Saturday, October 26, 2013

Seasonal Changes.

The frost is literally on the pumpkin this morning.

I love the changing of the seasons even if it means getting chilly. Here in southern NJ the change is so highly predictable, you could almost bet cash money when the first frost will be. You win if you had today.

Colder air also means the local wildlife are searching for a warm cozy place to settle in and here that means mice. I noticed some telltale signs around the kitchen earlier but when they went after my Pepperidge Farms Pumpkin Cheesecake soft cookies, this meant war.

I found the bright orange cookie bag chewed through one work morning in the corner carousel cabinet in the kitchen. They also chewed through a old packet of Pat O'Brien's Hurricane mix the Oldest Son's old girl friend gave us after an internship in New Orleans.  Imagine the little creature's disappointment when they couldn't find rum.

How did they even get in there? There were no holes in the brand new cabinets and the mix and cookies were on the second shelf, a 5 story climb or jump in mice scale.

When you have to have a cookie, a guess you can perform super-mouse like type actions.

There is only one way to take care of this. Wet work. so I left everything as is and set one of those simple mouse traps on a paper plate. (Gee Mr Giotti why is there a plastic tarp back here in the back seat?)

Sure enough, the lure of Pumpkin Cheese cake cookies was too much and he returned.

The trap was mercifully quick but left his little face looking up at me with those big eyes staring blankly. I will never forget.

It had to be done.
This also means the sure end of garden tomato season. They've been growing through September and October but they have looked cracked and split so no one ate them.

Stupid mouse. There were plenty of tomatoes out there, why didn't you go after those? No, you had to reach for the top shelf and the Hurrricanes and Cookies. Well, I hope you partied like Katrina was baring down on you.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

McGyver in the Catskills.


It was getting dark as I fumbled in my pocket for the single key to our remote cabin. We had spent the day on zip lines at Hunter Mountain and now were returning after a hamburger, a beer and a 40 minute drive home.

Nervousness set in as I emptied my pockets and couldn't find the key.

I updated The Chancellor  to this latest bit of news. Not Good. We searched everywhere for the key but it was not being found. Not tonight.

No Cell coverage, No phone number of the sweet cabin owner, darkness setting in and now no key!

First things first, I set about contacting the owner. Luckily we did have WiFi that was turned on inside the cabin so I emailed him of our predicament.  There was no immediate response. Next would have been to call of course but I didn't have his number. Well, not readily available anyway. The number was up on the refrigerator inside the cabin of course and I could see the laminated info-paper from the back door but there was no way to read it.

I took the SLR camera, stuck the telephoto lens on it and auto-focused on the info-paper and snapped a picture. Unbelievably, I had the number on the first shot by zooming the picture in the LCD display on the camera.

Now all I needed was a phone.

Then I recalled how earlier in the day the Chancellor answered a phone call to our home number using the Xfinity-Connect app. I honestly didn't know you could do that but there she was answering a call to our home number via the App on WiFi. It was an aha! moment.

I took her phone and dialed the owners number I found on the camera picture that was zoomed while standing outside the wall where the WiFi signal was strongest and used the Xfinity app on our homeIP phone.

It worked, but I got answering machine! As I left our home number on the machine, the Chancellor piped up "Not our home number, give them my cell number"

It was at this point we went into deep technical discussion about Cell service versus WiFi coverage. We had no Cell service but we did have WiFi internet service. The discussion kept looping back to "but why can't they call my cell number?" This was a discussion akin to time-travel and was not getting solved without Visio and a White board. Finally It came down to "you are just going to have to trust me". After all who just made a phone call with no cell service?

At this point the Chancellor was resigned to sleeping in the car. I was not.

I felt like we needed to pray and was upset with myself for not having done so to this point. So we got in the car and prayed.

Afterwards, she settled in and reclined in the drivers seat with a blanket. It was a warm night for October in the Catskills but still, I wasn't sleeping outside.

I was restless and my mind was moving a mile a minute. Then it occurred to me to try sliding a credit card along the back door jamb like McGyver would have done.

That was fruitless but I did see another way while back there. I'm not going to post exactly how I got in but no damage was done the Cabin and we were safely inside.

And so we spent the night safely inside the cabin instead of outside with the bears.

Folly Beach 2013 - By the numbers.

23 - Devices connected to WiFi for 9 people.
1 - Time the circuit breaker need to be recycled to reset said Wifi.
620 - Pictures taken by me (90 iPhone, 530 SLR)
1418 - Miles put on the RAV4
92 - Miles put on the bicycle.
2 - Nationally Televised Philadelphia Eagles Games during the week - 2 of which were losses.
1 - Time I was told "That ain't Folly, man" by a surfer dude wandering through our beach access.
79 - Mom's Birtthday
80 - Dad would have turned this age on Thursday.
12 - High Tides
2 - Dinners at the Crab Shack - one in the pouring rain
6 - Mayors that spoke about "renourishment"
0 - Pastry Brushes

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Heat Is On

Miami Vice Season 2 Logo sm.jpg
Jan Hammer and Michael Mann would proud of the place

Its beach week in Ocean City again and the ladies have chosen a home that perfectly emulates the period 1985-1988 through art, furniture and thermal fax machines. The only thing missing is an 8 foot chained up alligator named Elvis but I'm pretty sure Ocean City would frown on that.

Miami Vice Blues Glass.jpg
From the white enamel coffee table and "entertainment center" complete with Sony Trinitron (a word blogger spell check choked on) and VHS tapes to the blue colored sink and toilet this place has made me feeling 30 years younger.

It all makes me watch Scarface over and over because it looks exactly like a place a friend rented in Longport in 1986. It rained all that weekend and we were stuck in the house watching Scarface (on VHS) on loop like a 2 year old with "Toy Story". "Say halllo to my lillltle fwiend". The women left us. It got ugly. Rewind. Play it again.

All this has the Sons asking about the days of Miami Vice. Daddy, what does "Fax" mean? (it's short for facsimile, of course)

It's not all perfect though, imagine my disappointment when Mr C informed us that the carpets were from a competitor and were from 1992! So close. You had nailed an era perfectly and then ruined it all with carpets from the 90s. It's like having a telephone in a museum diorama  about Lincoln.

Sponge painted wails. I remember sponge painted walls and there's nary an HDMI connector on the place because, of course, no one ever heard of High Definition TV in 1985. I knew bringing the apple TV in the time machine was a mistake. 

But beach week is about location, location, location and Crockette and Tubbs crib certainly has location. It's on the boardwalk. The southern end of the boardwalk mind you, but still a much short walk to the beach then years past. This does not mean we do not have anything to complain about because it seems that Super-Storm-Sandy swept in sand from Stone Harbor and now the beaches are almost Wildwood wide. Its a long walk to the ocean.

It's a little far to the heart of the boardwalk though. You have to walk what seems like an endless number of blocks before you get to the part of the boardwalk with actual attractions.

Well, I have to go fax Rodriguez with an update on the coke smugglers and sort my Cassette tapes. Pictures here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mike Falciani

Monday, May 20, 2013

The best kept secret in New Jersey.

I rented one of the "rustic" cabins along the banks of Pakim Pond in Brendan Byrne State Forest in the Jersey Pinelands this weekend with Oldest Son and the Chancellor. Well, the Chancellor was there for daytime activities but her fear of spiders and doggie responsibilities kept her from staying over night.

The cabins are not for those looking for feather bed and breakfast. These are one step above a Yurt which is one step above a large tent. 

The three identical cabins were built by the CCC in the 1930's and have electricity for refrigeration and cooking. Each has a toilet but no bathing facilities and four single bunks. I was surprised to find they had hot water though. 

We stayed in cabin 1 which was clean but weathered. The cabins are in good repair which is tough given the environment in South Jersey in the woods.

Some pictures:

Rustic means: 
  • It smells like a fire. This is because the fireplace is the only source of heat and has no flue. the cabins are closed November through March but April-May can be chilly. No flue means you can see light coming through the chimney - and rain. 
  • The refrigerator is missing shelves and the doors are missing guards which prevent your food from falling on the floor every time you open the door.  
  • No heat
  • No Shower
  • Carpenter Bees or Termites. Something was creating a lot of saw dust above the front door. 

All pictures here

Here are some pictures I found of the cabins 30 years ago. No much has changed. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Don't Get Old 2

Don't Get Old
This is my Aunt Anne. Well, technically she is my Great Aunt Anne but we always called her Aunt Anne. Aunt Anne had an expression, one that did not make sense when I was young but is beginning to make more sense everyday especially as I approach my 55th Birthday.

"Don't Get Old"

That was what she said all the time. I always took that literally as in try and stop time. I always thought well how in the world do ya do that? Get dead?

Now with a herniated disc for the past three weeks I understand. What she meant was "getting old sucks"

All I did was try to cut the lawn. With a brand new lawnmower. That doesn't sound hard does it?
Well, lawnmower's today have new "safety feature" that my previous 1999 model did not. I has some sort of engine brake that engages when the safety handle is not engaged.

I did not know this.

My back was cranky from the previous weekend's activities so I took the precaution of having Oldest Son take the new mower out of the SUV and out of the box. I put the mower together as per the instructions and yes I read the instructions. I thought I'd try to start it so I bent over, pulled the starter handle and wasn't I surprised when it came out exactly 9 inches, stopped dead and then my back lit up in pain.

Did I stop there? No I did not. I had Oldest Son start the mower and then I proceeded to cut the grass.

In retrospect this... ah... was.... um.... not smart.

48 hours later, making the transition from sitting to standing after a full night in bed was difficult at best. I got up, got showered and dressed with some difficulty and then decided it best to work from home.

I have not been back to the office since and that was now nearly 2 weeks ago.

I thought I would simply rest it and it would get better - at least that what the Dr told me when I reported back spasms and prescribed exercises and muscle relaxers.

I was doing great resting until the next Saturday when the Chancellor went to work and then suddenly half way through the day I felt pain coming on. I went down to the kitchen for water to take my pills and never made it back.

The next three hours were the most hellish of my life. Home, alone, writhing in back spasms every ten minutes there was no relief in any position.

I laugh at your puny exercises and muscle relaxers.

I finally crawled on my elbows to my desk reached for my blackberry and called the Chancellor at work.

Mobile phones today are a wonderful device that allow you to gather all kinds of information, keep socially connected and in the know. I can know if it's raining in Bangkok and how much jet fuel costs in Ohio. Too bad they suck at actual phone calls.

The first attempt at a rescue call was one of those one way cell conversations with her saying "Hello?... Hello? ...... Who is this?...." and me screaming in pain.

Finally I got a hold of her. She got the Dr on the phone who prescribed pain relief in the form of Hydrocodone. But first I had to eat. In a ball. On the floor. At dog height.

The Chancellor brought home Arby's.

You need to imagine the above except with a dog in the room, smelling beef,  to fully appreciate a moment I will never forget eating my Arby's.

Indeed. Getting old sucks.

Here I am a week later. I had another spasm episode on Wednesday but I am improving with Physical Therapy three times a week.

Don't. Get. Old.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Long Play

Union Jack British Flag |  Mug
Chuck had a Mug. A Mug like the one above. Chuck cared for his mug - meticulously - on two US Navy Aircraft cruises on the USS Saratoga and the USS Midway. Chuck washed it. Chuck hid it. Chuck made sure no one else touched it or brought harm upon it.

Of course his care for the mug only brought more attention to the mug. Everyone around Chuck knew that Chuck loved and cared for the mug and therefore taunted Chuck about the mug. They wanted to bring harm to the mug. The locked the mug to a bulkhead. They stole the mug. They ridiculed Chuck for the mug.

Chuck's time on Aircraft Carriers came to an end and the Mug was a survivor. Chuck moved to Tennessee. The Mug moved too.

On day while Chuck was getting ready for work he left the Mug on the roof of his car. You might guess what happened next. It wasn't pretty. The mug was no more. A sad end to the veteran of two cruises.

I knew of the mug. It was I that locked the mug to the bulkhead.

A few years later whilst in a gift shop in (did you see what I did there? I used whilst in a story about a UK flag). I found a replica of the mug and I bought two.

I brought harm to one. Great harm. I crushed it with a hammer in a gallon zip lock bag.

I mailed the results to Chuck. No, I did not want insurance.

This made Chuck unhappy. But it made me laugh. Ah ha ha ha ha I said to myself.

Time moved on. Life happened. Marriages. Children. Jobs.

I lost track of Chuck. Many of us did. He had become a ghost. He moved from Tennessee and despite modern tools like Google and Facebook, none could find Chuck. I would look for Chuck when I was at my computer with nothing else to do. (See Honey: All those times you asked "What the heck are you doing?" This is what I was doing - looking for Chuck).

Then one day 30 years later, out of the blue,  I recalled Chuck's middle name. It was unique, I recalled. I typed that into Google.

Bingo. Details. Details about Chuck that I knew.

Now what to do? I had a possible address. It was not proof. How do I prove this was Chuck?

Ah ha I said. I shall make amends for the great evil I did 30 years before.

I shall replace the mug. After all, I had the power of Cafepress and Paypal.

This week Chuck received the Mug and all was right again.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Night I Did Not Meet Steve Howe

I was unexpectedly invited to see YES last Sunday in Bethlehem, PA. Sunday Night - Two hours away from home.

I'm too old for that.

My friend J had an extra ticket and invited me to see the latest incarnation of Yes play at the Sands casino in Bethlehem.

We fought traffic for three hours but arrived at the Sands parking lot about an hour before show time. J was from Broomall and had invited another old Broomall friend Mike. Pretty soon yet another old Broomall friend Scott and his wife joined us.

It was Broomall time just like last time.

In fact there were a number of similarities to last time: my friend D went again and again had back stage passes - not for me this time though.

I also unexpectedly meet someone from murky past. A guy I used to work with 20 years ago parked directly behind us and were the only other group tailgating before the show.

In another strange coincidence, Oldest son was in New York City seeing "B", the kid that went us to to see Steve Howe in 2006. Now that both are out of college, they don;t get to see each other that much.

The crowd was what you'd expect from fans of the 45 year old band. Survivors. There were a lot of canes and such but they were looking strong. It was mostly a male crowd of 50 plus years old and you just had a feeling that they all knew someone that lost all their marbles on bad mushrooms and were worried about flash backs. It was the YES faithful.

The 2013 version of YES is playing three complete albums. Which would have been challenging back in '78, let alone in 2013 when they are in their 60s.

Well all but the singer. Jon Davison has replace Jon Anderson and does a good job in general. As my friend Scott said "he doesn't shine" like Anderson would have back in the day.

Alan White was on Drums. We all knew this because his drum kit had "YES Alan White" written on it.

Geoff Downes of the Buggle era YES configuration was on key boards and of course Chris Squire on Bass.

Mr Howe rounded out the quintet, play guitar(s).

The first song was the title track from Close to the Edge. If it were an Olympic high dive competition, this would be like starting off with a triple lutz. It had to be challenging to record in 1972 let alone play live when you are 60.

Things were going just fine except maybe for racing along tempo wise until the part between "I get up, I get down" and "Seasons of Man". Downes paly a wrong not in there somewhere and then stopped playing altogether. Steve Howe tried to compensate on guitar and then it seemed like the whole thing was going to come off tracks. It was like a car careering down a mountain road.

Close to the Edge indeed.

Now I once saw a video of a Rolling Stones rehearsal and at one point Jagger says "that's enough, you expect the stones to be a bit rough about the edges" after a so so playback.

The same does not hold true for Yes. They are precision. The songs are built on precision and if they are not precises - everyone knows it.

Well that's true unless the band up on stage are your heroes. And there were 3500 folks in the crowd for which these guys were their heroes.
Once I heard the near train wreck, i heard it in every song. I couldn't get past it. Yet everyone else I talked to seemed to have rose colored YES goggles on. They just loved the whole thing.

Don't  get me wrong, I enjoyed it and I loved going.

Next up was the The Yes Album. Starship Trooper seemed off too.

After the second album there was a 20 minute intermission. 20 minutes and 3500 enlarge prostates doesn't add up by luckily I had skipped "The Venture" and went early.

Going for the one was bit better, especially "Awakening". That seemed well rehearsed.

Roundabout was the encore and then after the fastest drive from Bethlehem ever, we were home by midnight.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Amateur Ornithology Club will meet on Tuesdays

The Chancellor is fascinated by birds.

Ever since last month's trip to see my brother in Pennsylvania where they had many bird feeders, she has been peering out the window like Gladys Kravitz having just spied our neighbor with giant ears. When we returned from PA, She went right to the Home Depot and loaded up on bird feeders and suet and now spends nearly every waking hour looking out the front window to see if "there are birds".  
If there are, she yells out what kind of bird is out there - sort of - "ooh a green one is here" or "Oooh look at the red one". She's keeping track of what she sees like it's The Big Year or something and yes there is an app for that.
Suddenly our home is filled with bird feeder catalogs and she is making home made contraptions like nailing an orange to a tree and making them a salad. (I knew something was up when I came home and saw my hammer on the dinning room table). 
I'm no better. I'm poking a telephoto lens out the front door while telling the dog to be quiet like I'm some kind of nature photographer. I'm taking pictures of birds I can't identify and then sending them off to Google images to search for them. 
Oldest son just shakes he head and rolls his eyes.

It really is fascinating - it's like a whole new world has opened up right under our noses. It was there all along of course but we never really saw it. I'm mean we knew there were birds out there - we are not idiots but I had no idea how beautiful even the most common crow was until we saw it up close. 

Bird pictures here and here.