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October 31, 2003

First Snow!

Sorry I've been so bad about updates. I'm trying to finish setting up the machine that will replace gir. Gir is the machine that hosts all my email, this site, and a number of other websites. Its been a big pain, but I see the end in sight. On the bright side, its snowing! YAY! That picture was just taken a minute ago. The mountain is supposed to open on the 6th. Sweeet!.

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October 27, 2003

Back Home Again

I find myself back in Mammoth with a huge load of things to get done. My wife is happy I got back from my 1900mi journey.. I don't think I'll go on any big trips any time soon, but who knows. This trip to AZ was one of the most insightful trips I've ever taken. Seeing so many old friends really did give me a better understanding of how we develop. My encounters with old friends was filled with many surprises and some not-so-surprises. I'll give more info later, but I need to be sensitive to the fact that these people might read this blog. I'll be doing most of my work at home, so I'll be updating this more regularly now. I promise.

On my way from Phx to LA and then from LA to Mammoth I got to see most of the fires. I have never seen anything so big in my life. They were crazy!! Astounding! So huge!

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October 22, 2003

Vons Strike: Update

This is complete hearsay, but from reliable sources. People were saying the strike would go on for months. Now, it seems, Vons is saying the strike will end Friday. How do they know? Their plan is to fire all the strikers on Friday. They will re-hire any/all of them, but at the new, new hire rates. So, if you'd been there for many years and got a couple raises, you'll still make $2 less per hour than when you were first hired. Plus, you'll have fewer benefits. The strikers, at this point, do not believe Vons will do it. They think the threat of lawsuits will stop Vons from following through. Vons is likely weighing the cost of a law suit with their plans. In reality, they probably understand a lawsuit would still cost less than firing everyone and ending the strike. Its completely insane.

I wish I knew more about Union laws. Is this legal? How can a company like Wall-Mart explicitly not hire union people?

UPDATE: I've posted another related editorial HERE.

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Server resuscitation

The server went down again. This time it came up with a different IP, so we had to go through the nightmare of changing our various domain names. We also found, because of this experience, that our backup DNS and mail wasn't working. Needless to say we're back to our regularly scheduled program.

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October 20, 2003

Vons Strike: Whose to blame?

I'll tell you.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, its probably because you don't live in socal. Vons, Ralphs, Kroger, and Albertsons california employees are on strike for the foreseeable future. In Mammoth this is a HUGE deal since we have only one large grocery store, a Vons. We have a Rite-Aid which isn't part of the strike, and a small store called Village Market which has very little, and is quite pricey. The strike is over benefits. I've heard many differing stories on what the specifics of the dispute are, but needless to say, Vons wants to decrease health benefits to employees and lower the starting wage. Before I get into who's to blame, let me say that I feel for the strikers. Its difficult enough to survive on low wages. Its even harder when you have to pay for health care for a family. Health care for anyone not middle-class and above is a constant struggle. This specific Union claims they worked for 20 years to get their members their current good health care coverage. Letting the employers take it away is unacceptable to them. I'll give my opinions on Unions in general at the end.

The Union blames management. Management blames Wall-Mart. How did Wall-Mart get involved? Wall-Mart recently announced their intentions to start opening grocery stores. Wall-Mart pays significantly less, does not hire union workers, and does not give good benefits. Vons (and the rest) position is that they need to lower their wages and benefits to compete. So who's fault is it? The Union? Vons? Wall-Mart?

None of them. I've written before about the failings of capitalism. The whole situation is just another casualty of that same ideal. It is all a matter of priorities. For a public company, the #1 priority is to increase shareholder value. Wall-Mart is doing just that. They've found a formula for selling everyday products at low low prices. That formula includes amazing supply chain management, bulk buying power, and staying non-union. They pay their employees far less than any competing store and offer few benefits. Some argue that for the people in the rural areas they tend to gravitate towards, Wall-Mart is great as they provide many new jobs. I'm not convinced. Now look at Vons. In order to compete with Wall-Mart, they need to lower their prices and as such, lower their cost. Lowering employee salaries and benefits is the easiest way to do that. Vons is just being a good capitalist company. Even if the amount that Vons is asking its employees to pay to maintain benefits is not unreasonable, the Union believes this to be the start of a trend. Lower a little now, more later. They are, of course, right. That is how capitalism works. Compete or die.

I hope we all see the problem. Who benefits from this? On the surface it seems that we all benefit due to lower prices. In reality, just like gas prices, it ends up being just another poor tax. Middle-class people and above will enjoy the lower prices, but those who rely on those types of jobs will just see their wages go down. Even if you don't believe in trickle down economics, which I don't, it is still important to note when a huge section of the population will be spending less, due to lower wages. The wage issue isn't even the biggest. Its the health issue. More and more, health care is becoming a wedge issue in terms of class identification. It used to be that the lower class could still get health care by working for large companies. Given the shrinking manufacturing base in this country, companies are saying no to health coverage for its employees in order to give them a competitive edge. This is a huge cultural issue for us. How we deal with this issue will set the tone for many more battles to come. It will also create even more resentment between the classes. Its one thing for someone to feel unfairly treated when it comes to money. Its a whole other issue when the health of a person and his/her family is concerned.

In summary. The deficit of pure capitalism is the eventual commoditization of the individual. Tremendous resources are spent making a few people wealthy at the expense of the vast majority. With money as the top priority, little room is left for the individual outside of his/her role as a consumer. This extends all the way from peoples personal lives to our national policy. I see no hope in sight either. It is not a legal issue, nor even a moral issue. Its a cultural issue. A positive change would only occur if enough people decided community values were more important than economics. Its a move away from egoism towards altruism. Understanding that what benefits all of us, benefits us and our families more in the long run, than only doing what benefits us. Not because of any karmic significance, but because our fully decentralized society is fully symbiotic. People do not see the big picture of how supporting pure capitalism actually hurts them individually. What we have now is a thinly veiled rehashing of feudalism. If you are not on top, you might as well be on the bottom.

But now I'm rambling. I've introduced a number of topics I have opinions on, but will elaborate on them individually later. I still have a lot of writing from my backpacking trip to transcribe into a digital format where they can be shared.

Posted by wonko at 02:21 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

October 19, 2003

Time for some desert...

On my way to LA I got lost on the way to Srithip and Thorton's house. I ended up in the Filmore thats NE of Ventura county. I eventually made it and we had a great chat. The near term plan is to organize a full Cnation get-together on a weekend day so everyone can make it. Sarah and I can drive down for it if its a full reunion.
My bro, David had his b-day party at his new house on Saturday and a bunch of old Cnation friends showed up. A bunch of us went to see Kill-Bill at the Fox in Westwood afterwards. Good movie.

Today, I saw Lost in Translation with Bill Murray, then drove to Phx to my parents house, where I'm writing this. Not sure what my schedule is for the week, I'm still tracking down some old friends. The only thing I know is that I'm getting together with Jay and Tony, my old band mates. I'll also see Dan and Steve while I'm here, and hopefully Bill, Tom, Ray, and some others. I actually might check out my old high school and elementary school while I'm here. There are VERY FEW teachers I remember and/or really want to see again, but it would be interesting to see those few.

It was warm in LA, as it was warm in Mammoth. As I expected, its downright HOT in Phx. Winter SHOULD be on, but they broke a heat record yesterday instead. I never question my decision to move away, and this is why.

I won't be back to my wife for over a week and miss her a great deal. I guess thats a good sign after 6+ years of marriage.

Posted by wonko at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

On the road again... (LA-Phx-JTree)

Seems like I haven't stood still in months. In the past this would have made me anxious, feeling that I've 'wasted time'. In my current context, this life, without a sense of passing time, is enjoyable. I do not feel like any time was 'wasted'. Rather, I have a sense that it was time well spent; lived to the fullest. Maybe I am beginning to tame the beast that has chased me my whole life. Only time will tell. :)

I'm leaving in an hour for LA. On the way, I'll stop and see some old friends I haven't seen in a long time. Than I'll be in LA with the Cnation gang. Saturday is my brothers birthday, which is turning out to be quite a Cnation reunion. My parents are in LA for the week as well.
Sunday I'll leave LA for the dry land I grew up in. Phoenix. For as many years as I can remember, I've gone home for the holidays or some other 'event'. These purpose driven visits left little time for friends. As such, I've fallen out of touch with most of my old friends, save a few. Given the lack of purpose in or surrounding this visit, I'm hoping to spend some quality time with my family and friends I haven't seen in a long time. I have to admit, given the 'great experiment', I'm more than a little curious how most of them ended up. In studying the people around me I have little context other than the short time I've known them. With my old boyhood friends, I have the insight of knowing where they came from. Finding out where they are now in relation to where they were when I left them should prove enlightening. This makes my ulterior motives sound cold, but beyond the pure research aspect of my visit, I really do miss these people and genuinely want to know what has become of them. Many of them are proving hard to track down. This only amplifies my realization of how long it has been since I had contact with these people whom I once considered best friends.

Some people say they regret nothing. I regret quite a lot, but at the same time can see the positive results of prior actions which I now regret. I regret not keeping in touch with these people and the only positive thing I can see to come out of it is a better sense of how important keeping in touch with old friends is. Since part of who we are is defined by our own reflection off of others, who we choose to reflect against plays an important role. Reflecting off of old friends can either stifle our growth, or show us how far we've come. For myself, I think the latter is more likely. I'll have an entire week in Phx with nothing to do, but spend quality time with my friends and family.

Early Saturday morning, I'll drive out to Joshua Tree to meet up with my old climbing partner Steve S. for 3 days of good old fashion trad climbing. Climbing so much in Tuolumne Meadows has made my head strong, but I've spent most of my time on run-out slab as opposed to JTree's vertical cracks. I am quite curious how my head will fare.

In other news. Sarah's brother, Ben just got engaged. They will be married Nov 22 in San Francisco. So, just three weeks after I get back from JTree I'll be off to the bay area. I love San Francisco and relish any opportunity I get to visit that fine city. I probably couldn't live there, but I love to visit.

While away, I'll still be online checking email and updating my blog.

Posted by wonko at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 15, 2003

Mass Mayhem

Well, that was insane. Yesterday afternoon, a friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to go out into the desert and blow stuff up. He gave me 5 minutes to decide and pack. As part of my idealistic credo, I couldn't let the opportunity pass. 8 of us, most of whom I knew beforehand, drove out to the Nevada desert to a special place that had been scoped out before hand. The destruction started from the moment we got there. First, the guns came out, mostly hunting rifles. We took various containers filled with gasoline and placed them on a hill a good distance away. We then took turns sniping them and cheering at the resulting enormous explosion.

Then the guns went away and the fireworks came out. I'd never seen so many fireworks in my life. These weren't small fireworks either (though we did have those). These were large fireworks that required large mortar tubes. There were roman candles, saturn rockets, mortars of all sizes, spinning things, flaring things, giant multi-stage fireworks, in fact, I couldn't be expected to remember half the fireworks we had. Our spot was in a little valley surrounded by small hills on all sides. At various times, a few of us would hike off into the darkness with a selection of fireworks and light them off of the surrounding hills, lighting up the whole valley. We were lighting off fireworks pretty continuously for over 5 hours. We also had a 25' single strand of 4,000 blackcats. At some point it was unanimously decided that the best course of action for them was to just toss them into the fire en mass. The resulting cacophony was incredible. As a result of this move, blackcats would spontaneously go off in the fire hours after having initially thrown them in. Plus, a huge number of the blackcats were blown clear of the fire without igniting. This was the backdrop for a mad game that started. In the darkness near the fire we would creep near the fire's edge looking for blackcats. Sometimes, one would suddenly go off in the fire causing us all to jump back. More frequently, someone would find some and quickly throw them in before the rest of us had a chance to run. We'd all wait a safe distance away, then slowly start creeping up again, hoping to be the first to find a few and throw them in. By morning, there were still blackcats to be found 25' away from the fire.

Some may think such mess destruction is childish. The thing is, we start playing with fire and blowing small things up when we're young, but we never get to cause real havoc until we're older. Its just as fun, maybe more so. I never wanted to join the military, still don't, but it sure is fun to blow things up.

We went to bed sometime after midnight. Unfortunately, after the craziness of the prior weekend, I was feeling a little sick even before going on this venture. When I got home on Tuesday I felt completely wrecked and ended up sleeping for 19hrs. I'm not 100%, but feeling better. I've got lots of prep to do before I leave on Thursday (tomorrow), for LA, Phx, and Joshua Tree.

Posted by wonko at 10:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Derek and Christie tie the knot

Just over a year ago, Derek and I went backpacking around the Mammoth Crest to Duk Lake. (yes its spelled Duk due to an early misprint). That night we talked about Derek and Christie and how he should stop delaying and just ask her. He agreed it was the right thing to do. Within a month, he'd found a beautiful ring and was ready. He and Christie hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney where he dropped to one knee and made his intentions official, presenting the ring. She, of course, said yes.

This last Saturday, they finally did it. It all began on Friday where we had the rehearsal at Forest Chapel which is across a bridge over the Twin Lakes. Two of the groomsmen were traveling here from out of town and couldn't make it. Later we had a rehearsal dinner at Juniper where Derek's parents were staying. Derek's friends from AZ showed up in time for that. Afterwards, the partying began. Luckily for Derek, some of us agreed that he shouldn't get sick the night before his wedding. We started walking home from JSL around 3am, in no shape to drive. None of us were looking forward to the couple mile walk home, luckily, we didn't have to walk far. The Cnation gang from LA had showed up not long before and were driving around looking for us. They found us stumbling down Meridian not far from JSL. Boy were we happy to see them. The whole gang from LA stayed at my place Fri-Sun.

Saturday, began early with breakfast at The Breakfast Club. Most of us were still feeling the festivities of the night before, but not as bad as we'd expected. The wedding went off without a hitch. It was a most beautiful wedding and more than a few people got a little emotional. It was definitely a most happy affair as everyone there knew they were meant for each other. After the wedding, they had the reception dinner at Little Eagle. There was a beer and wine open bar, and Brian Doi cooked an amazing dinner. Most of us had our share to drink. Everyone had a great time dancing, drinking, talking and eating.

Sunday, all of the excess food and drink from the rehearsal dinner found its way over to my place as did the bride and groom and a bunch of our friends for an afternoon BBQ. We didn't actually have a real BBQ, but we did have a large Foreman grill, which ended up working just fine. Eventually, the gang headed off to their various points of origin and the house was left to Sarah and I. Late that night I finally went to sleep. Monday, I could definitely feel the affects the weekend had on me. I wasn't feeling at all well, but that didn't stop the adventure from continuing... (See Next Blog)

Posted by wonko at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2003

Recent Comments

As a continuation of the last post, I have modified the front page of this blog slightly. You'll notice the right information column now includes a summary of recent comments. Below that summary is a link to a page listing the 20 most recent comments in their entirety. I hope this helps. One question I have is whether the brief summary of the 5 most recent comments appearing on the right is really useful or is it too brief? Should I leave them, or just have the link to the full page of recent comments? Discuss.

Posted by wonko at 03:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 09, 2003

Comment Notification

Someone recently asked me if they could be notified when someone commented on one of my blog entries and not just when I post an entry. Is there any interest in this functionality?

Posted by wonko at 09:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Personal Life vs. Corporate Life

First, I must apologize for not updating more regularly. I've been seriously derelict in my duties. The experiment continues though. No less now than before.

One of my recent epiphanies, which seems obvious in hindsight as most epiphanies do; if ones corporate ideals, as expressed by ones actions and decisions related to 'work', are not consistent with ones personal ideals, the pursuit of the personal ideal will be seriously impeded. How much it is impeded is based on the persons ability to separate his/her self from work. As to myself, I have a very difficult time seeing myself separate from work, or visa versa. Back in my programming days, when a client was unhappy, I took it very personally, whether it was my fault or not. Those that can separate themselves from work, still are faced with ignoring their corporate ideals while pursuing personal improvement. Good people frequently justify doing things at work they would NEVER do in their personal lives. But even for those that CAN separate themselves from their work, the divergence in ideals is still a hindrance, though maybe less so. Its only a matter of degrees.

What does this mean in practical terms. We often find ourselves unhappy with some of our traits or where we are. Yet, for many, change comes slowly. Its possible that the paradox between our two selves is the source of much of our unhappiness and our criticism of various personal traits, slowing our improvement. In many instances, it moves us in exactly the wrong direction, exacerbating the problems. We all have ideas of who we want ourselves to be. We probably can't fool ourselves into thinking we hold certain ideals when we only really hold them half the time. Obigabu said recently that it is lack of choice that makes us unhappy. Pdhman stated that we ALWAYS have a choice. If this is true, its only our perceived lack of choice that contributes to our unhappiness. This is consistent with the idea that we feel forced to hold certain ideals in our corporate life, in order to gain ground or maintain ground at the very least. Yet, in as far as these ideals are inconsistent with what we would choose in our personal lives, this forced character choice makes us feel helpless.
This points out an inconsistency in what we are taught about what makes a 'good' individual. 'Work ethic' is often cited as a strong character trait, even when certain manifestations of that ethic would be viewed as a weak character trait if practiced in ones personal life. Being a good salesman will be met with approval by peers even if the actual details of how you sell are far from the publics view of decent behavior. There is clearly a different level of decency for personal behavior than there is for business behavior. It is only through compromise and rationalization that we can reconcile this paradox.

Part of the great experiment is to recognize, accept, and act on this realization. If we are truly concerned with continual personal improvement, at some point we will hit a wall until we address this issue. Character traits are holistic and can't be compartmentalized in a particular area of your life given only particular environmental circumstances. "Character is what we do when no one is around." I'd extend that truism to say, "Character is what we do while at work." It's another way of saying that each of our character traits should be measured by how we externalize that trait in our worst orientation.

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October 06, 2003


My brother, his wife and baby just left to head back to LA. We had a really great time. Sarah and I gave them the grand tour of Mammoth, June Lakes, Tuolumne Meadows, and Mono Lake. I think it was a good vacation for them and they might have gotten a little rest. Its hard to get much rest with a baby, but every little bit counts. Caleb is much more talkative now, albeit in his own language. Last time I saw him. just a few weeks ago, he barely said anything at all. Kids go through social changes at such a rapid pace, its quite astounding.

I'm hoping to get back in action now and get some real work done, but I still have time constraints. One of my best friends is getting married at the end of this week. I'm in the wedding, so that will occupy some of my time. The week after that I'm leaving for a week and a half. I'm heading down to LA on the 16th to see friends and for my brothers birthday. My parents will be out there then. Afterwards, I'll be headed to Phx on the 18th or 19th and staying throughout that next week. I'm hoping to be able to spend some time with friends and family. For the most part, I've only gone back to Phx for holidays or special events. Consequently, its been difficult to see friends while I'm there. During holidays, everyone is busy with family and during special occasions, like weddings, I'm there such a short period of time, I can't see anyone. I'm hoping going home in Oct, when its slow, will give me the opportunity to catch up with everyone.
I have an ulterior motive as well, but I'll cover that later.

Posted by wonko at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003


My brother, his wife and 9 month old are in town until Sunday. My updates might be slower while they're here. We'll be doing lots of sight-seeing, which is fine with me. The leaves have started changing and its a beautiful time to be here.

Posted by wonko at 09:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

Photo Update

I've finally gotten around to posting some photos. I still have to post my Boron pics.

Posted by wonko at 01:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack