Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Popsicle Plants

If you read about the sorry luck I'm having with pepper plants this summer, you'll be pleased to know that I've picked one banana pepper and one jalapeno, and we may actually get one or two more. That's a few dozen less than usual, but at least it's something.

The two tomato plants are looking quite robust, and I expect several dozen Romas and a handful of Big Beefs. That's a good trade off. Then, on the side of the house, we must have chucked a watermelon over the porch last year, because a rogue plant is taking over our bushes.

But the crop I'm most excited about is the one TB told me about this evening. We were outside in the driveway, I had just finished mowing the lawn, and he was putting his bike away.

"Daddy?" he asked, because he prefaces nearly all of his sentences with that, "Come see something."

He lead me to the mulched area between the driveway and the house. There were two popsicle sticks poking out of the mulch.

"What's that, T?"

"S_____ and I did that today."

"Why did you jam popsicle sticks into the ground?"

"Because we want to grow more popsicles!"

"Who's idea was that?" I asked him.

"Both of ours. We thought of it together."

My boy. Misguided, but still on the right track. I might have to go to the greenhouse this weekend and get a few more popsicle plants. He planted bomb pops, but I really prefer lemon.

Monday, July 30, 2007

We're back . . .

. . . and I'm tired. We'll catch up tomorrow, OK? With my Verizon card, I was able to get an internet connection at the lake, but only for 30 second intervals. The frustration factor was too much for me.

I have great stories: about panning for gold, playing Wii for the first time, exceptional Mexican food, three days in the mountains with three six-year-olds and three three-year-olds. There were six adults, too, but we felt outnumbered (yeah, we drank a lot).

For now, though, I'm done.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Heading For The Hills

We're heading out for a long weekend at Summit Lake, North Carolina. Never been there, so I'm not sure what the connection situation is going to be. Of course, the laptop is going with me, and I have a Verizon card that usually works in a pinch, so I'll probably try to check in. I might enjoy a few days disconnected, though.

Looks like a rainy weekend, so we may have to play a whole lot of cards. We will be within 40 miles of some 6000' peaks, though, so I'm hoping to get in a good hike.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bob, Gone. Drew, In. Who Do You Think Should Host The Price Is Right?

Proud Papa

Allow me to brag about my child for a minute (like I don't, anyway). I'm not sure where he gets this from, but the boy can swim fast. I can sink fast, I can drink fast, once in a while I can think fast, but there's no way I can swim fast. LBB used to be on the swim team in high school, but she hasn't kept it up. So where's this coming from?

TB finished the regular summer swim season with the best 25 meter butterfly time in the league for 6 and under boys, 28.72 seconds. He had a bunch of first place ribbons in other events, too. The crazy thing is, even though he will be seven before next summer's season, he still swims 6&U because of when his birthday falls. So if he wants to swim next year, he should be cruising to victory.

We don't push him too much, though. I don't want him to hate something for which he seems to have natural ability. I'm proud, I want him to keep it up, but there is no way I'm sending a six year old to daily practice year round. So far, he has found his own pleasure in the sport and the competition, without any prodding from us. He will have a few months off, play soccer, get used to first grade, and then maybe in the winter he will do twice a week lessons.

Here he is, all intense and ready to go, during one of his meets. He's thinking Olympics 2024.

One of the Worst The Price Is Right Players Ever

The Price

If you've been an exceedingly loyal reader of JSR, you'd know that odd as it may be, I'm a fan of the Price is Right. The thing about it is that it's so gosh-darned wholesome and fun that you can't help but love it. I'm not sure where the college student groupies came from, but clearly a lot of kids missed a lot of school when they were growing up. The show has been on at 11:00 AM (Eastern) since the dawn of time.

I was glad when they chose this guy, over this guy, and this blowhard, as the new host. No one can really replace good old Bob Barker, but it's probably about time for a change, don't you think?

You Tube of a classic PIR moment soon to come.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why The Human Race Is Doomed

I'm all for conservation. Recycling. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Efforts to reduce deforestation. Using low wattage light bulbs. All well intentioned and worthy efforts.

But we, as a society, are still doomed because of people like the dickhead I just saw as I was walking to lunch.

Outside my building, there was a utility truck on the corner and a couple manholes were propped open on the sidewalk with a big ole' hose dangling down in them. Oftentimes I see this downtown. It's like they are pumping water, or something, from one undergroud catacomb to another. Not sure why, but they do it all the time.

Anyway, walking by one of these open manholes were a fat, shirtless, teenage thug, and a skinny teenage thug. Teen #1 obviously gave away his thug status by not wearing a shirt on a busy downtown street. Teen #2 had the complete thug package going on: HUGE tee shirt down to his knees, untied basketball shoes, ball cap with brim pressed flat, twisted to the side so it shaded his right ear, mutton chops, pimp roll swagger. It was Vanilla Ice. Still can't mask the fact that he is a pimply faced fourteen-year-old kid who is probably playing hookey from summer school "pre-algebra" class.

Well, thug #2 took a quick look around, made sure a few of us noticed him, and then proceeded to fire an empty 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottle right down into the manhole.

Obnoxious little wretch. I scowled at him, he scoffed at me. There are always going to be people like this. Most of us know better, just out of normal human decency, by the time we are middle school age. This is the kind of loser we will end up housing in state prison for most of his life. I can only hope that bottle hit some 300 pound utility worker who proceeded to pummel the little turd mercilessly.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Walk In The Woods

As fall approaches, I start to get excited about hiking. One of the great things about living in such close proximity to the Blue Ridge is the abundance of trails within a short drive.

I'm a bit of a wimp hiker, in that I'm not going to strap on a huge backpack and go overnight or try to through hike the Appalachian Trail. I like a nice day hike. Generally I carry a fanny pack with two or three quarts of water (depending on the length and difficulty of the hike). Sometimes I'll pack a lunch, but usually, I'm just out for the morning and home by lunchtime.

Twelve miles is about my limit, but I tend to keep them between five and eight miles. I'll never forget the time I took my wife to the Rock Castle Gorge trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was about eleven miles down into a gorge and back up. It was before we were married, and I'm surprised she didn't up and leave me after that. It was a killer.

Today, since it's a little cooler than usual for July, I thought I'd get out and stretch my legs. I found a trail last year that is easily accessible from my house. Off Yellow Mountain Road, there is a little cul-de-sac called Morrison St. Right across from a big stone house is the beginning of a trail that parallels the parkway spur that leads to Mill Mountain and the zoo. Most of the hike, however, is far enough from the road that you won't hear the traffic. The trail ascends very steeply at first, then eases up, but it's never really flat. After 1/4 mile or so, you begin descending and eventually reach a point where the Zoo access road begins. Off to the left is the Woodcliff Trail, which descends steeply back down to the neighborhood. If you keep straight, you ascend again for another 1/4 mile to reach to Zoo entrance.

Overall, this hike is about 1 1/2 miles round trip. It took me 45 minutes, but I was just strolling slowly today. I'd estimate the elevation gain from the trail head to the zoo at about 400 feet. This would be a good one to take the kids on, just to get out in the woods. I think my six year old could handle it without too many complaints. I'm not sure about younger ones, because there are some steep stretches.

I'll document our hikes throughout the season. Hopefully you'll try some of them if you feel like a walk in the woods. There are also lots of great books on hikes in Virginia. One of my favorites is Walking The Blue Ridge, by Leonard Adkins.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bored About Beckham

ESPN has been kissing David Beckham's ass for about three hours now. To me, soccer has always been one of those games that is far more fun to play than to watch. Think: bowling, golf, tennis. OK, just about all sports except football , basketball, and (sometimes) baseball, right? Are they expecting Beckham to singlehandedly turn America on to professional soccer?

I just don't get it. Beckham may be the best ever, with a multi-million dollar contract, and he does have a skeletal, ghoulish, celebrity wife, but still . . . it's soccer. The game tonight has been going on for 73 fargin' minutes and it's 1-0. One goal. On a gigantic field. At least in hockey there is that possibility of a goal from across the arena. Ain't gonna happen in this game.

One thing I'll concede: I will be happy to see soccer get more coverage, because clearly we have many, many more soccer fans in the USA than ever before. If people love it, want to watch it, and it gets them out having fun, I'm all for it. Just not my game, I guess.

Missed the Harry Potter Bus

Clearly I'm missing out on something huge, here, but I've not read a Harry Potter book, nor seen a movie. One of our good friends did the midnight movie to see whichever one came out last week, and several others went to the bookstore at midnight last night.

But now I see not just one - Venomous Kate, or two - Country Dew, but three - Flibbert, from my blogroll are all up into it! Yeesh! I've missed the train, but I guess I should try to catch up!

Looks like Country Dew has the lead out of the gate.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Out of Practice

My goodness! We haven't played foosball in months. Outdoor activities have taken over. Tonight we played for awhile and the boy took three straight from me. He wants to go to 100 games, so I need to practice.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Peppers: Paltry

I don't have much of a vegetable garden. It's just a two by ten foot strip behind the garage. In past years, though, I've had some tremendous pepper harvests. Jalapenos seem to do the best, cayennes and banana peppers a close second.

Well this year, I bought some young, but healthy looking plants. They have done next to nothing for a month. I don't get it. I watered them, I gave them Miracle Grow, I spaced them properly, but nothing. These peppers are sad.

The only thing I did differently this year was, I planted two tomato plants. They are doing great, so I'm guessing they are sucking up all the nutrients and shading the sun that the peppers need.

Those better be good tomatoes, because my loyalty lies with the peps. Take a look a the sorry things.

For Crying Out Loud, Let The Pussies Be

This story is getting me fired up. This is a perfect example of the federal government overstepping the bounds of reason to spoil everybody's fun once again.

We took our honeymoon in Key West. Being a big Hemingway reader, I naturally wanted to visit his home there. The tour is interesting, the grounds are lush and tropical, but the cats are what give the place an eerie charm. Inside or out, wherever you look, another cat appears almost magically, fading in from the background. I remember distinctly we kept saying, "Look there's one. And another. And, there's one over there." It was fun, especially if you're a cat person.

My wife is a cat person, and TB has become one as well. We had as many as six at one time. Now we are down to two, which I think is reasonable. I'm a cat person in the sense that I prefer them over dogs, but I would be fine to be petless for awhile. I doubt that will ever happen.

Still, I wish our fine gummint in Washington would just leave the pussies alone. They are well cared for and they aren't bothering anybody.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why This Will Never Be a Photo Blog

I looked at video cameras for weeks, and bought a Hi8 machine about two weeks before everything went digital (because I was cheap).

I stuck with film cameras until about two years ago, and now we have boxes and boxes of pictures that we can't share and we can't find time to sort through (because I was cheap).

I relied on a free digital camera for awhile, one from a JC Penney promotion: buy $100 worth of men's clothing and get a free digital camera. I should have known what to expect (because I was cheap). It lasted about a month or two.

Then, I bought this kick a' computer setup from Best Buy, so I had all these reward dollars. Enough to buy the cheapest HP camera that is compatible with our printer (because I was cheap).

Here's the problem: although it may be an OK camera, it can't compensate for how crappy we are as photographers. Here are some examples:

There's the back of someone else's head while we try to take a picture of our kindergardener receiving an award for some foolishness like "Most Bowed Legs" or "Most Likely to Maybe Go To First Grade. Maybe". Oh, they all get an award for something.

Then there's this one:

Hey, look, that's art! I call it "Bent Knee With Stripe, Black Background, Study #12". Naw, it's just one of us being a dimwit with the camera.

Oh, and this masterpiece:

I thought that was a remarkable tomato, so I decided to lay it up in front of some fruit bowls and call it a "still life". This was on vacation, mind you, so I was likely quite intoxicated, but, it was about the only photo worth saving from the whole trip.

"Big Red Tomato, Fruits, Microwave". That's what I call it.

That's why this blog has very little photo fun, among all the other whimsy.

Appalachian Breweries

I've made no secret of how I enjoy "orange soda", so I was excited this morning to find a post on Hillbilly Savants about micro breweries. Many links included. Sadly, none are nearby. Roanoke could use a nice brew pub.

I'm getting thirsty!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Poked and Prodded and Snipped and Clipped

Tomorrow morning is my first doctor's appointment since turning forty. Since my father had prostate cancer, I fear the doctor is going to ask if he can poke around a bit down there.

I know it's the prudent thing to do, and I don't have any issues with the nature of what needs to be done. My concern is that I'll get squeamish and nearly pass out. I have no stomach for medical procedures, which is weird since I've been peripherally involved with health care for 18 years.

I have to turn my head when they draw blood. It's not the sight of the blood itself, but the thought of it being sucked out of my arm into a syringe gives me the sweaty shakes. I'm OK with flu shots, and I've watched my son get most of his vaccinations, so I'm not a complete basket case.

A couple years ago we decided it was time for me to get a vasectomy. I read up on the procedure. I knew what I was in for, but I felt a little queasy about it. I went to the urologist for the initial consultation. He explained things, and I was OK. He handed me some brochures. That was fine. Then he asked me to drop 'em and he started tugging at me in all sorts of ways.

In the right circumstances, with the right person, hey, you betcha', but sitting there in the exam room: not what I had in mind. It felt like he was trying to make gnocchi down there.

This only went on for a few seconds, but it didn't take long before I felt that distant ringing in my ears, like the beginning of Tubular Bells. I started to get clammy and cold, and I was having trouble following what the doctor was saying. Thankfully, he was quickly done, but I had to lie there for a few minutes before I could get it together enough to leave.

Isn't that a wreck? I nearly passed out at the consultation. I had the exact same experience when my wife had amniocentesis. She was fine. I couldn't even look at the ultrasound images.

The vasectomy itself was a breeze. Of course, that was because of the Valium.

Hey . . . maybe I have another one of them squirreled away somewhere for tomorrow!


Don't you hate when you discover a blatant grammatical or typographical error in one of your posts, and it's been out there for days, weeks, or even more? Rats!

I know, posts about blogging are boring and self-indulgent, but hey, I just needed to get that off my chest.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I've always loved a variety of music. One of my favorites in high school was Rush. My wife hates this about me, but I don't subject her to it very much. She thinks Geddy Lee's voice is annoying. She doesn't understand that you're supposed to focus on the drums!

Still, Rush took a nose dive in songwriting quality about 20 years ago, and I'm not sure they ever came out of it. I'm sure I'm just old and mired in my old favorites, but if you ask me, their last quality album was Grace Under Pressure and that came out about 1984 or so.

I'll grant you, they put out a nice album of cover songs in 2004 called Feedback. It had versions of "Mr. Soul", "The Seeker", and "For What It's Worth". I haven't loved their original music, though. Today, I heard a song from the latest album on the radio, and I thought it sounded like crap.

Whatever. On tour, I'm sure they are focusing on the old stuff anyway.

But then, I checked out their website, and that same song kicked off as soon as I got there. It was well worth a second listen, because it rocked.

Sorry, LBB, I might have to get the new Rush record.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


My boy, testosterunt that he is, is completely enthralled with a Webkin this evening. In case you're not familiar, Webkinz are these stuffed animals that you buy at select places, and they have a code attached to them so that you can open up their online life at the Webkinz website. Some kids have dozens of these things. He just has one, a lion he named Paddy. Paddy has been sadly neglected for the last several months.

But tonight, Momma and I are going to a party, and TB is having a sleepover at our good friends' house. They have a 7 year old daughter who is all up into the Webkinz. So I think the boy is prepping himself for a night in Webkin world.

Allergic to Current Events

My wife is always making fun of me because every morning when I come down to the kitchen I sneeze my head off. Like six or seven in a row. It doesn't happen the rest of the day, or anywhere else for that matter. It bugs her, because as I'm getting ready to go to work, she and TB are generally still in bed.

Finally, this morning, I figured it out. Since it's Saturday, I altered the morning routine a bit and read the local paper in the living room. Sure enough, sneeze after sneeze. Now that I think about it, it's always while I'm reading the paper that this happens. As soon as I put it down, the expectoration stops.

I'm allergic to the local paper. (Sorry, Andrew!)

Anyone else out there allergic to newspapers?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Exercise That Mouse

I've been so lame, out of touch, on vacation, and otherwise disconnected for so long, that I thought it was time to gush out post after post after post, and I'm not sure I'm done quite yet. So bear with me, but if you're just joining us: keep a'scrolling. Nine new posts today! I'm not sure I've ever done more than three.

JSR DJ's Your Evening

I have this Finetune player over here on the right side bar ----->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My guess is, no one really bothers with it, and that's fine. Most visits are brief and just looking for the new stuff. But I'll tell you, I have quite a mix on there. I don't even remember overall what I put on it, but tonight, I've heard: Soundgarden, The Band, U2, Black Box, New Order, Joni Mitchell, Thievery Corporation, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, 50 Cent, America, Aerosmith, Depeche Mode, Interpol, Johnny Cash, Radiohead, Metallica, Neil Young, Nelly, Orbital, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears, and lots lots more . . .

Give it a listen. All you have to do is click on the player, and if you want to leave this site, just open up another browser session, leave this one open and you have music for the evening.

Finetune offers a more easily portable solution, but I haven't checked it out yet.

Steely Dan

Am I the only person in southwest Virginia who has any appreciation for Steely Dan? OK, they met in college near my hometown, so they got extry radio play when I was growing up, but they really are unique and have an exceptional catalog of work. Go looking on iTunes or Rhapsody, because you sure as hell won't hear them on the radio in Roanoke (unless it's 'Reeling In The Years' on Q99).

Yes, I'm a big fan. My fave' Steely Dan song: Here at the Western World.

Yip Yip Yip Yip . . . Cow

My son and I have been watching this over and over. He thinks it's hilarious. I remember it from 35 years ago.

Envelope Etiquette

Here's something I wonder about: my mother, whenever she addresses a letter to my wife, writes "Mrs. David S. _____" on the envelope, instead of using my wife's actual first name. Does anyone still do this? Is this still proper? Frankly, I've always thought it was a bit obnoxious, because it almost implies that the sender wants me to open my wife's mail.

My mother is 78 years old, so I'm not going to correct her, but I just wonder if anyone still does this.

(Oh, yeah, David is my actual first name, but you can call me Jeff. That's fine, too.)

Mets A Bit of a Mess

WTF is going on with the New York Mets? I expected to be gloating about a 12 game NL East lead about now. As it goes, they are lucky to be leading a mediocre division. It comes down to pitching and spotty hitting from everyone except Reyes. They will make the post-season, but I'm a lot more nervous about it than I expected. Looks like the AL dominates yet again.

Flight Torture Baby

Gee, do you think maybe there is more to the story than this?

Ole' Squinty Eyes

I just got irritated with my own farkin' blog because I thought the print was too small. I've been looking at this thing for six months and never had that problem before.

So, either I'm a little buzzed and my focus is wavering, or I'm getting old any my eyesight is going, or the type has been too small all the while. I upped it a notch and it still looks OK to me (tonight, anyway), but what do you think? Too small before, or too big now?

I'm In For It, Pt. 2

Here's an excerpt from one of my earlier Circle columns that created a little buzz. I thought I'd share worldwide:

Let me tell you of a growing fear I’ve had lately. Gentlemen, you’ll relate to this because I bet you have felt it in the air, too. I need someone to watch my back, because any day now it’s coming: my wife is going to smash me over the head with a frying pan.

At the beginning of every episode of Six Feet Under, someone suffers an unusual or unexpected demise. One show, some big dude was at his kitchen table prattling on about nothing, and his wife calmly walked over and clobbered him with an iron skillet. Shut him right up, too. Well, when my wife saw that, she laughed and laughed. Oh, it was so funny! But I didn’t laugh quite so hard. Deep inside, my reaction was more like, “Uh, oh.”

So now we have (she has?) this running joke. Whenever I go off about something ad nauseum, she says she is going to get a pan. Thing is, those instances are about the same, old, tired subjects. I have been fussing about money for years, and often I think I have a point, but we haven’t gone broke yet. So when I bring it up, I know I’m asking for a saucepan to the head.

What I’m more worried about are the not-so-obvious moments: have I worn this old t-shirt one too many times? Is this a bad time to read the newspaper? Do I need to grate more cheese? Have I once again exercised my knack for saying just the wrong thing?

Occasionally I get a sense that my presence in the room is unwelcome and it’s best to simply step out. Often, I’m overtly told so. I don’t mind that, but knowing that she’s one good skull whack away from a permanent solution, well, that just makes me uneasy.

I buy myself small chunks of time by consistently going to work, dealing with the trash, taking care of the yard, reaching for things up high. If I really want to earn a couple weeks, I’ll escort our son out of the house for a few hours.

And I’m not the only one in danger. You know why? Wives get on the phone with other wives. Issues are magnified and nefarious plans are hatched. Men don’t generally do this. We get together and talk about work, weather, sports, what the kids are doing, but we never say, “Can you believe what a buffoon my wife is? Have I told you about the dim witted thing she has done? What, my friend, do you think I should do about this?”

In doing my “research” for this piece, I casually asked a friend if she ever had thoughts of clubbing her husband on the back of his head. Her reaction: “Oh, my God! Do you think I could get away with it?”

That may be anecdotal evidence, but how many sociological studies would it take to be more convincing? Husbands, you are doomed. And here’s the extra kick in the groin: generally, people can’t get clean away with a homicide, premeditated or not. They have all that DNA evidence and forensic science nowadays. So the alternative is to leave us in a state of suspended trepidation: frying pan, or maybe something else? What other non-lethal penance will we suffer as a result of our ill defined shortcomings?

But like they say, if life had no element of risk, it wouldn’t be much fun, so I’ll take my chances. I hope I haven’t left the impression that my wife is evil, because really she’s quite easy going. Truth is, most of the time, the cookware serves us well simply by sautéing a number of delicious dishes. Still, it may help ensure my longevity if we went out to eat more often. At least in most restaurants, the pots are out of reach.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good News / Bad News

The good news: I forgot to take a $2000 income subtraction on my state taxes for the amount I put in the Virginia 529 education savings program. I just did the amended return and wheeee!!! - we get an extry $115 refund.

The bad news: what kind of a dumbass forgets such a thing? I'm losing it, and losing it fast.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Back to Reality

Got home about 7:00 last night from our beach trip. Gorgeous weather, good friends, excellent food, an astonishing amount of beer. TB had a blast with two other boys, children of our good friends, and he had a sleepover with another friend while we were there. He's brown as a bean. Good times.

But a lot of driving. LBB and I left the boy with some local friends who also were at the Outer Banks, and we drove up to Richmond on Thursday for Uncle Rudy's funeral. Rudy was a character, much like G'diddy. We'll miss his humor. He was 90 years old, widowed in 1999. I'm glad G'diddy didn't have to go through the grief of losing his little brother. Now they are all back together with their spouses, drinking Coors Light and dancing up a storm to the Big Bands.

Sadly, among G'diddy and his two brothers, they only had one child, my wife. So this branch of their family name won't have any more limbs. We did pass it along somewhat by giving our son two middle names, which are G'diddy's first and last names.

I hate leaving the beach, but getting home is nice. Especially when you have Sunday to decompress, take care of the yard and the laundry, and relax a little.

We are extending the festivities a bit tonight because some friends invited us to join them at Rockfish for dinner and to hear an excellent local blues band.

Tomorrow, 6:30 AM, the alarm goes off and this vacation is history.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Full On Vacation Mode

Sorry, folks, I'm having quite a time here at the beach. Ocean, pool, kayaking, putt putt, etc.

But sadly, we had some bad news. LBB's uncle passed away on Sunday. He was G'diddy's brother and LBB's last surviving uncle. We are taking a pause to remember him on Thursday up in Richmond.

Fun times, sad times. Reality.

Back on Friday, folks . . .