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A Leap Of Faith.

Posted by admin on February 26, 2018 in Life Lessons
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It’s a brave person who steps off into the unknown, knowing that there’s no going back and no safety net to catch you if you fall. Such was the case with astronaut Ed White. He was the first American to step out of a spacecraft and go for a walk in the vast emptiness of space. It almost killed him, largely because no one knew what it would be like, so there was no way to train for the mission itself, except to make a lot of best guesses.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say. Ed White survived that first step, and I think we can all agree, it was a doozy.

Life often requires us to make these leaps of faith. While it’s easy to say things like “God has a plan” or “where God closes a door he opens a window,” it’s a lot harder to make that leap when you don’t know really where it leads to. Sure, it’s easy to put it in God’s hands, but as anyone who has taken a real leap of faith knows, we have to rely on ourselves to survive it.

I have certainly made my share of leaps over the years. Some of them were terribly ill-informed. Leaving my marriages like I did, doing the equivalent of making the other person make the choice for me, was a chicken’s way out. Still, it was a leap of faith. There was no secret plan in place. I left, not knowing where I would sleep that night, where I would live, what I would do or what would come next.  I simply stepped out into the abyss.

In the working world, I’ve only done this just once. It was my first real job. I knew my days there were numbered, so I resigned in the process of being fired, with no job prospects lined up. I simply stepped off into the abyss. Famously, I ended up in the Bay Area, living with a woman I had met in the Caribbean six months earlier, set on making a new life in California.

That lasted 30 days. By the time two weeks had passed, I had slipped into a depression, living in an ugly bathroom robe, rarely leaving the apartment. Then, one day, I knew it was time to come home.

It was the same story in Florida. I was living a lie there too. I didn’t belong there. I famously took an almost identical leap of faith and ran off to Florida with a girl I had met in Key West just months before. What is it with meeting girls from the South in the tropics that makes me lose my mind. The result was the same. One day, I knew it was time to come home.

That leap of faith was a costly one in more ways that one. It’s not cheap moving your stuff 3,000 miles across the country. It was an expensive lesson, this particular leap of faith.

But it did lead me directly to where I am today, settled into a nice house with a lovely wife and a great life. I can’t picture it being any better, except perhaps winning a little lottery money to pad the old retirement account.

I am finally through leaping by the way, which is a very good thing. Now that I am rock solid, my darling wife can take a leap of faith again. She certainly did that three years ago when she asked me to marry her. This three and out guy who didn’t seem like a very safe bet in the love and marriage department. But she took that leap anyway.

I think I can say that she doesn’t regret it. In fact, it’s what led her to her latest leap of faith.

In January, she left her job. After 12 years of unbridled loyalty, often through impossible working conditions, she just couldn’t take it anymore. Nothing she did seemed good enough for her bosses and the boom got lowered on her for things she didn’t even do, and worse, wasn’t even responsible for. Add in a couple of crazy, control-freak bosses, and you can imagine what it must have been like for her. Her own view of herself was shaken to its core.

I was wholeheartedly in favor of this particular leap of faith. Yes, it’s squeezing the family finances some, but sometimes you just need to step off the precipice and believe you will land on your feet. Of course, it helps that she’s a Kat.

I certainly know others in my life who have done the same. I always applaud their courage as it’s one of the toughest things to do. Everyone ideally wants a plan, or at least a backup plan if the first one doesn’t work out. I mean, it’s far easier to leave a job when you have a new one. The same could be said of a relationship, I suppose.

But stepping out on your own? Damned courageous.

Looking back, I have no regrets about my many leaps of faith. Some did turn out better than others. And while not all of them made me stronger, none managed to kill me. Like a cat with nine lives, I somehow made it through relatively intact.

It’s hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it’s far from ideal. But it’s far worse knowing that the familiar is actually a nightmare in disguise, that it is slowly killing you from the inside out. It can be a marriage, a friendship, a job – what have you. Regardless, it is simply not worth it to let what little precious time we have here on earth be wasted in a place that makes you feel like you’re a piece of sh**.

Whenever you face such a moment, remember your friend Robb, that guy who has lept time and time again and somehow made it to a better place. And if there’s no one else there to catch you, I will. Just let me know you’re about to leap first.

In the Emerald City, wary of those 12 Lords a Leaping,

  • Robb

 
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Well, Son Of A Gun.

Posted by admin on February 19, 2018 in The Soapbox
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Another week, another senseless mass shooting followed by the usual call on one side for thoughts and prayers and on the other, gun control. In this case, a school was shot up by a kook and there are additional calls for arming teachers. Next week it could at a mall, movie theater or city park, so just who do we arm then? The usher? The Penney’s clerk? The professional dogwalker?

I get that we are all outraged by the seemingly nonstop senseless murdering going on. I think we all agree that no child should die at school. Quite frankly, no one should ever have to worry about being shot to death as they go about their day, no matter where they are.

But sadly, people are. In the race to bring some sense to the problem at hand, social media is flooded with inane, simplistic answers. I initially tried to bring some logic to this discussion, explaining that arming teachers is pointless, if for no other reason than we would almost immediately experience a teacher shortage because teachers want to teach, not police.

There are others who point to overly simplistic causality, such as violent video games, mental illness, or strangely, drugs. I would maintain that anyone who shoots others is mentally ill by default. Sane people don’t typically open fire on others.

I will also maintain that part of the problem is our shoddy parenting skills. Spare the rod and spoil the child is very true. I’m not saying that we should beat our kids. But in our effort to be their friend and to build up their self-esteem by awarding them participation trophies, we have coddled an entire generation of children who don’t know how to negotiate the difficulties of life.

In our effort to spare them the pain and agony of failure, we have protected them to the point that the slightest setback destroys them as individuals. Rather than teaching them to be resilient, we have taught them to be weak. Instead of teaching them the magic of the golden rule, the sanctity of life and ideals such as honesty, respect and love, we have created monsters who act out in the worst way when they finally snap.

tank-threequarterI obviously grew up in a different time. I guarded our yard with a Mattel Tommy Gun and in my teens, drove a tank to college. Famously, I sat in the back of Ed Eaton’s journalism class at Green River Community College and snapped together a World War II machine gun. Hearing the sound, Mr. Eaton simply turned nonchalantly to the room and said, “Robb, put the machine gun away” as the class laughed at my antics.

Today, that would set off a SWAT-level response at a school. The gun was plugged; it couldn’t shoot. And the idea of anyone shooting up a school was ludicrous in the aftermath of the Vietnam War when we watched daily as our dead brothers and cousins came back in caskets.

We understood the tremendous loss one feels when a loved one didn’t come home. If our own family members were lucky enough to make it home, we had friends whose relatives didn’t. I went to college with veterans who lost limbs or were bound to a wheelchair. I understood the painful fact that when people die, they don’t come back. And the loss of a loved one haunts you forever.

I know in my own family that my parents were all about tough love. When I became a parent, my mother said, “Use every weapon you have at your disposal with your kids. You are not their friend, you are their parent.”

My parents used to spank me. I spent a lot of time in the corner. I was sent to bed without dessert. I was told I couldn’t play with the neighbor kid who just knocked on our door. I wasn’t coddled. I was parented.

In school, I was the one who was bullied. I was punched a couple of times by other kids. I was dumped in the garbage can. I was made fun of. I was a nerd and worse, a band guy.

Yet, to this day, I haven’t punched another human being. I admit there were a few times I hit my older brothers, but I don’t think that really counts. Yes, I’ve been in tons of situations where I could have rightfully landed some blows, but I always found it better to use my words, my humor and my intellect to get out of these situations.

I don’t consider that weak. In fact, I’m damned proud of this ability to avoid violence. I wish kids today would learn the same skills. Perhaps we’d have fewer kids going off the rails and shooting up a school or a mall.

Unlike many out there on Facebook, I don’t have any easy answers. I can say that as of this moment, Kat and I have raised five kids who haven’t shot any place up. They are nice kids who care deeply about the world they live in and are pained by the violence happening around them, in part because two of our children are now parents themselves.

That said, I do believe many of the problems we are experiencing are due to the breakdown of the nuclear family. Latchkey kids can get into all sorts of mischief. My mother probably searched my room weekly when I was a teen. That doesn’t happen now. Many parents don’t even know what their kids are doing or who they are associating with. I always had to bring new friends home so my mom could look them in the eye and then, unknown to me, give them the eye, if you know what I mean.

We live in different times to be sure. TV and social media have become the new babysitters. We don’t have dinner at the table anymore. We don’t have family nights where we play games and talk. We just move around the house staring at our phones, living in our separate worlds, living together but apart, strangers to our own family.

Maybe this is the true problem, our increasingly self-imposed isolation from the real world. Maybe this is why we have so many modern day monsters.

In the Emerald City, wondering where we go from here,

  • Robb

 
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Idiot Lights For Everyone!

Posted by admin on February 5, 2018 in Randomalities
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My car went on the blink last week. Literally. As you may recall, my Saturn VUE was a parting gift from my relationship in Florida. It has since been pressed into relatively light duty, driving about two miles to the transit center each day. It is a 2004, but still has only 108,000 miles on it.

On Sunday, I took it on a long road trip, if you can call driving to Ballard a road trip. Somewhere along the way, a light came on just above the gas gauge. It was an idiot light telling me to do something with something called an engine.

As I said before, I’m no mechanic. I’m the guy that goes out and looks at another guy’s new car and nods a lot as he shows it to me. Inevitably, he will pop the hood and ask me to admire what’s under it. This is how I learned where the engine was in your average car.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to look up what this orange light meant on my car. My VUE wanted me to check the engine. So I walked out, popped the hood and looked inside. Yup, the engine was there all right. Check!

The light still didn’t go off though. Before you start yelling “check the gas cap” I did that too. It was locked on tight.

I resigned myself to the fact that it would have to take it to the shop to see what the mysterious code said. It seems Saturns have a lot of codes that the average code reader can’t read, so a light usually means a trip to the dealer.

That night, I began to wonder if in this technological world of ours, why can’t we have idiot lights for our bodies? I want my installed along my forehead, since that space is pretty useless anyway.

The idiot lights could be for all sorts of things. As in a car, we could have a light that comes on when our heart is misfiring or we’re about to stroke out. Another light could let us know that we’re out of alignment a bit and should see a chiropractor. A little headlight could come on to let us know that our eye prescription probably needs to be checked.

Handy, huh? You’d think with all this technology and big data where every bit and byte is analyzed and dissected, that some enterprising entrepreneur would come up with something like this.

Imagine how this would revolutionize healthcare. As you’re getting ready for work in the morning, a thermometer lights up on your forehead. You know you’ve got a fever. Next, a snowflake pops up and moments later, you get the chills. Your idiot lights told you were sick before you even knew it.

No more calling the doctor and saying you think you may be sick. Log on to your doctor’s office website and connect via video. All the nurse has to do is look at that row of idiot lights shining on your forehead to know what needs to be fixed.

You could go much further with the idiot lights, too. One could pop on to let you know you may have flat feet. A little door could come on if you left your fly open after going to the bathroom. A tread light could let you know that you have skidmarks as well.

By now, I can tell you’re getting pretty excited about this whole idea. How about a light that comes on when your fluids are low? You’d never have to wonder if dehydration is causing your hallucinations anymore. Your idiot light would do all the heavy lifting and let you know when it’s time to drink some fluids.

I’m sure some entrepreneur is reading this right now and nodding his head, thinking, “Yeah, we could do that!” People are willing to wear glasses that record every moment of their life and wear FitBits that report all sorts of data about their activities and even their heart rate, so why not connect up a bunch of idiot lights so you don’t even have to look at the data? When something’s wrong or needs attention, an idiot light pops on.

I for one would love this new technology. After all, I’m pretty tech-savvy. I usually glom onto the latest innovations and technologies, partly out of curiosity and partly because I want to know if they will actually improve the quality of my life.

They usually fall short, of course. Alexa still can’t understand the most mundane items to be added to my shopping list. Siri has a love-hate relationship with me regularly. Yesterday, when I asked her to call my wife, she started dialing the last wife, not the current one. I think she’s just jealous that she doesn’t have a significant technology in her life.

But the idiot lights thing. That shows promise. Eventually, other companies would get into the act and create a diagnostic gadget that would tell you want the error code meant. It would be able to tell you the difference between a heart attack and indigestion, or let you know that the wiper light only means that your glasses are dirty, not that you need a new prescription.

I would love to see the day when this all happens. Unfortunately, I have no idea how long I will be here since I don’t have an idiot light that could tell me. You know the one. The oldometer light that comes on when it’s time to head for that great junkyard in the sky.

Still wondering about the idiot light on my car? It went out all by itself, the day after I brushed all the leaves and nuts some squirrel had salted away under the hood. The vent it was blocking must’ve been important, I guess.

In the Emerald City, forever an idiot savant in more ways than one,

  • Robb

 

 
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Worrywart.

Posted by admin on January 29, 2018 in Home Ownership
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I’ve worried about stuff my whole life. Oh sure, you say, everyone worries. It’s just part of life. But me, I am an Olympic-level worrier, one who can conjure up the worst possible outcomes and then fester about them for days, weeks, months, even years on end.

I even talked to my doctor about it once. I told him that my family had the Worry Gene and that I had been infected with it. For some reason, he didn’t pull out a single medical book on the subject, only saying that we are not genetically equipped to handle the world we have collectively created.

Still, I worry. It was so bad back in the day that I ended up taking a prescription for it for almost eight years. Now, some would argue that this medicated period coincides almost to the day with my time in Florida. And you’d be right.

Those days are over, thankfully. But now I worry more than I did back then, even though I should have done most of my worrying while I was in this alien land of eternal sun, swaying palms and dysfunctional love.

Worse, I can OCD over it as well, rolling it around in my mind, seasoning it with a bit of doom and gloom and then trying to do something about it, even when no intervention is required or desired.

Case in point. We have French doors that leak a bit. I hear most of them do, but ours was staining the 1″ maple floors we have. Something had to be done. In my mind, it wouldn’t wait until the Spring Thaw when most civilized men would attend to it.

No, I had to fix it worse right then and there.

Now, we’ve all heard tales of how I am genetically inclined to Fix It Worse. It was handed down to me by my father and perhaps his father before him. I have continued to refine it to the point where I can dare say I am a Master Fix-It-Worser.

In the case of the French door, I thought it would be a simple matter. Even as the wind whistled and howled, I thought it would be easy enough to change out the weatherstripping that ran down the door.

I even watched a YouTube video to make sure I would do it right. I used a screwdriver to pry it out from the top and then worked my way down, pulling firmly until the entire piece slid out into my hand.

It was then that I noticed a “surplus” piece at the bottom was still jammed in the slot. I pulled on it, only to find that it had been adhered to the spot with glue because someone, when they fixed the door long ago, decided to fix it worse. Instead of using a piece of slotted board, they simply tacked a regular board in its place. This is why the extra weatherstripping was there. This was the reason, or so I thought, that my door leaked.

So I fixed it worse. Kat was asleep at the time, but I thought I could handle it. I dug and scratched a new slot into the wood with a screwdriver, then trimmed some of the hard rubber off of the insulation and wiggled and pushed. As the pièce de résistance, I caulked it all into place.

This is where things all got a little squirrely. I have never used a caulking gun before. I thought it looked simple enough, so much so that I didn’t even look it up on YouTube.

It didn’t take long before I had more caulk on my hand than on the seal. I quickly washed it off, knowing that I should have used the ever-present latex gloves instead. I wrestled the glove onto my damp hand, not realizing that I didn’t do a very good job of washing off all the caulk first. The glove was now stuck to my hand.

Fixing that worse would have to wait, however. Caulk gun in hand, off I went again, as the wind continued to fill the house with a wintery chill. Finally, I caulked it enough, I thought. I carefully closed the French door from the outside to let everything set in the proper position. For once, I didn’t lock myself out of the house. A brief moment of pride there.

It was then Kat woke up. Well, in truth, I woke her up. I needed some help getting the glove off my hand.

She inspected my work, and after a long laugh at my story, told me to leave it all alone until the next day.

I did as I was told. For a while. Then the worry gene took over. I began to obsess about my disrepair job I had done and how I needed to fix this and that, even though it was pitch black outside.

“I’m going to bed,” Kat finally announced.

I said, “Great, just as soon as you do I’m going to check on the door and fix it worse some more.”

“And how are you going to do that, dear?” she asked, not even bothering to look up from her iPhone.

“I’m going to throw a bucket of water at the door and see if it leaks.”

“No you’re not,” she said.

“Spray the garden hose at it?”

“Nope.”

“Squirt gun maybe?”

“No dear,” she finally said, exasperated. “You’ve done enough fixing it worse for the day. I will take care of it tomorrow and decide if I need to redo any of it.”

I turned to my own phone, trying to find a YouTube video that would show me how to win this argument. There weren’t any. I finally gave up, and with tail tucked between my legs, headed for bed.

In the morning, as the coffee perked, I looked over at the door. It was calling me to fix it worse some more. It was mocking me in the darkness, pleading with me to make myself more of a fool than I already was.

I turned a cold shoulder to its almost continual overtures. Kat would handle it, I told myself over and over again. “She adores me. Even when a door doesn’t.”

In the Emerald City, desperately wanting to play with my caulk,

  • Robb

 

 

 
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A Really Bitchin’ Kitchen.

Posted by admin on January 22, 2018 in Growing Up
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I was trying to help my son with life this past week. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of stuff, so I thought I would give him some pearls of wisdom to help him take a few shortcuts.

This never works out, of course. I had mentioned that he had better bone up on the company he was interviewing for as they will ask him “What do you know about our company?” But he poo-pooed it, saying he’s never been asked that in all three interviews he’s had.

With some satisfaction, I received a text from him shortly after his interview last Friday. It said: “It was the first question the guy asked me.”

As I said, I’ve learned a few things over the years. I imagine my father learned a few things along the way too, but I wouldn’t have listened to him at 19 either. Such is the circle of life.

I do hope, however, that he takes the one thing I said to heart. We were talking about our first apartments – real sh**holes compared to where we live today. But Kat and I still remember them fondly as if it were yesterday.

It was then that I shared a pearl. I said, “Always have a nicely stocked kitchen, even if you don’t use any of it.”

He laughed and said all he needed was a toaster oven, a plate, a bowl, a couple of glasses and some silverware lifted from Dennys.

Kat and I both laughed out loud, as we knew from experience that this assortment would get him nowhere in the romance department.

“Whether you know it or not, when you leave the room for even a second, your date will check out your kitchen cabinets and drawers.”

“Why would she do such a thing?” he asked.

Kat chimed in. “Because she will learn everything about you by what’s there.”

Me? I always had a nice kitchen and I always tried to keep it clean and orderly, especially when there was any possibility of a guest stopping by.

That meant I always cleaned the kitchen before a date. Rarely did someone ever come home for a nightcap or to make out, but the few times they did I was glad I had a clean kitchen. And food in the fridge.

Kat is right, after all. While a date may not check everything out, a kitchen says a lot about a guy. It’s a generally accepted standard that a woman’s kitchen will always look well appointed. I’m not being sexist here. In my experience, the women I have known like to have plates that match, glasses that aren’t shot glasses from Vegas, decent pans and flatware that doesn’t include plastic sporks or chopsticks.

Even when I was piss-poor, I tried to have a nice set of dishes and flatware. Nothing says “I don’t care what you think of me” more than paper plates and forks with wandering tines. You might as well have skipped the shower and clean underwear as your date is guaranteed to move her food around the plate for a bit and then hightail it out of there as quickly as possible. You won’t even get to the ballpark, let alone first base.

I admit that over the years, I have kept my kitchen basics in a box, even after I have moved in with someone. It’s like having one of those emergency ladders installed outside your third-floor apartment. You may never need it, but it’s always there, waiting, just in case you need to evacuate on a moment’s notice.

It helped, of course, that I know how to cook. I enjoy the process, so I always have decent pots and pans, even when they came from Goodwill. A good coffeemaker was also a necessity and in a nod to Parker, a toaster oven, but never a toaster.

I do hope he takes my advice on this eventually. I think a kitchen says a lot about who you are and even your state of mind. A place for everything and everything in its place. Hey, wasn’t that Mary Poppins?

Well, it’s true. If a guy’s eating utensils aren’t resting in a flatware organizer, run for the hills. Just imagine what his underwear drawer looks like. Glasses not sorted by type or at least size? He’ll never retrieve the hair out of the shower drain. No cookware? Guess who he thinks will be doing the cooking for him. And paper towels instead of napkins (even paper ones)? Well, that ring he plans to give you one day was probably from his last failed marriage.

I didn’t make all this stuff up. I think we all know that your kitchen, just like your bedroom closet, says a lot about you. You can drive the fanciest car on the planet, but if there are dirty dishes in your sink or the stovetop has yesterday’s takeout strewn about, you are not a guy worth spending time with.

It reminds me of a friend I once knew. He didn’t own a vacuum (which we all know, needs to be kept visible, if never used), so he improvised. He sawed a two-by-four to the length of the vacuum head and stuck a broomstick on the end. Then he pushed it around the room so the carpet had that lovely “just vacuumed” look to it.

I have to say, he was a bit of an artist with the thing. If it weren’t for the shards of stale Doritos lodged in the pile, I would have probably fallen for it. It’s probably a good thing that he only had one working lamp in the room. It was not only romantic but hid the crap still stuck in his carpet.

I suppose Parker will learn this all on his own someday, just as I did. Maybe it’s just a process we all have to go through as we leave the nest and go out on our own. Or maybe I’m just more of a girly-guy than I think I am and the women who only dated me once thought I was probably gay.

In the Emerald City, cabinets filled with lovely things, all Kat’s!

  • Robb

 
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Rats In The Belfry.

Posted by admin on January 15, 2018 in Family
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The noises are still going on in my house, but I have given up the idea that Willard 2 is being filmed secretly in my walls.

It all started when winter set upon us. I had read somewhere that almost a third of all American homes experience a rodent problem at some point. Given that my house is bordered by a creek, I knew that it had had a history of river rats.

I even think I might have seen one outside once, sitting in a tree. Kat told me that it was just a rare hairless squirrel. Though I had never heard of hairless squirrels, Kat seems to know a lot of stuff, so who was I to question her on this particular issue.

The creek was only part of the problem, however. We knew when we bought the house that it had been abandoned for several years after the owner died. My neighbor told me that it had been just left open at one point and some critters had made it their temporary home.

I’m sure the sellers didn’t find much pleasure in sealing the house up when we made our offer, which required them to redo the entire crawl space and clean everything up. It was not a cheap request, about five grand total.

It wasn’t until I heard the noise in my bedroom wall that thoughts returned to the river rats. O.K., technically they are Norwegian Rats. I only know this because Kat told me they were. As I said, she knows stuff.

The weather had turned rainy and cold. I was awoken in the night by a sound in the wall. It was around 2 a.m. Another, almost identical sound at 3 a.m.

“Damn!” I thought, as I tried to go back to sleep. “There’s something in the wall.”

This had happened to me before. When living in the haunted house in Port Orchard, there was a similar noise. It went on for days, or should I say, days and nights. It was a horrible sound, something that I came to assume was a bird who had found its way through that small hole under the eaves and lodged itself in the wall. It made a flapping sound, one that I can still hear to this day. Eventually, the flapping stopped and we went on with our nights of sleepful bliss, knowing that something dead was now lodged forever in that wall.

There was no luxury in this house. For several days this went on. Different sounds at different times, all in the same wall.

It was then that my obsessive-compulsive nature took over. I began to research the problem. I had read that they didn’t like noises, so I took to rapping on the wall every time I went up and down the stairs. Then I yelled a strand of curse words into the wall. I listened to the wall like someone would listen to their the next door neighbors making out – even going so far as to use a glass.

This went on for a couple weeks. Eventually, my rational self returned to normal (well, as close as it can be being normal). I inspected the exterior of the home and found it well sealed. I didn’t see any new evidence of the hairless squirrels around the house. The rat traps by the creek had done their job; there were some takers since I refreshed the poison.

There was only one place left to look. I had put off the idea of opening the access panel to the space under the stairwell. I had watched The People Under the Stairs. I knew what could lurk there.

But the panel was a weak spot in the home. It had been since we moved in. The house flippers were content with a piece of broken wallboard as a panel. I really wanted something a little sturdier.

So off I go to Lowe’s. I know my way around wood and I have a saber saw, so all sorts of wonderful things can happen when I am properly armed. I measured thrice, not twice and made a beautiful panel for the access point. Now all I had to do was remove the old one and install the new one.

That’s when my hands started shaking. I was sweating by the time I had removed the last screw as the thoughts of rats pouring out of the opening and attacking me ran rampant in my head. I fought the panic, finally pulling the old panel off.

No rats. No people under the stairs. All I found was the main shutoff valve to the house’s water supply, a handy piece of information, I thought.

As an added precaution, I threw a rat trap into the space.

Weeks later, Kat wanted to clean out the pantry and reorganize it so we used that time to clean up some of the scary space under the stairs.

I wasn’t shaking this time. Kat was there. She is the Brave Little Toaster and did all the dirty work this time, vacuuming and sweeping.

The rat trap? Not a single nibble.

It turns out that we don’t have a rat in the walls. Oh sure, I still hear the noises and have learned to separate the ones where the house is breathing in and out to the rhythms of the furnace in the garage.

And there is a rat. A six-foot-long one with hair to be exact. It’s my son, who is a nocturnal little beast. It turns out that the wall big box of space above the stairwell that connects to our wall is like a big boom box in the still of the night. As my son games away in the night, some of the sounds from his room make their way into the box, mix with street sounds and voila! – that damned rat I was obsessing about.

Someday I’ll get back at Rat Boy for these days and weeks of little to no sleep. As they say, paybacks are hell, especially when I have a French Horn in the garage. I hear they don’t like loud noises. And the way I play these days, it’s definitely a sound no one wants to hear.

In the Emerald City, rats in my belfry, plotting revenge,

  • Robb

 
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Feeling A Bit Disconnected.

Posted by admin on January 8, 2018 in Life Lessons
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I was watching The Circle a couple of nights ago. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should. Even though it is clearly fiction – a movie about data mining companies becoming Big Brother, all seeing, all knowing – it has many grains of truth.

I should know. I have been online for the last 25 years. My days go back to a 1200 baud modem and a dial-up account with AOL. I can still hear the modem chirping, squealing and shrilling as it negotiated a connection between my house and AOL’s fledgling data centers.

Slowly, I began to live my entire life online. Almost overnight my company went from designing print to designing websites. I did ecommerce long before there was an Amazon, pioneered livecasts from Alaska when there was no such thing as a cellphone, and challenged what was known with what was possible at every turn. Hell, my then wife and I are the reasons why Port Orchard got broadband down its main street, long before other parts of town (including, famously my house), had it.

For an entire two years, I blogged about my life five days a week right here on RobZerrvations. Roughly a thousand words churned out every day, 5,000 words a week, more than a quarter million each year.

I worked out of my 8th-floor condo, running my creative services company from the beaches of Florida and none of my clients even knew where I was. They didn’t really care either. Through the magic of the Internet and time zones, I was able to turn a job I received at 4 p.m. on Wednesday back to the client at 8 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday, letting some guy in India do all the dirty work for pennies while I charged the client hundreds of dollars.

I was a beta tester of Twitter. Was early on MySpace and dumped it to go with Facebook a year into its public facing. I routinely tested the corners of the edge of technology, trying out new ideas in phones and Internet appliances for the home and car (remember Audrey and Apple’s eMate 300?).

Now for the good part. The point here is not to brag or position me as some kind of Internet savant. The point is that I’ve been doing this since virtually the beginning, back when people used BBS to “chat.” I have lived life online and have even shared my life, often extremely painful and private things, with the World Wide Web.

And here’s what I found. There’s really not much to see here. I famously like to share the web page that tells people that they found the end of the Internet, that they’ve seen everything and now it’s time to move on, like it’s the end of a movie.

But on the Net, we seem to like to not only sit through the end credits, then the darkness, but we wait for the next movie and the next and the next. We’ve become content junkies.

This would all be well and good if the Internet had reached its full potential. We seem to forget in this meme crazed world that the Internet was originally created so researchers could share their research with one another. It had a lofty goal in the beginning, only to be taken down to the mat by AOL, which turned it into consumer-oriented fodder for the masses.

I still remember signing into one of the chatrooms. It was for Jimmy Buffett fans, a place to talk about being a Parrothead. Cool, I thought! I could have a meeting of minds. What I got instead was raspy sounds of a guy cannonballing into a pool and the clink of margarita glasses, all through a 1200 baud pipeline where every sound came across in slooooow motioooon.

There went the promise of the Internet. Within a couple years we had totally shelved the idea of creating true democracy with a communication tool for the masses, one where we could share ideas and move the sticks in making this country better. Instead, we sank slowly and contentedly into banalities, from memes to looping gifs of a guy lighting his farts to cats following a laser pointer.

I guess I’ve seen it all by now. Maybe I have really reached the end of the Internet, or at least of the Internet as something useful in my life. Yes, I still look up information on the Net; I really do like have an instant library at my fingertips because I am still horribly curious and always learning more about the world I live in.

But it’s become painful for me to look at Facebook, where people post about their ailments, about some missing child that was actually missing 10 years ago but they only found out about it now, stolen packages and stolen cars, fake news posted by both parties and more damned cat videos.

It’s not that I am so high and mighty. I have no feelings of superiority here. In fact, as I’ve aged, I’ve come to learn that the older I get, the less I know. I have become a child in the world of knowledge, courageous enough to admit that I know very little, even after nearly six decades of learning.

I admit though, that more and more I am disconnecting from the immediacy that seems to be the Internet. Everyone seems to be in such a panic these days, or angry about one thing or another, or sharing moments at their worst (if anyone shoots a photo of me laid out in a hospital bed, I will kill them).

It’s like being addicted to “reality TV,” which as we know, is all carefully edited and staged. It’s not real at all. Neither is Twitter, Facebook, Snap, Instagram or any other number of sites. They are simply reflections of how we want to be seen by others, like we are still trying to be the popular kids in high school when we’re still just a dweeb.

I happily admit that I am a full-on dweeb. My only addiction is to be the best version of myself, to learn as much as I can until the day I die, and perhaps leave the world a little better off than when I arrived. And that leaves very little room for more cat videos and mindless memes.

In the Emerald City, going rogue, going back to the real world more and more,

  • Robb

 
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Christinsanity.

Posted by admin on December 18, 2017 in Religion
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I grew up Catholic. I was never a very good soldier of Christ. Most kids brought up in a religious family aren’t. We are born sinners, prone to going so far as to lie to our priest as we search in vain for a sin significant enough to warrant a Hail Mary or Our Father.

As I grew older, I started to figure out that the whole Catholic thing really didn’t work for me. It started when I got divorced. The only way I could stay a Catholic was to get an annulment, which would have made my daughter illegitimate. I didn’t think that was quite right. I mean, she didn’t do anything, so why punish her with the label of illegitimacy?

This is also about the time that all the magic wore off. I had learned that sacramental wine came from big jugs with the name Gallo spread across the front and witnessed first hand, the pouring of Eucharists from large plastic bags. I guess God didn’t make them after all. Some factory in Dubuque did.

I also figured out that the Pope was hardly infallible, which is a convenient way to control the masses since you can never be wrong. Plus, I figured out that I could actually talk to God on a direct line. I didn’t need a middleman priest to do the talking for me.

As I’ve continued on my journey in this life, I have become less religious and far more spiritual. In fact, I am more spiritual now than I was in my best God-fearing, going-to-church-on-Sundays years.

Unfortunately, this journey in spirituality has left a huge chasm in my heart, mind and soul, for I cannot for the life of me reconcile Christianity as it is practiced today. Now, I’m not saying that every Christian is false or is inherently evil. Rather, these RobZerrvations are based on the news reports I see daily. So bear with me, and if you’re a Christian, please keep an open mind and know that I am not calling you out specifically.

First, there have been reports of late that some Christians believe that Muslims worship a different God than they do. I understand all that Commandments stuff about not having false gods before thee. But Christians by nature are supposed to believe in one God, and if you introduce the idea that other religions have other supreme beings that are not this one God, then you are entertaining the idea that there are other gods and that yours is somehow better than the other guy’s god. As the right reverend Johnny Depp once said, “All the doors of religion open to the same god.” Get over it, move on, quit judging others against your own ethnocentristic, white Protestant beliefs at that.

Then there’s the whole “What would Jesus do?” issue. I see this a lot. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Jesus had a better quality of poor or sick that he ministered to in his day compared to our sick and poor. Yet, I see supposedly stout Christians turn their backs on others, particularly when it comes to federal or state programs that help the poor, the mentally ill, the elderly and those other populations that can’t fend for themselves.

This is particularly true with those who have what Christians would say were alternate or even deviant lifestyles. I really don’t think Jesus would have cared if someone was gay. He would still minister to them in their time of need. He certainly wouldn’t have tried to reprogram them so they liked women again. I mean, hey, the guy wore a long gown and hung around with a dozen or so guys every day. I mean, who would he be to judge?

I have long thought that fundamental Christianity was a lot like training wheels on a bicycle. It’s a safe way to learn to have faith. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room in fundamental Christianity. It’s safe and simple for a reason.

Now, before any fundamental Christians jump on me here, I am not criticizing this path to spirituality. Everyone has their own journey. I am married to a former fundamentalist Christian woman. It served a very important role in her life and it helped bring her to where she is today. I am not about to cast any stones for my own path has been pretty, um, ziggy-zaggy.

But I do have to question some of the paths some preachers take these days. They are using their own pulpit to sway their flock. They are preaching fire and brimstone for those who don’t walk in their shadow, saying that they have the only true path to salvation and righteousness.

Spare me. I still remember my years as a parishioner at St. Madeleine Sophie in Bellevue. We would all attend mass together, shake hands and say “Peace be with you” before we excited. Then we would get in our cars and lose every bit of virtue we had as some idiot (re: fellow parishioner)  backed his car out of his spot in front of us, causing us to potentially miss the Seahawks kickoff. We’d hit the horn in our anger, even though we were all “peace be with you” just moments before.

I have never been able to reconcile this duality of organized religion. On the one hand, we listen to the preachings of Jesus and his Apostles and read from the word of God, but then we draw all these artificial lines in the sand, gravitating from the forgiving New Testament God to the wrathful Old Testament God whenever it suits our purposes.

I just don’t get it. I like to think that if Jesus was still around he would head bump us for our judgmental attitude toward those who are taking a different path in their journey in this world. While we may have been made in the image of God, we weren’t all cranked out with a cookie cutter. We each have our own demons to fight, our own faith to find and our own lives to lead.

I for one will continue to shake my head in disbelief. It’s not that I am superior to anyone else. It’s just that I can’t figure out why those who hold sway in the churches of our land are selling such snake oil as to make us believe that we are the only ones with the right answer.

I think God is up there shaking his head too. Thankfully, he’s in a forgiving mood these days. If he was his Old Testament self, he’d be smiting a lot of us right now for our so-called Christian beliefs.

In the Emerald City, looking for devine guidance and some good sacramental wine,

  • Robb

 
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Those Pigs.

Posted by admin on December 11, 2017 in The Soapbox
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You can’t open up a newspaper or watch the 6 o’clock news these days without some guy being outed as a lech, pervert, scumbag or abuser. From politicians to the Hollywood elite, everyone seems to have used and sadly, abused women.

Even sadder, we have this strange sliding scale about when it comes to this piggish behavior. While we’re hanging Harvey Weinstein out to dry in Hollywood, we’re pretending the guy in the White House never said all those heinous things about women in a tape recording.

Locker room talk, my ass! Long ago, I learned there was no such thing. It came about around the time my daughter became a teenager and I realized that if someone talked about her in these terms in my presence, they’d be laid out flat on the floor.

But this isn’t about the guy who’s in the White House at the moment. That’s hardly worth my time.

It’s also not really about my own transgressions for I am hardly without sin here. Afterall, I was part of the Seattle Seafair Pirates, a group of chauvinistic pigs who preyed on women and treated them like whores. Sounds a lot like today’s Congress, but without the diversity. For six years I watched the wholesale bedding and belittling of women. I went through a brief period of sluttiness myself (I told you I was not without sin). I fell for the whole thing, hook, line and sinker for about a year.

And then it all came to an end. I realized that this wasn’t who I was. That these women – groupies or not – were someone’s daughter, sister, aunt or even mother. They weren’t chattel. They had dreams and hopes and feelings, that should not be trifled with, especially at such a debasing level.

I left not long after this revelation, realizing that this macho culture was not for me. And I have since seen, as late as this past July, that this hideous debasement of women continues in that group to this day, now playing out as a slideshow for all to see at the club’s annual reunion.

Why does this happen in general? And how did this happen to me specifically? Well, I can tell you, after years of soul searching and some therapy, that part of it was cultural. The fraternal organization I was in celebrated this behavior. To fit in, it was important to put a few notches on the ol’ cane, if you get my drift. I told you. Congress.

It didn’t help that this was a period in my life when I hated myself. I guess it’s easy to think little of others when you’re heading for rock bottom yourself. It took a long time to come to realize that this was not who I wanted to be in life.

Thankfully, I was only in my 20s when I started to figure this whole thing out.

Times change. So must we. But looking back, I’m pretty sure none of this behavior was ever O.K. It was certainly never welcomed. I have heard a lot of horror stories from my female friends in the intervening years that certainly opened my eyes. So when the #metoo movement took hold, I was hardly surprised that nearly every woman on earth has a story to tell.

And yet men continue to be shocked at the outfall. Worse, some of these men have tried to skate around the subject, pointing at others with a “they did it too” finger or outright denying that the episode ever happened. In their eyes, maybe it never did. Maybe those in Congress or Hollywood live in that same strange culture the Seafair Pirates do. It’s a man’s world to them. The feminist and women’s movements never came along. They are there for my pleasure…, blah, blah, blah!

Spare me, please. None of this is O.K. If a woman you work with, dated or encountered anywhere thinks you crossed the line, you did. Their private space and their private parts are the final arbiters here. Live with it. Own up to it. Apologize for it. And most important, change who you are right now because it was never O.K. to begin with.

Geez, if for no other reason, remember that these are someone else’s daughter, wife, girlfriend, sister or mother. If you have girls of your own, think how you would feel if someone took a photo with them, touching their privates. That should anger you, just as you should be angry at yourself for not evolving above the level of a primordial ooze (sorry ooze, I didn’t mean to insult you here).

Yes, I wasn’t always on my best behavior and if my mother had heard about my behavior, even in her advanced age, she would have slapped me stupid. She didn’t raise a pervert or a degenerate.

I offer no excuses for my own past. I don’t justify any of it. I should have figured it all out sooner, but I was an immature piece of sh** back then who had no regard for himself or others.

But those days are long gone. They need to be long gone for all of us. I know that somewhere in those locker rooms I keep hearing about, there are men speaking in hushed tones about how this is all blown out of proportion and it will eventually blow over.

Go ahead and lull yourself into a false sense of security and revel in your own stupid self-righteousness. It’s no longer a man’s world. And if you hadn’t managed to somehow suppress women to the point that they were once treated as legal property, I doubt it would have ever been a man’s world.

To all the women I know and all the women out there in the world who still have a story to tell, I applaud you for your courage. I know it’s not easy. But I know there are guys out there, guys like me, who will listen, who will understand your anger and most important, believe you because we know it happens – a lot.

In the Emerald City, coming to terms with the past in order to move an inch or two out of the primal ooze,

  • Robb

 
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The Lazy Life.

Posted by admin on November 27, 2017 in Randomalities
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They say that there’s nothing good on television today, but I have to say that a news article this morning and the movie WALL-E shed a lot of light on our world and how we’re gleefully heading off into oblivion as a society.

We’ll start with the news article. ‘Tis the season as we all know and the segment on the morning news was on technology gift giving. There’s a fervor these days about creating the connected home, where we run everything on our smartphones, from starting the dishwasher to turning off the bedroom light that is right next to us on our nightstand, just an arm’s length away.

The show this morning showed just how inane and dangerous this can all be. First, they were showing us how we could see our kitchen from our bedroom on our television with Google’s technology. Ignore the fact that in the time it took to load the camera feed, I could have bounded downstairs and been back into my bed before the cursor stopped spinning.  Once it loaded, we got to see mom drinking coffee. Wow, can’t live without that piece of tech.

Yes, I get that it could be a security feature. I mean, when people break into my home, the refrigerator is the first place they would stop and I’m sure they would never even notice the camera in the room.

But it gets better, my friends. Next, we turned to the living room. It’s the holidays, so it was very festive. There was mom, her son and her pet rabbit sitting on the couch. Across the way was the Christmas tree. There on live TV she said, “Google, turn on the Christmas tree.” Long, long, long pause, and the tree comes on.

I have a tree up in my living room right now. As the coffee perked a good morning to me today, I turned the tree on. I didn’t talk to any device. I simply bent down and pushed the damned button. No pause. No technology. No need.

And the coup degrâce of the news segment? The so-called technology expert on the segment asked Google to sing Happy Birthday to the lady’s son.

Now, when I think 15th birthdays, I think Google. Why should I sing an off-key rendition of the song when Google can sing my son a disembodied, machine-ish version because I am obviously too lazy to do it myself.

Which brings me to WALL-E. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. This Pixar gem takes place in the distant future, long after we’ve polluted the earth to the point that we need to leave it. WALL-E is stuck cleaning all of it up. Thankfully, he has a videotape of Hello Dolly to keep him company. And a cricket, or a cockroach. Maybe it was a cocket or a crickroach. I don’t know.

Fast forward through the movie and we’re on a spaceship. It’s filled with everyone who used to live on earth. They’re flying around the solar system, waiting for the earth to be habitable again.

And here’s where the movie WALL-E, which was made almost a decade ago, really shines. It shows the future inhabitants of our earth as rolly-polly fatsos. We’re all obese, so much so that we have to live life in a Starship Lounge Chair that does everything for us. Right in front of us is the Apple iPhone-35 monitoring all of our needs on the screen. We don’t have to lift a damned finger.

Sound familiar? This is where this connected home crap is taking us. Now, I readily admit that I am a technophile. I like my technology. I like my toys, especially the bleeding-edge stuff.

As such, I can readily understand the importance of having a doorbell at the front door that shows me on my phone who is standing there. True, I have the luxury of having a window on my door, so I can always creep up on it to take a peek. But if I weren’t here, it would be nice to have the video feed so Kat feels safe.

I also used to have a video camera in my house that connected to my phone. I had it so I could make sure my step-daughter wasn’t sneaking boys into our house while I was at work. Once she moved out, the camera went away. I don’t even know where it is right now.

As you can see, I have drawn some lines in the sand. I like to be connected, but not too connected. I don’t ever see a time when I will need an app and a smart-socket to turn my tree on and off with my phone. Or my lights. I kind of like doing it the old-fashioned way, if for no other reason than it makes me get up off my fat ass and do what little exercise I do in a day.

I worry that we’re all going to end up making WALL-E look like a documentary some day. We barely need to lift a finger now.

My lovely wife is the proud owner of a Fitbit. She regularly reports how many steps she takes in a day, which is far more than those cows in the Organic Valley commercials are taking. I told her that I would be unlikely to wear one, if only because it would show I only take about 500 steps in an entire day. It would track and alternately mock my connected life where I sit at a computer and make stuff up for a living, rather than having an honest job that requires me to move.

Just what I need, more technology to show me that I am on the fast-track to getting the first WALL-E Starship Lounger on Amazon. Hmm, I wonder what they are selling for today, since it’s CyberMonday?

“Alexa, what is the price on the…?”

I am freakin’ doomed.

In the Emerald City, wishing I had a drinkevator in my house so I didn’t have to go downstairs to refill my coffee cup.

  • Robb

 

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