Saturday, April 30, 2011

Badger Boy

Oh that pesky badger-boy. He's back at it again. Ever wonder how a garden path starts out? Nah, probaly not. But that's not going to stop me from showing anyone. :D

What was a grass lawn on Friday night, now looks a bit different early on Saturday morning. What you see in the picture is some weed-block fabric covered in a layer of crushed 5/8 minus rock with a topping of sand. The weed-block is a futile attempt to stop the weeds. :)) The crushed rock provides a firm base to keep the pavers from sinking and the sand provides a nice bedding for the pavers to keep them level. By late this afternoon, I'll have mixed up a batch of cement and will fill the path using a pre-made form to construct the pavers. It's only a start, but it's a good start.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Contraptions, Contraptions, Contraptions!

When it comes to life, I do everything in, well, my own way. Some might call it over-complexification. Others might call it insanity. Me, well, I call it the spincycle way of doing things. And as for complexity, when have I ever done anything simple? :D

With that said, here's my contraption of the week.

A bit worse to the wear, this rain water collection system has been in use for the over ten years. And it works quite nicely. Being mostly sealed, it doesn't provide any access for mosquitoes to breed like many other open tanks water collectors do.

Looking at the picture, we can see there are two "Y" pipes. that feed into the barrel. These pipes contain a basket and strainer arrangement that filters out pine needles and other detritus. The plug on the top "Y" allows me to reach in and pull out the strainer while the lower "Y" provides access in case the strainer gets jammed. The lower "Y" is overkill and unnecessary on the most part though.

If one looks closely, you can see a the yellow capped spigot at the bottom of the barrel. This allows me to release water into a watering can I use to feed the flowers. The white pipe that leads towards the ground is an overflow for the winter time when the barrel fills beyond capacity. And trust me, here in Seattle during the winters, it rains a lot so the overflow is quite handy.

The only problem my rain water collector suffers from is the occasional raccoon marauder who figures out that tugging on the spigot will make it come loose and spill out all the water. Pesky raccoons!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Working in the Coal Mine

Let's see what my day involved shall we? First, we start off with the assembly of a bench for the front yard.

After that, it was off to the garden nursery to buy a few flowers.

And while I was there, I bought a half cubic yard of sand for building paths with.

Then it was on to weeding. This yard waste bin was empty this morning but look at it now!

Making a mess is something I'm good at. And let's just say I dove head first into making a mess as you can see here.

I also dug up a sin from the past - a tree root I left in place.

A few whacks with the ax and voila - one stiff set of muscles. :D

And throw in a lot of weeding in one flower bed that was overrun by weeds during the winter.

No after pics of the weeding though so you'll have to wait. And that brought about the end of the day along with need for some aspirin to sooth those aching muscles. Where's that Emperor's bath now? :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Manhattan Project Begins

It's that time of the year again - spring! A time when a young man's fancy turns to girls. Well, I might not be so young, but I still think about girls. Regardless, that's not the point of this post now is it? :D Being a guy who can't sit still unless I'm totally exhausted, I constantly seek new challenges. And I've found my challenge – the front yard.

Having landscaped the backyard into something totally unique that reflects my personality, I've struggled with the front yard. Filled with rather generic grass accented by two beautiful miniature trees, I've contemplated an English garden of sorts. But boxwood hedges and Celtic knots felt rather “non-Dale”. So with my typical style, I set about to pondering a solution to the problem. A few trips to the local garden nurseries finally gave rise to inspiration. And the next thing I knew, I heard myself blurting out loud in a Spongebob Squarepants voice: “It's on!”

What does that mean? It means I have some creative mojo cranked up and flying full mast. And today felt the full brunt of my mojo. Total destruction mode is on. I pulled the trigger and finally committed to what I'm calling “The Manhattan Project”.

Will my ideas pan out artistically? Only the Shadow knows. But I'm gonna indulge myself in the process as I forge ahead and try to create a garden that's uniquely “Dale”.

As with all things, it starts with an innocuous looking beginning - in this case, a half a cubic yard of crushed rock. For that matter, it looks rather blah.

But when it's done, expect anything but boring. Even ol' “Row two, where are you?” is undergoing a facelift. For those who don't remember, “Row two” is my Space Invaders tribute. More to follow. Oh how I love spring. :) Twice the projects, twice the madness, twice the exhaustion, and twice the sharing with everyone else.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Authorization Required!

I heard a rather amusing song lyric recently. Mind you, my sense of humor is warped so your mileage will likely vary. And at over four dollars a gallon, don't expect much. :D You've been warned!

So I'm listening to some Goa tunes, just sort of run-of-the-mill stuff. Certainly nothing as memorable as a say, well, maybe Winston Churchill or JFK rapping and rhyming. But then, out of the blue, I hear this computerized voice speaking in time with the beat:

“Voice authorization required.”

followed by a very nervous fella stammering:

“Uhh, uhh, uhh”

Before he finishes the third “I'm boned!” utterance of 'uhh', the computerized voice responds:

“Authorization accepted.”

Take that Skynet!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Do Clothes Make the Man?

Take a look at this small tree, a weeping cherry:

Planted late last summer, the tree has had precious little time to even root in. Yet, it bears blossoms. It's small, scraggly, and certainly not prominent in any manner. But is it any less of value? Regardless of how the weeping cherry tree grows, it will have its own unique character. What will it become tomorrow?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rise Phoenix Zombie, Rise!

I've been talking with several of my friends about how I'm becoming seriously disheartened with many things including the dating scene. Like it or not, my style and approach are incompatible with what the majority of people want or expect from a partner. So rather than becoming tangled in a web of bitterness and cynicism, it's time to switch gears and take a hiatus from my attempts at dating. I'm a doer after all, or "Get-r-done Dale" as one my friends calls me. And being a doer means I'm constantly diving into some unique project as it raises my spirits.

For months now, I've been spending the bulk of my free time in a little 5 by 8 room here in the Temple of Doom. All the while showering in the kitchen with a portable contraption that fits my personality to a tee – oh so unconventional. So what's an unconventional boy to do such that he can break out of a downward spiral of frustration? What else – night classes of course.

Yes indeed, it's that time of the decade again when the legendary Phoenix Zombie must rise from his ashen grave. Well maybe there's no legend, but if it did exist, it would tell tale how the zombie Dale, like a symbolic Phoenix Bird, would rise from his ashes and shamble off to the local community college to mingle with the young un's half his age. Seeing it's been about 10 years since this zombie last attended college, it's time to rise yet again. Fortuitously, I've been craving sweet delicious cinematography brains, er classes, for quite some time.

Now is the time for the procrastination to stop. Otherwise, how can I immortalize myself? My giant watermelon sized ego demands I must do something of noteworthiness during my life. And being the most boring man in the universe is not my idea of noteworthy. Time to teach some of them whipper-snappers at the college that old age and treachery can overcome youth and energy. :D

And if by off chance you do enjoy reading my sporadic posts, worry not. I'll continue to write. For that matter, I might be posting pics of the emperor's bath soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Can't Reply Right Now, I'm Busy Ignoring Your Email

Well hello there, umm, Mr Brown Shoes! How about that local sports team?

Now that you've read my non-descriptive opener line, I'll do my typical brain dump. Feel free to depart the train early as there's nothing new here.

Okay, so there I am for what seems like the ten thousandth and fifty sixth time sending out an ice breaker message to an interesting girl I discovered on a dating site. I know better but I keep banging me head against that brick wall because attempting to find a date (or GF in this case) is sort of like doing cocaine, you just can't walk away from it all that easily. For that matter, my heads still smarting from the last head-on charge I made against the dating wall of shame but hey, it's going to be different this time, right? Right? Why do I hear crickets suddenly?

So I compose what I hope is a message with a bit of substance. I bring up several points she wrote about in her profile and add a few thoughts of my own to show I've done my homework so to speak. I finish the message off with a question to open the door for communication. After all, asking a question is an invitation to start a conversation, at least that's my opinion. I press the send button and begin the waiting game.

The majority of the time, the messages go into the ether never to see the light of day again. Nothing unusual in that as it's not unreasonable to eat static after sending a first (and last) message. After all, receiving an unsolicited message could be compared to opening your front door only to see a salesperson hawking the latest knives from Slashco.

But when I do receive a reply, I usually wish I hadn't. Why? Frustration, that's why. When the typical reply goes something like this: “Nice to meet you. Have a nice day.”, it's a bit, well, I just don't have the words to describe how it feels. How the hell do I respond to something like that? Saying “You too.” really isn't of value and isn't going to trigger any deeper conversation. As a rhetorical question I would say, why did they even reply? No answer required of course because only the Shadow and the writer's of said messages truly know. And they aren't about to divulge that tidbit – at least not to the likes of me. Sigh!

Sure, sure, one or two people are probably contemplating: “He's just thinking sour grapes”, “Just take it in stride dude as there's not much you can do about it.”, or “You ain't no different than anyone else. Suck it up and deal with it.” Maybe so, but there's nothing wrong with occasionally venting what you feel. No joy in Mudville tonight. Back to my Temple of Doom. At least that pain has a purpose.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jack of All Trades? Or Master of None?

There are a number of talents I don't possess and you know what? I'm fine with that. At 5 feet 4 inches, I'll never be a professional basketball player. Being 48 years old, I can't join the CIA and become a secret cold war operative. Big whoop. Nor am I a tactical genius, I'll live to see another day unless I go up against the likes of Sun Tzu.

But with a number of other skills, I'm quite proficient. I can rebuild a car engine. I can rig up plumbing, do electrical wiring, or even masonry work. And when it comes to landscaping or solving unusual software programming problems, I'm quite skilled from what I've been told.

But even with having well rounded number of talents, occasionally someone will take a jab about one or more of my skills. It can be quite humorous at times. For that matter, I'll even take a jab at myself now and then. When you come down to it, we all have an Achilles heel that's downright laughable in our inability to perform certain tasks well.

What I do mind is when people make fun of me by using a comparison to another person – be it direct or indirect. That's crossing boundaries into the area of what I consider as character assassination. I'm me, I'm not this other person who I'm being compared against. Am I a professional actor? No. Why should I be compared against someone who is? It's apples and oranges. It minimizes the person who is the amateur.

So it begs the question. Why would someone compare a Pro against a Joe? What's to be gained? Bad feelings on one side and perhaps a sense of cynical satisfaction on the other. Be careful what you say, it might have more impact than you intended. What goes around, comes around even if said “victim” is not the agent of justice.

Ah, but I'm not quite finished. This is my supper tonight – burritos made from scratch. While it's nothing extravagant, it does require a reasonable level of competency to make. I, for one, put my money where my mouth is.

Paraphrasing the words of the immortal Seymour Skinner, “I'm a small man in some ways, A small, petty man.” >:|

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I was a Middle-Aged Zombie

Remember the old “I was a Teenage (fill-in-the-blank-monster)” movies? Well, I do because I'm middle-aged. Now, one might ask, where the heck is he going with this? I'll tell ya where – straight into the dumpster I call my mind. Deep down in all those numerous thoughts about scantly clad women, over-indulgent consumption of top notch food, and even a finished bath, a kid is hiding away. One that's been suppressed by self-appointed responsibility. “Oh wait,” you say, “but isn't responsibility a good thing?” Sure, responsibility in reasonable levels shows maturity and the ability to handle daily life in a healthy manner. But, when responsibility becomes the main focal point such that moments of fun dwindle and die away, well then, it's no longer living. That's where the zombie part comes in.

I recall having a conversation with a friend about such matters. Sometimes the questions raised start me thinking about difficult subjects to dive into as they target the core reasons behind my motivations. In this case, I began to realize while some bear crosses, others like myself, bear shields. That shield hides me from change and the associated fears that sometimes arise from change.

If I were to spell it out with my trusty ol' Speak-n-Spell (some of you might remember a Speak-n-Spell from one of my short stories), it would go something like this: Once upon a time, I recall having fun. I did things, I went places, I took chances. I asked girls out even though it inevitably ended with me being shot down in flames time and time again. I went to night clubs with my friends and came home stinking of cigarette smoke because of all the smokers in those days but I had some great stories as a result. And I even took classes at night to learn new things. Pen and Ink classes anyone?

But unfortunately, the key words I used in the previous paragraph were - I recall. Somewhere along the line, I slowly stopped doing things that put me out there in the eye of the hurricane we call society. I decided to take on a large financial responsibility because I believe it is the right thing to do. What's more, the most I do in regards to classes is think, “one of these days I'll take that film making cram session.” Yet I never quite get there. And last but not least, I've been doing the online dating scene for the last few years. One question I keep hearing is:

Lizzy Borden: “What do you do for fun?”
Dale: “Landscaping, remodeling, fixing stuff, ...”
Lizzy Borden: “No Badminton? No dancing? No axe for 40 whacks?”
Dale: “Ummm, well, umm, ya see, umm...”
Lizzy Borden: “Thanks but no thanks. Call me when you have a life.”

Seems I've lost the meaning of that three letter word somewhere along the way. Come to think of it, I've lost the meaning of two key “three letter words” for that matter. :)) I'm a zombie. Neither dead nor alive, rather stale and stagnant. Looks like its' time for me to say “Damn you excessive behaviors! You're not going to rule me!” Time to face those fears, kick complacency out into the street and chase it to the nearest night class. Because when the end comes, does anyone truly want to face it as a zombie? Time for me to consult my Speak-And-Spell oracle for words of advice and it better not be any of that “Dial M for...” otherwise it's time for some reprogramming. :))