Daily Surprises

Music: Like Eating glass- Bloc Party


Today, much like any other workday, I spent my morning putting out the typical fires of switching back keys on laptops, answering emails and having conversations with students who were making no progress in self-paced courses. Around lunch time, things changed though, I had one of those experiences that truly leave you thankful that you’re a teacher.

I had a student ask if she could stay during lunch to finish a test that she had started online. I of course said sure and did my best to help her with the questions she had. She worked diligently, finished the exam and proceeded to ask about another assignment that was to be uploaded the next day. I walked her through the process and told her that the assignments for all the other modules were to be uploaded the same way.

She thanked me for my help and then asked me how her sister was doing in one of my other classes. I told her that she was doing well but that anything to spur more productivity would be appreciated. Here’s where the day changed, one of those unforgettable moments, where people lose their roles and simply become humans.

She told me that her and her sister hadn’t lived together for a few years. That her sister gets distracted easily. “She focuses on boys more than school. I wish she could see from my mistakes that it’s not worth it.” She proceeded to explain that her mother and father were divorced.

Her mother had tried to fight her and her sister sided with her, this had put a strain on their relationship. She told me she lived with her boyfriend because of the rift, but she regretted it and felt as though her boyfriend just used her for sex. She said that last spring she had had a miscarriage with him and that it had affected her school work.

She then explained that her father had just recently had a baby with another woman. Apparently there are 3 other siblings, all from different women. She said “I just wish he would focus on us rather than creating more children.”

I told her I didn’t have any quick fixes for such matters, but that there are resources in the community and I can help her find them. I told her that in my life I have had to distances myself from some family members and relationships due to their negative nature. That it hurts, but that being dragged in to more negativity is worse than the distance.

I told her that she can only focus on the next right move and that mistakes are merely another chance to learn from our own experiences.

I also told her that I too have a hard time dealing with my own problems, and that that in no way minimizes her situation, rather that she is more normal than she expects.

Lastly, I told her that I lack the resources to do much, however, that when she’s in my class that I’ll do all that I can to ensure her success. Small successes become large successes over time and that our habits become our lives, focus on what you can control.

She thanked me for listening to her and said that she was appreciative that I’m cool.

I’ve been left sort of in awe for a few reasons. I tell people regularly to endure, but until now realize that I usually only consider life from my point of view and with respect to my set of problems and circumstances. This is an unfair way to assess other.

I still advocate for people to pick up and do the tough tasks that are at hand, however, there has to be more of us listening (myself included) to each other. Up until a year ago I was a pretty awful listener. My goal was always to have something to reply with. As I have made the shift to actually listening I find that not everything one says needs a reply. But that anyone moved to genuinely voice their feelings needs to at the least say their piece, even if just as a verbal catharsis.

Furthermore, I’m saddened and proud all at once that there are young adults, of any gender, that can and do, put such issues aside and make such hard decisions daily and are committed and driven to truly make a go at life despite the odds. (What’s more refreshing than to have a true protagonist?)

While reading today I thought about my debt as I was confronted with the idea of resistance as a motivator in life, a purpose, the reason we get up every morning. As of right now, debt is my resistance. I seem to function better when knowing or creating a purpose to struggle for.

For years I viewed the world from a political perspective–everything is a function of power struggle and since it is, the only difference is who is victorious. Perhaps this has something to do with my functioning as an adult. This young lady has identified her struggle and I hope she annihilates what needs to be in order to prevail.

Life, at times, is so incredibly sad, intense, beautiful, and beyond anything I could every dream up–I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for these types of moments that pull me out of my own personal stupor and force me to realize that we all have struggles. I recognize that we are all so busy and I ask that you guys do the best you can to be understanding and patient, it’s truly an uphill battle for us all.

Endure,

-AM-

Thoughts as of now.

Music: My Kind of Woman- Mac Demarco


I finished Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry last week. I have been hesitating to write a review and instead have merely posted a few quotes that I really enjoyed, I say a few, because they continue on and on.

What I can say about the book, other than it is awesome and that I highly recommend it; is that for one, it takes place mostly in West Texas and Northern Mexico, and that it is almost an anti-western– it really kills all of the John Wayne archetypes associated with westerns. I can also appreciate a book where characters act out philosophical concepts rather than the work being an act of philosophy, to me it is just more believable. In short, read it.

Quotes:

“For one thing, he despised fancy gear. He rode a plain saddle, and all that he required in a weapon was that it was reliable and accurate.”

“The one thing he didn’t expect he would have to fear was a chill. The sky was not like the skies of home. It was vast, and instead of being blue, it was white, not with cloud but with heat.”

“In time, the great pig grew bolder. Sometimes it would walk through town, attended by a contingent of crows, who would flank it or walk ahead of it, cawing. When the pig stretched out to sleep in the hot sun, several crow would attend it, cleaning nits and ticks out of its hide. The poor people who worked in the sand hills feared the pig, they called it the devil pig. […] Sightings of the pig came from all points of the compass: from as far east as Abilene, as far north as Tascosa, and as far south as Piedras Negras. An old woman who lived near Boquillas claimed to have seen the pig go into a tunnel that led to hell.”

“’If he steals horses, then it’s better to eat them,” Billy said. He had always liked Joey. He thought that he was a good boy, but strange. Being strange was not something he could hold against anyone; after all, he himself was strange. ‘Life makes everybody strange, if you keep living long enough’”

 

“‘I don’t see it that way’, Goodnight said.

‘Well it wasn’t your ranch,” Call pointed out.

‘No, it wasn’t my ranch, but I hate to see you thinking like a banker,’ Goodnight said. ‘From a banker’s point of view, all of my ventures have been failures, including this one I’m venturing now, this Palo Duro ranch. The lawyers will take it away from me, before I’m dead. Lawyers and Bankers are like shit beetles. They’ll finally carry off everything I’ve built up, like they carried away your ranch up above the Yellowstone. […] ‘Bankers live by ledger sheets,’ Goodnight informed him. ‘They decide if you’re a failure if your balance hits zero, or you can’t pay your note. You’re a damn fool for thinking like a banker.’”


Projects:

I finally finished the table, distressed, antiqued, and sanded and finished the top properly. This project took me much longer than anticipated but was completely worth the hassle. I’m debating on whether to post it for sale or wait to get a few pieces and get a space at an antique mall with my wife, time will tell.

Our mortgage is more than I would like to pay (not unmanageable, but why pay more, when you can pay less?) and since it is, I would like to move in to something smaller and more maintainable when the time is appropriate. However, one thing that hit me hard this last time we moved was how my shop has been in disarray for two years.

My solution, which is not a new idea, is portable infrastructure. All of my benches, large tools and tool stands are being converted to moveable pieces. The idea came from Joel Salatin and his mobile farming methods. He argues that infrastructure is the costly part of farming and that more options exist when small farmers can move to leased land and allow land to rest when becoming exhausted.

I can’t allow a shop to become more fertile by resting it, but it is definitely easier to clean and maintain this way, it also allows for quick on site set up, if the need ever arises.

Debt:

With respect to debt and my never ending struggle to escape its chains I have developed a system where I pay at least 20 additional bucks each week to student loans on the principal. On the low end it looks like 160 bucks a month. I’m doing all I can to shrink this one as fast as possible.

I’m also contemplating selling one of my shotguns. I’m too afraid of scratching it,(see Call’s quote on gear) I have another that is more portable, does all the same tasks, and really I don’t feel that the pretty one serves a need anymore, but is now a liability.

Minimalism:

I’m doing my best to get by with the least of everything. I read about purchasing only consumables and I’m really trying to stick to this idea. Basic necessities: toilet paper, soap, unprocessed food. But only what I need for the week and no impulses. I’ll write an update as time goes on.

Photography:

In order to create a better blog and to also capture small moments of life that I appreciate I have decided to focus some on the quality of photos that I take. My phone takes awful photos and it sort of just seems lazy, these were taken with my wife’s Canon. I tried my hand during my weekly hike at the state park yesterday. The sky was so vibrant so it is kind of the theme of these. img_4713img_4715img_4668

The learning curve is steep with respect to understanding how to truly bring out the depth of objects in pictures. Hopefully this blog will be a testament to my development as an amateur photographer as time passes.

Endure,

-AM-

Directional Shifts and Constant Change

Music: Shallow- Beach Fossils


Since my last post I have to admit, the finish on the top of table came out awful, the first layer of veneer was rippling, just to a point that was not visible until painted. I ripped off the top layer, sanded it down to about 120 grit, and I plan to have it painted again by the time Sunday is over.

For the future I plan to create a dead blow hammer out of wood like the old school carpenters used to use. I’ll be following the series of videos by Paul Sellars (an awesome source for learning the craft) from his You tube channel.


I have to give a shout out to my fellow blogger Simple up, her posting about the World Domination Summit got me all sorts of excited. I talked to my wife about attending this next summer, and we’re going to do our damnedest to make it happen. I’ve wanted to see the Northwest for a while and I feel like I need to push myself to be a much better person for the mere fact that the eyes of my son are now on me.

I took a training session this last summer on the 7 habits of highly effective people this last summer and I developed the mission statement: My mission is to live a life rich in experiences and healthy relationships. I feel that I now have an obligation to make that happen. I feel like the best way to be the parent, and man, that I hope to be is to continue to expose myself, and my son, to new experiences, better ideas, and overall positivity. In short, I’m excited, scared, and optimistic all at once.

Today I watched an interview with the guy who started the World Domination Summit, Chris Guillebeau and one of my favorite You tube channel hosts, Jonathan Fields (who I found out did a speech at this last year’s summit) from The Good Life Project.

I took away two concepts from the interview. The first was to keep focus of your goals, or to ensure fidelity to what it is you had initially set out to do. I know that goals change as well as perspectives, but I feel like what was at the heart of this was that goals that shift to be easier or more comfortable because it is more attainable is a soulless shell of what you meant to do. There is no substance in that easier goal and it takes no courage to do something that is certain. I struggle with making my goals bigger than I am comfortable with, but I am working on it.

Endure,

-AM-

A Different Kind of Content.

Music: I’m your opposite number- Strike Anywhere


This last week has been lean on the posting end due to the beginning of the first true work week. Monday kids walk through the door and the year begins. To me this always feels like it did to be a student, anticipation and the want to simply know how these new relationships with people will be. I have enjoyed going back to my routine, however, one part has been irritating for the past two weeks now and it is the absence of my weekly hike. Due to rain (which, in West Texas, it also means lightning) every chance I have had to go stretch my legs has been extinguished.

I have a love/hate relationship with rain. I know that I need the rain for the garden, I know that it is necessary due to our obnoxious need to grow grass in places it was never meant to be, and of course, for pretty much any human function from eating to shitting. What I can not get around is being inside all day, the numerous flying assholes known as mosquitos, and humidity, boy do I hate humidity.

I always talk about what we can do with problems rather than simply pointing them out. When I comes to rain, it is time to organize, get projects done and do a little wood working.

I started the weekend by cooking some fajitas for the in-laws and in order to do so, noticed I needed more wood for the pit. When needing to split knotty mesquite logs I have found it is necessary to opt for the splitting maul (one of my restores). I have fought a constant battle any time I have cut wood in the summer months due to some other freeloading bastards known as wood bores. Last summer I cut these logs and have noticed the larvae of these welfare queens every time I split a log. It really irritates the hell out of me. I also have a great deal of fire ants in my yard, but given that I don’t step in their beds, whatever, live and let live.

While splitting for the fire I just threw all the pieces in a pile near my pit until I was done so that I could then pull the bark (the easiest way to screw up a good meal with mesquite is to use the bark, pull that shit off, if it doesn’t come off the wood isn’t seasoned, the green wood is even worse). Getting ready to pull the bark I noticed the fire ants were swarming the wood, I was confused until I saw what they were after, the larvae. The fire ants and I are now allies.

wood bores sentence

I  also thought that it would be a good time to begin on the restoration of furniture and making the shop less of a mess. I had built a rack to hang all of my Axes so that the handles wouldn’t bow, you can see the mess in the back ground. axe rack

The shop is now more organized (maybe I can get a pic up in the next post) and I focused my efforts this weekend on a few efforts. I finished filling in all the holes in the veneer of a bedside table with Durham’s putty, you mix it yourself. I usually opt for Minwax but I have had a can of this Durham’s for like two years and I really wanted to see if it works for the 3 bucks I spent, it does and it doesn’t go bad like pre-mix. I got the first coat of paint on the table last night and hope to do the second today. If all goes well I will distress and stain it this evening and post it for sale tomorrow. Here is the project so far.first flip

I also focused on a toy box for my son. My wife’s friend had found some old gun crates and gave them to her. For about a year the crates were my bedside tables. My wife finally put her foot down (I got tired of not being able to sweep and mop around them) and they sat under the car port for the last month. They lacked a top door so I knew I would need to build them, they’re pretty heavy so I knew they needed casters and they are an odd shape so I knew I should join them.  I had some casters sitting on my work bench, some newish pickets that I had picked up for real cheap to join it and realized I had hinges and the hardware to do most everything.

Yesterday with the help of two pots of coffee, a jig saw, drill, miter saw, some wood chisels, and two pod casts of Coast to Coast AM I came up with this.

toy box

It opens sort of like suicide doors, so that you can access things while keeping the other part closed. He’ll  also be able take them apart and use them separately in the future if he wanted or, perhaps, when he is a grown man, it could be a pretty cool coffee table with a story.

I can’t help but think that some things work out like they should every once in a while. I have plans to build a rolling base for two of my heavy tool boxes and hope to have them done before the end of the month. I look forward to posting them.

Endure,

-AM-

 

A Hopeful Transition

Observations:

  • I truly underestimate how necessary it is for me to have a structured day.
  • I hate to say it, but listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts are really keeping me on track with my budget.

 


Music: State of grace – Hot Water Music


 

I’ve had a few topics that I have been attempting to make a post about, however, it seems like the words always escape me. I’ve decided to just make this post in to more of a stream of consciousness.

My wife has decided to stay home and watch our son, it has been awesome, and I would really like it to continue for a long time. This comes to mind after watching a video on Wranglerstar’s Youtube channel. He was talking about how he got out of debt, left the city and decided that his family would mean more than money.

While Wranglerstar’s ideas are ones that have resonated with me for a long time, I find that it  helps me to re-internalize my own thoughts by hearing others articulate their take on things. Because I have been revisiting these thoughts I’ve been crunching numbers, making charts and frugal-ing my way to find any possible way to reduce my expenditures and increase my income. I even sold a bunch of scrap iron today, a whopping 7 dollars.

I spent most of my years in college working in the furniture industry. I delivered, painted, distressed, repaired, built and customized furniture. I had stopped thinking about these days until our recent garage sale. During our garage sale, that I mentioned in the last post, I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of our money was made selling furniture. This realization has led me to begin refinishing, and hopefully, building furniture as a side income.

I’ve always loved wood working and there is an awesome channel on Youtube called the homestead heritage school of wood working. I’ve been watching it religiously, and hope, that in the distant future, I will become capable of making fine wood products.

When I was reading Wild Mama a certain part really struck me and it was when she talked about going in to genetics simply because she was good at it, but really wanting to, and finally, becoming a writer. Visintainer is relevant to me because I spent 6 years of my life studying politics. What I learned in that time is that politics suck (people just tend to polarize themselves further by finding news sources that cater to their biases) and that it is easy to bullshit your way through a paper if you simply refute that the prompt is unjustified.

What I learned after college was that I had always liked my previous work, I was just never in control of it. I enjoy my life as a teacher and a husband but hope that my previous and present lives will make for an awesome hybrid in the future.

Right now my budget is tight, there’s little wiggle room, I have sparse free time, and a ton of worry (I feel like I’m living the lyrics of Righteous Path by the Drive-by Truckers at times), however, I also have resolve, a direction that I would like life to go and a map that I’m creating. At times I feel all the wild is gone, however, there still exists a frontier for me. I can still be a cartographer of my own future.

Endure,

-AM-

 

 

Finally Feeling Frugal

Observations:

  • I have way too much fun discovering unknown tracks (to me) in the discography of bands I really liked from Jr. High.
  • I may have finally found a pair of cowboy boots that I will retire before I wear out the first heel patch (the Justin bent rails were worth the money) 2 years a true abuse.

Music: So Negative- Body Jar


 

Earlier this week my wife and I were doing out best to rid the house of clutter and reduce the number of our belongings. I had started to just put all of the crap in a corner of our dining room (which is useless waste of space with the exception of thanksgiving) and noticed that we had some stuff worth money.

The idea struck me to have a yard sale, why not make some money, maybe? Among the things available was: a mini-library, small 110 welder, an old antique vanity, kitchen stuff, old tools, etc. The items we got rid of had become either useless, redundant or a mixture of the two.

What I didn’t know is that yard sales are a bunch of work, that one needs the ability to morph cardboard in to signage and also the ability to turn everything in to a display table. I started to realize the work portion as we did our best to reasonably price items. The realization of extra table space came as I ran out of table space with our kitchen stuff alone [side note: every time I have stuff to purge I question whether I could even be close to a minimalist. I mean, where does this stuff even come from?] 4 makeshift tables later we were up and running.

I woke up at 5:20 to put on coffee and get the yard ready. Tables were set by 6:30, the items were on them by 7:30 and people showed up by about 8 and we shut it down at noon. I was hoping to make about 50 dollars and anything else would just be icing on the cake.

I had written in one post about how I wanted to get better acquainted with my community, if you have a similar goal, have a yard sale. I got to hear about some guys farm, how he can’t keep cats (due to foxes?), watched the same guy fondle a mannequin, talked to a lady about how her kids shouldn’t be hassled by her neighbor for burning trash, how grand kids make you a push over, what the weather is like in Wyoming, and everything in between.

I really enjoyed the conversations and people I had the chance to meet. I usually don’t go out of my way to meet everyone near me, so the interaction was very refreshing. We also made 133 bucks, which was like triple icing (financial diabetes?).

Everything we’ve made lately, that has been extra, has been allocated to pay for a medical bill of 500 bucks (kids are expensive), however, with the saving and making of extra funds from extra stuff around the house, I will now only pay 72 dollars out of my normal income! To me this was worth writing about. Last week was a struggle, but this week feels like a frugal victory.

Endure,

-AM-

 

Where Literature Took Me.

mcmurtrywork

I remember the summer right after I had graduated high school vividly. It was a time, initially, of hope, beautiful young women, warm summer nights that seemed to lag with respect to our ability to measure time, but most of all, it was a time that I truly began to read. It was the first time outside of a classroom or educational organization that I attempted to make sense of the world.

One of the first books that I had decided to read was Brave New World accompanied with Brave New World Revisited, both of course, by Aldous Huxley. I remember that the story of the first was dystopian, but it wasn’t until I had read the latter that the totality of the work sunk in with me. Before I had graduated I shied from fiction literature. What was the point in wasting my time on stories when there was factual information to take in? Brave New World Revisited was the companion piece for such an arrogant know it all.

I remember doing my best to get through the fiction portion on a warm patio of a coffee house, and then a beautiful young lady striking up a conversation with me simply because we were both reading it. Maybe fiction wasn’t so bad? Obviously this was much better than Sir Gawain, Beowulf, and The Canterbury Tales. For one, I could thumb through the pages and understand any sentence, and also that I actually cared about the subject mater.

What I did find was truth, the type of truth that shakes you to the core when you are hopeful and assuming your generation can do better than the last. I was never all that optimistic in matters, but I don’t think I had grasped just how the world operated, or more importantly, which obstacles were to be faced because of the way the world operated. I had read the fiction portion, a fine story, but everything came together and crashing down all at once when I read the first chapter of revisited entitled: Overpopulation. What I had read was:

“The problem of rapidly increasing numbers in relation to natural resources, to social stability and to the well being of individuals–this is now the central problem of mankind; and it will remain the central problem certainly for a century, and perhaps several centuries thereafter.”

All of a sudden globalism made sense, governmental restrictions, but more importantly the novel itself now made sense. Not only was it possible for fiction to show me, just as much, if not more information and analysis than non-fiction work, but what I had read showed a very bleak future.

I remember a friend of mine came up to me right after I had read the last page. I closed the book, walked outside and hopped on the trunk of my old Crown Victoria and sat down. We talked for a few moments and I remember saying “I don’t know if I want children. This world doesn’t seem to be going in a great direction, and I’m not sure that anyone can stop the direction it is headed.” This of course was pretty crazy to say when you’re 18, he called bullshit (was correct) and pretty much just dismissed the whole deal. What he didn’t realize was that my worldview had collapsed. I had to adjust, my way of looking at the world would be changed for a long time, and today is still impacted by this work but in a different way.


Later that year I discovered Cormac McCarthy. The way that humans were always at odds with their own dark nature seemed to fit how I was seeing the world. Like in Blood Meridian, it seemed like sodomy crazed scalp hunters still existed, only in suits. I had seen how society can turn the lower rungs of classes in to monsters like Lester Ballard in Child of GodAll The Pretty Horses, had much more depth as a book because I could see the politics of a failing Mexico in the 50’s. I could also see the romance that a place that wasn’t rapidly clinging to industrialization holds. I was especially fond of that romance as I watched Texas turn, more and more, in to a huge suburb (overpopulation all over again).

I had watched No Country For Old Men right before I had moved to Odessa, TX. Up until this point, I had lived, and now, live again, in a part of West Texas that borders the southern part of the Panhandle and morphs in to the Cross Timbers region, just north of the Concho Valley. Odessa, however, is indisputably West Texas, while it may sound crazy, I thirsted for this. The wild I missed from my childhood was there on those trash filled, dusty plains of mesquite scrub and yucca plants.

The people were not refined, the roads were rough, the food was hot, the music was loud. To me this was paradise:, mariachis, cold beer, constant grilling and kinship. But with all that I was enjoying came violence. The old west lives on in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos areas. It is in the attitude of roughnecks and convicts, cattlemen and a general people who have just been unwilling to become domesticated. I admire this, however, it does not mean that the majority or the population is intelligent.

In this area McCarthy was more a reporter than an author. The true story of border violence was usually much worse and more senseless. However, the violence is captured well in The Counselor. I soon realized that McCarthy was more philosophical in his points than the narcos are. A lesson was being taught in the writing while unbridled, materialistic, machismo was going on in practice. The writing of No Country For Old Men now made sense, I was feeling like the sheriff more often than not, it felt like the moment I had closed Brave New World Revisited.


Towards the end of my stay in Odessa I became homesick, missing water, mesquite trees rather than bushes, the yellow flowers on the nopales, and the ability to simply grow a tomato, and my family. My world view, again, began to change.

However, during the last part of my stay I had read a great deal of Larry McMurtry’s work. McMurty’s work (even just the movies) are a huge part of any Texans life. Ask why Lonesome Dove is awesome and see what the answers are. Ask an older generation about The Last Picture Show and watch the immediate embrace or disapproval of depicting both life and legend in Texas. I couldn’t understand the point of Texasville as a child because it too closely resembled everyday life.

For a long time I’d argue that McCarthy was a better author, I was wrong. I started to see the error of my ways my last year of college. In my survey of the American West, we were to write a comparative analysis where we compared a fictitious account of the West that was a movie and a non fiction book about on the American West. Obviously the findings should be how things are vs how things are depicted. I used Lonesome Dove as my movie and McMurtry’s Oh What A Slaughter as my non fiction piece(one of the only non-fiction book he has written). What could be better than to compare works by the same author, surely this would make for good reading and consistent analysis. After reading Oh What A Slaughter, which is a compilation of accounts of everyone pretty much massacring everyone, my world view as an adult became established. No one in the west has hands clean of blood (at least Whites, Mexicans or Indians) and at some point, we have all worked together and for a long time.


I went down the rabbit hole of The Last Picture Show series. Duane became a character that could be anyone in Texas. As you get to see his character in different points of his life, one point stands out the most to me. Rhino Ranch, the general comfort that Duane’s character gains becomes one I aspire to be like– denouncing racism, shooting the tires of meth heads, picking up trash along the road because it should be, living in a cabin and drinking whiskey at his leisure while reading Proust with a dash of hopeless romance. This is a series of modern day, small town, Texas.


In the last year, though, I felt it was appropriate to finally read the Lonesome Dove series. With this series I feel like I  have become older and maybe slightly weary every time I come to the last page of each book. I don’t mean this in a bad way, more like when you have accomplished a hard task, the reading isn’t complex but the themes, man and his place in the world, a world that isn’t necessarily the one he should be in, that is some food for thought.

Each book is a master piece in its own right and can be read without reading the other ones, but each makes the other a richer story. As of now my favorite in the series is Comanche Moon, the character of Inish Scull alone makes it one of the best books I have ever read. For Instance:

“See this page of paper? It’s blank,” Scull said. “That, sir, is the most frightening battlefield in the world: the blank page. I mean to fill this paper with decent sentences, sir—this page and hundreds like it. Let me tell you, Colonel, it’s harder than fighting Lee. Why, it’s harder than fighting Napoleon. It requires unremitting attention,”

The parallels to the history of that time, as well as historical characters (Charles Goodnight, Dick King, Quannah Parker) make it truly remarkable.

I started the last book, Streets of Laredo yesterday, within the 1st hundred pages I was hooked. This story is bleak and takes place, mostly in far West Texas, but more believable than something like Blood Meridian. I look forward to writing about it once I am finished reading it. I’ll end this post with my favorite quote so far.

“In Call’s view, there was an obligation stronger than those, and that obligation was loyalty. It seemed to him the highest principle, loyalty. He preferred it to honor. He had never been exactly sure what men meant when they spoke of their honor, though it had been popular during the time of the War. He was sure, though, what he meant when he spoke of loyalty. A man didn’t desert his comrades, his troop, his leader. If he did he was, in Call’s book, worthless”

Endure,

-AM-

Sleep aint always the best for me.

Music: Bastards of Young-The Replacements


 

This morning my son did his root like a pig routine to wake me up. I know that this means two things, his diaper needs changing, and he will immediately be hungry once the clean diaper cinches and that onsie gets buttoned. I’ve been telling myself that whenever he gets up between 5-7, I will wake up with him, that however, has not been the case. I’ve pretty much tried to get up around 9, but 9 is not going to work when the 11th rolls around and it is time to go back to work. This becomes even more problematic when I look at what my usual routine is.

During the school year I like to get up around 5:30, this gives me time to mentally prepare for anything in my way, get or make breakfast, put my percolator on my hot plate in my classroom and read a couple of chapters of a book or listen to part of a podcast. This obviously has not been happening considering my son was born a little more than a month ago and we’re out for the summer.

A reoccurring theme on my weekly hike is the topic of getting things done. I’m not necessarily talking about efficiency, although efficiency can definitely compliment getting things done. But the two sages that walk that trail each weekend have come to believe that the majority of what gets done in the day, gets done while others are sleeping and before noon. After noon, it seems like the day becomes slower and less capable of producing results. I have also talked about doing things I don’t want to do, time to live up to that.

So, back to my son waking up, it was 5:15 and I knew it was time to return to the way that I do things effectively. I grabbed my clothes, showered, brushed my teeth and put on a pot of coffee that is making the house smell great at the moment, and opened my laptop. This first day might not be the most effective, but I’ve already made a step in the right direction. Small victories combined together equals success, right?

Endure,

-AM-

My most used and fundamental tool, the knife.

Observations:

  • my wife is slowly moving towards minimalism, it is awesome.
  • my son is getting a little pot belly, to me, it is hilarious.
  • I can part with most of my possessions, with the exception of tools.

Music: Meet me in the woods-Lord Huron


 

There are many articles and conversations about a man’s EDC or everyday carry items. My EDC is pretty minimal: pocket or fixed blade knife, wallet, phone, and my 45. ACP Springfield XDs with an extended 8 round magazine (unless at work). It is simple enough to list your EDC, however, I don’t think an EDC is representative, nor a fair assessment of what a man really uses in a day to get his tasks done. It is in the spirit of truly showing what a man needs that I thought up the idea of a series of posts that I will refer to as EDUI’s or everyday use items. As far back as I can remember, there has really been one item that I find myself using everyday and that is the knife.

When I was around 5-7ish (hard to remember) my uncle Frank gave me my first pocket knife. It was a cheap, Pakistani, single blade, folder with a back lock, I’m sure he had got it from the hardware store that sits on Main in Bronte TX, for a dollar or two, considering it was the early 90’s. Uncle Frank noticed I had dirt under my finger nails and that, of course, was unacceptable. The blade of the knife was awful, it would have had a hard time cutting butter, but I cherished it, to me it was a rite of passage, a step in to manhood, and most of all, a shift toward independence. I’m not sure what happened to that little brown folder, but it started me down a path of having the items necessary to do any basic task.

Minimalism is different for everyone, and for me, the amount of knives I own would make most anyone question my quest to own less, however, I feel that I finally have reduced my collection only to what is necessary. I’ll list them from left to right and then explain their purpose and place in my life.knife collect (2)

The first two are the only knives I use in the kitchen with the exception of a steak knife, they are  a boning knife with a stiff back and a normal point, and a paring knife. I use the boning knife for trimming briskets, pork shoulders and fajitas. The paring knife is usually used for any other task, it is also my favorite knife to carve a turkey. Now that may sound crazy, but the size of it allows to really cut around the drum sticks, thighs and then really pull the breasts out whole (in all it should take a about 5 minutes a bird.

kitchen knifes

The third knife is a knife I wanted since I was 18 when I saw it  on display at Jackson Bros. Feed in Abilene, TX. It is blue bone handled Case, double blade. I wanted one of these knives because they were the style that people I considered real men used. My dad carried a bad ass brown bone handled Case the majority of my childhood. The beauty of the blue finish keeps me from carrying it all that often. I’m always afraid I’m going to mess it up. The picture is blurry, but you get the idea. This knife is reserved for times I’m dressed up, weddings, funerals, and anything else that it might be a hassle to have a clip folder.

case blue

The fourth knife was given to me by my uncle Luke when I was in 9th grade, it was more of a challenge than an heirloom. This knife is crap and could never hold an edge. Earlier this year I finally managed to put an edge on this turd, and thought it might work as a good first hunting knife for my son. I proceeded to make a scabbard for it out of some black leather that I didn’t care for but was readily available.

The fifth knife was one my dad got for me around the time I turned 12ish. I remember that a friend of mine that I used to go hunting with would make adjustments to his rifle and scope with his Leatherman and it was the coolest thing I had ever laid eyes on. My dad was very cheap and usually the answer to purchase anything was no, but one day he finally caved and took me to go get this one; I’m sure it had something to do with me taking his tools. Now I actually use this multi-tool most for the awl so that I can start leather jobs, but there was a time before I had punches and many other tools that this knife did most anything I needed. I’m nostalgic about this multi-tool so I purchased a 9 dollar one to put on my day pack that stays on there, if I lose it, who cares?

The sixth knife is my budget friendly answer to a survival knife. If you have an army surplus or questionable gun store in your area you can pick up a surplus bayonet for an AK-47 for a minimal amount of money. When I purchased my AK it came with a very crappy Romanian bayonet, it sits on the other side of my day pack with a scabbard I made similar to the one I made for the knife before the last. The one in the picture was purchased by my wife on a trip, as a gift, it has much better steel than the Romanian one. I imagine this is a Russian or maybe Polish bayonet. These will do pretty much anything a KA-BAR will for a fraction of the price.

bayonet

The seventh knife is the Condor Sapien, its about 40 bucks at Hoss tools. My wife purchased this knife for me a few years ago for gardening as a Christmas present. These knives are made in El Salvador, but it is true carbon steel, it holds a razor edge and is one of my favorite work horses. When I’m not at work this is the knife that is on my belt.

condor

The last three are a set of Remington hunting knives that my brother got me a few years ago for Christmas, they aren’t beauties. They’re not my favorite steel, but they are sanitary. I haven’t had a chance to use these because since I last went hunting Texas has done a great job of gentrifying the act, and reserving it for candy asses who take their kill to a processor (a real bitch move in my opinion). Nowadays hunting leases have become so expensive it is cheaper to just buy meat from the store. I can’t afford 2k to kill one deer with only 75 lbs of meat, and I’m too old to attempt poaching on the roads and gambling any stability I have. One day I’ll have more land and I’ll put these to use…or maybe just a goat or hog.

The last two are the knives I carry most often, along with the Condor. I’ve tried Kershaw, CRKT, Old Timer, Gerber, you name it; but for the money, I have never had better pocket knives than those made by Buck. Buck does make some of its knives in China, the grey one is Chinese but that 327 steel hold a hell of an edge. I carry the grey Buck to work, It’ small, sharp and can do anything from peeling an apple to cutting a steak. The orange Buck, however, is American made, I use it when I hike or feel like it might be easier to carry a folder. It’s light due to the aluminum handle and the orange handle makes it easy to see if it is on the ground. I probably abuse this knife the most, in fact, it cut the majority of the carpet I pulled out of my house.

In the last year I have tried my hand at knife making. I have focused mostly of the stock-removal process and have made a couple that I deem worthy of use. I gave them away because I feel like I have all that I need. I’ll post a pic of the next one I finish and if you care to look at the past ones I created you can see them on my instagram at human.all.too.human

Endure,

-AM-

When extra bills strike.

Observations:

  • Air conditioners suck, they are expensive boxes of turds that sit either on the top or side of your house, break down annually, and cost a shit ton of money every summer. I can not overstate how much I hate AC units.

 

  • Budgets are awesome, until something stupid like an AC unit screws up.

 

  • Sometimes I get real angry at a problem at hand and fester over it’s stupidity. It is not constructive, but happens none the less.

 

Music: Guitar and Drum-Stiff Little Fingers


Today I’m going to address problems that I run in to with frugality and minimalism.

I’ll start with frugality, there are times where I just tell people I’m cheap. I do this to stay out of the whole frugality debate. However, there is always that person to tell me they are frugal and simply demand the quality. I’m sorry I’ve tried to do that with every item I purchase and my spending will usually be more than if I just wouldn’t have budgeted at all. Example no. 1: If there is an item at Home Depot or Lowes that is Chinese made and expensive, I’d rather pay the Chinese prices at Harbor Freight.

Example no.2: I love the idea of buying eco-conscious clothes from companies like Patagonia, but not for 100 dollars at a time when Academy sells similar items at comparable quality for 20 bucks.

Example no. 3: I do my best to eat organic…but organic potatoes, or bananas, you’re seriously going to peel these things before you eat them. I know, it could have soaked in below the peel. (you know what else is seeping in? The goddamned exhaust fumes from planes above me that are seeping in to my lungs) so for a few bucks less, there are non-organic items I buy.

Frugality is an awesome practice, but it also sucks when trying to save money. At times I have to run my family like a business and look out for the bottom line. More money in the account at the end of the month equals more of a cushion between my family and bad luck.

I love minimalism. I love that no one can define it. There seems to  be a sort of punk-rock ethos to it that takes me back to being a teenager. And I have to admit, I love when someone I usually don’t get along with tells me they’re getting a new, whatever in the fuck it is, they are purchasing, and I reply “I’m getting nothing, on purpose”(with a latent, go fuck yourself).

Yesterday my wife and I went through some things and were like, “let’s get rid of this shit, there is no value in it” it was awesome, I also got rid of my dresser this week (all my clothes are now hung in my closet with the exception of my socks and underwear)

My problem with minimalism lies in that it always seems like I could get rid of more…then it always seems like I have to go purchase more shit by necessity. It’s definitely a process and I suppose that is the irritating part. I want it done, I want to know that I only need these few simple things (but there is always more crap to creep out of nowhere to clutter my house).

Lastly, I love the concept of living simply, but this large, dumb ass house that we purchased makes life much more complex, the bullshit mortgage, escrow accounts, retirement packages, healthcare plans, taxes and generally failed policies by most all politicians makes for a very complex and stressful world. It makes for a world where anyone with any sense has a hard time turning a blind eye to any of it. I suppose cynicism  creeps up on us all at some point and forces us reconsider any of our beliefs or plans.

I’m not rejecting these concepts, just grappling with them, hard. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has the constant cognitive dissonance that arises out of questioning what they consider to be their groups or schools of thought that they subscribe to. I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone. These are just my thoughts today, tomorrow will be different, and perhaps, more optimistic.

Endure,

-AM-