Friday, July 15, 2016

About Before the Internet Age: Gratitude for Cell Phones and Ditch the Hitch-hiking.

My internet connection crashed yesterday afternoon, and I felt molested to the upmost degree about that. My partner and I were in the middle of what is to us doing important work---building a website to market art resources and supplies at Art Easels for the Artist. By the way I ask readers to do us a favor and check out our website and leave a comment---this will encourage the traffic that leads to higher ranking in the search engines.  
My partner Osnelly and I at Mall del Rio in Cuenca, Ecuador

Anyway, it´s late morning now and my web connection is still down, but a trusted and experienced internet systems engineer at [email protected]  is going to come over at 3 pm to re-establish the connection. I am fully confident he will succeed.
Obviously my tranquility is associated with a reliable and fast moving internet connection. I am tied to the net. It is a part of me and I am a part of it. But I am old enough to well remember the days when no internet existed, and I have a story about what that was like. My six brothers and sisters and I were children, in the family station wagon, and dad was driving and mom was with dad in the front seat. We were traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles and were about to ascend the mountains surrounding the approach to greater Los Angeles. That´s when our vehicle broke down due to mechanical mishap. Dad exited, stuck out his thumb, and started asking for a ride. He started hitch-hiking. He needed a tow to a gas station and he complained---for over an hour no one was stopping while it was plain to see he was a family man. This was circa 1964, well before the invention of cell phones. These problems and similar problems no longer exist because we have mobile phones.

Who would argue this advancement is not to our advantage?
The Osborne 1 computer (1981)

But I have a point to make that´s an offshoot angle or perspective about this. I myself did not grow up with the internet, computers and cellphones around in daily life. As a result their technology is always going to be somewhat foreign to me regardless of how many courses or studies of computers I may take. It´s like language. If someone´s native tongue is English he or she will never quite be able to speak an acquired, second language learned in adulthood with the same fluency as English.

The second language never gets ingrained like the mother tongue did. So it is with computer fluency for those who grew up before computers were part and parcel of daily life. They will never be as comfortable with the technology as are their sons and daughters, not to mention their grandchildren.
Something about it is a fascination to me. The internet has changed people´s capabilities---young people adapting to the world the way it is and becoming capable of guiding earth into a future which we would never have had absent the expansion of computer and internet expertise.
I live in what some term a third world country---Ecuador. But yesterday I noticed an Ecuadorian boy about five years old playing a digital game on his hand phone. He was moving his fingers around that keypad with ease---born of skill developed at a tender age. Be that as it may about Ecuador, it makes little difference. That boy will be painting the internet of the future with colors native to Ecuador.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

What type of single guy are you?

This is a guest post written by Paul Yhip. Paul owns a landscaping construction and design business in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also writes songs and short stories at Pablito´s Corner.

I went to dinner with my wife Anna the other day, along with our best friends Tom and Judy. We tend to be open with each other and talk and debate on a lot of different subjects. Judy opened the conversation and said ¨ I dated a few guys before I met Tom.¨

Interrupting, Tom said ¨A few? That´s like saying Hitler only killed a few people!¨  Anna and I looked at each other with forced smiles, and Judy, glaring at her husband of fourteen years said ¨What do you mean Tom? I was a slut!?¨

¨No, no let me correct myself,¨ replied Tom, his expression turning apologetic, ¨I meant not so much the quantity but the quality. I suppose every man you met was a different type of guy.¨

Anna and I looked at them as if we were spectators at a performance.

¨Of course I had guys who were sweet and gentlemanly,¨ said Judy, ¨and others were the all hands type.¨

Image courtesy of radnatt at

Looking at both of them, I said ¨Like everyone men come in different forms and with dating it´s no exception.¨

I´m not a psychology major but that didn´t keep me from sharing my thoughts. The conversation got all of us involved. After dinner we went our separate ways, and when later at home with Anna--- we continued to further discuss the subject.

I have come up with three types of men, presented below in terms of achieving their goals, especially when it comes to women.

The Bold: He is the type who takes what he sees. He´s a skilled talker and appears interesting. He sells the impossible but makes it seem believable. Women become convinced he is the hero for whom they have been waiting.

The Mastermind: He is cool and thinks calculated thoughts, slowly guiding women into his world because they feel so at ease with him. Women are turned on more by what he displays of his insides rather than physical appearance. He massages the mind and soul of the woman so eloquently that she feels he is the one.

The Cobra: His meekness is his strength. He appears so non-threatening. As if he is a little boy, women begin to adore his cute qualities. He knows he is gaining ground when the woman begins to show interest. As time goes on she finds he has another side which strikes with deadly accuracy for the capture. For some reason this is the one time the woman enjoys her defeat.

Like with everything there are exceptions and mixtures. Men can have aspects of all three types. One guy can start out being bold, then later become more like the mastermind. Another can start out like the little boy later becoming more akin to the bold.

How complex we are as humans.  



Friday, May 27, 2016

A Question about Halloween Answered.

At Zona Refrescante restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador, every afternoon on Thursday, Ecuadorians meet with native English speakers to practice speaking English. It´s fun, and it´s a way for people from both cultures to inquire about strange customs they don´t understand.

This bright middle school age student had a question for me this past Thursday about Halloween. I pause to interject. This girl of about 14 years never lived in any English speaking country. She learned what she knows not only because eight hours of English per week is a requirement at her school, but also because as she explained, English is her favorite subject! She speaks it well and has decently good pronunciation, and she impressed me.  
But all that above about her is beside the point.
This girl, an obviously curious expression on her face, was asking me to explain Halloween. I tried but felt flabbergasted. I didn´t have an answer satisfactory to me.
Halloween as it´s known in North America doesn´t exist in Ecuador. The custom most akin to Halloween in Ecuador is called the day of the dead, I´d say, but this tradition is so different from Halloween that in fact the connection is most imprecise. Ecuadorians visit the remains of lost loved ones at their tombs in graveyards on the day of the dead. They place flowers and cards with messages on the tombstones, and eat food and drink a special drink called colada morada. It´s a time to pray for the dead and a time to communicate with the dead.
This to me is its, granted, unsteady similarity to Halloween. But take a look at one of the most popular Halloween costumes---the costume of a skeleton. Somehow in some way Halloween has something to do with death. And death is scary. Look at the costumes kids wear on Halloween--- ghosts, goblins, monsters, witches, pirates and devils---all scary, all evocative of frightening manifestations that would scare you to death if not make believe. So what IS the point of Halloween? Is it just to have fun going around to houses in the neighborhood carrying a bag to collect candy?  Get real--- that´s the biggest part of the point. But I think Halloween has a deeper meaning, which I wouldn´t be thinking about if it hadn´t been for that Ecuadorian girl´s question.  

In my mind the Halloween costume represents the dark side of human nature. It´s the side we ordinarily hide but that we bring out into the open in pantomime on Halloween. We proclaim there is this evil side to us that is like a monster or a demon. We say yes on Halloween, yes we are part bad and yes this part of us exists.
The beauty about Halloween as every kid in North America will attest is the collection of big bags of candy. Maybe this is symbolic as well. Is this a representation that evil spirits can be bought off?  After all, the ghosts and goblins leave the house once their bags get filled with candy.


Friday, May 13, 2016

White Flag Defeat and the Power of Surrender

To surrender? What does that mean?  It means you know you´ve been defeated and you accept it. You´ve been knocked out. You don´t have it in you to fight anymore and you give up. You fly a white flag.

Addicts in recovery have surrendered. The heroin addict who cannot stop injecting heroin realizes he has been defeated when he surrenders to the reality of his addiction. He needs the drug. He will suffer almost unbearable pangs of withdrawal unless he gets it into his blood stream. By a surrender to this fact of the matter, the addict makes possible a shift to the entirety of his position in the world.   
This thread of talk refers to what is personal and private. Heroin addiction never stopped some notable musicians from performing their music. Alcoholics have been famous figures in the literary world. The talent and energy that drives this success is immaterial to addiction. Addiction is monstrous, yes. It is almost all-powerful, yes. But it does not necessarily prevent people from achieving success. People are made of durable material and even those of us with broken wings can fly far.

But what addiction does do is render people, no matter how talented or famous, enslaved to their addictions.

I have an example of the power of surrender I want to share from my personal life, although it´s not about addiction.

The Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay, September, 1945

It´s about a condition that developed over a ten year period when I worked graveyard shifts as a security guard. My body acclimated itself to being awake at night. It became accustomed to sleeping during the day. Ten years after having stopped working in security, still, I get tired and sleep during the day. I perk up ready to greet the world during the dark hours of the night. My sleep and wake hours were completely turned upside down by the decade of years I worked security at night.

I fought the condition with ferocity for a long time. I did everything I could to reverse it so I could sleep at night. Nothing worked--- except the effective sleeping medication called trazadone, not available where I now live---Ecuador. My nights turned into anger fueled and frustrating episodes of insomnia punctuated by bouts of intense binge eating.      

I surrendered to the reality of my insomnia about a month ago. I accepted that I have a condition I can´t change. I elected to go with the flow. I gave up worrying about when to sleep and instructed myself to sleep when I´m sleepy and tired---ordinarily about five o´clock in the morning. I go about my pursuits calmly and without rancor or agitation at night. The capitulation to my insomnia erased the emotions which had been driving me to binge eat at night.

A connection exists between the troubles I had with insomnia and the troubles of addiction. Nothing about either of these two maladjustments can or could be remedied unless first a surrender occurs---the hoisting of a white flag indicating the profound realization change needs to enter into the picture.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five Duties that a Man Owes to Himself

1. The duty to hold himself on a level equal to others.

This is an essential duty, because a man who holds himself equal to others is being realistic. He comprehends that in every category of characteristic, knowledge and ability, some will do better than he while others do worse. He understands the playing field of life provides advantages to some and disadvantages to others. He realizes these circumstances occur in a manner completely outside of his control, so for these he takes no credit nor assumes any blame. He asserts his equality to himself and in his mind will have it no other way. As well he feels the force in natural law which indicates that indeed all men are inescapably created equal.

2. The duty to be honest with himself.

This duty is of vital importance because a man who is not honest with himself is pretending to himself. Pretense isn´t grounded in reality. Pretense is a lie and a man who lies to himself distorts the incomparable validity to his unique individuality. It is a crime against the self of major magnitude. Fear is the father of this crime. It is being afraid of oneself that fosters the lie of the pretense. The duty of a man to be honest with himself  often  requires courage, which itself is a critical part of the definition of what it means to be a man.

3. The duty to master his emotions.

Emotions are powerful. Without the steadying hands of thought and determination, they are inordinitely powerful. Without the constraint imposed by the power of reason, emotions become high risk factors that can lead to major regret. A man owes to himself this duty even if it is never entirely accomplished to his satisfaction. Reason is what separates us from animals; not to utilize its capacity to choose behavior and to regulate conduct is akin to high treason against the self.

4. The duty to do the difficult.

Self-respect is earned by accomplishing the difficult, and self-respect is a key ingredient to man´s spirit. This is why this duty exists. What´s difficult and why are personal and unique to every individual who accepts the challenges of the difficult, but all difficulties engender patience and perserverence. Nothing worth much has ever been gained by doing what´s easy. Practice comes to mind as an essential component in the accomplishment of the difficult, and the repetitions of practice are not easy.  However, nobody ever achieved any measurable level of competence by infrequent or sporadic application of the will.

5. The duty to enjoy.

Forms of enjoyment are many and varied, but every man by the workings of nature is tailor made to enjoy hobbies and interests which have personal appeal. These interests are part of the make up of the individual;  it´s a duty to cultivate these interests by enjoying the pleasures they afford.  Life is altogether too priceless  to discard into the trash bin those enjoyments only living can offer. If a man must dedícate himself to making time for enjoyable activities, this dedication is only fitting.  To do otherwise amounts to nothing less than rude and ungrateful behavior towards the spirits of life.




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Did Tears Fall for the Children of Palo Alto?

The night storm had vanished and I looked at broken black clouds over the city of Palo Alto. Rain had plummeted day after day, pelting the ground in a concert of constant deluge until at last dawn hours stirred. I viewed a wet street empty save for solitary cars directed east or west across a Caltrain railroad track. It was 2011.  
A stretch of Caltrain track in Palo Alto
One after another students from Palo Alto´s highly accredited high schools were awaiting death on the track in the path of oncoming trains. This epidemic of suicide had alerted the media. ABC and NBC news reporters appeared with cameramen to interview local officials.  

I guarded the tracks as a security officer. I witnessed how these calamities wounded the heart of this town in California´s wealthy Silicon Valley.

Downtown Palo Alto

This blond, slender 40-something woman always wearing blue jeans walked daily, across the track on the opposite side of the street. She´d pause, look both ways, then sprint over to hand to me a cold can of coke. Not once or twice mind you---she always did it. And every time she did she expressed in that action love for the lives of the children of Palo Alto.  

Late, late at night a car stops, the teen-age driver exits; he opens the trunk, grabs a beer and sets it down in the middle of the street, then without word said he drives away.

The Hispanic gardener in the truck with its lawnmower and rakes and ladder in the back---the driver waits for a train to pass. It´s scorching hot and the gardener hands over to me a cold bottle of water.  

Many times, indeed so many it was not uncommon, people would stop their cars on chilly nights or balmy days to exit and deliver to me a cup of coffee and donuts or cookies.
On one grey drizzly night a pretty Philippine woman arrives at my guard post and what she does is she chats with me. She keeps me company for almost an hour. I´m a 61 year old fat man with balding hair. I know the gift of her pleasant companionship was given less out of concern for me and more for love of Palo Alto´s youngsters.

A middle-aged man in a short sleeved white shirt would come during the day once a week to stand beside the tracks. He carried a bible and would read scriptural passages, then raising an arm skyward he´d pray. I saw this happen and I knew the reason. The man loved the young people of Palo Alto. Not infrequently I saw women make the sign of the cross as they drove over the tracks.

At the many intersections of street and track, volunteers with walky-talky radios and beaming searchlights would patrol the region at night until the last train run at 1 a.m.  A report might signal a teenager had been spotted hanging about the tracks at such and such a location, and it looked scary. A call to police would transpire and I knew these volunteers loved the children of their community. I know it now.

A Caltrain train

Blinking red lights and clanging bells warn of an approaching train about every twenty minutes, either on the track north to San Francisco or south to San Jose. Mechanical arms adjust down automatically to block passage across the tracks. The light on the face of the locomotive shines in the distance and I watch, and wait until the tracks clear, until the train speeds past with steel thunder and whooshing air. I did this job for a year.