The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Month: September 2008

VC 23123… Three months in…

My subtitle for this one is:

…Or, How California’s lawmakers prove they have a sense of humor.

So… I will start my post with a question.  What difference have we seen with on the roads with the new law banning the use of cell phones, without hands free devices?

Personally, I have noticed little or no difference in the number of people that I see on the phone.  I have even seen people sitting at a stop light, talking on the phone while a cop sits not even fifteen feet away.

Just for giggles I went ahead and sent an email to the California Highway Patrol to ask them for statistics on the numbers of citation issued to people for using their cell phones will driving, versus the number issued to people after VC23123 and VC23124 went into effect.

To be honest, I was not expecting a reply at all, but I did actually get one.  One that told me to contact a different section of their agency… by phone… whuch I did.  Only to be put on hold for about twenty minutes before I was advise by another person that I needed to contact yet another number.  At which point I stopped.

I know I should have taken this a little further, fought the good fight, and stayed on the trail to get this information.  Unfortunately I am not like the Michael Moore’s of this world where I can go off entirely half-cocked on a mission of little importance for the sole task of making myself look good.  Well… nevermind that, there are not enough plastic surgeons in the world to make Him look good.  My opinion…

No… I stopped there primarily because I was doing this research while on my lunches, and since there is only so much time and I am not independantly wealthy… well, you see my point.  However, if a representative from the Highway Patrol happens to come across this site and this article, and does have the information that I am looking for, then I will gladly post it.

The point that I think I am trying to make, just like the one I tried to make in July, is that this law it pointless.  It is one of those “warm fuzzies” that the law makers like to put out there to make the people think that they care.

I do support the principle that the law stands for, do not get me wrong on that.  I think that the idea is a good one, but instead of creating a brand new law that actually duplicated what is already out there, why not just enforce the laws that are already on the books?  To me, that would be more impressive than making a new law that reenforces another.

Oh well…

“Who am I? What am I doing here?” – Admiral James Stockdale – 1992

Marketing gone too far…

There is this show that I like on the Sci Fi channel called Eureka. It is about a little town that is peopled by only genius’.  This town is supposedly in a classified location and built to house the best minds in the country in a place where they can work with relative safety.  All this while the town’s main law figure in the town is the only one without a high IQ.

OK…  My sales pitch completed, I do have to say that I really like the program, in spite of the fact that the characters are stereotypical of most show of this type.  I will discuss my analysis of TV shows in a later post. But the point of this post is that this series has taken the whole marketing and sponsorship thing a little too far… ok… a LOT too far.

You see… one of their sponsors is “Degree for men.”  While most of the time you are only forced to deal with the horror of being accosted by the commercials during the COMMERCIALS, in the last season they have taken to incorporating the commercialism right into the series itself… by making it seem like “Degree for men” is something that the scientists at Eureka are working on for the government.

The show itself is still a good show, but the whole commercialism part is something that kinda wears on me.  I understand that you need to have a sponsor for everything these days and most importantly for a program like this.  But at this rate, I cannot help but wonder what is next.

Will Adrian Monk start making it a common practice to tell his assistant, whatever her name is, that he needs to go take his, “ACME brand Lithium”, because it give him that warm and happy feeling.

Can we expect to see Rodney McKay take a moment to talk about the benefits of his HP scientific calculator or his Panasonic Tough-book?

How about Dr. Cox taking a moment to talk about why he should have used Trojan brand ribbed condoms before fooling around and getting his ex-wife pregnant?

Where does it end?  Will we, one day, see the Presidential State of the Union address start, and the pres will walk out with a jacket like the race car drivers wear, with logo’s for his sponsors on it?

How about laws?  Is there a potential for something like this:  You get pulled over.  The cop walks over to you and says… “I would like to let you that your left tail light is out, and your ticket is brought to you today by the fine folks over at ACME tail lights and electrical repair.”

Oh well… I am going off on a tangent here… If you get a chance, watch Eureka… it is a good show, but just be ready for the commercialism.

For a taste of what I am talking about, click here.

The Return of the Pin-Up

There has been a trend coming back around that I am actually liking.  It is the return of the “Pin-up” style of art and women’s clothing.

There are probably those of you out there that do not know what I am talking about, at least not with the term “pin-up”.  Though you have probably seen it several times, you just do not know what I am talking about.

“Pin-up” is a style of art that involves women that are scantily clad, at least by the standards of the 1940s and 1950s.  Art that adorned the noses of several hundred bombers over Europe and the pacific and in the pockets of the soldiers that fought the ground war.  Images that made women like Rita Hayworth and Bettie Page more famous to some soldiers than their movies did.

In fact, there appears to be a whole new class of this style of dress and photo-art that is making the rounds.  Some of it I like and some of it I am not so fond of, especially the ones with the women who are also sporting lots of tattoos.  That is not to say that they are not attractive, they are just not what I find attractive.

The new models that are making this style popular are people like:

Dayna DeLux

Heidi Van Horn – A few Tattoos, but still lovely

Bettina May


Amy – Again… a couple tattoos, but nothing overdone.

What really tickles me is that to this day, there are still people that consider this art a form of pornography or somehow ranks as smut.  I beg to differ, I think that the human body is a work of art.  These ladies do what they do because the have the bodies, as I am sure the minds, to do it and do it well.  They also show, through most of their work, that it is not what you DO see that can be a turn on, but what you cannot see and must be left to the imagination.

Changes Abound

Yes… As you may have noticed, I am trying a new theme.

The maker of the last theme I was using stopped supporting it… in fact, he fell off the face of the earth. SO I am using a new theme…

No… I wish I could say that my studies in PHP has led me to this, but no… this is the work of another.

Let me know what you think.

A brotherhood/sisterhood of car owners

Tell me… When did it become the norm for people to think that just because you drive the same car as they do, that there is some bond created between the two of you?

Trust me, I DO undstand it if, say, you own a collectable or unique car.  My wife has a 1993 Honda del Sol and we are on-again off-again members of a del Sol car club.  But see, that is different.  You have a car that is worth being happy with and there are few enough of them out there that make it special.  Several times we will be driving in her car and happen upon another del Sol driver who would wave at us.  There have even been a couple times that people have stopped and talked to us about the car and we are more than happy to share our time with them.

I think the first time I noticed that there are groups out there that seem to see a bond where none exists, is when I bought my first car.  It was a 1997 GMC Jimmy SUV, which is actually nothing more than a Chevy Blazer.  Anyone that has been around the block a time or two knows that you almost cannot walk a hundred feet without tripping over one of these things from some model year.  They are not that rare.  Yet, there is a car club for their owners.  I could not tell you how many people there are in it, but I am sure that there are quiet a few.  But the question is… WHY?  I can say, from personal experience with my own and from the points of view of others through conversations, that the Jimmy was a crappy vehicle.  Why form a club?  So that you know you can have a group of people to cry with you when you have to replace your radiator after the Dexcool seizes your cooling system?

Another one that makes me laugh is something I saw here in my town.  A Ford F150 owners club.  Alright, I would associate that as being about as relevant as a club called “Bathtub users of America”.  There are so many of those things on the road that again, I have to ask, what is the point?  They have a good record, yes.  They have a history, yes… but they are about as unique as humans having two feet. (no offense to any double amputees or paraplegics that might read this.)

The reason I am talking about this is because of my new car…  well… not actually a car, it is called a “Crossover” these days.  Not quite a car, not quite a truck, not quite a minivan…  you get the point.  It is a Chrysler Pacifica, as I have spoken about previously on this site.  Since getting this vehicle, I have started noticing more of them on the road.  I am pretty sure that they were always there, but the way the mind works, i was just not seeing them.

Now I have noticed that occasionally people see me driving in mine, and wave at me.  I do not know who they are, but they seem pretty happy about waving to me.  So I can only assume that they feel some bond to me for having bought a Pacifica, or maybe it is some mass delusional state that accompanies ownership of these crossovers that I have yet to succumb to, that causes involuntary wagging of the arm… who knows.

I like my Pacifica… I really do, but I do not consider them to be unique enough to warrant the “buddy effect” that seems to be surrounding me since I bought it.

Oh well… I am a gracious person… I will smile when people wave… like I always do.  But in my mind, I am hoping that you get back home before the Lithium wears off.

There is pain… still.

As I stated several years ago… I will continue to post my own feelings about Sept 11th, each year on this site.

I watch the images of the attacks played back on TV and I am split.  Part of me wants them to stop showing the scenes.  We have pictures from almost every angle, both ground and air, of the tragedy unfolding.  We see the stills of the people… the firemen, the police officers… the people who are just dazed trying to figure out what they are becoming part of… and those dying.  The people who, while trapped in the buildings took the only option they felt they had left and died on their own terms, having made piece with whatever belief they follow.

Even now, seven years later, there is a hollow place that forms in the pit of my stomach when I think of all those lost and all those left behind to mourn and when I think of the sheer scope of what happened to us then.

I watch the pictures, the videos and hear the recordings of the people making their last calls and the recordings of the radio traffic between the firemen and policemen…  and I wonder, should they keep playing this over and over again.  How is this helping us?

Unfortunately… yes,  I think they should and on every channel.  If for no other reason than to help us understand and remind us that this is something that happened that we must never forget.  We must understand that this tragedy, while it happened in New York, happened to all of us and for that one moment in time, that one part of history, we all were united in the pain of loss.

I will continue to watch the coverage each year.  I will cry and I will say my silent petitions for those lost, those mourning and those who will never know and I hope that you too, will join me.

I aint as good as I once was…

Toby Keith is a true wordsmith, but unfortunately for me, I found out this last week exactly how true his words are.

As you may have read in my last post, I celebrated my fortieth birthday.  To help me celebrate, a couple friends took me to a place called the “Tilted Kilt”, an establishment known for their drinks and their scantily clad waitresses.  Both of which I will personally attest to the drinks and the attire.

When we arrived, we were seated in the section that was waited by a very nice girl named Monique.  I started with a beer and an appetizer…  and that, so they say, was the beginning of the end.

I learned that night, that I cannot drink or party the way I did, say, twenty years ago.  In fact, after my evening was complete, I was glad that I did not drive… and I was glad that the guest bathroom was so close to the main entrance to my house.  To give you an idea of how bad it was, here is a list of the drinks that I had that evening, in no particular order.

1.  Four – Blue Moon Ales

2.  One – Red-Headed Slut (the drink, as far as I know.)

3.  Two – Scottish Orgasms

4.  One – Kamakazi

There was a time, many years ago, when I could walk into a bar, or a friends house and drink with the best of them.  I was a regular at such places like “John Bryant’s” or “Woody’s”, here in Bakersfield.  I can recall putting away as many as twelve beers and nine Kamikaze’s in one evening and waking up the next morning with little or no hang over.

When I made it home after this night of drinking, I was a mess.  My wife was the best, more than willing to clean up the mess I made while praying to Ralph at the porcelain throne.  Taking a moment or two to laugh at me in my moment of suffering and bring me my water and napkins when I needed them.

In the end, it took me a full day to recover and several glasses of water and a hand full of aspirin.

No… I am certainly not what I once was… but you know, who is?

Have I learned my lesson?  Probably not…

Will I do it again?  I will, of course, say no.  But in ten years, who is to say.  You only turn fifty once.

The Tilted Kilt is a great place to hang out and I plan to go there from time to time.

One thing I did learn from this experience is that I need to go hang out at places like this more often.  Not to get drunk, but just to have fun and hang out.

Happy drinking and happy living, all!

Forty Septembers

There are many ways to look at it…

Forty trips around the sun…

280 -/+ dog years…

480+/- full moons…

Forty Summers/Winters/falls/Springs

The fact remains that today I celebrate the fortieth anniversary of my birth. A fact that is thanks in large part to my Mom, of course, my friends and family, for all… always being there for me when I needed them.

Birthdays have always been a sore subject for me.  I will not go into the details, but for those that know me, you also know my reasoning.  In fact, I did not really start learning to enjoy my birthdays until I met the woman that is now my wife.  This is not to say that my family and other friends did not help, but sometimes your spouse can convey thoughts and ideas that the rest of your family cannot.

As I look back on my life up to this point, I worry that I may not have done all that was expected of me.  That is more of a philosophical question than anything else, and thusly has no correct answer.  It is more a question about my role in the universe and if I am living up to my part in it.  Have I achieved that which was expected of me.  Is this all there is?  Is there nothing more?

Looking at the average life span of a male American, it would appear that I have reached about the half-way point in my journey of life.  The point where we should look around, make sure that we are still heading in the direction that we want and expect, make any corrections to our heading, then weigh anchor and set sails again.

I am not depressed about forty.  In reality, it is only a number, unless I make it out to be something else.  I do look at what I HAVE done with my life and think that I should have tried harder, pushed myself more, taken more chances, made more friends, not let go of as many as I have.  But there is a lot of life left, and the road is entirely uncharted.  We never know what is waiting around the next corner, or where life will take us tomorrow, the day after, next year, or any time afterward.

Forty is not a big number.  When I look at my age, I alway think of what Chiun said in the movie “Remo Williams: The adventure begins.”

“For a plum, I am old beyond my time, for a mountain, I have not begun my years, for a man, I am just right.”

When I look at aging and the process of “ripening”, I have gotten in the habit of looking at a good friend of mine named Russ.  If I can be half the person and live half the live that he has, by the time I am his age, then I will consider myself to be lucky.

In closing… I do not really could my life in years.  I have learned that you should count your life in the friends you have made and the loves you have known, both those you keep now, and those that have moved on to other things, or have slipped away forever.  I am learning not to dwell on the bad things I have experienced, but accept them as lessons learned and embrace them as part of my life, every bit as important as the good things, and in some cases, maybe even more so.

We are all learning, right up until the day we die.  So you might say that we are all incomplete works, each year we are just adding a new feature.

In search of… Customer Service

When you or I go into any place that caters to the needs of the buying or dining public, we expect a certain level of customer service. It is not something that you expect to have to ask for, it should just BE there.

My favorite example of someplace that has exceptional customer service, at least in every visit I have made to the place, is a little restaurant here in Bakersfield called Spencer’s. Specifically the one on McNair, but both locations in town are great.

The staff there is wonderful to everyone and not just the regulars like my wife and I, but to everyone. I see the interaction between the waitress’ and the clients, and there is rarely anything that even looks like they are unhappy in what they are doing. They almost always have smiles on their faces and are always working hard to make sure everyone is taken care of.

Sometimes it is fun to watch them work because they get along so well there. Like this last Sunday when the wife and I went it, and sat at the counter to eat. At one point three of the waitress’ started dancing and singing that silly song from the commercial, “…it must have been a typo, typo, typo…” because someone did not get what they ordered.

The kind of teamwork and customer service you see in places like this seems to be becoming more and more rare these days. The team that they have working at this place is becoming an exception to what the industry should have as their default behavior.

Another example of great customer service, but on a smaller and different scale is a little place calls Great Central Steak and Hogie.  They are a small little shop that might be able to seat about fifteen with some effort.  Their food is pretty good, but what really sells this place for me is the employees.  They are friendly to everyone that comes in, even the people that are trying to sell them something.  The two owners, Alex and Paul, are the kind of people that, once you get to know them, will talk to you about anything.  Even give advice to people if they ask.

These were both examples of great customer service.  Places that you can go and know that you will be taken care of and leave happy.  These are places that I suggest to anyone that asks where they can get something good to eat.  The problem with the list of places that have given me bad service… well that is just too long to mention… so I will just go over some points I notice.

Any more, most of the chains are designed to take care of you in such a manner where their idea of customer service becomes an “assembly line” process.  Each person is greeted with the same mechanical, monotone smile and “Hi… welcome to… <insert restaurant name here>”, leaving you feeling like you just met a Audio-Animatronic that escaped from Disneyland.  Add to this that most chains are almost the same thing…  they sell similar foods, sever similar drinks, the waiters and waitress’ all start looking the same and you begin be bogged down in the monotony.  A good example of this for me is Hooters.  They were great when they first came out, but now they have expanded to the point were it’s like… who cares.  Great, girls in tight tops, wow… who has not done that nowadays?

Unlike most guys, I do not tip based on looks.  If the waitress helping me looks great, but has the customer service skills of a snob with Alzheimer’s, then they are still not getting a tip.  I do not care if they are built like Pamela Anderson and wearing shorts and a top that are five sizes too small.  On the other hand, if the service is great, my drink is refilled before I need it and the food is good and served before it gets cold, then I don’t care if the waitress looks like she could win an Earnst Bognine look-a-like contest on a bad hair day, I will tip her well.

Any more, I tend to like to go to the small, “hole-in-the-wall” places to eat.  They are usually family owned and operated, most of their staff is usually family or friends of the owner and they are not out to rake in cash for the sake of getting rich.  They are doing it because it is a labor of love.  That shows, when it comes right down to it.

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