My RSS Feed
My Facebook
My Twitter
My YouTube
My Pinterest

SUBSCRIBE to this blog



My ARCADE GAMES & INFO
SOFTWARE I've Written
My PHOTO ALBUMS
My WRITING ADVICE
Every CAR I'VE OWNED
Every STATE I'VE VISITED



My Book, COMMODORK
My Book, INVADING SPACES



You Don't Know Flack (Tech)
Sprite Castle (C64)
Multiple Sadness (Movies)
Throwback Reviews (Movies)

More Podcast Details
Combined Feed: iTunes|RSS




Back to School

Last Thursday, Mason and Morgan went back to school. Today, it was my turn.

This semester I’ll be taking three graduate classes: Commercial Nonfiction, Graduate Tutorial in Writing, and Epublishing, for a total of eight credit hours. I suppose it’s not very cool to admit that I am looking forward to each of these classes. (I’m okay with that.)

In Commercial Nonfiction Book, we’ll be going through the process of planning, writing, pitching and marketing a nonfiction book. I know there are things I could have done to make Commodork and Invading Spaces better, and with other nonfiction books in the hopper, I am greatly looking forward to gleaning useful information from this class.

Epublishing takes place over three days and is only one credit hour, but I have no doubt that this class will help me with future projects.

Finally, there’s Graduate Tutorial in Writing. This “class” is actually a weekly one-on-one session with a professor in the professional writing program who has published roughly 40 novels! During our sessions my professor will review submitted writing samples, critique them, and help me with story plotting. My goal for this class is to produce a marketable novel by the end of the semester. I have a great idea for a novel I’ve been massaging over the summer, and I’m really looking forward to turning it into a book.

14034722_10154139211254597_890727399184950200_n

Beginning yesterday, I changed my work hours to 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I’m not a huge fan of early mornings, but it works well with my afternoon school schedule. I’ve taken afternoon naps the past two days (a habit I need to break) and still find my way to bed by 10 p.m., unusually early for me. Early mornings wear me out.

It took me 45 minutes to drive to Norman today from work and 90 minutes to get home. For years I’ve heard that the city of Norman loves to tear up every road surrounding the University of Oklahoma and schedules this construction as inconveniently as possible, but for the third semester in a row, I’ve had the opportunity to experience it first hand. This semester the city has torn up both the Lindsey exit from I-35 and the same street closer to the school. I’ve found alternate routes, but city streets combined with school traffic and 5 o’clock madness makes for a long drive home. It’s time to work out a different route and load my phone up with new podcasts.

After this semester I’ll have 17 credit hours left — three semesters, tops. But the great thing about this program is, I’m learning things in every class, every day, that are making me a better writer. I won’t be waiting three semesters to start applying these lessons. I’ve already started, in fact.

21 and 43

Last Friday, my wife and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. Yesterday, I turned 43-years-old.

For our anniversary, Susan and I took a few hours off from work and drove out to Norman to run a couple of last minute errands before the spring semester begins. While in Norman I picked up my parking pass, and gave Susan a tour of every part of the OU campus I am familiar with: the Gaylord Building, and the parking garage that sits across from it. Before we left, we took a selfie from the top of the parking garage, with some of the campus (and Norman, beyond that) behind us.

2016-08-19 13.47.22

On Saturday Susan asked me what kind of birthday cake I wanted and jokingly I told her a McDonald’s cake like the ones we used to have at birthday parties when we were kids. Susan made a few calls and it turns out if you know the right people at the right McDonald’s, they will still sell you one. The cake was as dry and crumbly as I remembered. I loved it!

2016-08-20 15.08.56

If you recall, earlier this month Susan and I cut up all my old t-shirts I’ve been saving for 20 years and mailed them off to have them turned into a quilt. The quilt arrived, and looks magnificent! It’s even better than I had imagined. The top feels smooth (I had imagined there would be rough borders in between the shirts for some reason) and the bottom is fuzzy and warm. Second only to my sailboat quilt (a quilt my grandma made for me when I was tiny), this is my new favorite quilt! I can’t wait to sleep under the likes of Slayer, Metallica, and Spam!

2016-08-21 18.49.03

Sunday night my mom and her husband took my family and I out to a Japanese steak house, and Monday my dad took Susan and I out to Outback Steakhouse for lunch. My tummy is so very full of steak and sushi and my heart is full of joy. I had a great birthday this year — thanks, everyone!

Goodbye, Rio Olympics!

Yesterday over dinner my mother asked me how much of the 2016 Rio Olympics I had watched over the past two weeks. My response? “Every minute of them.”

Obviously, that wasn’t entirely possible. Over the past two weeks there have been times when Olympic events were being broadcast on up to four different cable channels. With events on two channels and that “last channel watched” button on my remote control, I was able to flip back and forth and keep up. When they were broadcasting events on three channels simultaneously, I had to pick and choose — and when there were four going, forget about it. Fortunately they seem to have dedicated one channel to golf coverage, so I was able to rule that out entirely. Still, that left me with two and sometimes three channels of nonstop Olympic coverage.

The older I get, the more I enjoy the Olympics. I love the spirit of competition and the patriotism on display, and not just from our country’s participants. I always enjoy the back stories behind the competitors. Vanderlei de Lima, the marathon runner who was tackled by a protester during a marathon in 2004 (and still managed to win the bronze medal), lit the Olympic cauldron this year. And then there was David Rudisha, the runner from Kenya who took the spirit of the Olympics back home and convinced the fellow members of his Maasai tribe that running, and not killing lions, was a better way to show who was the strongest member of the tribe (and best-qualified suitor). In my opinion, there weren’t nearly enough of these features.

When I think of the Summer Olympics I think of people running and people swimming, but I forget about all the other fantastic events. For two weeks I watched the best in the world compete in volleyball, archery, tennis, BMX racing, ping-pong, cycling, and even badminton.

Four years is enough time for me to forget almost anything, but within a few days of the opening ceremonies I had regained my crown as our home’s self-appointed expert Olympic judge. On every event. I frequently shouted “tenth of a point!” any time a gymnast faltered on the balance beam, and was able to instantly determine the number of degrees off center every single Olympic diver entered the water. I called every out-of-bounds volley correctly, and was able to quickly determine who scored first in each fencing match. If the Olympic committee doesn’t select me to be a head judge in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, or at least to fire the starting gun before the running events — or every event, for that matter — I will be quite surprised.

Like every great adventure there were tales of victory and defeat, exhilaration and heartbreak. When 21-year-old French runner Wilhem Belocian was disqualified for a false start in the men’s 110m, he collapsed to the field in tears, devastated. It was Belocian’s first trip to the Olympics, and he was disqualified from his only race. It was hard to watch, even from thousands of miles away.

I can’t remember how old I was when I learned that not all other countries love America and Americans, but after some of the behavior that a few of our athletes displayed over the past two weeks, it’s easy to see why. The first two stories I read about our Olympic basketball team were US Olympic Basketball Team to Stay on Cruise Ship, followed by US Basketball Players leave Opening Ceremonies, Visit Local Brothel (on “accident”). For a few days it looked like American gymnast Gabby Douglas was going to be labeled the biggest spoiled brat of the Olympics as she pouted, didn’t cheer on her teammates, and didn’t salute the flag during the award ceremonies. Incredulously, Ryan Lochte’s ugly display of drunken frat boy antics while he was representing our country in the Olympics managed to upstage her. (Earlier today, both Speedo and Ralph Lauren broke sponsorship ties with Lochte.)

While I will remember those moments, I refuse to let them define my memories of the 2016 Olympics. When I remember them, I want to remember Michael Phelps’ and Katie Ledecky’s amazing performances in the water. I’ll remember watching Usain Bolt’s last three races, and watching him pull ahead from his competitors as if they were standing still. I’ll remember Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, standing hand in hand with their arms raised in victory after securing gold and silver medals. I’ll remember 20-year-old Simone Manuel, the first American black female swimmer to win medal in the Olympics. And I’ll remember Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino, the runners who collided mid-race and helped one another to the finish line. I’ll remember for every dummy who only thinks of themselves and the gold, there are many others that not only remember the spirit of the Olympic Games, but demonstrate them for the world to see. And that’s pretty cool.

(Okay, sure — I’ll also remember the green water.)

1470837437474[1]

And now, I’m off to badminton class. See you in 2020, Toyko!

Star Wednesday: Kenny Baker’s Autograph

2016-08-15 10.47.46

I don’t own many autographed items. I have one Atari 2600 cartridge signed by the programmer (Yars’ Revenge, by Howard Scott Warshaw), a show brochure I had autographed by David Copperfield in the mid-1980s, and three books signed by their respective authors: hacker Kevin Mitnick, magicians Penn and Teller, and my writing professor, Deborah Chester.

The only other autographs that I have belong to people who appeared in Star Wars films. I have five action figures autographed by the people who played them in the films: David Prowse (Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3P0), and Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

The one thing all of these actors have in common is that they are primarily known for playing characters that wear masks. Several of them have cameos and appear as other characters within the films without their masks on (see Anthony Daniels below as Dannl Faytonni, who appeared on screen for just a few seconds in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones).

daniels

For some, however, it was easier to find them unmasked outside the Star Wars universe. When Darth Vader was finally unmasked at the end of Return of the Jedi, it wasn’t David Prowse but rather Sebastian Shaw’s face that appeared. Shaw,not Prowse, also played Anakin Skywalker’s ghost at the end of the unedited original film. It wasn’t until I saw Clockwork Orange that I got my first glimpse of David Prowse acting without his mask and cape on (he plays the bodybuilding bodyguard that appears in the film).

When I was little I thought R2-D2 and C-3P0 were real robots, but it didn’t take long to figure out that C-3P0 — being the same shape and size as an average adult human — probably had a person inside that metal costume. But it didn’t dawn on me for years that there was a little person crouched down inside R2-D2 as well. I owned a remote controlled car as a kid and always assumed that R2-D2 was remote controlled, too. Over the years they’ve experimented with CGI versions and robotic versions of the droid, but looking back, you can see that the man inside that little blue and white astromech droid was actually performing.

It wasn’t until 1981’s Time Bandits that I got to see Kenny Baker actually perform without a silver dome covering his head. Here he is on the far left, standing proudly with a colander on his head… which, now that I think about it, looks a lot like a silver dome covering his head.

105693655_Kenny_Baker_Time_Bandits-large_trans++MG9jYnib85FJIfCc-bQYcdNpGKSwk0UKeshhdHJ8xu4

In Flash Gordon and The Elephant Man, Kenny Baker simply played characters named “Dwarf,” but in Time Bandits, he was Fidgit, one of the bandits avoiding both the Supreme Being and evil incarnate as they traveled through time, robbing the rich to feed themselves.

From the moment I saw Kenny Baker in Time Bandits, I always thought of him every time I saw R2-D2 rolling around. I have no idea if he was cramped inside the droid’s body or how much he could see through the costume, but surely rolling around in the desert and on hot sets wasn’t comfortable.

You’re not likely to run into Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher at a run-of-the-mill sci-fi convention, but that’s exactly what brought Kenny Baker to Oklahoma City back in June of 2001: the Sci-Fi Expo and Toy Show.

I think I already had my C-3P0 card signed prior to meeting Baker, so it seemed like the thing to do would be to stick with signed figures rather than 8×10 glossies or posters. I don’t recall what (if anything) the two of us said to one another as he signed my action figure. There were a lot of people in line in front of me and even more behind me. What I do remember is that he smiled, and was kind.

Kenny Baker passed away this past weekend, just a couple of weeks shy of his 82nd birthday. He is the second main cast member to pass away, following Sir Alec “Obi-Wan Kenobi” Guinness who passed away in 2000 at the age of 86.

Sometimes when watching films we see characters and sometimes we see the actors who portray them. It’s hard to watch Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon or O.J. Simpson in The Naked Gun and not think about their real life troubles. Even though we can’t see his face when R2’s dome spins or he emits an excited series of beeps and boops, I plan to make a point to think about Kenny Baker each time I see R2-D2 from now on, and I’ll keep this autographed figure hanging on the wall to remind me of him, too.

Releasing an Apple IIe’s Magic Smoke

On July 21, 2016, Ancient Legends was released for Apple II home computers. The game is similar in design to classic role playing games from the 1980s like Ultima and Bard’s Tale, and I was greatly looking forward to trying it out on my vintage Apple IIe computer.

A few years ago I purchased a CFFA3000 card for my Apple II. The CFFA3000 card allows owners to play Apple II disk images stored on a USB stick. I paid approximately $200 (including the additional remote and shipping) for my CFFA3000, and $1.48 for the computer at a thrift store.

I’m in the middle of rewiring my computer desk (yes, those are boxes of Ghostbusters Twinkies and a ventriloquist doll…) so pardon the mess, but I was able to copy the disk images over to a USB stick and the game booted right up on my vintage Apple IIe computer.

2016-07-21 16.38.42

Five minutes into the game it began to act up. I was just about to declare the program buggy when I heard a loud POP, followed by the release of magic smoke. (For those who don’t know, all electronics run off of magic smoke. When you let it out, they stop working.) I quickly yanked the power cord out of the back of the computer and opened the case, releasing the smoke and the smell of burned plastic into my room. It didn’t take long to determine the source of the smoke — the machine’s old power supply had given its all and thrown in towel.

2016-07-22 09.17.23

2016-07-22 10.38.38

Specifically, that capacitor was the one that did itself in.

There has, and always will be, a debate as to whether emulation is better than real hardware. I, being a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, have long argued that there’s a time and place for each, but I’ve had people from both ends of the spectrum blast my opinion. I do enjoy the real thing when and where I can, but when one of these vintage machines literally blows up, it always makes you reconsider.

A few years ago I had half a dozen Apple II computers. The Franklin Ace 1000 died due to a tragic golf cart accident (don’t ask), one was gutted for parts, the IIc doesn’t accept internal cards like the CFFA3000 (a requirement) and my black Bell and Howell model has never worked. That means, in reality, I have two: the IIe Platinum model that I’ve been using (and is currently dead) and a spare, original, model IIe.

2016-08-15 15.40.48

I don’t know why I leave these prices on my old machines, but I do. It reminds me of those glorious pre-eBay days. As you can see, this one was priced at $3.98 before being lowered to $1.98. After a bit of dusting and cleaning, I swapped my CFFA3000 card into this machine and fired up a couple of games.

2016-08-16 09.17.31

The first one was last year’s “Flapple Bird,” a port of Flappy Bird (remember when that was a thing?). Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear my replacement IIe has a compatible 80-column card installed, which is why the graphics appear garbled.

2016-08-16 09.19.09

For round two I went with an older game, Accolade’s 1985 game “Law of the West.” As you can see, it fired right up.

My friend @QuinnDunki of BlondiHacks fame (if you’ve ever used a soldering iron or touched a vintage computer, you owe it to yourself to check out her website) pointed me to Ultimate Micro, a website that sells replacement power supply kits for Apple II computers. The site is currently down for retooling, but when it comes back, I plan on ordering a replacement power supply for my mostly-dead Apple IIe.

Since my primary Apple IIe imploded I have spent some time playing Ancient Legends through emulation. It’s a fun game. I haven’t got very far yet (I suspect the key to longevity in the game is finding a place to heal!) but it’s been enjoyable, and I can’t wait to take it out for a spin on a real Apple II once I get mine back up and running.

How (Not) to Get Rid of Things

I’ve written 50,000 words on my next book, A Collector of Collections. The more I write, the more I begin to suspect that I’m less of a collector and more of a hoarder. Many of the things I claim to collect are just things I’ve amassed over time and can’t seem to part with. Last Friday, I decided to take a stand. Last Friday, I decided to get rid of something. Anything.

With gusto, I walked over to my toy shelves and scanned them for something I could get rid of. Just one thing. Anything. After looking for a minute or two, I found it — er, them.

2016-08-10 08.16.07

I don’t remember when or where I acquired these plush figures, which is both a good and bad sign. They mean nothing to me. There are six of them, each one representing a different General Mills cereal. There’s the chef from Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the Honey Bee from Cheerios, Sonny from Cocoa Puffs, Lucky the Leprechaun from Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, and Chip the Cookie Hound from Cookie Crisp. A couple of them still have their tags attached to them, identifying them as General Mills Breakfast Babies. They were obviously a cash-in on Beanie Babies.

My first thought was to toss them in the trash, but I quickly decided donating them to the thrift store would be better. Before I scooped them up, I had to check online and see what they were worth. I searched online for “General Mills Breakfast Babies” and discovered that there weren’t just six Breakfast Babies released. There were seven.

I was missing Trix the Rabbit.

One “buy it now” later…

2016-08-10 08.17.38

Well, that didn’t go well.

2016-08-10 08.16.41

Twists and Turns

Ten years ago (or was it fifteen?) I got a Dremel for Christmas. I wanted a Dremel, because I saw my friend Andy using one and it looked useful. If you’ve never seen one, a Dremel is a wand-shaped tool that spins really fast. You can put attachments on the end and use it to cut, grind, sand, and drill stuff.

Below my desk is a plastic briefcase full of “blending” markers. A couple of years ago, I watched someone on YouTube draw using a set of blending markers. It fascinated me. The next day I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a wide assortment of blending markers. Good blending markers, like Copic brand, cost $6 each, and according to every thirteen-year-old girl on YouTube you need at least 2,583 markers to draw anything. I went the “cheap” route and bought a 32 pack of off-brand markers for around a hundred dollars. I came home and drew a picture of Malachai from Children of the Corn. Then I put the markers in a plastic briefcase and pushed it under my desk. My foot is resting on the briefcase under my desk right now, where it will remain until I die.

Outlander! (1024)

Anyway, back to the Dremel. The Dremel is the tool-world’s version of a Ginsu knife (or Gallagher’s “Sledge-O-Matic”). It does a whole lot of things, depending on which attachment you use. The Dremel I received came with only a small handful of accessories, so immediately acquiring more became paramount. At a garage sale, I found some poor sod who used to own a Dremel but was getting rid of it. He had a lot of little packages of cutting attachments. I bought them all, along with another big mamma-jamma container full of 150 tiny bits.

The reason I’m writing about my Dremel is because I need to solder something. A Dremel can’t solder things — that’s what a soldering iron is for — but my soldering iron has a bunch of old solder caked on it. I searched YouTube for “how to get old solder off a soldering iron” and found a guy who said you can sand it off using a Dremel.

The only reason I own a soldering iron is because of mod chips. Mod chips were chips that could be installed in video game consoles that allowed you to bypass copy protection and play pirated games. The first mod chips for the original PlayStation came with four wires that needed to be soldered to the system’s motherboard. I bought a soldering iron for that purpose. The first soldering iron I bought was under-powered, so I bought a second one. That one got gunked up with dried solder all over it, so I bought a third one. That one was garbage, too. I haven’t soldered anything since the late 1990s, but I’ve own three soldering irons. I just threw the two cheap ones away. That leaves me with one that is covered in old solder.

So, right, the Dremel. I couldn’t find it. I found some of the accessories, then I found some more of them, but I couldn’t find the Dremel. Some of the accessories were in my red toolbox. Some were in a plastic shoe box. Finally, I found the Dremel in the bottom of a different toolbox.

Yesterday I decided it was dumb to have my Dremel and its accessories stored in three different locations, so I went to Big Lots in search of a tackle box to store everything in. I couldn’t find a tackle box, but they did have a three-level plastic storage thing designed to carry lunches. I thought it would work great, so I bought it and brought it home. I then spent a couple of hours finding every one of my Dremel accessories and sorting them into little bins. The grinding wheels went in one bin and the buffing pads went in another one. The Dremel gets a tray all by itself, one that was probably designed to carry sandwiches. The third tray is full of random accessories. I don’t know what any of them do but it seems important to keep them.

2016-08-06 11.35.36

So after finding my Dremel and all my accessories, sorting all the attachments into my my carrying case, digging out my old soldering iron, and cleaning off a place to work in the garage, I sanded all the old solder off of my soldering iron. It took about thirty seconds.

I still don’t know what all these Dremel attachments are for. I will spend some time today looking each one up on the internet and figuring it out. Maybe I will make a little cheat sheet using my $100 marker set and tape it to the inside of my plastic lunch container that has been refashioned into a Dremel carrying case.

I forgot what I was going to solder.

When Memories Meet Scissors

Last night, my wife opened up a storage tub of t-shirts I’ve been saving for twenty years and, using a pair of scissors, systematically cut each one of them in half as I squirmed and watched.

2016-08-01 22.08.43

The majority of shirts in the tub were concert t-shirts, most of which I purchased at concerts decades ago. There were Danzig, Stone Temple Pilots, Motley Crue, Faith No More, Pantera, and a whole lot of Metallica shirts in the tub. Almost all of the ones I purchased at concerts had Oklahoma City listed as one of the tour dates on the back of the shirt. Concert t-shirts used to be more affordable than they are now, sometimes less than the cost of the ticket. Also in the tub were a couple of shirts from bands like Slayer and Primus that I didn’t buy at concerts, but from local record shops like Midnight Music and Happy Days Records.

The oldest shirt in the tub, I think, was a black Harley Davidson shirt that came from the shop just down the street from my Grandma’s house in Homewood, Illinois. I’m pretty sure I got the shirt when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. The shirt is thinner now than it was then. I wish I could say the same for myself.

Rob on couch in Harley shirt

None of these shirts fit anymore, nor will they ever again. Most of them were extra-larges that had shrunk from hundreds of washings. Some of them didn’t fit all that well when I was in high-school. If I lost half my body weight, still none of them would fit. Many of them, even if they fit, I wouldn’t wear anymore. Some of them contain vulgar language in big, bold letters — rebellious when you’re 12 years old, borderline funny when you’re 22, embarrassing when you’re 32 and downright offensive when you’re 42.

And yet, I still had them, waiting out in the garage, for something.

I’ve always wanted one of those t-shirt quilts that people make. The difference between Susan and me is that I will spend twenty years wishing I had or had done something, while if you mention it to her, twenty minutes later she’s on the phone making things happen.

The company Susan found requires thirty t-shirts (14″ squares) for a king-size quilt. Technically that could be as few as fifteen shirts (if you included both the front and back). Their other requirement is that you cut the shirts in half, and only send the side you want included on the quilt.

With a nod and a sigh, I gave my blessing.

SNIP!

The cat felt my hesitation and did her best to flop down anywhere Susan prepared to cut.

2016-08-01 22.37.36

Before long, the deed was done. Metallica? SNIP. Slayer? SNIP. There were a few shirts that didn’t make the cut because they didn’t mean anything to me. Funny how I will save a shirt for almost three decades only to decide it holds absolutely no sentimental value to me whatsoever. I didn’t keep any of the shirts, whether they were used or not. All of the unused backs, along with all the shirts that didn’t make the cut, are gone. The ones with graphics are going into the trash. The ones that are plain will go to my dad’s garage and become cleaning rags.

The t-shirts are being packed into a FedEx shipping box and mailed away. We’ll see what I get back in a few weeks!

Star Wednesday: A Plastic C-3P0 and Orange Rex

2016-07-27 13.23.30

Every time the word “Commodore” appears on my local Craigslist, I receive an email alert. Sometimes the alerts link to people selling cars or boats, but most of the time, it’s the computer. I received one such alert last Friday night, informing me about a computer for sale at a garage sale. I need another Commodore 64 like I need a hole in the head, and the one pictured in the ad looked pretty sad (incomplete and with a few mismatched parts), but where there’s smoke, as they say, there’s often fire.

Sometimes literally.

I didn’t make it down to the garage sale until 10 a.m., Sunday morning. When Susan and I arrived, we were greeted by a colorful character who goes by the name Orange Rex. “I’ve worn orange every day for the past twenty years,” he informed the two of us as we began to poke around the interesting items in the man’s front yard. Susan found a box of what appeared to be teaching supplies, and asked the somewhat eccentric man if he was a professor at the nearby college.

“Actually, I’m a fire breather,” Orange Rex replied. A quick Google search confirmed this fact.

The items at Orange Rex’s garage sale seemed to be split — half of them were items targeted toward college students returning to school for the fall semester, while other items were more interesting. On one side of the garage sale sat a table and chairs, some pots and pans, silverware, and other household goods. On the other side sat a few Atari 2600 cartridges, some vintage electronics, vinyl albums, books on UFOs, and all kinds of interesting things.

As Susan continued to dig around, Rex and I talked about Tiny Houses, 3D Printing, journalism, and Rubik’s Cubes. Eventually Susan asked about the Commodore (it had sold at 4:45 a.m. Saturday morning), but as the conversation turned toward vintage video games, I soon found myself in Rex’s living room, admiring his very minty collection of boxed Atari 2600 games.

At some point while I was inside, Susan found a small plastic C-3P0 and thought that I might want it. I did, but not for the reason she thought. I left the garage sale with a couple of puzzles, a book about Rubik’s Cubes, a book about UFOs and mind control, and a plastic C-3P0 from McDonald’s 2001 Clone Wars Happy Meal collection.

“Variety is the spice of life,” Susan always says after we meet someone interesting, and Orange Rex is definitely an interesting fellow. I look forward to continuing our conversations online. Maybe someday he’ll teach me how to breathe fire in return.

The C-3P0 figure is now sitting on a shelf when you enter my Star Wars room. As far as C-3P0 toys go, it’s dreadful; caramel colored instead of chrome, with weird kung-fu hands and poor posture. I didn’t buy him for any of those reasons, of course. I bought him because each time I come upstairs, I want to look at him and remember that variety is the spice of life.

2016-07-27 13.25.11

Fixing to Fix Things

When Susan and I got married twenty-one years ago, our dear friend Carol bought us a wooden serving tray. It’s made of slats of wood, with two handles that swivel. Susan loves it and still uses it. A few years ago, one of the side slats came loose. Whenever it comes loose, Susan lines up the holes where the staple used to go and pushes it back together.

A few weeks ago, I decided to fix it for her. First, I needed some wood glue. That part was easy. Next, I needed a clamp long enough to hold the thing together while the glue dried. This is called a “trigger clamp.” I found a 12″ one locally for around $20. I don’t know that I will ever use it again, which puts it in the same category as 75% of the rest of my tools.

2016-05-29 08.44.55

Good as new!

Around the same time we received this tray, my dad gave me a copy of the Fix-It-Yourself Manual from Reader’s Digest. I got rid of the book when the Internet became everyone’s source of reference material, but I probably shouldn’t have. Most home repairs, from replacing a garbage disposal to patching drywall, haven’t changed significantly in the past twenty (or even fifty) years.

About three years ago, I got into a fight with our sliding shower doors. One stopped sliding, which was okay, but then the second one began to implode. I had never seen the types of wheels used to keep sliding shower doors rolling until the time I got trapped inside the shower and had to force one of the doors open. After a good shove, I saw tiny bearings fall down into the shower pan and roll around before going down the drain. For the past three years, Susan and I have developed different techniques for taking showers. I have found that by pushing the bottom of the door along with my foot, you can balance the door’s weight and get it to slide, kind of. Susan’s solution was to simply quit closing the door. We got so desperate at one point that we considered replacing the entire shower, although we got cold feet when we got the $5,000 estimate.

I decided last week to fix the shower doors. On YouTube, I watched several videos by handymen who showed how easy the doors were to fix. After removing a tiny block at the bottom of the doors, they lift up and off a rolling track, just like closet doors. When I removed ours, I found one wheel, and three spots where wheels had once been. The two packages of replacement wheels at Home Depot were 3.50 each. I replaced the wheels in about five minutes while Susan cleaned the doors and replaced the bottom guide piece.

We have been fighting those doors for three years. Excluding the drive time to and from Home Depot, the total time to replace them was ten minutes, and that’s only because I had never done it before. I could do it next time in half that time.

Last month, the ice maker in our refrigerator stopped working. So far, we’ve put two bags of ice into the ice bin until we can figure out what to do. YouTube, don’t fail me now…