The decline of civilization continues …

I’ve been having a few problems with my truck lately. It started overheating toward the end of the frigid weather we recently had. I finally figured out that a freeze plug had rusted through. It was just a pinhole but did a pretty fair job of emptying the radiator after it developed pressure. With the help of a great mechanic,we fixed that problem.

It still occasionally overheated. It never really got EXTREMELY hot. No more than about 230-240 degrees according to the gauge. It’s got to be the thermostat sticking. I went to the auto store to get a new one and started preparing to install it today when I noticed … there was no gasket included with the part! A quick call to NAPA to ask about it and I found out they don’t include the gasket anymore. You have to buy it SEPARATELY! Since when did THIS happen? I realize it;s only 58 cents, but c’mon! It’s a stupid gasket! Civilization, as we know it, is DOOMED!

#FirstWorldProblems

The great chicken experiment

We got our first batch of chickens about a year ago. Raised them in a Rubbermaid box while I built a coop for them. The coop had an attached run and I painted it blue. I named it the C.H.A.R.D.I.S. as an homage to Doctor Who. We also named all the chickens after characters from the show.

Chicks

Chardis

I love my chickens. It was the best time of the day when I could let them run in the yard. I would just sit out in my chair and watch them run, fly and feed. I also fed them by hand when I needed them to get back in the coop.

ByHand

We must have pulled 100 dozen eggs out of the nesting boxes since they started laying. They were the best tasting eggs I’ve ever had! I had four Barred Plymouth Rocks, two Production Reds, two, Buff Orpingtons and a pair of Bantams: one hen and the prettiest little rooster you’ve ever seen.

DanEgg

That all came to an end tonight. We got home from work and there were a pair of stray dogs in the yard. They had been seen before, digging around the coop trying to get in, but I had always chased them off. This time, one of them got up on top of the run and clawed through the chicken wire into the pen with my chicks. They were mostly dead by the time I chased the dogs off and the two or three that weren’t didn’t last long.

It’s a heart breaker. We were planning on killing them when they quit laying, but that was more than a year from now if they were average chickens. So I guess I will head out tomorrow and pick up a bunch more chicks and start raising them.

I also need to address the coop situation. I will build another one. This time I will use better materials. I did a pretty good job with the current one. I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but it was functional and I was very proud of it. I have seen through use where I can improve upon the design and will start on that tomorrow.

This one will be much stronger. I will install drainage pipes and prep the ground to not hold water; use heavier wire to enclose the chicks and install staggered boards. That will let air circulate while providing a barrier for all but the smallest predators.

I also need to build it taller so that nothing can climb on top of it. I would also like to be able to walk in it standing upright. That would make cleaning and maintenance a little easier.

So we have had a setback, but now it’s time to look forward and hit the reset button. Wish me luck.

 

Shakespeare writing project — Gloom

In the beginning, it was a quiet thing. Barely even noticible. School was tolerable despite boring him to tears for the most part. Riflery, photography and theatre classes were the bright spots in his existence those days. Summers, with few exceptions, seemed to last for years. Life was pleasant and reasonably care free. At least that’s the way is seems when looked back upon through the prism of middle age. There were some dark days, he called them the Gloom, but generally most were bright and life was pretty good. Then, as it inevitably happens, he grew up. Somewhere along that journey the Gloom went from being a distant neighbor to taking up residence in a corner of his bedroom closet.

At the age of 50, he was tired. The kind of tired you feel when you pulled a double shift at the restaurant, spent the next two hours cramming for a test and then fought to stay awake and remember enough of what you studied to complete the test and scrape by with a passing grade. Bone tired. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember the last time he had a restful night’s sleep. Weeks? Months? It was difficult to think about it. The focus just wasn’t there anymore.

The days seemed to blend together, a never ending blur since … Christmas? Maybe it was Thanksgiving. All he knew was one day he was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at his parent’s house. His brother and sister were there. There was football, but no guns this year. Shooting guns had become part of the holiday tradition with the family over the past few years, but this year, no one seemed interested. The next day, today, it was February 12. Where did the intervening days go? Filled with the day-to-day minutia, they seemed to have just … disappeared into the ether.

Driving through the night he concentrated, trying to remember when it all started slipping, but then the radio would switch songs or go to commercial and break his train of thought. He was always driving it seemed. He loved driving. It was the being alone, he thought. No one to talk to, no one to fake interest in, nothing to disturb the quiet except the music wafting out of the speakers.

Some days, when his mood was just right, a song would come on the radio and he would get the urge to leave everything behind and just keep rolling down the highway. He imagined he might just do that one day. He was afraid, though, that when he was finally forced to stop, it would be with the Pacific Ocean swallowing the setting sun, turning the world a violent shade of blazing orange mixed in with deep, dusky pinks and purples.

As beautiful as that sounded, he knew he was fooling himself. He would never do that. He had responsibilities: responsibilities to work; to family; to friends … or maybe that was just the Gloom whispering those things in his ear. It was hard to tell these days. The Gloom had become his constant companion. Ever present, its influence touching every corner of his life like tendrils of fog spreading across an empty field.

Tonight he tried not to focus on that, but it was hard. He needed to pick up his son and get home in time to eat dinner before 8 o’clock. He and his wife always ate late. Every since they had gotten married dinner never hit the table before 7 p.m. It’s just the way things were. And because you can’t go to bed immediately after eating, there would be a few hours of television afterwards. If lucky, he would be in bed by 1 a.m. but that would still not bring rest. Because when he closed his eyes, the Gloom rushed forward to take over.

He felt like there was a thrum of anticipation when he lay down. The Gloom knew it was only a matter of time until he succumbed to unconsciousness. There was not sleep as anyone else might describe it. He didn’t slip into unconsciousness as much as crash. One minute he was awake and the next he was in the Gloom. No peace but rather a state of oblivion where the Gloom ran wild taunting him, twisting dreams, sowing discord and planting thoughts that would influence his mood until the next time he tried to sleep. He would not remember these thoughts clearly, only in snips and snatches: “Let me …”, “… hate you?”, “… rest in me …” The mood a night wrestling with the Gloom left him with was a seething anger.

He had been angry for months, possibly years. Certainly as long as his impaired memory could recall. The anger seemed to grow and intensify with the passing of each night. It wasn’t fair to those around him, but he didn’t know how to stop it. It depressed him that his anger was hurting those he loved more than anything in the world, putting up a wall between them. Then depression turned back to anger and fed upon itself like an out of control fire in the forest, increasing the size of the wall and starting the cycle over again.

Last night’s experience had been the worst in a long line of ever worsening sleep cycles. He held off the Gloom for half the night but at 3 a.m. finally gave up and slipped into slumber. There was no more rest today than on other mornings when he dragged himself out of the fog, but this day there were two feelings that persisted through his first cup of coffee. The first was a fear he was familiar with. It had been almost as constant a companion in his life as the Gloom had been; as comfortable as the ratty old t-shirt he wore to bed each night. The fear was a feeling that some event, some happenstance, was charging toward him. It was like a train just over the horizon but coming fast. He heard the whistle getting closer. When it arrived, it would crush him and his life would never be the same again. It was a feeling of impending doom and dread.

The second was a longing. A deep desire to be rid of the Gloom and all the discord it created in his life. He yearned to rid himself of the anger that plagued him daily and turned his waking hours into long stretches of misery. The anger poisoned him. He was decent at hiding it in public, but he wanted it gone. Oh, to sleep, to sleep, perchance to dream. Shakespeare had penned that line and, to a man haunted as he was, it was the most beautiful line ever written in the annals of literature. But that was not for tonight. Tonight he needed to get home.

On the road, as was usual, he had the radio on. Just white noise to try and drown out the thoughts running through his brain. He realized he had been carrying on a conversation with himself in his mind. Actually, it was less a conversation than a mumbling, really. Nonsensical phrases just under his stream of consciousness.

No.

That wasn’t it.

He hadn’t been talking; he had been listening, lulled by the soft singsong phrasing — the same phrases — over and over again telling him it would be alright; he would be safe and that he would sleep. Not the sleep he had experienced up until now, but the deep sleep that refreshes body and soul. He would have the sleep that cleanses the mind and makes one feel alive and ready to seize the day and squeeze every drop out of it.

All he had to do was close his eyes.

As he turned the final corner he blinked, and when his eyelids touched he … saw? No. That’s not right. He felt the sudden overpowering presence of the Gloom. So comforting, so unlike the malevolence he normally felt when the beast came forward. This time, the constant companion was welcoming. He felt warm and safe in its presence. He felt it beckoning, its thoughts softly echoing: “Come and be at peace, friend. Your journey is almost done. In here you will find comfort. Put away the anger and rest with me.”

He considered pulling back, but the thought of letting go was just too powerful. Resigned, he embraced the Gloom, his oldest friend, and watched as the sun sank slowly into the Pacific Ocean bathing him in an explosion of oranges, reds, purples and pinks. It was more beautiful than he had ever imagined. A tear slipped silently down his cheek and when the darkness came, the peace he had longed for his whole life gently embraced him … and he slept.

What knitting teaches me about life

As you may or may not know, I taught myself to knit a few years ago. I knitted myself a 20 foot long Doctor Who scarf. Tom Baker played the Doctor when I was growing up and I LOVED watching him on PBS. He still holds the record or playing the Doctor longer than any other actor … seven seasons! What I didn’t like was that PBS only showed Doctor Who during their fund drives.

tom1

Tom Baker was, and is still, an amiable old fellow. I liked him because he had curly hair like me. He wore a floppy old brown hat and that scarf and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! That scarf … I deeply coveted that scarf. Before I taught myself to knit, I had looked for them on the web. They were selling for more than $100 and they looked like crap. I wanted one, but not that much for THAT low quality scarf so I finally decided to knit one myself.

I found a website, The Witty Little Knitter, and, after reading every page, following every link, realized that I could actually do this! She had talked with the BBC, seen the original scarf and had everything I needed to accomplish this goal I had set or myself. She had authentic patterns for every scarf by season; YouTube links to teach me all the tricks and techniques I would need; and the specific colors/numbers of the yarn I would need.

It took me six months to make that first scarf and you can see me still wearing it today. I was very proud of the way it came out with a few small exceptions. You see in teaching yourself to do something like that with no help, you make mistakes that aren’t caught until it’s too late to fix them. Well, an EXPERIENCED knitter could have fixed it probably, but I was far from that so my mistakes stayed in the final product. Still, people tell me that unless I had showed them, they wouldn’t have noticed them. I believe them but even with the mistakes am proud of myself.

I decided to knit another one. The first one was the “First One,” both for me and the Doctor and it was the longest one they made. As the seasons went along, the scarf got worn and damaged and they removes those sections and gave it back. So it got shorter and shorter every year. I am knitting the shortest scarf they used in the series now and here is the life lesson stuff.

Knitting requires me to have patience. Not because I’m slow but for other reasons. First, I see the pattern and know I want it, but I can’t have it because it doesn’t exist yet. This denies me instant gratification which is a good thing. I see the pattern, I see the yarn and the needles, but I have to put those things together and sprinkle in a little (lot of) time in order to be able to put the thing around my neck.

Second, it forces me to pay attention. The mistakes in the first scarf came when I didn’t know what to look for. I started out with 55 stitches across. Suddenly I noticed I was up to about 70 stitches. I had no idea how THAT happened and had no idea how to fix it. I finally realized I had split a number of stitches due to my inattention (and not really knowing what the heck I was doing) and had added 15 extra stitches that way. I had to figure out how to fix it without unraveling the whole section. I ended up doubling up on stiches randomly until I was back to 55. As a result, I know have a perfect example of a Bell Curve in one section of the scarf. Live and learn.

Third, it forces me to slow down. I’ve gained some speed in my technique since I began, but I have to watch it. Even after I realized about the stitch-splitting problem, I’d be speeding along and realize I had done it again. I also find that when I slow down and take my time and everything is going well, time flies and I am really enjoying myself! The mistakes I made with the first scarf will not happen with this one. I want it to be perfect. It’s not GOING to be, but that is my goal.

So, teaching myself a new skill, having patience, paying attention and slowing down to enjoy things … those are the things knitting teaches me about life. For me anyway, they are lessons I can always use a refresher course in. And in the end, there are worse ways of spending the next six months. Right?

Welcome 2014

cross-tattoos Mod So, 2013 is gone and we are at the genesis of a brand new year. I will not miss the past year, in fact I’ll wish that it is speedily forgotten. The past year was forgettable for a number of reasons. My house flooded for the second year in a row, my pay was cut short by the sequester and then eliminated by the furlough. Yes I got it back in full, but by that time I was well and truly in a hole I’m finally starting to climb out of.

I will turn 52 in a little more than a week. Having pissing most of those years away trying to find the bottom of the latest bottle or bag, I find myself with a “so much to do and so little time” list that is daunting in its length and growing every day. Some are simple: Kill and dress my first deer; ditto with a hog. Some are not quite so easy: Get my finances in order so as to be prepared for retirement; script film and edit my own short film.

I want to concentrate on some art stuff that I really enjoy. I want to write and have started keeping a journal. I want to concentrate more on my photography and have already cleaned up my Flickr account to help. I want to knit another scarf (I have had three started for way too long). I want to read more books that I’ve bought and put to the side thinking “I’ll read them later.” There are a lot of things that I physically want to do, too many to list here.

Other things in my life that need addressing this year are my lifestyle and attitude. First off, I want to develop a more positive attitude toward my life and my circumstances. I’m the guy you ask “How’s it going?” who replies “Meh, I can’t complain.” and then sets about the next twenty minutes complaining about everything. I need to change that.

I need to finally quit smoking. I hit bottom with my drinking and quit cold turkey more than two years ago. I want to quit smoking before I’m sitting in the doctors office hearing a diagnosis of cancer of whatever kind that would force my hand. I’ve smoked at least a pack per day, on-and-off, mostly on, for the past 43 years. It’s time to stop.

One thing I really want to do is get my life a little more organized. I stay up late at night, most nights until midnight at the earliest. If I had to guess at an average, I would say it would probably fall about 1-1:30 a.m.? That’s not good. It’s not good for my health and it’s not real good for the ability to get things I want to spend time on, done. I want to start getting to bed earlier, getting up earlier and organizing my days to be more efficient with regards to my goals.

I need to pay more attention to my spiritual life as well, but that’s between me and God and I’m sure you’ll be happy to know I plan to keep it that way.

I need to simplify my life. What does that mean? Cutting out some of the dead weight that drags me down. Whether that involves possessions, processes or habits, I need to do some pruning.

I don’t make resolutions but I do plan to change some things. I’m going to give up Twitter and Facebook for the most part. They are huge time sucks in my life and I can use that time for other things. I’ve been thinking about this since Thanksgiving and have the basic outlines of a few goals and a sketchy plan to get there.

All in all, I’m happy 2013 is dead and gone and look forward to the changes coming in 2014. I just hope I’m not writing this same post a year from now. Happy New Year and thank you for being a part of my life. Here’s to the future!

Wondering about this whole blogging thing …

I’ve been blogging for a lot of years now. I think I started in 2005. I was doing it so much, I got my own domain and diched Blogspot for the prestige of a personal domain. It was also a great way to get a steady, personally owned e-mail address.
I kinda got in trouble blogging at work several years ago, but kept at it for a while longer anyway (just not at work.) Then I had some personal problems and pretty much gave it up. I love the format and still think I can contribute to a community, but who would come back and follow? That’s the million dollar question.
Or maybe what I Inshould be asking myself is “If it’s so damned important to you, why does it matter who comes back?”
You know what? Yeah, me neither.

An oldie but a goody …

Quote

… or at least I think so.

angels-demons

Fear and Bones

Hells fire flashes as demons laugh.
Dark, viscous venom cutting rivers in their chins.
Nails flaying skin, shredding, wailing
into the night. The demon taunts me, “God is calling!”

Hells nightmare follows me, toying, teasing.
Insanity closes with every tick of times passage.
Ha! Glowing embers, eyes I’m sure, searching,
hunting from the inky black of Gethsemane’s garden.

Hells demons sniff and snarl, measuring fear.
The stench of decaying flesh surrounds me.
Shrieking into the dark I run, “God, save me from this!”
It’s mine. The death stench permeates my very soul.

Mortal fear feeds Satan’s addiction. When fear fades
bones crunch and Satan smiles. Snapping blades
shred sinew, slice muscle, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
My blood heavy on his belly, sated, his eyelids droop.

The demon slumbers. And I? I rise to save the world.

Monsters on the left coast!

So I went to a free pre-screening of the upcoming Summer blockbuster, “Pacific Rim”, directed by Guillermo del Toro,  yesterday. In case you haven’t heard of it, here is the premise of the film. An inter dimensional rift opens up allowing “Kaiju” or great monsters to cross to and attack earth. Earth puts aside its petty geopolitical differences and comes together to defeat the threat. The way they do this is by creating an army of “Jaegers” or hunters, two-pilot giant robots, to take on the monsters from another world. If you’re thinking “Godzilla vs. Ultraman” you’re on the right path. Here are some thoughts with as few spoilers as possible:

1. The story was good. It could have been better, but it was alright. Some of the plot points were a little weak and some of the dialogue was as well. Over all though,it was a pretty decent story.

2. The acting ranged from forced-feeling to sublime. Some of the best was turned in by Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Burn Gorman (Torchwood) as Dr. Newton Geiszler and Gottlieb, a couple of crazy scientist types. Their characters and story lines were hilarious and well played. Also on the great side was Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy). He played a character called Hannibal Chau, a “dealer” in illicit Kaiju parts. Think Powdered Goat Horn or Eye of Newt. While it was a fairly small part, Perlman pulled it off flawlessly. Good stuff.

Not so great in my humble opinion was the acting from Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Idris Elba (Luther, Thor) and Rinko Kikuchi (???) as Raliegh Beckett, Stacker Pentecost and Mako Mori, respectively. Maybe it was just me, but I’ve seen “the guy at the top of his game who loses his way but gets called back to the big leagues by the desperate, hard ass boss to save the world while falling in love with the beautiful girl” done a million times and it was just … predictable. There was even the “Maverick/Iceman” tension scene from “Top Gun” thrown in for good measure.  Was it necessary? For this movie, yeah, probably, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to sit through. All that said, would I sit through two hours and 11 minutes of this movie again? Definitely! Because …

3. The special effects, sets, set dressing, costumes and every other visual element this movie threw at you! OH.MY.GOD! It was BEAUTIFUL. I say this through the eyes of a 12 year old kid who grew up watching Godzilla, Ultron, Voltron, TMNT, Power Rangers and others until my eyes bled. You want to watch the Power Rangers and not feel guilty about being 35 + while doing it? This is the movie for you. I have been waiting for this movie my whole life and never knew it until the first strains of music assaulted my ears after the lights went down. It was spectacular. I believe the future of some genres of movies (Anime, etc.) that haven’t been fully explored to this point have just been green lighted. I have seen the future and I am excited about it. If any of this piques your interest or sounds good to you? GO SEE THIS MOVIE!