December 28, 2004

I decided that I better go ahead and throw something up here today, lest you all think that I died a horrible death and was not able to slap together a post in the last week.

The Christmas Holiday is always a pretty hectic time in these parts, especially this year. I had ordered a gift for the wife through (which is not linked to or capitalized because I am a bit pissed at them right now). A couple of days later, I got an email saying that the item was ‘delayed in shipping’, but not to worry it would still be here in time. Of course the next email that I received from them said that it was out of stock, and wouldn’t be getting here at all. That sort of thing really sucks. Especially if you are like me, and don’t want to set foot in a department store anywhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, but I really had to in this case.

The item in question was not even any sort of a ‘white elephant’, it was just the ‘Titans’ expansion to Age of Mythology. While I was not able to find the expansion at the local Wal-Mart, I was able to find the gold edition of the original game, which included the expansion, and that was what I bought (it did cost a lot more than the expansion, but I needed it at that point). This is where doing your planning at least a couple of weeks before Christmas could really have helped me.

Angry Amazon stories aside, Christmas went pretty well. I did buy the latest Harry Potter DVD for my wife, while she instructed her Parents to buy the same for me, so we now have two copies of it (I kept my receipt just in case something like that were to happen, so it is not that big a deal). We all seemed to enjoy the day, it was a pretty good Christmas.

My wife gifted me the second ‘Roller Coaster Tycoon’ (well, the ultra, mega, version, with all of the expansions) game, which has been draining away most of my waking hours. The second RCT game has gotten rid of a lot of the issues that I was having with the first, but it has left a lot of them as well. I just enjoy the second version more since they give you scenarios where you don’t have to make any money at all, don’t have to have a good park rating, just have to have exciting coasters, and you don’t have to pay anything to build them. That was the whole reason I wanted to play the game in the first place, I wanted to build gnarly roller coasters and see if anyone would go on them. I did have a lot of deaths on my first couple of attempts, but who knew that you actually needed to put brakes at the end of the run?

The Christmas haul also had some socks and underwear. While, ten years ago, I would have hated to see such items as Christmas gifts, this year I was totally stoked. The wife managed to find some of the underwear that I failed to find in both an internet search, and a local store search. Add to that that the wife has been searching for said underwear for several weeks with the holiday approaching, and never found them. Imagine my excitement when I opened a package to find 8 pair of underwear! I may never have to buy underwear again! Well, that is certainly not true, but I am starting to think that, since the underwear are so hard to find, I may only wear them on special occasions from this day forward. Of course that is the type of bold statement that you could make if you weren’t married. For some reason, women seem to think that you should be wearing underwear every waking moment. Unless, of course, they are horrible sluts, in which case they might get confused if you offer them underwear.

One more thought for today, I have recently started to read the book “The DaVinci Code”, and I find the first few chapters to be a tad boring. I know that it has glowing critical acclaim and all, but it is (so far) seeming to be some sort of a history lesson. I am sure that there will be action in it at some point, but for now I am reading it solely because it has so much buzz about it. Perhaps every mundane factual mention in the first few chapters will come into play in the end, I don’t know. I will say that it has me intrigued enough that I want to to turn the page to see what happens next, and that is the hallmark of a good novel. I sure hope it starts to happen soon though, else I might just start to think that whatever is going to happen will happen whether or not I am reading about it..

The joys of owning your own home!

The joys of owning your own home!

Several days ago I noticed a small pool of water next to the bathtub. I wasn’t all that concerned, surmising that the wife possibly had neglected to close the curtain completely while showering. I mopped up the little pool and that was that. Or so I thought. The next day the pool was back. I began to think that I might have a minor plumbing problem on my hands. Given the layout of my bathroom, the toilet and bathtub are slightly elevated and separated from the actual sink (which, it turns out is pretty fortunate), I knew that the problem was centralized to that area, an area of roughly three feet in width, maybe six in length. This seemed like just a minor little problem.

Several months ago we had had a similar water pooling problem. The previous problem was from a crack in the small line that runs to the toilet. While it took me a while to find a hose of the correct size, it was eventually fixed pretty easily. I thought that this problem must also be toilet related, as the bathtub is sitting over the top of an empty hole in the foundation of the house, so if it was leaking the water would be absorbed into the ground, not leaking onto the floor. The first thing I checked was the toilet itself. There was no water coming from any of the connections, I could not find any sign of water around the bowl or the back. A visual inspection showed no cracks in the porcelain, no apparent damage to the junction between the back and the bowl, I was at a loss.

The next thought that I had was that maybe I just needed to replace the wax ring under the toilet. That is usually the place that water leaks near a toilet. However, had the wax ring been the problem, two facts would have been really hard to explain. The first is that if the wax ring is broken the toilet will only leak when flushed, which was not the case here. The second is that my wife uses a blue tablet in the toilet, so if it was leaking from the toilet, the water should be blue, the water was completely clear. This, of course, left only one possibility. Why the aliens had decided to deposit a gallon or so of water on the floor of my bathroom every morning is something that I still don’t quite understand.

Much like in my Arthur Witles story, the alien theory didn’t seem possible, well, not after I thought about it rationally anyway. Sure the water could have been placed there by aliens, but then why didn’t they abduct me? Why didn’t they mutilate my cattle (this is easily explained, as I have no cattle)? What could their motive possibly be? Is there some sinister alien race somewhere that really just wants to make people slightly uncomfortable by making them stand in a small pool of cold water while they try to pee? This all lead to me looking for a more earthly explanation for the mysterious pool of water in the bathroom (but, if you are an alien, and you have a garden hose, and I catch you in my bathroom, there is gonna be hell to pay!).

The water pipes that run behind the toilet (and later to the sink) come from behind the bathtub. The next logical step was to think that one of them was leaking. Much of the pipe is attached to the wall with mortar, and is not possible to inspect visually. However, the wall was not wet, nor was the groud right next to the wall. I mopped all of the water off of the floor and then dried it completely with a towel. I then layed squares of toilet paper over the joints in the tiles to see which one got wet the fastest. The strange part was that the one nearest the center of the room got wet a lot faster than the ones that were placed near the wall. So, while I was pretty sure that the leak was coming from somewhere in that wall, I was not able to understand why the water was able to pass to the center of the room without ever touching the other pieces of paper. I eventually dismissed that question, assuming that the water was running below the tiles. Which would all make sense, since water seeks the easiest path to the lowest point before it will begin to pool.

I put off going outside to look inside the access panel behind the bathtub for a few days. I thought that, at most, I would have to replace the hot and cold water lines from the bathtub over to the sink (about five feet total for each line). It just didn’t seem like that big of a deal. I had a couple of local contractors (the cheap kind) that were going to come and take a look at it on Saturday, but neither of them showed up. So late Saturday night I went outside to look at what I was dealing with behind the bathtub, thinking that I could go buy a couple of parts at home depot and do it myself. When I raised the door to the access panel, I knew I was in way over my head.

The access panel behind the bathtub is a small opening (roughly 2 feet square) in the side of the house. Being that the house is over a hundred years old, it is also the only access to any place where the house is not placed solidly on the rock hard foundation (which is because the plumbing was added long after the house was built. Which also means that all of my plumbing is visible [except the drain lines], and also explains why they added a new room to the house to add incoming water -you try to chisel through three feet of underground, solid stone to run a pipe and tell me how it goes-). It turns out that the little area behind the bathtub can hold damn near exactly seven gallons of water before the level gets high enough to start seepin through onto the floor. I know that since that is just about how much water I was having to bail out once ever few hours. I was still at a loss though, there was not a damn pipe there that was wet. Every line going to the toilet, sink or bathtub was bone dry. It seemed odd.

Eventually, I decided to go around and check the room with the water heater (this was the room that was added later for the sole purpose of handling the incoming water supply). I found the problem. It was about midnight at the time, and I was armed only with a flashlight, so I was only able to ascertain that the leaking was coming from the first line that came in. The first three feet (vertically, as the rest of it was buried in concrete) felt damp, and the floor was pretty clearly wet. I had finally found the damn problem! Of course it was far too dark to try to see where the leak was, so I went to bed pretty content, thinking that I would be able to replace an elbow or something and be done with it. I mean, really, these old, galvanized lines usually start to leak at the joints first, they never, ever, ever start to leak on the straight line, especially when they are buried in concrete.

Sunday morning I found out that the old, galvanized line broke on a straight stretch of line, which happened to be buried in concrete. It really sucks to be the one-in-a-million when it is not the winning the lottery.

The pipe runs under the little room with the water heater for a total of about four feet. There is one line (the very first actual water outlet in the entire system) that runs straight up just inside the shed. This runs to a simple garden hose outlet. This is where the pipe is broken. The break is at ground (concrete) level, so there is no way that I can just cap it off. Leaving me exactly two options, the first being to let it leak seven gallons of water every few hours and bail it out, the second to turn off the main water (at the meter) and turn it on when we need it. I chose the latter.

This is where most people would call in a professional. This is also where I can absolutely prove just how blindingly cheap frugal I am.

I did speak to a couple of professionals, and I came up with the conclusion that they generally charge by the hour. So, what I needed to do was to make sure that, were I to hire one, they could get in and out of here as quickly as possible. That meant, “fuck the old plumbing, lemme see if I can find a way around digging all the old shit up.” That also meant that someone was going to have to dig a trench, about forty feet long, in which to place the new pipe. I like to think that I am a pretty proud person, and I really believe that I am, I am especially proud of the forty foot long trench that I dug, with my own hands, thus saving me paying someone else to do it. It did take in excess of three and a half hours, and I developed, then broke, then developed, then broke a lot of blisters on my hands. I also got myself hit in the right eye with a chip of something that made it so that I could’t even open my right eye this morning, but I saved myself a buck or two, and that is what it is all about (the thing about the blisters and the eye are both totally serious, one of the bosses actually wanted me to take time off of work to go have my eye inspected)! Plumbing must be fixed.

None of the contractors that I had spoken to ever showed up, but, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend (of sorts) who is a retired contractor, just as I was going to lunch. I must say that he really admired the trench that I dug. That trench is a damn good piece of work, but, as it is with all trenches, it must eventually be filled in. Perhaps I will be able to get a wonderful snapshot of it before I have to bury it again (yes, I am proud of my trench). He did ask that I dig it twelve inches deeper near the water meter, other than that he had no complaints. I told him what my plan was, to circumvent the underground plumbing by running a whole new line, and he was a big fan of it. While this will still be a pretty big endeavor (as the water heater will have to be drained and removed until the lines are replaced), it seems so much more possible for me to do it basically by myself. I just want to have someone there that actually knows what they are doing, just in case I try to do something completely stupid. While I don’t think I would do something completely stupid (in relation to my house), I know that there is evidence that shows that I would do something stupid. I have tattoos, for instance, need I say more?

So the trench is dug, the plan is in place, all I need to do is dig just a bit deeper near the water meter and knock out part of a wall that has stood for over a hundred years (which sucks. But since it is behind the bathtub you will never see it anyway.). I have someone who is going to help me (someone who is not only knowledgeable, but offering his services ‘pro bono’, provided that I do all the labor (so, like a coach). He has also said that he will gift me the copper line to replace the outgoing water from the water heater (which would be nice to have, especially since he is going to show me how to install it).

This horrible broken water pipe thing is shaping up to be a pretty good learning experience for me. It would really have been nice if it was not happening on the cusp of Christmas, but what are you gonna do? The thing is that after I (do all the labor) watch him make the connections with the copper pipes, I will know how to do it, and I will know it for the rest of my life. So I will be getting the gift of knowledge, and really, is there any better gift? Well, possibly running water, but I am working on that, and the gift of knowledge comes into play there as well…

What time is it?

Rejoice! I have decided to update my page today! If you don’t want to rejoice you don’t have to, I am not really doing it myself. One of the benefits of having a little site like this, particularly one that is not read daily by more than a handfull of people, is that no one really gives a damn if there is new content or not. I am sure that the people who do read it must find some sort of satisfaction in it ( I am guessing here ), but that lends itself more to the ‘snooping around in other people’s business’ category. You read what I write, yet don’t care if I don’t write, you are just taking a peek into my life. That seems to be the actual defenition of a BLOG. However, I have never billed this site as a BLOG, and don’t really consider it as such. Most of the BLOGs that I read are either political, or spend a lot of time talking about current events. That is something that I am trying to avoid here. I do talk about the news when it gets me into a bitching mood, and the same with politics. Yet, if I were to start doing that exclusively I would lose the whole point of the creation of this site.

I just love to bitch. It is my life’s blood. The unfortunate side effect of that is that no one really wants to listen to me do it anymore. Sure, the wife will listen, but the rest of the world just doesn’t seem to care. So, when I type my bitch down (maybe the next USHER song, ‘type my bitch down’), it feels like I am venting it. It really does help to clear my head and get back into focus. I do have to pay the twenty bucks a year for the domain name, and eight bucks a month for the hosting, but that seems like small potatoes when I think about how theraputic the site is (not to mention that lots of men my age are paying quadruple that price to look at porn).

Now I will put the incoherent preamble aside and get to the bitching!

• What time is it?

I don’t know how many people out there are like me. I may just be that weird freak that everyone talks about. I always keep my wrist-watch in perfect time (well not that I call every day to make sure, but within a second or two is okay), yet I have a habit of setting the time on my alarm clock thirty minutes ahead (of course that has to be almost exactly thirty minutes, else I would be fucked). Why do I do this? Well, I want the alarm to go off early enough that I will be able to get out of bed. Sometimes, when the alarm goes off, I think that maybe it wasn’t really the alarm, or maybe it was in a dream (my dreams are usually very vivid). By the time I actually wake enough to look over at the clock, the alarm might have been sounding for several minutes. When I do eventually look to the clock, I think that it is thirty minutes later than it really is, that sort of shocks me back to reality. While it would seem that you would get used to it after a while, I still manage to get tricked every day.

The hard part, you see, is to get me out of whatever dream I am currently in. It is amazing how your mind can integrate real time outside noises into the little world you create while you are asleep. Last Sunday, for instance, the wife nudged me to tell me to turn off the alarm. Her nudge wakened me to the point that I realized that the beeping sound was not the garbage truck (in the dream) backing up for me to throw in trash. Yet, once I turned off the alarm, I was back in the garbage truck, rolling down the street to collect refuse from every house.

Sometimes it takes a couple of whacks at the ‘snooze bar’ before I actually roll over to look at the clock. While you would think that I would look at the clock and immediately register that I have it set thirty minutes later than it really is, it never happens. Almost always it shocks me into waking from a dream. At that point I do remember the odd setting of my clock, but, like I said, sometimes it takes a few whacks of the ‘snooze bar’ before I give up on the dream.

I suppose that I should thank the random fluctuations of time and space that I am not a sleep-walker. If I had that condition, added to the lucid dreaming, I might not be here to type about it now. Yes, I do know that everyone dreams, yes, I do know that they all seem real. But (and this is a very big but), have you ever gone out the next morning and dug a hole in your back yard based on a dream? Now that I am sounding like some whacked-out UFOlogist, I should mention that I only did that once, and to no success.

I would never have guessed that my little, innocuous story about all the clocks in the house showing a different time would have lead to all that. Of course I didn’t ever get to the point about all of the clocks in the house having different times, which was what I was planning to do a couple of paragraphs ago.

Anyway, the time is kind of based on what room you are in around here. With the exception of my alarm clock, I don’t think any other (functioning) clock in the house is more than a few minutes off. While one clock might be five minutes fast, and another five minutes slow, actual time will come into play eventually. I have never tried to get dressed in the room with the clock that is the furthest behind, yet I am pretty sure that time itself would have continued on. (i.e. I can pick a room with a clock that says I am not late, but the clock at work doesn’t confirm that decision).

Damn, it is now 11:11, 11:35, 11:44 or 11:01, depending on the clock I look at. No wonder I have weird issues with time…

Shootout in Florence

Well, such as is the way of the universe, yesterday’s really short post went on to be within the top ten of my longest posts ever. I would like to attribute that all to my crack writing ability, as well as a good subject to write about, unfortunately, neither of those were actually the case. It seems that I am just a lot better at bitching about past experiences than current ones. I really don’t think that anyone out there is a bit different than me in that respect; it takes you years of thinking about an experience to get it etched into your long term memory.

Whether that experience was good or bad, it ceratinly left a mark on me. Do you remember what you got for your birthday in 1983? If you do, I would certainly like to know why, which is why I put the ’email me’ link on the bottom of the page in the first place.

Now, on to other stuff.

• It turns out that really freaky, weird news can happen right where you live…Even if you live in an extremely small town. I am going to quote the entire article from the Arizona Republic Web Site , as it might not be there tomorrow.

70-year-old dies after 12-hour police standoff in Florence
Liikely died of self-inflicted wound, authorities say
Dec. 14, 2004 02:40 PM:
Schools and several businesses in Florence were shut down Tuesday morning as a 70-year-old man held police at bay in a 12-hour standoff before he was fatally wounded by what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

At one point in the standoff, around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Robert Schultz allegedly used an AK47-like weapon to fire 50 to 60 rounds at an armored vehicle with SWAT team members from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office inside, said Cmdr. Jerald Monahan.

Deputies returned fire but it was unclear whether they hit Schultz. None of the deputies was injured.

Schultz barricaded himself after a conflict with his son escalated, authorities said.

The standoff forced the evacuation of a number of homes in an area south of the center of town near the residence on Circle Drive where the conflict took place.

Robert Schultz barricaded himself inside a bus-like RV in his back yard shortly after 8 p.m. Monday night and was pulled out by police shortly after 8 on Tuesday morning.

Following sunrise, police could see Schultz lying down inside the RV from which he fired at the armored vehicle. Police took Schultz into custody and he was flown to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn, where he died around 11:30 a.m., Monahan said.

Florence High School along with the town’s middle school and elementary school canceled classes.

Florence police Chief Robert Ingulli said a number of students travel through the area where the standoff took place to get to the schools.

“The fear was that they would be in danger if gun fire erupted,” Monahan said.

The Florence Unified School District administrative office, located on the other side of a parking lot behind Schultz’s residence, was shut down along with four main roadways encompassing the evacuated sector of town.

After Schultz barricaded himself inside the RV, Schultz’s wife called 911, Monahan said. She told police that Schultz had a number of weapons inside, and when authorities contacted Schultz on a cellphone, he threatened to harm police, Monahan said.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team responded and later called in the Chandler Police Department’s SWAT team to provide relief for its deputies.

Now, I do know the guy involved, it is a very small town. While I would like to think that there is some way to keep Assault Rifles out of the little town, I guess this is pretty much proof that anyone, anywhere can gain access to one. While you wouldn’t think that the guy, who is 70 years old would have one, I think this proves that he just might.

My question is, what did his son say to piss him off so much that he was ready to kill the world, or die trying? I suppose they will uncover more of what actually transpired during the standoff as time moves on, but, still, I really think it must have been something ‘earth-shattering’ to send him over the edge.

I really don’t know what happened to make him snap, I am not even sure if I want to know. What I do know is that I don’t want to piss off anyone in the family, or the in-laws for a very long time. Funny how I have become so attached to this life.

I guess that is pretty much normal logic though; Sure you hate your life, but, would you trade it for your death? Me, I have only x amount of years to be on this earth, and I plan to live every damn one of them! As far as going senile when I am seventy, talk to me in forty years…At which point I might bludgeon your children when you are not looking, then snap and start doing really hostile things. Only time will tell.

The most unfortunate part of this whole thing is that there is now a widow, the wife of the guy that died, who has no husband, no guns, no ammunition, but, a laundry list of things to be taken care of. I feel for her far more than I try to feel for him. Imagine being elderly, then having to pay for an unsuspected funeral, though if you have a ‘cache’ of weapons (which inludes an AK-47), I suppose you would be foolish to think that ‘natural causes’ would be the killer…..Yet,I guess the police probably did steal (I mean remove from the home) anything that had a hole in one end of it.

I seem to be a bit too upset about this issue to get involved.

Food stamps

I don’t have a thing to talk about today. No news items of note. No pictures to share. This will probably be a pretty short one, even by my standards.

• So something that happened at work today got me a bit steamed. It was just something that a woman said in passing, as she was buying her groceries with food stamps. What she said was that she only got 99 dollars a month in food stamps, and “how am I supposed to live on that?” The thing is that she said it while I was being forced to remove some chips, ice cream and soda from her order so that she would have enough to cover the total, which I will get back to in a minute. What I found really strange about it was that she said this in front of about six people (all the rest of whom paid with actual cash, btw) as if she honestly believed that everyone gets food stamps(at least that was how it came across to me).

I am pretty liberal on most issues, and I think that providing food for people who can’t afford it is a necessary thing. Growing up, after my parents divorced, my mother was forced to go onto that type of government assistance. Imagine being the single mother of three, making 3.35 an hour, trying to provide a house and utilities. Her paycheck was never enough to cover the rent and all of the utilites, so she was forced to juggle; let one bill go unpaid one month, then a different one the next month. That was before the thought of what we were going to eat for dinner ever came into play. Without government assistance, we would truly have never had anything to eat.

My mother was very smart with her food stamp purchases though. We did get things such as chips and sweet cereal, but only when they were bought in bulk at a warehouse store. The rest of the purchases were almost exclusively of inexpensive items that could make several meals. Potatoes, for instance, get 10 pounds for a dollar, add a 1 dollar can of corned beef and you have just made dinner for four for about 1.33, since it only took about a third of the potatoes. The next day might have been chili, a couple pounds of beans for 50 cents, a bit of whatever kind of beef was on sale and some seasoning. Maybe two dollars spent there for a meal for four. Next day, maybe use another third of the potatoes and mash them, make some gravy (the little packs were like four for a buck at the time) for say 50 cents, meal for four for 88 cents. There was always bread, of course, but I am not going to count the cost of that, since we always bought it at a bakery outlet that sold outdated bread at 5 loaves for a dollar. There was also dairy stuff (milk and cheese and the such) but we honestly got a lot of that through a government food box program, which is much the same as the WIC program is today. I think you see my point. She could easily feed the four of us three meals a day, for a week, and probably get it done for about 20 or 25 dollars.

This was in the eighties, of course, so the prices on everything have gone up. However, the prices for things like dry beans and potatoes have remained pretty low compared to the prices of other things. Frozen meals leap into my mind as something that has gone up in price by several hundred percent since that time, unfortunately that is the type of thing that most of the people on food stamps seem to buy. I could understand that if it was because they were working full time, or even part time on multiple jobs, but in reality it seems that most of the people (at least in my experience) are on food stamps because they are just plain lazy. No job at all, not even looking for work, claiming that they can’t work because they have children. Thing about that excuse is that you have to enroll them in school eventually, it is the law, not to mention the best and cheapest day care service available.

In the defense of people like my mother, as I am sure there still are people in the position she was in back then, I know that not everyone that is on government assistance is like that. In fact, I remember seeing a story on the Discovery Channel some time back where a woman that had been on Welfare for several years had worked her way up to a decent job, then actually made voluntary donations to the Welfare program to cover the amount of money that they had issued her. Of course I can’t find a link to the story anywhere on the site, and google didn’t help either, but I saw the show and was truly shocked that someone could be that proud. Kind of the polar opposite of the type of people that I see around here.

A few paragraphs back, I was talking about the WIC program (the link goes to the Arizona Wic website, as the federal site ‘cannot be found’ when I click on it). To put the WIC program into a nutshell, they give families with low incomes necessary food items. Specifically, things like milk, cereal (nothing sugared, there are strict guidelines), cheese, fruit juice (actual juice, not fruit punch), eggs, baby formula for newborns, peanut butter, dry beans and etc. This program is so much better than the food stamp program though, since they can only buy exactly what each check they have says. So instead of buying soda, they have to buy fruit juice. Instead of buying Apple Jacks, they have to buy approved cereals like cheerios, chex, corn flakes and etc. (interesting side note, apple jacks was the sixth sweetened cereal that I typed into my address bar, and the first one that actually took me to a cereal website. Trix, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Pebbles and Sugar Smacks (( all without spaces, and all just all lead to sites, but none of them are about cereal. In fact one of them leads to a page that has casino games and adult links. How fucked up is that?) This forces them to buy nutritious foods and dairy products, and makes it impossible for them to buy junk food.

The WIC program takes it so seriously that they randomly audit register receipts to make sure that all items purchased meet the WIC guidelines. They inspect every WIC approved retailer at least once a year. They even send out WIC agents with checks to try to buy products that are not covered. If a retailer fails any inspection, receipt audit, or field test, they are put on warning for some amount of time. If, during that time, they fail again, they are removed from the WIC program. They are damn serious about it.

I would really like to see some similar model adapted by the food stamp program. Unfortunately, the implementation of anything like that would cost millions, and is pretty unlikely. There is a glimmer of hope though. Most (possibly all?) states now have electronic food stamps, you know, like a credit card. This makes it so that the customer can never get back any change on any transaction (which makes it impossible to buy a nickel gum, then use the 95 cents in change to buy a beer- that used to be a real problem-). Even though most all retailers have scanning systems that can keep track of what a consumer buys, the sheer number of products that come out every year would make it literally impossible to try to keep up a list of what could and could not be purchased with food stamps. No matter how much I wish it was possible, it is just never going to happen.

I suppose that, in some parallel universe, it would be possible to set up food stamp only stores. If the store only carried healthy, nutritious items, and if you could only use food stamps at that store, you would have to buy it. Nothing like that could ever happen in this universe. Every major market chain accepts food stamps, and every one of them would be pretty unhappy if they lost the revenue of the non-paying customer. I really would like to just get a glimpse of that alternate universe though, just to see how it worked out.

• Now, to prove that I am a hypocrite, I offer you a quick anecdote from my youth.

When my parents initially separated, my mother and the three of us moved into a tiny little shack. The little shack had (to the best of my memory) three rooms. One room was the living room, one was the kitchen and one was a bedroom, which had a small shower in the corner. The actual toilet was a tiny, wooden building about twenty feet out the back door (yes, an outhouse). I believe that we were living in this one rent free, as my mom was working for the farm that owned it. Let us just say that it was not the most wonderful home. But, Mom left with nothing. She left Dad every posession, except one car, in order to keep us kids. (in hindsight, I think that dad was really just trying to prove to mom that she would not be able to survive without him. I think that backfired, since that just made her want to prove him wrong.). The accomodations got better with each move, so there is no need to feel sorry for me, my brothers or my mom. I will say that you have to really, really, really take a dump before you go sit in an outhouse, in Oregon, in the winter though.

We were living in that little structure as our birthdays approached (my brothers’ being only two days apart, with mine a month after). As you would imagine, there was not a lot of money to be spent on presents. Of course a birthday with no presents would really suck, regardless of how poor you happen to be, so we did get presents. The first present was an itchy, smelly, green military blanket, which was as good as gold to us. The house was perpetually cold, I am not sure if it had any insulation at all, hell, I am not even sure if it had both interior and exterior walls, it could have all just been plywood. Anyway, this gift was given to us all at the same time, thankfully, even though it was a ‘birthday gift’ (here I might also note that they were donated from some church, so you see religion is not all bad).

The proof of my hypocrisy? The other gift that each of us got was ten dollars in food stamps. Ten dollars that we could spend on any kind of tooth rotting crap we chose. For the life of me I can’t remember exactly what I bought with mine. I will gurantee that there was at least one box of Star Crunch cookies, they were like heroin to me, at least until I was a teenager. That is why I am a hypocrite, I would never have gotten the gift of junk food if you couldn’t buy it with food stamps. Hmmm. Funny thought just occurred to me. I can remember what I got for my birthday in 1983, but I can’t remember what I got last year. I must really have liked those star crunch cookies.

• Damn it! I forgot to bitch about the initial point that I wanted to make. You see, if the woman from the first paragraph had exchanged all of the items she was buying for the generic equivalent items, she would have been able to buy all of the stuff. Not only that but she would have had money (food stamp balance) left over. Why is it that when it is not really your money you will buy the name brand, while if it is your money (at least in my case) you will buy the generic in almost every instance?

Holidays and birds

So, just a quick recap of my last couple of posts. I/we own birds, Diamond Darrel died. Yup that pretty much sums it all up.

That all led me to remember about the little headstone that I made for the first bird, Elvis. Which you can see here. It doesn’t look quite the same in digital form as it does in person, however, that really bad writing on it looks just the same either way. I never realized how difficult it would be to use a small brush to write on concrete before I made this little headstone. Now that I do know, I will likely never try to do it again. As the little pine needles in the front make it a bit difficult to read, I will mention that the date on the stone is 5-20-02. Which was, obviously, the day he died.

Never in my life did I ever imagine that I would feel such an emotional attachment to a pet that I would actually place a headstone above the grave, yet, in this case I did. I didn’t even feel that close to the little bird Elvis, but I did have to bury him. While it would be nice to not feel any emotion while performing such a task, I was overcome with emotion when it got to the point of putting the little bird into his grave. My eyes teared more for my wife than for myself, but they did tear. That is why I made that little crappy headstone for Elvis; It is extremely difficult to deal with the death of a pet, especially if you have to play the role of the one who lays the pet to rest.

Much on a side note, I buried Elvis outside of the block fence, since we had just acquired our first dog at about the same time. It turns out that my paranoia was reasonable, as our second dog is prone to digging holes all over the yard. The last thing that you want/need to see is one of your pets carrying the mummified or rotten corpse of a different pet towards you.

I really haven’t liked the birds since we first got them, and I don’t think my sentiment has changed much in all these years, however, I did create the only headstone I have ever created for the sake of one of those birds. In thinking about it, I realize that I created that much more for my wife than for myself.

Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?

• Being damn near Christmas already, I went ahead and took care of the festive house light situation. Since I didn’t take the lights down last year, you would think it was easy. Unfortunately, time had knocked off a major strand in the back, screwed up the arrangement on the ones on the side and made the string in the front take a bit more coaxing to get going. If you are going to be lazy, make sure that you buy strands of strings that can handle your laziness. They should absolutely be waterproof, windproof, sunproof, hell everything proof. If you can’t find lights that meet those criteria, maybe you should just leave them up for the christmas season and store them away after.

• There are ways to avoid the Christmas decoration Snafu. Most of them involve the death of at least on relative, and are not recommened. However, if you can kill only one person and make a perfect Christmas, I would really like to shake your hand (LOL or email). That would take some doing.

One must remember that the majority of people who celebrate Christmas are parasites. No one ever offers their home or services for the purpose of the meal right until it is on the table. Of course they only offer to butter bread after that. Which sucks, since they aren’t gonna stay around to wash the butter off of the dishes either.

Holidays Suck


As is usually the case with me, I am the last in the world to chime in with my two cents on the death of Darrel Abbott. His murder, mind you, kicked me right square in the nuts.

Growing up in Oregon, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to listen to all this ‘heavy shit’, except for the copy, of a copy, of a copy that someone from California brought with them when they moved up.

My introduction to truly “heavy” Metal (bands like ‘Motley crue’ and ‘Dokken’ don’t really qualify for that distinction) was an old tape, which I found on the road, that had no label at all. That tape happened to be a copy, of a copy, and so forth, of Metallica’s first album, “No life Til Leather”. At exactly that moment in time, my eyes opened, my ears opened, and I realized that there was way more to music than the whining, country guys that dad always listened to. Which left me wanting more.

As luck would have it, Metallica’s first ‘studio release’, Kill ‘Em All, hit a few select stores very shortly after my new found love for this type of music. Of course, there was not one of those stores anywhere near me. Which led to more listening to copies, of copies, of copies, which didn’t lend itself to making it sound all that great in the first place. Thus was my experience with really ‘Heavy’ Metal, at least for the first half of the eighties (here I simply must note that I was only 11 in 1985, and one of the biggest fans of the genre).

About that time Metallica fired Dave Mustaine, who went on to found Megadeth, and still remains the only person that I have ever really idolized…Yet, the really heavy music still flowed through my speakers. Usually in the form of copied tapes from someone who copied them from the original, which someone had illegally recorded at the show (makes me wonder what they worry so much about piracy for. It was a copy, of a copy, of a really bad recording, I bought the studio release the second I had the opportunity).

Anyhow, to try to get to Pantera at some point during this history lesson, I must mention my first experience with the band.

I know that the studio release of Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell” didn’t happen until 1990, and that does fit with my scenario pretty well. One of the songs that was on that ‘studio release’ was Heresy. That happened to be a song that was on one of the copies of copies, of the previously stated bands. Part of it was taped over, of course, it always was. But that song told me to just sit down and take it. After a few minutes, it was over. Then I had to add Pantera to my ‘must own list’.

By the time I finished listening to (what I heard of) that first song, I was hooked. Pantera had turned into one of the four. The ‘four’, to the layman, are Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Pantera. Were it not for those bands, Marilyn Manson might not be able to shock and amaze as he does today. It took the testimony of some of the biggest rockers in the world to get the P.M.R.C. to back down and just require labels on the albums, as opppsed to banning it all.

Elderly folks just don’t seem to understand that battling for the freedom to use drug references in their music (in the late ’60’s or early ’70’s), is exactly the same as the battle to use profanity for the sake of song. Mind you, I don’t approve of the method. If you are trying to be a rapper (‘dark poet’, as I have heard them callled), you really should have a few words in your vocabulary that don’t end in a hard ‘k’ sound. I.E., if you are able to make a controversial video without saying the word ‘fuck’, you might be onto something.

The rest of us are left to live by rules. Rules that we might not like, and might rise against. But one man can only do so much.

Pearl Harbor and pets

Being that it is the seventh of December, and me being American, I must mention that this is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. This happened well over thirty years before I was born, mind you, and I know of it only from the shows that I see on television, along with the history that I saw in text books. The most famous quote of all being from F.D.R.(?) saying that “this will be a day that will live in infamy.”

Much like any other historical event, I didn’t really have any perspective on the Pearl Harbor attack. History just seems to be all in black and white, and we don’t think about it until it happens again. While the attacks on 9/11 were not the same type of attacks, that is the closest thing that I have seen to relate to Pearl Harbor. For some reason, the attacks of 9/11 made the attack at Pearl Harbor seem more real to me.

I know that this is all pretty faulty logic. Japan did what they did as a nation declaring war on another nation. The 9/11 attacks were done by a few random guys, from a small terrorist cell, and can not possibly be compared to an all out strategic war against my/our homeland. This is, of course, just me trying to find a frame of reference, of course there are none.

Not to mention that I am going nowhere with that train of thought. I just wanted to mention the date, since I remembered long before I saw anything in the news. That is something that did not happen prior to 9/11.

• Now on to trains of thought that actually lead somewhere (I hope).

I have often shown myself to be a very proud dog owner, and voiced my dislike for cats. Here at the house, though, we are certainly not a ‘one pet’ monopoly. In addition to the two dogs, we also have quite the collection of cockatiels. One of which you can see to the right.

When I say that we have a collection of cockatiels, that does not even start to scrape the surface of our cockatiel ownership over the last few years… It started out rather innocolously, you see. My mother-in-law bought my wife a pair of cockatiels for christmas a few years ago. They were brother and sister, and subsequently named ‘Elvis’ and ‘Belle’. Unfortunately, Elvis died only a few months after we had gotten him (I made him a little headstone when I buried him, perhaps I will take a picture of the headstone at a later date). Anyhow, that left the wife with one living bird. The wife was unhappy with just a single living bird, so we had to get another bird. And, as luck would have it, we got one that was extremely fertile.

Over the next six months, the new male bird and the original bird, Belle, managed to pump out an amazing number of offspring. That number is exactly 12 (I just fact-checked that with the wife).

Of those twelve birds, we were able to sell seven of them, well eight really, but one of the buyers returned the bird later saying that she just couldn’t stand his ‘ornory behavior’. Here I must note that birds are not tame creatures by nature. You see, they are usually living in the wild. If you want to have a tame bird, it will require constant handling of the bird. If you lock them in the cage (as we have done for, well, since they were born) and don’t make the effort to play with/entertain them, you are going to end up with birds that are not tame. We did try to tame the babies at the start, but then the parents started screeching, neither of us was home often enough to take them out, etc.

While our birds may not be the most tame, I bet that they are the most beautiful. The two images that I posted were of some of the offspring of the original birds (well, not Elvis). The fact that both of those birds are also male makes them a unique investment for breeders. Most cockatiels (of the male persuasian) are just solid grey, no coloring in the face at all. Combining that with the fact that our breeding pair made not only a lot of colors on the little boys, but also produced a few Lutinos, makes the little guys a virtual gold mine.

If you happen to have a pair of birds that can produce both many-colored males, as well as the coveted ‘Lutino female’, you have yourself a damn nice (and financially gaining) set of birds. Of course, after all this time, we just want the birds to quit reproducing. We put them into separate cages to try to expedite the ‘non-reproducing’ agenda. When they mate it does yield very pretty, pretty birds, but it is also a lot of work. Work that we no longer want to deal with. That is why I showed the pictures that I did today, they are birds that have been sold to a breeder. The line will continue, thankfully, I won’t have to be actively involved in it.


Do you remember how, last week, I was commenting that I wanted to see the movie Saw? Well, as luck would have it, it is still in theatres three months after release, making that possible. So I saw it today yesterday.

I am not capable of doing an objective review of anything, and I am certainly not going to try to learn how to be objective, or to review, for the purposes of bitching about this movie. I am also going to spoil every damn ‘twist’ in the movie that was supposed to make it more shocking and amazing. Bear that in mind if you read beyond this paragraph.

I was extremely underwhelmed by the movie. The teasers and previews made it out to be some sort of psychological thriller along the lines of Silence of the Lambs and Seven. While Silence of the Lambs is a pretty high bar to set for a movie, Seven seems a bit more realistic of a goal. Judging a movie is always a bit of a joke anyway, since it depends on the person who reviews it understanding the material, reading the clues (in this case) etc. It is a very subjective thing. The reason that I linked to the other movies through Rotten Tomatoes was to illustrate the point that hundreds of people can watch the same movie and give it glowing praise, albeit for different reasons. Silence of the Lambs stands at 97% positive on their scale, while Seven is only at 85%. Yet, comparing that to the dismal 47% that Saw is sitting at, you can see that the majority opinion really does work (if you have seen the movie I am sure you will agree).

For some reason, though, when people who are not professional critics review the movie they give it pretty high marks. I am going to attribute this to the fact that if you like it you want to rave about it, while if you hate it you just want to forget about it. Thus, people who liked it are far more likely to voice their opinions about it (in the form of a review/recommendation) than people who didn’t like it. It is either that or every major critic is just plain wrong. I have watched a lot of movies that got bashed by the critics, this particular one is a case where I pretty much agree with them. Which, I suppose, puts me into the middle of the critic camp. But, this movie is so deserving of being there…

Spoilers galore start here.

The movie starts with a guy in a bathtub, and drowning. He has no idea where he is, of course, else it would make for a pretty lame thriller. There are two other people in the room, one on the opposite side of the room, the other dead, in a pool of his own blood, with a revolver in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. This is where the movie grabs you and promises greatness. Greatness that is never achieved.

I think that this may be the reason why I really didn’t like the movie very much. The material is great, the killer has a very unique style that leaves open thousands of possibilites for where it can take the viewer. Unfortunately, the movie takes you straight down the freeway, as opposed to taking a side road with lots of twists and turns. Had this screenplay been turned over to someone like Wes Craven or Stephen King, I really think that it could have gone from pretty mundane to outright brilliant.

In any thriller there must be scenes that shock and surprise you. Saw has a couple of moments that shock you (for all the wrong reasons) and a couple of moments of surprise, but they generally just fell flat. There were not a lot of people in the theatre where I watched the film, but still, no one screamed even once, there didn’t seem to be any gasps of horror; I looked to my wife during a couple of the ‘shocking’ parts to find her with her mouth agape…unfortunately, she was yawning (no joke).

In one particular scene there is a flashback of one of the major characters, showing how he was abducted in the first place. He is walking through a tiny apartment, it is totally dark (the power has been cut off) so he is using his camera flash (he is a photographer) as a make-shift flashlight. Of course, he can only use the flash once every few seconds, leaving many, many opportunities for surprise. Instead, he eventually reaches a room where he hears a noise in the closet. He lets his flash charge, then reaches for the knob, opens the door and flashes. The guy was there…Not very startling…Honestly now, with only a camera flash as a light source, being able to use it only once every few seconds, you really should be able to make a little bit more shocking scene than that. In the dark of the house, his vision would be momentarily stunned by the light as well, leaving hundreds of opportunities to actually surprise him/us.

The entire movie is much the same. The times when you should have your heart racing, wondering what is going to happen, where the killer might be, etc. The killer is always in the most obvious place, the only place you would expect him to be. It is very anticlimatic in that respect. Never is there a scene where you are just watching and all of a sudden something makes you gasp or scream. If this is supposed to be a ‘thriller’ or ‘horror’ film, wouldn’t you expect that to happen multiple times? I sure did, but that is why I am ranting about it.

One major plus for the movie is that I did not know who did it until they told me. Most movies of this type (and I can think of only Urban Legend as I sit here) end with me knowing who did it for a good half of the film. I strongly doubt that there is anyone, anywhere, that was actually able to finger the culprit in this one before the final frame of the movie. I am not saying that just because I am mad at myself for not guessing it either, I am saying that because it is/was literally impossible for the perpetrator to be who it ended up being.

A very short time into the movie, they introduce a character who you just know is the guy who did it. He is an intern at a hospital where one of the victims (a doctor) work. The fact that it all points so obviously to him simply excludes him. Later in the movie it actually shows that character (if the movie held my interest, I might remember the names) holding the doctor’s family hostage. This all happens by halfway through it, thus we know that he can not possibly be the guy behind it all.

Then the movie tries to make you think that it was one of the police investigating the crimes that is behind it…It does this even after it has shown that investigator getting knifed by the villain. While that would have been an interesting way for it to go, it is impossible for any person to have two bodies at the same time (well, maybe in porn). One can not be kneeling on the floor in front of one’s self, then turn around and slash one’s (the other one) neck and run away.

So, you must wonder, who really did it. Well the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it? It was, of course, the dead body that has been laying on the floor in the room with the two victims for the last eight hours. I must admit that this was foreshadowed a bit by showing one of his crimes using a powerful tranquilizer to make someone appear dead, but then I would also have to mention that he somehow actively ‘electrocuted’ both of the guys while he was in that state.

The way that you know that the intern from the hospital had nothing to do with it is because of the electrical shocks (or common sense). If he had the power to kill them from the little room he was sitting in, he would never have gone down to actually shoot them when the time ran out. Not to mention that one of the shocks happened while he was on his way to the area where the victims were confined. Of course, that is where the story all turns into Swiss Cheese with holes, and likely the reason that it ended pretty abruptly right there.

You see, the killer was an older guy in the hospital with some cancer in the frontal lobe of his brain. He seemed to be comatose, yet, his first crime happened at that time, which is why the doctor was a suspect. I am pretty sure that you can fake being asleep, but can you fake having cancer in your brain, being in a coma, having doctors diagnose it, then go ahead and run out to build a huge cage of razor wire while you are at it? If you can then you are a better man than me. Possibly so much a better man that you managed to steal the doctors little flashlight, so that you could leave it at the scene of the crime. All that seems pretty tough to do while you are in a hospital bed. Of course I may just be thinking a tad too realistically.

The real question is: If the mastermind of the plot was really the ‘dead body’ where the main plot happens, and if he was using a tranquilizer to make him appear dead, how did he manage to 1)suppress bodily functions for that amount of time? 2)Shock both of the victims at random, while both of his hands were clearly visible? 3)Get both of the guys into that room before taking the tranquilizer (as one mentioned that he had tried screaming, to no effect. And the other woke up drowning in a bathtub. Making me think that the first guy had been there for a while before the second guy got there). 4)All of this is not even touching on how the guy that was in a coma, in the hospital, was able to get out to conduct the first couple of crimes, let alone set up a little media center in an abondoned building. Which leads nicely into 5)How can you possibly get the electric company to supply power to an abandoned building in the first place? -I had to show two forms of ID and have a home inspection before they turned on the power at my house-.

Now just a couple of technical fubars. The cell phone that the doctor finds appears to be exactly the same phone that he had when he was abducted. He is a doctor, lots of people are likely trying to call him, what if someone other than the killer calls? Towards the end of the movie, the doctor is not able to reach his cell phone, it is just out of his reach. He tries using a small box to retrieve it, can’t reach. Then he grabs a hacksaw (average length about 16″), which has a handy loop at the end of it, and proceeds to chop off his own foot, hmm, perhaps the hacksaw could have reached the phone?

I really thought that I was going to like this movie. I likely would have liked this movie if it had lived up to its potential. My wife told me that the story was written by some ‘no-name’ and was later picked up by an actual production company, that is great and all, but someone along the line should have said; “you know, it is decent as is. We could get a real producer in here and make it great.” Which, obviously, never happened. My guess is that this one will get remade in a decade or so, and it will be absolutely brilliant.

This movie is absolute proof that a good idea/story does not necessarily lead to a good movie.

Wow, I didn’t realize just how badly I hated this movie. Die, Saw, Die!

Kodak and Zelda

Following on the dog theme over the last couple of posts, I was happily snapping away with my little digital camera. While it is a refurbished, bottom of the barrel Kokak CX4200, I am pretty happy with the results. I do suppose that your average ‘professional photographer’ would have all kinds of issues with the thing, but then, your average ‘professional photographer’ wouldn’t have been doing bottom-of-the-barrel shopping in the first place…would he? I am sure that this is not the camera for you if you plan to make museum quality prints, but when your venue is the internet and you just want it to look pretty good (as opposed to looking jaw-droppingly beautiful), 59 bucks for a used one of these will kick the shit out of a thousand for whatever the next ‘change the world’ digital recorder happens to be. Mark my words, “I will never pay more than 100 dollars for a camera” (might need to include a clause relating to inflation in that statement), last year’s model works wonderfully, thank you. Yes, additional optical zoom would be great, since just seeing the flower didn’t give me the ‘true essence’ of its beauty, while looking at it through a microscope would, and etc.

But, it is my intention to talk, once again, about our little puppies. So I shall.

Previously, I posted a little picture of the puppy Zelda doing her best to look like the sphinx. While that didn’t generate any feedback (hell, nothing I write ever does), I wanted to do a bit more to illustrate the condition that she has. That is where the camera comes in.

Usually, it is pretty hard to get a photo of Zelda doing anything. She moves pretty quickly. As in the photo that you see to your right. She moved a bit too quickly for the camera to catch the weird angles that her hind legs were in only a fraction of a second ago. Still it is an unusual pose; How can any dog manage to work its Stifle joint in that way? Let alone the hock? It is just the way that Zelda lays.

This second photo is of Zelda’s rear end, when I caught her by surprise. In this photo (which can be viewed at a much larger scale if you click on it, as well as the previous photo), you can see just how far away from the norm her laying position is. I know that it looks ‘Photo shopped’, but I swear that it is not. This is how Zelda lays much of the time. I even just loaded the much larger version, and it still looks like a fake to me, but I took the picture, and it isn’t fake. Perhaps, in the future, I will be able to get a shot of Zelda when she is ‘not quite’ looking freakish, but for now all I have is normal or freakish. It is not my fault that I wasn’t able to get her in better light before I started to snap away. It is not her fault that she always jumps up and licks me when I am in the room, yet, it is unfortunate that I wasn’t able to get a good shot of that leg that didn’t look like I faked it.

Now I must thank the little puppy Zelda for giving me a few days of bitching fodder, as well as some nice photos. Zelda is a very happy, affectionate little pup, but when the time comes to decide between hip surgery or death, unfortunately, I fear, Zelda might receive the latter.

Now that I have stated publicly that money is more important than a pet, I leave you with only this thought. Do you actually ever cry when you lose money? What about a pet?