Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I believe in Angels

Recent events in my family have sent me to pondering life and our daily struggles through it. Many believe and many don't in the afterlife, God, angels, etc. I suppose unless something happens to you, you can never really know.

Very few people know of this story, less than a handful, I'd say ...

Many years ago when I was younger, about the age of twenty-two or three (give or take), I had spent the evening and well into the night at a wedding. It was in the summer months as I recall the evening was warm and I wasn't wearing a jacket. It was late, very late, about 2 a.m. when I was driving home on the freeway.

At that point in time, I lived in an older area of the city. In itself, it was relatively safe place to be, however getting to that point, one had to venture through some areas that weren't so friendly. As it happened, I ran out of gas on the freeway about a mile from the next exit. I guided my car to the shoulder and sat there for a minute. I was tired. I know the area and knew there was a gas station at the end of the exit. That meant walking to get there, buying their gas can and walking back to my car. Remember, this was well before the age of the cell phone. No 'phone-a-friend' or AAA was coming to my rescue.

Just as I got out of my car, another vehicle pulled up behind me. It was an old station wagon, light blue in color and several years old. Out steps this big fella, rather tall, at least compared to me and solidly built. He had a big blonde mop of tussled hair and he was sporting a white tee shirt and cut-off jeans. And he was bare-footed. He steps up and offers to take me down the road to the exit. I thanked him and we were off.

In the end, I got home safely. (I haven't run out of gas since). So what's so angelic about that, you ask? Nothing on the surface. I received help when I needed help. From my perspective, I was in no immediate danger other than getting hit by a car. However, after some time had passed, I had a revelation. As I was thinking about what had happened that night, it was if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I saw the event clearly for what it was. The person who stepped to my aid was the spitting image of my cousin Tony, a big strapping farm-boy kind of guy with a heart as big as the ocean. Still, what's so special about that? You didn't recognize him.

Tony had been killed by a drunk driver about eight years before.

I believe in angels to this day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Knob

Consider the 'knob'. Yes, the knob. You know, that graceful, circular dial that used to grace so much of our electronics. Where has it gone?

The knob used to be a staple of nearly every electrical or electronic device you owned. It was on your radios, your tape players, your stereo rack systems, even your oven. (Okay, they still are on your oven). I can think back when I was a little boy and had my first transistor radio. It had dials. It had knobs. Because it was small, they were really small. It was a device that had style and design buily into it. Where did that panache of design go?

It went the way of the button. I looked at the radio in my car the other day. It was filled with buttons. A button for mode, one for FM (1 or 2), AM, CD player, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Gone are the days when one would press their ear against a crackly speaker and slowly spin the knob to fine tune the frequency. And yes, it did help if you closed your eyes. (I think it's a scientific fact). Well, maybe.

The knob has a delicate symmetry. It is graceful, nearly no matter the size. And what can you do with big knobs? You can spin them really fast. Want to pump up the volume quickly? No more pushing an ^ up or down and wait for the electronics to catch up. Just grab the knob and give a spin. That'll get your ears burning in a hurry. So for the tuner as well. Spin that baby and you're at the other end of the dial in no time. It just doesn't have the same satisfaction pushing a button. Just like a telephone. Hanging up on someone when you're angry just doesn't have the same emotional satisfaction of pushing an off button. Most will never know the power of slamming a receiver down on the hook. But I digress...

The scientists of the early electronic era had it best. They had knobs. Knobs and dials galore to spin, tweak, turn and fine tune on their calculating, measuring and calibrating devices. And they had analog gauges with needles that measured things. Oh, don't get me started on analog over digital.

We will someday, pass the last knob into the history books when their functionality no longer suits our beeping, electronic world. Our great grandchildren one day will look on these wondrous protrusions and simply raise their eyebrows. Then, they will all run off an push some buttons. I for one will miss those days.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Assault

When is it quiet?

Never.

A year or so past, we had a power outage. I think I wrote about it in a ramble. I think it might have been the last time it was quiet.

Think about that. You know what you're doing? Thinking. Consider what we put ourselves through each day, almost every minute of each day. We are assaulted by noise; sounds such as our piped-in headphones and ear buds. Radio. Television. Background music when we visit a store. Nearly everyone walking down the street has something wired to their heads to listen to something. What that means is our senses are being assaulted, overloaded.

What have we become? A hundred years ago, there was none of this cacophony to dilute our brains. The sun went down, the lights came up and people went to sleep, or read a book, or talked among themselves. We do little of that now. We are tied to computers and devices to entertain ourselves. What is this need we feel to continually entertain ourselves?

In the past several days, I have begun to tune out some of this noise. It becomes nothing more than drivel. Long have I listened to sports-talk radio in my car as I drive to and from work. Even this has become tedious. It is the same thing over and over again. Know what I did? It turned it off. No music, no yapping. It was quiet with nothing more than the sounds of travel. I suppose the good thing is, I didn't hear any strange noises coming from my car.

In the dawn of the electronic era when radio and television began to invade our lives, it was original. It was unique. That was the entertainment value. To me, it has all lost its uniqueness. We should begin to choose our battles, choose what we allow to surround us. We take it all in and continue to take it in without a filter. When does it become an overload where we no longer think, where we no longer give thought to our surroundings, our world.

Music a half hour, television no more than two. Pick up a book. Go walking outside in the cold. Feel your senses again as you listen to nature and see the stars twinkling in the dark sky. Go buy a telescope and watch nature as you've never seen it before as your breath hovers in the darkness. It might make you think. Now, that's a unique proposition.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's in a name?

As most who follow this rambling blog know, or at least should know, I am an author. I publish under the name of Robert Thomas. (So this is where you go off to the ebook websites and look for my books. It's okay. You can come back ... I'll wait).

Oh, you're back. Great. Hope you purchased something. I got bills to pay.

It is a major decision for an author to decide what name under which to write. There are various theories and reasons as to what to do. One could use their own name. One could also make up a really cool sounding name, like one you wish your parents would have named you. (I'm fine with mine, just so you know). Another consideration would be to just use initials and a last name. Again, an awesome chance to pick a cool name. Obviously, I didn't do any of those things.

Now, using your own name as I have done gives rise to other problems we now face in this world. It's a risk I have chosen to take. But there are other things to consider as well. Once one begins to write in a particular genre, expanding ones frontiers can become a problem. As Robert writes in the world of epic fantasy, any reader who is familiar with Robert would expect books with that name to also be fantasy. See the problem? So, if Robert wanted to write in a different genre he risks alienating his following.

So, what's a writer to do? You write under a different name. Or, at least a name that lets the reader know who the author is, but tells the reader this is something different. Don't expect flaming swords, dragons and wizards with the second name.

Sooooooo ...... coming in the next few months, a date still to be determined. Keep an eye peeled for a new work in a different genre.

Non-finalized working cover

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pay no attention ...

Pay no attention to the facts please...

We are now in a world of media saturation. The advent and proliferation of technology has placed news, sports and entertainment media in more places than people can watch. Take the recent college national championship game. The coverage during the day was on sports channels up and down the dial.

Now, before I go any further, I'd like to congratulate THE Ohio State Buckeyes on winning the national football championship. Truth be told, that's my team. I make no bones about it. I began following them as a young boy and gave cheered and suffered through the long years. I know when they are good, great, and not so good. I can take the comments of mediocrity when I know they are true.

Back to the original thought for this ramble:
Unfortunately, with the proliferation of media and channels, it seems organizations are so desperate to have coverage on topics, they will put a microphone in the hand of anyone who wants to offer an opinion and call themselves an expert or just knowledgeable about a topic. Such is the case with one commentator who appeared on Fox Sports channel.

The discussion, as routinely happens in college football turned to 'what happens next year'. Who will be the number one team in the country and who will be in the four team playoff? One such 'expert', Clay Travis from Fox Sports thought that even though Ohio State beat Alabama (the number 1 team in the nation), and thoroughly dominated Oregon (the number 2 team in the nation) in the championship game, that Alabama would beat Ohio State if the game was played tomorrow and that Oregon and Alabama are still the best teams in the country. This is what I'm talking about. This commentator has completely ignored the facts before him. He deems his opinion more worthy than what actually happened. In sports, that's why you play the games on the field. Hey idiot, the better team won. That's the fact you chose to ignore.

But it's not just in sports where these talking heads pop up. This opinion was just an example of what we are forced to listen to. So, how do we fight back? We don't argue with them, unless you want to get your blood boiling. We turn them off. Writing to Fox to say, this guy is a do-do bird does nothing but give exposure, although one might say 'as does mentioning him in this ramble', but I use it to make a point.

Facts are facts when you witness them. Many just choose to ignore what they've seen or make it up their own version of the facts. It happens in sports, it happens in the real world with real issues. Too much analysis become paralysis by volume. It's time to cut out the noise pollution.




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's it worth?

For the uninitiated, I run a business. I'm a retail manager. I've run small, local mom and pop stores and national corporation stores. For many years, I still get the same feeling when it comes to helping the public; the average customer doesn't actually seem to understand how a business works.

No matter where I have worked, I've routinely been told, that costs too much. Okay, that's your opinion, but, how in the heck could you know that? What's included in that price? You do understand, if I sell something for what it costs to make it, there is no business, there is no job. Part of the cost to the consumer of any item includes the costs of manufacturing and transportation to get it to you. It also includes a slice of the rent on the building, the lighting, the heat, the air conditioning, the cost of paying an employee to unpack it and put it on the shelf, the cost of the tag to mark it, the cost of paying benefits to employees such as medical and dental, (because we all know that's part of what everyone complains about, people working for companies that do not support their workers).
Oh, and there's more, but I won't go into those costs. So, that item you think that costs $7.99 should only cost $3.99, it's simply more than that.

The other thing retail stores must counter is each other. There are some items that are priced low because other stores price them low to draw in customers. Therefore, competing stores must lower those prices. Since you can't give it all away and stay in business, you need to raise the prices on other items to make up the difference. Again, no profit, no store, no job for your high school kid or the retired guy who can't make enough of social security.

So, where does that leave us? That still leaves us with a consumer base who wants everything for free and who blames the clerk for their perceived wrongs. Have you ever seen the videos of people who tear a store apart? If a group of customers went into any other business and acted like that, they would be arrested. But for some reason, it is expected for stores and restaurants to put up with bad behavior. Just for fun, go into your insurance agent's office and push everything off the shelves or off his or her desk and see if you don't end up in jail.

Yeah, good luck with that.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Rip it down

Tis over. The rush and the crush of the Christmas season has come and gone. The presents have been unwrapped and the paper and bows strewn around the room beneath beloved tannenbaum by tiny little hands that now rip at colorful packaging. The day is done, the wrapping scooped and shoveled into the trash.

Now what? From what I've read around the wonderful world of the Facebook, many are ripping all the decorations down. "Time to put is all away." "I want my house back." "I can't stand the mess." Somehow, I just can't fathom this. Although this was not how I was raised, it is more than just tradition for me. Now, being a good Catholic boy raised by the good Sisters, there is a proper time to take down the saggin, wilting tree. (Ours is fake, but gorgeous, and we don't suffer the needle problem).  No, the only proper time to take down our beloved Christmas tree is on the sixth of January when the Wise Men found the Christ child.

Religious notions aside, taking down the tree and packing all the decorations away is a sad time for me. The front side of Christmas is all hustle and bustle. Everyone is running around doing the shopping and decorating. There isn't time to sit and enjoy what you have done or to enjoy the spirit of the season. Christmas is the last gasp to hang onto something before the cold and dreary winter season blankets the world. I like to hang onto the dark green tree covered with shiny globes and white lights as long as I can.

I sit here this night, the day after, knowing for me that Christmas is not over. For me, Christmas is not just a day, or even an event. It is a feeling that lasts longer than a notch on a calendar. My Beloved and I sit in the soft, twinkling glow of our tree and relax, putting the hectic pre-holiday behind us. This next week of lights and decorations is my Christmas. But, I guess you'd expect that from an old retail guy.