Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Someone please do an intervention with Huffington Post headline writers

I don't understand myself. I recoil at Huffington Post headlines. They are bad. Often so is the content on HPo. I'm embarrassed by Rhianna's dress being scandalously low cut not because it's low cut but because it's right next to a news item announcing some actual atrocity where, you know, people have been hurt or killed or pepper sprayed or got embezzled or outraged for genuine reasons. The juxtaposition is rough now and then.

And still I go read stuff on that site from time to time. Despite my longstanding frown directed at AOL, for reasons too numerous to go into here, but which shouldn't have to be gone into at all.

I think I go to Huffington Post because the links to The Daily Show and Colbert are handy and I can get a smattering of what else might be going on, so your recipe works in that regard, Arianna. But the headlines your writers come up with are dangerously low cut in the making sense department.

Take this one for example: Couple Shares Awkward First Kiss Ever At Their Wedding.

Sounds like they're trying to say, Most Awkward. Partly because they do that a lot. Most This Most That. Also seems like there should be a hyphen in there somewhere. But this one does make sense, I guess, if you squander precious minutes of your life and watch the clip, which I'm now encouraging because it is worth seeing, as the people have waited, they say, to kiss for the first time until they're married.

Lots wrong with that, but check it out for peculiar fact that they appear to be two fish that you put in a tank to keep it clean except they got confused and started cleaning each others' faces instead. It's something.

I will remain a virgin in regards to watching this show and feel dirty just having watched the preview. But I will get an aquarium now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Will Save the Post Office. You're Welcome, Post Office

I haven't written a personal letter since right after the Magna Carta got ratified and I remember I was exchanging thoughts on that with my friend Marcus who was a crew member aboard the Merrimac at the time and we used to marvel at how our handwritten missives scrawled with goose quills might travel by zeppelin -- ah, but then the internets came around and I haven't licked a stamp in so long I still tried to lick a stamp the other day but they're self-adhesive now.

But wait just a minute. What's this? New letterhead from the desk of J Lee Rombach Enterprises, Esquire, featuring a snappy cartoon of me and my dog Boo, just out for a stroll. Just whistling along, not a care in the world. Just starting out letters like that.

Yeah. I'm back in the letter writing biz. Just feel like it. It feels good. Try it. Go buy a pack of stamps and send somebody a real live thing on paper. It's like getting in a time machine, only the time machine is sometimes closed when you want to send your letter.

We'll see how long my letter writing craze lasts.

If you would like to receive a limited edtion archival quality collector's series letter from me before I get tired of this retro fad, just send a first class stamp along with an idea of what you would like me to say plus $1.99 shipping and handling to my address, scratched out above.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Frugal Carpenter: Storage sheds for pennies per square foot

Chances are that if you've come to Rombach Manor for the first time, you've been directed to take some turns and then look for the big plywood carrot fixed to the side of my outbuilding.

A genuine Steve Arment carrot, no less. It's a collectors item. Don't rip it off.

One end of that building was teetering. Held up by spit and a whole lot of nails and black magic.

I jumped into action. I let it slide back into the earth for a number of years. Then ignored it. Then tore down the worst of it. Went back to forgetting about it. And then....then I got busy.

And started to fix it and then I went to Hawaii for a while and it snowed while I was gone and nobody wants to pound nails when it's cold so I would tap a few nails and then retreat to the woodstove.

But I finally got roofing on it. Behold:

Whoops. My ladder fell over. Luckily it didn't fall under the other ladder,
which would have caused 7,000 years of bad luck.

26-feet by 10-feet of covered storage. All salvaged material. Roofing tin, 2x4s, screws, the whole shebang.

Except for nails. I ran out of sinkers and had to go to the hardware store, otherwise this would have cost me nothing. Granted, it kind of looks like that.

But except for the hours and hours and hours it took me to salvage all the stuff -- nuthin'.

Except for 3 pounds of nails at $1.49 a pound.

Divided by . . . or into . . . uh . . . you know what? I'm not good at math. But for 260 square feet of storage, that ain't bad.

And the wind came up the day after I got the roof screwed down . . . it's still on there and the thing is still standing so this concludes our latest edition of The Frugal Carpenter.

Review: Thomas McGuane 'The Longest Silence'

Double-linking, I guess is what I'm doing here, but hoowee . . . I'm just barely into this here book and already urging everyone with eyes to read it. Or ears. It's probably on tape. If not I'll read it to you over the phone if you're on my Friends and Family plan.

Thomas McGuane. The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing.

Review over at The Gearboat Chronicles, which is already linked on this site, but just pasting the whole thing here seemed wrong. This seemed less wrong.

Seriously. Good book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Signs of Hawaii-ishness

The Talk Story bookstore in Hanapepe, Kauai is one of my new favorite places to get stuff to read. Also, it's the westernmost book store in the USA, as the owner pointed out. Which was good, because I wasn't sure and was about to leave and keep looking for the westernmost bookstore because I don't fool with middle ground booksellers.

Many folks would say the Aloha Theater sign, also in Hanapepe, has seen better days. They would be wrong. I like to see some weathering on cool old signs I'm looking at and this one is perfect. Don't question me on this, I apprenticed with Papa Joe Dawson at Avalon Signs in Ben Lomond, CA and Joe taught me some things.

I find it endearing that there aren't even speed bumps in Hawaii. Strong evidence for their claim to being a good place to reside.

Even stop signs have more to say in Hanalei. Good info.

Even lizards forget to apply sunscreen now and then, and just look at the condition of this guy's skin. I tried to put aloe on him, but he resisted.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pipes seem to be in no danger of freezing on Kauai

11 degrees the morning I left for Kauai.

Drained the pipes on Rombach Manor just so's I wouldn't have to worry about busted copper joints back in Oregon while simultaneously worrying about sunburn on Kauai. I can only fret about one temperature extreme at a time.

A pot of gold at the end of . . . awww, man . . . it says Keep Off. . . .

Even ponytails grow pretty flowers over here. You need special shampoo, though.

Here's nieces Emma and Claire toward sundown at Baby Beach --

And little miss Anna. . . .

I don't know this guy's name, but he was a way better snorkeler than the rest of us.

Be something of a bother when I go to trade in the flip flops for insulated winter boots again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Scott: Protest Hits the Poker Table

Here's a longer, king-size version of the last 'Furthermore' column....which irritated one commenter on the Chieftain site, who challenged me to document one instance of TARP funds being used for bonuses. Well, HondoLane, I had to look up TARP funds first, because I'd forgotten that's what they were called. And then the exhaustive research really began. I googled "bailout money used for bonuses?" and about 30 seconds later was reading an article about a junket for executives at A.I.G. right on the heels of the bailout where the spa charges alone came to 23-thousand.

And then I quit reading, because research just tuckers me out. So I take your challenge, Hondo, and reverse it by challenging you to document that it has not been documented that following the release of bailout funds, somebody got cucumbers on their eyes in a spa and they probably wouldn't have if taxpayer money hadn't been kicked out for the general good of the nation. Get back to me on that.

Here's the revised version of Occupy Scott:

Occupy Scott: Protest Movement Hits the Poker Table

I joined an economic protest movement last weekend called Occupy Scott. It was on a much smaller scale than the Wall Street-related protests—Scott’s just one guy—but there were enough similarities that I now understand what drives the big-time protestors and got some insight as to how these uprisings function.

Scott’s a good guy. But he’s also an investment broker and when people like that have more money than you, it rankles. Particularly when some of their money used to be your money and they got it through an outrageous transaction. Like bailout funds becoming CEO bonuses. Or Scott beating your three-of-a-kind in poker with a ridiculous hand he had no business playing. Technically it wasn’t a criminal act for Scott to call my large bet and stay in with two horrendous cards that he eventually beat me with, but it sure seemed like it should be illegal and I felt he should go to jail for many years.

That's him, in the foreground. Probably been stealing golf balls or something.

Scott, myself and other buddies from college get together once a year and have ourselves a poker tournament. Scott got on a roll this year, his pile of poker chips growing until they developed a gravitational pull on even more of our chips and everybody except Scott resented this trend.

So we organized and began a grassroots poker table movement to Occupy Scott. Our demands were simple: quit taking our money. Or at least stop gloating about it. There may not be many parallels between Wall Street shenanigans and a game of Texas Hold-Em, but rubbing things in does seem to bring on the protestors in both cases. If you’ve run a bank into the ground, sent the economy into a tailspin and rewarded yourself for your good work with taxpayer money, that might be viewed as taunting and send the wrong message.

But that’s the game, on both Wall Street and at the poker table. You collect as much money as you can, however you can. Bluffing, playing some hands you normally wouldn’t. And now and then it pays off. And big payoffs lead to more opportunities. Scott could afford to risk his money against my solid hand because he had a tower of chips and it wouldn’t hurt him to wager. Then he caught his flush on that last, hateful card and I wanted to go live in a tent in his yard and poop on his car.

You can push people around at the poker table when you’ve got more chips. You make reckless moves against the little guy because they can’t afford to call you, even when they know what you’re doing is wrong . . . heeeey, wait just a minute . . . maybe there are more parallels between poker and Wall Street than I thought.

Those of us in the Occupy Scott movement couldn’t really call our congressional representatives and demand fiscal reform or that the cards be dealt differently. I tried, but they didn’t answer. So I’m afraid our tactics weren’t that sophisticated. There was no violence, but lots of verbal abuse. Unflattering names, disparaging remarks, that sort of thing. Which Scott welcomed. He encouraged the outrage, in fact. Because when emotions cloud your judgment at the card table you go on tilt, doing things you shouldn’t without the bankroll to justify such behavior.

Poker and life do not parallel on that point. I’d bet if Occupy Wall Street accomplishes something, it will be because elected officials do answer a call to deal certain cards differently—and the occupiers being on tilt will have been the reason. In poker, going on tilt usually just speeds up the process of losing and going home.

I wonder how long the occupations will last, with winter coming on. That’s an all-in situation, where you decide whether committing everything to this one situation is the right move. All-in situations are usually intriguing to watch and seeing the next few cards in this game should be interesting.

Scott went home with about 350 of our dollars, but that figure was significantly higher before the Occupy Scott movement gained momentum. He claims that market fluctuations in the form of bad cards were to blame for his slight dip in earnings, and not the protest. But of course he would say that.

Hard to say what the impact of the real Occupy movement has been, or will be. But there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.