Monday, December 7, 2009

This is Awkward

One of my buddies at work was dating a girl for a while. She was young and good looking. She would come and hang out with us in the middle of the night. She even bought pizza the other night.

But then they broke up.

There's a correlation between hotness and crazy. It might be a direct correlation. But, anyway, that's a topic for another post.

So they broke up but she is still kind of stalking him. Today, I got a friend request from her on Facebook.

We don't travel in the same circles. I don't have anything in common with her accept she was dating my buddy. Was. Dating.

Not dating now.

So I'm left with a quandary. I haven't ignored very many friend requests. I've accepted friend requests from people I don't know but we know somebody in common. I'm pretty democratic with my friends on Facebook. I also haven't unfriended anybody although I've tried my darndest to get people to unfriend me.

I'm tempted to ignore the friend request.

Into Every Life...

It's raining.

Some people get all upset and perturbed when it rains. Not me. I love the rain.

Actually I don't love it so much when I'm standing on a dark rain slicked street because someone "fell asleep" and took out a light pole.

But the rest of the time I love the rain. It's pretty amazing stuff if you think about it.

Water evaporates and condenses. And then falls back to earth. It's like free water.

Sure, most of the time we buy our water in plastic bottles at the supermarket. Or we ship it down from northern California in big canals. But when it rains, that stuff just falls out of the sky.

I even turned off my sprinklers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Wasn't Ready For This


We found her outside my in-laws house. She was hiding in the bushes where she had been abandoned. She was about a month old and meowing loudly. She tried to run away but I managed to catch her and bring her inside.

Tabitha and I had been married for only a couple of months. Our apartment complex required a deposit and a monthly surcharge to have a pet. We wanted a cat but couldn't afford the extra money. We were going to wait. She moved our timetable up.

She was about four inches long and full of energy. She ran around the apartment, chasing us and attacking our feet. She would hide on the bookcase. She loved to lie on Tabitha's chest and stare at her.

After a few months, we brought another kitten home. We thought it might mellow her out and give her someone to play with. It nearly killed her.

The new kitten came from the shelter with a cold. While the new kitten quickly recovered, she lost weight, had trouble breathing, and was generally listless. We spent a few weeks driving back and forth to the vet. She recovered and surprisingly became very mellow.

She moved with us from our first apartment to the in-law's. She weathered another change when we moved to our first house. She was the timid cat who would hide when strange footsteps walked across the porch.

If you were patient, she would peer out from her hiding place and slowly approach you. Once she got to know you, she grew to love you.

She had a distressing habit of peeing in bags left on the floor. I opened my soccer gear bag at a game to find the pungent aroma of cat urine. I washed everything as best I could. My cleats smelled like cat pee for about two years afterward. I didn't see the need to buy new ones because nobody is smelling your shoes on the soccer pitch (they're still in the garage).

She weathered the arrival of Abigail. She moved to an apartment with us. She moved to our new house. She chose the downstairs bedroom as her own. She grew to tolerate Abigail.

She then began to love Abigail. Last week I found her sleeping on Abigail's bed. She still sat next to Tabitha while she read, gazing at her with her bright green eyes. She was always afraid of Aidan. His energy and inability to be gentle kept them apart.

Last week I found her sleeping on the pillows in the downstairs bedroom. I noticed she seemed a little frail when I picked her up. The next day she was struggling to move. I found her hiding in a corner, a puddle of urine beneath her.

Tabitha took her to the vet for some tests. He thought her kidneys and liver were failing. She could barely move. She'd lie spread-eagle on the kitchen floor and meow plaintively. She wasn't eating. Today we decided it was time.

I knew this day was coming. I just wasn't ready for it yet.




My dad and I drove her to the vet. My dad held her wrapped in a towel while I drove, fighting back tears. The vet asked me if I wanted to stay in the room or let them take care of it in private. I owed it to her to be there.

I stroked her head as the vet injected the solution. She let out a sigh and then her eyes began to droop. At about 12:05 she stopped breathing.

I cried on the way home.

She was a good cat.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dance

My kids take dance lessons. Abigail has been going for about 4 years. Aidan just started this year. He's the only boy in a class of girls. They seem to enjoy it and it gets them off the street.

Every year or so the studio puts together a big show. All the different classes perform over two nights. The youngest children usually get big cheers for their cuteness while the older kids get big cheers for their phenomenal dancing ability.

I love watching the show.

And not just because my kids are in it.

You see, I'm a frustrated dancer. I'm envious of the coordination, athleticism, grace and freedom of the dancers.

In my mind, I can do all these awesome moves. I moonwalk like Michael Jackson. I leap like Nureyev. I have the grace of Fred Astaire. Sometimes I break into a spontaneous dance when I'm in the middle of doing something... like cooking dinner or mowing the lawn.

But that's only in my mind.

The reality is that I sometimes bob my head to the beat while listening to the stereo in the car. I probably look like I'm having a seizure.

Anyway, I'm glad the show weekend is over. Aidan stole his routine and Abigail was the cutest jelly fish on stage. I just tapped my foot to the beat and clapped loudly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Too Big

Have you ever thought about dinosaurs? Those things were huge. Giant reptiles roaming the earth, eating massive amounts of vegetation and meat. I've seen "Jurassic Park" so I know a little about dinosaurs.

Some dinosaurs were as big as city buses. Some stood as tall as three story houses. Gargantuan winged reptiles soared through the skies emitting piercing shrieks.

Have you ever wondered why there aren't any animals that big anymore?

The largest land animal is an elephant. They're pretty big but they're tiny compared to a brontosaurus. The largest flying creature is the albatross with its eight to twelve foot wingspan. They're miracles of efficient soaring.

If you look in the ocean, you can find creatures rivalling the dinosaur for size. Blue whales, the largest animal, can reach nearly one hundred feet long. Other whales are smaller but still massive. But whales have an advantage - buoyancy.

What was it about the age of dinosaurs that allowed creatures to grow to heroic sizes and survive. Why did they not run out of food necessary to support they're colossal frames? Why are there not similar animals roaming the earth today?

I've got a theory that goes something like this - There was only so much room in the ark.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

There's Only 24 Hours in a Day

When I started my freshman year of college, I was forced to take a one unit orientation class. It had some new-agey name like "Connections". I was fresh out of the Navy, a Gulf War veteran, and, frankly, a know-it-all ass.

But there I was, with all the other incoming freshman.

One of the areas covered was time management. We needed to learn how to spend our time wisely so we wouldn't flunk out of school and be forced to join the military. I scoffed.

What did I need time management for? I was taking twelve units. My first class started at noon. I didn't have a job, a girlfriend, or a social life. I stayed up past midnight just so I wouldn't wake up too early.

In the Navy, there were only two rules for time management:

1. Show up on time.
2. Do what you're told.

Easy.

That first semester in college I earned straight "A's". It was the first time I'd ever managed a four point oh.

The next semester I had a few more friends and a job. I earned two "A's" and two "B's". Uh-oh. Now I had a three point five.

I won't bore you with the details but the downward trend continued. Just between you and me, I'm lucky to have a college degree.

As a nearly forty-year-old adult with two small children, a time-consuming job, and a lovely wife, I need to manage my time wisely. I muddle through. I even keep a calendar now. But there are so many things that I should get done that don't.

There's activities and sports my children should be participating in. There are weekends I should be spending alone with Tabitha. There are projects around the house that need to be finished, not to mention the ones that need to be started.

I should have paid attention to the time management seminar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bedtime

It's about eight o'clock as I sit down at the computer to write this. Tabitha is lying in bed reading one of the Harry Potter books. She's been in bed for about 15 minutes already. This is her usual routine (at least on my days off). She's an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl (only because of her alarm).

Abigail is downstairs watching the movie "Over the Hedge." She will come upstairs in about twenty minutes and tell me she is ready for bed. If she is really tired she'll say, "No story tonight" and she'll crawl into bed and fall instantly asleep. She usually wakes up with the sunrise.

Aidan is vacuuming downstairs. He's been vacuuming for the last hour. Pretty soon, I'll go downstairs and tell him it's time for his shower (he likes to shower now). He won't be happy. He'll want to watch his shows on TV. I'll insist he takes his shower and then I'll let him watch "Wow, Wow, Wubzy." He'll sit on the couch transfixed by the television. At about ten, I'll go downstairs, turn off the TV, and put him in his bed. He won't be happy about this either. He'll cry and complain and insist I read "two" stories for him. I'll agree to one. He'll insist he's not tired. He is. Eventually he will lie down and ask me to put his blankets on him.

And then the house will be quiet.

There was a time when I went to bed relatively early. My days of choosing to stay up late and getting up early are long in the past. Now, I have no choice.

I've been working the graveyard shift at the salt mine for over a year now. It has started to screw up my sleep cycle. I can't get to bed much before midnight. I'll lay in bed reading until about one o'clock. And then I'll shut off the light and try to get to sleep.

Try.

Sometimes I go to sleep quickly. Some nights I don't. When the alarm goes off at six o'clock, I'm not really ready to get out of bed. But I do.

For some reason, I have an overwhelming desire to take a nap at about noon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm Watching You

When I was Aidan's age, my family lived in small town Indiana where my dad was attending seminary. My mom was busy caring for my two younger sisters and we didn't have a television. To keep me out of her hair, she would send me outside to play.

Unsupervised.

I can hear the gasps from here. Yep, my mom let her three-year-old son play outside without an adult watching his every move. Crazy!

And yet, somehow, I survived to be a semi-productive member of adult society. She had one rule for me when I went outside:

"Tell me where you are going."

Most of the spankings I received (perhaps a topic for another post) were because I failed to remember this one little rule. I would get so caught up in whatever I was doing that I would forget to go back and tell her what new location I had decamped to.

Amazingly I was never kidnapped.

These days, you are a bad parent if you let your children out of your sight for one moment. Bad things could happen. Your child could be kidnapped, molested, jumped into a gang, crash on his bicycle, given drugs, given candy, given non-organic food, given non-locally grown non-organic food.

The horror.

I think we, as parents, need to lighten up a little. Kids need some unsupervised time to themselves to figure out how things work. They need to learn how to negotiate with their friends without adult intervention. They need to learn that it's "okay" to fall down and skin their knees. They need to start to learn how to be independent.

Because seriously, I don't want to be taking care of my kids when they are in their forties.

They should be taking care of me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Like Riding a Bike


We bought Abigail a bike about two years ago. It was a cheap little BMX from Walmart. I figured she could learn to ride on that and then pass it on to Aidan.

We finally removed the training wheels a few weeks ago.

My little girl, who jumped off a high dive at the age of five, was afraid of falling on her bike. She was content to pedal around the street leaning on the training wheels.

It was driving me crazy. Every time I suggested removing the training wheels, she started to cry.

A few weeks ago, she was riding a neighbor kid's scooter.

"Daddy, I can ride the scooter."

"If you can ride that, you can ride your bike without training wheels."

"Okay, take off the training wheels."

She shed a few tears that first day but picked it up pretty quickly. It was as if a switch was thrown inside her head.

I look forward to riding my bike with her around the street. Aidan pedals furiously on his tricycle to keep up with us. Sometimes, the neighbor kids are out on their bikes. We ride in circles on the cul-de-sac, trying to keep from crashing into each other. It's been great.

I want to get her a new bike for Christmas. I've got my eye on an Electra Hawaii.

She's Growing Up

Abigail's Second Grade portrait.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Basket Left by the Door


He sits on the couch, completely focused on the television screen.

It's dark outside. A young woman carrying a basket looks furtively around her. She approaches a large door and rings the bell. Twice.

A woman opens the door and finds a baby.

Aidan wanted to watch "Meet the Robinsons" today. The movie (for those without children) is about a young orphan who tries to build a machine that will show him the face of his mother. There are time machines, singing frogs, a man in a bowler hat, and the voice of Tom Selleck in the movie.

Aidan loves it.

Aidan came to our family when he was five days old. He has never seen the face of his birth mother. We are the only family he knows.

We haven't kept his adoption a secret. He understands it about as well as you would expect from a three-year-old. He knows he didn't come from Mommy's tummy. Today in the car he implied most people don't know their mommy and daddy.

What does he think when he watches the movie?

As much love as we give him, there must still be a piece missing for him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Keep the Rubber Side Down, Part 1

Late in my high school career I started to dream of owning a motorcycle. Two wheels meant freedom, excitement, danger. It meant breaking away from the mundane. Motorcycles were cool.

My only previous experience with a motorcycle ended with me crashing into a trailer and opening a deep gash on my leg. That incident cost me a week in the hospital and about three months in a splint. I missed the last few weeks of my fourth grade year.

I wasn't going to let that stand in my way.

What did stand in my way was a lack of funds and an inability to save more than two dollars at any given time. My motorcycle dream was on hold.

While I was in the Navy I had subscriptions to a couple of motorcycle magazines. Every month I would devour the descriptions of the newest machines the motorcycle manufacturers offered. Each new model offered incremental improvements that rendered the previous model hopelessly obsolete. I could think of dozens of motorcycles I would like to own.

However, being somewhat intelligent I didn't want to buy the most powerful model for my first bike. I wasn't going to be one of those knuckleheads riding a GSXR 1000 while wearing flip-flops and no helmet. I was going to do it right.

One day I was reading the magazine when I saw the Suzuki Bandit 400. This motorcycle touched something very deep within my soul. It was red. Its tiny four-cylinder motor wasn't hidden by plastic. It revved to 14000 rpm.




It looked awesome.

I'd saved a little money during the Gulf War. I returned to a father happy to have me home and willing to help me buy a motorcycle. We went to our local motorcycle dealer and exercised Pop's credit card. The next day I rode home on my new motorcycle.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Night Shift

I've been working nights in the salt mine for about a year now. At first, most days passed in a fog of half remembered conversations and missed appointments. I struggled to sleep during the day, the bright sun boring its way through my closed eyelids. I would fall asleep and then wake up four hours later and not be able to return to the blissful dream-like state.

I never even considered taking a sleep medication because, seriously, who has eight hours to devote to sleep.

Slowly I got used to my world being turned topsy turvy.

I remember most conversations now.

Things turned around for me when I splurged on a set of heavy drapes. They block most of the sun out and allow me to sleep in relative darkness. I still have a lot trouble making the drive home in the early morning hours. Sometimes I'll stop at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a chance to stretch my legs.

Only once did I catch myself shutting my eyes for a moment too long. The rhythmic rumble of the reflectors glued to the freeway startled me awake.

But things are not all rosy.

On my days off I can't get to sleep until midnight. This is normal for many people but my family is usually sound asleep by nine-o'clock. And then I have this nearly uncontrollable urge to take a nap at about eleven in the morning.

Yesterday morning, I came home from work and crawled into bed. I slept for about six hours and then woke up with a splitting headache. I called in sick. The family went to bed at their usual time. I stayed up until about eleven and then crawled into bed to read. I read until one.

And then I couldn't sleep. I just laid in bed for five hours drifting into and out of consciousness. My afternoon nap was a welcome relief.

Tonight I'll do it all over again.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Autumn - A Contrast

In many parts of the country, the impending arrival of Autumn is characterized by:

1. The days grow shorter.
2. The nights are cooler.
3. The leaves change colors and drop from the trees.

In California, the arrival of Autumn is indicated by:

1. The days grow shorter.
2. A hot dry wind blows from the north east.
3. The humidity drops.
4. It grows hotter.
5. Everything catches on fire.

Notice the difference?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Driving's a Privilege

Remember back to those days as a young teenager when you couldn't wait to get your driver's license.

A license meant freedom.

Independence.

The chance to see a little more of the world.

I used to just get in my 1967 Chevy pickup and drive. I would drive all over Southern California listening to the Smiths and Depeche Mode on my cassette player.

Good times.

I was doing a little math the other day (not my strong suit) and discovered I drive about 70,000 miles a year.

That's a lot of driving.

Driving doesn't really represent freedom or independence for me anymore. It's more of an obligation. I drive to work. I drive at work. I drive home. I drive my family to their destinations. I drive back to work.

And then there's the financial cost of this privilege: gas, car payments, insurance, tolls, maintenance. It adds up... fast.

I'm thankful I have a nice car with a good stereo, comfortable seats and air conditioning - things I dreamed about as a teenager. It makes the many hours every week I spend behind the wheel a little more bearable.

But sometimes, I just want to get behind the wheel and drive.

I'd head east until the road ran out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ronan Pioneer Days

The town of Ronan, Montana had their annual Pioneer Days this weekend. My family has managed to miss the festivities every year they have been in Montana but Saturday changed that.

For a person raised on the Los Angeles County Fair, Pioneer Days was a little underwhelming. There was no Midway with a giant Ferris wheel and I didn't see one funnel cake or deep-fried Twinkie stand. There was livestock on display, local arts and crafts, a couple of tractors from the local John Deere dealer, a three-on-three basketball tournament and a lot of well worn cowboy boots. The highlight for me was the City Slicker Rodeo.

The City Slicker Rodeo had such PETA friendly events as the Calf Cash Chase and the Chicken Chase. One event had all of the children wearing identical shirts and hats on one side of the arena, their mothers on the other side, and a big pile of candy in the middle. The kids ran to grab as much candy as they could while the mothers tried to grab their own children.

Mayhem.

Abigail, Anya, and Bella pose in front of a livestock pen.

Grandpa and Aidan propping up a tractor and hay roller.

You've got to start them young.

No Grandpa, this is the radiator.

Aidan is focused on his prey during the Chicken Chase.

Chickens change direction like NFL running backs.

Judy caught a chicken for Logan. "Rex" later died of exhaustion.

Abigail's age group kicked up a lot of dust during their Chicken Chase.

Two tired kids in their new cowboy hats.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Down Home Cookin'

California has many things. High unemployment, crushing taxes, a large non-English speaking population, sunshine, beaches, traffic, smog, and plenty of good places to eat. What California doesn't have is Cracker Barrel.

If you've travelled around the country at all you've probably seen the brown and yellow sign of Cracker Barrel. If you were smart, you stopped for a meal. For those who have never been, Cracker Barrel serves traditional American food in a country style setting.

Cracker Barrel restaurants have a wide front porch with rocking chairs waiting for a weary traveller to sit upon and perhaps purchase for a modest sum. The waiting area is a mock general store with traditional candies, clothing and country kitsch. The interior of the restaurant is festooned with Americana.



What the Hard Rock Cafe is to rock and roll, Cracker Barrel is to rural America.

The whole thing is hopelessly cheesy and contrived.

I love it.

The menu at Cracker Barrel includes such favorites as pot roast, meatloaf, pork chops, and chicken pot pie. It's good ole fashioned stick to your ribs food. There are no wood fired pizzas or calamari appetizers on the Cracker Barrel menu.

I've only been to a Cracker Barrel twice. The first time was in St. George, Utah. I wanted a change from the ubiquitous Wendy's or McDonald's. I ordered pot roast with veggies.

It was good.

The most recent visit was on our drive to Montana this week. We stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Layton, Utah for lunch. I ordered buttermilk pancakes and sausage. For lunch.

It was so good. The pancakes were crisp around the edges and steaming hot. I could feel my arteries clogging with each bite. That's how you make pancakes.

Too bad I won't be able to go back for a while.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Road, Again

Since my family moved to Montana about 4 years ago, I have tried to get up there a couple of times a year. Last November, we took a few days and drove up for Thanksgiving.

But that was several months ago. Now it's time for a summer trip.

My parents and sister came down for my brother-in-law's sister's wedding a couple of weeks ago. I've been looking for a way to get my kids out of the house and up to Montana to spend some time with their cousins. I seized the opportunity to send Abigail up with Grandma and Grandpa when they went back home.

And then Tabitha and her mother, Terry, decided they would like to go visit Montana too.

We hammered out a plan where I would drive Tabitha, Terry, and Aidan to Montana while Abigail rode up with Grandma and Grandpa. I would fly home after a couple of days and then Terry would drive Tabitha and the kids home.

Perfect.

I got a cheap flight from Missoula to LAX. I asked for and received a few days off from work. We left last Monday morning and met my parents in the lovely town of Barstow. We caravanned through the blistering Mojave Desert through Las Vegas, Mesquite, and St. George.




We climbed out of the desert into the forested hills of southern Utah. We stopped for the night in the truly lovely town of Cedar City. Coincidentally, my youngest sister, Sara, and her husband thought my impending arrival in Montana would be a great time for them to go visit family in California. However, we made arrangements to stay at the same hotel in Cedar City.





My other sister, Judy, and her family were also returning to Montana and decided to stay in Cedar City the same night so we were able to have something of a family reunion. The kids ran around like maniacs but stopped long enough to pose for a picture with Grandma and Grandpa.

The next morning we continued our journey northward. The best thing about the drive to Montana is that it gets prettier and less crowded the further north you go. We cruised through Salt Lake City around lunch time and made a late afternoon Starbucks stop in Pocatello, Idaho. We continued until we reached the bustling metropolis of Dillon, Montana.



Dillon is a quiet little college/cow town on Interstate 15. And it's only about 4 hours away from my parents house in Pablo, Montana.

We woke early the next morning and hit the road. We reached Missoula and stopped again at a Starbucks. Finally, we rolled into my parent's gravel driveway around one o'clock.

The kids have been playing non-stop. We've driven Terry around to show her the sights of the Flathead Valley. Tabitha has started looking at real estate again.

Do I really have to go home on Saturday?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It Doesn't Make Sense

A while back my pastor told us that God had intended for humans to have eternal life on earth. But for the sin of Adam and Eve, we would live forever. He used some Bible verses to support his assertion but I'm too lazy to look them up.

It sounds pretty good. No dying. You never have to lose your grandparents, parents, or children.

Sweet.

Except there's a problem.

That's a lot of people.

There are about 6 billion people living on our planet right now. The number grows most years. There's lots of people making babies out there. It doesn't grow as fast as it could because people die.

If we go back only 7000 years (for the young earth creationists out there) and add up all the people who were ever born, that's a lot of people. I'm no math whiz, but it's a number higher than I can count. If we go back even further, the number gets way bigger.

That's a lot of people to clothe, house, and feed. Not to mention the waste disposal issue.

I know what you are going to say: "The earth was magic before the Fall. The natural laws we have now didn't apply back then."

Right.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cambridge, Massachusetts - Take Two

Let's say you are a nationally renowned African-American scholar returning from a trip to China. When you arrive at your house, the front door is stuck. You enlist the help of the taxi driver to force open the door. A passerby sees two African-American males forcing their way into a house.

The passerby calls the police.

The police respond to a possible burglary in progress. They don't know you live at the house. They don't know you are a nationally renowned African-American scholar. You come to the door and the officer asks you to step outside.

The quickest way to resolve the situation is to provide the officer with identification that shows you live at the residence.

A driver's license perhaps.

Instead of getting indignant and becoming argumentative with the officer, pull out out your driver's license.

The conversation then goes something like this:

Officer -- I'm sorry Mr. Gates Jr. There must have been a mistake. I'm sorry to have bothered you. I hope you have a nice day.

Mr. Gates Jr. -- Not a problem officer. I understand these things happen. Hey, by the way, what's your name.

Officer -- It's Sergeant Crowley. Have a nice day.

Mr. Gates Jr. -- Stay safe.

But that doesn't make the national news.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Apology, Explanation, or Excuse?

About a year and a half ago I started writing this blog. I had access to the Internet and a good bit of free time so I wrote a lot.

Two or three posts a day.

I wrote about whatever random thing that popped into my head. I wrote about my family and all the cute/funny things my kids were doing. I wrote about food. Especially cheese.

I love cheese.

Sometimes I wrote about religion or politics. I'm not very argumentative so I kept those postings to a minimum.

Then something happened.

I was visiting with my sister, Judy, last summer when I saw she was a member of Facebook. I was amazed. She was "friends" with over two-hundred people. She was friends with people I knew but hadn't seen in years (we run in many of the same social circles).

I waited another month or so and then signed up.

Within minutes, I was spending most of my computer time on Facebook. My friends grew in number and breadth. I became enamored with the "Status Update."

Instead of writing my random thoughts on the blog, I was putting them on Facebook.

It was cool and fun.

Cast Iron Skillet has suffered. For that, I apologize.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Try It

Last Wednesday, Tabitha and I arranged for a baby sitter to watch the kids so we could have a date. Charlotte, a maid at the hotel, arrived at our room at 4:00 PM and took custody of the children. Tabitha and I drove to Rum Point on the north side of Grand Cayman.

We walked out on the pier and watched the snorkelers splashing in the water.


We sat in the shade of palm trees on the beach and sipped drinks. Tabitha had a bright blue margarita and I drank a virgin pina colada. After a while, we climbed back in the car and drove to the south side of the island to have dinner at a restaurant called The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse is one of those fine dining establishments with impeccable service, an extensive wine list, and food prepared with the finest local ingredients by a renowned chef. Not my usual eatery.

We arrived a little early for our reservation but were seated immediately in the screened patio overlooking the breaking surf. The waiter suggested we try the drink special of the night, a blood orange mojito. We did.

A little background:

I am a picky eater. My past memories of eating at restaurants always include a special order. Not the "I'm going to order food that isn't on the menu because I'm a rich ass and I want to show these people how powerful I am" but the "I don't like very much and I'm afraid to try new things" special order. Things like french fries with the steak and plain hamburgers.

Boring.

Lately, I have tried to be more adventurous. I like to try local specialities when we travel and I'm more willing to trust the skills of the chef.

This caught my eye on the specials menu:

Jerk blue nose grouper with avocado salsa, garlic mashed potatoes, veggies, and fried plantain.

This was about the best thing I have ever tasted. I tried the grouper by itself and it was good. I tried it with the avocado salsa and it was heavenly. It was so good, I memorialized it with a photo:

Airports Are No Fun

There are two ways to travel to an island in the Caribbean. You can take a slow boat or a fast plane. I love boats but who has that kind of time.

So we took a fast plane.

Unfortunately you have to go to Purgatory to get on a plane.

We flew from LAX to Miami and then to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We arrived at LAX in plenty of time to park the car, get our tickets and go to security.

Are they still making you remove your shoes? Seriously?!? And don't even think about bringing a liquid on the plane.

We arrived in Miami about five hours later. Our gate changed. Tabitha had low blood sugar. Aidan had one of his patented tantrums. And there was no friggin' changing table in the men's room.

Is it still 1950 in Miami?

We arrived safely in Grand Cayman and had a great time until it was time to go home.

You see, we had travelled outside the country. When we returned to Miami we had to go through Immigration and Customs to prove we were supposed to be in the country and we weren't smuggling any contraband.

At the Miami airport, Immigration and Customs are actually on the outskirts of Tampa.

We followed the signs. We walked down long hallways. We climbed stairs. We turned corners only to find other long hallways. We walked for miles. Aidan had another of his patented tantrums. Abigail was a trooper.

We finally arrived at the checkpoint and breezed through. Only we now had to return to Miami to get on our plane to LAX. We made it to the gate as they were boarding the plane.

I might take a boat next time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 5

I joined the Navy because I didn't want to go to college right away. I was sick of school. I thought it might be nice to spend a few years travelling the world.

So early that morning I climbed into the waiting van.

The recruiter drove me and a couple other guys to the MEPS station in Los Angeles. I completed more paperwork, peed in a cup to prove I hadn't taken any drugs in the last thirty days and then waited. I finally boarded a bus later that day with about 50 other guys.

There was a mix of bravado and quiet reflection on the bus ride to San Diego (the loudest talkers were the first to drop out). We arrived outside the San Diego Recruit Training Center at about 11:30 that night. A guy in a white uniform climbed on the bus and yelled at us to grab our things and line up outside.

I had seen the movies. I was expecting pit bulls in perfectly pressed uniforms to march on the bus with profanity and spittle flying, immediately identifying my deepest insecurities and causing me to void my bladder, before marching me in shame in front of all the other deeply shaken recruits. This guy was not exactly friendly but he didn't seem like he was going to eat me alive either. He marched us to a room and then yelled at us to line up on squares painted on the floor.

Another uniform clad guy starting calling roll. After questioning the parentage and intelligence of all of us, the guy had confirmed our identities and marched us to another room. More uniform clad people threw toiletries and towels at us. Finally, at about 2:00 AM we were led to a barracks to go to sleep.

About two hours later, a blinding light and a banging metal trash can woke me from my dreams of home. Men in uniform marched through the barracks yelling at us to get up, brush our teeth and "fall out." I stumbled to the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror.

I really did want to go to college.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sun, Surf, and a Screaming Child

It's vacation time again for our family. After our last vacation in April, I'm looking forward to a relaxing trip with a minimum of medical emergencies.

Tabitha and I wanted to go somewhere tropical this year. We went to Hawaii a few years ago with Abigail and loved it. Aidan is now old enough to enjoy playing in the sand and water. We thought about returning to Hawaii but then looked at other options.

We thought about staying in Key West (key lime pie!) or taking a Caribbean cruise. Both were a little pricey. Tabitha did a little research and found a resort in Grand Cayman called the Reef. It looked nice, quiet, family friendly, and reasonably priced. We made our reservations and spent our Federal Tax-payer Savings Plan dividend (tax return).

We woke up early yesterday morning and drove to LAX. We flew to Miami and then on to Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

Aidan naps on the plane.

We landed at the airport at about 9:30 last night. We had bus transportation to the Reef Resort on the north east side of the island. After an hour long bus ride over nearly every paved road on the island, we arrived at the hotel. I was starving but everything was closed for the night.

We got our room and unpacked. Abigail went right to sleep but Aidan decided he wanted to do a little exploring.

He thinks it's funny if he locks the door to the bathroom. He went inside the bathroom, locked both doors, and went into the bedroom and locked the door. I finally got him to open the bedroom door but the bathroom was locked with no one inside.

A little background:

1. I went to bed at about 12:30 in the morning.
2. I woke up at 5:00.
3. We'd been flying all day.
4. We had a long bus ride.
5. I'm hungry and there's nothing to eat.
6. The bathroom doors are locked.
7. Aidan is screaming, "I want to brush my teeth."

I was a little upset. I yelled at Aidan who promptly began to have an "I've been awake too long and I'm going to make you pay for it" meltdown. The more he screamed, the angrier I got. Finally, the hotel security guy unlocked the bathroom door, saving Aidan from certain death. Aidan was able to brush his teeth and then went right to sleep.

The view from our patio.

We woke up this morning to a beautiful day.

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 4

So there I was on a summer day in 1988. I was sitting in front of a Navy recruiter deciding what I wanted to do for the next few years of my life. Because of my color vision, the jobs I wanted were off the table. The recruiter was giving me three choices, none of which were appealing.

In retrospect, I should have thanked him for his time and excused myself with the words, "It looks like the Navy has nothing to offer me at this time."

If I had done that, he probably would have replied, "Wait a minute son, let me check the computer again." He would have found the opening for the journalism school I wanted.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I held all the cards.

Instead...

... I signed up for the Seaman Apprentice school for the shortest enlistment they offered at the time - three years active duty.

In that moment, I had decided the Navy would not be my career. I would do my time, get out, and go to college.

I phoned my dad and told him I had enlisted. He left his office in Monterey Park and drove to the MEPS station in Los Angeles. He watched as I raised my right hand and swore to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign or domestic.

I had mixed emotions as I spent the last few weeks at home. I attended going away parties with friends and a guy at my church tried to talk me into changing to the Air Force (no thanks). My sort-of girlfriend, Barbara, cried a little. My mom cried more. My recruiter gave me a list of items to bring with me (running shoes, stamps, my driver's license, and a little money) and prohibited items (tobacco, drugs, and alcohol). I packed my bag and went to sleep.

Very early the next morning, my recruiter was waiting outside in a van.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 3

The Armed Forces recruiting office was in a strip mall behind a barbecue take-out and an Acapulco Mexican restaurant.  The recruiters were crammed into tiny offices emblazoned with posters showing the exciting things their particular branch had to offer.  

The Navy recruiter was wearing a white polyester uniform with a couple of chevrons on his left sleeve.  He welcomed me into his office with a hand shake and then started asking me questions.  He wanted to know my background and my interests.  Had I ever been arrested or  taken drugs?  Did I have good grades?  What were my plans for the future?

The job of a recruiter is to fill quotas.  He's not there for wish-fulfillment.  He'll tell you all the bitchin' things you can do in the Navy, but he's really trying to get you into the job the Navy needs.  The recruiter talked to me about the nuclear fields and how I would get out after six years with an Associate's degree and skills I could use operating a nuclear power plant.  

That didn't sound very interesting to me, but I'd play along.

I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test and did pretty well.  The world was my oyster.  I was smart enough for any job in the Navy.  I wanted to be a journalist or photographer.  I could watch and record the action without getting my hands dirty.  It sounded cool.

I went to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) in Los Angeles for my physical.  I was poked and prodded and evaluated.  I was doing pretty well until they tested my color vision.  I was colorblind

With this news, I went to talk to the guy who would choose my "A" school and future job in the Navy.  Before the physical he had been talking up the nuke program.  Now, instead of offering the nuclear program or another high-tech field, he presented three options:

1. Boiler Technician (Advanced Training Field)
2. Mess Management Specialist
3. Seaman Apprentice

Boiler Technicians (affectionately known as BT's) run the boilers in the Navy's steam powered ships.  Boiler rooms are hot, dangerous places.  A high-pressure steam leak in a boiler room will kill everyone in the space before they know something is wrong.  And it was a six year active duty enlistment.

No thanks.

Mess Management Specialists are cooks.  I love food and I love cooking but I didn't want to cook for 1500 people.

Nope.

Seaman Apprentice?  Apprenticeship training is where the guys who weren't smart enough to get "A" schools ended up after boot-camp.  Airman Apprentices do the grunt work on aircraft carrier flight decks.  Fireman Apprentices work in the engineering spaces on ships doing grunt work.  Seaman Apprentices go to a ship's deck department where they learn how to swab decks, chip paint, and haul on a mooring line.

Grunt work.

"What's the shortest enlistment I can get?"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 2

One day in the summer of 1988, I got a call from the local Navy recruiter.  He wanted me to come to his office and talk about how I could "be all you can be."  The Navy wasn't my first choice.  I was still waiting for the call from the Coast Guard recruiter.  But Fall was approaching fast and I had to do something with my life.

I didn't grow up in a military family.  My grandpa was in the Marine Corps but that was during World War 2 when every able-bodied young man was in uniform.  One of my uncles had been in the Army during the mid-fifties but he never talked about it with me.  My dad was medically disqualified for service in Vietnam.  All of his brothers were too old for the draft and my mom's brothers were too young.  None of my older cousins had chosen military service.  And so far, I am still the only one of my generation to serve.

Anyway, I had a general idea of what Navy life was like.  I'd seen a commercial that showed a group of young sailors, wearing their dress whites, enjoying a rickshaw ride in Hong Kong.  Our neighbor's son had been in the Navy.  His younger sister had a shirt he had bought for her in some exotic place called Djibouti.  And one of my dad's buddies had been an airplane mechanic in the Philippines.  He spent a lot of time scuba diving.

Liberty in Hong Kong, souvenir t-shirts from the Horn of Africa, and swimming in tropical waters.  It sounded pretty cool.

And the Navy had ships.  Ships that travelled the world.  Instead of getting stuck for four years in some God-forsaken hell-hole, ships stop for a few days in hell-holes and then leave.  You never have to sleep in the dirt either when you're in the Navy.  Your bed travels with you.

Because it seemed like I would never get a call from the Coast Guard, I made an appointment to talk to the Navy recruiter.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do You Think You're Special, Recruit? Episode 1

Cast your mind back to the summer of 1988.

Ronald Reagan was in his last few months in the White House.  Depeche Mode had just played the most friggin awesome concert in the history of British electro-pop concerts at the Rose Bowl.  A Mustang GT, one of the fastest cars on the road, had all of 205 horsepower.  Gas was about a dollar a gallon.  And I was a recent high school graduate with my entire life ahead of me.

I had finished school with decent grades and a good SAT score.  What I didn't have was a strong desire to go to college.  I was pretty tired of school at that point.  I didn't want to go to college right away and I didn't have the money to spend a year abroad.

I had only a bare outline of a plan for my future.  It was something like this:
  1. See the world
  2. Save money for college
  3. Get lunch
I had thought about joining the Coast Guard.  It seemed like a pretty good deal.  I'd get assigned to a small boat crew on the coast of Oregon or Maine and spend my days rescuing distressed boaters and interdicting drug smugglers.  It would be pretty cool.

But Coast Guard recruiters don't call lazy high school graduates.

So I spent the summer sleeping late, working at a Mexican restaurant, rebuilding the engine on my 1967 Chevy truck with my friend Eric, and hanging out with my sort-of girlfriend Barbara.  One day, my hands covered in grease, I got a call from the Marine Corps recruiter.  He wanted to talk to me about all the great things the Marine Corps could do for me.

I had seen "Full Metal Jacket."  Even though my Grandpa was a proud Marine, I wanted nothing to do with the Marine Corps.  All the yelling and push-ups and marching.  No thanks.

And then one day, the Navy recruiter called.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heard in the Car

Aidan: Knock, knock.

Abigail: Who cares?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Secrets

The other day Tabitha was looking on Expedia for vacation ideas. She told me she was having trouble finding some of the smaller resorts. Expedia seems to focus primarily on larger resorts and chains.

After a while, she told me she found something. I was doing something else so I didn't have time to look. A few minutes later, I asked her what she wanted to show me. She said, "Nevermind."

The next day I saw a charge for Expedia on our checking account. I put two and two together and asked if she made a reservation.

She did. But she's not telling. (She actually offered to tell me but I declined)

I've got a birthday coming up and our 13th anniversary is only two days after that. The best birthday / anniversary present I can think of is a couple of days alone with Tabitha. That and a Porsche 911 GT3 but I'll take the time alone with Tabitha.

I can't wait.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ouch

We rolled through the Drive-Thru at McDonald's the other day to get the kids their dinner. Spare me your condemnation of McDonald's. I know it's crappy food.

Anyway, instead of a cheap plastic toy in the Happy Meal, there was a Kidz Bop sampler CD. Parents are probably all to familiar with Kidz Bop, particularly if you watch television with your kids. The Kidz Bop commercials feature overly enthusiastic pre-pubescent hipsters singing the latest top-40 hits. I usually try to change the channel.

I have so far avoided any exposure to Kidz Bop.

Today, Aidan wanted to listen to the CD. It was, in a word, painful. I can imagine the recording session going something like this:

Kidz finish singing last line of latest Jon Mayer hit.

Producer: That was great kidz. Now do it again, but make it louder.

They're not exactly singing. I think they're belting. My only hope is that Aidan will succeed in scratching the CD so I won't have to listen to it again.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Little Things Add Up

The economy is in the crapper right now. The government is running around like a trillionaire chicken with it's head cut off, spewing money from it's gaping neck wound. Like many companies, my employer is looking for ways to save money.

They've reduced staffing, delayed acquisition and maintenance of equipment, and reorganized departments. Lately we've received a flurry of e-mails requesting employees change the way we go about doing business.

They want us to stop dialing directory assistance from company telephones.

They want us to use the Internet to look for telephone numbers. Apparently, we have been spending unknown tens of dollars calling directory assistance. Calls to directory assistance are going to break the back of my company. The situation is so dire, they have rewritten policy to prohibit the use of directory assistance.

Not a problem. As long as they don't restrict my internet access.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vomit - It's Not Just the Contents of Your Belly...

... It's an adventure.

So anyway, Aidan and I are on our way back home today. We're cruising along in my car when Aidan tells me, "Daddy, my tummy hurts."

This can't be good.

Maybe the donut he had for breakfast didn't agree with him (not likely). Maybe he is just hungry.

A moment later I hear the tell-tale burp. It's immediately followed by the sound of a liquid splashing in the back seat of my car. Between spasms, Aidan cries.

I press a little harder on the accelerator as the smell of partly digested milk wafts through the car. The speed limit is now only a suggestion as I race home. The immediate crisis past, Aidan falls asleep covered in little chunks of curdled milk. We arrive home. I peel Aidan out of his soiled clothing and put him in the bath. While he bathes, I clean.

The back seat of my car hasn't been this clean for a long time. Aidan is worn out so he has been sitting on my lap while we watch TV.

I love my son. I hope someday, he remembers this and cleans up after me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vacation?

For spring break this year, Tabitha made reservations for us in Las Vegas for Friday night and then three nights in Sedona, Arizona. We were going to return on Tuesday because I had a work commitment.

I brought along my computer with the hope of updating the blog every night like I have on past trips. I figured I would start with the obligatory photo of the kids frolicking at a rest stop along the interstate. I would then post a few photos of the family enjoying our time in exotic Las Vegas. Tabitha had other ideas:

"Why did you bring your computer?"

"To update my blog."

"Why don't you spend a little time with the family instead."

"Umm... okay."


Abigail and Aidan try to not get blown away in the desert.

We arrived at the Venetian in Las Vegas on Friday afternoon and checked into our room. While Tabitha and Aidan napped, I showed Abigail the canals of Venice (in Las Vegas). We had dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel where Aidan pulled his usual routine of screaming his head off, refusing to eat, and then complaining he was hungry. The waiters and other diners were amazingly accommodating.

Aidan, in a more contemplative state of mind, enjoyed the wide ledge of our suite window.

We hoped to show the kids the lights of the Strip at night but we were all too tired to go out after our post-dinner gelato. We were the earliest people to bed in the entire city on Friday night. We checked out on Saturday morning and drove over to the Bellagio. We parked the Jeep and checked out the tulips and butterflies in the Bellagio's lobby. We walked to the M&M Store and chose our own colors (pastels for Abigail, blues for Aidan, and dark chocolate for me).


Abigail in the butterfly house at Bellagio.

We travelled east from Las Vegas, crossed the Hoover Dam, stopped for lunch in the bustling metropolis of Kingman (actually much bigger than I remembered), and headed east on I-40. The plume of smoke on the horizon turned out to be a fully-engulfed semi, stopping westbound traffic for miles. We soon arrived in Flagstaff and headed south on Arizona 89 to Sedona.


My family standing in front of some rocks in Sedona.

So far the trip was unfolding as planned. We checked into our hotel in Sedona, went for a chilly nighttime swim, and ate a delicious dinner at the hotel. Aidan again pulled his usual stunt (Hint to waiters - get the food out fast. Hint to Tim - don't take your son to nice restaurants). We went to bed early again.


Abigail enjoying a swim.

Aidan loves shallow water.


Warming up by the fire.

On Saturday, Abigail complained her eye hurt. It looked normal so we didn't think too much about it. On Sunday, the skin around her right eye was a little red and puffy. Abigail said it hurt more. That night, I could hear her crying in her sleep. At about 3 AM I woke up to check on her. Her right eye was swollen and red.

I called Kaiser to find out if they had any facilities in Arizona (they don't). I spoke to a nurse and described what Abigail was experiencing. I couldn't tell if she had a fever but she seemed a little warm. The nurse recommended we go to the local Urgent Care in the morning.

Even the view from the hospital is beautiful in Sedona.

On Monday morning, I took Abigail to Urgent Care. The doctor was concerned so he called the local ER. Dr. Dean at the ER wanted to examine Abigail. I dropped Tabitha and Aidan off at the hotel and took Abigail to the ER. By this time, Abigail had a fever and the skin around the eye was very red and swollen. Dr. Dean determined she probably had peri-orbital cellulitis, a serious infection of the skin around the eye. Abigail had a CT scan and they started IV antibiotics.

Dr. Dean laid out the options. He recommended we admit her to the hospital to continue the antibiotics. The hospital in Sedona did not have pediatric beds so she would have to go to Flagstaff. If untreated, the infection could migrate behind her eye causing loss of vision and possibly death. Dr. Dean said, "This is a medical emergency."

Sedated.

After collecting myself, I called the hotel and made arrangements to check out that night. They made reservations for a hotel in Flagstaff for us and called a taxi to bring Tabitha and Aidan to the hospital. Tabitha rode in the ambulance with Abigail to Flagstaff while Aidan and I drove the Jeep.

Later that night, I dropped Tabitha and Aidan off at our hotel in Flagstaff and returned to the hospital to spend the night. Abigail wanted to go home. She was frightened of getting more shots and staying in the hospital. I told her she had to stay in the hospital so she could get better. She had a difficult time the first night.

Abigail's infection began to improve after the first night but she was still running a slight fever. Tabitha had her hands full trying to keep Aidan occupied. Grandma Terry offered to drive out to Flagstaff to see Abigail and take Aidan back home with her. She drove to Flagstaff Tuesday evening, spent the night at the hotel with Tabitha and Aidan, visited Abigail on Wednesday morning, and then returned to California with Aidan (900 miles of driving in 24 hours).

Abigail was feeling much better. She drank chocolate milk, watched movies, colored, charmed the nurses, and received a syringe full of antibiotics twice a day. I read, updated my Facebook, and drove back and forth between the hospital and the hotel. I slept in Abigail's room every night on a fold-out bed. Tabitha read, swam in the hotel pool, napped, and waited for me to pick her up so she could visit Abigail.

Coloring books!


A delicious hospital meal.


She's getting out today!

On Friday morning, Abigail was released from the hospital. I was also glad to be out of the hospital so I could wear pajamas and sleep in a real bed. We checked out of our hotel and drove home that afternoon.

Abigail on a rock at a rest stop on I-40.


Tabitha is engrossed in her book.


Abigail takes a good photo.

Abigail is doing much better. She will take oral antibiotics for another week. She returned to school today. We are thankful for all of the prayers from our friends and family members.

I picked up a flu bug at the hospital and spent Saturday and Sunday in bed. I missed an awards ceremony for work on Thursday, used up two weeks of vacation time instead of one, and paid an extra $700 for a hotel I used only for a shower and breakfast. Thankfully, our insurance will pay for the hospital stay. In all, it was not a very good vacation.

I love the Flagstaff area. It's close to the Grand Canyon and is surrounded by trees. It has a local university (Northern Arizona) and a population that enjoys outdoor activities. I'd really like to visit some time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That's Smart


Nice smile.

I dropped my car off at the dealer this morning for the 80,000 mile service. One of the perks when you spend big money is they provide you with a rental car. So after a few minutes, Penny from Enterprise arrived to set me up with a temporary ride.

The Enterprise office is at our local Mercedes dealer. While Penny got my paperwork going, I strolled around the showroom ogling the German iron. There was an SL65 AMG Black ($304,000!), a McLaren SLR convertible (used, low mileage creampuff), and a classic 300SL roadster set up for rallying. Dreams in metal.

Anyway, Penny tells me they have a Smart available or I can take a Chevy Impala. I had to think about it for a second before I chose the Smart. For those of you not up on your cars, the Smart is a two seat city car manufactured by Mercedes. It is powered by a rear mounted 3 cylinder motor and is short enough to park nose first against the curb. I've been wanting to drive one of these things for a long time.

The ignition key is between the seats next to the shift lever (like a Saab). I got it started and discovered the Smart is tough to drive smoothly around town. The transmission shifts very slowly which saps forward momentum. It's worse when you are going slow so you just have to put the boot to it. The brakes are a little grabby but you'd probably get used to them with more time in the car.

On the freeway, the things goes surprisingly well. Eighty miles an hour is no problem but seventy seems to be the sweet spot. The ride is pretty stiff and it wanders a little bit, but that is due to the short wheelbase. It's so little you can zip in and out of traffic with no problem. You can pass cars and drive up hills without losing too much speed. You're not stuck in the slow lane watching the world pass you by. The motor is a bit loud and sounds like a tractor but it has decent power.

Leather!


The Smart is strictly a two-seater. The front seats remind me of Tab's old VW bug. You're going to rub shoulders with your passenger but there is plenty of head and leg room. You sit kind of high in the car and there is no height adjustment (that I could find). It feels a little weird.

There's an engine down there.


The rear luggage compartment is large enough for two people to go on a week long road trip if they don't bring bicycles and surfboards. Forget about packing a stroller.



No tachometer.

The interior looks good and is put together nicely. It's very distinctive and stylish.



The best part is how little space this car takes up. You can touch the back window while sitting in the driver's seat. This would be a perfect commuter car for someone who has a relatively short drive.

Would I buy one? Probably not. I've got two little kids to ferry around and a 65 mile (one-way) commute. I see this car as being a great choice for empty nesters and people without children. If they could squeeze in two more seats and make it only slightly larger, then I might think about it.

Postscript:

Is it safe? It's probably as safe as can be for a car so small. It's got airbags tucked in everywhere and a high strength steel safety cage. Top Gear in England crashed one into a concrete barrier at 70 miles an hour and it held up very well. Just remember there is always a larger vehicle waiting to crash into you. It's better to avoid the accident in the first place.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mmmm! -- The Joy of Porridge

Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast food. It's got complex carbs, protein and it's loaded with fiber. There's no better way to start a chilly day than a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal.

I've found three types of oatmeal:
  1. Rolled oats.
  2. Steel cut "Irish" oats.
  3. Stone-ground "Scottish" oats.

You're probably familiar with rolled oats. Quaker rolled oats in some form or other are found in pantries around the country. Most Americans have started their day at least once under the beneficent gaze of the smiling Quaker. Rolled oats are made by steaming the whole oat kernel, rolling them flat, and then toasting them lightly.

Rolled oats are perfectly good. They are easy to prepare and have a delightfully creamy texture. They also make really good cookies.

Irish Oatmeal is not as common here. I've seen them sold under the name of "McCann's," "Coaches Oats," and Quaker. Steel cut oats are made by cutting the oat kernel. They take quite a bit longer to prepare because there is less starch exposed. The last pot of steel cut oats I made simmered on the stove for about 40 minutes before we could eat them. Steel cut oats have a nuttier texture and aren't nearly as creamy as rolled oats.

If you don't mind standing over the stove for a good part of the morning, I recommend you try steel cut oatmeal.

My favorite is Scottish oatmeal. It is made by doing a very rough grind of the oat kernels. I've bought Scottish oatmeal from Bob's Red Mill and in bulk at my neighborhood Winco. Scottish oatmeal combines the best qualities of rolled oats and steel cut oats. They cook much faster than steel cut oats while retaining some of the nutty texture and they are creamy like rolled oats.

Here is how I make my Scottish oatmeal.

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oats

a little salt

I combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and then simmer over low heat until it thickens. I like to flavor my oatmeal with Billington's Dark Brown Molasses Sugar and a little half and half.

Fry up some bacon and you have the perfect meal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It Almost Never Works...

... but it's not a waste of time.

I've been trained in CPR for about 20 years. I've seen it performed many times but I've never had an opportunity to put my training into use until last night.

Here's the situation:

Wife finds 60-year-old husband collapsed and unresponsive next to the bed. She calls 9-1-1. The dispatchers coach her as she starts CPR.

We arrive minutes later.

My first thought as I walked in the room was, "He's dead." He's not breathing and has no pulse. He's lying on his back next to the bed. His face is blue and his eyes are open and unresponsive. We move him to the middle of the room.

My partner starts chest compressions. My other partner opens his airway. I fumble with my air-mask (I should have practiced putting it together). I finally put it together and start rescue breathing.

We continue for several minutes until the experts arrive. They transport the patient to the hospital after working on him for about ten minutes. The paramedics tell us he has a chance.

He's pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the ER.

My partner says, "I'd like to see someone recover just once."

CPR is useful only to keep blood flowing through a victim's body until they get to the hospital. It's not like the movies where the victim coughs, draws in a deep breath, opens his eyes and lives happily ever after. If you need CPR, you are probably already dead.

But here's the deal - unless the victim shows obvious signs of death (rigor mortis, lividity, decomposition, decapitation) - you start CPR.

We owe it to the family to do everything we can to save their loved one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ya Gotta Start 'Em Young


Damning with Faint Praise


You might be familiar with Red Bull. It's that ubiquitous energy drink that tastes a little like carbonated cough syrup. I've never been a fan of the beverage. However, Tabitha has taken a real liking to the sugar free version, much to the detriment of our family budget.

Anyway, Red Bull has started selling a cola in our area. I'm a big fan of soda pop and I like to try new versions of old stand-bys. Make a craft brewed root beer, bottle it in brown glass, slap on an old-timey label and I'll probably buy it. Make a new cola that promises something a little different and I'll probably buy it.

So I bought a four pack of Red Bull cola this weekend.

Red Bull cola is "a stimulating refreshment with ingredients from 100% natural sources." That's got to be good. The ingredients include some things I've heard of - vanilla, mustard seed, pine, and cardamom. And a few things that I haven't - galangal and corn mint. On the plus side it has real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.

The taste?

It's... um... interesting.

It's different.

It's not as sweet as the other big name colas.

It's definitely drinkable.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ya Gotta Know a Little Bit About Football

I took journalism my freshman year in high school. I had big dreams of being a reporter - notebook and pencil in hand, I would go to the scene of breaking news, collect information, and craft a well-written hard hitting piece. With my name on it of course.

One of my classmates was writing articles for our local give-away newspaper. The paper needed someone to cover high-school football games. My friend recommended me for the job.

There was a hitch. I didn't really know anything about football.

I knew that one side tried to move the ball by either running it or throwing it. The other side tried to stop them. A touchdown was worth 6 points and a field goal was 3 points. The finer points of the game were lost on me. I didn't know what the positions were other than the quarterback. I couldn't tell a linebacker from defensive back. I wasn't off to a good start.

I told my dad I was going to be writing about a football game. He replied, "You don't know anything about football." This time, he was right.

I looked up "football" in my handy encyclopedia. I might as well have been reading Latin.

My first game as a sportswriter was away for a non-league showdown. I rode to the game on the bus with the players. Our coach was an old-school son of New Mexico coal miners. The players wore their helmets in the bus.

Anyway, during the game I tried to take as many notes as possible. I just wrote down player numbers in the hope I would be able to match them to a name later. After the game (a loss for our team) I went home and wrote up the game. When I called the editor at the paper and read the article to him, he was underwhelmed.

Not surprisingly, he found someone else to cover the next game.

I still don't know much about football.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Now That's Service

I got a call the other day from my car dealer. They were offering assistance to change the clock in my Volkswagen for Daylight Saving Time.

No thanks. I got this one.

My car has two little buttons next to the clock. One says "H" and the other "M". I figured out what they mean a while back.

The Jeep is a different story. It goes something like this:
  1. Turn off the radio.
  2. Press and hold the "Time" button until the hour starts flashing.
  3. Using the tuner dial, select the correct number by turning the dial left or right.
  4. Press the "Time" button again. The minutes are still wrong because the clock is slow.
  5. Repeat step 2.
  6. Push the forward and backward buttons to try to change to the minutes.
  7. Fail.
  8. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
  9. Rotate the volume knob.
  10. Fail.
  11. Give up. For now. Turn the radio back on.
  12. Realize the clock is now 7 minutes slow.
  13. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
  14. Try to remember how Tabitha did it in October.
  15. Remember.
  16. Push down on the tuner dial and release to change to the minutes.
  17. Once the minutes are flashing select the correct number by turning the dial left or right
  18. Press the tuner button again.
  19. Turn on the radio.
  20. Vow to remember for next time.

Easy right? Maybe the next time I will read the manual.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You've Got Something in Your Eye

As a long time contact lens wearer, I've gotten used to sticking my finger in my eye. I'm wearing extended wear disposable lenses right now. I'm generally very happy with them. They breathe well, are very comfortable, and provide me with crisp, clear vision.

I take them out every night (or day) when I sleep and I replace them after about three weeks. When they get near the 20 day mark, they become uncomfortable.

On Monday morning, I opened two new lenses. When I put the lens in my left eye, it seemed a little strange. My vision was slightly blurred in that eye. I took the lens out, rinsed it off, and stuck it back in. No change.

I thought that something might be wrong with my eye so I put the lens in my right eye this morning. Now I had blurred vision in my right eye. Something was definitely wrong with the lens.

I've replaced that one lens and all is back to normal now.

Sometimes when I'm driving on the freeway, I just want to keep going. I was driving east on the 10 freeway this morning. If I kept going I could eventually get to Florida.

I've never been to Florida.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not Normal

On Sunday morning after work I was drying off after my shower. I noticed a little soreness. I figured I'd give it a day or two to subside. If it didn't go away, I'd call the doctor.

On Tuesday I called for an appointment.

Instead of giving me an appointment, they connected me with a nurse. She asked me a bunch of questions. I described what was going on.

She recommended I go to the Emergency Room.

Uh oh.

I went to the ER expecting to be there a while. They did an ultrasound. It turns out the soreness is due to inflammation caused by an infection. The doctor prescribed Motrin for the pain and swelling and Cipro for the infection.

Cipro is some strong stuff. It's kicking my butt. I feel like s**t. It's the cost of killing all the bacteria in my body.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back in My Day...

When I was a little younger, I remember hearing musical groups perform cover versions of old songs. Many times I was unaware of the original so I could only judge the newer version.

I loved The Damned's version of "Alone Again Or" without ever having heard the original. I still haven't heard the original.

I like the Breeders version of "Happiness is a Warm Gun". The original was done by some group from Liverpool.

Now I'm old enough to hear bands performing covers of songs I listened to when I was younger. The group "The Killers" has a version of Joy Division's "Shadowplay" that is getting some rotation on the radio.

I'm distinctly underwhelmed.

The Killers might be pretty-boy post-MTV darlings but their version of one of the great songs of all time sucks.

There's no danger. No drama. No edge.

Okay, maybe sucks is too strong a word.

Here's a version of the original:




Friggin' awesome.