Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Feng Shui

Years ago when I was involved in helping people stage their homes, I studied up on the topic of Feng Shui which I thought was pretty interesting. Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics which focuses on arranging things in your environment in a way that will put you in harmony with nature and create balance.

This practice is very common with decorators and architects. I am all for achieving balance and harmony and getting rid of clutter to create better vibes. I agree with the overall concept that we are affected by the placement of objects, designs and colors in our environment and that aesthetics can affect one's mood and sense of well being. I believe there is merit to the basic premise behind this practice, but there is also some ridiculous detail thrown in with it as well.

It can get very complicated as it takes an approach of using astronomy and geography to achieve balance and positive energy. A special compass called a loupan (which looks like a trivial pursuit game board on steroids) can be used to help create the ideal life energy. If you are a Feng Shui enthusiast please don't take this personally, but there comes a point when if you have to look up the year you were born on a grid to get the numbers you plug into a compass, then use a protractor to do several other steps to figure out how to decorate your room, it starts to lose its credibility.

I have started my own spin-off discipline of Feng Shui. It's a simplified version called Common Sense and Simplicity. In order to give it a mysterious oriental sounding name, you can call it "No Doy". It doesn't require any astronomical equipment to help you decide what color to paint your room. You just use your brain for simple situations. Don't face chairs into corners or cram more furniture in a room than will fit. It's pretty simple and anyone can do it.

In all fairness to the fans of the real Feng Shui, I have seen many rooms that have been decorated using the basic principles, and I have to admit that I am usually impressed with the results. I'm guessing there's no place for giant neon signs or life size cut outs of Chewbacca and Batman if you are a die hard Feng Shui enthusiast, but at least your house will give off better vibes than most others.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

100 Followers-Do or Die

No, I do not have 100 followers yet. Yes I have beaten this subject like a dead horse. I'm starting to feel like the great aunt who always tells you about her health problems at a family reunion. I know you don't care and don't want to hear about it anymore, but how can you shut me up on this topic? I had a couple options I have been thinking about.

First, I had considered contacting the Make a Wish Foundation to help me but apparently I don't meet their criteria to qualify.

Second, I was going to follow Oral Robert's example and tell you all that I would be taken if I don't get 100 followers by the end of July. I felt guilty with this approach so I decided to use some really good posture instead and make a variation of that approach.

Finally, I decided that I am just going to shut this blog down at the end of July if I don't get 100 followers. This is not a hollow threat. I could hear Apollo Creed yelling "There is no tomorrow!" to me just as he did to Rocky as he was preparing to fight Mr. T. I am literally "burning the boats" with this commitment.

As part of my possible going out of business sale I am running a promotion. Any time you refer someone to my site and they sign up as a follower and they say you referred them, your name will be entered into a drawing. On July 31st (if I'm still here) I will select the lucky winner with the most referrals. I will do a very special post about the winner and will promote the crap out of their blog.

We only have a month to do this or you may never hear from me again. I promise to give you my best until then since it may be the last you hear from me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Signing Cards = Pulling Teeth

Over the years I have noticed that it is extremely difficult and painful for me to sign greeting cards. It is an uncomfortable act that I would liken to going to the dentist. I can sign my name just fine, but it's writing a personal message that I don't care for. Fore some reason I really struggle coming up with the words to write in a card.

If the card is for a family member or close friend then it's not an issue, but when it's for an acquaintance or a co-worker who you may not be very close to and several others are signing it too, then I have a hard time. What makes it worse is when people pass a card around for you to sign, you can't just write the exact same thing as everyone else so you have to think up some kind of variation. After several stressful minutes I can usually only come up with something like "Happy Birthday, I hope you have a great one."

Some people are really into greeting cards and others don't care for them. I think they are a nice gesture, but it takes a year off my life each time I try to write a message in them. For that reason I'm a fan of the silly or sappy pre-printed message cards even though some people think just putting your signature on a card is sort of cold hearted. Much of what people write in a birthday card to co-workers can be insincere and repetitious. It's kind of like a High School yearbook signing. "Biology class was great, have an awesome summer. Stay cute and cool and call me". Sound familiar? Sound insincere?

I would almost prefer to sign a condolences card for someone who has just experienced a horrible loss because at least I would have something to say and I could be sincere about the message. I'm curious to know if anyone else suffers from this horrible affliction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Your Name Says About You

I am not one for making broad generalizations or judging a person by their name...until now. Some names are highly stereotyped and I thought it might be fun to discuss them. I understand that there are always exceptions so if your parents named you Adolph it is possible that they still love you and you probably have a really cool uncle Adolph they named you after, but for the most part I think people will agree with me on these categories.

Age Specific Names-When I see some names I assume they don't have much longer to live. These include: Hazel, Delores, Mildred, Ethel, Lucille, Blanche, and Harriet. Men's names in this category are Delbert, Gene, Montgomery, Frank, Humphrey, Cecil, Stanley, and Herbert. It's rare to find people with these names today who are under 70. On the other end of the spectrum, if your name is Sonic, Gunner, Jax, Britney, Madison, Jessica, or Ashley, you are probably under 25 and your parents are under 40.

The Artsy Parent aka Child Abuse-If your name is Apple, Moon Unit, Fifi Trixibelle, or Jermajesty then you probably had a famous parent who was a musician or an actor who was so busy with their career they couldn't take the time to give you a decent name. For a while I was tempted to name a child Lazar Wolf from Fiddler on the Roof because I've always thought that was a cool name. I couldn't get my wife to go along with it, but I'm sure if I was a celebrity I could have pulled it off.

Ethnic Names-If you had a name like Shenequa, Ashanti, DeShawn, Tyrone, or Jamal many people would assume you were African American. Others would assume Hispanic descent with names like Jose, Jesus, Eduardo, or Guadalupe. Before anyone accuses me of being racist I'll have you know that I named one of my daughters Carmen.

Biblical Names-These are quite common. I named three of my boys Bible names. David, Joshua and Thomas. Some of the Old Testament names have more of a hard core staunch religious connotation associated with them like Isaiah, Obadiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. I have never come across a Jezebel or Bathsheba yet but I'm sure there are some out there.

The Unique Names-I've seen Shaunathon, Cobbart, Zarson, Tarek, Jypsie, Tahana, and Bluze. I'm kind of guilty with this one. I named my youngest daughter Chamane. Some people also get weird with the spelling of their name. I'm sorry but there should not be 9 different ways to spell Amy. Some people go nuts with adding extra E's and using silent letters just so their normal name can be different.

The Androgynous Names-Please don't take offense with this one. I know men and women who are respectively masculine or feminine but they have a unisex name. Some of these names are Chris, Robin, Cory, Jo, Pat, Jordan, Taylor, Terry, and Jamie. These names can be tricky when you are calling someone back who you have never met and are unsure of their gender.

The Changed Names-Many celebrities have changed their birth name. I can understand why Alphonso D'Abruzzo, Issur Danielovitch and Marion Mitchell Morrison changed their names to Alan Alda, Kirk Douglas and John Wayne. I guess when it comes to movie star names and syllables, less is more. It comforting to know that if your last name is Shue and your parents name you Jim you can always do something about it down the road. If you are unhappy with your name, you should just be grateful that your parents didn't name you Lazar Wolf.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Quest For Good Bread

I survived a week of camping and being away from the Internet so I thought I would make a triumphant return to blogging by writing about one of my favorite topics: Bread. I really like bread. There is obviously something good about it if it's referred to as "the staff of life".

When I was 9 years old, I lived in Vienna for six months and every morning for breakfast I'd have warm rolls that I think were called semmeln with jam and hot chocolate. The bread was so much better than anything I had ever eaten before and I never got tired of it. Before I start giving too much credit to the Europeans you have to remember that they also came up with the abomination know as blutbrot (blood bread). When we came back to the States, I returned to eating the usual slices of boring plain white bread.

My Dad has always been into healthy food. When he would buy bread he would always get dense wheat breads that were so heavy they required burly bag boys to carry them out to the car for him. He was also into more exotic breads like pumpernickel and rye, but I never cared for their strong after taste.

I lived in Chile for a while and despite the lower standard of living I often encountered, they sure knew what they were doing when it came to making bread. It seemed like there was a panaderia on every street which sold several varieties of fresh bread. I spent many meals reveling in the simple yet perfect trio of bread, butter, and jam.

My wife makes homemade bread and it always smells good, tastes better, and is more filling than a loaf of bread from the store. The only draw back is that it's hard to slice very thin. I'd still rather have a sandwich made of thick bread that I have to stretch my jaws to eat like a snake, rather than eat regular flavorless store bought bread.

Some days I crave good bread and I can't believe how lame most of the bread you find in the grocery store is. Especially the cheap white stuff like Wonder bread. It is more like a hollow counterfeit version of bread that mocks me. It reminds me of the scene in The Little Mermaid when Ursula takes on the image of a brunette Ariel. She looks beautiful and sounds like her until she reveals her true ugly self. That may not be the best analogy but I have felt deceived with the plain white bread much like Prince Eric must have felt when he realized he wasn't getting what he had expected.

I have learned the hard way that if you want good bread you have to pay the price and fork out the extra money or make it yourself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Where's Chaka?

I will be taking a little sabbatical from my blog this week. I will not be able to post or visit the many blogs of my friends. I have been pretty consistent at posting every three days and I just don't want anyone to worry when they don't see the usual activity on my blog. Just know I did not slip getting out of the tub and did not break my back and am not cold and naked on the floor trying to call for help until my voice is hoarse. No it is much worse than that. I am going on a week long scout camp.

While I'm away for 5 long days I'd encourage you to take some time to think about what Chaka's World means to you. Peter Cetera once said "You don't know what you got until it's gone, and I found out a little too late". I'd hate to have that happen to you so don't take it for granted. I imagine it will be hard to get through this week but there are always reruns. Just click the older posts bottom at the bottom of the page. If you find yourself having major withdrawals this week I suggest that you lie down in a padded room and put a stick in your mouth before you start convulsing.

I don't mean to toot my own horn, and I'm sorry for bringing up the word toot, but I just thought I'd share what I've heard others say about my blog lately through the grapevine.

"The world is definitely a better place since Chaka's World came on the scene" -Anonymous "Finally a safe site I can let my kids go to on the Internet" -Concerned Parent
"Chaka what... What's a blog?" -Elderly gentleman
"No comment, just a sarcastic slow clap"-Rude guy
"I can't believe something free could be so entertaining" -Guy on a budget
"I personally believe that most Americans don't know about his blogs or in the Iraq or such as blogging and we should read them for the children" -Teen Beauty Pageant Contestant

Have a great week and have fun without me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

9 Money Saving Tips

As a young boy I was a coin scavenger. I'd go to public places and check vending machines and pay phones for loose change. I was finally cured from this habit thanks to someone who cleared their throat and spit in a coin return. (I am 99% sure it was a guy) My index finger found their generous deposit but it was not the treasure I had hoped for. I used to pick up pennies when I'd see them on the ground but with the value of the dollar today, picking up a penny is akin to being a good Samaritan and just picking up litter.

It has also been frustrating to not only see the price of many items going up, but also by the size of food containers getting smaller. Cereal boxes used to be huge when I was little. Now you can fit a box of cereal in your pocket. Everything seems to be approaching fun size. By the way why should shrinking the size of something make it more fun? Anytime you shrink the portion size of my food it makes me sad.

You have probably noticed attention grabbing headlines you find on the home pages of MSN, AOL, or Yahoo. These are usually shallow little stories with teaser titles like "5 reasons she might leave you", "6 steps to lower your insurance premium", or " 8 Not so healthy health foods" In honor of those sort of stories, here is my version of "9 money saving tips that may help you stretch your dollar".

1. Hang out at Costco with a reversible jacket to further your free sampling experience.
2. Charge your electric razor and cell phone at work.
3. Wash your entire car at the gas station with the squeegee.
4. Offer to take lunch orders at work and use buy one get one free coupons for yours.
5. Get a job clearing tables in a restaurant.
6. Wrap presents with aluminum foil.
7. Trade your kid's old toys with the neighbors. One kids junk is another's treasure.
8. Take every new drug that comes out on the market so when the inevitable recalls start you have plenty of companies to sue.
9. Start a blog and make tons of money.

With today's rising prices, troubled economy, and financial challenges, I'm sure you can use these suggestions. Or not. I officially dub this as one of my top five worst posts ever but I'm too busy to try and fix it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Letting Go and Moving On

Anyone who has ever visited this blog knows they can usually expect light hearted random trivial topics. I recently felt inspired to write about something of substance for a change. Warning-Today's post has a serious message. This is kind of like when Different Strokes or some other weekly show addressed a serious issue. Sorry there will not be the usual "what you talkin bout" punch lines in today's post.

I get along well with just about everyone I meet-unless they are a total jerk. I have friends with varying political, religious, and cultural views. I try not to ruffle feathers and strive to keep the peace and mediate between others. As an observer over the years I have noticed how some people have been offended or are angry from what someone did to them a long time ago. Occasionally others get obsessed with resentment and anger and as a result they carry around a lot of excess baggage. Their feelings may be caused by a misunderstanding or maybe they have a legitimate reason to be angry because they have been wronged. Life is not fair and people get hurt. Things like divorce, traumatic experiences, cruel peers, and abuse can hurt people.

I'm not saying "just get over it" because I know that can sound simplistic and unsympathetic, but I kind of am saying that just because the price of holding onto to the negative is too great. I have seen people who can not let go and they become the victim for as long as they continue to let those feelings control them. Some people refuse to let their situation get better and are like those who constantly pick a scab rather than letting it heal.

It is amazing to see how resilient some people can be and what they are able to bounce back from. I recently heard a neighbor share an account of Corrie ten Boom who wrote The Hiding Place. After the war she was on a speaking tour talking about forgiveness when she saw one of her former captors from a concentration camp in the audience. He came up afterwards and asked her if she was serious about what she had been teaching. She struggled for a while but after praying for help to forgive him, she was able to offer her hand out to him.

The key is moving on is often forgiveness. We are the only ones who get hurt when we hold grudges against other people. I know that there are many mean, rude, and hurtful people in the world. I hope they get their butts kicked some day when they eventually reap what they've sown, but in the mean time don't let them drag you down more than they already have.

Maybe we should have a national holiday when we forgive someone who has wronged us. If you have a grudge with someone try to forgive and forget. I know it's easier said than done but it's kind of like burning a wart off your skin. It's not the funnest thing to do but you will be happier once it's gone. Just an idea.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Things I Have A Problem With

I try to keep the peace and be somewhat diplomatic on this blog but every once in a while I have to speak out on some topics even if it means ruffling some feathers. I hope I don't offend anyone with the following items, but I have to get this off my chest. There are four things that have bothered me lately.

Conditioner-What is up with this? It's obviously a ploy by the hair care industry to double their sales. I recently ran out of shampoo and have been looking for more throughout my house. Each time I found a bottle of what appeared to be shampoo I noticed it was actually conditioner. Apparently we have a lifetime supply of conditioner. I have only used it a few times in my life and haven't been too impressed. Maybe if I had waist length hair it would be different, but for now it's just a container in the shower I will continue to ignore.

Reply to All-I often get e-mails that are going to many other people besides myself. I have no problem being on an a large e-mail list as long as it is from people I know and it's not spam or junk mail. What bothers me is when other people on the list reply to the original sender and instead of hitting the reply button they hit "reply to all" so I get to relive the e-mail and every response to it for several weeks until everyone on the list is done responding to the author. I understand there may be a time and place for the respond to all option, but it is frequently misused.

Mr. Darcy-I admit I'm prejudiced against this character created by Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, Louisa May Alcott or whoever the author was. Maybe I'm jealous of Mr. Darcy. I don't know why I would be since I'm not even sure who he is or what book or movie he is from. All I know is that if you wear clothes from the early 1800's, have a British accent, and proper manners, then chicks dig it. I wish I had a nickle for every girl I have heard sigh when his name is mentioned.

Constellations-These prove that our ancient forefathers were either very creative or extremely bored to be able to see such complex images in the sky. Can you really see a warrior fighting a dragon out of 7 random dots in the sky? Are you serious? By the way, the picture I have included above is a famous constellation and I'm sure some of my readers may recognize it since they are so smart, but there is no way the average person sees it. I will concede that the big dipper is a discernible constellation. It actually looks like a big dipper and it I feel like Carl Sagan each time I locate it. The rest of them are so forced that it sickens me. We need to get NASA to do something useful with their budget and actually make some good constellations that normal people can see without the aid of hallucinogenic drugs.

Sorry about the rant, but I can no longer stay quiet when it comes to the above topics. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Fear of Water

I am grateful for water, but I have a love hate relationship with it. I understand we need it to survive. I drink water regularly and shower daily, but when it comes to actually getting into a large body of water I am not a fan of the stuff. I think one of the reasons I dislike water is because it is so difficult to stand on and breathe properly once you go underneath it's surface. Watching the Discovery channel has also educated me to the fact that there are millions of life forms that live in lakes, seas, and oceans that I want nothing to do with.

I am not the greatest swimmer and what compounds the problem is that I'm also sensitive to cold water. I remember going to a scout camp when I was a teenager. On the first day they had a mandatory swim check before you could do anything else. I watched all my friends in front of my jump in the water and start swimming. When it was my turn I jumped in and may as well have been hit by a car. I didn't realize that it was a glacier fed lake and as soon as I hit the water all my muscles contracted and I couldn't breathe. I thrashed around making embarrassing noises like I had the wind knocked out of me. After about 2 minutes of making a fool of myself much to the amusement of every scout in the camp I was able to acclimatize to the cold water and finish the swim check.

I have been on a couple cruises and I enjoyed the food (gluttony) aspect of it but as you know I am a movie enthusiast and have seen too many scenarios from White Squall, Poseidon Adventure, Jaws, The Perfect Storm, The Day After Tomorrow, and Titanic. Luckily having a large movie repertoire to draw on also helped me when I got scared of the water. I would just recall scenes form Speed 2 which would snap me out of my fear as I broke into laughter. I did just fine as long as I was confined to the dining area but going out on the deck made me realize how much water was surrounding me.

Some people have accused me of being a little paranoid and neurotic when it comes to water, but there are lots of other people who wear life jackets to work too just in case a dam upstream happens to break.