Oh Deer

 

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Not my picture but the area near my car looks like this in the day light

The place where I work backs up against a set of train tracks. On the other side of that there is a wilderness area. Deer live in that area. Over time they will browse their way up along the drainage ditches then in among the trees and bushes that line our parking lot. We see groups of three to four fairly regularly. They are rightfully wary of people since the other side of the wilderness area butts up against farmland that people hunt on.

 

One friday I was the last one in the building. My solitary car sat in the parking lot, equidistant from each one of the light poles meaning I’d managed to park in the one place that left my car in mostly shadow. Mind you the most dangerous thing in the business park I work at is the traffic so I had little to fear while walking out to my car.

However I am a woman alone. Baked into my psyche is all the warnings of dangers of walking in dark places that modern women grow up with. We’ve all seen the stories where the victim is blamed because she was walking alone in the dark or was wearing something provocative or she wasn’t aware of her surroundings and ended up alone with a bunch of men. Thinking about these things is just par for the course if you are a woman. So when I realized that the car was in shadows I grimaced and tried to tell my anxiety to stuff it because I do know the area to be as safe as a clean well run business park in a reasonably middle class area can be.

Walking out to my car though I suddenly had a thrill of fear as I heard something moving around in the bushes directly in front of my car.

“Who’s there!’ I said while yanking my flashlight out of my pocket. It may be small but its bright as shit. Thank you LEDs.

I flicked it on and crazy eyes reflected back at me as the three deer munching on the bush in front of my car all raised their heads to stare in my direction. The reflected light of their eyes and the movement startled me which made me shriek and jerk the light away, freeing them to bolt back into the underbrush.

I am pretty sure we scared each other pretty good so I’m not sure when I will see them again. I took a moment in my car to settle my nerves before driving home.

Frickin Deer.

Nostalgia

I miss the Franklin Planner I used to lug around. Before cell phones became smartphones, when people mostly only had beepers I used to have a Franklin Planner. In fact I had a Franklin Planner before Franklin Planner became Franklin-Covey. I listened to the tapes (yes this was a while ago) on how to use the thing like 6 times because Hyrum Smith was amusing to listen to. I really liked that thing. I think I carried it for more than two years. The planner acted as my wallet/purse and address book. In reality it was a proto-smartphone and handled all of my planning needs. What killed it for me was my own lack of need for all that functionality and the necessity to constantly update it.

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Each morning you were suppose to spend time looking to see what needed to be done. Then you were supposed to prioritize that list. I found myself just not needing to write down things like buy groceries or get gas. I had a job where I went to the same place every day at the same time so it’s not like my schedule varied much. Also since I rarely had anything written down to do when something did come up I wasn’t in the habit of checking my schedule throughout the day so I would miss stuff I had written down. But I really liked the Idea of the organizational planner so I persisted in trying to make it part of my life for two years.

I think what finally sunk it for me was the cost. A Franklin planner could cost upwards of a hundred dollars with all the supplements you would need to make it really work if you were a salesman or project manager. Those were the professions that it was really designed for. But for the everyday joe like myself a pocket calendar that came with an address book from the dollar store worked just as well for remembering important dates or appointments.

I did learn some very important lessons from the Franklin Planner that have helped me.

When I have a big job to do I break it down into manageable chunks then break those chunks down into the tasks necessary to get the chunks done. Then I figure out on a timeline how long those tasks will take and which ones need to be done first. With that I start planning on when to get them done so that in the end the big job gets done on time. This really served me well when I went college.

The philosophy behind the Franklin Planner also was helpful in giving me a vocabulary to understand my own personal priorities and goals. It asked me what was important to me and if it was important to me why was I putting energy into other things and not that? It was that whole “is the Jar full” thought experiment but laid out in my daily tasks to help me see where I was putting my time.

In the end I didn’t need a planner to be the person I was trying to be but the skills it gave me have helped me to effectively make use of some of the helpful features on my smart phone and computer. I’m much less likely to forget a doctor’s appointment or to pay a bill late now. I still like to take apart big tasks to make them more manageable. I miss the solid feel of it sometimes. The ready access to all my notes has been replaced by my smartphone but the phone still seems a bit small sometimes. I miss the tactile feel of flipping through a bunch of paper until a note or word catches my eye however I can say I do not miss the piles of clutter that came with those piles of paper and notebooks. A simple keyword search helps me find things now in seconds that used to take me hours to locate. I think I’m better off now organizationally. I’m sure I’ve got my rose colored glasses on looking back at my time with the planner but that’s OK since I don’t dwell on the past, trying to recreate it.

I learned my lessons from it. That is the worthier part.

Dirty Dancing

85114-dirty-dancing-musical-desktop-wallpaper-1280x1024.0.0I’ve known Dirty Dancing has been one of my wife’s favorite movies for awhile so when I saw that the Mission Theater in Portland was having a sing along I snagged us a couple of tickets. I expected to share the theater with a bunch of other couples out on a date night but found the the place filled instead with a bunch of other women around our age. A free cocktail was included with the ticket, which I like to think provided us all with just enough social lubrication that when the movie started we were ready to get past some of our inhibitions and belt out the lyrics we knew.

I grew up in the 80’s. Movies like Top Gun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Secret of My Success and Stand by Me were staples of the era. But one movie that just about any girl would tell you is her favorite is Dirty Dancing. I don’t know a girl who didn’t at some point fantasize about being Jennifer Grey falling in love with Patrick Swayze. dirty-dancing-keds1The music and imagery that permeated the culture from that movie have held up to the test of time as a fun couple of hours where the girl is the hero. Love and hope carry the day. The parents admit they were wrong and the bad guys don’t win in any way.

My natural cynicism was put away for few hours as over a hundred women laughed, giggled, and sang our way through the movie. There was dancing in the isles. We shouted down the sleazy characters when they made their moves on Baby and cheered when she got past her fear, launching herself into Johnny’s strong confident arms to be lifted into the air for the finale. I can without a doubt say that this is the most fun I’ve had in a theater for awhile.

It was a lovely night

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You don’t Really like me

Let’s face it a lot of people on the internet are selling something. Whether it be some revolutionary weight loss system or some political/religious bullshit. Most of the time they are just managing their personal brand. You see it all the time with Celebrities. I am not immune because I realize that this blog is my brand. Yes, I have thought about how I want to portray my brand with my posts. I’ve been around the internet in one form or another for long enough to understand how brands work. I’m more aware of it now than I used to be.

As a general rule of thumb I am just writing for my own sake. I have given myself permission to just write what I want to write and to explore where that takes me. Having an audience and goals helps to keep me disciplined. I think I put out better quality writing if I think someone else may ready what I write. My hope is that others enjoy it or find it helpful to them but that is not my main goal of writing which gives me the freedom to pursue tangents or ideas in my posts that otherwise I wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that I am not aware of brand power.

I’ve chosen to post to the public forum of WordPress without any restrictions other than moderating comments. Anyone can stumble across my blog and read what I’ve put up. Through the programming offered on WordPress I’ve made it so that my posts go out to Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and several other platforms so I am casting a wide net for readers. Mostly people I already know, yes, I get that. However I am also using tags that make my posts pop up on some feeds/trends. That’s called letting the algorithm work for you.

What I don’t do is go to other blogs and click “Like” on posts just to possibly get a “Like” back. I do not click “like” unless I actually Like the post. Robo “liking” other’s blogs may be a away to gain eyeballs but it doesn’t feel genuine to me. I don’t want to Appear to be trendy or popular. I want to Actually be trendy or viral or popular for reals. Yes, I do look at my sites stats, especially when I receive a notification of a new follower or “like”. WordPress sends this message that says “so and so has liked your post. They think it’s kinda Awesome why don’t you go look at their blog!”

Kill me now. It’s not even based off of something I’ve entered as an interest in a profile. Here I am writing about my cats and someone “likes” it so I am encouraged to go look at their blog about why worms are the next great food source or why naturopathy will prove the Illuminati exist? I think not. I have more intelligence and control over what I want to read then the clumsy marketing machine hopes to make me think I do.

So if you’ve stumbled upon this blog and have read this far I hope you enjoy my posts. It would be great if you let me know by clicking like or commenting with your own thoughts. If you don’t like what I’ve written that’s fine too. You are an intelligent human being who deserves respect anyway. Perhaps you will find something to peak your interest in the future. Thank you for your time.

B.I.C.

I attended college for the first time just a few years ago. The advent of computers being used regularly as a communications tool with the instructor and as a way to turn in assignments solved, for me, one of the key things that had caused me stress. Now as soon as I finished an assignment I could turn it in electronically. With the syllabus posted online I pretty much knew what would be coming next which let me get an head start on it before the next class. I no longer had to worry about losing the assignment or having an unreadable copy when I arrived for class.

Technologically savvy teachers would have all the assignments up on their school website and be reachable via email for quick questions. A few of the classes even had their own forums that had students reading and reacting to each others submissions.

As an older student I had an appreciation for the advantages that the technology gave us that the younger students who have grown up with computers didn’t seem to have. The main complaint I heard was directed at the reading and response forums. A typical assignment was to read the books or articles or whatever about the subject we were studying then write three 200 word posts to the forum and respond to two other students posts. This is supposed to foster communication skills and critical thinking, along with teaching us to engage with our peers and see things from alternate viewpoints.

Since the forums were all done online I could read or post from just about anywhere. This helped a lot since I was an adult with a family and job I had to fit school around. My fellow students though, seemed to think that 200 words was too much to come up with. This kind of shocked me because when you break it down that is less than some text conversations. Something most of these guys were doing very regularly each day. In fact at this point in this post I’ve written more than 250 words and I’m not done yet!

When the question inevitably came on how I could manage to always have my three forum posts up so quickly I tried to explain that I prioritize school work over a lot of things so that I could be done faster. I was met with blank stares. The best explanation that seemed to get my point across is that I used the B.I.C. Technique which is also referred to as the “Butt In Chair” Technique. The way the B.I.C. technique works is that you sit down, shut up, and just do the work before you do anything else. When applied properly this technique can help with any number of issues but most especially it works to prevent procrastination and late assignments.

My fellow students were skeptical. That’s okay they are young and hadn’t been practicing life skills in the real world for very long. The B.I.C. technique is key to most successful careers. It’s a proven method with a lot going for it. I have no doubt that at some point in the future as they experienced more life they recalled the B.I.C. idea as a helpful aid in upward mobility. Well that or I’ll see them manning a drive through somewhere.

Slip and Slide

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Here are some facts. Southeast Concord Road between Oatfield and McLoughlin Boulevard in Milwaukie Oregon is .3 miles long. It is also a very steep .3 miles that terminates in a very busy intersection. In Oregon it rains a lot. The Portland metro area, of which Milwaukie is part, has a well established bike culture. Portlanders are encouraged to bike commute.

For a while part of my morning commute was rocketing down the bike lane on Concord road to catch the bus at the bottom of the hill. Work was too far to easily ride to but the mile of so from my house to the bus stop was a nice bike ride in the morning. Followed by a packed bus ride to a near work bus stop followed by another mile or so ride to actually get to work. Taking the bike clipped what could be a 2 hour commute and made it into a 90 minute one. That is a substantial time savings.

I began biking as part of my commute during the late spring and summer. There isn’t much rain during those seasons and what little there is is a welcome relief. No need for rain gear or bike fenders. However Summer eventually succumbed to Fall. With that change the rains resumed. In a car you think about basically 20 or 30 feet from the shelter of the house to the car in the driveway. If it’s raining buckets you are going to get a little damp but no worries you’ll be dry in a few minutes. On a bike that’s a whole other realm of wetness.

While riding a bike one quickly passes through dampness, zips by wet and tips over in to soaking in just a few minutes on the road. Rain gear is a must. As a larger lady without the typical cyclist build. (translation: I am fat) I had a hard time finding gear that was breathable and that fit. I ended up with a decent shell up top but rain pants eluded me until I found a pair of mens pants. They weren’t the high end gore tex waterproof and breathable kind. They were your standard thick rubbery plastic that you see fishermen wear. Beggars can’t be choosers and evidently neither can fat people so rather than be soaked each morning I started wearing them.

That fateful morning three things were at play. I was running late. The rain was coming down so thick and fast the drains couldn’t keep up with water coming off the roads. And I had no front bike fender.

Coming down a steep hill on a bike is both fun and terrifying. My speedometer said that I regularly hit 25 mph on that stretch which doesn’t sound fast if you are encased in 2000 pounds of metal and glass but on a bike where its just a few pieces of cloth between you and serious road rash or broken bones that adds a little thrill of fear to that seemingly sedate pace. It’s also about twice as fast as I regularly go on a flat road. Usually I ride the brakes a bit on the lower half of the hill and end up almost stopping to be able to make the sharp right hand turn to avoid the heavy traffic and to get to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill. I’m asking a lot of these breaks with the momentum I build up but they’d been handling it just fine all summer long.

So there I am running late. I turned on to Concord and began my descent. Since I was running late I was moving a bit faster than usual coming from the slightly more level Oatfield road. I quickly got up to speed which was rather more terrifying than usual.

The amount of rain on the road meant I was effectively riding in a small stream that had formed in the bike lane. I couldn’t quite see the ground clearly through the rain and water on the road. That meant I’d be unable to see any large rocks or sticks until I was right on top of them. Cyclists get used to dodging thing like that in the bike lane but you need to be able to seem them to dodge them. Also since I was plowing through almost an inch of water I was throwing up quite a bit of spray from my tires. Most people reading that will have an image of my back tire flinging water into the air behind me. They wouldn’t be wrong. However the more important to me spray was the sheet of water coming off my front tire and smacking me in the face helping to blind me further.

You’d think my bike frame would block some of upward directed spray but then you’d be wrong. At this point I’m more than half blind, plunging down hill towards a busy intersection while wondering if I will begin hydroplaning before I hit some road debris that will do doubt launch me from the saddle and into oncoming traffic. So I did what any Normal terrified person does in that situation. I applies the brakes. Hard!

Has anyone else here ever tried to determine the coefficient of friction of rubber over wet metal? No? Well it’s really, really really low, let me tell you that. The water on my metal rim was making my brakes barely functional. While it’s possible I was slowing I was now most of the way down the hill. The rate at which I was slowing was not enough to stop me before the intersection. I gripped the breaks harder and tried to scan the intersection to see if I’d hopefully hit it during a green light. The rain and tire spray made it hard to tell. There is something else you should know about the bottom of my route. There was a metal manhole cover in front of a sewer drain right before a small pothole. On any normal morning I was able to stop before them, then hop the curb to the side walk and walk the bike to the bus stop. This was a far from a normal morning.

Luckily there was no car beside me as I reached the bottom of the hill still going about 7 mph according to my speedometer. I say luckily because that is when I also hit the water slick manhole cover. Remember how the coefficient of friction is suuuuper low when rubber meets metal? Yeah. The pothole directly after the slick surface grabbed my front tire and turned it. At the same time I felt my back wheel swing around as it hit the manhole cover. I tried to lay the bike over on its side in the several inch deep pond at the bottom of the hill. I was lucky not to be catapulted over the handlebars. My right hip and knee hit first followed by the rest of my right side. I’d expected the splash and jolting thump but not the fact that my momentum would carrying me and the bike skittering out into the traffic.

I don’t think I took half a breath when I stopped before I began frantically trying to scramble out of the lane and up on to the sidewalk. When I was clear I shook water from my eyes, double checked the traffic was stopped then scrambled to grab my bike out of the lane. My only physical damage was a deeply bruised right hip with a spot the size of my hand that turned an impressive purple then green before for going a ugly yellow many days later. My bike was fine, surprisingly. It turns out the thing that really saved me was those tough rubbery plastic rain pants that took the road rash and still kept me dry. Without them I probably would have had a shredded hip and leg.

Oh and for those curious. I took to riding just a little bit farther down Oatfield and its gentle decent before turning on Oak Grove to get to a different bus stop thus avoiding the death defying steepness that is Concords more direct route. I think and extra 5 minutes is worth the safety factor.

Freefall

Freefall is a three panel strip about an alien, a robot, an AI wolf-person, and a off world colony. The comic first went up at the end of March in 1998 as a black and white strip with semi regular posts through 2014. I would say the past 4 years have been extremely regular coming out two or three times a week. In 2006 this delightful strip added color.

I’m not sure how I stumbled across this story but I haven’t regretted it. It’s has stayed oddly topical as it explores the complex results of Humans and A.I.interactions and the ideas of greed and inter species ethics. I highly recommend it for those high level ideas along with the fact that it is genuinely fun and amusing without being preachy.

Another feature of the strip is that while yes it is only 3 panels at a time the artist takes his time with the story. Conversations between characters can take multiple days to play out . In fact while the strip has been going for 20 years I dont think more than a month or two of time has passed in the strip. The story never seems like it’s slow or bogged down. Progress happens organically, while each strip has its own punchline, it adds to the whole of the story being told. That’s no easy feat.

Below I’ve posted first strip of the collection. The whole story isn’t done yet and I hope for many more adventures with Sam, Helix and Florence before it is. Please click on through and check it out. And feel free to leave recommendations in the comments about your favorite online comics.

First Strip

Click it to begin the adventure

Yay!

Just a short update to share happy news

We’ve been worried about our goofy puppy. She was having a very dry nose that was peeling and cracking. When we took her to the vet they started out with the most common and easy to fix treatment of a steroid cream. Have you ever tried to rub something on your dog’s nose?

It worked the way putting lotion on cracked dry skin works but didn’t solve the underlying problem. As soon as we stopped applying the cream the nose quickly got bad again. Back to the vet she went. This time for a biopsy. They had to knock her out to take it, poor thing. Man was she pissed off at us when we brought her home. We did however opt for the pain meds for the treatment so she wasn’t in pain. Who doesn’t opt for pain meds for their dog?

We had to wait for the results to come back but I just got a call from the vet. He was very happy to tell me it wasn’t an autoimmune disease as he’d feared but a much rarer deep tissue bacterial infection. While that may sound bad its very treatable with a two week course of antibiotics. Not fun for us to get her to take the pills. (she’s an expert at not taking them) but yay for treatable. He was worried it was autoimmune which would mean lifelong medication for her.

This type of infection works on the soft tissues of the nose, lips and anus which explains her sudden interest in her butt. My poor baby has been highly uncomfortable! Anyway my wife or I will pick up the meds and get her started on treatment. In a couple of weeks Daisy Dog should be good as new!

Yay modern medicine!

Thank You for your Service

Thank you for your service.

I hear that phrase again and again whenever I mention my time in the Navy. My facebook page is peppered with it on Veterans Day.

Frankly I’m a tad uncomfortable with that phrase. Not because I’m unpatriotic or dont think being in the Navy wasn’t a sacrifice but more because I don’t think people really understand what they are thanking me for. They just want to feel good for doing it.

A lot of time I don’t feel like the person thanking me gets it all. It was only once I was in and understood the demands of a military life that I started to get an inkling of what it meant to serve my country. As civilians we aren’t taught very well what is required of those who serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

That knowledge of the military is why I sometimes get annoyed with the thanks I receive. I know what it costs emotionally and timewise to serve. But then I get a thank you from a civilian I wonder if they understand that I don’t want that thanks, that lip service. What I want, is for them to show me how much they appreciate my sacrifice, every service members sacrifice, and every service members family’s sacrifice by using the freedoms we have and acting to protect them also.

Fucking vote for fucks sake!

Serve on a goddamn Jury.

Study up and Understand how our government works

Got to the local government meetings

Volunteer for a commision or local board.

You want to thank me for my service? Fucking do that! That, is what I actually sacrificed for. That’s what I gave up four years of My freedom to protect. I worked twelve on, twelve off for days on end so you would have the opportunity to make your voice mean something in this country.

If you didn’t vote, do not thank me for my service. Don’t look at me and smile and shake my hand. You should turn your head away in shame. I gave you 4 years of my life. When you use your freedom understand that it was bought with my time and all the accrued service member lives and time that came before and after me. Value it.

Voting. Is. The. Least. You. Can. Do.

Sisters, I have a few

My wife has two older sisters she has recently reconnected with. They are both wonderful people. You have no idea how happy her finding them made me. Through various choices made by the parents involved she hadn’t met one before and one she only had vague memories of. Having been involved in our own custody drama I am not one to judge that long separation. I am just glad that as adults they can be sisters to each other now.

I really like her family. I find them kind, gracious and funny as hell. When it comes to in-laws I won the lottery in both of my marriages. My ex-husband’s family was a great big bunch of good people who may not have culturally seen eye to eye with me but that were always there for us no matter what. I never had any reserve thinking of his parents with love even if we didn’t understand each other a lot of the time.

Then I have the women I call the sisters of my heart. WendyH, WendyT, Lilly, Lea, Debra and Heidi. These ladies have been there through thick and thin even as our lives change and move us apart, socially and geographically. I know all I have to do is call them up and I have a sister to stand shoulder to shoulder with if I need it. And I hope they know they can do the same.

WendyH deserves a special shout out. She is my oldest female friend. We share a history and friendship that spans 27 years. From that first late night in the barracks where we ended up talking until dawn to the day long phone calls that our significant others put up with when we can make our schedules line up she has been my sounding board and confidant. I have no idea how many times she’s told me I can make it just when the chips were so far down I wasn’t sure I would make it. But she has and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

My relationship with my own flesh and blood sister hasn’t been as smooth sailing. I was a typical bratty younger sibling that she was saddled with watching when all she wanted to do was go hang out with her friends without me to tattle on her. I was more laid back that she was with the advantage of enjoying having few friends and with the desire to have most of my adventures in the books I read, while she wanted to get out and do all the fun things that her peers were doing. Our lives and personalities handed us a lot of reasons to resent or not understand the other’s perspective. We became toxic to each other. We definitely weren’t our best selves to each other.

It led to us to becoming estranged more than once. This last one had me thinking that was it. I was done. Perhaps luckily, one thing we do both share is that we are stubborn as hell. I think my stubborness to not give in and back down my boundaries gave us both time to actually be our own people without the others expectations or competition. And her stubbornness to try and rebuild that connection finally led to us talking again. There is something different in our relationship now. Maybe it’s a little fragile or maybe we realize now how fragile it always has been. Either way I’m glad to have my sister back and looking forward to getting to know the woman she is now with out my expectations of who I thought she had been in the past.