On Garage Sales

I find the intersection of human behavior and garage sales fascinating. I mention this only because I just had one this weekend where I made a whole $46 dollars before subtracting expenses. I watched 5 people open the lid on a washing machine as if what they saw inside told them the value of said used washing machine. None of them bought it. It makes me wonder what they needed to see inside in order to swing them over to the purchase side of the transaction. A leprechaun? Pot of gold? What exactly were they looking for?

There are a variety of people who come to garage sales. I particularly enjoy the people who buy nothing but thank me for the privilege of looking at crap I no longer want. I do this too so it’s hard to be too harsh but still, what is it that makes us thank people for that privilege? For me it’s the guilt of not buying any of their crap as if I had walked into Tiffany’s but chosen not to buy anything after wasting the sale people’s time. Then there are those that seem to keep the social wall up so that they don’t have to feel obligated to buy anything. A cheerful good morning is returned with a mumble and a quick stalk around the merchandise.

Late in the day, people drive up but don’t stop, doing a roll through and somehow making a decision about the quality of your good based on the quantity left at 1 PM. What did they expect? All the hoarders and pickers show up at 6:45 am before the garage even opens. Do the lazy people who come at 1 actually expect to find bargains or do they just like the idea of garage sale-ing?

Speaking of hoarders, the same family of them show up every time I have a garage sale and they always find something to buy. The old lady has switched from Virginia Slims to a fancy electronic cigarette and I can always count on her to buy candles if I have any. The old man bought a flag pole once and we still see it at times on their house. This time they brought their son and I’m pretty sure he bought something though I can’t remember what it was. Probably a Christmas plate.

Some day, I’m hoping Jerry Jones has a garage sale. Or maybe an estate sale. When he kicks over, will Stephen put everything out on the front lawn? What do rich people do when they decide they don’t want that ugly Christmas sweater anymore? I think of garage sales as a combination purge and donation to those less fortunate but perhaps I overestimate the value of my crap. Still, it makes me feel good when someone comes along and buys all my shirts for $.50 each and says that her son is small and she can never find good clothes at garage sales. I’m glad someone can get some more use out of them. Now if only someone would take that washing machine.

Rain

Today it rained all day which for this time of year shouldn’t be that out of the ordinary but we’ve been so dry for so long that it’s a welcome change. Won’t make a dent in the lake being 13 feet low but at least the sprinklers don’t have to run tomorrow. We saw the first hummingbird of the season tonight. I’m not sure what he’s eating right now but there must be something that’s starting the migration. I put out some snapdragons last week but according to Yahoo Answers, Oracle of the internet, those aren’t good for hummingbirds because the petals are fused shut. Agastache would be better. I need to get the feeder out and filled but that didn’t happen today.

NaNoWriMo is running a camp in April for writing a novel not that I’m going to do it. Though with 3 more weeks, if I used my Lent challenge as part of that, I might be able to make some serious progress. It would certainly be better than what’s going on here these days. Missed last night with a case of the lazy. That makes 3 nights this week. Not a good week. I’ve been thinking about what to do for a habit forming exercise after Lent is up. I’ve considered 40 days of coding at least something every day which would be helpful in a variety of ways. A blog post every day results in a bunch of really boring blog posts especially when I don’t write them until I’m exhausted at 10 PM. How does one get to be exhausted at 10 PM anyway when there was no labor done today? I did cook a lot and even wrote some code. I’m trying to create an application that will read data off scanned grocery story receipts. Using that data, users would be able to see how much particular meals cost or calculate their per ounce cost across the month for budgeting reasons. That’s what I want to do with it anyway. I got a gem hooked up that will read the text off the image but it’s not terribly accurate. Curly parsley became burly parsley, curly’s meaner gym going cousin. Of course, I bought Italian parsley, they just rang it up wrong. Regardless, there are some kinks to work out. Also started looking into Clojure again this weekend, that language is really interesting and I think has powerful promise for situations where state is problematic, which is to say almost everywhere.

It’s incredible how effective one glass of wine is at making me tired. Truly amazing sleep aid.

I’ve Got Nothing

It’s been one of those weeks that involves 55 hour work weeks, a possessions purge that will involve most of Saturday and 5 days of allergy related misery. Today is the first day in 6 that I haven’t been a mouth breather. I think I have conclusively proven to myself that gluten, especially in the form of beer, causes me great distress allergy wise. Last Saturday, I played in the match play at Woodbridge and for the first time in 4 years, I advanced to the second round. So in celebration (and in celebration of the fact someone else was buying the beer), I had several beers. Then Sunday at about 2:30 am, the error of my ways was made clear to me by an angry allergy God who decided to start off with 24 hour of body aches and then follow that up with 5 days of snot nosed, mouth breathing misery. Combine that with hell at work and you have the recipe for not having much mental energy left on Friday night to produce literary greatness.

Tomorrow is garage sale day with the main hope of selling a washing machine and dryer that has been taking up room in the garage for 6 months. Most everything else will probably fit in the trashcan which is painful but frankly, also freeing. I’d like to have less stuff though reducing the stuff that one owns (or that owns you, either way) is difficult only because stuff seems to attract other stuff like static cling.

One of the benefits of not eating much (the mouth breathing seems to cut down on the ability or desire to actually taste things) is that two glasses of wine is enough to provide a solid buzz. I wonder if Hemingway ever had a garage sale. Probably not. I would imagine garage sales are an invention of the modern age where modern age is the last 40 years. Also, garage sales are likely a function of class, e.g. Jerry Jones does not have garage sales. Hemingway, never made of money, probably didn’t collect enough things (or dust) to have a garage sale. It’s the collecting of things that starts to restrict movement, both physical and mental, probably emotional too. We’d be better off always living with a blank slate but it’s difficult to do. Anyway, wish me luck on selling the washer and dryer. I’m listing it for $20 but I’ll take $10 if you’ll haul it off.

CrossFit Open Recap

Back in January, I signed up for the CrossFit Open. I wasn’t too sure I was going to be able to perform all the exercises after coming up against a snatch ladder in 2013 in the very first workout that I couldn’t do. Still, I was looking forward to the challenge and having a goal to train towards.

Fast forward 3 months and the 2014 Open is over. I finished in 4017th place out of 8055 putting me almost exactly at my goal of being in the 50th percentile in the country in my division which is old men but not the oldest men (40-44). In the South Central region, I finished at 315 out of 637, also in the 50th percentile. More importantly, none of the workouts ended up being too difficult to do. The very first workout cost me badly as I was unprepared in several ways not the least of which was providing my own rope for double unders. I finished in the 75th percentile in that workout so I really made up ground in the other four. The workout I felt like I did the worst in, 14.2, was actually my best.

Since January 1, I’ve done 55 workouts. That’s probably more in 3 months than I’ve done since leaving college and the preparation really showed. My back squat and deadlift both increased including an all time best in back squat. My shoulder press is near my all time max and I am able to do body weight exercises like burpees and pullups without too much strain. As part of 14.3, I lifted over 10,000 pounds in the deadlift portion in 8 minutes. I’m proud of the effort and results from this year’s Open.

I’m going to have to find a goal to keep the level of training up. Already this week, training has dropped off though that has more to do with 4 straight days with 12 hours at work plus suffering with some weird body aches all day Sunday. Still, having a goal provides motivation for increasing improvement. I loved running the Spartan Beast 2 years ago so maybe I can find one of those within range of a road trip.

In other news, the vegetable beds are all planted. There are 19 tomato plants, 8 pepper plants, 3 eggplants, beans, radishes, spinach, corn, beets, turnips, lettuce, onions and garlic. Now that the weather has turned warmer, it’s amazing how fast things start to grow. The cool season veggies are really taking off and we could probably have a spinach salad now if we wanted along with some baby onions to go in it.

Overtime Haiku

Working twelve hour days
Leaves little time to reflect
on Lenten challenge

The Cryptic Facebook Cliffhanger

I think some people treat Facebook like it’s a prayer chain. Maybe Facebook is the modern day incarnation of a prayer chain but some people seem to have the Facebook prayer chain on speed dial. If I worked on a prayer chain and the same 4 people called every other day, I’d begin to think maybe they were just being selfish. It must be a big enough problem because someone wrote an entire blog post about the 7 ways to be insufferable on Facebook (as if there were only 7). I think the cryptic cliffhanger is the most annoying but I could be convinced otherwise without much effort. Of course, if we stopped being insufferable on Facebook, our news feed would be lonely like Tombstone right before the OK Corral. The trouble is most of us are only really interested in ourselves. Oh we read our Facebook feed but all we really want to see there are pictures of kittens and George Takei updates. We aren’t interested in the brag, humble or otherwise, of someone we haven’t talked to in 23 years but whose friend request we accepted blindly one night when we had had 4 glasses of scotch too many.

And this is the core problem of Facebook as a “social” media. It’s a dirty little secret but Facebook isn’t that social. If it were, our friend list would be much shorter, just like it is in real life. If someone did nothing but tell us how awesome their life was without ever actually asking us how we were doing, we’d unfriend them by throat punching them. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh but the idea is sound. If someone said to me IRL “Tomorrow is going to be big, pray for me”, I’d think they were attention whores. And unfriend them by removing their number from my phone.

The first sign that Facebook isn’t actually about friendship is the number of people we have as “friends”. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed an idea “that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.” We just can’t keep up with many more than that. Yet we have Facebook friends that number in the thousands. Wha? People with more than 250 friends are either young (the original Facebook target market), running a business, using Facebook as a version of Linked In but with pictures of kittens or are very lonely. That’s just a personal theory.

Tomorrow is going to be big though. Keep me in your prayers.

Randomness

Trying to think up a title to a blog post before it is written is exactly backwards. Oftentimes, I have no idea what a post is going to be about. I find that I stare at the title field trying to figure out what to write about instead of just writing in a discovery process. In software development, the naming of things is one of the hardest parts and something that most developers struggle with I think. Naming a blog post before it’s written is similar. If I were to create a blogging platform, the title would be last to encourage people to just write without worrying about naming it. Even Ghost, a new blogging platform specifically created to focus on writing has the title right up front. Perhaps that’s because most people who blog have something in mind before they start.

I planted more tomatoes and peppers this weekend to replace those that promptly curled up and died last week. I’m surprised that the corn, beans and cucumbers haven’t come up from seed yet especially with the rain we had on Thursday and Friday. The turnips, radishes and beets are all poking through the top layer of soil.

My Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives Addiction

It’s 11 PM on a long Friday and I can’t stop watching this show. For one thing, it makes me want to get in a car and drive to 30 or 40 cities trying all this food along the way. Tonight, on two different episodes, Triple D featured restaurants in Nashville, one a Cajun place that made their own smoked sausage and put it on everything. The second was Cafe Rakka, a fusion of middle eastern-lebanese place that had a dish that involved cooking filet mignon on a salt block. That made me want to buy a salt block. Of course, almost none of the food is even sort of healthy but I don’t suppose that’s the point.

As a general rule, Guy Fieri isn’t my favorite personality on Food Network but his enthusiasm on this show is infectious. There aren’t many shows on TV that aren’t cynical, reality or contrived. Guy seems to really enjoy this show. It’s interesting to watch his interactions with the variety of chefs. Many of them have strong personalities that stand up to Guy pretty well. Occasionally, you run into someone who seems to lack the necessary on air chops to make it interesting but Guy manages those situations pretty well.

I just saw a commercial that epitomized the current trend of playing on heartstrings, often patriotic, to sell a product. Chevrolet was the worst during the past two Super Bowls. I’m not even sure what this one was for but it told the story of how our farmers give us most everything. Of course, it was sponsored by Monsanto. Strangely, they didn’t say anything about genetically modified plants that you can spray Round Up on to kill weeds around them without killing the plants themselves. Or about how Monsanto likes to sue farmers who plant cross pollinated crops. Sigh.

One thing I’m learning about this post every day habit is that it is really affecting my writing and creativity but that by waiting to blog until late at night, I’m actually not transferring any of that discovered creativity into these posts. I think that’s Alanis Morrissette irony.

Fighting Through

I’ve been staring at a blank page for the better part of an hour. Perhaps the focus is in the wrong place. The Blerch is strong this week for some reason and I’m more inclined to consume rather than produce. Maybe it’s because I read this post about being insufferable on Facebook and got paranoid that I was insufferable on Facebook. Luckily, I know that I’m occasionally funny on FB so maybe it’s a wash. I tried to take some time release pictures of a thunderstorm just to distract me from writing and possible distract the reader from reading eventually but they were not fit for publication. Spring has arrived and you would think that with the unusually cold winter, the bug population might be held slightly in check. You wouldn’t think that though if you could see the back porch right now where swarms of mayflies and other sundry flying creatures are milling around the lights. Also, I have gone most of my adult life thinking that the correct term was asundry. Perhaps I confused it with asunder.

Almost all the tomatoes I grew from seed this year have promptly died in the garden. There are a few clinging to life but they are not in good shape. Based on some preliminary reading, I’m thinking that perhaps my grow lights aren’t that grow-y. Maybe that’s why the DEA never came busting through the door, they knew whatever it was that I was doing couldn’t possible be producing anything worth selling. The seedlings all got very leggy and had very few roots other than the San Marazanos which also all pretty much died so more roots didn’t help them much. Maybe next year, assuming we have a garden, I’ll have to invest in some better lights. These came from Home Depot and were labeled grow lights but I’m skeptical. Smart sounding people on the internet say that leggy tomatoes are the result of poor lighting. They struggle to grow as tall as possible to get light. If they are doing this even when the light is on them directly, maybe the lights are no good.

So that means I need to go out and buy a bunch of tomatoes and that quite a bit of work didn’t quite turn out so great. Still, a learning experience that maybe will lead to improvements.

It’s difficult to get 500 good words out at a time. How authors ever do it is a little befuddling to me.

Day 22

Today is 22 days in a row of writing a blog post a day. Common wisdom, rarely right, says it takes 21 days for form a new habit but things aren’t that easy. The honeymoon phase of a new habit is often short and seems to get shorter as we find our attention divided more and more. We expect things to be easy and when we hit a rough patch where the desire seems to wane, it’s easy to stray from the old and go in search of the new and appealing. Even while writing those 87 words, my attention drifted off onto what felt like 100 different things. There are nights when the words are easy and seem to just naturally fit (luckily, I don’t have an editor to please). But often, the writing (or the drawing or the practicing or whatever it is that we want to do) is difficult. At these times, it’s good to have a streak or a goal to work towards as it makes it easier to participate in the habit or action.

Tonight, on day 22, I didn’t have much desire to write. At any other normal time, nothing would have been put into words. But because I have an extrinsic motivator, I sat down to write this post. Creating is difficult and much of what I create isn’t that amazing. But the alternative is doing nothing, remaining a consumer (of information, of goods, of services, of life). Ideally, we begin to find motivation intrinsically over time, the habit or the action becoming interesting for its own sake. These are the principles of the excellent book Flow. People who are happy seem to have an ability to find joy just in doing a particular thing without concern for what extrinsic factors might be at play. Writing because it feels good and because it helps my thinking enables me to write longer and with more consistency than writing hoping someone will read it and like it.

But intrinsic motivation is difficult. Changing how we think, behave and react to stimuli is a hard process, one that requires constant vigilance. One tip from the Forbes link above is to step back and try to think of what you would feel if you didn’t perform the habit versus how you will feel if you do. Slowly over time, that can turn into intrinsic motivation and reward as you condition yourself. There are many days when I don’t want to work out but I know how much better I feel after I do (well, most workouts anyway. There are some that I do only for the badge of honor in completing them but we’ll talk about them another day.) I know that after I finish this post, I will feel much better than if I had let The Blerch win. That’s one simple way to keep the habit going, any habit you choose. Step back and remember what it feels like to finish something.

Day 22 was one that was hard to get done. I’m glad I did it. Maybe day 23 will be easier. But if it isn’t, I’ll still write.