Friday, November 2, 2007

150 Is All I Can Do

Hi friends,

This is my 150th post. And it's the last from this place. *

A lot has happened since my launch into the bloggosphere.

I've made a ton of friends, almost all of whom I consider true friends.

I've had a 17 year anniversary. Then moved out.

I've discovered what it's like to undergo a divorce. It's not over yet.

I've experienced real loss and deep sadness.

I've experienced real joy.

At moments like these, it's easy (for me) to get moopy and sad, but I shan't. I've had a blast with Spiffytown, and will keep in touch. Just not here.

Thanks to Tiff, Jeff Kay, Wordnerd, JC, AC, Tracy Lynn, Renn, Stew, Sparky, Hyperion, and Wordsmiths.

Thanks also to those on my blogroll.

Stay connected, it's worth it. Send me your email address, or leave comment in the comments and we'll keep in touch.

I'm planting a tree in honor of Daniel 'Blitz' Krieg (AKA Dr. Syn, Buerger King, or Lenny Harris - I loved that guy). I invite you to do the same. Put a plaque on it in his honor, or at least let his family know where it is.

*I will post the picture when the deed is done. The Blitz Krieg National Forest will grow.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

On Hold

I had occasion to call my mortgage company last week to try to sort out some difficulties. I got the standard, "Your call is important, which is why we monitor calls. That and we're going to use everything you say against you. Please enjoy the music" greeting.

Then the 'music' started - and it creeped me right out. It sounded like Edward Scissorhands was pissed off at the piano, banging away with all his might in E flat minor. It was the music from a silent horror film or some such, and the 'musician' knew the audience had a wicked hangover and was doing his best to make it worse.

Highly appropriate to the occasion.

******

Speaking of music, the local classic rock station has Jazz Brunch on Sunday mornings, 4 hours of 'cool jazz' - very little would be considered classical jazz with the highly polished, overproduced musicians-trying-to-impress-each-other style. I rather like it once in a while. My daughter calls it elevator music. Once last year we were riding over some hills in the car, and she announced, "Going up!" to emphasise her point.

******

Last night I was talking with a friend about Star Trek. Shut up, you know you watched it too, dork.

Anyway, we got to thinking, "What if the Enterprise was crewed by rednecks?"

The sound effects alone would lend a whole different feel to the show. The computer's voice would have a thick southern drawl, and call Captain Kirk 'Sugar.' If the self-destruct sequence was initiated, you'd hear, "Aw shit, now you gone n' done it!"

The doors wouldn't have the cool whoosh-squeak sound; it'd be more like tobacco spit.

Sulu would shout 'Yeeee HAW!' and make vrooming noises when piloting the ship through the Gravel Pit Nebula. Chekov wouldn't quit honking the Dukes of Hazzard horn.

Scotty would be seen squirting starter fluid into the warp core.

While it was up on blocks in Kirk's front yard.













I'd watch that show.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chirp Chirp

It's been a busy couple weeks. The weeds have grown around here, the crickets, frogs, and frog-eating snakes have taken over the place. I'm scarcer than ever on the interwebs, as life and work have their way with me. I'll be back as I can, and there's a Wordsmith story due tomorrow. I'll cook it up tonight and post by deadline.

Here's a touching story I thought you should see (thanks to my friend Dave):
In 1986, Mikele Mebembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from NorthwesternUniversity. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the ai r. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mikele approached it very carefully.
He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gen tly as he could, Mikele worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mikele stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled.
Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mikele never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.
Twenty years later, Mikele was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mikele and his son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mikele, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.
Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mikele couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mikele summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mikele's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.
Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Saturday, September 1, 2007

So Much To Say

There have been so many thoughts, observations, and happenings that have sleeted through my mind over the last month that make me smack my head and say, "That would make a great story!" But they've gone unwritten. Some snippets will stick in m' haid and leak out later, when I have the leisure required to maintain a writing hobby. A couple things to log though:

Um, the motorcycle crashing wasn't severe. It was enough to cause some damage that's still not healed up: A blunt-force contusion on my elbow and a busted turn signal. And a scratch on my helmet. Other than that, all is well. Here's what happened, and feel free to mock me like most of my coworkers did.
My day job's parking lot was sealcoated a cuppa weekends ago. Nice, shiny blacktop. It rained for days and days after that. I was leaving for lunch on my vroomscooter (heh - just made that up) and turned to go out the gate and down the drive. Suddenly, at around 8 MPH, I found my wheels making way more of a turn than I was (or was it way less?). At any rate, the bike slid out from under me sideways, skidded 30 feet to a stop, dribbling gas and turn signal lens parts along the drive. I was unceremoniously dumped on my right side with all the force gravity and other various laws of physics could muster. I was wearing my leather jacket (thankfully) and hate to think how much bone meal I'd have left on the parking lot otherwise.
************
I've ended my career at the Kwikee Mart, due to high powered schedule issues at the day job. And I know on which side my bread is buttered, so any extra hours will be spent making the world a better place for construction workers rather than for Squishee drinkers.
Yes, I'm aware construction workers can enjoy the occasional Squishee, stop splitting hairs at me.
*************
There's a post on the interwebs that got me thinking (and reacting) more than usual. So there's only one thing for it: To offer the other side of the pancake.
First, go see Kingfisher's post. I'll wait. Now, I like and respect Kingfisher a great deal, but I couldn't agree a whole lot less. I offer this in the interest of open-minded discussion of ideas, rather than pretending to be an all-knowing end-all authority on existential matters. More discussion is a good idea.
I fear that much of the rambling which follows will be useless if one rejects the very idea of God's existence. But it comes from a perspective I've wrestled and reasoned out for most of my life, and I can say I wholeheartedly believe it.
Without faith it's impossible to please God. Faith takes humble acceptance of things not seen or fully understood. A recurring biblical theme - the greatest wisdom of man is confounded by the simple truth of God. It takes a childlike (not childish, immature) faith to understand, accept, not miss it. I would assert that it takes far more faith to believe that all things that we see happened by convergence of just the right elements and energy, and creative accidents continued to advance life to the stage we now see. That doesn't happen anywhere else in the observable universe - chaos and decay are in charge without intervention. If God's an invention, then it's pure foolish grasping. As CS Lewis said, you either have to believe Jesus is who he says he is (the divine son of God), or he's a madman, on par with one who says, 'I am a poached egg.' One can't simply say he was a great teacher and reject the bit about his claims. Cafeteria style truth isn't an honest practice. If God's a revelation, then it's due reverence, awe, and thoughtful consideration. Nowhere does the bible say to reject reason or science or observation. The senses are designed to inform us, not betray us. The black-and-white assertion that one must either accept Carl Sagan or the Bible leaves little room for discussion. I believe in Carl Sagan, and have learned from and had my curiosity piqued by him. I also happen to disagree with him on philosophy. To 'know' is to farking END CURIOSITY, which is why scientists become scientists. To explore. To question. Every answer produces more questions. I would think this exhilarating, not infuriating, to intellectuals and scientists. If WE are created in God's own image, then that alone evidence of importance. If God alone is worthy of our worship, then he must believe us important. If God deems us worthy of redemption, that's the ultimate trump card. It takes humility, not hubris, to accept truths greater and more durable than we are in favor of demanding to know - with acceptable proof to our satisfaction. Is the only answer to unsatisfied questions that God MUST be a cruel taskmaster?
Just because things aren't the way I prefer doesn't make them malignant, cruel, or spiteful. I could trip on a steel ball and curse it, just as an olympian celebrates his record-setting shot put. I could glory in the beauty of a mountain at sunrise as an unseen climber falls to his doom on its harsh and icy face. A tree that provides me shade blocks my neighbor's view. Or, a favorite among the inspirational email forward crowd: the traffic jam that makes me late could be what saves me from going over a collapsed bridge. I believe there is room for the harsh and unyielding laws of physics/ nature AND God to coexist.
Yes, interpretation is subjective, belonging solely to the individual. Knowing we have "The Correct" interpretation is a luxury we aren't afforded. That takes faith.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yay for Cows

This was a perfect late summer morning. The hints of frost were adorning the hay fields on the way in to work, inviting one to traipse (frolic, if you prefer) through the aromatic flora, inhaling the beauty of God's green earth. Until one realized that such nonsense would get one's socks all wet and allow a thousand ticks to infest one's shorts. Since my last visit to my home on the webz, I've been working like mad, building bridges, crashing motorcycles, and living the life of... of, well, I don't know who. But most is well, and I miss my friends & thought I'd say Hi. So, Hi.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Move Along

As most of you have noticed, there isn't much reason to come by here lately. But today, there are things to read. Just not here. Try International ___ Day.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New, AND Improved

For Kingfisher.
Don't take it personally, buddy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My New Wallpaper

Don't take this personally.

Unless, of course, I meant it for you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wordsmiths for August

Francis pointed to a dark section of the square. “see it? Harrison Ford’s face, the one he’s making when he says ‘we are going to die.’ Get some more dark colors in there.” “I don’t see it,” mumbled Henry. He shuffled the brightly colored pieces like an expert poker hustler, twirling 3, sometimes 4 pieces in one hand, over and through his long fingers. His left hand trembled slightly as he reached for a dark green, his cigarette barely holding onto a long snake of quivering ash. “It’s right in front of your face, idiot!” Francis practically screamed. Henry was becoming irritated at Francis’ constant niggling insistence. And the rudeness was getting out of hand. He put on what he thought was his strongest voice, and quavered, “You stop talking to me like that. You don’t want me to get my stick out again, do you?” Francis didn’t. He was suddenly quiet, remembering the last beating. He had gone unconscious for three days, and while things were always strained between Francis and Henry, the tension was noticeably worse since then. Henry’s face softened. “I think I see it! There, right?” he said, pointing with the dark green. Francis nodded, a manic smile appearing briefly. He placed the piece and filled in the details with blues, browns, and yellows. Satisfied, he leaned back and took a last puff on his cigarette, ash dropping onto his rumpled shirt. It was all he could see anymore. Not just that corner, but the matrix had taken over his little apartment. He didn’t even notice the boxes stacked up in every corner of the small room, crowding his kitchen, desk, closets, floor. He found them at garage sales, EBay, toy stores, pawn shops. What started as a hobby had silently slipped into an addiction, an obsession that cost him his job and his girlfriend. Everywhere he looked, he saw patterns – and had to capture them in light. Hot glue dribbled from the gun, which was always plugged in and ready to add the next panel. He had the colored pegs sorted in trays at his fingertips, ready to express the pictures that were so obviously there. Francis wasn’t helping. In fact, it was Francis who turned this into his life’s work. Nothing was as important as spotting the next pattern to Francis. It was he who insisted on the 2nd, then 3rd, then 120th Lite Brite set, and his idea to cover the walls with them. Lots of people talk to themselves. Not everybody gives a name to their alter egos. When they get a name, sometimes they get their own personality. Henry was aware of Francis’ growing control and autonomy, and he didn’t like it. Beating his own head with a stick brought brief relief, but he always came back. And this wall is what he had to show for it. It could be worse, Henry thought as he inserted the final peg.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another Teevee Post

This is kinda like the ol' Teevee Dinner, where you just haul it out of the freezer, pull the foil back over the frosty mystery cherry pastry dessert, and heat for a Tasty Nutritious Meal from the Future. Yes, another drive-by tagging has occurred, and I am the latest victim. The only way to break the curse is to foist the tagging upon you, gentle reader. Then, only then will I be free of it. Thanks for your help, 'ppreciate it. 1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Multiples. Proper name after my Dutch great grandfather. Nickname after my mom's cousin. Middle name after Sean Connery. 2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Monday. 3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yep, when I'm writing for something other than myself. I'm a draftsman, write in all caps and like it to look good. When I'm journaling, however, it's sloppy uneven bastard script/ printing that even I have trouble reciphering. 4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Pimento loaf. No, salami. No, roast beef, shaved thin. Anything with fully cooked animal parts and sacks of dextrose, and goes with firm ripe tomatoes and mayo. 5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? One of each. I'm immensely proud of them both. 6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? For a little while. Then we'd drift apart, calling infrequently with enthusiastic cries of 'We should get together more often!' 7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? No. Have trouble trusting people who do. 8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes. In a jar. 9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Depends on who with and where. Victoria Falls maybe? I just don't want to be this guy. 10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Fruity Pebbles, up until recently. Got a box of Krusty O's, surprisingly good. Maple & Brown Sugar Malt-O-Meal, always the best. 11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Usually not, but sometimes. Just to mix things up. 12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes. Until it comes to self-control, then I'm strong like jello salad, with bits of mandarin orange and marshmallows. No coconut though. Bleah. 13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Hudsonville Moose Tracks with a sprinkle of malt powder on top. Or French Vanilla with a sprinkle of instant coffee. 14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Posture. 15. RED OR PINK? Whatfor? If you can paint it, red. If not, pink. 16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Lack of follow-through. 17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My kids. 18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO pick up 3 pieces of feral litter today? Yep. 19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Olive pants, brown Red Wings boots. 20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? A chocolate chunk cookie, with fresh hot coffee. Breakfast of champeens. 21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The Media Player's on random, spinning one of 3570 tunes. Currently it's Kutless, Winds of Change. And the secretary chewing her breakfast. 22. IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? The melty green-red-blue one that's scraped out of the armrest after a long day in the sun. You might call it bruple. 23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Cut grass. Cut pine 2x4's. Fresh coffee and OJ in the morning. Old attics. The neck of someone you love. Campfires. Lilac bushes. Eucalyptus trees. 24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Coworker 25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? OMG - yes!!! 26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? The occasional football game. Or the ones that end up on "World's Worst Injuries Caught On Tape." 27. HAIR COLOR? Is 'dwindle' a color? If you're asking favorite, it's red. 28. EYE COLOR? Blue. Like the sky. Earth sky, not Martian. And not when there's a tornado coming, that's more green-brown-yellow-gray. 29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Have 'em, but prefer glasses. Which have been busted and sitting in a drawer for 3 years, doing me lots of good.The world has soft edges and blurry signs, as far as I know. 30. FAVORITE FOOD? Home cooked. Any thing that starts with 'You gotta try this!' 31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy Endings. Mostly. Hey, isn't that the name of that massage parlor down the street? 32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Die Hard IV. Entertaining, sure. Quit caring about the characters after they survived the gas plant blowing up (their 14th explosion survival) by climbing into a van, which was then tossed through a wall. Of course, they walked away from it. 33. FAVORITE FLOWER? Venus flytrap. Or dogwood blossoms. 34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer. Shirtsleeves trump parka every time. 35. HUGS OR KISSES? Kisses. Hershey's or French, again depending on who with (whom?) 36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Wordnerd's Onion Souffle. It's like savory cheesecake. O.M.G. 37. MOST LIKELY TO discover latent superpowers and save the world? JC 38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND to spam of any nature, including for products I actually buy? Me. 39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Just finished Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. The list of his books I haven't read is growing alarmingly small, he'd better get cracking on some more books. I'm shopping for my next read tonight. 40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? A set of drawings, files, coffee cup, dual monitors, dual Aquafina bottles, ridiculously stylish desk lamp, and an assortment of formerly airborne lint. 41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT? Didn't. No teevee. No time to watch anyway, worked twice. 42. FAVORITE SOUND? I can't tell you that here. 43. FAVORITE CANDYBAR? Butterfinger Crisp, when absolutely fresh. 44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Indonesia. 12 time zones to the west (or east) and 43 degrees south. 45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I have a pretty good BS detector, combined with a strong filter. I think lots of things that never get said. Play drums and bass, but not at the same time. I also have other powers, different from the ones previously mentioned. 46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Grand Rapids MI. They haven't named a wing of the hospital after me yet, but I'm hoping to get my name on the eyeball shelf of the spare parts closet some day. 47. WHOSE Smoking Fish tee-shirt did you get in the mail this week? My very own, with a personal note from Jeff Kay. Holy crap in a Bundt pan! OK, you are now IT, unless you did the proper ONETWOTHREENOTIT! chant, in which case you're off the hook. 18, 37, 38, and 47 are Do-It-Yourself questions, you can ask yourself anything. G'head, it's easy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh Hai

Yarr, things be reeee-diculously busy around here, so I'm just poking my head in to point you in the direction of the Monkey Barn. Hyperion's orchestrating a sort of campfire story with a Harry Potter theme, and I for one am interested to see how it turns out. I contributed a chapter, and a bunch of other Barners are too. Go! See! Have a nice day! I'll quit bossing you around now!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Feedbag

I was up all night again last night. Can anyone tell my why microwaved pizza rolls are so very gross, all leathery and oozing molten mystery goo that tastes vaguely freezerpizzalike, but after the 3rd one you get a craving for the rest of the box? I'm sure they'd be reasonably tasty if toasted properly in a real heat oven, but I was at once disgusted and enthralled by these highly nutrutious lil' suckers. And no, it was not a case of the munchies, simply lunch. Real dinner last night was something I'd never concocted before, but boy oh boy was it some kind of spot-hitting good. I had a pair of round steaks defrosted, and had to cook 'em up. I'd planned on grilling or broiling, but got no grill and I've no experience broiling. No proper veggies for a stir-fry. Rooting around in the larder, I found some bleu cheese, potatoes, onions, and yon steaks. Sliced a pocket in the steaks, stuffed in some cheese (a very carnal experience, that), and set it all to fry... 15 minutes later, the yummiest of quickdishes. Leftovers will be just as good. I watched someone dump 15 (fifteen!) liquid creamers into a 16 ounce coffee this morning. Then added a shot of 'cappuccino' (the powdered machine-made fake sugary stuff) to the mix, and a small handful of ice. In my first office job (a draftsman for a church architecture outfit), I started having coffee every day. It'd be doctored up very precisely, with 1 1/2 sugars and a splash of cream. It HAD to be the right color, or t'were no good. Several years later, I started to realize there were just to many variables to manage, and more hassle than enjoyment. It's crap like that which taught me to drink my coffee black. That way, I'm in & out, no waiting, nobody making faces at me, no mess to clean up - and the bonus is that I can actually tell if the coffee's any good. Turns out I like good coffee. Any particular way you have to have your coffee (or tea)?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

137

This is my 137th post. Why is that number significant? It ain't. I just wondered how many I've done here, so now we all know. Remember the bug story from the other day - the moth that invaded my personal space? That was nothin'. I was riding home on a very hot, very windy Tuesday. I parked my bike in the garage and noticed something prickly in my leather jacket, on the sleeve. Nothing new, as there is a mesh liner with some Velcro which sometimes pokes at my bare skin. But it kept poking me, so I tried to adjust the sleeve while unbuckling my helmet. That didn't help; in fact it got worse. I made it to the door, with neighbors watching as I dropped my backpack and jacket and began beating the sleeve against the wall. I had collected a very angry wasp up my sleeve somewhere in the last 2 miles of my commute. The little bastard stung me 8 times on the soft, frogbelly white underside of my forearm. Never found it, I think she survived to sting again. If you see one, squish it for me, won't you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Patience

I'm late.

Okay, so last month Wordsmiths Unlimited came back online. And I was all excited, since I love that outfit and I'm a big fan of the idea, the creative fun, and reading all the concoctions that come of it from other writers. It's like a chili cook-off without the beer, pain, or flatulence.

And then I watched the deadline come and go. I've got lots going on, sure, but I still hate being late.

Rather than mope about it and offer a weak shrug and "Oh well, there's always next month," I figured I'd write the story I'd half-baked when there was still time.

For those new to the premise: The Wordsmiths come up with a photo and a challenge. You write a 500 word (or less) story to go with it. Open to all. Easy peasy, right?

Patience The creak of old rope was barely audible over the gentle thrash of surf. A crackle and pop, then the rattle of various tools as one of them rose from his hammock. "Think it's a good year?" "Hard t' tell, they cert'ny look hardy enough. But sometimes the runts surprise you." The younger one packed up buckets and toolboxes with ziploc bags full of multi colored tags, a tagging gun, shovels, and a large knife. His floppy tan hat flapped about his ears in the breeze. The older one stayed in his hammock, greasy hat pulled over his eyes, a toothpick wobbling around under the brim. A hairy foot hung out one side, lazily rocking his large frame back and forth. "Boy, that was a good hatch. Did you see how many made it? It was better than the year they put up nets, so many got in! Those ‘no trespassing’ signs sure cut down on traffic, we practically have the place to ourselves!" "Yep," came the grunted reply. Too much talking could ruin a good afternoon, he thought. "Well, I s'pose it's time to git," he said as he hefted himself upright. He took the large cast iron pot off the tripod and set it in the sand, doused the embers, and took another spoonful of soup. “Sure did turn out good this year, I think 40’s about the right number.” They were here every year at this time, a tradition going back three generations. The turtles would hatch, they would tag as many as they could and observe weather and predator activity for the university, and then they would enjoy dinner on the beach. They earned a small stipend for their work, but the perk they looked forward to most was the meal. The older man covered the pot and hoisted it into the pickup, strapping it in. He tucked a red plastic tag in his pocket, and tossed a large empty shell in the cab. The sun set over the beach as a herd of new turtles swam deeper into the ocean. Many were picked off by much larger, hungrier creatures who were expecting them. One finally made it to a safe resting place in the brave new world. He was sporting a shiny new red tag.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

So Much Interest

Since Hypnotoad is getting more comments than I ever did, here's more. And, in case you didn't know, it's no fun to catch a bat in your full-face space helmet while cruising down the boulevard. Okay, maybe it wasn't technically a bat, but it did have a wingspan and batlike color and silent flight. And when it crawled along my chin to have a look outside, I freaked out like my face was stuck in a hot oven full of bees. The mothbat nonchalantly flew away, and that was that. I have more exciting bug encounters, I'll tell you about those next time. Got any YOU'D like to share, to set the mood?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Shorty McShorterson

Cuppa tings as I speed through on my way to enormous productivity: Last week there was a Fark animation contest for all the Photoshop wizards. Some really good and inventive stuff there, but this one really got stuck in my head. If you've lurked in Photoshop contests before, the jokes will make more sense... but still worth a visit! Hyperion asked about Hypnotoad... I'm not hardly clever enough to make that up, but thanks for thinking I could. A brief summary is here (Wiki knows all). All glory to Hypnotoad! I'm here to serve, baby. Have a great day!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Spiffytown Times

Well, it HAS been a while, hasn't it.

I've missed the community of bloggy friends and daily visits and ongoing commentaries. Here's a snippet of what I've been up to, no guarantees of any sort of regularity for now... but the daily post isn't coming back for the near future. Still no computer at the apartment, and there is no shortage of overtime to be done working on real work. I was assigned a project on Friday, and asked if it was another hot job. "They're all hot," said the boss.
So, I'm here on a Saturday to try to keep up and wedge in a little post.
A cuppa two tree weeks ago I had yet another trip out east to deal with a project that hadn't died yet. We started it in '05. Final final inspection, and my presence was required. We passed with flying colors, having gotten the inspector, the GC's new personnel, our installer, and our customer all on the same page. The success was overwhelmed by spectacularly bad performance by NWA (aka Nincompoops With Airplanes) yet again. This time it was a legitimate weather problem in my destination, but still... Is it normal to load 150 passengers on an airplane, let them sit a half hour (or until it gets up to appropriate temperature to bake a cinnamon roll, whichever comes first), then unload them, then do it twice more? After that, is it normal to leave the gate to the cheers of all hardy souls who haven't made alternative plans, then sit on the tarmac for 3 hours?
Naturally, all connections were broken. I got to spend quality time in Detroit's Metro Airport again... hours' worth. That's a long-ass airport, with a train running the length of Terminal A. I went to the rebooking gates, but the line stretched all the way past the mid-terminal shops and bars. With an average of 10 minutes per customer, and at least 180 people in line, I figured it'd be better to walk home. Or rent a car, either way. I went up to the nearest gate with an agent and asked if there were any flights to Grand Rapids. He said yes, it was at gate 76 - at the end of the terminal. I finally arrived there 10 minutes later to find the gate had been changed to gate 41, right next door to the rebooking gates. At least the agent at 76 got me a seat before sending me packing again, near the front of the plane. And there was time to have a beer in the only open bar. The plane arrived, it was actually going to leave the airport, and I discovered my seat was in THE front row, 1st class. It was my only time riding with The Privileged Class (did you know 'privilege' means 'private law?' Thanks Terry Pratchett). The flight attendants are way friendlier up front, and they give you snacks and free alcohol if you want it. Even if the 26 minute flight doesn't allow beverage service in the main cabin (where the peasants ride).
One good flight out of four ain't bad... is it?
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I've put 1000 miles on the motorcycle since I got it. Everyone I know who has a bike has a story of near-death experiences, but I hoped to be the exception. Last night I decided it'd be a good idea to wear a flashing neon light after a car pulled up behind me in the left-turn lane rather fast. In fact, it pulled up so fast the tires screeched as it stopped centimeters from my taillight. I forgot momentarily that the thing has an engine and tried to paddle it out of the way by foot, like an overturned turtle.
In all the experience has been awesome (nevermind the bug collection on my shirt and knees). The smell of freshly mowed hay in the morning (it's much better before it goes through cows), the subtle changes in temperature I find sailing through forested areas, and the up-close sensation of speed are immensely gratifying. So far I haven't had to ride in the rain, but I got a rain suit just in case a July blizzard pops up. Could happen here.
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I'm working overnights at the local Kwikee Mart to pay the new bills. It's changed my outlook about humanity: People are gross. Folks dumping Squishees all over the place, dropping litter as soon as they go out the door, and thieves of all stripes are highly irritating to me. Not to mention lazy or careless coworkers - or manager (the guy could win a Worst Customer Service Ever Award).

Although, the drunk people have been highly amusing. There are plenty every night, but especially on Thursdays. The store is at the entrance of the largest apartment complex in Michigan (around 1700 units), so the variety of humanity is stunning. Lots of regulars, but folks just passing through need their Squishee fix too. And when they get sloppy drunk and stagger around the shop, it's usually great fun for at least one of us.

One couple was walking around for 20 minutes. The hippie chick was just screaming about the prices of sammiches and candy bars. She was smiling the whole time, but badgering her highly pierced guy friend about every item he touched. She sashayed around in her ragged dress and silver bangles and hemp necklaces, unsatisfied with everything but laughing at it all. Finally their last item was on the counter, and the guy announced that he was gonna turn gay. She shrugged, paid for the stuff, and they left the store. I turned to get some coffee, and I heard her peek in the door and shout, "Hey, Mr. Slurpee Man!" I looked, and she had her tank top over her head, dancing like she was collecting beads on Bourbon Street.

I wasn't sure how to respond, so I gave her a friendly wave and they were gone. The hippies too. I observed that my rack is bigger, to my double dismay.

More drunk people and boobie stories to come, but I must go...

Won't you tell me what you've been up to in the last weekerso?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mah Associates Tell Me

Due to a threat of violence against Hypnotoad, here is a post. While I'm sure Hypnotoad can take care of himself, I thought it would be best to put something up to keep the peace. If you want to know what Hypnotoad sounds like, see Kingfisher's comment... cracked me right up!
Happy first day of summer (Summer Solstice, for you druidic dancing-naked-around-a-fire-at-midnight-in-the-woods types). Today's a good day to test the theory that you can stand an egg on end on the sidwalk at high noon. Of course this works best at the equator, I'm told. I've always remembered the experiment around 2PM, and naturally it wouldn't work then. Plus which, I'm near the 45th parallel, which is halfway between the equator and north pole. Which explains why we get howling blizzards in April. Makes for a short day at the beach.
I'm absent mostly from my online haunts due to an increase in workload and downcrease in computer play time. I don't have a computer (or teevee) at the apartment, so my activities are limited to those blessed by my boss. Not only that, but I got a virus this week that required the wipeout and reinstallation of every.single.byte on my computer. I was without my trusty jet-engine sounding puter for 2 1/2 days, and I got it back clean and fast and almost like new. It's boggling how much personalization I took for granted, like toolbars and menus, printer setups, music and bookmarks. It's still not back to full efficiency yet. And, the IT guy has to approve all downloads, and Firefox ain't approved. Gah! Feels like I'm painting a house with those toy watercolor brushes, and my colors are all reddish-black. And runny.
I have a few posts in the hopper, but they may not see daylight for a while.
Since you're already online, go check out some people who actually write stuff you want to read - The Places I Go, at right. Wordnerd's got a bright and freshly painted site I'm sure you'll love, and Wordsmiths Unlimited has a story challenge for you, it's due in 9 days. Tiff's already posted her story, 'cause she's on top of things like that.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Up Your Dates

Things of note: I got me a donorcycle (as named by one who thinks horses are other than ferocious, murderous beasts that like to maim little girls) this weekend. It ran just enough to tease me, dying after a few seconds or minutes of erratic idling. I knew it had this problem when I got it from a coworker, but I still couldn't resist trying to start it every time I went by. I took off the side covers, installed a new battery, new gas with some fuel system cleaner, and took apart the top of one carbeurator. Then put it back together, because I have no idea what I was looking at. I actually got it to run for about 4 minutes once - that was big excitement. But, as all things do, it died. Happily, there is a bike repair shop across the street from my office. Here it is in the morning dew, waiting for the experts to tinker with it and bring it back from the dead. Speaking of which, my Betta (rhymes with wetta - credit Kingfisher for the correctitude) has bit the dust. I came home from work Friday to find the poor fishy floating near the bottom, colors fading and fins still. He (she? I didn't look between its fins) never did eat any of the bettafood, even though I followed the directions exactly. Sadly, it expired before I could do the christening - so he (or she) has returned to the earth via the Grand Rapids Wastewater Treatment System. Speaking of which, I had one job which required me to visit that facility. I was an outside plant engineer for a telecom engineering firm, who handled all the fiber optic cabling for the city. Interesting place, that. Miles of underground tunnels and a very unusual smell - not terribly unpleasant, and not sewage-like. More like a combination of bakelite (pegboard, or the back of an old teevee) and toasted marshmallows. The part that really skeeved me out was the presence of emergency boxes along the length of the tunnels, much like a fire extinguisher box. These boxes, however, contained SCUBA gear. A mask, a tank, and the very sickening realization of the possibility of needing such a thing. Jibblies. Grossed me out far worse than the sign in the lobby which read: "The water you drink tomorrow could be the water you drank yesterday." A final thought before I must go work work work: Wordsmiths Unlimited is back!! I can't tell you how exciting this is. My presence on the innerwebs is due to that institution; up until then I thought blogs were things for people with dread diseases or political agendas. Or both. Had no idea they were such interesting and diverse fun. You can see my first story here, then go write one of your own!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

8+1

It's time to change the scenery here. I've been tagged, which takes care of the decision-making portion of this post. I've also been impugned by one Trinamick (that's a rare photo I'm sure she wouldn't want published. Ha! to that). So, on with the completion of a thing started last week. I'm so on top of things. So, I shall call this: An Octet Of Things 1. I was a spelling bee champion at my school in 7th grade. I got eliminated in the regionals, but had all kinds of dorky fun getting there. Nobody was more surprised than I when I won my classroom, then school. I studied at my friend Mark's house, but I seem to remember overdosing on orange pop and Oreos, and playing with all kinds of strange toys from the 50's including wooden telescoping boxing gloves much more than studying. 2. I've been on 4 cross-country bike tours. First was Grand Haven to Mackinac Island, MI; next Rochester NY to Bar Harbor ME; then Jackson Hole WY through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone; finally, Eugene OR to San Francisco CA. Between age 13 and 16, I put a couple thousand miles on the ol' Schwinn. We would take a bus to our starting point, then bike about 35-60 miles each day to camp. The bus would leapfrog us, carrying the kitchen and tents. Some of my best photos are from those times. I managed to collide with something on each trip (another biker, ground, tree, or car). Fortunately it never happened during the many times I was inches from a several-hundred-foot dropoff. 3. I'm getting a motorcycle this weekend. I hope to get it to run (it's, uh, in my price range). It will be my primary mode of transport since Marlon went all corkscrewwy on me. I had one once before (when I was 18): a Suzuki 3-cylinder POS that I got for $50. It had a gas leak, bald tires, loose chain, and no license or insurance. I plan to be a wee bit more responsible this time around. I hope to get a 4-wheeler before the snow flies again, which should be some time after September. 4. I've never asked a girl out on a date, since being turned down for my Homecoming dance in 9th grade. Oh sure, I've been on plenty of dates. But it was either mutually agreed or initiated by the girl. I told Boy this story on the occasion of his having 5 dates to homecoming. His reply? "Sucks to be you." I think I'm over it. 5. I've never gone 2 weeks without work since landing my first Real Job at a car wash at 16 years old. It took me a while to settle into a career path, and there sure was some wandering. But even in one of the worst economies in the country, I've always managed to find work. 6. Related to #5, I tried entrepreneuring 3 different times, which certainly has its ups and downs. Freedom and limitless possibility come with long hours, no health insurance, and all the responsibility. The first was a cleaning business, which was wildly successful. Mrs. Spiffy cleaned houses for extra cash when the kiddos were young, and I began helping her out. We picked up an office to clean, and then another... soon we were earning a week's pay each night. I quit my day job, hired a flotilla of part time cleaners, and became a Businessman. Four years later, when two of our crew leaders quit on the same night, it fell to me to keep the accounts rolling. I managed for a couple weeks. Until one day, when I woke up in the afternoon and realized I hate cleaning. Truly hate it. So, we liquidated. From then on I vowed to do what I enjoy. So far, so good. 7. As a yoot, I always wanted to be an astronaut, pilot, or locomotive engineer. Didn't matter, I just wanted to be at the controls of a big, powerful, expensive machine. Gave up on astronauting when I realized I needed better grades than I ever got, and the pilot program is still in my future. I get my jollies when I can in construction equipment - I have operated backhoes, bobcats, cranes, bulldozers, skytracks, and forklifts. Wouldn't think I'd like doing that full time every day, but it's fun once in a while. 8. I'm not a big sports fan. I'll watch about 4 football games each year on purpose: Michigan/ Michigan State, Michigan/ Ohio State, the Superbowl, and the Lions' annual Thanksgiving loss. I like going to live games, but when people talk sports around me I usually nod, smile, and shuffle off to look at my Star Trek Action Figure collection. Or something. OK, now you know a thing or two that you might not heretofore have known. Here's the Plus One: I received a gift fish last night, quite unexpectedly. No, I didn't look it in the mouth. It's a very pretty Betta with a flowing iridescent tail, in a new bowl with a bright yellow plastic cactus. BTW, my fish is much prettier than the one linked. It needs a name. Won't you help?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Whatever You Were Planning, Fahgeddaboutddit

Came in to work this morning to see this. I'm just glad it wasn't on my desk. Poor guy's gonna have some thumbs to twiddle while the IT guy works his magics. The power goes out here a few times a year, and every time the office stands around chatting about baseball or kids or anything.but.work. The longest we've stayed open without power is one hour - because we are utterly dependent on these little machines. Even the phones are part of a computer system, so there is no contact with the business world unless the juice is flowing. In my first office job, I worked for a design-build firm specializing in churches. The accountants and secretaries had computers, but nobody else. If the power went out (which happened often), we kept drawing. We'd have to erase by hand instead of using the nifty little power erasers, but pencils don't care whether the lights or AC were on. At this office, there isn't a drawing board on site. It's not even a practical backup anymore, since we need our engineering software to work before there's anything to draw. Once we were downtown at a swanky restaurant for cocktails. I asked for the check, and the young waitress said the credit card machine was down. So they weren't collecting any money. We were free to go. I asked if we could stay and get a few more, but got the stinkeye and decided it was time to make our exit. Nobody on staff had any idea how to work a manual credit card transaction, even though I could see the kerchunking machine under the register. I wasn't about to explain it to her. Lately, I'm busier than a chameleon in a blender full of crayons, so my time is up. Any stories of total computer dependence? Won't you share in yonder Comments? Have a nice day.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Good News, Everyone!

Go sing Happy Birthday, as soon as you finish here. Or before, it's your life. Don't let ME tell you what to do. Just do it. I got an email today announcing that another terrorist has been captured, with photo evidence. I am a big fan of taking out terrorists, because they have never produced anything good for the world, IMHO. Caution, you may find the image disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Snacks

By popular demand (ok, one request, but I like to take care of my readers) here's the Secret Recipe for some durn fine snacking. And some other junk. But first, I have to say: You haven't lived until you scrape the sludge from 'neath a Slurpee machine. That's some rich livin' raht thar. My night job features plenty such activities, plus all the mopping and stocking and drunk people you can stand. It's entertaining, no doubt. Here's a snapshot of a snack from the office vending machine. They're supposed to be tasty glazed donut holes. And, if you close your eyes, the packaging didn't lie. I just can't look at 'em without thinking Rocky Mountain Donuts. The next snack in the Spiffytown Rolodex of Savory Foods is so simple and nearly healthy, you'll be having cravings for it in no time. That's how it worked for me. You need a roma tomato, sliced colby-jack cheese, Ritz crackers, and seasoning. I use cracked pepper seasoned salt, one shake and it's done. Slice tomato, stack, eat, repeat. It could be argued that the bourbon & Diet Coke are optional. Smoothies are fun for breakfast or whenever, and I've just found out there are whole books devoted to 'em. They're all basically the same: Chuck in some fruit and stuff, add ice, blend. The one I use goes is my own invention, never done by anyone else. At least, nobody has told me they've done this. I think it's rather special, and if you don't then kindly keep that to yourself. Pour OJ in a blender (about 6 oz, if you're into measuring things). Add a banana, 3-4 peach segments from a can, a dollop of plain yogurt, and a handful of ice. Set the motor to 'mutilate' and plug your ears. Pour into as many glasses as it takes, and enjoy. It's my substitute for breakfast some days. Yummay. And finally, the best snack I've made all year. I used my new red toaster oven, cuz I love that thing. Cut a thin-skinned (gold or somesuch) potato into cubes, and cut a small onion into big chunks. Hand mix (that's the magical part) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and basil. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and spread out the mix in one layer. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until the potato edges are brown. Cool a little and enjoy. Oh, so tasty. Bonus: the place smelled wonderful for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Five Things Thing

I saw this over at No Accent yet, then at JC's, who tagged me. So I'm it. Time to knuckle down and get this done. My post explaining the mysteries of cold fusion and cheap, abundant, and clean energy will have to wait. Here's the 5 Things meme, which can be counted on one hand (unless you're a Simpson). What were you doing 10 years ago? Enjoying my new remodeling business, took the family to see relatives in California by train, had the 2nd of several marriage crises. Thought I was mature and wise. Still living in our first house, a cute little brick box on the corner in Cedar Springs. What were you doing 1 year ago? Starting my 2nd year at my current company, enjoying life with 2 teenagers, adjusting to how freaking busy one can be with high school activities. Barely paying the bills on our 3rd house in the pseudo-country. Five snacks you enjoy: 1. Tortilla chips (plain or with cheese, bean dip, or salsa) 2. Sliced tomatoes with colby jack cheese on a Ritz cracker 3. Roasted potatoes & onions 4. Wheat thins (or, stack 5 and eat at once, making a Wheat Thick) 5. Banana-OJ-Peach smoothies Five songs to which you know all the lyrics: Oh geez, I learn lots of lyrics. Then forget key bits as the songs collect dust in the back of the ol' brainium, and wind up mumbling through it until the chorus starts. Do I pick church songs, Christmas carols, TV themes, or stuff I listen to every day? Here are the first 5 that come to mind: 1. Amazing Grace 2. Gilligan's Island (tune and lyrics interchangeable with #1) 3. Oh Lately It's So Quiet (OK Go) 4. Let Go (Frou Frou) 5. Love Shack (B52's) Five things you would do if you were a millionaire: 1. Be debt free by sundown & set up the kids' college funds 2. Get my pilot's license and an airplane 3. Buy a motorcycle and an RV, and travel a ton 4. Set up mutual funds to keep earning interest 5. Give a bunch to select nonprofits Five bad habits: 1. Frittering time/ procrastinating 2. Avoiding 3. Saying yes too much 4. Thinking I don't need that much sleep 5. Drinking a bit much Five (g-rated) things you like doing: 1. Bike riding with my kids 2. Flying 3. Cooking 4. Writing 5. Poking campfires with a stick Five things you would never wear again: 1. A mullet 2. White tuxedo 3. Bathing suit with a split up the middle 4. The plastic halloween costume I had at 7 years old 5. Plaid polyester anything Five favorite (g-rated) toys: 1. Bicycle 2. Camera 3. Computer 4. Sharp chef knife 5. Frisbee INSTRUCTIONS: If you participate, include the blog chain that got this here. Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so: One Gal's Musing Philly Transplant No Accent Yet What Can't Be Looked For Spiffytown And now for the tag: Er, well, since I swim in the same waters as most of my blogbuddies, I say YOU'RE IT just for reading this. Again. I'll be sorely disappointed if you don't play along. But of course, I'll get over it. Please drive through.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Verbal Intercourse

I had a boss, a big Swedish guy, who would routinely call me into his office, announcing to all, "Biff, I need to have verbal intercourse with you." It still creeps me out a little. At any rate, the discussion continues regarding how communication works. Now, I'm no expert in practically anything. And, to boost Hyperion's hypothesis, 64% of all statistics are made up on the spot*. So, please ingest the following with a small amount of sodium chloride. I went looking things up, which is easy to do with the Power of The Interwebs at my outsize fingertips. Wikipedia is always first, because they OWN research these days. Nevermind that the articles are written by the likes of me (albeit, hopefully more smarter likes than I). The Wiki article cites all kinds of studies relating to communication. It mentions work by Charles 'Deathbed Confessional' Darwin which argues that "all mammals show emotion reliably in their faces." I then discovered that there are actual names for all sorts of expression - object communication (clothing, or waving sticks threateningly), haptics (I guess it's a shorter word than 'touching'), chronemics (manipulation of time), oculesics (eye contact), and paralanguage (tone of voice). Too much to think about indeed. The study cited by my friend was done in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian. He's the 7%-38%-55% guy. It makes sense, especially considering how easily we pick up on whether someone is telling us the truth in face-to-face communication. If you tell me you like me, but won't make eye contact and have the scowl and tone of voice that suggests you like me as much as brussels sprouts, I might be inclined to doubt your veracity. How much does it matter though? In this forum, where we're all insulated to varying degrees by miles of cold copper wire (or fast & sexy fiber optics) and flat, unblinking monitors, we can claim anything. We can also believe anything - or not. If you're new to Spiffytown, you might believe I'm a hott, well-muscled and ridiculously wealthy entrepreneur with the keys to all of life's mysteries. In case you're still wondering, it's true. The blogs I visit tend not to be written by overly cynical people. How can I relate to someone for which everything sucks and there is no hope? To make witty observations without injecting some personality and heartfelt opinion means very little to me. The point of our discussion was to explore why online friendships are so valuable to me. Is it a substitute for 'real-live' face to face community? Of course not. Friends who know and care for me, who spend hang-out time and can ask about my business, are essential. What, then, makes the blogworld so attractive? I heard recently on NPR about a social experiment conducted on the subways of Washington DC. A violin virtuoso was standing on the platform, playing for passersby. Most paid no visible notice. A small percentage paused for a moment to listen. A tiny handful of people stopped to hear a few minutes' worth of music that would have cost them plenty to get in a concert hall. He collected $59 (including $20 from someone who recognized him). Those questioned said they were too busy, or in a hurry to get somewhere, to notice the beauty right before them. That got me to thinking about how easy it is to miss people in 'real life' circumstances. How would you know if you passed a potential best friend in the grocery store, or had so much in common with the gruff-looking guy with the beer gut at work? That's one door that online friendships opens up. Discovering people from their thoughts out, rather from appearance in. *Todd Snider, 'Statistician's Blues'

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Nothin Doin

There's not much to see here. Life continues, working a lot, and running around like stick people. A question for you: I heard from a friend that only 7% of communication is understood based on words. The rest: 38% is eye contact, and 55% body language. What do you think? How does that affect your online friendships?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Swimming With Incompetent Sharks

You know, it'd really be nice to be doing new work. You know, the stuff that pays the bills. Fresh projects which smile back at me from clean sets of drawings. These don't have the angry, sloppy red marks of poor coordination or contractors' mind changes on them. They make me whistle while I work. Instead, I'm on my umpteenth day of sorting out which of the 301 connection photos I got from the project engineer are correct, and which are hopelessly botched. They are welded connections. The building is now finished, and no welding is allowed. The entire team which ran this project (when catching mistakes would have been easy) has been sacked. I've made 2 cross-country trips to inspect this dog, and the installer has visited countless times - but never got it all the way right. This crap is costly, in time, dollars, and mental resilience. Maybe I should become a truck driver.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesdays are for

Good morning Surf Reporters (you know who you are). Nothin' to see here, move along. So why post, you ask? Good question. It's because a) it's what I do and 2) I have some questions. I've been told that after meeting my mortality nose to stump, I can expect to freak out at some point in the future, since it hasn't happened yet. As I regained consciousness, I assessed reality pretty quickly, recognized where I was and knew what had happened based on the evidence around me. It was a fairly matter-of-fact affair. There are also interpretations and meanings being assigned to the accident and the fact that I'm not dead or smushed like a frog on the pavement. The question, in two parts: Have you had a delayed reaction to a big event? If it were a message, what do you think it's saying? Would you be s'kind as to tell me about it?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Update

This morning I stopped by my insurance agent and the crash site. I have AAA, and my agent has always been outstanding to work with. I hope not to report Bob-kat style troubles to you... but the Carol Beers episode made her trials so much more enjoyable. From here, anyway... I don't think I missed the telephone pole by inches. Another day to count my blessings. A: Curb jump location B: Did I miss it?? C: Divot created by Marlon's windshield and roof D: Clump of trees which stopped the car and provided my first alert view of the outside world (imagine them upside down and much closer) E: Where I waited for the ambulance. I brought a layer of grass clippings and an assortment of pine cones to the hospital with me

Hand of God

Today was another wonderful Spring day. I was invited to attend church with my friend Mitch. I haven't been in a couple months, so I met him there. It's one of the local mega-churches, it meets in a converted shopping mall. Enormous. It was a good time, great music and a Mary-oriented Mother's Day sermon. It was nice to see some friends there. After that, I went to my apartment and had leftovers for lunch, read a book, and decided to repeat this week's bike trip. It was gorgeous outside, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Returning home, I called my friend Neil to see what he was up to. He was just closing up his roadside stand for the afternoon, and invited me over to his place for some brews. We chatted and enjoyed a couple IPA's in the back yard. Eventually, his wife called out that she was ready to go for their annual Mother's Day dinner. I hopped in the car and waved goodbye. On the way home, I started to feel nauseous. It came in waves; for a moment I thought it had passed, but then I would mentally locate the Lysol and scrub brushes in the event I couldn't pull over in time. I crossed a bridge and considered pulling into a driveway, but there was a pedestrian in the way so I stayed on the road. Scott Simon was reading the news on NPR, and it became too much noise. I turned off the radio. At a stop light, the world began to spin a little and I broke out in a cold sweat. Through the intersection, I figured I could make it the 1/2 mile to the apartment, but a hundred yards later I was looking for a place to pull over. Then I woke up. Things didn't look right. They didn't sound right, either. I felt disoriented. Some of the stuff that was in my car was lying by my face. I realized (surprisingly quickly) that I was hanging upside down from my seatbelt. The engine was making weird noises, so I turned it off as I released the seat belt and came to rest on my head. Outside the broken windshield I saw a lush green tree. Very close up. I saw the blue stripes on the flaccid airbags. I knew vaguely through ringing ears that this was not good. I fished my legs out the driver's side window and found myself on a grassy hillside. I sat up just as a man came around the car to see if anyone was hurt. He had the expression of one who was expecting to find something very nasty indeed. His relief was audible. Not sure whether I should move, I hazarded a glance at the car. It was flat on its back like a tortoise, new tires helplessly skyward. The fender near me was folded in half. I lay down on the grass, feeling clammy and woozy, while more motorists gathered around. The first responders were wonderful, doing everything right and asking thoughtful questions. Moments later sirens arrived, one by one, until 5 agencies had gathered. A state cop came and held my head still until the paramedics arrived. A sheriff breathalyzed me and found that I did indeed have only 2 beers (BAC .02). I was strapped to a backboard, neck braced, and hoisted into an ambulance. The friendly sheriff handed the paramedic my ticket. I asked if they could locate my cell phone, but it wasn't found before the ambulance sped off to the hospital. I got stuck with a variety of needles and sticky electrodes, while the paramedic kept me talking and signing release forms. At the hospital, I was parked in the hallway while blood was drawn, spine was checked, guts palpated, and joints wiggled. Nothing but a headache to report. After 2 hours in the hallway, I was taken in for my first head CT scan. It was over quickly, but something smelled funny. I hope they didn't cook my brains (freakin' radiology zombies). Another half hour in the hallway, and the phone and water I requested in the first hour arrived. Mrs. Spiffy arrived just as they were discharging me. We stopped by the impound yard on the way to the apartment - I needed my keys and phone, and snapped these photos. The driver's side fender Poor Marlon came to rest on the roof, breaking the windshield in 2 places Contents of the glove box spilled out when the airbags deployed I don't remember a moment of the accident. I remember looking to pull over, then nothing. The doctor said it was probably a vaso-vagal nerve reaction; something upset my stomach, causing me to faint. Not a scratch or bruise on me. The car is totaled. I looked at the crash scene. I crossed 3 lanes of a curving road, jumping the opposite curb. The car flipped, plowing nose-uphill into a clump of small trees. I missed a telephone pole by 5 yards. The other side of the road featured mature trees and a deep ravine which carries a creek. I'm choosing to give God credit for the outcome. And hugging my kids tonight.

Friday, May 11, 2007

IF You See A Faded Sign At The Side of the Road

Good morning! I bring you tales of travels. Last night it was gorgeous, schpring in Michigan is really pretty nice when it eventually arrives. Sunny and 79 when I got home from work. I had an appointment to go talk quietly in a small room for a couple hours 25 miles away, but the outdoors was calling. So I canceled. Instead, I heated up my leftover steak & taters in my toaster oven (love that thing), peeled on my Under Armor, shorts, and a fire-engine red shirt (both for my commitment to high fashion and traffic visibility), and hopped on my bicycle. I struck out without a plan, as is my wont. Leaving the parking lot, I went right, then left, then left again, and on a whim went straight instead of left again. Left would take me along the White Pine Linear State Park - a rails-to-trails path which stretches from Comstock Park to Cadillac. It's a nice ride, but the scenery is familiar. Instead, I crossed the Grand River and headed toward Riverside Park. The park was simply lousy with people. All shapes, sizes, and stripes (some with spots), on foot or wheel, enjoying the evening. There was a soccer field loaded with older kids chasing the ball with all their might. I passed scores of moms with little bambinos in various wheeled apparatus. Riverside has an 18-hole frisbee golf course, so there were all kinds of disc-flinging folks walking around chasing their toys. At least 4 family picnics were underway, with charcoal grills perfuming the air with hot dogs and overdone marshmallows. I got to the end of the 3 mile long park and kept going. Riding onto Monroe, I found the road exceptionally lumpy, but got to see the amazing architecture of the old fresh water treatment plant from a new perspective. Round turrets and parapets in glazed, rust-colored brick caught the sunlight and sent it around like a giant disco ball that seemed to spin as I rode past. The park system picked up the trail again along the river, closing periodically for construction. I don't think I've ever seen the entire river trail open all at once; it is pretty extensive and they're always improving it. I crossed the river repeatedly on historic bridges and foot paths, taking whichever trail caught my immediate fancy. There were lines and lines of people fishing off the boardwalks and bridges. You could catch a hint of fishy aroma, but I never actually spotted a real fish. I crossed into Ah-Nab-Ah-Wan Park, which is a great expanse of manicured lawn and paved trails between the GR Ford Museum and the Grand River. The city fireworks are held there on Independence Day and a couple other festivals in the fall. Great spot for a concert, or to get food onnastick. Over the crashing roar of the fountains, I heard a deep, insistent drum beat. The south end of the park features model Indian burial mounds - big grassy knolls which call out to kids to climb and roll down (the actual historic burial mounds are downriver about 10 miles in a swampy area). In a little valley between the mounds and the park, a group of native Americans were seated on lawn chairs around a giant drum. Each had a mallet and was beating on the drum and singing in call-and-answer style. A little girl in a leather skirt was dancing a few feet outside their circle. I slowed to listen and rode over the foot bridge, the song and beat bouncing off the Amway Grand Plaza concrete and glass walls. I went just a little further, circled the museum and the university, and headed back. I rode past the final resting place of Gerald Ford, interred in a garden beside the museum last December. Since then, they've put up a tall wrought iron fence around the garden. I suppose it's only open during museum hours or tours. The drums were still thumping their echoes off the buildings as I retraced my route, on the opposite bank of the river where possible. The sun sets late here in the western side of the eastern time zone, leaving plenty of light well after 9PM. People were still out in force, although there were more couples holding hands at this hour. I came through riverside park and heard clanking, grunting, crashing noises like people throwing bricks and raccoons into metal garbage cans. A group of guys, dressed up in medieval armor like the Knights of Swamp Castle, were standing around a pair of their own. The two in the middle were carrying shields and round blunted swords, bashing each other in halting, awkward thrusts. A girl was watching disinterestedly from the open door of a Plymouth Dart, clearly waiting for one of them. I pondered how one gets a girlfriend with a hobby like that, but quickly remembered there's someone for everyone. Surprisingly, I found myself full of energy by this point, sprinting for whole sections of the park. Thick clouds of IN's (Eyeball Gnats, using the acronym promulgated by strict adherence to the IKFSA*, which, no matter where you are, kamikaze directly into your blinking peepers) were loitering over the path in unexpected places. I ate at least 3 bugs, maybe more. One felt like it was still clinging to my uvula today, its carcass refusing to be moved. I bounded into my kitchen and wondered how far I'd went. I retraced my steps in Marlon (the grampa car) and clocked it out: 15 miles. Not bad for a lazy late spring evening. *Innernational Kownsel on Fonetikly Spelt Akronims

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Music and Tagging

Thanks to Wordimus Nerdimus for the musicthing tag, I have to come up with 7 songs I'm into - WITH AN ESSAY on each - and then fling my tags upon other bloggertypes. I'm not alone in saying music is a huge part of my day. When I'm driving, I'll often have talk radio on, but at work, at home, or on solo bike rides, I've got a couple thousand of my favorite tunes ready to feed my need for rhythm. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff, and my tastes are varied all over rock, alternative, electronic, and world. I do need to get some classical in me, stuff without operatic singing or squeaky sleepy olfolks music. I'm not sticking strictly to the rules, partly 'cause that's how I roll. I'll pick 7 artists, since my MO is to find one I like and devour everything I can find. Heave-ho, here we go... OK Go: I've been on a total immersion diet of these guys for WEEKS now, and while I always move on to something new, their 2 CDs are my best music purchases of this century. I ain't kidding. Master musicianship and hooks, pop sensibility, intelligent humor and soul-stirring harmonies all come together. I like 'em a lot, enough to list 7 just for them (plus a bonus). Shortly Before The End: Horribly sad lyrics, but incredible build-up and gorgeous melody There's a Fire: Polyrhytmic song where every instrument is quirkily understated, and I love the earnest storyline. Don't Ask Me: Danceable, singalongable, and the most fun angry song evah. Video here. Let It Rain: Pretty AND fun. Whoever can tell me the time signature wins a prize (difficulty: no internet help!) Lately It's So Quiet: Nobody can 'oh' like these guys. Modern day Jon Anderson with the falsetto. Get Over It: Hay! I love this song. A Million Ways: One zero zero zero zero zero zero ways to like this tune. Bass line is just one. The Fix Is In: A song about getting lost in Boston that just makes me tap my enormous toes. Dave Matthews Band: Ants Marching is the song on the radio turned me on to these guys, and the quality stands up to ridiculous amounts of repeat listening. I particularly like the live version, Carter shines as one of the greatest drummers on the planet. I have a religious experience every time I hear Bartender (from Busted Stuff). Switchfoot: More Than Fine is one of my theme songs. Might Have Ben Hur is another one that I always drop everything and pay attention to. Def Leppard: Rock of Ages. As a pre-licensed teen, I walked for miles in a light rain to go buy Pyromania because that song would not leave my brain. A turning point in my musical curiosity. Rush: My heroes all through high school, and the only band I've seen live four times. I wanted to play bass like Geddy Lee, although for some reason I never wanted to sing like him. Tom Sawyer got me hooked, and I can sing along to any of their tunes from Fly By Night through Grace Under Pressure. Talking Heads: I'm gonna make them representative of the quirkier side of my music, even though it's pretty mainstream. Same with the B-52's, Bjork, Massive Attack, Peter Gabriel. AfroCelt Sound System: Another group I've never gotten sick of. Great driving music. This is an All Skate tag (cue organ music from The Wrong Trousers). If you're reading this, you're tagged!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Greetings and Salad Dressings

I don't believe I've ever been more spoilt on my birthday, even including the time I got a pony. When I was a wee tot we had a big backyard to-do, and it was stuffed with other wee tots, hot and steamy and all wearing sticky polyester. There was a fort made out of a jungle gym and some horse blankets, a big picnic table loaded with cake and picnic food, and games & prizes a la Bozo's Bucket Bonanza. Other kids were winning the contests and getting prizes, and it was MY special day, dammit. I remember being a total ass that day. Good thing I've grown up, at least a little. My daughter's handmade card to me last night said 'Growing older is mandatory, but growing up is optional.' Here's hoping for some of both. Thanks to Wordnerd and Tiff and Kenju for the birthday mentions around the interwebs - how fun to get so many visitors and wishes! You guys rock! And a hearty hi-ho and heaps o' thanks for my friends who stopped by. I just wish I hadn't seen the card Blitz sent me. Not sure I can look him in the eye anymore. The celebration continued last night, as I met the Spousal Unit at Meijer (if you don't have a Meijer near you, get one) to get some dinner supplies. It was steaks-on-the-grill night, the first time the grill has been fired up in 10 months or so. Did you know the Bible says grilling is man's domain? Yep. It's right there in 2nd Kingsford. Anyway, we got a cuppa two tree items, and up to the house for the festivities. We had planned to have friends over, but they pussed out. They'll be up Friday and we can do it all over again, but they missed the best grilling I've ever done (if I do say so m'self). The grill scrubbing took as long as the cooking, but it was worth it - I've never been a fan of last year's charred remains in this year's food. I made garlic mashed potatoes, a pan full of sauteed onions and green & red peppers, and hand-rubbed seasoned steaks. El-yummo. S'all I got time for this morning, I'll leave you with a couple representations of me last night: This is me after a couple doses of bourbon, cooking and singing some new OK Go tunes. This is me when I finally got back to my bed. Except I didn't have cat food in bed with me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Making Pudding

Oh yes, there are tales to tell. This week it's my birfday, and according to my Death Clock it won't be my last. I should have a good 45 years or so left, so I don't have to go all nutz like the guy I heard about on Bob & Tom yesterday morning (given 1 year to live by his doctor... one year later, he's still alive and not gonna die due to a misdiagnosis). So, I'm a-living. I was showered with goodies by the kids and Spousal Unit this past weekend, and at the risk of being all braggy, I'm fixin' to tell ya about it. First, I got to make breakfast. Fried sliced potatoes, brown-n-serve sausages, and the BEST scrambled eggs ever (add a spoonful of cottage cheese for each egg, salt & pepper, then shovel 'em around a non-stick frying pan with a spatula until cooked). I got a box of chocolate truffles and a flowering plant-thingy for the apartment. Then it was off to a mystery address. But first, we stopped by Best Buy for my new favorite CD. I got their newest one first, and love it. The older one is just as good - a whole new raft of favorite tunes! Buy it. You can thank me later. From there, Mrs. Spiffy handed me an envelope with an address scribbled on it. "Go here," she said. We drove 45 minutes west to the lakeshore town of Grand Haven, found the street, and started looking at addresses. It was an industrial neighborhood by the airport, and the addresses were far apart. We must have driven right by it, because the numbers were going the wrong direction again. Turning around, I realized the address I was looking for WAS the airport. I pulled in the long drive past the airport sign (F-100 Super Sabre on a pedestal) up to the B&B flight office. A tall guy was walking around inside stuffing a chewy granola bar into his face, chatting about the windy weather with the girl behind the counter. "Oh, you must be here to fly. Jennifer will go with you." I was pretty bouncy by this time. In case y'all didn't know, I love to fly. I'm what might be known in Latin as 'pilotus beginnerus interruptus' (or something) - I've started flight training, got my books, completed ground school - but due to time and expense, haven't yet completed. Still an A-list dream though (you know, after securing things like food and shelter and whatnot). I've got about 12 hours of flying time, including 4 takeoffs and one landing. Jennifer was friendly and happy, and handed me a couple headsets while she completed some paperwork. She grabbed the keys and we walked to the hangar across the lawn. Mrs. Spiffy came trotting up while we were pushing the Cessna 172 out of the hangar to begin the preflight checklist. I kicked the tires, sumped the fuel, checked the oil, and made sure not too many rivets were missing. I hit the master switch and heard the gyros whirring to life, another full-body rush at the excitement. Jennifer invited Mrs. Spiffy to climb in the back seat, if she promised not to barf. "I can't clean up that sort of mess, so don't make one." I climbed into the left seat as Jennifer got buckled into the right and we completed the checklist. I primed the engine and turned the key. The propeller spun, engine sputtered and then roared to life, filling all the senses with vibration and motion and noise and power. Jennifer asked if I knew how to taxi. I nodded, and she told me to take it out to the runway. Sure, I know how to taxi - but being good at it is something entirely different. The rudder and nose wheel are controlled by foot pedals, the tops of which operate differential brakes. I weaved down the taxiway like a drunken senator, watching the wingtips to make sure I didn't shear off a gas pump or hit one of the half-dozen planes on the tarmac. We successfully made it to the runway entrance and mashed the brakes for the runup - revving the engine up to 1700 RPMs and checking the magnetos. Everything was set and Jennifer announced our takeoff to area traffic. She gave me the go ahead to get on the runway, and mentioned we should be centered and pointing the right direction before I gave it full throttle. It was a good thing, because I was itching to go. There was a 20-26 MPH headwind, and I could feel the buffeting before we even started rolling. We were to rotate at 50 knots and take off at 70. I pushed the throttle all the way in and we were moving. We had barely reached 50 knots and we were off the ground - the wind had saved us a couple hundred feet of runway, and I grinned like a retard in a dunking booth as I pointed the nose skyward. Jennifer looked back at Mrs. Spiffy, who was gripping the upholstery like a cat over a washtub and rather pale. She instructed her in the fine art of using an airsickness bag in case it got to that point as we climbed to 2000 feet. I cruised around the lighthouse and turned southward, following the beach. It was cloudy and windy, but the warm spring day had countless fishing boats on Lake Michigan and all the homeowners sprucing up their landscaping. It was gorgeous. We neared the power plant and Jennifer said it was time to turn around. I asked if I could do a steep turn, but she thought it'd be a bad idea with Mrs. Spiffy's questionable gastric condition. We began our approach and descent, the tummy-tickling thrill of the first drop in altitude when I pulled back the throttle, and returned to the airport. I added flaps and neared the trees while Jennifer calmly suggested I add some power so we don't land before we reach the runway. The wind was coming at us diagonally, so I had to bank left while steering right with the rudder to keep us on track. We crossed the threshold and cut power, floating ever so gently to a soft landing, flaring as long as possible until the nose wheel finally touched down. I can't wait to go again. Later, we met my dad and sisters at the theater to see Spiderman 3. Very entertaining and pithy, it's fulla villains and morals to the story. I totally ran out of energy while we were waiting for our order at O'Charley's after the movie, nearly falling asleep in my spinach dip. T'was a good day.