Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Costa Rica Really Tried to Kill Me

I recently took some advice from my doctor and went down to Costa Rica to visit my friend Carmen who lives near the beach town of Manuel Antonio. She lives in a small community of about 3,000 called Barrio Inmaculada. Barrio in Spanish means neighborhood, not ghetto as we know it to mean in the U.S.

Nevertheless, Carmen was good enough to room and board me for about a month and I hadn't seen her in nine years, so it seemed like a no-brainer to visit, especially since I had a free ticket.

All was good and well for the first few days. Carmen didn't have a car as they are expensive for locals down there, but she did have a moto scooter. I had never been on a motorcycle or scooter before in my life, so to say I was apprehensive about riding with her was an understatement. However, after a ride or two, I realized I loved it. My fears of dying in spectacular wreck vanished overnight.

As most people know, Costa Rica is a rainforest. It rains almost everyday. This makes driving on a scooter rather difficult, but that's what these people have to do to live their lives.

I had been in Costa Rica about a week when Carmen was driving me back to her house on a rainy day. The roads in her neighborhood had just been paved with fresh asphalt. It had just started raining, and we approached a curve that had not been engineered to bank properly. Even though she slowed down quite a bit, the scooter slipped out from under us on this curve, which I have since named "la curva de los muertos."

We both went flying hands and head first onto the opposite side of the street. Luckily, as we flew through the air there was no oncoming traffic. As Carmen was in front of me because she was driving, she landed first, and I partially landed on top of her, breaking my fall. I was wearing jeans as well because the mosquitos eating the flesh off my legs and ankles when I only had shorts on. The jeans prevented my legs and knees from being torn up. I was also holding a thick plastic bag in my hand from a little shopping I had done in town. As I fell, the plastic bag acted as a glove under my hands protecting the palms of my hands from being ripped up from the road. I also had a helmet on so when my head banged against the ground, I got a little more than a tinge of whiplash, mostly just a sore neck.

The knuckles on both my hands were the one part of my body that got roughed up a bit, with the skin mostly ripped off on about 3 fingers, with the others bleeding slightly.

All in all, I was in a scooter wreck and walked out with just some bloody knuckles and a aching neck.   Talk about lucky.

However, Costa Rica was not done with me yet. The mosquitos I mentioned were not the enormous type as in the East Coast of the U.S. These mosquitos are small and move so fast, if you can clap your hands and smush then, you're about as lucky as Danielson catching flies with chopsticks like in the original Karate Kid.

I was not worried so much about the irritation the mosquitos caused, but I was concerned about Zika and Dengue. Zika is not prevalent where I was staying, however in the neighborhood which Carmen lives, there have been over 150 cases of Dengue already this year.

You can Google Dengue fever on your own, but all you have to know is that the virus turn your organs to liquid shit and can be fatal for the elderly. As Carmen was taking me to a local food store she showed me an area of standing water that made the Ganges look like a crystal clear body of water. Immediately I asked, why the hell are we walking next to the Dengue epicenter? Carmen informed me because the other food store was a bit of a farther walk and partially uphill.

Despite having been bit on the walk to the food store, and everyday during my trip as well, I somehow escaped Dengue.

Mosquitos are not the only insect that tried to kill me. Costa Rica also has some pretty ridiculous fire ants the size of quarters. As Carmen and I were returning home from the hospital for a visit to help her scooter injuries, she saw a beautiful flower growing off a tree branch. She couldn't quite reach the branch so she asked me to help grab the branch so she could pick the flower. I grabbed the branch and pulled it towards Carmen. Within 5 seconds, maybe less, about ten fire ants were racing up and down my left arm. I brushed them off with my right hand as fast as I could, but that didn't stop me from being bitten 3 times, all in almost the same spot.

The venom felt like knives going through my arm. What more, the venom was so potent I could literally feel it traveling through my body. Only 3 bites caused my arm to turn black and blue as if I had been hit by a hammer. A few more bites and I'd have had to walk right back into the hospital. At least medical treatment was near.

And finally, I was attacked by Carmen's parrot. Yes, a parrot flew out of his tree, through the door of Carmen's house and tried to eat my leg. Again, I had jeans on to prevent mosquitos from tearing up my legs, so the strong jaws of Louie couldn't latch on to me.

There were lots of great parts of the trip other than different forms of potential death or dismemberment, but that's another story.

B.





Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Hardest Job I Ever Had: Restaurant Server and I'm Not Alone

This blog is dedicated to the men and women that work their asses off to feed the country. They are usually under appreciated, under tipped, but mostly not understood.

Servers at America's restaurants are usually less educated than the people that can afford to eat at the restaurants which the servers work.

Patrons show high levels of contempt for this very reason. After all, having a bachelor's degree makes you a better person, right?

What is so easy to overlook is why a person may be working a job as a server. Many of these servers are young, in their late teens and have not even had the chance to work on a college degree. But many are also working these jobs because their circumstance makes it nearly impossible for them to rise through education to a white collar job.

When you are a single mother working 10 hour days to barely live paycheck to paycheck it is almost out of the question to attend, let alone pay for a higher education.

Does it mean these people are losers without ambition, cozy in a dead-end job? Quite the contrary.

Waiting tables is one of the hardest jobs in this country. You are paid a base salary as low as $2 and change an hour. As much as 95% of your income can be dependent on tips. This fact is something very few patrons know or appreciate. Couple this with the pressures of trying to satisfy managers, chefs, food runners, bartenders, and patrons all at the same time, and it is easy to understand why your service may not always be stellar.

There is also massive turnover in these jobs. This means many servers are literally learning on the job and make mistakes out of pure lack of experience.

It's nearly a lose-lose scenario. A year of work in this job is more than enough to burnout the hardest workers. And people wonder why some servers seem to care less about their job performance.

A cashier gets paid the same for great or terrible performance. A server however is supposed to work infinitely harder for just a few extra bucks an hour.

Now if you want great service everytime you go out to dinner, expect to pay for it. Go to a restaurant that costs $50 a person. These higher end establishments provide better service because the servers are tipped more as the cost of the food is higher. These jobs are few in quantity in comparison to the entire industry.

Servers at this level understand how difficult it is to make decent money and therefore work beyond what is imaginable to keep these jobs. After all, there are 100 other servers that would beg on their hands and knees for these server jobs.

When I was 18 years old I was lucky enough to get a job at a local upscale restaurant as a server. I worked 10 hour days on weekdays (Tuesdays-Thursdays) and 12-14 hour days on weekends (Fridays-Sundays).

The chef (also the owner) was an old-school Belgian that learned in the best restaurants in Europe. If service was perfect, I received no compliments. If service was imperfect in anyway small or large, the wrath I received was more than enough to mentally break the strongest of people.

I am anything but thin-skinned. I apologize when I make a mistake. I can take criticism and even anger from others and brush it aside as I work to understand where the anger may come from. It takes a person to target me viciously, relentlessly, and without reason to get my blood boiling or cause me mental strife.

When I was a server the chef broke me mentally. It is the only time in my life that I was crying on the job in front of customers, and I was still able to go through the motions to provide good service.

Did I deserve to be beat down mentally by the chef? Absolutely not. Was he trying to make me better at my job or merely unleashing anger on someone that he could? I'll never know. But I worked harder than ever after that night to be even better.

I've also worked white collar jobs that paid me double what I made at my restaurant while barely putting forward half the effort as I did while waiting tables. Serving food was the most honest dollar I have ever made in my life. And, I am not alone.

The next time you go out to eat and receive less than amazing service, try to remember all the reasons a server may not be at the top of their game before you leave a nasty note as a tip.

-B.

Monday, January 18, 2016

At a Loss for Love

At the ripe old age of 32, I find myself the last of my high school friends that is not married or engaged. I'm not even talking to a girl, let alone in a relationship. I haven't had a genuine relationship in 5 years.

How is it that some of us just seem to stay single despite genuine and strong efforts to find that special someone?

Are us single folk all aesthetically repulsive? Are we ignorant, slow minded, or boring? Are we assholes that no one can stand? Do we lack confidence, humor, or imagination? Do we smell bad? Give it to us straight.

Perhaps it is a mix of some or all of the above. Or maybe we are just plain misunderstood.

The hardest part about being single at this age is seeing everyone else married or in serious relationships. It's not a matter of jealousy, but rather a matter of confusion. Why am I single? What is it? Speaker for the female race, please tell me the reason I get shot down more than John McCain in Vietnam.

Are some people just destined to be single forever? I want to be able to say no, but in this world the answer is probably yes.

For me personally, I have always been quirky to say the least. I listen to classical music. I love Star Trek. I'm a super geek when it comes to technology and gadgets. I read books like Moby Dick for pleasure, not English class. I like fine dining and suave clothes. I care about the way I look when it comes to grooming. And, I have a fondness of antiques such as a 100 year old Underwood No. 5 typewriter.

Is it possible that some people are just so different from the typical cultural norm that it pushes away potential mates before they can understand why some people are seemingly so different.

I have never been one that needs to be in a relationship just to be in a relationship, but that doesn't mean I don't want one.

We all judge ourselves against everyone else, usually too harshly. But after 15 years of near constant rejection from females, it is only natural that I'm questioning why me.

I can't answer the question which is the must frustrating part. So every quirk that makes me me, could be the reason why I've been single for nearly my entire life.

I like me. And I will not change what I read, or the clothes I wear because it may get me a girlfriend.

So what is a single guy to do? Give up altogether and hope that one day the perfect woman jumps into my arms?

The discouraged dater...

The longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get a job again. Soon, a job seeker becomes discouraged and may stop looking altogether. The same is true with dating. Everytime I approach a girl, despite my best efforts, I still expect to be rejected because it is seemingly the only outcome I've ever received.

So yes, though I still want a relationship, it is harder due to my discouraged past. On occasions when I have met someone that has mutual feelings for me, it seems that the relationship is right out of a soap opera. I've been cheated on, dumped for no apparent reason, or been treated terribly.

While I am not content to give up on finding the right person, there is undeniable pain in trying to understand why I can't find or hold a meaningful relationship.

Maybe I'll be alone my entire life. Maybe not. But I will stay true to myself and have faith that one day someone will see beauty in me the way I see it in so many others.

-B.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Star Wars VII The Force Awakens is So Bad, Maybe the Worst Ever


So this blog is not what most of you want to hear, and you'll be especially skeptical of my review coming from a known Star Wars troll and Star Trek mega fan, but if you listen objectively you must admit this movie was nothing less than the most disappointing sci-fi movie in recent memory.

First let me address those who won't listen to an avid trekkie. I am the first to criticize a bad Star Trek film. In my opinion, Star Trek has had more poor films than good ones. Including, the last 4 movies. Yes, I just said everything from Insurrection to Into Darkness sucked. So you can't say I am blind trekkie who rubber stamps all works Star Trek. The reboot sucked as soon as JJ decided to blow up planet Vulcan for no particular reason, completely destroying the Star Trek timeline which was a near constant through the 50 years of Trek.

Now on to JJ Abrams' absolute horror show that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I rather despise JJ Abrams as a director, and have since 2009 when he started his destruction of the Star Trek universe. So going into this movie I came in with very low expectations hoping to have the movie leaving me pleasantly surprised.

I have not been so wrong in a long time.

First, the script of flying words in space, right after the opening Star Wars credit, sets a story that doesn't make much sense or is that convincing. The universe doesn't feel like it is in that much peril either. If Luke can be found, all will be saved from the new evil empire, The First Order. Luke has apparently gone mental from losing all the Jedi during his watch. How is he now suddenly going to save the rebels? He exiled himself and doesn't even want to be found!

On to BB-8, or let's just refer to him as Jr., as in R2-D2 Jr. I actually like Jr. as a droid design, except for the fact that there is absolutely no difference in anything Jr. does differently than R2-D2. Jr. speaks beep beep, has a projector screen and a personality that is indistinguishable from R2-D2.

Now what? BB-8 has a secret message that must get to the resistance or the universe can not be saved by Skywalker. Hmm. Haven't seen R2-D2 with a similar mission, "Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope." Are you f-ing kidding me?

Where to go next: John Boyega, Finn, or "Big Deal," who is really the lead character of the movie. Ok, I get that someone wouldn't want to murder innocent people when Big Deal is forced into a firing squad of stormtroopers. But if I'm supposed to be scared of Kylo Ren, the "Vader" character of this movie, I would have killed the innocents anyway and so would have Finn. It takes more courage to disobey a leader, which Big Deal doesn't have. The movie would have even had a glimpse of depth with blood on the main characters' hands. Wrong move.

Big Deal, is a weak stormtrooper. He doesn't show great moral outrage at the sight of summary executions. He just takes off his helmet looking sick to his stomach like a greenie on a battlefield.

Next, he becomes a traitor! This is priceless. Was JJ admitting that he himself committed treason by directing Star Trek than Star Wars back to back? Is he trying to atone for this sacrilege? No, he is just a terrible director.

Poe Dameron actually has a good, strong presence onscreen. However, when he goes down in his fighter into a sinkhole in the sand, there was a real chance to feel emotion at the loss of a good character. Big Deal, who crashed landed with Poe, doesn't bother looking for Poe more than 5 seconds. We know Poe is somehow not dead. And of course he isn't. JJ gives us a ridiculous explanation of his survival at Poe's return toward the end of the film.

Back to Big Deal. When Big Deal meets, Rey, the strongest character in the movie and the only one that seems to take the movie seriously, he is obviously taken with her. She's young, cool, and most importantly a woman, something very rare in the Star Wars universe.

Big Deal even proposes escaping with Rey, fleeing the Star Wars universe. But when Rey asks him to stay on fighting for a righteous cause against The First Order, he wimps out like a little bitch and runs away.

So much for his moral outrage against The First Order. Big Deals' terrible performance loaded with bad jokes that don't work at all, are really not his fault, as JJ gave him caca to work with. Even so, Big Deal looks so uncomfortable on screen, it is gut-wrenching.

Captain Han Solo, or can we just call him Grandpa Solo now? Harrison Ford is 73, 1 year younger than Bernie Sanders.

Han is still smuggling in the same neighborhood as all the other creatures he has swindled throughout the ages and tries to joke his way out of ever situation. Somehow, grandpa, escapes his loansharks and finds himself fighting for the resistance once again.

Grandpa Solo has more terrible one-liners than the worst James Bond film. All Chewbacca does is nod his head in approval of grandpa's bad jokes.

Parsecs. One of the most ridiculed goofs of Episode IV was George Lucas' misuse of the word parsec to describe the speed of the Millennium Falcon. Let's examine this thoroughly. A parsec is a measure of distance, specifically the distance between the sun and an object with the parallax angle of one arc-second.

In episode IV, Solo bragged that his ship could make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Now this is like saying my ship is so fast it travels a race track in 5 miles flat. It makes no sense. Lucas should have used a measurement of time such as days, hours, or even a made up unit of time.

Now if you go online the Star Wars universe has tried to create an Ebola goopy schmear of dirrehaa to explain the episode IV claim by Solo so it would make sense.

We all know it was a goof. The explaination is that traveling the Kessel Run was a feat of traveling the run in the least distance out of hyperspace. Great answer, except why the hell would Obi-Wan or Luke care about a feat of short distance maneuvers if they were looking for a fast ship in episode IV? I believe their expedition was supposed to be expedious, not a ridiculous irrelevant distance course. Total bullshit, and unforgivable that they would even bring this up in the movie especially without including the doodoo explanation in the movie!

I wanted to puke, this pulled me out of the movie and straight to thinking about the entire controversy.

Carrie Fisher. I wish I didn't have to troll her. And, I won't criticize her looks, as so many have in a sad and real trolling show. But once again, JJ screwed an actor by putting Fisher in the movie just to put her in the movie. Then again, I'm pretty sure Carrie needed some work; at least the casting choice worked out for somebody.

Leis adds nothing to the plot. But Leia does have perhaps the only real display of a quasi-believable emotional moment with Grandpa Solo.

Wow. I need to take a break. My blood is boiling and I still have pages to go.

I'm back, this blog feels like a chore, but someone has to do it.

Kylo-Ren, the generic cape wearing bad guy, should be called "Heartthrob" because he looks like he should be in a boy-band. Luckily he wears his useless mask most of the movie relieving the audience from seeing his face.

What's better is that Heartthrobs' heart is torn between good and bad, but that doesn't stop him from a cold and sucker death he gives to his father, Grandpa Solo. It is actually the best part of the movie just because something new occurred in a main character being killed off and by this point I wanted Grandpa Solo dead just for his terrible jokes.

I won't even bother with Supreme Leader Snoke other than saying an alien creature ruling over humanoid lifeforms from a 3D projector makes me wish Emeporor Palpatine would wake from the grave.

The lightsaber battle between Heartthrob and Big Deal deserves some mention. If you have a lightsaber apparently you become a master saber fighter instantaneously, as Finn takes on Kylo Ren when Finn should have been slain as an afterthought.

Let's not forget to throw in a bar scene with aliens of all sorts listening to uninspired space jazz. Not the cool tune from episode IV, but something that tries to be cool, and sucks. At this point JJ should have reused the music from episode IV, JJ reused everything else.

Onto the new "mega" death star. Ok, death star 1 didn't work out so well. Death star 2 didn't work out so well, but a mega death star that makes the old death stars look like Jupiter moons must be the ticket.

At first, the death star seems to be able to easily destroy multiple planets at the same time with a linear energy beam that turns into plant seeking missiles. Does JJ have to blow up every planet in the universe before he retires?

Later in the movie, the weapon seems to need the energy from a star to destroy planets. Did the death star use a different weapon? I either blacked out or the death stars' weapon to destroy planets was different in the beginning and end of the movie, with the latter weapon being harder to use. It's just weird.

Also the death star is seemingly part of a planet as there are trees and snow and apparently an atmosphere around part of the death star, just not the part in space where the x-wings and tie-fighters have their uninspired dogfight that gives you vertigo. Again is it a death star or a building around a planet like a Dyson planet?

I must mention the ingenious plan to destroy the mega death star by the resistance. Basically it went down like this...

"We have to destroy the death star or we all die!"

"Let's blow it up!"

"How do we blow it up?"

"See script from episode IV."

I'm pretty sure I got that verbatim.

At the end of the movie I left with a dropped jaw, not like I had from Mad Max: Fury Road, perhaps the most inspired movie of the year. No, my jaw was dropped by the pure mierda that any franchise can throw out while pandering to the intellect of a toddler while making more money than ever before in movie history all at the same time with rave reviews from critics and blind fans alike. Only a true run-on sentence can describe this movie. It's rated 8.5 on imdb and rated 61st best movie ever. It should be a 4-5.5 max. This is nothing less than movie rating fraud worse than the subprime lending fiasco.

I'm tired and I didn't even cover everything. I'm sure this blog has a bunch of typos as all my strength has been drained writing this, forget a full proofing.

I never thought I would ever have the thought of bringing back George Lucas for another Star Wars movie, but Star Wars fans, that may be your only hope.

-B.

5200 E Ramon Rd
Palm Springs, CA 92264

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Virtual Reality: A primer on possibilities

Today saw the long awaited chance to pre-order
the pricy $599 Oculus Rift. The website crashed within minutes as so many people were clicking the buy button.

For those of you unfamiliar with Oculus (www.oculus.com), it is much more than just a virtual reality headset. It is the nexus of pioneering software, extreme computing, 3D and 2D media content, all wrapped together with real-time internet.

Basically it's like pornography, 'it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.' And once you see it, your reaction is also very similar to the first time an adolescent sees porn...with eyes wide open and a drooling dropped jaw.

However, unlike pornography, virtual reality is going to transform our increasingly digital society in ways that make mobile phone apps seem lame and antiquated. One day sooner than later even mobile (hand-held) phones will be obsolete.

Why is virtual reality so important? Communication. The better the human race gets at communicating, value is always created.

Example: Before the telegraph, the fastest way to get a message sent was via train or horseback. This was not cheap. Imagine paying someone today a day's wages just to deliver one message. Only the wealthy could afford this type of service. Now a homeless person with not a penny to their name can contact almost any place in the world with free email.

Virtual reality is a jump in communications that dwarf software like Skype and FaceTime.

In a virtual setting, all those little bits of information that is lost in emails, phone calls, and videochat can finally be unlocked.

We all have seen those spy movies where a subtle look of the eyes or face of someone gives away that person's 'bluff.' Those that play poker know exactly what I'm talking about.

There is so much more than subtlety that we will be able to finally communicate fully with vr's power.

Online communication as we know it today consists of sight and sound. Our other senses: touch, smell, and taste are lost in the digital world. These other senses also communicate much more than we realize.

Virtual reality will allow us to communicate touch. Imagine dancing in a 300 year old virtual Austrian ballroom with a virtual instructor while you are in your home in Scranton, PA. No more rigid Thursday night dance classes to attend.

Now instead of learning ballroom dancing at a cost of hundreds of dollars, a virtual reality ballroom dancing program costs $30 and you keep it forever. The value created is the money saved by going virtual. The end is the same either way...you learn to dance. Sorry no phone app for this one!

Let's enlarge our scope to something we do on a daily basis...shop. Imagine a virtual mall (where all the kids hang out in the future). You can try on virtual clothes from Nordstrom, order the item while in the virtual mall. You can even have your friends tell you how they think it looks on you if they are hooked up at the same time as you.

After spending some real cash, you go to the virtual bookstore to learn about the hottest new books. While at the virtual book store you buy a book that is delivered instantly to your kindle, or in paper if you know what that is. You also sign up for the virtual bookclub of the month.

Virtual dating. A good friend of mine has a great idea...fostering more offline behavior we all crave.

While at my virtual bookclub a certain girls' insight into Moby Dick just blew my mind. I never would have found this amazing person without the ability to communicate virtually.
The next step, I ask her out on a real in living person date.  Before meeting in person we already know the content of the person's character which virtual reality provided. I already feel connected to this person as humans feel with any person they spend time with whether virtual or not.

Dating takes time. And with all the virtual activities humans can participate in to get to "know" someone, finding that special person will be easier than ever before, more genuine than a dating site ever could be, and a whole lot less awkward. Finally we are getting to the point where technology is starting to bring us together on another level than Facebook memes.

Not here just yet, but coming...Other senses such as smell is another format of communication. Example: That smell is so bad, it is probably a good idea to get away from it. Think rotting corpse.

The bottom line. This technology is here to stay and will change our behaviors just like the iPhone. This tech revolution is not even in its' infancy yet, more like it is just exiting the womb.

The only obstacle in virtual reality is the limits of human imagination.

-B.