Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flying Cars, but Not Until We Get the Road Cars Right

I've been expecting to see flying cars for a long time. When I was growing up and reading Dad's Popular Science and Mechanix Illustrated magazines back in the 60's, it seemed like every other issue had an article on the advances being made to prototypes of the flying car. I guess there's a chance that I'll see a few of them one of these years.

I don't think now is the right time, though. It seems to me, after my forty years of driving, there are a few improvements that should be made to the earth-bound cars before we can start taking our vehicles into the the sky. When we get the road cars right, then we will have earned the right to congest the airways.

For instance, why do we still have a blind spot? That's something I haven't been able to figure out. It just seems that within the first couple of years after cars were mass produced, at least one or two manufacturers would have thought that eliminating the blind spot could be a good selling point. I saw a tv ad a couple of weeks ago for some luxury car that now has a blind spot sensor, but that isn't going to do me any good.

Another feature that we need is a "the car in front of me is stopped and waiting for a break in oncoming traffic so they can make a left-hand turn, and I know you can't see them because you're behind me and you think I'm stopped in the middle of the road for no reason, but honking at me is not going to do anything more than piss me off, so just sit tight" indicator. It could be something eye-catching like a little flag that runs up a miniature flag staff on the trunk.

Lastly, in the same way we have a high-beam setting for our headlights, we need a high-scream button for the horn. There are times when honking the horn, no matter how many times or how long we toot, we don't get the attention that the situation demands. If we had a louder, more obnoxious option, we might get the attention of those people who are driving while sleeping in the lane next to us.

I'm looking forward to seeing those mid-century artist renditions of flying cars zooming over our cities come to reality, but I think we need to postpone that until we can get our road cars right. Listening, Detroit?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Born to Run

I'm not a runner or jogger of any degree, much less long distance endurance running. I didn't know who Micah True was until the search for him was covered in headline news. I learned that he was one of the main characters in a non-fiction book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and that he was recognized by everyone who was active in long distance running as a person who embodied the sport. Though I didn't know him, or about him, the passionate pursuit that he brought to the thing he loved most will be his legacy, and I offer my condolences to those who will feel the loss of his passing.

The title of the book, Born to Run, captured my attention, especially since it is non-fiction. I think everyone has a calling, but we're not always tuned in to the voice that whispers it to us. I wonder how I personally would fill in the blank: Born to __________. Actually, I think I know the answer. I'm doing it right now - Born to Write. It’s taken me a long time to come to that realization, but I also believe that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

I plan to read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. I understand that it is inspirational and written with exuberance. I want to learn more about Micah True and the other people portrayed in this story. Though I’m not a runner, I know there is a lesson here for me on dedication and perseverance. Other than writing, I want to always be Born to Learn from people like Micah True who show us how to extend our idea of limits.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Silver Lining Behind Those Losing Lottery Tickets

If you're like me and a few million other people around America this morning, you're looking at one or more losing lottery tickets. In my case, I have nine tickets and a scanned color copy of the fifty tickets we went in on at my job.

Out of all those tickets, which cost me $14 to play, I'm going to walk away with $1.10 in winnings. I was rather disappointed last night when I totaled up my takings, and this morning I'm feeling more groggy than usual, as if the let down affected my sleep. I'm not totally depressed, though. In fact, several times I've had the fleeting thought that "I'm glad I don't have to worry about how to spend all that money if I'd won last night." Always looking on the bright side.

And with that train of thought, I think we should institute a national observance of  Losers’ Day. A day when all us losers can "celebrate" the fact that we did not win back our wagers. We don't want to overdo this celebration, so let's say that whenever the Mega Millions lottery jackpot climbs over the half-a-billion dollars mark, on the following day, we mark our calendars as Losers’ Day. This should be a very special day with events and recognition of our need for a salve for our dashed hopes and a way to forget our troubles and our empty pockets.

I can see it now. There will be a parade down Main Street of every major city in the U.S. The spectators will come dressed in bright orange tee shirts with "Lottery Loser" handwritten in black marker across the front. The floats will be decorated with neatly folded losing lottery tickets and tissues stuffed into chicken wire formed into the shape of big fat zeros and giant iconic thumbs down symbols. From the windows of the buildings lining the parade path, Losers (with a capital L, of course) will float their unlucky lottery tickets, some folded into paper airplanes, some diced into confetti, some wadded into tight balls and showing signs of stomped footprints.

Okay, America. Let today be the official first Losers’ Day celebration. I’ll get the party started by going to my balcony and shouting out across the neighborhood our signature Loser’s chant: “L-O-S-E-R! I’m a capital L Loser!”

Come on everyone, join in!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Winning Lottery Numbers are a Sure Thing

If you go to the Mega Millions website, you'll see a few statistics about "America's biggest jackpot game". I went there because I wanted to learn how the money from ticket sales is split up between winnings, operating costs, etc. There was a bold graphic on the About Us page with the information I was seeking. The breakdown is (in approximations, of course, according to the description): 35% goes to fund government services in the participating states, 50% pays out to the winning tickets, and 15% is spent on retailer commissions and lottery operating costs.

The jackpot for this Friday's drawing is currently $500000000. I like writing it without the commas; it looks like a lot of money that way. Taking a snap shot of the game on this Friday, assuming that there is a winner, and using the percentages above, we can figure that the amount of money taken in is (approximately) $1000000000. One billion dollars.

I know that the game pays out on other prizes less than the top prize, but since we're talking approximations, I don't know how much those paltry amounts would change these extrapolations.

The states will divvy up $35000000. There are forty-two states plus the District of Columbia participating in Mega Millions. Assuming that each of those states gets an equal piece of the pie (since I didn't want to spend hours researching more approximations), the take home for each state would come to $813953.50.

That leaves $15M for retailer commissions and lottery operating costs. I couldn’t find any readily available data on how much goes to retailer commissions. If it’s 50 percent of that portion (which is probably guessing on the high side), that would leave $7.5M for the lottery operating costs.

There are many people rubbing their lucky socks in hopes of winning a slice of the Mega Millions pie, but people at game headquarters are looking at a sure thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe By Any Other Name

There is so much that can be written about this man and today, being the day of his birth, is the perfect day to give him center stage. That's exactly what Google did by adapting the Google Doodle as a line drawing of a building that portrayed his architectural style to commemorate his 126th birthday. Born in 1886 in Germany, he became a defining force in the world of architecture with his use of glass and steel and his philosophy that "less is more". He was active until the time of his death in 1969, involved in the creation of an art museum in Berlin.

There are reams of material written about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's life work, and for good reason. But out of all the things he is known for, I'm really interested in his name. He went by Mies, not Ludwig. And that moniker choice would seem to fit with his "less is more" point of view. But it's more complicated than that. Mies was his surname. He was born Ludwig Mies. As he became more recognized by discerning clientele, he wanted to remake his identity by adding his mother’s maiden name, Rohe, to his name. He also added van der, which means of the, as in of the family Rohe.

I am a big fan of Mies as an architect, and I’m also a fan of his name change. I like that he saw the benefit of re-positioning himself in response to the expectations of his prospective clients, even if that move was not in keeping with his “less is more” attitude. He is also well known for the saying “God is in the details”, and a name is one of the details that helps give others an idea of who we are. Luckily, it’s one of the details about ourselves that is relatively easy to change.

Very few humans will have a Google Doodle designed in their honor, but with the right name we can design a life that incorporates our art, our work and our dreams. Thank you, Mies, for the inspiration you still bring to our lives.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Top Five Tips to Winning Mega Millions

If you’re like most people, you’ve wanted to win Mega Millions for quite a while, but just haven’t been sure how to go about reaching your goal. You might have been listening to those who say that it’s just a matter of luck whether you win or not, but that advice will keep you from realizing your dream of a lifetime. In this blog, I’m sharing the top five suggestions for you to bring your dream of winning Mega Millions to reality.

  • Hold your eyes right when you buy your ticket AND when you check your numbers. Like many people, you might already hold your eyes right when you put your money down for the ticket purchase, but the trick to being a winner is to also hold your eyes right when you check your numbers. I should mention here that everyone has a “right” position for holding their eyes, and if you don’t already know your personal right position, then you have about twenty hours to find it. It could be as simple as rolling your eyes upward or the more complicated looking cross ways. 
  • Buy your tickets as early as possible so you can rub them with your lucky socks as often as possible before the drawing. Of course, you probably already set your tickets in the same drawer as your lucky socks during the days before the drawing, but it’s also critical that you give them an extra rub with your lucky socks several times a day. The best technique is to put the socks on your hands and rub the ticket between them for a minimum of five minutes, the longer the better.
  • Sing to your tickets the first thing in the morning after you wake up and the last thing before you go to bed. Again, as in the previous tip, it’s helpful to buy your tickets as early as possible so that you will have sufficient opportunities to utilize this powerful tip. By the way, it doesn’t matter which song you sing as long as it holds special meaning to you. The ticket will pick up your positive attitude and be more likely to cooperate when the numbers are drawn.
  • On the day of the drawing, only eat green things to attract the millions of dollars into your life. Any green food is appropriate, but celery sticks filled with a stuffing of avocado, pimento olives and lime Jello has proved to be a potent and particularly successful means to winning.
  • One minute before the drawing, stand in a comfortable position, take a deep inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, and holding your breath walk backwards to your refrigerator. Turn and face the refrigerator, open the freezer compartment and exhale all your hot air into your freezer. This step will help your dreams materialize in the physical world.

Put these suggestions to use in your life and see how immediate results can be yours. Turn your Mega Millions tickets into winning tickets today!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Fab New "Dancing With the Stars" Cast

I was only going to entitle this piece The New "Dancing With the Stars" Cast, but I added the word Fab to give some idea to readers about what I think of this new crew of dancing celebrities and their professional dance partners. I think the entire cast is fabulous!

That's not easy for me to confess because I've avoided this show in past seasons. I thought it was over-hyped, and the dance routines a bit ridiculous. Plus it was annoying to see that each season's conglomeration of celebrities seemed to follow an obvious formula on the number of African American contestants vs. Old Caucasian contestants vs. Overweight contestants vs. etc., etc., etc.

Somehow last week though, I didn't change the channel when DWTS came on. If I remember right, the remote was on the dining room table and I was feeling too lazy to get up and retrieve it. So I ended up watching the entire show and loving every minute - well almost - of it! This season's cast, though granted it still shows some evidence of following a formula, wowed me with their genuine love of dancing. It was beautiful to see them all, from Jack Wagner’s sweet performance to Melissa Gilbert’s sexy, surprising moves. (This led to the one moment that I wasn’t happy about – Melissa and Maksim “The Hunk” only got a score of 6 from judge Len Goodman.)

I think I’m hooked for this season. The cast warmed my heart and I caught myself smiling a lot at the obvious delight they were feeling. I don’t have a favorite couple yet, but I do think they’re all fabulous!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cherry Blossom Festival Fever

I think I'm catching Cherry Blossom Festival Fever. I'm noticing announcements in the news about upcoming Cherry Blossom Festival events across the country. I can feel the tide of interest rising and I might be swept along.

I've always enjoyed the fresh burst of pink that adorns the cherry trees on my parent's property every year. Along with the almond trees, peach trees, plum and apricots. Over the years, they planted quite a few fruit and nut trees, and I'm lucky to be able to not only see the beautiful soft petals that appear as the first indicators that Spring is here, but I also get to taste the delicious fruit when it's at its peak. And often I will receive a few jars of canned fruits to eat later in the year. But I never really gave much thought to attending a Cherry Blossom Festival.

This year, though, could be different. This year it feels necessary to celebrate the new beginnings phases of life that we are granted. The times of loss have seemed to come often and affected many in recent months. For me, the Cherry Blossom Festival has an affirming allure that is a counterbalance to the loss of my mother two years ago in May. I want to stand in the midst of cherry blossoms and smiling people and hear music, and remember how much my mom enjoyed the bounty of her life.

So this year, I’m anticipating and making plans to attend the local Cherry Blossom Festival. I’m looking forward to joining in the joyous mood and finding refreshment after a long winter.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shake It Like an Etch A Sketch

I would like to thank Eric Fehrnstrom (who probably now goes by the name Mr. Firestorm) from Mitt Romney's political camp for bringing the simple joy of Etch A Sketch back into my life. It's been decades since I’ve even given a thought to that wonderful toy that meant so much to me as a child. I can see why E.F. referred to the Etch A Sketch as a simile for the clean slate he's hoping Mitt’s campaign can achieve after the bothersome primaries are over and before they go into the general election (assuming they do go forward).

I can’t remember ever being able to draw one decent picture on my beloved Etch A Sketch when I was a kid, but I do vividly remember the great satisfaction that I felt every one of the countless times I turned it over after yet another failed attempt and gave it a good, stern, even vicious, shake knowing that when I flipped it up again, no trace of my flub remained. There was a clean board ready for me to compose another non-masterpiece.

There are a lot of people responding to E.F.’s comment by saying that he is out of touch, that there’s no such thing as shaking the Etch A Sketch these days. Once something is done or said, it is instantly memorialized in a million forms of media. And it’s there to stay.

I disagree. I think that, given the right amount of shake and spin, politicians can successfully cleanse the slate so we (all the other kids on the playground) will only see the newly contrived configuration. It was an appropriate simile and could, in fact, be a very apt depiction of Mitt’s campaign strategy.