Friday, November 22, 2013

Urban Warfare...

Well over a year ago now, Elli and I thought we should move. We were hemming and hawing over this decision for a while, looking at other options, running some numbers, but not really committing. Then while reading to Daven and Hannah one night, a chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling and hit me on the head.

Time to move.

But that falling plaster also pointed out that there was many many things that we needed to update and patch up with that old house to get it marketable and sell for an absurd amount of money. This involved endless hours of painting, scraping, fixing, correcting, polishing, scrubbing, rotating, and renting a storage garage to declutter, and then renting another one because you filled up the first one.

And endless mowing of the lawn.

Thankfully mother nature took over and blessed us with a drought thus stunting the growth of the grass. Here's what it looked like once it did it's scorching goodness:

But you'll notice that there's a shady spot of the lawn. That damn large tree blocked most of the sun all day. As such, that spot did still need to be mowed occasionally.

So, on one of those short outings to buzz down the lawn, I was right around the trunk of the large tree pictured above when I noticed a yellow jacket buzzing around. I flailed at it as per my usual knee jerk response when it comes to one of these cursed creatures and quickly moved along. I was then coming back on approach to roughly the same area when I noticed yet another f'ing yellow jacket buzzing around. But this time it had a friend...and another one. I noticed they were keeping low to the ground so I didn't think anything of it other than once again pass by quickly. On the 3rd approach I noticed what I was slowly suspecting over the last lap. There was a steady stream of yellow jackets going down to the ground and coming back up. But not just buzzing around the ground and then flying away, they were going into a hole in the ground and another one would come flying back out.

 I had a underground yellow jacket nest.


At first I wanted to ignore it. "Maybe it's not really a hive. Maybe it was just a fluke thing and one or two or 17 of them were cruising on by and happened upon the hole and wanted to check things out but then decided this wasn't for them and moved on." At about the time I was staring out the big window you see in the pic above, probably pale and sweating profusely, Elli asked what I was doing.

"I think we have a yellow jacket nest in the ground." I said.

"How do we get rid of that?" she asked.

"Let's leave them alone and ignore the problem." I answered.

As usual she was the rationale one with things like this and said it would look bad to prospective buyers if while they were checking out the side yard they were swarmed by yellow jackets. Probably not conducive to selling.

But I had never tackled an underground nest before. My only experience with combating bees were nests up in trees or under roof awnings and with those you can blast the little bastards with a can of raid safely from 45 feet away. This was going to require a much closer hand to hand method. 

So, since the Internet knows some things other than weird sexual positions, I started researching DIY methods of ridding the planet of some yellow jackets. Some suggestions included setting up a shop vac next to the entrance and letting the bees get sucked into the canister with some insecticide solution waiting for them. Problem with this is that it takes a long time and after you think you're done hopefully all those damn things are dead when you pop the top of the canister off. Otherwise you have a pissed off stinging problem to deal with. Another solution was smoking them out and then burying the entrance. Problem with this one is that it was tough to tell if they all were left and if the queen was still around the little shits can dig their way back out and you'd be back to square one.

One of the most intriguing ideas I came across was the "Redneck Napalm attack", in which you pour a shit ton of gasoline down the hole, light it, and run away while the whole thing ignites and shoots flames out of the hole in spectacular glory. Obviously this idea was concocted by a group of people who were both related and married to one another and have a combined IQ of a water pitcher. However, I must admit I thought about this one long and hard, and it was repeated by several people. But the flaw in this one was that the fire it causes was so quick and sudden that although most of the yellow jackets would die fiery deaths (which gave me pause to smile) some of them would survive the blast and recolonize an again, you'd be at square one.

But then I came across an "avid hemp user" who claimed to be an expert in the massacring of yellow jackets with something like 40+ hives destroyed without a single sting. I settled on this one because it seemed the most logical and also something I'd be willing to do. So, armed with this Sensei of Cannabis' advice, I set out to the hardware store to acquire the only thing I needed that I didn't have on hand:

For sissies who want to kill shit from far far away.

The other items I would need would be a bucket full of sand, a little bit of gasoline or motor oil, a tamper, and some courage. I also made a case for the following:

Something tells me any or all of these would've attracted unwanted attention, so they were begrudgingly scrubbed from the plan.

Under the cover of darkness, I launched my assault. First step of the plan was to take out the scout. This was a yellow jacket that stayed at the entrance of the hole during the night time hours and would alert the rest of the clan if danger arose. I was assured by my pot smoking guru that even though the scout would be awake he would be exceedingly sluggish and easy to take out. This is where the bottle of raid came in. I was to sneak up, douse the scout with raid and continue spraying into the hole for a few additional seconds to eliminate any other bees slightly farther down. After all, accordingly to this guy sometimes there are multiple scouts and any one of them could sound the alarm. So, very nervously and carefully, while wearing all black and armed with a green light (which would allow me to maintain my night vision should I have to dash away in a panic), I approached the entrance to hell itself, i.e. the hole in the ground. Circling it very carefully I did not see any scout. All was quite. I even waiting a heartbeat or two before proceeding. But right when I was about to pull the trigger I wimped out and ran back to the garage. "This is stupid. It's me we're talking about so something is going to go wrong with this plane and I'm going to be stung to hell and back and not be any better off." But the guy gene got the best of me, and I couldn't go cowering back into the house with business undone. 

So I marched back out with the intent of getting things done.

Once again I ninja stalked up to the hole, saw no scout, and positioned myself so that the stream would go down the straightest path. Pulling the safety on the can of bee killer I pressed the button and released it's toxic components. Pot guy said to spray for around 15 seconds. I emptied the hole damn can.

But that's just the start. That takes out only the first line of defense. That does nothing to the collective hive writhing about under foot. To get those shitheads, pot guy suggested pouring gas or motor oil down the hole. Once you get some of that down there you seal it off with a pile of dirt thus locking in all the choking fumes and killing off all living things down the hole. And yes you hippies I realize this is damaging to the environment but that's something I'm ok with doing in this situation. If I had to choose eliminating a hive of bees at the cost of 15 puppies there would be less Sparkies running around that year. 

So, with the can of toxic bee sauce down the way I ran back to where my small gas can was. I then sprinted back to the hole fully expecting a swarm of raid-resistant yellow jackets waiting for me. Thankfully there was none and I poured a healthy dose down the way. Next I sprinted back to where I had a play bucket full of sand waiting. Running back with that in one hand and my tamper in the next, I unloaded the sand and swatted it down a few times to pack it all in tight. However, I added my own stamp to the process and sprinkled a bunch of carpenter ant killer all over the dirt. I read on multiple postings these guys are great diggers, so I figured any that survived the gas deluge and tried to crawl out would choke on the ant killer. I then ran back into the safety of the garage and waited 15 minutes. Then, again ninja stealth like, went back out with the light to see if anything was making it's way out.

Nothing. Perhaps I won this fight after all.

The next day I checked the area multiple times from the safety of the window and even ventured out from time to time to make sure nothing was making it's way out. And at around noon I declared victory. Sadly no one in my house acknowledged this decisive win.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where are you going, my little one...

Dav was born in March of 2008.

                                                 (Dav in Dec. of 2009)

That will make him 5 1/2 years old in just a little over a week.

                                                (Dav in August of 2013)

Our little baby is turning into a boy. He no longer needs help with much, and he is proving to be more and more intelligent each day. He challenges you with appropriate questions to the situation at hand, and demonstrates rather impressive problem solving skills. For instance, we were building up a new Lego set yesterday and there was a part which required two builds of basically the same piece but made into mirror images of the other. Rather than line up the pieces with the picture, Daven took the piece to be built, held it next the other one and made it up opposite of the one already built. I was impressed by this as it struck me how far he has come in his short time around. 

Which now leads us to the big milestone that many parents dread: On September 3rd of this year, Daven starts Kindergarten. We've seen it coming for a while now, and when most people ask how Elli and I are doing with that fact I always deflect the question in that Elli is having a hard time with it.

But I'm confessing to you all now: I'm excited for him; yet terrified as well.

Like most parents I struggle with letting your child go into the world. Elli and I know he's ready. He's been done with naps since a little after 3 years old, he routinely helps out in the classroom at daycare, he's starting to understand basic reading, and has a memory of a computer. As eluded to before, he understands situations and can problem solve and understand the "why" behind things. And if he doesn't, he's not going to move forward until he does. He's very literal that way. He's routinely been scored high on assessments and teachers starting a year ago said that he just outright is bored where he is now in his curriculum.

I'm not bragging about my child. That's all leads into the following: Dav is a little different than most kids his age. He loves running with the pack, and will happily follow along with others. With both good and bad behavior. But he's also very content doing his own thing, and sometimes thinks differently than other kids around him. This of course leads us parents to worry about bullying issues. Of course Elli pointed out that he probably wouldn't even realize he's getting picked on. But it leads me to want to be there with him in class, to hold his hand while we walk to the lunchroom, help him punch in his lunch code, watch him on the playground during recess, and remind him which paper to bring home from school. Obviously I can't do that, and it's proving very hard to not baby him as much these days. He'll get very upset if you help him without him asking (a trait he shares with me) and will get offended if you pester him with baby like attitudes. 

 (How do I give my son the world without robbing him of the experience?)

I see myself as his map of sorts, in that I can show him the way if he wants but I'm not going to necessarily bring him there. I can show him many paths, however he has to choose the one he wants. I feel this is the role of a parent. Elli and I have done what we can to get him to this point. It's now time to see what he can do with a little bit of freedom. We know he can succeed, and he's proven that he's ready. But I'm sure all parents worry that their child will take the wrong path. While I believe there is truth in the philosophy that you are a product of your upbringing, I also whole heartily believe that you are ultimately responsible for how you turn out. You and you alone make the choices. 

It's now time for Daven to start making some of his own choices. Elli and I will just have to watch and try to be the best maps we can.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ode to softball

This season marks the 28th year I've played ball. Perhaps that's why my left shoulder hurts. My left elbow also gives me trouble.

So does my back. And my right wrist.

And both knees.

28 years ago did I think I would be a full time softball player? No way. I was 4 years old running across the grass to the infield where my other red shirt clad teammates were playing catch. Like the rest, I'm sure I loved batting more than fielding. Something must've clicked though, because from that summer day so very long ago and every summer yet I've been apart of a ball team. After tball came coach pitch little league (where my Dad helped coach and pitch, and yes he did bean me. A few times), after that came kids pitch, babe ruth, legion ball, and then highschool ball. As I grew up in baseball however I realized early on that I wasn't going to be donning Yankee pinstripes. Politics started early in the sport, and if Daddy didn't know that Daddy or your family didn't live here or there, you weren't drafted into the upper leagues. And if you weren't there, you didn't get noticed. I actually remember at one of the tryouts I was throwing from the mound and looked over to see that not a single one of the coaches was watching. They were mingling around with each other and what not. So I fired the ball over in their direction, it banged off one of the fold up chairs, everyone whirled around and other players in line had mouths agape, and I walked off. It was kind of like that scene from the hunger games.

I was bitter about it then. I'm not anymore.

But then high school ball came around and it was the same story. But I loved playing. I actually love everything about ball. I love the smell of glove oil while you're breaking in a new mitt. I love taping up the end of my bats grip and getting the taper just right. I love the feel of diamond dust crunching under my cleats. I love the look of a field right after it's dragged and the lines are freshly painted. I love all the rituals I religiously adhere to, like never ever touching the foul lines while running onto the field and off it or drawing an "X" in the dirt and then hitting the center of it when I'm on deck. I love how it feels when you crush the ball just right in the sweet zone of the bat and the ball launches out over the fence (you actually don't even feel the hit when this happens).

But I wasn't so naive to think that baseball was really going to take me much farther than high school. It was about this time (at 15 years old) I was asked to help out by playing on my uncles softball team.

And instantly discovered a new love. And haven't looked back.

Is slowpitch softball a sport? Yes. Is it an incredibly athletic endeavor for the elites? No. Does it take a lot of skill to play well? Yes. Can anyone play it? Yes. Can anyone play it well? No. Like all things, it does take practice to get good at. I do commit quite a few swings before the season starts and I do, when no ones looking, practice my foot work drills whenever I think about it. I visualize scenarios and what I'd do in them, I do one arm hitting drills, and yes, I enjoy watching youtube videos of majors level softball.

In short, I'm obsessed with the sport. Just ask my wife.

I've toned down my temper with softball the last handful of years. No longer do I throw my glove violently, or spike the bat into the ground when I pop the ball up. I don't kick fences as often, and I haven't whipped my bat bag into the grass after a loss in a while. I still get frustrated with myself and still don't take losses well. But I've matured and also want to set a good example with my kids watching. It is only a game, and I play on competitive yet laid back fun teams. But there is still pride involved, and when I don't do what I'm supposed to I do get upset. I've just learned to express it a little better.

As bragging rights, the only time I haven't played a game is if I'm out of town. The only time I've missed because of injury is 2 seasons ago when I dislocated my left knee cap. And even then, I came back for the last 5 weeks of the fall campaign. I've played the last 8 seasons with a torn up left shoulder, I have tendinitis in both my throwing elbow and right wrist. I've played with bone bruises, dislocated fingers, sore muscles, nasty colds, run down exhaustion, etc. etc...

I remember back in the day when my old man was in the twilight of his own slowpitch career. He said the reason he stopped playing is because it took him 45 minutes to get his pants on with all the tape and braces he had to put on first. I understand, however I think I'll play until the point, if ever, I just truly can't.

But for now I'm not thinking about that. For now, I'm just focused on when my next game is, obsessively checking the weather reports for that day, and trying to figure out why my swing isn't working like it should.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The powerful "I have a dream speech"...

I present to you Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I have a dream speech". It's long, but if you've never read or heard it, you really should take the time to. It's awesome.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

                                                                                                           -MLK Jr.
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