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Perfect Timing

Well, hello friends new and established! I’ve been off the radar for a minute, so my apologies to everyone who has been wondering what ever became of me.

I would like to kick off my blog with something awesome and profound. Matt Banner @ On Blast Blog suggests polishing the opening post and starting strong. Somewhere in his 40 tips for blogging is a quote about it never being the perfect time for anything.

However, there’s something to be said for mission accomplishment. I have been trying to find 30 min just to sign up but between driving for Uber, launching a business with my girlfriend, and chasing after two 6 year old terrors, it has evaded me. One key to getting shit done is being opportunistic with time, and right now is the perfect time to stare at my phone since life just gave me a great big slap on the sciatic nerve! Ugh, what incredible pain to suffer. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, but the last 7 hours has been relentlessly awful. Really, though, I don’t know which is worse-the actual pain or the frustration of being so incapacitated that I have to be dragged to the bathroom!

Well, considering the pen is mightier than the sword and I can’t even lift my head without agonizing pain, it is indeed the perfect time to get blogs up and other screen time efforts underway. I have a project I hope to post on IndieGoGo and events to line out for vending. I will be posting updates on all of my efforts here as well as my own ramblings. 

So, pretty as my first blog may or may not be, here it is!

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I have a lot of good stuff to fill my blog posts with, so I can roll with the ocean scene for a first. I was 18 years old on a cross country road trip when I first saw the Atlantic. Since then, I could hardly imagine living more than a couple hours from an ocean. Feeling small, so miniscule while gazing at the vastness is curiously enlightening. Few things in this world can ground you in the moment like that. Except a child’s love πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading!

Inside and OutΒ 

Whew! What a week. My plate was filled to the edge this week and I put in 6 long days of work. 

Sunday had me replacing a couple light switches and a Pushmatic breaker before having to get on a roof and peel open a wall from the outside. My good friend also summoned me to look at some flooring work. 

Monday, I solved a power issue by updating a circuit to a garage. Unfortunately, the conduit going outside was inside the ceiling located inside a cabinet, so I once again had to perform some minor house surgery.

Tuesday was the start of my big challenge of the week. I had to locate, isolate, and pull a new circuit to an outlet. I opened the access panel to the ceiling and scoped it out. All the existing work was laid out nice and neat, so I had that going for me. It looked like a day and maybe another half to do the whole thing. I spent the afternoon crawling through insulation in 130 degree heat.

Wednesday I had to figure out how to fit my drill into the rafter space to bring a wire into the wall from above. There was just enough room to fit my hand and wrist, so I had to set my drill on top of the wall at an open end and scoot it along to where I needed it. After getting the outlet end sorted, I came to the panel end and my progress was thwarted by seismic structural upgrades. After struggling for a couple hours to pull the wire through the wall, I had to call it a loss. The only way I could get the wire to the panel would be by opening the wall, and that wasn’t possible while food handling was being done in the same space! The rest of the afternoon and evening I spent wrapped up head to toe pulling up flee infested carpet. 

Thursday morning, I ran late getting out the door. It was especially bad since I realized after the fact that I had delayed their order fulfillment schedule by my dust making. I also realized why I was having such a hard time pulling even the fish pole through the wall. Great Stuff isn’t easy to deal with after going through two 2x4s, so open wall was my only real option. 

The rest of that day, I spent peeling up vinyl flooring and racing to the dump to get there just 3 minutes before closing. I squeezed in a last bit of cleaning up flooring before hustling back to get my son. 

Friday morning I got a chance to sleep in and have a quiet morning. I had a small deck repair and outlet in a crawlspace to replace. After establishing power to the outlet, but not getting anything to actually work being plugged in, I had to admit defeat to another puzzle. It seemed that neither of the white wires was 120V difference from the black and I didn’t have time to poke around any further. My buddy was back in town and I still had flooring to remove. He and his wife were both gone again by time I made it there, but they left me a Fort George IPA for my hard work!

I have to say that one advantage of working for yourself seems to be just how much people seem to care about your well being. Whether a beverage, snack, meal, or otherwise, it feels good to be nourished by the people you work for. 😊

Solving Puzzles

And problems in general

This was one of the first gifts I got for my girlfriend. The kids enjoyed it up until the second skill level, which the first piece hint was no longer given. In any case, I thought it would be fun to do a stop motion style progression of me solving one. I might do a video of one later, as well. Feel free to flick through without reading the narration, but do read the end bit for a little inspiration.

So, there’s colored pegs that fit within these colored loops. The pieces have shapes familiar to many of us…

Dee-dee doo-dee-do πŸ˜„

BOOM!! πŸ˜†

Alright, seriously now.

The game is set up by placing the colored pegs in designated spaces on the alpha-numerical grid. A playing piece sharing the same space as a peg must be of the same color. That’s the only rule.

However, you see that the availability of shareable links is limited in each piece, therefore creating limits on the ways each one can be played.

Now, it needs to be understood that the process of solving the puzzle is really working your way through branching ‘if…then’ conditions. “If this piece is placed here, then that piece can/cannot go there.”

It seems silly to orient a piece in a way that you can ‘see in your head’ does not work. However, it really is necessary. You’ll see why as we go along.

For each shareable link, rotate along each of four orientations. For asymmetrical pieces, you should also turn it over and repeat.

You might be wondering at this point, “there are other places to start, what’s the big deal with the green pegs?” Well, statistically speaking, these pegs have the closest proximity to not one but two playing field boundaries; making them the most limiting pegs to place pieces on. Therefore, we optimize our problem solving strategy by starting at the place with the fewest possible branches of subsequent plays.

I like the blue piece here as it gives the best ‘packing efficiency’ and leaves the linear yellow piece available for satisfying the yellow pegs.

This is a sensible continuation. My intuition is that this will not end well, but I still want the image in my mind in case I come back to this point after seeing another arrangement that might complement it.

But now, I’ve created additional limitations on the yellow peg at 4C. I have a plan, though.

This asymmetrical thing takes some time to wrap your head around.

Yes.

Yes. Yes!

No! No! Aww. Dead end.

Like I said, you have to investigate placements that you can visualize as not working. Your mind is not as accurate as you’d like to believe, and the sooner you accept this, the quicker you will learn to pursue unlikely but viable solutions.

Okay, this doesn’t seem to be working. I cannot satisfy the yellow pegs with the left columns filled as they are.

So, I have to ask myself, “did I take the wrong branch here?”

“Or here?”

The green pegs are still the most limiting, so perhaps I can improve the packing efficiency of the green pieces.

Any time you can fit a square piece into a corner, it’s usually a good start,

I know, I’m all the way back to an empty playing field. I made a lot of progress with the first arrangement of green pieces and now I’ve scrapped that approach and have to start over with nothing.

Maybe…

But, if I do this, I see no way of placing the other yellow piece.

Oh! Now this looks promising. Excellent packing and both yellow pieces are available.

This is also an ideal start as the open space 2A lends itself to several other useful placements, such as can be done with these three.

So, back to these yellow pieces. Like I keep saying, you have to consider all options, even if you’re just sure they won’t work.


As you investigate these somewhat nonsensical options, be on the lookout for familiar shapes in the empty parts of the grid.

Oh! This is good, but what if…?

…we place this yellow piece here? This makes for a fine spot for the red L and the blue 5 link piece. It also leaves both the blue and yellow linear pieces available to fill in row A.

And the other red one just fits so nicely like this!

Mmmm, a little ‘cock Ramen’ to fuel the brain. I’m not a hipster, I swear!

While I’m dishing up my lunch, the kids are shouting, “I know how to do the rest!”

Ah! Yes, indeed! At long lastπŸ˜ƒ

Ta-da! There you have it!

So, the point of this, aside from flexing the fat in your skull (I’m told the brain is comprised mostly of lipids) is this:

in solving any problem, you must be willing to backtrack and have faith in the process even when it doesn’t produce the desired result. You may have put a lot of effort into something that didn’t turn out and have to go back to square one, starting all over with nothing. However, if you don’t keep working at it, maintaining faith in your process, you will never get to the solution you are after.Β 

And don’t forget to take breaks to nourish and rejuvenate yourself along the way, even if it’s just Ramen and hot sauce!

Can’t Buy Commitment

The two sides of construction chaos.

A guy will do just about anything when he’s desperate enough. I don’t really like construction, I’ve realized. 

It felt good knowing a week ahead that August’s rent was covered, especially with work lined up to the start of school. The folks with that check in their hand have been happy to have me around. This project ran over its time, and the contractor that took it on has been happy to have me following up behind him. 

Every job I’ve picked up with a contractor has been to help wrap up an overdue project. Every job I’ve picked up on my own has been because a contractor dropped the ball. Seems like there’s some real putz balls out there not seeing through their commitments. Well, thanks for the work, guys! 

Though this guy seems chill in conversation, I could tell he’s not been in a great mood. His chief complaint was the multitude of changes to the original plan leading to the project running two weeks over. Oh? But if there’s significant changes to a contract, wouldn’t everyone be aware of the effects? Since everyone seems to be upset about the timeliness of this thing, something seemed off. Turns out, there’s no contract. Not long before I got involved, there were no checks, either. Good old greenbacks, just to fill in the gaps between bigger projects. The real reason his nose was out of joint was that he lost a bigger project as a result of helping them get their place together. 

I put in some hours. They said they were moving their staff in on Friday, and were going to be at least partially functioning on Monday. They didn’t care what it cost or how much I worked, as long as it got done. I busted my tail wiring, plumbing, detailing, and getting the place ready. I spent most of Sunday moving data lines from one wall to the other, and without an ethernet cable tester could only hope my connections were solid. 
 Alas! Monday came around and the office enjoyed full lighting, running water, and fully operational communications. 

After having the messy portion of work wrapped up, I turned my focus to another project. I still had a short list of tasks to tackle, but their whole staff would be busy settling in so I figured I’d wait. I had to do some digging into permits and codes for my upcoming project. The guy is not at all hesitant about paying to have it done right, so I’m taking my time. He’s pointed at a dozen other projects to be done, so I’m doing my best to make sure I deliver. I haven’t been looking for any more jobs since these two looked to be enough to carry me a month or so.

The folks at the last place complained quite a bit about the contractor over booking himself. Where is he at? Anyone heard from him lately? What is his deal? They all ask, while wondering why he would take on all these jobs. Meanwhile, there still wasn’t enough month left at the end of the money for me and I was anxious to get after my next income. It got pushed back until who knows when, and after I sunk a whole day into spec’ing the job out. I went back to the previous project to squeeze a few hours of work out, but that was that. I have nothing. No work from anywhere until I don’t know when. I made calls and got no answers. I went to the ads and started frantically whipping out emails. Nothing. To better illustrate the situation, I found one ad stating that they know every contractor is booked 3, 6, 9 months out, but want their pool fixed so bad no price is out of question. Another ad has been up for some time now, and the disillusioned fellow has added the line: Decent rates only please. Decent, as in $15/hr to be worked like an indentured servant? Good luck!

Well folks, contractors are supposed to work according to a written obligation. If there’s no written obligation to show up and no written obligation to pay up, you have to expect that work and the workers are going to be sporadic at best and screw you over at worst. I chose not to be that over booked carpenter, and it bit me in the butt. 

I also knocked my knee on a ladder pretty hard. The pain matches what I did to the other knee last week. I can’t help but feel like this is why I thought myself above having to swing hammers in the first place. I’m decidedly not trying to make a career of this, just trying to make ends meet until something better happens my way. 

The Debt Clog

Seriously, talking to a debt collector without having money is like dealing with a clogged toilet without having a plunger. πŸ’©

No matter what you try to do, the problem is still going to be there, just as gross and embarrassing as the moment it happened. 

Does anybody have a 5 digit debt plunger I can borrow? πŸ˜›

My Painful Scar

I hurt. Really bad. At some point, a given pain is so excruciating and unrelenting that your mind just disassociates from the body. I laid in bed and held my stomach with one hand and my heart with the other. 

“You are well. You are healthy and strong. You are not going to die. Your everything is not over or lost. Be at peace. Sleep is what will heal, do not let your body take it from you.” I tell myself. 

The thoughts come rushing in. Those awful, unsettling words. The evil, hateful, berating words like vomit. The smell alone, like a gag reflex, issues an urge to spill my mental lunch. (It was a tasty little TED talk)

“Be still. Be well. Now is not the time for thoughts. Now is the time to be centered, breathe.” I take a deep, controlled breath. My heart lights up, beats on my ribs, and squeezes battery acid into my guts.

The thoughts come back. And the smell. Like a trickle of water over a dam wall, I feel it in the front of my brain. “You know what, bitch!?” are the words of my father and a hundred drunkards dripping on my tongue. Don’t worry though, I’ve spent my whole life building and reinforcing that dam. 

“Breathe. You are well. You are a great human being because you can feel. You are great because you bring so much to your endeavors. You are valuable. Your words are valuable. Your actions are valuable. Your feelings. They are part of being human, and they are valuable.”

Our counselor poked that scar a couple weeks ago, and I didn’t even know what she poked or why it hurt. It hurts now. 

I was in the 5th grade. I don’t have many memories of that period of my life, so I have to do some math here… I would have been 9, making my sister about 2. I was playing cards with my dad. I suppose she felt left out, so she did what a toddler might be expected to do: kicked me in the back. Continously. I know I told her to stop. Over and over. I imagine I yelled it at her, but I don’t recall. My dad didn’t intervene. The kicking continued. I uncrossed my legs and squished her against the sofa with my back. I didn’t even see it coming. Do you know what a drunken layman’s fist does to a 9 year old boy? Well, nothing that left a permanent mark, though at the time I was sure my arm was broken. It’s what his fist told me in that flight. “You are not valuable enough to deserve not being physically attacked.”

I will let myself vent this hatred though: I hate that “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” has suddenly become a trendy way of implying someone simply ought to know what their audience wants to hear. 

Moreover, I hate that it’s used as a gateway to render all context invalid any time the audience is offended, and the words are picked up, balled together with their emotions, then hurled back at the speaker.

I am pressed for words. “You have to use your words. You must speak.” I am not a novice in vocabulary, but I don’t know what words to use to express how I feel. Sometimes (more often than is helpful) I don’t even know for myself what I’m experiencing. But I must speak, because that is what is demanded of me. I breathe. I think. I carefully, cautiously, pick words to assemble the best sentences I can. I draft it in my mind, check the tone, edit out any absolutes, ensure my audience is not being unwittingly included, and do my best to make sure it is completely objective so as to not sound like I’m treating my subjective views as any kind of fact. Finally, I release the anticipated final draft, and I think it just might be NYT best seller material. 

What I said, the context, gets thrown at my feet. How I said it gets thrown in the cauldron, with a boiling hot stew of emotion, before being thrown in my face. If I speak, I get doled out another round. If I remain silent, the cauldron boils over. The words don’t hurt that bad, and I can deal with the third degree burns. What really hurts is that scar. It’s been torn open again by the reinforcement of, “You are not valuable enough to express your thoughts.”

The burning feeling has gone down. I know I may not sleep well, but the least I can do is rest my body, hold my oozing wound, and keep telling myself that I am valuable.

The Break

Now we’re cooking with gas!

It has taken a lot to get there, but finally the dam has broken. I have enough work lined up to last me the summer well into the school year. I have recovered my earning potential of that awful management position I left. Now, I’m hoping my work allows me to push that potential up even a bit further. 

I wish I felt as celebratory as I should. It’s been a long time since I could earn enough to cover my expenses. Honestly, since student loan payments started up, I haven’t done so even once. 

I was not doing well stressing over my bleak future. I tried to ground myself. Running, meditating, trying to take a little moment here and there to appreciate something pleasant, like all the free kombucha on tap I can drink.  

Mostly, my stomach settled down when I could stop thinking about the future. This left me in a perpetual state of absent mindedness. It’s called mindfulness, as you are supposed to have your mind entirely focused on the present, and more specifically, yourself. Not your thoughts and fears, but your physical being. Breathe in, breathe out. Think about nothing but your lungs expanding with air and releasing the tension in your muscles. 

While I continue to suppress a reservoir of rampant thoughts, I find myself flooded with emotions. Now, I’m a cerebral person, used to thinking through my issues. Define the system, identify the variables, work from the evidence back to spot the wrench in the cogs. I’m turning it off. The problem now is that I’m sitting here awash with emotion. I don’t really know what they are. My brain lights up and seeks patterns and organization. It goes forward and backward in time, investigating the cause-effect reactions. Then I stop it again. Stop thinking about the future, because that’s been the first step into madness lately. 

I hope diving headlong into work does my mental health some good. I hope that when someone presses me for my thoughts, I can come up with something that’s socially acceptable. I hope that the completion of the projects I have lined up brings enough financial relief to at least let the rest of the year be enjoyable. I hope, but nothing about my state of being is behind that hope. It’s as isolated and vulnerable as I have been feeling for a while now. 

I got what I wished for, so I guess, fanfare or not, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where I end up.