Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Everyone asks, "Why?"

I have half a mind to answer, "I've got cancer." But I know that someone that hears that will actually have cancer, or their mom will have cancer, and then I'll be an @ss, and I don't want to do that.

Here are the answers to my bald head FAQ.

I didn't lose a bet.

Mary does like it, in fact she was the one who jumped up and down and said, "Can I shave your head? Can I? Can I?"

I shaved my head because I got tired of my hair. I was too lazy to get out of the house and go to the barber shop. I didn't feel like sacrificing 2 hours on a Saturday to wait in the barber shop to get my hair cut. So I shaved it off.

I've no idea how long I'm going to keep it shaved. Probably until I get tired of it. Actually, I grew it out for 2 weeks because I was too lazy to shave it. But then it got too long and wasn't quite as cool to play with. So I shaved it again.

I shave with a razor, though after two weeks I used the clippers to get it short, and cleaned it up with the razor.

It takes about 15 minutes to shave the whole head, and I wear out a razor each time (kinda spendy) (offtopic - this review leads me to believe I should try a new razor.).

I get a small nick here and there when shaving, but only when I'm trying to get real close. It's a lot easier to get a close shave on my scalp then my face - probably because the skin on my jowls is loose, but my scalp is still still nice and tight.

It's still pretty new to me, I find myself rubbing my head a lot (kinda like my buddha belly). And I have a new found connection with other bald guys - it's kind of like being in a secret club.

You can join the club if you want. I've got the clippers.

I am master of my dojo.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer says he's master of his dojo?

I felt like that last week. We had a team lunch at the park next to campus (pizza), and a few of us played a game of pick-up basketball afterwards.

The teams weren't fair - NN and I were on the same team, and we were definitely the best players. I was a good 6 inches taller than the other team. I'd actually played organized basketball at some point. And even though I hadn't touched a basketball in a good 12-16 months, I dominated the game. If I'd just hit 30% of my layups, the game would have been over in half the time. I even drove on people (and if you knew the way I played, the defenders had to be bad).

Of course, after not playing in over a year, I ached the next day. My hands and forearms were sore the next day from dribbling. And I actually jammed my hand and the ball into the support saving a ball from going out of bounds. Just yet more proof that I'm old.

The whole time I couldn't stop thinking of Kramer.


I watched Scratch a few weeks ago. I figured that I should get some insight into the music that surrounded me while I grew up in the hood (now almost completely gentrified).

I'm not a big fan of the scratching itself found in Hip-Hop music, but I was a huge fan of Rockit by Herbie Hancock. Most of the DJs interviewed in scratch said that Rockit was the first time they heard someone scratching a record, and it was often their original source of inspiration.

I won't give you a blow-by-blow account of the movie, but I'll hilight the most interesting parts.

First, the skill of these DJs is amazing. A lot of the time they are scratching and making kind of odd sounds (which is harder to appreciate), but a couple of times they focused on someone mixing a record (actually, two of the same record) right in front of you. No scratching, just a re-mix of the original music using a couple of turn tables and a fader. The result sounded like a regular recording that was mixed in a studio, simply amazing. Other times, guys would provide a beat with one of the records and add the chorus from a second record. To do this right, they had to know *exactly* where the beats started and stopped and be able to just flip back with a quick flick of the wrist.

Hard to describe, but just amazing what these guys could do with a turntable. It was kind of like watching someone sitting down in front of a couple of plastic buckets and start belting out an amazing drum solo. Or like watching a really good beatboxer.

Speaking of beatboxing, they showed a minute clip of some guys beatboxing, but didn't go into what it was or how it fit in. Plus, the clip they showed had 3 guys who weren't very good (well, the first half of the clip shown was bad and the audience was not at all into it). So I thought that portion fit poorly with the rest of the movie.

They did talk a lot about the guys who dig for music, and interviewed one of the DJs in the basement of some record store that was literally filled with records. Stacks upon stacks of records, floor to ceiling. And this guy (among others) just goes through and finds no-name records to use in his mixing.

One issue they touched on in the extras, but not in the regular movie, was the impact of the studios clamping down on sampling and how that has affected DJs. In the extra the couple of guys asked were very passionate about the issue, but it was not explored very deeply. Perhaps that was the point (as both sides were presented) - perhaps the intention was to raise the issue and let you think about it. Dunno.

Anyway, I recommend the movie for anyone interested in hip-hop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kryptonite locks

I got a replacement Kryptonite lock because anyone could open the old one using a ballpoint pen.

My new one seemed nice enough - it has a little cover that rotates to cover the keyhole and keep the elements out. It's a little heavier than my last one, but no big deal.

Last Sunday, Mary and I biked down to the Fall Festival to see all the crafts. It's kind of like Portland's Saturday Market only the crafts are all really nice, and the live music is really good.

We pull up to the bike corral and get ready to lock the bikes up. I put the key in, turned it, and turned it, and turned it. At first there was a little resistance, but then nothing. The key now spins freely around, and actually, I cannot pull the key out. And, the lock is just as locked as it's ever been.

Luckily, the lock is just locked on my bike, right near the handlebars, and not locked to a bike rack or some other immobile object. But what a pain in the butt. A young woman in the bike corral said she had the same problem, only her bike was stuck to some pole somewhere.

I called Kryptonite, and to their credit, they'll cover the cost for the locksmith to get it off the bike, and they'll replace the lock for free. But I'm a little worried now that I'll lock my bike up again and never get it back. At least this was the single-speed, if I'd permanently locked my new bike to something I would have been really torqued.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tim Burton Woman

Just met a woman who was straight out of an animated Tim Burton movie.

No, she wasn't freaky or anything like that, and no she wasn't dead or a skeleton.

She was a very petite woman, with huge, dark eyes. She was really thin, with long fingers and very expressive hands. Her eyelashes must have been a good inch long (no, not Tammy Fae freaky - stop going there), and when she looked from one person to the next, she'd often look down in between - closing her eyes in between the people, and opening them when she looked at the second person. She moved kinda slow - nothing jerky, just slow, flowing motions. Oh, and her hair was in an odd hairdo with not a single hair out of place - similar to a doll's.

You'd totally understand if you saw her next to a TV showing one of Mr. Burton's animated films. You'd wonder which was the original.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bad Movie

Lazed around this evening after taking a nap to recover from our day in Eugene. We saw some really cool things in the Saturday market down there - even picked up a couple of early Xmas presents.

Anyway, after watching the classic, 48 Hours, we caught the end of Armageddon.

Horrible movie. Absolutely horrible. If I'd worked on it, I'd ask the church for an annulment.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mmmm.... fish oil

I've been taking a variety of pills ever since I had my gall bladder attack. They are general vitamins for good health, and a couple of pills that specifically target my digestive system.

Well, one of the pills I take is a fish-oil pill. Gotta get those omega-3 fatty acids.

Turns out that the car was hot enough on Tuesday to cause the pills to explode, so my little pill box leaked fish oil on my clothes and generally made a mess.

So - just to let y'all know, do not store your fish oil pills in a car.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Thai Iced Tea

I like Thai iced tea, but I'm usually to cheap to buy it when we eat out.

I finally followed through with my thought of, "gee, perhaps I can make it."

It's super easy to make, just get the right bag of tea. Brew it strong, filter out the tea leaves, sweeten, add cream/half-n-half/condensed milk, and serve.

The trick is (of course) to get the right tea leaves.

Your local asian market will likely have the tea leaves (ours is Rice & Spice). And, the tea leaves are likely to have food-coloring in them. Traditional Thai iced tea comes from certain red tea leaves, which are probably near impossible to get outside of Thailand. So, the tea leaves are colored with food coloring.

Once you've found the tea leaves, you'll have to figure out how you want to sweeten the tea. The guy at the market told me to use sweetened condensed milk. As sweet as that stuff is, by the time you've added enough to make the tea taste appropriately sweet, the drink is too milky. So I add sugar to the tea, and will probably just use half-and-half (or evaporated milk) to give the right amount of creaminess.

Lastly, some of the recipes have you brew the tea for a long time - making it super strong (which is partially why you add cream and lots of ice - to water it down). I've only let mine brew for a couple of minutes, but I'll try the next batch for an hour or so. Regular tea normally gets bitter, but perhaps it'll work out for the Thai iced tea.

FWIW, my tea mix looks remarkably like this one:


The path and patio are done.

Two weekends ago, my parents came down on a Saturday and put in a long 8 hours of work. Mary and I had started earlier - Mary was laying the remaining bricks, and I picked up the last of the gravel we'd need. After offloading the gravel, it was time to pick up the saw. The saw that was to be my companion for the next two days.

Mom and Dad spent the whole day measuring bricks, marking them with crayons, and then placing the cut pieces into the path. Dad's idea of using crayons for marking was perfect. The wax held up well in the water from the brick saw, and the bright colors made it easier to see the cut lines.

So we cut and placed bricks all day, like a big jig-saw puzzle. Mary finished laying down almost every last whole brick in the patio and helped mark and place bricks. All I did was ferry bricks to the saw, cut them, and ferry them back.

The saw was noisy and dirty and wet. I didn't use gloves because they would have been soaked - big mistake. By the end of the day my fingers had holes in them and were very painful. I put my gloves back on, but it was too late, they hurt as though I had sharp needles poking in them.

The saw came with its own power cord (well, I rented it) because it takes so many amps. I tripped the breaker pretty early on, or I thought I had. None of the circuit breakers actually showed being tripped. I flipped all of them on and off, but no luck, that circuit was dead. We were using the plug on the front deck, which is also the same circuit as the socket on the back patio, and the sockets in both of the bathrooms (but not the lights). So we switched to a plug inside the house. We tripped that breaker several times throughout the day, but that was easily remedied by flipping the breaker back on.

Fast forward two weeks to today (we'll get back to the patio shortly), I replaced every 15 and 20 amp breaker in the box, and nothing helped. The only two breakers I didn't replace are the two double breakers (30 and 40 amps each), which I doubt are the problem as they're labeled the stove and the dryer. What the hell? I've no idea what to do now. But, back to the stone cutting.

We took Mom and Dad out to Mexican because we were all starving, and it was the least we could do to repay thank them for their help. They drove home afterwards, and left us with just a couple hours of work left for Sunday.

As luck would have it, Mary got a call in the middle of the night - a family went into labor, and the midwife couldn't cover it because another client was in labor at the same time. So Mary threw on her cape and headed out to catch a baby.

I slept in some and took my time eating breakfast. I wasn't really looking forward to using my painful hands, but the bricks called.

Because I was solo, things moved a lot slower than the day before. I tried to gather up 10-15 cuts at a time in a wheel barrow, then head over and cut them all, then back to the patio where I tried my luck at re-assembling the jigsaw puzzle. Progress was slow - my fingers hurt, and my thighs were killing me because of all the crouching I'd done the day before while cutting the bricks.

Mary got home from a healthy birth, very tired. So she took a nap until I hit my thumb with the sledge hammer. I tried not to yell too loud, but she was in the spare bedroom and the window was open. My loud mouth and throbbing finger were right outside that window. My thumb still hurts today - I think I could have given myself a hairline fracture.

I finished the edging along the south side of the patio, and Mary joined me for a few hours until it got dark. With her help, we finished putting in every last bit of stone. We even did some fancy off-angled cuts on the bricks that abut the asphalt. All in all, a very nice patio.

All we had left to do was put some sand in between all the stones.

That brings us to last weekend. We rented the vibrating plate compactor to help set the bricks in the sand. Now, it'd been over two months since we started laying bricks, so many had already settled, but we figured we'd try to do the "right thing."

It turns out the vibrating compactor helps out quite a bit by setting the sand that you've swept between the blocks. We swept sand over and over in the same spot, trying to force it into all the little cracks. Just a few seconds of the vibrating plate and the sand all settled down.

One of the downsides of the vibrating plate is the potential of cracking and breaking one of the stones. I only broke one - an uncut stone (thank goodness). Plus it was on the edge of the path, so replacing it was very easy. That, and the fact that this plate compactor smoked like a chimney and stunk to high heaven when running. Other than that, it saved us tons of time sweeping.

The only other thing we did was to glue down the edge pieces sitting on the cinder blocks. Now you can stand on the edge of the cinder blocks without fear of the bricks flipping over from your weight.

That was it - nothing left to do for the bricks. With all the sand in place, the patio feels as solid as poured cement, and it looks awesome.

This weekend I finished the downspout we relocated by the back patio - it looks pretty good now because the pipes are all painted.

Now it's time to plant the plants.

Here are some pics of our lovely patio.

curve of path to front yard

view 1 of patio from back yard

patio detail with jade

path from front yard

path in back yard

patio from front yard

patio from back yard

patio from the curve

the y in the path

Whole Grain baby

A couple of weeks ago we were walking through the Safeway when I spied the new whole grain Lucky Charms. Now, Lucky Charms happen to be my favorite junk breakfast cereal. I'd read the advertisements way back when GM announced the move to whole grains. It's just a marketing gimmick, I know, but I had to try them.

So I bought a box, the largest box they had (because it was cheaper than the smaller one).

The next morning I ate two full bowls of the stuff, and boy didn't I feel great. Mary even joined in and had a bowl full herself.

They tasted exactly like they did before the transformation. I think the fact that there are more marshmallows than sugar coated cereal probably contributes to that. Oddly, the sugar content is not the highest of the crappy cereals. I've no idea how a cereal that's more than half marshmallows can't be off the chart on the sugar scale. Especially considering the fact the remaining portion of cereal is sugar coated.

Now that they're gone, I miss them. My friends: the blue moons, purple horse shoes, the shooting stars, the pots of gold. sniff...

Saturday, September 10, 2005


That's what's annoyed me lately. The clueless.

There are the obvious "driving slowly in left lane" clueless, but I'm mostly over my road rage. And there are the people who just don't know how to merge onto the freeway.

But I'm noticing even more cluelessness.

I was trying to park for CostPlus in NW Portland last weekend. The parking lot is a tiny square - and you park along the edge of the square. It's not big enough for parking lanes, it's really more of a cul-de-sac where you park along the border. I started to pull in, and stop in the driveway to wait for the two different guys who were pulling out of their spaces. The little Tercel gets out first, pulls into the middle of the lot, and sits there. The big Blazer can't pull out without running the guy over, so he waits. Mr. Tercel just sits there, picking his nose or reading his book or something, I don't know - but he's totally out of touch with the fact that other people are waiting for his dumb @ss to move. Mr. Blazer and I stare at each other wondering what to do, we shrug our shoulders and wait for each other to ram the Tercel. But neither of us follows through. Eventually Mr. Tercel starts to drive again, and the Blazer and I move on with our lives.

That little episode happened after I attended a team building event where we kayaked on the Willamette. The kayaking was fun, everyone had a good time. The cluelessness began when we were finished. Everyone had to haul their kayak up from the dock onto the grassy knoll. There were about 25 of us, so there were 25 kayaks. Everyone except for the admin was a highly paid engineer - you'd think that logic would be a strong suit, but you'd be wrong.

The first display of cluelessness was people just stopping in the middle of the relatively steep ramp to rest. Fine, your wimpy engineer hands can't handle holding on to a handle of a kayak for more than 30 seconds. But to just stop, abruptly, in the middle of a narrow ramp, with other wimpy engineers behind you hauling their kayaks? Totally clueless to the plight of others.

But wait, it gets better.

After you climb up the ramp you reach the grassy patch where we found the kayaks when we started. I happened to be the 3rd person up the ramp and I noticed that the people before me had dumped their kayaks right where the grassy patch started. I nimbly picked my way through the kayaks and deposited mine further back, ensuring that my kayak wouldn't be in the way of others. Well, the next few members of the clan of the wimpy hands dropped their kayaks right at the start of grass, completely blocking access to the grass. The remaining 15 people had to walk their kayaks a much longer route to put them on the grass.

We weren't little kids dumping our bikes in the middle of the driveway trying to get to the ice cream. We were adults. Engineers with supposed logic skills. It was like they boarded the bus and stood in the aisle right at the front. Hell (I'm gonna get a little racist here), half the folks are from India where they should be used to being jammed into busses and trains. The rule is to walk to the back of the bus. I chalk the cluelessness of the white guys to just being just dumb Americans.

Guess I'm clueless too, because it's sunny out and I'm typing on a computer.


We have some neighbors... the woman we've dubbed "crazy lady" and the man is just her husband. They had names at some point, but I've forgotten them because I've not spoken more than a couple of words to them in years.

The husband had some medical problems, and so did crazy. They seem to be back on their feet now (they were out of commission for most of the year). So their yard has gone to pot this year.

If you've seen our yard, you know that I'm not one to complain about unruly yards. Ours is getting nicer, but certain parts (the lawn) go unattended for long stretches. Because of their health issues, crazy's yard is not what it normally is - no big deal.

Last night, crazy's husband (guess I'll call him Mr. crazy) decided it was time to start trimming the hedge that had gotten out of control. Great. But why did he start at 7:30 pm, and then fire up the gas-powered trimmer around 8 or 8:30? Noise doesn't usually bother me, but come on - no work all YEAR, and 8:30 at night you're using a loud piece of equipment?

Whatever, I blew it off. I spent last night just relaxing watching a couple of movies since Mary is at a conference. I stayed up a little later than I should have, but figured I'd sleep in.

Mr. crazy decided 8:30 AM was a good time to fire up the air compressor to powerwash the garage he exposed by trimming the hedge.


I'd go buy some Public Enemy and turn on my stereo real loud, but our house is just too soundproof to make it effective retaliation.

Maybe I'll just toss the dead mice over the fence.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dead mice and live snakes

Now that we let our cats outside, we have the joy of watching them chase critters around the yard. Of course, since our cats are some of the finest felines around, they catch most of what they chase. And give it to us, dead.

Most of their prey are mice (perhaps voles?), and that appears to be their favorite. The mice are quick and keep the chase going for a lot longer than other animals. Of course, most of them end up dead. Right now we have two on the back patio, on by the front door, and one in the garage. I really should dispose of them, but, being a guy, I can step over and around the dead carcasses without even noticing them. It's kind of like dirty laundry. I'm thinking that we need to invest in a dead-animal-only pair of tongs.

The other common prey is snakes. Growing up in the big city of Portland, I didn't have much exposure to snakes. But, in the sticks, we get a lot of garter snakes. And many are pretty large - well over two feet long. Luckily, the snakes know how to play dead - and the cats must lose interest quickly because none have shown up dead on the doorstep (yet). I've rescued three or four snakes so far, and only one had any visible damage (a pea-sized chunk of flesh hanging from its tail).

It's even more fun when the cats bring their catch into the house and let it go. So far we've been able to avoid finding a snake in our bedroom, but I"m sure it'll happen some time soon.

I'll give you one guess

A friend scanned this old picture of mine. It's my high school basketball team, way back in the winter of 1988. Even if you don't know me, I'll only give you one guess as to which person is me.

high school basketball team picture