Summer Evening on the Patio

It’s a pleasant evening here, still warm but not oppressive, the sun dropping behind the hills to the west. I’m on the patio, enjoying new(ish), deep chair cushions, and a tasty malt beverage.

Nearby, a neighbor has fired up the grill, and has filled the gentle air with the sweet smell of barbecue. Thank you, neighbor!

5

The Influential Life

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas has always had opinions, and she is rarely shy about expressing them. For this reason, she has always been diligent about reviewing the products she buys online. It is important to recognize the good products (and especially the good vendors), while warning folks away from the crap. It is simply a matter of good online-retail citizenship.

Plus, she likes to be creative with her reviews. Tell a little story.

Apparently sometimes being a good retail citizen pays. Some unknown robot at Amazon flagged her reviewing prowess and (I assume) some human subsequently decided that the OSoMR&HBI would be a good person to become a professional giver of opinions.

That is, it turns out, a real job.

It works like this. You select things from a giant pile, they send you the things, and you review them. And keep the things. “Influence” has now become a transitive verb where we used to use “buy”. As in, “I just influenced these jeans and they fit perfectly!”

It’s a good time to be turning half the garage into a workshop. Yesterday my new laser level arrived. Today it was the laser tape measure (that will calculate area and volume and do trig and save up to 50 measurements) and the bike torque wrench. The blocks for calibrating table saw cuts came yesterday; the router table equivalents arrive tomorrow, along with the rounded-edge router bit for my window sill project. The lamps for over the new workbench arrive soon. All for the cost of an opinion. (And income tax on the retail value of the item.)

It’s kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. I didn’t fully understand at first — it didn’t really sink in until the Official Sweetie showed me the new light fixture she was considering for the hallway. Sputnik! I saw the retail price and asked, “are they seriously sending that to us?” I kind of felt like the first time our little protector dog Lady Byng was barking at the intruder at the door until she realized he was BRINGING FOOD! Mind-blowing! The fixture arrived today, the bulbs arrive tomorrow, and I’ll put it up on Saturday. And help write the review.

We are required to either send an item back, use it, or keep it for at least six months before giving it to family and friends, so you guys are safe from being inundated with LED flashlights and solar-powered LED patio string lights and more solar-powered LED patio string lights and LED bulbs and rechargeable LED under-shelf lights and multi-color LED strip lights and LED wall wash light strips and LED flashing red hazard lights (with bottle opener) in your Christmas stockings this year.

If you would like to follow the Official Sweetie and learn of her many, many opinions, you can do so here. Does having more followers benefit us? Probably. Not sure. But probably. If you find any of those reviews helpful, go ahead and say so! Do more “helpful” votes benefit us? Not sure, but again, probably. Don’t perjure yourself. Who really knows what’s happening in the Amazon Artificial Intelligence. (Seriously good opportunity for crossover speculative fiction there…)

If there is something you are curious about — more a general type of product than a specific item, as there are about 45,000 items available for review at any given time and there is no search function, just filters to select for broad categories — let us know! If either of us are remotely qualified to render an opinion, and we can find an example, we’ll give it a shot. It you’re waiting for the verdict on a pneumatic drain clearing tool, we’ve already got you covered!

5

A Few More Thoughts About Rick

Rick Markus was my father-in-law, and he died recently. He leaves behind a gaggle of grieving daughters, an autistic son, and a gun collection that will likely have to leave California. He also leaves behind a workshop filled with wondrous tools.

I love tools. I like to build things. But I am horribly, awfully slow at building things. In this metric, the old man far surpassed me. I was talking with The Boys about it this evening, and I said that before he could make a thing he had to make the thing that would allow him to configure the tool to make the thing.

But I left out a step. First, Rick had to make a thing to measure the precision of the tool he was going to use to make the thing that would enable him to make the thing. And once he had an empirical measure of the tool, the next step was to make a thing to compensate for the tool, to make the tool better, so when he made the thing he would use to make the thing, it would be right.

If you wanted to demonstrate the axiom “perfection is the enemy of progress” you need look no farther than the shed where he spent his time. His massive drill press would deflect under pressure; he addressed it. He rebuilt parts of his metal lathe (itself a fine specimen) to improve precision.

I am not the slowest person on the planet to get projects done. Or at least I wasn’t before Rick died. Maybe now I am.

He built, as far as I know, very little.

So now there’s this lathe, that he machined parts to improve, and I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t work metal; maybe someday I’d like to but that’s a different me in a different place. There’s that big ol’ drill press, also upgraded, waiting for someone who needs to drill a hole.

There are hundreds of tools in that shed, from the press and the lathe to boxes of taps and dyes. There is sheet metal tucked away, milled to absurd smoothness, that he picked up from the scrap heap when he was working with the x-ray lithography kids at IBM. He had no use for that stuff, but he just couldn’t let go of such an excellent piece of engineering. It’s hard to recognize that something that took so much effort to create is now simply scrap.

Is that a metaphor? If you want it to be, sure, knock yourself out. But keep it to yourself; if Rick heard your theory he would give you a sideways glance and say “ooooh-kay” and resume his story about solving the impossible problem of corruption in magnetic core memory, or the time he shortened the run time of a batch job at some data center by pointing out that the terminal had a bell.

It’s funny, contrasting the pragmatic and efficient solutions he found in his professional career against the optimizing-for-the-sake-of-optimization that marked the time I knew him. I think it comes down to this: when he was working for someone else, he optimized for what they wanted. Efficiency. Expediency. When he was working only for himself (or his family), only perfection was good enough.

11

That Reply I got From Aptera

If you follow this blog you might recall a while back I wrote about a car company called Aptera. I got super-excited about the product, tried to ask more questions, and hit a brick wall. The wall wasn’t so much about the company hiding things, as it was about the people fielding the questions not being trained on how to refer them to the people with the answers.

I ended that episode, and the following updates, promising that if I heard from Aptera again, I would let you know. Then I did hear from them, and I didn’t let you know. Not cool on me.

In fact I later got a very nice letter back, that specifically addressed my core questions. Well, maybe not fully answering, but framing expectations. I have to say, the use of exclamation points really helped to sell me. They’re excited!

I’m going to put the whole message below. I expect I’ll fail to match the well-formatted text I received. Just the look of the message indicates that some care was put into creating it. You will have to take my word for it.

Does this restore my faith in the venture? To be honest, it does, at least a little bit. My desire for an outfit like this to succeed has almost nothing to do with my own transport, and everything to do with making cities in the western United States less carbon-awful.

Anyway, here’s the full reply that I promised before.

Hi Jerry,
I sincerely apologize that they were not able to get your questions answered! We are more than happy to assist. To give you some clarity into the situation, we are required to use a third-party platform/company to accept investors’ funds and work with the SEC to ensure compliance. This is not directly managed in any way by Aptera. So when you email [email protected], it does not go to anyone on the Aptera team, it goes to an outsourced support team that specializes in financial inquiries related to the investing process.
Please find answers to your questions below: 

  • Strangely, the Gamma body was due in Q3, and supply chain sorting-out for Q3 and Q4. /  Gamma production in Q4.

We had aspired to make a production-intent vehicle by the end of this year. We think we’re pushing that into next year, but hopefully not too far into next year. We’ve signed some significant agreements that we think will provide us parts in 2022 at a greater scale than we were anticipating before. So we think once we pull the trigger on manufacturing, we will be able to scale rapidly, and really start to crank out vehicles. But getting to that start of production is later than what we had expected at least a year or two ago. In addition, we do not have any plans to change pricing at this time. 

• Have the “Betas vehicles” been built?

The Beta builds are underway! We have a new 80,000 sq. foot assembly facility which is complemented by two additional spaces nearby for beta development, R&D, and solar composite manufacturing. We look forward to sharing our progress with you as we continue this phase of testing and development. Please stay tuned for video updates on our social channels such as YouTube. Betas are in progress! Here is our November update:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK-aamqGZS4.

• How is test validation going?

We look forward to sharing this with you over the next several months as we make more progress in the beta stage! We recently stepped into this phase and as progress is made we will provide updates directly from our CEOs Chris Anthony and Steve Fambro. We’re looking forward to announcing more information to our supporters. We are having all the betas being completed for the development vehicles to send to suppliers and validate production parts. The path to production did not happen as quickly as we had originally anticipated, but nevertheless, we are making great progress and cannot wait to launch. 

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are more than happy to assist. We are committed to moving mobility in a direction of sustainability and innovation. We cannot thank you enough for your support.  

The message was signed “Aptera Team”, and had a bunch of links to various social media.

At this point, with this message that really had very little of substance, I’m all excited again. Maybe this actually can be the car that breaks oil. Maybe this is the car that an inner-city grandma can afford to operate, and not have to worry about gas prices. It could be a game-changer.

Maybe it won’t be, but tonight at least, with all the things and whatnot gong on, I’d like to see this as part of a carbon exit strategy.

4

See You Tomorrow, Rick

Those were the last words I said to my father-in-law. He was surrounded by concerned daughters hoping to find the optimum pillow configuration for his knees — so much attention — so I just kind of called it in from the hallway. His eyes moved to acknowledge me.

That was yesterday, and I did not see him today, and I won’t ever again.

I believed it when I said it. Mostly. He was going downhill fast, but I had created a moment in my head, just for us, tomorrow, without four daughters pestering us, when we could just sip beers for a bit. Not talking. I’m not a talker in times like that, I have learned.

I imagined a time of peace, for him, for me. Saturday night the sons-in-law had gathered around the bed and Rick just wanted a beer. I failed that night, though maybe Rick did too: He could have had all the beer he wanted if he only leaned on someone. That night I could have, should have, said, “it’s going to hurt like a motherfucker but I can prop you up and you can lean back against me and have your beer.” Rick didn’t want to be propped up. He didn’t want to lean on anyone. But I think right then I could have talked him into it, and I think he would have been glad I did.

A pretty little alternate history.

After that night a new bed was installed in the house, one that could allow him to sit up, and one of his final memories is being carried from his bed to another room, and I know he hated every moment of it. But no one wanted him on that magical bed more than I did. Lacking the cloud of daughters, I would have hoisted him up and carried him myself. I was a tiny incorrect minority, who thought his life might yet go on awhile and this action might make him more comfortable for the duration. People linger beyond expectations, sometimes, when they want to. Sometimes even when they don’t.

And I thought that maybe, in a quiet moment, one without words, I could snap open a cold Budweiser for Rick, ease it into his hands, then open one for myself, and say goodbye the way I know how. But that is not what happened, so I will simply say again,

See you tomorrow, Rick.

5

Fundraiser Raffle! With Sweet Prizes!

Harlean over at Poetic Pinup has assembled a great lineup of prizes that she will be giving away soon. There will be up to 500 raffle tickets, and there are 14 prizes, so your chances are pretty good! Proceeds will be split between Toys for Tots, whom you’ve probably already heard about, and Next Door Solutions, which is a group of caring people who provide shelter and resources for people fleeing domestic abuse.

The prizes are products of independent craftspeople and small businesses that we love to support. Some you will not find anywhere else, and at least one of the items is out of print.

Each ticket is only five American dollars, and there is a code you can enter on the site to get 5 for the price of 4.

Here’s a little collage with the prizes:

There is fun, and there is literate, and there is just plain nice. You can get a better look at the prizes over on the Raffle page. Most important of all, every ticket you buy will improve the life of other people. Here’s a link! https://poeticpinup.com/product/2021-holiday-fundraiser-raffle-tickets/

The drawing is Friday, so quit dithering and click the link! Seriously! I see you dithering! Knock it off!

Even if this is not for you, please consider sharing this post with your circle. We all want those tots to have their toys!

3

My Chat With Aptera (updated a second time)

Update March 2022: I got a response from Aprera more than three months ago, and it is frankly as open and honest as you could hope a small company to be. It is on me that it has taken this long for me to publish it I have put it in a new episode just so it gets the attention it deserves.

Update November 18, 2021: I got a response after I sent the link to this article. The full response is below, but to summarize, it said “Dude, you’re asking the wrong people.” Hm. Fair enough. But I have some thoughts on that as well, which I have added to this episode.

Please note there is a second update at the foot of this episode, where all the efforts of Tom and Jess to do their jobs turned out to be futile.

For background, there is a company that is trying to introduce an ultra-light electric vehicle covered with solar panels. I am, without reservation, the exact profile of the financially-secure boomer-hippie driver they are catering to.

I have read all the words on their Web site. For 100 clams I can hold a place in line for the privilege of buying one of these things some time in the future. But not that distant of a future! they plan to start serious production in 2022. Or, at least they planned to. Do they still?

The thing is, we here at Muddled HQ already have more cars than we strictly need. Even before the plague, the times when both cars weren’t in the garage was vanishingly rare. So even if one of our cars is retired, the replacement is more likely to be a workbench than something with wheels. (Although I did see a sweet workbench that was on wheels, so you never really know.)

Here’s the split between me wanting to own something and me very much wanting that thing to exist. Rather than hand them $100 for a place in line, I could simply invest in the company. They make it easy (minimum investment $1000).

So here was a chance to help make this whole thing happen, without ending up with a vehicle I don’t need. I was excited enough to start reading the SEC filings about the offering. Those things require the company to list pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong, and all the ways the board of the company could legally dick you over later.

I’m not an expert on those filings, but the few I’ve perused have all been pretty scary. Investing in an under-capitalized car company is top of the scary heap, however.

But back to my motivation: I want cars like this to exist. If I can pitch in a bit of cash to increase the odds of success (or, prolong failure to improve the chances for the next attempt), I’m willing to consider it. So I kept reading, and eventually I contacted the company with some questions (some formatting lost to WordPress suckyness:

Congratulations on the full-media press release in The Washington Post! I found the coverage exciting but pretty dang credulous.

I am intrigued by this vehicle, and I think the world will be better when something like this is real. Should I ever buy another car, I’d like it to be one like this.

So I’m more of a crazy-eyed hippie investor than a sound financial decider of things. I try to put some of my money into companies that I think should succeed, while worrying less about whether they will. I don’t tell my investment professional about these.

Having said that, and having spent some time with the offering circular, one thing jumps out at me: The circular mentions targets for Q3 and Q4 2021. Perhaps there is an addendum to the circular I lacked the patience to uncover, but it seems like some measurable milestones have passed since that circular was drafted.

Specifically:

• Have the “Betas vehicles” been built?

• How is test validation going?

• Strangely, the Gamma body was due in Q3, and supply chain sorting-out for Q3 and Q4.

• Gamma production in Q4.

It goes on, but you get the idea. I get a feeling that one of the other lessons you learned from Tesla is an optimistic timeline. Falling behind on this schedule is not a blocker to my investing, but I do need to know that the executive level of the company is setting its own expectations realistically.

Also, I’ve seen it a dozen times now, where a startup electric vehicle company comes out with a planned price point and ultimately they just can’t hit it. You don’t need me to go down the list. How is that part of the plan holding up?

Potentially your friend,

Jerry Seeger

The third bullet point was mainly due to me misreading something in the circular, realizing my error, then botching the editing of the question. But those were my questions. Specific, lifted from their own filing, and ripe for the answering. In response, I got this from Jess (Aptera Motors’ Reg A Offering Support):

Hi Jerry,

Thank you for contacting Aptera Motors Investor Support.

Unfortunately, we can only answer questions related to the investment process.

For questions regarding the product, please contact [email protected] so the team can best assist you.

Please let us know if you have any additional questions regarding the offering or investment process & we will be happy to assist!

Best, 

Aptera Motors Investor Support

Huh. If you ask “did you hit your targets?” and the answer is “I can’t discuss that,” you’re not talking to a company that takes transparency with its investors as a core value. It starts to feel more like a company looking for money that doesn’t ask questions, and Wall Street is looking the other way so they’re turning to crowdfunding.

Which sucks. As much as I’d like to see a solar-electric vehicle, I’d also like to see a startup that embraces the true community feel of crowdfunding. But that means you have to treat all those little investors like they matter, like they’re part of something, and that means being ready to tell them the truth.

So I wrote this back:

I hate to be pushy, but I was asking for concrete information about the performance of Aptera and whether it was hitting its goals as a prelude to investing. Granted, that is not the “investment process”, but it is completely normal due diligence. The questions I asked were not product questions.

So I guess, yes, I do have “questions regarding the offering”. Those questions are listed in my original message. I am interested in investing, but I would be an idiot to invest in a startup based on months-old projections that have come and gone without any review.

I am just a small investor, and whether or not I buy in to your company will not make or break you. I get that. But you are courting the small investor, and honestly you should be more ready to answer questions from people who have read the SEC filings. Some of them might be bigger than me.

Jerry Seeger

You will not be surprised to learn that I have not heard back.

Edit to add: After I informed them of this episode, Tom (Aptera Motors’ Reg A Offering Support) sent a reply which just said in much clearer (to me) terms what Jess had said previously:

Hello Jerry, 

Aptera Investor Support has no comment on your blog post. 

Keep in mind we are agents working on behalf of Aptera therefore we don’t have the “insight” on the company you are looking for. You need to contact the Aptera Team directly for questions related to the product which was iterated by the past agent. 

Please let us know if you have any additional questions regarding the offering or investment process & we will be happy to assist!

Best,

Aptera Motors Investor Support

So the tenor of the response was more “we don’t know” than “we don’t want to discuss it”. To be honest, I may have taken the phrase “questions about the product” in the first response too literally – I have questions about the company.

Also I was kind of assuming that as agents working on behalf of Aptera on an investment offering, that questions about company performance would be anticipated and prepared for, and that a process would be in place to unite questions with the people who can answer them.

So it’s clear that Jess and Tom and any other agents working on behalf of Aptera are just doing what they can. But it would have been so much better if the response had been “we can’t answer, but we have forwarded your query to the people who can.” Aptera should anticipate questions like this, and therefore should have a resource allocated for handling them. Then it would be simple to instruct their agents where to redirect questions.

While my ire was certainly misdirected, there is still a gap in this whole process that demonstrates failure by Aptera to embrace the small investor. Still, I hope they succeed.

Another update: I sent a very dry and businesslike message to the address “iterated” by Jess. Just asking for who to talk to about performance against stated milestones. As of November 28, 2021, a full week after sending the inquiry, I have been met with stone cold silence. If I ever do get a response, I’ll add my full query and their full response.

2

Still Searching for the Electric Roadster

Before I go too far down this rabbit hole, we should all make note of the fact that it is entirely possible that I will never buy another car, and that the roadster I currently own (a 1999 Miata) almost never leaves the garage. I have the battery hooked up to a trickle charger and I use my bike pump to keep the tires from going too flat.

But still, every once in a while, I go looking for the “electric Miata” — a simple and spirited little car made for top-down fun. I want this vehicle to exist. There was a time known as the 1980’s where no one thought there was a market for a fun little two-seater, and then Mazda introduced the Miata and bang the genre was reborn. I’m looking for the company that does the same thing, but electric.

It’s a challenge, to be sure. Batteries are heavy, and weight is the last thing you want if your goal is a nimble little car. That fact alone is probably why my dream has not already been realized. I get that. But I dream.

“What about the Tesla Roadster?” you ask. I will not go into detail here, but the original Roadster has value only as a collector item and the fabled new roadster is a preposterously expensive supercar that isn’t actually a roadster at all. What about Detroit Electric? Audi? BMW? The list goes on. All preposterous supercars and not a ragtop to be found.

Part of this, again, goes back to the weight. If it’s going to be heavy, is has to be powerful, and it has to stay very low to the pavement if it wants to turn corners at any speed. I get that. But I dream.

MG, the famous British company whose name is synonymous with “fun (as long as it isn’t broken)”, is now owned by Chinese giant SAIC, and the badge adorns SUV’s over there. But apparently some guy in that company remembers what MG used to mean, and MG has been working on an electric vehicle to pay homage to that heritage. Here at last, I thought, would be the electric that captured the true roadster feel.

Dubbed (I kid you not) “Cyberster”, the MG concept absolutely does NOT capture that feel. It is just another electric two-seat supercar in a market with about as many offerings as customers.

Mazda has now said they will “electrify” the Miata by 2030. But they probably mean hybrid, because, well, batteries are heavy. I’ve long wondered if the Wankel Rotary is well-suited for turning a generator; maybe we’ll find out.

Perhaps what I want is not possible with current technology. In fact, go back and remove the “Perhaps” from that statement. But I still want it! And let’s face it; a battery-encumbered Miata would still out-corner the 1974 Alfa Romeo I used to love to drive.

And there’s the thing. I get the weight. But the people choosing what cars to build don’t get the feeling of being out on the road on a chilly night, top down, heater blasting, moon washing the landscape. They don’t get the drives across the desert where sunscreen is a constant activity. They don’t get that the vanilla smell of ponderosas is part of the magic of weaving up a mountain road. They have never looked straight up and seen the sun shine through the feathers of a golden eagle coasting over the baking blacktop.

They do not love the road as deeply as I do. The motion, the air, the adventure. Someone should put me in charge of a car company (actually, they really shouldn’t). Then my company could make the car we all want.

For symmetry with the start of this episode, also note that in the unlikely event that I actually buy another car, it better drive itself so I can take a nap before I get where I’m going.

A Helping Hand for Vets

We love the official little dogs of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas — even though Guilfoyle is a pretty major a-hole — and we love the people who have dedicated their lives to helping us keep the ODoMRHBIs healthy, even as their muzzles turn gray and their legs don’t have the spring they once did.

Lady Byng with blep

People who gravitate to that calling do it out of love, and let there be no doubt that the pups in this house are much better off for having a good doctor. And therefore I am better off as well.

I was surprised, and then not surprised, to learn that the suicide rate among veterinarians is awful. That job has some tough, tough, days. In fact, even the easy days are tough. So this month I’m riding at least 400 miles to raise awareness (and cash, of course), for an organization dedicated to giving these kind people some of the mental health resources they need.

If you have a caregiver for your pets whom you appreciate, or if you just think maybe mental health needs a bit more attention, then please consider joining the fundraiser yourself (you can even be on my team!) or simply donating and letting me do the work. Either path can start at my page over there.

My circle of friends is small, and not all y’all are living as comfortably as I am. So I want you to know right from the get-go that while I plan to do more to raise money for causes I believe in, there is no way in hell I expect any of my friends to answer the call every time. We all have to choose our battles. So thank you for reading this far, and if this is not the cause for you, that’s fine. (But if you know someone…)

1

Almost There

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings & Half-Baked Ideas cut my hair today. She did a good job, but when done said, “I’m not an expert, and I hope never to be.” Amen to that.

I had gotten pretty shaggy, as the pile of hair in the picture will tell you. We thought, Official Sweetie and I, that my next haircut would be by a trained professional. We were almost there.

But it turns out we weren’t almost there. The groundhog poked his head up, saw rich people exploiting fear of the vaccine for profit and political power, and dove back into his burrow for six more months of plague.

As a result, I got my best home haircut since I was a kid this afternoon. I hope it’s my last.

 

In It To End It Update

I am participating in an exercise-themed fundraiser in support of a group of organizations working to help end domestic abuse. The short version of the outcome: Miles! Lots of Miles! Dollars… not so much. The goal of the fundraiser is $25,000; as of this writing the amount raised is less than $4,000. Yikes. But there’s time! And now, thanks to our friends, there are PRIZES! Lots of prizes!

Across the country, shelters for victims of domestic abuse have been pushed to the limit, reserves exhausted while trying to do what they could with shelter-in-place restrictions. In some cases this has meant putting people up in hotels, or finding other, more expensive options.

When the shelters run out of resources and can no longer provide help, vulnerable people end up stuck in dangerous, abusive situations — or homeless.

Meanwhile, you, my friends, have already far exceeded my expectations on this fundraiser. You are awesome and I am humbled. Thank you.

But if you have read my posts, and thought maybe you want to pitch in but haven’t yet (believe me, I know all the little obstacles that lead to “I’ll do it later”), maybe right now is the time to click this link: In It to End It — and toss a few bucks to a good cause. It doesn’t have to be much to make a real difference.

Which brings us to PRIZES! To help pump up the fundraiser, the Official Sweetie of MR&HBI tapped into her community of creatives and managed to pull donations of awesome original art and other fun stuff – some even customized just for you! Any donation of $5 or more at the above link will make you eligible for a cool prize! (Those who have already donated are eligible.)

I will be publishing the full list of prizes shortly (I’m really just piggybacking Official Sweetie’s hard work), but that’s no reason to wait. Vulnerable people need your support now. Please help!

In It to End It — With Your Help

Domestic abuse is a problem as old as humanity, but the last couple of years have been particularly bad for vulnerable people. The first step to recovering from abuse is often, “just get out of there,” and that’s never a simple calculus, but during a pandemic it gets ten times harder.

Several Bay-area organizations have banded together to make things less awful, and now that group is running a fundraiser. It’s a fitness-based endeavor, where participants set a mileage goal. Bikes are welcome, but it’s calibrated for running, so on a bike I can rack up a significant portion of their overall mileage goal.

And you can participate, too! You have two options: Sponsor me or put on miles yourself.

This is a local charity, so if you would rather support people closer to where you live, go for it. But please, please, support someone.

Gettin’ the Lingo

The official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas recently acted on an long-term resolution to become better at speaking the language of many of our neighbors. After all, our city of residence is not Saint Joseph.

To pursue this goal, she has subscribed to Duolingo, an online language-learning application. She has been sure to put in a little time on the project every day, often combining it with time on our exercise machine. Buffing up brain and body at the same time!

When she went to the payment section of the portal, she discovered that a family pack didn’t cost that much more than an individual license, and she knew full-well that there were several family members who have been wanting to learn one language or another.

So now I’m signed up, too. I will be learning Spanish too, but first I wanted to get a start on remembering what little Czech I once knew. I have family members who speak Czech, so it makes sense. I figure a month to show progress with the Czech before I add in Spanish sessions as well.

It’s pretty exciting, but when the program tested my current level of Czech proficiency, it politely said, “let’s start at the beginning.” So I’m starting at the beginning, but when they throw a new word at me, there’s a pretty good chance I already know it.

Is Duolingo better than other language-learning software? Honestly I don’t know, and I’m not sure how much that even matters. What matters is devoting a little time each day to add a new phrase or two. Beyond the actual lessons, Duolingo devotes enormous energy to rewarding consistency, and bestowing worthless cartoon trinkets for taking an extra lesson in a session. I got my five-day-straight pat on the back today.

Tools I Used While Installing a New Range Hood

An almost-comprehensive list of the tools I (and the Official Sweetie) used to install a new hood over our cooktop.

  • box knife
  • scissors
  • extension cord (green, 2-prong)
  • Craftsman variable-speed drill motor
  • Ryobe “drill saw” (sucked)
  • safety goggles
  • drill bits (various sizes)
  • straight steel aviation snips
  • left-turn steel snips
  • right-turn steel snips
  • flashlight, large
  • flashlight, small
  • table lamp with zebra stripes, fluorescent
  • Skil saber saw
  • stud finder (go ahead, say the joke)
  • MacBook Pro, to search for other tools
  • 2014 Mini Countryman, to fetch tools
  • Malco duct crimper (surprisingly fun!)
  • pencil
  • tape measure
  • paper towel
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • disinfectant spray
  • gauze
  • first-aid tape
  • heavy work gloves
  • chisel (3/8″)
  • Black and Decker circular saw
  • extension cord (orange, 3-prong)
  • 12″ rail clamp
  • 1/2″ socket
  • 1/4″ socket
  • 3/8″ socket
  • socket wrench, small
  • large-to-small socket adapter
  • socket wrench, large
  • small metal stool (pink)
  • Tacx bicycle repair stand (the key piece!)
  • wooden shims
  • digitally-controlled Dremel motor
  • analog-controlled Dremel motor
  • router attachment for Dremel motor
  • cutting bit for Dremel motor (x5)
  • Beats Audio over-ear headphones (for ear protection)
  • pointy hole-punch thing
  • Dyson upright vacuum cleaner
  • ratchet-drive screwdriver handle
  • Philips-head screwdriver attachment
  • long Phillips-head screwdriver bit (in drill motor)
  • hacksaw
  • carpentry ruler combination square (you’d think there’d be a better name for these)
  • Iron Horse sawhorses
  • Wood rasp
  • towel
  • Band-aid
  • hammer

It always ends with the hammer.

3

Gilly

About two years ago, we welcomed into our house a little asshole we named Gilfoyle. He is at least in part a Lancashire Heeler, a very small dog designed to move large animals. You want to succeed at that job, you better be an asshole.

Gilly sleeping with eyes open. Because the world is full of danger.

Right now he is under my desk, sleeping on my foot, snoring a little bit. Wherever I sit down to work, he will always be close by. He loves Mommy more, but I stay still.

In the evenings, there is a routine. After a few minutes of snacks and training the dogs and the humans take their places on the couch. Gilly (after sniffing the outside air, drinking water, and rubbing his face on the floor) jumps up on the couch (with a tiny, tiny bit of assistance) and takes his place against my left thigh.

Sometimes, if the Official Sweetie and I are still snacking, some tiny treats will also reach the canine elements of our pack. Last night we were eating chips, and now and then a tiny piece of chip would find its way to the pups. They do likes them some chips.

But then I offered Gilfoyle a chip and he went totally fuckin’ nuts. He bit my finger and then went after any part of my body he could reach, barking and flashing teeth and… I dunno, fighting for his life?

I should have been more ready. I had been sipping Tequila, and I’ve seen plenty of times before that when I’m drinking liquor Gilly is much more volatile.

It breaks my heart. I don’t know Gilfoyle’s history, but I can make a few guesses. When Dad’s been drinking, prepare to fight for your life. I will never erase that impulse. I can never love this dog so hard that those scars go away. But Gilfoyle, my friend, my foot warmer, I will never hurt you. I promise.