Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bugity, Bugity, Bugity

I am gonna rant here for a second folks. Fasten your seatbelts. I have just come back from a four day weekend were I was once again working on a copious number of projects around the house. Working in the Arizona heat means I have to take a lot of breaks so that I don’t get dehydrated. I have to plop myself down in front of the television for about 30 minutes after every hour of outside labor to stretch out and cool off while drinking something cold.

While doing so this past weekend, I got to see the above mentioned clip at least 5 times. Every single news outlet seemed to think that this was the cutest and most funny piece of news on the planet for some reason.

A little bit of background here; I don’t like NASCAR. I have always been a Formula 1 fan. Driving as fast as you can in a circle for two hours has never been my idea of a fun thing to watch. Secondly, I am not a big fan of organized religion. You can worship anyway you want, but keep it in your church, your living room or your basement.

This video just hammered home how stupid the American media thinks we are, if this is something that passes for news and entertainment. There are debt ceiling talks, mass murder in Norway, train wrecks in China and famine in Somalia, and we get to watch a fat Baptist preacher talk about his ‘smokin hot wife’ at a NASCAR invocation.

Is it just me, or am I the only one that would find it odd for Jesus to bless an event that basically puts people’s lives at risk for the sake of winning a trophy? Wouldn’t that be like Christ pumping up the crowd before the Chariot Race in Ben-Hur?

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world thinks we are really f*cked up?

Then there is this whole debt ceiling debate in Washington, or as I like to call it, “So You Think You Can Vote – the D.C. Edition”. Because that is what it has come down to, a reality television show where everyone tunes into to see who gets the final rose or gets booted off the island.

The Republican right is trying to make a stand on this Tea Party movement for no new taxes. In so doing they appear to be willing to shut down the government and cripple the nations credit rating all to make the President look bad and be more ‘defeatable’ in the future.

Having worked in government for the past 15 years, I know how mismanaged it can be. The words government and efficiency cannot be used in the same sentence. So the Republicans seems to think that we can ‘lean out’ the system and make it run more efficiently by not raising taxes and giving tax breaks to create more jobs and ergo, generate more governmental revenue.

It doesn’t work that way. I don’t like higher taxes anymore than the next guy, but if I want things to work, I know that someone has to pay for the fireman, the policeman, the ambulance driver and the old folk’s social security. The economic landscape has changed folks, and cutting taxes to create more jobs in the future isn’t going to happen. Welcome to socialism. Don’t blame Obama, blame the past leaders both Democrat and Republican going back to Nixon. They led us down this path.

So stop scaring the old people and jockeying for the best time slot on network television to slander the opposition. Do it like the old days. Go behind closed doors, make a deal, come out smiling, say everything is going to be fine and let us get on with our lives. We know things won’t get better, they rarely do in government, just don’t make it into a reality sporting event.

That is all, you may now unfasten your seatbelts and move about the cabin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Project #23769


I finished a project this past weekend. All my weekends are comprised of working on projects these days. The wife and I are bound and determined to clean our slate by the end of the year and then start downsizing.

The project pictured here is the tiered flower boxes in the front of our house. This has been something that has been in the workds for a long time. I had experimented with making flower boxes in the past and knew how to do it. It was just a matter of cutting a lot of wood, doing a lot of painting and then planting flowers in 108 degree weather. What I thought was going to take about a month to complete, in reality, took about six months.


As with most projects, this one was pretty grandiose in the beginning. Needless to say it has be paired down a bit here, but the results still look pretty good. Originally, the boxes were supposed to wrap around the porch, but time and money sort of meant that original concept had to be downsized. The FlowerBox 2.0 upgrade that includes the sides of the porch may or may not get finished next year.

There was a reason for creating these beyond the ascetic of making the house look nicer. The summer sun rarely gets to the back of the flowerbeds due to the low wall at the front of the porch, which made it hard for most flowers to prosper and grow not to mention hiding them behind the flowers in front. By creating levels, the sun is able to hit all the beds equally and hopefully, make for more flowers and more color. Time will tell.


Now that the front yard is pretty much done for this year, I am off to the back yard, where I have an even bigger and more bizarre project about to commence. If I am luck, that one might be completed by November. It will make this project look tame by comparison.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Like A Good Neighbor.....


......well, not really.

I have written about this before, and will probably be writing more about it in the future. I don’t know if this a cultural trend, a social networking offshoot, or just a sign of our more repressed nature as a species, but there is a definite problem here. Based on my current mindset, this problem is really starting to piss me off.

My wife and I are doing some work on our home this summer instead of going on vacation. This work involves upgrading some appliances and re-tiling our bathroom among other various projects.

In updates that I posted online in the past several weeks I mentioned this summer long activity in the following paragraphs:

"The wife and I are engaged in numerous household upgrades and projects (picture wall demolition and multiple contractors on sight at any given time). There will be a bunch of pictures posted to document all this upgradeable goodness when all the projects are done. However, it might be the end of the summer before all the dust settles. "


“We have been doing some renovations on our home recently. This has entailed moving a bunch of stuff from one room to another to allow contractors to knock out walls and re-wire things.”

These seemed like rather innocent and un-noteworthy statements, or so I thought. These web logs are viewable by anyone online. But it seems that there are residents in my neighborhood that read them and found them to be disturbing.

So much so, that they contacted the City of Phoenix and informed them that we were doing ‘structural’ work to our historic home and we may not have the proper permits to do so. This resulted in a bright red “Stop Work Order” being pasted on the front of our house a few days ago.

Now the city is involved and we have to meet with them to ‘prove’ that we are not altering our historic home in violation of city codes. We knew we were not doing this when we started, since we know what we are and aren’t allowed to do with a permit because we have done this sort of work in the past on our house.

The tearing out of walls was in reference to removing drywall so that water pipes could be re-routed to our new tankless water heater. The contractors in question were the drywall person, the plumber and Southwest Gas to inspect the line and make sure it was up to code.

So because a neighbor has ‘concerns’ about what we are doing, the city is involved, and both the zoning office and myself have to take time off work to address these non-issue. All while the concerned neighbor gets to bask in anonymity with no repercussions what-so-ever.

I seem to recall my parents raising me to be civil and discuss issues and problems with people to try and work them out first. They did not teach me to call 1-800-SNITCH or go out and hire an attorney as soon as I found out someone was doing something that I did not approve of. I have always assumed that the good people that live near me would have dropped me an e-mail or commented on my web log post to be sure to contact the city to see if any of my planned home repair might require a permit.

Something like, “Hey don’t forget to check into possible required permits when doing your home improvement!”, kind of friendly reminder. In which case I could have responded about exactly what we were doing and if permits were needed.

But instead, I found, much to my dismay and sadness, that we have neighbors that would just as soon chuck a live grenade over our backyard wall and then scamper away into the bushes and snicker.

Thanks for making my friendly and well mannered neighborhood a little bit less of a desirable place to live neighbor! You are doing a great job of making everyone a little more suspicious and untrustworthy of each other. That was your intent, right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Wal-Martians Have Arrived


I have this secret fascination with Wal-Mart. I rarely go there, but once in a while my wife needs to pick up some bulk items at cheap prices. Things like 50lb bags of dog food, jumbo rolls of paper towels and paint supplies. Sometimes I tag along.

I tag along, because I find the people that populate these mega-stores to be fascinating. Lets face it, you don’t see these people anywhere else. They come out of their basement caves once a week to stock up on Twinkies and Mac’N’Chese before retreating to their dark cubby holes to watch reruns of Rosanne and Gilligan’s Island.

So as I was wandering the electronics section of our local Super-Store I came upon a new Motorola Xoom tablet. A Xoom is the Android version of the Apple iPad, and it was on display for all the customers to paw and play with.

Like the iPad, it has a camera that you can take pictures with, so I started flipping through some of the images on the tablet. I was immensely entertained at the parade of Walmartians that had played with the device since it had been placed on display. There were literally hundreds of portraits of the cave dwellers on this thing.

Then it dawned on me, an Android powered device should have Bluetooth file transfer capability, just like my Motorola Droid smart phone. By the time my wife found me 15 minutes later, I had downloaded about 50 of the best portraits to the my phone and then left the store.

So without, further delay, I give you the future generation of America. Remember, these are the people that will be taking care of us in our old age, defending our borders and running our factories and retail establishments. These are just the upper crust. To see the entire collection, click on the link at the end of the blog.

Be afraid.....be very afraid.

It appears that young teenage girls like to pose in outrageous group shots

Take Us To Your Leader!

The men seemed to be most concerned with showing off their hats

I assume this is some sort of 'gang' sign, but have no idea what it means.

Their parents must be so proud.

...and you are wearing sunglasses indoors because.....?

...we be gangsta bitches....Yo!


Click the image for the entire series

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

First published on March 23, 2006. A recollection of being young and free and the first steps toward adulthood.

Running Home In the Dark

There Are Monsters In The Woods

Changes in your life come at odd times. Often they are unexpected. Epiphanies that paint everything that comes after in a different light.

I don't recall the first one I had. But I recall one of the earliest.

I was living in Southern California in the late 1960s. We used to call it life in the fishbowl. My brother and I grew up on military bases. There wasn't any crime, political unrest, or domestic violence on a military base. Everything was orderly and neat. So we all got to stare out at the rest of the world as though we were in a fishbowl. The Vietnam War protests, the summer of love, Woodstock, Martin Luther King Jr., none of these things really had an affect on us back then. We were living in the last bastion of the 1950s. It was a place of cookies in the afternoon, sleepovers and playing hide and seek until long after dark.

When I turned 12 my parents decided to send me to a week long summer camp. I realize now that this was just an excuse for getting me and my brother out of the house so my parents could have some quality alone time. But for me it was a big step. I had never been away from family for that length of time. I was scared but at the same time I was also excited.

As it turned out, I really liked the whole camping thing. You got to stay up late and sleep in a tent. The camp counselors gave us all sorts of things to do to keep us busy. We were outside in the warm southern California weather, where the smell of the dirt and grass mixed with the coastal breeze and made a subtle perfume that I can still smell in my dreams.

There were about 30 of us. We were all young boys between the ages of 8 and 12. We didn't know each other, but we bonded pretty quickly like most kids do. We were living for the moment with a short attention span and lots of sugar and carbohydrates to keep us going. It was all a dreamy blur.

On the last night of the camping weekend there was a big jamboree. It was held near the center of the camping area and our tribe put on a skit that is so traditional when boys camp out in the wild. We had no television or radio, so we had to make our own entertainment. Lord, I would love see that skit on video tape (if it had been invented back then). When it was all over, the counselors told us that the first ones back to our campsites got to light the campfires and start cooking the smores. Smores are those chocolate, graham cracker, marshmallow confections that every camping trip ends with. So we all scattered like rabbits and ran through the night back toward our tents.

I suppose that this was the height of childhood. Running like a pack of wolves through the cool evening air, heavily breathing in the summer night, flying through the darkness, not wanting to be the last one back to camp. As I ran through the trees and the tall grass I heard something. A faint scream. I slowed and turned my head and I heard it again. Even as a young boy I knew the sound or terror. It was a fearful scream and then sobbing. I stopped and started to walk back toward the jamboree area. My mind wrestled with the thought that I was going to be the last one back to camp, but I had to find something out. I was half curious, half afraid.

None of my other companions had stopped. Perhaps they hadn't heard the scream, maybe they were scared, maybe they didn't care. As I walked back a boy came stumbling out of the darkness, he was crying. When he saw me, he screamed and ran to me like a child lost in the woods. Which is what he was. He wasn't hurt, he was just scared. He had never been away from home. He was just a kid frightened of the dark. When everyone scattered toward their tents, he hadn't known the way and was left behind in his indecision.

To him, there were monsters in the woods. The Grimm's Fairy tales were still real. Some of us had learned to suppress our fear with bravado and logic. He wasn't able to do that yet. I put my arm around him and told him it would by OK. I knew what he felt like. Only a few months before I might have been him.

He tried to put on a brave face and not act scared while I walked with him back to camp, but the tears drying on his cheeks sort of ruined that charade. We were the last ones to arrive and the fire was already raging. The others were getting ready to toast their marshmallows. The frightened kid sat at the campfire and eventually joined in the comradery and laughter. We didn't speak of coming back last. He hadn't grown up as fast as the rest of us but he would catch up soon enough. He just wasn't going to catch up that night.

During that lazy California summer I realized there were more important things than running with the pack. That was a big step for a 12 year old boy. I think I understood compassion for the first time in the darkness under that starry night sky. It was the first time I started to become an individual and think for myself. After that week in the woods, I saw the world a little differently. I still do.