Happy Birthday to My Wife


The Puddinette finally caught up to me in years having circled the local star today, bringing us both to the ripe middling age of *mumblecough*. It’s a good omen, I reckon, that we were also the same age when we met, too. Clearly that means we are destined for something, although I can’t quite guess at what. So far I’ve only come up with “being the perfect complement to each other”, which is pretty close to greatness anyway, if you ask me.  I’ll let you know if I come up with anything else. 

In the meantime, help me wish my beautiful, beloved Puddinette a wonderful day of celebrating the day she arrived in the world, no doubt already well-organized and with a bag full of school supplies. Hopefully her day will be filled with helpful, good-natured offspring, a husband that somehow doesn’t do anything stupid for Just. One. Day, a glass or two of sweet wine, and obviously, an abundance of foot rubs.

The girl born on this day those few years ago is, to me, everything seen in the picture above, and I hope she always knows it.

Feliz Cumpleanos y te amo, Q!

Pud’n

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A Year And Five Days Later


Exactly 370 days ago, I sat on my back patio and took a photo of some fledgling green peppers and posted it. A few days later I started a huge project at work and Life, well, life did what life does when you reach the dread Middle Ages and have somehow become a person of not trivial responsibilities despite one’s best attempts to avoid exactly that. 

The project isn’t over. We’ve done a ton of work and I’m very excited about it. Still, it’s one of those projects that will very likely never be actually complete. That said, the heavy lifting of phase one is rounding third and heading home, so I figured I’d drop in and say hello. Besides, 370 days is probably enough time to go between posting pictures of my back patio. So, have a picture!

You’ll notice that in this year’s version, a really sketchy pair of feet have taken up residence along with a swanky new glider, and there are no green peppers or red peppers or peppers of any kind. We decided enough people offer us peppers and tomatoes every August that we didn’t need to fret over daily water and sunning and singing to the garden things. The kids demand enough of that from us as it is. 

Well, not really. Three of my kids are either fully teen or teen-adjacent at this point. Their demands of me at present include: 

  1. Daily excessive feedings
  2. A bed to lie in until the ever-challenging post-noon hours
  3. High speed Internet service 
  4. Additional feedings
  5. Snacks

Anyway, hope you had a fantastic 370 days. We should totally not be strangers. Come say hi! Tell me about your vacation. Or the holidays last year. Or even about that stew you made last March. Whatever. 

I’ll be here, waiting. Sittin’ on my patio. Wondering if those ravenous heathens left me any beef jerky.

Pud’n 

Hey, there, ‘lil guys


Sitting out on our back patio tonight after a quick storm raced through the area  (leaving the air outside 10 degrees hotter and roughly 3000% more humid), I just happened to peek at our peppers. Lo and behold, after weeks of seeing naught but blooms and the occasional wee sprouts, I found some things growing. Things that appear to be genuine, blest-by-Mother-Nature peppers. 

For those interested, there are actually two plants there, a bell pepper plant and a jalapeño. If you look at top, in the foreground, you’ll see evidence of the former. In the background are a few dangling examples of the latter. All of which means, if I play my cards right, in a month or so maybe I’ll have me some salsa fixings.*

Oh, and if you’re wondering where I’ve been lately? Knee deep in a critical revision of Project Macaroni. Which should be finished and ready for sending out next week.**

So, yay! Fruits of the plants and fruits of labor are all potentially coming ripe in the very near future. At which time, there will, of course, be salsa and celebratory beverages.

Bring your own chips, and I might even share. 

Pud’n


*Fledging tomato fruits extant, but not pictured. Maybe we’ll get a shot of those next week.
**Also, every time I think maybe I should write a post, some other *!%#-blasted @&$hole shoots a bunch of people, and I’m relieved of the urge to do anything besides either sit, catatonic in a padded room, or scream until my throat is raw. This also leads to extended contemplation of the mind-numbing lack of efficacy demonstrated by the current incarnation of Amercan representative government. But that’s another post, and one I don’t particularly need or want to write.

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Another word about THAT word, now with added science!

Remember back around Festivus a year or so ago when I posted a rant wondering about this nonsense that everyone seems to freak out about the word “moist”? Well, as it turns out, my little reaction post was nothing in the grand scheme of thing. Because why just write meaningless blog posts about stuff when, instead, someone can pay good money to actually conduct a scientific research study about it.

Here’s an article from Gizmodo that tipped me off to the study, and here’s a link to the actual study itself, published by PLOS One.

Just let that sink in for a second. Someone – or, well, probably someones, plural – paid good, actual legal tender that could have been put toward useful, productive things, like alternative energy or desalinating water or replacing Zach Snyder with a new executive producer that might at least try to make DC movies that don’t suck or, hell, buffalo wings and beer, to solve the great conundrum of The New Millennium: Why, scientifically, don’t people like the word moist?

Look, I’m as big a fan of science as the next nerd, but was this really a question begging for a documentable answer?

Sounds to me like some yahoo somewhere had a life lacking clear direction and/or a balance sheet short of tax deductions. But, hey, at least now we can all rest easy knowing that anytime the topic of “moist” comes up, we’ll all be able to say, “people don’t like that word at all. Because, Science!”

I, for one, am greatly relieved.

Pud’n

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Star Wars

I seem to recall swearing up and down not even a month ago that I was going to reset my evening activity schedule and commit to writing and/or reading instead of spending three hours staring, slack-jawed, at a screen full of bright colors and explosions. In fact, there’s probably evidence of said promise in the recent archives of this website, as opposed to the time I shook my fist at a random doll-shaped cloud and swore I would hunt it to the ends of Creation and take my revenge  upon it for dolls being so damned creepy.

Good thing nobody ever found out about that.

Unfortunately, though, not unlike my plan to get back at Baby Pees-A-Lot, my best intention to do productive things after the kids go to bed seemed to have failed miserably last night. Once again, my feet were kicked up on the ottoman by 10:30, and I was staring, slack-jawed, at moving pictures of bright colors and explosions.

But it’s okay! I swear! I had, well, reasons.

Yesterday, my birthday present came. Now, yes, my birthday is actually in March, but as the father of a large-ish family with minimal wants, it’s often difficult for me to decide on gift requests. I mean, I want a Tesla, and a yacht would be cool, but neither of those is really “gift-able” so much. At least not for my friends and family.

My parents, with what I assume is the typical annual exasperation, finally settled on an Amazon gift card, when I told them I’d kind of like to update my home theater. Actually, update isn’t probably the most appropriate term. I mean, I did already have most of the necessary equipment, but the room wasn’t wired for surround speakers and my receiver/audio processor was roughly the size, shape, and weight of a World War II Tacoma-class Frigate.

There isn’t exactly adequate space for the USS Burlington in our relatively new Ikea TV-stand. The wacky Scandinavian designers are pretty space efficient. Also, like the USS Burlington, my old surround sound processor was basically ancient. Let’s face it, a piece of electronic equipment that’s 10 years old or older is effectively an artifact more worthy of being tracked down by Indian Jones and cataloged into a dusty museum than being plugged into an actual electrical outlet. I mean, the thing didn’t even have HDMI ports. Zero. Zilch. None. My problem wasn’t so much “Oh noes! It only has one HDMI, how can I ever connect my cable box and Xbox and Apple TV. Woe unto first-world-me”, but, seriously, like, how will I ever stream “The Avengers” in HD and 5.1 Dolby without a EE degree from MIT?

Long story short, I finally bought a new processor, which you probably already guessed since I pretty repeatedly referred to The USS Burlington-model as the “old” or “previous” one in the paragraphs above. So I ended up using the ole birthday gift cards to get this one, which is both reasonably priced and has a much more moderate physical footprint.

Of course, that was only half the battle. The room wasn’t ready. We had the basement finished several years ago, but for reasons behind my comprehension, I didn’t have it wired for rear sound. I can only assume it’s because aliens were in possession of my body at the time, and it’s readily accepted that non-terrestrial beings have telepathic abilities, limited their need for home theater sound. Sure, ET may have had to phone home, but he didn’t need surround speakers.

Which means that between ordering my new toy and it arriving in time for Star Wars Day, I had some work to do.

Like, running speaker cable (In mostly obscured ways), putting in a speaker wire junction box (I cut out the drywall myself! Man card redeemed!),

and finally mounting the rear speakers I’ve had in storage for more than 4 years to a wall.

.
Nver mind that I was drilling holes in my basement walls at midnight Tuesday in preparation for everything, or that for the 6,327th time since our Wedding Day, the Puddinette questioned both my sanity and her own decision-making capacity when it came to spouse-selection. The point is that last night, I dropped the new receiver into its Ikea-forged home, hooked up enough wires and cables to morph into a Gordian Knot behind the TV stand as early as this morning, and reprogrammed my Harmony remote for the new hardware.

And thus by 10:30 PM, I had Star Wars: The Force Awakens cued up and ready to pan to a Star Destroyer right after that familiar opening scroll.

So, look, I know I didn’t tell a single soul “May the Fourth be with you yesterday,” and I didn’t write anything or read anything last night. Well, not counting stereo instructions, but those never count. But after the kids went to bed and my new toy was all set up, I settled in without a twinge of guilt and reveled in Star Wars in all it’s Dolby Digital 5.1 glory. I’d say I have no one to apologize to.

Well, except myself. I fell asleep about the same time the First Order <redacted for spoilers> because cold medicine. Also (and this is probably the bigger culprit), I get sleepy early on school nights because I get up at 6:15-ish and I’m not 23 anymore.

So I guess the only USS Burlington thing in my basement home theater room now…is me.

Pud’n

A Monday Haiku, Threatening Great Expense

Front door needs replaced
Put off for many moons, now
Adulting brings tears

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This Is Not The Day You’re Looking For

I keep thinking today is Thursday. It’s not; it’s Wednesday. That’s unfortunate, too, because Thursday usually means wrapping up the week’s homework with the kids, looking forward to “casual day”, and, if I’m lucky, designating it Beer and A Movie Night.  Wednesday, on the other hand, means baseball practice, more homework, taking the recycling out, and wondering if I’ll get though the day without any yogurt-brained yeehaw acting like that whole camel/hump day thing is actually funny at this point.

It’s not helping that Oldest Son’s baseball practice has already been cancelled for the evening, as apparently the boys’ practice field conditions are somewhat less than optimal. But, then, considering the sky vomited weather last night like a fraternity on dollar Jager-bomb night*, that coach’s cancellation email didn’t come as much of a surprise. Considering what it was like last night, his team’ll be lucky to hit the field again before Memorial Day.

Oh, yeah, you weren’t there last night. Here, I took some helpful video:

I know, right?

Anyway, rain notwithstanding, tonight’s cancellation doubled down on my already “Feelin’ Thursday” situation because it means I don’t have to go anywhere tonight. No practices, no errands, no sitting in the car (or an uncomfortable set of bleachers) with a book and a pale, drooping sun. Since Thursday is only night of the week I occasionally have a reprieve from the Uber-Dad** routine, it makes sense why I’m feeling Thursday.

Which is why tomorrow morning’s alarm clock is going to be a sadistic monster. Because I’ll no doubt wake up and believe that for a few, brief, precious ticks of the clock, that it’s Friday. That I can wear jeans into the the office and not tuck in my shirt, that the work day will end early and evening will be filled with laughter, mojitos, and a patio lit with only bug-repelling tiki torches and string of Christmas lights.

Well, okay, so my Friday nights are basically never filled with mojitos or a patio set like a Corona commercial. Plus, it’s still April, meaning the sub 70 degree temps we’ll be experiencing in this neck of the woods on Friday night isn’t exactly conducive to the pretending San Miguel is all around us.

But, whatever! I’m still going to feel cheated at 6:37 AM tomorrow, when it inevitably strikes me that it’s still actually Thursday and not the Friday of my dreams. And that I have to wear Dockers and uncomfortable shoes to work.

Which leaves me with basically one and only one reasonable option. I think I might need to take some of my extra free time tonight and go to the bookstore tonight. Because the bookstore is never a bad idea, and then tomorrow morning, even as I’m beginning to come to terms with living Thursday twice, at least I can look at all the new books I impulse bought with a smile.

Pud’n


*that is, forcefully, uncontrollably, and continually
**I really want Uber-Dad to mean, like SuperDad! or WonderDad!, but it most cases, it really just means…Taxi Dad.

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RIP, Your Purple Highness

I’m as shocked and saddened as everyone else. But even after having most of the day to think about it, I don’t think I can put it any better than I did on twitter earlier.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Let’s Go Crazy about 27 times.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsRest In Peace, Prince.

Pud’n

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A Day In The Life

I’d fully intended Monday’s post to stand as a sort of personal affirmation about the shift in my nightly focus away from binging on superheroes in high definition and towards kicking ass and taking names my own self, on my own projects. However, shortly after the post went up, it was pointed out to me that perhaps the piece went a smidgen too far in suggesting I’ve spent the majority of my 40’s being a Slothy McSlotherson. I mean, sure, I have my mid-afternoon, Saturday-nap moments, but, just, no. Long gone are my days of watching The Hunt For Red October while dosing on a couch. In fact, I quit having time to be a squishy, comfy slother-type in late 2002, right about the time I wrote this post.

Since the cold, rainy November morning when adulthood settled over us like a slightly itchy wool blanket that rubs the wrong way on occasion but still keeps you pretty snuggly and warm, things have gotten pretty complicated on a daily basis around la Casa de Puddin. Take my Monday, for instance:

6:21 AM – iPhone alarms goes off. Why 21 minutes past the hour? Who knows. Maybe I like the non-standardness of it. Maybe I just overshot :20 and was too lazy to change it.  Maybe Siri is a pain. Whatever the explanation, I swat at the chiming phone like a drunk college kid chasing a fly in his dorm room: It’s dark, there’s no space, a lot of stuff is potentially about to get slapped off a table, and there’s really no telling if anyone knows what’s going on. If lucky, my brain does what my consciousness is not yet capable of, and signals that I need to get up and wake the kids. If not, repeat 9 minutes later.

6:24 AM – Stand in daughter’s doorway and try not to bark at her like a drill sergeant that it’s time to get ready. Even though she requires 2+n2 the amount of time my sons need to prepare for school, she slumps back into bed and pretends I am merely a grunty, disheveled remnant of some night terror.

6:25 AM – Tell daughter again to get up. Wait until she is weaving in place beside her bed, and then turn on her light out of spite. WIsh her a good morning and remind her I love her.

6:26 AM – Wake sons. Threaten them with a military academy if they don’t at least attempt to make their bed like civilized people.

6:27 AM – Verify daughter is still upright. It’s a lucky morning! She’s both upright AND moving.

6:30 AM – Hit the shower. In most sports that indicates the end of the competition. If only. This is Extreme Adulting. Showers must come first.

7:10 AM – Wrangle the 3 middle school-aged kids into the car for delivery to school. Yes, there’s a bus. No, they don’t ride it. My own middle school busing experience, lo, the many years ago, was basically a daily surrender of my dignity and all self-worth for 35 minutes (both ways) in a yellow, mobile version of The Lord of The Flies. I’m not putting my kids through that. At least, not when I’m going to work anyway.

7:35 AM – Drop kids at school. Wish them a good day. Begin to twitch due to lack of AM caffeine. Snarl unintelligibly at other drivers, Muttley-style.

7:45 AM – Acquire coffee. Relinquish down the sharpened weapons.

8 AM – 4:30 PM – Work feverishly in the vast, deep software mines in search of the elusive Varigated Project Milestone.

4:30 PM – Leave work in order to take Oldest Son to his baseball game. Pray that traffic isn’t a complete cluster of broken downs, rubber neckers, and incoherent rage so that you make it home in time.

5:01 PM – Arrive at home, just in time. Thank the Seven Lords of Ragged Asphalt you survived your commute once again. Say hello to whatever children appear upon your arrival (none will, except Baseball Kid, because ride). Briefly nod at wife, whose touch from years past you remember much the way an amputee might remember the way that arm ached before a storm. No time to think about that though. Go to room. Change out of workday business casual and into shorts and a “dad shirt” in the roughly the same amount of time Linda Carter needed to spin on that Woman Woman outfit. Leave for baseball game. Verify my fly is zipped. Trust me, after changing clothes that fast, it always pays to verify.

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Watch 25-30 middle school boys play baseball. Marvel at the range of possible sizes of “middle school boy”. Root for son. Pray he doesn’t strike out. Cheer when he singles and then proceeds to steal two bases and score.

8:15 PM – Drive home. Congratulation Baseball Son on winning. Contemplate the previous 14 hours. Wonder idly if some slavering ancient Greek monster actually just ate your entire day. Seriously…where’d the time go?

8:30 PM – Consume reheated dinner. Bask in the warm glow of being informed the dishwasher is leaking. Contemplate fleeing the house in abject terror. Stay instead; flight requires energy.

8:45 PM – 9:15 PM – Attempt to diagnose dishwasher issue while simultaneously helping with middle school homework as needed. Identify the dishwasher’s problem as having approximately Twenty. Vomit-Inducing. Years. Of caked-together foodgooputty smushed into a single self-aware mass that’s clogging the dryer vent. Attempt to explain the similarities and differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to Middle Son for his Social Studies homework while cleaning Glutinous Gooputty out of dishwasher vent with an old toothbrush, a clenched jaw, and an iron will. Gasp occasionally to avoid hurling recently consumed reheated dinner back up.

9:30 PM – Congratulate Middle Son on a good job with his homework. Start the dishwasher for a test run. Wash the food gooputty off hands, face, hair and anywhere else the Glob managed to invade. Sterilize self. Burn clothes for good measure.

10 PM – 11:45 PM – Despite bone-deep exhaustion, somehow manage to edit two chapters of Project Macaroni 2.0.

11:50 PM – 12:50 AM – Read before bed. In this case, devour a healthy chunk of A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (which you should read, because awesome) Because, sure, you’re tired, but  if you don’t make time to read, you never will read. Also, the Puddinette isn’t asleep enough yet for the nightly Industrial Snoring Assault on her poor, embattled sleep pattern.

1:00 AM – Stumble to bed. Collapse. Curse in abject fear of the alarm set to go off in a mere 5 hours and 21 minutes.

So that was 90% of my Monday. Yes, there are actually a few things I left out, because it’s none of your beeswax, plus, this is my blog, not my therapist.

Ah, who am I kidding? It’s both.

The point, though, is that the timeline above isn’t atypical. It’s how weekdays work around here. It’s also, why the past few months or so, I’ve found myself on the couch most mornings at not-quite-Stupid-O’Clock, with remote still in hand. Because after a day like that, an hour or two of mind-numbing Netflix seems like a pretty tempting exercise.

Even if you are too tired to make it through the whole episode.

But, then, that’s not my problem anymore.

Pud’n

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Replay From the Beginning

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that for as much Netflix and/or Hulu as I watch, I end up restarting episodes entirely too often. Like, almost “on every day of the week that ends in –y”, too often. But that’s what happens when you fall asleep in front of the TV all the time. Well, that, and also that Netflix conveniently continues to play episode after episode after the falling asleep. Which means that when I get around to trying to pick up where I left off the night before, I’m required to do some NASA-level calculation to figure out where I actually did leave off.

Yes, I said NASA-level. Sure, bounce-landing a robot on Mars from 225 million kilometers away is sorta difficult, but is it as hard as figuring out which chapter of House of Cards to re-watch based on only the episode description? I’m not so sure.

As to constantly having to asses my place in the episode guide, I’ve got no one to blame here but myself. I stay up too late, refuse to admit that at 43 years old my body could probably use more than 5 and a half hours of sleep a night, and basically make poor life choices at 1 AM.  That said? Ultimately, I’m too committed to watching shows these days.

I imagine a lot of people wouldn’t fault me for that last one. This is, after all, supposed to be The “new” Golden Age of Television. And, I mean, there are comic book shows now! On TV! Good ones! As someone who still feels feels the bumpy scars of the Spider-Man and Hulk shows from the late 70’s, believe me, it’s like being born anew.

But.

(There’s always a “but”, right?)

But this is not who I want to be. Being a fan first and a creator second is not who I want to be with this life.

Because as Thoreau put it in Walden, Netflix is bad.

Okay, so maybe he didn’t quite say that. Rather, the pertinent quote, the one you all know, is,

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation

That’s the big one, the one I’ve held in my head since back when I was a wet behind the ears kid in college taking Philosophy 100. It’s the line I’m most apt to bring to mind every couple of years when I take a moment to do a little shoe-gazing about what I have accomplished and have yet to achieve with this life.

Thoreau would further write in Walden:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived

This excerpt, of course, always leads me to imagining my own end of life, where I’m huddled and exhausted at the base of an erupting Mt. Doom, along with my good friend and Master, Frodo Baggins. We’ll look back on our journey from The Shire with pride, and I’ll take comfort in knowing that I was there to help Master Frodo carry the immense weight of that hateful Ring1.

Except, as I dragged myself off the couch at 3:30 AM last Thursday morning and tried to figure out how many episodes of Community I’d sleep through, I realized the truth of my reality hadn’t become quite as monumental as that “Lord of the Rings” moment. I mean, yes, I have a great job that I work said butt off at, a fair bit of responsibility, and a family I couldn’t be prouder of, so I shouldn’t really complain much. But I have hopes and dreams that entail becoming much more than “The Lord of The Couch’s Butt Groove”. 

And if you can’t see the “quiet desperation” in being champion of your own ass crease, well, congratulations, you’re either actually Homer Simpson (which, admittedly, has it’s advantages) or your one of his many, many, MANY devotees.

Believe it or not, I’d rather lean into Thoreau than Homer here.

The tricky thing about Thoreau’s quiet desperation is that it’s not only quiet, but sneaky like a five year old with a heist plan for the cookie jar. It’s an insidious, stealthy thing that blossomed when I innocently binge watched Arrow two winter breaks ago on a brief pause between working on manuscripts, and eventually snowballed into a nightly TV watching habit that compels me to take my assigned place on the basement couch for three hours every night before eventually nodding off and letting the Apple TV autopilot me til dawn.

For me, it’s no way to live. It’s more just a really good way to wait around until I die. And that’s kind of the opposite of My Big Plan.

I want to make it very clear that I’m NOT judging anyone who does enjoy their nightly “shows” (as my Grandmother would call them). The last thing the world needs is another sanctimonious dirtwipe tsking loudly in unfounded self-righteousness because “OMG, while you were wasting your time watching The Housewives of Neverland last night, I was speed-reading Tolstoy and hand-weaving macramé doilies for my Etsy shop.”

Listen, I swear I’m not being that guy. You do you, man, and be happy doing it! There’s nothing wrong with DVR’ing 17 hours of programming a week. If you love it, I encourage it!

But a few years ago I decided I wanted to be remembered for stringing words together into stories that people (hopefully) liked. And I made great progress on that, slowly, on plodding step in front of the other. But then, you know, the slow creep of quiet desperation. One day not long ago, I quit writing new stuff, and instead started waiting for life to happen on its own. And then IPAs Thursdays popped up and, I started reporting for Hulu duty nightly, and, well, look…building up the butt groove in my basement sectional ain’t getting the life I strive for quite done. I’ve gone from being the guy who was always working on something he loved to the guy who’s always streaming something in HD.

And I’m done with that.

So, this? This post? This is me hitting “Start from the Beginning” on my life quest. This is me turning my back on that “quiet desperation”, rolling up my sleeves, and getting back to work.

This is me letting the couch cushions get back some of their old factory condition.

This is getting the DVR to work for me, instead of the DVR working me.

That’s not to say I won’t still watch my comic books shows. I, mean, I want more Arrow and Flash and Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and the only way I get them is by watching what’s out there. But from now on, my weekday evenings are for writing or reading or plotting or revising. For Becoming What I Might Have Been and insuring that when I finally reach The End of All Things, maybe there will be a Hobbit there, proud of all I’ve accomplished.

Pud’n


1Okay, so I’m not actually a Hobbit, nor a gardener, and I really hope never to see Mt. Doom.