Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Mayor of Crazy Town

My legs are hurting a little bit from this mornings bike ride. JDV organized a trip to Brendan Byrne State Park this morning at o'dark thirty. I had to get up at 5.

I didn't know I was getting up at 5 when I told Youngest Son he could host Dungeons and Dragons at our house over night. D&D usually means an all night session with 6-10 boys/men sleeping here until noon.

My wife was working so we made a compromise. He could host D&D if they stayed in the shed. D&D usually is a big draw and new faces sometimes show up for it so I wasn't really surprise to see a few new kids. One was rather young looking but I didn't think much of it.

We cleared the shed of all gasoline and gasoline relate products, he hung Christmas lights and set up a table.

About dusk Youngest Son wanted to know where his mother was because Young looking kid's mom wanted to talk to her about sleeping over. I didn't think much of it at the time.

The boys settled in and it was working out pretty well I thought. It was a win-win. They got to play D&D, we got to sleep.

My wife woke about midnight and woke me with "they are not in the shed".

I still didn't think much of it until she said "I told young looking kid's mom that we would be responsible for him". Right that kid looked about 12 and now he was missing from the D&D session.

I texted Youngest Son.

Texting is such an optional response type of communications. You really don't have to reply. It's unreliable. Someone can always "I never got your text".

Needless to say, my "Where r u" went no where.

I called him - no response.

Now I have visions being at the Hospital, explaining to young looking kids mom what happened.

At 12:15 I get in the car. I head to the Wawa. I figure they had to have snacks and headed to Wawa. How can you have D&D with out Mountain Dew? I get to Wawa and no D&D crowd is in sight. Now what? Drive around?

I'm getting pissed. I have to get up at 5. It's late and I slept about an hour and half.

My phone rings. It's Youngest Son. He says he's at Wawa.

I call BS.

He says "I am touching the Wawa". OK I can't argue with that. He's touching it.

I drive over to the Wawa in a rage where I find them all in the store. The guy behind the counter says "ohh no" to them as I storm in.

"We are done" I exclaim and I hustle them all off to the minivan.

It's about here that I recall that I took JDV's advice and put my bike in the car for tomorrows, well todays actually, ride. I have 6 boys and three seats with the bike.

They kind of stand around awkwardly while I try to remove the front wheel from my bike to make it fit in the very back of the van and so I can open the third seat. They are whispering "what is he doing?"

This takes like 10 minutes with them standing around while I am playing midnight bike mechanic in the Wawa Parking lot at 12:30 AM, remembering that the brake has be loosened before the wheel can be removed.

People are staring.

I get them and the bike squeezed into the car and annouce that I am taking them all home and that D&D is over. I then ask where young looking kid lives.

Of course it is the furthest point in Mount La La from where we are and can still be called Mount La La. We drive. Youngest Son turns into Perry Mason.

Why are you taking us home, why couldn't we go to Wawa. What's wrong with Going to Wawa? It's only a mile away etc etc.

I drop off the others and now its me and Youngest Son and young looking kid. I am doing like 70 down the two lane black top road that leads to the more remote end of Mount La La. I come around a corner and see a young deer.

I start thinking that hitting bambi at 70 with YLK in the car is not going to improve the evening and would be about as bad as anything that could have happened at the Wawa and so I slow down.

We drop off YLK at his townhouse. We are playing "which one is it" and now I'm like a midnight taxi driver on the mean streets of Mount La La. YLK jumps out of the van and disappears around the corner. I have no idea if he actually makes into the house.

Now its me and Perry Mason Jr. on the long drive home, made even longer by the deer I fear around every corner. It turns out that YLK is actually a freshman in HS and is 15. Huh? All this was for naught?

I'm on the stand and he's giving me the tough cross examination. I nearly fall back to "because I'm your father, that's why" but think better of it. He's actually right. I'm crazy. Crazed from lack of sleep and worry about the impending 5 AM bike ride. And now I know that YLK was exactly that Young Looking.

I can not admit this and at about this point I realize that if I'm leaving at 5:45 and My wife is going to work, we were leaving them all alone at some point any way. Great either way YLK was going to be unsupervised.

I get home to more questions. My wife is asking "why did you do that".

Because I am crazy.

Today was spent apologizing.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Morning Coffee and .....

It is a gorgeous day here in Mount La-La Land.

My wife is off at work and the only assigned tasks given were to put the canvas on the now three year old Gazebo and to "shape those bushes".

I'm blogging and drinking coffee.

Not out of rebellion mind you, I just am getting ready to greet the day and this how I do it. I'm working up to it.

I have a food shopping trip, lawn work, laundry and an assortment of other fun activities ahead as well.

Yesterday we were dangerously close to a melt down on the WWOOF farm. I was on a rather heated conference call in the afternoon at work about upcoming weekend IT activities when my cell rang with Oldest Son's number. He was saying something about how he felt like he was alone and that his friend Tyler was coming to the farm unexpectedly.

Tyler apparently found the worst Hostel in Italy in Montagnana. They locked him in and then shut off the water and electric. Finally, he checked out and headed to the farm ahead of schedule.

Oldest Son must have felt like he was between Tyler and the folks that run the farm since having guests must not be in the WWOOF charter.

In the end everything turned out OK and we got a much better report later that night.

I pick him up Thursday.

His brother got a letter in the mail from the High School about unexcused absences. Yes, we knew he was out sick and had given him notes but apparently that's not good enough in NJ any longer. A parent is allowed to write one note per semester. If a child has other absences the notes must come from a Doctor or from a college if you were on a visit.

Since when does a kid have to go the Dr for every sick day?

Honestly he was not quite sick enough to go to the Dr and not quite well enough for school. 4 times. Now he may have to do extra time in the summer to make up for it.

This is beyond ridiculous.

First of all, I just about guarantee you that every one of his teachers phones it in from here until the end. It'll be movies and TV shows until June 18th.

Second of all, the kid made up the work. That is what you do. You make up the work. That's what happens when I'm sick at work. The email doesn't stop, I have to catch up. I don't have to come in on Saturday to sit there.

So I wrote a flowery letter to the career counselor who apparently is the arbitrator in these unexcused absence cases. Exactly how is this person qualified for this, I don't know.

If he's anything like my High School Guidance Counselor, he's nuts anyway. Mine looked like a bald eagle and once suggested I read "word power" from Reader Digest. Where exactly is a 16 year old going to find a Readers Digest? Nuts. He should have been telling me about a career as an actuary.

Youngest Son says the Counselors always just sign off on the absences anyway, thus making the whole process a sham.

So the letter is off, faxed in fact and we are waiting to hear if the summer routine will be disrupted by the state of NJ putting it's nose where it shouldn't go.

I'm sure that the law makers had good intentions, making this crazy law about parental notes up but the problem is that these things almost always have unintended consequences. Let's review what they have done here: Taken the authority away from the parent, who loves and understands the child and given it to a career counselor who would have a hard time picking the kid out of a police line up. (I think he's number three but I'm just not sure. Number 3 could you step forward).

Suddenly I realize I'm ruining the beautiful day in Mount La-La with thoughts of the evil state and school. Back to my happy place.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WWOOF - extended farm stay.

The morning started off with a very early morning "tweet" from oldest son:

Today will be the most interesting day in a while. Meeting @tylerroberts in Montagnana.

Tyler Roberts has been wandering across Europe since before Oldest Son left. He may or may not be with a girl known as "ang" as in Angie. Angie panicked and did not leave on time with Tyler Roberts, but I digress.

Tyler Roberts took the photo to the left here. Please note oldest son's "farmer tan" and I think he is wearing one of my shirts. The Photo has a Bruce Springsteen "Darkness on the Edge of town" feel to it. He just needs a black leather jacket.

So he had the day off and this should have started his "vacation" period. My wife caught up to him while he was catching a train and we learned:

1. He was not present when they slaughtered the cow.

2. The cow was a calf. Which makes sense since the parable of the prodigal son has a fattened calf not a cow.

3. They need help on the farm so he is going back to work this weekend but not hard labor. They have 500 people coming this weekend and need the help.

4. How this fits in I'll never know, but on Sunday on the street with the farm, they are having the worlds largest panini. No, as a matter of fact, I do not know how they are toasting it.

On Monday they are headed to Bologna and on Tuesday it's back to Venice.

In the mean time, I also have subscribed to Tyler Roberts "tweets" and he left an interesting one overnight:

Longest night of my trip; spent it with the homeless in downtown Milan. Saw five guys beat the shit out of a random dude. Missed my flight.

Great, my worst nightmare come to life. Out with the homeless of Milan.

He sounded upbeat. His friends Pat and James did not go with him to meet Tyler, they stayed on the farm to sleep in. I should hear more tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WWOOF is winding down

The WWOOFer called today at 4. He called the house phone so his younger brother was the only one that heard from him. Again. I guess he has his days mixed up? I don't know. I did tell him to call the house, I just thought it would occur when we were all there yesterday.

His brother says he sounds very tired every time he talks to him.

He only has two more days of work left and only one of them is going to be hard work because of the rain.

No word on the cow.

Here in Mount La-La, it's raining lightly and cool. I'm sitting out in the shed with the over head light on listening to the birds. I've turned off the filter to the pool. It was noisy.

The shed got a good clean up on Saturday thanks to me,John D and my wife. Now there is actually room to walk around in the shed. I even put up shades on the windows facing the neighbors. The shades were found during the clean up, put in the trash and then rescued.

It's very peaceful out here. Away from the TV and stereo and the dogs. Well I'm sort of away from the dogs, they followed me out here but I didn't let them in my clubhouse/shed.

Thanks to Oldest son's dorm fridge, I even have cold drinks out here now.

It's sort of like a mini camping trip, coming out here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

WWOOF update Memorial Day.

The last thing heard from the WWOOFer was "Captured a cow, tomorow we slaughter. No really" yesterday on Twitter. This learning what he is doing via 140 characters or less isn't cutting it. My wife reads the crypict messages and then asks to decifer them somehow as if I have secret power of some kind.

The "tweets" could be anything really, messages to Al-Qaeda or the french resistance. Here the "Cow" represents the USA and slaughter means.... Well it's not good.

It's been two weeks tomorrow. We know that he spent some time with Pat's relatives on Saturday because we heard this from Pat's mom. She calls us when she gets an update. I have not spoken to him since the Friday before last even though I did ask him to call.

He did make an International phone call to his younger brother to find out if their soccer league is starting up or not. You know, the really important stuff.

So far I am still picking him up on the 4th of June so I guess we'll hear something, right?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's like making your house into a limo.

Yesterday we continued with operation sunglasses.

One of the items my wife set down at the Home Depot and then repurchased at Lowes was window tinting. It was something called Gila Flim, a thin film that blocks 77% of the harmful heat rays that travel 93 million miles and end up in my bedroom. Ironically, we had learned of Gila Film in a Home Depot advertisement.

We tried it on the overhead skylight first, because in the summer, this thing acts like a giant ray gun that burns a stripe across our room.

That was a fun, balancing up on a ladder with the wet sticky film trying to place it just right on the window over my head.

Last Sunday was what the weather service would call a "partly cloudy" day. Since this is profession that you only need be right 25% of the time, that meant the sun was out. I was sweating like rancid pork at the top of the ladder under the skylight in the broiling sun. I felt like an ant under a magnifying glass with a cruel Boy Scout holding it.

Until I put the magic film on the sky light. Then all the heat dissipated.

We were impressed.

We finished the skylight and moved onto another task, putting up a new fan. We had plenty of film left, but we had higher priorities.

Later that night we discovered an unintended consequence of putting the film on the sky light that is on a angled ceiling directly over our bed. It reflects light when it nighttime.

That's right, we inadvertently put a mirror on the ceiling. Over the bed.

We looked at each other and for a moment the same thought came to mind. That's right - "I wonder how much money we are saving with this stuff".

Yesterday we finished the southern exposure bedroom windows and discovered another side effect. Super privacy from the outside looking in during the day.

It is impossible to see into the window during the day and yet all the hot stuff has been taken out of the sun. It's a win win. No one can see in and we get to see out with the shades up all day long. It's beautiful.

Let's just say she spent a lot of time on Saturday early evening saying "now you are sure no one can see in, right?".

Putting the magic film up meant cleaning the windows, a rare task here. I remember my grandmother washed her windows once every two weeks. She had long double hung windows on the front and back of her south Philadelphia row home and would perform feats of skill unseen outside of the circus to clean them.

This was pretty amazing considering she was a five foot Italian woman with legs the thickness of small tree trunks and that she wore stockings and wedgies.

To clean the outsides of the windows, she would open the bottom and crawl out on to the ledge and sit on it facing the window. She would then proceed to move the tops and bottoms of the window like Bruce Lee all the while washing and scrubbing the window.

From the inside all you could see were her stockinged legs sticking out under the window and shaking as she worked.

It was an amazing piece of choreography to behold.

My exhibition was much less skillful since I only so it once a year.

Later when it got dark we discovered that film loses it's privacy magic when the lights are on in the room. Now, we are going to need a chart of when it's OK and not OK to have the shades open.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alone time.

Got home to an empty house so I took the bicycle out for ride. I went on a ride I am now christening "connect the parks". My home town Mount La-La has a secret treasure trove of parks.

Until recently I had no idea they were even there. The state provided funds for townships like ours to purchase "green spaces" and the township went a little nuts with it. Some are tiny - 7 acres but others were as large as 88 acres.

In the larger ones they have built secret trails and they have to be a secret since I am usually one of the few people on them. Today, a beautiful spring/summer day, I saw 1 jogger, 1 walker and a group of three men.

It was a good ride of about 10 miles.

Came back and hung up the bike and took a ice cold Ginger-Ale out of my new shed-fridge. Oldest Son came home and we had to do something with the dorm fridge, right? That baby came right out of the car and was wheeled directly into the shed and plugged in.

I had a quick shower and then a very light dinner on the deck.

Now it's off to watch the Phils on TV.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Feit of Magic

A quick update on the ongoing CFL saga:

On Monday I called Feit Electric since their name was stamped on the side of the bulb base. I had minimal expectations since I had no receipt and no original packaging.

I simply went to the "contacts" page, found an 800 number and dialed it. I must have got their front desk since an actual person answered. (How about that, no press 1 for English). I started to blert out "I am a consumer blah blah blah," when the receptionist said "Oh you want custmer service"

I was floored. And it only got better.

Another person answered (right away I might add) and asked for the numbers printed on the base of the bulb. I read them off and he said "Ok Thanks"

I thought here we go, wada-mean OK thanks.

I said "that's it?"

He said "you should have two new blubs in 2-3 weeks."

I was stunned.

Come on Don't you want to haggle? You ask if I have a receipt, I call you crazy, that sort of stuff? Come on.

Nope.

I still am not getting my hopes up. I'll post if and when they come in.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The CFL Hoax

Well the CFL experiment isn't going too well. You may recall that we put CFL lamps in our kitchen, replacing 3 75 Watt lamps with 3 23 watt ones.

The theory was that I could save enough money get the US out of our national debt simply by changing out terrible, wasteful incandescent lamps with eco-friendly but very expensive CFLs.

Two of the three died already. They were supposed to last 8000 hours and they lasted all of 9 months I spent $18 on 2 bad light bulbs. No, we did not save the receipt, that was August after all.

So, it was back to the Home Depot to try and salvage the situation. It was a Hail Mary at best but I figured it was worth a shot. It may have been more cost effective to take a twenty out of my pocket and light it on fire then to go what I've gone through with these CFLs.

Sunday at the Home Depot. The line to return items is 10 deep with a single register open. A second register opens and the "next person in line" is called to the newly opened register. As that person is being helped, Joe Bagofdonuts, two people in front of me and three away from the head of the line, decides he is going break ranks and goes for the new register. Yes, Joe is holding a bag of cement, (I am not making this up, he literally had a bag of cement), but whose problem is that? Bring a cart, Joe.

Now the guy ahead of me that was between Joe and I steps in.

"Where do you think you are going? What about all these people ahead of you? Get back in line". He's like the Batman of our line.

Joe sheepishly gets back in line. Ironically, he ends up at the newly opened counter anyway in about 10 minutes, returns his bag of cement and heads out.

Now it's my turn at new counter since Batman got called to the "old" counter. In a complete disregard of return line protocol, I head over to the new line without being called.

Now they decide to switch attendants. The new counter has been open for all of 10 minutes. The old attendant at the "new" register takes her little cash drawer and heads off and what has to be a former Cafeteria lady I knew in High School takes her place. She now has to log in.

Erico Fermi, she is not.

Logging in takes approximately 15 minutes.

She fat fingers the passcode. She fat fingered the id. She fat fingers the passcode again.

She even went as far as to put the passcode in as the ID in the clear. If I weren't crazed by being at retail frustration def-con 2 I would have written it down and posted it.

Finally the lunch lady logs in. I explain my sad story and am promptly told there is nothing she can do. I need the receipt AND THE ORIGINAL PACKAGING.

Are you kidding me? These are nine months old. First of all if I kept all the packaging from every item I bought in the hopes that I might return it in 9 months, I would have no need for a trash pick up. Because once the item is out of the package that is exactly what it becomes - trash.

So, no I don't have every package from everything I bought over Labor Day weekend. If I did I would keep it in my shopping cart that I push around town like all the other crazy homeless people.

We throw trash out. Call me crazy.

Secondly, I'm lucky to have W-2 come tax time and the only reason I do is because the minute it comes in I'm off to the accountant. If anything gets set down in my home, it is swept off to a magical island in south pacific where it is all placed in a gigantic pile THAT I WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN. Its just like the TV show Lost. All my receipts go into some alternative universe or back in time. That is where I file them - in 1977.

A receipt from Home Depot from Labor Day? Are you kidding me?

Let's say by some miracle I did have original package and receipt. You just know the lunch lady was going to tell me that it was past 90 days or some such non-sense.

Exactly how am I supposed to return light bulbs that were meant to last until we elect our first gay Eskimo as President?

The answer of course is "I'm Not".

Suddenly after turning away from the Lunch ladies kiosk, I had a new purpose, a new sense of direction. I had a cause.

We were getting the hell out of Home Depot. Now.

I went searching for my wife and, of course, I can't find her in the 357 aisles of the big box store. I call her cell.

Some technologies depend on one another in a kind of a symbiotic relationship. An example of this is the sub-micron photo process and the silicon chip. We wouldn't have been able to make teeny tiny silicon chips without the process to make pictures that small so we could etch the silicon chip and so the silicon chip depends on the tecnology to make teeny tiny photos.

I am now understanding that cell phones and these big box stores are this way. The only way that we are able to survive in big box stores is by the communications technology that allows us to find our loved ones or find help to find a way out otherwise aisle 267 would be filled with rotting corpses of the lost.

After some effort I locate my wife. She is aisle 309 - window treatments. I head over and tell her we are leaving. Now. We now are at Def con 1. After my search and rescue mission and lunch lady experience - I've had enough.

She has an arm full of things she has gathered. I am speaking in half sentences. CFL. No Receipt. Lunch Lady. Go Now.

She dumps the items and we head out the door.

We drive the 1.5 miles to the Lowes. We spend another 40 minutes finding the exact same items that my wife had already gathered. Luckily they were cheaper at Lowes.

See? Spite pays.

Tomorrow I shall call Feit Electric and tell them that thier BPESL23T/DM dimmable CFL is a hoax. The reason I am so angry is not because of the Home Depot or the Lunch Lady. I am pissed off because I knew better. A dimmable CFL is like a Microwave you can put aluminum foil into.

It doesn't exist. And yet knowing this I spent 18 bucks on the fictitious items.

I went back home, found the 3 75 watt light bulbs I replaced in September (they were on top of the giant pile on the magical island) (actually I had given them to oldest son and he had just returned them from Freshman year) and put them back in. Now I am happy and I can see.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where exactly is Oldest Son?


View Jordan's Italy Trip 2009 in a larger map

The pin marks the spot above where the Altaura Holiday Farm is located.

Here is the same spot on Live Earth

WWOOF update - cleaning up after the pigs. Day 3.

I finally got to talk to Oldest Son on the phone after his latest tweet came in. (That is really amazing BTW, I dialed 7 digits to a local number and he got the call 1/4 of the way around the world). We spoke about 12 minutes. To my wife: that's about $11.88 and the return on our $5.99 investment into the "World Traveler Plan" on the cell phone kicks in after 20 minutes of use for the month.

He is doing well but sounded tired. Today's work was cleaning out the pig yard in the morning and then helping to make food and sandwiches for tomorrow. They expect 300 people at the farm tomorrow - it wasn't clear to him what for, he just does as they tell him.

He has worked about 20 hours and it's been tiring He said "they have so much more energy then I do" He wants to do more but physically can't.

There are three other WWOOFers there. A local young man and couple in their 20's from Chile. The couple is hiking and biking around Europe and working the farms in between.

Yesterday they took bicycles about 20 minutes into Montegnana and got on the Internet. Internet is spotty at best even in town. There is a train station in Montegnana. He hasn't taken that many pictures around the farm.

The food is great, accommodations are beautiful and he has access to a washing machine. His boots are fine and has yet to use the gloves.

They get Monday and Tuesday off and are going to Venice.

He is sleeping well.

Cornhuskers

I heard from Oldest son yesterday afternoon after his first work day. He spent the day husking corn. All day. That sounds like a lot of corn.

Here's some irony: the traveling companion is from Nebraska, so he traveled 1/4 of the way around the earth to go husk corn, which I'm sure that Nebraska is knee deep in already.

The farm that he was going to had two possible locations around around the town of Padova. He ended up in a third new location, Montagnana, Veneto so I'm not sure what happened there.

I also have to play detective a bit. He posted his tweet from the web, so they must have some sort of corn powered internet device. That's organic, right?

We have so many questions that can't be answered in 140 characters.



View Larger Map

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breadcrumbs

My wife's phone chirped the "you have a text" tone at 2 AM.

She doesn't get a lot of texts and the sound was unfamiliar. We both woke up saying "what is that?"

It was Oldest Son updating his twitter and she, being new to twitter and not expecting tweets in the middle of the night, left her phone on. Oldest son is introducing a new generation to twitter. My Dad, his Aunt, his mother.....

Now she had to get it.

She read out loud that he was on a bus to the Milan train station. Actually he twittered (is that a real verb?) "After some struggle we made it to the bus and we are headed into milano".

Struggle? What sort of struggle? armed? Linguistic? Gypsy Children?

I'm not sure I like getting ambiguous "tweets" in the middle of the night.

She is more concerned with the 50 cents a "tweet" and and wants to tell him that he should only report in next when he gets to the farm. What she wants to tweet is "@oldestson Please only update us when you arrive at the farm"

But it's the middle of the night, she doesn't text much and it comes out as a terse message on her twitter directed at no one in particular:

"to the farm".

??? "to the farm" ??? what does that even mean? The only proper response is "si".

I'm torn between the ka-ching of the 50 cents per update and having more breadcrumbs on the trail. I'll pay the 50 cents, tell me what's going on. Please tell me what was the struggle?

Now I can't sleep. I see a swarm of Gypsy Children rushing up to the two of them at the Milan (milano?) train station and striping them of every valuable faster than piranha.

I'm thinking I should text to him "Don't take the baby from the Gypsy Children" - because that's how they get you. You take the baby as they throw it on you and then when your hands are full and take everything.

Gypsys.

I think better of it, realizing that "to the farm" followed by "don't take the baby" are clearly the rantings of crazy people.

An hour later and I'm still tossing and turning. There have been no updates. I'm convinced it's because the Gypsy Children have his phone and right now are calling Nicaragua, charging monstrous amounts to our cell phone bill. Of course, in the light of day, Gypsy children calling Nicaragua makes absolutely no sense, but in the darkness of tossing and turning it made perfect sense.

Those nasty Gypsy Children.

I get up to watch a little TV to take my mind off things and maybe disengage.

I'm scrolling through the late night TV selection when I come to Showtime where Hostel II is on.

I think I'll pass.

If I'm making up things to worry about, having vivid imagery of dismembered young people traveling around Europe certainly isn't going to help.

Eventually I went back to sleep and in the morning there were many more tweets reassuring us that he had not been abducted by Gypsys.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WWOOF has begun.

Today Oldest son left for Italy on the WWOOF adventure.

He and his friend Pat have been hanging out here for a week or so since school ended, just waiting for the trip to start. They fly into Milan and the take a train over to Padua to Scuola Fattoria

They are staying there for two weeks, at least that was plan I was told. We'll see how that goes once they have to work every day. They packed very light, no checked baggage. I can't even imagine how bad they are going to smell on the way back.

So the week leading up to the trip had its share of drama. The other party, the one that he was originally going with, had a slight problem. It was a strictly platonic boy-girl team and the girl failed to show for the flight. The boy went anyway. By himself. He ended up in Berlin alone alone for a few days and she allegedly caught up with him today. He doesn't even speak German.

It's good to know there are parents crazier than me. That's what you want, a sense of you are not the worst parent for allowing your 18 YO son to go to Italy on some half thought out adventure.

At least Oldest son speaks Italian.

On Sunday I finally sat them down and wrote out details. Where are you going, what's the number, how long. Crap you would ask if they were sleeping over Bobbies for the night and yet I still didn't know.

He has money. Pat does not. I see many Euros flowing Pat's way. Ohh, and I know this is going to cost me money somehow.

I'm thinking it's going to be with the Cell Phone. Pat forgot his charger so his phone is close to dead already. Nothing like starting out behind.

I opted for the $0.99 a minute plan for his cell and outbound texts cost 50 cents for up to 160 characters. Twitter. Twitter is going to cost me. That's where the real money is. You can follow him here.

So this morning I helped him pack, took his picture (telling him it was for "have you seen these boys") and sent him on his way.

I also told them that if the owner has a daughter and you two pretend to be salesmen, this is is starting to sound like every farmers daughter/Salesmen joke I've ever heard.

Monday, May 11, 2009

And now for something completly different.

I'm in a training class this week and it is unusual for two reasons.

1. It's a Microsoft Active Directory class.

2. It's close enough so that I can ride my Bicycle.

I'm more of command line UNIX guy when it comes to all things IT. I haven't exactly been the biggest fan of all things Borg. The AD class is bit of a departure. It's going well. It is a remote class so there isn't a class room per se, just a polycomm and two monitors. One has the instructors desktop and his PowerPoint presentation and the other is your lab workstation with virtual AD controllers.

I'm lost in the land of Northwind Traders, the fictitious Microsoft AD domain, by myself in a single office. There are two other students but they are be themselves as well.

Today I rode my bike for two reasons: Oldest son needed the car and I needed the exercise. The training center is three miles away so it isn't exactly the Tour de France but after two round trips (I came home for lunch, partially defeating the whole healthy thing), I am feeling it.

It's not exactly a nice ride either. Half the trip is on Church road, a county highway with no shoulder. Cars rush by and you can almost feel how annoyed drivers are that you, a bicyclist are taking an extra 18 inches out of "their" lane.

That's not the worst part, though. The worst part is where Church road goes under the Jersey Turnpike. There in the dark, the impossibly narrow shoulder disappears.

Tomorrow I may just bring my lunch in order to cut down on the trips. Doing the round trip twice was a little much for the first day.

I may just take the car.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

The past two days have been dry in the afternoon and I finally got the grass at cut. It took two nights and I have 8 bags of grass clippings along with a lawn that looks more like a sheared sheep rather than had a nice trimming with the mower but it's at least able to dry out some.

I don't think I've ever harvested 8 bags of clippings from the organic grass clipping farm that surrounds my home. Ohh and the future WOOFers were no where to be found.

2.5 Inches of rain in 8 days. It just seemed like it was constantly raining and the grass grew and grew and grew. It had to be over a foot tall. I swore I could hear it growing.

My neighbors aren't happy with me either because of the pool. See I really didn't know this until the pool was going in but the best construction practice is to raise the pool up about 18 inches and build a dome of earth around it so that water runs away from the pool instead of in it. This makes sense from the pool maintenance stand point, you don't want muddy water running into the pool and filters. This also means that here in the flats of Jersey that water does not pool up on my property any longer.

All that water has to go somewhere.

The earth here is marl. It's a clay like substance that water does not permeate. On top of the marl, is top soil and grass and once that layer fills with water, it has no where to go and it pools up. I looked over the fence and saw that the folks around me all have pools too except theirs are grassy and muddy and are preventing them from cutting the grass.

My one neighbor was sort of mentioning it. She didn't come close to saying it's because of your pool but I was getting the hint. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about it though. Take out the pool? Pumps?

All this standing water has also brought mosquitoes. After dark, they are everywhere, buzzing in your ear, hovering near your skin and biting.

The WOOFers are leaving on Tuesday. I have no idea how prepared they are except I don't think they have a way to JFK yet.

I'm sure there will more to follow on this.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I can still hear you saying; you would never break the chain.

Yesterday the weather looked grim and today it is grim. Rain and cold - it does not feel like May. Yesterday DB had the day to himself since his daughter was off on a Brownie trip, He was determined to do something in spite of the weather. So we took the bikes and headed off to Brendan Byrne State Forest.

You may remember Brendan Byrne as the Governor of New Jersey in the seventies and eighties. He was the one that sounded like Elmer Fudd especially in the commercials "New Joorseey and ewe perfwect togever". Anyway, most people still call it the Lebanon State Forrest. Maybe they should have called it Elmer Fudd State Forrest.

The rain was light and it looked like it was going to clear up so we headed off on the bikes to Parkim Pond, about 3 miles down the trail. DB had grabbed his daughters helmet from the darkened house and had no helmet so I was sure this was going to end badly with the rain and sunglasses making for poor visibility. Ironically we would have ended up at my wife's hospital.


It did, just not in the way I expected.

We made it safely to the pond, hung out in the open air shelter for a bit and when the sun peaked out, decided to head off on a more ambitious trail. We headed down the trail and came to narrow bridge that crossed a small stream. At age 14 this bridge would have been something I flew over but as you get older I guess you understand a little better what can go wrong. It looked really narrow.

We headed across the bridge and I was convinced that one of us was goin' in.

We made it across and were just headed up a small incline when I heard an unpleasant sound coming from DB's bike. His chain snapped. Broke right in two pieces (well it was one piece but it was no longer connected which is important).



Biking was over for the day. That was a fact.

No biggie. We'll just let DB take my bike, get the car, drive it down to the pond and we'll be off. Sounds simple enough.

We take all the gear off my bike, leave it with me and send DB on his way.

About 20 minutes later I get a call. DB is asking me which way to go on the paved road. I thought right, so I told home right. He mentions how beautiful it is with the lakes. In the mean time, I take out the GPS and figure out how long it should have taken and look at the map. The lakes are prtty far from where he should be.

Let me repeat that. I have the GPS. He does not. I have a map. He does not. Why I did this I have no idea. He's in park he's never been in and I have a GPS. Not only do I have the GPS, but I have a compass and Google maps on the blackberry. And I have a map. All safely tucked away in the open air shelter I am sitting in.

IMG_1027:Bicycling in Brendan Byrne

After 40 minutes, I know something is wrong. He should have been to the office, picked up the car and headed back by now.

I call him. He's lost.

Now we have no idea where he is and I have more Nav equipment than Apollo 11 had.

"Help me triangulate" He tells me. I can't. I have an urge that can not be negotiated with and tell him I have to go.

After that, I finally got him back on the phone about 10 minutes later. He found a campsite, asked someone and they told him to head up this road, the office is right on it. So I wait.

I'm sitting there in on my new home, the park bench, when who do I see coming in the parking lot but DB, on the bike. No car.

He had gone in a giant circle and ended up back where he started.

After some water, he took the GPS and headed to the office on the paved road. He was back in 20 minutes. At least he got a nice ride in.

Pics here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

If you were in Seat 12, Row 8 of Section 302 Wednseday at the Spectrum, I apologize

As just about everyone around me has heard at this point, almost to the point being sick of it, I went the Bruce Springsteen concert on Wednesday. It was an excellent show but that is not what this post is about.

The band was loud. Really loud. By the end my ears were literally ringing. They still are if it's quiet. This could be function of too many loud clubs, aircraft carriers and the iPod at high volume rather than a single Springsteen concert, but I digress.

About half way through the show the band played a crowd quieting song and instead of screaming with our hands in the air we rested on the backs of our upright seats at the Spectrum. Just for a moment.

I was just sort of starting ahead of me and noticed a group of 4 young women in the row in front of us. They were dancing and having a good time. They were younger than the crowd, most of whom had to hold their tickets at arms length to see what section they were in. These women were maybe late 20's early 30's.

So I'm resting, starting ahead and the woman on the right turns enough for me to see a little bulge in her abdomen and I thought to myself "Is that woman pregnant?"

That would have been a fine thought. Except I said it out loud. REALLY LOUD. since my ears weren't functioning and the band was loud, it came out like "IS THAT WOMAN PREGNANT?".

She turned and stared at me. Like evil eye stared. I thought to myself "Oh my god, that woman can hear my thoughts". Then I said something stupid like "you could hear me?".

That is when I turned and saw my wife. She had a look on her face that I have not seen in 10 years. It was the "I have married an A--Hole" look.

While my wife was reconsidering having hitched her wagon to my star twenty years ago, I repeated my stupid statement back to her "You could hear me"?

She said "Everyone could hear you" and then she whispered to me "I don't think she is pregnant".

Ut-ohhh.

Now my group of 8 is starting at me, half wondering what happened, half with the same look as my wife. The woman is still staring at me and now she is whispering to her friends.

Yes, Ladies and Gentleman, in Section 302, row 9 seat 12 we have an honest to god a--hole.

I slunk back into my seat. They would be no hand waving and shouting Bruuuuuuuuce for a few songs while I got over it. Eventually I did.

As I watched the rest of the show I was transfixed on the woman in front of me. She was drinking lemonade but her friends had beer. She was slender except for the emerging globe of her abdomen.

This is a pregnant woman. No doubt.

If you are the woman in Section 302, row 8 seat 12 on Wednesday night. I apologize.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Song of the Day

I started a new blog over here. This one grew out of a thing I was doing over on facebook that people seemed to like. I'll continue to do both. Until I run out of songs.