Monday, May 30, 2016

A Chiseled Jaw

Guys with chiseled jawlines are bodybuilders, right?  But why would lifting weights increase the muscles in your jaw.  I mean, it might.  I don't know.

But I recently watched a video on Youtube talking about simple exercises for the purpose of improving looks.  This makes absolute since to me.  Why would I want huge muscles?  So I can break into the furniture moving industry?  Yes, I want to be healthy, but beyond that it's just for looks.  And what good is a chiseled jawline for other than looks?  In his list, this youtuber said to chew gum if you want a chiseled jaw.  It's stupid obvious if you think about it.

Is it unhealthy?
No.  It might actually be good for your teeth.  And extra jaw muscles don't seem to have a drawback.

Is it expensive?
No.  Name brand gum costs about 5¢.  I can chew a five pack for a quarter.  And a pack a day seems like enough.  And it's not like I'm getting no other value than the muscle gains.  It's a zero calorie treat.

So a few weeks ago I went for it.  It was harder than I thought.  Chewing one piece was fine.  But the second was harder, and the third piece in a day would give me a headache.  So I took it slow, and worked my way up.  I chew a pack in a day now, but my jaw is sore at the end of the last couple.

And my jawline?  I can't say I would be able to notice that about myself.  Maybe I should have taken before and after photos.  But I can say my double chin has noticeably reduced since I started.  In fact, it's pretty much gone.  Part of that might be that I've lost about a pound a week from eating less.  But I think this is a factor, and a good habit to have.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Another Ending?

“He’ll be home by 4:00.”

Getting close to finishing my fourteenth year of voice lessons, I approached the door of my instructor. It had been a while since I had had a lesson … he and his wife had travelled and he was battling an illness of some kind … so I was looking forward to both singing under his watchful and expert ear and chatting about his health concern(s).

I rang the bell. The inside door was open, and someone came from upstairs, down the stairwell directly in front of the screen door. Seeing the legs come down the steps, I didn’t realize it was his wife until she was nearly on ground level; “Hi,” I said.

“Come in,” she replied; “he’s on an errand and said he’ll be home by 4:00.”

While it was not typical, it had happened that he would appear just as I was ringing his doorbell and waiting … he’d be finishing a walk with his wife, or finishing a bike ride, or pulling his car to the front of the house. This day his car was parked in front, which meant he was either walking or biking. It was again within minutes of 4:00 and I was more than disappointed he was absent. “He has minutes. Do you really think he’ll be back by 4:00?” I thought. I was not just disappointed but a little put out, as well. I said nothing.

“I am in the middle of a project upstairs,” she said, as though having to explicitly excuse herself.

“Oh, no problem; please go,” I said, gesturing for her to make the return trip up the steps.

“Make yourself at home,” and she left. I sat on the couch in the living room, on the other side of the house from the music studio where my lessons occurred.

It was my turn to play in several games of “Words with Friends,” so I pulled out my phone and started playing. One opponent was my wife; “I’m supposed to be singing. I wonder if she’ll wonder why I’m playing this now.” At 4:06 I messaged her, “I am patiently waiting for ( instructor ) … or not.”

At 4:16 I was still alone, my lesson time was more than half over, my patience was exhausted, and I was realizing I was quite steamed. His wife had come back downstairs. I got up, “I’m leaving.”

“That’s too bad.”

? “What’s too bad about that?

I would not be seeing him particularly soon, as my next scheduled lesson was one day and three weeks hence. “Please tell him I’m sorry I missed him, and I’ll see him next time, mid June, on our new day of Wednesday, as we discussed.” My collar was hot, but jumping on his wife was completely pointless and I didn’t want to do that in any event.

By the time I got home there was a voice mail on my home phone: an apology, from the heart, a lame story about thinking he had until 4:30 and then realizing that’s our quitting time. ( Four-thirty has been our quitting time for approximately forever … well, no, I exaggerate. Since fall of 2002 ). “Call me back if you want.”

I didn’t want; that was more than 48 hours ago and I still don’t want. Remembering those prior, arriving just-in-the-nick-of-time occasions, I wonder, “Is this another ending?” Stay tuned.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Convergence 2016 - #2

In my last update about Convergence, I had spoken too soon about that hotel confirmation.  The truth is, the Convergence planning committee is really bad at planning.  A couple of years ago the line to check in to the convention on the first day spanned two floors of the hotel, and people were still being checked in at the end of that day.  They stood in line peaking in to the panels that were going on.

The hotel confirmation I spoke of in my last post was from Convergence, not the hotel.  But after several back and fourth exchanges, they finally sent their list to the hotels, and the hotels got back to us.  Not only did I get a hotel room, but it's in the DoubleTree.

I predict this to be a very different experience than I've ever had at Convergence before.  Traveling there in the past has not been like going to the store.  You need to find parking, often half a mile away.  And then walk that half mile in 90° weather, wearing a costume.

And I actually splurged on a room the night before, so I can wake up there the first day.  I'm expecting it to be $500 well spent.  And still a reasonably priced vacation if you think about it.

And my costume is on it's way.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pen Requiem

A ship is not made to be in a harbor.

Last time I shared with you my find of eleven vintage pens, eight of them fountain pens, when going through some “stuff” my wife had unearthed in her on-going organizing the house effort.

I did some quick messing around and found that one of them, one of the Esterbrooks, actually still works: the lever on the side moves up and down without making a sound like breaking very old, dry, no longer supple rubber; the working of the lever still moves liquid ( water, in my case, initially ) into and out of the pen; the old ink may have been dry and hard but, when exposed to water, was dissolved into the water and the pen would write with the very diluted ink; this quite excited me.

After making sure there were no leaks, I emptied the pen of water and, not wanting to pollute a good bottle of ink with dissolved ink from the sixties, I used a syringe and a needle to fill the barrel of the pen with a modern ink. I screwed the barrel back on and, viola …

… it writes! Reasonably smoothly and it feels pretty good in my hand.

Do not mistake my delight; this is nothing compared to any of my beloved modern pens. What is delightful is that this pen, which was new around 1955, which I can actually believe I had in my hands and wrote with some fifty years ago, still writes in a somewhat pleasing way.

“What about the other seven vintage pens?” you ask? Well …

The pens on the top of the box are the ball-point pens I found with my stash of fountain pens. They still write, which surprises me still, but that is of significantly less interest than the status of the fountain pens, which are in the box.

Each, as you can likely see but not read, has a small sticky note affixed to its barrel. After further investigation, I determined that the pen I’ve already discussed is the only fountain pen readily able to write. Each of the others has a significant flaw ( puddles and spits when full of ink; not sure how to fill; … ) that prevents it from delighting me as the Esterbrook did. The sticky note documents the flaw.

My wife gave me the box for the purpose of having something in which to display my pens. Sad to say, but it is quite likely that adorning the inside of that fine box is the way my vintage pens will live out their days. 

There is a saying, "while a ship is safe in a harbor, a ship is not made to be in a harbor;" similarly, even if I manage to make the display of pens as nice-looking as the box, "fountains pens are not made to adorn the inside of a box."

Perhaps what I will do is develop a ritual and execute it with these pens. That way, at least, they will go to their final resting place after a solemn ritual commending them to it.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Food for Thought

It's now been a couple of months since I gave up eating animals.  I've made a few discoveries in that time that I thought I'd share.

Gelatin is in way more food than you'd think.  They just add it to lots of things.  Other than gelatin, I haven't found too much hidden animal parts in food.

Mama makes some great instant noodles with no bullion.  I really like the Chand flavor.  I've found that Cub sells it by the case, which is how I've been buying it.

Morningstar veggie burgers taste better than most beef burgers.  Plus they're lower in calories.  I would recommend them to anyone.

No McDonald's food is safe, but Burger King has several options.

Campbell's doesn't have a lot of soup options, but Progresso has a bunch of great choices.  In fact, soup in general is one thing you have to be wary of.  Most have a bullion base.

All in all, I've found I have options just about everywhere I go.  That really surprised me.  I expected to have to research ahead of time to find places to eat.  I really just need to check and see the options the place I end up at has.  Even if a place doesn't have any specific offerings, I can just hold the meat on something.  I've actually found my diet expanding with the foods I've been discovering.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Vintage Pens / All Mine

Imagine my surprise and delight at finding 11 vintage pens rubber-banded together when going through a box of my old stuff. Stuff that included my baby-book.

Ellie, my wife, has lately been on a “let’s get the house organized at least a little better than it is” kick the last few weeks. The house needs it; I am completely supportive. As part of that effort, she found two boxes of her stuff that included things like grade school photos, high school pictures, party invitations, photo books of the type with black pages holding black and white snap shots by their corners.

More recently … just a few days ago as I write this … she found two similar boxes of mine, which, of course, she gave me to go through. Hating to throw stuff out, hating to find stuff that ought to be thrown out, I cringed when I saw the boxes and heard what she said she had found.

Bravely, I opened the boxes. The kinds of things I found included my baby book, a graduate school rejection letter from the school I had both joined Westinghouse and moved half-way across the country to attend, a book with professional and personal profiles of the 30 graduate-degree program employees Westinghouse had just hired, degrees, my high-school diploma, every report card I had ever gotten, invitations to graduation parties for me, a booklet that my brother had put together to give to attendees of his wedding.

AND, not least in any way, were eleven pens rubber banded together, vintage pens, from the same time. I took the rubber band off

Eleven Vintage pens from my youth
and viewed the pens. Three of them ( fourth through the sixth from the left above ) are ball point pens, of limited interest. Each of them continued to write, though, which surprised me. The eight fountain pens ( I am addicted to these, if you recall ) bore the names Schaeffer ( 1 ), Esterbrook ( 3 ) and Parker ( 4 ).

I remember the name Esterbrook, and I remember fooling around with pens by that name when I was a grade and perhaps high-schooler. It’s possible one or more of these filled my hands back then. They fill with a lever on the side of the barrel. The lever squeezes a bladder, bringing ink from a bottle into the pen. I tried the lever on each of the Esterbrooks; they were OK, except for one which made a sound like it was crushing an old, dried out bladder.

I remember the name Parker, and having a Parker fountain pen in college. I didn’t remember any of these. The Parkers fill with a push button, which I don’t, frankly, understand the workings of, under a screw- off cap on the top of the barrel. None of these seemed to move up/down freely, one not at all.

The cutest pen, the second from the right, is the Schaefer. It fills with a piston, too ( at least that is what I imagine ). It unscrews from the top of the barrel.

I intend to see if any of these work at all. I will let you know what I find.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Convergence Cometh 2016

Convergence 2016 fast approaches.  Am I ready?  You bet.

Last year I spent a couple dozen hours volunteering, and it paid off.  As someone with 25+ hours in, I dramatically increased my likelihood of getting a room at the hotel, and am now the proud holder of a confirmation.

I put in a request for the days off of work three months out, and got it.

The only thing left is the costume, and I already have an idea.

File:McMurphy intro.jpg

Benny from Fallout New Vegas meets my four criteria.

Fallout-New-Vegas-Game-Benny-Cosplay-Costume-Plaid-Cost-Suit-Cos-Jacket-Clothing1. He is recognizable.  If you've played the game, you'd remember him.  He's even in the opening cut scene.

2. It should be unique.  The game came out six years ago, and I don't remember seeing anyone dressed as him before.

3. It's doable.  He's close enough in race, age, body type, and so on, that I can pass as him.  As far as the outfit?  Regular dress clothes, and a fancy suit jacket is all I need.

4. I looks good.  This is an important one.  I'll be dressed as him most of the weekend, while having fun, and meeting new people.  I'd like to look nice.  Can't go wrong with a snazzy suit.

Yes, it's a bit dated, but that just makes it unusual.  And it certainly won't be too unusual for Convergence.  As for obtaining it, it can be purchased made to order for $110.  That's pretty reasonable for a costume I can wear several times.  And it is a real suit jacket.  I may even find occasion to wear it just as that.

And talk about ready; I've already put four volunteer hours in for next year.  I've got this thing down.