The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Category: Observations Page 3 of 4

On “News from Lake Wobegon”

I am a big proponent of “Simpler Times”.  I am the first to tell you that I am a little jaded when it comes to how I recall my childhood and what I consider to be a simpler time from both my own perspective as well as that of the people I know who are older than am I.

This is why I enjoy listening to “The Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor.  If you are not familiar with who this person is, or have never heard of the program, then you are truly missing out on something wonderful.

Unfortunately I learned about the Prairie Home Companion (PHC) late in life, so I cannot tell you that I have been listening to it for years and years, but I can say that I have been listening to it for about two years, on and off and I can tell you that I love the feeling of the program.  That you can get lost in the music and the stories that are told.  Most importantly to me, is the fact that there is something in Garrison’s voice that is like visiting an old friend that you only get to see on occasion.  Soft, with some humor, but you never question the fact that he really means what he tells you.  The kind of voice that you might associate with your father or any other patriarchal figure in your family.

There was also a movie that was made several years ago about the PHC called, oddly enough, “A Prairie Home Companion.”  If you have not seen this movie, then I cannot urge you enough to rent it and watch it.  While there is a lot of the side story that is just there as filler, the rest gives you a feel for the show itself.  Attached it a scene from the movie that I particularly liked.

But the radio program is where you really get to experience the feel of the people and the characters they portray.  There is something “comfortable” about listening to this program that I just cannot explain to a person that might not have ever heard of the show before.

If you have a chance, then please take a moment to go to the web site by following this link, and go to their archives and listen to a show or two.  I think you will enjoy them.  Good music, good stories and in the end, when the program is over, it leaves you with that feeling of emptiness, like you have when you have had a bunch of friends over, and then the time comes for them to leave.

Who are we becoming?

Recently there was an event in Hartford, Conn. that has me worried.

This is the news piece, please follow the link for the story.

A man is hit by a car while they are, by the sounds of it, playing a game of cat and mouse. Chasing each other through busy streets.

The fact that he was hit at all was bad enough, but what makes it worse is that while the man lay in the street, people just watched. No one lifted a finger to help, short of calling 911 to get emergency crews out. It was very likely that another car could have come along and hit this fellow. The video and the stills clearly show that people did see this man, and while taking the time to gawk, took no measures to stop traffic or make sure that nothing further happened to him.

Right here I would like to step out of the calm way I usually talk and just ask, what the HELL kind of society are we becoming? Is it more important for us to take pleasure in someone else’s agony than to lend a hand, or at the very least stop further injury or suffering? Even if someone had gone so far as to pull their car out into traffic to protect this guy, or as simple as kneeling next to him, holding his hand and telling him that help was on the way.

Now… of all those people on the side of the street, I wonder how many pulled out there camera phones and took pictures of this man laying there. How many of those same people stood there wondering if someone else was going to do something, or said to themselves that someone else would take care of this.

THAT is the problem. We have become a society that is waiting for others to do something, and not taking action ourselves. You will probably argue with me on this, but when you look at the stills and the video, how many people are standing there watching, and not doing a damned thing to help the man? How many people do you see go out and see if there is anything they can do?

Everything is an episode of Survivor or Real World to people these days. People are too busy watching and enjoying the pain and suffering of others to get involved in something as meaningless as, oh, I don’t know… SAVING A LIFE! They see it happen, think, “Man, I am glad that was not me!” then go home and sit in their chair and watch the news of the event, then see the person there. They might go so far as to say to someone, “Yeah, I saw that happen.”

There was a time when more people used to give a damn. When you saw something happen, and sprang into gear and tried to help. I know of one person, personally, that did this. He lived in central Utah, and was there when a child was hit backed over by a van. He did all he could, but was not able to save the child. THAT is the type of people that we should all be. Willing to help when the time calls for it. He may not have been able to save that child, but I have to think that there are two things that happened… First, he took a chance to save a life, and he did his best. Second, maybe somewhere in the little consciousness that ebbed from the child, she knew that there was someone there trying.

That man, Arce Torres, laid in that street and waited. He may or may not have known that there were people around him, treating him like the latest side show, or an errant cat that was hit by a passing car. He may or may not have felt that no one there cared enough to try and help him. But if there had been even ONE person that had been a stand up guy, like the one I spoke about with the child and the van, then Arce would have known someone was there who cared about him and wanted to see him safe.

It angers me that so many people out there no longer care about strangers the way we once did. That we have to fear getting involved in something just because we do not want to become inconvenienced by what might happen if you help a person in need.

If any of the people that stood there and watched this happen, and did nothing to help, happen upon my site, and read this. I do hope that I am wrong, and there is a hell… because there is a special place in it for you, I am sure. You should all just hope that if something like that happens to you, that the people who show up are kinder than you were.

That is all… At least all I have the stomach for at this time.

A Photographic thought

When you look through your albums, and look at all the pictures you have taken over the years, there is something that you see every time, but probably give little or no thought to. It is there, right in front of you, and even if you just went and grabbed a picture or album while you were reading this, you may not have figured out what I am referring to.

Look at any set of pictures you have taken. Chances are that many of them will have many people that you do not know in them. People that were on holiday just like yourself, who just happened to get caught in the blast zone of your camera at the time you shot the picture. If you look over the lifetime of pictures you have taken, then you will see many many people that you have no clue who they are… they are just there.

You really cannot help it. Even if you are careful, there are times you are going to get people in your shot who, in your mine, just do not belong there. The only way to really do anything about it is to, a.) Have members of your family stand at strategic places and threaten bodily harm to anyone that crosses the line and gets into your picture. b.) Announce that you and doing a photo shoot of famous people with extremely contagious diseases, and this will give you about thirty minutes before authorities arrive to remove you, to take your pictures, and get out. Or c.) Take the picture anyway, with all the people in it, then go home and photoshop all the strangers out, then try and convince all your friends that you really did have Disneyland all to yourself on Christmas Eve. “C” will probably be the best, since it will not involve causing a panic, certain jail time and the potential of having the CDC poking and prodding various bodily orifices.

Picking a winner

But that is not why I am writing this. I was thinking, the other day as I looked at the picture above, and thought. “How many people out there, strangers all, have a picture of me picking my nose or scratching my butt? When you consider it, there may be thousands of pictures out there of you, that you are not aware of, and that the people look at you and say… “Who the hell is that, and how did they get in the picture?”

Take this one step further, and think of how many people are out there that have pictures of you, where you might be doing something like our friend here, and looking for a little fun in his nose? Or the guy to the left that looks suspiciously like he is sniffing his finger?

Who knows how many strangers photo albums our faces grace the pages of, it could be hundreds, it could be thousands and if you are a particularly avid traveler, it could be tens of thousands. We will never know, but it is certain something to give you pause when you think about it.

You may have crossed paths with a serial killer, someone who became famous, someone who is missing and someone else is looking for… any one of many things.

As always… thanks for reading. This was just something that popped in my head and I wanted to share with you.

Education and Experience

For as long as I can recall, there seems to be an argument about which is more important, education or experience. Being that I see the importance in both, I decided that I would address it as much as I can in this article.

In short, I will start by saying, simply, that each is incredibly important by itself, but together they are invaluable. Both are important in both your professional and personal life, and both go a long way to making you a success or failure.

I have been an on-again-off-again college student for some time. I know what I want to do, and I know the degree that I would like to, someday, get. The problem for me is that I cannot afford to take the time off work to attend school as much as I need to get my degree in a timely manner. I know that there are those of you out there that will say, “That is no excuse.” But trust me… it is.

I do not have a degree. I have several cerifications and I have several years of training and experience in computers, network design and network infrastructure. I was lucky enough to have gotten into computers and computer repair in a day when companies offered apprenticeships in such fields. Alas, you can find almost none of these types of training programs these days, unless you are a plumber or welder. I see this a unfortunate, but I will talk about that later in the article.

For the most part, my lack of a degree had not really been a problem until 1999, when there was this sudden push for everyone to have a certification or degree in whatever field they worked. In my case, it hit like a brick wall. Suddenly I was getting turned away from job interviews immediately when they asked that all important question, “are you certified?”

I was able to go and get my MCSE with little or no problem, and was back in the work force. But there was a new problem that I ran into. With the push for people to get their certifications, there was also a sudden influx of people that anyone who has been in the industry, for any length of time, refers to as “Paper MCSEs” or “Paper Engineers.” These are people that go to schools like New Horizons, and have the answers to the questions pumped into their heads, get a brief explanation of the facts, very little lab time, and then get pumped out into the world, and are not always ready for the stuff they find. Places like this are fine if you already have the experience and knowledge, but need a refresh, but they are dangerous for the rest of us when people who are just getting into the field go there, and pass the tests, then get out here and realize that life is not a lab.

The fact that I had been working with the network side of things as long as I had, was a major factor that lead me to go to New Horizons. I knew that the assembly line structure that they used would be fine for me to get the tests out of the way as quickly as I could. So, three months later, I was done, and back in the work force. So I have learned, first hand, the value of experience and how it works in conjunction with education.

There are also examples of the opposite of what I have just explained. There have been many times that I have run into people, who are just out of school, and their heads are filled with facts and numbers, but when you ask them what positions they have held, or if they did any “co-op” work while in school, very often they say that they have not held a job in that field, or they did no co-op work at all. For those that might not know, “co-op” programs are where a business will take a person that is in school (college) and give them a job in a field related to what they are studying, on a part time, temporary basis. This works well for the student, who gains experience, and for the company, who gets a “discount rated” technician, since they will usually only pay the person about minimum wage.

I think that all schools should adopt mandatory “co-op” programs for certain fields. I think that giving a person the education, and a degree, with little or no real-life experience, is unfair and unrealistic.

Education is important… there is no way that you can put a value on the benefits of a good education. Statisically a graduate will make a lot more over his or her lifetime than will a non college graduate. There is no disputing that. But education without experience is almost pointless. Why do you think that medical students need to spend almost four years of their studies actually working in hospital.

If you have the option of going to school and furthering your education, then by all means, DO! I cannot express enough how important it is to have that piece of paper. But do not knock experience, there is an equal amount I can say good about getting out there, getting your hands dirty and learning by doing. Nothing teaches you to do a job, and do it right, more than going out and busting your butt. And if you have the chance to combine the two, then not only will others respect you more, but you will respect you more.

Both a good education and good experience are hard work and both are filled with ups and downs. You may not always be a success at both, but every time you fail or make a mistake, just remember that it is all part of learning. It has happened to many before you, and it will happen to many after you.

Lastly, I would like to revisit the comment I made in the first part of this article. Apprenticeships. These are something that should be taken more seriously by employers. The Department of Labor has a very good web site dedicated to Apprenticeships and On the job training, but you still do not see many companies that use this service.

In reality, I would like to see the schools, namely at a High School level, implement a program to select people that look like they are not bound for college. People that are not scoring high enough or that just are not interested in attending college. Take those students and put them in High School apprenticeship programs where they will learn two or three trades. They will still be required to get their basic education out of the way, but they will be prepared for a job once they leave High School. Because it would be an apprenticeship, they will probably even get hired by the company that they apprenticed for in school, or could be referred by them. This would give some kids, especially in poorer areas, a chance to do more with themselves than they might have been able to do before.

Apprenticeships are not gone, but I think they are under-utilized. If a company or school really wants to make a difference, then they should look into offering this option to potential employees or students.

What people go through for a cigarette.

I have never really understood smoking.

I mean, I understand it from a physiological point of view in how it affects the body and the addiction it creates, that part is pretty easy to figure out. What I am talking about is the extremes that people will go through just so that they CAN smoke.

Before I go any further, this is not an article that condemns smoking. It is your body, do with it what you like. I think that you should be able to smoke, if you like, without having to worry about other people harassing you or otherwise giving you remorse. The only thing I will insert to that is to be respectful of those around you when you do smoke, that you are not violating THEIR airspace with your smoke.

That being said… let us proceed.

As I write this, I think about the time my mother came down to visit from Alaska. My mother started smoking when she was about 14, I think, but she was young when she first picked up her first smoke. Over the course of her life, there were only two times she stopped smoking. The first time was when she was pregnant with me, then the second was when she was pregnant with my brother. Both times, as she explains it, she suddenly could not stand the taste or smell of cigarettes, and even went so far as to scrub the house from stem to stern to get the smell out.

She was never what I would call a chain smoker, like my father could be occasionally. No… She would smoke her smoke, and then there would be a couple hours or so before she would light up again.

When She came down from Alaska, though, we let her know that she could not smoke in the house. We did not smoke, and we did not like the smell of smoke. So she agreed and would take her cigarettes outside and smoke. She would do this in the rain, in the freezing cold, in the fog… you name it.

It always struck me as funny that people would brave the elements to go out and have a smoke.

As time went on, this caused me to really pay attention to other people smoking. Once I noticed a cluster of people, maybe five or six, huddled under an awning smoking while it was pouring rain. there did not look to be enough room for them all, but they were managing it. I would be surprised if someone did not end up with a burn in their shirt or sweater, though.

Here are people, braving the weather and the chance of a cold, or worse, to smoke a cigarette. Like I said earlier, I do not know, first hand, the feeling of needing a cigarette, so I have to wonder if the need overrides common sense. Do people working in places like the south pole (McMurdo and the like) do when they get the urge, or do they just learn to not smoke while they are down there.

I sometime wonder if smoking is a sort of social sport, of sorts. Many times people go smoking together and talk while they are at it. At the place I work, I usually see the smokers all migrate to the smoking area at the same time, and you can tell when they are out there, because there is this odd gray cloud over the back of the building. What makes this even more amusing is that when non-smokers walk past, they all seem to get quiet. Like there is a plot afoot or something.

Like I said, I have nothing against smokers… it is their life and body to do with as they please.

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 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…


Yes… Aretha said it.


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.

Gifts and the art of giving…

I recall as a child that whenever I got a gift, it was like there was a certain set of rituals that happened beforehand. These usually comprised of my mother making a big fuss about me not looking in her closet, then her walking around telling me how much I was going to like my gift.

Thirty years later, not much has changed, only the actors in the play. Now, usually about two to three weeks before my birthday, my wife will start telling me how much I am going to like my present. Only problem is that now I am a little less enthused by the prospect of getting something. It is not that I do not like the gifts, I have just never been a good gift recipient.

Don’t get me wrong… I love getting gifts, but where the problem lies in not in the getting, but in the response to gifts.  People like to hover when they give you a present, so this creates a feeling of being on display.  You almost need to choreograph your responses with them in mind, even if you know you are going to like the gift, you need to make sure that you express your like in such a way that it is taken well.

The three items on my list as favorite things to get are, in no particular order: Clothes (Excepting underwear.), Tools and Giftcards or Books.  These win a smile from me every time.  There are some sub-categories that are exceptions…  If you buy me a tie, chances are I may use it to string up your cat or dog.  If you buy me underwear… what can I say, just don’t.  But the rest are great.

Now…  While the emotions presented when a gift is given are real, you have to be careful.  To much excitement, even if genuine, can cause the person giving the gift to become skeptical, thinking that you are trying to make them feel good.  To little emotion makes the person think you did or do not like the gift given.  The tell-tale signs of a person not being sure about the gift they have given you or the response you give is a very common comment, that should almost be included on every greeting card.  “If you do not like it, you can take it back and exchange it.”

Next to your doctor telling you “You have cancer!” or your wife saying “Honey, I’m pregnant.” or your kid saying, “Dad, I’m gay and having an affair with your boss.”  These can be some of the worst words to hear from a person.  It immediately puts you on the defensive and you now have to tread carefully with everything else you say.  It sorta reminds me of this conversation that my wife and I had years ago.  A woman can dress beautifully, and when she asks you how she looks, you have to be very careful… because no matter how you answer, she will take it apart and question anything that sounds like it may leave part of her attire or makeup in question.

Back to the gifts…  Like I said, I enjoy getting gifts, that has never been a problem.  However I enjoy giving gifts more than getting them.  There is something uniquely rewarding to the soul when you give something to someone.  I really do not pay attention to how they feel about it.  If they like it, great, if not, then there are several options that they know they have, and I let them worry about that.  Knowing myself and my own take on receiving gifts, I try not to do to others that which bothers me when people give me gifts.  I would like to think I have done pretty good.

For those of you who have given me gifts in the past, rest assured that whatever it was, and whomever it was from, I liked it.  Rarely will I not like something that is given to me, there are two reasons for that, and these are things we should all keep in mind.  1.  If a person takes the time and interest to buy you a gift, then that in itself is a gift.  That the person would take time to look for something for you says volumes about the person and their relationship with you.  That by itself is worth more that the gift.  2. Giving is the ultimate sign of friendship, whether is it an item, or the gift of ones company.  Sometimes the best thing you can give a person is your time, to sit and talk or enjoy each other’s company.

In all, the gift is not the important part, it is the friendship of the people in your life.  They are the true gifts… everything else is just icing for the cake.

Stupid Questions

I was watching one of those “Global Disaster” shows on Discovery tonight, and how the east coast of the United States may be wiped out by the collapse of part of the La Palma island in the Canary’s.

Anyway… Listening to the show, more than actually watching it, I was reminded of a person I went to school with. For the sake of his privacy, I will give him the name Dick… which is oddly what he is, and another version of his name.

This person was the odd member of the group I hung out with. We all belonged to cliques when we were in school… Nowadays they are considered more like gangs, and some schools try to prevent people from gathering too much.

We were a group of nerds… Pretty much all of us, except Dick, were pretty good at what we did. Most of our time that was not spent in class, was spent in the computer room working on programs… except Dick… who spent most of his time, looking back in retrospect, playing games and bothering us.

He used to have these ideas he would pursue us about, and ask us for our input on… and these had to be, quite possibly, the stupidest or most irrelevant ideas that one could possibly think of.

One that stands out to me the most was this work of cerebral artwork:

“Hey… if you looked up and saw a nuclear missile coming right at you, what would you do?”

OK… Let us look at the deep and troubling philosophical nature of this question… Alright, Bullshit, there it is. Lets look at the reality of the question in the hopes that Dick ever wanders into this site.

1. Even if you were lucky enough to happen to glance up and see the device approaching, then you would only have seconds to really think about anything before you became incinerated, or at the very least blinded… at which time the only thing you will be thinking is “Damn I wish I was dead.”

2. Who Cares? You can think of what ever you wanted, but what good would it do? It reminds me of the poor whale that was created, along with the bowl of petunias, as a result of the Infinite Improbability drive over the planet Magrathea in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. You can think anything you want, and come up with what ever opinions you want, but but after a few moments, you will meet the same fate as the Whale and the petunias.

3. And finally… it’s just the dumbest question you can ask and does not deserve an answer. If you could look up a Thesaurus listing for dumb questions like this, you might find the following:

a. What would you do if you saw the sun go Nova?
b. Where would you go if you had nowhere to go fast?
c. What happens to all the missing socks that disappear in the dryer?

In closing, I need to add the following.

Dick was, at one time, a good friend… but as times changed and the rest of the group grew up and moved on in our lives, he stayed in his world… not moving and not growing up or taking the responsibilities that life and age cast upon him. Because of this, and only because of his own short sightedness, did he lose those who were his friends.

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