Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From the mouths of babes. (Political dance remix.)

Yesterday I picked up my 6 year old early from after-school daycare, and we ran errands about town. We went into the county seat and I walked her into a county administration building. She asked me about the forest of yard signs hammered into the grass median in the street out front, safely greater than 50 feet from the front door.

"Why are all those signs here?" she asked.

"Foolish optimism," I responded.

"What's that?" she asked.

"It means that someone thinks that they can get me to vote for their candidate by putting up a little pasteboard sign immediately in front of the polling place," I said.

"What's a polling place?" She asked.

"This is," I answered as we walked inside. "It's where people go to vote."

"So we're going to vote?" she asked, unhappily eyeing the line that we were joining.

"I am. You're too young, and will be for 11 and a half years, yet," I said.

"Are you going to vote for Barack Obama?" she asked.

"We don't talk about that right here," I answered. "This is not the place."

She started to ask me why, but caught my stern look, and closed her mouth again. I took her in, brandished my voter registration card, signed the Early Voter roll, and chose to vote via electronic ballot. (We could choose paper or electronic voting, with most voters choosing paper.)

As we passed the sign forest again on our return to the car, I explained to my daughter that I had not voted for Obama, but had cast a vote for John McCain. (I figured that I would discuss the concept of "Lesser of two evils" to her some other time.) She asked me why, and I explained why. She chewed on that for awhile, as we got into the car and buckled up. As we were entering traffic, she asked me: "If you're voting for that other guy, how come I've never heard of him like I've heard of Barack Obama? I see him on the news and other shows on TV. I never heard of that other guy."

"That's a good question, kiddo," I said.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Utilities, they are a-changin'....

Just finishing up the Move.
You come back later.
Mebbe blog here for you on Wednesday, yes?

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Friday, October 24, 2008

More idjits with GPS devices.

The insurance lady was supposed to meet us at the house. My wife went ahead to the house, while I took care of some other stuff at the old house. Half an hour later, she called me to ask me to look up the insurance agency and contact the appraiser, to see if she was lost. I dutifully did so, and soon met the frustrated appraiser on the phone.

"I just called to see if you're lost," I said.

"Oh, my lord, YES, I'm lost," she replied.

"Well, where are you, and I'll vector you...?" I began.

"This darned GPS! It wasn't finding new streets, which are important when you're an insurance appraiser, what with new construction..."

"If I could just get the..." I tried to interject.

"...So I downloaded the upgrade, and now the stupid thing won't find the new streets correctly. Or even the not-so-new ones," she complained.

"Or the streets that have been platted for one hundred years," I chuckled wryly, thinking of the old town plat that I had seen at our city hall, showing my street planned by the railroad in the 1880s.

"Uh huh," she responded. "Can you help me?"

Finally. "Sure. What road are you on?"

"Well, I'm near a silo, and a mailbox that says... wait, does your mailbox say Weinhardt on it?" she asked, completely ignoring my question.

"You're near the Weinhardt place?!?" I said. "So you're at the corner of Harding and FM 1234. Come south," I advised.

"Is that to the right or the left?" she asked.

"I don't know which way you're facing. Just come south on FM 1234," I responded.

"But I don't know which way that is," she said.

I was perplexed. She had a GPS on her dashboard. Every screen indicates N, S, E, W of every GPS I've ever seen. The time was 9:30 in the morning, with the sun still closer to the eastern horizon than to the zenith. My children could easily extrapolate "south" from that information. FM 1234 is a north/south road, with Smallville to the north, and Tinytown to the south.

"Okay," I said. "Do you know where the main four way intersection in town is? Go that way."

"Of course I do," she said tersely. "I've lived here all my life."

Of course she has.

- - - -

I'm beginning to formulate a plan to implement Basic Orienteering into the mandated skill set that must be shown to receive a state driver's license. Normally it goes against my nature to add more requirements, but to most of us, this would be a cinch. To those whom it is not, this would be a valuable vetting technique for the safety and well-being (and sanity) of the rest of us.

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And so we begin....

...the Dance Of The Damned!


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(We're moving. Posting will be light and irregular for three days.)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autumn Arrives.

This morning there was dew on top of my car, but frost on the windshield.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Before: After

Because everybody likes "Before" and "After" pics, right?

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BEFORE:
Plastic coppery counter tops and back splash. Non-matching white fake tile back splash next to oven. Stick on linoleum flooring. Repair to yellow wall. Cheesy runner along top of wall. Ubiquitous wood paneling for wainscot ting. Brown sink. Brown double oven. (Yep: three ovens, in all.)
AFTER:
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BEFORE:

White and blue faux marble sink and counter tops. Vinyl floors, blue walls. Extra walls, just to paint them blue. Dropped ceiling, to make more walls to paint blue. White and blue tile shower surround. Claustrophobic "privacy wall" that does nothing.

AFTER:
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BEFORE: Nice clam shell sink and goldenrod flocked wallpaper, which you can see we enjoyed ripping down. Check out how the silver mirroring is flaking from the backside of the mirror. Stay classy.

AFTER:(Not finished yet. Still needs back splash added.)
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BEFORE:

Nice view of the enclosed back porch, above.
Every time my wife saw that dated '70's style divider thingy on the right, she would exclaim, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!!" She ripped it out with glee. Dig the coppery counter tops.

AFTER:
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BEFORE:
We pulled up the ugly carpet first thing. Note paneling, dirty fireplace, and mystery person redacted because she's shy. Ooh, and note the nasty Sauder particle board bookshelves installed by a "handy" prior owner.


AFTER:
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BEFORE:
Back porch with self-adhesive tiles and poor windows.
AFTER:

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I mentioned that the house was just about ready, right?

Well, some people had requested some pictures of what we've done to the house.
I took a few, at the request of my sister in-law. I absolutely would not expect you to be interested, but it's been a while since I posted some pictures on this blog, and I've spent a fair bit of change getting a ghetto house to this condition, so here you go:
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Here you see busy workers fixing the foundation of the house when we first bought it. Note the red cap of the guy in the hole in the garage floor. Note sexy busted garage door (now replaced.)

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Here you can see the slate floor, granite countertops, tumbled-stone tile backsplash, and green walls of the kitchen, which actually work together. Also one can see the bamboo floor of the living room. See that dark gray tile in front of the dishwashing machine? About 4 feet below there, I found a really big slab leak, which I repaired.

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My wife gussied up the step-down from the kitchen.

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Ah, the expense expanse of bamboo flooring, in the living room.
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More of the living room floor, from the vantage point of the old back porch new sun room.
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I had questioned my wife's choice of the green she used in the kitchen. Matt, learn not to meddle in the affairs of the art major.

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Front hallway, prominently displaying the door on which I need to install a new doorsweep.

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First view upon entering. Boring. I need to put a pair of crossed muskets over the fireplace. Or the scalps of mine enemies on the mantlepiece. Something.
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Hall bath. Yawn.

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Master bedroom featuring little more than shag carpet, and two itty-bitty little closets.

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Master bath featuring granite countertop, countertop basin sink with stem faucet, handicapped toilet (so one doesn't have to sit 10" off the floor!), and the ugliest shower curtain evar. Also in pic: the cement floor which my lovely and talented (seriously) wife is going to put a tile mosaic on, very soon.

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Utility/laundry room, featuring built-in table (under the clutter), new 16" ceramic tiles (easy to keep clean), the tiny pantry, and my inclusion of a fold-out built-in ironing board.
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The sun room. This was formerly the back porch. It features an open arched entryway, 16" ceramic tiles, central heat and air outlets, twin ceiling fans which should be flush-mounted bunt aren't, and a LOT of room not visible to the right, behind the fireplace.
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Ah yes-- the fireplace. I plan to put a facecap on it, so that I can really get some heat out of it like a proper stove. It features quartz in the hearthstones, and natural gas outlets, and a heavy cedar mantle, with a sun room behind it.
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Not shown is the new studio that we installed in the garage, the large storage building out back, or the painted trim and newly power-washed brick around the house. Hey, even I have limits.

I just wanted y'all to know that Don Gwinn ain't the only one to be able to post housing upgrade blog posts.

Oh, and dig the cheesey old double oven we just pulled from the kitchen.

It had a matching ceramic sink.

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How good fathers react to adversity in their kids' lives.

My online pal Don Gwinn found that his boy had been taunted because of a situation that could have been prevented:

Kane's class had a mock election yesterday.

Kane voted for McCain. The rest of the day, the other kids taunted him and called him a racist. It was a pretty good preparation for adult political discourse, come to think of it. We had a little talk about it, and I gave him the same advice I give grownups--if you know you're not a racist, what do you care what "they" say? Being called a racist is a sure sign that you're winning an argument, anyway.


I'd like to say that I would have been this reasonable in my response to such a situation, but the truth is, my first reaction probably would have been to get fired up with anger toward the teacher for setting up such an incident. Only after I had blown out might I have done as Don did, which was to see this for what it was: an opportunity to teach his son a valuable lesson that he could carry into manhood.

I believe that I've mentioned before that Don's on my Hero List.

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Quick updates.

Sunday morning, Dad and I had coffee before breakfast. I was slightly sore from moving a friend before working the night before. We went to a fairly new little coffee shop down the road, and enjoyed our over-priced coffee and pastries on the porch, basking in the lovely October morning. Some of the most cherished moments in my life have involved swilling coffee outside in the cool early day of a tenth month. Lots of those have been with Dad, and this time was no different. He handed me yet another birthday gift, which this time was a Bianchi Speed Strip with 6 rounds of Remington 158 g SWC +P in it.

"You might try this. They work pretty well," he said.

He was speaking of the Speed Strip. As I stated in comments, I've been meaning to try them out, and now I am doing so. When I ran some errands about town yesterday, I carried a M36 on my belt and just tossed the Speed Strip into my off-side pocket. It carried well, with less clinking than I'd expected. I need to get to the range and practice fast loading with it, 2 by 2 by 1.

- - - - - - - -
The house is very nearly ready for move-in.

I've got a truck rented for this weekend, and days off to move. We've built my wife's studio (something I've been promising her in earnest for a decade) in the garage. The bamboo looks stunning against the slate. The carpet is a low shag, and it makes my wife happy, so it makes me happy. I've called to have the 30 yard dumpster removed, as it is packed and brim-full of cast-off material from the house. I wish it had more room; I'd keep it for cast-off from the move.

I need to find that pesky gas leak from the stove, though. Until I do, the gas cock at the wall underneath is turned off.

- - - - - - - - - - -

I've a test tomorrow night in Statistics that I'm really not quite ready to take. Interestingly, while my professor (an kindly old man of about 80 who tends to ramble afield a bit with his anecdotes) was giving us a review in class last week, a group of women sitting in back were chatting. Not in whispers, but in normal talking voices. I put up with this as best I could. I sit in front when the topic is boring (and rest assured, Statistics is a boring class.), so I could generally hear him despite my tinnitus. But when another student from across the room asked a question about the test, and neither I nor the professor could hear it over the din of conversation, I turned around and spoke loudly to them:

"Ladies: 'Disruption Of Classes' is a Class C Misdemeanor, and your continued talking qualifies as an offense. I have paid $1016 to take this class, and I will not put up with your interruptions. If you wish to speak further, take it out to the hallway, and I will bear you no ill will. I speak to You, You, You, and You, miss. Yes, I mean you. Do you understand me?"

They nodded. It turned back around and tried to concentrate on my review. I wasn't just irritated that they were interfering with my class, but that their actions were what I considered insulting to this gentlemanly elder instructor. Worse-- but for myself and one other, I knew that everyone else in the class was working on post-graduate degrees of one kind or another in Education. I should have thought that they would show more professional courtesy. But alas, most of them were young (early 20s) women, and probably have not yet entered their career field. (I had never seen such activity in any of my Criminal Justice classes, I can assure you.)

One of the talkers--a very fit, attractive girl-- had tried at some lenghts to wheedle some extra points out of the professor after we got our grades on our first test. I had been proud of my professor for mildly refusing her repeated urgent whining request.
- - - - - - - - - - -

Yesterday afternoon while checking my mail, I heard gunshots. I looked to my neighbor, who was checking his own mail. We both felt the wind, a nice mild southerly breeze. We live just four blocks from the south edge of our little town. "Sounds like the dove are still flying," he laughed.

I grinned and took the mail in to thow away.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Note: mothers-in-law who were born during the Depression (a real depression, not this BS little recession thingy that people are getting their panties in a wad over) are constitutionally incapable of draining the grease off of the cheap hamburger that they fried up for hash. Not one drop. While the hash was tasty, I could have plunged a wick into a bowl of it and lit it to make a passable lamp which would burn for days.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Off-duty reloads.

If I have pants on, I've got a gun on. There are very, VERY few exceptions, and they are notable enough to prove the rule. It's not that I'm paranoid; it's just that there is little point to carrying a gun unless I do it all of the time, as one can't predict infrequent (and yet altogether too frequent) tragedy. Over the years, I've made some bad people unhappy with me, and I plan to keep doing so. Should bad people commit horrible acts against me or others in my presence, I'm going to intervene. I understand the concept of "holding back and being a good witness;" I simply believe that there are times when that's not a possibility. So I carry a gun. Always.

But because I'm a realist about myself, in the warmer months (about 3/4 of the year) I carry the smallest, lightest guns available in the minimum calibers that I would consider defending myself or others with. Usually these are a 7 shot P3AT .380 acp or a 5 shot M37 .38 special, either one of which is on the happy side of one pound, loaded. I tend to just drop them in my pocket, in a ratty old pocket holster to keep them oriented correctly and keep crud out of their actions and trigger guards. (Note to self: obtain new pocket holsters!)

But for some reason, for years I've failed to carry a reload.

Dumb, right? Handguns are inherently poor manstoppers by their very nature. If they were particularly good, soldiers would carry only pistols, or pistol-caliber rifles. Then we take and reduce the caliber, barrel length, sight radius, and grip area to make a given pistol less effective and harder to control, and you end up with something that requires a LOT of practice to excel beyond "belly gun" status. It would make more sense to hedge my bets, and carry as many rounds as possible for such an inadequate weapon.

My rationalization has been that very few gunfights have ever involved reloads. But this means little; few people carry reloads. I know this myself from my own observations and experience. Hell, when, as a young college student, I woke up one night to chase some burglars out of my house and down the street with a 6" Colt revolver, I didn't have a reload with me. (Or pants. But that's another story, for another time.) When bad guys go on rampages in schools, malls, and churches, a spare round or two might be the most worthy pocket plunder I ever carry.

For some odd reason, I found it easier to to begin carrying a reload for my .38 Special. Silly, when you consider that 5 rounds of Buffalo Bore 158g LSWCHP are bound to be about 5 gazillian times better than 7 rounds of .380 acp, with the first round being JHP and the rest being anybody's FNJ. I started with small snapped dump pouches. These are very handy, holding 6 rounds of .38 Spl ammo in a tight little packet that can be dropped in an opposite pocket, or worn on the belt in an unobtrusive, completely covered black pouch. But it's a little slow. Faster, but bulkier, is the 5-shot speedloader. Open the cylinder, dump the empties, insert the bullet tips of the fresh load into the chambers, twist the knurled knob to drop them into the cylinder, and close the cylinder again, with a loaded gun in your hand.

But only last night did I finally think, as I started out the door to go to my Statistics class, how short-sighted it was to rely soley on the 7 anemic rounds for that sad little .380 in my pocket, without a spare load. I never had the availability of a reload for it until friend Peter gave me a spare magazine. But when I got it out of my sock drawer (Well? What's in your sock drawer?), I didn't have any ammo in it. I rummaged through the drawer. .357 Sig rounds. .38 Special reloads. .45 acp SWC reloads. A 12 gauge slug. Some collar brass. Oh, and some socks. No .380. I stepped to my front closet. .35 Whelen. 5.56mm. 7.62X39. .38 S&W in both lead reloads and Ishapore .380-2Z FMJ variations. .45acp Gold Dot. .22 LR, short, CB Cap, and Long. .22 Hornet. .243. 9mm. .32 acp. (Really?!?). .30-06. 12 gauge. 20 gauge. A round on the floor that looked like an old .303 round. No .380.

I got in my car, thinking I'm bound to have some in my trunk. I checked in my glove box and found a baggie of 158g Federal Nyclad .38 Special loads that Dad gave me. I felt under the seat and found a quarter box of .38 Special 158g LRN reloads. I found some more collar brass. (Hey! So there it is!) Parking at the university, I checked the trunk, and found Federal bulk pack .22 LR, 12 gauge slugs, 12 gauge buck shot, a Crossman 760 and .177 pellets for same, 2 pair of hearing protection, a box of .357 Sig reloads, a half box of .357 Sig Gold Dot, a few rounds of .45 acp, and a Sierra bullet box with a single round of .35 Whelen rattling around in it.

I walked to class, thinking, "I'm a piker. I couldn't find a single round of .380 acp in my car, my sock drawer, or my front closet."

Today, I found 50 rounds of .380 acp FMJ in my patrol bag in my trunk. The rest, I know, is in storage.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don said it best, so why would I try to upstage him?

I drop by the local convenience store for a Red Bull to get me through tonight's soporific statistics class. Huh. The four-pack is cheaper. Hell, we KNOW I'll drink 'em. So I grab the four-pack.

At the counter is a woman who, while not young, is not nearly old enough to account for her toothlessness. Said lack of dentition is made most evident by the lateral jaw motion that she keeps making to set and reset her dentures, which causes her to do a credible impression of an ungulate chewing cud. I plop down my pack of taurine and caffeine, and give an audible gasp when she rings it up. Sure, it's cheaper than a six pack of my preferred beer, but it runs a little higher than most twelve-packs of cola. Yikes. I hand her my debit card.

She runs it through the swipe strip at about 2 inches a second. Sssswiiiiiipe. Not surprisingly, it does not work. She does it again, running it through slower, this time taking four full seconds to negotiate the 4" channel. I force a smile, and mention that this card likes to go fast. I can feel the line of customers grow behind me. This of course makes her take pause, cocking her hand on her hip as she declares (I just wanted her to go! Go! This card has worked three times today on the first swipe. It's NEVER failed. Ev. Er.) that it does look pretty old, at that. She then goes straight to the plastic bag trick, as referenced by Don Gwinn a year or two ago.

"It really doesn't need that." I protest. "It works fine..."

She swipes it quickly and with a smooth flick, and it works. Just like it was designed to, when the card is swiftly drawn through the swipe slot. She smiles triumphantly and says, "See? Works every time."

"Yes," I say, looking pointedly at my card as I put it back into my wallet. "It does."

I'm sure she's a wonderful person. Kind to children and small animals, and such.
So why do I hate her soooooooo much, just now?

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Sheep dogs

Driving around, I see flocks of sheep and herds of goats, watched over by sheep dogs. I don't know much about sheep, goats, or dogs that watch over them, beyond what I personally have observed in passing.

Sheepdogs seem to like to couch themselves in the shade of a nearby bush or tree, within about 30 yards of the outside edge of the main herd or flock. They seem to appreciate the solitude of a certain away-ness from other animals, including their charge. They also appear to ignore the animals that they guard, lying on the ground like alpaca rugs.

But approach the fence, and they'll get up on their feet. Keep standing there, or start to enter the pasture, and they'll bark at you. They will keep barking at you as long as you remain what they consider a possible threat to their charge. Back away, go get back into your car, and they'll lie down with their eye on you.

Their thick coats are universally matted, and they look a little slovenly, and because they lie near the flock or herd, they appear lazy. But they will look pretty spry when it's time to defend. They actually look fairly fierce, when they want to. Reportedly they can back up their bark, when the flock is set upon by coyotes, dogs, or wolves.

Most people look at the big shaggy dogs lying in the pastures with pity. But they seem to appreciate the life.

How interesting that we have bred such a useful breed of dog.

And I'd be lying if I didn't admit to doing a little anthropomorphizing, drawing some parallels with humanity.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Eurotrash.

516 years ago yesterday, an Italian guy in a Spanish boat and a questionable grasp on geographic geometry first landed on the Bahamas. No word on whether it was a Spanish flag or a little paper umbrella that he planted in the beach upon landing. But some records show that crew members with oceanview portholes were upcharged at a premium, and they later found out that other charges applied. (Gratuity extra.)

This was about 492 years after Eric's lucky boy Leif look his own little holiday cruise up to Martha's Vineyard, where he and some pals built a swell little resort where they could spend the winter munching frikadeller-and-havarti sandwiches.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Matt's traveler tip of the day.

Have with you the means to find an alternate route to your destination.

Stopping and demanding for a viable detour from the cop directing 3 lanes of traffic through a half lane at an accident scene is not an option.

Oh, and if you've got one of those shexxy dash-mounted GPS devices with the pre-loaded maps on them, especially don't. My hand to Gawd, I had a citizen with a Garmin Nuuvi tell me, "This thing only tells me where I am! It doesn't, like, tell me the future, about, like, what's up ahead!" I leaned in her window, tapped the minus button on the map screen twice, and showed her that life existed beyond the edge of her previous LCD screen map. (This took approximately 1.5 seconds.)

And, while entertaining, ma'am, your partial disrobing does not move me to redirect you through the accident scene where I've got a helicopter landing.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On a Day Like This

I was born in October, and have always felt that the weather of a north Texas October is a gift to me, personally. Back in 1990, while in Austin at U.T., I noticed that the October weather was similarly particularly fine. And I jotted down a little something:

On a day like this,
I can run faster.
I can jump higher.
I can see farther.

On a day like this,
I can think faster.
I can smile easier.
I can forgive quicker.

On a day like this,
Coffee tastes better.
Grass smells sweeter.
Work's more rewarding.

On a day like this,
I can love my life,
And those who love it with me.*

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*I met my future wife in October of 1991.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

With a lot less hue and cry.

OJ gets convicted with a lot less fuss than with which he was acquitted 13 years ago.

What a miscarriage of justice! Surely the jury knew that OJ wasn't robbing that memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas with his armed posse of 5, but was just searching for Nicole Brown-Simpson's real killer.

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It's official.

Reportedly ailing Korean Leader and self-proclaimed semi-deity Kim Jong Ill is not Kim Jong Dead.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

I know, I know. . .

I promised you content, yesterday.

The test went pretty well, because of last-second cramming. (Hey, it got me through my undergrad, why change?)

The House is developing. A porch has become a completely new room. The foundation is repaired, along with the slab leak that caused the problem. The termite dudes come out today. The roof is patched, supposedly well enough to give me another 5 years. The kitchen, hallway, entry, and guest bath are all floored with beautiful peacock slate. All of the popcorn is removed from the ceilings, the appliances have been replaced, and we've got a new garage door. The forty-some holes in the walls have been repaired, and the walls have been spackled, sanded, re-textured, and about half of them re-painted.

We have yet to: grout the slate (today), put in the bamboo flooring, tile the new sunroom, replace the kitchen or bathroom counters and sinks, and carpet the bedrooms. We still have to replace the garage door, frame in my wife's studio within the garage, acid-wash the stone fireplace, and paint and powerwash the outside.

Then we can move in. This month.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

No post for you today. You come back tomorrow.

Studying for Statistics test.

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