The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Month: October 2007

California Fires

Hello all…

For those reading this in the Fire Zones, I hope all is well.

Please stay safe and if the call comes to evacuate, please consider your life and safety and that of your family. Life and Limb are more important than all those things you buy and collect… even the XBOX 360’s. 😉

Everyone stay safe and you have the best wishes from Samurai and Naughty.

An Excercize in “What if”.

This is a little newer that what I usually do, but I would like your opinions or reflections on a couple topics… Just to feel out the few readers that I have.

1.  What if JFK had survived?  There was an excellent book written by George Bernau that reflected on this.  He changed the names, but you get the idea.  But how do you think the world would have changed or been the same had Kennedy not been killed?  Take that out as far as you want… I am interested in what you think.  I will not post my writings on it for a while.

2.  Same question as above, but regarding Martin Luther King.  Do you think that the civil rights movement would have gone differently if he had lived?  Again, tell me what you think and why.  Does not matter if you want to take the Radical Black, Liberal White, Confused Hippie or KKK point of view, or whatever your particular POV is.

3. Why was the Peace movement either a success or a failure, in your opinion?

Thanks… I will be interested in your opinions.  Both from those of you who lived in the time, and those of you who studied about it.

A birthday party for a dog…

Eliza

So… Next month Eliza, our “special needs” dog turns five years old.

It was decided that we would have a party for her. This is partially my fault. I thought it would be a neat idea to have a little get together and invite the Vets that saved her life over to the house for some festivities.

My wife took the ball and ran with it, so that now we are having several guests over, gift packages for the guests and Eliza is getting an outfit for the occasion. More than likely Eliza could probably care less, except that for one evening her house will be invaded by a bunch of people that smell like other dogs.

In a nutshell, for those of you just tuning in, Eliza was a stray that we adopted. When we got her she had probably the worst case of demodex mange that our previous doctor had ever seen. This doctor tried many things, and Eliza was near death, blinded by the medication and barely able to walk or anything else. On the recommendation of my wife’s boss, Diane Pinson, we took her to another vet, who immediately advised us that she was getting too high a dosage of the previous medication (ivermectin) and that is what was causing the problems. She had also gotten to the point where she had open and puss filled sores all over her body. Many people would have thought that it was time to let her go and ease her pain. But there was something that both my wife and I saw in her that told us to try one more time.

From the point where we took her in to the new vet, and when they started treating her, the change was almost immediate. She began to improve, literally, over night. By the next day the sores were already looking better and she started eating again. It would be several months before she regained all her strength and was ready to start going on walks with us. To this day, she still has occasional relapses and the mange tries to come back, but now that we know what to look for, we can usually stops the progress long before it gets bad.

Today she is a hyper little terror that likes nothing more than to terrorize the other two dogs, who are bigger than her, by taking their toys and grumbling at them when she thinks that we are not looking. She is truly a miracle dog… not in the mystical or religious sense, but in the sense that she almost died on us on two occasions, but she pulled through with the help of two great vets and one heck of a Veterinarian Hospital. For those of you who are interested… That would be Doctors Brauer and Holland at SouthWest Veterinary Hospital in Bakersfield Ca.

So… my plan to create a little thank you get together for the vets that saved her life has turned into a party that will probably have about 20 people there. I have no problem with that, it just tickles me.

We have no kids, so we treat the dogs and cats like kids.

I may complain about the party a little… but it is all for show. And those of you who know me and live close… you are not out of this. The Wife is sending you an invite as well… and you are expected. 😉

Something about entertainment…

When I was growing up, my mother must have owned every Beatles record that was ever made.  At the time I was not interested in them, all that I knew was that she would alway stack the vinyl on the changer early Saturday morning, and that was the queue that we were going to start cleaning.  Cleaning for her, at the time, meant EVERYTHING.  Stem to stern, top to bottom, etc… So obviously I grew up associating things like the Beatles with things like cleaning house, scrubbing toilets and such.

It was not until after I married, and she brought the Beatles back into my life, that I started to enjoy them again.  They took on a new meaning to me, and I was able to enjoy them again without the sudden urge to go find the vacuum or broom.

What strikes me as interesting about groups like the Beatles is that if you listen to them, you can hear them change from the fun “bubblegum rock” band that they seemed to be when they first became popular in the states, to one of the soundtrack groups of the late sixties counter-culture movement.  You can also see the changes in their music as they became more and more influenced by both the drugs that were more and more available to people at the time, and by George Harrison’s trips to and in India.  In fact George’s sitar work is some of the most mesmerizing that I have ever heard.

The reason I bring all this up is because my wife and I recently watched a great movie called “Across the Universe“, which is set in the late sixties during the Vietnam era and is a Beatles trivia and music orgasm.  We have seen it four times, and will probably see is a couple more times before it leaves the theater for DVD.  One of the best parts about the movie are the subtle pieces of Beatles trivia that are strategically placed throughout the movie.  I will not give them all away, but as an example, look for the occurrences of the number 9.  Anyone who is familiar with the Beatles will know the significance to this.  There are others, but I will let you find them…  If you have already seen the movie, and know about them, please do not post them here.  Have the fun is letting people find them on their own.

Was it a perfect movie?  No… if you are a detail nut like myself, you will see several continuity faults in the movie, but do not go in for the first time looking for them.  Just enjoy the movie and the story line that they are presenting.  Depending on your age, you will probably be silly like my wife and I and sit in the theater and sing along with the music.  If you are young and not as familiar with the Beatles, then you might discover something that you like in this movie, and become a fan.

The songs themselves are not sung by the Beatles… they are sung by a cast of unknowns.  People that have had next to no coverage on the big screen.  But they certainly do the songs they sing credit.  There are also a couple people that you will know… Joe Cocker plays the part of a street-bum, Pimp and a Hippie.  Oddly enough these are all parts that he looks very convincing in… they are not really parts, per se… he is singing “Come Together” during this part, and it does not last too long, but he is memorable in it.  Another face you will know is Bono.  He is outstanding as Dr. Robert singing “I am the Walrus.”  He also sings “Lucy in the sky with Diamonds” towards the end of the movie, and does an excellent job of that as well.

Unlike most Vietnam era movies, this one centers more on the happenings on the home front without vilifying the soldiers the way some movies seem to have done in the past when they address the counter-culture movement.  They address the war, and there is a brief display with soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty across the Vietnam landscape, so it is not hard to see what they are implying, but that is about it.

Really, you should go see this movie.  It is fun and you get to hear a lot of great music.

A word of warning…  If you do go see it, and then go out to buy the CD, you may be a little disappointed.  Some of the songs that are in the move, are not on the CD.  I am not sure why, but I am sure it probably has something to do with licensing.

Go see the movie, and have fun.  It is a great watch.

A Muslim does not a terrorist make

I was awoke to some bad news this morning. It appears that a group of Hispanics decided to go after a local Mosque this morning at about 5am.

It has yet to be decided if this was a hate crime or just a issue where the Hispanic group was just being stupid, though for my money, I will go with the later.

What this does do is bring to a head, for me, something that has bugged me non-stop since Sept 11th, 2001. That is this misconception that all Muslims (or anyone following the path of Islam) is either a terrorist or in some way supporting them. This could not be farther from the truth, and the accusation is made out of one of two things… fear of what they do not understand or ignorance.

I know and have known many Muslims through my life. I work with some and I have met many through my travels, and never once, even after 9/11, have I felt uncomfortable around them. In fact a couple of them were worried about me and my attitude towards them. Shortly after the attacks, there was a rash of attacks on Mosques in the US, these were being lead by people that thought that they were doing something to get back at the people who started the attacks. In reality they were doing nothing more than showing their own ignorance and intolerance to a people that they do not understand.

To be fair, I am certain that there are those in the local Muslim communities that do feel that the attacks on 9/11 were justified, and that there should be more, but I am also very confident that they are not all that way, and in fact those that support the attacks are probably the minority of those groups. It also needs to be said that I am not including the militant groups that cause the 9/11 attacks in my qualifier.  There are militant groups in every religion, but I do not believe that they speak for everyone that practices it, only for the few that decide that this is the only option open to them.

I will not claim to be an expert on this, or anything like it. I can only go on my own experiences in life, and I have learned that most people are basically good. There are the exceptions, and we all run into them as we go through life, but they are not as many as you might think.

Back to the topic at hand. I encourage you to read the Quaran. It is truly a beautiful book… I only wish that I could read it in it’s native language. I have been told that it is much more so. I also encourage you to visit a Mosque. Not all will allow visitors (at least at the time of this writing due to threats), so check before you go. You should call them and talk to someone there, and make sure that you do nothing to offend, in other words, be respectful as you would like visitors to be while visiting your church or synagogue. Along those same lines, visit other places of worship, and learn about them as well. One of the biggest enemies to us is our own ignorance. If we succumb to ignorance, then we will never win anything more than self destruction.

In closing, religion, all religion, is a wonderful tool for living. It provides you with guidance and gives you a center. It helps keep you and your life in check by letting you know that there are much bigger things out there than yourself. Nothing is more humbling that to think of the Earth and everything on it as being nothing more than a single grain of sand on a beach.

Thank you for your time.

(12 December 2008 – Small edits have been made for clarity at this time.)

The Political Quagmire

Is it me, or have our choices for political office, all of them, been gradually getting worse over the years? When did it become the norm to vote for the “Lesser of Two Evils” instead of the person that held the best platform, and carried the best message?

There are only two of the current candidates that I am really interested in, but I am not going to mention them here, only because I refuse to give them any free advertising.  Should there be the unlikely event that one of them call me and ask if I would run a spread on them, then I will be happy to do so… for a fee.  But I will make no promises about what I would write.

Anyway…  Politics is like a really bad sitcom these days.  A combination of “Everyone loves Raymond”, with a dash of “The Apprentice” and just a little bit of “Jerry Springer” thrown in for good measure.  I cannot look at any of them without thinking that they are just telling us what we want to hear and truncating the rest into silent whispers in back rooms.

No… I have decided who I will vote for, and I will do so if that person is nominated.  But I will do it only because they are the best of the one that are offered, and the offerings are might lean these days.

Seriously… I wish John Stewart would run.  At least then the race would be interesting.

The paths we take.

“We never really think about where we are going, until we get there and realize that we did not want to be where we ended up.”

I am not sure where I heard that, but there is a certain amount of truth to it.

How often have you been working on something or wandering, then ended up in a train of thought that you really did not want to be in or can not figure out why you ended up there?

Einstein used to talk about his “Thought (Mental) Experiments”, and through them, he accomplished a lot when it came to his later theories. I guess if you were to look at it from a modern point of view, you would say that he was using a primitive form of Virtual Reality to visualize what he was doing. With me, it is not so much experiments as it is wanderings. I have always suffered a certain amount of what I call, Mental Wanderlust. Ask anyone who knew me in school… I was rarely on ground level, and my head was always in the clouds. I would be writing stories, drawing spaceships, talking about science fiction and anything else that was interesting at the time. I was in good company, though. Many of the people I hung out with were not too far removed from my wanderings, but where the difference lies is in the fact that they did not let it get ahold of them the way I did. Mine actually affected my grades and my relations with others, theirs did not.

I still wander, and probably about as much as I did then. Today I channel it into writing, like what you are seeing here. I find that this is the best form of therapy that a person with my dilemma can have. Writing about things that you enjoy is one of the most pleasurable curses that you can have. It does not matter so much if anyone reads my work as it does that I am doing something that others might enjoy and that I love doing. I guess you could say that I am giving of myself freely in the hopes that others might find some piece of wisdom that they can store in their own files, somewhere.

Through my mental wanderings, I learned that there were many paths that I wanted to take as I grew up. One of the first things I can recall telling my mother was that I wanted to be a fireman… then again, what kid did not want to be one when they were young. Then came all the other things I wanted to be… Policeman, Oceanographer, Physicist, etc… But now that I have gotten to this place and time in my life, I look back on all those things, and relish the memories that I have of those times. I know now that I will be none of those things, but I really do not look at that thought with a sense of remorse. Instead I look at it as one would look back through a mall they have just visited. All the places that you could have gone and things that you could have done. But there are more malls, and more stores. Life is long, and I have a lot more to see.

So I did not get to be a doctor, or any of the plethora of other things I wanted to be as I grew up. There are many things that I have to be greatful for that I might not have had otherwise, and the greatest of those is my wife. I cannot help but think that had I been succesful in any of my other efforts in life, I would probably have never met her. So the question arises… Should we follow the pack, of follow our heart? Should we listen to those around us or to our dreams?

There are few people in my life that have made a difference… but those that have, and who have truly guided me, have lead me to understand that most of the choices I have made up to this point, have been the right ones. Those people who I am referring to know who I am talking about, and need no introduction. But they have been the signposts on my life’s path, and will continue to be for the remainder of it.  The nice thing about the people that truly make a difference in your life is that even when they are no longer there for you, their echoes still guide you throughout your life.

We, every one of us, are given choices. We have a map that is built into our soul and our guide is nothing more that our heart and the people we meet through our lives. If we listen to both, and follow the directions that we learn from them, then we will lead a full and good life, and in turn, we will guide others through our actions and advise.  In a sense, this is immortality.

Thank you, to all those out there who have been and will continue to be my signposts.

Life and Survival in the workplace.

Workplace arguments and disagreements.

We have all been there, I am sure. You strike up a conversation with a “friend” at work, and you start to hear things that you really do not want to know, or do want to know if you are that kind of person. The person telling you this usually starts off the conversation with prefaces like “Between you and me” or “don’t let this leave the room” or other silly little qualifiers like that.

Before falling into this trap, you must ask yourself… If this information is so “hush hush” then why does this person know? and then the obvious… if this person is so freely distributing these kind of facts, then how much of what I have told him/her has been distributed to others at my work?

These are logical questions, and also important ones to consider, especially when you have to take into account your position in the company you work for. If you are just another lowly employee, and have no aspirations to advance, then you might not have much to worry about. Stop and consider, however, if you are a supervisor or someone who plans on moving up in the company, and you happen to discuss delicate information with a person further down the chain that you consider a confidant? If that person does share the information with others, as is all-too-often the case, then you might be looking at job listings in your local EDD real soon. Trust me, I have seen things like this happen.

My only advise here is this. If a person comes to you and starts to share information that you consider to be of the nature I have described… stop them right there and politely explain that you are not interested in hearing rumors or gossip. They might take it badly, and if they do, you are more than welcome to explain why you feel this way, but you do not have to feel bad for doing it. You may, in fact, be saving either your or their job.

Friendships outside the workplace.

If you work with a group of people, and they like to do things together, that is fine. But keep in mind that even though you may not be at a company function, you are still going to have an affect on the opinion people have of you. It takes a special type of person to truly separate yourself from the people that you work with and keep that professional distance in a private event.

Personally, I do not associate with my fellow employees outside work. Don’t get me wrong, if I happen to be walking down the street or in a mall, and I see someone I work with, then I will be polite and say hello. But if I am at work and someone says, “Hey, you wanna go get a beer?” Then I will politely turn them down. I do not like to mix personal and business relationships… all too often there have been cases where they cause more problems than good. But that is my take, some people can do this, and do it well; successfully keeping the professional distance while still maintaining the peer-peer or peer-mentor relationship. If this is something you are good at, then more power to you… keep it up.

Attitude in the workplace.

This is one I have been bad about. I used to have a very bad temper, and I say “used to” with a catch. I still have a bad temper, but I now know to channel it. I take a walk…

People read a lot into how you act, or react, about things, and in doing so, gain insight as to what kind of employee you are. Managers see this as a sign of the kind of supervisor or team player you might be, and fellow employees see this as how approachable you are for help that they might need. I am still working on this, and I suppose it is something that I will always have to watch myself on. I also encourage the people that I work with to let me know if I begin to slip. In reality, the only way you ever learn that you have a communication problem, is if you are strong enough to listen to the criticism of others, and use it constructively.

On that note, I have never been a good communicator, so this is what I had to learn to overcome to be a better employee. How to talk to people in a manner that they would understand, and in a way that did not give them the feeling that I was talking down to them. No one likes to be spoken down to, fellow employees least of all.

My advice here is to always understand that we all have different skills and talents. Accept that you know what you know, and that the person you are talking to might know the same thing, but approach it from a different angle. Also understand that for every person you talk to that has no clue what you are trying to explain, they may also have knowledge that you do not hold. Treat them with respect, because one day you might need their help with something. If you establish a relationship of mutual respect, regardless of your rank in the company, then you will always win.

This brings to to the last point…

Respect.

Yes… Aretha said it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Respect is an important part of any job, but is needs to be earned. People go into a job or task expecting some level of respect, but sometimes they go about trying to earn it in the wrong way, usually by locating the people that they feel will help them advance, and kissing up to them, or by trying to be buddy-buddy with the right people. You must remember that respect and friendship are not the same thing, in fact they can be far from it. Friendship in the workplace is important, but respect is even more-so. You may not always like a person, but you can respect their knowledge or skills, likewise if the person is new, and inexperienced, you can respect their drive to learn or desire to do better. You will always win if you show or offer respect to others.

Never expect a person or group to automatically respect you. Demonstrate to them that you have a skill or quality that makes you a valuable asset. Do not “kiss up” to people, this is a process that almost always leads to some level of failure, because at some point you will be called to task, and the ass you are kissing may not be there for you. If you work hard to demonstrate that you know what you are doing, and do it well, most of the time you will gain respect without ever even looking for it.  If you treat your fellow employees with respect, they will return the favor. If they see that you appreciate the work they do, and the skills they possess, then they will see you as an ally, and learn to respect you as well.

I am not an expert on any of this… and I am certainly no Ziggler or Robbins, but I would think that some of this would make sense and work for you. I encourage comments on this, and maybe even some of your own personal experiences.

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