Thursday, August 31, 2006

surgery

I have twelve days to go before a co-worker returns to work after an operation. Earlier this week she had breast reduction surgery. We’re friends, but what can a guy say to a woman after such a procedure without possibly getting into trouble?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

southern california

We spent the second half of our trip visiting my sister and her husband in Southern California. They have a very large house overlooking the Pomona and inland valleys. The elevation of the valley floor is about 800 feet and rises to a height at their house of close to 3000 feet. The south side of the house overlooks the valley while from the other side looks up to the more than 8,800-foot Cucamonga Peak of the San Gabriel-San Bernardino Mountains. At night, the lights of the valley are gorgeous. During the day, at 3,000 feet, you can see over the inversion layer – the invisible barrier that keeps the smog trapped in the valley. The smog makes everything look hazy, a sort yellowish gray haze at that, while if you look across over the inversion layer it is crystal clear. You can see poking through the smog the peaks of mountains that are some forty miles away.

In the old days, that is before I was married, this area was nothing but vineyards as far south as you could see. If there were not vineyards, then it was just rocks, sand, and brush.

One day the four of us toured our old home town of Pomona. My brother-in-law and I talked like old men, constantly commenting on how everything has changed. We argued about where old landmarks, since torn down and built over, were supposed to be. I saw the house I grew up in, my grandmother’s house, the schools I attended, Puddingstone Park where I proposed to Sue. The City of Pomona has more than doubled in population in the past thirty-plus years to about 170,000. I do not remember there being much vacant land left to develop thirty years ago. Despite the development, a lot a good memories came back.

Sue and I also visited our alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona, as well as her home town of Whittier. We saw the house her grandfather made in the early 1920’s, where he lived for over sixty years, where her dad and Aunt Lois grew up. Whittier has changed much less than Pomona.

We met my nephew’s fiancĂ©. We also met the greatest dog ever, Jock. My nephew is quadriplegic and Jock is his service dog. Jock can fetch things if needed, including beer from the refrigerator. He takes requests for specific brands as well. Brian is helpless if he falls out of his wheelchair and Jock has come to his rescue many times. Jock lives to help and is miserable if not allowed to work. My sister has no grandchildren, but at the order “Go to Grandma,” Jock heads straight to her.

Another day we traveled to Catalina, an island twenty miles off the coast. It was the first time we had been back since our honeymoon. The boat that took us over even went by the Queen Mary, now a hotel and permanently moored in Long Beach harbor. We spent out wedding night there. On Catalina, we went by the Zane Grey house where we honeymooned 32 years ago. Still looks the same and still has the wonderful view of the city and harbor of Avalon.

We spent our last day at the mother of all outlet malls, Ontario Mills. My sister and Sue spent three hours in one store alone. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring a book so I was able to find an outside bench where I could read while enjoyably baking in the California heat. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

The thing that most impressed me about Southern California this trip was the mountains. I knew the San Gabriel-San Bernardino range was 5,000+ feet, with a number of peaks above 8,000 feet. I grew up looking at 10,000-foot Mount Baldy (officially Mt. San Antonio) out my bedroom window, at least when it was not too smoggy. However, I had forgotten how extensive and impressive-looking the mountains were.

We have pictures of my sister’s house as well as some of our touring.

I love California, but driving back home from the airport we both realized how even more beautiful the North Country is. There is no place I’d rather live.

Be blessed!
RB

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

northern california

I am still catching up with stuff after being away for ten days. The first half of our trip was spent in Northern California with my mom. She lives in a home on the side of a hill overlooking Clearlake – a little over 100 miles north of San Francisco and a bit north of Napa Valley. We had beautiful weather, highs in the 80’s with blue skies. (The last time I was there it was over 100!) I love the feel of dry heat, kind of like you are baking but not so hot that you feel uncomfortable. The hillsides are lovely, a golden tan color punctuated by the dark green of live oak and manzanita tress. (I can always tell when a movie has been filmed in California by looking at the hills and trees.) I love the unique aroma of the California hillsides, of the dry grass, of the live oaks.

Although my parents retired there some 30 years ago and we have lots of pictures, I took a lot more of the house to get digital pics.

We spent most of the time hanging out with my mom. At 86 she is starting to slow down. She painted her 3-car garage all by herself when she was in her early 80’s, so I guess slowing down is relative. Now, a nap in the afternoon is not optional.

One day we went to a visitor center with displays about the geothermal generation of electricity. (The world’s largest network of geothermal generating plants is in Lake and Mendocino counties.) Another day we drove over to the coast, about 80 miles away, to visit Ft. Bragg (not the home of the 82nd Airborne in North Carolina) and then drove down the coast to the city of Mendocino, an art colony. The coast is rocky and beautiful but the water is far too cold for swimming. We even saw a school of dolphins swimming. On the way back we took another route inland and had the very pleasant surprise of driving through a redwood forest. The trees are so tall, so big, and so thick that it is other worldly. No wonder Steven Spielberg filmed parts of E.T. and Return of the Jedi in redwood groves.

We have a few pics here.

Be blessed!
RB

Monday, August 28, 2006

wild turkeys love grapes

We just got back yesterday from a 10-day vacation in California. My mom lives in Northern California and her next-door neighbor has been raising grapes to make wine. He has a six-foot fence surrounding his mini-vinyard topped with sparkling pin wheels to keep away the birds. He also has netting on the vines to keep the grapes safe. Unfortunately, he lives in San Francisco and doesn't know that wild turkeys have been enjoying the fruits of his labor. I never heard of wild turkeys in California and this is the first time my mom has ever seen any. Here's the photographic evidence.

Be blessed!
RB

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

a diet of the mind

Yesterday I woke up depressed. I was depressed all day long. I got nothing done. I not only wasted a day of my life, I was miserable to boot.

The thing is, it was all self-inflicted. It was my fault and not only should I have known better, I did know better.

It started with a negative thought the night before. I assumed (thought, guessed, fantasized?) that someone had lied to me. Then I thought of probable consequences if that person had lied. Then I imagined further consequences. I didn’t sleep because I was thinking and rethinking, stewing about it, imagining the various possible outcomes and all the outcomes were bad, very bad. By morning I had had only one or two hours of sleep.

I found out in the morning that the consequences imagined did not come to pass and that it was improbable that the person had lied. By then it was too late. I was tired and depressed. The truth was good but it was too late. I already was realizing the negative fruit of my negative thinking. The truth being delayed as it was did not kill the fruit. To just snap out of it doesn't often happen with depression.

I knew better. This had happened before. There are about ten categories or types of lies that are usually part of negative thinking. I had accessed and used a few of them. I knew it as I was doing it. As I told you, I knew better.

There was a probability that I was lied to. If lied to, then there was a high probability that it would have some of the consequences imagined. If those consequences imagined happened, then there was a good chance that other bad things would happen. A problem is, if you string together a number of even high conditional probabilities, you end up with a small probability. It is essentially taking a fraction of a fraction of a fraction, etc. Now matter how big the original fraction, you end up with a small fraction. Another example, if you flip a fair coin ten times in a row, it could come up heads each time. However, the chances are less than one in a thousand. Not a smart bet.

A bigger problem is that I assigned near certainty to probabilities to which I hadn’t a clue as to their magnitudes. My brilliant insight is such that I was pretty certain that I was lied to. Of course, if that was so, it is only reasonable to conclude…. Looking back, I can see no justification for my certainty but given the wonderfulness of my brilliant mind, I must have had a good reason at the time. Yeah, right.

The reason I did it was because I enjoyed it at the time. I love what I call “the joy of discovery” of working things out, of figuring things out. Sure the outcomes are not pleasant, but the process is enjoyable. It makes me feel smart: I’m not going to be caught by surprise; no one can put anything past me; I’m way ahead of the game; I’ve got it all figured out.

In the movie A Beautiful Mind, when asked how he coped with or managed his severe, debilitating mental illness, Professor John Nash commented, “It is like a diet of the mind, I choose not to indulge certain appetites." Sunday night I was indulging in certain appetites for negative thinking. It was like someone who overeats and suffers indigestion, or like someone eats delicious food that he knows will later disagree with him or cause a painful reaction.

What I did is very common. I see others doing it all the time although they are unaware that they are indulging in destructive diets of the mind. (I’m sort of like the reformed alcoholic who can easily spot someone with a drinking problem.) Just the other day I talked with a young woman who was having some difficulties working out a particular situation. I suggested alternative approaches but of course she had already considered all the possibilities. She knew what perfect strangers would do, she knew their hearts, she knew that anything suggested would not work and why it would be a waste of time. She suffered this old guy’s attempts at being helpful, tolerating my limited understanding despite, or maybe because of, her overwhelming confidence in the brilliance of her insights. It would take far too long and be too, too much trouble to bring me up to speed. She was smart; she was not going to be caught by surprise; no one can put anything past her; she was way ahead of the game; she had it all figured out.

She also has an obvious problem with depression. Talking to her at different times, I have observed such negative thinking as a pattern, a habit. It bears fruit.

Now, do not accuse me of blaming the victim. I am not blaming people for their own depression. Yes, depression can have a bio-chemical basis; there even can be a genetic predisposition to depression. The young lady in question could have had all sorts of bad things happen to her (e.g., physical or emotional abuse) and this is her way of coping, of protecting herself from future hurts.

My point is that many, but certainly not all, people with depression unknowingly feed the depression with a diet of negative thinking. They habitually believe one or more of the ten categories of negative-thinking lies. Depression is deceptive and all too often depression relies upon deception. The problem with effective deception is that the lies are held as truth. It is hard to get someone to give up what they think to be truth, especially if that truth was obtained by their hard work and that truth validates some of their few positive self-images.

No blame-game intended. Many are in a trap of deception, a vicious circle of self-deceiving negative thinking, a poisonous diet of the mind. I have been there. Sometimes I am still there. I take no pride in what little “overcoming” that has happened. It was not my brilliance that occasionally led me away from lying to myself with negative thinking. It was not even my understanding of how screwed up I was. It was a path, a series of events, that I did not plan which forced me to realize that not only was I screwed up, but that many of the few positive things I thought about myself were not there. I'm not so smart nor am I insightful. I never had it figured out and I was most often flat out wrong. I was far worse than the bad person I imagined myself to be. I was far worse even taking into account that I was even wrong about the many bad things I held as truth about myself.

I also was very blessed to have had someone to show me how to begin to manage a diet of the mind, to choose not to indulge certain appetites.

I would have never have entered that path voluntarily. I would have never wanted the pain of discovery that accompanies finding out the truth about myself.

I would have never have figured it out. I know because I tried for many years to understand. In the end, I found out I was never even close to understanding.

My, I do go on. Sometimes my wife sees me at the computer and asks me what I’m doing. If I am blogging, I tell her I am writing to myself and she understands what I mean. I’m afraid that really applies to today's post. If people happen to come across this, people who need to understand what I am writing, they are quite unlikely to see themselves. I know there was a time I wouldn’t have recognized me in this post.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

venusian princess vs. martian warrior: epilogue

Each morning I try to read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to that day of the month. Here are some things I’ve found in the past few days:

An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.
~Proverbs 12:13

From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.
~Proverbs 12:14

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
~ Proverbs 12:15

A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.
~ Proverbs 12:23

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
~ Proverbs 13:3

Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.
~Proverbs 13:15

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
~ Proverbs 14:12 (I read ahead to tomorrow’s chapter.)

Be blessed!
RB

Friday, August 11, 2006

venusian princess vs. martian warrior

Disclaimer: The following conversation is pure fiction. It is about a friend of mine. I found it on the internet. It is a fantasy which I just made up at night while I couldn’t sleep. It does not involve me. Besides, I was out of town when it happened.

*****

she: Those little ants are back in the kitchen. I cleaned and sprayed around the cat’s dish…blah, blah, blah, blah… blah, blah, blah, blah, …I cleaned behind the stove. I sprayed. I don’t understand… blah, blah, blah, blah… blah, blah, blah, blah….

he: Uh huh. [I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing.…]

she: blah, blah, blah, blah. I can’t see where they are coming from…blah, blah, blah, blah…This is frustrating. blah, blah, blah, blahblah, blah, blah, blah….

he: Uh huh. [I can do this. I am doing this: I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing. I will not say a thing….]

she: blah, blah, blah, blahblah, blah, blah, blah…I can’t stand those little ants. Where are they coming from?

he: Just put out some Tero (ant poison). [Geez, I know she doesn’t want a solution. She even was starting to wind down. And I couldn’t hold out for a couple more minutes?]

she: I did not ask for a solution.

he: …As matter of fact, you did. [Wonderful. All I had to say was, “Sorry, dear. You are right. Would you please forgive me?” But no, I wouldn't back down; I wouldn't roll over. Now, I’m toast. The kitchen is an igloo. There is not much more to lose. No need for compromise, only victory or nothing.]

she: I did not ask for a solution. You cannot say I asked for a solution. All I did was ask where the ants were coming from.

he: Why did you want to know where the ants were coming from? [I am going to see this through. I am committed. I am not only going to succeed, but I have also gained valuable insight into the mindset of a suicide bomber.]

she: So I can get at them and kill them.

he: That is why you put out the Tero. [Keep it up. I have not raised my voice. I show no emotion. I’m speaking in a matter-of-fact tone. I’m calm. I’m collected. Man, I’d make a good suicide bomber.]

she: How can I put the poison out if I don’t know where they are coming from?

he: It doesn’t matter where they are coming from. You put it where you can see them. [She misplayed that. My you-asked-for-a-solution gambit was shaky but she ceded that to me and now she is attacking the solution. In terms of a civil war battlefield, I now have the good ground.]

she: You mean I’m supposed to drop the poison on the ants as they walk by?

he: You put it out where they travel. They carry the poison back to where they are from. [Her sarcastic reply was a last, desperate counterattack. If I stay cool, stay calm, I think I win.…]

she: . . . .

he: . . . . [Yep. That is it. The suicide bomber wins.]

she: . . . .

he: . . . . [Maybe I should go to the office? After six to eight hours at the office, there is a good chance that she’ll cool down and the house will have defrosted some.]

she: . . . .

he: . . . . [Coffee. They have coffee at the office. Coffee is warm. Coffee is comforting. Coffee is good....]

she: . . . .




Tuesday, August 8, 2006

panda twins born

I just saw a news report that the heaviest panda at birth was born at a research center outside Chengdu, China. (We visited the center in June.) Elsewhere, two sets of panda twins were born. Let me warn you, newborn pandas are not cute. Here's the story.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

cats do not eat olives

I have not slept well the past few nights. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. waiting for my son to come home from his first “rock concert” only to have construction workers in a neighbor’s yard wake me at 7 a.m. this morning.

I am more grouchy than usual when sleep deprived. That helps explain why, when I finally gave up trying to sleep and came downstairs, a box of cat food set me off.

Yes, cat food.

There, on a small side counter in the kitchen, was a box of cat food with the name Olives. I looked again…it was a yellow box with a picture of a cat…under the cat in large, fancy script I saw the word Olives.

Have you ever heard of anything so stupid as olive cat food? Is this for Mediterranean types who want their kitties to identify with their ethnic heritage? Are American pet owners so empty headed that they think felines would actually welcome olive favored dinners just for a change of pace? Why not add some basil? While we’re at it, how about a salad on the side? Could it be that maybe pussy is descended from wild, ferocious olive-tree-climbing cats but due to evolutionary adaptation has since lost the ability to spit out the pits?

I was not upset that my wife bought this package of cat food. It was probably on sale, a manager’s special, or she had coupons. In fact, the front of the box prominently displays “Save $1.00.” I don’t blame her. I don’t even blame the manufacturer. However, the more I thought about it the more disgusted I got with how this is just another indication of our very shallow values.

What does this say about American culture? No wonder radical Muslim fundamentalists view our culture as an evil which pollutes human society.

To borrow from the Robin Williams comment about cocaine, olive cat food is God’s way of telling us we have too much money.


Just as I was really getting going, it was then, "Wait a minute." I noticed something else on the counter blocked a portion of the box.

Oh.

The bottom part or the stem of the nine in 9lives was covered.


Never mind….



Friday, August 4, 2006

personal website completed

I finally completed my website. Today I finished up the last of my planned pages, an economic development page, so the site is done. Of course there is always the updating and then more updating . . . .

If you have any questions, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, compliments, or wisecracks, please feel free to post a comment.

If you happen to find any typos, and there must be some, then please contact me: just click the contact link in the upper righthand corner of each page.

Thank you,
RB