Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tiger Guy or Lizard Man?

I know some people identify with or can relate to a favorite animal. I've like the vision of a Hawk. I think that such wishful thinking is normal, but ccasionally some people feel the need to change their bodies to resemble an animal. I don't think this is a huge trend sweeping the nation, but just from the fact that these two are all over the Internet, it is a little disturbing.

These two guys have not only used tattoos, but have undergone many surgical procedures in their quest to achieve the look they are after. Imagine for a moment if these gentlemen created some momentum for their movement and animal transformations were not only socially acceptable but were mandatory and required by law. If you had to make cosmetic changes to your appearance to resemble one of these, which would you rather be, Tiger guy or Lizard man?

I'm sure at this point many of you have chuckled and are dismissing my question, but I am serious. I'd like to know which one you'd pick and why. I'm especially interested to see what the women say about this. The floor is now yours.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Extreme Sports Analysis

I am not a big motorcycle enthusiast. I'm embarrassed to admit I have never even driven a motorcycle before. I have only reached the level of motor scooter driver which is pretty low on the motorcycle hierarchy of coolness.

Despite my lack of biking skills, I am totally in awe when it comes to freestyle motocross athletes. I still can't believe what some guys like Travis Pastrana do at the X games. I think it is crazy enough to go off a jump, but to climb off your bike and do several tricks while in the air is insane. It's "look mom, no hands" on steroids. I could watch freestyle stuff forever without getting tired of it.

As cool as I think that is, I'm not a fan of most of the sports featured at the X games, which I would classify as part of the family of loitering sports (skate boarding, bike tricks, haki sack, etc). There just seems to be something about the rebellious attitude associated with these sports I don't care for. I suspect one prepares for these sports at an early age by cutting class, wearing baggy pants and doing skateboard tricks in the parking lot. How's that for a judgemental generalization?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching these amazing athletes do their cool stunts and amazing moves on YouTube, but the extreme sports culture just doesn't appeal to me. The daredevil gene is very recessive in my family line, but we do have a strong preservation gene that keeps us away from most dangerous activities. It's things like a failed superman that keep me content as a spectator of these sports. I'm sure a lot of those bikers would be jealous of me if they saw how good I am at checkers and puzzles!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Appeal of the VIN

I have been enjoying my weekend so much that I just realized I have not posted for several days. The topic I have chosen today is one you won't see many bloggers attempting to write about. For most people, writing about VIN numbers is usually certain death to your post. Since I have worked with them on a regular basis I think I'm up to the challenge. For those of you who may not be familiar with this topic, a VIN is a Vehicle Identification Number. It is a car's unique 17 digit serial number.

When listening to people read VIN numbers over the phone it can be hard to differentiate between some letters, especially ones like B & D, S & F, and M & N. If you don't have a clear phone connection these often get confused with each other. In order to avoid this, it is a common practice to say M like Mom and D like Dog so it is clear. I have noticed that there are basically two different styles for reading a VIN over the phone. The two groups of people consist of the serious prepared person and the intimidated confused person.

The serious VIN reader-I love these guys. They call in a VIN number like they are a military special ops team calling in bombing coordinates. They are very serious and use the standard military lingo-Alpha Tango Niner Niner Romeo Seven Foxtrot.... By the way what is up with all the dance names? Does that mean we are supposed to use Lambada for the letter L?

The intimidated people-They stress out because they know they are not familiar with the preferred army lingo. They hesitate and really struggle to come up with a word. They will say things like A Alexander the Great, U.... as in uncertainty, M... like Marsha Brady. I am not criticizing them. I know it can be stressful to think up words that start with certain letters when you are on the spot.

In closing I have decided to write a short poem about VIN numbers. Please imagine a Celine Dion song playing softly in the background while you read it.

17 Digits, no more, no less.
What a combination of numbers and letters.
Your uniqueness is captivating.
You bring clarity and order to a confused world.
You are often audibly enigmatic.
Some wish you were shorter.
I say don't change.
I like you just the way you are.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My 100th Post

This is my 100th post on Chaka's World! Since I am dividing my blogging efforts among 3 different blogs I actually passed the 100 mark a while ago so this is technically more like my 179th post.

My High School English teacher would be proud of me....until she actually read my posts. I realize that I am still an amateur when it comes to blogging. Some people posts multiple times every day. I prefer to wait and let my blog entries age like a fine wine for 2 or 3 days before posting them. Ok... maybe more like a fine yogurt.

In the spirit of the Academy Awards I'd like to give my acceptance speech for reaching this milestone. I'm grateful for several things.

1. I'm grateful for spell check even though it doesn't help my poor grammar and punctuation.
2. I'm thankful for the freedom of speech or in this case the freedom of press. It is great to live in a country where I can express my opinions and write about topics like xxxxxxxx and not have to worry that the xxxxxxxxx will censor my controversial ideas concerning xxxxxxxxx.
3. I really do appreciate the followers of this blog even though the fact that they are following this blog does not speak very highly of them. You guys are awesome.

So after 100 posts you know my next goal is to get 100 followers. Once I achieve that my goal is to get 100 lords a leaping. If I can accomplish that then the sky's the limit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dejunking-Serenity Now!

I have recently noticed a troubling trend around my home. Over time we have accumulated a bunch of stuff. We have many things that we don't really use, need or want. Having too much stuff mentally drains me. I was thinking that if I could have my way I'd minimize everything. Then I realized I can have my way so I decided to do something about it.

One of the by-products of having so many little kids is that we frequently find clothes all over the house. They will often discard shoes and socks in whatever room they happen to be in. There are so many clothes that it has been hard to keep track of them all. Despite the over abundance of clothes, we usually can't find a pair of shoes or socks every Sunday so I end up yelling at my kids as a regular weekly tradition as they are getting ready for church. Many times I feel like Frank Costanza screaming "serenity now!" when dealing with all the clutter. I have also wanted to say "Calgon take me away" but taking a bubble bath is not a very manly way to deal with the situation.

What has compounded the clothes clutter problem is that we have many good friends, neighbors, and family who have passed clothes down to us over the years. I appreciate their generosity and don't mind my kids using nice hand me downs, but we have failed to get rid of the old clothes when the new ones came in. That is until recently. I got fed up and told each kid they could have their pajamas, Sunday clothes, work out clothes, and besides that we were limiting every one's wardrobes down to one weeks worth of clothes. I got rid of 6 full garbage bags of clothes in one day. It was a huge psychological relief. I was able to donate them and by donate I mean pass the curse on to someone else. I am all for simplification.

Without the clutter it is much easier to focus on more important things. I'm pretty sure that in Guantanamo Bay they had rooms full of junk where they would put prisoners just to stress them out. I'd prefer water boarding to clutter exposure. Even if the stuff you have is nice or expensive, it is still clutter if you have too much. The paintings at the Louvre could be classified as clutter if they weren't spaced out and arranged to give you breathing room.

I used to help people selling their homes by preparing or "staging" them to make them more appealing to buyers. By far the most important thing they could do was to get rid of all the unnecessary junk that had accumulated over the years. I think de-junking is just as important as cleaning or re-painting since it makes a room appear bigger and gives it a more spacious feel.

So in an effort to simplify things I am keeping a closer watch on what comes in my house. When new clothes come in old ones will have to go out. When new toys, papers, books, or furniture come in I will make sure old ones go out. It is a challenge to maintain equilibrium while living with so many little pack rats, but the effort is worth maintaining my sanity. I would much rather have fewer material goods that are in better shape than have a ton of stuff and feel like I'm living on the set of Sanford and Son. I'd encourage anyone else who needs to get rid of old stuff to do so. It's therapeutic and it will simplify your life.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Food, Glorious Food

I'd like to focus on a positive topic today. It's time to honor some proven foods that have brought joy to my life and comforted me when times got hard. One of the great things about blogs is that there are so many of them dedicated entirely to food and recipes. I love these blogs but I have to confess I don't always read them. Many times I just look at the pictures and make noises like Homer Simpson.

I grew up in a large family where I learned to fight for food and even hoard it. To this day I am ashamed to admit that when I see dessert come in my house I immediately eat it no matter how hungry I am and I will often hide some for later on. I'm not proud of my unhealthy eating habits but they are actually better than they used to be. The following list is not complete but here are some of my favorite simple foods I am grateful for.

Sunflower seeds-So simple yet so powerful. I prefer them salted and unshelled. Half of the experience of eating sunflower seeds is cracking them open and eating them as fast as a parrot on speed.
Mandarin oranges-I love them in salads, jello, or just plain. They taste great and are so cute.
Black Olives-As long as they are black and pitted you can't go wrong.
Cashews-The ultimate nut. What a perfect texture and taste. They compliment many foods.
Deviled Eggs-I can never get enough of them. I could eat trays at a time ala Cool Hand Luke and still not get full.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy-One of the greatest combos of all time and my favorite food. Just make sure you add plenty of sour cream, butter, milk, salt and white pepper to the potatoes.
Egg Nog-I love egg nog and don't mind diluting it with milk or sprite. This is one of those smooth foods where you can drink half a gallon before you realize what has happened.
Pizza-It's hard to go wrong with Pizza. There are so many styles and varieties that it's hard to find someone who doesn't love it. All of the other foods secretly wish they were pizza.

Some of my followers have cool food blogs. Mary's blog is called One Perfect Bite. The photos of the food she makes are amazing. Each time she posts a recipe I salivate like Pavlov's dog. Bliss has several blogs. One of her food blogs is called Chef Bliss. Abby is a trainer who's blog I've been following for a while. It's called Eat, Drink and Be Aware She usually features really healthy food which is nice since I don't feel guilty when I crave it.

I'm grateful for a variety of foods that "please the eye and gladden the heart". If you know of some other good food blogs feel free to list them in the comments. I'm always up to the challenge of checking out good food.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Just Socks

With the unprecedented success I had with my post about shoe tying, I have decided to follow Hollywood's example and follow up with a sequel "Socks the Final Destination". Socks are one of my favorite articles of clothing, especially when they are new. I handle new socks with the respect that they deserve. Looking into a drawer full of socks can be an emotional experience for me. I love socks. I enjoy putting away my laundry if my socks are involved because it's kind of like doing a puzzle. I'll admit it's not a very hard puzzle, but it's still a confidence booster and I'm all about baby steps.

I have some very lofty ideals about socks and I think most people are slackers when it comes to proper stocking care. Last year I bought my wife a 12 pack of footy socks from Costco and within a few months nearly half of the pairs were missing their soul mate. (No pun intended) This is a problem because each pair of socks had a unique design and they have been rendered useless without their mate. To avoid this dilemma, some people just buy a large pack of identical socks so when ones gets lost or ruined they can just match it up with a similar one from the same batch. I think this is cheating. It's like opening your presents on Christmas eve or buying your kid a replacement goldfish after theirs dies without telling them. Every sock is unique and deserves a mate.

I'm sure there are seperated socks in landfills and rag bags all around the world. If I were a politician my battle cry would be "a match for every sock" and I don't care how much I had to tax the masses, I would fix this problem. Nothing hurts my soul more than a nearly new sock that is missing it's match. Even when I buy a 6 pack of identical socks I still try to keep the original matches together. My socks have a very low separation rate. Here are some of the sock rules I live by.
1. Remember that every sock is unique and has value.
2. Never wear socks outside without shoes.
3. Don't roll socks into balls, it kills the elastic.
4. Never Wear socks that don't match.
5. When a sock gets holes in it, it should be retired respectfully like an old flag.

I could go on but but this is a hard topic to keep people interested in and I am probably scaring you by going into so much detail on a subject most people don't think twice about. Socks help us with fashion, cushioning, warmth, and, hygiene. Please don't take them for granted.

Monday, May 11, 2009

One Hit Wonders

Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been sick as a dog since my last post. I think I got sick because I have been mocking the media's recent swine flu frenzy so it's kind of ironic that I've been sick with the flu. I've spent the last several days with chills, fever, body aches, sore throat, and coughing but I have returned from the brink of death to bless your lives with my ramblings.
I imagine it can be challenging to achieve success in the Music Industry. It's extremely competitive so I have always been amazed by the groups that have exhibited some serious longevity genes. Some have been successful at producing popular music for over 20-30 years. Those artists are marathoners and will be mentioned in another post. This post is dedicated to the sprinters AKA one hit wonders. There are many groups to choose from that were on top of the world one minute but apparently hiding in a witness protection program a year later. Unless you are related to any of these bands, you'll probably have a hard time naming any other songs they've had success with.

Dexie's Midnight Runners-Come on Eileen
Michael Sembello-Maniac
Murray Head-One Night in Bankok
Lipps Incorporated-Funky Town
Soft Cell-Tainted Love
Men Without Hats-The Safety Dance
Nick Kershaw-Wouldn't it be Good
Toni Basil-Oh Mickey
Gary Numan-Cars
When in Rome-The Promise
Yello-Oh Yeah
The Buggles- Video Killed the Radio Star. This was the first video on MTV. I think it was also their last.

I think it's kind of sad that we give these groups a hard time for not consistently putting out big hits. I should give them a break. After all I've only been successful for about 3 of my 20 years in the workforce why should I expect more from some guy just because he can play the guitar?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Special Skill

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm bragging, but I recently discovered that I have a talent I was previously unaware of. I'm sure you've seen paper towel dispensers in restrooms before. Some of the new-fangled ones have an auto sensor that feeds the paper towel out automatically. The old school models require some manual tugging. Many of these provide directions on how to retrieve your next towel.

The directions are written in international sign language that specifically warn not to try to pull a towel out with one hand. Since nobody was around to to see, I thought I'd be a rebel and try it with one hand. It was a stunning success.

I was considering adding this skill to my resume but I thought it might show a rebellious streak in my personality and make a potential employer doubt my ability to follow instructions. For now I will just brag about it on my blog as I live on the edge. I decided that I should be the one to release the photo before I run for public office someday and someone tries to blackmail me with it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

All Star Wrestling

I have a confession to make. I used to watch All Star Wrestling. I haven't for quite a while, but during my pre-teen years it had quite an appeal to me. I think that's because wrestling is aimed at the pre-teen mentality. If you ever want to see something frightening just look at the people in the crowd at a WWE event. Back when I watched wrestling the participants were not skanky women models. They were guys like The Junk Yard Dog, The Claw, The Iron Sheik, Jimmy Superfly Snuka, The Road Warriors, Andre the Giant, and The British Bulldogs. Those were the early days of Vince McMahon before he took over the mantle of Satan.

Today there are tons of high profile wrestlers. Back in the 80's there were many no name wrestler who's job was to get beat up every match. They were to wrestling what the Washington Generals are to the Globe Trotters. They reminded me of the extras you'd see on Star Trek who you knew would die within the first five minutes of the episode. I felt bad for them but I felt worse for the wrestlers who had such lame names, themes, costumes, and trademark moves. Some of these were The Rooster, Coco B. Ware, IRS, Hillbilly Jim, and the Honkey Tonk Man. Wrestling is definitely a place where you have to work your way up from the bottom.

There have been some classic moments over the years. My favorite and funniest move of all time was when an opponent would put a sleeper hold on Hulk Hogan. The ref would hold his hand up and it would be limp as he was about to pass out. He'd do it again but still no response. He'd be ready to call the match but on the third test Hulk's finger starts to wag like Dikembe Mutombo and says "Oh no you don't!" He then starts shaking violently and somehow makes it to his feet. He then breaks the hold and pummels the bad guys several times and then finishes him of in victorious fashion much to the delight of the screaming fans in the arena. Now that's entertainment.

I like the line in Liar Liar when his son asked if wrestling is real Jim Carey says "In the Olympics yes, on channel 23 no". You gotta love the incompetent blind refs and the weekly betrayal and drama between the wrestlers. I wish more sports required the participants to give an emotional speech prior to an event. Can you see Tiger Woods screaming about how he was going to make Phil Mikkelson wish he was never born by the end of the day? Wrestling is really just a soap opera on steroids. Literally. I will never say that to a wrestler's face after seeing what happened to John Stossil when he told David Schultz it was all fake and got beat up. In defense of wrestling I admit that there are some amazing athletes. Even if it is fake, you have to admit that it takes amazing skill to do a back flip off the top ropes and body slam someone without killing both participants.

I don't watch much TV anymore, but if I ever find myself flipping channels and come across wrestling it reminds me of a car wreck. I know I should just keep driving but I sure feel the urge to stop and watch. Thanks to my wife I am not able to indulge in the grappling drama for more than a few seconds without getting a disgusted look and a finger wag very similar to Hulk Hogan's. At lease I have matured a little over the years and have moved from All Star Wrestling to Ultimate Fighting instead.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Home School Movement

My wife and I have been home schooling our kids for the past 6 years. It was a difficult decision at first. When I was a kid, the only people I knew who home schooled were kind of like the Amish because they were so strict. I have nothing against the Amish. In fact I kind of envy them, but I digress... Anyway it seemed that the kids who were home schooled back when I was young had overprotective parents and probably were not allowed to watch anything on TV except PBS or eat anything but whole wheat bread. I am a product of prime time TV, white bread, and public school so I guess I don't fit my own stereotype. I actually enjoyed my entire public school experience and liked most of my teachers. I think that educators are some of the most influential and important, yet under valued, and under paid people in society.

When we decided to home school, my biggest concern was for my kid's social development. I also didn't want them to miss out on sports. That is also a common concern I hear from others. While this may be a valid question, I don't think my kids mind missing out on some of the common social interactions associated with Jr. High such as noogies, swirlies, wet willies, wedgies/melvins, titty twisters, cherry bellies, etc. There is a fair amount of babysitting that goes on in the class room. It happens in our home so it's bound to happen when you get hundreds of insecure kids together who are going through puberty.

One of the biggest factors in making the decision was that we didn't have time for all the homework. Homework seems to be geared to parents as much as it is to the kids. If you are teaching kids at school for 6 or 7 hours everyday why do you need to give them homework when they get home? I'm all for efficiency so one of the biggest advantages of home school is that it allows us to customize the time schedule and curriculum to each kid according to their talents and interests. My wife puts a big emphasis on their music education. I enjoy teaching them history, art, and humanities. I frequently use movies to teach about different time periods, philosophies, and historical events. They have math, writing, and science projects in addition to other practical things like learning physiology, gardening, business principles, current events, politics, and religion. We can also take field trips as often as we like.

We also don't freak out if a child is not at the same developmental stage in a given area as their peers. I remember the social stigma that came to some kids in grade school when they divided us up into color coded reading groups according to their reading competence. No announcements were made, but everybody knew the smartest kids were in the red group, the majority were in the blue group, then there were the few kids in the brown group who met in the basement with the janitors for their reading. I may be exaggerating, but I don't think kids need to be labeled as gifted or slow at an early age. Everybody develops differently.

My kids are involved in plenty of social activities. They are in scouts, church groups, basketball, dance, karate, art lessons, music academies, and they are constantly playing with their friends. One aspect of their socialization I've appreciated is that my kids don't look at their shoes and mumble when they talk to others or walk around texting while having permanent ear phones on to seclude them from the rest of the world like many of the "socialized" kids you see. My kids are not rude or obnoxious either. (At least not in public). I'm sure we are doing many things wrong when it comes to their education, but nobody has a greater interest in them than we do and I think that can compensate for the areas where we are lacking.

Home schooling has picked up a lot of steam over the years. More and more people feel drawn towards it and are compelled to check it out. It used to be that only responsible, concerned parents home schooled their kids but now not only normal people do but even immature parents like myself. I'm pretty sure the home school movement would not want me as a poster parent example. In fact some day my blog may be used as evidence in a court case against home schoolers. So the next time you come across someone who home schools, cut them a little slack because they just might be kind of normal. It may not be fore everyone, but remember that everybody home schools, they just may not realize it.