Keep That Up, You’re Going To Get In Some Real Trouble

kid-in-trouble-1000x750“You keep that up and you’re going to get into some real trouble.”  My mother used to say that all the time.  What kind of trouble was I in at the moment, if it wasn’t real trouble?

My mother used to run after me when I was little, flying down the steps of the back porch, slamming the screen door, grabbing a stick off the ground and chasing me as I ran circles around the yard.  She would say something like, “you stop right there.”  Yeah, I see a mad woman with a stick chasing me and telling me to stop.  That doesn’t sound like a good idea.  “You better stop or you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”  So I would stop.  Thankfully, by that time, she was pretty winded and couldn’t do much damage to my backside.

The wooden screen door would vibrate on its hinges and then slam  into the frame as the giant spring pulled it back.

We were always getting into trouble for slamming the screen door.  It was virtually impossible to not slam the screen door when you were exiting the house unless you held on to the screen door and slowly let it shut.  But you were going out the screen door and you weren’t thinking about holding on to it, and the spring would invariably pull it back towards the frame.  You would see it closing and you would try to grab it really quick, and bam.  “Stop slamming the screen door.” 

“I didn’t.”  Well, in reality, the screen door slammed itself.

“You keep it up, you’re going to get into some real trouble, mister.”

It seems like I was always in trouble when I was a kid, rapidly progressing into some real trouble.

My mother had other “motherisms” as well.  Although her favorite seemed to be the “real trouble” warning, she also used the “people are starving in China” a lot when you didn’t want to eat your peas, or liver, or carrots, or stuffed cabbage, or some other disgusting, non-kid friendly, food.  “EAT YOUR LIVER.  There are people starving in China” she would say.  “They would love to have that liver to eat.”  Once, and only once, I suggested that she could wrap it up and send it to them.  I didn’t progress to real trouble.  I was in real trouble from the get go.

I would sit at that table, by myself, well into the evening, the plate of cold congealed liver staring up at me.  No playing hide and seek with the kids I could hear having fun outside.  I mean, come on, warm liver wasn’t going to go down, what made her think cold liver was even going to be tried.  I was never sure how long I was going to be sitting there, but I knew I wasn’t eating whatever it was that was still on my plate.  Just before bedtime, she would grab the plate off the table and say, without hesitation, “You’re not getting any dessert.  Get on up to bed.”  If she had just given me the option of eating the liver or no dessert, we could have saved a lot time.

Needless to say, I never got any dessert on nights when we had liver, fish, peas, carrots, or stuffed cabbage.  Stuffed cabbage was known as “Galunkies” in our house.  I don’t know why, and I’m not sure if that’s how it’s spelled or if it’s even a word.  Certainly not an English word, maybe Hungarian.  (My grandmother on my mother’s side was from Hungary.)  It was hamburger and rice, with assorted seasonings, wrapped in a cabbage leaf and baked in the oven.  I watched her make it once because I wanted to know why it tasted so bad.  It was the cabbage.  Smelled up the whole house while it was baking.  That night I didn’t get any dessert.

Another favorite of my mother, was, “if you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.”  The face was being made because something unpleasant was yet again being served for dinner.

My mother firmly believed that drinking coffee as a kid would stunt your growth.  I never risked it.  She also believed that sitting on the ground when it was cool outside would give you a cold.  That never stopped me.  I would get colds, so I’m not sure if that was the reason, because going barefoot would also lead, unmistakably, according to my mother, to a cold.  “You got that cold because you went outside barefoot.”  There were other medical warnings about where things might have been before you stuck them in your mouth.  Terrible things could transpire for sucking on a quarter.  And God help you if you picked something up you dropped on the ground or the floor, and ate it.  This would later be blamed for any number of ailments.

We were always being told to be quiet.  This was mainly because my father worked a swing-shift and would be asleep during most of the day.  Or at least trying to sleep.  “Quiet down, your father is trying to sleep.”  As a kid, and I don’t know about you, but it is virtually impossible to “play” and not make noise.  And how could you be held responsible for the level of noise from the neighborhood kids?  Taking that a step farther, how is yelling out the back door to be quiet, being quiet?  Anyway, we spent a lot of time trying to play quietly.  “Not so loud, my Dad is trying to sleep.”  To this day, I’m not really sure how much sleep my Dad got, when I was younger.    

Looking back, I think you can say that most of my youth revolved around a slamming screen door and not being very fond of the dinner menu. 






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Outright, Overt,Blatant, Shameless, Unmitigated Self Promotion…Again.

cooltext117841331049172It’s that time of year, well, almost.  Craft Show time.  I’ve been working all year making toys and wood crafts for the upcoming Holiday Season.  This year we’ve decided that we’re only going to do one show.   (Actually I’m the one who pretty much decided it.)   The one at the Rio Rancho Baptist Church.  Not because we’re lazy, and not because I’m really the only one of the “artisans” at LoBo Canyon that can do this full-time, and not because we don’t like doing craft shows, and not because we don’t have enough inventory to do a show,  and not because we’re Baptists (We’re not.), I guess, just because.

I remember the first time we did the show two years ago, my daughter was worried that Baptists, according to her, didn’t accept women in pants.  She was wearing jeans.  My first response was something like, “Where the hell did you hear that?”  She tried to convince me that it was common knowledge so I became concerned that we were going to be shunned and embarrassed,  and she was going to be sent home to change.  Of course, everyone there was wearing pants.  Crisis non-existent.

I can remember, and I really hope this doesn’t date me too much, that girls in my high school were not allowed to wear pants unless it was a snow day.  See, we didn’t close the schools in Wyoming in the 60s and early 70s when two feet of snow fell, drifted and temperatures dropped below freezing.  They get an inch of snow around here and the kids get a snow day.  No, we were expected to be there and not late.  But the girls were excited because they could wear pants.  Not jeans now, but dress slacks, if there is such a thing.  This was clearly to do with modesty I guess, however lame this might sound, but dresses and skirts had to be at the knee also.  How “tight” a pair of pants could be was not clearly demarcated.  Needless to say, the boys looked forward to snow days as well.

But this isn’t about pants.  This is about things we’ve made.  First up for bragging rights is this toy Freightliner Semi Truck.


I made two of them,  but the other one sold on etsy.  Speaking of which, you can go to the online store here LoBo Canyon .  I also made this truck, which I call the Lowboy Hauler.


This has a working bulldozer on the flatbed and I’m convinced it will get broken at the show because you just can’t not touch it, and that smoke stack you see on the top is not as strong as I should have made it.  It’s how you release the blade in the front.  I’ll have to display it up high, I guess, which kind of defeats it’s purpose.  It’s for kids to play with.

The landlord replaced the side gate on the house with a metal one, and all I saw was aged cedar that I had to use.  So I made Tommy Turkey.

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Tommy Turkey Thanksgiving Centerpiece


And then I made some reclaimed wood crosses.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Copper, Turquoise, Tin Flower and Turquoise heart.

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise

Three tier wood cross with Silver, Rose and Turquoise








We have some Christmas ornaments as well.  I had a lot of craft sticks and Popsicle sticks lying around that we had purchased for other projects that didn’t get done, so I tried to come up with some uses for them.






My daughter buys bags of costume jewelry from the local thrift store and we came up with these reclaimed-jewelry crosses.  The pictures don’t do them justice, as they say.






We’ve got birdhouses, and bubble gum machines. 










I went through a pull-toy phase this summer, so we have pull toys like cyclists and grasshoppers.

old-time-cyclist-4 grasshopper-6







That’s only some of the stuff.  We have over 200 items for the show which runs November 4th and 5th from 9-3 both days.  If you can’t get to the Rio Rancho Baptist Church in November, go ahead and check out our etsy shop at LoBo Canyon  and see what else we have.  Follow us on etsy and see what else we come up with.  It makes us look successful .  All in-stock items ship in 1 to 2 days.  Everything is lovingly handcrafted in the USA. 


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I Have A Monet Hanging In My Bathroom



Yes, it’s true, I have a Monet hanging on the bathroom wall.  The painting is titled “The Garden at Vétheui.”  If you look carefully, you can see the bathroom window and the photographer reflected in the glass.  Painted in 1880, or 81, depending on who you believe,  it was part of a project the artist started to paint things he enjoyed before he died.  His name is Claude-Oscar Monet, or Oscar-Claude Monet, again depending on whom you believe.  Something you might not know, neither Claude nor Oscar was his middle name.  Middle names were not used for hundreds of years and didn’t come back in to vogue until the nineteenth century.  In fact, only three of our first seventeen presidents had middle names.  Yeah, go ahead, think about it.  What was George Washington’s middle name?  Didn’t have one.  How about Abraham Lincoln?  Nope.  Thomas Jefferson?  I wish I didn’t have a middle name.  I hate mine.

Monet is considered the father of “impressionism.”  His first financially successful painting was titled “Impression – Sunrise.”  The title actually gave name to the movement, “Impressionism.” What is an impressionist?  Do you really think I know.  All I know is I suffered through “Art History” as a freshman in college because I had to, and because of that I know the term, and I can immediately recognize a Monet (even without the identifying label on the bottom of the painting in my bathroom), a Van Gogh, an El Greco, and a bronze by Frederick Remington.  I even know what an altar piece is.  I appreciate fine art, but mostly because it is something I could never afford to own, and I have to go to one of those stuffy art museums to see it.


Monet Self Portrait with a Beret

Monet is credited with over 2,500 works of art in his 86 years of life, and another interesting little bit of trivia is that his paintings, especially his later ones, often appear out of focus, or soft focus.  Did you ever wonder why?  Of course you didn’t, but I discovered that it was because he suffered from cataracts.  You can use that little bit of information when you are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC where the original of my Monet is displayed.  Stand in front of the painting, admiringly, and say to the stranger that walks up, “Did you know that Oscar-Claude Monet suffered from cataracts and that’s why his paintings are out of focus?”  Don’t go all redneck and call him “Mo-net” either.  His name is pronounced “mo-nay.”  And don’t say something like you know a guy that has that exact same painting hanging in his bathroom.

Just to give you an idea why the painting in my bathroom is not an original Monet, and probably retails for $24.95 including the gold frame, but I probably bought it at a yard sale for $5, is this:  in 2008 Christie’s sold “Le bassin aux nymphéas” (from the water lilies series) for $80,451,178 with fees.

In 1881 Monet launched himself into a painting project around Vétheuil. He concentrated primarily on his garden which stretched out in front of his house at a lower level than the road, down to the Seine. This way, he was able to capture on canvas the memory of the places he would soon be leaving. These works compete with each other in terms of luminosity. Monet suggests the downward slope of the ground using the canvas in vertical format and through the play of shadow and light on the ground, which gives the image a feeling of depth and perspective. The figures, Michel Monet and Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, liven up the composition and emphasize the sense of the garden’s vast size in relation to the human scale. But above all, Monet brings together his previous experiments in this work: the fragmented touches of colour illustrate his mastery of the optical mixing technique and make the vegetation shimmer even more vibrantly.

Here’s an oil painting reproduction of the painting so you can see it better.

One other thing about the Monet in my bathroom.  Obviously I see it every day as I walk past to shave and shower.  For the life of me, I always thought that was a little girl in the garden by the wagon in the foreground.  It’s not.  It’s Monet’s young son.  Back a ways in the painting is his wife and another child.  Oh, and he planted that garden at a rental house.  I guess I’m not the only one that landscapes the  yards of the houses I don’t own.

Enough with the art.  You know who William Faulkner was, right?  William Cuthbert Faulkner (Yep, he had a middle name and probably hated it too.) was a famous American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi.  President Kennedy, in 1962, invited Faulkner to the White House for dinner. The cantankerous author, then living in Charlottesville, Virginia, declined, explaining: “Why that’s a hundred miles away. That’s a long way to go just to eat.” Source: The New York Times.  You got to be somebody special to turn down dinner at the White House.  He died July 6 that same year.



Here’s a self-portrait of me in a beret. Kinda scary in so many ways.

Well, that was what was on my mind this morning when I sat down to write this.  Two things, unrelated as usual, but maybe they’re both about middle names.  Maybe not.









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Don’t Come To My Door Holding A Clipboard


I don’t like door-to-door salesmen.  In fact, hate is not too strong of a word here.  I absolutely hate anyone coming to my door who is holding a clipboard.  Maybe it’s the clipboard, I don’t know, but when I approach the door and see a clipboard it immediately sets me off.  I’m in a foul mood before the intruder even opens their mouth.

Lately it seems that cable TV, or more specifically, satellite TV is a ripe opportunity for the door-to-door salesman.  Okay, salesperson.  Whatever.  I’ve been intruded upon now by three different satellite TV sales persons in the last month.  Two of them were with major providers, Comcast and DISH, and the other guy a few weeks ago was with a local satellite company out of Albuquerque.  The DISH representative actually made it into the house and was sitting at my dining room table when I walked in from the backyard and saw the clipboard.  My wife was responsible for letting the intruder in.  She wasn’t “in” very long.

I tell them all the same thing.  I’m not shopping for satellite TV.  I’ve been with DirectTV since the service was available to me in the early 90s in Tucson AZ.  I wanted DirecTV for one reason, and one reason only: “NFL Sunday Ticket.”  I pay way too much, I have 400 channels that never have anything on worth watching, but I get pretty much fail-safe HD reception on my 70″ LCD Samsung television.  And believe me when I say this, it’s all about football.

The guy a few weeks ago, actually said to me that he doesn’t have “NFL Sunday Ticket” but he has something similar.  No you don’t.  Get off my porch.

I would like to pay less for satellite TV, of course I would, but until “NFL Sunday Ticket” is available on other services, that isn’t going to happen.  My DirecTV bill is currently $197 a month.  Sixty dollars of that amount is the six monthly payments for “NFL Sunday Ticket” that I start paying every September through February.  Sounds like a lot of money, but I get to see every game, every Sunday, up to six games at the same time, and most importantly, I get to see my team.

broncosWell, that’s how it all started anyway.  When I moved to Tucson in 1991, the local market for network TV was the San Diego Chargers, and, of course, the Arizona Cardinals (Known as the Phoenix Cardinals at the time.)  My team, the Denver Broncos, weren’t on unless they were playing San Diego or Arizona.  So I had to find a bar that was telecasting Denver games.  I finally did, but I wondered how they were able to get those games out of market.  The answer was satellite.  How was I going to get me a satellite setup?  Where was I going to put a 10 foot diameter dish in my backyard, and where was I going to get the more than $5,000 I needed?  The answer to those questions was, I wasn’t.  So for two years I hung out in bars on Sunday to watch the Broncos play.

Then on June 1, 1994 the NFL began its “NFL Sunday Ticket” satellite TV service.  The package was offered through DirecTV and it was being offered for free for the first year.  Of course you had to sign a contract for two years, but I didn’t care.  I was at the consumer electronics store the first payday in June.  DirecTV was absolutely unbelievable.  Hundreds of channels, more hours of television than there were in a day, and you could record shows you didn’t have time to watch, so you could watch them later when you didn’t have time to watch.  They installed the dish for free, and starting in September, I was able to watch every game on one screen, most importantly, watch my team every Sunday.  I was in football heaven.

I probably wasn’t the first subscriber of “NFL Sunday Ticket,” but I’m sure I was in the top 100.  I’ve paid over $7,500 over the last 22 years to watch my team, watch your team, watch teams I don’t even like, and I almost never miss a Denver game.  When we moved to Reno, NV in 2001, “NFL Sunday Ticket” was a requirement.  Again, because the Denver Broncos were not televised in that market.  The hated Oakland Raiders were on every Sunday, and the San Francisco 49ers, and, secondly, we were now able to go to the local sports book and bet on the games.  You can’t bet on the games if you aren’t able to watch all the games, because you need to know how the teams are doing if you want to place logical bets.  At least, that was our argument.  We would sit every Sunday, watching the “Red Zone Channel” and checking scores, as we watched our parlay cards dissolve into unprofitable slips of paper.  Yeah, we didn’t get rich betting on football, but we won some.

We call Sundays at our house “The Church of the NFL.”  Services start at 10:00 am and last until 9:30 pm every Sunday.  I go to church religiously.

So if you’re a cable or satellite TV salesperson, don’t waste your time ringing my doorbell.  I know you see the DirecTV dish on my house.  It’s clearly visible from the street, and unless you somehow manage to get the exclusive contract for “NFL Sunday Ticket” it’s staying right there.  WTF.



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The Secret Life of Wal…O.Leonard

Rio OlympicsYeah, a lot of us grow up with childhood dreams of being great athletes.  Professional athletes.  Olympic atheletes.  Some of us actually do… become world-class atheletes, or at least end up being pretty good at some sport or another along the way.  Last night I was watching the Rio Olympics, and I started thinking about all the things I tried in my attempts to become one of those world-class athletes, or just be pretty good at one sport or another.

Bart StarrFor example:  I wanted to be a professional quarterback.  At the time I saw myself as another Bart Star, the Hall of Fame quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.  Also, at the time, I was a sophomore in High School, weighed a massive 118 pounds, was slow as a snail, and could throw a football maybe 20 yards.  I was a quarterback on the Junior Varsity team, third string, and rarely played in games which nobody went to see anyway.  I read every book I could find, studied playbooks, worked out, practiced hard, and hoped that all of the effort would make up for my total lack of natural talent.  It was never going to happen, and of course, it didn’t.  I got discouraged after my junior year, realizing I would never start varsity, never play in college let alone get a scholarship, and gave up football to work at a fast food restaurant

Tom WatsonThen I decided I was going to be a professional golfer.  I hit a few golf balls with my Dad, and decided this could be something I could be good at.  You didn’t have to be big.  You could be thin and wiry, and you could still hit a golf ball a country mile.  My hero at the time was professional golfer, Tom Watson.  I again started reading everything I could find about how to play golf, practiced hard, and hoped my efforts would make up for my lack of natural talent.  I wasn’t any good, never got any good, and still play some to this day, although “play” has a totally different meaning for how I hack  a round of golf.  For a time, in my 40s, I even thought I could be good enough to make the Senior Tour.  Well, no, I finally gave up when I discovered I couldn’t drive a golf ball straight and over 100 yards no matter what I did.  Most of the time my drives end up on the women’s tee box or just past it, if the ball should actually land in the fairway.

Maybe football and golf weren’t my games, so I decided to try track and field.  Remember, I was slow as a snail, so the only events at the high school level that I might be able to compete in were distance races; the mile, or the two-mile.  So I practiced and ran and ran and ran.  Dreaming, of course, to be a State Champion and then get a scholarship to run for USC, then on to the Olympic Trials, and Olympic Gold.  I ran the mile, once in competition and took third at a time of 5:32.  I was third out of a race of four and beat the fourth place finisher by maybe a half second.  I was damn proud at the time though as you can tell by the fact that I still remember the actual time.  I ran the two-mile twice in competition and finished last in both races, way last, and felt like I was going to die.  It only took me one year to realize that State Champion was not ever going to be in my future.

wrestlingI tried wrestling as a freshman.  We practiced in a room that had the temperature turned up to over 100.  You could lose 5 to 10 pounds every practice, and weight was important.  When I wrestled, I needed to get at or below 103 pounds at weigh in. After you weighed in, you ate 20 candy bars, six oranges and drank as much as you could get down.  I wrestled in competition once against a Crow Indian from Hardin, Montana.  I was losing the match by more than 10 points so my only hope was to pin this guy in the last period.  I took the up position, cross-faced the dude so hard that his nose started to gush blood, and I flipped him over and drilled my chin into his chest until I felt like I was going to drive through his ribs.  The referee hit the mat and blew the whistle.  The fans who were there that night said that I jumped up three feet off the mat.  It just so happened that the junior college was playing a game after the meet, so there was a pretty good crowd gathering in the gym.  When I pinned the Indian dude from Montana, the crowd roared.  It was pretty exciting to hear the cheering as the referee raised my hand over my head.  I quit wrestling the next year.  Beating some guy from Montana as a JV wasn’t going to get me into the Olympics, and I really just didn’t like it much.

I gave basketball a try.  I had never played basketball, when I tried out for the team as a sophomore.  I practiced hard but didn’t make it past the first cut.  I had actually scored a basket in the final basketball scrimmage the night of the cut, and I remember distinctly the coach telling the team that I was “the best player he cut this year.”  Three of us got cut that night, and the other two could barely walk and chew gum at the same time as I remember.

bowlingMy last attempt at sports stardom was bowling.  Not many people will admit that bowling is a sport, and frankly, I agree with them.  I bowled in a drinking league that had a bowling problem, and, as expected, I wasn’t very good.  And yes, I read everything I could find, and practiced and tried different equipment, and took lessons, and still sucked.  There were “moments” during the three or four years that I bowled in league though.  I bowled a few games over 200.  I have some patches and pins recognizing my accomplishments, but the biggest win was the $1,500 I won on video poker at the bar before the bowling started one night.

Needless to say, totally without need, in fact, I was never destined to be good at any sport.  I could try archery, or ping-pong, or cycling, or diving, or swimming, or volleyball, or baseball, or marathons, or shooting, or soccer, or it wouldn’t matter.  As much as I want to be good at some sport, something, I have no natural talent.  I don’t care what they say, you will never be a world-class athlete without natural talent.  It’s in the genes, just not in mine.  And I’m comfortable with that fact, now that I’m older.  It wasn’t like I didn’t try.


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Never End a Sentence With a Preposition

Clarence Darrow 1“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.”  Clarence Darrow.  He died in 1938 so he wasn’t talking about the 2016 Presidential Election.  Let’s see, who was president during his adult life:  Ulysses S. Grant (hard to spell), Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland (again), William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  I wonder who made him say that?

I can’t find the date for this particular quote attributed to him, but I’m guessing he wouldn’t be “quoted” until he was somewhat famous as a defense attorney, so I’m going to narrow it down to the last three: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  Calvin Coolidge was the Vice President for President Harding, who assumed office after Warren G. Harding died of a cerebral hemorrhage on August 2, 1923, so I think he could be eliminated.  I’m going to further assume that the election of Warren G. Harding, whom many considered an “also ran,” who wasn’t nominated at the Republican National Convention until the 10th ballot, prompted Clarence Darrow to say that.  Darrow was a Democrat and had grown up in a fiercely Republican area.

President Harding was the first sitting senator to be elected president, and, although he was a popular president at the time, after he died in office, a lot of skeletons fell out of the closet.  The most notable skeleton came to be known as the “Teapot Dome Scandal.”  He was also accused of a number of extramarital affairs.  Things haven’t changed a whole lot have they?

Clarence Darrow also said, “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”  That would be my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, followed closely by, “I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.”  He ends that quote with a preposition though, and I think he should be chided for incorrect grammar.  I still feel threatened by my second grade teacher, Ms. Goe, who told us unequivocally that you NEVER end a sentence with a preposition.

How many of you can recite from memory the prepositions?  I can.  That might give you a little idea of the terror that Ms. Goe put in me during my short time in her class in Hardin, Montana.  I’d do it for you, but you’d think I was showing off, or worse, looking them up.  “About, above, across, after, against, among, around, at….”  Okay, I don’t know all 150, but that preposition cadence has been in my head for 55 years.

 donald-trump 1If Clarence Darrow were alive today, I’m almost certain that he would have made that famous quote.  He wouldn’t “begin to believe it though,” he would be certain of it.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Of all the qualified candidates for the Office of President, this is what we have for Decision 2016, or Election 2016, or whatever else the press is calling it this election year.  A billionaire real estate tycoon who won’t divulge his income, and a female lawyer who probably hasn’t truthfully reported her income most of her life.  Yeah, she’s a lawyer foremost, not just a woman.

Hillary Clinton 1I’m afraid the only things that will keep Hillary Clinton from winning the White House in 2016 is a strong third-party candidate, a lot of Republicans who won’t vote at all, and a well-run campaign that will keep all the skeletons stacked in the closet.  They’re all going to have to happen though. I’ll probably be moving to Australia.  I’ve been threatening it for years. WTF.

Bill & Hillary Clinton

Future leaders of the free world.  That’s some scary shit.


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I’m Hot, And Not In The Preferred Sense.

swamp cooler 1

Okay, it’s officially hot.  I’ve been hot for the last two weeks, and not the preferred kind of hot.  I’ve never even been considered for the preferred definition of hot.  I’m sweating.  It’s been over a hundred degrees every day, and I don’t have air conditioning.  I have a swamp cooler.  Aptly named because it smells like a swamp when it gets really hot.  It’s a few gallons of mostly stagnant water that is pumped down a swamp-smelling permeable pad.  Air is drawn through the pad with a large turbine fan that blows the expected cool air through the ductwork in the house.  Except when it’s over 100 outside, the water is over 100 in the stagnant pool, and very little “cool” air is produced.  Somebody needs to lynch the guy who invented the swamp cooler.  I might be that somebody.

This process of evaporative cooling has been around a long, long time.  Something like 4,500 years, to be inexact.  There are frescoes in Egyptian temples that depict servants fanning pots of water to cool the dudes that could afford the servants.  There are other discoveries in ancient Egypt indicating that they had figured out how to use water in porous containers, for example, to cool the surrounding air.  It was damn hot in North Africa.  It still is damn hot in North Africa.

It turns out that no one wants to take credit for inventing the swamp cooler.  I’ve searched the Internet for an hour and can’t find any first patents or reference to inventors for the home evaporative cooler.  I’m going to assume that they didn’t take credit for its invention because they knew at some point, someone like me was going to be looking for them.  It is credited that Leonardo da Vinci took the first steps to designing a mechanical air cooler as we know it today.  His design used a water wheel to guide cool air into a room.  But it’s easy to find out who invented the air conditioner.  Takes only a few clicks.  It was Willis Carrier in 1902.

Some of you probably don’t even know what a swamp cooler is.  It’s because it only really doesn’t work very well in certain parts of the country.  Those areas that have low humidity, dry air, and are hot; not in the preferred sense.  Like the southwestern US, where I live.  States like New Mexico, Northern Arizona, parts of Nevada (but not Las Vegas?), Montana, Wyoming (I grew up there and don’t ever remember seeing a swamp cooler.), Washington and Oregon, (but they seem like they would be humid to me), parts of Colorado, Utah and Idaho. 

evaporative-cooler-map-best-locationsThe swamp cooler is up to 1/8 cheaper to operate, it’s cheaper to install and costs a lot less than an efficient air conditioning system.  That’s why they are still being installed on new homes around here.  They work better if they are shaded, but they’re almost always installed on the roof, in the hot sun beating down on asphalt shingles.  You can burn yourself climbing up on the roof in July to check on the weak performance of your swamp cooler.  When you burn yourself, you lose your balance and you fall off your roof.

When we lived in Tucson, Arizona, we had a swamp cooler that was mounted on the ground behind the house, somewhat in the shade.  We would load the reservoir with ice to cool the water down.  It still didn’t work worth a damn when it was 115 outside.  We had a small window air conditioner in a back room that we would sit around most of the day and watch television.  We would go to open houses, the library or the grocery store, or just drive around in the car to stay cool.

There is only one way that people can live in Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona.  They go from their air-conditioned houses, to their air-conditioned cars, to their air conditioned jobs, returning to their air-conditioned houses in their air-conditioned cars.  Just so you know, it doesn’t cool down much in the evenings in the desert.  It might drop 10 degrees to 102.

On one of those Sunday open houses, when it was 115 outside, we walked into a model home on Via Galapagos, in Tucson.  The cold air washed over me like a welcome blizzard.  We walked around the three bedroom house, immersed in the cold air coming from the ceiling vents.  I looked out the back sliding door, turned to my wife and said, “We are buying this house.” 

And we did.  We had around $7,500 in the bank at the time, and we figured out a way, with a second loan and a lot of negotiating with the owner to buy the house.  Not because it was the house of our dreams, but because it had air conditioning.  You should click on the link below to read more about the infamous Via Galapagos house.

I know, if I ever buy this house, the first thing I’m going to do is figure out how I can come up with the money to put in an air conditioning system.  I’ll take the swamp cooler off the roof and sell it on “Craigslist.”  It will sell too. WTF.  

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