Oh Tommy, Where Art Thou?

Posted by admin on March 5, 2018 in The Soapbox

Once again we’re back at each other’s throats about gun control. If you think this is an anti-gun or pro-gun RobZerrvation, think again. Blissfully in the middle of the political spectrum, I see all sides of the argument but adhere to none singularly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I own the gun they were actually referencing in the Constitution. Yes, a good ol’ flintlock. I guess you could say that I am a strict Constitutionalist when it comes to gun ownership. Give me three minutes and I’ll be able to protect the ol’ homestead, unless the flint fowls again because I really don’t like cleaning my guns.

And so lies my biggest reason for not having more than the two flintlocks. I would rather run a hot poker through my corneas than clean another damned gun.

But I digress.

So let me get to the point. We love to say that we can’t do something because it will run afoul of the Constitution. We wave that piece of paper all over the place when it suits our self-serving beliefs no matter how crazy they may be, and truth be told, in some parts of our wonderful country, someone is still looking for a loophole in that piece of paper that would allow us all to have slaves again.

That is the beauty and curse of the Constitution. It is wonderfully vague so that as time wore on and the country changed, the Constitution could change right along with it. Bully for our forefathers.

The current argument, of course, is about assault weapons and it’s most reviled poster child, the AR-15. Let’s be honest here. These things are killing machines. They were made to kill people. Their cousin, the M-16, was made for soldiers to kill the enemy, whoever they were at the moment. With a few changes, the M-16 got a makeover and voila!, we have the consumer version, the AR-15.

The funny thing about all this is that we’ve had this argument before. Long before there was an AR-15, the bad guys in our country had Thompson Machine Guns. Named after its inventor, good old John T. Thompson, these machine guns with the optional cylindrical drums could spray a room with 600 to 720 rounds a minute!!! Ever hear of the Valentine’s Day Massacre? Tommy gun heaven.

We’ve all seen tommy guns in gangster movies. There’s George Raff threatenin’ the coppers, then spraying the squad car with his trusty tommy gun. The tommy gun personified the era of the mobsters, Prohibition, Elliot Ness, Baby Face Nelson and Bonny and Clyde.

Eventually, the public got tired of all the killing and turned against tommy guns. Hearing the footsteps of change, Congressmen in different states started to ask why these things were still being sold. Texas went so far as to ban all fully automatic weapons in 1933. Yes, Texas. Don’t believe me? Read a history book. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along. He and ol’ J. Edgar Hoover expanded Washington’s law enforcement powers and in 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed.

And here’s the secret of that act’s effectiveness. It didn’t outlaw machine guns or sawed-off shotguns. No, instead it required them to be registered. They were also taxed, to the tune of $200 per machine gun or sawed-off shotgun, which is about $3,400 in today’s money.

To register, the owner had to show up, be photographed and fingerprinted. Now, what criminal would want to do that? Paying the tax was a cinch. But getting photographed and fingerprinted?

And here’s the simplicity of taxing the guns. If you were caught with an unregistered gun, say in the back of your car, you could be arrested. The FBI cleaned up the streets by arresting thugs with untaxed guns. Not illegal ones. But untaxed ones.

The courts upheld the law because it didn’t ban a single gun. The law only taxed these guns and required them to be registered.

Oh, I can hear the howls right now. Again, I’m not suggesting we tax all guns, or even tax assault rifles, if they are the ill that is threatening our safety. I really don’t care what we as a society decide collectively.

What I am saying, is that there are ways to get rid of the killing machines without banning them. There are ways to require them to be registered correctly. There are even technologies out there that will allow only the owner to use them in self-defense of their home or when they are out target practicing. We have smartphones. Why not smart guns?

And let’s live in the real world for just a moment here. Even if we were to ban sales of all assault rifles tomorrow and it was illegal to make any more, there are still tens and tens of thousands of assault rifles already in this country legally. They aren’t going to go away magically. And no one outside of a liberal nut job would think that any government agency is going to march in and take any gun away from someone who legally purchased it.

There are solutions available to us. We aren’t hopeless or helpless, especially if we let history be our guide. We have made substantive changes to our world and lived through it many times before.

At one time we got rid of all the alcohol, and then found out that was a stupid idea and brought it back a couple years later. But if you’re caught driving drunk today, the penalties can be steep.

We used to be able to drive without seatbelts or a helmet too. We used to be able to sell carved ivory we owned. Times change, we adapt. Somewhere in the center of all this hyperbole and puffery is sanity. We can find a good middle ground if we just stop long enough to take a deep breath, empty the chamber of our own self-righteousness and loathing of the other side, and figure out a plan that protects every American, keeps guns away from the bad people and punishes those that commit heinous crimes regardless of the weapon used.

The Declaration of Independence says that we all have certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness. No individual right in this country supersedes another’s. And I think we all can agree that we should all have the right to reasonably believe we won’t be killed at school, in a mall, at the theater or just walking down the street.

The lobbyists and special interests in this country don’t give a damn if we all kill one another. It’s up to each of us, our friends, our neighbors, our family, to make the tough choices that will keep our children and ourselves safe. To fail now is to fail our future generations and we’ve already done enough damage to this world already to fail again.

  • Robb



A Leap Of Faith.

Posted by admin on February 26, 2018 in Life Lessons

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


I Just Don’t Believe It.

Posted by admin on February 20, 2018 in Defies Description

There seems to be a lot of deniers out there these days. They seem to deny everything too, from the earth being round and man landing on the moon to the Holocaust.

Most recently, I came upon some denier threads that maintained that the launch of Elon Musk’s Tesla into orbit was faked. “It was a nice CGI job,” one wag said, “but they forgot to add the stars.”

Well, let’s start with the basics. Once outside of earth’s atmosphere, the light from the sun near earth is extremely bright, far brighter and harsher than here on earth. Stars, for their part, are relatively dim, largely because their light is so far away. In order to take a decent photo in space, the aperture of a lens needs to be stopped way down in order to get the proper exposure. This is exactly the opposite of what you do here on earth, which is to open the aperture as much as possible to capture more, not less, light.

Of course, photos of stars require a tripod and really long exposure times on earth or else everything looks blurry. Everything needs to be really still for a long time. Imagine having a tripod zooming around the earth at thousands of miles per hour trying to get a clear picture with GoPros, which is the cameras they had on board. Not exactly a great photographic platform for capturing pictures with stars. That’s why we have Hubble; to take those amazing photos since it’s in a stationary orbit and has the right kinds of cameras.

The sad part is, you can’t explain this to any of the deniers. Not exactly long on intellect, they will say that all space missions have been CGI’d and Photoshopped, even though those software technologies didn’t exist during the bulk of the space program. And really, any hobbyist photographer can tell which photo has been doctored back in the days of darkrooms, dodging and burning. It’s not exactly rocket science.

Now, I think it’s just fine if you want to believe the earth is flat or that all the space missions are fake. I have watched the rockets launch from Cape Canaveral in person and can safely say that no one – especially a private company – is going to drop $90 to $350 million to launch a rocket up into space, only to have it purposely fall down again in the ocean. You have to be really in denial to think that one.

Of course, it’s easy to be a denier when you have no interest or curiosity about the world and just like to have things spoonfed to you from the Internet.

Basic physics demonstrates why the earth is round and it’s easy to disprove that it’s flat with a record turntable. Try it for yourself. Put some toy soldiers on the turntable and turn it on. In no time, the army guys are sailing across the room because of centrifugal force, the very thing that gravity compensates for.

Yes, I hear you deniers. You don’t believe anything that challenges your simple world. And that’s where I feel most sad for you.

By denying things that are actually real (and I know things are fake, including some faux science people are spreading around on both sides), you miss the excitement and joy of being alive. There’s no wander, no magic, no miracles in your small world. To you, there’s nothing worth exploring because it may teach you something new, and that new thing will challenge your limited belief systems.

Take flight, for example. If you are a real hardline denier, you would have to deny that something as big as a 747 jumbo jet can fly. Certainly, your great-grandfather the denier believed flight was impossible at the turn of the 20th Century.

And yet, you prove your great-grandfather is wrong every time you hop on a plane. You are doing the very thing your great-granddenier thought was impossible. Hell, if you looked out the damned window at 35,000 feet as the sun sets you can even see the earth’s slight curvature on the horizon and kill two birds with one stone (though some deny this feat is possible).

I know that learning is hard and scary. It takes a lot of research. It also takes an open mind. It takes original thought and critical thinking. Unfortunately, the deniers I’ve come across engage in none of this hard work. Instead, they quote some rote piece they read on a blog somewhere; touting its authenticity.

Expanding your world is indeed scary stuff. You can choose to go all Amish with your life, and sink into a safe world where you don’t have to worry about things like space exploration, leaky gravity, the possibility of other dimensions or even the fact that this entire world could be made up by “group think” and nothing else. We could all be imaginary.

Still, deniers are not Amish. Denial is not a religion, it is head in the sand logic at best. Deniers got off at one stop or another on their long journey through existence. They got off the bus at a simpler point in time when we didn’t have all this technology and advancement.

Yet, in doing so, they pick and choose what to deny. Those same flat earth deniers love their iPhones, flatscreen TVs and GPS systems that were flights of fancy in the science fiction books I grew up with (by the way, GPS shows the earth is round – look it up if you dare).

But when it comes to space exploration, hey, that’s just CGI or PhotoShop. Live cameras from the ISS are faked in a studio they say, even though you can see the space station go over you at night with a consumer-grade telescope. Of course, the Apollo landings were also faked, even though you can go to an observatory and see the tracks of the lunar rover’s wheels on the surface of the moon any time you want.

I suppose there have always been and always will be people in our world who can’t believe we live in such an amazing place and time.

I do, however, find it terribly amusing that they have glommed onto the Internet to share their ignorance so willfully. I mean, we all know the U.S. government invented the Internet just so they could track our every thought and eventually control our minds. You’d think they’d be scared of the thing.

But then again, maybe they’re just in denial.

In the Emerald City, filled with wander and wonder,

  • Robb



Well, Son Of A Gun.

Posted by admin on February 19, 2018 in The Soapbox

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


Idiot Lights For Everyone!

Posted by admin on February 5, 2018 in Randomalities

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




Posted by admin on January 29, 2018 in Home Ownership

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?”


“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




A Really Bitchin’ Kitchen.

Posted by admin on January 22, 2018 in Growing Up

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


Rats In The Belfry.

Posted by admin on January 15, 2018 in Family

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


Feeling A Bit Disconnected.

Posted by admin on January 8, 2018 in Life Lessons

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



Posted by admin on December 18, 2017 in Religion

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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