Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Even the consessions were for the Vikings


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Originally uploaded by mfalcian
Sign outside section 113 in the concessions.

In pencil it says it's for the South Philly Vikings NYB.

Christmas 2010

Well, it's official. I need to stay away from the Linc for Eagles games. If I go, they lose. Period.

I've now been to three games this year thanks to Mr C: Vs Greenbay (L 27-20), Vs McNabb and the Redskins (L 17-12) and now last night vs the Vikings (L 24-14).

The only other losses were away. Those were not my fault because I wasn't there.

Last night was brutal but not as bad as sitting watching that crap in a blizzard. One Philly sports writer had it right when He said that the Eagles didn't show Sunday AND Tuesday.

So I'm done. I'm officially just watching from home from here on out.

Christmas was fine and we turned a corner for the kids and Christmas. Youngest son officially did not want any Video Games for the first time and therefore his presents moved officially into "adult" gifts. Mostly clothes. His remark on opening gifts? "I should have done this last year".

The Chancellor was pleased with her assortment of gifts. If there is one piece of advice I could give to the newly married man it would be: "Serial gifts". Buy something that you add to every year. Christmas plates, Charmalia bracelets. It's genius.

Oldest son got what every college student spending a semester in Italy needs: Money. By the way, when did a European or Oriental vacation become part of the expected "college experience"?

We never got a Christmas Tree. It never happened. Oh we planned it a lot and we meant to but we never quite got around to it and you know what? The Earth did not plummet into the sun and the global economy did not collapse.

We were frozen in indecision. I thought it was time to transition to the fake tree and The Chancellor still wanted a real one. And so it went for days. Fake One. Real One. Fake One, Real One. The next thing we knew it was Christmas eve.

The closest we ever got to getting a tree was 3:45 on the Sunday before Christmas. Eagles down, 31-10 to the Giants and I was ready to give it up. I said let's go get a tree and the Chancellor convinced me to stay. I was glad she did of course but that meant no tree, an exchange I was more than happy to make.

We never did Christmas Cards either. Again, we are all still here. To our friends and family: I'm sorry. Maybe next year. We loved getting yours.

And so another year ends. I hope to update this more frequently in the new year. I promise.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Graceland

I've been using the side entrance to Graceland.

Graceland is what I've started calling my room here at Caesars Palace In Las Vegas. Graceland and I came together quite unexpectedly. I had reserved a standard room here but they were out of rooms that smokers had not been in so I was upgraded without charge. I don't have anything against smokers, hell I used be one myself but I would just as soon not have a bed that smelled like nicotine, thank you.

So I was then given the keys to Graceland. I call it Graceland because it appears to have been last redecorated in 1977 by Priscilla Presley.

It's a suite, they told me, not explaining that you land a plane in it if you wanted to.

My first guess that it was large was that it had a set of steps leading to a double door where all the other room doors looked like standard hotel doors. The second clue that this was going to be a little different of a business hotel stay was the baby grand piano. I guess this is in case Cole Porter swings by so he can entertain my entourage.(Cole, play Begin the Beguine for everyone and make sure I get enough towels).

It took me 5 minutes to find the bed in Graceland. I am not making this up. I looked in every hallway, closet and bathroom for a bedroom. Finally I found what looked like another hotel room door inside the suite, on the other side of yet another door.

Graceland was one of those places that looked great at first but as you got closer you noticed how old and behind things were. Graceland was missing things like Electrical outlets and Internet. Which makes sense if you consider how many laptops there were in 1977. It also had a heck of a view. It was of a concrete wall 15 feet away. Maybe this explains the free upgrade.

I had to enter my key card again to get to the hotel room within the hotel room where I found a suite within the suite. In the morning, when I came back out into the suite without pants, this seemed like less of a feature. Luckily I had left the extra key card on the bar. From then on I had a process. If you leave the suite within the suite you flipped the door lock so the door would not shut.Look for it in the video below.

I found there are three doors to Graceland. The main double door that Priscilla has to enter through, the side door the Memphis Mafia uses and the double secret back door. It took me a while to figure out the purpose of the back door. It was for groupies to escape through before Priscilla came in. There was a complete back door that was separate from the main suite that lead right to the suite within a suite.

If these walls could talk.


More to come later. 

Here is a quick video tour of Graceland

Friday, November 26, 2010

Modern Thanksgiving update

Things did not go according to plan at all.

1. Oldest son missed a detail on Girlfriend's dinner plans: What time are you eating and visiting relatives. It turns out that it was late. too late to drive to PA.

2. Dessert at Mom's turned into dinner at Mom's after Dinner at The Chancellor's Mom's. Oh and then dessert.

3. We still have to work out today's plan.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Modern Thanksgiving

Well it's the holidays and once again we plan to put on more miles than a trucker trying to make Tuscan by sunup. The only difference is that we will be driving in circles. Also, the difference today is we have four drivers now so we get a certain economy of scale over the days when I was the lone driver for this insanity.

I'm just hoping the Aluminum Falcon is up to the task because we are asking it to play a major role in "Operation Dessert Storm"

First up: Thanksgiving day finds Youngest Son working here in Mt La-La because either he is too junior to pull rank or he didn't plan ahead and request the day to eat with his family. It also finds Oldest Son unknowingly establishing lifelong patterns as he eats dinner with Girlfriend's family, picks up his brother and then heads to PA for some dessert.

The Chancellor and I are headed for Her Mom's for dinner where we are in charge of dessert and salad. Not just any salad, which is what I had assumed while shopping yesterday, it has to be a salad with mandarin oranges. So there is a trip to a supermarket some time this morning. After dinner with her Mom and this magical salad, we head over to my Parents, joining up with the boys and having a second dessert just the way Lombardi drew it up.

You would think that we would be able to get in our cars and all head home after all that. But wait, there is more fun ahead.

On Black Friday, the Chancellor and Youngest Son have to work (there is that life lesson about planning again) while I am free and Oldest Son going upstate with his cousins to see their cousin's band in a show.

And now it becomes like one of those river crossing puzzles. We have four people, 2 cars stuck in PA and three of us are returning to Jersey. Youngest Son needs the car to work, The Chancellor has to get to work and I see a lot of driving in my future. The solution of course is that we drive separate cars back to NJ while Oldest Son stays at my Parents with my younger Brother and his wife and my youngest Brother and his family. It's a big house.

From there our plan looses detail but I'm pretty sure I will be going back to PA at some point. I think we need to go to daily meetings and dedicated project manager until Sunday at this point.

It wasn't going to be this way this year. Back in October we were asked to host Thanksgiving instead of her 80 year old Mom doing it. There was phone call, we were both on it and before I could say we'll have to talk about it, The Chancellor said "yes".

And then nothing happened.

About once a week I would ask "are we making plans for Thanksgiving?" and I was told "it wasn't for sure yet". I made contingencies and I took the day off before Thanksgiving, not knowing what lay ahead.
In the mean time, The Chancellor decided that since she had few days off, this would make a fine time to rip the wallpaper off the dining room walls. I should have realized something was up then

Finally, last weekend the word came from headquarters that her Mom was not ready to give it up yet. Operation "Cook a bird" was off and "Dessert Storm" was on and now I sit in my empty kitchen trying to figure out how we are getting all this done.

The best is yet to come really. While we are making plans here, something, some unknown event, some over looked detail, is going to come along and completely wreck these plans. It will not go down as planned.

All of this makes me long for the days when it was simple. We got up. We had Breakfast. We got in the car and went to her Mom's and we visited. We went to My Parent's for the meal. On the way home two boys slept in the car. It was simple.

Before that it was even simpler. In 1978 I was in the Navy in Alexandria, Egypt on Thanksgiving day. I got up. I got in a long line to eat. I ate. I took a few pictures.

All I know is I'm getting the van and the Ez-Pass.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Falling Leaves

005The cold weather is finally settling in as if for good, like it's moving in to stay. The days can be nice like last weekend was. This weekend is looking the same.

The leaves seem to have real staying power this year and the colors have been brighter and staying longer than I ever recall, but maybe that just comes with getting older. I feel like saying "Yep, back in aught two we never had colors like this, must be that global warmin'".

Of course falling leaves mean raking leaves and the problem these days is what to do with them after you have them in big pile. When I was growing up it was simple, you light a match to them and watched to make sure they a) kept on fire and b) didn't burn anything else. Of course that is highly illegal these days and now my township picks them up from the curb but only when they announce it. Since the township can not possibly be all places at all times, this means they pick up twice: the 3rd week in Sept and the week after Christmas.

You have no idea home any times I've made a big pile of leaves out front in November only to have to shovel up that mess when the first snow comes in January.

My the trees on the front lawn actually had the leaves fall in time with the township's schedule and a couple of Sundays ago I got out there and put the leaves to the curb. Magically they were gone by Wednesday. It was like a Autumnal miracle. Of course the township geniuses some home missed the larger pile that my neighbor had across the street.

All my other leaves stubbornly missed being picked up by the township since they were cleverly hiding in tree branches up in the air.

Last weekend The Chancellor and I raked some in the back yard. Since I knew that the township would not be around again in 2010, I thought I'd just put the leaves in plastic trash bags and put them out with the trash and that's where they remain today, in bags by the curb. The trash folks refuse to pick them up.

This week brought cold temperatures and wind, the arch enemies of the leaves still clinging to the hope that Summer will be right back make them healthy converters of CO2 into O2 again. Now I have the largest pile of the season waiting to be picked up and some how disposed of.

 Pictures here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hunter College, NYC

The college search for youngest son continued last week with a visit to Hunter College in New York City. This was his idea, I swear.  The Chancellor and I set aside the second Tuesday in November and took the time off to take him on the train to NYC.

Monday night before the visit and suddenly it's a different story. He doesn't want to go because he has to make dumplings for his German class version of Oktoberfest.

I was not happy about this, after all a plan is plan and The Chancellor had turned down hours at the Hospital we were going, like it or not.

He agreed only if his friend Pat could come.

Pat could come if Pat paid his own way.

They agreed.

On Tuesday morning Pat showed up with yet another Hunter College candidate, Paul. the five of us piled into the minivan and headed to the train station in Hamilton. We timed it perfectly and caught the 11 AM to Penn Station without incident despite of the boys deciding they wanted a last minute donut at the train station while the train was pulling in.

It was only the beginning of my stress.

We arrived in New York at 12:30, found a seemingly endless buffet bar in midtown, grabbed some lunch and then headed for the Subway.

Now, I know nothing about the MTA or NYC Subways so I had consulted with Oldest Son when he was home the week before. I thought you got on a Subway and it just took you where you wanted to go. Apparently it does not work like this. You need a map and the map of NYC Subway system looks like some one took a bowl full of different colored spaghetti and then threw it on a map of NYC. 

Oldest Son had a iPhone App that mapped out your trip on the Spaghetti/Subway system. We had to take the "E" train towards Queens, change over to the 6 train and then get off at Hunter College which had its own stop.

This seemed easy enough. One transfer, how hard could that be, right?

Well, it took us a while but we figured out the MTA machines and we got on the E train. The only hitch was that Patrick's MTA card was a little fussy and wouldn't let him through the turnstile. While the four of us waited on the Subway side, Patrick wiped his card like a mad man until it let him through.

This would come back to haunt us later.

We rode the E train, listened for the transfer point for the number 6 and then got off the train. So far so good except we were at the south end of the platform and couldn't find the 6 train. We saw two of NYC's finest and asked them.

I guess you just expect a cop to know everything and so when they said they were trying to find it themselves, I was a little shocked. They were from Brooklyn and were peering into a smart phone to try and get directions. About that time, we all saw the signs for the 6 at the other end of the platform and headed north.

When you are that far below ground, you lose all sense of depth. I had walked down a flight of steps back in midtown so I thought we were still about 1 story down. That's why I pooh poohed the elevator when I saw a line of about 15 trying to get on it to get the 6 train. This ended up being a huge mistake.

Let's just keep walking and find a stairs, I thought. Now somewhere in here, we lost the cops, maybe it was at the elevator, I don't know.

A little further down we found a stuck escalator that an endless stream of people were pouring out of onto the E platform. There was a short black woman at the bottom headed up and she squeezed her way unto the escalator and started to make her way up. I figured she knew where she was going and so I followed her up and the rest of our field trip followed me.

We were fighting traffic and climbing at the same time and had no idea where we going since all we saw were people coming down and we never really looked up.

If we had, we would have seen something like this (except from the other direction):
Where's Your Canary

Soon the traffic coming down stopped and we could see that we weren't even half way up the tallest stuck escalator I have ever seen.

It was about here that the short black woman decided that she could not go on. The Chancellor was directly behind me and the boys behind her, all climbing for daylight. The woman stopped, I passed her and continued marching up.

This action showed a big difference between my wife and I. I kept marching up and she went into "life coach for strangers" mode. She demanded that the small tired woman "keep going" with encouragements like "You can do it". She refused to let her go back down.

Meanwhile, I looked up and nearly fainted from vertigo. There was something about the small round tunnel, the lack of Oxygen and my wife yelling "You can do it" like Rob Schneider in an Adam Sandler movie that made my head spin a bit. I fought my way to the top with our new best friend behind me. The Chancellor refused to let her stop or turn back.

Finally we made to the top. My legs were rubber and I was bent over, out of breath. All I remember saying was "what..... was..... that?". It was the stuck escalator from hell, that's what it was. I don't even remember what happened to the small black woman as we all regathered ourselves at the top.

We found the 6 without incident and found Hunter easily. We were early and so we spent some time in Central Park killing about an hour. We went back to Hunter, sat through a 45 minute presentation and then all three boys decided  "I don't like Hunter". We bailed on the tour and decided to go home.

I was greatly disappointed since a) it's cheap ($4600/year!) and b) I had climbed that stupid escalator and spent $120 bucks to get there.

Now we had to reverse the trip except now it was rush hour. Of course Patrick has somehow used both rides during his frantic swiping of the MTA card and we found ourselves in the same position with Patrick on the outside, the rest of us on the inside. Patrick was ready to jump the turnstile like it was some Jenifer Lopez movie  but I pointed to cop and made him go to the ticket window where they fixed his card and then he joined us.

The 6 train was packed but we stuck together. I was afraid I'd lose one of them in the crowd and we would get separated so I drilled them on where to go.

"OK So we get off the 6 and we get on the..... anyone... "E" We get on the E. And then we head to ? Penn Station at 34th street." They understood the gravity of being lost in NY and stuck with me.

We ended up getting on a 4:37 express train to Hamilton and we were home by 6 PM. Youngest Son made the dumplings, brought them to school the next day and no one ate them. When he told me that, I reflected back on what a total waste the day had been.

Ohh and next time, I will take a cab. Pictures Here

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Italian Government wants to know how much I have in the bank.

Oldest Son is spending next semester in Italy and on Friday he came home so that we could work on logistics. He's in a well established program that helps with details like housing and a student visa to Italy. I'm not sure that this program makes it easier or not since we had to download a huge PDF that explained in extenuating detail the process of obtaining a visa with all of its "supporting documentation".

He was preparing to get the visa on his own since his passport needed renewing and that was expected to take several weeks but we were surprised to see the passport show up on Friday. He showed up Friday night right behind it and Saturday was spent trying to figure out the arcane rules for obtaining the visa since (surprise!) all the paper work has to be in on Tuesday. My God, how I love the twitter generation.

First we had decided which Italian consulate we belonged to. Since Italy is really a set of loosely connected regions, it must assume that the rest of the world is the same way and so one can't just pick any consulate to get a visa from. They do it by geography and since we are close to Philadelphia, we are to use that consulate to get the student visa. This is good, because if we were under the LA or Washington DC consulate, we would have been unable to submit our paper work to the special visa process sponsored by his program. Instead, we would be out on our own and would have to make an appointment at the consulate and apply in person.

Next, there was a 4 page form in Italian (with subtitles) that was to be filled out out MAKING NO MISTAKES. The instructions stated that if you made a mistake you had to start over. Apparently the Italians do not like mistakes. It was four pages of hell. The boxes were to small to actually print the required information and some of it just didn't make any sense. It took him only three forms to complete it with page number three inexplicably blank.


A passport photo was to be stapled to the 4 page form from hell UNLESS you lived in San Fransisco or Miami. Then you were to glue the picture to form. I'm not making this up.

And so it went like that all Saturday morning. Do this only IF you live here or here. After I while I was looking for Allen Funt and candid camera.

One of the many "supporting documents" was to be a letter from my bank. The Italian government wanted my bank to write them a letter stating that I had a least $5,000 in the bank. Later I was thinking how bold this was since no one bothered to check to see if my great-grandparents had a dime on them when they showed up here FROM Italy. Now they want to know if I have enough money to let my son back in for 6 months.

It just doesn't seem to make sense, does it?
 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Uncle Buddy

My Mother's Uncle Buddy passed away this week. His name wasn't really Buddy since I don't think anyone has "Buddy" for a given name, but for Uncle Buddy, it fit. Uncle Buddy was real "hows yous doing" South Philly guy.

The funeral followed the time honored South Philly pattern of a viewing at Nunzio Carter's, a Mass at a neighborhood church, a burial at either Holy Cross (if the deceased could get in there) or Saints Peter and Paul and finally a luncheon at Popi's at 20th and Oregon.

So typical is this pattern that I had a friend from work following a parallel funeral along a similar path the same day.

I was a little late to the viewing and ended up at the back of the funeral procession. I would come to regret this later.

The Mass was held at Saint Monica's and Saint Monica's is one of those South Philadelphia gems that no one outside of the parish even knows is there. The interior of the church is just beautiful with it's paintings, statues and stained glass. It had been a long time since I had been in there and honestly forgotten how beautiful it was.

After the Mass came the procession from the South Philly church to suburban Burial plot. We had a line of 20 or so cars which wound it's way through the streets of South Philly, past Uncle Buddy's house and onto the Platt bridge. Once our little procession got outside of the tiny streets of South Philly, things got dicey. It was at the intersection of Penrose and Pattison that we had our first incident. We were crossing against red in the right  lane and a truck with out of state plates made the turn into Penrose and merged right on into the procession to honking and flashing lights.

He eventually merged out, but that was only the beginning of the fun. The higher expressway speeds meant that our little procession tried to keep up with one another. And keeping up at the back of the line meant rushing to catch up only to nearly run into the back of Cousin Terry.

It went like that from the Platt bridge, across I-95 by the airport and then north on the Blue Route.In the back of the line we speed up and then jammed on the brakes. Sped up, jam the brakes. Sped up, jam the brakes. We accordioned like that for nearly 8 miles.

Riding the right lane also meant that we cut off the exits of the expressways we traveled. At one point a older lady merged on to the highway right into the middle of the procession and stayed there. Cousin Terry and I frantically passed her with flashing lights and beeping horns because she clearly didn't have the same fanaticism about staying with the hearse as we did.

We broke the cardinal about "leave no man behind" when we left those three cars with the old lady between us but we didn't care because we knew that without that hearse we clearly lost our right to pass through red traffic lights and would end up being late or lost.

When we arrived at the plot, we clearly had lost some composure with all the frantic driving.

The ride back to Popi's in South Philly was less exciting with only excitement happening when cousin Joni cut across three planes of traffic to make the exit for US 1. Only know this because she did it right in front of me. At first I was a little miffed until I realized it was her.

I'm thinking that I want to be buried in Wildwood just to have last laugh about everyone making that crazy trip for two hours.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Promise

I spent my 21st Anniversary night watching The Promise on HBO.

The Chancellor had joined a group of ladies that go to the theater once a month and it just so happened the Thursday of our Anniversary was the first night of their group.

This was OK by me. I would have rather spent the night celebrating but I was looking forward to the documentary that was premiering that night. Besides, here is what we usually do.

I watched it again last night front to back. 

The documentary covers the period of January 1976 through the release of Darkness On The Edge of Town, a period where Springsteen disappeared. I had disappeared at about the same time as I went in the Navy in July of that year. Born to Run was still a big deal as I graduated high school in 76 but soon I remember thinking what ever happened to Bruce Springsteen.

Now I know.

He spent 18 months yelling "Stick! Stick! Stick!" in the studio as Max Weinberg kept hitting the drum and Bruce heard the stick.

If you're a fan, it's worth catching on HBO.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dream

Oct 7, 2010

Looking out over Philly from Citizens Bank Park last night seemed dream-like in the 3rd inning last night. Rain must have been falling over center city and the low hanging clouds made the buildings appear smeared, like you couldn't quite focus on them. Like they weren't real.

Later, I was sure it was dream. Like I didn't really see what I had just seen.

It was raining in the dream. Not hard, but just enough to be annoying.

As always, I had my camera strapped to my belt. I never go anywhere without my camera but there would be no pictures from the dream. It's always that way in dreams, your mind makes some excuse to define the reality. In this case, I had a camera and fresh batteries but had some how forgotten load a memory card. It was like I had integrated the alarm clock into the dream somehow.

By the sixth Inning it was becoming true. I may be watching a no hitter. In the payoffs. It wasn't going to be a perfect game because of a walk in fifth but there were an awful lot of zeros up there. The crowd was getting superstitious. We were loud, but no one would dare say "He's going for a no hitter".  A group of young guys a few rows ahead of us were putting a single index finger to their lips to motion "Shhhh".

By the seventh we were screaming at every strike. We were waving our little red and white helicopters and urging Roy Halladay to continue.

In the eighth we were signaling the number of outs remaining with our fingers  like they were some sort of secret passcode. Five. four then three.

In the ninth, the noise was deafening. It was primal scream therapy for 46,411. Girls were dancing and everyone was high fiving except now we were doing it with the number of outs extended on our fingers.

Two, then one.

Then there was a moment when I swore I heard 46 thousand people suck all the air in the ball park into their lungs at once. The ball was hit, it dribbled away fair Ruiz scrambled after it, slid to his knees and threw it to first.

Out.

He had done it.

This is tough to admit, but I cried a little. There was just something that struck me about the players, working together through 162 games, now participating in game number 163 and history, hugging each other.

After it was over no one wanted to leave. Groups took pictures to prove they were there. I couldn't of course because of the missing memory card, but we had a least one working camera in the crew.

I hope to get those pictures at least. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Phillies game.

I love September.

Our group of three with five seats has the final (phinal?) regular season Phillies game today vs Mets at 1:30 and of course the logistics are something out of Operation Dessert Storm. Oldest Son is taking a bus and train where I pick him up at 11:30 in Hamilton NJ, then it's back to Mt La-La to pick up the next 2 of 5 and drive to CBP where we meet the final member of our crew.

We are locked in for our tickets for the post-season now all we need is for the Phillies to lock it as well. If the Phils win and Atlanta loses, it's all over. I'm expecting to see Jim Rollins in swim goggles at some point in the next few days, hopefully that will be today. 

The Eagles are on at 4:15 and some where during all this, Oldest Son has to get back to School tonight. It sounds busy and I'm going to need a full charge on the blackberry.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

College Visits.

Yesterday was a whirlwind tour through two local Universities with Youngest son. It was a fast paced day so hang on.

The day started with me waking to the sound of the garage opening and closing and then realizing that The Chancellor had taken the Mini-Van leaving me with the ever deteriorating Aluminum Falcon to take on a hundred mile journey around the I95-I295 loop. Since the check engine light had recently popped on the Falcon, I thought better of it and this forced a meet up to exchange cars.

She was not happy and just said "we'll meet at the Wawa" which isn't very specific. When I finally woke up and was on my way I realized we are blessed with numerous Wawas here in the Mt La-La and I really need coordinates if we were going to make this work.

In her um "excited emotional condition" she just kept screaming THE WAWA. After the third cell to cell call I nailed down to the Church St Wawa where I exchanged a car with a full tank of gas for one with considerably less.

Of course I didn't notice the gas situation until we left for our circuit around the tristate area.  This forced my second Wawa stop of the day all before 9:30.

Somewhere along the way we realized that Youngest Son had not exactly signed up for the TCNJ college tour but had completed step one of five. We were coming unannounced. This of course meant that we had imprecise directions. We knew where the campus was but details beyond that eluded us. What building? Where to park? etc were questions that would be answered in hurry once we got there.

Somehow we nailed it. There were signs that you should park in lots 3 & 4 for for the "open house". So we did. Next was a game called "guess the building" since Lots 3 & 4 were adjacent to several. Nailed it again. On the first guess.

This was going to be a good day.

While we waited for the presentation to begin, we chatted it up with all of the other white suburban parents. Is this your first? blah blah blah.

About 15 minutes into the presentation a woman and her daughter joined us. If you know me, I am not derogatory towards women in any way but when this woman walked in the room, only one name popped into my head. It was a name that would be forever stuck with this woman. For the rest of the day, every time I saw her, the name popped into my head and I visibly cracked up.

That name was "Tits Mcgee".

Sorry lady. You are now Tits McGee. It happens. I'm cracking up even now at the thought of it.

Since she was late, Tits had lots of questions. Questions that should have been answered back at the presentation with some one that knew what the answers might be and not with the kid whose finest skill seemed to be the ability to walk backwards and talk at the same time.

A funny thing happens on these college tours where normally aggressive middle aged men and women become putty in the hands of some college senior and they do just about anything the college kids tells them to do. They are on his turf. He is in charge.

I think that is what happened when the entire tour ended up in the Men's room with me.

I'd had a cup of coffee while waiting for the tour to start and by time we approached the dorm visit portion, I was really feeling it. I'd seen plenty of dorms and they are all alike and my biological needs outweighed any desire to see my 50th college dorm so I asked our tour guide if there was a Men's room.

I thought this was a simple request but the security conscience colleges have turned the Men's room into a place were you need a key to get in. So off he went in search of key, except he didn't really explain to the group where he was going and what he was doing.

When he came back and opened a locked door I guess the group assumed it was the dorm room visit.

He opened the door, I went in and didn't really notice that I had a parade behind me until I got to the end my search for a urinal. I turned around and saw Youngest Son and Tits trailing behind me.

Weren't they surprised when they realized what was going on and all scurried out of there.

Next up was Temple University in Philly. It was 12:05 by the time we were seated in the car and ready to leave TCNJ and the Temple tour started at 2. We hadn't eaten yet and the logistics were further complicated by me having to stop by my office in Center City.

We had 1:55 to get to the city, park, eat, stop by the office and get to Temple.

We nailed it. Again.

The ride down I-95 was like the fast and furious but we hit no traffic. Next up was lunch so we called ahead to Shank's on 15th. We parked next to Shank's, ate and were in my office by 1:15. It was unbelievable.

We took the subway up to Temple. I think Youngest Son just loved the hustle and bustle of the trip uptown. What he really loved were the food trucks lined up on Montgomery St just off Broad.

We sat through the presentation and then decided that he needed to get to work rather than lead another set of strangers into a Men's room on tour.

The ride home was the worst part of the day. It took nearly 2 hours to get home, get him dressed for work and drop him off.

By 5 PM I was exhausted we both decided it was a very productive day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Procrastination.

Fall is here and with it the 6:30 AM screaming matches over when a High School Senior should print something required for that day have arrived.

It's a peeve of mine (not a pet peeve, just a peeve) as I spent 4 years with oldest son printing some highly required document moments before the bus arrived. These episodes would always end with the help-desk (me) performing some heroic last minute act to save the day.

Thursday morning as I was shaving, I heard the distinctive sound of the printer over the wall and screamed something like "Really? we are printing now?". It was a 89 page power point, in full color, highest resolution slowly spewing forth from the printer and spilling out onto the floor.

By the time that Youngest Son had realized that he was not printing 6 slides per page as intended, he had already printed a forest's worth. Screaming ensued. The print was canceled. It was not pretty. He recycled the paper and I helped configure what printer driver configuration had gone amuck (by looming over his shoulder and pacing in my underwear) and he started printing again only to find he was printing on the previously printed side. This left one side that looked like a Jackson Pollock painting and the other pristine and virginal. His ride came. Nothing was accomplished except some trees died in vain.

On Tuesday I helped the Chancellor pick up a "Teddy Bear X-Ray" Machine for Saturday's Community event at her Hospital. We brought it home and tested it finding that the little light in in the "X-Ray" machine didn't come on when the push button was pressed. I assumed it was because the 9-volt battery needed replacement and made a note to find one.

This of course means I did nothing until Friday night.

I happened to be in Target anyway and picked up a battery, replaced it and still the "X-Ray" machine was dark. I took the whole thing apart only to find that the "X-Ray" had no bulb. No problem, I'll fix it Saturday morning.

Saturday came and McGiever swung into action. I found a spare brake lamp for the minivan, bent a few tabs back on it and connected it to the X-Ray/Science Fair project and pressed the hand held push button. It worked. Now I had to make it tough enough for transport.  That is how I ended up splicing wire, cutting heat shrink tubing and soldering at 10 minutes before The Chancellor had to leave like someone defusing a bomb before the timer ticked to all zeros. 

The Chancellor spoke up during all this and said this reminded her of something. Something like "don't wait to the last minute to print something" something.

Gee I wonder where he gets it. In the end the X-Ray machine was used in broad daylight and the stupid thing didn't need a light because you couldn't see it anyway.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mulligan

Tuesday is a mulligan. On Monday I got up, packed a lunch and headed to a Dental appointment for an early morning follow up visit before work. Only problem? I went to the wrong office and had to then go out of my way to the right one and by time my 5 minute appointment was done, I had to head home to be on time for a conference call.

Tomorrow I shall head out in Monday's clothes with Monday's lunch.

It was a beautiful day to be home and I spent the morning on conference calls watching out the window as the neighbors Irish Setter had his lunch money stolen by a couple of squirrels. They were just messing with him. They would run on the edge of the fence and then jump into one of the two trees and the setter would wait, head up, looking into the tree for as long as his little doggie brain would allow. Then he would get distracted for a minute (which isn't hard if you are an Irish Setter) and the squirrel would dart to the next tree across the yard.

You could almost hear them laughing.

If he had underwear, the squirrels would have it up over is head. 

Yesterday was spent at the Eagles game with Gail, Mr C and Gail's brother. Mr C had four seats and two of three kids in college so he was looking for friends to fill up seats and I was more than happy to oblige.

I was hoping for a win but Mr C tempted fate by buddying up with some Packer fans during tail gating time.

It was not a good game to at the game because there were a lot of injuries and you don't get a lot of information sitting in the stands. For example I had no idea Kolb had a concussion until Vick showed up in the second half.

We knew that Stewart Bradley had been taken out because it was becoming a joke in the stands that every time someone went off the field it was "Stewart Bradley". We also knew about the Leonard Weaver injury because they actually showed the  fullback's knee injury on the big screen and the entire crowd ewwwed at once.

I heard the ewwww but missed seeing the brutal replay because I was juggling a beer, crab fries with cheese sauce on the side and chicken cutlets with buffalo sauce while sitting in the stands. Well, sitting and then getting up for people to walk by and then sitting again.  I had opened the container of "buffalo sauce" and it was as if the crew of the Deep Water Horizon hadn't pumped enough concrete into the well. Redish oil squirted through the cardboard beverage holder in my hands and onto my shoes. It left a permanent stain on the concrete and it just kept coming. Some how I kept it from getting completely out of control and ate it all with out getting any on me (beside the shoes) so you'll forgive me if I missed a replay.

Given the situation it was amazing I only got it on my shoes.

The chicken and crab fries were from the Chickie and Pete's concession. Gail's brother, Gail and I went and we each got in different adjacent lines. When I got my order I looked over at Gail and she was 4 people back in a line with no vendor. The girl manning Gail's line had simply closed her register and walked away. She said she was going to the bathroom and would be back. That was ten minutes ago and now the natives were getting restless. I was waiting there for Gail so I started asking if there was a manager. That, and all the angry townspeople were enough for a hero to step up and start taking orders for crab fries and beer.

It was testy there for a bit.

The Chickie and Pete's was actually my second night in a row of eating dare-deviling in confined quarters. On Saturday, my parents, my brother and his wife and my mother's Augustian Priest cousin all went to dinner at a South Philly "red gravy" Italian restaurant.

I wore a white button down long sleeve shirt. It was as if I was saying "bring it on".

I came out unscathed at both events.

Pictures here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Rhythm and Grill

I still have an overwhelming desire to buy ice.

It's hard to shake it off after spending a week at the beach. You get into a rhythm, a structure, a routine very quickly. Get up. Ride the bike. Find an obscure Breakfast place. Shower. Get Ice for the cooler. Put up the tent. Go to the beach. Pack up and leave from the beach. Ice Cold beverage. With Lime. Maybe two. Shower. Occasional 5 PM tipsy shave. Eat snacks. Make Diner. Boardwalk. Acquire. Repeat.

I'm easing back into my regular routine. We came home yesterday and unpacked. The house looked great thanks to my friend John and family who stayed here. It was swept and cleaned and the fridge was so clean I could have sworn some one stole out ours and replaced it.

I've also had a bad string of luck with gas grills over the past 3 days. One of the many outstanding features of the home we stayed in was the gas grill . In Ocean City, gas grills are as rare Hurricanes that actually strike the shore.

This is for a good reason. The houses are very close to one another and there is always a breeze so if one house catches fire, they pretty much will all go. So unless you have a very large patio, you can't have a grill.

I love grilling and was looking forward to grilling - a lot.

On Tuesday, I grilled hotdogs as a dry run. No problem, the grill worked fine. The secret to good grilling is knowing your equipment. This one had only three burners but the were new and even. This was good. No hot spots. No noticeable issues.Ready to go or so I thought.

So Tuesday night I came out, preheated grill and went inside just like every elementary school fire safety movie tells you not to. I had to prepare the chicken, right?

Not ten minutes into chicken prep and my niece yelled "The grill is on fire" from downstairs.

I raced downstairs and sure enough, flames were visible below the grill and black smoke was pouring out the top, attracting the attention of everyone one on the boardwalk. The thing about having the nicest house on the boards is you don't want to mess up. It's very noticeable.

I reached under and shut the gas and the neighbor came over with the kitchen extinguisher. I held the extinguisher and waited, watching fire decrease. I kept the lid shut and was happy I didn't have to shove the grill into the pool or use the extinguisher. 

The fire was out and we found that a summers worth of debris had built up in the tray below the grill and caught fire. We cleaned that up, re-lit the grill and found it was out of gas.

There would be no further Ocean City Grilling and I had narrowly avoided becoming the "Mrs O'leary" of Ocean City.

Last night we decided to have grilled mesquite shrimp and so I lit the grill to preheat it while preparing shrimp kabobs. Everything was moving along fine when I came out the grill with the kabobs. I noticed the flame was a bit low but threw the kabobs on anyway. They sizzled and I was delighted.

Then the gas ran out.

No Problem, I had a back up.

For years I had gone with a single tank and when it ran out, it forced a trip to refresh it and disappointment. Now I had a spare and it was simply a matter of replacing the empty with the spare because I had filled both last time.

Or so I thought. I lifted the spare only to find it too was empty. Unbelievable. In four days I had seen the end of three 20 lb propane cylinders. I'm still not sure what happened to the spare but this meant I was forced to use the broiler, again.

Now I;m sure I had filled both tanks at the same time and never switched tanks. I was sure the other tank was ready to go, so sure in fact that I suspected foul play. Who stole my gas? Maybe the tank leaked? Leaked 20 lbs of gas? I doubt it.

I filled both tanks today and was determined to solve this mystery. When I came home with the freshly filled tanks I had an idea. Why not put the tanks underwater and see if they leak?

Really. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wouldn't Archimedes been proud of me when I tied a line to the first tank, put it in the pool and watched it float away.  I had expected it would sink like a stone but it made sense after seeing it float away that it was mostly compressed gas in a metal tank and therefore less dense than water.

It also did not leak so I have a mystery.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

And a wake up.

Another Ocean City vacation is in the books and this one was punctuated by Earl, the Hurricane that couldn't close the deal. Not that I would want to actually see a Hurricane hit Ocean City but there is a certain sense of disappointment when something takes a week to get here and then is "Just a bit outside" like a Ricky Vaughn Fastball.

Earl did make for some drama on the beach Thursday and Friday with high tide. By high tide at 4 on Friday the water was up to the dunes. Other than that, it was hard to tell this wasn't just a passing shower.
 

This house is beautiful. Boardwalk front, pool, ocean view out the front window. I spent the week yelling "Looking Good Billy Ray" to who ever was on the top deck. Like this:



But the house had a lot of flies. They were everywhere. I had 3 confirmed kills including the one handed to me when the fly came in the shower and I simply directed him into the water stream. I'm sure the gawkers on the boardwalk were not saying "It's a beautiful but I'll bet there are flies" but that is what I'll be thinking from now on when I see a lovely shore house.

And now it's time to go home. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Houston, we have a problem

My In laws and I are all in IT and being on vacation this means that we brought more technology with us than actually landed on the moon in 1969. I personally have a one to one relationship between people in my immediate family and laptops at the shore.

The house we are staying in is well appointed for Ocean City rental standards technology wise. It has a nice older 42 inch LCD panel hanging on the wall with one major short coming: The HDMI is video only and therefore you need to run a second audio line to be able to see and hear content.

Being In IT, this means that we have to watch movies from the laptops onto the big screen. This ends up being one of those things that sounds like a good idea but becomes complicated quickly while the old people stare at us bewildered.

Attempt 1. Sunday Night.
The Goal: Watch Avatar blu-ray on the big screen from Uncle Rick's brand new HP laptop.

Rick has an HDMI output on the new laptop  and so he thought it would be a simple as connecting the HDMI to the big screen, redirecting the output and off we would go. We connected the HDMI no problem but couldn't get anything to show there and after and hour of fiddling determine the TV end of the HDMI did not go all the in so reseating it fixed it. Then Rick would try to switch to the HDMI out while the movie was playing only to be foiled by Windows 7. It would not let him output the signal in any reasonable HD format and we had no audio.

Outcome: Fail
The Lesson: Microsoft Sucks.

Attempt 2: Monday Night
The Goal: Watch Iron Man from The Chancellors laptop from the 1.5 TB external drive with MPEG movie files.

This went a little better but we had to fool with the HDMI cable again for some unknown reason. The biggest obstacle continued to be the audio but we came up with a rather novel solution. It was Rick that said hey can we use the Boom Box some how? and then we laid out an assortment of cables and connectors that the roadies for Pink Floyd would have been proud of and starting working.

It was like that scene from Apollo 13 where the Engineers in Houston have to make "one of these from one of those" using these parts.

When I saw the FM transmitter I knew had this licked.

Outcome: Success! Laptop with external drive and HDMI out for Video. FM transmitter connected to the laptop broadcasting 10 mw at 88.1 MHz to the BoomBox FM receiver.
The Lesson: Those FM transmitter thingees work great at the shore.



Attempt 3: Tuesday Night
The Goal: Watch the Niece's iTunes Rented copy of "The Last Song"
The Niece's laptop has no HDMI out and therefore has no connection to the big screen. We copied the movie onto the 1.5 TB external hard drive and imported into iTunes but were foiled by iTunes. We tried everything to authorize The Chancellor's laptop to view the rented copy of "The Last Song". Finally I simply gave up and re-rented and downloading it on The Chancellor's laptop.
Outcome: Success using the now patented FM transmitter method.
The Lesson: DRM Sucks.


God only knows what tonight might bring but I know it won't be as simple as popping a DVD in and watching it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Looking Good Billy Ray

We are having a last summer fling with the The Chancellor's Family and we are back in Ocean City. We have considerably upgraded accommodations compared to last time with a beach/boardwalk/pool view out the front deck compared to a view of the Wawa last time around.

It's an incredible house with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths and it shares a pool with the attached duplex next door.

I can not begin to describe the fun of watching people pass in the boardwalk and just gawk at the pool and house. I feel like a rapper. Call me Alpa Chino.

I've had the final scene of Trading Places stuck in my head for a while now and am intent on teaching my Mother-in-law the proper response to "Looking good Billy Ray" so that when I yell it from the boardwalk she will respond "Feeling Good Louis". She hasn't gotten it down quite yet but maybe that's because she is 80 and has no idea what I am talking about.  I'll keep at it.

You would think that after six straight years of coming to Ocean City the summers for a week or so that I would have packing down to a science but no, we started a list for Oldest son who came down 24 hours after us almost immediately after arriving.

Another week down the shore means another week of beach tags. If I'd have thought about it, I would have bought seasonal beach tags back in July since I knew then that we would be back down for another week but there I was buying badges with a big 12 on them 6 weeks after I bought badges with a big 6 on them.

The Chancellor has clear disdain for beach badges and makes sport of evading the teenagers assigned to check badges at the beach entrances. She uses the Jedi Mind Trick on the weak minded fools and has an ready number of reasons why she doesn't have a beach badge on the tip of her tongue. Her newest excuse from her repitore is to point to the beach front house and say "they came with the house but we don't want to lose them". The weak minded fools don't even realize this is final week for badges. Who would care if you lost them now?

I was thinking that I should buy the Kids T-shirts that say "Ocean City Land Patrol" and position them on the opposite side of the boardwalk from the beach badge checking teenagers. I'd have the kids ask people getting off the beach if they have a "Land Badge" and charge them 10 bucks a week for one if they didn't.

I think it would work.

The Chancellor's oldest sister is the complete opposite when it comes to the beach badges. She makes sure her beach badges is purchased on time and is prominently displayed. She prepares at the house before heading out. 

The weather seems to follow us to Ocean City as well. Today and the rest of the week should be in the 90's so we are looking forward to that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crappy Weekend

Really crappy weekend.

I woke up Saturday to dead home file server. Dead. Power button did nothing, dead dead dead. Nothing much on there, just every document we own, all the digital pictures, home web server etc etc. I have nightly backups of course (insert Foghorn leghorn here saying "Fortunately I keep ma feathers numbered for such an occasion"). Still it's a mess. It's the DHCP server, DNS Primary, NTP, etc etc for the family network.

What? You don't have a family fileserver? How do you live?

While I had data backups, I didn't back up all the Linux config files on the root partition and so I was making things up as I went along creating new DHCP config files, DNS etc etc. I think I finally have things stabilized but what a mess.

About 3 hours into the disaster recover The Chancellor asked "What do other people do?". She was talking about IT at home. Well they don't have a Linux file sever that's for sure. 

I spent most of the rest of the day replacing light switches in the newly painted areas of the house. I replaced 12 switches and 6 outlets including every three way switch in the house. I have a degree in electrical engineering and yet find the wiring for a 3 way switch perplexing. What is with that red wire? I installed them all right and then discovered I had installed one of the new light up 3 way switches in the wrong place. Of course when I replaced it I hooked something up wrong and found myself making a truth table for the switch positions and results. I narrowed it down to one of switches and took that apart tonight. It looked right so I took apart the other one and it looked right too.

I was perplexed. The commons were where the commons should be and the travelers were where the travelers should be.Red, White and Black were all in the right places.

Finally I figured that the stupid wire taps in the back must be disconnected and moved all those connections to the screw terminals on the sides and everything worked.This of course was after an hour of head scratching and watching Youtube videos about 3 way switching.


And why do they make those stupid taps in the back so hard to disconnect? There is that teeny tiny slot that a screw drive allegedly fits into except no screw driver I own ever fits in that narrow little slot and I end up splitting the switch apart. Every. Single. Time.

Saturday was spent relaxing watching TV. "2012" was on Starz and it had me hooked - for a while. I was Ok with the amateur pilot that twice took off in a two engine plane while runways disintegrated below him. I was Ok when this same knuckle head co piloted a Russian Anatov An-225 off yet another disintegrating runway. I was Ok when the Earth shifted under the Anatov and our heroes ended up miles from their destination instead of crash landing in the ocean thousands of miles away and out of fuel. I was Ok When Airforce one flew from Washington DC to China in 10 hours.

Where I drew the line was flying Giraffes. I literally flipped out at the TV when I saw large wild animals strapped to helicopters, moving to the escaping space ships in the frigid Chinese mountains.

Flying Elephants and Giraffes? Really? I changed the channel and never looked back. I couldn't take it.

It just went that way all weekend long all the way through Monday morning when I poured my morning juice. I took the juice out of the fridge, shook it and discovered the cap was loose. I decided to pour a cup and then clean up the mess on the floor.

When I stood up with the wet paper towels still in my hand after cleaning the floor, I discovered the plastic cup I had poured juice into had a hole on the side at the bottom and had leaked juice all over the counter.

Perfect.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jerseys

IMG_5442:Eagles Preseason - JerseysInvited to the Eagle's Preseason opener this year, I had a problem. I just couldn't put on my faithful #5 jersey now that McNabb had been traded to the Redskins and I only owned the one jersey. I guess I could have squeezed into the Chancellor's large child's sized #10 Jackson, but that seemed silly.

What to do?

The casual collared shirt I wore to work was sort of green and so I opted for the "I just came from work" look. First, it was true, sort of and second it's preseason so who really cares.

At the game I could help but notice the drop off in McNabb jerseys. I guess that is obvious when an over shadowing personality like that leaves the team that his jersey decreases in popularity. But the fact that no one wants to wear his jersey any more but it was kind of sad to see.

A few years ago I noticed that in the sea of jerseys in the stands a #20 Dawkins was most popular , McNabb second and #36 Westbrook being third were roughly the top 3. None of those three men are with the team any more but it was funny to see that Dawkins and Westbrook had not suffered the same drop off the precipice that #5 had. People still wear their #20 and #36 jerseys and are respected for it. Wear a McNabb and you are likely to be hounded about it.

You might be hounded by your friends but wear a Redskins McNabb and it's a different story. We had one seated in the front of the section next us and he instilled rage in the crowd everytime he got up. Chants of the all too familiar a--hole, a--hole, a--hole followed him everywere he went.

Ironically the guy looked a lot like Mike Vick.

I'm not making this up.

I also saw people that were creative about what to with their old McNabb jerseys. In addition to the taped up one at the top, I saw one that was inside out.

When I chose a jersey, I did so with longevity in mind because no one wants to be that guy in the Takeo Spikes ridiculous Swedish flag colored throwback jersey or the owner of a "I was a turnstile: Sean Considine #37". I thought I'd pick a guy that's going to be there a long time like #5. They'd never trade him, right? The thing would wear out before I had to park it in the back of the closet. Wrong.

So I'm trying to determine my next jersey move and may have come up with a solution: The throwback jersey. It's brilliant since they are never going to cut #12 Cunningham or #99 Jerome Brown.

My other option is hold onto my #5 until it becomes a throwback.

Pictures here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday the 13th

Thanks to Mr C I got to see Kevin Kolb and the youth movement Eagles, well sort of. I did get to see Kolb play but not as long as I had intended. Allow me to explain, it's a good news, bad news, good news, bad news good news again story.

Mr C invited me to the Eagles game Friday via email and after checking with the Chancellor, gladly accepted. Thanks to the McNabb trade, I no longer have a viable Eagles Jersey but that's a different story. Plans were made and we met at his house along with another friend at 6. Aunt Tina thought briefly about taking the last ticket but in the end decided that she had other plans so there was an extra ticket. I'm blaming her for what happened next.

We left for the 7:30 game at around 6:30.

Ten minutes into our ride, Oldest Son texted me and asked if there was an extra ticket. We talked and told him yes there is but we already left so if you can make it to the stadium, you can go. He said he would go and meet us there while I had a sense of "this is going to end badly". I thought that if wanted to go, then that's a win-win. He gets to go and the ticket isn't wasted.

Ironically, Mr C had called him at our home earlier in the day looking for me. I didn't know Oldest Son was home and Mr C didn't think he would be interested in the game so neither invited him. In retrospect that was a mistake. 

By 7 we were tailgating a bit and waiting for Oldest Son.

For the 2 of you out there that have never seen preseason NFL "action" it may be good to discuss what happens there. Typically the starters, the guys that are going to be the opening day, team play for about a quarter and then they are replaced by the backups and then finally those backups are replaced by the scrubs struggling to make the team. If you want to see how your team is going to be this year, get there early.


I had. Well, I was close. I was right there outside the Stadium.

Curious for an update I called him and found out he was looking for a car. This may seem odd but he didn't want to take the van and Youngest Son had taken the Aluminum Falcon to work at the local water park. So in order to take the AF, he had to find it so he and the Chancellor were scouring the parking lot looking for it. This seemed odd since it wasn't exactly Disneyworld's parking lot.

Mr C and Friend head into the Linc while I wait at the corner of Darien and Pattison. 

How hard could it be to find a car in a small parking lot? Actually it's pretty hard if you are looking the wrong parking lot. That's right. I seemed to know but they didn't that Youngest Son parks in the adjacent Hotel for ease of entry and exit. When I told him this on the second call, I heard "Oh there it is". Time Check? 7:07.

Now I know this is going to end badly.

Next call is at 7:29. I ask for a location and am surprised to hear he is at Front and Packer Ave. I start thinking that hings are looking up and we are back to good news. He'll just park and we'll be on our way. How hard could that be?

I hear a cheer from the stadium and figure something good must have happened. At 7:39 I call him again and find out how hard parking can be. He tried to park and then found out he only had 18 dollars and change he found under the seat. The tried begging to be let in for $18.75 with no success.

At this point it was time for and intervention. Luckily I have cash or I could have ended up begging for two dollars on the street. I told him to make his way towards me and figured he was coming down Pattison since he was last reported in that direction. I'm making my way down Pattison when he calls and says he is headed down Darien and I head over to Darien only to see him drive through the intersection on Pattison. He keeps going.

I call one more time to tell him to turn around at 7:42. He does, finds me and I get in. Now we still have to park and the only nearby lot is $25. Guess who has $25?

It takes 10 minutes to park, 5 minutes to walkup and get frisked and we are finally seated towards the end of the 1st quarter. I saw maybe half a dozen Kolb plays including Jackson's end around and the exciting SECOND Acker's kick.

At the end of the 1st Quarter I had to use the Men's room and headed up. While in the Men's room Merrill Reese announced a Vick to Cooper bomb that I caught on replay in concourse. It was that kind of night.

In the end, I was glad that my son came to the game and we enjoyed it. It was tough missing that first quarter but that's life on Friday the 13th.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

TS Oldest Son

Late Summer, early Sunday morning. The coffee is brewing after a wake the dead grinding session. It's wonder the rest of the family doesn't push for me to drink tea. The summer mornings are starting to have that September feel to them with a damp chill that evaporates quickly in the summer sun as the morning burns on.

TS Colin is wandering the Atlantic like a petulant teenager.  I love the words used by  NOAA to describe it: disorganized, meandering and "moving slowly". That's a teenager, right? The best is when NOAA announced "...COLIN MOVING LITTLE...HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT APPROACHING TO INVESTIGATE..." it was like a parent asking "What the hell is he doing up there? don't make me come up there".
On Thursday night TS "Oldest son" blew into town. I sent my hunter aircraft out via text to find out his plans. Yes he was in town, yes he was staying the night, yes... and then an expletive came out of his mouth along with "You shut the car off?, why did you do that?" then there was jostling and background noise.

The person he had gotten a ride from had car troubles of some kind and now he was asking if I could play the role of AAA because they had a dead battery at the local Wawa. Then he said "Ohh we can just push it and start it that way?" and the line went dead.

This happens a lot with oldest son. The template is:
1. We get a call explaining some dire emergency.
2. He is interrupted during the call with an ambiguous alternative solution.
3. He calls us back asking where are we and are we coming.

We were up to step 3.

I called him back after 20 minutes and sure enough he was sitting at the Wawa expecting a jump.

He was home on this Thursday to pick up his girlfriend from JFK airport at 5 AM Friday with her car. It's about 100 miles to JFK from Mount La-La and he was planning to run a few things to his apartment in Newark first so a 1:30 AM wake up was planned.

I awoke at 3:45 AM to expletives and the front storm door slamming shut. We ran down to see what was going on and found him throwing carpets (and the trip to Newark) out of the car while we watched in our underwear from the porch.

I'm sure there is a Bruce Springsteen song in there somewhere with slamming storm doors, carpets flying, parents in night clothes on porch and the cool before dawn. Somehow, I had awoken to be the Parent in some twisted version of Thunder Road.

We tried to get him settled because this was a recipe for disaster: angry and fast driving for 2 hours.

After a few minutes, he was OK and asking what gas stations were open now while I was thinking what a waste of time Boy Scouts was.

Finally he was off and we never heard from him through official sanctioned channels again until he showed back up Saturday with girlfriend to sit by the pool. Fortunately he told the "twitterverse" that he made it to JFK by 5:30 AM. I did the math in my head and that worked out to 60 MPH average. I recalled that the NJ Turnpike is patrolled by officers Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles at that time of day but still realized that it meant he was driving like a mad man.  Like I didn't have enough to worry about. 

I've also started using foursquare where I learned that he was at a diner later that Friday. I'm not a father, I'm the freaking FBI.

His brother started working as a lifeguard this week and last night made his first "save". A youngest had fallen between lily pads at the waterpark where he is working. He did everything right but as he is telling me the story, the I'm thinking the kid is a plant of some kind because I found out his friend rescued the same kid later that night.

Coffee is done.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

100 % employment rate

Youngest son has entered the workforce. Well if wearing flip-flops is considered part of the workforce. He is a lifeguard at a water park in local hotel.

What this means is that despite 9.5% unemployment, my little corner of the world is 100% employed at this point. I'm working, the Chancellor has hours, Oldest Son has his job at college and now Youngest son is a lifeguard.

It's not exactly like being a beach lifeguard as far as I can tell. Mr C's middle child worked there a while ago and reported that the deepest water is 4 feet deep. He said it's more likely you would say "Yo, Bro, Stand up" then have to give mouth to mouth.

An unintended consequence of youngest son getting a job is that cutting the grass falls back to me now. Seven years ago oldest son took over lawn duties and when he went off to college, his younger brother took over from him.

Now it's back on me.

He just started the job and sometime next week I should get a "Family Working" day where each of us puts in at least 8 hours somewhere. Oh what a glorious day that will be.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lead with trump.

Why are these people so unhappy looking?

In a word, Pinochle.

They were on the losing end of the great Pinochle controversy of 2010.

It had started simply enough with a friendly game of Pinochle. It was a game we had learned from two places: I had learned the game on scout trips and the E sisters had learned from their father. We had taught Mr C over the years and had friendly games down the shore.

Until this year.

On Tuesday of this vacation, the teams were determined randomly by tossing aces. The first two aces that came up determined who were partners. Aunt Tina and Mr C were selected as partners by the fates. The fates also handed them crappy cards for the first game and they lost. Lost big.

Well, it wasn't so much that they got crappy cards as much as they got semi-crappy cards but had bad seats.

We play single auction bid Pinochle and so each player gets a shot at out bidding the previous player to determine trump. Mr C had some good hands but was always out bid by the person following him, namely me.

This had gone on the entire first game. Mr C would have a shot a good hand, bid fairly high and I would out bid him.

Now, it's worth a short discussion about rules for Pinochle at this point. The words above "Single Auction Bid" make it sound like there were strict written rules we all knew and followed. In reality, there weren't any. Well, not in the sense that you could look them up anywhere. The E sisters had learned from their now deceased father and I had learned from Scout Master John. Scout Master John didn't make this particular "camping" trip. Between these two historical and yet invisible Pinochle pillars we had formed a common set of rules that we were all happy with..

One such common rule was "You had to lead with trump". This was usually not big deal. If you had won the bid, you did so knowing that you would need to lead with a trump card, usually the Ace as to win the hand.

We always played this way.

So we started game two and in the first hand, I got stuck with the bid and we barely made the required amount of points to not go negative.

This brought is to the second hand of the now very competitive second game. Aunt Tina dealt, My partner passed and we were back in our old situation with Mr C bidding a 27. I had a run in diamonds which would only be of value if I won the bid and based on his bid I guessed the Mr C was in the same position. He, OR HIS TEAM, had to win the bid and name trump.

I bid 28, thinking that it was very unlikely that Aunt Tina, who had the final bid, also had a run.

Wasn't I shocked when she bid 29. I thought she had a run as well and then said she was going to guess at Mr C's trump which she guessed correctly at spades.

Then came the fateful words from Aunt Tina, "I may have reneged"

Aunt Tina, you see had named trump as spades but the reason for the correct guess was that she had no spades.

She had selected a trump that she had none of but because she won the bid and not Mr C, she had to start the hand.

This is where it all came unglued. Aunt Tina couldn't follow the rule "You must lead with trump".

So it was off to the Internet and the ever malleable wikipedia where we found the rules to be that "some play that you must lead trump". In our case "some" meant the girls deceased father and Scout Master John.
Both sides dug in. We argued that we always play with the rule "You must lead trump" and they were revising history by saying "only if you have it", which to my knowledge had never come up before. It sounded to me like they were mixing two rules, one where if trump is lead, you must follow with trump that beats the trump and the now famous "You must lead with trump" rule. 

In short,  without an impromptu scout camping trip or a seance I'm not sure we were going to settle this.

I suggested that we determine the rule for going forward but pretend that this hand never happened and start the deal over for this hand. At first they didn't want to hear this but after going around in argumentative circles for a half hour, they huddled and determined that "they were taking the high road".

We would play that you had to lead with trump from here on and start this hand over.

We had settled it, well, sort of, because the game never continued. My partner got a phone call from her spouse that lasted over an hour and the game never continued again.

It was a very anti-climatic ending to the great Pinochle controversy of 2010 but if it ever comes up again, YOU MUST LEAD WITH TRUMP.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aunt Tina's Traveling Beach Circus by the numbers

8 - Pounds of Chicken on Wednesday Night.
6 - Pounds of Pasta Thursday Night.
16 - Boxes of Mac and Cheese consumed.
34  30 - Dollars won by John W at 31 on Thursday Night.
5 - Athletic looking non-Caucasians beaten at beach football by the boys.
72 - Miles ridden on the bike
40+ - Residents and guests over the week between two houses.
1 - Zim
427 - Pictures taken by me.
4 - Lbs gained by eating ice cream, greasy foods and hoagiefest.
1 - Time someone actually played Gail's washer game at the beach.
1 - Time someone left the washer game at the beach.
1 - Note from the neighbors about parking.
7 - "Jersey Shore" Pinnies purchased.
2 - "Jersey Shore" Pinnies that will never be worn again.
190 - Meatballs made by Aunt Tina Thursday Night
402 - Different songs played on my iPod between 2 PM 7/17 and 10 AM 7/24.
8 - Times "Le Freak" by Chic was played.
0 - Times the Craley's moved their van in a week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

As them sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams

It's 8 am on Thursday of the 4th annual Aunt Tina's beach circus. The wind is howling like we were having a Nor'easter but I'm sure that it is only because the circus is sleeping and there are no other noises. Well, no other noises except the sounds of two strangers snoring on the pull-out sofa.  I'm guessing they went to bed at 5 AM. That's not good since folks will be up soon and keeping it quiet will not be a priority for them

We have a very free invite policy here at the circus and the all kids all invite their friends for a short stay. With two condos and 8 permanent kids that makes for a lot of in and out especially now that all their friends drive. My guess is that each kid has had 2.5 FN (Friend Nights) each which makes for an army of kids.

Last night was my turn at making dinner for this ever changing army.

I made two 8 packs of 1/2 pound chicken breasts, a dozen ears of corn, 3 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese and the Chancellor added a Fresh Tomato Salad. Aunt Tina baked  2 packages of Tater-tots downstairs in the auxiliary kitchen. It was finally enough food.

The constant flux of people makes it nearly impossible to plan a meal for this army. You just make all you can make at one time and hope for the best. Two nights ago we ran a little short when one of the pork loins had gone bad and the pulled pork didn't quite pull. We should have set up a chow line and portion controlled because oldest son and girlfriend woke up late for dinner and missed out on a lot of items.

Making enough Mac and Cheese has been challenging. We've made dinner three nights now and the boxes of Mac and Cheese have been, in order, 4,2 and finally the sweet spot of three. You would think that after four years we would have this down to a science but we learn a little something every year.

Last night I could have sworn we were going to run out of food because it seemed like the kids were picking people off the street to come and eat. There were a couple of new faces at dinner that I haven't seen since. Maybe they were homeless. Some of them were huge boys too. We had so many of them that last night I walked out on the beach to take some night photos and while walking back towards the boards, I passed some huge kid that I know had dinner at my house but did not acknowledge me heading to the beach with some cutie.

When I got back on the boards, our kids were there and I asked about the big kid. They said that he was at dinner and now went to the beach "to make a phone call". I'm guessing that's some sort of new euphemism for getting lucky because I saw plenty of people making phones on the boardwalk. Maybe it's a reception thing.

I think we are done with big meals for the week. From here on out, it's leftovers, Wawa and dinners out.

On Wednesday I discovered the farmers market and spent about $25 on glorious peaches, plums, corn on the cob and fixings for the tomato salad. We've been coming here for years and we never found this before? How can that be? One year we lived practically across the street. Maybe it's new?

The game didn't make it's debut until Tuesday for some reason but has since been a huge hit especially with the new guests. They must have loved it because 6 of them stayed up until dawn playing the game.Pinochle is another story and deserves it's very own blog with the great pinochle controversy of 2010. 

Beers ConsumedBeer consumption has reached normal levels again after peaking with a rather lenient college-aged policy which has since been rescinded. We're back to "don't ask, don't tell" or "not in my (rental) house". It was a little tense there as I found myself on Monday morning reconstructing 30 packs like a 747 that had been blown up over the Atlantic. I felt a little like Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny. The strawberries, that's where I had them.

Two days and Two nights left and we are already missing it.  Pictures here

Monday, July 19, 2010

Aunt Tina's Traveling Beach Circus Part 1.

Wow. Hazy, Hot and Humid. I did not see this coming. In July. But it's beach circus week so I'll take what I can get.

This is the 4th annual beach circus and we have two of three condos in the same building , units B & D. For once we are together but God help whoever is unit C.

We are a little far from the beach but we are close to the Wawa. In fact we are across the street from the Wawa and after having closely examined the Wawa for the past two days I can tell you that nothing is busier than a Wawa down the shore. Nothing. Not an ATM at the Mall at Christmas. Not the Exterminator at Ivy Hill Apartments. Nothing is busier. All. Day.

This is good and bad. It's good in that I literally rolled out of bed, put on pants and bought coffee. (By Thursday I may just go without Pants. Vacation is like that.).  It's bad in that we wouldn't dare get in the car and drive to Super Fresh on 8th for Ketchup but instead will pay what ever Drug-Dealer pricing Wawa is charging for a tineeey tiny bottle of Ketchup.

If the Wawa is the busiest place on the planet, then the coffee station in the Wawa is the busiest place is the busiest place in the busiest place. Tomorrow I may just walk in and get coffee and walk out without paying, like I live there or something. Not having pants may draw too much attention so I may have to pay on Thursday. 

In fact, I like this whole neighborhood for it's convenience. If I walk out the door and turn left instead of right, there is a CVS so I have a choice of places to go for ice. There is also the remnants of a corner market that I'm sure was much larger before the Wawa came to the corner like Darth Vader ("Pray I don't alter the deal further") and the "Internet Cafe and Coffee" next to us.

The Internet Cafe is interesting because they offer a service that most people are getting for free from their stupid neighbor that can't configure a wireless router at the shore (look for "linksys", there are hundreds of them in your wireless SSID list) and a product that Wawa has cheaper and faster with better parking. It's a ghost town in there and it's got to be some sort of Mafia Front. My Youngest suggested we go in and say that Vinnie the Chin said we should ask for the "special" menu and see what happens.

Next to the Wawa is Piccini's restaurant. Apparently Piccini is an Italian word that means "wait out front 'till we call you". 

We have the top floor in the building. It appears to be new and nicely appointed.... at first. Then you notice little things. There are no trash cans in the rooms or bath rooms. The kitchen tools are dollar store quality. I sat in a deck chair that couldn't hold any adult sized person without deforming. There are no lids for the pots but we have two dishwashers.
Here is how Mac and Cheese was made last night sans lid. Ohh and when I went to stir the Mac and Cheese, the first spoon had the handle break off in the pasta and the second deformed like it was made out of rubber or it was a prop on a movie set. 

I ended up mixing Mac and Cheese with a spatula, just like they do in Wildwood.

But I'm used to this because when I was a kid if a Wildwood vacation rental  had a  "good bread knife" it was considered livable. Eventually we figured out that bringing a "good bread knife" was a precaution worth taking but here in OC we had expected more. Thank God I brought pre-sliced bagels because I can't even begin to imagine what a horror cutting bagels with a bendy knife would be like.

This place is so bad, it actually has a microwave worse that the MW 8998B. This one has no numbers!

I'm guessing it was a prototype of the MW 8998B.

Pictures so far are here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Heat Wave

It's been hot here. Earlier in the week It seemed like the trees were going to explode and I felt like Bill Compton out in daylight.

It was so hot I think the weather station freaked out a little bit. If you have a weather station, these are the days you want to see accurate readings from. Record heat brings this sort of thing out in weather guy. As I watched the results on Tuesday, they were looking good until about noon when they went off the charts. Comparing my results with other local stations, I was off by nearly four degrees. This is not good. I have to find a better spot for the device.

This is what you do when you have a weather station, you compare the results with other weather stations.

Having the pool has been great this time of year of course and on Tuesday I came home and couldn't find a spot in front of the house because so many of Youngest Son's friends were here. That is how it goes with a pool. Get used to washing towels and making hamburgers for 15.

Later that night we had a crisis with oldest son and his living arrangements back at school were he is spending the summer because of his job. I won't go into details here but we spent a lot of time on the phone. Well, we tried to spend a lot of time on the phone. The Chancellor would be talking to him fine and then everytime I got on the phone, the call dropped. Then I spent an hour or so trying to call him back. Sometimes my phone would flip out sometimes he would answer but couldn't hear me. I'm guessing it was all heat related.

I ended up driving up there the next night and took Youngest son with me. I "let" him drive since I was exhausted and so he drove the whole way up the turnpike and into Newark. He did great. He drove home too since 11:30 PM is the middle of his summertime day. He sleeps till noon and stays up all night. It's like he has his own timezone, call it YSST. Youngest Son Summer Time timezone.

Being up in Newark at the giant hot apartment complex reminded me why Newark had riots long ago in the summertime. That heat is unbearable and without AC there is nowhere to go. Eventually I'd riot too.

The heat is bringing a new dilemma: Leaves in the pool. The heat has stressed the maple in my neighbors yard to the point where it looks like a weeping willow. It's not a weeping willow, it's a really sad maple and it's dropping leaves for survival.

I realized a tree under stress does the same thing as a large corporation under stress. It starts dumping resources to survive. The results are the same except "good" leaves don't decide to leave and head to another tree because "bad" ones got laid off.

The Chancellor hates leaves in the pool.  The first thing she does every morning is to wake up and survey her Chancellerdom from the bedroom window. If there is a leaf in the pool, I usually hear:

"Uhhgh! There's a leaf in the pool!"

This is fun in the fall as it becomes a morning ritual.

It doesn't look like there is going to be any relief from the heat either because next week is going to be 90+ everyday. 

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Fifth of July.

A day spent lounging around the pool. Again. It's a day where the most trying task of the day is patching a leaking raft.

If Thomas Jefferson had procrastinated, today would be the day with the parades and fireworks.

Yesterday we held an impromptu pool party where everyone brought something. We ate hamburgers and hotdogs, sat in the pool cooling off and then afterwards when the sun went down we headed off to fireworks.

Very American.

We were planning on heading to the WMGK free concert at Cooper River park but decided that it was way too hot for that and instead went to fireworks in Marlton. We took the Elmwood approach and peeled of early at the Golf Course, not knowing what to expect. We found a crowd there and hung out and waited.

We were doing fine waiting patiently for the fireworks to start when a couple of the girls were afraid we would miss them from our spot and they headed off down a fairway. Sure enough as soon as they left, the show started. They were partially right and there better views to be had about a 3 iron away. We headed off in  the dark and of course we got split up. I ended up watching fireworks with strangers. Or so I thought. When the show was over, I was in  the midst of the crowd I came with.

I finally was able to get some decent time lapse fireworks pictures. The secret is being far enough away.

It's just a few weeks until Shore Vacation I with the same cast of characters. With upwards of 25 people it turns into quite a circus but it works because everyone has a job.

Mine is tide seer.

I determine the proper placement of the 10 x 10 tent the circus brings when it comes to the beach. It's not trivial. You have to know if the tide is coming in out, estimate how high it will come up and place the tent so that no one can squeeze in front of you and yet your stake remains dry.

It's like being a Hockey Goalie, if done right, no one notices. Mess it up and it's a little tough to tell everyone on the beach to back it up 10 feet. We've never had a completely botched placement but we were dangerously close last year when Mr C filled in for a day.

This year I think the position needs a hat and a scepter. Maybe a cape. A tall, pointy hat. 

Pictures here.