Monday, September 30, 2019

Early Stock Dot Calm

Overstock Dot Calm

Halloween Decorations 2019

Last year, I had to satisfy myself with doing blog posts about my Halloween decorations. I was already thinking about starting up my toy show, but I hadn't quite gotten to the critical mass to launch it yet. That came a month or two later.

But that meant that I didn't get to do this video last year. I had to patiently bide my time, and pray that I didn't run out of gas before ever getting through the first year, because I really wanted to do this video. And now, the time has finally come.

Check it out. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Slender Men Over On The Dunesteef

We just put out a new episode on The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. It's a creepy fun little story called The Slender Men, written by David Erik Nelson. Go check it out.

Week Eighteen Update

Took me a little extra time to get this put together this week, I suppose because of the overlong report on the day Imelda hit, but it's finally here. Week eighteen of my Journey to One-derland!

You're Joking! You're Joking! I Can't Believe My Eyes!

I was cruising through the store the other day, and I passed this display and had to stop and take a picture:

I want these! At first I thought they were kids' costumes, and I bet you probably could turn them into ones if you're good with arts and crafts, but they're actually just decorations.

Jack, Zero, Oogie Boogie, and around the corner they also had Sally. It would be awesome to have these hanging from my trees or something. I love 'em!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

You May Ask Yourself, "How Did I Get Here?"

It's the first of a series of videos I'm going to do talking about how I came to decide that CARNIVORE and ALTERNATE DAY FASTING was the best way to proceed with transforming my health from garbage to optimal. In part one, I talk about my history and what led me to embark on this journey to One-derland that I'm on.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

One Last Imelda Post

I thought I'd post these pictures. I forgot to put them in my big overarching Imelda post that I just did yesterday, but I still think they're worth showing off. These are a couple of containers that were left out in my backyard during the storm. This is a...I don't know...sort of a new style wheelbarrow kind of thing. We were using it while we worked out in the yard, and didn't get it put away before the storm hit. Check it out.

So, the entire thing filled with water. It wasn't sitting under the roofline are anything that could have gathered a lot of rain to fill that bucket with. It was simply out in the open, and the water in it is the actual amount of the rain that fell. Actually, there could have been more, because I think it's likely that some flowed over the top. I spilled a little out of it when I moved it, but when I found it, it was right up to the top.

Who's ever seen a fake wheelbarrow thing though? How big is it actually? Here's a shot with my hand in it to give you a little idea of scale.

Here's something that might look a little more familiar:

That's another great big bucket that I'm sure you've seen a bunch of times--something like two feet tall, and again it was out in the open, not under the roof. Yet there it is, full to the tippy top. We got at least that much rain. Two feet or so of rain came down during Imelda. That's a lot of water to deal with.

Halloween Decorations Part One

Started putting up my Halloween decorations for this year, and did a video about the diorama I created for it. It was pretty fun. Check it out:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tropical Storm Imelda Final Report

We've only been in Texas for two years now. We came out in June of 2017. While we were still living in a hotel, we got some of the effects of Tropical Storm Cindy, but that one was mostly out in Alabama and Mississippi. Two months after we moved into our house, Hurricane Harvey descended on Houston, and this was a direct hit. That storm left our city reeling and devastated.

2018 was a quiet year, and a good thing too. We didn't have the wherewithal to deal with anything like that in Houston in 2018. Now it's 2019, and it seemed like it was going to be another quiet year. There had been little talk of hurricanes or tropical storms so far this year.

Monday, that changed in a hurry. There were a bunch of clouds just off shore in the gulf of Mexico that looked like they might coalesce into something dangerous. It wouldn't be a big wind event, not a hurricane, but the way it was acting made it look like we might have a major flood event. Our weather guy was warning us all, it should hit on Wednesday. Our managers sent out emails telling us to put our affairs in order so that we could be prepared to cover this thing around the clock. Twelve hour shifts were likely.

I packed up the car with a couple changes of clothes, a blanket, a pillow, my toothbrush, and a comb. I was hoping it wouldn't be that bad, but just in case. In the back of my mind, was the specter of the day I spent stuck at a Walgreens because of a big storm that hit our neighborhood in May. My car was not going to make it through any flooded streets, as demonstrated by that experience. I had no idea what might come, so I wanted to be ready. I brought a bunch of food in and put it in the fridge at work to get me through if I needed to stay the night at work for a day...or two.

Tuesday, the storm formed and earned a name. This was now Tropical Storm Imelda. And it came early. Not Wednesday, but Tuesday it hit. It didn't take long for it to disappoint, however. It moved faster than expected across the Gulf of Mexico, and therefore didn't gather as much moisture to dump on us. It was raining like crazy, and flooding in some flood prone areas, but mostly we were high and dry. I had to stay until 1:30 AM at work, just in case something happened, but nothing did...other than me earning three hours of overtime pay.

It rained pretty good on Wednesday morning, then started to peter out. My drive to work was pretty easy, and by the afternoon, things looked like this outside:

Suddenly, at about 5:00 PM, things changed. The skies darkened up, and thunder started rumbling outside, and we could hear the rain pounding on the roof. The newsroom started buzzing with activity. The storm was taking a turn for the worse again. We needed to get our resources in place to cover it. There was a new tornado warning in east Harris County and west Chambers county.

Thankfully, when things like that are happening, it doesn't pertain all that much to me. I edit the recorded video, but when things are happening live right now, there doesn't tend to be recorded video. Instead, they point the camera and transmit live stuff. But this story pertained to me a little more than I expected it to.

My phone rang, and it was my wife on the other end of the line.

"Is there a tornado warning right now?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Where is it for? Is it in Baytown or Mont Belvieu?"

Sadly, I didn't know. I hadn't paid that much attention, because the newsroom commotion usually doesn't pertain to me. They were organizing live crews in the field, not editors sitting on their can in front of a computer screen. I had to jump on the internet and look it up, and yes, east Harris County and west Chambers County could most definitely be Baytown or Mont Belvieu.

"Looks like it is right there next to you, baby. You might want to hightail it out of there as fast as you can...but also, see if you can't point your phone at it and get some video we can throw up on the news too."

Well, she did hightail it out of there, but didn't manage to get any video. It was already receding into the distance by the time she had called me, so the only way to get video would have been to go all storm chaser, turn around and head right toward the tornado, which would have been contrary to the first set of instructions.

Other people were closer, and got pictures and video that we used on our news. A guy sent out this tweet, where you can see the tornado that was chasing my wife. And here are some stills that I found on the internet:

She made it home okay, calling me about an hour later to report in and put my mind at ease, and again, it seemed like the worst was over. Imelda must have been done toying with us, and had moved on to bother the folks north of us in Nacodoches or Tyler or Shreveport or something. My drive home from work was pretty uneventful. It was barely raining anymore, just a light sprinkle really.

After I got home, I messed around on my computer editing my Journey to One-derland update video for a while, and I could hear the rain strengthen and start pounding again, but I dismissed it. That strengthening and weakening rain had been going on all day. I still thought we were done.

My first clue that something had changed was that at 4:00 AM, our kids' school district finally decided to cancel classes for the day. I missed that notification, however, because I was fast asleep.

Instead, in the morning, I awoke to thunder, lightning, and rain like I had yet to see since the storm arrived. Our house was being pounded relentlessly by Imelda. She wanted us out of this existence and was doing all that she could to see us gone. Look at this crazy video:

A few minutes later, I went back out in the backyard to get some more video, because the thunder had stepped it up further. It doesn't come across as well, because I believe the phone adjusts the audio automatically, but that thunder was loud enough to make a person jump out of their skin each time it hit.

Our cat disappeared under the couch, and didn't come out for a few hours she was so scared.

I didn't realize how bad things had gotten, despite having stood there taking video of the deluge. My wife went and looked out the front of the house, and then shouted for us all to come look. This is what we saw:

That's our street, our front walk, the front edge of our lawn, all underwater. When I saw that, I freaked out.

We never saw anything like that even with the catastrophic storm known as Hurricane Harvey, which flooded nearly the entire neighborhood I live in, along with the rest of the Houston area.

Yet here it was. The street under a foot of water.

Because we'd never flooded in Harvey, I assumed we were untouchable. If Harvey couldn't sink us, then what else possibly could, right?

But maybe not after all. This hadn't happened before but the rain was still falling hard, and the water was so very close to our front door.

We still don't have flood insurance, because, after all, we were untouchable. Even Harvey couldn't get us.

How ruined would we be if it came up the lawn any further?

I really wanted to get on the phone and get some flood insurance coverage, but it was too late. They don't cover you starting the day that you call. It takes two months before it kicks in.

So, yeah, I was really getting scared seeing this flood on our doorstep.

Here's a couple videos of the flooded street as well if you want an even better look at how it was.

What could we do? Nothing really. It was too late for insurance, too late to leave town, too late to leave the house at all. None of our cars could get out of the driveway at all. We just had to hope and pray that the storm would move on and let us be. So, that's what we did, and that's what happened.

The rain kept falling, but not as heavily, and the steady flow of the street river eventually emptied our little tributary out. It lowered little by little. The guy who had his car parked on the street was finally able to safely move it off the curb and up on the driveway. And, as the day wore on, it was time for me to leave for work.

They really needed me to be there, because my chief editor had picked this week of all weeks to take vacation. That meant that we were already working with a skeleton crew. If I didn't make it, then one editor would have to do it all by himself, and work hours of overtime to boot.

I didn't want to do that to my coworker, so I went out on the roads, despite my wife's objections, and gave it a try. I didn't even make it a full mile from the house before I came to an intersection that was still flooded out. Jacked-up trucks were still splashing their way through, but I wasn't willing to test my Ford Fiesta in the same way. I was going to have to wait a little longer before I could get out of here.

I called my boss and gave him the bad news. He told me that it wouldn't have done me any good even if I could get out, because the traffic on the roads was so bad I'd be in bumper-to-bumper for hours. I'd never make it there as it was. He told me to hold tight for a while, and try again in an hour or two.

I turned back around and went home, grateful that I could still make it back, and wouldn't be spending hours at a Walgreens like I had in May. My wife wasn't at all surprised to see me back. We got to have a little more family time while I waited to try again.

After an hour passed, I gave it another shot. This time I almost made it four miles before I came to the spot where a stream that usually flows under the road was now flowing right over the top of it. Here, even the jacked-up trucks weren't risking it. When I saw them turning tail and running, I didn't even consider it. I did stop to get a picture, however, and I texted that picture to my boss, telling him I wasn't able to make it out yet.

I mentioned the stalled out car that was stuck halfway across, just for a little added emphasis. He told me to stay safe, and to try again in an hour or two.

I said I would, but I was pretty sure that I wasn't ever going to make it to work. I felt really bad for my poor coworker who was going to have to do it all himself, and work a twelve hour day while doing it. That really sucked.

When I called my wife to let her know I was coming home, I was passing the McDonald's, and I asked if she wanted me to pick up some dinner while I was out. She was game for that, so I pulled into the parking lot, but some guys in yellow vests out front waved me on through. Apparently the McDonald's was closed. I had seen that the grocery store was still open though when I passed it a while ago, so I decided to go there instead.

It wasn't as crazy as it had been back in 2017 when we visited the store during Hurricane Harvey, but the place was definitely jumping. Of course, this might be its usual situation at this time of day. I wouldn't know, because I was usually at work at this time of day.

Something about the energy of all the humanity teeming inside this Kroger made me really want to do something fun. I walked past the soda aisle, then turned back and went down and grabbed a few bottles of soda for the kids. I wasn't going to drink any, I've finally learned my lesson with that, but they still love it. We could have a bit of a party, a Tropical Storm Imelda party. We were all home for the day. I could call the kids down out of their rooms, and we could have some fun together.

I grabbed some chocolate chips, because what is more fun than making cookies together? I got us two frozen pizzas, and a carton of ice cream...and some enchilada sauce that my wife wanted for a recipe she was making later in the week, because why waste the trip right? And I headed home with an instant party.

I called the kids down, we put on some music, and we had some fun together. We whipped up the cookie dough together, and got the pizzas started cooking. When they finished, and everybody dug in, and we sat down together to watch a movie. The girls had been watching their way through the Firefly TV series, and now the only thing left for them to watch was the big feature film finale Serenity. I didn't need any encouragement to join them, of course, Firefly is one of my favorite all-time things. So, we sat down together and watched the movie.

I did have to leave before the film was finished, though, to give it one last try. I didn't expect to be able to get to work at this point, and now that it was getting dark, I wasn't going to be willing to try a fourth time if this one didn't work. It was treacherous enough out there in daylight. If I couldn't see the flooded street before I hit the water, then I'd be in real trouble.

I drove the four miles out to the same spot where I was thwarted before, hoping that the water level had lowered and I might be able to pass freely, but it looked mostly unchanged.

The only real difference was that now there were two stalled out cars out in the middle of the water instead of just the one that was there before. I took another picture, texted it to my boss, and asked him to tell my coworker that I'd hung out to dry that I was sorry to have to do this to him. Then I went home, and we watched the rest of the movie together. Then we had some ice cream with cookies that we'd made. I even had a breakdown and ate a cookie myself. I guess it was a bad idea to bring home the chocolate chips. Watch my update video that's coming up for more on that story.

I found it to be a pretty enjoyable evening with the family, and was glad that A) we didn't have any worse problems to deal with than the inability to get to work and B) we were able to turn the negative of the storm into a positive time together with each other. Imelda wasn't all least, not for us.

I'm sure there will be a decent amount of damage around the area, and people that we know will have had their homes flooded and ruined and will need some support. So, there will be need for help from us and the rest of the community, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy the time we had together, and leave the worries to tomorrow.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Week Seventeen Update

Since all the streets were flooded and I couldn't get to work yesterday, I had time to get this video put together. It's the update on week 17 of my journey to One-derland. How's it going now? Still smooth sailing? Or what?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Tropical Storm Imelda II

Crap. Imelda came back strong overnight. School’s been cancelled and this is what my street looks like right now. I’m a little worried. It never even got this bad during Hurricane Harvey. Hope it lets up and recedes soon. I’m still supposed to go to work today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tropical Storm Imelda

The big rain storm that we only first heard about yesterday is already hitting today, and it got big enough to be worthy of a name.

Tropical Storm Imelda is going to give us all she’s got today and tomorrow.

Working in news makes my experience of big storms so different from other folks. I’ve got a blanket and a pillow and some changes of clothes in my car in case I need them, but it’s looking like I probably won’t.

The storm is moving fast enough that it probably won’t do as much flooding damage as they originally thought it might. I’ll be here late tonight, but probably won’t need to sleep over.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Leiningen Versus the Ants

I don't know if all y'all had to read this story in high school English class, but I did. And the other day, I had my own Leiningen Versus the Ants adventure.

We had been really neglectful of the section of our backyard behind our garage. It had gotten really overgrown with weeds, and it was getting to be a huge pain to ever go back there to mess with the pool filter equipment if we needed to. I decided that it was time to clear that place out.

I started with a big pile of railroad ties that were stacked up on the ground. We'd dug them out of the yard from some old garden boxes that the previous homeowners had installed. I started picking up the wood, and the ants came boiling out. So I got the raid, and sprayed the whole thing down. Then I tried again, disturbed the ant hill further, and had to spray more raid.

I thought I was done finally, and started lifting boards, but it turned out the ants had a back door that just so happened to be right underneath my foot. I realized this when they started biting me. I've been bit by fire ants a lot since coming to Texas, so I was well aware of how awful this could be, and I immediately sprayed my foot down with raid.

I don't know if that's even safe or not. I may have given myself cancer by doing that or something, but I didn't want the painful, swollen, pus-filled sores that come along with fire ant bites. I went and got the hose after that, and hosed my foot down, just in case of cancer or something. Then I had to change out of my sopping wet shoes.

After the third raiding, the ants mostly went away, or at least stopped bothering me. Their nest looked like this, in several different places.

I did find another nest of them in the root ball of a tree we'd dug out of the ground but not disposed of yet as well, but I stayed away from them enough to get rid of the root ball without getting attacked.

Now, here's the before picture of the rest of that section of the backyard.

The kudzu vine had grown so much that all the weeds in the whole area were sort of woven together by it. I pushed my way back underneath the vine, and started ripping it out on the left side of the picture, and once I got that started, I was able to basically roll the whole thing up like a carpet. The weed roots would be exposed as I rolled it, and I could easily pull them as I went. It was pretty cool, except for the fact that it was over 100 degrees at the time with feel like temperatures at about 110.

In this picture, you can see I had a problem when it came time to dispose of the weeds and vines though. There was so much that I definitely couldn't fit it all in one garbage bag, but they were so woven together that I couldn't separate it into smaller bag-sized pieces. I tried clippers, but ours were all too old, rusty and dull. I tried a hedge trimmer, but the vines were too thin and squirrely to cut with that.

In the end, I had to use a freaking steak knife, and saw each bit of kudzu vine bit by bit to separate it into bags.

This picture shows the section when it was half done. The vines mostly gone, but still a bunch of weeds.

I decided at this point to get the lawnmower, and take out the rest of the weeds with that. This was probably the worst part of the job, because I wasn't in the shade of the garage anymore, and the heat was double if you're in the direct sun. And here it is, finally all cleared out:

So, Leiningen managed to defeat both the ants and the kudzu, and even the heat. It was quite a triumphant feeling to be done with it all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nature's Morning Star

Have you ever heard of Jackfruit? Is it like what this guy is talking about?

A jackwagon must be the thing you haul the jackfruit out of the jack orchards in, right?

Well, I'm going to guess that you probably haven't heard of jackfruit. The other day I was at the grocery store, and found that they had jackruit in the produce section.

$1.25 a pound sounds like a reasonable price, right? Except that a jackfruit is a massive, watermelon sized fruit that probably weighs twenty pounds, so one of them will cost you $25. That's a lot to just try out some kind of exotic fruit. And it's pretty exotic. Take a look at this thing:

So, it's just a giant watermelon with spikes all over it. It kind of makes me think of those medieval weapons called morning stars. I just finished reading George R. R. Martin's Fire and Blood the other day, so they're on my mind. This is a morning star if you're not familiar with it or didn't realize what it was called:

I believe that is also called a mace. This is a morning star flail:

So, we have the starfruit, and then there's the morning star fruit, right?

I bet you're saying to yourself, "come on, Big Anklevich, it's just a spiked watermelon, how can you compare it to a morning star. Nobody worries about getting hit over the head by a watermelon, no matter how big they are. They're harmless." That's what you were saying to yourself. Admit it. I didn't just put words into your mouth. That was all true.

Well, let me disabuse you of this notion. Jack fruit are not harmless. They most definitely are nature's morning star. Here's a picture of some growing on a tree.

Yes, that's right, they grow on trees, not on some ground-dwelling vine.

And no, the trees that they grow on aren't little trees, they're massive trees that grow sixty feet tall and taller. I've seen them myself when I lived in South America as a younger man. And they were often right there on a normal street, like some kind of shade tree. Except this shade tree had fruit that gets as big as 120 pounds hanging up there, just waiting for its stem to finally deteriorate enough that it comes tumbling down violently and destructively on the heads of the person who just happens to be walking down the sidewalk at that moment.

Not only are they possible death from above, but crack one open, and I'm pretty sure what you actually find inside is alien spore:

So, what you eat is that fleshy yellow stuff around the seeds.

You strip that stuff off, and spit out the seeds.

What does it taste like? Well, it's kind of sweet, gooey, mushy. I can't really say. It tastes like jack fruit. Not like chicken, we'll just say that. I wasn't particularly fond of it, of course I was nineteen years old when I tried it, and I wasn't yet of that adventurous of a mind. I might have dismissed it just because it wasn't what I was used to. Though I didn't feel the same way about mangoes when I first tried them. So, I'd prefer to say that jack fruit is objectively so so, and mango is objectively amazing, because I am completely objective.

Anyway, this was a long silly post about nothing more than a weird fruit that I remember as a very interesting oddity from South America. I couldn't believe it when I saw it at the store right here in my own town. I guess the world is becoming a very small place.