Increasingly, our journey through life (in all aspects) is a matter of filling in the provided blanks and pressing the correct buttons. Thinking about this, I wonder how much of our life is really governed by us…and how much is managed by those creating the blanks and buttons.--Mitchell Hegman
Monday, May 30, 2016
Where the macadam road dead-ends,
disturbed oil slicks swirl like burlesque dancers in black puddles.
Summer’s loose relics lay unattached.
Hood of a car. Scatters of cubed safety glass.
Great hulks of engines with entrails undone.
Dreams don’t die easy here.
Convertibles remain frozen in airy flights amid tall thistle.
Wheels still spin freely on overturned trucks.
In this car, a family drove to warmth from the frozen north.
In that seat, a young man kissed his first girl.
That work-truck made a man wealthy.
And comes today,
a small boy finding treasure in anything that has a handle
he can hold.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
1. At least your socks still fit you.
2. I like the way you clean jars.
3. Somebody has to be last and you have learned to accept it.
4. Most men are afraid to embrace their feminine side the way you have.
5. So, you like junk.--Mitchell Hegman
Saturday, May 28, 2016
I think I am living with 40 pounds of defective housecat. Some kind of affliction strikes my cats when they go outside during certain, warmer ambient temperatures. They may walk to the edge of the back deck, or jump to the ground just beyond the deck, but that’s as far as they get before the affliction overtakes them. At that point, the bones seem to melt right out of the cats.
Yesterday, I captured a photograph of my cats with my smarter-than-me-phone. I think the photograph tells the story.
Friday, May 27, 2016
I don’t have a butt. Sure, from a strictly physiological standpoint I am normal. What I lack is the protruding, “nice” part of the butt.
Apparently, some of the slacks I own accentuate my lack of a rear bumper—a look akin to that of a deflated balloon. My color matching ability is also in question.
Yesterday, I was invited to a graduation luncheon honoring twenty apprentices graduating from the Montana Electrical JATC program. I needed to look decent for that. After staring into the closet and shuffling through pairs of pants on my own for a bit, I realized that I was over my head, sartorially.
I called that girl to the bedroom.
“I need a butt-check.” I explained. “And, while you’re here, match me.”
That girl laughed and then said something rather disparaging. I think she actually meant to tell me I was handsome.
She’s nice that way.
After a couple of my own false starts, I think she got me put together pretty well.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
I heard yesterday, from a talking head on television, that every minute someone in this country dies from cardiac arrest. One minute, in the year 1995, the person that died was my father. He died while walking toward his flight gate in the concourse at the airport in Honolulu, Hawaii.
He collapsed outright. Little man gone.
Nine hours later, my father’s luggage arrived in Spokane, Washington. The luggage circled round and round on the baggage carousel, unclaimed.
A few hours after that, my phone rang.
What to do?
I don’t know, you bastards.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Ladybugs are roundish and polka-dotted, which seems—somehow—cute. They waddle about like wind-up toys on tiny legs and are decorated with flamboyant colors.
Even the name strikes a sweet chord: Ladybug.
As point of fact, their coloring is fashioned to make them unappealing to larger predators. And ladybugs (ladybirds for those of you in London) are voracious predators themselves. An adult ladybug might eat as many as fifty aphids in a single day. A single ladybug might eat 5000 aphids during the course of a lifetime.
Ladybugs are among a gardener’s best friends. They are a natural defense against aphids (and other pests) that might devastate garden plants. In fact, you can purchase ladybugs for pest control and release them in your garden.
Last Wednesday, that girl and I drove to Valley Farms, a local nursery, to purchase a few plants for the planters near our back deck. We found the nursery closed. Posted is photograph expressing the reason for the nursery being closed.
Good stuff, that.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
If you know much about Nikola Tesla, you know that he gave us the use of electricity as we presently know it.
Tesla was a complex man—a mix of brilliant inventor and sideways nutball. On one hand, he gave us three-phase power and the induction motor. On the other hand, he was out wandering with street-side pigeons. Arguably, the most important relationship in Tesla’s life was that which he had with a pet pigeon. He was incautious with money. Some historians assert that Tesla self-castrated so that his mind would not wander off his work in favor of chasing women.
My friend, Kevin, is a lot like Nikola Tesla. He definitely has the “wandering with pigeons” part. And he is brilliant.
Earlier this spring, Kevin suggested that we (that girl and I) grow some broccoli up here at our place. “I will start a plant for you. You can plant it in a pot by your deck. I will build you a cage to keep the deer out.”
That girl and I thought that a capital idea.
Last week, Kevin began constructing a cage using materials he had on hand. I began to worry only when Kevin started calling his work “the Tesla broccoli cage.”
“I am using as much copper wire as I can,” Kevin explained. “As an electrician, you should appreciate this,” he added.
Yesterday, Kevin and I hauled the Tesla broccoli cage up to my house from Kevin’s place below.
I like the Tesla broccoli cage immensely.
Honestly, the damned thing invokes Nikola Tesla. As we stood looking at the cage, Kevin remarked: “Maybe you will be able to pick up television from Tokyo now.”
I am posting a photograph of Keven standing beside the Tesla broccoli cage. We still need to plant the broccoli and Kevin needs a bit more wire around the bottom. Please note that Kevin (fresh from his work) is wearing both safety glasses and a lab smock. Finally, the pockets of Kevin’s smock are filled with pretty rocks that he gathered near my house.
Tesla all the way.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
I have never saved a fish or animal from hopeless entanglement in a plastic six-pack ring. I have, however, fished rings from the water and have seen enough videos to know that plastic six-pack rings can be harmful or deadly to many hapless creatures.
That might be changing.
Saltwater Brewery, a small craft beer company in Delray Beach, Florida, has developed edible six-pack rings. Mind you, humans may not be serving the rings with hamburgers anytime soon, but some fish and sea turtles love them. The rings are produced from barley and wheat ribbons—byproducts of the brewing process. If not eaten, the rings are fully biodegradable.
The new six-pack rings do cost more, but Saltwater Brewery hopes that as more rings are produced the price will drop. If other companies begin to use them, that is sure to happen.
I hope this idea catches on.
Posted below is a video that explains a bit more.
--Mitchell HegmanIf this video fails to launch, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YG9gUJMGyw
Saturday, May 21, 2016
According to an article I found on the Patient Education website for Harvard Medical School, our memories and abilities to remember really do decline as we age. Our procedural memories—things such as riding a bike or knowing how to toss a ball—are not lost during the brain’s natural aging process.
Some memories do fade.
We lose our sense of direction.
Declarative memories fade. We forget where we left out keys yesterday. We confuse birthdays.
One of my dear friends has a mother suffering the onset of severe dementia. Her brain has gone beyond simple forgetfulness to a point of absurdity. She sometimes complains that it has been snowing in her room. She is pleased that a stuffed toy dog that she keeps in her room has never “made a mess” in her apartment, but she does not appreciate that it yips from time to time.
This all seems a bit sad, if not cruel. This is especially true for all those friends and loved ones observing.
To fade is one thing. To watch a loved one fade is another.
Friday, May 20, 2016
While the blue flax plant is quite hardy, the flowers are delicate. Did I say delicate? I mean bright.
Actually, blue flax flowers are both.
A swath flax is flourishing near my pole-mounted solar array at present. They are definitely attention-getters. Caught in the sunlight, the flowers burn like urgent blue flames against the green grass.
Yet the flowers are fragile. The blossoms open in the morning, then close again in the evening.
Day after day the flax plants put forth their flowers.
We experienced a fairly heavy rain early yesterday afternoon. I captured a few images of the flax just before the rain. Fully opened, the flowers were about the size of a quarter. Just after the rain, I returned to the flax with my camera and captured an image of the flowers.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
I have been told by more than one person that they do not kill bullsnakes because bullsnakes kill rattlesnakes. This rattlesnake killing seems largely a myth. Bullsnakes and rattlesnakes have always coexisted in the same semiarid to arid landscapes. They are even known to den together.
Just the same, killing bullsnakes in wholly unnecessary. Bullsnakes pose no immediate threat to humans. They even provide a public service by keeping the rodent population in check.
Bullsnakes tend to seek warm-blooded prey such as mice, ground squirrels, and ground-nesting birds. They are primarily opportunists. Rattlesnakes, on the other hand, are predatory in their behavior. Rattlesnakes even go so far as switching to nocturnal hunting by the beginning of summer. Where rattlesnakes rely on venom to disable their prey, bullsnakes are constrictors.
Bullsnakes are fairly large, averaging between four and five feet in length. Bullsnakes exceeding eight feet in length have been captured. They are known for being slightly bad-tempered when approached. Though their first instinct is to remain still or flee animals larger than themselves, bullsnakes will stand their ground if pressed. They my rise up—hissing—to make themselves seem larger. This also makes them sound like a rattler. And that is not their only similarity to rattlesnakes. They have very analogous skin markings. Some bullsnakes will even vibrate their tails—though they have no rattles.
If harassed enough, a bullsnake will bite you. The bite might even hurt a little. But bullsnakes are not venomous. Mostly, they want to be left alone.
Yesterday, Keven found a five-foot bullsnake sunning along the shore at the lake. He called me over to have a look. The snake mostly tried to ignore me as I approached with my smarter-than-me-phone. After allowing me to capture a couple of photographs, the snake slowly slithered off along the lakeshore, not looking for further trouble.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
This morning, when I opened my front door to allow 20 pounds of housecat outside, a huge black spider fell in from outside and began hysterically race-tracking around at my feet. The cat jumped out and trotted off forthwith.
I stood there, barefooted and bewildered.
Then I danced.
During my first waking hour, my mind is still establishing connections with all of my thinking hoses. This is a process. Throwing a big spider at me first thing is—at a minimum—unfair.
After a few laps around the tiles at my entry, the spider flung itself back over the threshold and vanished outside.
I slammed the door closed.
Worth two more cups of coffee, that.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to forgetting names. I must make a concentrated effort to retain the name of people I meet. To hang on to the name of a new acquaintance, I normally play with word association. I might rhyme the name with a word and make up a phrase. Example: “I like Mike.” Or: “Glenda drinks Splenda."
That kind of thing works well in the short term.
In the long term, however, I am filled with blanks. I recognize faces, but names tend to evade me like cockroaches when the lights turn on. If I bump into a face I recognize, I don’t even try to throw a name out there. I simply engage in a friendly conversation and part by saying: “Nice to see you again.”
I know I am not alone in this.
There is business owner in Helena that I have known and interacted with for many years. I know his name. He has lost mine. As it turns out, we have chanced to meet regularly over the last year or so.
I saw him again just yesterday.
He is the type who likes to throw names out there. In the last year his has called me Jim, John, and Frank. I never bother to correct him. Furthermore, I am not offended by his failed efforts.
Yesterday, I was John.
A good, solid name, that.
I give him credit for trying. So long as I still remember who I am, all is well.
Monday, May 16, 2016
If there exists a more vital scent than that of prairie sagebrush in the after-rain, I don’t know it. The scent is pervasive and sharp in the same way the call of a western meadowlark is pervasive and sharp. Sage from end to end. Standing just outside my house, I draw in sage-scented air, exhale.
The front door is half-open behind me.
We have needed rain. Here in the rain shadow, we almost always need rain.
As I stand outside, drawing in fresh air, 20 pounds of housecat pads out the half open door to join me. The cat rubs his cheek and flank against my leg.
He looks up. I look down.
“Good morning,” I say. “We have another week ahead of us. I hope you are ready.”
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
We arrived at the Kalispell Grand Hotel 102 years after its first date of opening. By no means did we arrive late. In my estimation, we timed this perfectly. The hotel is high-ceilinged and offers a perfect blend of old and new.
According to a brochure I picked upon checking in, the hotel was renovated in 1939 and 1989. The latter renovation converted 51 “bath down the hall rooms” into modern rooms with a private bathroom in each. Most rooms are smallish, but pleasant (see photo).
During the early years, the Kalispell Grand Hotel charged travelers $2.00 per night. This was more than the completion charged. Nonetheless, travelers were drawn to amenities such as running water, door locks and wake-ups. On occasion, the famed artist Charlie Russell might be found sitting in the lobby.
Today, the amenities are even better. The rates are reasonable. Best of all, I can walk from here to where I am instructing a class later this morning.
To get to the Kalispell Grand Hotel, we (that girl and my sister included) drove through the Upper Blackfoot Valley and the entirety of the Swan Valley. The mountain peaks are still crowned with snow but the valleys have come alive with the sounds of prancing creeks and flowing rivers. The deer-crossed parks and the forest understories have populated with spring wildflowers. Birds constantly flash through the skies.
No single word is powerful enough to describe a drive though such places.
I am posting two photographs from our drive. One is of Holland Lake. The other is a paddock washed purple by wildflowers.
I highly recommend the Kalispell Grand Hotel. And a drive through Montana’s mountains.
Friday, May 13, 2016
There were days when I used my old smarter-than-me-phone for its onboard LED flashlight more than for making phone calls. I was rather surprised the first time I grabbed my new phone to use the flashlight.
I needed to download an app for operating the flashlight.
I downloaded the app and used the light.
For the rest of day, every time I brought my smarter-than-me-phone’s screen to life, the same banner appeared. The banner (from Support and Protection) assured me that my flashlight was not a threat.
Thank you, new smarter-than-me-phone.--Mitchell Hegman
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Yesterday evening, Kevin arrived for dinner with a bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a ball of heavy twine, a faded stop sign, and a potato gun. “I brought a target for the spud gun,” he explained.
We sometimes shoot potatoes from my back deck. Or, as I say in my worst Aussie accent: “I like to shoot potatoes frum me dick.”
Harmless fun, I assure you.
While our beer butt chicken cooked upright in the barbie, Kevin and I ambled down below my house and hoisted the stop sign up into a dead tree. We fixed it there with the twine. For the next couple hours, we fired Yukon gold potatoes at the sign or across the gulch below.
Posted are two photographs and a video of Keven firing the gun. The images and video are thanks to my new smarter-than-me-phone.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Five years ago, on the bluest side of this very date, we lost Uyen Hegman.
I lost my best friend, my wife.
I have thought of Uyen every single day since her passing. Sometimes, the sound of laughter brings her back to me. The sun warming my arm might trigger a summer memory. A bluebird alighting on my fence. A young girl grocery shopping with her mother. Snapping a photograph of a sunrise. Walking out the front door. A fishing boat slicing across the lake. Anything might trigger a memory of Uyen.
I have carried on by learning to accept and appreciate these memories in the same way I enjoy wildflowers found along the way. I was lucky for the time we shared. I have a daughter. I learned to be a better person by Uyen’s example.
I have my today thanks to her yesterday.
About a year ago, Uyen returned to my dreams. Only last week I had a dream where she was standing outside our bay window planting something in the earth. She stopped planting long enough to wave at me.
Oh, that smile of hers...
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Monday, May 9, 2016
George Washington woke late one night to incessant knocking at his door. Mr. Washington quickly dressed and marched out to his front door. Upon opening his door, Washington found Jack the Ripper standing there.
“I’m Jack the Ripper.” Jack the Ripper announced.
“How can I be sure?” asked George Washington. “You were never captured or identified.”
“It’s me. Look at what I am wearing. Straight out of London in the 1880’s.”
“A suit does not a man make, Mr. Ripper.”
“I’m a stone-cold killer. Trust me.”
“And I crossed swords alongside other valiant men in the founding of a great nation,” George Washington said. He appraised Jack the Ripper for a moment. “We don’t trust stone-cold killers in great nations.”
“That’s a shame. I was hoping to sell you a vacuum cleaner.”
“But it is the middle of the night and you don’t have a vacuum with you.”
“Admittedly, I am still working out the bugs,” Jack the Ripper said.
“Finally, the truth,” said George Washington. “I am, however, a poor prospect for your particular venture. I recently purchased a complete built-in vacuum system from P. T Barnum.”
“Well,” Jack the Ripper responded, “Barnum—whether he said it or not—is credited with saying that a sucker is born every minute.”
“And I purchased a vacuum system from him.” George Washington threw his arms out widely, laughing. “I bought a sucker from P. T. Barnum! I find that deeply amusing.”
“Yes, it is a bit amusing,” Jack the Ripper said. “I will leave you to your night. Thank you for your time.”
“Good night, Mr. Ripper…I hope you make an honest killing in your new venture.”
Sunday, May 8, 2016
A few days ago, the United Kingdom’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills did something.
They named a ship.
A month prior to naming the ship, the public was asked to weigh-in on picking a moniker for the brand new polar research vessel. The public swelled to respond.
A frontrunner quickly emerged on the internet. The public—at least those poking around on the internet during the wee hours—rallied around a name of their liking: “RSS Boaty McBoatface.”
Naturally, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills christened the vessel “RSS Sir David Attenborough.”
PHOTO: Ars Technica UK
Saturday, May 7, 2016
The man and woman drove for two days across a treeless expanse. The horizon never moved as broken highway lines flicked under the wheels. Toward the end of the second day, they came upon a small, dust ridden town.
Reading the town’s name on a faded sign, the man grimaced. He immediately swung the car off onto the side of the road. A gust of wind swept a single tumbleweed across the road nearby.
“Something is wrong,” the man said. “We should not be here.”
“I know,” the woman responded. “You took a wrong turn two days ago. I should have said something.”
The man drove into town and fueled the car.
The man and woman drove back across the treeless expanse for two days.--Mitchell Hegman
Friday, May 6, 2016
I purchased a new smarter-than-me-phone and service plan yesterday. The purchase and basic information transfer from old phone to new phone took almost two hours. Once I arrived home, I began to fiddle with the device.
The home screen was alien. Swiping the screen brought forth more alien interface screens. Odd new icons appeared. Four hours later, as I fumbled through lighted landing points, I began to understand the weight of swapping devices. Reestablishing email connections. Facebook. Instagram.
How many dozen apps had I installed on my old phone?
Where is this?
How do I find that?
What in the hell will that widget do?
Download, yes or no?
Passwords, passwords, passwords.
Dinner was overheating in the oven as I poked and wiped through the smartphone interface.
At one point I called out to that girl: “Who knew getting a new smartphone could be such a long and traumatic experience?
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Carmel is 20 pounds of cosmopolitan housecat. He came from the streets and row houses of San Francisco. He did not arrive to live here in the Montana countryside until the age of four.
He is not really the outdoor, hunting type.
This morning, for whatever reason, he was right beside me as I stepped out onto the back deck to appraise the day. And that’s when we suddenly came face to…um…beak with a wild turkey. The turkey was standing just off the edge of my open deck. Both the turkey and my 20 pounds of housecat exploded up into the air and then settled back to earth in a somewhat disheveled manner. The three of us froze there for a few seconds—man and housecat fifteen feet from a very big bird.
I think Carmel recognized the turkey was some kind of a bird when the turkey, folded its wings back in and strutted off to a safe distance, clucking. Carmel slunk across the deck and jumped off onto the grass, never taking his eyes off the bird. He was sizing up the situation.
The instant the turkey turned and began moving parallel to us, rather than away, Carmel ran back to hide under the deck.
I laughed. “You know, Carmel, you really are pathetic.”
After Carmel slipped under the deck, I ran and grabbed my camera. Posted is a photograph of the turkey I captured before it wandered off.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
This time of year, I think about my grandfather. If still with us, he would now be tilling his garden and tending to starts in the warmth of his front porch. In my mind, my grandfather did not fade away. Instead, he walked directly into dawning light from his summer garden.
Posted today is a picture of a picture copied from a picture of my grandfather. Though three times removed from the garden light…he is still there.
--Mitchell George Hegman
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
In a blog posted only five days ago, I wrote about my boiler and my hot tub both giving up the ghost within a two-day period. “What’s the third thing?” my friend, Kevin, asked when I told him about those.
Everyone recognizes that things fail in groups of three.
On Sunday, while at my cabin collecting some firewood, I thought about the “third thing” as I pull-started my chain saw. That girl entertained the very same thought as she watched me struggling to bring the saw engine to life. Fortunately, the saw eventually sputtered to life and ran flawlessly for the entire day.
Yesterday, the third thing finally broke. Another water-related contrivance failed spectacularly.
As that girl and I sat drinking coffee, we heard the water softening system kick on in the laundry room. During one stage of the process, the system banged loudly and then sounded like it was pumping marbles against a snare drum. “Geez, that’s quite a racket,” that girl noted.
“Yeah,” I replied, “it has always been loud like that...at least since I upgraded the system about eight years ago. Not sure what the deal is.”
“That would be scary in the middle of the night.”
“I know. My cats plastered themselves against the door the first time they heard it.”
After a couple more sips of her coffee—filled with a mix of curiosity and suspicion—that girl headed to the laundry room. She yelped the second she entered the room. “Mitch, you need to get in here right away. Water is squirting everywhere!”
The third thing turned out to be a broken water line on the water softening system and an indoor flood.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Trulicity®: A drug for treating diabetes.
Approaching Storm: A paint color from Glidden.
Twerking: That provocative thing singers sometimes do on stage.
Niblings: A person’s nieces and nephews.
Wyd: What are you doing?
Fleek: Well groomed.
Yes: No, actually.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Yesterday, I taught a class in Butte. The venue for the class was only five blocks down the street from my sister’s house. After I finished my class, I drove down the street to visit with my sister and brother-in-law. When I reached my sister’s house, I discovered a solid line of cars and trucks on each side of the street, save a single small spot directly in front of the house. I drove by slowly, assessing the spot.
This would require parallel parking.
I circled back around to make an attempt at parallel parking in the spot. I will spare you the long version of my parking and merely offer a few fragments of what occurred.
First attempt: wrong angle.
Second attempt: rear tire on the sidewalk, nose in the street.
Exit truck and evaluate the situation.
Third attempt, four feet from the curb.
Fourth attempt: fuck you, you fucking fuck! It is what it is!
During the heat of the parking attempt, I briefly considered Googling for parking tips on my smarter-than-me-phone. I did conduct just such a Google search this morning. There are lots of parallel parking resources out there. I even discovered that a British college math professor named Simon Blackburn (in conjunction with Vauxhall Motors) developed a surefire math formula that will help you parallel park.
Here is the formula:
Good luck on your next parallel parking attempt.