Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A New Normal...?

A few weeks ago I went for a little walk and I snapped a couple of pictures of American flags flying at half-staffed. I work close to several government office buildings and each one had a flag, each flag not raised to the top of the flagpole.

And it made me think--is this the new normal?

I posted the picture as my Pic Of The Day with the caption that it seems like a half-staffed flag was the new normal. Many people responded saying they wondered the same thing. I actually had this same thought a couple of years ago. There was a time when the country experienced several disasters and the flag never seemed to go to the top, or if it did, another event caused it to come back down.

Since we live in a world where news is instantaneous. We can literally watch news as it happens anywhere in the world. I doubt there's more atrocities now than there has been before. People have a history of treating each other badly. It's just that now, we can see it, see how tragedies affect people. We can hear their voices, see their pain.

I'd like to think this isn't the new normal, but it may be. And if that happens, it would make me sad. Let's pray it's not.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Will Game Stop...Stop?

My kids wanted to go to Game Stop tonight so we loaded up the Pontiac and headed south. And as I walked through the doors I wondered just how long Game Stop will be Game Stop. Don't get me wrong--it's a great store. If you want a game, there's a good chance they got it. At least, that's been my experience.

If you're unfamiliar with the company, Game Stop is known for selling, for the most part, video games. They have knick-knacks and foo-bahs too. But their bread & butter are the games. I don't know business. I don't know how successful the company's been or what their five, ten, even twenty year projection are. The organization may be in great shape--the best shape, in fact. They may be so stable that they're buying up other companies (which, they have--they bought Simply Mac...).

But if we go back in time about ten to fifteen years, there was another company that seemed destined to be in business forever. Anyone remember Blockbuster Video? I'll bet MBA programs teach on the fall of Blockbuster. I'm sure the information's out there to find out why exactly the huge organization fell.

So why wonder if Game Stop will follow the Blockbuster business model? I don't know--just a thought. But the other day I was in a thrift store and I noticed they had a very nice DVD selection, and not just those movies nobody wants. Some were very good, even kids shows. I asked myself, "Self, why are there so many good DVDs still available at this thrift store?"

It's because the home movie market in changing. People are watching more on-line and streaming shows. And then there's the cloud services. I haven't done the research, but I think that's what's happening. Will this happen to the gaming industry? Will we need places like Game Stop in the future? Maybe in ten or fifteen years we'll either still be going into a store to buy new and used video games (as well as knick-knacks and foo-bahs...) or we'll have pieces of plastic with the names of stores on them reminding us of the times we got in our cars, walked through the doors, and browsed the merchandise. Time will tell.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Son's First Ride...

Think back, back when you picked up the first car that was officially yours. I realize many have not experienced such a feeling. I understand we live in an area where most people have cars. They're needed for us to get to work as well as do all the other things required of us.

I remember when I got my first car. I was sixteen-years old. It was green and made in Germany the year I was born.

And it was a beautiful 1965 green Volkswagen Beetle.

Sure, it broke down a lot, it almost killed me and my friends several times as we crossed I-84 going to high school in the morning. It meant freedom and excitement (I reference the almost dying in the German das tod auto point previously mentioned...). And I loved that car.

Today my son decided to buy his first car. It was manufactured a few years after he was born and the Toyota he got was in so much better shape than the one I bought. If he takes care of this thing, it's not unreasonable to expect he could be driving the thing for years.

His car is black and clean inside. The engine is powerful, the breaks work, and so far, it's started every time we've tried to start it. He's already so far ahead of the game.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

An Island On Fire...History Repeating Itself

My daughter came down the stairs Friday night and calmly said, "Antelope Island's on fire." We got up and gazed out the west-facing windows.

It's a sight we've seen before.

And one we'll see again.

Directly west of where we live lies Antelope Island. It's a barren rock surrounded by a dead sea of salt. I've been to the island only a handful of times, but each time I go out there, I'm amazed at just how little vegetation is there. It's hard to find even a single tree under which to find shade.

Since it's July 24h, a day when Utahns celebrate the Mormon Pioneers entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, I imagine much of the valley they saw when they entered the valley in 1847 looked like what Antelope Island looks like now. 

Friday night we watched it burn--I tried getting some good photographs, but it required a tripod and long exposed shots, which was a little tough with all the mosquitos buzzing about. I got a couple at night and in the morning, you could tel that much, if not a majority of the island was blackened by the fire.

I don't know the extent of the damage, There's not much on the island, a gift shop, a ranch, some campgrounds. I would think they'd be able to protect those. There's also a lot of animals there, antelope, American bison, among others. I hope they were able to escape harm.

The last I heard the fire was caused by lightning, and therefore, as close to a natural occurrence as possible (the island has been left undeveloped...). Fires are part of nature and, as I've been told, can be very beneficial. The grasses and plants will return and in the future, us--of perhaps, others--will stare across the lake and see an island on fire. 

Because it's happened before...

And it will happen again.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The View At The End Of The Day...

I take a lot of pictures of sunsets. I take a lot of pictures around my house. If you check out this blog with any regularity, or if you follow me on social media, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

I grew up across the street from where I now live. My father designed that house, a structure he never got to see finished. But he was a man ahead of his time when it came to creating a home for his wife and three kids. One thing he did which was unusual in the early 1970s was he designed the main room of the house with floor-to-ceiling windows. I never talked to him about why, but I would imagine one of the main reasons for having those big-for-their-day windows was to enjoy the view. I mean, why else live on the side of a mountain?

Unfortunately, window technology in the early 1970s was extremely inadequate when it came to insulation. That room was almost uninhabitable during the summer months. The home faces due west and, though not the warmest place to live, Utah along the Wasatch Front can get hot. We never really had the resources to upgrade those windows while my mom was alive. Basically, we just avoided the room altogether. Winters weren't much better, but you could use blankets or a space heater to help.

My family moved into our house thirteen years ago this month--almost to the day. It's very modern compared to my parent's home we lived in all those years. The windows in our new(ish) house were the most advanced at the time. I'm sure they make better ones now. But as the sun sets over our inland sea, I still look out a window to check out the evening sky. Tonight, one might argue that there wasn't much up there. But as it's wont to do in summer, the smoke from fires distant and near filter the dying rays of the sun so that even when there's not the spectacular oranges and reds, pinks and purples, it's still beautiful.

And because of that, I'll take another picture.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Newt Scamander's "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them"...A Book Review

Harry Potter fans love anything connected to the world created by J.K. Rowling. They seek it out and devour it without abandon. So, as one, I may be the last fan in the world to have read this gem of a book.

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them dances between the world of muggles and wizards. The book was written as a fund raising campaign for Comedy Relief and because of that, the writer must educate those living in the Potterverse of what Comic Relief is and why it's important. This makes an already adorable book even more so.

The first half is set-up. We learn about Newt and why the book exists. The second half contains the beasts. For those of you familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, one of the foundations required to play the game is a Monster Guide. Newt's book is like a mini-version of the D & D Monster Guide.

This is a wonderful little book--and I do mean little. It's only eighty-eight pages. It only took me two days of bus commuting to get it read. In addition, since this copy of Newt's book is the property of Harry Potter, the young wizard has made the pages his own with occasional commentary and notes.

I haven't investigated the new movie coming out soon which shares the same title as the book. I don't know how they're going to make an entire movie about this book, but I'm sure it's going to be delightful. I know this because of how delightful this little book is.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Couch At The End Of The Hall...

At the end of one hall in the building where I work there lies a couch, and as I passed it earlier this week, I wondered just what purpose that couch serves.

You may be thinking, Ah, duh! It's a couch! A couch serves very few purposes--basically, you sit on it."

Well, yes. A couch's main purpose is for resting. Today I went over and sat on the couch. It could be covered in leather, or a good facsimile. It was actually very comfortable, too. It's a nice piece of furniture.

The reason I'm even thinking about this is because I work in a building that's not open to the public, so everyone who comes in the building pretty much has a place to sit. And in almost all of the cubicles, there's an extra chair. We do have staff meetings and other gathers in the large conference rooms downstairs, but there's hundreds of chairs for us to use in those rooms. So I wonder, why a couch is needed in our building? It sits in a busy hallway. I can't imagine many people sitting on it to rest. It just seems out of place.

The state budgets for replacement of things every couple of years. The things that we notice most are the computers, but I'm sure somewhere it's written down that all the office furniture in our building will be replaced. They either donate or sell the old furniture. So whoever ends up with the grey couch that currently sits at the end of a hallway in my building, will be getting a steal of a deal!