Thursday, November 30, 2006

.....yep, it was just me

I couldn't get anyone to argue with me, so time to move on.

Except for a few twinges here and there I've not had a problem with getting older. I am 44 years old. All it really means to to me is that for the next 11 months I will be able to remember how old I am without having to do the math. (Next year, back to subtraction). And except for when I look at old pictures of myself, as I will have you do just below, I don't really notice day to day the changes that time has wrought. Well - I do have ONE extremely visible sign of the aging process - a receding hairline.

Here is a picture of my family. I am 17 in this picture:

olden days

Notice the full head of almost shoulder length hair, parted down the middle. (For those who don't want to guess, I'm the one who didn't hear the guy say "say cheese".)

And here is a wedding picture from a few years later. I am 21 in this picture:


Notice the full head of hair, despite the military haircut. (for those who don't want to guess, I am the one without a clue. This is a life-long attribute of mine.)

And here is a picture from last Christmas. I am 43 here:

Laura & Bob

(for those who don't want to guess, I am the one thinking "take the damned picture already, I haven't opened my presents yet.")

As you can see, my hair line has moved significantly. The first picture has been in my wallet since it was taken. As you can also see, from that first picture, I come by this follicular impairment honestly. All I've had to do all of my life is look at my dad to see what I was going to look like at any given age in my future. I've had time to get used to it.

I've harbored a secret aspiration for much of my adult life. I think I've the makings of a damned good grumpy old man. The symptoms are starting to appear - I have no patience for some things that kids do (I HATE, with a passion I didn't know I was capable of, flip flops. Who in God's green earth decided it was okay to wear those damned things everywhere? I'm not talking about sandals, I'm talking about what folks a generation back from me called shower shoes. When I was a kid I wore them to the beach once a year and promptly lost them. But, I digress.) and actually I don't have patience for a lot of what anyone else does either. Right now I am tending toward the kind of grumpy old man like Walter Matthau in the movie Grumpy Old Men. When I was younger I thought it'd be kinda neat to be a grumpy old man like Gabby Hayes in almost every B western ever made - but I didn't want to play second fiddle to a cowboy nor do I want to pull all of my teeth. I enjoy chewing.

There is one thing that I wasn't really prepared for. It too is hair related. I have a single eyebrow hair that grows straight out of my face. IT is waaayyyy longer than the others. IT is currently 1 inch long. As my eyebrows aren't particularly thick people can't really see IT. The only other person that knows about IT is my wife. (At least she is the only one that has said anything about it. We won't mention what she said, though.) What the hell am I going to do with just one long eyebrow? I would really love to have Jack Elam's eyebrows. That would at least help me with the Gabby Hayes type of geezer. Thick and bushy, you'd need hedge clippers to cut 'em back.

But that isn't all. My lengthy eyebrow has a cousin. I have another, just like it, on my ring finger. The hair on my hands and fingers isn't thick, it is fair and somewhat sparse. Except for THE hair. IT redeux sticks straight up instead of lying down with the others. IT redeux is currently about 1 inch long.

(We won't even talk about nasal hair. I didn't realize they go grey and get longer too).

On the bright side, maybe this is only the first step on the road to geezerhood. It's a small one, but there's hope. Anyway, these are the only two I know of. I'm afraid to look anywhere else.

P.S. The vest I'm wearing in the Christmas Picture? I made it last year for the season (duh!). I am now going to publish this and go home to work on this year's vest. film at eleven.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

....or is it just me?

I read a blog post the other day which contained the following:

In other news, the OJ book (titled something like IF I KILLED THEM, HERE'S HOW I MADE MONEY OFF IT IN SPITE OF THOSE PESKY OLD SON OF SAM LAWS) was pulled just DAYS before it was due to hit stores and I for one am having a weird little surge of hope for humanity in response. Good for us! YAY for people with souls, HUZZAH to good balky booksellers who just said no. Score one for decency. And maybe even another for good taste and even kindness.

to which I made the following comment:

I can't believe that Fox thought it a good idea in the first place.

But there's a lingering thought - what about the 1st amendment? Everyone has a right to a voice, not just the popular people - and even those with extremely bad taste and no morals. Let the book be published and then languish. (I understand that) the money goes to his kids, so excepting the publicity there wasn't any gain from him exploiting his wife's death anyway. There is a lot of crap out there that's been published. Should we as a people be able to prevent something from being published? Except for special circumstances (yelling fire in a crowed theater) free speech means free speech. let him have his book. In my opinion, it's just like anything else. If you don't like it, don't buy it or don't watch it. And - I am wary of anyone's criticism of a book or a movie if they haven't read it or seen it.

I am sorry if I seem sanctimonious, I try not to be. I wouldn't have read his book but I wouldn't have stopped it from being published either. I complain when preachers tell their congregation to not watch a movie or not read a book when they themselves haven't read or seen it. I try not to "preach" one thing and do another.

to which she replied:

Bob -- I repectfully disagree.

It's November. NaNoWriMo is on, and TENS of if not HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of novels will be completed this month. I predict that less that .001% of them will be purchased for 7 figures by a major New York Press and given a big media push, BUT I don't think NaNo-ers are having their first amendment rights violated.
The first amendment does not guarantee the right to a major publishing deal. No one has "silenced" him. He can EVEN NOW publish his evil pile of exploitative crap using Xlibris or Lulu. Heck, he can print it up on tracts and pass it out at the bus station or put it up on his My Space page. No one will arrest him... long as he GIVES the story away, thank you. He may have legal problems if he DOES make dime one because I think the IF in the title is a BLATANT and ugly end run around the Son of Sam laws...
But my point is, he has the right to say or WRITE anything he likes, but no one has the right to front table space in B and N. And that's all he has lost.

I then followed up with:

point taken. revoking a publishing deal is not violating his 1st amendment right to speech. Spending the money to promote his book thereby preventing other people from being published is a bad thing.

This is obviously a sore point for you and I apologize for having commented in the first place.

(I should point out that this blog is written by published author.)

I was merely trying to stimulate a little discussion about an observation: with some public pressure Fox pulled a publishing deal and that smacked to me of a first amendment issue. The relative worth of his book vs. anyone else's is beside the point. Should the public be able to ban/stop/etc. unpopular speech. To me it is nit-picking to state that he could self-publish and therefore his rights haven't been abrogated. People complained, his book was stopped from being published. It isn't as if his publishing contract was cancelled during the initial phase of the deal, or that he was passed over for being published - the book had been sent to the printers and they had to stop the presses. Anyway, the blogger goes on to mention that O.J. could be in legal trouble with regard to the son of sam laws (the laws that prevent someone from profiting from an illegal act that they committed). Well, like it or not, whether you agree or not, O.J. was not convicted of killing his wife and her lover. (I have to admit that I don't know if his civil conviction counts here or not).

This blogger obviously has strong opinions/feelings about the O.J. case and the general difficulty of getting published. I didn't understand then, and I still do not understand, why people feel so strongly about this particular pair of murders. Whether people view it as a travesty of justice, or of the ability to buy a verdict by hiring top-gun lawyers or what. Or legal system may not be what it should or could be, but it is still the best we have. 12 of his, and our, peers decided that he wasn't guilty. I can also understand why an author would get worked up about the difficulty of getting published and the inequality of him being published over more deserving work - but it happens every day. I was taken aback by the vehemence of her response to my comments more than anything. I hadn't seen that in her blog before.

But - it is her blog and she is allowed to rant when the mood strikes. As you may can tell by my last comment to her, I was sorry I had said anything. I didn't get a discussion as much as I got a diatribe. I won't take as much pleasure reading her blog from this point forward. Maybe it is a bit immature of me, but I don't appreciate being yelled at. (even if she did respectfully disagree before she let me have it with both barrels). So, I am a bit confused. Am I justified in being a little upset about the exchange, or should I just get over it?

I will probably do both.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

We are doing the last few loads of laundry, getting things together for our trip to the gulf shore. My sister lives in Orange Beach. My brother, who lives in San Diego, flew in with his family last weekend. My parents went down ?last weekend - I can't keep up with them half the time? taking their truck and 5th wheel. Thanksgiving on the beach! This will be the first time the three siblings (me, my brother and sister), our families and our parents have been under one roof in 4 - 5 - 6 years? I am really excited about it. And I am really glad it isn't my house.

Actually my family (wife, kids - not brother, sister) have made a tradition of going to the beach over Thanksgiving. We usually leave from wherever we are having Thanksgiving dinner at and head down Thursday evening. It takes about 5 hours to get there, so we get 2 and half days to wander around. It is lovely. No people, no crowded roads, no 100 degree heat, and even though half of the restaurants are closed there are enough open to get some good food. It is quiet and peaceful - no sounds except the surf all day and all night (and the hotels rooms are at off-off-season rates). I have become convinced that anyone who goes to the beach during the summer is a loony. Don't get me wrong, I know from summer at the beach. We lived on a Mediterranean island for two years and the summer/tourist season and I are well acquainted. I don't miss it. Well, okay - maybe just a little. I used to be a sun-worshipper in my youth. I have matured.

So, Lucky is off to the kennel, the cats have clean (and extra) litter boxes and extra food/water (with a check-in from neighbors) and we are almost packed. My son has to work until just after midnight, so we are off tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM (just like any other work day!)

I wish anyone who reads this, and everyone else who doesn't, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

my first meme, and I stole it

in the spirit of one's blog giving others insight into the writer, I am posting this meme, borrowed from urban-urchin. Items in bold are ones I have done. I am amending the exercise to italicise those I really want to do. Those in red are those I am actively avoiding. Those in green I kinda-wanta try but can't make up my mind or haven't conquered that fear yet.

01. bought everyone in the bar a drink

02. swam with wild dolphins

03. climbed a mountain

04. taken a ferrari for a test drive

05. been inside the great pyramid

06. held a tarantula

07. taken a candlelit bath with someone

08. said “i love you” and meant it

09. hugged a tree

10. bungee jumped

11. visited paris

12. watched a lightning storm at sea

13. stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. seen the northern lights

15. gone to a huge sports game

16. walked the stairs to the top of the leaning tower of pisa (is that allowed any more?) substitute the Statue of Liberty and I can highlight.

17. grown and eaten your own vegetables

18. touched an iceberg

19. slept under the stars

20. changed a baby’s diaper

21. taken a trip in a hot air balloon

22. watched a meteor shower

23. gotten drunk on champagne

24. given more than you can afford to charity

25. looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (I am tempted to italicise this one)

27. had a food fight

28. bet on a winning horse

29. asked out a stranger

30. had a snowball fight

31. screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. held a lamb (lotsa newly born kittens, though)

33. seen a total eclipse

34. ridden a roller coaster (and will continue to do so every opportunity I get)

35. hit a home run

36. danced like a fool and not cared who was looking

37. adopted an accent for an entire day (does total immersive language school count?)

38. actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment

39. had two hard drives for your computer

40. visited all 50 states

41. taken care of someone who was drunk (and I don't mean myself)

42. had amazing friends

43. danced with a stranger in a foreign country

44. watched whales

45. stolen a sign (I thought it was a law that you had to steal any sign that has your name on it)

46. backpacked in europe

47. taken a road-trip

48. gone rock climbing

49. midnight walk on the beach

50. gone sky diving

51. visited ireland

52. been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. in a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them

54. visited japan

55. milked a cow

56. alphabetized your cds (actually I should substitute vinyl records here)

57. pretended to be a superhero (when I was a kid we did this all of the time. I am assuming that this meme applies to adulthood - but I don't really know why)

58. sung karaoke

59. lounged around in bed all day

60. played touch football

61. gone scuba diving

62. kissed in the rain

63. played in the mud

64. played in the rain

65. gone to a drive-in theater (this is one of the definitions of summer)

66. visited the great wall of china

67. started a business

68. fallen in love and not had your heart broken (I wish I knew how to do this, seems to me you can't do one without the other - no one is perfect)

69. toured ancient sites

70. taken a martial arts class

71. played d&d for more than 6 hours straight (but not since that summer in college)

72. gotten married

73. been in a movie (I almost was, but I had to work the days they were doing the "cattle call" for extras.)

74. crashed a party

75. gotten divorced

76. gone without food for 5 days

77. made cookies from scratch

78. won first prize in a costume contest

79. ridden a gondola in venice

80. gotten a tattoo

81. rafted the snake river

82. been on television news programs as an “expert”

83. gotten flowers for no reason (I have a sweet wife!)

84. performed on stage (not since I was in the 5th grade when I was Santa)

85. been to las vegas (I've been to Reno - not vegas.)

86. recorded music

87. eaten shark

88. kissed on the first date (I don't remember, the last first date I had was almost 22 years ago. - but back then I would have if I could!)

89. gone to thailand

90. bought a house

91. been in a combat zone

92. buried one/both of your parents

93. been on a cruise ship

94. spoken more than one language fluently

95. performed in rocky horror

96. raised children

97. followed your favorite band/singer on tour

98. passed out cold (I have had an alcoholic black out - again during my college years)

99. taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country

100. picked up and moved to another city to just start over (I could probably write a book....)

101. walked the golden gate bridge

102. sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking

103. had plastic surgery

104. survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. wrote articles for a large publication

106. lost over 100 pounds (collectively - then maybe)

107. held someone while they were having a flashback

108. piloted an airplane

109. touched a stingray

110. broken someone’s heart (see comment for #68)

111. helped an animal give birth

112. won money on a t.v. game show

113. broken a bone

114. gone on an african photo safari

115. had a facial part pierced other than your ears

116. fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol

117. eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild

sidenote where is 118?

119. had major surgery

120. had a snake as a pet

121. hiked to the bottom of the grand canyon

122. slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours

123. visited more foreign countries than u.s. states

124. visited all 7 continents

125. taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days

126. eaten kangaroo meat

127. eaten sushi

128. had your picture in the newspaper

129. changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about (I don't know, but I'm so damned opinionated and stubborn I might have just from sheer tenacity.)

130. gone back to school

131. parasailed

132. touched a cockroach (I didn't want to and hadn't planned to, but the roach didn't ask me first)

133. eaten fried green tomatoes

134. read The Iliad

135. selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (I just have to get finished with the list of junk authors I read today first)

136. killed and prepared an animal for eating (technically I have, I used to hunt and fish with my granddaddy when I was in my adolescence - but since I stipulated at the beginning that this list supposes adulthood and adult choices, I have not highlighted it).

137. skipped all your school reunions (There aren't more than one or maybe two people I went to high school with I would care to see)

138. communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language (I need to pee in sign language is fairly easily understood by people in all parts of the world)

139. been elected to public office

140. written your own computer language

141. thought to yourself that you’re living your dream

142. had to put someone you love into hospice care

143. built your own PC from parts (for as many I have taken apart and put back together and for those I rebuilt for work you'd think I'd've done this for myself by now)

144. sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you

145. had a booth at a street fair

146. dyed your hair

147. been a dj

148. shaved your head (they are pretty big on that at basic training)

149. caused a car accident (it was only a fender-bender, but I was at fault.)

150. saved someone’s life

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lucky isn't the half of it.

I get up every day at 5:15 to walk the dog. This is so wrong on sooo many levels, had anyone suggested 3 years ago that I would be doing this I'd've laughed in their face.

I am a night person. I always have been. I can be ragged-out and fall asleep on the couch at 6:00 PM and wake up at 6:30 PM and be wide awake until 2 - 3 in the morning. When I was in the military my favorite shift was swings. Go to work at 2:30 PM and leave at 10:30 PM. Stay up for a few hours with wife and babies and go to bed at 2 -3 AM and STILL get 7-8 hours sleep. I get my body clock from my mom, she's 65 and still stays up till midnight.

2 summers ago we "acquired" a dog. My son, daughter and wife were driving down the interstate one afternoon and noticed that a puppy was poking it's head out of the open trunk lid of the car in front of them. To their horror, within a minute or two the puppy had wriggled out of the trunk and fallen out of the car! At 70 MPH. My son, who was driving, had been honking his horn trying to get the driver ahead's attention but it didn't work. They didn't slow down, nor did they stop when the dog fell out and the car. My son stopped, picked up the dog - who was scraped up but didn't appear to be too hurt, and took off after the other car. They couldn't catch it, gave up and took the dog to the vet. He had some road rash but no broken bones or any other injury. I called the police and let them know about it in case the other people called looking for the puppy. They didn't. So we now have a dog.

We got him a kennel, set him up a run in the back yard and named him Lucky - 'cause he's damned lucky to be alive after falling out of a speeding car. He's a mixed breed, but mostly pit bull. He's black with a few white markings. He's as sweet as he can be (he's @60 lbs of pure muscle!) - until he gets out on his walks. When we first got him, I would take him for a walk after work. But when we would meet other dogs or cars he would go ballistic. It's like he thinks he owns the road and these others hadn't any right to be there. So, in order to walk off of some of his energy and keep these meetings to the absolute minimum - I get up every day at 5:15 to walk the dog. We rarely see anyone else and maybe 1 or 2 cars tops. I've lost 35 lbs walking him about 1.5 miles every day, but I plateaued and haven't lost any in about a year. I've recently doubled that distance and it is kicking my butt something awful. I am sooooo tired. But maybe I'll start losing weight again.

My next door neighbor has a soft spot for dogs, and he loves to watch Lucky play in our yard. He's seen the ballistic act and our attempts to control it with various leashes, including a choke collar. Nothing worked. My wife couldn't control Lucky and I had a hard time. My neighbor couldn't stand the way Lucky would choke himself trying to get at (car or beast). So, last week he gave me a new device to try. It is a head collar that makes him behave. It isn't a muzzle, but it kinda-sorta looks like one. (see above, and here's a link to it) It includes a strap that goes around his snout and another that goes around his neck just behind his ears. I didn't think it would work (I hava a lead for him rated for 250 lb dogs because he's so strong) as the straps were so thin. BUT IT DOES! Believe it or not, when he sees a car, all I have to do is put gentle pressure on the lead and he stops lunging and stays beside me. It's something to do with the strap around his nose that pulls his head down when the leash is *gently* pulled. He can't stand it. It isn't painful, it just bothers and distracts him - makes him shake his head. Anyway, he doesn't take me for walks any longer, I get to take him.

If I can recover from being dog-tired. (sorry - it was so obvious, I had to.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Love and ?hate?

I read a post this morning (here) that started me thinking. The post is about how the writer's parents behave towards each other and how she delt with it. In the comments someone mentioned their in-laws and the writer replied that in-law behaviour was up to the spouse to confront. That isn't always the case - or at least it wasn't in my case.

I can't say that my relationship with my parents has always been great. I started having problems with my dad early on - my parents had me start therapy when I was 11-12 and I wound up spending a year living with my grandparents. I know now, as a parent, how much that had to hurt them. My problems with depression stem from the relationship I had with my dad as I grew up. But - I digress. I have a great relationship with both of my parents now and this isn't about them. This is about my mother-in-law.

My wife has had a troubled relationship with her mom since.... well, all of her life. The stories I heard about MIL were bizarre - and troubling. They were such that when the kids were born and decisions were being made about where to live, we always decided it was better to be close to my parents rather than my wife's. Living apart made their relationship manageble but there were several instances where I had to step in and mediate - sometimes rather forcefully. I had resigned myself to this state of affairs and that it would remain so. But it didn't.

About 6 or 7 years ago MIL went through what we know now were a series of strokes. At the time, no one could figure out what was wrong with her. They were gradually physically debilitating and she wound up in a wheelchair. But the biggest change wasn't physical, it was emotional. All of the hatefulness was gone. She was loving and lovable. Although the past couldn't be forgotten, it could now be relegated to the past without fears of more of it in the future.

This past March she went through another series of strokes and heart problems. She was brought home under hospice care. No one could say how long she had, but no one gave her long. MIL could not move herself nor speak. She responded to yes or no questions with blinks. She's in there, hanging on, not ready to go. My wife took FMLA leave and spent 10 weeks caring for her mother 24 hours a day. Bathing her, turning her every 2 hours, changing her diapers, giving her her meds, reading to her. My wife made the hard decision to come home for mostly financial reasons, but knowing she was stable and needing to have a few weeks of FMLA left of leave for the end. That was in May. We went up in August, spending a week. This past weekend we heard that she's had a series of problems that makes everyone think that her time is coming. We expect the call at any time.

I look at my relationship with my parents and I see how I have been gifted. My wife didn't receive that gift until just a few years ago. When I think of it, it is my gift too. I've known MIL for almost 22 years. I had been seriously thinking for the last few years about trying to find a job closer so we could spend more time with her. What happened in March made it too late. And even though I've had since March, I'm not ready for the gift to be taken away yet. I guess it really can't be, the experience of the last 6 years cannot be un-experienced. The memory of the last 6 years will always be the clearest, even given the rose-tinted glasses of time. If nothing else, I have learned that despite how poorly we can be treated by those closest to us there can be love there. What was tolerance in the past is love now. I love you, MIL. I wish you peace.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I called my daughter today and asked her if she were coming home to vote. She's a sophomore in college and lives about 45 minutes away. She said she was, and then asked where our polling place is. I described to her how to get there. She then asked me for a synopsis on who is on the ballot and what they stood for. I fobbed her off by telling her that there were too many races for me to discuss as I was at work and then told her to look up the paper on-line to see if it had the ballot printed in it. She told me she was coming by the house afterwards and we said our goodbyes.

My first reaction to her questions was the standard parent one - typical. Asking me whom to vote for as she didn't do her homework studying the candidates and the issues. I started to, then bit my tongue. I didn't want to be hypocritical. I voted this morning. As I drove to the polling station I reviewed the candidates and issues. I got my ballot and.......there were races listed I had no idea of, people running I'd never heard of, constitutional amendments I had no clue about, in general - I was almost as unprepared as my daughter was.

I like to think of myself as someone who knows what's going on, up on current events and knowledgeable about the issues. I listen to NPR every day. I read the local paper. But I guess I'm not. At least, not about local & state issues. I read the NY Times on-line. When I lived in Maryland I read the Washington Post (national news) not the Baltimore Sun (local). I listen to NPR where I get exactly 9 minutes of state news every hour.

I've now got to decide if I should expand my horizons and gen up on state issues, or be content with my current world view (see, world - not state or local!). This probably means subscribing to an Atlanta paper. (As if I don't have enough to read already.) As you can see, my inclination is status quo. Sir Isaac Newton is with me on this and who am I to contradict him?

I've also got to decide if I should own up to my daughter. I didn't say anything to her, but I did imply it was her job to find out about the election instead of admitting that I couldn't answer her question. But again - it IS her job to find out about these things and for her to make up her own mind.

Compromise - if she brings it up tonight, I'll fess up. If not, well - there's always other topics for me to not know anything about and admit to (or not) - next time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

promises, promises.

One of the main reasons I'm not a best-selling author (other than the obvious lack of talent) is that I don't have much I want to say. Well, that isn't really true, I read other blogs and often have so much to say that I tend to write essays instead of comments. What I mean to say is that I am terrible at finding subjects to write about. I can't imagine other people being interested in my random thoughts. I have always been a terrific collaborator. Give me a subject, feed me a thought and I am off to the races. Just don't ask me to get the ball rolling.

Despite that, and directly because I have received actual encouragement from several people, I will start posting here again. I will do my best not to bore the internet to death, but I make no promises. We shall see, we shall see.