Category Archives: Safety

Bird’s Butt View

I have my own version of the Weather Channel now.

I bought a nice Blink wireless camera. It allows me to watch the birds on my plant/bird feeder balcony hook, as well as the world outside.

When I initially set it up, I was surprised to see that Amazon had somehow sent me the feed from the backyard camera at my old house on Vanleer in Springdale.

Having the camera also opens up a world of creativity, too, such as “Skits On The Balcony,” or “Let’s Look At Humanity” documentaries. (With “People of Walmart” in mind.) I will try not to be intrusive with this. However, that’s the problem with this sort of technology. I’m confident that I’m going to wake up to find I have an hour of footage of the neighbor romping in the parking lot in his skivvies. A few days ago, I stood on the balcony getting cooked in the sun. A car drove in, and a young woman hopped out without a shirt. From somewhere in the car, someone hurled a shirt through the passenger window. The woman caught it and put it on almost one-handed. There’s a lot of inferences I can make with this anecdote, some lewd, some amusing. When she looked up and saw me on the balcony, I gave her my Forrest Gump wave and laughed.

As old as these apartments are, somehow I was surprised to find no security cameras, even in the laundry room from “Nightmare On Elm Street.” They can be installed cheaply and require no monitoring. The type I bought can be used with a USB drive, hidden anywhere – and checked only when a tenant decides to test a flamethrower from the balcony. (Note: this isn’t unlikely.)

Last week, after a long interval of no additional improvements, a small crew showed up with a Bobcat (not the nocturnal prowling kind) and erected the bones of a lateral fence in front of the dumpster. This will ensure that passersby don’t see it, whereas the residents will get an enclosed cauldron of trash and insects. It seems like a fair trade. That fence will also obscure a big portion of my view of the intersection there. That’s too bad, as there are a lot of fender-benders there. Everyone attempting to pull in here runs the risk of getting hit from behind due to the unequal alignment of the apartment driveway versus the opposing cross street. The fence partially quashes my money-making scheme to sell the footage to those unlucky souls engaged in an impromptu demolition derby.

Anyway.

I’m making a list of tomfoolery in which to engage with this camera.

Love, X

Apple Pie Electrocution

This looks like a dessert – possibly apple pie.

It’s not. It is the housing for one of two kitchen lights. Both of them were hideous. And, as it turns out, were also a hazard, more so than I am doing minor electrical work. I’m very careful. I haven’t shocked myself electrically in a while. The last time reminded me that I am mortal.

I have an older apartment. When I moved in, I discovered that the disposal didn’t work. Tracing the wiring, I discovered it was the switch. Luckily, I decided to fight the stripped wiring and replace the receptacle, as the ground wire wasn’t connected to anything. Water and electricity combined cause a whole lot of stories to be written, usually under the “Obituary” heading. (Which explains why my combination Coffee Pot/Toaster For The Bathroom idea was rejected.)

I bought modern low-profile lights, when left at a certain setting, remind me of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind -except without the mashed potatoes. When I took off the original light, the housing was burned and the connectors turned to ash when I pulled at them. Needless to say, this is NOT what one hopes to find inside wiring boxes.

Because I’m making permanent improvements to my apartment, I unfortunately had to choose “Practical & Stylish.” I wanted “Fabulous & Ridiculous.” I hate that I can’t paint the walls like I’m on an acid trip. My neighbor keeps admonishing me to dial it down, take a step back, and to NOT do anything crazy. It’s like she knows me well or something. A good example of this is that I watched a paintball episode of “Community” and thought, “Man, now that would be a great way to paint a room!”

I bought an array of switches and plugs when I moved here. I’ve replaced a few. It’s a hard fight, given that the builders didn’t leave much extra wiring sheath to work with. For anything I want to keep from being fried, I installed surgery protectors on top. These older buildings tend to experience more power surges than __________. (I left that blank because the joke I wrote there, while amusing, was NSFW.)

I’ve only used my dishwasher three times. All three times were to scald the heat and air vent covers after I scraped them. I’m not saying they are antiques, but the serial number for the first one was just “1.” I experimented with paint until I got it right. (Which means I did it REALLY wrong three times before I stopped being a dumbass.) I painted them whitish, too, even though I have 13 different colors here I would have rather used.

I don’t mind fixing things here. It’s just a place. I can sit at the front window on mornings like this, my hair full of dust and fiber from doing electrical work, and watch the expanse of sky above the trees, the crows warring over imaginary territories, and my weird neighbor with the forest on the balcony. I miss my cat Guino and still sometimes turn to look for him at the foot of the bed or next to me. I do hear traffic a lot. But right now, I hear the wind bending the trees and the birds telling each other secrets.

I suppose I need to get up and paint something else.

I think the whole world needs to be painted.

PS I listened to the voices of reason and bought renter’s insurance immediately. After seeing the wiring, I’m more confident than ever how smart that decision was. It will also come in handy next year when I use the bedrooms to start my Build-Fireworks-At-Home kits.
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You Live, And You Don’t Learn

You have to start small. But sometimes, you have to stop thinking and trust yourself. In my case, I know I’m an idiot. So worrying about s-t-a-r-t-i-n-g to think is a bit excessive.

Because I lost so much weight, I now get these ideas that seemed ridiculous to me before. Losing weight erased much of the sense I could fake and replaced it with a noted capacity for more what-could-go-wrong thinking.

One of my favorite places here has a couple of picnic tables. It’s not that they’re tall, but rather that they’re wide. (A problem I used to have personally, too.) So if you’re going to take a run and jump, you better be prepared to lunge with a wild enthusiasm that will clear you. Otherwise, you’re going to figure out what a somersault feels like, one with splinters and a broken head. (If you’re a masochist and reading this, it still isn’t advisable, so take note.)

This tendency to fail to jump with all your enthusiasm and effort is one of the biggest reasons so much goes wrong in life.

Yesterday, without any preparation, I cleared my head of reason and restraint and ran ten steps… and jumped. To my horror, I cleared the table. Today, I walked around to gauge the logistics of the other table. Instead, I took off running and hurdled it like an ice cream buffet on weigh-in day. I landed a foot further than I needed. I applauded myself like I had brain damage and took a bow.

As I sat on the bench of the picnic table, rubbing my victory in, so to speak, a woman came around the side of the building. She had watched my jump from the vantage of one of the many windows along the back, unbeknownst to me.

“But can you jump the table lengthwise?” she asked.

Although I wasn’t sure I would be able to, I knew that I could, if conditions were perfect. And if they weren’t, at least the witness would have a great story to tell, the one about the middle-aged nutcase jumping a picnic table lengthwise.

The table in question wasn’t much longer than its length. In any case, I’ve lived a good life. I jumped up and turned. Just as I was about to run and jump (or try to), the woman said, “NO! I didn’t mean for you to try it!”

I laughed. I didn’t attempt the jump. Not today, anyway. I’ll call Blue Cross and ask a couple of questions. And reconsider my options tomorrow.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have tried to jump a picnic table. Now, I see metaphorical picnic tables everywhere.

Love, X.

Dry Counties In Arkansas

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*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.

Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.

It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.

In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.

To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.

Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.

I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.

To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.

I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.

I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.

“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.

We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.

“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.

Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.

Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.

Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The clich√© of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.

Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.

As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.

The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.

I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.

If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.

Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.

 

Preconstruction Pictures

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Once again, having pictures of my house during the stages of construction saved me a lot of heartaches today. If you own a Rausch-Coleman home, these pictures can quite literally save your life. And also a lot of time, if that sort of thing is important to you.

The other morning, my wife texted me to tell me the cheap wire shelf in the laundry room had broken free from its mooring on the right side. When I got home, I remembered that not only was the shelf cheap, but only one undersupport was installed for the entire length. Per the manufacturer, 3 were recommended for that length. When one of the people in charge came to visit me to address some major concerns that weren’t addressed, I mentioned this to him. “We take that sort of thing very seriously.” They took it so seriously that houses built after mine had the same horrible wire shelving – and insufficient supports on their shelving too.

I couldn’t find the screws that attached. There’s a reason for that!

Before starting a massive overhaul, which it needs, I opted to fix the loose end. I bought toggle bolts of varying sizes. I climbed up unsafely on a small unstable stool and pushed my screwdriver through. It was solid behind both holes, which puzzled me.

I took out my cutters and clipped off the two plastic protuberances, expecting a lot of resistance from the screws or broken screws inside. Surprisingly, they cut easily. Still no screws.

Just as I was about to screw a replacement through to push through the toggle bolt, I had a flash of caution.

I walked around and exited to the garage and confirmed my suspicion.

I came into the office and found my picture file from 2015, the one containing a couple of hundred pictures from various stages of the house being built. By the way, we didn’t get permission to do this. By the second visit to view the progress, I decided to do it. I wish I would have caught them doing the groundwork and pipes, too, because we had some strange issues with that, as I wrote about before. One of our delivery drives discovered the sinkhole in the front yard by running directly into it. I imagine this dampened his urge to shortcut through people’s yards for a while. Especially Rausch Coleman homes.

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Behind that wall was the main electrical panel for the house.

Worse yet? The installer didn’t use screws at all in the connector for the wire frame to sit in. He made holes about 1/8″ of an inch deep with a screwdriver and just pushed the small protuberances into those tiny holes. Nothing was holding the connector holder up, nor supporting the weight of the rack.

I shook my head, not in surprise, but in confirmation.

It’s a small thing but the person taking a dangerous and simple shortcut like that could have caused a really large problem. Everyone who notes such things can’t help but wonder what else they skimped on and especially those things out of sight.

 

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By the way, every time we visited, we found alcohol in the house. It’s not uncommon for subcontractors. No one is watching. An employee of the company who came and ate lunch with us a few times told us that it was very common and that they were constantly being told to hide the evidence. (Instead of not to drink while working on houses.)¬† I saw contractors drinking while working on houses, too.

Having access to people who will tell you the literal truth was refreshing. One of the project managers told me a bookful of stories before leaving his job.

I still believe that if you buy a house, the contractors and builders should provide pictures of all the stages of construction. It helps everyone. When you need to repair, install, or modify anything, these pictures give you an immediate view of what is lurking.

Also, just because I’m weird, I think that if I were a builder, I’d include pictures of me, too. And probably in costume.