Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Character defining moments

After reading this article in the local paper, I have to wonder if we, as a society, are moving in the right direction. Perhaps I'm just showing my secret Luddite ways. Having been employed as an IT (information technology) professional for the past 13 years or so, I used to be all about getting kids to become more proficient at keyboarding, basic computer use as well as having an understanding of technical topics. Given how technical most consumer electronics are, they seem to be doing okay. But now I'm having some second thoughts.

It used to be receiving a personal letter in your mailbox was something you could reasonably expect to show up around the bills. Okay, even I will admit that getting a Birthday and Christmas card was typical fare, but if you got lucky it had a personal message in it. There have always been those special subsets of people who send newsletters to 'catch people up' with what they and their family have been up to since you last heard from them (not surprisingly a year ago since their last Christmas card), but I digress.

Now you get eGreetings wishing you a happy birthday in your email. In fact most of the correspondences I give and receive is done using my computer and not with pen and paper. It's a great way to speed up communication and when I consider that most of my family is thousands of miles away I can appreciate the medium.

But do you remember learning to write? I still remember getting my handwriting primer (for left-handed students) in first grade. It has pictures showing you how to hold your pencil (those big fat red ones with no erasers on the end) and how to make all the basic letter shapes. First you copied the ones with dotted lines and then went off on your own filling the page with slashes, curves, circles and lines. From there we covered letters and numbers and once the book completed we could write any letter we wanted anytime we wanted.

Cursive was like a foreign language and it was a lot harder to get the shapes to look like the sample alphabet that hung over the blackboards that circled the classroom. But still we persevered because this was 'grown-up' writing. I remember being so proud of my handwriting even at its most clunky and awkward state. Computers didn't show up until years later so we weren't spending any time at a keyboard. All of our book reports were handwritten and double-spaced. When we got older, we were first allowed and then expected to type up our reports. I remember being envious of kids whose moms were typists. What took me hours and hours they could do in the space of one bad sitcom.

Questions I have are: What will handwriting look like when these kids are grown? We are going to have to live and work with them. Maybe everything will be computerized and writing things on a piece of paper will be considered a quaint past time.

Years ago when I bought my first PDA (it was an Apple Newton) and then a Palm PDA I learned the shorthand they called graffiti. Will the next type of handwriting not be Spencerian or the Palmer Method or even the current relaxed print cursive (italic) but graffiti?

A piece of me sees this as part of our evolution. Kids will be learning fancy handwriting in art class and not part of the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic of yesteryear. Well, I've decided to fight this transition to Scanning, Keyboarding and Coding and will do my part to keep handwriting alive.
Send me your address and I'll send you one honest-to-goodness handwritten letter. Tell me what you've been up to and in return a will reply with a thoughtfully scribed letter, possibly even with the occasional spelling error (no spell-checkers in real-life darlings!). If you'd like to impress the pants off of me, let me know and I'll send you my mailing address so that you can send me one of your own!

Let the handwritten letter revolution begin!

Monday, June 16, 2003

Toll Booth Stories

Just the other day I was catching up on some of the journals I like to read. I used to read a lot of journals. I blame it all on an old co-worker who innocently asked if I knew anything about online journals. I started reading some of the ones she sent me. When I was working at the a couple of years ago, I spent much of my 'look busy' time reading journals. I read 5 years of archives and thought that I could do this too.

Last October I went to JournalCon 2002 since it was in my home town. I've been keeping up with a bunch of journals from journallers that were there. One guest speaker/journaller Pamie has been re-posting some older entries from her archive. This one reminded me of a trip I took with my younger brother Bill. And this one from Jette convinced me to post it, knowing that he'd be okay with it.

It was back in 1985 and Bill and I decided to take a class to learn how to scuba dive. After several weeks of classroom and pool work, we were ready for our open dive test. Now this was back when I was living in New York and it was late April. I wasn't sure how cold it was going to be even with a wet suit at this time of the year, but off we went with images of diving in the warm waters of the Caribbean with colorful tropical fish all around us.

When the weekend came, Bill and I decided that I would drive down and he would drive back. Lovely Dutch Springs Diving and Recreational Facility was your basic flooded quarry. Someone decided to turn it into a "facility" by putting in platforms at varying levels as well as submerging a few items of interest, boats, a helicopter, an airplane, a few shopping carts and whatnot. The dive itself was marred by a few tragic errors on our parts. One - I should not have had a soda with my lunch prior to the afternoon dive. Gas bubbles in your stomach are small and somewhat managable on land, but 30-50 ft underwater they are larger and well, they scared the shit out of me, I freaked out, made an emergency ascent and had to be calmed down before I could finish the rest of my test. Bill wasn't laughing at me as much as he might have ordinarily. The reason? Well, in all the excitement, he managed to not exhale out of his nose at any point during his dive. Doesn't sound like that big of a deal, you say? Well when he got out of the water and took off his mask he had what in the trade is called mask squeeze. In layman's terms he had a giant face hickey. It sorta looked like he was a human raccoon or that I whacked him in the face while he slept. In any case it made it hard to look him in the eye without snickering.

The second day of diving was uneventful and we started our drive back home. We were in the family car, a big white Ford Country Squire station wagon with faux-wood decals on the side and back - a classic 80s vehicle. At one point during the trip, this sweet-looking candy apple red Mustang zoomed by us as we approached a toll plaza. The driver tapped his brakes once, threw the quarter toll into the exact change basket and roared off. My smirk turned to shock and dismay as it dawned on me that we weren't slowing down enough to pay the toll. I turned to look at Bill, a testosterone-charged gleam of challenge in his eye. He tapped the brakes once and furiously cranked the window down.

He took aim and pitched the quarter as we approached the toll booth. I really did wish that his aim was true and that through some miracle, the quarter might hit the mesh basket. However this was not what happened. In a flash, the quarter zoomed out past the tollbooth, not even close to its intended target. Bill jammed on the brakes, just past the basket, but not so far as to set off the alarms. He reached out and gestured for me to hand him another quarter. With his jaw firmly set, he shakes his head and says, "Don't say it, just hand me a quarter."

I'm silent but grinning as I hand him a quarter and he backs up the car to toss it in. As we pull away I can't hold it in any longer and laugh and laugh. You see he had been busting my chops for about 20 minutes prior to this stunt. I managed to navigate us in the wrong direction while looking for gas and we went through the same toll plaza twice. He joking informed me that I was going to have to pay extra for that mistake. Now, I figured, we were even.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I heart shoes

I know that many people love shoes. Some people have rooms just for their shoes. Other people have shoe fetishes which bring loving to a whole different level. I've loved shoes as long as I can remember. One of my earliest shoe memories is a pair of red Buster Brown Mary Janes. Those shoes rocked my little 5 year old world.

I used to have a lot of shoes. Some of them lived life as only favorite shoes can; worn almost constantly until there was nothing my cobbler could do to keep them alive. With all the moving I've done over the past year or so, I've pared down considerably . My stable of shoes is about a baker's dozen from the 50+ I had when I was living in Emeryville. Most of the survivors are what I consider my favorites.

A favorite is typically comfortable, cool-looking and often functional. There are some specialists like my biking shoes or the winter boots I bought my last Winter in New York. I want to let the boots go, but know one day those babies will save my life (or perhaps just keep my feet warm). These shoes are infrequently used, but are comfortable and have a certain practical coolness to them.

Often shoes have a story behind them. My black patent leather Doc Martens were discovered at the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale. I had only been in California a few months and decided that Doc Martens were the kind of cool shoes that I wanted to have. I wandered the Haight street shoe stores drooling over cool shoes that were just too damn pricey for my budget. On this special overcast day in March, Becky took me to this uber-garage-sale to in search of bargains. The Oakland Museum Association has this huge warehouse in the Fruitvale neighborhood where they store things that they receive from others, mostly Estate Sale leftovers and once a year open their doors to the public. Walking in is like going through a Tag Sale Walmart with different department like Women's Clothes, Books, Furniture, Housewares, Fabrics, Kids Toys and Shoes. granted someone else's used shoes are not what I typically get into, but since it was the first section on the right as you walk in, it was a natural place to start.

I saw these Doc Marten shoes in the size 4 section. I was heading for my 6-7 section, but these shiny babies caught my eye. I picked them up to whine at Becky how they had a pair, but not in my size. She commented how they might fit since British sizes are a smaller than US sizes. I tried them on and they fit. Perfectly. I wasn't sure about the patent leather part. they were really shiny. I noticed that they were in good condition and wondered if they had ever been worn since the soles were clean and the insoles didn't have any of the tell-tale wear you get when someone else's feet have been there. These were brand new shoes. The part that closed this deal was the price. They were priced at $10, which is fabulous since these shoes run about $100 in the stores. So I bought them.

Unfortunately these had a break-in period prior to becoming my most favorite shoes. Once they are broken in they are perfect. But until that point, my heels pay in flesh. I try to get shoes that are good fits and cool looking now since I'm sure the chronological age of my heels are about 30 years older than the rest of my body.

The docs are getting old and worn now with their shine not so shiny anymore. They are in good company with other cheap finds like my outlet store Birka Birkenstocks, my red Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes from Shoe Pavilion and my latest find the crocus Eccos from Sierra Trading Post. The joys of inexpensive shoes to obsess over are boundless. I have actually found myself looking at my shoes while waiting in line at the market or in long meetings and thinking in my head how spiffy my feet look with them on.

Other shoes were spurge purchases. Often these were well thought out and anguished over prior to purchase. I would visit them periodically to see if it pulled on my heartstrings as strongly as the first. It may be love at first sight, but often my more practical wallet will ix-nay the purchase after a few weeks.
My Clark Clogs were bought at full retail after a few weeks of debate. Sneakers also seem to be bought at a higher price since they get so much wear. My younger brother Bill in a fit of wisdom beyond his years (he was 25 when he shared this with me) once said that you spend one third of your life on your feet and another third in your bed, so you should expect to spend more for your shoes and your mattress.

It was with this thought in my head years later that I splurged on a pair of black leather Italian shoes. It was in November 2000 and I was at Shoe Pavilion a week or so before my birthday wandering up and down the aisles. I was wasting time and trying to use some retail therapy to get through the fear and panic that Becky wasn't going to get the liver she needed and might die. I knew these shoes were something special when I touched them. They were soft and smooth and I couldn't stop fondling them. I found a pair in my size and tried them on. They fit nicely and looked sharp, and sooo soft. I looked at the price, 60 dollars, on the high side for Shoe Pavilion. I put them in their box and walked around with them. By the time I reached the counter I knew that we were meant to be together.

Do you have a special pair in your life?

Wednesday, June 4, 2003


I've got this overwhelming sense of anticipation coursing through me lately. I'm not sure what's up with that but I'm not worried. I keep waiting for it to pass, like gas or nausea, but it's been around for atleast a week or two and I'm just rounding eagerly antipation and heading toward being really annoyed.

Y'see it's not like I have concert tickets or a big trip scheduled. In fact I don't have anything specific planned. Okay, there *is* a garage sale in July, but I'm pretty darn sure all this excitement isn't about me unloading some old tupperware, computer parts and coffee mugs. I'm trying to relax into it. It's like when you misplace your keys, run around frantically looking for them, retracing your steps and still don't find them. In a moment of desperation, right before you call the office to tell them you'll be late, you go for the zen approach - take a deep breath - and pretend that you aren't looking for them anymore. Following the believe that things will appear when you stop looking for them. That's where I am right now.

Damn! I'm still annoyed. Okay so I've been getting things in order, y'know so that I'll be ready for whatever is coming my way. (ooh, maybe I will win Super lotto. Wouldn't that be cool?) So anyway, I've pulled out the few boxes still hanging around and I've sorted and discarded a bunch of papers. I did get those sweet little tomato plants into their containers. I rescheduled the dentist appointment that I missed when I was too distracted by my trip to New York to see my mom. I made an appointment to get my eyes checked, my radiator flushed and squeeky brakes replaced. (The last two were for my car not me. Sheesh!). Things are right on track. Yessiree.

*sigh* okay at some point I'll be all organized and it's a district possibility that this sense of anticipation will just slink away without making a grand appearance. There is nothing good to watch on TV and once I finish the last few books on my reading pile I'm going to be bored.

So this is your chance to come up with some great distractions for me. What movies should I be renting from Netflix? I actually watched large chunks of Monster House, Monster Garage and American Chopper last Monday night, so you've got to help me out here. What books should I be reading and for those SF Bay Area people, what things should I be doing?