Wednesday, November 30, 2011

September & October Results

It has been awhile hasn't it? I have been attempting to live challenged this entire time, but as you three are well aware, I have taken some time away from the blog. This entry is going to be short and sweet but the posts should be coming in regularly again. 

September's challenge was a skills challenge. Thanks to a good friend, I am now in possession of my own copy of "Things Everyone Should Know How To Do Before Turning 30". The book initially belonged to him (I wonder who gave it to him) but is now WELL above the age of 30. The book has many great skills that a person would find useful in life. If not useful, at least an interesting conversation starter. I took to this book to learn some skillz this month, as well as some interesting skills that many of my friends suggested I learn. 

After the month was over, I was attempting to help a coworker fix her broken cubicle. I struggled to fix it and began looking around for help. She looked at me with her brow furrowed and said, "didn't you just learn a bunch of skills?" 

Yes, I did. Many of the skills learned required science. Some required critical thinking. Some required me to just "man up". It probably took me about 30 seconds to fix her cubicle after she posed the biting question. But the fact remains, there are many many skills to learn, so though I consider this month a PASSED this challenge is far from over.


October. I was meant to write letters/notes. 30 of them to be exact. I'm still not ready to blog about this month because I'm very curious about my behavior for this challenge. I wrote about 18 notes/letters. FAILED. I sent/delivered about 6 of them. One person I wrote to but didn't mail the letter out to has died. I don't know whether to give it to his family or keep it myself. I've never had something to say to someone and had them pass before I got the courage to say it. 

There are some notes and some letters still to be written and they will be. This challenge will be revisited. I will further examine the results of this challenge, my psyche during this month and what derailed this challenge.

Friday, October 28, 2011

King Whiskey

Sorry to keep you waiting! I should have something for you shortly. Stay patient, you won't be disappointed.

Rest assured I'm still living challenged.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Nine months into living challenged, I am thrilled to say I've tested myself, I've overcome obstacles, I've failed,  I've succeeded and I've learned. Each challenge has evoked different responses from me some reactionary, some emotional. This response, however, is a first.

Yes. The people living in that unit did
come out while I was working.
Last Sunday, my good friend, an adroit skills master and apartment manager welcomed me to come by the apartment complex to learn some handyman skills. Most people who have never had ties to an apartment manager might not understand the tasks they have to deal with. "Oh, free rent? And all I have to do is collect rent checks and tell me people to turn down their dub step after ten at night? Sign me up!" It isn't that easy. Fancy yourself a modern day Mr. or Mrs. Roper, and right before you get into your 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air to drive to a BBQ, a pipe breaks spilling sewage everywhere. Time to get out and make the necessary phone calls or fix it yourself. Tenants in #11 keep leaving the light on in the laundry room, time to deal with it. Water keeps leaking through the roof; what are you going to do about it? Unit #1 hasn't had air conditioning in three days and its smoldering outside. Insinkerator in #9 is get the idea. It isn't an easy job, and sometimes a phone call to have someone fix it is either too expensive or will be too long of a wait.

Apartment managers have some great skills in their arsenal so I joined Fred Mertz to do a few tasks around the complex. I replaced a shower head, changed light fixtures and fixed a tenant's door. Replacing the first fixture and the shower head was simple, but gave some good experience using different types of pliers. Slip joints not working so well? Let's give the vice-grips a try. After initially installing the new shower head, we noticed some water dripping from the faucet. C'est la vie, we are in a recession, be happy to have a shower, lets move on. Negative. This manager does it right. I take the head off and we examine the teflon tape I applied. The tape was applied in the right direction (it matters!) but perhaps a little more can be added. After applying more tape and not putting the shower head on so tight the problem was solved.

Moving on from there we grabbed a sander and some tools to fix a door that kept catching when the tenant tried to close the door. The door also squeaked. It was an annoyance to the tenants. Being friends of those tenants, it was my honor to be able to come by and fix the issue. My teacher is an auteur of precision. For him to sit back, teach me, watch me and not take over is worth noting. We fixed the squeaking and the two problems causing the door to catch. And even though my hand is still vibrating from sanding that door like a boss (pronounced: b-auce), it was well worth it.
After sanding, we noticed a metal fixture attached to the bottom of the door needed to be removed, manipulated then reattached. Many of the screws had stripped the wood but this only gave me an opportunity to learn. Stick a toothpick in the hole and break it off. Now the screw has something to catch when you drill the screw back into the wood.

All that was left was some light fixtures in the carport. A light introduction into the world of electrical work. What a great day! Wait what? Who did what?! Just before moving onto the final task of the day, Mrs. Roper, with a pleasant smile on her face, presented me with an opportunity.  A new challenge approaches?!

I've got something for you to learn how to do. 

I washed my hands vigorously like I was prepping for surgery. I was honestly very excited to have the opportunity to learn how to properly change a diaper. My only other diaper experience involved my friend and I tossing his little sisters diapers on the roof of our apartment complex. Learning how to change diapers and properly dispose of them could come in handy one day. But as I sat there in front of the little one, I froze up. She was so tiny and delicate, just a quiet inquisitive princess relaxing on a blanket. I didn't want to do anything wrong, I didn't want to hurt her. This is their first child! What if I put too much baby powder on her? I did. What if I hurt her tiny legs? I didn't. What if she started to cry? She didn't. Kelly, the mother of this bundle of joy was loving every second of my awkward encounter. The night before I cleaned military rifles. I had just gone Bob Villa on that apartment complex and I can't man up now?! Granted when I cleaned the guns, it didn't reek of mass destruction.

Kelly took the role of the primary teacher as Scott, the father of the child, mostly watched and snapped photos. "Take pictures of him," she laughed, as I recoiled at any slight movement from the tiny challenge. "Is this okay," I often asked after every task.  To my surprise, it wasn't that big of a mess. I had heard some horror stories, so I was relieved this task was so manageable. I was shocked at how I could lift her to get a new diaper under her, more her this way, more her that way, and she sat there and just gave me looks. She wasn't uncomfortable or unhappy at all. But I suppose she's done this before.

I did the job. Not necessarily like a boss (You know how to say it now right?) but I got the job done. All that's left to do is close this diaper up! That is until I had (paraphrased) the following conversation:

Kelly: Did she just pee?
Me: Are you serious?! Can that happen?
Kelly: Totally! It can happen at anytime. 
Me: She did this on purpose!
Kelly: She wanted to help you get the full experience. 

I'd like to think I did a better job the second time around, but you'll have to ask the little one. Ha! You can't so I have creative license. I am the world's greatest diaper changer. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Challenge!

While September's challenge doesn't officially end until October 15th, I'm going begin work on October's challenge immediately.

This challenge has by far been the most requested challenge to date. Easily 2/3 (two-thirds or two out of three, either way you read it you'll be correct) of the readers have made their voices heard and believe it would be a good challenge for me to write a note/letter once a day. As much as I resisted initially, I must agree it is a challenge and one I NEED to undertake.

  1. My handwriting is horrible. - This challenge will either improve it or embarrass me enough to never write again
  2. I haven't KIT'ed. - The common initial-ism used in American yearbooks to remember to "keep in touch". I have lost contact with many of the people I appreciate. 
  3. A little note goes a long way - I believe a handwritten note means more in 2011 than an email or even a verbal acknowledgement of appreciation. 
  4. Its better to receive than to receive - In the last year, I have received two cards and one letter in the mail from my peers. Unwarranted and unexpected. Triplehandedly the best thing to happen to me via my mailbox since the court sent me that letter that all the charges were dropped.
  5. I'm not a good writer. - Shocking. I think this will help me with my writing skills. I'd like to go George Washington on you guys with my letters.

I don't come from the school of thought that a handwritten note needs to be sent every time someone has you  over for some grub or has a meaningful conversation. If I say thank you, I mean it, however, I appreciate the handwritten note, and believe it should be used wisely to keep its credibility alive. The reason why a written note means more than email is because email is so commonplace.

I won't be blogging much at all this month, I'll be doing enough writing already.

Lastly, I have been meaning to reach out to someone I consider to be a great friend. I've wanted to update them on my life, find out more about whats going on with them but I have failed to do so. I'm honestly not sure if he is even one of the three people that reads this blog but he deserves the first letter and he will get it. I'm sorry for taking so long my friend.

As for the other 29, I'm not sure who will get one or how I will decide. Given the events that occur this month, it will probably include some lonely or ill brothers and sisters. Not receiving one doesn't mean you don't meaning anything to me. And receiving one doesn't mean I'm using this as an excuse to reach out to my secret crush. Unless your name happens to be

There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

It started like most typical weekend evenings in Los Angeles. A dinner made up of fresh ingredients, most of which came from the hosts garden. Bottles of wine, an assortment of cheese and grapes were on hand as the kids performed tricks on their newly acquired scooters. I respect evenings like this, I love them which is partially why I dress up for them. I acknowledge, at least to myself that I like being a yuppie in Los Angeles. But something was different about tonight. As I mentioned, the wine flowed, the amazing conversation and laughs were there but something was definitely different. I was there not just for an evening with friends but to learn a skill.

After dinner I found myself staring at a Marlon Glenfield Model 60 .22 Caliber and an Australian Jungle Sniper Rifle - Enfield .303 Caliber. Sure, I’ve shot guns before, I live in Los Angeles, but never before had I taken a gun apart, understood the mechanics and cared for a piece of machinery.

Learning from the master. Notice how he holds the gun down.

When I asked my host to teach me something unique, I jumped at the chance to learn how to properly take apart and clean a classic weapon. I saw us sitting in the jungle taking apart our rifles, cleaning them before a hunt. In reality, we sat comfortably on the living room in front of the other guests as they watched Pirates of the Caribbean. This honestly added a nice addition to learning this, if I make a complete mess of myself with the oil, break his gun or handle the rifle like city boy, there will be witnesses. Some of them...lady witnesses.

We took the guns apart and my host explained how each gun functioned, what each part was doing when the user took an action. The mechanics of it all were fascinating, but holding thing really made me want to go out and shoot down Pepsi cans. I wouldn't say the skill or experience was hard by any means but it was a thrilling experience. There was something satisfying about working with my hands, that I had forgotten about until recently. When I was putting the gun back together, I was having difficulty sliding the bolt back into its proper place. "What does it take to get this thing back down", I asked, defeated. "Confidence", my teacher replied. Touché, Paul Hogan. I could explain in detail the instructions given to me and how to take a gun apart and clean it, but I suggest you go out and learn also. Also, I probably wouldn’t it justice.

Working with hands might have been the central theme of the night. Not all the men were on the ground getting dirty and greasy taking apart a machine and putting it back together. While some were reloading bullets with one hand (me) I found another comrade working diligently with his hands, learning a difficult skill. 

Add caption

I can't exactly teach you all everything I learned, but I can share some of the key words I remember.

Words I remember:
  • Gun
  • barrel
  • safety (seeing red means its...on?)
  • stock
  • sight
  • bolt
  • magazine
  • bolt sliding thing?
Overall a great experience and I’m very happy my hosts took time out of their lives to show me this skill. Though this entry doesn’t do the evening or the learning experience justice, I am confident in my ability to disassemble and clean a rifle. I have gained an understanding on the inner workings of a rifle.

The only thing I’m confused about is what light reading has anything to do with bullets.

And with that horrible joke, I bid thee goodnight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Challenge!

Bottom of the third quarter and we are all tied up at 4. Not the score I wanted but I look back so far and smile at what I've tried. I'm reminded of the famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam.  One of the MANY reasons why this all started was to learn a thing or two. After visiting the Ranch and learning several foreign skills that are commonplace for a manual laborer, I desired to learn more skills that would help me now, in the long run, improve the quality of my life, be fun to know or just be something a guy should know.

Many have suggested it, and I agree...

This month's challenge is a skills challenge.

I will seek to learn several skills this month. Many of those skills will be determined throughout the next 30 days, but include learning how to:

Sew on a button
Change a diaper & wrap a baby in a blanket
Determine north without the use of a compass from anywhere.
Change spark plugs
General household handyman maintenance.

As usual, I recommend you challenge yourself. Are there any tasks you have always wanted to learn? Anything you should learn to improve the quality of your life? Anything that would at the very least be interesting to experience?

Turn off the video games, close off your Netflix, put down your sandwich and tell her you will call back later. Its time to learn some skillz.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

August Results!

It's no secret that I have some issues with some of the conveniences of modern technology, and it's no secret that when someone puts a camera in my face without asking, I tend to react like they work for TMZ. I like to enjoy myself, and too often I've been at gatherings where cameras, phones or other recording devices were brought out to showcase all the fun "we were having". I'm all for theatrics, but staging an event or a memory for the sake of showing other people rubs me the wrong way. Why are we recording this? Is this because I have a horrible memory? Is this for my good friend on the Isle of Man who would appreciate seeing this? Or am I seeking validation or even worse, envy, from my peers. I'm the type of person that enjoys stopping to smell the roses, to marvel at their magnificence and then move on.

For awhile now I suspected that my attitudes toward photography might not be balanced, so I devised this month's challenge as a way for me to get inside the mind of a photographer, by becoming a photographer myself. Frankly, I've come to see that not everyone is the same (Shocking) and some people enjoy stopping to look at the flowers, side step, pull out their camera and capturing that magnificence. Some people, real photographers, can see beauty in a way I don't see.

So how did the challenge go? Was I able to stick to the photo challenge? Arguably the easiest challenge yet?!

Results: FAILED

Analysis: "Are you serious, bro?!" I'm so upset I didn't pass this challenge! As I said, it is arguably one of the easier ones, and one I was very excited about participating in. The first half of the challenge, I went out with my camera every day. My friend and I would go out to lunch and look around at the city. I honestly looked at my environment in a new way. (Success!) I took the time to make a simple every day object appear special for my project. Though I lack the skills and natural talents as my co-blogger this month, I took a few photos that impressed her, and left some readers wondering who had taken the photo in question.

However, as life attacked and many external factors caused me to fumble. I got busy and preoccupied. This is no excuse though, as I still had plenty of free time. I made the decision during my free time to not put forth the effort in bringing my camera with me every where I went.

I do feel I got a glimpse into a photographer's mind. And I definitely feel I can take a DECENT photo if I need to.

I love Los Angeles.

However, I am so disappointed I failed to even scratch the surface of the Bonus Challenge. I don't often blow horns, but I'm going to go out and say this month's bonus challenge was a great idea. An idea, that I failed miserably. Computer issues played a factor this month. (Lack of updates, delay in posts/promotion, lack of uploading pictures)

I will say that despite missing 5 letters, I enjoyed this challenge, and thoroughly enjoyed having the talented Jennifer Glen as my co-blogger this month. Thank you Jen! She is an amazing photographer that loves the art. I would love to have you back, and hopefully for a challenge I can pass. As for the rest of you, go check out her blog! This one is pretty good too:

As for all you "photographers" out there. Keep snapping photos. Keep uploading them to Facebook. Don't let my frustrations stop you from enjoying yourself or sharing your life and your experiences with your friends. Sometimes life gets lonely so capture and share! /shameless plug. But if we are out together, can it wait until you get home? The world can wait 30 minutes to know how much fun you had with me. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

August Challenge - Jen's last words

Umm…August is over already?? This challenge just flew on by, didn’t it? It didn’t really go as expected for me; I wish I had been able to post daily and connect more with Jon and the three of you during this month, but with school, work schedules, and state-skipping all battling for the front burner, it just wasn't possible.

I was a little (a lot) nervous about the pictures I was expected to take and post, not because I didn’t know what to photograph, but because 1. Let’s face it, there are some pretty awesome people reading this blog (that’s you) and some easily intimidated people guest-posting on this blog (that’s me), and 2. I didn’t want this challenge to make me annoyed with photography. When I was taking photography classes (read: 1 photography class), I had to shoot a certain number of rolls each week for an entire semester. Awesome, right? Not if you can’t choose what you want to photograph - I was shooting roll after roll of expensive beautiful film on subjects that my evil professor chose, and not having much fun doing it. After that class, it took me a solid month to even think about picking up a camera again. You can see how I would be worried about entering a challenge that locked me into 26 ridiculous rules, eh?! Fortunately for all of us, the month went very well and I only cried the one time.

One thing I wanted to mention along with each picture was the reason why I took that particular picture. Don’t get me wrong, there were days where I just yelled “what starts with the letter _?!” repeatedly until those around me became irritated enough to locate anything around them that started with that letter. I, for instance - not my best work. Planning ahead is for winners. Write that down.

My favorite letters of the month were A, G, and V. They were the favorites because they came to me naturally; I saw what I wanted in my mind before the camera was at my face. For A, I was at my mom’s house in California, relaxing and listening to my brother Jonah play his guitar. If you haven’t had the opportunity to hear that kid play/sing, make it happen – it’ll break your heart. His guitar is to him what my camera is to me. A for his arms - around his guitar - was the obvious choice for day one.

The letter G fell ever-so-gracefully on the day I went wine tasting in Napa with some awesome friends, so a picture of grapes wasn’t at all difficult to procure (I have about 400 other vineyard/grape pictures, if you’d like to see).

V for vitamins was so much fun to set up. That’s it.

This challenge was an interesting one. It was good to force myself to see beyond what was right in front of me, if only to recognize what letter something started with. As the days went by, I began looking at everything in terms of this challenge. It’s refreshing to view your surroundings a little differently sometimes. I suggest challenging yourself with this or another photo project - what you're able to see might surprise you.

Thanks to Jon for allowing me to join him in this challenge, and thanks to you for following along! I hope to be back soon. 

Happy end of summer...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Z You.

and for...

33% of my readers read this title as "I Zed You."

Y is for...

and for...

X is for...

and for...

Xylophones, duh.

W is for...

and for...

V is for...

U is for...

and for...

T is for...

and for...

S is for...

and for...

R is for...

and for...

Yes, I'm aware this is the second "hand holding food" photo. But this tomato was HUGE. It "had" to be photographed.

Q is for...

and for...

This one also satisfies a bonus challenge photo. Can you guess?

P is for...

and for...

O is for...

N is for...

And for...

M is for...

And for...

L is for...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011