Thursday, June 26, 2008, posted by Q6 at 5:17 AM
I meant to post about this right after I got back on Sunday, but I've been riding on such a high I never got around to it. Sorry.

My Vegas trip was a BLAST! I had so much fun that . . . well . . . I suspect my "fun" meter has been recalibrated. After years of taking my kids back and forth to the airport (trips to and from their mom's house) I finally got to get on a plane! The wedding was very cool, though the MGM Grand has a very strict schedule, apparently, so it felt a little rushed. With most of the down time, we went back and forth between the MGM Grand and New York, New York (which, I think, is where I'd like to stay the next time we go there). The gambling was OK: I pulled $100 on a slot machine, which made up for most of what I lost at Blackjack, and I learned how to play Pai Gow Poker. Before, it seemed really complicated--it still seems complicated, but I like my buddy's take on the game: you're playing for the push, and the object of the game, according to his wisdom, is to lose at an infinitesimally slow rate while drinking for free. For him, it worked; for his wife, who turned $25 into just under $400 in about 90 minutes, it didn't; for me, the action was fast and not in my favor. (After getting home, I found an online version of Pai Gow Poker; each time I play, it takes me almost no time at all to lose $300, so, . . . not my game.) Friday night we went over to Mandalay Bay and hung out in a club called "Eye Candy" (oddly named, for there was little). We drank, we danced, and a good time was had by all.

I haven't had a whole lot of friends as an adult. I've had colleagues, who have also been friends, but they're all teachers and the "boss" thing occasionally gets in the way. Now that I'm being transferred to another school site, they're now my friends--and it was really cool to hang out with friends. It'll take some getting used to, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.

I was speaking to one of the teachers who went on the trip (she and I really get along--we have a secret handshake and everything), and she not only told me about the cool stuff I missed Sunday night (most of them stayed until Monday, dammit), but she agreed with me that we should make an annual event of this. Seriously--what could be more cool than to spend the first weekend of every summer vacation in Vegas?

And with friends!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008, posted by Q6 at 5:15 AM
We don't think of "philosopher" as a contemporary profession, but contemporary society does have philosophers--and we just lost a great one.

"When someone is impatient and says,
'I haven't got all day,' I always wonder,
How can that be? How can you not have all day?"

Long ago, I had George Carlin's "A Place for My Stuff" album (on cassette) and damn near wore the thing out. I was only, like, twelve at the time, but I loved Carlin's work from that moment on--as many did--and made a point of listening to and watching as much of his work as possible. Alas, my collection of Carlin--which was by no means comprehensive or complete--has fallen into obscurity, but my love for his work has not abated at all.

"I have as much authority as the Pope, I just
don't have as many people who believe it."

Carlin crossed over from "comedian" to "philosopher" early on in his career, and he influenced a lot of other comedians. What made his appeal so great and so funny? There's a statement someone once made about magicians: good magicians do tricks on stage; great magicians do the same tricks six inches from your face. I think the Carlin's appeal worked the same way: he didn't just tell jokes, he merely described things that we all do to demonstrate just how idiotic we all look.

"Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations.
When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong."

Although he seemed to get a bit grouchy in his later years (as if, after spending all those years trying to open our eyes, he finally realized it wasn't gonna happen and just gave up on us), I will always be a fan of the earlier George Carlin, the one who wanted me to wake up and realize what was going on. I think he had a genuine message for people, and that may be why so many people will say so many good things about him for so long.

While my condolences go out to his family, I prefer to celebrate his existence rather than mourn his death. We were lucky to have had him at all.

"Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when
you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008, posted by Q6 at 9:50 PM
I'm going to Las Vegas this weekend for a wedding at the MGM Grand. Two of our English teachers are getting hitched, and since I don't really get to vacation that often, my fiancee and I are going. (I'm hoping to do a little gambling this time, though they're not high hopes--my future missus isn't really into it, and I'm not wild about going off and doing my own thing. The last two times I was in Vegas I didn't do any at all, and I lived, so no big deal, really.) Since it's so close to the end of the school year--our flight leaves about four hours after teacher check-out--we're flying this time around. And with ticket prices being what they are during the fuel crunch, we spent a lot of our money on the airfare. So where will we stay for those two nights?

Friday, June 13, 2008, posted by Q6 at 9:31 PM
While scanning the top stories at last night, I came across a story I would ordinarily pass over--but instead, I gave it a look. And in doing so, I presented myself with a fascinating question--one that could have serious repercussions if the answer played itself out.

ExxonMobil is selling all of its gas stations--all the ones that are corporate-owned, anyway. That means they'll all be privately owned. What sparks the intrigue, as I see it, is their reason for selling them off: even at $4 a gallon, it's not proftable enough a venture. So it begs the question: if gas prices continue to soar, and the gasoline business becomes less and less profitable, AND both the corporate and private owners of gas stations make similar decisions . . . see where I'm going with this?

What if so many people get out of the business that gasoline is no longer readily available? It's a slippery-slope argument, to be sure. But have we really considered the supply-side pain of oil prices? The gasoline business isn't a public utility thing, it's a for-profit thing. If the profit disappears, and sellers decide to get out, what happens to the consumers? I may be alone, but I've always thought that if Big Oil ever falls it would be due to shrinking demand (carpooling, public transportation, airlines cutting flights due to rising fuel costs, hybrids and alternate fuel vehicles reducing demand, etc.). I never considered the possibility that gas stations would give up before they became obsolete.

Honda is testing a new alternative fuel vehicle called the FCX Clarity. It's a "fuel cell" powered vehicle, which means it's the hydrogen car we've all been hearing about. Honda is ready to test them, and is offering leases to people who (a) have driving habits that match the car's capability and range, and (b) live within a certain distance of the few fueling depots that currently exist. I live in one of those zip codes, and signed up. (I was even sent the questionnaire for consideration. I haven't heard anything yet.) I have no idea if I'll be selected, but if I am, this whole gasoline business thing will be moot for me.

I'll have no reason to care.
Thursday, June 12, 2008, posted by Q6 at 9:56 PM
Some of you have been reading my blog posts, the ones that talk about the bike I want to buy and how I waver back and forth about the cost and such, and say to the screen, "Just buy the damn bike already."

Fine. I did. I bought the damn bike.

It's probably more bike than I need--a $900 road bike, and considered a "middle-end" bike at that--but it's nice, and I won't need to upgrade anytime soon. The seat's a bit uncomfortable, so I'm either going to need a padded seat or a padded butt. (They have those bike pants with the gel pads in the seat, but I don't think I'm ready for that kind of embarassment. When the bruises become visible and unbearable, maybe--MAYBE--I'll change my mind.)

I tried it out one Saturday by riding to work--10 miles or so, round trip. I hadn't been at this biking thing for a while, so I didn't really know how far I'd get (I was, however, highly motivated--I actually had to be at work for a while that day). I made it, and with the exception of one hill (which I conquered pretty well in low gear--this bike has about six or seven hundred of them) it was an easy ride. So I made a decision--I was going to bike to work as often as possible, and for as long as possible.*

For four days now, I've been biking to work, changing clothes there, and then changing and biking home. I'm forced to leave some clothes and shoes at the office, which is a little strange, but the biking has done wonders for my legs**, wonders for my self-esteem, and has probably helped out with my gas budget some. I've even encountered wildlife along the bike path--rabbits tend to cross my path, there are hundreds of birds' nests on the freeway overpass, I saw a squirrel yesterday, and I encountered a coyote this morning (got within three feet of the sucker). Yeah, this biking thing is cool.

Fifty cents more a gallon, and we'll all be doing it, I suspect.

*I'm being transferred to a new job site in the Fall, and it's too far away to use the bike. I'm not sure when I'll get my biking in, at that point, especially if I become addicted to this.

**The ride takes me 25 minutes each way. On day four, it still took 25 minutes, but it felt longer. I'm well on my way to legs of steel--or jello, depending.