Category Archives: Peter’s Stuff

Things Peter is doing, interested in, or otherwise feels like posting


If only people understood how un-cool secret stuff really is… Scott Adams came close in this strip:

The super secret squirrels convened
Their meeting in the vault
Each day at noon they gathered there
Discussing who knows what

The watchers all looked in from out
As blind and dumb and deaf
As though they had no mouth or ears
To use for baited breath

Whispers swirled from left to right
Then back around again
Tales of conquests in the works
Cabals of greed and sin

Murmurings of secret tech
Sensors, planes, and tools
Laser guns and mind control
Oh man... it sounded cool

While all along the secret squirrels
Sat bored and languid then
And hour by hour discussed at length
The font for slide one-ten

The Parrot

Almost endless years of school
Countless hours of study
Promotions moving ever up
An awful sense of duty

To be the expert and make change
A constant goal since youth
Use of hands and head at once
Connecting truth with truth

Explore and build to meet demand
Reflect on what's been made
More to know you've done it right
Than strictly to get paid

A phantom of some lingering dream
Haunting daily chores
Wants unmet in truthful life
Like salt in open sores

No new ideas are his today
Great works he builds no more
He simply gathers and compiles
Then brings it to the fore

With words they laud and stroke him
Encourage, praise and bless
But in his mind he is a fraud
A parrot or even less


I’ve always liked writing, but rarely get a chance to write things not formal, technical, or even worse… bureaucratic.  Given my background, you’d think anything artistic would have atrophied years ago, and in truth it probably has.  However, though unqualified and not particularly gifted, every once in a while I get an urge to dust off the non-analytical parts of my self and see just how much of it is left.

In a home filled with artistic, musical, and literary talent, I often end up filling the requirement for an audience.  It’s unlikely anyone would ask me to perform when they have access to Liz, Sydney, and Isaac.  Over the years, I’ve been less and less likely to publicly attempt any form of art.  Even deciding to post this to be visible for the three or so people who might  occasionally read this blog has been an internal struggle.

That said, I had a few hours to myself this morning after taking Sydney to her EARLY morning babysitting job, and didn’t want to go back to bed for fear of waking Liz.  The urge came upon me to write, so I did.

Shiftless anticipation
Stirred by clouded foresight
Knowing that life is a journey 
To struggle, to labor, to fight

How many rounds 'till it's over?
Will I overcome in the end?
Have I strength and the power
For these care burdened hours?
Not to crack, not to buckle nor bend? 

Blind in a void of unknowing
There's something required of me
Yet I can't quite descry it
Or even imply it
Such a hungry desire to see...

So reluctantly I've followed 
Paths thought hidden and crookedly bent 
Longing for places I've already been
Guided by signposts unseen
As I wonder to whom I am sent

Certainly something is building
Each step has a purpose occult
Guided to paths I've not wanted
By a prod, a hard nudge, or a jolt

Weakness calls out now to slumber
Says it always works out in the end
Doubting there's life can I touch
Often too weak to do much
Tapped out, no strength left now to lend

Stop on the way and set down your load
Let some other son pick up the slack
Rest for a season right where you stand
Drop the burdens now placed on your back 

Reality's quick with the answer:
Sleep is the prodigal's child
No gift that you claim
Is for those of your name
It is wrong from your neighbor to hide

In answer I cry out in anquish
Fatigue swelling large in my breast
I have done what I can
When is it enough? 
Must I really go on without rest?

When the strength is all gone
And my will neigh to break
A lantern shows dimly ahead
Another's weak glimmer drives shadows away
Their light extinguishes dread

It winks to me comfort and courage
It tells me that I'm not alone
You're smart and you're strong
And you will carry on
We'll continue together 'till done

So into the darkness one nudge at a time
Groping and feeling my way
Hoping and praying the work that I do
Will brighten another's dark day

How to Talk Yourself Into Buying a New Car

UPDATE:  Apparently someone who loves us read this and assumed the accident happened the day I posted the story.  For clarification purposes, and to avoid any more panicked phone calls, this is the accident we were in back in early November 2013.  I know I’m bad about telling y’all about stuff that happens, but you can be sure that if I end up riding in an ambulance again, you won’t hear about it first through a blog I keep mostly to please myself and write things in a format not dictated by my employer.

Liz and I don’t really care for owing people (or institutions for that matter) money.  When we purchased our van several years ago we almost choked on the loan, so it was a great relief when we paid off it and all the other debt we had a few years ago.  For the first time in our married life, we outright owned two cars that were mechanically sound and were likely to remain that way for several years more.

Attempting to be prudent, and get ahead of the certain future need to replace one of the cars, we went through the budget to figure out how much we could save, and when we would have enough to pay for a new car with cash.  Estimating how much longer our car would last based on our experience with previous clunkers and looking hard at the budget, we figured we could save enough in about 4 years and have a few years to spare in case something unexpected happened.   That was a Friday night.

Saturday we left Sydney at home to watch the boys and went out to eat at a decent place in a small town about an hour outside the city.  Dinner was tasty, the companionship wonderful, and the evening generally pleasant.  Since we normally are at least 15 minutes from any grocery store, we opted to make a short detour to the grocery store a few blocks down the road before heading home.

That delay and detour turned out to have significant implications.   As we were headed back home from the store, and right as we were approaching the restaurant we had eaten at earlier in the day, a black pickup turned across traffic headed for the restaurant parking lot.  He didn’t slow down or look.  I had about half a second to react, just enough time to get some lateral momentum going  before we hit nearly head-on.   The sideways motion probably saved us, because I was doing about 55 when we hit, and rather than completely crushing us, the two cars connected, spun round and slid sideways, bleeding off some of the momentum and softening the impact.

We discovered a few things in all this fun.

1. There were shin-airbags in the van behind plastic panels.  Those panels hurt when they get blown out at your shins.

2. Riding to a hospital 45 minutes away on a backboard sucks.

3. Ambulance companies charge mileage for every passenger, even if they are riding in the same ambulance.

4. There is no dignity in an emergency room trauma unit.

5. Syd is amazingly collected when things get stupid.  I had just enough battery in my cell phone to call friends to pick the kids up and to tell Syd that Mom and I were on our way to the emergency room and someone would come get them.  I was immensely proud of the way she handled things.

6. We are blessed to have amazing friends who we can trust with our kids in an emergency and are willing to drive 30 minutes in the middle of the night/early morning to come get us from the ER.

It turns out (and I knew it before we got there) that all the drama was just precautionary.  Liz got out of it with bruised ribs (from the airbag) and a stiff back, and I only had to deal with a pretty ugly contusion where the seatbelt got me on the shoulder.

On the down-side, the car we had just discussed driving for another 5-7 years was a total loss.  Turns out that hitting a truck at 55 mph isn’t a scenario where the vehicle is likely to be fixable.  Wrecked_van

The truck that hit us didn’t fare any better.  It was less than a year old when the owner decided to use it to wreck my romantic evening and hot date.wrecked_truck

Oh, and that money we had planned to put away for a new car… it just covers the loan on the car we bought to replace the busted-up van.  The Lord has a sense of humor.

A Rattlesnake in the Garage

I went out to the garage the other day to look for a tool I had thrown on the pile that has been building since we moved in.  As I lifted an old blanket I saw a small snake coiled up just below my hand.  As afraid of snakes as I am, I surprised myself by not jumping, starting, or even elevating my heart-rate.  Looking at it, it wasn’t totally clear what kind of snake it was, but I decided to pick up a shovel and take care of it either way.

The funny thing about snakes is that when they’re balled up in a tight coil, it’s hard to get to the neck.  When I stabbed it with the blade of the shovel, I missed the neck and caught it right in the middle.  It didn’t like that at all!  It’s reaction left me with little doubt as to what kind of snake it was.  It’s tail (with two small buttons for a rattle) started vibrating furiously, and it’s head started striking repeatedly at the shovel.  Looking at it after I managed to cut the head off, it was obviously a diamond back rattlesnake hatched this spring.

Without thinking about it, I chucked the dead snake over the fence into the chicken yard, and they promptly demolished the carcass, so I don’t have any pictures, but if you grew up where I did, you can use your memory and a little imagination to visualize what it must have looked like.

If you are wondering why on earth a rattlesnake would take up residence in my garage, it might help to know that we had a serious problem with mice in the garage this winter.  It would seem the snake decided to come in to help us thin the herd.  The day after this encounter, we started our adventures looking for a barn cat to keep the mice at bay.  I don’t really like cats, but if it comes down to snakes or cats I’ll take a cat any day, but that doesn’t really say much.

The only other aspect of this tale that is somewhat worrying is Michael’s love for Uncle Mike’s corn snake.  Michael loves to hold and pet Slinkey every time we go over to Uncle Mike’s, and as a result doesn’t seem to have any natural fear of snakes.  We’ve had to reinforce that Uncle Mike’s pet snake is the only good snake, and that he shouldn’t mess with any he finds closer to home.  I hope he understands.  It’d suck to have him learn the hard way that not all snakes like people.  There is more than one breed of poisonous serpent in the area, and I don’t want him to molest any of them.