Thursday, September 30, 2010

Color Me Confused

I really don't understand my ex-wife sometimes. From the time my older daughter was born, she constantly said that the kids were her primary responsibility... that she would always put them first... that she'd never do anything to compromise or jeopardize their well being...

When we divorced, she stayed in the same town as me because she wanted the kids to be able to spend equal time with both parents. Over the years, this changed a bit, and the kids started spending more time at my place. A headache here, a flat tire there, the occasional weekend getaway, and so forth, brought about a pattern where the kids ended up spending 60 to 65 percent of their time here. This combination of words and deeds brought me to the conclusion that, while her "best" wasn't quite as good as mine, she did provide for the kids to the best of her ability. Her idea of an "emergency" that would require her to give up the kids for a day or two was significantly lower than mine, but she never out-and-out abdicated her responsibility for the kids.

My perception changed last week, when we had lunch to discuss "something important" regarding the kids. During this lunch, she informed me that she planned to move to Texas, about 12 hours away from here. Apparently, she's met a man, and sees this as a golden opportunity to leave town. It's really never been a secret that she doesn't like it here... that she's staying for the sake of the kids. But this totally flies in the face of her alleged kids-come-first mentality.

Before I continue, I need to back up a bit. My older daughter will turn 18 tomorrow. Technically, she will be an adult, but in reality, she's still in high school, and not quite grown up. My younger daughter just turned 14, and in the throes of the whole teen angst part of life. And for those of you who aren't regular readers of my little blog, I should state that I am remarried, and my wife is an excellent parent to our kids. In fact, I've said on more than one occasion that sometimes she's the best parent out of the three of us. But this isn't really about my wife or me. It's about my ex effectively abandoning her kids... especially my younger one.

I've long held a perception that my ex has given my older daughter preferential treatment. My older girl has always been a daddy's girl, a little closer to me than to her mom. As a result, it seems that the kids' mom has spent significantly more time and energy trying to gain the older kid's affection, and neglecting the younger one, who's always been available to mom, but still somehow overlooked. I think that my younger one shares this perception as well, though we haven't talked about it a lot. So let's look at this from the younger one's eyes... Mom hangs around until older sis turns 18, and then suddenly she's found a boyfriend and is ready to move half way across the country.

To further illustrate the inconstancy between the ex's words and actions, she talked to the kids about her desire to move several weeks ago. I don't know the details of the conversations, but my understanding was that she told the kids that she's in love... that she's got an opportunity to move to Texas (she has family in Texas, by the way)... that she's always hated it here... and she asked the kids if it was okay to leave. Well what are the kids going to say?!? They want their mom to be happy. Of course they're going to put on a brave face and say it's okay to leave. In fact, I suspect that they genuinely believe that it's okay. But they don't understand the full ramifications of what they're saying -- especially the younger one.

There really is a lot more to this. Let's face it; my ex moving away would make life more... convenient. More convenient for me, for my marriage, and for the stability of my blended family. From a strictly selfish standpoint, it would be a good thing. And of course I have grand reservations about the man who, in theory, could become my kids' step-father. That's a complete blog post in and of itself, so suffice it to say that something smells fishy with the ex's new love interest.

But what bugs me most is that the ex would even ASK the kids if this was okay. If she REALLY had put the kids' welfare first, this would never have come up. She would have realized that moving away from the younger one now could NEVER be putting the kids first. Even ASKING them such a question forced the kids to be adults before they're ready. This whole thing is unfair to my kids... especially my little one. Color me confused.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Never Thought...

...that I'd be writing a blog post that reviews toilet flush valves. But here I am, doing just that. Over the years, I've replaced many of these things. I don't know what it is, but I've had bad luck with flush valves wearing out quickly. In some cases, I've replaced a flush valve after a couple of years. I've tried the hush-flow, but it required WAY too much maintenance, and eventually just shelled out. After the hush-flow, I went back to the ballcock float system, because it was tried and true.

The problem with these, is that I kept getting the old Wal-Mart el-cheapos, which kept crapping out after a couple of years. The fill valve would get stuck, so the toilet wouldn't quit running without manually pulling up on the lift arm.

Tired of continually replacing the toilet valves, I went out yesterday and bought a good valve system. This is the MJSI Hydroclean 660. The cost for the system was two to three times the cost for the cheap ballcock float system, but like I said, I'm tired of replacing these damned things every couple of years.

The Hydroclean was just as easy to install as any other system. The reason that I'm writing a review on this thing is how it works. It's got this jet system that, in my case, seems to force water down the bowl faster during a flush, which allows the toilet to flush the same amount of crap using less water. And during the bowl refill, it's got another adjustable valve that controls how much water goes into the bowl during the refill process. The net effect is that each flush uses less water. My toilet tank has about 40% less water in it after replacing the valve, and the toilet is definitely as effective as it was before. (Yeah, I "tested" it this morning.)

I'm not a plumber. In fact, I don't even really like doing plumbing, despite the fact that I seem to have a moderate amount of skill at it. and I NEVER thought I'd do a review of a toilet flushing valve. But I was so impressed with this thing that I HAD to write about it. In fact, I think that I'm going to proactively change out the valves in my other toilets and reduce my water bill.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Random Notes

Well, let's see here. It's September 11. It should come as no surprise that nine years after a day that changed America forever, a day that could bring us all together and unite us as a country has instead become a day for politically charged rhetoric and general partisan anger. On the good side, that Florida preacher I mentioned in my last post has changed his mind, and won't burn the koran after all. Of course, that idiot God-hates-fags church in Kansas has picked up the torch, so to speak. Apparently the Kansas church is pissed that they got one-upped and missed a chance for publicity more convinced than the Florida church that Muslims are evil and destined for hell, so they picked up the book burning when the Florida parish chickened out. I guess I'll never get it... how these idiots can turn the love that Christ espoused into something so unrecognizably angry, dark and evil. But then again, while I can't understand it, I also am no longer surprised that this religious-born hatred exists.

On the good side, I read this morning about the first US soldier from Afghanistan to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor without dying for the privilege. To make it even cooler, he's from my neck of the woods. It's good to get concrete confirmation that America still has men of honor and valor.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh Yeah, THIS is Gonna Help Things...

I read an AP article today, talking about this pastor in Florida who is going to hold an "International Burn-a-Quran Day" on Saturday, September 11. I can't even count the number of ways this chaps my hide, but I'm going to try to enumerate a few anyway, because silence is tantamount to a tacit form of approval for this alleged minister's actions.

Before I present my position, I'm going to tell you the reverend's rationale, just in case you didn't read the original article. He says that Islam "is evil because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims." Even though several organizations -- the White House... the U.S. Military, and coalitions of religious leaders -- have asked the preacher to reconsider his actions, his response was "How much do we back down? How many times do we back down? Instead of us backing down, maybe it's to time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior."

There's a little piece of me that agrees with his response. We should let radical Muslims know that their actions have consequences. But aren't we already expressing this sentiment in Iraq and Afghanistan? Haven't we effectively been saying this for the last several years?

Next, we need to discuss the definition of "radical Islam." In my opinion, the radicals are the ones who blow up historical landmarks, stone women for adultery, and fly airplanes into World Trade Centers. And even then, I would be very tempted to "allow" the destruction of historical landmarks and death penalties, because these are internal affairs. It's not my place to forcefully impose my morality on the rest of the world. But with this all said, let's deconstruct the rev's position, and share some of the ways that this guy is, well, just fucking stupid!

Since this church is claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, let's start there. Jesus did NOT preach violence, and to my knowledge, he never espoused inciting violence. In fact, he was the guy that (basically) said "turn the other cheek." Jesus sought out those who were lost and without hope, and gently showed them God's love. Christ helped the helpless and recommended that people without sin be the first to cast stones. In short, Jesus came to Earth to help people find God.

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Isn't this quran burning counter-productive? From a human behavioral standpoint, you're not going to get someone to change their fundamental spiritual beliefs by saying "Hey, stupid, you're wrong! This is the way." The only way to open up a person to the possibility of something different is through your actions. Why? Well, to use an old cliche, actions speak louder than words. If I'm going to introduce someone to Christ's teachings, I need to do so through what I do, and by how I live. When a person is ready, I can explain that I realize I'm not perfect, but God forgives and loves me regardless. I can expound by saying that I know I think, say and do things that are ungodly, but that God's love for me is unconditional, and THAT drives me to do better in His eyes. To fall back onto another cliche, you get more bees with honey than with shit.

My next few points will be a bit more succinct...

-Christianity is responsible for the crusades and the inquisition

-Christianity is responsible for the Salem Witch Trials

-The Nazis burned religious material as well. Were they holy?

So, in the end, here's my take... these clowns are a bunch of right-wing crazies who are more concerned with generating publicity than with actually saving souls.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fun With Yaks

No, I'm not talking about the fuzzy, Tibetan cow-like thing. I'm talking about kayaks. If you know me, you know that I enjoy whitewater kayaking, even though I haven't actually been in a whitewater kayak for about five years, and I haven't made a bona fide whitewater run for even longer. But whitewater kayaking is still something I enjoy, and I'd welcome the opportunity to run some whitewater in the future.

The primary reason, by the way, that I no longer kayak is because my whitewater peers have all quit. More specifically, my annual boys' trips were whitewater trips for a few years, but one by one, everyone quit for various reasons. Eventually, I quit as well. Partially because it's not as much fun to paddle alone, and partially because it's not as safe. Either way, the result was the same. My kayak, paddle and spray skirt started to collect a serious amount of dust.

Over the winter, another friend who also happened to kayak, gave me her whitewater boat, spray skirt and paddle. She suffered an injury that prevents her from returning to whitewater, and she said she'd rather give it to someone she knew than sell it to a stranger.

Since then, my girls have been asking me to teach them how to kayak. In fact, they started asking me about kayaking back when I actually used to do it, but they were too young then. Now, they're a little older and I have a second boat, so I gave them their first lesson yesterday... teaching them the Eskimo roll. Neither of them completely got it, but they both made a tremendous amount of progress, and the three of us had a grand old time just putzing around in the water.

Maybe next summer I'll take them on a real trip.