Tuesday, September 29, 2015

That was the week: September 21st through the 27th


You are not crazy. There was no that was the week last week. So little happened that I didn't feel the need to write one.



On Wednesday I finished watching Star Trek Renegades. Star Trek Renegades is a fan made movie using some real actors. Walter Koenig plays Admiral Chekov. I think they made it for half a millions dollars. It's better than you would think it would be. The acting is inconsistent.  The "actual" actors do ok but I lot of the unknowns seem like they are doing their first gig.  Adrienne Wilkinson plays the main character, Khan's daughter. She does a good job even when delivering some corny lines. The special effects are mostly fine with a few laughable exceptions. I can say this. I enjoyed it more than Shadow Man, but I guess that ain't saying much.

Thursday I decided to make my slow cooker beef stew.  I bought the ingredients the Sunday before. This time I decided to add some mushrooms and reduce the potatoes. Being me I obviously did not get up early enough to chop up everything and get it in the slow cooker before work. I came home at lunch to make it. I reached for the mushrooms that sat in their container on top of the fridge. I pulled it toward me and a bunch of liquid splashed out and one me. I was so confused. Why was their liquid in my mushroom container.  Then the smell hit, rancid death. I looked in the container and the shrooms had decayed to a putrid liquid and a bunch of bugs were enjoying the feast.  I threw the mushrooms out and changed my clothes.  Otherwise the beef stew worked out fine.

Since I did not have the mushrooms for my stew it was a little light on the ingredients. It was a lot of broth. Saturday, I wanted to get some crackers do add a little bit to the stew. I thought why don't I see what it takes to make crackers at home.  Turns out the ingredients are simple and that I had plenty of them around.  I followed this recipe. I have to pieces of advice for you if you are going to try and make homemade crackers.  First, don't. Second, make sure that the crackers you put in the oven are all about the same size. If you end up with a bunch of little bits of cracker to put in the oven, I would suggest smushing them together to make a proper sized cracker. If you throw the little bits into the oven with the normal size crackers, they will burst into flames.  Your entire place will fill with smoke, the smoke alarms will go off, and your neighbors will think you are burning the place down. Crackers are cheap. Buy them at the store.

I've been driving a 2007 Honda CRV lately.  I had been noticing that the rear passenger door would be unlocked even when I was sure I had locked the car. I finally decided to look into what was going on.  When you locked the car with the electronic locks, the door would lock and then very slowly unlock.  When I pushed the level by hand I got a lot resistance and then the lock when open again. A bit of googling and I found out the problem is the lock actuator and that it is  a known problem with those CRVs.  In fact I had just down a recall earlier in the year to replace the one on the drivers door.  I plan to check the local Honda dealer to see if they would fix it for free. If not I think I'll just take the door panel off and take out the actuator... if that is even possible. 




Friday, September 25, 2015

The one where I learned I needed to study the science of Self improvement

I once had a life coach. After he finished coaching me, he quit life coaching.  True story.

Version 2 of my abstract thingy


When I was growing up my teacher reports would often contain some version of "doesn't apply self". If something involved manual labor I usually didn't shy away from working hard but for mental tasks I usually find the easy or lazy way to complete the task. My general policy when learning something new or accomplishing a task is to strive for  good enough to get by.  I rarely have felt the need to be the best I could be at something.  I see these people who go all out to master a new hobby or skill and I think.. wow that seems like a lot of unnecessary effort.

This lack of willingness to put out effort seems odd, because all my life I have been fascinating by people who excelled at things, mostly artistic. I could, and have spent hours watching painters paint or wood workers make fine furniture. I've assumed that if you where gifted at something you were always a master of that craft. I didn’t think if you had talent or a calling for something it would take any effort. For example while I was in college I decided to see if I had any skill at painting.  I bought a small starter paint set. One day I went to work and spent about twenty minutes slobbering paint on a cheap canvas.  The results were obviously hideous. I tossed everything in the garbage assuming I was not meant to paint.

Since then I have learned otherwise. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and skill to excel at any craft. I have decided to try my hand at painting again.  This time I haven’t just sat down and tried to create a masterpiece from scratch.  I am on my fourth iteration of the almost exact same simple abstract painting.

What does any of that have to do with the point of this post?  Not a whole lot actually, In my late thirties I realized that, as the great American bard Bruce Springsteen sang, "When I look at myself I don't see The man I wanted to be".  I found myself too out of shape in way too much debt and without a strong career path.

I decided that I needed to get my life in order and thus was born the Slackers Guide to Life. I even own the domain www.slackersguidetolife.com. My attempts at self improvement were haphazard and inconsistent. For a year I didn’t allow myself to buy anything but essentials. Sounds good but the definition of essentials at that time included eating out as much as I wanted.  I did not have a budget. It helped some but in now way did I come close to accomplishing my goals. At the end of a year I had seen some progress. My debt had lessened, I was in slightly better shape.

After that year, I did what most people do and returned to my old habits and the debt built back up. I realized I needed to make a serious effort to change. I decided to do some studying and learn some science and psychology about human behavior and self improvement.  That will be the point of the next post in this series.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

That was the Week: September 7th through September 13th


Monday we celebrated labor day here in the US. I celebrated the day by cleaning the apartment and watching American Sniper. I started writing a review for it here but it just kept getting longer. So I am going to write that up as a separate post. Short version: good not great.


I went back to work on Tuesday. Work supplies me with a laptop that a bring home with me. I do it so I can work at home, actually I just mostly watch netflix on it. The battery lasts long enough that I only need to being the power supply home during the weekend. So I got to work and noticed I had left the power supply at home.  It lasted the morning so at lunch I went home to pick it up.  I opened the door expecting the cat to greet me confused as to why I had come home in the middle of the day. I looked around.  No cat. I glanced at his latest sleeping spot, the computer chair. He wasn't there. In fact the chair was spun around and pushed away from the computer. Odd.  I checked a sleepy hidey hole that he has.  Not there either. That's when  I looked out at the balcony and saw that the tree trimming people had trimmed my tree. They did it from outside but the sound of the trimmer must have scared Jobu so had jumped off the chair and hid under the bed.  I had noticed the tree trimmers when I pulled into the parking lot. They had moved well down the complex so they must have done my tree at least an hour if not more before and Jobu was still in hiding.  I called out several times in a soothing voice, Jooobuuu.  Finally he came crawling out from under the bed all low and scared with this tail flat. I petted him for a bit to let him know it was all right and that the evil cat eating sound dragon had gone away.

Saturday ended up being a busy fun filled day. The Illini football team crushed their opponent and then I did some tailgating after. When I got home I discovered Jobu had picked a new sleeping spot. He changes primary sleeping spots every few months. I have a few different cat beds. One of them I bought shortly after I got him years ago. It had ended up in corner and he wasn't sleeping on it anymore. While doing some cleaning I had casually tossed it aside.  Jobu had decided to sleep in it again. When I had tossed it, it ended up on something so that one end is a couple of inches above the other.  There was Jobu all snug and curled up sleeping all slanted.  That boy ain't right. 

On Sunday I drove up to my parents to watch the Bears game with my dad and so some work around the house. The day was a perfect early fall day. The sky glowed above me blue and cloudless and the temperature hovered in the sixties. That was good since the air conditioning stopped working on my car. I had a good time at my parents for a few hours.  The Bears put up a good fight but sadly they lost to the hated Packers.

Note: I was running behind this week and had to write this on my lunch break today. That means I didn't proof read it. Deal. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Music Monday: In Grid - Tu Es Foutu

Yes I looked up in French what the title of this song means... Just enjoy it.




TIL(Today I learned) There is an english version of this song


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

That was the week: August 31st through September 6th



The week started pretty boring and normal.

Wasn't until Thursday that anything interesting happened. The day began with an half day meeting for work. It wasn't unbearable and I survived. Later in the day I experienced a phenomenon I've been privy too many times. Another meeting was going on in the afternoon and they had catered in a nice spread of food for the attendees when the meeting ended. A couple of people were outside watching over the food and directing people. In came a student. One of the people asked  her if she is there for the meeting. She responded, "Nope just passing through".  She then saw the food spread grabbed  a plate, and piled it with food. The guy started clearing his throat really loudly trying to get her attention. She ignored him and just walked out with her plate a food. About twenty minutes later another student comes by.  The person guarding the food asks him if he is there for the meeting. The student said no and then tried to take some of the food. The attendant told him rather forcefully that he couldn't have any. The student stomped off all angry as if he had some right to other peoples food. Probably the twentieth or thirtieth time I've seen that. I really don't understand what it is about students that they think they can just take food.

Later that night I watched the 2006 direct to video Steven Seagal masterpiece Shadow Man.  I put the movie on my netflix queue specifically because of the following clip:




Any movie with a scene that bad has to be worth watching. Actually that was by far the worst part of the movie.  I would call it overall watchable if you happen to like stupid action movies.

The Illini football season was set to begin on Friday. I walked down to the Buffalo Lard Wings to give it a watch. On my way there I noticed a storm forming not far in the north. An odd weather event occurred.  A lightning filled downpour producing thunderstorm formed directly over Champaign/Urbana and then just stayed there. I checked the weather app at one point and it said the storm was moving at 10 miles per hour. I run faster than that storm was moving.

Speaking of weather this week has been extremely hot and the AC on my car has decided to not work so well lately.  It blows really cool for about ten minutes and then peters out. Since the weather report says there will only be one more really hot day I am hoping to make it until next year to get it fixed.

I sold a bunch of old board game on ebay that I had had since I was in highschool.  Got over three hundred dollars for them.  Turns out I will need the money since I got charged two overdraft fees on one of my checking accounts on the same day.  Turns out I had some charges in holding or some such nonsense. So when I checked my balance it looked like I had plenty of money when in reality not so much.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

That was the Week: August 24th through August 30th 2015





Monday I stayed home sick with a really bad sinus or pressure headache. It took almost all day for the headache to subside.  Pills did nothing.  Sadly, the headache ruined what turned out to be an almost perfect day weather wise. The temperature stayed in the mid seventies and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.


On Thursday my recent string of being near important people continued. This time I helped run a meeting attended by Timothy Killeen (or as I now know he goes by Tim) the current president of the University of Illinois. I will not here discuss the rather sad state of my Alma Mater. I hope he can get things going in the right direction.

Friday came and the bizarre times at the University of Illinois continued. With one week until the start of the Football season, the campus was shocked.. and overjoyed by the news that Football Coach Tim Beckman had been fired for cause.  I have written previously about Coach Beckman.  The TLDR version is that he is a terrible coach and needed to go away if Illini football would ever be successful. Sometimes you have to strip a car down to its frame to rebuild it and that seems to be where we are with many things about the University of Illinois. Heck that pretty much applies to the entire state. The big question being asked now is if the athletic director Mike Thomas will be the one to hire the new coach or if his butt will be out the door soon as well.

The highlight from Saturday was watching an amazing movie. I had heard some talk about and seen a few commercials for Ex Machina.  Even though people told me it was good I think the commercials turned me off.  Watch below:


The commercial makes it looks much more horror themed than it is.  I turned it on expecting to watch it form maybe twenty minutes and then to head off to do something else. From almost the very start I sat mesmerized. It captured my interest immediately with the beauty of the film making. The framing of the shots is compelling, the sound is prefect, and the dialogue intriguing.  The movie challenges your mind. It is very cerebral.  You will be thinking about big ideas from the very beginning to hours after the film has finished. There came a specific point in the movie, I won't spoil it, in which one of the characters thought they exact same thing I did. At that moment I realized how  brilliant the movie was.

Later that day I watched the Chicago Bears look really bad in a preseason game. It's going to be a long year for Bears fans.

Great Squirrel war 2015 Update:


It would usually be a happy thing for me to report that the squirrels have left my tomatoes alone.  I have realized this week why the squirrels have been so compliant. No they aren't dead. My tomato plants are dying. A few days after the squirrels destroyed my two nice tomatoes, I forgot to water the plants for a couple of days. I was out of town. When I came back they were all wilted. I watered them and they perked back up.  Over the next week or so I noticed that leaves started to die off. I didn't think much of it. I assumed it was just a reaction to not getting water for a couple of days. More and more leaves died.  Then the flowers started drying up without producing fruit. Finally after a couple of weeks of this I took a long look at the plants. I noticed yellow spots all over the dying leaves. My plants have some sort of blight or mildew killing them.  I pulled off as many of the infected leaves and stems that I could. It left one of the plants almost stripped bare. The tomatoes that were already growing stopped at whatever size they had been. I am waiting for the last few tiny things to ripen then I will probably just pull out the worst plant. Today I did notice one blooming flower on the lessor blighted plant. Maybe there is some hope.