Category Archives: Life

Posts about stuff

Out of the Draft Box, Part 4: Haiku Today 2015.10.23 —

autumn leaves
(Image credit: Phoenix Wolf-Ray)

falling leaves
wash the ground with death
in color —
unseasonable
as it’s been lately


Here it is, the last post in my draft box. These drafts were nice jump-starts to posts, having a haiku to roll around in my mind while I’m writing out whatever happens to be streaming from my consciousness at the moment. Though I can’t say what I was thinking at the exact moment that I was writing this tanka, I do know that at the time I was starting to figure out that manufacturing was going to eventually do me in.

And by that, I mean to say that I had recognized my folly in thinking that I would ever see any kind of relief from the soul-crushing work schedule I had been subject to whilst working at the Bobcat plant here in Bismarck. This plant had shut down in 2008, just a few months after I relocated here from Detroit, and at the time it was a Union shop. I was told my only way in was to know someone and at the time I really didn’t know anyone. So when the plant re-opened quietly under subcontracted management (Bobcat’s way of snuffing out organized labor, I suppose) I was able to slip in and almost instantly find more gainful employment than what I’d been doing in the interim; but they worked the hell out of us.

When I first started, they had just set up the fab shop. We had some brake presses, a laser, a plasma cutter, a saw, a lathe, and a couple of vertical machine centers. They had us working twelve hours a day, five days a week, and ten hours on Saturday, making parts to feed the weld lines. And for years, they told us they’d cut back hours when we caught up, but we never really caught up. We clamored for years for pay increases that were promised and never delivered.

So at the time I wrote this tanka I was almost three and a half years in, and thinking that one day I was going to just jump into my lathe and let the machine pulverize me.

Of course I wouldn’t do anything like that; but I’m sure we understand that when things get dark, the imagination goes wild.

This is the darkness that pulled me away from writing. I turned to escapist routes to keep me from getting dragged down. I played a lot of video games, I watched a lot of TV, knit a lot of hats, and tried to think hard about what I was doing.

I realized at the time that my folly was in falling to the sunk-cost fallacy of my facile choice to be a fabricator. And it took me another year and a half to feel comfortable enough to extract myself from the situation.

So the question is, where does this particular folly end?

How do I know I’m not making the same mistake right now?

I probably am, and now I wonder whether my folly was in thinking that it was my career choice that was sucking all the joy out of life.

More likely, it was my choice of employer; could I be repeating that folly even now — just going from one disaster to the next? What comes after this, then?

(Image credit: suRANTo dwi saputra, CC0 1.0)

My New — Fruitful — STEM Hobby

(Image credit: Erik Furulund, CC PDM 1.0)

I wonder who’s going to see this.

Yes, we have no prompts today! I looked them all up, I looked them all over . . . I considered them all. I had a funny idea of using them all in an alternate title to this post, and then just freestyling the rest.

It would be a shameful play for more reads, more eyeballs on my post. But shouldn’t I let that happen naturally? I decided that today, I will go prompt-free. Bold.

I’d rather talk about my latest passion-project: promoting the production, and packaging, the excretions of microscopic fungi for future consumption. How exciting, to bring so many worlds together! It’s like cooking food for billions of pets, most of which do not yet exist; then you throw a relatively small portion of the end population right into the food and check in on them frequently as they feed and multiply and excrete over the next three to four weeks. When the food runs out, they all go to sleep. Then you move all that fungus-pee to a different vessel, and wash all your pets right down the drain.

It’s like a science experiment!

Then you throw in a little more science. You see, it’s not easy to actually move all of that end-product exclusive of your prized pets — you know, the ones you washed down the sink. A few may be left stranded behind, and the last thing you want now is to have them start the experiment all over; after all, you’re past that step. So you add a few minerals to make sure they can’t do that anymore. Then you sweeten it up a touch.

Then you drink it and get all kinds of fish-nickered!

Of course, I haven’t had a chance to drink any of my mead yet. Well . . . not technically. You see, every time I rack a batch to a clean carboy it leaves some behind. The lees, which is not what we want, with a thin layer of mead on top. So every time I try to finish siphoning off that liquid with just the tube into a glass so I can try it. My first few batches, being based on a basic recipe, were somewhat harsh on the alcohol flavor. That ages out; they say that mead needs to age 6 months to a year to mellow out and whatnot. But when I hit my fourth batch I discovered something interesting: If you use juice instead of water, the product is drinkable almost right away.

Science!

My fourth batch, I’m so proud of it. So delicious that when I couldn’t get the last of the liquid separated from the lees I drank the whole thing. No regrets. Now I’m doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Making hooch. Looking at recipes by people who do it cheap. So often nowadays I find myself wondering, ‘I wonder if I could ferment that?’ Or thinking, ‘I could definitely ferment that.’

Batch 5 is just about done, and I do believe I have a new crazy experiment in mind for batch 6, a recipe called Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead.

So if anyone is wondering what I’ve been getting up to while letting my blog languish, wonder no more. Making wine is only the latest thing I’ve taken up, but it’s fun and takes a lot less work than one might think.

And it’s science. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Out of the draft box, Part 3: Haiku Today 2015.10.24 —

Ironclad
(Image credit: Rob Ross [that’s me!])

Ironclad —
a pact between waters
of Earth and sky


The gray autumn sky chills. It’s full of reminders of things we have yet to do –– things left undone. It’s packed with guilt and frustration; it hangs around like a guest who’s worn out their welcome, chilling us to the bone. Consuming the warmth of summer as quickly as it came. It hangs heavy on my heart and weighs on my mind.

The gray autumn sky comforts -– it’s a looming alarm that says, “time’s up, buddy. Whatever you had planned, you may as well shelve it. You’ll have plenty of time to make it even better than you had hoped. So put on a pot of coffee, some slippers, and your hoodie. Play some video games. Dig in, stay warm. It’s not the end of the world, or else I would not be here.”


Here I am again, taking stock of what’s left in my draft box. Just one more after this, and I’m going to have to work that much harder to turn the purse of my mind inside out; and it may look, for all I know, like a TeeTurtle with the same question mark and dubious smile on both sides.

My instincts tell me that I still have much to tell and stories to unfold, I just have to get after them. And even when life and work and all things seem like a huge cluster . . . bomb, I intend to find the time to make it happen. After all, I have been known to be a time thief. πŸ˜‰ The time is coming for me to take stock of all that is overwhelming in my life — for it’s been so good for so long that the load is getting ponderous.

I remember a time when life flowed more quickly. Moving here, moving there. Not having the kind of discretionary funds to do much more than live day-to-day and cobble together my hobbies as cheaply as possible. Things were simpler, and less of a hassle. Now I take stock and everything I see looks like something all-too-neglected . . . every skein of yarn I thought I was going to turn into a pair of socks or whatever; every exercise widget and gadget that’s rarely used in my fitness regimen, such as it is. Books. I haven’t read a book in forever, it feels like — and yet I still own quite a few of them, some of which will only be taken from me when I am dead. Clothes that no longer fit. Clothes that I’ve never really worn.

I’ve been ramping up to this: building up the temerity necessary to start going through and whittling it all down — mercilessly working to get things down to a manageable level. I feel like it would be great if I could take time off from work to do this, but unfortunately that is not possible at this time because . . . well, COVID.

So there’s the elephant in the room that I didn’t want to bring up, because it’s a little too on-the-nose. But rather than hide out at home or find new ways to make money to avoid contact with the public, I live life boldly by serving my community in a capacity that often feels underappreciated. I personally feel underappreciated by those above me in the chain of command, and yet I do this not because I feel a need to be appreciated; indeed, if I ever had this particular need I was disabused of it a long, long time ago. But thanks to COVID and the omicron variant now making its rounds through our facility I have all this vacation time saved up that I am unable to use.

So here I am, putting all my plans on the shelf as staff shortages rise once more. Delaying the inevitable, but not for much longer. I’m going to clear out the clutter and find myself somewhere therein, turning the gray skies blue once again.

Image credit: U.S. Army Europe, CC PDM 1.0

“Strap on those boots, soldier.”

Where did the horror go, anyway?

(Image credit: rtaylor111, CC PDM 1.0)

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That is the first line of what is likely my favorite from a long list of works by an author so well-known in my lifetime that in my mind, he carries this torch. Genre fiction author Stephen King — best known for his horror, but indeed he has touched so many genres it’s not fair to pigeonhole him as a “horror author as such” — is someone that inspires me, and not just because he wrote some books that I have enjoyed.

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of this guy. People in my high school classes would remark that I came in with a different book every day, and that’s largely due to King. I devoured his works. I kept a list of his novels, which ones I’d already read, and I visited local libraries frequently to try to score the ones that I hadn’t gotten to yet. I wrote a few fan letters, got a few form letters back in return . . . I get how that works. No big deal.

When I read his nonfiction book On Writing, that’s when I got a real window into who the man was. I mean, he never left us lacking for insight in the forewords and afterwords he wrote in his novels, and I always read those too. King was one of those authors who could make a connection to the Dedicated Reader with just a page or two of his own sincere words, and so I anticipated with On Writing, I’d get more of that with some amazing advice about writing . . . and a good sense of how the indefatigable King pumped out work after work, winner after winner.

It turns out, however, that On Writing was part autobiography, talking about King’s early years writing, as an English teacher, coming to terms with alcoholism (having written some of his best works on the bottle,) and once getting past that it seems he didn’t skip a beat but kept on going. The man was hit by a van and almost died. I almost gave up hope on the chances that King would live to finish the Dark Tower series, the one that began with that line about the gunslinger chasing the man in black. Not only did he come back from that but he kept on writing. Took that lickin’ and kept on tickin’.

These days, it feels like the horror genre as I knew it has slipped out the back door. It’s not what it used to be at its zenith, and sometimes we get a taste of the old days in film and tv, but King still writes stuff that speaks to me even if people still treat his old stuff like it’s camp. Not that I’ve picked up a book in the past decade. Having the opportunity to do that while operating in the modern paradigm . . . that’s unfathomable to me right now. But I do listen to audiobooks, and so the written word is not entirely wasted on me; these days I can pump those words right into my earholes while I’m busy adulting.

So yes, I still admire King. I admire that he’s still out there telling stories, even after all he’s been through. And even if one day he gives up that torch, it might well be taken up by Joe Hill: an author in his own right, and not just King’s son.

At the end of the day, I want to tell stories too. I’m not sure if anyone will think they’re worth paying for, but sometimes that’s not what it’s about.

Sometimes you just have to explore.

(Image credit: sjpowermac, CC0 1.0)

Out of the draft box, part 2: Haiku Today 2015.11.17 —

(Image credit: Eric Huybrechts)

fading ages,
protruding via
tenuous
pockets of space-time
grown cool . . . bitter . . . thin.


January 3, 2022

This is an easy one to knock out. A haiku which felt unfinished, and no longer relevant today. But I breathed some extra room into it — made it tanka — and felt the icy ping of cold air, as I finished it. The original text I’d composed for this photo went:

Faded ages,
protruding
through holes in time

Of course, at the time this was written as a draft and I meant to come back to it. For six or seven years I’ve meant to come back to all of this in some functional way as I struggled in my manufacturing job for fair treatment by my employer. Fair for me, fair for my coworkers, some of whom I still feel don’t make enough even though I haven’t worked the plant since September of 2017. I’ve meant to return to all of this as I worked retail in the interim, as a hardware department floor associate at Menards — as I transitioned to a career in the law enforcement sector, serving my community for real this time.

And the Interwebs and all my readers have been so patient all this time. I’ve had things to resolve, and I’m not even sure I’m all the way through this process as I still deal with some of the hangups I’ve collected throughout my life. Yet here I am, presuming that I am ready to insinuate myself into the blogosphere once more . . .

Is this really a new dawn, or just a waft of scant inspiration? There have been some false starts, of course. It reminds me of quitting cigarette smoking, only in reverse — I had to try several times before I could quit permanently. And yet . . . there have been relapses. So is anything really permanent?

All this to say, I now have this design to pick up my writing once more, but I know I can’t go back to what I was doing before. That’s why I’m cleaning out my draft box. I need to figure out a new direction, or at least create a new plan if I want to go long-term again. I don’t think I will ever say goodnight to this blog, though I’ve considered it before; but I’d love to find a new groove and get back to writing.

I’d love to write more flash fiction for you! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

What I wouldn’t do for some bargain-basement inspiration right now . . . I’m so thirsty I just know I would soak it all up like a sponge, and I feel like once I get some momentum I should be able to maintain. I’d build new suburbs of sweet script, neighborhoods of knack, communities of composition — cul-de-sacs of content! And I’d erect it all, block by block right here on WordPress. I can surround and obfuscate those cryptic, monochrome bones with my inspiration. . . .

Then I can forget that they’re still there, and there they will always be.

And in other news, in case we need to know: robssurfreport.com is back.

Out of the draft box, part 1: Haiku Today 2016.04.20 —

(Photo by Mahir Uysal, CC0 1.0)

A chill mist
pervades this frigid heart
of battered stone


Sometimes it feels like life has a habit of pulling me along with a string, moving me one way or another along this linear direction. Occasionally I will go, “I’m going to try this, and then before I know it I’m in so deep I’ve dropped everything else and forgotten where it is I came from, like it never mattered. 

. . . or maybe I can be obsessive — maybe that’s the more accurate way to put it; and to find myself in a reclusive, self-interested fog seems to always be the primary clue that I’ve gone way too far from where I’d like to be. 

A fog is just a cloud of particles that move in this lazy way; they hang around with no real intention, and when moving they tend to slink and creep, not having the coherence to withstand the slightest breeze. That dearth of energetic motion promotes further energy losses; by which I mean that it has this tendency to bleed over into the soul of one enveloped within that chill fog — a vampiric effect that “puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills . . . ” than to change.

Emerging from a fog of frustration, of self-enmity and frivolity, is like coming out into the first warm day of Spring. It’s not the doom of gloomy days, but could be herald of what’s to come if I can stay the course and keep a solid heading. 

After all, who knows what adventure waits around the corner?


January 02, 2022

Holy smokes, that was almost six years ago. I pulled this one out of the draft box and generously edited for language, trying to keep the content while trying to not leave too much cheese behind.

My goal here is to dig all four drafts out of my draft box and start anew. I know my last post was heavy, and I won’t apologize.

It needed to be.

Things have eased up a little bit in the interim, but those challenges remain and are often exacerbated by the most imaginary slights. Attempting to feel supported and appreciated in a milieu where appreciation is rare and support should be a call away but sometimes feels remarkably extinct is challenging, and may require some self-adjustment. After all, I may be part of the problem. I can admit that.

It’s a new year now, and while it might sound like a clichΓ© to say it’s a time for new beginnings, I can’t think of a better time than now to figure out how to rediscover the mental headspace I inhabited back when I was posting regularly. A new beginning, this far down the line. After all, you can go bankrupt what . . . every seven years? What’s the statute of limitations on rekindling the light of optimism, of chucking all the emotional debt and starting over from scratch? And regardless of the (largely subjective) answer, how is that even accomplished?

I intend to figure that out. I will clear out this negative clutter, and find the dusty corners. I’ll sweep them out and set lamps to light them. I probably can’t commit to writing here daily, but I should probably do it a lot more. We’ll see how that goes.

I am the medicine man. I will make the medicine if I have to sing, dance, chant, and call to the heavens to make it happen. I don’t have a grass skirt but I do have some fine kilts. Maybe I’ll have to swap the tropical beaches for some snowbanks. Combat boots instead of bare feet.

I know, it still sounds amazing. πŸ™‚

(Image by Frank Schulenburg, CC0 1.0)

Blowing Dust

Small comfort,
pithy post-nailed note:
I want you here”
,
scrawled in fading ink
on timeworn paper.

(Image credit: ΟƒΟ„ΟΞ±Ο„ΟŒΟ‚. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

There are days, and then . . . there are days. It seems like there’s been a lot of those days lately, and with the holiday season in full swing there’s the added stress of things to do, people to see, dealing with shopping for people . . . things can get just a tad overwhelming.

And is it me, or are people getting harder to shop for anymore?

Lately I’ve been feeling a little touched out by the constant activity. Not to mention I’m falling behind on fitness. I’ve got a whole bunch of things I’d like to be working on but I have no time for. My guitars are dusty and lonely. I need to just take some time off to decompress but we’re too short-staffed at work to allow for it and the first available days off are out in February, so . . . screw me, I guess! The only way to get time off is to be sick, and I’m famous for not getting sick. 200 hours of sick leave: pointless. Over eighty hours of vacation time: unusable.

And then there’s the real enigma: how I can do my very best at my job, improve on practically everything I do, pull off some great work and train great people on how to do our jobs well, and get trashed on my yearly performance evaluation by — apparently — the only person whose opinion matters; based on situations and metrics that either can’t or won’t ever be corroborated; to the confusion of the other supervisor who had to read the eval to me, who later told me that he tried to back me up but . . . well, we both know how that goes with the boss. Once something’s on paper, boy it is done! There’s no defense, there’s no reasonable explanation, and there’s no appeal that’s going to make that steaming, smelly pile of contrivances go away.

"starr-100218-2532-Dianella_sandwicensis-habitat_with_helicopter_landing_and_blowing_dust-Helu_West_Maui-Maui" by Starr Environmental is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I suppose I’m fortunate that this has no other negative effect on me other than weighing heavily on me; in order to keep this career I have to just accept my fate and admit that I will never have any chance at success so long as I am assigned to this shift. I’d have a better chance making it as a helicopter pilot. Good news is, my boss’ boss wants me here so I guess . . . that makes it better?

Yep. I guess I have to keep that bit close to heart, to keep me warm during our 30 days of nights.

(Image credit: Starr Environmental. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

I had to get that off my chest, anyway; I apologize if it’s a real downer. There’s certain “morbid” statistics associated with careers in law enforcement, and though I never intend to be a statistic, I’m starting to see how one gets behind that curtain. This job attracts certain types of people, and some of them should not be given power over others. For my part, I just want to help people — legitimately, help them. I think I do that well but I’ll never win any awards doing it and I’m fine with that. Just don’t micromanage me, nitpick me, poke or prod me with baseless accusations and falsified accounts of behavior that no one else can verify. Don’t lie on me and then laugh it off like it’s the end of a Scooby-Doo episode. That shit burns.

Forget about the holidays. The rhetoric about the time of year, how we should be all happy and nice and forgive people their trespasses, all that noise; make it a way of life. Those whom you have responsibility over, make sure you support them and validate their work. Don’t forget that they’re human beings. Don’t squash them because you think it makes you look good, like you’re doing your job when you’re letting others get away with murder. You know who’s going through a lot right now? Everybody. Don’t be a dick.

That’s my PSA; I sincerely hope you enjoy the remainder of 2021, in case I don’t get a chance to write again this year.

*This post was brought to you by Tanka, where Haiku is a lesser included offence

Sumptuous Spring

Sucker punches fade;
These thawing skeletal shards,
the harbingers of rebirth

So . . . last night’s post took me forever to write — like eight hours or so, with the constant diversions of doing my job while sitting in the building’s control center. But the real issue wasn’t working around work, but trying to figure out WordPress’ interface. You see, I haven’t been posting regularly for several years, and so I find myself paying the price of having fallen behind. The interface changed. In a way, it was totally alien from how I was doing it before, and so there is a learning curve there.

Fortunately, I’m starting to figure this thing out, and it looks like I might actually have a few more toys to play with. Building a post, it’s now like stacking Legos, and how much better is that than hacking together html, copying, pasting, etc? It seems like there’s even potential here for site layout design.

I’ll keep digging on that.

But anyway . . .

Believe it or not, Spring is right around the corner. Here in North Dakota, where we have a reputation for cold weather, proper winter didn’t really set in until several weeks ago, and then a couple weeks ago the temps just plummeted. An unseasonably mild winter became car-killing weather, as though Mother Nature jumped, realizing that February had crept up on her and cranked it all the way down to -11.

And the irony of it is, even if we’ve really only had a month or so of bitterest cold, it’s still too long for my taste. I hate cold weather. I’m still not lucky enough to have a home without drafts or cold spots, the window panes have thick layers of frost on them, and even keeping the thermostat at 68 does little to ward off the cold that likes to sink its teeth deep into my flesh.

But I think there’s a sumptuous spring right around the corner. Literally and figuratively, we’re in a position to rebound, to move forward and make things better. Four years of bald-faced political chicanery. Insurrection at the Capitol. No real closure. Winter storms, power outages, water shortages . . . staggering losses. Human losses. Have we had enough yet?

Some people fight change, while others fight for a better tomorrow. It would be nice if it felt like there were more of the latter than the former.

Let’s bounce back. We can make tomorrow even better.

Tanka Tonight

Dreaming astride an abyss
then sailing away
anteceded sudden loss —
as though stars fade out
while slumber eludes my grasp

Wisdom is a funny kind of thing. It feels like one of those things that, it would seem, the more of it one has, the less of anything else they have. In spite of this, some people relentlessly seek it out and perhaps for the same reason some people avoid it like it’s a disease.

Not to be confused with common sense, which surely works the other way around, wisdom comprises a set of indissoluble truths that can only be truly gleaned through honest observation of, and interaction with, the Universe. Like Pokemon, some believe you gotta catch ’em all, and yet it seems like each one is as wriggly and slippery as an eel. Each truth is hard to hold, harder to keep, and one can’t possibly internalize the entire set in a single lifetime.

Maybe it’s an undesirable side-effect of middle age, but it feels like the more time wears on, the less wisdom is in evidence in the way affairs are carried out in the world; common sense, too, seems to be falling by the wayside. The news is full of examples of this seeming decay.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before we are all plunging into that infinite abyss I saw in my dream — each of us just one in a crush of lemmings driving recklessly toward the edge precipice.

"Dark" by Revise_D is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“Dark” by Revise_D is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Is that too negative? I don’t know . . . I can’t pretend to have an infinite well of optimism. Perhaps there’s little wisdom in saving my writing for just the sunny days. There are other days — darker days — and those need to be aired out just as much, if not more.

Pugilism

I like to beat the bag like it owes me money. Sometimes it feels savage, sometimes it feels like more effort than it’s worth. And while many might think there’s catharsis in such activity, I feel like doing it for that reason alone is dangerous . . . because even when you do it for the physical aspect, when it gets you dialed into a meditative state, makes you sweat, makes you want to win at everything — it still trains the brain to know what it’s like to punch something. And sometimes when you’re dealing with a particularly difficult person, part of you is curious about what that feels like.

Of course, for me that’s very rare. I tend to be cool, and when things heat up I’m more likely to walk away than lash out, because the skin of my temperament is so thick its lineaments do little to betray the scars of my youth; the rifts and cracks long left behind now barely show, to the point where I sometimes question their continued existence. At this point, they’re fading quickly into the past. That’s where they belong.

There are days and then there are days — those days when you happen to find the one person who is going to test your patience. My thinking is, it’s best to have a deep, deep well of patience if you hit a bag on the regular.

No issues here, and no regrets. My well is so deep.