Zone in that regard, but I think a bit more heavy handed than the Zone. What Rod Serling was able to do with a last minute plot twist, Gene Roddenberry and the writers and producers of Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) and STNG tended to put right up front and kept hammering on during the hour-long episodes. What Serling did with camera angles and lighting, Star Trek did with more obvious special effects. If there was a moral message in a Star Trek episode, you almost always saw it coming.

Maybe that’s a problem that’s endemic to a show like Star Trek. The story is continuing, unfolding week after week with most of the cast and crew intact. I know Jean-Luc Picard and I know how he thinks, the kind of leader he is and the fact that he is a historian and an archeologist and that he is governed by both disciplines. I know Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge, Commanders Data and Riker and both Doctors Crusher and Pulaski, not to mention the STNG eye-candy Counselor Troi. My daughter recently informed me that Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi rebelled at the way their characters were treated in the scripts and I am far enough along in the series to see the changes the producers agreed to.

Having grown up on the original Star Trek, I knew those characters very well, too. Sadly, my favorite character, Spock, passed away recently. That is, actor Leonard Nimoy passed away but it’s hard not to think of him as Spock. I read both of his books on the subject, “I’m Not Spock” and the follow-up “I Am Spock” and I think Spock must have been an interesting struggle for Mr. Nimoy.

Four characters from the original series appeared in STNG even though the series were set about 100 years apart. Dr. McCoy had a cameo appearance on the first episode of STNG. Spock is featured in a 2-part episode that was one of most viewed episodes ever. Sarek, Spock’s father appears in a couple of STNG episodes as well as his appearance in a TOS episode. In addition, the actor who played Sarek (Mark Lenard) appeared as a Romulan in an early TOS episode. Sorry, I didn’t mean for this bit of history to go on so long. I’m getting to the point though. While I’m still digressing, I might as well mention that Mark Lenard also played a Klingon in one of the Start Trek movies.

The fourth character to span the 100 years between TOS and STNG was Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott. If you say “Aye” to a Star Trek fan, Scotty is the character that comes to mind. Scotty appears in the STNG episode “Relics” and he was treated so rudely by Mr. La Forge that you knew he would find some way to redeem himself as show worked its way toward the delivery of its old-doesn’t-mean-useless message. Now that I’ve passed the 60-year mark, I find that message comforting. Scotty struggles with the dual dilemma that too much has changed and that he’s too old to go back to school, as it were. It’s time to move on.

Captain Picard

Yes, I own a Captain Picard action figure. And it’s pronounced “fig-ur” just so you know.

Scotty ends up saving the day while teaching Mr. La Forge a lesson. Captain Picard proves once again that he can command a starship, mentor younger crew members, see the big picture and hold his liquor quite well. Scotty does move on, but not necessarily into retirement.

As I look back at the uneditable (rules are rules) post above, I realize that I didn’t do very well on my goal to be light on Star Trek. I’ll edit those posts in my drafts folder so they will be easier for the non-trekkie to tolerate. I will work on that because there are serious lessons to be learned from the enterprise that was/is Star Trek (aye lads and lassies, that pun was intended).

Posted in Perspective, SoCS, Star Trek | Tagged , , , , , , | 48 Comments

The End of an Era

Pantene, you had me at: “Shampoo and Conditioner in One.” To me that mean half the time, half the risk of getting burny stuff in my eyes and half the number of bottles in the shower. That last bit is important. When you’re a guy, sharing a bathroom with your wife and teenage daughter, you don’t get much shelf space.

I first met Pantene® in a hotel. It seemed simple enough, saved some time and left what little hair I have left on my head feeling pretty good. Done. I don’t put a lot of time into evaluating personal cleansing products. Up until about 15 years ago, I had used the same soap, Safeguard™ since I was old enough to use big-people soap. It’s what my parents used. It got me clean. My wife didn’t like the idea of me washing with so many chemicals. In a unilateral action, she swapped out my bar of Safeguard™ for some green organic product cooked up in a cauldron deep in the woods of Maine (1). The stuff works fine. No use fighting over soap.

She doesn’t use Pantene®, but she hasn’t made a fuss over my using it. She will even buy it for me when she’s shopping, but she always asks me “what shampoo do you use?” when I tell her that I’m almost out. What shampoo? Pantene®. How hard is that to remember? (I would think, but never say).

Last week, I went to Target and I decided to restock my own toiletry items (you know, the Lent thing). I needed Pantene® and I needed dandruff shampoo. Yeah, it’s not bad enough that much off my hair is gone, the stuff that’s left still needs a hit of Head & Shoulders® now and then. And, yes, I’ve been using Head & Shoulders® since I was a kid too.

Confusion set in.

The first thing I was confused by was the fact that Head & Shoulders® and Pantene® aren’t in the same place in Target. Head & Shoulders® is in the “Men’s Hair Care” aisle and Pantene® is in the “Hair Products” aisle. What? Don’t women have dandruff? Maybe Head & Shoulders® is the Lava Soap of dandruff shampoos. A heavy-duty cleaner for a man’s dandruff. Maybe women use some ginger root dandruff shampoo with Aloe, coconut and fairy dust.

The second thing I was confused by, and the reason I have to think about apologizing to my wife for all those unsaid-but-still-snarky shopping comments, is that there is an entire section of Head & Shoulders® and there’s an entire Pantene® aisle in Target. There are 10 bazillion kinds of shampoo.

It took me several minutes to find the Head & Shoulders® product that I wanted. You know, the “Original Formula.” The old tried and true. The stuff I’ve been using since I was 12. It wasn’t labeled like that, but I found the “Classic Clean” variety. I bought the biggest bottle they had. If it came in a gallon bottle with a pump, I might have bought that so I’d only have to go through this process once a year. Plus, I’d have that full-on manly look. You know the kind of bottle that says “this is the kind of shampoo they use in the pit at Indy.”

Over in the Pantene® aisle, there was no “Classic Clean” version. In fact, there wasn’t even a version that said “Shampoo and Conditioner in One” on the bottle. “Repair and Protect” but not “Shampoo and Conditioner.” In fact, they now have “Shampoo” and “Conditioner” in two bottles, not one, and they have versions of those. “Clarifying” shampoo. “Lightweight” conditioner and so many other products that I couldn’t back up far enough to get the Pantene® section to fit in the wide angle version of my camera!

It’s over Pantene. We had a good run but we need to see other people. It’s not you, it’s me. You want to grow. You want to achieve more, try new things, and scale new heights. I would just be holding you back.”

That might be what I said in the store, but inside my head, as with any good breakup, I was thinking:

All our years together mean nothing to you. You’re willing to toss our history aside just so you can lather up your fancy female friends. Well, I don’t need you. I’ll find a good man’s shampoo. Something with pumice and wood pulp and harsh chemicals that’s tough enough for a man’s dirt.”

It’s not just shampoo. Everything comes in too many choices. It’s why shopping is such a hassle. If Pantene sold just the original, maybe an expanded flavor or two, Target could be the size of a 7-11 and we could be in and out in 15 minutes flat. I have pictures of chips, candy, crackers, salsa and cough drops. Cough drops! I remember when it was Ludens, Smith Bros. or Halls and if you ate the cherry ones too fast, your mom was sure to buy the black licorice variety the next time. Today, you need to be some sort of certified medical professional to self-diagnose the type of cough you have.

I’ll stop complaining. I could go on and on about all of those products. I’m sure. I’m so sure, that I created a category for this post. If this self-sufficient practice of mine hasn’t worn off by Memorial Day, prepare yourself for a Doritos rant. By the way, is there any harm in using dandruff shampoo every day or do I have to work with those folks up in Maine?

(1) According to my editor, the green stuff is Olive Oil soap and it’s made in Greece

Posted in Rant, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , | 70 Comments

Daydreams and Serendipity

imageJust a few days ago, I announced that this blog was going to be “award free.” Actually, I never made that announcement, I may have implied that, but I stopped short of pasting the “Award Free” banner in the sidebar. If that sounds like political-candidate-speak, well, it is the season. The reason I’m waffling a bit on the subject of awards is that in between writing that post and publishing that post, I was nominated for an award. Joey’s timing was amazing. It’s like she was sitting there thinking: “how can I mess with Dan’s head today?” If you follow Joey, you know that’s the kind of thing she might do.

I promised that I would comply with the rules of this award. That doesn’t really fly in the face of my previous post because the rules for this award are easier to comply with – Thank you Joey! That’s rule number one, satisfied.

Rule number two: “Complete the challenge they set for you.” In this case, the challenge was to “Tell me a daydream.” That should be easy.

I’ve been daydreaming forever. I was routinely chastised in elementary school for daydreaming. Notes were sent home. Comments were added to my report card. It seemed that almost anything could set my mind wandering. I wrote once about my love affair with doodling which, along with the daydreams, continues to this day. No sign of stopping. I’m not quite sure that I am anchored to the world like “normal” people. I was trying to remember a recent daydream to share, but then, in a bit of serendipity, a post appeared in my inbox that set me dreaming.

Unlike Joey, I’m not the warm-sand-ocean-breezes kind of daydreamer. I look at things and I imagine less romantic scenes.

In order for this to make sense, you have to pop on over to Lois’ …on Pets and Prisoners blog. It won’t take long, the post is the completion of a photo assignment. A single beautiful photograph. Take a look and come right back. But hurry, ‘cuz I’ll be onto something else if you take too long.

What did you think when you saw her photo? Did you think about the light? Did you wonder what might be in that brick structure in the center? Did you imagine hiding or being trapped in that attic?

I immediately started to daydream about building that building. I focused on those rafters. A little thicker than modern material and spaced a little further apart. I noticed that there are collar ties on every set of rafters. Usually, collar ties are added to every third rafter pair. I put them on every pair when I built our screen porch so I felt a connection to the builder of that barn.

I also noticed that the roof sheathing is comprised of individual boards instead of plywood or the composite material in use today. I used plywood on the roofs I’ve done around here, but I once worked on a historic house where the roof was sheathed with individual boards.

If you noticed the window, you probably focused on the brick arch. I was looking under the arch and imagining the effort required to make the curved wooden structure around the vent. At first, I thought that it might not be a true curve, but a series of small straight pieces. I zoomed in on the photo, and it is curved. I started thinking about the ways you could bend a piece of wood like that. I have no way of knowing if the window is original or a replacement, but mating wood windows to brick openings is not an easy task when the windows are rectangular so fitting a curved window into a brick arch had to be a challenge.

I got lost in that photo for several minutes. I set those rafters in place. I installed those collar ties. I stood on the roof, nailing those boards into place and I fussed with that window.

You might rather be on the beach in Florida. For me, turning a pile of lumber into a permanent structure, I think the pictures show that that’s my kind of daydream.

Back to reality, the reason I like this award is because I don’t have to nominate 10 or 15 recipients. It says in rule #3: “The amount you nominate is unlimited.”

My guess is that Lois has seen this coming, but I’m going to nominate her for this award. If she’s not much of a daydreamer, maybe she can share one of Teemu’s daydreams.

image

Posted in Awards, Perspective, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 50 Comments

The WordPress Ouroboros

Ouroboros

An ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Wikipedia Commons public domain image.

About two years ago, someone nominated me for an award. I have to admit that, although I had been blogging for a while, I didn’t understand the whole award thing. I wasn’t aware that you could declare your blog to be “award free” or that I could set up an Awards page or that I could accept the awards and have a relatively easy post to write. I didn’t know how often I would be looking for an easy post to write.

I’m not sure that I understand awards yet but I understand that the math of awards is self-defeating. Ultimately, a typical WordPress award would turn into an Ouroboros since people would have to start re-nominating previous recipients.

On the other hand, I do understand the sentiments expressed by the people who have recently nominated me for an award, and I think that I’ve failed them. You see, I told each one that I appreciated the award and that I would respond “soon.”

I really appreciate the award.

I am responding (sorta) but not officially. Not according to the rules. I’m not good with rules.

I don’t want to tag 10-15 of my fellow bloggers, but not for the reason you might think. At least two of the awards that I was nominated for were for the fact that I inspired someone. Wow. It’s going to take a while, or perhaps a Patriots quarterback to deflate my ego after reading that…twice. I love thinking that something I’ve written could inspire someone to do something. The problem I have is picking a small group of you to designate as inspiring me. You all inspire me!

I’m not going to list the names or provide the links, you all know who you are, but I am inspired each time I read new posts, comments, replies to comments and comments on other people’s blogs. You people are amazing!

I am inspired by the poets that I follow. I have a poetry post (not a poem) in my drafts folder, but I keep having to revise it as I follow more poets and as the poets that I follow stretch themselves to new heights (or lengths for those horizontal poets).

I am inspired by the photographers that I follow. I love photography. I include a lot of pictures in my writing and I know how hard it is to get really good photos. Some of the photographers I follow take some amazing pictures.

I am inspired by the authors that I follow. Those of you that have written books, are working on books or working on your next book – you make me shake my head in wonder. I don’t know how you do it. I have trouble containing these posts to 1,000 or fewer words, but the thought of writing 40,000, 50,000, 70,000 words that look like they all belong together – that makes my head hurt.

I am inspired by the bloggers that I follow. As I read the stuff that lands in my inbox each week, my thoughts vacillate between “I can’t believe how well people write” and “I see what at you did there, that is so cool.” I am inspired by people who speak with a voice that is spontaneous or humorous or nurturing or helpful or self-deprecating or curious or, well, you get the picture. By the way, the people who will soon pump out 26 alphabetically inspired posts in a single month – Oh My! You people are nuts truly boggle my mind.

I am inspired by the inspirational blogs I follow. The people who write about God, religious topics, spiritual topics and the topics that are greater than us and that inspire me to become a better person.

I am inspired by the techniques that I see, the hooks that are used, the catch phrases, interesting titles and the literary devices that make these short bits of prose jump off the page. I am particularly inspired by the people who share information as to how to incorporate these techniques into my blog, my writing and my communication.

Lastly, well, not really but I’m going for an effect here, hang on. Lastly, I am inspired by the people in other countries (including Canada) who are helping me to better understand this planet that we live on. I follow people from almost every continent (Antarctica needs more bloggers). I’ve learned about more religions, customs, holidays, baked goods, laws, wars and lifestyles than I ever imagined existed.

Since a common task among the awards I was nominated for was to reveal seven things about myself, I think I complied (see, I told you I was going for an effect). If I can inspire you to do anything today, I would ask that you check out the latest post by the three people who nominated me for an award. If you do that, I’ll feel better about accepting an award that I couldn’t handle.

Christine Robinson – You can explore the many facets of Christine’s blog but I am always inspired by her sunset photos.

Sharukh Bamboat – Sharukh writes about India, travel in India and lately a lot of other things/ Sharukh has a few blogs, but I am linking you to his newest and I think his most personal one.

Oh to Go a Wandering – Rebecca says that she’s a girl with a passion for writing, dreaming of traveling the world.

To add a bit of last-minute drama to this entry, in between writing it and posting it, I was nominated for an award. This time, it’s one I can comply with. I’ve already exceeded my word limit , but look for my acceptance post in the near future.

Posted in Awards, Blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , | 52 Comments