greatbear: (aerial me)
Happy Pi Day from The Lab of Mayhem!

greatbear: (unibrow)
I was looking over my Amazon order from earlier in the week and I was a bit amused. Some are humorously telling me the item could've been delivered sometime last week but are still on the slow boat from China. But one particular order had me giggling a bit. "Guaranteed delivery by Sunday, November 30." The amusing part of that entry was the delivery method being by US Postal Service. Well, I did hear about Amazon partnering up with the USPS for Sunday deliver in some major cities. But I knew this wouldn't be the case for me because I don't have mail delivered to the house, for ever since I built La Casa Mayhem back in 1988, I opted to have a post office box due to, at the time, the box needing to reside on the main drag rather than in front of the house (private gravel drive 800 feet from the road). When I finally ended up with a real road, I installed a mailbox mostly as a place to display the house numbers and not to look odd without one. The mail was still being delivered to the PO box, where it's safe against theft and weather, and I can let it accumulate when I am away on vacation, etc. I like our little post office, though it's a much busier place these days. Any order I have sent by mail usually takes an additional day to wend its way from the truck to my little box at the PO. So here I was, chortling about a guarantee that Amazon could never keep because things have been going a certain way for 25 years and mail has never been directly delivered to the house and...

*doorbell ringing today at about 3pm, and I see the familiar little white postal truck leaving my driveway as I slowly limp my way to the door*

There is my order, sitting in the front entryway. Damn, Amazon, you're gooood. I knew for certain that I would at least have to head to the post office on Monday to pick up the order, but this, well, I never expected. Amazon will be building at large distribution center in Baltimore next year, and promising same-day delivery for certain items to boot. The downside, of course, is now Amazon had started charging sales tax on orders fulfilled by them since October, a tactic I can assume was worked out to grease political palms, since they haven't even begun construction on the warehouse yet. The upside, there are sill lots of third party outfits that offer the same Prime shipping which are still out of state. I can work the system as much as they can.

This little order had nothing I was in a hurry for, in this case it was an assortment of USB cables plus a webcam for the lab workstation PC. So, while Jeff was still stuck at work doing his occasional manager-on-duty duties, I fired the aforementioned PC and did some needed updates along with attaching the camera. I wanted something I can take pictures of circuits and projects, and this one offered 15 megapixel stills and 1080p HD video. Webcams have come a long way from the grainy, low res output. was I was testing it with closeups of random stuff in the Mayhem Lab, I noticed my eyebrows were again in need of trimming...



When I was a young'un, I had a very pronounced unibrow. Almost as bad as the one Baby Gerald from the Simpsons has. As you can probably imagine, this provided yet more ammunition to those who were already relentlessly bullying me about at the appropriately named Savage Elementary School. Yet one more thing I would hate about myself, I'd nervously pull and yank at my eyebrows as a result, trying to get rid of this apparent scourge under my forehead. Cruel kids would look at my eyebrow (no "s") to see what sort of winter weather would be coming, accuse me of wearing a pipe cleaner over my eyes, you name it. This got added to any number of idiosyncrasies they could muster to make sure their bullying would be incessant. The pulling on my eyebrows would continue until at least middle school, where my early puberty gave them even more things to latch onto. My facial and body hair showing up before everyone else was not only something to pick on me with, it became a chance for me to turn the tables a bit and accuse the hairless children of being left behind in the maturing process. This obviously pricked up a fair amount of envy in many of the late bloomers, and it was where I was first made aware by a sympathetic gym teacher of a condition known as "penis envy" because, in addition to the (at the time, embarrassing) copious amount of pubic hair showing up as I first tripped into my teens, I was also becoming fairly well endowed compared to the bully crew that hounded my everyday life at Hammond Middle School. This teacher had seen the same thing happening with many students over the years, and it was common during those awkward days of early manhood that the underdeveloped among the student body would often feel inadequate. While I had to endure near constant accusations of being gay (hell, I barely knew I was at the time), I was able to flip the tables once again a bit and accuse the little children of being angry at themselves and their hidden desire to keep eyeballing my junk. Life eventually went along, and these days, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I can find some of those original haters and see that the majority didn't turn out to be too much in later years. My vengeance was simply the passage of time. I still have to remind myself to let go of so much of the hurt in the past, because, like so many others that share my traits, I ended up stronger, smarter and street-savvy than those that worked against my very existence back in the early years.

These days, my monobrow isn't as pronounced, most likely from my constant pulling of the hair. Enough of it remains as a reminder of dark times, but also as something that makes me a bit more unique. As age and my Russian heritage has set in, the eyebrow hair has become wild, seeming in defiance of those younger years. Every now and then one of them gets so long it scratches at my eye in a breeze. I will sometimes yank out the offending brow hair, but more often than not I will carefully trim them instead. I don't want to revisit those days of unnecessary mutilation anymore.
greatbear: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:



The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
greatbear: (forearms)
People driving past La Casa must wonder if we either have 1) lots of people living in the house, or 2) are constantly throwing parties. Sadly, the seven vehicles (three trucks and four cars) belong to just the two of us. Add in the 30 foot trailer and parking at Mayhem Acres sometimes takes some planning. I also have to remember lots of license plate numbers. This is not so bad, but for some odd reason I always seem to have a mental block remembering the plate number of my Dodge Stratus. The rest? No problem. The Strat, as I call it, is my usual daily driver. Though it's 14 years old, it's never had any serious problems, is pretty economical if I keep my foot out of it, and the parts for it are cheaper than average. Jeff and I used it as our ride of choice when we would travel, since it's something he can easily drive (no stick shift like the MINI Cooper,, or as long as a bus like the Silverado, for example). Since Jeff recently bought a new car (a 2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium), some of the wear and tear on the Stratus has been relieved. It's a nice, roomy and economical ride with some cool gadgetry like the Eyesight collision avoidance system that also acts as an adaptive cruise control and will even give you a gentle reminder if you are sitting at a light, it turns green and you don't immediately start moving. It senses the road around it with a pair of cameras on either side of the rear view mirror, can alert you if you veer from between the lines, there's an animal or object in the road ahead and even stop the car at speeds below 20mph and you might be distracted and a car stops ahead of you. There's also the (required for 2015 models) rear-view camera and lots of other cool tech to get the geek on. This is Jeff's first brand-new car after all these years, and, so far, he's loving it. The subject came up a while back about what to call the car, if anything. I keep calling mine The Strat, Jeff started calling it the Subie, then I started calling it the Cubaru. For kicks, I went to see if CUBARU was taken as a vanity plate, and it wasn't. And surprising, given how many people around play guitar, neither was STRAT. My original plates were fading and the rear plate had a hole in it and was buckled from being rear-ended many years ago. So...



I am far too lapsed to be considered a guitarist these days, maybe I should bone up on my playing to do my two-meaning plate justice. My finger joints and my damaged shoulder make that difficult. Practice might not make perfect, but at least I could fake it. Jeff, however, needs no practice in being a cub. :)
greatbear: (old graybeard)
A couple weekends ago, during our monthly (give or take) visit north to visit to visit Jeff's parents, I took my quadrotor "drone" with me to try again to get some aerial photos of their house. I wanted to create a framed aerial photo similar to one I wrote about a while back. My first attempt was thwarted by unexpected problems with the GoPro camera that's attached to the drone. It locked up when I started the 2-second-per-photo shutter sequence (and I didn't know this until I had flown the rig for about fifteen minutes), and I had to remove the the camera from the mount in order to remove the battery and reset the camera. The glitch wiped out my settings and I had problems getting the camera to work right during the second flight, so I flew the thing around for the benefit of Jeff's youngest nephew instead due to time constraints, and figured I would try again in about a month. So after some tinkering with the camera I buzzed the yard, the neighboring farm and buffalo, and did some high-altitude shots of the general area. This time was successful. I have plenty of usable shots for the aerial photo, plus some other cool pics from up high.

While bringing the rig down, I noticed an Amish family trotting by. The kids in back noticed the drone at first and the family stopped in the street in front of the house to watch. I lowered the rig for them to see it better, but doing so, I momentarily lost it in the sun. When I moved to see it again, I was temporarily blinded and could not tell which end was which, so my attempt at getting a closer-in shot of the buggy and company ended up being several photos of the side yard and an old barn instead. All the better, anyway, since most Amish are not fond of having their pictures taken. After a few moments of looking (they seemed more to know what the floating thing was more than being totally puzzled), they trotted off up the road. I admire the Amish, they all are friendly and outgoing in this area, and despite being very traditional, they are not totally averse to some of the latest technology, as long as they can use it in their own way and it makes their work more efficient. Cell phones, cordless power tools, generators and the like help them get more work done, yet can be completely turned off and out of their lives at home. They've also treated Jeff's mom and dad very well over the years, you'll recall when their house burned down they were ready to begin cleaning up that very day and help dad begin rebuilding. I feel a bit of kindred spirit with the Amish, aside from the lack of technology and cools stuff as well as the entire religion thing, We are both very self sufficient, independent, helpful to others, and like the results of hard work and craftsmanship. If I were to get the required hat and lose the mustache from my beard, I could fit right in. But the mustache stays.

Here is my favorite shot of my buggy encounter:

greatbear: (tools)
I've been scarce around these parts. I've been preoccupied with a lot of different things lately. When I last left LJ-land, I had posted how I had finally brought my new front door home after weeks of waiting for it to be built and shipped. I was anxious to start the installation, but rather than putting on my tool belt and kicking butt, instead we took some time off for much needed rest and headed out to the Eastern Shore of MD and did some camping at Elk Neck State Park, along with some friends we had made this year in PTown. We got two adjoining campsites so we could be neighbors. While they had camped at the site before (and recommended it to us), we hadn't, and were very pleasantly surprised at the calm beauty of the area, despite there being a lot of families camping that weekend. The sites had lots of space between, and the area was wonderfully wooded with tall trees, with the whole shebang nestled along the Chesapeake Bay. Camping in this sort of setting takes me back to my early childhood, and I feel a warm comfort in that environment. Couple that with our friends and some of the most perfect weather and you have the recipe for pure relaxation. The pooches loved it, and they too had their own four-legged friends to socialize with, as our camping buds brought along their two Italian Greyhounds. We went for a little excursion to the adjoining little town of North East on Saturday, where we found delightful little artsy shops, antique stores and quirky eateries (I know, how gay) among the friendly locals and visitors. Jeff and I decided to put our newly discovered campgrounds on the short list of ideal getaway places. At about 80 miles from home, it's far enough to feel like we had traveled a good bit, yet not so far that too much of the event is taken up by driving. We will be be doing a bit more "vacationing locally" as a means of getting to know the more immediate areas and what they had to offer, with the added bonus of being a cheap means to have fun.

The week that followed I had gone out for the rest of the supplies needed to install the door, and I also ordered more of the pieces to build the home automation system. I began removing trim and other parts to take out the old door and frame, then with the help of our local friend, Wednesday when Jeff came home I tore out the old door and the three of us maneuvered the old one out and muscled the (much heavier) new assembly in. I temporarily affixed it in place to keep the weather out and the dogs in, we enjoyed some dinner later in the evening. The following days I positioned, shimmed and adjusted the door to close and seal properly, trimmed the door out on the exterior, sealed and caulked and installed the keyless lockset. That weekend we went to PA for our monthly visit to Jeff's parents. This week I began the electric work, installing a new inside lighting fixture in the style of the new door glass, and installing the devices for the automation and control. Part of this involved tearing apart a portion of a wall next to the door and reworking some of the electrical wiring inside. That wall hid something that had been bothering me for 25 years. When the electricians that initially wired the house before the drywallers closed everything up, they had forgotten a short run of cable between to electric boxes. This resulted in the forward part of the living room having no power to the outlets. To fix this, they had popped holes in the two adjoining boxes and fished a cable between them. I never knew how they had fixed the issue until several years later when I had taken out a light switch to install a dimmer and found a huge chunk of the plastic electric box missing and a cable spliced inside. While I had the wall open I replaced the boxes, the hacked-in wiring and added space for three controls. Two of them directly control the light outside the door and the inside light in the entryway. The third space in the box will have a "scene controller" that will operate several outside lights located all around the house from one location. Pressing a single button begins a programmed process that can, say, turn all the outside lights on at full brightness, useful if we have company or we are doing work outside at night. Other buttons can turn on and off various combinations of inside and outside lights before leaving the house or returning, or turning all the outside lights off and setting the one outside the front door to a very dim setting before going to bed. All of this is part of a Z-Wave remote control protocol that integrates with the home automation system. It's already programmed to turn on a few inside lights at a low setting early in the morning when Jeff is getting ready and leaves for work, whereupon it shuts them all off until the next weekday. Now the outside lights can come on as well, since he leaves when it's still dark. The system can control existing remotely operated lights and appliances here, along with the Nest thermostats, the home theater receivers, alarm system, and lots of future items I have planned. Best of all, I can control it all remotely via the internet either with a PC or smartphone from anywhere. I can make sure the door is locked, open it if a friend needs to be let in while we are away, turn lights on and off, you name it. The system can grow as I need it to. It's a very practical system, and all the devices and appliances can work manually as if there was no profound technology behind it all. It's also a fun way to seriously get my geek on.

In coming days I will close the wall back up, spackle and finish the drywall, then install the interior trim around the door. I also want to take out the 25+ year old vinyl floor and put in some nice ceramic or marble tile. After that is done, I will move onto the living room, finally creating the light shafts for the skylights I installed in the roof four years ago, then begin the somewhat major reworking of the living room and dining room areas. I want to split the living room into two separate areas rather than the oddly shaped, somewhat amorphous "great room" it is currently. New carpeting and flooring will go in at this point. Then onto the sunroom, where I can finally finish the relatively small amount of work left over from where I started on that room about ten years ago. All of this will be a good winter/indoor project as the seasons change.

Those that know me well are quite aware of the wildcard in all of this, and that's my overall health and my back and nerve issues I am constantly dealing with. While I have been busting all manner of ass lately, it has been far slower than I am usually able to do such work. I can get maybe a half hour of good working time before I have to stop, sit down, and take the load off my lower back and recover. If I go for longer than that amount of time, or I have to do much in the way of twisting, or standing in one spot, the pain begins to appear then fogs my concentration. I get angry, the quality begins to suffer, and I will go totally aggro if things are not coming together as I want them to. Tools get tossed about, cursing begins, dogs hide under beds, and progress becomes more halting and drawn out. So far I've managed to keep up pace, but I have to force myself to quit while I'm ahead, as it were, before things start to crumble. So far, I've been lucky that I haven't had any major setbacks (yet) and I've learned to stop work despite the urge to keep going when things are going well. That last part is a doozy for me.



This is what the entryway looks like currently. If I manage to get all the other work done I described above without (much) incident, and some other, more pressing things get done, I want to take out the aluminum vertical siding that is currently there and replace it with some form of brick, slate or stone. but for now, I am happy, hell, giddy that I got this far. It's taking more time and much more effort than I am used to, but it's still me doing all the work and doing what I love to do. Now, if my increasingly old body can keep from falling apart at the same increasing pace, I will be a rather happy dude.
greatbear: (tools)
Finally. After postponing this for years due to health issues, money issues, time issues, timing issues or just plain procrastination, I finally ordered up a new front door for La Casa Mayhem, and I picked it up today. I had to convince the people at Homo Despot that I had a nice big truck, and the wonderful shipping pallet it was delivered to the store on was ideal for me to get it home with the least chance of additional damage. The material handlers, obviously walking around with "Loading..." graphics floating over their heads were having problems processing this. The forklift drivers were out to lunch, and the guys rolling the door around the store seemed to be colloquially in the same place. Both me and the cool gal in the millwork department I had been dealing with were basically saying the same thing. Finally one of the forklift operators returned and all of us humped the thing onto the truck, where I tied it all down and headed home. Jeff came home soon after I did, and the two of us wrangled it off the truck and onto the carport where it will sit safely until I begin work. I'm glad I had the pallet to keep the thing safe and upright, if anything were to knock it over before I installed it I would be fit to be tied. I took a couple quick shots of the thing still cloaked in plastic.



Another one with glass detail )

In addition to taking out the original door/sidelight assembly, I might have to resize the rough opening slightly for best fit, plus reroute the doorbell wiring. I also plan to affix a hidden alarm switch as well as I am doing the work. This should complete the basic door installation. While I am focused on that part of the house, I will also take out a small section of an adjacent wall where the light switches are in order to consolidate some of the outdoor lighting controls as well as prep it all for ongoing home automation. ALso, for over 25 hears, my OCD has been bugging me because of a small electrical hack hidden in that wall. After the house was built and all the electric hooked up, I found there was no power to the outlets in the front part of the living room. Turns out the electricians who wired the house forgot to run a branch to the five outlets there. To fix it, they popped a hole in the one living room outlet box and the outside lightswitch box in the entryway, and connected the two with a piece of ratty UF cable. I discovered this when I changed a light switch in the entry years ago. It's been bugging me since, because the composite boxes have large pieces missing, and this also puts those outlets in a lighting circuit. While I have the wall apart I will replace the boxes, reroute the branch feeder to a different circuit, and put in a larger device box for added controls for the outside lighting along the walkways and the two post lights. All four of these circuits will have automation-/remote control-ready switches installed. My janky motion sensor setup for the outside front door light will be replaced with a setup that integrates with the lighting control system. I will also install the little dome camera in the ceiling outside the front door, part of an extended remote monitoring system I am putting together.

If my body survives the exertion and labor needed for these projects, I will hopefully be able to complete the living room skylight project that's going on four years now, and the sunroom, which, sad to say, been on hold for eight years. Neither of these are really backbreaking work, but involve working overhead for extended periods, something that was impossible for me for a long time. Not too long ago, I refitted several light fixtures in the Mayhem Lab with new ballasts and bulbs, and I found I didn't have a single problem or flash of pain during or after. The lighting project was a test for this, as I could've simply done one fixture at a time or dropped that project temporarily had it become an issue. Go me!

When I headed outside to snap the pics of the door, I discovered Jeff had quietly come home and was sitting in his new car, airconditioning on, grooving to Pink Floyd and answering messages on his phone. I realized I didn't take any pictures of the car for LJ, so I did, and also snapped one of Jeff in his work duds, hat, and his beard, which I remodeled a little while ago. :)

More pictures and text behind the cut, since everyone seems to surf LJ on tiny things anymore )
greatbear: (forearms)
In my last post, I made mention of hoisting my GoPro camera aloft once I get the hang of being a drone pilot. Well, that really didn't take long, and Sunday I had installed and tuned up the camera rig and sent it up for a peek in the skies around the house. Because I have no view on the ground as to what the camera is seeing (no "first-person view") I had to mostly guess as to exactly where the camera is pointing. That turned out to be relatively easy, since the camera pans with the rotation of the copter. I have control of camera tilt by a dedicated lever on the remote control. so it was simply a case of spinning the drone to where I wanted to see and tilt the camera down a bit. I took it up to various altitudes, I estimate at about 400 feet at the highest, and did a slow pan and tilt. I had no idea what to expect, so after a while I landed the rig and took it in the house. I pulled the tiny SD card out of the camera and put it in the card reader, and I was greeted with some amazing shots. Kid-in-a-candy-store time! Since I can't operate the camera shutter or other controls from the ground (yet), I set it to take a shot every two seconds. Later in the day I put the thing in the air again, but this time I flew it quite a bit lower and did a slow circle around the yard, to see the house from all angles, and hopefully getting a shot similar to the aerial picture that was taken of the house 20 years prior. I am proud to say I got pretty close for a first attempt.

This is the photo from 1994:



Click here to see how much changes in 20 years )
greatbear: (jeff and me)
My how time flies when you are having fun. And it flies even faster it seems when one is very busy and there seems not enough time in a day to get everything done. My apologies for not updating everyone since our big day. It's almost two weeks ago, and yet it seems like just yesterday. We've had some time for things to "soak in" and to get a feel for any "changes." Well, in so many ways the days after don't appear any different. But for the two of us, there's a new feeling of belonging, of protecting, of being closer. Hard to describe, but it's definitely something. The days just after the wedding seem to be a blur. The cleaning up, the opening of gifts, the catching up on work set aside while we were tying the knot. The following weekend was July 4th/Independence Day. To beat the holiday traffic, we headed up to PA at zero dark-thirty Friday morning for our monthly visit with family there, despite many of them coming down the week before. Jeff really wanted to visit with his mom at the nursing home. We got there early to find her in good spirits. Since we got there earlier than we usually do, we spent our time with her before lunch, and we hung around as she had her meal. With Jeff's help, she ate heartily. He and I along with Dad concluded our visit as mom began to fall asleep, looking quite contented. Some of our visits in the past were quite depressing. This one was different. We hung out longer than we usually do. Everything seemed more upbeat, especially after Jeff told her that we had gotten married. Somehow, I have a feeling she understood.

Later that day we had a chance to meet the newest addition to my family. There, I said it. My family. With the loss of my mother, I had no more family I could truly call my own. No longer cast adrift, I now am part of a growing family. I guess that is one of those "different" feelings I have now that me and Jeff are married. No family is perfect, and mine (I said it again! Wow...) has some fraying at the fringes, but the core is solid, and I have more relatives than I ever had in my life. Anyway, sorry for the aside, but, well, something hit me as I was putting these words down. I also needed a couple tissues. Where was I... Ah, the new addition. Jeff's oldest niece, her husband and their adorable daughter (who was to be our flower girl) had been slated to join us for the wedding, but had to bow out, as she had just given birth to a beautiful little girl. The many pictures being sent and shared through Facebook can only go so far. We finally got to set eyes on the little gal, and she stole our hearts in an instant.

Meet Brooke:



Once again, Jeff and I are grand-uncles. Only a bit off from being grandpas. I have the perfect bald head and white beard for the role too, I suppose. But here we now have another focus for our love and attention. I couldn't be happier. Brooke is a delight and full of facial expressions. She's so tiny, barely more than a handful for me. But she snuggled in my arms and fell asleep, a contented look on her face not unlike we had seen earlier in the day. Our spirits lifted high, we headed back to dad's with smiles on our faces that I don't think have worn off completely even now.

We scooted home on Saturday afternoon, traffic-free and started bringing things back to normal at La Casa Mayhem. I've been sorting through pictures, wrestling with a new VPN/firewall/router as well as the (hopefully) final work on the LAN and PC upgrades for a while. Vehicles needed tending to, as well as some of the outdoor/garden equipment and the trailer. We finally got new cell phones, and Jeff finally meets the '10s head on as the proud owner of a smartphone. The rush begins anew as we get things done and ready for vacation. Yeah, PTown again, during Bear Week, but due to work constraints with Jeff, we won't get there until Thursday. We'll be saying through the week after, and we'll be running into quite a few of the folks who were down here with us on our big day. I keep saying we do PTown "in spite of" Bear Week, instead enjoying running across our extended friends and "family" during the days. I have a feeling we'll be enjoying ourself like we usually do, but with a little something extra. I won't know it until I sense it, and I'll try my best to share. It might be a bit late, but, well, that's me I guess. ;)
greatbear: (jeff and me)
So, I've been a rather busy sort for the past few months, as some of you might know. The level of busy-ness began to reach a fever pitch until this past Saturday. It was on that day, under the most beautiful, sunny skies, where Mayhem Acres was transformed into a beautiful garden park, in the company of our most beloved friends and family, accompanied by beautiful music, where Jeff and I literally tied the knot in marriage. Yes, after fourteen years together, through good times and bad, sickness and health, comedy and tragedy, mellow and mayhem, you name it, we did it. We wanted this day to come for the longest time, as hints of civil unions and then legal gay marriage began to show in the US, but rather than go off to some other state (or country, for that matter), we were holding onto hope that the state of Maryland would one day allow same-sex marriage. On November 6th, 2012, MD voters were to vote on a statewide referendum that would allow same-sex marriage to become the law of our little, merry land. Jeff and I stayed awake after doing our civic duties with our eyes glued to the television as the votes were tallied. At about 2am, it had become clear that Maryland had become the first state to legalize SSM through the popular vote and marking the turning point in the fight for marriage equality. It was at that point, with tears in our eyes that we decided to get married ourselves. Our little hopes and dreams blossomed that night, and they slowly began to take shape.

Fast forward about a year or so. We began doing work on the house and yard that had been long neglected because of my ongoing health issues. While we made progress, we ran into roadblocks. Some were serious, like me reinjuring my back even worse than before, and Jeff's parents' house fire. I managed to get back into the grind, albeit very limited, but we kept on doing things. Jeff had nailed down a date that was compatible with work, the weather and the potential for having as many friends and family to join us. Jeff, party planner he is, pulled some strings with a caterer, found a nice florist, we contacted our little, local, gay-owned bakery about the cake, set up rentals for a large tent and tables & chairs. By the middle of spring I had recovered enough to feel like I was actually adding to the process, and in the last couple months, I've been knocking myself out. In June alone I did the most I could with the house and yard. The carport, the driveways, and even the concrete work area in front of the Garage of Mayhem became clean enough to eat off of by the waving of my magic (4000psi pressure washer) wand. I wanted to replace the terrible looking old entry door for years, but with my physical condition being what it was, I kept putting it off. When I tried to order the new door assembly, the lead time was too long by now. At the last minute I threw on a coat of paint and made it look beautiful once again, just in time. Our little wedding had gotten more bells and whistles added on in the last month or so. A DJ. A dance floor. More and more flowers and landscaping. A cellist. Music, music, music. Lighting. More tents. We added so many unique and cool ideas, often from suggestions from our friends. Jeff began to panic wondering if things would work out. Some snags were hit, but most if not all of them came with silver linings that only added to the day. Once Friday afternoon rolled around, and friends began coming in from out of state, our preparations were solidified, anything else that was missed would have no more consideration. It was, as they say, showtime.

I've been to a few weddings in my time, as has Jeff. We didn't want your "typical" ceremony. There was to be no "gods" involved. This was to be a very personal event, one that involved everyone attending. I mentioned in the beginning of this entry about tying the knot. Like so many over-used expressions, this comes from an ancient Irish or Celtic rite also practiced in Great Britain, and has recently gained a bit of a modernized revival as a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan custom. We tweaked it a bit more to make it work within our special day. As happy and uplifting as we wanted our little ceremony to be, there was an unavoidable, deep feeling of sadness about the otherwise happy day. My Mom is no longer here to experience a day she had given up hope early on to witness. Jeff's mum is currently in the ever-increasing grip of Alzheimer's and is just about immobile in a nursing home, unable to see the last one of her children married. As it turns out, both of our mothers had a special love of butterflies. So, to honor our Moms during our wedding day, we incorporated butterflies. Rather than a cake topper with two grooms, a pair of butterflies representing both our love as well as the spirits of our mothers sat proudly on top of our cake. The cake itself was decorated to describe us through our interests and hobbies. The bottom-most layer illustrated the things we each love that aren't common to one another. Me with the cars, tools, electronics, Jeff with sports, cooking and culinary arts. The second layer is something we have in common, yet still different. Music, with Jeff being country at heart, and me being the rocker (and being so before the smarmy Osmonds sung that song). The top layer depicted our love of camping and the beach. Our good friend Doug Poplin honored us during the ceremony by playing cello. I had ordered a "handfasting cord" to be used during the ceremony. We hit a big snag when the supplier of the cord failed to ship the thing and refused to send another. When we talked to our good friend Tim Snider, who was to perform our wedding, of our dilemma, he said other items could be used in place of the cord, including a scarf. I still have some of Mom's belongings, so I took out the drawer that still held her beautiful scarves. After pulling out a couple scarves, we found the one she had which depicted several colorful butterflies along with their scientific names. We had found our perfect solution. At the bottom of the drawer was a booklet showing various ways of wearing scarves. The booklet was titled Tying the Knot. It was almost as if we were being told something.

Our good friend Jim Martin has suggested on a whim that we should release live butterflies during the ceremony at the moment we have been declared married. As with so many other aspects added in, a box of butterflies, a pair of Monarchs for us and Painted Ladies for the rest of the attendees was ordered all the way from California. Each butterfly was contained in a personalized triangular box. These were passed out to everyone during the ceremony. The handfasting, originally meant to be done "a year and a day" prior to actual marriage, was instead modified as a "seal" instead. Doug played an old Celtic piece on the cello at that time. His emotional playing and deft touch made the cello sound as if it was breathing. The music was alive. It had become time to say our vows. Jeff had written his down beforehand. I, being the professional crastinator of epic proportions, never got around to it. I ad-libbed on the spot from my heart, trying to keep myself together. The rings were given to Tim, we placed them on each others' fingers. We were married! I had one more task, as well as a surprise. I directed our friends and family to open the boxes along with Jeff and I to release the butterflies as I told of the significance of this action. Upon release, the butterflies whirled and spun among everyone. Along with the flash of color and motion was an unmistakeable feeling of energy or presence. I stumbled in my words a bit as everyone quietly gasped. Jeff's butterfly stopped right above his head, landing on one of the flowers attached to the gazebo for a bit of nectar before flitting off with the others. I regained my composure enough to finish with the unscripted surprise. I produced an additional pair of rings, attached to gold chains. These were my mother and father's rings. My Mom, during her last days, had asked me if I was going to marry Jeff. I told her that we probably would marry (if he didn't get fed up with me beforehand) if it were to ever become official. She wanted me to use those rings. Well, Mom was always a petite woman, and dad was pretty damn scrawny, so the rings would barely fit our pinky fingers. To carry her wish into our day, we put the rings, on chains, around our necks as our last action. We were now a married couple, with all the benefits granted thereto, with many wished fulfilled.

Now, I am an extremely emotional old sot. I cry at movies, listening to music, and, of course, at weddings. My biggest fear was that I would become a blubbering, incoherent mess for most of the day. Today was so different though. There was so much love, support and surprises through the day. I did lose it when I saw folks I consider to be my adopted family show up after many years and even decades apart. Same with other friends who came to our big day. But I surprised myself. Somehow, probably buoyed by the love, support and help everyone had given me, I kept myself together and enjoyed everything that was happening to the fullest. I did let myself go a few times, when it really mattered. It was wonderful too.

We did lots of planning. Did a ton of work. We hit snags, often at the worst possible time. But somehow, everything fell into place. Perfectly! I was awestruck and dumbstruck at so many beautiful and incredible moments. People began telling us our wedding ceremony was the most beautiful and touching they have ever seen, including their own. I have endured so much in the way of bad things in my life. I have lamented on countless occasions that my seemingly bad luck timed to coincide just when things might be looking up had made me unable to enjoy myself. If I were to experience happiness, for sure I would have something terrible happen. For one very special day, however, I experienced the happiest day of my life. Well, my luck being what it is, Jeff had picked our big day many months in advance. It took me a while to realized it, when it was too late to change it. Our wedding day was to happen the day before the eighth anniversary of my Mom's death. But here instead, my luck was symbolic. Yes, I had my sad moments on that Sunday after. But if ever I had a feeling that Mom was with me, it was on that day. In the smiles of friends we both knew for so many years. In the notes of beautiful music. In the seemingly impossible way that everything turned out perfectly. In all of the flowers, landscape, perfect weather, blue skies and beautiful, warm sunshine. And in the beats of a hundred butterfly wings.

Nothing can ever top this amazing, wonderful day.

DSC_0245


Thank you to all my LJ friends too. You've been with me through thick and thin. I have hundreds of photos and thousands of megabytes to process. I hope I can share more of my big day with you soon. Much love.
greatbear: (forearms)
(Caution: electronics geekery ahead, if that ain't yer bag, skip to your next post)

Planned obsolescence? It's alive and well, even if it wasn't intentional.

Once again, out of the blue, I notice that a speaker has gone bad, this time in a portable TV set. The little set has a pair of them, the right channel was dead.

This in the third speaker that has failed in the fashion, and I've had hard drives and a tiny DC motor fail in the same way rather recently. What do these all have in common? Magnets. Small permanent magnets. And in all these situations, the magnets were all "rare earth" neodymium magnets. I love me some neodymium magnets. Tiny, strong as shit, make so many things more efficient, lighter and more powerful, blah blah blah. In my latest repair job, I noticed my little 9" Panasonic combo TV/DVD player was missing the right channel (don't laugh, this tiny set, which I used to take camping, is the third most-watched set in the house, it sits atop my studio/AV workstation desk, along with a DTV converter box to make it usable). The right channel was a scratchy, low volume mess typical of a stuck voice coil. This time, I had a pretty good idea what was going on, as I had replaced two speakers in two completely unrelated radios with the same problem. It's not as if I was blaring these sets at full volume or otherwise misusing them, quite the opposite, in fact, these devices are taken good care of.

In all these units, the speakers resemble those old-school alnico magnet speakers you'd find in any one of a bazillion transistor radios from decades past. These have the advantage of having a small magnet structure that is self-shielding. But rather than the slug of alnico making up the magnet inside the cup, these speakers now use a neodymium disk magnet along with a similar-sized pole piece atop the magnet to concentrate the field in the gap. What look like cheap little speakers are instead rather efficient and make strong sound from rather small amplifiers. These speakers have decent power ratings for their size (the TV ones are rated 1W, the radios were 3W, all speakers from different makers were 3") and belt out reasonable sound for what they are. What seems to be the trouble with all this cheapass speaker goodness? Neodymium magnets have a coating, in most cases a shiny metallic silver nickel or ceramic coating. Typical strontium magnets, those dark grey disks sandwiched between two pole pieces, are almost never coated. The material is inert, after all. The neodymium material, which is actually an alloy of neodymium, boron and iron, pulverized into a fine powder and sintered (pressed together and heated with a bonding agent) corrodes easily when exposed to air. These magnets are sealed to prevent this from happening. Well, such is the case in a perfect world...

Apparently these magnets had little if no coating to seal out the air, and it didn't take long for these magnets to revert to their original pulverized metal components. The magnets literally turn to dust, filling the magnetic gap with magnetic powder and jamming the voice coils in place. Of course, the mushy remains of the magnet become unbonded from the structures and flop around in the gap as well, freezing the VC even tighter. Nothing looks wrong with the speaker from the outside. Cutting out the cone, spider and coil, and lifting out the remains of the magnets reveal all. The magnet resembles a half-dissolved metallic aspirin sitting in a puddle of water.



Another pic of the entire speaker taken apart )

I was able to root around in my stock of parts and find a decent pair of magnetically shielded 3" speakers to replace the ones in the television (though they just fit, being that the magnets were ten times the size of the originals) and everything worked out well and cheap (as in free), since I harvested the little speakers from a set of PC speakers I was discarding. I've also discovered it's damn near impossible to find these small commodity speakers that used to hand on the walls at the local Radio Shack for years until around 2000 or so. Even my usual parts suppliers don't bother with them anymore.

Think of all the stuff made with neodymium magnets these days. Anything with a hard drive. Many modern cordless power tools. Headphones, cell phones. anything with a motor, like DVD players. Motors like the starter in cars. You name it. This set is about ten years old, and the magnets died. In a couple cases where I had magnetic flashlights with these disk magnets, the coating became scratched and the magnet corroded in a matter of months.The dust is highly magnetic and can end up in places where it might not be wanted and difficult if not impossible to remove. Some older hard rives became unusable, and when I opened them up, the magnets were toast.

I have a feeling this is going to be a widespread problem. But, hey, since no one keeps anything beyond ten years anymore, it will just end up being tossed anyway. I'm not like that. In most cases, I keep stuff a long time, especially tools.

And you thought Juggalos had issues with magnets.
greatbear: (old graybeard)
Earlier in the week I pulled the plug on my LJ. I had mostly run out of uses for this, and, to be honest, no longer felt the need to have an outlet for what I would call "personal" matters and discussion with the internet in general. It has been about 20 years (!) since I had ventured out onto the internet in a personal capacity, rather than a technical/professional way for work reasons. It took a lot of courage on my part to make that change, and it wasn't long before I was pouring my heart into online interactions, making literally hundreds of friends along the way, even enjoying a bit of both figurative and literal rock star status along the way. I soon learned that much of this was fleeting, with the vast majority of people eventually moving on, leaving what I thought was some incredible friendships, relationships and great causes to founder and die. Perhaps it was the value I had placed in these relationships, or my investment in them, emotionally, mentally and physically, that left me not only disappointed but also feeling left behind once they had evaporated. It took a while, because for the 32 years prior I had been very much a loner until that time, but I learned to reconsider the experience as more of a crucible, or distillery that helped to separate out the fleeting and leaving the best behind. Maybe more like how maple syrup is made I suppose, where it takes a great deal of sap to be carefully boiled until the sweet syrup remains. What came out of these hundreds of fun (for the most part) interactions and countless good (with a bit of bad) memories is a sparkling core of truly great friends, that to this day still amaze me with some of their actions. I sought to leave my online world as I had formed to to simply concentrate on the product from it. After a couple days (I bet you didn't even notice) I switched this back on, not so much as a continuing place for me to pile my thoughts, but for the few remaining people I know and love who remain here. Without my LJ being active, I had no way to interact with y'all. My analogy is this is like a small town of bygone days where people would run into one another while out and about, or take the time to walk from house to house to say hello and talk over the fence. I guess I can't board up my place yet still remain neighborly, given how this system is set up.

This is not the Livejournal I set up shop in over ten years ago. Like so many other online "spaces" in the past, what began for me as a thriving community has become rather barren. Those who remain, however, and still making great use of the medium, and maintaining fantastic connections. What skeeves me these days is the reduction in quality of the service, the politics of the Russian owners and general disregard for the stateside users that really made the community what it is. The latest technical hell here is the never completing page loads. Sure, the pages seem to render properly and mostly stuff works, but some connections never complete, with the page loading indicator spinning away. This is often a sign of bad server configurations, and sometimes of a more dangerous nature, with open connections lying in wait for malware or other bad mojo. This has been going on for a few weeks now on my end, regardless of what computer or connection I access the site with. Aargh. Oh well, the neighborhood falls apart even more, the landowners letting the place fall apart around the remaining denizens.

I will keep my door open for a little while longer, I guess, at least until the wedding and a bit after. Then, well, we'll see. These days I am busy with as much as my day can hold, trying to get the house and yard fixed up, putting the final touches on a huge network upgrade to accommodate new home security and automation now and be usable into the foreseeable future. La Casa Mayhem is my only true home, I built it with my hands as well as a lot of outside help, and I plan on living the rest of my years here. As my health has taken several downturns in recent years, I now have a sense of urgency to get lots of things done while I am still able to do them in order to be able to have some years later to relax and simply enjoy the spoils of all that labor and thought. I am lucky to be able to (sometimes barely) be able to get around, and I am measuring my time wisely. With the wedding coming up in less three months (!) now, I gotta kick it into high gear. I am overlapping projects to my best advantage. I will be redoing the entryway to the house, with a new front door, paint, floor, lighting, landscaping, and more. I am sitting here configuring and testing security cameras I will be installing while I crawl around doing these other upgrades. Several hundred more feet of network cabling has to be installed too, and I am pleased with how this all is shaping up. In the spirit of the days past, here's a photo of the goings-on as I test one of the cameras down in the Underground Concrete Bunker before I finally get it put where it belongs on the outside.



I just hope my creaky old body holds up as I do all this work, if not, I am truly screwed. Our little wedding is shaping up to be a big deal. Certainly it's the most important day of my life in decades. I can only hope all turns out as we are working and planning it out to be.

Seeyas 'round.
greatbear: (walken)
What a way to start the New Year here at Mayhem Acres but with a nice winter snowstorm! Jeff had to work on New Year's Day (I always get the earworm thanks to U2 when I see or use the term) as well as NYE, the weekend before, plus yesterday and today, so he had a long week already. On his way home yesterday the snow had already begun falling. Thankfully he got home without a hitch, I had walked the dogs before the airborne crystalline assault began to gather ground troops and we were safely ensconced in wood-heated bliss for the evening. By early morning when Jeff was ready to head off to work (he's critical personnel) about six+ inches had fallen. By virtue of living off of a road deemed critical for emergency traffic (a police station, fire and paramedic department is about a mile-and-a-half away), and this road intersects three major highways, the road was clear enough for Jeff to carefully drive in to work. Once near the hospital, though, it was a different story, ironically the roads right up to the hospital were a mess. He got in without incident, and had an otherwise normal day. I waited until he got home before I attempted to tackle the snow in the driveways and walks, just in case I would fall, get hurt, or have some other unkind fate befall me. I'm pleased to say I managed to clear the walk and most of the driveways before the snowblower ran out of gas. I have maybe a fifteen minute job remaining, if even that, for tomorrow. After the dig-out we headed to the pet store and grocer for our week-plus of food and supplies. It was only after all that work and walking that I was finally breaking down and in need of a rest. All if this without a fall, a sudden burst of pain, a heart attack, shingles, athlete's foot or any other nasty body problems. Go me!

The PT I've been undergoing has been doing me some good. I am quite sore the next day, with enough DOMS to make me feel like I am accomplishing something at the gym. I weight less now than I did as a sophomore in high school. I'm not too concerned about the weight loss at this point since I don't need be be trying to haul a lot of bulk around. Part of the therapy involves electrostim treatments on my lower back. The therapist always comments on how much "energy" I have them set the machine for, apparently more than most people can handle, and I only increase it through the run of stim. I tell her that in addition to 40+ years of working with electricity and having it "greet" me on its own terms countless times, I've been hit by lighting as well. Makes for amusing conversation if nothing else. One of the things I'm going to try for is to get a decent home-use e-stim unit, the therapy does do my body good, and it might also have some, ahem, extracurricular use later on. I still have a long way to go until I can no longer walk looking like a stand-in for Quasimodo trying to imitate the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I'm getting there.

Speaking of working out, weight loss and gyms, Jeff has been going to a local gym here trying to better his health and lose some weight. Earlier in the year he was attending a kettlebells gym. While he was increasing strength and flexibility, it was doing nothing for weight loss, something his doctors were insisting on as part of ongoing work since the heart attack. He found a decent deal that also includes a personal trainer, who not only set him up with specific routines and goals at the gym, but some pretty strict initial dietary guidelines as well. Since starting this about a month ago, he's down a good 14 pounds or so, with obvious changes to his physique to boot. Woof. The two of us will be heading through '14 leaner and meaner. I'll definitely be rockin' the meaner part, as I'm turning into a grouchy old cuss as 52 rounds the corner in less than a month.

I've also been getting back into some studio-oriented work, mostly with "remastering" some of my favorite music and making my own mixes. If I finally get the nerve to try without getting frustrated, I might pick up the guitars and basses here and give the old fingers a workout. I love music, and recent upgrades to the stereos, home theater and digital music servers are part of my getting back into serious listening and involvement with music. My recent setback after surgery with becoming quite deaf in my right ear is either beginning to subside, or I am getting used to it. I will soon upgrade my studio monitors, I was using headphones as my primary monitoring means, and a recent purchase of a different style of headphone hasn't really made a difference in my discomfort in using cans as monitors that has crept in recently. I might spring for that pair of Mackie bi-amped nearfields I've always lusted after. I can crank them while Jeff is away, and resort to the cans for nighttime listening.

As I often do when it snows, I poke my camera lens out the front door and take spooky, available-light shots of the snow falling on the trees in the front yard, so this is my first photo for the new year. Kinda blurry, but it's a handheld shot for a second or less.



Tomorrow, since Jeff is (finally!) home during the day, I might take shots of the dogs frolicking in the snow. Last year, Snickles didn't want anything to do with the white stuff. He'd stand around shivering, picking his feet up one by one and generally be miserable in the snow. I worried this year how he'd handle it, but it appears he's beginning to love the stuff. Kodi was always a snow-dog, he can't get enough of it. Snickles can potentially get around better in it than Kodi, thanks to his long thin legs. He still gets cold after a while, since he's a shorthaired pooch with less body hair than I have, apparently. We have a little jacket to help with that issue.

I hope everyone is starting off 2014 on a good note. I know I am trying to do so, and we'll see how it turns out as it progresses.

N. B. It seems LJ has been lazy with comment notifications with me lately, I didn't realize my last few posts had collected a fair amount of comments until tonight. I'll probably be going into my previous posts and answering some of them. Damn Russians!
greatbear: (Lemming)
So, the other weekend Jeff and I were at the grocery. We always look around in the "ethnic foods" aisle for interesting items, often finding some interesting items to challenge our palettes. Imagine my third-grader glee upon finding this. Bonus points for the brand name being the same as my surname. Heh heh, I said "bone us."



Food review whenever we get around to making this.

Daddy bear

Dec. 9th, 2013 09:23 pm
greatbear: (old graybeard)
A bunch of pictures have been taken lately, everything from "before" pics of Jeff as he begins gym workouts with a trainer, to weather photos, holiday decorations and whatnot. I had Jeff snap a photo of me as I was able to stand up almost straight. This is what the cashier from Saturday thinks is the father of a 51 year old man:



Not too far off, I guess. lol

We had a frozen land of icy mayhem here today, freezing rain coated everything in a glassy sheath. Luckily it wasn''t like some years where the ice builds up more and more and it starts taking down branches, whole trees and power lines. This time was rather benign, Jeff had no issues getting to work using main roads and highways. He usually takes a back way that shaves of several miles as well as a few dollars in tolls both ways. He came home that way without issues. Tomorrow might prove a hassle again, as the weather radio warning sounded for bad icing and snow conditions throughout the day. Yippie. The snow blower is ready. Not sure how ready I am for it though.

Some more photos:





This is the snow from the Sunday prior, you can see the big Blue Atlas cedar bent over the walkway from the weight of the ice, along with some of the shrubbery burdened with the frozen delight in the picture before, this is "normal."



Let's see what Ma Nature has in store tomorrow.
greatbear: (forearms)
I've been digging through the archives stored in the great computers filling the not-so-hallowed halls of Mayhem finding old-ish pics of me to post on Facebook. You know, content-light meme-like prattle so popular among the hordes and such. Some denizens of the upright, hoary and stodgy Livejournal also partake, and, well, I find it easy to crosspost the same visuals with text appropriate for each venue.



Here I am with my wonderful dog Patches playing around in my living room around September of 2000. I really miss Patches, she was the most awesome companion for Mom and I, and she really understood me. There were days I was out of sorts, or things weren't going well, or I was sad or troubled. Patches was always there and knew how to make the day a bit easier to take. On good days, she would only add to the happiness in her own unique way. Every coming home from work was a tail-wagging, happy-barking love fest. So much unconditional love, but a sadly limited time to revel in it. She was a rescue, and she entered my life at 2 years old. She adjusted quickly and was a true family member. "Pet" almost seems condescending. She lived a happy 12 years with us, but the mere dozen years were far too short. Dogs are capable of such unconditional love and devotion, but it's so fleeting. It only means that every day needs to matter. Never deny your pet the love he or she so willingly gives. There will inevitably come a day when your companion is no longer with you, and, trust me, you lose a piece of your heart when they are gone. I get quite wistful every time I see a Dalmatian. I thought the effect would dim over time, and in the approximate ten years she's been gone, it's still a strong tug of the heartstrings. Even writing this entry, as run-on as it's become, had me reaching for the tissue on my desk.
greatbear: (forearms)
I've been spending a bit more time skimming Facebook, being that so many former LJers left for the hustle and bustle of the big time over there. I also have quite a few people who were never on LJ in my friends list as well. One thing I have noticed on occasions is a rather humorous relationship between adjacent entries in the "news feed." These happen by chance, but make me wonder if there isn't some behind-the-scenes shenanigans going on. This one, for example, made me choke on my drink tonight.



I mean, really. Too close for coincidence, eh? LOL

All ears

Aug. 9th, 2013 03:28 pm
greatbear: (my ferengi ears)
My (not so, anymore) little Snickles is a Miniature Pinscher. Min Pins are the result of crossbreeding Dachshunds with Italian Greyhounds. The result is what appears to be a tiny Doberman. Of course, Snickles likes to think of himself as a full-on Doberman, complete with a Tasmanian Devil growl (it's hilarious at times) and a take-charge attitude. I have to remind him that he is really just a sausage dog on stilts. Nowhere can this be demonstrated better than with his big, wonderful ears.

IMG_1411


It is usually common practice to dock the tails and ears of Min Pins for whatever reason, I guess to give them that Dobe style. I see it as cruel, since the ears and tail of this dog are so expressive. Nothing beats the sight of a wagging tail, especially not an oscillating stub. As for the ears, da Snick and I are brothers from a different mother.

Yeah, I'm a dog intactivist I guess.

Edit: Don't let all this cute fool you. A few minutes ago he somehow managed to get hold of a ballpoint pen and chewed it to smithereens on the freshly cleaned living room carpeting. Yes, the carpeting is ruined now.
greatbear: (forearms)
Kodi's birthday is today. He's all of 8 years old. In dog years, that's 56. He's older than me and Jeff! My, how time flies.

Happy birthday to our yappy bundle of joy and hair!

IMG_1354

Ptwned!

Jul. 23rd, 2013 01:11 am
greatbear: (jeff and me)
My recent disappearance in these cyber parts was mainly due to me and Jeff taking a much-needed vacation. Per usual, we headed up to Provincetown for a little over a week's worth of rest, fun, sun, friends, eye candy and way too much good food. Arriving the Thursday afternoon prior to Bear Week, the two of us, along with the two pooches, set up our little campsite in the same location as last year. We immediately went out to our favorite carry-out eating spots and put together our meal after all the driving. It was an "official" start to our big vacation of the year. While not as long as last year (we took two weeks worth then), it was still plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. I always seem to say that we go to PTown "despite" Bear Week, a we don't bother signing up with any of the official goings-on put on by the Provincetown Bears, opting instead to do our own thing. We get to see our friends that normally live ten minutes or so from us but never see these days except in PTown, familiar faces from years before seem to be everywhere, and we get to meet interesting new people. No expectations, no stress (for the most part). Running into Armistead Maupin and John Waters on the streets, taking pictures with cast members of "Where the Bears Are", talking with recording and DJ folks, parties with friends, it's a different sort of world for a week. I even managed to get my increasingly creaky old ass on the dance floor. And the food, well, let's say not a day went by that we weren't smiling about having a great meal. It's all good, much needed, and always welcome.

Our good friends from Connecticut, whom we sadly only get to see this one time a year, were once again at the campground, along with not one, but two of their potbellied pigs as travel companions. They brought fresh eggs for us from their farm, which made for wonderful breakfasts. Jeff's trio of buddies were at the other end of the campground again, we kept running into them here and there. Weather on the Cape was much more sane than the heat wave to our west. We went to so many of our favorite galleries and shops, dragging home art and souvenirs as well as a couple boxes of electronic gear I picked up from the church tag sale for way too cheap. It was a challenge to get everything into the truck to bring home. We managed fine, we just had to open the rear doors slowly to catch stuff falling out as it shifted in traveling.

While it might seem this was an idyllic trip free of snags, like all good things there were clouds among the silver linings. PTown had been experiencing some manner of rain practically every day since early June, this resulted in a bumper crop of mosquitoes that rivaled some tropical climates. Lounging outside at the campground was doable with repellants and sprays, but we didn't do too much to speak of. Even parts of downtown were plagued with the bloodthirsty beasts, but it was a small distraction to all the goodness abounding. All the aforementioned good food didn't take long to overwhelm the wreckage that constitutes my lower digestive tract. Some of our plans had to be shuffled or skipped as I dealt with far too many trips to the bathroom. The janky wireless internet access I was getting at the home base of Mobile Mayhem made keeping up with the outside world sketchy at best, and downright frustrating at times. The campground lies at the fringe of 3G mobile data coverage, and the reliability/availability of the connection made my early days of dialup internet seem like fiber optic broadband. As such, I lost out on meeting up with some LJers and Facebookers. Service was better downtown, of course, but I didn't bring the laptop with me, and I wasn't going to be one of the many cellphone zombies wandering around the streets not watching where they're going, or Instagramming their meals, or posting Twitter and FB updates every two minutes. I find it so much better to pry myself away from constant online access, instead enjoying the moments. Honestly, I don't have that many years left, so I am making the best of the time while I can.

I also discovered that, as time goes on, I am taking far fewer photos than I used to. Yes, I dragged four cameras with me, but the SLR stayed in the bag, the waterproof Pentax I brought along had its battery conk out at the beach where I hoped to take pics of the dogs frolicking in the sea, my little Canon compact accumulated less than two dozen shots, while my cell phone camera probably had to most use of all. Honestly, I have no idea what's going on there. My interest in photography has fallen way off in recent years. Still, I have a few good shots that will service as nice reminders of our time. I guess I need to focus (heh) on bringing my hobbies with me more often.

We ended up breaking camp and hauling our asses outta town the following Friday. Since traffic heading on and off the Cape is legendary for long lines on the weekends, we've discovered it best to leave early on weekdays instead. While there were still two good days of beary goodness to be had, we needed to get to Pennslovakia in order to rest up and unpack the trailer on Friday evening in order to take it in for repairs on Saturday morning. We couldn't get the work done on it before vacation as we hoped due to parts availability issues. Luckily the damage caused by the fire in March was not bad enough to keep us from using the trailer for vacation, it was mostly cosmetic. I hauled the trailer up to the RV shop on Saturday, not before running right into the start of a vintage tractor parade in the town of Gratz, where the shop is located. I had to shoot ahead of the parade using side alley streets, once ahead of the vintage machinery, I got back on the main town road lined with people waiting for the tractors. I guess we should've waved or something. Once that was taken care of, we visited Jeff's mom at the nursing home and headed home, We had a Sunday in Maryland to ourselves, working in the gardens and the yard plus running errands. This Monday, of course, was back to the grind. At least we had our fun and are better for it.

I didn't promise pictures, but here's one of us on the breakwater in PTown. Gadzooks, I am looking older by the day.

IMG_1424


We are already making plans for next year.

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Phil

December 2016

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