Ain't Nothing Free

Last weekend I went camping with my dad. I was put in charge of procuring the firewood. At first I couldn't fathom spending the sixty dollars or so my dad said a half cord of firewood might cost me. It's just wood, after all. It's just a tree somebody didn't want there anymore, for chrissakes. So I set myself to finding a freebie.

I spread the word I was looking for firewood and my boss, Kevin, invited me over to his house to take as much wood as I wanted from a growing pile of scrap the neighborhood had been dumping lumber on for years, I guess. I met Kevin at his house the day before the trip, hoping to find even just a little worth cherry picking. After about an hour digging through the pile and cutting the bigger pieces down to size, I finally capitulated and threw everything I'd pulled back. A lot of it was rotted through or just too damned wet. And most of what wasn't had those little wormy lines that I've seen associated with the much-dreaded Emerald Ash Borer - last year's 'Summer of the Shark' if you ask me. Still I wasn't going to risk it on some moldy, old wood. So I threw it all back. Every scrap.

Across the street a nosy neighbor looked on as I carefully drove my van away from the pile and back out into the road. I parked the van at curbside and jumped back out to return the gloves Kevin lent me while I was picking through the wood. Just then two police cars came cruising up the way. One of the cops flagged me down as he pulled passed and turned around. Once he'd parked he walked up to me and, with an air of superiority and accusation in his voice, said "What'd you dump back there?"

I laughed out loud as the next ten minutes of my life flashed before my eyes. I, of course, explained that I hadn't been dumping anything but instead had eyes on taking some away from the pile; that I'd finally abandoned the attempt, and all the reasons why...

If it had been a lie, it was a damned good one, really. Air-tight. It explained everything so well that all the evidence in the world couldn't have pierced the cloud of reasonable doubt it created. It's almost a shame it was true, if you think about it.

The cop had me open my van and show him what was inside. I had a blue tarp laid out, held down at the edges with a heavy chain. The tarp was covered in bits of bark and splinters of wood from the pieces I'd loaded into the van before I recanted and threw them back on the pile. It really could've looked bad if my story weren't so perfect. "If you didn't dump anything than where'd all these splinters come from? Clearly you've had wood in here," he might have queried. He didn't, but he might've! It would've been in vain though -- my airtight alibi backing me up; That I'd loaded some wood and then unloaded it for fear of bringing the ash borer into our precious state park grounds. I can imagine the single tear forming in the corner of my eye as I spoke of all the fallen ash trees, dead because of the world's thoughtless campers. "Cruel villains!" I'd have screamed, and the officer would've consoled me, wrapping me in one of those emergency blankets they have and bringing me some instant cocoa before giving me a commendation for courage in the face of eco-terrorism and sending me on my way. Oh, what a perfect lie it would have been.

Sadly, it was just the truth and so I sat in my van as he ran my license for warrants. Even though I've never been in any real trouble it still unsettles me when they do that. Just think, all it takes is one little snafu... An eensy little error in the intrastate police database; one flipped bit in a memory bank decides whether the "Known Pederast" column answers "true" or "false," and whether you'll be spending the night in jail.

Or even worse, something like a summons to appear in court that some errant clerk never sent you or that got lost in the mail might have, completely without your knowledge, resulted in an actual, "legitimate" court order for your arrest. That would take even longer to straighten out, if you ever could; if they'd ever believe you! The notion that an innocent man has nothing to fear only applies if the innocent man has four days to spend in a holding cell at county, and doesn't mind his car, his wallet, his belt and shoelaces, shirt, pants, socks, undies, and everything therein being seized, bagged, labeled, pilfered, and parked behind a six foot thick, iron wall of bureaucratic red tape that'll take two months and fifteen signed, notarized affidavits affirming to recover. Just one little hiccup in the incessant, unrepentant gears of "progress" could tear your life to shreds without even pausing to appreciate its work. Without doing anything at all any one of us might be sucked into the pneumatic tubes of what passes for justice 'round here.

Thankfully I wasn't. The officer returned my license and gave me an idea where I could find campfire wood for sale. Taking the officer's advice I left Kevin's house, following Grange Hall Rd up to Dixie Hwy where I scored a half cord of firewood for forty-five dollars. Ain't nothing free, kids.

3d Chalk Art

While camping at the Whitmore Lake campgrounds in Brighton we realized our campsite was lacking something: A mailbox. Luckily my dad managed to chase the kids away from the sidewalk chalk long enough for the two of us to amaze and confound everyone.

(Click photos to see larger versions.)

I'd say we put somewhere around two hours - including a run to town for more chalk - into the drawr'ing of this visual illusion. Even we couldn't fully appreciate it's coolness until we saw these photos. The larger versions are quite impressive, I think.

(As Viewed from the intended angle.)

(As viewed from not the intended angle.)

My dad measured it roughly ten feet long, simulating about a three foot height. We were continually awed at how small the mailbox lid needed to be in comparison to the box; Even moreso when we saw these pictures and found, small though the lid be on the ground, it still proved slightly over-scale in the illusion.

(A medieval cooking device?)


It came out so surprisingly well, especially for such an off the cuff attempt, that both my dad and I are planning future 3d chalk-work projects. Next up for me: A giant, red stop sign erected in the K-Mart parking lot near my house.

Inspired by the stunning 3d illusions of Julian Beever.

(Return to sender. Address unknown.)

The H4 Test Flight (Sheep Go to Heaven)


I put the Zoom H4 to the test covering Cake's 'Sheep Go to Heaven,' and am well satisfied. This recording uses the H4's on-board compression, which as of now I only know how to turn on or off. I don't know if there's more control to be found than that, but simply turning it on has left me happy enough with the results of this take.

In post production I increased the volume of the track and trimmed and faded the ends. But other than that, this is all H4. No EQ work, no effects; just mic position and the 'REC' button.

Enjoy. Or loathe.

It's Not Enough

I woke up at 1:15p today, ate breakfast, took a shower, gathered up some things into my backpack and biked away. In the backpack: Two disc golf discs; a beach towel; a pair of swim trunks; and Joseph Heller's 'Catch-22.'

I rode to Bay Court Park, chained up my bike, and played a round of disc golf. I birdied every par 4 and parred the two par 3s, for a -7 game, tying my all-time best at Bay Court.

Then I went to the 'club house,' changed into my bathing suit, and went down to the beach. I spread out my beach towel on the hard sand and, setting my head atop the backpack, lay sun bathing, reading my book.

A chapter later I decided to try the water. I walked slowly out into the lake, carefully letting the cold water climb up my legs. The water line at my thighs felt frigid and slightly painful. I left it at that and returned to my beach towel.

This time I laid face down, sunning my back, the book closed at my side. Ten or fifteen minutes passed in warm relaxation, with the sounds of the beach and her other visitor's bright in my ears. Finally I sat up. "Bored now," I quoted Willow Rosenberg as I rose to my knees resolving to give the next chapter a try. It was no good. I'd already filled my beach-reading quota, I guess. And I prepared to leave.

But I was loath to go without swimming the lake. This time I ran into the water unhesitatingly, lifting my knees high to maintain momentum until I found the water deep enough. When it was I dove in and under, thrusting forward, rolling over and coming up with my chest skyward. The water wasn't cold. I swam for a few minutes before returning to shore, toweling off, gathering my things, and moving to the platform at the bottom of the stairs. There I wiped the sand from my feet, put my socks, shoes, and shirt back on, reordered my items in the backpack, and made to leave.

As I passed I paused again at the 'club house' for a drink of water from the fountain. Then I walked to my bike, unchained it and rode out. On the ride in I had noticed some tents set up in front of Boomer's bikers' shop, resting in the shadow of a large tie-dye banner that said something about "peace." I had wanted to give it further investigation on my ride home, but traveling in the opposite direction I didn't notice it. So I forgot it.

I arrived home unceremoniously, put my bike away in the shed and came into the basement by the sliding door I'd left open when I left. The clock said it was now after 5p. I started my computer, opened Firefox, and went to There I typed up a painfully detailed chronology of these few hours' events.

By the time I finished it was nearly 6p. I had the feeling I had wasted someone's time.

Impulse Buy

Well I've done it. I've actually spent money. I know... The God of the Jews is gonna be, like, so pissed!

Last week Brandon and I were slowly squeezing the life out of the day, listening to some of the hundred or so random songs and song-bits I've recorded over the past few years. He made the comment that I should 'release' an album comprised of these tunes online. By which, he explained, he meant that I should pack 'em into a collection and email them off to all my many friend. (<-- non-plural)

I let the idea roll off my back at first, but it must've got stuck in me bum-crack or somefing because a few days ago an ever-so-slightly mutated version of the idea came knocking on the sliding glass door - presumably exposed to a naturally occurring nuclear event, or 'NON-E' - suggesting I record an album based loosely around the mission statement: "Songs you might've once heard me play at a coffee shop and/or bar." Releasing it, of course, as per Brandon's instructions: Compressed, archived, and email'd ex-post-gratis in the nature of fraternity.

I've already got a title in mind as well as an album cover, and my list of potential songs is certainly long enough. But how to record them? Ah, there's the rub! For I've got an acoustic guitar with the highest, most finger-tip slicing, fret-buzzing action in all universes and dimensions both known and unknown in perpetuity; I've got a laptop with a perfectly viable DAW installed; I've got a box of XLR and 1/4" cables gathering dust; But I've got nothing in the way of recording devices: No microphones in storage, nor any media recorder that would accept them even if I had what I haven't got. What's to do? What's to do?

I know! I'll do...


...for $211! I'm a smarty every day, I am!

It's a hand-held 4-track digital recorder called the Zoom H4. It's got two condenser mics built in, as you can see, in XY configuration, and so can be used with the push of a button. And from what I've read, along with the sample tracks I've heard, those two little mics ain't none too shabby. But wait! There's more.

It also features two XLR-slash-1/4" inputs; Provides phantom power; Records to SD media; Connects via USB; Functions as a standalone multitrack studio; Can be used as a direct input to your DAW! It shreds vegetables and legumes in seconds with just the tap of a hand; Broils cured meats while sealing in the flavor; Tired of household odors? You just set it and...

How could I resist such a prolific audiophilic Ginsu knife? Who could possibly restrain themselves from purchasing what is clearly God's own Swiss Army knife of digital recording? Certainly not this guy! Not me, I'll tell you that much!

Anyway if it turns out to be a bad buy I can always just blame Brandon. First for putting it in my head to start recording again; second for leaving me sit here all day to perry this pernicious marketing pitch despite our plans to "hang out" and watch movies.

Who does that? You make plans and then you can't even be bothered to pick up the phone and say, "Nevermind." Even Kurt Cobain managed that, dude. Weak. Weak.

FLCL Desktop Background (1024x768)

It's been years now I've had this image for a desktop. It's 1024x768. I found it online. Someone had taken a screen-cap of the climactic moment in FLCL when <SPOILER>Takun and Haruko kiss</SPOILER> and superimposed the FLCL logo in the corner. I loved it.

But it was blocky and grainy; a bit washed-out; as you'd expect a screen-cap of a TV broadcast to be. So I took it into Photoshop and went to work smoothing things out, sifting the grain from the chaff and so on... finally adjusting the color to my liking. As I say, the result has been my desktop image for many a year.

I was just poking around at it, seeing <GAY>what other colors it might favor</GAY> and I figured I'd share it... posterity and all that, you know. Thus I present to you:

FLCL - I Love You. (The Desktop Experience)


Here's the new color scheme I'm using after today's session. I find it especially soothing.

Roy Smash!!!

Monday, after work, I wiped out my computer. I had grown annoyed beyond comfort by all the little hesitations the machine had picked up in it's many years of tireless service. The worst of all these being upwards of a five second delay when opening certain folders containing certain files, whose associated icons, presumably, the OS took its time digging up.

And becoming bored with my present iconoclasm, I resolved to engage some fresh experiment with this hard drive's renewal. I would have three partitions. The first would be reserved for the operating system, and nothing else. The second would be a page-file area. I've kept a small 2Gb page file partition for several generations now, and I can only laud the practice, as it is the best thing for minimizing file fragmentation and preventing file corruption. The third and final partition, of course, would house the programs and data.

Not too brave, nor far flung a venture, this. Until, perhaps, I add this stipulation: The operating system I would resign to no more than 4Gb's space! Oh yes, now we're flying by the seat of our coattails, grandmama!

I have no idea if I'll be able to sustain my OS in just this tiny space. As of now I have removed the Program Files and Temp directories to the data partition via the registry. I have augmented Firefox to house it's cache there as well. I've deleted all the windows update uninstall directories. And these tasks completed, of my 4Gb's remains a scant 1.38 in which for XP Pro to breathe. Even as I type this I find myself looking over the registry to see what more of my "Shell Folders" might be hastened off the System drive to make room for those other slowly growing files that surely bid to burst the seems of this eensy cordon, some few months travel further down the garden path.

And what do I gain, you ask, by my mad venture; what have I earned for the added labors? Ha! Fools! You know nothing of my power. By which I mean to say that I don't get squat.

Sure, there's someone out there to argue the needfulness and benefit of a thusly isolated OS, but don't forget: Dr. Phil is prime time TV. By which I mean to say that there's at least one whack job to trumpet everything. Honestly, I can't say as there is a meaningful point to this particular of my chosen configuration except that it make me brain go shiny joy-fun time. I just like the idea of it, and so it is; so it has become at the irresistible force of my will's demand. So all shall soon become before the might of my awesome, all-enveloping singular consciousness.

...Puny humans.