Knock, Knock!

I’ve been listening to a persistent knock for the last ten minutes. I check my Arlo alert and sure enough, there is a man dressed in a black business suit gently knocking on the door with his rather pale first knuckle joint.

What do I do now? If I didn’t have the camera, I wouldn’t know who was there. I might have even opened the door. Not now! No way could I do that with the evidence on video. I go down to the door, wrapped in my flu blanket.

“Go away”

“Special delivery. I have a special delivery for John.”

“Leave it on the table

“I can’t do that, you have to sign for the package.”

I’m looking at the live feed, he doesn’t have a package. He’s lying! Okay then, so this is the relationship that we have.

“Listen, I don’t believe you have a package, what is in the package that you don’t have?”

“Um, food. Some tasty food.”

“I have you on video, you do not have a package. I will not open the door to a liar.”

I see on the video that he pulls out an plain envelope. “Seeds, I have an envelope of seeds which can be planted to grow tasty food.”

“Nice try, but I’m not going to have the time to grow them if I open the door. I said before, Go Away!”

“Come on, John! Open the door. This flu thing has gone on long enough, it’s time.“

“I said go away!”

The knocking stopped briefly, then resumed at a faster rhythm, punctuated with the word “Johnny”. Apparently on Death’s off hours he watches TV. Another five minutes passes.

“Listen. Being irritating is not the best way to convince me to open the door. What works on television does not relate to the real world.”

The knocking stopped. I looked at my phone and the live feed, he was still there, and he appeared to be scrolling through his phone. Then the knocking started again.

“Open up, can you produce your drivers license and proof insurance” , then some more knuckle tapping.

This repeated for another few minutes. I was confused until I remembered a few YouTube videos. “I don’t have to show you any ID. I am a free sovereign citizen. Am I being detained? Or am I free to go?”

The knuckle tapping stopped. “John, can we just talk? I’m just trying to do my job, and here you are just messing with my timetable.”

I thought about this for a moment, and decided that perhaps I should take another tack.

“Okay, I see your point. I’m good with the whole timing thing, but there is something you don’t understand.”

“Okay then, what is the problem? I’ll work with you!”

“Well, if I open the door I imagine I’ll have a second or two before I collapse

“Okay, maybe less, but there is nothing I can do about that, it is what it is.”

“Okay, but my problem is the guest bathroom is right next to the front door. If I go down then there is better than a 50% chance I will fall into the bathroom. Then, my whole life will end with the “found dead in the bathroom” statement. If you check on my blog, I really don’t like the idea. How about you going to my back patio door? I’ll be found dead in the kitchen then!”

“Umm, a little unorthodox, but sure, I can do that. I will see you in a few.”

I checked on my security camera for the back patio, and there he was, gently knocking. I grabbed my keys, tightened my flu blanket around my shoulders and I headed for the Jeep.

I’m thinking I need some black tea at Starbucks, and no, I don’t feel bad about cheating death. He was a liar from the beginning.

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Bathroom Death

Okay, I admit it. I go to the dark side far too easily. Given any circumstance and I will investigate and ponder the worst case scenario. I’ve told people that I do not like to be surprised. While this is true, I think the real reason is one of control. I like to think that I had control in my life (not true), I would like to have the same amount of control in my death (which I know is none).

Death thoughts? Yes, another little visit to that darkest of sides. It isn’t just random, it is because I have that flu everyone is talking about. So I naturally go to the statistics of national flu death. I’m encouraged! You may feel like death warmed over but it is not likely that death is at your door. Which reminds me, I just installed a couple of Arlo security cameras, if Death comes knocking, I will not be answering.

Alright, I’m good with the whole immortality thing, I may not like it that one celled animals, some fungus, crusteations, and a few trees, are closer to immortality than me, but I’ve adjusted to the extent that I may impart value and purpose to my life/death, unlike a lobster,

The first thing that must happened is controlling my place of death. If anyone is out there listening, please don’t let me die in the bathroom, any bathroom. The lead singer of the Cranberries was just found dead in the bathroom. Why tell us this? We know nothing else, was she trying to throw-up? Did she had a cramp that paralyses her diaphragm? We don’t know, all we know is that she was on the bathroom floor. (I miss Dolores so much, I loved all her music) Like Elvis, like Jim Morrison, like Judy Garland, like, Lennie Bruce!! Okay, Orville Reddenbacher does not fit the stereotype, but he still died in the bathroom.

It gives you pause, if Death is knocking it may be at the bathroom door. There is even a conspiracy theory that Marilyn Monroe died in the bathroom, but her murderers recognized how horrible that would be, so they moved her to the bed. And she was naked! When I first read that, I was terribly impacted. Naked! Good grief! Well, it’s taken fifty years and I now recognize that all dead people are naked. The don’t take their clothes with, we are all naked under our clothes.

Okay, back to the place of death. I’ve explored what I think it the worst place, but what about others, the hospital?, the car?, the Home?, on the battlefield?, in an alley?, on a trail?, doing something you love? Doing something you hate? Still pondering the best place. Perhaps I will leave it to God.

Way too many options to control, and what is the difference anyway? I suppose it is the takeaway at the funeral service. If it is told that I died because I accidentally fell into a meat locker, then I would request someone to speak on the finer points of my life, not the meat locker.

And if I died in a bathroom then somehow change the certificate to the bedroom, good enough for Marilyn, good enough for me!

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Nukes in Hawaii?

The news today is that for almost thirty minutes the residents and tourists of Hawaii thought that a nuclear ballistic missile was entering Hawaii airspace.

Hmm, lots of tangents here. Thank God it was a mistake, part of a drill, although the message sent out stated that it was not a drill. The talking heads on TV have been all over the map, telling stories of people huddling in their garage, shaking in fear. What would you do? How can you know unless you were there?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I do know what I would do. It happened to me.

I was in a concrete bunker on the DMZ in South Korea. Not near Seoul, but way off in the east, near Chunchon. I was manning the communications as trick chief in the wee hours of the morning. It was somewhere in the middle of January 1973.

Trick chief was not a big deal. The man with the most seniority and rank was in charge, and that was me. All I had to do was to check the incoming messages, check the security code, and process the messages in time depending upon the security codes.

By “processing”, it meant getting the message to the proper folks within a specific time. The message itself printed out the actual addresses before it actually got to the message. I was trained to install & repair the “hot-line” phone that the president would use, I wasn’t really trained on “processing messages”, but it seemed simple enough.

I had every clearance that the military issued, so it was okay for me to have eyes on paper. There was “no clearance”, then “secret clearance”, then “top secret”, and finally “top secret crypto” clearance. I was trained that was all there was.

When I was briefly trained as trick chief, I was told there was one more, “Red Rocket Flash”. It seemed to me that it was a made-up local designation, but everyone was serious about it. The other security codes had various processing times required. Red Rocket Flash was on the order of WWWIII, and had to be processed in one minute.

Actually, when I was trained, he said that “Red Rocket Flash” has always had “This is a Test”, because otherwise, it was North Koreans were about five minutes away.

Five minutes? Well, we had nuclear tipped missiles with about a 50 mile range, with the wind at the missiles back. The warhead had about a 50 mile blast radius. So technically we were at the edge of a nuclear winter if we launched. We prayed for a good wind.

Of course we never would launch first. We would wait to be told with a “Red Rocket Flash” message that stuff was happening.

That night in January I got a Red Rocket Flash message, and the first thing it said was, “This is not a test!”. Umm, a cold chill went down my spine. I immediately alerted the officer in charge, and then waited for the message.

The problem was that the five letter address code for the receiving posts was still printing out. Thousands of addresses were being printed, and that took almost 30 minutes. Every couple of minutes I had to tell the commanding officer that it was “Red Rocket Flash” but I didn’t know what the message was.

Meanwhile, everyone grabbed weapons, the armory was emptied, the missiles were rolled out, fingers on all the triggers. Every eye was turned to the north, waiting to see hordes of padded jackets flowing over the border.

For thirty minutes we pondered the end of our normal lives. What did we do? Ha! We did our jobs. What did we think? Now that’s a different thing. We thought everything, and 45 five years later I still remember thinking those things.

So the talking heads have talked about the psychological damage to those people in Hawaii. Normally I kinda go to “snowflake” statements. Umm, I can’t go there, my personal experience is that this will be remembered.

What was the Red Rocket Flash message? The Vietnam War was officially over.

There will be 1.3 million in Hawaii that will remember this day, what they did. And what they thought.

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Pondering the Cold

This winter’s chill factor reminds me that we have different strategies to combat the cold. I’m not a fan of heat, I probably handle cold a tad better, but not by much. My wife will come back to find that I haven’t turned on the furnace all day. I noticed it was cold, but it wasn’t so bad that I had to get up to turn up the thermostat. Buy me a blanket, and I will adjust.

Which brings me to this post. What is the most important thing that I have created? (Apart from children, which was a partnership). I have done many things, I’m not saying that I am the most creative person I know, a good friend creates two or three paintings a day, and has for years. Another throws pots and all sorts of clay creations, with astounding quality and quantity.

But there is one measure that is very hard to understand. How is the creation used and enjoyed? A painting on the wall sometimes disappears from conscious vision, then it comes back again. A good story is enjoyed, forgotten, then it comes back. A creator’s desire is that the creation will have value, but it is often forgotten.

Well, ha!, I say! Of all the things I’ve done, there is one moment of time that had me creating a cherished, and well-used item. I made a down- quilt sleeping bag. Actually, I sewed several of them.

I know, this is not earthshaking art, but using the measure appreciation, I have to say that it far exceeds anything I have ever done. Primarily, because my wife does not like a chill.

On any given outing to a restaurant, she generally will bring a coat, even during the summer, because the air-conditioning will always be directly behind her. It doesn’t take much to make her very uncomfortable. I’ve known this for years. When I introduced her to backpacking, I wanted her to be warm. I bought her down jackets, down vests, and all kinds of insulating materials. I made sure that the down sleeping bag had the most loft possible (height of the feathers). She was comfortable in the woods at night.

However, relaxing around the house, in winter, meant an $800 or $900 heating bill every month. I think we burned out at least one oven by leaving it on with the door slightly open. Now, this was years ago, so we no longer get notices that our bills are three times higher than our neighbors. What changed? I believe it was the sleeping bag quilt.

I encourage anyone with little time to investigate building a down quilt sleeping bag. I know that you can always purchase a thing, but it is expensive and you don’t have the pleasure of creation, just the pleasure of purchasing.

So here are my tips for making the best thing ever for a chilled companion. There are several websites that offer bulk fabric and good quality down feathers. The hardest items are the plans, or patterns, and the closure, or zipper.

If I were to do this today, I wouldn’t bother with either one. I love YKK large zippers for a good tight mummy bag fit, but even backpacking,, I use the bag as a quilt, so all my bags can be unzipped and laid flat. They taper at the bottom but not too much. If I had made them square it really would not have added much weight. A down quilt may shift a bit during the night but a few Velcro straps can keep it fastened in place.

So here is the deal, buy a tough but light weight cover of ripstop nylon of one color, buy another color soft liner ripstop for the inner part that is next to your skin. Both need to be down proof. The secret is to buy the baffle material to give the loft required. The higher the loft, the warmer the quilt. The worst thing you can do is to sew threw the two sheets creating tubes. You have all seen jackets and vests that make the wearer look like the Michelin Man. The sewn-threw method creates cold spots. Sleeping bags have tubes, by having baffles sewn to the top and the bottom liners. It is a lot of straight sewing with a good machine, but it can be done. It’s all in a straight line.

I laid out my material on a pool table to kept it organized while sewing. Once all the baffles are sewn, sew all the edges except the one opening for the tubes. I sear the edges with candle, then roll them for a clean sewn edge.

Now, this is a wonderful trick that I learned from the web. Get a large tent where you can set up a small table with chair. Put the sewing machine on the table. Put a shopvac or small hand vacuum in the tent. Place all the small bags of down and the baffled, empty sleeping quilt in the tent, zip up the enclosure with you wearing a breathing mask. Fill your tubes with down, and sew it shut. Then vacuum all the loose down. There will be loose down no matter how hard you try.

I did not do this with my first bag. There is still down feathers in the garage rafters above the pool table. Down simply escapes when ever it can.

Very simple to do, takes a few hours once you have all the material, takes a bit more if you want the option of a zippered mummy bag. In the end you will have a tremendously warm creation that will last for years.

The measure of appreciation? My wife uses it every night throughout the year for the last ten years. Another one is brought out for the TV every night on the couch. Animals have ripped it, chewed on it, and they have patched holes everywhere, but it is still warm and toasty, and a creation that is valued.

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Twice Tick Speed

The clock ticked on the wall. Other rooms had converted to the digital system, but this room wasn’t important enough for an upgrade. It only had four accountants in it, doing the work of two accountants. And they only double checked figures that had already been approved. It was a dreary room with a ticking clock.

The clock ticked ten minutes to five. If studied close enough, the big hand made a half second move to the past, and then leaped to the future at twice the tick speed. Moving twice the tick speed always made Alfred a little nauseous, so he preferred not to watch the clock.

Alfred had the most seniority of the four accountants. In fact, when the clock actually makes it to five o’clock, Alfred will retire with thirty years in the company. Thirty years of being on time, and ending exactly on time. Alfred had proof, he had thirty years of time clock stamps that would prove him correct. But now, after thirty years, he wondered if he had done the right thing.

Other employees had missed a few mornings here and there, so they had stayed later to make things up. They even stayed later to go over their required time. Many employees donated time to the company as project timelines came closer.

Alfred didn’t approve of that. It offended his accountant soul.

Alfred never gave more than what he was paid for. To his credit, he never gave less. Still there was a nagging saying that Alfred had heard many times at the company. “Be sure to give your pound of flesh and you will be alright!” Alfred argued in his head that his hours were compensated by his payroll check, and that was enough.

Nine minutes to five, and Alfred got a phone call from Human Resources. They had all of the paperwork done, and would settle up accounts. The human resource person laughed a little. Settling up accounts with an accountant! She asked one curious question before hanging up. “Are you right handed, or left handed?”

Alfred responded “Left handed.” and he stared at the phone receiver for a few seconds. Alfred wondered about the type of parting gift would require knowing this. A baseball glove? He never played on the company team! Gold plated scissors? He did do scrap booking as a hobby, but no one new this.

It was now five minutes to five and Alfred thought he heard the elevator coming up from the third floor. His pencils were all sharpened for the next occupant at his desk. He had stocked paper, staples, and sticky notes. He was a little shy in the proper amount of paper clips, but that was okay, he didn’t approve of paper clips. They bent the paper, and they didn’t always keep the papers fastened.

The elevator doors opened and three Human Resources staff exited, and began to make their way down the hall. Alfred could see them quite clearly as his desk had a view of the hall. He had seniority.

The young woman on the right side had the briefcase that held all the papers that he would be required to sign. The man in the middle had a wrapped present that looked suspiciously like a clock. Alfred hoped it didn’t tick. The man on the left carried a leather hinged case that might have a thirty year medal hanging on a ribbon. Alfred began to be upbeat.

“So Alfred, today is the day! We have your papers to sign and your account to be cleared! Congratulations on your thirty!”, the middle manager smiled with his professionally whitened teeth. The young lady presented the papers complete with yellow marked prompts for his signatures.

“Great, thank you! And now could you extend your right hand? I believe you said you were left handed so we wouldn’t want to get it wrong!” He laughed a little at his little joke.

Alfred hadn’t heard about a retirement bracelet, but he hadn’t retired before so everything was new. He pulled back his shirt sleeve and extended his hand. The man in the left opened his leather case and pulled out a large meat cleaver.

“You know, not many people manage to do thirty years without giving up a little skin here and there. And not many know that a human hand is very close to a pound of flesh. But then I thought, an accountant would have worked that all out.”

Just then the clock made its move backward to the past, followed by twice the tick speed to the future, and a swishing sound. Alfred felt a little nauseous.

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Merry Christmas

On this first hour of Christmas 2017, I wish all travelers through the blogosphere the merriest of all Christmases. There have been many firsts in my life, and there are possibilities of collecting a few lasts. I would not want the year to end before thanking all of you for stopping by.

May this next new year be the most joyous, the most productive, and the most blessed of any year in the past. Cheers!

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Kaidan from Arkona

I’m currently reading a book by Don Richardson. He has several very interesting books about his life as a missionary. I am reading the book that refutes the Big Bang Theory, A Man from Another World, EA Books Publishing 2016

It is not an easy book to read, but it is presented in a very friendly fashion. Kaidan is a visitor from beyond our galaxy, and he has come to point out the error in our ways concerning our ideas on cosmology. He is from the planet Arkona, which may be in another galaxy, but we share the fact that we are all created. Shouldn’t we agree on the process? And, oh by the way, he has 24 other planets that are pretty much aligned with a better theory than the Big Bang.

So the book continues with a teaching seminar with 500 of the top terrain scientists who are almost rabidly in favor of the Big Bang. Kaidan is very kind, but he points out some embarrassing concepts that are held with no foundation in logic.

I love a good story, and if the story teaches, I’m a big time fan. There is one problem though. The book assumes that some of the basics of cosmology are understood.

What’s wrong with that assumption? What thinking person hasn’t spent some time pondering the very nature of creation? It’s the most important piece of scientific inquiry that we have. Where did we come from? Are we riding on the back of a turtle or not? Let’s sit down and reason together, come up with the answer(s).

I must admit I’m more familiar with cosmetology than cosmology. The book uses words that are mostly in English, and in most cases the words are simple, like Big Bang Theory. This tricks you into thinking that you understand. After reading two thirds of the book I can clearly state that the air is fairly thin, and what I thought I knew was… just plain simpleton crap. Now, Don comes along with his fiction based character to offer even more of the stuff that I didn’t understand in the first place.

I remember this happening once before. I picked up Bill Bryson’s book where he actually explains the Theory of Relativity. I was thrilled, I understood it for a full day. The next day I was back to being a dullard. Except this time, in Don’s book, as soon as any theory was mentioned, my eyes just glazed over.

One concept did crystallize, apparently the Big Bang Theory does not consider magnetism, because ions did not exist, and ions create magnetism. So planets had to form by gravity alone. But Kaidan’s Theory includes ions and magnetism, so planets are formed with gravity aided by magnetism.

This must be important if true. And what would it take to understand the truth? It can’t be just words, because I’ve tried that. It’s like trying to understand another language by having the speaker talk louder. It doesn’t help!

I would like to think I have the ability to finish this book. Apart from the random boredom that sometimes occurs, I have never given up on a book. I plodded through to the end with James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I learned the classic meter of Nikos Kazantkakis’ The Odyssey; A Modern Sequel. Having said that, this little two hundred page book is kicking my butt.

I can’t read it louder, but perhaps I can read it slower.

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