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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

We've had a running joke since we moved to Roanoke in 1995 (LBB having grown up here, then left in 1983 only to come back, like so many do), that there has never been a Memorial Day weekend with good weather. Gateway to summer, rainy ass weather. That's how it's been.

We missed a few because of travel to the beach, my parents house, or other places, but overall we pretty much expect disappointment with this holiday weekend. So is it possible this is coming?
I sure hope so. This has been a crazy cool spring. I'm pleased we haven't turned on the AC yet (much), but I'm ready for some sun and heat. TB had his first summer swim practice last night and the water temp was about 68. I'm ready for pool season, so come on sunshine!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back Off!

Have you ever had someone draft right behind you about a step and a half back as you walked down the sidewalk? Someone just tailed me tight for about three blocks. Made me want to stop short so he crashed. I should have turned around and screamed "OOOGADA BOOGADA BOOGADA" right in his face.

That would teach him to keep his distance.


My son was handed the game ball by the umpire after last night's tee ball game. Dad is quite proud, let me say! It's remarkable since he sat out the first inning and didn't have any spectacular hits, but he did make some really good plays in the field. Still, he played second base one inning and pitcher the next. If you know tee ball, you know that's where the ball goes 90% of the time, so he had the most chances to make plays. Luck of the draw.

Now here's something that is irritating me: this is his second year of tee ball, and most kids, after that, move on to coach pitch. I think he's definitely good enough for coach pitch but because of his June 7 birth date he can't move up next year. So while nearly all of the other second graders will be in coach pitch he is stuck in tee ball for a third year. Seems to me the formula should be a combo of school grade and maximum age, not minimum age. As long as he plays rec league ball, he will be lagging a year behind all his classmates. Doesn't make sense.

In soccer or basketball it's not as big of a deal because the game is what the game is. In baseball, there is a huge difference among tee ball, coach pitch, and kid pitch. Losing a year is like losing a chance to get better at the proper pace.

I'm torn because kids do need reinforcement on base running, fielding, being part of a team and listening to the coach, so I don't think it would be a complete waste. But still, three years of tee ball? Come on! The other point is that with most of his peers, and probably his coach, moving on to the next level, he might get drafted onto a team of first year players. Seems like a step backwards.

Of course next year he moves up in age brackets for swimming so maybe we should just focus on that and skip tee ball. This year, we stopped the indoor swimming early.

You know what? Maybe I'll stop worrying about this. Next year, when the time comes to sign up, I'll just ask him what he wants to do. What a novel thought!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

House Cleaning

It's been awhile since I took a look at my blogroll and other links on the site, so expect some great new additions later tonight. I'm also removing a few links from sites that haven't posted but once or twice over the past six months.

Generally, I read blogs via Google Reader. This has pros and cons. The pros are in the efficiency. I can pull up the reader and see all the new posts from each blog I have set up, and I can read them in quick succession. The cons are that it doesn't encourage me to visit each site directly, and therefore I don't see design changes as they happen, and most importantly, I miss great new blogroll additions on the blogs I always read.

Country Dew has added a half dozen links that deserve my attention, so as I try to emerge from a long exile, I promise to pay more attention. We've got a great upswell of SWVA blogs, so let me pass along the encouragement.

New local links in the right sidebar should be up later.


The day started out pleasantly enough. TB slept relatively late, until almost 8:00. Had coffee and read the paper until it was time to take him to Sunday school. It's his last time until September. One day I'll tackle the topic of the moral rights and wrongs of dropping your child at Sunday school and hightailing it out of there without ever setting foot in the chapel for services.

I had promised a bike ride today, since TB received a new bike yesterday as an early birthday present. His old bike was starting to rust and he blew the tires out a couple weeks ago. We replaced it with a nice BMX bike from Dick's Sporting Goods. I say it's a nice bike, because it cost $125 but it was the cheapest one they had! Still, he got four good years out of the old $40 bike, so I don't mind the price.

After Sunday school we headed for the greenway. The new bike is a little big for him, so he's still getting used to maneuvering it. He only cut off one car down by the hospital. Overall, not a bad debut outing. The biggest problem was that once we reached the farthest point of our ride, it started raining and blowing pretty hard. We were soaked and cold by the time we got home.

Some dry clothes and lunch made it all better.

Then, I knew the chore list was coming, because my wife started asking me "What do you think about . . . ?" Whenever she starts a question that way it means there is a task at hand.

It started easily enough. TB had a friend over so she wanted to go through his room and purge a bunch of junk while he wasn't paying attention. You know what I mean: little plastic Burger King toys, random pieces of string, worthless key chains, piles and piles of school worksheets and art projects (you can't keep them all, right?).

That project took about twenty minutes, and then it went downhill fast. Apparently, in our main level shower (which we never use), there has been evidence of little black ants coming and going. She asked me to caulk. Ugh. I hate caulk, but I knew it was a necessary project because there were some loose tiles and obvious cracks around the shower floor. Also, I noticed the caulk around the commode was getting discolored and unpleasant looking.

Then, the thing I dreaded most: a clogged bathroom sink. Have you ever removed one of these things and all the other pieces connected between the sink stopper and the wall pipe?

I have to clean them out a couple times a year in our bathroom, I'm guessing because of makeup and those other mystery potions that LBB uses. This time, though, it was my son's bathroom. I hadn't taken that one apart since we moved here 6 1/2 years ago. Oh. My. God. How do you describe the the most wretched thing you've ever experienced? I mean what the hell is that black, slimy mess that congeals up in there?

Every time I do this I nearly gag. It's an easy project so I can't really justify hiring someone to deal with it, but it would almost be worth it.

So pardon me while I take a long shower. Later I may have to do some tequila shots to erase the memory of this wretched experience.

Aren't you glad I shared?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ready Or Not, Indeed

Dad Gone Mad has a great post today about getting beaned in the gentles by a baseball, but mostly it's about his son growing up. Don't I know it, Brother. Don't I know it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Little R&R

LBB and I have been talking about a weekend away for a good long time, but we've had too much going on to make it happen. So this weekend we headed to Greensboro for a couple days. Greensboro isn't really a place I had thought of as a destination, but LBB and some hens came here last year and stayed at the O Henry Hotel. They had a fine time. After my father's death last month, some good people got together and gave us some gift certificates to stay there.

Beats flowers or a casserole, if you ask me. Also, since we've never gone away without the boy, it was a much needed break. He's gone on a few sleepovers where we had the house to ourselves, but then we still had the house and things to do, dishwasher to unload, etc. Here we can just relax and have fun. And you know what? I'm quite taken by this city.

Just to mix it up a bit, we chose to stay at the Proximity Hotel, which is the sister hotel to the O Henry. Very modern, very green, very nice. Here's a picture of the window in our room. For some perspective, the little thing sticking up in the middle is a beer bottle.

The big X in the window did make it feel a bit like there might have been a missile aimed at us, but otherwise it is a fantastic hotel room.

Having never been to Greensboro (except for the airport), I found myself very pleasantly surprised. It's about twice-and-a-half the population of Roanoke. In many ways it reminded me of Richmond's West End, except that the streets are laid out in the most twisted arrangement I've ever seen. Except for the most immediate downtown area (and even there) there are very few streets that run it a straight line for more than a block or two. There are a lot of diagonals and cut-throughs. Actually, I had fun finding my way around.

They have a fantastic farmer's market (one of two, but extra crowded this weekend because the other suffered extreme storm damage). We loaded up and filled a cooler to bring home.

Saturday night we took a shuttle downtown to an area rich with restaurants, clubs, and other interesting sights to see. Only hitch was that LBB's cell phone slipped out of her pocket in the car and we had to call the shuttle driver back once we noticed it missing.

Our son had a great weekend, too. Birthday party, sleepovers with friends, teeball game, an evening downtown seeing Monkey Fuzz. The kid has got it made. Of course we worried about him while we were gone, but not too much, because he always has a good time and he had lots of good people taking care of him.

Thanks everyone. We had a blast!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Forecast Follies

It's a'coming!

I've been saying that all day long, because I believed the Weather Channel when it said rain starting in the late morning. Well, they were way off, because it's been a lovely day up until a few minutes ago when I heard the first thunder rumble.

Around here, the weather is always a few ticks milder than the forecast. Still, looking at the current radar, we are in for it for the next few hours. Shut up your windows and storm doors!

Tee Ball Game Time Screwups

It's tee ball season again: that joyful springtime rite where five and six year olds seemingly absorb all the rules and strategies of baseball in practice, then promptly forget once the ump yells "Play Ball!"

This year, though, we've spent most of our tee ball game time watching high school softball games.

Somehow our 6:00 games have all been significantly delayed (or cancelled in last night's case) because the prior game, scheduled for 4:00, didn't start on time or ran very long. So we end up having extra practice time, but still a bunch of disappointed tee ballers in the end.

Now I fully understand you would not cut short a school game to accommodate the tee ball schedule, but do we have a lack of usable ballfields in town? Don't high school games generally take place at the high school?

Oh well, at least it gave me time last night to cut my grass ahead of today's impending rain storms.

Strange Human Behavior: Lunchtime

I've seen this time and time again, at Subway, at Hardees, at the Market Building, anywhere a quick lunch can be had: guys who are obviously together, arrived together in the same truck, going back to the same job site afterwards, who eat lunch together but at separate tables right near each other.

Usually, both are facing the same direction, and one guy converses over the other guy's shoulder. Sometimes they face in perpendicular directions. Today, I even witnessed a musical chairs kind of dynamic, where one guy initially sat down facing his companion's back, but then turned a 180 and sat back to back with him. Yet they continued on the conversation!

What this leads to, generally, is a loud shouting match so each can hear the other. What is going on here? Why not just share a table and save the other one for someone else? Sometimes it's because one or both have two or three sandwiches all laid out, but still, I don't get it. What are they afraid they might want to hold hands?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Extreme Chore Weekend

We've had a huge and growing list of chores to tackle around here, and April was pretty much lost, so this weekend we tore it up.

Things started slowly on Friday, no set plans, just the family at home, making some grilled fajitas and dining on the deck.

Then, my neighbor suggested a few orange sodas at the pub down the street. LBB and TB proceeded toward a wholesome and sensible bedtime, whereas I stumbled home about midnight. OK, I know that's not all that late, but considering our usual bedtime is 9 or 10, it was late for me.

Still, I woke up Saturday ready to take on the world. TB had an early birthday party to attend at 9:30, so I took the opportunity to hit the Home Depot to prepare for extreme home chore weekend. Then, I needed a few things for the car, so I went to Advance Auto.

After the boy's party, the plan was to have lunch downtown and hit the market for some herbs to pot and put out on the deck and some veggies, just for eating. We forgot about the chili cookoff going on, but it was no big deal, we found a parking spot within five minutes (and that was with an extry thousand or two people downtown . . . I hear a lot of complainin', but believe me, parking in downtown Roanoke is no problem.)

The market veggies didn't look so good, except for some whopping big onions and some great summer squash, so we skipped that, but we eventually found our herbs. We had lunch in the Market Building we hundreds of others. The weather was great, so Saturday was a huge day for downtown Roanoke.

Then the chores began. TB had a buddy over, so he was happy. I decided to start with some exterior touch up painting. A layer of Killz on Saturday and a top coat on Sunday. Discovered some rotting fascia wood under some of my gutters. That was disheartening.

Then, what else did we do: between the two days I did more painting, washed the cars while TB washed the bikes, did the primer, color, and clearcoat painting on the damaged Camry, fertilized the lawn, hauled all the inside plants out, planted the hot pepper garden, cleaned the garage (including suspending the bicycles from hooks on the wall - been meaning to do that for six years), replaced some window screens, patched some foundation cracks and a gaping hole that has emerged on our front porch steps, put out some ant traps - little black ants are my mortal enemy, hacked down a bunch of brush next to the fish ponds, and generally piddled around with other overdue tasks.

LBB attempted to begin the dreaded attic cleanout. Every time I go up there I want to hurl up my breakfast it's such a mess. I don't like pack-ratting, and we've managed to fill every nook and cranny of our nearly 4000 sq. ft. It's time for a purge! But it got hot up there pretty quickly so she didn't get too far. Then she tackled the hall coat closet, which was also a mess. This inspired me to go through my dresser since we had a Goodwill bag filling up. Sadly, I had about eight pair of jeans and shorts that I can never hope to squeeze into again. Out the door. Then, she planted the herbs in pots and did all the watering and Miracle Gro'ing.

We had to pull out all our bedroom furniture, because we're having the room painted today, so that's exciting.

Saturday night, we went to our friend's house and ordered take out from the Isaacs restaurant over in Grandin village. That was my first experience with them, but I assure you it won't be the last. Very, very good Greek food. I had a falafel sandwich and a blue cheese side salad. The falafel was a bit lighter and, I thought, better seasoned that the more common middle eastern variety.

TB spend Sunday afternoon bike riding, throwing baseballs, and otherwise carrying on with one of his friends. Then Sunday evening there was a picnic planned at the playground by Penn Forest Elementary. I don't know if it was the allergies or exhaustion, but he initially threw a tantrum and declined to go! I'm not sure I've ever seen my son turn down an event. Of course, it probably didn't help that I had already reneged in favor of staying home to do some paperwork for my Mom. In the end, he went, had a fine time, came home a bit before dark and continued to rage on by riding his bike up and down the sidewalk for another half hour.

He was most proud because he topped off his busy day by skidding on his bike and blowing out a tire. Considering that it was a $40 bike and he's had it for three years, and he's got a birthday coming up, I'm thinking he just might be getting a new bike. As long as he cans it with the tantrums.

What a weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Let's Take A Chance, America

For the most part I've kept my political preferences out of this blog, but today, I feel like letting a few things fly.

I guess I may be the black sheep in my (mostly) conservative family. I tortured Dad about politics when I was in high school. Probably that was teen rebellion. We had more than a couple shouting matches, and I remember quoting Marx just to be as big a dick as I could possibly be to him. Today I understand and embrace much of Dad's wisdom, but have rolled it into a liberal, libertarian framework.

After college, I joined the Republican fold for awhile. I had my doubts, though, so as a social progressive, I fell for the Ross Perot campaign in 1992.

1996? I think I pulled the Clinton lever, but wouldn't swear to it in court.

Then we entered the GWBush era, and through the debacle of the 2000 election, I became cynical. Party politics, campaign promises, conservative, liberal, blah, blah, blah . . . it's exhausting. I felt dismayed 20 minutes into Bush's presidency.

Then, the World Trade Center was attacked.

There was no big rallying cry behind our government in my home. We felt sadness, deep in our hearts, and yes, we wanted those responsible to pay and pay dearly. I wept for the future of my three month old son, harder than I've ever wept before or since.

That didn't mean we offered license to our President to lead us into the war in which we remain mired.

Don't even get me started on the economy. You could have heard me breathe a deep sigh of relief for the fifteen minutes or so we had a balanced Federal budget in the late '90s. That's how I manage my own finances, and I would hope after 230 odd years my country could do the same. We ain't no struggling start up anymore, so let's run in the black, people! Sadly, neither party is very good at making this happen, but the Dems did it most recently and seem willing to try again.

And now we are in another endless election season. If only we could prevent this from even starting before January 1 of the election year. If there is any sort of contest, we are weary by Super Tuesday. Doesn't it seem like that is how it has gone? The run up to Pennsylvania, on the Democratic side, was endless and you realized the candidates were worn out, too. Not good for the voters, the candidates, or the government (considering all of our front runners are US Senators!)

As far as the Republicans go, well, clearly they realize in this time of extreme malaise, that they can't win with a right wing conservative. McCain appeals to the middle and that's what they needed. Yawn . . . .

The Democrats . . . agh, if only we could pick someone.

Here's my take: the Democratic campaign, which started so long ago and is now wearing on the nerves of anyone who might have crossed over, began as it should have, as an exchange of ideas.

Ideas about moving the USA out of its position of weakness: weakness in the world, because of the war and our lack of international diplomacy, and because of our lessened global economic presence.

Early on Barack Obama was the one best able to embrace new ideas, energize the party, and pull voters into the party. His rhetoric was a beacon to many who would not have otherwise paid attention. He is the candidate of ideas.

Hilary Clinton is more pragmatic, more experienced in Washington, and more amenable to finding solutions by reaching across the aisle. She's the candidate of issues.

But the sad thing is that, as always, it's become a campaign of innuendo, and only because the Dems haven't nailed down a nominee yet. McCain sails above and his chances rise by the day, while the press snipes away at Obama because of something his pastor said, and they rehash Clinton's (suppoedly) negative ads and wonder about Bill Clinton's role.

As far as I can tell, the only ones rising above most of this are the candidates themselves.

They are both able. They both have progressive ideas. They can both ably lead the nation. We need to make a choice, and we need to make a choice for legitimate change from the Executive branch as we have known it.

We need a President who can make the populous think of ideas as well as issues, simply because we need such a drastic change from what we have had for the last eight years.

We need to support Barack Obama.

Guitar Hero III: Sponge v. Siphon

Wow. I watched TB kick the crap out of a few songs on the Hard level of Guitar Hero III tonight. If you have ever played this crazy thing, you know, as an adult, with responsibilities, deadlines, alarm clocks, and, well ...... sadly diminishing autonomic reflex skills, this shit ain't easy.

I have managed to get 40/42 songs on the Easy level, but I can't get past "Raining Blood" (by Slayer), or the guitar battle with "Lou".

TB has rocketed through the Medium level and pretty much wants to blow off the Hard level and move on to Expert.

He soaks this in. I leak it out unless I stick with it day after day. Spring is here. I'd rather be outside, so I'm not practicing much. Neither is he, though, except for a few minutes before school.

What is amazing is how he absorbs the notes flying at him. I asked, and he confirmed, that he can see the whole screen at once, read the words that pop up, see the other guitar neck in a "battle", and not miss a beat. Somehow, he sees the big picture without losing the details. Not me. All I can do is focus on my guitar neck and the notes I'm supposed to (have) play(ed).

Fun stuff. He may be the next Eric Clapton.

The best part, though, is that he wants me to keep up with him. I've told him ever since he understood language that the one thing I cannot stand is cheating. He gets it, but he wants me right with him in the competition, so he offered to play my band (Frumpus) and get me caught up.

If he plays my last two songs on the Easy level for me, we've cheated. It doesn't make me a better player, either. He knows it, I know it, and it won't happen, but he still wants to play those two songs for me so I can get to Medium. In the end, he suggested I just watch him play the songs so I can learn the notes.

He is so much like a little me. He wants me to play along and do just as well as him, but most of all he wants to play fair. Watching him play Guitar Hero, and almost everything else he does, I know he gets it. He's going to be a good boy.

Lunch Meat Lunacy

I'm working at home this morning because my office is on fire. No, not really. All I know is, it was surrounded by fire trucks and they wouldn't let us in when I got there. Rather than sit around waiting on the street with hundreds of people spreading rumors about the building caving in, I decided to head home. There's practically nothing I can't do here anyway.

But now it's lunchtime, which leads me to today's random rant: lunch meat. I decided to make a turkey sandwich, on whole wheat with a few cucumber slices and wasabi mayo. What's killing me, though, is the turkey itself. What happened to good ole' easy to handle sliced turkey? That seems hard to come by anymore. Same thing with ham and roast beef. What you get is either a shredded mess that has no resemblance to it's original form, or you get a mass conglomeration, folded over in and upon itself, slices so thin that you can't possibly separate them one from another to lay out onto a sandwich.

What I end up doing is grabbing wads of turkey, placing them side by side on the bread. What has happened here? I've used twice as much meat than I really wanted. That's what the meat barons of America want us to do: pile it high. Well, the way this stuff gets packaged it's hard to avoid. Merchandising at it's most clever.

I'd like to see them pull that off with salami, though.

My wife, on the other hand, is out for her second tasty ethnic meal in less than 18 hours. Last night, she and some hens went to The Isaacs for some Mediterranean goodness. Rave reviews all around. TB and I, after a delayed t-ball game ran on to 8PM, grabbed something from the always disappointing Wendy's. I don't know why I always fall for the Spicy Chicken sandwich. It never gets better, yet I keep trying.

Then today for lunch she's over at Taaza (warning: music). Me? I'm struggling to build a reasonable turkey sammich. Oh, well. At least she invited me but I've got no time for table service. I'm an important business man! Which reminds me: I guess I better go check my email.