Saturday, April 30, 2005
Work-work-work. If only the work on the week days was as much fun and enjoyable as the work I do on the weekends. It does, however, pay very poorly in a monetary consideration. The spiritual and mental hygiene benefits are unfathomable though. It was an early morning on Saturday since we are now taking the kids in for 'swimming' lessons. It's more like 'hold a screaming daughter till she calms down' lessons. She was much better this time around and actually started to enjoy it once the floaty-toys and splashing started. Jake, being the mermaid that he is, went completely nuts and was a class A student the whole 30 minutes. He loves the water so much but since we had not yet done breakfast, we were not going to hang out there all morning. He would stay there the whole day if we let him. And no, we are not getting a pool installed in our back-50. I don't have the time to clean and maintain it nor do we have the resources necessary. I would probably want an olympic sized indoor pool anyways. Less cruft to clean out of the filters.
Perkins Saturday Morning Pancake Bonanza could have been better. The kids got a second wind while waiting and there was plenty of time spent waiting. We got seated immediately, but there was some sort of Girls Field-hockey and Gladiator contest going on so there were loads of people with big appetites in the place. No biggie, in by 0915, out within an hour. I had the usual patter of coronary disaster while the Mrs tried something new and 'customized'. I love to be able to order without even looking at the menu ... makes me feel self assured. I know, wired. But hey, it makes me happy so stuff it. Next stop, the barber shop for me. The Old Italian Treo gave me a hard time for not coming in more often. Saying that the haircut is only good for a week or two. Sheesh! Talk about an upsell for a maintenance plan.
Ran off to Lowes for some bulbs, gardening supplies and 25 lengths of nice green sod to cover up the mud-hole we call a back-yard. I'm going to be watching Katie and Thor closely to make sure they don't kill it before I have a chance to mow the stuff at least once. We bought a load of tulips and other bulbs that I'll have to plant soon so they can get a good start. Yeah, I know, you plant bulbs in the fall ... but hey, maybe I want tulips in July. I just need to find some more giant crocus and daffodils. WHAT! I like flowers, so what. Remember that song by Johnny Cash, 'A boy named Sue'? Yeah. Anyways, after the Lowes trip, we stopped off at a series of grocery stores that were having various sales on meat. We picked up 3 racks of baby-back pork ribs and 4 packs of regular beef ribs. The beef ribs are HUGE and extraordinarily meaty. I nearly put my back out trying to get the ribs and all the additional pork/beef products loaded into the Family Tank. It took a long time to get everything sliced up, sauced up, and wrapped up in tin-foil. I nearly used every available container of sauce in the house for the ribs. No, there will be some sincere carnivore action going on in the Haupertionian Manor this summer. The Mrs loves the way I make the ribs too: 4 hours at 285. You pick up the bone and the meat is barely hanging on like a day-trader gripping his quad-mocha-espresso as he is watching his Enron holdings fall through the floor.
The rest of the day was either me unloading sod or the Mrs running off to get her haircut. The kids were napping so it was a perfect time to do these things. Well, it was raining so it was good for the Mrs, not so good for me. It's good though, the sod needs the water. I was to meet a couple of friends at 1700. Since it was raining, the local roads were a commuters nightmare. I had to double back twice to circumvent congestion due to accidents. I arrived at Lai Lai about 15 minutes late ... just in time to see a wedding party stroll in. I was concerned that the whole place might have been reserved, but I quickly spotted my party at the bar ... of course. We have a very good time discussing the nature of things past, present and future. All at each-other's expense of course. We ate like kings and Pharaohs, we drank like an AA meeting gone bad. In the end, the waiters gave up and just loitered next to our table so that we would not make too much of a ruckus when demanding more wine or scotch ... or vodka ... or deep fried bananas. When the sushi chef broke down and started weeping, we called it quits and escorted our only female companion back to the waiting arms of her husband. Oh, and some beer from their fridge. After a brief visit and some cooing over their young pre-speech child, Satish and I zipped off to a local dive-bar and started drinking in earnest. We talked about jobs and work and politics in the way that men can when they have had a few more glasses of Glenfiddich than they should. He flirted with the Coors Girls and waitresses while I did the wing-man thing and complemented him on his taste, style, wealth and intellect. In the end, we agreed that we need to keep in touch and go out more often and we both went home alone (OF COURSE!), empty wallets but heads full of blurry concepts. I arrived home to see the Mrs waiting up for me, rolling pin in one hand, curlers in her hair. No, actually, she was clipping coupons and only stayed up so that the dogs would not go nuts and bark their fool heads off when some strange smelling man walked into the house. The smell of liquor, tobacco and fevered desperation permeated my clothing. It'll take several washes to get that out. It's 0200 Sunday morning and the next day will certainly need to be one of rest.
The rest was not forthcoming. The children mercifully let me sleep till 0730. The Mrs, however, needed at least another 5-6 hours to be one with the world. We napped on and off throughout the day, but her allergies and the cold I got from Alexis made the exhaustion only seem that much more impenetrable. The major accomplishment for the day was the shopping trip to BJ's wholesale where I got a metric ton of Raman noodles. The Mrs did some additional shopping after the kids started napping after 1400. I, spent that time planting the rest of the bulbs and wrapping up the remainder of the meat instead of napping. I am remorseful of the choices made, I really am.
Friday, April 29, 2005
I cannot believe how incredibly hot it was in the client site offices it was yesterday. For some reason, they had turned on the heat and it quickly went from 'comfortably toasty' to 'oppressively torrid'. The new space I am assigned to is populated by more computers than people and the fear of system failure (both human and HW) was authentic enough to spur the IT/OPS legions to start placing whole-house fans about the alleys to push the cold air in from the outside. It's unfortunate that this brand-new 'green' building is uninhabitable to all but plants. I was overjoyed when the day was over and I could escape my own little slice of Hades.
It's supposed to rain the whole day so when I arrived home, mowing the front expanse was tops on my list. I could get a bit of the arboreal management task done before conduction the daily S&R mission. Fortunately, I have raised the mower gunship deck a level on all for Anti-friction mobility actuators so the amount of clippings collected should be under 10 square yards. Sure, they are going to be dumped between the rows in the Agricultural Sector, but less is good since I have limited time. Even more fortunate, the wife arrived home before the projected 1900 hour deadline and I was able to complete the objective well before the sun set. Hate mowing the lawn in the dark. Never seem to keep my limbs intact.
Since I finished in the waning dusk, I took a few moments to dote over the sprouts breaking through the clay-laden hard-cake they call soil here in Pennsyltucky. The green beans were having a particularly bad time of it. Many of them started, but could not break out and rotted in place. After planting 3 rows at about 4 inches apart, I had a fist full of leftover seeds that I tossed in a hole near the cuccumbers and kicked some dirt over them. I did not give them a second thought as I tossed a bunch of grass clippings over the spot and figured that the nitrogen fixing would probably stunt or inhibit their germination. Boy, was I wrong. They sprouted up and grew like kudzu. In the end, I had a couple dozen 6 inch sprouts with robust leaves that I could transplant to the rows where there had been the 'catastrophy'. Dumb luck, eh?
- A woman who was blinded after she was attacked with acid has had her eyesight almost totally restored.
Deborah Catlyn thought she would never set eyes on her toddler daughter, Miracle, believing her vision might be permanently lost.
But revolutionary stem cell treatment has helped her regain 80 per cent of her vision and could hold the key for thousands of others. [...]
Doctors believe the stem cells they transplant into damaged eye somehow stimulated the patients' bodies to produce their own stem cells.
UPDATE: Katja pointed me at bugmenot so I can get at the NYTimes article.
- Stem Cell Transplants Offer New Hope in Some Cases of Blindness
By GWEN KINKEAD
A little-known operation restores hope for people who lose sight from chemical or heat burns of the eye or certain rare diseases. The procedure, 50 to 100 percent effective in healing corneal damage, is used worldwide, including Iran, where it helps restore sight for victims of Iraqi mustard gas attacks.
A variation on corneal transplants, the surgery grafts stem cells from a donor or a patient's good eye to the injured eye. The cells are from the limbus, a rim around the cornea. The cells resheath the cornea's surface, the 50-micron-thick epithelium, to maintain it as a transparent window. When burns or disease wipe out the limbal stem cells, the epithelium clouds over with scar tissue, causing blindness.
Grafting even a small piece of limbus can lead the stem cells to regrow clear epithelium — and keep it clear — thus restoring sight. The cells even recover transplanted corneas. Stem cell transplants and corneal transplants are frequently performed one after the other if corneal damage extends below the epithelium.
The discovery of the cells 17 years ago and clinical proof that they keep working in any eye with an intact tear system has opened a new era in eye surgery.
"It's an outstanding breakthrough and has, at least in the short run, cured a number of patients," said Dr. Richard S. Fisher, director of the corneal disease program at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md.
The stem cells are adult, not fetal tissue, and join bone marrow and skin as the third adult stem cell in wide use to repair organs.
In the United States, officials estimate that 300 a year are performed and that the transplants are increasing because they are the sole alternative to plastic corneas for desperate burn cases, industrial accidents, damage from contact lenses and a few rare diseases that cause blindness. In operations on one eye, 90 percent to 100 percent restore vision, because the patients' own stem cells from the good eye can be transplanted without rejection.
In one eye, the surgery is "basically a slam dunk," said its originator, Dr. Kenneth R. Kenyon of Boston.
"When we first saw a number of challenging cases of mostly chemical burns," he said, "the eyes were chronically inflamed, with ulcers and blood vessels growing into the cornea, hallmarks, we now know, of limbal stem cell deficiency."
In a paper in 1989, Dr. Kenyon and Dr. Scheffer C. G. Tseng reported that ulcers and inflammation healed and invading blood vessels withdrew after the surgery. Vision improved immediately for many patients. Patients who later needed the entire cornea transplanted because other layers were scarred also had better prognoses. Those transplants were more accepted because the new stem cells resurfaced the new corneas, keeping them transparent.
"I have some patients 20 years out with good vision," Dr. Kenyon said. "I believe these last a lifetime."
Stem cell transplants on one eye are now standard, said Dr. R. Doyle Stulting, editor of the journal Cornea. "They are clearly successful and they are permanent," Dr. Stulting said.
For patients blind in both eyes, stem cell transplants remain effective in half the cases after five years, principally because of rejection. Donor cells from eye banks or relatives are used, and patients require extensive antirejection drugs. In addition, injuries to both eyes from diseases like aniridia, an iris condition; Stevens Johnson syndrome, an allergic reaction to medication; and ocular cicatricial pemphigoid, an inflammatory disease, often damage lower corneal layers and require multiple operations before sight is restored.
Surgeons report progress in those cases. Dr. Edward J. Holland, director of corneal services at the Cincinnati Eye Institute, has written the lone textbook on reconstructing the ocular surface. Last year, he announced results from 74 blind patients who received donor stem cells in both eyes.
Seventy-three percent developed clear new corneal surfaces. In patients with no other problems, that would have meant great vision. But for those complicated cases, half of whom had aniridia, the mean vision improved, from 20/1700 before surgery to 20/200 after surgery.
"Twenty/200 is legal blindness, but most aniridics can't get better vision," Dr. Holland said, because their retinas have genetic damage that cannot be repaired. "At 20/200, they can get around and read large print books with functional aids."
This year in the journal Ophthalmology, Dr. Holland reported on 23 more people blind in both eyes from aniridia. Their vision had improved from an average of 20/1000 to 20/165 four years after stem cell and cornea transplants.
Twelve years ago, Shawn Smith, a jewelry designer, was cleaning 100 carats of rough emeralds in acid when the beaker exploded, splashing acid and emeralds into his eyes. Suddenly, he was blinded.
Two years ago, Mr. Smith sought help from Dr. Holland.
"He could only sense light," Dr. Holland recalled. "Both his eyes were covered with a thick dense scar we couldn't see under."
Dr. Holland peeled back the white scar tissue with scissors and scalpel to find the intact eye. He sutured four crescents of limbus donated by Mr. Smith's half-brother. In a week, the stem cells had grown a new transparent surface, indicating that they were up and running. Three months later, Dr. Holland transplanted other layers of the cornea. That night, Mr. Smith watched television. The next day, he could read the fourth line on the eye chart.
"It's an awesome world out there," Mr. Smith said, "and you just don't know it until you lose it. Then I went to school to see if I could recognize my son. I did."
Mr. Smith's sight is now 20/50.
Dr. Holland also reports success with Stevens Johnson patients, those with the worst prognoses. Stem cell transplants give them a 50-50 chance at sight, he theorizes.
Dan Merton was a union representative in Detroit until he contracted the syndrome a year ago. His skin peeled off, his lung collapsed and his kidneys stopped working. But worst of all, he could not see. "All I could do was sit on the bed," Mr. Merton said. "I didn't have the motivation to get up."
Dr. Holland grafted stem cells from the daughter of Mr. Merton onto his left eye, and he regained very low vision. That improved considerably after Dr. Holland transplanted his cornea. "I am so happy I don't know what to do," Mr. Merton said. "I can see everything. I can't see it clear. But I can see my kids. I am just so blessed."
Some ophthalmologists, however, say they will not accept limbal stem cell transplants as a breakthrough until studies on hundreds of patients confirm the results.
"This is so new we don't know if this will have later complications that'll revert or if it's a temporary solution or a permanent cure," said Dr. Kirk R. Wilhelmus at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Others, like Dr. Stulting, see the procedure as life-changing. "Someone who is seeing like midnight in a coal mine and can't find anything or move anywhere without being led, who tomorrow can see enough to tell where a door is or a truck is," he said, "is functionally different. They can walk, they can protect themselves. They're not even close to 20/20. They're maybe 20/400. Counting fingers instead of barely seeing light.
"People with stem cell deficiencies who have severe inherited disease or disease from birth or chemical injuries do have a big difference made in their lives if an operation suddenly enables them to read with a magnifying glass and work."
More could be helped, advocates say, if rejection could be eliminated or if donated corneas matched recipients' tissue types. Researchers have grown limbus in the laboratory, but the Food and Drug Administration recently stopped transplants of the bioengineered stem cells in humans, calling for lengthy clinical trials.
Work, however, continues in Italy, Japan and Taiwan as scientists try to find limbus cells that are pure stem cells. The goal is to grow sheets and sheets of limbus, making it a commercial product like bioengineered skin.
In Iran, dozens of victims of mustard gas in the Iraq-Iran war, most of them soldiers, can see after these operations, said Prof. M. A. Javadi, head of ophthalmology at the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran.
The effects of invisible mustard gas are not felt for at least 30 minutes. It burns the skin, lungs and, above all, eyes. Soldiers who think they have survived an attack often blind themselves by wiping saturated uniforms across their faces. The chemical denatures proteins on the epithelium, melting if off. The effects can appear 10 or even 30 years later.
The delayed effects of the gas destroy the limbal stem cells, making corneal transplants alone useless, said Professor Javadi, who has treated hundreds of gas victims. "Currently," he said, "stem cell transplanation with or without corneal transplants seem the most promising treatment."
People with mild cases can regain some sight, said Dr. Ali Khodadoust of Yale, who consults on hard cases in Shiraz, Iran, where he grew up. Half regain some or most of their sight, but severe cases cannot be reversed, because the gas has stopped the tear system.
Ahhh, yet another mundane day. Good thing too since this week has sucked me dry like a 30 lb Minnesota leach on a hemophiliac Norwegian. Either I'm getting older or these 'spring duties' are taking more out of me than I've come to expect. Little things seem to get more than their fair share of attention too. Like yesterday morning, I was helping the Mrs load up the Family Tank when I noticed that the front tires looked a bit low. I ran over to the SuperSaturn to get the pressure gauge and confirmed my suspicions. Both of the front tires were low at 25 and 27 when they needed to be at 44. Now this whole song-and-dance took up about 7 minutes (including washing the brake-dust off my hands). Not much when you look at it alone, but my whole day seems to get eaten up by these little pesty tasks. By the end of the day, I'm clean out of spoons and pretty ornery about it. There are a few MAJOR things that I need to do (Finish play-area, clean out Master Suite, Refinish floors, prepare molding, put up wall paper, spec out Family room) that may not get done because of these tiny time thieves. And here I thought I was good about managing my time. Argh.
An upnote to yesterdays travails is that since the Mrs posted some pics of the kids on ofoto, I zinged off an email to Lisa (who had just recently lost her husband) and her friend Christine. Lisa works just over the Turnpike from where I sit now and we could meet up over at the Mall for lunch. It's been a while and she was interested since her meat-fast (religious dictate) was nearly over. That, and the kiddie pics were appreciated. Christine is starting to get that itch about kids and commented that she needs to find a nice white guy so she can have cute half asian kids too. Urk! Never thought of myself as merely breeding stock! Not sure if I should be offended or self confident.
Oh, and a completely bloggish note, it looks like I spun over 10,000 hits sometime last night thanks to Steel Turman who cross linked me to BMEWS. Lots of funny stuff over there. A bit of right wing/libertarian for some, but from where I stand it almost looks like a pretty comfortable place. All these posts here and I've not even made it to 1 year. Seems like I've been doing this forever, seems like I've just started.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
- Florida courts had previously ruled that a person need not try to escape when confronted with deadly force at work or at home. The "Stand Your Ground" bill goes even further.
... allowing "a person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be" to use deadly force without first trying to flee.
The lack of sleep really put a crimp in my style. Towards the end of the day, I was actively removing planned activities for the evening due to a rising level of profound exhaustion and palsy-like drowsiness. It was almost like having narcolepsy! I was fighting the urge to nod off the whole trip back on the Turnpike. Not a comfortable feeling. Shaking your head violently, slapping cheeks, slamming fists into the thigh. Anything to ward off what could be an extremely fatal ending. I'll have to try to get more sleep tonight.
I've noticed something about the Child ReEducation Facility recently. When I complete the S&R missions each day, the kids will kick off their shoes in the back seat. When I am there, I usually find them in the play ground rooting around in the mulch and dirt. This combination has resulted in the back of my car being coated with several cubic yards of mulch. I'm not sure how they manage to get so much of the crud into their shoes, but I do know that it takes a concerted effort to get the numerous slivers of wood OUT of the shoes once they become embedded. Pain in the rear, this mulch, it is. I was starting to think that we should start putting knee-high boots on the kids but since summer is coming, perhaps sandals would be better. I wish they had chosen sand instead.
The sleeping thing was not in the cards tonight. A few things set Jacob off. One, he was not ready to sleep. I caught him sneaking out of his room once and the Wonderful Wife caught him once before. He eventually got a clue and stayed in his bed. Sneaky little night-owl. Part of his discontent was that his aquarium night-light was on the fritz. It has these 2 fish that are attached to a disk that spins slowly. It makes the fish look like they are swimming. The disk stopped turning. This is the second one that has suffered a similar fate. I've opened up one and tried to fiddle with it. One of the power leads to the driver motor has come loose and I'll need to solder it back on. Looks like I'll be making a trip to Radio Shack today. I could just strip off some additional wire and 'tie' the wire onto the lead, but that would surely come loose some day. Not sure what caused this problem, but I'm sure the Communists had something to do with it. Aliens most likely helped them. And Elvis. 'Cause he's in with the Aliens. He wants me to buy a skinny Elvis night light that shakes his hips. Damn Commies.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
- Castro's drive to improve the lot of deprived Cubans began on March 8, when he announced the distribution of cheap pressure cookers and electric rice steamers for every household.
On March 31, he increase pensions and social security benefits by 50 percent for 1.5 million Cubans. He has promised ration-book handouts of chocolate and better quality coffee.
On Thursday, the 78-year-old Cuban leader called on Cubans to save electricity to help the energy-deficient Caribbean island overcome chronic power outages.
Castro promised the population new and more efficient household appliances, such as electric fans and refrigerators.
- He displayed on stage two American-made Frigidaire and Westinghouse fridges from the 1950's that are still in use in Cuba, and homemade ventilators, as examples of appliances that consume too much electricity.
- The new MCHP system uses natural gas to provide residential heat efficiently, with the added benefit of producing electric power for residential use.
Honda will supply its compact home-use co-generation unit to Climate Energy who will combine it with a furnace or boiler, and market the entire system as an alternative to conventional space heating and electric power in new and existing homes. Working in coordination with state and local authorities as well as energy utilities, limited in-home field test installations will occur by late 2005, with more widespread distribution planned from fall 2006.
Middling of the week
Whew! Getting half way through the treacherous,pestiferous work week has been a harrowing journey. More in a metaphysical sense than the tactile physical like the traffic I had to plow through to get home. Every minute that I leave work closer to 1700 is a slice of angst served up on a platter with a side of near-death hash browns. How would I like my exasperation? Sunny side up, yokels runny. Oh, with bacon too. Man, that's making me hungry. Speaking of hungry, when I did finally blast my way free of the scrapple masquerading as motor vehicle operators and get back to the Manor, I had to quickly make 2 grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids. Forgot to do that the night before. Upside is that they were nice and crisp, downside is that it takes a good 10-12 minutes to make each one. I barely managed to get that done AND let the hounds out to leave mountains of fecal matter on the lawn before the Mrs arrived for our evening S&R mission. She went in through the car-port airlock while I cranked up the back-hoe to clean up after the hounds. Once we both completed our 'waste matter disposal' activities, the kids were targeted as our next objective. Easy enough. We let them draw on the driveway with chalk for a bit before prodding them to go inside for dinner. I still had to mow the back-50 since it was going to rain. A little edge trimming and spraying weeds with agent-orange before wandering back inside to have my dinner.
You would think that it would be a fairly uneventful night given that 99% of the Haupertonian Weekday nights are, well, mundane. Jacob the Jovial Joker brought that axiom to a dreadful end. At a bit past midnight, I woke up from a restless sleep. Bolt up-right. My daddy-senses overrode my entire being and compelled me to dash off to the Kids Detainment Area. I some-how knew from a dead sleep that Jake has woken up and was calling for me. The monitor was off. The Mrs woke due to the flailing maneuver I performed to get out of the mile wide water bed and had followed me. She spent some time soothing Alexis who had woken up from all the commotion. Making a long story short, Jacob was itchy and it took a clothing change, a 55 gallon drum of lotion and a bit of antihistamine to get him to go back to a restless sleep. The Mrs took the brunt of his fomentation and was not very happy when 0600 rolled around. She was still asleep on the futon with Jake nestled up to her back. It took a bit of time to bring her into a cognizant state. I was nice about it so she did not take my head for my insolence. The kids were a bit clingy due to lack of sleep, but we still got out of the Manor territories before 0700. It's going to be a long day and we are only half way through the swamp.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
- City Council members will soon join the ranks of those in Philadelphia's public-sector elite who earn a six-figure salary.
Come June, Council members will receive a cost-of-living increase of 4.38 percent, the second time in as many years that they will get a bump in pay. That adjustment will raise the annual pay for most members from $98,000 to $102,292.40, making them among the most handsomely compensated council members in the country.
Leaders of the 17-member Council will make out even better. President Anna C. Verna, who makes $123,000, will take in $128,387.40; Majority Leader Jannie Blackwell, who is paid $105,000, will make $109,599; Minority Leader Brian J. O'Neill and Majority Whip Marian Tasco, who both take in $103,000, will make $107,511.40; and Minority Whip Frank Rizzo, who makes $100,000, will be paid $104,380.
- The pay raises come in addition to a number of perks, such as city cars and city-issued cell phones, that Council members receive when they take office.
And the increases come less than two years after Council approved giving itself a 15 percent salary hike. In late 2003, the body raised its base pay from $85,339 to $98,000, despite public outcry and withering criticism from Mayor Street. When Street vetoed the legislation, Council overrode him.
Unless they decide to forgo the increase, Council members will join 131 city employees - out of a total of 22,600 - who make six-figure salaries, according to figures provided by the City Controller's Office. Those figures reflect city salaries as of December.
That group includes Street; chief information officer Dianah Neff, who makes $190,000; city Medical Examiner Haresh Mirchandani, who earns $182,591; and Secretary of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation Kevin Hanna, who is paid $175,000.
- Maybe it was all those years of futility for the Phillies. Or the shadows cast by New York City to the north and Washington, D.C., to the south. Whatever the reasons, Philadelphia has earned the melancholy distinction of being America's most depressed city, followed closely by Detroit and St. Petersburg, Florida. Men's Health compiled this list based on antidepressant sales, courtesy of NDC Health; suicide rates, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the number of days inhabitants reported being depressed, based on the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, accessed through bestplaces.net.
- The 20 Most Depressed Cities
1. Philadelphia, PA: F
2. Detroit, MI: F
3. St. Petersburg, FL: F
4. St. Louis, MO: F
5. Tampa, FL: F
6. Indianapolis, IN: F
7. (3-way tie) Mesa, AZ: F, Phoenix, AZ: F, and Scottsdale, AZ: F
10. Cleveland, OH: F
11. New York, NY: D-
12. Salt Lake City, UT: D-
13. Atlanta, GA: D
14. (3-way tie) Yonkers, NY: D, Pittsburgh, PA: D, and Kansas City, MO:D
17. (3-way tie) Long Beach, CA: D, Los Angeles, CA: D, Nashville, TN":D
20. Portland, OR: D
Monday, April 25, 2005
Mondays make my head hurt, and so do Tuesdays
Bleh. If I could skip Monday it would be deserving of a Nobel prize, I tell ya. The Mrs and I slept in a bit later than normal. The dogs were sitting outside the Master Suite again, whimpering away. The kids were just laying in their beds, wide awake but not in any hurry to get out of the room. The air was cool and the bed was warm. How could we resist!? If the Mrs did no have a dentist appointment in the afternoon I would have surely impressed on her the need to play hookey.
There was no shortage of work to do once I got to the client site, however, the ratio of work to interesting work was less than desirable. I forget the mathematical phrase for a divide by zero error, but this would fit the bill. Since I have a window in my first-floor isolation chamber now, I can watch the weather and was pleased to see the sun come out a few times. What was even better was that it did not rain. The lack of precipitation will allow for me to get the front acreage of the Manor. I'm probably going to scalp the back yard this Friday and maybe lay some sod in the areas that Thor and Katie have laid barren. Like the old US Govt Dept of Agricultural recommendation of removing the top 3 inches of soil from farmland after a nuclear attack. I should probably put down some weed killer afterwards to keep the encroaching noxious weeds like clover at bay. That, and teach Katie to pee in one place so I can keep the yard from completely degrading.
We managed to get out of bed this morning at 0620 ... not a perfect start, but getting better. Perhaps a bit more sleep and we will manage a bit better tomorrow. It's hard to get out of bed when the spring weather is so perfect for the somatic condition we would like to call sleep. Since we got going a bit late, the turnpike traffic was less than desirable. Surface roads were a mess too. I have got to get back to departing before 0700.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Weekend is Here Again, Gone Again
This weekend was quite a wing-dinger. The grandparents were down and this thrilled the twins to no end. So much so that Alexis was asking for them this Mundane Monday Morning. It all started with a bit of rain on Friday afternoon which guaranteed that I would not be mowing the lawn this weekend. I would have liked to got that job done, but we need the rain more than I need to have my grass cut. It can wait till Monday or Tuesday. I'll do the laundry instead. I have about 6 loads of it including bed-sheets.
We had to get up early on Saturday morning since we had planned to take the kids to their first swim lessons. The lessons were at 0830, Jacob go up at 0445. He was just too excited to stay asleep and wanted to play with Grams and Gramps who did not seem to mind the early hour. Of course, he had to blast into our room, bounce around the bed for a bit and then run out after getting our attention. Well, it seem that we are going to make that morning swim lesson with no problem. When we get there, every thing seems to be very clean and really well maintained. Unfortunately, Alexis has some sort of neurosis about indoor pools and was not entirely cooperative. She wanted to just hang on to me for the entire 30 minute lesson. Since there are 6 lessons, I'm sure we will manage to get her accustomed to the pool sooner or later. Jacob, however, ate it up. He was kicking and trying to swim the best he could. It looks like he will do quite well, hence, The Mrs laid claim to him (easier time than arguing/cajoling her daughter).
Hmmm, post-swim pancakes. We are all fairly exhausted from the early morning followed by the morning aquatic endeavor. The food which normally fills me to the brim was barely enough to sate my appetite. We make our way back home as quickly as possible since the kids are fading fast. They only play for a bit after we get home before I escort them to their beds. Mild complaints and protestations last for about 30 seconds before they pass out.
While the kids sleep and The Mrs shops, Hero Dad and I go about the dirty task of cleaning out the kennel room and the wood burning stove. Both are fairly dirty and involve a liberal application of elbow grease. Once we got everything out and started mopping the floor, the rain started to come down and we had to reverse gears. Argh. One thing I did learn is that the fire-bricks in the stove have degraded to a state where if you try to remove them the nearly disintegrate in your hands. Good thing the winter is over and I can start shopping for some new ones. I can only hope that the price of new bricks is not going to exceed the benefit of having the stove in the first place. I'll have to look around locally to see if I can find anything reasonable.
While Hero Dad, The Mrs (Who had just arrived home) and I were trying to haul all the stuff back into the house, the hounds were busy rolling in the mud and grime while cavorting amongst the rain-drops. Well, I'm not going to let them back in after we have just finished cleaning the room. It looks like they are going to get a bath in the rain. I escort them out to the car port and begin the onerous task of bathing the dogs. Hero Dad lends a hand and comments on how thick Thor's hair is for a Mastodon. Perhaps he is really a wooly Mammoth, I'll have to get his DNA checked. It is an exhausting job since keeping them in the tub while scrubbing them can be a full time job. The upside to this is that I let the kids play with the dogs for the first week after they have had a good scrubbing, or until they roll in the mud again.
Sunday morning came about with an early-morning visit from the Hounds. They managed to escape the kennel and were wandering the upper floors of the Mansion. The Mrs noticed Katie slipping away and went down to let them both out for their morning constitutional. We were planning on going to the 1000 family mass today so we had lots of time to burn. The Grandparents had brought some sidewalk chalk along and the kids were enthralled with it. We had a heck of a time tearing them away from the art-work now strewn across the grand drive. They continued to be 'lively' throughout the mass. Jake seemingly had found his voice and was exceptionally verbose throughout the sermon and the other quiet times. Fortunately, this is a family mass and such peccadilloes are expected. Afterwards, we head off to the local Home Depot Temple to look at some dogwood saplings since the two ancient ones in the front of the Manor Proper are starting to wither and become homes to boring insects. While there, I found no rosemary, ferns or any sort of crocus or tulip bulbs. I'm not entirely surprised about the bulbs, but the out-door ferns and rosemary is a bit annoying. Even more annoying is that they have finally gotten the shipment of sod in but I cannot buy any since the FamilyTank is full of other cruft leaving no room for anything but the most meager payload. I'll have to swipe the Tank from the Mrs one of these days soon and make a turf-run. I would like it if I could let the Turf Marauding Hounds out back without having to give them a full wash-down when I let them back in.
The rest of the evening went quite smoothly. Grams made some stew while I made .. .well, stew. Different types of pot roast and formulations, of course. The Manor smelled great. Alexis even had a few bites of the meat ... must be the 'Grandparent Effect'. The Grandparents give the kids a warm farewell when leaving and do it in such a way that the kids don't think anything of it. It's nice to see how attached the kids are. They really love to play and be held by Grams and Gramps. That is the best gift that my parents ever got. I can see my Hero-Dad, that Statue of Iron Strength just melt when either one of the littlest heartbreakers ask to be held or just jump up into his lap and snuggle in. This is the kind of times that would be nice if they went on indefinitely, but alas, it was a very short weekend.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Got a little interesting news Thursday afternoon. It turns out that since I have been at the client site for over a year now, I will need to move. Translocate from the 3rd floor North East corner to the 1st floor South West corner. Near the Cafe and the Gym (with loud, unappealing pop music playing), but furthest away from the front door. Nice. Now I'll get to haul my but up the stairs every time I need to talk face-to-face with the group I support instead of once a day. I suppose the exercise will do me good though.
The traffic on the way back to the manor was uneventful. Not as clear as the trip yesterday before noon but not nearly as bad as it was this morning. Backed up all the way to the feeder road, for no good reason, it was. Plain old congestion from Rt1 all the way through to MidCounty. Fifteen miles of Happy-love-rave-fest glory and not an accident in sight.
Evening activities were limited to putting up the Flags on the front porch and laying down some grub killer on the lawn. The Mrs was a bit late getting home due to various accidents on the surface roads in the area where she works. Since it was pizza night, it really did not impact much. The kids got a little extra time outside until she finally arrived. It's supposed to rain on Friday afternoon so every day we can go out when it is dry will have to be exploited. That and the GrandParents are going to be down this weekend to there will be little time for independent play. Not that the involved parties will mind all that much. I'll probably be spending a lot of time doing inside type chores anyways ... there are bathrooms to clean and toilets to scrub. Oh, joy.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Well, I managed to get into a fairly decent pickle yesterday. The Mrs and I had been smelling gas fumes (well, not the gas it self, the crap they add to it so you can actually smell it) for a few days now. We had initially thought it was the aroma from the diaper pail since Jacob had produced a particularly interesting byproduct recently. I was a bit concerned after I found that the smell had dissipated from the bathroom where the pail is situated but not from the kids room. I figured that I would give PECO a call and have them take a look, just to be sure. Some old saying about the road to hell and good intentions paving the road with your guts comes to mind. Apparently, after spending a few moments on the phone with the helpful Customer Service Representative, I find out that because I called about a gas leak, they have no choice but to send out a PECO person and shut off my gas weather I am there or not. YIKES. Rules, don't ya know. Well, I certainly do not want my gas shut off it there is no leak, so I run out to the car for the 45 minute trip home. I figured that it will eat up a chunk of my day, but I'll be able to just turn around and come back to the client site pretty quickly. Fortunately, it is 1130 so the lunch hour traffic has not picked up yet.
I get close to the 611/Willow Grove NAB exit when my cell phone rings. It's 1215 and they are already at the house complaining that I'm not there. Someone failed to mention to the field crew that I had a 45 minute trip to make. I explained to the upset fellow that I would be there in 15 minutes as I was just exiting the Turnpike. From then on, the traffic on the local roads worked against me, but I still made it in 10 minutes. I blasted onto the service road and disarmed all the booby traps and security devices so the PECO Guy could come onto the property and start sniffing around the pipes to see if he could find anything. He looked like a pretty clean-cut guy (nice pressed uniform too) and we talked a bit while he looked about. He suddenly became quiet as his little detector device started beeping like it was going into cardiac arrest. He looks at the read-out and gives a long, low whistle. Apparently, this is the worst leak he as ever seen in a non-commercial installation. It seems that my concern was justified. All the recent heating and cooling of the pipes (going from 35 to 80 in a few hours) has cause the joints to shift a bit. I asked what the next step was and learned a new PECO rule. He had to shut off the gas to the house. All of it. Damn. He has no choice and could get fired, yada-yada-yada. So off goes the dryer and the hot-water heater. The Furnace has not been running for a week now so I have no real problem with that. It's the wet clothes and cold water that would cause me consternation. I immediately called my plumber, Fred, and he let me know that as soon as he finished the job he was on now, he would head over and see what he could do. He lives just down the street from me and we have used his services a couple other times. It's good to have a mechanic and a plumber that you can trust. Did I mention I have an electrician that lives about 1 block away. This is one of the reasons that I will probably not move any time soon; necessary services within 15 minutes.
Time is grinding by and while I wait for Fred, I start to realize that I may not be returning to work this afternoon. It took me about 45 minutes to get home, another hour or so dealing with the PECO guy, then an hour wait till Fred can come and start on the pipes. When Fred did get here, it only took 1 hour and 125$ to complete the job and get the gas back on. No muss, no fuss, except for a 4 hour 'personal time' that I'll have to log since going back to work now is a no-op. I could get there by 1615 and turn around to spend more time/tolls/gas on the Turnpike. No, I'll take my lumps here at the Manor. Nothing much to note about my tasks except that I found a mouse in the basement, by accident. I was taking some of the tons of toys that the kids did not pay attention to anymore and carting them off to sub-basement 12-T when I noticed a little lump of fuzz on the floor. Since my hands were full at the time I figured I would kick it over towards the trash can and clean it up on my return trip. I believed it to be a light ball of string and lint so the air resistance would slow the velocity quickly so I fed in a little extra oomph into the kick. Well, it was solid. More so than a normal lump of detritus. It went flying across the floor and hit the wall next to the trash can with a very audible and weighty THUD. Intrigued, I set down my load and ambled over to the light-switch so I could get a better look at this new-found relic. With the blazing lights fully illuminating my quarry, I find that it is fuzzy, but not inert. Well, it WAS not inert, but now it is. It was a small field mouse who had found it's way into the manor after circumventing the anti-mater force fields. How it ended up here was beyond me, but it was not going to lead me anywhere now. It twitched a few times and then lay still. I felt bad but I suppose that it would have had no less of a horrible end than if it were starved to death or lived it's last blissful moments eating peanut butter from the bait of a trap.
Other noteworthy events: Went to the YMCA only to find out that all the classes for 'Perch' were already filled unless you wanted Wednesday at 1400. Yeah, not happening. I saw the pool and thought that it might have been fate that kept us from having lessons here. The outdoor pool was host to various floating jetsam and flotsam as well as being about 3 feet short of full. The remaining water looked quite unappetizing, and somewhat toxic. This did not seem to bother the 4 mallards making their rounds on the perimeter. Well, 3 of them were, 1 was belly-up in the center of the pool. Perhaps we should find somewhere else to teach our kids to swim that has a bit less squalid demeanor. Like Love Canal. I left there with a queasy feeling in my stomach that can only be cured by going to the local Home Depot Temple and loading up on greenery and fertilizer. Lots of double begonias and petunias with a couple of large plants with red leaves that look tropical. They appear to be a variety of Elephant Ear but have a name spelled with 'C'. Oh well, they looked nice once I got them all set up on the front porch. All I have left now is to fill the hanging baskets and the majority of the gardening work will be done with. Given that, it's supposed to get down to 35 tonight. Great.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
- He's hardly in agreement, but Mayor Street knows why Philadelphia, if by reputation and ranking only, has gone from having America's best mayor to one of its worst, in the estimation of Time Magazine.
He also said it won't impact the agenda he has for the city during his last two and a half years as mayor. "I'm not going any place. I'm going to be right here to the last day of my term," Street said.
During the 25-minute news conference, he refused to grade his performance as Philadelphia's chief executive. He was neither combative nor complacent.
He rejected the idea that the federal investigation into city contracts and other municipal matters would define his legacy in the way that the tenure of former Mayor W. Wilson Goode is marred by MOVE. "Once it ends, it ends," he said of the federal probe. Though one of his political fundraisers was indicted, as well as the former city treasurer, Street has been accused of no crime.
Given the powers of a mayor, especially in Philadelphia's strong-mayor type of government, Street said it was difficult for him to imagine someone bearing that title being a lame duck - with one exception. "The only person who could make a mayor a lame duck," he said, "is a mayor himself."
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
NEVER, EVER, FORGET!
‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ --Edmund Burke
(sic. Jessica from This MonSter Sucks reminded me.)
UPDATE: Baylee Almon Remembered by Mother, family:
- The weather is usually 80% of your conversation.
You call highways "freeways."
Snow tires came standard on your car.
You've never taken public transportation.
75% of your graduating high school class went to the University of Minnesota.
You assume when you say "The Cities" people know where you're talking about.
You can list all the "-dales."
People from other states love to hear you say words with "o"s in them.
In a conversation you've heard someone say "yah sure, you betcha" and you didn't laugh.
You know what Mille Lacs is and how to spell it.
You have fish boiled in lye for Christmas.
You know what "uff-da" means and how to use it properly.
You've frozen your tongue on a metal handrail before.
You own an ice house, a snowmobile, and a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
You have gone trick-or-treating in 3 feet of snow.
You've not only walked across a lake, you've driven across one.
Everyone you know has a cabin or, at least, access to one.
You have friends who schedule their wedding in the middle of January without a thought about weather conditions.
Your local Dairy Queen is closed from December through February.
Your town isn't trying to be ironic when it plans a "winter carnival."
You laugh out loud every time you see a news report about a blizzard shutting down the entire East Coast.
You think happiness is owning a "piece of lakeshore."
You never meet any celebrities except The "BODY"
You know what and where "Dinkytown" is.
When you talk about "opener" you are not talking about cans.
You have refused to buy something because it's too "spendy."
Your town has an equal number of bars and churches.
You (or your parents) voted for Mondale.
You've seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in Uptown.
You know that everyone has a city preference -- Minneapolis or St. Paul.
You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Minnesota.
Time flying by
Yikes ... they day is flying past and I've had nearly zero time to do the things I want to. I did leave at a reasonable time yesterday evening. Well, late afternoon actually. Since I got in at 0730 I bolted out the door 8 hours later at 1530. Let me tell you, the traffic at that hour is significantly less congested but not any better. Meaning that, even though there are less vehicles swerving about and fewer people throwing hand-grenades, they seem to drive a lot slower too. The current plan for the turnpike is to raise the speed limit to 65 from KOP all the way over to Jersey, but people are still going 55-60 in the passing lanes. I cannot blame them, it is the law after all. You don't HAVE to go exactly the speed limit, but if you can see the veins on the temples of the driver behind you through the rear-view mirror and feel the hot breath on your neck ... move over please.The new projects at work expanded to include 2 new tasks ... interesting how all the work comes at once. Feast or famine. The current high-priority project is a nasty one. It takes 4 hours to run the process at it's leanest invocation. Argh ... I hate to wait. Fortunately, it gives me some bandwidth to research some of the background on the other slices of work laid out for me.
I had a bit of a surprise awaiting me when I conducted the daily S&R mission. When I arrived at Cell Block C, I found that the kids cubbies were no longer labeled. In fact, all of their possessions were missing as well. Ooookay. Did the government snatch my kids and make them 'disappear', yet they had forgotten to erase my memory. Hmmm. No, I call the Mrs and she confirms that we do have children and she did drop them off at the same address as she always does. Okay, alternate dimension perhaps? I ask around and get an answer fairly quickly ... they have been 'graduated' to the potty training room. Well, ok. I guess it's all the talk about potties that spurred this sudden escalation of rank among the pecking order of captive children. Well, after the anxiety attack receded, I trotted off to the NEW AND IMPROVED CHILD DETAINMENT ROOM and collected their things before heading out back. Since the weather has been nice, they have been spending a lot of time in the exercise yard lifting weights and swapping cartons of cigarettes for extra ding-dongs. You know, the usual activities of the incarcerated. Needless to say, they were very happy to see me and stormed the gates before I could get there. The old gimpy legs just don't carry me as fast as they used to. After the Daycare Professionals set down their tazers and stun batons, they picked up the half dozen victims that Jake and Alexis rolled over and opened the security gate so that they could launch themselves into my arms. 60+ lbs of flying fury can really put you off balance if you are not ready for it. I quickly regained my composure and we headed off to the SuperSaturn for a quick trip back to the Haupertonian HQ where the Twin Towers were standing in wait for the little ones.
What seem like seconds after we had started digging in the sand and swinging/sliding/running and looking at the clouds, the Mrs arrives in the carport. Now the kids are thrilled to play with me, Alexis more than Jacob for some reason. When the Mrs arrives though, you think that Jacob has seen the second coming or an alien battle cruiser land. He takes off like a bullet and starts shaking the gate like he is about to rip it off it's hinges. Today, however, he shows me that his cognitive development is well under way. He rattles the gate for a bit till the Family Tank finally comes to a rest and the hydraulics allow the disembarkment platform to lower. He suddenly ceases his agitation, reaches up to the latch and flips it open. Zoom, out around the front of the Tank and directly into Mommy's path before she can set one foot on the asphalt. Ok, he can open the gate ... swell. I was not about to put a lock on the gate, but I did have a titanium C-Clip (you know, the ones used for mountain climbing) and snapped it into the slot so that he could not open the gate without figuring out how to remove the clip. This should be good for a week.
I spent the next hour cleaning the gutters of all the decaying matter that had collected there since mid-winter. The wind picked up a few leaves and pine needles which clogs the down-spouts. This renders the gutters fairly useless and only invites mosquitoes to leave larva in the stagnant water. Oh, and speaking of stagnant water, I also go to wriggle beneath the kitchen sink and diddle with the faucet attachment. It had managed to come loose and the retaining screws had worked out of the cuff so much that one had fallen to the back of the cabinet. Getting under there is a bit of a hassle for a person of my size. With all the associated cruft under there (Sink disposal, water purifier, misplaced feed pipes), I barely had space to reach up behind the extra-deep skin basin and put the screws back in. Ended up irritating an old weight-lifting injury in my shoulder from my college days and swiftly put an end to the evenings heavy industrial work. Wuss? Perhaps, but I can live with that.
The only other thing to note is the unusual occurrence of howling hounds. These days, the dogs bark now and again and whimper a lot when they want attention, or to go out and pee. For the most part, they do now howl. In fact, this was the one of the few times in 2.5 years that they have ever 'Sang'. We get a lot of emergency vehicles going up and down the road behind the Manor. Fire engines, police, ambulances. The works. And for the most part, the hounds pay very little attention to them. The siren has to be at just the right volume and pitch, the speed/velocity has to be just right too. When all the stars align, Thor will go off on this elongated howl that isn't necessary loud, just omnipresent. He'll stand there like a statue and bellow away till you give him a shove or distract him with food. The Mrs just sits there and laughs. I must admit to her credit that it is a bit humorous mostly due to the infrequency of occurrence and special conditions that it takes to set him off. Now if I could only get him to sing on command.
Oh, one last thing. Since I met up with the Mrs at the grocery store on Sunday morning, I got to grab a slab of meat for Jerky. I spent a chunk of time slicing up a big sheet of briskett. Mmmmm, jerky. One week to cure, 2 days to dry, 1 hour to eat. :)
Monday, April 18, 2005
Meme or Movement?
First one goes out to Michael who is generally concerned that people are much to busy shouting at each-other that they have very little time and bandwidth left to actually listen. That, and we seem to be falling back on the wrong parts of our brains/minds for being such and evolved and sophisticated species.
Question: Weekly or bi-weekly?
Friday, April 15, 2005
My annual review yesterday afternoon went quite well. The VP and I talked about mostly banal stuff - spring weather, exhaustion, chores, dogs, kids. Oh, and a bit about my stint at the client site so far.
got my standard inflation+1 raise and a small pep talk with minor criticism
got back and found a major project waiting for me then another hit just before I left for the day
I got my mulch yesterday - need to do that, and mow and feterlize and ...
play time went well
clean up wood with nails
pizza night - kids ate 1 slice each with no prompting.
to bed on time.
jake up at 1 and 3 ... just playing music .. forgot to turn off monitor
wife snoring made getting back to sleep rough
up a bit late ... didnt care
traffic awful, to work by 740
lots of things to do tonight, wife to pick up kids
mow, mulch, mulch
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
It was a fairly confusing day yesterday. Jake had a doctor's appointment to follow up on his ear infection. The appointment was at 1730 so the Mrs had the DayCare Professional Staff deliver him to the front door at 1645 so Alexis would not demand to go with. She was to be my charge when I got there at 1700. When I arrived, she was playing outside in one of the fenced in exercise yards with the rest of the horde participating in a 'Pig-Pen' look-alike contest. She saw me at a distance and started scaling the chain-link gate. By the time I got there, she had nearly made it to the top of the 12 foot gate. Well, that pretty much tells me that we will need to start putting cyclone wire at the top of ours ... probably put a mild electric charge through it as well. Escape artists, both of them.
While we were driving back to the manor, she was curious as to why Jacob was not coming home with us. She asked over and over again where mommy and Jacob were. On the 20th inquiry, she actually answered her own question and that was the end of it. Whew, one more where/why and I think I would have to start making things up ... like I usually do. We spend the next few hours playing on the swing set and going for a ride around the neighborhood on the wagon. If there is anything she sits still for it is the wagon. She wont even stay in place for television. I like to tell her that the red Radio Flyer is her first car, she seems to agree. I'll dread the day that she asks for her own little red sports car - I'll be saying no. That is, if we still have 'cars' in 15 years. And we still drive them ourselves. Where is MY flying car, its after 2000. Anyways, I give the Mrs a call at 1800 and she is still sequestered in one of the holding cells at the pediatrician's office. Saw the nurse 30 minutes ago and Jake is busy tearing up the appliances in the room. What can you expect from a 2 year old being told that he needs to wait for 30 minutes. Heh, 30 seconds is a major deal at that age. Flash forward in time to near 1830 when the Mrs enters the Mansion via the CarPort airlock. Jake comes bolting in with his signature grin adorning his face. The diagnosis: The ear infection from a few weeks ago never went away. Well, that explains the unpleasant liaison the last couple of nights. After dinner (which went well), desert (icecream, which went even better) and a significant play time with copious rough-housing we filled him up with several droppers of various narcotics and antibiotics. A bit of opium, some tetrionic inhibitors, gamma radiation ... we'll get this infection yet. Since the Mrs and I were exhausted (and the kids sedated), we all enjoyed a sublime nights sleep.
The Mrs and I come to at 0610 and go through the morning ritual. Things go smoothly and we exit the carport at 0655. All the lunches were prepared the night before so all that needed to be done was to pack-n-go. The turnpike was still a mess, mostly because of construction. Apparently, not only are they raising the speed limit to 65, but they are expanding the road to be 3 lanes even further west. I saw a sign (nice painted 1950's style) showing a gorgeous road with pretty, clean cars all evenly spaced and a big propaganda style caption below it: "Turnpike expansion, your tolls at work!". I think they meant 'Trolls at work' since they are knocking down several bridges between Mid-County and KOP. Those poor bridge trolls, where will they live now?
- The state House Judiciary Committee yesterday approved two bills to strengthen Pennsylvania handgun laws. They are expected to come to a full vote in the House next month.
One, sponsored by State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), would require mandatory sentences for violent career criminals or drug traffickers who possess firearms. It would provide a mandatory five-year sentence for someone with two prior convictions for violent crimes or drug-trafficking offenses.
A second bill, sponsored by State Rep. Jewell Williams (D., Phila.), would stiffen penalties for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Evans predicted the bills will pass the full House when they come up for a vote next month. He said that both were supported by the Republican committee chairman, Rep. Dennis O'Brien of Philadelphia.
- My first question was what will she do when she gets pregnant? Use those stretchy shoelaces? Can you imagine what that labor and delivery will be like? Good Lord.
If only the morning was as good as the evenings. It seems that if one goes really well, the other is doomed to an appalling state of misery and exhaustion. The S&R mission went off without a hitch and I let the kids roll in the sand for a bit after we got to the mansion. When the Mrs arrived, we loaded up the kids in the jogging stroller and I put the leashes on the hounds so we could all go out for a spin around the neighborhood. The hounds are pretty excited about this. It's been a while since they got to go out for a walk. They can be troublesome if we come across another dog or people. They just want to play and say hi so badly and keeping them in check can be difficult because of their size. Big, dumb, stupid, friendly. I like my dogs that way but for other people, seeing a 2 ton beast bearing down on you can be a disconcerting situation.
We did not encounter many people or animals on the walk and once we returned to the Manor, dinner went well. Play, bath, bed. It was all good till 0100. That's about the time that Jacob the Insomiant first started making a fuss. I was in a dead sleep but the mrs managed to hear him over my stertorous and rather loud snoring. I did wake when she dropped Jake into bed between us and he began his usual fickle dithering from parent to parent. He likes to snuggle up to you for a bit till you are just about to fall asleep and then fling off the blankets so he can go back to the other side and start the process over again. Once he was on my side again, I suggested to the Mrs that a bottle of warm might put him in the mood for a snooze. He emptied the whole bottle and indeed, did calm down. The Wandering Wife dumped the limp little form back into his bed and we thought that this was the end of our nocturnal visitations. We found that at 0300 he was up again and wailing that he could not properly operate the door to the nursery. Well, after that, the Mrs tried laying down with him on the mini-sofa next to his crib, but he just complained the whole time and wanted to sit on top of her. She then tried the futon in the guest room and he was behaved in a rather distressed manner till I came in.
It was just after 0600 and he appeared to be in a fitfull sleep. The Mrs was out cold so I had to smack her rump a few times to get her to come to. That's the only time I can get away with that kind of behavior, otherwise I get a smack right back. It hard picking yourself up off the floor when a 100 lb waif lays you low. The Woozy Wife makes her way to the shower as I tend to the dogs and kids. We still manage to get out the door before 0700 but when I call the Mrs from work, she sould like a truck has run over her ... and then backed up again for good measure. Jacob has a doctor's appt today at 1700 and the Mrs will be escorting him while I proctor the destruction that Alexis will be leveling at home. I hope that the visit goes well for both of them. Neither is in any mood for nonsense. It's like having your Ego, Id and SuperEgo replaced by two versions of a hyperactive Id and having your Ego pummeled into a subservient cowering cur.
Speaking of subservient curs, I was supposed to have my 8th year annual review today, but the VP put it off till tomorrow. In the end, it really does not matter. My raise will be marginally above inflation and I'll be asked to work on the same things that I was asked to last year. Beh. I've got another year at the Client I am at now so I don't see anything outstanding happening. It's rather anti-climatic.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
- The little girl next to him was the first to notice the uniformed man standing in the doorway. The image she saw and the facts she had been told were doing battle in her brain. Then her eyes grew wide and her mouth fell open.
"Easton! Easton...your Daddy's here!" she said in an electrified whisper.
My son's head snapped around. The excitement and disbelief on his face is something I will never forget. I motioned him to me and he ran into my open arms. There was no hiding my tears, and I didn't care to. This was the day I had waited for.
I choked out my words of love and hung on to this boy who had cried so many nights, who said he didn't care if he got any other presents for Christmas, he only wanted his Daddy to come home. This boy who had used all his wishes on me. He kept pulling his head back from my shoulder to look at my face. Cheers rose from the other kids and teachers.
Hand-in-hand, Easton and I stepped outside and drove to the other side of town. I had another little boy to catch up with. When I went inside he was napping. "Marshal, wake up. I have a surprise for you," I heard his day-care provider say.
She came out with his head on her shoulder. When he looked up his eyes grew wide and all signs of sleepiness disappeared. "Daddy!" he exclaimed in pure excitement as he fell forward into my arms. My heart ached with love, and pure joy soaked my cheeks.
I was complete again. I had my boys. And there have never been more perfect words spoken to me than "I love you, Dad."
- Twenty years after the MOVE bombing, the price tag for the debacle keeps rising, with a federal jury yesterday awarding the last 24 residents of the West Philadelphia block about $530,000 each and handing a stinging rebuke to Mayor Street.
Of total damages of $12.83 million, the jury awarded the homeowners $1.68 million for harm caused by Street's "arbitrary" behavior for canceling repairs to the rebuilt houses on the 6200 block of Osage Avenue.
The award to each homeowner amounts to more than three times the $150,000 per house that Street wanted to pay residents in 2000 to move out of their homes permanently. When the suit was filed in 2000, the city had spent more than $16 million to build and repair the houses, and officials estimated that further repairs would cost an additional $13 million.
- Of the $12.83 million award, the jury found the city liable for:
Conspiracy to harm, with compensatory damages of $960,000 and punitive damages of $300,000 against city officials, agencies and the mayor.
Breach of contract for a 1988 warranty on the homes, with damages of $3.6 million.
Breach of contract for the Rendell letter promising repairs, with damages for emotional distress of $2.4 million.
Arbitrary treatment by officials, with $720,000 in damages against the city and $1.68 million against Street.
Malicious or reckless disregard for the rights of homeowners, with $1.25 million in damages for the actions of Street specifically.
Denial of the economic use of residents' homes, with damages of $1.92 million.
Street had declared the block a blighted area and the homes unsafe for residents.
In making a take-it-or-leave-it offer in 2000, Street told homeowners that the city would use its power of eminent domain to seize their property. The City Planning Commission, meanwhile, has the block slated for open space.
I have not been lighting a fire recently. It's been fairly warm recently and when I get home in the afternoon, the manor is usually right around 70 degrees. Sure, it drops a bit at night to around 58-61, but that's ok. The heat only goes on for an hour or so between 0530 and 0630 on weekdays. I guess It's getting time to seal up the old stove and remove the wood from the brackets. I've been pretty lax with replacing the fuel I've used so I only have 80% capacity in one bracket left. I guess I could just use it up this week and call it quits. I just don't want to make the house TOO hot, ya know. There is nothing like spring sleeping weather and I only get a month or two of it a year. Unfortunately, my 'sleeping weather' is the Wife's 'Allergy Season'. I might have to sleep in the servant's quarters ... err, guest room so I can open the windows at night.
The kids did well yesterday afternoon. They did not haul in as much sand and mulch this time. They played on the swings/slides/sand from 1700 till 1800. Dinner from 1800 till 1900 and bath/bed by 2030. Right on schedule with minimal disruptions. Made 4 grilled cheese sandwiches for tomorrows dinner and Thursday lunch and did not even burn a single side. Golden crunchiness. Of course, they will be a spongy mess within 30 minutes, but that does not seem to bother the kids. I managed to haul my but out of the bed just before 0600 so we were on schedule today. I even had time to make the kids PB&J sandwiches for lunch. Well, 2 PB&J and 1 J&J. Jake does not like the peanut butter on bread for some reason. He'll eat it off a spoon though. Strange. Alexis gets one of the fully completed constructions and the Mrs gets the other one. It did take an extra 5 minutes to get to work today. Construction between KOP and MidCounty. I think they are putting in a new exit or slip-ramp. Beh, more access means more traffic ... which means more delays. I despise construction season. I'm looking forward to playing with the kids tonight so I'll purge the traffic angst from my mind now .... errrr ... uhhhnnnn, almost there .... mmmmmm ... Done!
Monday, April 11, 2005
Surprisingly enough, we get up on time. The down side is that we do not get out of bed on time. Like a TV addicted teenager, I stayed up way too late watching the 'SuperVolcano' show on the discovery channel. It was mildly entertaining, but I think that was because I was not expecting much. In the end, the show talks about several million dead in a world covered by soot, ash and freezing rain. I think they missed the point though. The economic disaster would kill many more people ... hundreds times more ... from starvation, freezing, disease and so forth if America (the continent) fell under a blanket of pyroclastic doom. Although furthest away, China would take the biggest hit. That, and the obvious detachment of the politico establishment was a little too absurd. But hey, I'm tired so I might be just talking out my but, you know? The earth isn't the only thing around here that can spew smothering crud.
Alexis woke first this morning and was content to play her lullaby music for 30 minutes before I got my legs under me. Haul the Mrs out of bed, tend to the Hounds, retrieve the kids. We cut them off from their morning milk now. It does give me less time to get them changed before they fully wake up, but it is for the best. Jake would drink a lot more than his sister, but since the Mrs gives them a half bagel in the morning, I think they'll do ok. Oddly enough, Jake was not in the mood for waking up this morning and I had to carry him to the master suite. Of course, it was all a ploy. While I was distracted with changing Alexis' sodden diaper, he took off down the hall and towards the grand stair-case. I quickly wrapped up the diaper and secured it in place so I could give chase to the little two legged fox. And a wiley fox he was. By the time I got to the stairs, he was no-where to be seen. So I dash down the staircase but he is not at the landing either. The gates to the kitchen and living room are still secured so I head off to the kennels. I see that the gate to the hound's domain is ajar and head in to see if he is trying to play trampoline on the poor victimized hounds. No, they are sill laying there, sated by their morning meal of Hippies and door-to-door salesmen. Then I hear a thumping noise from upstairs. Perplexed, I head back up thinking that perhaps Jake has suckered me again. As I crest the top of the stair-case, I see that the closet is just a crack open. AH-HA! I slowly slide open the metal mirrored door and find him in there, sequestered amongst the 'reserve' toys. He has found the little train that came with the pop-corn tin and is feverishly trying to drag it out of the closet. Well, this is going to be an interesting morning.
The Mrs and I managed to subdue the rampaging kids and get out the door at 0655 ... Which means I get to work by 0730. Excellent. I love it when a plan comes together. I want to leave at 1600 today and pick the kids up so they can play in the sand pit and use the AAA/Guard towers as long as it is dry outside. Me, Hero Dad and BigLittleBrother put a lot of money, sweat and blood into that monstrosity. I'm looking for a 'joy return' on that investment. For the most part, work is ... well, work. Dither about with Skymall and start processing their orders. A whopping 12 of 'em. All I can think about while working on this is how nice it would be to not be in the office and how much I need to do outside with the lawn. Sunny days are in short supply in this neck of the woods. The recent spate of our lack of precipitation is an anomaly. Did you know Seattle has had more sunny days in the last two years than Philly? What a waste, I wish I was working the night shift so I would not know of this 'pleasant day' concept.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Oh boy, where to start. You know, Saturday is usually the night were the Mrs and I catch up with our own personal endeavors. A little blogging, some email, snuffling about the internet for this and that. I was going to watch some brain-dead television and read a few pages from Atlas Shrugged when we heard him. Jake was letting the world know that he was 'Mad as Hell and he was not going to take it anymore!'. No, he was certainly not ready to go to bed. In fact, he was so un-ready that he was threatening to wake his sister if we did not do something, and quick. The Mrs deftly snatched him from his repository and dumped him into the mile-wide water bed with me. Well, It looks like I'll be watching the Disney channel for a bit instead of reading Atlas Shrugged to him. After an hour or so, he became agitated and wanted to snuggle with soft, supple mommy instead of stubbly, angular daddy. Yeah, me to kiddo. So he jumped out of the bed and started searching the room for her. It did not take him long to realize that she was not in the vicinity and started down the hall. I know he would check each room and wake his sister in the process so I short-circuited his quest and drug him down to the computer room in basement level 1a where she was busy trying to extract data from one of the XP machines that had caught a virus. Well, he hangs out with her for a bit while watching Disney on the Cable Card in her PC. Right up till 2315 when she takes him to his bed and lays next to him till he nods off. Night owl, just like mommy. That would not be so bad except he is a morning guy, just like daddy. Urg, deadly combination for parents.
Jake is up and wakes Alexis at around 0645. Much, much too early for the Mrs. She could barely keep a lucid conversation with me. I herd the ruffians down to the kitchen and prep them for church. Quickly, I distract them with Kix cereal and some early-morning TV so I can fade into the back-ground and get a nasty cold shower over with. No time to wait for the hot water. Since I managed to get my act together before the mid-morning, I grab both kids and run them off to the 0830 mass. I believe that I am doing the Mrs a favor by letting her sleep in without having to worry about tending to one of the kids. I was wrong and she panics when she cannot find us after she wakes up. So much for that well deserved rest. I get the call while we sit in church during the 1st reading. Well, I'm sitting but the kids are swinging from the rafters and raining fruit snacks on the cowering parishioners. It actually went a lot better than I had imagined until some late comers insisted that I scoot over in the pew. I guess they did not see the 25 metric tons of snacks, drinks, books and other distractions piled up around me. Or, for that matter, the two small nuclear warheads posing as children. They learned the hard way to show up on time. Jake made sure of that. I caught him investigating the woman's purse on numerous occasions and noted that the once shiny black leather had become speckled with fruit-snack/chocolate finger prints. I hope he left a semi-masticated fruit snack for her later. The most irritating part was that the pew 2 rows in front of me was completely empty. Heathen slackers.
Since I arrived fairly early and it was the "I've got things to do today" mass, we got a good parking spot. If, by some twisted logic, I make it to the 0700 "I was out drinking last night and have not gone home yet" mass, I'll be surprised. We exit the Parking Lot of Purgatory quickly and zip on home in record time. The Mrs and I discuss the day's potential and she goes off shopping at 0945 while I play referee between the kids. BTW; crayons, sugar and two plucky children do not mix well. Jacob found that the super-big crayons work just as well on the table-top as they do on the tiny 11x8 scraps of paper we give him. That topic was thoroughly discussed when the transgression was discovered. Alexis, of course, interjected every other sentence with 'Jacob Bad, crayon on table!'. Yes dear, but no-one likes a tattle tail.
When the Mrs returns from her shopping, we give the kids a little more to eat and we return to the play room for a bit. The Exhausted Better Half lays on the sofa while the Energetic Double Shots tromp and pounce on her for a change. That gets old pretty quickly and we haul the two off for their afternoon nap. Not a minute too soon if you ask the Mrs. Of course, the tots still spend a good hour babbling to each other instead of sleeping, but at least the Wife can spend some time sunning herself while I toil over the landscaping.
While the Mrs is busy sucking up the sun, I'm trying to clear out and re-seed the holes that Katie burned in the front lawn. I swear the dog is peeing liquid fire or some sort of high molarity acid. There are about 20 spots where there is nothing left but a wad of tortured brown grass surrounded by emerald blades like a reverse of the towers around central park. I visit each spot, raked it out, put down potting soil, mix in seed and give it a healthy dose of fertilizer to get it going. From now on, Katie can only pee on the barren tundra in the back 50 behind the Manor. After finishing this, the lawn looked like a green and black checker board. Since I was in the planting mood, I also put down about 25 metric tons of flower seeds the Mrs had selected. Of course, the seeds were individually packaged in 2 oz packets and wrapped in 'stay-fresh' baggies within the packets. This took pretty much the rest of the afternoon. I made a snap decision to take my shirt off so I can get a bit of color while I was out and about. Of course, I should have considered that my nearly transparent skin would not fare well under the seemingly gentle shower of rays from Sol. No, they turned into little piercing needles that tattooed my skin a glowing red from shoulder to shoulder. Like some sort of battle-field insignia painted in the crimson blood of the fallen. The Mrs insisted that I return to the properly clothed mode of enjoying the outdoors so I would not attract the attention of the Warthog jets overhead and cause them to attempt a landing in our territory. Yeah, I'm a little toasty now.
The kids wake up later and the Mrs leads them out, first Jacob and then Alexis, to play in the sand again. While they squeal and shriek in delight, I plant herbs in the flower boxes at the edge of the deck. That's a lot of herb seeds to plant. We should have it all this year, but no anise this time. That was a waste and killed of the French taragon. What a pain in the anise. The rest of the evening winds down as I take Alexis for a ride in the wagon around the block. She enjoys the trip and admonishes me each time I try to turn around. She is determined that I go to the end of the block before I make any attempt to return home. We compromise and I get to turn back after we reach the second cross road. There is no curb cut-away so I think I won by default, but she put up a fairly good fight buy just insisting that I go on without accepting my reasoning. Of course, since I was steering I go the last say in the matter. When I return, Alexis returns to her swinging and sliding while Jake learns of gravity. The first platform on the North tower is at about 5 feet. Jacob likes to jump off it and have me or the Mrs catch him in mid-air. Well, this time he told the Mrs he was jumping and then failed to wait before acting on the compulsion. The sand buffered his impact, but he was quite shocked that it could actually HURT when you hit the ground from a height that exceeds your own by twofold. He groused and complained for a bit while mommy rocked him in her arms. The comforting was enough to allow him to get back on the horse, but this time he waited for someone to acknowledge that he was going to jump. Hard knocks buddy. I have a lot of yard work to do yet so I did not encourage the leaping behavior. After the sun started to set, we all headed inside for dinner, play, bath and bed. We had a rather engaging day and everyone could use a bit of rest.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Good Night Nurse
Well, work on Friday afternoon pretty much sucked major time. Our outside partner finally managed to upload a file that was correct sometime around 1545. Yeah, I'll be leaving in 30 minutes so don't hole your breath on me pushing the code to production. Not that I don't trust my own code, I just don't trust what they may push out. Last time I ended up spotting a product identifier being mis-assigned and several products got shipped out that were not what the customer ordered. No, I'm going to be running this by hand for a week before I open the spigot. That, and I think that they are still generating/encrypting the file by hand so I'll wager that they will be trying to put out a machine-handled file while not saying anything. Yeah, I don't trust people. It keeps me out of trouble, ya know? Jaded, I am.
After fetching the child-packets on the S&R, I let them sit and eat with the Mrs while I head up to Jake's new room in progress. There is one last piece of carpeting I need to remove from the closet. It has nearly as many staples in it as the rest of the floor totaled. It takes a persistent effort to remove and is just the job for a obstinate fellow like myself. There is one last destructive act to finish before I start sanding the acres of hard-wood floor: Remove the molding. A tricky task in that trying to get a prybar between the aged sheetrock and the 100 layers of globbed on paint can cause immeasurable damage if you apply the wrong level of force at the wrong location. I manage to get it all off including the casing around the door without causing any massive damage. I toss the lengths of extra leaded paint coated pine out the window and watch as they stick into the ground like some ancient Greek javelin hurled off Mt. Olympus. Except these have razor sharp nails sticking out the side, each one coated with tetanus and some sort of acidic substance to make each abrasion extra-painful. The Mrs Helped me toss the carpet roll out the back window so the room is now prepped for the sand-n-pain routine. I'm a little too sweaty and tired now to get on with that so I shower up (heh, nothing like an evening shower to cool down) and join the family for some quality time.
I slept pretty good since I was not compelled to watch SciFi. All repeats, don't-cha-know. So I got a good nights sleep in. We did not wake till 0745 and actually felt refreshed. What an odd feeling. Since we are rolling at such a nice clip, we get our Saturday Morning Pond-Cakes at Perkins nice and early. Immediate seating, good food, nice price. We are in at 0845 and out by 0945. I have the Heart-stopper 12; 4 eggs, 4 bacon, 4 pancakes with hashbrowns and a side of oatmeal ... and a ham steak ... and a pot of coffee. Yeah, I was full. The kids got my pancakes and Alexis ate a healthy chunk of the ham. Jake was interested in the coffee, but I was not interested in letting him find out just what caffeine can do to a 2 year old. That would be ... bad. Like Hiroshima bad, with directing tossed in for good measure.
After a bit of shopping, we headed off to the Local Home Depot Temple and did a bit of Daddy Shopping. I have not made a pilgrimage in a while so this was a treat for me, a nightmare for the Mrs. I needed 2 orange warning poles for the end of the driveway since the plows had destroyed them this winter. Also needed a new flapper for the kids bathroom. The other one had warped and was leaking water at a budget defying rate. Then we got to the gardening section and I freaked out. Ohhhh, look! Tomatoes ... and Peppers. Oh, lettuce and spinach! And begonias.... and, and, and. In the end, I had the cart so loaded up that we barely had space for the kids! On top of that, I picked up 6 granite Belgian blocks and a couple bags of dirt. Well, potting soil and top soil. Need that to fix the holes in the lawn created by Katie. I have now purchased enough goods to keep me preoccupied for the next day and a half. Hauling all of this from the store to the FamilyTank and then from the cargo compartment to the carport was a good warm-up for the rest of the day. Instead of diving back into the labor, I took a nap after lunch instead. What can I say, I like my naps. Watch out Dagwood.
Not too long after I fell asleep, the Hounds were raising Cain and barking their fool heads off. Them durned dunder-headed dunces got each-other worked up and they needed to get out and blow off some steam. I crawled downstairs and sent them out so they could maul each other without disturbing the kids. The Wonderful Wife had left to do some shopping so I was on my own for a while. Better be on my best behavior and get some work done. First things first, get the lettuce, spinach, peppers and tomatoes planted. This pretty much consisted of digging a 9 inch hole in the ground and replacing the clay with some real soil for the peppers and tomatoes. Throwing in a touch of fertilizer at the bottom of the hole helps them a bit. I have 12 cages for the lot so I have just enough for the two rows of 6. The remaining greenery just needs to be dropped in some small 3 inch holes. I had a line of lettuce seeds planted so I just overlayed the potted starters over them. If they die off, the sprouts will take over. Looks like I should be eating a lot of salad this summer.
A couple of hours later, the Mrs arrives home and the kids wake up from their nap. Perfect time to go roll in the sand box and shove tons of wet sand into every pocket, crevice and opening in their diapers. Nice. I'll have to bring out the shop-vac next time to suck all the debris off them before we let them inside. The Mrs and I are smart about bringing them in and don't let them know that play-time is over. I just let Jake jump off the tower into my arms and then carry him in before he figures it out. A lot less wailing and thrashing that way. We'll work on the whole 'play time is over' bit later on in life when Daddy is not so exhausted and they are.