Every year (at least for the past couple of years now), Jenn and I work with Greg and the crew at Western Display Fireworks to help put on a show for the Fourth of July. (One more show, and both Jenn and I will be licensed pyrotechnicians. Next year!)

This year, the show was in Clatskanie, OR, about two hours out from our house, way out in the sticks.

We’re talking small town here.

We got to Clatskanie a little before noon on the Fourth to help set up. The show wasn’t scheduled until 10:00p or so, but it takes a while to get things set up, so better to get there early and get it done than scramble at the last minute.

Unfortunately, we got there right when the Independence Day parade was starting. That means they had the main street through town pretty much blocked off so we couldn’t get down it to where we needed to set up. We decided to hang and watch the parade (nothing else to do anyway, right?).

The parade consisted of three log trucks, a dump truck with the local girls’ softball team in the back, four or five tractors, some kids on four wheelers, a couple of hot rod cars, and five tow trucks from the neighboring town.

Like I said, we’re talking small town here.

The parade lasted about 15 minutes and then we went down to where the fireworks were going to be shot from. This ended up being a field around 75 yards give or take from the local waste water treatment plant.

I think you see the bad moon a-rising, just like I did on this.

The result of being right near an open vat of shit is that any time the wind kicks up, it stinks. Like shit. Bad. Really bad.

We got our lawn chairs out, set up “camp” in the pseudo-shade of a tree, and got to work.

The fireworks we shot were 250 or so four-inch shells and 50 or so five-inch shells. That meant we had about 300 mortar tubes we needed to bury. We were fortunate that the city had brought in a backhoe so we didn’t have to dig the trench ourselves. We did, however, have to set the tubes in the trench and backfill around them. Here’s a picture of the tubes alongside the trench.

Mortars ready to be
buried

As we got working on that, Jenn grabbed my attention and pulled me aside.

Jenn: Trav… look in the dirt. Trav: What? [fully expecting to see lumps of crap] J: Are you looking in the dirt? T: I don’t see anything. Rocks. J: Look at the rocks. Close. T: Is that…? J: Yes. There are plastic tampon applicator tubes all over in there.

Now, hold on a sec. I had leather gloves, not a fucking hazmat suit. I gotta dig around in that? Yeaaaah.

We ended up getting the mortars all set up and aimed, though. There were like 10 of us there, so it went quicker than you’d think, but it was still a three-plus hour job. Here are the mortars - buried, loaded, and ready to go.

Cocked, locked, and ready to
rock

Once we got that set up, we headed into town to get some food. The idea was to eat vendor food at the fair going on in the park.

We got to the fair and it was about one short city block long. Vendors lined the “aisle” selling a bunch of stuff I didn’t need. There were seven food vendors. Four of them sold only elephant ears. The rest sold cotton candy, Thai food, and curly fries, respectively.

We turned around and went to one of the restaurants in town, Hump’s. I’d say it was because of a camel theme (because there were camel-related things in there) except for the giant plastic bull near the front counter. Not sure what to make of that.

We finished eating and went back to the fireworks area to find that everyone had moved their chairs away from the place we were sitting. Jenn and I were alone.

I asked why everyone moved. I got the response that it was “misting.”

The day was clear. Few, if any, clouds in the sky. “Misting?”

Hmmm… that could only mean… NO…

“You mean the vat of shit up there was causing mist to fall over here? And you didn’t move my stuff?

“Heh. Yup.”

Assholes.

10:00 rolled around before we knew it. We got dressed up in our fire gear (no flammable clothes, baby) and got ready to roll. Jenn was set to light five four-inch shells (all tied together) right at the beginning, then I was set to light five five-inch shells (all tied together), then Greg and another guy would do the rest of the lighting while we watched for fires.

Jenn got the fusee (which is basically a road flare) and lit her fuse, then handed the fusee to me.

Let me explain “quick match” to you. Basically, quick match is a gunpowder coated string encased in a paper tube. Exposed (outside the tube) it burns kinda slow. Slow enough to watch it burn, at least. Once the flame reaches the paper tube, though, it burns at 60 feet per second. That’s damn fast - until you see it, it’s hard to explain how fast. Just imagine it’s instantaneous, because for all intents and purposes at the sub-foot length, it is.

She was supposed to get back once she lit it, but sort of watched the exposed end of the quick match burn until it burned back to the paper, at which point all five four-inch shells lit off and the concussion hit her.

This is a scary, scary thing, folks. It’s like a stick of dynamite going off in a hole in the ground right in front of you. It’s loud and firey and generally something that, if you’re not prepared for it, is freaky like nothing else.

Jenn scrambled backward to get away from the fireworks while I lit off mine. I handed the fusee to Greg, but, just like Jenn, I wasn’t quite prepared for the blast. Five five-inch shells is noticeably larger than five four-inch shells. It’s not something I can even really quantify, just suffice to say it’s like everything you imagine a war zone being.

I backed off, tripped over Jenn (who banged up her knee), and we both kept backing up until we were at a safe distance while Greg and Brad finished the show. Jenn and I did our job watching for fires (and watching the show) for the rest of the time.

After the show, we went around and made sure there were no live rounds left hanging out for little kids to come up and grab, picked up the garbage, and pulled the mortars out of the ground. We left after that and, after the long drive home, finally crawled in bed around 2:00a.

An exhausting day, to be sure, but there’s something about it that, once you’ve done it, you can’t not do it again. It’s all of the scariness and loud bang and fire of war with the safety of proper setup and equipment (and the knowledge that no one is actually shooting back at you). You smell the gunpowder smoke, you feel the impact, and you’re hooked.

We’ll definitely be back next year. Hopefully it won’t be at the sewage treatment plant.

I have my car insurance through Progressive, which, all lame TV commercials aside, has meant excellent service and the best prices around. Not to mention their web site is exceptionally comprehensive and simple to use - I can’t ask for much more.

My homeowner’s insurance company, State Farm, called me up today and wanted to see if they could save me some money on my auto insurance. So I went through the gamut of questions, told them all of my driving history and such, at least according to what Progressive looks at, and gave them my coverage numbers so they could give me an apples-to-apples comparison.

With all of the discounts and such for multi-policy and safe driver and all that, State Farm was still $600/year more expensive than Progressive.

Once again, I sing the praises of Progressive auto insurance. If your policy is coming up, I couldn’t recommend more that you check them out. It will be well worth your time.

personal, movies comments edit

Not sure I agree with the list of best movies… but here’s a little bit of fun I saw over at Tanya’s and thought I’d participate.

IMDB’s Top 100 Best Movies of All Time

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Rank Movie Didn’t See It / Started It / Finished It / Hated It!
1 Godfather, The (1972) Finished It
2 Shawshank Redemption, The (1994) Finished It
3 Godfather: Part II, The (1974) Finished It
4 Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) Finished It
5 Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) Finished It
6 Casablanca (1942)  
7 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) Finished It
8 Schindler’s List (1993) Finished It
9 Shichinin no samurai (1954)  
10 Star Wars (1977) Finished It
11 Citizen Kane (1941)  
12 One Flew Over theCuckoo’s Nest (1975) Finished It
13 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)  
14 Rear Window (1954) Finished It
15 Star Wars: Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Finished It
16 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Finished It
17 Memento (2000) Finished It
18 Usual Suspects, The (1995) Finished It
19 Pulp Fiction (1994) Finished It
20 North by Northwest (1959)  
21 12 Angry Men (1957)  
22 Fabuleux destind’Amélie Poulain, Le (2001) Finished It
23 Psycho (1960) Finished It
24 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)  
25 Buono, il brutto, ilcattivo, Il (1966) Finished It
26 Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) Finished It
27 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Finished It
28 Goodfellas (1990) Finished It
29 American Beauty (1999) Finished It
30 Vertigo (1958) Finished It
31 Sunset Blvd.(1950)  
32 Matrix, The (1999) Finished It
33 Apocalypse Now (1979) Finished It
34 Pianist, The (2002)  
35 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Finished It
36 C’era una volta ilWest (1968)  
37 Some Like It Hot (1959)  
38 Third Man, The (1949)  
39 Taxi Driver (1976) Finished It
40 Paths of Glory (1957)  
41 Sen to Chihiro nokamikakushi (2001)  
42 Fight Club (1999) Finished It
43 Boot, Das (1981) Finished It
44 Double Indemnity (1944)  
45 L.A. Confidential (1997) Finished It
46 Chinatown (1974)  
47 Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Finished It
48 Maltese Falcon, The (1941)  
49 M (1931)  
50 Requiem for a Dream (2000) Finished It
51 Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)  
52 All About Eve (1950)  
53 Se7en (1995) Finished It
54 Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Finished It
55 Saving Private Ryan (1998) Finished It
56 Cidade de Deus (2002)  
57 Raging Bull (1980)  
58 Rashômon (1950)  
59 Wizard of Oz, The (1939) Finished It
60 Sting, The (1973) Finished It
61 Alien (1979) Finished It
62 American History X (1998)  
63 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)  
64 Léon (1994) Finished It
65 Vita è bella, La (1997)  
66 Touch of Evil (1958)  
67 Manchurian Candidate,The (1962)  
68 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Started It
69 Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)  
70 Great Escape, The (1963) Finished It
71 Wo hu cang long (2000) Hated It!
72 Reservoir Dogs (1992) Finished It
73 Clockwork Orange, A (1971) Finished It
74 Amadeus (1984) Finished It
75 Modern Times (1936)  
76 Ran (1985)  
77 Annie Hall (1977)  
78 Jaws (1975) Finished It
79 On the Waterfront (1954)  
80 Braveheart (1995) Finished It
81 High Noon (1952)  
82 Apartment, The (1960)  
83 Fargo (1996) Hated It!
84 Sixth Sense, The (1999) Finished It
85 Aliens (1986) Finished It
86 Shining, The (1980) Finished It
87 Strangers on a Train (1951)  
88 Blade Runner (1982) Finished It
89 Metropolis (1927) Started It
90 Duck Soup (1933)  
91 Finding Nemo (2003) Finished It
92 Donnie Darko (2001)  
93 General, The (1927)  
94 City Lights (1931)  
95 Princess Bride, The (1987) Finished It
96 Toy Story 2 (1999) Finished It
97 Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Finished It
98 Great Dictator, The (1940)  
99 Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)  
100 Lola rennt (1998) Finished It

IMDB’s Top 100 Crappy Movies of All Time

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Rank Movie Didn’t See It / Started It / Finished It / Liked It!
1 Manos’ the Hands of Fate (1966)  
2 From Justin to Kelly (2003) Finished It
3 Future War (1997)  
4 Space Mutiny (1988)  
5 Troll 2 (1990)  
6 Eegah (1962)  
7 Hobgoblins (1987)  
8 Backyard Dogs (2000)  
9 Santa with Muscles (1996)  
10 Gigli (2003)  
11 Going Overboard (1989)  
12 Werewolf (1996)  
13 Uomo puma, L’(1980)  
14 Giant Spider Invasion,The (1975)  
15 Glitter (2001)  
16 Turbo: A Power RangersMovie (1997)  
17 Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)  
18 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)  
19 Kazaam (1996)  
20 Leonard Part 6 (1987) Finished It
21 Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000) Finished It
22 Hercules in New York (1970)  
23 Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)  
24 Baby Geniuses (1999)  
25 It’s Pat (1994)  
26 2001: A Space Travesty (2000)  
27 Jaws: The Revenge (1987)  
28 Cool as Ice (1991)  
29 Bolero (1984)  
30 Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1994)  
31 Mitchell (1975)  
32 House of the Dead (2003)  
33 Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)  
34 Teen Wolf Too (1987) Finished It
35 Smokey and the Bandit III (1983)  
36 Vercingétorix (2001)  
37 Captain America (1991)  
38 Steel (1997)  
39 Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach (1988)  
40 Cat in the Hat, The (2003)  
41 Mannequin: On the Move (1991)  
42 Rollerball (2002)  
43 Ringmaster (1998)  
44 Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981)  
45 Master of Disguise, The (2002) Finished It
46 Problem Child 2 (1991)  
47 Spice World (1997) Finished It
48 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)  
49 Mr. Nanny (1993)  
50 Cop & 1/2 (1993)  
51 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) Finished It
52 Honey (2003)  
53 Street Fighter (1994)  
54 Jaws 3-D (1983)  
55 Double Dragon (1994)  
56 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)  
57 Crossroads (2002)  
58 Barb Wire (1996)  
59 Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, An (1997)  
60 Bats (1999/I)  
61 FeardotCom (2002)  
62 Universal Soldier: The Return (1999)  
63 RoboCop 3 (1993)  
64 Mangler, The (1995)  
65 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) Finished It
66 Iron Eagle II (1988)  
67 Best Defense (1984)  
68 Mac and Me (1988)  
69 Ticker (2001)  
70 Grease 2 (1982)  
71 Mr. Magoo (1997)  
72 Glen or Glenda (1953)  
73 Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) Finished It
74 Mr. Wrong (1996)  
75 Pokémon the First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (1999)  
76 Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)  
77 Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)  
78 Avengers, The (1998) Finished It
79 Jury Duty (1995)  
80 Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)  
81 Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)  
82 Derailed (2002)  
83 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)  
84 Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)  
85 Freddy Got Fingered (2001)  
86 Caddyshack II (1988)  
87 Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)  
88 Omega Code, The (1999)  
89 Super Mario Bros.(1993)  
90 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) Started It
91 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)  
92 Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason TakesManhattan (1989)  
93 Endless Love (1981)  
94 McHale’s Navy (1997)  
95 Nothing But Trouble (1991)  
96 On Deadly Ground (1994) Finished It
97 Kangaroo Jack (2003)  
98 Batman & Robin (1997) Finished It
99 Pet Sematary II (1992)  
100 Leprechaun (1993)  

home comments edit

I was all set for this contractor to show up and give me a bid on fixing the bathroom mess that’s started. I had it scheduled for 6:00p tonight, ready to get the bad news and just get the stupid thing fixed.

It’s quarter after seven and the guy isn’t here.

I understand that rush hour traffic sucks. I understand that I may live on the opposite end of town from you. I do have an expectation, though, that if you’re going to commit to show up somewhere, you should show or at least have the common courtesy to call me up and say, “Sorry, buddy, you live in BFE - there’s no way I’m driving out there during rush hour for a free estimate.”

I called the business back and got the answering machine. (Anyone else think it’s weird that the contracting people don’t actually identify their business name on the answering machine? I think it’s probably one of those home-based businesses where the number is both the home and work number, but that’s starting to ring dicey to me.) I left a message asking where he was… but I dunno. I think I’m going to call someone else tomorrow morning. Bah.

And here I was, all ready to get this whole thing fixed. Guess it’s going to continue to be un-fixed, which is 100% less fixed than I’m comfortable with.

Why do I let stuff like this bug me? I mean, it really bothers me that the bathroom is in this ragged state of limbo, unfinished but unable to be completed. My blood pressure gets up about it and I can’t relax. I know it shouldn’t bug me - I should just call someone else and move on with life - but when people commit to me, I set plans based on that commitment and I expect them to follow through with it. That, coupled with my extreme need for closure, makes it really difficult in situations like this. I want the job done. Having it open is like having this huge problem just hanging out there, dangling in the wind. Loose ends. That stuff doesn’t sit well with me.

I need to lower my expectations. I know it. I need to just accept the fact that people in general are unreliable and that long term projects like fixing the bathroom paint job do not have to cause my entire system to be in an inconsistent state. It’s just hard, you know? Baby steps. Baby steps.

home comments edit

I mentioned in an earlier post how I’m painting my downstairs half-bathroom. Already it’s gone poorly, and I remember exactly why I hate home improvement projects in general and painting specifically - it always turns into a ridiculous menagerie of events-gone-horribly-wrong.

The previous owners of the house put this stupid decal border thing along the top of the wall. It’s ugly and totally not us, so while painting, we figured we’d need to remove the decal.

The decal doesn’t come off.

We tried all sorts of chemical removers, we tried rubbing it, scrubbing it, picking and poking at it… it’s on there, man. The best I could do was put on rubber gloves and run my hands over it; that picked up the high spots and made it less prominent.

We figured we’d just primer over the top of it and call it good. (You people who paint probably know what’s coming, here. I’m no Bob Vila, so I sure as hell didn’t.)

Primer doesn’t cover the motherfucker. It just gets darker, like a stain.

A stain… hmmm…

They make stain-blocking primer, don’t they?

I picked up some Kilz 2 stain-blocking primer.

Five or six coats into it (I only did a test spot; I at least wised up about that) I realized the Kilz was not doing the trick.

It was time to talk to the professionals.

I trekked over to the local Home Depot, where they have never done me wrong, and consulted the paint guy. It went down a little like this:

Trav: What’s your best stain-blocking primer? Paint Guy Bob: What are you trying to do? T: We’re painting the bathroom. The last owners left this… uh… decal… and… it’s been painted over… and I just want to block it out. PGB: I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings… T: [Seeing what’s coming] …no… PGB: …but you’re going to have to sand it off and retexture the wall. T: Retexture? PGB: Retexture. T: Seriously, you have to be shitting me. There is no way I’m retexturing my bathroom. PGB: You can paint over it to your heart’s content, but you’ll never get rid of it unless you sand it off and retexture. T: Shit… [sigh] Where’s the texturing spray? PGB: Right around the corner, over there.

Un-fucking-believable. I sort of want to hunt down the prior owners of the house and ask them what the hell they were thinking. Next time I get a house, I’m going to require that shit gets removed before I move in.

Went home, texture in hand, and went out in the backyard with some cardboard to adjust the texture spray to at least be something close to what we’ve got in the bathroom. I’m thinking since we’re doing the whole top of the wall, you might see that the texture changes from the bottom of the bathroom to the top, but at least it’ll be a uniform change, right?

So I’m out in the backyard, shaking the bottle of texture, and I go in for the first spray. It comes out a little smaller than I had hoped, so I adjust the nozzle to make the texture bigger and the fucker breaks off. Typical.

Went back to Home Depot, where this is apparently typical because the guy didn’t even look at the receipt, and got a new bottle of texture. Took it home, got it adjusted, then got out the sanding gear.

Now, I don’t have really any “grubby clothes” to do work in, and I figured I was only going to be doing a little sanding, so I stripped down to my underwear, put on my eye goggles and dust mask, and set to work.

Turns out I don’t have the right kind of goddamn sandpaper. The only stuff I have is fine finishing paper, and that doesn’t fucking work.

That left me standing in the middle of a half-painted half-bath, in my underwear, in eye goggles and dust mask, holding this finishing sander and ready to kill. I could feel my blood pressure rising. At that point, Jenn was all, “Look, go take a shower and make yourself a stiff drink before you have a heart attack. Seriously. I’ll vacuum this up and we’ll have some pizza.”

So I did. But, of course, that means I still have some work to do this weekend.

I hate home improvement. There’s a reason we have professional painters who get paid to do this shit.