Musical Monday — Looking Out My Back Door

Looking Out My Back Door
by Surfer Rob

It’s me again
Your little talking friend
From the planet in your head
Like to propose a toast
To the humble host
Of all the crazy shit
That’s been running through my yard

It’s been a while
since we’ve felt like this
a lot of lingering love
from a literary kiss
It’s got me thinking
and I’m thirsty for more
of singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door

is that a flying car?
maybe you’ve gone too far
or maybe it doesn’t matter
not a DeLorean
Maybe I’ll get me one
when I’m making fat checks
writing for TV
there’s killer robots there
they’re flying through the air
and mopping up rebel meatbags
they’re not the only ones
’cause blotting out the sun
is an all-consuming ooze
made from future processed foods!
I know it’s crazy but just give it time
while purple plant people plot
to plunder your mind,
until they’re Roundup Ready
and we’re runnin’ to shore
a-singin “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door

(cue the face melting guitar solo)

(outro riff with some tribal tom beats)

singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door

There you go. I wrote you a song, bringing back the nostalgia of 90’s alternative pop (if you hear it the way I do, something akin to Jimmy Eat World) with a little nod to Creedence.
Happy Monday!

Stuck for an idea? Try today’s Daily Post prompt.

Fill-up Friday — takin’ care of business

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t worked Fridays since about April.

With one or two exceptions, I’ve been home every Friday for a few months, and it’s both glorious and ignominious at the same time. I know that for three solid years I worked 48+ hours a week 90% of the year, and I didn’t like it. I don’t like being indebted to such an extent. And all it took was a few changes in leadership to cut off our overtime altogether. It felt like the water was draining out of the boat on its own, like “YES”. But then I realized what had happened.

We had become complacent with the number of hours I had been working. Mme. Ross needed a car. I needed a decent computer. We had to see this family or that. I had to go surfing.

You know I had to.

All of a sudden, all the payments we were making were biting a huge chunk out of the weekly take-home. And when it comes to pay, the bills get paid first, so things have been drying up for over six months with no overtime. Suddenly, it was like the air was slowly leaking out of our bubble.

Then, the hammer falls.

Our customer — our only customer, who by the way owns everything inside the plant — thought it might be a good idea to shut down for a few weeks to give them a chance to sell all the inventory that had been stockpiled due to their borderline manic drive for production.

Remember all that overtime? Well, we became quite good at what we do!

Our company managed to negotiate for five 32-hour work weeks instead. We get to work, they don’t have to pay unemployment, and they can ensure that some employees will still be left when the production shortage is done.

I know I’ll be there. I’m a sucker. Who’s got two thumbs and is a company man?

This guy.

Another bright ray of sunshine is that this week was only three days — 24 hours — due to the opening of deer season. Right now I kind of wish I was a hunter because it seems like I could have gotten some meaning out of Monday.

I refuse to use PTO to cover the loss, because if we shut down over Christmas, there’s no reduced hours. It’s just a total shutdown. But never fear, I’m Surfer Rob and I’ve got this covered. I cut down our monthly bills budget by over $200. Almost everything is paid off. For extra ducks, I donate plasma, which I absolutely enjoy. It gives me a chance to read a real book (made of paper!) for an hour. We have an extra daycare kid starting this month and that is definitely one of the pillars of strength in our financial lives right now.

But back to this business of Fridays. I keep telling myself, “you’ve got Fridays off. Why aren’t you posting at least once a week? The weekend is all ‘getting out’, and ‘getting stuff done’, I get that.” So for that end all I have to say is, I needed to clear up some concerns.

And that’s the Kwai Chang Kane way of saying it. If that dude was gonna kick your ass, he’d look you straight in the eyes and say without emotion, “I don’t want to fight you.”

As it turns out, life didn’t know I was gonna sweep the leg. I knew how the whole fight was going to go before a single punch was thrown. I saw into him, and I saw the lie of him.

Surfer Rob wins.

It wasn’t a flawless victory, but I’ll take it. And in the spirit of a (much) clearer mind, I inaugurate Fill-up Fridays: because I gotta fill them up one way or another.

So today I played Bioshock Infinite for a few hours after Lil’ Miss woke me up and declared that it was time to wake up and go downstairs. I love that about the weekend. That game, and others like it — I will now confess — is the reason why I needed a decent computer. By decent I mean “top of the line because I want to play awesome games” and that’s what I got. I’m a little behind on the latest games, and that works well for me because I game on a platform called Steam. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a service that is not unlike Vudu (not Netflix) because you buy your games through them and through them you assure that whatever happens to your computer you can always get them back and play again. Steam is awesome, it’s over ten years old now and the best thing about it is that you can compile a wishlist. On the right side is the price of each line item in your wishlist and you can see if it’s on sale; the old price; the new price; and the percentage off.

I check it daily. I never pay full price on Steam, and I rarely pay over ten dollars for anything.

When I first got my computer, I didn’t even know what Steam really was. I thought it was a DRM scheme — like while you’re playing your game the software periodically checks in to make sure you’re not playing a pirate game — but that’s not it at all.

Steam is a community, a marketplace, and a damn good place to get good games for dirt-cheap.

When I first got my computer almost a year ago, I got three games for free as a promotion for choosing to get an AMD Radeon card in my computer.

NVidia fans, shut your mouths. I know what you’re going to say because I’m a NVidia fan, but I saved $500 on the computer and I got three free games so whatever!

So this is cool — whenever I talk to friends IRL we inevitably bring up the games we’re playing because we’re friended on Steam. We talk about them. I talked to a friend recently who said “I saw you’re playing Bioshock Infinite; that’s a good game.”

I said “yeah, I’m really enjoying it.”

If you’re a video gamer of any sort — even if all you do is Angry Birds and World of Goo — then you might want to look into Steam if you haven’t done so by now. That’s all I have to say about that. They have stuff for everyone, and the communities to support them.

And I’m all about community.

After Bioshock Infinite, I had a few loose ends to tie up with this plan to end our financial downfall. Things went . . . not exactly according to plan, but all in all I can’t complain. So now we’re on a new track. A better track. Then I went to donate plasma, made a few more stops, and came home to knock out some chores.

All in all, not a bad Friday.


Stumped for a blog post idea? Try today’s Daily Post Prompt!

Thirsty Thursdays: exploring the wave–particle duality of writing

They say it’s a bad idea to apologize to your  readers for not writing.

“Never apologize.” That’s my motto. I mean, it’s not like I’m getting paid to write, after all!

So I make it a point not to mention it.

We know that sometimes writing does get put on the back burner for other pursuits – home repair and restoration, playing video games, binge-watching Arrow on Netflix, heavy drinking, etc. But that doesn’t mean that writing isn’t important. It’s HUGE, big enough to threaten the structural integrity of the cast iron grate on that back burner. It’s boiling over, and my tendency of late is to hope that it stays that way while I’m attending to other, somewhat less meaningful pursuits.

When I’m writing my mind is this closet that I’m always dipping into, and when I write, what I take out of the closet goes back in when I’m done with it. From time to time I would get an idea and try to find a nice spot for it in the closet. But when seasons change you might forget what’s even inside the closet; you just throw your ideas in there and shut the door again. Then one day you open the door out of some morbid curiosity and this is what greets you:

picture of a messy closet
Not my closet, but if I weren’t tidy that’s what it might look like. (Photo credit: Scott Rubin)

And yeah, there’s a whole shelf of haiku buried in that morass.

Sometimes writing acts like a wave. That’s what you went out there looking for in the first place, to just have this great big idea splash out of you onto the world. What you got, however, was much more than you expected. But that’s why we ride, isn’t it? It bears down on you with crashing, primal strength. You catch it so it can lift you up and carry you forward. You ride it out, a symbiotic force of nature. You come away from it exhilarated, and you can’t wait to catch the next one.

Sometimes writing acts like a particle. it’s just this little thing that by itself is hardly worth mentioning. But if you pump yourself up you can watch the spontaneous particle spring forth from a single atom in the gas-filled tube of your imagination, watch it bounce back and forth between the mirrored ends. You’ll see it coax other gas atoms to sacrifice just a bit of energy to release other particles to run with it, and each particle added to the run multiplies the effect until eventually that one particle has become a powerfully concentrated beam of inspiration, capable of cutting through writers’ block like nobody’s business.

Writing is a perpetual task. When you’re a writer you write for life. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. That’s why I never make promises when it comes to my writing: that promise would have to be delivered in perpetuity. I couldn’t do that because eventually I’d be forced to break my promise through one means or another, if you get my drift. So for me to call this post Thirsty Thursdays might invite one to infer an implicit promise that next Thursday will bring you another post called Thirsty Thursdays. I assure you that to make this assumption would be a mistake; there are no guarantees in life.

That being said, I think I’m going to try to tackle this closet.

Haiku Today 2015.10.19 —

One Love
(Image credit: Massmo Relsig)

we build dreams —
fading river docks
spurning sleep


Have you ever found yourself wondering what Merlyn’s deal was?

Like, here’s this guy — but not just any guy — one of the last few-and-far-between holdouts  of the eld: the ancient power and science being driven out of the world by the rampant colonization of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons. 

Being driven out, and yet being driven by the hand of destiny to give one of them the power to civilize the known world. To finish the job once and for all. 

But things never go exactly as planned, and this was no exception. In the end, the efforts made by Merlyn Ambrosius in the interest of preserving the scant remains of the Celtic pagan tradition faded into history, and the power of a civilized Western Europe in the second millennium is now an undeniable fact. 

Yet Merlyn must have known this would happen, because there always seems to be this intimation that he had a sense of the future — visions, in fact, of things to come. . . strange visions indeed. So did he do his best to change the inevitable future, or was he helping push the world away from its mystic origins?

Doubtless Merlyn knew what lay behind the backdrop of ordinary life, and what would be the ultimate fate of a person who faded from this world, generally speaking. 

This magic was the old science, and if I was transformed into a mystical being with magic powers, I’d lift up that veil and have a peek at what lay beneath. . . 

. . . and the Universe says, “no spoilers, Surfer Rob!”

Because we perpetually act out this play — this little bit of theatre, while underneath the skin of consciousness, within each of us lies the eternal image of the divine Creator; because before and after there is only sleep, and in crossing over we regain the right to know what is known out there.

But as much as I like surprises, if I had the power I would pull back the shroud, reveal the Universe’s beating heart, and take in what I could; for how could I hope to understand the breadth of what is to be seen there? Could we really think that Merlyn knew what he was seeing in his visions of the future? Like Nostradamus, he likely only understood what the lens of experience allowed, and the rest . . .

naked curiosity. Riddles. 

Pure Discovery.


Do You Believe in Magic?  | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.10.15 —

the cemetery
(Image credit: Kai Lehmann)

the cycle stalled —
remains to be seen
on littered ground


I think cemeteries are cool. Often the ones we visit for one reason or another have well-manicured lawns, roads, and walks. Those are okay, but the older cemeteries have a lot of flair that the modern ones don’t even attempt to replicate; and maybe there’s a reason for that.

Perhaps we — the modern society — are just hanging on to a tradition that no longer inspires us.

Humans have been preserving their dead for thousands of years. Mummification — examples of which have been found in ancient cultures from South America, Africa, and Asia — did not long pre-date embalming, though. Egypt had the most well-developed embalming practices of the known ancient world, where over five thousand years ago you could have met priests whose job it was to keep the body intact and awaiting the return of its soul.

But today, I wonder why we persist with what is obviously a parasitic practice performed upon the planet.

The line is that modern chemical embalming took off during the Civil War, when Dr. Thomas Holmes was commissioned by the Union Army to preserve the bodies of soldiers who had died far from home so they wouldn’t arrive at their doorstep all gross and corpsified. The truth is that experiments with the practice pre-dates this by a few centuries. We experimented with various alcohols, essential oils, and spices. After Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar, just about fifty years before the start of the Civil War, he was preserved in brandy, wine, myrrh, and camphor. 

Dr. Holmes, however, preferred arsenic. 

After these human pickles arrived they’d be dropped in a pine box which would be dropped in a hole in the ground. Often they were buried in proximity to their comrades. Eventually the boxes rotted away, and the earth came rushing in. The bodies, for all the efforts of the good doctor, gave way too. After all, you can’t resist the forces of nature forever.

And in gaining access to those raw materials, the soil was ambushed by the toxic substance that permeated the tissues therein. Arsenic leached into the ground, and from there into the water supplies.

Not to mention it’s hard to prove poisoning by arsenic once a body has been embalmed. 

So nowadays, the use of less toxic chemicals is standard practice (less toxic, but not non-toxic.) We bury our dead at great expense, considering the cost of the casket and the burial vault, which is often required by a cemetery. The vault is just another box, but it keeps the ground nice and flat.

So this raises the question in my mind, do we harm the planet more as we live, or when we are unnaturally interred post-mortem?

New cemeteries are boring; I’m going to be honest about that. Old cemeteries are where it’s at. So instead of banging at the same old drum of embalming and interment into a terrestrial storage locker, why aren’t we pursuing wholesale practices that help return us to the ground in a more natural fashion?

There’s cremation, which was a good first step. But burning someone creates carbon emissions and the possiblity of mercury emissions from tooth fillings. Alternatives to that include alkaline hydrolysis, which renders the soft tissues to an inert liquid; natural burial, which allows the body to break down naturally in the soil; and promession, in which the body is flash-frozen, pulverized, freeze-dried, sifted for metals (tooth fillings and implants,) and then buried in a biodegradable casket, which allows for full breakdown in less than a year.

I like that idea. Plant me in the ground with a tree on top. Mme. Ross wants to be turned into a tree too; we can be planted side-by-side, so that we can cross-pollinate for as long as those trees stand.

At the end of the post, I just want to go back to where I came from when I’m all done. Let the living have the Earth.

Haiku Today 2015.10.13 —

(Image credit: Arend Vermazeren)

Earth and I:
lives in parallel,
always spinning


I was thinking the other day about this species of tension that people tend to have, between addictions and unmotivated desires; by “people,” of course, I refer to myself. 

But maybe you get what I’m talking about.

There’s stuff I need to do. Things I badly want to get done. Finish the playhouse. Cut back the hedges. Get ready for cold weather. The list is long but the spirit’s not willing. Earlier in the year I had all this motivation and made things happen, but now I feel like my priorities have shifted without observing the courtesy of giving any notice whatsoever. I started to blog again. Started to knit again. Started getting sucked into this fantastic game called Cities: Skylines for hours at a time. Is it the changing of the weather, I wonder? Or did I make the mistake of switching gears too soon? My hands do these things as though they have a mind of their own while the other work languishes.

As the days grow shorter, I find myself spinning more than anything, in the rush to prepare for the coming season. Too much to do, and plenty of time too . . . 

. . . but not nearly enough motivation. 

Spinning around...
(Image credit: Danbo’s World)

Haiku Today 2015.10.08 —

Mist hanging on the trees
(Image credit: Ib Aarmo)

a splendid rise
through obscuring mists —


Have you ever noticed that sometimes there’s a stigmatic backlash whenever the concept of fairness comes up?

This bears mentioning, because in society we have concepts of fairness that are upheld by legislation, regardless: equal opportunity employment, fairness in the workplace, in medicine, in real estate, etc. Whether or not it works is not the issue though, but how sometimes the response to a complaint that something is unfair is that “life is not fair”. Stop being a baby. Suck it up. 

The anticipation of such a backlash can be an obstacle to change, right?

And sometimes, when I feel as though I’ve been treated unfairly, I begin to question myself and my own motivation for feeling that way; maybe I’m missing something. The information I have might be incomplete. Or perhaps I’m just frustrated that something isn’t going my way. 

What’s more is that the farther in the past these things are, the more perspective we gain from their passing from view. We wouldn’t be where we are now if that didn’t happen — so does that change the spin of fairness we ascribe to that event? 

Besides, not getting a fair shake isn’t the worst of life’s evils — things like natural disasters, poverty, famine, perpetual war . . . 

. . . not to mention clowns. 

Unfair | The One-Minute Writer

Wicked Witch | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.10.06 —

Mirror to the sky
(Image credit: Alosh Bennett)

my island, home —
mediocre seas
make it grand


When we used to live near the Capitol in Bismarck, I might have said that the most beautiful place in the neighborhood was the Capitol grounds. The expansive green lawn populated with statues of local heroes and gardens of native flora. The running path I often used. It was a park and a public space where I would go to fly my RC helicopter or play on the lawn with Mme. Ross and Little Miss Laney. 

But when we moved to our new home it was a little different. It’s not that the neighborhood is unsightly in any way, but I just wouldn’t describe any part of it as particularly beautiful. There are really nice houses marked as heritage homes by the historical society and there’s a nice running path behind the high school that never fails to please the eye, but to me there is no place like home; it’s my island. My home base. 

Just like the house I grew up in. Every day started and ended at home, with my family –more or less. 

And though you can’t change the past, you can always change the future because you never know the shape of it until it’s too late to do anything about it. So I make it a priority to make my home everything I had and more. Because it’s not about the bay window in the kitchen and the front and back decks, the swimming pool, the real wood-burning fireplace, the shrubs and trees and the chain link fence. It’s not about the dutch door at the top of the basement stairs or the piano in the basement, unloved and forgotten. 

A family’s home is about family life, and as such my home is a work-in-progress canvas upon which I impose my art. I’m proud of it, and of the work Mme. Ross and I put into shaping it into the most beautiful place in the neighborhood. 

There’s no place like home — after all, that’s where I keep my treasure. 



Our House | The Daily Post

Local Beauty | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.05 —

(Image credit: Moyan Brenn)

fragments of truth,
crashing reflections
never break



It’s kind of a no-brainer to say that a blog is a personal space, and that as such it should reflect the personality and values of its contributor(s). Rob’s Surf Report is no exception, but it’s been a strange, random sort of evolution. 

I started the blog with the intention of learning and writing about surfing, but life never seems to push me in the right direction when it comes to that. But after rebooting — after months of community interaction, forming the writing habit, spending actual time in considering my desires and goals as they related to my blogging, I decided to stick with the name and to change the philosophy because Rob’s Surf Report had become a different sort of beast. It was more about riding out the waves of day-to -day life, of dealing with the ups and downs, and of finding the takeaway in that daily practice. 

In a way this blog betrays that mid-course change as you might find in some dark corners the vestiges of my original (misguided) intent. But what the blog has become, hopefully, mirrors what I think is my greatest strength (since good looks don’t last forever:) my capacity for reflection, and making connections. For throwing stones, watching the ripples radiate, and then bringing the picture back together in a different light. 

I’m trying to come back to that now, to find ways to do it better, more skillfully — but like any art it requires practice and patience. While the latter is another strength of mine, the former could quite possibly be my undoing. 

It could be better than ever, though. 

I can work toward that. 


Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall | The Daily Post

Strengths | The One-Minute Writer

Haiku Today 2015.10.01 —

(Image credit: r.nial.bradshaw)

lightning drives,
seeking connection
across worlds


Why is it that sometimes the hardest thing about some endeavours is finding the drive to get started in the first place?

We have a billion things to do. Make coffee, clean up, go to work — doing our part in countless ways, and so naturally we have those things that we begin with little effort, but whose completion becomes something of an inconvenience, possibly to the point of falling by the wayside: a half-trimmed hedge that nags at you until it begins using the neighbor’s voice to make itself heard. And yet when there are things that should be quick and easy to do, sometimes we . . .

We hesitate. 

This past Thursday morning it was lightning and rain, so I couldn’t run. That was totally legitimate. Friday it rained. Saturday too. I just won’t run in any rain unless it catches me by surprise. Sunday had me feeling like it was getting ridiculous with all the rain, but Autumn is here and she’s decided to bring the full of her cold, cloudy gloom to our skies. That’s what killed my motivation this weekend. I never got out to the garage. I never got to run. I never found the words.

I noodled around in my vintage-style Flash T-shirt and tried to work up the motivation to throw on my gear and shoot out the door like a bolt of lightning . . .

Instead, I remained static in the cloud of weekend activities.

I’ll do it this morning though, before I get ready for work. I can actually feel the charge of motivation building up.

Isn’t it odd how it’s easier to fit something like that in when you’re supposed to be busy?

Where the closest ocean is all in my mind . . .


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