Life The Universe and Everything

Hello, Would You Like to Buy an Encyclopedia?

Over the past 4 days, I’ve spent about 12 hours (total) walking door-to-door in my neighborhood, trying to collect signatures on a petition to get a parcel of land adjacent to the neighborhood (recently annexed by the city) zoned under a low-density classification to curb development and ensure our neighborhood doesn’t receive an influx of new traffic/noise/lower-quality housing that could adversely affect everyone in the neighborhood.  I’ve got another resident who’s helping me with their end of the neighborhood, so I only had to hit about 80 or so houses, rather than the 160 I’d have to hit on my own.  I’ve got a vested interest in this issue, since my house backs up on the land in question, but I’m also on the Homeowners Association (HOA) Board, so I felt it was my duty to participate in this activity regardless of whether it was my land or someone else’s land in the neighborhood impacted by this zoning issue.

I’m not a shy individual by any means, but the idea of cold-calling people or making door-to-door “sales” pitches is NOT my idea of a good time.  Nevertheless, I decided to suck it up and make an effort.  My biggest concern (and proven rightly so) was that people would think I was selling something and just wouldn’t come to the door, even if they were home.  I can’t very well yell through the door, “No really! It’s OK! I’m not selling anything and I’m not a crazy axe murderer who will abduct you if you open your door in the middle of the day! I’m out here for your own good, trust me!”  (Well, I could yell all that, but I doubt it would be very effective, even if the people inside DID hear me.)

So what did I find out from all my efforts?

  1. It is insanely hot outside right now.  And muggy.  Within seconds of stepping outside and into the sunlight, my forehead was pricked with sweat, and it only got worse from there.  I carried as much water as I could and stayed in the shade where possible, but it was just TOO DAMN HOT out there.
  2. I met a number of kind, friendly, open-minded individuals who welcomed me inside their homes to discuss the issue.  These are folks I may have met in passing in the neighborhood but in most cases, they didn’t know me from Adam.  Yet they were kind enough to notice my plight and offer me a cool drink or at least a few minutes of A/C while I discussed the zoning issue with them.  These are the people that make my neighborhood such a nice place to live.
  3. I met a number of people who came to door full of suspicion, all prepared to chase me off with a curt word if I DID turn out to be selling something.  Most of these individuals warmed up a moderate amount once I explained who I was and why I was there.  A few still seemed to think I was selling something, even after I explained IN DETAIL that I was just collecting signatures from residents to petition for the Rural zoning classification.
  4. It’s a lot easier to get people to sign a petition if they see an almost-filled form, rather than a blank sheet or a page with 1-2 signatures on it. Herd mentality, I think.
  5. It was TOO DAMN HOT to be walking around.  I should have applied some sunscreen, too.
  6. I met a couple of people who were so anti-Homeowners Association & HOA Board that they almost didn’t want to listen to me after I introduced myself as a member of that elected group.  Even though I was walking the neighborhood, in the heat, for their benefit (as well as my own, of course).  These people couldn’t say enough negative things about the Board, and seemed to think that they could say anything they wanted to me, including lying/embellishing about any “wrongs” done to them by “The Board”.  I kept what I hope was an apologetic face on, acted contrite if the situation warranted it, and actually got some good discourse going with a few of them after they ran out of steam on their initial gripe list.  End result? Signatures on the petition, a bit of venting, and maybe some not-quite-so-cranky residents.
  7. Did I mention it was hot out there? Wait, no, it wasn’t hot.  It was TOO DAMN HOT.
  8. The people in the neighborhood that were renting their houses were happy to be included in the petition effort, and were some of the nicest people I met overall.  Just because you don’t own a house doesn’t mean you’re a second-class citizen in a neighborhood primarily composed of people that do own their houses.  (And it definitely doesn’t mean you should be treated like one!)
  9. People who are home and don’t answer their doors when you ring their doorbell suck.
  10. People who aren’t home and leave their televisions on to pretend they’re home suck.
  11. People who have a sticker on their door asking firefighters to save their pets really should fill out the information indicating how many and of what type of pet they have, rather than leaving it blank and assuming the rescue workers will be able to magically find all the animals in the event of an emergency.
  12. Most of the people who invited me in have immaculate houses.  I’d never invite someone in just because I’d be ashamed for them to see the inside of my house under normal conditions.
  13. It was TOO DAMN HOT.  I’m not walking down the neighborhood for another petition until at least November.  Or maybe January.  Whew!

Total Houses Hit: Approximately 80

Total Houses Where Someone Answered Their Door: 45

Total Signatures Acquired: 44

 


Cookie Fortress of Solitude

It’s probably a good thing Superman built his Fortress of Solitude out of ice & crystal instead of Girl Scout cookies.  I think he would have received a sudden influx of new neighbors, Arctic wasteland or no Arctic wasteland.

Cookie Fortress

I still can't believe I lugged in 80+ boxes for my coworkers and forgot to order any for myself.

Oh yes, did I mention your Girl Scout cookies have arrived? $4 a box, please form an orderly queue, and line-jumpers will be shot on sight.


Before 7 AM…

Gives new meaning to "jiggle the doorknob", right?

NOT the Bean's new doorknob.

Early this morning (i.e. before 7AM), I replaced the Bean’s doorknob with the one from my closet door.  The new one? It does not lock.

4 year olds do not need a door that locks.  ESPECIALLY when they use it to act out in anger.

On a related note, my wife will now be able to lock herself in the master bedroom closet when she can’t take the kids anymore.

What did you do before 7 AM?  What do you WISH you had done before 7 AM?


You May Be Experiencing Longer Than Normal Wait Times. Please Be Patient.

Just a quick note here to point out the following:

  • Even when you try to take care of tech problems in a proactive manner, they’re still a pain.
  • Hard drives click when they’re angry. They chirp when they’re sick. When they take 2 hours to transfer data to a backup that should only take 20 minutes, you better dig yourself a hole because you’re going to be holding a burial service very shortly (either for the hard drive or the first unsympathetic person who makes a comment about how you should have backed up more often.)
  • Having a backup is great. Even better if it is an automated one.  But knowing how to properly restore from said backup without accidentally deleting your data is key.
  • No matter how much backing up you do, you’ll always overlook something.
  • Settings and applications don’t get backed up. Make sure you know what was installed and how to restore your computer the way you like it or you’ll be pulling out your hair for hours days weeks. I recommend running Belarc Advisor (Windows only) to generate a list of everything you’ve got installed so you don’t overlook anything later.
  • It’s OK to feel naked without your computer. It’s not OK to go around naked without your computer. Unless you’re in a nudist camp or the comfort of your own home.

Hey Forrest Gump – Forget the Chocolates and Give Me Peanut Butter!

As I was making myself a sandwich the other day, I realized that life blogging is a lot like a jar of peanut butter.

Excuse me, could you please pass the jelly?

Now, before you go all “crazy eyebrow” on me – I don’t mean physically (although some of my blog posts do tend to stick to the roof of your mouth if you’re not careful), but more in a metaphorical sense.

After all, for both peanut butter and blogs, everyone’s got their own personal favorite brand and style, and many folks will spend hours (if not their entire lives) trying to convince you that their version is superior to yours.

If it’s not crunchy, you’re dead to me.

[Note: SuperChunk not to be confused with Superchunk.]

 

Heck, some people are so gung-ho about their peanut butter blogging that they seem totally immersed in the experience.

Hey, what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen is none of my concern.

 

And, well, let’s face it – some people just don’t understand the concept of blogging and come out with the craziest, most disjointed stuff ever written on the face of the planet.

This is an unholy concoction that should be stricken from humanity’s collective memory.

BUT, I’m digressing from my tangent.

 

Peanut Butter. Blogging. One and the same.

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?  You start off with that tabula rasa. The jar blog is pure and unmarred, the slate wiped clean and ready for you to make of it what you will…

 

And and first, you’re enamored with your new jar blog, putting your personal touches on it as only you can…

 

It may not be an everyday thing for you, but you’re always eager to come back for another helping (at least at first).

 

But after a while, things are feeling a bit stale, and maybe you’re a bit set in your ways. You have to dig deeper to get the same level of quality out of the jar blog.

 

And before you know it, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.  You’re writing about the quesadilla you had for lunch last Tuesday – and not because it was divine, but because you can’t seem to pull anything else out of the depths of your own personal peanut butter jar.

Seriously, try to get this out with the tip of your knife. Ha! Can’t do it, can you?

 

If you’re not careful, this path can lead to severe depression.  Left unchecked, you’ll probably end up huddled in the fetal position, trying to use a spatula to eke out a few remaining teaspoons of that delicious substance from an empty container.

Unless you're a bear or Gene Simmons, I'd recommend a spatula over trying to use your tongue.

 

But wait! There’s a solution! Just like you can buy a new jar (or make one yourselves, you hippies, you), you can restock your own personal store of inspiration and start anew.  Unlike peanut butter, though, Amazon can’t deliver this to your door. But don’t fret! Just mix things up or try something new – embark on a grand new adventure, teach someone a new card game, or watch a movie. Volunteer for a local charity, learn a musical instrument, give blood, or paint a picture. Clean your bathroom, build a birdhouse, take a road trip, shave your head, or jump in a pile of leaves (preferably one someone else raked together.)

And then, most importantly, blog about it.  Don’t worry if your new source of inspiration doesn’t last as long as a previous one – some jars are bigger than others. (And sometimes, you used a soup spoon to dig a big ol’ hunk of peanut butter out of the jar instead of using a knife like your parents taught you.)  But hey, there’s always more Skippy on the shelf, and with a bit of effort, I’m betting your personal stock of peanut butter is renewable, too.


Fresh Starts and Old Farts

As you can probably tell by the history/calendar links on the right hand side of this blog, I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for quite some time now. I’ve had all the best of intentions for getting some new posts on here about Life, The Universe, and Everything, but I’ve ended up putting other items as a higher priority, and this site just fell into the cracks between other things I’ve been working on. I’ve been posting some stuff on Tumblr, but that’s more of a stream-of-consciousness and quips-as-I-think-of-them activity, not the longer, more in-depth posts that I’ve been meaning to write. So, after listening to Merlin Mann and his Back to Work podcast, where he talks about why resolutions suck and why most people set themselves up to fail, I’ve decided to take a tip from him and start fresh and just try making some modest changes to my behavior to get over the inertia of not writing for such a long period of time.

Therefore, I am NOT making a resolution to blog more. I’m not decreeing that I’ll get X posts up a week, or that I’ll write Y book reviews a month, or Z posts that aren’t about my family or running (which is what the majority of my posts recently seem to be about). Instead, I’m considering this an official “Fresh Start” with modest goals – I’m going to get my butt in the chair daily, for at least a half hour of dedicated clacking away at the keyboard. Not surfing the internet, but actual typing. Nothing may come of my day’s activity, and in fact I might not even come up with more than a few hundred words in that half-hour, but I’ll make the effort that will get me rolling. And I expect, more often than not, I’ll come up with something I’m content to edit into something I’ll eventually be proud to post (heck, this post is the first of such efforts).

To aid me in this activity, I’m starting up again on 750words.com – it’s a great, private site intended for people who write “morning pages” but can’t write longhand to save their lives. The goal of the site is to simply type 750 words, or approximately 3 pages of typewritten, double-spaced text, daily. If you write more than this, good for you. If you write less? You won’t get “credit” for the day, and you break your “streak” of days writing 750 words or more. By extending your streak you can earn cute “badges”, but the real beauty of the site is its clean, distraction-free layout, built-in word counter, and ease of use.

If you make the word count, it lets you know, right then and there. If not, you can get a reminder email sent to you at a pre-set time to bug you to get back on the horse and try again for that day. I’ve always enjoyed using it as a private, personal place to type out and thereby work out what’s on my mind, but now I’m also using it to “prime the pump”, so to speak, as I get back to the keyboard. 750 words takes me about 10-12 minutes, on average, so after I wrap up whatever I was typing about that got me to the goal that day, I plan to just switch over to something else and maybe, possibly, get some blog material out of it. We’ll see how it goes. As of right now, I’m pretty psyched with this plan. It seems achievable. It’s not something that I am going to feel is hanging over my head – all it takes is 30 minutes of my time. So that’s 1 less TV show or a half-hour of my lunch break, and I’m good to go for the day.


 

This past November, I ran my very first half-marathon, ever. At 32, I don’t recover as quickly as I used to, from ANY sort of mental or physical activity, but that run really knocked me on my ass. I spent the majority of the rest of the day on the couch or in bed, trying to recuperate. Part of it was me pushing myself in the race, but part of it was just what my body is telling me but my brain has yet to fully accept: I’m not the spring chicken I used to be.

Yes, I’m still relatively young, don’t get me wrong. And I’m in better shape now than I was 5 or even 6 years ago. But that doesn’t mean I’m still 22, able to stay out all night partying with friends, or even stay up all night at home watching movies and playing video games. If I don’t get a solid 7 hours of sleep, my body rebels – often by refusing to wake up to the alarm clock (which can be quite embarrassing when I only manage to wake up my wife and/or kids when the alarm goes off). And if I spend the morning running around with the kids, or, as I did this past fall, coaching soccer, I better plan on a nap/recharge period in the afternoon or else I’m toast by the kids’ bedtime. Sad, but true. I think increasing my fitness activities is helping me regain some of my previous going-about-my-day stamina, but my pep is still a step slower than it used to be.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not necessarily a full-on couch potato (or at least, I can pretty authoritatively pretend to NOT be one). But the aches and pains I get slightly more often than I did 10 years ago, combined with their unwillingness to leave me quite as quickly, have me eyeing that couch on more than a few occasions. Time’s catching up with me. I’m still ahead, but I need to pick up the pace if I want to outrun it for a while longer.


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