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Weekend Warrior

May 6, 2015

Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me.

Hold me my daddy,
I never felt lower than dirt on the floor.
I say hold me my daddy,
I never felt like crying oceans before.

If this means war, why are we in it?
Might’ve fired off a couple of rounds, I didn’t mean to begin it.
If these are the bullets that every father and son must choose,
Well then hold me my daddy, I forgot to say I love you.

Hold me my daddy,
It hurts me to see grown men fighting this way.
I say hold me my daddy,
The young and the old dog aren’t having their day.

This civil war, why are we in it? (hold me)
There’s nobody on this flat earth, would ever want to win it.
If these are the hot coals that every father and son walks through,
Well then hold me my daddy, I forgot to say I love you.

And if you agree we can make amends.
All this squabbling I’ve hated.
In another time and another place where our history bends,
We could’ve been the best of friends and not merely related.

Well these are the right words to say,
They’re difficult but still true,
Well then hold me my daddy,
I forgot to say I love you.

(Hold him. Tight. Hold him like he was a baby.)

XTCHold Me My Daddy

Dad's Bench Grinder

Dad’s Bench Grinder

Sod Free

Sod Free

I’ve been working around the house lately.  Have you ever started a small project only to have it branch off into a whole bunch of other projects?  Dad had this old bench grinder that was in the garage at Mom’s house.  Last time I was home I took it back to my house and decided to install it in my garage.  In doing so, I added a switch to it

I Conduit!

I Conduit!

Lookin' Good!

Lookin’ Good!

so I could leave it plugged in.  But the cord was too short to reach the outlet so I needed to get an outlet strip for the back of my garage work bench.  After I ordered and installed that, I thought it would be nice to have music out in the garage while I’m working out there. That required that I trench between the house and the garage

My Seedy Neighborhood

My Seedy Neighborhood

Future Flowers?

Future Flowers?

and install some water tight conduit in order to run wires for speakers and control.  Well, once I’d torn up and fixed the lawn in the back yard, I felt I should also try to seed the bare spots in the shade by the house.  And while I was at it, I figured I should probably seed between my house and the neighbor’s since it was all weeds last year.

No Longer Out of Control

No Longer Out of Control

Crank It Up.

Crank It Up

Turns out I also had some leftover wild flower seeds from Colorado, so I thought I’d seed the bare spots between my chain link fence and the alley out back.  As long as I was at it, I decided to rake, fertilize, weed kill and over seed the front lawn as well. Which led me to finally get started on planting my garden.  After running between

Plants Grow Better With Music

Veggies Grow Better With Music

Audio Via a Yellow '79 GLC Sport

Audio Via a Yellow ’79 GLC Sport

the garage and the garden for tools with music playing, I felt that it might be nice to also have music at my basement work bench as well.  Which I managed to finish up today.  So yeah, been busy poking around the house lately.

My Dad was fairly handy around the house.  He managed to get things done in spite of me and my brother’s somewhat reluctant enthusiasim in helping out.  One summer we shingled our house, the neighbor’s house and my cousin’s house in Minneapolis.  I still have the hammer I bought for that.  One summer he and my Mom scraped, sanded and repainted our entire house.  He had a garden every year, kept up our yard, and managed to fix things around the house even though Jeff and I would sometimes forget to, “put the damn tools back where they belong!”

When I was 18 and engaged, my Dad bought a house in town that he was going to rent to me and my future wife.  He and I refurbished the kitchen stove, installed a new bathroom enclosure and toilet, reworked the electrical wiring and generally rehabbed the place.  As much as we butted heads over things, my engagement at 18 not being the least, he always seemed to be looking out for me.  I find it amazing how oblivious I was able to be to that back then.  I have friends who are going through struggles with their own children now and I’ve tried to share with them tales of how stupid I was when I was younger.  I then go on to tell them how I grew to appreciate everything my Dad did for me.  I realize it’s small consequence when your child is making questionable choices, but things do come around… eventually.  Mother’s Day has just passed and Father’s Day is coming up.  If you still have parents, call them up and tell them how much you appreciate all they’ve done for you.

That having been said, let me take a moment here to say a couple of things that have been bothering me lately.  I didn’t send out a notice of my last post because it’s hard sometimes to remain upbeat when so much stupid sh*t is going on in the world and I don’t want to just bitch in my posts.  But Colorado, WTF?  In 2009 a private donor funded a “Family Planning Initiative” to the tune of $23 million, which allowed 68 family clinics across the state to offer around 30,000 intrauterine devices and implants to young women at low or no cost.  Doing so caused the teen birth rate to drop by 40% between 2009 and 2013.  In 2010 alone, Colorado saved $42 million on health care costs associated with teen births according to the governor’s office.  Additionally, the abortion rate dropped by 35% between 2009 and 2013.  In spite of all this, the Colorado Republicans killed an effort to further fund this bill now that the private donor’s money is running out.  How can you do that and still claim to be anit-abortion?  So WTF Colorado?  I thought you were smarter than Texas.

And finally, if you’re taking video using your cell phone and you plan on putting on YouTube or supplying it as footage to some news organization, TURN YOUR DAMN PHONE SIDEWAYS SO THE ASPECT RATIO IS CORRECT!  Don’t make me stop this car….


The Horrors of Magical Thinking

April 6, 2015

Add up the wonders,
And all of the numbers that people do,
So much comes to nothing.
They ride all their sorrows on a wave of tomorrows,
Just to get them through.
Then watch the tide come rushing.

But you can lift my spirits high,
Like no one has before.
You’re not like this world,
You’re something more.
And you have filled my life with joy.
There’s so much love around you.
Your freedom has freed me too.

Gather the gladness, in the rush hour of madness,
Sell it all for a dime.
Someone will come to buy it.
Make a short cut to living without any giving,
And wait for a time.
Someone will always try it.

But you can lift my spirits high,
Like no one has before.
You’re not like this world,
You’re something more.
And you have filled my life,
With all the love that flows around you.
Your freedom has freed me too.

On with the choices and the unhappy voices,
on the telephone line.
Another day to work through.
At the end of the maze and the spiritual haze,
it will all be fine.
Cause I’ve got you to come home to.

Michael OmartianAdd Up The Wonders

Jill asked me, “what ever happened to your blog?”  “I stopped posting to it”, is the answer apparently.  When I post I want to be poignant and pithy and funny and fun to read.  As Chief Dan George’s character in Little Big Man says, “Sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn’t.”  I’ve found it harder and harder to be positive about current events, so I’ve stopped paying attention to political shows and the news.  Even so, things creep in and illustrate how far out of touch people in power are from the people they wield power over.  It isn’t conducive to putting together something anyone would want to read.

How far we've come

How far we’ve come

I went to a Christian college for a year, 1977-1978.  I had an Ethics class, Christian Beliefs, there was chapel at least once a week and I hung out with a terrific group of guys who had one of the few bible study classes I knew of on campus.  I was bright eyed and knew that compassion, fair play, honesty, empathy and forgiveness… you know, all that stuff Jesus talked about… *THAT* was they way to live life.  I also believed that living that kind of example would be a light to others who would wonder what they could do to emulate the way I lived.  On February 10th, Randy Beckum, then chaplain of this now Christian University, gave a sermon about the movies Selma and American Sniper.  In that sermon, Beckum said, “Selma has made 29-30 million so far. American Sniper made over 103 million in the first 4 days. Gives you an idea about who our heroes are. I don’t think it is an under-statement to say that our culture is addicted to violence, guns, war, revenge and retaliation. Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians.”  He warned about, “equating patriotism with Christianity,” and implored congregants to be “controlled by love, compelled by love for everyone.”  You know, more of that Jesus crap.  Shortly after this sermon, Beckum was relieved of his duties as vice president of Community Formation.  Although he kept his position as Chaplain, he was fired as vice president of the department in charge of building and providing community at the university.

Men and Dinosaurs lived at the same time?

Men and Dinosaurs lived at the same time?

In January of 2006, the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” came out.  On May 28th, 2007, the Creation Museum opened in Petersburg, Kentucky.  The people who run this “museum” are a group called “Answers In Genesis”.  They believe that man should defer to the word of God when it comes to science and not the other way around.  “When a scientist’s interpretation of data does not match the clear meaning of the text in the Bible, we should never reinterpret the Bible. God knows just what He meant to say, and His understanding of science is infallible, whereas ours is fallible. So we should never think it necessary to modify His Word.”  These people believe that Man and dinosaurs co-existed and have displays depicting that.  In 1633 the Church tried Galileo and found him “gravely suspect of heresy”, sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

I GOT AN A+!!!

I GOT AN A+!!!

In February of 2012, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) published his book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future where he purports to reveal why global climate change is blatantly and categorically false.  In November of 2012, the documentary Chasing Ice was released showing, in time lapse over several years, the effects that global climate change is having on glaciers in various parts of the world.

The New Normal

The New Normal

On March 24, 2015, just a few days ago as I write this, the warmest day ever in recorded history was marked in Antarctica at 63.5 degrees.  Some ice shelves in the western part of the continent have lost up to 18 percent of their thickness in less than two decades, as published in the journal Science.

California is in the midst of a four year drought which was predicted through computer modeling of disappearing arctic ice over 10 years ago.  The study predicted a high pressure ridge would develop off the coast of British Columbia and cause Pacific winter storms to divert north, which coincidentally is what seems to be happening.

“I’m No Scientist…”

California has ordered their first ever water restrictions and the price of all California produce is expected to rise.  Interestingly enough, as those winter storms were diverted north, Chicago experienced it’s coldest winter in recorded history in 2014 and the coldest February on record in 2015.  In the face of all this, the U.S. has placed Senator “climate change is a hoax” Inhofe in the position of Chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  The Chairman in charge of federal environmental policy believes climate change is some kind of plot by lefties to get your money.

Sea Level Rise of 1 Meter in Miami Beach (in blue).

Sea Level Rise of 1 Meter in Miami Beach (in blue).

In May of 2014, Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it” on ABC’s political program “This Week.”  He went on to say, “I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.”  He also believes the government caused the sub prime mortgage crisis, not the private sector, but that’s a whole other blog post.  Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott said in 2011 that he had, “not been convinced” that climate change is man-made and claims, “I’m not a scientist.”  Even so, he won’t defer to the scientists who claim climate change is very real and Florida will be exceptionally vulnerable if seas continue to rise according to a 2014 National Climate Assessment.  In fact, the action that Florida politicians have decided to take is to actually ban the terms Climate Change, Global Warming and Sustainability from use by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  A rise in sea level of 1 meter is conservatively estimated to occur by the end of this century.  85 years.

Before Buzz, There Was Matt...

Before Buzz, There Was Matt…

I grew up during the Space Race in the ’60’s.  My childhood was filled with Estes model rockets, Major Matt Mason, 2001, Star Trek and dreams of space travel.  Those were the day dreams and goals of my youth.  Today kids have smart phones, social media and the Kardashians.  I know I sound like an old fart waxing nostalgic, but if you compare Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Star Trek to Dancing with the Stars and the Wizards of Waverly Place, it isn’t a surprise that kids aren’t inspired to explore and discover.  When I see things like the video a hundred million stars in three and a half minutes, I’m in awe.  I sent the video to my friend Mitch who said, “And that’s just a section of our closest galactic neighbor. Even more amazing is that in the first few seconds of the video, you can see a

It's Full of Stars

It’s Full of Stars

dozen or more other galaxies shining through Andromeda’s outer stars. This Hubble Ultra Deep Field image shows what happened when they pointed the Hubble telescope at an apparently empty dot in the sky and let the exposure run for a few days. Every dot in the image is a galaxy, not a star. And this is only a tiny, tiny part of the night sky.”  How can anyone look at things like that and 1) not be in awe of the universe 2) not feel humbled and 3) not realize how tenuous and fragile our existence is on this blue rock in space.  Below us is the earth’s molten core and a mere 26,000 feet above us is where there isn’t enough oxygen to sustain human life.

Gas Guzzler or Fuel Efficient?

Gas Guzzler or Fuel Efficient?

I want to marvel at the wonders of the universe.  I want to believe we can strive for the betterment of all man kind.  I want to believe there are ways to reach people and convince them that we need to be good shepherds of our planet.  But in the face of that, we elect assholes like James Inhofe to positions like Chairman of the Environmental Committee.  We have ads from car companies that ask which guy is more handsome, the truck guy or the small sedan guy.  And there is years-long time lapse video of human activity destroying the rain forest, removing mountain tops to get at coal and decimating huge swaths of the Canadian wilderness to scrap out tar sands that will be converted into CO2 by our SUVs.  So yeah, I’m having trouble posting to my blog and keeping it light.  I’m having trouble ignoring all the insane “magical thinkers” who have buried their head in the sand in the face scientific evidence and think that if we could just let the free markets run unfettered everything would be alright.  Or perhaps it’s just that the transformation from bright eyed college kid to crusty old man who chases kids out of his yard is complete.  Get outta here ya little bastards!  Go bother the neighbor, he’s the one who drove that damn Denali and ruined Disney World for you!

Every Day Is Boxing Day

February 22, 2013

Woke up this mornin’
Closed in on both sides
Nothin’ doin’
I feel resistance
As I open my eyes
Someone’s foolin’

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In your mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box

Life goes in circles
Around and around
I sometimes wonder
What’s movin’ underground
I’m escaping

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In my mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box

Ahh ha

I found a way to break through this cellophane bag
Cuz I know what’s goin’ on
In your mind

I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box
I’m a livin’ in a box
I’m a livin’ in a cardboard box

I’m a livin’ I’m a livin’…I’m a livin’
I’m a livin’, I’m a livin’…I’m a livin’
I’m a livin’ in a box

I’m a livin’ in a box…

Living In A BoxLiving In A Box

Life Among Cardboard

Life Among Cardboard

That was Living In A Box from Living In A Box by Living In A Box. I love the ’80’s. In any case, *I’m* living amongst the boxes here in River Forest. I was supposed to close today on my house, but because of a paperwork mixup I’m rescheduled to close on Tuesday. As you might imagine, this is not convenient for me. I had a rental truck lined up for this afternoon through Sunday afternoon. I have most of my apartment boxed up and ready to transfer to the new place. I actually had friends who were going to help me transfer boxes to my new house, how often does *that* happen this many years after college? So yeah, I can either laugh or cry, but it’s not going to change the fact that someone screwed up and I’m still pacing like a caged animal amongst the boxes today.

Brown Paper Sammi

Brown Paper Sammi

Speaking of animals, Samwise has been lovin’ the whole boxes everywhere, places to hide and things to climb on that moving entails. It’s like there’s something new everyday to get into. She’s been in heat lately, so she’s extra friendly too. Nothing like trying to program or e–mail with a cat butt in your face. I’ve really got to get that taken care of once I’m relocated. Between house hunting and finishing a huge job in Cleveland I really haven’t had much time to get personal things taken care of. On top of that, we’ve decided to have the Alliday here in Chicago this year, so I’ve got to try to round-up Alliday gifts and fun destinations for visitors.

WTF Cookies

WTF Cookies

With all the moving prep, I’ve been making use of the local restaurants more than I should. I received this fortune cookie in the last batch of Yu Shan Chicken I ordered. It’s apparently from the WF Fortune Cookie company. I didn’t realize this about myself, but now that I’ve been set straight I’m going to make the most of being the most. I’m just not sure what that means. Does this now give me rights to the last piece of pizza? Am I granted extra space on airline flights?! Damn these inscrutable Asians!!

In any case, I believe I’ve wasted enough time and Sammi is sticking her butt in my face again. I’d better pay her some attention before she starts walking over my keyboard and screwing this up. Besides, I need to get something together for dinner. I’ve got fruit, mixed nuts, yogurt and pancake mix. Crap. I wonder if Boston Market has a pot pie left. Keep flying and stay shiny.

The Wizard Saruman – Job Creator

August 20, 2011

Time rolled up on me like a dense fog
Takin’ little bites of night while I slept with my eyes open
I was star gazin’ like I often did and
I learned to twinkle up there with the best of ’em
From Little Dipper to Big Bear I grew
Became some old complicated shit like Cassiopeia
Caught me out there between Pluto and
A galaxy two doors down from my childhood
Lead me out of my mind

See, I don’t know if I was born with this affliction
Or if it was born out of necessity
And I don’t wonder if it’s a curse or a blessing anymore
Because reality crashed down on me and
Ripped the Faust face from mine
I get bits and pieces every now and then of how it happened
Which makes me think TV should be banned from the ghetto
Since it be from all the smoke and fog that ate up my life
The real one
The one I wouldn’t recognize now if it knocked on my head three times and shook my hand

Once when I was a kid I stuck my head in a vise
Sandwiched it right between The Brady Bunch and Beaver Cleaver
I kept turnin’ the screws, tryin’ to make ’em fit
Would’ve been nice if my eyeballs just popped out
And released all the pressure through my sockets
But God’s got a real fucked up sense of humor sometimes
Now I’m walkin’ ’round with two screws stickin’ out the side of my head
A cross between Frankenstein and My Favorite Martian
Trying to use tools that don’t work down here
Guess I’m lucky Earth people got eyes that don’t see

I used to move a lot
Thinkin’ that maybe I was just in the wrong place
But I have moved through classes, races, genders and marital statuses
Through drugs, prisons, gods, sexual identities,
Heavens, hells, worlds, bodies, spirits and minds…
Just your regular old, run of the mill, recycled, reincarnated, reinvented miracle

But still I’m caught
Somewhere between you gotta want it bad enough and payin’ my dues
Somewhere between a will and a way
Somewhere tryin’ to make it happen
But why doesn’t anybody tell you that wills and ways are for the rich who
Buy sell and trade dreams like they playin’ the stock market?
That “hope” is a peso on Wall Street and
Mixed up little black girls from the ghetto
Who are low on confidence
Can’t use self esteem for collateral
‘Specially when it’s been whipped out of you
Just stolen right from under my nose

While I was jumpin’ rope, playin’ kick ball
And thinkin’ I was a kid…
Well everybody else was playin’ pretend
Playin’ like I was a grown up

Once you swallow that American Dream shit, it ain’t goin’ nowhere
Yeah, it can turn into some ole’ Afro-Centric, multi-cultural, humanist type manifestation
But still it’s there
I have fucked my self so many ways tryin’ to get-it and get-rid-of-it
That I have turned into a sub-terranian, dream bingeing and purging, mirage-aholic
And even after I’ve whipped out my fierce, psychoanalytical, constructionist, kung fu moves,
It’s still there
The last surviving remnant of the internalized, sub-atomic explosion of 1989
Just a big… fat… cockroach
Nibblin’ away at my consciousness
And I be damned if I ain’t right back where I started
Tryin’ to live a dream
And bein’ sentenced to life instead

Fini Dolo Featuring Sonja SohnBig Dipper To Little Bear



Last night, The Baumeisters invited me to watch their girls perform at Ravinia. They, along with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performed the music from the first Lord Of The Rings movie while the movie played on a huge screen above the stage. It was awesome! I think every movie should be shown this way. 🙂

Door County Breakfast

Door County Breakfast

I’ve been getting out as much as I can, although work is always trying to interfere it seems. Back in the middle of July, John and I hosted Grif and 4 of his high school buddies up in Door County for a birthday getaway.
A Game of "500"

A Game of "500"

There was much swimming, grilling, X-Box playing and the like. John and I were ostensibly going to do some work around the cabin, but mostly we just got a leaky sink fixed. I guess the dishwasher and ‘fridge swap out will have to wait for another time. Maybe when the economy is better. 🙂

South Shore Line

South Shore Line

I’ve been traveling to the Michigan side of the lake for work lately. We’ve got a client with a vacation home over there doing some outside upgrades. On the way over there, I travel through all the industrial areas that are and once were. American Bridge Works, US Steel’s massive Gary Works, a huge coal-fired power plant, and “America’s last interurban”, the South Shore Line railroad. Great idea, the interurban, but they started to arrive in America at the same time as gasoline. Frank Sprague developed the electric trolley motor in 1886, right on the heels of Sylvanus Bowser’s gas pump in 1885. I guess we all know which one proved more popular. The South Shore survived mostly because it was able to run freight, had multiple cars rather than just a single car per “train” and it ran right into downtown Chicago. Sorry for the history lesson, but when I’m interested in something I Google. I’m taking medication for it.

Eastern Shores of Lake Michigan

The Opulent Eastern Shores of Lake Michigan

In any case, the trip through the industrial to the opulent this past week has had as it’s backdrop both the Ames straw poll for Republican candidates, Rick “Parry’s” entrance into the race and the furor at Fox over Warren Buffet’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday the 14th.

Distribution of Wealth

Distribution of Wealth - 2007

I watched in wonderment John Stewart’s dissection of Fox News’ coverage of Warren Buffet’s Op-Ed. I can’t top that, it was a marvel to behold. Fox even went so far as to question whether or not Warren Buffet is a socialist. Awesome. Stewart cited several things in his bit, one of which was a graph from Business Insider which I looked up. It has some fun facts about wealth and inequality in America which you should see.

Finally, Senator Tom Coburn (R Okla) said in a town hall meeting on the 18th that, “The government actually is killing the potential for recovery in our country through regulations”, calling the Environmental Protection Agency “Idiot Bureaucrats”. He had previously voted for a resolution blocking the EPA from regulating green house gases.

So I had all of these things in my head as I watched in awe as the CSO, along with several Chicago choirs (including the Baumeister girls’), perform the score to the first Lord of the Rings movie as it played. It was while watching the movie that I saw the Conservative vision for America come into it’s full. Fortunately, Saruman didn’t have to deal with any of those pesky environmental protection regulations. He was free to turn the once green valley below Orthanc into a place “now filled with pits and forges”. He was a Job Creator. Someone who I’m sure Ayn Rand would find “deserving” of love.

A Once Green and Pleasant Land

A Once Green and Pleasant Land

Let’s look at the contributions Saruman made to the ungrateful people of Middle Earth. As I stated above, he was a job creator. Not only that, he introduced automation and mechanization into a world that was bogged down with the needless frills of “craftsmanship”. Treebeard describes him as having, “a mind of metal and wheels”. He brought this problem solving ability to bear on the question of how best to raise an army. Granted no one likes war, but if one must fight they may as well get the task accomplished as quickly and efficiently as possible. So what if a few trees have to pay the price to fuel the forges of Isengard? That is simply the price one must pay to get the job done and no damn tree hugger is going to stand in the way of progress.

And what of the Shire? Saruman tried to bring a new industrial base to the flagging economy of the Shire, with precious little thanks I might add. He was trying to institute the same changes that fueled Isengard’s rise to power in the small, rural community that was in desperate need of jobs. Just how far the modernization had come was evident from the many factories that must have sprung up. No hard numbers are available, but their growth was described in that, “smoke rose from many points round about”. Thank God that damn Clean Air Act wasn’t in place to stunt their growth!

When “Sharkey” Saruman took charge, the Shire was filled with uneducated hicks who were seemingly stuck in a “First Age” mind-set. Most of the inhabitants of the Shire were grinding out corn *BY HAND*, for Radegast’s sake!! They were completely under utilizing their resources and their efficiency was well below sub-par. Saruman brought modernization and mechanization to the once backward community. Granted a little water may have been fowled, but I can assure you that the Brandywine was *never* in any danger. Such is the price of progress, none of which would have been possible had the restrictive regulations of the Clean Water Act been in effect.

The Price of Progress in the Shire

Merely the Price of Progress in the Shire

And what of the benefits this expanded economic base provided to the population apart from the boost to the unemployment figures? Well, some of the older, unsafe hobbit houses had burned to the ground, proving what a danger they were to the community. Saruman developed new housing with a line of beautiful, white houses all along Pool Side. These homes were marvels of engineering in that they were easily produced with inexpensive materials and generated a terrific profit for Isengard Property Ventures and it’s shareholders. A great buy for the newly homeless, former owner of the older, fire prone homes. Of course none of those community benefits would’ve been possible if those intrusive building inspectors had their way. Thankfully, in the streamlined economy of the new Shire, more than ample tax breaks were given to the Isengard Corporation in order to convince them to relocate to the Shire and as a result, funding wasn’t available for those idiot bureaucrats in the Housing Department.

For a while anyway, Middle Earth must’ve been a Conservative politician’s dream. Rather than let them live that dream here in America however, I say we sentence them to life instead.

– G

Happy Alliday!!

June 16, 2011

On the road that we travel each and every day
There are those that touch our hearts in a very special way
Though we may not see each other once in a while
Feelings rush back with a wink and a smile

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the fish grow
These are the memories that live on forever

In this dog eat dog world we all need a place
To escape from the rat race
Here’s my suggestion, it’ll come as no surprise
Just sit back and close your eyes

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the fish grow
These are the memories that live on forever

It’s proven again and again
It’s all in the time that we spend
There lies the value of a friend
My friend

On the road that we travel each and every day
There are those that touch our hearts in a very special way
Though we may not see each other once in a while
Feelings rush back with a wink and a smile

The stories fly, yeah the fish fry
every time that we’re together
The drinks flow, yeah and the kids grow
These are the memories that live on forever
These are the memories that live on forever

Value Of A Friend – Saltwater Flies
(Sorry, no links this time. Small band with no web presence)

Back in the days when I’d spent more time in Iowa than I had anywhere else and work, monthly bills and grocery shopping were all new to me, I used to gather with friends over Thanksgiving. A month later, we would all be back in our hometown for Christmas visiting family and we’d all get to see each other again. Time passes and circumstances change. Some of us wanted to spend more time with parents during holidays and some of us didn’t really have a compelling reason to come back to our hometown since parents moved away. Back in 2006 when things seemed to be changing, Mitch proposed that, “we could simply group ALL the holidays into some convenient weekend, say, oh, I dunno, May 13th and get together then.” The e-mail exchange included things like:

Cool!  Does the Solstice Egg hunt happen at midnight?  Do you actually look for eggs or is it just an excuse to bring a date and make out like a Snipe hunt?  I can’t wait for the Cadbury Creame filled Pumpkins…

I think this all makes room for LOTS of new Holiday Traditions.  I think a solstice Egg & Midnight Snipe Hunt w/Making Out sounds like a fine idea.  (I never really cared for monkey nuts, anyway.)  Changing times call for new paradigms!

I wonder, could we work in some of those pagan fertility rituals?

Eventually, we came up with a list of activities that included; lighting the solstice wreath, carving arbor-day-o-lanterns, setting off the heart-shaped fireworks, singing Columbus Day carols, enjoying a big meal with a Kwanza turkey, singing Happy Boxing Day To You, blowing out the candles on the Easter cake and going on the above mentioned Midnight Solstice Egg hunt. Thus the Alliday was born! We set our sights on May 13th and this year we made it happen with everyone gathering in Austin. I think it was just kismet that the 13th fell on a Friday this year.

Kitty Feeder

Kitty Feeder - Artist's Approximation

Some people have bird feeders in their back yard. My friends have a cat feeder. They’ve “adopted” the neighborhood cats in a fairly serious fashion to where the cats have all been spayed/neutered, have a regular feeding schedule and are welcome to come and hang out as long as they like. My favorite outdoor cat was George. That’s what I named him anyway. Jill insisted on calling him “Stupid” and I was told his name was “Not Joey”. I felt George suited him better.

Mansfield Dam

Kilroy Is Here

We managed to get out and see some of the nearby sights in the Austin area. While the Mansfield Dam seemed a bit inhospitable in the post 9/11 world, the Oasis was just the spot to sit, enjoy a Margarita and look out over the lake. The Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco and the Train Museum at Temple were both fun, although Train Museum curator told us we were a day early for the “Harvey Girls” trunk show and exhibit. I was a bit bummed, I *so* wanted to meet Judy Garland!

Cheese House

Cheeeeese Gromit

The highlight of the road trips however, had to be the Texas Cheese House. Its run by Scott Simon, a guy who sold his corporation and took his cheese making hobby out of his basement and into the streets (much to his wife’s relief I’m sure). Mitch filmed the entire visit on his iPhone which endeared us to Kaeley, the girl behind the counter, right away. We had some lovely Caerphilly and stinky Manchego as samples. They’re quite generous with their samples. I bought a bit of each of the above and proceeded to leave them in Austin when I flew back home.

Dr. Pepper Museum

We're a Pepper!

While traveling the wild and wooly highways of Texas, Mitch decided that we should all have wrestling names. He seemed to come up with this idea as we were eating at Wendy’s when he picked up the “sour cream” container I had for my baked potato and started reading the ingredients. He decided then and there that my wrestling name was going to be “Toxic Waste”. And I suspect that because Kenny is such an intimidating Mo Fo, he earned the moniker “Threat Level”. Jill, who was absent for the trip when we decided on wrestling names, was branded Mnemonic. That left Mitch.

Train Museum

Long Train Runnin'

The rule is that you can’t choose your own wrestling name, so it was left to Kenny and I to decide what Mitch’s name was going to be. Initially we were going with “The Authority” since it was his iPhone that connected fastest to the Maps/GPS feature and lead us where we wanted to go. This however proved to be problematic when it came to the train museum and we ended up in a sketchy neighborhood in Waco without a train track in sight, rather than in amongst the boxcars in Temple. Anyway, when Mitch decided that he’d rather nap on the trip home than interact with Kenny and I whom he hadn’t seen in months, Kenny and I decided to call him “Sleeper Cell”.

The Oasis

So Where Are Those Margaritas?!?

At the end of the day I’d have to call the first annual Alliday a smashing success. I’m not sure the Absinthe toast to friends both present and absent will continue on into future Allidays judging from Kenny’s reaction to both the smell and taste, but my guess is we’ve started a new tradition for future May 13ths.

Chex Mix

April 23, 2011
Allegedly Chex Mix

Allegedly Chex Mix

I hope you all had a fine Monday-Thursday and a Good Friday.  Mine was okay, I spent the evening driving back to Iowa for Easter.  I paid $3.65 for gas outside of Davenport!  So much nicer than the $4.25 I pay in Chicago now.  After I fill up, I wander in to get some Road Chow and decide to pick up some Chex Mix.  I felt a little nostalgic remembering eating Mom’s homemade out of a turquoise over white glass Pyrex type bowl during the holidays.  So I’m all set to dial the memories-way-back-machine to the mid seventies and munch on some garlicy goodness that is supposed to be Chex Mix.  Not gonna happen.  Now, I realize that no store bought product could ever compare to Mom’s homemade and I’m willing to accept that, but this snack was *made* by the folks who bring us Chex cereal and who (ostensibly) brought us the recipe for frickin’ Chex Mix in the first place back in 1952.

Mister Salty Logo

Mister Salty loves him some talk-like-a-pirate day celebrations

Mom used to use Mr. Salty pretzel sticks in her mix that would pierce the roof of your mouth if you bit into them wrong.  This package of… snack food I’d picked up from the Davenport Flying J had no such pretzels.  I appreciate the round and window pane shapes that their pretzels came in because of the afore mentioned Scream-4-reenactment-in-your-mouth provided by the stick style pretzels, but the round and window pane shaped things had no salt on them whatsoever.  They were these sad, little, brown shapes that had nothing to recommend them.  The were made of some sort of industrial strength desiccant mixed with Sham Wow shavings and brewed with an imported yeast that releases actual Sahara Desert air when activated.  This combination of ingredients sucks any and all moisture from your being when placed in your mouth and turns you into a dried out husk resembling the Crypt Keeper in a matter of seconds.  Remember the greasy goodness that butter and Worcestershire sauce created when mixed, heated and drizzled over Chex cereal?  There was none of that here.  It was mostly just those pretzel things and the occasional Chex piece.  It’s called Chex Mix for crissakes, where’s my frickin’ Chex bits?!?  No mixed nuts, no garlic, just arid, moisture absorbing brown bits taunting me from the passenger’s seat.  It’s not like I was in Whole Foods buying free range broccoli,  I was in a truck stop buying what I thought was a salty, greasy, carb snack.  Bastards.

The thing I fight most when I start to post is the urge to bitch about, well, everything.  I fear I’m becoming a crotchety old man and lord knows I love a good rant.  Case in point, my treatise on Chex Mix.  So rather than talk about the 400 richest Americans having more wealth than the 150 million(!) poorest Americans and saying, “they only call it class war when we fight back.”  Or going on about the Plastic Island in the Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas (have you ever driven across Texas?  It’s HUGE) that we seem intent on leaving our children, I’ve decided to take Susie up on her request and talk about my great western migration and triumphant return.

I headed West for several reasons.  I felt that I was beginning to become more of a liability than an asset for my then employer and good friend.  I was making good money, but not (in my eyes) contributing much to the bottom line.  How many times have you heard that in your life?  “I’m making too much money and not doing enough for the company.”  I was also looking for the opportunity to change my social life.  I believe the phrase Jim and John used was “thinking with my dick”.  Be that as it may, let’s just say that between work, home life and general frustration, this was my mid-life crisis solution.  Always opt for experiences over possessions.  You can have stuff or do stuff.  If I would’ve bought an Italian sports car, all I’d be left with now is a beat up sports car that wasn’t worth anything after driving it for five years, huge repair bills and not much else.  Currently, I’ve got stories, friends and a 2004 Toyota to show for my choices.

I came back for several reasons.  When I started work in Denver, I took a sizable pay cut anticipating that I’d be doing an in-at-8-out-at-5 thing where I wouldn’t be the only one who could fix any given problem.  This would free up my evenings and weekends for the “dick thinking” part of my journey.  When I started there were 5 other people in the engineering department besides myself.  When I left there was just me and the guy they hired to manage “all of us”.  Add to that the additional cut in pay I took because the economy took a nose dive, and you have a not so good work experience.

That left my social life. My initial, hoped for, social foray disintegrated rather rapidly and I was left with plan B, not dating a friend and long time confidant but meeting new people.  I’m okay with meeting new people and making friends, but dating them?!?  Honestly, there aren’t that many people who interest me enough to actually ask out and god knows I wouldn’t want to subject someone I don’t know all that well to my lifestyle and world view.  Did you *read* that rant about Chex Mix?  Who wants to hear that everyday?

She, “Good morning honey, I made oatmeal this morning!”

Me, “Oatmeal?  Have you ever been to Cedar Rapids and smelled the Quaker Oats plant there?  My god, its horrific!”

So finding myself in Denver with good friends, but more bills than cash and doing as much work as I had in Chicago due to Denver’s “staff reductions” (which *again* left me as the only guy able to help such and such client) I decided to see if I could persuade my employer of my worth.  I put my resume out and in a short period of time had job offers in Sante Fe and Chicago.  I brought this to my employer’s attention and requested once again that I be given a pay increase.  The response I received was actually pretty funny.  I was told that if  I “get closer to making a decision” I should let them know and they would see what could be done.  Seriously.  The only thing standing between me and accepting one of several job offers was selling my house.  I’d driven to Sante Fe to interview one weekend, I’m pretty sure I was fairly close to “making a decision”.  So my beautiful, sunny two bedroom condo with free pool and clubhouse access in the land of 300+ days of sunshine a year went on the market.

Unfamiliar Fishes cover

Sarah Vowell, will you marry me?

Now I’m stuffed into a two bedroom apartment (well one bedroom and one “storage room” where all my boxes of stuff that there wasn’t enough room for ended up) with a job on Chicago’s south side.  I love being back with my Chicago friends, I miss my Denver friends and I very much miss the Denver weather.  Looking at the preview of this, it appears that I tend to ramble a bit.  Perhaps another indication that I’m becoming a crotchety old man?  I’m currently trying to get a “Nines” plan together.  My neighbors in Denver know what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you, a monthly evening out for a meal.  I seem to be encountering resistance with this.  I went to see Sarah Vowell speak the other day.  I’m doing my best not to spend all my time working.  I finally feel like I’m returning to a state of “normalcy”.  Look me up if you aren’t too busy with your “normalcy” and we can have lunch.  In the mean time, I’ve got to set up lunch with Susie.  I told her we’d get together about the time I posted my last blog.  I’ve been a bit recalcitrant and need to remedy that.


– G

Another Day in Limbo

November 20, 2010

“While many people embrace the promise of tomorrow, too few celebrate the joy of now. And nobody does that like Denny Crane.”

“Well, let me tell you something. When you’ve got polar ice caps melting and breaking off into big chunks, and you’ve got Osama still hiding in a cave planning his next attack, and when you’ve got other rogue nations with nuclear arsenals, not to mention some whack job, homegrown, who can cancel you at any second, and when you’ve got… Mad Cow… ‘now’ gets high priority. And when you’re sitting on the balcony on a clear night, sipping scotch with your best friend, ‘now’ is everything.”

“Here’s to now.”

“Here’s to now!”

Alan Shepard and Denny Crane of Boston Legal

The scotch, hot tub and stars before I left were truly worth celebrating. I was going to post the “Official Rules To Cow Poker” with this installment, but a series of unfortunate events occurred and I haven’t been able to get anything “Official”. But in speaking with various people here’s what I’ve decided to do; I’m posting the “General Guidelines for Cow Poker” instead. Here’s the story. Cow Poker is a game you can play whilst driving in your car. Especially useful when driving long distances like through Nebraska or say, Georgia. The basic rules are simple and I’ll go over them right now.

The person (people) on one side of the car count cows on their side of the road. 1 cow = 1 point. The person (people) on the other side of the car count cows on *their* side of the road. The person with the most cows at the end of the trip wins. Simple enough. Both sides also have to keep their eyes on the opposite side of the road as well because of the next two rules.

Does this count?

Does This Count?

If there is a cemetery on the opposite side of the road and the other team calls it (“Cemetery!”), the people on the cemetery side of the car lose all their cows and start from zero again. It must be called however, there is no “automatic” loss. If it isn’t called it doesn’t count.

Ramshackle Barn!

Ramshackle Barn!

Also, if there’s a “ramshackle barn” on the opposite side of the road and the other team calls it (“Ramshackle Barn!”), the people on the barn side of the car lose *half* their cows. 42 now equals 21, and so forth.

So here’s where the points of contention arise. Say you’re driving and there’s a sign for the cemetery, but the actual cemetery is hidden from view, does that count as a cemetery? What actually constitutes a barn being “ramshackle” as opposed to being firmly shackled and in tact? Do other out buildings count as barns or is a loafing shed *not* a barn? I wanted to clear up these niggling questions, but coordinating time with the creators of Cow Poker has proven to be difficult to say the least. When I spoke to Mitch (not one of the inventors, but an avid player), he said that the entire object of the game is to waste time while driving, so arguing over the rules achieves the same goal as playing the game :-). Speaking with John (one of the actual inventors of the game), he said that sounded about right, so that’s where we are at this point.

3 points


With all that in mind, here are my suggestions. If you’re playing with someone who rode horses as a girl and can tell the difference between a loafing shed and a barn, you should clear that up right up front and avoid hours of arguing on the road. Otherwise just declare a “general ramshackle outbuilding” rule. Invent a few new rules just to keep things interesting. 3 points for a cement deer, 5 points for the Blessed Virgin Mary in a bathtub shrine. 2 points for a “ridin’ cow”. Loose five points for a Cracker Barrel. Try and keep it light though. Do NOT make me stop this car!!

In between homes

In Between Jobs and Homes

In other news, the move from Denver to Chicago went smoothly enough. The movers decided to show up on the exact and only day I requested that they didn’t. About par for the course. Here’s something to keep in mind. If you ever want to *not* pay for meals for a month or so, move across the country. The people you’re moving away from will all want to take you out “one last time before you go” and the folks in your new city will all want to take you out to “celebrate your arrival.” It’s actually pretty cool.

Bonnie Brae

Ice Cream and Friends

To all my friends who I left in Denver, I miss you all and the great weather I left behind.

Free Meal #14

Free Meal #14

To all my friends in Chicago, yes, I’m happy to be back home with all of you.

I’m in an apartment that is smaller than the townhouse I had in Denver, so all my stuff doesn’t really have a place to land. I’m guessing the boxes I have will remain as they are until I find a place to live in a more “permanent” way. I finally got my server running again, so I can sync my iPhone again. That was a pain in the butt, but nothing anyone wants to hear about. We’ve got plans to do another Christmas Movie this year, but we’ll see how that shapes up. Hopefully I’m settled in and I’ll be able to post these more often now. I know how you all check your in-boxes everyday hoping to find I’ve made another post. Until the next time, let me know who wins at Cow Poker in your family.

Love ya,
– G