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Archive for December, 2008

December 31st, 2008

The Trick In Art Is Knowing What To Keep And What To Throw Away…

…like my first try at egg nog for instance.  It wasn’t…wonderful.  Oh it isn’t horrible either…but the recipe I used called for Way too much booze in retrospect, and for some reason the ingredients mixed up a tad flavorless.  You could tell it was rich…I used the best milk and eggs and cream I could find at Whole Foods…but it didn’t have much egg noggy flavor.  Or maybe the smell of the booze was just overpowering it.  My nose isn’t all that great at the task of smelling stuff anyway.  So I tossed it and I’ll spend New Year’s Eve at the drafting table with the last of the store bought I have here at Casa del Garrett. 

It’s okay…my first attempts at beer batter fish frying didn’t work out either, but I kept on tweaking and tweaking some more and now it’s a neighborhood and co-worker favorite.

Saving grace is I taught myself how to separate eggs and fold ingredients.  Not that hard really…I’d just never done it before.  I have long narrow fingers so I started out by dumping the contents of an egg into the palm of my hand and letting the white drip between my fingers into a bowl.  The other method is to shuffle the yoke back and forth between the two halves of the shell you’ve just opened, letting the white drip off in the process.  But the egg in the hand trick works for me like a charm.  I’ve never held a yoke in my hand before.  Felt…odd…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Trick In Art Is Knowing What To Keep And What To Throw Away…


Deep Thought Of The Day…

If you’re out to party tonight, instead of the usual crap, spend some extra bucks on the really good stuff, and savor it instead of just sloshing it down.  You’ll drink less and enjoy it more and probably end up spending about the same amount of money you would have for the cheap stuff you always buy just to get yourself drunk.  Life is short…live it within your means but live it well.  Don’t settle for crap.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Deep Thought Of The Day…


You Knew Maintenance Was Going To Be A Tad Pricey When You Bought It

I got a card the other day, ostensibly from Mercedes-Benz USA, telling me that an update to Traveler’s navigation system was available.  If I ordered Right Now, said the card, I could get it at a reduced price.  I say ostensibly because the card actually came from the company that makes the nav software, not Mercedes-Benz USA, and they got my name completely wrong.  There is no Joseph Sciametta living here that I am aware of.  Not even one of the usual misspellings like Garret or Ganet or Garnet, but Sciametta.  And ‘reduced price’ is two-hundred dollars.  Swell.  I hate to think what the list price is.

So I call Mercedes-Benz USA customer support and make sure they have my name right in their system, which they do.  The cards were mailed out with the return address as a post office box somewhere in Orem Utah, but MBA headquarters and customer support center is in Montvale New Jersey, and the navigation software is made by Navteq which is located in Chicago, so I’m guessing the mailout job was farmed out to some third party outfit in Utah whose people were too busy making sure proposition 8 passed to get the mailing list right.  The 800 number on the card went to the sales office of the nav software company, and the web address seems to be registered to an anonymous re-direct service.  If this had come to me via email I’d have assumed it was some sort of phishing scam. 

I had an idea that the nav software update was out there though, because there was plenty of chatter about it on the Mecedes online forums.  One thread, asking if it was worth the price, turned into a DVD swapping party.  Someone got the bright idea to buy the DVD, install the updates and then pass it around.  The users formed a kind of chain letter queue, and as one person got the DVDs they would install the update and then mail them to the next person on the list.  I don’t know if any money was changing hands over this…I only skimmed the thread for information about the update, not how to get it.  Look…if you can buy a car like this it isn’t as though you can’t pay for the upkeep too.  It’s really unattractive for someone who can afford a Mercedes-Benz to be thieving the software for it.  But then, I have to keep reminding myself that not all the guys on the online Mercedes forums actually bought their own cars.  Daddy’s little boy and all that.  The downside to owning anything that’s above and beyond in quality and craftsmanship is you’re in the company of all the shallow louts who own one for its status symbol value and nothing more.

So I went to my dealer and bought the update from them.  The two parts department guys there both know me by sight now and it’s a pure pleasure talking to them.  They are both Mercedes enthusiasts like me and pamper their own cars completely.  I got my DVD set and headed home.  For a moment I thought I might just pop the DVD in and do the update then and there.  Good thing I didn’t.  When I got it home I discovered that it typically takes two and a half hours to update the nav maps.  Oh…and the Gracenote database.

Two and a half hours??!  What am I supposed to do…run the engine for two and a half hours or drain the battery?  The nav system in my C300 is on an internal 20 gig hard drive…not a separate DVD player as it is in some cars.  So it wasn’t just a matter of popping out one DVD and popping in another.  Which is good because a single DVD only holds about four and a half gig on it.  The hard drive system in the Mercedes allows for more detailed maps and you don’t have to swap disks if you take a drive from one coast to the other as you do with some cars.  But updating the software means copying over all that data.  So I went back online and checked the forums for anyone who had done it on battery power alone.  I didn’t want to kill the battery updating the nav software, but at the same time I didn’t want to be ilding the engine for hours at a time either.

After reading a few nav system update threads I got the impression that the battery would be fine.  The day was mild and the weather called for dropping temperatures and rain and snow later in the week.  So I reckoned better now then later.  Because I had to leave the key in the ignition the entire time, and I only have street parking, I took out my steering wheel lock and popped out the valet key from the ignition key/dongle thing.  I’ve said this before I think, but Traveler’s key isn’t a key exactly so much as a computer dongle that talks to the onboard computer whenever I stick it in the dashboard key slot.  But there is a small physical key hidden inside of it that you can pop out, and use to lock/unlock the glove compartment and the driver’s side door.  With that key in hand, I could put the dongle in the ignition, turn on Traveler’s Command system and leave the car while the software updated, locking the driver’s side door behind me.  For extra protection I put the wheel lock on too.

The update came on two DVDs.  You put the first one in the disc 1 position in the cd/dvd changer carousel and it starts the update program.  First it checks to see if it’s on a system that’s compatible with the update.  Then you get a prompt asking you to continue.  You click "OK" using the armrest Command function knob and then a progress bar comes up on the screen and some jazzy music plays in a continuous loop.  I muted the sound to save on battery life some, but I don’t know how effective that was because the sound system is still powered up even with the mute on.  But I thought it might help save on battery life a bit and I was worried that two and a half hours of running the Command system would drain the battery, even though the folks online said it didn’t.  After about fifteen minutes I came back outside to check on it and everything seemed to be going fine.  A half hour later I came back out and saw that the video display had closed back up.

Ack!  The car had shut off power to the Command system to protect the battery.  The DVD instructions had warned me that might happen, and said if it did to just turn on the motor and let the process resume.  I was hoping that wouldn’t happen because I didn’t know whether or not I could trust the update to resume gracefully.  But now I had no choice.  I started the engine and the video display popped back out.  When I saw the boot up screen I thought for sure I’d have to start the whole thing over again.  But the update program started back up, found where it had left off, and resumed.  I breathed a sigh of relief and let the engine idle for a while before coming back out and turning it off again.  For the next two hours I periodically started up the engine, let it run for a bit, and then turned it back off again while the nav software updated.  Eventually a prompt came up asking for the second DVD to be inserted.  Problem was, the first one wouldn’t come out.

The instructions say to just press the disk eject button above the disc slot.  But that button did nothing.  I tried turning off the Command system and then turning it back on.  All that happened was I got the disc 2 prompt again and the eject button still did nothing.  I thought about it for a moment.  The disc 2 prompt didn’t have an "OK" button on it, but I thought it might be waiting for me to respond anyway.  So I clicked the Command function knob as though there was an "OK" button there on the screen even though there wasn’t, and the prompt promptly went away.  The disc changer screen came up asking me to select a disc to eject.  I ejected disc 1 and inserted the second DVD and shortly after that the update finished.  So the map updates and Gracenote database update consisted of slightly more then a DVD’s worth of data.

I started the engine and turned on the nav system, checked the local map and a few functions.  Everything seemed to be working normally.  The folks online say the new maps have a lot more detail in them, with more points of interest indicated.  I’ll take a drive and explore the new maps later in the week.  The nav system is one of those things I never really thought I’d want until I actually had one and now I don’t want to be without it.  Just the other week I was wanting to go to a different Costco from the one I normally go to, because that one was out of something I wanted.  Instead of printing out a bunch of MapQuest maps and directions I just grabbed a street address off of Google and plugged it into the nav system and let it take me there.  Even when I’m driving somewhere I’ve been before, like to visit my friend in Stroudsburg the other day, I use the nav system to warn me a few miles in advance of when my turn offs are coming so I have plenty of time to get into the correct lane.  It’s really helpful.  I can just pay attention to the traffic around me and let the nav system voice tell me what lane I need to be in, and what exit to take.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

December 30th, 2008

Gimme That Old Time Religion…

Gimme that old time religion…

Church wins OK to create helistop

A Federal Way megachurch won approval Monday to add a helicopter takeoff and landing area, called a helistop, on its property.

…Gimme that old time religion…

It will enable Pastors Casey and Wendy Treat of Christian Faith Center to shuttle by air between the 15-month-old Federal Way church and its Everett campus.

…Gimme that old time religion… 

Federal Way hearing examiner Phil Olbrechts granted the helistop with limits: no more than four landings and/or takeoffs a week, no flying over adjacent residences, no takeoffs or landings after 10 p.m., and no night-time flying.

Church spokeswoman and board member Debbie Willis said Christian Faith Center has no immediate plans to use the helistop.

“We’re happy that it went through,” Willis said. “We’re glad to have the option if we need to at some point.”

…it’s good enough for me.

I’ll bet they have stadium seating too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gimme That Old Time Religion…

December 29th, 2008

Why New Year’s Eve Isn’t Any Big Deal For Me…

Or Christmas…  Or Thanksgiving…  Or Valentines Day

Kiss Up in New York City

According to the Times Square Alliance, one out of five people don’t have anyone to kiss on New Years Eve, and more people kiss their pets than their friends that night.

Among the many kisses I’ve never had is the Stroke Of New Year’s kiss.  The only boyfriend I ever had never thought to give me one of those when he could have…which should have told me something now that I think of it…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why New Year’s Eve Isn’t Any Big Deal For Me…


Back From Stroudsburg

I just took a small overnight to Stroudsburg to visit an old friend from way Way back, and drop off tons of my old computer stuff.  It was good to give that all stuff to someone likely to make use of it.  I hate the thought of all the electronic stuff we generate just getting dumped into landfills because it becomes obsolete every few years.  I managed to wrest a promise from him that he’d come visit Casa del Garrett sometime soon.  It would be good to have some company here, even if it’s only for a day or so.

Traveler is getting crusty with road salt and I need to take him to the wash soon.  Tomorrow weather permitting.  In the meantime I’m back to work on clearing out the house of old stuff that isn’t needed anymore.  The homeowner exempted naturally.  I think I’m still good for a few things.  But yesterday and this morning my friend and I were both complaining about stiffness in various joints and muscles and all I could think was Damn…we’re all getting old, the class of ’72.  At least he managed to have himself a love life of sorts.

So far this holiday season hasn’t been as dire lonely as I’d feared.  Probably because I’m busy with the house.  You’ve heard of comfort food?  Housekeeping is my comfort work.  Which is not to say it looks like a Martha Stewart showroom here because it doesn’t.  I am busy living in my house and it shows.  But I try to keep it uncluttered and comfy.  Best complement I ever got about the house was from Peterson who told me he and a mutual friend who’d been here both agreed my place was the best geek house they’d ever seen.  Maybe one of these days I’ll post a tour of the house or something.  Maybe a few YouTubes.  I’ve been thinking about posting a YouTube of me drawing one of my cartoons.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Back From Stroudsburg

December 28th, 2008

Another Reason To Get My Cartoon Story Finished Sooner Rather Then Later

I think I’m experiencing the first little touches of arthritis in my hands now.  At least, that’s how it feels.  I haven’t seen a doctor yet about this so it’s not official.  But it feels like that’s what’s happening. 

Luckily, it’s happening first in my left hand (I’m right handed).  The index and middle finger of the left hand are getting stiff.  I notice it more in the morning, but throughout the day if I try to bend those two fingers to my palm they resist.  I can still do it, but they resist.  Unfortunately, I can feel it a little bit in the index finger of the right hand too.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

December 27th, 2008

And On New Year’s Day We’ll Patent The QWERTY Keyboard Layout…

It seems Apple filed a patent application on Christmas Day.  Let’s see if any of you kids out there recognize this…

Apple files ‘swipe-gesture’ patent application

While children were nestled all snug in their beds, Apple apparently had visions of improved touch-screens in its innovative head.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revealed a patent application from Apple, dated Christmas Day, for a swipe-gesture system to be used on touch-screen keyboards. It would allow for a user to "perform certain functions using swipes across the key area rather than tapping particular keys," according to the patent application, authored by Wayne Westerman.

For example, the application explains that leftward, rightward, upward and downward swipes might be assigned to inserting a space, backspacing, shifting, or inserting a carriage return.

Can anyone tell us what this resembles?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Ars Technica’s Infinite Loop, which like MacRumors explains the patent in more detail, likens the technology to a "Palm Graffiti-like interpretation layer to the standard iPhone keyboard."

In other words…Palm already did this.  For those of you who never had a Palm device, they have a Graffiti text entry pad under the display window, where you can enter text using the Graffiti or Graffiti-2 gestures.  Those gestures include swiping up to shift to upper case, swiping from top right to bottom left to enter a carriage return, swiping left to right to enter a space and right to left to backspace.  You could also tap the bottom left corner to bring up a stylus touch keyboard on the display.  You could use your fingers on it, but only if you have narrow fingers with hard nails like mine.  Which is why I never fret about loosing my stylus.

In the comments to the article you find that apparently Microsoft the same thing in its Windows CE pocket PC OS.  Apple’s only claim to uniqueness on this can only be that it’s layered Over the keyboard.  That’s nice, but is that alone patent worthy?  Of course not.  It’s obvious.   The innovation is the system of gestures, and Palm did that ages ago.  And for all I know they may have gotten it from someone else, just like Apple got the Mac user interface from Xerox.

Our patent system is out of control.  Instead of encouraging and rewarding innovation, which is the reason for its existence in the first place, it is stifling it.  Worse, it’s being used as a club by large corporations to drive smaller competitors out of business.  If you invent a new technology, I can make a tiny change to it, file a patent on it, and then not only do I get to use your technology for free, I prevent you from capitalizing on it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on And On New Year’s Day We’ll Patent The QWERTY Keyboard Layout…

December 26th, 2008

Slow…But Eventually I Get There…

I just finished up the task I set for myself today…basically catching up on a lot of home office filing I hadn’t done in ages, and cycling old files I don’t need to keep in the office into storage containers I’ll put under the basement stairs later.  Paid bills, records and notifications, purchase slips and other miscellaneous paperwork that you need to keep track of in adult life.  My pack rat gene serves me well in this one regard: I keep everything when it comes to all that stuff and I keep it well organized.  Well…mostly.  I had a pile of almost a year of it I hadn’t gotten around to filing.  This holiday break is time I set aside to catch up on all that stuff…and move some things off into storage so I can have room again in the front office.

Anyway…I finished up the task I set for myself today, which was reducing the pile of unfiled paper to nothing and moving some old files off into storage.  So I sat down for a moment and let my mind wander a bit.  I find when I’ve spent hours concentrating intensely on something I just have to do that.  I just sat for a while with the iPod plugged in and flitted around on the web looking at this and that while my mind wandered.  My thoughts drifted back to that recurring dream house I mentioned in the post a few back, and I started pondering it for a bit, and this time the pieces all clicked into place and it finally hit me what the significance of the house is. 

Anyone who knows me personally reading this…think about it for a second.  A little house…a rowhouse…yet an unattached one.  Solid but needs some TLC.  Almost completely empty, except for an unused kitchen a basement full of random parts, a rickety but well used workshop that’s not really part of the house, but sort of tacked on as an afterthought, and a private den off the basement that doesn’t even seem to really be part of the rest of the house, where someone seems to have spent the better part of a life doing nothing except watching TV and snacking.  There’s even a phone next to the comfy chair.  And the rest of the house is empty.  Empty.  Even the floors are bare.  And the second floor makes me apprehensive.  And I’m not even really living in it.  I know I bought it…I know I need to move in at some point…and yet I haven’t.  I just keep checking on it from time to time, wandering though it occasionally, and wondering about the person who left that stuff in the workshop and the den, and avoiding the second floor like death waiting to jump out at me up there.  If you know me…think about it.  It’s all there.

Dreams are amazing things.  If the conscious mind is the waves on the surface, then dreams are the shadows dancing around in the water below.  I’m surprised now that it took me so long to get what that house represents.  I wonder if it’ll stop appearing in my dreams now.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

December 25th, 2008

Peter And The Wolf

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was flitting around the web and came upon some posts about a newly animated version of the tale of Peter and the Wolf.  The YouTube clips absolutely fascinated me, both in their artistic style and the interesting modern take on the story.  I discovered it was available on iTunes for a couple bucks so I bit. 

It’s the first video I’ve ever downloaded from iTunes and it was the best couple bucks I have ever spent on a movie, even a short one (it’s about 32 minutes).  If you enjoy good stop motion animation, and fresh takes on old childhood tales, and beautiful classical music, then you should definitely go grab a copy.  It’s available on DVD at Amazon for about 18 bucks, but as I said, you can get it off iTunes for only two and the video quality is excellent.  I was skeptical as to how good the video from iTunes could be considering it is so compressed, but it displayed on Bagheera’s HD monitor as well as any DVD, and the sound quality was excellent.

The story takes place in a more modern day Russia, in the forest outside a small village Peter lives with his grandfather, in a ramshackle house surrounded by a high wooden fence.  Grandpa is terrified of the dangers of the forest, and the howl of the wolf, and as the film opens we see him doggedly reinforcing his fence and plugging all the openings in so nothing can get in…and it seems, so Peter can’t get out.  Grandpa is very protective…perhaps a bit too much so.  When Peter pries a piece of scrap metal off a small opening in the fence so he can look out, grandpa drags him away, nails it shut again, and sends Peter to town to get some food (presumably the boy doesn’t have to go through the forest to get to town…but never mind…).

Peter and grandpa are a couple of poor folk living in a run down shack in the sticks.  As he walks into town the town’s kids, in their nice new winter clothes, all stare at him like he’s from another planet.  He makes his way to a small shop, accidentally bumping into one of the town bullies.  I’ve never seen the bully type so deftly and surely brought to life as in this film.  They drag Peter into an ally and throw him in a dumpster.

Back home, and in tears, Peter is comforted by his pet duck…his only friend.  Suddenly, a bird with a broken wing crash lands in the yard.  Peter watches fascinated as the bird tries to tie itself to a balloon that Peter brought back with him from town, so it can fly again.

But the bird is too heavy for the balloon to hold it up.  Peter determines to help the bird go free again, and sneaks into grandpa’s bedroom and grabs his keys as he sleeps.  He unlocks the padlocks, pushes hard against the door, and then it gives way and Peter and Duck and Bird all tumble through…

…and the lovely Prokofiev music begins.  Up to that moment, the entire thing has been done with only the background sounds audible.  There is no dialogue throughout the film.  Just the sounds of the forest and town, the howl of the wind, and the random sounds Peter and Grandpa and Duck and Bird and Cat make as they go on about their lives.  When the Prokofiev score suddenly starts up, just as the boy and his friends break free of the confining fence, it is an almost magical effect. 

Peter gazes in wonder at an immense tree and a frozen over pond, just outside the fence door.  He helps bird up onto a limb and watches delightedly as it sails through the air dangling from the balloon.  Duck and Peter take turns sliding around the frozen pond.  They all have fun.  But eventually grandpa sees them and drags Peter back inside.  Then the wolf begins to howl, and Peter realizes his beloved Duck is still outside.

You have to watch this thing, to believe how much new life the artists have given to this old story.  It is breathtaking.  The stop motion animation is first rate and the characters are wonderfully drawn.  The expressiveness given to Peter in particular, a boy trapped in a hard life seemingly alone and apart from the rest of the world, is remarkable.  All the more so when you realize that this is traditionally done stop motion animation.  The art has come a long, long way from the original King Kong.  Duck and Bird and Cat and Grandpa, and even the random townsfolk and the bullies all are distinctly drawn personalities, and the Wolf is satisfyingly feral and menacing…almost as though Prokofiev’s Wolf theme assumed physical form.

It doesn’t end the way Prokofiev ended it though.  I won’t give it away, but you could almost wish Prokofiev had thought of this one instead.  It is perfect.  When you know you can defeat the wolf, the bullies don’t matter anymore. 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Peter And The Wolf


One Last Christmas Present

Via SLOG. 

They come with instructions…

I have no idea…  Boyhood must be a very different experience in Asia…

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One Last Christmas Present


Merry Christmas!

So what did the rest of you kids get…?

Still have my Shootin’ Shell cap gun. It’s down in one of the storage bins in the basement, along with a couple of the spring loaded brass cases. Alas I lost all the little plastic bullets long ago, and they don’t make the stick-on caps anymore. And that gun is in no way collector’s grade. I played with my toys and it shows on the ones I kept for memories. The cylinder on the little cap gun (it’s about half the size of a real single action Colt) barely turns anymore.

I still have two of my two boyhood rifles. One is a boy’s sized Winchester lever action replica that took the old cap rolls and had a trigger catch on the lever you could flip out so that every time you worked the lever action the gun fired. Somewhat like Chuck Conner’s was tricked in The Rifleman. The other is a Daisy 660, which wasn’t a BB gun, (I might shoot my eye out) but made a loud pop whenever you pulled the trigger via a strong spring loaded mechanism inside the gun. You cocked the spring via the lever action, but the spring in that thing is so darn strong that to this day I cannot work the lever holding the gun in my arms. A kid had to put the gun muzzle down on the ground and push the lever forward with all his weight to get it cocked. Which was probably how I discovered dirt clods made entirely satisfactory projectiles.

That was a different world. A kid could arm himself to the teeth back then and nobody gave it a second thought. Wish I still had my Man From U.N.C.L.E. gun….

…and my James Bond Attache Case…

That thing had tons of nifty finger candy. The code book had an invisible ink pen. The wallet with the fake money and passport came with little business cards…Bond’s cover was he worked for Universal Import/Export…that had 007 printed on them in a yellow ink that you couldn’t see when they were tucked in the wallet (note the translucent red plastic card holder). Not sure what that was supposed to accomplish, but it was fun. The case itself took the standard roll caps. That’s because it was booby trapped. If you opened it with the wrong combination a cap would bang. It was an open question among us kids whether that was cooler then the Secret Sam attache case, which could shoot plastic bullets and had a real camera concealed inside you could snap pictures of people with surreptitiously. Or as surreptitiously as a nine year old kid walking around with an attache case could be.

In retrospect, you have to wonder about selling kids James Bond toys considering that your typical kid couldn’t get in to see the Bond movies back then because of the scant (by today’s standards) nudity. Being on television, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. couldn’t do that. But I guess you could sell kids James Bond guns so long as you didn’t sell them the sex that usually went along with the guns in the movies.

And then there were these little nightmares for today’s school administrators. Behold…the original Transformers…

Dig it… A transistor radio that became a rifle when you pressed a little button by the handle. There was also a camera that became a pistol and a jack knife that became a pistol…

They all took the standard cap rolls I think. And to make matters worse, the jack knife actually had a little plastic blade on it two you could flick out. Looking back on it you have to wonder what the adults were thinking watching the neighborhood kids run around blasting each other, playing dead for a while, then getting back up and blasting each other some more. But in those days it probably wasn’t the sight of kids playing with guns so much as the civil defense siren silhouetted in the sky behind us that would have worried them. We had one of those right in back of our garden apartment complex and you could see it from just about everywhere we played. Leading us through our duck and cover exercises probably disturbed the grown-ups a lot more then our playing with cap guns.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

December 24th, 2008

Recurring Dream House

I was walking in it again last night.  I’ve spent so much time in it now that I can almost draw you a complete set of floor plans.  I haven’t a clue what it means, other then what I already know about my hyper imaginative brain.

It’s an oldish rowhouse style house.  Not located here in Baltimore, but on some residential street of a town somewhere, possibly the main street.  The street has two-lanes, is tree lined and has on street parking.  But the house has a small driveway of crumbly asphalt and pebbles.  And it’s not attached to the homes on either side: it’s a stand-alone.  There is one like it a few blocks from where I live in Baltimore: an odd looking house that looks like it was meant to be part of a row and only one of them was built. 

It is narrow like a rowhouse, made of red brick and a stone basement.  It is two floors and a basement, which is only half underground in the front and walk-out in the back.  There is a small front porch that goes the entire width of the house.  The door is in the middle, between two tall windows.  There are stairs leading up to the porch on the side, not the front of the house.  There is a small grassy front lawn between the front of the house and the sidewalk.  You can’t see it from the front, but there is an odd little room jutting off the side of the basement, almost like an add-on.  The back yard is overgrown, but not hopeless.  The house needs some TLC, especially on the second floor, which is mostly vacant.  There is another odd little add-on room jutting off the back of the second floor.  There is a wooden shed of some kind in the back yard, right up against the rear property line.  I haven’t been in it yet.  The grassy-gravelly driveway goes all the way back to the ally behind the house.  There are trees lining it and an dilapidated wooden plank fence that blocks your view of the alley, except where the driveway pokes through.  You can drive all the way from the street out front to the alley in back…a straight shot, but bumpy.

The front door is made of wood and painted a dark green.  It has three small windows across the top and a simple brass door knocker.  Walking in, you find yourself in a room that goes almost the entire length of the house.  There is a kitchen along the left hand wall (as you walk in).  And oldish stove and sink and cabinets.  A row of small wooden framed windows runs over them, just high enough that you cannot look outside while you are working at the sink or stove, but enough of them that there is plenty of light to see by.  The floors are bare wood without even a few area rugs covering it.  There is a staircase in the middle of the room leading upstairs.  A couple small rooms in the back are for storage, and a small bathroom.

For some reason, the second floor spooks me.  Whenever I go up there I become very apprehensive.  Like the first floor, it is vacant.  There are two rooms in the front which I have yet to enter though the doors are open and they seem just as empty as the rest of the floor.  There is a large open area around the staircase.  In the back, is that odd little add-on room.  It is way more rickety then the rest of the house, and seems to have been slapped on by some previous owner who had little to no carpentry skills.  But it is the only room on that floor with anything going on inside of it.  You walk into it and find yourself in a room packed with tools.  Hand tools of all kinds are hanging from every available space on the walls.  There is a large table saw that seems ancient.  Likewise a band saw and both wood and metal lathes.  The floor is dark with soot and decades of grime.  There are only a couple of small windows letting light inside.  This was somebody’s workspace.  You can see parts of things that have been left uncompleted.  There is a doorway on the right, leading outside to what looks like a fire escape.  Next to the door, an ancient powerbox with switches and old style screw in fuses.  Old, cloth covered electrical wires run from the box, to various power tools, and bare overhead lights.

The basement is interesting.  Like the add-on room, it is full of tools.  But it seems more a storage area then a workshop.  There are old cardboard boxes full of parts for god knows what, and wooden shelves packed with…stuff…more small cardboard boxes full of hardware and small parts.  Metal poles go from the cement floor to the beams above to give the floor above support.  The sides of the basement are stone.  There is a doorway in the back leading out into the backyard.  But there is also a doorway in the right hand wall.  That door is always open.

Here’s were it gets really odd…at least so it seems to me.  That door should lead outside, since it’s against the right wall of the basement…but it doesn’t.  It leads instead to another room.  At first I didn’t know it was even there.  When I found it on one of my journeys through the house I was amazed.  Unlike the rest of the house, it seemed as if it was still being lived in.  Except it isn’t.  This is a house that I have bought in some strange recurring dreamscape I keep having.  That much I know.  The house is mine.  The previous owners are gone.  I’m not sure if I ever even met them but I think I didn’t.  I bought it from a real estate agent somewhere.  For some reason, this one room was never moved out of.  It was left as it was, almost as if the people who sold the house, whoever they were, didn’t even themselves know it was there.  I get the sense they never looked in the basement at all…or in that second floor workshop.

You walk through that door and find yourself in what looks like a middle aged man’s den.  It’s got a threadbare carpet, wooden paneling, and what looks like a small kitchenette in the back.  There is a fishtank on a stand against one wall, an old TV set sitting in a corner with a pair of rabbit ears on top.  There are a couple small book cases built into the walls with a few paperbacks and some magazines.  In the middle of the room is an old over-stuffed recliner chair, well broken in, that looks like it’s been there for decades, and, oddly, a small ottoman in front of it.  Next to the recliner is a small wire metal stand with a phone, an ashtray, an empty glass and a magazine.  There is a large window on the side opposite the door from the basement, and another door in the back leading out into the backyard.  Something that looks like an old space heater is under the window.  Next to it is a small table with a lamp on it.  Behind the TV set is a bookcase that has mostly a jumble of old knick-knacks on it, and a few books here and there that look as if they’ve never actually been read.

The room feels cozy, yet…weird.  Weird because it looks like its previous owner just got up and left and never came back and now I have acquired it just as it was.  The basement storage area and the second floor workshop have that same feeling too.  This room was somebody’s retreat from a hard days work, or maybe someplace they spent all their days in retirement.  Watching TV, reading the papers, fixing the random snack from the kitchenette and having the occasional smoke.  The phone is handy so either they had friends to talk to or just didn’t want to be bothered getting up to answer the phone.  I haven’t noticed if there is a remote.

I started having this recurring dreamhouse when I bought my little real-life rowhouse here in Baltimore’s Medfield neighborhood.  It couldn’t be more different.  For one thing, the dream house is a lot bigger.  For another, it’s way older.  My little rowhouse was built in 1953 and it’s only 1500 square feet.  At a guess, the recurring dream house is a 1920s artifact. 

Sometimes I don’t even have to visit the house for it to occupy my dreams.  Lately, my dreams about it are I’ve been in the middle of something and suddenly started worrying that I needed to go check on the house, because I hadn’t been there in a while.  In some of these dreams I’m still living in one of my old apartments and I’m doing this and that and suddenly I realize I haven’t checked on the house.  Sometimes the feeling rushes over me that if I don’t check on the house soon I might somehow loose possession of it.  Sometimes I find myself wondering what to do with the stuff in that odd basement room.  Actually, when that house enters a dream I’m having, I find myself wondering about what to do with that basement room frequently.  It’s very odd.

When I visit the house, I try to avoid going upstairs.  There is something about the upstairs part of that house, particularly in the front, not the back where the workshop is, that makes me very apprehensive.  I’m getting the creeps right now just recalling it.  The rest of the house doesn’t bother me so much, other then it clearly needs some TLC and I’m not sure I can fix it up all by myself.  But it seems like a cute house overall, with a lot of potential, and it has a nice yard around it with a really nice big old tree on the right hand side by the front near the street.  There’s a house something like it on Falls road a few blocks away.  One of these days I’ll post a picture of it so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

I’ve often heard of people having recurring dreams.  I have recurring dreamscapes.  This house is one of them that started happening recently.  I was there again last night…the first time in a while I’ve actually been in the house in one of my dreams about it.  I was checking the house over and wondering if I should get rid of any of the stuff in that basement room, or try to find its owner and see if he wants any of it.  Probably it was related to all the intensive house clearing I’m doing this week.  But when something keeps coming back in your dreams, you wonder what the significance of it is…if there isn’t something it’s trying to tell you.

Maybe I’m just a bit nuts.  You wonder sometimes about the line between creativity and craziness.  I have co-workers who insist they never dream.  I dream all the time, and most of it vividly. 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


Yes, He’s A Moron…But On The Other Hand, He’s Your Holy Father…

Andrew Sullivan ponders what Pope Ratzinger said

You’ve read the press accounts in which the Pope allegedly spoke of protecting the rainforests from destruction in the same vein as protecting heterosexuals from homosexuality. The actual text, brought to us by Rocco, is more complex, but essentially argues that the forms of male and female as created by God can know of no complexity or variance.

Unlike…oh…rainforests.  One of the major reasons why the civilized world wants to protect them is that we don’t know and are no where near knowing the full extent of the bio-diversity there is in those things, let alone exactly how all the pieces all fit together to make a whole.  There is so much still waiting to be discovered, possibly so much those discoveries can provide to humanity in terms of curing sickness, feeding the hungry, and maintaining the environment of planet Earth.  The richness of the diversity of the rainforests is what people are calling on the world’s powers to preserve, and that is the categorical opposite of what authoritarian institutions like pope Ratzinger’s church want to do for the human race.  If the human race was the Amazon rainforest, Ratzinger would be bellyaching about the need to clear cut it, so he could put a Christmas tree farm in its place.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Yes, He’s A Moron…But On The Other Hand, He’s Your Holy Father…


Why We Fight…(continued)

The book, Prayers For Bobby, has been made into a film starring Sigourney Weaver….

More Here

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why We Fight…(continued)

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