Sunday, July 23, 2017

Happy Birthday Grill

Happy birthday to me!
My birthday gift was a grill which was a double gift since I had to assemble it. It was a great practical puzzle, with cryptic directions and ultimately a single solution achieved only after solving many micro puzzles. My prize is the capacity to grill dinner + 4 mysteriously leftover bolts.

One of the nice things about this puzzle, er I mean grill, is that the little parts come on a blister pack, so you can see easily what's what - very organized!
The back of the blister pack identifies each screw, bolt, nut, washer and cotter key, with perforations so you can just open little doors to get them, like an Advent calendar chocolate. Nice!
But I still ended up with 4 extra bolts (Part "M" for "Mystery"!)
Happy birthday to me! My birthday gift was a grill which was a double gift since I had to assemble it. It was a great practical puzzle, with cryptic directions and ultimately a single solution achieved only after solving many micro puzzles. My prize is the capacity to grill dinner + 4 mysteriously leftover bolts.

Sunday: Good Bye To All That

Sunday Kris came and took several items of furniture for which I had no use and she had attachment: The fancy Chinese cabinet (converted into TV stand by owners before us), the rice chest (with WW2 Chinese newspaper stuck to the bottom,  and above all the vintage chaise longue from a Colorado whorehouse of the 19th century.  She did't offer any money and didn't bring the promised baked goods. I'm not really surprised.
The only thing left here to which she may have a moral claim is the metal stove in the basement which had with great fanfare been brought over from eastern Washington as a momento of a favored aunt, and the red maple from Larry and Ginger. I texted her, giving them a year which is too generous and if the stove is in the way ... the problem is that it's hard for me to discard things.
Afterwards, I texted what I hope will be our last communication:
"Now that I have gifted you with several thousand dollars worth of vintage furniture, all of which I have the legal right to sell, I think everything to which you might have any attachment is off this property except possibly the wood stove and the maple tree. I would like them gone by the end of the year.
I wish you well in your new house and I offer a word of advice.
As you know, our relationship fell apart because of the mutual mental or emotional issues that we have. On my part depression and the hoarding instinct that came from being raised in abject poverty lead to your feeling repelled by me, and I understand that. This is not something that you were ever able to articulate and that is a problem that can poison any future relationship you may have: your refusal to articulate issues while they are still small enough to be dealt with. Your preference for holding grudges until you can release them with great drama has not served you well, and is a threat to any future relationship.
You may reject this advice, but keep in mind I have no motivation to lead you astray at this point.
The other word of advice is to do something about your alcoholism. At one time you said your mother asked if she had taught you to get divorced and you said no, but in fact the answer is yes. Your bio dad died of his alcoholism, and your mother taught you that drinking heavily is simply the way to be. No doubt she learned that from her father, and you will note that she is completely alienated from her family for no reason that makes any sense except emotional issues that she has.
I have little doubt that you will [not] accept this advice, because that's the nature of the disease, but I have given it and that's all I can do.
Some alcoholics live to a great age, others go like Joe my brother and lie your father. If you value your current or future relationships you should do something about it.
That's all the advice I have for you. I don't think we have anything else to talk about.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Toastmasters: Picnic Table Topics

Madam Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and Honored Guests…..

Table Topics is the time when we practice extemporaneous speaking. 
We do not prepare speeches or even know in advance about what we will speak.

This can be frightening. Extemporaneous feels like “unprepared”. To dislike being unprepared is not a bad thing.

But, my friends and fellow Toastmasters, extemporaneous speaking is something we have all done. Our first words ... "mama" or "papa" or - in the case of my 3rd ex, "forsythia" - were all unplanned. 
And ever since, every day we have spoken extemporaneously with family, friends and co-workers. 

You are good at this.

For example, at last Saturday’s Toastmaster’s picnic I heard brief talks - chiefly stories - by everyone there. None seemed rehearsed or prepared. Each arose spontaneously and organically from the inspirations of the moment.

(Maybe John had something prepared, I don’t know …)

Drawing on the happy success of that event, I bring this bag of picnic inspirations. 

I ask you to bring out of this bag a picnic object. Then, talk for one to two minutes about a memory it may evoke, a plan it may inspire or simply about what it may be.

Come step up!

Who will take the first picnic table topic? 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Update: Toastmasters Picnic, Pegasus Books

This week was packed with obligations and opportunities that all seemed to come together at about the same time, but with the aid of my trusty Planning Chalkboard I managed to be on time for everything and get everything done.
Saturday starts with a class at the Y. For the past couple of years it's been a barre class, which has been excellent for my core. I'm actually stronger than I was 10 years ago, using objective measurements. I don't seem to be getting ahead in the gradual appearance of aging, but that's the Tao I suppose.
The weekly DAV meeting was dominated by a re-reading of the Bylaws, which had been given some minor charges at the Departmental level. An under appreciated reason for brevity in Bylaws (and accomplishing as much as possible through Standing Rules under the Bylaws instead) is that the waste of time of 30 grown adults listening to a re-reading which they will do nothing about and will promptly forget.
I slipped out shortly after noon to take Arthur in to the doctor for his monthly eye drain. It has to be done at the office because the whole point is maintaining a sterile environment - the slightest infection in his eye would be Very Bad. This is really not much of an inconvenience now that he's accepting the procedure without a majorly fight, so he doesn't need anesthetic.
Then it was off to the Toastmaster's picnic, atop a building in West Seattle. Great company, nice views, roasting sun. I really do enjoy this group of people and feel grateful to be admitted to their company. I heard great stories from around the world and shared a few aphorisms or cryptic comments that seemed to amuse.
I went home and took a three hour name. I'm really not made for direct sunlight.
Sunday I went to Harbor Freight to get  brush chipper. My yard generates branches and blackberry vines; my choice is to pay for a yard waste bin or to chip them to use on the gardens. Let's try the localizing solution first.
I met with a former pro bono client and we discussed the possibility of further action using some new whistleblower legislation. This is entirely new to me and the big problem seems to be figuring out what is in the best interest of the client and of the client's interests  - which are not always the same thing.
Finally I went to the last day of the West Seattle fair (or whatever they call it) at the Alaska Junction. Pegasus was donating its leftover books to the Hospital if I could move them. Nate came through with his SUV and the load took less than half an hour!
I also addressed the financing issue for the heat system. I had put off actually filling out the paperwork because of the usual reluctance about major fina commitments, but I feel good about this decision having chewed it over thoroughly.
I feel I got a lot of things done - and am now ready to go back to work!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy Accident Netflix Edition

It often seems that I progress by errors and accidents whose unintended consequences reveal opportunities.
This winter's failure of my heating system compelled me to get cracking on the home refinance well in advance of the deadline, as the only way I could imagine financing its replacement. That lead to a general reordering of my finances and an improvement in my situation by converting my high-interest-rate student loans into more reasonable home equity loan. It also let me draw a little equity for a few improvements. Most of all, it freed me from the fear of losing the home entirely, under the terms of the divorce decree. I had dreaded the refinance because at the time of the divorce I had no confidence in my ability to refinance (and therefore to keep my home) but it turned out I had made the correct moves to get it done by securing my job at Treasury; all I needed was the confidence to execute.
 This weekend my Netflix account stopped working. I had been given the extra stream on Sherry's Netflix account as, I suppose, the contribution given for the upkeep of the girls. I felt obliged to try it out and it became a habit. I worked my way through all of "Deep Space Nine" which was fun, and then "Fraser" which started fun and became dutiful - I don't think it aged well at all, particularly the homophobia but also the lack of growth. I enjoyed seeing "Dr. Strange" for free - truly a fun translation of the comic to the screen. I started working through the original "Twilight Zone" alternating with "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt".
However watching Netflix had become less fun and more dutiful. I don't have that many hours in the day and too many of my free hours were ending up staring passively at a screen. Each individual moment is reasonably distracting but at the end what have I got? Not anything that I have created, and not a memorable human contact. It became unsatisfying but Continued out of habit or duty I suppose. Until this week end it stopped working.
I now have time to write. This is an improvement! There's no pretending that my writing is up there with "Twilight Zone" or even "Kimmy" but it is my own and the act of creation feels good.
 I am grateful for the happy accident that ended Netflix for me. Perhaps I should consider what other habits may be usefully changed by a happy accident.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Picnic at VA Hospital

The picnic for patients and staff at VA Puget Sound Healthcare System went really well. Area businesses donated an amazing amount of food and we volunteers had a great time serving those who served, as the saying goes!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Highland Park Improvement Club Book Swap

The summer reading program at out local elementary school needed books, and the local civic organization (the Highland Park Improvement Club) stepped up with a book swap Sunday. One of the organizers asked if I'd bring some books - both children's books for the youths and adult books for their parents - prompted no doubt by the Little Free Library I host in my front yard.
I am clearing out the detritus of years, which includes a lot of stock for culling and resale that never made it into the listing process. Amazon's rates have increased to the point that formerly marginal books are losers, and my finding a regularly paying job means that time spent on slightly profitable books is a loss. Even the time culling is a loss since the profit from the whole enterprise at this point approaches nil.
I took six or eight boxes to HPIC and boy were they surprised! Looking back, I see that they expected five or ten, maybe twenty books, and what they got  was literally half the stock they had to swap. I made sure to ask if they wanted help cleaning up if it didn't all get distributed, and they assured me that they would take care of it. They may have a small lending library at HPIC now, haha!
I chose not to tell them of the other 3 boxes in the trunk, which I had earmarked for the VA Hospital Lending library. Instead, I drove over there and put them in, and then treated myself to stopping by Pegasus Book Exchange and hanging out. There's always a good conversation and plenty to read!
The end result of the day is that I clear out ten or more boxes, not counting the recycling. I have much left to do on the house but at least I have a method now.
I am currently collecting and reviewing bids for the heating system. I have an acceptable bid but I feel that I ought to get a couple more just to be meticulous. I am having to weigh the raw price against the fuzzy notion of service. If there was an easy answer, I would already have it, but I do have the comfort of knowing that I already have an acceptable answer - I am merely trying to do better!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chesterfield Watching Over Me, Or Behind Me Anyway

Ever get the feeling someone is watching you?

I love this photo, but it's a total setup. The way to get a picture of a cat looking at you is to stand where the cat is looking. I love this cat but he's not quick - or maybe he has his own interests.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day To Me: Thanks, Ladies!

Father's Day is complex this year. My father passed on decades ago, and with the passage of time his sacrifices become more clear. Thank you. Among my friends and family there are many fathers- to you all, congratulations, your children are remarkable! I am happy to be their uncle and I thank you for making it possible.
And then there's this: my housemates (in the mother-in-law apartment) are the daughter of my first ex-wife and her own wife. What to call our relationship?
I resisted adopting a fatherly role, because the way my father modeled was to be in charge all the time: to make the decisions, to issue orders, to expect followership, and to be unhappy if a child disagreed. Neither he nor I understood any other way to be a father, and I knew d@mn well this would not work with these two fully adult and capable young women. Instead, we went with "Big brother". 
Elder brother is a fun role. We would meet in the kitchen to share joy in success, pride in achievement, concern over problems, and joint solutions to getting through this thing called life, whatever that may be. In the nature of things, I'm almost 40 years older so, although not inherently wiser, I have had so many more experiences that usually I can usually come up with a solution or at least cryptic advice. I can also pass on to them some of the material help I had gotten from past father figures who had supported me in ways I'm only now understanding (lookin' at you, John Cole!) I appreciate that this is not the same as walking a colicky baby at 3AM. Most parents have done much more than I (I don't deny that), and yet I should not minimize that my support has been helpful.
And today: I must report that the ladies have thanked me for being a dad figure to them. 
What a surprise! What a joy! My heart melts with gladness just thinking of it. It is an entirely new class of happiness that I had not expected. They are wonderful young people who have always justified my faith in them, and this is a reward beyond rewards!
What is fatherhood? Beyond the simple and meaningless bio-definition, it seems to have something to do with loving and with responsibility and with not being a jerk. The details beyond that we have have to work out on an ad hoc basis, because each person in an individual with their own peculiarities. In our case, the fatherhood/daughtershood thing is peculiar cubed. And we like it that way!
So on this Father's Day let me thank you, young ladies, for the chance to be a father figure for you makes me happy and proud!