Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Real Man

I think one of my strengths -- and weaknesses -- is that in the realm of morality, I see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong. And yes, I have done my share of wrong.

But today I recalled how someone I once knew owned up to what he did in a truly manly way.

I was living in a house with several other guys from our Christian group, and Leon (not his real name) joined us for a while. He had been dating his girlfriend for many years, and they were now engaged.

One night when we sat down to dinner, Leon simply said, "My fiancee's pregnant, and it's mine. I need to ask your forgiveness for not being a good example to you."

We were briefly shocked, but the frankness of how he owned up to what he had done really impressed us. Not only did we forgive him, but most of us were there at their wedding that got moved up by a few months. They had a couple more kids, and are still married as far as I know, although I haven't seen them in years.

Would that more men be so honest and take such responsibility.

Not the Craw, the CRAW!

Anyone remember the Craw from Get Smart? I feel like him now, with my hand therapist putting both my hands in splints to help them recover from my injury a couple weeks ago. Some things (including typing this) have become more difficult, but not impossible. I should have these on for about the next month or so.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

C-Day

Well, Colonoscopy II is now in the books, along with Endoscopy I. Everything came out all right, so to speak.

Good news: nothing major in either end, although several biopsies were taken. What was also cool was that I was not completely out for the procedure, and could see some of what was going on. Puffy, your DVD is in the mail. :-D

Thanks to Silvergirl for picking me up, and to LC for leaving work early to get me. She took me to Cracker Barrel afterward, where I chose to have breakfast for my first solid food in nearly 48 hours. Then I slept, and when I finish this, I'll sleep again.

I'll meet with the docs in a couple weeks to find out what else is going on, as it were.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gahhhhhh

I've been up all night. Can't sleep. My mind races and my body isn't far behind, especially my legs. I didn't get to bed until 3 AM last night, and this is well past 4 AM.

I have a job fair later today. A colonoscopy tomorrow. A sleep study Wednesday.

My right arm is still injured.

I'm a physical and mental wreck, stressed beyond all telling.

God, help me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Forecast: Gloom, Despair, and Agony

In a followup to what I mentioned briefly here about The Weather Channel's global warming jihad , Cox and Forkum (Forkum? I hardly knew 'im!) offer their excellent savagery (click to enlarge):

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Holy Tango of Literature

Which has nothing to do with dancing . . . and everything to do with anagrams.

Satirical poems and plays with the titles being anagrams of each author's name. (Note: some language.)

(Hat tip: Steve.)

And Seana . . . *chooms* :-D

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Anyone need a sysadmin?

When we first started using home PCs 10 years ago (we had a Commodore 64 before that), I was the guru and LC didn't know much. Now? I am in awe of her diagnostic capabilities.

Ever since we'd returned from Reno, we found that our internet connection was only so-so. On certain pages, it got hung up, and we couldn't download any of our Yahoo mail.

Well, tonight she discovered that the settings in the DSL modem needed to be changed. *Phew*. For a minute, I thought we'd have to plunk down $100 or more for a new router. Things are now running just fine.

*smooch* You're good, hon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Colonoscopy: The Sequel

Next week, I'll be getting another colonoscopy. Joy.

Had my consult today, as well as bloodwork and two words that drive fear into anyone:

Stool. Sample.

#blech#

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Trip Report: Reno, NV

(Now with pictures!)

Wednesday, January 10:
We're Back, Reno, and Deal With It

Our adventure began with a Southwest flight from BWI to Las Vegas (nice improvements to the security area at BWI, BTW), and then from Vegas to Reno (note to East Coasters: the two cities are more than 400 miles apart). The first leg was uneventful, but the second leg required us to land in surface winds of up to 70 miles per hour. The difficulty was getting the plane turned into the headwind; we were not only buffeted up and down, but sideways as well! Once we got into the wind, everything was OK. It was the first time I'd been in the Biggest Little City In The World in eight years.

We collected our luggage and our rental car and headed for Saint Mary’s Hospital where Ladycub’s mom volunteers. It wasn’t too hard to find her; she was right in the lobby when we entered! She was giddy, to say the least. She took us around to many of the folks she volunteered with, who were eager to meet us (she’d apparently briefed them). Mercifully, she didn’t insist that we join her for a luncheon; we’d been awake since 1 AM her time.

So we headed to the side of town where she and my father-in-law (FIL) live to get lunch at Jalapeno’s Fresh Express. It wasn’t our first choice, but the pizza joint nearby was only open for dinner. When a group of Reno firefighters came in, we knew it couldn’t be bad. The firefighters were surprised to hear me say we’d come 2700 miles for that lunch. They were also relieved that we were visitors from somewhere else besides California.

Since her dad had so many comps from various hotels, we stayed in said hotels each night. The first two nights were spent at the opulent Atlantis, and we took advantage of the room early on to grab a few Z’s. Then we headed back to the ‘rents’ (left; note the Ravens flag on our rental car) for a turkey dinner of which we were not worthy. Not surprisingly, we went to bed early and woke up early.


Thursday, January 11: Snow, Setup, and Singers

It snowed a few inches that morning, but no schools were cancelled, and kids even rode their bikes to and from school. How about that? BTW, unlike in Maryland, everyone obeys the 15-mph school zone speed limit; it's well enforced.

After gawking at the mountains from our bedroom (above) and grabbing some breakfast at the Atlantis’ coffee shop, we headed over to my ILs' and began working on their computer. It needed some serious cleanup, which we did throughout the week. We removed files, ran antivirus programs, defragged, and otherwise tried to get the computer to run faster. It still takes about two minutes to get initialized, but that's down from the five minutes of before. We also increased the memory to 1 gig. Finally, for my FIL's benefit, I loaded on some Harry Caray sounds for startup, shutdown, and for error messages ("Holy cow!").

That evening, LC, my MIL, and I went to the Eldorado casino downtown to see The Twelve Irish Tenors. They were all Irish, but not all from Ireland; one was from Michigan, another from Scandinavia, and a third from Australia. At times, they were really good, especially when they did show tunes and Italian opera. But they were plagued with sound problems, some sloppy cues, and one singer forgetting the words to the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Also, they knew nothing of what we call in the business “working distance” with the mic; they held the mics way too close, just like rappers. Overall, the Tenors were good, but not great. I’d rate them the Twelve Irish Sixors.


Friday, January 12: Start Your Fingers

Time for us to change hotels. We moved up S. Virginia St. from the Atlantis to the Peppermill, a favorite place for the locals to hang out. Who were we to argue; they treated us nicely with chocolates and turn-down service.

But then we headed back to the Atlantis where we experienced our first-ever slots tournament. Slots tournaments are so hard to practice for; you have to tap the “spin” button again and again during a set amount of time. No skill, just luck. My MIL played the first of two rounds, and LC took the second. They did well enough in two 20-minute rounds to win consolation money. I can see why my ILs enjoy this so much; it’s quite the social occasion, even while gameplay is going on. They’ve made more than a few friends from these tournaments. We returned that evening for a buffet dinner to celebrate the winners and losers alike. Oh, they also had a contest for the best slippers worn that night. Not eligible for the competition: a pair made of maxi pads.

That afternoon, my MIL took us up to see Somersett (in the distance to the left), a new planned community in the northwest hills of Reno. We've toyed with the idea of moving out to Reno, but it just hasn't been practical so far. Still, we can dream. We checked out a few duplexes that were just out of our price range, but oddly enough, the one with the smallest square footage had the layout we liked best. The house had much more closet space than we have here. But the main drawback of the area is that it's so far from everything; it can take 15-20 minutes just to get to a main road! Also, in the event of a brush fire, these houses will be most vulnerable.

Someday, I think we'll be living in Reno.


Saturday, January 13: Mood Swings

We awoke in the Peppermill to a gorgeous sunrise over the mountains to the east of town.

Today, our focus was on the Baltimore Ravens-Indianapolis Irsays game taking place that afternoon. We each donned our Ravens jerseys (I'm Ray Lewis, she's Todd Heeeeeeeap) and got quite a few comments about them as we went about the Peppermill casino. Others had on Bears or Seahawks jerseys. Unfortunately, we were glum as the Ravens didn’t get the job done, falling to the Irsays 15-6. In fact, the Irsays’ final drive was so efficient, we had plenty of time to get to 5 PM Mass, then join the ‘rents for dinner at the Peppermill’s Oceano restaurant, an ocean-themed restaurant with fish of various sorts hanging from above, along with a couple of snorkelers. My lobster tails were quite good.

After dinner, I saw a Latino guy wearing a Peyton Manning jersey. I went to congratulate him, but he had no idea what I was talking about. Probably was wearing the jersey just to wear it.

That evening, I was playing draw poker, as I often did. I was down to my last buck or two for that round. I kept only an Ace of Hearts. Next thing I know, the money total started rapidly increasing.

Oh. My. Holy. Heck.

The 10, Jack, Queen, and King of Hearts came up for my first royal flush ever. Paid me $200 on a nickel machine. I was too stunned to celebrate.

I won't waste the rest of the report talking about our gaming, so I'll do it here. Some of the games we played included Gold Fish, with a cute bonus round where you have to match up cans of fish food while a steel drum beat plays in the background; Texas Tea, an oil-based game; Texas Tina, its successor; Tailgate Party, football-themed; and my new favorite, The Price Is Right, on which I got three straight Showcase Showdown bonuses. And? We came out ahead. Could have been more so if I hadn't gotten greedy at a couple points. The Atlantis and the Peppermill were our favorite casinos, with LC preferring the Atlantis because it wasn't as easy to get lost in and didn't have hyp-mo-tahzing colors. And where would casinos be without mirrors? But the Peppermill did have a nice section (near where I hit the royal flush) where they showed continuous scenes of beaches on huge video screens, reminding us how much we wanna go back to Maui.


Sunday, January 14: Remember When?

After indulging in some more football watching, we headed back to the Peppermill for its three-round slots tournament. I led off for our team, since the next two rounds would be on Monday when we wouldn't be available. My score was a paltry 7400, while others had over twice that much. I shamed my family. My FIL didn't do much better, as we wound up 399th out of 402 contestants.

We then had a tasty pot roast dinner cooked by my FIL. My waistline!

That evening at the Atlantis, we saw the Platters followed by Little Anthony and the Imperials in concert. I'm not the greatest connoisseur of 50s and 60s music, but these folks were good. I'm certain that these Platters were not the originals (read about the confusing group member lists here and here), but it was still a great performance with lots of energy. Notable tunes included "Only You," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and "The Great Pretender." But they need not have bothered covering "We Built This City," arguably one of the worst rock songs of all time.

Then on came the original Little Anthony and the Imperials. Little Anthony reminded me a bit of James Brown with his antics. He drove the band crazy with changing songs on the fly; we noticed the keyboardist and bandleader (who resembled our friend Sorcie) hastily passing out new music during one such change. But they were a lot of fun to watch. One of the Imperials who had to be in his 60s made some rather impressive dance moves during a cover of the Jackson 5's "Dancing Machine." They wrapped up with a good cover of "Every Breath You Take" and their own hit "Going Out Of My Head," one of the songs that kept them a household name into the 60s. Great performance.

Two other notes:

We originally sat toward the outer left side of the ballroom. One of the PR folks who knew my MIL invited us to sit further up front and center. I'm glad my MIL went along; she feared it would be too loud, but that wasn't the case at all.

Through both concerts, this lady in front of us kept dancing. I suspect she wasn't on pure air. I'm also grateful she didn't toss any articles of clothing onstage.


Monday, January 15: There's Gold In Them Shar Hills

It was definitely worth it to wake up at 5 AM and drive westward on I-80 in the dark through the scenic Sierra Nevada mountains between Reno and Truckee, CA to meet our friend Sharnina and her family in the gold rush boomtown of Placerville, CA, east of Sacramento. They had come up the day before from Hayward. We were grateful that the weather cooperated to let us through Donner Pass. Snow that was piled up off the side of the road at the summit was well over a foot deep.

Sharnina warned us that Highway 49 (get it?) south off of I-80 between Auburn and Placerville was winding, and she wasn’t kidding! But it was a beautiful ride along the American River (right). We arrived in Placerville (first syllable rhymes with "pass") and met Sharnina, her husband, and her two younger daughters at their motel. Shortly after, we headed off to a scrumptious breakfast at the Waffle Shop, a nice local joint (not to be confused with the Waffle House).

What a wonderful family the Sharninas (left) are. The girls are well behaved, but just rambunctious enough to remind us they’re still girls. Her husband may not be the strong, silent type, but he was really a good sport in letting us spend so much time talking to Sharnina. It was as if we’d known each other for years.

We headed about halfway back up Hwy 49 to Coloma, which is where gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1849. There’s a small state park to commemorate the finding, and it gave a balanced view of what happened. California was admitted as a state the next year, but many Nisenan Indians had their way of life changed for good. Both James Marshall, the discoverer of the gold, and John Sutter died nearly broke.

So we explored the replica mill, the monument at the actual location, examined the replica stores of the area, and toured the museum. Oh, and we skipped stones across the river, which Shar's hubby inadvertently entered after one throw. I couldn’t resist lying down across the one-lane bridge over the American, for which Sharnina lovingly called me a “dork.”

As she and Ladycub spoke quite a bit, I enjoyed the company of her husband and the girls, the younger of which told me I was funny. The older one asked if I was “another one of those people my mom talks to on the computer.” Here, the girls check out an Indian house.

We drove back to Placerville and had lunch at Z Pie, a casual place that specialized in personal pot pies. Oh, were those things good. We had planned on having ice cream afterward, but we all wound up being too full! So we walked off lunch by trapsing along Placerville’s main street (including Hangman's Tree, right; at one time, Placerville was known as "Hangtown") and exploring some of the shops. We were reluctant to part ways with the Sharninas, but we did so in order that we could all get home in time for dinner. What a great family, or did I say that?

(Thanks to the Sharninas for several of the photos above.)

The way back up and down I-80, although a challenging ride, was breathtaking. The elevation went from less than 2,000 feet near Auburn to over 7,000 feet at the Donner summit. People were skiing, tubing, snowboarding, and even ice skating on frozen ponds to our right as we approached Donner. The section from Truckee to Reno looked like something out of a Speed Racer cartoon, with the lofty ranges standing there and our car seeming to come no closer as we descended.

That night, the ILs took us to the steak house at the Peppermill. Yum. In addition to the excellent steak, I enjoyed one of the better Caesar salads I’d ever had. Then we retired to our third and final hotel, Harrah's. We had a nice room, but the casino was meh.


Tuesday, January 16: The History of Vrooomm

The next morning, we decided to seek an alternative for breakfast besides Harrah's, so we crossed the street to the Cal-Neva, a step back in time. Our server must have been from Baltimore, as she ended every sentence with "honey." Of course, had she really been from Baltimore, it would have been "hon." But the breakfast was quite hearty and probably cost half the price of Harrah's. We split our breakfasts between the hotels and the ILs' house, where we enjoyed English muffin bread.

Our time in Reno was sadly coming to an end, but not before we were to take a tour of the National Automobile Museum. (Curses, I forgot my camera.) If you go, get a guided tour just as we did; you'll enjoy it much more with the backstories on who used to work with whom, how this car looked so different from another of the same era, etc. The enormous selection of vehicles between 1900 and 1940 is especially fascinating. Other specialties at the time we visited: "Big Daddy" Don Garlits' dragster; Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's funny car; three different decades of Indy 500 racers; one of 49 operating Tuckers; and the Batmobile.

We had one final gourmet meal with my ILs, as they cooked us prime rib. *loosens belt buckle another notch*


Wednesday, January 17: Hurry Up And Wait

We bade farewell to my ILs after relieving them of a little more breakfast, and then headed for the Reno-Tahoe airport. While waiting for our flight, I promptly turned $20 into $45 on the Price is Right slots. LC had similar success on a draw poker machine.

Many flights had been cancelled or delayed because of nasty weather in Texas. We were glad we weren't connecting in Texas, but that didn't seem to matter for our Reno-Phoenix leg. The plane got in late, then there was a delay because of a radio problem. We left nearly 90 minutes late, all but wiping out our layover time in Phoenix.

"You should all be able to make your connections," the stewardess flight attendant told us as we approached Phoenix. (Let's have Famous Last Words for $2,000, Alex.)

As we got off the plane, our connecting flight was boarding . . . on the next pier. We'd never make it. In fact, to the surprise of all, including the frazzled Southwest gate agent, we'd already been booked on a flight that left Phoenix three hours later. So we chilled out and had a semi-real meal at a sports-themed joint.

The nice thing about the flight back to Baltimore was that only 25 people were on the 737. Therefore, each of us essentially got his own row. I tried to stretch out and sleep, but the next time I sleep on a plane will be the first. I believe this was my first flight where all the flight attendants were male.

We landed well after midnight local time, with Phil Keoghan telling us we were the last team to arrive. The wait for our luggage wasn't too bad, then we got our car out of the parking facility and headed the hour back home. We finally got to bed sometime around 3 AM, with LC having called out for work that day.

That's it, and thanks for reading to the end. Or only the end. Or whatever. And our profuse thanks to my ILs for all that they provided us.

And for reading all the way to the end, you get this bonus picture from a section of the museum at the Sutter's Mill state park which was under construction:

Friday, January 19, 2007

One Rough Day

Sorry, but the trip report will have to wait. Sharnina, however, posted a little something about our meeting with her family here.

Last night I injured my left wrist and right elbow in a fall over a curb. I'm typing this with my left hand since my right arm is in a sling. Ow. Quit it. Ow.

Also last night, my FIL was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia, only one day after we left from seeing him.

Prayers and good thoughts, please.

UPDATE 1/22: My FIL is now home and resting, with his oxygen level vastly improved. And I'm doing considerably better, although there's still plenty of pain in my right arm and left wrist.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ravens - Divisional Playoff

Reno, NV

We just plain got beat. Who are you and what have you done with the Irsays defense?

We didn't do what we had to do: make the Irsays pay for their turnovers. They didn't make us pay much, but just enough en route to a 15-6 win. On our home turf.

This? Hurts. But I gotta give Indy credit. I still hate them for what they did to us on March 28, 1984, but they simply played the better game. And they all but ran out the clock.

Now, I have to think the Brian Billick Death Watch is on. He helped juice up the offense . . . except when it was needed most.

See you next year.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Off we go!

We're heading to LC's 'rents in Reno for a week. Maybe I'll get to blog from there, maybe I won't. If not, I'll of course have the boring wordy comprehensive Trip Report when it's said and done. Seizure!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bad News and Good News

BAD NEWS: I lost my job last week.

GOOD NEWS: I lost my job last week.

It didn't have to happen, and I was responsible for bringing about my own demise. But truth be told, I disliked my job. Well, not so much the job, but the effect it had on me. Without a set schedule, I couldn't commit to doing almost anything outside of work.

And I see now I was probably putting too many demands on my work. I wanted it to be the sole source of my self-worth, and it wasn't. No job could be.

So I know now that it's important that I have a job with as close to "normal hours" as possible, so I can arrange time for other activities, such as theater (which I've longed to return to). Oh, and spend some time with this wife of mine.

And maybe participate more in my parish. It was nice to go to church this morning with LC and be able to hang around and socialize after Mass. Helped me feel like not so much a visitor.

Also, I need a job that I don't necessarily have to bring home.

I think this firing will turn out ultimately to be a good thing.

In semi-related news, I hope this year to blog less about politics and culture. I'm not saying I NEVER will, and it is my blog, but I think you can glean a lot about what I think just from some of the sites/blogs I've linked to on the right; there's no need for me to rehash them. I'm going to try not to get so wrapped around the axle about such things. I'm better off.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Friendship

One thing that's been hard for me to accept at times is that friends move in and out of my life. If LC and I were getting married now, the guest list for our reception might be different than it was over 11 years ago. But I guess that could be true for anyone.

Sometimes, we just drift apart. Sometimes, something happens that ends a friendship, rightly or wrongly. Sometimes, we get to say goodbye; sometimes, not. Sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much . . .

#WHACK#

--Thanks, I needed that.

I just need to accept it.

One friend I'm glad is back in my life . . . good to "see" you again, Debs. And I hope you get to meet LC, and we meet J.

I'm grateful to all my friends of varying degrees, online and elsewhere. As well as those who were my friends at some point or another; I hope you're doing well now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Do that somewhere else!

Parked in front of our house this morning was a car with a young couple in it, with the man in the driver's seat. I seriously doubt he was busy fiddling with the glove compartment. I stepped out front to make my presence known, and that must have stopped him for the girl was gone a few minutes later.

We don't exactly live in the high-rent district, and there's nothing essentially wrong with that. But we also have a bunch of strange neighbors. I have no idea how many people live in that corner house where the girl went. A house across the way could well have been a crack house, although I think new people live there now. And many of the new arrivals don't say a word to us at all. While other factors (such as too many improvements compared to the other homes) are involved, our next door neighbor is having a heck of a time trying to sell his house.

Sometimes I yearn for my childhood home in a block where everybody knew everybody.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Restaurant Review: Glory Days

For dinner tonight, LC and I visited the newly-opened Glory Days Grill, part of a regional chain. (I'm feeling better, thank you for asking.)

It's a sports-themed restaurant with the usual mishmash of memorabila on the wall. Notable: an orange Reggie Jackson jersey from his one and only season with the Orioles, and a poster for an NWA wrasslin' card at some high school featuring Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka against Hercules in a steel cage. There's also the usual few dozen TV sets, many in HDTV, and one showing SpongeBob SquarePants; all it was missing was NTN trivia. This is obviously not the place for intimate conversation! We watched the end of the not-too-interesting Rose Bowl with USC winning handily over Michigan.

The food was very good. I had ribs that were better done than most places, but not dried out, and LC had roast chicken that was also quite juicy. We also had scrumptious Caesar salads.

The service could have been a little more prompt, but we've definitely had worse. And the price was about what I'd expect. We'd definitely go again!

First Sentence Meme

(Hat tip: Arkie.)

Here are the first sentences from each month of my blog, which I started in June 2006:

  • I've leaped feet-first into the world of blogging.
  • I swear someone must have used this to send us e-mail at work.
  • It's August already.
  • The following is a sequel to this stirring prose.
  • As the announcer said, "This was a game that the Ravens tried to lose, and they still won anyway."
  • Recently, I've been re-watching the first three DVD volumes of the Looney Tunes cartoons, simply the best series of cartoons ever made.
  • I sometimes wonder whether I really walk my spiritual talk.
Okay, so it doesn't make a lick of sense. And I hear the rest of you saying, "And this is different from usual how?" :-)

Happy New Year to all of you, and thanks for dropping by whether you leave a comment or not.

Ravens - Week 17: On to Festivus

So the offense couldn't score a TD against Buffalo after four visits to the red zone. Big deal. Cue Chris McAlister and an interception return for a TD. A 19-7 win off that and the golden toe of Matt Stover. I knew it wouldn't be a gimme game; Buffalo played us tougher than the score suggested.

We get the #2 seed and an all-important week off. Then a home game against TBD. Thus starts the road that will hopefully lead to Festivus Maximus (see the "Other References" section) in My Hammy.

And have I mentioned that the Ravens, not Da Bearss, have the #1 defense in the NFL? Just sayin'.