Back in Town, Back in Time

I got back into town on Friday around 5:30 or so. Since then it has been a complete whirlwind of “Oh, God, what next.”

As today is Sunday (and I worked at my janitorial job last night), I am taking a rare day of rest. To update everyone on the events of the past week…

I drove down to Fayetteville, NC and interviewed for a teaching position on Wednesday. On Thursday I was offered the position. I notified the school that I would let them know on Monday what my decision was. I needed to drive back to Pittsburgh, talk to some people, and sleep on it for a day or two. Having talked to many friends and family and considering all of the ins and outs of the job, I have decided to accept the position. I will speak to the school first thing tomorrow to get some ironclad information regarding benefits and salary and such (more than has been discussed already, which has been ample).

The school year is already underway at this particular school, which makes things complicated. Unless they need me to come down immediately and are willing to put me up in an Extended Stay hotel, I will likely be moving and subsequently starting work in about 2 weeks. I will really hit the ground running (and as Mythbusters proved, likely stumble like a fool from the get go but eventually find my footing). I’m spending the next few days making preparations and plans for the first few days of class as well as some materials for the room so the kids aren’t walking into a barren chasm.

The actual school is…different. It is effectively a junior college. While still a high school, the students are all engaged in Honors/AP programs and earning college credits. The high school is actually housed within the campus grounds (and Education building) of the local university. The school also features a huge selling point for me – a non-traditional schedule. Block scheduling (I’ve only ever worked with period schedules, though I am familiar with block scheduling) allows 90 minutes with your students for half the semester, instead of 45 minutes for the whole year. It certainly makes for an interesting planning and approach. Likewise, I have a different start and end time than what normally happens in a high school. I am to report by 8:30 and the school day begins at 9:15 and runs until 4:15 (I report until 4:30). That schedule alone pays for itself in spades.

While I was in town I did take the opportunity (without having been offered the job) to look at available housing and such. I did find two nice, affordable places. One is clearly the front-runner, but I don’t want to say too much until I officially get the high sign that I was approved and can move in.

It is going to be completely nuts for the next few weeks. I will try to keep updating the blog. Frankly, writing here may be the only thing to keep me sane.

Oh, and 4 of the 5 people I interviewed with are die-hard Steelers fans.

Here we go.

Gone Fishin’



Sorry things have been a little light lately. Griggsy is on vacation and I’ve been dealing with my own stresses and levels of freaking out. Uncle Walt is going to be away pretty much until Friday, but I will, hopefully, have fantastic news to share then.

On Tuesday I am making the ~10 hour drive to Fayetteville, North Carolina to interview for a teaching job. I am guardedly optimistic about this. I don’t want to say too much or give too much information away, at least not right now, but this could be a fantastic fit for me. It could also be a chance to do what I’ve talked about for some time – hit the reset button on life. Recently I described my life as being “like the old 8-bit NES blinking on and off and someone was furiously pressing the reset button hoping it would catch.” This may be a great opportunity for me to hit the reset button myself and do so with a little stability in my world.

I am excited and terrified and confident and worried and cocksure about everything. I don’t know what to think or how to feel, but I’ll allow it. Hope is better than the alternative.

We’ll see how things go, but there won’t be any blog updates until Friday at the earliest. You can still contact me on Twitter at (@AvoidingTheClap) – I will have access to that via my smartphone (which may get put through a wall). Well wishes, death treats, trolling, and general herp de derp is always welcome.



Finishing Touches

So, I promised I would get new photos posted once the main construction of the pond was completed. Well, we’re at that stage. There are, of course, still some finishing touches and minor things to be done, but nothing that requires major time or construction. Some planters, some rock work, little decoration here and there, but the main construction is done. The final hurdle, which was cleared on Monday, was the construction of the waterfall. The waterfall is a 3-tier cascade of whiskey barrels (the bottom barrel is actually half of an old whiskey barrel – the middle and upper “barrels” are decorative planters that just happened to be a perfect size).

Yes, I do plan on including a wagon wheel and some clay jugs of “moonshine” around it. No, I don’t plan on hanging a cow skull on the fence.

With that, I give you the progression of the pond project:

Late April:

That deck should look familiar. This all needed removed and cleaned up before the work could begin.

After tearing down the pool and clearing away the wood and mess associated with some downed tree bits…


There is something rewarding about hard work like this. There’s also something about getting absolutely zero help for 90% of the project from your layabout brother. Once the excavation was completed and I was happy with it, the installation began. I lined the rim with sandbags and tamped down the rest.

Sand bags and sunshine. Two things that really don't belong in PA.

The sandbags were installed and the ground was ready. In lieu of an actual underliner that is sold in stores (and per the consult of some friends who do this type of stuff for a living), we decided to give it the “There, I Fixed It” treatment and used carpet padding.

Yes, carpet padding.

Once the carpet padding was installed (and that was quite the hilarious project, let me tell you), the actual rubber liner was installed.


The liner needed folded on the corners and edges worked out, but there was no stopping me from getting water in there.

We have water.

Little did I know, putting water into the pond would give me the single greatest lighting effect ever. Later that night I took a picture of the pond with the water in it. It gave birth to “Pond Hippo.” I love you, pond hippo.

I love you, Pond Hippo.

I took a few days off to let the liner get itself settled. I monkeyed with the edges and thought out the next moves. Naturally the next move became “purchase, haul, unload, and take by wheelbarrow 2+ tons of river rock with no help.” And that’s what I did.

So many rocks. Hey, there are plants, too!

Then after a bit of planning and thinking and testing, the waterfall.


And that brings us to this point…


Obviously there is still work to be done. I need to get the water clean(er), get the hoses and cords buried in the stone, finish under/beside the waterfall with some decoration, and other odds and ends, but the project is “finished” with regard to major construction.

Praise be.


Come On, Come Out

As mentioned previously, I have been dealing with quite a bit in my personal life. I’m going through a major period of flux with a lot of uncertainty over the next few years. I’m making some moves and some choices with some pretty long tails on them and I can’t take them too lightly.

Those of you who know me in real life know that I’m wound pretty tight and am pretty serious about things at times. I sometimes lose sight of the simplicity I so desire in my world and let it get away from me. Today, thankfully, was not one of those days. Today I just had an incredible amount of peace and clarity.

I had to go to the store to pick up a new TV today (my previous TV had some technical issues internally regarding HDMI inputs and being able to switch signals thus rendering my PS3 unusable). We had absolutely gorgeous weather this evening. It was mid 70s, give or take, the sun was shining with some great periodic, fluffy cloud cover, a wonderful blue sky…and I just enjoyed driving around. I took the scenic route to the store (which is normally a 20 minute drive). I drove up through the country and just enjoyed the wind blowing through my hair and the warmth in the air and having my stereo up.

I love to match my music to my mood or to my surroundings. While I was initially enjoying the Hell out of some 90s Janet Jackson, I needed something a little better. Enter one of my favorite go-to records, “One Cell In the Sea” from A Fine Frenzy. Pretty much wherever I find myself or whatever I am doing, I can put that record on and get my mind right. It was almost too obvious and too perfect a song, but it really set the tone for my peaceful journey. “Come On, Come Out” has been one of those songs that sticks with me for a variety of reasons and I always use it when I am experience a shift in weather.

I absolutely love her. I love her voice so much and, frankly, she’s rather nice to look at, too. So much talent, though.

And I just peaced out to the record and enjoyed the whip of the wind and scent of woodsmoke in the air. I didn’t allow the moment to pass. There was, however, only one suitable end to it all.

Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” is one of those tracks I loved as a burgeoning young man and have really come to appreciate as I’ve entered into my older life. What can I say? I enjoy female vocalists in that indie, singer-songwriter, wonderfully dramatic, and sometimes smokey sound. Before you can ask, yes, I remember and still love Lisa Loeb.

It was so nice to have such a peaceful evening. I just enjoyed it so much that I wanted to keep driving. I just wanted to fill up the gas tank and drive until I couldn’t go any further and start a new life wherever I ended up. Had I had this song on the flash drive it would have been perfect (both in tone and keeping with the above theme, plus this unreal use in the final episode of “Six Feet Under” – obviously if you haven’t seen the show don’t click the video, less you be witness to spoilers).

Failtown – Population: Me

I feel like such a chump. I have not been writing as much as I would like lately, which is unfair to both myself and to all of you. Thank God for Griggsy. He’s been covering up for my punk ass the last week with his Gripes and his unreal look at the Pirates.

I have been doing quite a bit of work behind the scenes in my personal life lately. Nothing has changed, which is a disappointment. The previously mentioned job in NC did not pan out, which is a big time bummer. The job with the civil service is, well, a job with the Civil Service. I did well on the exam and now just need to wait and hope for an opening. Other than those, the job field is, erm, sparse. I’m well aware that this is a unique sentiment and there are a lot of people hurting looking for work. I’ve even been debating about making a career change because things are so hard right now in Education, but I just can’t do it. There are no jobs/careers out there I want to do outside of teaching. I just love it too much to leave, even if it means sticking it out for a while without permanent work.

I do have a few other things cooking. I am looking to pick up another job in the evenings/weekends while I keep working in the schools during the day (and do my night janitorial job on the weekends). I will, hopefully, be moving ahead with life over the next few years as I am, somewhat begrudgingly, planning on going back to school to begin working on my Master’s. I’m debating a few different programs and different schools, but I’m pretty well sold on the general umbrella study of Special Education. I’m going to make my decision over the course of the next month or two. I’ll talk to the schools I’m looking at and see what kind of packages they can put together and go from there.

The pond project, too, is at an end. I am completing the final part of the project this week. The waterfall is the final major obstacle. I have the supplies and have a plan. Once it is completed I will get some nice photos and post those soon enough. I am hopefully going to finish the last of the work on Friday so I can celebrate by watching some Steeler football.

I do have a few other hopeful odds and ends on the horizon, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. The next few years are going to be some interesting times. I’m looking forward to the challenges and being able to spend them with all of you.



I had a number of things I wanted to talk about, but I’ve been having a bugger of a time putting things into words today. I started writing a different entry this morning. I just haven’t had the focus I needed to put into words what I was thinking. Unfortunately, that feeling is nothing new to me. It has been one of those things I’ve had to deal with before and I like to keep reminding myself how much it sucks. Good for a little perspective at times.

Originally I was going to post about my pond I’ve been working on (I promise I will and will post the photos soon), but it felt a little lazy and disingenuous, especially when compared to some of the other things I’ve discussed. Outright I didn’t have the concentration or ability to work on a new Pens Preview. I really enjoy writing those, but they require some serious focus and dedication to examining details and working through tons of stats and various numbers. I’m feeling edgy right now, no way would I be able to write one of those.

Then I saw something that got me going. Grant Imahara of Mythbusters fame Re-tweeted a link to a video early today. He linked to this video.

Generally speaking I avoid listening to commercial radio and/or Pop music/Top 40 type stuff. Just not really my style (that, my friends, can be another post where I get on my snobby soapbox about the lack of talent, or more appropriately, the inability to sell a record based on talent because the consumer is a tasteless assclown). Honest to goodness, the most exposure I get to pop music is when it is covered by the people on Glee (haters gonna hate). The most exposure I had to this song was from Glee’s rendition of it or the random and sparse occasions when I would be in a shop or someone else would have a radio tuned to a top 40 station. With such limited exposure to it I never really considered the lyrics or, frankly, who the artist was. I had to look up that the track is one of Pink’s songs. What makes that even more depressing is that I really enjoyed Pink’s 1st record and was so-so-to-happy with her second major release. She just kinda fell off my radar as time went on, but that’s nothing new to any who know me.

I watched the video and I really enjoyed it. So I watched it again. Then another time. Each time I was noticing something about it, but it wasn’t about the actual video of the people featured in it. I was noticing the lyrics to the song. As mentioned previously, I don’t often find much value in pop music. In all likelihood this song, too, will be forgotten in a relatively short stretch of time, but I wanted to give it a few moments of my time because it speaks to something I like in my music, literature, etc – it empowers.

You may laugh, and I may look like a fool for saying so, but it is a song that I feel is something of an anthem for people, or at least a rallying call. Obviously there is a party element to the song, but I see it all as a carpe diem type mentality. More importantly, I see the call for individuality and being oneself. The repetition in the chorus calling for all the underdogs and those who are “wrong in the right ways.” This is a common thread with those of us who are a one-off type personality.

I am an odd bird. I don’t deny this. I pride myself on being, well, a little strange. Those who have come to know me over the years can attest to the fact that, well, I’m pretty darn weird. Not a bad weird or a creepy weird, just…odd. I don’t often see things the way others do, nor do I often have a popular opinion on things. I am a self avowed geek of all trades. I don’t deny it and I was one of the few who embraced being an oddity at a younger age. It worked for me and I try to encourage people to be themselves in this life instead of what other people want them to be.

The song, however, really caught my attention when I saw it paired up with the video of the cosplayers from the Comic-Con. Comic readers, cosplayers, video game players, etc have been at the fore of groups deemed socially unacceptable and generally seen as a strange underclass of weirdos that nobody likes. I grew up reading all types of comics. I am a video game collector. I’ve been to a number of E3 conferences. I go to toy and collectible shows. I’ve even been known to dress up for events before in costume (William Howard Taft being one of my more famous appearances). I know the looks I’ve gotten from people for being, well, all of those things I listed. They are even more shocked when they actually talk to me and realize I am sociable, rather intelligent, don’t smell like dirt that’s been humped by a hobo, and cast a wide net when it comes to things that interest me.

This video, though, got me really thinking about how these people, my people, really are wrong in all the right ways. We don’t belong but we also don’t really care. We are, as the song says, a bunch of “dirty little freaks.”

The people featured in this video are everything I like to see in others and like to see in myself when I can. These people are fearless.

They know the type of reactions they get from the general society and just how many people could possibly see them lip sync-ing to a Pink song on Youtube and they all said “fuck it” and just went with it because of being sure of who they are and what they do for themselves. I admire the Hell out of all of them for doing as such and I wish more people were confident in what they do in this life. It is like the old saying of sing/dance like nobody can see you. Just go out and do your thing. Be yourself. Be empowered. Be fearless.

I know that some of this has been poorly worded and phrased. I apologize for that. Like I said, I’ve been real edgy and unable to focus. Additional apologies as this has gone from one idea to the next. It’s been one of those days. In light of yesterday’s events and the milestone marker it was, I’m surprised I’m as together as I am. I also want to take a moment to thank everyone for their kind words and their thoughts over the last few days. I know I allow myself to get down about things and sometimes lose the perspective that I do have a number of good people in my life who genuinely care about it. It doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated, even if I am terrible at expressing it sometimes. But that’s who I am and you all have accepted me for who I am, just as I try, try, try to accept all of you for who you are.

Fearless. Not cocky, not covering up shortcomings, not a sleight of hand. Unafraid of what criticism may come and being in one’s glory. What a feeling. I hope I can continue to be fearless about things in my life. I hope you all, too, get to experience that. Be without fear and you will live forever.

Ten Years Later

A lot of things have happened to me in the last ten years. A lot of things have happened the world over in the last ten years.

Pretty much the entirety of the Bush administration, the first half of the Obama administration, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, multiple Olympic games, all variety of other unfortunate terrorist attacks, the Pirates haven’t had a winning season, the Steelers won 2 Super Bowls, the Penguins won a Stanley Cup, the rise and fall of the Democratic and Tea Parties, numerous high-profile court cases, many births and deaths.

Personally, in the last ten years I graduated from high school, cooked through 3 serious girlfriends, bought a new car (after refusing to give up on my 1983 Olds until the transmission gave out), graduated from college with a BA in English Literature and a professional certificate to teach in Pennsylvania public schools, grades 7-12, worked for a variety of employers (both in a professional sense and in a part-time throw away type job), witnessed a large swatch of people come into and leave my life for any variety of reasons. I’ve done a lot of growing, I think, but there’s always more room to grow and develop. Today I finished the assembly on the pond I was building (photos to come tomorrow). I’ve genuinely done a lot of things that I am both proud of and ashamed of in the ten-year span.

Why ten years?

On July 27, 2001 my life was inexorably changed.

I awoke on the morning of July 27, 2001 to find a sight I will never, ever be able to forget. Something that will forever stay with me, for good and bad. I awoke to the hum and buzz of a variety of paramedics scurrying about the house. I saw my lifeless father on his back in his bed, being attended to by the paramedics. There was nothing that could be done. He had been gone a few hours before anyone woke up. Outside of some general health concerns that we knew about there was no indication that he was grossly unwell or nearing his end.

The night before/morning of his death I was cleaning my bedroom. The last thing he said to me was something about making sure I finished cleaning and gave me something of an exasperated look. This was in the early morning hours and he must have passed sometime between then and the early morning hours. Obviously neither of us were aware that would be the last time we spoke to one another. I don’t want to get into some “oh, well, you never know when the last time will REALLY be the last time” type speech. We know it. We’re all human and we do what we do in this life. I did not expect to wake to such horror. I wish I could forget, at times, the things I saw that morning. I wish I didn’t have to tell my aunt that her brother had died. I wish I didn’t have to live through my teens and 20’s without him or a major male influence in my life.

But I think he’d be proud of me and all that I’ve accomplished. I know I disappoint myself with some regularity, but I’m also an incredibly harsh critic of myself. I think he’d be pretty happy with how I turned out and what I was able to do in my time.

People tell me all the time how much I look and sound like him and how when they see me they can’t help but see him. I don’t mind that because he was a good man, outside of faults that have been discussed previously.

There hasn’t been a day since that has gone by where he hasn’t been in my thoughts in some way, shape, or form. I don’t expect that will change, either.


Now For Something Completely Different

I just wanted to take a few moments tonight to say a few personal thoughts. Avoid the Clap has been operating now for two weeks. It has been a truly wonderful experience. Some of you knew me from elsewhere, while others are just getting to know me now, but know this – I love to write, and without having an audience and the feedback I have received, I likely would drop off on writing things nightly or almost every night.

As I mentioned, the blog has only been operating for two weeks so far, but you, the readers, have contributed to 3700 views and over 300 comments. Unreal.

Obviously I am the primary author, but we’ve also got Griggsy and hopefully a few other guest posts coming up as time marches on. If it weren’t for all of you commenting and reading and spreading the word about the blog I likely would have packed it in after the experiment failed. I am here to write both for myself and for all of you. You may not agree with what I have to say, and I can’t promise I won’t say something that won’t rankle some feathers, but I like to hear all views, even if they are different from mine.

I write for you as much as I write for myself. This couldn’t have happened without the encouragement of a few others and I certainly wouldn’t be so committed to keeping the posts coming as regularly as possible. I now spend time thinking about what I want to write about and working on ideas for stories I want to write, knowing I have an audience.

This is for you. I’d be nothing without you.

Let the good times roll.

I will likely be out of commission for the next day or two, so there may not be new posts, but I can tell you I want to get the next Pens Preview up before the week is out and we’ll have a new installment of Griggsy’s Gripes for the weekend.

“The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” – Billy Joel, “Keeping the Faith”

Thank you. From the bottom. Tomorrow? It ain’t as bad as it seems.


Odds and Ends

I feel guilty when I do not write. I cannot thank everyone enough for visiting and actually reading the large amount of stuff I’ve since flung at the wall. More importantly, I am extremely proud of Griggsy and everyone who has read and commented on his post. I’m very fortunate and blessed to have a friend in Griggsy and I look forward to his input on many things.

I try to write every night, but there are just times when it won’t happen. Last night was one of those nights. For those who do not personally know me, this is why I have been somewhat hit and miss both on here and on Twitter:

It may look like an Earthy butthole, but it is actually the basin for a pond.

I am building a pond. The area where I am currently digging used to house a swimming pool, but a little lightning and some falling tree took care of that. As you may have gathered, I am not the most adept at this type of work. I can do it and I understand a theoretical application of said work, but when it actually comes down to doing so, well, that’s a different story. I’m also one of the most stubborn peopleĀ  in the world and refuse to allow anything to get in my way once I’ve put my mind to it. I’ll show that clay and shale and sand who the boss is around here. All that you see has been dug by hand. I’ve been working on it for a couple of hours per day Monday-Friday for the last while. The current measurements are 15.4’x13.2′. It is a rather large hole. The majority depth is about 16-18 inches, and the deeper section in the middle (I will be adding an in-between depth shelf there, too) is a few inches shy of 3′ deep.

If there are days when I do not get something posted here, the above dirt pit is the likely culprit.

In other news, I did get some good news over the course of the week on my ever-present and long-suffering job searching. I did have an interview with a potential job in North Carolina. I am very hopeful for that. I also received a letter from the Civil Service Commission requesting college transcripts. That, too, is an excellent sign. Even if I end up not getting the jobs, I know how much better I feel mentally about even getting the calls and getting considered. Things were pretty bleak otherwise.

I was unaware of how divided the world would become over the final Harry Potter movie being released this weekend. I, personally, was a fan of the books and the movies. I didn’t go quite so far as others about them, but I was pretty involved in the fandom. That was largely what made them so enjoyable; being part of the fanatical madness of being a fan. The books were average-to-good, with moments of really fantastic writing, but were generally just good fun that touched on important lessons, especially for young people. Being part of the community, though, was as enjoyable as reading the stories. Talking with friends, making predictions, looking into the history and allusions being made. Somewhere along the line so much of that got lost because it became trendy to be an unabashed hater and professional grade assclowns to everyone who even admitted to liking the series.

Ultimately, it is a matter of preference and you can choose to read or watch or not do either of those items. Much like I said on the “rules” page – you can have a different opinion and, frankly, I hope you do, but be prepared to make a case. Don’t just hate on it for the sake of irony or because it became the thing to do. I have no problem with disagreement or differences in opinion. I have MAJOR problems when people cannot explain the reasons for said opinion/difference/whatever. I may be very, very, very wrong about something and haven’t seen the facts or a different side of an argument. Make the case. You’ll be shocked to see what can happen when you actually discuss something with someone.

Watching the internet tough guys on Twitter and Facebook just got me all rankled. Seeing the anonymous sniping at people for being excited about a movie coming out. I’ve yet to see it or the first part of the finale, but I will see them both, and hopefully soon. Some people like Harry Potter. Some people don’t. My friend @GeeLyn said it best: “Getting my Harry Potter on. I don’t give a shit if you judge me. We all have things we like. I don’t hate on you for what you like.” I liked that. It’s no different from people trolling Pirates fans for, oh, 18 years of painful loss, or Caps fans ragging on Pens fans for losing at the WC and for Sid being concussed. I know not exactly a 1:1 type comparison, but I think you get the message. It got under my skin, sure, but I just started ignoring it and was able to slough it off. I looked at as being the better person by not engaging in the tit-for-tat type of snark that exists pretty much solely on the internet. 99% of what was being said would never be said in person, especially to someone like me (the irony is not lost on me that I am, in fact, writing all of this on the internet). I just let the haters hate and went about my business.

As life moved on from one thing to another, I did become less and less involved with the Potter franchise, especially the films. They were still an important part of life for me. Again, this will likely not come as a shock to most everyone, but I am not the most social person. I enjoy things quiet. I don’t like crowds or dealing with a large number of people at a time. I prefer the country to the city. There are a multitude of reasons why these things may be true. Perhaps another time we can get into the ol’ Walt psychology, but for now, just know that I like it quiet in the world. With being as…not socially awkward, but socially unwilling, as I can be, I found a lot of people with common interests on various message boards and fan sites of the Potter universe. I, as many others have done, was going through some unpleasant times in the late 90s/early 2000’s, and I had a decent support system with many fellow Potter fans. For me it happened to be Potter. I got into it and it was good for me. Some people find that playing a team sport. Others find it being in a band. A wise man once said “the truth, like humour, is where you find it.” We all find our personal truths and what we believe to be important everywhere.

Realistically, I probably contradicted myself 40 times in the above passages. I tend to do that when I write without directive or any sort of pre-writing. C’est la vie. As I put it to a friend of mine, who has gone thoroughly under-appreciated for years because I’m a horrible person, “my ass is completely chapped from talking out of it so much” on this blog. I know hockey talk isn’t for everyone, and I do want to have more of these type of posts (or more like the post from earlier about music). When life happens I will try to keep you all on the up-and-up. I’m in the weird position of deciding how much information I want out there about myself (at least to those who do not already know me). Time will tell.

What to expect over the next week on Avoid the Clap – two more Pens Previews (Letang and a wild card), another round of Griggsy’s Gripes (next Saturday), and a little of this and a little of that.

Thanks for reading or completely glossing over the ramblings. Go Earthen butthole. Go Employment. Go Potter. Go Rambling. Go Pens. Go whatever you like and cheer for.


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