Saturday, May 27, 2006

All Hail, the Haiku Grandmaster!

Haiku Grandmaster?
Hail, the Haiku Grandmaster!
Hail, Cap'n John! Hail!

Friday, May 26, 2006

What a racket

A "disabled, homeless" conman boarded my bus this morning, the second bus which heads down Spring St. I've used quotes there because while he'd like everyone to think he's disabled and homeless, I very much doubt he is. What he is, plain & simple, is a conman.

He hobbled on board the bus, leaning heavily (and prominently) on his walking stick, then started his spiel, in espanol of course. Why in espanol? Because speakers of espanol are predominantly Roman Catholic, or at least Christian, and this guy uses that to his benefit. I see the same thing at our freeway offramps, "homeless" people deliberately targeting the hispanics, using signs written in espanol (first, with an english translation second) intended to provoke sympathy and charitable feelings in the reader. Catholocism has instilled in their espanol-speaking parishioners an almost irresistible urge to give their money away. It's why the Catholic Church is one of the richest "non-profit" organizations in the entire world, because it's so good at convincing Catholics to give away their money, whether they can afford it or not.

Back to the story.

Leaning heavily on his walking stick, the conman talks slowly and softly, in espanol, and I don't know what he's saying, maybe just preaching, I don't know. He talks for a while then says in english "ladies & gentlemen, god bless you" then he switches back to espanol. One lady (of south-american descent) fell for it and gave him a dollar. I was not surprised to see her cross herself seconds later (you know, spectacles, testicles, wallet & watch, well, that was more accurate back when a man used to carry his wallet in his left vest pocket and his fob watch in the right). I've seen this guy operate before so I ignored him as he slowly made his way down the aisle, as did most everyone else.

When we arrived at my stop I saw the conman was second-in-line at the rear door, and given how he'd leaned on his stick I figured it would take him a while to get off, so I went to the front door, which is closer to the corner anyway. As I got off the light was changing so I crossed Spring St. (with the light), got to the other side and stopped, waiting for the light to change again so I could cross 6th St. Naturally I was looking across 6th St. at this point in time, and I could not believe my eyes when I saw the conman there, on the opposite corner, running to get in line to board a north bound bus.

In the time I'd taken to cross one street, this "crippled" man had crossed both streets. Remember I said the light was changing as I got off the bus, this meant the conman had run across the road against the lights. This is the same guy who leaned so reliantly on his walking stick on my bus, and yet he was able to run to catch a second bus.

Sure enough, once he'd boarded, I saw him again slump over his stick at the front of the bus and I could hear his voice in my head as he started his spiel.

I will give him credit for having a good work ethic; it was barely 6am and he was already working the marks. That's dedication for you. But let's consider this.

He rides a bus for no more than 10 minutes, and within 60 seconds of him getting off a bus he'll be on another one, working that set of passengers. He might get just $1 on one trip, and nothing on another, but every now and then he probably hits it big and scores $10 or more, and he probably nails that at least once an hour. He probably rides the buses for almost 12 hours, 6am to 6pm, and he probably makes at least $20 per hour. Let's say he takes time out for lunch, he probably still stops for no more than 30 minutes. Time is money after all, and he probably still averages $20+ per hour for the whole day. That's a 12 hour day, by the way. That's $240 (or more) for one day, $1200 for the 5-day week, approx. $5,000 for the month, or $60,000 for the year, clear, no tax, no social security, no deductions at all. He keeps the lot! And to "earn" that $60,000 he does nothing more than ride the buses all day, fleecing naive sheep out of their money. If he really is homeless he probably sleeps at the mission, so no cost to him. Then he has dinner and breakfast at the mission, again, no cost to him. Come to think of it he probably doesn't even break for lunch (he'd have to spend his own money for that), so no lunch = no cost. So of that $5,000 he gets each month, he keeps it all.

Oh, but how humiliating it must be to have to beg for money every minute of every day, you say.

Er...are you not getting this? This guy is not "begging" for money. This is his job! He's a conman tricking gullible people into giving him money. It's not humiliating at all. If I knew that I could make a guaranteed $60,000 (that's Net) just by riding a bus for 12 hours a day, five days a week, and asking people for money...Hell yeah, I'd do it, and I wouldn't be embarrassed about it.

Look at what I do now.

I get up at 4:45 (or a little later), and I leave home at 5:30. I'm already on board a bus by 5:45, but I can get up at 4:45, have breakfast and be on board a bus at 5:15am, and I do that sometimes, too. So my "working day" would start then instead of at 6:15 when I get to my office. I currently work a 9 1/2 hour a day (but I only work 9 days in the fortnight) and I get home around 5pm. I could be riding the buses for the 12 hours like this guy, and still be home at a similar time to what I am now, and I'd be bringing home more than my current gross wage.

Hmmm...my current job will allow me 12-months of unpaid leave of absence, and at the end of that 12-months I can walk straight back into my job, no hassles, no questions asked.

I think the choice is obvious, don't you? I think it's time Cap'n John became a "disabled, homeless" Cap'n.

"Yar! I was an honest, sea-faring man, a god-fearing man. I went to Church every Sunday unless I was at sea, and then I always made sure to read my bible. Then one day a fierce sea serpent attacked my ship and bit my leg clean off. (Knock on "wooden leg" at this point, actually small plank of wood strapped to thigh). Oh, I'm not angry with God, for he was watching out for me that day. That sea serpent might have got my leg, but God made sure I'm still here today, and He made sure I can still tell you all that Jesus loves you. Oh yes, he does. Yar! Now gimme your damn money! Yar! Thank you, thank you very much. God bless you, God bless you all. Yar."

Hell, with a spiel like that, I could probably clear $100,000 per year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Liz told her side of the story, allow me to elaborate a little more.

Normally I take JE to the dentist on my Friday off, but Liz took him this time so I decided to surprise her by getting rid of the carpet on the garage floor. After all, she'd been complaining all week that she wanted it gone. This meant I had to move everything on the right side of the garage over to the left side, then pull up the carpet on the right side of the garage, then move everything in the garage back to the right side so I could pull up the carpet on the left side. Then I had to cut the carpet up into bite size pieces so I could get them out to the dumpster, and so they'd fit. I also chose to organize the garage, restacking everything neatly (I am the Tetris King) so the garage looked a gazillion percent better.

In the middle of all this Liz called wanting me to redo the shelves in the closet in the family room. The brackets holding the shelves are spaced too far apart, and the shelves are bowing in the middle from the weight of all the books.

So after I got done with the carpet, and fed Amber and put her down for her nap, I hit the family room. First I took out all the books, computer bits, toys, videos, etc, that were all on the shelves, then unscrewed the brackets and moved them several inches in to more evenly distribute the weight across the shelves. Then I restacked the shelves but this time double stacked the books (1 row in front of the other) which opened up space for all of our VHS tapes and DVDs, which had been rendered homeless when our entertainment unit bit the dust last week (Ikea stuff is reasonably study until you move it, and then it collapses).

Around 2pm I was finally finished, and had just enough time for a shower and to plop down in front of the computer, before Liz and JE arrived home, ready to head out to the first of two birthday parties (see Liz's Blog) which was at the Kids Island place I warned everyone about the other week.

We get to Kids Island and are stopped at the door because both Liz and I are wearing shoes without socks, and Kids Island require all adults to wear socks, but not shoes. No shoes (or bare feet) inside Kids Island! They will, however, sell you socks at $2 each (so $4/pair?) I don't know why it's ok for the kids to have bare feet but not the adults, but it is. So while JE and Amber ran in and started playing, I stood outside in the foyer while Liz went next door and bought us each a pair of socks. But of course she didn't just buy two pairs of socks (when any old socks would do) clever, money-conscious wife that she is, she bought socks that we can take home and wash and wear later and not be embarassed to be seen in public in them. No, I'm not faulting her for that, just explaining why it seemed to take her forever to return from the store, which was just next door, where she only went to buy socks.

I then spent the next 2 hours chasing around after Amber, who'd just woken up from the nap she'd had while Daddy was still working his ass off. So while Amber was recharged and ready to go, Daddy was ready to drop. Liz got compliments from all of the other mothers about how good I was with Amber; apparently their husbands would never help out like I was doing...come to think of it, I was the only husband/father there. What's up with that? I know some of the husbands still live and work in China while their wives & children live in the U.S., but not all of them do that. Where were the other husbands? Actually there were only one or two little ones like Amber, so it's not like husbands were really necessary.

At the bottom of Kids Island I discovered a two-years & under enclosed area, where I was able to sit down and still keep an eye on Amber. One of the other mothers brought her little guy in so for a while I watched two little nippers instead of the one. Then another mom came in with her little one, but she stayed instead of taking advantage of Capn John's Handy Dandy Babysitting Service, thank god.

The most amusing moment was when Amber got knocked over by none other than the birthday girl herself, right in front of Liz, bday girl's mom, and another mom. I pointed at bday girl and loudly proclaimed "She did it!". Liz told me to shush. "That's the birthday girl," she said. "Oh, like that makes it ok," I said. I was just being silly. Mainland Chinese are kind of funny though. They like to make jokes and things, but they have their own special brand of humor, and they often don't get jokes made by people who are not Chinese.

At 6pm that party was done and we dropped Amber with the inlaws, then headed to my mate's place for his daughter's 4th birthday party, where I was finally able to kick back, put my feet up, eat pizza, drink beer, and just relax for a few hours.

We made it home at 9:30pm and got JE into bed (Amber stayed with the inlaws) which was when Liz decided she didn't like the way I'd rearranged the garage because she couldn't find anything, like the crockpot, which was never in the garage to begin with. So she had to go through everything, rearranging all of the boxes, and more trips were made to the dumpster.

Saturday we went to the zoo late in the afternoon and ran around finding the six Dodge cars hidden throughout the zoo in some promotion Dodge are having. We saw a few animals but JE just wanted to find the cars. Dodge had painted them with photo mosaics, i.e., thousands of tiny photos of tigers fit together in such a way that when viewed from a distance they made a large picture of a tiger, or thousands of tiny photos of penguins that when viewed from a distance made a large penguin picture, etc. Now also on the cars was another picture, a cartoon of a tiger or a penguin, etc, and you had to find the picture, answer the Dodge Rep's question, and you'd get a small prize. Prize?! Did you say prize?! JE was all over that, of course he didn't care for the animals but just wanted to find the cars. Also the Zoo closes at 5pm, and by 4:30pm most of the animals have been brought in for the night so a lot of the exhibits appeared empty, so it's hardly an interesting place to be late in the afternoon. This would explain why the LA Zoo closes at 5pm, even during summer with Daylight Saving Time, instead of staying open a lot later like other zoos do.

After the zoo we stopped at a park just around the corner from Liz's parents' house. Liz called her parents to see if they wanted us to bring JE to their place, or if they wanted to come to the park and get him and Amber. They said they'd come to the park so Liz hung up, and the kids played for a while longer, but Liz's parents never arrived.

I told Liz they'd gone to the wrong park.

How could they go to the wrong park, she said, we're right around the corner from their house, they bring the kids to this park all the time.

Then her phone rang. It was her parents. They'd gone to the wrong park.

Now I will cut them some slack because the park they drove to is on the same street as the park we were at, but it was in the next city over! The park we were at was just around the corner from their house!

JE was more than willing to stay with his grandparents that night but Amber sometimes has attachment issues, and Saturday night she wanted to stay with Mum and Dad. She'll go to her grandparents when she's in that mood but she refuses to stay with them, and she'll scream for me to come and get her if they hold on to her.

Sunday we managed to sleep in late then did nothing all day, which is very satisfying, but can be very hard to accomplish when you have kids.

Thus endeth another weekend.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Where there's a will...

The guys doing our floor have almost finished downstairs, I expect they will work on the stairs next. They're doing an excellent job. We have the family room cleared out for them, as well as the upstairs hallway. Both our children's bedrooms are packed with stuff with from the family room.

Luckily when the Adelphia guys installed our digital cable, there was enough cable to go from the family room into the hallway and into JE's room, where I set up my computer, the cable modem, and router, amid all the clutter.

So I can still type Blog entries, surf the Net...and play Warcraft! :D

The kids are with the Inlaws, and Liz has gone out to Ontario Mills Mall, so I get to play by myself without interruptions. I said BY not WITH!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Public Service Announcement

If you subscribed to Netflix prior to January 15, 2005, regardless of whether or not you are still a subscriber, you should visit this website to check out the results of the class action lawsuit against Netflix.

Frank Chavez signed up for Netflix as many of us did for the convenience of their service, in which Netflix originally promised "unlimited" DVD rentals, for a flat monthly fee, the DVDs to be transmitted via "one-day delivery". Don't bother looking for that specific wording because after Mr. Chavez brought a lawsuit against Netflix they changed the wording of their advertising and Terms of Use. Netflix acknowledge that the Litigation was a contributing factor in them modifying their Terms of Use, but they deny any wrongdoing.

Nevertheless Mr. Chavez not only won his suit (or more to the point, Netflix agreed to settle) but he filed a motion to certify a class of all similarly situation individuals, i.e., a class action law suit, which was approved. If you are a current Netflix subscriber, and have been since at least January 15, 2005, you may be entitled to a free 1-month upgrade. If you are no longer a subscriber but were prior to January 15, 2005, you may be entitled to a free month of Netflix.

More information about the settlement can be found here.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You know it's a good workout...

when you have a shower, and 30 minutes later you're still sweating. That, or you know you're out of shape.

I got up this morning at the usual time, although that's arguable as I didn't hit snooze 10 times :P, got dressed, had a quick breakfast, ran around like a lunatic tracking down my shorts, door keys, padlock, etc, and still caught the early bus that comes by just 25 minutes after I get up.

Oddly enough, the early bus which comes by at 5:10am is more crowded than the bus half an hour later. Go figure. I still got a seat because even though several people were standing up, there were at least 4 empty seats at the back. I had to push past one guy who mistakenly thought I wanted to stand up in the aisle like him, but I got my seat and settled down to continue reading Thief of Lives.

The bus stopped at the El Monte Bus Station and a few people got off, and then we were on the Freeway and on our way into downtown. And then the bus stopped. On the Freeway. And not at a designated stop. The engine was off, the lights went out, and the driver called out, "Please, nobody get off the bus! Please, nobody get off the bus!" I didn't repeat myself, the bus driver did.

As the world famous Richie Benaud once said "What the f**k's going on?!"

The bus driver got out, then got back on the bus, and we heard him tell dispatch "I don't know what happened." The engine started and the driver rev'd it a bit, got out, messed around outside some more, got back on, rev'd the engine a bit more, and we were under way!

So I got into downtown earlier than usual, but later than expected. The doors to the Plaza where the 24-hour Fitness is located were locked. Automatic doors that automatically don't open. What a concept!

Fortunately a guy walking past was wearing workout clothes so I caught up to him and after a little verbal interaction that I like to call "conversation", I ascertained that he was also going to the gym so I walked with him. Great thing, conversation, you never know when it will come in handy.

I hit the gym, did 15 minutes on this treadmill/stairmaster/ski-machine type thing, had a shower, put my shirt on, and it gets wet because I'm still sweating.

When I left the gym I was passed by one of the two buses that stop outside my office. Fortunately there was a stop at the other end of the block and several people were waiting to board so I quckly ran and caught the bus. That's right, I'd just worked out and I was still able to run a whole block! I know, very impressive :)

I got to work about 30 minutes late (I blame the bus), and I'm still sweating. To make matters worse, we have a new landlord who wants to be rid of us (we're actually moving in a month or two), so he's being a total bastard and not turning on the A/C until at least 7am, so our office is like an oven (well not quite, but it's still a lot warmer than is comfortable).

Actually that did help, because my shirt dried out fairly quickly in our hot office :P

I'm still thinking I might need a second t-shirt to put on after working out, then after I get to the office and stop sweating I can change into my dress shirt. Of course maybe once I've been working out for a while I might stop sweating a lot sooner.

I was extremely impressed by a girl running on the treadmill/stairmaster/ski-machine type thing next to me. She was there, going like the clappers when I got on, she ran flat out the entire 15 minutes I was working out (and I had a good pace on me) and when I left she was still on the machine running her arse off...maybe literally.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What the???

I did a search on Netflix for The Craic and do I find it? I haven't yet, because Netflix tell me that 466 movies titles matched my searched. Oh, really? There were 465 other movies with the word Craic in their name?

Let's see...the first movie is 10,000 Black Men Named George...nope, no Craic there.
What's the second movie? It's African Grace: A West African Dance for Cardio Fitness...er...no Craic there, either.
The third movie is Alamo: A True Story of Courage. Hmm, no Craic there.
So what's going on? My search cannot have returned every movie Netflix carry, because I find it hard to believe their library consists of just 466 titles...so how on earth did they decide that 466 movies matched my search terms? And if none of the titles matched my search term, why wouldn't Netflix admit it?

I doubt Netflix do carry The Craic, because a Netflix search for the star, Jimeoin KcKeown, gives me three hits, and none of them are for Jimeoin, but at least all three actors had the surname McKeown. I'm sure none of the 466 Movie Titles have Craic in their title.

Stupid Netflix search engine.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A close call

A few years ago when Jonno was still alive (actually almost 20 years ago) we had a very close call with death.

While visiting a friend who lived not too far from the Dandenong mountains just outside of Melbourne, we went for a drive up to an observatory on the top of the mountains. We stayed up there and watched the sun set, then drove back down with our friend giving directions from the back seat, where he was sandwiched between his girlfriend and another girl friend, i.e. a friend who was a girl.

It was kind of like rally driving, and with our friend accurately calling out the direction and angle of each approaching turn Jonno started driving faster and faster, relying on our friend's memory and knowledge of a windy, hilly road that he'd driven many times before.

At the bottom of the hill our road met the main road, and we were required by law to yield to any traffic on this road. Just as our friend was mentioning this to Jonno we hit the bottom of the hill. Jonno glanced sideways and saw the head lights of a car right beside him. I'm not sure how fast we were going, but it was certainly faster than was safe for that road at that time of night.

Jonno hit the brakes sending the car into a skid, which he controlled perfectly. The car slid sideways and I'm sure we freaked out the people in the other car, as Jonno's maneuver had our headlights pointing right at them. Our friend in the back was practically deafened by the screams from the two girls either side of him as Jonno slid his car to a stop, finishing up right in front of a small kiosk. We were so close to the kiosk that I was unable to open my door without hitting the wall of the kiosk.

I don't remember being scared, I didn't even think I was about to die. Thoughts of death or the impending collision with another car never even entered my mind. This was just a year or two after I'd almost killed myself in a high-speed collision with a massive tree that left my car destroyed, so you'd think I would have been freaked out at another close call, but I wasn't.

Did you ever think you were destined for something greater than what you've yet accomplished? Thoughts like these can be dangerous. They can give you a false sense of security, making you think that while you're not quite immortal, you can't die yet because you haven't accomplished whatever it is you're here to do.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Worst Job Ever!!!

You need to watch the whole thing, coz the punchline is, quite naturally, at the end of the clip.
You'll also need speakers, but don't watch it at work...unless you have headphones ;)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wow ! ! !

One of the girls at the office who has a bit of trouble walking (& who hadn't eaten that morning) requested someone get her Carl's Jr., the only place in downtown that was both within walking distance AND open. When I went around to see her she offered to buy my lunch as well, so off I went to 7th & Broadway, which is one of the intersections the protestors passed through. This was at 10:30am and the crowds had already began gathering and marching. The roads were quiet, the sidewalks were empty, but as I got close to Carl's Jr. I could hear the noise of the crowd. Oddly enough the Carl's Jr. was also very quiet, with very few customers inside. Many people were still obeying the directive "No shopping". I purchased our lunch and made my way back to the office.

While having lunch with the girls (I'm the only guy in my unit) we decided to visit 6th & Broadway, which is one block from the office and another intersection through which the protestors would be passing.

At 6th & Broadway we stood in the middle of the sidewalk and watched the crowds pass by chanting "Si su puede" and "Aqui estamos y no nos vamos", which mean Yes, we can, and We're here and not leaving.

The protestors were mostly in the road, walking in front of us, but a few people were up on the sidewalk, and they walked around us as they went, and then there were more people walking around us, and then, had I not been a six-foot tall macho gringo, my girls might have been swept away with the crowd. As it was people would still almost walk into us before realizing that just like them, we were here and not leaving, either!

I stood there, arms crossed, and attempted to look friendly but also a little intimidating (a nod and a smile, and a pair of sunglasses help in those situations), and everyone was forced to move around me and thus around the girls. At one point a gap appeared between us and couple of guys in front of us, also just standing, watching the crowd, so we quickly stepped forward and joined ranks with them, and the crowd continued to flow around us, chanting, singing, cheering, waving their flags, etc.


We were in the middle of everything for I don't know how long, but it seemed like a long time, and it was intense. Finally there was a substantial break in the crowd, not that all of the protestors had passed us by, just they were all stopped down at 7th Street doing crowdy things, chanting, etc.

We decided we'd had enough viva la revoluciĆ³n for one day so back to the office we strolled, only to see down at 7th & Spring the same crowd we'd left at 7th & Broadway, and they were heading up Spring. We stood out the front of our building and watched everyone march past. Being that this was not the planned route, several cars and a bus were forced to turn around and head back up to 6th and make a detour.

Wow ! ! ! It was an amazing experience!

This is going to be BIG!!!

There are two illegal immigrant protests scheduled for today in downtown Los Angeles. Government officials estimate the number of potential protesors to be approximately half a million, combined, but there were that many for just one protest in March, and that was almost twice as many as they were expecting. I would not be surprised if more than a million protestors turn out today; that's at each protest, not just combined.

This morning while waiting for my bus I noticed a lot less traffic on the roads than usual. My bus was a lot emptier than usual. The freeway was a lot emptier than usual. A coworker who rides the train just confirmed that her train...was a lot emptier than usual.

Why is that significant?

Because today's protests are being run under a "No Business As Usual" slogan, meaning illegals should not go to work, or school, or shopping, etc. They should not do any of the things they'd normally do, except for the protest, they can go to that. So the fact that the buses & trains roads and freeways are emptier than usual means a lot of immigrants are not going to work or school, etc, but are taking the day off for the protest.

This is going to be big.

To top it off, our Mayor sent out a memo saying if we want to take part in the protest, or just take the day off, that we need to use our own time and request it in advance...but of course the Mayor can go to the protest, on City time. I find that just a little hypocritical.