A Different Path

Here's a little thing I wrote at work yesterday.  I was sitting there and had a fleeting thought wash over me.  Every now and then I notice with peculiar intensity all the things I'm surrounded by.  The noise, the grit, the smells, the air quality, the temperature--you name it.  I wonder to myself:

"Where would I be right now if I would have went to college?"


A Different Path
Apathetic
here I sit.
I can't quite shake the feeling;
Wondering long,
"Where'd I go wrong?"
and staring at the ceiling.
Much more I'd earn
if I had learned
way more while back in school;
I'd likely be
well off and free
had I never played the fool.
The money goes
to all of those
that prove that they were scholars;
If high school's tops
and the learning stops
we'll never see big dollars.
I can't go back
to change my track
and right my stupid wrongs;
Instead I sit
and reflect a bit
writing melancholy songs.
Rick Williams

Maybe I'm just a tortured artist in my own right and I need my substandard surroundings to really shine. Maybe if I was a successful white collar worker I'd be even more dissatisfied than I am now.

Yeah, just go with the flow I guess...

Looking Back at the Christmas Weekend

For the working person, it's a little weird when one of our major holidays falls on a weekend.  When Christmas falls on a Thursday, we (I'm speaking for my place of employment) get that day as a paid day off of course, and are also usually forced into taking Friday off.  In other words it's a free day off, but it's without pay.  When the company is closed you don't have a choice.  If Christmas falls on a Friday I believe they tend to pull the same thing--giving us Thursday off as an unpaid "bonus" day.  When Christmas falls on a Saturday, that's when things really seem to get hectic.  A lot of people work right up until Christmas, and because of that, Christmas eve day is the funneled madness day of filling in the shopping gaps.  To me it's the worst scenario as far as bringing out the madness and the surliness in shoppers that are already pushed over the edge by the "season of giving" in general.  They have to do their end of week paycheck/banking stuff, their last minute grocery shopping for their holiday meal or food shopping in general, AND they still have to fill in their gift shopping gaps for presents or stocking stuffers.  Given those day-off scenarios, I think I prefer the way it fell this year.  When Christmas falls on a Sunday it gives people Saturday as an "extra" shopping day to search for that one last item on their list, more time to prepare for their fancy feast, or more time to travel.  One factor that changes with a weekend holiday is which day off you get with pay.  I think this worked out the best having Monday as our paid holiday. Extending the weekend one day further into the work week is better for people mentally I think.  Throw all of the previous notions and discussion out the window if you work in retail though.  They get little respect for holidays.  For them it's holiDAZE.  I feel sorry for them sometimes.

So what did my weekend consist of?

Saturday morning we drove to a few stores to see if I could find something in the way of a hand-held electronic game for my dad.  He spends so much time sitting in his easy chair barking requests at my mom that I thought it would be nice to see if I could find something he could actually use his brain on.  I didn't expect to find anything, nor did I really care if I did or not.  After all--it was an afterthought.  We hit Fry's in Renton, Radio Shack in Factoria, Toys R Us in Bellevue, and Walmart when we were back in Auburn.  Nada.  I did pick up a couple goodies for my parents though:  Coffee for mom and chocolate for my dad.  The good news was that we were out and back home before traffic was impacted, and also before the store clerks ran short of smiles and good attitudes.

Since it was Christmas Eve Day (hmm... that doesn't look right all capitalized) it was also the day that my family all gets together at my folks' house for gift exchange and dinner.  I waited until the last minute to wrap the few things I had to wrap.  I'm going to say it's because there is no tree to provide me with a visual incentive, but in truth I was just lazy.  It was a good gathering.  For a change, my parents just gave me stuff to eat.  Finally, no weird stuff I will never use.  I know they mean well, but you're supposed to give gifts for the sake of giving.  That means they can be anything.  A couple bags of my favorite potato chips?  Excellent!  There was a good turnout of people there, and as usual Jackie was the one with the interesting stuff.  She gave my folks a calendar with childhood pictures of them on each month.  She also brought homemade things, and had a grab bag.  She is just always like that--thinking a little outside the box.

Sunday morning.  A day like any other for the most part.  I left for Sarah's house at about the same time Suzie left for Meeting.  As usual, she was surrounded by quite a pile of gifts from her mom.  She is one of those people that shops all year long, and by the time the giving day arrives she is lucky to find them all or remember she even bought them.  Sarah bought me lots of good snacks.  I got candies and nuts, and lots of them.  A couple movies too.  I gave her a new (duh) GPS unit for her car.  This year has been a year when she has become a lot more mobile.  She was constantly having to go places that she didn't know directions to and would have to Google directions or ask me.  Having a GPS in your car is a major step in independence that we never had the luxury of when we were young.  I think she'll use it a lot.  I was only there about an hour so I was back before Suzie was.

We rounded out Christmas Day with a photography trip to downtown Seattle.

The weather here at home was nasty and we had to force ourselves to go, but we are so glad we went.  The closer we got to Seattle, the better the weather was!  It was so weird though.  The city was practically deserted.  Imagine being able to stand in the middle of 1st avenue and take a picture of a street that was empty as far as you could see.  It really was weird.  We took lots of good pictures and had a great time.  I'd say it was the high point of the weekend for sure.

Yesterday?  Eh... Boring.  We took one shopping trip out just before lunch, but I didn't feel all that enthused about doing anything else so I just hung out the rest of the day.  Sue went out again on her own though, so she was more productive than I was.  Of course, that's almost always the case.

Back to work.  At least it's a 4-day work week this week and next...

Suddenly, Mom and Dad are OLD

It's hard to see parents aging.  Growing up, our parents were our providers, our nurturers, and our safety net.  They were our rock.  We could look to them for anything we needed help with.

I used to think that maybe I was one of the lucky ones because my parents and I are fairly close in age (my mom was 17 and dad was 18 when I was born), but I don't think so.  If anything, our ages were too close and caused us to butt heads too often.  I don't think watching my parents get older is any easier to watch from the 'close age' perspective either.  If anything, it just means it's right around the corner for me.  I'm next.  I'll be first to tell you:  It's already well underway with me too.  I'm aging pretty quickly myself.  A lot has changed in my last 5 years.

My dad has not been the fearless leader he appeared to be when I was growing up.  He was always the opinionated disciplinarian, but mom has been making the intelligent decisions for several decades now.  He didn't always listen of course, but many times he had no choice.  She would be adamant.  In the last couple decades he has been a shell of what he once appeared to be.  His erratic thought patterns, his physical health, and almost everything about him has caused us to not be a bit surprised if he was suddenly found to be in the past tense.

Mom has a tremendous work ethic and always has.  When my dad decided that he couldn't or wouldn't work any longer about 20 years ago, it apparently didn't matter much.  We all shook our heads and rolled our eyes, but she took it in stride I guess.  She had a good job with the Auburn School District.  She retired from there with good medical coverage and that sort of thing.  In other words, the Auburn School District was a good thing to retire from (or with).  Even after retirement, she was always cleaning, painting, arranging--something.  There was always something on her list.  I think she painted their house inside and out every year or so.

Now there is a new development.

Both of my parents have had issues in the last couple of days.  With dad it was that he fell out of bed (apparently misjudged something as he was getting up) and hurt himself pretty good.  I guess he actually had to go the hospital for it.  What's irritating is that I never hear about these things from my parents themselves.  It's obvious that because they are both only children they don't understand, but when they have a health-related issue of any kind, they need to tell us.  I can count the number of times I have actually been informed of anything like that on one hand.  It just never happens.  Nowadays, I find out stuff on Facebook.  What's wrong with this picture?

But I've digressed.  Back to the newest development.

Apparently mom had a back issue that has reared it's ugly head.  She called it more of a Sciatica (I call it psychotica) thing because that's where it affected her.  When I heard (again--indirectly) that she had to go the ER the day before because of it, I stopped in on the way home from work.

What a shock to see mom using a walker.  It was a blow to be sure.  Mom is tough, and to see her like that was so strange.  Dad "slid" to his current condition slowly, but mom just got whacked upside the head with it with little or no warning.  She seemed to be in good spirits.  She was talking about how much easier it was to walk with it than the cane she was using when she went to the ER.  She had to walk with that using both hands in front of her she said.  While mom is telling me all this and navigating the clutter that is their furniture arrangement and living room lifestyle, dad just sat there, indifferently thumbing through his car magazines and other mail of the day.

Anyway, I tried to get them to understand that we're only about 10 minutes away, and if they need anything to give us a call.  Anything.  Will they call?  Probably not.  Things are going to be hard for them now.  They have a washer but have never had a dryer.  The washer is in the basement.  Translation:  Stairs.  Dad can do simple things, but she will need to give him full instructions, and I guarantee he will not do everything willingly.

You know what really sends a shudder down my spine?  Losing mom before dad.  I would have a hard time with him if that happened.  We all would.

Old People Smell

When do people start to smell like old people?  When we do, will anyone tell us?

There have been lots of times when I was smacked right in the olfactory senses with the smell of old people.  Sometimes it was relatives, but usually not.

When I was young I spent 4 years delivering newspapers here in this sleepy little town of Auburn, and the route I had was in a fairly well-established part of town.  I didn't have many younger customers.  I figure there were either not many young families in that area or just that only the older citizens liked subscribing to newspapers.  The only times I ever actually went into people's houses were during the times I went door-to-door collecting for their monthly subscription bills.  I usually waited outside the front door while they went to find their money, but occasionally a customer would invite me in during the rainy or cold times while they got their payment together.  I was always very polite and stood still on the rug near the door like people are supposed to do.  I don't think I ever noticed anything really odd about any of them.  Well, except for one woman that had tall stacks of newspapers filling her entire living room.  There were so many that she had to navigate her way through carefully groomed pathways.  But that's another story.

Some people's houses had a smell.  It wasn't a bad smell, but it was a pervasive smell.  I can't quite put my finger on what it smelled like.  I just call it Old People Smell.  I don't know if it's from the age of their furnishings or carpets, the degree of housekeeping that they kept up, or the people themselves.  Sometimes it's seemed to be directly related to mothballs.  I hate mothballs.  Maybe the Old People Smell I keep recalling is nothing more than a person's trust in that age-old vermin remedy (probably passed down by apothecaries in the days of yore).  Maybe in addition to repelling moths, those stinky, disgusting orbs of mystery are also used to repel young people?  If the sense of smell in old people has declined as much as their eyesight or hearing has, maybe they figure the odor of mothballs is worthwhile to endure if it can be depended on to keep young people away from them.

Let's say it's the people themselves that develop a smell.  Nobody ever told me that it would happen.  Nobody ever sat me down and said, "You know, one day in your future you are going to start to rot.  People around you will probably notice but not say anything.  There's nothing you can do about it so I'm not sure why I'm even telling you this."

How do you know when it hits?  Does it happen slowly or is it a sudden thing?  Does it eventually happen to everybody?

Sue's youngest son, Keith, still maintains a bedroom here.  He splits his time among our house and others, but basically he is here often.  His room has a smell.  It smells alien to me.  Odd somehow.  I figured it's because he keeps it closed tightly most of the time.  Recently, her next older son, Dane, moved back home.  Now I notice a smell in that room when I go in there that never used to be there.  My shirts still hang in that closet, and when I get one out and put it on I smell it on me then.

Could it be that I'm smelling a NON Old People Smell?

Dane was talking to his mom the other day.  He told her that when he visited his fiance' Chelsea she said something to him like, "You smell like your mom's house".

Could it be?  I have Old People Smell?  We have Old People Smell?  Why the hell didn't anyone tell us?

Hmm.  Maybe when people say that someone has 'aged like a fine wine' they're actually referring to the degree of fermentation that is emanating from their bodies.

Seasonal Pressure... It Still Festers Within

It's that strange time of year again. The time when people feel pressured--pressured to buy too much, eat too much, and do too many things when there is not enough time to do them in. We are surrounded by gatherings, events, sales, lights, and music everywhere we go. In addition to our own lives (that we may or may not be in control of), we feel a strange requirement to embrace the other people in our lives on a more personal level.

Lemmings? Peer pressure? Superficial culture?

I no longer live with any Christmas spirit in the house. I'm fine with that. I look at it like I'm just downsizing my life a little. Sure, I miss the things of my past that signaled the onset of the season. I've written about them many times before. The lights, the music, the scented candles, the baking, the smell of pine--all of these things that I associate with Christmas. I don't miss the pressure to buy so many things for so many people. That itself relieves me of having to figure out what to buy, how many, watch the sales, and physically hit the stores and deal with the traffic and crowds. I like to consider myself to be a good shopper. I consider myself to be conscientious about what I'm buying for somebody. It's not my style to just buy for the sake of buying. This way of thinking leads to worry, pressure, and a host of other things that weigh on me mentally. I like gifts I buy people to be thoughtful, and I want them to be appreciated, and the best appreciation comes when they're unexpected.

It occurred to me that I still have the worry in my head this time of year though. I think it's almost a Pavlov's Dogs kind of a thing now. I have been a part of over 50 Christmas seasons, and after all that time, the same feelings are still there in the back of my mind: Did you do this, did you do that, make sure you don't forget this or that--It's there. It apparently lies dormant all year and is triggered by something--I don't know. My parents' anniversary is today--maybe that has something to do with it.

I think another part of the pressure and unease I have this time of year is triggered by the cold. People that live in warm climates probably can't relate, but here it's another thing for me to worry about. My parents have a woodstove but it causes my dad a lot of grief with his breathing, so they use their oil furnace. Their heating oil costs them well over $1000 each time their tank is filled. For us we just have to make sure we have enough wood. Still, it's always there in the back of my mind--nagging me. Every time we bring more wood from the pile and put in the house a small voice in my head says, "What day is this? What month is this? At this rate is it going to last as long as we need it?"

Still another pressure thing is also weather related. It's ice, snow, and traffic. I have to drive to work in the dark every morning (and sometimes home too). This time of year I have to scrape ice off the windows. When I get going, I then have to be conscious of ice everywhere on the roads. Traffic moves slower because everyone else is in the same boat. All these things have the potential to make me late for work. If you have to add Christmas shopping into the mix, it's going to be done during non-working hours so it will be dark, cold, and icy.

It's weird. By the fact that my family has grown and people have gotten older within their own families, I've slowly tapered off buying presents. Even though I've removed myself from many of our societal Christmas 'requirements' over the years, I still fell stressed.

Salt and Photography

I really wanted to have a different blog title than the one I chose, but good ol' Blogger doesn't let you alter title text format in any way.  No italics, bold, or any other font adjustments.  See, what I really wanted to have there was Salt and Pepper Photography.  Just pretend that a strikeout of the word Pepper is there in the title and you just can't see it.

This is the time of year when there is not a lot going on.  Our amazing lives are willed with such wondrous things as watching movies, appreciating the accelerated clicking of a nice, hot woodstove, or writing about all these things on the computer like I am now.

One of our favorite movies is The World's Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins.  We loved the story, and it kind of opened Suzie's eyes to the strangeness of this place in our country we call the Bonneville Salt Flats, just outside of Wendover, Utah.  They have an event there every August called Speed Week.  It's when record-setters descend on it from all parts of the world, hoping that they can shatter the previous record for flat-out top speed in their class.  My family went once when I was young--maybe 12 years old or so.  I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember it being unlike any other place.  My brother, Denis, went with a bunch of guys from his place of employment last year.  He posted a bunch of cool pictures and that clinched the deal.  Suzie said we should go.  Timing is everything in a place where the only town for miles and miles has only a handful of motels, but we did manage to snag one.  No, it certainly wasn't cheap.  We will be there for one full day and two nights.  I guess we're lucky because we actually forgot about it.  The last time we thought about it was several months ago.  Anyway, Monday of Speed Week will be our day on the salt, and we plan on being there to see the sun come up.  The salt flats are blindingly white, and it's August during that event.  And it's a desert in Utah.  Translation:  It's hot.  We will need plenty of water and sunscreen to help the experience go smoothly.  We plan on taking our usual multiple thousand pictures while there.  It should be a pretty exciting event!

Suzie is working on a special photography project.  She has this visual in her head involving tea light candles hanging in trees at nighttime.  Yesterday she spent some time making a bunch of little captive hangers to put them in, and while it was still daylight went out and arranged them out in the woods behind our house.  After dinner she dragged me out of my chair to be her [somewhat] able assistant and help her with her project.  She had them all over the place, and as we lit them they illuminated a "dummy" she had there in the center of the area that consisted of an old dress draped over a shovel stuffed into the ground.  It was an interesting effect to be sure.  As we finished up and were heading back to the house I made an interesting observation.

"It probably looks pretty weird to see two people walking out of the woods at night carrying flashlights, a shovel, and a woman's dress."

The Annual Weekend of Turkey & Shopping

This is probably the most varied weekend we have all year.  Potentially anyway.  For many people it's a long weekend because they (or their employer) chooses to take Friday off in addition to the Thanksgiving holiday.  At the very least, I see it as a 3-part weekend: Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, and the standard 2-day weekend making up the 3rd part.

Part One:  Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving was kind of an uneventful day really.  I enjoyed hanging around the house in my robe during the morning with Suzie as usual, with the crackling woodstove providing ambiance.  Sarah texted me at one point--pretty pumped about the fact that she would be able be at my parents' house with all the rest of us for the entire time this year.  Usually she works and has to show up late.  This year she did work, but it was a morning shift so she got off an hour before our family feast was due to start.

The family dinner went well.  As I've blogged so many times before, you never know what my dad is going to blow up about or what his general mood will be.  I only stifled him one time this year, and a minute later it was like nothing even happened.  We had a medium crowd.  In addition to myself, my parents, and Sarah, all three of my local siblings showed up.  Actually, they usually do, but we were wondering this year about Denis and Kim because they had announced an impending marital split.  We were surprised (well, I was anyway--I never hear anything gossipy) to see them show up together.  That's good!  Daughter Cassady even made it over from the other side of the state where she's attending WSU, arriving with her boyfriend, Aaron.  Denise and son Jesse (daughter Emma was in North Carolina with her Army fiance' this year) were there.  As usual, Jesse's fiance', Amy, spent it with her family.  We see her seldom, and when she does show up I never see her interact with the family.  Shy maybe?  Jackie showed up alone this time.  Unfortunately, Gary's mom passed away the day before.  She was a neat lady--I met her several times.  Finishing up the gathered family members was Jackie's daughter, Janie and her husband Aaron.  We had some good eats, some good drinks, and some good conversation.  The usual Williams wackiness just made sporadic appearances.  For example, the pictured wines above.

Part Two:  Black Friday

Black Friday was different this year.  It actually started on Thursday night.  I had been watching the "advance ads" online for a certain item and had it pretty much narrowed down and knew where I was going to have to be to get it, but wasn't thrilled about having to be in a madhouse crowd at midnight.  After careful consideration (or a moment of clarity), I opted to pay an additional 5 bucks for shipping and shopped from my computer chair.  I actually did that Thanksgiving morning.  Suzie opted to stop by Walmart on her way home from JW Meeting and soon realized the error of her ways when she had to park two blocks away from the edge of their parking lot.  After walking in the rain and wind, dodging drivers with their Black Friday blinders on (in other words, ignoring pedestrians), she finally got to the store only to find no indication that the item she was after ever existed to begin with.  Overall, it was a bad experience and she came home Thursday night feeling a little anger toward the whole "midnight madness" aspect of Black Friday, and rightly so.  It's a no-win situation unless you're willing to brave insult, injury, inconvenience, and mayhem--all for the sake of saving a few bucks.  Sarah, on the other hand, was totally pumped about it.  She is a working girl now and proud of it.  She has always enjoyed the camaraderie of going Black Friday shopping with her mom and her moms friend, Noelle.  This is the first year that I noticed she had a different outlook.  She had control, confidence, and was calling some of her own shots.  She's a real shopper now!  I found her choice of words interesting (I think it was yesterday) when I got a text from her saying that she had 'picked up a shift' at work that enabled her to pay for all  her shopping.  Working girl lingo.

Friday afternoon Suzie and I did some front yard work (trimming the dead and removing leaves) while the weather was nice, then groomed ourselves for a night at Kevin and Shirley's house for a giant meal.  It was a blast.  When I compare that meal to the meal at my folks' house the day before, there was one major difference:  Children.  With none at my parents' house the element of chaos is missing.  Not so at Kevin and Shirley's house!  It was filled with noise and fun like any good family get-together should be.  I had a great time.

Part Three:  The rest of the weekend

Hmm... Hard to blog about the rest of the weekend when it's still underway isn't it?  Let me just say that we had a pleasantly lazy day yesterday.  I think we were expecting a nasty weather day and planned nothing accordingly.  Imagine our surprise when the day actually turned out not too bad.  That prompted us to at least go out and run a few errands but that's about it.  One of those errands was the giant pizza we picked up at Papa Murphy's, so pizza, a new (and good) movie called Super 8, and hot-tubbing rounded out our Saturday.

Let's see what today brings!

Sleepblogging

I find sleep to be very annoying.  I don't mean sleeping itself--I love sleep.  In fact, I treasure a good slumber immensely because I get one so seldom.  What I'm talking about is the fact that we need sleep.  My ability to get a good night's sleep is subject to so many things.

First of all let me address the biggest problem:  The clock.  I don't think clocks are good for humans at all.  I'm not one that has a problem with clocks--I'm always conscious of the time and I'm very seldom late for anything.  Come to think of it, that may be the whole problem:  Too much subconscious worrying about what time it is.  Anyway, to me an optimal situation for humans would be if we slept whenever we were tired and awoke when we were finished recharging.  See, everybody is unique.  Some people may need to sleep 3 times during the day in the form of "cat naps" and others may need one serious, long, uninterrupted sleep.  Not everybody can sleep to a schedule but that's too bad--we have to.  If we weren't slaves to a clock we wouldn't need coffee to wake us up every morning would we?  It's all very annoying.  There are only so many hours in a day, and if you lose some of them that are allotted for sleep it will affect the rest of your day.

I don't sleep too well because I tend to be a light sleeper.  The slightest things wake me up sometimes. If something suddenly wakes me up I won't be able to get back to sleep.  Why?  Because I don't know what woke me up.  I lie there pondering it.  Was it a car?  A gunshot?  Did a tree fall on the house?  It can literally take me an hour to get back to sleep if that happens, and that's if I get back to sleep at all.  In most cases I'm awake until it's time for the stupid alarm to go off and tell me, "What are you doing already awake, stupid?  That's my job!"

I sleep with earplugs in most cases.  Why?  To minimize the chance I might be woke up by some sort of noise of course.  Because I go to bed at 9pm and Suzie wanders in at nearly midnight every night it minimizes the chance that she'll wake me up with some stupid little sound of some kind.  I hate sleeping with earplugs because I can't hear anything when I think I should be hearing things, and that doesn't help.  Sort of a catch-22.  If I wake up I want to know if it's raining, or the wind is blowing, or someone's house is on fire, or someone is trying to break into my car.  When I'm wearing earplugs and I wake up in the middle of the night I experience more confusion then I should because some of my sensory input is missing or skewed.  With earplugs my breathing even sounds different and is almost enhanced sometimes.

To add to my sleeping annoyance I go to sleep with a small bedroom lamp on.  No, I'm not afraid of the dark.  It's just that I have found it to be a lot less of a disturbance when Sue comes to bed if she turns the lamp off after she gets ready for bed than if she turns it on to get ready for bed.  It doesn't shine directly on me but does illuminate the room a little.  Would I rather go to sleep in the dark?  Of course.  When I do go to bed I'm usually plenty tired and have no trouble going to sleep.  There have been many times when I would wake up, open my eyes, wonder what woke me up, look at the clock and see it's just after midnight, assume it was Sue getting in bed that woke me up, then try to get back to sleep (yes, I know that's way to many commas for one sentence).  Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  There have been many nights when I only got 2-3 hours of sleep.

Obviously, I get my best sleep when I'm alone in my own bed, and in a dark, quiet room.  That's not exactly the way most people live though is it?  People might hear dogs barking, cars driving by, sirens, snoring, TVs blaring, neighbors partying, or any number of things, plus we are subject to bed movements our sleep partners make throughout the night.  There is really no way that I know of that I can increase my sleep hours without resorting to drugs to help me, and I don't like that idea.

I think--all combined--I may have gotten almost 5 hours of sleep last night, so it was one of my better nights.

It was a windy night (I'm assuming all night because that's what the weather report said, and it was starting to kick up a little before bed).  I woke up and would almost get back to sleep multiple times.  Each time I was almost there something would wake me back up.  I would keep seeing outside yard lights come on (motion sensors:  Love 'em or hate 'em), and each time they did I would lie there and wonder what turned them on.  It was about 2:30 this morning when I heard a thud against the house.  I was already awake so there was no mistaking that there was a sound.  I pulled out my earplugs and lay there listening and pondering.  It sounded like a bang of the gate slamming shut but I didn't hear much wind.  After a few minutes with it eating at me, it was apparent that I was not going back to sleep.  I got up at 3 and went outside to investigate.  It was warm outside and the wind was blowing, but not too bad.  It would rise and fall--sometimes blowing hard way up at the tallest treetops, and other times swirling down at yard level.  The bushes were what was turning the motion-sensor lights off and on every 10 minutes because they were being whipped by the wind.  I saw a good-sized branch hanging off the edge of the roof and figured that must have been the bang I heard.

By this time it was 3:15, and I usually get up at 3:30.  With a sigh, I figured I'd better go ahead and get my coffee and lunch sandwich made before the power goes out.

Sleep:  I love it when it works... but I hate it because I need it.

Seeing Scents

Sometimes I wonder about the strangest stuff.  This time I'm going to wonder about what we see.  Or could possibly see.

Take our olfactory senses for example.

Isn't it funny how our sense of smell works?  There must be billions of different smells that our brain interprets, but we can't see the interesting scents, uncomfortable odors, delicious smells, or sensual fragrances.  We know that they exist though because we can smell them.  Wait... What?  What are we actually smelling?

Imagine if we actually could see smells.  What would they look like?  I have thought about that several times over the years.  My perception is as if every scent had its own hue.  Like we existed in a swirling, kaleidoscopic, multicolored overdose of flowing color.  No wait--not swirling... more like flowing.  Kind of like the picture on the right (click it for a full-sized overdose).  Imagine... You look over at the food cooking on the stove and see hues of various colors emanating from the pots there.  Maybe the smell of asparagus has a dark, earthy tone.  Maybe the kettle of homemade soup has a multitude of colors leaking out from beneath the lid, each showing a hint of the ingredients within.  Maybe there is a light blue wafting from the oven where a pie is baking.

Imagine being able to spot a bad smell before it presented a danger to your nose!  You might see the noxious cloud of yellows and reds that suddenly began spewing forth from that train car parked along that siding near the highway.  No danger of being surprised by something that would make you sick if you breathed its vapors.  Nobody would ever again wonder who passed gas in that crowded room or elevator because the flow of color would be a dead giveaway.

Some people can actually smell color, see smells, and various intertwining of sensory input.  They're the people with a condition (talent?) called synesthesia.  I think to spend a day with something like this would be fascinating.

I wonder sometimes about fruit flies.  I think they have a talent like I'm describing.  It's almost as if they can see a certain color of something from all the way across a room, at which time they come flying over to where you're sitting and trying to eat your sandwich in peace and quiet.

I know there is no way we will ever be able to perceive such a thing.  Only the free thinkers of the world can "see" things that are intangible like this, and when they do everybody else just rolls their eyes (which you may have done already while you are reading this).  Most people dismiss anything they can't see, feel, taste, or touch as non-existent.  We're used to "seeing" air that is transparent.

What if we awoke one morning to find that our eyes had suddenly become sensitive to the infrared light spectrum?  We would be able to see things portrayed as various colors depending on their levels of hot and cold.  Imagine:  Everything would have a different color depending on its temperature.

You know what I think?  I think these things that I have described do exist.  They may exist in another species, be it insect, mammal, bird, or reptile.  Chances are we will never know.  We have no way to see through another creature's eyes and interpret what their brain interprets.

Yet.

If you ask me, I don't think we humans could handle such a sensory input as infrared light perception or visible scent waves.  Our brains are too primitive.  Sure, we think we're smart, but we are barely able to handle the limited inputs we already have.

Still, it's fun to think about.

Grumbling about Crumbling

Every now and then I lapse into a crotchety old man line of thinking that goes something like, "I can't believe how much things have changed in my lifetime.  At the rate we're going our country is going to be history." Well, it occurred to me recently that really--a lot has already changed in our country in a short amount of time.  I was trying to think of different times of our past when something important in our history was taking place.  Then I decided that all of our country's history had things that were important taking place in it.  Our country seems to be in a constant state of flux--continually trying to "find" itself.  Or change itself.  Or reinvent some facet of itself.  We're never satisfied.

As odd as it sounds when I type it, I have already been alive for a pretty good chunk of time (percentage-wise) of the total of the age of the U.S.  For example, I've been alive during terms of 11 of our presidents.  Another interesting way of looking at things is if you break the country into 50-year blocks.  Imagine how much change has taken place in any single one of those 50-year blocks.  Maybe things changed a lot slower early on in the history of our country--maybe not--but it seems that the more people, industry, technology, media--the more anything you add into the mix--the faster the rate of acceleration of change.  Basically, the more ammo we have, the greater the chance that we're going to use it to affect our lives.  Or shoot ourselves in the foot.

When did people start to grow concerned with how fast things were growing and changing in their new country?  50 years into it?  100 years? 150 years?  Given that practically everyone that came to this country came from places much worse off they may not have felt that way at all--who knows.  I wonder sometimes.  I'm sure there must have been some kind of roller-coaster ride going on ever since we founded (stole?) this country in the first place.  You know--good times, bad times, growth times, war times.  Partying & prosperity, drought and famine.  I think we're just more connected with everything that is going on nowadays.

That may or may not be a good thing.

I get the impression now that our country has changed too fast and it has contributed to an increased amount of unrest.  People seem to have stopped trying to figure out what they need to do to grow as a person or what they need to do to succeed in life.  People seem to be focusing less and less on personal growth and more and more on holding their hands out.  Our priorities seem to have shifted a lot.  Do people really need to pay upwards of $100 a month for a phone?  Of course, they're not phones any more--now they're complete portable lifestyle assistants.  Still, society has seemingly forced that expense onto people that can't necessarily afford it.  They can't afford them and yet they still have them.  People that can't afford cars and yet they still have them.  They can't afford insurance for their cars and yet they still drive them.  They can't afford the cable bills they pay every month for their television and movies, but yet they can't live without them. It's a 'keeping up with the Joneses' kind of thing.  These days it's not about what you've accomplished in life--It's about how good you look while you're alive.  Borrow money you can't pay back so you can put that $3000 set of wheels on your already-financed car.  You'll look good.  If you can't pay for all of it just declare bankruptcy and start over.

In some cases, the companies have priced us into our corner of spending our money on things we don't need.  Buy "eliminating support" for a tried & true technology or product, they force people to have to upgrade to continue using the product.  Remember analog?  All cell phones used to be analog.  But if we wanted to continue using our cell phones (which itself was a massive money spree) we had to dump our perfectly-operating phones and upgrade to digital versions.  Same with televisions.  All television signals used to be analog, but they forced us to upgrade our televisions even though they worked fine.  Don't get me wrong--all of these things came with new features and things, but to force the whole country to upgrade was ridiculous.  Lots of people couldn't afford those upgrades but had to do them if they wanted to stay in the mainstream.

Lots of our recent behavioral changes are a direct result of the computers we have all adopted.  You hardly ever see anyone physically look for a job any more.  If there's not one listed on the computer, it's not there.  No job exists.  Considering that hardly 25 years ago you had to actually convince someone that a computer was a useful item to own.

So I wonder about our direction.  Are we on a path of self-destruction?

Finding Washington... One Scenic Drive at a Time

Who knew?  I have lived here pretty much my whole life, and still I find out things about this state that I didn't know.  Things I have never seen before, places I have never been, and stuff I didn't know existed.

Saturday Suzie and I hit the road in the fabulously-worn (but intrepid) Neon for yet another session in weekend photography.  It was a beautiful day.  Sunny for the most part, with blue skies and fluffy clouds.  This time our destination was the lower left corner of our state.

Who knew there was actually a covered bridge in our state?  Well there is, and we found it.  There might be more than one covered bridge (I'm not sure about that), but apparently there is only one you can actually drive through.  In other words, maybe it's the only one still standing.

It wasn't much to look at.  On the outside it was stark and bland-looking, and the inside looked like it was just built, but hey--it's a covered bridge and it's new to us.

We found ourselves at two lighthouses we had previously never visited, both of which you could walk right up to: Cape Disappointment, and North Head.  The two of them were conveniently only a few miles from each other too.  The first one (Cape Disappointment) was about a half mile hike from the parking area.

As we cruised the parking area we were assailed by signs we had seen many times before at other places we've stopped at during our excursions:  Signs that portrayed the evil possibility of a $99 fine for people that failed to display a Discover Pass in their car window.  In the past we had just parked outside the parking lots like so many other people, but at this one that was not really an option.  We opted to buy the pass this time.  We planned on just springing for a $10 one-day pass, but opted to go ahead and buy the year-long one for $30 instead.  I hate submitting to the rules of the governing bodies, but I have to admit--it makes you more relaxed (almost cocky?) doing it this way.  Anyway, back to the lighthouses.


The Cape Disappointment lighthouse was in very nice shape.  It was your perfect, stereotypical lighthouse that you see everywhere in books and magazines, complete with thick paint, worn concrete, and streaks of rust.  There were several others out on this beautiful day enjoying it too.  After all, it was a nice view of the ocean from up there!  On our way back to the parking lot we detoured down a different path--one that took us to the fancy-looking building we could see from the lighthouse (it was on a different bluff), called the Interpretive Center.  After we gave it a quick once over (it was closed so we couldn't go in) we noticed come old concrete structure low and behind it.  Our investigation revealed that we had walked right into the ruins of Fort Canby!  As close as it was to the Interpretive Center, I thought it was just more of the same building--like a basement.  It was very cool and I'm glad we didn't miss it.

After leaving the parking lot we headed down the road to find a beach spot to catch the sunset.  We had pretty much stopped thinking about lighthouses already when we came upon a small sign that said North Head Lighthouse on it.  Naturally, I took the hard left up the road, and again we found the signs reading Discovery Pass required.  Ha, we were covered!  No back-tracking to the nearby store to buy one this time.  The North Head lighthouse was almost the spitting image of the other one, but was perched in a much more interesting spot in my opinion.  It had that remote, lofty, lighthouse-look to it.  We were surprised to see a lady from our age group sitting on a bench above it playing a guitar too.  Photo op!  Alas, I didn't get a good one of her though.  The light was waning fast, so we got some nice, warm tones.  Good light for shooting lighthouses.

We made it to the beach in the little town of Seaview barely in time to catch the sun as it dipped below the horizon.  We had our Subway sandwich dinners while we watched the waves and seagulls from our car before hitting the road for our long return trip.  We did manage to snag some real nice, moody shots of sunset reflected off the surrounding swampy lands as we drove on.  It was a great finish to a day of exploration.





Fall Goings-On

It's been quite a while since I have laid down a blog post. I guess I just haven't felt creative, descriptive, angry, poetic, or any other of the number of reasons that usually fuel my blog. Actually, I still don't. I just thought that maybe--if I put something down--it just might actually turn into a blog post. Hey, it's happened before.

Ahh, where to start...

I recently started another blog that is geared toward the usual goings-on where I work, but that hasn't really taken anything away from this blog. At least I don't think so. It's more of a bland, descriptive record of things that take place there, occasionally peppered with a little comic relief or a picture or two. I created it for the amusement of a fellow worker that just retired recently. And for myself.

I could start with the weather I guess. After all, people talk about the weather at gas stations, bus stops, work, and everywhere else where they feel that they need to make conversation. We're in the full throes of fall here. Everything is happening to us much later than usual here this year. We finally have lots of trees with blazing yellow leaves intermixed with the usual green, but there is still an inordinate amount of trees with nothing but full green clothing on. We have been out and about here and there with the hope and intention of capturing some blazing yellows and reds of fall trees with our cameras but haven't experienced much. I think part of it (as Suzie mentioned the other day) is that we just don't have many of the trees that turn vivid colors as part of our native species. Everywhere that there are amazingly colorful leaves on trees they are either in housing developments, shopping areas, or business parks. In other words: planted by man.

This last Sunday we put the canoe in the truck and drove up to Seattle. It's getting harder and harder to make drives that direction without seriously considering routes these days. Between a toll on the 520 bridge (which I found starts this December) and now the Alaskan Way Viaduct being demolished, a person has to consider the route they drive very carefully. Anyway, our destination was the University of Washington/Arboretum area. The day was beautiful, and the water was very placid (sorry Suz... I know I overused that word already). There was lots of ducks, lots of geese, and a few turtles soaking up the last rays of the seasonal sun. There were some trees turning color, but even there, where there are so many varieties--not so much.

Sunday a week ago was work day. I rented a pressure washer from Home Depot and cleaned 12 years of moss from our roof. Normally, pressure washing is somewhat fun--probably because of the immediate results and gratification you get as you clean things. What I did, however, was not fun. I started at about 10am and finished at about 6pm with only a short break at one point. It should have been a two-day job, but when you rent something you're driven to completion. Nothing else matters but completing the task so you can return the thing to the store on time. By the time I finished, I was literally falling-down tired. My hands, my arms, and my lower back were screaming at me. Even though the day was cold and wet (but not raining), I had no problem with collapsing on the grass when I was finished. I didn't care if it was wet or not. The carnage when I was finished was unbelievable. There was moss and dirt on everything everywhere for 20 or 30 feet around the house. Suzie spent several hours the next day doing demoliton cleanup. I think she said she filled 3 wheelbarrows with moss. She worked as hard as I did the day before--no doubt about it.

So there you have it--A blog post. I guess it wasn't so hard. It's just like walking--you start off by putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it you look behind you and realize you've covered some ground

Other People's Lives

I have been trying to figure out what it's called but I can't quite come up with it.  Maybe that's because I'm not educated enough in psychology or psychiatry or whatever ology teaches such things.

I thought, is it something like a form of "social" voyeurism?  Sue said, no, that's not what it is.

So what is it that make people like to peruse pictures from other people's lives?  When you see a big wall of pictures at work or at school, aren't you somehow drawn to it?  When you look at someone's Facebook page for the first time, aren't you always glad when you find they have a ton of pictures?  I know I am.  It's like we're intrigued by other people's lives.  We know what kind of stuff we like to do, but we want to see what they do.  We want to see how they live.  We want to see where they've gone on vacation.  We want to learn about them.

I'm a sucker for masses of pictures.  The time passes quickly when I'm interested in someone's life as portrayed in pictures.  I look at everything.  In addition to what they took the pictures of, I like to see people that have a photographic talent.

But to me I think it's mostly the 'peering into other people's private lives' that I find interesting.  Sometimes it's almost like I'm doing something naughty by looking at somebody's private pictures.  Does that stop me?  No... If anything it makes it even more fun.

Take for instance a website I found on the internet called Found Film.  The guy is a collector of cameras, but he is also a seasoned veteran at developing any kind of film himself.  If he ever finds a camera for sale that has film in it, he has to buy it so he can develop it and see what kind of treasure it holds!  I think it's cool.

Or in another example, the guy that bought boxes upon boxes of negatives (over 20,000) at an estate auction, only to find that he had stumbled upon one of the biggest treasure troves of great pictures by the late Vivian Maier, who was just an ordinary lady that liked taking pictures.

Where am I going with this?

Yesterday I went out and bought myself another camera.  This time, I bought a small Canon A560 point & shoot camera--small enough to carry in my pocket.  It was a Craigslist find, and it was only $40.  I bought it from an Asian gentleman with broken English.  When I got it home and really started messing with it in more depth I found that it contained 65 pictures and two little video clips.  Upon investigation, we found that it must have been used by the sons and his friends during a trip to China.  How did I figure that out?  By the crown jewel of the whole bunch:


Sue like this first one the next best I think, but here are a few others from the bunch:


There were a lot of the school pictures.  It appeared that they had visited two grades of kids.  I noticed that cellphones seemed to be in everyone's hands in one picture or another.
As far as the bicycle, don't you wonder what the story is behind that?  They don't seem very concerned do they?

 


Anyway, that's just a little bit of what I'm talking about.  It's fun taking a peek into other people's lives to see what they're up to isn't it?  Had I not, I would never have known that it's apparently okay to have a slightly racially-sensitive email address (if it's your race that is) like John does:


Not Quite Your Ordinary Weekend

My early years of learning were spent at Algona elementary school.  While the school itself is unfortunately gone, what does live on are a few of my friends from that era.  Although I am somewhat connected with a few of the people from that day and age via Facebook, there is only one of them I ever manage to see in person from time to time, and that's Karla Cruz.  Being the musician she is (she's also a published author) I get to see her sing and play guitar every now and then.

Friday night she played at a place in Renton called Luther's Table.  Near as I can tell, It's some sort of a 'church - bar & restaurant.  Their website paints a picture of a church that serves food and drink, but my opinion of it was that it is most definitely first and foremost a bar and restaurant.  It's a really nice place--nearly new and very stylish and elegant.  They even have covered parking.  At any rate, there was enough uncertainty that Suzie decided against going, and went instead with Shirley, Rachyl, and Keith on their Friday night adventure.

I've seen her play only once before and it was nothing like Friday night.  That first time was an outdoor venue (Renton River Days) with a full, electric band.  Friday night it was just her--Karla at her best--just she and her guitar.  It was excellent sound, excellent music, great ambiance--it was just an all around great experience.   When she sang To Sir, With Love I had to put my camera down.  It was a blast from the past that completely reeled me in with her flawless rendition.  I loved it!

Yesterday was very different.

It started out very ordinary.  I had promised to stop by my folks' house to fix their privacy gate that leads from their back yard out to the alley, so that was my first order of business.  That went without a hitch.  It was a very easy repair, and I visited with them for a while afterwards.  We all just basically stood around back by the gate talking about stuff.  It was a nice, sunny day so it was enjoyable.

Not long after I got home, we hopped into my car and went to Snoqualmie Falls.  Why?  Well, plainly a case of guerrilla photography, we planned to stalk and document a very important event that was about to unfold there:  Dane proposing marriage to Chelsea.  You couldn't have asked for a more perfect day for it.  There was lots of sun, and the weather was in the upper 60's easily.  We meandered around, scoping out the grounds, noting places and access to viewing that Dane might choose.  What made it weird was that we didn't know when they were getting there or where they were actually headed to on the grounds.  We finally decided that Suz would hang out at this certain spot up near one of the falls viewing areas and I went down near the parking lot areas.  I found myself a spot where I could see cars coming into the nearside parking lot as well as being able to see foot traffic coming over the bridge from the far-side parking lot.  After not too long I saw them and called Sue.  Dane had placed a blindfold over Chelsea's eyes and was carefully leading her while two female friends followed behind--one capturing the entire thing on video.  I felt like a sniper as I hurried from sidewalk to sidewalk while keeping parallel to them on the upper pathway they were on.  It went well.

Congratulations Dane and Chelsea!


The Selfish Man

I'm apparently a selfish man.  Not with everything though.

It comes from my being the oldest I suppose.  I do share things pretty well, but I'd rather not.  I've reported over and over again about how I couldn't wait to leave home when I was growing up.  I wanted to be out on my own, living my own life and doing as I pleased.  I don't know if there was a certain event during my childhood that caused it or not, but regardless--it's the way things are.

Back to my selfishness.  I'm somewhat selfish with my time, but not so much.  I usually don't have a problem giving someone else some of my time when they need it.  Sure, it's usually an inconvenience, but that's usually the extent of it.  This part of my selfishness is usually nothing more than just a sigh before offering my time or assistance.  Hardly worth mentioning.

What I do seem to place a certain level of importance on is space.  I like my space.  I need my space.  Sometimes I need to go out to the garage and putter around to escape.  Maybe I'm not in the mood for a certain noise or chaos or whatever and I just want some solitude.  Sometimes I might take a ride on the Harley to get away--Even in the dead of winter (although that hasn't happened in a while).

I need space for myself.  I need space for my stuff.  I need to know that nobody is going to mess with my stuff.  When I put something somewhere or some way, I like to know to expect it to be there next time I need it.

Maybe it's the fact that when I was growing up in Algona our whole family was crammed into one little one-bedroom house.  There was no privacy.  There was no "me" time.  There was no peace and quiet.  There was nowhere you could have anything of your own that wouldn't get messed with by someone.  I remember I did have a little box of 'treasures' when I was growing up.  I think it was smaller than a shoebox, but I can't begin to tell you what was in it.  I have no idea.  I just remember it was about the only "me" space I could claim as my own--a little box.

Now I'm older and I do have some stuff of my own.  When I was newly divorced I took pride in amassing new stuff.  Finding myself single again was the perfect excuse to gather the things I wanted to gather.  I enjoyed it.  I didn't have to ask anyone else's approval, I didn't have to wonder about anyone else but me when I chose something.  I took pride in keeping things nice, keeping things orderly, and basically just keeping things as my comfort of ownership.  I felt I really had everything I needed, and liked everything I had.  When I married Suzie, that got somewhat turned upside down.  A lot of my things were disposed of.  Most were discussed--a few maybe not.  After all the turmoil, I resigned myself to only having a certain level of ownership here in this house.  Basically, I live in the spare bedroom that used to belong to Dane.  I don't sleep there, but all my clothes are there, and all of my possessions are there.  I don't have a place to hang any of my pictures, but I still own them.  Suzie said I could hang them any time I wanted but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like they just didn't belong.  Like it was the wrong house or something.  Most of what is back there in that room is junk to anyone but myself.  Some of it is junk to me as well--I just don't want to part with it yet.

Now thanks our country's financial woes, so many people are struggling to find work that it is common for people to be moving back home.  Across the street from us there are multiple families living under one roof.  Sons, daughters, grandkids--whatever.  Keith continues to live here of course (when he's not at his dads house) but now, through no fault of his own, Dane will most likely be moving back in.  I like Dane.  He left because he was uncomfortable with me moving in.  I suppose it was partly that I was a new guy and was with his mom, but mostly because I am not a Witness.  Dane is very active within his congregation and here I come along--an outsider.  He left then, and to his credit has done a very admirable job of staying employed doing anything and everything he could and working hard at it.  He's a smart kid though, and he should be working at a better career than the manual labor he has been slaving at during his years working with tile and construction.

Now I have to give up that room.  That's where all my clothes are.  That's where I get dressed in the morning at 0-dark thirty every day before work.  That's where all my useless treasures live.  It's a more than a little unnerving.  I know I'll get used to it, but I can see myself needing to escape from time to time.

I guess nothing in life ever stays the same does it?

Things I Can't Forget: 1

I labeled this #1 just in case I decide to add others at a later date.  There are others, but I don't know if I'll write about them.  Maybe--maybe not.

All my childhood there was something that I would hear from my dad during times we kids were being kids.  You know how it is... One kid does something to another, the other one does it back.  Maybe it repeats itself multiple times before the inevitable, but sooner or later the same thing happens--'mom, he did this to me, mom, he did that to me--mom, he's picking on me... You know the drill.  Unless you're an only child you've been involved in it at one time or another.  Maybe you were the instigator, the complainer, or maybe you were just a bystander.

Growing up in a family of 5 kids it happened a lot in our family.

Our whining was always directed at mom, but occasionally dad would be within earshot.  My dad had this thing he would say whenever someone would utter the phrase of complaint, and that would be, "Punch him in the mouth!"  We heard it so many times that it was nothing unusual.  I'm sure he uttered it to be funny--never expecting  that anyone would actually do it.  I mean come on--the mouth!?  What kind of father wants his kids doing that?

I don't remember the exact scenario, nor do I remember exactly how old we were.  I remember that I was outside in the back yard at our house in Auburn.  Apparently, my brother, Don, did something I didn't like.  I don't know why, but for some reason, my dad's words popped into my mind, and without thinking or hesitating, I did it:  I punched him in the mouth.  I don't know how hard I did it, but it stopped him in his tracks and knocked him down.  Of course, he cried--probably as much out of disbelief as he did of pain.  The instant I did it I couldn't believe I did it.  I didn't know what to do then.  Apologize?  Run?  As you can expect, it didn't go over well with mom.  She sent us both to our room to lie down.  I think it was one of those, 'wait 'til your dad gets home!' type things.  When he got home nothing happened of course.  I mean, what was he going to do?  Chastise me for actually listening to him?

I hate that I hit my brother like that, and it has eaten away at me my whole life.  I don't think I have ever been really close to any of my brothers or sisters, but after that Don had a reason to hate me.  Whether or not he did so consciously, I'm sure he must have had that tidbit tucked away in his mind.

My dad was not a good parent for life's lessons.  I've said so many, many times before in my blog posts.  This was probably the first time it became apparent to me that he didn't have any good advice or wisdom.

I hate, hate, hate that I succumbed to a stupid remark that my dad meaninglessly uttered one too many times.  I've done a lot of stupid things in my life but hitting my brother that way was right up there at the top of the list.  Some stupid things you do are easily forgotten, but the ones that traumatize you or affect you deeply in some way are not forgotten.  Instead, they burrow deep and fester--staying noticeable enough to never forget them but not really getting worse.

What does he keep hidden from this episode?  I have no idea.  Like I said--we're not close.  Maybe he remembers it vividly, and maybe he can hardly muster even a vague recollection.

I'm truly sorry Don.  Sorry for hitting you in the first place, and even more sorry for letting a little voice of dad tell me to do it.  If it's any consolation, I have had it eating at me pretty much my whole life as one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made.  Family should be first and formost, and that's no way to treat family.  It's no wonder you moved to Georgia.  There was no respect for you here.

We can't change the past.  We can, however, use it to keep other people from making the same stupid-ass mistakes that we make.  That's what this post is for.

For anyone else reading this:  Don't listen to dumb-ass advice from people--friends, relatives, or whatever.  If it doesn't feel right, it's not right.

Freeway or Frontage Road?

I took a look at Google+ yesterday morning before leaving for work.  For those of you who live under rocks, that's the new "Facebook killer" social network service that Google brought out a while back. Before now it's been strictly an 'invite only' service.  Even though it's still in the beta-testing phase, they finally enabled it for the general public to join without an invitation.

I "drove" it around a little, looked here and there and made my amazingly-accurate, garage sale "rapid-decision-while-the-car-is-still-rolling" assessment of it.

My impression:  Why bother?

I'm sure it's a great service and would have been top dog if they would have gotten there first, but you know what?  They didn't.  Consequently, they're doomed to play the game that Microsoft is so good at:  Wishing they would have thought of that first.  Although it popped up with lots of people that I could connect with (it used my Gmail address book during the enabling process), none of them were already using the service that I could see.

Here's an analogy for you.

Say there's a brand-new frontage road running parallel to a freeway but you can't see it because it's hidden behind a sound barrier wall.  The frontage road has had barricades blocking it from being open to anyone but "local access only" during its construction.  You drive by it every now and then, so it's fairly fresh in your mind.  For a while the freeway users were bombarded by signs and promises of what the new upcoming road will feature.  Although you're intrigued by its possibilities, you can't investigate it because you haven't been granted access.  Finally, they let you in.  You drive around, investigate it fairly thoroughly and determine that--although it really is a nice road--the freeway running alongside works great, is fast, and your GPS already has its location.  It's a road we're used to and like driving on, and all our friends drive on it too.  We see them on it every day.  What's the sense in standing on the frontage road with a big sign that says 'NOW OPEN' just to try to get people to drive on it or build houses and businesses on it?

Even though they keep monkeying with the freeway and changing the traffic flow and scenery all the time, I'm sticking with it.  The freeway works fine.

A Week of Ups and Downs

First of all, let me backtrack to Saturday when Sarah was over for a visit. I bent down under the desk to plug her laptop power cord in and had my weight on my right arm. When I plugged it in, I pushed myself up and heard (and felt) a triple-pop come out of my right shoulder. Little by little pain started drifting into the area. I was worried how bad it would get at first, but after it got to the point of a deep, dull ache it finally stopped growing. It just sat there and throbbed at me. It didn't really give me much trouble sleeping or anything and I basically stopped worrying about it.

The next day I drove the truck to a guy's house that had firewood for sale. I made one trip home with a load of wood, moved a bunch of our existing wood (to rotate the old to the front), unloaded the truck, then went back for the rest of the load. After unloading that and putting all the other wood back in front of it I was exhausted. I mean almost drop-dead tired. I thought if I would have gotten into the hot tub I would have just fallen asleep and drowned so I didn't even do that. By early evening I was about out of it so I decided I'd go to bed--I think it was about 7 or 7:30--thinking I'd sleep like a log (cheesy firewood pun).  Wrong.  It was probably one of the worst sleeps of my life.  My shoulder screamed in agony all night causing massive tossing and turning.  Unfortunately that was a work night and I suffered the following day.  To add to the shoulder issue and lack of sleep, all that bending and lifting firewood also gave my butt cheeks and upper legs an overdose of activity.  They were hurting bad all day at work too.  I did at least manage to get a good night's sleep that night.  If memory serves me, the following night of sleep was a repeat of tossing and turning due to the shoulder pain.

The good news came Tuesday evening.  That's when I got to go to the airport and pick Suzie up!

The poor dear... She ended up working her fanny off almost the entire two weeks that she was at her folks' house in Kauai.  It was no vacation.  Meanwhile, the cold, dank Seattle summer (or lack thereof) we were having finally turned around the day after she left and we were blessed with perfect temperatures the entire two weeks right to the day.  I did a good job of keeping all of her plants alive and all that.  I didn't have any wild parties or do anything wrong.

I blew the dust off the Harley Wednesday morning and rode it to work.  That was a high point.  Okay, maybe not so much going to work, but the ride home is always good.

We're both trying to get our sleep groove back.  Between my off and on shoulder pain and her time adjustments/jet lag, we were having some trouble.  I think it's getting better though.

Yesterday at work was a nasty day because of the shoulder.  I spent about 3 hours on Thursday afternoon doing brazing, and it definitely exacerbated my shoulder pain (although it really didn't show up until later that evening).  Because I had to spend most of yesterday doing the same thing (which is not my regular job) I opted to do the whole day standing up so my right arm could operate at a more relaxing angle.  Trouble is, that's pretty hard on the back, neck, and everything else.  Let's just say that when quitting time came, I was damn glad to see it.

It was a good Friday evening with my wife finally.  Out to eat at our local joint, and a nice, relaxing soak in the hot tub.

Okay, that's enough whining about my tired and abused body.  Tomorrow I'll whine about the predicted steady rain... Yep, it's back.

No Autopilot

Sometimes I wish there was a way that I could click a button and put whatever I'm driving on autopilot.  Car, truck, Harley--whatever.

I almost always have my camera with me wherever I go.  After all--you just never know when you might be blessed with that Pulitzer Prize-winning shot that ends up on the lower right corner of some obscure blog somewhere right? Yesterday was no exception.  I had to take a drive in the work truck (as opposed to the van) and of course, I had my camera with me.  It was a beautiful day.  Sunny, clear, and a seemingly endless supply of excess traffic so speeds where slow enough for me to ponder my surroundings from a slightly higher vantage point (which is why I like to drive that truck instead of the van).

The first thing I saw that was interesting was an older couple going by me on a Honda Gold Wing.  They were going the same direction as me and passing on my left side, so I had a perfect view of them.  The bike had a tricycle conversion (which is something you don't see many of), but that's not what I found interesting.  Nor was it the bright emerald green jackets they were wearing.  That color contrast was striking (okay, gaudy) against the beautiful deep red color of the motorcycle, but again--not what caught my eye.  What did catch my eye was the fact that she was reading a paperback book.  She had it open against her husband's back and she was doing her best to pretend she was actually riding shotgun in the comfort of her Lexus instead of on the back of a noise machine.  Did I get the picture?  No.  I grabbed for the camera but the wrong lens was on it.  Doh!  Right then I could have used that autopilot button.

Then a little later I glanced over to my left and saw the strangest little dog looking directly at me.  I must have felt his eyes boring holes in the left side of my head.  It was the size of a kitten but it looked more like a Schnauzer with a summer haircut.  It was just... I don't know--odd.  But the fact that it was standing up with his feet against the window looking at me instead of the truck I was in made me wish I had the right lens on.  Or an autopilot button.

Then on the way back home there was an accident on the opposite side of the freeway.  Nice visuals--although somewhat ordinary these days, and for that I did have the right lens on, but you know what I didn't have?  That's right--an autopilot button!

Ah, but my day didn't go without my capturing something.  Based on my travels, only in two places in the US would you see something like this:  San Francisco or here in the Seattle area.  I wasn't going to let this one go by so I just grabbed the camera, aimed, and shot a few "from the hip" because obviously you can't put a camera up to your eye while you're driving, and you know why:  No autopilot.


A Moment's Lull

I was outdoors today, puttering mostly.  At one point I was inside the garage, staring out the garage door... Lost in thought apparently.  It suddenly dawned on me:

There were no sounds.

The usual dogs barking, cars, birds... Everything was absent.  It was eerily quiet.  I probably could have heard a pin drop out front in the street.  This is very unusual in our neighborhood.  Usually, there is a cacophony of canines adding their voices to the already-present planes, cars, and birds that are making themselves heard.

When it occurred to me, I stood there and noted it.  Reveled in it.  Then I walked out into the yard and turned my head around like a sound-seeking radar.  I didn't count, but I'd say for about 15 or 20 seconds it was still.

It was weird.  This was a level of quiet that is seldom achieved even in the wee hours of the morning here.  There's almost always some sort of sound.  Usually it's a dog or a car.  It was about 2pm--usually a very non-quiet time of day in almost every neighborhood.  Even out in a very rural area there is the sound of a bird somewhere, or crickets, or something. 

Then slowly, the sounds of urbanhood begin to taper back in.

A small airplane in the distance tapered in first--faintly from far away.  Then I heard the muffled tones of the neighbors next door talking in their back yard.  I think it was a bird or two next.  Little by little, the neighborhood returned to its usual midday recording session.

It was cool, but yet insignificant moment that I felt I had to share.