9 Years ago today, I was driving my Toyota Tacoma to work on I81 when I hit a patch of ice going over a bridge. The rear wheels slid out to the left and I tried to steer out of it. I didn’t want to slam on the breaks and go spinning out of control. I realized that I was heading towards the guardrail so I did a little mental checklist before I hit:

Seatbelt? Check,

Airbag? Check.

“OK God here I come.” Check.

I hit the rail at 65 miles an hour and the truck flipped over onto its roof and slid one hundred feet before coming to a rest in the snow bank. The air pressure blew out the back window so snow flew everywhere. I ducked instinctively when I felt the vehicle flip and it was a good thing I did. When it came to rest, the ceiling was only three inches from my fingers on the steering wheel. I heard the tires still spinning and realized that the techno CD I was listening to had stopped playing. Since I was an EMT, I knew the dangers of neck injuries and other trauma. I cautiously wiggled my fingers and toes before I moved my neck. I hunched my shoulders and took a deep breath to see if any ribs were broken. (This is all while I was upside down) Then I unclipped my seat belt and flipped/ crawled over to the passenger side which wasn’t as crushed. The airbag never went off. My Mom bought me an emergency hammer that can cut seatbelts and break glass. I stowed it under the driver’s seat, but because everything had flipped over and snow was everywhere, I couldn’t find it. I pulled out my Leatherman and tried to break the window. I slammed the point of the pliers into the glass repeatedly but it wouldn’t break! Since the CD stopped playing, I assumed power was out, but struck by a sudden thought, I tried the button for the window. Whirrrrrr. It rolled open and I crawled out…right into the arms of my coworker who was a certified first responder! But get this. It was her day off. She just happened to be passing moments after my truck slid to a stop. I also knew a few of the EMTs that arrived minutes later. How many injuries did I receive? None. Does God exist? Yes.

To top  off the day, I took my then girlfriend (now wife) out to dinner at Bangkok Thai in Liverpool. During dinner, I showed Joy (our waitress) the above Polaroid and got a free fried ice cream for surviving!


Hey blogosphere! So my New Years resolution was to get a job. Yeah, I know I just posted about how I do construction, but I needed a more consistent income. So… a few weeks ago I requested prayer at church for a job. The next day, my wife noticed a post from my favorite coffee shop that they were still hiring for one more full-time position. I immediately sent in my resume, and then went in the next day just to stock up on beans because I was getting perilously low. The owner just happened to be behind the bar and  told me he got my resume and said we would have an interview after the holidays. Last Friday we had our interview and I was hired on the spot to start Monday! YES!  I’ll be learning to be a Barista and also putting my construction skills to good use in renovating the cafe. I just finished my first day and am pumped to be a part of such a great and successful team of people.

As part of my training at the hands of a bona-fide national champion, I pulled my first shot of espresso today and made my very first latte (see below.) It was fun, learning the particulars of the process, from tamping the grounds, to pouring the art on top. Judging from my first day, I think I’ll like the coffee business just fine.


2011 in review

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

How I make a living

Since I was laid off in May, I have been earning my living primarily through using these tools. It is a different feeling to get up in the morning and not know exactly what challenges face you. My last position was as an inspector of widgets. secret military widgets, but widgets none the less. I knew what to expect from work that day, the next week, the next month. Thousands of parts that I would do the same thing to. There was a certain mental freedom in that. I was allowed to listen to music and I took full advantage of that by burning through all the audio books and podcasts I could get my hands on. But at the end of the day, it was tedious, monotonous work. The job before that, I was doing paperwork, day in and day out.

But now, each day is different. Sometimes I’m a plumber. Other days I’m up on a roof stripping shingles. Some days I’m pouring concrete to repair a footing for a house foundation. Or demolishing a bathroom, building a back stoop (pictured above), painting, installing blown-cellulose insulation, running electrical, or a hundred other things. While the pay isn’t great, and there are no benefits like health insurance or 401K, I love the variety, the satisfaction of actually building something with your own two hands, and the flexible schedule so that I can still stay at home some days and play with my sons before they get too old to horse around on the living room rug.

So that’s what I’ve been up to in this recession. What about you?

Cool coffee legends

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Like all important things, Coffee has many origin stories and legends that surround its pervasive spread around the world. And like all legends, facts are fuzzy.

How was coffee discovered? The legend goes like this.

A Ethiopian goat herder named Khalid was doing his thing in the hills when he noticed his goats acting strangely. They seemed to be uncharacteristically energetic. He saw that they were eating strange cherry-like fruit from some shrubs near the edge of the field. Curious, he tried some himself, and was amazed at their effect. He stayed up all night, invigorated by the strange food’s power. His mind was active as he contemplated this discovery.

The next morning, he gathered the cherries in a bag and took them to the local priest, explaining their strange powers of energy and clear thought. The priest grabbed the bag and threw it into the fire, saying, “These magic beans are from the DEVIL!”

Minutes passed as the small rectory filled with the fantastic aroma of roasting coffee beans. Finally the priest could stand it no longer and snatched the bag out of the fire, declaring, ” Anything that smells this heavenly must be from God himself. And that’s how coffee was discovered.

During the next hundred years or so, coffee, and especially the seeds were controlled by the Arab and African states where it grew naturally. So how did it spread around the world?

In 1714, King Louis XIV was granted a gift of a coffee tree for the royal arboretum in Paris. One night nine years later, an enterprising naval lieutenant named Gabriel de Clieu snuck in and stole the precious tree to stow onboard. His ship sailed with the tide and was far out to sea before the theft was discovered. After a perilous sea voyage that included a stretch in the doldrums, being boarded by pirates, and nearly being wrecked by a giant storm, the ship landed in Martinique, where he was able to start a plantation that is the ancestor of all the coffee plants in the Americas.

How did Brazil get coffee?

During those early years of the coffee trade, its seeds and secrets remained fiercely guarded. The Portuguese emperor sent Francisco de Mello Palheta to French Guinea to arbitrate a dispute between the French and the Dutch. This was his overt mission. His covert mission was to steal some fresh coffee seedlings to bring back to what would become the largest coffee producing nation in the world. During the week of intense negotiations, Palheta seduced the Governor’s wife. At the end of the week during the celebration dinner, she presented him with a thank-you bouquet of flowers for his “services” to their country. Hidden inside the bouquet were several tiny coffee seedlings! Brazilian Coffee dominance here we come.

If you’d like to know more, visit the National Coffee Association site.

Or read “The Book of Coffee and Tea” by Joel, David, and Karl Schapira. This book has nearly everything you might want to know about either drink. WARNING: Before reading this book, I could just drink any old coffee. After reading this book, I am a coffee snob.

In keeping with my snobbery, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the best cafe in Syracuse: Cafe Kubal. They roast beans everyday and have a unique and tasty flavor. Each bag comes with the date it was roasted (usually just a day or two before purchase) and a taste description.Example:My current bag of Sumatra Lintong- French Roast. Aroma: sage and thyme accents. Taste: roasted cocoa. Body: heavy. Aftertaste: tobacco

more coming

Posted: December 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Hey blogosphere. I know I’ve slacked hard as far as output is concerned. An explanation is forthcoming, and I vow to post more stuff soon. That is all.

I had a sudden realization yesterday that I must have as many helmets as women have shoes. So I thought it would be fun to gather them together and see what they were for. (of course they each have their own specific boots as well) So from left to right they are:

Snowboarding , Rock/ Ice climbing, motorcycle, whitewater kayaking, bicycle, luge, and martial arts/ sparring. This pretty well encompasses my various hobbies. Does that say something about my personality that pretty much anything I choose to do for fun I need protective headgear for? I wouldn’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie but now I’m not so sure. What kind of crazy stuff do you do?


2010 was another great year in my reading life. I would have to say that my top favorite books this year were:

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

This book was integral to our getting a real handle on our finances, getting on a budget, becoming debt free, amassing six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund, and starting to build wealth.

The “In Death” police procedural mysteries by J. D. Robb.

These near-future, gritty, sexy mysteries really grabbed me this year and I have now read more than half of her 30+ books. The characters are great and the interplay between all their relationships kept me intrigued enough to keep picking up the next one in the series. I especially like the audio books because Susan Erickson does such a great job acting all the different characters with distinct and entertaining voices.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett.

I don’t normally read a lot of pure fantasy with magic and things, but this was some awesome, hardcore demon slaying goodness. I also really like how we followed three characters from very early ages up through adulthood. This is a great book. A mysterious world with captivating characters pull the reader along on an incredible journey through years of their lives. It was hard to put this one down until I was done. I could see this being a great video game or movie in a few years.

After that, there were so many others and I enjoyed almost all of them. The books on Afghanistan were very interesting and also a few of the survival type books, both fiction and non-fiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Another quick life update

Posted: June 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

So… I was laid off again. Now I am doing some freelance work at home and helping to watch our two boys when I can. The job market here is not great, but I think I can swing it if my wife gets a decent job with benefits in the fall. Now we are back below the poverty line again for the moment. But, thanks to proper financial planning (thanks Dave Ramsey) we have six months of expenses in the bank so we are not in full blown emergency mode just yet. However, if anyone out there in the greater blogosphere wants to offer me a job, I’ll be more than willing to take a look at the offer!



Posted: May 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is just a quick vanity post, but I just wanted to thank you, the readers for visiting my blog 50,000 times. I hope to write more good stuff as my life settles down again after the birth of my second child.

My awesome sister Catherine is studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. Recently she has been doing radio updates and some on-camera work for their news site: http://edinburghnapiernews.com. Here she is doing a 12:30 bulletin for March 25th, 2011. Good job Cath, keep it up!

Nathan Roarke was born yesterday, coming in at 9 lbs. 6.8 oz. and 22 in. long. My wife is a champion at natural childbirth! No drugs or anything. The labor went well, but it’s not called labor for nothin’.  It was work. But after 10 minutes and 4 pushes, he was out. ( I hear second children are faster that way.)Still, the entire labor was long and we were both up for more than 24 hours. Exhausted doesn’t begin to explain it. But we are very happy and thankful that both mother and baby are healthy and safe.

For the last few months, I’ve been able to provide input on a new website for our shop. I took about half the pictures and wrote some of the content. Check it out!


Yes, it’s true.

I recently found out just how true this was a few weeks ago when I was listening to an audiobook. I have been steadily listening to this series ( In Death by J.D. Robb) over the last year, but at first, I didn’t listen to them in order. So I heard the newest five, some in the middle, and then decided to start at the beginning. Now I am working my way up chronologically, but I have knowledge about the later series such as character motivations, who plays a significant role, etc.

I had originally requested the second book in the series from my library and mistakenly hit the button for the Abridged version. I then ripped it to my personal library so I could listen to it on my iPod while I worked. But then, I discovered my error and requested the longer Unabridged version and copied it also. When I went  to listen to it at work, I listened to the first disc of the Abridged version first. Then, realizing that I must have left the old track on the iPod, I just started over again and heard the Unabridged version. Having listened to the two albums back to back, the differences were clear…and disturbing.

Yes, some of what they cut out was descriptive fluff. When the protagonist drove across town in NYC, it was taken care of in the Abridged version with a sentence, where the original version had a nice paragraph or two of prose.

But there were at least two other scenes that were cut in the Abridged version that have a HUGE impact throughout the rest of the series. I couldn’t believe it when I heard what had been missing.

The first scene was when the protagonist’s husband makes a huge personal sacrifice and decides to sell all of his semi-legal and illegal business ventures. Since she is a cop and has a rigid sense of justice, he knew she wouldn’t approve, and it may tarnish her public reputation later if it came out that he still dealt in underhanded business. This choice is referred back to numerous times later in the series. Was it even mentioned in the Abridged version? No.

The second scene that they cut out is when the main character meets someone else, who pops up from time to time throughout the series. He is totally cut from the Abridged version. True, he isn’t a main character, or even a secondary character, but he is definitely a character, if you know what I mean. He is a bouncer at a bar that is the backdrop to many meetings later in the series. And if you listened/ read the Abridged version, you totally missed out on their first meeting.

So to sum up, Abridged books = terrible crap. NEVER read them.

This is my old Pirate Treasure Chest. I just love the weather beaten, rusty texture.