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June 6th, 2016

The Rite Of Spring

My spring into summer diet has become such an annual routine now that I can mark the stations along the way. First comes getting past that initial sugar withdrawal. Then the day that eating the bland food I grew up on stops feeling so damn boring and more like an echo of a happy boyhood. Then comes the day I can switch back to my 31″ jeans. That’s when I can look in the mirror and really start feeling good about how I look. At least from the waist down anyway. Too many old man lines in my face now to convince myself I’m still dating material.

But the glory day comes later. I have a nice beam balance scale in the upstairs bathroom. I bought it mail order after I became serious about wanting to get my weight down (which was after I reconnected with a certain someone from my past…at least I can still thank him for this). A morning eventually comes when I am back under 150 and I can move the larger of the two weights on the scale back a notch. That morning happened two days ago.

And now I can look in the mirror and see I have my hourglass back and I can feel comfortable in my low risers and swim trunks and the nice lite summer shirts I haven’t been able to wear since the end of last winter’s holiday feasting. Also I feel better all around, though having weather now that allows me to be more active outdoors is probably a big part of that too.

My ideal weight is between 146 and 148. I should be there by the time I go on my road trip later this month. Then the diet is officially over. I can maintain because my sugar cravings are gone and once the stomach is used to smaller portions I don’t need to stick to the bland food because I feel full sooner. This will last until the temptations of Thanksgiving arrive once more and by December and Christmas feasting I’ll be wearing the flannel shirts and taking the 32″ jeans back out of the cedar chest and putting the 31″s back in.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Rite Of Spring

June 5th, 2016

The Rainy Day That Came…

I have a habit of tossing my loose change into a box on my dresser at the end of every day. The box, which I bought at a Hopkins Spring Fair, looks a tad like an old pirate chest. Even more so when I have it filled with silver coins. I put the pennies in a glass jar next to it that I won from McDonald’s Monopoly game years ago with Mr. Moneybags stenciled on it. When the Mr. Moneybags jar gets full I take it to the coin machine at the grocery store and use the receipt for my groceries. When the pirate chest gets full I transfer some of it to a cigar box and put it away. I also take some money from the ATM out of each paycheck and put it in my safe. It’s good to have a cash reserve on hand in case…for example…you lose your ATM card, like I did last year. When the cash reserve goes above a certain amount I take it to my credit union and put it into my savings account there.

The cash on hand amounts to a “rainy day” fund. Something for unexpected emergencies (like a lost ATM card). But more insidious are the routine expenses that all phase together and turn in to a monster wave of expenses. This happened to me this quarter and my upcoming vacation was suddenly at risk of being cancelled.

There was the thousand bucks spent on the Mercedes since it needed an ATF flush which was $450 in addition to the $500 90k Service. Then there was the $1400 flat roof maintenance on Casa del Garrett. There was the $860 for six months of car insurance (NOT State Farm anymore!). I spent $500 for and eye exam and new glasses. Then my next door neighbor insisted we finally get the ivy off the space between her sidewalk and mine and my share of it was $400. The gardener did a really nice job and at some point I’d like him to finish the rest of my front. But I hadn’t planned that one and I’d have wished the others came a tad further apart.

So yesterday I took the two cigar boxes I’d filled since the last time I needed to raid the cigar boxes to my bank. There was about two years I think of loose change there.

How many people can say they love their bank? I love mine, which was founded by Quakers in the 1800s. They like to boast that during the Great Depression when the Feds declared a four day bank holiday they were allowed to reopen after only one day because they were so secure and solvent. I can believe it. You get a sense of how companies are by how they treat their customers and how happy their employees are. And after how the big megabanks behaved during the Bush economic collapse I came to love my local regional bank all the more…and especially that they have not allowed themselves to be gobbled up.

They give great customer service…including letting me bring my cigar boxes full of coins to them occasionally and handing me back a deposit slip without taking a fee or demanding I roll all the coins first and write my account number on the rolls…like one bank I used to be with ages ago (it was one of the locals that allowed itself to be gobbled up into one of the megabanks). One time I took 13 cigar boxes to my bank and got a slip back for just over three grand. This time, bringing them two, it came to just over $450.

That, plus the cash from my safe, basically saved my vacation. Oh I could have just shrugged and put it all on the card, but I’m at a point in my life I want to be paying down debt, not adding more. And besides, I can’t enjoy a vacation if I’m worrying about what I’m spending all the time.

Rainy day money is good to have. Even better is a habit of putting money aside, even if all it is, is just some random loose change. If you put it away and forget about it it’ll be there for you when you need it. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped more than a dollar in change into the pirate box at the end of a day. But one day I took 13 cigar boxes to the bank and got a deposit slip back for just over three grand. That was probably something like ten years of loose change, but it came in handy when I needed it.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 9th, 2016

Trying Something Different For A Coming Out Story Episode 20

It’s been slow going getting these episodes out. In part that’s because I have a job that uses up a lot of my daily reserves of concentration. In part it’s the roller coaster from hell I’ve been put on since I re-connected with the object of my affections back then. And truthfully, in part because I never really know exactly how I’m going to do an episode until I’ve finished it. Many of the episodes I’ve finished in the past few years have had bits tacked on the front and back, and some dialogue reworked, as I’ve come to understand the material better.

I want to try something different with episodes 20 and 21. Instead of doing all the pencils and inks and finishing up the entire episode before posting it. Hopefully it will seem like installments of a weekly (or semi weekly) comic strip until each episode is complete. I think given the scripts for these two episodes that’ll work.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trying Something Different For A Coming Out Story Episode 20

March 23rd, 2016

Baltimore Orioles! No…Not Those…The Other Ones…

The Baltimore Oriole is the state bird of Maryland. I’ve only seen one in my entire life. Until just a few moments ago.

I was walking across campus to go get lunch. I was crossing a pedestrian bridge over San Martin Drive when I heard something moving in the undergrowth below me. I looked down and saw something move. It was a bird. At first I thought it was a robin, but something didn’t look right. It was a close match for a robin, but noticeably smaller, and with bright white blazes on wings that were much Much darker than a robin. Then I saw two more. They were digging through patches of old dead leaf on the ground by the university president’s house, looking for their own lunch I suppose.

No..it can’t be, thinks I. So I watch carefully. There could be no mistake. Oh my God, thinks I, three Baltimore Orioles! Those are three Baltimore Orioles! I’m looking at three Baltimore Orioles! In Baltimore!

What a Baltimore Oriole might look like:

baltimore-oriole-c-kimberly-king
Photo by Kimberly King from the Massachusetts Audubon Society page

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Baltimore Orioles! No…Not Those…The Other Ones…

November 22nd, 2015

Sneak Peek. . .

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 3.21.55 PM

 

Here’s a sneak peek at something I’m still working on for A Coming Out Story. Only the line art is finished now…and I’ve added the text but not the speech balloon arrows or any of the thought balloons (I really need to figure out a better, faster way of doing the thought balloons in Photoshop…). I still need to add the shadows and texturing and maybe tweak a few things here and there.

But I wanted to show this to you before I disappear for a while during the Thanksgiving week. I’ll finish it when I get back and add it properly to the menu on the ACOS main page.

Read it Here.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sneak Peek. . .

July 6th, 2015

Coming Soon To This Blog…

Spam on my personal email account has reached epic proportions. Part of the reason for that is surely that spammers have harvested the email link on this page and my cartoon pages and photo galleries.  So I’m in the process of activating a “white list”.  This will mean only addresses on that list will be able to send me email that actually gets through to me.

I’m working on a solution that will allow me to display a message to anyone not on the white list wanting to send me email, giving them instructions for how to get on the white list.  The email links will eventually disappear. In the meantime if you decide to use the link below and you think you’re probably not on my white list yet, add “addmebruce” (without the quotes) to your subject line and the spam trap will let it pass and I will add you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Coming Soon To This Blog…

January 11th, 2015

You Promised…

I’m spending the weekend here at Casa del Garrett with a loaner car from Valley Motors, a Very Nice new model Mercedes-Benz ‘C’ class, while Spirit is once again having a check engine light issue worked on, that dogged me back and forth across the country last month. That was a road trip I took to the ancestral Garrett lands in Oceano California, to spend the holidays with my empty nest brother.  Check Engine in Spirit, my Mercedes, means there is a problem with the emissions control system.  Thing is, that should have been fixed a couple months ago when my dealer installed a new NOx detector after the last Check Engine light event.

Back home, surfing the web and Facebook, I chanced across the following article…

Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

Mercedes-Benz wants to ensure that your car is operating in as close to ideal circumstances as possible, and that means using the parts your car was built with. Mercedes-Benz is famous for its engineering for excellent reason, but that means they have to design custom parts or engineer seemingly-common parts to very specific tolerances, or it will affect the performance of the car.

Even seemingly-generic parts are built to a much, much higher standard than many other brands on the market. Thus, Mercedes-Benz builds their own parts, engineers them to an exacting degree, and carefully inspects them, selling them with a warranty that ensures any certified Mercedes-Benz repair facility can replace the part free of charge if a defect escapes their inspection.

The work currently being done on Spirit is completely covered…which is good considering it would cost me about a thousand bucks total if it wasn’t. Add that to the $950 the last NOx detector work would have cost.  But this is what you are paying for when you get that work done at an authorized factory trained service center. These cars are Not Cheap, not simply because they are luxury cars but because they are engineered to a higher standard, and that costs money.

The article I linked to is mostly about body work, but it really applies to everything about cost of maintenance and repair for a Mercedes-Benz: the parts are expensive, because Daimler specifications are higher, tolerances lower. Even down to the wiper blades and oil and air filters. I’ve seen side-by-side comparisons of Mercedes OEM parts and good quality third party parts and it really leaps out at you. It’s not even close. Everything about these cars is more substantial. Everything. This means maintenance and repairs can seem atrociously expensive.  But it isn’t just throwing money at it for the sake of showing off how much money you have to throw:

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them.

This is what we who love these cars value them for. This is what was true back in 1971 when my uncle drove to visit us in his brand new Mercedes-Benz 220D, and it’s what I’m counting on being true now: that spending money on this car is a long term investment in a vehicle engineered like no other, that is solid and substantial, safe and utterly reliable, that I can drive to and from the grocery store or to and from California whenever I want to and not worry about it falling apart because it was made to fall apart so you’d have to go buy another.  That was Detroit’s model. That is not the Mercedes way.  The Mercedes way is to build a better car first, then add the bells and whistles on top of that. And that is how it feels to drive Spirit.  I read a user on one of the Mercedes-Benz forums I frequent, describe his ‘E’ class diesel as feeling as solid as a locomotive, yet nimble and sure footed on the curves.  That’s it. That’s the experience you get driving one of these cars.

But… They really screwed it up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I would not own any Mercedes-Benz product made between 1997 and 2007. It’s the worst of both worlds: expensive cars that break down more than they should and require expensive parts to repair. I’ll give them this: it seems every German car maker had the same problems during that time frame.  So every time a problem arises, you wonder if this is just a random event, or the beginning of a downhill slide. And I can’t afford a downhill slide on a car that’s this expensive to repair.

I have two years and 20k left on the warranty. I bought an extended warranty…which I’m grateful for now given the cost of the work that’s suddenly had to be done.  Figure by the end of this year I’ll be over the 100k mark given how many miles I put on a car. So this second Check Engine fail is worrisome enough that I’m considering ditching the car if it needs another 1k+ repair before the warranty runs out, and just go with a cheaper ride.  I’m fast approaching a time in my life when living on retirement funds and social security makes any sort of high dollar spending very problematic.  I don’t mind paying a premium for regular maintenance, so long as that buys me a car I don’t have to worry about between maintenance. But it has to do that or I can’t justify it…

…even to own the car of my dreams, the car I’ve wanted ever since I was a teenager.

In 2008, when the new models designed under then new CEO Dieter Zetsche (one of the few CEOs today who I greatly admire) started hitting the showrooms, Daimler began running a series of ads, admitting to past failures to live up to the standard they’d set for themselves, and promising to do better. The slogan was, “Because we promised you a Mercedes-Benz”. I’m holding them to that promise.  So is the kid I once was, and he does not forget a broken promise.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on You Promised…

January 10th, 2015

Letting Go Of Pooh Bear

Adorable little Winnie The Pooh plush toy I’ve had in the house ever since I moved here got placed into one of those donation bins for adoption, hopefully to go to some needy kid who will give it a lot of love.

It was something I’d bought as a gift for Keith over a decade ago. Keith was the closest thing I’d ever had to a boyfriend, but that turned out to be more in my mind and heart than in his. He had a fondness for the characters in the A. A. Milne stories and I’d bought him some little Disney statuettes before. There was one of Tigger teaching Eeyore how to smile he liked. Sixteen years ago I saw the stuffed bear in a Disney gift shop at White Marsh and I knew he’d like it. I brought it back home to give to him on his birthday later that year. Several days after I bought him Keith told me he while we were chatting on AOL Messenger that was seeing someone else he’d met on AOL Messenger, and that other guy was moving from New York to Hilton Head so they could live together.

So Pooh stayed on the top of one of my bookcases ever since, moving eventually from the apartment in Cockeysville to Casa del Garrett here in Baltimore, but never really ever doing much except sitting there waiting for someone to give him some love. Every time I looked up at him I thought I needed to let him go to someplace where he would be loved as he was meant to be, but somehow I couldn’t let him go. Until today. It takes me that long. I hope he finds a good home.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Letting Go Of Pooh Bear

August 5th, 2014

One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

I follow I Facebook group devoted to “classic” TV shows.  This photo came across that stream this morning…

goodnight chet-sm

Techno geek that I am, the first thing I latched onto was the TV camera. Just look at it. It’s friggin’ Huge. And it was probably only capable of capturing video in black & white. That gatling gun lens mount is what they used to adjust the field of view before zoom lenses became a thing. The tripod it’s on gives a hint of how heavy it was.

I should feel so terribly old looking at this but I don’t. What I feel is Ha! I can record better video from the little hand held device in my pocket than that hulking monstrosity could and transmit it to the entire world from just about anywhere I happen to be standing.  I’m sixty years old now, and something I’ve noticed is that progress makes some people feel old while it leaves others always feeling young…

…because you’re always having to learn new sh*t! All this time I’ve been attributing that constant twenty-ish mindset I have to a state of arrested development and that’s not it. It isn’t that I never grew up, it’s that I never got tired of growing up.

And that’s the way it is.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One Person’s Fountain Of Youth Is Another’s Fountain Of Old

January 7th, 2014

“Ich liebe dich, Schätzchen!!”

So tempting…

love_he_shouted

So very very tempting…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “Ich liebe dich, Schätzchen!!”

January 2nd, 2014

Back…

After a few false starts I’ve managed the upgrade.  At some point I might start looking for another theme since I very seldom update the right column anymore.  But for now all I wanted to do was get the blog on the current version of WordPress.

I am also running a class reunion site here that has been woefully neglected and now it’s so far behind in WordPress versions it’s not even displaying anymore and I had to take it down.  That’s going to be a manual upgrade process I am not looking forward to…

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Back…

December 30th, 2013

Blog Going Down For Upgrade Soon…

One of the things I wanted to do over my holiday vacation is upgrade the blog to the latest version of WordPress.  As I have some custom code in there it isn’t the most straightforward of processes.  But I have this entire site copied over to my household network and I can always go back if there is a major problem.  I’m just giving you this heads-up because it may not come back for a while when I do it….probably over the New Years holiday sometime when everyone is too hung over to be web surfing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Blog Going Down For Upgrade Soon…

December 23rd, 2013

To My Readers…

Folks stumble across this little internet space of mine now and then and a few stick around and I reckon I have to keep posting this so there aren’t any misunderstandings, particularly about the blog.

This is a life blog. I started doing this before blogging became a thing, before it became a legitimate alternative to the pop media and corporate news services, before it became a kind of citizen journalism.  ‘Blog’ back in the early days of the World Wide Web, was a kind of shorthand/slang for ‘Web Log’…little online diaries people posted on their personal web sites in the days before you could update your status on Facebook.  The first blogs, started by artists, who were thought by some to be crazy putting their entire lives out there for the whole world to see, were just artistic experiments.  Then it became a thing.  Particularly during the Bush presidency, and the Iraq war, as people became frustrated and angry with the mainstream news services.  Nowadays, many blogs are topical, political, outlets of citizen journalism.

But this is not that kind of site.  This is a life blog.  It is my life blog.  I vent a lot here about politics, but I am a gay man, who grew up during the cold war, and even worse, lived most of my life in the suburbs of Washington D.C., which isn’t exactly known for its rural pastoral arcadian lifestyle…

No, Seriously.  I did my duck and cover drills in elementary school.  I listened to the monthly tests of the air raid siren behind the apartment complex mom and I lived in.  I did my pre-induction physical six months before Nixon ended the Vietnam war.  I remember sitting at the desk in my underwear with a few dozen other guys filling out this form that asked things like were we ever communists, wondering if I should check the box that asked if I was a homosexual.  I lived through the counter-culture wars in the 1960s.  I marched and took photos at the Nixon Counter Inaugural. I came out to myself on December 15 1971 somewhere between 4 and 5PM. I have marched in every gay rights march on Washington since the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979.  I wandered among the panels of the Names Project quilt when it was first unveiled on the Washington Mall in 1987, terrified that I would find one with the name of a certain someone I first fell in love with once upon a time there among them.

So I tend to vent a lot about politics here.  But this is not a political blog.  It is a life blog.  I put stuff here on the blog, mostly for the same reason I post my cartoons and photography elsewhere on this site. I am an artist. It sounds pretentious to say it, but there is no way to understand my frame of mind at any given time without understanding that I have this powerful need to Get It Out Of Me regardless of who cares or who even understands.  Mostly I do graphic art.  Sometimes words come out.  The Internet is just another way I have of putting my stuff out there.  It is not and does not function as an online publication of some kind.  It is a life blog.  Think of this place as being slightly retro…like it’s owner.  Matter of fact, apart from this blog, the rest of this site is all hand coded by me in simple HTML.  Yes, I’m a computer geek too.  That’s how I earn my living.  That’s where the artist and the Internet meet.

I have comment moderation turned on, not so much to regulate the content here but to keep spammers out of the comments.  For every real comment I get here I also get about 50 – 100 spam comments.  These are posted just to raise the rankings of a particular web site in the search engines and there’s no easy way to filter them out.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  My email box is even worse.  Send me an email and I might not even see it in the torrent of spam.  But this is not an online publication, it’s a life blog.  If you post a comment here or send me an email it might not show up for a while…maybe even a long while.  That might be because I’m not paying close attention to the blog because I am occupied elsewhere in my life, or it might be because I want to read it over carefully and post a response.

I don’t particularly care if you need to tell me why something I posted here is wrong.  I might argue or I might just eventually post your comment and say nothing. I might even agree I was wrong, or at least clumsy.  But I won’t endure a long heated argument either.  Obviously outright abuse won’t get posted, but I seldom get that here for some reason, probably because a troll wants a bigger audience than just me and the few regulars here.

This isn’t a political forum.  I am not a citizen journalist.  I am a software engineer for the Space Telescope Science Institute.  I am a computer geek.  I am a technology nerd.  I am a science geek. I am a photographer.  I am a cartoonist, I do political cartoons for Baltimore OutLOUD. I am a painter.  Sometimes I write stories.  I am an artist.  This is my life blog.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on To My Readers…

October 16th, 2013

A Walker’s World

Days are getting shorter now.  A month ago an early walk into work still meant daylight, morning people walking their dogs and birds chattering.  Now it’s night skies and lights on over quiet city streets.  City night shift just getting home, day shift taking to the streets.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Walker’s World

September 29th, 2013

German Word Adventures

I read the English language version of Der Spiegel and get the German news magazine’s posts regularly in my Facebook stream in both English and German. The native German version usually contains a bunch more than the English translated one, and this morning the following appeared in my news page:

Im neuen DER SPIEGEL geht es besonders um die Steuerpläne der Union, mit denen der SPD eine Koalition schmackhaft gemacht werden soll. Ein weiteres Thema ist die Steueroase Deutschland: Weil in den Finanzämtern Fahnder und Prüfer fehlen, entgehen dem Staat Milliarden.

Außerdem: Schlechtere Schulnoten bei übergewichtigen Kindern, “Ermüdungserscheinungen” bei Bundespräsident Gauck, BND belauschte im Kalten Krieg führende Ost-Politker.

Facebook helpfully provides a translation link, powered by Bing which seems to be using the same translation engine that Google does. That last paragraph is translated as…

Also: Lower school grades in obese children, “Fatigue” President Gauck, BND overheard in the cold war leading East leaders.

What catches my eye is how “Ermüdungserscheinungen” is translated simply as “Fatigue”. The concept of a President of Fatigue is delightful somehow, but I know from  looking at it this is one of those massive German words made up of other German words all strung together, so I decide to try and decode it to see if I can figure out what they’re trying to say about the President of Germany.

Google also translates “Ermüdungserscheinungen” as simply “Fatigue”. Beolingus doesn’t know what the hell that word means and it usually gets German words Google and Babelfish doesn’t (Babelfish doesn’t seem to be with us anymore). But enter “fatigue” into Google Translate and you get a bunch of possible German words back for it.  Ah…of course…

Think of how it is that Eskimos have so many words for snow. It’s not that Germans are always tired, they are an existentially weary people and I guess weight of their lives gives them a need to keep cobbling together new German words every so often to describe how existence is a never ending drain upon the human soul. My Baptist grandmother was like this, but unlike Germans who just accept their lot in life, she hated everything which made her unpleasant company.

The root word in this string is “Ermüdung”, which means “Fatigue” Pulling apart the rest of it in Google Translate I get something about “these phenomena”. I think the word is trying to describe fatigue that is the consequence of localized phenomena, and the sentence is trying to tell me that poor President Gauck creates an atmosphere of fatigue everywhere he goes, or that he’s President of Germany because Germans are tired of everything.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on German Word Adventures

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    This page and all original content copyright © 2015 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to: bruce@brucegarrett.com

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