Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Update

Hi again! I'm still teaching full-time for the San Diego Community College District, going on 30 years now! I'm currently the Assistant Program Chair for Business Information Technology, and teach classes at the new Cesar Chavez Campus. I have also been writing for CQ Amateur Radio Magazine since January 2013 where I am the International Editor and write the monthly column "CQ World Wide." I am an Extra Class ham radio operator and my call sign is AA6TS. Learn more at htp://AA6TS.com.

I am still writing songs and rehearsing and performing with the "Grand River Band." I am also available to fill in with other bands as needed. See http://musician.tomsmerk.com for photos and to download free music.

I am working on five books. One is almost finished, and another two are over half complete. I'll tell you more later when I am close to publishing the books.

Take care, and God bless. May you and your family have a wonderful 2017.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Welcome to 2014 - A great year!

2014 has arrived, and I am optimistic that it will be a better year than 2013. Not that 2013 was such a bad year, it just wasn’t a great year! It was bad for a few of my friends who lost their job during 2013 and are still unemployed. I hope for their sake that 2014 is better.

The Holiday season came and went without much ado. I miss having the kids here for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peg and I had a turkey dinner at The Golden Acorn Casino. I was good and didn’t overeat – we brought half of our meal home to enjoy on two more occasions! I’m getting to the point in life where I don’t like eating out. Everything is too salty and the portions are big enough for a growing boy. I don’t want to grow bigger – I want to grow smaller! Not to mention the fact that Peggy is a terrific cook!

No special meal for Christmas, but we included a glass of champagne. New Year’s Day brought my favorite traditional meal of pork, sauerkraut and kielbasa. I will never grow tired of that meal! In addition (but on a different day), Costco had a pierogi “road show” where we were able to buy a 3-pound bag of authentic Polish pierogies. It was a one-day-only event and we were there at the right time! Sure, you can get pierogies at the grocery store, but these taste like the ones I enjoyed growing up in Pennsylvania, where they were as common as a hamburger.

Over the 2½ week Christmas vacation from work, I not only enjoyed some extra sleep and relaxation, but I actually got quite a few things done around the ranch for a change. But there will always be things to do.

No New Year’s Eve gig with the band this year. My days as an entertainer are behind me now. But I am always available to help other entertainers and groups perfect their show and their arrangements. Unfortunately, not too many performers want to pay for this service. And then they wonder why nobody hires them back! A few dollars invested in my stage image development services would be a good investment for most of the bands I’ve seen. I haven’t seen that many good bands lately. Maybe they’re out there, and I’m just not getting around enough.

I just finished my 12th column for CQ Amateur Radio Magazine – one year as a contributing editor! I always wanted to write professionally. I always thought I would have some books published, but this monthly magazine column is OK for now. Once I get better known in the field of ham radio, I’ll try publishing a book or two. I’m also working on a book tentatively titled “Guide for Weekend Teachers” which will hopefully turn out to be a great book for all teachers, not just the weekend warriors!

I’m always anxious to hear from any or all of you, so please feel welcome to share your thoughts. Best wishes for 2014!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I must try harder to make my blog more interesting. I have a vacation next week and this will give me time to think about it. What prompted this is that I realized that all of the replies to my blog posts were ads for viagra and similar messages! What a stupid waste of a good concept! I realize that this is all automated, but still, I wish I could just reach out and say "all you spammers - atay away from here!"

Honk if you agree!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Money can't buy happiness

I was talking on the ham radio this morning to an old timer who grew up in Chicago. He was telling me how his father worked as a furniture buyer for a chain of large department stores and then became a stockbroker when he lost his job during the depression. It made me think about my own childhood.
 
My father worked as a car painter for a Chevrolet-Buick dealership. He probably didn’t make as much money as a furniture buyer or a stockbroker, but as a child growing up, I never had to do without anything important. I had my baseball bat and glove and my little red wagon. One of my uncles gave me a bicycle. We weren’t “dirt poor,” but I’m not sure if we qualified for “middle class.”
 
I married a woman that was also raised without a lot of available money. As we raised a family, we set out to try to provide for our children, but with four children, it was very tough. I guess I might have discovered why I was an only child! To this day, I have always felt bad that we were unable to give our children a car for high school graduation, nor could we provide them with a college education. Thinking back, I sincerely hope that they had everything important, as I did, but I’m not sure that I did as good a job as my own dad when it comes to this.
 
Thinking back on my childhood, I realize now that my experience was a lesson that money can’t buy. Without knowing, I learned many good things, such as “money isn’t everything,” and “the best things in life are free” and all of those other sayings that people without money toss around. All my life, I have wanted “things” and I felt bad when I could not have them. I really did OK and had everything I need, but I didn’t realize that I was greedy and materialistic. Once I realized this, I was able to change my ways. Today I realize that there are not many things in life that I really need, and if I am ever able to get something nice that I have been longing for, the feeling of accomplishment and reward is much greater than ever before.
 
As silly as it might sound, I am now glad that I was not spoiled and pampered as a child because it taught me many lessons. It just took me a lifetime to realize what these lessons were, and now that I finally do understand, I am thankful. Now there is but one thing I wish, and that is to hear that my children were lucky enough to also be instilled with this wisdom. Every generation always hopes to provide for their own children better than they themselves were brought up, but I’m not aware that this happens in many cases, so perhaps we are going about this the wrong way. Perhaps we should have been saying “I hope to raise my children the way that I was raised – to realize that there is more to live than material possessions, and that our efforts should be not to acquire wealth, but to acquire wisdom, humility and a caring disposition toward mankind.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

That youthful feeling of anticipation


Have you ever wondered what happened to that “feeling” you had when you were young, teenage and twenties? That magical feeling where everything was new, exciting, and an adventure, where sometimes the outcome was good and other times it was bad? The joy and the heartbreak, the celebration and the disappointment? The dreaming, the desires, the unanswered questions?

I have come to the realization that that feeling that we all fondly remember as we grow older was “anticipation.” There were so many things that we all needed to experience before we could move on to the next step. What does it feel like to hold a member of the opposite sex in your arms at your first school dance? To kiss? To smoke a cigarette? To be in a high school play? To be disciplined by your school teacher or principal?

Now that we are older, these feelings are remembered when triggered by songs that we listened to in that era, in dreams, through pensive thought, by seeing a photo of a classmate in the news or on the Internet, through TV commercials, by watching an old TV show rerun or by seeing an old music group perform in a late night commercial to sell you a collection of sounds from your youth.

What ever happened to that magical feeling? Why do we no longer ever feel that way? The answer is because once we have experienced all of these things, there is nothing left to anticipate! We have experienced love and hate, acceptance and rejection, accomplishment and failure, good health and illness. We have experience working at jobs, buying a car or a house, marriage, childbirth, raising a family, travel, hobbies. The only thing that remains a mystery is death. With possible exceptions, all else has been experienced in one form or another and to various extents and results.

Oh, if we were only able to retain that feeling throughout our whole life. Perhaps some people do. Perhaps that is what makes some people exceptional in one way or another – poets, authors, actors, writers, teachers. I can’t imagine how anyone is able to retain this feeling once there is nothing left to anticipate. The memory of this feeling exists within us all. Some call it nostalgia, some call it melancholy. It comes to us often as we think of past events, or is triggered by a postcard announcing a class reunion or an obituary in the newspaper. There is a popular saying, “If you don’t learn from history, then you are bound to repeat it.” Ah, if only we could, but the sad part is that we have learned from our past. Each of these events has molded us into who we are today. Our past has shaped our beliefs, the way we act, the way we think, and the way we respond.

When this feeling comes to you, embrace it. Linger with it. Reminisce and enjoy. And most importantly, do all you can to assist and support others around you that are going through this for the first time – your family, your neighbors, your friends, your students. Become part of their memories, and hopefully, become a positive influence in the shaping of someone’s life and the molding of someone’s success!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 2010 Update

It's been almost 18 months since I added anything to my blog. I've been a little more busy with my blog for guitar players and musicians, but on my personal blog here I haven't kept up because I didn't think anyone would be interested. If anyone is actually reading this thing, please leave a comment or send me an email to tsmerk@sdccd.edu. I'd love to hear more from you. I've been able to reconnect and keep up with many old friends on Facebook. Make sure you connect with me on Facebook so we can keep in touch. I give frequent updates on Facebook.

Now, what has happened since my last blog update? Well, we finished buying all the furniture we need for the new house. It's hard not to end up with too much "junk." Peg and I have our little "collections" going. Peggy is collecting British tea cups and saucers, and I have once again formed a nice collection of German lidded beer steins. I also have a few knifes as before, but nowhere near the collection I once had. I've got a nice set of books in my office. The recording studio is almost complete. I have a BOSS digital 8-track recorder instead of computer software, and a few good microphones and accessories. I record a lot of the tracks directly on my new Yamaha keyboard, then add the rest of the instruments and vocals on the BOSS.

I had my carpal tunnel surgery as scheduled, and it was successful. About a month after that, I also had some surgery on my nose to help me breathe better. It was painful and bloody, but it helped a little - not much, just a little. I think if I had it to do over, I would not have the nose surgery. Too much misery for the little bit of relief I got.

It's been a year since I taught my guitar classes, so I'm going to teach a two week "refresher" course for folk guitar and also for classical guitar beginning next week.

I joined a new band last November, and it's turning out to be quite successful. We released a new CD in May, and I am more pleased with this than anything else I have ever recorded. I think this CD has the drive to promote us into the major concert circuit, but I'm not sure everyone else in the band is willing to put aside all they have going on and follow a career as a professional musician, so if nothing else, we’re probably the best country gospel rock band in San Diego County. We're nominated for "best gospel band" for the San Diego Music Awards 2010. The name of the band is "Rightside," and our website is http://rightsideband.com.

I'm still teaching Business Information Technology for the San Diego Community College District. My current job site is at Mid City Continuing Education Center in City Heights. We've been very strongly affected by the budget cuts at the State level. A lot of classes are closing, and there is no money for books or supplies. I can already see that this is having an impact on enrollment. Our state government in California is so screwed up, it sickens me to have to wait 8 more years before I can retire and move to a more sensible state. I've learned not to complain about anything because it never does any good.

Well, thanks for following my update. Please leave a "comment" and let me know you're out there. And don't forget to check my web sites tomsmerk.com, rightsideband.com and www.grossmont.edu/tomsmerk.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 2009 Update

Things are almost back to normal. Gee, it's great to be home! The furniture arrived (all except 2 chairs that we still have to pick up) right after New Year's Day. What an awful experience dealing with this furniture. They are the rudest, most obnoxious people I have ever met. They are not from this country, and continue to do business the way they were brought up. They have no understanding of how our country was built on the fundamentals of honesty and trust. I would slander their name all over the Internet, but I've decided instead just to report them to the Better Business Bureau because they gave me an idea for a new book I have begun writing. It will be titles "What ever happened to 'The customer is always right?': A guide to customer service." It's getting so hard to shop for products or services lately. I think the book will be a best seller!

We got the spa set up. We ran out of insurance money and had to take out a loan. Ouch! I hate making payments, but we sure love sitting in the spa at night and looking up at the stars. The night sky is amazing where we live 40 miles out of the city as you begin to climb the mountains. We also enjoy just sitting on our patio swing at night.

I finally made arrangements to have my carpal tunnel damage repaired with surgery. I'll have that done on March 13. I don't have a lot of things going on that would require extensive use of my right hand, so this is a good time to have the work done. I want to be well by Spring so I can play for some outdoor concerts.

In addition to my full-time job teaching computer and business applications and skills, I have been teaching two guitar classes at night. The new semester, which began last week, was so successful that we're going to open up a third class to accommodate all the new students. I enjoy teaching guitar, but three nights a week is too much for me, so I'm going to give two of the classes to another teacher.

Keep in touch, and please feel welcome to post some comments so that I will know that there are people out there reading these ramblings!