Friday, December 26, 2008

Dear God, What Have We Done?

Santa's big "surprise" this year was Rock Band 2 for the Wii. I'm proud to say the my son is quite an artist with the fake, plastic guitar. He's getting the hang of the fake, plastic drums, too. But let me tell you, he may possibly be the worst . . . singer . . . ever!

Granted, he doesn't know the words to any of the songs, and he's just hearing most of them for the first time, so belting the lyrics out karaoke style is not an easy task. I think he's trying to compensate by shouting louder and louder. Dang, it's awful.

Overall it's a great game. I was reluctant at first, since we already have Guitar Hero, but now that I've played a few times I'm hooked, too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Have a merry one.


This next picture is blurry, but I just put it there to prove that I put enough lights on the tree.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas List

Here's a Christmas meme that several bloggers I follow have taken up. I thought I would join in.

Wrapping paper or gift bags?
For Christmas, for the three of us, we usually wrap. For everything and everyone else, bags whenever possible. My wife and I are the worst gift wrappers in the world. It's become a joke between us to see who can screw it up the most.

Real tree or artificial?
Real since about 1992. Firs are well worth the extra cost for the ease of decorating and reduced needle droppage. Artificial when I was growing up. It never occurred to me to want a real tree when I was a kid, because I always enjoyed putting the color coded limbs into the trunk.

When do you put up the tree?
Usually the first or second weekend in December.

When do you take the tree down?
The first weekend after New Years Day, or earlier sometimes.

Do you like egg nog?
I did as a kid - the dairy case variety. We've had a bottle of alcoholic egg nog in the likker cabinet for three years and I've never been tempted to try it. I'm thinking it needs to go down the drain.

Favorite gift received as a child?
Schwinn 10 speed bike. I was thirteen or fourteen.

Hardest person to buy for?
My wife or my mother. Toss up because neither really wants or needs anything and neither will give me any hints.

Easiest person to buy for?
My son. He tells us what he wants, but his list is surprisingly short given his age.

Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, but it's part of a setup that TB calls his "town", so it's interwoven with firetrucks and other symbols of modern life.

Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?
Mail. I've never sent an e-card for any occasion, believe it or not.

Worst Christmas gift you've ever received?
A sack of "Fartless Chili", which was something I took to an office gift exchange where you trade back and forth. I ended up with my own offering because no one else wanted it. Imagine that!

Favorite Christmas movie?
It's a Wonderful Life. I haven't seen that many, though.

When do you start shopping?
Generally in a one day blast, on whichever day is the most convenient after Thanksgiving. This year it has not happened yet, which makes me a little nervous because I like to make another mini shopping blast closer to the day.

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
No, I don't think so.

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
We have gone to friends' for Christmas breakfast for the last 12 years or so, and I always look forward to the crumbly blueberry thing. I have no idea what it's really called.

Lights on the tree?
Yes, white ones. LBB always says I don't put enough lights on, but there are plenty. I'll post a picture one day to prove it.

Favorite Christmas song?
Do You Hear What I Hear?

Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. We travel at Thanksgiving instead. It's easy to get away with this, since I grew up in upstate NY and the weather can always be a factor for getting up there in December.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
No problem. Even if I were completely intoxifried, this is a list I could recite.

Open the presents on Christmas eve or morning?
Morning.

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Cold weather and stress.

Favorite ornament theme or color?
That's not my committee, so I have no idea.

Favorite Christmas memory?
When I was a little boy and the "reindeer bells" would ring to tell me it was time to go to bed on Christmas eve.

What do you want for Christmas this year?

  • Renewed optimism in America.
  • A traditional diner in Roanoke where Ranch dressing is not even an option; they serve a fried egg and tomato sandwich 24/7; french fries and gravy are a staple; sub sandwiches arrive cold, as they should be unless there are meatballs up in it; and they have a rack of spinning pies near the front door.
  • Continued loud laughter from my wife and son.
  • Good health for my family and friends.
  • Inspiration to renew this blog and my writing in general, since they have been way far in the back yard lately.
  • A good snow.





Mom with Kitten, 1945

We bought a digital photo frame, which sadly did not work, for my mother for Christmas. While looking for pictures to load on the SD card I came across this shot of my mother in 1945. She was sixteen at the time, already graduated from high school, and probably working full time somewhere.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Working I-81 Hard This Week

This past weekend, TB had a swim meet in Wayneboro, so Saturday morning up 81 we go, Saturday afternoon back down 81. Sunday morning, back up 81 to Waynesboro, Sunday afternoon back down 81 to home.

It was only an hour and twenty minutes each way but that's still a lot of I-81 in two days.

TB had a great meet, but it was a grueling one: 10 individual events and two relays. He won the 50 butterfly, almost won the 25 butterfly and 50 breaststroke, and he lowered his times in all events except the 100 IM. It was worth the trip.

Then tomorrow it's the loooooooong schlep up 81 to New York for Thanksgiving. It's 81 all the way past Harrisburg, PA, then we head east on I-78 into New Jersey, hit I-287 north into New York and then take New York Thruway to one of two exits that take us to Poughkeepsie.

540 miles is a long drive, but it's long overdue. I haven't been up to see my Mom since Dad died in April. Shame on me. She's done great, overall, but a bout with the shingles has put her under for the last month, at least. So she may not be up for a holiday visit, but we're going anyway. We'll have a scaled back Thanksgiving dinner, probably go lay some flowers at the cemetary, do some chores around her house, and hopefully convince her to come south for a visit real soon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'll be back with you in December.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pizza Night

My wife went out to cackle with some hens tonight, so TB and I had pizza night. Oftentimes when LBB is out we make up a pizza. No Dominos, Pizza Hut or any of that mess. We make it ourselves. Sometimes I make dough, sometimes we use a Boboli or the store-brand equivalent.

Tonight, we made a sausage pie for the boy, onion and mushroom for me - canned mushrooms, of course - fresh mushrooms on a pizza taste like eating the newspaper. We had some questionable sun-dried tomatoes in the pantry so I tossed a few of those on mine. That was a mistake. Apparently, you have to re-hydrate them or something. I picked them off and threw them away.

TB complained that his pizza was too spicy, but he ate it anyway. Must have been the three (or maybe five or seven) shakes of crushed red pepper I mixed into the sauce.

He boldly decided to put one (1!) mini slice of onion on his pizza, just to try it out. In the end, great pizzas. We both ate well.

After dinner, we played some card games. He has a kid version of hearts that he wanted to try. I couldn't figure out the Engrish directions. It didn't make any sense, until I realized it required 3 or more players. So, on to Ruckus! We love playing Ruckus. Little thought, lots of action.

Ruckus requires you keep score. Just because it's what I do, I almost never use real names at the head of a score sheet. I put down "Big Horse" for myself and "Ding-a-Ling" for him. I didn't think twice about it. I could just as well have put down "Gaseous Gorilla", "Noriega", or "Gwallusp". I meant nothing by it and he didn't even notice.

Then he won the game and took a look at the scoresheet. Of course he laughed about Big Horse, and then asked why I put down "Ding-a-Ling" for him, but laughed about it anyway. I had forgotten his recent protestations about being called "Ding-Dong" (he can be a bit vacuous now and then, so . . . if the shoe fits, right?).

Since he chucked a bit about "Ding-a-Ling", bright one that I am, I figured he might get a kick out of the old Chuck Berry song "My Ding-a-Ling". So we went to the computer and fired up Rhapsody and as soon as the tune started up he scowled and me and asked, "Why does everyone keep calling me a Ding-a-Ling?"

Poor guy. He's all sensitive and I'm just trying to get him to laugh at a goofy song. I told him, "No, we're not calling you a Ding-a-Ling, it's just a silly song, don't get all teenaged and sensitive on me." But he kept scowling, so I shut it off.

Then I showed him a YouTube video of a big dude in his undies dancing to "Milkshake". He laughed and laughed. We're all patched up now like father and son.

Momma might want to think twice about leaving us home alone.

The Trolley Bus

I rode the new trolley bus to work this morning. It was great! I know it's just a bus that looks like a trolley, but it's still a fun idea. There was a Valley Metro employee on there with us this morning. She said they had about 100 riders on the first day. I think it will catch on the more people see them coming and going.

We'll see just how committed I am to riding it in the middle of January, but for now I'm going to ride as often as I can.

Between the trolley buses and the new museum, downtown Roanoke is looking a bit more cosmopolitan lately.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Well Done, Virginia!

52% to 47%. How about that?

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Hear Ya

Have you ever had a cold, sniffling, coughing for a few days or a week and then it fades away and you think you are fine, and you feel fine, but then . . .

BLAMMO! a week later you yawn real wide and suddenly your ears pop open and you realize you've been listening through a thick soup all the while?

Quiet down, please!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Had a Bad Dream

The other night, I had a dream that I was watching election returns and one by one the states were all turning red. In the end, Maryland was the only state that hadn't been called yet. Then, ultimately they flipped it red also. Maryland! That will never happen. I was upset, in the dream, and tried to find my wife to seek her counsel on how that could happen. She and my son were fixated on finding some root beer, so I was left to try to figure it out on my own.

I doubt that's how things are going to turn out on Tuesday. I sure hope not.

So that's about all I'm going to say about the Presidential election. Mostly I'm just exhausted with the whole thing. We need to come up with a way to shorten this process. A year from candidates declaring themselves through the primaries and the election. That should be plenty of time. By now they are mostly just pulling out stuff that doesn't make any sense to hurl at the opposition (and by "they", I primarily mean "Republicans").

So, anyway, whoever you support, we can all be glad this will be over in a couple days.

Aching and Racked With Pain

In the fall I like to get out hiking as much as possible. Usually that means a couple times a month. I used to go a lot more frequently, before our child's schedule started chewing up our weekends. I tell you what: hiking at 41 is not as easy as it was at 31. This weekend I tested myself a little too much with two hikes in two days. I'm sore as hell.

Yesterday afternoon was basically just a stroll in the woods. I was heading for the RAC to work out and on a whim decided it was way too nice to be inside. So I hopped on the Chestnut Ridge Trail. This is a 5.3 mile loop around the Roanoke Mountain Campground. It's easily accessible from my house, but that would add a couple miles to the walk. Plus, I was already in the car when I decided to do it so I just parked by the trail access and did the loop. There are a few hills, but overall it's not very strenuous at all. I pushed the pace to be sure I got my heart rate up, so in the end it was a good workout. The colors were awesome, the temperature perfect for being in the woods, I saw some deer. Much better than being at the stinky old gym.

So, feeling inspired this morning, and with an extra hour on my hands since TB woke up at the new 6:00 (feeling good as new, by the way), I decided I'd climb a mountain. While LBB and TB went off to Sunday school, I put on my trail shoes and headed for Catawba. I had decided on the Andy Layne Trail to Tinker Cliffs.

I've done this hike numerous times, but it's been at least five years. The article I linked kind of downplays the ascent involved, over 2000 feet from the parking lot to the top. Plus, it misstates the distance. Round trip to Tinker Cliffs and back is more like 7 miles.

It starts gently enough, descending from the Catawba Creek Road parking area for a quarter mile or so. Then it crosses a couple stiles, and two ricketty bridges over the creek, as it goes through a cow pasture. Shortly after passing a huge rock cliff that rises upward to the left, the trail enters the woods and starts kicking your ass. Over one more stile, then it runs along the edge of a gully for a couple hundred yards. It connects with an old fire road, which is gentle enough for a ways. The view down into a quarry makes it feel like you've ascended farther than you really have.

Soon you are faced with a series of three short but brutal ascents. By the last one I had to perch against a tree for a few minutes to catch my breath. It eases up a bit after that, but continues ascending steadily through a series of switchbacks. This is followed by a section along the edge of a ravine with a pretty perilous drop to the right.

The trail intersects with the AT at Scorced Earth Gap. Another half mile of ups and downs (mostly ups) brings us to Tinker Cliffs. For my money, the view is just as good as McAfee Knob. So all the struggle and strain is well worth it.

The decent is much easier on the lungs, of course, but during those steep stretches you almost have to walk sideways or risk losing control and sliding face first down the mountain. So, it took about 1 hour, 20 minutes on the way up, but only 1 hour back down.

A great day for a tough hike, but right now it feels like someone kicked me, hard, in the back of both my legs. As soon as I got home, my son is here playing with a couple of his cronies and they want me to take them to the baseball park. No sir! Not today. That usually involves me pitching to them and me chasing balls in the outfield. I'm too old and tired for that right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Poor Fella

After a great Halloween, that included a party, trick-or-treating, and flashlight tag until about 9:00, TB is suffering today. He got barfy in the middle of the night and didn't stop until mid-afternoon. It's not from too much candy, either. He only ate a few things last night.

When he's really feeling awful, for some reason, he likes to lie on the bathroom floor. At least he's past that, but he has been prone on the couch for the last eight hours or so.

He asked me today, "Daddy, why is there sick?" I said I don't know, but that when you are sick it's your body trying to clean itself up so it does not stay sick. "I hate sick," he said, "because I can't do what I want to do." He doesn't malinger, my boy.

He's getting to where when he feels lousy he just wants to be left alone. I want to go over there and rub his belly and give him a big hug, but it makes him cross. So I'll let him watch his cartoons in peace. Poor guy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

5 Things

I've been unusually lame lately. I'll take whatever inspiration I can get. So here's a simple little meme I found over at Blue Country Magic.

5 Things Found In My Pocketbook
Well, I don't have one of those, so here are five things often found in my pants pockets:
Keys
My BlackBerry
My wife's lipstick (if we are out on the town)
A Wallet
Lists (to do, to buy, etc.)

5 Things I Would Do Today If I Could
Ski
Go to the beach
Hike up Mount Washington (NH)
Visit my mother
Eat Mexican food (I've been nauseous for a couple days, so that's out of the question)

5 Things I Love About My Life
My wife
My son
My friends
My house
Lack of debt (aside from the mortgage)

5 Things I've Always Wanted to Do
Publish a short story
Throw away the alarm clock
Re-learn guitar
Hike out West
Visit South America

5 Things I Enjoy The Most
Seafood
Music
Watching my son swim (although he complains about it almost daily now. I'm not sure how we are going to keep him motivated.)
Throwing things (footballs, baseballs, frisbees . . . you name it)
That the Bush administration is soon to be over

So there you have it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Now It's Getting Interesting

I shut off the ALCS game last night when it was 5-0 Tampa Bay. I know, I'm a disgruntled Mets fan, bitter about their repeated collapse, but that aside, this has been one dull post-season.

Until I saw this. I bet they win the next two easy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Massive Cheeseburger

This is one of the reasons the rest of the world hates America. Why would anyone eat this thing?

I have a tremendous appetite, but I'm disgusted by this fascination over the past couple years with competitive eating and other dubious gastronomical feats.

I guess it is somewhat of an accomplishment to make a gigantic hamburger, but cut it into small pieces and have a party. Share.

I don't get it. Never understood beer bongs or shotgunning a can, either. Believe me, I often caught up, volume-wise, so I'm not passing judgment on the quantity. It's just that I never found the need to make a big show of it. Or at least such that I remember . . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bye, Bye Now

So long, Mitsu! Sold her tonight for a fair price to a nice young couple who seem like they should make her a good, fun home. Shoot, I took a look at the service records and I haven't even put 3500 miles on the car this year. And that includes two trips to New York.

It's no Ferrari, but it was a powerful little thing for a low priced sports car. It just was not right for a fat-ass like me, and it was completely impractical for moving children about town. If one sat behind the driver, they had to lay their legs up sideways.

I'm glad I found someone who will put her to good use.

Now, here's my dilemma. Well, I guess dilemma isn't a good word for it, because it's not really a problem. Anyway, I have to make a decision, and in the wake of the ass-kicking the economy took recently, it's should be an easy one.

We have a 2008 Honda CR-V, which is, and will be, the "family" car for the next 100 years or so. We also have a 1996 Toyota Camry with 140,000 miles that was the family car before the Honda arrived. It looks a wreck, but would probably last many more years. Only problem it has now is a slow power steering fluid leak, which seems to have responded to Lucas Oil Stop Leak.

I'm driving the Camry to work now, which is only a couple miles. Plus, the city promised some sort of free trolley service from the hospital to downtown. I could walk to it in 10 minutes, if they ever start it up, so I'd only need to drive once in awhile.

So I have little reason to shop for a car.

But, I could still get a couple thousand dollars for the Toyota. Pair that up with the proceeds from the Mitsu and I could be well on the way to a decent late-model used car.

I really like the looks of this one, or maybe this one. But I guess I should just wait awhile and see if the country goes under before I spend anything I don't need to spend. It's fun looking, though.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh, My!

I'd hate to be this guy.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Slow Train

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can't help but wonder what's happenin' to my companions,
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it'll take to bring
down
All their earthly principles they're gonna have to abandon?
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

I had a woman down in Alabama,
She was a backwoods girl, but she sure was realistic,
She said, "Boy, without a doubt, have to quit your mess and straighten out,
You could die down here, be just another accident statistic."
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

All that foreign oil controlling American soil,
Look around you, it's just bound to make you embarrassed.
Sheiks walkin' around like kings, wearing fancy jewels and nose rings,
Deciding America's future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Man's ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don't apply no more,
You can't rely no more to be standin' around waitin'
In the home of the brave, Jefferson turnin' over in his grave,
Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters,
Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
But the enemy I see wears a cloak of decency,
All non-believers and men stealers talkin' in the name of religion
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.People starving and thirsting, grain elevators are bursting
Oh, you know it costs more to store the food than it do to give it.
They say lose your inhibitions, follow your own ambitions,
They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to
live it. There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Well, my baby went to Illinois with some bad-talkin' boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin' I could do to stop it,
I don't care about economy, I don't care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets,
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Bob Dylan Copyright ©1979 Special Rider Music

Buy Me! I Need a Good, Fun Home

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trouble With Your Ho?

Seen today in Vinton, VA:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We'll Catch Up Later, 'Kay?

I'll have to fill you in on our New York weekend. All in all it was a great success. Kids had a fine time, weather held out until it rained Sunday morning. We saw Johan Santana pitch the best game of his career in a 2-0 Mets victory (only to have them lose the next day and miss the playoffs by one game, for the second straight year).

But all that will have to wait. I'm laid low with the ague, so I'm taking to the couch for the evening.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Really Bad Timing

An article from AP says "Threat of rain casts doubts on Mets' plans down the stretch."

I should say so. I'm real curious how this is gonna play out, especially considering we have tickets to the 1:10 Saturday game at Shea.




They are scheduled for 7:00 PM games tonight against the Cubs and tomorrow against the Marlins. Then 1:10 games Saturday and Sunday against the Marlins.

The rain is actually supposed to start this evening, but I'm thinking they will get today's game played so the Cubs don't have to come back next week to make it up.

Friday's game is almost certainly a rainout, and possibly Saturday's too. Since the Mets are in the playoff race they need to play the games, so what would they do? Play two on Sunday and one on Monday?

Well, there's no backing out because we've got hotel reservations a half-block from Times Square for tomorrow and Saturday nights. There's nothing we can do but wait and see and hope the weather moves through quickly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh, For Crying Out Loud!

Forgive me if I've become one dimensional, but my team is making this a difficult time.

See the picture? That's what the batters have been doing. See the second half of the caption? Awful, sad pitching. Tonight we were up 5-1, next inning it's 5-5, against the best team in the National League, so odds are not on our side. I've never seen a Mets team with more unreliable pitching, yet they are still likely to be in the playoffs.

Ah well, at least with last night's victory we are assured that Saturday's game will mean something. We will be right there at Shea. Anyone want me to bring home a pair of stadium seats? Only $859.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And Then Two Days Later, It Gets Worse


Just over a week ago, the Mets had a three game lead in the East. Now they have a tenuous one game edge over Milwaukee for the wild card. They need a miraculous turnaround in their pitching because the offense can't do this alone.

David Wright had a bad series in DC, but overall, he, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Brian Schneider are doing everthing they can to try to win games, but they keep losing. I don't understand why Jerry Manuel insists on pulling a strong starting pitcher after six innings when the bullpen is clearly inept. It's up to Santana tonight to once again stop the bleeding.

Oh well, at least they are trying to make the Saturday game interesting. We'll be in the upper deck at Shea screaming with the rest of the crowd.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Good Grief, Not Again!

Not quite as dramatic a collapse as last year. Not even close, really. But it still looks like the Mets are trying to find a way to sit out the post season. Eight games to play and a half game behind the Phillies. Grrrrrr. Bad news is, they have a series against the Cubs next week.

Good news is that they still have 2.5 games over the Brewers for the wild card spot. Extry good news is that next Saturday TB and I and friends will be at Shea Stadium for the next-to-last game there before they bulldoze it . . . and the game might actually be important!

You Gotta Believe!

And Then Another Week Rockets By

Wake . . . newspaper. . . walk boy to school . . . work . . . . . . . . . . . . eat . . . work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . home . . . throw a baseball <----> throw a football <----> . . . eat . . . homework . . . bed . . . read . . . sleep . . . x5

Gotta find a little more time for writing between the dots . . .

Monday, September 15, 2008

Another Weekend Rockets By

Here we go, Monday again, back at my desk. I feel like I just left here Friday with a song in my heart and a bounce in my step. Ah, well. As Mookie said in Do The Right Thing, "I gots to get paid!"

Friday night we went to the (newest, but no so new anymore) El Rodeo over in Cave Spring Corners. I've never been there before, but good grief, that place was packed! Food was just what you would expect, so no surprises there.

Saturday morning, TB wanted to ride his bike to the soccer fields to watch his friends play. He opted out of soccer this fall, but I could tell he was getting the itch to play because he put on last year's uniform to go watch the games. He later admitted he changed his mind two weeks after the registration deadline. Said he wants to play either soccer or football next fall. I'm nudging him back toward soccer if those are the choices.

Then he wanted to go to the skateboard park in Wasena. That's his new obsession, biking on the skateboard ramps. The sign says "bicycles prohibited". I'm not a rule breaker, unless it's a silly rule, and that one seems silly. Especially when there are usually more bikes than boards there anyway.

Yardwork all Saturday afternoon in exceptional heat and humidity. I think I sweat off about five pounds. Didn't do much Saturday evening. We had flirted with getting a babysitter and going out but the cheapskate in me prevailed so we just grilled out. Made those killer grilled baked potatoes again.

Sunday we had kind of a lazy morning. I dropped TB at Sunday school (we are heathens like that - drop him off then go back home to coffee and the paper).

Went and worked out late morning. TB whined and fussed about going with us ("there's nothing to do"). He's not the nicest kid sometimes. For example, he refuses to take his Nintendo DS to the RAC with him because he's afraid he might have to share with someone he doesn't know. Selfish little turd. Fine, complain and sit in the corner, but we are going to the gym. Well, in the typical way that things always work out for my son, voila! they have Guitar Hero at the RAC now.

Then first cub scout pack meeting of the year at 4PM. Kids swam in a pond and caught tadpoles in a creek. We all had a big pot-luck meal. Home by 7:00, had a couple games of Sorry and then off to bed.

So now you know the whole story.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Discipline

This song by King Crimson was one of my favorites way back when. Someone put this cool video to it so I thought I would share.

Ummm, What Just Happened Here?

Just found out that Blogger makes it way too easy to flush your entire layout unintentionally. Well, I've been talking about mixing things up for months and months and I just forced it upon myself with one errant click of the mouse.

So . . . welcome to the new temporary Realist layout! I'm too tired and lazy right now to try and recover things.

It was time for a change anyway, right?

Things Are Getting Sticky Around Here

Here I rant a little tiny bit about glue sticks . . . I'm on page three, but the "She Said" on page two is a great intro.

Today's Harvest

Here's what I picked from my pepper plants today. I've been pulling in this many about three or four times a week, and I only have one plant of each variety. The tabasco peppers aren't ripe yet, but I have hundreds of them, too! I'm not sure what to do with all these peppers. Salsa, anyone?

And finally, after three months, I have four little golf ball size tomatoes on the vine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chef Deli Salad Did Not Go To Culinary School

That's what has been posted on the sign above a Roanoke restaurant for the past few days.

"Chef Deli Salad Did Not Go To Culinary School"

I'm sure there is some inside story to that. I wonder what it means. What do you think?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Coundn'ta Said It Better So I Won't Even Try

You don't have to read too deep into the archives to figure out that I'll be voting for Barack Obama in November. Very little could change my mind about that.

But I will say that after the two conventions I am a bit worried. Yes, Biden is a very competent and qualified VP choice, but he's also volatile, and remember all the other silly things that brought down other viable candidates for office? Macaca anyone? I'm kinda on the edge of my seat waiting for him to let something fly that will be hard to backtrack from.

Then Obama's speech. Yes, it was inspiring. Yes, it was energizing. And yes, he took it to the Republicans in ways that neither Gore nor Kerry did. But what I didn't hear were specifics. I wanted more specific, attention grabbing ideas that would pull more undecideds to his side. I don't think he pulled that off.

Then we have Sarah Palin. At first, I thought her a very odd choice. Until we all got to know her. Sure there are questions of her experience. Her family should be off limits and I hope they are, BUT you can't ignore the fact that so many right wing pundits villify pregnant teens in the entertainment world, but the case of the Palins is just the "family doing what they think is right." You have to admit, her presence on the ticket may well shore up support from the crumbling Republican base, evangelicals, and probably, working women with pregnant teenage daughters. Politically, I think McCain made a brilliant gamble.

What worries me is that most of the criticism of McCain's choice went only to those topics I just mentioned. Nothing deeper. No one was getting to the real reasons why we should be frightened of the McCain-Palin ticket.

Colleen, from Loose Leaf Notes offers a clear and succinct summary of those reasons.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I Would Never Ask My Mom to Fly Down for a Visit

She would do something like this. I can almost guarantee it.

Good For The Rhubarb

I can't remember the last time it rained this hard for this long, and it looks like it's going to keep on going for another 24 hours or so. We have been right on the edge of drought conditions so I'm not complaining just so long as it quits before the holiday weekend.


Whenever it rained hard G'diddy used to say it was "good for the rhubarb". I always got a chuckle out of that.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bye Bye Now

See you next week!



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ocean Size

Here's another ocean song. This one blows away that Black Sabbath song. This one brings back memories . . .

Children of the Sea

I'm heading to the beach tomorrow. Wife and boy are already there. Never before have I been so in need of salt air.

So, knowing this, here's a Sabbath video that I'm showing you just because it has the word "Sea" in it. People forget that Ronnie James Dio took over for Ozzy and did a kick ass job.

Lemon

I'm not ever buying another HP PC. I trusted them because I worked with HP3000 and HP9000 mainframes for a few years and they were rock solid. Mainframes, PCs, apples and oranges.

I thought I found a good deal a couple years ago on this m7360n Media Center PC. First off, I don't even use most of it's bells and whistles. It's my own fault for buying more than I needed. But this thing is a lemon.

We've had to replace a fan, a hard drive (or so we thought, turned out to be something else entirely), and a video card. Plus it's hot, loud, unpredictable, and the DVD drives only work when they want to. Have to try over and over again sometimes.

Never again. I'm thinking about chucking it out the attic window just so I have a reason to replace it (after doing a full backup, of course).

I only mention it now because it's groaning at me like a constipated goat. Next time I'm going to find a hardware geek to build a PC for me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Worn Out

Today I:

  • Scraped and painted the front porch steps
  • Removed the front storm windows, cleaned out all the dead bugs on the window sills, and washed the windows inside and out
  • Watered all the plants and trees
  • Spray painted two chairs
  • Spray painted two outdoor candle holders
  • Weed whacked the yard
  • Trimmed the bushes in front of the house
  • Picked peppers
  • Mowed the grass (or, I should say, the longs wispy puffs that are growing above what used to be my grass)
  • Went to Home Depot
  • Mulched the front beds
  • Pumped up bike and car tires with a foot pump, and in the process tried to guillotine my big toe (word of advice: never use a foot pump with sandals on)
Doesn't sound like all that much, but I'm worn out. Still, I love days like this, piddling around with projects and taking care of our little piece of the world.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Now That Is Weird

That hilarious hippo video that I tried to post from YouTube 8 days ago showed up this morning, twice. What's going on with that? For all you who didn't think it was funny, there's your chance to try again. C'mon. It's a riot!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Noodles on my Back

Speaks for itself . . . Enjoy!

MicroBustivus

Last Saturday, from Noon to 6:00 was the Microfestivus in downtown Roanoke, which is a fundraiser for Center in the Square featuring dozens of microbreweries from around the state and elsewhere.

LBB had casually mentioned it a few times, so I knew she wanted to check it out, but we ended up spending most of the afternoon at the pool. About 3:30 a friend offered to take the boy for a couple hours so we decided last minute to scurry home, get ready and get on down there.

We arrived about 4:45. Parked right across the street - I'll say it again (and again and again): parking in downtown Roanoke is never a problem.

After we went through one set of tables where we showed our IDs and got stamped, we were directed to a second set of tables to pay and get wrist bands. Here's what I don't understand: an admission ticket was $5, or for $20 you could buy an admission ticket and 10 beer tastings, or for $30 you could get an admission ticket and 20 tastings.

Keep in mind we have only an hour before the event is over. We asked to buy the $5 admission and then pay for individual tastings inside the event.

Nope. Couldn't do it that way we were told.

Now, I understand wanting to keep things simple. If all the money is transacted at the gate, the breweries can focus on pouring and discussing their different beers. But think about the logic here. Did it really make sense for us to pay $40 to sample beer for one hour? A beer tasting is 4 oz. Ten samples would be about 3 1/3 standard beers. Not an amount a lush like me would shy from, but still, that is quite a lot to gulp down in one hour! Especially if trying navigate around and sample different beers.

Poorly planned. Honestly, unless you got there by 3:00 the pricing would be a rip-off. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who turned and left. Why not a $10 option for 5 tastings? We could have done that in an hour.

Instead we stopped at 7-11, got some beer and sampled it on our own front porch. That turned out just fine for us. We saved some money, but Center in the Square lost out.

Think, Fool, Think!

The well is dry and I have a column deadline on Sunday, so I'm using this post as a scratch pad. Here are a few topics I have thought about tackling:

  • Countryside golf course and other goings on about town.
  • Fruitless tomato and pepper plants and the effort I've expended caring for them.
  • My failed experiment in hyper-miling.
  • Olympic fever! Phelpsomania!
  • Mole holes.
  • Anecdotes on crap customer service.
  • Lack of a good radio station around here. (The Planet says they play "Everything That Rocks". They lie.)
  • Why I don't go to church. (Probably not appropriate for the Circle.)
  • Demon alcohol. (Definitely not appropriate for the Circle.)
  • When Keith Anderson kicked my ass in second grade and why I deserved it.
  • How about just a recipe for my Mom's delicious Chicken and Dumplings?
  • My 7 year old does the "eye roll" at me now, and other emerging pre-teen behaviors.
  • My desperate longing to get to the beach (going next week! Wheee!)
  • Did K McN on Channel 10 get a boob job? No, don't go there!
  • The Duchess County Fair incident and other tales of extreme selfishness.
  • Am I too old to crank Black Sabbath with all the windows open in the car?
  • Weary of the election. How come in other parlimentary democracies they just "call" an election and it's done within a month? Let's do that!
  • Chasing rabbits through the woods . . . in a Buick.

I guess I have a few ideas. Not sure I can get 800 words out of any of them. Maybe I'll just turn in this list.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Do Love Noodles

Hey, a few days ago I tried to toss up a cheap post from YouTube; did it the same way I've always stolen material from there, and it never showed up on the blog. Took me a few days to figure out that it was missing, so you can see how much I've been into blogging lately. None! Zip! ZERO!

So here's what I was trying to share. I think it's hilarious, but I was told by two 7-year-olds that it isn't funny at all. They are so wrong.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

City/County Swim Meet: Bragging A Little

Gotta share this info. This weekend was the "City/County" swim championship meet, which includes 15 local swim clubs and over 1100 swimmers.

TB broke meet records in 3 of his 4 individual events, anchored the 8 & under freestyle relay, and swam butterfly in the medley relay bringing his team from fourth place to first in his leg of the race. He did come in second in the 25 yard breaststroke, so it was a near perfect season, but he didn't seem to be disappointed by the loss. He's real laid back about the whole thing (and so are LBB and I), but people were treating him like a rock star.

The most amazing thing is that the records he broke have stood since 1996, 1990, and 1988. The old butterfly record was 21.58. He swam 17.54.

We're thinking college might be covered if he chooses to keep this up. That's my boy!

There were many of our friends and friends' children swimming in the meet, also. Lots of records were broken, lots of personal bests. Too numerous to list, but congratulations everyone! It was a fun time.

Webmail

I'm hating Cox web mail these days. Makes me log in twice almost every time and it locks up a lot. I'm not sure why I haven't canned it completely, but the problem is that my wife uses our local Outlook Express client for her work, and it doesn't play well with others.

Yes, you can set up multiple accounts, but for some reason the primary email address gets all the email dumped into it, and we would rather keep it separate. I'm sure there's an easy fix, but I haven't taken the time to work on it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

To Clear Things Up

Hey Chris, this one is just for you . . . to clear up that problem you were having, as it were. Hope this helps!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pussy Problem

I told ya' awhile ago about this new cat, right? Well she's sweet. As sweet as can be, for sure. She gets up on LBB and kneads at her face and neck. Could not be cuter.

The thing is, though, throughout the night she all over me because she knows I'm the one that's going to crack open a can for her in the morning. She climbs on my back, she lays across my legs, she flicks her tail in my face.

Isn't that so, so sweet?

Henry Rollins doesn't do all this. He just waits patiently. He's a good boy.

So how can I get a good night's sleep with this new cat? Should I get a fish tank to keep her occupied? Breed mice that she can chase? Should I cut her tail off? (Joking! Kidding! I would never do that . . . except at about 4:00 AM when tickling my face . . . oh, OK, no I wouldn't, not even then). How about some catnip in the basement?

I mean, I appreciate how sweet she is. She's a great cat, but how do I get her off of me and on up onto LBB each night?

I'm not getting any rest!

Forgiveness

OK, if this works then all is forgiven. Now go get your roller skates!

Another Try

I'm peeved at You Tube so I'm going to give them one more chance. Here's a great Replacements song with no video action whatsoever. If this doesn't work I'm gonna start writing letters, and you don't want that to happen you better believe!

Well, OK, Rats!

Please forgive me the last post with the Johnny Cash video, because apparently you can watch in on You Tube but you can't see it here on a blog because it says it's not available anymore.

I'm sure I goofed somehow, but I tried twice and I've never had any trouble before.

I don't really mind that it's "not available". Fine, but I just wish I had some pop up or warning to tell me it would not work before I tried to post it. Grrrrr . . . .

Anyway, go watch it on You Tube. Johnny Cash, Hurt.

Hurt

I got to listening to Johnny Cash tonight, which led me toward poking around for videos. I know, you've seen Hurt. It's only a few short of 10 million views on YouTube.

This reminds my of my father, Rockwell B (Rock). He died in April, but I remember right after G'diddy died (a year ago April) that I watched this and felt a connection to my own father that I hadn't felt in a long while. He had already been gone from us mentally for years, but this video brought him back to me. It reminds me of my Dad after I moved away from NY.

It wasn't the Christian imagery in the video that touched me. It was the hurt. The hurt that he felt and inflicted and regretted, and the pity and pride that June shows at the end. That is my Mother. She was his rock. I still don't think redemption has anything to do with Jesus, but I think it exists.

I'm sure my Dad had regrets, and hurt. I miss him, but he's been redeemed.

Anyway, you've seen this before, but it's worth watching again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sunshowers in Blue Skies

There's a dude on my roof (who has the biggest afro I've ever seen, by the way) cleaning out my gutters with a garden hose. It looks like it's raining, but just on my house. It's clear and nice once you get a foot beyond the perimeter.

Stumbled into this deal, though. I was chucking balls with TB in the front yard on Sunday. This guy came to look at a job he was planning next door. I grabbed him and three days later we have clean(er) gutters. That's just how you have to do it sometimes. You call, you get on a list and they get to you when they can. If you know they are going to be right next door anyway, grab 'em.

By the way, right now I'm listening to the new Beck album, Modern Guilt. Love it so far. I'm on track #5. Somehow my title "Sunshowers in Blue Skies" seems like a good title for a Beck song.

Heavens to Betsy

"Heavens to Betsy" was one of G'diddy's pet phrases, and he'd surely be saying it now if he saw this chart. That's Wachovia's stock price over the past year.










G'diddy worked for Bank of Virginia, in Richmond, and later in Roanoke, ultimately retiring in 1975 as a VP at Signet Bank, which acquired Bank of Virginia. Signet was later bought by First Union which then became Wachovia. So, he was ultimately a Wachovia retiree.

He had a fair amount of stock that he held on to for years because they paid quite a good dividend. Looking at it now, despite cutting their dividend in half, the yield still looks huge compared to the price per share.

We're still hanging on to that stock. At this point, it's either gotta go up or go under. We already missed the boat where selling it would have been wise so now we just wait and hope. Worrisome times, indeed.

Catching Up

Let me first say, I know I've been really lame lately. Absent. Infrequent. Scattershot. I'm not making any promises that I'll do better. What was that Pat Benatar line, "No promises, no demands?" Work has been clouding my thoughts lately, and outside of that it just seems like we've been really busy.

Plus, I've been extra tired. I blame that on HBO. We added HBO a couple months ago for the first time, and I'm addicted to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which comes on at 11:00. That's past my bedtime. We're also backed up on things to watch on the DVR. Thing is, I don't like to watch TV until after dark. I like taking full advantage of the daylight. So, since it's not really dark until 9:00, there's not much time to catch up.

That's probably another reason you haven't heard much out of me: summer. I don't want to click away at the keyboard when the sun is shining. Last year, blogging was new and different and I was all "Yee haw! Here I am! Read me!" Not so much anymore.

How was our 4th of July? Quite nice. We stayed around home for the holiday weekend, but it sure seemed like a lot of people cleared out of town. The day after the 4th, we were sitting on the front porch and it seemed like nothing was moving. No cars, no one outside, no noises. Nothing. It felt like everyone went off to a picnic except us.

The pool was packed July 4, though, so not everyone left town. A friend who is from Long Island remarked that afternoon that he hadn't heard any firecrackers yet. In New York, he said, there would have been blasts from backyards all day long. He's right, I remember that, too. Maybe it's because home fireworks are illegal in the state of New York so people think it's more of a big deal. Or we are just too polite and quiet here in the South. One or the other.

For the real fireworks, we watched from a spot a couple blocks up from our house. Used to be a great vantage point, but the trees have grown up so much we had to search for a good gap. Good show once we found it, though.

Other fun things. Let's see. Oh yeah, we got a new kitchen sink. We had a perfectly good stainless steel sink, but it kinda lost it's luster and looked dingy, even after cleaning it. Plus, we had a leak in the fixture that I didn't feel like fixing myself. So, since we were going to hire someone to fix that anyway, we went ahead and replaced the whole darned thing. Old sink went to the Habitat Store.

Seems like we are spending a lot of time at the pool this summer, or at least my family is. With TB on the swim team it gets to feel that way. Practices in the mornings (except Sunday) and then back in the afternoon for fun if it's a hot, sunny day.

TB has had a perfect swim season so far. 12 races, 12 first place gold times, and he has the best times in the RVAA for all four strokes in his age group. Can't beat that! Next weekend is the City/County championship. He might sweep that as well. The boy has a future in swimming if he likes it. He certainly likes winning the ribbons. Sometimes he whines about practicing, though. Ah well, he's only seven. As parents, we are teetering that fine line between encouraging his participation in something he's obviously gifted in, and burning him out so he hates it with the fire of a thousand suns.

TB has gone to a couple camps, but it's been low key the last couple weeks. He has Salem Avalanche camp soon. He's getting more and more into baseball, which makes me happy because that was always my favorite, along with basketball. Oddly, he announced he didn't want to play soccer anymore. Most of his friends play, so we just assumed he would want to again, but no. So, no soccer camp, no rec soccer in the fall. He was an OK soccer player, but not very aggressive. It's like his mind wandered and he wasn't engaged with the game. That's fine. You can't play everything.

It's been rainy so I've had to cut the grass a lot more than usual. At least weekly. Normally, by this time of year it's down to biweekly. It felt like June and July flip-flopped this year. We have a double lot, so it takes a good hour to mow the whole thing. If I weed whack and actually do a good job it's more like two hours. Our lawn is a wreck, though. Full of dead spots, mole holes, clover, rye stalks. It's a mess. Every year I'm tempted to get one of those Chem Lawn treatments, but I never do. Seems like cheating. I dump fertilizer on there myself. Not sure how much it helps. Not much considering the issues I just listed, but I still prefer dealing with it myself. I like yard work for the satisfaction of caring for my own little kingdom, I guess.

Today, LBB took TB and a friend on the swim team annual trip to Wet and Wild Emerald Point down in Greensboro. Then he's having a sleepover at his friend's house tonight. Life can be grand for a kid, can't it? OK, I guess it's pretty grand for me, too, but sometimes I have to concentrate real hard to remember that.

So, while he's away we might do a low key dinner out. LBB wants Alejandro's downtown, which is really good, but we were both just there recently. I've been wanting to try the Annie Moore's Pub out 419, but I wish I could see a menu. I know I want fish n' chips, but LBB is a vegetarian. It only slightly complicates things sometimes. She usually finds something on any menu. She's not one of those vegetarians that makes a big deal about it in a restaurant. Of course she sends me PETA propaganda, but I just delete it.

So, there you have it for now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Oops! Retraction

Sorry to anyone reading from a feed. I mistakenly sent out a draft post a couple hours ago. I'll fix it and finish it later. Never meant to publish it. Rats!

Milk Is Not An Eskimo

I know! It doesn’t make any sense does it? Milk is not an Eskimo. What is that all about?

I kept dreaming it last night. I can’t even remember what sort of action took place in my dream, but this phrase kept coming up over and over. I even got up and had a glass of water and slid back into my dreams and there it was again: milk is not an Eskimo.

I don’t typically remember my dreams anymore, probably because they are cut off by an alarm clock most days, but I do know that I can wake up for a few minutes, consciously do something like get up and look at messages on my Blackberry, then get back in bed and slide right back into the dream where I was. It’s like a “pause” feature. Pretty cool if it’s a good dream. I can shut it off, too, if it’s a bad one.

So what’s up with Milk Is Not An Eskimo? Is it trying to tell me I need to get more calcium in my diet? I doubt it, as much cheese as I eat. I’m not big on ice cream, though, and I’m guessing the Eskimo aren’t either. Is it a reference to Heathers (“esquimeaux”)? Doubt it. I haven’t seen that movie in years.

Not worth trying to figure out, I guess, but I know it’s about the only thing I’ve been actively curious about for weeks. Weeks and weeks and weeks of numbness seemingly snapped to a halt by one nonsense phrase.

I don’t know what has put me in such a fog lately, but I do know one thing for sure: Milk is not an Eskimo!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tortelvis

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Best Baked Potato Ever

I thought my boy had enjoyed a few baked potatoes in the lunchroom during his first grade year, but as it turns out I was way off. He didn't really care for them at all.

LBB was out tonight, so I thought I'd make something I thought TB likes. Grilled poke chops and baked potatoes. My plan was to bake those tates on the grill.

Just before LBB left I mentioned my plan. She laughed and said, "Those potatoes won't turn out." Then TB admitted he didn't really care for those potatoes at school.

Well, fuck off, I say, because here's a recipe for the best baked potato ever. You can ask my son, because he went off on these things.

Ingredients: One baking potato, olive oil, coarse kosher salt, pepper

Rip off enough foil to wrap around the tate, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in the foil and add about a q. tsp. of salt and a whole mess of pepper.

Slice the potato on opposite sides from end to end, but not all the way through. Roll the potato in the oil and salt mix. Wrap it up in the foil.

Then throw it on a hot grill for an hour. Leave the grill lid on as much as possible, and turn that potato only two or three times.

Remove from the grill and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Then add some grated cheddar, saar cream, butter, or whatever you like up on it. The boy just had some cheddar.

Best potato you ever had, I guarantee. TB told me they were much better than the ones at school. Absolutely so!

And just so you know, I'm still working with my ten year old K'mart version of a Weber grill. Charcoal. So when it gets smoky around the neighborhood, it just may be my fault. Once it rusts out, I may go with a gas grill, but for now this works just fine.

Wow!

Holy crap! Stick this out until minute five and then experience the world blowing up. I've heard this song but have never seen it before. And this is a couple years before Dark Side of the Moon. Genius.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blogging

I haven't had much to say the past week or so. Work has been kinda crazy, though I keep my hours to a reasonable 45 per week. TB has been winning a bunch of blue ribbons in his swim meets. He was at camp for golf, tennis, and swimming this past week. My Mom is doing good. LBB is her usual jovial self. Tomorrow is our 12th anniversary, and Monday is my 41st birthday.

I just don't feel like going on and on about it. Summertime lull, I guess.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

King Comma

Dang! I just looked through my last several posts and found no fewer than ten unnecessary commas. I'm the comma king. Achh, I cleaned up, but guess I'll try to proofread a bit more.

Our Newest Family Member

Meet Milly, our new cat:
Her story is that a couple of our friends were on a long walk that took them up Mill Mountain and they found this cat and also a dude that had been feeding her for awhile. He said he was about done with that responsibility so they went back later and got the cat.

For a good long time she was living on Mill Mountain, eating mice and what this kind fellow had been bringing her.

Our friend took the cat to the vet. She had already been fixed, declawed, and she had no fleas. She's about three years old, we're told. Either this cat was dumped by someone, or she escaped from a tourist's vehicle that was at the campground or the star.

For awhile a few years ago we had six cats (6! Yes, that's right. 6!), but we were down to one. We were prime victims for cat adoption guilt. So she's ours now.

After initially trying to name the cat after himself, my son quickly agreed with my suggestion that we name her "Milly" after the mountain she lived on for awhile.

She was only about six pounds when she arrived, but she's gained a couple. Still, she's the hungriest cat we've ever had.

She also broke our tradition of naming cats after something or someone musical. Here is our history of cats as a couple (LBB had a bunch before I came along).

Walnut: was my cat when I lived alone in DC. Black all over, except for a few stray white hairs. He's the only cat we have had as a couple that came from a pet shop. All the rest were strays or abandoned. Walnut was not named after music, but because he used to launch himself off the couch and into the wall head first; hence, Wall Nut -->> Walnut. He was always my favorite. After the boy was born, he kinda got kicked to the curb (not literally, of course). I feel a little guilty about that. (1991-2005)

Casbah: named after the Clash song "Rock the Casbah". He was a tough guy. Gray, wire haired, and about as rock solid as any cat I've ever known. He used to head butt me when I was in bed. (1984-1997)

Dylan: pretty obvious who he was named for. Dumb as a stick, but very sweet. He was cream colored and very overweight. Once he walked off a balcony. Poor fella. (1990-2004)

Wilbur: named after the Traveling Wilburys. He was LBB's cat up in Alexandria (along with Casbah and Dylan), but she gave him to her parents when her Mom got sick. He was a great companion to G'diddy. He was a long-haired orange cat. (1990-2002)

Bono: named after Bono from U2, of course. He was a stray living in a culvert when LBB rescued him. Long haired, gray, cross-eyed, and stupid. Sweet cat though if there were no other distractions. In the end he had some serious health problems and we probably let them go on for too long. (1991-2006)

The Edge: another U2 naming. He was Bono's half brother, from the same roving tomcat that left litters all over Kingstowne (Alexandria, VA 22315). Black as night, and as he aged, a big strong cat. He never liked people and lived mostly outdoors. It was a struggle to get him to the vet. Amazingly he's was our longest lived cat. (1991-2007)

Lucas: named after a silly song called "Lucas With The Lid Off" that LBB and I were into about the time he showed up. Right after we moved into our first house in Roanoke in 1995, Lucas showed up with a broken leg. We took him to the vet and fixed it. He never left. He was a brownish, striped mess. His teeth were a wreck. Not the prettiest cat, but very loving. LBB favored him greatly. (1995?-2005)

Henry Rollins: (1997-current). Named after, of course, Henry Rollins. LBB is a magnet for cats. Henry was living in a doctors office in Blacksburg. She was working for Southern Health and calling on the office one day, and somehow they saw her for a cat sucker that just lost a big gray cat (Casbah). Sure enough, Henry was like a little Casbah. She mentioned it to me one night at dinner and I pretty much knew we was going to be ours. He's a sweet cat but he does drag in a bunch of birds and moles, fat as he is. He's been quite patient with Milly since she arrived.

Milly: (2005?-current). Fully named Milly Grace by our friend who found her (since she lived in their garage for a couple weeks and their kids named her Grace). Not named after anything musical, but after Mill Mountain. Welcome to the family Milly!

Gonna Sip Bacardi Like It's Ya' Birthday

Last week was my son's 7th birthday. Next Monday is my 41st. Thinking about that made me realize that he's had nearly three times as many birthday parties as I've had.

Back when I was a kid, we didn't have a party year after year after year. At least I didn't, and I wasn't invited to all that many, so I'm assuming. Maybe I wasn't very popular.

I can recall all these parties clearly (except maybe the last part of the last two since they involved a fair bit of alcohol).

When I was six we had some kids over to my house. All boys of course. I remember exactly who was there: Bobby Bogle, Mark Phillips, Dennis Kenniston, and Chris and Mark Sidoti. And my mother. That's it! We played games, put on funny hats, and ate cake. It's was a blast! In 1973, we used to dress up pretty nice to go to our friends parties. I'm thinking of the pictures of my party. Everyone wore long pants. One kid even wore a turtle neck. In June.

For my sixteenth, I invited over my two best friends Bill and Dan and each of our girlfriends, Laurie, Cathy, and Deidre. We had a cookout and ate in my parents basement playroom. Then we went down to the park and played basketball for awhile, which was really an excuse to get out of the house so we could go sit by the crick and makeout. (Aside: where I come from a flowing body of water bigger than a stream and smaller than a river is a "crick". Some people called them "creeks". The Dutch call them "kills". But we went to make out by the "crick".)

That party ended in disaster because the gift my girlfriend Deidre gave me was way too small. It was a necklace with an Italian horn - very stylish in 1983. She lost it because we all sort of laughed when I couldn't get it around my neck. She was only 14 at the time, and I remember realizing at that moment that she was a little too immature for me. Of course we went out for another year and a half, but that day was the beginning of the end.

My favorite gift that year was The Police's Syncronicity album. I played it until I wore it out. (Well, no not really. It got peed on by our cats along with all my other great records.)

For my 25th birthday, my wife, who was married to someone else at the time, and another friend, arranged a surprise happy hour one Friday after work (we all worked at the same place). I was living in DC then. One surprise guest was another former co-worker of ours whom I had casually dated a while before. We hooked up again for a couple months as a result of this party. It didn't last, though. She lived in Laurel, Maryland, and it was just too much hassle to trek back and forth. Shallow, huh? Anyway, I had another semi-serious relationship for a year or so, then my wife got a divorce, I sidled on up, and we ended up here. Funny how things work out.

Then last year, my wife threw a big blowout surprise party here at the house. Seafood catered by The Seafood Company (which closed recently, I just found out), lots of friends, beer, and fun. Good times. The diversion that allowed her to set up for the party was a round of golf in the early afternoon, and like a fool I still didn't pick up on the scheme when my playing partner drove home all the way from Ole Monterrey at about 20 MPH.

So there are my four parties. At seven, TB has had a bunch more. Starting about age three (maybe two, I don't remember), we've always had some kind of event party for his friends: the Transportation Museum, Chuck-E-Cheese (once only, thankfully), Thunder Valley (shared party with another boy - that was utter chaos - and we did it two years running). This year, at the Skate Center (although we haven't arranged it yet).

Then, of course, we have the "family" birthday for him here at the house. Since our local family is just the three of us now (four before G'diddy passed on), it usually ends up being several other families as well. So that's how he's had a dozen parties to my four.

Life is good for the TB, no doubt.

Eight Years

Eight years is a long f'n time.

It's more than half the life of most cats. It's two times you have to renew your drivers license in most states. It's far longer than most people stay in one job. It's about the span where you have to think about repainting your house. It's a term and a third of a US Senator.

It's the end of middle school through college graduation - think about that!

Eight years is a long goddamn time, especially this time. That's why I put up the Bush counter on the left column.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Say what you want about the mainstream media, you have to admit Tim Russert was a guy who did his homework. We're all going to miss him during the next few months as we approach election day.

Rocks! Finally

Finally, I have no excuse. I have to go out and get an MP3 player. Are we the last ones without one?

You see, I have hunerds and hunerds of CDs, and I had hunerds of LP records before our cats peed all over them.

Now, also, I have a Rhapsody subscription, so for a few $ a mumf, as long as the song is available, I can listen to anything I want right here on the PC. So far I've only spent about $10 buying songs.

I've been checking on the Aerosmith Rocks album for like a year and a half. This was their fourth studio album, released in 1976. So far, it had only been available in 30 second snippets. Must be some kind of licensing issue because their older albums are still not ready, but guess what? Rocks is now available!

This might not make sense, but I don't like a single single that Aerosmith has released since 1977. Draw the Line was their last good album. Their string of ballads and silly songs (think Love in an Elevator) were big sellers but, really, truly, that was some sorry shit.

Listen to Rocks. It just might be the best rock record ever. If you listen to rock radio, you already know Back In The Saddle but I'm telling you, every single track on this record is a classic. Seriously. Listen to Nobody's Fault if you don't believe me. If you're still not convinced, try Rats in the Cellar.

This is the only Aerosmith album you need.

$1.98 a Month

Somehow I had a giant flurry of ad revenue last fall and it's since dried up to nothing. Screw it. I'm tossing the Google Ads until I have the time and motivation to maintain and improve this blog properly.

Anybody Home?

I'm kind of a statistics junkie. Not standard deviations and correlations and all that, but numbers and percentages in general. I love the back of a baseball card.

For some reason tonight, as I was looking off my porch watching lights come on in houses up and down the street, I wondered what percentage of people, on average, spend the night in their own house or apartment. How does it vary by day of the week, or by state and city of residence, or by age?

I don't know, but that kind of thing is interesting to me. Dull as dirt, I suppose

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mill Site

I thought this article in today's Roanoke Times was interesting. As the city and Carilion bat back and forth the future of the east side of Jefferson Street, talk is growing about saving parts of the former Roanoke City Mills structure and renovating for commercial or residential use.

Really?

I understand the need to protect our historic structures. Given it's age and role in the milling industry 100 years ago, this site has historical significance in that context. But you can't preserve everything. When you really look at it, except probably to those in the that business, the mill is simply an abandoned industrial site.

The brick structures proposed for saving are not very appealing. I'm sure renovation will cost nearly as much as a new structure. Also, it's mentioned that if you save the buildings and knock down the grain silos you lose the historical significance.

Grain silos aren't exactly fitting with what that area will ultimately become. It would be like one of those city blocks you see with skyscraper after skyscraper and one little frame house that someone refused to sell. It just doesn't fit anymore, and it's a little bit sad to see.

Or, hearkening back to my previous post about Shea Stadium, it would be as if New York went ahead and built City Field, but left Shea (old, ugly, unfortunate Shea) sitting there just for the nostalgia.

You can't be nostalgic about everything. I say take a bunch of pictures of it, and then knock the sucker down. Downtown is getting preserved plenty. Let's do something new over on the other end of Jefferson.

Yes, there's also a huge scrapyard that needs to be cleaned up, and the flood issue, but eventually, I'd love to see a whole slew of new development right there, and preferably not all medical offices, either! (Full disclosure, I work for the big kahuna Carilion but medical offices are dull. Necessary, and the biggest economic driver we have around here, but dull.)

As far as the amphitheater goes, I'm not convinced we can fill one even if we build it, but I'm also still iffy about the Victory Stadium site. Isn't an amphitheater best designed like a bowl? That site is about as two-dimensional as it gets in Roanoke. Previously I thought the Elmwood Park idea was ludicrous but I'm warming up to it. Bulldoze the library, move it to the lower floors of the old Patrick Henry hotel (why not?), and then all that's left to do is move the big mound on the Elm Avenue side closer to the intersection. Of course then you have a parking issue, but you have that on Reserve Avenue, too.

You can drive yourself nuts thinking about this stuff.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lets Go Mets!

In spite of their lousy, lackluster play this year, I have newfound reason to get excited about the Mets this season: I just got tickets to their September 27 game, which is their next to last game at Shea Stadium before it meets the wrecking ball.

The tickets for the final game were sold out. I checked eBay and the best I could find for four tickets was $600. I love the Mets, but not that much. The ones I bought were only $121 for four. Upper deck, but close to home plate. Not a bad deal.

My first game at Shea I was about seven or eight (maybe nine, because it's right when the Mets really started to suck), we sat in the upper deck, and I will never forget that combination of thrill and vertigo as we went through the portal to the seats.

In the 70's, if you drank Dairylea milk, you could cut out coupons from the carton. If you saved enough you got free tickets to Shea. One day, I drank about 3 half gallon jugs of milk, just to get the coupons. Worst bellyache ever, but we got the tickets!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Son Finally Runs Out Of Gas

After opening birthday presents yesterday at 7:30 AM . . . throwing the baseball for an hour with me . . . then playing a tee ball game at 12:45 in 98 degree weather (in which you hit a lead off home run and made several great plays at first) . . . going to the Circle the Block party with Monkey Fuzz from 2:00 - 5:00 (Ummm, attendance was a little light, certainly because of the heat, but then blazing hot summer is my favorite weather. Most people disagree so I guess I should be more understanding.) . . . then having a birthday pizza party at home after that . . . .

. . . followed by having friends over for a sleepover; a sleepover in which the sleeping didn't really start until after 11:00 and the waking happened before 6:00 (as you began torturing your tired sleeping friends by acting silly) . . .

. . . and then trying out your new birthday gifts - the scooter and the skates - with your friends until they had to leave . . . and then running through the slip and slide for an hour or so . . .

. . . and after that spending four hours at the pool this afternoon . . . in 95 degree heat, only a slight relief from yesterday . . .

. . . so that by 6PM you ended up like this in the living room chair:


. . . and even after all that I'm still stunned that you're not begging me to throw the baseball, or go for a bike ride. Because you have no off switch and your energy is unbounded. Because you're fun and you're funny. Because of that and so much more, I love you.

I'm glad to see you take a little rest. I almost want to say you need to watch more TV.

Happy 7th birthday, TB!

Love, Daddy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Like Lil' Kim Said

DAAAAAAAMN, THAT'S HOT!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's It Gonna Be Today? Locusts?

Tuesday night, of course, we had this going on. See that little clump of three arrows on Jefferson St.? See the city block just north of the bottom bubble? That's my house! Thankfully we just had a quick burst of heavy rain on my block. Truth is, we didn't even have any branches in the yard. Different story two blocks up. I'm glad everyone was OK.

Then last night, I get home from taking TB to swim practice only to find dozens of people swarming about my block and a river of brown murky water running down the street. A water main broke, right exactly where the tornado came through. As of this morning it's yet to be determined if it was just a coincidence.

Sadly, my car (the old one, thankfully), was parked at the curb and was the first one in the path of all the rock and rubble that cascaded down the hill. The car was fine, but it diverted all the rip-rap onto my front lawn. I must have shoveled up 300 pounds of rock and gravel last night. Good times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June JSR Column

My latest column for the paying gig is out, and I thought it was a pretty good one so I'll save you a few steps and give you the link here if you are interested. I'm on page 7 of the pdf.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rock Symphony Circus

As I mentioned recently, we capped off a very busy Saturday by attending the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra performance. This was a different show in that it was held in the Civic Center Colosseum rather than the Auditorium. Also, in addition to a traditional pops performance, they collaborated with a touring troupe called "Jeans and Classics" that played rock and roll songs, and they had circus acrobats performing (ala Cirque du Soleil, but not quite).

My "five words or less" review is that it was enjoyable but missed the mark in many ways.

The show was broken down into two halves. The first half was just symphonic pieces and it was quite nice. Although I couldn't tell you who the composers were (except on 76 Trombones), all of the selections were recognizable. During this segment, most of the pieces were accompanied by either an acrobat or a clown doing some juggling. Generally, the cirque performances were solo between the conductor and the crowd. One of them climbed up a dangling curtain with her legs and then did a free fall with her head finishing just a foot or so off the floor. There was some humorous banter between the conductor, David Wiley, and one of the clowns.

We took TB with us, because when I took him to see the Harlem Globetrotters he was fascinated by the acrobats at the halftime show, particularly when they did a human pyramid. So he kept asking me when they were going to do a pyramid.

After intermission, the rock show began and this is where they started to lose us a bit. They opened with the Beatles' For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which is really a throwaway Beatles song if you ask me. Still, it has circus-like whimsy so I see where it came from.

The Symphony accompanied all of the rock songs and complemented them quite well, so I have no complaints there. In fact several of the songs, those that lend themselves most obviously to classical interpretation, were breathtaking: The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin, and Led Zeppelin's Kashmir were most memorable. The cirque performances along with these songs were phenomenal.

Where the show fell short was in the songs that did not have an acrobatic performance. At one point, my son, who was riveted most of the show, started fidgeting and whining for more clowns.

Songs where the focus was on Jeans and Classics, rather than the cirque performer or the symphony, were almost like bad Vegas shows at best, karaoke at worst. And some of the song choices were awful for a show like this. Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Till You Get Enough? Really? They did do a great job later with Thriller, but that would have been enough MJ. Also, Elton John's Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me just didn't fit. It's a great song if you are trying to feature a vocalist, but for an ensemble show it was all wrong.

As an aside, Jeans and Classics featured several vocalists. All did fine but none really stood out by really nailing their songs.

Toward the end, I was really looking forward to the Beatles A Day In The Life, which is one of my favorite songs. It was good, but I wasn't floored by it.

At the end, it seemed like David Wiley wanted to go on and on. Before each of the last two songs, large groups began leaving simply because the pause between pieces was so long that everyone thought the show was over. We were in the parking lot before the "Naaa . . . . naaa . . . . naaa . . . na-na-na-na's" began in Hey Jude.

I give the show a B-. Good symphonic performances, but poor song choices on the rock portion, and not enough clowns and acrobats overall. But it was a fun and different evening. We've never been to a traditional symphony performance and I will say this show would encourage me to try one.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ash Can

My wife just sent me this link about the inventor of the Pringles can having his ashes buried inside one of the cans.

Of course she had to ask if I wanted to be preserved in a Bud can. To which I say no, it would be much easier to sprinkle me into the ocean if you put me in a Bud bottle.

The Purge

This weekend we had a yard sale. If you've ever had a yard sale, you know it's usually a lot of work for little financial gain, but the reward is in the cleanout.

LBB started last week by pulling things out of closets. Then Friday night, I got up in the attic and hauled down a bunch of mess: a barely used twin mattress and box spring, a gigantic Georgia O'Keefe print that I bought when I had my own place in D.C., three TV sets, a desk chair, etc. Then I moved on to the garage and the basement.

We also pulled out a ton of toys and books that TB has aged out of. At first, I didn't think books would sell. I suggested we donate those directly to Goodwill. As it turns out, they were a best seller.

Our friends down the street were selling, too, as was the church a little further down. So we had a good bit of traffic.

In the end, we did pretty well. About $250 in sales, two carloads of leftovers to Goodwill, and I only had to haul a few things back into the house. I was tired and sore by Saturday evening, but it was worth it.

Plus we got to meet all the characters that come out for these things: there was one pair of old, handicapped homosexuals that I remember from our last sale four years ago. They stayed for close to a half hour and only bought one Patsy Cline record for 25 cents. They were amusing, though.

Carloads of older people, of course.

Then, as I was getting ready to clean up, a shaky looking fellow arrived. He had a ponytail, was all sweaty, and had a cig dangling from his mouth. Honestly, I think he was a junkie. I asked, "How are you doing today?" and he replied, "Well, I'm vertical and I'm breathing, so OK I guess."

He turned out to be one of our best customers.

After we cleaned up from the sale, we had to scurry to a graduation party and then on to the Rock Symphony Circus performance by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. I'll post a review of that show later.

Busy day!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Microscopic Noodle Bowl

Why would anyone use their time and technology for this? It's kind of the opposite of making a giant rubber band ball, which reminds me of something from the world of fake news.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Goodnight Now

Local H

Hello There

Friday, May 23, 2008

On Time Charlie

Why aren't people ever on time? Am I the only one out there who likes to get there on time? I don't mean a half hour ahead of time. I haven't lost my sense of time and distance like lots of grannys and granddaddys out there who seem to forget that it only takes ten minutes to drive three miles unless it's rush hour. I'm also not talking about arrival at a cocktail party, because generally the hosts allow themselves 1/2 hour of extra prep time in assumption of lateness.

I just mean on time. The time you said you would get there.

I do have a habit of getting to doctor and vet appointments about five minutes early because oftentimes (in fact almost every time in my experience) you can sneak in ahead of some other tardy-ass loser.

Otherwise, expect me there just about precisely when expected.

Am I the only one who sees promptness as a virtue?

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tomorrow is my mother, Carolyn's, birthday. She'll be 79. After caring for my dad for many years and losing him last month, she is doing quite well. Drowning in paperwork, but otherwise she's OK. I'm hoping she can come for a visit soon.

Anyway, just to say Happy Birthday, here's a poem I wrote in 1987 when I was in college.


Spring Planting

In early April,
My mother takes out her trowel and digs.

Mud caked knees
On ten year old pants,
And there is not anything for her but the marigolds.

Time never touches her,
As she kneels
Still unaware
Of my care, and what I have taken to be true.

And it was only this year
That I realized that I have seen her
Every year since I can remember
Stooped over rain-soaked soil,
Smiling to the mailman.