Saturday, February 28, 2009

Jeff's Boots

I think I’ve only mentioned on the My Face thing, but I think it needs to be addressed here. I saw Jeff the other day and I’ll admit I’m usually oblivious to what people are wearing, but sometimes I notice when something is wearing someone. This was the case with the boots in the photo above.

When I saw Jeff, I asked him what the “F” he had on his feet and wondered if he had scored them in and abandoned homeless camp. He corrected me and said they were Mark Nason boots and he is a boot designer for Rock Stars. He got them for a very reasonable price. I told him that he is a blog star but that is still no excuse to be wearing fugly stuff like that.

Auntie L digs them and sent me this photo. I told Auntie that the only thing that could improve the look of those boots would be a fresh coat of vomit.

So dear readers I ask you to comment as to whether you would actually wear or be seen with someone wearing a pair of these boots. Jeff you are welcome to add your vision for making this choice. I just want to see where the vindication goes in this matter.

Friday, February 27, 2009

YoVille and Other Stuff

OK, Week #1 of Face Book is over. Fortunately I haven’t had to reject any yet, but I’m sure that day will come. I have had to turn away certain advances. For those of you unfamiliar with FB there is a thing where someone can poke you. I’m sure it just means a poke in the ribs, though it may have some other meanings as well. Now, a fellow like me enjoys a good poke every now and then, but I’m kind of weirded out by g’s pokes. G, being a conservative religious type makes me wonder if we will see an “I have sinned” post coming from him one of these days.

The next bit of weirdness is YoVille. Donna is really into this. I suspect YoVille is for people that really would like to be social, but really can’t stand people long enough to actually hang out with them.

So I went to YoVille, got bored and left. Then I went back later and when I got there Donna was in my bed room! WTF? Then I get an invitation to fight her or kiss her. Of all the people that reply to my blog, Donna is living closest to the life style I live. She is into horses, living in the country and I like her taste in music, and I really dig women that can use a computer, but Donna is married and a good Christian woman. Her YoVille character shouldn’t be in my bedroom. What makes it worse is I have yet to find a way to get onto the mattress. I love to take naps, and I think my YoVille character should have that liberty to do the same. Also there are no bathrooms in YoVille. My character really has to go.

Now here is an update on another front. Remember my the new radio in the truck and how I couldn’t get the clock to display? Well I finally figured it out. The instruction manual is a manual for several models and I overlooked the page for the model I have. I finally nailed and also figured how to get somewhat better sound out of it. Now I’ve blown a rear speaker, but fortunately I had one good speaker left from when I replaced the ones in the front. So it’s getting better every day, but not as good as my old system.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mile Stone

When I started this blog I never envisioned it would come to this, but today Astoria-Rust celebrates its 1,000th post. Who knew I could pile it so high for so long.

I no longer write about politics and I rarely write about how quirky I am any more. I'm sure if I stick with it for another thousand posts I'll find that I'm no longer writing about the sort of stuff I'm writing about now.

Some of you have been reading since the start. What could have you done with those one thousand minutes had you not come here every day? That's nearly 17 hours you've spent reading this blog, and if you commented on a regular's nearly a life time. I know some of you want to be polite and say it was worth all 17 hours, but really, if you were told you only had 17 hours left to live would you still spend it reading this blog? Sadly, I would probably spend some of my last 17 hours writing this blog.

So thanks for stopping by and hanging out with me. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. Thanks to all that read every day and tell me in person that you are too shy to comment, I know you are there. I hope I can keep it interesting for you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coming Spring

Though it is still technically winter and we still need to scrape frost from our windshields if we drive before day light; there are signs of spring that rewards our hope. First, the daylight is now good at 7:00am and it is still light out at 6:00pm. Daffodils and crocus bulbs have broken through the soil with beautiful green shoots. The frogs are croaking and chirping on the warmer nights when it rains.

Another heart-warming sign of spring is the number of calves you see as you drive by the local beef and dairy herds. They stick close to their mothers most of the time, but they occasionally run around like bats out of hell.

We sometimes ride our horses past fields of beef cattle. The cows and calves calmly watch and regard us as we pass. The horses like to slow down and regard them as well. There is a natural link there. Cows and horses have been bound to one another for generations. Though neither of our horses have ever worked cows, you can tell there is some sort of primal thought going on where the horses wonder if there is something they should be doing.

I wish I had more property and pasture. I’d love to have a couple cows to balance out my life.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An 80 Year Cycle

Both of my parents were children of the Great Depression. I don’t think the Depression had too much of an impact on my father’s family since they ran a successful bakery and actually made most of their money in boot legging. I never heard my father say anything about being poor. On the other hand, my mother’s family suffered greatly. Her father died of a heart attack on a WPA bus going to his job.

The Great Depression was always very much on the minds of those that survived; even when times were good. My mother-in-Law came from a wealthy family that lost everything and this tempered her to the point where she does not get attached to possessions. Though she can afford whatever she wishes, she chooses to have very few things. On the other hand, my Father-in-Law has many possessions and knows the value of each item. He is a big proponent of owning gold and silver. It seems that my in-laws are constantly seeing the depression in their rear view mirrors and suddenly it is coming into focus again through the wind shield.

I never realized it at the time but my mother gave me helpful hints of how to live through a depression as I was growing up. She would tell me things like, “If you ever lose your job, get a temporary job in a restaurant and you’ll never go hungry.” My favorite was, “If you ever have to sleep on a park bench, newspapers make good blankets and will keep you warm.”

I asked my mother how the current situation compares to the Great Depression. She said that things are bad but they have a way to go before they even approach the devastation of the previous depression. Back then, everyone was touched by economic doom. Most people today have been brushed by doom, but not yet dipped and drowning in it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Then, Now and Later

I’ve been thinking about how much our costume/clothing has changed over the years. The clothing we now wear is totally different than what was worn in the 17th Century. It is easy to see the difference, but even when you get more local in the time frame there is a major shift in fashion every decade. Think about the styles of the 20s and 30s when women, other than flappers, wore long heavy material. Their hair was forced into plastic like curls. Men dressed more formally with formal hats.

In the 40s fashion moved ahead where women wore mid length skirts and blouses and their hair was allowed to be fuller. Men still wore suits however their hats were less formal.

The 50s had women wearing more pleated skirts that valued volume and movement. Men were shedding their neckties but wore baggy pants that were more tailored and pleated. Their hats were becoming much more casual.

Fashion was defined by the youth in the 60s. Most adults continued dressing as they had in the 40s and 50s, but the youth wore tight pants, boots and suddenly color became an option. The 70s were a continuation of the 60s in a sense. Remember that Woodstock happened in August of 1969 and the fashion fall-out wasn’t fully expressed until the first few years of the 70s. There were also leisure suits.

The 80 brought on some weird sort of YUPPIE garb which mixed items such as designer jeans, Izod LaCoste polo shirts, while some sported spandex, leg warmers and big hair. (I dated one of those…)

The 90s seemed to go totally towards silk or cotton, natural fabrics of denim, wool or linen.

I’m not sure what the look is of our present times. There seems to be some retro statements going on, but in general it seems that costumes are all fighting for attention asking to be the statement of a generation. Nothing seems to be rising above the pack. We will probably have to wait for ten or twenty years before the fashion of this decade is defined.

Now think ahead two-hundred years. The generations ahead will look at our strange fashions as we look at the dress of those that signed the Declaration of Independence.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


What do you get if you cross Spike Jones together with Cab Callaway and throw in some zombie voodoo? The result is Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Sometimes we hear songs over and over throughout our lives and never really pay attention to them. However the next time you hear Hawkins 1957 hit, I Put a Spell on You, listen to it actively and you will be treated to a real piece of Americana weirdness.

Hawkins died in 2000 and fortunate someone posted this gem on YouTube. I Put a Spell on You. It is every bit as interesting as the studio version.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I'll Face It, Finally

OK, ya Rat Bastards, I did it. Face Book as Guy Whowritesthis. I'll give a month to see if it gets interesting. I still don't get it.

Hey, how is this for a lame post. OK so this won't be a total waste of a post I'll tell you what's in the CD player these days. I'm kinda hooked on the Flobots recording Fight With Tools. Those of you that are Rap resistant may want to come back tomorrow when I'll have another topic.

The Flobots are a political Rap group that uses the interesting texture of violins and cellos in a lot of their music. Sure the lyrics are somewhat angry, but that's rap. It's real, besides happy-sun-shinny rap would suck, like Christian Punk and virgin bloody marys.

I wouldn't put them in my all time top-100, but they are an interesting listen and well worth the time spent. The tunes are great for the middle age Caucasian ear that is used to folks like Nellie McKay and They Might Be Giants. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on at all times especially for those with short attention spans like me. Handlebars is an exquisite song.

Friday, February 20, 2009

By The Skin of Your Chinny Chin Chin

Recalling my ride in the car of doom from yesterdays post I was reminded of the same situation that came about when a friend with a two person kayak asked me to join him in paddling from Altoona to Rice Island on the Columbia.

I’ve kayaked the Columbia in my kayaks before, but this was the first time I was going to be at the mercy of an unsafe craft of someone else. This was a wooden framed kayak that was skinned with vinyl. I’m not talking about thick vinyl like in vinyl siding, but rather the vinyl that was used on cars with vinyl tops or maybe Nalgahyde furniture. It was thin and stretched tight over the frame. Rips were repaired with duct tape.

I felt uneasy at first, but my confidence grew as we got into deeper water. I was warned to look out for submerged pilings. A piling could rip through the craft with ease leaving us in the drink in little time.

When we returned to shore I realized that several of the duct tape patches were separating from the skin. Another hour in the water and we would have been swimming. The owner wasn’t bothered a bit. He ripped off the failing pieces, dried the vinyl and applied more tape. I never went back or attempted another trip with him. I found out the other day he is still alive and still paddling. That is truly amazing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Ride

Have you ever accepted a ride from someone and regretted being so amicable? I once had a rather posh event to attend in Portland. It was going to be a late night so I booked a room in a hotel and a friend that lived in town offered to pick me up. I wasn’t all that familiar with Portland at that time so finding the place of the event and a somewhere to park would have been a problematic stressor. I thankfully agreed to her offer of transport.

I wore a suit and looked rather dapper when I was standing outside the hotel awaiting her arrival when this car pulled up that looked a lot a lot like the Belvedere that the chickens that try to pass themselves off as Foster Farm chickens drive in the commercial. It was a dirty white tank with piles of bird shit on the roof and windows. There was a mirror dangling and an non-existent muffler.

I hesitantly got in and found a place for my feet amongst soda cans, newspapers and other refuse. I could smell exhaust fumes and gasoline. As I closed my door she took off like a shot. It took me four blocks before I could find my seat belt. There were sounds of groaning coming from the alternator and the power steering unit as she drove. I was reminded of the music of the minimalist composer, La Monte Young.

When we arrived her tank took up two parking spaces, and thankfully the walk from the parking garage was sufficient enough to air the fumes from my suit. Thankfully no one at the event saw what I had arrived in. I was fortunate enough to snag a ride with someone else to the after party and at the end of the night I took a cab back to the hotel.

I think back fondly upon that night whenever I offer someone a ride in my truck. My truck isn’t quite as bad, but I’m well on my way to matching Mary’s white tank.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What People Eat

I was recently in a grocery store toying with the idea of playing “Shopping for Others.” This is when you pull a product off the shelf like hemorrhoid cream and drop it into an unattended shopping cart so people get surprised when they check out or even better get home and unpack their groceries.

Anyway, I soon became distracted and obsessed by all the extremely out of shape people that will filling their carts with things they shouldn’t be eating. It was rather revolting. I recalled a piece I saw in the Adbusters magazine a while back.

The two photos above are of the weekly groceries of two different families from different cultures. There are more comparisons at this web site that are worth a look. Please visit this site and scroll down. What people eat around the world.

It will make you take a good look at what you consume. We are truly a doomed culture by way of our diets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weird Jobs

I’m sure you may have some weird jobs stories out there, but I think I may have most of them all beat. For about two years I worked in a biological lab where we received daily shipments of human umbilical cords from hospitals all over the country. We would mount the cords onto glass rods and soak them for several days in gluteralderhyde to tan them like leather. Once tanned, we would use forceps to remove the veins. Then we would turn them into bio-grafts to be used as replacement arteries in humans.

If you’ve had a stranger job than that I’d like to hear about it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stone Walls

Here in Oregon you will see most farm property boundaries marked with barb wire fencing on T-posts. Where I grew up the farms were established long before barbed wire and T-posts and their boundaries were marked in stone. On the Northeast Coast you can see stone walls where ever you go. They are a big part of the unnoticed background. You can be in a residential area or out in the woods and you will come across a stone wall that seems to go on forever.

One might wonder where all the stones came from and why they are in the middle of the woods, but then you realize that where ever there is a stone wall there was once a farm. Stones are hard on farm equipment and every spring they were picked out of the fields and they had to be placed somewhere, so they were used to build walls and homes.

During my years on the farm I recall the first chore of spring was to chain the stone boat to the tractor. I rode in the boat which was dragged back and forth through each field several times. When we’d come upon a stone I’d hop off and roll the rock onto the boat. When the boat was getting too heavy we’d drag it to where we built a dry wall out of the stones. We added several feet to that wall every year and I could see the handy work of those that had started the wall hundreds of years before I was born.

With the field cleared again it was ready to be ploughed, but we knew that just under the surface were another crop of stones that were ready to emerge during the next winter and become part of the on-going wall lengthening project.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Beef

Those of you that have been reading here for a while you are probably aware that I live in the country, but there have been at least 50 new home built within a mile of my house over the last 20 years. Yes, there is more traffic and more noise, but now I’ve discovered something even more sinister about having neighbors.

It’s February. The days are getting longer and I find myself outside later every day; sometimes past dinner time. Lately I’ve been finishing tending to the animals and the smell of steak on an outside grill come wafting to my nose. Here I was looking forward to going in and cooking something and suddenly anything I intended to cook seems anemic in comparison to the smells that are coming my way from one of the neighbors.

The smell of grilled beef is probably a stronger attention getter for me than the smell of bacon. Sorry Kicki and Auntie, but it’s true. There is a reason. The smell of bacon is usually a morning smell and a reminder that after eating bacon you need to face the toils of the day. Grilled beef on the other hand is an evening smell that comes around after all the work of the day is done. You can eat your fill and relax and digest until it’s time for bed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Good Old Guy

What better day that the 14th of February to confess that I am getting mushy in my old age? It has to be true. When I started posting to this blog all those years ago it seems that every other post was an outlet for my unrepentant nastiness. Maybe it is the whitening of my thinning hair, my failing vision, achy joints and the lessening of my testosterone levels, but I don’t feel quite so outraged about things any more.

I did an article earlier that made people think that the ‘Good Old Guy” had returned, but it was merely an ember of my previous self. Do I miss my days of rage? Not really; I barely remember them. Just like I used to like the angry Neil Young better than his present sappy self, but now the sappy Neil Young doesn’t even bother me. So bite me!

As a further sign of my on-going mellowing process ( I won’t call it contrition) I will give credit where credit is due today. I say here and today that Cynthia Price has incredible musical taste and her radio shows are composed of the most interesting music that goes out over the air waves in this community.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting High in Astoria

I wrote yesterday about having dinner in a restaurant on the 30th floor of a building in Portland. I realized that it has been quite a while since I’ve been on the 30th floor or higher of any building. That’s pretty damn high; over 300 feet. The highest floor I’ve been on recently is the 14th floor of OHSU, but since that building is on a slope that is only the second floor above the North grade.

I once dated a woman that was a real country girl and the big events in her early life were the first times she ever rode an escalator or in an elevator. This got me thinking about the few opportunities people have here in Astoria to go up in a high structure.

Astoria is such a beautiful town with the varied architecture that is framed by the Columbia River on one side and the hill side full of homes on the other side. A bird-eye view never disappoints the viewer in this town. Even stuff the locals find unpleasant to look at can easily charm visitors.

I’ve been on the top floor of the Spexarth Building. I’ve been on the top floor of 800 Exchange. I’ve been on the top floor and the roof-top garden of the Hotel Elliot. I haven’t been in the old St Mary’s Hospital Building, or that big eight story building that looks like a Mormon Temple in Astoria.

The best high in Astoria is the climb up the Astoria Column, but it is presently closed because the stairs are unsafe. However the views for the Astoria Column parking lot are more amazing than most views that can be found anywhere else. We are pretty lucky to live here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eating Up

I had dinner last night at the Portland City Grill which is on the 30th floor of a building that overlooks Burnside and the Willamette River. I looked out the window to the beautiful panoramic view where birds flew a hundred feet below us. I noticed that though Portland is a rather green town I could see no solar panels. The roofs were pretty ugly, but most times roofs are just a utilitarian surface that holds heating and ventilation systems.

Living in the country as I do, an excellent light show for me is seeing the night sky full of stars and if there is a shooting star or a comet, that is a bonus. However seeing the daylight fade and the lights of the city coming on from that altitude was a special treat. It almost made me want to spend some time in the city.

One thing you can count on is that when you are dining in a high-rise building you can add a dollar for every floor in elevation to the price of the entre’. The service was incredible. The food and wine was great and it restored my faith in the culinary arts. So if you are in Portland and want to plan a special dinner with a lot of “wow factor” this is the spot. The views are also available from the bar if you just want to pop up for a drink.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


OK, I admit it. I have a freakish Jerry Springer-ish attraction to Tom Freel’s “I hate my neighbor” phone in radio show on KAST. Tom is a good guy and attempts to add balance and reasonability, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss today. The cranky naysayers deserve a post here some day but not today.

My thoughts are on the commercials that run every 30 seconds for whatever up-coming concert their stations are sponsoring at the Liberty Theater. Usually they are promoting male Country singers with poor grammar, but this month they are promoting a concert by Julianne Hough. The ads make me wonder if it is required that female Country singers all sound like they are auditioning for a job with Alvin and the Chipmunks. Singers like Julianne, Dolly Parton and Amanda Lambert all have these high wiggly voices that are reminiscent of a violin solo that goes on way too long.

KAST, please, just once have an instrumental concert or at least run the ad once every half hour instead of every 30 seconds.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


There seems to be a big to-do lately about Lunch Buddy and Mentorship programs. Obviously this is a feel good thing that was created to hopefully change the lives of at-risk children. I’m not so sure it is a good thing.

When I was a kid I would have been very suspicious and resentful of this arranged marriage had I been forced into a relationship such as this. Adults should not force themselves upon children or even assume children want an adult to hang out with. When I wanted information from an adult I would seek them out. When I wanted to learn about sign painting as a kid I visited the shop of a sign painter and I learned a lot. When I was curious about electronics I inserted myself into a ham radio crowd. When I wanted to learn about agriculture I took a job at a farm.

I know the Lunch Buddy Program came about because some kids don’t fit in with the crowd and it is an attempt to make them feel special, but what is being overlooked is that kids interacting with kids in positive or negative ways is a life-long lesson. This is the time and the place where kids learn how to avoid the bullies, how to make friends, how it feels when you are stabbed in the back and how to detect when someone is going to mess with you. Kid at this age learn how to deal with future bosses and employees. They learn how to lead, they learn how to follow, they learn how to succeed and they learn how to fail. These lessons will be carried with them for their entire life. Though the present politically correctness says that everyone is a winner and everyone gets the ribbon, that’s not how life works out. Kids need to learn from reality be it pain or joy.

Kids need to learn the skills to work things out for themselves. Kids need to find their own way. When they find a natural interest in something they will find the information. Kids are resourceful. Just because you are a professional and it feels good to volunteer time with children, realize that you are in an unnatural relationship. I’m sure you find your profession very interesting, but don’t try to guide a child in that direction if they showed no interest of aptitude for it up front. Kids should be kids not victims of recruitment. Kids should hang out with kids and seek out adult mentors on their own terms.

And for you folks that home school, if you think you are preparing your children for the future by protecting them in the present, think again. They are going to get an ass kicking in the real world that they never knew was coming because their sheltering prevented them from learning valuable social skills when they were young.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On The Beach

Saturday was a glorious day in Oregon. We decided to take the horses out to the beach. The only riding we’ve done this winter has been in an arena or in the round pen.

Sometimes horses really know what they know and sometimes they forget what they know. I am fortunate that my horse never has a problem getting into the trailer. He crosses water without thinking about it and I’m really glad he that he doesn’t try to eat while walking down the trail. I’ve had horses before that had all three of those vices.

The one thing I don’t understand is why he gets tweaky when we come over the dunes to the beach. Yes, there are waves and people and dogs and wind and kites and cars, but we’ve been there so many times you’d think he’d be used to it by now. I guess the logs on the beach look like tigers to him and all the other activity is just enough input to drive a prey animal crazy.

Yesterday’s ride was definitely an exercise in desensitization. It must have been one hell of a clam tide yesterday because I have never seen so many cars and trucks on the beach. There must have been a thousand vehicles out there. As we passed each one there was caution expressed by both horses. Some had dogs around them, some had children with toys and some had camp fires. I’ve been on rides before that were so boring that the horses seemed to be sleep walking, but this was not the case. Both were attentive but remained in their skin.

After the beach section of our ride was over we came back to the truck and trailer on a trail through the woods at DeLaura. There were some deep water holes on the way back that my wife’s horse was not all that keen about leading the way through, but my horse just plodded ahead. After building her confidence by following my horse, my wife’s horse finally led the way through the remaining knee-deep puddles. We all had a good day and no one got hurt. It was a perfect day in Oregon.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Smoke Ahead

I grew up in New Jersey a simpler time. When these times lost their simplicity I decided to move here where I could once again bask in the life style that I grew up with. While growing up one would rake their leaves in the fall and burn them. If you wanted a green lawn in the spring one would burn their lawn when it died back in the winter. Eventually burning became illegal back there. I’m not even sure if it is legal to burn incense there anymore.

I occasionally get whiffs of my childhood while driving through the country. There is a distinct difference in the smell of burning leaves and yard debris and the smell of wood fire smoke, but I appreciate them both.

When seeing smoke ahead while driving down the road I brace myself to be transported back to my childhood. This was the case the other day as I drove through a cloud. I was prepared to be taken back again, but the cab of my truck was filled with an unwelcome acrid stench. Some dirty rat bastard was burning plastic. It had all the charm of a fire at the dump. Some things shouldn’t be burned. It is acts like this that will get burning banned here as well one day.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Domestic God, Moosehead

Our pal Moosehead has been sending me all sorts of stuff lately. Enough stuff to start his own blog. But this is one that I found most interesting, leaving me saying, "Doh!"

Bet none of you knew this.....I sure didn't.

I had to go into the kitchen and check this out for myself. Whoever looks at the end of your aluminum foil box? You know when you try to pull some foil out and the roll comes out of the box. Then you have to put the roll back in the box and start over. The darn roll always comes out at the wrong time.

Well, I would like to share this with you. Yesterday I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, Press here to lock end. Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can't count the number of times the Saran wrap roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up.

I hope I'm not the only person that didn't know about this.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Pound of Flesh

I’ve written often in the past about how the field across the street from where I lived granted me several opportunities for me to earn kid money. The field was known as the Bean Field, but it had always been just a hay field as long as I had lived there. It is now filled with a shopping center, a bank and hundreds of condominiums.

The Bean Field was the host of annuals events like a massive soldier bivouac where I would sell bottles of soda to the soldiers and then collect empty bottles for their deposit value. There was an annual Turkey Shoot where I’d get people at a neighborhood bar to take a chance and let me shoot for them and if I won they’d get the turkey coupon.

The strangest money making opportunity at the Bean Field came to me in the form of a Carnival. As a kid I go over to watch the Carnival set up for opening night. I’d get to see the real behind the scenes of the dirty and lonely people who spent their lives on the road hauling trailers, generators and machinery. They were a community onto themselves.

One of the Carneys asked me if I wanted a job for the week taking tickets at the house of mirrors. He offered me a dollar over minimum wage and I thought that was pretty good. There were two pieces to this puzzle that made me understand why he was paying more than the minimum wage. First I was going to be taking a crap from the customers because the house of mirrors was a normal trailer sized building that one could walk through in less than a minute. The second reason was that he played music through the sound system on the trailer. It wasn’t a variety, but rather an endless loop of five songs off the Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline album. 10:00AM to 10:00PM for five days straight. It was like the Clock Work Orange aversion therapy.

To this day I still cringe and feel slightly sick when I hear Lay Lady Lay, or Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Underground

Yesterday’s post reminded me or the basement of the house I grew up in. That house was built in 1861, when Lincoln was President. It was and still is a Federalist style home. The basement was dug by with draft horses and the foundation was made with local field stones. I was four years old when I first walked down the rickety stairs to that dirt floored basement. Before moving into that house, my father put in a cement floor and a new furnace and made it into a usable space.

My father wasn’t a real basement user. Though he had a work bench down there, he had few tools. I probably have more tools in my truck than he had in his total collection. The basement was only used to store an old refrigerator, and a kitchen table set from the 40s. My brother used the space for his projects more than anyone. After he moved out the basement was all mine. I turned it into a darkroom. I had to cover all the windows and seal all spots where light could get in.

Having a vast amount of room I was able to do things that most people with darkrooms could never do, like make a four-foot by eight foot mural. I could turn my enlarger on its side and project images like it was a theater. I once did a series of extreme enlargements where you enlarge a small portion of a photograph to the point where the image is a grainy abstract and can only bees seen when viewed from afar, like pointillism art. I used a telescope to focus the enlarger. These prints would sometimes take several hours of exposure before processing.

I’ve had dark rooms in two other homes that I’ve lived in since then. After moving out here and not having a basement I gave all my darkroom equipment away. I still think of the basement that gave me the appreciation of under-ground rooms. I’d love to have a basement again, though I don’t think I’d ever recreate a darkroom. That was a piece of the past that I couldn’t return to.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Crawl

Oregon is a rainy spot and historically most homes were built without basements here. Most homes have crawl spaces that are extremely restrictive for doing any work under the house. It can best be described as spelunking on ones belly or back. My home was built on the ground in 1925, but has since been elevated with an added foundation. There is a vapor barrier on the ground and one can actually kneel in most of the confined spaces.

Most homes on the hillside in Astoria have a basement. Most would be considered as day-light basements. Clever engineering with drainage tiles and interior sump pumps make it all possible.

I really miss having a basement. Just having a set of stairs to access the furnace and under-floor plumbing would be dreamy. I’ve done my best under the two additions I built. I dug them out deep and added a lot of lights and outlets, but it’s the old portion under my sunken living room that is hard to access.

I recently made the crawl to pull some network cable under the living room. It wasn’t pleasant at all. I’ve spent a lot of time under that section of the house as a wire monkey. I’ve run speaker wires, satellite cable, TV cable, phone wire and a heating duct. Each time I hope will be my last. I really feel sorry for people that make a living crawling under people’s homes. The few service people that have been under my house said that it wasn’t bad compared to where they usually go. Many crawl spaces have rodents in various stages of life or decomposition. Some have families of raccoons and skunks and cats living in there. Some don’t have a vapor barrier and the ground is wet and muddy.

A plumber friend said the worst part of his job is working on sewer pipes in a crawl space. He said it would make a vulture vomit.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mercenary Art

Recently on one of the local forums someone used the word “mercenary.” It got me thinking about soldiers of fortune and how there are mercenaries in just about every profession; folks that do their jobs just for the money and not for the love of their craft.

Some people start their career in their craft with a sincere, earnest and honest intent, but somewhere along the way they move over to the dark side. Those that start their careers on the dark side usually don’t last long. The gougers usually get their comeuppance or at least we can always hope they will.

The particular focus of my thoughts on mercenaries goes to local artists. I am close to several artists. I have a great deal of local art in my home. Some was purchased and some was given to me in friendship. I only have art from artist I like personally. I love the art of Auntie L, Kicki, and a few other potters, sculptures and glass artists. Their art is all over my place.

Their prices are reasonable and affordable, even to other artists. That is the key to a proper price structure. Henry Ford paid his employees a wage that would guarantee that his products could be purchased by the people that made his product. Art should be priced so that it can be purchased by other practitioners.

I don’t care how good the art may be; if the artist is a schmuck I don’t want their work in my life. There is one local mercenary schmuck that when I saw the price of some of his prints I found that I stopped breathing for a while hoping that my eye had unintentionally added an extra digit or two. It reminded me of the old comics of the two kids with lemonade stands next to one another. One stand had the price set at 5 cents and the other kid had the price set at $100. The caption read, “But all I need to sell is one glass.”

Is it any wonder this mercenary is always crying poverty, tries to trade his art for goods and services at a major mark-up and tries to hold fund raisers when his financial endeavors are blown away? He would be so far ahead had he been reasonable all along.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Sorry for the lack of a usual sick day photo. Yesterday I wrote about how minimal buttons and knobs were getting on electronic equipment. I am of the age where more is better. I’d like my equipment to look like a Moog Synthesizer. I’m a control freak as far as electronics go. I’d like to mess with more than one function at a time.

I could go on and on about it, but let me digress to something else that makes me sick, this is a sick day post after all. OK I’m sick of red and blue lights. I have a wireless router that has these blue lights that constantly flash on top of it. I walked down stairs in the dark one night and I thought it was a reflection of a police car outside, but no it was my router looking like the mother ship taking off.

I got some peripherals for my wife’s laptop and as soon as you plug any of them in, they flash either red or blue. Again, what is it with red and blue? What happened to the soothing green lights of yester-year? Is soothing out? It isn’t enough for a light to show you things are operational, they have to flash and make you feel like the police are coming or that there is imminent danger in your face. Even my lap top has blue flashing lights.

I mean, for Christ sake, I'm in the safety of my living room. I'm not in East LA. I do not need to see flashing red and blue lights when I'm watching Jeopardy.

One tid-bit of computer history is that the first PCs weren’t supposed to have any lights, but they put one in when the hard drive was spinning so people would know the computer was on and working.

So far the industry’s obsession with blue lights makes me want to get more black electrical tape. The laptops, peripherals, the router and the new radio in the truck are all getting taped.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Radio Daze

After suffering a blown speaker for months and suffering a radio/CD player that wouldn’t switch bands or stations I finally got a new radio and speakers for the truck.

The radio that was in the truck that came from the factory was by far the best system I ever had. It had lots of features and buttons and knobs. It filled the truck with a volume of sound; not just loudness, but volume. There is a difference.

So I got this new radio. It has minimal knobs and buttons. I like knobs and buttons (don’t turn this into something nasty, Auntie, Lori, g and you other miscreants). I didn’t need a system with all the flashing red and blue lights. I wanted a clock. It is one of these systems that if you want to set something you need to put on your reading glasses and lay across your seat. You need to hit one button several times and then hold it then hit another button a couple times just to change the bass range. I’ve tried to follow the directions to set the clock, but the menu items don’t match the manual. I have no idea of how to even get the clock to display. Worse yet, you can’t turn the damn thing off when the motor is running. The best you can do is turn the volume down to zero of enter standby mode. In the mean time the blue and red lights are still there as bright as day. I have no clock other than the one on my cell phone. I am not impressed with this new Kenwood technology.