Friday, September 12, 2008

Missed Opportunities

I spend a great deal of time taking care not to miss an "important opportunity". I have gotten really good at seeing them coming. This is not to say I am great at this. I think I used to be pretty dense and only in the last decade really begun to develop this skill.

For example. The other night I was at a basement poker tournament. It was approaching 2am and we had been playing for 6 hours. Only 9 people were going to get paid from this tournament and there were 10 of us left. I was currently in 10th place.

The host told us we were to take a break before all starting the final table. While we all stood around stretching our legs and getting some refreshments, it was brought up (maybe by me) that we could just chop the prize pool 10 ways. I said it half joking cause it was pretty clear that without a miracle I would go home a looser. To my surprise no one laughed and a couple people said "that’s not a bad idea". Even the host said "We can do that if you guys want". No one said it was a bad idea. Mostly people just looked at each to see if others wanted to.

When the break was about half over and most people had fallen into small talk, I asked the host to figure out how much it would be to chop the pot. The answer was $210 each. This started the topic again. It seemed like most would go for it or at least go with the crowd. I asked the crowd "Should we take a vote?" and that is when it happened. No one answered the question, but as I looked around the room time slowed down to almost a stop. My mind was racing. I knew that if just pushed one more time I would get my chop and leave a winner. All I had do was follow up my question with "Raise your hand if you want to chop".

I didn't do it. I let the moment pass and time resumed. A few seconds went by and someone said "let’s just play it out". Three poker hands later I was out and everyone remaining at least moneyed.

In that frozen moment I decided that it would be pushy. That people were there to win yes but they were also there to see if they could win. I know that if it were reversed I would not want to chop but would have gone with it if the crowd wanted to.

I do take away from it the knowledge that I saw the opportunity knocking.

Carpe diam.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The great "Wheel of Fortune" conspiracy!

Recently I went to Florida to see my dad. On some levels it was a fruitful trip. I learned lots of things about lots of things; this was one of the lighter ones:

Soon after I arrived I learned that he had no TV service. The story goes my dad got in an argument on the phone over his Comcast bill. At some point during the discussion he said something like "Why don't you just take it out of here then?" and they did just that.

So I went to Best Buy and bought dad a pair of rabbit ears. If you are younger than 35 rabbit ears are TV antennas you attach to your television set so you can watch normal broadcast channels. I hooked it up and did the whole rabbit-ear dance. In the end I was only able to get a couple not-too-fuzzy channels and 3 just-a-little-fuzzy channels.

Later that day I asked Dad why he was watching Wheel of Fortune? He replied "Its what is on". That's when it occurred to me. I think there is a wheel of fortune conspiracy going on. Somehow the makers of Wheel of Fortune are electronicly interferring with broadcast tv in certain areas of the country. They are eleiminating the channels with really interesting content.

I think pepole have not noticed this conspiracy because they equate rabbit ears with old technology and it just makes sense that something old doesnt work very well. So people just live with it and pick from the best of the fuzzy channels.

But these were no cheap rabbit ears. They plugged into an outlet and had "gain"! There should have been serveral clean clear channels!

Think about it; when the show first comes on it goes "WHEEL", "OF", "FORTUNE" nice and slow brainwashing the elderly.

Is Wheel of Fortune really popular or is it "just whats on"?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What great fun brilliance can be

This past Sunday I participated in something brilliant. I don’t mean that lightly.

I belong to a small study-group of 6 families from our church. For 2 hours we filled bags with food for the starving children of Zimbabwe. In fact we filled 23 boxes of 36 bags each. Each bag contains 6 meals. So in 2 hours we made 4968 meals!

Our small group was part of about 150 volunteers for the 2 hour shift. The shift made about 157 boxes or about 34000 meals! At the end we learned that 34000 meals will feed 96 kids for 1 year! NINETY SIX.

Now I lied a little. For the first 15 minutes we received an orientation and then some training. Then when we had about 15 minutes remaining we were stopped and instructed to clean up and then pray over the food. So we really only had about 90 minutes. Ninety-Six kids eat for ONE YEAR; ninety minutes work.

I have not gotten to the brilliant part yet. Over half the 150 workers were kids. How do they do this? Robots? Packing machines? No and no. They have the whole process down so very simple and yet the final product is very professional.

We made bags of carefully measured ingredients, that all fall within a specific range of grams, nutritious, and tasty. Also they were vegetarian meals. We learned that there are more people in the world that don’t eat meat than those that do. There were only 4 ingredients at the production level. A chicken flavored powder, dried vegetables and vitamins, soy for protein, and rice for energy.

The whole process worked like this: There was a metal funnel. One person put a bag on the bottom then said “GO” then 4 people that were waiting with their ingredients already measured out added them to the funnel in the correct order. Then the bag is weighed. If the weight is out of range they make adjustments. Then the bag is heat-sealed and placed in the packing area waiting to go into a box. When there are exactly 36 bags in the packing area someone puts the bags in the box and seals it.

Finally someone says “1, 2, 3” and our entire group would yell a chant that we came up with to inform other volunteers that we have a box ready.

All the while they blasted out with Mowtown classics. It was great. We were singing and dancing while we worked.

The 20 something’s that ran the shift were from an organization called Feed my starving Children. They were very intelligent, articulate, well informed, funny and passionate. When it was over they gave us a small sample of the food and it was tasty.

Our branch of our church made over 200k meals over the weekend. We were the first branch of our church to do this. Before the month is over it is estimated that the whole church, all the branches, will make 3.5 Million meals.

As I understand it 2003 was the year they started this. Their total was 3 million meals that year. Over the years they have done progressively more and more. They hope to do 50 million this year and 100 million by 2010.

It was a total blast and beyond satisfying. Feed My Starving Children is a brilliant bunch.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sex scandal stops Hillary from Whitehouse!

Really! I was reminded recently during the after Easter-dinner political discussion that a Sex scandal is really to blame for Hillary’s woes. And it has nothing to do with Bill this time.

We’ll get to that in a bit.

Is it an age thing? Do politics become more interesting the older you get or has it just been an interesting couple of seasons?

In 2000 we had hanging-chads! Al Gore is inches from conceding, I think he even picked up the phone to call Bush. When, all of a sudden, he gets the notion to drag the whole thing down into the mud err courts. But then looses anyway so that he can go off and invent global warming. Thank God.

The whole thing was a huge spectacle that went on for months. All the while it was interesting but does it really matter who is in white house? The president is important but most of the time what he does is pretty detached from our everyday events. Then on 9/11/2001 we were attacked. I for one was glad we did not have Al Gore in the White House on that day.

The following presidential race has not been disappointing. For the last few months I have been watching the primaries with increased enthusiasm. What should have ended on Super-Tuesday has turned into an interesting contest between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. For details see the recent internet.

Then I was reminded that if we start at the beginning the story is even more interesting. It all starts with Jeri Ryan, wife to Jack Ryan Illinois Republican Senate-hopeful. Apparently she refused to go over and above her wifely call of duties and later divorcees Jack in 1999.

Jeri Ryan as 7 of 9 on Star Trek Voyager.

From Wikipedia:
…when Jack Ryan's Senate campaign began, the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WLS-TV, the local ABC affiliate, sought to have the [divorce] records released. Both Jeri and Jack agreed to make their divorce records public, but not the custody records, claiming that their release could be harmful to their son.

On June 22, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider agreed to release the custody files; the decision generated much controversy because it went against both parents' direct request and because it generally reversed the early decision to seal the papers in the best interest of the child. It was revealed that, six years previously, Jeri had accused Jack Ryan of asking her to perform sexual acts with him in public, and in adult clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris. Jeri Ryan described one as "a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." Jack Ryan denied these allegations. Although Jeri Ryan refused to comment on the matter during the campaign, the document disclosure led Jack Ryan to withdraw his Republican candidacy for an open United States Senate seat in Illinois.

So the Republicans scramble and send Alan Keys to the rescue to run against Barack Obama and of course looses.

If Jack Ryan had won the Senate seat, which is not that hard to imagine, Hillary would have had almost no competition in the primaries and would have had a much easier time fighting the Republicans for the White House this November.

As it stands now it’s unlikely she will even win the primaries all because the liberal press and liberal judges where out to get a Republican.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Imminent doom

A raging war is going on inside me at this very minute. Go on look closer. Behind my eyes. See it yet? No? Ok, let me help.

For those that do not know me I can be a very strongly opinionated person. I prefer to call it stubborn. The problem is I often know I am right and when you know you are right why should you let others persuade you otherwise?

The dilemma occurring is because of a long standing rule I have is being tested. You see, I have a deep seeded apathy for movies that are not complete stories when they end.

To appreciate my mind set here is some background. In the summer of 1977 I was 12 years old and my parents took me to see Star Wars! It changed me forever. I formed a religion in my head that day. I became a card carrying member of the Star Wars faith.

In January during the Academy Awards “Annie Hall” won for best picture. Beating out Star Wars! To this day I resent “Annie Hall” and I have never seen it.

When “The Empire Strikes Back” came out I could not wait to see it. Riveted to my seat “Luke Join Me, Together as…”. THEN it ends and is clearly not finished!? What is that about?

Today when I am asked to put the 6 episodes in order I put #5 near the bottom because I still take off lots of points for being incomplete. I know that now it is so common place it kind of feels silly complaining about it. But I feel movies are expensive and if I pay the $20 per person (because you have to have popcorn, a soda, and M&Ms) you should get a complete experience before you leave.

So let’s review: I do not like movies that are incomplete because my parents took me to see Star Wars when I was 12 and impressionable scarring me for life.

Now enter stage left recent news that the upcoming Harry Potter 7 movie will be split into two parts “because it has so much content”. It really does have a lot of content.

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I have all the books. I went to get them at the midnight book store parties. I have read them 3 to 5 times each. I have seen the 5 movies that are out each several times at the theater and on DVD.

So you can see where this is going. I have an irresistible force meeting with an indestructible object within! How do I allow myself to like the 7th movies? The 7th book is my favorite and I know the movie won’t be as great as the book but will be good.

In an effort to settle this; I am trying to figure out where in book #7 I would end the first half of the movie. Maybe it will be ok?

WARNING - Harry Potter 7 spoilers follow.

So here is what I am thinking. I would end the first movie with the death of Dobby. It’s a bit sad I know but you get a great climax with the heroes escaping from Malfoy’s Manor after a good battle scene.

This would put lots of action in the first half movie: The battle of seven Harrys, escaping from the wedding, the planning and attack on the Ministry of Magic, the battle with Voldermont in Harry’s home town, getting the Gryffindor sword and then being captured by the Malfoys and finally escaping. Dobby would die as they look to the future. The end. Bah, it would suck but it would be full of fun.

The second half movie would start the trio planning to break into Gringotts, inside the vault, the escape on the dragon, the battle in Hogsmead, and then we would see the whole Dumbledore story.

Maybe splitting the 7th book won’t be so bad. The previous 6 books were very tied to a structure. Harry starts a school year and adventure happens as the school year goes by. Splitting one of them would be awkward, it would be clear the year didn’t end. The 7th book has no predefined structure.

Anyway thanks for listening.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

David Graduates from Cub Scouts

David graduated from Cub Scouts on Friday at the Blue and Gold pack meeting. He earned the Arrow of Light which is Cub Scouts highest award.

To earn the Arrow of Light he had to earn several Webelos activity pins involving several different disciplines; fitness, first aid, citizenship, outdoorsmen etc. In addition he had to know and recite Mottos and Laws of the Boy Scouts. In general they are a good group of things to know and live by so I was glad to see David learn them.

I was an assistant den leader for Davids den and was responsible for learning how to construct these ceremonial arrows. All the boys each built their arrows prior to receiving them at the meeting. Also they each were responsible for staining and or decorating the wooden plaques.

David has decided to go on to Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts is quite a bit different. The Boys are required to do much more of the planning and preparing for all the events. They also have more meetings and go "Camping" every month. Our knew Troop leader said it like this "Cub Scouts is about fun. Boy Scouts is about Adventure."

The arrow of light patch you earn for your uniform is the only patch from Cub Scouts you can wear on your boy scouts uniform.

We are very proud of David.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wake up call

These are edited excerpts from my personal journal that I wanted to share.

WARNING this article contains adult content.
Apparently at lunch-time recess, at David's school, a grade school bully was kicking ice at David over and over again. Despite David repeatedly telling him to stop. At some point Zach sees this and intervenes. This is great because it means Zach cares some for David, or just hates bullies. Zach tells him to stop and draws the attention. After a moment he pushes Zach resulting in Zach using his Hapkido knowledge to throw him on to the ground. It turned out that Zach is a black-belt and has been learning it since 2nd grade. He and David are in fifth grade now.

Anna learns all this from Zach's mother and Anna then suggest to her that David tags along with Zach at a Hapkido class. It turned out there was one that night. Zach and his father go 3 times per week. David and James went and they liked it a lot. David said it was a tough work out and he and Zach threw each other on to mats.

He wants to start taking classes also, three times a week. I think this is a great idea.

FRIDAY - 2/29
Anna went to see "The other Boleyn Girl" with some of her friends.

David lost a tooth at dinner. We put it in a little baggy and then under his pillow for the tooth fairy.

Soon after I put the boys to bed the phone rang. It was Private Name / Private Number. As a rule I normally do not answer those but since it was about 9:20 pm I thought it couldn’t be a telemarketer and maybe it had something to do with Anna. So I answered it. It was a young male voice asking for David. I asked who it was "Rashid" is what it sounded like. I don’t know about any of David's friends by that name. I told them that David could not come to the phone and could I take a message. There was a pause. Then a deeper voice gets on the phone "Please give David this message: Tell him I want him to anal fuck me. I want him to anal fuck me hard all night long." I was stunned. I said nothing and the person didn’t hang up until after a few seconds. Which I now find disturbing. If it was someone new to talking like this to strange adults it seems they would have hung up immediately. They were waiting for a reaction from me. Hoping for one. I am glad they didn’t get it. I said nothing and after a few seconds they hung up.

First I tried to use *69 but it didn’t do anything. I was hoping an adult would answer. I had not tried that in years so I am not even sure if I can without paying an extra fee which I am sure I do not pay. I then called the police. It turns out in my town you need to call 911 even if it is not an emergency. I told the police what happened and that I wanted to file a report. Within a few minutes they had a policeman at my door. I think it was the same officer that gave me a ticket a few months ago for rolling through a stop sign.

I told him what happened and he agreed with what I was thinking that it probably had to do with the playground incident. He gave me the number of the report that will be filed.

After all this I forgot to be the tooth fairy!

David and I went for a walk and I told him there is no Tooth Fairy. "I know dad. I started to suspect when I got a carwash token!" He had a big grin on his face and it was a good moment. I told him that most kids loose all their baby teeth long before 11 years old and that the tooth fairy was invented to keep little kids from being too worried about the whole process of losing their teeth. I also told him not to tell James who has not lost a tooth yet.

Ok I can explain the carwash token. In my den I have a glass jug with lots of loose change in it. When it is time to be the tooth fairy I grab a large handful from the jug, sneak into my sons room and swap it for the tooth. There must have been a token in the jar that night.

Innocents lost –
Months ago I was trying to decide when to have “THE TALK” with David. I decided next summer before he begins middle school. I have heard from multiple sources that in middle school the swear-word lexicon increases exponentially and I want David to be prepared for that and not look foolish. How can I explain terms without having “The Talk”? You can’t. So I planned to wait as long as I could before moving David a few steps away from innocent.

After this phone call sadly I realize I might be a bit too late. Clearly there are clumps of fifth graders that know quite a bit of lexicon.

My master plan was already altered some last Month:

MONDAY - 2/11
I talked with David about some things he learned in a Puberty class at School. He didn’t request it but I wanted to make sure he didn’t have any questions and was just not asking them. We went over a few terms from the glossary of the booklet that came home; wet dreams, sperm, erections, testicles. It was not that uncomfortable for me but David still didn’t seem to have any questions.

I now wonder if I should move up at least more parts of “The Talk” to explain to David more terms?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How wrong does it have to be before you won’t do it?

OK! FINE! I have been so close to finishing this article forever! I have written and rewritten it several times. It’s still not what I wanted but I a moving on. The idea was to experiment with taking a large complex topic like “Morality” and split it up into manageable bite-size chunks. Each time I tried to fix it or re-write it a morphing would occur. It would take on new unintended directions or growths. “It’s not a tumor.” Anyway …


The big question is do we live in a world where all our actions break down in to Right vs. Wrong? Or are there gray areas?

How wrong is it to buy a big screen TV for the big game then return it to the store for your money back on Monday? It is slimy I feel but people do it. Some people “buy” a dress to wear to the big occasion just to return it later. Even if there is a restocking fee I feel it is slimy and therefore wrong.

If you saw a dollar on the ground would you pick it up and keep it? Of course you would. Most would look around to see if maybe it belonged to anyone and if it didn't they would keep it. Would you do the same with a $20? Or a $100? What about $5,000? At some point we all have a line we wouldn't cross. We would do the right thing and report the find to the police.

Unfortunately, I think people use what is and what is not legal as a guide. That if it is not illegal and it doesn’t hurt anyone and it gives me any advantage I will do it. I am not saying that every advantage you take / corner you cut is slimy. Often it’s called frugal or just plain common sense.

Every school day, like most of my neighbors, I drive my kids to our near-by school. I live in a sub-division of over 600 homes. Each morning my sons and I sit in a long line of cars full of parents and kids waiting to turn left. We are trying to leave our sub-division all in the same 15 minute window. About half way up the line of cars the road begins to widen and for the last 400 feet there are two lanes. The new lane is for people to turn right or to cross and go straight into the condos across the street.

A small percentage of people will by-pass the line of people waiting to turn left. They drive across and into the condos, turn around as soon as they can, and then turn right out of there. This is not that easy either because they can’t leave the long line until about half way through so they really only get to skip half of it. Some of them will even drive up on the curb to get into the emerging right lane sooner.

By my estimate this only buys them about 30 seconds. Believe it or not a 30 second savings to jump the line made up of your neighbors?!

Awhile back there was a news article about a gas station where the pumps were malfunctioning and giving away gas much cheaper than what was posted on the sign out on the street.

I asked my friends on IRC if this was stealing. I honestly think it’s a fine line there. So I thought the discussion would be about whether or not this is stealing. To my surprise most didn’t even think it would be wrong let alone stealing. I became the advocate for “Come on, maybe this is not stealing, but clearly this is wrong?” I admitted though that I would probably have taken the gas too.

How wrong does it have to be before you won’t do it? We all have to draw our lines that we can live with. The problem I have is it seems a lot of people use what is legal to decide where they should draw the line. To me if it is illegal it ONLY means that as a society we have agreed it was a wrong thing to do. That should only be the base-line because as a society we don’t agree on a whole lot.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Quality time ROCKS

These are my boys and I love doing things with them. At least in short spurts. Sometimes long spurts too.

Last Saturday Anna was away and I was not feeling well all morning. At lunch time the boys and I went to Panera for some soup. It was over $20 for 3 soups in bread bowls plus 3 drinks. Its the drinks where they have really been gouging you lately. We need to find some place for cheaper soup.

Anyway while we were eating the power went out for the whole block. Panera had to stop takeing orders and turn new people away. It was ok for us because we already had our food and were seated. While plenty of light was coming in through the windows, it added a bit of adventure to our spirits. I could tell that David and James heart rates were elevated a bit.

David got up from the table and said he had to go to the bathroom. I thought this should be interesting. He was back pretty soon afraid to go to the bath room in the dark. I asked David if it was #1 or #2. Parents often have to ask this so we know how urgent it might be. "Dad, I went #2 this morning didn't you hear the dog?" I was afraid to ask what that meant but I suspected that since one of our toilets has been making a weird noise when it is flushed caused the dog to bark.

Then James and I started describing scenes of running water for David. "dripping faucet", "Niagara falls", "Flowing river", "water slides". Dad tell me again where we going after lunch?" James knew it was the car wash.

David was squirming a bit so we continued: "Cascading water over the car", "Tidal waves", then James says "Meteor Shower!" We all cracked up. David asked what number would that be THREE?!

Then I started make sounds of a meteor shower and we all cracked up even louder. It was a really good sustained laugh. The other people in the restaurant were looking at us.

I asked the boys if the dog barked at a #2 what would he do for a #3? But I answered my own question by making sounds of a cowering-whimpering dog followed by more sounds of a meteor striking nearby.

It was a great quality time for the three of us.

(PS - When I could not get a refill for my drink Panera people gave me a bottle of soda for free which I thought was nice)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Xaqery Jones PI

I wrote this story years and years ago so please do not laugh too much.


It was a Friday. Her lust was greater than my boredom. Then she shrieked and darted from the bed. I didn’t think she was done. The moon light from the window revealed her bare form nicely as she listened at the door. “Quick get dressed”, she glared at me. I’m so glad that she didn’t whisper “Oh my god, he’s home!” That really would have lost my respect for her. The tree outside the window allowed my escape. It was only a ten-foot drop. The walk to my office reminded me that I just left my car keys back on the nightstand. I hoped that that adventure did not unfold until I was ready. I’m not sure what her name was. It was only an average Friday.

Trouble seemed to follow me wherever I went, I thought as I walked down the hall that lead to my office. Something was wrong with the shadow on my office door. The doors’ window was normally illuminated at a slant from top right to bottom left. I fought the installation of that street lamp from the beginning. The shadow now had a lump in it. This time, I fired first. I fired my gun almost without looking. The first time, I was on the other side sitting behind my desk. I didn’t hear the gun shot either time. All I heard was glass shattering as I fell to the floor. That damn street lamp, how dare it save my life?

My desk was disturbed but nothing was missing. I knew that before I searched. The dead man wasn’t here to rob me. He was only looking for one thing. His gun was still lying-in-wait on my desk to kill me. Then I searched him. His wallet revealed the usual paraphernalia of a bad-guy. He was one of Eddie’s colleagues. The death toll had just increased. I scribbled the address if an antique shop on 57th street on a piece of paper. I folded it neatly and stuck it in the left shirt pocket of the dead bad-guy. Neatly will tell the good bad-guys where they could find me. Maybe they will help me if I get in trouble. Lights were flashing outside, red and blue. The good bad-guys were already here. I left through the fire escape to let the tax dollars clean up the mess in my office.

I was too wound up to go to sleep. If they were still looking for it, then they didn’t have it yet. So, I was back to work. Some small bizarre hunch had not yet been developed. Some missing link to end the search still remained lingering in the shadows in the antique shop. The last time I was in the old shop, I was chasing Eddie. I suppose now you could say that I still am.

In one smooth motion, hanging from a water pipe, looking over both shoulders, whipping the blade from nowhere, forcing open the lock, sliding through the small window feet first, I let myself in. There I was, hugging my knees, perched on the top shelf again. Something here was not quite right.

Even during the day the antique store was poorly lit. The shop hadn’t changed a bit as far back as I can remember. Old Mrs. Witherspoon would chase us out and down the block. She didn’t trust anyone. I can’t figure how that place ever stayed in business. Nothing was ever sold. The direction of the aisles was dictated by tons of dusty junk stacked upon itself. As long as you could walk from one end of the store to the other the place was tidy, according to Mrs. Witherspoon.

There was one spot, in the center, that was clear of ancient rubbish. Only a small rug held back the forces of junk. The rug is where she would rock in an old rocking chair and look over the place. Now the rocking chair was in the aisle-way. Also, a headless, armless clothes dummy on wheels was in the aisle next to the chair. The store was not tidy.

Late night Tuesday was the last time I was at Old Annie’s Antiques. I chased Eddie from a dead body. He arrived at Old Annie’s less than a minute before me. Cautiously, I entered the open front door. Not a sound echoed off the antiques. Then, in the center of the labyrinth of aisles was a silhouette. The silhouette got up from a kneeling position, moved across the aisle and stopped. Slowly I approached the scene. No one was there. It was only a clothes dummy and shadows from the street lamps. He had to be there. I saw him go in. In seconds that seemed like forever, I searched the whole store. No Eddie. No nothing. I must have mistaken which shop he went into.

Then, gunshots echoed off the building outside. Somehow I knew it was he. When I got outside two men were standing over Eddie, two blocks down.

Voices and shadows invaded the front door. Two men. They seemed to have a key. One shadow was a foot taller than the other. “Randolph, he wants us to search for the map”, the taller one said.

“I know, but we have to make sure that we leave no evidence. They already think that we killed Eddie.” Randolph whispered in a tone that insisted his partner would whisper also.

In a flash it came to me. “I’ve got it”, I whispered aloud forgetting about my guest. It was sitting in front of my nose all along. All at once I knew how Eddie got away from me, and where the missing map was. Since my cover was blown, I hopped down from the top shelf and fled into the shadows.

Then of course the obvious, “What was that? Somebody must be in here”

“Quick, you look over there.”

I tried the oldest trick in the book. As the shorter of the two shadows approached where I was hiding, I lobbed an old book over some stuff. It came down with a crash. The old trick still worked, it allowed me to move closer to the rocking chair.

I needed a bigger diversion to pull off my escape. Speak of the devil. Silently, some red and blue lights pulled up out front. The two shadows tossed around some more obvious whispers. Slipping my hand under the rug, my revelation came to pass. My hand grabbed a cold metal ring. It was a trapped door. With one hand taking hold of the clothes dummy, I slipped into the darkness below the shop.

The flick of my lighter revealed a very small, damp mud floored chamber. There was a narrow passageway that leads up the street under the other shops. The back of the dummy came off easily. A long quest had come to an end. Once again the map of an Old Black Feet Indian treasure, was in my hands. Eddie must have thought that he was going to be caught. He must have grabbed the first thing he saw to hide it in, planning to come back for it later. The corridor lead to a broken down cellar door at the end of the block.

I partially opened the cellar door and crawled out. Then the door created a large crashing sound as it simultaneously hit the ground and the wall. I spun around and saw the two shadows talking to two good bad guys. They didn’t see me. I turned the corner and walked several blocks away. Somehow, I knew that I was safe from both sets of bad guys.

After some hot coffee and a sandwich, I placed the map in a plain brown envelope. I attached a short note.

To – inspector Rembrandt

No problems –
I will expect payment in the usual manner.

Love, Xaqery Jones PI

Then I went to get my car keys.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Game Table Works!

The boys and I gave our new game table a test drive:

Two Team training ground

Two Team training ground

I was really pleased with how much room we had for everything plus snacks and drinks. The Heroscape board here is 54" X 24"!

Here is the full report.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Line Theory

My friends and I from Williams, back in the day, thought up and developed over time what we called Line Theory. It became clear to us that there had to be unseen lines throughout the world. Lines that had considerable control over our everyday decisions.

I believe it started when we would go out for lunch to a restaurant that was not near work. We noticed that the clientele was measurably more attractive than the patrons of the restaurants near work. Over time it was clear that we were crossing some form of line. Crossing into a land where the attractive people were.

I will have to be honest the people were I worked were not that attractive. Sorry guys. Once in a while we would hire someone that was attractive. Most of them would not stay long, sadly. They would suddenly find a better job somewhere else soon after starting with us. It is clear to me now that it was the lines at work. Attractive people were not aloud to stay on our side of the line for too long.

Over time, as we developed the theory, we decided that there had to be more than one line. To the trained eye we could discern a couple jumps in attractiveness as we drove away from work and therefore there had to be more than one line. At this point I began to envision the lines like elevations on a topography map.

Was Williams at the center? I don't think so. There were one or two attractive people that stayed at Williams for extended periods. I think this proves that we were not at the center. Thank God.

The BIG question never fully answered was: How much did the "lines" affect and enable us getting and keeping the jobs we had at Williams? We may never know.

So now I have to ask you: Which side of the line do you live on?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Time flys even if you are not having fun.

This is scaring me more and more every day. Sometimes it is hard not to be overwhelmed by what I have left to do in life and how little time there is left to do it. For me there are two major areas of concern.

First, my kids are growing up so fast. I know that sounds cliché but it is amazingly true. They literally change in appearance overnight. What scares me most is I feel I have so much to teach them and obviously an ever decreasing amount of time to do it in. Unfortunately this forces me to prioritize the topics of learning. Focusing on what I would call the basics. I want them to be hard working, honest, men of high character. At the same time I want them to be healthy which includes learning how to be healthy. Intermixed with all this teaching I know it’s important to have fun and build fun memories. So this has been parenting to me. Find a balance between fun and tutelage. All the while I want to teach them any vocation I can like programming and game design. When can I fit these in?

Second, I have a huge list of things I want to do before I die. It would be nice to do some sooner than later. I want to do all the normal things that would be on most people’s list. I want to go to Hawaii, see the Grand Canyon, see Mount Rushmore, See Washington DC, Go to other countries like Britain, Australia, and China. There are many more.

What is funny, almost cruel, is that as I become older my vision and understanding of the world increases. So does my desire and need to see and experience more of it. Ironically I have less time to do it in.

One day on IRC I was chatting with my friends about the phases of life and how they break nicely into 20 year periods:

  1. In my first 20 years I seemed to have plenty of time but no money. When you are a kid and a teen you have no money, no real job, and often lots of time to play.
  2. In my second 20 years I had plenty of money but no time. You are starting your career and therefore working hard so you have no time like you used to have. Also you are getting a real paycheck and for the first time you have real money.
  3. Now I am starting my 3rd 20 year period. I have no time and no money. I have a real job but now I have two young kids. Which is great but they consume lots of time and money.
  4. What will my next 20 year period bring? I imagine I will have time again. The kids scene will calm down allot and eventually no job I hope. We are not very good savers so I imagine I will not have any money. So this 4th stage seems like the first one.

The last time I went to the DMV to renew my driver’s license an interesting thing happened. I had just turned 40 and therefore was only at the beginning of my current mid-life crisis. These days the DMV is not so bad they have it all down pretty slick. Soon I was in the waiting area. In the center of the front row of 4 rows of 20 chairs. I was alone waiting for them to call my name.

When this very old but spry man came to the waiting area and sat down right next to me. Not near me. In the next seat. He could have sat anywhere the area was EMPTY. So I thought clearly he wants to talk and we exchanged some pleasantries. Then I asked him “How old are you?” He was 80 years old.

Wow I thought. Here I am pissing about how old I am and he is twice as old. So I asked him: “Which was better your first 40 years or your second?” After a couple of seconds he said “My second?” This cheered me up.

Since then I have ask this question of several older people. The answer was always the second half. Will I be able to do some of the things on my list? Probably, I hope. Again it’s a matter of prioritization.

So I implore you. Carpe Diam!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Game Table Overlay

When I designed the work bench I had always thought about making some sort of addition that I could add to it to make it a game table. Then I was further inspired when I saw my friends blog where he and his friend made a similar table.

So I have had this in the works for some time but it had to go behind some other projects. But its finlay finished and now we have a 3' x 6' work bench that can also be a 6' x 4 ' gaming table:

Game Table Overlay

The green is felt cloth.

Game Table Overlay

We bought the stools at Target.

Game Table Overlay

The pictures do not show the really bad parts of this project. During this project I learned allot about staining which I had never done before. Also I learned more about selecting wood. One of the sides bows a bit. When I selected the wood I didn't think it would be a problem but after I put it together one corner is not the best if you look at it the wrong way.

Thanks to Anna helping with the covering the table with felt. We first covered it with 1/2" batting then felt to give it a nice poker table feel. We decided it was too springy for games that were not cards so she took the felt off, removed the batting, and reattached the felt.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Anna knocks one out! (two actually)

Soon after I started working on my sub-trunk Anna started working on some Corn-hole boards:

Corn-Hole Boards

We had the wood sitting around for a long time and now she had a great work bench to work on so she decided to make two sets of this game. One for friends of ours (pictured above). I think at least one of them graduated from Iowa.

She did an amazing job. They latch together and have a handle for easy carying. There is a cord to easily measure the correct distance to place them. She made the 8 bags filling them with corn.

The second set has been put on the back burner for now but will be ours so stay tuned.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Two things I had never seen before

In the summer of 2006 I saw two things I had never seen before. I was running late for work so I am guessing it was about 10am.

When I got to the on-ramp of the east bound I-290 freeway I saw it but it was too late. Something I had seen many times before; stop-and-go traffic. Maybe it wont be too bad I hoped. Either way there was no turning back. Trying to make the best of it I slowly merged off the on-ramp and slowly made my way through the walls of thick traffic to the far left lane where I am most comfortable.

It didn't look like I was going to get lucky. The traffic would stay stopped for seconds at a time and then only move forward a few feet. That's when I noticed the first thing I had never seen before. The traffic on the other side of the freeway was gone. Not sparse, gone! Had it been gone the whole time I was in left lane? I think it had. There were NO CARS as far as I could see. None. Zero. Zip. I foolishly looked backwards, somehow there must be cars back there. Of course there were not.

I think it was the stark contrast of a full parking lot on one side of the freeway and NOTHING on the other that makes this such a strong memory for me. A few times I have been out on the road driving late at night and for moments there would be no one around until finally you would go over a hill or come around a curve and there would be another car. But this was not like that. It was minutes and there was three lanes of NOTHING.

Then I saw the second thing in one day that I had never seen before. Our side of the slow moving parking lot was slowly making its way through a shallow curve. When we were about half way through the curve I saw what was stopping the traffic on the other side. About one third of a mile down a helicopter was landing in the middle of the west-bound freeway.

I remember the whole thing in slow motion like it was yesterday. As my focus widened there were a couple firetrucks behind the helicopter, a couple of police cars, and several firemen standing about waiting for it to land. As soon as it was good and on the ground two men carrying a third strapped to a stretcher came from stage right and slid the stretcher on to the helicopter. Another fireman had been holding a hatch open for them. All the while the blades of the helicopter were still spinning causing everyone there to walk hunched over.

About now I was almost next to them. The fireman that was holding open the hatch closed it and then patted it hard a couple times and started to back straight back still hunched over. The helicopter engine started to whine and the spinning blades sped up lifting the craft off the ground. Straight up at first then up at an angle.

Our side of 290 was quickly breaking up now. The traffic was returning to normal. I was getting past the rubber-necking zone which of course was the only cause for the traffic on our side. The other side was backed up, stopped, as far as I could see. Even when I got back to 70 mph I was still passing stopped cars on the other side. I was just glad it wasn't me.

Since then I sometimes have wondered who it was that was evacuated like that. Where they important? More important than me? How bad were they? and did they live? I guess I will never know.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Amazing Sullivans

Soon after I built the Work Bench I started working on a sub-trunk:


I had the plans for years hoping someday I would get to build it and do the trick.

Anna made the curtain while the Boys and I started practicing right away. Soon Anna joined in with our practicing and in November we performed "Metamorphosis" in front of over 200 people at a cub scout pack meeting.

Metamorphosis is my all time favorite illusion. I first learned about it from learning about Harry Houdini. I thought he was the inventor of the illusion but he was not.

Here is the result of the practicing:

It was a big hit by all present.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Work bench

A while back I designed and built this work bench:
Work Bench

Work Bench

Work Bench

It is 3' x 6' and just the right height to be handy in junction with the small table saw I have.

I am really proud of this bench. It was my first project of any scale with wood and it turned out really good and useful. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to glue the various pieces together. Not being glued has not really caused a problem but I think in the long run it will.