November 30, 2010
Thank you for your patience! An AT&T customer service representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with 'Kristen James'. I am sorry you are having this issue. I can assist you. As the security of your account is important to AT&T, I must verify your account information. Please provide the account holder's first and last name as it appears on the account, last four digits of the account holder's social security number or the security pass code if one has been set up previously on your billing account.
Rob: caller are you there?
Kristen James: Thank you. One moment please.
Kristen James: I apologize for the delay.
Kristen James: I am sorry, that does not match the name on the account. Please provide the name on the account exactly as it appears on the account.
Rob: Rob Kiser
Kristen James: Thank you. One moment please.
Kristen James: Your password for online account manager has been reset. You will receive a security email from your AT&T online account to notify you that the password for your online account has been changed. You will receive an additional email containing the 6 digit temporary password. Please enter the 6 digit temporary password exactly as it appears in the message when you attempt to login, and let me know if you are able to log in before we end this chat session. I have sent the temporary password to email@example.com.
Rob: why didn't it send it to me before when I tried to reset it on the website?
Kristen James: I am sorry, I do not have access to that information.
Rob: you've never tried using the website?
Kristen James: I have my administrative access to reset your password.
Rob: you've never tried using the website?
Kristen James: Yes, I have my own AT&T account and online account manager.
Rob: well, just so you know, if I try to reset my password using the website, it doesn't send me an email with my password.
Rob: my guess would be that a good portion of your communications are related to this issue.
Kristen James: You are absolutely correct, Mr. Kiser. I will be sure to pass this information to my supervisor. We need all the examples we can get to correct any issues our site may have. Thank you.
Kristen James: Have you been able to log into your online account manager?
Rob: it actually has directions on how to retrieve your password via snail mail, but not email. You should check out your website some time. Could be rewarding.
Kristen James: Were you able to log in to your account?
Rob: i haven't tried yet. Still trying to get over how fvcked up your website is.
Kristen James: Please use the below link to log in.
Kristen James: http://www.att.com/mywireless
Kristen James: Have you been able to log into your online account manager?
Kristen James: I have not noticed any activity from you. Do you wish to continue to chat?
Rob: i'm trying to sign in now...
Rob: how do i pay my bill online?
Rob: did you fall asleep on me?
Kristen James: I apologize for the delay.
Kristen James: Have you been able to log into your online account manager?
Kristen James: - To make a payment on your account please click on the Bill & Payments link.
Rob: yes but precious little else
Kristen James: Is there anything else regarding online account access that I can assist you with?
Kristen James: Sure thing, what is your question?
Rob: still trying to sign into your lousy website...might be the worst website ever designed...
Kristen James: I see that you have set a new permanent password.
Rob: i'm ready to kill myself at this point...
Kristen James: Mr. Kiser, please, don't say that. I am here to assist you. What error are you receiving in logging into your account?
Rob: oh my god i just made a payment successfully and it only took me like about an hour.
Kristen James: Excellent! Your service is now restored. Please be sure to power your device off and back on.
November 29, 2010
The Dane County Sheriff
At dark thirty I go out into the parking lot and climb onto my motorcycle. It's a cold and rainy November Wisconsin night. I kick the parking lot to test for ice. But there's nothing. Just cold wet asphalt.
I start the bike and drive away slowly in the rain. The clutch only works intermittenly. I replaced the cable last night at the hotel with a wrench I borrowed from the maintenance guy, but it's not adjusted properly. Needs some more attention, of course, like everything I own.
So I start off in the cold dark rain and at the first red light, I sit for some time and finally just decide to run the light and I don't get far before the red and blue lights fill my mirrors. I pull over, kill it, and put my hands on the handlebars. Just sitting there in the cold raining dark. No license plate. Nothing.
Cop pulls up and he has a hard time with this. He's trying not to laugh.
"What the hell? What are you doing? Why did you run the light?" he asks.
"I dunno. I got tired of waiting I guess."
He asks for my license and I pass it to him.
"Where are you going?"
"To my hotel. I work here for this company. I stay at the Residence Inn."
"And you live in Colorado? Seriously?"
"Yeah. That's pretty much it, I guess."
"Don't go anywhere," he laughs.
"I'm not leaving," I reply.
Presently, he returns and hands me my license. He's laughing now. "I'm not going to keep you out here in this mess," he laughs.
"Thanks. Have a good night."
He never asks me for proof of insurance or registration or anything. Doesn't mention that I don't have a license plate. Just he feels sorry for the lunatic on the motorcycle at night in the cold November rain.
And I leave to go meet Lucy for dinner on State Street.
November 28, 2010
November's Last Saturday
How the Earth Changed History Soundtrack
I'm trying to find out what the name of the song is that they play near the end of "How the Earth Changed History - Episode 3: The Skies Above." This is on the National Geographic channel. Original air date 6/21/10. Song start about 4 minutes before the end of the episode. He's talking about Chaco Canyon, built by the Anasazi over a thousand years ago. When they show the water falling after that is when the song starts. A piano piece accompanied by a xylophone, I think. I believe the audio was handled by Kenneth Gilbert at "Shine Creative" in D.C.
You can hear a poor recording from the televsion here:
Update: The song is "Everyday" by Carly Commando.
November 26, 2010
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Heard a lot of howling and barking just now. I'm a little more in tune to these signs these days. I've learned that the animals don't go crazy for no reason. If all the dogs are barking and howling, there's a reason. If 50 ravens fly over at once, there's a reason.
So these days, when I hear a commotion, I tend to try to find out what's going on so I went out and did a little patrol of the compound to see what was up and spotted something big moving up the ridge. Couldn't get a clean shot at him while he was on my land, but my guess it was a large coyote patrolling the hood.
The more I look around at night, the more animals I see. I'm really surprised by all of the activity up here, although I probably shouldn't be. We're not normally outside at 2:30 a.m. with nightvision gear on, so how would we know what's out there?
My guess is that we've got mountain lions and bears moving through here all the time, not to mention coyotes, coons, foxes, deer, elk, and countless other critters like skunks, rabbits, voles, etc.
A Day of Reckoning
I got the XR400 running today, with Mark's help. Put it in the barn. Got one of the XR650L's running and got it in the garage. Got one of the Tahoes running and put it in the garage. Got one of the Rancher 350's running and got it in the garage. So, I did get some things working today.
Thanksgiving Day Massacre
Yesterday, I was going to drive my motorcycle to the neighbors but I couldn't get it to start. I'm not clear why, but it wouldn't fire up for crap and eventually the battery ran down trying. I left the tailgate open on my truck which ran the battery down, so it wouldn't start either. Then, I decided to try to start my XR400 by roll-starting it down the hill.
Got down to the bottom of the hill on the back of my property and it wouldn't start. So, I sat down there trying to kick start the bike until I nearly hurled. And, finally, I gave up and told them they'd have to come get me.
At this point, I have zero running vehicles. So, just for the record, I have 3 motorcycles, 3 four wheelers, two Tahoes, a Dukw, a weasel, and an M37. All non-functional. Sucks. I've got 1/2 a mind to put everything I own on eBay and just start over.
November 25, 2010
I added a raw turkey leg into the pile of bait inside the live animal trap. Here's hoping it works. :)
November 24, 2010
Jennifer has tentatively identified this cat as Timmy.
November 23, 2010
Well, I managed to stay home this week instead of slipping off to Mad Town like I'd planned. And, as it so happens, it sort of worked out because an old friend called me up and informed me that we were going to see The Wall. And I'm so happy about this I just can't say. It's going to be an awesome concert. I've seen Roger Waters 3 times, I believe. And Pink Floyd once. All grand shows, of course. But this one should be pretty spectacular.
I added a can of soup last night, but I'm still not getting any takers. So far, I've got bacon, BBQ sauce, lasagna, and a can of Campbell's Vegetable beef soup.
Jennifer has tentatively identified this cat as Gato.
November 22, 2010
Apparently the coon and the fox didn't like the lasagna as much as Allie and Jen.
November 21, 2010
Dozer Driver Makes Fossil Discovery of the Century
Looks like there was a major fossil find up near Snowmass Village:
An accidental discovery by a bulldozer driver has led to what may be the find of the century: an ice-age burial ground that could rival the famed La Brea tar pits.
After two weeks of excavating ancient fossils at the Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado, scientists from the Denver Museum of Natural Science returned home Wednesday with their unearthed treasures in tow -- a wide array of fossils, insects and plant life that they say give a stunningly realistic view of what life was like when ancient, giant beasts lumbered across the Earth.
Since the team's arrival in mid-October, scientists have extracted nearly 600 bones from about 20 different animals from the Pleistocene era, a period of time during the Ice Age. The remains of up to six different species have been exhumed, including five American mastodons, three Ice Age bison, a Jefferson's ground sloth, a mule deer, a tiger salamander, and two Columbian mammoths.
Of course, they wouldn't be tree-hugging glassy-eyed liberal scientists if they didn't try to drag this this seemingly peripheral event into the lime-light of their pseudo-science of "Global-Warming-today, Climate-Change-tomorrow, check-back-next-week-and-I'll-have-a-new-and-improved-scare-tactic-for-you-by-then".
"So this site is really going to help us answer questions about how high elevation floras and faunas reacted to Pleistocene climate change."
Give it a rest, tree-huggers. You're not fooling anyone. The sky is not falling and, even if it were, I wouldn't trust you to tell me the color of the sky, much less if it were falling.
The trap is baited with bacon, BBQ sauce, and lasagna. Last night, the gamecam failed when the batteries ran down. Trap appeared to be undisturbed this morning. Update: It is snowing somewhat.
The Daily Commute
In the morning, I pull on a 2nd pair of pants. Gloves. Jacket. Helmet.
Check out of the hotel, wipe the ice off the seat of the motorcycle, and I'm driving to the airport to catch a flight.
I'm still on the frontage road, approaching a stop sign, when I pull in the clutch but nothing happens. The clutch just lets go and there's nothing there. I'm still in gear and the handle's all the way in but it has ceased to function.
This is kind'a tricky because I'm rolling through traffic now and the brain realizes we have a major problem, but hasn't quite grasped all of the implications just yet.
I start tinkering with the gears. I can shift up and down without the clutch. I do this all the time while I'm driving. You can feel when the engine wants to shift. This is something you learn from experience. It's sort of a Zen thing.
I have to get to the airport, of course, and the sooner the better. And it isn't like there's anyone I could call. I have to keep rolling. Have to somehow get this baby to the airport.
Eventually, I realize that I can shift into neutral, which is a bonus. This means I can stop. The trick is to get it going again. Once I stop, if I just jam it into first, it dies.
However, my first stop is on a little hill, so I let it coast a bit in neutral and, once it's rolling good, I jam it into first and I'm OK.
Eventually, I realize that the goal is not to stop. I can make it to the airport, so long as I don't encounter any red lights. So, when I see a red light, I slow way down and pray it turns green before I get there.
But eventually, my luck runs out and I get to a red light and have to stop. The light turns green and I'm not on a hill this time, so I have to get it rolling with my feet. So, the engine's running and I'm sitting on the bike, running forward, essentially, with a leg on each side of said bike. Trying to get up speed. With no license plate, of course.
I get it rolling a little and jam it into first and it stands straight up like a stallion. I just hold on for dear life and eventually the front tire comes down and makes contact with the street and somehow I don't crash and look at the lights ahead of me to plan what I can do to keep that from occurring again and I wonder how other people's commutes are going today.
Hopefully better than mine.
The Red Powderpuff
Last year, when I was working in in San Diego and traveling through Mexico, I spent a good deal of time interrogating strangers about the flowers I encountered. I was never able to accurately identify the red flowers I saw on the bushes at the San Diego airport.
Yesterday, I noticed that one of the flowers we saw at the Denver Botanic Gardens was referred to as the Red Powderpuff "Calliandra haematocephala". Family: Fabaceae, Sub-family: Mimosoideae. This was a flower that bothered me a great deal, as I'd initially mistaken it for the flower of a Bottlebrush tree. I'm reasonably certain this is the same flower I shot last year in San Diego.
November 20, 2010
Denver Botanical Gardens
Above: Blue Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora). Commelinaceae: (Spiderwort Family).
Went down to the Denver Botanical Gardens with the kids and some lady friends today. They have an indoor rain forest similar to the Butterfly Pavilion. Fairly decent variety of flowers. Makes me wish I were back in the jungle.
Above: Common Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea).
Above: Angel-Wing Begonia (Begonia coccinea). Begoniaceae: (Begonia family).
Somehow, the raccoon figured out how to extract the shrimp without getting himself caught in the trap.
I'm not clear what the rabbit was after. He was too late for the shrimp, in any event.
Girls on the trampoline playing "dodge potato" (I think).
November 19, 2010
Here's a slideshow of some of the birds I shot this year. I actually put this together back in July, but my life has been so crazy with me bouncing across the country like a ping-pong ball in a dryer that I've really not had time to play with it since then.
The images were all captured on one of the following:
- Canon EOS 50D with a Canon L-series image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM) with ET-83C hood.
- Canon EOS 40D with an image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM).
The images are compiled into an 8 Meg (2:40 Adobe Flash slideshow(littlebird.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (littlebird.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
Lyrics in the extended entry.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
The New Trap
When I got home, the new live animal trap was on the front porch. It's large enough for Jennifer and Allie to both fit inside, although not comfortably, I'm afraid. I wish it were larger, of course, but it will have to do for now.
I set it up out front and baited it with shrimp. Turned on the game cam as well. So, we'll see what happens tonight.
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." - Bertrand Russell
November 15, 2010
20x30" Framed Photo for $30
I have seldom printed out any of my photos because I compose my shots for the 3 x 2 aspect ratio. So, the images look as I want them to look at the time that I shoot them (in theory). I don't want to take a 3 x 2 aspect ratio photo and have to crop it to fit an 8 x10 frame. To me, this is just absurd. Retarded beyond belief. And, as neurotic as I am, I can't stand to compromise with my art, if it can be called that.
So, when I saw some 30" x 20" picture frames at Walmart, the brain said "Hey...there's a 3:2 aspect ratio picture frame for a reasonable price" and I picked up one in Colorado.
The today, Lucy was nice enough to drive me up to a Walmart in east Madison. At this one particular Walmart, I found a picture frame that I like even better than the one I bought in Colorado. They tried to charge me $20, but we talked them down to $16.
When we left, I got turned around and told her to go the wrong way, and she knew I was wrong, but went that way anyway. Afterwards, I was able to laugh about it, because it's just like me to tell someone who lives in Madison which way to go, and to be wrong.
Also, we tried to stop and buy some alcoholic beverages, but they pretty much quit selling alcohol at 9:00 p.m. in Wisconsin, if you can believe it. (Note: Some areas of the state apparently do allow you to buy beer up until midnight, but in Madison, no such luck.)
The frame we bought is a "20x30 in. Mainstays12-opening Collage or Poster Frame". The UPC and the number on my Walmart receipt is 00-44021-41577. MainStays part no: MS10-095-002-02 Walnut.
I can't find this on the internet or on Walmart's web page, of course. But it's a pretty decent frame. Probably it's plastic, but it looks nice.
Costco makes 20" x 30" prints for $9.00. So, the price is right, anyway.
Now, I've got to figure out how to trim the mat that came with the frame, measure the frame and the mat, and photoshop the image so that I can print my image the right size.
Update: The visible area inside the mat was measured to be 25.5" x 16".
November 14, 2010
Game Camera Update
Here, we caught the neighbor's cat. We let it go, but Tiger Lilly is one of the lead suspects as to the instigator of cat fights with Timmy. He can't get inside the house any more, but it would be nice if he'd stay away from the house.
I also managed to hang the game camera upside down, which is why the text is upside down. Brilliant.
November 13, 2010
Today, I replaced Timmy's cat door with a battery powered cat door that only Timmy can open. He wears a little magnet on his collar which activates the door somehow. So, Timmy can get in, but not Tiger Lilly, Gato, or any other stray animals (foxes, coons, etc.) The door we got him is this one by Cat Mate.
So, to recap, to try to save Timmy, we:
- Set a live animal trap to try to catch animals harassing Timmy.
- Bought and installed a Wildgame Innovations IR2 Infrared Digital Game Camera to identify the local predators.
- Bought a new spotlight, the Stanley HID 3000.
- Started nightly patrols of the compound with an AR-15
- Ordered a live animal trap big enough to trap orangutans.
- Purchased and installed a new electronic cat door that only Timmy can open.
Jen and I have been doing nightly patrols of the compound. We lock Timmy inside and then take turns carrying the flashlight and the AR-15 as we walk around the perimeter of the property. Funny how now we don't seem to see anything when we go on patrol. I used to see lots of eyes looking back at me. Not so many these days. And it isn't because of anything we've done. We haven't fired a shot. Maybe the cold has them holed up somewhere warmer?
So then, tonight, we're ready to go to sleep and Jen can't find Timmy, so I have to go find him.
"Did you look in the dryer?"
"Yes. He's not there."
"Did you look in the abandoned bedroom?"
So, I go down in the basement and find him sleeping under the fold-out sofa-bed.
"I can't keep doing this, Jen. I can't keep track of where Timmy is every second of the day. It's too much."
I suppose next I'll have to get some kind of tricked-out real-time tracking device so we can track him day and night. Sheesh.
November 12, 2010
Looks Like We're Gonna Need a Bigger Trap
Jen and I were on patrol this evening about dusk thirty and saw some movement out back. Not a good enough visual to take a shot, but just to have a change of scenery, we moved the game camera around back. The back of my property is fairly dense. Woods and some rock ledges. Looks like we're going to have to get a bigger trap. As for Timmy, he's on his own.
Update: Yeah, OK. So this was a hoax. Jen and I were in Bass Pro Shops last night and I shot this massive mountain lion mount inside the store. Then I decided I'd try to make it look like it came from my game cam. However, we do have mountain lions up here. I've seen them crossing the road less than a mile from the house. So, maybe I'll get a shot of a lion one day if I'm lucky.
Mountain lions in Golden
Primos® 5 Million Candlepower Rechargeable Spotlight Sucks
Tonight, Jen and I drove across town to return the "Primos® 5 Million Candlepower Rechargeable Spotlight" to Bass Pro Shops. FYI, this light is a complete piece of garbage. It has no charging indicator. Feels cheap. Didn't work at all. Never got it to give off one photon of light. Took it back. What you want instead is the Stanley 3000 HID Spotlight from Walmart. Costs about $70. This is the way to go.
Due to technical difficulties with the game-camera last night, no photos to post. However, nothing ate the shrimp I've been using as bait, and nothing knocked the trash cans over. So, probably we didn't have any visitors due to the bitter cold?
November 11, 2010
You just can't know how cold it is here. Jen and I went for a little night patrol around the compound with the new Stanley 3000 HID spotlight and the AR-15. We're walking around back across the arctic tundra. Nothing moving at all, but the infinite gleaming eyes staring back at us turn out to be countless ice crystals on every leaf and stem.
"Daddy...put down the machine gun and look at this," she complains.
But I'm thinking the only thing standing between us and a near-death experience is the AR-15 and about 20 rounds of .223. I'm not wanting to put down the rifle. Glancing around nervously like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers, I interrogate her.
"What is it baby? I'm sorta walking point here. What'd you find?"
"Look at these ice crystals daddy!"
And with that, I reluctantly put down the AR-15 and glance at the weeds she's pointing to.
Now I'm seeing the world through her eyes instead of mine.
Funny how the different this planet looks through other people's eyes.
For the Record...
Tonight, Lucy indicated that she couldn't imagine that I'd be scared of the aminals up here due to my arsenal. For the record, I was deathly afraid when that animal tried to break into my house through the pet door the other night.
Words can't adequately convey how scared I was, but imagine this. A loud noise from downstairs wakes me up. Timmy comes running upstairs, scared for his life. I go down the stairs at 5:00 a.m. with a Colt .45 and a flashlight.
The worst thing about having a Colt .45 in your hand is the idea that you may need it to survive. This is not a good feeling. It's not like "oh, lucky me, I get to kill something."
I was standing at that pet door with a pistol and this crazed animal trying to break through it and I'm thinking - if that thing gets inside this house, I'll never be able to shoot it because it will be running through the house like mad and I'll probably shoot at it 9 times and miss, creating 9 nice holes in the house and possibly injuring myself, Jennifer, or Timmy in the process.
This was why I traded out the .45 for an AR-15 when I went into the garage. Not because it made sense, but because I was scared out of my wits.
Coyote Trap on Order
Tonight, I finally broke down and ordered the largest "live animal trap" that Minnesota Trapline Products sells. (Many thanks to David for putting me onto this outfit).
Heavy Duty Cage Traps - Dog/Coyote/Orangutans - 19" x 19" x 48" - This is our largest live cage trap. It's the real ticket for medium-sized dogs, bobcat, etc. With bait door.
Should be here in 3 business days. :)
So, I pulled the memory card from the game cam today and it looks like there's a lot more critters out there than I'd realized. Aside from catching myself and Timmy, we've now photographed a fox the size of a pony, a raccoon the size of a bloodhound, two other cats, and a magpie.
November 10, 2010
Third Time's a Charm
So the first Stanley HID 3000 spotlight I bought from Wally World didn't work right either. It would work for only about 1 second or three and then go off. Returned it last night, got another one (3rd spotlight in a week) and now, this one seems to work properly. Charged it up last night and it seems to work properly so far.
The fox did not come back last night.
November 9, 2010
I got up this morning and the live animal trap had been rolled away. I was thinking...if I don't have photos this time, then I think Robert R. is right - I'm dealing with "Predator". But, I checked my game came and this time, I got him. So, this appears to be a large red fox (Vulpes vulpes). I'm working on getting a larger live animal trap. Stay tuned.
November 8, 2010
The Stanley HID 3000
So the spotlight I bought from Bass Pro Shops was stillborn. It was just a piece of garbage, really. Went online and did a little research, and the comments I found on the candlepower forum (who knew one existed?) said to ignore the xx million candle power lies go with the 35 Watt Stanley High Intensity Discharge spotlight. The Wal-mart part number is 0089745000206.
It's charging now. :)
Something Must Die
Jennifer and I are working on a multi-phased approach to saving Timmy called "See it, Trap it, Kill it". Basically, the plan is to identify the predators moving through the property at night (see it), attempt to trap it in a cage the size of a Volvo (trap it), and then release it unharmed to go play with its friends in the forest (kill it).
Woke up this morning and the bait from the trap had been eaten (leftover Costco pizza), the trap was sprung, no animal was in the trap, and the gamecam failed to take any photos.
So far, we've purchased a 5 million candle power light (which doesn't work). We set up a trap (which hasn't caught anything). And now, we've set up a game cam (which isn't taking photos of the animal that isn't getting caught.) So, we're sort of batting a thousand at this point.
November 7, 2010
"The Outskirts" - a poem by Jennifer about animal cruelty.
Some stay alone
Cold and below
Warm and above
All together then gone
Where do they go
No one knows
Through the night they slide
Not a peep from the outskirts
As subtle as your breathe in the night
Time is found then lost again
How to live
How to love
All is lost
Disappeared, disappeared to the end of the end
Will they ever be found
Found from the dark hole in which they come
They are the outskirts
By Jennifer Kiser
November 6, 2010
Tonight, Timmy got outside and I went out in the dark looking for him with a flashlight and an AR-15. I saw an animal in the woods, and followed it for some distance. I wanted to shoot it, but couldn't risk it due to Timmy being out.
I found Timmy and put him in the house. Then Jen and I drove to Bass Pro Shop and bought a 5 million candle-power light and an infa-red game camera. Then, we set the trap outside and baited it with some McDonald's chicken nuggets. Some might argue this is inhumane, and probably I couldn't argue with them. But the mailman told me tonight that a lot of cats have been disappearing.
Final Soccer Game of the Season
The girls played great today. Many thanks to coaches and assistants for putting in so much time and effort. Looking forward to next year. :)
Treehuggers Cause Millions to Starve to Death
At 7:30 this the morning, Jennifer awakes to the cries of a flock of magpies.
I am standing in my underwear, AR-15 pointing out the bedroom window. An enormous fox is digging through my trash. Probably the biggest one I've ever seen. Nearly as large as a coyote.
Safety is off. Bullet in the chamber. I'm looking down the barrel, checking out the backstops.
Jennifer wakes up, realizes the front yard is about turn into the Ia Drang Valley. She plugs her ears and flees the room in terror.
I'm peering through the open sights of the AR-15. Waiting for a shot where I won't shoot the truck.
But the fox promptly trots out of sight without ever offering me a decent shot.
"Go out the front door," I shout to her. "I'll get him when he comes around back!"
Jennifer goes out the front door as I take a position on the redwood deck. The safety is off, but my finger's not on the trigger. The birds explode as Jennifer goes out the front. Two large deer jump up and move through the yard.
I'm out back now. Waiting for that horse-sized fox to come past. I'm hearing movement, but I can't get a visual. Suddenly, Jennifer pops out of the woods around the side of the house. The fox has disappeared.
November 5, 2010
What was that?
Jennifer and I are in bed and it's nearly midnight when I hear a noise outside. Somehow, she doesn't hear it but I grab the Colt .45 and race outside in the darkness, flashlight in hand. Something has knocked the trash can over. I'm not clear what. I'm ready to start blasting away. Probably, it's raccoons, but something has to die.
We may have to do a lot of shooting up here, but somehow we have to make it safe for Timmy to go outside. And, if I have to dig a mass grave, then so be it. But I'm not spending any more money on vet bills.
November 4, 2010
"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." - Ernest Hemingway
In the morning, the geese drink from the field ponds and splash around, bathing themselves, preening their feathers. Then rise as one and fly unevenly across the broad grey skies, pinched between ominous clouds and sullen fields.
I want to follow the birds south and keep going all the way to Huacachina. But this is not my destiny. Not today. Today has other plans for me.
I was late getting up and friend drives us helter skelter across Wisconsin on our way to work. Faster than you could imagine and somehow we make it into work just in time for our daily teleconference. Not that we have anything to add. Just that he doesn't want me to be late. For him, it makes no difference. It's his last day and this is something that we both know but don't mention.
After the teleconference, we fiddle with some code and he shows me the programs he wrote. I pretend to understand them and nod a lot, but I don't really have a clue what he did, of course. It's all just smoke and mirrors and magic to me. Just I nod and ask him to send me the documentation. This is all I can do, of course. If his programs don't work, then we'll just have to call him back is all.
The break room is out of coffee again and I wonder how they do it. How they stay in business if they can't keep coffee in the break room. Someone has a bag stashed away and we make a clandestine private pot of coffee. A line forms and we all fill our cups in turn, like heroin addicts in Needle Park in Amsterdam.
Outside, the skies are threatening us of days to come.
When we've exhausted all known coffee stores, friend and I walk down to the next building to raid their coffee supplies. The buildings on this sprawling complex are connected by these mile-long Habbittrails so you don't have to go outside during the winter.
So we start on our way down this surreal tunnel and I had something that I wanted to say to him, but now I can't think of what it is and so we just walk in silence. No one wanting to mention the thing that we're both thinking about.
I don't know the right thing to say or do. I don't know why he gets to go and I have to stay. I don't know about these things.
After several cups of coffee, we're driving to lunch sandwiched between November roads and skies Wisconsin grey.
At lunch, the girl across the table is wagging her tongue about something. She says something about "fate" and I find the courage to look her in the eye and I cut her off and say "Do you believe things happen for a reason?"
"No," she replies, staring down at the table. "I think things just happen," she replies.
This strikes me as the saddest, most depressing thing I've ever heard. That we're all just wandering around the surface of the earth, with no destiny. Nothing pre-ordained. A happenstance world of infinite, random occurrences.
"This is what I think also," I mutter.
I've finally reach my low point and find I can no longer talk. The floor starts to dance and my tongue tastes of metal and it tries to follow the conversation but the brain can no longer produce words from the speech buds I can't join in the dialogue.
I'm so self conscious that I can't even look up and I play with my straw and my drink basically just try to hide. This is where I start to play connect-the-dots with the low points of my life. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. At least since I was 6 years old.
I hand the waiter my camera motion for him to take some photos of friend on his last day and he does which is nice of him.
Back at work, I fiddle with some programs and try to make them work. Nothing all that hard, mind you. Just sort of menial labor, no different than mopping the floor, really. I could do it with my eyes closed at this point in my career, if it could be called that.
And there are conversations in the room that I don't want to be a party to, so I get up and leave and I wander around a bit. I busy myself buying overpriced Diet Cokes and marching around the maze of offices on this massive 640 acre complex.
At one point, a woman appears to following me so I rush into the Men's room where she cannot go and I'm cowering inside the bathroom like a mouse in the corner. Somehow, things have to get better. Something's gotta give.
Maybe, to most people, they'll think this is silly. That friendships can't be formed in this way. But the truth is that most people take salaried jobs where they don't get much say over who they work with. They sit where they're told. They work with the people around them. And, over time, they grow to hate each other. Familiarity breeds contempt, does it not?
But this is a different deal. This is a climate where you work with somewhere for just a short while. Where you have a chance to get to know someone, and aren't around them long enough to know that they're not perfect. Or maybe, because you're not planning on being around them in perpetuity, you learn to rise above your differences. Or ignore their imperfections. And surely they're extending to you the same courtesy.
It's just enough time for you to tell all your stories and them to tell all their stories, and then you move on. You return to your own spaces.
They say it's always darkest before the dawn and when I go back into the room, the dynamics change. Friend and the boss and I are all in the room and we're all stressed, of course. Just stressed beyond belief because of the deadlines and friend leaving and we start laughing and pretty soon, we're all laughing until we're crying and people come in and tell us to be quiet, but we know deep down inside that they're just jealous because we're having so much fun at work.
Nothing can change the fact that friend is leaving.
But we've come to grips with this fact. We're laughing so hard that tears are rolling down our faces, and people that come by to wish friend a warm farewell.
He shows me a map of his home country and charts out a path I might take on my motorcycle to see the most beautiful, out of the way places. Places I'm sure I'll never see. Then he drops me off at my hotel and we say goodbye and he drives off to the airport to fly away forever.
Part of me wants to leave Wisconsin and never come back, the way I left Detroit. But that's just puerile, emotional thinking and if the truth be known, I love Wisconsin and, after all of the cutting up and laughing we did this afternoon, I'm feeling about 110% better.
I start texting everyone I know and some of the ladies we met on State Street say they might be able meet me out for dinner or drinks and, of course, these ladies are just as cool as the other side of the pillow and I can't wait to meet up with them and hear their stories over Cabernet and catfish.
November 3, 2010
The King of State Street
The King of State Street
Fall is a premonition of Winter. A warning of the onset of the blizzard's cold. Summer knows nothing but always, I feel like the Fall might teach me something. A secret about the coming of winter.
Maybe I can learn something from the geese or the trees and I watch them as closely as practicable, diligently snapping photos of Sandhill Cranes and Red Oaks.
The oaks shed their leaves, releasing a shower of walnut-sized acorns to the ground. The geese wade reluctantly into the cold lakes at dusk, to rest, safe from the foxes' jaws. The deer bed down to chew their cud. A murder of crows draws in their wake the pink clouds and the evening's stars.
But nothing is learned. Everything fades and nothing sticks. Everything slips by as the leaves follow the creeks to the lake, and I'm left staring at the naked trees, wondering how they looked before the fall.
There is this and friend and I drive into Madison for dinner maybe for the last time.
The college girls strut down State Street in shorts. They zip by on scooters without helmets and everything seems so ephemeral. So transient and fleeting. We're only on this stage for such a short time and I don't know what to do. I don't know why we're here or what happens when we die and the Fall is all around us now. Closing in faster than I'd envisioned.
We park and walk down State street, like we always do, carefully studying the meter to make sure we don't get another hundred dollar parking ticket.
It's not cold, at least not unbearably so. As we walk nothing is said. Or, nothing of any consequence is said.
Words mean so little in these times. Maybe, I should tell him what I learned from the Fall. But what have I learned? I'm afraid I have no wisdom to impart. Nothing to share but my own confusion.
"This weekend, we'll celebrate Dewali," he announces, sensing my melancholy stupor.
"What is this?" I ask.
"It is something we celebrate. Sort of like a God of money. Here, you see on this billboard here....this is a sign for the celebration of Dewali. We should go buy some gold jewelry for our daughters. This is a good thing to do for the holiday. It brings good luck."
"Your currency has a swastika on it?" I ask. Like, last time I checked, swastikas were pretty much verboten in the U.S.
"The Swastika is like a good luck symbol. You remember when I told you about the Ohm? The symbol we saw on that girl's bag? Well the Swastika is like the Ohm symbol. The two are very close in meaning, you see?"
So much there is outside of the United States, it seems. So hard to know what other cultures think. I travel all the time but somehow, I feel ethnocentric and thin.
We stop into a store to buy jewelry for our daughters. I decide to replace Jennifer's necklace because the only one I ever bought her - the only jewelry she ever owned - ended up in a black hole on Wisteria Lane and the person holding it refuses to return it for reasons that escape me.
So we buy our girls some jewelry and we walk down the street in silence to the little Italian restaurant that we found one night long ago.
The little waitress recognizes us and smiles and sits us by the window. We order dinner and friend produces his battered copy of Killing Strangers and asks me to sign it and I dunno where he had it but now I have to sign it and this is what I hate. I hate saying goodbye and I'd rather lay down on the railroad tracks than say goodbye to a person this close to me.
You know how, all your life, everyone's trying to screw you out of something and you're never sure what their angle is or how they're working you but you know, deep down, without question, that you're being played but you just can't see the angle? Friend is not that way. Friend is the guy that has your back all day every day. He's been carrying me since I came to Wisconsin and, quite honestly, I'm not sure that I want to come back if he's not going to be here.
Sleeping in $140 a night hotel rooms gets old in a hurry and I can't stand being on the road all alone. Everyone else has families and ceramics classes and poker night and very few people have enormous cracks in their lives that they're trying to patch with Rob.
I dunno what I'll do when he's gone and I try not to think of it as the eternally young college girls pedal by. Over chicken parmesan, fresh baked bread, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, I accept his battered copy of Killing Strangers and sign it "To the guy who carried me for four months in Wisconsin, I will always be indebted to you, The King of State Street."
November 2, 2010
A faded dream
In October, the great machines ate their way through fields of Wisconsin, removing the corn and leaving in their wake endless streams of stubble.
Only the geese remain, pecking indifferently at the residual corn of the ruined fields. Too cold to enter the lakes. Too lazy to migrate.
Oddly, the stubbled fields lead to a failed subdivision, the high-water mark of the last economic boom.
This is where I work. At the uneasy intersection of these two realms. The farms and the suburbs. The surface of these two meet here and you can just see where the last economic boom faded. Where they threw up subdivisions helter skelter until at last, they were certain that no one would buy their houses and everything just stopped.
Everything was laid in. The streets and lights and utility boxes. All had been placed according to the county ordinances. Everything just so. And then the collapse so that on one side of the road was an abandoned subdivision, and across the street giant fields of corn and abandoned farm houses from another time.
This was the high water mark of civilization. It looked so promising. Like you could almost see the Starbucks on the corner.
But then came the recession and they just stopped development and went away and the banks moved in a repossessed the land and now signs everywhere proclaim "Land For Sale". No price. No reason. Just land. For sale. And lots of it, apparently.
A faded dream.
November 1, 2010
Things That Go Bump in the Night
In the middle of the night something wakes me up. I'm not clear what. Jennifer is sleeping. I set up in bed. Some awful noise coming from downstairs. A loud bumping noise echoes up through the staircase.
Now, I'm more awake. Trying to grasp the situation. Come to grips with this thing. This unidentified sound from below. A sound that should not be there. I check my cell phone. It's 5:00 a.m.
I sleep with a Colt .45 by my bed. I have for a long time. I keep it just for times like these. So, I pull out the Colt .45 and turn on a small lamp on the nightstand. I hold the steel gun aloft in the dim light and study it.
I'm nothing thinking clearly yet. Still shaking the cobwebs from my mind. I push down a lever and the action slides forward, pushing a thumbsized copper covered bullet into the chamber.
I root around for the flashlight I keep by my bed. It pierces the room as I wave it awkwardly around.
Cocked and loaded US Army pistol in the right hand. Flashlight in the left. My heart is beating in the darkness like the Tell Tale Heart.
"BAM BAM BAM!" comes the noise again from downstairs. I'm not dreaming. Something is trying to get inside my house. Something is about to die. Hopefully it won't be me.
Timmy bounds up the stairs past me, running for his life as I descend the stairs alone. Jennifer still sleeping. Timmy hiding upstairs now. Cowering in fear in the abandoned bedroom.
There is no eraser on a gun. No takebacks. No do-overs. This is as serious as a heart attack now.
"BAM BAM BAM"
What in the hell is going on? I wade through the adrenaline into the kitchen. Pistol on the right. Flashlight on the left.
Something is trying to come in through the cat door. It's probably just a cat. But it's hard to know. The garage is dark. Maybe it's a fox. Maybe a coon. Maybe a cat. I don't know. I can't see it. And, I can promise you this...if a squirrel was trying to break into your house at 5:00 a.m. you'd probably wet your pants.
I'm hesitant to shoot because I don't have a good visual on my target. If you're out in the woods, you can squeeze off a few rounds and see what you killed. But when you're shooting inside your house, it's a different game altogether. If I fire this pistol inside, it's going to be so loud that Jennifer will wake up crying. It'll scare her half-to-death and she'll have nightmares into her 40's. I'm fully cognizant of this.
The animal quits trying to break in. I decide I'll go into the garage and see if it's still there. Wanting to make sure I'm not outgunned, I go to the gun cabinet and trade in the Colt .45 pistol for an AR-15 assault rifle with a banana clip.
I storm into the garage and sweep the place with my flashlight. The animal, whatever it was, is gone. It broke the other pet door off the hinges and escaped into the night.
The Lost Art of Flying
I race to the airport and when I hit the first switchback, I realize I forgot my pants and my gloves. Crap. I'm not driving a motorcycle in Wisconsin in November without gloves. That's not going to happen. I may miss my flight, but I'm not going to freeze in the great white north. So I double back to the house and race in to retrieve gloves and camo pants.
Racing through the canyon now. Going to be close. Have to hurry.
Get to the airport and clear security. Get to the gate. No problem.
I have 15 minutes to kill, and this is what separates the travelers from the flotsam and jetsam. I go stand in line at Quizno's near the gate and order a sandwich. Why? Not because I'm hungry. But because you have to plan that, when you walk on a plane, they're going to seal the door behind you and you'll go nowhere for 9 hours. You have to plan for this, or they'll screw you, sooner or later.
As soon as I board, they immediately halt the boarding process due a "mechanical" and my heart sinks. This is when it sucks. When you're stuck on the tarmac on an Airbus A319 and a mechanic's milling around the cockpit and you're not sure whether to deboard or not. It's hard to know. Hard to say.
I interrogate the pilot at great length and he assures me that the only problem is one of the radios won't operate on all of the frequencies it should and, if they have to replace it, they only have to yank it out and drop in the new one. This is what he tells me. I don't trust him, but I listen to his words. I assign a certain amount of weight to them. These words that come from the pilot's mouth. People that work for the airline are incapable to telling the truth when a mechanic is on the plane. I know this from experience.
I look at him and nod.
"But the only other radio is in East Kansas, right?" I retort. I know how this game is played. I've been down this road before.
"Nope. We've got another one here at the airport. Would take 5 minutes to bring it over."
And, presently, they restart the boarding process and I'm choking down my Quiznos sandwich and sipping my bottled diet pepsi thinking how clever I am.
We leave 10 minutes late which is nothing like what I'd feared. I'm glad I didn't deboard and normally, there's some screaming, projectile vomiting infant next to me, but this time there's a little blonde girl and the baby is a few rows ahead so things are looking up.
The flying waitress comes by and she offers me the credit card they hand out to allow people to swipe the tv screen for free movies. And when I do it wrong, she yells at me and admonishes me in front of the blonde girl and I just can't believe it. Can't believe that they're dog cussing me, their most frequent flyer. So I just toss the card back at her and tell her to forget it.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
At 5:00 a.m., I hear a ruckus downstairs. As I'm going down the stairs with a .45, Timmy is coming up. Fleeing for his life. I'm looking around for a flashlight while this thing is trying to break into my house and you just can't know how scary this is.
The noise is so loud, that I'm afraid the .45 won't kill it so I drop the .45 and pull the AR-15 out of the gun cabinet.
Something in the garage is trying to break into the house and man I just can't tell you how scary this is. Especially on Halloween night, and all.
Finally, I get up the courage to open the garage door and see what the heck is trying to break into my house, but it's escaped through the other cat door. No wonder Timmy's been hiding in the closet for days at a time. Something out there is trying to kill him in a big way. I'm not clear what it is just yet, but make no mistake. It has to die.