Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summer Camp, Part One: Camp Arrowhead

I thought that I would like to look back at the various summers I spent in camp, and see some of what I can recall. In the summer of 1991, I went to camp for the first time, to Camp Arrowhead near Tuxedo, North Carolina. My father had been to the same camp as a boy, although it was on the site of the current girls' camp at the time.

It was the summer that Terminator 2 came out, although at the age of eight, I wouldn't see it for a while. I did wonder about it quite a bit when seeing promotions for it at fast food restaurants on the road. I wondered less about Ice T's song Cop Killer, although that was prominent at the time as well. I further recall someone talking about the Mickey Rourke movie Barfly, which I still haven't seen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Post Script

Of course, I ought to mention and properly describe the rest of what happened Sunday, which was that I helped a friend move most of the day. My friend is moving to Arizona, and so a few of his friends who live there came here to help him out, and together they had a Uhaul truck and a pickup truck with a shell over the flatbed.

Immediately after church, I talked to him, and agreed to help out. He said he'd meet me at my place and bring me over, and I thought that I'd be back from church before he got there. In fact, the opposite happened, and I walked straight to his vehicle in front of my building.

So we got started sometime around noon, and were done for the day maybe ten hours or so later. I have to say right off that my friend has the hoarding powers of ten men, and beats the hell out of my hoarding. This is especially true because he hoards food as well. Things went well enough, although we ended up running out of boxes, and wouldn't have gotten through everything in the house even if we'd had the boxes. So we had some pizza, and I went home. It was a productive day.

The Weekend

Nothing big Saturday, except I went over to the library to watch a screening of Iron Man, which was pretty good. I like those screenings, so I hope they keep them up. I could be watching the same movie at home, but instead I'm out doing something, which is somewhat more social. It feels good.

Sunday I went to mass, marking the third week in a row that I've made it to church. It's getting to be a habit, and I'm getting better at the things that you're expected to do. It's a good time, and it feels good to have gone.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Speech

After I posted my speech here, I memorized it, and then went to the meeting downtown to deliver it. The meeting was nice. There was pizza (from Costco!), fresh fruit, cream puffs, soda and water. Most people are charged ten dollars for attendance of these contests, but I was comped because I was the test speaker.

A fellow club member had been a test speaker before, and said that you are treated like a star, with everyone wanting to talk to you. I found that it really was like that. After I gave my speech and the evaluation contestants finished, there was an intermission. I was trying to get over to the food table, but I couldn't because people kept approaching me and engaging me in conversation.

As for my speech, it went all right, but could have been much better. I got a number of comments which I expect to be helpful when I give my next speech. Actually, the response was more complementary than I would have expected.

Now, that was on Tuesday. On Thursday we had our regular meeting, as well as another contest that evening.

The meeting was a little rough. One issue was that we were in a different room which lacked a computer setup which one of our speakers needed. In spite of any troubles, the one guest who had never attended our club before seemed quite impressed nonetheless.

Thursday night's contest was much like Tuesday's, except that I had to pay. Also, I was pestered to buy into the raffle. It was pretty neat to be out at an event like that with a number of people from my club. I was there to count ballots, and found it to be rather different from the same task in a club meeting. I think the judge supervising ballot counting was frustrated with me at first, but I got the hang of it.

It was interested to know the results some time before they were announced. Now, we had two club members participating. One placed first and will advance, and the other placed second. It was a good showing. I had gone to on the subway, but when I mentioned that to the president of my club, she insisted that we find me a ride, which was very kind.

Unfortunately, because I went to that contest, I couldn't go to improv, but will do so next week.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Toastmasters Speech

I've finished revisions on my second speech for Toastmasters, and present it here. I welcome all unqualified praise. If possible, I'll also make a video or audio recording available, but we'll see about that.

"The Galaxy of Late Night Stars"

Since Steve Allen's Tonight Show debuted on NBC in 1954, the late night talk show has been a staple of the American Television landscape. In the time since then, America has become accustomed to having its favorite stars beamed into its homes nightly, and the effect on comedy has been nothing short of revolutionary. The changes that have been in the works in late night have had me thinking about all of that. Allow me to offer you the opinions of a connoisseur.

What's going on

As I indicated previously, yesterday I attended the final game of the Dodgers' first 2009 homestand. It was a good time, but was awfully warm, even where we were in the shade. The Dodgers kicked ass again, bringing their win streak to eight games. We nourished ourselves with sub sandwiches, chips, and soda during the game, and celebrated the win later with mini-burgers from a coupon handed out as a result of the victory.

Also, I helped out my friend moving some things around at his place. He will be moving away to Avondale (near my own hometown), and when the move is finished, I will be sorry to see him so much less often.

Today I'm working on a speech which I will be delivering tomorrow night for a Toastmasters contest. The subject is late night talk shows, and I will post the text of the speech when it is finished. I will also offer my impressions of the event I'm speaking at as well, in addition to an estimation of my performance as well as that of my evaluators.

Also tomorrow is a special meeting of my own TM club, but I will just be evaluating someone there. I'll say something about that too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Friday, yesterday and today, it's the Dodgers against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Two wins for the Blue so far, so today they go for the sweep. Friday was a good time, as all the season ticket holders I know there save one were in attendance. Saturday not so many were there, and the team followed suit on the field, sitting three starters. As I wrote previously, I'm getting back in the groove in spite of missing the first first games of the regular season (including the home opener- mph!). After today's game, they'll be on the road until sometime around the 30th.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Big Thursday

It was another good Thursday. Toastmasters was an excellent time, as always. I was the General Evaluator, which seems like a bigger deal than it turns out to be when you go and do it. Having done every role in a meeting now, I would say that the hardest are giving a prepared speech and evaluating a speech. Evaluating is actually harder for me, because I can't bear to hurt someone's feelings, so I have to push through that and just do it.

On Tuesday I'll be helping out with a special club meeting, then delivering a speech that evening downtown.

Thursday night was improv class, as always. I was not happy with my initial performances, but finished fairly strongly. After class, we went down to Hollywood for an improv show at a small theater there. The teacher of our class and his improv team went up against another team in a contest. The other team won, which I didn't agree with, but it was a very good time, particularly talking to classmates in a social situation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Somali Pirates: At World's End

I think we knew that recovering Captain Phillips and killing his captors would not be the end of the menace, and indeed the problem is worse than ever. Since the resolution of that crisis, the Associated Press reports that pirates have already seized another four vessels and over 75 hostages. It's estimated that they hold some 17 vessels and over 300 hostages overall.

As I said, we knew that Sunday wouldn't end it. We hurt these thugs, and they were inevitably going to respond, to show us that they're not going anywhere. It's going to take more action from us to beat them. The affected area of ocean in the Gulf of Aden and adjacent waters is four times the size of Texas, so no strictly Naval approach is likely to do the job. Experts say that we may have to put men on the ground again in Somalia. People who remember our actions there in the mid-90s will know how serious it would be for us to do that, but we can't shrink away from it out of squeamishness. We have to be prepared to do what it takes because this situation cannot stand when we have the means to stop it.

Now, make no mistake: This has nothing to do with terrorism, and nothing these thugs have done constitutes an act of war. We are not at war with them, nor could we be. These are despicable criminals, and what we must do is nothing but enforce the law.

Now, it would be easy to let this go and forget about it as the plight of the Maersk Alabama fades into the past. This is a just and necessary fight though, and we have to stay with it. We have to stay on these thugs until they're the ones that don't feel safe in those waters.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I have three things going on today. This morning, I went to Easter Mass at a local Catholic church. In a little bit, I'm going to visit a former roommate for Easter dinner. Then tonight, a second dinner here at home with an indeterminate number of people being invited by my current roommate.

Now, I hadn't stepped inside a Church (except to vote) in a long time. I can't remember the last time. It's been years, for sure. Today I went though, at the behest of my mother. I was resistant to the idea, but actually I had kind of been waiting for a nudge to go. It was a good experience, actually. I may try to make a habit of going again.

Jimmy's Char-Broiled Burgers

I found myself in need of a couple of stamps on Saturday. I discovered that neither of the post offices near me are open for retail service on Saturdays. You can access the PO boxes and the stamp machine, but the machine only sells books of stamps. I almost never have need of stamps, generally doing everything online, so I'm loathe to pay nearly nine dollars for a book of stamps when the rate is bound to go up before I use them all.

Thusly, I needed to go to a little post office inside a water store about a mile north on Lankershim. The way the neighborhood transitions between the subway station and this post office is interesting. The subway station is the northernmost point of the NoHo arts district: fairly vibrant and fashionable. Between that point and Vanowen, it becomes a little gritty and rundown. Then there's a block above Vanowen that looks like some shabby, desolate border town. Then it looks just a little worse than the block I live on. That's where the post office in the water store is.

On The Demographic Makeup of My Grade School

I often think about the time during which I lived in Phoenix proper and attended school there. Specifically, I attended Squaw Peak Elementary School from the fall semester of 1988 to the spring semester of 1994. We had actually moved out by Scottsdale, and starting in the fall of '94, I would be attending Scottsdale schools. They would be good schools, but I missed something from Squaw Peak. Looking back, Squaw Peak felt a bit more like a quintessentially American school. What it really was, though, was the diversity of Squaw Peak's student body.

When I was there, it seemed like a ordinary mix of ethnicities. There was a large amount of white kids, but also many of what it was proper at the time to call Hispanic kids. There was also a sprinkling of black kids and a number of Asian kids. Scottsdale's schools turned out to be more homogenous.

I feel glad to have had the experience of growing up like that. I wonder what it's like there now. Probably considerably more diverse than it was during my time. I don't recall ever encountering any kids from south Asia, or any from the Middle East. None from Europe that I can recall, although I think there was a Polish family who lived across the street from my family. It would be interesting to see Squaw Peak now. I've wanted to look at the old house for a long time too. They say though that you can't go home again. I don't see the harm in looking back, but maybe it's not productive to dwell there.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Krod Mandoon

I loved this show. It's imperfect, but I'll get to that. On the whole, it really worked for me. It's a pleasure to see a sword and sorcery comedy with reasonable production value on television. Comedy Central deserves endless credit for putting this on.

The lead character, Krod Mandoon, is a nice hero type with humorous touches about him. To describe them in text would be to strip them of the intangibles that make them work on screen, but suffice it to say that he and the other characters work in execution.

Two Kurt Russells

I wouldn't say that my father is a simple man, but he is a man of few obvious interests. That makes him difficult to buy gifts for. His relative dearth of expressed interests applies to films as much as to anything else. Two of the only films I know he likes are the Kurt Russell comedies Overboard and Captain Ron.

The former tells the story of a carpenter (Russell). He's a scheming, drinking sleazy kind of lout. He is hired to do some work on board a yacht by socialite Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn). An accident occurs on board, and Stayton is thrown overboard. Due to the trauma, she experiences amnesia. The carpenter convinces her that they are married, and hilarity ensues.

The latter film uses Russell's comedic skills similarly. He plays the titular character, who is hired to sail a yach inherited by straitlaced yuppie Martin Harvey (Martin Short). Captain Ron is a gritty, hardbitten type. In spite of his self-confidence and worldliness, he is quite incompetent, and leads Harvey's family through a series of comical misadventures.

James Bond Territory

I'm taking the Vessel into treacherous waters today, with a ripped-from-the-headlines post. I could only be speaking of the ongoing incident off the coast of Somalia. First, a little history:

Back in the early 90s, the people of Somalia were in some hot water. They were desperately poor in a land where what little there was to be had lay in the hands of vicious warlords. The international community send aid, but it was intercepted by the warlords. The response was to go after the warlords, but as is so often the case, they proved to be more than a match for the force which we had the political will to send. Because Ridley Scott made a movie about it, people are more apt to remember that part of the story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Well, the dodgers completed their preseason homestand on Saturday, and are currently on the road playing the first games of the regular season. So far, so good. The rotation is likely to be the issue. If things go well, they may make a move to address that for a playoff run.

As for me, the game-going fan, I'm getting back into the swing of things. A week of games, a week off until the fall. Next Monday is the home opener, which should be good. I'll have more to say about that then.

Big Thursday

Thursday is typically one of my bigger days. I have toastmasters, and I have improv class. I've written about toastmasters, but have said little about the latter. About toastmasters: today I was table topics master again, and again had only time for one topic. We were running behind for some reason, so even one was pushing it.

I finally have a date for my second speech. I'm going to try to work on the speech I wrote about late night talk shows, and see If I can make that work. I wasn't so happy with it when I prepared it to be a backup speaker. We'll see how it goes, and I'll post it when it's ready.

As for improv, I've been to something like four or five classes, and I feel like I'm progressing. Warm up exercises are tough, but I'm getting more and more comfortable with everything, and I've been getting praise for a lot of what I do in class. Maybe it's possible that I could get more serious about it in time.

So that's that.

On Beer

When I got to be old enough to drink, I took a real interest in beer. I was briefly interested in hard liquor at one time, but mainly it's just been beer. I've never really had an interest in wine. I was told by my dentist that it was a bad idea to drink red wine. Perhaps I might try white wine.

I believe the first case of beer I bought was Miller High Life. Must have been the Errol Morris commercials working on me. I made a habit of buying something different. I never have been one for the domestic big time beers, so it was mainly imports and microbrews. That changed when I got to college, when it was pretty much all PBR.

I'd say that my favorites over the five years that I've been old enough to drink have been as follows: My favorite has to be Fat Tire. After that, I would say Modelo and its dark version, Negro Modelo. Fat Tire is just the best-tasting thing out there. The Modelos are great, and come in an awesome bottle. Guinness is an iconic beer, and is something special on tap. I liked Rolling Rock until they sold out. Currently, is Cerveza Caguama, a fine product of El Salvador. I gather there are many Salvadorans in the LA area, but I imagine it's all Mexicans to most people.

My drinking habits are on a modest scale. At the most, I'll have a beer a day, possibly skipping sometimes. That can change a little when the booze is free. Even then, I try to restrain myself. Drinking very much leads to drunkeness, which has obvious consequences. I tend to get to feeling sick if I have very much at all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


After a number of weeks buying just few things here and there in addition to periodic trips to fast food restaurants, I have finally done a full shopping trip to my local Ralphs.

If I could digress for a moment: The main grocery stores here are Ralphs and Von's. I don't believe Ralph's has any locations or sister store back in Arizona, but Von's here is know as Safeway back home. There are also Whole Foods and Trader Joe's as well. Another option around here is Food 4 Less. I prefer not to go to there. And then there are some of the other national options- Costco, Smart & Final, and perhaps others.

Now, back to what I meant to say:

My choices on this trip were more or less in line with my usual preferences. For breakfeast, generic frosted flakes. For some reason, the milk was only 2 dollars. Let's hope it's not for safety reasons.

For lunch, I always go with hot dogs. It's a simple and affordable meal. In the past I've paired it up with chips, but am currently using apples as a side.

Dinner consists of chicken, baked potato and peas. Also purchased were pot pies, ramen noodles, and a frosty fermented beverage imported from El Salvador which happened to be on heavy discount.

I may have more to say later today, but that's all for now.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Movies at the Library

I have just written about film screenings at the library. I imagine they pull a dvd from the shelves for that purpose. The libraries here tend to have a fairly good selection of DVDs as well as VHS tapes. I haven't seen any blu-rays as of yet, but such does not concern this late-adopter. I find the availability of free DVDs there gratifying, particularly as I have recently cut back on my netflix plan. I am generally able to go to the library and find enough discs from my queue to adequately supplement my Netflix rentals.

They let you check out three dvds at a time, and you can keep them a couple of days. Currently, I have The Incredible Hulk, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. From Netflix, it's the classic Wages of Fear.

Opening day

I'm not going to get all deep and philosophical about baseball's Opening Day. It's nice, but has been undermined somewhat by the fact that they now play a night game the day before, so it's not really the opening day anymore. Also because of that night game, the first game isn't played by the Cincinnati Reds anymore. They previous had the honor of playing the season's first game, since they are baseball's oldest franchise.

What I really like is anytime live sports are played in the middle of the day during the week. Golf does that all the time, but I don't care for golf. Baseball plays weekday day games on Opening Day and an occasional one after that. The Olympics go on during the day, though coverage is apt to be shifted to prime time by broadcasters. Tennis could be on live at any time of the day or night, depending on where the match is being played. The NCAA Tournament early rounds result in weekday day games, as do the conference tournaments that precede it. The Chicago Cubs were about the last baseball team to install lights( some time in the 80s), and still play more day games than anyone else.

Saturday Night On The Town

I did a couple of things of note Saturday. I had read a flyer earlier in the week indicating that Quantum of Solace would be screened that afternoon, and so made plans to be there before I went to the baseball game. I found that the situation was reasonably agreeable. Some six or seven people were in attendance for what I learned was the first of an apparently indefinite series of Saturday screenings. The films of each month will be of a common genre.

This month will feature action-adventure films, which they seem to define relatively loosely, as next week will feature Wanted. Next month's theme will be romantic comedies. I'm less enthusiastic about that prospect, though it will depend upon the exact films. As I said, the situation is reasonable. The room is fine, and the screen is nice and big. The sound is sub-par by the standards of a theater, but is acceptable. I imagine I'll be back regularly, provided I'm interested in the film of the week.

Friday Night

I believe I've written in the past about my friend's monthly peace gathering. Well, that came around again Friday. I would have been going to see the Dodger's second exhibition game at Dodger Stadium, but was already planning on attending the peace gathering, and so gave Friday's tickets to the post office worker who was so helpful in making sure I got the package of tickets that had been sent to me in the mail.

Each Peace Gathering features a guest performer. Last month was a poet who works for a hospice down in San Diego (or is he a hospice worker who write poetry?). This month's performer was a wonderful singer-songwriter with a lovely, throaty singing voice. It was my intention to read a passage from Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, which I am reading currently, but the opportunity did not present itself. I suppose that next month will be just as good a chance to do so. It was written in 1934, and will probably still hold up in May.

Here at the household, I said goodbye to the video tape deck which had been a guest here next to my computer for a number of weeks. I had borrowed it for work purposes, and had "gotten accustomed to its face", so to speak. I will miss it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The events of the day

Yesterday featured some notable events for me. Thursdays, as my loyal band of readers will recall, are the day that I have Toastmasters. I was ballot counter, but hope to give my next speech in a week or two. I'm not sure if I'll work with the speech I wrote about late night talk shows. I don't entirely like it as is, but it might work with some reorganization. Anyway, it was a good meeting in spite of being held in the smaller room this week. Concessions must be made occasionally to Warner Brothers.

Just prior to leaving for that meeting, I had discovered that I missed an express delivery through USPS. A friend had overnighted me tickets to the Dodgers' three exhibitions at Dodger Stadium prior to the opening of the regular season, and the first of the three was yesterday night. According to the slip left behind by the delivery man, the earliest I would be able to retrieve the shipment was the following morning- not an acceptable state of affairs! After the meeting, I called the post office, and was advised that I might possibly track down the mailman in my neighborhood and get the package from him before he returned to the post office. As I made my way back from the meeting, I plotted my plan of attack on finding my quarry.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Long Bus Ride

I found it necessary to go down to Hermosa Beach, which happens to be quite a long way from me in North Hollywood. Not a big deal for someone with a car, but when you rely on public transportation, it's a chore.

There were two transfers and three buses each way. I realized when I went out to the bus stop that it was the first of the month, and I hadn't gotten the new bus pass. I resolved that I would just pay the cash fare to get to the subway station, and I could get the monthly pass when I got to one of the fare machines in the station. That's what I did, but there was an issue. To get down to Hermosa Beach, I had to take one commuter express bus each way, which costs extra. I believe I paid 1.75 the first time, and on my way back, the driver just waved me on because it was taking too long to settle and she had to get moving. Apparently something was wrong with the bus, because just when we got to my stop, the bus was met by a mechanic. I'm just glad it got as far as I was going.

These long bus rides aren't ideal, but at least you can make use of the time since you're not driving. I like to read, but sometimes I just sit and try to relax. On the express buses that go on the freeway and don't make any stops for a while, a lot of people seem to like to sleep. I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that, but sometimes I do get rather sleepy. I used to fall asleep on the school bus in the mornings.

I hope I get the chance to be in that part of the south bay for pleasure. It seems like a lovely place right by the beach, but I was occupied by work and other things both of the times I went down there. Surely there will be other chances.