Author Archives: Kev

A Boy and His Dog.

One month ago today, I lost Blackjack. It hurts as much today as it did then. Maybe more.

However, it was important to me to memorialize BJ and this day, so Tonka and I went for our first Blackjack-less walk, and had a little ceremony to honor our lost pal. Just the two of us, of course, and as always. So very much sadness. And no photos, unfortunately. It’s hard to walk one dog, spread the ashes of another, and take pictures simultaneously. So, like pretty much all of the events of the past month, all I’ll have are the mental images. Maybe that’s better. I don’t know. I’m going to always regret the lack of pictures I have of the three of us – but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

It occurs to me that things are cyclic; that is, it started with just me and BJ, then became all three of us, and now it’s just Tonka and I. Obviously, I’m sad – but Tonka is inconsolable. Yesterday, I went to run errands early, and I got Tonka a new dish and a nice bone; the bone he promptly buried. He’s burying everything. I’ll watch him get a big mouthful of his dinner, and bury it under the tree next to BJ’s stone marker. I’ve never seen him do this before, and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m doing the best I can with him – it’s just hard. Hard for him, hard for me. And, of course, he just stays under that tree. All the time.

Luckily, a few of my closest people have stepped up on our behalf. I guess when tragedy strikes, you find out who really cares and who doesn’t. Without the support of a few people in my orbit, I’d be more of a wreck than I am now. For example, Blackjack’s stone marker was a gift (probably the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received), and it’s really helped me, and in some sense, I think it’s helped Tonka. I was gifted some wind chimes, as a reminder of BJ’s love for chimes and the outdoors in general (he was fascinated with chimes – he’d watch the ones in the backyard all the time). I’ve had people regularly contacting me, checking on me, sending good and sweet vibes to me and Tonka – especially helpful after the whole post-death insult-to-injury debacle, which I still haven’t fully come to terms with. To all those people who’ve stepped up and allowed me – and Tonka – to lean on them during this horrible time, thanks. It means more to me than I can put into words. While I knew this day would come eventually, it caught us completely unprepared, and it’s been pretty touch-and-go. I just can’t over-emphasize how much this has shaken me. Of all the horrible things I’ve been through in my life, this is far and away the worst. No contest. And trust me, that’s saying something.

So now, my Blackjack-related tasks are nearly complete. The artist in the Netherlands who’s making the ring received the ashes, and it should ship to me in the next day or two. The items I need for his plaster paw-print will also be here in short order, and I think what I have planned for that is going to be very special, and more importantly, will last forever. After that, I don’t know. I’ve toyed with making a garden under their tree, but Tonka likes it just the way it is, and I don’t want to disrupt the one thing that seems to bring him comfort. At least he has something. Well, I mean, I have Tonka to comfort me, but because he doesn’t understand any of this, I don’t want to make him more despondent by being sad myself. I’ve always been better at caring for others than caring for myself, and I guess that includes sad little puppers.

Anyway, after our early walk, I decided I needed to get out for a bit, so I hopped on the BMW for what I intended to be a short ride in the woods. A short ride that ended up being around 43 miles by the time I was done. It was nice to get out in the woods – I haven’t really done anything like that in…awhile. Plus, the weather was perfect. Riding a big motorbike on very rugged trails is tiring, though, so after that, I logged a little hammock time. Then – well, stuff – and I decided to hop on the other motorbike and scream up and down the mountain as fast as I could. So, there’s that.

Also this weekend, I bought and planted a bunch of flowers. Lilies, sunflowers, an elephant ear, azaleas, and a few others. Plus, I got the big black bamboo I ordered – it’s gorgeous. With any luck, it’ll start offshooting soon (UPDATE: It already has), so I can transplant some into other pots, or even in the yard (the goal is to have an entire grove of the black, red and green bamboo I currently have). The last grove I planted (ahem) looked amazing the last time I saw it (again, ahem), and it doesn’t take much to get a nice little area. When I rode the Silver Comet last year, I stopped at a beautiful, lush bamboo forest that someone had planted and tended to, and it was amazing. Even though I don’t anticipate being here long enough to see something like that come to fruition, I can at least plan it out. You never know what’ll happen tomorrow. The lilies I planted should also be nice – I bought one plant that’s about to bloom, as well as many bulbs (which may or may not bloom this year).

The bulbs one of my friends gave me last year are coming out now, as well. And, of course, I love sunflowers, but it’s been a couple of years since I planted those. I have 3 different varieties, so I should have a lot of color. This year, I’m going to learn how to save the seeds for next year; sunflower seeds are pretty inexpensive, but I should have hundreds of seeds if my flowers do as good as they did last time.

So, there’s my exciting weekend. And that’s me being facetious, if you didn’t catch it. It was sad, lonely, depressing and all the other adjectives. But at least I (hopefully) honored Blackjack, just a little bit. It hadn’t occurred to me until just now, but since I carried some of his ashes this morning, I guess it was kinda the last walk the 3 of us would take together. Sigh. I sure do miss you, pup.

Welcome to the Black Parade.

It’s now been 3 weeks since I lost Blackjack. Three long, miserable, lonely weeks. I knew when this time came, it would be bad. I didn’t realize how bad. And I don’t know when it’ll end. I had hoped when the time came, I wouldn’t have all this weight on me to carry alone, but here I am. And for now, I have neither the desire or the motivation to just go back out in the world and pretend I’m not heartbroken and completely destroyed. There were three things that mattered to me – really mattered – in my life, and two of them are gone. I would think by this point in my life, “heartbroken” would be the default setting, but this is an entirely new level of melancholy.

But poor Tonka is even worse. I’m really worried about him. About a week ago, we got a surprise delivery – a beautiful Adirondack Blue Stone marker with BJ’s name carved on it. I decided to set it under one of my pear trees; one of BJ and Tonka’s favorite napping spots. Now Tonka just lays there, pretty much all day, every day. I just don’t know what to do for him. Even though I’m very unsure about it, I think one night this week, I’m going to take him out somewhere for a walk. I don’t know how he’ll react to that; when we’d go out in the past, he always looked at BJ as his protector, but now, he only has me. I guess we’ll see – but I’m not going to push anything on him. He’s been through enough lately. We both have. I want to make this transition as delicate as possible for him – he’s had a bad enough life (until he came to me, anyway), and he doesn’t deserve any more upheaval than he’s already endured.

I’ve been keeping myself occupied with various Blackjack-related projects. I want to honor him and his memory, so in addition to the memorial Instagram and setting his stone by his tree, I’ve done a few other things. I had the decal shown made, and put in on the Jeep (in place of a similar “got snow?” decal that was there). I had planned on putting his old dog tag on my keychain, but it was so old and beat up, I decided to instead put it in his urn – which actually seemed more fitting – and I had a new tag made for my keychain. It turned out very nice. I also have a plan for his plaster cast paw print that will guarantee it’ll last forever – and not be as fragile as it is – but that has to wait a few weeks until the plaster hardens completely.

Additionally, I sent off a small amount of his ashes to an artist in The Netherlands to have a ring made. I’m looking forward to this; hopefully, I’ll have it before April 16th, which was the day BJ came to me. I like that kind of serendipity. The ring itself will have BJ’s ashes, along with wood and abalone details in it, plus his name engraved on the inside. Ironically, it’s very similar to a ring I’ve always wanted – years ago, the running joke was that if you planned on proposing to me, that ring would guarantee you a “yes” response. Well, since no one is gonna be proposing to me, at least I’ll have a similar ring to carry BJ with me for the rest of my days.

As for me, I guess I’m trying to keep busy, so I don’t have time to stop and contemplate just how sad I am right now. I went out and bought some plants and flowers for the yard, and stuff for household projects. I finally bought a hammock; something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile (because I’ve learned my lesson about not putting things off). I think I’m going to build a little firepit next to my hammock area, as well. That’ll be nice on a cool spring night. I’m shopping for new doors for my bedroom deck; that’ll be a project to tackle in a week or two, after I catch up on some of my other tasks. I still have a number of trees to take down, and many stumps to grind (and I did finally get the Big Dead Murder Tree taken down, and surprisingly, didn’t kill myself to death in the process). I also ordered some black bamboo for the deck – the bamboo I ordered last year is doing well, and I decided I better get the more desirable black variety while it was still available.

In the process of these errands over the weekend, I was sitting on the patio at Dunkin’ Donuts, and a car was waiting in the drive-through queue with a youngish Malamute sticking his head out the back window. I’m not sure if this was a sign, or what, but you just don’t see Mallys very often, and for one to be right there at the same time as me seems like it must have some cosmic significance. I don’t know. But it made me happy and sad at the same time. He looked like a Very Good Boy – he and BJ could have been pals.

I’ve also been out on the motorbikes a couple of times, and taken a couple of walks in the woods. Nothing I would consider an “adventure” – more like, “I didn’t have anything better to do and if I just sit here alone for another day I’m going to lose it”. I know my friends are somewhat concerned about my overall…stuff, but there’s no need. I’m used to dealing with bad things, and while this is exponentially worse than “bad”, I’ll get through it. I always do. We’ll carry on.

All Dogs Go To Heaven.

I knew I’d have to write this some day, I just didn’t expect it to be now, and so suddenly. I’m not ready.

My sweet, beloved Blackjack crossed the Rainbow Bridge two weeks ago, on March 7 2021, three weeks after his 9th birthday. I haven’t written about it until now because I’m still processing, and I’m still hurting beyond words. Tonka, too. Tonka just paces and cries and checks all the rooms in the house and the yard looking for his buddy, every day, and when he can’t find him, he lays under the tree in what was their favorite spot. For hours. I don’t know how to explain to him that his best pal is never coming home again. It was too sudden for all of us. Too sudden, too unexpected, and that period is just a blur of emotions, even now. That Saturday morning, Blackjack was hurt, and less than 24 hours later, he was gone. It was undoubtedly the worst 24-hour period in my entire life – the unknown, then the known, then the hard decisions. No one should have to go through that. Especially completely alone. At least Blackjack wasn’t alone. He had me, and I did the best I could under the circumstances. As for me – well, I’m sure you know the answer to that question. It is what it always is. At least the Universe is consistent.

But this isn’t about me and my hurt. This is about Blackjack. There’s so much I could say about BJ; so many memories. He was my best friend, my loyal companion, and my longest relationship of any sort. The 9 years we spent together were more than I deserved. I have so much regret for the things we never did together, and now, will never do together. So many times, I said, “Well, maybe next week/month/year/whatever.” I will regret that for the rest of my life. He deserved better than that. He deserved better than me. But I did my best. He was never cold, he was never hungry. Too many times I wasn’t here with him, though. Off on some adventure or whatever. I learned that lesson too late. Gone is gone, and it’s absolutely permanent and forever and irrevocable. The days we missed being together will never, ever be re-lived, for either one of us. I’m sorry, pup – I’m sorry for the times I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry I don’t have more photos of us, especially over the past couple of years. I’m especially sorry I don’t have at least one picture of us together on your last day. I’m sorry I couldn’t ride in the back of the Jeep to comfort you on any of the trips to the vet, especially the last one. I did the best I could. I’ll have to live with my failings the rest of my life, and I’ll always be sorry I wasn’t able to do more for you that terrible weekend.

I will keep that final promise I made to you, and I will take care of your pal Tonka for the rest of his life (or mine). He’s so sad, and he misses you so very much. So do I. My life was better because you were a part of it. You were loyal, faithful, unconditionally loving. You always had a smile and a wag for me, you always knew when I was sad, and you took better care of me than I did you, and you asked for so little in return. I will take you on whatever adventures I go on in the future; there will always be a part of you with me, wherever I go. I have your collar in the Jeep, so any time I’m out driving, you’ll be with me. I’ll carry it when I’m hiking, on the motorbike, everywhere I go for the rest of my days.

In the end, it was just me and you, exactly like it always was, and like I always knew it would be. I’m glad we were together in your last moments. I hope you weren’t frightened. Although the memory of you and I laying on that concrete floor alone is going to be with me for a very long time, I will try to remember better times; running, playing, tasty treats, puppy kisses, singing the song of your people. I hope I comforted you in your final moments, as you did me. But for now, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I am completely crushed, and sad, and alone. A huge part of me died when you did, and nothing will ever fill that space. I’m really struggling, pup. I hope that wherever you are, you can hear me when I talk to you, because I do. Often.

I will miss you and think about you every day. I promise. You were loved.

Goodbye, Blackjack. Be a good boy. I hope I get to see you again someday.

I have set up a memorial Instagram for BJ, so he’ll hopefully be remembered, even after I’m gone. Please stop by and say “hi” to him: https://instagram.com/blackjack_the_malamute. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve reached out to Tonka and I during the past couple of weeks. And if you have a pupper of your own, give him an extra pat from the two of us.

Addendum: Blackjack is home now, where he belongs. We took what was most likely our final car ride together, and it was somehow cathartic – that is, our life together ended exactly as it began, with just the two of us, riding in a car. When BJ came to me as a pup, he was lost in transit, and just like then, a similar situation occurred now, which has strained the limits of my emotional well-being. As if his death wasn’t enough, it couldn’t end peacefully for either of us. The details don’t really matter now, because he’s home, but it’s been a very, very trying week. Anyway, our last ride together was profoundly sad – unlike the first trip – and it took everything I had to actually go through with it. It had to be done, though – I wasn’t going to leave him where he was for a minute longer than necessary, especially since circumstances had him away from me for too long. I owed him that much; to be strong for him. But it was tough, going back to the vet alone, knowing what was waiting for me there. Hopefully now, with some closure, this sadness will start to fade, at least a little. The past two and a half weeks have just been a big blur of sadness and loneliness, but he needed me to make things right, and I’m all he had to see it through. I guess he’s all I had, as well. Now, it’s just Tonka and I, and that will have to be enough. I miss you, pupper, and I’m glad you’re home. I hope I did right by you. I hope I lived up to the commitment I made. I did the best I could.

“Grief is just love with no place to go.”

With This Ring.

Things move fast over here, kids. I’m not one to just sit around and let life pass me by – and to that end, I’ve been turbo-busy these first almost-three weeks of 2021.

I’m not quite as fat as my clothes of many layers make me look. Not *quite*.

Last weekend, a great hike – and reconnecting with one of my best hiking friends I haven’t seen in a long time – at McGill Creek and Graysville Mountain. It was cold, windy and gray, but still, a really good hike. I just recently read about the new bridge across the Creek, and any chance to go check out a deep woods bridge, I jump on. The plan was only to do about 5ish miles to the bridge and back, but you know me – it ended up being an 11-mile marathon. After the hike to the bridge, the decision was made to scale Graysville Mountain to find the waterfall and overlook, both of which were accomplished. It’s be a while since I did 11 miles in one shot, and it felt pretty good.

Sunday, reconnecting with someone else I haven’t seen in forever for some light trekking in North Chick Creek Gorge. After Saturday’s adventure, I didn’t really feel like doing a long one – plus, I had to go see my pals at Home Depot and flex that plastic a little bit (OK, a lot). Pretty good weekend – in fact, one the better weekends I’ve had in awhile. 2021 is treating me OK – so far.

I’m a lumberjack and something something…

Now, this weekend – well, your ol’ pal here very nearly went to sing with the choir eternal. You’ll recall I mentioned a couple of dangerous trees that needed to come down, right? Well, I decided to tackle one of them, in between my many other projects. Let me tell you, dudes and dudettes, I thought I had pressed my luck on this one – life flashed before my eyes and everything (and yeah, I was bored). To make a long story short, the Big Dead Tree didn’t want to come down. At all. I’ll spare you all the physics and safety lectures, and obviously I survived – but if that tree had been about 6 feet taller, it would have driven me into the ground like a plastic tent spike. That’s the downside of doing something like this without a spotter/little helper. One of these days, I’m definitely gonna get killed to death in the yard.

The upside is that I now have a big brush pile for burning, suitable for your finest vestal virgins, Viking funeral or whatever. And before I piled up all the brush, I shovelled out the fire pit – 3 big loads in my wagon, from years and years of burning. I’ve been burning a lot lately, and the next suitable day, I’ll be out there again. Until then, I guess I need to get out there with my mighty stump grinder; as many trees as I’ve taken down, I’m now flush with stumps that need to be removed (and I’ve already ground down probably 20 of them). Fingers crossed, that thing doesn’t try to kill me again.

Anyway, I now have a nearly clear view all the way down to the bottom of the driveway, which was the goal, because reasons. Even one of the Ring cameras can see down there now.

And speaking of the Ring cameras, well, I’ve kinda gone a little nuts with the Ring gear. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and to that end, I now have eight Ring floodlights scattered about, along with 6 Ring cameras (and more on the way). I’ve spent more Benjis than I care to think about, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. The Ring stuff is the bee’s knees – basically, if any camera detects motion, all the lights come on (and can probably be seen from space), and any adjacent cameras start recording (and boy, howdy – the things they’ve seen). Equally, if any light detects motion, all the lights come one, and the cameras in that area start recording. It is super, super cool. Installing all that stuff was a chore – especially single-handedly. Up and down the ladder, fetching tools, having one hand too few in some cases – seriously, I need a little helper. But I’m used to doing things on my own (or for others – there are people out there that treat me like God; that is, they ignore my existence unless they need something).

Hello, ladies.

That’s not all – I added 8 TP-Link Kasa smart plugs, to go with the half-dozen Kasa bulbs, exterior rope lights and my pimpalicious Kasa LEDs I put on the back of my headboard. Between the Ring stuff, Kasa stuff, numerous Alexas, smart fan, Logitech bridge, Roomba and my mastery of IFTTT, before long, I’ll never have to get up. Next on my list, to tie the Kasa plugs/bulbs into motion sensors, because why not? Oh, and I’ve decided I’m leaving my holiday lights up in perpetuity. I’m gonna be festive, dammit – and they actually look nice on my deck, especially with the rope lights (and yeah, I added rope lights to the barn, as promised – for reals, my yard looks like Las Vegas).

Not a bad view every morning.

Now, I can finally stop to catch my breath. For a minute. There’s a lot of other stuff going on right now – planning a paddle, hoping to return to the Dragon (maybe even on the BMW), thinking about heading south for some much needed beach time. Never a dull moment.

Tomorrow, the iPhone 12 Pro will be here, so I’ll be geeking out on that, I’m sure. Clearly, I dig the gadgets.

Oh, and admit it – when you saw the title of this post, you thought I got engaged or something, right? Yeah – I don’t see that happening. I think I’ve learned that lesson.

All The Leaves Are Brown.

Well, here it is, 2021. Only 4 days in, but my 2021 has been pretty good, which is a big plus considering how bad my 2020 was, and especially how bad it ended. Not that I’m surprised – you know that axiom that goes “he died the way he lived”? Well, that was 2020. It was bad on so many levels, if it had ended any differently than the rest of the year, I would have been stunned. However, predictably, it ended in a complete and utter shitshow. Don’t care; it’s over now, and despite a truly awful NYE, there was at least a glimmer of a bright spot from a totally unexpected place. Plus, I made the whole affair a little better by spending some much-needed quality time with my Best Gal over the weekend. More on that in a sec.

But to kick off the New Year, there was much yard work. I can’t believe how much I got done, especially since I was – as usual – doing it all by my onesies (Little Helpers, apply now!). Not that I mind; and the upside is I don’t have anyone yelling/telling me I’m doing something “wrong”. I cut down several of my big dead trees, ground down stumps, mulched many a leaf, and my bonfire burned bright for 4 straight days. But I’m not done – there are several more trees to bring down, two of which are just gonna be…dangerous. They call them “widowmakers”, but that would imply that if I drop one on my cranium, I would leave someone who’d, y’know, care. Anyway, they’re gonna be challenging, especially without a spotter. What’s the worst that could happen, right? I’m a lumberjack, and I’m…OK.

And there was shopping, because of course there was. I splurged on a new iPhone 12 Pro (plus a Ghostek Nautical case, natch). I’m on the 8 Plus now, and it’s fine, but the 12 Pro is supposed to have a much, much better camera, and that matters to me, especially with upcoming activities/adventures. And there’s the usual upgrades – faster chip, more storage, all the usual Apple bells and whistles. I don’t have signal issues or any of that bullshit (so, I never use “I was out of range” as a convenient excuse to cover my tracks), but I am looking forward to taking 5G for a spin. The boxes should start rolling in this week, but the phone itself may take a couple weeks, because iPhone are awesome and they’re in high demand. Luckily, upgrading isn’t the ordeal it used to be – swap the SIM, plug into iTunes, and abracadabra, I’m slightly more cool. Slightly. Anyway, 1200 of my American dollars later, and I’ll be able to look at all the cat pics I like at lightning speed.

I’m also in the process of replacing my exterior door that goes out onto my deck (from my bedroom). I found one I really like, with a window, which the current one lacks. I’m pretty handy, so I’ll probably do it myself; I’ve done doors before. My one concern was picking the thing up (RIP, big black truck), but it turns out my neighbor has a trailer that I’m welcome to use any time I want, so, delivery charges averted. Now, just have to wait for slightly warmer weather, since there will be no door for half a day. No need to heat the entire neighborhood. Oh, and before you ask, of course I’m gonna put a smart lock on the thing (especially since it appears I have to actually keep the door locked now). Hi, have we met?

In other shopping news, Bowflex finally has a new treadmill available, and my finger has been hovering over the “Buy Now” button for a couple of days. I think I’ve found a place to put the thing, but I need to be sure, because at 300 pounds, once it’s there, it’s not moving. With things the way they are with the COVID, it’s not like I’ll be back at the gym anytime soon (but I think I’m going to go one day this week, just to check it out), so I need to do something about my giganto-ass. Speedo weather is just around the corner, y’know.

Speaking of the COVID, it’s bad here. My county keeps breaking records for the “worst day ever”, and I honestly can’t wrap my head around how anyone (anyone with a conscious, soul, compassion, intelligence or self-respect, anyway) could be out there socializing and slinging their DNA around. I cannot believe the stupidity and/or selfishness of people.

Who am I kidding? Of course I can. 2020, remember? And people are assholes. Some people more than others.

I read an article the other day about how purposeful lack of social distancing can be considered assault. That is, if you tell someone to keep six feet away and they don’t, they are assaulting you. Makes sense. Of course, it would be hard to prove – well, unless you had it on video. I understand people zoning out a bit in the line at WM and not realizing they’re getting a little too close, but if you explicitly tell someone to maintain distance and they refuse, well, that tells you everything you need to know about that person, and a legal remedy may be required. This article – on WaPo – went on to detail how quarantining and social distancing are affecting couples, when one follows the guidelines and the other doesn’t care about those recommendations. I guess there are a lot of people out there who are seeing some true colors as a result of all of this. Sigh, never let it be said that humanity isn’t a colossal disappointment.


In their infinite wisdom, Warner Brothers is releasing all their new films on HBOMax at the same time as the theatrical release. This is a great move, to help keep the idiots that refuse to social distance from being tempted by a tentpole film (but I’m sure those idiots will find some other way of fucking over the people they claim to care about). So, part of my weekend was spent with the aforementioned Best Gal – Gal Gadot, to be specific. Wonder Woman. Pretty good film, especially all the 80s throwback stuff. I had a discussion with the Rocket Scientist about the economics of Themescyria – like, how did they get the materials to build that stadium? Who’s responsible for smelting all the metal needed for those uniforms? I know, I overthink; at least about stupid stuff. Things I should be thinking about, not so much. Anyway, next up on the schedule, “Dune”.

Hawaii 1988, my last really good Christmas

Sunday, there was more yardwork, a few errands, more online shopping (how many Ring devices can I add? The answer is “plenty”), stuff around the house. Did I mention that I finished replacing the platform under the bathroom vanity? I did, and it turned out great. I knew it would, but still, it’s gratifying. Anyway, there was also football. NFL football, that is (college football is a complete joke, especially SEC ball). I used to be really into Sunday football day, but I made the decision years ago that I’d rather be outdoors doing things on Sunday. Nonetheless, after the chores were done, I caught a little. My partner in Hawaii was really into the Browns (being from Cleveland; I seem to recall she tried out as a cheerleader, but ended up moving to Hawaii), so I’ve always had a soft spot for them, and now they’re in the playoffs. Hopefully, she was watching. Additionally, my Washington Football Team won their winner-take-all game on Sunday night against the hated Eagles, so they are playoff-bound, as well. Now, I really don’t care too much about any of this, but it would be hilarious if a team that doesn’t even have a name went to the Super Bowl. I’ll be pulling for Cleveland, though – for old times’ sake.

In addition to the 27 other things I accomplished so far this year, I also did some work on the kayak, in preparation for an upcoming trip to Old Harrison. This is one of my favorite paddles, and it’s been a couple years since I last went to there. Always a great trip, exploring the ruins of the town that existed before the dam was built in the ’30s, even though it will no doubt be cold and windy. However, the lake level is only low enough in January/February to see the old roads and foundations, so now or never. Completely worth is – plus, Patten Island is in the vicinity, and that’s always an awesome place to visit.

Oh, and the best part of the New Year (so far)? The new Starbucks is now open. Nice way to start an early morning out, especially when it’s cold. Of course, after the complete train wreck that was 2020, my bar is set pretty low for what’s good, but I’ll take this as a win. Hey, at least no one yelled at me or anything. In fact, 2021 has been completely yell-free, and I intend to keep it that way. Got big plans for this year, after 2020 being a complete waste, and I’m gonna start it…right now.

Lastly, if you need to be reminded, you can drop dead at any time, with no warning. The last thing you say to someone could actually wind up being the last thing you to say to someone, so keep that in mind the next time you call someone an asshole or whatever. Life is short and fragile, and the days you waste are days you’ll never, ever get back (unless, possibly, you’re an Avenger). But for the record, right now, I feel pretty good.

Stop, Hammer Time.

Want to have some fun? Go find a hammer. A real hammer, not some pink Barbie affair. Something heavy. Got it? OK, now hit yourself in the leg as hard as you can. Because that’s what I did.

OK, not with a hammer, but with a tooth from the awesome new stump grinder. That’s it in my hand over there. While I was grinding stumps this morning, the two bolts that hold the individual teeth on the cutting wheel sheared off, hurling the tooth right at me. If it had hit me in the head, it probably would have killed me – the perils of not having a little helper (something I think I need to start seriously looking into). Now, the cutting wheel spins at 3200 RPM, and the tooth weighs about a pound, so feel free to get your slide rule out and calculate how much kinetic energy that is. Or contact NASA – and as it happens, I know someone at NASA, if you need a POC. Anyway, not a great start to Chore Sunday, but I did get a number of stumps ground down prior to the incident.

Also, lots and lots of leaf mulching. The mighty tractor has a mulching attachment, and I put it to good use, mulching probably an acre’s worth of thick, wet leaves, as well as clearing my MTB trails. That thing is a champ, and made relatively short work of it. I want the yard to look nice. It’s not like anyone sees it besides my cool UPS guy, the cute letter carrier, and the occasional uninvited drop-in, but I still take a little pride in it (and the aforementioned letter carrier always comments on it, so there’s that). I guess I don’t want people to think I’m a slob, or worse, just lazy. So, even if I’m the only person who really sees it, I want it to look well-maintained. And it’s not like I had anything else to do today – I did have a couple of invites, but wasn’t really in an “adventure” frame of mind. Long week. Long, typically shitty week.

Saturday – in the rain – more Ring stuff. I decided to add a floodlight to the barn; partly because I have the big street lights off during the holidays so my twinkling lights are more visible, and partly because…well, just because. So, after (eventually) going to Home Depot & Lowes, and a little not-so-smart tinkering with electricity in the rain, voila. This thing is just as cool as the other Ring stuff, and I have it tied into the system in such a way that if the motion sensor detects something, all the cameras start recording. Conversely, if the cameras detect motion, all the Ring lights come on. Basically, everything talks to everything else, and they all talk to my Alexa devices, as well as my iPhone and AppleWatch. It’s really, really cool, and I guess I’ve become a bit of an expert with the home automation stuff. I guess everyone needs to be good at something, right?

And in other Ring news, I got the solar panel attached to the new camera I installed last week. Not the smartest decision I’ve made, to lean a ladder against a wet tree in the rain, but things need to be done, and no one is going to do it besides me. Just like everything else in my life. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

I also did some work on the BMW. The new lighting I installed a few weeks back makes such a huge difference on that side of the barn. The BMW just needed water added to the battery, but that’s a major operation on that bike; remove the tailbag, open the trunk, pull the release for the saddle, remove 12 screws from the fairing. Sheesh, those Germans. Nonetheless, it’s all juiced up and ready for the group ride later this week. Hopefully, there will be some snow this winter, too, so I can really see what the thing is made of.

Now, on to the next project – and I think I already know what it’s gonna be.

Jeepers, Creepers.

Well, the Adventure Buggy went Tango-Uniform over the weekend. Again. Intended to head out in the Wee, Small Hours on Saturday morning, and…nothing. To make a long boring story short and boring, evidently, the new expensive battery I had put in last year said “F*ck it”, and as a result of that, the thing threw out all sorts of engine codes and other shenanigans. It wasn’t all bad, though – I jumped it off (again) then used my handy-dandy widget to diagnose and clear the engine codes, and took it back to NTB for a replacement (under warranty, yay). Luckily – and unlike last month when this happened – a friend of mine hung out with me to pass the time and made sure I wasn’t stuck on the side of the road, and as a bonus, Lowes and Home Depot are close to NTB, so I was able to get over there and still accomplish my shopping tasks while the Jeep was being mended.

And part of those tasks including buying holiday lights. Yeah, yeah – I know. But I’m trying. I’m not entirely sure why I’m trying; but I am. Nonetheless, there’s no way I’m going to spend the holidays alone again like last year, since I may not have too many left. So, I’m making an effort – and I guess there might be a road trip in my immediate future.

Sunday, a nice hike in Chickamauga Gulch. Not a part of the CT, but adjacent to it. I had explored it a little a few weeks back, but this time, I was better prepared, so I went much deeper into the gorge. A lot of off-trail and rock-hopping, but a good hike overall.

The aforementioned stump grinder is supposed to be delivered today, so I’ve already been out for gas and oil (not sure if it comes with oil, so just in case). Oh, and Dunkin’ coffee. Speaking of, I mentioned on Twitter last week that when I went to Dunkin’, the person in line at the drive-through in front of me paid for my coffee and croissant. I found out later it was “giving week” or something, and lots of people were making similar gestures. So, if you just thought someone footed my bill because I’m super-dreamy or they just wanted to get in my knickers, I guess the joke’s on you. And in the giving tradition, I did my part over the weekend, and I’ll leave it at that.


I also have some trees and limbs to take down today/this week, as the new Ring cameras have been rolling in, and I need to clear the line-of-sight in the mounting locations I’ve chosen. That Ring stuff is awesome, and I’ve really learned my way around all the gadgets. As long as they don’t go all Terminator on me, I should be set – although, to be honest, being stalked by a murder-robot that speaks in an Austrian accent would be a step up for me at this point.


Link:
Chickamauga Gulch Photo Album on Facebook

I’m Stumped.

Welp, here it is, December 1st. Again. And to kick off December, Mother Nature decided to tease the puppers with a little overnight snow.

Not enough to make a snowman, mind you (unless it’s a really small one), but it’s something, anyway – and makes for nice views on the Ring cameras.

Speaking of, I’ve added another new Ring camera, and I have yet another one on order, which I intend to do something…interesting with. You’d think having cameras all around the house, yard and barn would be sufficient, but evidently, it isn’t. I also added a Ring solar step light on the deck, and it’s awesome. It’s motion-activated, and when it detects motion, the cameras start recording. I dig this Ring stuff, and the new features they’ve added to the app makes it that much better.

I also added 4 strands of rope lights on the deck on my bedroom, controlled automagically (naturally) with a Kasa outdoor smart plug. Works great, just like all my other Kasa bulbs and plugs. When I have the time, I’ll need to get into IFTTT and make them do some really neat things.


OK, maybe not that neat.

In other shopping and chore-related news, I splurged and ordered…a stump grinder (you have my permission to swoon). If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. Hiring someone to grind stumps is stupidly expensive (trust me, I’ve done it before), so eventually, the cost-benefit analysis dictates just buying the tool versus renting the person, even if the tool is also stupidly expensive. I have at least a dozen stumps right now I need to deal with, and I suspect it’s going to be an awesome workout, as long as I don’t cut my leg off or something (the perils of working alone, I guess). One thing I’ll have to figure out is how to move it (it weighs close to 300 pounds). It has a hitch adapter, so I could tow it with the Jeep, but around the yard, the tractor should suffice, so I’ll need to see if a standard ball-hitch will fit the tractor bumper mount (and I suspect it will – but if not, I’m actually pretty smart). I have a spare ball hitch anyway; the old one from before I lifted the Jeep.

Of course, I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy an ATV, so there’s that. I mean, I was prepared to buy a dirt bike back in October for no reason (kinda), so buying an ATV when I have a reason – towing my fancy stump grinder – doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Plus, an ATV would make building my tentative campsite out in the woods much easier.

Anyway, I also bought a new gas-powered leaf blower-leaf vacuum combo over the weekend, because of course I did. I have an electric one (Addendum: Two electric ones; I found my other one – anyone want it? I certainly don’t need two of them.), which is better than nothing, and two old gas-powered ones. One of those is just Tango-Uniform, and the other kinda works, but weighs a ton (it’s probably 30 or more years old), and just not that great. The new one is powerful, lightweight, and can vacuum and mulch leaves or blow them. That’s some real Star Trek shit right there. Regardless, yay, chores, and Merry Christmas to me – I always get myself the best gifts. And that’s good, because it’s not like anyone else is going to. I completely understand why the Grinch wanted to live alone with his dog.

Speaking of Mr. Grinch, I did get my trees set up. My amazing Grinch tree from last year, and my Charlie Brown tree (see a theme here?). I had intended to get my projection lights done in the backyard as well, but I need long outdoor extension cords for that, and I…need to go buy some, I guess. It’s always something.

So, ramping up to Christmas and then NAMM. Ugh, holidays. Although for the first time in recent memory, my Thanksgiving wasn’t terrible. It was actually pretty good. Of course, it didn’t last; it never does. At least my life is consistent, and I’ve got Hulu (just resubscribed) and Ninja Sex Party to entertain me.

The Human Peepshow That Is My Life, Revisited.

Don’t mind this post. I’m just tinkering. I used to be super into webcams, since the days of the JenniCam. For whatever reason, I decided to see if it was still possible to take a webcam and dump an image up to the site automagically. I have an oldish webcam laying about, and I still know how to make the ones and zeros bend to my will, so, let’s see what we have…


Well, look at that. Not that anyone particularly wants to sit here and see what I’m doing all day, but hey, you never know. Now I just have to decide if/how much I want to leave it running. We’ll see – and I’ll try to spare you any full frontal nudity. No one wants to see that.

The Logitech QuickCam; my weapon of choice in the 90s.

It occurred to me that I have a trove of old webcam pics from the mid/late 90s. Back then, I had a wildly popular personal website – this was in the days before every company, dumbass and President had a site, and obviously well before social media (although I did write a plug-in that allowed me to stream live video to *ack* MySpace when it bowed), and I had numerous webcams running around the house and at work. I was popular by default – kinda like my real life now; that is, if you were bored, lonely or horny, you came to see me; otherwise, you found something else – or someone else – to occupy your time. Back then, I guess there just weren’t that many choices (on the internet, that is), unless you wanted to see a bunch of animated gifs on Geocities. Anyway, just for larfs and posterity, I pulled a few old images. At the time, because the internet was mostly dialup, the images were small, the resolution was shitty – but still, cutting edge at the time. Now we just carry around a device in our pocket that allows us to look at pictures of cats, and tell people they’re assholes any time we like. Trust me, I know.

So, this:

Living room cam. Me and 3 girls. The 90s were awesome.

The cam in my office/music room.

Living room cam. That hair, tho.

I don’t ever remember her name – she’s sitting pretty close, though, and I think giving me the signals.

Office cam – that is, the cam at work. It was always a hoot watching the cleaning people after hours.

Power broker.

Oh, look, I cut my hair. That’s the Pentagon out the window, across the river.

I even rigged up a mobile cam using a laptop and a cellular modem – a really big deal in the nineties. This is roaring up the Jersey Turnpike heading to NYC and on to Boston.

When I needed privacy, Cartman took over.

My sweet Bengal cat, Kalani.

In the office/music room.

I suspect I was reading music off the computer, trying to learn a new tune.

Now, her name I remember.

Rock star.

Good times. I guess. Never let it be said I wasn’t a trailblazer. A kooky, weird trailblazer.


In other news, I finally finished with the electricity in the barn. Had to wire a new outlet with a surge suppressor, and add in additional lighting on the “BMW side” of the barn, so I can tinker with that bike without it being so dark on that side. In addition, I added a pair of new Battery Tender devices. I had 2 already; one that I alternated between the Phantom and the BMW, and one in my big tool shed for the tractor (which is actually one that I bought a year ago as a gift-that-was-never-given [I seem to have a lot of those]). So, now, each bike has one, which means each bike will be ready to go in the winter, and I added a port outside the barn for the car(s), and I have the one for the tractor. No more dead batteries!

I also ordered a new wet/dry ShopVac for the barn. I have one now, but it’s kinda big, and I wanted a smaller one, not only for keeping the barn tidy, but for cleaning the Jeep. I don’t really need two of them, though, so I guess I’ll give the old one away, just to get it gone. Yeah, I have a lot of tools – but I always have projects I want to tackle; nothing worse that starting something and never bothering to finish it, and that means in addition to having the knowhow and the motivation, having the proper tools. Someone just told me the other day how much they liked my stone work I did in the kitchen last year, and that makes it worth it – I’ll take any flattery I can get, especially since I get so dang little of it. Handy, man.

In other other news, I just learned that Endomondo is shutting down. Endomondo was the first mapping software I used years ago to map hikes, bikes, paddles, etc using my iPhone. It was…OK. Because it depended on my phone, the GPS was never that great, which is why I switched to the Suunto Ambit 3 GPS watch, and then the Suunto Spartan GPS watch (and have I mentioned I bought my 3rd Apple Watch a few weeks ago? Sheesh, I’m a nerd.). The Suuntos are so much better at mapping since they’re purpose-built just for that, and Endomondo kinda went downhill after being bought by UA a few years back. So, doesn’t affect me – I don’t even link to my old Endomondo data any longer – but still, RIP. I know what it’s like to be obsolete.