Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Two Rule Life

I began the year with a plan for my blog. I would spend the first month figuring out what needed improving about myself. The ensuing 11 months would be used to put the improvement plan into real action. And of course I would write about all the little victories as they transpired. Fodder for the fire and I would emerge truly the perfect man.

It went okay for awhile. After a couple weeks of daily self critiquing though, the whole plan began to backfire. Find enough wrong and it becomes more of a chore to think any effort to improve is not but wasted energy. The machine is just too tired, too flawed, too old to bother fixing. If everywhere you look, evil little savages have you surrounded, throwing up your hands in surrender is certainly an understandable reaction. So I backed off the intense introspection and stopped leaving so many red flags when I did venture inside.

I knew going in it was probably just going to be an exercise for my mind. Talk the talk but not walk the walk. I have never been one to work off an itemized list. Starting at A and following everything in order to Z. I get distracted too easily. For instance, the yard. Okay mowing it is straight forward. Do it and get it done. But while I mow I will form a mental list of areas that need my attention. Trim that, weed there, rake up here, blah blah blah. Put the mower away, grab my weapons of floral destruction and head back into the jungle. Several hours later maybe one thing on that freshly contrived mental checklist was completed. As I worked on the first thing, I switched gears and improved something not even considered when I was passing by with the mower. Improvements were made, just not the ones I planned.

I realized that trying to get this aging dog to change his ways was probably going to take more energy than it was worth. The end result would most likely leave me dissatisfied. True to form I have switched gears. Found a new and previously unconsidered plan I never considered as I passed by with my mental mower.

The Next New Plan of Attack

In keeping with my recent foray into the darker side of the computer world, I will apply some of the knowledge gained and transfer it into my new plan for the man I will always be looking for, but will most likely continue to just catch a glimpse of.

I have run a system analysis, a viral scan if you will. There is indeed malware and a life's worth of cookies lurking inside my C:drive. As I knew it would, the scan found most of the uninvited invaders to be benign threats when considered as solo acts. But when more than a few get together for a party, the system can lock up in a heart beat.

The first step has been completed. The month long scan that is. Next we....- notice I said we. I have decided and the scan confirmed it, there are at least two of me hanging out in the C:drive. Most of the time we are on the same page, but there are moments when bipartisanship is not happening. So what we will do next is quarantine the worst of the worst. Build a wall around them. Bury them and their slovenly and useless ways as deep as possible. But do not destroy them. I want to be able to utilize them when the moment seems to be in need of undisciplined behaviour. When pantie bunching, anal retentive actions become more than my loose dog persona can handle. I will call them and the file I keep them in - Doc/Mike/LigtenUp/Sys.Tools.

Next I have created a file from which new beginnings and old ways are picked apart, scrubbed, and then dealt with appropriately. It will be called Doc/Mike/CleanDisk/Sys.Tools. This one I hope to use on a regular basis. To that end I have put a limit on it's memory. Once the limit has been reached, and automatic switch kicks over to....Yeah....that's right....Doc/Mike/LigtenUp/Sys.Tools.

Of course there is the guilt trip stuff. What to do with all the guilt built up, white guilt, male guilt, human guilt? Do I need a special file for this or can I just throw it all in the recycle bin? Hmm. I would feel guilty if I threw all of my guilt into the hopper. Yet I know saddling myself with this much guilt slows down the system sometimes to a crawl. What to do, what to do? A-hah! I know, a password protected file that can only be opened by me. That way I get to pick and choose what guilt I upload instead of allowing every cause and group out there to heap it on me at their will. It will be a read only file for anyone outside the inner circle. I will call it C:/DataBase/PWS/MikeGuilt/DCS. The PWS ensures only myself and anyone I show where the password is may access my guilt from now on. I will most likely tell my wife what it is. I can't hide anything from her anyway. And maybe I will get some points for the preemptive notification.

Now that I have established a new operating system, I need to come up with a basic tenet to follow that will be my guiding light as I try to improve the trip I am on. One or two new rules will be enough. Certainly an improvement over the no rule rule I lived the last 56 years under. Anything more than two rules would invite my tendency to be a scofflaw. That happens and the guilt switch is kicked. After uploading much guilt, eventually the lighten up folder is activated and I have been full circle and no better off than before all the useless handwringing.The Two rules would circumnavigate any need to keep a list and check off every little thing or add to the guilt file as I stepped around that which I found impossible to accomplish. So I came up with these.....................

1~> Do one thing everyday that improves the day for me or someone else.

2~> Do one thing everyday that is out of character. Step outside my box everyday.


That's it. The sum total of all my agonizing, my severe and critical perusal of the ugly bits and pieces that live in the same space as all the good and noble things that live there too. If I can improve a moment of time for myself or someone else and also push my comfort zone some, then that is all the improvement I should be worrying about. It doesn't matter anyway. I have decided it is all I will worry about. The rest as they say will work out or it won't.

PS - The wet shaving thing is still on the active list. I am waiting for my new strop. And then watch out. That day will definitely be one that will meet my new two rule life.

~> And this post marks the successful completion of my post every day for a month. Kinda anti climatic if you ask me.

Later...................

Friday, January 30, 2009

An Empty Computer

I have never had an empty computer before. Up until this recent reformat of the XP computer, I had always sat in front of a computer already influenced and altered by others. A particular other. I seem to inherit the equipment my wife has had her way with first. When I first took this one over, it was chock full of chick music, images chicks would save, and it might be my imagination, but I think a hint of lilacs whiffed out of the back when I fired it up.

I am not complaining. Matter of fact, because of the music already inside it's guts, I discovered Ani Difranco, Indigo Girls, and what's her face, the Rehab chick. All great music. Especially Ani "I don't hate men as much as I used to, but they are still flounders" Difranco. I was less impressed with the images my wife thought enough of to save. Where were the images of violent men beating other violent men, race cars, bikes, rock gods playing guitars with their teeth and pictures of chicks in various states of .......? Nowhere. Not one. Well, maybe one or two, but the picture folders definitely needed a man's touch. As did the music library. And I worked hard to rise to the occasion.

Just when I had the place just right, you know, not so tidy or organized, just like I like it, I picked up the damn virus. And though I heroically held the high ground for a couple of weeks, the daily overruns by crazed cossacks wielding destructive programs eventually caused me to call in the cavalry. At the last minute, bugles blaring and an invoice in hand, the cavalry arrived and saved me from myself.

So now I am free to actually visit other blogs or sites without waiting 2 or 3 minutes for the pages to load. The memory is an empty palette. A great big huge vacant place for me to gussy up just how I want to.

This time I told myself, I would be a better steward of the space I have been tasked with caring for. No redundant programs like the 5 or 6 image editing ones I had before. One of each thing needed to do what I want or need to do. I will promise to keep my link list down to a dull roar. Saving a site just because I "might" like to come back is not a good enough excuse. My old link list was so huge with 50+ folders filled with links I had not visited since June of 07, finding the ones I actually visited regularly tested my damaged memory to it's max. "Uh, let's see. Just where the Hell did I save that link? In Temp folder A? Or was it Temp folder AA? Hmm, Temp folder BBB? Maybe in the political folder? Screw it, Google time." I did not count em. But I am sure I had over 500 links saved in what must have been 50 folders. I did save the links list to a memory stick. Something tells me I will not be downloading it anytime soon.

In preparation for the reformat, I spent hours picking and choosing what to save and what to toss. The pack rat in me fought every deletion with a passion. I would sit there and agonize over stupidity like, "Do I need four copies of this image?" Eventually I tired of the process and saved it all. I can pick and choose at my leisure now. Hmmm. Who the Hell am I foolin? I'll never delete the links, the images, old documents or any of the hundreds of emails I saved. They will sit dormant on outside devices and slowly degrade to the point that when I do want to retrieve them, less than desirable downloads will result. Been there done that. I still have floppies from the old Commodore and Apple ll GS days that I am sure are now completely worthless.

It has been an interesting month of blog posting. I stepped up and bragged I would post every day for a month. I was not prepared for the blogging stress the commitment would bring with it. The first week I sat in front of the screen struggling to find rhyme or reason while fighting severe head cold issues. In the second week, the head cold virus was hijacked by Russian losers and downloaded into my computer. And for the last two weeks I have been spending more time on the computer than I have ever before and producing half as much. Yet through all of it, I have managed to meet the required minimum of a post a day.

I have learned some things.

Posting every day just for the sake of posting everyday just does not fit my personality. I tried to make every post at least worth reading. But as I read over some of my entries, I realize I was just treading water with more than a few of them. Quantity does not override quality. Since I know I can come up with quantity now, I will now concentrate on the pursuit of quality. If I ever catch some please let me know.

Taking anything for granted, especially a machine, is setting myself up for serious problems. Ignoring basic maintenance procedures and not cleaning out deadwood regularly is a recipe for disaster. I never want to go through this again.

Later..................

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poli-Rant lll, The Democrats Turn

Guess I need a third day here to release the pressure in the political boiler of my brain.

Pre-Post Note ~> When I first wrote this and saved it for later, I checked my emails. There were more than a few new comments on either yesterday's post or the day before's. I had no time to check them or address anything in them. I had to get to town and the rest of my day. So this post is written before I read yesterdays comments. It will be interesting to see if today's post covers anything commented in a previous post. Anyway, on with the show...............

It has been about 5 months now since everyone, not just a select few really knew what we all know now about the economy. When this all broke in late August/early September I expected things to get worse and still expect them to continue to deteriorate. I do not expect that positive changes should have had some effect by this time. You do not fix this mess that took years of inattention to reach this point overnight. But I would have expected our leadership in DC to have discarded the petty bullshit of partisan bickering and begun to find common ground from which to mount a united attack to resolve this fundamental economic flaw that affects all of us no matter which side of the fence we find ourselves on.

Since I have already taken the Republicans apart, I won't tear into them today. It is the Democrats turn.

The Democrats have the House. They have the Senate. And based on party affiliation, they have the White House. They have the hat trick of politics. And what are they doing now? Rubbing the Republicans face in this reality entirely too much. Language is everything inside the beltway. Political statements are more than the stands they support or oppose. It is often more about how they are handled than anything else.

When I hear Democratic leaders saying things to the effect of,"It really does not matter if you(Republicans) agree or not, we won and we will do what we(Democrats) think is best. Because well....nyah, nyah...nyah, we won, you losers."

OK fine. At least there is movement to do something. But in this early phase of our mutual crisis, instead of strutting, the Democrats should be seriously seeking Republican input and do it publicly. Including the Republicans and their take would go a long way in building a wider grassroots base of support. We all know you have the majority. Start using it wisely instead of baiting and wasting time putting the Republicans in their place. We may not need everyone on board to fix what is wrong, but I am sure the more who come on board, the faster the positive result. And in the long run a much better image of the Democratic leadership will emerge. From where I sit now, while the Republicans sit and pout, you Democratic flounders are not helping by rubbing it in. Wise leaders do not denigrate, they integrate.

I honestly think Barack gets this. Contrary to some contending his approaching the Republican leadership as just a political ploy of devious political desires, I firmly believe he wants as large a consensus as possible as we move forward and face what is here now and what is coming. Look at his history starting back when he was at Harvard. When he became head honcho of the Harvard Law Review, who did he court? Not the liberals on campus, but the conservative side. He became a facilitator who was able to bring out the best of both sides ending up with what both sides contend was one of the best periods of the Law Review in general. His overriding concern being a top quality publication that represented the diverse views of the law students attending Harvard. I believe he intends the same type of leadership for the Presidency even though he is in a much tougher neighborhood now.

If I have one major bitch about Obama now, it is his not slapping his own party around some to try and lower the level of animosity that simmers throughout DC right now. It takes two to tango. It could be argued the Republicans deserve the treatment they are getting. For years they dished it out in what some would say were worse ways. But now is not the time for payback. In my opinion the best payback would be to do a better job than the Republicans. And so far, the Democrats have gotten off to a poor start.

Extending a hand does not mean capitulation. Remember who the Hell you work for.

After note and admission of a personal defeat - Dimitri still did not win. But I did call in some outside muscle to fix my XP machine. Paid the computing merc to scrub it clean and then reinstall a new operating system. I just could not handle the old win98 computer one minute longer. I was making some headway on my own, but I think it would be Christmas 2010 before I finally got it straightened out. That was some bad ass virus. I have learned quite a bit and will now use the win98 computer as my tear it apart and see what makes it tick machine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Political Rant Part ll

El Cerdo Ignatius, a blogger I admire immensely, called me to task for my political rant of yesterday. He is an avowed conservative who I respect not just for his attitudes about Life in general, but believe it or not, his political views also. I will admit that my rant was chock full of pent up emotion finally being spewed onto the uncaring world. But his comments made me pause. He fell into the trap so many of us fall into and made assumptions based on no evidence found in the post. I do not fault him for this, he normally is way more measured. I am guilty of making assumptions also and should allow most anyone some slack when it comes to making assumptions about me. I chose to not correct many of his assumptions because well, it just doesn't matter.

Political differences do not go away by pointing out the mistaken assumptions of others. Political differences disappear only when both sides agree or one caves to the other. It would seem that in today's super charged political arena, caving is not an option for politicians and for politically opinionated boneheads such as myself. I often have said that I am willing to listen to reason and have actually changed my mind when the right argument came along. And it has happened. But sitting here after reading ELC's comments, I realize that I have become dug in when certain topics are discussed or argued. I am as unwilling to alter my view as it appears the opposing side is unwilling to alter their view. I can only imagine this type of attitude is even more pronounced in the halls of all the law making institutions around this nation. It would seem that the first knee jerk response for everyone now is to say no when the other side says yes.

We are so set on the idea of "they" being wrong and "we" being right, there seems to be no room for "us" and "them" to even think of coming to an agreement. It is as if we want to fight for the sake of the fight rather than winning the fight or resolving it in a manner that mollifies both sides. Anything short of beating the other side to a bloody pulp is a hollow victory.

This no quarter mentality in DC has to change. Both sides need to bury the hard feelings. It is imperative if we expect reasonable and well thought out strategies with which to bring us back from this economic chasm we find ourselves in.

This idea that politics has now become all about the fight and not about the solutions is one of my unshakable opinions that has developed from watching the process for 40 plus years. I am also positive who owns much of the blame for what we have today. I blame the Republicans for turning what used to be a somewhat civilized and consensus ending process into the knock down drag out take no prisoners atmosphere where a solution is almost accidental and often surprises everyone involved. Yes , the Democrats bought into it. But it has been the Republicans who have led the way.

The fact they want to continue this way is understandable. After all it worked for 28 years. What I find amusing is the Right seems to not understand how to handle being on the receiving side of the type of politics they developed and honed to the level of today's acrimonious charged political culture. They are reaping what they sowed and not handling it very well. And because they have no plan other than the same tired policies that helped set the table for this current mess, all they seem able to come up with is obstructing the process.

Take for instance, our man from Texas, Senator Cronyn. Depending on who is evaluating his performance, he is either the new standard bearer for all the God fearing Republicans, or he is a party hack who also happens to be an idiot. I lean away from deifying him but stop short of calling him an idiot. A party hack is probably close. Works for me anyway. His continued obstructionist crap during the appointment hearings for Sec/State and Attorney General are classic partisan stupidity 101. Get in the way just to get in the way. He contends that he was not being obstructionist because he eventually voted for Hillary, but only after holding up the appointment for a day so she could hold his hand and answer questions that did not change from the answers she had already given.

El Cerdo asked me why was it wrong for a republican to oppose Obama's plan. As I told him in my response in the comment box, it is not wrong. I would expect it. But if the Republicans expect me to take them seriously here, they need to offer up counter plans that are not based on failed policies of the past. Our current economic woes are way beyond having tax cuts alone resolve them. And don't even bring up deregulation again for a very long time. But these are the types of strategies or variations of the same old themes I see popping up as some of their alternatives. More of the same that got us where we are now is not going to do it. You don't pound your head on the wall for the hundredth time and hope this time for a different result.

Our goals should be short term and long term. Our plans should take both into account. For too many years both sides have only dealt with short term solutions to long term and long building problems. Basing solutions on election cycles and not looking beyond them is counter productive to creating a healthy society down the road. And because our leadership has lived on short term solutions for these problems that have been building for decades, we find ourselves in dire need of both types of solutions now. If we only look to resolve short term than this nightmare will be back sooner than later. We also need to address long term solutions as soon as possible. And I don't see the Republicans looking beyond the pages of their own bankbooks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Setting the Fine Example

I told myself I would remain calm for awhile and stay away from the political commentary. Save up some bile and sharp criticisms to aim at Obama when he stepped in it as he will most likely do. But the stupidity of the Republicans keeps bumping Barack out of my cross hairs by pulling the same stupid crap they have been pulling for 28 years. So...................................

Political rant for the week

President Obama went to Congress today I guess. He did not go to hook up with his Democratic party cronies, but to carry an olive branch to the Republicans in Congress and try to sell his newest and latest economic package. He ignored the slap in the face of the two leading Republicans publicly coming out against his plan before he even had a chance to pitch it in person. When he sat down with them, it seems most of the conversation centered around how poorly treated the Republicans felt. That the Democrats had no interest in bipartisanship whatsoever.

First of all cry me a river you bunch of useless whiners. You guys are only good at bi-partisanship if your agenda and your muscle is on the table. You want to play my way or the highway, then hit the road you stupid jerks. If all you are good for now is to muddy the process, whine and complain because you are not getting your way, then you have essentially become useless baggage and might as well go home.

The shoe is on the other foot now. It is time to suck it up and stop being babies. Man up and do what you were sent there to do, govern the country. Not push your party's agenda. If this is how you plan to regain any stature you pissed away over the last 8 years, then I would say it won't work this time. Working to make Obama fail or the Democrats fail instead of finding solutions both sides can work with is in my opinion anti American activity. Since you folks seem to think you own the idea of being patriotic, then start acting like patriots. The country comes before party you boneheads. I would think after 28 years of trying it the other way, you might have finally caught on to this one key important prerequisite to being good stewards of our country. Apparently not.

You can wrap your resistance to this anyway you want. You can rationalize that you are indeed doing your job. But you are not doing your job when you do not even show the courtesy of listening to a President who has taken the unusual step to actually engage your side in serious talks. Cutting him off before he even gets there hardly bolsters your whining complaints that it is the Democrats who won't play nice. Keep playing to your whacky fringe core and see if you don't lose even more seats in 2010.

It's the country stupid. Not your lame ass party.

Think about this you morons - Every time you act like the Republicans most of us have come to hate, you reinforce our decision that put Barack in the White House and kicked many of you out of Congress. You want to stop the bleeding, then wise up. All this chest puffing and posturing would be funny if the consequences were not so dire. You are doing damage instead of helping to control and fix it.

And to think I used to belong to the Grand Old Party.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Kilt

My mother bought me this on one of the Life's end journeys she made after my father died. She visited the British Isles and stopped at the Isle of Skye someplace close to where my ancestral namesakes originated from. It is not a knock off. It is a commissioned handmade kilt produced for me and the size I was at the time. Needless to say, twenty years ago I was a tad smaller.

If memory serves, it is the hunting kilt of the Clan MacCrimmon. My forebears were a sub clan of Clan MacLeod and were considered the finest pipers in Scotland for many years. It is a beautiful piece of tailoring. Made with umpteen square yards of wool fabric, it must weigh in at 15 pounds or so. The family of Duncan, my friend who recently passed, have asked that anyone owning a kilt among his friends wear it to the services.

Somehow I will make this happen. While I cannot shrink to pre-old fart weight, I will figure out how to make this one hang without exposing anything that might shock or dismay. It is the least I could do to honor Duncan's memory.

Who my ancestors were has been of little interest to me for most of the last 56 years. My parents weren't hot on the subject. Just your usual tales of their youth and relatives they knew but I never would. As far back as they could remember was about it. My Aunt Helen on the other hand was right into it. Somewhere in my attic is a family tree she had commissioned back in the day. I was the last entry I think. On that impossibly large list of things to do, finding that family tree in the attic is near the bottom. I think perhaps I may move it up though. Unconnected events and actions of mine in recent months have pushed the idea of roots and where I came from into my mind more often. Pulling out this kilt for a completely different matter is just the latest.

I have no burning desire to go to Scotland. It would be nice and all, but I just do not care if I ever make it there. Traveling much of anywhere does not interest me. But knowing more family history does. My knowledge gets sketchy past my father's generation.

I wonder why the family history generates more interest as we get older? I know when I was young and dumb, I would often feign interest when tales were told of dead relatives or of shenanigans my elders were involved in. I only half listened to them. What I have retained are but the highlights, the oft repeated tales. And since I was born so late in my parents' lives, I have no working memory of any of my grandparents. And now I wish I had paid more attention instead of watching the game, or keeping my nose buried in that book during the infrequent family gatherings that included more family members than those I shared shelter with.

So I will wear the kilt tomorrow. To honor Duncan's memory and his deep interest in all things Scottish. I will also wear it and remember my mother who took the time to find a kilt maker and not just pick something up at the duty free shop before she came home.

BBC mentioned in his comment from my remembrance post of two days ago that he found the grieving process to be fascinating in some ways. Especially in the different ways people exhibited it. I was raised in a family that did not celebrate deaths with wakes, burials, big to dos. As far back as I can remember, our family never opened their grief period to anyone outside the family and maybe a few close friends. Basic bare bones obits followed by simple memorial services and no grave side gatherings. And since cremation has been the chosen method of dealing with the pieces and parts left, I have never been to a family viewing. As my mom said, "I want my last memory of them to be when they were alive, not laid out in some casket."

But having been around long enough now to have experienced more than a few funeral services, I have to say BBC is right. The process of grief is a very interesting thing to witness if one can do it without the actual baggage of grieving. Seems there is not one thing we humans will not celebrate in one way or another. The big three, births, weddings, and deaths have always been focal points for some kind of party. As I finish this post up, there is a pot luck supper in Duncan's memory down to the Town Hall not 300 yards from here. I cannot go. I paid my respects at the funeral home, but am unwilling to share my grief with anyone but myself and my wife right now. Tomorrow at the service, I will be ready to face his other friends and family again. But not again tonight. It is just too much.

Later...............

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ho Chi Minh

It’s damn cold outside. I sit here typing on the Word program of the busted computer while I defrag the old computer that somehow still is able to connect me to the Blogging World. It has been an odd week working with two computers. Using the faster aspects of one to augment the slower aspects of the other. My zip drive has never been used so much. I have never emailed myself so much. I would rely on memory sticks, but the old computer will not recognize them. But you do what ya gotta do to meet the promises made when everything functioned as it should.

If nothing else, I have probably doubled the sum total of my knowledge of all things computerific over this last week and a half. I finally have a deeper appreciation of just how much floppy disks and their bigger brother, zip disks, will not hold. A real awareness of the quantum differences between a computer 11 years old and one only 3 years old has made itself oh so clear to me now. The Internet world does not suffer the older computers well. I cannot view videos, listen to music from the Internet, and google searches that used to take milliseconds can now take multi-minutes. If I do not defrag at least every 24 hours, the machine slows to just barely faster than dead. And this is fine with me. I have figured out how to follow my main credo, my one rule I have had with me as long as I can remember. To go with the flow.

We have become accustomed and programmed to expect a constant series of upgrades in many facets of our lives. From the early 1990’s, technology seemed to have hit it’s stride and was now on an all out sprint to see how fast and how many new gizmos and gadgets they could churn out for us to waste our money on. Communication became so much more than answering the phone hooked to wires hanging from poles or watching TV’s that only hooked into maybe 4 stations via the airwaves. Now we can talk on the phone from almost anywhere. We can hook up to 500 TV channels in a myriad of ways. We have instant gratification at our fingertips.

It is interesting when all this gee whiz stuff is taken away or maybe worse, only partially withheld. Leaving enough to just cripple but not destroy. Dimitri and his computer hacking loser buddies have a sense of humor I think. They tease me with moments of the speedy and reliable computer freedom I had before, and just when I think I have it fixed, they slam the door on my fingers. You just gotta laugh.

Because the enemy inside my computer is elusive and seems to move around, I have learned to do likewise. This has become a guerrilla action. Dimitri and his minions think they have me by the short hairs. But they don't. They have left enough back channels open so that I am still able to conduct business and do what I have to do on a computer. They slam one door, I find another. Meanwhile as each small engagement plays itself out, I become the wiser and better armed foe. Eventually Dimitri and company will lose. I will outlast them. Ho Chi Minh taught me that.

Later.............

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Remembrance

Last night Angus MacEachern called me. I knew it was not good news. His father and my friend, Duncan had gone to some Boston hospital for a last chance stem cell treatment to kill the lymphoma that had dogged him for a couple of years. Duncan did not survive. The stem cells took, but the radiation that followed was too much apparently. It does not matter how or why. Duncan did not make it home.

For those of us who are designated survivors, each individual must go through a unique personal experience in order to deal with the loss of a friend or loved one. I was cool on the phone with Angus, but as I type right now, I can barely see the keypad. Feelings of loss, guilt and pure sorrow blend into a moment of extreme personal pain.

I met Duncan when he first came to the area fresh from college in 1972 to teach the Sanford area youth the basics of using tools to make things. He was a shop teacher and our neighbor for 36 years. Duncan was a gentle man. Duncan was a good man. A man I often admired for his total lack of bullshit. A dependable, concerned, and committed family man.

He was meticulous and tenacious in everything he attempted. From building his own home to learning how to play the bag pipes as an adult. When he started to practice his piping, he would stand outside in his yard and lay into it. If you heard him at first, you can understand why he was outside and not inside. He would often apologize to me for his racket. And I would always say it was not problem. Because it was never an issue for us here up the road. His piping was music to my ears and I got the chance to follow his progression from rookie to experienced. I would often stop what I was doing outside and just listen to the sounds of his pipes as they drifted up my way. I would think of ancestors who might have done the same thing. Duncan kept me aware of our mutual ancestral background.

I won't do the obvious and expound on all the regrets I have now regarding Duncan. We were very good friends and I will miss him. Any regrets at this point would do neither of us any good. And knowing Duncan, he would probably think I was being stupid for having regrets. Just know that he did affect my life and his presence and his pipes will be missed here at 407 Sam Page Road.

Rest in Peace good friend.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dimitri

So I am stranded on a desert Isle. Left with only the most basic tools needed to survive. Around me lays not water, but a sea of disconnected bytes which have lost their way in this Internet Ocean. Here a monster lurks. An ugly monster of the name Dimitri. Originally he was from Kiev, but has since found his destiny in the darker waters of the Internet waves waylaying unfortunate souls as they floated by on their way from one safe harbor to the next. Dimitri does not kill his prey. He just stops their boat.

"Do not try to flee, you pitiful piece of meat", he roars. "You have nowhere to go, I have seen to that." And then carefully, almost tenderly, Dimitri picks up his recent catch and deposits me gently on the sand of my very own atoll in this sea of turbelent Internet tides.

This is a floating island. It wanders around almost connecting with the mainland. As soon as I get close, Dimitri pops up and shaking one crooked claw speaks. "No, no, no, my wee one. You may not disembark to the land of the living. You are mine. Back to sea with you." Turning his back to me and my island, he raises his mighty hind quarters and kicks me back out to sea. And once again I watch as the place I wanted to be fades and then disappears from view into the tumultuous waters of bits and bytes.

I have been stranded now for over a week. All is not lost though. I do have rudimentary machinery with which to at least let others know I am stuck somewhere out on the vast ocean. But my spirit is dying. My will, slowly day by day, chipped away. Dimitri has told me he is willing to let me go. He will release me and all of my belongings provided I can come up with the proper ransom. He is not greedy he says. A small token toll will suffice.

"So, you have kidnapped me", I ask?

"Bearded one, we prefer to consider what we do as a service not a crime. We only wish to teach, to educate the naive and innocent in the ways of this World. That we ask for a small token fee to set you free is only to bind both of us in friendship. You hate me now, but you will love me later. You will hit land one day a smarter and wiser man because of me."

Dimitri may be right. I may end up after this latest trip to computing Hell a smarter and wiser man. I may yet find a solution on my own without using a professional at professional prices.

It started out for me as a kind of challenge. For the first few days, I was sure this Spyware, Malware, Virus, whatever it is my main computer picked up could be and would be handled quickly and without much fuss. But this particular Virus, Malware, Spyware is tenacious. There is no easy fix. There is no cheap fix.

I thought so anyway until I discovered Tech Support Forums. I have just joined, but it appears this site's only purpose is to hold the hands of dumasses like me while they talk me through all the various pitfalls of cleaning up my computer.

After registering with the Tech Support folks and posting my problem, I now wait patiently in line for someone to come to my rescue. Because waiting patiently is not my strong suit, I searched out other help and now also am a password carrying member of Bleeping Computer. I have yet to be allowed to post , but soon I hope. They look like they may be more able to communicate with my low level of understanding. The Tech Support folks seem to expect more brain power than I am able to muster when it comes to what is going on inside this machine.

So here is the self improvement goal for this Friday, Jan. 23, 2009. I will make more of a concerted effort to understand how these damn things work this year. Having never really had one screw me up this bad has driven home just how lucky I have been for 15 years or so. I was due. And Dimitri, the bastard, delivered.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Re-Learning to Fry an Egg

The other day, I instituted one of the many changes I have vowed to at least give serious consideration to. I cooked a meal. It has been years since I turned on an oven, pulled out a pan, or read ingrdients on stained old recipe cards.

I assumed it would be a huge comic display of the stereotypical useless man deciding anyone can cook. I assumed wrong. I am sure it took longer than if my wife did it, but when it was all over, a meal from scratch, well almost from scratch - I did not make the pie crust - when it was all over, a damn fine tasting effort was the result. The bonus was I did not tear up the kitchen and leave a huge mess in my wake. I cleaned up as I went and when I sat down to eat, only one pan and the dishes we ate off of were left when we sat back with full satisfied bellies. I guess anyone can cook.

As it goes with any cook, I hoped my meal would be tasty. Tasty not to me but to my wife, who is so very quick to let her feelings be known. I served up the meat pie and waited for ................. well I guess I do not know what I was waiting for. A compliment? A small recognition of this landmark event in our years together. A small token gesture that at least I tried? I thought it tasted excellent. But all I got out of my wife was, "Yeah it was good." Minimal positive reinforcement, but at least it was positive.

Somewhat deflated after an afternoon of working with unfamilar tools, I shrugged and continued my evening. She went into her office to continue her nose to grindstone accounting work. An evening was playing out like any other evening. About an hour or so after we had eaten, she comes downstairs and looks at me and says, "That meal you cooked, it was good. Really good." She turned and went back to her office.

Yes!!!!

The recipe came from my blogging buddy over to Cthulhu's Family Restaurant. He posted a recipe for Steak and Stout pie that made my mouth water just reading it. I tried to follow it faithfully but ran into some glitches. First thing was I could not find any stout on the day I was in town looking for it. So I used a bottle of Honey Brown ale we have had in the refrigerator for months now. I did not use high end meat. We had stew meat frozen in the freezer downstairs, so I used that. And when it came time to actually cook this excellent recipe up, I had some comprehension problems with some of the directions. I anquished over whether I should cut the bacon into smaller pieces. Should I cook the bacon awhile before adding the onions? And just what constituted "2 large carrots" anyway? I wanted to remain faithful to the recipe but as I am working on this self improvement gig, anquishing is on the short list of things to rid myself of. So I winged it when I did not have the ingredients or the understanding to know what the Hell he meant.

It turned out way better than I expected. The Honey Brown ale added some zip and the stew meat became excellent from the three hours of simmering. The carrots were cooked but firm and to the delight of my wife, I did not put too many onions in. I love onions. The more the merrier. I wanted to slice up another onion, but this time I followed directions. I am glad I did. More onions would have over powered the excellent meaty ale-ee taste that resulted.

Thank You Bull.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Been Almost 24 Hours now................

Okay Mr BH Obama, you have been President now for what, almost a full day now. And what have you done so far? All I see is a guy who wants to go to parties, stay up until all hours, wear fancy duds, and smile when he's in front of the camera. No wonder my life has not turned around yet. See, I told you. All them politicians are the same. Make promises they can't or won't keep just so they can live high on the hog.

You said to have hope. Well I had hope. Real Hope, not the fake kind you apparently are selling. You said, "We can". Well I sorta assumed when you said that it meant you would help. Or do you want to be just another government worker leaning on the shovel while the rest of the crew does the heavy lifting? Almost 20 hours now and I bet you are still sleeping. Or have you even gone to sleep yet, you worthless party animal. Damn Politicians.

Figured I would try to be the first on the block to start in on our new President. No sense wasting time. Get the whining rolling sooner than later. After all, isn't it their job to save me from myself? Isn't it up to them how things turn out for me? Anything wrong here in Acton, Maine is surely the fault of the people we send to Washington. I am owed better than I have been able to do for myself. I am a real Murican.
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Some notes about yesterday's festivities

While the number of people hanging out on the Mall was damn impressive, I could tell most were not from Maine. Everyone was bundled up like it was cold or something. I heard the temperature was actually about the same as we had here 600 miles away. And yesterday, I never put a jacket on. It was almost warm in my opinion. Some snow on the driveway actually melted for a few minutes there around one o'clock. Cold, jeez, they don't even know what cold is.

~Compared to Old Europe and many other areas of the globe, America is still just an upstart new nation. Compared to other cultures, we are still in our infancy. Yet, yesterday we just saw our 44th president sworn in. Even without the double terms accounted for, 44 presidents means 176 years of presidents. Toss in the repeats and since 1789 when all these coronations started, we have had 220 years of uninterrupted government. We still may be babes in the woods to the old farts of Europe, but we are the oldest solely representative government on the planet. So in the scheme of who is the oldest, we have everyone beat when it comes to a country run through real representation of it's population.

~ Much of the focus yesterday was naturally about what electing a Black as President meant to the Black community. I understand this and appreciate as much as my white boy bones can what it may mean to them. But what about what it means to me, a white boy? Had Barack been white and still had the presence, the charisma, the cool voice, I would have voted for him. But I will say, his being black was a plus for me. Yes, race mattered in my decision to vote for him. It reinforced my decision he was the right man at the right time. He ran without making his race a central issue. He convinced White America, that his agenda was to serve all Americans, not a specific core group. We had had enough of that the previous 8 years with the Bush Dynasty. I don't want a decider, I want a leader. And from where I sit in the cheap seats, it appears we have elected one who will do his best to lead us all.

~ My immediate reaction to the panning of the camera over the crowds that stretched from the Capitol to the National Phallic Symbol was a flash back. A flashback to the anti war rallies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I also thought of the many Fourth of Julys I spent on the Mall with my head turned up to the skies along side hundreds of thousands other folks while the nation celebrated it's birthday with harmless explosions of color and light in the sky above our heads.


Washington DC is really what it should be when huge crowds like yesterday gather inside it's heart. A couple of million people peacefully standing, peacefully celebrating, and yes, peacefully protesting personifies what this nation is. We are a nation that embraces public gatherings for whatever reason. Our constitution supposedly protects this right of assembly and on a regular basis, we exercise that right. To say I felt a swelling of pride yesterday when I saw the crowd would be an understatement.

~ No Arrests - Apparently all crime took a holiday yesterday. None of the gathered inauguration crowd were arrested or detained. But what really astounds me is no one was arrested in the whole city yesterday. Not one arrest. For any reason. That is amazing given that DC is a good sized city with the usual number of crimes being committed on any given day.

Later...........

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - A Day to Remember



I had errands to do. Small mundane duties in town that were time sucking pain in the ass mundane duties. The Post Office guy was less than helpful after I waited for fifteen minutes to ask why I had not received a package I was expecting yet. After fifteen minutes, "You have to go down to the Sanford Post Office, they handle street delivery for us and them." He gives me that "Sorry dude, sucks to be you" look and then looks past my shoulder anticipating the next person waiting fifteen minutes to be hopefully served and not disappointed..

Down to the grocery store to find the one ingredient missing for my big comeback as a cook. Damn! Not a bottle of Stout in the whole place. 20 kinds of high end lagers. 20 kinds of high end ales, but not one bottle claiming to be stout. Fuggit, I will improvise. And I rushed home to hopefully witness a historic event from 600 miles away.

Well I made it. With 2 minutes to spare. The small quartet or whatever they were were playing the last notes before Chief Justice Roberts was called upon to do his thing. During those few minutes the camera was focused on Barack and Michelle. Obama was doing his best imitation of somber and serious. I wonder if inside his mind, "Yeah Boy, I'm going to be the president, Can't wait. Let's go, oh I'm gonna be Prez. Yee Ha." And his stomach wound even tighter than he thought it could given how tight it has been for well, two years.

An awkward moment during the oath when Justice Roberts screwed up the oath for Obama to repeat. Barack hesitated (You know damn well he had it memorized)with a bemused look on his face. The Justice recovered and the thirty seconds many of us have been waiting for, hoping for, and yes even some praying for came to pass. "Ding Dong, the Witch is dead!!!!!!!" And all the two million munchkins bundled up in their winter best began to dance on the Mall.

As the camera panned out over the Mall, I was absolutely awestruck. I wonder if those claims of two million were understating the crowds I saw hanging off statues, poles, and literally dancing in winter coats. Millions of tears were shed, millions of cheers were said, and millions of people all across this nation were witness to an unequaled event in our history. Next time, we elect a woman.

I have all TV's on and NBC tuned in on the FM dial here in the office. I don't exactly know why, much of it has become just background noise. I stood still for the Anthem, felt the hairs of my neck stand up during and right after the oath, and now it is all just gilding the lily. Parades, Balls, gala get togethers will follow, but they do not matter. What mattered took less than 30 seconds.

As much as I have confidence in Obama to carry out his duties with due diligence, I know his election is just the start. He can point the way, but it is all us munchkins who will have to carry the burden. He cannot do it alone. Let's hope the good vibes and best intentions translate themselves through sweat and toil and will make us strong and self reliant again. Barack is just a man. We are the nation. It is up to us now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Where's My Bucket?

I will sit here and begin post after post. Lay down one, maybe two sentences and suddenly that which had been a spark ends up being just that, nothing but a spark. I hoped I could turn this idea into something or take that thought someplace I never dreamed of before I started. Often I am successful. Most days it seems I have something to say on just about anything one would care to mention. Without even an inkling or close to a clue, I will gladly flap my non verbal gums I think just to hear them smack together. Gonna share my opinion whether you like it or not.

Not tonight. Even though I probably have written two thousand words today, I have shit-canned the bunch as not reflecting whatever it is I want reflected. Like looking in a mirror, closing my eyes and then opening them hoping for a different result, I have begun seven or eight posts today. And every one ends like the reflection in the mirror. Same ugly mug looks back and today it is not what i was hoping to find.

I have tried music. I have tried walking away for an hour or two. I have even tried the tried and true. Looked for an inspiring image , news story and even pulled out the one sentence trick I sometimes find inspiration in. No go. The well ain't dry, I just can't find the bucket.

So I will now go through what I have previously written and pick the best of the rest. In all those words there has to be something I can throw out there and at least still look myself in the eye.

Going Retro

I have one more time been taught the lesson that as soon as I begin to feel like I am in control.........As soon as I decide that all the recent chaos and upheaval that visits me is in hand and a suitable plan has been formed and instituted to meet said chaos, I begin the chest puffing process and allow the buttons on my shirt strain from undeserved pride in a job done half assed at best. I should be aware that I am but a boast away, an over confident moment from finding out that I may not be under the outhouse, but I am sure as Hell close enough to mingle with the smell.

I have not as yet, deleted some of the jive ass "I have the World by the short hairs" words that follow this admission at some point further down in the post. I have not decided whether I should leave those cocky words as witness to my overblown legend in my own mind. I'll figure that out later. No, did it now. The words are gone. But take my word on this, I was full of myself for sure.

I had finally come to grips with my temporary set back into stone age computing and even began to enjoy the noticeable simplicity of it when compared to all the bells and whistles my new computer bombards me with. Less memory, less things to think about. Seemed to make sense.

And then I boneheaded it. First I tried to play a Utube video with the idea of pasting it into this post. Remember the less memory, less thinking thing? The double edged blade is that with a lower IQ, the ability of this simpler machine to multi task is almost nil. So throw a video and music on it's over stressed brain and it begins to go into spasms. Some kind of Computing Grand Mal Seizure follows and I am left here with mouth agape and looking for some kind of stick to shove in it's C-drive mouth.

Helpless and without the necessary medical training for computers gone over the edge, I sit stone still hands frozen over the keys unable to do anything but watch the poor sad tired old machine have a conniption fit. At some point I pull the plug. But the damage has been done. Two more hours of safe mode, scrubbing the guts and talking nice to it before it would sit up and fly right.
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
It is Martin Luther King Day. I will not dwell on the timely occurence of this day we show national respect to arguably one of the greatest American Blacks to come down the pike. The cause he championed and died for is now bearing serious fruit. It is a shame he is not here to see Obama swear to serve and protect us tomorrow. But he is not. I am sure he would ne pleased. And if there really is a retirement community in the sky from which the good and decent can view things after they move to the clouds, he is probably grinning ear to ear. I know I am.
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There's more, but I will spare you and me from the ordeal. Think I'll just punch up some more music , sit back, and try to figure out why it was such a struggle today. Won't waste much time though. Some days just don't go down without a struggle.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Parade Rest

The Town plow went by pushing the 12 to 14 inches of new snow off the road and into my driveway. I know he doesn't have a choice, but damn it's frustrating when he does it while I am standing there at the end of the drive enjoying the fruits of my own snow removal. A plow moving through fluffy snow at 20,25 mph can really toss it back. Like a pedestrian hanging curbside when a taxi runs through the nasty puddle, I had to kind of move quick to get out of the way. He did lighten up some so I did not get the full shot. And since the snow blower was right there still running, I quickly cleaned up both ends of my drive before putting it in the garage to drip dry over the dry well.

In the meantime while I survive another day in Eden, the Sanford High School Marching Band from our closest high school is probably now doing some cool thing in Washington DC. They were one band of many to be chosen to march in the Inaugural Parade. They left yesterday morning in two buses and landed in DC about 7:00 or 8:00 PM. With them exiting the bus were probably some very haggard adult chaperons thanking God they had arrived. If there is a true torture chamber found anywhere in this country, it is on a long bus ride with teenagers, or worse possibly, pre-teens.

So these Maine kids are about to participate in one of the most talked about and historic inaugurations our country has ever had. Many of them I am sure have never been much further than Boston or maybe Canada to visit Mamay or Pepe. A visit to the Nation's Capitol will leave an impression by itself, never mind the event they are going to be part of.

Typically a poor school syndrome played itself out. No money in the town coffers to send them, so they hung outside of local eateries, stores and on corners asking for nickels and dimes so they could pay for their trip. They had three weeks to pull it off and somehow they did it. A trip like that has to be damn expensive, what with the two buses, meals, lodging, etc. I tossed more than a few quarters and even some folding money their way. And I am a tight SOB.

I used to march in parades. I was a member of that elite force, The Charlotte Hall Military School Drill team. We would hit four or five a year hoping to bring back yet another piece of brass for the school display case. Sometimes we did, sometimes we did not. But I will say I learned to hate parades. A lot of waiting around to start, then waiting around on the streets in formation at either "ten hut" or parade rest. Either one sucked if you were in it for more than fifteen minutes. The actual marching was okay. Once you started moving, you knew it would be over fairly soon. Most routes were a mile or less.

Many of the wimpy schools followed the lead of the US Military and used special "parade rifles". Looked like rifles but were just empty wannabe rifles. Weighed about 1/2 the weight of a regular M1 rifle. We used the real thing. the rifles each of us had been issued when we came to the school. The same rifles we shot at targets, we marched with. Those suckers were damn heavy. But once you get the center of gravity down, they spin and twirl almost as well as the fake rifles.

I may have already mentioned my afternoon in Baltimore with the homeless wino woman after a parade in Charm City. We had been given 4 hours of R & R after the parade to wander the streets and see what trouble we could get into.

Most of the cadets went looking for likker or women. Some for both. Horny high school kids who had not had been off campus in a long time. I went my own way that day. Just started to walk around. Spotted this raggedly old black woman coming out of some cheesy rundown bodega near Fells Point and asked her if she would buy me some booze. Sure she would as long as I would buy her some too. So I gave her a ten spot and she disappeared back into the bodega. I had ordered a pint of whisky. Instead she came out with 3 quarts of Mad Dog 20/20.

I think I was just shy of my 16th birthday then. And even though I was sure I was hip and all, I had never heard of Mad Dog 20/20. It was wine fortified with extra alcohol. Sweet and disgusting, it went down easier the more you drank of it. I was going to give her some shit, but well she did bring me some alcohol. No since wasting it.

I forget her name, but lets call her Ellie. Why? Hell I don't know, it just popped into my head. So Ellie grabs my arm and leads me up some street that ran along the city canals that were right next to the Inner Harbor. Streets running parallel on both sides with huge decaying concrete barricades keeping the cars from taking a swim. Half way up the block she climbed up on the barricade and told me to follow. On the other side was just enough room to sit with our backs to the wall and our feet dangling over the water.

Ellie cracked open the first bottle. She took a huge swig and then handed me the bottle. "You don mind sharing a bottle with a ragged ole nigger woman does ya?" Uh, well, I had never had the pleasure nor had I ever considered it, but I took the bottle and took as much as I could handle and handed it back to her. "Sure I can", I said while my stomach did flip flops and I wondered if I was going to heave. That was my first taste of MD 20/20 and my taste buds were caught with their pants down. I had never tasted sweet wine before. My mom would not serve it.

Ellie and I sat there for a couple of hours anyway. Looking at the water, talking, and catching a serious wine buzz. She told me of lovers, husbands, jail, and some regrets. She lost a child in childbirth long ago and could never have any more. She went to jail for living with the wrong man doing the wrong thing. She thought she was 75 or 76. She wasn't sure because, they had no written record of her birth down in South Carolina where she had been born. Born poor, lived poor, and I would imagine that if she was homeless at 74 or 75, she died poor.

While the other guys were getting into trouble at bars that did not card or catching something they would regret from one of the whores near The Block, I stayed out of trouble having a great afternoon listening to an old homeless woman I am sure no one had listened to in a long time. I got my buzz but I also learned some valuable things about people. Everyone is interesting if you give them half a chance.

I never saw Ellie again, but she had her impact on me. She could have been bitter. Maybe she should have been bitter. But she was not. She considered life something that happened and crying about it only made it harder. Ellie had some serious backbone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Damn Birds

The other day I mentioned "The Zone". Well I would say "Sully" Sullenburger was completely in "The Zone" when he needed to be. And 155 passengers on his plane owe their lives to him.

The word hero has been so overused and abused to describe everything from winning a sporting event to me poaching it's intent the other day and jokingly referring to myself as some sort of tragic computer hero. The word has been cheapened to the point that simply calling Sully a hero is not enough. This one incident to me personifies what a real Hero is. And yet because we are so quick to cheaply hand out the designation, Sully's extraordinary feat is not awarded it's due by using the word heroic to describe it.

Some would say he got lucky. Yeah, I can agree to that. But he was intelligent and experienced enough to squeeze every possible benefit out of that luck and everyone on that plane is checking their shorts instead of being signed into some morgue in New York City.

The whole incident seems to be a confluence of impossible events that ended in celebration and not tragedy. A flock of geese apparently started it all by flying too close and getting sucked into those huge turbo fans of the twin jets. With engines out and a dead stick, Sully just cleared the George Washington bridge and set the plane down in exactly the right spot on the Hudson where instant help was available by ferry boats. The odds of this happening in just this way must be astronomical. Regardless, 155 people are certainly grateful I am sure.

Another odd coincidence is the timing of this accident. With just a few days to go before we swear in a new president, this amazing accident has kind of lifted spirits everywhere setting up or continuing to build the optimism I feel all around me. Even as we face economic madness and folks are losing their jobs, there is a sense of positive things to come. That maybe we have stepped out from under the cloud and the Sun will shine once again. No matter what, I will take it as a positive sign of the future like some Indian medicine man seeing a hawk on a stump with a vole in it's mouth. If it flies into the Sun, good times coming. If it flies away, look out. Or something like that.
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I almost watched Bush say Adios the other night. Notice I said almost. I actually planned to listen to what the ole "decider" was going to say. Tuned in the speech a few minutes early so I could catch some of the pre-game buzz. What the talking heads predicted might, would or should be said by our outgoing President. But I could not do it. I thought I had mustered up enough whatever it was to be able to listen to his voice, pay attention to what he was saying and then maybe give him some points for at least finishing with some class. Since I never made it to the finish, I have no clue if he did it with class or not. I could only handle the first 30 to 40 seconds of the speech before I reached for the remote. Jeopardy, Leave it To Beaver, anything but Dubya.

You know what? I do not care if he has finally showed some humility and class. His prior 7 years of arrogant and poorly conceived policy decsions have dug too deep of a hole for me to give him any credit now. The man blew it big time. There are things he did I will never forgive him for. The Iraq war. Then not listening and keeping that bonehead Rumsfeld in charge at least two years longer than he should have. His wasting what goodwill the US had on stupid arrogant posturing. And his unwillingness to actually work for bi-patrisan solutions yet claiming those failures were not any fault of his. All around, the worst president of my lifetime. And that is saying a lot considering my opinion of Ronald Reagan.

But then today at 88.6 on the FM dial, I happened across Holy republican Freeper radio. I was bombarded with enough of the speech and lock step republican commentary to fill in any blanks about the final speech. Only the patriotic faithful truly understood what Bush tried to accomplish. Had he not been hamstrung with so many lefty pinko liberal losers, he might have just saved us from ourselves. Oh, and the tanking economy was really just bad luck and bad timing. He had nothing to do with it. Actually because of his efforts he forestalled the downturn that was really created by Clinton and his cronies. Overall, your basic Freeper primer of how to shift blame to Liberals.

Listening to it actually made my day. Many out of the blue belly laughs and much head shaking as I listened to this conservobot parrot all the Neo con buzz slogans. I knew all was right with the World. The fringe of the Right is rising again. They have found their soapbox and rediscovered their roots. Whining from the edges about how only godfearing devolutionist anti science people really have the clue to what it is all about. As a bonus there was a commercial for a book that explains why and how the Earth is really only 8,000 years old. And the idea that it is really millions and billions of years old is just evil propaganda from the dark side. I tell you it was great stuff.
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One of my more blunt and to the point commenters mentioned how I might have a problem with me being me. All based on the words I have posted in this blog. Sure I have problems with certain characteristics and foibles of mine. I would say anyone who even takes a moment to look at themselves as they think others might would find they have something that could be improved. As I said in my response in the comment box to him, I have never seriously looked at myself with the idea of fixing perceived shortcomings. Not once in my life have I made any resolutions other than to try and make it to the next New Year's Eve.

I cannot afford a winter vacation. I cannot afford a new red sports car. So what does a poor white trash 56 year old do to jazz his life up? Well, living in the cheap seats sure keeps the options limited to whatever he can drag out of nothing to change something. Because I want to get a lot of things done before I leave this planet, it was time to move out of the rut I had dug for myself anf try something new. But making a list of one or two things seemed like a token jestiure. If I was going to be successful I had to overwhelm myself with a list of as many things I could think of. Get em all down in black and white and see what direction I went from there. I have no illusions I will be even close to 100% successful. If I come out of with just the list, I will be ahead of where I was last year. At least I put some effort into figuring out where improvements would probably be appreciated.
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It's early evening and my belly is full. I am content and laid back. And this is a good thing since I am now typing on the slowest and saddest computer in Maine. York county anyway. Even after wiping almost everything off the hard drive of the old Windows 98 PC, it can still take minutes for a page to load. Although it has gotten noticelbly quicker. With a well fed and stupified mentality, I just do not care how long a page takes to load. So what if "f" sticks and "p" sometimes takes a emphsis hit to make it connect.

But it is a tough transition from my 19" flat scree Back to a dinky 13" tube style. The loss in zip is also a bummer. I like living here in Maine existing in the slow lane. But I hate cruising the Internet Highway on the shoulder. I want my computer with balls back. Hopefully we will have things back to normaal in a day or three. Until then, my visits to other blogs will be off I think. It takes so long for this old machine to get moving in another direction, I am going to use it as sparingly as possible.

Later...............

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frame of Mind

I am what, 16 days into the new year. At the end of last year I stepped outside of my end of the year box and boasted I would be making changes this year. To that end, for 16 days I have been moderately successful. I promised to blog everyday for a month and so far I have not dropped that ball. I promised to focus on self improvement this year through a variety of actions on my part. And then I promised to make every post for this month have something to do with this push to self improve. So far so good. Everything is running according to plan.

I have read or heard that it takes 21 days to pick up or break a habit. Some take longer, but I guess a smart guy somewhere spent thousands of hours and wrote thousands of pages on this and has concluded the average time to break a habit is 21 days. Fine. I am almost there. On that twenty second day, I can stop thinking about whatever it is I am doing and it will just happen like it was part of me forever. Right? Riiiight.

In that I have never really thought about an over all personality and character makeover, I am surprised at how much effort one needs to put into breaking a habit or picking up a new one. And in the scheme of real internal change, does it really matter if I follow through with the physical changes if my mind does not follow. The real change I need is inside. A fundamental change in my frame of mind. Whatever else I do or not do, this is the one thing that truly matters. Outlook is key. If I continue my the glass is half empty mentality, the glass will always be half empty. The positives of Life will be that much harder to recognize when they do pass by.

I understand the physical part of living. The nuts and bolts of what it takes to make it in the physical world. That I choose to ignore some of the basics does not mean I don't understand their importance. I think this willful disobedience to common sense in some things is that I do not completely understand how to live in the Emotional World. Those in-house group of feelings and attitudes that indicate one is balanced and on track seem to be hit or miss in me.

The big one I have problems with is caring. Oh, I care about others most of the time. But I have a problem caring about myself. Feeling sorry for myself is different. I do that also. But I think the fundamental interior design snafu is my inability to give a shit about what happens to me. If I can't care about me, how can I possibly expect to properly care about others?

This one big issue should be resolved. I have addressed it on numerous occasions, but have always fallen back into old ways. Now would be a good time to work on it. The deck of Life is stacked more against me than it has been in many years. And this time, I am the only one who can make it better. There is no one person I can turn to to solve this problem for me. Last time it was a lawyer. And it was an easy fix compared to this.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Where's a straight Razor When I Need It

As I type this I am watching some super scrubbing spyware program dig out all the nasties that my regular cleaning crew has missed. As I type this I would much rather be pounding the asshole who came up with "Antivirus 2009" a new one. Yeah it is a clever virus and it completely takes control of your Internet connection. Had I not had the old computer in storage as "a ship in ordinary" , i would be totally screwed. I was actually about to conduct bike shop business last night and list some items for sale to attempt to generate some income for the shop. So this is more than just being a severe personal inconvenience. It has messed with my business and I am now not the happy jolly guy I was two days ago............................

Seventeen hours later our poor and bedraggled protagonist sits forlornly at his desk feeling....... well, feeling beaten and cowed under the hob nailed boots of russian computer thugs who have taken control of his computer. He resents their cavalier and brutish invasion and would smite them down in an instant if he could. His connection to the rest of the World broken, our hero is reduced to punching keys on an ancient keyboard through a tired eleven year old hard drive while squinting at a 13 inch cathode tube screen that forgot long ago what real colors looked like. Adding insult to injury, our fallen champion finds himself $50 lighter in the pocket after a failed attempt to buy his way out of trouble.

Pity this poor man. For he deserves pity if nothing else for all his wasted heroic effort. He sits a fallen hero, a hero who may never rise up to meet evil again. For he has given up and realized his fate is now to be chained to this desk and desperately and futilely in ever weakening blows try to fight his way back into the light. But each keystroke gets weaker. Each click of the mouse less pronounced. He has lost his will to fight. The poor bastard.

So went my day here in Acton, Maine. Not just a day like any other day. Somewhere I have hoped to find the nerve to say it has been fun and full of excitement. But after the fourth unsuccessful scan and fix, watching all the objects in the counter get counted down kind lost it's luster and appeal. All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Damn Computers

Well, it seems my computer has picked up some kind of extortionist bug. I am now using my ancient Windows 98 pc I hurriedly hooked back up and punched into action so I would not lose my so far excellent track record of actually posting everyday in a row for this month.

I had written up a wonderful rant about flag waving, State Law, Holy roller political God fearing interventionist assholes from afar and Gorham High School. Not a great post, but it made my point. And I felt better once I had vented. To finish it off as I do almost all my posts, I went looking for the appropriate Picture to hang up top of the post. I googled "Gorham High School, Maine, Images. Google predictably pumped up an insane number of hits based on those words. Sadly the images that always turn up as thumbnails at the top did not have a picture I liked. So I began opening the suggested sites in order from the top down. About halfway down, all Hell broke loose after I punched up a site. "Warning, you have been infected." And umpteen hundreds of pop ups began to dance around. I kept punching the close X but each time two new ones would replace it. I could not get out of it. I could not turn off the computer either. It was a form of computer Hell.

Now that all else had definitely failed, I reached deep into the short bag I have of computer tricks and unplugged the damn thing. I did not care after ten minutes of serious frustration and quickly over heating bile whether or not I did any harm to any fragile tidbit or kernel inside the computer. I was pissed and I knew for sure one way to get those pop ups off my screen. And pulling the plug had never failed before. It did not let me down this time either. There you bastard, take that.

After a moderate amount of time passed and I had calmed down, I plugged the computer back in. I ran all my scans, virus, ad, glad, and mad. Found some infections and according to the reports from each, all were summarily expelled, killed, or extradited to wherever it is they send those damn things. Turned off the computer in the civilized way by shutting it down politely and with care. Waited again another few moments and punched it back into life.

No go. I can load an Internet page, but in a few seconds the page is replaced by one that says "The page you are opening is probably contains spyware, adware, etc. Your system might be at risk, Click here to protect your system with Antivirus 2009".

First of all, I love the grammar skills of the losers who wrote the program. They can't write a clean sentence, but they sure as Hell know how to screw up some one's computer.

Next I notice from the addresses of the various pages in this extortion scam, it appears to be one of Microsoft's own sleazy set ups. They want $49.95 for antivirus 2009 and they assure me I will be all set. Even though all the up dated anti everything programs I have indicate that any problems have been eradicated.

I do not care if $49.95 will solve my problem. It has gone way beyond a fifty dollar divot in my pocket. I will be damned if I am going to pay some outfit $50 to release my computer from their clutches. I'll toss that damn computer in the dump first. But before I do that, I will sleep on it. Get up in the morning, punch it up again and see if things have gotten better. If they haven't, unplug , unhook, and haul it down to our computer guy. If anyone is going to get $50 bucks for fixing my computer, it is going to be someone local.

So there you have it, another post on another day, with Life in the Slow lane here in Maine suffering a bit of a back up. I am so glad I did not haul this computer to the dump yet. As bad as this old Windows 98 set up is, it sure beats what the newer one is doing right now. Small screen, slower than Hell, the keys on the board stick, and the mouse has a mind of it's own. But it does work as long as I am patient and honor it's idiosyncrasies.

I will close now. I have about had it with the high tech World for awhile.

Later.............

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Zone


Because I have been smitten by all things that have to do with straight blade shaving, I have been roaming the Internet like a dog looking for any trashcan to overturn. The more I immerse myself into this odd niche of civilization, I am impressed with how seriously folks take their leisure activities. And so there is no mistake, many if not most straight blade shavers seem to look upon their shaving experience as a type of leisure. Many speak of the calm and focus it takes to do it right as a kind of stress reliever or even a chance to completely vacate their minds of all else but the task in front of them. I have heard the same thing from cyclists and felt the same thing from my saddle time riding in the woods or on a long road ride.

I call it "The Zone".

I have not read much about Zen or other non traditional trains of thought. But what I think happens to us humans when we find something that truly satisfies us physically and mentally, a kind of peaceful contentment will settle into our brains and whatever it is we are doing becomes effortless involvement. We lose ourselves into the activity and allow the practice of it to bring us joy and contentment. Moments of this type of pleasure may be be fleeting, but once experienced they can hook you like a good drug.

I can probably identify maybe 20 rides in my life when I made it completely into "The Zone". Periods of exertion I could not feel any pain from the effort or loss of the line I was riding. Every obstacle overcome. Time became meaningless and I hoped the ride I was experiencing would never end. My whole body and mind were one with the trail, the race, or the hill I was attempting to master. I have no clue if this type of feeling is similar to what some wet shavers get, but I would guess that it is a possibility. Because I believe it is possible to hit "The Zone" doing any number of things. I have had bike repairs hit The Zone. Construction jobs enter The Zone.

When I was subcontracting siding from a fellow I used to frame with I had contracted to side a huge camp we built on Great East Lake with Cedar shingles. The owner wanted a star detail on the gable end. I had never done one but said I would try it out. I must have entered The Zone, because without any tutoring or help, I laid it out in the morning and finished before I headed home that evening. And it was as close to perfect as I have ever mustered up. I still think about that day.

The Zone exists. I have felt it and experienced it. But not for a long time. My last encounter was probably my last mountain bike race at Sugarloaf Ski Resort upcountry in Maine. I did not win or even come close, but when I started dead last and finished close to the front, my feet did not touch the ground the whole race. Not once. Not a dab, crash, or mis-cue for over an hour. I have finished higher in races, but never better. I was not even tired. It was a beautiful experience.

In the Maine State Softball Championship Tournament back in the 1980s, I hit two home runs in one game and drove in 7 runs. My 7 runs were enough to win the game and we stayed in the winner's bracket. I had never hit a home run before or since. But that day, I could not miss. We won the state championship and moved onto the Nationals. For one day I had entered The Zone and finished with over a .700 batting average for the day. Something like 18 hits and 9 or 10 runs batted in. It's odd but I was also sporting one of the worse hangovers I ever experienced that day.

So I know The Zone is attainable. It is possible to derive almost sexual pleasure from the other things we do in our lives. But for me, I seem to only locate it by accidental confluence. Stars line up or my brain shuts down just enough. Whatever it is, I have felt it. So today's post will be about The Zone and my quest to re-locate it at least a few times in 2009.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Am Onto You

Okay, someone or something has fooled around with my karma, my bio rhythms, my position in the overall cosmos. I have entered either a Twilight Zone episode, a Stephen King story or my soul has been kidnapped by the ghost of HP Lovecraft. I am fully expecting to fall asleep tonight and wake up tomorrow sure I have been eating meat pies consisting of neighbors and friends.

Or should I be wondering if there is not some evil at work through the Internets to facilitate this horror and turn me into the next Chainsaw Massacre story line. The next victim to be gutted and hung by my shoelaces from the tire swing in front of some ancient decaying farmhouse in the woods nearby. Hanging there with ripped throat bleeding out like a butchered hog while slope headed inbreds salivate waiting for me to drain dry. Each one taking a turn with a stick poking me to see if there is any spark left. Meanwhile Mom hangs out the window and between cracked yellow teeth hollers, "Stay away from his eyes, I gits his eyes you little fuckers. Damn kids".

Or even worse, am I being conditioned to become the villain of the upcoming horror movie. I remember promising the stout pie guy that I would cook this fine meal for my wife of 29 years. I haven't cooked in 25 years. And what happened last night makes this of particular interest. But I am getting ahead of myself.

It all started with a recipe for steak and stout pie at what would appear an innocent blog with the word Restaurant in it's title. I should have known nothing is as it seems especially from a blog whose owner admits to being a hardcore fan of HP Lovecraft and also uses some phantasmic name from HP's writng as a prefix to "Restaurant" in his title. Using the word "family" in the title was an excellent subterfuge. Well it fooled me.

A few days later I suddenly decided I wanted to begin shaving again. 28 years of bearded bliss and all of a sudden I want to cut it off? And with a straight razor no less. The warning bells were clanging I am sure. I just could not hear them. A spell had been cast my way and I was helpless and under it's control. With no self will of my own, I have been forced to cruise the Internets for days now looking for the perfect razor to supposedly learn how to shave with it. Dutifully, I lurk in the forums of shaving masters. I wind my way through hundreds of razors for sale on Ebay. I buy razors and make plans to learn how to keep them razor sharp. All this out of the blue? I do not think so. Some kind of Sleepy Hollow madness is afoot. Some evil entity has me by the short hairs of my soul.

Bringing it all around in that full circle of unlikely coincidences, tonight I decide to see what the IFC channel is offering. The BBC drama, "Sweeney Todd" was on at eight o'clock. "Sweeney Todd", the story of a mad barber and his pissed off lady friend. Sweeney cuts their throats in the barber chair with....wait for it......yeah that's right, a fricking straight razor. He butchers them and then gives the choicest cuts,...... again wait for it.....to his meat pie making lady friend to cook up and sell to the public. When asked after being caught why he had done it, his reply, "Because I could".

Immediately I thought of that movie something something ripe green tomatoes and the barbecued wife beating husband. I am sure that was a subtle misdirect though. The evil whatever it is is only trying to keep me from waking up from this dream and realizing the path I am being led down.

Taken individually, these incidents would appear to be but random occurrences that somehow tie in with each other because of my over active imagination. Yeah right. I certainly did not conciously follow this progression to get to this point. I was sure up until tonight that every event in my Life pretty much plays itself out without a plan or devious thinking. But now I am not so sure.

Is there an evil twin lost at birth or one hanging around half formed inside me who goes by the name George Stark? Am I about to become the protaganist in a novel entitled "The Dark Half"? Probably not. It is a good thing I caught wind of the scheming evil bastards who have been trying to set me up. The wormhole into my inner self is closed boys. Find some other flounder to bother with your malevolent plans. For I am once again among the righteous and good. I have re-entered the good guy zone. Small children and ole ladies no longer need to break into a sweat when I come near. I have cast your malicious intent off of my shoulders. Begone you loser black caped, no faced bastards.

Of course if the plans made for me move in the other direction and I am soon to be part of someone else's meat pie, well, I guess being righteous won't help. But it might make me taste better.
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Believe it or not but this post also started out with the best of intentions to continue my march to find the better me. The years and the self induced abuses have put a serious damper on my short term memory. I had heard that it could be improved through liberal mental exercise like actually trying to remember what I did yesterday, last week, or two months ago. I tried it and discovered this evil plot. I am sure they thought an old stoner like me would never connect the dots. Well see. Trying to improve yourself can save your life. I plan on being no one's meat pie. Now if I can only remember where I left that axe.