Monday, December 5th, 2022

I had to work on my car last weekend and it turned out well, so now I get to brag about it a little bit.

The battery in our Subaru died so I had to replace it. That wasn’t the hard part, although I have to say that the guy at Batteries Plus tried to make it as hard as he possibly could. He had to know the year, make, model, type, color, weight, size of the engine, whether or not I drove with the sunroof open, did I ever get carsick, the list went on and on. I said I had to go do some research and then I would get back to him, and I left his shop and went up the road to another shop where all the guy wanted to know was the year, make and model, and five minutes later I was waddling out the door trying not to drop a new car battery.

Swapping the dead battery for the new one was easy. Closing the hood turned out to be the hardest part. Did not see that coming.

At first I didn’t even realize the hood was not latched. I thought I was done. When I tried to turn the engine over, however, I discovered the new battery had obviously been sitting on the shelf for a while and needed some time with the battery charger. Half an hour later with the engine happily ticking over, I put all my tools away, switched off the car, slapped the hood down and that’s when I noticed I had a problem. The latch was not latching. Something inside the latch which was supposed to lock the hood in place was not, in fact, doing any locking. This is not something you can fix with a bungee cord, unless you plan to never drive any faster than walking speed. I was not making any such plans. I had to fix this.

So I did what any red-blooded America does these days: I opened a web browser on my computer, navigated to You Tube, and typed “Subaru Forester hood doesn’t latch” into the search bar. You Tube immediately rewarded me with a couple dozen videos all of which claimed to solve the problem. I only watched four or five of them because I don’t have all the time in the world, even though I will happily spend hours watching You Tube videos about building wooden boats, something I have never done and will never do. Everyone has at least one guilty pleasure. That’s mine.

The videos I watched all boiled down to a simple problem: The lock in the latch could not freely move because of dirt or ice, or maybe it just needed lubrication. Some videos went into more detail; a couple went into a lot more detail. One of them wanted me to dismantle the entire front grille of my car. I didn’t have to do that. All I had to do was undo three bolts to remove the latch, take it to my work bench where I squirted lots of 3-In-1 Oil on it, jiggle the moving parts around until they all moved freely, and finally re-install the latch on my car. Took about thirty minutes, and fifteen of those minutes were spent looking for the bolt I dropped into the depths of the engine compartment. So it was with a feeling of accomplishment that I got to pour myself a beer after I was done, stretch out on the sofa and spend the rest of the afternoon reading a book. Yay, me.

latched | 10:13 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, story time
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Sunday, December 4th, 2022

I was in all the bands during high school, by which I mean, there was just one band, but it was sort of an all-purpose band: marching band, pep band, concert band. When we played at basketball games or other sporting events, we were known as the pep band and we played high-tempo tunes that were arranged to be fast and short.

One of those tunes was “The Horse.” I loved that tune because 1) it sounded amazeballs, and because 2) my part was stupid easy to play. This is what it sounded like when it was arranged for a marching band:

And I was today years old when I learned that it’s not only an R&B number from way back, but it’s also got words!

the horse | 10:25 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, story time
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Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

The Playlist of Awesomeness
I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick (Sep 77)
Night Moves – Bob Seger (Nov 76)
Cecelia – Simon & Garfunkel (Apr 70)
Blinded By The Light – Manfred Man (Feb 73)
More Today Than Yesterday – Spiral Staircase (Jan 69)

On the drive into work I tuned in a radio station that was cranking out a playlist that came straight from my high school years.

“I Want You To Want Me” was a song I didn’t appreciate back in high school, which is strange because the lyrics perfectly encapsulate the emotional state I was in back then:

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m begging you to beg me
Feeling all alone without a friend
Y’know you feel like dying
Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you crying?

(It’s fine. I was fine. I had plenty of good friends in high school. But I also had an overabundance of emotions and a crushing sense of insecurity. Same as it ever was.)

I can’t help but love this song now. Whenever I find it on the radio, I have to crank up the volume, sing along, and do a little boogey butt dance in my car seat.

“Night Moves” came on next. I was always dimly aware what this song was about, but the atmospherics on this particular morning made the lyrics so clear that there was no way to miss exactly what was going on:

She was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes
And points of her own, sittin’ way up high
Way up firm and high

After a respectful pause, I posed the question to My Darling B, who has every single one of Bob Seger’s albums: “He’s talking about her titties, right?”

“I think so,” she said, but was not entirely confident in her answer. She had to ask The Google. The answers she got danced around the subject, just like Bob. But I’m about 99% sure that’s what he meant. It was the 70s. That’s what all the songs back then were about.

I was never a huge Bob Seger fan, but his songs were on the radio every day back then. If I were going to make a high school playlist, I would have to include at least a couple of Bob Seger songs, same as I’d have to include Barry Manilow or Olivia-Newton John. Wouldn’t be right to leave that out.

Next up: “Cecelia” by Simon & Garfunkel, a happy-go-lucky song about infidelity. “Cecelia, you’re breaking my heart,” Paul and Simon sing in harmony,

Makin’ love in the afternoon with Cecelia
Up in my bedroom
I got up to wash my face
When I come back to bed, someone’s taken my place

No subtlety there! Just straight-up sexual frustration!

This song was on my favorite Simon & Garfunkel album, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which, during my high school years, was everyone’s favorite. Even though it had been released nine years before I graduated from high school, it was nevertheless still enormously popular. For example, everybody I knew had not only memorized the lyrics to “The Boxer,” but also recognized it was a moral imperative to wistfully sing along or at least listen attentively when it was on the radio. “Cecelia” got the same treatment but it was more of a party song so you could enjoy dancing to it, too.

“Blinded By The Light” was another song everyone sang along with even though nobody knew all the words, or even most of the words. After “Blinded by the light,” everybody I knew mouthed some version of “wreck up like a douche under the roamer of the night,” whatever that means. I’m pretty sure that Manfred Man, the band that made this song famous, didn’t know all the words.

And finally, as we were nearing the state office building, we were treated to the glorious wonderfulness that is “More Today Than Yesterday” by forgettable band Spiral Staircase (neither one of us knew that – we had to ask The Google). This is not really a song from my high school days. I was probably dimly aware of its existence and probably heard it on the radio now and then, but as it was released in January 1969 when I was eight years old, I would hardly include it on an ultimate 70s playlist. Still, it rounded out the mornings tunes nicely because it didn’t break the spell of the nearly perfect string of 70s songs they had been spinning.

spiral staircase | 9:52 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, play
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Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

Sparky doesn’t sit in laps. He just doesn’t. Or he didn’t. Well, he used to. It’s complicated.

When he was a kitten, he sat in our laps occasionally. Not very often, but he did. Then he stopped. Not entirely sure why, but it may have something to do with his extreme sensitivity to sudden movement and unexpected noises, which will very often send him scrambling to his hidey hole the basement.

It’s been so long since the last time he sat in my lap that I couldn’t tell you how many years it’s been, but tonight he reached a milestone. Tonight he sat in my lap again. Not sure what made tonight so special. He didn’t do it with a lot of fanfare, he just jumped up on the sofa with me as he’s done lots of times, looked like he was going to curl up next to me but instead, he settled into my lap and allowed me to scritch his ears for about twenty minutes.

It’s lap time | 6:48 pm CST
Category: Sparky | Tags:
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Sunday, November 27th, 2022

Red beans and rice has been a holiday tradition in our house for the past twenty years. When we would buy a ham for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the next day’s dinner was red beans and rice, from a recipe My Darling B found in the Misawa Community Cookbook — you’re not gonna find that at a used-book sale anywhere, sorry. I cut the bone out of the ham the night before, then B stews it in a big pot with red beans and lots of other goodies, adjusting the recipe to suit our needs — for instance, the recipe calls for two cloves of garlic. TWO CLOVES. If you don’t want to taste or smell the garlic, why do you even use it? A big pot of red beans and rice calls for at least two HEADS of garlic. This is an opinion neither I nor B will budge on.

Tim came over at four to join us for dinner and a game, but the dinner wasn’t ready until about five so we just hung out while B made the rice and put the finishing touches on the stew. She wasn’t happy with the way the rice turned out — it was sticky, but I like sticky and Tim didn’t complain — but the stew was wonderful and we all filled our bowls up with generous helpings.

There is still so much ham left that we’ll be eating it through the end of next week, and that’ll be the last time we have a ham until about a year from now when we might be far enough removed from a week of eating ham that we’re looking forward to it again.

red beans and rice | 7:50 am CST
Category: food & drink, O'Folks
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Friday, November 25th, 2022

Crescent Earth, as seen from spacecraft CSM-112 on mission Apollo 15, 1971
mote | 5:09 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

thank you Jenny | 4:55 pm CST
Category: current events
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Monday, November 21st, 2022

I bought a copy of “Etiquette” by Emily Post while visiting Half Price Books a while back. Why? Because sometimes you don’t find the book you’re looking for, but you find the book you need.

This is the 1940 printing of “Etiquette” with the original blue dust jacket mostly intact. I reached for it more or less automatically because it looked old. My hand feels compelled to take down old books and start flipping through the pages without any conscious thought from me.

When I opened “Etiquette” at some random point in the middle of the book, my eyes fell on this passage:

The well-trained high-class servant is faultlessly neat in appearance, reticent in manner, speaks in a low voice, walks and moves quickly but silently, and is unfailingly courteous and respectful. A servant always answers “Yes, madam,” or “Very good, sir,” never “Yes,” “No,” “All right,” or “Sure.” In answering a bell, she asks, “Did you ring, sir?” or if especially well-mannered she asks “Did Madam ring?”

Oh my! “Did Madam ring?” Dialogue like that right there is worth whatever price they’re asking! And they were asking for only ten bucks! Almost needless to say, then, that this particular copy of “Etiquette” went home with me.

It’s a doorstop of a book, almost 900 pages, and page after page of it is filled with seating arrangements for dinner parties, examples of engraved invitations, and so many examples of formal correspondence it’ll you yawn and fall asleep way before your bedtime. There’s a whole chapter titled “flat silver – its choice and usage – condensed table setting.” The only thing I could find in it worth quoting was this: “‘Butter spreader’ is the manufacturers’ term and is never used in best society.” I’ve been using the recommended term, ‘butter knife,’ all my life — me, a bumpkin from the farm fields of central Wisconsin! What would ‘best society’ make of that?

Chapter 41, “The Clothes of a Gentleman”

There are still quite a few of our younger men – in the small towns especially – who know no better until, finding themselves among really well dressed men, they become uncomfortably aware that their clothes are all wrong. Wrong clothes, whether new or old, are like illiteracies of speech. By which is meant that the clothes and the speech of an elderly gentleman might suggest yesterday rather than today, and both be most distinguished. But any offenses to taste in details, however small, would be much the same as saying “I seen it” or “drapes” or “pardon me.”

Apparently, I am so far removed from high society or even good taste as to not even be in the same universe with either of them, because I can’t tell what could possibly be wrong with saying “pardon me.” And getting all snobby about “drapes” is beyond my ken.

etiquette | 8:53 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, November 20th, 2022

So I’ve already written more than once about getting a song stuck in my head. Happens to everybody, but I’m pretty sure my brain takes it to an extreme most other people don’t experience. I could be wrong. This belief is not supported by even the tiniest shred of evidence. But it feels absolutely true.

More to the point: I’ve had three Aretha Franklin songs stuck in my head for the past two weeks: “Ain’t No Doubt About It,” “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” and “Respect.” My brain’s been stuck on the first one more than the other two, but all three get air time on Radio Dave. Things could be worse, right? Those are three pretty great songs to have stuck in your head, right?

I guess. It’s just that, after two weeks of hearing those three songs on a loop, I have to say that even a fan of Aretha Franklin might get a little burned out. And I like to think of myself as a fan. But as much as I enjoy listening to those songs, I have to admit I’m getting … tired.

I think the songs that get stuck in my head may have a bit to do with how infrequently I listen to my favorite music these days. I used to have a huge collection of record albums close at hand (it’s in storage in the basement now) and listened to them almost all the time. Even if I wasn’t actively listening, I had an album I liked playing in the background. As a result of that, I had a huge loop of songs in my memory. I still occasionally fell into the single-song loop trap, but not for long. And certainly not for two weeks, ever.

I have to admit, though, that I will sometimes go whole days without listening to much of anything anymore, and even then I’ll turn the radio on only to have music in the background. But modern pop music hardly ever gets stuck in my head because I’m not familiar with it. It’s literally just background noise to me. In that respect, pop music is very safe to listen to.

But when I indulge a craving, as I did about two weeks ago, to listen to favorite album (like the Best Of Aretha Franklin I dug out of the archives), I think my brain eagerly latches on to those familiar sounds and obsesses over the details it enjoys or perhaps hadn’t even noticed until just now. “Hey! We haven’t heard this in a while! Oh I love these musical phrases! Wow these lyrics are the best!” And it goes into a seemingly endless loop of re-listening to the bits it loves every waking minute of the day.

Eventually I have to seek therapy by listening to some other old favorite of mine in the hopes that it will bump the previous album out of my phonological loop. Trouble with that is, the relief is temporary. I’ve just replaced one loop with another, so I’ve got, at best, a week of relief, maybe two, before I get really tired of the new loop. So I have to choose carefully. Which album have I not listened to for the longest time? How long can I stand to have it stuck in my head? What if I totally burn out on it and this is the absolute last time I can listen to it? These questions must be carefully considered before I return to the archive to dig up the next album or two.

stuck in a loop | 10:09 am CST
Category: entertainment, falling apart, music, play | Tags:
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image of a cat with its leg lifted over its head looking surprised

Yes, there is a yoga pose that looks a lot like this. No, it’s not called “lick the cat’s butt.” But that’s what it SHOULD be called.

lick the cat’s butt | 7:58 am CST
Category: random idiocy, Scooter, yoga
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Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Every time I start a new episode of Star Trek Prodigy, that little button in the lower right corner of the screen that says “Skip Intro” pops up and every time I think to myself, “Skip intro? Are you kidding? This is the best part of the show!”

Star Trek Prodigy is a Nickelodeon creation, so it’s written more for kids than adults, but I enjoy it quite a lot even so. I mean, it isn’t any hokier than the original series by a long shot. Together with Star Trek: Lower Decks (both stream on Amazon Prime), it’s one of the two best Star Trek shows in the franchise, if you ask me.

prodigy | 8:49 am CST
Category: entertainment, play, television | Tags:
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Friday, November 18th, 2022

I don’t believe anybody’s recycling the plastic and cardboard we put in our recycling bin.

I still take the time to separate ‘recyclable’ material because it makes My Darling B feel better. And okay, I suppose that maybe, just maybe, there’s a tiny inkling of a chance that somebody somewhere might be grinding up a tiny percentage of the plastic bottles to make shopping bags or flip-flops. Maybe. But honestly I think they’re throwing 99 and 44/100ths of the recycling in the landfill.

That’s it. That’s my crazy conspiracy theory.

recycle | 11:59 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, random idiocy, yet another rant
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Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Two days working from the office and I am BEAT! I can work from home for days and get all kinds of things done at my own pace, sleep well and feel rested enough to fight another day, but a day at the office leave me feel as though stepped in for Sisyphus: “Here, let me push that up the hill for a while so you can … hey, where are you going?”

whuf | 8:30 pm CST
Category: office work, random idiocy
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Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

concur | 6:29 am CST
Category: current events, Life & Death, this modern world | Tags:
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Woke up from a dream in which I was happily singing folk songs while accompanying myself on the guitar. I don’t play a guitar but in the dream it was a lot of fun so I may have to learn.

I woke because I had to go for a piddle. That done, I crawled back into bed and totally failed to fall asleep, even though I tried for an hour. So here I am. *sigh*

folksy | 4:15 am CST
Category: dreams, sleeplessness
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Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

There’s no denying this …

We’ve had a little snow fall before. Some of it even stuck for a little while, but this is the first time I’ve woke up to snow falling and still on the ground, so I guess this is it: The official start of winter. Woo-hoo.

first snow 11-15-2022 | 7:01 am CST
Category: weather | Tags: ,
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Monday, November 14th, 2022

department of redundancy department | 2:47 pm CST
Category: entertainment, play, random idiocy | Tags:
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Sunday, November 13th, 2022

We have a cat who is ass-backwards.

Our youngest cat, Sparky, is not much like a typical cat. He is almost paralyzingly afraid of every noise we make, for just starters. He spends hours and hours of each and every day hiding in the basement. But he is like most of the cats we’ve had in that he likes to be scritched behind the ears, and he loves to have his chin rubbed and his nose booped. He’s a very affectionate tabby when he’s not cowering under the sofa.

Scooter, on the other hand, would love for you to love his butt. He’ll fake you out by approaching you face-first, like a normal cat, but as soon as you start to scritch his ears or pat his head, he turns around so you can pat him on the butt. If you do, he’ll be in heaven. He’ll arch his back, squinch his eyes shut, and purr like a maniac. He’ll do that for as long as you keep scritching and stroking and patting his butt. If you don’t love his butt, he’ll turn around to face you again and let you scritch his head like a normal cat for maybe five seconds before he’s compelled to turn 180 degrees to show you his butt again. He’s all about his butt and thinks you should be, too.

butt pat | 8:18 am CST
Category: random idiocy, Scooter
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And now, some inspirational words from comedian Tom Papa:

“I don’t know why we don’t feel like we’re doing great. You work hard, you do all the stuff you’re supposed to be doing. You’re doing your best and still, you feel like it’s not enough. I think it’s social media. Before social media, I thought I was kicking ass. Now every time I open my phone someone’s in my face. ‘Are you killing it today? Are you living your best life?’ No, I’m not. Because that’s not normal. You know what’s normal? How you feel right now. Right now in your funny little gassy bodies. A little achy, a little tired, light-headed, taking deep breaths so you don’t pass out in front of your friends, worried about your bills, worried about how you’re getting home, worried about that thing you found on your ass. That’s normal.

“And it’s exhausting. And that’s normal, too. Being tired, which I know you are, all the time, that’s normal. You don’t need a five-hour energy drink, you need to lay down once in a while. But we beat ourselves up about it all the time, right? All my friends: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Two o’clock in the afternoon, every day, I get so tired. What’s wrong with me?’ Nothing. Nothing. You woke up in the dark, went to a job you don’t enjoy, already put in five hours, they gave you twenty minutes for lunch, and now you need a nap. And they won’t let you, so you’ve got to hide in the bathroom stall from your co-workers with your feet up and close your eyes for ten seconds so maybe you’ll get through the god-damned day.

“You’re doing fine.”

Tom Papa’s set “You’re Doing Great!” is on Netflix and it’s well worth one hour of your time.

great | 8:14 am CST
Category: entertainment, Life & Death, television | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, November 12th, 2022

My hike around the arboretum this morning turned into a speed walk because it was a lot colder and windier outside than I thought it was. Also, it started to rain. Luckily I was wearing my heavy coat with a hooded foul-weather shell I could button up tightly to stay dry and reasonably warm, all except for my fingers. I’ve got to get better gloves.

The rain turned to snow on the way home. It was graupel, that kind of snow that’s little granular balls instead of flakes. It fell so sparsely at first that I couldn’t tell for sure if I was just imagining it but it quickly worsened until it was swirling across the pavement of the beltline highway like swarms of tiny white insects. By the time I got home there were tiny drifts of snow along the edges of the driveway.

graupel | 1:43 pm CST
Category: walking, weather
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I got on the elevator at work with a woman who took one look at me and asked, “Aren’t you B’s husband?” When I said yes, she said, “I thought so. I see you on her Facebook posts all the time.”

I wasn’t surprised that I ran into someone who knew me as B’s husband. That happens at the office all the time. I was surprised that she recognized me at all. I got on the elevator wearing a mask, which covered my face from my eyeballs to my chin.

When I told B this story, she said it wasn’t much of a mystery to her. In nearly all the photos she posts of me, I’m photobombing her dinner, crouched behind a plate of food or a glass of beer. Most people watching her FB posts only see me from the nose up.

image of the blog's author, peering over the edge of the table at a lineup of beers
peek-a-boo
peepers | 6:15 am CST
Category: coworkers, My Darling B, office work, random idiocy, story time
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Friday, November 11th, 2022

The office I work in is laid out like a hallway. It’s not as awful as it sounds. One whole wall is windows. Our desks are all in a row in front of the windows. I have my desk set up so I can look out the window all day. After working in windowless buildings for twenty years, this is pretty nice.

My desk is at the far end of the office, at the end of the hallway. Frankie’s desk is next to mine, then Chia’s is next to Frankie’s, and finally Sarah’s is in the middle by the door. There are desks for four more people down the other end of the hallway/office.

Sarah and Frankie and I are all people who “think out loud,” so in our end of the office there’s a constant background murmur of people trying to keep track of what they’re currently doing, punctured by the occasional exclamation. “OKAY, DONE, NOW I have to mumble mumble mumble …”

Chia, our lead worker, sits right in the middle of all this. He works all day long without saying much at all. Very quiet. I’m not even sure he has an inner monologue.

When I have a question for him, I usually go to his cubicle and rap on his desk to get his attention because he wears headphones all day. And I have to sheepishly admit that I didn’t realize why until just now.

drowning it out | 5:44 am CST
Category: office work, random idiocy, story time
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Thursday, November 10th, 2022

When I put my coffee mug in the microwave to heat it up after it cools off, I set it down with the handle at a different angle. Sometimes I leave the handle at six o’clock, sometimes at three o’clock, sometimes at straight-up twelve.

Hit the 30-second button, wait for the ping, open the door — the handle’s always at twelve o’clock. Always.

I feel like any science that could explain this could also probably explain a lot of other mysteries of the universe as well.

twelve o’clock high | 7:05 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Pretty proud of myself for not going straight to social media this morning to read the bad news. Showered & made coffee first, then parked in front of my desktop to read my favorite web comics.

Then, took a deep breath. Held it. Let it out slowly and reached for the computer mouse. Opened Twitter and began to scroll, fully expecting to learn that Wisconsin was now Republican from the governor all the way down.

And was pleasantly surprised to learn that our Democratic governor won re-election. And so did the Democratic attorney general. And the Democratic representative to congress for this district. Well. What do you know about that?

Our Republican senator may have, unfortunately, won re-election (the count is 50/50 as I write these words, so his Democratic challenger hasn’t conceded). All those racist advertisements apparently paid off.

But otherwise, not a bad way to wake up on the day after the election, for a change.

faint hope | 6:33 am CST
Category: current events, this modern world | Tags:
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Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

Came home this evening to find that two houses on our street already have Christmas lights up in their windows. Just documenting it for future reference.

lightening | 5:19 am CST
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Monday, November 7th, 2022

People say history will be on your side, but these days history is an endangered commodity. In autocracies this is always the case: history can be erased, history can be rewritten. But our era is different: the present cannot become history unless there is still a future, and a future is no longer guaranteed.

People ask me how I find hope. I answer that I don’t believe in hope, and I don’t believe in hopelessness. I believe in compassion and pragmatism, in doing what is right for its own sake. Hope can be lethal when you are fighting an autocracy because hope is inextricable from time. An enduring strategy of autocrats is to simply run out the clock.

— Sarah Kendzior, “Hiding in Plain Sight”

hope | 5:30 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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Sunday, November 6th, 2022

Heard a Christmas carol on the radio for the first time this season while driving to the bakery. Always a traumatic experience. Now I’ll have to deprogram at least half a dozen radio stations from the presets on the car radio. The van’s easier — I’ve got about 50 of my favorite CDs in there so I’ll probably just listen to those until the week before Christmas, which is when Christmas music is supposed to start AS EVERY SANE PERSON KNOWS.

BAM | 10:50 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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I gave the bathroom a thorough cleaning yesterday morning. It really needed it.

Cleaning the bathroom is one of those things that I utterly despise while I’m doing it, and yet somehow after it’s done I feel a rewarding sense of accomplishment. Also, I really like using a clean bathroom.

However, I will dread the lead-up to the next time I have to clean the bathroom, and I will hate every minute it takes to actually clean it. And then BAM! Satisfaction again. It’s a weird roller-coaster ride.

contradictory | 9:06 am CST
Category: housekeeping, random idiocy
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T-Dawg came over last night to have dinner with us and play Spirit Island into the wee hours of the morning.

At one point he picked up his phone to look up an obscure rule or something like that. While he was searching through his feed for the answer to his question he stopped scrolling and said, “Wait, Elon Musk bought Twitter?”

“Yeah, that was a week ago,” I said. “You really don’t pay any attention at all to the news, do you?”

Although honestly I often wish I could ignore the news as thoroughly as he does, too.

not a newsie | 8:34 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy
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Saturday, November 5th, 2022

While reading the morning news I came across this question from The Guardian: “we’d like to hear from US voters about the issues that are deciding their vote. Why are you planning on voting the way you are?”

Good question. I know who I’m going to vote for, but nobody’s ever asked me why, so I haven’t formulated an answer until now.

I’m voting for the Democrats, and it turns out the reasons are simple and pretty straightforward.

Republican candidates on my ballot have gratefully accepted Trump’s endorsement. I won’t have anything to do with anyone who would shake the hand of that liar.

Republicans not only say they want to tear down the government, they do it. They defund every branch, they fire as many employees as they can get away with, and they rewrite government regulation to make everyone in government except them powerless. Their stated goal is to get government out of your business, but the effect is to leave only the elected officials in power with very little oversight, or no oversight at all.

I’m voting for Democrats because they’re the only practical alternative to Republicans. I could cast my vote for another party as a “protest vote,” but frankly the only protest I want to make at this point is keeping Republicans out of office, and the only way to do that is to vote for Democrats.

a question | 8:58 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Friday, November 4th, 2022

The Nick Gilder masterpiece “Hot Child in the City” was on the radio just before I sat down to write this, and it got me to thinking: How is pop music any different from porn? It’s got unrealistic depictions of sex, unreasonable expectations, and it’s mostly centered on men’s desires. If it’s a pop music video, it’s even got pictures that are sometimes not too far from actual soft-core porn. Pop music is just pornographic poetry. Prove me wrong.

hot child | 5:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Everybody knows that old people are hard of hearing or that their eyesight has gone bad. It’s common knowledge because it comes up in conversation all the time, but for whatever reason I never heard anybody talk about dry eye. I never HEARD of dry eye until I was old myself and my own eyes dried out. And I want to tell you, that shit sucks.

Woke up in the middle of the night, rubbed my eyes to get the sleepers out of the corners. Stopped immediately because I felt like I was grinding broken shards of glass into my eyeballs. What the hell is this? Looked it up on WebMD the next day to make sure I didn’t have eyeball cancer. Nope, it’s only dry eye. Everybody gets it. Totally normal. Happens all the time to all kinds of people. Nothing you can do other than put some eyedrops in. Welcome to old age.

On the entire opposite end of the spectrum of eye moisture, my eyes get super weepy for an hour or so after I wake up, almost like they’re overcompensating for drying out. If you see me walking down the street in the early morning, tears steaming from my eyes, don’t worry at all about me, I’m okay. I’m not crying. Well, technically I guess I am crying, but it’s not because I’m heartbroken, it’s because I’m old. This is just how my crappy old eyes work in the morning now. I’m fine.

dry eye | 5:17 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death, random idiocy, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2022

I had to get out of bed early this morning because My Darling B wasn’t making any noise AT ALL. I woke up from a dream, made a quick visit to the bathroom, climbed back into bed and, while I was waiting to return to Slumberland for what I was sure would be several more hours, I realized that B was making absolutely no sound. I couldn’t even hear her breathing.

This is not normal. Normal, on any given night in our house, is lots and lots of snoring. I’m as guilty of it as she is, and I know this because she has made a recording of me snoring so I could hear that I sound like a diesel dump truck downshifting on an off-ramp when I snore. She sounds more like a cartoon Dagwood: SNXXXX! SNXXXX!

So when she makes absolutely no sound at all, it can weird me out. Not always. There are lots of nights when I’m so oblivious of what’s going on around me that I can easily return to sleep after any one of my six dozen visits to the loo in the middle of the night, and thank goodness. Having Old Man Bladder would be a million times worse if I couldn’t.

But on a night like tonight after waking from a dream full of super-creepy twists and turns, my lizard brain sometimes kicks in. “She’s not breathing,” it says to me.

“Oh stop it,” I say right back. “Of course she’s breathing.”

“Can you hear her breathing? No, you can’t.”

“Of course I can’t, my tinnitus is ringing off the hook.”

“Your tinnitus isn’t that loud.”

“Shrieking banshees aren’t as loud as my tinnitus. Quit bothering me.”

“So you’re not worried at all that she’s not breathing.”

“No, I’m not worried, because she is breathing and she’s fine.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. She’s perfectly fine. It’s just that tonight she’s really, really quiet. Happens all the time”

“No. It never happens. She’s never this quiet.”

“Well aren’t you going to do something about it then?”

“And what am I going to do? Give her a poke? That’d go over well I’m sure.”

“You don’t have to do anything as rude as poking her. Just roll over, yawn, scratch yourself, make a little noise, same as you do every night.”

That’s what I did: I made a little noise, then laid perfectly still to see what her reaction would be. Only she didn’t react at all. She continued to lie there, still as a statue, and made no sound. So I rolled over, yawned, stretched, adjusted the bed covers, did a little cat/cow, farted. Finally she made a tiny snuffling noise.

“There! See? She’s breathing.”

“Pffft. Corpses make a noise just like that when they get gassy.”

“You went there. I can’t believe you went there. How are you even part of my psyche?”

“Your psyche is totally screwed up and you know it. Now give her a poke to see if she’s alive.”

Well, dear reader, I didn’t poke her. At that point I gave up on sleep, rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make some coffee. As I grabbed my pants on the way out, B whimpered in her sleep and shifted the blankets to get more comfortable.

Sleep well, B.

wakey wakey | 4:34 am CST
Category: dreams, falling apart, Farts & Farting, Life & Death, My Darling B, random idiocy, sleeplessness
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Monday, October 24th, 2022

I have spent another weekend cutting up lumber to make what I hope will be improvements to the camping thing. I’m still blinking sawdust out of my eyes this Monday morning.

At it again …

When I built the first iteration of the camping thing, I was inspired by a design I saw in a video on YouTube. I tried to get as close as I possibly could to that design, but the guy who built his camping thing shot a lot of video of his final product but didn’t shoot any video showing how he built it. I had to take a lot of screen caps and make a lot of guesses, but I think I came pretty close to his design.

What I liked most about his was that it looked simple enough that I could build it. It was a bed frame made to fit the floor in the back of the van, two cargo compartments on stilts that fit into the rear windows on either side, and an arch that reached across the width of the van just behind the driver / passenger seats.

The bed frame was made of two straight slabs of plywood screwed to a couple of 2 x 4s which anchored it to the floor — there’s more framing to it than that, but that’s the gist. It was topped by two pieces of plywood, hinged across the middle so I could lift up the front or lift up the back to access the space for storage underneath.

With the two cargo compartments on either side of the bed, there was so much storage space that there was no need to block the view out the rear by installing a kitchen, the way most people do when they adapt their minivans to camping. I could store all the pots & pans and food in the well where the rear seats used to go. I liked this very much because I bought a tent which encloses the back end of the van when the hatch is open, allowing me to look out the screened-in back when I’m inside.

This design also left a space between the bed and the first row of seats, which I thought would make it easier for me to get in and out. After a couple of camping trips, though, I discovered that most of the time I get into the van by simply climbing up onto the bed. Also, there’s only enough of a gap between the bed and the seats to sit hunched over facing forward, which isn’t really that useful.

When listing the pros and cons of this design, the feature at the top of the list of cons was that the bed frame was 52 inches from head to foot, requiring an extension which was stowed under the front lid, eating up a lot of valuable stowage space. The extension was a piece of plywood 48 inches long and 20 inches wide. After installing legs and reinforcing it with a rail underneath it was at least five pounds too heavy. I never did figure out a way of getting it in and out of the stowed position that wasn’t awkward and because of that, once it was in place I tended to leave it for the duration of the camping trip, so it might as well have been permanent.

I never did work out a way to sit up in this bed. I tried several different ways to prop open one lid or the other, thinking I might be able to recline on it, but I could never get comfortable. So with this particular design there was just no way for me to sit. There isn’t enough headroom between the ceiling and the mattress to sit fully upright, so if I wanted to write I had to stretch out on one side or the other, propped on an elbow, and if I wanted to read it was that or lay flat on my back.

Having an unobstructed view out the back turned out to be not as desirable as I initially thought. The only way I could see out the back was to lay on my stomach and prop myself up on my elbows, which is none too comfortable so I didn’t do it often. And my position in the van was higher than the screened opening in the tent, so mostly all I could see was the ground immediately outside the van. Even if I managed to lower the bed an inch or two, I can’t imagine I’d spend much time looking out the back.

And whether or not I wanted a chuck box / kitchen blocking my view, the back end of the van is pretty much the natural location for a chuck box or kitchen. That’s the only place in the van that makes sense for the fridge I bought. The minivan I drive, a Toyota Sienna, has a very deep well just inside the tailgate for two seats to disappear into. I yanked out the seats so I could stuff a fridge in there, with lots of room left over to stash food, pots, pans, plates & utensils, a cook stove, etc. So naturally whenever I was preparing for a meal or cleaning up after one, I worked out of the back of the van. Might as well put a chuck box / kitchen back there because it’s there anyway.

Even with all those drawbacks I was reluctant to give up on this design. If I’m honest, I felt that way mostly because I had already spent a fair bit of time building it out and didn’t want to spend even more time starting over from scratch. I tried a couple of really desperate modifications to avoid starting from scratch, like I tried sleeping on a 24-inch-wide mattress, thinking if that worked out I could carve out a place from the other half to sit up, but after trying to sleep on a 24-inch-wide mattress I learned that was a great big nope.

So I’ve started over. And just as I came to this decision, YouTube recommended a video of another design for a minivan camper thing that looked interesting. Stay tuned …

little boxes | 8:31 pm CST
Category: camping, hobby, play | Tags:
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Friday, September 30th, 2022

A day at the beach

I spent the weekend at the state park campground on North Trout Lake and it was glorious!

Last time I was here it was, ah, not so glorious. It started raining shortly after I arrived, kept raining all night and all the next morning. It was still raining when I packed up and left.

But this time, wow! The weather was so sunny and clear when I got there that I couldn’t resist taking the kayak down to the beach immediately to put it in the water and go for a paddle around the lake. I didn’t intend to go all the way around the lake but the day was so beautiful that what started out as a quick paddle turned into a long, lazy paddle all the way around the shore. I found several little sheltered bays and a beaver lodge down at the south end of the lake, then paddled up the western shoreline through the reeds until I got to the north end where all the houses were. Circling back, I got to camp a couple hours later and ate lunch.

After lunch I crossed paths with a guy about my age who was out for a walk with his wife. He stopped me to chat me up and, as you do, asked me where I was from. I said I lived in Madison, and asked where he was from. “Oh, have you ever heard of a little town called Waupaca?” I’m sure he thought he was going to stump me with that one. Why would anyone from Madison have heard of Waupaca? He was quite surprised when I told him I grew up in a little town down the road from Waupaca. “Which town?” he asked. When I told him, he said, “Manawa! Did you know either of the Baumer girls?” I said sure, Jeannie was in my class. “She’s my cousin.”

With the little time I had left in the evening, I hopped on my bicycle and rode down to Cathedral Point, a little spit of land that sticks out into the strait between North Trout Lake and South Trout Lake. It takes me about 40 minutes to paddle as far but only 20 mins to cycle there. I had a little walk around the point before cycling back.

I had just enough time when I got back to build a fire before the sun went down. It got dark quickly after that so I ate my supper by the light of the camp fire. I played with the fire for a couple hours, then waited for it to burn down to coals before I took a walk to the beach to see the stars. By then the crescent moon had set and it was dark enough to see the Milky Way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many stars.

The moon setting over Trout Lake

When I got out of bed Saturday morning it was cold enough to see my breath. I built a fire for warmth and boiled some water to make coffee and instant oatmeal. The lake was smooth as glass and plumes of steamy air rose from it into the cold sky. It was almost too cold to go out onto the lake but I knew that if I didn’t, I’d kick myself forever, so I finished up my coffee, then trundled the kayak down to the beach.

Morning mist over the lake

Rowing through the mist was a dream. The bow cut through the water with barely a ripple. I paddled down past Cathedral Point and around the bend into South Trout Lake where I could ground the kayak, step out and remove my hoodie before going on. The sun was full on me by then and was more than enough to keep me warm.

There were three little islands at the northernmost end of South Trout Lake. I spent almost a half hour slowly circling them before heading back to the campground. Felt just a bit too confident that the kayak would easily slide over the rocky shoals surrounding the islands and got hung up twice, but backing off and going around was easy enough.

I had to fight a headwind and breaking waves to paddle back to camp. Not exactly the way I wanted to end a relaxing paddle and to make it just a little more irritating, the wind died just after I dragged the kayak back into camp, leaving the lake glassy-smooth again. If I’d waited another thirty minutes to head back, the return would have been so much easier.

I caught a few winks in my camp chair before going on a bike ride in the afternoon. I headed north past Boulder Junction a ways, not to the end of the trail but much farther than I had intended to go. The trail was so easy, though! I just kept going until I had been on the trail for a little over an hour. Knowing at that point it would take at least as long to get back, I turned around. Lucky for me, there was no headwind on the way back; it was as easy a ride on the way back as it was on the way out.

I was too tired to do anything else after returning, so I just sat with a book until I nodded off. When I woke it was getting dark as well as getting cold, so I built a fire and sat next to it for a couple hours playing with it until it finally burned out.

Burned out …
A Weekend at North Trout Lake, Sep 30 – Oct 2 | 9:22 pm CST
Category: bicycling, camping, kayaking, play, travel, vacation | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

“I think the opportunity and responsibility of personhood is to make meaning, and to acknowledge the meaning in other’s lives. We do this through loving and help others and allowing others to love and help us, and through deepening our shared understanding of the universe and our place in it. So yeah, maybe nothing matters, but only until we make things matter. And, maybe life is meaningless, but only until we make it meaningful.” John Green

thank you John Green | 5:17 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, September 19th, 2022

Got my COVID booster today. I know the pandemic is supposedly over, even though the Department of Health Services is reporting that, on average, 5 people in Wisconsin die each day from COVID. It seems likely to me that if there was a serial killer running loose who was bumping off five people every day and everyone could get a shot that would make them impervious to his bullets, they’d all get it. Or maybe not. The COVID pandemic has made me reconsider how smart most people might be.

boosted | 3:42 pm CST
Category: current events, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Friday, September 9th, 2022

I took vacation on Friday, Sep 9, and Monday, Sep 12, so I could make a long weekend out of a visit to Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands

Big Bay State Park

I’d been rained out of about half of all the camping trips I planned this summer and it looked at first as though I was going to get rained out of this one, too. Early in the week, the forecast called for rain all weekend, but as the week went on the three days of rain gradually shifted from the weekend to the week. I made no plans to go anywhere else. I was going to Big Bay come hell or high water.

It takes about six hours to drive straight through from Our Little Red House to Big Bay, but I did not drive straight through. When I was about an hour south of Stevens Point I realized I did not bring a book to read before bed. Knowing I would not be able to get a good night’s sleep without something to read, I stopped at Stevens Point to visit a book store, then continued on to Wausau, where I stopped for lunch at the Red Eye Brewing Company.

Until I left Wausau, the skies were clear and sunny, but just north of Wausau the clouds began to crowd in, and by the time I passed through Merrill, about a half-hour north of Wausau, it was raining. For the next three hours I drove through a steady, gloomy, cold rain from Merrill to Bayfield.

When I made plans to go to Big Bay, I originally thought I would stop at Copper Falls State Park to hike the trail for about an hour, but by the time I got to the turnoff to Copper Falls I was already more than an hour behind schedule. There was a ferry to catch from the mainland to Madeline Island, and I wanted to get to Big Bay before it was dark, so Copper Falls would have to wait until another time.

The ferry is scheduled to depart Bayfield at the top of every hour. Google Maps was stubbornly telling me that I was due to arrive at 5:05 no matter how much faster than the speed limit I drove. I typically drive about five miles per hour faster than the speed limit but I started pushing it to seven or eight miles faster when I saw I might miss the ferry. Didn’t make any difference to Google Maps. In the very rural stretch between Ironwood and Ashland I gave it still a bit more gas but still couldn’t shave any time off my estimated arrival. Eventually I surrendered to the inevitable, relaxed my foot off the gas pedal and eased into Bayfield at exactly 5:05 pm.

The main road into Bayfield ends at the Bayfield pier, where I could see a ferry tied up, so I parked the van nearby and looked for someone to buy a ticket from, but nobody was around. Asking around, I discovered the ferry departed from a wharf just to the north of where I was parked. I got back into the van and drove up there to an empty parking lot where a dripping-wet teenager in a rain slicker was selling tickets to a ferry that was nowhere to be seen. Thinking I’d just missed the ferry, I bought a ticket, parked the van (fourth in line behind other campers) and set out in search of a restroom. Just as I found a sign pointing the way, I glanced out across the water and saw the ferry arriving! Came back to find the ferry at the dock with cars streaming off the deck! There was just enough time for me to get back to the van and start the engine before we began to drive onto the ferry, which departed at 5:30 pm.

In the four days I was on Madeline Island, I never saw a ferry arrive or depart on time. To be fair, I saw them arrive or depart four, maybe five times, but still: never on schedule. I think they get there when they get there, and they leave when they’re loaded up.

I call this “Crazy Dude with Car Ferry” — La Pointe, Madeline Island

I drove straight from the landing at La Pointe, Madeline Island, to the state park, about 5 miles from the dock, and had just enough daylight left to unload the bike and the kayak, then set up the tent over the back end of the van. The gloomy overcast shortened the day by quite a bit. In the dim twilight I took a walk around the campground to get a look around. Saw several deer, which didn’t seem to be bothered by having people close by. It was almost too dark to see by the time I got back to the van, so I shook the rainwater off my coat and hat, climbed into the van, and buttoned up for the night. Read my new book until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.

A misty morning at Big Bay

Woke early Saturday morning, dozed until about six. Dressed and took a walk down to the beach, eager to see what the park had to offer. The beach is a barrier island which stretches almost all the way across the innermost part of the bay, creating a lagoon on the inland side. The barrier island is just wide enough that trees, grass, and scrubby little bushes have established themselves on the island. There’s a boardwalk up the inside of the barrier so you can hike from one end to the other without trampling the delicate flora growing along the way. It’s a long walk from one end to the other, about a mile and a half, and I hadn’t had any breakfast or even coffee yet, so I only went about halfway before doubling back.

On my walk I crossed paths with a flurry of three little kids chased by a mother with a coffee thermos. “HI NEIGHBOR!” the kids called out to me as they ran down to the beach. “WE’RE GOING TO SEE THE BEACH! WE SAW THE SUN SET LAST NIGHT! DID YOU SEE THE SUN SET? OKAY SEE YOU BYE!” I’m never not amazed by how much energy each and every kid can generate.

After a cup of tea and a banana, I took a drive around the island to see what there was to see, and also to find a boat ramp or some kind of public access to the bay where I could launch my kayak. Turns out there isn’t any. You can rent a canoe or a kayak from several places, but if you bring your own, you have to carry or drag it quite a ways to get it to the beach where you can launch it. For me, this ended up being about a five-minute walk from my camp site, not a huge inconvenience but this is one of the few state parks I’ve been to where there wasn’t easy public access to the water.

My drive around the island was pleasant enough but there wasn’t much to see outside the state park. Some of the shore line was nice but it’s clearly all posted private property, so I didn’t even think about stopping to walk it. Quite a lot of the island was accessible only on unpaved roads which were far from shore, so there’s not much to see that you wouldn’t see on any back road in northern Wisconsin. I drove almost every road on Madeline Island in a little more than an hour and was back to eat lunch before noon.

After lunch, I dragged the kayak down the trail to the beach. When I say “dragged,” I don’t mean that I literally dragged it on the dirt and rocks and roads of the park. I mean I strapped it to a tiny wheeled trolley and led it like a good little doggie. Just wanted to make that clear. “Why don’t you just carry it?” I hear you ask. Although my kayak only weighs about sixty pounds, I can’t carry it very far because 1) I’m old & lazy, and 2) my kayak is eighteen feet long, which makes it very difficult to carry for any distance at all. Hence, the trolley, which works a treat and which I can fold up and stow in the reach hatch of the kayak. If you have a canoe or kayak, get a trolley for it, they’re great.

Launching from the beach near the campground meant I had to paddle the length of the barrier island to get to the inlet to the lagoon, about a twenty-minute paddle. There’s a footbridge across the inlet supported by a couple of rustic timber-crib piers which don’t raise the footbridge very high off the water. I had to fold myself as tightly as I could against the deck of my kayak to get under it. Just to make it really interesting, there were a half-dozen children taking turns jumping off the bridge. They clearly knew I wanted to go under the bridge but they were so caught up in the excitement of jumping into the water that they couldn’t quite summon up the willpower to stop until somebody’s mother, watching from the shore, finally climbed up onto the bridge and held them back for the minute it took for me to squeeze beneath the bridge and paddle on.

The lagoon behind the barrier island is broad and beautiful and dotted with dozens of small islands, some no more than a muddy lump covered in brush with maybe a single tree sprouting from it. Others were much larger but none of them appeared to have any place to make landfall so I was never tempted to climb onto one and have a look around. The whole time I was there the water was glassy smooth, encouraging me to paddle lazily around the lagoon for about an hour before heading back the way I came.

All that paddling in the warm sunshine put me in a napping mood, so after a quick bite to eat I slouched in my camp chair and dozed for about 30 minutes. I do a lot of napping on trips like this. Why not? It’s usually quite peaceful and the hiking, paddling, and biking tires me out just enough to want to catch a few winks. I’ve also got a reclining camp chair that’s super-comfy and rocks back and forth, making it perfect for napping in. So of course I take a nap whenever I can.

After my nap I still had plenty of daylight, so I rode my bike to the southern part of the state park, locked it up in a rack in the parking lot, and walked back to camp along a trail that skirted the edge of the cliffs along Lake Superior. I almost didn’t. I’m not as active as I should be these days and my bones and muscles were complaining about being forced to walk uneven terrain, paddle for hours, and bike miles down the road, but I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t try to enjoy every bit of the park I came so far to see. So after thinking it over an extra two-three minutes, I committed to walking the trail back to camp, and enjoyed it immensely.

Saturday night dinner was smoked salmon, cheese & crackers, and a cup of tea to wash it down. I took a walk around the campground after dinner to settle my dinner, then sat by a campfire until it was too dark to see.

Sunday morning was very chilly. Didn’t want to get out of bed, but very much wanted a hot cup of tea. Also, had to pee. In the end, I could not resist any of these needs.

I took my tea and a fig bar down to the beach to watch the sun rise, but the sky was overcast so no sun. Walked along the beach with a gentle surf lapping at my feet and a pair of sandpipers leading the way. Spotted the tracks of a doe and her fawn in the sand. They must have been there less than an hour before I was.

Paddling on Lake Superior!

After returning to camp for coffee and a bite to eat, I dragged the kayak down to the beach to paddle around the south end of the park where I suspected there might be some caves in the shoreline. Paddled for maybe twenty minutes when the shoreline went from tumble-down trees and dirt to solid rocks carved by the waves. Didn’t find any caves, or at least not what I would call a cave, but there was one very deeply carved rock overhang propped up by a column of rock that might’ve been a cave a long time ago. I ducked under it very briefly just so I could say I’d paddled my kayak into a “sea cave” on Lake Superior.

The wind came up as I paddled back to the bay, bringing to mind all the warnings about how quickly conditions on Lake Superior can change. It was never so windy that I was in danger of being swamped, or at least I don’t think it was. I never took any water in the cockpit, even though waves were breaking across the deck. But I am a totally neurotic worrywart so it was impossible not to think about rolling over and getting dumped as I made my way back to the beach. Which I did in good time, and completely dry. As I said, I just worry too much.

Back at camp, I traded the kayak for a bike, went for a ride to the ranger station at the entrance to the park, and left it there while I hiked along the cliff face to see if I could find the cave from the dry side of the shore line. It was easier to find than I thought, but much less impressive-looking from up top. Hiked a trail loop back to the ranger station and biked back to camp for lunch and a nap.

The nap didn’t work out this time, mostly because I strung up a hammock and tried to sleep in that instead of my tried-and-true camp chair. I’ve seen other people napping in hammocks and thought, wow, that looks comfortable, but I’ve bought two different hammocks and neither one of them is what I would call comfortable. They both bend me almost double in the most uncomfortable way possible and besides that, they completely wrap me up like a banana skin. I think I’ll have to give up on hammocks for now.

I wanted to get a shower before bed Sunday night. I can go one night without a shower, but two nights without a shower and I start to stink so that it bothers me. The showers at Big Bay State Park were closed because of something they were doing with the septic field, so I had to drive up to the campground at Big Bay Town Park where they had coin-operated showers. I’ve used coin-operated showers before but it had been a while so I’d forgotten the most important lesson of coin-operated showers: Just shove all your money in the slot. It says a dollar seventy-five for the first three minutes and twenty-five cents for each minute after, but that doesn’t mean you have to plug it every minute. If you’ve got ten dollars in quarters, shove it all in there and enjoy your shower instead of hopping out every minute. Hopping out only gets you frustrated and cold.

Went into town after my shower to hunt up some souvenirs and have a look around the town of La Pointe. There wasn’t much to see, so I didn’t stay long. I was back in camp well before sundown, where I feasted on just about everything left in the fridge. Built a fire after dinner, cracked open a beer, and settled down with a book until it was too dark to read, then played with the fire until I burned up all the wood before heading off to bed.

Didn’t get much sleep Sunday night even though I went to bed early. A trio of young women in the camp site across the road were up until the wee hours drinking and playing pop music on their boom box. Several people asked them to quiet down but they just laughed and kept partying. I don’t have any memory of when they finally shut off the music and went to sleep, but I got up before sunrise to have plenty of time to pack and get the first ferry off the island. Under any other circumstances I would have pulled out of my camp site with my only my car’s running lights on but on this particular Monday morning I was very happy to flood their tent with my headlights. Made sure I gave them the high beams, too.

I was first in line for the first ferry off the island, which was scheduled to depart at 7:00 am but which didn’t leave until almost eight. After stopping at a coffee shop in Bayfield to pick up a hot cuppa and a chocolate chip cookie, I set off at 8:15 am and arrived home at 2:40 pm, pretty good time considering I stopped at every wayside I saw to stretch my legs and get some air. There’s an especially nice wayside on Highway 51 between Manitowish Waters and Woodruff, overlooking Diamond Lake, where I stopped for lunch and lingered for about a half-hour. It’s almost entirely hidden from the highway and every time I’ve visited, there was never more than two or three people there.

Big Bay State Park, Sep 9 – 12 | 8:44 am CST
Category: camping, hobby, kayaking, play, travel, vacation | Tags:
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Monday, September 5th, 2022

My Darling B woke me with a shriek this morning. Well, not exactly a shriek but a pretty scary and not very quiet shout. She usually makes quiet little whimpering noises when she’s having a bad dream, but this was not a whimper. This was a full-throated cry for help. Scared the shit out of me.

awakened | 8:08 am CST
Category: dreams, My Darling B
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Saturday, August 13th, 2022

Rained out!

I got to North Trout Lake about an hour before it started to rain. Had just enough time to take one quick bike ride, then spent the rest of the evening sitting under the overhang of the tent behind my van with a book until it was too dark to read. Still raining when I went inside and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Rained all night.

It was still raining in the morning without any sign it was going to stop. The forecast called for rain all day Saturday and through the night into Sunday, so I packed up and went home.

North Trout Lake, Aug 12-13 | 12:48 pm CST
Category: bicycling, camping, hobby, play, travel, vacation | Tags:
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Sunday, August 7th, 2022

My cat is not what you would call neurotypical. He will abide physical contact only in very particular ways. Sitting in my lap is out of the question. This is what he considers “cuddly.”

sparky cuddle | 6:37 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, July 17th, 2022

One of my coworkers asked me if I liked to golf. I laughed and answered, Well, I like to golf, yes. I like to hit the little ball and walk around the pretty green park. That’s all very nice. I don’t golf, however, because I suck at it. And I suppose I could get better at it if I golfed more often than once every five to ten years, but here’s the thing: I usually only golf when people ask me to go with them. I’m not what you (or anyone, really) would call a sociable person, but golfing with other people is what I consider to be a big part of the fun of golfing. I don’t enjoy golfing by myself. This in spite of the fact that other people becoming deeply upset with how much I suck at golf is the primary reason I don’t golf.

Here’s what happens: Someone will ask me if want to go golfing with them, and I will answer, I’d love to go golfing with you but I feel it’s only fair to warn you that I suck at golf. And they’ll answer, Oh it’s just for fun, it’s not like we’re into competing. So I’ll go with them and as we’re playing the first hole we’ll all be having a good time even though my ball goes from the tee way off the fairway into the trees, never to be seen again, and I have to take another eight or nine strokes just to get to the edge of the green. Then after we tee off toward the second hole they’ll make a few good-natured jokes about how long we’ll be looking for my ball in the woods again, and maybe a few more light-hearted remarks about waiting for me as I divot my way to the green. When I clip another ball into the woods from the third tee, though, they’re already starting to look at me cross-eyed, like they can’t believe anybody can be this bad. At the fourth tee somebody will give me a few pointers on how to improve my swing. By the time we play the fifth hole nobody’s waiting for me any longer. I’m looking for my lost balls all by myself and chip-shotting my way up the fairway far behind everybody else. They know they’re pretty safe walking in front of me by then because they know I can’t hit a ball more than thirty yards.

I avoid golfing with other people now because, even though they say it’s just for fun, golfers are serious about their hobby, and I am not. When they realized how little I care about hitting the ball in a straight line, they take this very personally, as if I am flipping the bird at them every time I tee off. And I’m not bothered by that, but I am bothered that they pretend, at first, it will not make any difference to them how badly I golf, but then they become deeply offended when they see me golf, as if I accepted their invitation just to mess with their heads.

There was this one time I had a really great day golfing. It was on a road trip with a friend who took a business trip and invited me along. He had an afternoon off and asked if I wanted to play nine holes. I accepted with the usual caveat that I really suck at golfing. “That’s okay, I suck too,” he said. And he did. He liked to hit the ball really hard, as hard as he could and he had even less control than I did. The golf course was right next to a divided highway; he hit one ball that hooked left, went over the near lanes, bounced off the far lane and disappeared into a farm field. He hit another ball that overshot the green into the parking lot and knocked out the window of a sports car. He lost more balls in the water hazards than I’ve ever lost in my life. Best game of golf I’ve ever been a party to.

| 10:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, June 27th, 2022

ONLY DESPAIR ALLOWED IN PITS. THANK YOU.

ONLY PIZZA ALLOWED IN PITS. THANK YOU.

ONLY BRAD ALLOWED IN PITTS. THANK YOU.

(*Pizza Pit is a local chain restaurant)

pits | 7:14 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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Friday, June 24th, 2022

I don’t have complicated feelings about abortion. Like any medical procedure, I believe it’s none of my business whether someone chooses to have one, and I further believe it’s not the business of the state of Wisconsin nor any other state to tell its citizens whether or not they can have an abortion. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe vs. Wade, revoking the right to abortions, will maim and kill thousands of women who don’t have the access to seek safe abortions.

After the Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal I felt hope that maybe the United States might actually become a better place, but that’s not a hope I feel any longer.

Roe vs. Wade Overturned | 1:43 pm CST
Category: current events, this modern world, yet another rant
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Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

Photo of my van parked near the shore of North Trout Lake, just north of Woodruff, WI

I spent last Friday and Saturday night at a state campground on North Trout Lake to do a little hiking, a little paddling, but mostly just to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet.

The campground seems to be really popular and I can see why. It’s right on the shore of the lake, which is so picturesque it ought to be on a postcard (it probably is). Several of the camp sites are right on the shore; you could launch your canoe from them or just wade out into the lake, which has a hard sandy bottom and is very shallow along much of the shore line. If I had been lucky enough to snag one of those sites I probably would have set up my camp chair facing the water or strung my hammock between two trees on the shore and done little else but gaze out on the lake all weekend, it was that pretty.

I unfortunately did not have a camp site on the shore. Mine was in fact about as far from the shore as it’s possible to get and was rather ugly, which is probably why I was able to reserve it for a weekend at short notice. It was ugly mostly because of all the trees which had been cut down and left in heaps around the site. On the plus side the site got lots of sunshine, was open to the breezes off the lake which kept the bugs at bay, and it was very easy for me to gather firewood, but there was no getting around the fact that heaps of dead branches do not make for a good-looking camp site. I didn’t care much. It served its purpose as far as I was concerned. I had a place to park, a nice big camp site, and a ring to build a fire in. All good.

I left the house at about three o’clock Friday afternoon and arrived at the lake a little past six-thirty in the evening, making pretty good time but feeling more than a little fatigued, not to mention stressed out, after spending three and a half hours on the interstate highway with the hundreds if not thousands of other people heading north for the weekend. When I headed back home Sunday morning I stuck to county and state roads all the way, and it was honestly worth every minute of the additional travel time. I had the road to myself practically all the way, so the drive was virtually stress-free. A+++ would definitely recommend.

At six-thirty in the evening around this time of year there are still at least two hours of daylight left, so almost as soon as I got there I unshipped the kayak from the roof of the van, trundled it down to the shore on a handy-dandy little trolley I have just for that purpose, and launched it into the lake for a short paddle up and down the shore along the edge of the campground. The wind was rather brisk that evening so the surface of the lake was the tiniest bit choppy but not enough to make me want to head back to shore. I paddled around for thirty or forty minutes before I decided I’d better get back to camp so I had enough daylight to gather firewood and set up for overnight camping.

I had already collected a few fallen branches which I broke up into tinder to start the fire. After I got that burning, I began to collect larger pieces of wood to keep the fire going – a rookie mistake; you’re supposed to get all your wood together before lighting it off. I knew better than that, but it had been a few years since I’d built a camp fire from scratch. After gathering enough larger pieces to keep a fire burning for at least an hour, I broke up more smaller branches into tinder and built up a pretty respectable fire from the coals that remained of my original effort, then built a teepee over it with the bigger pieces I’d gathered.

Now that I finally had a proper fire going, I could prepare something for dinner and settle into my camp chair next to the fire. And when I say “prepare dinner” I mean that I smeared some salmon cream cheese on some thick-sliced nutty bread and called that dinner.

After gobbling down some carbs next to a crackling camp fire, I slept like a baby.

Saturday morning I woke way too early, but I had to answer the call of nature so I tottered off to the nearest pit toilet, which was not really very near at all, another shortcoming of my particular camp site. My site was about as far from the toilet to the north as it was from the toilet to the south, smack dab in the middle. Not a problem most of the time, but for that first trip of the morning I had to lengthen my stride and move with a sense of purpose and urgency. That taken care of, I crawled back into bed and dozed pleasantly for another hour, wrapped tightly in many many blankets against the early morning chill.

When the sun was finally high enough to shine its warmth down on my camp site, I begrudgingly extracted myself from my bunk and gathered up enough fruit juice, fig bars, and nuts to make a decent light breakfast, which I noshed on in my camp chair that I gradually scooted across the camp site to keep up with a passing sunbeam. I passed the time reading two or three chapters of the very excellent book “Allow Me To Retort,” by author Elie Mystal, who examines the ins and outs of constitutional law from the perspective of a Black American. Wonderful book, would gladly recommend it to anyone.

Once the fruit juice was gone it was time to move on to more serious stuff: coffee. I neglected to bring the fixings for coffee on my previous trip up north, but not this time around. With a pourover cone carefully balanced on top of a big mug I slowly brewed the java, then settled back into my camp chair to read two more chapters.

The important stuff out of the way, I set out on my morning constitutional. My initial thought was to walk the complete circuit of the campground road, but when I got to the beach I decided to include a detour to the boat ramp about a hundred yards away. At the boat ramp I noticed a marker for a paved bicycling trail that disappeared into the trees by the road.

If I’d known there were paved cycling trails for miles and miles up here, I definitely would have brought my bike but, sad to say, I didn’t. But I just had to get a look at the trail, so I took a short stroll along it, only as far as the first intersection, the road to Cathedral Point. Along that particular short stretch of trail it rose and fell over a few very steep hills and ducked around maybe half a dozen sharp turns, but the asphalt pavement was in good condition. Cycling it would be a lot of fun even though the hills would present a bit of a challenge for me, a rider who generally prefers straight and level trails.


Having gone as far as the first intersection, I turned around and shambled back in the direction of camp. I have to admit with no small amount of embarrassment that I accidentally left my hiking shoes at home for this trip. The only footwear I had with me were a pair of sandals, not ideal for long hikes. Also, they leave my feet exposed to the elements 24/7. When I was young and indestructible I would walk barefoot all day in the summer, over smooth ground, gravel or hot asphalt – it didn’t matter. My feet were tough enough to walk on anything. Well, they’re not now. I’ll spare you the details, but after tramping around all day in sandals, I had to carefully clean and bandage my feet Saturday night before bed. Used up half a box of Band-Aids and many a generous dollop of Neosporin. Which was why I was taking it easy on this short hike along the bike trail, loafing along at a leisurely pace. Even so, I got back to camp around ten o’clock, still plenty early for a morning paddle on the lake.

North Trout Lake is a fairly big lake, but Trout Lake, to the south (natch), is even bigger, and they’re connected through a narrow strait. My aim on this Saturday morning paddle was to go as far as the strait, have a look around, then come back. Which turned out to be exactly what I did. I had to paddle against a light but continuous breeze out of the south on the way there, but after I crossed through the strait it was almost dead calm thanks to a couple of islands at the north end of Trout Lake screening me from the wind. I happily paddled around on the glassy water for a while, circling the islands and drifting along the shore.

I grounded the kayak at Cathedral Point, jumped out and had a little walkabout to take in the surroundings. The point had picnic tables, a water pump, toilets, and fire rings, but looked as though it hadn’t been visited in a while. One teeny tiny little sign caught my eye and curiosity compelled me to get close enough to ready it. “This sign is surrounded by poison ivy,” it warned, “don’t touch it.” So warned, I tiptoed back to my kayak and paddled away.

I returned to my camp site at about half past twelve and made a hearty lunch of thick-sliced summer sausage on slices of nutty bread, then sat in the sun with my book as I ate. The air was still cool and the breeze was pleasant. It wasn’t long before I began to drowse. Napping seemed like a good idea just then, so I stretched out in the van and got myself a few winks. Best thing I could has possibly done. There’s really nothing better you can do in the early afternoon, especially after you’ve been active, than get a restful nap. At least, nothing better for me. You can do what you like.

And after a restful nap, there’s nothing better than driving into town to spend a little time relaxing in the local beer garden. There’s a brewery called Rocky Reef in Woodruff, about a twenty-minute drive from the campground. I’d been there once before and enjoyed sitting in the sun with a cold, refreshing glass of hefeweizen. There weren’t any open seats on the patio last Saturday because they had some live entertainment which had attracted quite a large weekend crowd. I only wanted to pick up some beer anyway, but hung around for about ten minutes to sample a beer they didn’t have on tap the last time I visited.

When I got back, I sat in the sun and read my book again, and in the evening I lit a fire and played with it because on the inside I’m still a twelve-year-old boy who does that kind of thing. There wasn’t much peace and quiet to enjoy Saturday night because all the other campers had returned from wherever they’d gone, and they all felt the need to yell at each other a lot and share their recorded music with each other. The popularity of state parks is the only thing I don’t like about them.

I packed up fairly early Sunday morning because I didn’t want to hurry getting home. I wanted to take the back roads and make a few stops along the way to get out, walk around and return home stress-free, and that’s pretty much exactly what I did.

North Trout Lake, Jun 17-19 | 8:05 am CST
Category: bicycling, camping, coffee, hobby, kayaking, play, travel, vacation, walking | Tags:
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Sunday, June 5th, 2022

I booked a reservation for a two-night stay at Moose Lake Campground in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, not far from Hayward, Wisconsin. I even stayed overnight, but I got the hell out of there first thing in the morning because I have never encountered mosquitoes as voracious and unrelenting as the mosquitoes that were out in force nearly everywhere I went up north on this particular weekend. I had to spray myself over and over with the most powerful insect repellent I could find just to be outside, and even then the mosquitoes would buzz in a cloud around my head, stopping short of the cloud of DEET surrounding me.

I would add that there’s nothing much to do at Moose Lake. There are no hiking trails, and the campground is at the end of a long gravel road through densely-wooded country. I would have been perfectly happy to paddle on the lake for a while, then sit in a camp chair for hours on end, quietly reading a book, but the mosquitoes would not leave me alone even while I was drenched in repellent, so I spent most of the time I was at Moose Lake locked up in my van. Not ideal.

That’s a big Muskie!

The weekend wasn’t a total loss, however! I went through Hayward on my way home, arriving just as the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame opened. I don’t get up this way often but I have been through Hayward more than once and I knew that if I drove through it again without getting a photo of myself with the giant Muskie you can see from space, I would kick myself forever. I can finally check that off my bucket list.

I’m also happy to report that I spend a most enjoyable morning visiting the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, partly because I had the whole place to myself for more than an hour, so I could linger over the exhibits as long as I liked and take lots and lots of photos. What I enjoyed most about it, though, was that it was the most gleefully over-the-top museum of fishing that I’d ever seen. I mean, why would you collect hundreds of antique outboard boat engines in one place unless you were obsessed with fishing? That’s not an exaggeration. I didn’t count them but there had to be more than one hundred outboards.

Moose Lake, June 5-6 | 10:18 am CST
Category: camping, hobby, kayaking, play, travel, vacation | Tags: , ,
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Friday, May 6th, 2022

A sunny day on Star Lake

My first camping trip of the year was a single night’s stay at Star Lake, north of Saint Germain. I had planned to stay two nights but wasn’t prepared for how low the overnight temps would get. I had flannel sheets, a blanket and a quilt, which had been more than sufficient to keep me warm through the night on previous trips, but it wasn’t enough to keep me warm through the coldest hours of the night, even thought I was wrapped up like a caterpillar in a cocoon.

This was also my first camping trip to the north woods of Wisconsin and I was not fully aware of how long it would take to get there. I set off from home at around lunch time so I didn’t get to the campground until about five. I set up camp as quickly as possible, then broke out the food and ate dinner, and by the time I finished it was already too dark to read.

The next day I put the kayak in the lake and went for a quick paddle, but the water was still so cold that it sucked way too much of my body heat away through the thin fiberglass hull. Not sure if there’s anything to be done about that short of dressing up in long underwear and wool pants. I didn’t paddle for very long, which is a shame because it was an otherwise beautiful day. Later I went for a hike through the woods behind the campgrounds, and I sat in the sun reading a pretty good book for a couple hours, but as the sun went down I knew that I was in for another night of near-freezing temps and the more I thought about that, the less I wanted to do it, so I packed up and left in the late afternoon, arriving home shortly before bed time.

Star Lake, May 6-8 | 9:36 am CST
Category: camping, hobby, kayaking, play, travel, vacation | Tags:
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Sunday, May 1st, 2022

Check this out:

I froze my ass off to get that photo. I hope you appreciate that.

It seems a little funny that you can put on a sweatshirt and long pants and go out in fifty degree weather and think, “Oh, this isn’t so bad,” and you get so into doing whatever it is you’re doing that you don’t notice until an hour and a half goes by that you don’t have any sensation in your fingertips. I had to go inside at one-hour intervals after that just so I could continue to do manual labor. And no, I couldn’t wear gloves because I need to be bare-handed to do the delicate work of stripping wires and such like.

The arch isn’t done. I have to hang a curtain from it, just for example, but I’m so happy with the way the lights turned out that I had to snap a photo of the progress.

I also got the lights installed on the overhead storage compartments:

They are not lit in this photo because obviously they were not installed in the van which means the wires weren’t connected to a live circuit. They’re installed now, but I didn’t take a photo of them with the lights switched on because I forgot, and I’m not going back out now. Each light is at the end of a foot-long gooseneck and is dimmable, which will be very nice for reading a chapter or two before lights out. And there’s a USB port in the base of each light for recharging phones or whatever. I can’t wait to try them out.

All of this (and more!) runs off a house battery in the back of the van that I installed last week. Ran into a little glitch with the charger that I have yet to rectify, but progress! It’s being made!

wired | 8:35 pm CST
Category: camping, carpentry, hobby, play | Tags:
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Sunday, April 17th, 2022

Feeling much better this morning after spending nearly all day yesterday splayed out on the recliner, reading or napping or binge-watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” but mostly napping. It was one hell of a weird swing from having no reaction at all to a vaccine (other than a slightly sore spot at the site of the injection) to feeling sore all over, achy in every bone in my body, and just generally absolutely wiped out. Also very weird to get nearly a full eight hours of sleep last night (I usually sleep no more than six).

healed | 7:40 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, April 16th, 2022

I rolled out of bed about an hour ago and I already feel like I need a nap, probably thanks to the COVID-19 booster I got yesterday afternoon. I haven’t felt a reaction to the previous shots I got, but whether or not you feel it seems to be pretty random. I was already feeling it last night as I was getting ready for bed, wondering, “Why is my arm so tight and sore?” This morning all my joints are achy, my arms are still tight and all my muscles feel like I just finished a workout at the gym.

whipped | 7:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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