Another Sign of the TImes

Technology has changed a lot of things about our lives--That's very common knowledge.  We'd be lost without our computers, cell phones, televisions, GPS, iPod... The list goes on and on and on.  Technology has also driven us into a wireless frenzy.  Everything now is wireless if it can be made to be wireless.  The first thing was our phones--Now practically everything is wireless.

What we don't really think about is how these kinds of things have ripple effects.

Have you ever thought about how many things that have been rendered obsolete by our tech-ish toys?  That's a huge list itself.  With regard to technology, anything analog is history.  Analog cell phones fell quite a while back.  People that owned analog phones were forced into the digital world if they wanted to retain their beloved phones.  But even that list isn't what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about furniture.

Technology has rendered furniture obsolete?  Well, one particular item, yes.  This was reported a while back on the news, but I was reminded by it again this morning when I was perusing the Free section of our local Craigslist ads.  The item:  The entertainment center.  It has been rendered useless and obsolete by the sheer size of the newest televisions.  They simply will not fit into our old entertainment centers.  I think the biggest TV you could feasibly shoehorn into one was a 32", and that was pushing it.  For most it was a 27" TV.  Nowadays, TV's are so big they can only fit on top of furniture.

This morning I ran across this ad and I did a screenshot of it so you click it and see it full-sized.  This is beautiful oak furniture, and very high quality too.  I've seen these items in person at the store (my ex and I bought other items from this same line).  It's sad that it's come to giving stuff like this away:

It's just another sign of the times I guess.


The new neighbors have arrived.  Mark, Rachel, Celeste, Rebekah, and Markie are all here, freshly transplanted from Mormontown.

Hats off to Suzie.  She did a huge amount of work to insure that their new home would be inhabitable upon their arrival.  She worked long and hard at it.  If only we had before and after pictures!

At one point, I took off for Fred Meyer to buy a couple things we needed, like a shower head and a couple extra door keys.  I was a few miles away and close to the main drag in Covington when I saw a big, yellow Penske truck coming toward me.  Yep, sure enough it had their maroon car on a trailer behind it, and right behind that was their minivan pulling Mark's prized baby blue VW Beetle project car.  I grabbed my phone and called in the alarm to Suzie and the other "troops" that were working on their place.  "Battle stations!"  Okay, it wasn't that dramatic, but you get the idea.  It was kind of odd that I saw them.  As Suzie said later, "You went a different way to Fred Meyer than you usually do, and they took a different exit than they did last time they were here.  What are the odds?"

Here's a couple shots of the bunch:

And here's a couple of my favorite individual pictures:

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Welcome (to your new) Home, DeBelling Family!

Suz was busy yesterday afternoon, carefully lettering and painting a 3-foot tall banner (20 feet long?) with a welcome message.  She also had carefully painted each of the family's first names on a Mylar helium balloon.

"It's a big deal," Suzie explained to me when I commented on her thoughtfulness last night, "They are making a huge change in their lives."

She is of course talking about her half-brother Mark and his wonderful family, moving here from the Salt Lake City area.  They are due to be here sometime midday today, and we're looking forward to their arrival.

Their family is going to be joining our neighborhood here.  When all is said and done, we will have 4 (technically 5) houses on this street inhabited by family members.

Let's start with Denny, Heather, and Hunter.  They all live in a house they've owned for a couple of years.

Directly across the street from them, a house went up for auction a couple of months ago and was purchased (we don't know the owner).  It is currently one structure joined by a covered breezeway, but the owner is separating them into two units.  When the deal was made, Denny talked to the guy right away and told him that he could fill it with two rent families immediately if he was going that direction.  Turns out he was and he went for it.  He hired Kevin to do the maintenance to bring them back up to the stage of being inhabitable again.  Now Kevin and his family are living in the left half (the smaller of the two units) of the place.  The right half is where Mark and his family are going to be living when they arrive.  It's going to be close as far as being finished (it's 95%), and I hope it's got the electricity turned on and everything by then.  They've never seen the place and I hope they like their new home.  It's got plenty of space for their family.  If nothing else, it's an awful nice thing to have a place to go to right away when you make a multi-state move!

Back to the neighborhood.

Rachyl and Tony are currently living at Denny & Heather's house, but will be moving 3 doors down towards us at the end of this month when their house deal finally closes.  That will put them 2 houses down from us on the other side of the street.

We're taking over the neighborhood!

New Lenses!

Photography in our house got escalated a notch this week.

As I stated briefly last week, I ordered a new lens for Suzie.  She will say that it's not hers, it's ours, and I understand that.  Still, I bought it for her as an anniversary gift.  She's a good photographer with a love of flower shots, and she deserves a good lens.  The lenses that come with these cameras we own are very functional lenses in a very usable range, but they just lack clarity and crispness.  The week began on Monday with the arrival of the first brand new lens we've ever bought.

This lens is a Canon lens, and is therefore not very cheap ($500+).  It doesn't have zoom, nor does it have the IS (image stabilization) feature.  It's a dedicated 100mm lens.  So what does it have?  Well, it has a relatively low F-number, which means it's good in low light.  It's also very sharp.  It's also very good as a dedicated macro (closeup) lens--One of the best in fact.  The quality of Suzie's pictures has already gone up since the arrival of that lens.  It's pretty nice!

That wasn't the only one.  Yesterday another lens arrived--One that we already owned.  Huh?

A couple months ago (not sure when exactly) Suz bought a lens from a local seller on Craigslist.  It's a pretty nice lens for a "kit" (a lens that comes bundled with a new camera when you buy it) lens.  Our cameras both came with a cheaply-made (but very usable) 18-55mm zoom.  This particular lens is a 28-135mm zoom, and it came bundled with better Canon cameras.  Anyway, shortly after she spent $250 bucks on it, it died.  It still took pictures, but the auto focus became sporadic (if it worked at all) and we weren't at all sure the IS feature was doing any better because it was hard to tell if the autofocus wasn't working.  I doubt the seller knowingly sold us a bad lens--We were just victims of bad timing.  Now we were faced with using it as a manual focus lens or repairing it.  Was it worth repairing?  How much would the lens end up costing when all was said and done?  Visions of dollar signs floated back and forth as I did my best to get an estimate for repair.  I used it for a few days and was convinced that it was a nice lens and worthy of keeping, so I sent it in to Canon in California for a repair estimate.  They came back with an email saying it was going to cost $102 to fix.  Cool!  I gave them the go-ahead and it just showed up yesterday.  Pretty fast turn-around if you ask me.  They did a complete repair, calibration, and cleaning.  It works nice!

Now we have two new lenses in the family!

Creature Smarts

We as humans think we're pretty smart.  We are also cocky.  We think we're amazing because we have opposable thumbs and large brains.  Ha.  Drop us into the middle of jungle and see if we're smart.  That's when you find out how relative it all is.  All the creatures that live there know how and what they need to get by.  They are smart in their own way.

Dateline: Last summer. 
I got up one morning during a beautiful weekend morning and was sitting here drinking my coffee and doing computer stuff.  It slowly became aware of a raucous noise coming from the vicinity of the sliding door leading to the deck in the back yard.  I walked over there, and just outside the door was a blue jay sitting on something, screeching at me.  He was obviously trying to get my attention.  Anyone that knows our back yard knows we get lots of birds, not the least of which are the Blue Jays (yesterday I counted 5 at one time).  What's funny is that they seem to be one of the more skittish of the bird varieties we get out there.  They usually scatter when someone goes out the sliding door, even though the feeder area is 40 feet or so away.  I guess this particular jay was the duly-elected spokesman for the rest of them that day.  What was he saying?  He was obviously telling me to fill the feeder!  That was a smart bird.

Dateline: This morning.
After I got up and walked into the kitchen, I turned on the coffee pot and walked over to the back slider and looked out, surveying the scene.  A few various birds, pecking away at stuff on the ground under the feeder.  I walked over to the computer and sat down, waiting for the coffee to brew.  When it was finished I walked back into the kitchen, and there just outside the sliding door, was a little bird, maybe a Chickadee.  He was looking at me.  He hopped back a few steps, then forward again and stopped.  Then he repeated it.  It was a classic case of when Lassie tried to tell Timmy that someone had fallen into the well (I don't know why they didn't cover that damned well--Everybody seemed to fall into it).  This was the spokesbird for this morning.  Although much quieter than a Blue Jay, he got the job done. I filled the feeder.  Suddenly, all was harmonious with nature.

We humans may be smart, but so is everything else.  You just have to be aware.  We watch "our" birds a lot, and we see what they do, how they interact, and notice lots of differences in the way they do things.  The same thing goes for the squirrels that visit us.  There is one that hauls the hanging corn cob up to him hand-over-hand instead of climbing down to it like the others.  Yep, creature smarts.

The Old Ol' Man

It's kind of strange when people get old.  It's happens so slightly and incrementally that in many cases we don't even notice it.  I think the "buzz word" I've mentioned before that my boss likes to use applies here so I'll mention it again:  Incrementalism.  At some time the realization hits you right in the face:  Wow, [insert scenario here] has really changed!

So why am I bringing this up?

I was over at my parents house yesterday.  I stopped in to "fix" his computer.  What I stopped in to fix was very typical of what I usually stop in for:  Something stupid.  This time it was him all upset because he couldn't figure out why his Windows toolbar was at the top of the screen instead of the bottom.  If you know anything about computers you know that it's really nothing.  All you have to do is drag it around and you can put it anywhere you want.  The trouble this time was his mouse.  He had a "garage sale" mouse (it looked like a skull) hooked to his computer, and it was a total piece of crap.  If it was anyone else I would have stopped right there and said, "WTF is this?  I can't help you until you find me a mouse that works."  Not so with my dad... He is very easily offended so I just put up with it.

So what am I talking about this time?  Dad's health.

It's no surprise that he's done nothing right with his health all his life.  Until recent times he has smoked.  That's at least 50 years of smoking--Most of those using non-filter cigarettes (which probably doesn't really matter).  In recent history he found out he has emphysema.  Funny thing--He wasn't actually diagnosed... Instead, he was in the doctor for shortness of breath (last year I think it was) and the doctor, making some sort of offhand remark, said something like, "Well, your emphysema isn't helping anything."  Say what?  Until that time no doctor had even mentioned emphysema.  In other words, he didn't even know he had it.  I'm sure he was diagnosed with it at one time because it was in his file, but apparently the doctor failed to tell him.  Nice, eh?  Anyway I think it's safe to say his health has been deteriorating.

Until yesterday, it hadn't really hit me how much though.

I had just gotten there and was in their entry hallway and mom says, "Look at your dad's face."  I looked at him in that bad light and I saw a very bad-looking, gray-skinned old man.  I was kind of shocked.  Before I could say anything, she said to him, "Move your glasses." and to me, "Look at his eye."  He raised his glasses and showed me a nice black eye.  Apparently he had fallen that morning after getting out of bed.  I mean right after getting out of bed.  He hadn't made it 6 feet.  I guess he conked himself on something because she said he bled too.  From what I could see looking at his eye it didn't surprise me. I was just glad that she added the "look at his eye" comment when she did because I might have said something about how crappy he looked.  He has aged a lot in the last couple of years.

I told Suzie last night when we were sitting in the hot tub talking about stuff that maybe it's time I started working on a eulogy for him just in case.  I'm not saying he's going anytime soon, but he just seems like the obvious "next" one to go.  History dictates however, that it's rarely the expected one... I figure that even if there's no ceremony and I never use it, I can still put it on here as a blog post.

But that's future... Let's hope it's not too soon.

The Monday Morning Report

What a nice weekend!  Finally, after enduring one of the wettest runs of spring weather in recent history, we have had two beautiful, sunny days in a row--And both of them on the same weekend!  Could it be that we're finally in the right pattern?  One can only hope.

I'd say we have had a pretty good weekend.  One of the best in quite a while.  The only downside that me and Suz can see is that both of us have aches and pains.  Mine is nothing but a mysterious twinge behind a shoulder blade that appeared for no reason (old guy pain).  Hers is a result of her fall while at Ocean Shores last weekend.

We started out our weekend by going to Draft Choice (our local pub) with Tony and Rachyl on Friday night.  It was good to get out and play a little pool and eat some good food.  By the time me and Suzie got home and slid into the hot tub, that's about all I could do.  I ate a bit too much and was pretty lethargic.

Saturday morning:  Sun!  After having coffee and letting the sun make it's way a little higher and dry the grass off, Suzie and I celebrated the first day of summer (weather-wise) by laying in the yard and catching some rays.  During this time I got to experience one of the high points of my weekend:  Punishing the yappy dog next door.  See, I have a water-filled, air pressure-charged fire extinguisher that I bought several years ago.  Anytime we are outside doing whatever, we frequently have to endure the wrath of the three little "yappy dogs" (Chihuahuas) that the neighbors have.  This time when I saw one of them trying to burrow under the fence (still yapping all the while) I had to act.  I went into the garage shop (I'm sorry, I keep calling it a garage, when really it's a shop) and grabbed it.  I filled and charged it and placed myself about 20 feet from the fence and waited.  You have to understand the power of these fire extinguishers--They're shoot 50 feet easily.  Anyway, I only had to wait a few seconds before it was back, poking his yappy nose under the fence.  When I blasted him, it also blasted the dirt around his face.  That did the trick!  He yapped a little, but kept way back--Probably wondering what happened and why his eyes were instantly full of mud.  It was right after that they came out and called them into the house.  Anyway, an hour of sunning and we had our allotted amount.  Time to shower and head to Seattle.

Our whole reason for Seattle on Saturday was to attend an event at a noted camera supply store there.  Although it was an annual event, we didn't know anything about it other than the fact that they had several vendor booths and special "event pricing".  We were hoping to buy Suzie a new fancy macro lens for doing the close-ups that she loves so much.  We knew what our choices were, web-wise, so we had to see if they could beat the prices we found.  They couldn't (I ended up ordering it online yesterday morning).  Still, it was a good event.  We learned which tripod setup we just have to have, and also picked up a neutral density filter (photo geek-speak) and a t-shirt for me (just geek).

That wasn't the end of our adventure.  Next stop:  Belltown.  We went to a place we had been previously and enjoyed a great burger and beer while sitting at a table outside.  It was very cool!  After eating we wandered around that area for a while (basically using up our parking meter).  After wandering, we ended up on Queen Anne Hill once again, this time to see what the cityscape looked like on a sunny day from our beloved photo stop:  Kerry Park.  Well, it looked pretty nice, but eh.  We wandered some more and found a nice small park on the same road as Kerry Park, but at the far end of the street.  This one faced west and southwest.  Very tiny, but nice regardless.  While we were there we saw what looked to be a bike trail in the distance that followed along the edge of the water.  I headed us off toward the area and we ended up making all the right turns and driving right to it.  It was a nice trail!  There we got numerous water shots and shots of people enjoying themselves (jogging, skateboarding, bicycling, etc) on the trail.  There was a nice fishing pier there too.  During our brief stop there we watched a fisherman haul up the most ugly thing I have ever seen some out of the water in my life:  A Ratfish.  Talk about ugly.  It was equipped with a poisonous barb in its dorsal fin, and it even had teeth!

 After all that we wandered home for some much-needed rest.

Yesterday we woke to sun once again, but instead of waiting for it to get higher in the sky, I hauled our deck loveseat out to the sunny area and sat with my second cup of coffee and watched the birds and squirrels enjoying their freshly-filled feeder.  Cookie woke Suzie up and she quickly joined me as well.  When the coffee was done and we ate a good breakfast, we spread our sunning stuff out again and did another carefully-choreographed sun session.  By the time I went to bed last night I had a nice glow of pink all over me.  Both of us did really... Just more coverage on me.  I rounded out the afternoon by doing a little minor truck maintenance as Suz washed and vacuumed her car.  Finishing the weekend with a "feelgood" movie (Sue's words) was just about right.  We needed to veg out at that point.

Yep, it was a good weekend.

The Blue Collar World

I sometimes feel a little bit like the walls are closing in while I'm at work.  Those of my readers that also work there probably know what I'm talking about.  Actually, it probably doesn't much matter where you work--You're bound to have the same "what the hell am I doing here" thoughts from time to time.

I was reflecting recently about what kind of things I've witnessed during the 8 years I've worked there, and it's been an interesting sort of circus of sorts.  Probably pretty much the way things are in the manufacturing world.  After all, we are the people that opted out of getting that engineering degree.  Some probably didn't even make it through high school...

Business as Usual
Devoid of brain activity
the misfits come apply.
Unencumbered by intelligence
and barely getting by.

Workers that can't find a job
are welcome at LaCroix.
Brain-dead doesn't matter;
the dregs they will employ.

Some employees change themselves
after working there.
They may be male when they come in
but leave a little queer.

A new-hire's basic skills
can vary quite a lot;
They may look like they're intelligent
but they're really devoid of thought.

Some may even look deranged
but still be good at work.
They may show up unshaven
but at least their brains aren't murk.

Occasionally they turn out to be
alcoholic bums instead.
If they do show up on time
their fumes would wake the dead.

Most workers badly need their checks
they're always almost broke;
But yet they always buy their lunch
and never fail to smoke.

Many of them seem to miss
a day of work per week,
and yet they are the ones
whose finances are most bleak.

Some of us have stayed so long
our rut is way too deep
we've passed the point that we can leave--
The sides of the rut too steep.

There are often times we want
to find a different place;
a different work environment
or just a change of pace.

Even though I've been there a while,
I sometimes have a fright:
What if I find in the morning
that my job vanished overnight?

Two brothers own the company
and both are fairly old;
Their heirs don't seem to want the throne
But I'm sure they'll want the gold.

What if one or both expire?
They are getting up in years.
Will the company survive
or be the end of our careers?

I hate the thought of being forced
to join the job search fray;
To give up all I've earned and done
to job hunt every day.

Ocean Shores

I had a pretty negative memory of Ocean Shores until this weekend.  The last time I had been there was probably 25 years ago, and before that it was pretty much childhood memories of a boring, flat beach.  The town probably hasn't changed much--It's still a tourism-driven type of a town.

But the area outside of town has changed a lot.

Ocean Shores is on a long piece of land that hangs down from our coastline like an appendix.  Because of that, there is basically one way in or out.  The town itself is at the entrance--The first thing you see really.  As you continue down, you get a feeling of what it's turned into from the houses that are lining the coastal view.  They are all relatively new construction, all very interesting with no two alike.  So many of them had fancy "viewing areas" built into them, like pseudo-lighthouse beacons, top floor sun rooms, and multi-level decks.  It was also very clean and empty-looking.  I would be surprised if anyone was home in 1 out of every 10 homes.  Obviously vacation properties.  It almost had a Stephen King feel to it.

There was lots of wandering wildlife that we came into contact with as well.  People that were centered in town might never see them, but because we had rented a house down near the bottom it was different.  We saw deer everywhere.  It wasn't uncommon to have multiple deer sightings in one day.  I walked up to one of them and managed to get pretty close before he finally decided I was close enough and slowly wandered away.  We had a gang of raccoons that visited our house each night, uncaring about how close we were to them.   We saw them first on Friday night when we were in the hot tub, then a little after that they were on the upstairs deck.  They did a repeat the next night.  I guess word gets out in the animal kingdom when a house is inhabited.  We also had sightings of a dolphin, a seal, pelicans, bald eagles, as well as the more common seagulls and crows.

As I said before we had rented a house.  All of Sue's kids and their respective family members were there, and Sarah and Sopha came along too.  Even though it was a big house, it was a full one. All 4 bedrooms and all of the couches were used by various people.

Friday night we all went to the main beach near town for some pictures.  That's the only real beach you can drive on, and it's very wide and firm.  It was just after sundown, and the idea was to get pictures of Tony's Jeep charging through the edge of the surf.  As Sue found out, you can get too close.  We had a great time there, with lots of good pictures being taken of the Jeep as the different people kept "taking a turn" at swirling around and doing donuts and stuff.

Saturday was weird.  First of all, the weather was gorgeous!  Sue left early in her car to go all the way back to Puyallup for a big Witness event that she didn't want to miss.  We had come at different times in our own vehicles, so after breakfast me, Sarah, and Sopha piled into my car in search of photo ops.  Boy did we find them!  We spent a couple hours getting excellent shots of crashing waves, surfers, seagulls, and scenery in general.  From there we wandered into town and stuffed ourselves at Subway.  It was the same weekend as the annual Kite Festival they have in town, and right across the street was the main beach entrance where they where it was taking place.  Having such a beautiful blue sky for the event was probably unusual, but we sure took advantage of it.  Over 500 pictures were taken by me that day, and Sarah wasn't far behind!

When the family regrouped later in the day, it was decided that we would all go to the beach a couple blocks away to fly our own kites.  They had 3 kites among the family members that were flying.  I had my first taste of flying a two-string kite.  It was awesome!  They have so much pull at times that it will literally drag you in the sand.  All of us got a taste of it, and again--Had a fantastic time.

Yesterday was mine and Suzie's anniversary.  1 year!  So what did we do?  Nothing.  I felt bad--I still feel bad.  I talked with her about it before we went down for the weekend--About how frustrated I felt that it was our first anniversary and we were going to be spending it in a chaotic, family, communal environment.  To top it off, she surprised me with a really nice leather jacket (dressy-style) yesterday morning at breakfast.  What did I have to give her?  Nothing.  Nada.  I felt (and still feel like) the world's biggest idiot.  I planned to buy her a camera lens, but wanted to hold out until next weekend for a big sale event in Seattle.  But did I get her anything for a "place holder" even?  No.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

We drove home in rain yesterday.  We (me, Sarah, and Sopha) left ahead of everyone else because they wanted to make another stop in town or something so I thought.  While they were there they went back over to the beach to fly kites again.  Apparently Suzie was helping a guy re-launch his kite and its string pulled her feet out from under her and she lit hard on packed sand--Flat on her back.  She's in a lot of pain from that.  Add the fact that I wasn't there for her during that to my "I'm stupid" list...

Anyway, it's good to be home.