Ignominious rescue

So… my grocery shop trip by bicycle (see previous post) was largely a disaster and I had to be rescued by my wife. But I did learn a couple of things. Mostly I now know why why people don’t transport goods in this manner.

Turns out the heavy crate changes your center of gravity completely. Now that I think about it, of course it would.

I had to cross a busy main road on my way back. Its has two lanes in each direction, seperated in the middle by a raised center island. While I bunny-hopped the island easily on my way there. Trying to do it with a crate filled with groceries on the way back, turned out to be my undoing.

I remember thinking that the one point of failure on my contraption might be the cable tie I had used to secure the crate to my seat and that maybe I should take a spare cable tie along… you know, just in case. I immediately forgot about my concern. (as one does) That cable tie turned out to be kinda vital. With the weight of my groceries combined with my attempt to mount the curb, the load on the cable tie was too much and it snapped. This lowered the already heavy crate onto my back tire.

Mid bunny-hop, suddenly my back tire seized, causing me to… well… I think I did quite well under the circumstances. If I had been cleated in I think I would face planted into the tar. I managed, somehow to recover, jump off and grab the bike before it completely tipped over. Amazingly I only spilled a couple of lemons and one of my plantains into the road and not a single egg broke despite my reactionary acrobatics and scrapping a fair amount of skin off my knee and shin.

My bike was now however, completely immobile. Flip… Was not not the word I used.

About a hundred meters down the road is a gas station with a coffee shop. I dragged my bike there and ordered a coffee. Then sat down and phoned my wife.

‘Please come and rescue me’.

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When she eventually stopped chortling, she came and rescued me.

IMG_8723.jpgWaiting for the recovery vehicle… at least I had coffee.

Once we’d transferred the crate into the car, to the sound of my daughter chiming in from the carseat ‘Rescuing daddy, rescuing daddy’, I was able to ride the bike home.

Mortifying. Turns out I’m really bad at this downsizing, eco-friendly thing…

 

After that we visited my parents. My dad has spent the last couple of days constructing a cart. I think he felt sorry for us because he saw us pulling my daughter around the garden in a cardboard box.

We decided (because we are responsible parents and because of my earlier shenanigans) that we should test it out on the Basset Hound first. To make it sure it was… eh… safe.

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And although he didn’t… exactly volunteer… I think he quite enjoyed himself.

The girl child however, even after seeing the proof of concept and noting that the basset hound had survived unscathed, was not particularly interested in being pulled around by a noisy lawn-mower. Can’t say I blame her.

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Much more content to swing.

The Frankenstein Faith.

I think, like most people, I have this ideal sense of self that I would one day like to achieve. That way I can use some high end nouns to bulk out my twitter bio and not feel like an imposter. I like to espouse the ideology that should get me to this exemplar state of being, but really, my life is largely mired in hypocrisy and procrastination.

I am not very original, so I like to borrow and steal from the -isms of others. I don’t ever adopt any of these wholesale, they are not me and I am not them. I don’t think you should ever brand yourself as someones disciple, if you can, you should always be your own brand, even if it’s just a patchwork coat of mismatched dogma.

For example while not a Mustachian, I really like Mr. Money Mustache or Peter Adeney if you prefer. I also really like Bea Johnson. Who is to zero wasters what MMM is to Financial independence and early retirement aficionados. I also love Chris Kresser whose books have inspired me to really consider my food and what it is that I’m eating before I stuff it into my mouth.

Through the larceny of other peoples tenets I have created this Frankenstein faith for myself. But, like with any religion, talking the talk is easy. Walking it, is much harder. Unless your belief system is pizza, Red-bull and Playstation. (which seems to be my default setting)

One my new found core-tenets is this idea of paleo-esque eating (Chris Kresser) and for a while now our family has (mostly) given up on the large retail supermarket chains. We now buy seasonal fruit and vegetables and buy everything wholesale. We buy our milk from a dairy outlet that lets you fill up your own bottles and our meat comes from an old school butcher who stands behind the counter and knows exactly the provenance of the meat he’s selling.

Tacked onto this is trying to minimize our waste (Bea Johnson). We compost almost everything. We try to buy stuff without packaging and take our own bags when we go shopping. I even use a bamboo toothbrush now.

I know, it has this whole greenie beanie neo-hipster vibe. And I hate the way it sounds when I type it all out. But let’s be honest, all belief systems are stupid. In the end it’s about living in away that makes you less anxious and more in sync with your operating system.

I drive pretty much everywhere. I’ll occasionally walk to our local to get coffee which is about three hundred meters from our house. But otherwise its motor vehicular transport for Joey. Compare this to when I was a kid and rode absolutely everywhere on my bicycle. Those were good times. (Enter Peter Adeney)

In any event I’ve decided, if I can, I’m going to try and cycle more. So earlier today I went to the bike shop to see what they could offer me in terms of a rig that I could carry my groceries in. I couldn’t really find anything that was suitable for my needs. And what was available, was really expensive.

So when I got home I disappeared into the workshop with my bike for about an hour and jury-rigged a type of load carrying system out of a length of twelve diameter 304 stainless steel round bar and a plastic crate. A couple of 3/4” hose clamps secured the structure to the back of my bike. I’ve made it so I can easily mount and dismount the crate with minimum effort.

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Tada!

My wife arched her eyebrow skeptically when I proudly rolled out my new creation. ‘You’re going to transport our milk and eggs in that?’ ‘Sure, why not’, I replied. ‘Why don’t you rather get a little wicker basket on the front like Jessica Fletcher’. I glowered at her. Although that did take the wind out of my sails a bit.

Being good Friday the Fruit and vegetable wholesaler is closed today. But tomorrow morning I am going to try and make my first bicycle shopping run. It’s about a 6km round trip along the stream near my house. Hopefully my contraption will be able to take the weight…. it should.

(famous last words)

 

Roundup.

I fell asleep in front of the television watching Ricky Gervais on my laptop. (My daughter has secreted away the Apple Tv remote) I vaguely remember some Caitlyn Jenner jokes… and then nothing… I woke up about twenty minutes later, discombobulated, Humanity still in full swing. Closing my laptop I rampaged off to bed with the stealth like poise of a baby rhinoceros, navigating by iPhone light (so I wouldn’t fall over an errant German Shepherd sprawled out in the passage like some sort of dinner for one-esque rug). After that I tried (unsuccessfully) to unfurl the blanket that my wife had (with advanced mathematics) somehow established herself in. (you know, so I could get a tiny corner of warmth) After ten minutes (okay, maybe more like thirty seconds) of furtive probing I gave up and the did married couples version of when someone tries to pull the tablecloth out from under all the crockery.

After a slew of cuss words that would make a B-Block inmate blush and the hijinks of  navigating through the domestic version of the Tough Mudder… I wasn’t sleepy anymore. And so here I am, back where I started. Albeit in my pajamas now. With my teeth brushed and sparkling clean.

We have an excess of office furniture at work at the moment. It’s not really serving a purpose, other than taking up space, so I decided to appropriate a filing… shelf, cupboard thingy. I had the minions drag it down the stairs and then delivered it to my house this afternoon. (flagrant abuse of managerial powers entrusted unto me… by… well… me)

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Tada! The girl progeny has a new bookshelf (from which to dispense and distribute her books to every conceivable corner of the house). Some of these books she inherited from me and are not currently age appropriate (HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Chuck Palahniuk*) But I figure she’ll grow into them eventually

*I’m kidding. There’s no Chuck Palahniuk in there.

Did I mention it was the progenies birthday party this weekend? I can’t remember. After a quick brainstorm we decided that the thought of having a gazillion people in our house, with a plethora of snotty, little people in tow, rummaging through our vinyl collection and poking at my lego (and that’s just the adults) filled us with dread and loathing… Plus we’d have to lock the dogs away, and since that’s not really something we would even consider, we decided to have her party at the park instead.

My wife made a Peppa Pig cake…

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… and much fun and merriment was had by all. Except the girl child, who absolutely hated all the attention and tried to remove herself from any and all social activity. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

IMG_8636.JPG She also refused to take off her hat. And spent the morning looking mostly pensive. Although sometimes she would mix it up with a bit of a scowl. (REALLY awesome photos) I’m sure the talk will be of my strangely mute child who has clearly fallen off the development ladder.

Speaking of which, we had our first teacher-parent meeting at the Kindergarten she attends this week. They made us sit on the little wooden stools in the classroom, while her teacher and the principal took opposing tiny chairs. I must be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable… like I was in trouble…. old habits die hard I guess. Or maybe its a guilty conscious. Either way I did my best not to squirm. Or flee.

Turns out she’s the best in her class. Even in the long, illustrious history of the school they have rarely seen such raw magical ability (is what I imagined they were saying) It’s all very impressive for a mudblood (her mother’s a muggle). We smile politely. ‘Do we have any questions?’ ‘Not really’, we both mumble.

In other news I ordered books today. And then clicked same day delivery. (this is how I roll… sometimes) Two hours later I had received…

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…I know. It’s a university textbook. On potentially the driest subject imaginable. I go through weird phases. I’ve already devoured two chapters and so far I’m really intrigued.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to reveal my strange proclivity. In any event, twenty  minutes of killing stuff on playstation and then bedtime for Joey. Sweet dreams. Joey out.

Things girls can’t do…

Perhaps, he thought, I should qualify this whole diatribe with some sort of statement of personal bias, lest I inadvertently offended people. Offense is inevitable, I understand that. Especially since I’m the male of the species and therefore the dominant and authoritative voice on the subject matter of gender. God blessed me with some mighty fine (and lets be honest about this, totally above average) junk. And since God is a dude (fist bump) and created me first (in his image) I feel this gives me some sort of divine expertise on the subject matter at hand.

I’m weary of opening with satire. Satire means you might not get dinner. Or risk having a spanner* tossed in your general (girls can’t throw) direction.

*if you’re dating a girl from the southern suburbs. Initially I was going to write ‘broken bottle’, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Despite what I might claim, I am actually still quite prejudiced. I find it disturbingly instinctual and somehow, deeply embedded in the gray squishy stuff inside my cranium. I find myself constantly having to auto-correct my more basic and primordial instincts (that are underlined in red). Outwardly of course I’d like to believe I can function as a seemingly egalitarian paragon, which is how I’d like to behave and be perceived. But it worries me that I constantly need to be battling the sociopath within my own mind.

Let me illustrate my bias with an example.

I was sitting on a plane recently waiting for the boarding procedure to wrap up when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. You know the usual blurb welcoming you on board, expected flight time etc. Only the pilot was a female. While this shouldn’t have mattered, my reptilian brain immediately took note of this development. ‘Jesus we are so fucked’. The hamster in my mind likes his pilots to be male. And preferably white. Any deviation from this perceived skill set causes him to fall off his wheel and briefly run around his enclosure, wringing his hands and upending his water bowl.

A nano-second later the auto-correct feature kicked in with its soothing logic. After all there is nothing that would suggest one gender (or race) is somehow superior to another at operating an aircraft. I truly believe this.

Still, somewhere in the dark, cavernous interior of my brain, some stray neuron fired that shouldn’t’ have. I suppose one could argue that its some sort of perceived loyalty to my ‘tribe’. And that its that loyalty ascribing some spurious sense of superiority to my own kind.

I suppose that is possible…. I still don’t like it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about equality lately since I have now procreated and produced a girl-child. Before this, in all honesty, I only ever really thought of equality in very broad and dismissive terms.

This is likely because ignorance is bliss. When you are a white heterosexual male (generally speaking) you don’t care. You really don’t. I mean how can you… and why would you? You have no concept of being discriminated against, it’s something that’s NEVER EVER happened to you. It has certainly has never happened to me. Well not that I’ve noticed. And if someone has tried, my brain and ego would immediately override it as ‘Clearly this person is some kind of idiot’ and I would never think about it again. How can I can empathize with something that I have no experience with? I mean I can make some assumptions and maybe hypothesize what it must be like… at best all I’m really doing is upsetting people with my cutesy academic approach and at worst I am just being dishonest. Humans are selfish creatures and when you perceive yourself to be the apex predator what reason do you have to change your behavior?

I generally consider myself a moderate (although really isn’t that just another tribe or label) and I imagine Feminism occupies some point left of me. For a long time I thought Feminism was just a form of extremism. And therefore worthy of derision that comes with fringe politics. It seemed to me they had drifted so far off towards the horizon you could hardly even see them anymore. There they seemed to have pilot fished themselves onto whatever (vegan) creature existed there and now seemed content to fight battles other than the bout they were created for. But then I started wondering what I would do, under the circumstances…. and how angry I would get if this was me.

The answer is probably very angry. And angry people gravitate toward other angry people.

But how does one rage against something that the other side doesn’t think is really ‘a thing’? And if I do acknowledge that it is a thing, it doesn’t really affect me anyway, so support from me is clearly going to be limited, the status quo totally benefits me. It requires some serious altruism to get my ass off the sofa and try help find a solution to… well… if you guys want to call it a problem then okay…

I don’t have any really good ideas about this. For the most part I’m just talking out loud. I do feel that didactic conversation is better that aggressive debate where one side intractably screams down the other and everyone eventually just resorts to playground bullying and name calling.

To be fair, it’s not really something I have thought about much (until recently). I mean I’ve always agreed with the concept that men and woman should be treated equally. As an aside, I don’t think men and women are equal. (We have different qualities and I think those qualities are impossible to weight and rank)  But treated equally, sure I could get behind that.

I was with my daughter on the playground other day. I was sitting there watching her crawl around and explore one of these big installation pieces. This other slightly older girl had climbed up onto the second tier of the jungle gym. Sitting there, I surmised she wasn’t in any real danger and she seemed quite capable. Only her father swooped in from the other side of the playground and scooped her off the jungle gym. As he took her down he chided her, ‘You need to be careful honey, that’s dangerous’.

Would he have done the same to his boy child? I don’t know. We allow boys to engage in slightly riskier activities while girls are restricted because they might get hurt. Boys falling and scraping all the skin off their knees is a right of passage. For girls it’s an undesirable trait that needs to be discouraged.

For all tense and purposes that dad had good intentions. He didn’t want his daughter getting hurt. But this episode opened a whole can of murk inside my mind.

We treat boys and girls different right from the get go. How do we expect to create this Utopian society when our social norms are so deeply ingrained in us? Is an egalitarian society just a pipe dream?

I heard this great analogy recently about hypocrisy and speeding. Broadly speaking we appreciate that a speed limit in a suburban environment is a good idea and that setting a speed limit is a societal preference that makes things safer for all of us. Yet at some point, we all break the speed limit and we believe that this hard rule should sometimes be bent just for us. It should definitely NOT be bent for that other person though… they are clearly a selfish maniac. ‘Fuck you, buddy, fuck you!!’.

When it comes to equality are not just all hypocrites? We talk a good talk. But when it comes down to living these concepts as hard unyielding rules, we struggle. Maybe I should just speak for myself. It seems a bit unfair to paint everyone with this brush. After all I might just be the exception and everyone else is more like the twelve peers of Charlemagne.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to ramble. I do think that maybe small incremental steps in the right direction is perhaps a better form of attack. You know, slowly boiling the frog as opposed to forcing him into the hot water. With our immediate gratification mindset maybe we’ve forgotten that these things take time. Potentially longer than our meager lifespans will allow. Is the best we can do to build a solid foundation for the next generation to improve on?  Is that potentially our lot in life?

Maybe we should start with all just being a tad more honest with ourselves. I think that could help.

 

Perpetuating an imperfect system

My heading for this blog post was going to be, ‘Saving for retirement’, but considering how I feel about the topic, that seems disingenuous at best. Also a reader may mistakenly surmise that this is a post about personal finance (It mostly isn’t).

I should probably mention that I have nothing against the word ‘for’. As a preposition it is totally functional and relatively useful. ‘Saving’ is also fine, as a stand-alone concept. I think everyone should try it at least once. But ‘retirement’ is an awful, malignant word. Grouped together these words form (more or less) the basis for everything that is wrong with the world…. ok, I will grant you some notable exceptions. Like… warm beer and short people. Debating however, why such things should be allowed to exist is to question the divine. (which is another blog post)

Saving for retirement on the surface seems like a very reasonably exercise. But maybe it’s just an elaborate form of masochism. Emphasis on the word ‘Saving’. I have far less issue with building a flexible income generating asset base that can last into perpetuity (through something like entrepreneurship).

Having a lot of money when you choose to retire is obviously really nice. And having more cash when you retire is obviously better than having less cash. But have you really ever considered what retirement actually entails? Besides sitting around and counting down the hours before your inevitable foamy, (gurgling) demise in some palliative care facility.

Why do you want to retire anyway? Doesn’t this mean you’ve bought the programme? They sold you the kool-aid. And you drank deep. You’re on step eight of your ten-step life! Next stop… smelling like an old person and death. Some people like to imagine step nine is travel and boat cruises… but its not. It’s a weird musty smell… and having suspicious looking growths zapped off your wrinkled, sun damaged skin by a dermatologist and pencilling funerals into your diary every weekend as your friends and family kick off. Sounds awesome, I can’t wait. Basically I have to save and invest for my whole entire life in anticipation of this event? Seems like a great way to spend the time allocated to me.

How many happy retirees do you know personally that are getting after it? You know… living the dream. Count them on your fingers. I’ll wait… I’m willing to wager less than a handful and that’s only if you move in impressive circles. Would you swap your life currently for their life? They have money after all.

Let’s segue into something else and ramble on about science for a bit, because science is awesome. And finance is just okay. When it comes to retirement we are using outdated models and concepts that were struck in the fifties. Expected life span. You see we all have just one lap. Lets say its four hundred meters… only half way through the race someone in a white lab-coat has changed it to 800 meters.

My expected death is age 78. Statistically speaking. I’ve just turned 39. Which feels ancient. Some days I wonder how people who are 49 get out of bed in the morning without painkillers.

Only my life expectancy is probably not 78. It’s probably closer to 100. Mind you for the proletariat its still 78. In fact probably less. I’ll probably be in a position to afford the miracles of science that are coming. The nano-machines. The new organs (with modifications). The rejuvenation clinics. The implants that tell me three days in advance that I’m going to have a heart attack (just enough time to pop down to the clinic and have flawless robotic surgery and a flat white). My two year old daughter will likely live to be 120… maybe longer. And for her children death maybe something that only happens to poor or unlucky people. Death is unlikely to be egalitarian forever.

Imagine at age 60 you’re going to have live another… 40 years off your retirement funds. That’s a really long time to be running down your assets. Sure, you might have a metric-fuck-tonne of money, or be an adherent of Mustachianism (the 4% rule) or even on the flipside just conjuring up a dystopian future where we trade cigarettes and blowjobs for dirty brown water and blighted potatoes, so really, what’s the point?

Round about now you might imagine this rant is against investing and pro-Epicurism. Let’s work forever and blow our money on whiskey, cigars and the experience economy. Let’s consume to the point where we need a self-storage unit to contain our ever burgeoning collection of stuff.

Its not.

My issue is more about how we look at our lives. We get these social norms and this corporate nonsense pumped down our throats as soon as we’re born. This is your life!

  1. Get born. 2. Go to school. 3. Get a degree (get into debt). 4. Get a job. 5. Work nine am to five pm 6. Buy a house (you can’t afford) 7. Buy a car (you don’t need) 8. Breed. 9. Retire. 10. Die.

Instead of retirement shouldn’t we be punting a concept of designing our lives better? At the moment the way we use our money doesn’t make any sense. We kill ourselves to hoard our money away for a period in our lives where we can’t really make full use of it anymore. Or we blow it all and use whatever we earn to finance our debt. Perhaps I am decrying the lack of some middle ground alternative.

Is this just some terrible burden we’ve all taken on where we actively try (and very often succeed) to defer our lives. Money (and by association our investments) should be the scaffolding we use to build our lives around, not some weird end game strategy.

I used to believe in the whole retirement fairy tale. I mean it’s worked for my old man. (hasn’t it?) He sits around, reading, pottering around in his workshop, annoying his offspring, bickering with my mother and watching hours of network news. Slowly he is trickling down his funds to zero or close to that…  a fuse burning down towards the great white light and the acrid burning smell of litigation (when his children will murder each other for the scraps of his estate)

We imagine free-form days as the ultimate reward after a long hard trek through life. But in reality nothing is more frightening (and potentially dull). When did being old and rich somehow morph into something to aspire to?

Young and rich would obviously be better. And middle aged and rich would be the compromise position between the two extremes. In reality none of those outcomes are very likely, although we are constantly told that outliers in this field can be studied and emulated (just buy our book). In our post-industrial revolution lives we are more like cogs in a very big machine, all grinding on in the same direction on some predetermined path unable to alter our destiny.

This is not a blog post about solutions. Besides, who am I to make any form of judgement call about anyone else’s life and how they plan on spending it? For the most part I’m just wondering out loud about my own unique circumstances and a system that I’ve decided is stupid. Or maybe this is just long form justification for a (mostly theoretical) lifestyle decision that I a trying embrace.

In any event I do think it’s something worth thinking about. Broadly this post is about future proofing yourself. (you know for when the robots come). And not being complacent in our assumption that the status quo will simply continue ad infinitum.

What is your reducency plan?

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I rarely look at my wordpress stats (well, I try not to). This is more of a self imposed rule rather than any real sense of nonchalance or ambivalence I have towards statistics. While this information is useful (I’m sure) for bloggers who want to up their readership and appeal to a certain segment in the market, I use my blog primarily as a form of  procrastination (and therefore, have no real readership goals or expectation). For example, right now, I should be attending the scary amount of work I am behind on (or the tackling the equally scary avalanche that threatens to overwhelm my inbox) But instead I’m clacking away at the keys… achieving nothing of real consequence (story of my life).

When I opened my WordPress this morning however, something caught my eye.

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I had to google what maigre meant.

Definition of maigre. 1 : being a day on which the eating of flesh is forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church.

Which, as you can imagine, confuses me even more. I’m assuming it must be a typo. Although the rest of the search term also annoys me. Don’t you normally search for blowjobs or fucking? Maybe they meant meagre? In any event, I have now (annoyingly) spent a fair bit of time wondering what some paedophile* meant when he hamfisted his google search.

* I realise paedophilia refers to a prepubescent. But the ‘little’ in the search term tends to bend me towards labeling them as such.

In any event. Googling this phrase myself fortunately doesn’t bring up my blog. (It does however probably flag me on some sort of database) In any event I will continue to ponder this strange occurance while the basset rests his head on my head.

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Perhaps with our combined intellect we can solve this enigma. (Don’t get your hopes up, the basset hound has actually now fallen asleep, which leaves only the dumber member of our dynamic cross species duo to ponder)

My wife has recently become persona non grata in the child sleeping department…. So my day started at 1am with the two year old (who had been dreaming about citrus, demanding a naartjie*) When no naartjie could be produced this lead to a meltdown of chernobylian proportions. I eventually went to go sleep with her on her bed where she tossed and turned for about an hour, poking me in the eye and smashing her forehead into the bridge of my nose (Although smarting from the pain, I was also a little proud) while she drifted off towards REM sleep.

*colloquialism for a Satsuma Mandarin

After this I struggled to fall asleep again, so I downloaded and started reading these (alternating between the two) on my Kindle app.

At the moment I’m guardedly neutral about Daniele Bolelli. He gets great reviews on his podcast and his books and I found myself really liking some of his musings. BUT, I also started skip reading (bad sign).

I now know this happens because the internet has addled my brain (thanks to The Shallows by Nicholas Carr) I notice it happening (more) when I’m interested in the content… but not fully engaged. This could also have been because it was 3am. I don’t know. I can’t read like I used to and it’s frustrating. At 5am the girl child was awake and demanding a muffin. So we trundled off to the local coffee shop (which is 24/7) in our pajamas in search of a double espresso and muffins.

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In other news my first habanero has changed from green to orange. Which means soon I can start harvesting. The rest of my chili crop was annihilated in a hail storm when I left my seedlings exposed outside at the beginning of the season. This plant was one of two that made it and its turned into a monstrous bush, standing 5ft high, with (I estimate) at least a hundred chilies on it. I’m quite excited.

Dollhouse. Not the series.

’twas the night before the birthday and all through the house, both parents sat building and cursing out loud…

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Playmobil (initially) amused me with their warning on the box. I imagine this is because giving your kid an unassembled model that takes you 60 minutes to assemble while your kid is having a melt down might… fray the nerves somewhat.

It took two of us (with some serious degrees* behind us) more than an hour and a half to assemble this… without the screaming child. (which would definitely increase the challenge rating imo)

*albeit it primarily commerce and not engineering degrees.

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In any event it is done and when she wakes up tomorrow we will unveil the fully assembled dolls house in all its glory.

We are very cunning. And wise. Yay us!

Just another manic Monday…

Like the Bangles song. (Although I always preferred Walk like an Egyptian)

Day three without caffeine. I’ve gone cold turkey since Saturday. So you can imagine how my day is going? In a nutshell, its not going well. Ha ha. Usually by this time I have metabolized about six cups of coffee. To say that I am presently ensconced in serious grouch would be a seriously dangerous understatement.  I also have a headache.

I’m compounding my woes by swearing off bread, dairy (which I initially write as fairy because of my blurry vision) and refined sugar.

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I’ve (recently) decided that I have adrenal fatigue syndrome. And folate and B12 deficiency. (This is what happens when you read too many (fringe) Paleo books). I even went and had my first B12 shot over the weekend. And… in all honesty, I felt a lot better afterwards (despite walking a bit funny afterwards). That might just be placebo. Today however, is more or less a suicide day… I feel manic and discombobulated and I might bludgeon you into a coma with a oversize stapler if you were to walk into my office brandishing a Grande Cap and a Mars bar.

Speaking of which…

My eleven year old basset hound is either suicidal or suffering from cross species dementia (where he enacts the strange tendencies of the Alpine Ibex). No more staying up late to watch Animal planet.

I  had just come back from a friends fortieth birthday where two pints of Paulaner Weissbier had me feeling somewhat sluggish. (more than usual some might say) The wife and kid were at my parents house along with the dogs and my daughter was playing upstairs in my old bedroom. I took the opportunity to lie down on the sofa in the landing and rest my eyes for a bit. I was just about to doze off when I heard a noise that sounded like nails frantically scrabbling on roof tiles. Amazingly my alcohol addled brain somehow managed to piece together in a split second that the sound was that of a basset hound scrambling for grip on the roof tiles above my head. He’d wandered out onto the balcony, circumnavigated the railing and climbed onto the roof. Now he was coming down and was losing his grip on the steep pitch.

‘Jesus’, I bolted up, sprinted out onto the balcony and vaulted the railing with one hand coming down hard on the roof, my right foot going through one of the roof tiles as I landed. I managed interject myself between the edge and the basset hound and grabbed him before he plummeted to his doom. Post event I marveled how I’d managed this feat, not only in my slightly inebriated condition, but also wearing flip flops.

As usual he was dismissive of my efforts and decided the whole thing was a complete overreaction on my part.

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My Saturday had already started poorly with a reoccurring nightmare*. Only this time I wasn’t dreaming. The girl child had hauled an assortment of pots and… a colander from the kitchen into her playroom, upended them and was vigorously assaulting them with a signed Chad Gracey drumstick.

*the one where I only sire girls and they all the women in the house are drummers.

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On a scale of one to ten. Ten being woken up with a blowjob and one being woken up because your house is on fire, being roused by this cacophony at 5am is probably a four.

So much for my hopes for a young Kim Deal. It seems she is destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps and take up the drums. Although I have tried (repeatedly) it seems one can’t mess with destiny.

In other news I started listening to this.

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I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know about this book until recently. AND perhaps more embarrassingly that I only found out today that it has been made into a Steven Spielberg movie. (seriously, what rock do I live under?!?!)

Because I listened to Masters of Doom this entered my recommended list. Read by Wil Wheaton. Whom I now love. I looked at the reviews. Its weird when a book gets this many positive (almost to the point of rabid fanaticism) reviews. My skepticism bit flipped*.  ‘Yeah, nothing can be this good…’

*a John Romero-ism I will now use

I’m only about two… and a half hours in. But I may have to eat my words (again). So far I am thoroughly entranced. Can’t wait for my commute home.

Joeys thoughts on gun control

I had these arbitrary rules that I’d set for myself about blogging. Try and be nice (especially when reviewing someones book or game) And generally avoid highly polarizing topics of opinion.

I’m getting better at the first one. I don’t write the scathing fuck you reviews I used to. If I really hate something I try not to write about it. You know the whole, ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it’ chestnut. I don’t necessarily agree with that reasoning.. BUT… no one writes a book or a blog to be critiqued or run down by somebody they’ve never met before. I’m not entirely sure why we feel the need to review books anyway… but we do. I certainly do. But I’d like my reviews and comments (these days) to be more of a homage than a long list of perceived deficiencies in someones work.

So… Joeys thoughts on gun control (or how to piss off everyone) I’m clearly bored today.

It should probably start with some caveats. I am not a gun-nut. Guns for the most part don’t really interest me other than I accept that they are a tool that serves a function. (its not an accessory that I’ve pimped out, it doesn’t define me and I don’t argue the minutiae of velocity and hydrostatic shock). However, I am almost permanently armed. I carry a Glock 22 (.40 S&W) and at least two knives, a Zero Tolerance 0301 and an Emerson Super Karambit. (Sometimes further supplemented with a .38 special)

I should also mention that I believe firmly in the most extreme interpretation of gun control. Ie. That nobody should have a gun. Not individuals. Not the police. Not the government. No one. Since that is never going to happen. I have to be a slightly more realistic in what I believe. (Spoiler alert, I have NO real solutions, I’m just rambling)

Let me also start with a story of why I am the way I am…

When I was eighteen I was living in single room studio at the back of my parents property. They also have a cottage, which at the time was being rented out to a (somewhat eccentric) hairdresser. He occasionally worked on clients at home. One day two elderly wealthy patrons came to have their hair cut and styled. Decked out in their finery and driving a new BMW they attracted the attention of some less than desirable individuals who followed them.

These two ladies oblivious that they were being followed rang the bell and then drove into the property, followed, before the gate closed, by the robbers. It was still early. I was awake watching CNN and eating Fruit Loops, when I heard what I thought was a  scream. I paused, muted the television and then picked up my venerable Walther PPK (which I inherited from my grandfather). Still in my Pajamas I wandered off to go see what all the fuss was about. I was not prepared.

A white BMW stood there, all the doors were open, two women stood off to one side having their rings and ear rings stripped off them. In total there were five robbers, and just from my quick glance (before I ducked back behind the wall and into hard cover) at least three of them were armed with handguns (likely Torakevs and Norincos) and the other two… I wasn’t sure.

I stood there, frozen, Walther PPK in hand. ‘Fuck…’. ‘What was I going to do?’ I probably had the WORST gun for this type of situation. I had seven (low powered) rounds in my Walther and no spare mag. My opponents were about ten meters away, some behind soft-cover, with two civilians in the background.

I couldn’t do anything I realized. (mostly because I am not Bruce Willis or Steven Seagal) I’ve obsessed about my inaction for years and played this scenario over and over in my head. In the end I made the right decision (I think). After they’d stripped the two woman they hijacked their car and tried to make their getaway. They however didn’t realize that this wasn’t their house, and that these two women didn’t have a remote for the gate. They were trapped. (its not a gate you could just ram open) They had another get away vehicle outside, and between them they managed to force the gate open just enough that they could all squeeze through and escape in the other vehicle, abandoning their newly acquired BMW (but not their loot)

Theoretically I suppose they could have put two rounds in the head of each of the women before they drove off and I would have been guilt ridden for the rest of my life. Or our weird tenant could have come stumbling out and got blown away (he’d locked himself in the bathroom). How would this have changed my actions or inaction? I don’t know. I’ve managed to stop theorizing about this day and hardly ever think about it anymore.

But for a long time this day was burned into my brain. I never wanted to feel like that again. Helpless and useless. Never. That’s not to say if I’d had a better gun I would have used it and the outcome would have been different. All I wanted was better options. Having a gun shouldn’t make you less reasonable.

This day, combined with the work I did with the police and in the Commando has cemented in my mind that the world has some real motherfuckers in it. (I don’t really believe in the concepts of good and evil, but certainly some people are largely useless to society and seem intent on imposing themselves on my liberty)

Let me underscore, that if everyone magically gave up their guns. And therefore no guns existed, I would be the first to sign up. Unfortunately that is not and will never be the case.

So as I understand it, their are two basic premises. Someone can use a gun to curtail someone else’s liberty (death being the most extreme). This can be as simple as a robber using a gun to steal something that belongs to you. Or the police coming to arrest you because you haven’t paid your taxes. Both use the threat of violence to insure your cooperation. If you resist, I will kill or injure you with this gun.

We get obsessed with the gun part. We could just as easily insert machete, claw-hammer or HB pencil.

The flip side is, that if we ban guns, my liberty is curtailed insofar as you take away the options I have to defend myself. Sure, with two gun armed combatants with equal skill (Ceteris paribus) it could go either way. Take away my gun, and the odds massively favor the other combatant. Who are you to curtail my liberty in such a way? So unless you can make ALL guns go away (and maybe ban machetes, claw-hammers, HB pencils and automobiles while you’re at it) I can’t get behind a ban. Sorry.

I can however get behind control. (although the comic book nugget, who watches the watchmen, I think applies)

Guns and cars. One requires a licence and training. The other, not so much.

So who decides who should be allowed to have a gun and who shouldn’t. What criteria or metric do we use? Mental health? How about only white men should have guns? Or only Mormons (they’re responsible aren’t they?).  This gets so murky so quickly. Someone has to decide these things. The government maybe?

The NRA love to point out that Hilter banned personal ownership of firearms. And look what happened there. The NRA is my opinion are (for the most part) a bunch of motherfuckers. This story is not entirely factual. The Wiemar Republic was largely responsible for German citizens not being allowed to own firearms. The Nazis further disarmed ‘unreliable’ persons (mostly Jews) but relaxed restrictions on ‘for-realsies’ Germans to own guns.

The government tells me I can’t dry out and smoke a naturally occurring plant. If I do, people with guns will come, lock me up and put me in a building with murders and rapists. That seems like a very reasonable organization, pretty sure I trust them to decide whether my schizophrenic neighbor who twists the heads off stray cats should own an an AR-15.

This is where things start to get even less clear cut for me. Assault rifles.

I have during the course of my life owned several of these (an FN-FAL and AKSU-74) and I’ve used R4’s and 5’s in the commando (essential Israeli made Galils). But really, now that I’m older I often wonder what the point of these weapons, in a first world middle class suburb environment, are? If you want a weapon for self defense get a pistol and and a 12 gauge. That will cover you for about 99.9% of scenarios in the 0.0001% chance you actually need a weapon to resolve the situation.

Its difficult to justify an assault weapon for self defense. Baring a full scale breakdown of society. (then you totally want an assault weapon). Is that likely to happen? No, probably not. Yet a lot of people obsess about this eventuality and act accordingly.

I suppose its become the case of bringing a knife to a gun fight. Clearly you want to be the guy with the gun. In the same way, in a gun fight you want to be the guy with the gun with the highest cyclic rate to improve your odds at survival. Ergo if the other guy has a hand gun you want the assault rifle. The arms race is as old as humanity.

Unfortunately this also speaks to my libertarian tendencies… the army can have assault weapons, then why can’t I? Because the army needs these weapons to fight wars and foreign armies… History is littered with the corpses of the citizens who trusted that the government (and army) had their best interests at heart.

In an ideal world, I would like to decide who has access to firearms. (hint, it would only be me) the rest of you can fend for yourself with pointy sticks and rocks. I think this has something to do with the way we are hardwired.

The United states presents its own set of issues. I’m inclined to believe that the problem is less about gun control. And more something on a cultural level. I don’t know what that is. and I have no idea how you would fix it. I don’t think you can fix it with legislation though. Even worse its morphed into this awful partisan issue, with peoples identity warping into this weird for-or-against mindset. I don’t know how you fix anything without some level of cooperation from everyone.

I love Thomas Jefferson. Probably in my top five favorite people of all time. Along with Theodore Roosevelt (definitely a gun-nut). And I totally get his reasoning with the second amendment. I wish he was still around, I wonder if he’d be horrified to see where we’ve ended up?

Blunt force trauma. And other hobbies.

My daughter turns two next week, on the ides of March. Fortunately boys called Brutus are few and far between these days, a name relegated to the junk heap of epithets along with Adolf and Kermit. Albeit for different reasons.

Speaking of strange (but awesome) names I campaigned long and hard (if we had a boy child) to call him Tiberius. My wife used her veto almost immediately. My second option was Ender. And while not vetoed, I was given an arched eyebrow that suggested I should start coming up with more sensible options lest I receive a stern reprimand and have my PlayStation controller locked in the cupboard for a week.

I have casually mentioned to my daughter that given her auspicious birth date she should avoid politics, crossing Rubicon‭s, suspicious Italians called Cassius* and (for good measure) two Gauls, one of whom may or may not be carrying a menhir.

*amusingly I played (a gay) Cassius in our school play version of Julius Caesar. Quite progressive for a Catholic school. (Maybe he was just effeminate… I think outright gay would have been a bridge too far)

As life advice goes I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far. (Joey pats himself on the back). Yay me.

Age two is a big year. It’s when we start training martial arts in our family (since of this generation). I’ve taken to tossing a various assortment of workshop tools (mostly spanners) at her when her mothers not looking. I must be honest… at the moment… she’s not giving me much to work with (in terms of reflexes).

But then earlier while I was closing curtains she snuck up behind me in the gloom, silently padding into the room without me noticing. As I turned I tripped over her, fell over and hit my head on the edge of the exercise bike.

And it suddenly dawned on me…

Ninjutsu!

Ideologically I really like Ninjitsu. Practically it’s a load of shit. Trust me I know. My martial arts evolution went something like this…

1. Tae Kwon do (ages 10 to 15)

2. Ninjitsu (16 to 18)

3. Traditional Japanese jujitsu (18 to 19)

4. Western boxing (19 to 30)

5. Brazilian Ju jitsu (19 to present)

Of those Ninjitsu was the least helpful in terms of any remotely useful techniques. In fact I’d go as far as to say 99.9% of it is a complete waste of time. BUT… it was loads of fun and lends itself well to training montages and a cheese infused 80s soundtrack.

The bo staff training. Day one.

I jest. Obviously. I can’t actually teach bullshit. I find it super unethical.

I think mostly we’ll concentrate on jab/cross combinations and fighting from the clinch. I think that’s a pretty good base. Then maybe move onto to single and double leg takedowns. Maybe the suplex.

As an amusing aside my first black eye was dished out by a girl. (In a ring*)

*as opposed to, for example, on the dance floor of a nightclub.

So realizing after school that Ninjitsu actually offered me zero practical skills I joined a traditional ju jitsu school. This was just as Royce Gracie was cleaning up in UFC 1. I felt quite smug that I’d made this leap before most people.

Traditional ju jitsu was… okay. The class was divided into three core components. Wrist locks or aki-jitsu, throwing (judo style throws) and grappling. I only really liked the grappling element and endured all the other stuff just so I could grapple for three rounds at the end of the class.

Soon after that I entered my first competition. I’m going to say it was a pancrase type tournament. But I’m not 100% sure thinking back now. No closed hand strikes to the head…. hm… that’s pancrase isn’t it? Anyway I remember I was docked a point for taunting. Ha ha.

In any event I broke my foot in that competition. Really badly. Compound fracture where the bone was sticking out through the top of the foot. I went for a shoot and the guy sprawled and then collapsed and somehow my leg got twisted up and when I scrambled up I happened to look down and my foot was all mangled and fucked. I spent three days in hospital and ended up with a three inch stainless steel pin for my trouble. A large part of my foot still has no feeling in it from the nerve damage.

I was out of action for 8 weeks…. so my sensei borrowed me his UFC collection 1 through 10 on VHS and some grainy bootlegged Pride tapes as well, ostensibly because he felt sorry for me.

Weirdly this was my undoing because I suddenly realized I had NO standup game. NONE. I quit soon after and joined what had been up until recently a Jeet Kune Do gym (it would eventually become a part of Straight Blast*)

*I actually rolled a couple of times with Forrest Griffin. I say rolled… but really he turned me into pretzel.

Anyways MMA wasn’t really a thing yet but they were progressive enough to know that something was happening and were fusing Muay Thai and grappling into this weird… something.

I loved it.

I was a pretty good grappler. But my stand up was abhorrent. Like really, really bad.

My first sparring session went like this…

I’d been speaking to this police woman who was sitting on the bench waiting for the class to start. We were talking about mutual people that we knew. She was bandaging her knee up with tape. It looked horrible. It was all purple and scarred and fucked up. She’d been sheltering behind a wall during a shootout and had taken a bullet to the knee. I was impressed she could still walk nevermind fight. We ended up getting paired up together for our first round of sparring.

Damn. I’m fighting a girl. And an injured girl at that I remember thinking.

I would take it easy on her.

Damn…. She came in hard. No mercy. I withered under her onslaught and made a classic rookie error. I dropped by head. Bam! She hit me with an uppercut! (First black eye) then she hit me with another uppercut. Bam! Second black eye.

With both eyes closing up I had to call it. Couldn’t even finish the three minute round.

That was my first experience of boxing.

I got better. In fact my boxing… and especially my dirty boxing eventually surpassed by grappling skills.

Now I’m old(er). My body after almost thirty years of abuse isn’t as spry as it used to be. I used to love hard sparring. It was my favorite thing in the world. You never feel quite as alive as when someone is trying to knock you out. But… I also decided I’d rather quit while I was ahead and keep some level of cognitive ability going. (I suppose you could argue the damage has been done)

So I took up stick and knife fighting instead.

(me in black)

(me in white and camo shorts)

We used to record our fights so we could learn from our mistakes.

Ah. Good times. Its making me a little nostalgic now. Stranger things and the Masters of Doom has recently really given me a hankering for the ‘good old days’. Life was simpler then. Being an adult I’ve decided, mostly sucks.

How cool would it be if my days could be filled with Dungeons and Dragons, grappling, board games, playstation, comic books and reading. Although ideally I’d really like to do these things AND still have a wife and daughter.

Juggling life is harder than you think it’ll be.

Wild wild west

So my neighborhood Whatsapp group is going ballistic. Pun may or may not be intended. This is probably a kilometer from where I live.

The general unconfirmed gist is that a gang of guys tried to rob a cash in transit truck. The action was captured by someone (without the good sense to keep their head down) in the office block up above.

Its graphic. I should probably mention that. Especially since one of the robbers gets smeared on the side of the get away vehicle as he tries to escape.

Or this one.

On the plus side the weather is nice out today. Sunny. With a slight chance of bullets.

Rain, rain go away

Because I made fun of the UK in my last post it’s started to rain.

It’s not all bad. We are listening to our new LP’s while pulling the girl-child round the house in a card board box.

We spent all our money on coffee and analog technology. So we have to make due with the box we got at the farmers market and a piece of rope.

Admonishing me for going too slowly.

The German Shepherd is amused.

Weekendness

I had this idea that I should probably do some work. I’ve let my inbox grow wild and unkempt and now strange faceless creatures inhabit its deeper shadows. I’m scared to go crawling in there alone. Unless accompanied by an adult (preferably wielding a baseball bat with nails driven into it). I’ve decided to blog instead (albeit outside on the deck). Much safer.

IMG_8385.jpgI take a picture, ostensibly to torment my childhood friend who is currently hacking at his blackened, frost bitten feet in Bristol with a phillips screwdriver. I am mean that way. He replies that he had to queue for bread like in ‘Stalinist Russia’. This makes me remarkably cheerful.

Our day started off with breakfast at our local. I was up at 4am to let the creatures out. But then I went back to sleep. Uncharacteristically the girl child let us sleep until seven, so we didn’t get our usual table…. which REALLY messed with my Feng Shui/sense of order in an otherwise chaotic universe.

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This didn’t bother the progeny who personifies chaos. And therefore I imagine, doesn’t care if we sit at a table without clear sight lines or if our flanks are exposed.

After that we went phonograph shopping at 44 Stanley. I was hoping to get there before it became uncomfortably dense with skinny jeans and ironic t-shirts. Alas, it was not to be.

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(I know, I bitch about hipsters but dress my child in three quarter pineapple pants and a Ramones t-shirt. I will occasionally dabble in hypocrisy)

Before the claustophia of too many immaculate beards packed into too small a space overwhelmed me, I did manage to purchase this…

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I also bought a Pearl Jam and a Springbok nude girls LP, which I’m quite excited about. We rounded out our morning with fair-trade, artisanal coffee (you know when in Rome). It turned out to be decidedly unremarkable. A dribble of coffee in a one size take away cup for which the cost per gulp was obscene.

In other news I rescued a German Shepherd last night. (or resided him to two weeks of incarceration followed by lethal injection, depending on how you look at it). I had just finished walking my dogs when I noticed a dog loping down our road in the distance. It was getting dark but I could tell by the slant and the gait it was a GSD.

This is actually the last thing I felt like doing. And in all honesty if it had been a different breed (like a pitbull) I might have left it. I know for a fact that nobody on our street owns a GSD but I asked a guy sitting on the pavement if he’d seen where the dog had come from. Further up somewhere he mumbled unhelpfully. I rang a couple of bells. Nothing definitive.

Initially the dog was super weary of me. It was uncollared and not in a good condition. Way too skinny, coarse fur and limping. Eventually I managed to get close enough that I could touch it. Got my wife to bring the car around. Sometimes when we pick up strays they hop right in. This one didn’t. ‘Please don’t bite my face off’, I said gingerly stooping down to lift the dog into the car. I won’t lie I was a bit nervous picking up a German Shepherd whose temperament I didn’t know. It turned out okay and my wife drove him to the SPCA near our house.

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Posted the dogs picture on the Neighborhood group shortly thereafter. Didn’t get a response other than a ‘fuck you’ for not taking the dog to a no-kill shelter (which was nice) Maybe he’s chipped. But I have my doubts, his condition didn’t scream conscientious owners. Anyways, I remain hopeful that someone will either foster or adopt him. I always pay for the medical and spaying (in the case of a bitch) to further their chances a little bit.

I’m not sure I’d wear it, but how cool is this t-shirt?

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I’ve recently decided that the soundtrack to my life is 16bit midi. Maybe the theme to Golden Axe. I feel this t-shirt graphic perfectly sums this up.

NOT a murder mystery

I forgot to lock my front door last night.

Terry Pratchett has this great paragraph about how, in Ankh-Morpork, there are actually very few murders. Mostly dead bodies are considered suicide. Walking in the Shades after dark for example, is suicide.

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While Johannesburg likely wasn’t used as a template for this Discworld metropolis (as far as I know) I feel it definitely ranks in the top five most Ankh-Morporkian cities on this plane of existence (up there with Lagos). The most glaring difference (which precludes Jo’burg from the top spot) is that instead of a brass bridge lined with hippos over the river Ankh (primarily used to dispose of dead bodies) we have a bridge over a train yard. (which broadly serves the same function). Also a bridge made of brass would have been stolen ages ago.

In any event, not locking your front door in South Africa is broadly considered suicide. (glad we made it!)

In all fairness in order to get into the master bedroom to murder us they’d still have to make it past the booby traps (the playroom strewn with Lego caltrops), the vicious guard basset (oh who am I kidding) and there’s always the chance they might trip over the German Shepherd in the passage (who would likely then roll over for tummy tickles). I sleep like the dead, but all the commotion might wake the missus (who will then punch me, ‘Your turn’.)

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Back when I was an (irresponsible) bachelor I slept with a Glock (.40S&W) underneath my pillow, 1UP and ready to rumble. It caused me endless frustration when girlfriends wanted to sleep over. (where is the Glock going to sleep?) Although savvy enough NOT to suggest they go sleep in the other room due to their presence deteriorating the defensive integrity of fort Joey, it generally elevated my already simmering levels of anxiety. (Clearly I had other qualities which glossed over some of the other more serious psychological… eh…  deficiencies)

Marriage has mellowed me somewhat (or turned the liquid cloudy, depending on how you look at it). These days instead of rolling out of bed and into my body armor I first have to go the cupboard and take it off a coat hanger. I also have to waste precious time taking my Glock out of the safe and cycling a round into the chamber. All this while under the added pressure of being murdered. (very inconvenient)

In other news I went for blood tests yesterday. The excitingly named D-Dimer protein test. Which looks for a protein in your blood which appears when you’re busy having a thrombosis that’s disintegrating. I’ve… torn a calf muscle (I think, although it could also be a DVT). My ability to tolerate pain after twenty five years of near constant boxing and ju-jitsu makes me weary of gritting through something that may not be what it appears. Especially since I’ve had a pulmonary embolism before. Which… as you might imagine really sucked.

Anyways, the doc phoned me with the results of my test this morning. Negative (but with provisos). He thinks maybe I should go onto the rat poison for a month… just to be sure… which I’m not particularly keen on. Since I was going for blood tests anyway, I did a non-fasting lipid test. Which was was higher than it should be. I’m more annoyed about my cholesterol than the rat poison. I generally pride myself in eating healthy.

The indestructibility of youth is ebbing away to its inevitable conclusion. So annoying.