Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

We have the house to ourselves.
The Utah bunch are with the other side of the family, and V. has gone over to his dads for a couple of days. Mrs A never did get out of her robe today, and took a four hour nap this afternoon while I vegged.
Yesterday I went down and got a ton of pellets for the pellet stove.
Tonight I doubt if we make it until midnight.
A thrill a minute.
Just the way I want it right now.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Are The Hollidays Over YET?

Someone save me!
I am being drowned in Family!
They have taken me down and I can't get back up.
The Gang of Five arrived a week ago from Utah, and spent three days with us before going over to the other side (the dark side?) to stay for a while. They went with us over to my brother's place for Christmas Eve and had a great time, then went over to R & R's dads place for Christmas Day. They came back over here yesterday.
Christmas Eve, after I just got home, I got a three alarm rescue call from Rose. She and the sperm donor had gotten in a big fight and she got out and took "i" with her. Unfortunately they were in the middle of nowhere and it was snowing like crazy. I needed to go rescue her. So I fired up the car and took off to go find her. Fortunately she had been rescued by passers-by and dropped off at Jack-in-the-box. It was pretty easy for her to get a ride. I mean, Christmas Eve, a single woman with an infant walking in a snowstorm. What mean hearted person could leave them out there?
So she spent Christmas eve and Christmas Day, and a couple of more with us. "i" is recovering from a cold, so he was cranky and not sleeping well. He woke me up several times each night, so I was running short on sleep. The night he left, I couldn't sleep at all, and then the Utah bunch came back the next day.
We took them out for a late lunch and a movie. Man was it crazy out. Every person in Latteland was at the mall, and the traffic was horrendous. Hours spent getting nowhere. But lunch was good, and then we took them to see "The Day the Earth Stood Still" in IMAX. I wasn't impressed with the movie. In fact I fell asleep during part of it. But I was so tired from lost sleep that I was walking around in a daze all day.
Luckily, I got a decent night's sleep last night, so I am only semi-comatose today.
The snow is finally gone, so Mrs A can get around on her own again. She was relieved to be able to go to work today.
When everyone got situated today after Mrs A got home from work the women went down to spend the afternoon at the mall. The two teenage boys are up taking over the world on WOW, and I have the house pretty much to myself.
A few moments to catch my breath.
I hear the couch calling.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snowed In

We live most of the way up a hill, at about 400 feet in elevation on a six hundred foot high hill. The consequence is that we have limited choices of how to get around. The safest way is to go the rest of the way up the hill to the main street, and then go down.
It's that whole getting up to go down thing that doesn't work so well. I have a route that goes around to a gentle slope to get most of the way. Unfortunately it is on back streets, and we have about a foot of snow, and I don't think I have enough ground clearance in the HHR. The street at the end of the block is plowed, but steep. I do not have chains or studded tires. But front wheel drive with new tires is almost as good, and we do fine if we can just make it to the main road.
We managed to make it in to town on Saturday to get groceries.
Just like every other living soul in the area. It was a madhouse. It took us about four hours to make three stops, most of it standing in checkout lines.
Unfortunately I have run out of smokes and beer.
Oh well, now is as good a time as any to quit.
Both local tire stores have sold out of studded snow tires. I figured I would slide down off the hill today and get some tires, but that idea didn't work out so well.
The snow is supposed to stick around for another week or so.
Mrs A is getting cabin fever already. Our son drove up from Utah, and she worried the whole time he was on the road. He is on his way over here, and will be staying with us for a couple of days, through Christmas. Then will be going over to help his dad with some kind of project.
Three day cooped up with him and his wife and three kids will be quite enough thank you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Weenies

No, no, not constructions of snow that look like weenies.
People that go into stupidity at the first sign of snow. Mrs A is a snow weenie. After two snowflakes, she crawls under the bed and hides. She will not go any further than to let the dog out to pee.
Me, not so much. I always have the snow day plan.
Yesterday it snowed all day. I think we had about five inches. Then the temperature this morning was 25. When I went to work yesterday morning, the streets were just fine. When I got off of work, not so great. I don't have any trouble getting around, all by myself. It's the snow weenies that don't understand how to drive in the snow that cause me grief. I live up on the side of a hill, so getting home can be a challenge. Yesterday the truck didn't make it all the way home.
Going up the hill, first I had a Chrysler 300C do a 360 right in front of me, and steering around him depleted a quite a bit of my momentum.
Then there were a group of kids at the crosswalk halfway up the hill pushing the walk button so the light changed and caught people coming up the hill. Then lastly, as I got to the last hundred yards, there were about a dozen cars scattered all over the road and no way through. I just turned around and went back down the hill, and headed North. The next street up the hill was partly blocked with stalled out cars and very steep, covered with a sheet of ice. So much for plan B.
Plan C is the one that is guaranteed to work. At the bottom of the hill below our house is a playfield with a small parking lot. Leave the truck down there. It is about a quarter mile uphill to the house. Then the truck is on the level for the next morning, so I can just walk down the hill, jump in the truck and hit the road.
When I get off of work today I will be home until the 5th of January. I just hope I can get the truck home today. Then I will not HAVE to leave home any time soon. I hope the roads are good enough to do a little running around. We are running short on milk and bread, and I'd like to get to the booze emporium to pick up a couple of bottles. We don't keep liquor around much, but it is nice to have around the Holidays.
It is one of my traditions to get a bottle of Harveys Bristol Creme Sherry for the Holidays. And Hot Buttered Rums are a given on Christmas Eve.
Think of it as Antifreeze.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This is the current wallpaper on my laptop. It always brings a smile to my face every time I turn on the computer. Since I didn't have anything much to blog about today, I thought I'd share it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cool It

I was thinking the other day.
A dangerous proposition at best, for me. No telling where it may lead.
I was thinking about evolution.
Various creatures evolve different physical characteristics to deal with the environment. Thick fur for a cold environment, blubber for the same. Long legs for wading birds. Long necks for giraffes. The list goes on and on.
If you study the animals from North Africa, they have also evolved some traits that help them deal with their environment. For instance, the elephant has these huge ears. What is their purpose? Cooling. They are large and thin and mobile. The elephant flaps them around to dissipate heat.
According to prevalent theory, man evolved in that same environment. So what unique characteristics did we evolve to better help us deal with out environment? We are not large, not quick, not ferocious, have no fangs or claws.
We do have a disproportionately large head. And a disproportionally large brain to go in it. What function does this organ perform?
It is a big radiator for the body. You lose more body heat from your head than any other area of your body. That's what it does.
Nature, evolution, or God gave us this organ as a cooling tower.
It is merely an accident that, having this large organ to hang our hats on, it developed intelligence. Since it took a lot of gray matter to cool our blood, it accidental turned out that it could serve a dual purpose.
Cooling was it's initial purpose.
Intelligence was merely a by-product.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lighting Up The Town

No, no, no. Not like that.
The Christmas village that goes on the mantle over the fireplace. I finally got off of my butt and dug it all out of the boxes and put it up this weekend. Getting it all set up requires a real Rube Goldberg of wires daisy-chained, since there are eight buildings. Unfortunately, when I turned on the third building, I blew a circuit breaker.
The town is on the same circuit as the TV and surround system. I have never had a problem before. Maybe there is a short in the wiring. I'll have to experiment when I get home tonight.
The village has a book shop, a newspaper, a couple of taverns, a church. A couple of homes. A bunch of figurines. A guy and his wife in a one-horse sleigh, a guy carrying firewood, kids making a snowman, a boy throwing a snowball, and yes, a dog peeing on a pile of trash.
Oh, and I also put up the tree, although Mrs A did the decoration.
It is butt-freezing cold up here right now, or what passes for it here in Latteland. A lot of people wouldn't think much of 21 degrees, but for around here it is unusual. It snowed a little Saturday night, like maybe an inch. Of course V. was at a debate. so he didn't get home until after 9:00. It had just started snowing when I left to pick him up, and the street was white by the time I got home.
The streets are pretty much bare and dry around here, but as you get out towards the foothills, the streets are not as good. Lots of spinouts and fender benders. The cold is supposed to stay around for the next couple of weeks. The long term forecast even predicts possible snow on Christmas Eve.
We very seldom have a white Christmas here, so it would be nice from that perspective. Even if I do have a pretty long drive on Christmas Eve, out to my brothers place.
Hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Friday, December 12, 2008

No More Depressing Crap

Sorry about the depressing crap this week. My head was stuck in a depressing place, and I just needed to work my way through it.
I went out and bought some St. John's Wort last night. It helps me during the long dark days this time of year. Interesting stuff. It increases your sensitivity to light. They way they found this out was that cows who ate it got sunburned. Who ever thought of a cow getting sunburned.
For some people, it increases your sensitivity to light so that your body is more sensitive to what sunlight you DO get. It isn't effective for everyone, but IT works for me. Even if the effect is all in my head, it doesn't matter, because it's my head that has the problem.
This weekend I will put up the tree and decorations. My favorite is putting together the Christmas village. It had about eight lighted buildings and a bunch of figurines. It goes on the mantle above the fireplace and is about five feet long.
Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Uncle Steve

About 50 years ago, my Uncle Steve, right before Christmas, took down his 30.06 hunting rifle, put the cold blued steel barrel in his mouth, and blew his brains out, all over the ceiling and back wall of the apartment in which he was living with his wife and six kids.
It made quite a mess. Every once in a while I hear my Uncle Gil talk about how much trouble it was to clean up. It seems to me that it will never be really cleaned up.
Nobody really knows why he did this.
We all want to make sense of things. Life without reason descends to chaos.
He had been shot in WWII. The shot through his jaw had taken out a big piece of his jaw, and part of his tongue. He always spoke with a thick sound to his speech because of the missing part of his tongue.
He was a very intelligent man, and never had a problem finding a job. But he never could stay with one thing. As soon as anything confrontational happened, he confronted it face forward and straight up. Usually it meant he got fired. His statement was usually “You can’t push us Smiths around.”
But I always felt a lot of it was because he felt less because of his injuries. They went a lot deeper than his thick speech.
As my cousins grew up, they moved from town to town. I remember visiting them in California, Oregon and Washington. I remember my cousin Kelly, in responding to a survey asking what was his hometown “Every city on the West Coast.”
Uncle Steve was a casualty of WWII the same as anyone who was killed at Normandy or Iwo Jima. It just took a little longer for the bullet to reach his brain.
We understand a lot more now about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Given what we know now, could it have been prevented?
No one can answer that question. Change can only be worked if a person is willing, and I am pretty sure he would have refused any help.
Still I wonder what went through his mind in those last seconds when he curled his big toe around the trigger and pushed.
He left a widow and six kids.
The damage of that instant of selfish behavior goes on and on.
I loved my Aunt Anne. I spent a lot of time at her house. She had two sons about my age, Steve and Kelly. I never got along with Steve, but Kelly and I became as close as brothers. We both had a bent towards art and humor. We went together a lot of places and had a great time together.
I was working at a hospital as an orderly when they admitted Aunt Anne into emergency with a heart attack. I knew which room she was in, so I passed in the hallway every once in a while just to hear the heart monitor beep.
Late on my shift, I went by the room, and there was no beep. I went to the front desk to ask why, and found out that she had passed away.
I had to call home to tell my mom that her sister had passed away. Not the easiest thing I have had to do, but a hard thing for a 16 year old.
Six orphans.
We tried to spread them around the family. Kelly became my brother. Various other family members took the other kids. It just didn’t work.
A man and his wife came forward and offered to adopt all of them, but only as a group. Only if they all agreed to it. The killer was that they could have no contact with our family.
I lost contact with all of them for about ten years, when Kelly and I got back together. For the next several years, we were as close as we had ever been. But things happen in life, and we are not in touch.
Kelly is one of the best scrimshaw artists in the world. He has won many awards for his work. He has supported himself with his art his whole life. His work is incredibly beautiful. And I miss his sense of humor and unique perspective.
A bullet on Normany.
A bullet in Seattle.
A tile tips, and strikes a tile, which strikes a tile.
Does it ever end?

Bah Humbug

I am having a real hard time getting in the Holiday Spirit this year.
We don't have any lights or decorations up. I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet.
Two people I knew slightly at work died last week. Not good buddies or anything, but people I had worked with a little here or there. Both were in their forties and had wives and kids. Kinda puts the damper on any celebrating.
I have been battling with arthritis in my neck. It hurts all the time. I have been to the doctor multiple times about it. Their answer in "Yes, you have arthritis in your neck. Take two percocet and call me in the morning." I will not take Percocet at work, because I wouldn't be worth a happy crappy if I did. I also don't like to drive if I take it. I also will not take more than one at a time unless I absolutely have to. During the day, I usually take 600 mg of ibuprofen , but it really doesn't do a very good job. When I do take it, I never get anything done. I haven't done anything on Frankenhealey in a couple of months now.
Oh well, enough whining and complaining.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Damn Kids Anyway

Not that anyone but me really cares, but I have been working on a book for several years. Parts of what I have written please me, parts do not.
There is a link to it over there on the side bar. It is titled "STAR". I have not added anything to it for several months. I have it on a portable drive. I have been working on a couple of new chapters, and was about ready to add them to the blog.
My little red memory stick that I had the book on disappeared.
We're talking hundreds of hours of work here.
V. borrowed it without my permission.
I bought him his own portable memory so he could transport his school projects around, but he lost that, so therefore it was OK to borrow and lose mine, too.
I suppose it is partly my fault for not backing up the memory stick, for not storing it on my hard drive, for leaving the memory stick laying around.
But still, he should know better.
I will have to go into the blog and chapter by chapter copy it out of the blog and load it on to a new memory stick, reformat it, make corrections. The unpublished stuff is just lost.
Damn Kids Anyway

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Things are back to normal.
It has been Hell for me the last several months. There is nothing I hate more than sitting around with nothing to do. Or doing things that have no significance. It makes for a very long day.
I can usually rummage around and come up with something to do, but it is usually a medium to long tern project, the kind I usually keep on the back burner to fill in time. The chaos and fire that I feed on just isn't there. It makes it hard to get up in the morning and come to work.
Now things are at last returning to where I can get up in the morning and look forward to having enough to do most every day.
This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. The fact that I am reacting to emergent production problems means that something went wrong. That's not a good thing. Except to me. As long as it isn't disastrously bad, I enjoy problem solving, and having a continuous stream of solvable problems present themselves is where I live. I dance on the thin ice, skirt the edges of the fire. I stick my neck out and pull it back just in time.
Now things have returned to their normal state, and things are back in their proper places, and I am as busy as I want to be.
I go home at night tired from having worked, not tired from sitting around all day. I sleep better at night.
My neck, which was driving me crazy with arthritis has calmed down, too.
I guess to me stress from not working is worse than stress from working.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How Do You Spell Relief?

The SPEEA Union Members have ratified the new four year contract offer.
The prospects of being on strike during the Holidays has been lurking in the background of my consciousness for months now, so resolution of the negotiations is a big relief.
It's not like it occupied my every waking moment, because I'm just not built that way. I'm not a particularly gifted worry-wart. I made my plans and put things in place so I averted any possibility of going into panic mode. But I didn't forget about it.
Now that things have been finally resolved for sure, it is a relief. I felt like I had been kinda holding my breath waiting for things to resolve themselves.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas News

Mrs A is in Christmas heaven right now.
Her son, Rick and family are flying up from Utah for two weeks at Christmas. We don't see nearly ehough of them. They are a stable, enjoyable bunch, and consequently don't receive enough attention from us. The ones that are unstable, in crisis, hurting and in chaos get all the attention. Because they are stable and reliable, we don't expend as much energy on them as on the others. We have always felt a little guilty that we don't pay them more attention.
They will spend most of their time here, so we need to make some plans, figure out how to house them, figure out menus and entertainment.
I will enjoy the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the grandkids. I almost always get along well with children. Mrs A will tell you that this is most likely because I am just a big kid myself. I don't deny this, because I think it is a good thing to have a sense of wonder like a child. Sometimes this is not a good thing. Like when I think "I wonder what would happen if...?" Bad things can happen after that.
Just yesterday I was wondering.
I have this paint additive that makes the Z turn from emerald green to cobalt blue depending on the direction of the light. It is a powder of very fine crystals. I was wondering what would happen if you put some of the powder in the microwave. Now that I had this thought, I wonder if I can resist the urge to find out.
If I am going to do this, it should be done before the guests arrive.
But then, maybe there are some questions that don't need to be answered.