Friday, February 20, 2015

These are the jokes people!

When I was in elementary school joke technology was pretty poor.  I suppose that is true for anyone in elementary school.  I don't remember many of the jokes is actually not a joke:

What is the difference between an orange?
A bicycle!
Because a vest has no sleeves!

Yeah.  I know.  In my defense I was nine years old at the time.  I remember us going to a random adult, someone tells the joke emphatically and we all laughing at the "punch line" as if it was the funniest thing in the world.  I have no idea where I heard it, but it is a surprisingly strong memory.

As an adult, I don't generally remember a joke.  At least not until someone starts to tell it.  There is one exception.  I got this joke from the Internet.  This is not my joke.

Two drums and a cymbal jump off a cliff.
Bum bum tssssh!

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
Since we are talking about jokes... nerd disses!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Bones of this Story are True

The bones of this story are true.  Time and artistic license have decorated the bones.

I moved to Georgia when I was 16.  Well, I was drug to Georgia when I was 16.  Our (very) North Atlanta suburb has not yet grown into itself.  Modern subdivisions separated themselves by acres and acres of forest.  These forests would soon enough become houses, gas stations and malls.  In the meantime my brother and me would traipse through the woods and explore the space between neighborhoods many weekends as we adjusted to our new lives.

On one of these trips we were riding bikes along a gravel road.  Near our house this road led to several horse estates and farms.  We traveled farther along, farther than we ever had before.  After a while the road, still gravel, separated several hundred acres of nothing from the highway.  The trees in this nothing were sparse (by north Georgia standards), overgrown with vines with sickly looking underbrush.  The bright, cloudless summer day became oppressive and humid.  Yet we rode on.

We passed it, it was so still.  We locked our bike wheels up when we saw it out of our far peripheral vision.  A hawk, a large hawk, stood on an old log by the side of the road.  Placid, not moving, not even looking at us.  We stared at it, wondered why it had not taken off as we passed.  My brother approached it slowly.  Only after he was but a few feet away did the hawk move its head to put both eyes directly at my brother’s.  My brother backed away more quickly than he approached.  The hawk turned its head again to stare at whatever nothing he was viewing before.

I grabbed a largish stone and threw it past the hawk to one side.  A shot across the bow if you would.  The hawk flared its wings slightly, as if shrugging. It turned its head to look over its shoulder to look back into the acres of nothing behind it.

I noticed a dirt lane.  One that looked like it had not seen use in years.  Our curiosity and an underlying desire to leave the hawk pushed us to ride down the lane.  A few hundred yards of biking brought us to a burned out house, overgrown with vines and weeds.  I imagined that this house was what the hawk was staring at.

We returned up the lane, even more uneasy than before.  As we turned back toward home on the gravel lane, the hawk was still there.  We did our best to ignore it as we rode past.

This was on a Sunday afternoon.  The next day at school I related the experience to a girl who sat behind me in English class.  She was Goth, though back then the name wasn’t in use.  As I told my tale her eyes grew wide, and she viewed me as though I was lucky to be alive.

“That’s the murder house,” she exclaimed (almost breathlessly), “you are lucky to be alive!”  She was serious, serious enough for it to rub off onto me, just a little.

She went on to relate how the father went crazy in the 50’s and killed the family then set fire to the house.  She claimed to have seen spooky things there when she went there at night on a dare.  I didn’t believe it.  However, she was cute, so I listened and enjoyed the little bit of extra attention that every teen boy desires.
Today a mall fills the nothing, the house long tore down.  In the food court (and I am not making this up) there is a carousal that sits where that old house stood. 

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
Looking forward to seeing this.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Orion (for the First Time)

When I was around 11 years old I had a paper route.  The Saturday paper needed to be delivered early, well before the sun comes up in winter.  It was a wet year and I was delivering papers in a foot of snow covered in an inch of icy crust.  The wind chill was hovering at 50 below and I was miserable.  After breaking through the snow crust for what seemed like the 30th time I look straight up and Orion clobbered me in the face.

Prior to that I had never made out a constellation in the night sky.  I saw the stars but could never see the pattern, which was frustrating because I am very good at pattern recognition.  I remember giggling a little bit.  I remember thinking, as goofy as it sounds, "hey you are out in the cold too, huh."  I finished my deliveries with a warm feeling, if not warm fingers and toes.

Now I can recognize half a dozen constellations reliably, but Orion has always been special to me because he kept me company on a cold winter morning.

Bonus Track:
Tomorrow is Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Four Promises I Made To Myself

Move.  Almost five years ago, before the divorce, before the problems, before my daughter even started high school, I promised myself that I would leave Georgia and find a place I wanted to be in more.  My family was on board and we were excited for the change.  Even after the divorce, even though I knew it meant being on my own for large parts of my life, I stuck to the promise.  I've let many promises to myself go for good and bad reasons and this was one I decided I couldn't let go.  And I'm here now.

Be outside.  This has been the easiest promise to keep by far.  The weather here and the vast opportunities to explore here make it hard to stay inside.  I had a good start before moving here, but the move has done more to make me active than anything else has in the past.

Never be afraid of what I think and feel.  This has been hard, but withholding my feelings have caused me more grief than not.  I'm still not perfect, but I'm better than I ever have and in a better place for it.  I'd rather find people who can handle honesty then those who would rather turn a blind eye for emotional security.

Take the good people are willing to give you and don't worry about maybes and could haves.  This is the hardest, because it involves other people.  Knowing how much someone is willing to give you is difficult.  They may not even know it themselves.  For me, this comes down to letting go of the notion that someone "owes" you.  In relationships no one owes you anything.  Everything they give you is a gift, even if it isn't everything you had hoped for.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
I just added Qwirkle to my board game library and was playing it with a friend last Sunday.  So, since it is recent in my mind, here is the episode of Table Top whey they play it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Round Hill in a Rectangular Yard

My grandparents house was built on a lot carved out of a field just outside of town.  Like most of Indiana the lot was a perfectly rectangular two acre patch of grass surrounded by corn or soybeans, depending on the crop rotation.  The house was aligned perfectly with the lot, as was the workshop in back, the garden and the driveway.  In the middle of this collection of straight lines and right angles was a perfectly round hill.  It sat on the edge of the flat back yard, about four feet high and a perfect hemisphere.

I never though much of it until my early twenties when it came up in conversation.  I asked my grandfather why it was there and he answered "Jon, that is your hill."

As the story goes, I was around four years old and visiting them.  We were watch in a Jerry Lewis movie, The Geisha Boy.  In the movie is a scene, parading The Bridge Over the River Quai, where a man was building a ridiculous bridge in his back yard.  I had commented that I too would like a bridge, so I could sit and look at the fish.  My grandfather then set out on making it happen.

The yard, being once a field, was too hard to really dig into, so he brought in dirt to form the hill.  His plan was to dig a pond at the top and build a bridge to go over it.  By the time the hill was done I had already moved onto the next thing and the bridge was never finished.

That hill stood for years, a symbol of a grandfather's love and the fickleness of children.

Be good, have fun,

Bonus Track:
Most of you should know my friend Phil Plait as the Bad Astronomer.  He has teamed up with Hank Green to produce the Crash Course Astronomy.  Here is the first episode, you should watch it.