Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NaBloPoMo: Intro

Sounds kinky but it stands for National Blog Posting Month. It's a site that encourages bloggers to post every day for a month without fail. There's a new theme every month that you can stick to or not. It's a prey good way to pimp your blog and there's lots of networky stuff on their site to, well, network with other bloggers. I figure it shouldn't be much of a stretch for me since The Missus is posting every day already and my occupation while she does this is to post on one of my blogs. Sign up, it's free. www.NaBloPoMo.com

If you're really masochistic you can sign up for the even more intimidating challenge over at NaNoWriMo. That's where you sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in the space of a month. It doesn't have to be good or even coherent, just have the minimum word requirement filled. ChurchPunkMom is doing BOTH this month. I plan to be watching the drama closely. Will she triumph? Get a book deal? Be too rich and famous to blog anymore? Will it end in tears with a trip to Target for a new keyboard? The stage is set... I was thinking about taking a stab at it myself, but if I'm going to commit to plunking out 5.645161 pages of text a day, I want it to be at least halfway readable at the end. Unlike NaBloPoMo it's only once a year, so I've got a while to figure out how to get that done.

So, tune in this weekend to see my first post on... whatever it is they assign me at 12:01 that morning. And then come back to see what else I have to say about it for the thirty days following that! I liked the description on their site that says something to the effect of freeing your thinking by agreeing to constraints. See you in the details!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

How To Smoke Out A Skunk

I spent some time this Sunday afternoon pursuing my manly duty to rid the house of stinky creatures. We're pretty attached to the kids so I moved down the list to the skunk that may or may not have taken up residence under our porch. We had a couple prowling around a few weeks ago when we had an excess of trash waiting to be picked up, and people were sighting them daily as they scurried around in their final preparations for winter. No way were we having one for a house guest so I planned my operation. Here are my fine-tuned instructions on how to smoke out a critter.

  1. Get something that will smolder but not burn. A rolled up newspaper will give you about twenty minutes of smoke, depending on how tightly you roll it and how prolific the writers of your weekend section are.
  2. Get a fan to propel the smoke into the critter's den. I'd recommend a small $3 fan from the dollar store as it's going to get pretty gunked up.
  3. Decide what you're going to do with the critter when it comes coughing up out of it's little hidey-hole. In the case of a skunk you want to high tail it at the first sounds of movement. For all other critters it depends of your position on animal cruelty and the availability of humane traps or ammo. Your call. Just don't get bitten.
  4. Fire safety. It is of vital importance that you keep from doing things like burning your house down or starting a forest fire. Critters like dried vegetation so any stray embers that get in there have the potential to make things exciting for both of you. For Pete's sake have fire gear on hand! Fire extinguisher, hose, water bucket, blanket, shovel, any and all of these, whatever it takes man.
  5. Place your fan, light your smolder-able material and commence to make life miserable for that little bugger. If he's in there, he's not stayin.
  6. Most animals that are interested in burrowing under your porch are nocturnal. So if you do this in the afternoon and don't get any results, adhere strictly to the following sub-routine:
    1. Pack up your gear.
    2. Head back into the house.
    3. Declare loudly that you've taken care of the little bugger.
    4. Find a good place to take a nap.
    5. Plan a way to sneak back out after dark and repeat steps 1-6 above without anyone noticing.
And that is how you demonstrate yourself to be the master of the animal kingdom that you are. Tune in next week when I'll explain in detail how to kill an entire six pack afternoon troubleshooting problems with your wife's car.

Addition: There probably never was a skunk under there, at least not for very long. The cats likely made him nervous enough to gas the area and high tail it out of there to look for a safer porch to winter under. The cats (God bless 'em) didn't get any on 'em this time.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Duck For President

This will likely be my only political post. I've found that I'm much happier if I pay zero attention to the media during election years. The Missus follows pretty closely so I get updated on the important stuff. I would like to offer up my own suggestion for a presidential candidate.



You can browse inside the book at Amazon.com. It's one of my favorites no matter what the season. It always makes me chuckle when I'm depressed about the race to put yet another blow-hard schemer in the White House. Sometimes I think that we're not too far away from being a world where a duck could actually get elected and I wonder... would it be that bad?

"The people had spoken... Duck was officially in charge!"

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

To Love And Be Loved

To love and be loved is the greatest joy in the world. Can't remember who's famous for having said that and couldn't locate it on Google either. My whole life, even before I was aware of it I wanted nothing more than to find a wife and raise a family. Now that I'm there, all the other aspirations I've ever had have been moved to the back seat. Actually they way back, as it used to be called in station wagon days, there's car seats in the back seat nowadays. All that stuff is comfortable back there and I may even get to some of it some day.

The pleasant surprise this week was being reminded that beyond the wondrous love within the circle of my family, there's more. Professional courtesy and the respect of my peers is nice and all, but finding myself reminded that I'm surrounded by real friends was a welcome boost to my spirits.

Some of them are just so solid in their friendship that not a word has to be said about it. It's apparent that whenever possible they'll do whatever they can for me, and it's silently acknowledged that I would do the same. And then there's the rare occasion that all this is confirmed with a hug and an actual, out loud, "I love you". Yeah... big strong man that I am, I get all brittle unless I hear it out loud pretty frequently. My family's great about that, you know you're loved around here. Having friends that will lay it on me occasionally is the icing on the cake.

It's such a good feeling to be completely un-bothered by the events around me. We're broke? The economy's busted? The election's crazy? The car's making a funny noise?

Don't care.

I'm loved, the rest of it doesn't matter.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm Sorry

Welp! It's been a while but it's never that long between times putting my foot in my mouth that I forget the taste of boot leather. I put a rant down in writing and mostly people thought it was funny. Somebody thought it was hurtful.

In a way, I'm glad to have deviated from my usual task of making fun of myself and my immediate family and lighted on something that touched a nerve. Everyone who writes wants their words to affect their readers. Usually I'm looking for a laugh, but sometimes it's serious. All the best things are offensive, new forms of art and music, religion, and most of all the truth. The truth stings more often than not and so we dance around it. I, for one, will not ever apologize for telling the truth.

Offensive though. I've gone and offended myself. Saying something offensive is one thing, saying something hurtful is quite another and I'm sad tonight that I've done it that way. An annoying thing about me is that when I'm bothered about something I do two things. The first is to bitch about something else, and the second is to ignore in myself the things that I am complaining about.

So when I'm hung up about quitting smoking I rail about fat people. Not a lot of sense in that but it's the case. Really, I'm pissed at me. I'm looking at friends of mine that are shortening their lives with their eating habits and carefully avoiding pointing the finger at myself about tobacco. Sure, nicotine is as addictive as heroin and much more readily available. Food tickles the brain's pleasure centers in much the same way. What's bad for you feels pretty good, whatever it may be.

I've ended twice already with this thought. If someone you love is in some way shortening their life, you need to act. There's really not much you can say or do so you'll have to really think this out if you're going to pursue it. The key is to do it in love. Find some way to express your love for someone, and in that same moment, add in that you're not willing to let them shorten their time with you. Do it gently. Addiction is the exact opposite of good sense and in that, we addicts are as defensive as can be.

I think I had more to say but being sad takes a lot of energy and I was already tired.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Fatty! (Updated)

OK, gimme a minute to roll into this one. Thatgirl posted about Bad-Ass Geek's post about a letter he wrote. I realize that it's a lot of clicks right off the bat but you don't have to actually read that stuff for the rest of this post to be relevant. I'm just laying out what lead me into this rant. (BTW both of those blogs are totally worth your time so click on over there when I'm done bitching.)

Awright...

I'm sick to DEATH of FAT people!!!

Seriously. People from India come here and are amazed to find that the POOR PEOPLE ARE FAT!!! That's by far the most condemning statement I've ever heard about our country. But enough perspective, I'm venting here.

I am sick to fucking death of trying to get through the grocery store and getting stuck in EVERY AISLE behind some waddling behemoth. I need a single item most times I go in, and I gotta get stuck behind some wheezing, mouth breathing LARD bucket. It's worse than being stuck in traffic because instead of having the back of a vehicle to stare at, I'm stuck watching buttocks the size of Volkswagons whallup up and down. I pause briefly to attach the word PONDEROUS to a pair of cankles while diverting my eyes downward to a pair of sneakers mashed flat by the pounding they take from their owner who's busy gawping at pre-packaged, six hundred calorie confections .

What the hell is wrong with you people!? is a question I don't even have to ask. I know the answer...

Complete lack of personal responsibility.

That's not fair you say. Life is so difficult these days, people don't have time to take care of themselves. BULL-SHIT! I have some tolerance for people who are carrying a few extra pounds for whatever reson, just had a baby, can't work out as much. But... I will not be told that I have to be tolerant of disgusting fatbodies who are in a very real and medical sense killing themselves with food and inactivity.

But it's not hurting you. What business is it of yours? you say. Well, it is. My insurance goes up every time some fat lump has a coronary because they couldn't be bothered to exercise even a little. My life get's held up on a daily basis because some flabby pudding of a person is in my way and there's not enough room for me to slide by their saddlebags of lard. Did you know that every hospital and ambulance service in the country is having to invest tens of thousands of dollars on reinforced, oversize gurneys and wheelchairs? Many are actually investing in derricks to help the staff move obese patients. Still think I'm overreacting?

So here's what to do if this is you. Exert one iota of self control in your eating habits. Leave one stinkin Oreo in the package you're about to kill. Drink one less liter of pop in a day and have a glass of water instead. Read the label on one think that you eat. Find one thing you could do in the kitchen to be just the slightest bit healthier. Skip one rerun on TV and take a walk. Just make the tiniest of incremental changes in your porcine lifestyle and see if it doesn't kill you. See if you don't feel the tiniest bit better for it.

What's more important is if it's not you, to start exerting some pressure on your friends and family who fit this description. Because it's disgusting. Because it's unattractive. Because it's not acceptable to have the underlying cause of someone's death be FAT.

Update:

OK, I should have been way more specific in who I wasn't including in my rant. My own Missus has been having babies right along here and is having trouble getting her weight down. She's also in the top ten healthiest eaters I know. There are also a good number of people I know who carry some extra poundage because of genetics, chemical imbalances, glandular disorders, and so on. Those people have enough to deal with and aren't contributing to their condition on a daily basis.

I also know some of people (personally, not just from seeing them at the grocery store) who are the sole cause of their condition. And I'm not talking about people who just have a few extra pounds on. I'm talking about people with arms the size of my children who have difficulty moving and breathing and have given themselves diabetes because they are over the four hundred pound mark. The reason they're there is their atrocious eating habits and their complete lack of interest in changing them, even the slightest little bit.

Again, not slamming people who are the victims of circumstance and who life fairly healthy lives. I'm slamming people who order several pizzas for dinner, several times a week. People who don't even consider bagging their lunch even when hunting down fast food is an inconvenience. It's that sort of behavior, not the actual condition it causes really, that drives me to distraction. When it's as simple as slowly changing your eating habits and gradually increasing physical activity, where's the difficulty.

This is a real issue. When I was in high school, sure, there were a few fat kids. Now half of the athletes are chunky. Food is like an unregulated drug in this country and as such, it seems that the country feels that it's OK to eat whatever they want. You can't argue the fact that Americans are grossly uninformed when you see fourteen year olds on TV who are sad because they'd like to loose weight, but can't afford to eat at Subway twice a day. Like that's the only solution?!

The end of this post originally included a plea to get after people who are killing themselves at the dinner table. Obesity is quite literally killing people I know and love. In a lot of cases it's a curable condition. I'm going to end this now before I have to point the finger at myself over smoking, whups... too late, but do you see the parallel?

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

100th Post

I had been planning all along to do a "100 things about me" list for my 100th post. But I already did one of those and it was fun but not so much what is called for here. (They take a bloody long time too.) Then I started to wonder about why we assign more meaning to decadal intervals but a post about ten-base number systems and the human psyche is something only Black Hockey Jesus could pull off. Which brings me around to writing about my blogging experience, mainly the writers I've discovered.

Yeah, yeah... blogging about blogging is supposedly verboten but if I was concerned with guidelines I'd likely have a publisher and a residuals check. This is just for fun.

I actually started blogging about two years ago. A friend of Junior's who is a pentecostal pastor spoke a prophesy over me that I would be a prolific writer. Religious mumbo jumbo aside, I took it to heart and started this blog in which I sought to tackle the great issues of the world. That lasted about six posts and I promptly forgot about it.

For the next two years I continued on thinking that blogging was basically just for society types and political writers who weren't good enough to get published on paper. Then The Missus got her thing going and opened my eyes. She was writing about stuff that happened in my house in a way that made me want to check back daily. So I dug up the old account and waded in again.

The first attempts were pretty shaky and it took a while to get the hang of it. I had a tendency to get preachy or at the very least overly philosophical. I started reading the blogs The Missus was linking to and got some pointers. After a while the proper blend of sarcasm, irreverence and common sense became easier to attain. Brevity seems to be pretty important too, but I've never been one to write a draft and revise. I wrote A papers in college as one-offs, it seems to be working for the blog too.

So, having found myself hopelessly addicted to reading mommy blogs, I was in need of a head alignment and we stumbled upon Black Hockey Jesus. He gets two links in this post because you need to click over there and read his stuff. It will change your life. He was the reason I started The Mister. There seemed to be a dearth of daddy blogs and I was ready to stand in the gap.

Being at the helm of a pair of blogs still wasn't enough to keep me satisfied and I went clicking around to find more blogs to read. This is where the whole thing started to really get interesting for me. I thought I was hooked before. I had only scratched the surface.

One of the best ways to attract people to your blog is to go read other peoples' blogs and post witty comments. If you're snarky witty enough, people will click over and read your stuff. And that was how I met two of my favorite people in cyber space. Up until then, I only interacted with folks on line that I knew in real life.

So now I'm friends with thatgirl who writes Hey You?! Remember Me? which is just about the best thing since dual sweep mids on a small format mixer. (Another reason I started a daddy blog is that the audience isn't necessarily that interested in all the same geeky stuff I am.) Anyway, if I could pick one blog to be stranded on a desert island with, it would be hers. About half her posts delve way back into her formative experience and when she goes there... you better buckle up!

One of the commenters on her blog is ChurchPunkMom who writes Embellished Truth and Polite Fiction. I identify big time with her. I have to continually remind myself that the ROCK doesn't have to stop just because I have short people, and I go to rock concerts for a living. It's good to know there are other people for whom a mohawk is an acceptable hair style for a three year old.

Then there's the people I know in real life who blog. Cousin Jill writes The Daniels Five, possibly for the sole benefit of myself, The Missus, and her real cousin who also happens to be our favorite babysitter of all time. She can't spell to save her life, and you probably have to know her to get half the stuff, but her take on family life makes me know why I'm alive some days.

Somewhere along in there I decided to start a photo blog with some friends as contributors. It's called Outside Relevant for no particular reason. There's not much writing but we keep ourselves amused with pics from our cell phones. And that is how I came to publish three blogs.

There it is, the story of how I got started and who I've met along the way. By my own measure I'm a total success. I never dreamed that people would
  1. Read this thing
  2. Post comments on it
  3. Link to it
  4. Subscribe to it
  5. Become my friend over it
No idea. Completely shocking. Google tells me that ten to fifteen people a day drop in here. Feedburner says that a dozen people subscribe to my feed. I've even managed to earn nearly two dollars from advertising. It's a mad, mad world where people who want to read my ramblings can click on an ad and I get six cents for it. The mind reels.

At any rate. I'm glad to stop in. Sometimes the only feeling of relevance that I get in a day is from knowing that I work all this stuff out at the keyboard and somebody, somewhere thinks it's worth reading. Even better when someone posts something that shifts my mind from the ordinary and relieves me from the daily grind.

Thanks for stopping in.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote of the Day - Oxygen

The other day at the hospital, our compressed gas rep came out to give us our yearly certification in liquid oxygen. We've got a tank full of the stuff right outside our shop and the lives of hundreds depend on keeping several hundred gallons of liquid oxygen safe, sound, and 300 degrees below zero. Anyway, had a flash of inspiration as I was walking through the shop letting the guys know he was ready for us.

"Hey, the O2 guy is here for that seminar. You better hurry, he's givin' out free samples!"

OK, I may be in the realm of maintenance man humor, but it got a laugh.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

I'm Gandalf

I was asked once what I thought about the idea of a sound engineer in a theater doing a workshop for the actors and other techs to show them what the sound was all about. I thought it was a terrible idea and went on at length about it. The short answer is that people who hire sound guys don't want to know all the technical ins and outs. They want the guy in the black t-shirt to work his magic and not have to think about how it happens (make it out to cash please!).

I was watching the Veggie Tales send up of Lord of the Rings (Lord of the Beans, well worth the price of a rental, even if you're not into Jesus or singing salad). They parody the scene where Frodo meets Gandalf on the way in and I, of course, was drawing parallels to the way the scene was handled in the movie and the original text. It's what production people do, there is no suspension of disbelief for us, it's our cross to bear (no pun intended). Then I got to drawing parallels between Gandalf and the sound guy. Here they are:

The sound guy
  • Is never early or late, he always arrives exactly when he intends to.
  • Is wise and mysterious, never letting on as to the nature of his arcane craft.
  • Frequently disappears exactly when you think you need him most.
  • Turns out to in actuality be saving the day behind the scenes when this occurs.
  • Is cryptic or silent when you want an explanation of same.
  • Gets factions who would otherwise be at each others throats to function together for a common goal.
  • Dresses oddly and quite often has a long beard.
  • Can basically do magic... which is why you're glad to have him around and also often equally glad to not have him around. Too much adventure is hard on the average hobbit.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Doldrums

Alas, I am at a loss. It's tough to write when there's nothing wrong. All the best stuff comes from tension and angst. Then you can contrast it against the few nice things that happen along the way and everyone thinks you're well balanced.

Welp... I got nothin! There is very nearly a complete lack of drama in my life. Apart from my three year old acting his age, and a slight cash flow issue all is right with the world. But, eventually he'll turn four and eventually the checks will start coming from the new job (hopefully the latter occurs before the former).

I've been watching my hits decline and I feel like I owe anyone who shows up something in return for the half calorie they expended clicking on their bookmark tab. Yeah, yeah, I know, blogging about blogging is supposed to be off limits but you come here to read about all the twists and turns of my life and this is it right now.

This is actually one of the topics I talk about a lot with my friends. Nearly everyone I know is of the "Type A" persuasion. Let me amend that a little: most of my friends are motivated to keep busy. I don't hang around with actual "Type A" types. They tend to make my paradigm coagulate and anyone who knows me knows that I like mine nice and squishy around the edges.

Anyway, a lot of times people who are busy every minute, including myself, find they have a lot of trouble with having time off. Without rambling on and on about it let me just say that I've read a lot of stuff in the Bible about there being peace and rest when you're waiting.

So, I find myself in the doldrums, slack sails hanging from the rigging and a glassy sea lapping at the hull. Many would go below decks in search of the oars. Not this guy. I'm tying my hammock into the rigging and slouching into it with my hat over my eyes. There's no such thing as smooth sailing, just short breaks when the wind dies down.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Almost A Winner

I haven't written about ham radio in a while because it's been a while since I've played radios. It's come creeping back in in ways that I didn't expect lately. Last fall and over the winter when I had more time, I would get on the radio during on-air contests and try my hand. In a ham contest you sit at your radio and see how many other hams you can get in touch with. There are different rules for each one and dozens every year. Sometimes you're just looking for contacts in each state, sometimes from all over the world. There are contests where you use voice, morse code, computers (Yeah, two computers can talk to each other over thousands of miles without wires, 802.11b, eat your heart out.)

The first contest I ever entered was the School Club Roundup. In that one you rack up a point for every regular contact, three points for contacting another ham who's in the contest, and ten points for contacting a school. Then you get multipliers for unique states. It runs for a week of school days (instead of a weekend) and just during school hours. I racked up five hundred points or so.

The second contest was the November Sweepstakes. That's where you try to get a contact in every state. There's more to it than that but I'm trying not to bore you. I made one hundred and four contacts, racked up over two thousand points, and finished behind about 78% of the entrants.

I was also in an international contest and made some really cool contacts, including my farthest, 5500 miles to a guy in Brazil. I only made a handful though and finished way at the bottom.

Then there was the winter edition of the School Club Roundup. I had my contesting chops by then and was unemployed had the week off from work. I only racked up about twenty-five contacts, but a lot of them were schools.

There was also contest for Dutch stations, so I made five contacts in the Netherlands just for fun.

Enough about that stuff. A couple weeks ago I got a letter in the mail. It was foreign! It was an odd size and had strange stamps on it! It was those crazy Dutch! They had sent me a ribbon for participation. I wrote about it here. I hadn't ever expected to see the results from that one, let alone hear from them. Suddenly I was thinking about my hobby again.

I subscribe to a ham magazine, which posts a lot about contesting. There was a one page article in it this month about the School Club Roundup. In a sidebar were some comments that contesters had posted to the interweb about it. I decided to read them even for some reason and almost fell of my chair when the first one from the February SCR was from KC2PNF... ME! I crowed to all my ham friends and then promptly forgot about it.

My brother-in-law operated with his girlfriend last weekend at a serious contest station. Some guys take this pretty seriously, investing thousands, multiple radios, computers, the works. They had a blast, particularly because the guy who owned the station was defending the title from last year. It was at this point that I realized that I hadn't checked the standings on the SCR in a while. Most contests are tabulated by computer these days but it still takes a long time for all the entries to come in.

I logged in to the site and downloaded the scores from the fall and winter SCR. I scrolled all the way down to the bottom where the results from the Individual class are. The first one shocked the hell out of me. My measly five hundred points had landed me second place! I opened up the winter results, and there I was again... second place!

Granted, it's a tiny contest that only a few hams bother with, but still pretty exciting for a guy who usually finishes behind several thousand other hams. It looks like I'll be working nights during this years fall SCR. It's tempting to give though to loosing a couple hours of day time sleep to spin the dials and see how many schools I can snag.

Awright, enough ham stuff. I got that out of my system. Just thought you might like to know what kind of geek you're dealing with here.

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