Walken – Redefined

Christopher Walken. In the realm of FARK, his name is immortal. In the annals of Saturday Night Live, he is a god. Some know him from movies like The Deer Hunter, or The Dead Zone. Others, like my sons, know him from Fatboy Slim’s video “Weapon of Choice” and the infamous “Cowbell Skit” (good luck finding a legal version of that one.)

I know this is true, because my stepson was just watching Mousehunt, and when Walken came on the screen as Caesar the Exterminator, he said, “Hey, isn’t that the guy who played Bruce Dickinson?”

I’ve had enough of these little reality hits to create a new blog category called “Signs o’ the Times,” of which this is the first post. More to come, I’m sure.

2008 Resolutions

Why do we have resolutions if all they do is depress us when we don’t keep them? Earlier tonight, I composed my initial list of resolutions for 2008, and just a few minutes ago, I looked at my 2007 Resolutions post from last year. Of last year’s resolutions, I only completed two to my satisfaction: I got my taxes done on time and I bought a Variax.

This year’s list is much bigger, but possibly less restrictive. Several resolutions from last year carry over (and may well be perpetual entries, no matter how well I perform them), with lots of new entries. I’ll try to organize them into manageable sections, though I’m sure there will be crossover.


1. Write more consistently, whether journaling, blogging, or creative writing.
2. Find another outlet for article writing (since ComputorEdge has gone virtual.)
3. Publish some fiction. (Didn’t I say this last year?)
4. Play more musical gigs.
5. Start teaching my stepson how to play guitar (his request, my responsibility to follow up.)
6. Transplant my Variax electronics into a Carvin Bolt kit or Warmoth guitar body.

Physical & Mental Health

1. Learn how to get up earlier, consistently.
2. Utilize my handheld BalanceLog software to track my eating and exercising habits.
3. Ride my bike or walk to work more often. (If I get up earlier, this is not a problem!)
4. Make appointments with the dentist to remove my errant wisdom teeth and extra teeth below the gum on the lower jaw.

Financial Health

1. Get the amp out of the pawn shop, and never put it in again.
2. Continue to provide quality computer consulting, but stop devaluing my services as much.
3. Keep current on space rent, car payment, mortgage, and car insurance.
4. Make a spending plan (a.k.a. budget) and stick to it.
5. Track finances better with Quicken on computer and handheld.

Home Improvements

1. Clean cat boxes daily.
2. Help more with household chores without having to be asked.
3. Reduce household clutter gradually (this will help mental health, too.)
4. Upgrade my computer (new mobo, RAM, and video.)
5. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring throughout the house.
6. Landscape yard.
7. Install carport/awning.

Whew! Am I setting myself up to fail? Probably, but as I established at the beginning of this post, that’s what resolutions are all about, right? At least making the list helps me keep an eye on the goals.

Of Laptops and Cub Scout Slides

Christmas 2007 just slipped into the past a few minutes ago, and I’m reflecting on what I’ve given today. Specifically, I’m thinking about one of the things I gave to my stepson: a laptop computer.

It’s not a great laptop; it’s about eight years old (300 MHz, 128 Mb RAM, 12 GB HDD, no wireless, bad hinges), but it’s still a laptop. It will run the basics, like a word processor and a web browser when we get a wireless card for him. I got it (and another nearly identical laptop, which I might be was able to repair for my wife) from a co-worker last Friday, so it was a very last minute thing, but with a little tinkering and some research, I was able to make it run. Logan had asked for a laptop for Christmas, and my initial thought was that there was no way we would be able to buy him one. We’re still struggling financially, despite my new job, so a laptop seemed completely out of the question.

Now, though, I wonder if he’s disappointed. When we gave it to him, I explained that it had bad hinges and he needed to be careful with them, and I explained that it was old and slow, and wouldn’t run World of Warcraft like he probably wanted it to, but he would be able to do his homework on it and play basic Pogo.com games and so forth on it. Maybe I was just reading something into his reaction, but he seemed disappointed.

Or maybe I was just seeing through his eyes, and imagining what he was thinking. I remember when I was eight — a few years younger than Logan — and I joined Cub Scouts. My family lived in a trailer, like I do now, and we got my Cub Scout uniform at the thrift store. One thing we couldn’t find at the thrift store was an official brass Cub Scout slide for my neckerchief, though. I desperately wanted the official slide, because I wanted to fit in with all the other kids. I begged and pleaded, and my parents said it cost too much money to get a new one, and that I would have to make do by tying a knot or something. I was devastated.

Little did I know, my Dad had an idea. He loved tinkering in the little metal shed next to our trailer, much like I enjoy tinkering with computers in the spare room at my house now. He found a block of wood about two inches long, drilled a hole lengthwise through the center, “painted” it royal blue with a thick magic marker, and wrapped a leather thong around it several times, gluing the ends in place. When he was finished, he called me out to the shed and presented it to me, a proud smile on his face. He had fashioned a one-of-a kind neckerchief slide for me, from scratch.

I hated it. It wasn’t anything like the shiny brass slides the other kids had, and I hated that I was from a family that was too poor to buy me a new slide, or even a new uniform.

I can only imagine how my Dad must have felt. I don’t remember if I reacted politely, or if I told him outright that I hated it, but I’m sure he knew the truth, and I’m sure it hurt him that I didn’t appreciate the work he put into it, or appreciate the fact that it was made from scratch.

Looking back on it now, I was an idiot. I should have reveled in the uniqueness of my Cub Scout slide. I should have showed it off and told everyone how my Dad had made it for me with his own hands out of wood, leather, and glue. That was part of the spirit of Cub Scouts, after all; we made things, we were taught to be resourceful, and we were taught to honor our parents. My homemade slide was far better than the shiny brass ones (which I later found out were just cheap plated metal anyway.)

I know, a laptop and a Cub Scout slide are two drastically different things. But times now are drastically different from what they were thirty-five years ago, too. Despite the disparity, there are some similarities between what transpired then and now. When I gave Logan the laptop, though, he wasn’t rude; he didn’t say he hated it. And, after watching a movie with me, he booted up the laptop and wrote part of a short story on it, balancing it on a TV tray with one of my shoes propping up the loose screen. Despite the fact that it was still broken enough that it wouldn’t hold its own screen weight, he didn’t appear to hate it.

I still feel like it’s an inadequate present, though. I want to make it a useful tool for him. I have plans to fix the hinges so he won’t have to prop it up with shoes, and I will get a wireless card for it so he can check his e-mail and do research on the Internet. (Update 1/4/07: I received the new hinges for both this laptop and my wife’s laptop yesterday and installed them last night. Now both laptops have nice, stiff screens that support their own weight.) Maybe I should find a way to wrap a leather thong around it and “paint” it with a royal blue Sharpie … no, then he really would hate it.

Maybe someday Logan will look back at this night and remember how he felt about his first laptop. And maybe, just maybe, after he’s gotten older and has a different perspective on things, he will realize that there was more heart that went into fixing that broken laptop than there appeared to be, and maybe that memory will be as special to him as my memory of my Cub Scout slide became when I got older.

Or maybe not. Either way, I hope he’ll let me know in thirty-five years or so.

The author at 8 sporting his custom Cub Scout slide