The Journey Starts Here

Welcome to my odd sense of humor. Not always for the faint of heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sick Cat Creature

I’ve spoken a lot about cats on my blog.  It’s due to the fact my wife is a crazy cat lady.  I’m going to write about yet another cat situation, but surprisingly it’s one not brought on by my Dr. Doolittle wife.

Last weekend, her mother’s cat had a serious problem. At 11 PM. It was serious enough that we had to take the cat to the 24 hour emergency vet.  The cat couldn’t move her back legs.

Her name is puddin, but that’s not what I call her.  I call her Satan.  Why?  Because this cat would make a lion cry.  How come? Because the cat is evil personified.  Seriously.  When you look at the cat? It growls. Not hisses, growls.  Like a demon on vacation from Hell.  If you stare to long, the cat will attack you. Like a demon on vacation from Hell that sees you as a Hawaiian all you can eat buffet.  When I say this cat is evil, I mean E-V-I-L.  If this cat was a James Bond Villain, James Bond would die.  Jason Bourne?  Wouldn’t even see what hit him.  This cat is so evil it would stand over Gandolf’s dead, bloody body, and use his staff as a tooth pick.

I would like to say I sat there and pointed at the evil creature disguised as a cat and pointed my finger at it and laughed, saying “yeah, that’s what being evil gets you”. But alas, I have a big heart and I felt sorry for the old girl.  Well, not old, unless she really is Satan.  Then she is old.  Worried, I took the poor suffering cat to this vet, listening to her cries of pain.

Normally, when this cat goes to the vet, the Doctor will come in dressed in a metal suit similar to Iron Man’s, just to survive the encounter.  But none of that was necessary this time.  She didn’t even bother to hiss at anyone.

The prognosis was not good.  Blood clot, down near her legs.  It’s apparently fairly common in cats because cat’s get heart disease just like people.  The problem is, they can’t go in and fix it like a blood clot in a human.

It was sad.  What I did not find sad was what they wanted to do for the cat.  A week of staying in hospital at the tune of $ 500.00 a night.  Add to that an echocardiogram to see if the cat had heart disease. Why? Because there was always the chance that it wasn’t a blood clot, despite the Doctor being pretty sure it was. It could have been a sudden tumor on the spine, or something else.  Oh, and the echocardiogram? That was going to run $ 800.00.

All I could say was WOW.  Now my wife’s parents are on a fixed income and there was no way they could afford something like this.  So what to do?  Sure, the cat could have been put down, but my wife’s mother couldn’t stand to do that.  Shortly after we got there, the pain she was feeling stopped and that was only partly to do with the pain meds they gave her.  Turns out, only one back leg is completely affected.  She can use her other back leg somewhat.

So my lovely wife, who can be pretty assertive when she needs to be, in no uncertain terms explained to the Doctor we were taking the cat home.  Which we did.  Now the cat lays in one place, drinks water, but doesn’t really want to eat.  So we (meaning me, the sucker) has to give her a liquid medication to increase her appetite.  It is somewhat successful, and the cat has not shredded me into a thousand pieces yet, despite the fact that she does everything she can to avoid the medication.  Apparently it tastes like something really, really awful.  It takes two of us to hold her, despite her condition, to give her this medication.  I’m just hoping that she will forgive me, because if she suddenly recovers, I’m pretty sure she is going to kill me.  And eat the remains while purring.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I’ve got an idea about Mobile Devices.

My wife likes to tell me that I’m a techno nerd. I would deny it if I could.  Oh wait, this is my blog, so I CAN deny it.  I’m not a techno nerd.  I just appreciate good hardware.

Now that we have that handled, I wanted to share a few thoughts on some technology that apparently has become so crucial that we can no longer live without it.

I’m talking about cell phones of course.

Yeah, there have been lots of posts about cell phones.  It used to be that people complained about how rude it was for those who couldn’t shut their mouths walking around everywhere talking on their cell phones loudly.  Now, it seems that people are usually walking around texting everyone, and running into things.  If they aren’t texting, ther’re walking around updating their facebook status, or sharing with the world where they are by “checking in”.

Although I’ve done this all, a few times at least, the fact remains that the device you are walking around with is a cell phone.  With the emphasis on PHONE.  You know, that thing that used to hang on the walls of our kitchen, had a round dial, and you used it to call your family and friends? 

I fondly remember the days of getting in trouble for listening in on my sister’s conversations with her boyfriends, or getting yelled at for spending to much time on the phone.  Why?  Because there was no such thing as call waiting.  You may not remember this, but if you were on your phone, and someone tried to call you, you would get a “busy signal”.  Busy signals caused a lot of frustration, especially when you really needed to contact someone with important news.  Like needing to be bailed out of jail.  Thankfully, this has never happened to me.  Or to spread gossip about family or friends.  You know, Very Important News Stuff.

Because “busy signals” were so frustrating, the phone companies, who were viewed on the same level as satan, because of all their fees and hard to read bills, came up with a cool idea.  Call waiting.  This was a feature that allowed someone to call you while you were on the phone and instead of a “busy signal”, they would hear the familiar ringing like they weren’t on the phone. Of course, everyone had to have call waiting.  And of course, people being people, they simply ignored the other person calling, which lead to more aggravation.

So someone somewhere got the idea that we just didn’t have enough time to talk on the phone because hey, we work all day long, run errands on the weekend, and basically, didn’t spend enough time at our homes to answer the phone, and hear all the gossip.  So that person invented a device called a cell phone.  It was a phone you carried around with you, so you could listen to your gossip no matter where you were. Like in the movie theatre.  Or the line at the bank.

Of course, that wasn’t enough.  Because soon people were spreading gossip in other ways. It was called e-mail and the internet.  So naturally, it was soon discovered that we weren’t home enough to be on our computers so the cell phone involved into a device that connected to the internet, as well as being able to take phone calls.   This lead to people spreading gossip by text, calls, and social media.  Oh yeah, and telling the world what they were doing every minute of the day, because everyone knows that what YOU are doing is the most interesting thing in the world to everyone else.  Even when you announce that you have to go to the bathroom.  Or even putting everyone’s life around you in danger because you have to do all this while driving.

Personally, I think that this has led to most of us to become sincerely self absorbed.  But that’s not why I’m sitting at my computer, ignoring Facebook and Twitter, typing out this post.

I still want to talk about cell phones.

You see, we have come so far with these devices, in our mad dash to be “connected” that someone missed a step.

The one where cell phones actually work very well as….. a phone.

Oh come on, you know what I’m talking about. Dropped calls, voices cutting in and out, cell phones that don’t work for very long before breaking down, that sort of thing.  In the old days, when you had a phone hanging on your wall, the thing could be used to beat your children with, and the only time you couldn’t understand what the person on the phone with you was saying was when the kids were running around causing havoc in the house, which of course is how it was discovered your could use the hand held part of the phone to beat your children with, without breaking the thing.  Those phone were almost indestructible. I think they indestructibility of these phone is what led Timex to come out with their line: “Timex, it takes a licking, but keeps on ticking”.

Maybe it’s just me, but is it really to much to ask to have a phone that actually can make a phone call without worrying about missing half the conversation, or dropping a call? Or suddenly deciding to break down on you after only owning it for three months?  Especially when you consider how much I pay you every month and the trouble I have deciphering your cryptic bills.

So how about it Mobile Device Manufacturers?  How about stop putting out new devices every month that bring exciting new options for connecting to social media, surfing the web, and fast download speeds, and come out with a phone that worked as well as the one that hung on my kitchen wall back in the 90’s.  Some of us still use these mobile devices for TALKING, for business, that sort of thing.

I don’t care if it’s the device manufacturers fault or the fault of the network they are operating on (because I think it’s both because I have had a number of cell phones over the years).

I want a mobile device that will make a call and be able to have an actual phone conversation without missing words or dropping a call.  Seriously.

Please, and thank you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The new age of spanking

Perhaps this post will upset some people.  Maybe not.  I debated posting it because I truly have a hard time with how people react over things today.

When I was growing up, I was a kinda small.  Not like today, where I am overweight.  Being born two months early left me sickly and small until I hit puberty.  My first day of school, I was to small to climb the steps of the bus.  When I hit puberty, I outgrew more than three sizes in one summer.  Regardless of the fact that I was a small child, one of the things I lived in fear of was getting a spanking.

I was to very different, despite being small, than most boys.  I did things I wasn’t supposed to do.  Some of those things were pretty stupid and I could have gotten hurt, or hurt someone else.  When I got caught, depending on what I had done, I would get spanked.  Nothing put the fear of God into me more than my mother saying, “wait until your father got home”.  With those words, I knew I was in deep doo.

At the time, I hated that.  But now that I’m grown, and adult (on some days), with a child of my own, I realize that those spanking taught me A LOT.  Like, depending on what I did, there could be some very real HARD consequences to my actions.

Recently, a woman in Texas was charged with a felony of charge… for spanking her two year old.  I have no idea what the child did, but the woman spanking her hard enough to leave “red marks” and her grandmother took the child to the hospital to be checked out.  The grandmother then turned in the mother (her daughter-in-law) to the police.

I’m not here to judge this woman’s actions.  Could it have been overblown? Sure.  Could the woman have beaten her child to hard? Sure.

But what the judge had to say shocked me deeply.  His words were, and I quote:

You don’t spank children today. In the old days, maybe we got spanked but that was a different world. You don’t spank children — you understand?” the judge told the defendant.

Really?  WOW!

I am a believer in discipline for children.  How else will they really learn right from wrong?  How else will they learn that there are consequences to their actions?  Simply saying “No, no Johnny, that is something you don’t do” is not enough.

So after thinking about his for awhile, I think I can understand what a kids future will be like with no TRUE discipline.

“Little Mike, having only ever been grounded or told “No, No” during his formative years, enters High School.  He is told to do something by his teacher that he doesn’t want to do.  So the throws a tantrum, much like he did when he was two, because after all, that most often led to him getting his way.  But this is a different world, not the world of his overly doting parents so the teacher tells him to go to the principals office.  Of course, this makes him even more angry, so he hits the teacher and is arrested.

Of course, he does a little time in Juvie and gets out, and goes home.

Mike’s parents urge him to do something with his life now, he is an adult.  He refuses because he would rather play video games and drink and do drugs.  It’s not like his parents are going to do anything right?  Sure, they might ground him, but that’s all good, because he has a TV in his room and his game systems.  If they try to take that away, he will throw a tantrum.  And get his way.

Finally, one day, Mike gets a job.  Finally.  Everyone is happy.  Mike is happy, because now his stupid parents are yelling at him and threatening to kick him out, and his parents are happy that he is finally doing something with his life.

Mike moves out.

One day at work, Mike’s boss yells at him for screwing up something that will now cost the company money.  Instead of apologizing and learning from his mistake, he throws a tantrum.   He is promptly fired.

Now Mike can’t pay his bills.  He loses his place and his parents won’t take him back because honestly?  He is a pain in the butt to deal with.  So he ends up on the street, homeless, hooked on drugs and alcohol.

He gets high or drunk and kills someone in a fight.

Now he is in jail, on the tax payer’s dime.

When in court, the judge asks him “why did you kill this man Mike?”

His answer, because he has no clue, having never been taught that there can be HARD consequences to his actions, answers  “because I wanted to”.

So the judge gives him the maximum jail time.  Life in prison.

The judge can’t understand how this could happen, the parents can’t understand, and society can’t understand.

I understand.  Spank your kids when they need it, ok?  Teach the little beauties that if you do something wrong, there could be serious consequences to their actions.  Don’t teach them that a tantrum will get them their way, and hey, don’t let this go to prison on the tax payer’s dime.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kitteh Galore

So where have I been?  I’m sorry I haven’t been around, but things have been busy, busy, busy.  Between work and making sure my daughter reaches her goal of graduating high school, I’ve been a bit preoccupied.  Not to mention the third tiny, insey whinsey little issue of pregnant cats and a deranged wife.

I’ve explained our family issue of the numerous cats that have decided to take over my property before so I won’t revisit.  However, there is something you need to know about feral cats.  If they are female?  They somehow become pregnant.  Don’t ask me how, this is NOT a kitty porn post.

So somehow, we had 4 female cats get pregnant within weeks of each other (sigh).  Funny thing about pregnant cats?  They suddenly become a lot less feral if they are used to you.

Because of this fact, my wife decided that to get rid of all the kittens, she would need to socialize them.  To do that, she needed to know where they were born.  Feral cats are funny about letting you know where they hide their kittens at.  I guess they think, despite the fact you have been nice to THEM, you will eat them.  In my wife’s quest to get rid of kittens (mhm, like I was buying into that story), she waiting until the cats were as big around as pumpkins, and then GOT THEM IN THE HOUSE.

The result?  15 kittens.  In. My. House.

Further result?

Tripping on kittens.  Kittens climbing my legs. Kittens knocking things over.  Kittens GETTING ON MY LAST NERVE.

If I was a James Bond villain, my name would be Kitteh Galore.  It’s HORRIBLE.

Last night, I was trying to go to sleep and one of them decided to climb the bed and attack various parts of my body even though I wasn’t moving around.

Oh the agony!

Needless to say, as their age is quickly approaching the “kick ‘em out the door” time, I’m SO ready for these balls of fur to go away.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. We have a number of people already speaking for a portion of the kittens.  But I need MORE PEOPLE TO TAKE THEM.  Also, I saw this advertisement for this device you put in your yard that keeps animals away from it.  Anyone know if these devices work?  I’m ready to invest!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why the chicken (or Guinea) crossed the road

Forget the various crises in the world. Forget Pia getting voted off Idol.  I have a more pressing concern.

Why, oh why did that Guinea try to cross the road?

I may live (almost) in the city, but people being people, they will keep the oddest pets.  For whatever reason.  Even if it’s not really an appropriate place.  Maybe it’s the fact they are the obsessive-cute type people who see a baby animal and go “OH MY GOD, MUST HAVE NOW”.  Or maybe it’s because they smoke to much weed.  I really don’t know.

What I do know is that often times these people do not cage or contain these odd pets in an appropriate manner.  I don’t know why they do that either, unless it’s to annoy their neighbors.  Which kinda sounds fun, but hey, I’m not willing to shell out food for free ranging animals just to have a chuckle.

One of these types of people live on the route I take my daughter to school every morning.  It’s actually a rare day when we don’t see various types of chickens roaming around in several yards.

But nothing could prepare me for yesterday morning, when we had a run in with a Guinea hen.  Yes, a Guinea hen (pictured above).

So I’m driving down the road, minding my own business, when they car in front of me made a left turn.  As I started to accelerate again, there on the side of the road where two Guineas.  As I approached, suddenly one of them darted out in to the road, it’s head bobbing in time with it’s gait.  As I got closer, the Guinea, realizing there was several thousand pounds of metal hurtling towards it, did an abrupt U-Turn, and I tell you now, he was moving so fast, he had to actually lean into the turn.  His head, obviously, increased it’s bobbing as his speed increased, making me dizzy as all get out.  Yeah, there is just something hypnotic about foul head bobbing.  I think that’s why we starting eating foul.  We were mesmerized by that head bobbing and therefore figured it was stupid, and something the world wouldn’t miss if we ate it.

I’m not sure what that Guinea was thinking.  Perhaps it was depressed and thought about committing vehicular suicide and (ahem) chickened out at the last moment.  Or maybe it was mad at the world, and was trying to take it out on me.  Or maybe he was a brave Guinea and wanted to play chicken on the road.  Or maybe, just maybe, it was just trying to cross the road, and I was to close so it changed it’s mind, preventing me from discovering the answer to the age old question of why did the chicken cross the road.

My daughter and I had a good laugh over the Guinea.  But I will admit, I’m curious as to who ARE these people who keep pets like this when they don’t live on a farm and why in the WORLD don’t they keep them pinned up?

I guess like the question of why did the chicken cross the road, I will never know.  I’m probably going to lose sleep over it now, all thanks to some goofy Guinea, trying to cross the road.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Or Best Offer" Really? Man have I got a deal for you!

I’m a firm believer in being able to sell something you own.  It really doesn’t matter to me if it’s a fair price, a market style price, or way underpriced.  Since you, as an individual is selling the item, you should be able to ask what you want.  The same is not true for corporations (for the most part).  All of this Governed by what people are willing to pay for an item.  Take for example, the Apple iPad.  If people didn’t believe it was worth what they are charging for it, they wouldn’t be buying it. 

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for necessities, such as Gasoline. Ahem.

So, if you are individual selling, for arguments sake, a book, and you ask $ 50.00 dollars for it because you believe it has sentimental value and is a first edition, it’s possible you might find a buyer willing to pay that price.  Or not.  The same can be said for cars.  If you have a modern car, and want to sell it, you can list it for sale for whatever price you want, and maybe you will sell it for that price.  Or maybe not.

But one thing that absolutely gets under my skin is the term “Or Best Offer”.

Look.  If you want to sell something, list you price and take your chances.  Like say, a car.  Chances are, a halfway smart individual will at least look up the value of the car and see if you’re asking price is reasonable.  Then the decision will be down to; A) if that individual has the money), and B) if the item is good enough condition to be worth that kind of money.

But what is that “Or Best Offer” crap?

I will tell you what it is.  It’s a nuisance. 

I’m a nice guy.  I really am.  But if I see something I might be interested in, and it has a price along with “or best offer”, well then you deserve the aggravation of dealing with me.  If you’re asking $ 4,0000.00 “Or Best Offer”, then the following is likely to happen.  If I think I can re-sell the item and make money, and it sits there for sale for a few weeks, then I’m likely to say, since you’re accepting “or best offer”, my offer is $ 10.00.  Or maybe a $ 1.00.  Depending on what is being sold.  If it’s a car, I might go as high as $ 100.00, if it’s in good shape.  Then I will turn around and sell it for below the market value and make me some money.

Why?  Because chances are, it’s likely the person selling the item is asking to much for it, knows it, and just wants to see how close to their asking price they can get for it.

So just so you know, if you have a nice motorcycle that is worth $ 1,000, and ask $ 1,200 “or best offer”, expect me at your door offering $ 50.  If you say no, don’t worry, I won’t get mad.  I’ll just shrug and walk away.

I don’t know why, but “or best offer” really gets under my skin.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Car Repair: A Neutral Safety Switch that isn't so Neutral

You can’t expect to drive a car and never have anything go wrong.  That simply goes against the laws of the universe.  If you’re lucky, every once in a while in your life you will find that vehicle where it seems that it will run forever.  Until it doesn’t.

My wife, years ago when we both worked and had money to buy things like cars, decided she just had to have a Dodge Durango.  Not only did she like the look, but she wanted and SUV with lots of room in it.  This was her trying not to LOOK like a soccer Mom, but in reality living like one.   Since a Durango far out classes a freakin MiniVan, I was like, sure.  Let’s see if we can find a nice one.

Let it be known I did have reservations.  I had heard they will horrible on gas, and I had been in one and was of the opinion that the seats were cheap.  They seemed so THIN.  Anyway, being an awesome husband, I decided to go along with the plan.  At least for the moment.

As you may know by now, I am in sales and I drive a lot.  I had already purchased two vehicles from one dealer and had a great experience.  So we contacted the salesman we had been dealing with and told him what we were looking for.  About a month later, he gave us a call.

So off we went to see what he had found for us.  When we got to the lot, there it sat.  A 2000 Dodge Durango with a 4.7L V8 engine, plus the added bonus of the third seat in the back (an option).  It was in terrific shape.  It had been purchased brand new by a family, meaning only one owner, and they had taken very good care of it.  They had ordered it with the third seat as an option because of their kids.  This vehicle was used, but let me assure you it didn’t look used.  It looked brand new and it was 4 years old.  The only real reservation I had after looking at it was the mileage. It had 88,000 miles on it.  After driving it, I had to admit that I loved it.  Even after 4 years, it drove like a dream and those seats I thought were cheap?  Well after 4 years and 88,000 miles, they were unworn.  So, we bought the thing.

Now it’s 2011 and the vehicle has been a good one.  We even drove it to New York city, Niagara Falls and to Dallas, TX.  It has 130,000+ miles on it and the only thing we have done to it is change the oil and get new tires.  It does need a few things done to it.  Mostly just cosmetic.  There is a scratch down one door and the clothes hanger in the back on one side broke off when we drove it to New York.  I’m suspicious of the radio, because I think it is about to go because sometimes not all the speakers work.  But the thing IS 11 years old, so I have counted myself very lucky with this one.

The other morning, however, my wife got in it and it wouldn’t start.  The engine wouldn’t even turn over.  It wouldn’t even make that clicking noise that a car will make when the battery is dead.  Just in case, I hooked up jumper cables, and nothing.

Now I’m not a mechanic.  I don’t work on my own cars that much.  I can change the oil, I can change the brakes, and maybe a few other things, but other than that?  Well, I’m kinda scared to tackle a lot of things.  Luckily, I have a friend who knows how to work on cars.  Being the kind of friend he is, when I called him that day, he said he would be over that night.  We thought maybe it was the starter.  So we took it off and had it tested.  It was good.  The next thing we checked was the ignition relay.  It was good.  So I got on the internet and did some research, as did my wife.  We both found the same thing.  The likely culprit was the neutral safety switch.

The neutral safety switch is responsible for the back up lights and not allowing the car to be started unless it’s in park or neutral.  So me and the friend decided it should be easy enough to fix.

Boy, were we wrong.  First of all, we couldn’t find it.  The parts store said one thing, those repair books you can buy said the same thing, but the neutral safety switch was NOT WHERE IT SAID IT WAS.  So it was back to the internet.  I found a reference to the fact that certain types of transmissions on this model have the neutral safety switch on the valve body in the transmission and to change it out you had to take off the transmission fluid pan to fix.  Well, by now it was the weekend and none of the parts stores seemed to have this version of the safety neutral switch.  I’m talking Advance, Auto Zone and NAPA.  Couldn’t call the dealer, since they were closed on weekends.  So we decided to look for it ONE MORE TIME.  In the course of all of this, we had unplugged a number of sensors on the transmission.  Then plugged them back in.  Needless to say, we finally gave up, because we just couldn’t find it.  We felt defeated and annoyed.  Now we were going to have to wait until Monday (tomorrow) and contact the dealer.

At the last minute, my friend climbed into the vehicle and tried to start it.  Guess what?  It started (facepalm).  If we hadn’t spent all day trying to get this fixed, we might have laughed.  Instead, all we did was shake our heads and be very aggravated over the fact that none of the information we could find helped us.

The only thing we can figure is that one of the wiring plugs we unplugged had some corrosion on it and when he disconnected it and reconnected it, it solved the problem.  But man, what a way to spend an entire Saturday!

Yeah, I'm trying to find the humor in all this but it seems to be on vacation.  But I'm sure you can find it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Austin, I will miss you.

I usually try to post only funny stuff these days.  But not today.  I wanted to take a minute to say goodbye to a friend.

I lost a good friend yesterday.  Someone who I loved as a friend, and who I thought enough of to be like a son.  I am certainly old enough.  His name was Austin, and he died from an overdose.

I met Austin, of all places, on Stickam.  Almost a year ago, when I couldn’t go out anywhere, and was suffering from lack of socialization, I heard about Stickam and said what the heck.  I found out quickly that Stickam is mostly a place for the young, who flirt and joke and even hook up.  Needless to say, I didn’t make a lot of friends, since my age made me seem like a creepy old man trying to look at young girls or guys.  But I made a few and those few I made, made me stick around on Stickam to talk to them.  Austin was one of those.  Austin didn’t care how old I was, he only cared that I was a nice guy, was nice to him, was willing to listen when he needed an ear, and gave out advice.  Of all the people I met on Stickam, Austin was the one person who I became close with.  We talked on the phone a lot and there were plans for him to visit next month when he came up this way.  There is only one other person on Stickam that I became close with and we both knew Austin.  His name is Rob and he to, is very dear to me.

Austin was young.  He was only 22 years old.  But he was definitely a product of the street.  He lived in an area where gangs, drugs, and crime were rampant.  I won’t share a lot of details about his life, since it’s really not my place, but what I can say is that with the life he had, he was far older than his years.  He had seen, done, and experienced more things than most people would go their whole life without, and most of it would make you glad for that.

Austin was fun.  He was funny, had a razor sharp wit, and loved to laugh.  Sometimes at the expense of others, but honestly never with malice.  He was also very intelligent.  Although he had no more than a high school education, he was a curious guy and liked to study up on things that were interesting to him.  In a different setting, Austin would have thrived in college and gone on to a great and rewarding career.  I have no doubt that Universities would have lined up to try and get him to come to their schools.  He was that smart.

But not about everything.

Due to his upbringing, and where he lived, Austin had a drug problem.  I tried to talk to him about it.  As did others.  No matter how often I thought I got through to him, he always slid back.  I regret now that I didn’t do more.  Maybe, if I had had the money, going to visit him in person would have helped.  Or maybe if I talked to his Grandmother, who he lived with, would have helped.  I don’t know.  It would have been difficult to talk to his Grandmother, because she never answered her phone, since Austin was on it more than she was.  He would have intercepted any message I left for her.  Strangely, I know he wouldn’t have gotten mad at me for it, but would have told me that he didn’t want to worry her.  Now he is gone, a young man that had such promise, and never seemed to be able to catch a break.  The fact that I didn’t do more is a guilt I will have to live with, and deal with, somehow.

If you know someone who has a drug problem, please talk to them.  Get them help.  Even if it ruins a friendship.  Better them alive, but mad at you, then dead.  Talk to your kids about drugs.  No one is immune to making a mistake and losing their life.  If you love them, get up in their business and do something about it.  Before it’s to late.

Austin will be missed.  Not only by me, but by many others.  Austin, I love you and like you always said, we are family.  Not by blood, but by choice.  I can only hope that all the pain in your life, which you tried so hard to hide, is no longer a burden and that you find peace.

I am posting this video because it was a song that Austin loved.  Whenever one of his friends died, and he knew quite a few who died to young, he would play it over and over.  So I to will play it, in his memory.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

An Appalachian Adventure

On Monday morning, my job took me Southwest into the State of Virginia.  I will be the first to admit that there are parts of Virginia that are absolutely beautiful.  Virginia is such a diverse state in regards to the fact there is Ocean front, marsh lands, large rivers, fairly flat lands, and even majestic mountains.  We even host the world famous Luray Caverns and if you haven’t seen them, you should try to make it out one day.

One of the things Southwest Virginia is known for is Coal.  We have a number of large coal mines deep in the Appalachian mountains.  My eventual destination was one of these towns.

I’ve travelled all over the state, but I had not yet been to coal town.  As a coal virgin, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  So when I pulled into town, I was quite bug eyed.

It seems that coal towns are planned rather differently than most towns.  At least the one I visited, and several others I passed through.  They make a road, by blasting through rock faces and everything is built along the road.  Stores, houses, you name it.  When they run out of room, they simply stack things up the mountain side.  Sort of like those step pyramids. 

When I got to town, the first thing I noticed was that I had no cell phone service.  This really didn’t surprise me, since you are surrounded by mountains.  I knew I would have internet access, because I asked the hotel and was quite proudly told “we even have WIRELESS access in our hotel”.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I fully expected to have to milk the Hotel owner’s cows to gain access though.

When I decided to get something to eat, I asked and it seemed my best choice without spending “the big bucks” by going to the Peking Chinese Restaurant was The Huddle House.  For those not in the know, The Huddle House is pretty much like Waffle House, but they don’t concentrate on waffles.  They concentrate on Huddles, whatever those are.  I suspect it has something to do with Mountain Oysters and if you don’t know what THOSE are, you don’t want to know.  Trust me.  The food?  Not to bad actually.  Although they were out of butter.  How can you be out of butter surrounded by cows?  I mean come on, just go like, churn some right?

One of the things I learned though, while visiting this town, was why people in mountain country drive so slow.  I really had never thought about before and just figured it was because people who live in the mountains typically live at a slower pace than us city folk.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  It occurred to me that first of all, to drive 30 miles in the mountains will typically take you an hour. At least.  So mountain folk are just as much in a hurry as the rest of us.  The problem it seems, is that mountain folk drive slowly because they really don’t know what to expect in the case of what is going to fall off the mountain onto the road in front of their cars.  Things like trees, rocks, drunk people, small animals, and bears.   Yes, bears.  Hitting a deer is one thing, but can you imagine hitting a bear?  Especially one that SHOULD be hibernating?  That’s a good way to get your car, and your face, eaten real quick.  Small animals you can count on, at least for no other reason everywhere else they run OUT INTO the road.  I guess it stands to reason they are going to tumble there way OFF a mountain.  If it happens to be a cat, I fully expect it would land on it’s feet and begin to wash furiously, trying to make you think it was just skiing or something, instead of rolling down a hill.  You know how cats are.

I think the fear of drunk people falling onto the road off the mountain originated from the days of when there were lots of illegal stills.  But maybe I’m wrong about that.  There isn’t much to do in these towns as far as I could see, so maybe people just end up drinking to much.

I am happy to report though, the town I visited had a brand new place to eat.  Brand new building and everything.  It was a Pizza Hut.  Maybe next time I go though there I will stop and eat.  As long as there are no Mountain Oysters on that pizza that is.

I do know that I worry about the way that have housing set up in these town though.  If a rock at top breaks free, and rolls down the mountain, it’s going to take out houses like a bowling ball and bowling pins.  That kinda makes me nervous.  And maybe THAT’S why people drink in these towns.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If Life Were Run By Apple and Steve Jobs

Tonight, I finally decided to stop being lazy and updated the SYNC system in my Ford Taurus.  I don’t mind telling you that I love my SYNC system.  I don’t have the fancy version with built in navigation and news, etc, but mine does allow for hands free phone use and just as important, streaming music from my iPhone through Bluetooth.

Which brings me to an interesting note.

Before I get to that however, please note that Microsoft, Windows, Apple, the iPhone, and anything else mentioned is trademarked by and all that by the appropriate companies etc, etc.

My interesting note is this.  SYNC is a Microsoft and Ford creation.  The good thing about the SYNC system is that it is upgradeable.  You use a USB drive, download updates, then upload them to your car.  I would like to say this is an easy task.  For me?  It is.  But I will tell you that if my parents ever owned a Ford Car with Sync, it would NEVER EVER get updated, unless I did it.  Why?  Because like most things Microsoft does, it’s creepy complicated.

First, you have to plug in the USB drive and choose your update from the SYNC web site.  Then you have to try and convince the web site to actually install the update on your USB Drive.  Sometimes, or often, or almost always, it doesn’t want to corporate.  But, if you keep with it, you can get your update.

Once you do that, you take the USB Drive to your car, plug it into your USB port in the car, and then… then you have to go though about 48749292749403 steps in your menu system to get the update to INSTALL.  When it’s installed, the car is nice enough to inform you that the installation is complete.  BUT WAIT.  It hasn’t completed.  Honest.  The 573937493739 steps in the instructions make SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THIS.  You then have to wait.  And Wait.  You wait anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes for the car to ONCE AGAIN TELL YOU THE INSTALLATION IS COMPLETE.  Because obviously, this makes TOTAL SENSE.

Then, you once again plug the USB drive into the computer and try to “report successful installation”.  This means the web site must communicate with your USB Drive.  Of course, as I’m sure you guessed, almost never works.  This is so you can erase everything on the USB Drive, download the VERSION Checker, and run THAT in your car.  This design is obviously done on purpose, by some nerd who thinks this is funny.

Funny thing is, I find this no different than Windows on my computer.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I like Windows.  Mostly because when I entered the work force (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away), everything ran on DOS.  For you young whipper snappers, that is also a Microsoft operating system.  One that required that you TYPE in everything.  If you were smart, you could build a shell program that with the press of a button would launch programs for you.  Then, windows came around and made things easier.  Meaning you could use a mouse to double click on icons which would start a program.  This is, I’m sure, what you are all familiar with.  Of course, Windows crashed a lot.  Got lots of updates.  And was genuinely a pain in the rear.  This is because Bill Gates and his employees are all Nerds of highest sort, who think that everyone needs to be as smart as them to run a computer. 

At one time, there was some slight completion to Microsoft.  It was Apple.  But for some reason, Apple didn’t take off as quickly as the board thought it should so they kicked the man who invented Apple out of the company.  I’m talking about Steve Jobs.  However, because they couldn’t do a better job of taking over the world like Bill Gates and his Nerds did, they brought him back into the fold.  Steve Jobs them started quickly slamming the Nerds and brow beat them into FUNCTIONALITY over all, along with EASE OF USE.  That’s when the iPod came out, and pretty much changed the world as we know it.  Soon, there were millions of people walking around with those trade mark white ear phones in, listening to music.

Now Microsoft, not to be outdone, already had a media player that would allow you to rip music, and also transfer it to a music playing device.  Trouble was, it was so difficult to use, no one wanted to use it.

I leaned this when I got my daughter an iPod for Christmas.  I downloaded iTunes, plugged the iPod in and was simply… amazed.  It was so easy to use that even I could do it, and that is saying something.  With the release of the iPhone, and then the iPad, that simplicity hasn’t changed.  Sure, it has it’s problems now and then, but even where there is one, it’s really really easy to recover from.

So all this got me thinking.  What would it be like if Microsoft or Apple ran your life?


Wake up.  Got to bathroom.  Push buttons on toilet until you get to the right menu option to flush.  When it crashes and hangs, call a plumber (technical support).

Get in your car.  Try to sort through various menu options to get car to start.  Car won’t start so you call your mechanic (technical support).  Or, the car starts, and you drive to work, trying frantically to keep up with pushing various buttons to sort through menus to use blinkers, etc.  Hope the car doesn’t experience a system crash.  If you happen to make it to work, hope that the car cuts off, instead of “hanging”, causing you once again to call your mechanic (technical support).

Work all day at the office, hoping your computer doesn’t give you any trouble, making you call IT (technical support).  If it does have trouble, you don’t get any work done.  However, the computer will helpfully display a message advising you to check the Microsoft Knowledge base for help, but you can’t connect to the internet, because your computer is not working.

Drive home.  Hope the car, once again, gets you there without having to call your mechanic (technical support).

Try to fix dinner.  Scroll through various menus to make the stove work, hoping like mad nothing goes wrong and causes the house to fill with gas, causing an explodion when the stove lighter works at random times.  But this time, there is an update for your stove, which you have to install before cooking dinner.  Unfortunately, the update won’t download, so you have to call a repair man (technical support) and you go to bed hungry.

Just so you know, all technical support is handled by someone in another country, who has an accent so think you can’t understand what they are trying to tell you, and apparently has trouble understanding you as well.  They will seem more interested in updating your “information”, such as address, e-mail, and phone number, than anything else.


You wake up, go to the bathroom.  Push a button to flush.  If it doesn’t work, it recovers automatically with one push of a button and off you go to eat breakfast.

You get in your car, push a button and your car starts.  If it doesn’t another push of the same button recovers everything and the car starts.  As you drive, there is only one button to push to use everything like blinkers, etc.  As you drive, you notice an update is available.  You push the button and the update installs while you are driving. Oh and the car plays your favorite tunes, or allows you to talk on the phone while you drive.

You get to work and use your computer, slightly irritated by the fact the mouse only has one button, but at least you meet your deadline.  The plus side is, you can listen your favorite tunes while you work.

You get in your car and drive home, while listening to your favorite tunes.

You get home and cook dinner on the stove, which also has one button that somehow knows exactly WHAT you are cooking and works like a charm.  Oh, and the stove helpfully plays your favorite tunes while you eat.

Boy I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  Though I still use Windows, this is how it seems the world would be.  Now, I think I will go download some music from the iTunes store, and push a button and watch it install on my iPhone… with ease.

Clandestine Meetings and Babies

Not only does my wife refuse to grow old gracefully, but she pretty much refuses to do anything that resembles normal.  I think she took the idea of being unique to a whole new level.  But maybe she is just weird.  Or is crazy from being married to me for so long.

One of the things that she refused to do normally was be pregnant.  Oh I know, every pregnancy is different.  But well, my wife tried to take this to new heights.

Before I go ahead with that, I guess I really need to start at the beginning.

I used to work for a Secret Government Agency, and my wife worked for an Agency that’s letter’s resemble FBI.  Ok, so FBI it was.  I was overseas, doing secret government work, and she was working on a high profile case.  Trouble was, our cases, so to speak, were connected.  She had documents that I needed information from to seek out my target and save the free world.  I figured it would be easy enough to sneak into her hotel room while she was sleeping.  Trouble is, my wife is not only beautiful, but smart and sneaky.  I was caught red handed, in her hotel room, with a gun to my head.  I, being the witty and charming fellow that I am, managed to talk my way out of a bullet to the head.  I also somehow managed to take advantage of the fact that she slept in the nude.  Did I mention my wife is beautiful?  She is.  It must have been something in the air or water, but in the interest of national security, we decided to pool our resources.  We pooled our resources a number of times that night.  It was sweaty work, but extremely nice.  Because we worked for different agencies, we decided to keep our meeting a secret, thus The Clandestine Meeting of my life.  Several months later, I got notice from her that she was pregnant.  They say it only takes once, but since our Clandestine meeting involved numerous pooling of resources that one night, who knows which pool was to blame.  Well, clearly mine, but that’s how it goes.

Ok, the above might not be true, except for the pregnant part.  My wife DID get pregnant, which came as a shock to us both.  I was happy, she?  Not so much.  At least not at first. By the time she was happy, she had become to realize how blessed she had been with her pregnancy so far.  No morning sickness.  No weird cravings.  Clearly I was also blessed, since I wasn’t sent by an angry hormonal pregnant woman out in the middle of the night to obtain some weird item that she HAD TO HAVE RIGHT NOW.  What she did crave was watermelon, grapes and popsicles.  And by watermelon, I mean whole ones.  That she would eat in one day.  The only time she ever got sick was when one or two things happened.  The first was due to a commercial.  McDonald’s at one time has a western omelet biscuit.  Whenever my wife would see that commercial, she would have to run to the bathroom to lose all her watermelon.  The second was onions.  My wife loves onions.  Always have, but apparently our gestating baby growing in her belly didn’t because any time she had onions?  Well, she would lose all her watermelon.  This once happened in a parking  lot after going out to eat one night.

When the time finally came for our baby to arrive, we were both not ready.  I had been sick and in the hospital for two days and my wife had the flu.  But we were in bed, and she kept sitting up all though the night.  I asked if she was ok, and she said yes, but she had indigestion.  She had indigestion alright.  The kind that spells KID.  I finally asked her if she was in labor and she said I don’t know.  It wasn’t long before she admitted that yes, she thought she was.  Of course, those who have had children will say you know when you are in labor, but again, remember my wife does nothing normal like.  In the morning, we went to the doctor and they clarified that she was indeed in labor.  Then they did the strangest thing.  They sent us HOME.  I was clearly in shock.  My wife was about to have a BABY.  Why should we go home?  They said we had plenty of time, to time the contractions, and when they reached a certain point, to go to the hospital.  So we sat at home.  All day long.  At the end of the day (by that I mean close to 5 PM), we called her doctor’s office back and they were like, “What?  You are still at home?  Why?  Come to the hospital! You’re having a baby for gosh shakes!”.  I won’t repeat my response to that.  So I bundled up my pregnant wife and off we went to the hospital.

Once there, a flurry of activity started.  Before we knew it, she was in a maternity bed with nurses surrounding her.  Since her water hadn’t broken, that had to be done manually, as well as giving her something to get the contractions moving.  Now the thing is, one of the things they tell you when having a baby is to have warm thick socks.  Because your feet are going to get cold because after all, you are going to be half naked with a bunch of strangers looking at your privates.  When they break your water, they curl you in a ball, and jam something up inside you, which let me tell you does NOT seem right, which promptly soaked her warm socks.  So now I had a hormonal and slightly scared pregnant woman with cold feet.  Let me just say that was a scary moment.  My wife has cute little feet, but she hates her toes.  Now those toes were exposed and she was NOT happy.  Plus her feet were cold, at least until she got her epidural, or as my wife calls it, “A Blessing From Heaven”.

BUT first, they gave her something to help take the edge off until they could arrange for the epidural.  She, being who she is, had a strange reaction.  Although not in pain, when they started an IV, she started to cry.  I was, of course, concerned, until she looked at me and said, “I don’t know why I’m crying, it didn’t even hurt”.  I’m thinking she was crying at the sight of my face.

Eventually, she got the epidural, and all was right with the world.  Not that she would have known, since she promptly did what most people with a sleep condition do.  She slept through long periods of her labor.  Oh, before I forget, she had a LOOONG labor.  Not only did it start in the middle of the night, but had lasted all through the day and was now well into dark.  They gave her that drug to speed up her contractions, and of course, you guessed it, she had a reaction to THAT as well.  So they had to slow it down.  Eventually, my wife decided to wake up and get this show on the road and deliver a baby.  The trouble was, she hated the doctor that was on call that night.  I mean REALLY hated him. Her regular baby doctor is a very well known German baby doctor.  In fact, if you have ready any of the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell, then you would have recognized her since one of the characters in the book was based on this doctor.  It just so happenes that she was, that very night, ready to fly to the Caribbean.    But she was at the hospital, heard my wife was in labor and stuck her head in the door with a smile and said “how are you doing?”.  I’m not sure exactly what it was my wife said that caused the good doc to change her plans but before we knew it, she was “scrubbed in” and took charge.  She was giving everyone orders, even me.  I’m not ashamed to admit it but I was jumping to do her bidding as much as everyone else. 

While my wife was doing her part, as in pushing, there was a nurse there who kept rubbing her leg and giving my wife encouragement.  For some reason, having a numb leg rubbed really irritated my wife.  Most husbands have to endure abuse when their lady is giving birth.  I got lucky, because my wife decided to take it all out on the nurse rubbing her leg, instead of blaming her current predicament on me.  I was almost sad by this, because I had planned on telling her that if she hadn’t slept naked and held a gun to my head during our clandestine meeting, she wouldn’t BE in this predicament.  But I never got the chance.  Instead, I got to hear my sweet little wife tell a nice nurse “if you touch my leg again, I’m going to hit you”.

It wasn’t long before the miracle of our daughter graced the world with her presence.   I know I’m her father and all, but I swear, she was most beautiful baby in the world.

So that is how my wife did the very un-normal method of delivery.  Most men have to rush around because they can’t think while their wives take control, go to the hospital, faint at the sight of a baby coming out of their wife, get blamed for the whole thing, then bask in proud fatherhood.  I got the last part down, but the rest?  Well, it was interesting to say the least.

Funny thing though, we never did get hazard pay for our overseas assignments.  But I guess a beautiful wife giving you a beautiful daughter is payment enough.  It certainly was for me.