About me

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sacajawea dollar

And wouldn't you know the lines formed by my fingers cause the ever-so-smart telephone to rotate the picture. Oh well, the story remains the same. Just don't let the picture make you dizzy.
Some five or so years ago, I visited my mother (and Buck too), and on my way out, she pressed this coin into my hand. She told me it was one of the gold coins Miss Hermie used to pay with when Mama styled her hair. For a moment, I bought into Mama's story, but reality set in quickly. There was a Miss Hermie, and she did pay, occasionally, in coins, but she never paid in gold coins. Hermie did have a little money, but nothing like that.

We all knew at the time that Mama was beginning to lose it mentally, but this was my first tangible evidence. The coin sits on my keyboard now. 

I wonder now if Mama was remembering her small collection of silver dollars. She had, maybe, a dozen, most from the 1800s. She gave them to me about 20 years ago. They were in relatively poor condition as collectible coins go because they had been in circulation starting around the Civil War, and I saw them more as a source of memories than anything else. However, they did not move with me to Raleigh, and I expect they've long since been sold. Or lost. At least now, I don't have to worry that she will ask me about them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Money clip

Yes, I have a money clip. I picked up the style from a dude at work, and later in O'Hare, my airport waiter pointed out how he used the same style. Changing the world one dollar at the time, I suppose.

Enter Daily Steals. Free money clips for $3.95 shipping and handling. I'm game. Two months later, I have an envelope in my mailbox. I suppose that $3.95 was more handling than shipping.

Inside the envelope, we have the object man's desiring.  

A shiny new money clip, and it's in a little baggy. I suppose I now have weed paraphernalia in the house to seal my complete doomnation.

I also have too many singles and credit cards in that stack. It might be a while before the new clip works. Of course, they did call it a "money" clip, not a wad of credit cards and money clip. 

I'm thinking the black and silver remains the more distinctive of the two, leaving so many to shake their heads in disbelief. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vacuum cleaners

Okay, the first is not a vacuum cleaner. I lived in a studio at the time, and there was no need for a vacuum. A carpet sweeper was quite sufficient. It's minor price was also a major attraction as I was living off my good looks at the time.
Of course, that studio had, maybe, 10 square feet of exposed carpet. Nonetheless, the little sweeper served its purpose quite well. It still would, were I to use it. The sad thing is that it does not fit my hands very well, and using it is such the chore.

Then, I moved to the penthouse. Two bedrooms and a living room. Same bath and microscopic kitchen. It seemed reasonable, then, to upgrade the carpet cleaner.
For $20, I bought a vacuum. Bagless. It was sufficient to remove the lumps, which is about what the carpet sweeper did. I'm not sure it was an improvement, but it's what I had.

However, the Bissell was no good at vacuuming odd places like the ceiling or the curtains. Not to worry, I just let the odd places go fallow. The bugs had free reign, at least for a while.

Then last Wednesday, at a Target sale that was leading up to Black Friday, I got this. I also got to call customer service when I didn't assemble it correctly, but all they wanted me to do was get another one from Target. Can you see me traipsing back to Target on Black Friday? After calling the number twice, I took the thing apart, and found that I had not screwn the one screw straight. Me? Not screwing straight? Whodathunkit?
So, a real vacuum cleaner. Now, I just need a cat to chase. As you might expect, there was a little accumulation of dirt in the carpet. Click here to see what came out during the first pass. Not to worry, that much more came out in the second pass. I suspect this end of the building will rise as I continue to remove dust and dirt from the apartment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Clothes dryers

Pay no attention to the Clear modem in the background. It's the best I can get here until TWC decides to do better. There's also the collection of dead ladybugs on the window sill. I'm told some consider it lucky for the ladybugs to appear inside, but it's quite lethal for the critters. They quickly die of dehydration. Maybe I should set up a water bar for vicious beasties. Yes, vicious. Have you ever seen them eat?

You can also ignore whatever reflection of me there is in the window. What brought us here are the drying racks.
So why do I have racks when the laundry room has perfectly good dryers that run for a dollar?

First, it is not to save money. I will need some seven months to make back the expense of the racks, and given how flimsy the two traditional zigzag racks are, I'll probably be buying more directly after I stumble near one. I bought these at Target because that was the only place where I could find them. The tree is an afterthought. I grew tired of hanging shirts, pants and towels on door knobs. It came from Kmart. Yes, I know I said Kmart was dead to me, and that's true if the box is open. However, Kmart is in my back yard and very convenient. It seems reasonable to be a careful shopper and avoid the drive across town.

Second, I did not get the racks to be green, no matter how much I do love the green peep at work who regales me with tales of not using a dryer and how many hurricanes she personally prevents by not using the electricity.

Third, the racks are not here to make my clothes last longer, no matter how much I do love the Canadian who regaled me with stories of how long his clothes last. He doesn't get that I shop at Goodwill, and those shirts cost $3.50. I can have 20 more for the price of the shirt he will wear to work today. Maybe more.

Fourth, I do not dry the clothes in the house to make the air more humid, though I do like the odor of drying clothes, and that is likely a side effect of the increased humidity, especially in the winter. I could put out a pot of water to make the air humid. Or get some plants

I bought the racks to make life simpler. When I use the dryer in the laundry room, it runs for about an hour, and I have to hang around for that hour, and there's the rub. That little bit of structure gets in my way. The time needed to put the clothes on the racks is about the same as going down to move the clothes to the dryer. The time to fold off the racks is about the same as to fold out of the dryer. The difference is that the drying happens asynchronously with the rest of whatever I'm doing, and it's, usually, simpler to fit the unscheduled activity into the day as time arises.

Yeah, I hate a schedule.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Broom and dust pan

I know. It's just completely unexpected that a man such as me would have need of a broom, except to ride, much less the dust pan, but I spent good American money in the discount bargain bin to get both. The pan even came with a small brush. I suppose I'm supposed to throw that at the neighbors when they're loud.
My grandfather would have stepped across the road to the empty field of sand, gathered some broom straw, which you might call sedge, and fashioned a broom. He did that often, and my grandmother used them daily. I saw such brooms for sale at the State Fair. I didn't check the price, but it probably would have hurt my feelings.

People even swept their yards with broom straw brooms back in the day. That generation had no time for a lawn as grass was a thing to be despised, hated, and destroyed. It was only my parents' generation that started cultivating in the yard the very thing they fought in the field. I am convinced the only reason people started keeping lawns was to provide the extra chores to people like me. As you know, there was just not enough work on a tobacco farm then to keep the boys busy. They had to invent more.

Oh yes, the dirt. That's not mine. I borrowed it from the neighbor to make the picture look more realistic.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wine cooler

Yes, I have, or had, a wine cooler.
A Koolatron.

It served very well for several years, but last summer while I was on a road trip, lightning appears to have hit.It probably killed my old TV also.

This is a sad moment. Lily and Josh gave me the cooler for a Christmas present back when I'm pretty sure they had to get creative to make the purchase because they were underage for such, technically, at the time. Now, why the Great State of North Carolina would apply drinking requirements to cooler purchases is a mystery to me. Of course, I don't get how people can be drafted for military service before being old enough to purchase a beer. Perhaps I'm slow that way.

I've spent the last few weeks poking at it, thinking I might be able to get it going again, but alas, it's a no go. All good things must end, I suppose. The corner of the table looks bare now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orange peeler

A very long time ago, I aborted a graduate program in Physics at Wake Forest in the first year. I was in the wrong place and I was there at the wrong time. Besides, the one faculty member I wanted to study under was an insufferable ass. The other prayed a lot.

So I left to find fame and fortune at Lee County Senior High School as a math teacher. My first year was spent teaching math to students who had demonstrated an ability to fail at math, even if they thought they were bound for college. In the Algebra 1A class, one of my students gave me an orange peeler.
This was 30 years ago, and her orange peeler was far more substantial than this one that I bought at the outlet mall. Her's was half again as long, appropriately orange, and sturdy. I carried it for years. However, somewhere in all the moving, I lost it, and that made me sad because she was a good student in that she did her job. OK, she made the only A in the class, but she earned it; she didn't buy it.

So it was with some joy that I found this one at the mall. I nabbed several because they cost like 99 cents, and passed them out at work to the psycho peeps. To spread my joy, you see. However, I doubt they'll remember their's as fondly as I remember mine. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Disciplinary alligator

If you ride while I drive for any period of time you'll quickly learn that I manage an on-going review of the driving habits of those around me, especially the poor drivers, and by poor, I mean those with little or no skill, not money. Hell, we're all poor these days.

Exceed the posted limit, even in the left lane, and listen up for your review. The number on that sign is neither a suggestion nor a challenge.

Don't use your turn signal. Leave your turn signal on. I know, yes, you bought it that way, and there's no reason to change what God has put into place.

Turn left from a driveway against multiple lanes of traffic. Hold up traffic while you stop and wait in the lane to make a left turn. Does no one remember how to make a left or right by making three rights or lefts?

Weave through traffic like frogger, and watch what happens, if you live. Most of us know already how frogger ends.

Lately, I've been making more driving trips for work than usual, mainly because people have been wanting to work in places like DC. It takes a little longer to drive than to fly, but when driving, we have our own autonomy, our own tunes, our own choice of snacks, and our own lumbar support. There's a lot to be said for that.

The train is tempting, especially between Raleigh and DC, and the business class would work well, but it leaves at the crack of dawn, which is just not permitted by my religion.

Occasionally on these road trips, I have the luxury of a navigator, a good friend who is willing to scout upcoming road signs for the opportunity to gallivant about DC for a couple of days. If you're familiar with Dr. Who, think Romana, his traveling companion, but without the sonic screwdriver.

After a couple of these trips, Denise, my occasional traveling companion, is well versed in my Litany of the Drivers, which is punctuated with frequent "When I'm queen of the realm, my alligators will eat you." To help with those trips where I'm left to travel alone, she gave me my newest car bud.

This fellow is going to be well fed.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Turtle shell hat

OK, so the rest of y'all call it a pith helmet. Cool. I only use that name when I know I need to be understood by people not from around here. Or when searching on Amazon.

Behold! Something to keep my noggin cool. The sun off my neck and ears. The lions at bay. Yeah, I made up that last part.

It'll be a while before the band molds to my head, but in the mean time, just imagine the tendrils of smoke rising through those vents as I steam and smolder over one thing and another.

Every summer on the farm saw a new turtle shell hat. I usually bought the cardboard and paper variety, painted, and that'd last about a season. They were cheap, you know. My daddy always had the same hat, cloth covered. Somewhere in this world, that gnarly thing still lies unless they cremated it with him.

The band in this new one adjusts using velcro, not a shoe string like they used to. I'm not sure that's an improvement, but it does make the adjustment simpler. There's also no loose string to slip and tickle the back of mu nect. That's a definite improvement.

So, so, so, I suppose it's time we organoze a safari. We should practice a little, perhaps starting with an afternoon fishing trip to be sure we have the hats sized correctly. Just let me know when, and I'll get the cooler chilled and stocked.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Butt light

Yes, I have a butt light.

Where it came from, I don't recall, but it was probably some part of a bicycle pack from a few years back. I've had that bike for a few years, but only this year have I ridden it much, and now I'm really getting into it.

Yes, it can take Grandpa a while to get into gear.

In particular, I like to ride it around town in search of food. What it means is that I can have a drink with dinner, and not have to worry about making a memory at that one check point on that one day when the beer was especially good. More to the point, the ten-mile round trip goes a long way to negating the caloric load, and before you get all so excited about what something might cost, you might pause to consider the price of blood pressure and cholesterol medications. They ain't cheap, and side effects, in my case, make me feel my age, which is so not good.

The problem is that I've grown accustomed to the long days of summer, and now with fall approaching and daylight saving time about to expire for the season, it's easy to be out after dark. Hence, the butt light.

I suspect it was made for runners, and I've seen such lights for sale at Home Depot, though why is a very good question. However, the bigger, the more important, question is: Does it make my butt look fat?

Well, fatter is the better, more appropriate, word, and thank you for bringing that up. This is why that bike needs disk brakes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Salt and pepper shakers

It probably doesn't get much better than this. Soft plastic salt and pepper shakers with lids to keep the humidity out. Such as this was on the table when I visited relatives in Spring Lake, back when Fayettenam meant something, and the very mention of Hayes Street sent you to the clinic.

Like much of my stuff, these are relics from the camping days. I can't say that I miss the trailers, much less the setups, but I did enjoy some of the times, especially with the children. Home schooling and the professorate meant we could take extended trips to the beach where they could engage enrichment as appropriate.

Maybe it was that, at the beach, a beer at 9 A.M. is not seem so unreasonable.

Regardless, those days are behind us now, and I doubt we revisit them in any recognizable manner. If we so, I hope there's a Hilton involved, or perhaps a Class A motorhome with a houseboy.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I've long had something for hats. Back when I was just a young thing, I had a cap that I wore until my daddy had a fellow at the local store snatch it off my head and throw it in the fire. Tough love, I guess. Folks then didn't much wash caps.

A few years later with Gilligan's Island on the TV, I managed to find a white sailor's hat. I wore that hat inverted for years. There was also the proper hat with the small feather that I wore to church. It was more expensive than I could really afford at the time.

Oh, and yes, for about three days, I wore a beanie with a propeller on top during high school.

Speaking of back in high school, I managed to get a Mexican-style sombrero from a traveling salesman. It was fun to wear, but it quickly shrank to miniature. By quickly, I mean about a fortnight. You could almost watch it disappear.

All through those years, summer was the time for the turtle shell hat. You might know that style as a pith helmet a la the old safari movies. Each summer saw a new turtle shell because we sweated so much that they wore out quickly. We also had a habit of hanging our hats on the last stalk of tobacco of the season. I did that once or twice, but I knew I'd need that hat later when I was working in the barn. Besides, it seemed a shame to abandon a fine and faithful hat like that.

At this point, I buy my hats at a serious discount. Think a very few bucks, usually at Goodwill, but there are notable exceptions. Although I'd dearly love that felt Bronner at the local Army surplus store, the $50 price tag seriously hurts my feelings. Surely, someone will give one in my size to Goodwill soon.

So here's what we have now.

The baseball caps.

There was another half dozen last summer, but the walking program led to a serious degree of salt deposits. I probably should have washed them, but I let them go. I don't really care for the baseball cap, though I wear them often. That's likely related to that thing with my daddy at the store way back. I suppose there's a little baggage remaining in that memory.

The straw hats.

In the back with the blue ribbon, sits the lake special. It often keeps my old bald head from burning when I'm out at the lake. Yes, a bandanna would do the same, and has, but bandannas produce a distinct tan line that is oh the embarrassment the next day. People have enough reasons to laugh at me without me offering them the ammunition.

The other one in the back is a gift from a dear friend. It's a little small now because straw hats shrink, and it rides in my car a lot on the rear shelf. It also sees some time at the lake, and yes, I am sufficiently secure in my sexuality to wear a straw hat with a pink ribbon. You should have figured that already.

In the front is the hat I wore to the bell ringing back on the 4th. There are times it works for me, and other times I cannot bear it. No, I do not know what that is about. Maybe I'm wierder than we thought.

The boonies.

The boonies probably hearken back to the Navy hats from Gilligan's Island. I started noticing them after the Vietnam war, probably because they were becoming available in the surplus stores, and perhaps because they were becoming acceptable when the war ended. There have been many boonies on my head over the years.

The green on is from KMart. It fits, but it's a little small. It sees a lot of use at the gym where it's probably a violation of the dress code just as bandannas are. So far, neither the gym nor the restaurants downtown have asked me to remove it. Maybe one day, you can hope.

The black one is from the local Army surplus. It's bigger, and it fits better. I could use a tan one, but that'll have to wait until I'm on the south side of town AND the surplus store is having a sale.

A proper hat.

I'm wearing this hat right now. It's a proper hat for a proper moment. Given my improper nature, it's not likely to see much action any time soon. However, a girl can dream, can she not?

Driving caps.

The leather cap, I bought on a lark. I'm not certain it'll ever see the light of day. Well, perhaps it will when leather chaps and a vest find their way into my closet, but that's a wholly different situation that's likely a long time off. Have you priced leather clothing lately?

The other is in the hat like my daddy wore, and there's an hole nudder story there. He usually wore a style from London Fog. My mother once even gave me one along with a London Fog rain coat. She said I would need this for college. As I recall, I never wore either. It's only been in the last season that I can bring myself to put the cloth cap on my head, much less look in the mirror. Nonetheless, I find myself liking it, and you're at risk to see more, perhaps even at work. It's probably better to deal with the old baggage before it takes us down, and we wonder what happened.

Monday, August 29, 2011


My jobs

I will not review my current job here. That would be both a stupid thing and an unfair thing for me to do. I've been there now almost ten years, longer than anywhere else, and that will stand as a sufficient review.

It's odd to me that I'd be doing laundry on a Monday morning after a long weekend and thinking of the various jobs I've held.

The family farm.

I started before I knew there was other work than on my family's farm. Daddy was a share-cropper. He worked the land owned by his uncle and his brother. He also work his daddy's few acres of sand, but that was a different relationship. The uncle and the brother had formal relationships with Daddy based on money and obligation.

Daddy shared labor with two other farmers in the community. Those two owned their own land. By sharing labor, they were able to give the crew a complete week of work during the tobacco season. I started work there as an early teen working for free because I was family. Later, I started earning a quarter an hour. As a male, I earned more than the girl of the same age to whom I handed the leaves I had just snapped off the tobacco stalks. That always produced some discussion, but it didn't change the pay scale.

This was hard and grueling work, work that I do not recall as ever being fun, but work that made me look forward to the beginning of school, and that was probably a very good thing. It also made me reject shop class and FFA (Future Farmer's of America) membership in favor of Latin. Although the work crews were quite young, there was little humor or fun involved, probably because the adults were from that stock you so often see glaring in the old photographs. That damned Puritanical mindset will surely be one of the factors identified in the final chapter of this country as a serious limiting factor for the welfare of the people.

Just look at our work scenes now and the paid time-off that's a part of the wage. Now compare that to what you'll find in most other civilized countries. We are far down on the human scale. We still work to achieve a smile at the Pearly Gates. It does little or nothing for our overall productivity, and I'll submit that it precludes us from achieving our full potential. We stand where we are as a country and an amalgamation of societies because we had the good fortune of being born on a continent rich in natural resources, not from the fruits of our Puritanical labors.

After I left for college, my daddy took public work with the county sheriff, and that left me with no built-in summer work. Now looking back, I should have pursued summer employment in labs, something that would have enriched the education, but money was an issue, especially as my balance of loan and grant shifted with my daddy's shift from farm to county work, and I found myself taking paying work back home.

The Holiday inn.

First, there was a brief stint washing dishes at the Holiday Inn restaurant off I-95 in Selma. The building is still there, but it's under another name now. That lasted a very few weeks, and I left them at 2 A.M. on a Saturday night with every dish in the house waiting to be washed. This was my first experience with an environment where unseen greed drove policy. It would not be my last. However, I still feel a pang of guilt over leaving that mess for the others to find that next morning. The site manager later told my mother that I could not handle stress. His subsequent heart attack would give him a pot-meet-kettle moment, but I've never yet understood what kind of stress he would expect a dishwasher to feel. Boredom? Yes. Not stress.

The neighbor's farm

That fortuitous failure left me working on Ina Ruth and Harold Ray's farm. It was the same work as on any other tobacco farm, but this was different. People had fun with it. Back-breaking labor, chronic dehydration, repeated 70-hour weeks, and they took time to laugh. Forty years later when I meet people from those few summers, we still comment on how we had fun with it. Having fun with it was to become a standard of measure for me. It would also get me into a lot of trouble. It still does.

I notice now that the more successful companies of this world maintain having fun as an important part of the corporate culture. Zappos even hires on fit with culture as a primary selection factor. Competence and skill are important and required, but they are also secondary.

So I graduated in 1975, and there was no work to be found. After a short stint as a substitute teacher, I worked as a bricklayer's helper for six months. They hired me as a courtesy to my family, and I even rode in the cab of the truck, not in the back with the black helpers. Because that was embarrassing, I hopped in the back once. The guys there were set aback, and it was a long, quiet ride. Along with the motion sickness and carbon monoxide poisoning, the ostracism pushed me back in the cab.

I needed some reminder of my place then, and I often still do. This is not something I expect to change anytime soon.

Easley Junior High SChool

Onward and upward with a return to school for a year to get a teaching certificate, which left me accepting an end of year appointment in Easely, South Carolina, a mill town with all the excitement you might expect. A physical science teacher had been fired for making out with a student in the parking lot. That he was a black man and she was a white girl had nothing to do with it. School management did not offer an appointment for the next year, and that was a very good thing because I had already set my sites on a return to graduate school that was to fail, but it did set me on a return trajectory to the classroom.

Sanford Senior High SChool

Sanford, North Carolina, to be exact. The geographic center of the state, a small county with one high school. No where you'd really want to be, at least for long. I was there almost three years, beginning as a general math and Algebra I-A teacher, ending as a Physics and Chemistry teacher. The general math produced my only encounter with student paddling, and I do not see that as a particularly fine moment in my varied career. It was, however, what I did. The Physics and Chemistry teaching was fun, especially the Physics where color and eccentricity is expected.

Well, with one exception. The principal at the time was a certified fool and an idiot. He's thankfully dead now. One spring, he wanted 100% participation in the United Way drive. I was the last holdout, and on my way to his office, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I taped that penny to my donation card, and he met his goal, which he later announce in a memo to all the teachers in which he wrote “Every penny counts.”

East Wake High SChool

In three years, I grew bored, applied to Physics graduate school, was accepted, and almost graduated, but I grew tired of being exceptionally poor, not that teaching had exposed me to high living, and I returned to the classroom, Chemistry and Physics, at East Wake High School. This rural school was likely my best position because I easily identified with the students and their parents. I even supervised the Sportsmen's Club, think hunting and fishing. We brought weapons on campus for club meetings, and the only response from the principal was to join and participate. Those days are long gone.

During those years, personal computing was born. I had been introduced to computing in 1971, and the idea of computing in the classroom intrigued me, but not my department chair in Sanford who said that he saw no purpose for computers in the classroom. However, he did buy me a laser, and that was fun. Granted, he was a good friend for years, at least until his homophobia shone through, but he was not a man given of vision, this despite a very strong intellect.

Enloe High SChool

Digital Equipment Corporation gave Wake County a VAX/VMS computer, and it was used in the magnet program at Enloe High School. After a summer program in which I created some piece of code that performed numerical integration for use in an advanced chemistry lab (taught by the fellow in Sanford!), I applied for an open slot to teach Physics and Computer Science at Enloe. I lasted two and a half years.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

I left because one summer I didn't know I had a job for the next year, and I started applying for other work. Word got out, and the principal called me to let me know I had a job. With that knowledge, I started declining the offers, but then one came through from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in User Services with Academic Computing. I took that one, and left Enloe in mid-year It was a difficult departure because I could feel how the decision was casting in place future gains and losses that I could not divine, but that I knew spelled the beginning of the end of my work in the classroom.

Working at UNCG was fun. The first year or so, I worked in User Service where I learned the SAS System sufficiently well to become the school's SAS System consultant. I transitioned from consulting into systems, but retained the SAS work. Work there was a delight, and I was to learn that this was because the director protected his creative staff. When he retired, the university hired a Machiavellian demon who proceeded to orchestrate his own unschooled vision, which had no room for anything fun. He continues to stand as one of the least pleasant men I have known. I doubt his view of me is any better, and I consider that high praise.


Most of the UNCG staff that could find other work found other work. I was among them, mostly because UNCG was $500 short on my requirement to stay, and that spoke volumes to me. I felt sorry for those who could not look afield because of personal circumstances, but that was not enough to keep me in place. It makes no sense to consort with evil people just for the money. I left UNCG for a three-month stint with what was Corning Glassworks. I was to manage the computer systems there. In the time between my acceptance of the job and my stepping into the job, Corning sold the plant to AVX in Myrtle Beach. During that time, they also moved the man who was to become my boss from a New York facility to Raleigh, and in the process, sold him with the plant.

AVX was my next experience with evil and short-sighted management. Well, my boss was simply an idiot, though I doubt he had the papers to prove it. The men above him were evil and short-sighted chasers of money. It didn't matter how much. Racism was also in a rare and smiling form there. They reopened my position, and I accepted alternative work back in Greensboro with A&T State University the next day. AVX management were taken aback by that speed, but my search was also still open, mostly because academic institutions think in longer terms than companies.

A&T State University

I was appointed to be the Academic Computing Manager at A&T State University. I never have been sure why they bothered with academic computing, and mostly what we did was sign in and out as we moved about the campus. The director was concerned that he couldn't say what we were doing at any given moment, and that's likely because of his manager who had a reputation as a very unpleasant woman. Our secretary used to anoint reports with holy oil before sending up the chain.

Although I did not learn a great deal about computing while at A&T, and though it gave me three good years to bootstrap a dissertation, my most important take-away there was being the minority presence. Being a white man, I had no idea what it was like to be the odd man out. They treated me well, and that personal learning was to become one of the most important in my time on this planet, but I doubt that was in the job description they used. My biggest problem was that I wanted to do something more than sit around and shuffle reports of things I pretended to do.

Yes, the story of my leaving a concrete block on my office chair with a note about it floating away is true.

Greensboro College

Greensboro College needed a Director of Academic Computing, and because I knew, tangentially, the Director of Administrative Computing, I landed the job though it would cost me a year in finishing my PhD. I took it, and a few months later, the school discovered embezzlement, and that led to severe problems, but I was safe. However, the school's librarian had delusions of grandeur, and she was moving to build an empire predicated on a few of her useless but well-groomed state computing connections. I have little patience for fools, and it shined though with alarming brilliance, and I moved over to teach full-time in Mathematics. They even let me be chair for a year.

I love the classroom. I'm probably at my best there. What I'm not good at is dragging unwilling students through the semester. After a few years, I burned out. Again. The real problem was teaching extra evening classes and summer school classes to boost my income. While people might scoff at teachers with long summers and other holiday vacations, you should not do that until you experience the psychic load of hundreds of questions in the run of a day. Most teachers answer more questions in a day than regular folks do in a month.

Regardless, I remember that little school with it's storied history fondly. That is exists is testament to the importance of long-range planning that is measured in generations, not months, as well as the importance of a broad education. I defeated my problem with language there by taking Spanish classes every semester. Those classes also kept me occupied, introduced me to some smart people, and otherwise pushed me forward. I still like returning to sit by the fountain in the front yard.

Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) beckoned, and I took work there as a psychometrician. I'm not sure why they hired a psycho, but they did, and there was a wealth of data to support pure and applied research. I used it extensively, and it was probably the most prolific writing period of my life. However, and especially after 9-11 and the Center's resources diminished, it became clear that my job was going to become one of running numbers for norms to support training, and while that work is necessary, it's substantially boring. Three years to the day, I left.

It's important to learn something from most everything, both good and bad, and I'll be the last to think of CCL as a poor appointment. It just wasn't the most interesting, and it was on course because of economic reality to become one of the most boring when I left. However, those three years were, perhaps, the most enlightening. As a part of my first year, CCL sent me through the flagship Leadership Development Program (LDP). That week-long look in the mirror, especially with mid-life approaching, produced more introspection that anything this side of being a parent.

If you ever have the opportunity to take LDP with CCL, take it. You'll learn about yourself, and that's important, but the more important thing is that by learning about yourself, you'll come to learn about others, and you'll see that all those boring, perhaps evil people, who've filled your life with unnecessary memories, are generally one-dimensional, and they have no idea. They will likely never have a clue, but at least you can dodge them better.

The now

And so there you are. The jobs I've held. I've been around, typically with the three to five year tenure until this last appointment that I've held for nearly ten years. My ex expressed the supposition that my frequent job changes were motivated by a fear of being outed. I suppose that helped her reconcile the series of ambiguities that arose as we lived together.

However, she was wrong. In every instance, it's been about boredom. Every change was to alleviate the boredom. I doubt that changes, though it leaves me wondering how I've stayed put for a decade. That's likely because of other changes that have ameliorated the boredom that comes with knowing a job and a workplace inside out.

What are those changes? Children stepping into adulthood. Financial gyrations. External professional activities. Writing activities. These blogs. Those tweets. And probably being old enough to remember my mother's admonition to entertain myself.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Scout pin

An Eagle Scout Dad pin.

Danger undertook an Eagle Scout project that involved clearing a new ground for a path with a bridge and several seats. The Boy Scouts are peculiar in the requirement that Eagle Scout projects involve physical construction. Web sites don't count. Fund raising doesn't count. The boy has to build something. I see their point, but I also see it as at least a generation behind the times, like a good many other things regarding scouting.

Danger survived the scouts, and is probably stronger for it. He was teased a lot because of me. I'm sure he overheard a lot of whispered hate that surely contributed nothing positive to teen development. Nonetheless, he made it out, and has done well with his launch into adulthood, doing so better than most, likely better than I did. There's not much a dad can complain about there.

BTW, you haven't lived until you step into a Taco Bell and order two dozen cheesy beef burritos for the squad of boys in the woods.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hotel room

Yes, a hotel room. There have been lots. There will be lots more. Not a one is as good as the room that holds my own bed.

This one is from what was The Jurys at Dupont Circle in DC. Now, it's the Dupont Hotel. I take such a picture as I enter the room. You remember your Curious George? It's easy for a monkey to forget.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Computer bag

In 9.5 years, I've been through 4 computer bags, all rollers. I was beginning to think the last bag would never die, not that I have any problem with a bag lasting a while. It's just that I put them through a lot of use, and after about a year, I figure they're about gone. That's why I don't buy the expensive bags. It's better, I think, to buy off the bottom shelf, and then expect to swap out every year or so.

Yes, I once paid $350 for a fancy Wilson suitcase. It died in 18 months. I replaced it with a $50 5-in-1 from Kmart that lasted 12 months, probably because the abuse was spread out over four of the five bags.

Nonetheless, I bought the recently deceased computer bag at Staples some over two years ago. It was on a half-price rack, leather, and I gave in, paying the $80. It lived a long and useful life. Last May, the wheel bearings gave out in Brussels as I dragged it across a few miles of cobblestones for a week. Yeah, we had a mile walk across town to work each morning. The return to the hotel was no shorter.

Then last Wednesday, as I'm getting on the elevator in my apartment building, snap! There went the handle. The last time that happened, I was boarding a flight on US Airways. Fortunately, I had an upgrade to first class, and there was room to stash my case with the handle extended.

Bye, bye, fine and faithful friend.

A few days later, I'm passing by Staples, and I stop, go in, and find a cloth and vinyl Targus bag at $60 that wants to come home with me. Nope. There was nothing on the half-price shelf. The clerk pointed out that if I spent $5 on a replacement plan, I would get a 20% discount on the bag. Spend $5 more. Get $12 off. How do things like that work?

Meet my newest traveling companion.

The replacement plan went in the recycling.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I don't see many people wearing bandannas anymore, aside from TV bad guys and some reality TV show teams wanting to show-off one thing or another that doesn't really exist outside the hype.

Nonetheless, I've made use of bandannas since back in the early 70s. I wore sandals and bandannas. Think of it as a hippy-wannabe thing.

This means I have bandannas from over the decades collected. For the last several years, I didn't much use them because I didn't much do things that made me sweat, but now with a better class of NSAID available and, yes, better shoes, we're making a comeback.

Of course, I can already hear the chorus of naysayers regarding the lack of fashion, and Planet Fitness explicitly bars bandannas as headwear. So do several local bars. This is apparently an effort to keep out gangs. Me? A gang member? Can you imagine?

Yes, I still take a bandanna to the gym. It's just in my pocket, but I need something there to mop sweat, and it's not like I'm going to hump that treadmill with a thin white towel wrapped about my neck.

Here are the regular bandannas. Blue and red.

Just like Jethro and Ellie May might have used.

A few others in the drawer have a bit of different history.

Someone else will need to figure what the software needed to rotate it 90 degrees. One day, I hope coders can make smart code that actually has a lick of sense.

Meanwhile, that one is from a trip to California the children took with the ex-spousal unit. I still picture that moment in the gift shop when the ex asked if they thought Dad might like a new bandanna, and their heads bobbed in agreement. OK, I doubt that actually happened, but it's better than anything else, and I'm staying with it.

These are from Goodwill.

Notice that one was originally sold under the Gap brand. I can only imagine how much someone overpaid for that bandanna.

Now, brace yourself.

The black one is from the Army Surplus store in Greensboro, North Carolina. I retain it even if it is fairly poor in quality. The cloth is thin and hardly absorbent at all. I keep it for no reason other than it's there, and I have no reason to toss it in the trash.

The white one I received during my participation in the Leadership Development Program (LDP) at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). No, I do not know what someone there was thinking when it was decided to give corporate executives a commemorative bandanna. I'm sure they all made quite the fashion statement in the corporate boardrooms. Of course, I used mine as God intended: To mop sweat.

Last year during the summer, I was out for a long walk on a Sunday morning. As I passed a copse of woods near one of the NCSU buildings, a recognizable and undeniable cramp hit. I ducked into the woods and attended to the cramp, leaving my bandanna as a matter of necessity. Yes, it was the white CCL bandanna.

I was a bit sad at losing that one. Most of the others had far less history attached, but what's a poor boy to do out on a long walk on a hot morning with no convenient bathroom nearby? At least, it wasn't the one from California.

Fast forward two months into the fall. I'm walking the same route, not even thinking about the bandanna. By the side of the street, I see a flash of white. Upon further inspection, I see that it's the CCL bandanna, grey from the weather and abuse, neatly folded, laying outside the copse, apparently waiting for my return.

You know what I did. I fetched it back, stashed it in my pocket, bleached the stains (mostly) out, and run it thorough the washer in hot water. I believe we call that "Laundered to EBay standards."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Return of the Beast

Ages ago, I was visiting a bud, and he noticed that I was prone to drink a lot, and by drink a lot, I mean a few quarts of sugar-free generic Kool-Aide-style soft drink each day.

Get your minds out of the liquor store, no matter how much you're liking the AC there these days.

So on a follow-up visit, he gifted me with a cup.

52 ounces. I used it regularly until a couple of years ago when I stopped. No, I don't know why. I just did. I also lost touch with the bud.

So last night, here, out of the blue, comes a text message. It was a pleasant moment. Turning, I reached for the cup from the cupboard. Two sticks of Wyler's and a fill-up of Raleigh's finest, and we're good to go this morning.

Yeah, I'll probably need a potty chair in my office today. Or a catheter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smoothie blender

The old one gave up the ghost after two or three years of faithful service. There'll be a candle light vigil and wake this evening followed by interment at the Wake County Public Landfill tomorrow.

That beast has made hundreds of smoothies. Typically, I'll have two or three a day, depending on the day and what I'm doing. Yes, I slow down in the dead of winter when it's just not right to drink frozen drinks. Otherwise, the freezer is filled with plastic containers of fruit, usually grapes, strawberries, and blueberries, though after Christmas, I'll pile it high with cranberries because they become real cheap then.

Here's the old and the new side-by-side.

Comparing the old and the new, I can discern no difference. I expected Hamilton-Beach to have ruined a perfectly good product by now. It seems like most other companies do.

The problem with the old one was that the rubber teeth on the motor and on the cup had both worn down to nubs, and a critical degree of nubbin was reached just this morning, so when Grandpa went over the Kmart to fetch his Celebrex, a recreational drug for sure, and a ream of computer paper, he nabbed a new smoothie blender, a US$15 splurge.

The gal at checkout wanted to sell me a warranty, and she was none to impressed that I was willing to spend about 35 cents a month on a smoothie blender. However, she did not push the point.

So there you go. Come a runnin'! A cup of plain non-fat yogurt. A naner. Some frozen fruit. Top it off with skim milk. Buzz until you know it's done, and slurp it down.

Yes, I know some white rum would go a long was in that recipe, but remember, I'm trying my best to be good here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kitchen towels

Well, a better title might be towels in the kitchen because, as you'll see, not everything here is an official kitchen-type towel. Of course, you know I have a tendency to make do with odd stuff now and again, and by odd, I mean convenient.

Towels from the camper

As you might know, I set up housekeeping with stuff from a camper. That means a lot of old stuff that was no longer suitable for use in the big house found it's to here, and here it shall remain for a long while. In particular, these two towels will be here a while because of their connection to better times camping with the children. At some point, though, that final thread will vanish, and I suppose I'll store the remaining lint in a jar or something, perhaps with a label.

Foundling washcloths

I found these two washcloths in the discard pile of the laundry room. After washing them, I intended for them to wait until company arrived. However, I found myself pressing them into use in the kitchen for some purpose that I do not now recall, and there they have stayed. The company never arrived, and I suppose it's all for the best because the thick washcloths work well with hot pot lids and biscuit sheets.

Pink and purple

At some point after moving, it was apparent that I was going to need more than the two camper towels, especially if I continued to insist on cooking. On a trip to Food Lion, I found these on sale at a dollar each. In hindsight, I'm not sure how economical the choice was because they are rather thin, but that buck amortizes fairly well over the half-decade it's been, and I doubt there's much consequence following the choice aside from the giggles of people when they see them. Do bear in mind that exactly three people have seen these towels in person, and I suppose, then, the giggling is tolerable.

Bar mops

Yes, that was the name on the tag at Food Lion. Bar mops. These are fairly utilitarian white towels that stain easily, and that means they need more bleach that I tend to use in the laundry. They also tend to scald a little under hot pots and lids. Given that they came in a five-pack for $4, I'm not all that concerned. They'll last a few seasons, and I'll use them a few seasons beyond that. At that point, we'll have a funeral because something will happen between now and then that will leave me attached to one or more.

Oven mitts

These came with the similarly colored towels. I rarely use them because they're thin, and the heat gets through them quickly. Instead, I tend to use folded towels for moving hot things. I suppose I should toss them out. It's not like there's a surplus of space in my kitchen. They could find new life in someone else's kitchen, perhaps a student downstairs. More likely, I'll leave them in the discard pile in the laundry room, and the cleanup person will toss them in the trash the following Monday. For whatever reason, that leaves me a little sad, and so they remain in my kitchen where they find some use under warm pots.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Towards my middle 40s, my foundation became shaky as tendinitis settled in for the long run in both feet. A few years later, metatarsals gave up the ghost, twice. That was such a delight. You should try driving with a walking cast on your gas foot. Meanwhile, the podiatrists wanted to fix the obvious problem, that being bigger bunion. They could also deal with the plantar fascia, but they didn't have much to say when questioned about the 33% satisfaction rate after the surgeries. That coupled with the six to nine month recovery period PER FOOT! left me choosing to grunt and be grumpy.

Well, there were the prescription shoe inserts at $500 each, neither covered by insurance in any manner. That didn't help with the grumpiness. And no, there are no drugs that help. There is not that much NSAID in the world. What I do is focus on accommodation: What can I do and not do that makes locomotion better.

This leaves me intensely aware of shoes. Some suggest I have a foot fetish, and I suppose in a manner of thinking, I do, but the only source of pleasure in this fetish is avoidance of pain. I usually know within seconds whether or not a pair of shoes will be acceptable.

One accommodation is that I swap shoes frequently. This not only allows yesterday's shoes to dry while I'm sweating up today's shoes, but the change permits old frayed nerves to cool while new happy nerves are abused.

Here's what's in the closet now. Well, they are more beside the bed than in the closet. Having them out facilitates changing, and it's not like anyone actually uses that side of the bed.

The cowboy boots

I loved these shoes. They're easily 20 years old, if not more, and have seen a half-dozen bottoms. I've worn these boots on Tienanmen Square as well as on the campuses of all but two of the universities in the North Carolina system. They've been around. They've also been as far as they're ever going to go unless a miracle happens. I've not worn them in two years or more, and the last time I put them on, they were off in a matter of seconds. I suspect my days of high heels are about over. That's sad because you know how insecure I am about my lack of stature.

The FitFlops

Yes, that's the name. FitFlops. They're from somewhere in the UK and ordered through Zappos. The idea is that the sole wiggles slightly when walking and that's supposed to promote some therapeutic effect. I have no evidence of that. All I know is that I can go farther in these shoes than in any other pair I have. However, there are limits. I worked three days in Orlando last February, and these were the only work shoes to took. After the third day, I was in agony. Still, these are my preferred shoes, especially when flying. They work well going through airport security because they slid on.

The work Crocs

Yes, these are Crocs, and no, I wouldn't buy them again. They're marginal for me. I only wear them a couple of times a week, mainly because they can be hot and they're no where near as comfortable as you'd expect from Crocs. Some of the reviews were from wait staff in restaurants, and they indicated superb comfort. I suppose this means I should avoid working as a waiter in a restaurant.

The Vibram Five Fingers

I avoided the Five Fingers for a year or more because I was suspicious of all the hype. Marketing has done very little positive for the retail world as far as I'm concerned. However, #1 Son bought a pair, and they changed the way he engages USAF PT to the point that his physician wrote a letter to the USAF to get #1 approved to wear Five Fingers in PT. With that in mind, I bought my own pair. It has taken three weeks to be able to wear them more than a couple of hours a day, but the therapeutic effects is kicking in. I suspect this shoe is going to be a winner.

The Coleman boots

I bough these boots in the spring of last year after a series of events left me hobbling and relatively grumpy. I might have worn them six times since. Mostly, I haven't been anywhere that would favor boots, even for as much as I generally prefer boots to all other forms of foot wear, and they just don't work all that well in our summer heat. Bear in mind that the temperature on the street is substantially above the temperature at your head. To this end, they sit in the closet.

The sandals

I wear these in spells, and often those spells include socks, which makes so many complain. Note: Honey Badger don't care. At this point, I find them relatively heavy, and they don't much work with the mechanics of my steps anymore. What's interesting here is that, back in the early 70s, I started wearing Jesus shoes on the farm during the summer. Yes, the folks back home called them Jesus shoes. I took quite the ribbing from wearing them, but they were better than going barefoot when working in the tobacco barns where I'd be standing on up-turned 2x4s most of the day. They were also far cooler than the brogans everyone else wore.

The Crocs

The worn out Crocs. I love these shoes, which are all worn out from extreme use, and more are coming as soon as I can catch a sale somewhere, and that somewhere will be Zappos because I'm extremely unlikely to step out into the world and shop for shoes. The question might arise as to the color I should get. For as much as I'd like something louder and brighter, I'm oh so certain it'll be another black pair.

And that's it. There ain't no more.


Yes, a bicycle.

I bought this some time back thinking it would provide a reasonable alternative to running and perhaps even walking. Then work and life conspired, along with Raleigh traffic, and it sat idle for a few years. Last year, another try, another rejection. This year, we're doing a little better, though Raleigh's traffic is worse.

This modest success might be because of a better class of NSAID. It might be that I'm a little more ornery than before, which many would tell you is hard to imagine. Perhaps the stars just aligned.

Regardless, it's seen some action in the few weeks. I ride it to Planet Fitness. I ride it downtown for dinner. Sometimes a beer. C'mon! There's gotta be a little immediate reward in there somewhere for me.

I'd like to ride it to work, and that's a 12 mile ride, but it'll be a while before that happens, not so much because of the distance but because of the traffic. There are very narrow shoulders on the roads between here and my office. I'd be mashed flat within the week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New can koozie

Being ever the good boy I am, I rode my bike to fetch a PBR and half-priced nibbles yesterday. This trip involves passing by Central Prison, and you know that's always the delight for me, what with getting to wave to so many relatives.

On the way back, I found this can koozie in the grass by the prison sidewalk. I suppose someone lost it while out on a walkabout.

It certainly won't handle the manly 24-ounce cans (e.g., Four Loko) that I usually get, much less a 40 of Cobra, but it'll be just fine for the daintier, and perhaps more genteel, element that occasionally visits the lake with me. Now to just remember about the pinky.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Brown Turkey Fig tree

Yes, I once planted a tree.

I planted this tree in the late 70s in what was my mother's backyard partly in the memory of the fig tree my grandparents had in their backyard and my fondness for her fig preserves. It grew and made a bush that in some few years found its way under my brother's lawnmower.

The both of us moved away, and the tree recovered. Whoever was cutting the grass let it remain and grow. And grow, And grow. Figs are supposed to be indisposed to our weather and climate. Apparently, this one is an exception.

Now, Mother lives on another planet. I doubt she remembers this tree because it came later in her life. My brother lives in the house now. He usually lets me know when the figs are gone. I've never, to my knowledge, eaten a fig off this tree. Perhaps this year will be different.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coffee cups

Yes, coffee cups.

There are three. At one time, they were all in the camping gear. Now, two are at home. One stays in the office. People fuss that I use plastic too much, but those cups have been around a long while, and I'm sure they've already leached what they're going to leach into my coffee.

Besides, they are precious to me. Very.

We went to the NC State Zoo back in 1997. Danger's godparents went with us. It was one hot day, and we stopped for lunch, or at least a wet snack. These cups were part of some special thing they had going on that involved reusable cups.

I wonder, now, how many of those cups remain, here almost 15 years later. Perhaps a few, but at least three, and they'll be here a while longer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bed covers

I moved in here with stuff from the camping mess, and you can guess what that means.

In time, communication and cash flow improved, and it's no accident those two go together with the conjunction. When the money's coming, kind words follow. I would point out that the reverse is also true. When the money stops, the words, at least the kind ones, stop. And you cannot have the one without the other.

So one year, I agreed to participate in the Christmas shenanigans. As you likely know, I don't much like Christmas, and that's for a lot of reasons we won't go into here. I just leave this holiday for the others to enjoy, especially those people who equate spending money with spiritual advance. I'm fine with being out of country from middle November through Boxing Day.

Here's what the ex-spousal unit arranged for the children to give me that next to last Christmas with the family.

Rainbow sheets and cover. Well, as close to rainbow as they could get.

I really do like this set, and I've used it exclusively since. At some point and for some reason, I'll have to use something else. They'll wear out. I'll move and have a different size bed. Gay space aliens will steal them. Who knows?

It'll be a sad day, that's for sure.