The Bad and the Ugly (but some of the Good)

This has turned out to be one hell of a summer.

In both good and bad ways.

So I’m going to cut to the chase and get the bad out of the way, so I can end this post on a happier note and not leave all of you (my three or four readers who may see this) depressed.

Before the summer started, daughter Panda Bear’s marriage, which was already running on life support, suddenly imploded, with the force of a runaway nuclear chain reaction.  The details of which are not bloggable, but I will say that something Very Bad happened, which precipitated an escape to auntie’s house and a divorce filing in 24hrs.  Of course, being semi-estranged from her (mostly momma Yes Dear) meant that we heard about things third-hand.  No worries, she’s safe and so are grandkids.

Sadly there was another innocent party involved, stuck in the middle.  Grandson/nephew hybrid Mark.

His side of the family immediately swooped in and took him away, sequestered him, and proceeded to blame our daughter for everything that went wrong, and how victimized their son and grandson were for her scheming ways.  Sadly they are very ignorant people caught up in their own denial, and they are also the kind of people who shun not only those who they perceive have wronged them, but everybody related to them and all their friends.  With no chance for explanations or forgiveness.  Not helping is the fact that our daughter did indeed have her part in the drama, though she is not to blame for the abrupt ending.

Unfortunately, she’s currently chosen to shack up with another loser.  I know little about the person, other than I’m tired of the merry-go-round she keeps jumping on and if it smells like shit, it probably is shit.  I tactfully told her that her new “beau” is going to have to earn my trust and respect, and left it at that.

And in the meantime, Mark is gone from our lives.  It makes my heart ache just thinking about it, but there’s nothing any of us can do.  I can only hope and pray that our paths cross again someday and he hasn’t been too brainwashed by his family.

Enough of that.  Let’s move on to the ugly.

Daughter June Bug, last time we left her, had moved to Georgia with her boyfriend and two kids, to live near his dad and grandparents, on some property that they can live on rent-free.  It hurt my heart to see them go, particularly my grandson Cam, but felt they were only acting in what was their best interests to a better life.

They now also live closer to Cam’s baby daddy and his family.  The same ones we had to pry both her and him away from two years ago.

And she’s been letting them into his life.

I was not opposed to the baby daddy grandparents seeing him, but with the caution not to let them take him alone.  And I’m opposed to the baby daddy being a part of his life until he demonstrates he can be a positive influence.  Also Yes Dear & I have been after her for the past couple years to finish her custody case so she can be secure in her hold on Cam and any future visits by the baby daddy or family would be at her own discretion, protected by the law.  All she needed was a not-unattainable sum of money to finish the mediation, which we would’ve gladly paid for without recompensation, but she refused to.

They’ve been working on her, apparently.  Worming their way in and hitting her with guilt trips.  Knowing her vulnerabilities, that she is weak and wishy-washy and unable to stand up for herself and set hard limits.

Also while in Georgia she felt the need to take care of some unfinished legal obligations once and for all, so they wouldn’t continue to follow her around.  Something I was very supportive of, so long as she did so with proper legal representation.

To make a long story short, in all too typical June Bug fashion, she clusterfucked everything.

She turned herself into the county jail where her case originated, without any legal representation.  She was hoping for a release after no more than 72 hours (which a lawyer may have arranged for her) but instead for her stupidity troubles she’s in there for 45 days, at the whim of the probation officer assigned her case.

But the real face-palm moment is the fact that she allowed baby daddy family to take Cam to Florida before she went in.  With no legal protections.

So in effect, she handed Cam back over to the very same people we worked so hard to help both of them get away from.

We saw this coming.  We begged her not to trust these people.  We begged her to at the very least get the legal stuff done, to get custody of Cam.  The current boyfriend and his family begged her to do the same thing.

But apparently to no avail.  The mass of brain cells in her head that radiate I’M STUPID has apparently taken over.

So Cam is down in Florida in the not-so-tender care of the people who doesn’t need to be in his life right now.  They said they would bring him back, but when they found out that June Bug was locked up they balked at returning him to the boyfriends family until she got out, which doesn’t look like it’ll be until September.  And I’m not holding any high hopes that they’ll give him back then.  They once swore that if they ever got their hands on him again that they would not let her have him back, and now they are in excellent position to make good on their vow.  The only way  she’ll get him back is to get a lawyer and fight in Florida courts for custody, which will be an uphill battle.  All the advantages she had out here within her grasp are gone for good.  She has to start over like she never left.

Pissed doesn’t even begin to describe how Yes Dear and I feel.  My rage at her boneheaded maneuvers is such that I can’t talk to her right now, for fear that I’ll unload on her to the point of permanently destroying the love we have for each other.  I’m having to work on forgiving her, but I’ve decided that in the future that any help that I give her is going to be strictly conditional and on my terms only, and she will just have to relinquish control, because she seems to be incapable of making good decisions in hers and her kids’ best interest.

In the meantime, all we have is prayers for Cam.  That the family he’s with won’t destroy the potential he has and turn him into a criminal CC of his baby daddy (virtually every family member has been either addicted to something or engaged in criminal behavior).  That we will get the chance to be a positive influence in his life again.

This whole episode has made me reflect on how I once wondered if we weren’t too hasty in moving in on AJ and adopting him, if we should’ve allowed June Bug more of a chance to be a mother to him (or forced her).

I don’t wonder that anymore.  I’m now convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that we did exactly the right thing with AJ.

And I’m so thankful that we have him as a permanent part of our lives, with full legal rights to him and the decisions that are best for him, and not having to look over our shoulders for someone else who may lay claim to him.  That he has a relatively stable household, he goes to bed and wakes up knowing who the central figures in his life are and that they are constant, that he feels secure knowing who his mommy and daddy are even if they didn’t get him in the “traditional” way.  That we have the opportunity to raise him as a normal kid, with all the experiences that a normal kid should have.

He’s had a heck of a summer, BTW.  We took an epic trip to California for two weeks earlier in the summer, and exposed him to all he could stand.  From the desert to the ocean, from visiting a WWII-vintage battleship to the San Diego Zoo, from swimming in a longtime friend’s swimming pool with their dog, to experiencing the surreal foggy beauty of the heart of San Francisco in June.

We also got him involved in Cub Scouts before the summer.  He’s gotten the opportunity to grow and make new friends, and experience hiking and camping.  He’s worked on service projects with both the Cubs and our church.  He’s slowly been overcoming his shyness and been more bold at trying new things and experiences.  He has grown quite a bit this summer, both physically and emotionally, yet he still retains enough little boy in him that he enjoys his bedtime and morning snuggles and tickles.  He is learning what it’s like to love and be loved outside his immediate family.  He’s even gotten himself some positive attention from female peers lately (shhh!)  And he’ll be turning seven in about another week.

That’s been the good.  Which goes a long way towards dispelling the depressing stuff I wrote earlier.

And as for myself?  Work still sucks, they’re threatening another layoff, which I may survive only to be forced to work ridiculous hours again due to being shorthanded.  School is coming along just fine, I’m about a year and a half to completing my online program and getting a bachelor’s in accounting.  When that comes I’m going to find a way to leverage it to get out of Arkansas and find someplace where I can make a living that doesn’t involve me standing on a production floor all night long.  After that, who knows?

Keep positive, people.  Grab the joy in life wherever you may find it and whenever it may come to you.  Because it’s all we got to counter the bad things.  Milk it for all it’s worth.

 

 

 

 

 

What would you do?

I wish I could say this was a hypothetical story, but it isn’t.

A person who I consider a good friend is accused of criminal acts.

Despicable, unmentionable, creepy acts.  The kind of acts that, if I felt there was any truth to, would send me running in the opposite direction,and goodbye to the friendship. The kind that would leave me unable to associate myself with the person anymore.

This person was considered, up until recently, as close to a pillar of the community as one could get.  He was a prominent leader at our church.  I have spent many meetings with him, both alone and with others, sometimes on our knees in prayer.  I have gone to him for advice.  Sometimes he’s come to me for advice.

He is a hard-working, selfless man, who will help anyone, regardless of circumstances.  He’s initiated and led many service projects at church.  He’s helped us move at least twice.  He has a wisdom that goes well beyond his years (he’s quite a bit younger than me).  Everybody looked up to him.

His family, and extended family, are very prominent in our church.  He’s got a beautiful wife pregnant with their sixth child, and five others ranging from barely teen to toddler.  His parents and grandparents are fairly active too (I’m good friends with his mother).  Even his youngest brother happens to work at the same place I do.  My youngest daughter PBJ used to teach his kids in her Sunday school class.

I will say, at this point, that I know absolutely nothing about the charges and accusations he faces beyond what has been made public. But I will also say I simply cannot, in any way, shape, or form, associate the man I know with the acts that he has been accused of and made public with his name and face all over the local news outlets.  On TV, in the papers, and on the web.  They might as well have be two different people.

Meaning – I cannot, at this point, make any judgements about the man.  He very well could’ve been set up or railroaded into a bad situation through his propensity to offer help to someone, anyone.  He may have gone out on a limb too far, or pushed past some boundaries, and gotten himself into an awful mess.

Or he may be guilty as charged.

I simply don’t know enough at this point what to think.

All we have is speculation.  And silence.

Mostly for the sake of his family, who regardless of circumstances don’t deserve this.

He’s lost his job, and been pretty much rendered unemployable within the region, particularly while his case is unresolved.  His kids have been moved to different schools.  He is in the process of relocating his home to farther out in the country on some property his family owns, away from the town whose name appears in the accusations.

His family still shows up at church, but doesn’t stay long.  The grandparents sometimes bring some of the kids.  To my knowledge, only the oldest child (13 years old) has any inkling of how much hot water his dad is in.

The family has my unconditional support, as well from just about everyone else.  Nobody will let the family hang out to dry, regardless of how things turn out, regardless of the truth or fiction of the charges against my friend.

The question is what about my friend?  How do I support him?

Or should I even support him?

I simply don’t know how to react.  In my heart, I want to tell him that I don’t believe the charges, that I know him better than that, and he will always be my friend.  But how would I feel if I later found that they were true after all?  That he indeed has some secret, perverted alter ego that takes him over when he thinks no one is looking?  After all, we hear everyday through the media examples of this happening, don’t we?

I don’t know what to say to him, or how to say to him, or if I should say anything at all.

But I will say that, if the charges are found to be unequivocally false, I would be the first in line to help salvage his reputation.

But what if they are true?

But what if they aren’t?

I don’t know what to do, or how to react to my friend.

What would you do?

Hello, It’s Me (again)

No, I’m not really back.

At least, not in the blogging world (which there is very little left of, at least, from my blogging friends).

But my blog is still here. My one-time sounding board, which I used as a sort of self-therapy to sort out my thoughts during a transitional phase of my life. Which I pretty much closed up shop on a little over a year ago. I said back then that I was pretty much done here.

But I never said that I would never, ever, post anything here again.  At least, not if the need or desire was there.

Well, today I need to. Because my heart is breaking. And this is not the kind of thing I can just put out on Facebook due to a multitude of reasons, most of you (who actually read this) will understand. So I’m going to use the one medium that’s still available to me.

But first, a bit of history since I was last here.

Last year was a bit of a challenging year for us, but not totally negative. Yes Dear lost both her parents, about five months apart. She slipped on ice and broke her leg the beginning of last year (which we didn’t find out for a WEEK, due to the incompetence of the piddly-squat ER department that checked her out). It was the same leg she had her knee replacement on. Fortunately the knee replacement itself wasn’t damaged, but she had to have more hardware put in her leg to stabilize the femur that broke, which meant another surgery and long recuperation time. In the middle of all this we had to move to another house, which is a little better location, but less room, so there is a lot of clutter as we tried to shoehorn what we could into it. Yes Dear briefly had gotten a job, only to lose it when she realized she couldn’t stand or bend for long periods of time. She’s been diagnosed as a full-blown diabetic (though not insulin-dependent and controllable with medication and diet). So it’s been really difficult for her to keep a good frame of mind.

But there have been good times too. We finally got out from under a crushing IRS debt that had been haunting us for the past four years. We managed to take a family vacation to see my mother and aunt in Ohio and West Virginia. We got a newer, more reliable vehicle (minivan) to get around in by retiring trading in my venerable Pontiac for considerably more than we thought it was worth. AJ has started kindergarten and is currently a happy, funny, loving six-year-old boy who loves to get on my laptop and watch Youtube videos (supervised of course) of toys, cars, and trains.

And Yes Dear & I finally got serious about taking classes and enrolled in online universities. I’m currently attending here, and she is going there. Our goal is to get bachelor’s degrees in two years (mine in accounting, hers in business) and find a way out of this state and onto greener pastures. All for prices that are surprisingly affordable, with grants and a minimum of loans. I’m tired of slaving away on a production floor, and my body isn’t getting any younger.

Also, we’ve pretty much quit associating with the toxic elements of Yes Dear’s family, particularly after the parents’ passings. Our saying has become “not our monkeys, not our zoo”.   And the truth is, we’re happier because of it. Sadly this means we’ve lost virtually all our contact with nephew JJ, but we no longer have any means of influencing his teenage life, not at a price we are willing or able to pay. I wish it were otherwise, but given the choice between taking care of our own and getting involved in unending drama to be a part of his, to the detriment of our own, we had few palatable options. All we can do is offer prayers that God will help him navigate through his troubled times. Unfortunately daughter Panda Bear and her family is too much under the sphere of influence of that side of the family, so we’re limited in what we can do for them as well. I do have the pleasure of taking twelve-year-old nephew/grandson Mark to church activities once a week and spending some quality time with him, so that’s a positive. But his family situation is very unstable as well, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do that, so I’ll just take what I can get for now.

Okay, enough of the background filler and time to get to the heart of why I’m back here, even if only temporarily. The one part of the family I haven’t mentioned.

June Bug. And her boyfriend/fiancee.

And grandson CJ (who I’ll go ahead and refer to as Cam), now four years old.

And, since just before last Christmas, granddaughter Baby Baby (because that’s what I refer to her by every time I see her).

OK now some brief background on them. They’ve been living together the past eighteen months, and working the same shift (but different areas) of one of the local processing plants around here. BF is generally a good guy and decent to her and the kids, but his youth and inexperience shows at times, particularly in regards to finances and the mindset of “me” versus “my family”. In time the potential is there for them to make things permanent, but there are still issues to deal with between the two (especially when it comes to managing finances). Unfortunately they’re under pressure from controlling elements of his family out of state (mainly his dad) to get married, pack up, and move out to Georgia to live in the middle of nowhere near him. June Bug is very leery about this course of action and so is her BF, but it is out there. More on this later.

Their workload and life means that during the daytime we take Cam to his preschool and have him most afternoons, along with AJ and Baby Baby. That has become my morning routine after work, picking up and taking the boys to their respective schools before I go home and relax. We’re a big part of Cam’s life, and have done everything in our power to help him with his issues and channel his relentless energy in a positive direction, as well as help June Bug and BF parent him properly without stepping on their toes. We’ve vowed to them and ourselves that no matter what happens, what crisis happens between them, we will always see to it that the grandkids’ welfare is taken care of and take them in if necessary. We’ve helped them in various ways, though not to the point of enabling them to repeat their mistakes or take advantage of us. But we will never let the kids go without.

Last week this policy was put to the test. A fire had started in their bathroom and luckily self-extinguished when the toilet and tub melted and sent water flooding through the bathroom, but not before it pretty much consumed most of Cam’s laundry in the bathroom and sent more than a fair amount of smoke throughout the house. We immediately took the grandkids in while June Bug and BF stayed with her sister (and their chaos), dealing with their slumlord landlord and taking care of their affairs. Meanwhile we got Cam the basics in clothing (socks and underwear), and was able to get some generous donations to replenish his mostly incinerated wardrobe. The baby’s didn’t lose any clothes, but had to be washed multiple times to get the smoke out of them. Fortunately the bulk of their possessions is still salvageable, but the slumlord seems satisfied with only replacing the broken appliances and painting over the walls WITHOUT any cleaning of the soot or smoke damage. Neither one want to live in a house in that condition, so they’re going to take their tax returns and look elsewhere.

And then the BF’s family stepped in.

Talk started surfacing of the two getting married and moving out of state. This isn’t a new thing, we figured after about a year or so, they would start considering those options. One was the dad’s proposal, another was his mom’s proposal to come live near her and her new hubby up in Iowa. That’s pretty far too, but at least we know that BF’s mom and hubby are decent, stable people who love the grandkids as much as we do and would be just as supportive of them as we have been. I’m less impressed with the rest of his side of the family.

We’ve always tried to impress upon them that they are under no obligation to live close to us. That if they receive an opportunity elsewhere that they would be happy with, then that’s where they needed to be. But we didn’t want June Bug to follow her BF somewhere that her heart wasn’t into, just to please everybody. We didn’t want her to be manipulated into a situation she really didn’t want to be in.

Unfortunately June Bug has a long history of not standing up for herself, for taking the path of least resistance.

The talk surfaced the past few days that they may be finding a temporary place to stay in, then move this summer. We thought they were pushing things, but we figured at least they’d be waiting until Cam was out of his preschool for the summer, which is by far one of the most positive things he has right now (he got an absolutely glowing review from his parent-teacher conference last week). We figured we could deal with that.

Then last night, there was a dinner where we met with June Bug and BF, BF’s mother and stepfather, and his grandfather, supposedly for BF’s birthday.

Yes Dear and I both had this premonition that some decisions had been made, under pressure from BF’s family, decisions that we had no input on. Decisions that we would be less than okay with. And when Yes Dear and I have the same premonition, it is never a good sign.

Our premonitions proved correct.

June Bug & BF are moving to Georgia by the middle of next month. They aren’t going to wait until Cam is done with school. They’ve been offered a moving truck, paid for by the grandfather, and a place to stay free of rent, and most utilities taken care of. With no job lined up.

Anyone see anything wrong with this picture? Anyone? Bueller?

We did discuss our concerns today with June Bug alone, but with the knowledge that there was little we could do to deflect their course. We did let her know that this would be the kind of decision that there would be little recourse from once made, that for better or worse they would be committed to. That she was risking going into a situation where she would be under the thumb of others with selfish motives, that she would have little say in future things. That they, and she, would have few avenues of escape should it become necessary, that they wouldn’t be able to come back to Arkansas and be able to pick up where they left off, particularly job-wise, if things didn’t work out.

And we told her we’d miss the kids being so close, but she had to do what was best for their future.

What we didn’t tell her was just how much we would miss them. How much I would miss them.

And how much AJ would miss them, his “baby”, and his favorite playmate Cam. The one who he fights and argues with while playing, who he sometimes likes to torment and get tormented in return, but he loves unconditionally. The one who is “officially” a cousin, if not legally his nephew, but whom he knows deep in his heart is really his brother.

 

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AJ & Cam

As much energy as he requires to look after, as much as he can push your buttons, as hard as I have to be on him sometimes as compared to the usually more compliant AJ, as much as we sometimes welcome the breaks from watching him, I miss this little turd every time he goes.

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And the thought of him being so far away, so soon, is unthinkable. I’ll miss taking him to preschool and picking him up, of him running into my my arms with a loud “Derpa!” (his name for me).  Or reading to him while he falls asleep.

 

And of this sweet little girl falling asleep with me as I fall asleep after a long night of work.

 

 

My heart is breaking.

Thank you for taking the time to listen. I may or may not update here, I might post those on FB, if at all. I may come back here from time to time if I have something profound to write about or to get off my mind. Or I might not.

 

 

 

All Good Things…

Yes, this blog’s been shuttered awhile.  Yes, I’ve been on hiatus.  Yes, it’s more than just a hiatus, it’s pretty much a lack of interest in blogging right now.

And yes, I’m now making it official – I’m closing up shop, for good, here.

But before I do that, I think I owe at least one more blog post, and let what few readers may find this know what’s going on in my life.

As far as our immediate household goes, things are reasonably well right now.  Still at my old job but no longer an inspector, they decided my experience as a machine operator was too valuable to be anything but.  Still get the same pay and hours, and get to work again with my third-shift chums in the back that I had so much breakroom fun with two years ago.  Yes Dear recently got a job working for a gas/convenience station affiliated with a very common household big-box retailer that’s pretty much a household name.  The extra income helps but what really makes a difference is the commute takes all of three minutes, so the gas savings is nearly priceless.  Daughter PBJ recently got promoted to a supervisory position at her discount retailer job, and was finally given her grandpa’s truck (the father-in-law) ‘cause he can’t drive it anymore.  Given, as in title signed over to her.  So automotively, we’re in much better shape than earlier this year, because she’s got her own vehicle that she’s responsible for and free to come and go as she pleases, which means that only Yes Dear & I have to share the venerable Pontiac.  And hopefully, we’ll be in a position to replace that in a few weeks ourselves.

AJ is still AJ, growing like crazy and turning into his own person.  We decided to delay kindergarten by one year because he is a bit developmentally behind, particularly because of his hearing problems last year and his speech, which we are currently working on.  Otherwise, he’s a normal, happy, and healthy 5-year-old little boy who loves his trains.

Middle daughter June Bug has moved out and in with a boyfriend, who for a change seems to be someone good for her, and grandson CJ as well.  Good enough to the point where they have been kicking around the idea of making it permanent.  June Bug still has her issues here and there, but she’s come a long way from back when she first came to stay with us.  CJ can still be a handful at times, but he seems to be mellowing out as his environment gets more stable.  And the baby daddy has attempted some half-assed legal measures to try to get him back, but so far he’s been unsuccessful (and really stupid how he’s been going about it).  Prayers that it’ll stay that way.

Eldest daughter Panda Bear and her new family – well let’s just say, she’s behaving like Panda Bear.  To the point where we’ve reassured her hubby that if things were to go south, both him and grandson/nephew Mark would always still be considered family.  Not helping is the fact that the only one with any significant influence over her is the Wicked Witch SIL, who seems to enjoy using her as a pawn against us, particularly her mother.

And nephew JJ – remember him from previous posts?  Thirteen years old and badly misguided.  Due to the family situation I rarely get to see him anymore, but daughter June Bug and boyfriend does from time to time and tries to be positive influences in his life.  So far he’s still a fairly decent kid but he’s at that point in adolescent life where many dubiously guided teenagers go tragically off the rails, and there are too many opportunities for him to do so.  Like having unmoderated and unsupervised contact with a girlfriend, for example.  Given the family history, particularly on that side, I see no good coming out of that.  But I’m not in a position to make any real difference there right now, so all I can do is pray for him and his future, that he doesn’t destroy it before it even begins.

So there you have it – the good, bad, and ugly.  Not that there’s anything really ugly going on right now, just how I see things from my point of view, like I’ve always blogged about.  At least it’s better than those inane Christmas letters we used to get from neighbors we hardly knew expounding on how wonderful their families had been all year (anyone ever get those?)

When I kept up on things more regularly around here, this blog pretty much was my sounding board, my bitch box, my way to sort out the thoughts bouncing around in my head, my means of getting to know people out there in the blogosphere without really getting to know them, or too much about me.

I no longer have the desire to do it anymore.  At least, not in the way I’ve been doing it here.

First of all, there isn’t much of a blogosphere anymore, not like when I first started (and even then, things were on the wane).  People have moved on to other forums like FB and Twitter, or focused their blogs on moneymaking opportunities or narrow niche interests.  A lot of the ones I’ve been most interested in have closed up shop themselves.

Second, this blog has pretty much served its purpose in the past, whereas that purpose is no longer important to me and not needed as much now.  It got me through tough times and tough decisions, and helped me figure myself and some other things out.  A sort of self-therapy, if you may.  But there always comes a time where the doctor must part with the patient and the patient take responsibility for his own health.  Anything more, it sounds like someone bitching about their own problems for sympathy, and that’s what too many of my more recent posts sounds like.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  FB has become my sounding board now, a glimpse into my life for my friends, and even that is pretty limited.  No going into profound details about my private life there.

All good things must come to an end.  And it’s time for this blog, this chapter in my life, to end as well.

But, rest assured, I won’t disappear from the blogosphere completely.  The Real Dave, aka Diamond Dave, or just plain David, will still be reading and lurking around your blogs, and commenting from time to time.  I have no plans to stop doing that anywhere in the near future, as long as I have access to Internet.

Also I have given some serious thought about starting up on another project, an idea for a niche blog of mine, concerning military history.  Something I’ve always had an interest in, a useless subject of mine that I can discuss your ear (or blog) off about ad nauseum.  When and if that takes place, I’ll be sure to let my regulars know.  Who knows, I might even turn it into a small money-making opportunity with ads and affiliates.

Until the end of the year or so, I’m reopening up access to my blog and all its posts.  And rather than engage in the tedious task of unlocking all my previously locked posts one by one, I’ll just give you the password (turbo).  Afterwards, I may find a way to archive, or at least copy, all my posts here and then turn out the lights for good.

I want to thank anybody and everybody that’s stopped by here that read my blog, that they may have been able to find something here that interested them or they were able to relate to, and it wasn’t just wasted minutes in their lives.  And a very special thanks to my regular readers (you know who you are) who have stuck by here during my journey through (blog)life and inspired me to carry on as long as I have, and have given me bits of sage wisdom from time to time.  I wish nothing but the best for all of you and yours, and hope I was able to make as much a difference with you as you have with me.  And, if it is meant to happen, I would love to meet all of you in person some day.

Time to go.  Last person out, please kill the lights.

And now for something different…

Made it through the Fourth of July and Panda Bear’s wedding (without killing anyone or anything).  We swore after the hectic pace of the last few days that once the wedding was done we were going to go home, lock the doors, unplug the phones, get into comfortable clothes, and do absolutely nothing the rest of the day except be as lazy as possible (except to go out for half-price shakes after 8 at Sonic).  Which we are doing to the fullest.

In the meantime we came across a couple of Star Trek movies, which we’re currently enjoying.  That reminded me that some years back, I did a homegrown review of all the Star Trek movies made, excepting the reboots (which only the first one was out at the time), to be used as blog filler at a later date.  I’ve decided, almost five years later, that the date is now.  So, for the reading pleasure for any Trekkies out there, here is Dave’s unofficial reviews of the Star Trek movie franchise (minus the reboots).

Let me start by separating out the four Trek movies that IMHO stand separate from the rest, in terms of being very good or very bad.

The best – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Almost indisputably the best.  I only say almost, because there will always be someone who resonates a little better with one of the others.  But seriously, this is close to perfection.  They took an old storyline from the old series, breathed new life into it, and turned it into the most dramatic, entertaining, and watchable Trek movie ever made.  Khan was a joy to watch, and will always be the best villain the series ever had.  The battle sequences between Enterprise and Reliant were first rate.  Those earworms really made me squirm.  And was there a dry eye in the house at Spock’s funeral, especially when they played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes?  Waaaahhh!!!  This movie set a standard for the Trek franchise that’s been very difficult to attain, let alone succeed.

The worst – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The polar opposite of The Wrath of Khan.  Terrible in all respects.  Started with a weak premise and went roaring downhill from there.  Most unforgivable of all, the special effects were horrendous, particularly of the Enterprise firing her weapons.  I actually found myself getting bored fifteen minutes into the movie.  Only two good things came from this movie – the fact that Paramount didn’t want to end the series (as far as the old cast goes) on such a weak note so they came out with a far superior successor, and the classic Kirk line, “What does God need with a starship?”  To get as far away from this wretched mess as possible.  Why else?

Above average – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

This movie likely wouldn’t have been made, had it not been for the awfulness of its predecessor.  But this one came up with a very good plotline, closely paralleling the relationship between the U.S. and the USSR at the time, and executed it brilliantly.  The tentative warming of relations between the Federation and the Klingons was something that was carried on and expanded on later in the Star Trek world.  Some good battle scenes at the end, and excellent acting by the whole cast.  I particularly liked Kim Cattrall as Valeris.  BTW, does anybody remember the movie Porky’s?  She was the one that played Lassie, the cheerleader who had screaming orgasms in the boy’s locker room.  Yes, I know I’m a terrible, gutter-minded person.  Couldn’t resist sharing, however.  Anyway, the only one I believe that came anywhere close to the excellence of The Wrath Of Khan.

Below average – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The one thing that saved this movie from being ranked down there with The Final Frontier was that the special effects were admittedly spectacular, particularly back in 1979.  And it was truly refreshing to see the changes and upgrades made to the Enterprise and Starfleet since the old series.  Trouble is, that’s all there was to this movie.  Lots and lots of eye candy, but very little plot and an excruciatingly slow pace following an already overlong runtime.  Can’t watch this before bedtime or after a large meal, I’m guaranteed to fall asleep.  But this movie did have one thing that you’ll have trouble finding anywhere else in the Trek genre – a transporter malfunction that scrambles its hapless transportees.  Though not much was shown, the misshapen silhouette in the transporters and the agonized screeches of pain, followed by the Starfleet transmission, “Enterprise…What we got back…didn’t live long…fortunately” creeped me out then and still does to this day.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis

It’s real hard for me to categorize the other movies.  Dumping them all into an “average” category really isn’t fair, because a few of these are quite good on their own terms, and some of them are just as seriously flawed.  They just didn’t stand out for me as much as the other four, so I’ll try to evaluate them on their own merits.  One thing I will say is regardless of their qualities or deficiencies, all are very watchable and will gain my attention whenever I have the TV remote and time to relax in front of the tube.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

There really wasn’t anything seriously wrong with this movie.  Good plot, good script, good acting, and decent effects.  The only problem I had was that it was so difficult to follow in the footsteps of the excellence of The Wrath of Khan.  Yet this movie really tried hard to do so, and succeeded on more counts than such followups are often able to do.  We even got to see Uhura do a little more than her standard “Hailing frequencies open, Captain” lines.  I really missed Kirstie Alley as Saavik, though (who in a million years would believe that Kirstie Alley once played a Vulcan?).  Also I thought Kirk overacted his son’s death.  Otherwise, quite enjoyable.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Many seem to rank this as the second best of the whole series, at least of the Trek movies featuring the original cast.  And it probably is one of the more fun movies to watch, as far as sheer entertainment goes.  Yet this movie potentially could’ve been as much of a bomb as the one immediately following it.  Just look at the plot: The crew must travel back in time to get a couple of humpback whales to put in the ocean so the alien starship doesn’t destroy the whole planet Earth.  C’mon, sounds like the whole script was a collaboration between Greenpeace and the Sierra Club!  Please.  And I long ago quit being a big fan of time travel – it’s a badly overused script device, a deux ex machina, and it opens up too many plot and continuity holes.  Yet despite these potentially fatal flaws, excellent acting and directing made it all work, and work surprisingly well.  And if you can make a movie truly fun to watch, much else can be overlooked.

Star Trek: Generations

I gotta admit, I’m going to be a little more biased with this review.  (Actually, I’m biased with all my reviews.  After all, this is my blog and these are my thoughts.)  But I have more of an emotional connection with this movie than I do with any of the others.  I just was really able to resonate with the idea of the Nexus, a place where you could allow yourself to be forever consumed by joy.  At the time this movie was released, my life was at a crossroads and I had some life-altering decisions to make, and this movie contributed to tipping the balance in the direction to where I currently am, for better or worse.  Personal stuff aside, this movie had good and not so good to it.  I liked the plot premise (particularly the Nexus) and the old crew (what there was of them) compared and contrasted with the new.  And the NG crew held their own well in the acting department, particularly Picard.  His grief over his family losses seemed much more real and better acted than Kirk’s did back in The Search For Spock.  Yet the movie almost had a rushed quality to it, as if they had to cut out and condense a lot to meet screening deadlines.  I also thought that the scenes between Kirk and Picard could’ve been done far better.  But overall, despite some glaring flaws, one of my personal favorites.

Star Trek: First Contact

This turned out to be what likely was the best of the Trek movies with the NG cast.  Despite once again having to resort to the dreaded time travel plot device, this movie was done well enough to overcome any potential weaknesses.  The cast was again superb, the Enterprise –E  looked great, nice effects, and the sequences of the crew hunting the Borg and vice versa was reminiscent of the old George Romero zombie movies.  And they did a really good job with the Borg queen.  Complaints?  The hokey scene at the very end of the movie, after the Borg queen is defeated and the “space mission” is successful in attracting the attention of the Vulcans.  What do we get?  A spaceship landing, with a crowd watching, and a Vulcan steps off the ship, shows the familiar Vulcan hand sign, and states, “Live long and prosper.”  Sheesh.  Couldn’t they have done a little better than that?

Star Trek: Insurrection

Now we’re starting to slide into mediocrity.  This was not a terrible movie, not really even a bad one.  As usual, the NG crew keeps up a fine performance, and the storyline was decent and believable.  But for some reason this was lacking the “wow!” factor that most of the other movies had.  I just have trouble remembering any moment in the movie that really was able to hook me, to get an emotional reaction out of me, a “whoa” or “aha!” moment.  And I realize this is technical nitpicking, but I had a problem with the Enterprise flying into battle at the climactic end of the movie, phasers blasting, after she had dumped her warp core.  After watching most of the Star Trek series, I have a hard time believing that a starship, or any ship for that matter, would have the necessary power for anything other than limited movement and basic life support after jettisoning their main source of power.  Just didn’t make sense to me.  Overall, still quite watchable, but somewhat forgettable at the same time.

Star Trek: Nemesis

This movie seems to be a classic example of trying to do too much, and either overdoing it or not doing enough.  Have to admit I liked the battle sequences late in the movie between the Scimitar and the Enterprise, with some help from the Romulans.  And I never tire of watching the NG crew, especially Picard and his acting.  But I never could quite get into the whole B4 subplot thing, and never fully understood the whole story behind Romulus and Remus and how they fit in with the plot.  This movie bombed at the box office, and is critically considered as one of the worst of the Trek movie establishment.  I was entertained enough by the movie to think better of it, but it definitely had flaws.  Perhaps the real problem was at the time the whole Star Trek franchise was becoming stale, and people expected a lot more out of a film that tried to do so much, yet fell short on too many levels.  But it held its own with me as far as sheer entertainment value goes, and that’s what keeps me from ranking it lower.  As long as a movie is fun to watch I’ll never write it off completely.

If there are any Trek fans out there amongst the masses of chirping crickets, feel free to offer your thoughts.

Automotive purgatory

Great.

Just great.

My last functional vehicle, my faithful but worn-out Bonneville, may be terminal at last.

Heard a loud banging noise coming from outside while in the kitchen.  When I opened the door Yes Dear was pulling up in the carport.  Said banging was coming from under the hood.  Which, of course, disappeared when she shut the car off.

Can you say rod, piston, or bearing?  ‘Cause that’s sure what it sounds like.

On a 19-year-old vehicle with over 250,000 miles on it, worn inside and out, worth maybe $200.

The only other vehicle we own is the minivan with the blown transmission awaiting another $600 to (hopefully) repair.

We do have limited use of my father-in-law’s truck.  But relations with that side of the family are strained, to say the least, and we can’t rely on that every day.  Or even a few times a week.

So we got in our house two people working, one looking, and anywhere from 3-4 kids to look after during the week.  And probably no vehicle.

And no hope for extra income.  Not without a job, which btw requires a vehicle.

Dammit.

UPDATE: Mounting evidence (via friends, online, and Youtube) that it may be the harmonic balancer.  Good news is if so, it’s a fixable problem and the car’s not terminal (yet, anyways).  Bad news is it’s approximately a $100 part, right at the end of the month when I got to pay rent, so car still may sit for a couple weeks.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Fixed, $65 later.  It was the harmonic balancer, old one was shot.  Found a used one at a junkyard and had to buy and borrow some additional tools to take the old one off and put the new one on, but finally got it done.  Car doesn’t run fantastic (it didn’t before anyway) but it gets around and banging sound is gone.

The Face Of A Narcissistic Murderer

The Santa Barbara killer, for all those who would behold:

shithead

(sorry Chet)

Fuck that useless, worthless piece of rancid dog shit to eternity and beyond.  Here’s what I think of you and all you other losers who would consider doing such a thing.  So useless you couldn’t get laid in a barnyard full of comatose animals.  You’re a disgrace to every living being on the planet, and especially the parents that had the misfortune to give birth to you.  The only good thing about you is you’re no longer around taking up space or breathing the air of people more worthy of life than you.  I feel dirty even giving your ilk this kind of attention.

Too bad the media wouldn’t echo this sentiment.  Take the so-called glory out of these acts.

Now I need to repent for my un-Christianlike thoughts and language, especially on a Sunday.  But, damn, I’m getting sick of these losers taking out their issues on innocents because they’re mad at the world.

That is all.

Telephony

My phones, both the home and (prepaid) cell, do not rule my life.

I have never been much of a phone talker (except with a few select family members), and I shy away from situations that require talking to someone on the phone.

And, of course, I very rarely answer the phone, unless it’s someone I know and I’m not busy at the moment, or I’m expecting an important call (employment?).  Everyone else, if it’s important, can leave a message.  If your number is from an area code I don’t recognize, or a toll free number, or especially comes up as “unknown”, then chances are I will dismiss you as a bill collector, telemarketer, or scammer, unless they leave a message proving to me otherwise. And if I have a brain fart and pick up on one of the aforementioned, be prepared to be rudely hung up on.

Oh, and I never, ever converse with bill collectors.  Ever. At all. Nada.  If the debt is legit and I’m in a position to pay it up, I will talk to the original debtor for settlement.  Everyone else can eat voice mail.

This phone-shyness of mine probably comes from my insecurity.  I like to be able to think about what I’m going to say before I say it, and talking with someone on the phone without any inkling as to the nature of their business leaves me with no opportunity to prepare.  If I’m forced to call someone for whatever reason, I like to rehearse in my head what I’m going to say so I don’t come off as sounding (in my head) like a complete idiot.

Needless to say, there are times where I have to overcome my phone issues, bite the bullet, and make phone calls for pressing business or personal reasons, or emergencies.  But if I don’t absolutely have to, I stay away from talking on the phone.  And for those of you that wonder about texting, I’m a little better at that especially for the convenience (you can think about your text before composing and sending it), but I don’t like to idly chit-chat via text, I’d much rather do that in person.

Having said all of that, I do like to keep at least a prepaid cellphone handy because communication with the rest of the family is essential when we are all running in different directions.  But I don’t let it rule me, or become an electronic leash.

I do wish Yes Dear felt the same way.  At least as far as unknown numbers calling the house goes.

The past year we’ve experienced waves of the home phone ringing at all hours of the day, all day long.  Probably only about 10% of the calls were legitimately from someone we were interested (or needed) to talk to.  The rest of the numbers I would log in a notepad file, google them, and make a notation as to their source (if I could find it) and how many times they called.  The ones that called the most often got blocked (I can only block 10 numbers at a time).  When I got to ten numbers blocked, I would only add new ones if they were particularly obnoxious (like calling 3x a day) and I’d take the oldest number off the list.  Usually they were on the list long enough to get the message (at least to the robocallers) that their calls weren’t welcome and would not be answered, and I wouldn’t hear from them again.  A few likely switched to different numbers (or started spoofing), but the net result was that such calls dropped dramatically the past few months.

Until recently.

Yes Dear, unfortunately, doesn’t share my views so far as caller ID and unknown callers go.  Despite the evidence I’ve been logging that virtually every unidentified number from a different area code or toll free is someone we don’t want or need to talk to, she’s lately been picking up the phone almost every time.  And almost every time she gets absolutely nothing, a computer, or an obnoxious bill collector or telemarketer.  Worse yet, she’ll actually start to converse with the last two, despite the fact that all is accomplished is a lot of wasted time and irritation.  Guess part of the problem is she’s too polite sometimes, which really isn’t a bad thing, especially since she’s worked extensively with customer service.  But I have no problem being the asshole that hangs up the phone because he doesn’t want to hear your scripted spiel or be subjected to your Jedi mind tricks.

Of course, this just confirms to both the bots and humans that someone worthy of bothering lives at the other end of our phone number, which negates my previous efforts to encourage them to go away, so I have to start the process over again.  Real tempted to see if a phone service exists that operates on an opt-in basis, where everything automatically goes to voice mail unless authorized by me.

Oh yeah, and the above goes double for cell phones, where my pre-paid minutes are valuable.  Of course I’m even pickier about who gets my cellphone number, and I resent those websites and services that keep asking for your cell # as extra security backup (helloooo Facebook?)  I will though grant an exception to services that text severe weather warnings to your phone, those came in handy the other evening.

Antisocial?   A little.  At least until I get to know you better, or you have the courtesy to leave me a message.

 

Brain Dump 4/30/2014 (The Singing Crickets Edition)

The blog muse has not been with me lately.

Some of it is due to the fact I have a full house and few opportunities for quiet private time where I can organize my thoughts into anything coherent.

A good bit of it is due to sheer, unemployment-induced laziness.

And a fair bit of it is that I’m just not big on blogging anymore, and it seems that way with a lot of people, particularly my regular readers.  I don’t have any real plans to fold up shop here right now, but for a while it’s going to be on a take-it-as-it-comes basis.  If I have something I really want to say that is able to make it onto my laptop I’ll blog about it.  Otherwise, I won’t force it or decorate up with empty fluff.

The interesting part is that I do have a few things kicking around in my head, just not quite to the point where it escapes onto the blog.  Yet.

Some of that indeed can be blamed on laziness.

But at the very least I’ll give a little primer on what is in my head right now, and other current happs in my life.  At least until the rest of the household leaves and sticks me with babysitting the kids for the evening.

–  June Bug and CJ are still with us, and will be for the indefinite future, at least until she saves up enough money to move out on her own (a while down the road).  She went on an ill-advised date with a coworker a few weeks ago and ended up with a $500 citation for being a passenger with an open container in a vehicle in a local park after hours.  She claims to have realized her mistake in dating too soon after leaving her prior relationship, but it’s disturbing how easily she goes back to old habits that led her down the path to all her previous problems. *sigh*  At least there’s been no contact recently with the baby daddy, hopefully he stays out of the picture for a good long while.

– Grandson CJ is absolutely adorable, but a handful at times.  Yes Dear & I have tamed him quite a bit when he is with us and June Bug is working, but he knows how to push all his momma’s buttons.  And as tempted as we are to step in we have to let her learn to parent, because what is she going to do out on her own with no backup?  One major exception – hitting your mother in my presence.  Big-time violation of one of Dave’s prime directives.  Did not end well for him at all, and he has since learned the error of his ways.  Not. Happening. In. My. House.  Dirpa (his name for me) ain’t kidding.

– Employment situation is still meh.  Interviews are hard to come by, and the few that I have gone on haven’t gone anywhere.  At least two of them the positions were put on hold after my interview.  Do have a contact working at a large and good-paying employer in town trying to get my name to the top of their list for an interview, so we’ll see.  Part-timing doing crappy temp work to supplement my unemployment, which’ll be mostly gone after a couple more months.  Both daughters here are working and paying rent so that helps.  But I really need to get out of the house.

– Car situation is making it really tricky to do anything.  One car that is wearing out fast (my Bonneville) and having to run people all over town sometimes makes it a zero-sum game for me to work, after you add in gas and wear-and-tear costs on the car.  Tranny for the Windstar will cost $1500, and we only have slightly over half that figure saved at this point.  Fair possibility that daughter PBJ will be getting her grandpa’s truck in the next couple months and that will help, but we’ll watch that bridge burn when we get to it.

– Eldest daughter Panda Bear getting married in July.  So far looks like they are working out okay and hopefully it’ll stay that way.  Fiance seems to do really well with grandkids, but I was pretty confident he would.  Nephew Mark was asking me what he should call me, since technically the new marital status would make him another grandchild, and I told him he could call me anything he wanted (within reason), or just call me what he always has.  He’s already calling Panda Bear Mom, which makes me uncomfortable in some ways, but given the family history is understandable, and not really my place to say anything.  (For recent readers who may be totally confused about the dynamics of the aforementioned relationship, read here for a little clarification).

– Getting a work crew together from church this Saturday to go help clean up the storm damage from Sunday’s tornado, which hit about 45mi E of here.  At one point in time we were sandwiched in between two tornado warnings, but both passed by without dropping anything.  Good thing, because our current domicile doesn’t have a lot in the way of safe rooms or hallways, and would never survive a direct hit from anything stronger than an EF1.

– Lots of news items I would like to comment on, but too many of them downright depressing, if not making me want to hurl my laptop across the room.  For starters, what is it with the recent rash of cowardly ship captains that leave their passengers to die while they jump (or fall) into lifeboats?  Another one that disturbs me (at the risk of offending a few readers) is the recent push to totally legalize marijuana everywhere.  Just to be clear, I have no issue with someone smoking a doobie in the privacy of their own home or backyard, or certainly not with someone partaking to ease the pain of chronic or terminal illness.  But I fear that we are about to open a Pandora’s box of unforeseen and negative consequences.  More on that in a future post, sometime.

About all for now.  Maybe I’ll post in more detail in the near future.  Then again, maybe I won’t.  We’ll see.