Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Closing time... don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!

Miasmatic Review blogger is closed. I've had enough and it's time to move on. You've all been great and supportive since my unexpected discovery into the blogosphere, but I felt my time here was done.

So thanks to the questionable parentage of Harvey I was able to get a MuNu site. If you want to keep up with the misadventures of My Family, Minions, and Me, head over to the new site. You wont notice that big of a change, and I did it intentionally that way.

I hope to see you all over at

I do have a new post from earlier today that I'm not transferring over, it's long so if you skip it, I wont be hurt.

Why I've been so quiet.

Did you ever have one of those days that isn’t technically a bad day, yet it is. It’s not bad in that anyone I know died or was hurt. Yet it was bad because you where annoyed and stressed out the whole damn day. Well I had that day yesterday. When I woke up, I knew it was going to be bad and it just slid down hill from there. I have days like this from time to time. They make me want to quit my job, move to the wilderness and live in a shack in the woods.

I woke up yesterday morning in a pool of sweat. I think the over night temperature got down to a low of 69 degrees. I know my southern readers are thinking, “That’s not hot!” Keep in mind, I’m the guy who wants to move north to avoid temperatures over 70 degrees! I like to sleep all bundled up in blankets and I cannot do that at 69 degrees. I was uncomfortable causing me to loss sleep.

I had to get up early yesterday for work, I needed to be to the office by 6:00 AM. I started getting everything ready when I realized that the clothes I wanted to wear were not washed. So I wore a different shirt, tie and pants. Not a big deal, but the original outfit I wanted to wear was a much more comfortable outfit, and cooler.

Information I needed for the day was in my briefcase. I hadn’t touched it in a couple of weeks, but I thought I had set it next to the coat tree in my house. No, it wasn’t there. I woke my wife up to see if she knew where it was, of course she did not. We searched the house and could not find it. I have no idea where it was at, and I still haven’t found it. After spending 30 minutes on the search, I gave up because I would be late. I figured I could make do with out the information in there; I’ll just borrow someone else’s if I needed to.

I was driving into Chicago, to the corporate headquarters right off Grant Park. On Monday, I tried to grab the keys to one of the corporate car; however the Admin Assistant that is in control was busy and told me to come back later. I forgot to go back and pick up the keys. Not a problem I have 24-hour access to the building, all I need to do is get there, go in and grab the keys. As I’m leaving the house, I realize that the key I need is in my briefcase, where I won’t lose it! Okay… Maybe the coworker I’m going in with has the keys.

I get to work, my coworker, SD, is waiting for me because I’m late. I ask her if she by chance picked up the keys. She said she didn’t, but pointed out that I have 24-hour access. I just kind of laughed and explained the whole situation. We hoped that maybe security was there already so we can get in that way. Lucky us! Security was there. We get into the building, go to the Admin Assistant’s desk and…. The keys are not there. I go check my desk to see if she delivered them. Nope, not there either. We ask security if they know where the key is. They advised it is in one of the drawers. I talked security into unlocking the desks and cabinets so we can search for them. Security was nice enough to help us. We searched for the keys through all the drawers we could find, and were unable to locate them. After a few phone calls and we were able to locate the keys. We are now 30 minutes behind schedule.
We jump onto 90 and head into Chicago. Our class doesn’t start until 9:00 am, the office is exactly 82.7 miles. We left Rockford at 6:30. Now all of you that are not familiar with Chicago are thinking, not a problem. Those of you that are familiar with Chicago and this commute are thinking, “He’s screwed.” I get to Elgin, about 40 miles into the trip, and I hit bumper-to-bumper stand still traffic. Was it an accident? No. Was it road construction? No way. Was it stupid people trying to get to their destination faster by weaving in and out of lanes causing other drivers to hit their brakes to not cause an accident? YEP! All those damn Illinois driver clogging up the interstate. There was no reason on a 4-lane highway to have that much traffic other then improper merging and lane changing. For the remainder of the trip I never got over 35 MPH. We arrived at corporate HQ around 9:15.

I had sent in security requests a couple of days earlier so there wouldn’t be a problem with me getting in or out of the building. My ID badge works to open the door to the parking garage; however once I was in the building I had a problem getting through doors. I had to go all the way to the front security desk to have them activate my badge. Apparently, when I sent my request whoever worked it only gave me access to the garage. The security supervisor on duty wasn’t sure why they would do that as it doesn’t do any good to be able to park a car if you can’t get into the building.

The class I was taking was for Microsoft Access. It was the advanced level class I needed in order to be qualified to use Access in the manner I’ve been using it for 7 months now. I taught myself most of what we went over, but I needed this class in order to be able to say I’m an “Access Expert” on my reviews and evaluations. What amused me was the fact that the teacher spent all this time with other students and when she was busy, she’d have me assist the others on project time. While she was talking, I would be doing the assignments. I pretty much knew what I was doing. I did learn some new tricks and had a couple of the questions I had answered. Overall, I’m glad I took the class.

The Teacher did not let us out of class until a little after 4:00… rush hour. Did I mention I hate driving in Chicago? No, well not only do I hate it, I loathe it, despise it and execration the thought every time I have to do it.

When I pulled out of the parking garage there was almost no traffic. I was able to get out easily enough and make my way down the strip. I then worked my way out of the city with minimal problems. It was at this point I knew I was doomed. When it was time to get onto the express lane, there were cars backed up for miles. I got into line and slowly made my way to the front. The vacuous and impertinent Chicago drivers, especially cabbies, would zip along the line and try to force themselves in toward the front. I witnessed 13 near accidents. Many people where opting for the regular highway instead of the express lane at this point. I decided to hold to my original decision. Once I was on the express lane, I found out why the traffic was so bad. There was some Lexus broken down blocking one of the lanes. Everyone was trying to get around it.

This led to my question of the day, “In gridlock, does honking your horn really help anything?”

It took me about 30 minutes from the time I entered the line until I was around the stalled out Lexus. Once I was past it, I was able to cruise at 65 MPH… until the next entrance about 5 miles down. At that point, all the cars on the regular highway that were creeping along at about 30 mph decided they would take the express lane. This caused a major clog of the express lane. I was now traveling at about 25 mph.

This went on until we where past O’Hare airport, then the traffic sped up. We were cruising along at 70 mph. I was sure we’d be home by 6:30. That was when I saw the traffic advisory sign. It read: WARNING!!! Severe accident ahead at I-90 and County Lind Rd. (Mile 47). Expect delays! I talked with SD about getting off and taking 20 the rest of the way into Rockford. The problem with 20 is that it’s a two-lane road and there are stoplights. We decided to wait until we came to that junction to make the decision. When we arrived at 20, there was a long line of cars backed up to get off the highway. However, the road ahead looked clear. There was only 10 miles between the exit and the accident. It had been 20 minutes since we had seen the sign, we figured if the traffic was that bad we’d be able to see it backed up by now. We decided to go on.

We did fine for the next five miles. Then we arrived at the Marengo toll plaza, which is where we hit the backed up traffic. We had just gone through the booth when we were ground to a halt. When I mean just through, I mean that if the gate had closed, it would have slammed onto the trunk of the car. For the next 45 minutes, we didn’t move 60 feet. I was tired, hot, hungry, thirsty, had to use the bathroom, irritated and just generally ticked off. SD was also thirsty and hungry. She wanted a cigarette bad. Corporate does not allow people to smoke in the vehicles. She was going to get out, but the toll way workers kept telling everyone to get back in their vehicles. We decided to turn around and head back to 20. I found out this morning that I had a co-worker about a mile up the line waiting as well, she couldn’t turn around and had to wait it out. The traffic didn’t start moving again until about 7:00 PM.

I put the brand new (Less then 3 months old) Pontiac Grand Prix into gear. A grin crossed my face and a dangerous gleam in my eye I started the car moving. Friends that have driven with me know this look, especially if they rode with me in my old Pontiac Phoenix. Life was about to get interesting. You wouldn’t think that I would be able to get up enough speed to go through the ditch and do a u-turn into oncoming traffic with out causing another accident. Well you’d be wrong. Since traffic was slowing down for the tollbooth anyways, I just waited for a big enough gap and made my move. With smoke, dust and stone flying, I pulled onto the oncoming lane. No accident, SD was a little pale from the experience and a bit white knuckled. Things just got worse for her.

We exited onto 20; there was some congestion, but not bad. I was stuck behind this Semi that kept fluctuating between 50 and 60 mph. I decided to pass. Now 20 is a single lane road that has curves and small hills on it, that makes passing really difficult. I kept checking the on coming traffic and waited for a passing zone. I saw an opening coming up. I rapidly started to accelerate. SD wasn’t sure what was going on, only that we were heading towards the rear end of a semi rapidly. As soon as the on coming car cleared the semi, I powered swerved into the oncoming lane, the engine gunned. That little Pontiac screamed into life as I cleared the semi and passed 100 mph. As soon as I cleared the truck I had to power swerve back into my lane, or I would have been in a head-on collision with an on coming car.

SD had managed to disappear almost completely into her seat. The blood had drained from her face, her eyes squeezed tightly shut, one hand had a death grip on the “oh crap” handle and the other clinching the seatbelt that crossed her chest. I asked her if she was okay, she didn’t say anything or open her eyes for 5 minutes. I checked her pulse at one point to make sure she was still alive. She finally said, “I don’t think I want to go to the next class with you.” I laughed.

We hit more traffic at the stop light in Marengo, it took us 45 minutes to get through that due to all the diverted traffic from the highway. We made it back to Rockford just after 8:00PM. We went to fuel up the car before returning it, the corporate gas card didn’t want to work at first, but I managed to make it work. I think my promising to use it to scrape the sweat from my hair arse did the trick. I ran it through the reader at the pump and everything worked. By the time, I arrived back at my house it was 8:30. I had meant to get the air conditioner running yesterday when I got home from work, which didn’t happen due to my late arrival home. Therefore, I ended up lying in a hot bed in 81-degree heat trying to sleep. It was a long night.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I'm an insensitive bastard!

Over at Ogre's I saw this post where he was talking about the Empathy Quotient test. He said he scored a 4 and I was feeling all high and mighty. I thought to myself even I'm not that bad. So I took the test... and scored a 2. A lowly 2?!?!?!?!

According to this test if you score:

0-32 = You have a lower then Average ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately. Most people with Asperger Syndrome or High-functioning autism score about 20. On Average. Most women score about 47 and most men about a 42

No wonder everyone thinks I'm such an insensitive bastard! Now I understand why people fight to not be my friend!

On the Systemizing Quotient I scored a 44. This test says:

40-50= You have an above average ability for analysing and exploring a system. On average women score about 24 and men score about 30. Most people with Asperger Syndrom or High functioning Autism score between 40-50.

Okay, what the hell! I'm going to have to check into Asperger Syndrom and Autism to see exactly what it is that is going on with me!

BTW if you take the test, it has 60 questions. I got started wondering after 20.

Also I'd like to congratulate Ogre on a most interesting lay-out to his blog. I'm not sure if I like it or not yet as I'm not used to going sideways. I liked using my scroll wheel on my mouse to skim past posts I don't want to read.

Another wild weekend.

I think this last weekend was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in close to two years. We also kept our streak of wet canvas alive, as we were rained on. My wife, Clone and I did an event we had never done before. It wasn’t a rendezvous; it was a black powder shoot. This shoot was unlike anything I had ever done before. The first difference was that there was a section for modern camping (motor homes, trailers, nylon tents) in camp, and a separate section for primitive camping. You also were not required to be in period clothing, although I did dress for it. I figured that if I’m going to act the part, I’m going to look the part. There were others dressed as well, some camping modern and some just visiting.

I will say that I was disappointed at the number of camps there. Including our camp there was only five other primitive camps. There where only four modern camps and a handful of people sleeping in the clubhouse. During the day, the place was busy. Tons of shooters day tripped it out to shoot and socialize and then went home at night. We had a friend of ours do that, as well did other re-enactors that we knew. I was occasionally asked where the rest of Clan Chattan was, I had to explain each time that I was no longer a member of that group and why. I know I caught some people off guard with that news. One re-enactor extended an invitation to my family to join his group. I was flattered, but had to pass. I am not looking at joining another group.

I entered the primitive smooth bore competition. There were 10 participants. I came in 5th place. I was happy with that standing. That means I am not the worst shot out there. There were six targets I had to shoot at: A white rabbit at 25 yards, a Red Fox at 35 Yards, a ground hog at 45 yards. The state of Illinois at 50 yards, a buffalo skull at 65 yards and a playing card sized paper target at 25 yards. When I hit the rabbit target, I ended up bending it. That makes me three for three damaging a range this year. I also turned their target boards into pegboard with ¾-inch holes in it. I’m surprised any place lets me shoot anymore.

The only bragging right I really have is that some of the guys I was hanging out with were shooting black powder rifle. They had all the same targets I had, plus a couple of additional ones. We were going down the line together, spotting for each other when we shot. The smoke out of the bore can make tracking a round very difficult. One of their targets was a life sized deer silhouette at 110 yards. When they where finished shooting at it, I walked up to take my shot at it. I looked down the range and said, “There is no way in hell I’m hitting that!” I relaxed, got my heart rate down, lowered my musket into place, held my breath and fired. The flags moved… I HIT IT! At 110 yards, I hit the deer silhouette! I went to mark it off on my scorecard, and discovered the shot didn’t count for my competition. My best shot of the day wasn’t even going to count. Now I’m not saying I didn’t mean to hit it, but that was pure luck. I didn’t even try to replicate that shot, as I knew there was no way I would be able to do it again. What was the most amusing was the fact that I was only one of a hand full of guys to hit it, and the only one with a smooth bore. At least I know it is possible to hit a deer at 110 yards with my musket.

They had a couple of blanket traders out there selling various things, but no real vendors. The event coordinator is a gunsmith that used to set up out at a couple of our other events and he was selling some real nice field rods and ball starters. I knew Grau wanted a good field rod and these were inexpensive. I called him to see if he wanted me to pick him one up, and he said sure, so I did. I’m sure he’ll be happy with the field rod; it’s a nice brass rod with a wooden handle on it. It’s long enough for my musket, so it will fit his rifle. These are real nice field rods, better then the one I have. If I didn’t already have one that I like, I would have bought one for me. I did however buy myself a nice ball starter/pistol rod as well. That night, after I purchased my ball starter, I ended up winning another one in a raffle. The one that I won was a nicer one then I bought, it has a longer rod on it. I’ll have to trade blanket off the one I bought to see if I can recoup the cost of it.

I was invited back for next year. It wasn’t so much an invite as an order. I was also told that I had to come to their fall shoot, Frenchman’s Frolic. I told them I was planning to do Frenchman’s Frolic and that I will probably come back next year for this shoot. Another shooter also extended an invitation to me for a shoot in July in at a club in Wisconsin. I would love to go, unfortunately it falls on a weekend that I already have plans. I’m going to have to pass this year.

Friday, June 03, 2005

How to make friends.

I have an interesting dilemma here at work. One I’ve never faced before. I have two minions fighting over who is my new best friend. I told them about my leaving Clan Chattan. They knew that most of my friends were members. Therefore, in their logical world, since I left the group, all my friends are going to ostracize me. This brought on the fight over who is my new best friend.

I have hung out with J and T during lunch and on the occasional weekend. They are good guys and are the perfect whipping boys for my sense of humor. I’m constantly giving them a hard time and joking around with them. This is what brought us to the fight. J asked me what I was going to do after loosing all of my friends. I told him that him and T where the only friends I have left, my best friend and runner up. J turns to T and says, “T, you’re his best friend.” T returns with, “I am not, you are!”

This became so heated they actually held a competition; the loser was my new best friend. They ended up drawing straws, J lost. He’s been whining about it all day. Saying things like, “I don’t want to be the best friend, he’s going to make me go do one of his re-enactments.” “Does this mean I have to start dressing funny and stop taking a bath on the weekend?” “Are you going to make me wear a dress?” “I think I’m allergic to sheep!”

This came to a head at lunch today. There where two guys in the restaurant that had guns in hip holsters and badges around their necks. We were debating on whether or not they are cops. T thought that since they had badges, they were cops. I didn’t get a good look at the badges, but they kind of looked like private security badges. We went back and forth on this for a couple of minutes, when J had a bright idea. He suggested that T and himself get into a fight, if the guys break it up, then they are cops. I pointed out the flaw in their plan is that if they got into a fight, I’d break it up and I’m not a cop.

J spouts off with, “They would try to break it up by separating us, and you’d beat the both of us into submission. You don’t care about the fight, it’s just a handy excuse for you to punch us and get away with it. You’d probably do more harm that is physical to us by ‘breaking up’ the fight then we’d do to each other fighting. And I’d probably get it worse since I’m the best friend! T, I’m going to kill you, and then I won’t be the best friend.”

T shot back with, “If you kill me, then you doom yourself to be the best friend forever. Killing the runner up does not move you down a slot.”

J to T, “I hate you! Especially when you’re correct.” They both turn and look at me.

J to me, “How about TS? Where is she in this list.”

Me, “She doesn’t count, she’s a girl.” (Ktreva proceeds to hit me)

Ktreva, “That’s right, he can’t have female friends. They aren’t good enough for this chauvinist pig.”

J “Crap! That means I’m stuck”

Me, “You know, I’m starting to feel so unwanted here.”

We all had a laugh and left the restaurant; as soon as we were outside, I was going to trip the both of them at the curb. However, the parking lot was somewhat busy and I didn’t want them to be run over. I needed them to continue doing their work once we got back… Therefore, I bumped up their quotas and gave them mandatory overtime on Saturday.

Time for a new profession, in 1756

A part of my newfound freedom as a re-enactor, I have decided to make a change in my persona. Yesterday I was given some information that led me to some relatively cheep copper stills. I am purchasing one and starting over as Seamus MacPhail, Indian Agent… er wait, no, wrong profession. I am going to start portraying a distiller. It is something that happened rather frequently back then, yet you don’t see too many people portraying one. Okay, I have never seen anyone portray one in 8 years. The idea has floated around in my head for the last year or two of making a still and doing this at various events, but the initial cost was prohibitive.

With these smaller cheaper stills, I can set up at events and start making whisky. Well I won’t actually make whisky because I won’t have enough time at each event to make the mash and distilling the whisky into anything remotely drinkable. That and various local, state and federal agencies that say it is illegal. Mainly what I’ll be doing is distilling water just for demonstration purposes and pretend it is whisky.

It’s going to cost me some money to get started, but once I purchase the still, some oak barrels and an unhealthy supply of corn, that should be it. When I get to the events, I shouldn’t have a problem getting any other re-enactors to play along with my making of “moonshine”. The favorite pastime out there after hours is round upon round of “pass the bottle”. Plus they will have too much fun with the idea of a Scot making Whisky. I’m just going to destroy the image of Scots being quiet, sober, peace-loving, law-abiding individuals.

My wife isn’t overly thrilled with the idea of my being a “moon shiner”. She does understand my desire to do something unique and rare. After a compromise, she is willing to accept my desire to be a distiller. Especially since my second choice was Slave trader. I guess the thought of having the stigma that she would be “Mrs. Slave Trader” was too much for her. Not that it really matters. Now that I think of it, back in 1756, she does not have an opinion; she was nothing more then my chattel. If she didn’t watch herself, I would have to put her in her place with the business side of my hand to teach her proper respect for her husband.

Ahhh, the good ol’ days, making whisky and beating your wife.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

An era has come to an end.

I did it. After much deliberation, I resigned my position with my re-enacting group. That had to be one of the hardest things I have done in a long time. I am hoping that they will see it for what it is, and not an attack. I’m sure at least one or two members are going to get mad and hold it against me. I hope I’m wrong, but that seems to be par for the course when dealing with people.

If that happens, I will mourn the loss of friendship. Then again, if they turn their backs on me, were they really my friends in the first place? I guess the answer would be no. I think that is what would hurt the most. Discovering people I thought of not only as friends, but also as brothers and sisters, were in all actuality just using me. I will get over it if that is the case, I always do.

This weekend will be my first event as a non-member of Clan Chattan. It feels weird. I have spent the last 8 years of my life working with this group and trying to make it run smooth. I feel that at some level I have committed treason by resigning. This was a very difficult decision for me to make. I don’t think anyone realizes how difficult it was, not even my wife. I’m sure she was sick of hearing me debate the up and down sides of remaining with Clan Chattan. I just needed to mull it over and she was the only one I could really talk to about it.

I have contemplated this resignation since last July. On Saturday night of an event Ktreva and I did alone, I realized how much more relaxed I was not dealing with the in-camp tensions and politics. I thought of the ease of that event in having to only set up and tear down my camp and equipment. I only had to worry about my family’s non-period items. Only my actions effected my reputation. I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I hadn’t felt that way for a long time.

I sat here and stared at my send button for a good 10 minutes before I sent the e-mail advising everyone I resigned. I will have to call one member tonight, as he doesn’t have e-mail. I don’t actually want to talk to anyone from the group right now, but I want to give him the same courtesy I am giving everyone else. It’s the least I can do, especially since I have a lot of respect for him. I’m also expecting quite a few e-mails and/or phone calls tonight regarding this.

Now I need to decide what the next step is. Especially since in resigning it appears, I will not be attending a couple of events I really enjoyed. They are invite only and I need to try to wrangle an invite. As my previous post demonstrates, this can be difficult.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Now I have to wait.

I’m trying to get into a couple of new re-enactments this year. One of them is a pretty exclusive event. You have to be invited to get in. If you are not invited, then you can petition for an invitation. I have a couple of friends that have told me that I really should try to do this event. From everything, I hear it sounds like I would have a great time.

Last night I looked up the information and gave the contact a call. I explained who I am, what I portray and that I wanted to participate in the event. The contact asked me to send them a letter of intent along with my portfolio and the steering committee will review it. If they determine that I meet their criteria, they will extend an invitation to me. However, if they feel that I would be a detriment to there rendezvous they will send me a rejection letter.

My brain ground to a halt upon hearing that. This is my 8th season of re-enacting and my 6th season as the Secretary for Clan Chattan. I have jumped through many hoops and worked with quite a few steering committees, but I’ve never had to send in a portfolio before regarding my camp. I’m a re-enactor, not a model. I don’t have a stack of head-shots waiting to be distributed.

I told the contact that I don’t have a portfolio, but I do have a website, The Spoon and Blade, with many pictures, stories, backgrounds and reviews of the events I do, including my activities. Again, I was floored when she told me, “The committee does not have access to a computer to look up web pages.” I was sure everyone had access to a computer anymore, which was one of the main reasons I built a webpage. She told me I would need documentation, photos and details of my persona on paper.

It was at this point that the masochist in me became giddy! I have a challenge! An event that not only has standards, but also is fighting to keep them. I stepped up to the challenge and told her I would be more then happy to send in photos in hopes of meeting their esteemed expectations. My apercu of this event was that it was going to be the challenge I was looking for last year when I applied to another event. I had Ktreva go through all of our photo albums looking for good pictures of us that we could send. Unfortunately, the advent of the digital camera was the death of actual photography. Most of our photo’s are on a disk and I didn’t have time to go have them printed out. I could try to print them out on my home printer, it is “photo quality” Actually it is a really good photo printer, unfortunately most digital pictures look like crap when they are printed off of home printers. That and I didn’t have the right kind of photo paper.

I had to get the letter in the mail today. I could not wait. Why? The deadline for applications is today. They know mine is going to be late; being a new prospect gives me a little leeway. Moreover, I used the correct protocol in contacting them, a benefit of doing this for 6 years. I had a long, business style letter drafted up, spell checked, proof read, re-proof read and printed. I detailed every benefit of having my family and me in the camp. I sent with six of my best photos from last year.

Now I have to sit and wait for a response. I was told I would hear something by July 1st. That is a month away. I think the anticipation is going to kill me. I am not a patient man. I hope that they will accept my family and me on our merits. Just in case, I sent with a list of references of other established re-enactors that do their event. They all told me to use them if needed. I figured its better safe then sorry, and having someone else vouch for you cannot hurt our chances. What is the worst that is going to happen? They say no and you end up in the same place you were if you didn’t apply.