Night and Day


I was fired from my job recently. Well, if you consider a few weeks ago as “recent” then it was.

But there’s a long story behind my termination that involves my [former] union, a department manager who was perpetually dissatisfied with my performance (and therefore a hindrance when it came to the possibility of advancing my uh, “career” at the grocery store), and all other sorts of nonsense.

I had taken the time to go into great detail writing about the events that led to my suspension and eventual termination but after all that, it really only comes down to a few pictures.

Here I am working the overnight shift at the store. I used to work those shifts as well as being subjected to working in the bakery or, as I called it, the place “where dreams go to die.” I’m stocking bags of dog food in this picture at oh, 1:33 am. And I look totally happy doing it for minimum wage with part-time hours, don’t I?

Don't I Look Happy?

You really have to reassess what your life as become if, at age 46, this is what it takes to get food on the table. Yet there I was, punching in and out and dealing with it because I had to, and this was pretty much my expression most of the time. To say I was disappointed was an understatement and this was well before the little verbal spat I had with my department manager.

Then the altercation happened and I was put on indefinite suspension. I had no income for at least two weeks.

But during my suspension, something happened. I found a freelance proofreading job at a local ad agency that was not only a full-time gig but they also agreed to my hourly rate – nearly three times than that of the ol’ grocery store.

Then things changed. I didn’t come home smelling like frozen dough and covered in flour and with cookie/bread crumbs in the pockets of my stupid Ralphs apron. I didn’t have stories of how despised every second of my job anymore. I was relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with the usual nonsense I was subjected to on a daily basis at the grocery store.

I now work 9-6 daily and have weekends off. The office has a kitchen that you could probably live in complete with video game systems and ridiculously huge LCD HDTVs. We get breakfast two days a week and a Social Hour on Wednesday. The scenery around the office is beautiful and, if I need to, I can bring Anthony to work as I did last week.

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This is me now.  I’m being paid well. I’m respected and doing what I’ve been doing for years. I’m freaking smiling at work and after work. I’m relaxed, happy and for all intents and purposes, thankful that this opportunity came my way.

What was a one-week trial period has turned into a gig that will be entering its fifth week on Monday as they keep extending my services. It seems that they like me there, which is more than I can say for The Powers That Be at Ralphs. I was such a horrible employee that they didn’t want me anymore yet I’m now proofreading documents for automobile manufacturers at a place where I get along with everybody. Huh. Imagine that.

I’m a creative person, and working in an environment where my creativity was being suppressed and where I was spoken to like a moron by people who could have used a dictionary when writing their nasty you-didn’t-do-this-last-night notes to me was difficult to say the least. And when I finally had enough of it, I did the only thing I could do: defend myself which, is what led to my suspension and eventual termination.

But I’m glad that “my services were no longer required” as it was so eloquently stated at my meeting with the store manager. There’s no reason for me to ever go back or ever want to. Except for when I’m out of almond milk and need to make a quick trip.

I’ve since removed Ralphs from my resume so that it only shows jobs pertaining to writing, editing, and proofreading. This is where I need to stay and listing that horrible year-and-a-half stint at Ralphs stands out like a sore thumb.

The difference in my attitude really is definitely night and day and unlike my last job, I’m enjoying every second of my new gig. I couldn’t ask for things to be better, except for maybe being hired permanently.

And if that happens, I’d be as happy as I was miserable at Ralphs.

Mrs._Puff_(Doing_Time)

ARGH!


I guess you could call me SpongeBob.

If you’re not familiar with the show, one of its running gags is that SpongeBob is a terrible driver and has failed every single behind-the-wheel driving exam he’s taken, much to the dismay of Mrs. Puff. He’s even ended up inadvertently putting her in prison because of his poor driving skills. It’s a long story.

Anyway, you might recall my euphoria way back in July 2014 when, after studying really hard in the hopes of passing the written exam, I obtained my permit. That permit, despite a few restrictions, granted me the right to ride my scooter legally for one year and in the meantime, gave me time to schedule an appointment at the local DMV so that I could take my skills exam.

I did indeed take my skills exam in March 2015 – and I failed it miserably.

So here we are on July 28, 2015. I had scheduled my DMV exam a few weeks ago for this day, the day before my permit expires.

I’ll admit that it was probably a case of bad nerves that made me screw up the first time. I went into the exam with little to no practice and wasn’t quite prepared for it. But this time, I decided to do something much different.

Last Sunday I rode over to the local DMV to ride their test track so that I could get a good feel for it without being stressed out about it. They even left the cones out for some reason.

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I had the track all to myself to practice so I took advantage of it. After about 10 runs of the Serpentine Ride (weaving between the cones), I was confident in my ability. In fact I didn’t hit a single cone the whole time I was there so I was pretty happy about that.

Then came the Slow Ride in which you start in the right lane, ride around the circle at the end twice, then end in the left lane. That was a bit more challenging.

But after a few runs, I had figured out that if I didn’t touch my front brake, the bike wouldn’t suddenly stop and pull me out of the circle. (Riding on the lines is fine but going outside or inside the circle is an automatic disqualification.) Not only that, but if I throttled up at the last cone, the momentum would carry me about halfway through the circle. A few more tried and I had this one down perfectly.

With the Serpentine Ride mastered, I started the Slow Ride. Again, laying off the front brake worked wonders and I eventually got the hang of it. I was going to kill my exam this time.

I then came home and drew a huge circle – the exact dimensions, no less – in my neighbor’s driveway so that I could practice even more before today’s exam. I was going to pass no problem because I could now ride at least five times around the circle before falling out or putting my foot down.

My appointment was at 1:45 and I was ready. And because I had already taken it once, I had to pay a $7 re-test fee which I could have easily lied about because my previous DMV witness didn’t write my results on the permit as they are required to do. Had I known that, I would have probably told them this was my first time.

So I get in line and there was a guy ahead of me with his shiny BMW motorcycle who didn’t even acknowledge me, most likely because I was riding a scooter. Whatever, dude.

He failed the second he entered the circle when he put his foot down. He then complained that the circle was smaller than at the DMV office where he practiced. The DMV official wasn’t impressed.

“They’re all the same size,” he said as he marked the results of his exam on his permit. “Go inside and schedule another appointment.”

Off you go.

Then it was my turn and on boy, was I ready. The instructor was really cool and probably a rider himself with how he was speaking to me and the previous guy.

So how did I do? The Serpentine Ride was perfect. Flawless. Unbelievably simple. The instructor even gave me the thumbs up when I was done. Just one more to go and that M1 license would be mine.

I started the Slow Ride. In the right lane, no problem. Around the circle once, no problem. Around the circle again…problem. Watch what happens at 0:59 of the video.

No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

One more turn and I would have had it. I don’t know what the hell happened to make me swerve into the circle. I didn’t hit the front brake. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

Whatever the case, the instructor let out a loud “OH NO!” the second I fell inside the circle and unlike my previous exam, he wouldn’t give me a second chance which I thought was kind of lame. My first exam, I put my foot down which is an automatic DQ but they let me go again. What does it matter if I drifted out of the circle for three feet this time? I was literally 99.5% through the exam and had only one section to go. Why not give me another chance or better yet, just pass me so I can get this over with? I showed him I could do this.

Nothing doing. He marked the Slow Ride a DQ. After all this practice, one minor mishap killed me. I was NOT happy about this because with my permit expiring, I now have to pay for and take the written exam again (already scheduled) and then take the skills exam again.

ARGH. Just unbelievable.

The good thing is that scooter riders aren’t exactly tops on the list of people to get pulled over. So I have that going for me for the next few weeks, which is nice.

The Daily Post: “Finite Creatures”


Fleetwood_Mac_-_TuskIn response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Finite Creatures.”

I’m trying something new today — I’m replying to a tweet posted by The Daily Post in which they ask, “At what age did you realize you were not immortal?” My answer to this one is as simple as it is complex and yes, it involves the album you see to the left.

It was 1976 when Dad passed away and I was a mere 7 years old. All I knew was that he was gone and “in heaven” or so I was raised to believe. (The whole concept death and Catholicism is something I won’t dare tackle in this post as I have very strong opinions on the matter. It’s a post, or even a blog, unto itself.)

Anyway, Dad was gone and my brother and I were actually handling it quite well, so well that it surprised everyone from relatives to our school teachers. We had each other for support and it definitely kept our minds off of things and in a positive state. There were tough times but we managed to make the best of them.

Three years later, Fleetwood Mac released their album Tusk which blew my freaking mind. A double-album, I listened to it from beginning-to-end-to-beginning-to-end and all over again. It was full of fantastic tunes including the title track, “Sara” and “Think About Me” but there was one track in particular that stood out and, to this day, still makes me relive my epiphany of which I remember every detail.

Side two of Tusk starts off with “What Makes You Think You’re the One” and like most of the album, it’s brilliant. My 10-year-old brain was digging the melody without giving the words much though. But then, while walking out of the Del Amo Fashion Center with my mom, through the parking lot to get to her brown 1977 Ford Granada and stepping over a red-painted and chipped curb with my blue Vans slip-ons, one of the lines hit me.

“What makes you think you’re the one? You can’t live without dyin’.”

The song is right. Dad was gone and one day, I will be gone.

And at that very moment, at age 10, I realized I was not going to be on this planet forever.

From that point, naturally, the questions began.

How long it eternity? What if there really is no heaven? What happens after eternity? When earth — the universe — eventually dies? Are we coming back?

They went on and on and eventually they nearly broke me. I had a seriously bad time when I was teenager regarding these questions and my mind just couldn’t process them anymore, so Mom decided that I needed to seek the intervention of Father So-And-So at church.

We went to the rectory. We had to make an appointment. As shaken up as I was pondering the questions of life and death and everything in between, they wouldn’t let me see him.

And that’s when my faith in Catholicism started to wane. Again, I won’t tackle it right now.

I’m now 47 and I’ve outlived Dad by 5 years. My son is 11 and I plan on being around for him a long, long time. While the questions surrounding my eventual demise still bounce through my head (and sometimes jolt me from a peaceful sleep), I prefer not to let them interfere with my daily life and do the only thing I know how to do: move on.

Unless Fleetwood Mac comes on the radio.

The Fever


mqnvjrihwvfxcsbbfwunThere’s an episode of The Twilight Zone titled “The Fever” in which a sensible woman and her curmudgeonly old husband – isn’t that always the case in TV? – win an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas. The sensible wife sees no harm in plunking down some spare change in the machine if, for anything else, just to have a little fun.

But her husband Franklin is against it and everything Las Vegas represents – until he catches “the fever” and starts to hear slots machines calling his name whenever they pay out. The machines get their way and eventually, Franklin starts to play them in the hopes that he will win the big prize.

He never does.

That’s kind of the way I was the other day when I took the family out to have some pizza for lunch.

The restaurant had a skill game called Barber Cut Lite, a game in which prizes are suspended from strings. In order to win, players must a) align the cutting mechanism properly so that it is inside the “scissors” and b) cut at the right time.

I don’t know why I had to try it but I did. It was probably that shiny iPad Air inside that made me do it, which makes no sense since it was only 16GB and my current iPad is 64GB. Why would I bother to try and win this?

Oh, that’s right. For $1 a play, why not? I could have a brand-new iPad for only a buck! This stupid machine just kept taunting me with that iPad helplessly hanging there, calling me.

And I eventually became Franklin.

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The first few tries were “so close” with me almost getting the string aligned with the cutters.

“Okay okay, now I have it. I have it.”

So I reach into my wallet and grab another buck. I put it into the machine, the music starts to play, and I make my move yet again.

This time I had it aligned and inside the cutters. Thinking it would cut automatically, I raised my hands in victory knowing I had defeated this stupid, stupid machine.

That’s when I realized that it wasn’t so easy. If you have the string aligned just right so that they enter the cutters, your next job is to time the cut properly. See, I knew it couldn’t have been that easy.

I had more singles in my wallet and tried again, knowing what I had to do. A few more tries later, I sure had it aligned properly but the cut came up short. Much like Franklin, I had to give it yet another try.

This continued for about another five minutes but they sure seemed like an eternity with me carefully watching the mechanism move from left to right, then forward, then the cutters doing their thing and missing nearly every time.

What makes matters worse? There’s a huge disclaimer on the front of the machine stating that the first cut may not break the string. In other words, you may spend a day just to get it aligned right but cutting the string may only weaken it. If you want to win it, you’d have to get everything just right all over again.

While I’m sure it’s possible to do it, by this time I had had enough and the family was starting to worry about my mental status. Besides, I had run out of dollar bills and ended up dropping 12 of them into this stupid machine. I’m sure if I had a few more left, I could have won that stupid iPad.

Or I could have ended up like this guy.

Making Progress


domokun
どーも くん!

Note: I am still learning and this post covers very basic stuff. If any of this is wrong, please let me know. I’d love to hear feedback.

It’s been about a week since I took it upon myself to start learning Japanese through the use of iPad apps and so far, it’s been interesting and even fun. As such, I thought I’d share a little about what I’ve learned as well as a few insights about the language which will show that isn’t as difficult as you might think. Well, for Hiragana at least.

But before I begin I need to say that it’s not only apps that have been helping. Over the last couple of years, I’ve subjected myself to a ton of things Japanese including listening to Jpop (music), watching Japanese TV shows including some anime and NHK World, and spending crazy money at a certain store. I believe that all of these things have most definitely given me the upper hand in understanding or at least raising my interest in the language. Now let’s begin.

First, Japanese is comprised of sounds or syllabaries, not actual letters. Of course there are vowels but all characters are a combination of a consonant and vowel sound except ん which is the N sound all on its own.

Second, much like Spanish totally unlike English, each vowel sound is pronounced the same no matter what.

  • A = ah
  • I = ee
  • U = ooh
  • E = eh (as in “met”)
  • O = oh

There is no deviation from this unless the O sound from any syllabary is followed by う which extends the O sound or in some cases gives it a U sound at the end. After all, that character is a U. Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, the vowels are in a different order than English.

Now let’s learn a Japanese word by using an example that most everybody knows, thanks to Styx.

どうもありがとう

First, we have ど which is “do” (pronounced “doe”). This is actually a diacritic (dakuten) of the と (“to” pronounced “toe”) sound. Those little lines are above the first one are what give it the softer D sound. There is also another dakuten – it’s a little circle instead of two lines – that turns the “ha” sound of は into the harder “pa” sound of ぱ. There are many more; that’s just one example.

After ど we have う which is the aforementioned U and extends the O sound.

Then there’s も which is the “mo” sound. Now we have “domo.”

あ is the vowel A (“ah”), and then we learn something else: the “ri” sound of り. In Japanese, the R does not sound like it does in English, which is why a native Japanese person would have difficulty learning to pronounce it because it’s not part of their vocabulary. It’s like when the chef on Kodos and Kang’s flying saucer told Homer, “To pronounce it correctly, I would have to pull out your tongue.” It’s native to one part of the universe but not another; what exists in English doesn’t in Hiragana.

Anyway, all R sounds are pronounced using a slight D sound instead, which means that the way we Americans say “karaoke” as “carry oaky” is completely wrong. Well, at least it would be in Japan where it’s pronounced “ka-da-o-kee.” Phonetically, the R sounds are pronounced:

  • ら = da
  • り = dee
  • る = doo
  • れ = deh
  • ろ = doe

Hmm. Kinda sounds familiar.

Okay, that’s that. Now there’s が which is “ka” but with the dakuten changes to “ga.” Then we wrap it up with と for “to” and the vowel U or う, which lengthens the “do” sound.

So put it all together and you have どうもありがとう or “domo arigato” or as the Styx sang to us, “thank you very much (Mr. Roboto).”

So it’s that simple, right? Ha! Not exactly. Hiragana – 46 characters total – is based on native Japanese and is only one part of the three writing systems. There’s also Katakana which has about the same number of characters as Hiragana and is derived from Kanji. And guess what? Kanji is the third part of the writing system so it’s not uncommon to see all of them used at the same time.

Did I mention that there are over 2,000 Kanji characters?

Then there’s the whole learning words and stuff plus grammar. I’m just learning syllabaries right now. And I forgot to mention combining sounds which is a whole different chart of characters which are pronounced differently when not combined with vowels:

ぎ (gi or “gee”) + あ (a or “ah”) =  ぎあ (gya)

Also, の is the “no” sound but also possessive as in ねこのて (nekonote). So ねこ (neko or “cat”) combined with の (“belonging to”) て (“hand”) means “the cat’s hand.” By the way, the て or “te” sound also means “hand” in some cases. In fact, as you saw here, a few Hiragana by themselves are entire words or numbers. A few examples are:

  • く (ku or “koo”) = number 9
  • め (me) = eye
  • ひ (hi or “he”) = day

Oh, and there are no spaces in Japanese, and sometimes the U sound in some syllabaries isn’t pronounced, as in なつかしい (natsukashi or “sweet memory”) because なつ (natsu) means “summer.” It is pronounced natskashi.

Easy, right?

But in the end, if you look at the charts long enough as I have been, the characters and their sounds begin to make sense. It’s just a matter of deciphering them. In fact the first word I conquered after familiarizing myself with most of Hiragana was “sushi.” Go ahead and look up the syllabaries on the chart and see if you can guess how to spell it.

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Did you get it?

  • す = su
  • し = shi

Therefore, すし is “sushi.”

Yeah. I know what I’ve gotten myself into but I’m having a lot of fun with it and really enjoying the challenge! The goal here is to someday know enough to get by so when I do eventually take a vacation in Japan (and by gum, I will), I’ll have a better idea of everything which will make the trip much more enjoyable as well as mingle with people a little better as well as understand the culture and customs.

Plus, it will look great on the resume under “Languages Spoken.”

In the meantime I need to find a new job. That trip isn’t cheap and there’s no way to afford it on my salary.

Baby steps, yo.

Resurrection


It was about 10 days ago when I decided that I was going to give up blogging for a number of reasons, namely that I believed it to be a lost cause and I didn’t want to “disappear” as I so plainly put it.

That was 10 days ago and I’ve had some time to think about it, and I think I was wrong. There’d be no way my late Uncle Lou would want me to stop writing regardless of the format, topic, anything. And as someone who has always had a knack for writing (not always necessarily good writing), I’d probably be cheating myself by giving it all up.

It doesn’t matter how many readers I have. The traffic means nothing because I’m not getting paid to write nor am I concerned with SEOs and the like. This little space in the once-named blogosphere is mine to vent as I feel the need to do so. It’s therapy. It’s comedy. It’s someplace where I can smear whatever is on my mind even if others may not agree with it. And I’m okay with that.

By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve chosen to quit blogging. I’m funny that way, I guess.

The fact of the matter is that in my choosing to quit blogging, I was reaching out. It was a kind of cry for help. When I wrote that post I was feeling really down about a number of things, namely my current job situation and a myriad of other stuff that’s been happening on the other side of the monitor that you can’t see. It’s all big and somewhat scary, and it almost swallowed me whole. That was also the case with my lack of Facebook posts: I just didn’t want to engage in any social media activity at the time. I’m now slowly getting back into it but still not very active with my posts.

There is, in fact, a lot happening that I will indeed share when the time is right and not because anyone will be particularly interested in it but because writing is my therapy. Some of it good news, some of it bad news. But hey, that’s how life is, right?

One of the things that’s been going on is, believe it or not, my learning Japanese. I’m using a free app called Kae Tim’s Guide to Learning Japanese and it’s pretty comprehensive. Unlike other free apps that cover simple conversational/travel phrases like “Where is the restroom?” this one goes deep into the language and covers it in full detail. I realize that it will take quite some time to master it as well as understand all the characters and writing systems (katakana, hiragana, and kanji) but you know what? I’m getting it and pretty excited about it. This will no doubt make learning languages like Spanish and French much easier, even if I know just enough of both — and it helps when I watch the occasional NHK shows and anime on Crunchyroll. Learning this language will no doubt come in handy when I do finally make a trip to Japan, a trip that has been on my nonexistent Bucket List for years.

That trip is going to happen. Just watch. It may take a few years or longer but when it does, you can bet I’ll be writing about it.

So with all that said, I’m back – whether you like it or not.

The End.


Over the years and on several platforms (blogging or social media), I’ve witnessed people/contributors disappear without an explanation. And even though I never knew them personally it still seemed rather strange and somewhat sad to find out that they’ve just “disappeared” without any kind of notice.

I don’t want to be that person.

This is my final blog post.

After much consideration and not a lot of debating, I’ve decided that with the advent of social media, personal blogging is a dying platform. There’s nothing I can tell you here that I can’t post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (provided you’re connected to me) and can’t get out to a larger group of people in no time flat. I can now even carry on a live chat with Meerkat if I wished.

Over the years it seemed that most of my posts just got written and seldom read. Traffic was never spectacular so it seemed most of my writing was done in vain. Feedback was rare. In short, it reached a point to where it didn’t make sense to even post anymore. I no longer care to put any effort into posts that will just take up space on the WordPress server and offer very little to the reader — if anyone even bothered to read them. The reach from the blog’s Facebook page (which I will be closing as well) was also embarrassing.

Sharing personal aspects of your life is what social media is for and it’s doubtful anyone gave two shits about anything I wrote here recently. I’m not a world-traveling, jet-setting dynamo. I haven’t taken a vacation in years. I can barely afford to make ends meet with my pittance, all of which adds up to one really boring life that I don’t care to write about or share with others anymore at least in an expanded format. Blogging once brought me happiness. It doesn’t anymore and hasn’t for some time now.

We all have opinions. I have mine but I’m done blathering about them here.

However, I still believe that topical blogging is very much alive. That’s why I will continue to keep the following blogs going as they are focused on particular topics and have a much wider following than my personal blog.

I’m going to concentrate on those blogs. I’m done here.

This page will be a Sticky and remain a such. Eventually it will go private so soak up all that’s here for now because it won’t be here much longer.

If you’re a longtime reader, thanks for being a part of my blog. I’ve been at it since 2004 and feel it’s time to lay it to rest.

If you just started reading, well, thanks for stopping by but I don’t think you missed anything.

Adios,
Dave