Vacationing

Vacation is underway and this year I brought along a laptop pc and the camera my wife won at a party at work. Of course in addition to that we brought along a Tomtom (no link on borrowed electronics) that my brother-in-law has set to give voice directions as Mr. T. For instance, “Don’t give me no jibber jabber, make a right at the next stop and then get on the motorway. Mr T. Don’t get no tickets!” (that is a quote.) And an iPod, in addition to both of our cell phones… Se we’re not exactly leaving the world behind this year, but then I’m not sure if I could function without at least some of this stuff.

Vacation destination this year was the California coast. The wife looked up the locations of the missions that run along the coast on El Camino Real, and planned out a day trip to the Channel Islands. I have been merrily snapping pictures the entire time, not even remotely concerned about running out of memory on the camera means I am taking pictures of damn near everything.

Right now I am sitting in a hotel in Lompoc, CA. This is the first night that I have had access to WiFi, and I am taking full advantage of that by uploading hundreds of photos. I am taking care to only upload the reduced versions of them though (most of which I have reduced to 35%) because the full size ones are 2.2MB, and don’t really buzz through the airwaves on this gratis connection. But the resolution on them is amazing. Here is an example:


What you are looking at there is a cropped and resized version of this scene which isn’t exactly web friendly, if you know what I mean.

So until I get back home and have the time to wade through the picture and properly thumbnail them, etc, I am going to just throw a couple of them up. On these next ones just click on the image to see it in it’s browser bending beauty.

Here is the Mission Santa Barbara. This is the first one that we stopped by today.

While I am not a religious man, I have to admit that when you see these structures you have to at least be taken back a bit by the amount of time and effort the believers spend both building and maintaining these throughout the centuries. The buildings really are beautiful, and somehow manage to evoke the same reverence in everyone who walks through the doors. I only took photos inside the main temple of one of the missions that we visited today, and then only when it was expressed to me that it was okay to do so. Not that I think it would have been an affront to God to do so, but that I thought it would have been disrespectful to do so without permission. And I had no intention of seeking out someone to ask if it was okay.

This next one is from the outside of the same mission, in the graveyard.

That was (I think) one of the best photos that came from the missions today. It was actually very dark inside there and with the naked eye I could hardly tell what it was at all. In the photo you can clearly see that at least two people are interred there (one on either side). The stained glass in the center is gorgeous, but to look at it from the outside it actually looked like it was paint. This photo was snapped between the bars of a locked gate in the cemetery -a place that I am relatively sure I wasn’t supposed to be taking a photo. Of course if you were to ask me why I thought it was okay to take this picture while I didn’t think it was okay to take them inside the church I would stare at you like Paris Hilton would if you asked her a math question.

We also took the time to stop at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. While I have never been to this specific museum, I am pretty damn sure they make these things with a cookie cutter and throw them up every 200 miles or so. It looks just like the one I remember visiting in Oregon and in Arizona. Right down to the planetarium and the fossils. One interesting thing they did have though was the butterflies.

If you are going to look at the full size versions of any of the pictures I posted, make it that one. I wasn’t sure that the camera was going to be able to capture the colors and contrasts of the butterflies, but boy was I ever wrong. This looks like the photo you would see on the outside of the box the camera comes in; the one that you can never take no matter how perfect the lighting. The thing is I managed to take about a dozen photos of different butterflies that all look this good. The ones that don’t look good are because the damn butterflies refuse to sit still for the pictures. Bastards!

Anyway, once I have a real broadband connection again I will finish uploading some photos from vacation, and there may even be a couple worth looking at.

Battle for the tread: Neither side is giving in

The battle against the treadmill persists. A week into the war and neither of us is showing any signs of quitting -that disappoints me a little bit, I was hoping by now the treadmill would have succumbed to my strength and admitted that I was the victor. You know, so I could stick it out in the shed and never speak of it again.- although as far as signs of fatigue go, I am definitely showing a lot more than the bargain basement treadmill is.

I have yet to complete a full thirty minute workout. What is sad is that there is a part of me that wanted to lie about that here; write that I had completed it so that anyone who happens across this seldom visited page wouldn’t know how horribly out of shape I am. Thankfully I haven’t yet allowed myself to do that. I say thankfully because I really believe that being honest with yourself is one of the most important parts of trying to make a lifestyle change for the better. If it hadn’t been for an offhand remark by a coworker, I would still believe that I was in great shape, if a bit heavy, and finding out that I wasn’t isn’t something that I should try to hide, but something that I should try to correct. If I were to exaggerate my progression in the treadmill war it would take away from the small victories that make it possible to go from the out-of-shape lump that I have become to the slightly-less-out-of-shape lump that I am striving to be. And currently that is my goal (sort of), to just be a bit less out of shape. Ultimately, of course, to be in good shape, but to get from where I am to there, well… If you were to try to put it on a bar graph, the line for what I wanted to achieve would be vertical, and since my line of progress would be horizontal that would be a tough program to stay with.

So I will use the treadmill’s own built-in training programs as a gauge. First attempt was with a 9% incline and lasted for all of 8 minutes (that was in two separate attempts: 4minutes with 9% and 4minutes with 6%), it also left my legs so sore that I wasn’t able to do it the next day (this, again, is from (the hard surface on my shins). I just got off of the machine one week after I started using it and I made it 16 minutes this time. I was able to do it this time without adjusting the speed set by the program, and I probably could have gone on a bit longer if it hadn’t been switching back to running at the 16 minute mark. This, however, didn’t have anything to do with my shins, I was starting to get a cramp in my side.

I will admit that I am a bit disappointed that I have not yet succeeded in doing a full thirty minute program, but I have showed at least minimal signs of progress on each successive attempt which keeps me going. For instance, the previous run ended at 15 minutes, this time I wanted to better that, so I set my goal to make it 1 mile -knowing full well that it would come far sooner than the twenty minute mark. Next time I will probably aim for the 20 minute mark, but allow myself to slow the speed for the last 4 minutes until I am able to do it without modification.

The good new is that while I am not showing any outward signs of the attempts at physical conditioning (another downside to starting such a program; it can take weeks to see any results at all), I am feeling the effects of it. My lungs don’t feel like I am breathing molten fire by the tenth minute, I am starting to perspire more regularly (don’t ask), my shins are barely hurting, and, perhaps most importantly, I am not dreading the task of getting on it to do my exercise. It is becoming routine, and hopefully I can keep that up.

The shoplifter that made me excercise. Bastard!

It was just before midnight on a Tuesday night when I saw the kids come into the store. While I have over fifteen years in retail that makes me keenly sensitive to the signs put out by potential shoplifters, these kids were throwing out signs that anyone would have picked up on: The were both so nervous as to almost be shaking, they were looking back and forth more than I have ever seen anyone not on crystal meth do, when they saw the cashiers, their eyes went straight to the floor. Long story short, this would be a beer run, and one that was telegraphed so clearly that everyone in the store new it.

Nearly all retail stores have a fairly strict policy of not pursuing shoplifters. In the past several years several store clerks have been killed while trying to stop shoplifters, and in turn, several shoplifters have been killed by store owners who fear for their lives -a situation that only comes to bear when they have made the foolish decision to pursue the shoplifter in the first place. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing in a retail store that is worth a human life, neither the store clerk’s nor the shoplifter’s, and with security cameras able to catch every angle from inside a store nowadays, it really isn’t necessary anyway.

All of this I know. But as I stood watching two kids, probably both between the ages of 15 and 17, so clumsily making preparations, it started to piss me off more than a bit. Being a salaried manager, my bonus comes directly from controlling profit and loss -which they were about to take a chunk out of- and maintaining a corporate set profit margin -which the loss directly effects-. I took up a post about 30 feet from the door and stared at them as they walked through the store, hoping that they would get the message. They didn’t. But as they made their way to the door, someone opened it to come inside, and not having to stop to open the door gave them an extra second that I hadn’t planned for when I took up my post. They were both in a dead sprint by the time they got to the door, and I had a corner to make it around plus the 30 feet to cover.

When I reached the door they were 20-25 yards ahead of me, running with, and quite possibly the funniest part of this, exactly: two 18 packs of budweiser, one 12 pack of budweiser, three 32oz bottles of gatorade, two 20oz Nestea Iced teas, and 2 bags of Cheetos Puffs. Frankly, if it had been just the beer I would have stopped at the door and let them go, but something about the random nature of the snack food just seemed so insulting that I got so angry I just couldn’t. Also, they were running towards a gold Jeep Cherokee that was inexplicably parked at our fuel drop station, nearly a hundred yards from the front door. I wasn’t going to let those little fuckers get away with it.

As anyone who played in sports knows, you can run much faster than your body thinks it can. While it is difficult to explain, you can overcome the limitations your body places on you more or less by willing it to be. I first discovered this back in High School while doing some distance running. Near the finish, when my legs could hardly carry me and my ribs were painfully cramped, I could call on this unforeseen reserve of energy to finish the last eighth of the lap as fast as if I was on fresh legs. I soon found that this energy could be called upon at will, and it made me a terror on the kickoff squad in football (affectionately called the meat squad), able to close the fifty yards in far less time than anyone my size had a right to. And while my body isn’t conditioned like it was back then, the discipline to control it is still there.

I had to make up 20-25 yards before they made it the 70 or so yards to the safety of their vehicle. Game on. I caught up to them about 2/3 of the way to their car, and that was when I realized that I didn’t really have a plan for what to do once I did. I was pretty sure they were both underage, and I wasn’t (and still am not) sure what would happen to me, or the store, if I was to injure them. I smacked the beer from the hands of the larger boy, who then looked over his shoulder to see who was behind him. He yelled something I couldn’t make out and the other boy threw down all he was carrying as well. Not sure what to do at this point, knowing that they would be leaving with nothing, I knew I had to let it go. Before I dropped the pursuit, in a final act of anger, I gave the big guy a firm push in the back which sent him tumbling to the ground. He was back up in a second and kept on running. The jeep that they had been running towards had long since taken off, having surely seen the pursuit, and no doubt knowing that if I was able to get their plate number it would be pretty easy to I.D. all involved, so both kids ran off the lot, through the desert landscaping, on the way to the freeway overpass. The Jeep was actually parked on that overpass waiting for them, but I had no intention of following them off the property; pursuing them into the lot was questionable at best, off the property was definitely going to get me fired.

As I began picking up the goods, which were now strewn about the parking lot, one of the clerks brought a couple of bags out to help me (the beer packages had split open when I knocked them from his hands, there were broken cans all over, but we could get credit on them, so it’s all good). As we were picking the items up, he said to me, “You have amazing speed for your size.” Obviously it is the last part of that line that did it. He didn’t mean it like I took it, of course, but he said it all the same for my size. As we entered the store with the stuff, the other cashier said, “You’re a lot faster than you look”. Which is really just a variation on the same theme. I know they both meant it as a compliment, but when it hit my ears it came across as “Holy shit! Lard ass can move!”

I should take a moment here before I get into the self-deprecation to point out that at 5’10” and about 190 pounds, I am in better shape than most Americans. In this deep-fried, super-sized world though, that isn’t saying a whole lot. As my weight would indicate, I am not into the range of morbidly obese. In fact I only show the weight in the form of love handles and a gut – a gut which, I am proud to say, doesn’t flop over the top of my belt when I do up my pants (you know you have seen these guys who wear a 36 inch pant, even though it cuts through the flab, and the flab hides their belt buckle). And the weight fluctuates so that in the winter I usually go about 190 while in the summer it is more like 180. I know I am not in great shape, but I didn’t realize the signs of it were so outward. But what really, really, got me to thinking about it was that I was winded, and couldn’t even speak when I got back inside. A sprint of sixty or seventy yards had never done that to me before…

If my being out of shape were purely aesthetic, I would probably let it go. At least until 200 pounds. That is a deal that I made to myself long ago: If I ever hit 200 there must be a regiment of diet and exercise put into place to get me back below that mark. The 1000 pound man, I reasoned, must have crossed that 200 mark at some point, and if he had taken action then it wouldn’t have come to a bed-ridden existence. It was the breathing and heart-rate that really had me concerned. At 34 years old, I shouldn’t be winded with chest pounding after such a small exertion. I’m not sure what role adrenaline may have played in all this, but regardless, for my health something must be done.

I don’t have the time or inclination to go to a gym, so I needed to find some sort of cardio training for the home. The first thing that came to mind was an elliptical machine. I spent a couple hours online reading reviews and found a couple that seemed to be pretty good value for the price at Wal-Mart. I looked at a few of them in store, and while they seemed sturdy enough, they were just so loud and clunky. I looked at some that cost a bit more money at Sears, including a Nordic Track, but it was just as loud and clunky as the others. I am at my most active between 2 and 4am, while my wife is asleep and I am winding down from work, and every machine that I looked at was loud enough that I feared it would wake her up if I used it. So I decided to just go with a simple treadmill.

I went for a low-end treadmill for several reasons. First, I’m not as young as I used to be, and one of my knees has been pretty screwed up since high school. I can certainly work through the pain now, but if the impact should become a problem in the future, I don’t want to have a huge investment in the thing. Second, I’m not sure just how much use I am going to get out of it. Hopefully I will continue to use this thing as preventive maintenance for my body, but I am enough of a realist to admit that I may not. Third, it is just a motor and a piece of tread, all the rest is just frills. Why does one cost 300 and one cost 1000? Can the motor or tread really be 3x better? I guess I’ll find that out in the future, and I will hope the answer is no.

And now to the whole point of this post. I had no idea just how bad of shape I was in until I got on the damn thing. Thinking I was in better shape than most (I think a lot of us walk around with that delusion) I set the incline to max, which is only 9% and started the first workout plan. 6 minutes into it I felt like I had a dagger under my ribs on the left side (a cramp) and my legs couldn’t take it anymore. I adjusted the incline to the middle setting 6% and slowed it down to 4mph (a slow jog, or a really fast walk) and still only made it a total of 9 minutes before I had to give up. I had to give up from the pain in my shins though, and if you ever played sports on a hard surface you know that the shin splints hurt like hell. If you stop when you first start feeling them you won’t be in debilitating pain the next day. So for the immediate future the plan is to use shortly every day until my shins can take a full thirty minute workout. Then I will probably get into an every other day, 30minute type thing.

So, 189 pounds and winded after 10 minutes to start. I’ll check back later.

I am the walking dead

I sat in front of this computer screen on Friday night with the intention of writing a humorous little post about something rather corny, the thing is I found it simply impossible to do. You see, Monday was a rather significant day in my life. As most recently recounted here, it was the day that I was supposed to die.

As the years have passed since I first started to have the dreams about December 17th, 2007, I had started to take it far less seriously. When I started having the dream, it was shortly after my father died. As I have gotten older, possibly wiser, I have started to understand that the horrific dreams I was having were probably just my mind trying to convince me that there was some sort of order to it all. Watching my father die at such a young age (both his age when he died, and my age when I watched it) had an effect on me that ran far, far deeper than just emotion, and it left me feeling like everything around me was chaotic; there was no reason for anything, things just happened. I could die at any second. While that is all true enough, I think the very sudden realization of it was a bit too much for my tender brain to cope with.

My mother was living over a thousand miles away when dad died, and through choices of my own and others I was left with my eldest brother (he is 4 years my elder) as my legal guardian after it happened. Books could be written about everything that could have (and did) go wrong with that arrangement, but for my purposes here, suffice it to say that he was no better suited to deal with the loss than I. After that, the girl that I had been dating for several years (a very significant percentage of my life up to that point) and I began to have problems. When our break-up was imminent, on the heels of dad’s death, everything that I had ever known was taken from me. Everything was in disorder and I simply couldn’t cope with it all.

My inability to cope with everything that was going on would ultimately lead me down a long, lonely road. I retreated into myself, and wouldn’t let myself get close to anyone for fear that they too would die, or worse just decide that I wasn’t good enough for them anymore -and worse yet, I started to believe that they were probably right. That sort of self-loathing played a huge part in why I started drinking: I simply didn’t care if I lived or died, and figured that no one else really did either. The battle with both alcohol and my self-esteem would take over a decade to resolve, but that is a story for another day, or possibly a story better left untold.

As for dreaming of my own death, I had always thought that it was a premonition. A frightening glimpse into the future that would be a constant reminder that everything I worked for would all be taken from me. While that may be true to a certain extent, and I think everyone probably thinks about their own mortality from time to time, I have started to think that maybe my mind was just trying to trick me into believing that there was an order to things. At a time in my life where everything was spinning out of control, my mind just kind of picked a date in the future for me to die. Far enough away that it wasn’t that frightening (it freaked me out in the beginning, and even a little right up until December 18, 2007), in fact not meant to frighten me at all, but to assure me that I had at least 17 more years to go. Of course my mind probably didn’t know that I was going to use this as license to do some pretty insane shit along the way; I felt pretty bulletproof after I started having the dreams, and as I was speeding down the freeway in excess of 160mph (or whatever crazy thing I happened to be doing), I did it knowing that I was going to live through it.

The fact that I have come to believe the dreams were just my mind trying to put a sense of order back into my life, though, didn’t mean that I wasn’t a bit freaked out when it actually got to be December 17th, 2007. When I tried to write a little something about the impending date, I couldn’t do it. And I went through that day with an awareness of what was going on around me such as I have never had before. I drove to and from work more defensively than I have ever driven in my life. I took special care to avoid even the tiniest bit of confrontation with others (I stopped short of catching a teenage shoplifter in the parking lot at work. I had his license plate, and we had it on camera, no need to take a chance on him having a knife and an attitude).

As an aside, I got my promotion at work somewhere near the middle of October. Through clerical and accounting errors, I was not receiving my paycheck. Each payday the District Manager was having to email the corporate office to get them to write me out a check. This week was the first week that I received a salaried check without all the fuss. The date of the check? December 17th, 2007. So I didn’t actually die on that date, but I certainly started a new phase of life. Maybe it was a premonition.

Doggie goes bite

I watched a show on television yesterday about a dog attack in San Francisco 5 years ago that resulted in someone’s death. This particular incident was different than most attacks that end with death for two main reasons, the first being that the woman who was killed was a healthy, 30 year old woman (dog attacks that result in death are generally limited to attacks on children or the elderly), the second being that the dog(s) that did the attacking were not pit bulls. At least the breed was called something other than pit bull, although they look just like them, only considerably larger.

Whenever someone’s dog attacks someone, the owners are held to some level of responsibility for it. Their legal accountability for their pet’s action is (very generally speaking) criminal negligence and some form failure to control a vicious animal -whether the dog got out of a yard, off a leash, etc. It got to the person it killed somehow. Occasionally there will also be charges of involuntary manslaughter. In the case that I saw yesterday, though, the prosecution was seeking murder charges.

There have only been three cases in U.S. history where a dog’s owner has been convicted of murder in an attack. The burden of proof required to convict someone of murder in such cases requires that the owners know that their dog is capable of killing a human, and that they willfully allowed that dog to come in contact with someone while in an agitated state (it has been some time since I actually read about the cases and I don’t want to research them again, so that may not be the exact legal definition, but it is close enough for my purposes today). In order to be convicted of murder, your dog has to be specifically trained to attack humans and you have to basically command it to attack.

Being a dog owner myself, I was rather surprised by my reaction to this. It turns out that I think that the owners in this case should be convicted of murder (or the one who was in control of the dog when it actually happened). When you buy/adopt a dog -particualarly a large breed dog- you become responsible for the actions of that animal, and it should not be limited to negligence if it does kill. It doesn’t matter if your dog has never shown aggressive tendencies, it will snap at some point. It is your responsibility to excercise physical control over the dog when it does. That point is very important. No amount of training and voice command is ever going to be able to stop an animal when its base instincts take over, you have to be able to physically subdue it. Failure to do so could and should result in being held criminally responsible for its actions, up to and including murder.

The dogs that I currently have are not aggressive. One is a Labrador mix, the other some form of terrier mix, neither one has ever even snapped at a human. I know, though, that if I take them out into the public it is entirely possible that something will happen to them and they will attack. Being that they are dogs, if they do attack they will not stop short of killing unless I physically stop them (the larger of my dogs weighs about 60 lbs. I have had to physically subdue him when he has gotten into a fight with another dog and let me tell you that even though I outweigh him 3:1, it takes all my body strength to do so. Keep that in mind when buying a dog that weighs 100 lbs.). This may not be the first thing I think about when I leash them up for a walk, may not even be in the back of mind as we are out in the park, but it is something that, if that time should come, I know I will have to do. If I fail to physically subdue my dog if it attacks, I am responsible for the attack. Putting him on a leash and taking him into public is my implied acceptance of that.

There really should be laws in place that make taking ownership of a dog an expressed acceptance of the fact that your are assuming ownership of a potential killer. That way simply claiming ignorance will not be possible when sparky eats the neighbor’s newborn.

My last post was when?

My recent schedule at the new job has kept me from sitting down to post anything here for the better part of two months now. When one of the co-managers quit, I was sort of thrust into the role. That would all be well and good if not for the fact that when combined with an unreliable work force, I was on schedule for 56 hours a weed, but working more like 60. Tack onto that an hour commute -each way- and I was at work, or on my way to or from it, for about 75% of my waking hours. Hell, I have hardly even had any time to look at porn!

I’m not entirely sure if I have had anything worth posting during that time anyway. I bought a car back in October, I had been meaning to make mention of it here, as cars are not exactly the type of thing that I just buy every day. The car I bought is a 2001 Saturn Sl1. I chose it after spending quite a bit of time on the internet comparing all the key features in used automobiles: reliability. This car is defenitely not the prettiest car out there -it isn’t damaged in any way, in fact it looks almost like new, it just wasn’t very pretty when they made it. It had 70,000 miles on it when I bought it and I have already added 8,000 miles onto that with my new commute. I paid $3200 for it, which was $2200 less than what Kelly blue book priced it at in good condition. It has performed admirably thus far, and even manages to average 34mpg, though it was closer to 38mpg before I started ignoring the speed limit.

I also had a personal anniversary to celebrate earlier this month. January 5th was the one year anniversary of my quitting drinking. While I am not normally the type of person to get too excited about anniversaries, nor to even acknowledge my own personal achievments, this one meant something to me. Consider that I hadn’t been sober for an entire week for about 17 years prior to this and you will understand why I am proud of this one. I still don’t really talk about it (aside from a few family memebers very few people know that I ever drank at all. Which just goes to show that I was good at hiding it.), but it was the most difficult thing that I have ever done, and the accomplishment that I am most proud of in my entire adult life. I truly can understand why so many people try and fail, or succeed but relapse. I still don’t know if I am on board with calling alcoholism a disease, but I am certainly a lot more sympathetic to what alcoholics are going through, especially those who are trying to sober up.

One of our dogs died in October, I made mention of that here. Our other dog, Warlock, has seemed a bit depressed since then, as I imagine I would be if the only friend I had of my own species was taken from me. My wife and I had been talking about getting another dog since sometime in November. We decided to wait until a couple of weeks into January to get one. The reasoning was simple: those Christmas puppies turn out to be a lot more work than the children who got them ever imagined. As a result, animal shelters begin getting in far more animals than they can find homes for in January. Better to spring them from the joint when they are on death row than to get one of them when they are so cute and fuzzy before Christmas. After a couple of trips to our local animal shelter, I found Warlock a new little brother.

The new puppy is 7 months old. They told me it is a mix of Catahoula Leopard Dog and Doxie -whatever the hell that is. He is considerably smaller than Warlock, and will remain so. Warlock is in the 60 pound range, and the new puppy, whom we named “Scruffers” (well, I named him Lord Scruffenheimer III, but the wife says we have to call him Scruffers for short) will only be about half that. Warlock has been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the puppy’s energy, but now when he lays down he is like a stone for the next six or eight hours -minimum. But they seem to be getting along pretty well. Scruffers has a very unique color pattern to him that I am not sure what to make of; It’s almost brindle, but then it’s almost dirty mop water too. In fact I would have believed them more if they had told me that he was a cross between a wire-haired terrier and a dirty mop.

You can see a bit more of his coloring in this shot:


And one last shot. This was the most adorable picture ever, right until Scruffers saw the camera. Then he jumped up such that when the camera clicked he was about .2 inches from it: edit 11/18/09. The following photo is the most hit file on my site by about 400%. Someone has this linked somewhere, but I don’t know where)




Well that’s all for now, I will try to throw something up here from time to time, as I am sure you are all dying to see more pictures of my adorable dogs (can you sense the sarcasm?).

Happy Wintersday!

I was at work late last night when Ed, who is a manager at the connected Arby’s, along with another man walked up to me. I didn’t know who the other man was, just an older guy, I would have guessed in his sixties. He was wearing work boots, heavy, black jeans, a sweater, a green jacket, and a beanie cap. Ed said, “Hey, Donnie, Phillip is looking for a place to stay tonight.” I was midway through my hotels on Chandler Boulevard monologue before I even knew it. As I ended with the “There is also a Sheraton at the casino across the freeway, but it is a bit expensive.” part, the look of abject horror on Ed’s face, as well as the smile on Phillip’s face told me that I was going the wrong direction with it. “Oh,” I said, “You are just looking for a warm bed for the night?”

“Yeah,” Phillip said as he handed me his I.D. (which I didn’t ask for or require, but he insisted I take), “I just got a ride in from Houston. I’m on my way back to Washington, but there aren’t many trucks running on account of the holiday.”

“Let me see what I can find.” I said to him as I offered him a seat near the payphones.

I don’t live anywhere near where I work, and in I don’t know the first thing about local homeless shelters, but I wanted to find the guy a place to stay. I called the local police department, assuming they would probably know since they are frequently called to escort vagrants from local businesses. Unfortunately, the local police department was for the Gila River Reservation, and they could only give me the number of the Chandler Police Department, who also couldn’t help, but were able to give me the number of the Phoenix police department. After a half a dozen phone calls, I was able to get the numbers of three area shelters. Since it was Christmas, though, each of the shelters informed me that they were already full. The last man I spoke with told me that a local church had opened its doors to shelter the “overflow” from the other shelters and gave me their number. The church was willing to take him in. Great. Except that the church was a good twenty miles away, through the heart of Phoenix. They also gave me the number of an emergency shuttle service to try, but said that it was unlikely they would give him a ride, since it wasn’t an emergency. I called their number but was only able to leave a message, and wasn’t too sure I was even going to get called back so late on Christmas Eve.

After I hung up the phone, I made my way to where Phillip was sitting. I told him that I had found him a place to stay, but that I was still in the process of finding him a way to get there. I offered him a cup of coffee and something to eat. He declined the food, but did get a cup of coffee. I told him he could sit in the restaurant while I found out about his ride, and went back to the phone. I called back the church, but this time I asked for driving directions. If I couldn’t find someone else to take him there, I was going to take him myself after I got off of work. He began to give me directions, then stopped and asked for my phone number. He said he would call me right back.

When he called back, he said that “since it was Christmas Eve” he had called the shuttle service himself and arranged for them to drive Phillip to the church. He then said, “You certainly seem to understand the spirit of Christmas.” I laughed. All I did was make a few phone calls to help a guy find a warm place sleep, and I would have done that regardless of the date on the calendar.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… It’s… Little green men?

Let me just start off by saying that I don’t fit the profile. I have a full compliment of teeth, I don’t currently sport a mullet (the flashback of school photos from the 80s is making me cringe), I don’t regularly wear faded overalls or plaid shirts, my house, while it does have a tin roof, does not have wheels, and it never did! So no one was more surprised than me when I saw a UFO this morning.

The stereotype seems to be that only hicks see UFO’s, which I don’t think is actually true; hicks are the only ones that talk about seeing UFO’s. With everyone virtually disregarding the actual meaning of the term as an object that is unidentified, and instead thinking of the little green men in a saucer connotation, I can understand why others would remain silent. I, however, have to write about it, because the whole thing fascinated me.

I am generally a very skeptical person. I like to think that I don’t believe anything that there isn’t pretty solid evidence to support. I think the very same thing about UFO’s: there is no conclusive evidence to support the beings from another world theory, so I have always assumed that the objects were either actual aircraft whose reflections/lights were altered by natural phenomena. But that is so not what I saw today. And my logical self was arguing with my UFO seeing self the entire time I was witnessing it.

I am still not ready to claim that I saw a craft from another planet, but what I saw today did have characteristics that are not seen in any aircraft that I have ever seen (which is not to say that we don’t possess them, and being relatively close to the testing site in Nevada, I think that is the most realistic explanation). I am going to detail what I actually saw as well as my logical mind trying to rationalize it -because honestly I was having fun arguing with myself while tooling down the freeway at 75.

I came up over a hill and had just started down the other side. Ahead and to my right (3 o’clock or so) I saw a bright light, distance was impossible to judge as there were no buildings or other landmarks on the horizon to gauge depth, the same things kept me from being able to make any guess at the scale. It was hovering (I say hover only to mean that it wasn’t moving up or down) and moving slowly from my right to my left. The sun was coming up behind me, so my logical brain assumed that it was most likely a small airplane, probably in a banking turn, reflecting the rising sun. Easy and logical.

The next time I looked to where the light was there was no longer a light shining towards me, instead there were two lights, both as bright as the one I had seen previously, only now one was shining up and one was shining down. This shot my reflection of the sun theory straight to hell -unless this happened to be one of those new geometric planes with the prismatic cabins. Now my logical brain was guessing that it was actually a helicopter. This helicopter, so my logical brain was saying, was using a searchlight on the ground. That would all be well and good, except for the other light shining straight up. Now I was intrigued.

As I continued to watch it move, it switched direction a couple of times. The direction changes were such that it could not have been done by an airplane: it stopped then went the other way. This could have been done by a helicopter, so my logical brain was still telling me that that is what it was. Even so, I started paying a lot more attention to it at this point, mostly hoping that I would be able to conclusively say that it was a helicopter. I simply couldn’t.

As I mentioned, there was a bright light shining up from it and another shining down, but as I watched it further, I saw more lights. There appeared to be dim lights around the edges of it, the shape was elliptical, and brighter lights at either end of it. The lights at each end of it were not continuous, but I can’t say with any certainty whether there were two lights that were each flashing, a series of lights strobing around it, or a single light and the craft itself spinning (although my logical brain discounted this possibility right off the bat). I continued to watch it for several minutes as I drove (I did look at the road occasionally) assuming that at some point I would see … something … that convinced me that it was actually an airplane or helicopter. That didn’t happen.

After having watched it move slowly from right to left, then right, then left, whatever it was made an ascent. That is to say that it shot straight up into the air, with a speed so fast it could have been a bullet. And just like that it was gone.

I certainly don’t know what that thing was. What I do know is that it was not a conventional airplane or helicopter. It absolutely could not have been a balloon either. It was simply an Unidentified Flying Object. And enough to make me think that maybe not everyone who sees one is a crackpot.

Goodbye

When you really think about it, it is pretty odd that people have pets at all. We invite them into our homes and treat them as members of our family and in return the most that they can ever offer is a bit of companionship. When we adopt pets, we do so knowing that there will eventually come a time when we have to lay them to rest. We place such value on their friendship that we take them in knowing that there will eventually be a hefty emotional price to pay for it.

Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to bear when the time comes.

zeldaThat is Zelda there on the right. She wandered under our gate about two years ago and we just fell in love with her. She was a tiny puppy when we got her, with barely any teeth to speak of. She was able to eat dry dog food, but only if she took it one piece at a time and spent a while chewing on it. Our other dog, Warlock, aided us in our effort to potty train her, and within a couple of days she was sleeping in our bedroom along with him. As you can probably guess from the photo, she was a pit bull, and much like all pit bulls I have ever come into contact with, she was extremely friendly and just loved children -especially if she got close enough to them to lick them. She was so happy all the time that we were never able to break her of her licking habit, nor of her habit of jumping onto people’s laps (but only her front paws; she knew she wasn’t allowed on the furniture).

Not long after we got Zelda, she suffered from what would turn out to be a very minor injury in her stifle joint. While the injury was minor and healed quickly, it also opened our eyes to a very real problem that she had, which I think was hip dysplasia. We never actually took her to a vet to confirm our assessment of her, but I am relatively sure that she was suffering from it. Her hips just didn’t work like the hips of a normal dog. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean, taken when I was trying to figure out what may be wrong with her hips:


Whatever the condition actually was (it was also possible that she had suffered from a broken pelvis very early on -possibly during birth), Zelda seemed unaffected by it. Aside from laying kind of funny, running in a bunny-hop fashion, she didn’t seem to notice it at all. I have to admit that it killed me to think about it though, since all the information that I was able to gather about either condition talked of excruciating pain the older they got, and it is just horrible to think about your pet suffering so.

Unfortunately, I returned home today to find Zelda lying limp on the floor. My attmepts at resuscitation were useless, but did dislodge a piece of something (possibly fabric) from her throat, which she apparently choked on.

I spent the better part of the morning digging a grave for her, all the while fighting back tears of loss. I am trying to content myself in the thought that she won’t have to suffer the pain of her condition later in life, but I really wish she could have stayed with us at least a couple more years.

I took her tags and put them on the old purple collar that she wore for all but the last month or so and put them on my desk. They made a familiar jingle as I carried them through the house. Perhaps later that familiar sound will make me smile, for now it makes the house seem empty.

Rest in peace, Zelda.

I’m taking what they’re giving

I started working again a few weeks ago. I have been avoiding making mention of it here because I wasn’t so sure how it was going to work out for me. I wouldn’t consider it to be my ideal job, but it is paying the same as my last job did, and I was hired with the expectation that I would be promoted to a salaried position within a couple of months -provided I grew to like the job, and that they liked me.

After a few weeks of working there, I have started to enjoy it. Keep in mind that for all my life I have worked at businesses that were owned and operated by someone that was on site all the time. This is the first time that I have worked in an environment where everyone had someone else to answer to, and the attitudes of my supervisors show it. This is quite literally the first job I have ever had that didn’t involve some form of verbal abuse from my immediate supervisor, it is quite a welcome change. I don’t exactly do a happy dance before I go in each day, but at the same time I don’t wish that I would suffer some horrible injury that would keep me from being able to go either (which is something that I did for the last three years or so at my last job -which is actually quite sad when I think about it.).

The reason that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the job is that the position that I am working towards (also the one that I actually interviewed for) is going to be a graveyard shift. In theory, I thought that I didn’t want to work the graveyard shift, but after a couple of weeks of working 4pm to midnight, the thought of working overnight has started to seem better. As it is now, I don’t actually get home until almost 2 in the morning, at which point I do my best to not wake up the wife since she has to get up at 5 to get ready for work. Were I working the graveyard shift, we would be able to spend the evenings together and I would leave for work just as she was going to bed, and I would be sleeping while she was at work. That would be great for her since she would be able to sleep without being groped, something that hasn’t happened since we got together.

Whether or not I decide to take the graveyard position, I think I will be to a management position within six months or so, just by learning the procedures and being there every day. At the very least, I will be making the same amount as I made at my last job without any of the endless crap that came along with it.