Proof Of Life

Wow! I knew it had been a while since I posted, but I didn’t realize it had been over two months. I’ve got plenty of excuses — the holidays, Trump fatigue, Seasonal Affective Disorder, general laziness — each one as valid as the next.

I have temporarily escaped the winter doldrums of Misery for the salt mines of south Texas. I don’t much care for Texas. It’s boring, but at least it’s warmer. The temperature topped 80 degrees here in Corpus Christi today, so I went out looking for something to do. I found a pretty decent disc golf course and got a little exercise, and a lot of sand in my shoes.

That is the view from the first tee. Most of south Texas looks a lot like that, only with more scrub brush in between the mesquite and stunted live oak trees. The locals tell me the trees don’t grow very tall because of the constant wind off the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe so, but maybe the pervasive ennui I’ve been experiencing since I got here also affects the vegetation. There is a vague sense of hopelessness to the land here. It is completely flat, you can drive for hours and hours, hundreds of miles, and never see anything resembling a hill. You can see forever in every direction, and the tallest things you can see are telephone poles and oil refinery smokestacks.

After disc golfing, I went down to explore the gulf shore and beach area. I stumbled across the Texas State Aquarium, and since I had nothing better to do, I foolishly walked up to the ticket window and requested one adult admission without asking the price. I supposedly got a discount for being ex-military, and it still cost me $32.95 … Fuck!

I stomped inside the aquarium, and saw a bunch of fish and sharks and rays, and a few things I found interesting enough to take photos of. Like weird looking lobsters without claws.

And all kinds of cool jellyfish.

And for some reason they had a section of the aquarium with birds. Check out these crazy Texas chickens.

Visible just down the shore a bit from the aquarium, the WWII aircraft carrier USS Lexington is docked.

I considered taking a tour, but I was still suffering sticker shock from the aquarium admission fee, so I moved on to better things. A baker’s dozen better things.

I gotta say, those oysters and that mojito were the best part of my day…

Fin Elliptic

I chamfered some edges, did a bit of sanding, sprayed on a few coats of polyurethane, and just like that, this year’s white elephant gift exchange project is complete. Well ahead of schedule and under budget, too. Check it:

It came out okay. I like the looks of the sine wave on top, but it seems a little lost in an expanse of maple. Some additional green purfling inlaid around the edge of the lid would have been appropriate, I think. I have some more of that purfling, in both green and blue, so I bet some version of that sine wave finds its way onto future projects. Maybe the headstock of my next guitar. Here is another photo with the lid off.

I put some felt in the bottom so when whoever gets it dumps their loose diamonds in there it won’t make a lot of noise. On to the next.

Gullibility Continues To Prevail

I’ve mentioned before that I’m limiting my media intake, especially television, because I just can’t handle the “all Trump all the time” format that every channel has adopted. And I quit the seething cesspool that is Facebook several years ago after trying it for just a few months. (Pro tip: If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.) So I don’t really know how much coverage this got last week, but I’m thinking it wasn’t given the importance it deserves.

Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans – but one set of ads in particular hit close to home.

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time.

On that day, protesters organized by the two groups showed up on Travis Street in downtown Houston, a scene that appeared on its face to be a protest and a counterprotest. Interactions between the two groups eventually escalated into confrontation and verbal attacks.

It’s going to be a while yet before the various investigations reveal just how badly we got played. It’s bad enough that tens of millions of people bought into the carefully cultivated reality teevee image of a successful businessman, but Russian trolls were everywhere on the internet amplifying his divisive and hateful message. Their main objective was to create the chaos we are all living now, with a 70 year old toddler and his minions destroying our government. (As I write this, he is in Asia laying to rest the last remnants of the myth of Amurkin exceptionalism.)

The question I keep coming back around to is Why? Not why are Russian trolls fucking with dumbass Texans? Everybody does that because it’s so easy, and their are so many of them. No, the question is, why are their Russian trolls at all?

Vladimir Putin is a kleptocrat who, having stolen untold billions from the country he rules, is widely believed to be — secretly — the richest man in the world. It is difficult for me to imagine greed and selfishness on that scale, but at least I can understand it as his prime motivator.

What I can’t understand is why Putin is spending hundreds of millions of dollars stoking hatred and fucking around with democratic elections all over the world. If greed truly is his prime motivator, what does he personally gain from creating chaos and destabilizing democratic governments all over the world?

If these actions are not motivated by greed, then by what? My only other guesses are power and spite. And since, generally speaking, destabilization leads to de-consolidation of power, I am left to ponder upon spite. Could Putin’s hatred for Michelle’s husband be so strong that he’s willing to tear everything down for revenge? (In this country that would make him a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives.)

All I know for sure is that our reality teevee preznit openly admires Putin. That would be pretty fucking scary if he weren’t such a buffoon.

Elliptical Possibles Box

My basement rehab project is temporarily on hold because Butch, the groundskeeper/laborer here on the estate fractured a foot disciplining a wayward ottoman. Since good help is exceedingly difficult to find now that Amurka is great again, I am forced to postpone further construction until Butch is out of the boot.

So I got a chance to get a head start on my Christmas white elephant gift exchange project for this year. I’ve had an idea percolating around in my head for a while for something with contrasting wood, so I started with maple and walnut.

Plenty of contrast between those, for sure. Maybe too much for my conservative taste, but what the heck, I’m giving this away anyhow. The next step is to assemble those pieces into a box using a technique known as finger joints. I just file some alternating notches in the ends of the boards and slip them together like lacing your fingers.

Speaking of fingers, it was at this point that Butch clumped by in the boot, waggled some in the center hole and said “It doesn’t look like it will hold much.” Sigh. Being a top-notch groundskeeper, Butch doesn’t work on indoor projects much, and doesn’t have the vision for it. Butch could not see the potential hole, the hole that was not yet there. So I whipped out my pocket knife and quickly carved out the center of the box.

Butch said, “Oh… Now I get it.” And hobbled back into the house, still not overly impressed, still failing to not see what is there. I quickly sharpened my pocket knife and sliced the corners off the box, revealing the final shape.

Not too bad. I like the shape, but I’m thinking the extreme contrast between the light and dark woods will make this a “love it or hate it” piece for most people. The last step is to make a lid. I wanted to try my hand at a little inlay work, so I went with a simple sine wave.

I incorporated another idea I’ve been playing around with, using guitar purfling for non-instrument applications. It came out okay, but looking at it in that photo right now, I can’t help but think I should have used more of the walnut for that inlay instead.

There is still a lot of sanding and finish work to do. I will post a photo of the finished product when I get it done. No telling when that will be. Butch is itching to get back on the basement.

Autumn In Misery

Despite the rain, we managed to get out on the scoot this weekend and check out some of the fall foliage. It was pretty good timing, I think. The colors seem to have peaked just for my riding pleasure. Check out these two photos of the Red Sunset Maple trees here on the estate.

I took the first one on Friday and the second on Sunday. You can see how fast the color is fading. And this morning, a lot of those leaves are on the ground. I’m guessing they will be mostly bare by the end of the week. And then… winter. Sigh.

Scratching My Head

Old joke: Do you remember the episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways figure out a way to get off the island, but at the last minute Gilligan does something stupid and causes everything to go wrong and their plan fails?

There’s no punchline. Everybody — well, everybody from my generation anyway — knows that is the plot to pretty much every episode of Gilligan’s Island. And when I was a kid, I loved it.

As an adult, I have found formulaic and repetitive programming begins to grate on me. I used to like to watch those home improvement/remodeling/flipping programs, but a while back I realized I was no longer just enjoying the design process, and maybe learning a little something on the construction side. I found myself anticipating the moment, about halfway through every program, when some unexpected expense pops up that threatens to blow up the budget for the whole project.  I was waiting for the fuckup. And it happened every time. Every. Single. Time.

Once you know the formula, you can’t help but watch for when some “drama” gets inserted into “reality” teevee. The point where viewers are expected to believe that a guy who has supposedly remodeled dozens of houses suddenly realizes the furnace on his latest flip is bad. Waiting for the fuckup has really ruined those programs for me.

Until about a year ago, I thought pretty much everyone knew that “reality” teevee was really mostly contrived bullshit like that, about as far away from actual reality as Gilligan’s Island, but then about 60 million of my fellow Amurkins elected a fictional character preznit. I’m still just dumbfounded that I didn’t see that fuckup coming.

Buckeye Blues

This month the Salt Handler’s Inspection Team has brought me to the mines of northern Ohio. I was going to ride the scoot up here, but I chickened out, so of course the weather has been perfect for all the motorcycling I am not doing. It is Fall here, the leaves are turning, and the countryside is beautiful.

Even the disc golf courses are pretty. Today I (twice) played a little nine-holer that runs alongside Cahoon Creek.

It’s tough to see in the photo, but I noticed that the creek seemed to empty into a large body of water a couple of hundred yards away, so I went to have a look. Here is what I found.

Cahoon Creek ends at a huge lake that I didn’t even know was there! It’s eerie. Get it? Erie… Is this thing on? That’s what is known in the blogging business as a real knee-slapper.

Here’s another shot looking  to the east.

That’s Cleveland off in the distance. While I was fighting off old age by dragging my ass around the disc golf course, the Browns were over there trying to win their first football game of the season. Unsurprisingly, we were conducting simultaneous exercises in futility. The Browns are now 0-7 and I’m still an old fat fart.

Does Unicorn Poop Land With A Splatter or a Plop?

It has been raining steadily in Oklahoma City since Monday. I know that because I rode the scoot over from Misery for a couple of weeks of salt miner refresher training, so all my off-the-clock time for the past two days has been spent cooped up in my hotel room. Oklahoma City is boring enough on its own.

Nothing much to do except surf the intertoobz. I even spent a little time on Twitter, which I still pretty much hate because I like to read — and think — in larger than bumper sticker sized bites. Anyway, the buzz there this morning is about our reality teevee preznit deleting some of his tweets.

And no, it’s not the ones from his idiotic slap-fight with the NFL over players kneeling for the national anthem to protest police mistreatment of black people. Instead, he has deleted all his tweets in support of Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange. Last week Trump held one of his hate festivals political rallies in support of Strange, and then yesterday “Big Luther” got his ass kicked in the Republican primary by frothing, evangelical asshole Roy Moore.

I saw some speculation that our reality teevee preznit might actually be dumb enough to believe his deleted tweets are gone from the intertoobz forever, but I doubt he even cares about that. Those tweets are gone from his timeline, and therefore gone from his mind. The pathological liar believes his own lies, right up until reality forces him to move on to the next lie, and the old lie is immediately forgotten.

What gets me is the fact that he doesn’t have to pay a price for lying. Trump’s supporters will continue to believe he is a winner, just because he tells them he is. In the age of “alternative facts,” hard truths no longer exist. Much like an Oklahoma weather forecast, the words that come out of our preznit’s mouth are only good for a couple of days. Beyond that, things start to get a little fuzzy. Reality truly is malleable now.

The Past Is Not Past

I do a lot of my thinking when I’m working with my hands. I can lose myself in manual labor, let my mind drift away from my aching back and/or shoulders, and just cogitate on something for a while. It’s one of the reasons I find so much satisfaction working in my wood shop. It’s intellectually rewarding as well as constructive.  The downside is, having my head in the clouds while framing walls and hanging drywall for my basement rehab project has led to occasional fuckups, like cutting a board or piece of drywall incorrectly. (And subsequent periods of stomping around and cursing.)

Lately, my thoughts have been taking me back to the 1980s. I used to hang out at the VFW Post in the town where I grew up, over in Illinois. I started going there because my dad liked to go there. He liked to go there because a frosted mug of beer cost 50 cents, and that was ridiculously cheap, even in the ’80s. We both eventually made some good friends there.

The members were veterans from World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, but it was mostly the WW II guys that ran, and patronized, the place. They had the time, most were retired or semi-retired, and their children were long since grown. Some of them were there every day. I know because I saw them. Cheap beer and a close proximity to my home made it the perfect place for an out-of-work bricklayer/roofer/surveyor/concrete guy/future amateur philosopher and blogger with only ten bucks in his pocket to spend his days. I got to know some of those old soldiers pretty good — Charlie and Jim and Jack and Clay and Gene and the other Gene and Ray and a bunch more who I can’t remember their names.

Some of them told me stories about their war. Forty years after the fact, they would still get tears in their eyes talking about the atrocities they saw, the concentration camps, the crimes against humanity. I’ve been thinking about those stories ever since that “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month. The one where a brave, young white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of peaceful protestors and killed a woman.

It took two days for public opinion to shame our shit stain of a preznit into gritting his dentures and saying “Nazis are bad.” And then, a couple of days later, he clarified those remarks by stating that there were some “very fine people” there… you know… marching with the Nazis.

I picture my old drinking buddies sitting in the cool, dark VFW Post, sipping draft Busch with a salt shaker handy, watching the television behind the bar, and seeing all those fresh-faced, young men marching with torches and shouting “Heil Hitler” and throwing Nazi salutes, in FUCKING VIRGINIA! IN THE USA! And I simply cannot imagine what their reaction would have been, the level of pain and anger it would have caused them.

Pretty sure I know which side of the barricades they would have been on, though.


Whew. It’s been a while. I had to oil the hinges on the blast doors just to gain entrance to the bunker, and then clear away a lot of cobwebs on my way down to the command center. There was a layer of dust over everything, but after a quick wipe-down of the console and a little pounding on the chair cushions, I sat down and fired up the main control panel. The logs show I last accessed the system on July 31st, six weeks ago.

I’ve been busy. A lot of work and very little play. My job keeps me away from home a lot, and when I am home my basement rehab project has been taking up most of my spare time. Just not a lot of opportunity for blogging lately. It’s just as well, I guess. Most of my ideas for posts have been of the “our reality teevee preznit said something stupid” variety anyway. You can read about the stupid shit he says in any newspaper on a daily basis. (Just without my added snark.)

Even though I haven’t been posting, this place is still one of my prized possessions. So much so that I recently renewed my hosting contract for another four years. (It’s cheaper — only about a hundred bucks a year — if you go long term.) I’m pretty sure my accountant gritted her teeth, rolled her eyes, and gave a sigh when I did it, but I simply couldn’t help myself. I’ve long been addicted to the dream that one day I will commit to writing more frequently. It’s only been 11 years, it might still happen. The long term goal has always been to eventually write something of substance. Whether that is a dream or a fantasy, I just can’t let it go. This is where I practice for maybe someday.