I’m my own trend

There’s something to be said for unity.

There’s something to be said for the madness of crowds.

I’m sure there’s something to be said about a lot of things….but what is up with this Harlem Shake stuff?

The guys at work were asking about it the other morning, “What is up with this Harlem Shake stuff?” they said.

I can’t figure it out…it looks like it keeps a lot of people occupied, though.

I have my own trends…trends that nobody else knows about.

Call it a stealth movement or whatever else you want to …but I’m a walking catalog of wiggles and tics just dying to bust out into the mainstream…let’s call it the “Zirconia Twitch” or the “Mountain Mambo”. If I wasn’t a semi-private kind of person, the whole thing could blow up at any moment.

There are lots of things to do with your life…stop the war? cure cancer?  get 26 million people watching your video of you twitching with your friends in a public place?  Who knows what the future holds for any of us?

The uncontrollable and hysterical “Zirconia Twitch” could be coming to your town any moment…get ready to ROCK….or at least ripple.

desperate for authentic


image from slowcoast.ca

I think that we’re desperate for authenticity in our lives.

There is so much that we are surrounded by that doesn’t have any lasting importance.

Why should it?  It doesn’t drive the wheels of commerce to have things in the world that satisfy and last forever.  How does it sell product if we are happy and contented?  The only thing that really greases the wheels of the world are dissatisfaction and longing.

Nature is authentic by default…wood and stone, earth and sky…it doesn’t get much more “real”.

But how do you market that?  Location, location, location?  We can “own” land…but we can’t ever possess nature.  How do you market something that can’t really be bought?  We live in it…but we don’t possess it. Do we give a thing that can’t be sold any real value?

We can strip the land of what we perceive to have value…log it, mine it… but we can’t ever possess the spirit of the place…we can’t own Nature.

An advertisement is designed to remind us that we lack the thing that would make us whole.

Because of this, we spend our time surrounded by media that makes us constantly aware of the lack.  It invents holes in our lives that we wouldn’t be aware of if we weren’t told that they exist.

How can we feel good about our lives if we haven’t reached the level of consumption that allows us to feel complete?  Can we ever have enough if enough is what it takes for us to feel good about our world?

I wonder if the constancy of the whole thing isn’t what saves us…like some deformity that’s always been with us that we just learn to live with, this feeling of never being whole is always around and, even if we were aware of any of the causes, usually ignored.  We ignore it because that’s our option for survival…being aware would drive us crazy.

As our income increases it just increases the cost of the “hole fillers”.  Instead of worrying about being able to afford the really nice Little Debbie snack cakes,  we worry about the home with more status.  It doesn’t fix the problem,it just gives us more expensive ways to sooth the symptoms for a while.

So…whether we choose to attempt to be aware or not, the problem exists. We can’t be happy if our needs are always defined by outside sources.  We can’t be happy if we aren’t able to say, “Oh…really?” when advertisers tell us that the latest thing will make us whole.

water pump

idaho 044This is a picture of my Grandfather’s garage in Montana…way back when.

My father used to like to tell the same simple stories…over and over.

It wasn’t like he was on an endless loop…constantly repeating himself daily.

It’s just that he had a repertoire that he could pull out if the situation called for it.

One of the episodes he mentioned was appreciating a mechanic at the local Chevron station that he knew when we lived in New Jersey for a couple of years.

The mechanic’s motto was, “let’s start with the simple stuff…it’s usually something simple.”

If you get to hear a story a couple of times for a lesson to sink in…it was time listening well spent.

Yesterday it was time to change the oil in the old Toyota truck my daughter is driving now.

I drove it for a while to warm it up, got it up on the ramps, crawled underneath to remove the drain plug…and all this antifreeze was dripping on my head….and the level in the just filled overflow tank was “unfilled” .


This simple oil change was about to get a lot more complicated.

So…I got my light and started checking around the water pump.  It had to be the water pump.  Where else do you lose coolant unless it’s a head gasket or something?  Maybe a freeze plug is rusted out?  Did she do something to it and crack the block?  Maybe it’s the head gasket?  That would be bad…that would be really bad.

So I was ready to drain it all…pull and inspect the radiator…pull and replace the water pump…I’ve got to get this thing ready for school on Monday…but if I work tonight I should get it done…I can get it done.  OK…it’s going to be alright…I can do it.

And then…I heard my father’s voice saying, “I knew a mechanic in New Jersey at the Chevron station…you know what he used to say?  He used to tell me that ‘he’d start with the simple stuff…it’s usually something simple’.  That’s what he used to say, at least.”

Well, I took a breath and started looking around again.  It really wasn’t all that wet around the water pump…nothing leaking around the bottom of the radiator…what’s this coolant around the top of the shroud?  Where is that coolant coming from?  It looks like it’s leaking down from the ….upper radiator hose!

I had a bad seal at the upper hose and it was seeping out every time the car was driven.

That was simple.  That was easy.

It got me thinking about all the people who look for the easy solution first.

They’re the ones who are really good at their trade or life who approach problems with simplicity and clarity.

Because they look for the simple solution first they sometimes make the things they do look easy.  Life is not a hardship for these people.

I wonder how many of them some people discount as just being lucky…”they never came up against anything difficult, never had to deal with anything hard in their work or in their life….let’s see how they handle things when it all really hits the fan”.

I think that what’s going on is they know that it makes things roll better if they just use the restroom…and avoid the fans.

Their lives aren’t complicated (by choice)…but they sure are elegant.

Some people make their lives more exciting by always backing up to every fan they see…maybe just so they can say, “See!!  See!!  I get dealt the nasty hand every single time…I just can’t win!  Born to lose, that’s me for sure.”

I don’t always make good choices.  I tend to get excited and run around willy nilly…sure that the sky must be falling soon…but I sure do appreciate seeing the calm elegance of a well lived life.

It’s something good to shoot for.


“excuse me, ma’am…”

homelessring_hand off.grid-6x2There’s a story on the MSN homepage this morning about a homeless guy who returned a diamond engagement ring to the lady who dropped it into his cup by accident.

He returned the ring to her, she set up a donation page for him, he’s received $175,000 dollars in donations towards a new place to live…and he was able to reunite with his family because of the publicity the story generated for him.

Here’s the story .

Hooray for good deeds and the higher side of human nature!

Why is it that the stories that we’re most aware of are the bad ones?  I know there is still enough good in the world to balance it all out…but what gets reported is the bad stuff.  Why do we chase the ambulance?  Why can’t we turn away from the train wreck?


homeless man closeup ringI love stories like this.  There is a lot of goodness in the world still and when it hits the media….it matters.  People respond to the thought that there are positive things happening in the world…it’s good for us to see and remember.

Well done, Billy Ray…well done.

I wiped out on the learning curve…


….and went sliding into “I don’t care”.

Learning, learning, learning….all the time learning.  I can’t help it….I’m always learning something.  Most of the time, I’m learning the same thing over and over…something about retention.

What was I saying?  Just kidding…I have more focus than that.

I meet people who seem to have it all together sometimes.  They know what they know…and that’s all they am.  That’s an efficient way to handle life, I guess…build up a storehouse of needed information, establish a strong and consistent comfort zone, and then don’t get out of it for the rest of your life…get mired into some strong opinions that you aren’t afraid to share…and just go for it.

Just go for it.

That confident front is something that I can’t rise to meet.

The “zen folk” talk about beginner’s mind…staying open to new things as if it was the first time the subject was presented…eager and willing to learn.

What do they call beginner’s mind if it’s by default?

We are resilient…malleable…able to leap tall buildings….no, that’s someone else…

We can rise to the occasion when presented with “emergencies”.  Any situation outside of our comfort zone has the opportunity to change us.  If we seek discomfort, seek adventure, seek the new …wouldn’t we spend our lives…no, live our lives… deep in the constant of changing …and maybe improving?

The thing about seeking the new all the time is that, at some point at least, the terror of constant change and uncertainty becomes the norm…and I suppose that you’d get used to it.  Being in a state of flux becomes old hat…growing and changing isn’t a scary thing.

Of course, it never stops being confusing for the people around us…”you used to be so nice…what happened to you?”.  I don’t know what to think about that.  It’s great to be a “people pleaser”…but I think it gets hard to please anyone if you dislike yourself.

I used to think that “lay down your life for a friend” meant taking the bullet, absorbing the blow.  Now I think maybe it means giving up your desires to make everyone else’s life better.

The trouble with that is, from my experience, that at some point you’re going to feel like calling in your markers….and when your sacrifice isn’t appreciated like you think it should be, it hurts like crazy.

People with needs can’t slow down long enough to notice who might be trying to fill those needs.  They take care of the people around them, to be sure…but taking care of themselves doesn’t go much farther than voicing a need…and having needs makes it hard to really take care of the people around them, too.  It’s not hard to get used to the “nobility” of always putting yourself before others, either.  We try and fill the roles we choose.

What I mentioned earlier about being set in your ways…I guess that what makes it really hard is to present that “I’ve got it all together” front…but feel the need to change churning under the surface all the time.  That’s a tension filled conundrum …what do you do if the way you think the world sees you doesn’t jibe with how you really see yourself?

Some of us just keep pulling the chrysalis tighter around us, I guess.


I gots to monetize



It sounds like something a superhero would say, like “flame on” or….or….what’s another superhero–ee thing to say?


When I started writing this blog, I read some things about “monetizing your blog”… “make money with your blog”…..”get the money”….”money, money, money”.

So…where’s this money going to come from?  I don’t have any ads for people to click on.  I don’t have anything to sell.  I don’t have any raffles or lotteries or voodoo candles or…anything, really.

All I have to sell is my enthusiasm for life and the creative process.

So…here I am….


At some point in the future, I’m going to get this whole making money thing down…you won’t even see it coming.

People will click on this blog (kaaaaaaching)….”what the heck was that?” (kaaaaaaachinggggg)….”no…really…what was that sound? (kaaaachiiiiiinnnnngggggggg)….”do you hear it? It sounds like money?!” (kaaachinnnnnggggggg)…

And…before they even know what hit them….I’ll be Scrooge McDucking it all….sitting on top of the world.

When I was in Art School (capitalized for maximum effect), we used to make fun of the graphic design majors with their nice clothes and briefcases.  Illustration majors straddled the line between Fine Arts and commercialization…we could still be in the “arteeest” club.

“What’s with all this money stuff?  We’re FINE ARTISTS !!  WE BE ‘PO !! ”

Monetizing wasn’t even in the vocabulary…all we talked about in the financial realm was where to get a good deal on art supplies and where the cheap buffets were.

Now it’s all about the Benjamins.  (What’s that? Like a hundred or something?)

So…I need to sign up for some adsense…enough of this other nonsense…maybe fly some banner ads…get some subscribers, maybe even charge people to read this blog?

Have a raffle? bake sale? car wash?




retail bookstores

millions of books

Full disclosure:  I worked at Waldenbooks for 5 years back in the day when I had to have someone describe to me what a search engine was.

Maybe that’s not full disclosure …but it’s enough of a reveal for the purposes of this blog ( a man needs some secrets).

We went to IKEA yesterday….and afterwards we went to the mall that’s just up the road from the Ikea in Charlotte.

I thought that I’d check out the bookstore.  They had millions of books at this particular store. I didn’t count them but I trust the sign….it was a big bookstore and I am sure they must have had at least a million books there.

I asked them if they had the latest Timothy Ferriss book , The Four Hour Chef.

I told them that since it had been published by Amazon that a lot of retail bookstores wouldn’t carry it.

The first two guys I asked hadn’t heard of it or either of his other two books.

The lady at the computer looked it up for me and said she could order it for me…and if I had a membership card (giving me access to all of the millions of books they could order for me), I could get it for 10% off.  Getting 10% off would lower the price to $31.50….but the shipping to my house would be free.

I told her that I didn’t do membership cards after selling them for five years at Waldenbooks.

Amazon sells the book for 19.88…with free shipping if my order hits 25.00.

How does a retail bookstore with tired, uninformed staff and a limited supply of books make it in this new, competitive world?

Friends have raised the point that people ( I won’t name anybody…or get too near a mirror when I’m making the accusation) use retail bookstores as places where they can sample before they buy…from a cheaper online competitor.  That’s really pretty crappy…but unfortunately, it’s the new reality.

I don’t know how a bookstore employee could possibly maintain any enthusiasm for the job.  When they graduated with their MFA in Creative Writing, I’m sure they had a grander vision for their lives than working for close to minimum wage stocking the latest teen vampire novel and answering questions about books that aren’t really about cooking that they don’t even carry.

I know I would.

I wasn’t going to buy it from them anyway.  My asking was mostly just a test to see if they carried it…and, like I mentioned before, give myself a chance to actually hold a copy before I ordered it.  So, if they were tired and beaten down by another person stopping them in their tracks to question about something that might be on the other side of the store from where they were taking inventory of their dog care books…I can relate to their pain.

Amazon was a young and still unprofitable company when I worked at Waldenbooks.

I can only imagine what it must be like to work at a retail bookstore now.

Unless you worked at the coffee shop…it would really stink.

( I wasn’t going to mention the name of the bookstore…  it was “cuter” somehow not to, but when I went to look up some information on it one of the first links I came to was this one… I thought the irony of it all was just too much….imagine…the same exact bookstore we were at.)

physician…heal thy… (healthy)

dale carnegies scrapbook I have a lot of self-help books.

When you’re trying to get rid of books because they’ve taken over your space and your life, it’s a good time to take inventory of what you have in your collection.

I have a lot of building books…books about how to build things so they don’t crush you.

I have a lot of books about other people doing interesting things.

And…I seem to have a lot of self-help books.

This book is one of the ones that I remember seeing on my shelves.  It’s  a book of quotations that was compiled by Dale Carnegie…the guy who wrote “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

It has quotes like this one:

To see a world in a grain of sand, And heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour          William Blake

That’s the kind of stuff that I need out on the route…something to take my mind off the common stuff I usually think, like “STAMPS WENT UP A PENNY, DARN DARNIT!!!!”.  I don’t really understand some of it…but the distraction is welcome.

My wife asked, “What do you think all these self-help books or books about money do for you?  Do they actually help people?”

I don’t really know.

I guess it’s like being in a fast-moving river, heading for the falls, flailing about and looking for an escape.

These books tell me that there is a tree branch that I can grab and pull myself out of danger up ahead …and that things are going to just be alright after all.

The thing that kind of muddies the water is that a lot of them describe a different branch.

So, if you have a bunch of this type of book in your collection, or if you’ve had a chance to read a lot of these types of books…you’re going to go over the falls seeing all the branches but wondering which one would be the best one to grab for your chance at salvation.

That’s probably why the Bible talks about a “narrow path”…maybe it’s not a restriction, maybe it’s just trying to save us the aggravation of distraction.

Too many choices…too many possibilities…can be a dangerous thing.

But…on the other hand….the wishy washy other hand…I do love options….I do loves me some choices.

Where’s Yoda when we need him?


hair today, gone…

Angry female naked mole rat. Credit: Buffenstein/Barshop Institute/UTHSCSA













I’m beardless.

See the full viking post if you wonder what was going on with the beard

It is a lot faster to get rid of a beard than it is to grow one.  Clippers, disposable razor…a hot shower and a couple of minutes of scraping…and I’m smooth again.

One of the fun things about shaving off a beard is playing with it as it falls to the floor…goatee, fu-manchu, little Hitler mustache (I shaved that one off quick), and then, before it all went away and I swept my “personality” (remember Alfalfa on the Little Rascals?) into the wastebasket, a really sweet soul patch.

I love wearing a beard.  I love the scruffy feeling of freedom…getting up in the morning and being able to say, “nah…not today” to my razor after I finish cleaning up for the day.

But…on the other hand…I am a DAMN DARN HANDSOME GUY underneath all that hair!  Holy Smokes! I can’t help making that observation…it is truly shocking to realize that again.

It’s just that my face seems a little…smaller somehow.

Really though…if you have the option of your littlest one running in fear from you when you try to kiss him…or of anyone running from a scratchy pile of scruff when you pucker up…it’s pretty much a no brainer that smooth is where it’s at.

Maybe when I’m toothless and 90…sitting on the porch of my snowed in Idaho cabin…I’ll have a beard down to my knees.  Full Viking will have to wait for a while.

never grow old

best exotic marigold hotelWe watched this movie last night…the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

It’s a movie about a bunch of old people.

I loved it.

I told my wife, “Who would have thought that I’d love a movie about old people?”

She told me, “You’re getting old.”



I guess it really is all a matter of perspective.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…it’s all a matter of perspective.

The thing about this movie is that it’s really not about old people.  These people look old…all wrinkled and gray haired…and they do start the movie as old as they can be.

By the time the movie ends… they’ve changed.

India and their circumstances have changed them.  Their relationships with each other and the people around them have changed them.

They aren’t the “same old, same old” they were when they got off the plane.

Anyway…back to me.  It’s my blog and that’s where everything is going to gravitate anyway, so why not accelerate the process and get back on topic.


I don’t really have any strong markers that tell me that I’m old.  I don’t notice that I’m aging until someone tells me, “oh…52?  You’re getting older…”

Inside, I’m still the kid who was bouncing off the walls…running into things as if I could change a path with sheer velocity.

Sure, there have been some subtle and curious reminders…gentle reminders…that I am getting older.  The first time I saw the skin on my forearm flapping in the wind a different way than I’d noticed before…that was pretty strange.  Driving down the road, minding my own business, enjoying resting my arm on the windowsill…and all of a sudden my skin is moving in the wind like a dry white sheet in a hurricane.  It was a wake up call.

“Get to the doctor for some elbow Botox”.   STAT.

We are like sausage casings for our spirits. “Dust to dust”…this all fades away, while the spirit is eternal.  What have I heard before?  “We’re all just spiritual beings having a temporary physical experience?”…something like that.

It’s just that the casing gets a little loose on all us “old sausages”.

I mean….all the other “old sausages”.

I loved this movie…I loved seeing the transformation that these characters go through.

Community and purpose…that’s where it’s at.

The fountain of youth.