Friday, December 28, 2007

Post Christmas Letdown

Every year when Christmas rolls around, I start to dread it being over. It goes all the way back to when I was a kid and Christmas night would bring this terrible gloom crashing down on top of me. It still happens, but in varying degrees from year to year.

Since I've had my current job (12 years in June) I have always taken time off between Christmas and New Year's. Not much goes on at the office so no one misses me or needs anything in particular. Taking that time off helps stave off the gloom to a certain extent, although not completely.

During the break, I spend the time with the family and it was always great to play with my boys. I realized this year, that my boys have no particular interest in me or what I'm doing anymore. It's not like they're hostile, but they have their own things to do on their own timetable. This usually does not include me. They don't get toys anymore so they don't need help building anything. We always used to get Legos or Knex for them and it was a blast putting together different designs. It's a natural thing of course for one's children to distance themselves from you as a parent, but it doesn't make it any easier. It's not like they are babies (they are 20, 18 and 13), but I miss them even though I see them everyday.

Monday, October 1, 2007


It was Oktoberfest this past weekend in the town of Lovettsville. It's an annual tradition and it's always a lot of fun. I like it because the library has a book sale and you can get some really great book deals. It's also fun to see everyone wandering around town. Then there's the Chinese food.

Chinese food? At Oktoberfest? What about German food? Well, they have that too and I have eaten that, but every year they have a Chinese food vendor who sells these great chicken thingies and lo mein and it's just too good to pass up. By the time I've eaten that, it's too late for bratwurst.

Anyway, my kids are older, but they still look forward to it. I think part of it because during Oktoberfest it was the first time we allowed any of them to go off with their friends without our parental oversight.

Well, it's over now, but it was great and the weather really cooperated.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What I Learned This Summer

You can run over a Kong Super Ball twice with a Sears Craftsman Lawn Tractor (42" deck) before it is completely destroyed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Saturday in the Park

Chicago came on my iPod this morning. It was the song Saturday in the Park. I can't hear Chicago without thinking about the community pool I went to when I was a kid. It was in the community of Greenbriar in Northern Virginia. We lived on Majestic Lane (4313 to be precise) so we were within easy walking distance from the pool and Greenbriar East Elementary School where I attended 1-4 grades.

The pool was a lot of fun because, in my memory anyway, we seemed to spend practically the whole summer there. They always had the radio on loudspeakers and it was tuned to WEEL 1300 AM which was a top 40 station back in the day. For younger people, top 40 radio used to be just the best of music from all the different genres: rock, pop, R&B and even country. Anyway, it seems like that station played every Chicago song every recorded so whenever I hear Chicago, I think of the pool because they would have that station on all day long. Another song that reminds me of those days is D'yer Mak'er by Led Zeppelin.

The summer before my fourth grade year, my aunt and uncle and cousins came to stay with us. At the end of the stay, us kids decided it would be cool if we could get my cousin's parents to let them stay another couple of weeks. We realized that in two weeks, my mom was going to take us to West Virginia anyway so we might be able to talk them into letting the cousins stay. We asked but they were non committal. So we hooked a microphone up to my dad's guitar amp and started doing "commercials" to let our cousins stay with us: "Sick of those kids? Why not get rid of them for a couple of weeks. Send them off to scenic 4313 Majestic Lane. They'll have a pool, a park and someone to play with." We did this for what seems like an hour. We had various themes, but they always ended with "a pool, a park and someone to play with." Much to our surprise and amazement, our aunt and uncle agreed and the cousins got to stay with us.

That began a tradition of summer visits that carried on for several years. That year, my brother Doug, my cousin Randy, my cousin Steve and I spent part of every non-rainy day at that pool. The most fun was when we stayed long enough for it to start getting dark and we would get to see the lights come on under the water.

One day, my mom had to go to a hair appointment or something. It was raining that day so we didn't go to the pool, but she let us all say home alone. We played all day long with our Legos, Fort Apache, Hot Wheels, Army Men and some Freakies cereal figures we collected.

It was one of the best summers ever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TV Redux

So the Heroes finale met my expectations. I was thoroughly pleased. 24 didn't suck as badly as it had the rest of the season so that is actually a good thing (talk about damning with faint praise). They better do something for next year or I won't be watching.

Tonight is the Lost finale. Lost has been a mixed bag this season. The first part of the season sucked pretty hard, but the last few episodes have redeemed it somewhat. We'll see what happens tonight.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

TV is pissing me off ..

I'm pretty fed up with television this season. Only a few shows (Heroes, The Office and 30 Rock to name three) have been consistent. 24 has been a chore to watch this season. Is there any plot line they haven't recycled? Terrorists infiltrate CTU? Check? VP attempt to usurp the presidency? Check. Jack Bauer arrested? Check. This has been the worst of any of the seasons so far. Their problem is they have killed off all the interesting secondary characters (David Palmer, Tony, Michelle). The producers have forgotten the importance of cast chemistry.

Plus, this notion of killing cast regulars, which used to be shocking, has become a cheap way to attempt to emotionally manipulate viewers. It's the same trap JK Rowling has fallen into with her Harry Potter books. She thinks she has to kill someone for impact. What happened to, I don't know, good writing?

Lost has certainly done this too. This last part of the season has been a lot better, but they still try to use cheap emotional tactics to manipulate us. Lost pissed me off early on this season because of the lies told by the shows creators that the first part of the season would be a self-contained mini series that would wrap up and set up the second half of the season. Not only did it not resolve the story, it really didn't go anywhere once we learned the others had built mini suburbs on the island. Let's face it, those guys (Lost brass) just got greedy. They wanted to milk this franchise as long as possible.

Even my new favorite, Heroes, has fallen victim to this notion that main characters must die in order to be considered high impact.

Finally, I'm fed up with the season ending cliffhangers. Come on. If you have a good show, we'll keep watching. You don't need to end every season with a cliffhanger.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Five Pounds

That's right, I lost five pounds this week, woo hoo! That means I'm down to 206. I excercised every weekday last week, and I followed the Weight Watchers point system pretty well. I think I got my focus back.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taxman, Mr. Thief!

So, I quit procrastinating and did my taxes yesterday. Ouch! I'm getting nailed. Last year between what I got back in State and owed in Federal, it was about a wash, but this year I made a little extra freelance money and my estimated tax payments didn't cover it. Plus, my son John no longer qualifies for the $1,000 child tax credit because he's now 17. Since when is 17 not still a child? Plus he turned 17 on December 24, so shouldn't they at least pro-rate the credit?

I know taxes are a necessary evil, but holy smoke. It's not like I'm rolling in the money. I make a good 30K/year less than the average here in this county. Could I be a better money manager? Sure. However, I think it kind of becomes a disincentive to earn extra money if you get hit so hard. Oh, well. Onward and upward, but it would be a lot easier to pay taxes if I knew they weren't wasting so much on inflated government salaries and pointless programs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Get thee hence!

So a few hours after that last post, I went to a meeting at work. The person who called the meeting always generously supplies tasty snacks as an incentive to attendees.

Anyway, the snacks happen to be three of my favorite things: pretzels, Garden Salsa Sun Chips and (worst of all) Peanut M&Ms! Arrgghh!

You'll be happy to know that I was able to resist even the pretty sparkly colors of the M&Ms. I may be finally in the zone. Once I'm locked in, I can't be locked out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


All right, I'm officially a fatass.

I weighed in yesterday at 211 pounds. I have a small frame, thin arms and legs and stand barely over 5'10". I have stuggled with weight most of my life. I first put on weight in grade school, somewhere between first and second grade. I was the "fat kid" in class until I hit puberty. Once that happened, I was a rail. I stayed skinny until right about the time I got married. Then I put on a pound or two, but nothing serious until the kids came. The next thing I knew, I weighed about 220 pounds. I was not happy, I was not healthy.

I decided to join Jenny Craig and within three months, I was back to my high school weight (165). I managed to keep it off for several years, but as time and laziness crept in, I started to gain some back. Sometimes I could get control of it, sometimes I couldn't.

A few years ago, I had crept back up to close to 200 pounds so I went on Weight Watchers. Using their program, I lost all the weight again and again, kept it off until now. I just have lost my will power. It's not the excercise because I ride a stationary bike pretty much everyday. My problem is (a) snacking at work and (b) snacking in the evenings. As evidenced above, when I focus on it, I can lose weight pretty quickly, but it's getting that focus that has been hard for me lately.

You know what's annoying? You always hear about how women are forced to be thin and saddled with body image issues, but no one cares when it happens to a man. It's completely emasculating to be the fat guy, trust me. No one takes you as seriously. Plus, all the weight loss programs are geared for women. When I went to Jenny Craig, I almost turned around and left because it was so feminine in its approach. Is it so far-fetched to believe guys want to lose weight too?

Maybe if I track my progress here, it will help me get my focus back.

Friday, March 16, 2007

An elephant never forgets ...

I had to go downtown yesterday for a meeting at the Department of Agriculture. I got there about an hour earlier than I needed to be there, so I killed the time over at the Museum of Natural History. I've always loved that elephant and I find it comforting that it's still there.

And then there's the king ...

He's just all around cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My dog

Odin, my dog, head-butted me this morning. Well, I guess it wasn't really a head butt, it was more of a snout butt. He hit my in the eye with his giant, slobbery snout. It's what he considers to be "playing."