Friday, April 30, 2010

Everything is Going 19

It seems like a coincidence that yesterday I wrote about what a Stephen King fanboy I am and today all the internets are a-buzz with news about the movie rights to King’s Dark Tower series.  All of my favorite geek blogs are talking about it, so I feel that I must have my say too.  If you are not versed on the story to date, let me fill you in.

“First comes smiles, then lies.  Last is gunfire.” Roland Deschain of Gilead

First, let’s talk about the books themselves.  The Dark Tower series is King’s magnum opus.  The series itself comprises seven books and was published over a 22 year period.  The story contained within those seven books actually has direct and indirect connections to as many as 15 other King novels and short stories, like Salem’s Lot, The Stand, It, etc.  There was even a graphic novel series published by Marvel that contained parts of the story that never made it to the original novels.  The story follows the Gunslinger, Roland, on his quest to find the Dark Tower and spans many worlds and universes, some very similar to our own and some extremely different and arcane.  The story also has King himself as a character.  It is truly an epic tale and King’s best work.  It is inconceivable to think that this series could be condensed into one movie, but would almost have to be delivered in Harry Potter fashion with a movie relating to each book.

So who would take on a task like that?  J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (all of Lost fame) paid $19 dollars for the film rights to the series a few years ago.  That was like Christmas day for me, a Stephen King fan and a Dark Tower fan and a Lost fan.  I thought at the time, if anyone could give these books the treatment they deserve, it would be these three guys.

A few months ago, J. J. Abrams and crew announced that they would not be pursuing the project considering everything else that they have going on, i.e. Star Trek, Lost, etc.  At the time, I was a little heartbroken to hear that, but I hoped that someday they would take up the reins again and start making the movies.  Since most fans of the series, like me, waited 22 years for the series to come to a conclusion, what is waiting another couple years to see the movies?  How long did it take to get the Lord of the Rings trilogy done right?

Yesterday it was announced on Deadline.com that there was now new players to the Dark Tower game, Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsmith.  The Good and The Ugly.  The article from Deadline.com reports that Ron Howard, The Good, would direct the work and Akiva Goldsmith, The Ugly, would write it.  Ron Howard has done some amazing movies, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Parenthood, to name a few.  I think he could definitely bring something to the table.  Especially if he brings his “A” game like he did for Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. 

Akiva Goldsmith, one the other hand, has ruined the screen adaptations of several good books and stories to the point where I wouldn’t mind giving him a swift kick in the head for what he has done.  Let me start with I, Robot, the movie.  The original collection of short stories titled I, Robot was written by Isaac Asimov.  If I am considered a huge fan of Stephen King, then I would be considered a raving lunatic for Asimov.  What Goldsmith did to the screenplay for I, Robot was unforgivable.  He completely pissed on the Three Laws of Robotics and the whole point of Asimov’s science fiction work.  I think when the movie came out, many geek clerics declared a Salman Rushdie-esque Jihad on him for disgracing the name of Asimov.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he did it again with the Richard Matheson classic, I Am Legend.  I have to admit at this point that the movie as a movie was good, but the portrayal of the zombie-vampires and the ending was all wrong and that he, again, missed the point of the story.  When I learned afterwards that Goldsmith also penned this beauty, I wanted to band together with my nerd brethren and open up a can of whoop ass on him.  He was also responsible for Batman and Robin, Batman Forever and Lost In Space.  His only redeeming film to date has been A Time To Kill.

Now to the treatment.  According the Deadline.com story, the proposal is to make a movie trilogy and TV series out of the books.  Ok, I can understand the movies, but a TV series?  This is not network TV material if done right.  King’s works have never really ported well to television.  The dialog alone would force it onto the premium channels like HBO and Showtime, not to mention the sex, notably the two scenes where Roland and Susannah have sex with demons, and violence, because Mister, they deal in lead.  None of the sources say which order they will be done in either, whether it will be three movies followed by a TV series, or a TV series interjected with movies at the crucial points.

I honestly don’t care how it gets to the screen, but I do care that it is done the right way.  If it is anything less than Peter Jackson’s treatment of The Lord of the Rings, I am calling up my nerd posse and we will ride.  The man in the director’s chair (and writer’s chair) will flee across the desert and the angry nerds will follow.

If you don’t want my opinion on it, please read some of these articles:

Note: The word count for this post is evenly divisible by 19, it took every ounce of my willpower to do it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blockade Billy

Last week, I told you that I ordered my first edition copy of Blockade Billy.  The book arrived on Thursday, April 22, two days after it was officially published.  I had some time before the wife and kids got home, so I started reading.  It is a novella, only 122 pages, so I hoped to speed through it.  I got pretty far before I had to put it down and start on dinner.  I read a few pages on Friday, but didn’t get a chance to read anymore of it that weekend.

On Monday morning, as we were getting ready for the day, I noticed it sticking out of the top of my wife’s bag destined for her work.  I mentioned this to my wife and briefly discussed the value and proper care for a first edition book with her.  Some might refer to this as a lecture and judging from my wife’s expression and subsequent response, she was one of those people.  She explained to me where I could shove put the book to prevent anyone from touching it.  I murmured a goodbye to the book and counted the days until I could resume reading it.

Earlier today, my wife instant messaged me to tell me she was done reading it.  She also told me that she lent it to a friend.  Based on the way my week has been going (I think I hit over 20 hours of production support calls already this week, I stopped keeping track), I didn’t see it as a funny joke.  As soon as I had a free moment to myself tonight, I snatched the book up and finished the 20 pages I had left.

Blockade Billy is the story of William “Blockade Billy” Blakely, a minor league catcher called up to the majors at the beginning of the season, and as you can expect with any Stephen King story, something is not right.  The story is written as a narrative told to “Mr. King” by an eye witness to the events that spring.  The novella was certainly not King’s best work, but it was good.  I think I enjoyed the way he told the story over the actual plot.

You could call me a big Stephen King fan.  I began reading his stuff back when I was 12 and haven’t stopped since.  The first King book I read was It.  I think that if I had read anything else other than It at the time, I would not have become such a huge fan.  I think it was the way King captured the minds and emotions of kids my own age that really brought the story to life.  It will always be one of my favorites, but the ones that I have enjoyed and re-read the most would be the Dark Tower books. 

While I love all of Stephen King’s works, I think his short stories are more powerful than his novels.  They are like bee stings or touching a pan that you don’t think is hot.  The pain and fear and thrill are immediate and intense, but you get over it quickly.  He drives the story home in just a few short pages, but those stories always stick around in my memory.  His short stories and novellas are always the perfect size to fit in my head.  Whenever I hear a story of someone stranded in the wilderness that had to survive for several days, I always think of Survivor Type.  Or when I see a pregnant woman, I can’t help but think of The Breathing Method.  Or when I see a beggar on the street, I always think that they might be like Blind Willie.  I can already see the connections to Blockade Billy forming in my head.  I recommend picking it up if you are a King fan.  You can’t borrow my copy, so please don’t ask.

Lost: The Last Recruit

This is a week late.  Since Lost is a re-run this week, I thought it I could get my fix by finishing this post I started a week ago but never got to publish.

First thing is first.  Who else thought Jin’s head was going to explode when he ran to Sun at the sonic fence?  I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  This is highly possible with my current fitness level.  I think I actually said, “No, No, NO!” out loud. 

Last week’s episode of Lost didn’t feel like a real episode.  I think it was more staging the events for the last four episodes of the season (I can’t believe there are only four episodes left), but I don’t think it really advanced the story line any. 

We saw that Desmond was still alive after being tossed down the well, but Sayid was sent to kill him.  We never got to see if it really happened or not, but I don’t think they would really kill Desmond off screen.  We learned that the ghost of Christian Sheppard might have been the MIB in another stolen body, at least that is what MIB said.  Not Locke was using this as a way to win Jack over to the dark side.

In the LA-verse, Desmond continues on doing his Mr. Roarke, or crazy Scottish stalker dude, thing, getting Claire, Jack, and Ilana together.  It also seems like Sun had a little flash of the Island-verse when she saw Locke on the stretcher.  The little scene with Sawyer and Kate in the LA-verse didn’t make much sense to me.  I thought it would have been better if Sawyer had hidden a handcuff key in Kate’s apple and we could have watched her disappear when he was talking to Miles.  Neither of them seemed to make the “connection” to the Island-verse side.  Maybe that won’t happen for Sawyer until he meets Juliet, if it ever happens. 

I wonder what the plan is once everyone realizes that there is something going on.  What will they have to do to reverse the explosion of the Swan site?  Board a plane and fly over the submerged island, visit it by submarine, hold a séance and break out the Ouija board?  I think it will have something to do with Daniel Whidmore/Farraday and subjecting them all to an EMP that will some how coincide with some event on the Island side.

Seeing Ab Aeterno and Nestor Carbonell’s amazing performance again this week was nice.  I wonder if they decided to show this particular episode to get everyone back in the religious/spiritual mode for the last four episodes, to swing everyone away from the scientific and back to the Jacob vs. MIB – Good vs. Evil story line.

I would write more, but this week has been hell.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Worse Than Pulling Teeth?

Today I got to go to the dentist.  It was a routine cleaning, nothing major.  Before we got started, the hygienist informed me that they needed updated x-rays.  The entire dental industry needs a make-over.  All of their tools and techniques need to be improved so as not to scare the shit out of people.  The whole idea of one or more people sticking sharp metal devices and mechanical equipment that emits high pitched, irritating noises into your mouth frightens most people. 
I don’t mind the high speed drills, I don’t mind the teeth polishing tool, even the high pressure water jet, Mr. Suction, and the stainless steel picks don’t bother me.  I hate when they have to take x-rays.  It’s not the fact that they are bouncing high energy radiation off my face, it is the medieval plastic and metal ring apparatus that they insert in my mouth.  And what makes it worse is the concertina wire edged piece of film that you are required to bite down on and hold for several seconds.  With all of our research in medical and material sciences, how can we not have come up with a better solution to this process?  Could they soften the edges a bit?  Could they make it less like clamping down on a razor blade with the roof of your mouth? 
After all of the teeth clenching, polishing and picking, I get to see the actual dentist for roughly 15 seconds.  He appears to count all of my teeth and then murmur, “you’re all set.”  Seriously?  Couldn’t I have just brushed really good and sent you a few digital pictures if that was all you were going to do?  I could have done that from the privacy of my basement stronghold and not have left the house today.  Damn you, preventative dentistry, you got me again.
But it’s Tuesday, it should be good, have I already broken my streak?  In the past two days I have spent over 13 hours on the phone trying to solve production issues at work, seven yesterday and six today.  I was up until 2 AM this morning.  My ears itch from wearing a telephone headset for this long.  I am now two days behind on an already overwhelming project load.  Why does stuff break on my on-call week?
Production support in a large corporation is very much like a circus, any issue effecting a significant number of users involves getting about 20 different people on a conference call because no one person has the access, the authority or knowledge to do what is necessary to fix the issue.  You get a help desk technician, production support contacts, users, server administrators, network administrators, firewall administrators, proxy team, application owners, vendor contacts, and various other dingleberries that just cling on because they think they can be useful. 
No one gets on the call at the same time, so every time someone comes online, you have to rehash the entire story and everything that has been done to that point.  Not only do you get to go through every fact, but you have to justify the reason for the call.  It’s like they don’t believe you that there is indeed an issue.  The best part is after having spent three hours going over every possible cause and discussing every possible resolution, the issue resolves itself mysteriously without anything changing at all, or at least nothing that anyone will admit to.  Sometimes you hear that “Ooohhh… um… nothing” on the conference call and then 20 minutes later the issue disappears.  I am still hopeful that someone will develop a way to deliver a throat punch through a VOIP line.
Everything can’t be all bad today, it’s Tuesday, Lost is on tonight.  Huh?  You’re shitting me, a rerun?  I quit.

My Kingdom for a Do-rag

Bret Michaels, former Poison front man, current contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and do-ragged man-whore host of the Rock of Love, suffered a brain hemorrhage last Thursday.  He was immediately rushed to an undisclosed hospital where doctors had to perform a radical new doragectomy procedure to remove the damaged brain cover and replace it with a new bandana.

An source from inside the hospital, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed that Michaels is in recovery now, but has suffered severe brain damage, but neurological reports show that this will not effect  his song writing nor his attraction to skanky women.  “The doctors removed half of his brain and as soon as he was stitched back up, he asked a guitar and a group of women with self-esteem issues to assist in finding his true love,” the source commented.

Another hospital insider commented, “I feel sorry for Mr. Michaels, but after ruining Kiss’ Rock and Roll All Nite, there wasn’t much the doctors wanted to could do.”

A recent development happened earlier today as Department of Defense records were uncovered that show that Michael’s signature bandana do-rag is, in fact, a secret military research project.  The bandana is a new space age polymer that is being developed to be used for multiple military and civilian purposes.  Mr. Michaels was an ideal candidate for the experiment due to his rampant scalp deterioration from years of Aquanet abuse.  The bandanas in use by Mr. Michaels are constructed with several neural receptors, transdermal drug delivery systems, and blonde hair weaves. 

According to the records, the neural receptors are designed to track brain wave activity during song writing and composing to determine what causes horrid songs like “Unskinny Bop” and “I Want Action” and prevent them in the future.  The transdermal drug delivery systems were originally intended to delivery medications that could be useful on the battlefield in military applications, but for Mr. Michaels, are delivering antibiotics and fungicides to combat his frequent STD flair-ups.  The blonde hair weaves are to look cool coming out from under a cowboy hat.

NOTE: I have tried hard to be nice but I can’t stand it any longer.  I don’t like Bret or his music or his recent comeback into the media spotlight.  Seriously, he sung “Unskinny Bop”, if that is not hemorrhage worthy than I don’t know what is.

Anyway, gotta run, it’s a Woot! Off.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Captcha FAIL

I hate Captchas.  For those of you that don’t know what a captcha is, it is when some website attempts to verify that you are indeed a human and not some program accessing their site.  They do this by presenting you an image of one or two random words or sometimes just random letters and numbers and asks you to type those words or characters into the form in order to submit or save something.  It is the internet’s version of the Voight-Kampff test.  I had to go through three different ones before I found one that I could actually read when I ordered the Faith No More tickets the other day.  I don’t usually make too much of them, but tonight, when I posted my blog update to Facebook, I was a bit insulted.

Yes, it reads “duodenal in.”  Yes, “duodenal” means relating to the first part of the small intestines.  Is Facebook trying to tell me to shove my update in my ass?

Long Overdue

It has been almost a week since I last posted an update and I apologize.  I have been busy with work and home life and at the end of the day, when I sit down to write, I am either too tired or have something else that needs my attention.  This week all of my nights have been spent finishing up work projects, solving production support issues and spending time with the kids. 

This weekend was no different.  There was a birthday party on Friday night that kept me occupied until 9:30.  When I got home, all I wanted to do was stop my eardrums from bleeding and relax and not look at a computer.  I ended up watching Manchurian Candidate with Liev Schreiber and Denzel Washington.  It was a good remake of the original and put a modern twist on the original novel.  I have to admit that I am not a fan of Liev Schreiber, his eyes always make me think he is about to cry.  I also got to see The Men Who Stare at Goats.  It was humorous, but I really didn’t think too much of it. 

I spent about 30 minutes tonight re-ordering my Netflix DVD queue so that the Battlestar Galactica series comes next.  I have been putting it off long enough.  I can’t wait any longer.  I know, I know, how can I call myself a nerd and not have seen Battlestar Galactica?  I was not able to see it when it first came out and I vowed that I would not start watching it in the middle.  It wasn’t so much of a vow, it was more like an OCD thing that I could rationalize into a vow.

I scored a minor victory in getting the kids to watch Serenity with me, or making them believe that they wanted to watch it.  I tried getting them to watch it a year or two ago, but they weren’t interested.  I hope to leverage this into getting to watch Battlestar  on movie nights for the next several months.  The only downside is trying to get the kids to not walk around using the word “frack.”

We worked our butts off on Saturday.  The 5 YO and I went out to get the finishing touches for the veggie garden as soon as I was done the yard work.  He helped pick out all of the plants, loaded them on the cart and kept a mental count of everything we had.  We ended up with:

  • (3) Bradley Tomatoes
  • (1) German Queen Tomato
  • (2) Roma Tomatoes
  • (1) Husky Cherry Tomato
  • (1) Pink Queen Tomato
  • (3) Red Bell Peppers
  • (3) Green Bell Peppers
  • (1) Anaheim Pepper
  • (1) Sweet Chili
  • (6) Banana Peppers
  • (1) Cubanelle Sweet Pepper
  • (2) Zucchini
  • (4) Blue Diamond Watermelons
  • (6) Romaine Lettuce
  • (6) Iceberg Lettuce
  • (6) Buttercrunch Lettuce (which didn’t make it to the garden because I didn’t space things out properly)

This will be a butt-ton of produce if this works out.  We might have to build another bed next year or expand the existing bed if we get good results. 

The thunder is rolling and the rain is pounding down as I write this and I am wondering if our little garden will make it through this storm.  I really hope the morning sun does not reveal an empty 10’ X 12’ wooden box.  I am leaving it up to the gods of agriculture to ensure my garden doesn’t wash away. 

I figured the raised bed would keep the rabbits out until I had the defenses installed, but I didn’t plan on the Golden Retriever being a threat.  I was wrong.  He began eating the 12 cubic feet of garden soil (you know, that intoxicating mix of dirt, manure and compost) that we purchased as soon as started spreading it.  No wonder his breath smells like the ass of a dead skunk (we have some other very colorful descriptions for his breath, but I decided on the one least offensive).  I can’t wait to see what he does when something actually starts growing in it.

The boys and I spent a few hours planting everything and then rushed in to get showers.  I figure if each plant yields at least four vegetables or fruits we will have made our money back on the investment in the first year.

On Sunday, we installed the post caps to spruce up the garden a bit.  They are purely decorative and I think it makes it look less like a big wooden box.  We also added a few wooden signs to designate the different veggies planted in there.  I have one last addition before it is complete, but I didn’t get a chance to finish it.  More on that when it is done.

 

 

We also planted the replacements for the holly bushes that we dug out last weekend.  We got a small assortment of different shrubs from a local nursery and spent an hour after church planting them.  I don’t know how much longer the boys will be willing to help me out with all of the little projects that I have.  I hope it is not too soon, they are actually getting pretty good at it.  I might be able to rent them out and make a profit on it.

Right before dinner, we got to witness a great and scary thing, our 10 MO crawling for the first time.  Well, it wasn’t exactly crawling, but the ruling on the field was that she was on all fours and there was forward progress, enough to capture a toy a foot and half away.  It only happened once and by the time we were done clapping and coaxing her to do it again, it was time to eat.  By this time next week, I will have installed baby locks on all of the cabinets that don’t already have one and put up the baby gates on the stairs.  We had a great dinner tonight, Montreal Salsa Chicken on the grill.  I can’t remember where we got this recipe, but if anyone is interested in it, let me know and I will dig up a link.

That’s all for now, ass-breath the dog just made his way downstairs, opening the bedroom door and the basement door by himself.  He doesn’t like when it thunders, I don’t think he is scared, I think he just wants to make sure that I am alright.  I would be better if he chose to breathe in the other direction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesdays Are Good

This is a day late, but it was only because I have been busy with work and home life to write until now.  Tuesdays are turning out to be one of the better days of the week.  Anything that follows Monday has to be good.  The morning started off as every other, get up, get kids to school, etc.  At 9:40 AM, a reminder popped up from the Outlook calendar on my work PC, a Google calendar event on my home PC, and a reminder on my Droid. 

What could be so important that it would warrant three separate, redundant alerts?  Billy Gould (@mrgould) and Roddy Bottum (@roddybottum) tweeting the fan club presale link and password for the July 3rd Faith No More concert, of course.  Credit card in hand, I waited for 10 AM to roll around so I could get my tickets.  I got four good seats at the Mann Center in Philadelphia.  Three friends and I will be seeing Faith No More for the first time in over 12 years!  Since I am getting older, I opted for assigned seating instead of the lawn, these old bones need somewhere they can rest every now and then.

Could the day get any better?  Why yes it can!  Shortly after ordering the tickets online, an email popped into Gmail mailbox.  I was being notified that Blockade Billy was officially released and I would be receiving my 1st edition hard cover edition shortly.  This book is extra cool because it is being published by Cemetery Dance, a small publishing company from right here in Maryland.  We are practically neighbors, the company is based less than four miles from my house.  You can read more about Cemetery Dance in an interview of Richard Chizmar by the Baltimore Sun here and also in an interview at Lilja’s Library.

Tuesdays are also my short day at work.  I get out at 3 PM so I can head over to the elementary school to run the Robotics Club.  As I pushed my hand cart down the hall to the media center to start setting up, my good day started to crash.  I saw a whole line of kids standing at the media center door that were not my robotics club kids.  As I got closer, I realized with horror that the media center was completely occupied by photography equipment.  Today was spring picture day.

I parked the cart by the door and tentatively walked in.  I made eye contact with one of the photographers.  I explained my situation, she explained how long it would take them to break everything done and leave.  45 minutes.  I understood that there was nothing that I could do about it.  I was not about to rush these women or give them attitude, they just spent 8 hours taking pictures of an entire elementary school, I could tell by the sweaty faces and thousand yard stares that they were not to be trifled with.  Put simply, with indifference to you Kent, it’s like lasing a stick of dynamite.

I refused to let this set back ruin my day.  What were we going to do with 40 kids between the ages of 5 and 11?  As part of the agreement with the school, we weren’t allowed anywhere else on the premises.  The kids could sense my distress and fear.  Snap off the lights, instantly freezes kids in a school setting.  Sucked for the photographers, who now were groping around in a dimly lit library, but there was a building crisis that needed to be averted.  We gathered the kids in the only open area in the library, a 12” X 12” walled off section used for reading circles.  I distributed some of the WeDo kits to the children and explained that the quieter and more well behaved they were, the quicker the ladies could clear out and we could get to business. 

To my amazement, they did just that.  They all sat down and started working.  I only had to use my Taser two or three times (Just kidding, I did not tase any of the children.  I may want to at times, but that was one of the rules I had to agree to before assuming leadership of the club).  The photographers broke everything down and left in 30 minutes, I think they were a little afraid too.  Every time I made eye contact with one of the photographers, they gave me a look like “You volunteer for this?  God bless you, you crazy sonofabitch.”  We all relocated to the tables and computers without any major issues, except for a few damaged robots.  Hey, they are Lego, they snap right back together.

To top everything off, Tuesday is also Lost night (post forthcoming).  Being the pessimist that I am, I don’t expect things to go my way, but today was one of those pleasant surprises.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring and Summer Project Update

I previously wrote about my home project list.  I have been able to cross a few items off over the past few weekends.

1. Fix the truck – Done (both times)

2. Fix the tractor – Done (mysteriously fixed itself)

3. Remove holly bushes from the front of the house - Done

4. Replace broken split rail fence – Done (with a little help from my neighbor)

5. Raised vegetable garden – 50% complete

The new vegetable garden is 10’ X 12’ X 10”.  (It is actually 10’ 1/2” X 10’ 1/4” X 12’ 1/2” X 12’ 3/4” because I didn’t feel like breaking out the saw to cut wood for a vegetable garden.  Seriously, it’s not the foundation to a house, it’s a box filled with dirt.)  The construction is almost complete.  It is going to get six post caps, one at each corner and one at the six foot mark on each of the 12’ sides.  I was going to make the post caps myself but saw these on sale at Home Depot for $3 a piece and I couldn’t pass up the bargain.  The garden has been filled with 2 cubic yards of top soil and will get another cubic yard of some type of garden soil or compost.  I was considering installing some type of drip irrigation, but I think I might leave that until next year.  I want to see how it works out this year first.

Next weekend I am going to add the post caps, the remaining soil and purchase the veggies.  I think we will start with a simple assortment, tomatoes (2-3 varieties), cucumbers, peppers (2-3 varieties), a row or two of corn, and whatever else I can get my hands on.  The kids want at least one pumpkin and one watermelon.

The AA (Anti-Avian) Pellet Gatling Gun with automated thermal image tracking and PAASRED (Pressure Activated Anti Small Rodent Explosive Devices) are still in development and should be installed before the end of the summer.  Apparently my attempts at purchasing cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine on the internet have put me on some type of watch list.  Whatever, like the Federal Bureau of Investigations have never heard of the Carl Spackler technique of rodent prevention.

I have to thank my two boys and their two friends for helping me haul the 2 yards of topsoil from the truck to the garden.  It is really amazing to see four kids take enjoyment from shoveling 2.5 tons of dirt.  One of the boys, a 6 YO, said “If we were doing this for real, we would be making a lot of money.”  They seemed to really love it when I lashed them all to the front of the wheelbarrow like a team of horses to pull it to the backyard.  At first the whip scared them, but they learned quickly to work together and pull faster to avoid its sting. (just kidding there were no children harmed in the making of the garden, no one was tied or whipped, just shoveling)  I would love to repeat this same exercise every year to determine at which point they stop perceiving it as fun and it becomes work and to see when monetary incentive becomes involved.

If I don’t get anything planted in it, I think it would be a great team building tool for the next work picnic at the house.  Flood it with some water and have mud wrestling.  I have my wrestling outfit all picked out, just need to find a Speedo to match my cape and mask.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Year in the Life…

I sometimes think that Google Reader has ESP.  There have been so many times when a friend or collogue and I have discussed something and then within a day something on the topic has popped up in one of my RSS feeds in Google Reader. 

It happened again today.  After long day of grocery shopping, lawn care, fence maintenance (I added the wire to the split rail fence I put up last weekend so my dog will stop trying to break and enter our neighbor’s kitchen) and church, the kids have been bathed and pajama’d and it was time for a little relaxation before bed.  We planned tonight to watch the second episode in Syfy’s Tin Man.  As soon as we all sat down, my 7 YO asked “Dad, can we check out the Stormtroopers?”

“Not right now, we will check tomorrow morning, I don’t feel like getting up,” said the lazy ass father.

I hopped on the computer after the kids were in bed, and, like it was reading my mind, I saw a post in Google Reader feed that marked the end of the Stormtroopers 365 project.  Stormtroopers 365 is a photo project started on April 2, 2009 that features a photo each day of two Hasbro Stormtrooper action figures.  I first read about the project in November 2009 through one of my feeds I follow in Google Reader, of course.  I loved it and I figured that my boys would want to see it too, because it featured three things that they love, Star Wars, toys, and funny pictures.  The project was already a few months underway.  The boys and I spent an hour or two browsing each and every photo.  I didn’t realize that they would be so interested in it and that it would trigger another outlet for their own artistic expression.

My boys are very creative and artistic, something that they didn’t inherit from me.  They love to draw and color, create cartoons and now, after watching Daddy write “stories” (i.e. my blog posts) at night, they have started writing their own “stories” too.  My 7 YO has even had his art displayed in an art exhibition sponsored by the county board of education.  The art would be included with pieces from other students from the county schools.  He was the only second grader with art displayed and one of two students selected from his school.

From Kids Art

The same night that we checked out Stormtroopers 365 photo pool for the first time, I had to set up a photo studio in the basement.  I let the kids use an old digital camera I had, set them up with a tripod and showed them how to use everything.  The subject matter would be, of course, stormtroopers.  The next day I had to spend a few hours editing their first “shoot.”  Most of the photos were just random shots of toys, but some of them had a “story”, not bad for a 5 and 7 YO with zero photography experience.

From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art
From Kids Art

I have a couple hundred photos that I have yet to download from the camera.  Now that the weather is getting nice again, I can’t wait to see what they come up with outside.

I wanted to thank the creator of the Stormtroopers 365 project for the wonderful and funny work and also for inspiring my two boys.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bravery Part 2

Seven years, ten months, and nine days ago, our first child was born.  He was perfect in every way, ten fingers, ten toes, bright blue eyes.  The day after he was born, my wife asked the nurse why he had a bright pink spot on his face.  It didn’t seem like a bruise or an injury from his birth.  The nurse said “Oh that’s his beauty mark.”

One of our pediatrician’s colleagues came to do the wellness check up.  He explained to us that our beautiful son had a port wine stain birthmark.  The mark covered his right cheek, temple and part of his upper lip. 

Our pediatrician, at our son’s two week check up, told us that the birthmark could be a symptom of Sturge-Weber Syndrome.  This syndrome involves the growth of extra blood vessels around the brain, which could cause developmental problems and along the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve, which could cause eye problems, specifically glaucoma.  Sturge-Weber Syndrome is usually indicated when the birthmark involves the upper eyelid and forehead.  Since our son’s birthmark did not involve that area, the doctor was hopeful that he did not have this.

This began a long series of visits with various specialists in different fields.  We met with a geneticist with the University of Maryland.  He examined our son and ruled out Sturge-Weber based on the location and coverage of the birthmark.  It was a huge relief to hear those words.

We saw a pediatric ophthalmologist to determine if there was any possibility of glaucoma.  Most people older than 30 have had a glaucoma test.  You know the one where they blast a puff of air into your eye to test the pressure.  When a child is very young, it is impossible to do this while the kids is conscious, so they can only do it under sedation in a hospital operating room.  Our baby was much too young for that so the doctor could only check his eyes with special lenses.

The next doctor we met was Dr. Bernard Cohen of Johns Hopkins.  Dr Cohen is one of the best doctors that I ever known.  He immediately reassured us that everything was going to be okay with our son.  Dr. Cohen explained that without treatment the birthmark, over time, would hypertrophy, or become thicker and harder due to the increased blood flow to the area.  This could cause issues with his vision, breathing and speech, because of the proximity to our son’s eye, nose and mouth.  He described how the use of a pumped dye laser can reduce the appearance of and prevent future complications resulting from the birthmark.  Dr. Cohen explained that it is not an immediate improvement but it is a result of repeated treatments at regular intervals that could start as soon as our son was six months old. 

Dr. Cohen explained everything thoroughly.  He explained in it in biological and medical terms that my wife could relate to.  He spoke of varying the wavelength and pulse duration and how that would effect the blood vessels, which is what I could understand.  And he spoke to us as parents.  It was still a scary prospect, subjecting your child to a being shot with a laser in the face.

Shortly after our son turned six months old, we went for the first treatment.  Dr. Cohen and his wonderful staff walked us through the entire procedure before they did anything.  Dr. Cohen actually allowed me to experience what the laser felt like on anesthetized skin and on bare skin.  On bare skin it felt like taking a rubber band, like the ones they used to put on newspapers, pulling it back all the way and snapping it on your skin.  On the anesthetized skin, it felt like a someone flicking you with their finger.  Dr. Cohen explained that once they started everything would go very quickly, so they could complete the procedure and have our son in our arms again in less than 5 minutes, the actual procedure itself will take less than 2 minutes.  They do this so the child is not put under too much stress and get them back in the warm arms of their parents as quickly as possible.

I didn’t believe it until I saw it happen.  Dr. Cohen and his staff moved at lightning speed, 180 laser pulses in 180 seconds and our son was back in our arms.  He cried for a minute and then was back to normal.  There was no residual pain.  You could touch his cheek and it was like nothing had happened.  You could see the slight swelling and bruising caused by the bursting of the irregular capillaries, but after the procedure there was no pain.  We had to repeat this every three months for about five years.

Our son completed his 23rd treatment today.  At almost 8 years old, he is well aware of what is happening and the reasons why he has it done.  He understands and accepts that this is something that is for his health, but he is still a little anxious the day before.  He hops right up on the table, holds my hand and doesn’t even flinch. 

I am astonished every time at his courage and his will power.  I know there are people and children out there that have to face much greater challenges and pain, and my heart truly does go out to them, but I do not ever experience that first hand like I do the treatment of my son.  So when I think of bravery, I think of my 7 year old boy hopping up on the examination table knowing that he is going to get snapped in the face 100+ times.  I think of his happy, confident smile.  I feel his hand tighten around my fingers and the return of that smile when it is over.

Our son is at the point now where treatments are 6 months to a year apart.  His birthmark is nearly invisible now.  His next treatment will probably be his last for several years.  He may have to continue maintenance treatments later in his teens or older to get some of the spots closer to the eye lid that are difficult to get to, but that is something that only time will tell. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner

Gluttony.  It’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  It was deadly even before people knew about high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and clogged arteries.  It is probably the one sin that, in the past, I most guilty of.  I have been known, on occasion, to eat large amounts of food in one sitting (or standing, depending on the event). 

I eat fast and had an extremely fast metabolism (had – it is catching up with me now).  By eating fast, I trick my stomach into believing it is not full before the rest of the food hits it.  Having a fast metabolism has kept me hovering around 180 pounds since I was a junior in high school.  I realized at an early age that I could consume a lot in a short period of time.  It first started when I was 9 or 10 when we went to New Jersey to see my grandfather.  We were at some beef and beer type event.  They were serving hot dogs for the kids.  I ended up eating 11 hot dogs in about two hours.

From there I graduated to bigger things, like the “Big Irish" burger at Bennigans (I don’t think it is on the menu anymore), the “Pounder” at Cheeburger Cheeburger.  I thought the 5 Regular Roast Beefs for $5 was Arby’s version of an extra value meal. Things got… worse after that.

We had instituted “Fat Kid Friday” when we worked in the office to release our eating inhibitions and reward ourselves for slaving all week long.  We would all gather in our private conference room, throw a movie on the projector and have a leisurely lunch.  For the true “Fat Kids”, we would order pizza by the pie (one per person), 18” inch cheese steaks, Jake’s triple cheeseburgers.  It was never a contest, it was just releasing your pent up frustrations on a large amount of food.

We had to move to having “Wide Load Wednesdays” when we began working from home four days a week and only coming in on Wednesdays.  Same concept, different day of the week.  We stopped celebrating our gluttonous habits after we began working from home full time and the “Fat Kids” resumed eating like normal humans seven days a week.

Tonight was an exception.  Tonight a few of my buddies from work met for dinner.  We met at a restaurant featuring an interesting dinner special on Thursday nights, a 40 ounce steak for only $17.  Forty ounces of beef, gristle, fat and bone.  Forty ounces of gluttony on a plate.  I was up for a challenge.  I had never attempted this much food in one sitting before, but I figured I would give it a try.  I was ravenous waiting for the food to arrive.  I kept telling myself, when you see the steak, remember to take a picture, a picture.

I forgot.

By the time I did remember, there was little left to photograph except for a nearly empty plate and a bone.  I polished off a forty ounce porterhouse, a plate of fries and a bowl of applesauce in a matter of minutes.  The saddest thing was, I didn’t feel full at all and could have probably eaten more.

For your revulsion….

From Random

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lost: Everybody Loves Hugo

I mentioned yesterday that I had a good day and Tuesday’s episode of Lost just topped it all off.  I love it when people explode on Lost, especially people I am not particularly fond of.  Ilana had to go, she just didn’t fit in.  Her role as knight protector of Jacob’s candidates was too controlling, and didn’t give enough room for what needed to happen.  It was great that she exploded in a Hurley-centric episode.  I guess the writers had too much respect for Ilana’s character to have Hurley pick any pieces of her off his shirt.  I think the Mythbusters should do an episode on the effect of three sticks of dynamite on a human body.  Would it be vaporized like that?

Having Desmond back is great.  Having a self-confident Desmond that walks around with a I-know-something-you-don’t-know smirk is pure gold.  We only got to see a little of Desmond in the Island-verse, but enough to know that Not Locke is afraid of him.  Afraid enough to throw him down a well and leave him there.  Why didn’t MIB just kill him outright?  Why take the chance of throwing him down a well and having the possibility of him not dying?  Does he need him alive?  Did MIB fall into the trap of every classic movie and comic book villain by not making sure the “good guy” is dead?  I guess we will find out later.

The LA-verse Desmond seems to playing the role of Mr. Roarke while he travels around with his own list and making everyone’s dreams come true.  This Desmond has a mission to show all of his plane-mates, or “brothers”, what they might be missing out on.  Libby seems to have had this revelation on her own, but Mr. Hume nudges Hurley to follow through and find out if she is really crazy.  Libby and Hurley are finally reunited (a recurring theme this week) and again we see how love is the focal point.

In typical Fantasy Island fashion, the price you pay for what you want isn’t always what you expect.  Especially when you get hit by a car while rolling yourself across a parking lot.  What will Locke see in his visions?  In the LA-verse, he already has his “love”.  What will be enough incentive for Locke to want to switch?  Will it be getting the use of his legs back but paying for it by having a grifter as a father, losing a vital organ in hope of paternal acceptance, losing his true love because of low self esteem, and dying at the hands of Ben?  I think the LA-verse Locke has the most to lose and the least to gain by trying to flip to the Island-verse.

What’s next for the Ricardo Montalbán-in-training, assuming that he succeeds in causing everyone on his list to have visions of their possible other lives?  Is he going to gather them altogether and get on “ze plane”?  (sorry, I am getting a little carried away with my childhood memories of Saturday night television) Or will it involve undoing what Daniel Widmore/Faraday thinks he did in another life?  Whatever happens, I am glad to see that the LA-verse is finally going somewhere.

The last few weeks of Lost had shifted the focus from the spiritual (good versus evil, sin, redemption) aspects of the island back to the scientific (electromagnetism, quantum physics).  Tonight seemed to be a little of both.  Not Locke and Desmond focused on the physical and spoke of energy and power (it could be either scientific or personal influence-type power) and how previous inhabitants of the island dug wells to find the source of this power.  Desmond referenced Widmore’s experiment in the wood shack.

Hurley and Michael’s second conversation focused on the spiritual side.  Their chat seemed a lot like a discussion of Purgatory.  Michael said that he and the other “voices” are souls trapped on the island, unable to move on.  Michael confirmed that he is there for what he had done to Libby and Ana Lucia.  It is interesting how cold blooded murder didn’t earn him a one way ticket to the bad place (not New Jersey, the other bad place).  I guess I have nothing to fear for having eaten meat every Friday during Lent.  Or maybe I shouldn’t take spiritual guidance from a television show.

Did you happen to catch the trailer for next week’s episode too?  There are few movie quotes quite as scary and exciting as Gene Wilder’s wild-eyed crazy portrayal of Willy Wonka and his psychotic rant as they ride the boat down the river of chocolate:  There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going.  There’s no knowing where we’re rowing.  Or which way the river’s flowing.  Is it raining?  Is it snowing?  Is a hurricane a-blowing?  Not a speck of light is showing.  So the danger must be growing.  Are the fires of hell a-glowing?  Is the grisly reaper mowing?  Yes!  The danger must be growing for the rowers keep on rowing.  And they’re certainly not showing any sign that they are slowing!

NOTE: It is a coincidence that all of my children happened to be named after characters from Lost.  My wife refused to name any of our children after any literary, historical or media-related persons.  I would have not chosen Lost characters if I had been allowed, it would have been more bad ass to have an Albert, Isaac, Lazarus or Alia.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reunited

I know some of you maybe expecting a Lost post, but I had to talk about something else first.  Did you have one of those days that you don’t expect to be anything special, but that keeps on getting better as it goes along?  Today was one of those days.

Tuesday are always busy days, today was nothing different.  Just after getting back from a cold bus stop, I saw some interesting news on the inter-webs.  On Monday, Faith No More played their first concert on American soil in almost 12 years.  Faith No More is a band that I have been a fan of for the past 20+ years.  I wasn’t able to get out to San Francisco to see their concert.  And I won’t be able to get to New York to see their show there either.  But someone posted a picture of t-shirt that gave me some hope.  Should I put any hope in a t-shirt?  I guess it doesn’t hurt anything.

I had a lunch scheduled with a bunch of people from work.  We meet once a month just so we can prove to each that we really exist and that we are really something more than voices on endless conference calls. 

Most of us live/work in the NJ-PA-DE-MD area and we pick somewhere close enough for us all to get there.  Today’s lunch was special because a friend and associate from Atlanta would be in Baltimore for the week and was able to come.  Most of us haven’t seen him in several years, the last time I had gotten to see him was nine months ago.  We are a close knit team, some of having worked together for over 11 years now, so it is great when we can get together and relax, shoot some shit and have a good time.  We had a great lunch with great food and great conversation.  We also got to plan a dinner for Thursday night which had been cancelled but is now going to happen.  The day was working out pretty well.

I headed over to Robotics Club after lunch for our first meeting after spring break and I had a great time with the kids.  I got to spend much of the two hours instructing the kids on the Scratch programming software and watched them take the simple instructions and make some very cool games and interactive animation.  My own two boys are part of the club and I got to spend a lot of time with them, watching them build different things using Scratch.  Even my 5 YO was able to work on his own after a little introduction on how it works.  I finally felt like today, after all of the previous weeks, the kids were actually learning something.  It felt good.

After dinner, homework and showers were completed, the kids and I resumed watching Tin Man.  They were curled up next to me on the sofa, almost ready to fall asleep.  Life is good.

After the kids were in bed, I laid down with them for a couple minutes.  I pulled up Seesmic on my Droid and saw something amazing.

I have been a fan of Faith No More since I heard Epic for the first time.  My sister took a friend and I to their first show in Philly for my 15th birthday.  They opened for Billy Idol on his Charmed Life tour.  I will never forget the effect that FNM’s music had on me.  Every song was something different, from the rap-like Epic to the crooning of Edge of the World, and any band that can deliver an awesome cover of Sabbath’s War Pigs is a band for me.

Over the years I have sought out anything I could find of theirs until they finally broke up in 1998.  I was overwhelmed when I heard they were getting back together and touring again.  I was a little dejected when I heard that they were only playing a few dates in California and a show in New York.  It is difficult to rationalize stealing away to California or New York for a few days and leaving my wife and three kids alone.  But if they come to Philly, well, that’s a different story.

If anyone is interested in going with me, tickets go on sale on 04/20.  I have a reminder already scheduled and I am already following Roddy and Billy on Twitter so I can get the scoop on the pre-sale.  I haven’t been to the Mann in years, but every show I have seen there has been excellent.

So today turned out to be a great day for reunions.

To get the latest on FNM, you can go here and here.

I will end with some of my favorites of FNM.

Easy:

Midlife Crisis:

Caffeine:

And my favorite FNM song:

Slow Reader

I finally labored my way through Wicked.  According to when I added it to my GoodReads list, it has taken me almost 4 months to complete it.  Why?  I couldn’t stand the way it was written.  The concept was great, the plot ok, the writing was derelict.  Please keep in mind that I criticize because I have a keyboard and a forum in which to do it, I am not a great, or good, or even mediocre, writer.  I have read a large number of books and this is one that I regret having spent the time on.  It read like an outline for a novel that someone didn’t take the time to fill in the details or spent too much time detailing the parts that didn’t matter.
Why did I continue reading it?  There are two answers.  The first is that I refuse to stop reading a book once I start.  I will only stop if someone takes the book away.  Call it OCD or whatever you want, but I can’t do it.  There is only one book that I have ever stopped reading, The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.  No matter how hard I tried I could not get through it.  The second answer and the one that pertains to this particular instance, is that I kept hoping it would get better. 
I will not bore you with spoilers or any book club bullshit analysis.  I will end in saying that I didn’t like it and in the hands of different author, I think it could have been amazing.
The next book on my list is Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub.  This book has been collecting dust on my shelf for a while and now that I am rid of that other burden, maybe I will get back to enjoying reading.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Riding Fences

My back is sore.  My hands are sore.  My head is sore.  My ass is sore.  I left the house at around 9:00 AM and didn’t step foot in it again until 5:00 PM.  My goal was to both replace the broken split rail fence and remove the holly bushes from the front of the house.  The kids and I ended up spending the whole day working on the fence.  The kids were a big help, they were the runners, getting tools from the garage and shed, refilling water bottles, removing staples, raking leaves, etc. 

The savior of the day was our neighbor, Dave.  Dave and I share the fence that was in need of repair and he appeared like an angel while we were taking the new posts and rails off of the truck.  Together we removed all of the old fence and chicken wire and put up the new one. 

Dave showed me a really cool trick for removing the stubs of the fence posts that are still buried in the ground.  This trick requires two people and two shovels or digging bars.  Dig on opposite sides of the buried post until you can place the shovel at a 45 degree or higher angle to the post (not to the ground).  Both people dig the blades of their shovel or digging bar into the post on opposite sides and slowly, very slowly, apply downward pressure on the shovel handle.  With a little luck, the post will slowly come out of the ground.  Be careful not to push too hard on the shovel handle or it will snap off or rip a chunk of the post out of the ground causing you to get a new shovel or dig more to find a better place to bite into the post.

We successfully removed all 7 posts this way with only one broken shovel.  The shovel’s handle snapped and severely bent the steel shank, so it had to be put to rest.  It was an old shovel, but will be missed.  The rest of the day consisted of clamming out the post holes and setting the rails.  We left the most difficult set of rails until the end, the set that had to trimmed down to fit in a shortened space.  We used my handy DeWalt reciprocating saw for that.

Sounds pretty easy right?  So why am I so sore?  It is because I have reached the level of outta-shapedness that is reserved for the bedridden and the guys from the computer labs in college.  You know the ones who spend 48+ hours in the same chair, only leaving to relieve themselves and to refill their supply of soda and snacks.  The ones who redefine body odor as a physical shield that encompasses a 15 diameter sphere around them.  The ones surrounded by empty Mountain Dew cans and snack size Doritos bags.  I don’t know if these people still exist, but they did 14 years ago and I imagine that they still might be sitting there.  This winter of inactivity really had a negative impact on me, I have gone flabby and weak.

My 5 YO is also suffering the unfortunate result of spending the entire day outside.  He came down to breakfast this morning looking like he went 10 rounds with Apollo Creed.  Both eyes were swollen and he was barely able to open them.  I resisted the urge to cut him with everything I had, and gave him eye drops instead.

In other news, the kids got a new swing to replace one that had broken last week.  The baby also got a new swing which she loved.  We also acquired an 80lb. heavy bag which hasn’t been hung up yet.  Maybe I can combine that with the elliptical trainer in the garage and get myself into some semblance of physical fitness or just continue to sit in front of the computer all day and night long.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gesundheit

God bless you.  Bless you.  Enough already.  In my household, we say it once somewhere around early April and it covers you until late October or early November.  Yes, it is that time again.  Every one of my clones, or what you would call children, have the puffy eyes, running noses and spasmodic sneezing fits of seasonal allergies.  My wife, brilliant biologist and baby maker that she is, failed in her attempts of ridding the clones of that pesky gene.  It seems to have carried through to all of the G2s (that’s lab speak for Second Generation or so I am told). 

Our 7 YO, who has proven much less susceptible to allergic reactions, started sneezing and rubbing his eyes the other day.  Today in church, our 5 YO started bawling because his eyes hurt so much.  Even my little baby girl, who is a few days short of being 10 months old, has had her share of snot and watery eyes over the past few days. 

Every day, starting as the first buds appear on the trees and lasting until the last leaves have fallen, is a constant battle against pollen, mold, mildew, hay, etc.  My kids seem to only be effected during the early spring season when pollen counts are the highest, but occasionally over the summer, you can hear their stuffy-nosed snores in the middle of the night.

My condition is worse.  Most days are just sneezing and running nose until about noon, when my current medication of choice kicks in.  Followed by the inability to breath through my nose around 11 or 12 at night.  But every so often I get a crippling attack where the sinus headache and constant sneezing just stops me in my tracks and forces me to a subterranean layer of cool darkness.  I will lay flat on the sofa in the basement with the lights out and a ready supply of sugar and caffeine near by.  If I incline my head just a bit, the snot starts to flow.  During these attacks, I become ravenously hungry and will eat anything in my path, but I tend to gravitate towards sugar, carbs and caffeine.  I will devour an entire sleeve of crackers or chocolate or candy and down as much Coke and lemonade as possible and then still be hungry for more.  

I have tried so many different treatments over the years, but none seem to be effective.  I have been tested, shot full of 126 different allergens and concentrations in one test.  My arms looked like those old candy dots that used to come in pastel colors and were deposited in rows of tiny sugary turds on paper.  I got a shot once a week for 4-5 years, finally ending it while I was in college because it never seemed to do anything except give me a knot in my upper arm for a few days.  I have taken Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, Clarinex, Nasacort, you name it, I have taken it.  The most interesting treatment has to have been the Neti Pot, or as I like to think of it, drowning on salt water while you perform a nasal douche.  It worked once and every subsequent time, just made everything worse.

Zyrtec is my current daily fix, 1) because it seems to be effective in calming my day to day symptoms and 2) because I can buy it in bottles of 300 from BJs.  BJs is also where I buy my tissues, in packs of eight boxes, each box containing 300 2-ply unscented, un-lotioned tissues.  On a bad day, I will blow through (pun intended) almost an entire box.

Attacks always seems to happen at the worse possible moment.  I thought they were going to kick me out of the church at my daughter’s baptism because I looked like I was infected with Ebola and high at the same time.  I look like a zombie in the last family portrait we had taken.  I will save my wisdom teeth extraction story for another day.

In 30+ years of dealing with this, I have failed to come up with any benefit of this condition.  The one slightly cool thing I have learned  is how to sleep with my eyes open.  Yes it is weird, but it is cool when you get the chance to freak someone out with it.  When it hurts to close your eyes, sleeping with your eyes open affords you some much needed rest.  The trick is to start in a dark room, close your eyes half-way,  blur your vision, and make sure you are not looking at anything that might shed light, i.e. a digital clock, window, DVD, etc. (ha ha – I shocked myself by writing VCR first and then realized we haven’t had a working VCR in the house in at least 7 years).

I think I may have found something today that may change my entire life.  It is not a new medication or treatment, it may be my true calling in life.  I found out (while trying to find the proper spelling of Gesundheit.  Yes, 2 years of German and I don’t know how to spell it.) there are people in this world that have a sneeze fetish.  I could be a God to these people.  They could worship me as I drive them to ecstasy with every boisterous blast from my nose.  They would build temples of hay and straw in my honor and lay bouquets of ragweed and goldenrod at my feet and sacrifice dust mites in my name.  The most pious would wear Tommy Hilfiger cologne, burn Yankee candles, and mow their grass on my Sabbath.  I could bestow upon my loyal subjects sodden tissues as tokens of godly appreciation.  I could become the incarnation of Arkleseizure.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, I may be heralding my existence to my new followers or I may be recovering from trying to shove a burning hot poker up my nose in an attempt to cauterize my sinuses. 

I bless you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Conjoined

I have a conjoined twin.  I know that is somewhat of a shocking revelation, but it is true.  He is short, roughly one half of my height, covered in golden-red hair and his breath smells like rotten fish.  We are conjoined at an odd location, his head is joined with my butt. 

Yes, I am talking about my 11 year old Golden Retriever, Cody.  Our attachment is symbiotic, bordering on parasitic.  He gets to be petted whenever he wants and constant companionship and I get stress relief, a life long friend and dog hair everywhere. 

He has always been “my” dog, he is part of the family and loves everyone in the house, but he is my dog all the same since the first day he came through the door.  We adopted him a few years ago from a Golden Retriever rescue 5 months after our previous Golden passed away.  Cody was brought to our house, so we could check him out and so that he could check us out.  If everything worked out, we could “foster” him for two weeks before deciding if we would like to keep him.  When he first arrived, he and I sat on the floor in the kitchen together and he fell asleep in my lap as I petted his ears and head.  I knew then and there that he would not need to find another home, because he already had one with us.

Cody was given up for adoption because he likes has an extreme need is obsessed with people needs to be around people.  His previous “owners” (I will refer to them as “owners” and I have omitted many other names and descriptions to keep this as PG-13 as possible, but please feel free to insert whatever word you have for heartless bastards you may have) forced him and his brother to live outside for 6 years before finally giving him up for adoption.  The “owners” ran a business from their home and the dogs would smother their clients when they came over.  Goldens love people, it is a fact, maybe the “owners” should have thought about that or made better plans before they got them.  Cody’s brother was given up for adoption first and then a few months later, they gave Cody up.  In the end, they did the right thing, but that still doesn’t make up for 6 years.

As I have said previously, there are people that like dogs and those that do not.  I have always had a sort of animal magnetism.  Dogs seem to be attracted to me.  It is probably because I am receptive to them.  I talk to them, I pet them, I get down on the floor and play with them.  I don’t carry food or treats in my pockets, although based on my eating habits, I can see how you might assume that I would. 

Female dogs are a different story.  I don’t really know how to explain it, but every time I am near a female dog, they pee on the floor.  Sammy, Zoe, Reese, they are only a few of the bitches that wet themselves when I approach.  My effect on members of my own species is not so profound.

The bond between Cody and I steadily increased when I began working from home a few years ago.  At first, he would spend his days like he normally would, sleeping in the family room on the sofa.  But after a few months, he would hang out closer and closer to me, until finally we are the point now where he is figuratively/almost literally attached to my ass.

While I am at my desk working (most days I can’t even move my chair because some part of his body is blocking the wheels, the arm of my chair is at the bottom of the picture):

From Cody

While I am making dinner (picture taken from the kitchen counter him directly behind me, the OD Green thing at the bottom is my leg):

From Cody

While I am washing the dishes (I had to make him lay down away from the cabinets so I could actually move around):

From Cody

When I come inside and he is still outside (Cody can open the screen door by himself, but I have yet to capture this with camera or video):

From Cody

When I had to sleep in my 5 YO’s room last night (taken from the bed in the dark):

From Cody

When I am laying on the sofa (this makes power napping extremely difficult, the grey thing at the bottom of the pic is my chest):

From Cody
From Cody

Cody’s face is terribly bleached white from the sun and stress of having to live outside for 6 years.  His teeth are very worn down from having only sticks to chew on and play with when he was with his former “owners”.  It took about 6 months to finally get him to stop trying to pick up and play with every stick he came across.

I would not change him or his attachment to me.  I complain and curse when I trip over him or can’t get past him coming through a door or walking on the stairs, but we love him and he loves us.  And that is all that matters.

Note:  Cody frequently has very active and vocal “dreams”.  I have not been able to capture a clear video with good audio of one of them without waking him up.  I will post it as soon as I can get one.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Christine?

My wife and I were talking about the current repairs needed to the truck and she mentioned that she thinks it might be trying to kill me.  The more I think about it, the more I believe it is true. 

To make this less confusing and to not infringe on Stephen King’s work, let’s call the truck Lucille.  “Anything so innocent and built like that just gotta be named Lucille.”

Lucille has on two separate occasions had a failure to major components while I was driving it.  The first incident happened in December.  I lost steering while on a busy highway coming home from a Christmas party.  I was driving alone, I had just dropped a friend off at his car.  I ended up driving about 10 miles with no power steering. 

The second incident was on Easter Sunday.  I explained that in a previous post.  According to the mechanic, the steel brake line leading to the left rear wheel burst and froze the brake cylinders in place, making it impossible for the brake to release.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I can recognize the facts when I see them and this situation seems to be filled with some eerie similarities.

Christine vs. Lucille:

  • Christine was a Plymouth Fury, Lucille is a Dodge Dakota. Both Chrysler products.
  • Christine was a 1958, Lucille is a 1998.
  • Christine was red and white, Lucille is red and silver.
  • Christine could have had 5.9L V8 (the model also available with a 5.2L and 5.7L), Lucille has a 5.9L V8.
  • Christine’s story took place in Monroeville, PA (around Pittsburgh).  Lucille came from PA too (around Philadelphia).
  • Both had crazy previous owners (just kidding, Bob, I don’t think you are crazy).
  • Christine’s previous owner’s initials were R.D.L. (Roland D. LeBey), Lucille’s previous owner’s initials are R.D.L.
  • Christine’s new owner was Arnie, Lucille’s new owner is Henry.
  • Christine was purchased for $250, Lucille was free (tax, title, tags, inspection, steering repairs and brake repairs brings my total cost to roughly $2,500).
  • Arnie’s girlfriend, Leigh, almost choked to death on a hamburger while sitting in Christine.  I burnt the roof of my mouth on a French fry while sitting in Lucille.
  • Arnie hurt his back pushing Christine back to the garage for repairs.  My back is sore because I sit in front of a computer for 12+ hours a day.
  • A month before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.  A month before Kennedy was shot, he was in Marilyn Monroe.

The above facts are all true, I swear I did not make any of it up.  Actually, I am not sure about the Kennedy/Lincoln thing.  I can’t confirm that Lincoln was ever in Monroe, Maryland.

The truck is home again from the mechanic, waiting patiently in the driveway.  The front grill glints like a menacing smile in the morning sun.  I have survived so far.  I can only imagine what Lucille has in store for me next.