Category Archives: Humor

Driving the Dream

There aren’t many things that are more satisfying than making the final payment on a car note. The last car I bought was a 2009 Ford Escape and I made sure to pay a little more than the scheduled payment each month so it would be paid off as quickly as possible. When I issued that final payment in 2013, I was ecstatic. No more car note! The car was still new enough that maintenance wasn’t an issue. No need to keep a tool box in the trunk just in case the car broke down. I have had cars where that was a requirement. I remember spending a scorching afternoon on the side of the road swapping out an alternator in a 1994 Chevy Corsica while my girlfriend sat on the curb and that toolbox got a workout. As I have gotten older, I appreciate not having to do my own mechanic work on my vehicles, so it was a relief to have a car I owned free and clear that didn’t need a toolbox. Well, I managed to make it three years with no car note, but circumstances dictated it was time to get a new car, no matter how badly I didn’t want to have to pay for one.

Of course, there is no way—in the strictest sense of the word legal—to obtain a new car without paying for it, so I had to consider if I wanted to go cheap and buy a used car or commit to a payment schedule demanded of a new car. New, or used: that was the question, and it was a question to which I didn’t like the answer. Sure I could buy some beater vehicle. I could pull some money out of savings and own the vehicle free and clear without getting under a payment schedule. But then, I would probably have to start toting a toolbox around again. I hated that option. It’s not that I can’t do the work; I just don’t want to. I looked through Craig’s List and a few other websites at the vehicles listed and the one’s that looked more mechanically trustworthy were almost as expensive as a new car. Unfortunately, the only ones I was willing to pay for looked like they would need a toolbox insurance policy.

I had a conversation last night with a friend of mine about do-it-yourself work after he had spent the afternoon repairing a water pipe feeding his house. He takes great pride in that he saved so much money by not having a plumber come out to fix it. I have done plenty of do-it-yourself jobs over the years. Most recently, I fixed my air conditioner. I can do most mechanical or electrical work if needs be, but, as I said, at my age, it is more satisfying to have someone else do it, particularly if that work is under warrantee. If someone else fixes it and it breaks, it doesn’t cost any more to fix it again. Warrantees are wonderful things like that. Know what comes with a warrantee? A new car!

So, I decided to go the route of a new car, even though it meant a car note. Now the question becomes one of “which car” as I looked through the dealer’s websites. Now, before I go into how I picked my car, let me say this: I was doing this car shopping right after my marriage broke up, so I was not in the best frame of mind to make a decision that comes with a huge financial commitment. Remember how, in high school, they told you never to go to the grocery store hungry? If you did, you’d buy all this food you didn’t need and pay a lot more than you should have. Right? Well, let me add this: Never buy a car when you’re emotionally compromised.

I am a practical person. I buy practical vehicles. I have had two SUVs, a sedan, and a station wagon. The sportiest vehicle I have ever bought was a 1994 Dodge Shadow and technically, that was my wife’s car as I was driving it’s more practical sister, the Plymouth Sundance. Even my motorcycle is a cruiser instead of a sport bike. I am not a “sporty” guy. But inside of each of us is that hidden, secret, sporty streak. We look at Camaros and Corvettes and Chargers and Challengers and wish we could have one. Since I am not a big fan of GM or Dodge, I like Ford. So my secret wish was the one sports car that has been in constant production since its inception in 1964—the year of my birth—the one car that is as old as I am: the Mustang.

In 1984, I was home on leave from the Army and I wondered into Frontier Ford in Humble. Now, as a private in the Army I had no money to buy any car, much less a sports car. But the salesman took a look at me in my uniform and walked me right up to the convertible Boss Mustang sitting front and center on the showroom floor and with a big sweep of his arm, opened the door and told me to sit in it and give it a try. Now, even though I knew there was no way I was going home with this dream machine, I sat in it. I didn’t even say no when he asked if I wanted to test drive it. He opened the big doors of the showroom, drove it out to the lot and offered me the driver’s seat. What would you do? Of course, I took it! I drove that baby up and down the freeway at speeds that I can’t confess to so I am not admitting to any crime. I had a ball, but I knew it was only going to be that one time. I would not be able to own such a fine machine.

It’s funny how at times when your emotions are all in flux, frustrations from years ago percolate up and get mixed up in your decision making process. There, as I was looking through the available cars on my computer screen, was a cherry 2016 convertible Mustang calling to me. It was as if my 1984 self was being given a second chance. I had already looked at the Fusion and the Escape and the Explorer, and the rational, reasoning part of my brain knew I was going to test drive those more practical options, but I wrote down the VIN number for the Mustang just to see it. Perhaps I would test drive it and relive the memory of my last drive.

The next day my friend came over and ferried me to the lot. That was how sure I was going to be driving home in a new car, I didn’t even ride my bike so I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get it home. We started walking the lot, heading straight for the Fusions. As we walked along, I saw a pretty Explorer that I hadn’t seen on the website, So I made a mental note to look at it later. Before we found the Fusion, however, I saw her.

Ruby Red is what Ford calls it, but any Arkansas fan knows it as Razorback red. The sun was glimmering off its finish as she sat on the line, with her nose sticking out just enough to make her stand out. It was as though she was calling to me. She was the puppy in the window that dances against the glass while all the other puppies play in the back of the pen. I was just staring at her when the salesman came up. I think he saw the look on my face because we kept coming back around to the Mustang.

Now, I did test drive the Fusion and the Explorer, but I also tested the Mustang—with the top down, of course. The rational, reasonable part of my brain was arguing for the Fusion. It was making cogent, logical points. It won the argument on its merits, but lost it in the end. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the Boss 5.0 V-8 engine, but that was another ten grand. I just couldn’t do that. My rational and reasonable brain won that argument. Despite the fact that the Mustang was out of my budget, didn’t have a back seat to speak of, and was a bit difficult to get into and out of, several hours later I was signing the contract.

Now I am on the hook for 60 months of loan payments and insurance payments. I still am bummed about having to get under a car note again, but my Mustang is fun to drive, when I drive her. I still ride my bike to commute to work because the gas mileage is better and I get to ride in the managed lanes which saves time. But on the weekends and rainy days, I get to drive my Sally. Yes, Mustang Sally. Sue me. And on nice days, you know the top is down. My youngest son calls it my “mid-life crisis” car. I’ll own that. I am 52 and single, after all. What better excuse does one need to live out a dream and buy the car he’s always wanted?

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Into the Swarm

Last night’s exercise was originally scheduled to be swimming and walking, but with the rains we’ve endured this past week, circumstances differed…in more ways than one. I already wrote about catching the drizzle between cloud bursts of the storm on Tuesday, but the storm raged all day yesterday, making the regularly scheduled bike ride ill advised. It rained a little today as well, but fortunately, it stopped in time to do some kind of exercise, so my son and I decided to ride bikes rather than swim. One other effect of all the rain was an increase in a certain insect population.

For our ride, my son and I cranked out to what I think is a good cruising speed. My speedometer called it about 14 Mph, though my phone insists that it is 12.7 to 13. Either way, that is a good speed to maintain for 10 miles, which I have set as a daily target. Since DJ’s bike is not a road bike, he has to work a little harder to keep pace. We were riding along and the phone announced that we had just hit the six mile mark when it hit me.

I was peddling along when the first one entered my mouth. Now the phrase, “keep your trap shut” takes on a whole new meaning when you are spitting and hacking up some poor unfortunate flying creature before you gag. I remember Mr. Miyagi admonishing young Daniel-san “breathe in through the nose, out the mouth. These are words to live by when riding a bicycle at 14 miles an hour (OK, ok maybe 12.7 but still). And this one was while I was still in the neighborhood. Once we entered the park with the detention pond, things got real.

It was dark as we started along the recently paved path. New park benches, recently mounted to the paved pads, were still wrapped in wet paint tape, but just barely visible in the twilight. The attack squadrons of mosquitoes were lined up and ready to start their offensive to reclaim the park from the human interlopers who invaded their wetlands to do nothing more than spend their time running in circles. The first wave hit rather timidly, as if feeling out our defenses. The impacts on my arms and face were not much more than nuisances, easily ignored. But once we finished the first loop, we started on the second. This wave was much more aggressive and must have had some kamikaze bugs. These insects were not simple little mosquitoes. No, these bugs had heft to them. When they hit, I felt it. They almost knocked me off the bike when one hit my square in the forehead. This was no easy feat as I was wearing a bike helmet so the bug had to pilot his way past my visor in order to hit his target.

Despite being outnumbered a million to two, we rode on, knowing our goal was still within reach. Thousands of bugs gave their life in their futile assault. I think the bug high command realized their plan was failing so they regrouped. They took a couple of their best pilots and had them swarm us at the end of the loop where they dove straight for our eyes. One hit me right in the tear duct and stuck there like an unexploded bomb. When I reached up to wipe it away, some of it got into my eye almost making me fall off the bike. I was lucky that I managed to unclip my shoe from the pedal to keep myself upright while I tried to clear my vision and deal with the sting. My son had a similar experience at the same time. Once we got back into the neighborhood, the attack was over. We only had to deal with a few pockets of resistance fighters.

I felt so many bugs’ impact, I would not have been surprised if I looked like the front end of a car after driving through the Atchafalaya swamp during love bug season when I got home. I had to shower just to get the feeling of all those bugs off of me.

Thankfully, tonight is not bike night. I plan on swimming my 10 laps and walking my 10,000 steps and calling it a day. Hopefully by my ride Saturday morning, the bugs will have abandoned their plan to retake the park and they can just live their little bug lives and let us live ours. Even so, I do plan on keeping my trap shut when I ride from now on.

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Pacing the Storm

The rain was falling not particularly hard and the wind was not blowing as I walked. There was no thunder or lightning or anything usually associated with a storm, particularly a storm that had been dumping rain on the city all day. The rain had ostensibly started Sunday night, cancelling our planned walk that night and the storm continued through Monday and Tuesday, similarly cancelling exercise plans again. I had not missed three days of walking since I began this quest, and I was not about to do it now, so when the rain seemed to stop, I laced up my walking shoes and hit the street.

I made almost two-thirds of the way when the drizzle started back up. I was walking at a brisk pace, figuring I would not have much time before the storm resumed, and trying to get home before I got soaked. As I stepped, I remembered a time when I was trying to beat another walking deadline.081716_0200_1.png

“I’m Delirious!” My partner hollered as we marched along on that warm summer day in 1986. We were in Germany, Bad Kreuznach, if memory serves, doing a 12-mile force march as part of the Expert Field Medical Badge test. We both were wearing battle-dress uniform (BDU) with Kevlar helmets and load-bearing equipment (LBE) and carrying a fully loaded ruck sack and trying to make it back to the testing site before the timer expired. We were not in bad shape, the Army was nothing if not all about keeping soldiers in shape, but I was not particularly speedy in my marching.

I knew many of my compatriots were going to try to beat the record and they took off at a dead run when the march began, each hoping to be the one to get the fastest time. I had a different strategy: just finish in time. Kind of like that joke that goes “what do you call a man who passes his medical boards with the lowest passing score? Doctor.” Well, as long as I crossed the finish line before the timer counted down to zero from three hours, I was golden.

In order to facilitate the march, the testing site employed pace setters to march along the route. They had marched the route before and knew just how fast to go to make it in three hours. As long as I stayed in front of them, I knew I would make the time requirement. Easy peasy.

“I’m Delirious,” I answered. We had been repeating this to each other since the half-way point as a way to rally our strength. It had been just over two hours into our march when the load on our backs began to take its toll. Since we started out at a measured pace, we paced many of the younger medics who had started out running, but then ran out of steam. I understand several had to be carried to the aid station having exhausted themselves trying to run.

The test was designed to be taxing. A 100-question written exam started the week-long process which also included marksmanship testing, a litter obstacle course, land navigation (day and night), nuclear-biological-chemical safety testing (Gas masks and MOPP suits), combat medical scenario lanes and, of course, the 12-mile force march. I was doing rather well in the test so far. I had passed the written test, the NBC test, land navigation and the marksmanship test. All that was left was the lanes and the march (I think anyway, it was more than 25 years ago). They call it the Expert Field Medical Badge for a reason. They don’t just give the award away. It was worth a boatload of points come the promotion boards, so you really had to earn it.

So as we marched, the weight of the rucks dug into our already tired shoulders, sinking into our weary bodies. We had to reach deep down to pull out the reserves to finish this test. We had started the march talking between ourselves, but by this time, we were saving our strength. Even chit chat was exhausting.

“I’m delirious!” he hollered again. I was about to echo his call when I saw them. The pace setters were coming up from behind us. If we let them pass, that meant we were not going to cross the finish line in time.

“Be delirious in front of them,” I countered thumbing over my shoulder.

We redoubled our efforts to stay in front for the last couple of miles. I saw the finish line ahead of us as we rounded a curve. There on a table to one side of the path was a large digital clock counting down the time. It read just a few minutes left, but those minutes seemed like seconds as we stepped up our pace and the finish line never seemed to get any closer.

We almost broke into a jog for the last couple of hundred feet as the seconds ticked off. The pace setters were still behind us, but it didn’t matter. The final reading of zero was already glowing at me as my foot crossed the line. We were less than one second too late. So were the pace setters, but then they were not competing for the badge. Even though we had outrun the pacesetters, we had not outrun the clock.

I never did go back to take the test again, so I finished my Army career never having earned that badge. It is one of the regrets I carry from my military days, but I have many more positive memories and experiences that the Army instilled in me, such as always finish what you start. Charlie Mike: Complete the Mission.

So tonight as I walked home with the drizzle incessantly dripping on me, never really amounting to a rain, I walked myself along the path getting slowly more and more soaked. Of course, it doesn’t matter if it never really rained. I didn’t outrun the storm. I got wet just the same. Some things you just can’t outrun.

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These Shoes Aren’t Meant for Walking

The other day I wrote about going for walks through my neighborhood. I didn’t mention the fact that my footwear was not up to the pace I was walking. When I first started walking, I kept a moderate pace trying to work up to a more exerting stride. The sandals I wore were fine for the slower speed. Sandals are all about easy going. These are not Spartan combat sandals, mind you, so a leisurely pace fit them perfectly. When I kicked up the pace, I started rubbing a blister right on the ball of my foot. I figured I needed better footwear if I was going to keep up the workout, so I looked for my running shoes. No, I’m not ready to start running again. Maybe soon, but not today. Not this week. Maybe not even this month. But the shoes would do good for a brisk walk. If I could find them. Which I couldn’t.

Converse All-Stars Image courtesy Converse

I did find my Chucks.

Now, my Converse All-Star high top sneakers, commonly referred to as “Chucks” are supposedly good sneakers for general wear. When I was a kid, they were all the rage. All of my “friends” (not really friends, but basically any kids whose parents sprung for them) wore Converse All-Stars. The trademark circle on the ankle, the checkerboard sole tread, the canvass construction were all needed to be included in the “in crowd,” the click, the cool kids. Oh, how I wanted them. I wore Keds. Plain old Keds. My mom loved shopping at Sears, and Sears sold Keds. I wore them for school, for play and pretty much everything except church. At school, I was ostracized for my fashion faux-pax. Keds were what children wore, not the cool kids. I seem to remember mom breaking down and buying me a pair of Converse sneakers once, but not the high tops with the circle on the ankle, but the regular low profile sneakers. No those wouldn’t do. I don’t remember wearing them; at least not with any satisfaction.

Fast forward some forty years. My son and daughter in law are over celebrating my (mumble mumble) birthday. After the obligatory cake and singing of the song, I read the birthday cards everyone brought. Then I picked my way through the gifts. I opened the gift they brought and inside the bag there was a pair of black Converse All-Star high tops. Just like I had always wanted. I was happy. I was thrilled. I was excited. And then I tried them on.

It had been a long time since I wore proper sneakers. Perhaps I forgot what they felt like. When I was in the Army, our PT gear consisted of running shoes, not sneakers. Running shoes support the whole foot, at least good shoes do. Arch support, ankle support, cushioned insoles all make for a comfortable platform for running. These Converse shoes offer none of that. I tried them on and I was surprised by the level of difficulty in just pulling them on. Once I had my foot in them, it felt like I was wearing a sock with a cardboard sole. It had no arch or ankle support and no cushioned insole. Well, since I knew my sandals would not work, I thought perhaps these would do better. I was wrong. These shoes are not meant for walking.

I almost turned around twice to get them off my feet. Only my sense of duty, my refusal to surrender kept my feet moving. I got my 10,000 steps in and very happily removed the Chucks from my whimpering feet. Fortunately, while I was walking, between the crying of my feet, I remembered where my running shoes were, so for tonight’s constitutional, I will be in proper footwear. It will be good to wear some shoes that are meant for walking.

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Evening Constitutional

I have intentionally been avoiding posting a blog lately because of significant changes in my life that I do not yet feel like exploring in a public forum, but still color everything I try to write. Suffice to say that in order to write about my life, such a significant event would naturally be a subject to discussion. I am convinced, however, that no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how devastating any one event may be, life continues, goes on, keeps rolling, whatever. So with that said, I can say that nothing of significance has happened lately. Other than that one thing I’m not talking about.

Pretty flower on my walk

So I went for a walk.

I have decided to try and achieve my step count goals as determined by my smart watch. It is set by default to 10,000 steps a day as a goal for fitness. In the past, I have averaged between 3500 and 6000 steps on a good day, and about 1000 to 1500 on weekends, where I tend to perch in my recliner and let the rocking motion tick away as the closest approximation to stepping. It does count them. I checked. I get a couple of hundred steps that way on the weekend. I figure I can rock myself to fitness without having to get my heart rate up. As long as I don’t have a heart attack first.

Anyway, I go for walks every evening now. I have tried in the past to make it a habit, but I found it difficult to garner any support to help gain any traction in this endeavor, but now those impediments are gone and the only excuse I have for not walking is me. That’s not a good enough excuse, so I have been walking. And walking. And walking. My goal is to go ride my bicycle for ten to fifteen miles a day, but I have a couple of years of lethargic tonnage to eliminate before I can mount my bike again, so I walk. It’s a good brisk walk, though, to get my heart rate up, since my trusty fitness app tells me my resting heart rate is too high. With any luck, I’ll be back to fighting trim in no time. No time being defined as sometime this century—before I get planted in the ground.

What I need, though, is a more picturesque walking path. Walking past houses in the neighborhood can afford some interesting things to see: you notice when someone gets a new car, or when they get their landscaping done, or perhaps an upgrade to the house. You get to meet those garage dwellers who, for some reason, prefer to lounge in the garage and watch TV rather than in the comfort of their air conditioned houses. They usually are good for a wave and the greeting of the day. I often meet people mowing their lawns, which should prompt me to mow mine, but for some reason it doesn’t. I usually tell these people that my house is right around the corner when they get done with their lawn and they want to mow more. Similarly, some are either washing their vehicles or performing some kind of maintenance on them. It is odd to see some of these houses with four or more cars in their driveway; so many vehicles that they block the sidewalk, forcing me to veer into the street to get around them. How many people live in these little 1500 square foot houses that they need so many vehicles?

One of the more intriguing questions that pop into my head is the edging of the sidewalks and driveways. Some people run an edger or weed eater along the edge of the concrete to keep the grass clear of the walking path. Some people, however, dig a trench along the concrete five miles wide and 300 fathoms deep. It’s like they are constructing a mote to protect their property from invaders or something. I walk along a nicely edged grass line and stumble into a gaping maw of a pit that runs the entire property line. I sometimes think I hear hikers calling for help from down below having fallen into the chasm. Of course, the flipside is the yards that have never seen an edger. The St. Augustine runners have crept out and almost joined forces from both sides of the concrete in an attempt to reclaim the sidewalk for nature.

It occurred to me last night that someone who walks the neighborhood every night might be a good witness in the event something bad happens. The neighbors could tell an investigator “No, sir, Mr. Policeman, I didn’t see anything. But ask Dave. He walks past here every day at this time. He’s sure to have seen something.”

Not that I would really be a good witness. I tend to forget things as soon as I process and categorize them. I tried to think of something I had seen the day before and nothing stood out. I mean I recognize landmarks, like the powder blue Mercury Mariner. I remember that only because it is a very unusual shade for an SUV. I remember the 2015 Mustang V8 Convertible 5.0, which I remember because I want one and this one disappoints me because it’s black and not red. So unless it has to do with an unusual colored car, I doubt I would recall anything of note. I can’t even remember my neighbor’s names, much less the people two blocks over.

I do see some unusual things though. I watched a bird beat the crap out of a cat last night. It would sweep down and peck the cat on the head from behind and disappear before the cat knew what hit him. I see some yards that are meticulously groomed with beautiful foliage and interesting blooms. I also see some yards that look like a tropical rain forest, with foliage so deep and thick, it’s difficult to tell if there is a house behind it or not. I swear I heard King Kong’s roar behind those shaking palms.

After several weeks of walking the route, I’m getting kind of bored with the same old sights. I need a new walking path with new views, like one with mountain vistas, rolling hills, pastoral fields and serene lakes. These walks help me burn calories, so hopefully I might lose weight, but they also give me something to take my mind off my problems. Of course, once I get going, I tend to go on autopilot, which gives my mind time to think about that which I would rather not. I do my best to try to direct my thinking toward more pleasant thoughts. I try to formulate plot ideas for my novels, develop new characters, and think about blog ideas. This gives my mind something to do. The downside of this is that, if I witness a crime, I may not be able to recall any details.

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The Right Tool for the Job

Pick one thing and be the best at it. I’ve heard that mantra my whole life. For a Jack-of-all trades guy like myself, this idea is somewhat foreign. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that it is important to be good at many different things; to have plenty of tools in the toolbox, as it were. This weekend, however, I figured out what one thing I am best at: procrastination.

When I bought the house, I had great plans for a woodshop in the garage. My Uncle Harris had one, my granddad had one and I wanted one. Never mind that my knowledge of wood working was fundamental at best, honed to a dull edge in middle school shop class. At least I learned how to use the tools of a wood shop. Being the Jack-of-all-trades guy that I am, I knew I could build a workshop and I could make any number of creations. I had dreams of building a crib for my grandkids (the youngest is 9 years past crib age now), a book stand, book cases and storage solutions for my wife’s craft center. All I needed was to finish the workstation that would serve as a router table, a table saw guide and a stand for a scroll saw. I had it envisioned, I had it planned, and all I had to do was build it. If you build it, it will work…or something like that. Right?

Anyway, I bought the tools I would need: a combo router, a scroll saw, a table saw, a circular saw, several clamps and a few other tools that any respectable wood shop needs. I bought lumber. I bought hardware. I bought a shop vac. I have even used these tools from time to time. I was well on my way to having that dream workshop, but there was one thing that kept me from realizing my dream. Well, several things to be honest, but I blame it all on this one: The Heat. I live in Texas and in the summer, my garage gets unbearably hot. Even in the winter, it can get uncomfortable out there. If only I lived in a more temperate clime. I kept putting off finishing the project because of the heat (and TV, and vacations, and a good book, and homework, and…well you get the idea).

I started on that book stand several years ago, but I needed a router table to do the kind of joinery I wanted for it. Being someone who often shoots too high, I wanted to build the router table myself so it would do all the things I envisioned. I started that project, but it ran aground in the heat so both projects languished on my work bench all these years. There they sat, buried under tools and materials so deep that archaeologists could define the time by counting the layers. Then, as if out of nowhere, my wife foiled my procrastination plans.

She gave me a honey do! The true enemy of the procrastinator. Only the elite of the elite procrastinators can withstand the withering gaze of a wife with a honey do.

Michelle has been wanting to do more improvements to the bathrooms since we changed the flooring last year. New faucets, new light fixtures and new toilet paper holders were straightforward projects, but she also wanted to update the mirrors. Since the sheet glass mirror was glued to the wall, Michelle thought that if we (read I) were to frame the mirror it would make it look so much better.

My new router table on top of my unfinished homemade router table.

My new router table on top of my unfinished homemade router table.

This meant, of course, buying molding and cutting it to fit the glass. In order to get the look I wanted, it meant cutting the wood to wrap around the edge of the glass. This meant the tools I needed were my router and router table. Since I knew finishing the router table would take too long and take more money, I just bit the bullet and bought a Craftsman router table and set it atop the table I had been building. It worked. I trimmed the wood I needed to trim. Of course, by that I mean that it only took trimming four of the four corner pieces before I mastered the technique. I get good at it just when I don’t need to do it anymore. Anyway, the mirror project is almost done, only needing the lengths of the molding to be cut and the pieces glued to the mirror. The cutting job really needs a chop saw, rather than the table saw I currently have. Maybe I should go get a nice chop saw to round out my woodshop.

A good procrastinator can put things off indefinitely; an elite procrastinator can go forever doing nothing. I have put many things off, especially things I have no interest in doing. I do have many interests though. This is my procrastination’s undoing; getting me interested in new tools. Lure me from my recliner with the promise of a new router table or a new chop saw and I’m working on projects. At least until I get tired of the heat again. OK, so maybe I’m not the best at procrastination, but I am pretty darn good at it.

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Passing Notes

The webinar was projecting on the screen as our team huddled around the conference table listening to the latest golden nugget of wisdom from the corporate office. We all consider ourselves professionals and as professionals, we take notes about corporate nuggets of wisdom. Of the ten of us, I had my Microsoft Surface, the guy next to me had his iPad 2, the guy next to him had a galaxy Note 3 stylus in his hand and the phablet on the table in front of him, and the woman next to him was tapping away on her iPhone 6. In fact, everyone had some technology in front of them save one: Our director. She had her lined, bound notebook open to a blank page and her pen at the ready, tapping a syncopated rhythm on the page.

In her office, she has filled shelves with these notebooks. I think she owns stock in the company that makes them. She always has one with her and if I stop by her office, be it for a request, or a status update, or to solve some problem (even if I am—gulp—summoned) she has the book open and the pen at the ready. I’ve never seen someone so diligent about taking notes.

I’ve never been good at note taking.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I do take notes about things. I have a degree after all, and you don’t get one of those without taking a note or two. It’s just that my handwriting leaves something to be desired and even I can’t read it when I write in a hurry. I wrote a blog about this a few years ago and I haven’t improved any since then. My problem—well one of the many—is that penmanship aside, one has to actually go back and read the notes one writes in order for them to be of any good. I kept a note pad in my days in the Army to document all sorts of things. The only time it came out of my pocket was when I was writing in it. I never really went back and read the thing. I even had a Day-Runner in Army cammo to try to keep myself on track.

Reading my notes remained a problem for me in college until technology caught up with me. Some brilliant individual created an electronic note pad. Not only that, it was also a calendar and an address book. It was essentially an electronic Day Runner. Many will remember the Palm Pilot, a ubiquitous accessory for the corporate yuppie in the nineties. What made it work for me was that it beeped reminders. Oh, happy day! No more missing appointments. No more missing meetings. No more missing assignments. Well, no more excuses for missing assignments, meetings and appointments anyway.

Now I have this Microsoft Surface, which I admit I use more as a laptop replacement than as a tablet, and I have the Note 3 phablet. Both have a stylus—that little device that acts like a pen allowing one to write on an electronic tablet. I rarely use either stylus for the same reason I don’t use a paper notebook. Even Microsoft’s engineers, as brilliant as they are, can’t write code that can make any sense out of my chicken scratch.

So in the meeting, I had my Surface attached to its clicky little keyboard all ready to take notes. We progressed through the webinar and my mind (as I’m sure many others have done) began to wander. I looked around the room and I noticed something: all these note-taking devices were sitting idle. No one was taking notes. It wasn’t because the presentation was particularly riveting either. Some were watching the screen, some were fiddling, some looked thoughtful in that distracted-but-I-want-to-look-interested kind of way. Not one of them was writing or typing.

Except one person.

She was scribbling away like she always does. I’m sure she filled up another one of those bound volumes that line her bookcases. In my defense, the nugget of wisdom was accompanied by a Powerpoint deck that had all the notes we would need, so no need to retype it all. I wouldn’t read it anyway.

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