Friday, December 28, 2007

If the year had a weekend, this would be it.

It's a relaxing week at home as I've taken the week between Christmas and New Years as vacation. This is a tradition that started at the company I worked in when we first got married. They would shut down for this week and split the vacation days with you.

It's a great time to catch up and relax at the same time.

Here's what we've been up to:
  • Finding you what's up with Rex Morgan, MD. Youngest Son found the cartoon in the paper and the three panels on Wednesday made no sense at all. Maybe they do if you read it everyday for 50 years. Is anyone reading this cartoon any longer or is just a way for Al Qaeda to pass secret messages? Also, what ever happened to Prince Valiant?
  • Finally getting around to patching that hole the Plumber made when he fixed left handed spanner flexer back in March. Yes, for 9 months we've been living with a large hole made with a sledge hammer directly above our bed. Fixing it has been something of an issue since my wife doesn't like the way that I repair drywall. I'm getting better and I think I may have finally repaired one that someone else doesn't have to come fix.
  • Replacing the jabbering network card on the family file server in the Garage and the ridiculous 100 Base T only network switch that someone gave me for free. What, you don't have a file server in your garage? No redundant DNS and NTP servers? How do you even get up in the morning? Personally, I'm not going to be happy until I can telnet to my toaster and type "$ make toast -light" from my laptop.
  • Working on the two TIVO's that co-workers gave me. Yes, It's true, I have a file server and no TIVO.
  • Putting up blinds.
  • Cooking King Crab Legs.
  • Eating Chocolate.
  • Reading all about how the Eagles would be frightening if they were in the playoffs. Parade worthy? I think not.
  • Looking for bargains at my local CompUSA, which is closing. I found a USB video converter for $40 and.....
  • Converting old VHS video tapes to digital media. It's low quality but they are on youtube. Here is Oldest Son when he was a week old. It seems a long way from here to "Will you please finish those college applications?" and "You left my camera where?"

  • Growing a beard. Well, not shaving, really.
  • Playing Rock Band on Xbox 360.
  • Taking Youngest Son to the Doctor. He got Pink Eye along with a bad chest cold and now we are doing eye drops every morning, noon and night.
  • Baked a cake. Yes, I baked a cake. It was a crooked cake but it was delicious. It was for my mother-in-law's Birthday and now everyone knows how old she is. She's 7. Or 8. Not sure.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lost in New Jesery.

This is a story about New Jersey. It involves two things essential to New Jersey, Diners and not making a left turn.

Yesterday morning I joined some old friends for breakfast. We used to work together in a place in New Jersey (so now it's about three things in New Jersey).

The breakfast was held at the Golden Dawn diner, which inexplicably is owned by Greeks. Go Figure. With a Name like Golden Dawn you may think it owned by Japanese Americans. Nope. Greek. In New Jersey, it's the law. All diners must be owned by Greeks.

I needed to get to the Golden Dawn from my home, which on the map above is to the east in the lower right. I thought I'd come north on 73 moving on the map above in the lower right corner to the top center. By the way, 73 actually travels east-west but for some unknown reason is marked north-south.

The Golden Dawn is strategically located in the little triangle of land between Route 73 and Route 38 and the ramp to get from north bound 73 and east bound 38. Right where is says "Kaighn Ave" to the right.

I drove North on 73 and got on the ramp to eastbound 38. I could not get off the ramp to Golden Dawn. I drove right past the diner with the giant "GOLDEN DAWN" sign on my left. I was 50 feet from the property, but couldn't get on it.

I am now headed away from the diner. This is bad. It's good though because at least I know the area because I have lived here 14 years now, I know a short cut. Let me repeat that. I have lived 5 miles from this spot for 14 years and now I can't get from point "A" to point "B".

I cut through the shopping center and get back on 73 North.

A Mulligan. A do-over

The next attempt I make to get to the Golden Dawn is to continue north on 73 and go the other direction on 38. I drive past the giant "GOLDEN DAWN" sign, now on my right, and head to the ramp to west bound 38. (Which, by the way, no one in their right minds calls Kaighn Ave., it's 38). I can see the giant GOLDEN DAWN sign directly across the highway as I pull onto to 38 as I circle off the ramp.

I am now moving right to left on 38. Towards Philly. I am not really sure where I am headed at this point but I turn onto 41 because I know I need to turn around.

I literally guess at which ramp to get off 41. I get off the very first ramp which means I really never get on 41. I stay in the right and get right off 41 on to the ramp to southbound 73 which is really eastbound. Never mind. Let's just say I am headed in the opposite direct from which I started on 73.

Now I can see the giant GOLDEN DAWN sign approaching on my left. Thinking quickly, I turn on to the ramp from southbound 73 to eastbound 38.

I come under Rt 73 and find the Golden Dawn on my right, on a street I CAN ACTUALLY GET TO IT FROM. I make a right into the Golden Dawn.

Now, keep in mind that I have lived here for 14 years and I travel through this giant mix master several times a week. I'd still be getting on and off ramps with the giant GOLDEN DAWN sign whizzing by if I wasn't familiar with the area.

For future reference here is how you get from north 73 to the Golden Dawn.

Now that I see it from the air, looks like a giant bow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's wrong with this country.

I have found the root of everything that is wrong with this country. No make that world. I have found the root of everything that is wrong with the world.

It's a TV show and surprise! It's on the CW.

The show is Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants and last night I watch approximately 30 seconds of this show and tasted the vomit in the back of my throat. My wife was watching it and I literally had to leave the room.

Mother and Daughter teams compete in some sort of wacky Pageant. Each team has theme. There's crying. There's that guy from Queer Eye for the straight guy. There's make-up, OMG, is there make-up.

I'd rather shave with a cheese grater, spend an afternoon at Pottery Barn or have the Humpty Dance make a come back.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Parade Watch: 22.2 QB rating edition

This officially ends parade watch as Brad Childress and the Vikings eliminated the Eagles last night by beating the Bears.

But hey, they should throw a parade anytime they beat Dallas in Dallas.

You know she (right) had to be thinking "Now that I think about it, Carrie was right, his ears do stick out a lot" in the fourth quarter.

Did you see A. J. Feeley never made on to the field and was still penalized 15 Yards?

Did you see Reggie Brown made a donation of himself to the Salvation Army?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Emerson MW8998B

Last year sometime our Microwave died. The next time we were at Target I picked up a microwave. I literally went down the aisle, picked one that looked good and put in the cart and paid for it.

No research. No Consumer Reports. No google.

Microwave. Cart. Visa card. Done. Check-that-off.

I chose it because it :

A. Was Smaller
B. Was black
and
C. Seemed to have numbers 0-9, etc on the controls.

This was a really bad idea.

We got it home, started using it and quickly realized how hard it was to enter a time and just have the stupid thing cook something. There seemed to be an "express cook" feature where you could press numbers 1-6 and have it cook something for 1-6 whole minutes but there wasn't a way to enter 2 minutes and 37 seconds and start cooking while watching the timer count down to 0:00 like every MICROWAVE I'VE EVER SEEN DOES.

I figured it had to be me being stupid so I searched the 7 page manual in 15 languages for "timed" cooking and other such topics.

Nothing.

I did find that if you pressed the "start" button by itself, the oven would cook for 30 seconds and you could cook popcorn by pressing one button.

In the past year I have found no way to cook food for anything other than 1-6 minutes or 30 seconds by using the handy number keys. This usually results in chilly food or a smoking pile.

I didn't think this was going to be a big deal until I cooked rice for 4. That's 2 cups of rice, two cups of water and 8 minutes in the microwave.

This used to be simple enough:

Press "8" followed by "0" followed by "0" and then press start.

No, now you need to be a computer programmer. Press "4", cook four minutes and when done press "4" again OR press 2 and 6, etc. Ohh and be there waiting for the first cycle to stop.

PRESSING THE KEY LABELED "8" DOES NOTHING. NOTHING. PRESSING THE "0" KEY ALSO DOES NOTHING.

How about those tasty microwave breakfast sandwiches I buy once it while? The instructions read "microwave for 40 seconds". Not 30, not 60 but 40. It turns out they are right. 40 seconds is perfect.

I asked the boys what they do to get around the "40" second rule and they were clever. Youngest son presses express cook for "1" and grabs the handle when 20 seconds are done. For Oldest Son this is too much math and too much waiting. He does the "30" second option and eats the sandwich partially chilly.

I cheated. Having read the instruction manual, I used one of the three "memory" slots for "0:40". But now I have to remember to Press "Memory" 3 times, twirl in place and say "there's no place like home" three times and press start.

Tonight I found a new secret. The buttons for "common foods" allow for lengths of time greater than 6 minutes. I discovered that if I press "Frozen Vegetables" three times, that equals "8:00". The display reads "16.0" and an LED lights for "Oz" and another little tiny chef hat LED lights. I have no idea what this means but when I press start, 8 minutes comes up on the display.

Somewhere in China, someone is laughing at me.

3/30/09 UPDATE
This entry has taken on a life of it's own and remains the only entry that people actually comment on. The Comments fall into two categories:

1. If you press the power button, the numbers all work like you suspect they should.

2. What the hell is wrong with you, I love this microwave. It saved my life.

Thank You for the many comments on "1". And you "2" people: You all work for Emerson, don't you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Shed update.

Just when you think it's over......

Let's see where were we?

We had obtained the final inspection for the shed and with the final inspection comes of course the tax reassessment.

The township tax lady came out to visit and examined the shed. She determined that the 30 inch by 42 inch decorative porch on the shed was in fact "usable space". I am not sure by who. Leprechauns perhaps.

That added $14.85 to our annual tax bill for the township.

However we never actually pay our tax bill. The Bank does through the escrow account.

We received one bill for $14.85.

We received another for $14.85 plus interest.

Then, today I received this bill with "final notice" and more interest and something about "subject to tax sale" and that doesn't sound good. Are you telling me that after all this, they might sell my house for $15 lousy dollars?

Perfect.

I think I'll just send them a check for $15 and change.

Crisis on 18th.

As previously documented, I eat every Thursday at the Chinese food cart on 18th and Market.

Monday and Tuesday I bring a sandwich.

Wednesday is Stouffer's "Swedish Meatball" day.

Thursday is Chinese Cart day.

On Friday, anything can happen (throw hands wildly in the air).

For the second week in a row, there was no Chinese food cart on the corner of 18th and Market. Needless to say this is very disruptive to my well established schedule. Of course I am very concerned for Ben and Nee but WHAT ABOUT MY CHINESE FOOD! I need my Shrimp Lo Mein!

I was just about forced to visit the cart at 17th and JFK. This is the "other" cart.

The "other cart" is a little different. You have to order in one window on the side of the cart and then get back in line for the front window to pick up your food and pay. At "My" cart Ben and Nee are like a well oiled machine. One window, Ben builds the platter and Nee bags and takes money. It takes seconds. They are like Edward Scissorhands back there.

New cart and I need to figure out a new meal. I swear everyone that eats at a cart eats the same thing everytime they come. New cart and now I have to figure out what to order and go through the goofy two window thing.

I had sweet and sour shrimp with streamed rice. It just wasn't the same.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Parade Watch: Street Corner edition

One block away from some future parade route, this guy is telling it like it is.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Parade Watch: Sleet and Rain Edition.

Well I had an opportunity for tickets to todays game and I was sure glad I didn't take them.

When ever there is a parade, be assured that AJ Feeley won't be smiling a waving from a float.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Grouchy.

After being woken up at 9:15 on Saturday morning by these people.

I made the mistake of saying "why, yes I need some windows replaced" when they moved through our neighborhood like a pack of Jehovah's Witnesses intent on making YOU one of the 144,000 last summer.

They made an appointment for a Tuesday at 7:30. It was one of those "make sure both husband and wife are available" appointments. I should have canceled it then.

On that Tuesday a young college aged kid showed up at the house with like 15 suitcases full of samples, books of "letters of appreciation", newspaper clippings and windows sliced in half. He spent an hour and a half explaining how these were the best windows on the planet all the while making a face like "You look like nice people, I'm sorry I came into your home to sell you really expensive windows".

He told us about K values and R values and vacuums and gold mixed into the glass and all kinds of made-up window science.

After an hour and half of explaining that if we happened to reenter the earth's atmosphere in our home, the windows would remain intact, he measured the tiny window over our sink and lone remaining original window in our bedroom.

He came back with a discounted price of $2100 for the two smallest windows in our home.

That was discounted. We politely said "thanks for coming" and he packed up 14 of the 15 suitcases and we said goodnight.

Now they call every three months with some cock-a-mamy story about how they just got a big order for town houses in the town over from you and how they can now offer even bigger discounts if you let them come over again.

Even bigger discounts? Ha, what's that $1700 per window?

I don't know what it is about them wanting to come over and bore you with explaining how these are the greatest windows in the world but that is all they want to do. They are intent in always coming over.

I keep telling them to just tell me the price over the phone but I know they never will, they just want to come in and make you uncomfortable about leaving your family behind such shoddy windows. I also know that as I keep saying no I'll move higher and higher up the sales shark food chain until we finally buckle.

What they fail to realize is that it doesn't matter if these windows are 200% efficient at keeping your heat and cooling in, it doesn't matter because I have half of the inhabitants in my home THAT KEEP THE WINDOWS OPEN ENOUGH TO LET SQUIRRELS IN.

So I'm a little grouchy this morning. I tell the guy "I remember you, you are the ones with those outrageously priced windows" and "I'm not interested" and hung up.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Parade Watch: Sunday Night version.

Busy week so I didn't get to post in the Eagles game on Sunday Night.

I swear, for a moment they had me believing. I thought they could do it. I thought they could beat the juggernaut that takes the form of the NE Patriots. 22 Point 'dogs, a back up QB and a back up safety against a point scoring machine and they came within a bad pass of doing it.

I had my vicodin ready to go but I never had to reach for it.

That game was the quintessential Philadelphia game. Everyone outside the region thinks that Philly is like Rocky, a scrappy loser who wins in the end. But really we are like Rocky, only Rocky loses every-single-time. By three points. To the Pats. And we're happy about it.

So still no parade. But if they won, I think they should have had a parade.

Did you Notice:

1. When AJ Feeley threw the third TD of the night to Reggie Brown he was throwing to the guy we picked up for trading AJ Feeley to the Dolphins.

2. Greg Lewis only seems to come alive when we play the Patriots. On the Second TD you can clearly see Brady saying "I don't F'ing believe it" in the NFL films footage on "Inside the NFL" and here.

3. Why did they throw on the fatal interception? They had nearly 4 minutes left and had Westbrook. Should have been running. As the guy 5 rows ahead of says at every game: RUN THE BALL.

If I had heard any TV talking head before the game say the Eagles can beat the Patriots and they are going to do with AJ Feeley and Greg Lewis I would have said they were crazy.

It's the warder.

My brothers were in town last week. One lives on the East Coast, a drivable distance away and the other lives in California.

They both miss many things from the Philadelphia region, Tastykakes, for example, but the one thing they miss the most from this area is the bread.

Philly has great bread.

It's one of those things that you tend to take for granted, living here year 'round but when family comes back to town, that is all they rave about.

It's true, Philly does have great bread and bakers, like Aversa's.

What I can't figure out is why others have not been able to copy the breads and rolls like Aversa's in other places. I mean don't that have wheat, yeast and eggs? I mean Joe Aversa brought the recipe from Italy, why can't someone bring it to California?

I've heard that the difference is the water or as they say in Philly - the warder. But I'm not so sure.

I guess it's just another one of life's mysteries.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Overheard at the Dinner table.

Youngest Son: If anyone asks, tell them our last name starts with a "Q".
Oldest Son: Why?
Yongest Son: I told people at school that our name starts with a Q. Oh, and both the "Q" and the "F" are capitalized and the "Q" is silent.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Game

I've had a great time this Holiday playing Acquire with my Brothers and Nephews (and the C Family).

Someone had this game when I was in the Navy thirty years ago and we past massive amounts of time at sea playing. Then I was somewhere down south passing time in hobby store in 1988 when I spied a single dusty copy of the '76 version. I snatched it up. I brought it home and taught many how to play "the game".

That is exactly what my Brothers and I call it, "the game". Say "do you want to play the game" and they'll know exactly what you are talking about.

I am an Acquire evangelist.

It's a simple game. There is a board with 108 positions in a 9 x 12 rectangle with 108 tiles (well, 106 now since 12-E and 1-A are missing). Each one of 2-6 players has the opportunity to create a hotel chain of adjacent tiles and then all players have the chance to buy stock in the chain. Chains grow by adding tiles or through mergers. Who ever has the most value in hotel stock and cash at the end, wins.

Not only is it simple but it never plays the same way twice. Because each player can add only the tiles they choose, the randomness of this action makes each game unique.

There is also an on line version and I host Sunday night games throughout the year. We use a free conference call service, dial in and connect at 9 EST. We do this since I one of my brothers lives in California.

I am an Acquire addict.

Once we get play going these times of the year, we get addicted. We have played 5 games since Wednesday and I have won two.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

SNL Celebrity Jeopardy

1. December 7, 1996 -
"S" Words/swords. Martin Short as Jerry Lewis, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds and of course Sean Connery.
SNL Jeopardy

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2. May 10, 1997 -
Marlin Brando, Burt Reynolds and Phil Donahue
SNL Jeopardy 2

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3. October 4, 1997 -
John Travolta, Michael Keaton, Burt Reynolds.
SNL Jeopardy John Travolta

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4. May 9, 1998-
Sean Connery, Minnie Driver, Jeff Goldblum


5. October 24, 1998 -
Sean Connery, Adam Sandler, Tom Cruise
SNL- Jeopardy:Adam Sandler, Tom Cruise, Sean Connry

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6. March 20, 1999 -
Sean Connery, Calista Flockhart, Nicolas Cage


7. October 23, 1999 -
Sean Connery, French Stewart, Burt Reynolds (Turd Ferguson)


SNL - Celebrity Jeopardy - The most popular videos are a click away

8. April 15, 2000 -
Sean Connery, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank
Snl Jeopardy Reeves, Swank, Connery

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9. December 16, 2000 -
Sean Connery, Robin Williams, Catherine Zeta-Jones
SNL - Celebrity Jeopardy - Williams, Zeta-Jones, Connery

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10. February 8, 2001 -
Sean Connery, Ozzy Osbourne, Martha Stewart


11. September 29, 2001-
Sean Connery, Chris Tucker, Anne Heche


12. May 18, 2002 -
Sean Connery, Dave Matthews, Björk -
SNL- Jeopardy: Bjork, Dave Matthews, Sean Connery

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13. May 14, 2005 -
Sean Connery, Sharon Osbourne, Bill Cosby
SNL Jeopardy 13

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Million Man Nap.

Next Thursday marks the 6th annual Million Man Nap. I expect this year to be quite challenging to nap through the beginning of the afternoon of the fourth Thursday in November due to the higher quality of NFL product, but the home stretch looks like it was built for a zzzz's. My eye lids are heavy just thinking about it.

After years of snoozer NFL games involving Dallas and Detroit, both of whom have spent the last 15 years "rebuilding", there could be some real excitement ahead for the committed Men who've consumed too much wine, turkey and stuffing.

First up at 12:30 Eastern is Green Bay at Detroit. With their 40 First Round Wide Receivers, Crazy Mike Martz calling the plays and a feeble running attack, expect the Lions to throw like there's no tomorrow as they attempt to narrow the divisional gap with the Packers. Even when Green Bay has the ball, expect Grand Pa Farve to throw the rock down the field on every play. Don't let last week fool you, the Packers have no running game either. It's going to be very tough to nap with Cousin Jeffery is asking you "did you see that" on just about every play. An indoor game with two teams that throw like crazy is the perfect storm against nappers. Save yourself for later in the afternoon.

Luckily this is the early game an no self respecting Million Man Napper would dare to begin a slumber before inhaling a Tryptophan laced plate of Turkey and Stuffing, especially if he is responsible for cutting up the bird.

At 4:15 there at least is a chance of getting some shut-eye when the Dallas Cowboys host the 1-8 New York Jets. Since dinner will be at 4 or 5, most of our participants should be settling on to the couch by the second half when the Jets are so far behind that it wouldn't matter if the Cowboys fielded a team of 21 blind nuns and TO for 30 minutes of "football". I personally expect to log at least 75% of my nap time while Dick Enberg drones on in the background as God intended. Forget your fantasy league and open that foot rest on the reclining couch. (Yes! what a glorious day that was when Mom got the couch and love seat with four recliners built in!). You've worked hard all year and now it's your time to catch some z's. You'll want to wake up for the post game show though when TO turns vicious on the nuns. (I wasn't the blind one out there)

For those of you lucky to enough to get the NFL Network, you can do some premium snooze time to the Colts taking their revenge out on the hapless, Vick-less Falcons for losing two in a row. Later you can make a turkey sandwich.

So, it looks like we have a good forecast for this years event, much better than the dark days of 2002 when our anchor man, Dad, took that trip to Malta over the holiday weekend.

Men everywhere, prepare your blankys, we have some sleeping to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parade Watch: They still don't give parades for 3rd place.

In spite of their come-from-behind-on-the-road, brian-westbrook-is-the-next-marshall-faulk Ried-hugged-McNabb win, there will still be no parade. Even if they get into third place in the NFC east next week after making the Dolphins 0-10, there will be no parade.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Morning.

It's Sunday morning at 7 AM. I didn't intend to be up this early but Oldest son has an early band competition. He was supposed to be at the school by 6 AM. I thought to myself "would I rather take him at 6 AM to the high school or sleep in and give up a car for the day?".

Hmmm. Please take the car.

I saw him out there scraping the thin frost of the windshield with a credit card. There's a right of passage. Having no scraper and being late. I was getting dressed to help him and when I got the door he was gone. I was sure there was scraper in the car and I'm thinking that that is something we never reviewed when he started driving. Don't make a peep hole and drive.

He's headed to Hersey Pa for the Cavalcade of bands championships. They won group IIA last week at Allentown for USSBA. They are really, really good this year. The have an excellent color guard.

In the beginning of the year, though some rule changes, they were a group IIIA. I'm not sure they would have won in that group since they would have been a small IIIA rather than a larger IIA.

(At this point I was interrupted by my wife saying we were late. I didn't even know we were going. I finished this Sunday night).

We rushed out of the house, hitting McDondalds and a gas station on the way out. I made to Hershey in a little less than 2 hours.

I was doing 80 on the PA Turnpike when I passed a State Trooper hiding behind a overpass. As I passed, he pulled out and turned on his lights. My heart was in my throat and then he pulled over a guy behind me.

I did 65 the rest of the way and made it there by 11. They went on at 11:30.

It was cold. They came in third.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Today is the 9-11 for the dyslexic.

It occurred to me that today is 11/9 and therefore the 9/11 for the dyslexic.

dog bless America.

Hofstra - they have a lot of trees.

The college tours continue today with Hofstra University on Long Island, New York. This one is big yet small, expensive yet a little cheaper than Ithaca, close yet far. It has Italian, Creative Writing and Communications.

This tour is a little different in that Oldest son is shadowing a student for the afternoon leaving me free to catch up on email and "hang out" at the student center. I'm hoping I get invited to a "kegger" later.

The admission office here is very student focused. As far as they are concerned I'm just the guy that drove him here.

The admissions dean for South Jersey didn't even introduce herself to me when she met up with Jordan. You'd think that for 160K I'd get a little love. Or a handshake. A hello-how-ya-doing maybe. She does have a nifty AIM screen name on her signature, though.

I did get handy disposable rain poncho though.

I also lost my son on the tour. I turned around after the dorm tour and he was gone. I found him later at admissions. He mistakenly thought that his shadow session started earlier than it did and left the tour with out telling me. Worst part is that I forgot my cell phone. So I had to borrow the student tour guide's phone to call him.

She had a Blackberry and unlocked it and handed it to me and then took it back saying "What's the number" like I couldn't figure out how to dial a Blackberry. Very embarrassing.

Yes, I lost my son, that does not make me a technical idiot.

So Hofstra has about 2000 open slots for the freshmen class next year and will get 26,000 applications. They say about half will be accepted and only 2000 actually end up going. So that means 11,000 will turn them down. It's got to be the money.

Oldest Son's friend toured Hofstra recently and when he asked him what the place was like, his only response was "they have a lot of trees".

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What ever happened to Darrin?

One of the things that bothered me growing up was when Darrin was replaced on the TV show Bewitched. I never understood how a different guy could show up posing as "Dad" in a family and no one even notices. I mean if some stranger came home in your Dad's car after a day at the office and walked into your house, sat in his chair and put on Dad's clothes, pinched your Mom on the butt, wouldn't you at least be a little curious? What happened to Dad? Who are you? etc etc.

No these people just went on as if this perfect stranger were Dad.

Oh hi Darrin. Did you have a good day at the office? Nothing. Not a mention of who this new guy is.

Hold that thought.

Back in September my wife and I got hooked on the AMC original series Madmen. They had one of those marathons over Labor Day where they showed the first 7 episodes in row. My wife was drawn to the show for two reasons: It was the nineteen-sixties and it was about coercing people.

The series main character is man named Don Draper. Don is the creative director at a New York city advertising firm in 1960. He's married to a former model and has two beautiful kids in a home in the suburbs of New York.

Sound familiar? Darrin Stephens on Bewitched was in Advertising in the 1960s. Darrin lived in the Suburbs and had a good looking blond wife. Darren (eventually) had two kids.

Aha!

That, however is where the similarities seemingly end. Don is a immoral beast who drinks like a fish. Don spends his evenings "working late" with his girlfriend while his wife spends her days on a Psychiatrists couch.

Or do the similarities end there? So what if Darrin was more like Don that we were lead to believe on Bewitched? The character of Don Draper is probably more realistic than the character of Darrin Stephens. I mean we didn't see Darren 24/7 so what was he doing while we weren't watching? Was he being naughty with his secretary or female clients? Was he stirring up a Vodka and Orange Juice the minute he got into the office like they do on Madmen? Did he smoke like a chimney?

This certainly would explain why his mother-in-law Endura was so mad at him all time. What if she knew he was cavorting around town, I mean she had to know, she was a witch right? Maybe that is why she made is ears gigantic or turned him into a mouse.

Or maybe that is what really happened to the first Darrin. Samantha found out he was cheating on her, turned him into a newt and found a new Darrin.

It could happen.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Root Canal.

I had root canal today. This was a completely unplanned event and I was happy to have a stranger, a endodontist, drill my teeth with something reserved for a Nazi torture session. And I was truly happy he was doing it.

Last Thursday during dinner a tooth started "acting up". I took an Advil. On Friday the pain was still there but it wasn't overwhelming. By Friday night I knew I had a problem and tried calling my dentist.

Saturday I woke up looking like a Chipmunk but only on one side of my face. I was in pain. My wife convinced me to go to the Emergency Room. Let me say that again. I needed to be convinced to get medical attention even though my face was swollen and mouth was killing me.

I went to the ER in hospital where she works. I was a VIP. I'm still not sure what that means. I got a strong antibiotic and Vicodin.

The Vicodin was useful for the toothache and for the Eagles game Sunday night. I still have some for those of you that want to continue to watch the Eagles self destruct.

Today, now, I am feeling much better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween

Every year it seems we get fewer and fewer trick or treaters in my neighborhood. This year had to be a new low of 17.

5:30 - 6:00 pm 1
6:00 - 6:30 pm 9
6:30 - 7:00 pm 6
7:00 - 7:30 pm
7:30 - 8:00 pm
8:00 - 8:30 pm 1
Total 17

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ich Bin Optimus Prime

Youngest Son took his Halloween mask/helmet into school today. He walked into German class and announced "Ich Bin Optimus Prime".

The World of Marching Band.

We are in the throes of Championship time in the world of Marching bands with State Championships last Saturday, USSBA and Cavalcade of Bands the following two weekends.

Four years ago I never thought that I would know anything about this world. Oldest son was about to enter High School and played some piano and was teaching himself guitar when he announced that he was joining Marching Band. It sounded hard to march with piano but I thought he should join.

It was one of those things from left field that life occasionally throws you.

We had never said to ourselves "Gee, I hope he joins marching band" when he was four and running around in a Batman cape. (we never said "Gee, I hope he leaves the sunroof of the car open overnight and rain soaks my seats so that I have a excellent opportunity to practice forgiveness", either, but that is another story).

So in July of '03 he shows up at the first Wednesday marching band practice session of the year hoping to be the "pit" guitar player.

I pick him up at 6 and he has a very large box. Being curious, I ask "what's in the box?".

Why it's a mellowphone of course and I am introduced to the band director, Steve. Steve says don't worry. They'll teach him the mellowphone. He just needs to practice scales.

I'm thinking "what the heck is a mellowphone?"

I look up mellowphone on the Internet. It's a French Horn for marching bands and it looks heavy.

I know that like most fathers, I can be a little distant from the details of my kids lives. I may not know the name of their pediatrician, their art teachers name or what time they get home from school but I am pretty sure that I had never seen a very large shiny object that music comes out of attached to my son's face. I am fairly confident he does not play the mellowphone

I spend a week tripping over the large mellowphone box but the mellowphone never sees the light of day in our home.

No scales are practiced.

Along comes the second Wednesday and the mellowphone is escorted to the car and to practice.

I pick him up at six. He now has the the very familiar mellowphone box and a new box.

Again, I am curious. "What's in the box?"

It's an alto saxophone of course and I tell him that he doesn't play this either but at least it looks lighter.

The saxophone comes out everyday and he painfully practices. Our neighbor thinks he is killing goats in his room. "No", I say, "he is learning saxophone". They make a sour face at me. (now their son is learning trumpet and I am keeping my mouth shut).

By late August, he could play enough sax to get by and was learning to march. I find this amazing and am thankful it's not the mellowphone. There is only one mellowphone in the band and it would have been him. It's one thing to learn a new instrument and get by. It's another to be the only something and learning to play.

Some are born into Marching Band, some achieve Marching Band and still other have Marching Band thrust upon them. We had marching band thrust upon us and next thing I knew, someone handed us a cow bell, 35 fund raisers and asked us what jobs we wanted at something called "Home Comp". We were instant band parents.

We didn't get to any competitions that year because of school for my wife and soccer and scout commitments that I had with youngest son and so we were surprised the night he called us and told us that his band won USSBA's group II A in Allentown. They only time we watched their show that year was the time they performed for the parents at 1 AM on the field in front of the school using car head lights as their only light light source. I remember thinking someone was going to get killed marching in the dark.

I guess he did OK since 60 days previous to this he could barely play the sax.

The next three years were a blur of parking buses at "Home Comp", buying Shop-Rite gift cards , late night pick-ups at the high school and sitting in the cold listening to some other peoples kids play songs from Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll and Hyde.

We have gotten to more completions this year and are excited because his band is the New England Patriots of Group II A competitions this year. They are undefeated and favored going into Championship weekend.

Look for us. We'll be in the stands with a cowbell cheering them on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Someone really really wants a chipwich

Taken today at my office.

The sign reads "Item #14 has been empty for at least 3 weeks".

Item #14 is a chocolate chipwich.

So go out and find a place that sells chipwichs. We are in center city Philadelphai after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Parade Watch

I was lucky enough to go to the Eagles game on Sunday and I can assure you that from what I saw, the real estate in this picture will be Parade free the first week in February.

No Parade. Bet the house.

Even though the Eagles sucked it was an excellent day over all and I ran into all kinds of friends all day long. First a big thanks to my office mate, Mat, for inviting me after I badgered him in to it.

And now my Sunday:

I took the speed line into the city and the subway to the Linc.

I take the speed line everyday and using it on a Sunday was a little surreal. It was like one of those science fiction movies where everyone is killed off in plague except for a few people. The station was empty.

When the train came I found my friend Ed and his son were waiting around the corner where I could not see them. He was going to the game too. Ed told me that he thought to himself that he could drive into the city and park for $25 and take the subway or he could drive the Linc and pay $25 to park but then he asked himself "What would Al Gore do?". Ed took the train.

After a quick couple of rounds of "where are you now" on the cell phone with Mat, I found him in FDR park. Mat had steaks and lobster tails waiting be grilled. We ate well. We got fried in the sun. I made a poor fashion choice with long pants. It was October and I was wishing I had shorts.

Next it was off to the Linc for the game or as I preferred to call it: "the festival of field goals".

On the way over there was a scene that was both sad and funny at the same time. There was this guy maybe 40 something. He had a few sheets to wind and was trying to start E-A-G-L-E-S chants. He was pleasant but he was definitely on the happy juice. His 8-10 year old son was with him.

The low point was was when the kid said "You really are drunk". That's got to make you feel like crap. Welcome to Philly.

At the game, someone was NOT McNabulous. He had one of those days when he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

I refuse to go into details of game except to say that bad teams find a way to lose. Enjoy the basement. I refuse to even give a score.

There were a few Bears fans and they got some verbal abuse but it was nothing to compared to full frontal assault reserved for Cowboys fans, especially those in Owens jerseys. Eagles fans can't stand Dallas and we even heard "Dallas Sucks" chants in the hoard waiting to get frisked before heading into the Linc. It was a Bears game and the green faithful were shouting Dallas Sucks. Oh and they booed at the frisbee catching dog when it missed one catch as part of the halftime show.

Best T-shirt of the day: "Save 2nd Base" a breast cancer awareness appropriately pink shirt with two strategically placed softballs on the, ah, uhum, upper front.

In the third quarter I ran into a couple that are parents of Oldest Son's Sax buddy in the Marching Band. they were in the same row, one section over. Surprise run in number 2.

The game was over and were were heading out and I ran into Mr C and his crew of three leaving their seats on the opposite side of the Stadium. When I ran into them I bummed a ride back to the train station to pick up my car.

When I got home, it was after dark Hot Tub time. 3/4 moon and no lights on.

I couldn't help but feel that I was going to get hit by a truck the next day or something. I just don't have days this good and I was sure something crappy was going to happen to compensate.

Pretty good so far..... Maybe it's compensation for the squirrel.

Pictures Here

Look on the bright side, the squirrel wasn't on fire.

Kamizazee Squirrel

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where Squirrels Go To Die.

Mrs F spent a large part of Saturday cleaning oldest Son's room however, I don't remember ever writing about exactly what his room looks like.

A few summers ago he wanted to paint his room and we said "sure" without getting a good idea of what he wanted to paint. Actually that is not entirely true, we knew he didn't want a traditional paint job in the room and that he was looking for something like Album Cover art.

He spent days in there but never quite finished. I recall that he got acrylic bottled craft paint everywhere.

There are outdoor scenes and sketches of famous Rock Stars. It is all in wild colors and there are big unfinished spaces everywhere. It looks like a work in progress and the artist stepped away for a cup of coffee or a cigarette.


He usually keeps his blinds up and so you can see it from the entire neighborhood.

Some of it is beautiful, some is frightening but it's all him.


This summer he wanted to "paint his room" again but with spray paints this time. This time we said no. Not because we weren't happy with the results but because he no idea how to handle spray paints indoors. We were afraid of fumes everywhere and for reasons I won't go into here, could have fumes in the house this summer.

Looking back on it I'm thinking we were crazy for letting him do it but what did it hurt?

I figure that we his goes off to college we can paint the room in something normal.

I'm thinking a soothing blue.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The summer that wouldn't die.

Around here the the weather has been warm. Crazy warm. Our electric bill for September was as high as August's. I keep thinking the weather will turn to those crisp Autumn days that you would expect for Fall in Philadelphia but they never quite make it.

Last night, while talking on the phone, I actually had my feet in the pool. Normally, putting your feet in the pool this time of year would make them turn blue and fall off. But it felt refreshing in the humid sticky air that was stuck the area over the last few days. It was October 19th , I was in shorts and a Tee-Shirt and I was standing in the pool. At night. And it wasn't a scene from Titanic.

The funny part is that as warm as it's been, the leaves are still turning colors and falling.

It's destiny. The second week in October, the leaves fall without in spite of Al Gore and global warming.

Or it's the dry weather.

Along with being warm, it's been dry.

I am ready for fall but I fear that it will just pass us by and we'll go from Summer to Winter with no stop over in Autumn.

Last night I noticed that even the commercials on TV have missed a beat. I saw one last night that said "sweater weather may be here...." . I couldn't get past that because I was lying in bed sweating like rancid pork.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Compromise

Oldest son is a senior in High School this year and this is height of of college visit season. As part of this ritual we visited two schools last week: Ithaca College and Rutgers.

The two colleges were polar opposites. One is expensive, One is diverse, one is urban, one is remote, one is close, one is far.

If you ask him which he liked better, the answer seems to be "which ever one was the last we visited". It is so easy to get caught up into hype of seeing a college campus on warm Autumn afternoon with it's ivy covered walls and happy students. The really hard part is figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Never an easy question unless you are lucky enough to be that guy that just always knew he wanted to be a sports writer or a doctor.

He is not that lucky and has leaned to towards what I call "artsy" things like literature and music.

He has liked poetry for the past few years in High School and even went to a workshop over the summer at a private university in Pennsylvania. I think he might want to be a poet. I guess the only problem that see is that I never seem to find "Help Wanted" ads for poets. Poets must spend a lot of time looking out of windows and pondering things deeply according to Billy Collins, the only poet I know and like. This doesn't seem like something someone should pay you for.

I guess there might be a dice.com for poets, but I've never seen it.

I've also seen him write poetry in Italian since he has taken 4 years of High School Italian. If there is a small market for poets, the need for Italian poets must be near microscopic.

And so this leads us to our conflict.

At 40k a year for a private university, a $120k experiment to determine if you want to be a poet seems, well, a little risky. I've explained that he will need to take on part of that risk since we can not afford to pay 120k over the next 4 years and now alternative careers have now emerged like Communications and Journalism. Things that I have actually seen jobs for. I think it's a compromise.

On the other hand, I want him to be happy at what ever it is he decides he wants to do for a career. However, since his mother is very practical and is looking for some reward for the investment of her time and money, we have a full fledge war brewing at home.

She pointed out that she wanted to be a dancer at one point. (no, not one that involved a pole, either). But she figured out she would make more money as a dental assistant. Did she compromise? Maybe, but she made a good living.

Honestly, I'm not sure what direction to push him in. Should I push for the "career" in communications or for him to follow his dream of becoming a poet? Can he realistically do both some how?

I don't know.

Until he decides here is some Billy Collins to make you laugh.

Nostagia.

Candle Hat.

Introduction to Poetry.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Unlucky.

I don't even know where to begin telling what wacky day last Saturday was or how to delicately broach the subject without utter disgust.

OK, there is no way but to just blurt it out. Friday morning there was a stench in our home. It was weak but when you caught wind of it, it grabbed you by the collar and said something bad happened.

It seemed to be centered near Oldest Sons room but we could quite pin it down on Friday morning when we first noticed it. We looked in his room for obvious things like doggy droppings from Provo and Lone the Schnauzers, rotting fruit or some other organic that he "accidentally" left behind but we couldn't see anything.

That evening my wife was convinced that it was coming from the boys bathroom and had youngest son scrub it from top to bottom. It didn't help. The stench lingered in the air.

I said "something died"

It was definitely coming from his room but we had things to get done on Friday night and had to go out.

In the morning Oldest Son came in our room first thing and told us ....
wait for it........




there was a DEAD ANIMAL in his room.

Aurrrrrgh. Disgusting. A DEAD SOMETHING was rotting in his room. He couldn't even look. He was making contorted faces and muttering to himself.

It was up to me to remove it and clean up.

I went in to check it out and found (it sickens me to even think of it again) a DEAD SQUIRREL between his bed and the front window.

So most of Saturday was spent cleaning up after the unluckiest squirrel in New Jersey, the one that wandered into an open window only to find two angry Schnauzers. (oldest son had opened the window in our October heat wave and removed the screen for some unknown reason). That is the best I can figure out. The dogs got him.

I'm sure that Mr. Squirrel was sorry the minute he entered the window but it was too late.

So much for Saturday morning.

Saturday night was spent at the High School Marching Band Home Competition in support of our animal loving oldest son. I worked at parking incoming buses of bands and my wife worked the concessions. Oldest Son is a senior and it's tradition to send an "Air Gram" message over the public address system as his band takes the field.

We couldn't help it. Ours said "it's safe to go in your room again".

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Father Mumbles

On Tuesday my wife and I attended the funeral of her cousin.

He was 37. He passed away after having a a heart attack. Very sad.

The funeral was held at Our Lady of the Assumption church in Strafford, PA. My mother-in-law reminded me where it was by telling me "you know, where you got married". Like I had forgotten or something. I know I'm getting old Mom, but I remember where OLA is.

It was a Catholic Mass after a viewing and the Mass was said by an 86 year old priest. God bless him, I'm not sure that is what I would want to be doing at 86 and yet here he was on a Tuesday morning giving a funeral for a bunch of people he didn't know. (Her cousin had moved to Arizona but was brought back here to be buried.)

The only problem with the Mass was that the priest was inaudible.

He had the most peculiar way of being completely unintelligible which made for some strange moments during the Mass. His voice was very sing-songish and the pitch would fluctuate wildly up and down. He also spoke in a low voice but that wasn't the problem. It sounded as if he was racing through a text that he knew so well by heart that he wasn't pronouncing it as much as he was making roll off his tongue just as quickly as he could. It was like someone saying their ABCs in 1.2 seconds but sounding like Bing Crosby.

Bing Crosby, late in his life did those old Minute Maid Orange Juice commercials and he sounded like that only fast and in low volume.

Completely unintelligible.

"bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy-bopidy-bibipdy Christ be bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy"

Now a Catholic Mass has a lot of dance moves and it takes a tight coordination between the leader (the priest) and the crowd. There is sitting, kneeling and standing and there is a lot motion. If you are new I guess it's a like like being at one of those football games where the crowd in the stands has cards to hold up that spell things and makes pictures. You have a job to do and if you are new, you may not be quite sure how to do it. Having a Father Mumbles lead the novice funeral crowd in the Catholic calisthenics was funny.

Father Mumbles would give instructions to sit, stand or kneel and the noobs weren't quite sure what do. He would say "bibipdy-bibipdy-bibipdy-bopidy-bibipdy" then hold his hands in the air, expecting the crowd to kneel and no one would move. We would all look around to see what the person next to us was doing and then try to follow along. There were a lot of eyes darting left and right trying to figure out the next move.

The decease's father and his whole family were from India which only made it more interesting. At one point I looked over and they were just going through the motions. They would stand and sit when the crowd went up and down but it was clear that they had given up.

When Father Mumbles spoke, I couldn't look at my wife because we would just start cracking up.

Then came the homily. In a Catholic Mass the homily is where the priest speaks on a topic freely rather than recite a given script. Here Father Mumbles rambled incoherently for 10 minutes. In addition to the Bing Crosby impression he added a story made absolutely no sense what so ever. he mixed several different Gospel stories together and I think he was talking about Jiarus Daughter whom Jesus raised from the dead and Lazarus. Something about a Mother. I don't know.

The single most awkward part came when Father Mumbles asked if anyone wanted to say anything about the deceased. He did his bibipidy-bopidy thing in front of the church and sat down. My brother in law, who was acting as canter up on the alter, wasn't sure what he said and was awkwardly waiting for the Mass to start again since there was no scripted place where the priest says "bibipdity-bibipdity-bibipdity" and sits down.

It was an audible at the line from a priest no one could understand.

Surprisingly, no one came forward.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rotisserie Chicken


IMG_7361
Originally uploaded by mfalcian
So last week when the Eagles were blowing out the Detroit Lions and everyone thought there were going to the super bowl, I was dreaming of rotisserie chicken. Maybe it was the wacky uniforms, I don't know.

Our grill came with a rotisserie but I had never used it.
After an APB for the giant skewer which I knew was in the Garage, I placed a whole Perdue roaster on the rotisserie.

There is something very exciting about meat on a stick.

I enjoyed just carrying from the kitchen to the grill. I felt like the returning hunter even though it was a chicken and it came in a sealed bag from the supermarket.

I learned a lot from the chicken and this week I made another. I learned to strap the legs together and tin foil the ends so that they don't flop about and burn.

As Dad says "There is nothing like a whole chicken"

Monday, October 01, 2007

Phillies Rally


IMG_7375
Originally uploaded by mfalcian
At lunch I went down the Phillies rally across the street. The place was packed and it was hard to hear what was going down there. I caught like every other word: blah blah blah PLAYOFFS! blah blah blah.

The funniest part had to be when they introduced known iPhone lover, Mayor Street. The philly crowded instinctively booed him. They know a suck up when they see it.

The second most booed appearance was that of Adam Eaton, Saturdays losing pitcher. At least Harry Kalas didn't sing High Hopes again.

Finally I gave up and went upstairs and caught this picture from our kitchen.

A lesson

Today youngest son called right on schedule at 2:30 in the afternoon for his usual check in/out call after school. He wanted to go over friends house so I let him go.

When I pulled up in front of the house after work, the garage door was open, the front door was wide open and windows were open all over the first floor. When I came in the first thing I did was to check the house for missing items since he had been gone for 3 hours and I assumed that the house was that wide open for that long. We had spoken to him numerous times about locking up when he left but he just wasn't getting it.

So I took his TV, Xbox360 and his ipod which were all just sitting out in his room and hide them in my closet.

He came home at 6:30 and went right to his room. I heard him gasp from the kitchen but I think I did a good job of keeping a straight face. I got angry when he told me just like I was supposed to when he told me his stuff was missing.

Then I walked around and checked the rest of the house and found everything else was in order. I told him to make a list and we would call the police "but it looks like only your stuff is missing".

While he was stewing, I asked him if locked up the house when he left and sheepishly told me no.
I let him stew for a little longer while getting dinner ready.

He was pissed off that some one would come in and steal only his stuff. I told him that well, next time I guess you'll lock up.

Then at dinner I told him. He immediate reaction was "you are a very good teacher" and I think then from now on he will lock up.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On Thursday I worked at home because we had a repair man coming and to "touch base" with the painter who is painting the exterior of our home. While indisposed I got a phone message from the painter about "Were we sure about the fluorescent green color we wanted the stucco?"

Ahh, yeah were going for a color scheme like that friendly lizard with the English accent in the GEICO commercials. Did you get the Red and Orange for the trim?





Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa? I called them back immediately to clear this up since my neighbors and the dreaded home owners association clearly would have something to say about fluorescent green stucco on chocolate truffle trim and "Montage" T-111 siding.

After all that, the painter never showed. He is like a ninja. We come home after work and more of the house is painted but we never see him. I don't think the kids have seen him either. There are ladders about so I guess they are not grappling down from the roof on those ninja ropes.

The repair man came to look at the new dining room set we purchased on Labor day when I bankrolled my NFL family capital account for month of September by spending the day furniture shopping. My hundred pound wife and I were have a hard time closing the new table without the leaf in it and I was sure it had something to do with poor Chinese workmanship and nothing to do with the fact that I was pushing her backward across the Pergo floor like a tackling sled in football camp. The repairman came and opened it right away and closed it no problem and then looked at me like I had three heads. Just to be sure he tried it again and then it got stuck on him too. He found a metal filing in the mechanism for the leaf.

And what is the return on my Labor Day investment? 0-2. I finally have Sundays with no Travel Soccer to watch the Eagles and they suck. This Sunday the Detroit Lions come to town and the Eagles are wearing "throwback" uniforms. This is a genius idea since if they do lose, it's like it wasn't the Eagles at all. It was the San Diego Chargers.

They should do this every week this season. Next week they are dressing the like Bengals of 1984.

On Thursday I also got a bike ride in. It's getting harder and harder to get rides in with the decreasing daylight during the week and weekends being so busy. I set out a little after 5:15 and nearly got killed right in my own neighborhood. I was fiddling with my iPod when this huge brown Chevy Suburban whooshed right beside me from behind. I never saw it coming and it scared the crap out me. Traffic was just horrible the entire 10.91 miles but I did it in 46 minutes despite feeling a little weak the last mile or so.

Some drivers are OK with bikes and others are just unbelievably rude. They pass you as fast and as close as they can.



On Tuesday I had a vendor presentation in Conshohocken and decided to swing by my parents to surprise them for their birthdays. Their birthdays are two days apart and Tuesday was the day between the two. Dad calls this "holy Saturday" as in the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.

So I took them out to eat on holy Saturday. We went to a favorite new restaurant of theirs Trattoria Giuseppe in Edgemont.

We had a terrific dinner and headed back home for coffee and cake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A weekend in Lititz

I am not really sure how we ended up deciding to spend the weekend in Lititz, PA. I know we started out trying to spend an early fall weekend in Cape May with two other couples to celebrate anniversaries but when we could not find anywhere to stay at the shore we ended up in Lititz. I'm confident this is not exactly what the Lititz tourism board had in mind "When the shore is full, come to Lititz"

So here we were in Lititz in Amish country in Pennsylvania.

We checked into the hotel about 4 and headed out into "town" to get "snicker-snacks" as K calls them. "Snicker-snacks" are potato skins and such and we wanted a beer to go with them to hold off dinner until 8. I am not sure what we were thinking, trying to get "snicker-snacks" and beer at the same time in Lititz.

First we wandered down the main drag and saw lots of little knick-knack stores, which is exactly what the guys and I was hoping for. If they would have had a Hummel store, it would have been a perfect weekend.

Finally, our little team of suburban explorers found the Parkside hotel and bar. The Parkside is a shot and beer place where some of the more colorful locals were getting a good running start at Saturday night. They had a few pool tables in back but the closest thing they had food was a rack of Lance toastchees that I am sure were from 1978.

This is not exactly "Snicker-snack" material.

We left there and headed to the "Toy Soldier" which looked like it was last inhabited in the Nixon administration. We tried the front door but it was locked and then we sort of milled about in the front of the place saying "now what?" when we saw the side door.

It too was locked and we headed back towards our hotel. On the way we found a restaurant that we had mistaken for an ice cream place the first time through town. This place has some serious, corn-fed, Amish style "snicker-snacks" but no liquor license. They had homemade pretzel rolled fried cheese and homemade skins. They also had an excellent view of the world famous Wilbur Chocolate factory where for some reason they had a security guard out front. We named the guard "Willy Wonka" and we are not sure if he was keeping people from getting in or out.

One of the guys decided to go back to the Parkside and get a few six packs. I went with him for some reason. I am sure it wasn't for protection. It was really worse than I remember from a half hour previously some how. I now noticed a sign that said "If you are visibly intoxicated you will not be served". I thought of Coach Jim Mora Sr at the podium saying "[Playoffs,] are you kidding me?"

So we ended up putting two bad places together to get our snicker-snacks and a beer.

Here a local tells us about the "hideway", a bar we apparently missed along the way.

We had an excellent dinner at the General Sutter Inn where we staying and in the morning it was off to the Outlets in Lancaster.

All in all it was a nice weekend.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Quote of the week

"Everybody is watching. I mean everyone. You don't even have to have cable to watch this."

Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker Takeo Spikes Speaking about his first appearance on Monday Night Football in his 10 year NFL career.

Someone should tell Takeo that ESPN is on cable and MNF moved there last year.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Life to Eagle

Oldest son has his work cut out for him. He has been a Life scout, the rank eligible for Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts, since 2004 and has procrastinated getting his project together for the past few years. Now he has until his 18th birthday to plan and complete his Eagle project and finish 5 merit badges.

The rules for Eagle state that a boy must complete all the requirements before is 18th birthday.

This is typical for boys in scouts. The boys get tired by time they become 16 or 17 and tend to relax. I can't blame them, I'm tired too. Oldest son and I used to make just about every camping trip and now I haven't been on a trip in a year and Oldest Son hasn't been on a trip since June of 06. We got tricked into camping by the weather the first year when we were in a drought. We loved it.

On his project, last week one of the ladies in the troop started pushing him to get going on his project and he seems genuinely interested in the project.

So now he has Marching Band, College search and Eagle Project all packed into one 6 month period.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TopTen Ways the Philadelphia Eagles are Preparing for the Return of Reno Mahe

10. Teaching the other special teams players to run really slowly in practice so that Reno thinks he running really fast.
9. Make him seem faster by lowering his jersey number to 25.
8. Having IT find the backup tape with Reno's stats. (click on Career Stats).
7. Having a big sale on all those "Mahe" 34 Jerseys.
6. Bringing back Mike McMahon to complete the 2005 backfield.
5. Having a "Race Reno" contest at half time of the next home game. Winner gets to return punts.
4. By starting Brady Quinn.
3. Finding Mel Gray's cell number.
2. Buying him a Segway.
1. Releasing JR Reed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda.

This is the view outside my office that I share. I have been waiting for a parade for the Philadelphia Eagles in February ever since I started working here in 1999.

You notice that street is relatively parade-free at this moment.

It will look like this on the 5th of February in 2008. All Day. Bet the house.

This is because the Eagles have fooled me again. I thought they might have been a contender but after yesterday's performance against a mediocre Green Bay Packers team I now know there will be no parade.

I thought that they would have be an offensive powerhouse with a healthy McNabb and Westbrook back in action. I thought they would struggle on defense with the loss of Jeremiah Trotter. I thought that special teams might be an issue.

All wrong. Defense looked OK. Offense never clicked. Westbrook dropped passes, McNabb looked slow and Reggie Brown was the invisible man.

Yesterday's game was one they should have won. Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda.

Oh they might make a play off run again but the window of real opportunity has closed. There will be no Donovan McNabb smiling a waving from a flat bed truck in the chilly February air. No Westbrook holding the trophy. No Reid dressed like Santa.

Not. Gonna. Happen.

I can't believe I waited 239 days for that. What a disappointment.

Don't worry, though I am an Eagles fan and I am used to disappointment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of School

Today marks the beginning of the end for oldest son as it is his last first day of school. He's a senior this year and his younger brother is freshman in the same High School. This is the rare time in their school years that they both are in the same school.

This morning was the usual chaos associated with the first day getting back into a schedule, who took too long in the shower, who needs lunch money, you are not wearing that are you? etc etc.

And so it begins, again and for the last time.

Twelve years ago on first first day of school, my wife and youngest son brought oldest son to the top of the street to wait on the bus that would take him to 1st grade while I recorded the entire event on the world's largest video camera. We waited for what seemed a lifetime and finally the bus came down the street, drove right past us and onto the next corner at the top of the next cul-de-sac. We all ran for the bus while shouting for the driver to wait while I rumbled down the block lugging the huge video camera like paparazzi chasing Brittany. As we approached the bus there wasn't really any time for anything but "goodbye" and oldest son hopped on the bus.

Just then youngest son started crying. At first we thought that he had gotten hurt during the run for the bus - but he thought the bus was leaving without him.

It was.

He was too young for school still but He didn't know that and we didn't think we needed to explain in advance that the bus was coming only for his older brother.

So there we were watching the first school bus leave with our oldest. It was strange feeling. It was the first time he would be on his own and now here we are some 12 years later. This morning I snapped their picture and they headed off for the first day of school together at last. They pretended not to know each other.

The first day of school also brings two things on the first night after school: panic school supply shopping and filling out stacks of forms and "class room expectations".

The boys and I did the panic shopping at Staples tonight. It was a zoo. It was like Christmas shopping. We threw things in the cart and got out of there as quickly as possible. Ka-ching.

Next, I was filling out forms like a mad man. Here are some of the highlights from the classroom expectations and acknowledgments:

  • Notebook check can be announced anytime and without warning. (I'm sure that the teacher is after a surprise here but I'm not even sure this statement makes sense: If you announce it, doesn't that negate the surprise?)
  • No chewing gum is permitted in class. (You can always count on the standards)
  • Work hard but don't forget to laugh and smile. (You know I feel like I'm forgetting something here in the gulag... now what was it? Oh yes, smiling)
  • No Makeup or Spray during class. (Is there a big problem with mace or pepper spray that I wasn't aware of?)(Does this teacher mean applying makeup or do all the girls have to remove it before this class?)
  • Student may only use PENCIL on a test or any other assessment. (OK when you get 35 10 page reports all written in PENCIL, remember - you asked for it).

So these are kind of scary since they come directly for the people responsible for my kids education.

And so we are off and running.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fading Summer.

Yesterday I was food shopping and noticed that all the Vidalia onions have vanished from the shelves. The fresh corn should be the next produce MIA due to Summer being OVER. It sure seemed to go by fast this year and goes by faster and faster each year.

Maybe it's a function of my age. The older I get, the faster each passing year seems to go by. My theory is that this why old people drive so slowly. Maybe, by the time you are 80, time rushing by so fast that you are convinced you are driving at 75 MPH when really you are doing 35 on the interstate.


Here in New Jersey this means that the sunlight is just a little weaker, the air at night is cooler and in the morning you can be guaranteed that your car will be covered in thick dew. The kids are have resigned themselves to the inevitable and have started to get off the their nocturnal rhythms and get one more in line with school which is unfortunately for them traditionally held during daylight hours.

The pool has been safely covered with the solar cover, giving it a warm blanket for the night time air to hopefully retain some of the summer energy it has built up. It was a comfy 77 yesterday and I haven't checked it today but without the cover I would expect it to lose 5 degrees over night. A couple night of that and the pool is Titanic cold in less than a week.

The crickets start slowing their night chirping as well.

It's also time for football and the annual ritual of the 53 man roster cut. It's pretty brutal. How would you like it if every year your company brought in 3 younger guys that could do your job and had a very public competition for the job for the year? Well, that is exactly what happens in Pro Football. Every summer about 80 guys are contracted to compete for 53 positions and Saturday of Labor Day weekend is the day that all the teams need to get down to 53. The Eagles officially announce theirs Saturday at 4 after "accidentally" releasing a dummy list the day before.

I'm still baffled by the Jeremy Bloom cut by the Eagles. Isn't this the same team that kept Reno Mahe for three years to return kick-offs and punts? Half the people in the stands were faster than Reno and yet he stayed. Yet the word on Bloom was that couldn't make the first guy miss. It was even easier to tackle the statue-like Mahe.

(BTW: I always thought the Eagles PR guys missed an excellent off-season Reno Mahe contest. They should have picked people at random to have a foot race with Reno. If you win then you win a prize sort of thing. ).

The other big news from the Eagles cuts was that the incumbent punter, Dirk Johnson was cut in favor of Australian Sav Rocca. Sav is the anti-Bloom and looks like kind of guy Philadelphians are going to love - a 33 year old rookie punter that is 6-5, 265 lbs. Look for the 70 yard punt on Sport Center in November (he has already made Sport Center for the hit he took in preseason). You have to love a guy that can take a hit like that and walk away like it was nothing.

Football Season also means Fantasy Football time. This year the Fragile Porcelain Mice will compete for the coveted New World of Fantasy Football crown at work. We held our draft last week and the Mice picked up McNabb, Javon Walker and Willie Parker for the first three picks. I also picked up LJ Smith cheap in the last round.

This is the time of year for hurricanes as well and Felix is building in the Caribbean as I write. It jumped out to category 4 almost in hours