I think that I shall never see…

some poems are lovelier than trees... It depends on the poem and the tree.

I thought this looked appropriately enough “end of the world” to fit the overall theme for my 365 project this year. A leafless tree, leaning perhaps from years of wind blowing on it, bad soil, or disease. Add to it the nasty clouds and the orange fire of the setting sun peaking through to the southwest, and the whole scene looked wickedly creepy.

Actually from my porch it seemed there was more orange-to-grey than the little sliver seen here, but maybe the clouds moved by the time I made it over to the spot. My daughter also tried to follow me across our nasty road, and I had to chase her home so she wouldn’t get splattered.

Other than that, the first week of my “picture a day” project is a wrap. I just have to keep it up for 51 more weeks. How hard can that be?


XMas Traditions

Well. It’s done America. Get the towels and clean yourselves up because the Orgy of Greed is over.There’s light at the end of this long dark painful tunnel.

Is the light at the end of the tunnel just a train coming the other way?

Its time to toss the tree in the woods and shove the ornament boxes back in the attic behind the old furniture and baby clothes that you intend to give away…someday… when that brother/sister/cousin-in-law finally get down to business.

Its time for the annual Burning of the Cards (A Christmas Tradition I started several years ago when I was having trouble lighting a fire and was fresh out of newspaper and fatlighter), provided the temperature is cold enough. Right now I’m staring down the barrel of 65 degrees, so the burning of the cards will have to wait.

Twinkly tree. No - my ceiling is not crooked, I took it from an angle.

In Canada this is known as boxing day, a day when you box up returns and send them back. It still might be boxing day for you. I have to sort through all the boxes, and decide what to keep and what has seen its last Holiday. All those old shirt boxes? Done. The Amazon.Com boxes my stuff came in this year? Saved for next year (so if you open your gift and it says “North Face Sleeping Bag” on the outside, it might still be a set of matching towels. Never get too excited before you actually OPEN the box.

x-mass is a juggling act

Its time for the Dumping of the Carcass. You know the one I mean, the turkey, in all its bony glory. Now that the Food Orgy is over, you might look at that bony bird with regrets  and plan to, THIS YEAR, finally go on that Mary-Kate Olsen diet and fit back into your “old jeans”. Christmas is always a juggling act, with all the various people to see, places to go and events to attend. My wife and I thought up a plan for next year, get up on x-mass morning and drive to Disney World. That’s one heck of a present, and it solves a lot of planning issues.  We just have to keep it from our daughter – something hard to do when she’s nine.

A new hope

Its time to start something new….

In 2010 I did a photo project, my “Project 365”. Its a long, tough project where you take a photo every day. It doesn’t matter what of, you just take a picture every day. It gets hard because as the season’s change, there’s only so much to take pictures of, nature-wise. Fall comes around, do you really want two weeks of red and yellow leaves? I don’t think so.

So I waited a year before my next one. And I missed some good opportunities along the way. Even Wal-Mart can provide some interesting shots every now and then. The funny food label, the people, and the Sunday-before-1pm Church Nazi blue laws rope.  All good subjects.

Today is the Winter Solstice (Happy Solstice! to all you Wiccans, Druids and other Pagans out there, today is your day to celebrate, even though the Christians are three days late), and according to the Myans, this is the final year. Next year their calendar runs out, and the next 5000 year age starts (or something like that). Why the Mayans are trusted as the authorities on the end of the world, I don’t know. They couldn’t predict their own extinction, so why, hundreds of years after they are gone from the planet, are they trusted to predict the end of the rest of us?


Any way…. I’m sort of OCD about things. Last time I did my project from Jan 1, to Dec 31. If the world does end in 2012 on Dec 21… I’m going to be really upset that I didn’t get to finish. So if I start today, I should finish with a day to spare (after all, 2012 is a leap year, there’s an extra day in there to mess with).



Its not over until the fat lady sings.

Do all operas end with fat ladies singing? Or does that refer to one particular opera? I’m just curious, I think I’ve only been to one, but it was a community theatre type of thing so I don’t think it really counts.

Any way, I’m not seriously talking about opera… I’m making a reference to Christmas, or as it’s more correctly called, x-mass.


The shopping is laid by the Chimney with care.


Last week we went to the Pineville mall, in North Carolina. I know, I know, shop locally. Find me an REI outlet and I’ll go there. Same with an Orange Leaves self-serve yogurt place.


Whatever happened to frozen yogurt?

Used to every idiot gas station owner had some columbo machines, now it’s all gone except for the odd TCBY in a major city. Where did it go?


I’m off on a tangent… Any way, we went to the mall to complete our lists in what I thought was the last trip of the season. Oops. Wrong. But this was most of it. The boxes were packed and the stocking was hung.


Twas the Lights before x-mass.


There’s a town not too far from Charlotte, NC

It bills itself as “Christmas Town, USA”. I hesitate to post this, as I also live in a small town, and they might get the idea to try this same thing, and the last thing we need is ten thousand cars driving through town every night blocking traffic and not buying anything.


But here goes:

So the whole town lights up their trees and yards, at least on the main thoroughfare through the city. I think their must be some rules though, because all the lights are the same green red and white. Nothing overly garish and no multicolors.




It was overall a pretty sight. If you’ve never been, however, don’t The traffic is horrible. It was like trying to get into and out of a big name concert.

Seriously it took an hour to go a few blocks. There are three exits from 85 into this town, and people were not following directions. The troopers had to let some people in, and they were getting in front of the people that DID follow directions.

Angie got out of the car, walked two blocks to the Shell station, got a coke, and walked back and we had moved two car lengths.

The traffic tempered our whole experience negatively.







This guy tried hard, but he misspelled X-Mass



Its a testament to our slow speed. I took these all from the driver’s seat.








Oh, Tannenbaum!


  So we got the tree up. If you’ve never shoved an 8 foot tree into the back of a Honda CRV, you are missing out on some good stuff.


I tried something new this year, a time lapse of us decorating the tree. It was sort of funny, but as my wife says I was not dressed appropriately for the interwebs, my video will have to remain anonymous. I also realized my tripod wasnt straight, and someone bumped it halfway through so it shifts, but it was fun.


Kaylee enjoyed waiting the 20 seconds for the next picture and posing.












The finished product. I’m scared when the wife starts going all Martha Stewart on stuff (The home decorator Martha Stewart, not the Inside Trader in Prison Martha Stewart).


But the tree turned out nicely, despite some initial concerns on my part.









Hail Mary, full of Grace

My daughter was “Mary” in the school x-mass program. Unfortunately due to a bad costume department, her Mary hat kept falling off, and here she is just wearing a Santa hat with the rest of them.


Of course, then the ACLU got involved and said schools can’t be doing this sort of thing, so the second program was cancelled.


I say, if you don’t like this sort of thing in school programs, don’t go. But that’s just me. And I’m not a greedy a-hole trying to extort money from schools, so there you go.




I need a longer lens, or a better seat.












Like I said  – its all over but the fat lady singing (shouldn’t it be the fat lady eating dessert? After all if she’s fat, she’s more likely to eat than sing).

The presents are wrapped under the tree with care, In hopes that x-mass eve soon will be there, before the burglars come and take all of our crap.


My wife always says this is the part that causes her the most grief, the last week up until its over.

Im the opposite, the shopping and wrapping are done, its all smooth sailing from this point out. Just a few drives, some food and a day or two off of work. Game on, Santa. Game on.










the Twelve Days of Christmas – vs. the Homeowner’s Association, part deux.

The eagerly anticipated conclusion.


Swans! First Geese and now swans? Mr. Wallace, it is December 27, and while going for my early morning walk with my clipboard and flashlight, I heard HONKING from the area of your back yard with the water feature. I approached the area past your “no trespassing” sign, and observed a total of Seven Swans swimming and walking about next to your water garden. Not only is this unhealthy, for they are pooping anywhere they please on your lawn, but any fish in the water have got to be traumatized. Remove these beasts at once! One of them chased me, and had I injured myself while trespassing on your property, I might be forced to take legal action. The tree removal service laughed at me by the way. If I have to dig that thing out with my bare hands I will.

As your HOA president, I am appalled at what I saw this morning. On December 28, while driving by your “house”, I saw eight women next to the road, milking what appeared to be some sort of bovine stock. I’m not sure if this was some political satire, making light of the seven board members and myself, but whatever the purpose was, I am relieved to see that they have gone, and taken the livestock with them. Rest assured if this activity keeps up, we will force you to move. This place was the epitome of pleasant suburban living before your lot moved in, and as far as your neighbors are concerned, you can move at any time. Also, about your tree, it really needs to come up, preferably while it is still dormant.

Your perversity beguiles and disgusts me Mr. Wallace. On December 29, while sitting across from your house in the vacant lot, using my telescope, I was able to see through your front windows. I saw what appeared to be nine ladies, including your wife, dancing to a pounding musical number, gyrating while wearing stretchy material, in full view of whoever might drive by looking at your house. I have video if you deny what I am saying. I’m not sure what their purpose was, but I will keep an eye on your house to make sure you and your wife are not running some suburban whorehouse! I did note that when they left, one of the ladies was Mrs. Jackson, the aerobics teacher from the gym downtown. How dare you get her involved in such nonsense! My son has said if your tree is not removed by this weekend, he will take care of it with his chain saw.

Your flagrant violations of our rules have driven the board to distraction. Every day I come home with more news to report to them, Mr. Wallace. This afternoon; December 30, while checking on your geese and swans and calling birds, I saw ten men outside. They were leaping around, throwing an oblong spheroid ball they called a “pigskin” back and forth at each other. Some of them were even consuming alcoholic beverages in public while you apparently grilled meat outside! This, as you know, is in direct violation of our CCRs, and you will be fined accordingly. Next time this occurs, I will call the local Constabulatory, to deal with your transgressions. I poured used motor oil on your tree today. While it will be bad for the environment, I am confident this will kill the roots, and the tree will never survive. You might as well dig it up now.

Pipes! You play the pipes? Of course I should have realized the name Wallace was Scottish. Such noise cannot be tolerated. It is with disgust that I observed a band of pipers this evening outside your house, playing the most horrendous noise. It is New Year’s Eve, have a little respect for those of us living in your neighborhood. I am just glad they only played a few songs before leaving. Crouching in the bushes across the street with my video camera is hard enough without listening to that dreadful music. I see your damn tree is still there, you uncooperative bastard.

I have had it with you, Mr. Wallace. After staying up late watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and tasting various sorts of alcohol, INDOORS, where it’s allowed, I have a splitting headache. It is January first, and while driving by your house I heard what had to be twelve drummers pounding away. I’m not sure where you put 12 drummers, or why they were there, but that’s what it sounded like. If I hear that noise tomorrow, I’m going to ram my new SUV right into your front door. While I’m at it, I poisoned your “doves”, took your French hens to Kentucky Fried Chicken, freed your calling birds, had the DNR pick up your geese and swan, turned the milkmaids in for animal husbandry violations, put your dancing sluts on YouTube, turned your pipers into ASCAP for performing songs without paying the performance fees, and, I took a dump on your damn pear tree. Now how about we put all this behind us so we can be neighborly once again? After all, living under the rule of a Homeowner’s Association is all about cooperation and being a good neighbor so everyone stays happy.

Yours Truly, Jhard Nhat Cee, HOA President.


The 12 Days of Christmas… versus the Homeowner’s Association.

When some of my neighbors wanted to form a Homeowner’s Association a few years back, those of us with common sense and a modicum of intelligence tried reasoning with them. When that didn’t work we beat the troglodytes down with big sticks. It was a lot of work and nastiness , all because they were trying to keep out the “undesirables”. Finally the lawyers told the clipboard toting yard Nazis;  “Look, there wasn’t one before people moved here, so you can’t create one now”. Thank goodness for SC laws. Anyhow, the event left a bad taste in my mouth, and now I revile HOA’s any time I get a chance (which is most often in the current form – the printed word). I made reference in one of my novels to the fact the Queen of Hell herself created the idea of HOAs, and it was only through her evil actions that they came to Earth.

If you were my friend on facebook this time last year, you would have read this. Maybe…

Its the last thing I pulled off of there, so I’m going to have to start coming up with some original material. Its very long, so I’ll present it in two parts.

Herewith; I present:

The 12 Days of Christmas: vs. the Home Owners’ Association.

Dear Mr. Wallace, as the president of the Homeowners’ Association, I need to advise you of the following: On December 21, you planted a Pear Tree in your front yard. I remind you that fruiting trees are not permitted in the front yards of residences, nor within 50 feet of the road on corner lots. You also failed to submit your request for planting of said fruiting tree to the HOA board two weeks prior to the planting, which did not allow us time to study its impact on property values. There was a note by the inspector that the tree originally came with a bird of the partridge family, but as the bird has since flown off, no harm is done in that respect.

Mr. Wallace, You continue to violate our rules. On December 22, It appears that you have taken in more birds. A cage was spotted on your back porch containing what looked like two pigeons. Pigeons are the blight of cities everywhere, and I respectfully ask that you keep a close eye on them so as they do not escape. My son informs me as I write this that  they are “two turtle doves, not pigeons”. Still, we will be keeping our eye on them. There is still the matter of that pear tree. We note you have not taken steps to move it.

Once again Mr. Wallace, you have failed to follow the letter of our laws. Continued transgressions will result in fines, and general rude behavior on the part of your neighbors. On December 23, We noted that you have installed a small fence in your backyard. I was flabbergasted to realize that you have somehow obtained three French hens, and are currently keeping them in your yard. Despite their being at the bottom of the hill, away from sight of any of your neighbors, and only visible if someone parks a large SUV at the edge of your lot, stands on the bumper and looks over the fence, they are a definite violation and will not be tolerated. No livestock will be kept in our subdivision. And, while I am writing, what steps are you planning to take with that tree?

Mr. Wallace. It is noted that despite our niceties, you continue to add to your menagerie in an increasingly flagrant way. On December 24, one of your neighbors reported that through their upstairs bedroom window, they observed you hang yet another cage in your back porch sunroom. It appears to contain four small birds, all making tweeting sounds. Your neighbor is protesting the noise, and we expect you to meet with him and find an equitable solution prior to the next board meeting on January 10. Also, if you cannot remove the pear tree on your own, we will provide a shovel and an undocumented laborer of our choosing, and bill you the estimated three dollars for its removal.

Mr. Wallace, I notice that your previous violations have not been resolved. Today is Christmas Day, so I will not berate you too much, except to say that maybe the spirit of the season will move you to fix your issues and be at peace with your association. Also, digging through your trash for evidence of CCR violations, I found a box and gift receipt showing that you have received five gold rings. Maybe you could sell them and hire a landscaper to deal with your fruiting tree issue.

Mr. Wallace! Myself and the other board members are extremely distraught over your latest violation. On December 26 a neighbor observed your water garden. Although this water feature was approved at one of our previous board meetings, and is within specs listed in section 5, page 321 of the CCRs, nowhere in the in the approval forms does it allow for water foul. The six geese currently taking up residence next to your water feature must be removed immediately! If they are wild birds, they must be caught and disposed of humanely to prevent their return. Also, we note with some disdain that your pear tree is still in situ. I have called a tree removal service and will be scheduling its destruction.

I took the road less traveled by

I’ve previously revealed several facts, for those of you who are following my rambling diatribes.

1. I’m a nerd. A fact well established by my lack of interest in pretty much all professional sports, my love of geeky computery stuff, and my unathletic physique. Add to that glasses and a grasp of the English language, and there lies the proof.

2. I have been overcome with a wanderlust that is leading me to seek solace and adventure in the woods. Maybe it’s my midlife crisis. At least I’m not another idiot 40 year old driving a Hummer in the city. I saw one the other day with a handicapped tag. Who knew a midlife crisis was a handicap?

3. As a nerd with a wanderlust and a sudden attraction to hiking and backpacking, I have of course filled some of my spare time with nerdly pursuits. I downloaded an app for the iPad (essential nerd gear) called Zinio. Zinio is an app for reading magazines, without all the hassle of compiling loads of paper periodicals. Plus, Zinio keeps up with your stuff, so if you lose your iPad, you can always download you magazines again on your new one.

There are quite a lot of magazines available through Zinio. It is like the amazon of e-mags. One of them is Backpacker, which of course is geared towards the type of activity I have lately been interested in. You would never know by the title, would you?

Anyhow, one of it’s finer points (among articles of what to do if you break your leg three days from your car, what to do if you piss off a bear, or comparisons between down and synthetic sleeping bags) are columns geared towards getting people outside and hiking. Because hikers who actively hike will buy more hiking stuff, and that sells ads in Backpacker. In every issue there are various routes and photos and places to go, both large and small, some like this:


The thing that caught my eye was at the end of each article, however. Trip ID, and a number. Could it be there was more information. I’m perfectly willing to pour over maps like the next guy, but could there be a better way?

Yes. By going to the Backpacker web site and poking around, I finally found a way to use the trip thing. It seems they have made hiking nerd-friendly. By including a zoomable google map with waypoints for the GPS, and even photos submitted by readers, it is a big help to those of us just getting started. I can go into the woods thus fully prepared, with my maps and my gps to help guide me around. I even know how many days a certain adventure should last, and approximately where to set up camp.


I have my backpack (well, I will as of dec 25. Right now it’s in a big Moosejaw box by the tree), my hammock tent, sleeping bag, water bladder, micro stove, cup and the all important titanium Spork. Evidently I’m supposed to have something called a base layer (which I think is a fancy word for some synthetic shirts that wick away sweat), and hiking shoes (my bright green Fila Skeletoes should work in summer, I hope. I might have to get a second opinion). I also need trekking poles, which are basically collapsable ski poles. You carry 40 pounds on your back for miles, you might need a couple on canes to walk on, too. I even have some purple paracord (for hanging food in the tree). Why purple? How could you misplace Barney-the-Dinosaur colored purple rope? And who’s going to steal it?

Now I just have to learn how to prepare food for trips, and how to cook dinner in an oversized coffee cup, because a lot of places don’t allow camp fires. Given my track record, a campfire might be a bad idea for me anyhow.

There’s one other thing I think I need. Since backpacking is a way to turn off the modern world and return to a primitive lifestyle, even for a few days, you are faced with some of the same problems as primitive man. Back before we as a group discovered “hey if you plant the round things in the middle of the fruit in the ground, they grow into more fruit!” man divided his time equally between hunting for dinner, and dinner hunting for him. Being in the back side of nowhere I don’t want to face down wild angry critters with nothing more than collapsable ski poles. A big mean-looking Crocodile Dundee knife might come in handy for camping, self defense against charging beasts, and for frightening off the more feral humans, as well. I don’t plan on “Squeal(ing) like a Pig!” for anyone… Ka-Bar makes a kukri machete that looks just the ticket…

Now how the heck am I going to recharge my iPhone in the woods?