i've been pretty busy this week, what with working a fair amount of OT, beginning with a 12 hour shift on Sunday, and two 10 hour shifts Tuesday and Wednesday. it's amazing how fast your body gets used to working eights. when i was working at my last job i did a fair amount of OT at the beginning then got scaled back into 8s, but i was spending so much time on the road it might as well have been 10s and 12s. this job is so much closer to home i almost don't know what to do with the free time. my house shows the results though; it's taken a while but it's closing in on being as clean as i like it. the organization and cleanliness of the house is inversely proportional to the number of hours consumed by work, it seems. i'm not making as much money as i used to, and i don't have insurance, but the stress level of my work environment is much lower, and the overall day-to-day function of things outside my work environment is better, so it's a fair trade.

last weekend my vacuum cleaner finally expired. i was almost grateful to see it gasp its last as it's been a pain in the ass for a while now. i bit the bullet and picked up a new one at Costco. i'm no expert at comparatively shopping for vacuums, but i brought a man's power tool mentality to the equation so i wasn't entirely unprepared. i attempted to find one with a strong motor, and decided to buy one with an above-average filtration system. i knew i needed something versatile enough to get the carpet on the stairs (the old one forced me to 'comb' the carpet by hand to get all the dog hair out of the corners, a time-consuming process which by necessity wasn't done as often as i'd've liked), and i determined that a bagless seemed to be the way to go. price, as always, had to play a part in the decision (i don't spend money lightly, especially with the aforementioned drop in pay of late) so i settled on a middle-of-the-road model in terms of price. from the look of it, it might as well be a DeWalt, which would be khoul if they made one, although likely more expensive than what i ended up paying.

my new wannabe DeWalt vacuum cleaner in the living room it got clean
my new vacuum cleaner

it's got something called a spin duster which i doubted i'd actually like (or use) much, but just as you can't get a new car without honking the horn, i gave it a shot. it turned out to be very handy. it's an acrylic feather duster type thing that uses a vortex to spin it (thereby cleaning and electrostatically charging it) and it works much better than i'd anticipated. normally when i pull the ever-present layer of dust off (literally) every horizontal surface in the house i do it with a damp rag, which works well for things like table-tops but leaves much to be desired on things like the heat dissipation grill on the back of the television (an electrostatically charged dust collector in its own right). within five minutes of trying that thing out i managed to release the kinetic energy stored in a small picture frame, utilizing gravitational acceleration to propel it in a simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and mildly horrifying parabolic arc, to its ultimate demise on the dining room floor. shooing Chowder away from the scene of the accident (is it just my dog or do all animals instantly feel the urge to scamper enthusiastically to/into/through a pile of broken glass?!), and cleaning up the mess (mostly by hand, though- ironically- the new vacuum was handy for those powdered fragments) i then proceeded to prove i'd insufficiently learned from the experience, knocking a heavy, solid metal homemade clock off the entertainment center onto the television. true to the physical constraints of the universe, the kinetic energy released from the clock (which followed a less horizontally exaggerated parabolic arc of its own) proved insufficient to impart any major damage to it; however, the clock's relatively large mass provided momentum such that it did manage to put an annoying ding in the previously unblemished plastic top of the TV. though interested in the commotion, Chowder kept his distance as there was nothing to impale himself upon, and being not altogether too thick i finally learned to be a little less zealous in my dusting.

[pause to re-up on coffee]

overall i'm pretty pleased with the new vacuum. the filtration system is great, it actually pulled so much hair and dust out of the living room that a couple days later i can definitely see an improvement. i get the impression that although the dog hair was coming up with the old vacuum, it was blowing a lot of the dust back into the air. and Loren likes the spin duster thing.

Thursday and Friday were both in the 90s- unseasonably high temperatures for around here. i think the records got shattered by somewhere around 20 degrees. personally i like it warm, but Thursday was also really muggy and uncomfortable. Friday was hotter, but drier, and i was all over it.

Friday was a short day at work, which cost me a little of the OT i've put in, but damn it seemed long! my work asked me to call in around 5am to see if they needed me to come in early. they didn't. so i'd gotten up earlier than i would have normally, and decided to spend the time doing some more chores. i also got a couple good shots of Chowder dozing off on the landing of my staircase; here's one of them:

Chowder dozing off
Chowder sleepin' in while i did chores before work

arriving at work at 9am i learned that once again our supplier had had problems (this time one of their employees got picked up for something and is spending some time in jail) so they couldn't deliver our parts as previously planned at 5:30am. when the parts did come i had nothing but problems running them. long story short: the difficulties i was experiencing boiled down to the parts, not anything i was doing, so the endless series of changes in equipment and approach i (and the others involved in machining these parts) undertook were all for naught, excepting to nail down the cause of the problem, and the matter remains unresolved. almost before i knew it, it was time to take off to pick up Loren, so i advised Nic to avoid spending the break in the shop as much as possible, and embarked on what promised to be a busy three day weekend.

suffering through a very long Memorial Day weekend commute, i picked up Loren from his mom's house and went through his school notebook with him. it wasn't as good as i'd like it but certainly nowhere near as bad as i've seen it. i took some pictures of him and Phoenix jumping on the trampoline over there. here are a couple of the better ones:

Phoenix on the trampoline
Phoenix jumping on the trampoline

Loren on the trampoline
Loren jumping on the trampoline

Loren and Phoenix wrestling around a few moments before it started getting ugly....boys will be boys
boys will be boys

then off we went, with short stops at the grocery and licquor stores (the latter for some faux Bailey's for my coffee...i knew i didn't really have time to make any this time around....dunno if i could really afford it but i've certainly earned it), then home to eat some frozen pizza (on sale- yes!....and no, we didn't eat it frozen, i cooked it) and watch some Dragonball Z. this time around it was the beginning of the Ginyu Force episodes from the Namek Saga. gotta like Dragonball Z. when i grow up i wanna be Goku. food, inactivity, and work fatigue took their normal Friday night toll on me and i managed to (once again) fall asleep on the couch after dinner. Loren finished out the tape (had to settle for VHS for this saga....[sigh]), and did whatever else he does when i'm sleeping in the living room and he's got the place to himself, and finally woke me up around....11pm i think. got up and got him in bed, and hit the hay myself.

Saturday morning i woke up at 5:50am with no alarm. my left arm was killing me (i think i have a tendency to sleep on it) and i attempted to get more comfortable and go back to sleep. woke up at 6am- left arm killing me. attempted to get more comfortable and go back to sleep (damn it's bright out!). woke up at 6:10. left arm killing me. DAMN! go back to sleep. YES! didn't wake up until 9:50. that's much more like it, thank you. Loren and i did the Saturday morning thing, anticipating his joint birthday party (Loren's 12th, Phoenix's 9th- i think) at Marysville Skate Inn. i wrapped the one present i planned to give Loren at his party (electing to give him the rest on Sunday, his actual birthday) and headed out to Granite Falls to pick up one of Loren's friends, a boy i've never met before named Brad. nice kid, with nice parents. headed out to Marysville, whereupon i found Mapquest's directions dismal. nevertheless, i found the place in short enough order, a few minutes later than i'd planned. packed in the kids and the cameras and stuff, and called my folks to amend the undoubtedly wrong directions they likely got from the same place i did. they were stuck in traffic and didn't make it up for a while. Mom was pretty swollen from some oral surgery she had done Friday, and pretty uncomfortable, but it seemed like she got distracted from her discomfort a bit at the party, which i'm happy for. Jason and Melissa made it out too. THANKS to everyone for coming, Loren had a really great time, as did the rest of the kids. i had a great time too, even got out and did some skating myself. i haven't roller skated since i was Loren's age, somewhere around 12 or 13 years ago, and i wasn't ever a major rink rat so i was a little shaky at first. i managed to pick it back up pretty quickly though, and it was a lot of fun. i only fell down once, when i tried to do that funky thing where you bring your knees together and apart while transferring your hands back and forth between them (is there really a name for that motion?). it's an easy enough thing to accomplish standing still on the ground, but doing it while skating is another matter entirely. still, my butt never touched the floor. watching some of the rink employees skate i saw some of them doing this cross-their-feet-over-each-other move while cornering; i had to try it. a couple shaky tries and lo and behold, i got it down. it's the same move i remember seeing the speed skaters in the Olympics do, and it's just a much better method. i never could do that when i was a kid, so i'll call the afternoon a success. still can't skate backwards though. here's some of the better shots from the party:

Phoenix is really photogenic- it's hard to take a bad picture of him
love his shirt here: "it's my brother's fault" hehehehe
Phoenix at Loren's and his joint birthday party

Loren with a balloon-disk thing from his mom
Loren with a balloon-disk thing from his mom

closeup shot of Loren
Loren closeup shot

Phoenix opening a gift
Phoenix opening a gift

Mom, Dad, Melissa, & Jason came out for the party
here they're watching the boys open their gifts
Pelkeys and Wylls watching the boys opening presents

Loren's mom got him this (really hard!) puzzle
Mom and Dad tried it out with him, and that's Loren's friend Matt in the background
Mom, Dad & Loren trying out a puzzle Loren got from his mom

actually got out and skated some- it was fun
here's Loren and me skating (kinda dark)
Loren and me skating

some of the kids kickin' it at Loren's mom's after the skating party, before a mondo sleepover. hey- that's my truck!
pre-sleepover at Loren's mom's house

then it was off to Loren's mom's house to drop off a whole slew of kids for a massive sleepover. i had Loren, Brad, Aaron and Matthew. Melody and her crew (2 vehicles strong) didn't arrive for another half an hour so i hung out with the kids i hauled until they showed up. most of the kids spent the time on the trampoline and chopping wood. one of Loren's friends, Aaron, is a boy scout, and he's a little larger than the others, so he had the strength and the technique to split an impressively large piece of wood in one blow. when i saw him do that i knew my own technique wasn't right, so i watched him closely, and tried it his way- and promptly split the hell out of a big piece of wood like i've never done before- which was khoul. watch and learn. between the skating and chopping, i guess i'm not that old a dog.

after saying my goodbyes i headed for home, to take a few minutes to relax before trekking south to hook up with my old friends Pat and Toni, at Pat's sister Donna's house in Shoreline. Pat doesn't get down this way very often (he's living up in Juneau, AK these days) and it's always good to hug my friend (like a brother to me) and catch up in person. Pat and Toni both look great, Pat especially looks good, even better than the last time i saw him. a little greyer in the beard, and a little thinner in the hair, but hey- aren't we all? they've been in town doing some church work (not my bag, but certainly theirs) and it would take a fairly extreme set of circumstances for me to let an opportunity to see them pass by. they'll be in Snohomish (5 minutes from here) later today, and hopefully will get time to come over and hang out a bit this evening while Loren's here. i got to see some pictures of Pat's son Ryan and his wife (can't remember her name) and their baby (can't remember that cute little baby girl's name either). one of the pictures of Ryan i saw i seriously couldn't recognize him in, but in another one i could see past the now-dark hair and the goatee and see the boy i knew from infancy until he was about 7 or 8. hard to imagine he's a 17 year old teenager who's married with a kid of his own now. hope i get to see those boys again. Loren and i got to see Pat and Toni's youngest son Josh a couple years ago (a great looking young man with impeccable manners) but haven't seen Zack or Ryan since they moved to AK. i also saw some old friends of Pat and Toni's (and acquaintances of mine) from the old days, Ronnie and Collen, and their kids. here's a shot of the group of us, taken by Donna's husband (another really nice guy whose name i'm properly ashamed i can't remember- again), who was gracious enough to lend me the use of a couple AA batteries for my camera, to replace those worn out during Loren's ealier party. thanks to Donna and him for the hospitality, and for a barbecue of turkey burgers, salad and baked beans- all very good- which i didn't need but indulged in anyway. nice folks.

my great friend Pat (with the goatee), his wife Toni (center), our friends Ronnie (in the back beside Pat) and his wife Colleen (in the turquoise), their two kids (Marcus, in the front, and the other girl i can't remember her name for the life of me), and that's me on the left, at Donna's house in Shoreline
get-together at Donna's house in Shoreline

incidentally, Pat's older brother Dan died a short time ago, and they had a service for him last weekend. under most circumstances it would have been nice to see Pat's mom Carmen, and the rest of their family, whom i've known for 20-odd years, and especially Dan's children (especially Holden, whom i knew best, though he went by Danny when i knew him), and even under less-than-desirable circumstances like a funeral it would still have been nice, but i missed the service. it was, however, appropriate that this was Memorial Day weekend. Loren and i spent a significant part of Saturday morning remembering those who've been a part of our lives who aren't with us any more, including my Gramma and Grampa Pelkey, my Grampa Douillet, Loren's grandfather and grandmother Hulse (the latter deceased before i met Loren's mother), my friend Char Putnam (who died of injuries suffered in a car accident while we were in high school), my friend Katie (from my high school days, who died of misdiagnosed liver cancer), a long assortment of pets Loren and i have had (most especially in my mind our old Pelkey family dog Lucky and my cat Crash- OMG i forgot Evil! can't forget my extremely affectionate and gifted-at-hunting cat Evil- who died of accidental poisoning much too young), my aunt Barbara (my uncle Walter's wife, a very nice woman i was very fond of, who was killed in a car accident that left also left Uncle Walter incapacitated), all the great grandparents i can remember meeting, my uncle Roger (thanks VERY much to Loren for reminding me to remember him- he was a great guy), Pat's aforementioned recently-deceased brother Dan, and their father (my long-time very good friend), the much admired Bob Fagg. i'm sure there are others i've forgotten; there are certainly some i've thought of that i haven't included here. i miss these friends, family, and pets a lot, and i'm thankful for the occurence of Memorial Day to remind me to think of them all. thanks also to American troops throughout the ages for their sacrifice(s), that we might enjoy times like this three day weekend.

OK. this is one seriously long post, and the weekend's not finished yet. i woke up around 2:30am from an uncomfortably-crowded couch, and i've spent much more time writing this than i'd planned (the birds who've invaded the attic over the den are chirping and it's more light out than dark). time to get a few more winks before i finish wrapping the remainder of Loren's presents and take care of some more chores before he comes back this evening.

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