This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: How's That Commute Working For You?

              Do you commute to work?  If so have you ever considered public transportation?  In some places such as smaller communities and primarily rural areas this may not be an option, but the traffic problem is probably not like it is in an urban area either.  For those of us in the city though, the traffic can be not only a nuisance, but also can be detrimental to our heath.

               Most of us own a car or even two or more vehicles.  In most locales it is almost a necessity to have some sort of personal transportation.  If you live in an urban area like New York City, vehicle ownership may be cost prohibitive.  In these settings public transportation is a given--nearly everybody is using it.  In the more sprawling areas like Los Angeles, Miami, or Houston commuting in one's own vehicle is more the norm.  But perhaps some of the economic factors should be considered.

               On the average, owning a newer vehicle will cost the owner $400 or more per month once you have factored in payments, insurance, registration, gas, and maintenance.  Additionally some drivers who are commuting to a workplace may be paying highway tolls and parking, which can be up to $100 per month or more.  This can all add up in a years time to $4000 or even much more than that.

              Carpooling can be a great option for some, but it's not always a practical solution.  If you have easy access to a public transportation line or are near a park-and-ride lot, commuting in this manner can save a considerable amount of money.  Monthly transportation passes are less than $100 in most cases.

              Now some may argue that riding public transportation is inconvenient.   So you might have to walk a few extra blocks--the exercise can be beneficial.  You do have to run on a schedule, but that is not so much a matter of inconvenience as it is adaptation.  Consider that you are no longer wasting time behind the wheel sitting idly in traffic.  Now you can read, do paperwork, or even sleep.   And if you enjoyed the traffic time for listening to the radio or books-on-tape or whatever, you can still do that while being able to relax and really concentrate on what you are listening to.

            Other arguments may include having to ride in unclean vehicles or with undesirable people.  When's the last time you took public transportation?  My most recent experiences have been rather positive.  The trains and buses that I have been on have been well maintained and clean.  As far as the people, what can one say?  You never know who you might meet and this is a time to learn some tolerance.  The public transportation is a microcosm of the city streets, the businesses, and your place of work  The people come and go and we deal with that everywhere.

           One of my main concerns is getting some of the traffic off the streets and highways.  Does everybody really have to be there?  Most of the cars I see on the freeways usually have only one person in them.  I very rarely drive on the freeways, but when I do I am amazed by the amount of traffic and I'm quite sure most of those cars aren't just there like I am for a casual jaunt.  I am pretty sure that many of these drivers are commuting.

            I've been fortunate in that I've never had more than a five mile ten minute drive from home to office since I've lived in California.  I have occasionally taken the trains to go to places like Hollywood and downtown L.A.   This has been my normal approach when I've had out of town visitors who want to go there.  There's no traffic and no parking hassles to worry about.  It's fun and convenient.  If I had to work in any of those areas or any other areas accessed by public transportation, that would be my ride to work--forget driving.   If you are familiar with Los Angeles traffic or the congested messes of any other urban areas you probably know what I'm talking about.

             Tomorrow I will be giving you my report on my recent tour of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority's light rail system.   My Thursday Debate Day topic will be focusing on light rail as a transportation option.  Whether you have had experience with light rail or not, I hope you will weigh in with your opinions about this mode of transportation.

              If you have more than one vehicle and have the public transportation option, would you be willing to consider tossing out a vehicle to use that option?   Do you use public transportation now?  Have you had any experience with public transportation?  What are the positives and/or the negatives of public transportation?  What transportation options do you have in your community now?   Do you have a good public transportation story that you would like to share?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blog Boggled: Me, Me, Me--How About You?

           I've really been milking Alex J Cavanaugh's  Blogging Idiosycrasies Part Two and Blogging Idiosycracies Part One, but it's a topic that I too enjoy examining and it's what I frequently post about on Monday's Blog Boggled feature.  I'm a student of blog science and if you are a blogger then you should be as well. 

          Aren't we all a little curious about why people would want to visit our blog?  What would bring them back again?   Why they would follow?   What we can do to keep our blog posts interesting enough to keep readers coming back and leaving comments?    How important is blog content?

          The topic of talking about oneself as blog content was one thought that arose in the comment section of Alex's second post.  This is what I want to address today.   Is blogging about oneself merely egocentric information that no one else wants to hear or does it have relevance?

          Let me cite the following from that comment section: 

         L. Diane Wolfe said, "I try not to talk about myself all the time. Those who do seem egotistical and it becomes annoying."

         To which Alex replied, "Easily annoyed, Diane? Yeah, I couldn't talk about myself. I wouldn't know what to say."

          I would agree and disagree with both statements.   I really enjoy when L. Diane Wolfe tells about where's she's been and what she's been doing.  I want more information about book promo events or speaking engagements.  I think those of us who read Spunky's blog think of her as a friend even though most of us don't know her in real life.  When she relates anecdotes about herself it allows us to feel that the friendship is more real.   Learning about her life as an author, speaker, and motivator is something that we can learn from as well.

          Likewise, I wouldn't mind hearing more stories about Alex's life.  Especially when the book promo begins I hope he will keep us filled in on some of the things he encounters and the people he meets.  Those of us who are interested in becoming authors want to know more about the process of writing, publishing, and promoting.  Tell us more, Alex.  

         Patricia Stoltey expressed this well when she said, "I like to know about a writer/blogger's life and interesting things about his environment and experiences, both personal and writing-related. And I like hearing how a writer is promoting his work, new small publishers, and agent searches."

           As far as the sentiment of bloggers who talk about themselves becoming "egotistical and annoying", I don't think L. Diane really meant this as a blanket statement which really encompassed all.  Not to be overly presumptuous, but I think I know what she was talking about and she didn't have most of you in mind.  She would probably have a similar view as Patricia--at least that would be my guess.

           I can think of some wonderful examples of bloggers who often talk about their own personal lives.  Ruby from Blabbin' Grammy gives us homey recounts of what's happening in her life.  Many of us find her writing style to be engaging and it's like a daily serial that readers can really get involved with.  Gosh, I feel like I know her and even like she's a relative or something.  Style combined with content counts on this blog.

           Then there's the wonderful poet Yvonne from Welcome to My World of Poetry.  Many of her poems have to do with things in her past or her present activities.  She is another blogger whom many of us have come to love because we feel like we know her.  She uniquely passes us this personal information through her cleverly written and often heartfelt poetry.  Even her award presentations and best of lists are delivered as poems.  I for one truly enjoy my regular blog visits with Yvonne, not to forget that she is an amazingly prolific and thoughtful commenter.

             There are so many other wonderful blogs where the authors talk about themselves, such as Karen Walker's Following the Whispers,  Teresa at Journaling Woman,  Diana at Welcome to My World, and many more.

             Then of course, yours truly blogs about himself often.  I hope I haven't bored anyone with my stories about my past and anecdotes about current happenings, my lists of favorite things, or any of the other information that I reveal about myself.   My intent is to entertain and to share some of my knowledge and get feedback about the knowledge that you have that relates to what I've talked about.  It's like a conversation on a train with a stranger--sometimes random and pertaining to wherever the conversation happens to go.

            There are many blogs out there and many blog friends to be had.  Personally, I do agree with what L. Diane Wolfe said about some blogs being a little annoying, or perhaps it might be better to say not interesting to me.  If I don't enjoy the writing style I will more than likely soon be gone. If there is nothing for me to relate to then I will likely lose interest.  But, let's face it, there is something for all sorts of tastes in the world of blogging and I'm not going to judge what someone else wants to read.   One the other hand, I know what I like.

            What kind of content appeals most to you?   Do you like to hear about a blogger's personal life and interests?   Does writing style and originality trump content?  Or will good content keep you coming back even if the blog posts are poorly written?  Do you like to write about yourself?  Why or why not?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Staying On the Right Track

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 (New International Version)

          A train moves confidently down the track heading toward it's destination.  If the track were not in place the train would lose it's way and crash.  This is how the train has been constructed to operate.  The wheels have been designed to fit specifically on the track the train follows.  The train is powered by diesel, steam, electric, or whatever fuel source the engine requires to operate.  Once all of the necessary components are in place, the engineer and the crew can feel reliant that the train will perform as intended.  They will still have to watch for any irregularities along the way, but as long as there are no obstructions or breaks in the track they will safely reach their destination.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 (New International Version)

Be on guard! Be alert and pray! You do not know when that time will come.
Mark 13:33 (New International Version)

           We have been equipped for our life journey by God when we place our trust in Him.  We are blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our way may not be as tangible as the tracks that carry the train, but the Bible and prayer will help us to see where we are going.  God will give us the strength, but we must keep our eyes open and our minds alert so as not to lose our way.  Just as the engineer and his crew much watch the way before them to be sure that the route ahead is safe for travel, we must be vigilant on our life journey to be sure we are keeping on track.  We do not have the security of iron rails to keep us from meandering off course, but God has given us everything we need to arrive safely to our destination.  It is up to each of us to intently focus on where we are heading.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 (New International Version)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Trains Are On Schedule


           The past week has been an eventful flurry of bloggy activity and fun and there is more to come this week.   The Tossing It Out blog train has been on schedule every day and for the sake of keeping it on schedule I'm going to keep my recap and preview short today.

           Generally speaking, this coming week's blog topics will be themed around public transportation and more specifically my recent tour on the Los Angeles Metro light rail system.  On this upcoming Thursday my debate topic will be more of an educational probe about the topic of public transportation and light rail 
as seen from the perspective of the knowledge and experience provided by you the readers.  I will be sending links to my posts to representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority so they will be able to read what you have to say about the topic.  I hope I will get some strong participation on this.

          My debate day topic this past Thursday was intended to be a humorous parody of my Debate Day features and I got a quite unexpected response.  Apparently the post was taken quite seriously by some readers.  If you missed it you might like to check it out and make sure you read through the comments.  I will be doing a post in the future inspired by this parody post I presented.

Happy Blogoversary!

Junebug's Musings is celebrating a fourth blogoversary.  I thought I was doing good as I approach my first full year of blogging.  Four years is quite an achievement.  Stop by and congratulate Junebug.

And Now Some Awards:
This was an especially lucrative week for awards bestowed upon Tossing It Out. For the sake of greater simplicity and speed I am going to pass each one to three other bloggers.  Here are these much appreciated awards:

This one's from Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere      I don't mind Tossing It Out being called a "Sweet Blog" and I think Rayna is pretty sweet for sending this my way.  Thank you Rayna!

I'll pass this to:

Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry -- She probably already has this since she's one of the sweetest ladies we know.  So, Yvonne, if you already have this then here's another--you can never have too many Sweet Blog awards.

Wolfie at Writer Person --   She's still looking for more followers and even though she's busily back to school she's still blogging.

Stephanie at What's So Random --  She will be celebrating her quinceañera next Saturday (that's her 15th birthday party).

Commenters Award presented by Powdered Toast Man at  Just The Cheese.   I'm not going to go to as much trouble as PTM did, though I think he has some kind of widget that keeps a count on commenters.  Hmmm--- maybe I should add that to my blog.   In any case, trying not to duplicate this one without doing any research, I'll give this to:

Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow

Jemi Fraser at Just Jemi

Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs

With my hat off  to all the other frequent commenters who fill up my comment section, I appreciate all of you.

          From Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow and  From Yvonne at Welcome to My World of Poetry I get another Circle of Friends award.  I appreciate all of the wonderful blog friendships that we all have.  We get so much support, encouragement, and inspiration from each other and that's really a great thing.  I'll send this one on to:

Jessica at The Alliterative Allomorph -- Don't forget her contest.

Ellie at Ella's Edge

      From Alex J. Cavanaugh is the You Rock! Award.  Per Alex's request I'm going to pass this on to 5 other bloggers who rock.

Gregg at Gospel Driven Disciples -- Well maybe more country, but his blog is about THE ROCK.

Glen at Glen's Blog Spot -- Another guy who knows his rock.

Marvin Wilson The Old Silly -- Who actually is a rock and roll musician.

LC at DiscConnected -- Who Blogs about rock and roll.

Daniel Jackson at The Saga of the Concrete Jungle -- I'm sure he won't see this since he doesn't have access to a computer.  I encourage all of you to visit Dan's blog and leave a comment.  He does receive printed copies of the comments he receives on his blog and he does respond to those comments.

         Hope you'll visit these blogs and say hello.  And even if I didn't name you here today, you deserve these awards as well.  I appreciate all of my readers.   Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 27, 2010


          I woke up just before the alarm was scheduled to wake me up.  This was typical.  I woke up early not because I wanted to get up, but because I knew it was time to get up.  I would have preferred to sleep a little longer, but five minutes early made no difference.

          In the early morning semi-darkness I quietly made my way downstairs and turned on the kitchen light.  I took my first pill for the day.  Actually, per doctor's orders, it was one half of a glipizide tablet to be taken one half hour before eating.  Each time throughout the day when I take a pill, I down it with a glass of water. I have heard that a person should drink at least eight glasses of water per day for health benefits.  A glass each time I take pills means five glasses per day.  The other three glasses I can drink with meals.

           As I would normally do, I placed the one half of a glipizide tablet on my tongue and quickly gulped the glass of water.  After drinking the water I realized with great dismay that one of my teeth had fallen out.  Initially I thought it was a cap that had fallen off my tooth since I had had this experience once before and it felt much like it did now.  However I realized that what was in my mouth was too small to be one of my caps and it must have been a tooth.

         Probing the tiny object in my mouth I thought that perhaps one of my teeth might have broken since the object seemed too small to even be a complete tooth.  I ran my tongue across my teeth to see if I could determine where the damage was.  I had been fearing this very thing happening for a while now.  It had been a while since I had been to the dentist. 

          Now was not a good time to have to go to the dentist for a tooth repair.  No time ever was for that matter, but especially not now with my current financial situation.  My dental insurance did not adequately cover things like tooth repairs and I seemed to always leave the dentist with a hefty dentist bill.   I did not need this right now.

           Glumly I realized I had to take the unidentified dental disaster out of my mouth to figure out where it came from and what I would have to do next.  I manipulated the porcelainized particle onto my tongue and plucked it out with my thumb and forefinger. 

            I looked at it and felt foolish, but relieved to discover that it was not a tooth or a part of a tooth, but it was the pill that I thought I had swallowed.  There would not have to be an urgent visit to the dentist after all.  I was glad for this.  But why would it have not occurred to me that it was the pill in the first place?

            This post seems absurd.  This was something I thought of a few weeks ago.   It seemed like a good idea when I thought of it, but so did my Debate Day post about alliteration that appeared yesterday.  I still like my alliteration post, and there is something about today's post that I like but I'm not sure where I was originally going to go with it.  There was supposed to be a moral or a lesson of some sort.

              Where would you take this post?   What does it represent?  Is there a lesson in it?          

I was going end up with some questions along the lines of:
Have you swallowed any pills lately?    Have you mistakenly thought that one thing was another only to find it was not the solution you were looking for?  Are you experiencing any apprehension that causes you to incorrectly interpret unrelated life events?    Have you thought that you have caused damage when there was really no damage at all?

Any ideas?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is Alliteration Annoying?

           I almost always avoid alliteration and you will seldom see it on this site.   Some people prefer to permeate their prose and poetry with repetitive patterns    I think it's cloyingly crass and lacking in class. 

          It's kind of like rhyme.  Some writers will write using rhyme all of the time and think their writing is so sublime.   I would never stoop to using verse, in fact I think there's nothing worse.  But definitely I digress because I'm not talking about the mess that is using rhyme in regular writing.  And I don't want to blibber-blabber about onomatopoeia either.

           No, today's topic is completely concerned with the practice of using successive sounds that appear in the primary position.   It's especially sickening when such sounds are sibilant sounds.

           Is alliteration as absolutely annoying to any of you as it is to me?  

              Come on, be honest.  I remember reading on some of your blogs that you hated alliteration.  Feel free to fess up--you won't be flogging my feelings.  What other writing quirks bother you?  You can be honest with me.  I'm against all gaudy gimmickery that paragraphers use in their scurrilously screwy scribery.  And I don't like it when writers warp words either.  So tell us already if alliteration is annoying.  Don't you hate it when people just keep saying the same thing over and over again?  Doesn't repetition bother you? 

          Okay that's enough from me.   What's your take on the topic?  Oh, and don't you hate it when people just joke around and can't stay serious?    I'm alway very serious on this blog.  You'll never hear me joking around here.  This blogging is serious business and you'll never read anything silly here.  If I say something in my blog it's because I'm serious and I mean it.  I'm not going to shoot for any cheap joke here.  No, not on this blog.  And you'll never hear me rambling or repeating myself--you know, like alliteration.

         Now I really am done.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Director Dirty Dozen

Powdered Toast Man inspired this list of some of my favorite directors.  Not much more to say except here are some of my favorites:

Stephen Spielberg  -- The films he has directed don't miss.  They have all been pretty darn good and cover a wide range.  Some of my favorites are War of the Worlds (2005), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the amazing Empire of the Sun.

Tim Burton --  His films have shown a lot of diversity and he gives them a unique world view.  Some of my favorites are Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Big Fish, and, one of the most optimistic movies ever, Ed Wood.

Joel and Ethan Coen -- I have been a fan of the Coens since the beginning.  My favorite films by them are Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?,  A Serious Man, and most of all No Country For Old Men because it is a faithful version of the novel by my favorite author Cormac McCarthy.

Christopher Nolan  --His string of great films include  Memento, Insomnia, InceptionBatman Begins, The Dark Knight, and my favorite The Prestige.

Roland Emmerich -- Laugh if you want, but I think his films have been just plain outright ridiculous fun.  Really this is one of the reasons I watch movies--escapism.  And his films have some pretty cool special effects.   I especially enjoyed 2012, The Day After TomorrowIndependence Day, and, one of my favorite films, The Patriot.

Ridley Scott---He has a fine list of films that he has directed, including Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down1492: Conquest of Paradise, Blade Runner, Alien, and, from my list of favorite films,  Gladiator.

Alfred Hitchcock --The master who had it down so well his name has been attached to a film genre.  A few of his greatest films include The BirdsSpellbound, Psycho, Rear Window,  and Vertigo, which is my personal favorite Hitchcock film.

Roman Polanski  -- If you get past his scandalous reputation, you have one of filmdom's greatest directors.  Some of my Polanski favorites are The Tenant, Chinatown, Bitter Moon, The Pianist,  and the very creepy Repulsion.

John Sayles  --  If Roland Emmerich is the master of over the top entertainment, John Sayles is on the opposite end of the movie making spectrum.  Sayles makes films that are quiet, intelligent, and thought-provoking.  My favorites are Sunshine State, Limbo,  Lone StarMatewan, and  Men with Guns. It's difficult to say which is my absolute favorite.

Francis Ford Coppola --This legend in film-making is the director of films like Peggy Sue Got Married, The Godfather Trilogy, The Conversation, and one my top favorite films, Apocalypse Now.

David Lynch -- The genius behind the notorious TV series Twin Peaks directed great films like Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, The Elephant Man, The Straight Story, and  the mind-bending Mulholland Drive.

Federico Fellini -- My all-time favorite director is Fellini.  His films are more than just movies.  They are dreams captured on screen.  His vision has had the greatest influence on my appreciation of film as an art.  Some of my favorites are Ginger and Fred, Clowns, La Strada, and Roma, which I would rank in my all-time five top favorite films.

           And there you go.  That says a lot about me as far as movies go.  Do you have any thoughts about any of these directors?  Any directors you'd like to toss into the mix?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: California Redemption Value

Recycling For Cash

            Some of us may recall the days before beverages in cans when there was a deposit required for soft drink bottles.  One could save the bottles to return to the store for a cash refund.  For a kid it was a great way to pick up some extra money.  My parents would let me cash in our bottles on grocery visits and I'd end up with as much as a dollar in my pocket--not too shabby for a kid in those days.

            More industrious kids, and even some adults for that matter, might go around the neighborhood to collect bottles from neighbors or pick up the discards along the roadway.  It was not unlike some of the recyclers we see today, except then in was not thought of as recycling, but just returning the empties.  Recycling is something that was not a particularly big issue prior to the 1970s, but it was a common practice for many things.   The soft drink manufacturors provided the incentive for the bottles to be returned so that they could reuse them, and in turn save money.

           When no deposit no return containers came on the market, it was convenient because now you could just throw them away.  However, issues of more landfill waste and roadside litter called for a solution to the problems that accompanied the use of these containers.  Recycling started to become a more highly promoted issue in the 70s, but more incentive was needed to keep consumers from merely throwing away what could be recycled.

           In 1987, California put the California Redemption Value (CRV) into effect.  This CRV is a fee that is charged for certain recyclables.  The CRV acronym also stands for California Refund Value which is the amount that is paid by the recycling companies to consumers who return their containers.  It is rare to see recyclable containers as litter for any length of time.  Many people scavenge trash cans in public places, pick up roadside discards, and even illegally raid household recycle bins that are set out on trash day.

            I have always kept my recyclables and cashed them in myself.  Storage is no big hassle.  I keep the cans, glass, and plastic bottles separated in trash bags in my garage.  It usually takes a few months for any appreciable amount to accumulate and I normally only go to the recycle center three or four times per year.  My most recent trip was shortly after my daughters came to visit.  With all of the company and a party, we quickly added to the accumulation of recyclables and after they left it was time to cash in the containers.

                             My Load of CRV Recyclables

           With the rear portion of my van loaded up with bags of aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles, I headed to my closest recycle center at 9 AM on a Tuesday morning.

                                    The Recycle Center

         The recycling location that I go to is beside what used to be a supermarket that has been closed for over a year now.  The building remains vacant, but the recycling station is still there.  Pictured above are some clients settling up for the recyclables they've brought in.  In the recent decline of the economy the supermarket wasn't able to survive, but the recycling business is booming.

                                 The Monetary Score

          I brought in one bag of aluminum cans, five bags of plastic bottles,  and 38 glass bottles.   My take for the haul was $23.55.  Not that bad for just storing them in my garage and taking them to the recycle center when I had a few bags.   But the best thing is that the containers don't end up in the landfill. 

          Does your state have a program to encourage recycling?   Do you recycle your containers to make money for yourself?   Do you have charities (churches, schools, or other organizations) that you donate your recyclables to in order for them to raise money?  If you aren't recycling, what do you do with your containers?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blog Boggled: Comment Conversation


E-Mail Update

          The first phase of e-mail management is complete.   Last week's count was 267, and at the time of this record I'd culled it down to 12.   The New e-mail folder should be at around this number at some point each day and rarely be over 100 before emails get deleted or dispersed into folders.  Currently I have 36 folders.  These will eventually be consolidated with others or deleted as I sort through content.  Now as long as I tend to the daily incoming e-mail in a timely manner, I should no longer have the confusing mess of new e-mail to wade through.

                           More About Commenting

            Last Monday I discussed the concept of quality commenting, that is leaving a comment that has content that relates to the blog post.  Today I want to take it a step further and look at commenting as a form of conversation, discussion, and relationship building. 

            Fortunately, Alex J. Cavanaugh's recent post, Blogging Idiosyncrasies Part Two, begins a recent discussion on this topic.  If you haven't read this post yet, and the comments, I encourage you to do so as I am adding my views to that portion of that discussion that relates to commenting.  And there was a lot of input from Alex's readers as to how they felt about the subject of comment.

              The Blog Conversation

            My take on commenting is that it allows a blog reader to interact with the writer and the other readers.   A truly inspiring and interesting comment section has comments of substance and questions when more information is desired; heartfelt replies that either reaffirm the commenter or address the commenter's questions or concerns; acknowledgment from the commenter that the response was received if that response entailed further action like an answer or clarification; and in some instances, input from other commenters.  In other words, an exciting comment section that exudes vitality and community would be like an on-line discussion forum.

           Impractical and idealistic?  Of course!  Last week we already noted that most of us don't have the time for many quality comments, let alone an ongoing discussion.  However, there are some cases when it does happen and it is quite exciting.  I've seen it on my own Thursday Debate Day topics where an actual ongoing debate occurs among some participants of the comment section.  I find it to be educational and stimulating.

          A couple of other sites where I have seen this are Stephen T. McCarthy's FFFF Blog and LC's Back in the USSR.  They often deal with controversial and debate-worthy topics that create a dialogue.  I have seen many other similar sites in the blogosphere, but it's that time factor that gets in the way of following many of these.  Too many fun blogs and not enough play time. 

            Tracking Comments and Replies
           But if we are talking just simple dialogue, I do think this can be accomplished even if you are hitting a multitude of blogs each day.  First of all, when you leave a comment, you have the option to "subscribe" to that post so that you will receive an email notification if the owner replies or each time someone else leaves a comment.  It's kind of a nice feeling when you get that note from the blog owner that they got your comment. I usually race through any other comments, but on rare occasions another commenter responds to what I have said and it's nice to know that too, whether it be positive or negative.  It's all a relationship building experience.  I have discovered many wonderful blogs through the comments. Yes, the emails can really pile up, but I can quickly delete them as well.

          As a blog owner, I just have faith that the commenters have subscribed to the post because I almost always reply to comments in my comment section.  I mostly reply in blocks because it just seems more efficient.   Some bloggers like Just Jemi reply one on one, which is a much more personal approach I think. Plus it doubles her comments (although even without her replies she's getting more comments than I usually get) and it sure makes her comment section look impressive.  Jemi's connecting with her readers surely endears her to we who comment on her blog.

             Replying By E-mail

        Some blog owners reply directly by email, which is a nice personal contact, or better yet, reply in the comment section and with a personal email.  I do direct emails in very special instances where my reply is more personal, but I still prefer to share my reply with all readers.  

           Offsite Blog Comments

        Other bloggers may go to the commenter's site to leave a reply.  I don't like to use this because I feel like it's stepping out of the discussion realm to reply in a different discussion realm where the reply lacks context for most of the readers.  Most readers probably will not follow the interblog exchange and a part of the conversation is lost.

                             What's Your Opinion?

        Do you want a blog conversation?  Do you like a blog conversation?  Do you "subscribe" to a blog where you have left a comment so you will be emailed if you get a reply?   Do you read many of the other comments?   Do you reply to the comments that you receive on your blog?  Do you prefer receiving a one on one personal reply?     Do you reply individually or in a block of personally designated replies?  Is there an advantage to replying by e-mail or on the commenter's site?

                                      METRO TOUR

          This past Saturday I mentioned that I was going to be taking a tour given by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  The tour was interesting and will be the inspiration of next week's blog topics on Tossing It Out.   I will look forward to hearing from some of you on the subject of public transportation.        

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Book of Jonah

         Over the past several weeks we have looked at the story of Jonah.   Here is a recap of the story:

          Many centuries ago, there was a Hebrew prophet by the name of Jonah.   God told Jonah to go the city of Nineveh to warn them that if they did not turn away from their evil ways and seek salvation from the Lord, their city would be destroyed. 

           Nineveh was one of the great cities of that time and was an enemy of Israel.  Jonah was angry that God was willing to show compassion to this evil enemy of His chosen people.  Instead of immediately obeying God, Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He boarded a ship that was bound for a faraway destination.

          During the voyage, God sent a massive storm that threatened to destroy the ship and all on board.  The men on board were afraid and asked Jonah to pray to God to save them.  Jonah convinced them that the only way to stop the storm would be to throw him overboard, which they did.

          God then sent a giant fish to swallow Jonah.  While inside the fish Jonah prayed a prayer of recognition of God's greatness, mercy, and salvation.  After three days, the fish expelled Jonah upon the dry land.  God once again told Jonah to go to Nineveh.  This time Jonah begrudgingly obeyed.

         In Nineveh Jonah spread the message given to him by God.  The people listened and heeded the warning they were given.  Everybody, from the leadership on down, repented and asked God for mercy.  When Jonah saw that they had turned to God, he angrily left the city to watch from a distance to see if Nineveh would be destroyed.

         As Jonah waited for Nineveh's destruction, he told God that he wanted to die because he was so angry that God was willing to show compassion to evil people.  While Jonah waited under the desert sun, God provided him comforting shade by making a large vine to grow over his head.  Jonah was pleased with this.

         However the following day God provided a worm to kill the vine so that Jonah would no longer have the shade.  In his discomfort, Jonah told God he that he was so angry that he wanted to die.  God pointed out that if Jonah was so concerned about the death of a vine, why shouldn't God be concerned about the destruction of a large city full of people.

        The Book of Jonah is a very short book that covers a couple of pages in four short chapters.  There is little in the way of background to the story for one reading the book by itself.  Some study notes, such as those found in many Bibles, help provide illumination to the story.  However, to begin to fully grasp the context one would have to study some of the other Old Testament books that were written at the same time. Histories and Biblical study books could also be very helpful in filling in some of the information that has been left out of Jonah.

        One can read Jonah without the extensive study and still understand the gist of the story.  There is not much in the way of detail or description provided.  We don't know what Jonah looked like, or what the ship he boarded was like, or much about the city of Nineveh, and we really don't have to have those details.  We do have the essentials of what happened.  We have important dialogue that reveals the character of Jonah, and, more importantly, the character of God.

        Another interesting technique is how Jonah's motivation is revealed to us.  At first we don't really know why he is disobeying God.  He is a man on the run and this draws the reader into the story.  We have hints that foreshadow the character revelations that we get in the final chapter, but only in that last chapter do we learn that Jonah is running because he is angry about God's compassion for sinners.  Jonah fails to see the irony of the fact that he too is a sinner and has been a beneficiary of God's compassion.   In the end, the lesson is laid before Jonah which we assume results in his transformation.  The story ends with a lesson for Jonah and the reader to ponder.

         This is great story telling, perhaps not in the style of best-selling fiction that the modern day reader is accustomed to, but in a basic bare-bones approach that delves deep with an economy of words.  We are told what is important for us to know with no extraneous material.

         The Book of Jonah can easily be made into a longer story, and would make a great novel.  There is much back story that could be imagined based on information that we can find elsewhere.  The entire Bible is filled with similarly fascinating stories.  Some are very standard stories, while others can be perplexing.   If looked at with the right approach and right frame of mind, the Bible is the most interesting book that can be found.

        If you have never read the Book of Jonah, I encourage you to read it.  It only will take a few minutes.  If you have read it before, then read it again and again.  Reading the books of the Bible, contemplating upon them, and absorbing them into your mind and heart can do amazing things.  I encourage you to open your mind and let the words stir your thoughts. 

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Knick Knack Paddy Wack--It's Saturday Again, Already?

         Yes, the dog days have hit Los Angeles this past week-- that is as far as California dog days go.  Nowhere near as bad as the high humidity heat that some of you have had to deal with, but the temperatures have been higher than normal for L.A.   But I'll take this over Phoenix any day.

         This week Tossing It Out has gone to the dogs and I'll bet some of you are begging me to stop.   But before I roll over and play dead on the subject I just want to thank all of you for all of your input on the topics this week.  I hope I'm not in the doghouse with any of my readers, but I always like to think this blog is an open forum where everyone can speak their opinions.

           One more doggie note before I stray from this topic:  In one of my National Education Association newsletters that I received this week there was an article about how the Santa Fe, New Mexico school district uses dogs that have been specially trained to work with children to help students with their reading.  The children will read aloud to the dogs for twenty minutes at a time.  Since the dogs are nonjudgmental, the kids feel more comfortable reading to them.  My wife, who is a kindergarten teacher, confirmed that she had learned about this technique in a workshop and had already been telling her students to practice reading at home by reading to their dogs.

           Note to all authors:   You might want to start considering topics to write about that might be of interest to dogs.  This could open a whole new genre of writing.   On the other hand, I could probably think of a few things that would only be worth reading to a dog.  Or would that be cruelty to animals?

           So anyhow, dog week is done and a new week lies ahead.   On Monday's Blog Boggled I will have a few more comments about the topic of comments and I hope some of you will have some comments of your own.   Tuesday will see the topic that I had intended for last Tuesday--recycling California style.  See how your state compares. 

            Coming this Wednesday, taking a cue from Powdered Toast Man at Just the Cheese, I'm going to present my version of The Director Dirty Dozen in which I will offer my twelve favorite film directors.   On Thursday I will put forth another Debate Day topic which might not be as heated as the last few weeks--the weather is hot enough without the conflagration of fiery debate.  Friday is a mystery.

            On my Bible post for tomorrow I will be concluding my look at the book of Jonah.  I will be looking at this book from a literary point of view.  Nearly everyone is familiar with the Book of Jonah, but whether you are or not and interested in storytelling you might want to take a look at this final installment of the Jonah series.

            Today (Saturday) I'll be joining representatives of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority to get a tour of the Metro Rail system and a preview of a proposed line that may be running through our neighborhood.  Do I sense a post for the future?

            Enjoy your weekend and hope you will stop by every day to see what's happening at Tossing It Out.

           Did you enjoy my focus on one topic (pets) this week?  Would you like more themed weeks in the future?   Are there any special topics you'd like to see me cover on a topical week?   Do you use public transportation?  If you'd like to tell us about your favorite directors, how about doing your own Director Dirty Dozen?


Friday, August 20, 2010

Where Do The Dogs Go?

           They were  the party days.  The days started in the afternoon and the nights ended as the sun was rising.  They were the dog days.  Heat and humidity oppressed the days and obstinately hung on through the nights.

           After Vernon dropped me off at home, I stealthily made my way through the dark house hoping that my parents would not hear me.   I was in college, still living at home with my parents. No rent, free food, low living costs.  It worked well for my budget.

          In the early morning quiet I carefully shut the door to the bedroom that I shared with my two younger brothers.  They were asleep in the bunk bed that was across the room from my bed, which was beside the room's only window.  My mind was racing.  I knew that I needed to go to sleep, but my mind was still in party mode. 

           The sky gradually began to brighten.  The bedroom was stifling from the tedious aftermath of the hot August night.  Leaning on the windowsill, I extended my face through the open window trying to capture a bit of what would be the coolest part of the day.  There was no real relief, yet the illusionary morning air pretended to provide coolness.

          As a splenetic sun edged over the houses in the distance, I saw the dogs.  Blackie, the stray that had made our yard her home, appeared from out of the carport accompanied by three other strays that regularly passed through our yard.  The canine quartet sauntered diagonally across the yard, leaving a pathway marked in the scarce dew that would soon be evaporated in the heat of morning.  I watched as the dogs crossed the street and continued through a neighbor's yard until they disappeared from sight.

          I had seen them before.  The dogs made their daily passage to a destination unseen by me.  Even after the dew had dried the spoor remained.  The dogs were making daily rounds and I began to wonder where did they go each morning?  Perhaps food was waiting at another house.  Maybe a neighbor on another street also thought of Blackie as his dog.   Or maybe Blackie was just a friend of one of the other strays that he thought of as his dog.  The dogs seemed to be goal-oriented.  They seemed to know where they were going.  But I wanted to know.

           Stirrings outside my bedroom told me that my father was up and getting ready to go to work.  I didn't want to leave my room for fear that he might begin lecturing me about finding a job or enumerating chores that needed to be done around the house.   And besides, I was so tired.

           I lay down upon my bed so that in the event my father looked into the room I could pretend to be sleeping.  It was no assurance that he wouldn't rouse me to give me marching orders, but perhaps he would let me sleep.

             He didn't look into the room.  I could hear him leave the house and I heard the car pull out of the driveway.  I did not look out the window lest he see me.  With a deep sigh of relief, my head settled into the pillow and my eyes closed.  My thoughts wandered.

          Classes at the university would be starting soon.  This evening I would probably be partying again.   I had no big plans for my life.  The days would come and go and I'd eventually figure out what to do.  For now, there was no hurry.  I'd bide my time, eat when it was time to eat, and be careful not to get hit by a car when I was crossing the street.  Then, like any good dog on a hot summer morning, I lazily drifted off to sleep.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are Pets Appropriate For Urban Areas?

            So far this week I've been putting on the dog about my caring for pets.  I was serious yesterday about having had some good dog friends in my past and the concern that I expressed on Tuesday about abandoned pets is genuine, however, at the risk of incurring the wrath of what I know to be a legion of pet lovers who sometimes read this blog, I must confess here that I am not a huge fan of household pets.

             Please let me explain my position before you stop reading this and write me off forever.   I like animals, but I am in no means a PETA extremist.   I eat meat, but I don't think animals being raised for meat should be abused unnecessarily.  I don't have a big problem with zoos and circuses as long as animals in these institutions are cared for and respected.  And I believe that humans have been given a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth and it's creatures.

            I have made a choice not to have pets and I would probably never want to have an animal cohabitating within my living space.  Many pet owners are very careful about cleanliness and hygiene, while others are not.  There have been times when I have visited the home of a pet owner where the environs appear very unclean and smell badly.   Sometimes I will leave a place such as this with pet hair covering my clothes--not something I really like.

             The irresponsible pet owners are the ones I am concerned about when we start condensing human population in an urban setting.   How do we determine who is capable of responsible pet ownership?  We already have the problem of people who have no business having children becoming irresponsible parents thereby creating a serious problem.  These are the same kinds of people who become irresponsible pet owners.

             Despite ordinances about animal waste and noise, this is still a nuisance situation in some communities.  Unpleasant odors emanating from homes and yards and issues of insects and other pests can cause discomfort and threaten the health of the community.  Then there is the issue of dangerous animals or animals who attack or threaten humans or other animals.  An urban animal undergoes some of the same stress as humans can and may react in inappropriate ways or may suffer bad health effects. 

            Living in the city can be bad enough putting all sorts of different humans in close proximity, but when you add animals to the mix it can create a more disruptive situation.  There might be solutions that could work to some extent.  In Los Angeles I have heard of condos that cater especially to pet owners.  Some neighborhoods offer dog parks. 

            I would prefer that no pets be permitted in my neighborhood.  At times I have been annoyed by the barking of neighbors' dogs.  Stepping in dog poop in my yard has been an unpleasant experience on more than one occasion.  Recently my wife was charged by a large dog as we took our  granddaughter to the pool--pets are not permitted at the pool and I was placed in a confrontational situation with the neighbor who had brought the dog.

          If I lived on a farm, in the country, or an open suburban area I would probably have an outside dog.  I might even consider an outside cat if rodent control was an issue.  I'm not against pets like these.  But as long as I live in an urban area like Los Angeles I don't plan to own any pets and I would prefer not to be subjected to the pets of others.

           What is your opinion?

Do you think pets are appropriate in crowded urban areas?

        What solutions do you think are appropriate?   Should people be required to undergo education programs and testing to see if they are qualified to own pets?  Do you have a pet horror story you'd like to share?
           At the top of this post is a picture of some recent stamps offered by the U.S. Postal Service.  The Animal Rescue Adopt a Shelter Pet stamps picture some dogs and cats that have been adopted from animal shelters.  The stamps, released  on April 30th, were part of a campaign to raise awareness for pet adoption.  The postal service also has a number of related items for collectors or for gift giving.  You may still be able to find these stamps at your local post office.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dogs I Have Known

            My family never had pets when I was growing up.  There was a turtle and a tadpole, but they didn't last much more that a few days.  Other than those two failed experiments, my parents didn't allow animals in the house.

             In fact, I don't really recall any families in our neighborhoods that had pets.  In San Diego there was Curtis, my friend Ross's big brother, who often kept snakes.  And in Cleveland, Ohio, when I was very small, I recall one neighbor that had a handsome Irish setter that we rarely saw.  Over all though, animals were scarce in my childhood.

              On Saturday mornings Rin Tin Tin, a western than featured a German shepherd, was one show I would occasionally watch.  The other dog show that I watched for many years almost unfailingly was Lassie, the collie dog that was always rescuing his owner, Timmy, or others that might be in peril.  Other than these and a few other movie and TV dogs, and dogs that I occasionally saw in circuses, I do not recall being exposed to dogs in real life. 
               After my family moved to Northern Indiana in the mid-sixties, my family's juggling act began working with a dog act from Chicago.  The act was Arwood's Pink Poodles.  When we first started working with the Arwoods, the act consisted of a father and son who performed acrobatic tricks and had the pink poodles perform assorted dog tricks.  The son was about my age and we became good friends and remain friends to this day.  I don't know if he still owns any dogs or not.

           In 1966 my family moved to East Tennessee and encountered a new phenomenon--stray dogs.   I had never seen stray dogs in previous places where I had lived.  In Tennessee more people owned dogs and dumping unwanted dogs was more common.  Apparently at that time animal control either wasn't as active or was not usually contacted.

          This was as close to dog ownership that I ever came.  Dogs would periodically dump our trash cans looking for food.  These dogs were unapproachable because they were so afraid of humans.  I became attached to a beautiful dog I called Blackie.  I left food for her and she eventually became comfortable with my presence.  After much wooing I finally was able to feed her by hand and pet her.  She began staying at our house and defending it as her territory.

          Her other "dog friends" would continue to stop by and Blackie would regularly take off and roam with them.  Later she would return "home" where she would eat and sleep.  I could not call her my dog--she was not willing to be owned.  Instead it was more like she adopted me and accepted our house as her home base.  I don't really know how old she was or where she came from but she was with us for several years.  Then one morning we found her dead in our front yard.  I don't know if it had been a natural death or if she had been poisoned.  Animal control came and took her away.

             In the mid-seventies I lived at the border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in a log cabin which I shared with three friends.  One of my friends purchased an Irish Setter which he called Red.  There was also a German shepherd living with us that we called Big Dog.  I don't know who, if anyone, owned the shepherd.  At that time, everyone living in the cabin was working except for me.  I stayed at home to tend to the house since it was in a remote place and we were concerned with break-ins.  Sometimes I would hike into the park and the dogs would always follow me.  Somehow these dogs always just seemed like my friends.  They just hung out with me.
        Walking out in the country with an unleashed dog is a pretty cool experience. They make you feel safer--just in case you needed help or something.  It was kind of like being with Lassie or Rin Tin Tin.  It's not really legal to do this in the National Park, but I figured they weren't my dogs and I couldn't help it if they were following me.  Besides the places where I was hiking were so remote that encountering a park ranger was very unlikely.

              I've never owned a dog, but I've made friends with a few.   A dog friend is kind of nice.  I can't say they were ever my best friends, but they were pleasant friends.  If I ever live in the country again I'll probably get a dog to live on the property.  I can't say I'll necessarily own the dog.  After all, who really owns who?

             Did you have a dog when you were growing up?   Did many of your neighbors own dogs?  Did you have a favorite dog TV show?   How do you feel about trained performing dogs?   Have you ever made friends with a stray dog?   Have you ever met up with a rabid or otherwise dangerous dog that threatened you?   Is there a dog in your life that owns you?