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.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Beauty V Function

A gorgeous start to the 4th of July Holiday weekend and I just had to step out on the deck to admire the morning. It's cool and no humidity. The humidity is coming tomorrow.

The Chancellor is off to work for a half a day after a 6 - 11 shift last night. She is finding it tough to pick up hours in this economy and takes what she can.

While outside, I also admired my handiwork on the cabana. I say cabana like it comes with servants to wave fans at us and peel us grapes but it's really just one of those Target aluminum jobs that is now six years old. When I put the cabana up, I fully expected to see it in the pool some day after a thunderstorm but it has held up.

The cabana had one fatal flaw:

The western side was exposed to the afternoon sun.

The solution is one my Grandfather Sam would have been proud of: I took the old living room shades from the garage and zip-tied them to the west side of the cabana.

Yes, my "handiwork" was zip tying them up. It took all of ten minutes and was a win-win-win. I recycled something old, it served a very useful, functional purpose and it was aesthetically pleasing to the Chancellor's discerning eye.

The shades still go up and down and they seem to fit right in. It was a rare combination of function and beauty for us. As shown in this graph, we tend to two extremes. I like function and am OK with beautiful things. She likes beautiful things that sometimes have no function.

Some examples are in order.

This lamp is fine example of function taking a back seat.

In my mind this lamp has two major functions:

1. Stand up
2. Light up

It performs one of the two flawlessly and it's not the one you think.

In the physical world an object remains at rest as long as it's center of gravity remains above it's base. Once the center of gravity is outside the base, an object tips over. This specific object has a center of gravity somewhere on the edge of the base because anytime something like a small insect, a gentle breeze or a husband making the bed interacts with it, it tips over and falls down.

I have been knocking this lamp over for twenty years now with the same results:

me: Stupid lamp.
The Chancellor: But Wendy gave me that lamp as a wedding gift and I like it.
me: Ok, Ok,

Now mind you Wendy moved to California 15 years ago and disappeared. She has never set foot in either this home nor one we moved out of 17 years ago. My guess is that Wendy would have a hard time picking her wedding gift out of a police line up of it and four imposter gifts yet here I am, year after year, picking up the stupid lamp.

To be fair here is an example of function over beauty.
This is my data center/tool room in the garage. It's a handful of Linux servers, switches and firewalls cobbled together from what ever I could find in the trash. It's very ugly but is serves a useful purpose: my weather station, the web server, file server and firewall. It has a lot of wires. I like wires. I always have.


However, the data center is highly functional and when it falls, it does not hurt someone's foot.(except maybe that desktop balanced precariously on the other desktop - that looks like it might hurt)

This conflict is coming to head in one specific area: home remodeling.

We have a split level with the Kitchen, Living and Dining rooms all one level. It has been her dream to knock down all the walls on that level and make a larger, open floor plan.

I keep saying "But they hold up the ceiling".

Stay tuned.