Saturday, July 30, 2005

I’m done!!!!!

I finished Graduate School at 10:10 this morning when I handed in a 40 question final examination in Strategic Management. The teacher shook my hand, and then he took me aside to pass along a few choice complements (which were unexpected). I’m sipping from a bottle of Asti and developing a good buzz. Life is very good. My MBA diploma is going to look real good on my wall.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Do These Fool Anyone?



I pass cell phone towers everyday and never notice them. They have become ubiquitous, a part of the landscape, almost invisible unless you are looking for them. Cell phone trees on the other hand – well they just look wrong. My eyes always find them; they standout. They are unnatural and confusing; too perfect, something that is meant to blend in, but instead stands out.

Yuk.

Monday, July 25, 2005

As it all comes to an end

I experienced my last study group of my Pepperdine MBA career last night. The team, Pete, Cesar, Michael, and I, met a Pete’s condo in Huntington Beach to assemble our final presentation and group paper. The team has been together for two years, yet the end was anti climatic; we stood, hit fists like the homies we are, and then went home. The same could be said for school too. As I move through the final steps towards graduation, I am continually saddened by each passing milestone – at the same time, I am excited about the possibility of getting my life back. I don’t think I’ve read a book for pleasure in over two years, nor have I played a single game of chess.

School is over for me next Saturday when I take the Strategy final. I intend to drink, eat, and smoke (a good cigar) and then read a completely useless book soon after finishing the final. I may even read a murder mystery.

It’s the mixed feelings that are bothering me. I know this in an important milestone in my life, yet the educational process was invigoration, if find leaving it behind a hard thing to do. Ah well, I can always get a Ph.D.

My only regret is that I took Strategy with Dr. Green. But… more on that after my grades are safely in.

I'll get back to posting picture soon - School and work have taken all my time lately.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cassie and child


Cassie, my neice , is the last person to make me cry. It was November of 2003. I will never forget it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bad album covers

This is a great review of some of the worst album covers ever,made check it out Bad album covers, my favorite is the villiage idots.

it is work safe, so please enjoy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Home-Grown Muslims

I came across this wonderful first person account of a Brown University student’s experiences with Islam My Own Experiences With "Home-Grown" Muslims is a first person account of her experiences dealing with Islam over the last few years of her life. I found it uplifting.

My own beliefs aside, it is nice to see her approach to the subject, which is to say, she used her brain instead of drinking the cool-aid.

Accentuate the positive…

Pastor Brad just told me to highlight the positive experiences in my life, I responded with "positive is boring". I was being my normal cynical self, perhaps I should have taken it as a warning…

A returned to my office to find an email from another Christian Friend pointing me to yet another “No Atheist in foxholes” BS joke. The Atheist and The Bear is a joke of sorts told at the expense of Atheists. It is not very funny. The basic premise of this and other such jokes is that all atheists convert when faced with their eminent mortality. This assumption is of course, completely wrong. Let me tell you why…

I was misdiagnosed with a terminal illness a few years ago. The doctor actually set down and said, put your affairs in order, you may not have long to live. This was followed up by a second doctor, who, if anything, overemphasized my pending death. Needless to say, I was scared. Despite their dire predictions, I did not become spiritual – I focused on fighting for what life I had left. God never entered the equation.

After a few weeks and many tests the doctors figured out my lab samples got switched with somebody else and that I had had some odd readings because of an infection. Some other poor sap was going to die. I got a clean bill of health & three years of follow-up blood tests.

Jokes like The Atheist and The Bear are not funny. The dehumanize those of us who choose to live without a god and help perpetuate negative stereotypes. I find it hard to accentuate the positive while a bear is trying to eat my liver.

Monday, July 18, 2005

On being an atheist

I went to the graveside service of my grandmother today. It was an intensely religious experience lead by a very bizarre cowboy pastor named Holiday. He wore his western hat and cowboy vest; he called himself the sin killer. I felt like I had fell down the rabbit hole. You see, I have no faith whatsoever – yet I understand religion's role in my family and friends lives. After a week of pseudo-religious talk from family and friends, plus a memorial service and then a graveside seeped in religious mysticism, I had had enough.

Sometime being an atheist sucks

Every time someone told me “she’s gone to a better place”, I thought, “What is better than here, with us?” Every time somebody suggested she was in heaven, I bit my tongue and looked away. What can I do? Absolutely nothing I have to say will comfort anybody involved in the process. keeping quite is the best bet.

My particular problem today is typical, a rouge pastor – Pastor "Sin Killer", a cowboy want to be, tells everybody assembled that Ruth is in heaven with her second husband John, and that she had a body with hands and feet and everything she needed to be happy, and that we could all expect the same. I was stunned (I was hot too, it was 105). Pastor Sin Killer did not even know if Ruth was a Christian, he had only met her once, and... which husband does she get to spend time with, and what the hell is this about having a body in heaven? And…. Oh, hell… it is all just a myth anyway. My grandma died a week ago, all I have left is a memory. She will live in my memory as long as I live and no more.

I could have been "Joe the Atheist" – but that would have got me no place, I would have been less controversial if I had stripped naked and dance around her grave. Being an atheist is controversial enough – no need to draw attention to it when everybody else is rapped up in their own beliefs.

The LA Times has a good Story on the changing climate for atheists – I think it might be time to get politically active.
Story

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mini-Eulogy




What little time I have has been devoted to working on the eulogy for my Grandmother. I’ve had little time for posting to my blog. The pressure of the last few days of Grad School, a heavy workload, and family commitments has left me with little time for my favorite hobby. I’m sure it will pick back up once the pressure lets up.

I’m not putting too many of my own recollections into the Eulogy – it seems more appropriate to give others a voice. I’ll put a few thoughts here through. An interesting aspect of my Grandmothers life that will always be a part of me has to do with food. My grandmother ate weird food and she passed this trait on to me. She feed me turnip sandwiches – I eat the raw now and love them. She feed by sugar and butter sandwiches (apparently, she feed these to my uncle too), I don’t eat these anymore, my body can’t take it. Then there was the liverwurst, bread and butter pickles, olives, figs, dates, nuts of all varieties, sardines, crackers,pumpernickel bread, and my personal favorite, apple butter.

It seems like she always had pot roast cooking, or pot roast leftovers, or pot roast snacks, or pot roast…. It was a smell that permeated her house and always brought a smile to my face. Then there were the pork chops… Oh, and do not forget the mashed potatoes and bread with butter. When I grew older, I went to Grandma’s to eat. I don’t think the cooking gene was passed to my mother.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Monday, July 11, 2005

My Grandmother died today

7/11 started good – but quickly went downhill. My grandmother passed away this morning after a long down hill slide into poor health and pain. I got the news by cell phone at work. it was delivered bluntly and without feeling. I had prepared for her death, so the initial shock was muted. I traveled to my sister’s house, where my Grandmother had passed way, to help console my family. It was a good experience, a positive experience, even seeing her in death was a good experience. She died surrounded by the love of her family. I felt good when I left. Of course, I needed a good long nap at home this afternoon before I became human again; it seems that the stress snuck up on me during the day.

I am currently sitting through a thrilling lecture on international money markets at B-school tonight in Irvine. The lecture is fading in and out on me. I need to pay attention, but cannot seem to focus. Even with the lecture, I think of my Grandmother’s death. I feel strangely at peace with her death. I have no regrets; I don’t feel a since of loss, in fact I feel very little. Her death feels natural, her death feels right. My Grandmother was quite old; she lived with constant pain, and suffered from problems related to Parkinson's disease. All this ended today – it is actually a relief.

I spent a lot of time listening today. Listening is a healthy way to help others and myself process the reality of death. I also thanked a number of people who helped in the process of easing my grandmother into death. I cannot imagine what it means to be a care giver of that stature. My sister did it for years, her friend Jan helped over the years. Several others actually participated in her care on a daily basis. Thanks are just not enough. These people, some family, some friends, some strangers, did great things. They deserve more than just thanks – but in my current damaged state, this is all I have to offer.

Now to the business of death – that’s a whole different matter. I’m sure we have some dreary business ahead of us.

RIP - Ruth Stafford

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July 2005 will go into the history books as a bust personally. I am still sick from last week’s Mexico trip, so I could only spend a few hours at the park with my family today. Moreover, just about all of the time I have had free today has been devoted to homework. I only have 5 weeks of school left – how much worse can it get?

I took about half an hour at the park to walk around with my wife and snap a few pictures. I’ve included the best of the bunch below. I had planned a photo essay – maybe next year.

Speaking of next year, I’m planning on going all out – a 16 hours park fest complete with gas grill, steaks, burgers, and all the fixings. This year, I’m eating dinner alone (most likely toast or crackers).

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Mojoey

Waiting for the 4th


Here we have a typical Cerritos Park East 4th of July enthusiast waiting for her ride to take here and her monster ice chest home. Please note the American flag stenciled on her cheek, these were “it” things at the park this year. It was very crowded at the park this year. For some reason the City has marked many of the best spots as off limits. Of course, the city fat cats got preferred parking.

On an interesting note, another fat white guy (I'm one too) approached me while waiting for the restroom to bemoan the number of "out of town visitors" at the part this year. I simply said "this is Cerritos bro - how the hell can you tell who lives here?" He gave me a funny look and walked away.

btw - I have not lived in Cerritos for over 10 years, I guess I'm an out of towner too.

Trinity discovers science


Trinity normally carries a bible everyplace he goes and tends to be a little annoying; not this year though, Trinity discovered science. He spent the day showing us his experiments, including this magnifying glass.

A couple of the cousins


What can I say, I married into a family of beautiful women.

Girl on a bike


This is the best example of the youngsters riding around the park with their prized low rider bikes. This young girl must of made 15 laps while I was there.

Karaoke backup dancers


Somebody had the bright idea of setting up a karaoke both near our picnic site. We were serenaded by an endless stream of bad renditions of popular songs until RESPECT started repeating itself (it was bad too). I looked over to find what can only be called the really board auntie’s karaoke backup dancers performing endless variations of RESPECT. I walked over to snap a few pics, they were hilarious. I was invited to join, but declined, as I have no rhythm.

Nice hats!


I saw this scene as I was leaving the park this afternoon. My first thought, "did I get off the bus in Arkansas?"

I snapped a few more pics, when mom and dad can hat asked me if I was a reporter. I said no. They asked why I was taking pictures of their kids if I were not a reporter. I explained that I take pictures of weird things for my blog. The blog reference when right over their heads, but the "weird things" picked a nerve. They asked, "What’s weird about our kids?"

I was at a loss for words for a moment. “I do not mean weird bad, I mean weird funny. Your kids are playing in tree roots while wearing soda can boxes for hats. It is visually funny.”

They respond, “You think our kids are funny looking?”

I offer “Well… Yes – what they are doing is funny”

Their parting retort (as I walk away), they may be slow but they aint funny lookin, hey don’t you have to pay us to take pictures of our kids?”

I ran for the bus stop – I needed to get back to California fast.

Texas State Troopers

I was driving from Del Rio to San Antonio early in the morning on Friday when I had an odd encounter with a Texas State Trooper. I am writing this now because I have been hit by another bout of insomnia and know I will not be sleeping again until about 4:00 a.m.

I got sick in Acuna, a Mexican border town across the international border from Del Rio Texas. Montezuma’s revenge or Travelers Distress hit me hard right as I tried to get some rest on Wednesday night. I received treatment at a local clinic and felt good enough to try to make my way home on Friday. It was a mistake. About an hour out of Del Rio I became sick again and had to stop near some bushes to take care of business (if you know what I mean). I was in place about 15 minutes, afraid to move and contemplating making a run back to Del Rio to ride this episode out in a motel when a Texas State Trooper pulled off the road and walked over to where I was sitting. I was having bad cramps at the time, but not in the act of expelling anything.

I told the Trooper my story. He did not believe me. In fact, he thought I was drunk. I asked how he figured that out from our brief interaction. He said, “Whenever I pull up behind somebody sitting in the bushes, they are usually drunk”. I asked if this occurred during the night more often than at 6:30 a.m. He said it usually occurred at night. I looked at him expectantly… (It is not night after all) only to be asked to take the drunk driving coordination test.

At this point, I complain – I’m obviously sick, he’s already checked my rental car and found no trace of alcohol, and I can barely stand up. He tells me if I pass the test, he is still going to get me public urination. I calmly explain that the word “public” means in the presence of other people. There are no other people out here off the highway so I cannot be “in public”. Again, I get the glazed eye – I am expecting the baton any moment now. He counters with “well you are still urinating” I say “what are you talking about” I was sitting down when you rolled up. Is sitting against the law? I added, “Oh, and by the way, it would be public defecation not public urination, do you have a law against that?” He actually says “defa-what”. All this takes place while I pass the drunken driving test.

By now, I’m sure he is thinking about putting a bullet in my head, nobody would ever find me. The vultures would pick me clean in a few minutes. My Texas State Trooper hated me; I could see it in his eyes. I pleaded with him, “look dude (the dude part was a mistake), I’m sick and just need to get someplace where I can get some help”. He relented on the drunken driving accusation and told me the next town was a ways up the road. He would follow me to make sure I did not get into any trouble.

He followed for about three miles, then turned around and went the other way.

The story continues as I try to fly home on Southwest Airlines. It was not a good day.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Photo Friday - Old Boots


What can I say, I'm a little behind.

Nutball Altert: Tom Cruise and Scientology

I have a rule; I only listen to celebrities when they talk about their own acting experience. I do not listen to celebrities when they say I should vote for a particular candidate or when they support a cause. In general, I put them in the same broad category as friends and co-workers. My friends and co-workers might know a great deal about engineering, but they do not understand medicine, or politics, or anything else complex at a level that would be called credible. They all have opinions – but then so do I.

Why should I listen to a celebrity like Tom Cruise spout on about psychiatry? Does he have a degree supporting his research? Has he published anything notable on the subject? Does he know anything beyond the pseudo-religious teachings of Hubbard and Scientology? No. No. No, he does not. He is an uneducated actor and nothing more. He in fact knows very little of real value about the subject, and even less about the case history of Brooke Shields. His secret knowledge base comes from Scientology. Everything he knows about psychiatry comes from pseudo-religious teachings. Cruise makes statements about a science he does not understand and expects the world to listen because he’s Tom Cruise. What a bore.

Therefore, even though I loved War of the Words and Tom Cruise is a damn good actor, he is a nutball. His pseudo-religious cult is the worst type of nutball religion. It’s up their with Wicca – It’s made up, a complete fabrication of a science fiction writer. How can people be so stupid? I can go on for weeks about Scientology, but I will not. Let us leave it at Scientology is a cult; it is dangerous and should be confronted at every opportunity. Scientology truly qualifies as nutball material.

*** update ***

It gets worse – apparently, Cruise is indoctrinating Dakota Fanny into Scientology. What is he thinking?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Judge Roy Bean Resting Place, Del Rio TX


The funny thing is, if left to myself, I search these kinds of places out. I love history, even corny border-town history. In this case, I stopped here because a sign said Public Restroom. I had come down with a touch of Montezuma’s revenge during the night and had ventured out in search of the local clinic. I was lost and ended up at the Judge Roy Bean Burial site. I snapped a few pictures then made a run for the local clinic.

Before I could leave, the attendant made sure I saw their famous Nativity Collection (very boring for an atheist). A rich patron of the museum had left her collection to the Whitehead Museum. They built a special air-conditioned building to house them all. At the door, visitors are warned to pet the cats at their own risk.

I was one of five visitors the day I visited; they expect about 10 people per day. That is a good enough reason to build a museum for me.

I finally found the clinic – a couple of shots and a few pills later and I’m still sick (four days later).

Del Rio this way


Acuna's use of color is invigorating. Where I live everything is gray, the occasional purple building is usually a porno shop. The main drag in Del Rio, Madero, is a riot of color. Bars, Restaurants and Curio shops all fight for space with each choosing a slightly different color.

Bloods graffiti in Acuna, Mexico


Acuna is notably absent of Graffiti. I think it might be a resouce problem. Paint cost money, which is hard to come by down here. The average wage is something like $8 per day. I don't think the local youngsters are plunking down a days pay to paint a wall. Now the "Bloods" seem to have the local graffiti market covered, $8 bucks won't stop them from getting their message out.

Brijesh


Brijesh is a new friend, coworker, and blog reader. I shot this early in the morning in Del Rio right outside of the international border.

Domino's on the main drag


It is comforting to know that even in a small little border town, I can score a Domino's Pizza any time I want.

Rio Grande from Acuna


The main drag in Acuna was blocked by construction. we were left to navigate around the block on our own. We came upon this view of the Rio Grande while testing a new route.

Whataburger parking lot, Del Rio TX



I made a burger run only to find the parking lot full of cowboys and their cows. I took a picture because… well, I don’t’ see too many cows in LA.