Moon Over Denver

(Click to embiggen.)

As I was walking home this evening with Ben I noted that the arrangement of the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus in the darkening western sky was even more beautiful than last night and thought, “I really should go out on the balcony and photograph that when we get home,” and then promptly forgot about it once we got there.

I happened to glance out the bedroom window about an hour ago and said, “Oh SHIT.” Venus was gone, but the Moon and Jupiter were still in the sky. I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed up to the upper level of the parking garage.  I got several good shots, but this was by far my favorite.

The Island of Misfit Toys

Or, as I like to call it, “Tech of Yesteryear: Stuff I’ve Owned.”

My first calculator, a Texas Instruments SR-10. Four functions plus square root, square and inverse!—$89 in 1974. I needed it for Chem/Physics.

My first 10-speed bike, a Schwinn Continental—$105 in 1972

My first (and only) typewriter, an Olympia Report Electric SKE—price and date forgotten (1974?). Sold in a fit of perceived poverty in 1990.

My first hi-fi turntable, a Philips GA-212—$200 in 1973. I had to have this particular one because it was touch control! Little did I know that when the bulbs under the touch controls burnt out, the controls stopped working altogether, necessitating a costly trip to a repair shop. It wasn’t like you could just go online and order replacements.

My first awesome, truly high-tech hi-fi turntable, a Technics SL-1300Mk2—$500 in 1978.  I took out a personal loan for this one. Of course it died within months of being paid for and then sat in a repair facility for months because the particular integrated circuit that had failed was on indefinite backorder. (Such is the life of an early adopter.) I finally retrieved it from the shop and shipped it back to Panasonic for repair. It was returned, and UPS left it with the neighbors’ unattended children, where they proceeded to destroy it. UPS and Panasonic wrote it off as “destroyed in shipment” and sent me refurbished unit. But it was never the same, so I sold it in 1980.

I replaced it in 2000 or thereabouts with a near-mint unit that came in the original packaging. The arm lift mechanism on this model was a notoriously bad design that self-destructed after about 5 years of use, so I had it professionally repaired by a friend back east (now, sadly deceased) and it’s worked beautifully ever since.

My first digital watch, a Novus—price unknown (but it wasn’t cheap) in 1976. It was a high school graduation present from my parents. Like all digital watches of the time, you had to hold down the button to make it illuminate and show you the time. It died sometime in the early 80s.

My first hi-fi amplifier, a Sony TA-5650—$550 in 1976.  I bought it for myself with money I received for my high school graduation.  Another piece of cutting edge tech that wasn’t quite ready for prime time, the 5650 had the very annoying habit of self-destructing every six months or so, necessitating a visit to the repair shop to have some diodes replaced  (to the tune of $75 a trip—quite a bit of money for the time). After the second or third time it happened, I decided to replace it, but nothing came close to the sweet, sweet sound the V-FETs produced, so I kept getting it fixed.

The last time it died, sometime in 1986, I replaced it with a rock-solid Yamaha amp and kissed it goodbye, leaving it in the laundry room of the apartment complex I was living in at the time. I did that because I just couldn’t bear to toss it in the dumpster.

My first computer, a Commodore VIC-20—$200 in 1981. It hooked up to a television, and since Dennis (my first partner) and I couldn’t afford to buy the external cassette drive to save the programs we spent hours meticulously typing in BASIC, it was an ongoing lesson in frustration. But it did light a spark that eventually culminated in my current career.

My first hi-fi cassette deck, a Sony TCK-555—$370 in 1984. I waited a long, long time to finally get a good cassette deck for my system. Little did I know that in only two short years they would start marching toward the graveyard of history.  It was a good—not great—deck, but it served me for several years before being replaced.

My first new car, a 1984 Toyota Corolla SR-5—$11,000 in 1984. Damn, I loved this car. I sold Dorothy in 1989 after deciding that owning a car in San Francisco was more trouble that it was worth. It was also reaching the point that it was needing some expensive repairs and I had no way of paying for them, so I had to say goodbye. It’s the one vehicle that still shows up regularly in my dreams, never having been sold, but merely put into storage all these years…

My first CD player, a Yamaha D-400—$360 in 1985. As I recall I blew my whole tax refund on this. I had wanted to get a Technics SL-P2 but it had been discontinued and I didn’t like anything in the Technics lineup that replaced it. I should’ve done more shopping before jumping on this one, however.  It sounded fantastic, but it could only display the track number or the time, but not both. Seriously, Yamaha? I replaced it in 1990.

My first portable CD player, a Sony D100 Discman—$400 in 1987. This was Sony’s second-generation portable, and I loved this bit of tech. The only reason I eventually got rid of it was the headphone jack kept coming unsoldered from the main circuit board (one day after the warranty expired, typical of Sony products). It was an easy-enough fix to do myself, but I finally just got tired of dealing with it.

My first 35mm camera, the Pentax ME Super. I got this from my second partner in exchange for some money he owed me. I adored this camera. I won’t say my ratio of good photos to bad was excellent, but I remember it being decidedly better than all my subsequent years of digital. In my rush to go digital, I sold it to buy a new camera. WORST. DECISION. EVER.

My first digital camera, the Canon A10—$125 (steeply discounted) in 2003. It ate batteries which severely limited its usefulness, picture quality was so-so, and it was a pain in the ass to actually get the photos off of it. I was so relieved when I finally got the funds together to replace it.

This was the camera I replaced the A10 with, a Panasonic DMC-FZ7. This camera went everywhere with me (including a road trip to Yellowstone), and together we got some stunning shots.  After a couple years, however, I tired of the all purple fringing showing up around bright areas in the photos and after replacing it with a Sony, sold it on eBay.

Saturday Dance Party: Donna Summer – Now I Need You

More than just a simple Cinderella story, my friend Kent and I always believed there was a deeper, more esoteric theme running through Donna’s Once Upon a Time—namely, that this was a story of past-life loves reuniting after being separated at death.

This song in particular reinforced that belief, because Cinderella had never known her prince before actually meeting him at the ball. “Having learned to live with you, it’s hard to live without you. You always said if I were down, to cheer me you would be around.”

Then again, it could just be Cinderella’s longing for her dead father…

Friday Dance Party: Donna Summer – Rumour Has It / I Love You

While the Bad Girls album was Donna’s biggest commercial success, in my opinion Once Upon a Time (from which these cuts were culled) was by far her best and never really received the amount of recognition it deserved. A double album, nearly every song on sides 1, 2 & 4 were massive club hits (side 3 contained slow ballads) when it first came out.

This record will forever hold a very special place in my heart with the memories contained within its sleeves, and it was one of three records I kept when I stupidly decided to ditch all my vinyl in the late 80s. In fact, when I was listening to this cut while putting this post together I realized that tears were spontaneously steaming down my cheeks. That’s how special it is…

One of the Unintended Consequences…

…of having a teacher as a romantic partner is that you get to experience each and every illness that the little germ-infected monsters bring with them into the classroom.

Yep, I’m down with the creeping crud again.

But at least the timing was advantageous. By sheer coincidence, I had an appointment scheduled with my new Primary Care Physician tomorrow morning. It was originally intended to just be a meet-and-greet sort of thing to establish medical care here in Denver, but since I’m going to be there anyway maybe he’ll have some magic bullet to knock this crap out of me.

Yeah, right.

My doctor in Phoenix has been great about authorizing refills for my various meds as they run out, but it’s been nine months since my last blood workup, and I really do need get back into a regular care routine—not to mention getting a referral to a local Otolaryngologist.  I’m way overdue for that exam.

Of Gods and Monsters

I haven’t always been an Atheist. In fact, I’m not even sure that’s a completely accurate description of my beliefs at all. But if it means that I no longer believe that some omniscient intelligence created and maintains the Universe, then yes, I am an Atheist.

Do I believe there is something beyond the three-dimensional confines of of our reality? Yes, only because the Universe is proving itself far larger, stranger, and more bizarre than we puny humans ever have a hope of completely understanding.

I was raised in a mainstream Protestant household and we did the typically American thing of attending church on Christmas and Easter. When I entered my teens, my Mom got it into her head that I needed to be confirmed in the faith, and sent me to the requisite church classes to accomplish that. (Where, I might add, I ended up serially falling in love with two different straight boys who I went to high school with.) Much to my Dad’s chagrin (who was not a member of the faith), I got caught up in the pomp and circumstance and I started attending church on a regular basis.

That ended after I came out. I decided that I had no room in my life for a church that had no room in its life for me. Prompted by an acute episode of deja vu upon first seeing the double sunset in Star Wars in 1977,  I started researching other beliefs (including reincarnation), and turned an increasingly critical eye toward Christianity. I came to the inescapable conclusion that all organized belief systems were full of crap, and set out to find my own spiritual path, culminating in ascribing to a whole lot of new age nonsense.

But while undergoing my cancer treatments in 2003, something changed. The themes of life and death took on a new urgency, becoming a regular part of my nighttime ruminations, and I came to the conclusion that there are only two possible outcomes at death: we either blink out completely, our consciousness and the energy that powers us dissipating back into the ether—or that aspect of us that makes each of us individuals moves on to something else. Exactly what that else might be was unknowable—and therefore, in the overall scheme of things, ultimately irrelevant to our life here and now. If there was something more beyond this life, like the Universe itself, it was probably stranger and more bizarre than we could ever comprehend. Neither possibility  frightened me, and I came to be at peace with whatever came my way.

During those many sleepless nights (caused by pain from the radiation treatments, not from fear of dying), the only possibility I could reject out of hand was the Christian heaven/hell scenario that I had been raised on and the attendant bullshit the church said you had to believe in order to attain that promised salvation.

If, when the time comes, and I’m proven wrong and find myself writhing in a lake of molten sulfur (how exactly a non-corporeal entity would feel pain without a physical body is one of a myriad of Christian logic-busters), then I’m willing to accept that fate because I will undoubtedly be there with souls who I have loved during my time on Earth. I mean seriously, would you want to spend eternity in heaven if it were populated with sanctimonious douchebags like Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and other so-called “people of God” who are consumed with hate and doing their level best to make life on Earth a living hell for entire populations?

I think not.

Over the last five years or so, the last vestiges of my new age beliefs have also sloughed off, discarded along with my once-upon-a-time Christianity. It’s all bullshit. We have no way of knowing what lies beyond this life, and while I would desperately like to believe that at some point I will be reunited with long-dead loved ones in some new body and existence, there’s nothing to indicate that this belief is any less fantasy than believing in angels sitting on clouds playing harps. Because of that, I am much more aware of letting those I love know now how much I treasure them and how glad I am to have them in my life.

And with that, I leave you with this, a scenario about as likely as any other…

An Oldie But a Goodie

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLAINED

Twitter – I’m eating a #donut.
Facebook – I like donuts.
Foursquare – This is where I eat donuts.
Instagram – Here’s a vintage photo of my donut.
YouTube – Here I am eating a donut.
LinkedIn – My skills include donut eating.
Pinterest – Here’s a donut recipe.
LastFM – Now listening to “Donuts.”
G+ – I’m a Google employee who eats donuts.