Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tagged! This Is Your Life

At the first of the year I noticed many blogs getting tagged with a "100 things to do before you die" questionnaire. I've had a couple people tag me but I never got around to it. I've gotten some more readers who don't know me so this is my attempt to spotlight myself with some random information about... myself. I call this exciting feature "the ten things about me."

1. Dislikes-First of all I think you can learn a lot about a person from what they dislike. That being said, I am very uncomfortable in water. When I've been to the beach I don't mind getting wet, but I don't ever want to swim in deep open water (that activity is reserved for people without powerful imaginations) That's a smooth lead in to the next category.
2. Fears-I'm scared of snakes. Especially ocean snakes. I'm also scared of driving a manual transmission car and destroying the clutch. I'm sure I would do just fine, but I've never owned a stick shift.
3. Childhood-When I was little and would get sick I'd have the same recurring nightmares about giant rolls of gauze, (I mean big ones the size of houses), an old fashioned lawn mower, and floating in the air. Each of these dream ingredients are harmless on their own, but when you combine them it's very frightening stuff.
4. Personality-I'm not super outgoing. I'm more of an observer. I'm a detailed person and like to organize and categorize stuff. I like time lines and spreadsheets and things that create order. My personality is a 5 in the enneagram. I'm pretty confident that I will never participate in karaoke.
5. Home-I claim parts unknown like any good masked wrestler would, but I lived in Vienna for 6 months when I was younger. I've grown up watching foreign films and I enjoy Humanities. I'm dripping with culture and as a result have to shower daily.
6. Music-I don't play any instruments but I enjoy classical music. I am not a big fan of lyrics. I also like 80's music and I'm embarrassed to admit that I kind of like techno music. I know it's shallow and repetitive but hey, so am I. I'm not a fan of rap. Too many F Bombs and too much attitude.
7. Sports-I love basketball and watching highlights from the NBA. I enjoy watching most sports except for race cars and golf. I think it's wrong for golfers to make so much money without even breaking a sweat. If they had American Gladiators chasing them around the golf course while they played I'd be the biggest fan. I got into MMA/WWF about 10 years ago. (I only watch it, but it makes me sound tougher for a split second if I say it like that)
8. Movies-I love action, comedy, sci-fi, documentaries, and movie trivia. I sometimes get emotional during the previews when I go to the movies. Especially if it's a chick flick that features a bunch of women who are best friends dancing around and pretending to sing "This will be (an everlasting love)" into their hairbrushes.
9. Family-I'm married and I have nine kids. Yes, I am serious. I intentionally keep my family out of my blogs. I try to protect them from the paparazzi. Just like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, I can also tell you what a difficult strain that can be on a family.
10. Numbers-I prefer odd numbers over even numbers. My favorites are 7, 49, 51, 55, and 89.

There you have it. Let's here it for Mr. exciting!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Multiple Blogs?

The other day a friend asked me why I have multiple blogs. Okay, they didn't really but I'd like to explain why and I needed a smooth segway. I have 3 different blogs because I have split personalities like Sybil, Gollum, and Norman Bates. I can turn one off and start the other in an instant. I even proof read the pages from each blog with different voices. If that doesn't peak your curiosity than no amount of promoting will.

I really needed 3 blogs because that is how much pressure I have built up in my head with random ideas, lists, categories, etc. It reminds me of X Men when Dr. Xavier puts on Cerebro and is trying to track someone amid all the busy chatter and traffic in the universe. Categorizing and expressing my thoughts helps me lower my brain pressure pressure. I have 3 blogs out of necessity since I have 3 topics I enjoy writing about. they are 1) movies, 2) fitness, and 3) everything else (this blog)

People who like movie reviews used to get frustrated when they'd have to read about facial hair, time travel, MMA, or other random topics along with their movie posts, so I created The Movie Guy just for them. It features trivia, movie links, reviews, and traditional values, and good old fashioned movie goodness. Just reading about it right now makes me want to go there.

My fitness blog is found at Healthy Chaka. I share nutrition and health advice, exercise and wellness tips and feature valuable reference sites. It is the least popular of my three blogs and most everyone that views it can't stand the graphics or subliminal messages. Some say they just don't have the time to try and solve all hidden clues and aren't interested in the prize money.

As you know Chaka's World is a cornucopia of random trivial topics laced with subtle humor. I only wish I could bless more lives with it, but I keep getting warnings from Google that I am straining their servers with the high demand for my blog. What more can I do?

Which ever one you prefer I'd love to hear from you in the comments section. Reading a blog and not commenting is like putting money in a vending machine and walking away. It's like going to vote and not pushing the buttons to cast your vote. So just do it because it makes us happy when you leave us comments.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Power of Adsense

A couple months ago I added the Adsense feature to my blogs. I had previously wanted to keep the content of my blogs clean and pure from outside influences but I finally gave in. I think sometimes this blog confuses the Adsense software since my topics here are so random but my movie and health blogs usually display ads that are consistent with those blog themes.

I've been impressed with how fast and specific their search engine software is. When I wrote my post about Christmas Trees there were ads for artificial trees showing up minutes later. When I wrote about facial hair, ads for razors and laser hair removal appeared right after I posted it. The same goes for diamonds, violins, car repairs, music tickets, etc. I was amazed at how fast Adsense customizes the ads it posts, but that's not what really impressed me.

Last week I was suffering from a bout of heart burn. I logged on to my blog and I saw heartburn ads. I was considering writing a post about this topic, but had not even verbalized or written a rough draft about my discomfort, yet Adsense knew about it. Some might think this was a coincidence but I know better. I now turn off my computer and unplug it whenever I have a private conversation with a friend. Hal 9000 might be able to read lips, but Adsense can read my mind.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Life Of A Secret Agent

I have always wanted to have a top secret government job. I think it would be cool to have the technology, gadgets, and top secret intelligence, but the best benefit would be having access to all the cool code words. There is something appealing and exciting about speaking in code language.

I go into a small diner and asking the waitress if they sell Turkish Delight. She says "My aunt in Montana used to make it for me". I then take the pen out of my pocket and place it on the table. She hands me a bill and walks away. I slowly get up and take it out to my car. I decode the numbers on the bill and type the priority access code into my cell phone. A computer voice says "commencing security clearance". A live person then comes on the line and I say "Special Ops Agent TFR Tango Foxtrot Romeo, recommending we initiate defense procedures and upgrade to a code yellow." I then look across the parking lot and see a delivery van with tinted windows that had been parked there for a while. The problem is the store where it is parked is closed. Through the miracle of technology which I am not able to disclose here, I can see the driver is wearing an earpiece. We make eye contact and he panics and pulls out of the parking lot. I then report in "The mission is compromised, upgrade to code red! Terminate all communications!" I peel out and follow the van. As I speed up I tell my kids to put their seat belts on and to quit arguing with each other and I wake up to reality.

Even any office job is more exciting when someone pages you and instead of telling you that your 2:00 pm appointment is here they say "The package is in the open" or "the eagle has landed, this is not a test". I guess I've just seen too many James Bond, Mission Impossible, and Bourne Identify movies over the years. As you can probably guess I really relate to Calvin and Hobbes. I will try to keep my spy fantasies to a minimum, especially since I keep getting in trouble for answering the phone and saying "Is this a secure line?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Customer Pet Peeves

I used to have a job selling jewelery. I started as an enthusiastic sales associate but I was so bad at sales that over time I found myself working in the back office. I've always been better at paperwork and reports than negotiating and making sales. I have a history of migrating from sales to behind the scenes doing clerical and office work for most of the employers I've worked for.

It's been many years since I worked at Sierra West Jewelers but I still think they are the highest quality jewelers in the area. Most customers were great and I enjoyed working with them, but occasionally I'd encounter difficult ones. This post is dedicated to the latter group. Here are my 7 categories of difficult clients. Most of these scenarios are jewelery specific, but I'm sure the principles apply to other sales and service industries as well.

1) The Early Birds-These people would come in to pick up their merchandise before the agreed upon date. They didn't understand that it takes time to order materials, cast and re-size rings, set stones, etc. You'd ask for the due date on their claim check and they'd say Thursday at 5:00. You'd point out it is Wednesday so they'd leave and come back again on Thursday at 2:30 and act surprised again that it still wasn't ready.

2) The Holier Than Thou-Every once in a while a guy would say that he would not buy a diamond because of an ethical issue. He would throw out the phrase Blood Diamonds and would make references to corruption and suffering. Even after assuring him you sold conflict free diamonds he'd continue lecturing. Me thinks he doth protest too much. I'm sure some people are legitimately concerned about that issue, but it's also a convenient position to take when don't want to spend money on a diamond. Just say you want a CZ instead and nobody will judge you but please save us the preachy attitude.

3) The Future Controlling Idiot Husband-One guy said "I just want to keep this basic. I want something plain and simple like her" as he pointed to his fiance. Other guys would verbally beat up their future bride for choosing a ring style the guy didn't like. Which one of you is going to wear it for the rest of your life? I got an occasional glimpse into the future lives of some soon to be miserable women.

4) The Special Customer-These people who would never entertain the thought of having the same ring as anyone else on the planet. They insisted on designing their own jewelery. This is not a bad thing. In fact custom work is extremely popular and usually very cool. The problem was that in their attempt to be totally unique some customers designed some disturbing and hideous creations that made your average ugly mothers ring look sleek and classy.

5) The Know It All-This was usually a guy who had a very basic diamond education and then felt he was the world's authority on diamonds and jewelery even though he was totally clueless. They were easy to identify because they'd usually say that their mom or a friend has "a flawless diamond". They would also mix up clarity and color terms yet insist they know more than you.

6) The Paranoid Client-These were always a treat to deal with. They were even more protective and worried about their rings than Gollum was of his precious. They would not let their ring out of their sight since they were sure you would switch diamonds or file of some off the gold off while they weren't looking. I'm sure the goldsmiths enjoyed having these people breathe over their shoulder as they worked on their repairs.

7) The Bargain Shopper-There is nothing wrong with being frugal and shopping around to get a good deal, but if you show up with more than 12 business cards from other jewelers then it's time to make a decision and move forward. Occasionally a client would come in who had been shopping for years and would not be happy if you made any profit from the transaction even though you are going to warranty their purchase and service it for the rest of their lives.

Thanks for listening as I've vented. Now that I've brought closure to these past experiences I can move on with my life

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Best Basketball Team Names

When I was in College I enjoyed playing intramural basketball. My favorite part was at the beginning of the semester when we got a team together and had to come up with a team name. Many of the teams would use unoriginal names like Phi Slamma Jamma, the Lakers, or the Fab Five. I have found that it is much more fun if you intentionally give yourself a stupid team name.

Not only is giving yourself a dumb name funny but it also messes with the minds of the opposing players. How can your opponent mentally prepare for a game throughout the week once they find out they are supposed to play "The Buddy Hacketts"? Over the years we have had some good team names, but there have been so many good choices that we could only use a handful of them. Below is a list of some of the prior candidates I have considered.

Chewbacca Delight
Gargoyle Express
The Greezy Wombats
The Sloppy Guts
Shrimp Scampi
Cyborg Jubilee
French Pastry
The Belly Misers
The Walkabouts
Galen the Freak
The Grizzly Warlocks
Pithy Maxims
The Sleestacks
The Whistling Marsupials
The Crustacean Factor
Gravy Train
Thorax Extravaganza

I know these sound juvenile, but if just saying some of those names out loud does not bring a smile to your face or make you laugh you have some issues. If you are ever looking for some cheap entertainment go to a local University and look up the intramural tournament brackets and read the team names. I think anyone could write the great American novel or be a literary genius if they had a whole book to do so, but it takes real talent to express yourself in 2 or 3 words.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

80's Music and MTV

I recently got a request to write a post on 80's music. This is one subject I am an authority on. I could create an entire website devoted to this topic. As much as everyone makes fun of the poofy hair, tight Levis, and Miami Vice clothes you still have to admit the 80's were great. Especially the music.

I started watching MTV back in 1981 when it launched. Back then MTV actually played music videos. In fact that was all they did. The original hosts were J. J. Jackson, Martha Quin, Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, and Alan Hunter. For the first year they played Billy Joel's Under Pressure, Peter Gabriel's Shock the Monkey, Saga on the Loose, Billy Idol's White Wedding, Joe Jackson's Steppin out, Quarterflash's Harden my Heart, A Flock of Seagulls' I Ran and a couple other videos in continual loops around the clock.

With time they featured more videos from Styx, The Clash, Big Country, Culture Club, John Cougar, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Adam Ant, Dire Straits, Golden Earring, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, The Cure, Cory Hart, Wham, Madness, Brian Adams, Aha, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Men at Work, Billy Squire, Rick Springfield, Berlin, Oingo Boingo, Kenny Loggins, Cameo,Wall of Vodoo, Modern English, The Tubes, The Police, Bruce Springstein, The Bangels, Mr. Mister, The J Geils Band, Heart, Bow Wow Wow, The Fixx, B52's, Talking Heads, The Stray Cats, Falco, INXS, and many others.

I'm not a fan of all of these groups but most of them bring back good memories. I have the equivalent of several zip drives full of 80's music in my brain which is kind of ironic since I could only name a handful of popular groups since 1990. There were a variety of groups that put out a lot of music in the 80's so I have further classified them in the following categories.

1) Classic Rock-Rush, Yes, Queen, Genesis, The Pretenders, Night Ranger, Journey, Aerosmith, Foreigner, Reo Speedwagon, Loverboy, Survivor, 38 Special, Asia, ZZ Top, and Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers.
2) Hard Rock and Hair Bands-Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Poison, Ozzy Ozbourne, Ratt, Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Quiot Riot, Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Bon Jovi, The Scorpions, Guns and Roses, Cinderella, and Metallica.
3) Light Music-Air Supply, Alan Parsons Project, Billy Ocean, ELO, Richard Marx, Sade, The Dream Academy, Phil Collins, Toto, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, and Hall and Oats, and Spandeau Ballet.
4) Multi-Decade Artists-Billy Joel, Chicago, David Bowie, Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, The Who, U2, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, and Rod Stewart.
5) New Wave/Synth Music These are the groups that come to mind when I think of the 80's. The Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, Art of Noise , The Human League, Big Audio Dynomite, Information Society, Men Without Hats, Alphaville, Devo, Soft Cell, Psychadelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Thompson Twins, Yaz, Erasure, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Howard Jones, Naked Eyes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Simple Minds, and ABC.
6) The One Hit Wonders- (I don't have time to address that now but it will definitely be a future topic)

If you are over 30 then just reading all the names of those groups probably brought back some memories. For the younger readers you will just have to trust me that 80's music rocked. It rocked you like a hurricane or like Amadeus. I feel kind of weird like I just did a time life music collection commercial.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Joshua Bell Experiment

My Dad recently shared a newspaper article with me about an interesting event. It was a social experiment that was designed to test people's perceptions, expectations, and what society values. It was carried out and reported on by the Washington Post last January.

This experiment involved placing a violinist near a metro station in Washington D.C. early in the morning as people were going to work. He played for 45 minutes as busy commuters passed him by. Over 1,000 commuters passed him during this time and few of them tipped him and even fewer commented or even took notice of his performance. The performer ended up earning $32.17 for his concert.

The amazing part of the story is that the violinist was Joshua Bell one of the most accomplished concert violinists today. Previously that week he had sold out the Kennedy Center Concert Hall where patrons paid an average of $100 a ticket. During this metro experiment he had performed several difficult pieces with a 1713 Stradivarius violin worth 3.5 Million dollars but the commuters thought he was just a street musician and therefore treated him as one.

I thought this story was interesting on many levels. I can't really blame people who are rushing to work for not taking the time to listen, but I'm sure there would have been a huge crowd had they known the details behind the performance. This story made me think about how quick I am to judge other people from a brief first impression. It also made me wonder how many times I am in too much of a hurry to recognize art, beauty, excellence, or opportunities that may be all around me on a daily basis. I found some footage of this experiment on YouTube entitled "Stop and Hear the Music."
Next time I report on something in the news I'll try to address it before a year has passed. I guess I just like history more than current events.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Real Reson Behind Falling Gas Prices

I'm excited and grateful that gas prices are low again. The other day I filled up my car and prepaid $30 but it only took $21 to fill a completely empty tank. I hadn't really been paying attention to gas prices so I was shocked that they had gotten so low.

I was curious to know how gas went from nearly $4.50 a gallon to $1.37 over a matter of months. I asked the attendant at the gas station and she must have been a Harvard Economist because she said "It's because the economy is slow and it affects the gas prices and stuff like that". Thank you Miss Teen South Carolina. I shouldn't be rude because her answer actually reminded me of myself trying to BS my why through an essay question in High School.

I wasn't satisfied with her answer so I kept inquiring elsewhere. I've heard others say that it is due to supply and demand and since we are driving less the prices have fallen. Are all American really driving 1/3 as much as they used to? No Way! So what's going on? I am not a conspiracy theorist, but there are definitely some higher powers at work behind the scenes. I noticed the big drop in prices started right after the presidential elections. I don't know their motivation or intent but I am really curious to know what's going on.

I'm sure after reading this far you are probably concerned too. Not particularly about gas prices but you are probably wondering what kind of person pre-pays at the pump? I know that is disturbing but let's stick to the topic.

I don't want to sound like a person who insists on knowing all the ingredients at a buffet before they will eat, but I'd just like an simple explanation. I Remember when "the man" told Charleton Heston not to rock the boat either. He was told to mind his own business, relax, and just eat his soylent green. In case this is my last blog post and you never hear from me again I have a theory about this. "Gasoline is made of people!"