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Diary, 2017/07/29

  I just went down the road to the quickie-mart and got coffee. It's something I do most every weekend morning since throwing away my home coffee maker to keep me from drinking too much of it. On the way there, I saw what I thought was a dead turtle in the road. I hate that. Poor things just can't move fast enough.

Half way there, up ahead, a mama deer and her baby were crossing the road. I slowed way down in plenty of time as the little fawn tried to catch up with her mom, which she did. Once they were across, I caught up and passed them. The doe turned and looked me in the eye. I looked her right back in the eye, smiled, and kept on going.

Almost to the gas station now, on the left is a new temporary sign at ground level announcing some sort of church that's moving in. It says ARISE! in huge letters. It's funny, though, because the background design has some sort of circle. The "I" in "ARISE" blends right in with that part of the circle, so at a glance as you drive by quickly, it looks like it says "ARSE!"

Inside the store now and pouring my coffee — almost always the "Black Velvet" variety, though I do sometimes go for the "Colombian Supremo" — everyone around me is speaking Spanish. I'm thinking maybe this morning, I'll say good morning to one of the cashiers in Spanish. I already knew "buenos dias" meant "hello" or "good day," but asked one of them a while back how to say "good morning", specifically. In Russian it's "dobray ootra." German is "goot morgan." What is it in Spanish? She said, "Oh, it's just buenos dias." So, there you have it. This morning, however, I went ahead and just spoke English.

Coming back home, in my neighborhood now, I was happy to see that the turtle was not dead, after all. He was now almost across the road. I said a prayer for his safety and kept on driving. Walking in from the garage into the house, I hit Joey with the door. Poor guy was curled up napping there in front of the door. He does that whenever everyone has left the house. Elizabeth hadn't left. She was still in her room, asleep, but her door was closed. Besides, her room/floor is probably too messy even for a dog to get comfortable on.

And now I have to take "morning grumpy Elizabeth" to the church for their outing on the lake. I won't be attending, just dropping her off. Tara is busy handing in papers, listening to a whole lot of "rah-rah cheerful awesomeness" at the mandatory orientation day at Elizabeth's school. She starts school next Thursday. Yes, already.

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Awkward

  So, I'm walking back from feeding the neighbor's dog while they're on vacation. I see my wife and daughter in the car up ahead, just about to turn onto our street. I'm looking at them. They're looking at me (or at least it feels like it). They're still about a hundred yards away, so I'm not entirely sure. To be silly, I pretend to try and hide behind another neighbor's mailbox. Then I "come out of hiding," smiling like an idiot (because that's how I am).

Now they're REALLY looking at me. And that's when I realize that's not my wife and daughter! It's not even the same model car! It's not even a woman and a girl!

Oh well. I can only hope they didn't just happen to be videotaping the road ahead of them. Don't want that showing up on YouTube. :)

Dare to be nice

  Dare to be nice (or friendly, even) once in a while instead of "cool."

As my brother-in-law says, "Jus' sayin'."

Cereal

  "I think I'm addicted to cereal," I said.

"Addicted?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm gonna hit the street looking for my latest fix."

"And by 'street,' you mean Aisle 3 at Kroger, right?"

"Don't question my street cred!"

You saying I'm ugly?

  I was explaining to my 9 year old daughter what "networking" is, and that I'm not very good at it.

She opined, "That's because a lot of people judge you by your looks. And you're not ..."

"You trying to say I'm ugly?"

"I don't think so," she said, "but other people do, yeah."

Don't you just love kids?

One too many cats

  I was up a little earlier than usual this morning, which apparently surprised one of the cats in our house. The thing is, we only have one cat. Any more than that is too many. This one — either a stray or just one of the neighbor's cats, I don't know; either way, it's apparently our cat's buddy — was just coming out of my bathroom where we keep the cat food, and I was just coming out of my bedroom.

It saw me and casually strolled back into the bathroom. It probably then thought better of that move, fearing I was headed toward the bathroom myself — you know, to get some of that tasty cat food for myself — so it came back out and took off running past me toward the back pet door.

The only problem is that dogs and cats just can't get any traction on our hardwood floors, so it was slipping and flopping as it tried to run as fast as it could.

It made it past me and out the pet door without a problem, probably because I just stood there, half asleep and half amused at what I was seeing. I couldn't see much this whole time because the house was almost completely dark except for the light from the master bathroom nightlight behind me and the nightlight in the "cat food" bathroom ahead of me. So, I wasn't entirely sure that wasn't just our cat, Sunny.

It was only after I went into the kitchen to make coffee and turned on the overhead light that I saw Sunny sitting there alternately looking at me, then the pet door, as if to say, "Did you see that?! There was another cat in the house!" As if she didn't already know that!

I'm just chalking it up to life's way of preparing me for when my little girl starts bringing home unwanted boyfriends who will probably also want to eat my food.

Parents code of ethics

  Signing my daughter up for softball, I just had to laugh at this (stripped down) Parents Code of Ethics:

  • I will encourage good sportsmanship
  • I will place the emotional and physical well-being of my child ahead of my personal desire to win.
  • I will remember that the game is for the youth — not adults.

I guess they got sick of parents yelling and screaming and getting into fights!

Cold day in November

  It was cold today in Nashville! The high for the day was only about 45. I guess that'll feel warm if we get that in January, but still.... It's supposed to get down to the mid-20s tonight. I know, I know. You all in Chicago and Moscow are saying pfftt!

But that's why — among other reasons — I don't live in those places!

This is deep

  I just had to share this comment someone left here on FriendsNews.com. Read it, absorb it, digest it, lather, rinse and repeat it. Then let me know what the %$^# it means! Here it is:

I comprehend that is genuinely uninteresting and you're merely skipping to the next comment, nonetheless i basically preferred to toss a sizable several many thanks — a person resolved the main factors individually!

Lost a friend

  No, not that kind of "lost" (knock on wood). So get that lump out of your throat. No, I just noticed I've lost a friend.

Don't you hate it when you're walking along talking to someone, it's crowded, you hear a muffled scream but think nothing of it, only to realize several blocks down the street that your friend is no longer walking beside you; you've been talking to a homeless person for the past ten minutes without realizing it?

Well, that's never happened to me. But I did notice that my Facebook "friend" count is down by one. I don't recall unfriending anyone, so they must have unfriended me. Can't really blame them, I guess. People can only take so much ...


Dinner and a show

  After stopping at Tara's sister Stephanie's house in Smyrna to pick up a newly-refurbished Kindle Fire that Todd had put together, we had dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant, Mi Tierra. Elizabeth was "dying for refried beans!" Whatever. She's eight.

Mi Tierra is usually good, as it was tonight. What was different this time were its patrons. We sat eating our Burrito Loco, vegetarian fajitas, and enchilada with rice and beans, as what looked like a band of pirates came into the restaurant, six or eight at a time. They kept coming until there were about 50 of them, men and women, some with strangely-painted faces. I decided they weren't pirates — at least not all of them — but were in fact Renaissance festival participants. Never mind that the local Renaissance Festival was two months ago.

They were all young and white, except one black guy dressed as a sheep. Hell if I know. They were weird, but harmless. I told Tara, "I'm from California so none of this fazes me." Elizabeth didn't understand, so Tara happily explained how California is known for its weirdness. Still, if we'd known these people from the wrong century would be surrounding us, we would have sat outside as Elizabeth originally wanted to do.

We left before the inevitable "grog" drinking and Old-English-speaking began.

Just another Sunday

  Wife and kid are off at this thing called "church." Maybe you've heard of it. I'm not familiar. Not sure what to make of it. :)

I'm basically just hanging out waiting for the new mattress to be delivered. We told the delivery guy, "Anytime!" He sounded foreign. I hope he shows up before 10pm! Never know with "these dang ferners!" Anyway, we went ahead and spent the money on a much-needed new mattress, along with that "under" part that used to be called the "box spring," though that's not what it's called anymore. Anyway, it's a Sealy king size, and we got it last night at Big Lots during their "20% off everything" sale. With that and all the other stuff we bought, we saved over $200! And it was all stuff we needed. Really!

Also waiting on a few people to call, email or stop by and give me a bid on being my regular yard maintenance guy (or gal, but I've never seen a female doing this). Here's the ad I put out there, in case you know someone:

blackerries-grapes Oh, and I picked some fruit out back. Here's a pic:

Father's Day

  I'm just writing this post to get something new on the blog other than that free ad for Windows 7. :)

We drove up to be with my wife's side of the family today for Father's Day. An "extra special treat" upon returning home was to discover that our 8 year old Elizabeth had decided to trim her hair — to give herself bangs — on the drive home. I should have known she was up to something by how quiet she was the entire trip. Her mother was not happy.

And now I think they're back from the grocery store, so I need to help bring it all in. Until next time ...

P.S. — Funny how I write these things as if someone's reading. :)

House cleaning

  Doling out who would be doing what for today's house cleaning project, my wife Tara assigned the following to me: Strip and make the bed. Knowing me, she then felt the need to clarify this. "That means strip the bed."

I'll just let that sink in for those who don't immediately get it. During the chores, Tara told Elizabeth she could take 15 minute breaks now and then. I think Elizabeth was confused, though, because she seemed to be taking a break every 15 minutes, not just every once in the while.

And now they've gone to a cousin's birthday party north of town, leaving me to fend for myself in the coming "severe" weather. I think I'll be OK. :)

Holiday World

  I rode a rollercoaster for the first time in I don't know how long. It was a blast! The Raven has been voted "most awesome [or whatever] wooden coaster" several times in the past ten years. The Voyage, now the reigning champ of wooden coasters, was temporarily unavailable. Surprisingly, it was good therapy for my back. When the bottom falls out from under you while the lap bar holds you down, it is, in effect, a couple seconds of traction. It helps stretch out the spine.

I was so proud of myself, I tried to post that to my Facebook status — without the "traction" bit — but FB has been weird on my iPhone ever since the last couple of updates, and the post never went through. Where did it go? I clicked Send. Maybe it posted that to someone else's status and now all his "friends" are asking what the hell he was doing at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana when he was supposed to be at the Rotary Club fish fry in Manhattan, Kansas or something.


There were very few parents like me — at least in the water park "Splashing Safari" area — going on any of these rides. It was 90% under-18 there. Part of the reason for that might be that you first have to climb sometimes five or six stories high before riding down. I got a good workout.

I had ridden The Raven alone while Tara and Elizabeth rode the "Tin Lizzies" where, I'm told, Elizabeth almost had her first road-kill! A squirrel jumped out in front of them with Elizabeth behind the wheel. Luckily for the squirrel, you can only go about 3 mph in those things.

We spent 3/4 of our time in the "Splashing Safari" side. And while those water rides were all great, Elizabeth's favorite part was probably the Bahari Wave Pool, the more elaborate one of two wave pools. We all got some great swimming exercise.

Not pulled over

  Had a very brief, mundane, realistic dream the night before last in which I was pulled over by a traffic cop. I didn't think much about it until the next morning when I was going down Antioch Pike to a client's office. That particular stretch (as you pass the sports fields) is infamous as a speed trap. The speed limit is 35, but there's really no reason you can't safely go 45 as long as there are no kids, which there weren't.

Anyway, I was going about 45 when some Bubba coming the other way in a work truck flashed his headlights at me, the universal warning for "speed trap ahead." I slowed down to exactly 35 mph and, sure enough, there were two cops, each with his own radar gun, stepping out into traffic and pulling people over. They were far enough away that I hadn't noticed them at all. Thank you, Bubba!

As I came up to them, one of the cops on foot quickly walked down the driveway toward me. He was looking beyond me, though, so I kept driving ... exactly 35 mph. Right after I passed, he stepped into the street and pulled over the guy behind me.

I just found it interesting to have had that realistic dream the night before, only to experience such a "close call" the next day. Psychic premonition? Maybe, but not enough to hang out a shingle as a fortune teller.

Cinco de Mayo

  It's Cinco de Mayo, so we tried Moe's Southwest Grill. After ten minutes with very little movement (the line was so long), we left. Next we tried Las Palmas, a very good local chain. Same problem there. We didn't even bother standing in line.

Now we're at Taco Bell. No lines! ... and apparently, no service, either. After placing our order and sitting down, they forgot about us even though there was no one else here! Crappy food and crappy service. Tara texted, "Even McDonald's would have been better!"

So they comp'd us dessert. But they couldn't even get that right. We chose churros but they brought us cinnamon twists instead. True, they're pretty much the same thing, it's just that we asked for one thing and got something slightly different.

Afterward via Facebook, my sister Lucy commented, "Taco Bell is not real Mexican food!" My wife would agree. I brought home a burrito for her. She took one bite and, before she could even swallow it, asked, "What is this?" Chicken burrito, I told her. "Doesn't taste like chicken. Tastes like lard or something." No, that's just your basic Taco Bell burrito taste, I said. "Well, I'm not eating it," she said.

I'll have it for lunch tomorrow. :)

P.S. - Thanks, Dad, for the spelling correction on "Cinco"

Saved a life today

  Probably. You never know about these things. Anyway, I had forgotten to buy cat food and that is what allowed me to be there in time to save a life. Taking my daughter to school this morning, I had to turn south on Nolensville Rd because Old Hickory was backed up. I was running late, and there'd be no way to make up time taking my usual route.

I cut through the Bradford Hills neighborhood — they're having a community yard sale this weekend, by the way — and I was careful to keep at or below the speed limit. I've actually seen old ladies out there in the past, writing down license plates of anyone speeding. I don't know if that's admissible in traffic court, but why take a chance? Besides, if I lived there I'd appreciate people keeping their speed down, for safety.

Traffic was still backed up coming into the school zone from this direction, but we eventually made it to the school's curb. Elizabeth's school is having yet another "assembly" today, and after climbing out of the car, she was at my rolled-down window reminding me that the "after party" was in the multipurpose room — which is where I'm supposed to drop off the vegetable tray — but the assembly itself is in the "FABA" (auditorium).

Walking past and behind Elizabeth with her own two kids was a female celebrity who shall remain nameless for the sake of her kids' anonymity. She's in a show I never watch because it's just a nighttime soap opera. I don't know how big of a part she has. She smiled politely. Sort of. She's obviously constantly worried how people will react to her. I smiled and nodded, and told Elizabeth I'd see her later this afternoon.

Coming home, I almost went back the way I came, down Edmondson Pike, but instead decided to take the usual Old Hickory route. And that's what put me on the path to saving that life. I had meant to stop at either one of two Krogers along the way and get cat food for Sunny. She had given me that look and a long drawn-out meow last night when she noticed her "auto-feeder" food dish was down to its last few kibbles. But as I said, I forgot. I think she'll survive until I can get back to the store.

So, I'm driving back home down Old Hickory — the winding, hilly, rural, "Cane Ridge" part — when I came around a turn. I saw something dark and small on the road up ahead. I wasn't sure if it was a rock or a dirt clod, but I slowed down to get a better look.

It was a turtle! I quickly slowed to a stop, jabbed my thumb into the emergency flashers button, and jumped out of the car. Luckily, there were no other cars around … yet. The turtle was in my lane, just barely, and headed to my side of the road. As I ran toward him, he tucked his head and legs inside his shell.

I picked him up and set him down in the grass on the other side. He said thanks as only a turtle can, and — okay, so he didn't say anything — but I'm sure in his own way he appreciated me. Where I had stopped, it was just after a curve in the road, so I ran back to my car before anyone plowed into me. There was a small gray sedan coming up on me, but he was going slow enough to stop, no problem. Cows often get loose in that area, so most drivers know not to go too fast.

I jumped back into my car and came home. And that is how I saved a life today … probably.

Great suction!

  In preparation for the much-anticipated Comcast installation (Internet, not TV), I do as they suggest and clear out a space where I want them to put the cable wall jack. Once I have that space cleared, I decide to vacuum the area. It's almost an instinctive reaction: You clear out a space that hasn't seen the light of day in months, then vacuum the spot while it's exposed.

As part of this "clearing out," I disconnect the phone that's plugged in near there, leaving its cord on the floor. I did at least kick it underneath the desk, but it's just sitting there on the floor at this point.

So, I happily run the vacuum, thinking vacuous vacuum-related thoughts, when I come upon that loose phone cord. Instead of picking it up — as a smarter, less lazy person would have done — I try to vacuum around it. And, you guessed it, I came too close, and I'll be darned if that Dyson vacuum cleaner didn't suck that cord right up, yanking the phone itself off the desk in the process! Not only that, it snapped the adapter cord at the base of the AC adapter, so now that is completely useless.

I have to find another AC adapter that will work — which, as you know if you've ever tried to match a pile of adapters with its appropriate electronic device, is highly unlikely — or I need to just put an old phone back into use, which sucks because the one I ruined had a speaker option and a nice little screen for caller ID. I could buy another office phone, but really don't want to spend the money. I've been buying too many things lately in preparation for this Comcast cable connection!

I should just punish myself and make do with one of these old thrift-store used phones.

Doing the dishes

  So, my wife tells me most people do the dishes every day. I don't believe her. "Every day?" I ask.

"Yes, every day," she says.

"Every single day?" I persist. She nods. "You don't mean," I search for clarification, "it's something that is an 'every day' thing, but in reality is not done literally every single day, do you?"

"No," she insists. "What I'm saying is that most people, or at least someone in the house, probably a woman, does the dishes, literally, every single day ... unless they're on vacation or something."

"Wow," is all I can say. "I just find that hard to believe."

"Are you calling me a liar?" she asks.

"Oh, no, definitely not," I assure her. "I'm sure you're as honest as ... the next wife."

"You'll be looking for your next wife if you keep this up!"

Shaking while braking

  Three and a half hours in the Pep Boys waiting room is always time well-spent, wouldn't you agree? :) I'm home now, appreciating the comfort of my office chair, but Pep Boys seriously needs to consider putting more comfortable seats in their waiting area. I did get some things done while waiting, at least. I knew it'd be a while so I brought my laptop. Luckily, they provide free wi-fi. Who doesn't these days?

I focused on my book-related online chores like updating my Amazon Author's page, figuring out how to publish a Kindle ebook to hard copy through CreateSpace, etc. The laptop battery held up for most of it, but by the end both the laptop and iPhone batteries were about to die.

I had printed out several Pep Boys coupons ahead of time, not sure which one would apply. Naturally, I didn't print out the one for 15% off brake parts, the one I ended up needing. [The cashier ended up running it through manually as a "military discount" which, I guess, is 15%.] Other than an oil change, we weren't sure ahead of time which one I'd need.

Tara's Honda Accord's front end was "shaking while braking" pretty badly at high speeds. It seemed fine to me this morning as I drove it, but I never took it on the Interstate. Tara thought the tires were the problem. Other than one of them being low, I thought the front-end alignment might be the problem. Turns out we were both wrong.

Luckily, Tara suggested that I pull up the 15% brakes coupon on my smartphone and show them that and see if that would work. It did, saving us us $50!

It's nice having a smart wife. :)

Denied again

  This is the second "denial" in as many days.

Yesterday it was the life insurance company.

Today, I got one of those job application denial emails:

Thank you for your interest in our [recent] opening. We have had a chance to review your resume ... Unfortunately, we have decided to pursue other candidates who match our requirements more closely. Should something change ... we will not hesitate to contact you.

Yeah, right. I felt like replying, "Oh well, your loss. It would probably be an incredibly tedious and boring job, anyway."

I'm not taking it personal, I'm just blogging about it because, well, because that's what I do.


Insurance companies

  Good news: SunLife Financial sent me a refund check! Bad news: It was because they denied my policy for, according to them, failing to send all of my paperwork in on time. Um, I think faxing it in at least a couple days prior to the deadline qualifies as "on time!" I guess it doesn't count until one of their "customer service" people waddles up, picks up the fax, files it in my folder and inputs it into my account. Good news: On the same day as the refund check, they sent me a new pre-approved application for life insurance! Bad news: It'll be $472 more per year.

Question: You don't think they purposely denied my original application (for fictional deadline issues) so I'd be "forced" to accept this higher premium, do you? Answer: I guess I'll be shopping around for a new policy ... with someone other than SunLife.

Tried to mow the lawn

  Well, I tried to mow the lawn, but the lawnmower wouldn't start. I swear. :) It's probably all clogged up from sitting there unused all winter. It was a hand-me-down mower, anyway, probably in need of replacing, but that's just not in the budget right now.

Actually, the yard looks better au natural at the moment because it's full of purple flowers. Sage? Lavender? I don't know, but most yards in the neighborhood have them. Their owners are probably thinking the same thing I am.

Contentment

  Contentment is lying in bed, social networking on my laptop, listening to my wife and daughter "fight"/tease each other in the other room, while I've got the cat cuddled up on my left and two out of three pugs cuddled up on my right.

Diary, 2012/07/02

  It almost rained today. I know, exciting. Apparently, it did rain pretty hard in some places, but not here on "the south side." Hopefully, by this time next week it will have rained several times. The possibility is in the forecast, anyway. Just trying to keep my "crops" healthy.

As Mark Twain said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it!" Of course, that may soon change if it hasn't already, thanks to HAARP, which is an open secret.

Conversely, the Russians are proud of their ability to manipulate the weather.

And now my daughter apparently wants to play peek-a-boo, so I guess that's the end of this post. :)

Diary, 2012/06/30

  It's supposed to be record heat again today. Yesterday was 109F degrees, which is unheard of in Nashville. Today is supposed to be 107F. I've already watered my fruit trees and vegetable garden in the backyard this morning. Yesterday when I came home from work, the garden was literally wilted from the heat. I have never had an entire garden wilt before.

Inside the house, I'm still trying to get used to our new hardwood laminate floors. I was not happy to get them in the first place, but the dogs (especially our recent rescue/foster dog) and cat had pretty much ruined the carpet. As my wife assured me, we really had no choice. As I signed the contract, I said aloud, "Well, it's a good investment." It's the only way I could soften the blow to my wallet.

It was installed by Empire, who you're probably familiar with if you live anywhere within a thousand miles of Chicago. They did a good job. The dogs — whose nails now click-clack everywhere they go — don't like the floors. They're all gathered in my office now — which still has carpet — preferring something soft to lay on. When it's hot like yesterday and this afternoon, though, they'll be laid out on the cooler hardwoods. The thing I feel most guilty about is that they can no longer get enough traction to jump up on the couches or bed.

I know, civilized people don't allow that, but I have no problem with them on the couch. They're small. If they were Great Danes instead of Pugs, my rules would be different.

First, Chandler was simply too old to jump onto the bed, which really is quite a leap for a Pug, anyway. Then Daisy developed hip displaysia, so we had to start picking her up and putting her on the bed. But now even the youngest, Joey, hesitates. We're trying to transition them away from the bed, anyway, so this might be a good thing.

Well, I should get back outside while it's relatively cool, and water the shade trees in front. I need to improve that circle of soil at their bases.

Monkey Joe's again

  This could get expensive coming here on a regular basis at $9-$10 every time, but Tara had a coupon that made it half price. We're at the new one in Brentwood/Cool Springs. Much better than the one north of town near Rivergate. Much more professional-looking. For one thing, all the bouncy houses have the Monkey Joe name, etc., all over them. Even the wireless connection is better. And being in a much closer part of town helps.

I just changed seats because I felt like people around me were reading over my shoulder. Not that I have anything to hide. I'm not writing anything unseemly, I just don't like people snooping. Of course, I'm living in the wrong part of the country being sensitive to that.

I've lost track of Elizabeth, but that's okay. They don't let anyone leave without checking their wristband. At first she wanted me to watch her "do" each bouncy-house thingy, but now she's on her own with whatever new friends she's found. That's never a problem for her.

I spotted her! She's with a younger brown-haired girl. Well, time to surf the Internet.

She's just come bawling her eyes out, thinking I'd left her. She was very upset that I had moved, and made me promise never to do that again. I should have told her I was moving. I promised I would never ever leave her. And now she wants more quarters to play those various games, hoping to get enough tickets to win a "big prize."

Now, back to my surfing.

Couch potato

  I've been a couch potato all day. Well, most of the day. I did finally pull up the dead "crops" in the vegetable garden at one point. And I did do some recycling, taking the paper, bottles, cans and plastic bags out of the trash cans and putting it into the appropriate recycle bins in the garage.

I tried to accomplish a few things on the computer(s), but everything's so damned slow, I usually said screw it before it finished whatever it was doing. Oh wait, how could I forget, I started off the day doing taxes because I have to file self-employment tax by Tuesday night. And I did take the dogs to the park while Tara took Elizabeth, well, all over town today, apparently.

They went to the Science Center, then McDonald's, then the movies. I think there was something else, too. Tara was being extra nice because Elizabeth has had to endure these past few "snow days" at a particularly dreary school. We're both pretty upset about the local school district's decision to cancel school for THE ENTIRE WEEK last week, even though only Monday and maybe Tuesday saw bad road conditions in 99% of the county. School board members can't relate to us non-school-workers who DON'T get the day off whenever the kids do.

That 2011 Jetta's intelligent crash response system, or whatever it's called, looks like a great idea. Just saw the commercial. I love great ideas. Don't know if I'll ever buy a Jetta, but you never know.

UPDATE:

Tara bought a used Jetta a few years after this post.

The Packers are beating up on the Falcons. I never have liked the Falcons. Earlier, I watched the Steelers squeak past the Baltimore Ravens. I don't really like either of those teams, but it's the playoffs, so I watch. If I had to choose, I'm glad the Steelers won. It was a much higher-scoring game than anyone expected.

Winter has arrived

  It's been snowing all day, at least an inch and a half accumulation. Earlier, I put some de-icer on the driveway in preparation for tomorrow morning. Before that, I had to walk the dogs in the snow. You know, pugs don't like snow. It just really throws them off, having to go potty on something white instead of green.

Lying here now, blogging and watching Sunday Night Football. I've got two of the three pugs and our only cat with me, asleep.

I'm happy to see NBC has at least ONE hit show. :) Besides, there's nothing else on. I'm not going to watch Brothers and Sisters (chick show) or CSI: Miami (pompous lead actor).

New washer

  The new washer was delivered today. I let them take the old one away even though we'd just bought it (used) a week ago. That's right, it lasted just one week. Oh well, we didn't really need that $200 (after tax and delivery), anyway. </sarcasm>

I say "let them" take it because I could have had the repairman from the store, DT's Used Appliances, come out and try and fix it under the 90 day warranty. But we decided "screw it, maybe he'll fix it, maybe not, maybe they'll replace it, maybe that one will work better, maybe not." It just wasn't worth the back-and-forth complaint/repair runaround. If he did fix it, I could have then tried selling it online, but we have no room for an extra washer.

Anyway, the new one, a Whirlpool Cabrio bought on discount at the "scratch and dent" Sears outlet store, is pretty amazing. It cost $500 or so, originally $800 or so, which is pretty ridiculous for a washer. But, it's exactly what Tara wanted. It has a timer so you can delay the start of the wash until after your shower, or whatever. It's very quiet. Its top lid is glass so you can watch your clothes as they wash, if you're into that. Or, as the salesman said, you can entertain your cat for hours, putting him/her on the lid.

Yesterday

  Tara had a busy "day off." Her basic schedule consisted of: 1) taking our pug Chandler back to the vet (for the fifth or sixth time the past month) to check on his ulcerated cornea; 2) awaiting delivery of our "new" used clothes washer; and, 3) picking up Elizabeth from school. Underlying all of this, she's been sick with a cold … or whatever it is.

Mid-morning, I was at work typing an email to her about Sunny [see previous story] when Tara called to update me on Chandler. The vet, Dr. Paula, said he keeps reinjuring his eyeball and, no matter how many ointments, drops or pills we've given him lately, he had "taken 15 steps back."

Paula and a veterinary ophthalmologist are convinced he has been scratching at it, though we've never witnessed that. Anyway, now he's wearing a cone, which he hates.

Tara sent this picture: chandler-cone

While I had her on the phone, I told Tara my theory about what happened to Sunny. She said, "Ah-uh." Most people would describe this as "aha," but that's not a true depiction of its sound. And I'm all about true depictions. She called back around lunchtime saying that she and Daisy were searching the neighborhood looking for Sunny, with no luck.

Around 2:30 Tara called in a panic. She doesn't normally interrupt me at work so much, but yesterday was "special." She was saying I might need to come home early. Now our pug Joey was missing. What the hell was going on with our pets!? After the washer was delivered, Joey had somehow escaped. "He's just gone!" she said with a cry in her voice. I was preparing to pack up and head home when she said, "Wait, here he is!" To Joey, she says, "Joey come here now!" Back to me, "Well, he's alive now, but I might kill him before you get home."

Apparently yesterday was the day to go missing. That night, Tara had closed the back door, not knowing Elizabeth was still in the back yard "looking for Sunny" even though she'd already been found.

When I didn't see Elizabeth anywhere in the house, I asked — now my turn to panic — "Where's Elizabeth!?"

Ahhhh, the life of a parent of children and pets.

Lucy's birthday

  Today's my sister Lucy's birthday. She must be having a good one, because she has not replied to anyone's email birthday greeting.

The previous weekend was our nephew Daniel's 2nd birthday party in Smyrna.

That kid partied until it was almost dark!

In other birthday news, we drove all the way to Smyrna again (15 miles away) to get a free birthday dinner for Tara at a new-ish Mexican restaurant called Mi Tierra. It was Tara's birthday on the tenth and they give you a week's grace period. Dinner still ended up costing $26 after tax and tip. Tara had to study the receipt to make sure we really did get her portion free. The food has been good there both times we've gone, but the service has never been that great. But then, in at least half of all restaurants we've ever patronized the service is almost never very good.

You tell me if this is unreasonable: I like a waiter who attends to us promptly after being seated, then leaves us COMPLETELY alone after the food arrives (unless we specifically flag them down). We don't like them "checking in" every five minutes, usually when I've just put something in my mouth. The food needs to arrive within 15 — 20 minutes after ordering, preferably sooner. They then need to recognize when we've finished eating and bring us the check, and COME BACK within a couple minutes so we can pay it and leave. So often, they bug the hell out of us until we're ready to leave, then we can't find them. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me, but so many places just don't meet that expectation.

In other news, we finally got rid of that damned mouse that had, thanks to our worthless cat, been living with us the past few weeks. Tara had suggested putting the trap — live catch, because I hate to kill things unnecessarily, and besides, I don't want dead things in the house, call me crazy — behind the refrigerator, because that's where we kept hearing him. It wouldn't fit between the wall and fridge, so I put it right next to it back there. Sure enough, it finally worked. There had been so many false alarms with that trap (it would close by itself), that it was almost a fluke this time that I bothered to step outside before opening it. As soon as I did, the mouse startled me when it leaped out, landed on the grass five feet below and scurried off into the taller grass next to the fence. Good riddance! I hate that mouse-droppings smell they leave behind.

It's been a couple weeks now since we cancelled our Dish Network subscription.

No cable or satellite TV.

I surprised us both by being the one who missed it the most. Tara normally watches three times the television that I do, but as soon as it was gone, I felt like I had to have it back. I've been fairly obsessed in getting television on our screen again, first via the Internet, then via the airwaves thanks to an antenna. Remember those? This one looks like a spaceship with rabbit ears. Anyway, I apparently wanted what I couldn't have. Typical guy behavior, I think. I learned something new about myself, I guess: I'm a typical guy … sometimes.

Today, after a lot of research I finally ordered an outside antenna that will purportedly receive HDTV, UHF and VHF signals. I was prepared to buy the $60 one at Radio Shack, but this one online (through the Amazon link on Tara's site) only cost $35 or so. I used the "super saver" (super slow) shipping to avoid paying for shipping. Hopefully, once installed we'll finally

get channels 5 and 17 (CBS and Fox, respectively). Turns out, most of our favorite shows are on CBS or Fox. If we were getting 5 and 17 already instead of 2 and 4 like we are now, I would not have bothered with an outside antenna. We get Telemundo now, too, so I'm hoping to catch the occasional soccer game that I never got through pay TV except during the World Cup. Maybe I'll learn Spanish in the process. :)

Diary, 2010/07/25

  Just got back from an all day shopping excursion. I don't know how Tara does it every week. I told her that was harder work than going to the office all day. She said, "So, you appreciate me more now?" Of course, I said yes.

First we went to "Tara's" Kroger, the one almost in Nolensville city limits, for bread and something else while Elizabeth and I stayed in the air-conditioned car with the motor running. Then we stopped at Walgreen's a hundred yards down the road because Tara forgot to buy something to drink. Again, I stayed behind in the car, but Elizabeth went in. Apparently while in there Elizabeth tried to talk Tara into buying all kinds of junk food. Tara had said "no, we're going out to lunch for some real food." She then tried to talk us into going to "Old MacDonald's" for lunch. We both said, no, that's not real food, either.

From there we went to Smyrna because they have a Super Target and Tara had a bunch of things she wanted to buy, on sale of course. But first, we stopped at Snappy Tomato (pizza buffet) for lunch. It's not the healthiest food, either, but they have salad. It's much better than CiCi's Pizza or Sir Pizza, but then canned dog food is better than those. We then drove over to the Target shopping center. Elizabeth and I went into the PetSmart two stores down while Tara shopped in Target. We walked round and round PetSmart, seeing every critter in there at least a couple of times. That includes the customers who brought their dogs in, which Elizabeth ALWAYS asks to pet. Hey, at least she asks first. One of the critters I felt sorry for was some sort of "dragon" lizard that obviously REALLY wanted to get out of his glass cage. We saw him there the other day, too, though I've already forgotten what we were doing there that time. Anyway, this lizard kept looking at me with those oversized eyes, as if saying, "Come on, dude, let me out!!!" I might have bought him if I thought I could give him a better life than he already had, but I didn't think so.

I finally couldn't take it anymore, so we left the pet store and went into Target. Tara just happened to be walking down the aisle within sight and just ahead of us. She was a good 10 yards away with her back turned. I don't know how she knew we were coming (I had told Elizabeth to sneak up on her but don't say "boo" because she doesn't like that), but it was obvious she did. Elizabeth asked how she knew, and Tara said, "Because they gave me eyes in the back of my head when we got you." Elizabeth didn't believe her.

We then drove over to Staples, even though it was just a few stores over because I had pulled the car in front of Target to pick up Tara. In Staples I wanted one of those laptop cooling trays/pads because this laptop starts searing into my legs after a while and literally makes me sweat. I was checking out office chairs and mats, too, because my current chair mat is badly cracked, making it hard to slide on. Making it even harder is the fact that the chair wheels are missing. They and their replacements just broke off one by one, so it's an "executive" office chair without wheels. Anyway, while testing a chair and after I had chosen a USB-powered laptop cooling tray for $20, Elizabeth found this much simpler thing that I'm using right now. It's just a tray with padding underneath, nothing powered about it. That's really all I need. And I didn't get a chair mat or chair because they're just too expensive. My current chair is not bad, really, it just has no wheels. As Tara says, I'm hard on chairs. She bought it for me for Father's Day a couple years ago. It has a vibrating feature, too, that I haven't used in years because it limits my range of motion when plugged in.

From there, since we were already in Smyrna, we drove down to Murfreesboro another 15 miles or so southeast along I-24. There was an Old Navy in their newest shopping center, we thought, where Tara thought she could get some school clothes for Elizabeth cheaply. We drove the entire length of that sprawling outdoor mall's parking lot and never did see the Old Navy until we had given up and were about the leave. Then there it was. Once again, I tried to entertain Elizabeth while Tara shopped. Toward the end I stood outside the dressing rooms, holding Elizabeth's white teddy bear, while she tried things on. Yes, I love shopping. Not.

Finally, we headed home. Oh, but we weren't done yet. We had to stop at OfficeDepot near Hickory Hollow because they were having a deal where a ream of copy paper only cost a dollar. Tara said the bored salesman watching her had a look in his eye as if to say, "Please buy more than just that." She didn't. And FINALLY we were done shopping!

Oh, but wait, then we had to go to the library to return mostly children's (but not all) books and videos and replace them with "new" ones. On the drive over there, there was an asshole hugging my bumper, staying on the left edge of our lane so I'd be sure and see him. Of course, that just ensured that I never quite made it over the speed limit. I hate drivers like that, anyway, and after yet another incredibly hot summer day of shopping and driving I was in no mood to comply with anything he might want from me. Unfortunately, he then had to turn down the same street where I turned. I can imagine he was cussing me out pretty good back there. Oh well. Luckily, he didn't follow us into the library parking lot. I was starting to worry he might be a psycho with a gun. It was the right neighborhood for it. We avoid the area, normally, because of the "gang bangers" and just generic punks.

Thank God we're home now, and I'm writing this long-ass story about absolutely nothing that you really wished you'd never started reading. Right? :) And Chandler's looking at me, telling me it's dinner time.

Diary, 2010/07/24

  We all went to the Nashville Zoo today. My God it was hot ... and sticky. Luckily, Blue Bell Ice Cream was handing out free cups of vanilla ice cream, which we grabbed upon arrival and at departure. I think today was literally the hottest day yet this year.

When we got home I felt sorry for the vegetable garden and watered it with the "elaborate" hose system I've got connected to my three rain barrels. I had to empty one of them, anyway, so I could move it back in place after it had slid off its flimsy wooden foundation in a recent storm and had been leaning up against the other barrels ever since. You can imagine how heavy those 55 gallon barrels get when they're full.

This should make you laugh. Elizabeth just now came in, saying, "Hey, mister, you didn't kiss me goodnight." I immediately got up to follow her back to her room. Tara must have just finished her bedtime story. Of course, Elizabeth then changed "mister" to "monster" and had me chase her back to her room. In her room and kissing her goodnight — with her on the bed as she insists — Elizabeth barked, "Shave!" That's one of her latest things, complaining about my stubble, even when I shaved just a few hours before. Anyway, right after saying "shave!" she added, "You prick." Tara had to cover her mouth to keep from bursting out laughing. Elizabeth then added, "I don't like prick." Tara was Cracking up behind her, but Elizabeth didn't notice. Elizabeth was obviously referring to my prickly stubble, unaware she had just called her father a prick. I'm glad she doesn't like pricks, though. That's good, right?

Diary, 2010/07/23

  I'm lying here on the couch — with the pugs asleep next to me — getting my "new" laptop just the way I like it. A customer was supposed to show up and drop off their laptop today at 3, but that never happened. Shoulda guessed that, but I had to be here in guess they did show up. Anyway, this "new" laptop is much older than the new Acer netbook I bought in October (for just $290), but the keyboard is much bigger which makes it SO much easier to type. I told Tara (my wife) she can have the netbook if this other laptop (a Dell Inspiron 1150, by the way) works out for me. I spent $50 on 1 gigabyte of memory to speed it up, and so far so good. Did I mention it was free? Yeah. A long-time customer who was moving out of town and trying to lighten her load just gave it to me, free. She thought it was dead and I never tested it until I got it home. Turned out, it was just the battery that was dead. Once I recharged that, it was fine! To give it a fresh start, I wiped the hard drive and installed XP Pro on it even though it came with XP Home. After installing service pack 3 and Office 2003 on it, however, the thing was DOG SLOW! Unbearable. That's when I bought the new memory. With the new memory in it, I tried installing Windows 7. That went fine except that the video display was limited to 800x600 because of driver issues, and that resolution is just not acceptable these days. So, now it has XP Home on it again (but not Office), which I'll stick with 'cuz I'm sick of reinstalling everything.

Something else I've gotten free recently are the antibiotics I need to take prior to my biopsy I'll be having in a couple weeks. Three pills and they wanted $48 for them! And that was AFTER the insurance cut the price in half. For antibiotics? Anyway, on the pharmacist's (Kroger at Nolensville and Old Hickory) suggestion, I called the doctor's office back to see if they had a generic equivalent that might be cheaper. They didn't, but they did have some samples they could give me free of charge if I wanted to stop by and pick them up, which I did.

Apparently on a roll, I then went to Lowe's to see about a hand tiller. Basically, a four-pronged four-foot pipe with a vertical handlebar on top and a place for your foot at the bottom that helps loosen up dirt in your garden or wherever. The weeds have gotten out of control again. I'd seen one that morning at Ace Hardware for $30, which I thought was a little too much for such a simple tool. I thought I might check online for something cheaper, but never got around to that. Then after work I stopped by Lowe's and found an even better tiller for $29.88. I brought it up to the self-checkout register (apparently that 12 cents versus Ace's price made all the difference) , but it didn't have a barcode on it, so I had to take it to an actual cashier. She asked me what it was called so she could look it up on her register. One of her co-workers insisted it was called an "aerator," which she had to ask me how to spell. The word "tiller" had escaped me for some reason, but I said I thought the sign called it a "cultivator." She wasn't finding anything under either name. Finally, her co-worker went to where I'd found the item and came back to tell the cashier which number to enter into the register.

He then marched off in a hurry somewhere.

When she typed in the number, it came up as a flower. Peonies, actually, and the price with tax was $5.44. "Does that work for you?" she asked. "I said, 'Yeah, that works for me, but it's not the right item.'" She said, "No, I entered in the number he gave me. That's what came up. Does that price work for you?" I realized then what she was saying. "Yes, that works for me!" And so, I got the hand tiller for $5, which is probably what Lowe's paid for it, anyway. Then I called my bargain-hunting, coupon-queen wife and told her about this great deal. She was proud of me … I think.

Maybe these freebies and cheap deals are the universe's way of making up for the financial hardship I've gone through since losing my job last September.

It was only two weeks ago, by the way, that I basically got my old job back, only as a part-time consultant ... without benefits, of course.

Too bad it ends in January.

My wife is convinced, and it's hard to argue, that they're going to close the Nashville (actually Brentwood) office.

Aetna reverses its decision

  My insurance company, Aetna, which denied a $10,000 medical claim last year, has finally reversed its decision (after my second appeal) and decided to "process the claim" again.

Woo-hoo!

Let's see how it actually shakes out, though, before I get too excited.

Bird in the house

  Woke up this morning to a bird in the kitchen. I had a hunch the cat Sunny had brought something inside because, while still half asleep, I heard her banging around outside of the bedroom somewhere.

Anyway, I walked into the kitchen, and there was a bird perched on the curtain rod over the back door. I couldn't get the door open fast enough. The bird's wing hit me in the head as it flew back outside. :)

Sunny brought in a dead bunny rabbit a couple days prior. I really wish she'd stop doing that, but how do you train a cat to, well, do anything?

Installed the new dishwasher

  I finally got around to installing the new dishwasher that Tara's sister Stephanie mysteriously bought for us. Not sure why, but I never look a gift horse in the mouth. Seriously, if anyone ever feels like giving me something, feel free! :) Anyway, taking apart the old one (and its hoses) released the most foul stench into the house. When Tara got home she immediately asked about it, I told her, she opened every window she could reach, then took Elizabeth and left! I had suggested it, actually :)

I stayed behind and finished the job. The smell happened because we had stopped using the old dishwasher (because it was almost worthless anyway), but without that occasional hot water running through its pipes/tubes, the water that never left its system basically turned into bilge, almost sewage. That's how bad it smelled. It's outside now.

Anyway, the new one is installed (though I haven't drilled/screwed it into place yet) and working fine. It should be nice having a dishwasher again. Thanks, Stephanie!

McDonalds wi-fi

  In Nashville, anyway, it seems you can get around their proxy system (those outlets that use it), simply by using Google Chrome and maybe Firefox. It might be as simple as using any browser other than Internet Explorer.

Using Internet Explorer, I tried to be a good boy and sign up for a "free" account. The only problem is that you have to put in your email address, they send you a confirmation, and you have to click on that verification link in your email. They didn't stop to realize you don't have internet access yet in order to GET your email. Retarded. Don't tell Sarah Palin I used that word. :)

Anyway, you might get by with other browsers just fine without signing up.

Happy spring!

  I am sooooo glad winter is over ... here in Nashville, anyway. I'm also glad we're not getting any flooding like North Dakota. Now, I need to make up for last year in my vegetable garden. Last year was a wash-out because of the late freeze warnings, combined with my back and knee problems.

Speaking of my knee, the hospital is still trying to collect payment for that operation because my so-called "insurance" company, Aetna — more like unnecessary middle man — refuses to pay them (around $10,000 or $4,800, depending on who you ask), saying that it was a cosmetic surgery, which they don't cover. The only flaw with their argument is that it wasn't "cosmetic surgery." Who the hell has cosmetic surgery on their knee?! Runway models, maybe. You don't want to see me on the catwalk.

Aetna had no problem paying the surgeon, anesthesiologist and staff, just not the hospital itself, and it was for the SAME OPERATION! Pinheads. They, Aetna, are just trying to bury me in paperwork. Maybe it's my legal secretary experience, but that sort of tactic doesn't intimidate me. Speaking of legal, does anyone know of a good attorney who's been successful fighting retarded health insurance companies? It might come to that.

Speaking of hospitals, my wife Tara had a good idea: I should sign up as an IT temp with Vanderbilt hospital. They have their own temp agency for their IT staffing needs. Temp-to-perm jobs have always gone well for me because I NEVER interview well, but they like me once they see how well I work. I just don't seem to make a good first impression; not with Southern male hiring managers, anyway. They like me on paper, then they meet me in person and sometimes seem to just have this gut-level dislike of me.

Temp-to-perm is how I got the two best jobs I've had in Nashville: first, with Healthtrust (now HCA), where I started as a temp doing Lotus Freelance presentations for the CIO, then "naturally" segued into running their email system; then in 2005, I started with Franklin Industrial Minerals (now Lhoist North America) as a temp "Application Support Specialist", or "A.S.S.", where everything was great until they were bought out by those assholes from Belgium. I almost forgot, I had another temp-to-perm job at Louisville Ladder in Smyrna (just south of Nashville) as their network admin before that plant was shut down and moved to Mexico.


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Thawing out

  Hopefully. It snowed a good 5-6 inches Friday in and around Nashville. It wasn't good snowman/snowball snow, though. Not in our neighborhood, anyway. It was too crusty because of the freezing rain that came after the snow. It made for great sledding, though, which Elizabeth and I spent several hours doing over the past few days.

The pugs hate the snow. The past two nights now, with the temperature only briefly rising above freezing on Sunday afternoon, the sidewalks and grassy areas are still covered completely by this crusty snow. There's just nowhere for a pug to poop. I had to rake out some of the snow in the back yard to create some grassy areas for them to go.

But enough about that. Now it's Monday morning, and we're looking forward to it being sunny and above 40F later today. I could have let today's sun do this for me, but I decided yesterday to go ahead and clear the snow off the driveway. It took my elderly neighbor just a few minutes to do what I'd been working on twice as long. I think my driveway is a bit bigger than his, but that's no excuse. I was using a garden rake and regular shovel. The key to his success was his snow shovel. Once he proved his superiority, with his wife looking on, unsmiling, he loaned me his snow shovel. As I told my other neighbor, Troy, it's amazing what a difference the right tool makes. Troy then borrowed it and did the same to his driveway.

Our street is on a hill. We're the first house on the right, going up the hill, so days like these are not too bad for us. For those at the top of the hill, however, it's sometimes impossible to get up and over. One such neighbor, who has a Boston Terrier — that's how dog owners identify other dog owners — made at least two attempts. At the time, Elizabeth and I were out on the driveway. I was clearing it, she was trying to build a snowman at the edge of it. A couple of times I had to tell her to come back to the safety of the porch in case any cars coming down the hill lost control and plowed into our yard. Anyway, this one Boston Terrier neighbor finally, after two failed attempts, sat and waited at the bottom of the hill for the sun to do its work and let a few cars better-equipped for the snow than his small sedan loosen up the ice for him. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he tried again, gunning it in front of our house where the ice was mostly melted. This time he made it, with a few neighbors like me looking on, rooting for him. A few minutes after that, his neighbor came down to get his SUV that he'd left parked at the bottom of the hill the day before. I missed it, but he apparently made it up the hill just fine, too.

Elizabeth did finally make a snowman, but she had to recruit Tara for the job. Tara wisely suggested trying it in the back yard because the sun had been shining there longer and softening up the snow, making that area much better for snowman building. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, Elizabeth came running out to tell me to look at their snowman. I got video of her in front of it, but I think Tara has already posted a picture of it on her blog, Tara's Favorites.

A day without my car

  I'm just testing this Windows Live Writer software.


It was a dark and stormy night … No, it was an unusually cold day … yeah, that's it … for the first week of December when I was forced to go without my beloved — well, maybe not beloved, but much appreciated car. It's in the shop because it's running roughly, "missing" is the technical term. I hope to get it back tonight.

Just last night, seeing some people at a bus stop, my daughter asked what they were doing there. I explained they were waiting for a bus. "Why?" she asked … of course. "Because not everyone has a car," I said. She seemed to accept that. She could relate, having just a tricycle, scooter and bicycle herself.

Holiday World

And the verdict is: This Windows Live Writer is a pretty nice piece of software!

Diary, 2009/10/28

  We had a "Fall Festival" party at Elizabeth's daycare/preschool tonight (called that because some parents don't like Halloween). Elizabeth went dressed up in her Minnie Mouse costume. She was very cute. But then, she's cute no matter how she's dressed. :) They had a "magic" show that was cute, but I've seen better. :) Actually, Elizabeth really enjoyed it. She sat right up front and interacted with the magician, though she was never asked to be one of his volunteers. After the show, he made balloon animals for all the kids. Elizabeth kept asking for a sheep. Over and over. Repeatedly. She's good at that. :) The magician just kept ignoring her, it seemed. We finally realized why when he explained that he'd never been asked to make a sheep before and had to think about it while he made the other animals and swords, without thinking. In the end, it was a very nice sheep and Elizabeth was happy.

It was freezing cold later tonight as I walked the dogs. We only had a couple weeks of fall, and now it's apparently already winter. At least we're not in Russia. Most of Russia is so far north, their daytime only lasts about 8 hours or less this time of year. So, it's not only freezing cold more than half the year, but it's dark more than half the day.

Anyway, you'll be glad to know that all the dogs pooped on their walk tonight. Always good, but especially now that we just had the carpets (a couple of rooms, anyway) professionally cleaned because one (or maybe both) of the boys had peed on the dirty clothes hamper in the bedroom and it really stank. Yes, we washed those clothes, but the smell just would NOT come out of the carpet. We never caught them, but we suspect they kept peeing on it whenever we weren't looking. Two boy dogs trying to get in the last word, so to speak.

Well, this time next week they'll be counting (or miscounting) the votes to see who our next president is. I can only hope that the polls showing Obama way ahead are accurate, but I also suspect that the voting machines (hell, the entire process) are fairly thoroughly rigged in favor of McCain, as they were for Bush. Like Stalin said, it's not the votes that count, it's who counts the votes. Just so long as Obama's margin of victory is too much for McCain's vote "fudging" to matter, everything will be cool. No, I'm not a Democrat, but I'm even further away from being a Republican. Both parties are corrupt; the Democrats up to their necks, the Republicans up to their eyeballs. :) If it comes to that, I can only hope that Obama has more balls than Gore or Kerry and actually follows through on the recount challenges, keeping it out of the Supreme Court who have no business getting involved anyway. Enough politics. It's a constant source of irritation for me in this part of the country where almost everyone expects everyone else to follow the herd and vote Republican.

Aaanywaaay! How 'bout those Tennessee Titans, eh!? Still undefeated, even after playing the (formerly?) mighty Indianapolis Colts. The Titans seem to be for real this year. Who knew?!

I was actually going to talk about walking the dogs tonight, but I tend to digress. Bad habit. Hence the title of my autobiography (on sale now at lulu.com!) :)

Diary, 2009/10/17

  Been trying to learn Cisco (network routing equipment) online through skillsoft.com, which I was given access to in my severance package. Maybe I need to just move out in order to get everything done that needs getting done. My 4 year old daughter thinks just because I'm working from home right now, that means I can play all the time. It makes it hard to concentrate, and some of this computer stuff takes some serious concentration.

I love my daughter, but she is easily the most demanding child I've ever come across. Of course, she's the first one who is MINE, and I don't want to avoid her. I don't want her to grow up thinking I don't want her around, so I have to spend as much time as possible with her. She's going through a needy stage.

I've also been trying to finish a screenplay, which also takes concentration ... and quiet. Actually, I think that's finished. Let me back up. First, I wrote a novella as if I was writing a screenplay. It was in prose form, but was more visually oriented, with a lot of dialogue as a movie would have. That was not very well received, so I reformatted it into screenplay format, updating it along the way. Then I just recently wrote another outline because the screenplay had too many flashbacks and voice-overs, I thought. This third version started at the beginning chronologically. It's just taking forever, and it's really not that great of a story to begin with. It was just a writing assignment I gave myself. I should probably drop it and start something fresh and new. The only problem is that I would love to sell it, or at least something, because I could use the money right now. I'm too old with too many dependents to be a "starving artist."

The weird thing about this story is that it involves someone who gets fired, finds his girlfriend cheating on him and videotaping it, and learns he has a fatal disease, all in one day. Actually, that's not the weird part. The weird part is that I've always had this vague worry that what I write will come true. And then, I write a story about a guy getting fired, and guess what, I get fired in real life. I don't see my wife having an affair, though. And if she did, I really don't see her videotaping it. :) Of course, my previous story involved a guy who wins the lottery and runs for president, and that hasn't happened yet. :) Both of these stories, by the way, are available at http://stores.lulu.com/holmeswa.

Diary, 2009/10/15

  Two weeks shy of my birthday and I'm still looking for a job. I don't know why. I never really fit in at these corporate soul-sucking places. Oh that's right, I need to pay the mortgage, daycare, grocery bill, utilities, car payment and its insurance. And don't forget the exorbitant health care premiums. You ever tried buying health insurance when your employer didn't get you a HUGE discount? It's ridiculously expensive.

It just occurred to me: Maybe the corporations actually sorta LIKE having healthcare costs being out of control because then they can lure prospective employees away from smaller companies by promising healthcare cheaper than the smaller companies can offer it, thanks to their volume discount.

Can you believe Obama wants to FORCE people to buy health insurance? What if you can't afford it? They're going to force you, anyway? Isn't that pretty much the epitome of fascism? And people thought he was a socialist! Actually, he belongs to some sort of new "ism" yet to be named. Or maybe it HAS been named: "commulism" like what China has evolved into. Maybe he's just copying them?

I'm not one of these right-wing-nut email-forwarding rabid anti-Obama people, but I'm definitely incredibly disappointed in him. He's just such a corporate whore. Too bad he doesn't use his charm and intelligence for good instead of evil. But then, anyone who wants to be president pretty much HAS to be a megalomaniac.

Well, that turned into a rant, didn't it? On another subject, I'm still getting used to this netbook. It's an Acer, and it's so small and my hands are so big! I didn't realize netbooks were this small. I knew they were smaller, but not THIS small. hope I CAN get used to it. It was only $290, and then I got a mysterious $10 rebate. You're probably wondering why I'm spending that kind of money after losing my job, but I HAD to have a laptop or netbook in order to continue writing. I'd been borrowing an old unused laptop from work, so I had to replace that.

Too many doctors lately

  I had knee surgery the other day. They removed my bursa sac that kept filling up with fluid due to an injury. The only thing I can figure is that it happened when I helped this neighbor kid stop his bike as he was coming down the hill, scared and saying, "Help!" I jumped in front of him and stopped him, but he and the bike were heavier, with more momentum, than I anticipated.

The pedals or something smacked my knee and scratched my other leg. He hit the street and got scraped up, anyway, but at least I had softened the landing. It turned out his brakes were fine.

He'd either panicked and forgotten to use them or had done this on purpose to get attention. I'm starting to wonder if it was the latter. A guy at work told me, "If it was me, I would've let the kid crash." Maybe I should have.

Next week, I get my second epidural steroid injection in my back for my ruptured disc / spinal stenosis problem. The first one a month ago did wonders, but I'm not quite 100% yet. I'm hoping this second shot gets me there. I didn't think I would be the one using up all of our medical benefits this year, but I have. We have a really crappy health insurance where it boils down to having a $5,000 deductible. Anything over $2,500 and less than $5,000 comes immediately and straight out of my pocket. The first $2500 is still paid by me through my weekly premium, but they do at least "front" me the money as needed up to that $2500. Anything over $5,000 and they pay 80%, but it's that middle $2500 that kills ya.

See the recent Bill Moyers episode where he talks to a former senior Cigna vice-president who explains what a bunch of scumbags the insurance company executives are, as if we didn't already know.

Haircut

  Got a haircut today. Finally! What little I have left — after all the stress at work and the stress of the recent back pain — was getting pretty long and goofy-looking unless it was wet and slicked back. Anyway, I was sitting there in my chair getting my hair cut by the same middle aged woman who cut it last time. I had my head down as I usually do — because I'm tall and have a big head and the person cutting my hair is not always tall enough. Maybe that's not really necessary. I don't know, but I keep my head down, anyway. Always good advice.

Anyway, this guy comes through the door and is talking to the other hair cutter. I can't see him. He's getting real specific about what he wants done. He seems to know all the terminology. He's talking about using a #1 in back, and a #2 here, fading here, feathering here (I thought that went out with the 70's), and a couple other terms I've now forgotten. I'm thinking this guy is really into his hair. If I had hair, I might be into mine, too, so I wasn't really holding it against him. I had simply told my "stylist" to take a couple inches off the back and keep it short around the ear and keep it above the ear. I was initially given a choice of a #8 blade (or whatever) as their records showed I had done before, or scissors as I'd had the last time. I said last time was good, so she used scissors. If it was up to me, I'd just buy a "Flowbee" and cut my own hair, but Tara won't let me.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the guy with the terminology. So, I'm sitting there thinking he must have some really great hair. By the time I was finally pointed in his direction and I could lift my head to see him, I was shocked. The guy had no hair. Or, at least, there were no hairs more than a quarter inch long. He looked like Curly from the Three Stooges.

I just thought that was funny. Kind of an anti-climactic story, eh? Sorry. I'll try to do better.

I was going to mention the mouse we had in the house, but Tara already has on her blog, here: http://tarasfavorites.blogspot.com/2009/06/crisis-of-conscience.html

Holiday World

  Tara just brought me back from the pharmacy where I'm having a prescription filled. We used CVS pharmacy because Tara had a coupon. She is the coupon queen. Doesn't buy anything without a coupon these days. It's a hobby. You should check out her blog at tarasfavorites.blogspot.com.

Anyway, the reason for the prescription is because my back went out again. It happened Thursday at Holiday World (Santa Claus, Indiana) as Elizabeth and I were getting out of a raft at the bottom of a water slide. I turned or bent awkwardly or something and that old familiar raw nerve pain hit me. It made me mad more than anything else because I knew it was worse than just a temporary pain. I'm all too familiar with the feeling of my spinal cord being jabbed by a ruptured disc.

Tara had tried the next day to get me an appointment at a pain management clinic where I've received epidural steroid injections before, but she couldn't get a hold of anyone. I called again today, and had the same luck. My regular doctor's office couldn't do any better Friday or today, either. So, I went to see my regular doctor for a steroid "dose pack." Those work, too, sometimes. Other times, the pain returns as soon as the dose pack is used up. My doctor promised that if these dose packs don't do the trick, he will call the pain management clinic himself and have me scheduled for a steroid injection.

What about Holiday World, you're wondering? Well, first of all, we only went because Tara scored two free adult tickets courtesy of the local JackFM radio station. Secondly, we got another couple bucks knocked off Elizabeth's ticket just by bringing in an empty Pepsi can. And, finally, it's just a great place to take a kid. Luckily, we have one. Her name is Elizabeth. She's "this many" (four).

She had a great time. I mean, she was in heaven, with the look of utter bliss on her face. First, we hit the kiddie rides which you can see here. Then we all rode a ride that I don't know the name of. It's like an octopus with bucket seats on each arm, and everything spins around. It went much faster than Tara and I had thought. We were afraid Elizabeth might be scared, but she wasn't. She's fearless.

Then we went to the water world half of the park. We rented a locker for our cameras, purse, change-of-clothes bag, etc. The locker broke. The lock just came off in my hand. Three or four staff tried to fix it before they gave up and gave us a new locker. Tara wondered why they couldn't have done that right away.

Anyway, the first thing we did there was the kiddie pool, then the wave pool, which was really cool. It felt like swimming in the ocean. I held Elizabeth while she "swam" around (wearing a life jacket). Then we went on the water raft slide. That was really fun. Again, I thought Elizabeth might be scared. She wasn't. Unfortunately, at the end of it I screwed up my back. I had planned on going on the roller coasters by myself, but the injury cancelled that. Tara accompanied Elizabeth on most of the rest of the non-water-park rides, which took another hour at least.

Tara kept saying to me, "If you're hurting and we need to leave, we'll just leave." But I said no. I wasn't going to ruin Elizabeth's trip just because I'm a broken down old man. Elizabeth was enjoying herself so much, it was fun just to watch her. At one point, I put my arm around Tara and said, "They don't have this sort of thing in Russia."

They probably do, but we never saw it when we were there.

Christmas 2008

  It took five months, but here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-IBFQsYpuw

New fence

  I forgot to mention that I built a fence last weekend. It only spans about 12 feet from the side of the house to the retaining wall dividing us from our slightly-uphill neighbor. I've still got to cut a gate into it. Hopefully, I can pull that off. [I pulled it off. See below.] Then, maybe next weekend I'll get the other side of the house fenced. That's just a 9 foot section between a neighbor's existing fence and the back corner wall of our house. This is all just to keep the neighbor kids and dogs from using our yard as a shortcut. There's a quasi garden wire type fence now, which is enough to keep a pug in, but not much else. A real fence will ruin the pugs' view of the street, so maybe they'll have less to bark at.

As to the garden, several seedlings (germinating in dixie cups indoors) are really coming along now. We might plant some of them in the garden this weekend. Which reminds me, I've got to check and see how the already-planted plants did with the past two nights' frost.

Click here.

Thought for the day

  I was noticing how I'm not as good of a speller as I used be, or at least not as quick. Old age, I figured. Brain deteriorating. Oh well.

Then I decided it's not necessarily that big a deal when certain brain synapses or pathways/habits die or just get worn out. It just forces me to use other mental processes, other brain routes, sending me in new directions, mentally. As long as I still get there, mentally, who cares how?

It reminds me of one of my pet peeves with corporate life. Those who get ahead are usually the ones quickest to come up with a plausible solution. That sounds fine on the surface, but the quickest plausible answer is almost never the best answer.

I prefer to take a few seconds and come up with a better "big picture" answer. Of course, by then, the conversation has passed me by in favor of the fast talkers. And then, what's the saying?, "Another bad idea gets through."

Diary, 2009/04/02

  Today is Dad's birthday. 90 years old! Amazing. I'm 48, in case you're wondering. Amazing ... ly disgusting! Oh well.

Anyway, back to Dad. Longevity runs in his side of the family.

His mother lived to be 101. His father made it to 81 or so, as did his oldest brother and only sister ... I think. I didn't really pay attention to their age when they died. Sorry.

His younger brother is still kicking. A year or so ago, my dad emailed an article about his brother, titled something like "The Energizer Bunny of Bay Area Contractors."

Earlier today, just a couple hours ago, there was a tornado warning in Brentwood (TN) where I work. We actually heard the sirens, which means a tornado had been spotted somewhere. I prudently went down one flight of stairs to the ground floor, expecting to hang out in the stairwell. I thought several people would already be there, but there was no one. After about five minutes, I felt stupid and went back up to the office. By then, the storm had passed and the warning had expired, so I turned my computer back on and worked another 45 minutes until it was time to go.

We're getting more and more tornadoes here. Tornado Alley has expanded east into Tennessee.

For some reason on the drive home, I was thinking about our pug, Daisy. She's a sweet puppy normally, but our almost-4-year-old daughter Elizabeth (her birthday is the 19th of this month, by the way) will aggravate her sometimes to the point that Daisy will snap at her. Daisy snaps at her, purposely never biting her. Anyway, I was thinking about the day we brought her home for the first time (six years ago).

We still had our cat Myca at the time. Daisy was so small, we were afraid Myca would just eat her. He had already demonstrated his knack for catching wild "game" (rabbits, mice and birds) and bringing them into the house. We kept Daisy in bed with us for at least a week until we were confident that Myca would not eat her. I was more afraid of one of us rolling over and squishing her while we slept. Anyway, we eventually had her sleeping on a doggie pillow on the floor by the bed. She was as big as Myca by then, I guess, and Myca behaved himself.

Year 2 of my vegetable gardening experiment began last weekend. Today, the newly-planted stuff is getting a good soaking. Not overwhelming, I hope. Elizabeth and I have so far planted romaine lettuce, green onions, broccoli and bell peppers.

That's outside. Inside, we've got many more plants germinating: radish, broccoli, onion, squash, tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, watermelon and some sort of red berry that Elizabeth picked off one of our front shrubs. :) Of these, the broccoli started off first, but has since apparently died. I don't know. The radishes are looking good, and the onion is poking its way out of the dirt. Nothing else is above dirt yet.

The Farmer's Almanac predicted that the last frost will happen here on April 6. I had gambled that the last frost was behind me. Yesterday I saw a prediction for frost next Monday night, the 7th. I guess I lost that gamble and will have to go out and cover my plants that night.

Our first outside Christmas lights, ever!

  That's it. No story. Here's the link:

Our first outside Christmas lights

Diary, 2008/11/10

  Parents all worry about how well they're raising their kids; how they will behave; what kind of people they will grow up to be. Well, tonight I discovered a sad truth about our youngest daughter, Sunny. She likes to hang out in gutters. You heard me. Gutters! Oh, the shame of it all!

Sunny is a cat, in case you didn't know. She was apparently hanging out down the street and around the corner from our house when the pugs and I walked by tonight. I wasn't aware she ever wandered that far from home. When she spotted us, she came trotting (way too slowly) across the street toward us. I had stopped to let her catch up when a car come along. I called to her repeatedly to come to me and get out of the street. She didn't. The car was then upon us and Sunny was still in the street, though at least mostly out of the way.

She wasn't going to do what I said, no matter what, so I just watched to see how she handled an oncoming car. Was she smart enough to get out of the way? Was she going to be killed right in front of me?

She decided to get killed, apparently, because she bolted back out into the middle of the street. Luckily, the car wanted to turn into the driveway where I was crouching with the pugs, so there was no way he was going to hit Sunny. I did have to drag the pugs out of the way, though.

Out of harm's way now, I crouched down and again called to the cat. She came back over ... mostly. Just like a cat. She was now directly in front of the storm drain. Daisy, already in the habit of trying to kill Sunny every time the cat goes through the cat door, then growled and lunged at her. Naturally, Sunny took cover down into the drain. I'm now thinking I'll have to fish her out of there ... after the dogs' walk.

On the walks, each dog has his own routine. Chandler, the black one and our oldest, almost always walks behind and to the left. He must've been an Asian courtesan in a past life. Daisy and Joey are usually tugging on the leashes, with Daisy on Joey's left. After Joey has stopped to sniff something, he will usually try and circle around from behind and wrap me up in his leash. I caught on to him early on, though, so he almost never trips me up.

Chandler or Joey will almost always be the first one to poop. Daisy likes to wait as long as possible, usually only giving in and doing that particular function on the way back. By the time we were on our way back tonight, Sunny was once again above ground but still crisscrossing the street. I hope I don't have to scrape her carcass off the street someday, but there's no way we can keep her strictly inside now. We'll just have to take our chances.

Diary, 2008/11/07

  Well, I had a hell of a day. It started off normally enough, though it was raining, which is increasingly rare around here. I dropped Elizabeth off at school on my way to work, and from there my day took a wrong turn.

I took side streets the rest of the way to work instead of the main Old Hickory Blvd route. The side streets are just faster, usually. On Nolensville Road across from a new-ish development combining houses, condos and businesses, Lenox Village, there's this no-name gas station that just happened to have gas for a relatively cheap $2.33 per gallon. I pulled in. I went to use the debit card and it was denied. Crap. This happened Wednesday night at OfficeDepot, too.

The problem was that our main checking account had gotten overdrawn because of the automatic mortgage payment going through. Overdraft protection covered the mortgage payment and several others that hit on that same day, but there was suddenly a negative balance on the account. I transferred money from other accounts as soon as I discovered it and there was a positive balance again. Anyway, I aborted my attempt to buy gas, and continued on my way to work.

I was admiring the beauty of the changing and falling leaves in the gently falling rain, trying not to let it bother me that the girl in the car behind me was following too closely. I just hate that. At least there was no one in front of me as I came down a hill on a small road that dumps out into a more heavily-travelled but still small road. Edmondson Pike south of Old Hickory, for those of you familiar. When I touched the brakes in preparation to stop, the brakes locked up.

I'm thinking, "Shit!" So, I let off the brake for a second, then touched them again. Not hard at all, just the normal gradual pressure. They locked up again and I started sliding on the rain-slick road. That idiot girl behind me is still following too closely, and I'm now getting flashbacks of my accident last February on an icy road where I rear-ended some poor innocent girl who wasn't following anyone too closely. No one was hurt in that accident, by the way.

Anyway, I'm now cursing loudly as the stop sign gets closer and closer. I'm alternating between pressing the brake and letting off, with no luck either way, now convinced that I'm going to cream someone with my Pathfinder SUV as I fly across the road into the church lawn on the other side at the bottom of the hill.

Now just a few feet from the stop sign, I look to my left to see who I'm about to kill. I'm just curious. I can't see anything to the right, really. Coming from the left is a dark grey SUV of some sort. At least it's a man driving alone. I'd hate to kill a young woman or a car full of kids. I had reached the stop sign now and had to do something besides screaming "f***k" at the top of my lungs. Luckily, there was a grassy patch to the right of me right there at the stop sign. I was able to turn into the mud prior to the street itself and give the oncoming SUV a chance to get past while I wallowed there for a second. Also lucky, there was not the usual never-ending line of cars behind the SUV, so I was able to just get right back onto Edmondson Pike and keep on going like nothing had happened.

And that idiot girl got right in behind me. Wouldn't you think if you saw the guy in front of you go sliding off into the mud instead of making a normal stop, you would want to keep your distance? Not this girl.

Right after that is a fairly sharp left turn. If you miss the turn, you end up in a deep ditch in front of Music City Kennels. I gently pressed my brakes going into that turn and they worked fine. And from that point on, although I was keeping a good 100 yards between me and the car in front of me, my brakes worked fine.

Is it possible a leaf got into my brakes and caused all this? Maybe my brakes are just faulty and once they lock up, they just keep locking up for a few seconds. Not long, just long enough to kill me. In hindsight, what happened today is probably what happened when I rear-ended that girl in February because I always felt that I wasn't following her too closely that day. I'm getting my brakes checked next week.

Anyway, I made it to work. But that wasn't the end of my stressful day. Up until lunch everything was fine, but I HAD to get my and Tara's debit cards cleared up before the weekend. For lunch, I had nothing in the office fridge and had to go to Kroger (grocery store) for something for lunch. I can't eat fast food anymore now that I'm a vegetarian. There's just nothing available in that vein. Of course, my debit card didn't work at the self-checkout so I had to use a credit card. My bank, Suntrust, actually has a branch in that Kroger. I had thought about talking to the dorky but seemingly intelligent teller I usually deal with there, but he wasn't around. All I saw was some young blonde guy who I assumed would be useless like most people behind most counters. :)

After I ate lunch in the office break room with the usual gang from work (Terry, Keith, Amy, Darlene, Paula and Wendy), I went back out to a different bank branch. The Brentwood branch in Maryland Farms, the one where I thought I had made it clear to the manager that if my mortgage payment was going to overdraw the account, DON'T make that payment, make the mortgage company call me, I'd said. I had done this after they'd charge me $256 in overdraft charges! Bastards! Pardon me.

It had taken several minutes of repeated explanation that day before the bank manager claimed to understand and assure me that it had been taken care of. At one point during that conversation, I actually had to ask, "What part of this don't you understand?" I wasn't trying to be an ass, he was just being so stupid. He apparently came up with a "solution" on the spot just to get rid of me, and it didn't work.

Anyway, I went back there again today and explained my troubles to some woman behind a desk. She said she didn't think what I had asked her manager to do was possible. I said maybe not, but he assured me it had been done. The manager himself then came over and looked up the actual note in their computer system from 7 months ago, the one he'd said would take care of it. I was nice to him today and said, "Well, you did your part, but the system didn't work."

Anyway, they called another branch manager (because my account is technically still "owned" by the Green Hills branch where I'd originally opened it 15 years ago). He'd been in a meeting when they called, but he called back after I'd returned to work. He explained that the Brentwood branch manager never should have told me it was taken care of because, like the woman in the Brentwod office tried to tell me, what I had requested was impossible. According to them, anyway.

If it wasn't for the fact that they LIVE off overdraft fees and such, they could easily have programmed their computer system to NOT take out payments if there were insufficient funds, because the mortgage is also held by Suntrust. I explained this to this latest branch manager. He probably knew I was right, but never let on, and never waived the main $175 fee as I had requested, but did at least waive a subsequent $35 fee. I've got an email into their corporate customer service via the web site, however, so I haven't totally given up on those fees being waived. I'm not holding my breath, either.

Anyway, I'm now back home. Tara and Elizabeth are at Elizabeth's 6-year-old twin cousins' birthday party an hour north of here in White House, TN. I'm relaxing writing this, drinking wine (some Australian brand Merlot) with the pug Joey on my lap, listening to, well, Chopin at the moment, although it was Bruce Springsteen before that and the Cowboy Junkies before that. iTunes. Gotta love it. I have eclectic taste. Now here's the Crash Test Dummies, and I'm tired of typing.

Later.

Diary, 2008/04/26

  I took Joey to the vet this morning for a routine follow-up. I volunteered because I thought his appointment would conflict with Tara's plans to take Elizabeth to meet up with her Auntie, Tara's sister Sandy, at the Franklin Street Fair. Tara conveniently allowed me to think that.

When Joey and I got back home, Tara and Elizabeth were both still just lounging around the house, not even out of their pajamas! Anyway, the vet, Dr. Paula, was glad that Joey had lost one pound, but he needs to lose eight more. A pug owner herself, she does NOT like fat pugs.

She gave me a free bag of Diet Iams, or whatever. She and one of her female assistants also commented on Joey's sexiness. Actually, their wording was something like "Joey is bringing the sexy back." I said, "Yes, he is a very sexy pug. Even the cat's in love with him." I didn't mention that Chandler is always trying to hump him, but that might not qualify as "love." But, yes, Joey is a very handsome boy. Don't worry, he's not conceited at all. Anyway, the cat Sunny will rub up against Joey the same as she rubs against a human leg to put her scent on a person. Purring the whole time, she'll groom him with her tongue. It's true love. Joey is also probably Elizabeth's favorite. And that makes sense because he's the most outgoing and friendly.

Having said all that, however, he is also available for adoption to a loving home. Whoever adopts him would have to love him as much as we do, and we do very much. He's our most recent pug adoption, about a year now, but he's just one too many animals. I wouldn't mind getting rid of the cat, too, come to think of it. Maybe you can take both? Don't worry, if we can't adopt them out, we'll keep them and love them as we've been doing all along.

Elizabeth is NOT available for adoption. :) She and Tara planted flowers around the mailbox last night, by the way. They're very pretty ... and so are the flowers. Ha-ha. The wildflower seeds that Elizabeth and I had scattered a couple months ago are now blooming, too. And speaking of the yard, it's now late enough and cool enough and I need to go mow the lawn.

Good Friday

  It WAS a good Friday. There was nothing religious about it. If you know me at all, that wouldn't surprise you.

I was just reading my previous post and wanted to have something more positive this time. We're all still adjusting to each other and getting better at it every day. That last post was three weeks ago and feels like months ago. She almost never makes me mad now. Don't get me wrong, she still irritates me sometimes, as I probably do to her. But that's rare now. We generally get along very well.

Tara, Elizabeth, the pugs and I just got back from the park where we had pizza for an early dinner followed by at least an hour at the playground with slides and swings. It was great fun, but Tara and I had to tag-team being the one to play with Elizabeth while the other held the dogs.

This morning, all three of us humans went to "Music With Mommy." Usually, that's just Tara and Elizabeth, but since I was off today, I went, too. It's a lot of fun. Elizabeth loves it.

Bill and Tara's excellent adventure

  It started out as an innocent attempt at "dinner and a movie" on a Saturday night. It turned into ... Tara's nightmare! Well, okay, so maybe it wasn't quite that bad. But still ...

We had dinner at Schlotsky's, each of us ordering one of their 8" "personal" pizzas. Tara got her usual barbecue chicken. I tried something new: the so-called Thai chicken pizza. It was okay, but there was nothing particularly "Thai" about it. Yes, we like chicken pizza. Some people find that strange. I'm used to people thinking I'm strange. Tara's having to get used to it herself. Oh, she's known that I'm strange for a while now. What she's still not used to is having people think she's strange by association.

From there, we drove to the theater on the other end of the parking lot — the "strip mall" Nipper's Corner, for those familiar with Nashville — to catch the 7 o'clock showing of "Castaway" with Tom Hanks; co-starring Helen Hunt, who seems to be co-starring in everything these days. The movie was good. And I think the actor playing the part of "Wilson" should win an Oscar. He was great!

Two and a half hours later as we filed out to the lobby with the rest of the audience, Tara started looking for her car keys since she was the one who drove. We stopped so Tara could set her purse on a nearby railing and dig for the keys. "I can't find my keys," she said, concerned. I thought nothing of it. She's forever unable to "find her keys," only to find them a few seconds later at the bottom of her purse. That purse, by the way, as small as it is, has an incredible tendency to bury whatever you need the most somewhere in its depths.

Tara does have a bad habit of locking her keys in the car, or the house, or wherever it's most inconvenient. I guess that's why she reacts with such concern every time she doesn't immediately find her keys. Knowing this about herself, she went to the trouble of having extra sets made a few months prior. Having these made was a long, drawn-out misadventure all its own — like this story — taking her to several ' dealerships and hardware store locksmiths before her cousin Ronica's husband Jayson, a locksmith among other talents, created two duplicate sets of car keys. One set was to remain in our house; the other to be put on my key chain.

I never did get around to putting those keys on my key chain, probably because I subscribe to the "fewest keys possible" theory. I just don't like a bulky set of keys. You'll never find me wearing one of those "janitor-style" belt-mounted key-chain-on-a-string things that are so popular. To me, it just makes you look like a janitor. And is that really a good thing? No offense meant against janitors, but it's not generally the look I'm going for.

Anyway, as feared, she did lock her keys in the car. Walking out to the car just to make sure, she said, "I thought you were gonna put that extra set on your key chain?"

"I ... uh ... never did," is all I could say.

We could've easily gotten into an argument about it, blaming each other for our predicament. Plenty of couples would've been at each other's throats the rest of the evening. Tara and I aren't that sort of couple. We both realize you can't undo what's been done, and arguing about it gets you nowhere. Worse than that, it only causes unnecessary stress, friction, anger, frustration and any other negative emotion you'd like to add. Don't argue about it, just deal with it.

"I guess we'll just call a cab," I said. So we went back into the theater to use the pay phone. I dialed 4-1-1. Rather, like so many things in Tennessee, it's not the same as everywhere else in the country. You have to put a 1 in front of that. The woman who came on the line after the computer voice was done talking to me, recited several cab company names. I told her to give me what I guessed would be the closest one, Brentwood Taxi. I called, and a man answered the phone, "Music City Taxi."

Whatever. "Yeah," I said. "Could you send a cab to Regal Cinemas at Nipper's Corner?"

"I gotta be honest wit' ya," the man said. "I won't be able to get anyone over there sooner than 45 minutes to an hour." Before I could even ask, however, he offered up, "But I can give you the number of a couple other cab companies."

I called the next one, and they said basically the same as the first. No one in the general vicinity. Calling our third option, Allied, the woman dispatcher said cheerfully that she could have a driver to us in 15 minutes. "Great," I said, and hung up.

We waited and waited and waited. After her "15 minutes" turned to 50 minutes, I called her back and asked whatever happened to our cab. "Lord," she exclaimed, "let me see if I can get 'aholt' of somebody for ya," slamming the phone down. I wasn't sure if she put me on hold or had hung up.

"She hung up on you," Tara said. "I could hear it clear over here."

I wasn't so sure, so I stayed on the line. When the phone started ringing in my ear again and the taped operator voice came on the line with, "If you would like to make a call ...," I finally hung up. As usual in most of our little "arguments," Tara was right.

Tara called the same woman, or at least the same cab company, back a few minutes later and asked politely, "Can you tell me if a cab was sent to Regal Theater at Nipper's Corner?"

The woman replied with a nasty tone, "I've got 500 people I'm trying to pick up!"

Hanging up, Tara said, "Well, that was the rudest woman I've ever talked to." She started calling family and friends, looking for someone to pick us up. No luck. No one home, or at least not answering the phone at this late hour.

Finally, disgusted with our predicament, I said to Tara, "Look, I'm just gonna walk home. You wait here." It was only three miles. "I'll find the extra keys and drive back here." But Tara didn't want to wait, here or anywhere. I'm not sure if it was because she was afraid to be left alone, waiting, or because she didn't appreciate my assumption that she wasn't up to walking home with me. Probably the latter. She can hang tough when she feels the need.

By then, the off-duty policeman/theater security guard had stopped by to talk to us. He was probably just sick of looking at us as he had been this entire time while making his "rounds" through the theater. He wanted to find out what we were up to.

"Yer ride forgit about ya?" he asked.

"No," I said, "she locked the keys in the car," conveniently placing the blame on Tara. "And we've been trying to get a cab to pick us up."

"Tried gettin' a hold of any of yer neighbors?"

"No, we don't really associate with our neighbors much," I said. At first, I thought his was a strange idea. But in the South, people actually do tend to know and interact with their neighbors.

"Our one neighbor doesn't live there anymore," Tara added.

I explained,"Yeah, she's never home."

Tara further added, for some reason with a hint of disapproval, "She's shacked-up with her boyfriend." I looked at her, thinking, "What's the relevance of that? Besides, isn't that what we're doing?"

"I would just walk home and get my car and her extra set of keys," I explained to the policeman. You know how people tend to unnecessarily explain things to police officers? Well, I do this, anyway. "But it's an awfully long, cold walk." It was literally below freezing outside. "Besides, I don't want to leave her alone." This last comment was a lie. It just seemed like the proper thing to say, for some reason. I was actually completely confident in her ability to sit there waiting.

No cabs ever showed up and we never did get a hold of any family or friends to pick us up. I probably could've called my brother Don and his wife Diane, but it was late, they lived at least ten miles away, and they were normally the "early to bed, early to rise" types, so I'd probably be waking them up if I called. Besides, I hate asking anyone for help. Is that a strength or a character flaw?

We ended up walking. Three miles, late at night in the freezing cold. Yes, we could've called a locksmith. Her cousin's husband, for instance. Only problem there was that they live forty miles away. Not only that, but, as we found out the next day, they were in the middle of their own emergency. (Ronica's father had broken his leg and had to be taken to the hospital.) A locksmith would've cost at least $50, and I'm just too cheap.

But what about Tara, you ask? Have you no decency? All I can say is, the way I figured it, I could just walk home and get my car and extra keys while Tara waited for me at the theater. That way, she'd remain safe and warm while I played hero. She didn't want to do that. So there you go.

It was the longest three miles we ever walked. (No, this story isn't over yet!) Even worse than that trek in San Francisco a couple years earlier. As "cold" as San Francisco gets, it's nothing compared to a real winter night pretty much anywhere outside of the Pacific coastal states. We froze our butts off this night, traversing the hills between Nipper's Corner and home. For some reason, Tara didn't put her gloves on until after I asked her. Less than a mile into our hike, she scared me when she stopped and said, "I can't feel my legs!" I was afraid she was injured, pinched a nerve, or something. It turned out she was "only" saying her legs were numb from the cold. My face was already getting numb. I had to work my jaw open and closed just to generate heat in my face. I was surprised Tara wasn't complaining, other than that one time. As I've said, though, she's tough.

About half way home, I suggested that she stop and wait inside the church up ahead, if they were even open. She said no. They weren't open, anyway. Down that hill, up another one, and coming down the final hill less than a mile from home, a couple of hoodlum-looking boys started coming toward us from the other direction up the sidewalk. "Great," she said. "Now we're gonna get mugged."

"No," I said. "Just walk close behind me." I focused on them as we got closer. I walked confidently, hoping to convey strength, basically. I know it sounds melodramatic, but that's just something guys do when confronted with other males, possibly hostile, walking the streets at night. I sensed, somehow through their body language, I guess, that they were just as worried about us as we were them. When we finally crossed paths, I realized why. They were fairly young boys; mid teens, probably, and quite a bit smaller than me. Tara probably could've "taken" them herself.

Once past the "dangerous" boys, we walked past an anomaly of a nightclub that I've noticed before but never have gotten a "handle" on. It's completely unmarked, only seems to be open on weekends, and is situated in the crotch of the L-shaped little strip mall, between the Japanese restaurant and the paint store. Tonight, a fair number of youths were milling about in front of the place. Two young couples several yards away walked in the same direction as us as they returned to their car. I wasn't worried about them. A little further away but also walking our way were a couple of young guys whom I felt were keeping an eye on us. Maybe I was overly-cautious, paranoid. I turned to look at them, just to let them know that I knew they were there. If they noticed me at all, I don't know. They disappeared quietly somewhere into the depths of the parking lot.

Walking up to the intersection of Nolensville and Old Hickory Boulevard, I suggested that Tara stop and get warm at the all-night Wal-Mart there. Our house was just another third of a mile away, a little bit behind the Wal-Mart shopping center. I was thinking she could get warmer sooner if she stopped in there. Again, she said no, and we trudged onward.

Maybe it was because we were so close to home now and my "toughing it out, surviving the wild" mental state was wearing off, but, as we walked the final distance through the Hickory Valley Condominiums little mini-neighborhood in which our condo sits, it seemed to be getting even colder. The aches and pains started to hurt a little more.

Once we finally set foot in the house, I let out a huge sigh of relief as its warmth enveloped us. It was good to be home. I never appreciated its shelter as much as I did that night. Tara didn't say anything. Her jaws were probably frozen shut. The first thing I did was find those extra keys and put them on my key chain.

The cat, Myca, came sauntering down the stairs to meet us, yawning and stretching. We had apparently awakened him from one of his interminable cat naps. He couldn't have cared less what we'd just been through. He wanted out. He's convinced the only thing we're good for is letting him in and out. It was near midnight now, and I don't usually let him out after 9. I let him out anyway, since Tara and I would be picking up her car in a minute and we could let him back in when we returned. I didn't have to wait that long. He wasn't out more than two minutes before he realized it was way too cold to be outside.

Coming back in, he meowed incessantly at us, probably saying, "What's wrong with you people? Don't you know it's freezing out there? Why haven't you been home and in bed with me?" A short while later, after retrieving her car, we were.

A day at the races

  [from 1994]

by Bill

The first Saturday in May. What does this date mean to you? Probably nothing, except that Spring has finally arrived, unless you live in California where it's been Spring already for two months or more — real Spring, not calendar Spring.

But ask any horse racing buff and they will tell you without hesitation the first Saturday in May is the day of the Kentucky Derby! Well, this story isn't about the Kentucky Derby or the first Saturday in May.

This is about the Breeder's Cup and the first Saturday in November.

It was on this day that I ventured north from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky, and Churchill Downs; about an hour and half drive. I had never been to Churchill Downs, so I followed the map — always a good idea — and found the place, no problem.

You know, the site of the Kentucky Derby since 1875? Twin spires? The first race of the Triple Crown? The Mecca of Horse Racing?

Enough of the melodrama. Fact is, it was just plain cool to be there.

I prowled the neighborhood, looking for a parking lot, but there didn't seem to be one. So, I ended up paying $10 to park on some guy's front lawn. The price was high, but it seemed to be the going rate. At least it was just a few yards from the track entrance.

At the gate, they wanted $15. Fifteen dollars just to get in! I said to the gatekeeper, "I just want into the infield, not the Clubhouse!" He shrugged and said it was $15 no matter which entrance I took. So I forked over the $15.

As I started downward into the tunnel that takes you under the track and into the infield, a female voice from behind said, "A little steep isn't it?"

I turned and looked at her as if she was an idiot. It was a slight downgrade, not steep at all. "Huh?" I said.

"Fifteen bucks just to get in," she said. "It's a little steep." And she smiled.

She looked to be somewhere in her mid to late twenties. Thick, long light-brown hair. A little overweight, though it was hard to tell with the raincoat and baggy pants she wore. She was fairly pretty, and seemed to be alone.

"Oh, yeah," I agreed. "Let's just hope we can win it back at the windows."

"Got any hot tips?" she asked.

"Not really. You?"

"'Fraid not," she pouted.

If I had any hot tips, I wouldn't have shared them with her, anyway. What good is a hot tip if you go around telling everyone about it? Her boyfriend then came trotting up from behind and, with a quick glower in my direction, whisked her away from me.

"Good luck," she said over her shoulder as her boyfriend tugged at her to hurry up.

I stopped at the first booth in the infield and bought a program. It cost $2.50, and I was already down $27.50 and hadn't even placed a bet! Oh well, that's the price of entertainment. That's what I told myself, anyway.

In case you don't know, the Breeder's Cup consists of seven races. It's basically the end-of-the-year championship day of thoroughbred horse racing, and it attracts the best horses from all over the world. They offer gobs of money, and that tends to entice the best horses that racing has to offer.

Each race has a minimum "purse" of $1 million. The Breeder's Cup Turf race offers $2 million, and the Classic offers $3 million. The winner doesn't get all that. They "only" get 60%, with the rest divvied up amongst the next four finishers.

Anyway, on the first race, the Sprint, I put a few bucks down on some horse whose name doesn't really matter. Ten minutes later, I was tearing up my losing ticket. I skipped the next race, the Juvenile Fillies race, since I'd never heard of any of the horses entered.

The third race was The Mile, and since I had skipped the previous race, I put a little extra on this one. By the end of the race, I was tearing up a couple more losing tickets. It was not a good beginning. And it's important to get off to a good start in gambling, otherwise you quickly degenerate into desperation. And, as any degenerate, desperate bettor can tell you, desperation is not a good thing.

Following The Mile, came the Distaff, a race strictly for fillies and mares. Again, I lost. [This is getting repetitive, isn't it?] After the Distaff was the Juvenile (for 2-year-old colts and geldings). The crowd's betting favorite, the only horse I'd ever heard of—but whose name escapes me now—had odds of 3-5 or something. I figured he'd win, but at 3-5 odds it wasn't worth it. So I bet on some other horse based on his name and the jockey. I lost again.

By this time, I had lost $60 of my personally-allotted $100 for the day—not counting the above-mentioned initial expenses—and I was getting annoyed. I was paying $4 per beer—Miller Lite, which I generally can't stand—and $4 for a crappy little cheeseburger that even McDonald's would be ashamed of. It was time to get down to business.

It was then that I ran into that girl from the tunnel. She was standing about twenty yards from one of the betting windows, watching the replay of the previous race on the big-screen t.v.

"Got any hot tips?" I asked as I approached her.

"Oh, hi," she said as if surprised to see me, though I knew she wasn't. I had seen her glancing in my direction, and that's why I felt comfortable in approaching her. "Well, my boyfriend says Lure is a sure thing," she offered.

"Lure, huh?" I said. "Yeah, he's won it the past two years." I didn't think much of Lure's chances this year, but I figured I would let her boyfriend blow his money on him.

Her boyfriend showed up a few seconds later. And, again, he glowered at me before pulling the girl along after him. I hadn't noticed it the first time I saw him, but this time I saw the words "DAIWA" stenciled into the front of his black baseball cap. Daiwa is a major manufacturer of fishing reels, which explained why he was so "hot" on Lure.

The girl smiled at me over her shoulder, but said nothing as her boyfriend dragged her off. Like a caveman, it seemed to me. I shrugged my shoulders. Some women like cavemen.

Flattered and inspired by this girl's flirtations, I decided to do something bold. No, it didn't involve her. What I decided was to just blow the rest of my bankroll on the next race, the Breeder's Cup Turf, and then simply watch the following and final race as a pure, non-betting fan of the Sport of Kings, i.e., a destitute bum hanging out at the track. Women do tend to inspire me to do stupid things.

There were several quality horses in this race; the above-mentioned Lure amongst them. But they were all quality horses. These were the best horses in the world on grass. The betting favorite, a horse named Missionary Ridge, was giving odds of even money. I didn't like his name or his odds, but he seemed like a pretty sure bet, and I was sick of losing. So, I figured, why not bet on him? At least I'll get my money back and have the satisfaction of betting on at least one winner for the day. I put $20 to win on him.

With the remaining $20 of my "bankroll" I played a couple of hunches. That girl's boyfriend was betting on Lure at least in part because he liked fishing. Well, I like hockey. And also entered in this race was a horse named Tikkanen, presumably named after the hockey star, Esse Tikkanen. He appeared to be a good horse, on paper anyway. His last race was a win in a major grass stakes race. And he was giving 16-1 odds. Never again would I get such good odds on such a good horse, so I put $10 on his nose. The other $10, I put on some foreign horse who had won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, France's biggest race, earlier in the year.

Well, guess what? My hunch bet, Tikkanen, won and I collected $160! With one bet, I had just paid for all prior expenses and lost bets, and then some. I was jazzed, but I was careful not to show it. There are people who hang out at racetracks looking for big winners to mug in the bathroom or parking lot. A hundred and sixty bucks is not exactly "big money," but they (these imaginary muggers) didn't know I had only bet $10. For all they knew, I'd bet $1,000 and would be collecting $16,000. You can never be too careful when they are watching. I sort of hoped I would run into that girl again, just so I could gloat and make her boyfriend look stupid. But I didn't see her.

For the seventh and final race, the Breeder's Cup Classic, I decided to follow the same thinking I had followed on the previous race. I put $20 to win on my "intellectually-calculated best bet." And then, on another hunch, I put $5 to win on a horse called Concern. I don't know what it was about this horse Concern that told me to bet on him. His name just sort of stuck out in my mind for some reason.

And yes, you guessed it. Concern won and paid $40! I was a happy camper all of a sudden. Again, I looked around for that girl, but she was nowhere to be seen. She was probably huddled with her boyfriend somewhere commiserating over their losses.

As I drove home to Nashville, I stopped for gas at a Chevron station somewhere in Kentucky. In Kentucky they have Lotto and Power Ball. Feeling lucky, I spent $5 on a "quick-pick" Power Ball ticket. The jackpot at the time was $10 million. Small by Lotto standards, but still, I could always use $10 million.

And, guess what? I didn't win. Oh well. At least I was still $150 ahead of the game, all told. Plus, I had fun, and had spent a day at Churchill Downs, the Mecca of horse racing.

I wonder whatever happened to that girl.

Regenerated Dec 11 2017
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