Recently in social Category

On Sundays I resist dawdling before my morning trip to the coffee shop. I aim to get up & get out post-haste .. cuz sometimes the Orange County Rebels (bike group) make a pitstop there (like they did last Sunday) .. creating huge lines (and forever waits).

They take all the seats and are a noisy bunch (.. ~50 of them). I'm usually half-asleep until I've had my coffee, so the noise & commotion is, uh .. not good.

I've been studying programming recently. One of the first concepts any aspiring programmer learns is the » if-then conditional statement.

Conditional statements take the form: If a particular condition is met, then » do X .. otherwise » do Y.

CrossroadsSo I'm riding my bike this morning and approach the intersection at Flower street .. where I wonder, "Did I remember to put the DVD in my hip-pack?" .. cuz I need to return it to the library.

And all of a sudden .. without any effort on my part, this whole if-then conditional statement (beautifully formatted) pops into my conscious mind. Now I'm sure I've negotiated many similar if-then scenarios before .. but never so explicitly.

So I stop the bike at the Flower intersection and peek into my hip-pack. If I have the DVD with me, I'm gonna turn left onto Flower and » take Flower down to the library and drop off the DVD.

But the library sits on a main road (noisy, lotsa traffic). I'd rather take the back roads, which are far more scenic and quiet. So otherwise (then), I continue straight and » take the backroads.

I could've dropped off the DVD after coffee (nothing bothers me after coffee), but I wanted to stop at the grocery store afterwards, and pick up a few things. And the grocery store is the opposite direction (from the library). So I'd have to drop it off now.

Anyway, it surprised me to see how quickly & easily this technological concept had superimposed itself (unrequested, no less) over my conscious life. So sharp & clear. Pronounced & pervasive. I mean, I didn't really want this formal if-then statement to invade my thinking. I'd rather keep that aspect isolated to the Programming part of my life. But I couldn't.

At the coffee shop, I shared my experience with Kurt .. who is always sitting there, programming games on his laptop at the corner table. He's a programmer who specializes in generating 3D graphics for some small Gaming company that makes games for the Nintendo Wii. "You've just decribed the last 30 years of my life," he said.

Strange coincidences. Ever had 'em? Things that seem highly improbable. Jung termed these attention-getting coincidences » "synchronicity," which he defined as » "two or more events which are causally unrelated, tho occurring together in a meaningful manner".

Waikiki HonoluluThe easiest one to describe came when I was living in Hawaii (Honolulu, downtown Waikiki, on Ala Wai Blvd). It was a Saturday afternoon when the phone rang .. someone calling for the Dog.

(.. who was out looking for his car. It's easier to lose your car in Waikiki than you might think, cuz you can walk everywhere. I had a black Sportster there.)

The caller was hosting a card game that night and asked me to give the Dog his number. I found a pen and tore off a piece of grocery bag. I forget the number, but recall the last four digits were '0507'.

The radio was on. (We had a nice stereo system, with Bose speakers. Actually, that's pretty-much ALL we had in the place. You know how it is when you're 20 years old.) A commercial was playing as I took down the guy's number. It was playing loud, cuz I had turned up the previous song.

At the exact time I wrote the number, the radio announcer gave the address of the place he was pimping » 507 (Something street) .. for some tire store (in Honolulu).

'Interesting timing,' I thought. But then, I glanced over at the clock to note the time the guy called, and it was » 5:07. That *really* got my attention. My eyebrows popped up as I looked around to see if anybody was watching.

I told the Dog about the weird coincidence when he got home (after finding his car). He was the one who noted today was May 7th (»5:07). He held out his arm and said, "Look. Chills."

I know a guy who used to make serious bank. He always seemed to have a wad of broccoli handy. So it surprised me to learn he's now living in a ditch.

Homeless man"Where ya been?" I asked, running into him recently. (Hadn't heard from him in months.)

"I moved," he said. "Where to?" I inquired.

"I'm living in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Clemente," he boasted. "Presidential Heights. Not far from where Nixon used to live."

[ I used to live in San Clemente myself, just off Buena Vista, a stone's throw from the beach there, and walking distance to the pier. So I'm familiar with the area. ]

After sharing how his global Internet-based business has been taking a beating, and how he began having trouble making rent, he described how he threw everything into storage (for $55/month) and moved to a "secluded ravine" he'd discovered while surfing nearby.

"I arrive shortly after sunset," he explained regarding his new routine, "and park about a hundred yards away. To discourage hikers, I've moved some brush across the path. I have a sweet little spot, complete with Thermarest pad & sleeping bag. I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean every night."

While showing me a video of his "new home" (recorded on his cell phone), he continued, "A blue jay wakes me every morning. I feed him peanuts."

After an early morning aerobics class (where he showers afterward), he heads off to the library where he begins his work. But while he was in the restroom last week, some kids stole the memory from his laptop.

Was doing good until sunset on Father's day. Then it got to me and the blues arrived. Used to resist sadness, fight it. Now I just go with it. Roll with it. Flow with it, like a canoe downstream. (Resisting and fighting just wears me out.) Been here enough times that I know the drill. No big deal.

yin yang There's a prophetic verse in Isaiah saying Jesus was ".. a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." So it seems okay to be sad, tho not particularly pleasant. I get kinda numb, distant. Feel like crying.

Been reading a book on Zen a friend gave me. Interesting ideas, perspectives. For example, here's a passage I found particularly thought-provoking.

The context is about rejecting the notion that anything that doesn't involve serious effort (and usually pain-n-suffering) is somehow unworthy or worthless. But the concept can be applied in other ways. See here:

Now there do seem to be times when verve & vigor are appropriate. Times when force works with, and not against nature. As Shakespeare said, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." [Julius Caesar, Act 4, scene 3]

But when the tide is not at flood, when mere brawn is up against granite, the effort to go against nature seems more stupid than splendid.

At best, one could say with the French general of the Charge of the Light Brigade, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." To call it splendid is to base one's evaluation of man on his animal strength over what is more characteristically human » his intelligence.

This mis-evaluation is perhaps based on the common distrust of intelligence on the part of those who lack it, as something tricky, cunning and weak-spined. But this mis-evaluation also reduces the standards of human character until they are more applicable to pachyderms and rocks than human beings.

For after all, is the final test of character really just in seeing how much suffering you can endure? Your ability to endure depends on how insensitive you are. But being human is about, above all, being sensitive. And this means, the measure of character becomes, among other things, the quality rather than the quantity of your suffering.

Strange Looks

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Ever noticed, while going about your day (minding your own business), that people seem to be staring at you? Your eyes meet by chance and they quickly look away.

Rad-ensteinOnce or twice, it's no big deal. But when it happens lots of times, it starts to make you wonder .. "Why are people looking at me?"

Been noticing this .. the last few days. First few times, I wrote if off as mere coincidence. Chance glance. But today (especially) I started becoming self-conscious and wondering .. "Do I look strange?"

I admit I've been dealing with some gnarly stuff lately. (Was in court again last week .. the place where dads get slayed.) These things can take a toll. So I've been feeling rather .. 'rugged' lately.

Then (paying more attention) I noticed most of these 'looks' coming from .. ladies. Hmmm. Maybe spring is in the air and all that. But their looks tend to seem more like what you'd expect at a freakshow (a few mouths agape) .. than someone responding to birds or bees.

Dating the Single Parent

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Got roped into a discussion this weekend .. about the ups-n-downs of dating single-parents .. something with which I have first-hand experience (.. on both sides of that fence).

DatingDivorce is popular here in Southern California. So your chances of meeting an available single-parent are higher here than in other parts of the country.

"Here's a single dad!" called out an acquaintance as I walked by. (.. his table at the coffee shop)

I actually felt somebody grab my arm before I heard his voice. He pulled me over. Hadn't seen him in months. Very athletic fellow. (Always in stellar shape.)

I didn't however, know any of his 3 friends. Two girls & one other guy were seated with him. All seemed very nice, 30-something. None had any kids, nor ever been married. (I remember those days .. sorta.)

Muscles got a chair for me from another table. As I sipped my coffee, they brought me up to speed, sharing some of their experiences dating single parents. I could certainly relate, having had many good experiences of my own. (Kids usually like me, and I certainly enjoy them.)

The biggest turn-off (in my opinion) is when a single mom puts her kid(s) second .. after the relationship with the new guy. Never been able to respect a mom who did that .. no matter how flattering it might seem.

Yet the person who dates a single-parent (as the people seated at this table clearly expressed) don't want to be relegated to an after-thought. They don't want to feel unimportant. So it's not an easy line to tread.

As a single parent, I know that you can't help but feel fondly about people who go out of their way to be nice to your kids. Those who do (go out of their way) get head-of-the-line privileges (so to speak). This is not a conscious decision, mind you. Rather a parent can't help but appreciate (in the fullest sense of the word) those who are nice to our kids (I explained).

The Magic Words

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I like the coffee shop for its social aspect as much as I do for the caffeine. It's usually crowded, and there never seems to be enough tables. I've met many people there by asking, "Can I sit with you until a table opens up?" Nothing like sitting with interesting people, and hearing their stories while they're amp'ed-up on caffeine. =)

The Boy, the Bear, the Baron and the Bard

On days when I have the Bug, I bring along some children's books. (I've learned a lot about children's books over the years.) It used to be I was the only one, but now I see other parents doing the same.

One guy even shared saying, "My wife saw you reading to your son. Now she makes me bring books for our daughter." =)

Normally the Bug is friendly and engaging. Many have commented on his ability (for such a little kid) to carry on conversations with adults.

[One lady mentioned taking her similarly-aged son to weekly speech-development sessions after talking to the Bug .. cuz her son wasn't yet making full sentences.]

But during our reading-time, he doesn't want to engage with anyone, nor does he want me to converse with friends. He has even placed his hand over my mouth and said, "Don't talk, dada. Read!" (sounding more like 'ReeEEED!')

Of course, I feel bad for the nice folks who stop by our table, merely wanting to engage him for a minute and say hello .. especially after they haven't seen him for a while. They don't know it's not personal, but merely bad timing.

Earlier this week, I noticed a couple who seemed enchanted with him as he made the rounds, saying hello to different friends (seated at different tables), showing off his new pirate shirt (that his dada got for him).

Statistics suggest 2008 was the worst year most Americans can recall .. with stocks posting their biggest annual drop since the Great Depression. (Only 1907 and 1931 posted bigger negatives.)

Family of the Great Depression, liberated from a sense of futility

People who work with such statistics seem to agree things will likely worsen before they improve. Exactly how much worse is, of course, the source of much speculation. (Because nobody knows for sure.)

From what I've gathered (in talking and listening), most people are hoping for the best, but "preparing for the worst," which means they're buying nothing but essentials (.. further depressing the economy).

Might be worth noting that the worst year most Americans will ever see would still represent the best year for people living in many other parts of the world. So the terms 'worst' and 'best' are relative. (Important we maintain perspective.)

Interesting that (as someone recently noted) bin Laden's aim in targeting the World Trade Center towers was to criple the US economy .. (cuz that's how they defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army in Afganistan).

Another thing I find interesting is that everybody now claims to have seen it coming. Even at the coffee shop, I hear people saying things like, "Everybody knew this was coming. No big surprise."

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad. Happy holidays.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

My buddy Battman came over yesterday. Being from Florida, he has no family locally, but has lots of interesting stories, since returning from his world tour, which lasted some 18 months, and comprised more than 20 countries. Miss Julie was there, too (wearing her Ugg boots). She lived abroad in Italy for a while.

For Christmas eve dinner we had prime rib (the kind with the ribs still attached), mashed taters (enriched with buttermilk), and the best cheesecake I've ever had .. (not the sugary-sweet kind you buy in the store). Heck, even the salad was outstanding.

Afterwards, everybody retired to the living room, where we watched a Hallmark movie .. the kind that leaves you feeling all warm-n-fuzzy inside.

Went to Tom's last night for a house-warming party. He recently sold his townhome and moved into an apartment.

President-elect Obama & family

I said, "Dude, turn on the elections." He hadn't yet set up his cable TV service, so he dug out an old set of rabbit ears from a storage box, and spent 20 minutes trying to get a signal.

We watched the election returns on his (new) plasma TV .. connected to a (old) set of rabbit ears.

The signal periodically faded, then returned. Interesting how we watched history being made via the old (rabbit ears) and new (plasma TV). Kinda symbolic.

Everybody was wiping tears. (Tho for different reasons.) Some felt history books a hundred years from now will point back to this night as a major milestone (.. for better or worse, which remains to be seen).

Chillin' with Babalu

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Was sitting in the sauna last night (after a workout) when in walks Babalu. Even thru the steam, he's hard to miss. (Kinda scary looking.)

BabaluI normally ignore celebrities, and try to respect their privacy (I've also seen Rodman working out there), but we were the only two in the sauna last night (Halloween).

Never ceases to impress me how gentle, in real life, big, scary people are. Perhaps that's cuz they have no need to inflate their ego.

Had a great conversation. He's surprisingly easy to talk to .. even made me laugh. Tho I'd imagine most people steer clear. Perhaps this makes it difficult for him to make friends.

Babalu hails from Brazil (Rio), and speaks with a strong Portuguese accent .. (which might be the world's most beautiful language. I used to date a girl from Brazil.)

He said his next fight is "in 21 days," .. up in San Jose. Babalu's record consists of 30 wins and 7 losses. He has skills, experience and heart .. which makes it exciting to watch him fight.

The fourth is my favorite holiday. Don't know another living soul who prefers it over all others.

Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, California

Maybe cuz it's the only holiday celebrated outdoors at night. No matter where you might be, summer nights are likely cotton-candy sweet.

Or perhaps, it's the fireworks .. or maybe, the thing we're really celebrating (» freedom, baby!) .. that does it for me.

Had the Bug last night. Braved the crowds and drove down to the Balboa pier .. where we watched the sun set while sharing a root beer float (from Ruby's). He was clearly more interested however, in watching folks fish, and asking to peek in their catch-buckets.

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