Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, how do you work this blog thing again? It's been a long time. In fact, just today, (somewhere on the intertubes) I saw someone proclaiming the end of blogging! That Twitter has taken over (and that in a year or two, some other service will replace twitter = gasp). I have to say based on my experience, I don't think I'd go that far as to claim the end of blogging. I think it still serves a purpose, and (like this post) sometimes you need to have more than 140 characters to put out to the world.
First off... Happy Halloween! It's always been one of my favorite "holidays". I don't really celebrate it though... although this year I bought myself a .99¢ tiny pumpkin on a whim. But I don't hand out candy or anything like that. I live in an apartment complex, and to me, it's just not the same as a neighborhood. (old man alert) Back in MY day, we used to have to walk blocks and blocks (miles?) to get a good haul of candy. Nothing like wearing a plastic mask that his just legally shy of putting a plastic bag over your head, because the 'air holes' to breath through are large enough to prevent long lasting brain damage from lack of oxygen. Not to mention how you usually ended up dressing for the chilly weather, but never failed that by the third house, you were sweating to death! Ah... Good times :)

Ok, onto my rants today...
I pulled into my bank this morning to make a deposit, when MUCH to my surprise, they had changed the name and all the signage on the building! What the?! I pulled into the drive-thru and asked the 17 year old girl, is this still "my bank"? She said yes. I said "Is all my money still here?" She said yes. I asked "didn't they send out some sort of notice?" She simply shrugged her shoulders. Nice customer service there huh? I hesitantly gave her my paperwork, and they did deposit it, and from talking with my sister who went through a similar situation, It wasn't like this was uncommon for the days we live in. But still. So after I drove away, I asked a few friends and family members if they knew about the name change, and perhaps I just didn't pay attention? No. two people I talked to, had no idea either. k, now I'm a little miffed. I decided to pay the branch a visit on the way home to ask some questions (and basically to give them a hard time about not telling me). I got a bit more of a shoulder shrug, but still it was a half hearted explanation. Basically, they made it sound like "Oh, the bank sent out some notices in the recent statements that maybe you threw them out without looking at them". (I just got home and went through my recycle, and no - no notice!). I asked them for a 'copy' of this mythological notice... and big surprise, they didn't have any. After taking up about 10 minutes of their time, it basically came down to... we did it, nothing changed other than the name, and we're sry you didn't know about it, is there anything else I can help you with?
I'm not mad enough to withdraw all my money and switch banks over this. Too much of a hassel, and I suppose they know this. But still... just 'burns me up' that this is how banks and financial corporations treat their customers today. We're just peon's to them, and they could care less about us. I noticed... all 5 of the people behind the desk today were under the age of 20. That's just sad.

Rant #2...
I know, this is getting long. I'll try to keep it short.
I've got a new enemy. I'm kinda proud, that overall, I have no personal enemies in my life. I still hold a few grudges against some people (like from 20 years ago, that I never see anymore). But as of last week, I have a new enemy. My neighbor. It is ashame in a way. I wasn't close or anything like that, but I always helped her out. I called and stayed with her the time she locked her self out of her apartment, I helped her carry heavy furniture in for her, I even tried to fix her computer, and I've never asked her for anything, except one time long ago, I asked her to turn her music down. Well, that's what triggered all this again. Last Sat, she had people over, and from about 8pm, til 11:40 she was playing her music loud. It bothered me, but I figured, I didn't want to be a grouch about it. It's Sat night, people were over, etc... I didn't say anything. But then... it happened again on Tuesday night. I had a rough day, and just wanted to come home and relax, but instead was met with the loud thumping of Latino bongos. I went down and asked her to turn it down. She did... for about 3 minutes, then to my surprise she turned it back up again. Nice. I thought of starting up my speakers, and all, but figured, no... that's what they want is to get a rise out of me. So I didn't say anything, or retaliate in any way.
Well, I bumpped into her again tonight on the way in. I asked her flat out... why did she turn the music back up? She said "I checked with the office, and 'quiet time' is from 10am til 10pm" So basically a big "screw you". So trust me... I'll be heading back up to the office to confirm this (I suspect she's wrong). And I'll file a complaint. I also won't give her the time of day anymore. Mess with the bull, you get the horns! Some people. If nothing else, this is yet another reason, to motivate me to start looking for a new place to live. (not like I need another reason, I've got plenty). I just hate to have to spend more money to rent a place.

Ok, rants over. See... none of the above would have fit in 140 charaters on twitter ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day (learn more here). I won't go into a huge post here, other than to say it's a time when bloggers are supposed to come together and post about one topic. This year's topic is: Poverty. I'll throw out two links for your consideration...
I am a member and have made donations on this site. I trust them. (though I admit, I have a fear that the site can be mis-used - such is the nature of any charity.) But at some point you have to put aside this fear, and just give in the faith of human nature to do good. If I hear the Kiva has made a mistake, or has been exploited, I'll simply look for another charity.
I should also say, Kiva is not a "typical charity". You are not just donating money to some corporation. You are simply making a loan to someone who: a) REALLY needs it! b) you'll get your money back (if you want it). I'll try to nutshell the kiva idea here, but please go to to read more about it... Kiva is based on somthing called "micro loans". You can make a loan for a small amount (usually $25). The idea being that I could afford to loose this money financially, in that it's not a huge investment. Then with lots of people who can afford this micro-loan, kiva collects the $, and then loans it out (yes, like a bank) to small groups of community organizers, who then in turn, carefully pick one person, or a group of people, to lend the money to. The idea is that for someone who lives in poverty, a $1000 loan could change their life forever and for the better. For example, it would allow "Salimata Diallo" a young woman who is a reputed dressmaker, to purchase materials and fabric, to expand her business. (yes, I donated/loaned to Salimata).
Over a course of time, the borrower is to repay the loan back, to kiva, who then repays me. (you can choose to "cash out" and get your money, or in my exmaple, I just turn around and loan the same money out again to someone else who needs it.
One last thing... (I really was gonna try to keep this short - fail).
Kiva is REALLY Popular now! So popular that at the moment there are NO groups to actually loan to! They are out looking for more people to loan to! That's amazing! To date, they've loaned out $46 MILLION to the working poor around the world.

I found this guy through a youtube video called the nerdfighters. His name is Shawn, a 27 year old Canadian, who is single-handedly making a difference in the fight against poverty. (I say single-handedly, but he accepts donations and help from others, but it's been his idea to do this project.) He runs a website called He travels in India and Bangldesh (I think he's currently home though at the moment). I'm not doing a good job here of describing what Shawn does... Instead, I simply encourage you to visit his website and check it out. IF you're like me and would prefer a video, try this one on youtube. About 6 minutes long.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Camping excursion

I just got back from camping, and am all cleaned up, and want to get some thoughts out onto this blog before I forget some details...
first off - On the way home, I drove through a lot of rural areas of NJ. Lots of farms. It's such a great reminder to me that the world (as I know it from my every day commute) is more than just strip malls, and shopping centers. There are farms, and woods, and trees, and fields, etc. So nice to be reminded of that. Anyway, on the way home, I passed several roadside "farm markets" ie: little shacks to sell mums, or pumpkins, or whatever is in season... well this one caught my eye as I thought it a bit unusual... 50lb bags of potatoes! Yep, a little shack, FILLED with 5olb bags! It's not so much the idea of a farmer having a surplus of potatoes, but rather WHO would buy 50lbs worth? That's a lot of tats!
So a little back story... I grew up where camping was a normal thing for our family. We all seemed to enjoy it very much. I loved it - getting dirty, playing with sharp instruments (knives and axes), burning stuff (in the campfire). What's not to love!? Well, As my family tended to fall away from the camping life style, I continued for just a bit longer. I used to go on a yearly trek to the upstate area of NY to an area around Lake Placid. I loved it up there. But alas (alas sounds a bit too dramatic), I eventually gave up on camping. part of the reason, I think, was because I lived in an apartment. I had no where to store my camping gear. Yes, my parents were VERY kind to let me store my stuff in their garage attic, but it was just one further 'hitch' in wanting to go camping.
Well, with my recent road trip to north jersey, I was taken by all the trees, and lakes, and streams, that it really made me miss my camping days.
I decided to give it go again. I pulled out the ol' cooler from when we were kids, and saw a checklist dated Aug '94. I think that was the last time I went camping 14 years ago! I was a bit nervous, and wasn't sure what to expect. Had things changed? Was there more of a serious reason I gave up on camping other than inconvenience? Time would tell.
I decided to just go lightly on the idea and plan a weekend overnight trip. One night... anyone can survive that no matter how miserable.
Well, I got my equipment out, (much to my surprise everything seasoned well, and needed little clean up). I did forget one KEY item when you go camping... paper towels! I managed to get by with an old pack of tissues :) (Note: That's another reason I like camping, it sometimes forces you to MAKE things in a DIY atmosphere). I ALMOST forgot my tent! What a nightmare that woulda been. I got about 1/2 mile away, and remembered, so that was a relief! Sheesh.
I also forgot to bring some newly purchased metal hotdog forks, for over the fire! But, with my handy pen-knife and a stick, I whittled the perfect hot dog cooker (complete with little barbs, so the hotdog wouldn't accidently slip off).
I got there around 1:30pm, and it was a beautiful day! All the trees and farm fields are changing colors with Falls arrival. It's unseasonably warm (Indian Summer?), but we still have cooler nights (more on that later). I proceeded to take my time in setting up camp (partly because I'm not as in shape as I was 14 years ago!) and partly because I just wanted to relax with no rush.
Eventually, I got all set up and kicked back in my folding chair (which after a while of slouching down into, is a Bi**h getting out of! :) I might have dozed off a bit but mainly I just relaxed and appreciated the woods. At one point a flock of small birds came to visit me. I heard them before I saw them. Lots of high pitched "tweeting". Then the more I looked, the more I could see them flitting about. Maybe about 20 gold finches, an un-told amount of chick-a-dees, a titmouse, and one other tiny bird (I think a type of finch) that I couldn't identify. I tried whsitling back to them, and in my mind had the impression they were talking back to me.
A little later a red-headed woodpecker showed up for a while too. (other birds this morning were a LOUD crow, a sqawking bluejay - who seemed to be yelling at the crow to shut-up! And off in the distance a hawk of some sort.
I really didn't explore much while there. I was going to go fishing, but forgot my fishing gear. It was ok though, I kept myself busy the whole time.
Eventually, the sun started setting. It seemed too early to cook up my hotdogs, so I practiced a test fire. I used to pride myself in being able to light a roaring campfire with only using one match! Well, first time out, it took me 5 matches! (hint: Leaves are bad! and it's all in the prep).
but eventually, I got hungry, and I built a second fire. This one I did right... took my time and boom, one match! I still got it! :)
I was a bit unorganized. I luckily brought a propane lanter (I hardly ever use that - too bright!) but all of my supplies of candles had melted into huge clumps of wax (I guess from being stored in the attic during the summer). I managed to re-create a lump of wax into a functioning candle, but it just wasn't throwing enough light. Propane to the rescue.
Side note: Hardly any bugs! I guess cause it's late in the season.
After a meal of just 3 hotdogs and a donut (wawa donuts were a lifesaver on this trip!), I settled into the chair with a book (H.P. Lovecraft's short stories!), an almost full moon, and a campfire on an october night. A bit spooky, but perfect! :)
As the sun had set, I put away my short sleeve shirt, and got out my long sleeve flannel. I thought this would be plenty. But as the fire burned, and my legs were nice and toasty (literally), I was still getting cold. Ok, I had a heavy hooded sweatshirt, no prob.
Eventually, I started getting tired and decided to go to bed around 10:30. (funny how rythms change when not around the TV or electric lights). I was surprised how cold it had gotten. I think it was only in the high 40's, but I'm tellin you, it was COLD! I decided to loose the sweatshirt (which was too bulky) and crawl into my sleeping bag with all my cloths on. (minus the bulky knives, cell phones, wallets, coins, etc). As I mentioned, I'm not as in shape as I used to be and just a tad bit older now. I found manuerving around on the 'floor' to be a struggle, but with an effort, I was ok. I get all situated, andsettled in, zipped up, and try to prop up my pillow (it was a little flimsy pillow I grabed at the last minute - I've forgotten a pillow before and that stinks... this pillow was just a hair above no pillow!) Lights out, and I lay down. Um... somethings wrong here. My head's starting to pound. DOH! I set up my sleeping bag, and pillow DOWNHILL! All the blood in my body was going to my head. This clearly was not gonna work. Back, up, and then you shoulda seen me in a "one man" tent trying to flip everything around - I had to laugh as it reminded me of the train episode with Laurel and Hardy. Finally... I'm settled in.
After a bit more reading, I fall asleep. But, shortly, I wake up again... it was FREEZING! My body was nice and toasty in the sleeping bag, but my head was like ice! I brushed my nose, and couldn't figure out why my mustach was soaking wet?! Then I realized it was from the condensation of breathing. Then, because I had my flannel shirt on, and it was a flannel sleeping bag, it was a lot like velcro! Every time I tried to roll over, or find a more comfortable spot, it was like some evil Lovecraft monster was wrestling me to the ground and wouldn't get off! I eventuall had to unzip my sleeping bag half way, in order to manuever... this was fine, if I faced one way, but if I rolled to the other side, my back now was exposed to the cold air!
So between all of that, fussin' and fightin' with the bleeping sag (as we used to call em), and the flimsy pillow that was like a rolled up T-shirt, and the -20 degree's, needless to say, I didn't get a very good night's sleep.

Finally - whew, this may be my longest post evah!
All said and done, I had a great time.
I'm not about ready to rush out again next weekend (the cold), but I think maybe I'm ready to get back into camping again.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I don't think I'll ever understand how the human mind works. I find it both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
I've been caught up in the political race these past months. (not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.) Any way, one of the things that amazes me, is the way our minds work in what appears to be opposites. For example, after one of the debates, or even the conventions, (even some of the Couric interviews) I am literally stunned that two people can watch the same event on television, and come to completely different opinions on how that person did. Then... each person (I'm sure like me) will have the same thought, in that the other person must be crazy for having that opinion.
A rough example:
2 people in the room, and me. I hold up a card of a certain color.
Person A: Claims that color is green
Person B: Claims that color is purple
Obviously, the card is only one color, so one of them must be wrong, yet each one honestly see's that particular color. When told that the other person saw a different color, they just don't understand how that person could come to that conclusion.
I find the whole process fascinating as to the whole mind map/belief/perception/reality. I wish I was a psychologist at times, but I doubt that would help much to understand. It would probably just take me further down the rabbit hole.

This example is a tad more disturbing...
Earlier in the week, I was going through my flickr contacts photos when one caught my eye. Turns out it was one of the newer short video's that flickr now posts. The camera opens with a view of a cat while looking down at something in the grass, and the camera guy's feet. The cat is meowing. Then I read the description and the "something" in the grass is a bird. I thought the cat had already killed the bird. But no... the person filming, proceeds to nudge (almost kicks) the bird in the grass, and the bird starts to flutter... The cat goes full-on attack mode, and quickly grabs the bird and pins it to the grass. A second later, the bird escapes and flys a good 10 feet or so away, before the cat (at lightning speed) manages to grab the bird again. Then the video ends.
I'm just dumbfounded that this person found pleasure in both filming and assisting the cat in toying/killing this bird. Had it been me, I would have attempted to rescue the bird (which I've done in the past). I know, it's the natural order of things for a cat to kill a bird, but I also believe it's the natural order of things for a human to have compassion for another living thing and try to help it. Obviously, this is not true with all humans.
Then to make matters even worse, there were comments under the video... there were about 20 comments saying things like "awesome! That cat pwned that bird! you kicked that thing to..." etc... All but one comment praised either the cat, or the guy filming.
Really? Am I in the minority when it comes to this?
Why do our human minds have such black and white differences on what is right and wrong? How can our minds differ that completely?
Something tells me I'll never know the answer to this question.
ha... as I typed that, I just realized... If I think I'll never know the answer to that question, I'm sure there is someone out there who believes they have the answer, all I have to do is find him or her, and ask :)

note: I'm not trying to make some odd ball political comment with using these two as examples. These are not really related at all, other than they involve the human mind.