Monday, February 23, 2009


Let me start off by apologizing for being incommunicado the last few days. I've been putting in a lot of hours at work, which has left me with less time for blogging. I've also started composing a new song, which has further sapped some of my writing energy.

Mrs. Evan and I did our taxes yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. You see, I spent a large portion of my employment time as a contractor, which means that no income taxes were withheld for that money. Knowing this up front, I socked a large percentage of this untaxed income into a relatively high-yield savings account, knowing that Uncle Sam would want his share of my pie.

Between our lower tax bracket, itemized deductions, and the grace of God, the amount I actually owe is significantly less than I had expected to pay. In other words, we have a little bit of extra money this year. Mrs. Evan and I have decided to use the 'extra' money to whittle down some of our debt.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Got 'Em

My saddlebags came in Thursday, and true to form I had them mounted that evening. While I was at it, I went ahead and made a video to commemorate the occasion. (The video was a little dark, but oh well. Live and learn.)

The saddlebags I purchased are Willie & Max compact slant braided saddlebags. They are made of PVC instead of leather, but they look very close to the real thing. (Hey, it was $200 cheaper for the fake stuff, and I've heard good things about the durability of PVC!) Here's my short review...

The bags are what I expected, and they fit well on my Sportster. Everything I read and heard indicated that I would have to relocate my turn signals in order to mount the saddlebag. Now that I've mounted them, I see that turn signal relocation was not necessary in my situation. The size (12W x 9.5H x 5.5D) is about the perfect size for a Sportster.

The bags mounted easily enough. I was done in about 30 minutes; this time included removing and reinstalling the seat, and taking the pictures, but does not include the video. The bags include a corrugated plastic interior, designed to help the bags hold their shape, quick-release clips under the buckles (so the bags open and close more quickly and easily), a quick-release zipper which allows the bags to be easily removed from the bike, and a detachable handle, which makes carrying the bags easy as well.

The quick release is a double-edged sword, of course. You can't expect to secure any valuables in the saddlebags, because they're too quick and easy to remove. But they'll provide enough room to carry rain gear, emergency equipment, or transport small items from the hardware store. It would be nice if there was a flap over the zipper, in order to provide a bit of security through camouflage.

Since the bags are still new, I can't vouch for how they will wear over the long term, but I must say that my first impression is positive. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I believe that a video is worth at least a few hundred pictures. So, here's a video.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Down and Up

I ended up working a short day yesterday. The boss said "Hey, why don't you take off a little early and enjoy the afternoon?" I didn't need to be asked twice. I got home early enough to take my bike for a quick spin around town. It was a nice day yesterday and a lot of other riders had the same idea. That alone was enough to make for a good afternoon.

To make matters even better, the part for my dishwasher came in, and I'm pleased to report that I can cease washing by hand. The repair was quick, and the dishwasher was running as expected in short order.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mixed Bag

Today's kind of a mixed bag...

The weekend's water fiasco is well behind me. I was really stressed Friday, while in the midst of all of the water. I didn't thoroughly unwind until early Saturday afternoon. The dishwasher is still on the blink because the part hasn't come in, but washing dishes by hand isn't such a big deal. I recognize my dishwasher for what it is... a convenience. Of course it's a convenience that I will more readily appreciate once it's up and running again.

My older kid is home sick. Mrs. Evan and I think she has strep. Sore throat, white coating on the tongue, low-grade fever and body aches. All signs of strep. We'll know for sure a little later today after I take her to the doctor.

I was supposed to work today, and since I'm a part-time employee, no work = no pay. Fortunately, I can work tomorrow... no harm, no foul. The downside of this is that the weather tomorrow afternoon is supposed to be spectacular... almost 60 degrees. I had planned on taking my bike for the first ride of the year. In fact, I had planned to ride out to J&P Cycles to purchase some saddlebags for the bike. I figured that I'd look at some bags, find the ones I liked, pop 'em on and ride home. No such luck now, and it looks like we're going back to cooler Wednesday, who knows how long until I ride again. Judging by the forecast, it will be at least two more weeks.

On the good side, I was pretty sure which saddlebags I wanted. I did some more internet research today and found the set for $30 less elsewhere. I called J&P to see if they have any sort of price matching guarantee, but got nowhere. I ordered the set online and my new bling should arrive in a week or so.

Maybe the kid's being sick is a sign from God (or fate, or whatever) that I wasn't supposed to ride tomorrow. Either way, I guess I'll have a chance sometime this year, and I did get a good deal on the saddlebags. Maybe I should have called today's post "Mixed (Saddle)Bag."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere

After yesterday's adventure, I cleaned up and called it a day. Regardless of the fact that I was far more destructive than I needed to be, I was pleased with the outcome. I had that feeling of satisfaction from a job well done.

Later on, I was talking with Mrs. Evan and realized that I hadn't started the dishwasher. About halfway into the rinse cycle I heard the familiar sound of water dripping onto the floor. I ran into the kitchen and saw water just pouring out of the bottom of the dishwasher, and gushing all over the floor. I used all of the towels in the house trying to contain and soak the mess. I had to shut off the water at the primary valve to get a handle on things. The inlet valve was (is) stuck in the open position. Even with the dishwasher unplugged, water runs throught the inlet valve and into the dishwasher... eventually it floods the dishwasher and spills to the floor if left unchecked.

But wait, there's more. Remember me mentioning that I turned off the main water supply? When I did that, water started trickling out of that valve as well. I talked to a friend of mine (who had just happened to call) and he told me that I could just tighten the main valve and that would work. He's right, and it did. But my water's still off.

No matter what, I can't get the water flow to the dishwasher to completely stop... and after all of the flooding and clean-up I've had to tolerate, I'm being a little anal about the whole water mess. I'll go out later today and try to find the part I need, and in the meantime, I am going to buy a brass cap and cap off the point where the water goes into the dishwasher... that'll fix things until I get the dishwasher fixed.

But hey, at least it's not dripping from the ceiling onto my bed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

An Exciting Day

While working today, I got a call from my younger daughter...

"Dad, there's water dripping from the ceiling in your bathroom downstairs."

Bummer. "Okay, how bad is it? How much water is on the floor and how quickly is it dripping?" She went on to tell me that it was about a drip per second, and that she can't tell exactly how bad it is, because some of it was dripping directly into the sink, and part of it was dripping next to the sink, spilling on to the floor.

"Okay, kid I need you to turn off the water." I proceeded to tell her what to do, but we weren't sure she got it right. I decided to come home, but I was a half hour away, and had no idea what I was in for. I figured there was no sense in panicking and racing home like a madman, because that would only have saved me a couple hundred drops of water. I did, however, come up with the bright idea of asking the kid to have the neighbor come over and shut off the water.

Neighbor guy went above and beyond the call of duty. He stayed until I got home and was working on pinpointing the leak from the time we called him until we had it fixed.

In the end, it was a pin-hole leak in the ice maker line to our refrigerator. It cost me about two dollars to cut off a little excess and re-press-fit the line. Then it took another three-plus hours to clean up the water. And oh yeah, I ripped out part of the ceiling in that bathroom trying to find the leak. I guess it's time to remodel that room.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Warts and All

Like Paulius, I've been messing around with composing music. Unlike him, my music isn't a result of sampling and looping. I've been working on my most recent piece for two to three weeks, off and on. Though it's not perfect, polished, and will only appeal to a select few, I figured I'd toss it on the net for those of you who want to hear it.

Before you listen, I want you to know this... I'm NOT a professional musician. I'm a mediocre-at-best guitarist who started playing in his late 30's. That said though, the only thing that's not me is the drum track. I composed and recorded the bass, rhythm and lead guitar all by my lonesome.

Give it a listen...

Lord Vader Makes a Prediction

During a recent interview with Politico, former Vice-President Dick Cheney predicted that "terrorists are highly likely to attempt a nuclear or biological attack on United States in coming years," and that such an attack would likely be successful unless President Obama keeps in place the 'protections' set in place by the Bush administration, such as the Patriot Act, and 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'

Given a long enough timeline, this prediction is bound to come true, regardless of the 'protections' we have. Is it worth giving up our basic liberties for a modicum of feeling safer? If and when this attack occurs, will we as a society realize that giving up these liberties didn't truly protect us and roll back the restrictions on our rights, or will we become even more afraid and give up more of our freedom? I think we all know the answer.

Furthermore, Cheney's statement is incredibly self-serving. There's no way that we can prove that the Patriot Act and interrogation prevented another attack, and he's got to somehow justify the acts of the Bush administration's choices. Sorry, Mr. Cheney, your words have fallen on deaf ears... just as our demands to roll back these draconian 'safeguards' fell on the deaf ears of your office. I, for one, would rather be free than safe.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Enough Bad News, Already

The economy's in the tank. We know this. Home foreclosures and layoffs are both increasing. We realize this. Available credit and disposable income are both decreasing. We understand this. We're being barraged with this information. We're even doing something about it. We're finally learning that we can't just spend and spend... we need to save for a rainy day. We're starting to do that.

Now that we're doing what we've been told repeatedly that we need to do, retailers are crying about how we're not spending. "If consumers don't spend, the layoffs will continue," they lament. Well la-dee-freaking-da! Those ass-hats spent years -- decades -- looking out for their interests... maximizing their profits and selling us crappy wares they somehow convinced us that we couldn't live without. They didn't care if they collectively put us into the poor house, as long as they made their money. Well, lo and behold, we all ran out of money. But I'm digressing from my original point.

Here's my original point. We all know times are tough. But the mainstream media, in their quest for sensational news, has been spinning everything to make it look as bleak as possible. Just last week, it was reported that pending January home sales has made a slight increase as people bargain hunt for cheap homes. But they spun things and focused on how homes have lost so much value, and people have lost wealth. They speculated that the increase was possibly a blip. Ummm... hey folks, we already know this.

At what point does the media create self-sustaining news by spinning everything to look catastrophic? I realize that we can't just wish and hope our way out of the current state of affairs, but lately it seems to me that the media is blackwashing everything in the name of increasing their sales and ratings. Maybe, just maybe, if the media reported facts without all of the spin and speculation, it could be a first step in a recovery. After all, if you keep telling the masses that life sucks, they're likely to keep believing you. Sticking to the facts would be a great first step in breaking the cycle of gloom and doom.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Campfire Cooking

I got an email from Sunny this morning, directing me to a cooking site she ran across yesterday while Googling Hobo Packets. That email got me a little nostalgic, it did.

I was first introduced to foil packs (my term for hobo packets) when I was a boy scout. The idea behind a foil pack is simple in its ingenuity... or is that ingenious in its simplicity? Yeah, I think I like that better. All you need is some raw meat, veggies, spices and some aluminum foil, and you've got the fixins for a great meal. (If you're a vegetarian, you can omit the meat and substitute a generous portion of butter or cooking oil.) It's virtually (though not completely) idiot proof.

This is a recipe that my friends and I use every year when we go camping. Let me tell you how we make our foil packs...

Take some ground beef... the same amount you'd use for one or two hamburgers... it all depends on your appetite. You can substitute boneless chicken if you prefer.

Slice or coarsely chop some onion, mushroom and green pepper.

Slice one large potato.

Any other veggies you see fit. We tend to add baby carrots. Zucchini is also good.

Lay out a strip of aluminum foil and toss on the ingredients as you see fit. We generally don't compress the ground beef into patties, but that's a matter of personal taste. Make sure to leave enough room on the foil so that you can wrap it up. Before wrapping the stuff though, add seasoning to taste. We use Lawry's seasoned salt. But wait, there's more. We also add 1/3 to 1/2 can of cream of mushroom soup. It helps prevent everything from burning if you cook it too long.

Now wrap that rascal. Add a second layer of foil. That helps seal in the juices and steam, and prevents leaks. Keeping the juices and steam helps eliminate burnt food.

Toss it in the oven at 350 to 400 for about 45 minutes, or toss over a bed of hot coals if you're camping. Flip once, about half-way through the cooking process. You should see the foil pack puff up a bit from the steam during this process.

Some folks recommend the fork test to see if it's done. We don't do that. Once you've punctured the foil, you lose steam, which allows burning. My rule is this... if you're not sure let it cook five or ten minutes more. If you're still not sure, keep waiting. Someone else will lose patience and check theirs. If theirs is done, yours is too.