Thursday, August 30, 2007

Have you heard the one about...

... the militant environmentalist who drove around with a "What Would Jesus Drive?" bumper sticker on the back of his beat-up VW Beetle?

At a stop light he pulls up behind a huge pickup truck with several tool chests in the flatbed, a lumber rack on top... and a bumper sticker that said:

"Jesus Was A Carpenter"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hsu Hsu Pseudo fund raising...

Well, well, well... whaddaya know. The Democrats have one of their own Abramoff-type scandals. Not that Jack Abramoff was "bribing" only Republicans (he was an equal-opportunity "lender"), but this Norman Hsu is pretty much a straight-ticket Demos -only kinda guy. And Hillary is on the top of the list.

For the last 15 years, California authorities have been trying to figure out what happened to a businessman named Norman Hsu, who pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish.

"He is a fugitive," Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview...

Hsu, it seems, has been hiding in plain sight, at least for the last three years.

Since 2004, one Norman Hsu has been carving out a prominent place of honor among Democratic fundraisers. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York...

He earned a place in the Clinton campaign's "HillRaiser" group by pledging to raise more than $100,000 for her presidential bid.

Records show that Hsu helped raise an additional $500,000 from other sources for Clinton and other Democrats...

Laura Ingraham, on her radio program this morning, read off the 4+ page list of Who's-Who whom Norman Hsu has "donated" to or "raised" money for. Let's see how much play this gets in the mainstream media.

(Hat-tip to Michele Malkin and Laura Ingraham)

Pic of Steve Carell during Monday's shoot...

Here's a pic of Steve Carell of the TV show "The Office" during the shoot last Monday. The building with the green awnings is where I work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lame attempts at being artistic #1...



So, every once in awhile I'll take my Canon PowerShot A530 point-&-shoot digital camera with me somewhere, and I'll attempt to take some artistic pictures. Some come out okay, while others end up blurry, pedestrian, or even downright lame.


Anyway, from time to time I'll post a few of the better ones. This post being the first. Just click on each pic to see a larger image.

You are certainly not required to comment (unless you feel strongly compelled to do so - either in praise or in derision).


The four pics in this post are of a fountain in downtown Ventura, across the street from the San Buenaventura Mission. Someone dumped a bottle of dish soap in it, and the bubbles were all over the place. But it gave a beautiful glow with the lights. I tried various settings on my camera, and these four came out the best.


This last one is intended to be abstract (at least, that's what I tell myself).

The Office at... well... the office!

Forgot to post about this yesterday.

The NBC hit TV show "The Office" was filming a scene Monday for an up-coming episode... right outside the front door of my place of employment! Location scouts came by a little over a week ago and asked if it was okay to shoot a scene by the building.

Both Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson were here as well as a ton of production crew & equipment. They were here for only about three hours, then they drove off to another location just a few blocks away for shooting a second scene. The cast & crew even had lunch in our secondary foyer. Some of the guys in the office (uh, our office) had the chance to meet some of the cast & crew people. I was too busy working, but I had a great view through the window from my desk as they went through the motions of shooting the scenes.

Pretty cool.

The episode will air on October 4.

All I can tell you is that the scene involves the characters of Michael and Dwight, a car, and a lake.

Monday, August 27, 2007

... of computer problems and Crowded House...

UPDATED to include pictures (below), and one correction.

I started having computer issues last night when my weekly, comprehensive Norton scan got hung up during it's scanning process. I didn't realize it until I went to my computer and noticed that the scan (which normally takes about 50 minutes) was still going for well over two hours, with the file counter going much higher than it should and the file names were nothing but identical little rectangles of pixels. So I force-stopped the scanning process.

The night or so before, I had updated my iTunes program to version 3.2.1.whatever, but after I stopped the file scan I couldn't load iTunes (getting a missing file error). Re-downloaded the entire update, attempted the re-install... same error. Then I tried a System Restore from a point that I thought was before the iTunes update.

Uhh-oh. Took way too long to find (or, rather, not find) a bunch of files, and then finally rebooted to a message that said that it couldn't successfully restore to that point in time. But I did get my computer working again (whew!). I already had most of my files backed up on my flash drive, but I ended up double-checking and adding a few more recent files to the flash stick. There's no way to add the concert videos I took over the past few weeks (files too large), but I still have them on the camera's memory cards. I'll also have to go through all of my old emails to see if there's anything that I want to save (as a precaution). Also need to make a copy of my browser's bookmarks, and my "address book" from my email program.

The main thing, though, is all of my iTunes files. I haven't bought/downloaded anything from the iTunes store, but I have loaded all of my CDs... nearly 3800 songs. The thought of losing all of that importing time and effort is annoying beyond belief. I'm going to try to do another System Restore from an earlier point in time, but I won't attempt that until I finish making copies of whatever extra files I need to save.

Basically, it could mean one of two things: either the iTunes update blew out some of it's necessary files and will leave me without access to it, or my hard drive is soon to die. I've had this computer (an HP Pavilion) since early 2003. The hard drive should last a bit longer than this, but... whaddayah gonna do, right? I don't have the $ to get a new computer, and I'd rather wait until the new year if it's necessary. I might switch to a Mac, but preferably not until after the Leopard (10.5) operating system is out (with Boot Camp), and all of it's spots are in order.

the Crowded House concert on Saturday night was phenomenal! Pete Yorn opened up for them, and he certainly is talented. But he played three songs too many, and the crowd (pun intended) was getting antsy. The Santa Barbara Bowl as a great venue that holds about 4500 people in an outdoor Greek amphitheater-style layout, with a breathtaking view of the hills to the left and the coast on the right. I took a couple pictures of a gorgeous rising moon at twilight just before the band took the stage.

Crowded House played for nearly two hours, playing a great selection of songs from five of their albums, including their hits: Don't Dream It's Over, Something So Strong, World Where You Live, Locked Out, It's Only Natural, and six or seven tunes from their brand-new CD, "Time On Earth". They opened up with a haunting version of Private Universe, and their live rendition of When You Come was great as usual, but maybe just a tad too slow in tempo.

These guys are consummate musicians, and Neil Finn is another of those great troubadours and tunesmiths. They may take their craft seriously, but they certainly don't take themselves seriously - always having fun and joking around, and definitely getting the audience into it from the get-go. This was my fourth time seeing these guys, and they've never disappointed.

Peter Frampton in late-October may be the next concert destination.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"It's just a FANASTY (whoa-oh-oh-oh)... it's not the real thing..."

This has not been a good week (relatively speaking, of course). From dealing with billing issues with a major shipping company (I won't use any names, but their favorite color is brown), who suddenly decided three weeks ago to start "dimensionally weighting" their own boxes on my employer's invoices. What this means is that if a box's dimensions are larger than a certain size then the minimum weight of box will be set to a predetermined value. Makes sense when you're using over-sized plain brown boxes since it takes up so much space. But when you're using the shipper's own boxes, with their company logo plastered all over it, it could be a problem.

For instance, most of what we ship weighs less than three pounds. The shipping company supplies us with "free" boxes for 2-Day and Next Day shipping. But the dimensions of these boxes are such that the three smallest boxes have automatic minimum "weights" of 2, 3, and 4 pounds, respectively. Which causes a problem if you've already billed a customer a set dollar amount for shipping, and then a week later you get your shipping bill with extra "weight" charges. Which means that you end up essentially paying for advertising the shipper's company by using these "free" boxes.

ALL of the major shipping companies do this to some degree or other. Sometimes (like this time) they just decide to do it without telling you, hoping that you won't audit your bill and catch what they're doing.

In other words............. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Then I had problems with my satellite dish losing its signal, and tussling with the darned thing for almost an hour before finally getting the signal back. How'd I lose the signal to begin with, you might ask? Apartment complexes don't allow you to "permanently" attach the dish to the building. Now, even though I can count at least a half dozen satellite dishes that are permanently attached to other apartments, even as I look out the window as I type this very post... I, being the nice guy that I am, followed the rules, and have my dish by my front door, on a pole, against the railing, held in place by plastic zip ties.

Problem is, any robust gust of window will sometimes shift it just slightly enough to lose the signal. What else causes it to lose the signal? Why, the neighbors downstairs who have a tendency to slam their Fort Knox-like screen door every 20 minutes, thereby shaking the building like a nice 5.8 earthquake. This pleasant sound is rivaled only by the periodic wailing of one of their children, a colicky little 3-year-old who seems to cry on cue..... oh, every 10 minutes or so. Uh-oh, their she goes right now! See??? *sigh*

Add to this the fact that they seem to like cooking their meals at around 10:30 at night... outside... on the barbecue... exotic, ethnic fragrances wafting its way up to and through my bedroom window, which happens to be only a few yards from whatever may be brewing below.

I'd be more than happy to (in a nice, calm, respectful tone and composure) mention these issues with the nice young couple below me. But it wouldn't do me any good, seeing as they can barely speak a word of English. *sigh - again*

Next? Well, for the last couple days everyone in the office was rushing to get things ready for this major in-house event on Sunday - an all-day seminar to demonstrate our software products to high-level clientèle. I'm designing a 24"x36" poster for this event. I finish it, proof it at least a half a dozen times (I'm the guy who checks our ads and emails for typos and such), and then dash off to Kinko's.

Today, I pick up the poster, along with 20 letter-sized color glossies. I get back to the office. I show it to our sales manager. And...

... wait for it...

The phrase "Keyboard Fantasies" is spelled... "Keyboard Fanasties". (D'OH!) And, like that, $86 worth of printing just got 86'ed in a matter of 10 seconds flat. So, I go back to the computer to fix the typo, burn the file to disk, and fly off to Kinko's for "Poster Printing - Take 2".

It just has not been my week. I don't know about you, but I'm getting a pizza for dinner. Maybe I'll save a slice for just before bedtime, and I'll ask my neighbors if they wouldn't mind plopping on top of it some of whatever it is they're sure to be cooking tonight.

Tomorrow night? Relaxing to some great music at the Crowded House concert. That'll get me in a better mood.

P.S. Don't be surprised if their are any typos in this post. I'm sure there are.

And I don't care.

'Til next time...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Happy Birthday to Ray Bradbury (87)

Yes, it's Ray Bradbury's 87th birthday today. One of my all-time favorite writers. Back when I was 12 or so my brother, Ray (yes, I have a brother named Ray), gave me his worn paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles. I was immediately rocketed into space by this master of the metaphor. I've read that book countless times, and have since devoured many of his other tomes, including his period-piece detective/suspense thriller, "Death Is A Lonely Business" (another favorite of mine).

I'd highly recommend any (if not all) of the following classic titles:

The Novels:
The Martian Chronicles

Fahrenheit 451

Death Is a Lonely Business

The Short Story Collections:
The Illustrated Man

Bradbury Classic Stories 1 (which includes R is for Rocket and Golden Apples of the Sun)

Bradbury Classic Stories 2 (which includes S is for Space and Medicine For Melancholy)

The Toynbee Convector

On the Process of Writing:

Zen In The Art Of Writing

The Sam Weller Biography:
The Ray Bradbury Chronicles

So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RAY... from one "crazy" to another!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ArtWalk Summer 2007...

It was that time again. Last Saturday was the second of three ArtWalk events regularly scheduled throughout the year in downtown Ventura. Various shops, restaurants, businesses, galleries and studios open up their doors to the general public to display the latest works by local artists. I spent the better part of three hours that evening walking around with my cup of decaf and checking out some of my choice locations for viewing some great paintings and sculptures.

This time around, though, I didn't come across too much that was new and different. One woman was displaying her watercolors at the StoneWorks Studio's garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up her business card or to jot down her name, but her paintings were vibrant and detailed. The next time I come across her work I'll make sure to write it down and post it here.

Otherwise, I ended up just enjoying the latest works by some of my favorite local artists. So, I just recommend you click on each of the links below for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Norman Kirk

Christine Beirne

Gerardo Segismundo

Ira Meyer

Ricky Maldonado

Linda F. Peterson

David Rivas

David Blackburn


Lee Hodges

Dan Holmes

Friday, August 17, 2007

Personality Types...

Julie over at Happy Catholic posted her results of this comprehensive personality test.

I remember this test from way back in my college days. It was used as a career test to help you determine what type of jobs/careers would best fit your type. There were two books at the central library in Philly - one for taking the test to determine your code, and the other that listed potential jobs/careers linked with all the possible combination of codes (e.g., ENTJ, ISFP, etc.).

I also remember taking the test at the time, and ended up with a four-letter code that had .................................... ready for this, now ? .............................. NO jobs/careers connected to it! I think it was the only four-letter combo (INFJ) that came up zippo.

Boy, did I feel screwed.

They've since "adjusted" the second book to list careers. The website goes into further detail. Pretty interesting, though. I didn't need to take the test on-line. Oh, I remember my past results vividly.

What were my results? I'm an "INFJ - The Confidant":

"INFJs, making up an estimated 1% of all people, are the most rare type (males even more so). They are introspective, caring, sensitive, gentle and complex people that strive for peace and derive satisfaction from helping others. INFJs are highly intuitive, empathetic and dedicated listeners. These traits tend to act as a "tell me what's wrong" sign on their forehead, hence the nicknames Confidant, Counselor or Empath. INFJs are intensely private and deeply committed to their beliefs."

This link reveals some very interesting things about this type... it's almost dead-on. Here's a link to get to this second website's detailed profile for all 16 types.

WARNING: Ignore the bogus "ennegram" nonsense in that last link. Only the Myers-Briggs stuff is legit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time to take a shower again... a meteor shower...

Yes! That's right. This weekend is the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Best viewing of this annual wonder will be late Sunday night into early Monday morning when the peak period will offer an average of one per minute. Just look up into the Northeast and catch a glimpse of a few falling stars. This year, Mars will also be in the general vicinity - just look Northeast for a bright reddish dot.

Those of you in or near cities might have a more difficult time due to the light pollution. But there is no moon to diminish the viewing ability this year. So, find a nice isolated area (with a clear sky, of course), and catch a few. Go on... take a look! Make a wish! And say a prayer!

The Bangles and The Motels...

Four concert performances in six days! *whew*

So, Thursday night I went back to the Ventura County Fair to check out The Motels with Martha Davis, who opened up for The Bangles.

The Motels only played for about 30 minutes or so, and Martha Davis sounded pretty good, but she has lost a little of her vocal touch. They really didn't get the crowded into it much - which was kind of surprising given that the performance strong. They did do their three big hits: Suddenly Last Summer, Only The Lonely and Take the L (Out of Lover) - all of which were very well done.

After a 20 minute break, on came The Bangles with three of the original four members: the Peterson sisters and Suzanna Hoffs, plus a new female bass player and a guy playing keys. I must say that, for being a 48-year old mother of two, Suzanna Hoffs still looks HOT!

The band played for 90 minutes, and did all of their major hits: Manic Monday, If She Knew What She Wants, In Your Room, their version of Simon & Garfunkel's Hazy Shade Of Winter, Walk Like An Egyptian, and an encore of Eternal Flame (as the evening fireworks started to go off).

These girls were known for their pop/"jangle rock" sound with great vocal harmonies, and last night they proved that they still have the chops both vocally and musically. They certainly had the ladies in the crowd goin' all night. I'm sure the guys in the audience were pleased as well, though possibly more so visually than aurally... I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. There was this one guy standing beside me who kept yelling at the band, "You're hot!" He was a drunken idiot, but I had to agree with him. ..

So... four performances in six days for a grand total of.... drumroll please........ $41. Not bad... not bad at all, if I do say so myself.

BANGLES TRIVIA: Suzanna Hoffs played the part of one of the band members of Ming Tea (Gillian Shagwell) in the Austin Powers flicks. She is also married to the director of those movies, Jay Roach.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ENVOY Magazine has returned!

Yesterday I came home from work to check my mailbox, and what to my wondering eyes hath appeared... but a brand-new issue of ENVOY Magazine! Patrick Madrid's periodical on Catholic apologetics was a witty yet informative fledgling mag that went dormant for a long period of time. But now it's back, and better than ever. You can either order a 1-year subscription to the mag, or you can order it via the electronic edition for less than half the cost.

And while you're at it, you should also join the ACS and get a year's subscription to Gilbert Magazine (to get your regular fill of all things Chesterton).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Al Stewart with Peter White - in concert

As you all know, I finally started taking guitar lessons back in June (slow going, but I'm getting there). Anyway, I was surfing the web looking for guitar tabs to an obscure Al Stewart tune with a great little guitar lick ("House of Clocks"). I went to his website and he had the info right there, so I printed it out and later that night tried (very poorly, I might add) to play the beginning riff on my semi-hollow electric guitar. Well, anyway… while I was on his website, I decided to click on his "Concerts" button just to see if he happened to be touring. Needless to say, I was shocked to see that he was performing near Woodland Hills on Sunday night (just two days later!!!).

So, I took a drive down yesterday evening to see if they had tickets available, and I lucked out with this incredible opportunity to see Al Stewart teamed up with his long-time recording/writing/playing partner Peter White. The two of them hadn't played together on stage in 14 years, and this was the only chance to see them together as Peter was currently on tour to promote his solo material.

It was an intimate outdoor setting at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon – a small, Greek-style amphitheatre with only about 400 people in attendance. It was just the two of them playing acoustic guitars while another guy played percussion, harmonica and flute. An incredible, and at times hilarious, 2+ hours of great music and storytelling.

I was stunned to hear him opening the show with none other than "House of Clocks," and I fumbled with my camera to record the performance (the venue was very cool about allowing people to take pix and stuff… the only rules were no eating and no smoking).

He ended up playing not only his known hits – "Year of the Cat" (with a flute solo in place of the sax), "Time Passages", "Carol", "On The Border" – but also some more obscure tunes such as "Katherine of Oregon", "Antarctica", "Merlin's Time", "Paint By Numbers", and "Coldest Winter in Memory". There were a few times when Al would stop playing in the middle of a song because he'd forgotten what to sing next (hah!). With "Paint by Numbers" he stopped at the beginning of the second verse and said, "Uh, does anybody know what comes next?"

A guy in the audience yells out, "She painted me in a corner!" To which Al just stares, dumbfounded and retorts, "That's exactly right!... How do you people know these things?" And with that he picked up right where he left off and finished the song.

Another comical moment was when he suddenly stopped in the middle of "Year of the Cat" and burst out laughing, "This is GREAT! I lose my place on 'Year of the Cat'… of all songs! I'm just watching Peter playing and then I forget what I'm supposed to be doing next."

A little anecdote regarding "On The Border" – Peter had just joined Al's band when he was only 20 years old. Al only knew him as a fantastic piano player, and he said one time that he needed a Spanish guitar player for this new tune of his. Peter said that he could play Spanish guitar, but that he didn't have a guitar to play it on. So Al gave him his own guitar to use – a "cheap piece of crap" that cost only 26 British pounds at the time. And that's the guitar Peter used on the recording!

They played two sets with a 15-minute break in between, plus a 4-song encore. In the middle of both sets they had two brief sit-down Q&A sessions with Al's biographer (the book's available on, as well as re-issues on CD of many of his old albums). Note: They were recording/video taping the event last night, so I'll keep my eyes open for when it becomes available.

After the show I had the chance to meet both of them and to get their autographs on the concert ticket as well as on another Al Stewart DVD which they had on sale at the venue.


Al is one of the great "Troubadours & Tunesmiths" of the last 40 years - an incredible storyteller with his songs. It was such a pleasure to see him in concert with Peter White in such a unique and intimate setting, and to meet them both in person and get their autographs (and I'm not an autograph hound).

Sunday, August 05, 2007

REO Speedwagon - a 70s/80s flashback...

Last night I went to the Ventura County Fair where REO Speedwagon performed a rockin' cool 90-minute outdoor concert. They played a few new tunes from their brand new CD, but of course they also performed most of their big hits - Ridin' the Storm Out, Time For Me to Fly, Take It On the Run, Tough Guys, Don't Let Him Go, Keep Pushin', Keep On Lovin' You and Roll With the Changes.

They didn't do one of my favorite tunes of theirs - I Wish You Were There - but it was still a great concert for the money (only $8.00 to get into the fairgrounds)!!!

Tonight Ill be catchin' Al Stewart for an outdoor acoustic & storytelling concert in Topanga Canyon.

Thursday night back at the County Fair to see The Bangles with The Motels.

Then it's Crowded House (one of my all-time favorite bands) on the 26th.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

17 States and counting...

I've been able to determine that I have personally visited 17 of the 50 United States, plus the Canadian province of Ontario, so far. I grew up in Philadelphia (PA), so... starting chronologically:

* Pennsylvania (obviously)
* New Jersey (vacations to the Jersey Shores, then later to other areas as well)
* New York (8th grade class trip to the Big Apple - also visited NYC several times in my 20s - plus a ski trip to Bath, NY)
* Delaware (night clubs and places for the band to play gigs in the 80s)
* Maryland (Ocean City, MD... love that town!)

+ Big Gull Lake - aka Clarendon Lake - in Ontario, Canada (a couple summer vacations with family)

* California (vacationed here in '89 - which included visits to San Francisco, the Napa Valley, Los Angeles and San Diego, and again in '93 - in Balboa/Newport Beach, before eventually moving here in '94)

Then there is my cross-country drive in the late summer of '94 in which I followed much of the famous Route 66 to reach my current destination:

* West Virginia (a brief drive-thru the northern sliver)
* Ohio (a ton of rain as I drove across this state)
* Indiana (stayed in Danville for a night)
* Illinois (visited Abraham Lincoln's tomb)
* Missouri (visited the St. Louis arch, Meramec Caverns, and an overnight stay in Joplin)
* Kansas (drove thru a remote 8-mile stretch of Route 66 thru southeastern KS)
* Oklahoma (ate at a diner in Tulsa)
* Texas (the panhandle - treked thru Palo Duro Canyon, and stayed in Amarillo)
* New Mexico (stayed in Albuquerque, visited Santa Fe - briefly - in the pouring rain, visited Bandera Volcano and Ice Caves, the Acoma Pueblo, Canyon Diablo, and Gallup)
* Arizona (stayed in Winslow, visited Meteor Crater - a mile in diameter!, and the Grand Canyon)

... and, of course, my return to California (including an overnight stay in Needles, then thru Death Valley, Barstow, San Bernardino, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Malibu, and Ventura County).

* Alabama (the latest state I visited, staying in Birmingham and Hanceville for a visit of EWTN and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery)

So that's 17 states + Ontario, Canada. I could also add Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington D.C...... but that would be cheating because they were just 30 minute change-overs in the Denver, Nashville, Charlotte and D.C. airports. So, they officially don't count... but "technically" they could.

I'm hoping that one day I'll finally be able to visit Italy and the Greek Islands. Maybe also Australia and parts of South America - like Argentina.

So....... how many states (and countries) have you visited?

I'm curious to know.