Morning Coffee and Rhymes

You know I like to do them occasionally.  I sometimes feel inspired to write a poem instantly, and others it sits and festers inside me for a while before it finally bursts forth in some sort of theme that satisfies me.

This one combines my photography hobby and a little poetry.  It has been kicking around in my pointy, little head (Suzie's words) for quite a while.  I've tried various times and never got it to flow.

I'm finally finished:

The Mind's Eye

To shoot a perfect sunrise
I have to be in place
before the rays of morning
touch my lens and face.

Shooting people on the street
is challenging to do.
Things like love or loneliness
are moods that we pursue.

I try to see things commonplace
with my mind's creative eye,
to see ordinary things differently;
be they rocks, or trees, or sky.

I try to always be aware
of signals that are sent.
I try to re-interpret them;
to visually reinvent.

Camera settings can be wrong
like focus, speed, and light,
but other things like framing
can be easily half the fight.

A person may have all the gear
and knowledge may possess,
but just because they have the goods
there's no guaranteed success.

To get just one good shot may take
a hundred, two, or more.
The one that's worlds above the rest;
that people all adore.

Although photography is very old
techniques remain the same.
The equipment may be more complex,
but it just gives us more to blame.

I'm sure that I'll keep shooting
even though I'm barely "fair"
because it's fun and gets me out
and gives me things to share.
Rick Williams

Leave Them In The Wild

I like animals.  I like being able to get up close and personal to animals.  I respect animals.  They seem to like me too.  Sarah suggested one time that maybe I'm a "whisperer".

I hate seeing wild animals in zoos.  Sure, they can dress up a zoo pen the best they can and make it look like the animal's native habitat, but it's still a cage.  It may be a cage with a fancy-painted concrete pond, grass, or trees, but it's still a cage.  Some animals that are in cages at zoos have never even seen the outside world.  Born in captivity, they have never experienced their native habitat.  They don't know enough to about the wild to form a mental comparison.  Of the two types of captive animals, they are probably the least problematic.  The ones that were captured in the wild, penned up, and transported to zoos are a whole different story.  They can have a grudge.  They can be pissed and confused.  Wouldn't you be?

Most people have heard the latest news story of the Seaworld employee/trainer that was killed by an Orca by now.  That's just one that we've heard about in the news.  We never hear about all the people injured--Some seriously--By captive wild animals.  I hate to see people hurt, but you certainly can't blame the animals.  They are wild after all.

Zoos used to be sort of a good thing.  It used to be the only chance an average person would ever get to see a wild animal up close.  That was before.  Before the internet.  Before the Discovery Channel.  Before DVD's like Animal Planet (I have that series and love it!). Before we had the various types of media that, together, have provided us with the seemingly unlimited stream of information that has become a mainstream part of our lives.

PETA (and others) have spoken out about animal rights for a long time, but I don't like their guerrilla tactics.  They do things like slinging blood on people and other things like that.  People at PETA are no better than the environmentalists that put spikes in trees to keep loggers from cutting into them.  They may have good intentions, but the way they go about about accomplishing their agenda leaves a lot to be desired.

There is a store here in Tacoma called the B&I.  When I was little I remember going into the store and being enthralled with the fact that they actually had a live gorilla there in a pen in the center of the store.  I think the store was originally running with a circus theme and apparently Ivan (the gorilla's name) fit into their plan.  I believe they also had some fancy birds or whatever.  Fast forward a few decades.  Imagine my surprise when I happened to stop into the B&I store once again and found that Ivan was still there!  I stood and was disgusted at what I saw. When I was a kid I only saw the gorilla.  As I stared into the window the last time I was there I only saw his surroundings.  I was filled with pity and a sort of anger at them allowing such a thing to continue for so long.  As I recall, he had spent all his life in that prison cell--Having been bought as a baby.  The cell was fairly large, but it was plain concrete and stark.  He had several things scattered around for him to "play" with, but nothing more.  The feeling I got was further enhanced when I saw him sitting on the floor against the far wall, staring at the people staring at him through the window.  Without warning he effortless hurled a full-size car tire all the way across the pen (at least 30 or 40 feet--I can't remember) and slamming it into the window.  He had little or no body movement when he threw--No leaning or bracing--It was all arm only. The power of him just added to my dismay at seeing him in those surroundings. I was glad to hear that he was bought by a zoo in Florida or somewhere south a few years ago and is at least living his life in good surroundings.  But he's still in a zoo.

We don't need zoos.  Everybody likes seeing exotic and beautiful animals, and I'm no exception.  I would like to get some really great pictures of them--Perfect shots of them up close and personal.  But then there's the part of me that doesn't want to see them because they're in the zoo.

I guess if I was given a choice, I'd say close 'em... I'll be happy taking pictures of other stuff.

Just Add Salt

You know, our hot tub has been on the fritz for some time now.  We've missed it.  Besides the obvious reasons that people love hot tubs (like comfort, relaxation, soothing sore muscles, etc.) it's our communication medium.  We like to sit out there and, with no interruptions except for a rare shooting star, talk about things.

Sometimes we just feel chilled and want to go out and "cook" for a while.  As most people know, when you sit in a hot tub, you get out hot.  It sort of re-calibrates our temperature regulatory systems I guess.

The bottom line is still the same:  We've missed it.

What happened to it?  Well, we went out to get into it one night, and before getting into it, checked the external thermometer that Suz bought for it.  It said something like 96 or 98 degrees.   That meant that it was "acting up" like it did when we first got it.  Again.  We had that problem after we got it, but we don't really know what caused it to start working right--It just did.  We assumed that it was mostly a matter of inactivity.  When we got it the heater was blown, so obviously the previous owners hadn't used it since that happened, and we had no idea how long that was.  So, we kind of thought that the same thing was happening again.  Sue called her "hot tub guy" (not to be mistaken for a "pool boy") and he came out.  He told her basically that it was one of two things:  The topside thermostat control, or the circuit board.

We decided to start with the cheapest thing first obviously, and put a new topside control on it.  No difference.  Durnit!  The hot tub guy cautioned people on replacing their own circuit boards, and quoted us $600 for a new one plus $200 or so labor.  Hmmm.  I found one online for $195 plus 8 bucks shipping.  After waiting for a week, it showed up today.

I went out and installed it (it really is a no-brainer).  I turned on the tub and it came on fine.  I noted the thermometer reading of 87.3 and went in.  I checked a little later and was surprised to find it off and reading even lower: 87.1.  I don't remember the exact chain of events at that point, but I think I went inside and told Sue.
"No!" came her exasperated reply.
I explained what it was (or wasn't) doing.  We went outside and played with it to no avail.  I stuck my hand in the water.  Hmm... It felt pretty hot to me.  I found a cooking thermometer that I had brought with me when I moved in here and stuck it in the hot tub water.  Being analog, I watched it quickly rise to... 103 degrees?!  Yep.

It turns out that the hot tub "kicked off" because it had reached temperature, not because it was defective.  It's like the old rule of thumb: Always check that something is plugged in before you call the repairman.

Even so, we don't feel that we wasted our money on the two components for a few reasons:
  • It did tend to act up every now and then.  That's what prompted Sue to put a digital thermometer in it to begin with--So we could monitor it from the kitchen window.
  • The new circuit board had improvements on it, like replaceable fuses.  I had to modify the old board to solder in a replaceable fuse holder. It also had better relays--They look sealed.
  • We now have a couple of spare parts for emergency use.
So now we have to wait for it to cool before we use it.  When she stuck a new digital thermometer in it, it read over 105.  That's HOT.  No wonder it kept kicking off!

Sure we could get into it, but it would be more like we were cooking instead of relaxing.

The Soos Creek Rain Forest?

This has been a very mossy year in our area.  I don't think it's just me--Like suddenly I noticed the  existence of moss.  No, everywhere I look there seems to be way more moss than usual.

There are areas in our parking lot at work where there is moss growing on the painted line between where the cars park.  While it's not unusual to see green growing on asphalt (especially here in Western Washington) it seems odd to me to see it growing with thickness to it.  And it's not even the north side of the building--It's just an area that always has cars parked on it to hamper the sun.

Winding our way up the Auburn-Black Diamond Road to our home here we pass through an area that just seems alive with trees encrusted with thick coats of moss.  Most of them have ferns growing out of their thick moss coat even as far up as the topmost branches.  When the light hits those areas just right, it is a very beautiful, rich emerald green. It's like we are driving in a rain forest!  I've only been in one rain forest in my life, and that's our Hoh Rain Forest over in the northwest corner of our state.  I was telling Suzie how we should start calling this a rain forest, and she suggested the Soos Creek Rain Forest.  (Soos Creek runs through the valley and is the reason for the salmon hatchery near us.)

Pictures don't do moss justice, nor are they easy to get.  Moss wreaks havoc on a camera's ability to focus because of the lack of surface to focus on.  Ever try to get a sharp picture of shag carpet?  (Okay, who even has shag carpet...)  Good lighting in pictures with moss-covered trees is also very hard to get.  Out of reach by the flash on most cameras, shots of moss in trees usually come out as darkish outlines with lit sky behind them.

Me and Suz tried to take some pictures of some of the trees in our "Soos Creek Rain Forest" a couple of weeks ago, but we were severely limited by the factors I just outlined as well as the location--Most of the best trees are along the highway with no place to walk or take pictures from.  We wandered along the guardrail (on the safe side of it) like homeless searchers of recyclable cans and bottles.  We did get a few pictures that day, and I've scattered a few of the barely acceptable ones throughout this blog post.  You can click on them to see them bigger, and maybe you can get a bit of an idea of how "green" our state is this year.

Moss:  Nature's carpet!

Life in Slow Motion

I hate having to come to grips with the fact that my age now seems to dictate that I do everything in slow motion.  I have to act with careful and deliberate movements.

The latest thing?  I have to eat slow.  I'm already not a "wolfer" because I like to savor my food, but I do tend to do some serious power chewing (now watch it become a sport at the next summer Olympics).  At least I did.  Monday I apparently blew a mandible (like throwing a rod for you car people).  I was just eating pizza at Round Table with Suzie and something happened... I believe I dislocated my jaw or a  tendon went the wrong way.  Whatever actually happened, the result is the same:  I was frozen with a mouth full of food and eyes tearing  up.  It was very painful.  Fortunately I was almost finished with my meal, because that ended it regardless.  Even now my teeth don't mesh together right yet, but it's better.  If I eat slowly I get by, but I have to use my right side.  Now, as an act of self-preservation, I have to learn to eat differently to avoid a recurrence.

When I get up in the morning, I have to stand for a moment.  I stretch, flex, and generally give my body a moment to come to grips with being vertical instead of horizontal.  I have learned that if I don't do that I run the risk of hurting the tops of my feet (metatarsal?) if I walk immediately after getting out of bed.  It can take hours to go away if I do that.  If I stand for a bit and get blood moving the right direction I have no problem.  However, if the house ever catches fire my feet are gonna hurt because I'm going to boogie.

I've been blessed with bad cartilage.  I've dislocated both knees several times.  Fortunately, only the first time each of them blew was bad--Complete with major swelling and a week of recovery time.  Now if it happens it's more like instant pain/voltage followed soon after by a flood of warmth as the pain ebbs.  What that means is I have to move carefully when I step backwards down from things.  If my foot slips or my lower leg turns slightly wrong when the weight is going onto my knee the results can be pretty bad.  Now I get in and out of the shower slowly and deliberately.  One thing I don't want to do is slip or have a knee failure and end up taking shower doors with me as I head for the floor.  Could be messy.

I even have to brush my teeth more slowly and deliberately, but it's more because I'm reckless than losing ability.  I've actually had the brush (with my hand powering it of course) skim outta the side of my mouth and across my cheek.  It makes a mess and sometimes hurts too.  I know I've had slippage cause bleeding gums before also.  Now that I think of it, I have to shave more slowly too... Maybe I'm just careless with my personal grooming?

I keep seeing this looming in the inevitable future:

I've basically gotten to the point where I have to do all things slowly and with deliberation.  I don't like that.  I know it's good to think before you act, but it's a weird thing when you can't trust your body any more.

It seems like it will fail me at any time with no notice.

Perceptions of an Outsider

I had a milestone of sorts this weekend, and it was something I had never foreseen myself ever doing in my lifetime: I went inside the local Kingdom Hall on Saturday. For you people that don't know (and it wasn't long ago I was among you), a Kingdom Hall is the meeting place for Jehovah's Witnesses. Okay, their church if you will.

So what would cause me to suddenly do such a thing? No, I didn't have a sudden leap of faith or anything as dramatic as that. I did it for my wife. I wasn't coerced in any way--I did it because I'm a husband, and a husband should accompany his wife when she wants to pay her respects to the dearly departed.  Okay, I also went so everyone could "pre-meet" me.

Recently, a Brother (should that be capitalized?) in their congregation passed away. He was thought very highly of and had quite a legacy. He was one of those people (and almost everybody knows one) that has been around forever and you just don't ever expect to die. As we all know, they eventually do. Brother Russ Poggensee (long O sound) finally moved on at the age of 90. Sue and all her local friends thought highly of him, and there was no question that she was going to the memorial service at the Kingdom Hall.

When she first asked me if I would go, I admit: I hesitated. There were two reasons really, but the one that popped into my head first was just my usual reluctance to deal with religious matters. I've talked about it before at length, and I don't know why it is, but I just don't feel comfortable around such things. The second reason for my hesitation was wardrobe--I'm a t-shirt and jeans guy.

I didn't think too long about not going. The fact that my wife asked me if I would go meant that she really wanted me to be there for her. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. Suzie has been disfellowshipped (that word keeps coming up as misspelled) since our relationship began. Due to that fact, none of her Witness friends have been able to associate with her, nor she them. They even missed our wedding. The bottom line: None of them knew me. I felt that this would be a good time for her to be able to play "show and tell" with me. I would get to see them, and they would get to see me. Oh, and that other reason for my hesitation: While I own no suit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had some nice things that I had bought and forgot I owned. Brand new stuff that fit perfectly. I thought I looked okay for the blue-collar guy that I am.

My perception of the event? Well, it wasn't really a lot to go on at only an hour long, but it was a nice experience. Very friendly people (and snappy dressers!) and a nice atmosphere. One of the elders didn't hesitate for a moment to come over and introduce himself to me after we got there. The guys that talked about Brother Poggensee were very easy to listen to. There was a nice bit of singing from an all guy chorus that kind of impressed me. The back of the Kingdom Hall has two glass-walled extra rooms for various use, and this event used them for crowd expansion. Because of being disfellowshipped, Sue always respectfully comes in and goes out without interaction, and I think she said she sits back there often. After we got there and I stood there looking through the glass at the people in the main part of the Hall, I told Sue and Rachyl, "It's like we're at the zoo, but are we the attraction or are they?" I'm sure a lot of folks there were probably going, "Ah, so that's her new husband!", but if they were, they did it unnoticed.

As per almost a requirement for a memorial service, it was raining.  While rain always adds to the dreariness and somber nature of such an event, I didn't feel that this time.  It was a warm group.

Car Cataracts

"Are your headlights on?" That was a question I often heard from Suzie when we went somewhere in my car at night. Although she was poking fun (what? Suzie poking fun!?) the reason for her ridicule was genuine: My car was blind. Yep, my poor, little Plymouth Neon (the same as the Dodge Neon only spelled P-L-Y-M-O-U-T-H instead) had suffered from a debilitating degradation of it's optics for a long, long time. Thanks to Ebay, it's finally able to carry its driver and passengers in safety at night. Something like that happens very slowly over time, and although it had gotten to a point of action some time ago I kept putting it off. One time I was just about to buy new ones and my car was accordioned while I was sitting at a stop light. As bad as they were back then, they were even worse now--So cloudy and yellowed that were practically useless. Enough was enough--I finally had enough of practically driving by flashlight. After all, I live out in a rural area (i.e. toolies, sticks) now, and I can't afford to drive practically blind--Especially in rain. When my cars like mine originally came out(mine was bought in June of 1994) they had headlights made of some sort of acrylic. I don't know about the Chrysler Corporation, but most (if not all) car companies now make all their headlights out of Lexan (Lexan is the same space-age stuff that the space people use on their space-age stuff so it won't show its age while it's in space). So, they got changed yesterday. The difference is dramatic: Before: After: The difference is HUGE! I took it for a drive last night, carrying my adjustment tool. I stopped a few different times and cranked them this way and that, noting where they were shining down the road in front of me. My car can SEE!

Guys and Restrooms

People have funny little things they do in public bathrooms. Okay, I should say men do--It's not like I go into women's restrooms all that often. I'm sure men are the worst though. We're such an insecure bunch.

I'm not without bathroom faults myself. Sometimes I'm stricken with the "shy bladder" phenomenon at a moment's notice. See, some urinals have no privacy separation of any kind between them, and I guess subconsciously it's like being under a magnifying glass. It's not like the person next to me actually has his head turned toward me (bad male etiquette), but who's to say he doesn't have his eyeballs cranked or have above average peripheral vision? In any event, the result is the same: It takes me longer than normal to get started. If I'm the first one finished then I'm overly conscious of how I finish up--Making sure I don't overdo anything.  When I was in the Air Force, there was one building that I remember being in where they had a long row of toilets all out in the open.  I think there were like 8 or ten of them lined up like this (it was the only picture I could find on the web--I guess it's a thing of the past):

How's that for lack of personal space?

At work we have little walls between the urinals.  Even though you can see the person next to you, you can't "see" the person next to you (you know what I mean) unless you want to lean over (again, bad male etiquette).  Apparently, that's not enough for some of my coworkers, because if there's someone at one of our two urinals, they'll opt for a toilet instead.  One guy at work will actually turn away slightly if he's already at a urinal when I walk up.  Funny.

Then there are antics of the guys who want to go sit in a stall.

I've witnessed this several times: I'm washing my hands at the sink (which is located outside the restroom).  I've just come out and know there is one person inhabiting one of the two stalls.  Someone comes up and opens the door, stops, and turns around and leaves.  I don't know--Maybe they don't want to subject anyone else to something potentially horrible.  Maybe they just can't bear the possibility of someone hearing grunts or other noises.

Along those same lines, there are guys that go into a stall and the first thing they do is flush the toilet--whether it needs it or not.  I figure there are two reasons: Either they're expecting to make a lot of noise right off the bat and are trying to mask them, or they can't bear the thought of potentially contaminated water possibly splashing their exposed nether regions.

Okay, let's talk about hand washing (or lack thereof) for a minute.

Although we do have a small sink inside the restroom, most everyone uses the same big, round, handwashing sink that's located outside the restroom.  It's actuated by stepping on a ring that runs all the way around it just above the floor, see?

It makes a  squeak noise when it's stepped on that's very easily heard.  When I go into the bathroom to do my business at the urinal I notice when someone is in one of the stalls. I don't know why, but I do. So, when that person is finished and walks out of the room behind me, I listen for the squeak of the sink actuator.  If I don't hear it, it bothers me.  I think to myself, "Which disgusting animal was it this time?  Will I end up touching something after he did and not know it?"  If it was someone that was standing next to me at the urinal and leaves without hitting the squeaky alarm ring at the sink, it's more of a, "Aha! So you're another one of those are you?"  I try to make it a point to know who they are.  It's kind of a thing I can mentally hold above them: ("I know all about YOU.  You're disgusting.")

There are always the guys that will go into a stall several times a day.  Whether they have IBS or are just wasting time I don't want to know. There was one time a few years back when the shop foreman went into the bathroom and heard snoring. It turns out that a new employee was asleep inside the stall (basically sawing logs instead of pinching em).  Whether he was actually doing his business when he fell asleep is unclear.  Needless to say, he was gone within the week.

I pulled a sort of funny prank a number of years ago when I worked at Valley Pontiac in Auburn.  Through a door from the shop We had a small stairway that led to a small area that was our lunch room and locker room.  Off that was a teeny bathroom, only having a small trough and a single stall with a toilet in it. There was one guy that worked right next to me that had a daily routine.  Instead of eating his lunch upstairs he ate in his work area with his nephew that also worked there. Directly after lunch he would go upstairs to use the the toilet.  Because we wore uniforms (like all new car dealership personnel do) there was always an abundance of dirty ones for the uniform company to pick up sitting in the locker room. On this particular day, I put a pair of someone's used uniform pants over a pair of someone's boots that were also up there and scrunched them down around them, placing them directly in front of the toilet and closed the stall door.  I let several of the guys in on it, and sure enough, he went upstairs right after lunch ended. Seconds later he reappeared.  A few minutes went by and he went back upstairs--Only to again come back out the door a few seconds later.  After a little time went by he attempted it again.  This time he stayed a little while, and when he came out the door he had a little smile on his face.  I'm glad he got a little chuckle out of it because the joke would have backfired considerably if he actually had some sort of bowel issue.

That concludes my attempt at potty humor.


For those of you (if any) that tried to post a comment earlier, it wasn't working.  My apologies.

It is working now, so by all means, comment.

You know, things like this update have a lot of little issues to iron out.  I think (at this point anyway) that I have it pretty much all finished.

 Like I said, I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and by the way... The car is just a bit of "whoops" symbolism via Google image search.  I don't know the poor schmuck.

What? Again?!

Like I said before--I just can't leave stuff alone.

I futzed around with my new blog layout a long time.  Too long.  I got it to the point that I was happy with the layout of everything.

So, what went wrong?

I finished up and was kind of reading down my blog posts.  By the time I got to the bottom of the screen, I couldn't hardly see straight.  The light font on dark background may be visually appealing, but don't spend too much time reading it.  After a few minutes the screen was starting to blur.

This "look" is one I toyed with a few days ago, but with Sue's urging, went back to give it another try.  I've tweaked several things on it, and there are a few more to tweak, but for the most part it will stay the way it looks now.

Sorry for anyone that I caused to run for the Visine or Excedrin.

The New Blog!!

I like to switch things around every now and then. It's part of my fickle nature I guess. One day recently I looked at my blog and decided instantly that I was tired of it. Suddenly it just looked like I had been staring at it my whole life. It looked boring to me. I decided that it was time to browse the web to see what kind of new "themes" were available.

There were lots of them!

Although there were many to choose from, there was something I didn't like about every one of them. Suz was laughing.
"What's wrong with that one?" she'd ask.
"Not wide enough."
"How 'bout that one?" she asked.
"Well, it's okay except for this thing here," I said, pointing.
And so it went, over and over.

It became apparent to me that if I ever could decide on a theme I'd have to customize it the best I could to my liking. I don't mind that at all, because one of the things I've always liked about computer-related stuff is customizing it. Trouble is, these themes were not all that easy to customize. They were all controlled by "behind the scenes" control sheets. All the colors, fonts, placements, etc were controlled by little cryptic commands. Even though there was something about the graphics I didn't like about each of them, changing page graphics would just be too much all at once, so I decided to concentrate on the text and layout end of things.

It also occurred to me that back when I changed the header of my blog I should have done it differently. The way I did it then was a template change. If you recall, I made a change to the header graphic on the blog, which means it changed the complete blog--Every post all the way back to the beginning. Here's what I changed on the old blog that day:

Instead of doing that I should have just created a NEW blog. So that's exactly what I did this time.

What I did: Like I said, I created a NEW blog, which means a new URL. Yes, that also means you have to change your bookmarks if you follow my blog. If you forget, fear not, because links to each others' blog are in the links section over on the right side of this page.

Remember the post I made that day after Suzie and I were married? That is now the first post of this new blog. Basically, I moved all the posts from that point onward over to this blog. The old blog stops at that point.

Yeah, I know it's confusing. How do you think I feel--I'm the one that had to make it all work!

I hope you find it a refreshing change.