Day 865

I really like tinkering. I like taking things apart and figuring out how they work. I like to make things: small things, things that don’t require me to move around too much.

I don’t know if I’m necessarily “happy” when I tinker. But, I’m certainly at peace.

What I don’t like is not having a purpose for my tinkering.

This phase of my tinkering life began when I attempted to quit smoking. First latch-hook, then cross stitching. It kept my hands busy and my mind focused on something basic and repetitive.

From there, it grew to working with miniature war game terrain, painting, polymer clay, molding, casting… all sorts of stuff.

But I stopped playing games, and I spent a lot of time making things to help me make other things.

I tried my hand at paper making and became enthralled with seed beads.

A kiln and a bunch of glass has moved me into fused glass and wire wrapping.

I like it all.

I find myself drooling over machines: a CNC router, laser cutter, faceting tool, glass blowing torch, rock tumbler. Stuff.

I want it all.

Because I like to tinker and make useless things.

I want to make useful things, practical things, necessary things. I just don’t know what.

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Still day 847

I’m hesitant to say that this is a defining moment in history. Every moment impacts history in some way. The butterfly wings of choosing to go to a get together one night in 1983 impact the winds of 2018.

Still, the decisions of this year, I fear, will have significant ramifications for generations to come. I am loathe to agree with our current President’s claim that young men need to be afraid in this #MeToo era; but not for the reasons the President gives.

Straight white men in America face a decision. That decision is simple: acknowledge the privelage their demographic has received from centuries of the Good Ole Boys’ chains of power, or claim to be victimized by the same people their ancestors and/or they, themselves, have oppressed since our country was founded.

At the root of the cognitive dissonance is the sentiment, “The sins of the father should not be visited on the son.”

I am a straight, white male and a third generation American. When my family arrived in America, slavery had been outlawed for around fifty years. With all sincerity, I can claim that I should not be associated with the white masters of yesteryear. In fact, I could cry loudly about how it is unfair to lump me in with belonging to an oppressive regime.

But, that’s the point. I reflect on my upbringing, my choices, my mistakes. I am privelaged. I am the recepient of the benefit of the doubt and second, third, and fourth chances. I have been able to dismiss infractions of misconduct in elementary school, bad grades in high school, and being placed on academic leave a couple of times in college.

Still, I could not imagine dismissing obvious sexual references printed in a yearbook with blatant lies and expect to get away with it. I don’t believe I would be forgiven for shuffling around millions of dollars in order to avoid paying taxes. Yet, here we are with two men in great seats of power not only dismissing those allegations, but not having a glimmer of shame that these are credible enough accusations to warrant concern.

A black President is criticized for wearing a tan suit, and I seriously just read a comment claiming there’s no evidence that the current President has made misogynistic comments, despite the recording of, “Grab them by the pussy!”

These are not delusions.

No one is deluded.

We are simply witnessing a response to the question, “Should I be held accountable for the sins of my father?”

And I don’t think anyone can claim that there is a binary response of yes or no to that question because of the abstraction.

There is no great conspiracy here. No deep state or Illuminati. There isn’t a conclave of Master manipulators fixing the world market. There are only individuals working to make their lives better. It just so happens that some individuals are more successful in that endeavor because of the privelages they have benefacted from.

Gerrymandering, for example, bestows privelage plain and simple. The only reason to gerrymander a voting district is to give certain people higher, if not insurmountable, odds of winning a district.

We are at the point now, where the recepients of generations of privelage must, within legal bounds, hold on to power through strategizing the voting outcome. The recepients of privelage have been losing the popular vote on the national game board for nearly two decades. But, they still retain power.

So here’s the tipping point: within a few more generations, that ability to manipulate voting districts, thereby stacking the Supreme Court will become impossible.

How straight white men behave now will determine how straight white men will be treated in the future. If we acknowledge the privelages we have benefacted from, we may facilitate a better future for all. But, if we expect to continue to reap the reward of those privelages without regard, there will be a backlash, and our sons will definitely be the victims of our sins.

Yes, young men should be afraid. If their fathers continue to give a big, “fuck you” to everyone they perceive as enemies, they will have made enemies for the sons.

Day 847

Late night thoughts.

After reading another article regarding the confirmation hearings and upcoming vote of a Supreme Court Justice, I find myself triggered by the term “pro-abortion.”

It got me thinking: what happens if the words “guns” and “abortions” were swapped in the sound-bite slogans?

Abortions don’t kill people. People kill people.

Abortions are just a tool.

If abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions.

Guns stop a beating heart.

Day 619: Prepping for Road Trip 2018

While driving down to Dana’s… (my) … niece’s and nephew’s birthday party, Dana and I got to chatting about the work trips she’ll be taking this summer. One of those trips will be a five day gig in Baltimore at the end of June. We discussed the feasibility and desire for me to drive that way with Maddux to meet up with her, and that seems like a fantastic destination. I put the likelihood of doing that at an 82%.

We would also like to visit Rome sometime in November, probably over Thanksgiving. But, in theory, I already have money set aside for that.

But, I’ve been talking about/wanting to take a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years.

Why Santa Fe?

I haven’t really been out West. There was a trip to Custer’s Battlefield in Montana when I was ten that included Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, The Corn Palace, Deadwood, Crazy Horse, and Devil’s Tower. But, I didn’t really appreciate it.

In adulthood, I’ve made it to Omaha, Nebraska by car, and that doesn’t count as out West. I suppose I also spent a couple of nights in Las Vegas, but, again, Vegas is an environment of its own.

When thinking about going West, there is, of course, California. I can’t say I’ve ever had much of a desire to go to California. If I hit the Pacific Coast, I’d rather visit Oregon or Washington State.

So, thinking about “The West,” I guess I’ve been predisposed to think “The Southwest.” Yet, other than the Grand Canyon, there really hasn’t been a great call to adventure for me.

Although I’ve never seen a production of it, I really like the musical Rent. I have fond memories of being introduced to it on a spontaneous road trip to New Orleans back in ’99. Come to think of it, that was a February whim as well. I don’t know the track titles off hand, but one song has the refrain of, “Let’s open up a restaurant in Santa Fe, sumthin sumthin will be niiiiice…. Let’s open up a restaurant in Santa Fe… sumthin sumthin Heidegger and wine… Let’s open up a restaurant in Santa Fe… .” Yeah, okay, it has been a bit since I’ve listened to it. Anyway, that has served me well enough as the inspiration for Out West destination.

I’ve talked about taking a trip to Santa Fe off and on now for, gee, I dunno, seven or eight years. After my sojourn to Vermont last Spring, I proclaimed that Santa Fe was likely my next trip.

But, I’ve been putting it off. I initially thought that I would take it in the Fall. However, I feel a little guilty about going away just as Dana is getting back to work. Besides, with her volleyball schedule, we’d need to consider Maddux’s needs. And raking leaves. And saving for holidays. And excuses and excuses and excuses.

Really, I’m just prone to settle, victimized by inertia. I have trouble getting to sleep, and trouble getting out of bed.

Still, every so often, I get an itch to break up the mundane contentment I strive for. And the past month or so, that itch has been pretty severe.

Dana and I talked about coordinating her Spring Break with a road trip to Santa Fe. To save her from spending most of her break driving, we looked at flying her out once I was there.

With the talks of joining her in Baltimore at the end of June, though, we recognized air fare and coordination to Santa Fe over her Spring Break was more stressful than stress releasing.

The wheels started spinning. I’ve got a couple of things on my calendar through March 3rd. Another thing on my calendar on March 21st. Then Dana’s spring break starts at the very end of March. The wheels began whirring.

By the end of the birthday party, I set up an outline of stops. Four days (three nights) driving there, three nights in Santa Fe, four days (three nights) driving back. Home ten days later, or six if I end up driving straight through one of the stops there and one back and only spending two nights in Santa Fe.

I’m digging it. Although I had planned on spending seven to eight days on my Vermont road trip. I was ready to be home on the sixth. But, I had also seen all I had planned to see, so there wasn’t much of a need to stretch it out, and was in the zone driving home.

Here, there are a couple of stops along the way there and that give me reason to pause beyond weariness. And, now, that itch is becoming raw.

Having this outline sketched out, I’ve determined my departure date as March 4th, 5th, or 6th. Beyond that date, inertia may get a hold of me again. Depending on the plans I have for the 3rd, I may want to “switch gears” on the 4th… or the weather might suck… or I may be raring to go. I like windows of time.

This gives me about two weeks. Two weeks to try to be frugal, allowing the money I spend to be considered as absorbed into my regular weekly budgets rather than an extravagance.

(Do my weekly budgets really allow for this? Yes and no. It all depends on how much late night perusing on Amazon I do, as well as where and what Dana and I do for food for the week. Some weeks I look at my budget as an upper-limit, sometimes I look at it as a goal of spending to accomplish, and a very few require me to slash that budget for a couple of future weeks.

I have done a good job over the past 3.5 years of sticking to my long-term savings requirements, and the stock market has largely been cooperating with me, so investingin some life experiences, I’m told, help keep the soul from withering. And, truth be told, as much of a pain in the ass going to a job may be, it does reward the soul with life experiences.

Ah, yes, any adventure does require a thought toward finances. That is at least one way I have manifested a “grown-up” aspect. It’s a bit strange thinking about that perspective at the moment.

As a younger Justin, I remember many of the spontaneous road trips funded by credit cards. The idea was that they would be paid off “some time in the future.” When I finally paused some in my early thirties and saw a balance that would be paid off when I was 47, I began understanding that I was stealing from my future self.

When I go “over budget” now, I still perceive things that way… I’m stealing from my future self. And, when stealing from my future self presents the possibility of needing to get a job, that gets downright scary.

That’s why some weeks I look at my budget as a spending goal to achieve instead of an upper limit. The only thing worse than being broke is dying with money in the bank and a spartan existence to show for it.

I know 90 out of 100 people would love to have these concerns to “fret” about, 7 of those 100 are able to look down their noses and refuse me entrance to their clubs, and 3 are so enlightened that using toilet paper is an unnecessary luxury. But, for me, it’s a concern worth considering.

So, if I’m only stealing from my future self that is merely two or three weeks older, the pain is healed while the cause of the wound of experience is still fresh enough to be remembered. Hmmm… Is there something to be read in the connotation of that metaphor despite it having been written due to linguistic symmetry rather than a conscious decision? Hah! Should this ever be published in student anthology, English teachers would be assigning that question for response. Why? Because even I, as the author, am looking at it thinking, I didn’t intend to link life experiences negatively as a painful wounds. I’m not currently in a maudlin state of mind. But, I can’t say I’ve never thought that way before.

There. Now I’ve added in a vocabulary word the semantical choice of a double negative in the last sentence for a few more author-text-reader questions, and I’ll end with this very necessary closed parentheses.)

With two weeks before leaving, I’m looking forward to scoping out some sites to see along the way. That’s a tad tricky. I’ve got to find things that are worthy enough to make me want to experience them. Otherwise the road trip is just a road, and without another person in the car as a catalyst for future stories to tell, there wouldn’t be anything worthwhile to share about the trip. On the other hand, the sites can’t become a goal to reach. I don’t want to feel like skipping them will cause a regret of something unfinished should I decide I’ve been away from my sanctuary long enough. Part of the road trip concept is flexibility, after all.

I’ve got a book about Route 66 coming since this trip partially follows that iconic path. I’ve also got a timed pet feeder coming for Maddux to make sure Maddux gets used to so Dana won’t feel pressured to get home if she’s got after school meetings or what not. I want to organize some playlists since last time, when I didn’t feel like listening to an audio book, I ended up with a huge mish-mash of stuff that got the job done, but wasn’t ideal. Oh, I need to make sure my audiobook library is nifty-cool. I need to get my oil changed and a belt replaced on my car. I may also want to get a car holder thing for my phone. (See, these are ways my weekly budgets get met.) And, I’d like to get a couple of things crossed off my current to-do list that are a part of my the larger “To-do List.”

Let’s open up a roading trip to Santa Fe sumthin sumthin niiiiice.

12:53am

Day 617

I had a few dreams that are lingering with me. Family ones, of course. That’s not all that strange. But the portion dealing with my one uncle from my mother’s side getting remarried and having to be part of the deception to keep him from getting gunned down by mafia hitmen while he put a Trumpesque amount of care into his own protection… well, that was kind of weird.

The part that lingers with me is that I was paired up with a former student for the wedding. For four years that girl sat next to another girl whose wedding I’m actually going to this summer. For the life of me, I can’t remember the non-real-wedding but dream-wedding girl’s name. And that’s what is nagging me. Weird.

My dog is mugging me. That’s normal.

I’m just a bit off this week. I have a hard time saying that because I’m not really sure what I mean since I don’t have a frame of reference for “on.”

I’ve gotten engrossed in a Sci-fi series of books. The first collection is called Wool. It began as a series of stories self-published on Kindle when Kindle was first catching steam. It got some really great reviews, so I picked it up. I started it a couple of times over the past few years, but didn’t get past the first few “pages” due to other distractions.

One of my goals for this year is to read 24 books. I used to enjoy reading so much, and I’ve got this memory of my father saying, “All I want to do is lay around watching movies and reading books.” So, having nothing more pressing to accomplish, I thought I’d make that my great aspiration for this year. (Except ‘play video games’ instead of ‘watching movies,’ although I’ve done more ‘watching movies’ than playing any of those video games I splurged on during the holidays.)

Anyway, the series has really sucked me in… one of those that I have a really hard time putting down so stay up all night reading.

And that’s what’s got my mind rolling about.

First, the fact that I can look at the clock at 3:12 am and think, “I should really put this book down and go to bed!” A Pavlovian response, I suppose, because then I ask myself, “Why?” And end up getting lost in the ramifications of the non-response before the book sucks me back in.

Second, I start reflecting about the act of reading itself. Why did I read so much when I was younger? If I grew up in today’s culture of technology, would I have spent so much time reading? Why did I stop?

Then I think about how those questions and answers have been colored by seventeen years of being an English teacher, and the paradox of my reading hiatus largely matching that time period.

The spinning thoughts of those two trains of thought are the basis for my feelings of “off.” Though, I suppose getting lost in those reflections is no real reason to feel “off.” Maybe it’s just a realization that I’ve been too much inside my head rather than viscerally interacting with the world beyond my thoughts.

Of course there’s also the thoughts that erupt from the themes and events of the book itself.

One example is the game of solitaire. Winning and losing is already determined when the cards are shuffled. Playing the game is merely the act of uncovering what’s already been won or lost.

Whoa! Bring that into questions of Fate, Determinism, and Free Will, and damn, there’s a whole land rich for exploring behind my eyelids. For some reason most of my philosophical musings end up incorporating quantum computing… or, rather, quantum theory.

Thus the days bleed by, and the moments I look around to the world beyond my thoughts, I realize I have nothing utterly tangible to display as a product of my recent existence. Hell, I can’t even really point to the books I’ve read beyond a few characters in a database that have less weight than the phone I’m holding to write this message.

So, I guess the “off” feeling stems from the disconnect between the internal explosions and bustling of thoughts that scream out, if “I think, therefore I am,” is my measure, then I AM… and, if “the measure of a man is the produce of his actions,” then I have no measure.

Anyway, I’ve got some recycling to get into the bin, a trading journal to update, and a book to finish. I’m also going to see Black Panther tonight at 10:00 pm with Dana and one of her friends.

So goes February.

1:41pm

Day 604

The above meme came up on my Facebook feed. Of course, I have seen it before; but, today, I had a reaction to it.

Don’t worry gun toting activists, I got the logical comeback covered: “But, teh Contitution don’t give anyone the rite to have ta drive a car or use asparin. Ain’t no writes in the Constipation you get to have fertilizer or wear shoes!”

And then I started falling down the rabbit hole of “No one thinks we should outlaw cars when some drunk driver kills someone!” Nah, of course not. But, when given the opportunity, drunk drivers are arrested BEFORE they commit manslaughter. And, tests demonstrating understanding of driving laws and safety, as well as the ability to drive appropriately are required before a license is given to operate a vehicle. On top of that, younger folks must take a class and are given a probationary license with more restrictions on driving privileges (at least in Wisconsin).

Forget not the concept of speed limits, safety belt laws, and getting pulled over for having the little light above your license plate malfunctioning. Oh, and having a driver’s license doesn’t automatically grant the privilege of operating a motorcycle, semi-truck, or vehicle engaged in commercial chauffering. Hmmm… I wonder if that last one is still true (again, at least in Wisconsin) with Uber and Lyft.

So, no, many do not make the connection that cars should be outlawed when someone operates one with malicious intent. Just as many gun control advocates are not suggesting that all guns need to be outlawed in order to enact some efforts to curb gun violence.

And the Constitutional argument is so stale. Anyone that believes that to be a valid argument is just plain stubborn. For the sake of “duh, like what,” here are just a few concepts: technological advances not fathomed in 1789, slavery, women’s right to vote, term limits, etc.

The idea that citizens’ right to bear arms will prevent the gub’ment from abusing its authority only makes sense if citizens are able to keep a couple million dollar tanks or jets or missiles and maybe a nuke or two to fend off an elected official turned tyrant. Well regulated militia, my ass. Listen kiddos, comma rules are important, since the most recent Supreme Court ruling on an individual’s right to bear arms hinges on the grammatical particulars and phrasing of the Second Amendment. As far as that court was concerned, “In order to form a well regulated militia,” is just a meaningless introductory phrase that could be used just about anywhere without impacting the context of a sentence. Let’s try some examples.

“In order to form a well regulated militia, the right to wear shoes shall not be infringed.”

“In order to form a well regulated militia, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.”

“In order to form a well regulated militia, lather, rinse, and repeat.”

“In order to form a well regulated militia, I’d like to super-size my combo meal.”

Yep, those are all grammatically correct and make absolutely sense. Using that phrase does not impact the meaning of the second part of the sentence. Clearly, well regulated militias have no purpose regarding whether or not I’d like to super-size my fries and Coke. I just like throwing unconnected phrases together. Like:

“In order to lose weight, I eat fourteen super-sized meals a day.”

“In order to drive a car, the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”

“In order to fertilize a field, shoes must be removed before going through the metal detecter.”

“In order to combat gun violence, thoughts and prayers shall be sufficient.”

Yes, it’s true I personally don’t like guns. It’s also true I currently (and legally) own and possess at least three firearms. None of which I purchased from a reputable (or disreputable) firearms dealer, waited three days to acquire (since I didn’t express or act on any desire to possess them), have my background checked for, or have any great need to quickly get them out of my possession.

If, however, I needed to conform to some act of background check; license process; mental, emotional, or physical fitness test, I’d surely prioritize resolving that issue, because, like most citizens, I strive to follow the laws of the land.

I don’t have a meth lab in my basement, a weed patch in my backyard, solicit prostitutes, or drive when I’ve had too much to drink because I could face consequences that I’d rather not suffer.

Aha! Say the gun advocates, “But people who are going to break the law aren’t going to follow laws, you stoopid libtard.” No shit.

No shit.

But, that’s your argument!? I can’t even begin to understand devotion to that belief.

So… wouldn’t that mean all laws are pretty much stupid and useless? Or… the ability for authorities to step in and check, prevent, or apply consequences is impossible? I mean, does anyone really slow down when they see a cop on the road? Or blatantly stand on street corners advertising “Crack sold here” with neatly packaged vials lined up under neon lights? Are drunk drivers arrested merely because drinking a beer while cruising down the road is so much more dangerous than doing the same thing with a can of Coke? I’m pretty sure the reason is to prevent injury before it happens without stifling the rights of most people to tie one on. Just like rational gun control has the ability to prevent injury before it occurs without stifling the rights of most people to own, carry, or use a gun for recreational purposes.

Seriously. I’d like to believe that most people would take issue with a parent that shoots up heroin and leaves used needles and a bag a smack in easy access of a toddler… maybe to the point of even reporting it. Hell, what about just giving a two year old a couple of shots of Whiskey, maybe even a fifth, each night? Problem? Live and live? None of anybody’s business?

I have no idea why the meme got to me tonight.

Well, sure I do. It’s that most gun enthusiasts I know wouldn’t have a problem adhering to and passing reasonable gun control laws. The conviction of those advocates to refuse any sort of effort to curb gun violence causes me to wonder, “Wait, what? Are you saying you have the potential to intentionally commit or are likely to accidently commit an injury to yourself or person? And you want to make sure you have the ability to do so? Um… and you want me to be cool with your potential to intentionally commit an injury or likely chance there’ll be an accident with your gun?” I can’t do it. I simply can’t find a way to have that make sense.

“Damn straight! I fully intend to hurt another person that comes after me!”

Gah! That reaction would be a prime example of stubborn devotion to belief. I get it. Self-protection is a valid reason to want to own a gun. And the remarks made in the paragraph above the previous does not contradict or challenge that line of reasoning.

If a person is able to demonstrate the mental, emotional, and physical fitness required to appropriately operate a firearm without causing oneself or another person undue injury, what’s the problem? If a person is unable to do that, what’s the problem with saying, “Try again when you can?” And, what exactly would be the problem of preventing someone who is incapable of displaying mental, emotional, or physical fitness to handle a gun without causing injury?

“Well, who’s going to determine if I’m fit enough to hold gun?” Jesus Christ. Anyone with that concern is way too paranoid. The same people that determined 65 MPH is an appropriate speed. You can drive faster safely? Bravo. I’m sure you’ll pass a firearm fitness test. If you can’t, and you get caught, face the consequences just like if you get caught doing 57 in a school zone when kids are present. Don’t like it? Take it to court? Still don’t like the outcome? Tough shit.

Most sane people agree that driving 57 around a school shouldn’t be done. Most sane people should be able to agree on gun control measures that will prevent many impulsive, accidental, reckless shootings.

12:56am

Day 588

I haven’t been having many moments of internal conflict. So not many thoughts to write about. Things are good. The “to do” list isn’t nagging at me so much anymore. But, it’s still there. 

Currently I’ve pulled out some boxes of candles and candle holders to… do something with. And, for the first time, I’m running into “stuff” that *shrug*. 

Stuff. 

Most everything has a story for me. I somewhat envision a “soul” within everything. That’s why I have trouble getting rid of stuff. I’m not at the degree of being a hoarder, but I don’t like throwing something away if I believe I can use it at some point. 

Like glass jars. Pickle spears, maraschino cherries, olives… those all come in remarkably useful glass jars. And, after washing them out, I have found plenty of uses for them. So, yeah, I got a couple boxes of glass jars. I’m not hoarding them. 

And, of course, I throw plenty of things away. 

But as I think about these candle holders, I get kind of broken. Some of them have a story attached. Some of them don’t. They are new, still in the box. In any case, they are still useful. It’s just that I don’t think that *I* will use them. But, I could. 

These are prime things for a rummage sale. But, I’m not going to hold a rummage sale for a few candle holders, and I’m not at a point where I can pull out everything rummage sale worthy. Plus, I just don’t want to have a rummage sale. Setting shit up, pricing stuff. And, if it doesn’t sell, putting it away again. 

So, obviously, the next thing to do is donate the stuff. And that’s fine for me with the stuff that doesn’t have a story. 

I guess, the thing is, this is the sort of stuff that if space wasn’t a consideration, I’d have no problem boxing up and shoving into deep storage until an opportunity came along to give it away to someone that would appreciate it or use it myself.

However, space is a consideration. Because of *stuff*. And, for the most part, it’s all stuff I have used, would like it use, or may have a use for in the future.

I’ve made it a goal this year that any projects I work on have to maximize the use of stuff that I already have. That’s been a helpful director of how to use my time. 

That doesn’t resolve my quandary of what to do with the candle holders, but it does guide me to having more occasions that require candles to be burned. 

12:01pm