All posts by Rob Darnell

How I Plan to Make my Firepit

There’s been a lot of sticks and branches falling out of the trees and landing on my lawn. I have a barrel in the backyard for burning sticks and leaves, but some of the branches are too big for it. I could break them into smaller pieces, but I can’t fit a whole lot into the barrel at once and that means the process of burning yard waste is much slower than I would like.

For the last week or so, I’ve been thinking I ought to have a firepit. It would make the burning of yard waste easier. It would also be nice to have a fire once in a while, just to sit around and shoot the shit over beer.  When I first moved into this house, my mom had suggested a couple times that I make a firepit for the purpose of having people over and hanging out in the backyard at night. But I wasn’t for it at the time, partly because I didn’t feel like making a firepit and partly because I don’t have people over very often.

I’m still not likely to have people over much, but I think a firepit would be nice. However, if I’m going to make a firepit in my backyard, I want it to be something I like. I don’t want to just dig a little hole and surround it with rocks. What I want to do is build an outdoor fireplace in my backyard. Something a little more fancy than the usual hole-and-rock style firepits.

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Click picture for larger version.

Yesterday, after playing around with a tape measure and making crude sketches, I figured out exactly what I want to do. I will dig a hole twelve inches deep and make it perfectly square, with thirty-two inches on all sides. I will also make the floor of the hole flat. So, twelve inches deep and thirty-two inches on all sides, and a flat floor. That’s the first step.

Next, I want there to be a wall of concrete blocks surrounding the hole. This is as much for safety as it is for looks. A concrete wall should reduce the chances of the grass catching on fire. The wall will be twelve inches high. So, the wall twelve inches high surrounding the hole twelve inches deep, that means the overall depth of the pit will be two feet.

Home DepotI looked on HomeDepot.com. They’re selling concrete blocks sixteen inches long, eight inches wide and eight inches high for $0.98 each. These concrete blocks are perfect for what I have in mind and they cost a lot less than I was expecting. I’ll need ten of them. Two sides of the pit will have three of these concrete blocks. That will make the walls forty-eight inches long, which is sixteen inches too long. But then the other two sides of the pit will only have two concrete blocks each and everything will come together.

nullBut the concrete wall will only have a height of eight inches and I want it to be twelve inches. I also don’t want there to be square holes in the top of the wall where spider webs will start appearing. Home Depot is selling these solid blocks that are sixteen inches long, eight inches wide and four inches high for $1.04 each. I’ll need ten of them, to place on top of the first layer of concrete blocks. The concrete wall will have a height of twelve inches and there will be no holes except for the firepit itself.

So, that’s what I want to do.

For the Record, I’m Not Gay

I’m sure some people are relieved to hear that. In particular, my gay friends, who probably feel much better knowing my ugliness won’t be chasing after them anytime soon. Yes, I’m very supportive of the gay rights movement. I feel strongly that they should have the same rights as everyone else. It’s because I believe in the Constitution, Human Rights and God. All three say pretty much the same thing when they’re talking about the human race. It all boils down to Live and let live.

Sometimes I make jokes that probably give people the impression that I’m gay. There was a time when I would be offended if someone thought I was gay. There was also a time when I was not a supporter of gay rights. I was, in fact, against gay rights and gay people. But over the years I’ve moved away from that way of thinking.

These days I don’t even mind if gay men find me attractive, and they’re welcome to say so too. My reply will probably be a simple thanks.

Conserve the Constitution

I believe in leaving the Constitution alone. It’s why I support the right to bear arms. It’s why I think religion should have no part of our government, it’s why I believe in equal rights for all.

You know the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 and it did not contain the words “under God”.

The original Pledge of Allegiance said, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The conservative in me says that was fine, we should have left it alone. Why? Because it respects the fact that some people don’t hold to the Christian belief, and we were supposed to be a nation where religion and government do not mix.

I don’t think too many people had complaints about the original Pledge of Allegiance, except maybe those who want this to be a Christian nation. And they got their way. They changed things. How very liberal of them. I like the original Pledge of Allegiance, for the reasons stated above, and because it was the original and it worked. There was no reason to change it.

The same is true of “In God We Trust”. Again forgetting that the Unites States is a country of mixed races, cultures and religions. Both, “In God We Trust” and “Under God” were inserted in the 1950s.

I think religion is one of the things that makes it so hard for the government to function. We have people who claim to hold true to the Constitution, but they’re trying to keep certain groups from enjoying the same rights that they do. All because their religion tells them it’s wrong. It’s fine to believe what you do, but the government shouldn’t heed to religion when it has a lot of different cultures to consider.

If you want to uphold the Constitution, then by God, uphold the Constitution. Hold it up high so everyone can see it, and don’t put your fingers over the parts you don’t like.

Equal rights for all. That should means just what it says. Gay people must be allowed to marry under our Constitution.

For the record: I’m not an atheist.

People Are Good

I don’t subscribe to the cynical belief. Kinda ironic, I think, because I often feel anger toward a lot of people. I have trouble forgiving, and man, I can hold a grudge. If someone treats me disrespectfully, I’ll never forget it. And there are people who I hate with passion. But even so , my faith in humanity has not diminished.

I believe the majority of people are good. And I don’t mean they’re good in order to make themselves look less evil, like a cynical person would believe. But rather they are good because that’s who they truly are. I don’t mean they’re saints, because even the best of people have their failings, and some very good people can do some very hideous things.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, the good comes before the bad in most people. They’re good, but they have their moments where they think bad thoughts or feel greedy or selfish, etc. But the good in them heavily outweighs the bad.

Sure, there’s people who have more bad than good in them, but that’s not the majority of humanity, not in my opinion. I really cannot see things from a cynical point of view. I find a cynical person’s way of thinking disturbing, and ridiculous. And it’s funny, because I’m often accused of being a negative person, but I think my way of thinking is less negative than a lot of people I know.

…has been completely changed.

Yesterday my dad, my sister, my nephew, my neice and I had Chinese food. My mom had to work the night shift, so she wasn’t with us even though it was Mother’s Day. I love Chinese food, but I’m frustrated every time we get Chinese because I don’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean, I know it can have beef, chicken, shrimp or pork in it, but the titles that cover the meals that have those familiar pieces of meat in them, I don’t know what the titles mean.

Usually I’ll have someone else choose my meal for me, because whatever it is, I’ll eat it. I can’t think of any food I don’t like. If it’s cooked right, it’s good. Yesterday I just told my dad I wanted something with beef and rice. I always get the fried rice and an egg roll with my meal, but that’s as far as my knowledge of Chinese food goes.

Though I enjoy whatever it is I eat from the Chinese restaurant, there are some meals that I’d really like to have again, but I don’t know what they’re called. My favorite, which I can’t find because I don’t know what it is, is this stuff that I think is chicken. It’s incredibly tender, it feels nice in your mouth and it tastes sweet, and I guess, spicey too. I have to try describing this stuff, but no one seems to know what I’m talking about.  I might have to get something different from the Chinese restaurant every time until I figure out what everything is.

So, we ate, and then it was time to fulfill a tradition. No Chinese meal is complete without the fortune cookie. Now, I’m not a big believer of these things. Especially considering that my fortune teller is a factory worker, or machine, that puts those little pieces of paper into the cookies. But I usually keep my fortunes anyway, for luck, and because they kind of uplift me in a weird way. Or at least inspire me to be like it says on the paper. I await the day I get a fortune from a cookie that says, “Get your affairs in order, you’re going to die one year from today.” because that would be funny.

Yesterday, after breaking open my fortune cookie, I found that my fortune was ripped. All that was left was the ending of a sentence: “has been completely changed.” I don’t know if a ripped fortune is bad jo-jo or not, but it sure is mysterious. What has been completely changed? I’m guessing my life. If that’s the case, I hope it’s changed for the better and that I achieve great shiny success a short distance down the road.

Order Has Been Restored

*sigh*

Today I took it onto myself to remodel my website. All was going good, I liked how it was looking. And then, just when I was almost done, I did something that screwed everything up. I don’t know what I did wrong. Pretty much all I was doing was switching things around, but I wasn’t changing the codes much.

I went over everything several times trying to figure out where the error was. I could not find it. I tried a bunch of different things, but nothing would fix the problem. Finally I decided to wipe the site and start over from a scratch. I saved some of the blog entries, but I let other entries get deleted after deciding I didn’t need them.

After the wipe, I spent hours putting everything back together and reinstalling the plugins I use, and this and that.  And now I’m done.

Denard Robinson with the Jacksonville Jaguars

I’m happy that Denard Robinson has found a home in the NFL. Since the college football season ended, I had been wondering where Robinson would go. I’d hoped it would be Lions, but that was a matter of decisions to be made by both Robinson and the team.

Come football season, I will watch the Jaguars when I can, just so I can see Robinson play. As I understand it, he won’t be a quarterback, but will most likely play as a running back. And that’s cool. It was his rushing that I loved most when he was Michigan’s quarterback. So as a running back for the Jaguars, he’ll be making a lot of rushing plays. Yeah, he made some nice passes as a quarterback and I will miss those, but at least he’s still playing football.

In sports, I’m a fan of a few teams. The Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions and the Michigan Wolverines are my favorite teams. But it’s usually just the teams that I’m a fan of. There are some players who I like a great deal, but I wouldn’t say I’m fan of theirs. Most of the time I can’t keep the names of the players straight. But Denard Robinson is an exception. I plan to follow his professional career. It’s my belief that he will be a benefit for every team he plays on.

A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin

untitled2I finished reading the fourth book of George R. R. Martin‘s Ice & Fire series. It’s been about ten years since I read the third book, A Storm of Swords, but I remember the story well and there was no need to reread the first three books before starting A Feast for Crows.

Cersei Lannister is still the character who pisses me off the most. Oft times I want to reach into the pages a strangle that golden haired bitch. That ego of hers is unbelievable. Though, I confess, at the end of Feast I found myself feeling bad for Cersei in her current situation, though I can’t deny that she deserved what she got.

Jaime Lannister became one of my favorite characters in the earlier books and he still is.

Catelyn Stark, what the fuck? I’m very disappointed in you. You think Brienne betrayed you? No, Lady Stark, you betrayed Brienne. I can’t think of anyone in Westeros who is more loyal than the Maid of Tarth.

Wings (1927)

MV5BMzY5Nzk5NzA3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzA5NzM2MzE@__V1_SX214_AL_The other day I watched Wings, the movie from 1927. Wings is a silent film. Music was used to set the mood. Character dialog was not heard, but instead appeared occasionally in decorated pictures between quotation marks. The movie is from a time when the advanced technology of today was difficult to imagine and Grandma and Grandpa Piehl were six years old.

And it was a pretty good movie. Mind you, Wings isn’t the first old silent movie that I’ve paid attention to, but it is one of the best. It’s a story about friendship, love and war. The characters were believable, even though I had to rely on their facial expressions to gather what was going on because not all of the dialog was displayed..

I’m impressed at how good some of these old movies can be. I’ve seen a lot of old movies that really sucked. I used to think it was because they didn’t have the technology necessary to make movies that would look good to people who’ve seen the modern films. But then there’s movies like Wings that blow me away.

One thing I keep noticing when watching old movies: People weren’t much different back then than they are today. I see all the different behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, etc, being featured in these old movies. And that tells me that people today aren’t any better or worse than they were in the past.

Why I Won’t Tell Anyone What My Novel is About

From time to time, I’m asked what the novel I’m writing is about. I always give the same boring answer: “I prefer not to say, but it’s a thriller.”

If you had asked me a couple years ago, I might have been more than happy to tell you. But, it seems like every time I talked about my work, I would later feel embarrassed about it and start kicking myself for having pulled the rabbit out of the hat before it was cooked. This can lead to me feeling discouraged about the project, and I might give up on it.

There’s a part of me that does want to talk about my work, to share some details, give people an idea of what the story is about. That part of me wants to tell everyone what I’ve been doing in the story, to even display chapters for you to read before the work in question is done. But I have that part of me on a gag order, allowing him to only share my progress stats.

I’m not the only writer who shares progress stats on a daily basis. Cherie Priest is the writer who inspired the progress form I use on Facebook. At the bottom of almost every one of Priest’s blog entries, she posts her progress stats. But Priest is a bit different from me, she might reveal a little bit on what she’s been doing in the story, she might give an idea on what it’s about and she certainly isn’t uncomfortable about revealing the title.

I won’t give you the title anymore. Now all my projects are numbered, Novel #1, Novel #2, etc. If the novel is accepted by a publisher and is on its way to becoming a published book, then I will probably start giving the title and talking a bit about the book, and I’ll probably put up a few sample chapters. All for the sake of promotion. But at this point, I’m not very comfortable sharing anything about the book, except that it’s being written.

This attitude of mine might change in time.