Smokey Says…

“Only you can prevent Forest Fires.”

Well, I wish someone was listening to Smokey when the yesterday morning. This is about 13 miles south of us, and as it stands now — we’re not in danger of the fires, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know its there.

It started as a very small contained fire yesterday morning at 5am and spread so quickly that by 7:45 as I was getting ready for work — it was classified a full-on forest fire. Having never lived near forest fires before in my life — the past year or so has been interesting.

Last summer, there was an onslaught of fires which left the sky orange for several days. Last night, while walking little bogart, you could look to the south and see an orange glow coming off the mountains — nothing freaky, just looked like there was some football game or something with an orange hint.

This morning, though, was something different. You looked out the window and it looked like there was a mild fog everwhere — until you left the house and were greeted with the distinct smell of a campfire. From Los Gatos to Mountain View, you could see the smoke in the air and smell the fire. It was very strange.

In case you’re wondering where things are — here’s a map of the activity:


View Larger Map

Planetary Exploration

There are a lot of neat ways to look at photos online these days, but I just found a new one called “Tag Galaxy” which will explore Flickr’s photo database using a planetary theme based on the keyword or tag that you want to see.

To give it a try, visit and enter any keyword. If you can’t think of something to search for, try Rainbow, that one’s pretty cool.

Play and Explore in a galaxy of photos!

Thank Goodness They Don’t Come in Threes

Today was just an odd day.  Slept in pretty late after a late night last night.  Got an even later start after my upstairs neighbors decided to shut off our water to do some impromptu plumbing work.  So, the day started off rocky, as I had to complain to the upstairs assholes and check with various other neighbors about possible recourse.  I thought I left the worst behind me once I left my cursed building.   Ha!  Not so.

As Swedish Girl and I were driving along the Expressway to Target, we saw a pigeon dart into traffic from an underpass.  At first, we thought it was just an overly aggressive city pigeon, but it flew lower in 60 MPH+ traffic than any other bird I’ve ever seen.  Not only that, but after it passed in front of one car, it dashed back and then we lost sight of it.  But only for a few moments.  The car in front of us slowed down and moved quickly to its right, but to no avail.  We saw the pigeon turn up under its driver’s side wheels.  I’m no fan of pigeons, but to see one commit suicide was pretty sad.

We shrugged it off, in time, and enjoyed our time at Target, Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Uno’s, and DSW, only to come upon strike 2.  As we were leaving the second mondo-plaza of the day (and enjoying the glow of a Celtics Game 7 victory), we were the third car in line at a dangerous intersection without lights.  This is the same intersection that I was pulled over once by Officer Beardface for driving too fast right through his half-hearted and half-assed hand signals.  Seargent Beardface chastised me, wagged his finger, and let me go with a warning.  Fitting, since he only logs about 4.5 hours per weekend and each weekend is witness to at least one collision.

The first car ahead of us pulled into traffic, only to be greeted by a visitor (at no less than 20 MPH) into its left fender.  There was a loud noise, the screaching of tires, and two plumes of smoke.  I remain doubtful that Officer Beardface (about 5 years past retirement, with a bright white beard about 0.5-inch longer than I’ve ever been able to grow) would have been able to prevent this collision had he been there.  Probably because he spends half his overtime shift nestled safely in the warm body of his gigantic SUV. 

Anyway, I yanked my wheel to the right and passed the stunned motorist in front of me, as he/she gawked at the accident before him/her.  I might have been the only one of us aware of the rotary just 500 meters ahead of us.  By the time I made the rotary turn and headed back homeward, I was a few football fields away before I saw the flashing blue lights of the law (Officer Beardface, perhaps?) in place to shut down an entire two lanes of Route 1.   I had beer and wine in my vehicle and was more than relieved to be just a few hundred meters from home.  All in all, it was a strange day, complete with bird suicide and a completely preventable two-car collision.  As I hoist this final beer of the weekend to my lips, I’ll give thanks that I made it through alive and in one piece.

The Giant Pool of Money

There are so many great shows on that take a complicated subject or topic and break it down in a way that makes it easy to understand for just about anyone. and are two of these shows that come to mind, not to mention Fresh Air, Forum, and All Things Considered.

The great thing about technology now, though, is that you can listen to a lot of these weekly shows when you want with Podcasts. The latest podcast episode of This American Life did a fantastic job of breaking down a complex subject that is extremely important in understanding a topic that is discussed nearly every day in the news — and did a bang-up job explaining it in layman’s terms.

The episode, titled The Giant Pool of Money focused on the housing crisis. It goes into great detail explaining the hows and whys of it all — and what was the exact cause of the situation. If you had asked me a week ago, I would’ve said that it had something to do with mortgages that people couldn’t afford.. but that was it. Now, I feel I have a very good understanding of the problem and just how serious this is for everyone.

The show even concluded comparing the current crisis to what could be as bad as the housing / banking crisis of the 1930’s — but is more likely to be a repeat performance of the economic period just before I was born — the 1970’s.

It’s a great listen and I would encourage everyone who’s been interested in the topic to check it out. It’s actually quite fascinating.

Dirty Thirty

It’s funny, thirty is a big deal.. or at least, it’s supposed to be. Everyone talk about how your metabolism starts slowing down and it’s the beginning of the rest of your life at 30.. I don’t feel much different.

I joked with Miss Possible about how when I woke up on Sunday, I felt like I had walked through some strange portal where everything was a little more gray. That obviously wasn’t the case — but people act as though it is.

I’m another year older and am much wiser than I was at 29. That, my friends, I can say with certainty.

The Game

Tomorrow evening, I won’t be able to be here at home enjoying myself in quiet calm.  Instead, I’ll be playing The Game.  We all have to play The Game at various times.  In my case, I have to go candlepin bowling after work with co-workers.  Other times, we have to buy candy, popcorn, or Girl Scout cookies.  Other times, we have to chip in to buy gifts for bosses and VPs, even though they make much, much more than we do and they wouldn’t think to ever buy us anything.  And if they do, they use the company credit card. 

I used to be pretty good at avoiding The Game.  The same boss that arranged for this second annual bowling night (if you can call candlepin bowling) also organized monthly summer cookouts in the courtyard of our office park over the last few years.  There were many, many things that I would have rather been doing than sitting around with these Dilbert rejects, so over a four- or five-year period, I was able to hone my craft in dodging The Game.  The very first time, a Friday, was a work of art.  Captain Larby and Mrs. Larby were coming into town for the weekend, so I high-tailed it out of the office on that Friday at 5pm, telling my boss that I had to leave because I had “friends coming in from out of town.”  Yes, they were, but not until the next day.  I didn’t lie.  I just used some creative chronology to my advantage.

Several other dodges entailed invoking The Costanza Method.  See, the original cookouts began close to 5pm, but later on, they started around 3pm.  This made it more difficult on me, but if I acted stressed out and frustrated while shuffling papers and typing away at my desk, I could convince everyone that I was busy and couldn’t break away for any longer than it took to get a burger and some potato salad.  On still another dodge – the most satisfying – I moved my car to an unseen part of the parking lot at lunchtime.  When the cookout began a couple of hours later, everyone was out in the courtyard, eating, drinking, and talking.  Two co-workers and I bolted undetected out of a side door to our obstructed cars and were home free. 

Now, we’re in a new office without a courtyard, so cookout avoidance is a game of the past.  Thank goodness.  But there are new Games and my mighty deflection techniques aren’t infallible.  This bowling night was initially scheduled for a few weeks ago.  I declined the invitation, citing major (and not at all faked) allergies; it was truly a message from God that He was trying to help me out.  But my boss didn’t blink.  I’m not saying she rescheduled because of me, but she set up a new night and a chief, if unwritten, rule is that you can’t dodge the same event twice in a row.  Like the 2007 Christmas party, for example…but that’s a story for another time.

Hillary &!*$%# Clinton?

Way back when, I was a skinny high school track athlete and Hillary Clinton was a freshly minted First Lady.  I remember how she made news when she announced that she was, going forward, to be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Whoop-dee-doo!  I think she much more quietly dropped the Rodham, right?  Anyway, my old track coach liked to pit the runners versus the field events guys using various competitions, trivia, etc.  On one particular spring afternoon, as we all sat on the track and basked in the sun, I remember Coach G. announcing a trivia week of some sorts.  The first question was something like, “President Clinton’s wife, Hillary, just announced that she is using a middle name.  Does anyone know what her middle name is?”

And without missing a beat, one of my teammates gave me a comedy moment that I’ll never forget.  His loud answer was, “Bitch?!?”

Brilliant.  Classic.  Hilarious.  It was just so unexpected, especially from a 16 year-old inner-city kid.  And in my mind, he and Hillary are forever linked. 

Carpetboggled: Addendum

As I headed out of my building this morning at 7:30, I noticed that the note (see my May 8 post, below) was gone.  These damn carpets aren’t going to get any respect now!  But that’s what I like about this building – every so often, the condo manager or an irate resident posts a bullshit note and someone here who thinks along the same lines as I do, rips it down in under 24 hours.  Take that, bitch! 

Carpetboggled

LTJ is on his game.  In his response to my post from yesterday, he wondered why the carpets weren’t replaced back in March within a / within the week, as the note promised.  I have no idea.  I live in a highly dysfunctional building.  But the association added to its legacy today.  Taped to the front and rear entrances is this note, attributed to the condo manager (or whatever his title is; he doesn’t live here):

Attention Residents:

The carpets have all been replaced.  Please respect them.

Thank you,

[Asshole I won’t name]

I’m bemused and mystified by this note.  I have to respect the carpets?  How?  Should I engage them in polite smalltalk?  Should I ask if they need anything from the store on my way out?  Should I take off my shoes when entering the building?  Were the old carpets disrespected?  Did someone talk about them behind their back?  They looked respected to me.  No rips, tears, or holes.  No online blog dedicated to libeling them.  Strange, but it’s just another day in the life of the “Washington Arms.”