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Can anyone out there recommend songs that include harmonica? I mean Bob Dylan-style harmonica, not John Popper-style harmonica. I got one of these a couple weeks ago but I need more songs to learn (this would include Dylan songs as I'm woefully ignorant of his music).

Ponder this...

Did you know there is a Bacon of the Month club?
A different kind of bacon.
Delivered to your door.
Every month for a year.
And you get a Bacon of the Month Club Membership Card! I think that may be the best thing.

Gay Rights

"Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?" - Ernest Gaines

We would like to know who really believes in gay rights on LiveJournal. There is no bribe of a miracle or anything like that. If you truly believe in gay rights, then repost this and title the post as "Gay Rights". If you don't believe in gay rights, then just ignore this. Thanks.

from rolypolypony

Not very spammy spam.

I just got the following email in my GMail account:

Hi Dear,
I am Vera Atwell from Austin Texas. I want to know if you carry copier parts, I need a good supply to my husband for our client in west africa. He email me with the list of copier drums below, let me know if you will be able to supply them hope you do ship internationally?

Canon copier drum:
NP3030, NP3050, NP3325, NP3825, NP4050, NP4835, NP6241, NP3025, NP6035 NP3225.

Sharp copier drum:
SF2116, SF2030, SF2014 and SF7800.

I await to your earliest response.
Thanks,
Ms Vera Atwell

No. I don't carry copier parts.

If this is spam, it's not like any spam I've seen before. It's not selling anything (complete opposite, actually), it's not asking for personal information, it's not directing me to a website.

I'm stumped. Should I reply?

Grr.

They ordered lunch for everyone today. However, not enough food was ordered and the people who got down there early took more than their share. So, the poor fools who were up at their desks working (i.e.: me.) did not get any.

Bastards.



(Also, the ƒlist is quiet today.)


ETA: Because I don't feel like doing another entry:

I need more songs to learn. I play guitar. Any suggestions are welcomed.

More photos?! You prolific thing, you!

Put 3 more photos up. Hopefully I'm going to get off work early today and if I do, I'm going to walk around, looking for more.

You know, most of me is really excited to be making art - any kind of art - again. It's been a while. But, the voice of unreason keeps popping up.

"You do realize that because you're knocking these out so quickly, there is now way they can be any good. Art takes time!"

But then I remember that when I went to the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival the photographers invariably had a larger stock than the painters or potterers (is that a word? For someone who makes pottery?). And I know that not everything I do is going to be great stuff. I like to think I have a decent eye but it could be developed. I've got my favorites (this one and this one) and ones that I think didn't come out so well (this one). I'm still learning.

That voice of unreason has another line of unreasoning that crops up though.

"You know you're not going to keep this up. How many different kinds of art have you started, only to give up later on?"

And that's true. I've tried lots of different hobbies and eventually gave them up (except for playing guitar. I'll stop that when my hands fall off or I die, which ever comes first.) This one is fun, though, and I really want to keep it up. So I'm ignoring the voice.

Now I just wonder if anyone would buy any of these, were I to get them printed up. A supplemental source of income would be nice. Hmm.



p.s.: I think I need a photography icon.

p.p.s: Via archaica, it's somewhat appropriate I guess, given the subject of this post.Collapse )

Just a Touch of Color

So I've decided to use my Google Pages page... for something. It can be found right here. And I'm going to use it for the photos that I doctor in Photoshop. The first four are there, along with three more I finished up today: 4 Yellow Poles, Blue Windows, and Red Red Flowers. So far, the pictures are smaller than I'd like, because the layout chops off the right of them if they are too big for the box and I've not discovered a way to edit the HTML and CSS behind the layout.

For now, I should work at getting some sleep. Although I have ironed my clothes for tomorrow and already purchased my breakfast eats from 7-11. So maybe I can hit the snooze once more tomorrow.



ETA: Actually, Google is smarter than me. Click on the image and it loads up the full-size one. How 'bout that?

A Walk for Sunshine

I finished A Walk for Sunshine last night. I read it in 2 days, I think. Very quick read. It wasn't particular well written (what little dialog there was felt clumsy or forced) and it was certainly not well edited (many spelling and puntuation errors; one example I can remember off the top of my head is a sentence that contained the word 'here' where 'hear' should have been.) but it was very sincere.

The book was written by Jeff Alt, who decided he would hike the Appalachian Trail, a 2,175 trail crossing mountains, valleys, meadows, forests, streams, highways, and 14 states from Georgia to Maine. He dedicated the hike to his brother, Aaron, who was born with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He also used the hike as a fundraiser for the Sunshine Foundation, raising $15,000 by the time he was done and inspiring an annual event. The Sunshine Foundation runs a house that has provided excellent care for Jeff's brother and for hundreds of other peoeple with developmental disabilities.

My mom bought this book for me when she was last in Ohio, visiting my grandmother. She bought it for two reasons. The first is because I've looked into hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia (though I can't even start doing more than that until next year when I actually have some vacation time). I like walking (as evidenced by the fact that I never drive anywhere in Ghent, where I live) and should start doing some of the local day hikes in my part of the state.

The second reason is that there is a bit of a family connection with the Sunshine Foundation. It was started in Toledo, Ohio (where my mom's family is from) by Roy and Georgette Engler. Roy Engler was my great-grandmother's fifth husband's brother. (What? I did say a bit of a family connection.) I may not be getting that exactly right because my mom confused even herself when trying to tell me about it. Still, the founder is related to my family by marraige. Somewhat. That was a neat thing to keep in mind while reading the book.

As I said, it's not a very well written book. Despite that, I felt like I was on the Trail with Jeff while I was reading it. It's very earnest and heartfelt, and you can certainly tell that he felt a great deal of pride in walking over 2,000 miles and raising money for the Sunshine Foundation.

(Image taken from http://www.awalkforsunshine.com/ and uploaded to my Google Pages account. No hotlinking here.)

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Went to the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival in Ghent this weekend. I'd never been before and it was neat. They basically block off a section of a road in Ghent and artists can buy booth space and set up their wares. There were booths with photographs, oil paintings, acrylic paintings, pastels, pottery, hand-turned wooden bowls, and hand-made jewelry. One woman had a technique in which she hand colors photographs using colored pencils specifically made for coloring photographs. They were really good.

I stopped at most of the photography booths I came across, as I'm more interested in that than painting or drawing anymore. I was inspired so on the walk home, I took a few pictures. Once I got home, I decided to try something I'd been meaning to try but never had. I moved the pictures from my camera to the computer, fired up Photoshop and dug my Wacom tablet out of my closet.

I desaturated the photos (pulled all the color out of them) then took the History brush to them. The History brush is kind of like a selective Undo brush, which meant wherever I scribbled on the photo, the color would come back.

So, these are what I came up.

Behind the cut because they're a little big.Collapse )

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go through the 3,151 emails I've received since 3:00pm on Friday.

Ralphie

Here is another in an ongoing series of entries about my military service. At some point I'll get around to making a tag or a memory set of these or something to keep them all together.

Today's story is about Ralphie.

I went to Iraq as a Combat Engineer. Or Engineerus Combatus, which is Latin for, "One who blows shit up." Unfortunately, in the eyes of the Regular Army, reserve component soldiers are inferior and therefore fit for only those jobs which the Regular Army does not want to do. Like gate guard. Thus, we spent about 10 months of our time there working on the front gate for our little base. (We did other things too, but this was one of our two main jobs.)

Working the gate was boring. The base I was on was sort of out of the way and we did't get much traffic. Just rushes in the mornings and evenings when the local population that we employed would come and go. In the mornings, we'd stop to check IDs and search bags and bodies. In the evenings, we just watched for anyone who looked like he was taking more than the scrap pieces of wood or metal that the employers on the base would let them take. In between, it was generally pretty quiet and very boring. At one o'clock, then the sun is high and there are no clouds, and the temperature is hovering in the mid-120's, and you've killed all the flies you care to, time stretches out like the shadows on the ground. One hour seems to last three. If you're a smoker, you always go to the gate with at least two packs of smokes, because you can light up a cigarette without realizing you just crushed one under your boot. To put it succinctly: it sucked.

Now, about Ralphie.

The front gate was a fairly large area. There are rules set up to this effect to decrease the amount of damage a suicide bomber or vehicle could cause. It also meant that there were lots of places trash could accumulate. Water bottles, styrofoam plates and cups, plastic utensils, empty cigarette packs, MRE trash, and whatever else might be blown into the front gate area and get caught in the concertina wire. We were expected to keep it clean but did not have enough people to dedicate a couple guys to walk around picking up trash. That and we didn't want to do it.

Now since it's somewhere in the vicinity of two years since I began my time on the gate, I don't know who came up with the idea, but the idea was this: we started hiring young Iraqi kids to pick up trash on the gate. They were hanging around anyway. Why not put them to work? It gives them some kind of income and keeps us from having to pick up trash ourselves. Which isn't to say that we felt we were above picking up trash while an Iraqi is not, but honestly. Who likes to pick up trash?

We had a few regular kids who came down to the gate just about every day. Two of them were Mikey and Ralphie. Mikey was a smart ass. He knew English pretty well and once he started to get to know us, he started to get more brazen. Joking around with the guys with the M16s, asking for more money, that sort of thing. He turned out to be a pain in the ass and we finally had to tell him to stop coming to the gate because we couldn't stand to have him around anymore.

Ralphie was the complete opposite. Very quite and shy. Did not know a lick of English. He was a hard worker though and always did a thorough job.

And he smiled and laughed a lot. Whenever we tried to talk to him, or teach him some English, he would just smile. We'd thank him in Arabic and he would smile and wave. One of our interpreters said he was a little slow, which may have been true, but that interpreter was something of a jack ass and very sarcastic, so I didn't really hold him at his word.

One day, when Ralphie was getting ready to leave for the day, and he had his money and the box of juice we gave him, he was smiling and laughing a little like he usually did. So we asked the interpreter to ask Ralphie (who's name was actually Rafa) why he smiled and laughed all the time.

"It's better than crying."

I sometimes wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he's still alive, trying to find some kind of work. I wonder if he was able to go to school. I wonder if he's dead. When people ask me if we did the right thing by going into Iraq (which doesn't happen as much anymore), I usually think of Ralphie and his very genuine smile.

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koritsimou commented on my last second to last entry and wanted to know about my military service. So, here we go.

I spent about 7 and a half years in the Army National Guard, most of it in Virginia but with a small stint in the Florida Guard. To help with the math you may be doing in your head, I'll tell you that I signed up between my junior and senior years of high school. I was originally going to be in Communications but when I went to do my paperwork and medical testing, I received conclusive proof that I'm color blind (which I knew but had never really taken any sort of test for). Not having normal color vision really limits your choice of jobs in the military, which seems strange to me, seeing as how it's so common in males. Anyway. Since I was color blind, my recruiter (booooooo!) had to scramble around to find me another job. He fed me some line about the only slot he had left open for someone who is color blind was Food Service Specialist - fancy name for a cook. Since I was still too introverted to object or try to back out, I signed the paper.

Now, I kind of like cooking. What I don't like is cooking breakfast for a hundred and fifty people and having to get up at 4:00 in the morning to start doing it. I really didn't enjoy being a cook. Combine that with the aforementioned introversion (is that a word?) and the depression with which I was barely managing to cope, and you've got a recipe for disaster. I didn't enjoy my early years in the Guard at all.

Fast foreward a few years. I've just come back to Virginia from Florida and need to find a new unit. One of the interesting things about interstate transfers is that it gives you the opportunity to pick a new job. I didn't want to be a cook anymore, and my color blindness again pared down the choices until just two were left: MP or Heavy Equipment Operator. Well, I didn't really want to be an MP (one reason for which is the location of this unit would have made getting there on a Friday for drill a nightmare of a drive), so I went to C Co 276 Engineer Battalion and joined the ranks of the Combat Engineers as a Heavy Equipment Operator.

I never actually got any training on heavy equipment though. I spent a little time learning to drive Army Trucks but beyond that, I didn't do much. About the time of our Annual Training (the two weeks part of "One weekend a month, two weeks a year!") we started hearing rumors of a possible activation and deployment. Nothing was said with any definitiveness but my Platoon Sergeant told us to be ready in case it happened.

It happened.

In November 2003, I was at work, still settling into the promotion I'd received a month before, when I got a call saying that we'd been called up for Active Duty service. I don't think we knew right away it was for Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan or the Phillipines), and Operation Noble Eagle (I think that's what it was; Homeland Defense) were the three possibilities. Looking back now, Iraq would be the only real choice, but back then, we were all hopeful that it would be Afghanistan or, hope of hopes, Homeland Defense. How naïve I seem to myself. (Er... yeah.)

Now, since I didn't have any actual training as a Heavy Equipment Operator, and there were not going to be any schools for that before we left, I was given a choice: switch to Combat Engineer and go to West Virginia for two weeks or go back to being a cook and transfer to Headquarters Company. It took me all of 2 seconds to decide. Thus, I was shipped off to a National Guard/Reserve training camp in West Virginia for two weeks - two weeks out of the little bit of time left with my family before I left - to learn to ways of the Combat Engineer. Which is to say, I was taught how to blow shit up.

A few days into the new year I was shipped to Ft. Dix, New Jersey (The Land That God Forgot™) for training and in late February or early March (I'm really bad at remembering dates) I flew halfway across the world to begin what would become the best and worst experience of my life.

But that's a story for another day.

Tags:

Yes. It's that meme.

I'm a little leary about posting this for a few reasons. 1) I don't think that many people read this. and 2) I'm not sure how many songs people will guess, and it's as little fun if it's too hard as it is if it's too easy. Some of them will probably jump out at people though.

Ah well. Here we go.

1. I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue

2. It can be more than just sounds and words / It can be something that saves you from yourself / your thoughts, your life, your world

3. Well alot of good cars are Japanese / But when we're driving far / I need my baby, I need my baby next to me - Stickshifts and Safetybelts, Cake - esoterrica

4. Gravity plays favorites I know it cause I saw / Honest to god officer it's awful

5. Where you stand with the keys and your cool hat of silence / Where you grip her love like a driver's liscense

6. And we were done done done with all the fuck fuck fuckin' around / You were so true to yourself / You were true to no one else - Black Cadillac, Modest Mouse - esoterrica

7. Dear Mother, Dear Father / What Is this Hell You Have Put Me Through / Believer, Deceiver / Day in Day out Live My Life Through You - stephanie75 knew it was Meticalla but couldn't remember the song.

8. The buildings they shake but my heart it beats still / Oh mother of Jesus, I feel pretty ill

9. The traffic lights, they turn, uh, blue tomorrow / And shine their emptiness down on my bed - The Wind Cries Mary, Jimi Hendrix - ems

10. A singer in a smokey room / A smell of wine and cheap perfume - Don't Stop Believing, Journey - slammerkinbabe

11. Sixteen different brands of tuna / Chicken of the Sea or Big Kahuna / Packed in oil, packed in water / dolphin friendly, dolphin slaughtered

12. The angels have waited for so long / now they have their way / Take your place...

13. Shine- lake of fire / Lines take me higher / My mind drips desire / Confined and overtired

14. Caught here in a fiery blaze, won't lose my will to stay / I tried to drive all through the night / the heat stroke ridden weather, the barren empty sights - Bat Country, Avenged Sevenfold - october31st

15. I open the glove box / Reach inside / I gonna wreck this fucker’s ride - Bad Habit, The Offspring - ems

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Hello

Hi. My name's Michael.

I'm going to try to keep this thing going. I have a bad, bad habit of starting up journals and such online, only to abandon them soon after. I'll try not to.

Of course, after I started noticing this trend, I also prefaced the life of each online space with just such a statement.

What the hell though. Second chances are good.

Also, I wanted to try this Mac LiveJournal client I got.

Talk to you soon.

Also, I've made this friends only*. I can't imagine many people would stumble across this, but if you might want to read, comment and let me know. If you've noticed that I've friended you, it's probably because I found you through october31st, who has good friends. I'm not necessarily asking to be friended in return; I'm just not that good at commenting when I have friended someone.



* Mostly. Some memes and whatnot will probably be public. I don't know why.
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