THANATOS

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“Are you prepared to die?’

 The voice came from the man seated across from me on the bus, and the casual manner in which he asked me the question made me think that maybe I was hearing a random voice in my head. They have been coming back more frequently now that I no longer had a source for my medication so, to me, another random voice in my head was nothing to concern myself with.

 “Are you prepared to die?”

 Okay, now this was getting a little annoying, I mean having a voice inside your head is one thing but for it to keep asking you the same question over again was borderline redundant and I was not a particular fan of redundancy. Which is ironic considering what I did for a living; there was a whole lot of redundancy built into my job. I wish the voices in my head had warned me about that, it would have been very helpful. Of course they probably wouldn’t be in my head if I had a position with a company that didn’t deal with doing the exact same thing, over and over, day after day.

 “Are you prepared to die?”

 I must have dozed off or something because when I opened my eyes at the sound of those words, the man was seated next to me. Funny that he hadn’t smelled bad from three feet away, but now with this close proximity he reeked of alcohol, cheap cologne and, was that urine? His faced looked as if it had survived a battle with a blender, the scars crisscrossed in a pattern that made me think of pick up sticks from my childhood, except for the colors, which were all either reddish purple or white, depending on how far along the healing process was, I imagine. His teeth were a nice shade of brown, yet his eyes were a remarkable green that seemed completely out of place. It fascinated me just the same.

 “Are you prepared to die?”

 Again with that question, which was definitely coming from his foul-smelling mouth and not the foul-tempered voices in my head. Now I needed to come up with an answer as it seemed that the bus was moving approximately an inch per hour, and my stop was still several blocks away – an eternity at the current rate. Now the voices started to ask me some serious questions and I had a choice to make, voices in my head or voices from the old smelly dude. I decided to listen to my own community to see if they had any insight into my situation.

 “Whew, where did that guy climb out of a dumpster from, the local fast food joint?”

 That was the voice I named Justin as in just in time for a mean and sarcastic comment. He never failed to have one.

 “Maybe he’s trying to hit you up for some money. You are dressed for business today so maybe he thought he would take a chance with you.”

 That was Celeste. Yes, I have a woman’s voice inside my head, doesn’t everyone? She is the practical and no-nonsense mom of the voices, always looking for why something happened and always good for some practical advice when the situation warranted. At least that is what she told me. Besides, I was dressed in one of my more expensive suits, so she really did make sense.

 “I told you taking the bus wasn’t worth the risk.”

 That would be Fred, my cowardly voice. He always liked to tell me that he would rather be a cowardly voice that is still a voice, than a brave voice that no longer existed.

 “You are being rude.”

 This voice was new. I was pretty sure that the man’s lips never moved, yet somehow I heard him. In my head.

 “You can stop acting all paranoid, Charlie, and just answer my question; are you prepared to die?”

 Well that pretty much made today the number one day for my craziness. Some old, drunken, decrepit man with eyes that shouldn’t be, is now in my head telling me that I am being rude and really succeeding in freaking me out.

 “Who you calling decrepit? And before you jump back into that mind of yours, realize that I am following along with every conversation, so you might as well talk to me, Charlie.”

 “Um, okay,” I managed weakly.

 “Now isn’t this better? Talking like two civilized people on a bus, just passing the time until our stops.”

 “How do you know my name?” I asked in a slightly less dazed but still weak voice.

 “Your nametag.”

 “What? Oh my goodness, I forgot that was there,” I tore at the paper adhesive nametag that said: “Hi, I’m Charlie.” I was coming back from one of those fancy little seminars where they talk about all the features that their equipment could do that no one else’s can. Boring as all get out, but the free lunches were pretty good and you could usually sneak out at some point in the afternoon. I could still taste the roast beef on rye with a hint of dill pickle and Cheetos.

 “Are you prepared to die?”

 “Why do you keep asking me that? I mean is it important to you for some reason, do you have a tract that tells me all about your deity and how he/she/it will save me from eternal damnation, but only if I give you all my money and bow down to you, my poppa/granddad/father figure?”

 “Are you finished?”

 “Yes,” I started, “I think I am. This is my stop coming up and I have to get prepared to exit the bus.”

 I have seen many television shows and movies where all the action seems to stop, with the exception of a character or two, and always thought it to be a far-fetched deus ex machina that helped move the plot along without having to explain a whole lot of actions/events that occurred to get to this point. In other words, a really convenient way to get from point A to point B in a story.

 Well, that just happened. Everything stopped. Except for me and.

 “What is your name anyway?” I asked, wondering why it took so long to ask this of the stranger, yet not really concerned.

 “Well, I have quite a few; there is Thanatos, Odin, Ankou and, of course, the Grim Reaper.”

 “What? Wait? You, you are death?”

 “Always knew you were a smart kid Charlie.”

 “But that’s just legends, and mythology and fairy tales meant to scare kids, and…” I trailed off not knowing what else to say.

 

Random

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Is it possible to use sign language to yell at someone while driving? You know, say someone cuts you off and you decide to have a conversation – one way of course – via ASL (American Sign Language) instead of using say, a couple of fingers? Can you imagine the look on the person that you are “yelling” at as they watch you through their rear view mirror. Imagine still that they are entranced by your superior skills at talking with your hands that they forget they are driving…

You know where that is going right?

You will toot your car horn happily as they try to explain why they ran into the car that was stopped in front of them. Sign language is cool like that.

***

Ever wonder where the bible verses that are placed on billboards are coming from? I mean I am no biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure that some people are taking some serious liberty with the words inspired by God.

***

Why do we continue to follow and allow ourselves to be led by incompetent boobs that insist they know what is better for us and that we should continually give them more and more money so that they can continue bringing us some obscene abstract laws that really do not have a thread of common sense involved with them and… crap, I totally forgot where I was going with that.

Oh yeah I remember now.

Politicians suck!

There I said it, they suck suck suckety suck suck. I mean if they really cared maybe they should work for FREE!

That’s right, if they really did care for and about the country that they supposedly do, then maybe they should quit filling their coffers with contributors cash. You know, do their civic duty and do it gratis. No money honey.

Oh and term limits are ESSENTIAL!

Three terms for the House.

ONE term for the Senate

Two terms for the President.

That’s it.

Also get rid of those awesome retirement accounts that they don’t contribute any of their own money to, and that we the people have to pay.

***

Construction is fun, especially when your kitchen is what is under construction and what will be under construction for at least the next six to eight weeks. There will be a lot of crock pot cooking and microwave cooking and take out. I, conveniently, will be out-of-town for at least half of it.

I didn’t plan it that way. Honest.

***

The conference championships in football are this weekend – Sunday, in fact. The first game will pit the new England Patriots, led my Tom Brady against my beloved Denver Broncos, led by Peyton F. Manning. His middle name does not start with an F I am pretty sure, but we are all so amazed by his amazing quarterbacking skills, that we use “for unlawful carnal knowledge” as an adjective in there for all of his freaking amazing-ness.

Got it? Good.

The nightcap features two teams that really have a great rivalry going on, from the coaches (bad blood from when they were coaching at rival colleges – Stanford and USC), to the fans, to the rivalry between two friends at quarterback – they get along so well that they bet eyebrows over their games.

Ha! I just reread that last paragraph and I laugh at the way I wrote it, so much so, that I am not changing a thing.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, the San Francisco 49ers travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks, which should be quite the defensive battle even with their explosive young quarterbacks.

I am going with Denver (surprise!) and San Francisco (I believe an upset is a brewing in the Pacific Northwest) meeting in the Super Bowl. This year it is XLVIII, I believe. Can’t wait for that Super Bowl L in two years. This will be a rematch of one of the worst super bowls ever, at least in my humble opinion, when the 49ers DESTROYED my Broncos by the score of 55-10.

I cried a little there, sorry.

 

 

 

Red Light

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The house has been abandoned for nearly three years. The windows are covered in dust from years of not being cleaned, yet the structure remains sturdy and there are no broken windows or doors. Even the cellar door is locked and latched shut. Whoever left this house wanted to make sure no one got in there apparently. If you were to look inside the house you would see sparse floors that have a Berber carpet that hides any dust that may be collected, and looks like it has been undisturbed for as long as the house has been empty. The yard gets attention from a landscaping company, who makes sure that the grass is cut every couple of weeks in the summer and that any fallen tree branches or overgrown shrubbery is taken care of.

No one has ever seen the landscapers, but they had to have been there at some point.

There are three rooms in the house that you cannot see in due to them being covered with heavy construction paper that has been painted black, either to keep the light in or out. Since the house is abandoned, one would suspect that this was just something the former owners overlooked when they decided to abandon the house.

Is the house really abandoned if the heat is still on and the yard is maintained and the electricity is still humming through the wires to power anything that requires power? Obviously someone is paying some bills to keep these things online. Someone cares enough to ensure that the yard still looks nice and that the outside appearance of the house makes it looked lived in, as best that it can be.

The house is situated on an old farm road that is now used to access newer homes of the people who want to live in the country, yet still have modern city amenities like running water, cable, garbage pickup all the comforts of the city right there in their old country home. The house sits alone and has a barn in what can be considered the backyard, that looks like it is ready to collapse on itself. The neighbors tell the kids to stay away from the barn.

The kids rarely listen.

Thankfully no one has been hurt from a collapsing barn, yet no one has ever called the county regarding the safety risk it involves while barely standing there on its own power, if barns had power. If anyone did call the county, the county determined that there was minimal risk, and since they have engineers trained to ensure the public’s safety, the public goes on believing the barn to be safe. Since no children, or adults for that matter, have been harmed by the dilapidated barn, the county has considered that case closed and will review the case again on an annual basis, promising the people that if the need does arise in the future where the barn must come down for safety’s sake, the county will step in and take care of it.

I walk my dog most nights, when I feel up to it, or maybe just want to get out and enjoy the fresh air for a while, along the road and most nights I don’t even notice the house. That is not the case this evening. This evening the house has caught my attention fully, to the point where my dog starts to tug nervously on his leash trying to get my attention. A little yelp come from his mouth almost as if he is trying to harshly whisper at me to “get a move on it big guy, let’s get home” and I stare a moment longer in amazement and finally snap out of my dazed state and turn to look at my dog in a manner that says I’m not happy.

I turn back to the house and it is back to normal. Almost like nothing has changed, yet I know what I saw.

There was a red light on in the picture window of the house and a shadow behind the light.

Robots Tres

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So I got all caught up in the excitement of the robot tournament/match that I completely forgot to finish up what I was discussing about how the meets actually are run.

So after qualifying the teams are ranked one to twenty-four. My daughter’s team qualified in third place, which I thought was pretty awesome. She was kind of all, “whatever” because well they have done it before, so…

After the teams are ranked the top eight teams then can start picking teams that they want to be on an alliance with. I noticed that during the competition several people were following along, each assigned a different robot, very intently. Apparently this data was then processed to give the captains an idea of who the best team to align with would be. Total geekville there, I have to admit, and they should get a gold star or something for their efforts, but even with my untrained eye, I knew which robots were the best, and which robots needed some assistance.

The alliances were really made behind the stage since no one wanted to be embarrassed if someone were to say no – I guess it has happened before. A lot of times, team one will pick team two and so on down the line enabling team one to be matched up against an alliance that has two teams ranked fifteen and sixteen, thus enabling them to make it to the semifinals easier. This is set up for competition yes, but they don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt. Good lessons for these kids to learn, too bad it isn’t like that in the real world.

My daughter’s team which qualified third was chosen to be in an alliance with the team that qualified first. My daughter’s team can hang their robot, which is worth a lot of points, and others can not. So even if they came in dead last, they probably would have been picked right away just for the hanging.

After the alliances are made the teams then can set up strategy and all that fun stuff. It was a little different at this meet than others because they had three teams on an alliance – again, we don’t want anyone to have hurt feelings. This also meant that during the best of three format for the remainder of the meet, the three teams would need to switch out so that every team in the alliance got a chance to compete for the glory.

First quarterfinal match was probably indicative of a real world situation as the top two teams on my daughter’s alliance, went up against the teams in alliance number eight. Final score was 79-2. The highest score of the day to that point was 42. Domination to the extreme, and then when my daughter’s team took a break and the third team on the alliance participated, they still won, but it was a lot closer.

The only hiccup alliance one had, happened when the driver controls lost connection with the robot because of some faulty wiring. Surprisingly enough, they did not allow them to run that game again, enabling a team to beat them and get their hopes up, while looking for the upset. They also happened to belong to the school hosting the event, but that was just a coincidence. Really it was.

In the finals they finished up the competition with two more matches and the awards came out shortly after that.

I was excited because the girls qualified for the U.S. Nationals, which I thought was a big deal, and state – also a big deal in my book. The girls were all “meh” about it since apparently this was the fifth time that they qualified for these events already.

Nice.

All in all, I will admit that it was a great time, which really did surprise me, and when I figure it out, I will try to post some video.

Next weekend, we have gymnastics! Can not wait.

Seriously.

Robots Deux

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First off, we had to get to the location at 7:30am.

Drivers meeting is at 9:30.

Competition started at 9:45.

Confusion reigns. For me anyway.

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That is what a robotics field looks like.

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Robots in action.

The field consisted of two teams, which form an alliance, going against another two teams. One team is red and the other is blue. There are three fields which are worth a certain amount of points, no idea, but I will put a link in here somewhere that will explain it. Basically you want all your balls, red or blue, in the zone furthest from the drivers. There are also two, for lack of a better word, buckets that you can either put your small balls into, or put the large ball on top of. In the zone closest to the drivers there are hanging bars that you can also try to get your robot to hang from. Apparently this is a big deal because when a team (my daughter’s) got theirs to hang, the roar of the crowd was pretty awesome.

Currently we are in the middle of a lunch break, which is why I have the time to write this. I have to admit getting caught up a little in the chaos of the moment, especially when team Cobalt is on the field.

Okay back to the competition. The match starts with a fifteen second autonomous competition, where the programmer is driving the robot autonomously. It is interesting seeing how many robots don’t even seem to work during this period. It could be anything from a programming glitch or a battery failure, or just poor programming. Every match, so far, our robot has gotten two red balls over and one small ball in the bucket. Call me impressed. The girl programming the Cobalt robot is a genius, to say the least and is a junior in high school, I think.

After the autonomous round the teams have one minute, forty-five seconds to drive the robot around and get as many points as possible. This is where having a good driver comes in handy. Proud moment my daughter is a good driver, along with her BFF, and they are in eighth grade. I imagine she’ll use that as a reference come this fall when she gets her drivers permit. We’ll see.

Like I said, the morning round is over and round two starts in a little bit 12:30, where they will try to improve their 4-0-0 record with 8 WPs (winning points) and 49 SPs (strength points), which are points that serve as a strength of schedule cans separates the teams that are tied in the win/loss column. Think point differential in soccer. They currently sit in a tie for fourth with a team that has already played five matches to their four.

More in part three…

Robots

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My daughter is on a robotics team. Pretty awesome, right?

I think so.

So I will now try to share my experiences from my first-ever meet, which means I may sound a bit jumbled and lost.

Go figure.

I have had a son play baseball, which for the levels he went through constituted sitting on hard bleachers or lawn chairs for several hours while the kids learned the trade from parents that think we know how to play the game, and can teach it to our children. I’m not big on sitting on bleachers for long periods of time, so I volunteered to coach, mostly as a base coach and some one that would help warm up the kids arms. Eventually the fun waned for him, or maybe we forgot to sign him up too many times. Anyway, we won a championship, so it wasn’t all too bad.

Son number two didn’t want to play baseball – too boring, I guess. His game was soccer. Now this is a sport that I used to play growing up and I still follow the sport watching mostly the EPL, whenever I can find a game.. The World Cup is a big deal in my house and hopefully the United States will have a championship caliber team this year, because that would be freaking awesome. Anyway, so with son number two he grew up playing soccer and I coached. We had some awesome seasons, and maybe one bad one, a really bad one. Oh well, you can’t win them all. He also delved into gymnastics, and was pretty good at that.

My oldest daughter upped the ante and played basketball, volleyball and softball. When she started playing softball it was like with my oldest son, three hours of fun in the sun watching the girls try to hit, pitch and field. Like with my son, we also would forget to sign her up, but unlike him, she did play it again in high school. In high school the games were at a much quicker pace and lots of fun, although some days were a bit chilly. Volleyball and basketball were two more fast-paced games that I started getting into, heck I even refereed a match when the official referee was late. I learned a lot about volleyball since my two oldest daughters both played it. Volleyball and basketball were played indoors at least, unlike track and field which is a long, cold experience. At least it was while my middle daughter participated in it.

Currently it looks like sons three and four are really into gymnastics, which is pretty cool. The meets are indoors and, so far, aren’t too long. I have to admit that I really got into it though.

I think I will end this post here as the activity level increased suddenly, to more than just a couple of high schoolers playing with the microphones. Back later.

Snow

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Snow is beautiful, well fresh snow is. That snow that is still hanging around in April and is grey and black – not so beautiful.

I love snow. I love the silence a snow storm brings it is very peaceful. Sometimes while shoveling the snow I will take a break and just listen to the silence. It is remarkable how quiet a snow storm is. Of course there are thunder snow storms which are not quiet, and they can freak you out just a bit, especially if you never have experienced one. I can remember my first thunder snow and with the first flashes of lightning, I thought that maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, but when you hear the thunder rolling, you get a different feeling altogether.

Snow is also very deceptive.

Snow is deceptive when you look out at it on your driveway and think that won’t be two bad to shovel. Three hours later, you do not have those thoughts anymore. Snow id deceptive and hides important things; it hides the ice on the sidewalk that you are walking upon, it can hide holes in the ground. Sometimes it can even hide a road, or what you thought was a road. Then, once you realize that you are not on a road, you have several choices; you can continue to try and drive on, through the ruts and mounds of a dormant corn field. You can try to turn yourself around and get back to where the road that isn’t, turns into a parking area that is.

The bumping and jostling that a motor vehicle takes while driving across the mound that on day will support corn or soy beans, or whatever crop the farmer wants the following season. Because of the bumping along, you want to slow down, however once you slow down; you know that you’ll get stuck. So you deal with the bumps and carry on, while secretly and under your breath, you mumble a simple cadence of “don’t slow down, don’t slow down,” to hopefully give the motor vehicle the encouragement it requires, wants, desires, so that it will continue to chug along.

Forty feet. 

Thirty feet.

Ten feet.

I just might make this.

Three feet. The motor vehicle slows too much.

One foot, the vehicle stops.

Crap.

Escape plans for cars stuck in the snow are pretty straight forward, you slowly try to inch your way forward, then use the momentum of the vehicle coming backwards into the rut, to place the car in reverse and you slowly try to back out. Once again, once the momentum stops, you place the vehicle in drive and hope that you will get a little further.

Forward.

Backwards.

Forward.

Stuck.

Give it a little more gas, you can feel the front end starting to sink a little bit, so against your better judgement, you give it just a little more gas.

It’s not getting loose. the wheels spin of their own free will because there is no friction from the ground to slow them, it reminds you of a stationary bike. You acquire some cat litter and a new shovel, neither seem to help, since the vehicle just won’t move.

At all.

Period.

Time to call the big guns and hope it doesn’t take four days like it did for your co-workers van, because of the really bad storm. No thunder, no lightning, just snow and wind. Oh there was wind,lots of wind.

The snow wasn’t silent that night.