A Matter of Perspective

[Today is Illegal Immigration Day — the day that we celebrate when the inhabitants of Miami Beach discovered an illegal boat person on their shore, and made the gigantic mistake of offering him and the others on his boat asylum… and look at what happened. In Los Angeles, of course, they just renamed the day Indigenous People Day. Back in the 1950s, however, the day was called Columbus Day, when we celebrated a city in Ohio for reason no one really knows, other than we needed to give bankers a 3-day weekend in October, because we all know they need the respite.]

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Indians discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portrayal of the Native American would likely be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

As today is Columbus Day, let us remember that unfortunate day that the Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.”

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened:

Read More …


L’Shanah Tovah – Happy New Year – 5778

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown tonight, September 20th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5778. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 29th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.


Gee, Six

(to the tune of “The Saga Begins” “American Pie”)

About a week ago
At Verizon in the mall
My phone was starting to die…
And I thought me and my picks
Could talk Verizon into
A deal on an LG G6
But their response, it didn’t thrill me
They called mall-cops, and tried to shill me
I escaped from that fight
Called *611, and made it right
I checked again, redid the order
Picked it up at a Ranch called Porter
They behaved like they orter
That’s where I got this phone…

Oh my my Verizon Cellphone
You’ve the only brand I ever have owned
Northridge Mall sucks, but Porter Ranch pwned
And now I’ve got the latest smartphone
Now I’ve got the latest smartphone.

This has been an interesting week. Back in August, while we were on vacation, I had a problem with my 4+ year old, 1st generation, Moto X. Driving through Aspen to Colorado Springs, my phone had trouble finding signal after we got out of the canyon, even after multiple reboots, when my wife’s newer Droid Turbo was doing fine. I had been having significant battery life problems, and we noticed the sides of the phone were starting to crack — indicating potential battery expansion. Given my contract was long up (meaning, given our old plan, I was essentially making payments for nothing), the conclusion was: replace the phone.

Doing research during and after the trip, I settled on two primary candidates, as the Moto X4 (though just announced), wasn’t at Verizon yet: The Moto Z2 Play and the LG G6.  Both were running Android Nougat, and both had the right mix of features. Although I was leaning to Moto because I liked their Apps, the smaller size of the G6 (the G6 was 5.86 x 2.83″, and the Z2 was 6.15 x 3.00) combined with the larger battery (the G6 was 3300 mAh, the Z2 was 3000 mAh) led me to the G6. Both were in my price range: under $25 a month. That number derives from the fact I was paying $40 a month for line access, and with the new phone, I’d be paying $15 with a $25 credit towards the phone: thus my overall bill would not increase. I planned to get the new phone once our current billing cycle ended.

Checking online, of the two Verizon Wireless stores closest to our house, only the Northridge Mall had them in stock. So I went over there. I dazzled them with my data, and we sat down to discuss the G6. They said the price was $28/month. I said it was $20/month online. They said, “Well then buy it online.”. I got on my phone and attempted to do so. However, I got to a screen instructing me to scan a barcode, with no other options. I asked them for help — they had no clue. I asked for a supervisor — he was out. I asked if anyone else knew what this screen meant. They didn’t, and they refused to tell me if the order had actually gone through. I gave a loud “Harrumpf” of exasperation… and they told me to leave the store and that they were calling mall security to escort me out. That got me even more frustrated (and when that happens, I tend to trip). I tripped over a chair, went flying, and they kept insisting security was on their way. I finally got out of the store, sat outside, and tried to call customer service (with the mall cops standing over me watching). After 1/2 hour on hold with my phone about out of power, I called my wife. She came over, went in the store (because they wouldn’t let me in), confirmed the order was not placed, and we went home.

Once home, I called customer service and placed an order for the phone — at $20/month, no problem — through customer service. Receiving the request to pay the sales tax online, I went to their website to do so. However, the plan price confused me, so I called them back. We sorted things out and I entered the card, thinking the order was placed.

Checked the next day at work, and the order was still “pending, call the credit department”. Evidently, the card didn’t go through for some reason, and they couldn’t fix the order. They cancelled it (which took a day to show up in their system as cancelled), and we redid the order.

That evening, I received mail that the phone was ready for pickup (within 3 days, although the website said 7). I called the store that evening to make sure I had all I needed to transfer, and to talk to a representative. Nice as could be. Driving home the next day, I got a call the phone was ready. I went up there yesterday evening. Francisco Linares helped me, and was as nice as could be. He helped me start the initial transfer, told me what I needed to do when I got home, and we confirmed that my current plan was just fine and the monthly pricing would be as I thought it would be (I’ll need to check that on the next bill). I picked up an extra Micro-USB to USB-C dongle, and I was home in under 40 minutes, when I thought it would take 3 hours. Yet again, the Porter Ranch store demonstrated that they understand customer service: they did it right.

Later that evening I ordered more USB-C stuff: a new power brick, a wireless charger, and cords and such.

I’m now the owner of a new LG G6, just waiting for the cases and cords to arrive. Comfortable in the hand and easy to use.

And that, friends, is the Saga of LG. Kudos and stars to the Verizon telephone personnel that helped, and to Francisco and the staff of Verizon Wireless in Porter Ranch for doing it right. Boos and 💩💩💩 to the staff of the Northridge Mall store, who care more about sales than customers. If you have a choice between the two, go to Porter Ranch.

Two final notes: People ask: Why Verizon? We’ve been with them since they were Airtouch Cellular, meaning about 20 years. We have 3 phone lines and 2 tablets, and in general they’ve been good. People ask: Why not an iPhone? I’m a big iPod Classic user, and I don’t want to pollute the iTunes ecosystem.


Devoid of Emotion

Today is Mother’s / Mothers’ / Mothers Day (How. To. Punctuate. ?.). I know this because of all the tributes to mothers being posted on Facebook. People talking about how great their mother was. Missing their mother for 30+ years. Missing her from 5 years ago. All these tributes.

I read them, devoid of feeling, for I tend not to think of my mother. I know I’m not the only one, as this post discusses.

This doesn’t mean there weren’t important women in my life. My grandmother (mother’s mother). My great-aunt (her sister). My aunts on my dad’s side. Godparents and family friends. (I’d add my stepmother to this list — my dad’s last wife — but by the time she came into his life I was already married and out of the house, so it was less of a motherly relationship and more just friendship).

But my mother? My mother was many things. Extremely smart. An astute businesswoman. A great accountant (one of the first women CPAs in California). A people person. She got along great at business parties.

But a nurturing mother who was always there caring? That’s not my memory. It may have been the case when I was young — I just don’t remember. It may have been the case early in the marriage, when she was raising my step-brother and I, when I was very young.

But the memory I have — perhaps from 8 or later — was the mother who was devoted to her accounting practice. The mother who left my care to housekeepers and her mom and other relatives. The mother who turned to drink and meds to deal with the pain after my brother died. The mother who yelled and faught. The mother who turned my bedroom into an office less than 6 months after I was out of the house. The mother who wanted the attention, and used emotional manipulation to get it — to the point where we had to cut contact early in our marriage. The mother who died on our wedding anniversary.

Mothers: Think about the lessons that your behavior teaches your children. You have the opportunity to set the example of what they will aspire to be, and how they will aspire to behave. Alternatively, you’ll be the negative example: the traits they consciously don’t want to have, the way they don’t want to behave. My mother taught me one major thing: I needed to do something different. My wife and I consciously tried to create a different relationship with our daughter, and I think we did.

Does this mean that I hate my mother? No. She did the best she could with her skillset and circumstances. By the time I was at a conscious age to remember the mothering, she was already consumed by the death of my brother, and her belief that it was her actions that caused it (it wasn’t, but step-mother relationships are difficult). So I don’t hate her, but I also doesn’t feel the depth of emotion that I see many express towards their mothers. My father, yes. My mother, no. I am, as I titled this piece, devoid of emotion. She wringed it all out of me.

So I think her for what she did raising me, and that we all survived. I think she would be proud of where I am now. I’m sorry our relationship wasn’t better, but I can’t go back and change the past and what happened. I’ll treasure the few good memories and move on.

Happy Mothers Day to those with great relationships and memories of their mothers. A tip of the hat and Happy Mothers Day to the other women in my life who provided the nurturing that I still remember positively.


Observing Fandom

Driving home from picking up the vanpool van this evening, I decided to listen to a short podcast: the Ensemblist Unedited episode on BroadwayCon.*  Listening to it, I realized that I’m not a fanboy.
*: No, I can’t link to it directly. They are theatre people; they don’t know how to make their webpage such that one can link to a specific episode. Update: You can get the individual episode links from http://theensemblist.podbean.com — not obvious, but at least its something.

Perhaps I should clarify. I know many folks that love (or should I say, luuv) their fandoms. They obsess. They know every word, every lyric, every character, the smallest minutae. They cosplay. They go to conventions for their fandoms. This could be science fiction, comics, theatre, TV, you name it.

I understand their obsession. I just don’t get obsession. It is the same way that I view myself as a professional audience. Just as I can’t inhabit characters, I can’t obsession about things. That doesn’t mean I don’t know them well (although I typically don’t read or see shows multiple times with the same cast). I just don’t fall as deeply for them. I think that goes for the rest of my life as well: I’m not strongly outwardly emotional — I’m quietly emotional.

To those of you that get so into fandoms. Enjoy. I’ll just be over here on the side. Watching.


Pissed at Water, In General

Today (well, this week) has been a day where I’ve been pissed at water, and no, this isn’t a Donald Trump “golden shower” joke. The only glimmer of a rainbow is that things are better than this morning, when I was majorly pissed.

I should point that that water and houses are a particularly problematic area for me. In our last house, we had a continual leak problem from our roofing heating/air conditioning unit, which wasn’t properly flashed during a reroof. We had continual sewer problems due to roots, and constant problems with caulking around a bathtub.

In our current house, we’ve had different sorts of water problem. There were continual sewer problems, eventually resulting in a collapse of the Orangeberg line and having to do a complete retrench and resewer a few years ago. There was the continual caulking problem around a tub, which was eventually replaced. The new shower has also had leak problems around the door (I think I’ve got that under control), as well as leak problems with its outside window that was installed upside down, and not sealed properly. Again, I think I’ve fixed that. We had a leak in our pool (also fixed), and I still suspect there could be one more, but it could also be evaporation.

So what got me upset today.

First, our reroofing has started in preparation for the solar install. Yes, right in the break in the atmospheric river. The roof was ripped off yesterday, and the rain starts Wednesday night. This had me all worried that they wouldn’t get the watertight layer installed in time, but they got that done today and should have the roof done tomorrow. Before the rain. But the gutters won’t be there for two weeks. Additionally, the DirecTV dish came down today, and thanks to the DirecTV schedule and the upcoming storm, won’t be back up until Saturday (my birthday). About the only bright side there is that I’ll have to miss the inauguration. Damn.

Then, of course, is the hot water leak under the slab in the center of the house that started three weeks ago. We just confirmed where it was, and the answer to the problem is…. a whole house repipe. In the middle of reroofing. The bids have ranged from $7.2K to $10K. Ouch. This morning I was worried that we would have to be out of the house the first night of the rain due to the water being turned off. … and thus not there to find any leaks from the new roof. Luckily, it turns out they will keep one bathroom up and running that night. Then it looked this evening like the start of the repipe would be delayed until Monday due to crew illness. Again, our contractor saved us (actually, one of his customers did) by allowing projects to be shifted so he could start tomorrow. Needless to say, I’m thankful for that, although these are very unexpected bills.

(I should also note that our shower door has slipped, meaning we can’t close it completely. They’re coming next week to fix that)

So keep your fingers crossed, or whatever is your equivalent, that we make it through to next week dry.

(Perhaps I should run away and join the circus. Oh, right.)


So you want to get me a present….

So you forgot to get me a present for the Christmas or Chanukah this year (and I know you did)? Don’t despair. Here’s what you can get me:

  • If you are someone who hates liberals, who despises Clinton and Obama: Please, give it up (or at least give up your online animosity towards Obama, Clinton, and liberals). You won the election, both Clinton and Obama will be gone from the elected political stage in a month. It’s not worth the anger. As for the Liberals, remember that this country was made great by people from both sides expressing their views and finding compromises that both could grudgingly accept, even if they found them a little distasteful. Liberals want this country to succeed just as you do (even though you might not believe it). Let’s tone down the animosity and the partisanship.
  • If you are Liberal, and/or utterly despise Donald Trump: Tone down the rhetoric. The hatred has quickly become one note, and you will come to realize it isn’t worth it — it may feel good now, but remember that it didn’t feel good when they did it to Obama, or when they will do it to the next Democratic President (and there will be one). What you do now is poking an anthill with a stick, and it doesn’t help the country. We should be respecting our President as much as we can, and being generally silent when we can’t. Note that I didn’t say agree. We should be continually working to rebuild our party(s), and insisting that Congress and the Courts do their job to uphold the constitution, limit the Presidency as the Constitution designed, and to investigate any malfeasance (as was done for past administrations). We should figure out how to find compromises to make this country succeed, instead of being small children and insisting that it is our way, or we take our toys and go home. As for Trump, we need to play to his ego, and convince him that he is at the crossroads of going down as one of the worst and most divisive presidents, or one of the greatest presidents who unified the country after years of intense partisanship. He needs to do the latter — abandon the tweeting, pick good and qualified advisors and cabinet heads and listen to them, and work to best serve not only those from the electoral majority states that won him the election, but those voters who are a majority of those who vote who voted for his opponent. He is better than that — he must be positive, not punative.

Folks, we all want this country to succeed, grow, and prosper. We may disagree on how to get there, but our goals (I hope) are the same.  How we behave on the network — at least many of us — does not help us get that goal. Don’t become the Internet 4Chan wants. We are so much better than that.

And that, friends, can be your holiday gift to me.

May all of you have the merriest of Chrismas Days (if that is your celebration), a Chappy Chanukah and a Gud Yom Tov and Chag Sameach (if that is your celebration), a blessed Kwanza (if that is your celebration), or just a relaxing day off of work while everyone else celebrates, thankful that the holiday music is finally coming to an end.


Here Comes The Sun

userpic=donnaI’m someone who doesn’t like change. Well, I like finding change in my pockets; but in my life, less so. We’ve done minimal changes around our house since we moved here in 2005 — a burst before moving in, and then one bathroom. This month, however. We’re ch-ch-ch-changin’. Going from small to large….

Televisions. When we moved in, we got a standard definition DirecTivo. That finally died (although we’ll see if we can salvage anything off it). This resulted in us changing out the Tivo for a DirecTV Whole House DVR — a Genie. It’s been really neat. It led to us deciding to get rid of the 13″ CRT TV in the Media Room that had a bad flyback transformer, and replacing it with our 27″ RCA CRT TV, which could work with the amplifier better. We then went out and took advantage of a pre-Black Friday sale to get a 40″ Vizio 1080p HDTV. No, we haven’t upgraded to Blu-Ray yet. Not sure when that will happen.

Wall Oven. As I wrote the other day, our wall oven decided to have a board fail just before Thanksgiving, The part is no longer available, so over Black Friday I ordered a new Whirlpool Wall Oven from Lowes. We’ll lose convection, because there are fewer 24″ dual electric options nowadays, but still we’ll have a new oven. I was able to get a good bargain, and 18 months at 0% as well (making it a cash-flow level).

Solar. Three months ago, we had one of the largest DWP bills we’ve ever had: over $1,500 for power, water, and sanitation for the July-August period. Last month, it was over $1,200 for September-October. This got me seriously thinking that it was time to bite the bullet on solar. Why haven’t I done it before?

  • I was worried about anyone working on the roof.
  • I had heard horror stories about leases and the problems that ensure.
  • I had heard horror stories about getting connected to the LA DWP grid.

In the years since the solar industry started, however, process maturation has occurred. The connection to the DWP is now much easier, and there are plans in place for purchasing, rather than leasing, the systems. One of our credit unions does solar loans at somewhat decent rates (2.99% for 144 mos up to $75K, which is where we are at) and one of their approved contractors was a long-time roofing contractor before they got into the solar business.

We had them come in and talk to us. It turns out that we can get some additional credits for reroofing at the same time (which we would likely need to do anyway — the current roof is ~15 years old). We’ll be moving to an energy-efficient reflective roof (with new gutters that don’t leak). We’ll be getting a sufficient large system to cover our usage (50 SolarWorld 285 w panels with Enphase microinverters, with a system size of 14.25 kW, and estimated annual production of  19.2 kW total, for an electric usage offset of 103% (meaning we should be ahead 471 kW/year, given past usage). The cost is large, but we should be getting back about a third of it in rebates or credits.

This is a scary thing for me, but the numbers look like our savings will more than cover what the new payments will be (and we’ll re-amortize once the credits come in). I’ve got a few smaller worries — like relocating/reinstalling the DirecTV dish and the loss of power when they upgrade the panel. I’ve been reassured somewhat that things will be OK, plus I’m doing what I normally do when worried — I’m blogging about it.

Despite the worry, I know this is the right thing to do. With “global warming”, it is only going to be getting hotter during the summers here in the valley. Power usage (and my bills) would keep going up, and this will allow us to get ahead on them. Further, with the new administration there is no guarantee that solar incentives and rebates will continue (the President would have to balance his disbelief in climate change with the jobs and economic activity that the solar rebate programs create). Better to get them now while they still are in place.