Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Magic!

I love Christmas! This is actually new for me, as I didn't always really love it. It seemed expensive, reminded me of my failure at all matters financial and involved a lot of driving around visiting. But now, older, wiser and more secure, I have found that I really, REALLY love Christmas.

Christmas is best in New England, I think, and part of that is because of the snow. I mean really, what's Christmas without snow? It's not white, it's green or brown (depending on where you live). You know what else is brown? Of course you do.

So, whenever it snows at Christmas time, I know I'm either at home or Santa Clause has again spread his Christmas magic so that all us good New England boys and girls can have a happy Christmas. This year may be the best Christmas EVER in terms of white, fluffy Christmas Magic.

First off, it snows in Austin, TX. Read about it here. I mean, really; snow in Texas! If that's not Christmas magic, then I don't know what is.

And then, we got about 5 inches in good ol' Sedro-Woolley!

You can see up my nose in this one!

So, you see, there really is a Santa Clause! Of course, not everyone was real happy about the snow:

Leave me alone!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's been awhile

It's been awhile, I know. Not because I don't have any ideas, I just have a hard time having an idea when I am actually in front of the computer. I have written some great posts, they just never got out of my head. But here's a synopsis of a few that I remember;

Remember when I wrote about "crap"? That was actually a riff from a Family Guy episode when he has a segment on the local news called "That Really Grinds My Gears". I like Family Guy because Peter sounds exactly like Greg, I guy I know back home who's family owns a potato chip factory.

Anyway, I went to get my hands checked at the doctor's office and I sit down for the test with a nurse who looks like she's about 10 and she asks me to sign a form that says if my insurance company doesn't pay, I agree to pay the amount due, which was $850. I said, why did you schedule me for something if you don't know if its covered? Isn't it your job to check? And she didn't really have an answer because I'm big and scary and she was little and 10. So I just got more and more angry and stomped out because I was so mad. I didn't mean to scare that little nurse, but I think I did. But still, they have managed to pre-clear or whatever every other test (and I've had a bunch), but now all of a sudden they want me to check before I come in! That, friends and neighbors, is crap!

So I am now waiting until the new year and will see about getting seen by the doctor who would do the surgery instead of my "regular" doctor. And I am trying to find a new doctor, as well. I really want the work done, but its just going to have to wait until the new year.

Speaking of crap, I built another wooden catastrophe. This time it was a big cabinet to hold my tools. I was taking pictures and everything to document it's construction, but when it came out all screwy, I never got around to doing the post. I still can't cut square (there's a funny, sad, story about my making a saw guide three times only to saw it in half in the end, but I didn't write that one, either) and so my "cabinet" is not "square", which is kind of important. But it does the job, just not in the usual way and it's funny looking. Kind like me.

When I made it, I used a router that Kathleen's dad gave me, and there was a good post in that about how I was using the tools passed down from generation to generation (his dad was a carpenter and gave it to him). There was also a post in that about growing older and being in a family and a serious piece on the connection between tools and male identity. I expect to have many more opportunities to ponder these subjects while destroying perfectly square wood with my various tools, so I think I'll just come back to those ideas later.

I changed the battery in my car and replaced the connector and had a good post about that (with pictures and everything) until I later realized that the battery had been fine, and it is the actual battery cables that need replacing. I wasn't really sure how to put that in the post and keep the feel-good tone I was going for when I thought for sure this was all going to work out really well. I had a nice piece in there about my stepfather and his pride in his daughter when she did something to her alternator cap that worked out really well, but again, the part about being completely wrong about the car sort of broke the flow of the story a bit. So now I have a nice new battery that works great if I wiggle the cables enough to get a good connection so I can start the car. Look for it later, I guess.

Also there was a post about Corey bringing me a coin from the Lockheed Plant and his experience with being proud of his work and the powerful feeling that goes with that. The sub-plot was about how the coin was such a great metaphor to me about our relationship. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

Then there was Halloween and Thanksgiving and time with Adrianne (what a great Thanksgiving we had with her!) and of course lots of stories about missing my various Family members in New England and Texas.

So, it's not that I don't have plenty to write about, its just that I think of this stuff in the car, or the shop, or work, or when I'm falling asleep; but never when I'm in front of the computer.

So, to make sure this goes up, I'm not even going to proof read this; I'll just post it.

I'll talk to you soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've lost my grip...

For some time in the late 80's I worked at a factory that made imitation velour cloth. To make that cloth, they took long thin threads, cut them, dyed them, and attached them to cloth. My job there was to take the dyed and cut fibers and dry them in this huge machine. Once I had the machine running, I mostly stood at the end and filled bags with the fibers (called "flock").

The finished bags weighed between 50 and 120 pounds each and I had to grab, lift and shake each one a few times to settle the contents so all the flock would fit. I worked 12 hour shifts, six days a week for about six months. I filled a bag about every 4 minutes when I was running, which was about two thirds of the time. So I filled a lot of bags. Every bag got lifted and shook, and by the time I was done, my hands were huge.

In high school, I was not an athlete or a lady’s man; I skipped football for theater and avoided confrontation in high school. I even got beat up once at the bus stop.

But after I graduated I got these huge hands, and every now and then, I would pull something apart or grab something and someone (sometimes even a girl!) would say “Wow, you’ve got big hands!” They made me feel badass. They made me feel competent, strong and invincible. I learned how to use them to protect myself, to keep myself safe.

One day, they started to hurt. They hurt when I was working in the yard. They hurt when I had to pull on a rope or dig in the dirt. One time I couldn’t extend my middle finger on my right hand for an hour. They would lose sensitivity and I’d drop stuff. They would ache. When I rewired the house, they got worse. I couldn’t turn a screw or bend wire for more than a few minutes without resting my hands. I had to connect one wire then do something else for a minute to rest my hands, then do the other wire. In what I thought was the ultimate disgrace, I had to ask my 22 year old neighbor to take a fence down for me. I just couldn't pull the nails out.

There are no real rituals anymore that define us as adults, or as men. I never had children and I'm not married, and those are about the only ways you can signal to the world that you are an adult; that you are a man. But for me my hands were a sign, they made me different from the kid who got beat up at the bus stop, they were my power, my wisdom and my story. They defined me.

Or so I thought. The people I work with don't know about my hands. I have no reason to demonstrate their power, but they see me as an adult anyway. Not because of what I can do with my hands, but because of how I act and what I say. I had been in a panic, wondering how I would live with these weak hands, how I would succeed without them, but their usefulness was lost long ago. No one really cares how strong my hands are. It might change people's ideas about me if they knew, but not very much. My history is long enough now that any power or wisdom I have comes from what I know, from my life. I can do more with that than I can with strong hands.

Turns out I will probably get my hands back. I most likely have carpal tunnel syndrome, and that accounts for all my symptoms. My doctor and I are working on that. I will be glad to have them again, and will feel safer and more confident if they come back 100%, but now I know I have other power, other ways to stand up for myself. I have the rest of me.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I have always been amazed at the quality of the people in my life; they are far more generous, gracious and honorable than I and yet they seem to love me still. I am at times judgmental and pious and frequently harsh and clumsy. I am sometimes selfish, thoughtless and distant. I know I drive people crazy, but they still hang around and I know I can depend on them and that they will always have my back. I love them, and I know they love me, despite all my flaws.

I know I have good qualities; I'm not trying to put myself down or anything here, but I am still amazed by how good the people I know are. That they care about me touches me. Sometimes, I'm so touched, I even cry a little. Actually, I cry a lot. So much so, its embarrassing.

So there's this sensitive side that I have that leads to all this weeping and carrying on and I wonder sometimes how anyone can take me seriously when I'm so obviously verklempt. I mean it can happen anytime; at work, at home, even when I'm alone. I'm sitting talking to someone and BAM, I feel my face get all red and my eyes get watery and sometimes I can just stop at that but sometimes I can't and the next thing you know I need a tissue. A little dainty tissue. Like the kind a 10 year old girl uses when her dolls are sad at the tea party.

So all these people and all this sensitivity has culminated in the most powerful, emotional force I have ever experienced; Wesley.

Wesley is the sum that is greater than his parts. He is part Joshua; curious, intelligent and logical. He is part Amber; kind, thoughtful and generous. He is part Adrianne; fearless and capable and beautiful. He is part Corey; wild and strong and loyal. And he is part Yaya; connected to the universe and safe (as only a two year old can be) in his trust of it. And he is good, like they are.

I never thought I could feel such love for someone as I feel for him. That I could be so connected and just... overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough room in my heart for anyone other than him. And yet there is. There is Joshua and Amber and Adrianne and Corey and Kathleen and now Jillian.

And so I am a crybaby. That is his gift to me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I can't believe he picked her

I cannot believe how stupid Sarah Palin is. How did she get to become the VP pick for a presidential nominee? What was McCain thinking?

Watch that video. It's not even the "Bush Doctrine" one, its about Iran and nukes and the Middle East. She knows NOTHING.

How bad is this country getting? We pick George Bush twice and McCain picked Sarah Palin.

My god. We're all gonna die.

Another thing about Banks...

Banks now charge you to cash a check there if you don't have an account there. So, if you get a check from work to go buy something, and the bank it is drawn on is not yours, but Wells-Fargo (for instance), you will have to pay $3.50 to cash it ($2.50 at B of A).

This absolutely drives me nuts! The check, drawn on that bank, is NO GOOD. It does not pay the face value! And they will not budge. Believe me, they won't. I think I was a few angry words away from a silent alarm when I got going about this in the lobby that one time!

The standard answer is "well then cash it at your own bank". Why, so they can "hold" my money for a few days while it clears? What if it's a lot of money and I can't cover it? What if your last paycheck bounced and so this time you want to cash it?

This makes me so mad I can't even write about it any more!


Banking crap is the worst crap!

Let me start by saying I have never cared much for banks. Part of this hatred comes from years of living from paycheck to paycheck, "floating" (and bouncing) checks, driving to the bank with only enough gas to get there and counting on the bank to get money for gas back, and living without a bank account at all. I had fat years and I had lean years, and banks were no help in either case. I know that a lot of that was my own fault, but it also gives me a perspective not everyone has.

Those days are over now (I hope) and I have worked out the banking thing pretty well. I use my debit card for everything that I don't already do through on line banking and I hardly ever carry cash. Over the past few years my credit has improved and my stress has gone down. Happy days are here. Sort of.

Let's talk about Wells-Fargo, ok? I have a joint account there with Kathleen and my student loan is with them. Her personal checking and mortgage are there, as well. Not a ton of money, but not a little, either.

First off, their online banking is superb; much better and more comprehensive than Bank of America's (where my personal account is). Unfortunately, EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT THEM IS CRAP. Here's a list;

  • When we opened the account, they wanted way too much info, and I had to really argue with the guy to tell him he didn't need to know if I was a college grad or not (for instance).
  • Also, when we opened the account, they tried to issue us a credit card that we didn't want as "overdraft protection".
  • They issued a new debit card to Kathleen for our joint account for no apparent reason. Concerned, I called them but they refused to tell me anything saying "I can't tell you if your name is not on the account". That's crap because MY NAME IS ON THE ACCOUNT! And the guy I talked to (ironically named Dave) was an ass. Rude and just a real jerk. He hung up one me once.
  • They offered to re-finance the house but got all pissy when we wouldn't call back because they were supposed to tell us the interest rate on the new loan. Then we got a "turn-down" letter when we had never even applied!
  • Just recently they held onto a paycheck for a week after it had cleared. It's a long story, but they shouldn't have.
  • It costs 12 dollars a month to bank there. Crap.
So they are crap. So we moved to Northcoast Credit Union.

I liked them; they were very careful with my personal information, going so far as to ask me to write my SSN down so I wouldn't have to say it out loud in the bank (and then she had me watch her shred it). Really,really good about that.

We got everything going there and I went on line to set up the online bill payer. Here's the first sign of trouble. It looks like it was made by a 4th grader. Wesley, a two year old, knows more about web design. Awful. But that's OK, 'cause I'm a computer genius and I can live with that. Besides, it's free. Which leads me to the second sign of trouble; it's only free for 6 months, then $5 a month after. No one told me that, but I let it slide. Because that's how I roll.

One of the things I do not like about their online banking is that you cannot "nickname" the accounts; you know, like "joint account" or "Dave's checking". Its just the numbers, which are very similar since they were set up at the same time. I don't realize it yet, but this is another "sign of trouble" or rather, "trouble waiting to happen because Dave can be a bit impatient and might get confused about which account is his and which is the joint account".

On to bill pay, which is a separate thing you have to set up through the website. So I do. And I pay one (rather large, annual payment) bill to be sure it's all good. I had a little trouble getting the merchant set up, but it worked ok. Until about a week later when I went to check to be sure it cleared.

I'm sure you can guess what happened here. It bounced.

Now here's something I know about banks, but hate anyway; a check never bounces once, it (almost) always bounces twice because companies are allowed to re-submit it and do so automatically. So any fee you have to pay is doubled right off the bat. I had not set up any Email alerts so I didn't know it happened and it went through twice. At $25 a pop. But wait, here's the REALLY BIG SIGN OF TROUBLE; not only did the bank charge me, but so did the Bill Payer people, who are another company! $22 each time! That's a total of $94 in fees for a bounced check! Say it with me: CRAP!

I called and explained and they rather reluctantly and I thought rudely agreed to remove the fees, but had no explanation for why it was OK to charge so much.

We may be changing banks again soon, I think.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home repair and what not to do....

Some time I ago a re-wired a circuit in the house when the light in the kitchen stopped working. It took me about six weeks to repair it working on (most) weekends. I couldn't figure out what was wrong and decided the whole thing was a mess and pulled the whole circuit out and replaced it. I did finally figure out what had happened, but that is a story for another time. In the end, I was pretty happy with my work even though it seemed to take forever and cost a fortune.

To replace the circuit, I decided to go all the way to the breaker box and put in some nice, new romex wiring. To do that, I had to cut into the wall to get at the wire. When I got the lights on, the hole in the wall became a less than urgent priority and it remained until I had a rainy day to work on it. This is how it went.

So that's what it looked like to begin with. First off, I trimmed out the hole to make it square, measured it and cut a new piece of sheetrock (or "rock", as they guys at the store call it) to go in the hall. BUT, the first piece was 3 inches short for some reason. Then I realized I used the wrong scale on the corner-ruler-thing I was using.

Which was good to know, until I realized the difference wasn't quite enough to account for my mistake. At any rate, I cut a new piece and the new one was much closer. This is why I bought a 4' X 8' sheet for a 1' X 2' hole!

You may notice that there are three sets of screws when there is only one cross-beam to attach it to. That's because I decided I needed more support, so I put two backing strips in to help support everything. That way, when I need to get into this spot again, I will hit those oddly-placed screws and ruin my saw.

It took me a while to get this to fit because I was "creeping up on it"; that's what my Uncle Steve, the nationally-known-wood-shop-teacher-school-vice-superintendent says you should do. Go big, then cut back. And he should know, 'cause he looks just like me.

I have to say, we look less like each other now that he's lost weight and I found it. I'm dieting now, so I can look just like him!

Then I screwed it in with my machine screws, which only look they would work well. Actually, they go right through the "rock", so you have to go really slow and careful. But they did go in OK and I got it all taped up and ready for plaster (referred to as "mud" down at the hardware store. Mud and rock, yep, fun at any age!).

For the other hole, I decided to just make a cardboard template of the shape and then cut it out of the "rock". This is really the way to go! Much faster. After some fine-tuning, I go it in and screwed it in place. Amazingly, I remembered there were serious wires in the stud I was screwing (haha! wait...) and I missed them! Yay for me!

OK, now its time for the mud. This part is easy, I've been playing with mud since I was a kid. Slap it on, smooth it out. Let it dry. Easy.

So that's it. I'm not painting/sanding yet because I will probably do the whole space in a new color the next time it rains and I remember and have all the tools (a new paint sprayer, maybe?) and paint and everything. I want to replace the breaker box, too, I think (or at least re-wire it!), but I'm not really allowed (per code), so that will probably wait. There's plenty of other wiring projects for me, tho. Stay tuned....

Monday, August 25, 2008

The end of an era...

Most times I go to Boston I get a chance to go to Faneuil Hall and have a drink at J. J. Donovan's Pub. I have been going there since I was old enough to drink, and it was mentioned in a "Spenser for Hire" novel. It was a local joint, a real Irish bar that somehow kept the tourists out and the locals in. The bartender had the heavy Southie accent and you had to have some Boston 'tude to get served. If you were from out of town, you tended to get ignored. I always ordered a Sam Adams Larger and my best friend Mike (who was almost always with me there) got a B-52 on the rocks. We always stopped there.

But not this time. I went to Boston this past week and Donovan's was gone. Judging by the other changes at Quincy Market, I would guess it finally lost out to some big national chain (even the layout was different, so I couldn't tell exactly who took it over). Quincy Market used to be a great place to go to see local merchants selling local goods. Weird, unusual goods that you couldn't really get anywhere else. Then one time we went there and there was a big GAP store there and it went downhill from there. Slowly but surely all the cool stores were replaced by the national stores that exist everywhere. Going there was no different than going to the local mall.

There are still a few places that have been there since I started going, but Donovan's was "my" place. And now it's gone. Crap.

Monday, August 11, 2008


My "Astro-Graph" horoscope (Virgo) today says there will be unexpected problems and that "If you handle them in stride, they aren't likely to bother you". No kidding. That's what "handle them in stride" means, right? To not let things bother you?

I guess I didn't take the advice. Crap like this drives me nuts.

Degree deodorant lies!

Click the link in the title. Look in the middle of the page. It says "Proven at the highest temperature on earth." That's crap. The highest temperature on earth was 3.6 billion degrees near Albuquerque, New Mexico by the Department of Energy (true to government form, they didn't know how they did it, but could do it over and over; that's crap, too). It seems hard to believe that Degree would "protect me" from sweat at that temperature. Hell, even my oven goes to 500 degrees, will Degree keep me from sweating at that temp, too?

OK, so maybe they meant proven at the hottest place on earth. That would be Al' Aziziyah, Libya. In 1922. Seems unlikely, since I don't think Degree was around back then. The hottest average temperature is in Ethiopia at about 90 degrees. Again, unlikely, although if they did go to Ethiopia then I take back all bad things; that's a country that could use the work.

So, it was not tested at the highest temperature on earth. That's crap. And so is "competitive dryness testing", for that matter, but less so.

I wrote to them to see what their response would be. I bet they won't answer.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The first of many...

I had a blog once before and I had a good time, but of course I got out of the habit and it kind of died away. Then when I went back, I couldn't get back in because Google took it over and it's all f'd up. But I still go back and read it, sometimes. You should too.

So why start up again? Two reasons; first, because Joshua has a really good blog and makes me want to write more, and second, because I went to Las Vegas in May and had a terrible time. And because I was having a terrible time, I was not as willing to tolerate all the crap that city can throw at you. The people there were crappy, the service was crappy and the casinos were crappy. The only good thing was I was hanging out with my best friend from high school. But everything else was crap.

The really weird thing is that when I got home to Washington, I saw a bunch more crap; crap at work, crap in the papers and crap on TV. I lost my ability to ignore all the crap and pretend I wasn't constantly fighting off incessant advertising, manipulation and trickery. I lost my desire to "play along". I could no longer just "let it go".

So now I see all this crap; advertisements that are full of crap, statements by news makers that are crap, and just ... well, CRAP! People saying and doing things that make no sense if you just pay attention.

Now I've noticed this all before, it just didn't bother me as much as it does now, and the part that bothers me the most is how far from reality the crap has gotten. It's gone this far because no one has been calling "them" on their wilder and wilder crap. And now crap is way out there. Now crap becomes reality if you repeat the crap enough. It gets de-crapified each time it gets repeated. But it still smells like crap.

So I figure someone needs to be pointing out all the stupid crap we read, see and hear every day. Now, this has been done in some areas already, so I will mostly skip the crap coming from the White House. But everyone else is fair game.