May 2009


Woke up with a headache and a sore back.

For  no damn good reason.

I have a message for my lower back:  let it go!  I lifted that big thing long ago and strained you.  I haven’t done it since so quit punishing me.

I got the parts for my weedeater yesterday and the self-maintenance went rather well.  So I spent $20 for a repair rather than $200 for a new one and feel rather pleased with myself.

There has to be a larger issue here that I could write about; something about why a simple self-sufficiency event could cause so much more satisfaction than my day to day work (that I get paid for) but I will shy away from that and simply say “Yay, the weedeater works.”

No memorials around our house though.  For some reason my family never went and decorated tombstones.  My parents were both staunchly of one mind:  the dead are dead and there is no reason to visit the burial sites.  Remember those passed by dragging out the photo albums and telling stories.  I did do this with all my recently scanned photos.

This year Mel decided to host the family thing which was really her mom’s 82nd birthday party.  This means that Saturday was spent in an exhausting cleaning frenzy.  Both Evan and Erin managed to have other things to do and so Mel and I were left to do it ourselves.  I hate these cleaning frenzies but I do enjoy having a spotless home afterwards so I try not to complain. 

Sunday was the big event itself.  I remembered that Picasa has a super easy slide-show building capability and so I whipped up about 200 photos featuring all the people who were about to arrive.  It seemed to go over well.  What’s the point to having photos if you don’t look at them?  This is the perfect way to look at them.  The computer makes it easy.   Score! 

I had also blown the cobwebs out of the grill and gone to replace the propane tank.  We’ve not had a grilled meal in a couple of years due to my failure to exchange the tank.  It’s usually an unpleasant task because every store that has those big propane exchange cages seems to dislike opening them up.  More than once I’ve had to have the manager paged because only the manager knows if there is a key or not.  Obviously there is because there are used, rusty tanks in there.  But this time I went to Wal-Mart (against my better judgment by the way) but I went over to the lawn and garden entrance where they have a cash register by the door.  An elderly fellow (Larry) met me at the door and anticipated my request.  He told me to pay for it right there and he’d have it exchanged by the time I was done and so he did.  For once my trip to Wal-Mart was quick and convenient.  Thanks Larry!  And so we had grilled chicken and burgers.  They were awesome if I do say so myself.

Memorial Day itself was one of those days that I really enjoy once in awhile in which we did absolutely nothing.  I sat in my favorite chair (not a recliner by the way) by the window and read a book and occasionally got on the computer to try and plan a vacation.  It’s surprising how easily you can do this all day long and still enjoy it the whole time.  I usually finish up days like this with a vague feeling that I should have accomplished more but I never feel that way during the day. 

I never feel refreshed and ready to return to work after holidays and vacations.  I always feel like I’d like to continue the break and keep having fun.  I guess that’s life.

Here’s a parable that describes much of my life.

I have a weed whacker and it’s a pretty nice one.  It runs fine and because of that, I’d like to keep it.  But it started leaking gas.  It’s about $100 to replace it which seems like a lot to me but really isn’t.  Still, I tried to fix it myself because it costs more than $100 to have someone else fix it.  I bought some replacement fuel line. 

It was really tight where it went into the gas tank so I reamed out the hole to make it fit more easily.  It was at this point that I realized that it was tight because that is what keeps the gas from leaking out.  I’ve tried every sealant known to man (or at least those that are sold at Ace hardware and they have a lot) and it still leaks.

I bought a new gas tank off the internet.  I’m going to start over.  I should probably have bought a whole new weedeater at the end of last season when they were on sale but I’m weird that way.  If I see a way to fix something I want to fix it. 

All of life’s a gamble I guess.  I probably worry about the wrong things more often than not.  But I like to feel in control and in this matter I can be in control.  I will fix it if it kills me.  Which it might since until it is fixed it still leaks like crazy unless you hold it in a strange way such that the exhaust blows out near your face.

I remember way back when I was a kid there was no passenger rail service to speak of.  There actually was but you had to dig to find it.  Sometime in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, my brother decided to take the train to visit us; just to experience something different.  It was way more trouble than it was worth.  The train only stopped at DeQueen which was a two hour drive from Camden where we lived.  My Dad and I got there at the appointed time; the train station was a tiny building with nobody around.  We sat there for hours because the train was late.  When my brother finally arrived he told us that they were delayed because of freight trains that got priority.  His meal had been bad and expensive and the people of the railroad had been uniformly surly and unhelpful.

This sounds exactly like most air travel now.  The airlines only fly to certain places and will stop service in certain cities if they deem it to be not profitable enough.  I usually waste hours in non-flying activities.  The airline people are not surly but in general the airline is less than helpful.  Security people however are always surly and unhelpful.  I hate to be assumed to be a criminal until I have been searched for contraband first.  Food is non-existent or expensive so you have to get it and take it with you – but of course you have to buy it at the airport because you aren’t allowed to bring liquids with you through security.

I see many parallels. 

I read somewhere once that the railroads had become overly complex and the maze of agreements between the various lines caused a lot of confusion in the market when it came to buying tickets.  The passenger sitting next to you going to the same destination probably paid a different amount than you did for his ticket.  This too sounds familiar.  In the end, when cars (and super highways) came along, people preferred them.  Even though the journey was slower and probably more rigorous back then, people preferred it simply because they felt in control of the experience.  I’m starting to feel the same way towards the airlines.

Well, passenger rail travel doesn’t exist any more except as a novelty or as a commuter alternative in very specific markets.  I’m wondering if the airlines will become something similar:  something people do to get across the ocean or as the occasional novel experience.  Perhaps they will become a dinosaur like the railroads did simply because the experience for the traveler just became too much of a pain in the ass.  I’m sure the airlines would justify all that they do based on sound financial reasoning and market research but the fact remains that travel on airlines is a huge pain in the ass.  How long before it’s too much trouble and we just give it up?

Hear that American Airlines?  I dread getting on your airplanes!  I enjoy getting to my destinations but the journey is no longer part of the fun.  It costs a fortune and it’s not a pleasant journey.  Only you can change it.

Now that I’ve finished scanning all my old negatives and slides (except for that one small ring binder I found  later – grrr), I’ve been having great fun looking through them all.  I’ve been posting two of the best ones on flickr every night.

When I find a photo of someone on my facebook friends list but which was taken way back, perhaps when they were toddlers, I post that on my facebook wall.  That usually generates some comments and in many cases, the kids in the photos have ended up using that pic as their profile pic. 

I’ve not yet managed to crack the nut of posting any message on facebook that anybody finds interesting enough to comment on but the photo comments are rewarding.  Facebook is all about the back and forth communication and if you don’t have that then what’s the point?

I’ve always enjoyed photography and now here are two ways of adding to the enjoyment. 

We came away from Dad’s funeral years ago with a sack or two of old photos and stuff and I should probably scan those too.  Among those items was an ancient folder of old 2×2 inch negatives taken by someone back in the 1940’s.  These are particularly interesting and I should probably send those off to one of the services to have them scanned for me.  (I’ve scanned some black and white negatives and they present problems of their own – I haven’t managed to produce any really good scans of a black and white negative for some reason.)

We finally broke away to visit Mayfest Friday night.  This is a really busy year for us all and we almost never make time for Mayfest, only going twice in the past 15 years or so but Mel, Evan, and I went Friday night and spent a very pleasant couple of hours there.

It hasn’t changed a lot which is a good thing.  There was also a similar thing going on in the Blue Dome district a few blocks away at which the art was a bit edgier.

There was a line of thunderstorms known to be heading that way and forecast to arrive about 10:30 so we made sure to see everything and get out well before then.

On Saturday I tried to take care of some nagging landscaping issues – I replaced all the mulch in the flower beds.  Evan was a handy resource for getting that done in a timely manner.

And finally, Erin’s drama banquet was Saturday night.  This is the first year for this and it was a bring-a-covered-dish dinner where all the girls dressed up to the nines.  Kind of unusual but that would neve stop any of the dramanators.  They march to the beat of their own drums at all times.  They’ve found their people and revel in them.

It was fun and everyone seemed to have a good time although I could do without the awards.  In the dramatic arts, awards are totally arbitrary it seems but at least they all voted on them so nobody could say that any judge was playing favorites.  As soon as we got home, Facebook began to light up with posted photos which is always fun.  Erin grabbed my cameras and took a few.

It was a fun weekend.  The weather was perfect (apart from that one short thunderstorm).  I wish the rest of the summer could be a nice.

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