Saturday, December 30, 2017

Anti-Resolutions: New Year's Resolutions You Might Actually Be Able to Keep

Since the dawn of mankind, we have looked to the Heavens. We mark the path of the sun, and note the passage of a day. We notice the phases of the moon, and gain an awareness of a month. Then, those intrepid ancients took note of the alignment of the visible universe, and created a way to measure seasons, and years.

And with all our fascination with time, we promise ourselves that THIS year will be better than the last. WE will be better, do better, try harder. We make New Year's Resolutions. And before the end of January, most of those resolutions are out the proverbial window. And right now, who can even remember the resolutions made last year at this time?

So, to evolve beyond this rather masochistic practice, and end the self-punishment, it is time for anti-resolutions. These are resolutions you not only might actually be able to keep -- but perhaps, are the ones we should have been aiming for all along.

We at J and L present our anti-resolutions, and invite you to comment below with yours.

  1. Have a sense of adventure. You don't need a gym to work out. Get outside. Breathe in that fresh (well, fresher) air. Walk with someone you love -- hold hands if they are bipedal; hold leashes for the four-legged love in your life. Walk the path less-traveled. See things you haven't seen before -- across the world or across the street. But get outside. Say hello to fellow adventurers out for a walk or a hike. And don't forget to watch the sunset. Now that's our idea of exercise!
  2. Get some sleep. Well, after all that outdoorsy exercise, you've earned it. No guilt. Science tells us that a good night's rest can reduce your level of stress, and thus your blood pressure. You burn calories as you snooze, and rest helps curb your appetite. So, sleep does a body good! 
  3. Look up from your devices -- after you finish reading this blog, that is. Unplug. Read a book. Have a conversation. Play a board game. Enjoy spending time with friends and family. None of us are getting any younger, and no number of  'Likes' is worth missing a moment of 'Life.'
  4. Love yourself. Sometimes you have to spend a little money on something unnecessary. Sometimes, you need to have an hour to do nothing all by yourself. If you spend all of your spare energy on trying to make someone else happy, you will be miserable. You can't MAKE someone happy, anyway. Love yourself and you'll find you have more love to share.
  5. Use it or lose it. You know that special something that you've been saving for a special occasion. Well, today is that special occasion. Wear it, use it, play with it, drink it. Material items aren't meant to last forever. Enjoy them now instead of saving it for someday. And less truly is more. Get rid of the stuff that has been cluttering your closet and your life. All of it. If you don't have a use for it, donate it. Or, in the case of old divorce paperwork for instance, have a good ole bonfire.
  6. Write. Pencil or pen and paper are best. It doesn't have to be brilliant or inspirational. Write a story, a poem, a song. Make a list counting your blessings. Write a letter or a thank-you note, and send it. When was the last time you sent or received an honest-to-goodness letter? Not email. Real, physical paper and stamps. Remember when you could go the mailbox and there was something waiting for you besides bills and advertisements? Ah, those were the days. We could start a revolution right here and now. Bring back cards and letters -- and not just at Christmastime.
  7. Be creative. Make something with your hands. Plant. Rearrange. Beautify. Just don't do what everyone else is doing the way everyone else is doing it. Be yourself. Your best self. And definitely be different. 
Now, the anti-resolution purists will tell you that anti-resolutions must be stated in the negative -- to emphasize what you will STOP doing. But we believe that violates #7. A resolution is a firm decision to do, or not do, something. Therefore, anti-resolutions are more, well, guidelines. And none of these cost most than the price of a stamp -- but can be priceless. These anti-resolutions are about seeing the best in yourself and others -- rather than punishing ourselves for our bad habits. And that is our wish for you in 2018. See the best; be the best; hope and work for the best for all of us.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thomas Fire - Update

Where the Thomas Fire has and is erupting
On December 19th, J and L posted a blog about Christmas and those who may be missing that special time with their families. Those would be the men and women in uniform protecting our homeland and those closer - the first responders. In that blog entry, we wrote that the Thomas Fire which has been stalking and destroying homes and businesses a few miles northwest of Los Angeles, was the third largest fire in modern California's history.

That changed at 6:30 p.m. (PST). The Thomas Fire is now categorized as the largest fire in California's history.

The 'hell' that has been thrown on California
This is not what we had hoped we'd be saying when we updated this story. And, we would like to emphatically reiterate how much we appreciate the commitment and dedication of those working the fire lines, those assisting those firefighters and the folks who go out of their way helping in any way they can. 

What Christmas - We have a job to do!
Fire doesn't know nor understands political or religious affiliations, or anything else for that matter - this is a real hell of wheels, and people are suffering.

So, during this Christmas season we need to understand what these wonderful people - those losing everything and those working through the holidays - are about. They are about us - the average guy or gal. The homeowners leaving for work and finding at the end of the day nothing left but memories of their former abode. The personnel working day and night to save as much as they can with the knowledge they will not be home for Christmas.

My gift this Christmas will be saving others - the true heroes
These are the people we need to hold an extra candle up in the air during this holiday season. So, when out and about shopping, splash a little extra wide smile to a stranger. Let's make everyone feel better - we never know when we may need that encouragement from someone we don't know. 

And of course, drop a dollar or two into that Santa ringing the bell - that is what makes America Great - the generosity of her people to help those in need.

Give - it is what the season is all about
It may make the difference for a great day or a sad day for someone you don't know.

Is that too much to ask during this holiest of seasons?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

May Your Christmas Be Safe

Sometimes during the Christmas season all thoughts turn to bright lights, jingle bells, and fancy wrapped presents beneath a tree. That is good – a time to be joyous is always good for the heart and soul.

It is good to be warm and cozy at Christmas.
But sometimes – just sometimes -- the holiday season means loved ones are away from home. J experienced this during the time he served in law enforcement. Working Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the other special times families are together each and every year, but it was his choice. The badge he wore didn’t always allow him the luxury of being warm and toasty on those special moments surrounded by loved ones. No, patrolling dark and cold streets taught him that he, as well as his brothers and sisters in uniform, were needed to ensure as many people as possible were protected from the wolves.

This holiday season is no different for the countless everyday heroes who patrol the streets, fight fires, save lives, and keep hospitals open. This blog is for them – the ones who allow the rest of us to settle down for a hot toddy on a cold winter night.

It is of special consideration being a Californian and seeing the super-human effort in combating the recent and current fires sweeping this state that we dedicate this Christmas blog.

Thomas Fire encroaching onto a neighborhood near Santa Barbara
The thousands of firefighters, hundreds of police officers, and countless other emergency personnel will be giving up this holiday season in the pursuit of helping others. Hundreds, if not thousands of structures have already burnt to the ground over the past few months. Many others are in danger – as of this writing the Thomas Fire burning northwest of Los Angeles and considered the third largest fire in California’s modern times will continue until well after the New Year.
These heroes won't be home for Christmas but they are doing what they do best!

The citizens of Santa Barbara and its richer sister city of Montecito to the south are now being attacked by relentless flames.

It is this area now facing a disastrous Christmas Season but even with the terror-filled anxiety there are heroes doing their best to save as much as can be saved from the flames.

Cory Iverson gave his life trying to save others - definition of a true hero.

A deadly fire – one firefighter, Engineer Cory Iverson, was killed while fighting the Thomas fire and a civilian female, Virginia Pesola, died while trying to escape the flames.

For those families and loved ones this Christmas of 2017 will be hard to revisit in later years.

So, in this season of Hope we at J and L want to take a moment and thank those who give up their personal comfort and risk it all for the rest of us.
This is not acting!

On a side note, even civilians help out when they can – sometimes to the detriment of the professionals but often assisting in very helpful ways. One such example is the actor Rob Lowe who happens to own a home in the Santa Barbara area. Not only did he put it all on the line donning fire protective gear and battling alongside the firefighters but to show his appreciation cooked dinner for a group of firefighters at his home which they saved.

Hungry and tired but grateful for a hot meal prepared by Rob Lowe
And a grateful Rob Lowe with the crew who saved his home.
Christmas is the season for giving, and giving to each other is so much more valuable than a few trinkets covered in wrapping and pretty bows. According to Janice Maeditere, "Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts."

It is what the holiday is about - that time when selflessness takes over and only others matter. To step out of our comfort zone to make someone else comfortable and safe. That willingness to give everything and expect nothing in return.

That is the true meaning of Christmas.

J and L wish all those serving the needs of others this holiday season – no matter the career – who will not be home for Christmas a heartfelt thanks.

Merry Christmas to all those deployed - We love you.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dinosaurs in the Desert

After spending a quiet Sunday afternoon watching, or to be more exact, re-watching Jurassic Park, two issues were quite apparent. Being a leisurely Sunday afternoon meant not really thinking too deeply into this marvelous film adapted from the novel by Michael Crichton, but two points did resonate with J.

First, there were no T-Rexes during the Jurassic Period (which was roughly 145 million to about 200 million years ago). The Tyrannosaurus existed during the Cretaceous period around 66 – 145 million years ago, probably more like 66 to 68 million years ago. The reason the film was named Jurassic instead of Cretaceous was probably the sound – Jurassic has a better ring than Cretaceous and really, how many people could pronounce that era anyway.

Hollywood has a license and that license is known as a poetic one. And that is defined as - the freedom to depart from the facts of a matter or from the conventional rules of language when speaking or writing in order to create an effect.

In other words – they lie, but as professional writers we at J and L prefer to call it ‘embellishing’ the facts. A lie is such a nasty turn of phrase.

The second point was that not all dinosaurs are gone from this earth. In fact, in Southern California, a sleepy little area known as Cabazon, there exist two behemoths just north of Interstate 10. That stretch of asphalt is the home of both an Apatosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Both of these creatures roamed the globe during the Cretaceous Period when the earth in which they resided was warm and tropical. They flourished for millions of years until, according to most scientists, a huge asteroid decided to play bumper pool with the earth down in the Yucatan about 65 million years ago. Large clouds of dust blew up into the atmosphere blocking sunlight for nearly two years which killed off the herbivores and then when they perished, the carnivores, having no food source, were next.

Only certain land dwelling creatures still existed after the tragic present sent to earth from outer space - primarily rats but let's not talk about politicians.

Claude K. Bell at the beginning of Dinny
The two large dinosaurs are actually the creation of Claude K. Bell who had a restaurant named the 'Wheel Inn Restaurant' in Cabazon. The restaurant started in 1958 and made it all the way to its closure in 2013. Bell decided from his time as a sculptor and portrait artist for Knott's Berry Farm, that what he needed was  a little sideshow to draw more customers to the restaurant. With that in mind, he started working on Dinny the Apatosaurus  (Dinny, short for dinosaur) in 1964. And Dinny was a huge undertaking. She measures 156 feet in length and 45 feet in height. That is one big old dinosaur. It took nearly twelve years to complete the steel framed sprayed concrete colossus, at a cost of $300,000. Dinny is hollow inside, with a steep staircase upon which the hearty can troop up into the belly of the herbivore and shop for trinkets while learning a little of the history of this tourist attraction.

The completed project - well not really
This concept of Bell's worked very well and business boomed - thus part of the reason the restaurant was a success for 55 years. Of course, Bell wasn't done with Dinny alone - no, the T-Rex was next. But Rex wasn't started until 1981. Today this prehistoric beast stands 65 feet tall. It had a slide for a tail, but that didn't last long, and it was filled in with concrete. Rex stands watch gazing southward toward the Interstate and watching the visitors who pay tribute to a creation by a very talented and patient artist by the name of Claude K. Bell.
That's one big dude, er dudette!
Unfortunately, Bell passed away in 1988, and so his dream of a Woolly Mammoth and prehistoric garden never came to fruition.

"Oh Yeah - I'm bad to the bone," yells Mr. Rex
The land and everything Bell had built was sold by his heirs in the 1990's to a partnership which received approval from the city of Cabazon to erect a motel, restaurant, and other financially sound ideas for the rest stop. The area is now known as a 'creationists dream' where evolution is poo-pooed and a museum located near the dinosaurs explains their belief.

Here at J and L will not go into this area but all views are valued and must be looked at on their own merit. It is up to the people reading explanations and doing research on their own to come up with the truth they desire to believe in. But, we thought it was an important aspect to add to this blog.

So, there after an afternoon of watching a film about dinosaurs chasing and eating people around a fictitious island the idea of Cabazon came into J's mind.  And it so happened that J and L's travelling buddy Paul Bakas had been on a recent trip with them and stopped to investigate these giants looming over the skyline of Cabazon.

The really positive side of this is that there are no Raptors running loose - if there had been, no stopping by this research team would have occurred.
No taking sides at J and L - that would be too much to bite off
On a side note and an important one - Dinny and Mr. Rex are celebrities. They had made appearances in the 1985 comedy - Pee Wee's Big Adventure, in the 1985 music video for Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World, in 1988 on the album cover for Notes from the Lost Civilization by Tonio K's and numerous other documentaries, music albums/videos and the like. The two are as famous as perhaps the original ones during the Cretaceous period - yeah, and not the Jurassic Period.

Attention - this tram will not be stopping any time soon