Friday, December 17, 2004

The War Comes to the Store

The WeatherPixie

I hate the war. The idea that my country is killing people who've done us no harm thousands of miles from our own shores absolutely disgusts me. We have no right to be in Iraq. We have no right to invade other countries.

Up till now, however, the war in Iraq is an idea that I've hated. It hasn't touched home. Except for the protests and how I felt after watching Fahrenheit 9/11, the war hasn't effected me personally. I don't know anyone over there. I don't think I even know anyone who knows anyone whose been over there. There's no rationing, or draft or any of the other trappings of war. Being a working class environment, the military recruiters come by the store from time to time, and a few months back, they convinced a guy named Robert to enlist. Robert worked in my store as the receiving/package-pick-up supervisor. He seemed like a mature, level headed guy, at least more mature than the average non-college-educated guy in his early twenties. He's been in the army for a month now, and he's totally changed. He came back to the store in full uniform today. I listened with disgust as he talked about how great the army is. He talked about how he'll sleep in his gear out in field, so "if any terrorists try attacking us, we'll be ready to roll out of bed and start blowing them away." (He said this!) More scary was how he talked about how much he loved his M-16. I mean he really meant it when he talked about how much he loved this piece of killing machinery.

More than ever, I'm convinced that the military seriously brainwashed the youth that enter into it. Its not job training anymore. Its about turning these poor kids into neo-con killing devices. This war won't be over anytime soon, and although Robert isn't actually a friend or anything, I feel like another Amercan young man has already been killed.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I woke up the other day to find the company I work for had been bought by another company. It was a strange feeling. After 118 years, Sears, Roebuck & Company was no more. I've been employed by Sears since 1992, so there was some trepidation as I read about the KMart-Sears merger.

I had a feeling Sears was looking for a buyer. The company sold off its credit division to Citigroup a year ago for 9 billion dollars. They own lots of prime real estate and the brandname value of Craftsman and Kenmore are tremendous assets as well. The stock price was floating along at about 40% less than its high 10 years ago. A brick & mortar store, Sears had shown an ability to adapt to new business modes, making the guy who built into a profitable and effective online store the CEO of the whole company a few years back. An underperforming business with all this cash & assets, they were prime for takeover.

Me at Sears

Who would have thought it would be K-Mart? I haven't shopped there in years, but we're talking K-Mart here. Possibly the only thing worse than buying something at K-Mart is being bought by K-Mart! Plus, the numbers didn't make sense. How does an organization doing 15 billion in sales volume with 850 big stores and 1400 total locations get bought out by an organization doing 10 billion in volume with fewer stores? How can a smaller company "buy" a bigger one? The offer values Sears at 11 billion dollars. What happened to the 9 billion we got for the credit division? I know some of that went to pay off some long term debt, but shouldn't Sears be worth more than $11 billion? I suppose thats the whole point. When a company's assets exceed the total value of their stock, they are ripe for corporate takeover. All it takes is a group with enough leverage to make an offer. Thats where Lampert comes in.
I suppose I should give my new boss the benefit of the doubt, but there's something scary about this guy. If he himself is not a billionaire by this point, he's well on his way to being one. As the manager of a fund, he resuced K-Mart from bankruptcy, sold off underperforming assets and made the company profitable again. By rolling the K-Mart and Sears entities together, there are tremendous opportunities for either growth or more stripping of assets. Whats scary is we don't know Lampert's real motives. Is he out to be the next Warren Buffet and building himself a tremendous fortune without regard to destruction he leaves in his wake? Will he destroy Sears for personal gain? Here's a short article about what Lampert might do next.

Of course, Sears was well on its way to destroying itself without needing any help from others. Sales had dropped every year since 2000 while competitors were posting increases. Sears had higher costs per sale than other retailers, although recent moves towards converting the stores towards more efficient operations were making headway. The company that was the nation's largest retailer a generation ago was now 7th on that list. By merging with K-Mart, we're back up to 3rd again. Home Depot is second, and we all know whose number one. The 900 pound gorilla named WalMart.

The 900 pound gorilla does whatever it wants, or so the old joke goes. WalMart is notorious for squeezing suppliers ruthlessly. I've never heard that about Sears or K-Mart. Reports exist that WalMart actually pressured manufacturers to move their operations out of the USA to reduce costs. WalMart is a force for outsourcing jobs overseas. I recognize that a global division of labor is inevidble and beneficial. Its better for the whole world that things be made efficiently, but we are in a competition here as well. Our economy competes with others as players in a larger global economy. I believe if we lose industry after industry to other parts of the world, we will eventually suffer. We must preserve the industries we still do well in. For example, appliances are mostly made in the USA. WalMart & BestBuy are now flooding their floors with Chinese made Haier and LG appliances. Sure, you can get a pretty nice looking LG for cheaper than its Whirlpool, Maytag or GE equivalent, but how long can these other companies keep making in the USA before their market share drain forces them overseas? Does WalMart care? Hell no.
Will Sears/K-Mart care? Maybe. Sears has understood that you gotta play nice with your suppliers because their health is realted to yours. The Sears/Whirlpool relationship typifies this attitude. I don't think Sears would ever pressure an appliance manufacturer to move their production overseas.

The 900 pound gorilla must be stopped. I'm now employed by a 600 pound gorilla. Lets hope the 600 pound gorilla behaves itself.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Changing Morning Light

I stumbled out of bed at 6:30 AM, and into an amazing sight outside the big windows of our living room. All the buildings were glowing. A pinkish hue reflecting off everything I could see. I could not see the sun rising in the east, but its effects were bathing my senses in an incredible light. I paused a moment and then took up my journal to begin my morning pages. I wrote a sentence and looked up. Things weren't quite as beautiful now. Not as vibrant. I looked down again to write another sentence, and when I turned back, the incredible glow was gone.

I missed it! I didn't enjoy it to its fullest while it was here! I was actually saddened by the changing of the light. The reflection of the sunrise on the city around me made me feel inadequate in my ability to observe the beauty of the universe. It was an instinctual, human emotional reaction to the disappearance of beauty, but it doesn't make sense to be upset at the sun for not hanging at just the right angle for longer than it does. A few moments later, a different set of shades caught my eye. Stuck by the variety of colors we choose to paint the concrete structures we live in, I realized the beauty of the physical world hadn't gone away. It had simply morphed. The blues and whites replaced the red and pink, but it was still beautiful. God was still there.

So like life itself was that one moment. The sunrise of youth replaced by a cloudy adulthood. One moment may glow in different ways, but all of its beautiful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Rats on the Balcony

AS I start writing this, I realize that there will now be two posts out of a whopping 7 on this Blog that have to do with rodentia. Little furry creatures are part of my life, what can I say. Well here, take a look at this, a page made by my wonderful wife, Jasmine.
As you can see, having these wonderful little creatures visiting your doorway can be considered a responsibility. They are wild creatures, yes, but we have chosen to help feed and maintain them. Walnuts aren't cheap! Besides, who could resist this face?

Last night, we were watching "The Day After Tomorrow." It was late, about 10:30 PM, when I saw some movement over on the balcony. I saw two little ears sticking up out of a rodent shaped head. Squirrels at night? That never hapens. Squirrels curl up in little balls and sleep during the night. What was this thing? I looked again and saw a sleek body and long, stringy tail attached to this otherwise squirrel-shaped creature. A Rat! Yup, a dirty, stinking, disease carrying, babies-eyeballs-chewing rat! Like this one:

This was horrible! A rat on our balcony! Maybe not as bad as a rat in the kitchen, but terrible nonetheless. Unclean people have rodent problems, not us! Jasmine was freaking out even worse than I. Put the cat outside, she said. Insisting we keep the light on on the balcony (this would drive them away), she started to clean the apartment. Cleaning inside isn't going to do anything to keep rats away outside, but hey, if it makes one feel better. Naturally, we had to stop the movie to "deal" with this situation. If you haven't seen "The Day After Tomorrow," you probably at least know its an apacolyptic thriller about the sudden coming of an ice age. Last night was the coldest night of the year so far. Add the cold to the movie to rat appearing at the slding glass door, and it seemed as is the world was coming to an end.

But is it really all that bad? Why do we feed the squirrels and think they're the cutest things in the world, while cringing in horror at the sight of a rat? They both can carry parasites. They both live comfortably in trees in urban environments. I'm not the first person to think about this question, and there's one obvious answer: THE TAILS. A rat's tail is very useful to the rat; it may even be prehensile, I'm not sure. Squirrels tails, on the other hand are great for show. Falshy, bushy things, I've seen them use their tails to communicate with one another and us too many times to count. Squirrels know their tails are potent tools for manipulation. Their tails have also gotten them in a bit of trouble. Read this anecdote written by the Devil.

Despite the fact that I can intellectually grasp the concept that roof rats and squirrels are cousins and not really all that different from one another, I would never be able to feed the rats. Feed wild rats? It sounds inhuman! As it turns out, we have been feeding the rats. Jasmine has been putting out handfuls of shelled walnuts before going to bed so that any early-morning squirrel visitors would find food waiting for them. Sure enough, she reported, the nuts would be gone when she woke up in the morning. Something was eating them. We figure now that the roof rats have been making their way to our balcony and eating the squirrel food.

Should we feed the rats too?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sho Ka Wah

I'm reluctant to begin a new post to this blog because doing so will move the "Anniversary Trip" piece out of the top position. Its not that I think that bit of travel writing is all that good, but it is at least attempting to be entertaining reportage. There are pictures. In that account, I described how wrong turns lead to Jasmine and I missing opportunities to learn about the indigenous Pomo Indians at Clear Lake State Park. My training is in history and sociology, so cultural tourism is an enjoyable thing for me. I like museums and historical sites. Didn't see any at Clear Lake.

We drove north away from Lakeport taking Hwy 20 to US 101 South. A couple hours later, we were ready to stop and stretch the legs and go pee. We saw the signs for the Indian Casino. I've never been in an Indian Casino. Lets stop there, I suggested. Have an iced tea. Jasmine was initially reluctant, but as we drew nearer she agreed. Maybe we could drop a few dollars in some slot machines.

The casino is on Hwy 175, just east of Hopland. The sign at the intersection of 101 and 175 says, "Sho Ka Wah Casino. Just Three Minutes Away!" We turned. Three minutes passed. No Casino. Three minutes? I hope they didn't mean three 1/60th of a degree of longitude away. I'm not sure how far that it is, but its been 5 minutes. False advertising! Three minutes on what? A race bike? There came a sing: Lakeport: 24 miles. We Left Lakeport 2 hours ago and we're 24 miles away again? Ack! Once again, I had made an incorrect driving decision. We coulda taken this very Hwy 175 from Lakeport to get to where we are now in less time. We did discuss coming this way, but since the road seemed a lot more squiggly, it would be a lot more hair pin turn stuff.

A sign at the Hwy marked the entrance to the "Cheap Smokes & Casino", a remnant from a time when avoiding state taxes on tobacco was more an incentive to visitors than the Vegas style gaming. Then the newer sign at the entrance: "The Hopland band of Pomo Tribe present: SHO KA WAH." Once inside, The Sho Ka Wah Casino seems just like any small Nevada Casino, except that there are fewer card games. No dice or roulette at all.

I had come to Clear Lake intending to learn about the Pomo Indians. The drive and companionship had been great, but no learning on this trip. I do know that slot machines are programmed to win a certain percentage of time. In Nevada,a state gaming commission establishes minimums for winning percentages. I wonder how "loose" the Indian Casino slots actually are? It sure didn't take those dollar slots very long to drain from Jasmine and I more money than we had spent on the entire trip up to that point.

Perhaps that's what the Pomo Indians finally taught me. Stay away from the Indian casinos if you don't want to lose money!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Anniversary Trip

Yesterday, Jasmine and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We can no no longer be called "newlyweds," and we greeted this morning (albeit a bit blurry-eyed) with enthusiasm and optimism. Our second year should be even better than our first.

For weeks, we have been discussing where we were going to go on our anniversary trip. Places like San Diego, Reno, Southern Utah and Washington state were proposed and rejected. Finally, we decided it would need to be someplace close enough to get to as a day trip, but not so close that it didn't feel like we were leaving the SF Bay Area. We decided we'd just get in my trusty Suzuki Sidekick and let it lead the way. Follow the nose of the vehicle to wherever it may take us! No doubling back! Just go one direction and stick to it!

Well, that may sound adventurous and romantic but it isn't all that practical. My truck might smell like a horse on occasion, but the Suzuki can't really decide where to go on its own. It has to be driven. On the night before the adventure, we sat down with the AAA Road Atlas and looked at the map of California one more time. Up north, about 150 miles away, was a big smudge of blue with green around it. From my experience reading maps, this indicated there lay a body of water surrounded by parks. Perfect! That's exactly the kind of thing we were looking for. Clear Lake, it was called, and neither of us had ever been there. Without any further discussion, we decided that come morning, we'd head off to Clear Lake.

When morning came, I thought I'd better at least Google "things to do in Clear Lake." I found out a few things. Clear Lake is the second largest natural freshwater lake in California. No one knows where it gets its name because its actually not all that clear. It claims to be the best place for bass fishing in the state, and at least in terms of the total quantity of bass pulled by anglers, it is in fact true. The terrain is dominated by Mount Tenocti, an extinct/dormant volcano that geologists believe had active lava flows as little as 10,000 years ago. The region still has lots of geysers and hot springs, indicating that there's still hot stuff flowing around down there. Wow. Volcanoes in the Bay Area?!? This place sounded exciting! Since we weren't fishermen, and the volcano wasn't likely to start rumbling again during our day trip, I still needed to find something for us to do. The California State Park website was helpful there, describing a level, modest nature hike in Clear Lake State Park, which lie on the southern shore of the lake (it's the star in the map above). The hike boasted that it would teach you about how the native Pomo Indians lived and actually take one through the remains of an old Pomo Village. That sounded cool. I also found out about a Clear Lake museum in Lakeport, a town on the west shore. It was in an old courthouse building and also looked worthy of visiting. Great. Now we had both a destination and things to do once we got there.

What I should have done next was reasearch the best way to get there. It seemed simple enough, just past the Carquinez Bridge was a road called Highway 29, it went pretty much straight through Vallejo, Napa and Calistoga and ended at Lakeport. My idea was take this highway up, and skip over to US 101 for the ride back. Again, no doubling back down the same roads. Unfortunately, for large parts of it, particularly in Napa Country, Hwy 29 is not much of a highway. It's actually more like a busy city street. Stoplight after stoplight. Strip mall after strip mall. It was tedious and boring driving. Finally, we got into the city of Napa, and by this point we needed to stop. Napa is a very "touristy" area, the "Wine Country" bring millions of visitors. I thought their visitor information center might have some stuff about Lake County, but alas, when we found the place and took our first break, they only had stuff about Napa County. Sheesh!

One good map (even the one above would have helped) would have saved us a lot of misadventure later.

We did find a nice candy store, and Jasmine got a piece of fudge. Given that she later called it the highlight of the trip, I guess its a good thing I snapped a picture of it.
I ended up making my second of several bad decisions that day by ordering a piece of chocolate covered frozen cheesecake. Sounds good, but before lunch, it just made me queasy.
The trees were changing color, and despite all the old tourists, obvious signs of horrible affluence and other distractions which made us envious, the town of Napa was quite pretty. Here I am along a walkway struggling to finish off my frozen cheesecake on a stick.

The rest of our journey through Napa County was scenic and interesting, but again, long and filled with stoplights and lots of traffic. If October isn't the busiest tourist season in Napa, I'd hate to have seen the place at its peak. Again we just crawled along Hwy 29, past vineyard after vineyard. Better than strip malls, but since neither of use enjoy wine all that much, it didn't hold that much fascination. In fact the abundant tourists we saw in other cars, along the sides of the road and in winery parking lots seemed pretty homogenous: old, pudgy white folks with big hats and white hair. Wine lovers. We were "escorted" along our journey by the famous Napa Wine Train. The tracks parallel Hwy 29, and we passed this locomotive and were passed by it several times along the journey. Kudos to Jasmine for tricky bit of digital photography: shooting a moving vehicle from another moving vehicle.

Finally, Hwy 29 started to become the Bay Area Backroad we had hoped for. The pass from the Napa Valley into the Clear Lake basin is beautiful. The flora is quintiscential Northern California: chapparal on the sunny southward sides of the hills, with shady and cool coniferous forest on the northward sides. The air was warm and smelled great. A slight haze from our regular October forest fires made for spectacular rays of sunshine streaming through the branches. The road itself was well maintained and curvy enough to make the driving fun without making the passenger car sick. Regular passing lanes accommodated drivers taking the road at different paces.

Everything was going great until I made a wrong turn. If you scroll upwards to the map at the top of the post you can see where Hwy 53 splits northward where 29 makes a left. At that intersection, things don't look like they do on the map. Hwy 29 looks like a little tiny road whereas this Hwy 53 looks broad and inviting. I actually left the turn lane for some reason and headed up Hwy 53. A few blocks later, I realized my mistake and thought I could make another left down something called "Old Clearlake Highway" and intersect 29 somewhere on the south shore. It didn't work out that way. Instead we found ourselves travelling through the backstreets of the town of Clearlake. Mobile homes and rusty cars lined a sidewalk-less road riddled with potholes. In our urban minds, we had stumbled into the horror that is Whitetrash Methville, USA. Worse off we were hungry.

If you again look at the map above, you can see a strip of green along the north shore of the lake. Thats the southern tip of Mendocino National Forest. Given that we had pledged at the beginning of the trip not to return the way we'd came, that became our new driving goal. As we passed food establishment after food establishment, each unappealing in its own way, "Good Eats," seemed unlikely. "Get me to the woods!" exclaimed Jasmine. I'm sure any of the possible restraunts we passed would have been fine, but a fresh coat of paint and the words "First Street Bar & Grill," finally assuaged us both into stopping for lunch.

Out the window of the car, I took a picture of the volcano. I thought at the time, it would be the first of several. Turned out to be the only one.

Here's a hint for other travellers who might visit the Clear Lake Basin: make sure your vehicle is air conditioned. The temp climbed into the high 80's with little wind. We travelled up the East shore of the lake, with its southwesternly facing, it started to get a bit uncomfortable in the afternoon heat. A stop at the Tourist information center in Lucerne revealed that the National Forest is not really something you can visit. Its just trail-less forestry land without accommodations unless you travel another 50 miles or so northward. Ack! What next?

We swooped around the north shore and decided to head down to Lakeport. At least we could see the museum I had read about that morning. In downtown Lakeport, we emerged from our vehicle to be greeted by a horrible racket. As I had earlier read, Lakeport is also home to a major racetrack. There was some kind of motorcycle race this afternoon, and the screaming engines spoiled any tranquility of the shady side of the lake. At least we had the museum. Here it is -

Hey, what's that sign in the window??

OMG - What time is it? 4:30?!?

We went down to the lake's edge, found a nice park bench, and relaxed. Over the screaming of not-too-distant formula one engines, Jasmine put her head in my lap. We talked about our first year. Happy Anniversay, honey. Maybe these guys on the pier will catch a bass.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Persuasive Pundits

It's two weeks from the election, and for the first time, some polls actually show Kerry a couple points ahead of Bush. As we discovered last time, however, who wins the popular vote means nothing. It's all about who wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Arizona. I'd like to hear about a poll that projects a winner based on lots of polls in the swing states.
One thing polls do provide is hope or despair for the observer. Kind of like the score in a sporting match when its 3/4ths of the way through. It ain't over till its over, as a great Yogi once said. That's where I'm at this morning: I've got hope Kerry will win. After the debates (the 3rd one is tonight), as I'm sure was the same for many Americans, my stance changed in that I now support Kerry not just beacause he's "anybody but Bush," but in his own right as an intelligent, honest leader attuned to what most Americans actually believe and want.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Eastmont Mall

We have the most unusual shopping mall I've even visited right here in Oakland, CA. It's called Eastmont, a name it shares with the rather sketchy district surrounding it. East Oakland is notorious for being one of the most drug and gang infested neighborhoods in our great city, and this weird mall lies in the heart of it. Yet, in a way, it's thriving. You won't find a Macy's or Nordstrom there. Heck, there isn't even a Gap, Hot Topic or Starbucks. One finds none of the standard mall fare which makes all the other malls seem sickeningly similar. Instead, the marble floors connect 99 cent shops, beauty supply stores and the ubiquotous cellular phone dealers. The food court boasts soul food, authentic taquerias and Asian food in steam trays. Most unusual is the massive state presence there. Next to nail shops and check cashing places are outposts of the Dept of Health and Human Services, educational development organizations, child welfare agencies and the biggest police staion I've ever seen. Who ever heard of government organizations even at the mall, much less leasing half the available space to them? I was going there to drop off my cable box (we recently switched to satellite), as Comcast Cable is another of the unusual tennants to operate there.

I suppose it makes sense. Eastmont Mall is the dense commercial district (I've been playing a lot of SimCity lately) for East Oakland, and a mall reflects the economic needs of the community it serves. The difference being that these state organizations aren't out to make money, but to distribute it instead. In my retail industry head, this seems weird.

I've seen dying malls; places where there are more empty & deserted shops than open ones. There's one just south of San Francisco called Tanforan. Like Eastmont, much of the empty retail space has been absorbed by a big organization with financial stability. The highest volume Sears in the western USA makes its home at Tanforan, and they lease a lot more of the space than just the department store. That Sears is what keeps Tanforan alive. Whats different about Tanforan is that its been driven to the brink of closing by lots of new intense competition for the business of the more affluent community surrounding it. The space the government has absorbed at Eastmont, however, was created due to the poor economic environment of the area around it.

My question is whether its the actual crime or the perception of crime in the area which depresses the economic activity of Eastmont Mall? Based on the occasional comments I've heard from folks who are reluctant to visit my Sears store in Downtown Oakland, I suspect the latter to be more of a factor. A lot of ladies are reluctant to come Downtown because they're afraid, eventhough the nighborhood is actually quite tame. People come to Sears mostly because they have to. To get Kenmore and Craftsman, they gotta come to us. If we didn't have those advantages, it would be a lot harder to stick around. I suspect, however, if we suddenly moved eight miles south to Eastmont, we would not be able to draw the business we do now as a freestanding store, despite the addition of a mall surrounding us. Could Eastmont become Tanforan East? If I ran the place, thats what I'd shoot for.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Threats from Mind Controlling Rodents

A recurring dream I've had deserves note because its so weird. Twice now these little creatures have shown up in my head while I sleep, and I can't figure out what my unconscious is trying to tell me.

The first dream came a week or so ago. In the dream, I had been feeding our squirrels on our balcony. My wife and I live in a apartment complex with a balcony, which some of the local squirrels have figured out how to climb up to. Originally, we had intended to create a bird feeder on our balcony, but when the squirrels started showing up to sift through the birdseed for the sunflower seeds, we decided to accommodate them with their own feeding tray. Now, they're the stars of the show and enjoy daily refills of sunflower seeds, peanuts and walnuts. Some of tamer ones (which my wife has given names) will come and take the nuts right from our hands. So in this dream, I was doing an everyday thing, feeding the brownish/red squirrels of Oakland.

The squirrels scattered in fear when the telepathic rodent appeared. It was smaller than a squirrel, a deep rust color, with the tail and overall appearance of chipmunk. It had no interest in the food, and calmly walked to the middle of the balcony, stood on its hind legs and greeted me by name in my own head. Yes, the thing had telepathic powers. Weird, yes, but as occurs to most of us in dreams, bizarre things are taken as a matter of course.

"Greetings, Gil. You will now do my bidding." the chipmunk announced calmly.

"What? You want some food? Sure, no problem; there's plenty," I responded incredulously, "but you can't control me."

"No, Gil, you don't understand." continued the rodent, "You will now do exactly as we say in all things. We now control you."

"Why the hell should I do that? You're just a rodent. You can't really hurt me."

"You'll have to sleep eventually. There are millions of us. We can get into small places." the fiendish furry creature threatened, "We know where your family lives. You have older parents and very small nephews. Your wife would be easy to take out."

I don't really remember much more from that nightmare only that I was very relieved to wake up and discover it had been just a dream. This morning I woke up from another such visit from the mind controlling chipmunks. This time, I was at work. I had left my normal station by the washers & dryers to use a computer over by the cooking appliances. I turned around from the terminal to see the red, small, fiendish rodent once again standing on its haunches, sending me messages. Again it greeted me, and instructed my that I would be getting a tattoo of the chipmunk's symbol on the back of my neck in order to identify me as one of the controlled.

"No!" I objected, "I will not have rodent ink piercing my skin! You're bound to carry all kinds of diseases. Nothing could be less sanitary." It wasn't really that I was objecting to the tattoo (something I've been wanting for some time actually), it was the possible infections I feared. I didn't want to get a tattoo from a rodent; I had already conceded that the thing had control over me.

"Stupid human," the chipmunk said while turning to depart, "you will get the mark from the hands of your own kind." The chipmunk took off through the store, unnoticed by anyone but me. Brenda, one of my coworkers held a sewing needle and small jar of black ink. I noticed at this point that she already wore the little sword tattooed on her neck. She was a slave to the chipmunks as well. With a sigh, I turned and let Brenda go to work on my neck. I felt the little pinpricks as she manually created the mark of the chipmunks on my neck.

Again I awoke relieved that this was just a nightmare. Now its time for me to go to work for real today, slave to capitalist system...

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Updated my Homepage

I've spent the last 8 hours sitting at my computer, working on creating a new personal homepage. Ack. Its been arduous. My knees and neck hurt. Everything is stiff. Now I'm sitting back, having a cocktail, glad that I've done something I've been meaning to do for 5 years...

Please check out:

Joko Londo's House


I'm waking up from a dream. I was at my parents house, although it wasn't really their house. They owned it, but it wasn't where they live now or anyplace they've ever lived. It reminded me more of the house I rented in '92-'93 with Matt, Dana & Rob. In any case, I was walking through the kitchen and I noticed my mother was having problems with the dishwasher. The door wouldn't stay shut properly, and so the machine kept turning itself off. I looked at the latch and noticed it was tweaked, so I thought I could just bend it back the other way a bit and ... SNAP. The plastic thing broke clean off in my hand. Hmmm...

Mind you, in real life, I am a clothes washer and dryer salesman by trade. That should qualify me to fix the darn D/W, right? At least in my own mind it does. In the dream, I inspect the latch and see two extremely tiny holes which seemingly could be used to screw the latch to the frame. The screws may have popped out onto the kitchen floor somewhere, but a search of the linoleum reveals nothing. I did however, come up with a few random screws of various sizes that I pulled out of the bottom of my tool box. Actually, I didn't see my tool box in the dream, they were suddenly just there. At this point, my Dad walks into the kitchen. I explain what's going on, and he says, "well, you'll have to come down to the basement to order the parts you'll need." Still convinced I can jerry-rig the thing, I resist this suggestion and proceed to try to make these odd shape screws fit the task at hand, I'm doing my best to get these other screws into these holes, but it eventually dawns on me that he was right. The only screws that'll fit are the ones specific to this Bosch dishwasher.
At least I know in my mind that I won't have to venture into my Father's lair to get what I need. I have a laptop with a wireless Internet connection! I can go to and get the parts I need just by knowing the model number of the machine. I'm much pleased with myself - momentarily. Two other fears crash down upon me. First, without an operative latch, there's going to be no way to open the dishwasher, and so all the dishes that are in there now will be inaccessible, thus I'm depriving my family from important tableware. Secondly, I think to myself that I may have stripped the inside threads of these screwholes, ruining them. Its about here that I wake up...

What does this dream mean? The dishwasher is obviously my relationship to work. I know what to do, but that doesn't prevent me from messing it up. The dishes are my future family. I can't get at them because I don't make enough money. The screws show that I always try to do things my way, and can be quite stubborn about it. Fine when it works, but sometimes disastrous when things go wrong. My relationship with my father in the dream is very much like my relationship with my father in real life. Something I'll go into more later.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The start of the journey

Ahem.. ahem... Is this thing on? Testing!! Checkkkkk! Syballance.. syballance..

Okay, thus begins my first foray into blogging. I apprach this online journal not without experience, however. Somewhere out there are my journals, which I kept from 1986 to 1996. Nearly two thousand pages in several tomes; all of which disappeared at 612 Broderick St in SF. My future wife and I lived there for several years. Somehow, my journals vanished during that time.

I call the blog "Thirst" after a personal belief I have in why suffering exists in the world. I happen to be of the opinion that there is an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God out there who has a plan for creation. I'm a theological determinist. The problem is how does one rectify an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God with genocide, famine, racism and oppression? Again, I don't believe in free will, which is just an illusion.

Think about the following: The glass of lemonade tastes much better to the person who is dying of thirst than to one who has just drank.

Humanity has been made to suffer so profoundly in our time, so much "evil" exists in our time because God is making us "thirsty" for something else. We've been allowed to stray from universal oneness for a time in order to bring about the profound changes in our physical world we around us. Without secular individualism, there would be no modern capitalism. Without capitalim, no Industrial Revolution, and then no technology and you would not be reading these words right now. Now, we're being made "thirsty" to return to where we once were, and some cultures never left - communal oneness with each other and God.