Category Archives: Random

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!”

Like many good stories, this one starts in a familiar way: “So I was really fucking drunk one night, and…”

Let me back up though. It was in November (I think) and we got a letter in the mail. A bright and obnoxious red envelope and it was obvious it was a card of some sorts. Greeting card, sympathy card, but most likely a Christmas card because of the red envelope. There was one problem with this letter; it wasn’t even addressed to us. It wasn’t addressed to our street or even our city. I don’t even remember where it was addressed to but it was certain someone at the Post Office fucked up somewhere. No big deal, I thought, and put the letter back into the mailbox and put the flag up.

[BIG NOTE HERE: Apparently my timeline is all fucked up here, but it still makes for a good story even if it isn’t 100% factually correct. More like 80% factually correct.]

A week or so later the same damn letter showed up. Okay. I tried to be responsible if a bit more forceful with this misaddressed letter this time. I drove to the post office and put the letter into one of the blue bins outside, forcing it to be sorted again. Bringing it back to the post office itself would surely get this letter shipped to its proper location. Someone would catch it this time, right?

Another few days/week later and you can guess what showed up in our mailbox for the third time. The Red Letter from Wisconsin heading to some other city in Illinois to people I was a stranger to. Damn. I basically gave up at this point, hauling the letter into the house and chucking it on the table. I nearly threw the damn thing away, after all it was most likely some shitty Christmas card and who cares if it got lost in the mail? Sure the people who sent it might be hurt, and the people receiving the letter might wonder why Grandma Edith didn’t sent her typical Christmas card, but it’s not really that big of a deal.

As the letter sat around the house, and as I glanced at it everytime I walked by something started to fester in my head. This letter, this unset letter, probably a card but what if it wasn’t? What if it had pictures in it, or if it was a sympathy card for the death of a close friend/family member? What if this letter was important and I was somehow stuck with it, given the chance to go above and beyond to deliver it or to be an evil and uncaring person who tosses it in the trash? What if I tossed it and caused a rift in the family: Grandma Edith apparently didn’t give a shit that James hung himself and she didn’t even send a sympathy card over his untimely death?

A few years ago at UPS I found a tiny slip of paper that fell out of an Amazon package. Apparently people can send messages to be shipped with their packages on a slip of paper and one of them fell out of the box. I found it in the plane amongst hundreds of packages we had just loaded. It said something like this, “We hope you enjoy your new, comfy socks Grandpa Bill. All of your socks have holes in them!” That probably isn’t accurate but it was about grandpa’s socks. I had an immense sense of bittersweet loss reading this, and it reminded me of this post from Waitbutwhy; it was only a slip of paper with a shitty message on it but the idea that this message would never be delivered, the grandkids had wasted their time crafting a message, and Grandpa Bill would never fucking see it was really depressing. Some stranger in Rockford, Illinois through tiny actions of the universe had found the paper inside an Airbus A300 aircraft at UPS and these people would never know it. I took the paper home and kept it for years — I might still have it somewhere — as a reminder of something. I don’t know what that something is though, maybe the cruelness of the universe.

This letter eventually had me feeling the same way as the Amazon paper slip did although this time I did have a path forward. An easy path forward.

So I was really fucking drunk one night, and was thinking about the letter. I had to get the letter sent to the proper address! It’s a mission — a grand quest — and only I was given the challenge of doing the correct thing! Like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings the ring letter was entrusted to me and only me and even if I didn’t want the responsibility it was mine. That’s simply how things worked. I was the reluctant hero given a choice between good and evil! So I made a plan. A really shitty and not-at-all complicated plan but a plan nonetheless.

Open the envelope, put the contents into another envelope, and mail it that way. Clearly write the address and slap a stamp on it and send it on its way. Easy. But I didn’t want to open the letter — that would be an invasion of privacy — so maybe I’d put the envelope itself into a new envelope. But then I’d have to fold the envelope (it being the size of a ‘card envelope’ and not a standard letter envelope) and what if there was a picture in there?! I didn’t want to fold a picture! So new plan: open the letter, check it out, and reseal it. No one would have to know that I opened it. I opened it, it was a shitty Christmas card (I think…remember I was really drunk), and I sealed it back up, folded it, plopped it into an envelope and sealed it, stamped it, and sent it on its way.

Except I was drunk. I was in the mood, the mood of grand adventures and quests and here I was doing something totally strange and heroic. Putting so much goddamn emphasis on a shitty Christmas card from some strangers hundreds of miles away. A normal person would’ve pitched it in the trash, but I’m not a normal person apparently. Plenty of chances to turn away and give up the quest, but no. I should’ve thrown it away, but I didn’t. I was fixated on the idea of ‘doing the right thing’ and living in the adventure of it all. The world being full of darkness and danger and that the light will shine out the clearer. I kept thinking of The Lord of the Rings again, especially the speech by Sam at the end of The Two Towers.

“What are we holding onto, Sam?”

“There’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!

-Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

And because the clip itself is so fucking good I’ll post that too.

I grabbed a piece of paper — once again stressing I was drunk as fuck and it seemed like a good idea — and wrote a letter to these people. I don’t even remember what I wrote, most likely rambling drunkenly about how there are good people in the world, how I couldn’t stop thinking about this letter, and how strangers can still be good people, and all of that shit. You might know how it is from a few of the posts I’ve written while drunk: just rambling and writing freely about whatever is on my mind. I took a picture of it because at the time I thought it would make a good blog post but eventually thought better of it. Here it is, and I haven’t read it and have no idea what I wrote but, yeah:

This is embarrassing, but total blogging honesty wins out. Apparently I really hate the Postal Service. Also, big fucking LOL on the ‘have a wonderful 2020,” part. If only they had any idea…

The letter was sent, I did the right thing, and whatever. Life goes on.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I walked to the mailbox to find a single letter addressed to me. Hand written, not some junk mail from businesses or anything, and who the fuck were Pam and Steve? Pam and Steve…hmm…that sounded familiar for some reason, but…what? Huh? OH SHIT. My actions a few months ago came flooding back. I wrote these people a drunken and scrawled letter for their shitty Christmas card and they wrote me back. Jesus Christ, cue the anxiety about it. It was time for me to leave for work so I chucked the letter in the car without opening it from thanks to The Fear and set about my day.

I told a friend at work about this story months ago and mentioned my letter I had just received. I mentioned I didn’t even open it because of the anxiety. These people probably called me a heathen from writing drunken letters to them — even the handwriting was slurred! — and making zero sense in the process. Fuck, the paper itself probably smelled like cheap beer even after a few days in the mail. It was all bad stuff, and nothing good.

She pointed out that the only people who send Christmas cards are probably quaint suburban grandmas and/or cute nuclear families who would probably be really appreciative of my actions, drunken or not. I had a slight bit of courage to open it and read a few words with it still folded inside the envelope. Hand written, on lined paper (unlike my printer paper scrawlings) and a few words like “thankful” here and there. It was a good letter to me. But on the backside I could’ve sworn I seen something like “medical issues” and “difficult times” and, what? Were these people also drunk and writing me back? Am I now a penpal to some Steve and Pam from another city in Illinois? Do they even know I’m writing a blog post about them now? The universe is a strange place indeed.

I wish I could tell you guys how this ends, but I don’t know. I haven’t taken the letter out of the envelope yet. It’s still in the back of my car, mostly unread besides those few key words. It’s almost like my anxiety to replying to blog comments and such; what if people don’t like me?! Why do I care so much about some strangers’ opinions of me? As much as I bitch about how life is some mundane, boring, and pointless, sometimes things like this happen where I equally think “Wow, sometimes crazy things do happen,” and, “Wow, I’m a drunken idiot sometimes and why do I do these things?” But I guess I do take some solace in knowing I did the right thing, even if it was kinda silly, over the top, and fueled by cheap beer. Being a hero doesn’t have to be glorious, right?

Streak Day #24 Sucks (and some stuff about the damn virus)

While the federal government has been dragging their feet regarding any coronavirus response until recently, state governors have jumped in trying to pick up the slack and keep their states safe. While out governor here in Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, doesn’t get much recognition compared to others like New York governor Andrew Cuomo, he’s been locking our state down with zero fucks given. A week ago he closed down restaurants and bars which wasn’t a big deal for me personally — I never go out to eat anyways — and now he’s issued some “stay at home” order. I don’t know the details because once again, I usually stay at home anyways.

Our work crew has a Group Me chat that allows us to share work-related information outside of clunky group text messages. This order, once announced, immediately caused certain panicky coworkers on Group Me to start asking if this affected us at UPS. There was some phrase in the stay home order exempting “essential workers”, but was UPS “essential?”

Fuck yeah we’re essential and this was made clear immediately. UPS, as is often explained to us peons, delivers “essential life-saving medicine and other medical devices” or something of that sort. Nevermind most of what we seem to ship is Amazon packages with who knows what contained within. But still, this made me appreciate my job slightly; I was now an “essential employee” tasked with keeping my tiny section of the economy moving, doing the dirty and dangerous work of providing goods to the people who need them. I felt a warm fuzzy feeling knowing I was A HERO even if I know it’s total bullshit.

So for me, life won’t change much at least until I contract the virus. The wheels of UPS will keep turning.

Low-tier Facebook meme, but it’s applicable.

Two days ago we were offered double shifting opportunities at work. I wrote a post about it here: overtime after five hours of work ($30 an hour for me!), endless boredom, and it’s not like I have anything better to do with my time. It’s too good of an opportunity to turn down. While a few days ago I was worried about losing my job, apparently the universe has decided to smile on me and offer me even more hours at work. Thanks to the paranoid people on the night shift that I’m assuming are calling in and causing UPS to be short on workers. In a crisis such as this I might as well try to make money.

I’m curious as to what force of law Pritzker has behind his stay home order. Somehow I don’t think cops will be stopping every single person driving on the road asking for proof that they’re going to work or the store; I’m thinking the order mostly relies on people blindly following what they’re told. Not that I’m going to blatantly ignore it, but I would like to take advantage of everyone being holded up and maybe enjoy a bike ride or two. Even if I do stay locked in my house all the time (and bitch about it) now that I’m told I have to stay home I don’t want to. Maybe I just hate authority telling me what to do. This is America, damnit!

I think this is due to me being of a “chaotic good” alignment. I really don’t give a shit about what the law says as long as I can do some good in the world. One idea I’ve had to simultaneously shit on the law and help people in crisis was to maybe make runs to the store for medicine (like OTC stuff) and deliver it to people that need it. Even the person with an average severity of coronavirus likely needs acetaminophen and cough medicine.

Not that I’ll ever do that: I can’t talk to people. I can’t network. I’ve bitched about my inability to network here on WordPress and this is no different. In fact it’s worse. I want to help in some chaotic good way but there isn’t any way to help.

Another random idea I’ve had to chaotically help in this crisis is to sell vape juice online. I’ve mentioned here I’ve started to make my own and have enough supplies to make about 30 bottles of the stuff. And if all “non-essential” shops are closed, I’m assuming this also includes vape shops. What are the vapers going to do once they run out of juice? It’ll be a crisis all on it’s own. What if I could “do some good” by selling homemade vape juice online to people in time of need? It sounds stupid as hell, but it is a valid service and the little capitalist in my head sees an opportunity to both become filthy rich and provide an actual service, even if it isn’t a “high-minded” service as other things.

I’m really thinking about doing this too. Order some more flavors and nicotine and go to town. Make a Facebook business page for “Jeremy’s Juicy Juice” or some other shitty sounding name like that. My only problem (besides the questionable legality of selling nicotine on Facebook, once again chaotic good here) is my lack of bottles to put the stuff in. I’ve been using bottles of store bought stuff to hold the homemade once they’re empty. Maybe I could source bottles from my vaping friends? Buy ketchup bottles and use those? Order a supply of bottles? But I don’t want inventory that won’t be used if this plan doesn’t work at all. I have no idea.

Streak Day #23 Sucks (and some stuff about Trump and Truth)

At least it’s only 1:30 p.m. and I’m working on this post. It’s much better than starting it at 11:30 at night.

I still don’t feel inspired so let’s talk about this goddamn coronavirus some more.

I’ve hated Donald Trump for a long time, but with a cold indifference and not the burning passion that appeared within me during the 2016 elections. I don’t want to be political here, and I don’t think I have to be, because I don’t like him as a person. Like if he was some guy I worked with, just some normal guy, I’d still despise the man. The early hatred I had for him was primarily because he was some rich, reality star. All I really knew about him was his random cameos in various movies/TV shows and that he had his own show The Apprentice. He said, “You’re fired,” a lot. I have a burning hatred for anything reality oriented (mostly because reality TV killed the Discovery Channel and the History Channel) and he was a natural extension to this. Cheap TV created for mass consumption. Packaged drama. Totally devoid of anything worthwhile or fulfilling. The TV equivalent of diet soda. Cheap, tasty, but nothing of value nutritionally. Refreshing but in a way that only makes you crave more.

Donald Trump has a tenuous relationship with the truth, and I think this is what I despise most about him. I like to think myself as a scientific-minded person. Someone who is open to facts, data, and willing to be proved wrong even if I am stubborn sometimes. I try to admit when I don’t know something and use the opportunity to learn about it. You can’t gain knowledge unless you acknowledge that you’re ignorant in the first place. To fill a void you must know there is a void to be filled in the first place.

Not that I need to get down to data and all of that bullshit. His relationship with the truth is so corrupt that he doesn’t seem to know what he said two weeks ago. Using the coronavirus as an example, he said it wasn’t that bad and that it was a hoax or some shit. Two weeks later he claims that he knew how dangerous it was all along and gives himself a fucking 10/10 score on how he’s been handling it. Once again, I don’t even need to praise or criticize his response to the outbreak to prove my point: he can’t even acknowledge what the fuck he said fourteen days ago. The man is a walking contradiction and you don’t need to attack his policies or anything to prove this.

I used to know a guy at work like this years. One day he said he was a pilot. He didn’t seem to know shit about airplanes even if he claimed to own an ultralight. There was just this feeling I had that he didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about, nothing to really prove he was full of shit but still knowing he was full of shit. I’m a pilot and can tell another fellow pilot when they start talking about flying or airplanes. There’s some shared experience training and learning gives you to where were all mostly on the same page with the topic. He didn’t have this quality at all.

An even better example was when this guy claimed his dad owned a Dodge Viper. Yes. My dad (who worked there at the time) tried to call him out on his bullshit. “Really?” he said, “I’d like to see it. You should drive it to work someday.” The guy then replied with, “I’ll drive it to work tomorrow!”

You can probably guess what happened. Or what didn’t happen. Obviously the guy didn’t show up with his dad’s Dodge Viper and when asked about it he said something so ridiculous, but not quite ridiculous enough to where you could call him out on it. “The car was in a wreck today and it was totaled.” Really. Surely this Dodge Viper existed, and surely he was going to drive it to work, but that damn car wreck messed up the entire plan!

It’s this level of bullshit that is classic Donald Trumpness. The ability to lie and bullshit to such disregard for the truth that it is painfully obvious. I wish I could talk to the guy one-on-one with a printout of some of his tweets. Just ask him, for once, “So what the fuck is this? Can you acknowledge you said this? And how goddamn contradictory this is?” I’m sure he would just say something like fake news and deny the entire thing and that’s the whole problem with him. It’s really okay to admit you’re wrong on things, but this aspect of truth does not exist within him. At all. And it’s shocking to see someone with such a total disregard for the truth as him. It’s so dissimilar to how I am I can’t begin to comprehend it.

I know I’d said this would be about the coronavirus and that’s what I initially started with. My idea was to circle this back around to him now calling it the Chinese Virus, which is another level of bullshit. But I think it isn’t the same as his failed relationship with the truth. It’s him trying to lay the blame on China somehow. Sure it came from there, but who gives a fuck? It’s been called the corona virus for the past half-year and sometimes COVID-19, but sure let’s just change the name to blame China in some twisted fucking fashion.

Let’s just continue the Trump hate some more.

His supporters also have this fucked up relationship with the truth. People who can’t see his two-week contradictions from his own Twitter page infuriate me. (I’d link examples, but fuck linking to Donald Trump’s Twitter page) Like I understand people can change their minds, but I don’t think he’s changed his mind on something like this. How can you claim it’s a hoax and then credit yourself by realizing it was a pandemic before anyone else did? And how can his supporters hear stuff like this and say, “Hmm, oh yes. He’s the best guy for the job.” Doesn’t anything click in their minds that perhaps this guy is a total bullshitter that can never admit he’s wrong? I’m really curious how no one notices this or if they do notice it how it doesn’t bother them.

Well, that’s enough I guess. If you’re a Trump supporter please leave me some hate in the comments. Maybe share this on Facebook to your rabid Trump-support friends so they can shit on me as well; I need the views. Like, subscribe, and comment. Day #23 is finished.

Homemade Washer Fluid Sucks

It’s 10:54 p.m. and I still haven’t written a post today. The weekend kinda threw me off to where instead of writing these before work I’ve been trying to force them out after work. It has that anxiety of deadlines that I haven’t known since college. Well, maybe a little bit with the Morrowind story I guess.

The stupid post yesterday about my Crisco candles had me thinking about all the other stupid projects I’ve done and since time is limited I think I’ll write about another one of those. It’s not the most riveting stuff but I need to get something out tonight.

One fun thing I’ve noticed with my stupid projects is how quickly things go off the rails where you run into issues. Tiny things you’ve overlooked come back to bite you in the ass, and even if you’ve thought about the issues before hand sometimes it’s simpler to start the project before worrying about tiny things that could dissuade you from continuing. I used to homebrew and would worry about what I’d bottle my wine in before I had brewed a single thing. Worry about stuff like that later is easy and smart to do, but eventually you need to face the problems as they arise.

So, car window washer fluid. Easy right? Yeah, mostly. My entire motivation behind this was my laziness. I hate discovering the our cars are out of window washer fluid which then requires an inconvenient trip to the store. The stuff isn’t expensive really, it’s just a pain to go buy. I should also state my obsession of very clean windows. I spray the window off daily everytime I drive. Even a single day leaves a slight layer of dirt or tree pollen on the car which bothers the hell out of me. Winter is even worse with salt water being sprayed on the car from other vehicles. The water quickly evaporates and leaves an ugly layer of salt dried to the window. The low winter sun usually makes one hell of a glare on it that is unbearable. In short, I clear my car windows daily and go through a ton of fluid in the process. It’d be easier to make it myself. And make it as cheaply as possible obviously.

Starting as simply as possible: water. But it can’t be any water because tap water is hard. It has dissolved minerals which can build up in lines or on the car. This is what murdered my last coffee pot and I was well aware of how shitty hard water was. I wasn’t going to put tap water into my vehicle and ruin the washer system. What about distilled water? That was a good idea but the only obvious source for distilled water was the store. If I had to go buy distilled water from the store it would defeat the convenience factor of not going to the store for washer fluid. If only I could make my own distilled water. Hmm…

That’s easy to do. Sort of. The easiest way I discovered was the dehumidifier; the waste water should be distilled (enough) and was easy to make for cheap. You plug in a dehumidifier, turn it on, and wait a day or two.

Distilled water, some dish soap, and some ammonia. Ammonia also, luckily, depresses the freezing point of water. This should keep me safe for the then upcoming winter. I made my first few bottles in late summer and had zero problems or regrets up until then. But then it went below freezing and things got complicated.

I went outside one chilly morning and tried to spray the window off. I heard the washer motor make its pathetic whine but no fluid came out. Uh oh. Eventually I realized that ammonia, while depressing the freezing point of water, needs to be very concentrated to do so. The stuff I purchased from the store was only like 3% ammonia, and since I had mixed a cup of this to a gallon of water, it wasn’t doing jack shit to the freezing point. And all the fluid in the car was frozen. How was I supposed to thaw that to even add new unfreezing fluid?

Luckily, it was still warm enough during the day to thaw the fluid out. My plan was to figure out something to keep the stuff liquid down to about -40 degrees or so. My first idea was to use antifreeze, but this is cost-prohibitive and I wasn’t sure if that stuff should be used in window fluid. A few internet searches suggested isopropyl alcohol — rubbing alcohol — and ethanol. Regular, good old ethanol. Moonshine. Booze. Vodka. Whatever you want to call it.

I knew rubbing alcohol was kinda expensive but I also knew I couldn’t find pure ethanol cheaply either. High proof booze from the store was way too expensive, and the cheapest way to get ethanol was maybe E85 fuel from a gasoline pump. I could grab an entire gallon of the stuff for only about $2, but was hesitant of putting 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline in my washer fluid reservoir. But now that I think about it, I would only need a small percentage of the stuff in the water, and maybe the tiny bit of gasoline wouldn’t be that bad? It still sounds like a bad idea though. Maybe I’ll test in a junker car later.

I even found some freezing diagrams for isopropyl alcohol and ethanol. Here’s the ethanol one, mostly because I’m running out of time.

As you can see, to reach -40 degrees I’d need a 50/50 mix of water and ethanol, which was really shitty to discover. Maybe I could shoot for a 25% mix of the stuff and have it freeze below -10 or 15 degrees — not the best but it should work for about 95% of the winter.

But where to find the supplies? Luckily we have a Farm and Fleet a half-mile away and they sell all sorts of random chemicals. One time I bought stump remover (potassium nitrate) to make fucking rocket fuel out of. I vaguely recalled seeing gallons of isopropyl alcohol there for sale (for farm animals I think) and sure enough they had it in stock. It was $16 a gallon if I remember correctly; this still isn’t cheap but I could make about 4 gallons of fluid with a 25% mix of the stuff. $4 a gallon isn’t too bad on average.

I was also able to find denatured alcohol at Farm and Fleet. This appeared to be a 50/50 mix of ethanol, the drinkable stuff, with methanol, a poison. This is to stop alcoholics from buying a cheap bottle of moonshine from Farm and Fleet and drinking it. I mean they still can drink it, but I think they’d go blind from it. Methanol is bad stuff. I think I picked up a quart of it for $5. Isopropyl and ethyl alcohol were about the same price overall for my project on a per gallon basis.

And my 25% mixes seemed to work. I took a bunch of rubbing alcohol and dumped it directly into the reservoir to prevent that shit from freezing and that worked nicely. It is entertaining to clean your windows and smell a strong alcohol smell, but hey it works.

To make this story even dumber, I recently tried to restock my supplies. I turned on the dehumidifier ready to get distilled water for my “summer blend,” meaning free of alcohol, but the humidity is so damn low the thing doesn’t even turn on. The lowest setting it has is 35% humidity and anything below that it simply doesn’t turn on. Well shit. I guess I’m waiting for those hot and humid summer days again.

I did have a random idea of turning on our fireplace to get some heat and humidity but this seems like a terrible idea. While methane does burn and make water vapor, it seems like a really roundabout way of making distilled water. Part of my motivation with this project was to cut down on endless plastic bottles and pollution in general, so burning natural gas to make water to then distill down into water sounds ass-backwards.

So while making your own car washer fluid isn’t as easy or as straightforward as making candles from Crisco, it also isn’t very hard. I highly recommend trying it especially if you live in a climate that doesn’t involve bitterly cold temperatures for a third of the year. If you do, stock up on rubbing alcohol in the fall. Or booze.

Crisco Candles are Awesome

I’m a DIYer at heart. I don’t know if this is because I’m insanely curious or if I’m simply cheap. It’s usually more cost effective to do things on your own than to pay others to do it. Think home repair projects, car repair projects, or growing your own food in a garden. Sure these things take time to complete but since you don’t have to pay others for their time it’s usually cheaper. Usually. It also gives me a reason to avoid people in general, which is always a nice perk when you’re an introvert.

A few projects I’ve been doing lately besides the typical car repairs are making my own USB solar charger and making my own vape juice. I’ve also been making my own window washer fluid for my car which has been a total pain in the ass because water apparently freezes when it gets cold out. Huh. I’ve had to figure out what to add to the mix to keep it from freezing. Rubbing alcohol (found at Farm and Fleet in the farming section) and ethanol/methanol also works great. My latest project though: candlemaking. 

Making candles is easy as fuck. You buy wax, buy wicks, melt the wax and let it solidify. The hardest is keeping the wick centered while the candle cools; I’ve made some shitty tool with cut up soda cans to hold the wick. I had purchased a ten pound brick of paraffin wax from Amazon last year and have almost went through the entire thing.

Soy wax is another alternative but seems rather pricey. I did some research on what soy wax actually was and apparently it’s made from soybean oil, the same shit you can buy in a grocery store. Apparently soy wax is simply hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I started wondering how difficult it would be to hydrogenate my own oil. I wouldn’t even have to use soybean oil and could use cheap vegetable or corn oil. Surely this would be the most cost effective way to make candles and I wouldn’t be forced to order wax from Amazon anymore.

Trying to find any information on hydrogenating your own oil was nearly impossible. A ton of websites showed up with information on how to make candles but these just tell you to melt wax into a jar. Duh. Other websites talked about the health effects of eating saturated fats which wasn’t what I was after either. The Wikipedia page on hydrogenation is about as complex as you can imagine and has zero practical information for the would-be home chemist/candle maker.

I found a good YouTube video that explained how to hydrogenate oils. You need oil, a hot plate, and a source of hydrogen. Okay. That’s not too bad. Hydrogen is kinda funky to make but can be done. (Protip: hydrochloric acid and aluminum!) But then he mentioned something about a catalyst for the reaction which was something like iridium or platinum (it was palladium). Platinum? For fucks sake where was I supposed to find platinum? It’s more expensive than gold. This put an end to my plan of hydrogenating my own oil at home; it wasn’t cost effective or easy if I needed precious metal catalysts. I wasn’t about to drop hundreds of dollars to make my own damn candles. Back to the drawing board.

There’s also a bunch of information about fats in general. I’m always amazed at how simple home projects like home brewing and candle making inevitably spiral into full chemistry after awhile.
CRISCO!

If only I could buy hydrogenated oil. Oh wait, you can. It’s called Crisco, a brand of vegetable shortening. It’s solid at room temperature and should work in a candle. I went to the store and bought a giant six-pound tub for like $10. That’s cheaper than Amazon paraffin wax.

I only wanted to do this for the sake of doing it, but little did I know that using Crisco to make candles has almost no downside to it. It’s an edible fat, so I don’t have to worry about getting wax all over cooking pans and pots. Like butter, you can also melt the shit in a microwave. No more melting paraffin wax on the stove which is terrifying when you image dripping liquid wax all over the floor or carpet. Here’s what I did. I took an empty candle jar and cleaned the wax and old wick out of it. I then scooped as much Crisco into the damn thing as I could and microwaved it for two minutes. Bingo, liquid fat. I put the wick into the jar and let it cool. I wasn’t trying to be a total heathen about it so added some apple blossom scent to it along with some green dye. Here’s what it looks like.

And it works beautifully! I mean it’s a candle so it burns and that’s about all there is to it, but there’s literally no downside to making candles from Crisco. It burns cleaner than paraffin wax, it’s cheaper to make, and it’s easier to make. It was a really stupid thing to try and I hate to recommend this seriously to anyone, but if you want to try making your own candles grab some Crisco and give it a shot. It was very fulfilling.

Streak Day #18 Sucks (and a celebration of viewers)

This is going to be the laziest post I’ve ever written, which is saying something since most of my posts over the past few weeks have been lazy. I’m not even going to bother making a banner image for it. Who cares?

The past few days with the blog have been…interesting I guess. Usually I’ve been raking in about 25 views per day, and if you remember my goal of 1,000 monthly views you’ll realize that I’ll come up short for March. No big deal. I’d be happy with a record monthly viewer count even if it is short of 1,000. Work in progress and all. This also makes the possibility of having record daily and weekly viewers as well. Once again, not a goal I’m chasing after, but I still do obsessively check my viewer numbers every few hours.

What happened, and I don’t really know what exactly happened, was Thursday. I was sitting nicely around 15 or 20 views by midday — a typical day really — while the week overall was slightly below average. I checked the views a few hours later and somehow had an extra 30 damn views and was up around 50! What? This didn’t make any sense. I didn’t write some masterpiece or market the hell out of anything, but it seems viewers came out of nowhere. Despite not knowing why, I was happy about it. Somehow Thursday ended with a whopping 64 views, about 20 more than my last best day. Friday also raked in 54 and I somehow had a record week even as of yesterday. The past best week in terms of viewers was 210 and I’m at 233 currently. There’s still two hours left but as you can tell I’m greatly slacking with the post today. 235 is a huge improvement over 210 and I’ll take it.

So what the hell happened on Thursday?

So that’s the reason for this totally low effort post today. I’ve gotten my best day, best week, and I’m on track for my best month in terms of viewers even if it does come short to the magical 1,000 goal. I don’t want to do any work today and am content to just kinda sit here and reflect and pat myself on the back. As always, I have no idea what I did differently the past few days, but whatever. Thanks for the views guys!

Streak Day #14 Sucks (and some stuff about writing and The Wheel of Time)

Two weeks. Two weeks I’ve been at this shit and I’m almost starting to regret it. Things are great if you have something to write, but I’ve been in a funk the past few days. The writer’s block is getting especially bad and while I can still churn out a daily post I can’t for the life of me think of anything to write regarding any of those fictional stories I’m supposedly working on.

One thing to note: I’ve started reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was weary to begin because apparently it’s a massive thirteen-book series, so had only purchased the first two books months ago. The first one is like 700 pages long too. By starting on a fucking thirteen-book series each with a conservate 500 pages means I could be committing myself to reading a massive 6,500 pages at least. Did I really want to get myself into this project? It’ll take like a year.

People say that creativity comes from branching out and trying new things. Reading Hunter S. Thompson nonstop sure helps get the honest, no bullsit, and vulgar tone down in your writings, but it doesn’t help you branch out very much. I hope by delving into some high fantasy stuff that I’m not used to maybe the creative juices will start flowing again. But I don’t know.

The problem with what I write is it shirks the entire idea of high fantasy and stories in general. I think it’s my bleak mindset on life shining through. If I believe that life is not a big and grand adventure and that we’re all looking for some big grand adventure to add meaning to life this is certain to leak into my stories. What I seem to write about is the pointlessness of everyday life, as bleak as that sounds. I don’t even want this to sound edgy or anything; this is what I seem to write about. Strangely I notice I also write about those magical moments in life where things do make perfect sense and everything is wonderful. Little bursts of light here and there in the total bleakness of the grand story (which doesn’t exist) itself.

I read 100 pages of the first book last night. It was great. I was absorbed into the world and the plot, while slow for the first two chapters, quickly took off. I was hooked. The tension that the plot was about to devolve into a shitstorm was palpable. As one chapter ended I found myself eager to start the next chapter, just waiting for some mild break in the story to finally quit and finally fall asleep. I think I finally passed out around 5:30 a.m. Holy hell.

One thing I despise about reading intense fiction stories is the shock that I receive when I stop reading and come back to the bleakness of the Real World. It’s shocking and I’ve noticed this feeling before while watching movies. I clearly remember seeing Apollo 13 in the theater as a kid and the shock I felt walking back to the car on a bright and sunny day realizing that, yes, it was just a movie and I was back in Reality was terrible. I’d have to go to school later and I’d have to do homework and I’d have to grow up and I’d have to get a job and I’d have to grow old. Consider the harrowing adventure Jim Lovell and crew had to contend with over a few weeks as they whipped around the moon not sure if they’d survive in the dark inhospitable environment of space. It’s a fucking Adventure. And it was engrossing and exhilarating and it was a shock walking into the parking lot and realizing that in a way it was all a dream to you.

The same thing happened yesterday when I stopped reading The Wheel of Time. Mind totally blown and fixed on the greater themes in the story. The Light. The Wheel of Time. The impossibility of stopping past events from repeating themselves in the future. The grand battle against The Dark One. The promise that every character in the book has a purpose, some key role they’re going to play in the Grand Tale. I put the book down, blew out the candle, and walked upstairs to eat peanut butter on crackers along with a glass of milk. Only wearing my underwear. I looked out the window and the sky was turning a dull greyish color. Thanks Daylight Savings Time. I slept until 1 p.m., dragged myself out of the bed, and made some coffee. Now I’m writing a blog post. This is my Grand Adventure. Yay.

Not that the characters are on grand adventures all the time. I’m sure they had to deal with the same mundane bullshit I have to deal with, but this doesn’t bother them in the story. It isn’t even discussed really and only appears in vague ways. Wanting to leave the comfy town in order to “see the world” or to “go on an adventure.” But they seem happy enough and you can’t help but feel bad for the everyday person being caught up in the shitstorm. Tam, one character in the story, can’t wait to get back to his farm and tend to his sheep, even if things are going to hell around him. He likes the quiet life. If they are like me though, maybe the want the world to fall apart in some huge crisis between Light and Dark just so they have some reason to break away from the pointlessness of everything else. To be a part of something greater than themselves.

Sometimes I do think I’m on the brink of my own Great Adventure, kinda waiting around to the world or myself to totally snap in some way to set me out on it. Maybe I am a future best-selling author? Maybe these stupid posts are all the hard work I need to do to get to that point? I doubt it. This fragment of hope exists as a tiny and miniscule glow tucked deep in the back of my mind. I’m not writing because I think it’s a step on the path to greatness, no. I’m writing because there isn’t jackshit else to do and I need to kill another hour before I sulk my way to work. Another day in my fourteen-year career at UPS. Another post in my fourteen-day streak on WordPress. Jesus Christ.

I really think these tiny glimmer of hopes for a better future are what keeps people from going insane. The tiny glow of possible being an author is what keeps the darkness at bay. I know it’s likely bullshit, but if I really gave up hope, what else would I do? I think if everyone gave up hope there’d be no other choice but to string a rope from the ceiling and end it all.