Why?

We have been over “not nice” already.

Did I mention that I can be a hard judge of character when people do things contrary to the good of those around them? Really, I missed that detail? Ok, let me give you the example on my mind at the moment.

Have you seen the most recent ATVs known as UTVs? These are four wheelers on steriods. There is a “cab” of sorts similar to a car. Two people sit side by side and there is a steering wheel. The newest generation offers four seats in a 2+2 configuration. The original concept is easy to understand and could have a legitimate function. An excellent example is two people going out to work on fencing with the needed tools in the small work bed on the rear. More sensible than a pickup in many cases and safer than carrying a passenger on a tractor. It even makes more sense than two traditional four wheelers as you do less soil damage and get to carry tools. All good so far right? What could be bad about this. Ohhh, just give my rant a moment.

Most of my followers live nice lives in nice suburban areas. You have very little awareness of income disparity. Maybe, if interested, that can be another post as you would find it illuminating. To get to what matters though, it’s fair to say that most can’t imagine having a home and family on the average household income in the vast majority of the country that gets zero media coverage. I do get it and what I get is what has me perturbed. These new toys are expensive you see. This I knew but the 2018 catalog in today’s mail gave a reminder. Watching the road any given Saturday drives it home.

I don’t mind toys. I certainly don’t mind tools. What I see, I do mind. I see these $15-18k toys go by. No work involved ever. They are headed out to see how much destruction they can do to someone else’s property. That doesn’t sit well and is egged on by the fact that I know most that I see pass by. The real rub is in front of the toy pulling it to it’s date with muddy destiny.

These folks own and drive 15+ year old vehicles. Visit the hinterlands and you’ll realize how common it is to see people driving 30 year old vehicles with 300k miles. It’s what they can afford and it’s the source of my gripe. Want to hear it now?

How can you justify pulling a $17k toy on a $2k trailer behind a $4k vehicle? How? Your family depends on that vehicle for food, work, school and everything else. You use foodstamps because you are poor! Shouldn’t that $20k be spent on better transportation or any other number of family needs instead of a toy to tear up creeks? How did you come to decide this was a priority? Can you tell me why?

Ok, the catalog is in the trash and that rants off my chest. Hope everyone has chosen wisely today and has a good evening.

 

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“Elegant Simplicity”

Well, my evening plans didn’t pan out a-tall. Poo…. Harump…. I will take my disappointment out on my poor, long suffering readers by writing more drivel. That should make me feel better. (It is all about me you know.)

(Everyone who missed that the grump above was BS, really? Do I seem THAT shallow?)

Amongst my many odd thoughts/phrases is “Elegant Simplicity”. I love seeing, finding or creating a simple, durable solution that elegantly solves the problem at hand. That desire helps me always be mindful that things needn’t be complex to be effective. Hammers aren’t complex but they are effective. What follows is two good stories about that elegant simplicity.

My girly-girl is old enough to start watching a bit more movies. One that has been on my “When it’s time” list just came to pass. The movie is a Cinderella remake called Everafter. There is a scene where Cinderella is locked in the dungeon and the servants can’t open the door. They fetch Leonardo da Vinci to the scene. After a glance, he skips attacking the lock and, instead, lifts the hinge side of the door. With the weight off of the hinge pins, he pulls them out and opens the door. She saw this and burst out laughing. “That’s like the things you do Daddy!” I paused it on that note and explained how I laughed when I first saw it. I explained that I had been presented with many locked doors BEFORE I saw the movie. Fired employees, lost keys, you name it. 75% of the “doors that couldn’t be opened” were open in less than a minute. I pointed out that it’s how I want her to see problems and the practicable efficacy of sometimes elegantly simple solutions. On to a bigger problem now.

My church’s sign needed to be replaced. Nice sign, it was my brother’s Eagle Scout project. Concrete pad, horizontal brick base with a brick pillar on each end. Rails were set in those pillars and the sign drops down into the rails. The sign is a nice, fitting 4′ x 8′ creation from a local sign company. The old sign was starting to rot and so a new replica was made. Last Saturday we met to put it in. First is lifting the old one head high and removing it. (Tip: Back a flat bed up to the sign. Three guys there support and stabilize it while six on the ground provide vertical lift.) The wood had started to rot on the old one and it was loose so it popped out easily. Oh but the new one was new. You have it to slide in, that’s easy. The problem is that there are tapered, sacrificial wood shims that go in each of the four corners to make it an almost perfect fit.

Ever tried pushing rope? Well, you should have been there if you haven’t. We got the sign up. We got it in. It slid down about one of the three feet it needed to go. It stopped. It was slightly crooked and, thus, it was in the proverbial bind. Nothing like eight senior gentleman banging and pounding. Each trying to be younger, stronger and smarter than the next. (Women do have a point guys.) Being the youngest by 20 years, I tried to be both humble and respectful, assist not lead. After a few tries I finally got them to see the ever so slight tilt. Great, now they are worse than before. Three guys on top pounding down as six guys below lift up. A good old fashioned “team of individuals”. Fantastic. The talk of lifts, tractors, chains and more made my head hurt. But then…

Then I heard that little voice in back of my head! No, really, I did! It was a senior senior talking with the pastor. Like all good pastors, he was watching the work while talking with this elderly gentleman. That simple, accidental comment gave me the answer.

I stepped back and walked to the end of the sign. I (politely) spoke up just loud enough and told them they were done thinking and that everybody was about to grab the underside and control the sign’s drop. (There is a 1′ gap under the sign so this was safe.) They know I don’t speak much but, when I do, you obey. They did. The sign dropped into place in 6″ increments and everyone started laughing. Done!

How? Good question.

I put my foot at the base of the brick pillar on one end. After they grabbed the bottom and looked at me for a miracle, I grabbed the top of the pillar. I pulled it to me just a but. As the sign dropped, I released pressure. This straightened the sign and stopped the fall. Did that three more times. See, that little voice was the elderly gentleman observing to the preacher that one pillar appeared to be loose on it’s base and moving slightly!

Solutions for seemingly impossible things can be Elegantly Simple sometimes if only we let go of the notion that it can’t be done. Ponder that the Egyptians had none of the equipment these gentleman called for but they built pyramids. It can be done and you can do it.

Day trip

A lady made a comment last night and it made me smile for no other reason than it sounded like me. At some point in the past I had either wrote or commented on something very similar to what she said. As she is kind, she offered to find it if I could provide the title. Uh-oh…., uhmm, no. Not no I won’t, no, I doubt I can. WP is shakey again so looking around would be frustrating. Titles & content? I wear a name tag to be for a reason and I would never just remember it. Even if I found it my phone would ring and I might forget to relay the data to her. What to do?

Well, it is a favorite of mine and it holds a good lesson. It is worthy of a repeat too. Besides, y’all have been good in my absence so a bedtime story might not hurt. Seeing as it’s my first decent day in awhile, why not? Everybody ready?

I have gotten to interact with, lead and instruct large numbers of people over the years. Getting them to think and act is typically a key component no matter the setting. Getting them to see and understand their actions and interactions is a good start. There is a series of questions that I have used in getting them going with success so now we shall play my beloved little game. Don’t worry, you needn’t get up. Stay snuggled up and answer as we go along.

Let’s say I’m magical.

Let’s say I can snap my fingers and send you anywhere in the world.

Let’s say I’ve made the offer to you, I’ll send you anywhere you want to go in the world for ONE day.

Where do you want to go?

What type of people do you want to meet?

How do you want them to behave?

What type of weather do you want?

What type of food do you want?

Do you want to see beauty and have fun?

Do you want it to be a good day?

 

Ok, got your answers? Have a mental on target? Good!

There is a small, niggling detail. I don’t have time to get with each of you individually right now. Lacking that I make a group deal. You will all go somewhere for a day!

I’m sending you to Tomorrow, yes, Tomorrow! Each of you will only get to be there for one day. Once you go to bed, it’s over. You will only have a finite amount of time to show and feel love. You will need to think carefully about how you see the motivations of those around you. Wouldn’t hurt to look around for beauty. Speaking of that, don’t miss sunrise and sunset. Each of those will only happen once tomorrow. I could go on but I know you are already excited and thinking so I don’t want to be a burden.

Tomorrow will be a REALLY big deal. Remember, it is scheduled to end at midnight. Once this special is over, it’s over. No matter how long you live or how much you do, you will never be able to visit tomorrow again so, good luck and best wishes.

Now, off to sleep with you.

Laces

I have been quiet lately. Life turned busy about two weeks ago so long days are here again. The 40-50 hour weeks saw my mind clear and ready to think aloud but that was then and this is now.

My plans for R&R over the last few months didn’t pan out. That reality combines with what may be a new normal for my head after the accident. There are some days where my mind is tired from lacing my boots. That only leaves standing up and heading out to do a days work between me and the possibility of rest. Each day last week was longer than the last and, before long, I was out about 16 hours a day. That led to working through the weekend. Today has been a bit better but, like everyone, my tomorrow is a question mark.

Hopefully things will slow up and I will clear up soon. Then I will tap out some of the pointless drivel swirling about for your consumption.

Until then, hope that everyone is doing well.

Furry friend

Did I ever mention that I’m an odd mix of experience and expertise? (Ok, I’m odd in many ways but let’s look beyond that.) The recent events have me thinking yet again. The nagging to write on this topic has been around for awhile but it has risen in lockstep with the flood water so today it gets done. This isn’t my normal style of writing but it isn’t intended to be. It will have a lot of information and a call to get up and do something. For those that find it applicable, get up and do it! DO NOT WHINE LATER IF YOU DO NOT ACT NOW. You will be given the information you need along with a few things that run counter to your assumptions. There is nothing untoward here, just important information. Hopefully I can get the information across in a reasonable word count. Read, re-read, take notes, take action and ask questions as needed.

Kat (yes, you ma’am), please pay attention here as you will be the one best able to impact thousands of lives with this data.

Everybody see what’s happening in Texas? Look fun? No one schedules this for their next birthday party do they? Disasters and accidents share the trait of being unanticipated.

Got pets? Know someone who does? Maybe you are a vet…. I’m going to talk about something that is much better known now than twenty years ago but is still widely misunderstood and misused. That something is microchips.

A microchip is a small RFID device about the size of a grain of rice that can be implanted under the skin of a pet between the front shoulders. Most states require this be done by a vet with some exclusions. With an experienced hand, it is a painless procedure taking under a minute. The chip can then be read with a handheld scanner. The scanner will give a code (typically an ISO 15 character on new chips) from the chip. The chip does not contain personal information. It can not be read from across the room, the street or space. It IS NOT a tracking device.

That code can then be used by qualified personnel to determine the point of contact (typically the owner) for that animal. Simple enough right? Let’s go into problems, misconceptions and mistakes.

Don’t tell me your pet doesn’t need one, it wears a collar. Yeah right, collars go on, collars come off. The chip is under the skin. Ever heard someone say their dog lost it’s skin?

Don’t tell me your baby “never gets lost”, “never is off leash” or anything of that nature. Almost ALL lost animals are indoor pets. They don’t know where home is! They slip out and are disoriented quickly by a variety of stimuli. (If you only went in and out the front of your home, would you recognize the rear door?) No one ever says they lost their pet “on purpose”, they always say it was an “accident”. Accident means accidental event, ponder that. Do you think the folks in Texas planned a flood? Anyone ever plan to have a tornado rip a wall off and let the dog out? Oh, that dog, the good owner took off the collar and leash, hanging them by the door, after last night’s walk. The dog didn’t need the collar indoors did it? Of course indoors is kind of outdoors without that wall that blew out isn’t it? Are you beginning to get my point?

IF your pet isn’t chipped:

Get it scheduled.

Ask that they scan the animal for a chip prior to inserting the new chip. It’s amazing how many pets “without a chip” have one. If they find one, ask them to check for another. It’s not uncommon to find a pet with one already and it is surprising (with animals of unknown origin) to find more than one. If there is a chip, or chips, they certainly don’t want to chip again. The existing chip(s) need to be researched, linked and updated. If the staff is unsure of how to do so, contact your local Animal Control. Be aware that this is a legal process in most states and vet staff is typically woefully uneducated in this arena. Too many vet offices are had a drug rep push a subpar chip that offered a great rate of return (profit) per implant. They have never been educated beyond word of mouth and what they heard at the free lunch a few years ago. Vet’s are, ironically, one of the biggest sources of incomplete or incorrect information regarding chips. As they provide profit and lack risks there is no perceived need for further study on their part. Never commit a felony by accident. Always ask.

Make sure you secure that chip information where it won’t be lost.

Read section to follow regarding chipped pets.

 

IF your pets are all chipped:

You are special! Good job, you get a gold star. Well, actually you won’t be getting that until I’m done educating and you are done complying. Come see me when you’re done. Read on.

Your pet was probably chipped at a vet or rescue. Regardless, good job in that you have a pet and you know it’s chipped. What you don’t know and what needs to be done is the problem.

At the first good opportunity, have the animal scanned. Most important is to confirm that there is only ONE chip. (Hate for the baby to get lost and an uneducated Animal Control officer only scan once AND, naturally, find the unregistered chip you didn’t know was there!) Confirm that the chip found matches the number you have. Mistakes happen and chips get mixed up so the dog gets the cat’s chip.

Now, check the registration. This is very important. Oddly (given my penchant for honesty), I want to make sure you lie! Register the chip in accordance with the MANUFACTURER’S directions. There are a multitude of makers, think Ford, Chevy, Dodge. Do as they say to register. Do not be fooled by the fool at the front desk of the vet’s office. There are hundreds of “Free online registries” and most are worthless. They farm your data, sell it and send you junk mail. THEY DO NOT REGISTER THE CHIP AND YOUR INFORMATION WITH THE INTERNATIONAL DATABASE. Fluffy gets lost, Animal Control finds and scans the dog, they make the call and, nothing. Your pet does not exist. Hopefully they are experienced enough to backtrack the chip and still find you, you hope.

When registering per the manufacturer’s instruction, you will get to a point where most want you to put in two names and two phone numbers for each name. Remember that part about lying? Here is where you lie. Put in TWO names but the phone numbers for FOUR people. Give your pet four chances. How many points of contact around Houston are currently out of touch? Think durability when picking. Include someone out of the area.

Don’t waste time telling me that the vet or rescue registered it for you. Ask yourself if they would have known four points of contact? Did they know you would move? It is YOUR job to confirm and update the data. Most chips have a picture attached. Remember that cute puppy you adopted? Does your dog still look like that eleven week old fluff ball they uploaded a picture of? Upload a new picture. A good picture, one that shows markings and size.

Still here ma’am? Take careful note of the following please.

Good trick I started years ago and encouraged anyone and everyone to follow. Your pet is now chipped, the registration is solid and you have all the data in hand so we’re good right? Wrong, one very important step left. Got your phone? Of course you do, don’t leave home without it! Go into contacts and create one for EACH pet. Let’s say your dog is named “Fluffy” and has a HomeAgain chip. In contacts, enter Fluffy. The phone number for Fluffy is 888-HOMEAGAIN. (Each company has a different number. Enter the correct name & company phone number for each pet.) Somewhere in that contact information, put the animals chip number. Now, when you are on vacation and someone calls saying that the “dog got away”, you can hang up, dial “Fluffy” and register the pet missing.

 

Ponder this. If all of the pets in that region were chipped, shelters would be half empty. Incoming strays would have been returned to owners BEFORE the event. They could absorb a lot of the displaced animals. Were the displaced animals all chipped, calls could be made and animals tracked/moved towards reunions. How many pets would avoid euthanasia? Seems like a silly passion until you realize that this is a life or death question for the animal. New Orleans saw some saves, Sandy saw more and I hope this event makes those pale in comparison. My biggest hope is that this has made y’all stop, think and act. Please don’t wait and then make a frantic series of calls later, after the accident. Accidents happen but I would rather see your first act be to pull out your ever present phone, dial your pets name and hit Send.

Know this was long and my mind and arm are tired but hope it helps. Questions or comments? Don’t forget to stop by for your Gold Star when done.

Cornucopia

Life has given me more than I could have ever wished for in so many ways. We’ve talked about where I come from but I’ve never really discussed where I’ve been. It’s an oversimplification and a stretch but the easiest way is to tell you to picture a globe. There, that’s where I have traveled. Everywhere was beautiful IF you wanted to see beauty. I can get by in East Asia just as easily as I can West Asia but there’s no where like home I suppose.

From a continental point of view, the closer you get to here, the harder it is to get me lost. By the time you reach 500 miles out I don’t need a map. Once we cross the state line I know twenty ways to the house. It’s hard to find a road I haven’t traveled within 200 miles of my house. This is an odd opening but let’s see if I can tie it into what happened at lunch.

A bit of serendipity saw me stretch the trucks legs today. It was a small dose of what I have needed badly for a couple of years so it was good. Heading out I had a lot of stops within my normal environs then turned further south for an hour cruise to the state line. There’s a town there hard on the line. It was hit hard when tobacco left. The entire area had financial ruin writ large. Homes, schools, churches and communities were all wiped out as the plants closed and the tractors got dusty. Due to population, retail has slowly moved in. That, in turn, draws folks there from about a fifty mile radius. Hadn’t even really thought about it until I sat down to eat.

Business done, I decided to eat a decent meal for once. Went to a big chain buffet right by the major shopping center. Paid, got a drink and picked a seat. Greeted the server and headed for the salad bar. On that walk it hit me, oh the sounds! See, it was a building full of retirees, staff and my oddball self. Those folks came from Southside, the Piedmont, the foothills west, the mountains and the neighboring state. The sounds were a treat indeed. Why? Patience, that’s next.

Those folks grew up without TV, maybe some radio in the evening. Most have lived their entire lives in one area. They aren’t transplants and they didn’t “go to town” as kids. Oh my, the voices! It was a linguistic current that flowed there. I know those sounds. It was sweet (yes, I said that) to listen to old couples talk. You could hear his community and her’s. A mental map showed they grew up five miles apart give or take. Each of those sounds pointed to a certain enclave and there were dozens. Listening to the black folks (feel free to challenge my word choice if you desire education) presented the biggest obstacle. That language was often based as much on the church they grew up in as the community. A couple of those I might have missed but they made me think nonetheless.

The breadth of accents I knew had never really occurred to me. As I sat there I realized that I was seeing the locations in the voices. The room became a sea of invisible notes labeling each speaker. It was very, very cool for me in a (admittedly) geeky way. Shame I wasn’t having lunch with Dr. Thornton Poole, I could have taken his mind off of that girl.

Another realization hit as I ate and it hurt. That sea of sound is getting shallow. Few are left that know it well. Soon it will have dried up and will haven been replaced by the almost indistinguishable patter I heard amongst the staff. Change changes everything I suppose but I won’t deny that, for today, I relished in the conversation as I ate alone.

Stoked

Yesterday was cool! No, not like that. It was literally cool, highs in the low 60’s. So nice. Naturally though something made me think and so I’m here to air it out.

I was getting ready nice and early. Days have been a bit busier as of late but I still (try) to check WP. Saw the name of someone who’s been a stranger lately. Seeing it had me pondering how they are as I loaded the truck. They, like many, had felt a growing void in their world. My thoughts weren’t really about a given couple though. They were really created by the cool air and a thought I implemented long ago.

It felt really good as I loaded everything up. Turning back to the house after the first trip, I saw Dumb and Dumber running to the woods. (Probably saw one of them thar’ ISIS squirrels with a acorn vest or something.) The thought really took shape as they passed the wood piles.

I’ve written about that wood before. Wrote about what got me in rather dire straits in ’15. Wrote about how I got out. Well, those piles now stand in their grey glory waiting. The first fire will be soon. There will be laughter, fun, and warmed backsides that night. We will sleep extra soundly and dance on warm wood floors come morning.

That air, the wood, the stove and so many stories are what I was thinking on then. The first three taught me a lesson regarding the fourth. All I heat with is wood. No fire, no heat. You can’t just flip on a stove and be warm. You have to pay attention, plan ahead. You get wood in on nice days and stay in on wet ones. You cut wood now for two years from now. You pay attention to all details. Dry kindling is as important as matches and they are as important as a clean chimney. You know what wood to burn when and how much. The drafts and damper are adjusted as needed. Depending on all factors, you might check on it daily or every twenty minutes. You learn by paying attention, making mental notes and never assuming you know it all.

But when you get it right the house is wonderful. There are no complaints, the bed is inviting. You don’t feel an ominous cold you can’t shake and you can’t wait to get home. All those other means of so called “heat” have nothing on a good, well tended stove. They hold no attraction for you because what you have is good.

Want to hazard a guess as to what I figured out about life and love whilst wooding the stove as a young man? Make sure you guess right so you end up with a warm house. Don’t forget to take time to prepare beyond the next cool spell. It’s never too early to think two years out. The fire will burn so much better then with a little now.

Feel free to share your lesson learned if you wish.