Friday, September 30, 2011

Just a Bucket List Revisited

Before I get to the point of discussing the status of my little bucket list, something needs to be mentioned about my ventures into the world of online social media. For a few days this week a good friend came to visit. While it was brief, the discussions we had were good. No, not good, they were deep, involved, complex and sublimely enjoyable.

This visit was good for the both of us on many levels. I discovered I am not necessarily bad at verbal communications, I just find it more difficult than having on-line relationships on places like Facebook. Sometimes the right thing isn't easy and the things that are easy aren't necessarily right. So, for a while, Facebook will only be a 'once in a while' thing.

And, for me, the ease of verbal communication is directly related to some property of the other party. That property may never be identified or quantified. Maybe it shouldn't be.

Bucket list... We also discussed our bucket lists and something surprising was discovered... I am scared of it. The individual items aren't frightening, and the fact it is directly related to my mortality doesn't phase me in the least.

What is frightening about my list? That at this point, the only thing between these undone items and accomplishing these things is myself.

On one side of the fence is the bucket list. On the other is myself and standing right there on the fence is a second instance of myself with a flame thrower in one hand and flipping me off with the other.

That's it. Just me, and for some reason that scares the hell out of me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On the bucket list... But first a story.

Over the past few days there has been some internal need to review and revise my bucket list. However, that will be for my next post.

Last night was a long one; "Roll Out Friday" as we call it. The maintenance schedule for our main piece of software only allows for downtime on Fridays from 3AM to 6AM. And this was not a typical maintenance release. Three new modules were planned for integration as well as the typical bug fixes.

So, the entirety of this week has been preparation for this little event. Since one of these new modules was mine, by default, I get to help roll it out.

Two nights ago I only had enough time for about 5 hours of sleep, what with bug fixes, testing, administrata, interfacing with users and taking care of some personal things... like baking cookies for my daughter. :-)

Tired... Over tired. Needless to say, four hours of sleep in the last 34 hours does not play well with introspection.

So, I have a lot of stories, do I? OK, here is one of petty theft back in 1998 or so. The statute of limitations on this is likely expired and there is no telling where these people are at this point... So here goes.

A new Star Wars movie had just come out and, as many techie people are, our computer techs and network engineers were fans. Not just fans, but fans with a slightly deviant thread running through them.

A plan was hatched. Several went to the opening of the newest Star Wars movie at a local casino theater where they saw several life-sized cutouts. In their minds, having a Dark Sith Lord watch over them at staff meetings would be comforting... somehow.

With the quiet lack of non-approval from the VP and director (they both were fans as well), several engineers dressed up in matching, official looking attire, drove to the casino, walked in and without a word from security, took the cutouts.

And so, for the remainder of the year we had a life sized Dark Sith Lord in one corner of our meeting room and Darth Vader in another. I remember the first time I saw them. It was about 6AM when I walked into the black dark room and turned on the lights. Interestingly enough this didn't startle me a bit; it had happened before. But, that's another story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The enemy of my enemy is my friend...

Maybe not so much.*

A friend of mine once told a woman I dated briefly that '...he is full of stories. Just ask him.' Well, I suppose I am. The curious thing is that they are for the most part true.

So, last night after making enough cookies to give the Cookie Monster a stomach ache, it was time to step outside a bit, relax and finish my glass of wine. And for those of you wondering, yes, merlot does indeed go well with sugar cookies. :-)

At any rate, the weather was quite enjoyable and at ten PM, most things are settling down in the neighborhood. A fellow I have seen around here wanders up and introduces himself; we start chatting about how the local area is going down hill and the new vandalism taking place and the increase in drug activity.

I was honestly starting to like this person. Was...

Then the light veil, if one even existed, slightly dropped to reveal a certain something about this initially likeable person. While we both shared a common interest with regard to the neighborhood, his idea of a good neighborhood, as it turned out, is a bit... culturaly monolithic.

The epitaphs he used are in no way welcome here; just know that after he started revealing this certain attitude, the only civilized action available was to excuse myself.

I do not tollerate child abuse, domestic violence, selling drugs to kids and racism... period. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend?" Not necessarily.

*Not sure where I read the entire quote, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Maybe not so much.'

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ratrace-0 ** Razor-1

It realy feels like an addiction in a way; not unlike putting down the pack and not lighting up.

I know the enemy, and he is somewhere inside... wanting to buy stuff. And he is tricky too, just like the nicotine monster.

"Just a little."

"Just this once."

"It won't hurt a thing if you just make it quick."

Sitting here at home, working away this afternoon, the mental list of things to do after work started growing and growing. At its genesis was a simple task; ride to the post office and change my address. Then a simple list of items I needed from the grocery store - just a few things like sugar and zip-lock baggies and some fresh fruit.

Then things started going a little sideways.

For some reason I started thinking about the Knights Templar and how I would like to read more on them. OK, $30 for a book from Barnes and Noble. I can do that.

Then my mind wandered to the bare walls. Last weekend I unearthed my old flying charts.

Hmmm... Maybe I will take this Las Vegas Terminal Area Chart to the little framing place down the street and see how much it would cost for them to flatten the creases and place it in a frame. That would look nifty.

Oh, and a bike! How about stopping by the bike shop. You need more exercise, you know.

You haven't had beer in a week, why not stop and get a bottle or two of microbrews?

That's where I pulled the reins.

What do I need? I need to minimize. This is not minimizing - this is an attempt to justify wants. I don't need a book on the Knights Templar; there is plenty to read in this place. While a Las Vegas TAC would indeed look very nice hanging on the wall, it is not a need. Yes, exercise would definitely be a good thing, but why spend $100 or more on a bike when I can just focus on my hiking while adding a bit of cardio? And the beer? OK, maybe not a need, but it does rank up there in the wants.

What do I need? I need to enjoy the things I have and the people I know.

Tonight... Baking cookies with a little glass of wine, accompanied by music from the stereo I picked up at a garage sale several years back.

You need wine, cookies and some good conversation? Get yer butt over here. :-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Little Sunday Night Comedy

OK, so it's a little programmer, engineer, Dilbert-esqu but always make me smile a little.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Minimizing Challenge - Success!

--With a drop of pragmatism thrown in for good measure.

This morning I received a gift rare in today's world. After gathering the necessary items, including an interesting book by J. D. Salinger to help wile away the necessary down time, I strapped it all onto the back of my bike and headed to the DMV. My tasks were simple; return the license plates from my truck and Suzuki project bike, and change my address.

A few words about my project are in order. In my garage are quite a few things that are honestly not needed - things like a mattress that is nearly as comfortable as sleeping on a mostly uninflated air mattress on sharp rocks, a washer/dryer pair that would likely require the assistance of a small crane to lift them up to my apartment and four motorcycles, none of which run well, if at all. Three of those are my project bikes. One frame is already spoken for and will soon be making its way to Washington State. The other two nearly intact but not running motorcycles will likely be sold soon.

There is a reason for this. While I do indeed enjoy working on them and generally tinkering in the garage, I want to ride. Now, I have the time and the opportunity and certainly the desire. There is no need to have them sitting there in my garage, taking up space and hanging out in my mental swap file. So, one was registered last year when it was actually running and the plate needed to go back so I could drop its insurance. Should have done that months ago.

At any rate, a trip to the Nevada DMV was in order.

I pull up to the building and immediately wonder, 'Is this a holiday? There are at most two dozen cars and a few bikes here.'

After parking next to a very nice looking Goldwing trike, de-helmiting my head and gathering my things, I walked into the building. My jaw dropped.

The only line in the entire building was for the practical driving tests!

Walking up to the initial desk where number slips are issued, and telling the lady what I needed to do, she handed me a number and said, "Wait for it...."

"G 231 to desk 5 please!"

Um... I didn't need to wait? At all???

Not 10 minutes later, not only were the plates returned and my address changed, but my license was renewed!

So, what to do!?!?!

Little extra cash and all morning just for me. First and foremost... a trip to Leather Headquarters to buy a pair of nice lounge shirts. Taking a woman out for a nice meal may indeed require something a little more formal than a black biker t-shirt.

Then the mind started spinning... not a good thing.

'OOoo!!! A new camera!'
'A travel bag!'
'New gloves!!!'

Luckily some new minimalistic rule in my brain fired off, 'What, are you nuts? You already have a camera, you once rode to North Carolina with nothing more than two backpacks and a duffel bag and don't start about your gloves, they are fine!'

I did end up spending a bit of money that was unexpected but pragmatically, it was the right thing to do. Maybe that will be the subject of my next post.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be Careful What Ya Throw Out!

So minimizing and simplifying has it's logistics side too.

I have been holding off on selling my truck until after the move. Sure, the new apartment is only about 100 yards from the old one, just try moving any distance with only a motorcycle. Not a pretty picture unless everything can fit in the saddle bags.

So, late last evening I cut a deal. It wasn't necessarily as much as I wanted, however, given the issues it had, the offer was acceptable. Title was signed over; plates removed; key handed over; handshake; and it was gone for good. On the plus side, no more insurance, no more registration costs, and being that it was a high mileage vehicle, no soon to be necessary repair bills. On the down side, if something doesn't fit on the bike, I don't haul it, no more option of what to take somewhere and if my bike breaks down, the bus is the only option for transportation until she is repaired.

So, late last night one of my daughter's friends messages me. In my garage are some things of hers that she wants. No problem. We set a time for this weekend that I will bring them. Laying down, just about asleep, eyes pop open and the word 'crap' distinctly comes out of my mouth. I downsized without thinking, and I knew about her stuff and now have no way to get it to her.

Maybe its the same with all this extra stuff we want to get rid of; all the clutter. There may indeed be other things that we don't want to get rid of that rely on this clutter, or rather the existence of the clutter.

About 35 years ago my Dad taught me how to remove a rotted wooden fence post from a stack of good ones. Give it a few taps and see what moves. Just continue with with little taps and maybe a pull this way and that, watching the pile for movement. If other posts start to move, adjust the pile or maybe tap a good post in the rotten post's place. If you aren't careful, the whole pile could come down on you. When you are done, the rotten post will be out and the pile will be just as strong as before.

Got clutter, baggage or junk that you don't want? Remove it with determination and care or the whole pile might just come down.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going With the Flow

A lone car broke the brief palpable silence, but it was enough. Living in Las Vegas with its go-go-go nonstop, break-neck speed just doesn't play well with my psyche. That palpable silence is a strong fragment of memory from my childhood years on the farm. There, in the middle of a light winter snow, there was a peaceful, palpable silence. It was heavy but not oppressive; somewhat like a heavy blanket you pull up under your chin; comforting.

Tonight the move is complete and a brief ride was in order. My friend suggested it first; that I go on a little ride. While something longer would likely be more recharging and enjoyable, a night time ride to the Lake Mead Rec Area entry gates would suffice.

It isn't far and the round trip is less than 20 miles. The air was refreshingly cool and traffic minimal as lightning danced in the mountains to the east. That is where I wanted to go. I wanted to dance with the lightning.

Coming over the pass, leaving Las Vegas and its incessant din behind, the storm on the Nevada side of the lake disappeared. About a mile down the eastern side of the pass I slow and turn into a parking lot just before the entry gates. Here is a restroom, parking area, trail head and only the moon as an overhead light. Perfect for someone seeking a splinter of peace.

I share the lot with no one. Only the receding dance of distant lightning shares the space. It is quiet and peaceful. The transit of the moon across the sky makes as much sound as the wind.

Now lightning is dancing to the south and is is not receding; it wants to dance with me. There are times when it seems as if every cog, every lever, every rain drop is immediately working and all is well.

A car coming over the pass breaks the spell. The brief duration of that singular existence was long enough to reset a few internal switches. I smile, give the oncoming lightning storm a rain check and head home for a late dinner.

Honestly, it's likely better to watch lightning dance by itself.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


I know 'Extrania' isn't a word, but it should be.



1. Item, thought or other entity that is not essential.
2. Something that is irrelevant or not pertinent.
3. A piece or part that does not productively contribute to the functioning of the whole.

Extrania. I got it. Don't think you have any extrania? Move from one home to another and extrania is likely to be discovered.

Physical extrania is the most obvious and easiest to deal with; just get rid of it! Drop it off at Goodwill or Salvation Army, give it to a needy neighbor, post it on CraigsList or have a garage sale. If someone wants your extrania, let them have it!

Internal extrania is a little different. Like physical extrania, it tends to accumulate unnoticed in the nooks and crannies of the mind. This mind clutter, luckily, has properties of its more tactile version. Moving makes this extrania obvious and easy to toss aside.

Experiencing long periods of internal dialog on long rides really sweeps the corners and dusts the bookshelves. For many, removing this extrania of the mind is best accomplished on the back of a motorcycle. The physical minimalism of this mode of travel tends to creep into one's soul, making the unneeded obvious.

At that point, it's up to the individual to deal with the extrania as they see fit. Keep it or pitch it along the median... It's all up to the rider.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

And A Few More Changes

Looking back at the last six months or so, I am honestly surprised at how much has happened. Just to recap...

  • Rear bike tire went flat at 80 MPH. Honestly, it wasn't terribly frightening; the front wheel started bouncing and as I slowed, she felt like I was riding on thick pudding.
  • The battery cover of my Sporty fell off while riding down I-215 at 65. Hearing 'chink...clink...clank' while riding is typically not the harbinger of happy tidings.
  • Had the opportunity to spend two weeks with my daughter while getting all her education details situated back in Iowa.
  • During this same two weeks, the joys and inequities of the federal student aide program became quite obvious.
  • Blew the primary oil seal on my Rebel... Again.
  • Learned from my Dr. that a few ailments associated with my occupation are starting to become apparent.
  • After putting on some additional, undesired weight, took up hiking again.
  • Got another tattoo.
  • And...
And... lost a close member of the family. First, a warning and bit of context. Below is the recounting of a tender subject with some; the passing of a furry family member. As for context, my ex wife was taking care of him until his medical needs exceeded what she could handle, at which point he came to live with me. Because of this, and the fact that our daughter lived with me, there was some amount of necessary interaction. We don't hate each other; we just don't want to associate much, other than when necessary.

At any rate, what follows is something I wrote not long after his passing...

A moment perhaps, a second. His head gently dropped. A second needle was inserted and second chemical injected. The drugs were efficient and painless. The doctor checked for heartbeat and respiration; none. He was gone. No more pain or exhaustion or seizures or cancer.

A scream of love and concern and sorrow echoed from my bedroom. Sprinting up the stairs I found my daughter sitting, crying, petting Jake as he lie helpless on the floor in the throes of another seizure. I hug her around the shoulders. “I am going to get your mom.”

Lying there within the physical comfort of his favorite blanket, Jake now passed, 'B' sobs, “Please get three pebbles.” I understand. After retrieving three stones, tucking them next to the mortal coil of a friend and tucking the blanket around him, I kiss him on the head and whisper, “If we meet again, it would be an honor my dear friend. I love you.”

This was not the time to break down and cry. To everything there is a season, and this was not it. Peaceful for eternity, Jake's remains lay safe in my saddle bag. Crying in a full face helmet is not conducive to safe riding.