Categories
writing

Tuesday – Keep Calm and Carry On

There is a lot of stress in the world right now. Unease mixed with outright fear, I think even those who are professing anger and disgust are deeply afraid inside that this will turn out to be everything they say it is.

The bottom line is, the British were right, Keep Calm and Carry On. Thats all you can do. In that vein, I’m enjoying my Spring Break mornings, the kids are sleeping in, the dog is relaxing on her bed, and I’m enjoying some coffee, and catching up on reading. I subscribe to a few literary journals, but I read mostly, “Gulf Coast” published by the University of Houston that I’ve been reading since about 1993. Back then I didn’t plan to be a communications guy, or an english major, I just liked the poetry and the fiction. It’s fully edited, published and managed by the student body of the U of H English department, though it was originally founded by the Blumenthals.

A few years ago I learned that Austin Community College publishes a journal as well called “The Rio Review” and I find that I enjoy it equally. The Rio still has some of the raw creativity that I originally enjoyed in Gulf Coast, but with suitable polish to prevent it being a garage journal.

The University of Texas has a number of journals, each with an area of focus, but I like “Bat City Review” most consistently, as its focus is on creative writing, both fiction and non.

There are so many writers out there with wonderful voices that will never find widespread publication just by nature of the writer’s market these days. We’ve all read stories of the literary journals of old where a writer such as Arthur C Clarke made a solid living publishing short stories in science fiction magazines before publishing a novel, but those days are seemingly behind us. I think that most of us these days just write for our own satisfaction. Sharing our views with the world outside of the shout chambers of the internet, and satisfying that creative urge that drives us all in some way.

If you enjoy creative writing, and you can live with the occasional rough edge, you should absolutely pick up your local university’s journal, it can open your eyes to great gems out there hidden in the creativity crushing muck of the modern world.

I wrote this post while listening to Herbie Hancock’s “Takin’ Off”, which was his first release, and dropped some pieces like “water melon man” into our laps. For which we should be ever grateful. I enjoy that defining track as much as anyone, but I find “Alone and I” and “Driftin” to really speak to me. A lot of folks today only really know Herbie from his later works, during the MTV era, like “Future Shock” and some of the other techno jazz stuff, but he’s as classic as Miles or Coltrane behind all that.

Have a Nice Day.

Categories
family thoughts

The “Roaring Twenties”

January 1st, 2020

Thus we begin the “Roaring Twenties” so it is fitting that I am beginning it in front a crackling if not fully “roaring” fire. I have a hot mug of coffee, and a good book, in this case one that I’ve read several times before but I still enjoy for the experience (“Leanings” by Peter Egan for the record). There is a dog sleeping at my feet who requests that I not include her in the photo, citing understandable privacy concerns. The last ten years changed all of our lives, perhaps as much as the two before it. We live in a brave new world friends, and it is the dawn of a new decade.

This decade will see the conclusion of my military career, which as much as anything in my life has defined me as a person and a character in the story of life. Ten years ago I had been home from Afghanistan for three days.

My children will all grow to adulthood if not maturity, as my youngest is 13. Her face last night when we talked about our next ten years and she realized she would be 23 was beyond priceless. We all listed some loose plans and a few goals for the decade, and there were good ones. A common theme was traveling, which I am very pleased to hear. Jackson wishes to swim with sharks, while Grace wants to see the mountains. Torrie intends to return to Europe, and AJ wants to visit Canada. The Rockies and the West Coast of North America in general were common points. Perhaps a visit to the Sierra Nevada’s and the coast will satisfy both urges.

I will turn fifty, one half century of circles around the sun as my kids say. This is no more than a number, but it’s a nice, middle of the road one. I have plans for my fifties, my next ten years will be spent in front of more fires, with more people I love and care about, in more places that I know, and that I don’t. Exploring, experiencing life with family and friends, this will be the mission. I know who I am today, in a way I never have before, and I know what I want from life. I intend to enjoy myself, in the company of those I care about. I don’t make resolutions, I never have, I’m not much for promises in general, too many variables affect your ability to come through, but I can say that to the utmost I am able, this is how I will spend my next decade.

I wish you all the very best, and I hope you and your families, both blood and extended have the finest of New Years days, a fitting beginning to the best decades of your lives. I hope you are able to define your expectations and goals as the Hunter Clan and I have, and I hope most importantly that you are all content today, and in perpetuity.

Categories
cycling

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Categories
thoughts

Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Woodrow Wilson famously said —

“With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.”

Big words as usual from politicians, but its a bit more personal for us isn’t it. I’m sure it was for the men who had returned from Europe a year prior to that speech as well.

We’ve come so far since then, remember some of those men ended up marching on Washington to get paid and instead were tear-gassed and had their worldly belongings burned by Douglas MacArthur “for their service”.

Yes THAT Douglas McArthur.

In sharp contrast, today as veterans, we can get a free or discounted meal if we can prove we were worthy at one point or another of receiving it. (ID cards or DD214’s will suffice).

I get it, everyone wants to feel that they contribute, and this is a little gesture to get there, but I’d encourage you to take a little pause before you run out and hork down some hypertension at Applebee’s, (hypertension you can afford on your own, at least if you’re presently serving, we’re well-compensated these days, and as of yet we’ve not had to march on Washington to get paid).

Use that pause to reflect on our friends we’ve not heard from recently, those we never see wallpapering facebook, or at the reunions. Take a minute to drop a line to a buddy. Reach out to a fellow veteran, say “hey pal how’s it going”. Maybe they need some hypertension in their lives too but aren’t comfortable being thanked for it 200 times during a meal…alone.

We’re not all coping so well with life and the many changes it throws to a person who may have spent their formative years in a distant country, dodging rockets, mortars, and errant Sergeants Major.

For some, it’s the transition out of that life, the question of how to translate your “life and death” (or at least they all seem that way at the time) experiences into paying the bills and getting the kids to school every day can present a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Sometimes these things don’t seem as important as what we used to do, and it’s hard to find a sense of value after doing the “most important things” for so long. A tall glass of perspective can go a long way at these times, because that depression, it’s lying to you. If we can help a friend see that, we’ve truly then done the “most important thing”.

All I’m saying is if you’re feeling good today, help another vet feel a little of that too. If you’re not feeling good, find a friend to talk to, we like nothing more than bullshitting and telling stories about the “Glory Days”, and that might be all takes to get through another week. It’s definitely better than self-medicating your way through life and being unhappy alone. At least be unhappy with someone else, misery loves company.

But if you’re able, think globally, act locally and make sure your brothers and sisters are doing ok.

Categories
music thoughts writing

Nostalgia? Nah, life appreciation.

I find myself jamming to some older music lately, and it puts me in a certain mindset. Today I’m listening to Stone Temple Pilots “purple” in its entirety.

STP Purple Album Art
Purple Album Art

This was released when I first arrived at Fort Bragg in 1994, and it was the soundtrack to the first few years I spent in the Army. I was already married to Samantha by then, so this doesn’t hold any memories of love lost, young flings, or anything like that. Those are usually the strong emotions that drive nostalgic feelings, at least for me. Just now “Flies in the Vaseline” kicked on and I was suddenly buoyed and feeling energetic. You could make a solid argument that this was exactly the response the music should elicit. It’s simple, hard hammering guitars, and booming drums, are obvious, but I think it’s more than that because when I was listening to this in my CD player or more often on a cassette, I was 22 and at the peak of my life, I did everything full bore. So when it came on, it brought at these powerful memories of excitement, happiness, energy spent doing the things young warriors have done for literal centuries.

One of the things I’ve been enjoying lately is listening to albums all the way through. Streaming music has led us to stops and start listening, like listening to the radio all the time rather than popping in a CD and hearing what the artists were saying overall. A lot of music is written with that in mind, the idea that each song is a single, standing on its own merits (or usually lack of them). I’ve always enjoyed the full bore theme albums a lot of less well-known bands release, Coheed and Cambria come immediately to mind with almost all their work, but specifically to my taste, “The Afterman”. Any single song on it would make little sense without the others. You need to listen to it from start to finish, not on shuffle. But that’s not the only way full listening has appealed to me, its also the little gems that disappear into recordings when they don’t make it as a single. Literally, EVERYONE knows “Interstate Love Song” from “Purple” and that song carries more memories for me than almost anything released in the 90s, but there are some others, “Still Remains” is fantastic and very much like a combination of 70s rock and “Foo Fighters” boom.

Pick a song and sing a yellow nectarine

Take a bath, I’ll drink the water that you leave

If you should die before me

Ask if you can bring a friend

Pick a flower, hold your breath

And drift away

She holds my hand, we share a laugh

Slipping orange blossom breezes

Love is still and sweat remains

A cherished gift, unselfish feeling

Scott Weiland and Janin
Weiland and Janina

The story is that Scott Weiland wrote the song for Janina Castaneda, his first wife, and there is a constant thread through STP music for her, with “Sour Girl” and “Interstate Love Song” also written for or about her. By now everyone knows Weiland was a heroin addict of the highest level, it ultimately having taken his life. The unfortunate reality is that it probably also led to some of his (and the era in general’s) finest writing. The despair brought on by destroying your own life, and that of someone he loved let to some breathtakingly raw and open writing, and despite STP getting billed as the “Commercial answer to Nirvana” by a lot of self-important critics of the time, I’d say that after “Core” they did just fine. You should listen to “Purple” all the way through, from start to finish, and take in the lives, and emotions that wind their way through it.

Categories
music thoughts writing

Jay-Z “Blueprint”

One could make a strong argument that what this album brought to New York on September 11th, 2001 (the original release date) is a bit of what’s missing from America right now. A little bit of a plan, one that doesn’t fly by the seat of the pants, or appeal to nothing more than the base emotions of a group of the uninformed masses. The back and forth lurch the country is making on any given day in any given week is giving us all a collective case of motion sickness, when we aren’t going anywhere in particular it seems. No blueprint.

There is a lot of baggage wrapped up in the back story of this release, with Kanye West having produced half the tracks, there is the weight (for better or worse) that his name lends to things today, that may not have been present when it was released. “Takeover” in particular drips with his influence, but not in a bad way in this listener’s humble opinion. Sampling Jim Morrison adds some excitement to a track that might just be self-aggrandizement with a different artist and producer mix.

Its’ important to remember that when this album was released, Kanye West was not the universal clown celebrity we know today, he was not married to a Kardashian, had not yet stormed the stage at the MTV Music Awards, had not yet proclaimed himself the voice of the nation, nor had he established his undying love for the reality TV star we elected president a few years ago. While I could go on and on with his publicity stunts, the reality was that he was a young and hungry music producer that did some fine work on this and a few other (Ludacris) albums, in the same early 2000s era.

I think my favorite track on the album is “U dont Know”, which was produced by “Just Blaze”. The Motown soul connection is heavy in this one, despite the sped up, almost falsetto chorus line. This is a theme that has appeared in a few other Jay-Z tunes, most notably “Otis” from “Watch the Throne” where he and Kanye worked together sampling the man himself called out in the title within the song.

Another big standout is “Renegade” produced by Eminem, who also accompanied Jay-Z on the recording. It’s missing some of the juvenile flavors that Eminem likes to sprinkle into his recordings, enough so that I, as a grown man, can listen to it without looking around to see who’s watching (judging).

Motherfuckers

Say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels (bling bling)

Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?

See I’m influenced by the ghetto you ruined

That same dude you gave nothing, I made something doing

What I do through and through and

I give you the news, with a twist it’s just his ghetto point-of-view

Those lyrics are straight and to the point unfortunately I think, they are also often underappreciated for their accuracy. Jay-Z’s universal popularity means that much of the intellect in his writing is glossed over by the pulp populace. Folks that listen to his recordings because he is currently the person they are told to listen to. When you listen to his words, when you dig into the thoughts and emotions of the writing, he is without a doubt the equal of any of the more heavily lauded poets of the literary world.

Categories
pushbikes

Finally some long overdue bike content…

The oldest boy and I spent some time this weekend setting up an older Cannondale V500 for a friend who’s daughter will use it as secondary transportation at college. The bike was apparently picked up at a pawn shop a few years ago, and then languished in the garage as a well intentioned attempt to “get in shape” as so many often do. The tires had dry rotted and glued themselves to the tubes inside, someone had rather crudely drilled out the presto holes in the rims for Schrader valve stems, and there were burrs all over the edges, likely flattening several tubes. Additionally the rear brakes were badly misaligned, and since canti-levers are iffy to adjust for most folks, it looks like no more than passing attempts to remedy their lack of power had been made. The shifting was off track a bit, but not bad, just enough to make that noise we’ve all heard from a million misaligned bikes on the trail or bike paths, just the sound of friction. It had grip shifts from the factory, and someone had put full size grips on it, leaving the inch or so extra just hanging off the end of the bar (!!), and even those were pretty much fully worn out. I really don’t know how people ride a bike like that, and I do accept that not everyone takes these things as seriously as I do.

We went over it from nose to tail, we made up a little punch list of what it needed, and then what was going to be difficult, given the bikes age. For instance, the frame isn’t wide enough to fit any bigger than 1.9 x 26 inch tires, and those aren’t fallin off the shelves at the LBS (or online really) these days. Thankfully I had a set of older all terrain (almost semi slicks really) from an old project in the box, and I was able to use those, free in up space in my storage boxes, as well as getting her some tires better suited to the way she actually rides. We put a standard tube up front, and a slime filled tube for the rear to ward off pinch flats and such, since the bike is transportation, not a race bike. Those slime tubes are heavy just the same, that wheel was easily 500 grams heavier with it.

We replaced all the cables, including the brakes, but as the housing looked basically new, we just lubed them with the new cables. The canti pads were ok, if a little hard, so some careful adjusting and we had some solid stoppers for her, and when road tested by Jack who outweighs her by 50 pounds, and definitely rides harder than she will, they received the “great brakes” rating, typically reserved for discs by the boy who never had never ridden old skool stoppers before.

We lubed up the non cartridge headset, cleaned and lubed the fork seal wipers, checked the torque on the hub bearing caps, and scrubbed the drive train free of the surface rust wrought by garage life. While I was truing the wheels, Jackson took to scrubbing the seat which had some sort of white grease or something similar on it. I wouldn’t have bothered but he got it spotless, and then moved on to removing the weathered paper stickers placed smack in the middle of the head tube by the pawn shop. In the end, for a bike that probably hadn’t seen a proper bike mechanic in 20 years, she came out very nice. Our intended riders mom picked up a generic rear rack to enable easier carrying of the backpack and book bags college students are saddled with, so we mounted that up and loctited the screws to prevent them creating that rattle all those things seem to have.

Jack took sometime to thoroughly scrub the frame, and then waxed it with nanowax from Meguiar’s and we called it a day. We delivered it two days later, so she’s now had it for about three weeks. Her mom came by my office the other day to let me know she loved it, and was thrilled. She hadn’t expected the appearance to improve so dramatically, so she was surprised with the total package.

Job well done.

Categories
landcruiser transport

Fixes and Things –

Or “The Exciting World of Old Landcruiser Ownership”

So friday as I left for work, I suddenly got every warning light in my truck lit and beeping, telling me “she cant take na more!”. I thought it was just an error from having washed pollen off and heavily spraying the area around the cowl, but pretty quick, almost as fast as I turned onto McNeil the temp gauge went up and it became apparent that something was wrong. Since the temperature was involved, and you cant play with overheating on these vehicles, I pulled over and shut her off. As soon as I stepped out I heard the bubbling and knew it really was hot, not just an erroneous error light, so I popped the hood and one of my two alternator/water pump belts was hanging in pieces, and the other was wrapped around the crank pulley. Since the truck has two, I could have reset the remaining good one and limped along, but I was only a couple of blocks from home so I let her cool and then drove home in two stages and parked her.

that’s not right…
The lights weren’t wrong…

I ordered the belts from Toyota of Cedar Park, and of course they wouldn’t be in til Saturday (life with a 25 year old truck). Saturday we had Jack’s Drill Meet, Hal Aaron, and it ran late, and I didnt get out there to pick them up (they close at 5) but even so, luck had more in store for me, when we came out of the drill meet, all happy and pleased with ourselves, we found the right rear tire completely flat and the Buick sitting hard on the pavement. Upon pulling it off I found two things, one it has a large screw broken off inside it, and two, the inner sidewall is trashed, and the tire isn’t fit for use. Clearly it had been driven on low pressure for a while, heating up the sidewall, and causing it to fail. Meh.

yeah, thats flat…
There’s a big ugly screw in there…

So my truck was down, and now Sam’s too, combine these two and you get a stressful week. I’ve been driving her car pn the donut spare all week waiting on additional Toyota parts, and she’s grumpy about not having wheels, I’m grumpy about not having MY wheels, and all in all it’s upsetting the normal flow around here. Everyone in this family is very resistant to change of any kind, except maybe for Jack, he doesn’t care, blissfully cruising through life.

We finally got out to Toyota of Cedar Park (Great dealership btw) on Monday morning and picked up the belts so that evening we started buttoning things back up.

New parts are so lovely…

Jack and I were making good progress til we test fit the radiator shroud and we very carefully broke the bypass nipple off the radiator. We had to MacGiver a fix since I couldn’t really wait two more weeks for the replacement radiator to arrive, 25 year old Landcruiser parts like that aren’t usually in stock at your local shop…

Nice clean threads

We ended up drilling out the area where the nipple attached, and tapping it for a 1/2 inch NPT fitting with a barb for the hose. There are few smaller options, and I was worried about not having enough material to make suitable threads with a smaller diameter fitting. It was somewhat stressful punching a big hole were only a tiny port was supposed to go, but since the radiator was broken, I couldn’t really make it worse, and we dove right in. We used a heat gun to soften and stress relieve the plastic around the fitting, and very slowly drilled the hole with a step bit to prevent bind cracking.

right before I epoxied it in

That went without a hitch, and we re-warmed the plastic, and slowly turned the fitting in to make threads in the plastic tank. Once it setup I screwed it back out, coated the threads in epoxy and screwed it back in hopefully permanently.

So far so good.

Its been 210 miles now and no leaks, so I think this will get me through a bit til I order the replacement radiator. I would have ordered it straight away but I had the unexpected expense of new tires for the Buick as I said, so wait we will. It has just been a perfect storm of vehicle issues this last week, and the pain is that I knew the belts needed replacing. I put it off last month and just tightened them to reduce noise. We had a lot going on with birthdays and work and inclement weather so I just pushed them a little too far.

This guy…

I would not have completed this work with my mental faculties intact without my Son Jack’s help. The guy is a trooper, and Mr Positivity on projects like this.

J removing the oil filter

He can just get in there and almost immediately see what needs to be done, and a good way to do it. Among other things, when I couldn’t get the stainless elbow for the thermostat to line up with the housing, and sat above watching me struggle with it til he saw what was happening and just reached down and slipped them together. I would have fought it for another hour at least. He says sometimes that he wants to be a mechanic, and I honestly can’t fault him, it’s a solid profession with the right training.

Mama got new shoes…

We put new tires on the Buick yesterday, and despite being about 1500.00 poorer, between the tires and various Toyota parts, my peace of mind is increased immeasurably. Cest ‘La Vie.

Categories
critic music thoughts writing

A little John Coltrane

In honor of the release of “Blue World”.

Tidal’s review and backstory

Categories
cycling pushbikes

Carson

This is the second time I’ve done this workout, the first time I skipped the coaching notes and did it all at 90+ rpm. Tonight I listened to ol Chad and did it at 75 with the standing drills. It was harder for sure, but still no where near as hard as some of the other SSB workouts. Im thankful for that tonight though, I’m just cleared out from being sick and this was a very good settle back into routine.

I rocked a little metal while I rode tonight.