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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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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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
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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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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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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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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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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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Friday, April 15th, 2022

My Darling B has converted me to a coffee-with-cream kind of guy. I didn’t even drink coffee for the first two-thirds of my life but when I finally did give myself over to starting the day with a mug of the bitter stuff, I drank it black because my gut can’t handle dairy. I take pills when I want to enjoy a bowl of ice cream or a couple slices of cheese, but I never considered taking a pill every morning to mitigate the effects of lactose intolerance so I could enjoy cream in my coffee.

Then the other day I noticed, while I was preparing a mug of coffee for B, that the creamer she bought was lactose-free. I didn’t know there was such a thing. Curious, I stole a sip of coffee from her mug after I’d mixed the usual amount of cream and sugar into it, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted, so I experimented with my own coffee, adding a little cream, a little sugar until I found the blend that I liked. And just like that, I’m a convert.

Learning of the deliciousness of coffee with cream and sugar is probably a mixed blessing, because it’ll probably lead to drinking way too much of it, although on a morning like this one where I woke up at oh-dark-thirty that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

creamer | 5:43 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, April 3rd, 2022

As usual on Sunday morning, our kitchen looked like a bunch of frat boys had been up all night drinking and eating snacks while they did whatever frat boys do all night. In reality it was nothing like that. Tim comes over on Saturday afternoon for an early dinner and then we play a board game until usually eleven or twelve at night. We drink and eat a lot of snacks, so that part’s the same, but other than that it’s a couple of aging boomers and their indulgent son hunched over the dining room table, moving game tokens around on a cardpaper game board. Maybe frat boys do that, too, I dunno.

So this morning before I could even think about brewing a pot of coffee, I had to wash my hands, unload the dish washer, then stack as many of the dirty dishes, coffee mugs, and utensils into it as my finely-honed stacking skills would allow, which is quite a lot, if I may be allowed to humble brag on my domestic skills just a little bit. Took about twenty minutes, which seems like a long time to perform a complicated household chore so early in the morning before coffee but it’s actually a blessing to do it before I’m fully conscious. It passes in a blur and I rarely even remember doing it afterward. Best way to do kitchen cleanup, if you want my opinion.

Just FYI the game we played was Spirit Island, where you play the part of a minor deity defending an island against colonizers. My favorite spirits are River Surges in Sunlight, and Ocean’s Mighty Grasp, because their powers enable them to drown lots and lots of colonizers. As a bonus, Ocean’s presence on the island also enables other spirits to drown lots more colonizers, and every drowned colonizer gives Ocean an even Mightier Grasp. Great fun!

I did not play either of these spirits last night. Instead, I played two spirits completely unknown to me, just to switch things up and, as a result, I was not much help when it came to defending the island. One of my spirits was Volcano Looming High, and the most critical mistake I made was not asploding myself as soon as the colonizers built a whole shitload of towns and cities during the escalation phase of the game. When Volcano asplodes, he takes a whole lot of towns and cities out of the game. Lesson learned. The other spirit I played was Finder of Paths Unseen, and I have to admit I learned nothing about how this spirit works. I’ll have to play with it a lot more before I get even a basic idea how to use it.

frat party | 9:06 am CST
Category: games, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode, play, random idiocy, scrub-a-dub-dub
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Saturday, April 2nd, 2022

The last vacuum cleaner we bought cost us maybe a hundred fifty bucks. It was a Japanese-made canister vacuum and it did a great job up until it gave up the ghost several weeks ago. To find out how much I could expect to pay for a replacement, I did a quick online search and holy mother of god I wish I hadn’t done that. How is any vacuum cleaner worth more than a thousand bucks if it isn’t autonomous?

I’ll pay a lot of money for a dish washer or a clothes washer. A thousand bucks for either doesn’t seem like a lot, considering the work they’re saving me, and I’d easily pay double that for a self-cleaning toilet. I can’t believe people have been living in space stations for 48 years but I still have to kneel before a toilet and swab it out with a brush.

(To be fair, you can find many toilets that are called “self-cleaning” for which you will pay an extortionate amount of money, but none that I can find will physically scrub out their insides or wipe down their outsides. If I have to do either of those things, that’s not “self-cleaning” in my book.)

But I won’t pay a lot of money for a vacuum cleaner. I don’t know why. There’s this weird disconnect in my brain that makes me think vacuum cleaners shouldn’t cost more than, say, fifty bucks. Luckily I found one. It’s ugly as hell but I’m not paying for looks, I’m paying for utility, and the one I eventually bought sucks, but in a good way.

buying vacuums sucks | 10:42 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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“Groovin’ loose or heart-to-heart
We put in motion every single part
Funky sounds wall to wall
We’re bumpin’ booties, havin’ us a ball, y’all
Shake your groove thing
Shake your groove thing, yeah, yeah”

Those are some timeless lyrics right there.

shake your groove thing | 10:22 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, February 27th, 2022

It’s slowly coming together …

My woodworking “skills” boil down to tinkering. I cut a piece of wood. I cut another piece of wood. I discover one piece of wood is too long so I cut it again. I fit them together. I repeat this process until I have something which resembles the thing I had in mind in the first place. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s close enough as to make no difference. At least not to me.

The piece above is a perfect example. I started by cutting the piece at the bottom of the photo, standing edge-on to the camera. Its length was a total guess, but it had to be a certain width. Then I cut the piece that’s laying against the workbench. It used to be the same length as the first piece. I should have cut it to be three-quarters of an inch shorter, because there are two end caps made of three-eighth-inch plywood. I didn’t realize that until I tried to fit the pieces together, even though the end pieces were part of the build from the start.

To anyone who would say, “If you drew a plan ahead of time, you’d catch these rookie mistakes,” I would say, “Yeah, no.” I’ve drawn plans before. Trouble is, I think in two dimensions. If I drew all the pieces fitting together, my brain would think of them as having length and width but no depth, even while it knew that one piece is half-inch ply and the rest are three-eighths-inch ply. It’s this cognitive dissonance that lets me cut each and every piece to the wrong length, so that I have to make multiple trips to the table saw to shorten pieces up as I tinker them together.

woodwork, sorta | 11:46 am CST
Category: carpentry, hobby, random idiocy | Tags:
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Thursday, February 17th, 2022

The song stuck in my head this morning was Abba’s “Take A Chance On Me,” a song I’m not particularly fond of but nevertheless know all the words to. I know all the words to a lot of Abba songs, which is kind of odd because I never turned the radio up when I heard one, I never bought any of their albums, and I don’t even like Abba very much. I think probably I soaked up all the words just because their songs used to be on the radio so often. I mean, like, constantly. Also, it didn’t hurt that I could actually understand them when they sang. I liked Elton John’s music quite a lot but I didn’t know until recently that “Bennie and the Jets” even had words because I couldn’t understand a thing Elton John said, and when I say “understand” I mean it in the sense that he sang like he had a mouthful of marbles, and in the sense that the lyrics to a lot of his songs were nonsensical. The opening lines of “Bennie and the Jets,” for instance, are: “Hey, kids, shake it loose together, the spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather, we’ll kill the fatted calf tonight.” Abba, on the other hand, enunciated the words of their songs so clearly, and the words made some kind of sense. “If you change your mind, I’m the first in line, honey I’m still free, take a chance on me” is an opening line that meant something to a lot of teenagers.

osmosis | 7:46 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, random idiocy | Tags:
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Saturday, February 12th, 2022

We briefly enjoyed a day of what passes for warm weather here in Wisconsin. It got as warm as 42 degrees F (5.5 C) yesterday, which felt so warm after weeks of sub-freezing temps that I peeled down to my shirtsleeves while I worked in the garage yesterday afternoon. I was hoping it would remain at least above freezing today so I could work a little more but no, we can’t have nice weather on a weekend. This morning I woke up to temps in the single digits and forecast to remain that way. February sucks. It has always sucked. It will always suck.

Now that I got that out of my system: I clocked out from work at eleven o’clock yesterday morning because of reasons too convoluted to make interesting. I still worked forty hours last week, it’s just that I finished at eleven-thirty on Friday. The mechanism that allowed me to do that was awful. I wouldn’t voluntarily choose to do it but I got to putz around outside in that warm afternoon weather, so yay I guess.

The warm temps gave me an opportunity to finally tidy up the garage a little bit, which had become a repository for empty boxes and bags of bottles and cans headed for, but not quite getting to, the recycling bin. And there was a lot of sawdust on the floor. So I straightened things up, swept the floor, and filled the recycling bin, and while I was out there I banged on some lumber with a hammer. Very satisfying.

The lumber I banged on is starting to look like the camping thing I’m trying to imitate, if I squint and use a lot of imagination. In the short time I was able to work on it before the sun went down, temps began to plummet, and snow started to fall, I managed to install it in the van, attach four upright arms which will eventually support overhead storage lockers and lighting, and re-install the rear lid on a piano hinge. I deeply, sincerely hope that’s the last time I have to drill out the umpty-million holes for that hinge.

I got this far before the snow started to fall.

This is the third time I’ve installed that piano hinge because I don’t plan ahead. Instead, I tinker things together, then I see a better way to do it and start over. The top of the camping thing is a pair of lids that lift up from either end, hinged in the middle like a pair of butterfly wings. The first time I hinged them both to a single piece of lumber because that was the fastest and easiest way to do it and I wanted to get out and try it. The second time, just a few weeks ago, I re-installed the rear lid after cutting it to fit between the overhead lockers. Kinda crucial. And this last time, yesterday, I learned why the lids should be hinged to two separate pieces of lumber: because two forty-eight inch-wide pieces of three-quarter inch plywood are freaking heavy when I have to pick them up together. They’re a lot easier to pick up and install separately. So that’s what I did.

The guy I’m copying this design from presumably already figured out why it’s better to install the lids separately. I should have followed his example but I told my tinkerer’s self I could be improving on the design. It has quickly become apparent as I take this thing apart and put it back together repeatedly, as required by the need to fit parts together for which I have no measurements, that it’s better to have smaller, lighter parts to work with than bigger, heavier parts. We live, we learn.

This cold snap is especially frustrating because I’ve finally gotten to the point where I could be in the van with a joggle stick making a template for the overhead locker parts, then getting an early start on piecing them together, but drawing the templates is not work I could do while wearing gloves thick enough to keep my fingers from becoming painfully cold, and working without gloves in sub-freezing temps is obviously not an option. So now I have to wait until later this week for temps to return to a slightly more agreeable place.

cabin fever | 10:02 am CST
Category: camping, weather, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, January 16th, 2022

The temp outside on this wintry January morning is just one degree (-17 C), which is relevant because it means I probably won’t be spending much time outside today. I went for a little ramble around Cherokee Marsh yesterday morning even though temps were in the teens, where the temps have been stuck for weeks now, and later that same morning and into the afternoon I spent about four hours in the garage working on rebuilding the bunk for the minivan. I dressed up in so many layers that I could stay warm, but only so long as I kept moving. Well, mostly warm. I have to accept the fact that there are no gloves on earth that will keep my hands warm when it’s that cold out.

I had been using the excuse that it was too cold out to avoid working on the bunk this winter but was inspired to action by my cousin Carrie and her husband Darren, who have recently gone into business renovating campers. They started doing this last summer but have kept working on their latest project even in sub-freezing temperatures. I figured I could give it a shot, too, and found that working in the garage isn’t so bad. I even try to kid myself that having to work so slowly and deliberately because I can’t take my gloves off is a benefit. But I believe I will not be taking advantage of that benefit today unless it warms up considerably.

Added later: Okay, so I went out to the garage to work on the camping thing a little more. I’ve been calling it a “camping thing” because I’m not sure what to call it. Among the people who refer to camping in a minivan as “van life,” my camping thing is usually referred to a “build” or a “build-out,” but that’s not terribly descriptive. I called it a “bunk” in the description above because it’s primarily something to sleep on, but if I can manage to finish it, it’ll be more than that; it’ll also have a table where I can set up a camp stove, overhead cabinets where I can stow my clothes, and wash basin where I can draw drinkable water. If you’re really interested, you can view the videos I get my inspiration from here: Bruce Parks Videos on YouTube

I don’t have the kind of woodworking skills Bruce has. Heck, I don’t even have the kind of persistence he has, but I do like cutting up lumber and seeing if I can knock together fun stuff like this. So that’s what I got up to in the garage for a couple hours. I didn’t mean to take so long. It was so cold that I mean to do just one thing, cut up some lumber to fit into place when it was warmer in the garage, but it didn’t take long to do that and I felt fine so I did one more thing, and that went so well that I did another thing, and about halfway through that thing I realized I couldn’t feel my fingertips any longer. That’s how I knew it was past time to go inside and get warm.

first degree | 9:16 am CST
Category: camping, daily drivel, travel | Tags:
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Saturday, January 15th, 2022

I haven’t traveled by air since the start of the COVID pandemic so I was completely unprepared for what happened to us when we departed Madison to fly to our son’s wedding in Denver last week.

We got to the airport early enough that there weren’t any people waiting in line, which was fine by me. The less time spent standing in crowded lines, the better. They still had the entrance roped off with those tapes that make you walk back and forth, back and forth across the room, though. Whatever, I’ll take the small victories.

I already had my ID out along with my phone showing my boarding pass, so when the TSA agent asked for them I was able to quickly hand them over with no delay. After he examined them both, though, he said to me, “Remove your mask.” He wanted to compare my face to the photo on my ID, but I was so absolutely gobsmacked that anybody would ask me to remove my mask. I not only hesitated, I’m pretty sure my eyes also told him to go eff himself until he repeated, “Remove your mask,” this time with enough authority that I snapped out of my surprise and pulled my mask down. But it was a close thing. I came within seconds of spending the morning in TSA hell.

takeoff | 8:51 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, January 14th, 2022

I needed three eight-foot-long 2x4s yesterday. I can order them on-line from the local DIY store. Makes it super easy for me to jump in the car after I’m done with my day job, run down to the store and pick them up. Takes 20 minutes, 30 tops.

So I placed an order yesterday after lunch and got an email about 15 minutes later telling me my order was ready for pickup. After I clocked out of work, I jumped in the van, drove to the store and showed the email to the gate guard so I could drive back to the lumber shed.

“You know where you’re going?” she asked me after she used her tablet to scan the bar code on my email.

“I think so,” I said.

She glanced at her tablet. “Looks like Door 6,” she said.

Well, that wasn’t right. Door 6 was one of the roller doors out the back of the store. You go to Door 6 when you’re picking up something like a power tool or a kitchen appliance. The lumber is in a big shed behind the store. So bonus points to the guard for trying to help, but I ignored what she said and drove around the back to the shed.

I found the bay where the lumber I wanted should have been. It was empty. There were two signs showing the SKU for the lumber, so I was sure I was in the right place. I thought, Hmmm, maybe the guard said Door 6 because they were going to tell me when to come back, so I drove back to the store, parked outside Door 6, and called the phone number for in-store pickup.

The person who answered the phone asked for my order number, and after I told her she said, “That’s Aisle 19.” Aisle 19 is out in the lumber shed. “So my order is ready, and it’s in Aisle 19?” I asked, just to confirm. “That’s right,” she said.

When I’m sure something is true but then somebody else says it isn’t, I tend to doubt myself. This was one of those times. I drove back to the lumber shed even though I had just been looking at an empty bay where the lumber I wanted should have been. It still wasn’t there. I slowly drove down the aisle, checking every one of the bays. Found just the one empty bay with the SKU number for that particular kind of lumber.

Drove back to the gate to leave the yard.

“Find everything you needed?” the gate guard asked me.

“Nope,” I said. “I’m going into the store to find out what’s up.”

“No?” She suddenly became very concerned. “I’m very sorry.” I’m not even sure why she cared. She didn’t work for the store, she worked for one of those 3rd-party security agencies.

“No worries,” I said, “I’m sure they’ll be able to sort it out for me inside.”

She put her tablet away. “Well, I won’t scan your ticket to close it out, then,” she said.

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

If you place an order for lumber in person, you have to visit a desk in the store that’s about as far from the front door as it’s possible to get. There are six or eight work stations at the counter but I didn’t find anybody at them when I got there, just one guy at a desk in the back banging away at his computer keyboard, pretending he didn’t see me pacing back and forth. I gave him about ninety seconds before I waved and said, “Hiya. Are you closed?”

“Hang on, I’ll get somebody for you,” he said, then muttered something into the mic pinned to his shirt. Another guy came out of nowhere about a minute later to ask me what I needed. (Tangential note: He was one of those people who wears their mask sort of dangling off their face. The mask was too big, or too worn, or just so badly made that it loosely hung off his face around his mouth and chin. I could see his mouth when he spoke, it was that loose. If I had thought I would be talking to him for more than two minutes, I would have just walked away.)

“I ordered this online,” I said, showing him the email on my phone, “and went to the shed to get it, but the bay where it’s kept is empty.”

He looked it up on his computer. “No, it’s not empty. I’ve got 400 of those.”

“Pretty sure it’s empty.”

“It was probably stacked up top,” he said. (It wasn’t. This time I was sure enough that I didn’t doubt myself.) “I’ll get somebody to restock it,” he added, before muttering into the mic pinned to his shirt.

Well, if he’s going to get somebody to restock it, I’ll give it another shot. I left the store, climbed into the van, and drove around to the gate to show my email to the gate guard.

“All cleared up?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “We’ll see.”

On my way back out to the shed, I spotted a forklift leaving Aisle 19 at high speed, so I felt some small ray of hope that maybe the lumber I needed would be there. But no. The bay was just as empty as it was before.

I parked the van and walked over to the next aisle to find the guy on the forklift. Wasn’t there, so I walked to the next aisle. Ah, there he is. He kept on stacking rolls of insulation as I walked toward him, pretending not to see me just like the guy inside the store. Must be a thing they learn during training. “Excuse me,” I called, when I was within hailing distance, “I’m looking for some 2x4s but the bay is empty, and when I told the guy inside he said somebody out here would refill it.”

He fixed his eyes on a spot somewhere about 400 yards behind me, just over my left shoulder. “Yeah, no, I looked for more but we don’t have any.”

“Really? Your guy on the inside said you had 400 of them.”

He shrugged, still not making eye contact. “Inventory’s wrong. There aren’t any. I looked.”

This guy obviously wasn’t going to help me. “Okay. Thanks.”

Back to the van. Back to the gate.

“Still not there,” I said to the guard, “so please don’t close my ticket.” She didn’t.

Back into the store, all the way to the desk in the back. There were three or four employees milling around this time, none of them the guys I saw before, so I snagged the first guy I saw.

“Hi, I ordered this online,” I said, showing him the email on my phone.

He cut me off: “Oh, you want to go to Door 6 to pick that up.”

“Hang on, let me finish my story,” I said. “I ordered this online, went out back to pick it up, found out the bay where they’re kept is empty. Spoke to a guy at this desk, who’s not here now, who said he would get it restocked, but a guy in the lumber shed told me he can’t restock it because the inventory’s wrong and there aren’t any more.”

“Oh, well, he should have cut some for you, then.”

“Okay, well, when should I come to pick it up?”

“You’ll have to pick it up from Door 6.”

“Okay. When?”

“I mean, do you need it today?”

“Whenever. Please just tell me when to come get it.”

“Tell you what, come with me and we’ll sort it out.”

I followed this guy to what turned out to be the rooms behind Door 6, where my guy told some mouth-breathing half-awake zombie what I needed. In response, the zombie shrugged and said he didn’t have my order. I think my guy expected zombie guy to do something to help, but zombie guy shuffled away without saying anything more.

My guy gave me a helpless look. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well,” I said, “when you figure it out, would you please call me and tell me when I can pick up my order? That’s all I want.”

“Tell you what, wait here and I’ll get it. What did you need again?”

I showed him my phone with the email. He snapped a photo of it with his phone, then said, “Be right back.”

I waited outside Door 6 because my van was nice and warm, the radio played tunes that weren’t “SAVE BIG MONEY, YOU’LL SAVE BIG MONEY,” and because it wasn’t full of people wearing their masks over their mouths instead of their noses.

I’ve got to give my guy the credit he deserves: He went out to the lumber shed, picked out three straight pieces of 2×4 lumber and cut them to the length I wanted, then brought them to my van on a hand cart. All in about 15 minutes. He must have run all the way to the shed, too, because it’s not very close to the store.

stuck for sticks | 3:24 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Please don’t say “We’re all going to get COVID eventually.” It doesn’t make make me feel better, it makes me feel worse. If we were all vaccinated against COVID, we wouldn’t have to accept that we’d all eventually get it, because we wouldn’t all get it. A widely-vaccinated population would protect us all against it, and I know that because we don’t all get tuberculosis even though there are still outbreaks of TB. It doesn’t rampage through the population because almost everybody gets vaccinated against it. So telling me that I have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to get COVID eventually feels a lot like telling me I’m just going to have to accept that I’m going to get tuberculosis. I don’t. We collectively decided a long time ago to protect ourselves against TB, just like we collectively decided not to protect ourselves against COVID. Being asked to accept such a bold-faced failure of duty to society is, frankly, deeply depressing.

unacceptable | 1:46 pm CST
Category: Life & Death, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, January 3rd, 2022

The other night, I told my youngest son the story of how I fell from the second story of an open stairway. I’m not sure he entirely believed me.

When I was born, my parents lived in a small apartment which was really the upper floor of a big frame house that had been divided up into flats and rented out. The only way to get into the upstairs apartment was by way of a wooden staircase that ran up the outside of the house, ending in a small landing outside the doorway into the apartment.

One night, after my parents returned from a trip out of town, my father took me in one hand and a suitcase in another and climbed the stairs to the upper floor. At the top, he set the suitcase to one side and let go of me to dig his keys out of his pocket and unlock the door.

I had been sleeping in the back seat of the car and was still very sleepy. Half-dozing, I leaned back against the suitcase, which tipped under the handrail and fell off the landing. I wasn’t any taller than the suitcase, so I fell off the landing right after it.

As luck would have it, my mother was immediately under the landing and saw me fall. She tried to catch me and almost did, grabbing me by the ankle. If she hadn’t, I would have fallen on the cement walkway below, but the tug she exerted on my leg changed the direction of my fall just enough that I landed in the dirt under the stairway. Even so, my father said she was so sure I was dead that she wouldn’t touch me. He put me back in the car and they took me to the hospital.

My head struck a glancing blow to the edge of the cement walkway, which raised a knot, but I was otherwise unharmed. I spent one or two nights in the hospital, closely watched, then went home.

“That doesn’t seem possible,” was all that Tim could think to say when I told him the story. Maybe not. But here I am.

John Valuk is dead, he fell on his head | 4:15 pm CST
Category: Dad, Life & Death, Mom, story time | Tags:
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