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Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Big Bear!!
So my children have never been skiing. And i have never been to Big Bear. So with the heavy snowfall this winter, along with my brother's show-offing of his kids snowboarding had inspired me. I say, they will learn to ski this season!!

Alas, it was just not meant to be. Two days before the trip, and well after i had arranged time-off and lodging, the entire mountain closed for the season. Awesome! (not).

But i would not be dissuaded! I drove up to Big Bear and was open to any and all awesome activities with my minions. Turns out, spring time means slim pickin's.
Horse back riding - all booked up: due to not many horses being available
Kayaking - not available: water too cold
Zipline Riding - smallest minion too young

But still, i would not be deterred! We ended up doing a number of awesome things, and filling up 48 hours right to the brim!



We traversed the entire length of Big Bear lake in a pontoon / party boat, with the kids doing the majority of the driving and lovin' it!


We hiked two of the most popular medium-difficulty hiking trails. Fantastic views and lots of snow still on the ground (which they just couldn't help but eat).



The Big Bear Alpine Zoo was another hit! We saw many amazing animals up close, from black bears, to owls, to coyotes, to bald eagles, and even mountain lions! Ahhhh!



So to summarize, Big Bear is chock full of amazing things to do. And even though we unfortunately didn't get to ski, we still had a blast.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
So whose life really DOES matter?
So with all of the Police shootings in the news of late, i feel that i need to weigh in here.
Here's my take.

Well, to start off, i'm no fan of the Po-po, as a general matter. I guess you can attribute it to my youth and general distaste for authority. And when it comes to the police, that authority comes with a gun, and as far too many people experience across the US, the willingness to use it.
I remember having this conversation with my... um.. well... with another person. She asked why i so disliked the cops. My main takeaway was that essentially ALL of my experience with them have been neagtive. And when you don't see a certain group of people as a bunch of white-knights, well, your general sentiment regarding them tends to be less than positive.
I mean, lets be honest here. How many people driving down the freeway see flashing lights in their rear-view mirror and shout "Oh Yay!!"
Yea, I highly doubt you're one of them.

But then, on the other hand, i am completely disgusted by the racist and supremacist "Black Lives Matter" movement which preaches that, in fact, it's Blue Lives that don't. So this puts me in a bit of a quandary. And my general philosophy has become, as it has with most people, "Just live and let live." That means, don't purposefully or unnecessarily provoke cops or put yourself in a situation where you are perceived as the enemy. For the most part, i'm happy to say that i've outgrown my general desire to rebel against society and "the Man." I'm usually courteous (at first, at least) to all with whom i interact. But there is that one little freedom-loving part of me, the irrevocably liberty-seeking side, deep down inside, that just MUST push the boundaries of the norm. Call it a personal vendetta against those who oppose common sense. But every now and then, i simply must resist the urge to conform and take it on the chin. And here's the perfect example.



So a few months ago i parked my car on the side of the street, just outside of my apartment. I made sure that parking was allowed, and it wasn't a street sweeping day. I was also not parked in any red zone or driveway. All perfectly legal. I return a little more than an hour later, and there's a ticket on my car. WHAT?! I re-read the parking sign and reassure myself that i'm indeed parked legally. Curious, i carefully unfold the ticket that's tucked under my windshield wiper.

It's a citation for a missing front license plate.

What the hell, man. I'm legally parked and am not intruding on ANYONE or ANYTHING. Yet the police actively harass me for something so stupid as a missing front license plate. With all of the stolen, un-registered, or broken down cars, the stupid police parking patrol gives ME a friggin' ticket for something so mundane and pointless. Why? To get MONEY. That's the ONLY reason. Not for safety, nor for the greater good. The long arm of the law has been deployed as a petulant revenue stream collection mechanism. That's just wrong. And that pisses me off to high hell.

(As an aside, you may be wondering why i don't have a front license plate. Well, my last car was purchased in Arizona, a state that doesn't have that asinine rule. And i've learned to appreciate the svelte beauty of the front of a well designed automobile. Simply put, i think it looks terribly ugly.)

If there's any perceived hint of good news here, it's that this is a "fix-it" ticket, which means that as soon as you repair the "discrepancy," and pay the fine, it all just goes away. So i grabbed the spare license plate i keep in my closet and literally duct-taped it to the front of my car. And the next day at lunch, i rolled into the local Hawthorne Police Department to get my "violation" taken care of. And here's what happened.

I walk into the lobby of the Police Station. I go in with a clear head, and an open and friendly demeanor. The receptionist tells me to go and wait at window #3, and i comply. That's when things started to go awry.

A short Asian guy asks me what i want. I hand him the ticket and tell him that i'm here for an "inspection" of the "repair" and ready to pay the fine. Now i did make sure to fully read the back of the ticket, which stated quite clearly to make sure to have CASH for payment of the fine. That i had.

Male Police Clerk: "You have payment?"
Yea, this guy could barely rub two words together to make a sentence, with an incredibly thick Asian accent.
Me: "Yes i do."
Male Police Clerk: "Fifteen dolla."
I pull out a $20 dollar bill and slide it under the window.
Male Police Clerk: "No, exact change."
I check my wallet and realize that all i have are twenties and a few singles.
Me: "I'm sorry, i don't have anything else."
Male Police Clerk: "You need exact change."
Me: "Can you break the $20?"
Male Police Clerk: "No. No register. Exact change. It says so on the ticket."
Me: "Actually, i read the ticket, and the only thing it said was CASH. There was no mention of exact change."
Male Police Clerk: "No, read again."
So i pick up the ticket and read out-loud the line that says "Cash only."
Male Police Clerk: "You need exact cash."
Me: "It says nothing about exact cash."
Male Police Clerk: "You need exact cash!"
Seeing where this was going, i say
Me: "You know what, just keep the rest. It's fine."
Male Police Clerk: "No. Exact Change!"
Me: "Well, sir, i don't have anything else."
Male Police Clerk: "There bank down street. Come back when you have."
He walks away.

Great. Like i'm going to go and hop in my car, drive down to the bank, wait in line for a teller for 20 minutes, and then come back with exactly $15. Seriously?!
Ok, fine. I go back to my car and look for $15 in bills. Nope. And then i realize that my ashtray is literally overflowing with coins. Perfect! I'll count out $15 in change. And so i do.

I walk back into the station a few minutes later with my pockets chock full and jingly with change. There's unfortunately now a line at window #3. So i patiently wait. About 10 minutes later, the previous clerk has been replaced with a short Hispanic woman, and by the scowl on her face, she was not having a good day.
None the less, i once again slide my ticket under the window and state that i am here for an inspection and to pay my fine. Thankfully, her command of the English language was much better; unfortunately her attitude was not.

Female Police Clerk: "Ok. The fine is $15."
I proceed to dump a good pound of change on the counter along with 4 single dollar bills. This gal was not amused.
Female Police Clerk: "Sir, you need to pay with exact cash."
Me: "This is $15."
Female Police Clerk: "Do you have any bills?"
Me: "Yes, i have a $20. But the previous officer i talked to said that i needed exact change, and could not break the bill."
I place the $20 next to the mound of change, which has begun spilling off the edge of the slippery stainless steel counter onto the floor.
Female Police Clerk: "We do not accept change. We need cash."
Me: "The last person i spoke to specifically used the term 'exact change.'"
Female Police Clerk: "The ticket states that you need dollar bills."
Me: "Um... No. It does not."
Female Police Clerk: "Yes, it does."
I read the back of the ticket out loud. Again. "Cash only."
Me: "Ma'am, I am paying with CASH."
Female Police Clerk: "Well, sir, i am going to have to count this."
She say's, obviously pissed off.
Me: "Of course."

Now it's been a solid 30 minutes since i embarked on this journey, and i'm getting annoyed. And when i get annoyed, i have a penchant to push buttons. Well, officer Latina, your buttons are getting pushed today. So she starts counting the change. I pull out my phone an begin playing Candy Crush. Honestly, it was kind-of on purpose.
Female Police Clerk: "Sir, you need to count the change."
Me: "Oh, i already counted it. It's $15, in exact change."
I turn away, and continue playing candy crush. About three minutes later, she finishes.
Female Police Clerk: "I have $15 and 9 cents."
Now, i'm not perfect, but i'm also not retarded, and know how to count. And i'm pretty sure that she's made a mistake. But whatever. I don't care at this point.
Me: "Ok. That's fine. You can keep the extra."
Female Police Clerk: "No, sir, it must be exact change."
Me: "Well, ma'am, i'm pretty sure it's exactly $15."
Female Police Clerk: "Well, i'm going to have to count it again."

I turn away and started Candy Crush back up. She was gambling that i wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. Turns out that i actually had some free time that day, and didn't mind watching this lady make an ass out of herself.
Female Police Clerk: "Sir, you need to count with me."
Me: "Actually, ma'am, i already counted it. It's $15. Exactly."
So she starts counting again. Three minutes later she announces her total.
Female Police Clerk: "It's $14 and 91 cents."
Me: "What? How is it different two times in a row?"
Thinking that perhaps i really did make a mistake, i say:
Me: "No problem, i can get more change from the car. But it is weird that you got two different totals...."
Female Police Clerk: "I need to count it one more time."
Me: "Ok, if that's what you want to do."
It's back to Candy Crush.
Female Police Clerk: "No, you need to watch me while i count the change."
Me: "It's OK, i trust you."
Female Police Clerk: "Well, you shouldn't!"
She says loudly. There were two people behind me in line now, and i look back at them and say out loud:
Me: "Really? Well, ma'am, if i can't trust a peace officer, who can i trust?"
Female Police Clerk: "Well, you need to assist me in counting."
Like you're 6 years old? Really??? Whatever. This poor soul needs a hand. So i choose to push further, and [kindly] tell her how i would count the change.
Me: "Ok, well what i would do, is i first count the bills, followed by the quarters, then the dimes, and leave the nickles and pennies for last. It makes it easier. But i can watch you this time if you need me to."

She glares up at me, snarling, and pulls out an envelope to mark down how many of each coin she has. She proceeds to count the change for a third time. After a few minutes, she adds up her scribbled notes on the envelope, and announces the final amount.
Female Police Clerk: "It's $14 and 91 cents!"
She says this with a smug certainty, with her eyes daring me to challenge her. I know i counted correctly, so i peer through the glass to see where the discrepancy could be. And then i spot it. There's a dime grouped in with the pennies. I point this out.
Me: "Ma'am it appears that there is a dime in the pennys area."
I point to where the pennies are. After a few seconds, she identifies the offending coin and holds it up. It's a very dirty dime, to be sure. But the smaller size of it kinda gives it away.
Me: "That's the one. You see, that's actually a dime, not a penny. You counted it as a penny. That would explain why you keep coming up 9 cents short."
At first she's a bit confused. Then (the world's smallest) light-bulb goes on in her head, and the corners of her mouth coyly curl up.
Female Police Clerk: "I can't accept this."
She's cockedly grinning, with some sort of minuscule feeling of a semblance of a victory.

Me: "What?"
Female Police Clerk: "I can't accept this coin."
Me: "What? Why not?"
Female Police Clerk: "It's not adequate."
Me: "What is that supposed to mean? It's a dime. Ten cents. It's US currency."
Female Police Clerk: "I can't tell it's a dime."
Me: "Well, ma'am, if you are having trouble identifying US currency, perhaps you could ask one of your colleagues to weigh in on the matter." (zing!!)
Female Police Clerk: "No, i cannot accept this coin. I'll need another."
Me: "Seriously? You're telling me that i need to go back to my car, get a 'nicer' dime, one that is 'approved,' and bring it back here to pay my $15 fine?"
Female Police Clerk: "That's right."

So there ya go. That's your tax dollars at work right there. Whatever. So i go. No more than one minute later, i come back, yet she's 'assisting' the next customer. I get back in line. A few minutes later, i'm back at window #3 with a "clean" dime and slide it across the counter. She examines it, hands me back the "unacceptable" dime, and shoves all of the coins into an envelope, dropping a good dozen of them, clinking all over the tile in the booth. She then has to kneel down in that cramped little space and pick each of them up. Finally, she seals the envelope and writes $15 on it.
At this point (and only at this point) she asks if i had performed the "repair" on the vehicle. I confirm, and walk her outside for the "inspection." It beings to dawn on me that i'm actually concerned that my duct-tape "fix" might not be up to snuff, especially seeing the downright rotten mood this lady is now in. But predictability, this thorough officer literally takes one step outside the door, looks at my car, which is like 50 yards away, and goes back inside. At that distance, she probably couldn't even have made out a single digit on my license plate. None the less, i walk out of the police station FORTY FIVE MINUTES later with my ticket taken care of.

So, um.... yea.
Do i have the highest respect for our "brothers and sisters" in blue? No. I absolutely do NOT. When the police start actually serving and protecting individuals in communities, instead of, from my repeated experiences, using their power to ticket and extract revenue from good citizens that are, for the most part, following the letter of the law, then i might change my mind. But until then, i find that the local police are a money-grubbing nuisance.

And every time i'm driving down the highway and i see those flashing red-and-blue lights in my rear-view mirror, instead of feeling relief, i'll let out a big, heavy sigh, and say out loud ... "Just great. What do they want now?"

Friday, March 24, 2017
Quote o' the day
"The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why."

                                                                                          ~Mark Twain

Friday, March 17, 2017
A weekend hanging out
For most weekends, the kids and i visit the grandparents down in Orange County.
This particular weekend, we decided to simply "hang out" in Redondo Beach, for no particular reason.
And what a time was had!

We got a chance to browse the amazing fresh fish market.


Then we went on a boat ride around harbor. We got to see sea lions and lots of fish out of the glass bottom boat. Maggie even got to feed the fish.


The we checked out the live crab & lobster tanks. So many!


And finally, the lobster selected above was cooked, and we had a lovely meal. Seafood just doesn't get fresher than this! Yum!



After all of that, we played Frisbee in the park, followed by a viewing of the new LEGO Batman movie, which was a huge hit. They absolutely loved it!

And the best part of all, at the end of the day, they told me it was the best day of their lives.
I couldn't be more proud.

Parenting WIN.

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