Monday, January 31, 2011

Why did I do this?

Most of my friends have an online presence. In my mind, anyone who goes to the trouble of creating such a work deserves to have it looked at. When I get something like a friend request on Facebook, or a follow notification on Twitter (or Foursquare), I go look that person up. If they have a blog I go read some of it. If I like it, I subscribe to it. I read their profiles on places like Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Yelp and Google.
While perusing a profile of someone I had recently established online communication with I saw that she had participated in National Blog Posting Month, AKA NaBloPoMo. It was mid-December and the topic for January was "Friends." Friends are one of my most valued assets in life. I knew writing 30 essays on friends would be a big challenge, but if you know me, you know that I'm the kind of guy who will answer a challenge.
You can check out the national blog posting month website at
I have to say this about it though, the organization did not provide me with much in the way of support or motivation. In fact I was quite deflated by the absence of support and motivation. The existence of the website is nothing but a figurehead to solidify my commitment to the act. There was something else that I did every single day in January, and that was to take a photograph and post it online. The impetus for that was a request from an online friend. You can see the 31 pictures I took here, and you can meet the person who issued the challenge here.
It was a whole lot easier to take 31 pictures and post them than it was to write 31 articles on friends and friendship. The experience gave me many new insights into what friendship is to me, and what it is to my friends. I experienced many feelings as a result. Sadness over friendship lost. Anger over judgments made against me, and friendships lost as a result. Joy over the value of friendship. Delight at the seeming admiration of some of my friends. Disappointment at the seeming disdain of others. I was enlightened by the way I had to examine friendship, and frequently awakened by the discoveries I made. I struggled with subject matter and how to preserve the privacy and anonymity of my friends. Finding ways to present the myriad feelings without exposing their foibles or throwing them under the bus in front of everyone.
In the end I decided that it is what it is and no amount of sugar coating would ever change that. So I wrote the truth, I gave you my opinions; my insights; my feelings; and above all my candor.
I know some of the things I wrote would have angered some of you (had you made the effort to read them). I was and still am prepared to lose some friendships over having done this. If that happens, I won't feel good about it, but that is life.
Some of these articles have been pretty decent, some have been crap. Almost all have been a struggle to to write. Just finding topics has been a chore. I know my treatment of some of the subject matter has been questionable, or revealing, or just plain whack.
Most valuable lesson learned
I really like having lots of friends. I wish I had more. Of the ones I do have, I wish we were closer.
Most unexpected lesson learned
Doing anything every single day is hard! Especially if it's writing! Here's the thing, I begin every day by writing anyway. Yelp reviews, message board posts, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, Instructables...the list goes on and on. I have long believed that the best way to start your day is to do something creative. Writing is something that comes naturally to me and I enjoy it. It's an easy way to kickstart the brain. So you can imagine how surprised I was as I sat there each day drawing a complete blank.
I suddenly have a much greater appreciation for my friends who are professional writers. My admiration for you has increased tenfold...and I now wish we were much closer friends. You know who you are.
Will I do it again?
Maybe. It depends on the subject matter and the reason. Just as my epic mountain biking trips improve my riding, this literary marathon has improved my writing. Some of you know I have several concepts for novels. I've even laid extensive groundwork for a few of them. this experience has moved me closer to completing at least one of them. Even more of you know that I am pretty good at writing instructions on how to do things. Many of you have seen my work at Instructables. I think this effort has taken me to a new level and I am finally ready to finish a major work.
If I do, you my friends, will be the first to know!
If you want to see any of the older work on this blog, just click on the blog title at the top and you can go all the way back to the very beginning.
Thanks for looking. Stay tuned because this was my blog before NaBloPoMo and it continues to be now that it's over. I now return you to our regularly scheduled programming...more videos!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Friends of the future.

Having examined the subject of friendship in so many different ways over the last 30 days, I've become aware of some new ways to look at it. I've received what I consider to be some incredible support from (some) people who I didn't consider to be particularly close friends, and I want to thank you all for that. I've also written some pretty profound verbiage in the hope that certain individuals would see it and gain insight into my life as a result...moreover, insight into how I felt about them and how I wish they felt about me. Sadly, I don't think the more poignant revelations I put out ever reached their intended audience. They remain here, immortalized in perpetuity in case those individuals should ever stumble upon this work. Not a likely scenario. In the end, like most things on the Internet, this work is just meaningless drivel. Some of you might get something out of it, but most of you won't. Most of the people I know will never even see it. If I should ever do something that really impacts the world someone will dredge this up and cite these writings as a testament to the kind of person I am (or was).
I have no illusions about being famous, or even leaving a big mark on the world. In my mind, that which most of us consider to be important is really meaningless. Things like what you do for a living; what any news organization has to say about anything; what is legal; and above all what your religious morality dictates to you is right and wrong. None of these things provide shade on a hot summer day, but a tree will for decades to come. Most of these things will bring little (if any) enjoyment into a person's life, but those bike rides sure did. Most of these things will not bring peace to a stranger's troubled spirit, but some of this writing or some of the music I play might.
Having passed the one third mark of my life ten years ago, I've given much thought to mortality lately, and with it what kind of legacy I will leave behind. I don't care if people say I was a dick, as long as they remember that I lead a whole lot of really fun bike rides. I don't care if people thought I was an asshole, as long as someone enjoys the shade of the trees I've planted. Finally, I don't even care if people think I was some sort of whack job as long as I provide something, somewhere that will change a person's life for the better.
That said, let me offer you my friends some advice.
Do what you want to do, and do it now!
I spent the first 30 years of my life thinking: "Some day I'm going to..." "Some day" like the song says, never comes. If you can do it now, God dammit do it now! If you can't, find a way to do it soon!
Don't care what other people think!
I've said this before. We all have lots of friends who love us just the way we are. They're going to keep loving us just the way we are, no matter what we do. If they don't, and this will happen to all of us, let it go. I am saddened by lost friendships, but to me they seem inevitable. If you tell me you're gay, or you've become a vegetarian (or worse a Democrat), or anything short of having picked up the NaMBLA banner...I'm still going to love you. We are not here to judge each other. When we do, that is what ends our friendships.
Do good things in the world!
Too many of you are spending way too much time watching reruns of Matlock. Get off your god damn asses and get out there! Volunteer. Help your neighbors. Help strangers. Help somebody. If you see a guy holding a sign that says: "why lie I need a beer." Give the bum a dollar! If you're walking down the street and you see a lot of homeless people, pop into the next McDonald's and get five or ten double cheeseburgers. They're only 99¢. Hand them out. Whatever you choose, do something completely selfless, something that only benefits others...and do it regularly. Make an impact in the world, even if (especially if) nobody ever recognizes you for it.
Finally, and this may be the most important piece of advice I offer.
Never...and I mean NEVER...take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
I may never know these friends of the future, but I leave this work for them to consider.
Be well my friends. Tomorrow's posting will be on the subject of having written these last 30 essays.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflections on trust of a close friend.

When I got out of the Army in 1981, on the way back here to Sacramento from El Paso,I stopped in Phoenix. I remember that I really liked Phoenix. It was so cosmopolitan, especially in comparison to Sacramento. I felt like it had all the glamour of San Francisco...without the stink. I wanted to live there. I had my 1976 gremlin and $185 in my pocket. I looked around for a place to live and couldn't find anything. I looked around for a place to work and couldn't find anything. In 1981 I was a pretty good looking guy. I would often hear people say: "hey, that guy looks just like Chuck Norris." but in Phoenix Arizona I couldn't even get laid at the punk rock bar. After a few days of kicking around town, not finding anything (and I mean absolutely nothing), I decided to return home to Sacramento.
My parents let me move back in, my old girlfriend started to letting me have sex with her again and all my friends were right where I had left them. The joint I left in my stash box was even still there. My little brother did lose my hash pipe which kind of pissed me off, but I was home and everything felt good. Everything was right back to normal. The same old stagnant life that I left.
Living with the parents had its drawbacks. No privacy. I had to be quiet at night. My guests had to be polite. The list went on and on, and these things are serious detractors when you're 21. I was back to banging the gal that I would eventually marry, and we decided to move in together. I asked my dad for enough money to move in to an apartment and he gave it to me. Before I knew it I was living with a gal and we were on our own.
A few months later, with the onset of winter, I got sick. Those of you who know me well, know that I don't fear much. The one thing that has always struck fear into my heart has been illness. You can't see it and you can't kick it's ass. Most of the time, you're completely in its grip before you even know it. I asked the woman I was living with, as I felt the illness enveloping me: "if I get really sick, will you take care of me?" She said she would. Why didn't I know that?
This was the first of a long series of indicators that I did not and should not trust her. In the years that followed she repeatedly reinforced the fact that I should not trust her...but I did. Not so much because I loved her or anything like that. It was more just because she was the one who was there. A pretty sad reason to trust someone, if I do say so myself.
Fast-forward to 1995. That woman was now history and there was a new one in my life. Having realized that you can't fix stupid, I had made a vow to only date highly intelligent women. I think I've stuck to that fairly well through the years. I was living with a cute little size 2 brunette who knew Morse code and advanced mathematics. I was pretty happy with her, but after living together for eight months, she said to me: "all you want is cheap rent and poon-tang." I told her that if that was the way she really felt, then I needed to move. She said that was the way she really felt. So the next day I began looking for a new apartment and I was gone in a week. I left because I knew she did not trust me. Whatever I felt for her didn't matter. If she didn't trust me, this could never work. For the record, I really was in love with her.
Fast-forward to 1998. Another opportunity presented itself. I had met someone in dance class, and it looked like a really fantastic situation. After several months of dating she mentioned to me that she had been looking at a condominium. She was telling me all about it. How nice it was. What a great location. She was going on and on about it. Finally I asked her something, I don't remember how the words came out, but I remember that her response was: "for us to live in." I had no idea she was ready to take our relationship to that level. The fact of the matter is I hadn't even given it any thought, but the moment I heard her say those words they sounded good to me. I didn't need to be convinced. So we moved in together.
Over the next 20 months I came to realize that deep down inside she didn't trust me. She trusted me to be her lover. She trusted me to cook for her and take her on really fantastic dates. She trusted me to provide a strong lead in dance and a soft touch by the fire, but she didn't trust me to not try and overpower her (one of those control issues). The fact of the matter is I don't think she trusted any man in that way, ever.
I also came to realize that I did not trust her. I trusted her to follow my lead and accompany me on a really fantastic date, but sadly I could also trust her to explode with raging anger over the silliest little infractions I made. Our concepts of sexuality were a bit of a mismatch too. Had this one thing not been true we might still be together today. During the time we were together it was as though I could see into her brain, and she was thinking: "Holy Shit! What have I gotten myself into?" If only she could have released her inner slut, everything would have been fine. That was apparently just a little too far "out of the box" for her.
Fast forward to 2004. A good friend of mine was preparing to move to France. The housing market was at its peak and he was selling his house to realize a massive cash windfall. He was going to use this money to live in France and enjoy life...and he did. Before he left I asked him to leave his piano with me. I promised him that I would have it tuned twice a year, polish it every week and learn to play it. I told him it would be fully insured and he could find no finer care for it than leaving it with me. I told him the reason I wanted him to do this was to ensure that he returned and reestablished our friendship. He appreciated the thought, but would not leave his piano with me. Instead, he crammed it into his mother's house where they already had three other pianos. He did not trust me that much. He did however trust me to a lesser extent. He gave me his walking stick. And this was not just any walking stick. It was handmade from some sort of exotic wood. Some kind of tree that rarely grows in the frozen wastelands. The results is a kind of hardwood that is stronger than Rattan. For those of you who don't know it, Rattan is a kind of bamboo that is practically unbreakable. I still have it today.
My friend went to France and lived the life of a Frenchman. Eating French food, drinking French wine and smoking French cigarettes. One day I was sitting at Gonul's J Street café, which is coincidentally around the corner from his mother's house, and he came walking by. He had returned and I didn't even know it. So much for his keepsake maintaining a bond between us. He was deep in the throes of suffering the ravages of emphysema. He could barely breathe to speak. I was saddened by the sight. I made sure he still had my contact information and he went on his way. Months passed and I never afraid to hear that he has died, I still don't call. I won't even call our mutual friends for the same reason.
Reflections on trust. I think that's enough for today. Tomorrow will be my last posting on the subject of friends.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The friend on the other side of the mirror

Did you ever see the movie Phantom of the Paradise? In it, Paul Williams is a composer looking for his big break. One day, it comes to him in the bath. His own reflection begins to speak with him. It offers to fulfill all his dreams in exchange for his soul. SPOILER ALERT! He takes the deal. He also gets fucked over by his own reflection. Namely, he gets his head stuck in a record press. He is then horribly disfigured and can no longer get the girl he wanted. It's basically the rock 'n roll stoner version of Phantom of the Opera.
Does this mean you should not listen to your self? No, this just means that you should not listen to the maniacal ravings of your reflection in the mirror. Especially if you don't hear the ravings inside your own head.
I was pretty stoned when I saw this movie. It left me with a mirror phobia for the next 20 years or so. It seems every time I got stoned I was concerned that my reflection would begin speaking to me. Possibly offering me the fulfillment of all my dreams. Pretty freaky, eh? The phobia went away when I stopped smoking pot so much.
Now I regularly contemplate myself in the mirror. I see the new wrinkles forming. I see the onset of eczema. Dandruff in my eyebrows...what an annoyance! I see my bent nose and my crooked teeth. I see my glasses, which are admittedly quite cool, but I am bothered by the fact that I need them. I see my scalp and think back to the days when I had golden locks that would rival Fabio or Peter Frampton. I haven't seen Fabio lately, but just have a look at Peter Frampton these days. All his hair fell out too. On the bright side, they say that is a direct result of a very high level of testosterone. I guess it could be worse.
I see the love handles. Something of a male muffin top. I'm working on it, but I love food and beer...and exercise is not my favorite activity. I do it because I have some goals, but if it weren't for those goals I would be watching reruns of Matlock and eating cream pies for breakfast.
I'm only going to write three more of these including this one, so I thought I should relate to you how I feel about myself. I know there are four more days in the month, but on the last day I'm going to write more about the experience of having written 30 articles, one each day for a month.
So here's how I feel about myself. The beauty of my youth has faded, and I'm saddened by it. So much so that I have thought of having work done on myself, but that's just too vain and I'm too cheap. I've been pretty heavy for the last 20 years and it's a major effort to keep it under control. My only savior is bike riding...and lately running. Running is actually pretty enjoyable as long as my weight is down around 200 pounds (or less). On the bright side I have really great legs and buns! My arms are pretty decent too, and my brain is still working. I may not be a social master, but I can fix anything that can be fixed and solve complex math problems in my head. I feel pretty good about that.
I drink too much most of the time. That's why I take the entire month of January to abstain from alcohol. I just want to make sure I still can. This year has been the easiest so far. This is the first year I didn't get stoned during January either. In the years that I have practiced alcohol free January, I have never started drinking again on February 1. I always give it a couple days. This year I have a friend with a birthday on the third. That's probably when I'll have my first drink of the year. That's just seven days from today. Not that I'm counting or anything.
I spend way too much time pondering what other people think...and I spend waaaayyyy too much time letting them know about it. I miss partner dancing. I especially miss dancing with that raven haired, size 4 German scientist. I miss tandem mountain biking too. I wish I were stronger. I wish more people liked me as much as I like them.
I wish I didn't think cops, lawyers and politicians were fucking assholes. I wish I didn't consider sports nutrition products to be snake oil...but I do. And that much is not likely to change. I wish I had a better outlook...but I don't. And that much is not likely to change either.
In the end, there are a lot of people out there who love me just the way I am. There are also a lot of people out there who hate me just the way I am. I'm thankful for the ones who love me, and the rest can go to hell.
I'm glad you're out there, my friends. I love you all.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do you have artist friends?

I think you would be surprised.
I used to work with a rather plain fellow. He was short, and bald, and pretty geeky. He was a good technician. He was actually a great technician! He knew the math. He knew the science. He even knew some good jokes. But the day he offered to help us move a piano, we all got a big surprise! We showed up at a coworker's house with a truck. We loaded the piano into the truck. Then he sat down at the piano, in the truck, and began belting out the swingin'est tunes you have ever heard. Whodda' thunk it? We knew this guy for years, and nobody knew that he could play piano. Some of us were even pretty close to him. Still, none of us knew that he could play piano. How many hidden virtuosos do you know?
You know how some people doodle during meetings? I work with the fellow who does that. One day I saw what he was doodling.
Who knew?
Many of you have seen my work, but that is because I show it to you. I suspect most people out there don't make the effort of showing what they do. I think people put forth a creative effort in what ever way they are able.
Take the time, make the effort to find out what your friends are up to. Find out if they are on Twitter. Follow them. I know someone who has recently taken to writing haiku. She posts them on Twitter every day. If you are reading this, it's likely you know her also. I won't give her Twitter handle out, but I frequently re-tweet her haiku. I am on Twitter @bikegems.
We all have friends who are artists in the kitchen. A lot of them are on Twitter too. It's a great place to keep tabs on your friends. Especially those who wish it.
Some of our friends use their body as a canvas. Whether it be literally applying art to their flesh, or sculpting their muscles into a work of art, they are artists too. Once upon a time I was married to an artist. Her art was her makeup, hair and nails.
I think we all have friends who are secretly artists of some sort or another. I hope to persuade you to find out what the artistry of your friends is. Try to convince them to bring it out into the open.
The best definition of good art is: "any piece of work that induces an emotional response." Even if you hate it! If it reaches inside you, grabs hold of something, and gives it a big twist... it's good art!
Don't let the art of your friends languish. Even if you have to pry it out of them, bring it out into the light for all to see. That's what friends do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mechanical friends of the future.

Yesterday, I wrote about the fundamental operating principals of all mechanical devices. Those being the lever; the fulcrum; the inclined plane; and the telescopic extension. Those principles are fine for things that you can build yourself, but in this age of miniaturization we are faced with situations too small for us to even see, much less build ourselves.
I’m not just talking about hard drives the size of a silver dollar. They do exist. I have one with a capacity of 80 GB in my Ipod Classic. This is microscopic technology that many of us own, but I couldn’t even take it apart without destroying it. Inside our phones are many microscopic parts that were assembled by robots and were never meant to be disassembled at all. How small does technology get? Pretty damn small.
The Nano Bypass
Do you know any who has had Bypass surgery? This is where years of high cholesterol diet and little or no exercise culminate in blocked arteries around your heart. People die from it all the time. I even knew a couple. There are a couple solutions. One is to install a stint. This is like a tubular reinforcement to keep your artery from collapsing. Another is to cut the clogged artery out and replace it with a chunk of artery that they take from your leg.
That’s today’s solution. Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow you will be injected with thousands of nano-machines that will be programmed to seek out the plaque that clogs your arteries and, molecule by molecule, trap it and carry to your intestines for elimination through your body’s own waste disposal system. Or the nano-machine may transform itself once it captures its full load of plaque to look like a known predator and your body’s immune system will destroy it.
Did someone say cancer?
Cancer cells are easily identified. Cell by cell, nano-machines will one day trap cancer and safely remove it from your body without invasive surgery or radiation.
Many ailments of today could be cured if we only had a way to pick off unwanted cells one by one. Nano-machines are the tool that will make that possible…but how? This is a very complex issue and we only have the most rudimentary handle on how to control it, but there are a lot of very smart people working on it. One of the control strategies is that you flood an area these machines and they move around until they come into contact with a certain compound. Something unique to that with which they are designed to interact. Plaque in your arteries or cancer cells for instance. The moment one of these machines comes into contact with plaque or cancer, an interaction occurs and it traps a few molecules of the stuff and its outer shell changes to look like salmonella or something. Then it gets carried away by your body’s immune system. That’s the idea anyway.

This is a molecule trap that exists today. The concept was invented over 100 years ago.

It seems far-fetched doesn’t it? It may seem so, but we are advancing technology faster than ever and it’s going to get even faster in the future. When I was a kid, I had a walkie talkie that was almost as big as a quart of milk and it would barely reach from one end of my yard to the other. Now I have a Bluetooth headset that will reach that same distance with crystal clarity and it is literally the size of a sugar cube. My first hard drive was as big as a breadbox and only held 10 MB. Now I can get one for my laptop that holds 3 TB and is smaller than a deck of cards. Things are getting smaller.
What else is there?
When I was a kid, the City had a landfill operation running at the corner of 29th & C Sts. At the time it was the largest hole in the ground I had ever seen. You can see what’s left of it today. If you are travelling on Business-80 from Cal Expo toward Downtown Sacramento, there’s a giant hill to your right after you cross the river. That’s what’s left of that giant hole in the ground. We filled it up with trash in just 40 years.
Did you ever wonder what’s in old landfills like that? I can tell you. Old TVs, Radios, refrigerators, air conditioners, aluminum foil and anything else you can think of.
All of these things contain metals like gold, silver, lead, copper and aluminum. What we call e-waste today. In other words, pollution. Nano-machines will be our pollution savior too. One day we’ll have nano-machines we can turn loose on these landfills and they will dig down and rip everything to shreds, molecule by molecule, and categorize it. Let them go to work on it and return in five years to dig up a giant ball of gold; a giant ball of lead; a giant ball of copper and a giant ball of aluminum. All sorted by the nano-machines.
The only real issue we’re going to have is keeping our mechanical friends of the future from scavenging all the stuff we’re still using.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mechanical friends.

Mechanical friends? Really? Yes.
Let me just dispense with the obvious. The Rabbit, the Thumper or whatever other motorized instrument of self pleasure may have come to mind by the title of this post...that ain't what I'm talking about! (this time)
Let's start with my favorite, the bicycle. The most efficient machine in man's history. The bicycle can move a fit person sixty miles in an afternoon with only a modicum of effort. If I had the time to spend, I could ride 60 miles every day and the biggest consequence would be great looking buns. This is within reach of most fit people. A leisurely pace on a bike can move you 60 miles in about 4 hours. Piece of cake!
There's also the unicycle. Not as efficient, but a lot of fun. Pedicabs and Surreys are on the list too, but none are as efficient at the bike.
We all love our cars and motorcycles, but let's not forget all the other transportation machines we've become friendly with. Boats, planes, jets & rockets. Track vehicles like snow mobiles and even simple machines like a hang glider or hot air balloon. We love to move around and machines make it faster, more fun and easier. What could be friendlier than that?
Fork lifts, conveyor belts, elevators and cranes have been with us for many years. These machines have allowed us to build bigger and bigger structures for many purposes. Then there's the technology that lets us put them all together. Nuts, bolts and welders.
The magic blender! Make those margaritas! Hand mixers, crock pots, toaster ovens, food processors and even your stove and microwave are all machines. Where we be without them? These things not only help us prepare our food, they have also been instrumental in the development of all the medicines and chemicals we use every day. Cooking is really nothing but simple chemistry and the machines that help us have advanced our society in ways we cannot fully comprehend.

You guys know about all these things and what they do, let me try to give you a better handle on how they work.
Those of you, who know me well, know that I understand machines really well. Some people have asked me how. Here it is in a way that I hope will lend itself to your own understanding of machines.
All mechanical devices, no matter how complicated they may seem, can be broken down to their most basic elements. These basic elements are always one or more of four basic machines.
The lever
The most basic machine there is, is the lever. A lever multiplies force, but it can’t do it all alone. The lever has to work with something else. It needs something to pry against to work.
The fulcrum
This is what the lever works against. A pivot point. The way it works is really simple too.
Let’s say you want to lift a car that weighs 2000 pounds. Place an eleven foot lever under the car. One foot away from the car, place your fulcrum. This leaves ten feet of lever on the other side of the fulcrum. Notice the ratio of 10:1? Because of this ratio we get a conversion of force. Namely, 200 pounds of downward force on the long side of the fulcrum will equal 2000 pounds of upward force on the short side, Ten times the length of the lever equals ten times the force. Also, five feet of downward movement on the long side translates into only six inches of upward movement on the short side. This is the trade off. Force multiplies while motion divides.

The inclined plane
Then comes the inclined plane. The simple ramp. This is another way to multiply effort. You can’t push a 1000 pound weight straight up for one foot. That would take 1000 pounds of force. You could generate that much force with a lever, but the balance could be precarious. If you build a ramp that is ten feet long, pushing the weight would only take 100 pounds of force. Ten times the distance equals one tenth the force.
The telescopic extension
This is a little bit of a stretch because the telescopic extension doesn’t really change the amount of effort that can be performed. Still, it is so common that it warrants mention.

That’s it! ALL machines fall into these four categories!
Really? All machines? That’s right, all machines operate on these simple principles.
Wait! What about the wheel? The wheel is a lever. The axle of a wheel is the fulcrum. What about gears, pulleys, winches and cranes? All, more levers.
Wait! What about a screw? The screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a rod.
Once you can break a machine down to its lowest common denominator, it becomes very easy to understand. Machines are our friends and it's good to understand your friends.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Online anonymity of your friends.

How many people do you know who are not on Facebook because they want to preserve their anonymity? How about people who won't use online banking? These poor deluded individuals think they are preserving their anonymity.
Here's what they have conned them selves into believing.
They have some privacy.
These poor saps think they actually have some. You might too. You don't! If you travel outside your home, your photograph will be taken the first time you drive past a business. If you drive three miles your photograph will be taken dozens of times. My Mac, Facebook and Picasa all have facial recognition software, and it works really well. It's in a business' best interest to know who you are and build a dossier on you. That way they can better sell you stuff. So with free facial recognition software all over the place and cameras everywhere you turn, do you really think you are NOT being identified many times each week? It doesn't stop there either.
Got a bluetooth device? Every bluetooth device has a unique ID code that can be detected by another bluetooth device. Stores in the shopping malls have sniffers that record these unique identifiers and remember you. Most only know you're in the store, more sophisticated systems tie this info to the store's security system and pinpoint your location on the store's security cameras so a helpful salesperson can come see if you came back for a second look at whatever was on sale the last time you were in. They don't necessarily know who you are, until you buy something with a credit card or ATM card.
Privacy is a leftover myth of the twentieth century. Ever see the movie: "Minority Report?" In that movie your retina would be scanned every time you walk through a doorway and custom ad devices would address you by name offering their best guess of what you might want to buy.
The other day for the first time ever, I did a search for a particular model of bike frame. The very next web site I went to "coincidentally" had ads offering me that very same frame. This is done through the use of cookies. So if you delete the cookies from your machine that should wipe your trail. right? Wrong! Every single change you make to the configuration of your browser is detectable and trackable by web sites too. Even if you delete your cookies a web site can obtain a profile of you based on a combination of your screen resolution, graphics processor speed, flash version installed...the list goes on and on. The things a web site can use to identify you goes way beyond cookies and the more ways you customize your machine's configuration the more identifiable you are.
They want to keep their banking info off the internet.
Come on! Every financial record about you is available over the internet whether you put it there or not. Same goes for your medical record, charge receipts from the adult web site where you buy your sex toys and from the other adult web site where you rent your porn. Your seedy little donations to the Democratic Party, your subscription to Ashley Madison, Adult Friend Finder and the Russian sex chat channel. It's all accessible over the Internet and there's nothing you can do about it.
In short, people who attempt to keep their information off the internet are living under a very serious delusion. One in which they think their anonymity is preserved when the opposite is actually true. You can try to keep your info off the internet and be in control of none of it. Or you can flood the internet with information about yourself and be in control of all of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Appropriate actions in friendship.

Let's jump in the Way-back Machine to December 31, 2010.
The New Year's Eve Party had been cancelled due to some permitting issues and we were all taking refuge in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Lots of us knew each other. One gal in particular was someone I knew from years ago. We had dated a little and it just didn't pan out. No harm, no foul. It just didn't work. We both moved on. She moved on to be married to a fellow and move to South Carolina.
When we were introduced by mutual friends, we recognized each other immediately and struck and instant rapport. We were getting along famously! Had we gotten along this well before, dating would have turned in to much more.
The night went one and I was drinking Manhattans. Making my way around to many different groups as I do, I kept coming back and chatting more. As the drink flowed and we both became more intoxicated, we got more and more friendly. I knew she was married and I wasn't trying to pick up on her or anything, but somehow she ended up sitting in my lap with my hand between her legs.
We were being inappropriately friendly with one another. We didn't want each other and there wasn't any kissing or anything like that. We just got caught up in the moment. It was harmless and mostly innocent. Of course there was an attraction between us, but her husband was right there...watching his wife snuggle up to some stranger. Faux pas!
At some point I moved on to see other people and upon my return to that area, her husband was there with another friend. She was somewhere else. I sat down and tried to join the conversation and was almost immediately informed that I better get the hell out of there right then. I had no attachment to that seat or his company, so rather than get in a fight in a hotel lobby on New Year's Eve, I walked across the room and continued to party with other people who were there. The event had so little significance for me that I never even gave it another thought.
The next day when I was processing pictures from the event, it all became clear to me. There was shot after shot of me and this guy's wife being way too friendly with each other. No wonder he was pissed off. I'm lucky he didn't break a vase over my head or something. I can't blame the guy at all and I offer my apology.
Like I said, we just got caught up in the moment, but I need to be a little more cautious of the sensibilities of the people around me because anyone who saw this pic, would think this gal was my date. This would be no problem with a single gal, but we crossed the line and didn't even realize it.
Inappropriate! Oops.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Aging friends.

I was on the Yelp message board the other day and this stupid punk who knew absolutely nothing about me referred to me as an "Old Dude." WTF! Who the hell is he calling old? Can he do long division or boolean algebra in his head? Did he run a marathon, climb Mt. Whitney or complete the Death Ride? Who the fuck does he think he is? I'll show that ignorant bigot old!
Age is a state of mind, and this mind has not even lived half it's life yet! Still, I know people within a year or two of my age who are very old. I even know people younger than me who are pretty old.
Their bodies are aging they've begun to use terms like: "I'm too old for that." They have allowed their mind to age as well. While their physical appearance has changed in ways that might preclude them from being considered for some activities, it is their mind that is the biggest downfall.
I'm 50. As a 50 year old, I understand that some things are beyond my capabilities. Things like joining the Ultimate Fighting Championships; racing the Tour de France; or running the Boston Marathon. Actually, running the Boston Marathon might be within my capabilities if I put my mind to it. Dating women in their twenties is out of the question and anywhere South of 37 is borderline. Mainly because I look too old, but I've seen plenty of guys a lot older than me with women young enough to be their granddaughters. Even though I know people running roller derby who are my age, I'm not going to do it. The list is long and the reasons are many. We all have our own (list).
When you get older, things change. Your metabolism slows down. Most folks gain some weight. Why is debatable. Do they gain weight from watching TV, or do they watch more TV because they gain weight? Who knows and who cares? We're going to get older and these changes are going to happen. We can't help that, but we can decide how we deal with these changes.
The way I chose to deal with it was to take Kaiser Permanente's message to heart. 50 is the new 30! So I've been doing a bunch of things thirty year olds do. That was my choice.
What will be your's? The options are many. Are heavy doses of TV going to be part of your aging regimen? Drinking every day until you finally succumb to the ravages of time?
The time is now to think of our mortality. We are all going to die. It could happen tomorrow in a parking lot. A flower pot could fall off a 4th floor ledge and crack your head open on the way to lunch Monday. My uncle Homer came home one day when he was 86 years old and sat on the couch. He then said to my aunt: "Carmen, honey. I'm feeling really tired." Then his head cocked off to the side and he was dead. We don't know when the time will come, but we can be proactive about how we age.
Get healthy. Get some exercise at least three days a week. Have sex! Commit to dying in some way that you have no control a meteor strike or being hit by a chunk of blue ice falling from the sky. Whatever you do, go down with a fight!

BE the 70 year old everyone wants to DO!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Commitment to friends.

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I am always making commitments.
Why do I do this?
A few years ago, I was in a relationship with a gal and we hit a rocky patch. We wanted to try a keep it together so we went to a relationship coach to see if we could. We couldn't. One of the things that came out in those sessions was that the coach thought I had a fear of commitment. That has never been true. Even after my shitty divorce, nobody ever heard me saying: "never again." There was a lot about being married that I really enjoyed. I hope to be married again one day. The issue I had in those sessions was that I didn't want to be committed to a woman with this gal's particular set of hangups. If you're not a brilliant German scientist, then I'm not talking about you.
I digress.
That experience made me more vocal about my commitments and I show them to the people I know more nowadays. The reasons are many and I'm going to tell you about them. The number one reason is for myself. If I tell the whole world that I'm going to lose 50#, and I don't, I've fallen on my face. Nobody likes to be embarrassed and I find a public commitment to an action provides very strong incentive to follow through and those of you who knew me when I was 255# can attest.
It's not just about losing weight either. Any accomplishment you want to achieve. If you have enough people watching, you'll do whatever it takes to keep from being embarrassed in front of them. This might be a reason to maintain a few "not so great" friendships. Your good friends are going to try to be supportive even if you do fall on your face. Who is going to rip you a new one for failing? Either your really great friends, or your not so great friends...and, of course, yourself. If you show enough public commitment, you'll kick your own ass for failing.
Last year I turned 50 and I wanted to commemorate my fifty laps around the sun by doing fifty extraordinary things. I'm a little over half way there and I doubt I'll get to all fifty before my 51st birthday. I could beat myself up over it, but given what I have accomplished...pbbbt! Gimme'a break. I've done more in the last year than most people do in their entire lives! And I owe it all to public commitment to friends.
On tap this year are some re-hashes of a few things I did last year. I'm going to return to Moab for another fantastic mountain biking vacation. I'm running two half marathons and returning to the California International Marathon with a commitment to beat last year's time by an hour. I'm returning to Eppie's Great Race and I plan to really surprise some people there!
I also make these commitments for you. If you see that a fat, 49 year old can evolve into a musclebound 50 year old triathlete, then beyond into a trim 51 year old marathon runner...maybe you'll find the inspiration to pick up the reigns and do something for yourself. It doesn't have to be physical either. I'm learning to play guitar and thinking of going back and taking Calculus because it's the only kind of math I could never get a handle on.
Knit a sweater. Buy a pennywhistle and learn to play it. In fact, if you'll make a public commitment to doing it, I'll buy you a pennywhistle and a book on playing it. (Of course I'll also document your progress with video on my YouTube channel.) Do a crossword every day for a year. Actually do anything every day for even a month and you'll find that challenging. These blog posts every day this month have been a real challenge for me.
Friends. Would-be friends. Make some sort of commitment to do something that you have never done before. Anything! Whatever you do, just make sure you pay less attention to your TV set than you ever have before. Because when I ask you the toughest questions you'll be faced with: "What do you do for fun?" And I will ask! The last thing I want to hear is: "Watch re-runs of Matlock."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stuff I would rather do with friends!

I really love mountain biking.
I love to party.
I love to run.
I love to eat.
I love to cook.
I love to take trips.
I love to sail.
I love to kayak.
I love to talk.
I love to drink.
I love to have fun.
I love to dance.
I love to take pictures.
I love to shoot video.
I love to balance on a slack line.
I love to bathe in sunlight.
I love to drive.
I love to climb mountains.
I love to overcome challenges.
I love to come up with new ideas.
I love to enjoy life.
I'll do it alone, but I would rather do it with friends.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Relatives, are they friends?

Are your relatives your friends? Are they really? Or are you just telling yourself that because that's what you're "supposed" to do? Do your relatives constantly do things that you would kick someone's ass over?
I met a gal a few weeks ago and she described her relationship with her relatives as one that teaches her forgiveness....over and over, and over, and over, and over. She literally said "over and over" five times. Her family were NOT her friends. They were just a bunch of hateful assholes who thought that had some god-given right to treat her like shit. You may have some of these too.
I don't. People who deliberately treat me badly don't get a place in my life and it doesn't matter who they are. This is why I'm estranged from my sister. You won't hear me say this very often, but what a fucking bitch! With friends like her, who needs enemies? Screaming. Anger. Physical assault! Fuck that! I've seen her maybe three times in the last 20 years. Prior to that it had been a good ten years and I didn't miss her once. We tried to bury the hatchet, but there just isn't any interest from either of us to even make an effort. I suspect my brother feels the same way.
A few years ago I had lunch with my brother's wife. Three or four days later he called and left me voice mail informing me that I was not to call him or come around him any more. As near as I can tell I said something about his childhood that was just too much to bear. I was somewhat wounded by that, and I tried to find out what the issue was for several months. In the end, if someone doesn't want me around, I'm not going to keep trying.
I never even felt like my parents liked me very much. They really didn't do a lot to prepare me for the world. All the skills I have (such as they are), I developed on my own.
I had a half sister who died in the 80's. I liked her, but she left when I was pretty young. Apparently my dad didn't like her. I'm actually pretty close with her daughters. They're the only blood relatives who feel like family to me. We're in touch. We visit. We like each other. This is what family should be. I have friends with whom I'm this close too. These are the people I call my family.
I suppose if my brother called and wanted to re-establish communication, I would try. I still have no idea what I did to piss him off five years ago.
Anyway. Most of my relatives are not my friends. I would urge you to take a look at your's. If you're like most folks, a lot of your relatives aren't your friends either.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As good as a friend.

These things make me feel so good, that they're almost as good as a friend.
I love heat. Hot water. Hot days. Hot food. Hot drinks. Hot yoga. I don't care. Sixty mile bike ride on a 110° day? Done it dozens of times and plan to do it many more. I love to drip with sweat.
Bike riding
Every time I go on a hike, I wish I had my bike. Every time I ride a motor cycle, I wish I had my bike. When it comes to getting out into the world, there's no way I would rather do it than on my bike.
Hot tubbing
Hot bubbling water with powerful jets massaging all my muscles. Even better when shared with friends.
That's right. After a long hard ride on the bike or a run, there's nothing I like more than a nice cold beer! When I ran the California International Marathon, the knowledge that there was a beer waiting for me at mile twenty got me twenty miles. My love of beer is the number one reason I practice Alcohol Free January.
Building things
My mind goes to a particular place when I'm building things. It only gets there when I'm building things. There's something about the challenge of working out the mechanics of a thing that puts me in a particular kind of focus.
Exploring or learning
Exploring takes many forms. It could be new territory. A new technology. A new toy like a bike or tool. Discovery is like a friend.
I love a good debate. Sadly most folks go irrational pretty rapidly and lose touch with reality in short order. From there they take the conversation in directions that have nothing to do with the issue. The Hammerin' Wheels Road Bike Club and Yelp Message boards provide countless hysterical examples of this.

Here we are at day 18 and I have completely exhausted every idea I had about friends. Anyone got any more for me? I would appreciate any help

Monday, January 17, 2011

Microscopic friends.

This is not for the week of stomach.
You live with millions of little friends all the time. The fact of the matter is, of all that you are, you are made up of more little friends than anything else. I'm not just talking about the eyelash mites we all carry either. We live with other mites too. Dust mites live in our beds. Typically about 3,000,000 in the average bed. They feed off our dead skin cells. It's like a rain of Manna from the sky. There's nothing you can do about it so I hope I don't send anyone to the psychologist with this.
Our skin is covered with bacteria and microbes. About ten times as many bacteria as skin cells. Don't worry though, they mostly harmless. The worst of them only cause acne. Not such a big deal really. Occasionally some folks get worse issues like the infamous "flesh eating" bacteria. It really does exist, but it's extremely rare.
We carry a lot of little friends inside us too. We would be dead without these little friends. We all know that our stomach is a pit of acid that dissolves our food, but did you know there's a host little friends in there too called "Gut Flora" that are actually little animals helping us digest our food. These little guys are not supermen either. An overdose of antibiotics can kill them. If this happens, you have to get an infusion of new flora from someone else. This infusion is too gross in concept for me to even mention, so I'll just say this, don't take antibiotics without a prescription!
We take in more of these little friends all the time. Yogurt is a bacteria and often contains a live culture. I don't really like the idea behind yogurt, so I don't eat it very often. Cottage cheese, raw milk and even vegetables all carry little friends. My favorite is yeast. Did you know that yeast eats sugar? It does! And when it does it pees out alcohol! That's right folks, alcohol is the urine excreted from yeast! Doesn't that make you want to sit down with a nice cold beer or glass of wine? It doesn't stop there, they also fart out carbon dioxide. That's what makes your bread rise.
Don't you just love our little friends?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Friends of organizations.

Have you ever heard the term: "Friends of the Police Department?" How about friends of the Fire Department or some political candidate? Who are these "friends?"
Years ago I was a docent at Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. Every year patrons of the center gave a huge party for the volunteers. In three years I heard three speeches from three different wealthy world travelers. All of them were showing their gratitude in their words and in the fact that they were throwing these feasts for us, the volunteers. Something I heard from each of them and from many other people in the years since is that the spirit of volunteerism lives here in the United States like no where else in the world.
Volunteering is a big part of what makes this country great.
Almost every organization out there uses volunteers. The police and sheriff use them to take reports. Your local city government uses volunteers for all kinds of events. Parks departments and museums use volunteers. The Tree Foundation and the American River Parkway Foundation. Radio and TV stations use them too. Festivals like the Asparagus festival, the Grape Escape, the Jazz Jubilee and the State and County fairs use them. Races, marathons and sporting events. Just about anything that charges admission or does something for the public good uses volunteers. Even wineries and cruise ships use volunteers.
These places and events have a whole bunch of "want" going on, but what's in it for you? Why should you pry yourself away from Matlock reruns to go out and help someone else?
Here are some of the reasons. I'll start with the more obvious reasons.
Free admission!
I volunteer at the State Fair every year because a two hour shift at the beginning of the day gets me free admission and parking. I pick the easiest shift, pass out some brochures and candy, then I'm free to take in the fair. The same goes for Grape Escape or Taste of Sacramento. Volunteer early, get in for free and enjoy most of the show anyway.
You might learn something
When I was at Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, I learned so much about wine and food that it turned my interest to become a more serious aficionado of such things. They trained me to give presentations on wine, wine glasses, wine cellaring, food, serving food, preparing food and even etiquette. Not to mention the recipes and the parties we had. After close, the staff and volunteers would hang around the glass storage room polishing glasses and sample up all the leftovers of the day. It was not uncommon for us to have a couple thousand dollars worth of wine open. Not too tough an accomplishment when your dealing with $60-$150 bottles of wine. I wonder who got the contents of their cellar when they went out of business?
You meet the best people
Community minded people are really great. They want to world to be a better place and they're willing to dig in and personally help make it happen! But that's just the volunteers. You meet celebrities too. Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, Paul Prudomme and Wolfgang Puck to name just a few. Book authors are especially amenable to getting to know you and even becoming friends. A few number among the friends I have on Facebook and I'm proud to know them. I've often turned to them for advice in their various areas of expertise, and they always give it when they're able.
You'll feel better about yourself
This is the best reason of all. When I go out and clear the trail of downed trees or I work on a project that leaves a sapling forest in it's wake, I feel really good about it. I use the trails I ride so it's only fair that I help out and clear them when they need maintenance. God knows those elitists on horseback won't do it. In just ten years those sapling forests will become developing groves of trees with lots of shade and picnics every weekend. At the state fair I represent the County of Sacramento or the Tree Foundation and put forth a good first impression in hope that people will like what they see. Maybe one day they will help out too.
Find an organization and become a friend to them. There's something out there for everyone and when you find the right fit, you'll see it's a very rewarding thing to do. It's a hell of a lot better than watching Matlock reruns.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being the best friend you know how.

How does one become a better friend?
Do you think I'm being a good friend if I see you fucking up and I don't say anything? Or worse, I lie to you and tell you that you're doing just fine? Is that being a good friend? Do you think you're being a good friend to me if you do that?
I don't! I expect each and every one of you to call me on my bullshit when you see it. Tell me there's a better way when you know of one. And above all, let me slide when I tell you something you don't want to hear.
No matter how tough a lesson you try to teach me, I'll never hold it against you.
I'm reminded of two lost friendships I'd like to tell you about.
Both are women I knew and helped in every way that I became aware I was able. In both cases I felt as though I was forced into an action that effected them and in both cases that action was enough that they decided to turn on me and never forgive me.
In the first case, the gal appeared as though she was going to commit suicide. All the signs were there. Relentless depression to the point that she could not even speak without breaking down in tears. The anguish she was experiencing was apparent in every interaction I and every mutual friend had with her. One day she called and the conversation had the air of wrapping up loose ends. Sort of like closing the books on things. Settling debts. Getting her affairs in order. A classic sign of an oncoming suicide attempt. I checked with the mutual friends we had and they all said she had similarly contacted them.
They all thought she was on the edge too, but they wouldn't do anything for fear that she would hate them for it. I called the police and told them what I thought she was going to do. They told her I was the one who called and she never forgave me for it. But she's alive today. I saw her recently. She isn't angry with me anymore and she came out of her depression and built a better life for herself. I don't know if my call had anything to do with it or not, but when I made the call I saw no other option. That day, the day I called the police, I was the best friend I knew how to be.
The second case is not one where I recognize having even did anything. This friend put me in an ethically untenable position and I was forced to make her deal with a situation she created. I helped this person in lots of ways over the years, but none of that mattered. The entire time I've known her I have been the best friend I knew how to be. This situation drove her to become irrationaly angry and decide that the issue was all about things I can't even comprehend.
I was shocked by the level of her raging anger and her deliberate attacks as a result. I really thought we were better friends than that.
Now our mutual friends, dozens of them, are saying "we" have had a falling out. "We" have had nothing of the sort. "She" is so angry with me that nothing else matters.
My feelings are the same as they have always been. I'm wounded by her actions, but I'm hopeful that they were just the heat of anger and one day she'll decide to let go of the anger and remember that we are friends.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What is the one thing every single friendship has?

Is there one thing every friendship has? Let's have a look and see by example if we can find something.
I used to consider this an element of common ground. As I've grown older, more and more of my friends have given up drinking. Some have developed problem relationships with alcohol and have had to give it up.
My hobbies have spanned a wide range of interests over the years. Kite flying. Radio control cars. Ham radio. Mountain biking. Road biking. Invention. Wood working. Wine. Food. Art. Science. The list goes on and on and there is not a single person I know who has shared them all. I doubt there are many on the planet who have shared them all. Hobbies are sometimes an element, but not always.
We all tend to hang with people we feel are "like" us. They have a familiarity. We often have friends in common. I don't know about you, but there are a whole lot of square pegs and weirdos I am REALLY fond of. Likeness may have its appeal, but opposites still attract.
I really like smart people. It's the reason I practice a vocation that requires a license that is really difficult to obtain. It's why I run a Meetup group for inventors and why most of you are my friends. Still, I'm also pretty fond of some people who won't be winning any spelling bees or math contests.
Define contact. If you mean face to face communication, phone calls or Skype, this one goes out the window. I have friends all over the world that I only know from online communication. Message boards, IMs and Tweets make up a good 20% of the contact I have with my friends from day to day.
In the end the only thing I can think of is an inexplicable desire to be someone's friend. For one guy it's because he rides a titanium bike. For another, it's because he built a speaker that has dancing flames coming out the top of it. For one gal, it's because she's fearless. For another because she's...she's...oh, hell I can't even describe it! Maybe it's just because she loves me and trusts me. You know who you are.
Maybe there isn't one single thing common to every friendship I have. Oh, wait. There is.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Former lovers as friends.

Why can't I remain friends with my former lovers? Because! That's why!
Seriously. Of all the women with whom I've had sex, and was in love with, how many do I have an active friendship with? None. It's not that I don't want to. I think it's something that happened after the breakup.
For me, it has not been uncommon that the opportunity for post-breakup sex presents itself. If at that moment I have no prospects, I will seize the opportunity. Sometimes this opportunity presents itself more than once. Still, if I have no prospects, I will seize the opportunity more than once. I think this is where the possibility for a future friendship breaks down. If only I could keep it in my pants. But what do you say to a woman you've been in love with whose telling you to take it out of your pants? How does a guy say no to that? Even now, if I were not involved with anyone and someone I used to be in love with wanted to try and re-kindle the relationship, I would consider it (in most cases). Definitely NOT the woman I was married to or anyone I ever lived with though.
The only way I've been able to say no was if I was becoming involved with someone else. In that case there is an obstruction. A reason for me not to seize the opportunity. When that happened, they felt rejected. Another wrong turn in the post breakup interaction game.
How do people do it? I know lots of people who are really good friends with their former lovers and former spouses. I wish I understood this.
I guess I haven't cultivated this ability partly because my love relationships are very intense. Any current lover I might have probably wouldn't take kindly to me having a close association with someone who had been so intimate with me. One day, maybe I'll get it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Imaginary friends.

This is an interesting phenomenon. Imaginary friends.
I'm trying to think if I have any. I don't think I do. If I ever did when I was a child, they are long since forgotten.
I've known people with imaginary friends though. Some of them pretty whacky too. I can't imagine what these imaginary friends are to them either. Are they a real, personified entity? Are they an hallucination? Or maybe just an idea of a person? Small children often have imaginary friends, but what are they really? Are they ghosts, angels or demons who haunt these young unprejudiced minds? Minds that have not yet been "taught" that these things don't exist in the real world. Could they be some inter-dimensional life form that only a child can see? One that we all forget when we grow into adolescence. Are they the product of a vivid imagination or some sort of early personality disorder that resolves itself with age?
Napoleon Hill had what he considered a virtual board of directors. He called it his cabinet. There were some famous names on it too. Abe Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Edison among them. Interestingly, he actually knew Thomas Edison and had interviewed him at length for his book: "Think and Grow Rich." At one point he had to stop these imaginary board meetings he was having because he saw himself teetering on the edge delusion. He became concerned that his imaginary friends were gaining too much of a foot hold in reality.
There have been movies made about this too. Fight Club, for instance. SPOILER ALERT! This is a movie about a guy who had an imaginary friend and didn't even't know it...because he had developed a split personality. In the movie, the Narrator (who is never identified by name) has a friend he thinks he met on an airplane named Tyler Durden. Their escapades take them through all manner of dysfunctional relations and finally land them at a point of clarity. Kind of a twisted happy ending.
I sometimes wonder if more of us have imaginary friends that we don't know about. I know several women who speak of boyfriends they have, but I've known them for years and never met these boyfriends. Are they a figment designed to keep them out of relationships? Thus avoiding the risk of heartbreak. In two cases that come to mind, I have believed this to be true for quite some time. (If you're reading this, it's probably not you.) Maybe these boyfriends exist and I just haven't had occasion to meet them in years. Maybe. Maybe not.
In the end, if we do have imaginary friends, they must serve a purpose. Hopefully it's a purpose to preserve our sanity or facilitate our integration into the world around us. In most cases there's probably no harm to come from it.
Let us not forget though, every once in a while imaginary friends create the Son of Sam.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nameless friends.

I'm pretty good about learning the names of my servers in restaurants, but what about everyone else I come into contact with?
I see several people at the market regularly. Nameless faces at the gas station, Starbucks, the drug store and the burger joints. The gal who sells me my bus pass every month. The butcher, the baker and the produce stocker. The gal at the McDonald's drive-up. The other gal at the In & Out. The fruity guy at Taco Bell who gets all flirty with me. That raven-haired chick at Corti Bros. Deli. The Barbara Streisand look-alike who dispenses my glasses and all those bar tenders! The people at the tasting rooms and the guy with orange gloves who waves at everyone. The guy with the hilarious comb-over hairdo at Pardee Camera. Seriously, it's worth going in just to see this monstrosity.
The guys at the bike shop and the guys at Home Depot. The guys at Blue Collar supply, the re-store and Red's plumbing (actually, his name might be Red). My neighbor down the street. A few of my neighbors down the street. My mailman. 20% of the guys who show up for my bike rides. The gal I saw in dance class the other night who knew my name. The guy who lets me in to Costco. The other guy who checks my receipt on the way out. The guy who delivers my paycheck to the office and they guy who hauls off the recycling bins.
All of these are examples of people I come into contact with and even have lengthy and friendly conversations with. Some of them for years. We talk about all kinds of things that would seem to be common ground, yet we never connect in a meaningful way. Each of us resigned to be a nameless acquaintance who will eventually fade once they get a better job or I start shopping somewhere else.
I guess we can't be friends with everyone, but we can be friendly!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Your best friend!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a friendship so strong that it would endure any turmoil that came into it?
A friend so loving that even if you yelled at them or called them a name in the heat of anger, they would still be there for you. They would stay by your side no matter what. Always with the same enthusiasm as the day you met. One whose only desire in life is your approval and your company. One who would fend off an attacker and give their life in an attempt to protect yours.
I'm talking about dogs. Man's (or woman's) best friend. They'll never lie to you; never cheat on you; and never do anything to deliberately hurt you as long as you treat them in a loving way and feed them.
How did we develop such an association with these animals? Scientists say that all dogs evolved from wolves. The theory is that we were hanging out around a campfire and a hungry wolf came up to check us out. Someone gave him a hunk of meat or a leftover bone and he decided to stay for a while. There was something special about that wolf. He wasn't afraid of us. When he got to know us, he found out we're really worth hanging around. We would give him food and affection, and just like any loving creature, he got a great sense of satisfaction from giving to us.
Over time we bread these animals to be more friendly. The process is really pretty simple and it's been recreated in modern times. All you do is find the litter at a couple weeks old and try to touch them. The ones that don't growl at you get pulled and bread with other more friendly dogs. They did this with Foxes about 50 years ago and they found that to go from completely wild to completely tame takes only ten generations. Interestingly, when this happens, they lose their perky ears too.
From there, it's mostly about looks. I have a friend with a dog that looks very much like a baby seal. Another with a dog that has 6" long cat fur. Small dogs, giant dogs, bald dogs and hairy dogs. They run the gambit of looks and traits. Dalmatians with their deafness. German shepards with their fearless loyalty. Samoyeds with their love of close contact. Dobermans with their aggressive territorial instincts. Dogs that are so ugly they bridged that gap back to cute. You know the one's I'm talking about. Basenjis, Beagles and other hounds with their keen noses, hunting instincts...and their annoying baying at the moon. Ugh! But you gotta' love 'em. Especially Beagles! Never has a finer looking animal roamed the face of the Earth as the Beagle!
Dogs. Our best friends! From the common wolf to all the different breeds we have today in just a few thousand years. To us, they are companions. To them, we are gods.
All I can say is, top this one.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Unrequited friendship.

Some people believe that eventually the people and things they really like will like them back. There are people I like who I wish would like me back. OK, OK, they're almost all women and I really wish they did more than just like me back. If you're reading this, you're probably not one of them. There are some men on the list too, getting back to celebrities from yesterday's posting. For these people, the door is open and all they need do is step through. In most cases I've resigned to the fact that if they haven't by now, they probably won't.
Let's talk about other forms of unrequited friendship. The things in our lives.
Tobacco was my friend for many years. About 25 of them. I smoked a lot too. As near as I can tell I smoked about 350,000 cigarettes! When I started, they were 50¢ a pack. When I quit, they were hitting about $3.50 a pack. All along the way I had set benchmarks. When they hit $1.00, I'm quitting. Then it became $1.50, etc. In the end, I quit in an attempt to save a relationship I was in. It only prolonged the inevitable. She didn't care if I smoked or not anyway. As long as I could keep up dancing Hustle or Cha Cha, everything was just fine with her (when it came to my health).
But what did I get from all those years of smoking? Fucked up lungs. COPD. Not to mention the money I spent, and now continue to spend for a host of meds. I still remember that first drag of the morning...after the ten minute hacking, drive-heave session I would often wake up to. When I was married, the woman I was married to smoked too and the second hand smoke compounded the situation. Still, that first hit. That cigarette after a meal. They all seemed so satisfying, in spite of the smoke in the eyes and hacking. What was I thinking? Tobacco is no longer my friend.
Food was and still is my friend. I love a big hunk of dead bloody cow meat! I love it so much that I eat one almost every day. And chocolate! MMMmmmmmm. Food has been such a friend to me that I've eaten too much of it for the last 20 years or so. The most I ever weighted (that I know of) was 285#. Last year I hit a low (recent) of 201# and I've been creeping back up through the winter. I need to drop a few pounds...again! One thing about food that many people will tell you is that if you get enough exercise, you can eat just about whatever you want. I buy in to that idea...mostly. But what do I get from food?
I'm past the point where I turn to it for "feelings." That's a big mistake, and I think it's a mistake that is common around the things I'm talking about today. We turn to these things to get feelings, and these things can't give us feelings. We give ourselves feelings. These things only stimulate them. I still associate food with feelings. Especially chocolate, but I no longer turn to food to get the feeling. Now, the feeling is the activity around which the food is presented. Supper with someone special. Feeding (or being fed) a chocolate dipped strawberry. The activity and the company provides the feeling, the food only helps to anchor the memory.
Alcohol, pot, cocaine and stronger drugs (for some of us) all give us feelings. There is frequently a very unpleasant feeling (aftermath) that comes with it. Alcohol...hangover. Pot...paranoia and often pot-hangover. Cocaine...OK, well you got me on this one. I guess there's the melancholy when you run out. Crank fries your brain. Heroin is highly addictive (but not as bad as tobacco); it exposes you to a criminal element of society that could place you in danger; and it's largely unsanitary. I hear the high is pretty good though, if you don't mind puking ten minutes into it.

These are all forms of unrequited friendship. We turn to these things looking to ease the pain and turmoil of life. They gives us a short respite, then collect their toll.
Is there a thing we can turn to to ease the pain of life that will give us more, instead of making us pay back? Maybe.
Here's the one thing that seems to really give a feeling. For the most part, the more exercise you get, the better you feel. If you overdo it, you might sustain an injury. Barring that, the rule seems to hold true. It's good for you too. Now that I think of it, I should go out and get some.
Happy Sunday friends!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Familiarity is not friendship.

Look at all the different forms of entertainment in which we partake.
Radio and TV talk shows are pretty high on the list. I like Podcasts myself. They're like radio shows for your Ipod and there are thousands of them covering every topic imaginable. I want to talk about the associations we make with these familiar voices.
I'll start with the most popular voice in America, Oprah. Ardent Oprah fans tune in every day to hear her talk about whatever she has to say. A lot of these people feel like they are her friends. They are so tuned in that a certain disconnect from reality occurs. They feel they know her so well that (sometimes) they begin to back-rationalize that she knows them too.
I've seen and heard it happen with local radio personalities too. I've even kinda' had it happen myself with them. I would call in to the morning show of a station in Vacaville with some regularity. They knew who I was by my voice. I even met them when they went out on location. Nice folks. Very friendly. I even got the feeling that one of them would have been willing to date me, were our situations such that it would have been permissible (we were both involved with other people at the time). There, you see? A fine line between familiarity and friendship.
With online message boards you have access to directly communicate with people of greater and greater notoriety. Twitter completely levels the playing field between us (the common folk), and big-time celebrities like Levar Burton, Felicia Day, Gary Fisher and Lance Armstrong. Gary Fisher and Lance Armstrong both regularly post that they are taking rides and if you want to come along, just show up. Gary is a bunch of fun, but if you can't cruise at 25+ MPH, just forget about Lance. Message boards and Twitter crack a door that sometimes can be opened to become friends with these people we wish were our friends. In both the case of Gary Fisher and Lance Armstrong, I have friends who have become their friends through social media. One day, I hope to join their ranks.
Let's look at podcasts. A big name is podcasting is Leo LaPorte. He runs the TWIT network. With over 20 shows he's well known in social media. We follow each other on Twitter, Buzz & Foursquare and we've had some personal interaction via electronic communication of various types (Twitter @msgs, IMs & email). I hear his voice so much on his podcasts and he's so personable that I feel I know him. I would like to be friends with him or anybody like him, but if I ever meet him in person I better remember that to him, I am one of thousands of people who all look the same. He's only the most notable such person. There are many others with whom I've had personal interaction. I have to remember that as public figures, it's their job to be friendly and it would take some special interaction to bridge the gap into friends.
My friend who knows Gary Fisher has been on several rides with him. My friend who knows Lance Armstrong has done some spectacular work for the Livestrong Foundation (Lance's cancer fighting effort). They bridged the gap.
Some people "think" they've bridged the gap, when they haven't. This is probably far more common than any of us realize. Ever watch "Desperate Housewives?" Eva Longoria is one of the lead actors playing Gabrielle Solis. A hot, slutty, ex-model turned mom. You can follow her on Twitter @EvaLongoria. She's there and it's really her. She's on Facebook too. Her Facebook page has links to all the public stuff she's into and you can get a look into her life in some detail...and people do. Some think they "know" her after a while with all this exposure. Some even think they've fallen in love with her. Some completely jump the shark and think they've fallen in love with Gabrielle Solis, her fictitious character! Falling in love with a coworker is another form of this same situation.
We don't realize how common this is. I think we all experience it to some degree. Let's hope we have the vision to see that which is real friendship and that which is only familiarity.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Single serving friends.

When I was at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, my knee was in serious pain. At the time I didn't have much hiking experience and I had just climbed the eight mile path to the top. I was sitting there tying a handkerchief around my knee, when a fellow came up and asked: "Is your knee giving you trouble?" I told him it was and he asked if I wanted to borrow a knee brace. I told him that I would if he had one to lend. Oddly enough, he did. He said that he had brought three. Two for himself and one to lend. He was determined to be a friend to someone that day and I was the lucky guy.
I don't usually need help with repairs on my bike but I constantly see strangers being friends to cyclists. I do it myself with some regularity. Fixing a flat and mending a broken chain are pretty common on the mountainbike trails. If worse comes to worse, I've both towed and been towed out. Then there's the medical situations that occur. Overheating is pretty common. So is bonking from failure to properly fuel up prior to the ride. In both instances I've been the beneficiary and benefactor from and to strangers. Friends of the moment.
I've seen panhandlers handed a meal out the window of a stopped car. I myself will give a buck or two to anyone holding a sign proclaiming:"Why lie? I need a beer." If I have occassion to go into a McDonald's in San Francisco, I always get half a dozen extra double cheeseburgers and hand them out for the next block (if they last that long). I've watched the guys in three-piece suits playing chess with the dregs of society on chess boards sitting atop TV trays for $10 a game...only to toss them a leftover pack of smokes as they walk away, whether they win or lose.
Planting a tree for someone; repairing a house with Habitat for Humanity or just doing a friend-of-a-friend a favor. Dropping a dollar into a street musician's or busker's hat. Filling a gas can at a gas station for someone with no money. Handing off that box of leftover pizza to a street urchin. Helping to push the '87 Chevy off the road. Or just lending an ear for a time at a bar or on a plane.
The world is full of examples of people being friends to strangers. Just like in "Fight Club," these are our Single-serving friends.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Friends lost, friends remembered.

Earl and Don used to ride bikes with me. We were 8. Trent went to school with me and lived in a trailer park. Jeff L. lived down the street and I would go home with him for lunch. Joey would play kickball with me.
At age ten I was hanging around with Kevin and Kyle. They we brothers. Richard lived across the street from them and Jannell a few houses down with her brother Raymond. Greg lived next door and Sheri across the park. Tommy, Mary and Maryann lived a couple blocks away with Mike, Greg and Liz on the same block. Jeff, Karen, Carrie and Susan lived a block over. Another block over was Walter, Scott and Susie. Susie and I got caught kissing in the garage and she disappeared from school. I think they shipped her off to boarding school. George, Jerry and Greg lived on the next block.
The next block didn't have a single kid on it, but it did have Rose's Market. A corner store that ran a bookmaking operation out of the back. It hit the papers on occasion and it's where I got my first beer.
The block after that had Brenda, Irene and Dorothy.
That was my whole neighborhood. These are the kids I grew up near. I've lost touch with all of them. I've seen a few of them over the years, but we had grown so far apart that we didn't reconnect.
Tommy and Mary live just down the street from me...with their age 54 (them, the mom is in her 70s)! I heard Maryann is doing well. Scott lives in his grandmother's old house. Susie's been married a couple times and has a few kids. Jeff L. went on to be valedictorian at Stanford. The other Jeff served a hitch in the state pen. Liz, who was always kinda strange, finally figured out she was gay and became a little more normal. I heard Don served a hitch in the pen too.
I would look them up, but I don't even remember their last names in most cases. Odd how the memory fades.
I'm only in touch with Mark, of whom I wrote earlier.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Friends. Getting closer, drifting apart. A sine wave of friendship.

I used to live next door to a boy named Mark. He might have been my first friend. We played together in the park across the street. We rode bikes together and we would watch the Flintstones. They had Color TV so we always wanted to go over there and watch. When we got Color TV, watching the Flintstones together became less important. We still liked each other. He had a mean little rat-dog named Tippie who would bite on occasion.
Like Tim, Mark and I were in Boy Scouts together. We did all the scouting stuff. Rope knowledge, camp-outs, Merit Badges and hiking. As we grew older, we started experimenting with electronics and Mark came up with the "Shock box." A diabolical device than ran on a 9 volt battery and had the unique property that when you connected these two wires together, nothing would happen, but when you took them apart, it would sent a shock through your arms (and chest). It didn't stop there though. If two people held hands and each had one of the wires in the other hand, it would shock them both. This was such an astonishing revelation to us that we decided to see just how many we could daisy-chain together. One at a time, we added more kids. Mark would occasionally grab the next kid's ear instead of his hand. It hurt a little, but to a young mind it was a new sensation. We got up to about eight kids when Mrs. Stump came along. Game over! Shock box confiscated by the 6th grade music teacher.
After that Mark moved across town and we lost touch. Years passed and I saw his sister on a College Campus. I had served my hitch in the Army and he had become an Air Conditioning mechanic. He was just getting back into the electronics industry and his sister put us in touch again. We would work on projects together. His strength was electronics. Mine was mechanics. A few years passed where we were close, then we drifted apart.
When I got divorced I was reaching out to everyone I had ever known, including Mark. We reattached for a time, then drifted apart again. We currently both work for the same employer and we live within three blocks of one-another. If I ride by his house and he's out, I'll stop and chat for a while. When our paths cross at work, we take a moment to catch up, but currently we have no plans to get together for anything. My welder is in his garage and I call when I need to use it.
Time will pass and I'm confident we'll grow close again, but maybe not. I've become much more athletic and I tend to associate with more athletic types these days. I think the big reason we are not staying attached any more is because of the social circle. His is different from mine. Mine is different from his. Our interests have changed and even though my creative projects are of interest to him, they have no practical interest. I'm too artsy, I guess.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What do we do for each other?

With all the friendships we have, what use are they? What do we do for each other?
I have a friend who only calls me because she knows I’ll say something to lift her spirits. She also comes over for the same reason. I have a friend who only calls me so he can rant about Twitter or Facebook. Then he brings beer over to attempt to bring the point home. Another only calls when he needs help fixing his bike, then he comes out to ride with me. Yet another calls when he needs help figuring out how to use his computer, then he gifts me with the product of his labors. I have friends who call when they want to hear my voice and I have friends who never call at all.
I have a friend I only call when I need my grammar checked or I miss hearing her voice. Most of my friends are pretty smart so I end up calling quite a few of them for advice on all manner of subjects. Some of them own things I want so I call to find out where they got theirs and if it was the best place, or should I go somewhere else?
Some friends are txt only. When I call, it always goes to voicemail, but they’ll immediately txt me back and keep the txt conversation going for hours. I get their undivided attention…in 30 second chunks. Then there are message board friends with whom I engage in debate...often until they become irrational and lose control. That's always funny.
Winery friends; cycling friends; cooking friends; running friends or inventing friends. It seems I have friends for every reason. Or do I? Where are my car washing friends? What about my roof gutter cleaning or leaf raking friends? Or my floor mopping, oil changing or ironing friends?
At least I have my dish washing friends.
In the end, helping my friends and making their lives better is very rewarding for me. It's almost like volunteering. In fact, I would rather be on the "giving more" end of things for that very reason.
Do you need a hand, my friend? Call me. I'll help if I'm able.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My newest friend! A joyous gain!

At what point does an acquaintance become a friend?
I meet new people all the time. Shop owners, for instance. Nice people whose job it is to be likable. Are they your friends? Sometimes, but usually not. Even if they like you, it doesn't make them your friend. Even if you both like each other, that doesn't make you friends.
I like the people I work with and they like me, but are we friends? Generally not. I don't know where any of them live. The only reason I have any of their phone numbers is because I have the on-call list. We share no common interests. They don't run, ride bikes or work out. If they drink or dance, they don't do it at any of the places I go. These people travel in a completely different social circle than I...assuming they travel in a social circle at all. Judging by their conversations, most of them watch a whole lot of TV.
I attempted to answer the question at the top, and failed. Given two identical sets of circumstances with the only difference being the people involved, it will not necessarily yield two friendships.
In the end you get to choose your friends, assuming they choose you too. Personally, I try to become friends with most of the people I meet.
As far as my newest friend goes, I can't even tell you that. Today's newest friend could be someone I've only known for two weeks, or it could be someone who has been an acquaintance for five years and only recently became closer. I don't even know how to tell anymore.
This is going to be a real challenge to write about friends every day for the next 28 days. Here we are at day three and I'm already running out of material.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My oldest friendship. A tragic loss!

I first met my friend Tim in 1973. We were in Boy Scouts together. He was a year ahead of me at school, but we shared some classes. We both had a love of bikes and all things mechanical. We were obsessive about it and always carried a Swiss Army knife and a 10” Crescent Wrench in our pockets so we could disassemble whatever mechanical thing we may have come across. We both went on to become highly competent mechanics of bicycles, motorcycles and cars. We would skip school and go on adventures on our bikes. At the time, the old California State Fairgrounds were very near by and had been abandoned. There were lots of "truant officer free" paths in there. Back then the entire American River was open to bikes and cars so we would spend time there too.
Beginning in about 1974, we introduced some new elements into our social life. Beer and pot! On Friday nights we would wait outside the local corner grocery store hoping someone would buy us a quart of beer. Someone always did. As time progressed, so did we. Friday nights turned into Friday and Saturday nights. Then came hashish. Later cocaine and LSD. For him, crank came on the menu too. I never liked it because it felt like a hot nail being shoved up my nose. We smoked cigarettes too.
Once we got our drivers licenses we stopped riding our bikes and began to gain weight. Tim was heavier than me. When I turned 18, I went into the Army and they kept me pretty fit. I quit smoking for nearly a year. A bike was my main transportation and I continue to ride to this day. When I got out three years later, Tim was ten pounds heavier.
He continued to drink every day, and overeat, and smoke cigarettes, and smoke pot, and snort crank. For the next thirty years he continued to indulge himself daily. Never exercising. Constantly gaining weight.
We kinda' lost touch for the last fifteen years or so. I would see him a few times a year. Our paths would cross at the post office or the market and we would chat for half an hour then walk away promising to call, but never actually calling. Our friendship had evaporated in time.
One day there was a knock at my door. It was Tim's sister. After thirty-five years of self indulgence, Tim died of congestive heart failure at age 51. He weighed over 300 pounds and hadn't gotten any exercise in years. He left no progeny and all you can say about him was that he was a good friend to those close to him; he was really smart; he had really great hair; and he really knew how to party!
What can we take away from this story? Friends, live a fit and active lifestyle! If you're overweight, change your habits and become more healthy. Get some exercise. Become an athlete. Eat right. Quit smoking and drink in moderation. Live with your health in mind.
If you're a friend and you need a companion to keep you motivated, we can set up some time. I'll help you in whatever way I'm able. Sign up for a 5k run (that's 3 miles) and train for it. Get a bike. Do something to get your heart rate up every day! I would much prefer you show up at my funeral than me at your's.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I've signed on for National Blog Posting Month and the topic is Friends! So let's talk about friends. They come in all types, shapes and sizes. Today I'd like to talk about types of friends and what they mean to me.
For me, friendship is transient. Friends from years ago are no longer. Some died, some changed in ways I could not condone and some decided they didn't like me any more. Very few did things that made me abandon them. Some people become friends for just a few months, some for just a few years. I take what I can get and cherish it while it lasts because eventually it could fade. When it does, I'm saddened by it, but I learned long ago not to let it tear me up inside. Most of my friendships that end do so because the other person decides that I was thinking something they could not stand. When that happens, I don't know how to deal with it. People don't realize this but if they need my help, all they have to do is ask and I'll do whatever I am able to assist. I also do a lot to hold up the friendship. After a while, if it looks like it's a one sided friendship, I stop making the effort and it evaporates.
Facebook friends!
These are typically my closest friends. Any of my Facebook friends are welcome to my private email address, my cell phone number and are welcome to call me any time they need help. These are people who I know well enough that I would do them a favor on a moment's notice. People whose foibles I'm willing to overlook. This is my self-selected family and I love them. It's very likely I'm closer to most of them than they are to me, and that's OK.
Yelp Friends!
These are people whose writing I admire, or who admire my writing. Specifically my reviews of businesses. Some of them I know personally, some I don't. Some are fans of mine and I am a fan of some of them. Sometimes it's mutual. Always, my Yelp friends are people I'm willing to have some personal interaction with and I'm open to becoming closer friends with them.
LinkedIn Friends
These are people whom I admire professionally and I want to glom on to their notoriety for my own personal gain. I'm happy to let them glom onto mine (such as it is) and I would do whatever I'm able to help them out.
Foursquare Friends
These people are in a unique category. I want these people to know where I am and they are welcome to pop in any time they see me checked in on Foursquare. If I send my location to Twitter also, the whole world is welcome to join. I only accept Foursquare friend requests from people I have actually met in person, but I send friend requests to people I want to meet. Celebrities like Leo LaPorte, Dick Debartolo and Gary Fisher. People I admire and would like to become friends with.
Twitter Friends
Twitter friends post links to things I like to read or things I want to hear about. Some are my personal friends and their tweets come right to my cell phone. Some, like the Sacramento Police Department, also come right to my cell phone so I can keep abreast of where the drunk driving spot checks are. Some of these people get unfriended because they run spambots and their twitter stream is nothing but thoughtless recommendations to follow everyone they follow...every five minutes all day long!
Instructables Friends
People who build things. I admire their creativity or they admire mine.
I don't know what other kinds of friend there are, but I know they'll surface sooner or later.