The Colonel’s Plan – Back to the Junkyard

June 20th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

The 1982 Impala leaving its yard-mate, the 1981 Chevette.

Last time I talked about the cars you let leave here under their own steam. As your dementia set in, you did let some others leave, on tow trucks presumably. One of them really annoyed me. 

There was “a man” that you “hired” to work on landscaping the property around the house. “A man” is in quotes not because I doubt his gender, but because that’s all he’s ever been called in my presence. I don’t know his name. I know he lived “somewhere in Montgomery County” and that Mother thinks he died, based on the fact that he stopped coming here and you never heard anything else from him. “Hired” is in quotes because you did not actually pay him. 

Mr. Man told you he was cutting down and trimming the many wild and unmaintained trees on the property. He also told you he was hauling them away for firewood and taking the brush to the landfill. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Junkyard

June 4th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Christian unearths the wreck of the Chevy Malibu

The green bathroom is well underway. I have only the section of wall with the actual shower plumbing on it left to tile. I hope to accomplish most of that today. After that, I still have a list of things to do that are drywall and electrical. And I need to floor the dressing room and get the cabinets put in for the sinks. 

Susan’s bathroom shouldn’t take long. I have to get the floor down, and, honestly, can probably have the plumbing finished before I tile the entire shower. I’ll finish that wall and then ask. 

Fortunately, the inspector who came to look at the air conditioning turned in a positive progress report on the plumbing, despite his concerns when he was here. I suppose being assured that we were making progress by both the plumber and me was enough. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Water, Water Everywhere

May 30th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Happy Memorial Day! 

Well… not really. I spent most of Memorial Day weekend at Balticon. Balticon is Maryland’s oldest science fiction convention. It is always as old as I am. The first one was held in 1967, months before my second birthday. So the number of the con is always my age when it’s held. This was, then, Balticon 52. I missed Balticon 51 because you had just died. I missed Balticon 50 because, well, it wasn’t well-planned. They only offered me an hour in which to speak. I’m used to having six to twelve hours of programming to participate in, and I wasn’t going to drive to downtown Baltimore and park for one hour of programming time. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Well, Well, Well…

May 23, 2018

Dear Daddy –

As I said above, well, well, well…

I’m talking about the actual well, the one you had dug in 1967. Recently, the faucets began spitting air. The toilets were making awful noises when they filled. I thought it happened once because I’d washed the bed of the truck for about an hour, flushing it out with the hose. (I said “recently,” and I now realize that that was before I turned the outside water off for the Winter—so probably October, 2017 at the latest.) I thought I had just run the well down. But then I remembered that the single toilet you had installed back in 1967 had begun making sounds like a helicopter taking off back while you were still with us. You denied it was happening. 

Mother thought the sediment filters were just needed to be changed, but I told her that, if the filter was letting air into the lines, it had a lot more wrong with it than just needing new cartridges. Continue reading

I Believe

Sunday I saw Superman: The Movie in the theater for the second time. The first time was the year it came out—1978. It was December. I was 13. I was there with my best friend, and we had both been reading about the production of the film for a couple of years in special update pages in the back of every issue of DC Comics. Some lucky kids about our age had won cameo appearances in the film, the result of a much-ballyhooed contest. At that point in my life, I had only seen about a dozen films in the theater. This one was a big deal.

I loved the complexity of Superman’s mythos—the exotic world of his birth, the bottle city of Kandor, a miniaturized piece of his home, the various colors of kryptonite and the various effects they had on him, the kick-ass supporting cast that surrounded him—Ma and Pa Kent, Lana Lang, Pete Ross, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, his cousin Supergirl, his pet Krypto, the Super-Dog. This film was only a small, two-hour slice of comic book life brought to the screen, but it was the biggest, boldest attempt ever to do so. And, unlike other live action super hero fare that had come before it, it did not insult the character by camping him up, and it did not make him more mundane in order to fit into “the real world.” (I’m looking at you, TV’s Incredible Hulk!)

At 13, Superman: The Movie stoked my imagination, which was already in thrall to comic books.

At 53, Superman: The Movie, made me, with tears in my eyes, come to terms with a very simple truth:

I believe.

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The Colonel’s Plan – A Day Off

“Come walk with me on a backwoods road, Where few tracks, if any, are found…” My Aunt Frances Wilson HIggins’s poem seems appropriate as unexplored roads lay ahead.

November 22, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Simply too drained, after these past few stressful, disappointing weeks to think of what to say to you. There are many opportunities on the table. There are certainly life changes coming. I need to process all of that. But, right now, I need to not work. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Love, Steven

The Colonel’s Plan – Inspection

May 16, 2018

Dear Daddy –

I took this week off to work on the green bathroom, among other things. It’s Wednesday at 2:52 in the afternoon, and I wish I could say I had gotten more accomplished. I suppose I’m too demanding of my time. So far this week, I’ve met the inspector for the new air conditioning system—more about that in a minute—I’ve bought window facing, because we were out of it again. I furred out the rest of the studs under the window, so the tile would have a 3/8″ overlap where it met the Sheetrock. I’ve cut the last piece of Durock to go behind under the bathroom window. That one was the most difficult, because it had to fit around the air duct. I’m still jealous of your ability to cut wall panels that fit exactly around fixtures, and with no odd gaps because something was slightly out of level. I’m picking up some tips, though. I used a cardboard mask this time to make the cutouts for the duct. 

I cut three pieces of Sheetrock to go above the Durock, and got all that hung. The walls are all covered now. And it’s time to begin tiling. I don’t want any mistakes, so I counted out tiles and did some test-fitting before beginning. I drew level lines at the top and bottom. I discovered that the tub was just slightly out of level—the bubble was still between the lines, but that left the bottom of the tile on the far left flush with the tub, while the bottom of the one on the far right was almost a half inch above the tub surface. That’s if I used a strictly level line. If I adjusted the tile’s level line to exactly match the slight pitch of the tub, all was well. I’ll have to cheat about 3/16 of an inch with those tiles on the right. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Working it Through

May 10, 2018

Dear Daddy –

A few years ago, I called you one evening and asked how, in all your years of working with people, you had managed to not lose your temper—and probably your job—when confronted with outright stupidity and obstinacy. I don’t remember what event sparked my question. I think I remember who had upset me—well, I remember that it was one of two people—and I won’t name names. Both of those people are gone from my professional working days, and good riddance. 

But people still upset me. I have trouble working when I’m upset. Let me clarify that—I have trouble using my mind to work when I’m upset. Most of the work I’m paid for involves the use of my mind—writing, programming, problem-solving, project planning and managing people and resources. All of those involve using my intellect to solve problems, to lay plans, to see through the muck of obstacles, complaints and setbacks and decide what needs to be done next. I’m very good at doing that, by the way, except when I’m angry or hurt. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Fighting Entropy, Stopping and Starting

May 2, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Entropy. Let’s talk about entropy.

The first definition is right up your alley. In physics, entropy is “a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.”

In colloquial speech, it’s “a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”

When I decided, last week, to talk to you about entropy, it was with a more hopeful frame of mind that’s lost to me now. Now I just feel beaten down.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the total entropy of an isolated system never decreases over time.

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Election 2018 – Please Join Me

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a political curmudgeon. I’m usually outspoken supporting underdog candidates—like Gary Johnson in the 2016 Presidential election. My underdog streak goes way back. I was a John Anderson supporter in 1980, three years before I could vote. That might give some of you the idea that I only support lost causes. Not this time. 

This Thursday, I voted in the mid-term election. (If you live where I do, you have three days of early voting opportunities left. Do it. It’s convenient.) I voted for, in alphabetical order, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and Republicans. I voted for incumbents who have done a solid job, for mavericks who probably won’t win, but who deserve a showing for their valiant efforts, and for newcomers who stand a good chance, and who I think will accomplish great things in office. 

I voted for people, not politics. 

I’d like to ask you to do the same. 

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