Saturday, October 14, 2017

Shingle Rain

Every room in my home has a ceiling.

The sound of rain on shingles, to many people a simple white noise, to me is an essential part of childhood, and a comfortable, comforting sound. To you perhaps it may mean I'm going to get wet, or maybe the crops will have water. To me, it means all is well.

I was one of 10 kids in a small 3 bedroom house in south Everett. On the ground floor was one bedroom for parents and perhaps a crib and one bedroom for toddlers, plus a kitchen, living room, utility room, and stairs up. The stairs led to a landing with two door:  to the right to a finished bedroom for the girls, to the left unfinished attic for the boys.

Stepping into the boy's room and looking up, you saw the rafters and the stringers - the boards that go from rafter to rafter - and the back of the shingles nailed to the stringers, forming the outer skin of the house shedding water. They were visible from inside. That's the ceiling to our bedroom and it was normal.

Likewise, the floor was unfinished planks. This is a good floor for active children because you can pry up a plank and create a hidey hole. Now we might not have much to hide, but it's the principle of the thing. If there had been linoleum or carpeting we would have had a lot less to work with.

Occasionally we'd decide to finish the room a bit. Once we got some canvas and nailed it down over the planks as a rug. We felt that was very nice! It lasted until our next project.
Somehow we came across the remnants of an electric train set, just the tracks and the engine (without the plastic shell that made it look like a real engine) and the transformer. The cables connecting the transformer and track were missing, but this was no problem, unwind some wire from another motor, wrap around the terminals on the transformer and the thing on the track, and it worked fine. The engine went around and around. And it made a smell. We sniffed. The smelled smoke but it wasn't coming from the engine. Finally, I looked down and saw that the wires were glowing bright orange and red, and the canvas under it was smouldering. We unplugged everything, put something over the scorch marks on the rug, and hid everything away. A few minutes later dad came up the stairs "THUMP THUMP THUMP" and demanded, "Have you boys been smoking?" Truthfully we said, " No, dad we have not been smoking!" and that was the end of it. I think we had to get rid of the canvas now that it has suspicious burn marks on it.

In the corner above the stairs were some shelves holding canning jars and government surplus goods. This was before food stamps. The way the government solved a problem of overproduction and underconsumption was to bag beans and bulgar where and other raw materials for handing out to the needy. Each bag was as plain as could be: clear plastic or brown paper, with the contents labelled in black sans serif font: Beans Comma Pinto. On some cans: Meat by-product.

One time we got mysterious cubes of compressed figs. I have no idea what they were intended for but we found a use.

I had seen the board game "Risk". The concept of buying it was as alien as flying to Mars.  and decided my family needed a copy. I carefully copied the board using crayon on a large sheet of heavy paper. My brothers and I sat on our knees around this board on the floor and played using commodities: one brother got beans, I took fig cubes and the youngest got lentils. Lentils are the worst for this purpose because they skitter around the map. We would hunch over the board for hours. The games never really ended possibly because I hadn't made the deck of cards that gives one side a decisive advantage when well played.
The best time was when the power went out, which happened often during the winter. Electricity came on wires strung on poles by roads that went through forests; snow- or ice-laden branches could bring them down.
When this happened in the evening, mom would light the storm lanterns: kerosene lamps that always stood on top of the piano. Uncle Jerry had made his sister, my mother, a lamp by attaching the metal works to a heavy jar. The only time we lit it was when the power went out. We were never afraid of the dark because that meant we would gather around the kerosine lamp, something that never happened when there was electricity. We would reach down the game of stadium checkers from the top shelf in the hall, and we would play this game that was reserved for emergencies.
Our clocks were, of course, springwound so we never got to stay up past bedtime. We went upstairs by whatever ambient light there might have been and crawled under the covers. The rain on the shingles assured us that we were inside, dry and safe.
Looking back I appreciate that this is not normal by today's standards, but it seemed normal then.
I look at my home today and I see that each room has sheetrock and a ceiling. It seems awfully "finished" to me. Of course, that is just the standard today.
Around the world today there are people for whom a ceiling is a luxury. It's a good thing, but do you really need it?

I am grateful that every room in my home has a ceiling, but if I want to hear the rain on the roof I have to open a window.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sunday Mulching the Heart-Shaped Garden

I mulched the apple tree in the heart-shaped garden, using mulch given away to participants in the Seattle Reforestation project (or whatever they called it). While it was a pain locating the site (because the map on the postcard was too small, and I hadn't checked it at hope on my computer) once I got there it was fun shoveling wood chips into burlap bags and talking about sustainability.
I got a bunch more burlap bags too, which I can share with the neighbors or use to suppress the ivy. I little gardening every day is nice!
I also stopped by Pegasus to pick up a few bags of books, and was rewarded with an awesome find: another edition of the Rubyiat!

Friday, October 06, 2017


My oil furnace went missing!

Prime Suspects!

And, of course, the electrician!

Three days of chaos...

...with comings and goings...

Success: The new heating system!
Investing into my home to save energy and (in the long run) money!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Companions For The Road

The philosopher Dorothy Gale said: "There's no place like home".
Indeed. That’s why we leave.
As a young teen, Dorothy was blown out of Kansas
And as a young teen I, myself was blown away by the thought:
If I go to high school seminary, studying for the priesthood
I could please my parents
and run away from them!
At the age of 13, I took the road to the yellow brick boarding school in Kenmore.
The instructors were strict.
We sat alphabetical order:
I in the back,
Behind my pious friend Mr. Murphy,
In front, my nervous friend Mr. Dunne.
A Latin teacher picked on the boy in the front:
"Dunne, what is the singular feminine superlative of beautiful?"
Poor Mr. Dunne! He would stammer and wilt. "Pulcher? Pulchra?"
Then it was "Murphy!"
My friend Mr. Murphy gave it a try: "Pulcheriora?" and got chewed on a bit.
Then: "Winn!"
I had had two minutes to look up the answer.
So: I always got it!
From this, I reached a wrong conclusion:
I was smarter than everyone else!
This has since been proven
To be the opposite of true.
Today, Mr. Dunne is at the top of his profession, a brilliant counselor solving complex problems.
He would have been far better than I at the job for which we were ostensibly studying,
But for his unfortunate choice of last name early in the alphabet.
Do not think of him merely as scholastic roadkill.
Oh no!
For his lack of academic achievement, Mr. Dunne got extra duty in the school office: trusted and often unsupervised.
He knew he was trusted because when unsupervised, he read his file.
For a Hershey bar he would read your file too.
This was helpful for my friend the inappropriately named Mr. Holy.
Mr. Holy liked knowing things and doing things.
Just not faculty-approved things.
He knew which basement window opened from the outside, when he needed to reenter after an all night carouse.
He often dozed in Latin.
Perhaps those facts are related.
Later he used his energy and curiosity to be a very successful what?
Detective? Of course!
Late that Spring he learned, no doubt with the aid of Hersey bars, he was going back to Spokane.
He gifted me with a magazine in which the people wore not enough clothing;
A generous increase to my knowledge
Not to my vocation.
My friend Mr. Phelan, now a senior computer engineer, showed me how to solder circuit boards. 
Thus college workstudy put me in a computer lab, rather than washing dishes, which lead to all my professional success.
One Saturday we two amiable dweebs were in a walkathon, raising funds for some charity or other, strolling down the road, just us two and no faculty, discussing life, and whether computers will ever be really important, and everything.
He pushed his glasses up on his nose and said,
“Randy, you know, I’m gay.”
Well, I knew now. 
Gay was against the rules.
But friendship is its own rule.
Either my friend was wrong or the rule was wrong.
What can you do?
We walked on together.
“Also,” he said. “So’s my sister.”
Even now, my breath stops at the glory, the wonder, the singular feminine superlative that is Mr. Phelan’s sister:
She and I had been together.
Well, we had been at the same table at the school picnic.
I passed her the jello,
She gave me a smile,
I knew I was not meant for celibacy.
But now this ….
Mr. Phelan snickered. “Just kidding...”
“...About her”.
You see why we’ve been friends for so long.
There are little things, and big things, but one REALLY big thing:
Some go home to Kansas – or Spokane -
Some settle in the Emerald City
Does it matter?
With your companions of the road, you are always at home,
And there’s no place like home.
There is no place like home.
 ...I must ask Mr. Phelan for his sister’s phone number!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

First Furlough Saturday

Yesterday was my last full day of work, as most of my office was furloughed due to the usual practice around this time of year. It's just part of the gig, and I can use the time to look for other work while improving the house.
Today I started with an hour of yoga/sculpt at the Y, which was delightful. Then it was a matter of waiting for the dryer to be delivered, which was less delightful. When it arrived, however, the delivery group was quick, friendly and efficient; the first load is drying now. This is a prosaic but useful improvement!
My short term goal is to win or try to win the Humorous Speech Contest October 2. The method is practice, although I have supplemented that with research. Most of the research indicates that the writing of the speech is often underestimated as a factor, so I am honing the writing too.
This is fun. I don't have a lot of experience competing to win; as a child I was impressed by my incompetence in competitive endeavours, so I never really picked up the techniques - such as research and practice. However the best time to start is now, and I find I enjoy studying the game!

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Third Result of Our Beatings.

I am now closer to age 70 than to 50, and if that does not make you shake your head in wonder then you're not me. How did I get this way, still feeling on the edge of 17 (as Janis Ian put it)?
I see around me adults in or nearing retirement and I imagine some of them feel the same; others express complete feelings of adulthood and mastery of life. What is the difference?
I have a thing to mention, and in bringing it up I am not asking for sympathy. The past is past, and by my age I am responsible for what I have done with the hand of cards dealt to me. I hope that by talking frankly I may be able to explain a few things that will lead others to wiser action.
The most important part of my personality was forged by being beaten, or threatened with beating, every day of my life until I left home.
That's it. You don't actually have to strike a child  very often. Once the pain comes down a few times, the kid gets the message: failing to placate the one in power means pain, physical pain, pain that drives out every imperative except to do what it takes to make it stop.
I know that others have suffered worse. I'm not asking for anything, especially since it has been nearly 50 years since I was last struck. But the feeling remains: the most important thing in life is to keep those with the power to cause you pain from being angry.
I disagree with this policy, vehemently. It is wrong. But I understand the feeling, and reflecting on it offers an understanding of some friends and family members who are making what I know to be big mistakes in turning to fascism.
I used to think that beatings taught one of two lessons: some learned that beatings hurt, and that therefore you should not do it. Don't hurt people is a pretty good lesson.
Others learn that beatings hurt, and therefore it's a good idea to be the person doing the beating rather than the one being beaten. This is a bad lesson but it seemed common enough. The distinction between the two put me in a comfortable moral position, which should have made me suspicious but there you are.
I feel now that there is a third lesson that many people learn: beatings come from angry men and therefore it is most important to keep them from being angry, with your behavior and that of others. Stay in your line; keep other people from getting out of line. It is this last element that is most important: the beater enlists his victims to keep others in line.
This explains the authoritarianism of many of my fellow victims. Where one would expect compassion for other victims, there is too often only a desire to kick down, to join the beaters in ganging up on someone else.
I saw this in the fights over legalizing pot and gay marriage. Why did so many worry drunks worry so much about others smoking weed and straights with multiple divorces worrying about gays getting married? The only thing that made sense to me is that both of these issues involved changing what was officially acceptable, and that risked making Angry Father Angry.
I mentioned this theory because it offers a few obvious suggestions for improvements. First, comfort those who express fear and hatred; they may be afraid of being beaten.
And don't hit people. It's really not a good idea.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

RIP James Cline

Late last week the message came that Jim had gone into hospice, and then early Saturday that it was going to be only some hours. I made ready to go up to visit Saturday but then got the message that he had passed.
Three things you should know about Jim Cline . He and my sister Sharon were married and in love for I don’t know how long, and he loved his children as well – that was obvious, you can see it in every picture.
Second, our family is noisy and Jim was not. He was a heck of a smart guy, very successful in his profession, but he didn’t show the urge that many of us have to tell everybody everything we know, several times in case you missed it the first. More than once I stepped out of a family party to see Jim and Brad sharing a cigarette break outside in the quiet. He’d say something funny and we’d all laugh. I never heard him complain, not about anything – which is something I can’t say about myself. You set a high standard, Jim.
The third thing is his last words on Facebook: “Quick reminder gentlemen, get that PSA test to check your cancer levels. It's critical. My love to you all.’
You set a standard, Jim. I’m not going to be able to match you in not complaining, but I’ll sign up for the test on Monday.
My love to you too.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Reminder

This weekend was unusual.
Saturday morning I saw my ex as I drove to the Y. I greeted her and her new BF but they didn't need a ride, as they were rendezvousing with his ex to connect with his child. We all ended up in yoga and it was a fine class indeed. It's nice to use the muscles a different way after the delightful Zumba last Thursday.
Then I drove up to my sister Kat's, in Marysville, having been invited by my niece Stephanie for an informal birthday barbeque. I assumed it was for Kat and brought her a card, but actually it was for Ryder, Stephanie's 2 year old son. A parent may be forgiven for focusing on her own kids!
I enjoyed talking and listening to the crowd. My nephew Kristian delivered a painting "Soft Serve Squid" that he'd donated to a charity auction I one. I'm happy to have it!
I met Karen's wife and had a long talk about our common interest in veterans services - she's a VFW Chaplain and, like my Veterans and Friends pals, working out ways to go beyond VSOs to solve problems holistically.. I'll be connecting her with my friend Cyril, etc.
I had a shot of tequila with Brad and with Jim, who is ailing. This was a moving experience as it is not often that I see someone who had always been so strong and full of life reach a point in his dying that leaves him able to communicate, but hazy and emaciated. There is not much to say so I talked about his kids.
This was all unusual, and I was grateful to Stephanie for the invitation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Companions of the Road


The philosopher Dorothy Gale said: "There's no place like home".
Indeed. That’s why so many of us leave.
Around the age that Dorothy left Kansas, I was blown away by the realization that by studying for the priesthood I could please my parents and run away from them.
I took the road to the yellow brick boarding school in Kenmore called St Edward’s.

The Tale of the Dunne Call

The instructors were very old school.

We sat strict alphabetical order: I in the back, behind my pious friend Mr. Murphy, in front my nervous friend Mr. Dunne. One Latin teacher picked on the boy in the front: Dunne, what is the singular feminine superlative of beautiful? Poor Mr. Dunne! He would stammer and wilt. Pulcher? Pulchra? Then it was Murphy! my friend Mr. Murphy gave it a try and was chewed on a bit. Then: Winnie!

I had had two minutes to look up the answer. I always got it. I learned the lesson: I was smarter than everyone else! Later this proved untrue. 

Today, Mr. Dunne is at the top of his profession, a brilliant counselor solving complex problems. He would have been better than I at the job for which we were ostensibly studying, but for his unfortunate choice of last name beginning with “D”.

Do not think of him merely as scholastic roadkill. Oh no. For his lack of academic achievement, Mr. Dunne got extra duty in the school office. He knew he was trusted because he was often unsupervised, and used that time to read his own file: Trustworthy

For two Hershey bars – our medium of exchange at Stalag St. Edward - he would read your file too.

A Holy Tale

This was helpful for the my friend the inappropriately named Mr. Holy.

Mr. liked knowing things and doing things – just not Latin or theology. He knew which basement window opened from the outside, should you need to reenter the building after an all night carouse. He often dozed in Latin. Perhaps those facts are related. Later he used his energy and curiosity to be a very successful what? Detective? Politician? You're both right!

 At the end of spring term, he learned, no doubt with the aid of Hersey bars, that he being sent back to Spokane. He generously gifted me with a magazine in which the people wore not enough clothing; a great increase to my knowledge, not helpful to my vocation.

The Tale of Mr. Phelan: Out On The Road

My friend Mr. Phelan, now a senior computer engineer, showed me how to solder circuit boards. Thus college workstudy placed me in a computer lab, rather than washing dishes, the foundation of all my financial success.

One Saturday we two amiable dweebs were in a walkathon, raising funds for some charity or other, strolling down the road talking about life and everything, just us two guys and no faculty. He said, “Randy, you know, I’m gay.”

Well, I knew now. 

But what did I know? Gay was against the rules. But friendship is its own rule. Either my friend was wrong or the rule was wrong. This is no contest. We walked on together.

“Also,” he said. “So’s my sister.”

Disaster! Even now, my breath stops at the glory, the wonder, the singular feminine superlative that is Mr. Phelan’s sister: pulcherissima!

She and I had been together, or at least, we had been at the same All School Picnic, a hundred boys and their families milling around. She smiled at me over the fruit salad jello, and perhaps seminary would not last for ever. But now?
Mr. Phelan snickered. “Just kidding. About her”.

Conclusion: On The Road

You’ll understand why we’ve all been friends so long. We share so much, big things, little things, but one REALLY big thing:
Some go home to Kansas – or Spokane -
Some settle in the Emerald City
Some stay on the road
It doesn’t matter: with companions, you are already at home, and there’s no place like home.

Maybe I’ll ask Mr. Phelan for the phone number of his sister.

2017 Humorous Speech Contest, Chapter 832 Toastmasters (I won yay!) 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Zumba Etc

Today was a typical Monday for this part of my life. The cats work me, asserting that they were starved even though we all knew that the feeding is done in the downstairs apartment by the girls. They cats always try, and sometimes they are rewarded by milk. As Gail Gorud said, I am often a soft touch.
Since I cleaned the litterbox thoroughly on the weekend I usually skip that Monday mornings. After ablutions I make my preferred brekfast of oatmeal and fruit, with maybe some protein on the side. The coffee drips as I make my lunch salad and then I'm ready to go. Shall I catch the early bus, or the just-in-time bus? Today I went for just-in-time, which was late and therefore so was I. Fortunately there was slack time, but I dislike using that.
I like my work well enough; I meet (virtually) 20-40 people a day and solve problems (ideally). Which I could prefer better technology, I like the work itself and take pride in managing the experience which is, after all, often fraught with worry for the customers.
I made it home on time to drive to Zumba - I have not built up the confidence to take the bus yet - and had another excellent class. I have decided I enjoy exercise that doesn't involve being shouted at, and dance is ideal for this. I just need to add a little more strength training and I'm set!
I drove Nessa home from work and we stopped to pick up a last-minute item for support. Kiria made enchiladas fit for the gods, and I farted around on my computer, surrounded by cats, until bedtime. I made sure to have my Toastmasters role well prepared for, checking the equipment and drafting Table Topics so there is nothing last minute
I'm not sure that I made any major progress toward large life goals today, except that I am maintaining and moving closer to the heating system renovation - so there's that. Another day!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Windows 10, Memory Hogging, and the Passage of Time

When the Mac died I decided it was time to give Windows another try. I'd spent extra money getting a premium computer and it died all the same, so I tried the opposite route of getting the least expensive possible.
That turned out to be $179 (plus sales tax) - a 4 Gb of memoryWindows 10 device on sale at Target. At that price it's almost an impulse item, and I needed the computer. I took it home, set it up, and was frustrated because it was unusably slow. For example, I would click on an email to read it and wait more than a minute even for the email's checkbox to activate showing me my click had worked. I gave it a day, then took it back. Target is good about returns.
I decided to just give a heavy sigh and buy whatever was midrange for now. Next up was Costco. Their top performing machine was l6 Gig plus 4 of video memory and had a cute backlit keyboard that I knew I would soon hate; it was labelled as a gaming machine. I guessed that the extra video memory was of no use if I didn't game, which I don't, and the display was only 15". I went instead for the 17" display with 16 Gig of memory. That is what I'm using now, and it seems to perform acceptably.
My first home computer was the noisy Coleco Adam. I say "noisy" because the power supply was embedded in the printer, which ran on a daisywheel so I associated booting up with printer warm-up sounds. For all its faults it kept up with my typing. Next I got a Commodore 64 which was mostly for gaming, although I vaguely remember I justified it to myself for experimenting on  software for helping the developmentally disabled.
The first computer I got that was comparable to those I was using at work was a Franklin 800 from Sears. I went with the dual floppy drives and goes a lot of writing done on it, mostly resumes of course. Thereafter I alternated between DOS or Windows and Apple devices, and noticed that as the features improved the memory requirements went up even faster.
That's just the way it is, I suppose. My parents were of a generation that could still recall when "horsepower" referred to an actual horse, and I am of a generation that could still recall when a megabyte was "a lot" instead of "a little".

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


This morning the Mac quit.
I'd  spent a premium to get a top of the line device, and after about 16 months thus morning, the display shimmered and then went dark. Much of the device continues to function, as if
I press the power button I get the 'power on'  chord, but I can't go far blind.
It's valuable enough that I took it to West Seattle Computers for a checkup. I trust them to do the right thing and not to overcharge, but my being unimpressed by the Mac reached a tipping point today. It's just not the magic box it pretends to be - you have to be looking at it constantly to make it work, and that's just stupid - anyone with keyboard skills can look anywhere to get things done, so the computer becomes merely a tool, not the focus.
I find myself forced to take up the bloated Windows 10. Rather than waste my time going the top of the line route, I got a cheap device with only 8 gig. It is slow but usable.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Toastmasters Training and Kat Dining

Saturday morning was taken up with officer training for Toastmasters. I enjoy getting together with a lotto people dedicated to self-improvement!
For the evening my sister Kat came over, toured the house and then had dinner and gossip cat "Noble Barton". This was really fun.
Sunday I caught up on chores. This may sound prosaic, and much of it is, but it's necessary and useful and I don't regret the time. I rewarded myself by writing memes and planting potatoes that had gone leggy. I do wish the  cats barfed less....

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fabulous App and the Busstop Buddy

My bus stop buddy Margaret and her husband Phil are moving to 35th, as they've bought a house for their growing family. I'll miss the conversations, especially on sustainability projects run by the nonprofit she works at. But good luck to them at their new location, and may the family flourish! At our most recent chat, she reminded me of an app I was trying ("Habitica") that supported developing useful habits by making a game of it. Using the game mechanic of frequent small challenge and rewards, and progressively more difficult, less frequent but larger rewards, felt like a good idea. I played with Habitica for a while but quietly dropped it during one of my periodic cellphone purges, because I had begun to regard it as a chore. If I chose small daily tasks, it was not fun to tick them off and if I chose large infrequent tasks, the app didn't help. Margaret suggested the app "Fabulous" as a more sophisticated approach; she'd tried it for a few days and liked it. I promptly downloaded it and fired it up. It appears to be preloaded with good habits that it presents over time, freeing me from the work of writing tasks. I'll give it a try - I can always use self-improvement!

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!

So This Is My Zibaldone ....

... before blogs:

Monday, June 12, 2017

In Which Arthur Was Really Pissed

The other day I texted Kris to ask whether she would be interested in any of the furniture that I was moving out. There are several pieces that were pretty cool while we were married, but that I use only for accumulating piles of stuff, and my life would be better with an empty space where they once were, and eventually something more appropriate.
She was eager. The Chinese cabinet, the rice chest, the kitchen table and chairs, and above all the vintage chaise lounge were of interest.
In a world ruled by economically rational self-interest I would consign these items and be done with it. Perhaps I still shall, for I owe Kris nothing. But I knew that she valued them once and I felt better making the offer. We're never entirely rational.
Kris accepted gratefully, and asked if she could come over to take measurements. When she arrived, I was exercising Arthur outside on his leash. She spoke, and Arthur hissed. He stared at her, growled, and then ran for the door. I let him in, removed his leash, and then discussed the furniture with Kris. Arthur was still angry. After all the measurements were taken, we sat in the kitchen and discussed when to pick up the items. Arthur went in the corner, raised his tail, and pissed.
I could not be angry at him; his emotions were sincere.
Kris and I went to get a pizza at Proletariat as we had so many times before. While our conversation reminded me why we had been friends, it also reminded me that our conversations ultimately became boring. She complains, and expresses joy very little. She paid for the pizza, which was only fair considering the furniture, and she had brought over some cake for me to enjoy, and she offered to clean the carpet ( retrospect, she wants the carpet and that she shall never have...) but ultimately it was a conversation that was pretty much nothing.
Kris had her own reasons for going her own way, and this conversation confirmed what I had decided after dancing on the matter: I don't want her back. She's not very interesting.
The furniture will soon be gone and that will leave room from potential.
After she left, I took some recycling out and Arthur made a sprint for the door. We walked into the front yard and took a long, long piss. When he was done, I took him inside and we agreed it was better now.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Closing Argument: Hearing on the Charge that Randy is a Crazy Cat Person

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury ….

I submit that I am not a crazy cat person. I admit that I have more cats than ex-wives ( and I have a lot of ex-wives ), but I am innocent victim of circumstance. Consider:

When I bought my house, I was determined to have no cat.
A cat must poop indoors or outdoors.
If indoors, there is the catbox - not my favorite thing. 
If outdoors, the cat kills birds. Outside cats die sooner, what with coyotes and cars and feline leukemia, contracted by contact with other cats.

1. My firm determination lasted a solid three months. One spring day a hungry young pink-nosed tabby marched through an open door bawling boldly she had no fear of humans so feed me now! She inhaled a can of tuna hardly stopping for air, and when she looked up I felt like the Grinch at the end of the Christmas special - I actually felt my heart grow two sizes.
I got a catbox.

2. Imp I named her. She Is a perfect delight but for one thing: she wants to play all the time. I must go work, so Imp needs a playmate.
I went to the Furry Faces Foundation at the Alaska Junction to see their a wall of cats, each more worthy than the next. Two in the same cage stood out: Michelle and Shadow.
Michelle is a miniature milk cow, just furry: white with black splotches, large, bony, placid.

3. Shadow is a pleasant middle-aged tabby, with an expression of perpetual worry. Ordinary toys she ignored - fur mice or lasers - sunlight refleZcted by a mirror is catnip to her. I dithered: which would be better with Imp? The adoption counselor spoke up: they are best friends and never apart. This was a ploy. It worked. I brought both home. The Feline Trinity: Michelle the bossy, Shadow the worrier and Imp the hyperactive made a happy family.

4. Last year the humans reshuffled living arrangements. Michelle moved out with the ex ( which was for the best: they were very attached.) Moving in with my sister-in-law and her spouse came three cats: Ginny, Chesterfield, and the mysterious Gandalf.

5. Ginny is a small spunky woman cat with big hair and a personalty to match. She’s the diva, the dancing queen, the center of attention and if she’s not the center of attention she’ll push something over. It’s all about her.

6. Chesterfield is a large galumphing adolescent, a tall redhaired boy in a crewcut, the sort whose body grew faster than his brain, so it rattles in his skull a little bit. He is always pleasant, never hissy and he likes sports. If he occasionally crashes into things it’s because just forgets where his legs are; he has no malice.

7. The third new cat is the mysterious Gandalf, a midnight black shorthair who silently appears, looks around, and seems to evaporate although I know that’s not possible. The ladies assure me that Gandalf is very verbal with them, but I have never heard him make a sound. Perhaps he has nothing to say to me.

8. With those three new cats we were a stable household of eight souls and would be that way today but for a graduation requirement of Nessa, my sister-in-law. For her final vet tech program project, she selected Arthur, an elderly grey with hip, thyroid and eye problems. His owners could not afford his treatment and continuing medication. In the old days he would simply have been put down but this is 2017. We found him a home: ours.

It is easy but mistaken to define a person by their disabilities, whether human or feline. If I told you Arthur has one eye, a bad hip and chronic anxiety you might think you knew him, but you don’t. Arthur is affectionate and playful and loves to explore the neighborhood on a leash (He would prefer to explore on his own, but: car-coyotes-leukemia.) He and I are the old men of the house; we look after each other and the youngsters.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: now you have the facts. I ask you:
* Would you have done any differently?
* Is this madness, or is it fate?
* Am I crazy cat person or merely fortunate in my feline friends?
Find me innocent - maybe a little too innocent.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Late afternoon Tuesday I signed the paperwork for refinancing my home. This is an great improvement in my situation, as I was legally required to get Kris off the mortgage by the end of the year and I was dreading having to fight over that. Also in the refi process I was able to bundle my high-interest student loans into a lower, secured loan, representing an improvement in my cash flow. Finally, I'm taking some of the equity out so I can upgrade the heating system at my leisure over the summer, rather than in a hurry in the winter. Life is good!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Earthquake Strapping!

Today's project was Earthquake Strapping!
 It sounds really butch but is just some metal bands stuck to the wall. Since the wall was concrete I got to play with an especially special special drill, then figure out how to insert the fasteners with no room to swing a hammer. ( I went to screws for the last couple of attachments - the rachet was easier.)

Kids Who Have Been Traumatized

Sherry posted a link to "Dr. Ross Greene, Educating Kids Who Have Been Traumatized" and this got me thinking.
I can relate. My siblings were frequently struck with objects and it did not make them behave, it merely made them sneaky and blame-shifting. Myself as well, I suppose, and it can stick with you a long time.
 For example, today I wanted to accomplish a minor but important piece of home maintenance (earthquake strapping my water heater) which I had delayed because doing anything new with tools runs the risk of being shouted at or being struck for doing it wrong....or so my brain tells me even though that hasn't happened since I left my birthplace. Fortunately for me there was a countervailing anxiety of screwing up the refinance, so I let the two abusive adults shout at each other in my head and just got the job done, and felt pretty good about it too. I've had half a lifetime to become functional.
I can hardly imagine what this would be like for a child but it can't be good and it certainly can't be functional.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Blue bells in my yard

Here's one of the salvage plants from the yard of a neighbor who wanted the plain grass look. They bloomed the 1st year but now they've settled in and are really taking off! In Fall, I'll need to divide the row of them not shown, so if you'd like some of this hardy perennial, stop by!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Baking Ritual

I love the ritual of baking. 
I'm not a fancy baker or a frequent baker, but I like to turn the oven on, mix something in a bowl, pour into a pan, slide it in, close the door and wait. The smells fill the house. I wash the dishes, then check inside the oven. Anticipation builds, and at last consummation: delicious baked goods!
What could be better than this thoroughly satisfying sacramentum!
Now to every thing there is a problem, and with baking it is Too Much Of A Good Thing. Today I made pecan pie from a mix. It fit in an earthenware pie pan from my sister and the pure bacon fat from last week's bulk bacon cooking lubricated the dish ok. I ran the procedure mid-afternoon; the pie came out perfect and at 4 o'clock wanted only a short time of cooling.
It is now shortly after six. The pie is 2 hours old and 1/3rd gone. I am not sure where it has gone but the cats say they didn't get any.
Are those crumbs in my beard? I remember very little. My blood sugar seems funny though.
I called upon the elves in the basement to help me. They took what was left of the pie and assured me they would protect me from it, or it from me, or most likely both.
By this time next week, I will have forgotten, no doubt. What will I bake to excess then?

April 2017 Memes