Stairway to… something.

macgyverI entered the final phase of today’s project with one main goal: Don’t Die.

A few weeks ago, I decided that my stairs had far too much wasted room.  As I haven’t finished my life-size ‘Indiana Jones frozen in Nazi carbonite statue’ to hang above it yet, I decided to try something new.  What’s the big thing this year?  CATS.  That’s right, folks, it’s all about cats this year.  With that in mind, I decided to put up some shelves for the cats to ignore.

The problem is that to put the shelves up where I wanted them, I would need to go up a ladder.  My ladder doesn’t have crazy adjustable ‘one side longer than the other’ legs so yesterday at the shop, I glued and screwed (that just sounds wrong…) some scrap together to make a StairWiderer.  A couple pieces of 4×4 post glued together with some inch thick ply and I had a…  thing… that could extend a step out to be wide enough for my ladder to be sideways to the stairs.

While working on it, my 11 year old burst into tears when he saw me up there.  At first, I mistakenly thought he was concerned for my safety but it turned out he was worried he wouldn’t be reliably able to catch the cats anymore.  Oh.

I’m pleased to report that I was able to climb up to neck-breaking altitudes and back several times without dying.  With this specific deliverable realized, I feel confident reporting that my main goal was met successfully.

Some shelves are up now and I’ll be periodically hurling the cats up onto them until they figure out these are a new place for them to withhold affection from us.  Bonus: The big octagonal window that sheds mocking light on the wasted space of this stairwell will be a great viewport for them to judge the neighborhood from.  It’s nothing fancy to be posting about, but heck, it’s an easy way to establish an alibi if nothing else, officer.

Report: What I Did On President’s Day or “The Long Arm of the Saw”

Our neighbor (the crazy one) has some trees that overhang our property.  A few big branches were unable to deal with a few hundred kilos of ice during the freeze and broke.  For the most part, they gently settled down against the roof of our house and stayed there.  Hoping they would Jesus themselves back into position, I waited the customary three days but the holy spirit was not with them so, you know, they stayed broken against the roof.  This period was pretty scary because at least one of the branches that was creaking and moaning every time the wind blew and sounded like a g-g-g-ghost pirate ship at sea.

We’ve got a two-story house so getting to the branches was tricky.  KayDee suggested I climb up onto the roof and back down the steep roof to the 20 foot dropoff and ineffectually kick at the branches hoping they’d spontaneously fall away until I myself fell off the house (these weren’t her words exactly, but basically what would have happened) but I had a better idea. I shopped for a while on before settling on some tools for the job.

I got a couple pieces of conduit from the local recycling place.  I drilled some holes, bolted the two pieces of metal pipe together, then used big hose-clamps to attach my electric chainsaw to the end of the newly constructed sawlongerer.  I taped the trigger permanently to ‘On’ then ran an extension cord from the saw.

I balanced this contraption near the offending branches, Marcus plugged it in then retreated to a safe place where he could disconnect the power without being in the DANGERRRRR ZOOOONE, and I began cutting.  Slice slice slice goes the saw, swish swish BAM go the branches.  One of them hit my face on the way down after bouncing off something else, but it probably only improved my looks.

Finally, we were down to one, the BIG one.  I sawed at it.  BZZZZ!  BZZZZ!  My little electric chainsaw bit and chewed and finally the large branch broke free and, through some series of ricochets, its 100+lb mass fell…  directly onto my brother-in-law’s quad that he had left parked behind the house this weekend.  Now, Tim doesn’t seem to use Facebook so there’s no real chance he’ll find out, but thankfully the branch came down on a footrest and didn’t do any damage.  It WAS, however, balanced there and I had to figure out a safe way to get it off the quad without causing damage but that’s a story for another day (that I’ll never tell, because honestly, it’s really not much of a story.  Mostly lifting things and swearing but just imagine it’s something good.)

Once it was off, I popped the quad into neutral and wheeled it to safety and tried to figure out how to fix this limb.  It was now standing straight up, was about 10 inches thick and maybe 12 feet tall and thick conifer branches were holding it up.  If I left it, some day it would fall over and smash my house, my BiL’s camping trailer, the Great Wall fence that keeps my crazy neighbor and her rampaging hordes out of my back yard, or possible even the hot tub (well not really, I just wanted to mention that I technically have a hot tub because hey, hot tub).

I ended up cutting a v-shaped wedge out of the middle until there was a tiny bit of wood holding it together.  Clearing out an escape route, I lined up, took stock of all of my martial arts experience (none), and executing a flawless (that’s a lie) karate kick against the branch.  It snapped and folded neatly in half, dropping down vertically like a finely designed demolition job and not doing any damage.  Honestly, if I had planned this, it would have been spectacular, but it was really mostly “I should probably do something with wedges, that’s what the pros do…”-level planning.  You know, like when an amateur who finds themselves caring for someone in labor asking for boiled water and towels.  What do they do when they get them?  They’re probably hoping a real doctor gets there before they need to deal with the facts that in addition to the ‘violently pregnant woman’, they also now have a ‘I’m responsible for a pot of boiling water and some towels’ problem.  Anyway, I lucked out.

Back yard now has a number of severed limbs (none human), a miraculously undamaged quad & house & camper, and the house should be quiet again tonight.

I’ve had to disassemble the Sawlongerer for now because some repairs are needed and also because having an electric chainsaw is a dangerous enough lure; having one that can cut things 20 feet away….  that’s a full blown crisis of temptation.  May these parts be ever stored separately lest they come together again when my will is weak.

Change where it’s needed because bacon wallet

Out with the old, in with the bacon.
Out with the old, in with the bacon.

It’s that time again, the biennial replacement of the bacon wallet.  I love these things but for some reason, they seem to wear out.

Now, I’ve heard all sorts of different crazy theories like “you have too many things in your wallet” to “maybe it’s because your wallet is too full” and even “seriously, you should clean that out”…  they’re all over the place!  So as you can tell, nobody really knows why but they all seem to think it’s weird.  See, I think that replacing a wallet once every couple years is a perfectly cromulent thing to do.  Things get used, they need to eventually be replaced, right?  I mean, we don’t all have the same toothbrush we did when we were kids, right?  Of course not, because we use them and they get worn out and eventually we get another one from the toothbrush store or wherever it is you get them.

“But Ben”, you may say as some sort of hypothetical straw-man, “there are plenty of things in life that should last you a while.  Maybe if you cleaned out you-” Shut up!  This isn’t the time or the place for wild conspiracy theories.  Plus, I have plenty of things that last a long time.  For example, I’ve not replaced the blade in my Gillette Fusion razor since 2008 and it works just as well today as it did in 2010.  Every morning, I admire the distinguished patina of protective corrosion on it before scraping it across my neck to manage what would otherwise become an unruly IT neckbeard and it works just fine.  People who replace these before they age properly have no connection to their past, no sense of continuity in their lives.  Some things, you see, are meant to last and I’m just saying that maybe wallets _aren’t_ that thing.

So this morning, I made a successful transplant from old to new.  Looking into the new bacon wallet, I’m comforted by all the things I expect to see.  Egyptian currency from six years ago, a Vons card from when I lived in Los Angeles (because I would feel pretty silly if I was in LA _without_ it), and my emergency Canadian penny.  I heard a rumor that Canada has ceased production of their penny so by the sacred laws of supply and demand, if I hold onto this long enough I should be able to ride this baby into a plush retirement.

One thing of note, the new wallet kinda creaks a little when I squish it down.  As you can see from the picture, it’s a little misshapen which I assume is just a quirk of the material or something.  This has happened before so I’m not that worried; I find that cramming it into my pocket long enough seems to beat the resistance out of it after a while and it eventually accepts its lot in life, like a pony that’s been broken to saddle.

Onwards to the future, new wallet!  And old wallet: it’s time for you to rest.  Into the drawer with the rest of your kin, the stable has one more retired beast to while away the days.  Your hard work over the years (both of them) is appreciated, but it’s time for a new generation to have its chance.

Can Superbowl become Super ‘Peace’?

hawkbroncnegotiationOn this day of broadcast sporting, I predict that the team with the superior combination of skill and fortune will reach a successful resolution to the match.  I think that safely covers my bases…

That said, is conflict really the answer?  Diplomacy might help remove some of barriers between the rival sporting teams.  Are their values really so different that this fight is the only solution?  Or is it the acquisition of the special rings that’s the crux of this struggle?

If both teams came to the table with an honest interest in setting aside violence and conquest, perhaps they could both be winners; A reasonable schedule of sharing could allow members of both the Seagulls and Ford Broncos to wear the special rings on a 50/50 basis.  We live in an age where overnight shipping can mean only a single day is lost.  There are an odd number of days in the year so this would mean both sides could have them for an equal amount of time.

Please, millionaire athletes…  please think of the children.


o-RANCH-DRESSING-SODA-LESTERS-FIXINS-facebook[1]I was at Wally World today getting salad dressing.  If you’ve ever been to a Walmart, you know that they typically have 2-3 different choices for any given product.

Want to get peanut butter?  JIF and Skippys plus maybe one of those ones ones that sweat a bunch of oil at the top that you have to stir in while telling yourself how much you love ‘natural’ peanut butter.  Want sugar?  They’ve got both kinds: white AND brown, so very multicultural.  The ‘asian food aisle’ has crates of ramen and maybe some Sriracha.  They’ve got such a broad range of products that they can’t really offer a wide selection of anything.

…well, that’s usually the case at least.  There are occasionally exceptions.

As I mentioned, I was in the salad dressing aisle (aka ‘the stuff we use to make salad unhealthy enough to choke down’) and I was struck by their selection of ranch dressing.  I paced off 30 feet of shelf with ranch representation and counted 33 different SKUs.  Some of those were different sizes, some were flavors.  Bacon Ranch, Southwest Ranch, ‘Fancy’ Ranch (this one was difficult to imagine), Ranch Lite, travel-sized Ranch for people who need Ranch on-the-go, and so on.  I don’t know how the Hidden Valley can stay hidden with all the equipment needed to manufacturer and store so many different variations of Ranch dressing, and they were only one of maybe half a dozen companies.

You don’t make money by selling things your customers don’t want, and Walmart is one seriously successful business so I guess that they A: know their target demographic, and B: that demographic just loves the hell out of Ranch.

For the record, I got ‘French’.  They don’t have ranches in France, they have ‘fermes’.  Ranch isn’t a solution to the kind of problems I’m trying to solve.

The times, they are a fucking-CHANGING

Has anyone ever thought about the idea of a ‘developing anachronism’?  An anachronism is something that’s appropriate to another era, and what do we call things that are in-flux?  There may be a better way to describe this, but it’s the first term that came to mind when I realized I was looking at my wrist because I wanted to know what time it was.

Who DOES that anymore?  Well…  I guess plenty of people still have watches (heck, I have a really nice big one from KayDee that I break out whenever I want to remind people I’m a pilot) but if there was such a thing as ‘owning stock in watches’, I think I’d be telling my broker to sell.  Why?  Because we’re just looking at our phones, and who needs a watch when you can’t even play Angry Candy or Words With Birds or whatever people are doing these days?

So the idea of looking at a wristwatch seems like something that’s still happening, but on its way out.  It’s not quite an anachronism yet, but its anachronistic qualities are _developing_.  See how I brought that all together?  I KNOW, RIGHT?

So assuming the entire concept isn’t fatally flawed, what are some other developing anachronisms you see?  Watching TV commercials?  Getting the ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition’ (there’s this thing called ‘The Internet’, you see…), buying newspapers, etc; those are too obvious, what else is shifting?

Better yet, what are some things that are still normal today but will BECOME anachronisms?  Betterer yet, what would you call THAT phenomena?  I really hope ‘not making words like betterer up’ is one of those things that’ll pass, because that’s a sweet word.

Carl’s Jr, get your act together

When Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger came out, the name was a play on the idea that ‘fancy’ burgers cost the exorbitant fee of $6. It was like Geo releasing a cheap car and calling it ‘The Aristocrat’, something so silly and overboard that people would say ‘ok, I get it, that’s funny’ and then come buy the product because they’re in on the joke.

Well, here we are in 2013 and the price of the $6 burger is hovering right around the actual $6 mark. What?! In our car example, Geo is now advertising their hypothetical econobox in Yacht Fancier with a straight face _and the millionaires are buying them_!

This is crazy! How does this happen? How does the Six Dollar Burger reach the actual $6 mark without someone in corporate saying ‘whoa, WHOA, everyone needs to just calm down and we need to figure this out’?! Madness reigns in the halls of Carls Jr. Headquarters. A madness that has allowed the barbarians at the gate, the emperor to be shown as he really is.

How can we as citizens really stay sane in a world where up is suddenly down, dogs are secretly cats, and ironically named six dollar burgers actually cost six bloody dollars? It’s a madhouse, a MADHOUSE!

Life's too short to be nice