Saturday, December 26, 2009

So much to write and so little time.....

A year ago my son and I got Guitar Hero World Tour for Christmas. We had a great time playing the game and trying to surmount the challenges it presented. It also exposed both of us to new music and I purchased quite a bit because of the game. One group in particular I have really fallen for is Paramore. There is something about the way they put their music together that REALLY appeals to me. They may have a way to go on their lyrics, but their music and vocals are the best out there in my opinion. What makes this striking really is that they are practically teenagers. I can't imagine what it must be like to be doing something you love as a young person, to have your music and visage in one of the most popular video games of the year, and to be opening for acts in concerts that in my opinion they should be the headliners for. I went to see No Doubt only because Paramore was opening for them. Gwen Stefani and crew are a great group, but I really can't wait to see how Paramore grows and matures.

About the time I heard Paramore was coming back in concert in October as a headliner, their tickets had already been sold out for over a month. Their latest album, "Brand New Eyes" is fantastic through and through and has some great songs where they are working on expanding their style. I also created a channel in Pandora for Paramore and it instantly generated more music that is very similar in style which also generated more music purchasing. I refuse to buy music from iTunes anymore. While the client is good and easy to use, I have other devices I like to play music on and iTunes DRM doesn't work there. In general, Amazon MP3 is very easy to use and the music purchased there works on everything (Except Nintendo DSI which doesn't play mp3s at all).

Hallelujah - by Paramore:

So, I haven't just been listening to Paramore all this time.

Brandon is doing great in school. He was making all A's through most of the first nine weeks, but started slacking towards the end and finished with straight B's (But very high B's that would have been A's in my time). For the first time since he has been in school, I haven't had to go to a parent teacher conference. He is doing THAT well. There hasn't been a year since he was four years old where I didn't have to go in and talk to school staff about his very special challenges. Last year, after the first week, I was in a conference with 9 staff members that was VERY contentious. In the end we were able to work together to craft a plan that would put Brandon on a track to succeed, and he did, finishing the year on the Honor Roll.

The second nine weeks here have been a little more challenging and we had a rather large setback. His mom started talking to him about coming to live with her next year. She told him she works at a small christian school where he could be at school with her everyday, he would be with his friends there, her dogs, etc. She did not talk to me about it before hand, and she left it up to him to tell me (which took an awful lot of courage on his part).

The problem this creates is that now he is in the middle, a position NO CHILD should ever be in. Parents, or some other adult, should make those decisions. No child should ever be put in a position where they need to choose between one parent or another. A child, even a teenager, is not capable of making sound decisions in this regard.

I had to have a long talk with his mom. Brandon has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Getting him to an emotionally stable point where he has the support, environment, and resources to succeed in a normal classroom has taken 8 solid years of work. His mom has not participated in the day to day struggles, the wrestling with mental health professionals, the battles with schools over his needs, or the financial burden that goes along with all the above. Now she sees a flourishing child, and is in a financially stable position for the first time ever, and she tells him how much better it will be there with her.

I work with many families that struggle with Asperger's children. Private schools, with the exception of those dedicated to Asperger's, don't have the resources to deal effectively with special needs children. Large school districts with huge tax bases like Virginia Beach struggle with it, but the resources are there. It isn't easy as they don't really want to part with the money or resources, but it is a battle that can be won. Someone that doesn't have the resolve to send money monthly to pay for half a piano lesson certainly doesn't have the fortitude to go to the mat and fight for her son, much less the resources to pay the tens of thousands of dollars and literally thousands of hours out of work to get the help her son needs. I have built networks of friends and professionals here that understand Brandon, and can channel me to the resources I need when I need them. He spends his long breaks with his mom, and spends the summer with her. I have worked long and hard to ensure he doesn't have to know why his mom and I divorced or why he stays with me. I only want him to have a great relationship with his mom because the other stuff really doesn't matter. He should never have to know, and just about everything he will eventually figure out as he gets older, but he certainly isn't ready to know it now or be the rope in some sort of ill conceived tug of war.

On to lighter subjects....

Brandon and I have been practicing for a Christmas piano recital at a local mall. We performed last Saturday in the food court at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach. He did fantastic. It was my first recital ever and I was overly nervous. I can easily get up and talk all day to security and network experts in a large auditorium for a televised presentation, but ask me to play a piano to a group of people eating lunch and I fall apart! Brandon played two pieces first, and then he and I played "French Carol" with him playing Secundo and me playing Primo. Then I went on to play three pieces by myself. So time I would normally be writing or doing other things has been spent playing the piano.

At the beginning of November Verizon released the Motorola Droid cell phone. While I love gadgets, I am rarely first in line to get any of them. Usually it is several months or even years behind. I have been hearing about iPhone users rave about their iPhones for some time, but didn't quite get what they were raving about. Now I do. I was first in line to get a Droid and I have not been disappointed. I love everything about this phone, but it is so much more than a phone. Like iPhone users already know, it is a mobile computing platform that makes so much more sense than a laptop most of the time. It can't replace a computer, but there are so many situations when a computer just isn't needed. I can talk to this thing, navigate, do geocaches, buy stuff, find movies, and SO much more. Text to speech, speech to text, barcode scanning, and on and on.

I have told my son that he should always smile when people take pictures and he should be careful what he does because he never knows when someone may post the picture, or write about an event. Yesterday was one of those moments.

We have the yard that collects the leaves of the whole neighborhood. We had to rake the leaves Thursday December 24. HAD TO. It has been one of the WETTEST years on record EVER here. It rains almost every day, and the days it doesn't rain, it makes up for on the days it does. We had about two dry days in a row and we had to move.

If I don't accomplish anything else with this child, he will be able to rake a yard without complaining by the time he is 18. He had a meltdown at first, then finally realized that the consequences weren't worth the tantrum. He certainly can complain a lot though. We were about halfway done when he was just about in tears, perceived pain wracked his face, eyes were rolling, head swiveling in imagined vertigo...he was obviously about to die. He cried out in collapse and succumbed to the cold, wailing that his hands were cold. It was a award winning performance. I told him to keep moving and his hands would be fine. He had gloves on, and a heavy coat. Like a banshee, he kept whining about how cold his hands were.

I finally asked him if his mouth was cold. He said "No." I said, "That's because it is moving. You should learn sign language, that way you can complain with your hands and they won't be so cold." It was so gratifying and funny to see the obvious confliction deep within his soul as he struggled to keep his suffering act going and not just bust up laughing. It was a struggle he lost by the way. It is actually my favorite way to break down his protests. I try to find some way to make him laugh. It instantly breaks the tension and then all of a sudden things don't seem so overwhelming. It works every time. After all, life just doesn't have to be that serious does it?

SGG and I have been keeping busy, trying to find date time without the children here and there, but also finding things they all enjoy. We have been planning something very special for just her and I, but more on that at a later time! It is so hard, but I feel like right now I have a good balance between the four corners of my little world. SGG, my son, my work, and myself. There are things that come up here and there that threaten to disrupt, but my whack-a-mole skills are improving.

We had a great Thanksgiving and a great Christmas. Below are some pictures from a few of the things we have been doing.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and will have a great New Year, A Bright Future, an Exception-al holiday, Seeking what warms you even with your Daily Plate of Crazy, with Different Kind of People, Creative-Types looking at each day, where ever your Depots are, in Gray or colorful Fortresses, Just on a Journey or a Mama bloggin, a Morgan or a Musing, Oh the Joys of the holidays and friends where ever they are, Ramblings from a Parent, Rants, Robin, Single Parenthoods, Summer Roses, Daily Gripes, Hygiene is SO IMPORTANT, Hot Tub Journey's, or even Texas Sized Quests, Sunnybrook Rants, or long lost Theaters. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences over the past year (and years).

Storm in November:

Geocache in SGG's neighborhood...we saw a Bald Eagle on this short hike too...

How my son sees of the first things he did with his DSi last year:

SGG and I wandering through the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to Blacksburg, VA for a rare weekend without children. This is a section of the Appalachian Trail in the mountains:
and another from the trail:
Hockey game, just me and all three boys (and a whole cub scout troop):

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Muppets Bohemian Rhapsoday....

Saw this at Geek Dad today at to pass it on.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Just wondering...

...if anyone out there has used the Shutterfly or Photoworks sites to create a Photobook or Calendar? I just created a calendar with Shutterfly and should have it by the end of the week. A friend just gave me the idea of doing a photobook, but I don't know what service she used. I was looking at these two because Picasa references both of them when you go to order prints and things. I really like the idea of having a hard cover printed book with captions and paragraphs talking about each set of pictures...sounds sort of like my blog if anyone has any suggestions or advice I would appreciate it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Well....I tried...

To be an XKCD stick figure for Halloween...but it didn't turn out so well. I couldn't find the stuff I needed second hand (and frankly I started late because I didn't get the idea until this past week). So, buying new stuff and resorting to electrical tape instead of a Sharpie didn't get too far. You can see the amusing result below.

So Halloween was great fun for the kids and adults. The kids made out like bandits. My son now has enough candy to last until next year.

My brother came up for the weekend and I got to spend some time with him on Saturday in the morning and during the day. We went out to go surfing and skim boarding first thing. I brought my son along too. The waves were nice even if the water was cold. It was the first time I had worn a wet suit surfing. I only have my scuba wet suit and I quickly learned a few things.

First, you don't notice the water temperature when you are trying to paddle out through a nice set. You only notice that any headway you made is quickly erased.

Second, you can't paddle in a wet suit (3/5) like you do without one. It is a LOT harder. I was still inside the break and just couldn't paddle anymore. So surfing turned into something that was more like a prolonged drowning. I finally gave up and just went back in. Next time I'll wear the spring suit, or get something more designed for surfing.

As if that wasn't embarrasing enough, I decided to do some skim boarding too. Really it was my brother showing my son how to do, which he picked up incredibly quickly. I mostly watched. When they got tired, they would hand the board to me and get a few minutes of good laughs. Here is some necessary information to be successful at skim boarding. First, you can go too slow. You need a bit of speed, which requires a bit of coordination because you have to jump onto something that is moving and not quite stable. After you get some speed you throw the board down, flat, and a little ahead of you. On windy days this is challenging. For my brother and I, more so because when he and I get together near water, the winds are ALWAYS 25+ knots. My brother's wife went rollerblading on the board walk, but she made it back in time to get some good laughs at my expense. We all had a lot of fun.

After that we picked up my girlfriend and her children to go to my favorite sushi place. It is simply the best sushi anywhere ever.

More pictures from Halloween:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I practically stepped on this....

Before I realized what it was. I was tracking three boys and SGG at the edge of the woods when my peripheral vision caught something unusual just below my foot and I extended my stride just a hair.

Cottonmouth, Water Moccasin, whatever you want to call them, it is a poisonous snake. There are more pictures, and a video below. It is near the end of October and these guys are normally near dormant this time of year, but it is a warm 80+ degree day here today. It wasn't very interested in me, and it wasn't able to move very fast. I got the boys and SGG over to have a look, from a safe distance, and we let the snake keep going on it's way. It seems like I see one every October.

We were out doing a geocache and moving a travel bug along. I've been wanting to get to this cache for a while. It is in a park I know very well, but a section I've never really been to before. SGG and I took my son and two of my neighbor's boys. It was fun, but we were under a time constraint....which we kind of busted. The cache was very cool, but fairly difficult to get to since there are no real "trails" leading there. There were a lot of thorns and my calves are scratched up pretty good.

It has been two years since the last big acorn harvest, but they are falling like rain drops here now. All day and all night...***SMACK***thud***thud***thud***roll***roll***swish. They hit the roof, bounce, roll, and sail into the grass or drive way. I park the car away from the house to keep the acorns from collecting under the windshield wipers.


EDITED to add:
SGG and I now believe this is a copperhead. It would be the biggest one I've seen up close if it is. The head shape, color, and body markings are closer to a copperhead than a water moccasin. If you look at pictures of both, you can begin to see why they are hard to tell apart.

Cool Snake and Cache Photos
And here are the pictures in a slide show below (just smaller):

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Home runs and things

Ok, home runs? Yes.

Home runs are things like a home cooked meal for cheap, that everyone loves, and only really need pan, maybe a pot.

I made the Cheatin' Chicken Cacciatore last Friday. If you haven't made the Chicken a la Popeye or this, you really don't know what you are missing. Quick, delicious, easy, inexpensive. It doesn't get better than that. A homerun, out of the park. How good was the chicken cacciatore? My son loved it, and SGG ate it even though it had mushrooms in it. She HATES mushrooms.

Things have been kind of busy lately. I've been working on some picture and video projects at home. My son had the flu three days last week. I had a 10' rule in effect. He couldn't get closer than 10' from me. Not a problem. I think he was in bed the whole time.

Brandon also had straight A's on his progress report. He really seems to be focused on doing well in school. Miracles never cease.

Work has been busy, but not stressful. Mostly I am back to doing what I love full time.

I play spring and fall softball. I bought a new bat in May, it lasted two nights. I sent it back. They sent me a warranty replacement bat. I used it two night, it broke, I sent it back. They weren't too keen on sending me another, but they did. I used it tonight for the first time. I hope it lasts longer than the others. I don't do anything hinky, I just hit softballs. I like the bat, and I hit a lot of home runs with it, but I don't think I'll buy another one of that brand.

Softball tonight had an interesting ending. Let me explain about a walk off home run. If you are the home team, in the last inning, and are either tied or losing when you get up to bat and you hit a home run, it is a walk off home run. It means you hit and walk off the field, the game is over, you win. :-) It doesn't happen too often, but it does happen. I haven't ever hit one, but I have wanted to.

I hit a walk off home run tonight. And we lost the game. Aweso...what? LOST? So, already, it doesn't really match the definition of a walk off home run...but I am going to claim it anyway. :-) What happened tonight was that we only had nine players. I was the ninth batter. We are supposed to have ten players, so after the ninth batter it is an automatic out. We had two outs already, so after me the game was over anyway. We were down by 4 runs. Only 1 runner was on. I hit a home run, and walked off, losing the game by two runs. :-)

Like the movie Tin Cup where "everyone will remember the 12", everyone tonight will remember the walk-off home run.....LOSS. :-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just thinking outside of the box a bit here about regulating...anything....

Why regulate healthcare? Government involvement is already one of the reasons premiums and costs are so high.

I want to propose a different tact. There is an industry untouched by government regulation, and for one specific reason to follow is likely to remain untouched. Let's consider one of the reasons insurance is so high, health care is so expensive, and why we have so many interesting reminders on signs around us all the time. Lawsuits...and more specifically, Lawyers.

Just think about it. What if private law practices were limited to criminal defense? All other lawyers had to be government civilians, especially on civil suit cases. What if these attorney's were not allowed a cut of the final judgment or settlement?

Just think about it.

Now remember, most members of Congress, State Governments, and City Governments were at one time Lawyers...You think this will get anywhere?

Not until we get more involved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Iris, Kajeet, and more Popeye....

So, to catch up a bit. This weekend our neighbor's dog figured out how to will through the fence. While I was investigating the dog and the fence I saw this purple flower in a spot I didn't know there were flowers. My neighbor says it is a bearded iris.

I fixed the chicken a la popeye for SGG this weekend. How good was it? She asked if she could lick the plate. My son keeps asking for the chicken a la popeye now. Big Little Wolf said she has a pasta dish up there now too. One pan and one pot. :-)

Kajeet is a phone service for kids. I read about it here last week. I had been looking at phones and plans for my son, and I have come to HATE phone companies. Hidden fees, contracts, "features", etc. You could spend days trying to put all of it together to get to some bottom line price and still not get there. To me, Kajeet was simple. Parental controls on all phones, gps locator if you want it (and I do), and no contract. I can terminate my son's access at any moment, or add money and things to it. Compared to what I was looking at through Verizon and Sprint, this was easy and had all the right stuff. :-)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Yesterday my son went on a field trip to the University of Richmond and then to the Virginia State Fair. What was the highlight of the trip? Bull riding at the State Fair. More specifically, he rode the mechanical bull. Twice even. He said that they were having some sort of contest, if you stayed on for 8 seconds you win $200. I mentioned that I couldn't see them allowing him to ride without a consenting adult. He said he had to sign a few forms. Seriously? I still haven't asked he teachers about it though. He said he was on both times for just over 7.9 seconds. That I do believe.

This morning he was complaining about his chest hurting. You think?

I was too tired to care. Something woke me up after about 3 hours of sleep and I couldn't go back. The only hour of sleep I got after that was the hour the alarm went off before I got up. I was so tired that I went running and everything was on inside out. I didn't notice until I took it off to get a shower. I bent over to smell something in a cup and then wandered about for five minutes trying to find where the smell was coming from before figuring out something from the cup was on my nose. I thought I pulled out my black suit today, but it was the navy blue one. Fortunately the shirt and tie almost matched because I wasn't changing it.

It wasn't shaping up to be a good day. It turned out fine least at 9pm EDT it is fine.

I made this concoction tonight. It was AMAZINGLY delicious. Chicken ala popeye. My only begotten son went back for seconds. Many thanks go to Big Little Wolf for mentioning it in the comments. You really can do it all in one pan if you don't do the potatoes.

Edited to add:
You HAVE to do the potatoes though. It is worth cleaning the extra pan.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's just dinner...

And no it isn't a dating site...or a site at's just my dinner tonight.

It was inspired by dinner last night at the Mexican place after the spider-tunnel-cache. I got a spinach enchilada and they made sure the spinach was thoroughly cooked. I am assuming to ensure the was no chance of any bacteria surviving...and I can tell you it did not. It wasn't bad at all, just really well done.

I got to thinking this morning that I could do that just a little bit better. I had refried beans and spinach tortillas in the house. I went to the store and got a couple of bags of spinach and a Mexican cheese combo bag (among a number of other items).

I heated up the refried beans in the microwave and heated a pan with some oil. I put in the spinach with a lot of garlic and some bits of an orange. My neighbor calls it kinky spinach, and it is really good. When the spinach was done I put it in a bowl and dumped a bunch of cheese on top. I spread out the beans on the tortilla, heaped the spinach/cheese on top, and rolled it up burrito style. It was delicious.

I knew Brandon wasn't going to eat it, so I got some catfish while I was at the store. I rolled it around in some corn meal, put in a little more oil in the pan, and fried the fish about five minutes on each side. I always add some salt on each side of the fish, but not pepper this time. It was marinated in some cajun seasoning already. I cooked some corn for him too.

Not too bad for dinner overall. We have lots of fish left over.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another Sunday Geocache...hidden by a friend...

Julie, the professional Geocacher, hid a cache out in Chesapeake not too long ago. Since I saw her Saturday at a little league game, she asked if we had gotten out to find her cache. We haven't, but we haven't been out that way. Sunday I had to pick up my son from his Grandparents and we were going right by there. No excuse, we had to go find it.

It was getting near sunset when I picked up my son. He was in his pajamas. Didn't matter, we were still going. I had brought my head lamps just in case we ran out of light, and it was a good thing because I needed them anyway. I have a good friend, Candace, that lives 2 minutes from there so I called to see if she would like to come out with us. She said yes and met us there.

There is a nice park just inside the neighborhood there and naturally I assumed the cache was there. Walking in, the first thing we noticed was the very large spiders making their webs for their evening of bug catching. I tried to get some pictures on my phone. They are below. There was a nice pond with a big waterfall. It is a very picturesque spot, even with the giant man eating spiders around. The cache was not here though. I looked at the cache description and it became apparent that we had to go out to the main road.

When we rounded the corner we saw a policeman investigating our vehicles. We were parked in front of some no trespassing signs, but we weren't trespassing. There were no "No Parking" signs. The policeman was very nice and knew about geocaching. We talked for a few minutes and he said we would be fine for now, but next time we should consider parking somewhere back up the road.

We walked over near the spot and we found a very cool tunnel that looked like it was used for flooding. It was dry and no chance of flash floods at that moment so we figured we were safe. It was there we saw the garden spider, and that was funny because I was just talking about one I nearly backed into in Oklahoma that was 3 times the size of the one we were looking at now. I investigated all round the tunnel opening, but the cache was not there. It was a sort of micro cache and only had a log in it. I was going to have to go in.

So I did. It was a really clean tunnel. While I was looking for clues to the spot I saw some sparkles here and there down the tunnel. I thought those might be from the cache. NOPE. Believe it or not. those things were spider eyes! I am not kidding. Like animals eyes at night, those things light up. That was crazy strange. I did find the cache quickly though, being arachnid-ly motivated.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This time and that time and that other time....

I have a little bit of me son is on his way to his mom's for the weekend. I am still getting over a cold I had this week and tonight I am feeding it Thai. Specifically Chicken Pad Thai, though I forget to tell them extra spicy. I am tired and confused and just realized I have practically eaten the whole thing with the wrong end of the chopsticks. The great thing about chopsticks is that it really doesn't matter.

Last week SGG's children were with their dad and she had to work most of Saturday. My son and I did a few things around the house, but we went out and did some geocaching too. I got him a kayak over the summer and he got to take it out for the first time on Sunday. We did some geocaches that you can only get to by boat. We got to see and watch some awesome Osprey's flying, fishing, and feeding. Sunday evening we recruited SGG for some more geocaches. We even met a man with an atomically hyperactive dog and crazy bird. One of the caches was really cool as it was suspended in the air versus hidden in the bushes.

Pictures are Here, slideshow below!

This week was basically spent succumbing to a head cold and trying to get through the week with it. I hope tonight is the last bit of NyQuil I need to take.

VT vs Miami annual party is tomorrow at Jim's place. Should be a lot of fun. That is the only football game I see during any season...and only because of the company. It usually gives me a chance to sharpen my wit as Jim, a hurricane fan, and myself try to trade barbs back and forth. It hasn't been as active the past few years as it was in the beginning. I have a great practical joke to play on him, been saving it for years, but I never do the planning to put it into action.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

School and other things...

My son's first week of school went really well. I feel like there was more homework for me than for him....Oh wait, there was! Lots of forms to fill out.

At the end of the week I went out to Lake Rawlings for some scuba diving. It was supposed to be different, but some last minute changes dictated that I go by myself and come back the next morning. The drive out was slow and I didn't get there until 9:30pm. I was hoping for a night dive, and what a night, but I couldn't find my group. I asked around to everyone that was still up, but no one knew who I was talking about. Hampton Roads Scuba at was who I was supposed to find.

After scouring the campers for my dive group, and getting offers from some to join them Saturday, I setup my tent and had a few moments to just stare at the stars. I was in awe. One of my tweets "So I am laying next to my tent looking at an absolutely black sky where the Milky Way seems as brilliant as daylight. I am by myself." I was really wishing SGG would have been there to see it and share it with me. I almost brought my big camera and tripod for just this reason, but decided I had enough stuff.

The night was very cool and almost cold. However in my sleeping bag I was quite snug, and fell asleep watching Southpark on my iPod. :-) I can have a vice you know.

The morning was quite cool, but I quickly fixed some coffee and some grits. I finally found my group and I did get to go on one dive. I was a bit out of sorts during the dive because I haven't dove in over a year and I was trying to take pictures at the same time. It was great though!

I hurried back home after the dive because SGG had all three boys and was helping cater a company picnic that happened to be a company I used to work for. I walked around the picnic for a bit talking to people I used work with. It was a great time as well.

Sunday will be organizing and geocaching I think. I'm looking for another weekend to go diving and take the boys for some snorkel, snuba (snorkel scuba), and camping at Lake Rawlings.

The pictures below are not of me, but pictures I took of the people I was diving with. The camera was fogging up at points and not many pictures came out right. There is even a video mixed in there!


From 2009.09.12 Lake Rawlings

Monday, September 07, 2009

Summer (Paradise) lost?


It has been a long summer for me. It seemed to crawl by. This is a great thing for the time I got to spend with SGG. Work was the negative side of that coin. About the time that summer was over, some changes finally came that have turned my job around. I just wish they would have come sooner.

My son is home now. He is re-acclimating to the rules and structure of my home, and that has gone well so far. We spent the afternoon today re-organizing the garage and taking unneeded items to a local thrift store. The return weekend wasn't all work though. Saturday we spent at Busch Gardens! :-) We rode all the roller coasters, much to my son's delight. Sunday we did some geocaches and there is one in particular that still eludes our capture. We are working on it and we have enlisted the aid of professional geocacher "tinglii". We should have that particular quarry in our grasp by the end of the week.

Overall the summer was a balance between rest, work, and play, all within reasonable limits.

I joined twitter tonight...because the Anti-Virus company I prefer is running an interesting contest. You can find me @crazycompdad...I think. It is new to me and I have been mainly ignoring twitter because I have far too much to do. Facebook is reconnecting me with some of my family in SC that I haven't seen in forever. Tonight several of them were having a southern fish fry with grits and tomatoes. If you haven't had it, you should at least try it.

I have been able to extend the streak of malaise that has seemed to plague me over the past couple of months. I have was diagnosed with Poison Ivy a couple of weeks ago. The doctor gave me a cream that has really helped. I also managed to get a bit of a raspberry on my leg while sliding in softball two weeks ago. I don't know which one itches more.

SGG is mildly fascinated and morbidly curious about what ailment, skin seems to be the theme, I will have fallen prey to by the next time she sees me. My new cologne seems to be bug spray.

I had one dive scheduled for this summer, the U-85 off of NC, but Hurricane Bill scratched that. I do plan to do some diving this weekend though...more on that later.

My son starts school tomorrow and my strict schedule is back in place. Early risings, work, workout, dinner, and a little time with SGG in the evenings (usually on the phone), and a few minutes for me, then rewind and replay. We have some nice camping, hiking, and other plans for the fall. We'll see what pans out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sherando Lake

SGG and I took a trip to Sherando Lake this weekend. It is a small lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some say it is Virginia's best kept secret and I am inclined to agree. It is probably the cleanest and best kept campground I have ever been to.

Just driving through the mountains is a treat. Sherando Lake is not that far off the beaten path either. You can swim, bike, canoe, kayak, and hike around the lake and the surrounding mountains. The day time temperatures can still be hot, but there is not nearly as much humidity as there is in the lower part of the state. The temperature dropped to 60 degrees the night we were there. The stars were so clear you could see the Milky Way.

SGG and I went to camp and to hike. We did an extended hike around the lake when we got there and then did about a 10 mile loop through (and over) the mountains and crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway on Sunday.

We bought some hiking poles before we went. They really made an incredible difference for us. We could have made it without them, but the potential for injury would have been much greater and we definitely would have been a lot more sore. The poles offer so much more support and stress relief whether you are going up, down, or over flat terrain. We saw a lot of it all. :-)

At one point on Sunday we encountered some unexpected rain. We were about 3/4 of the way through our hike and the rain was a very welcome experience.

There are tons of short, day long, and multi-day excursions in the Blue Ridge Mountains...I highly recommend them!!

The pictures from the trip are below!


Monday, August 10, 2009

At recess in the ring...

It has been hot the last few days. Not unusual for August here. Tonight we won our beach volleyball playoff games and thus must play again next week. We actually have a chance at winning the tournament. :-)

SGG and her two boys were out there tonight, but I think they really wanted to be home rather than at the beach.

Two blocks away, I could hear a band playing. They were called "Mike Proffitt Band".

After volleyball, SGG took her boys home and I went up to 31st street to listen to a band called "Borderline Crazy". One of the few bands I have heard around here with a female singer.

I sat on the wall around the little grassy area. It was warm from being in the sun all day. The air was almost stifling, hot and humid. I was watching a few boys play with a soccer ball, and the occasional parent that would join them. I watched some people play Frisbee. Some people danced. Some kids did gymnastics...funny, I didn't see any parents give that a shot.

On their break in between sets they would play music from an ipod or something. One of the songs was Elton John's "Tiny Dancer". As this song played, there were were several little girls running about dancing, doing ballerina twirls and leaps. What popped into my head was this line from a poem we analyzed in 8th grade, "Because I could not stop for death" by Emily Dickinson. The line was "At recess in the ring". These children were just in the moment, blissfully unaware of future or stress, truly at recess in the ring or circle of life. For a moment I got to share that feeling...and then reality returned.

SGG couldn't be there, but I was texting her lines from the songs that they played. They played Paramore's "Misery Business" and that was my cue to leave.

If you are so busy that you cannot stop for anything...even death...try to take a moment, a recess, and dance with a child or a partner in your home, in the park, at a concert, or on a street corner (Like The Exception).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Google Voice...

I really like to explore new things, figure out how they work, and figure out what can be done with them that maybe they were not meant to be used for. It is that weird curiosity that makes me good at my job.

I love to play with new operating systems, new tools, new gadgets, and basically anything shiny, especially if it has a lasers or LEDs built into it.

Amazon knows this about me. I think I finally bought enough stuff from them to really profile me. I was looking for a 4in1 pen/stylus/laser pointer/led light two weeks ago. I didn't find what I wanted initially, but when I went back the next day they had one waiting for me and at a price I couldn't say no to. Being every so evilly helpful, they said that people that bought the pen also bought two other 532nm green presentation lasers with visible beams suitable for astronomical presentations. REALLY? Again, at a price I couldn't say no to. So now I have some cool toys. Even SGG thinks they are cool...unless she was just being nice. At night, the green lasers will light up a whole room. It is like putting a green dot with a green spotlight where ever I want and how ever far away I want it. I LIKE IT.

However, the cool item this week is Google Voice. You have to politely ask for an invitation. You will need a google account. They may send you an invitation. They will ask you to pick a number in your area and a few other questions.

What does it do? Well, I can give this number out to schools, doctors, and other people that need to get a hold of me. When the number is called, Google will ring each and connect to whichever picks up first. If they do not pick up, Google will take a message, transcribe it, text it to my cell and my email address. I can listen to it, read it, etc. I can even forward phones to it so that people that need me can get me most anywhere.

Why is this important? It isn't so much. I really don't need to be more connected. However, I would be convenient for when I need people to reach me to be able to get a call and have them just dial one number. For instance, I cannot take my cell phone in to where I work. I can configure Google Voice to call my work number. Still not earth shaking but interesting and convenient. By getting the voice mail transcribed, I can then read the voice mail instead of having to listen to it.

I just got it and am going to work with it for a bit. I'll let you know if I come up with any other useful uses for it, but the combination right now is enough to keep me using it for a while.

I am not a big fan of letting Google control more of my information, but like Amazon, they know me. :-)

Friday, July 31, 2009

15 minutes of bliss...

Now, this is a PG rated blog so those that are overly sensual are not going get what you think you are....

Work has been difficult lately, being out of action with a false case of chicken pox, and other summer activities I haven't been exercising (or eating) the way I really want to.  Some activities make up for it, like surfing for 2 and half hours until my arms and legs are raw and nearly bleeding from rubbing against the board, but not fully.

This morning I woke up early, stretched (which hurts now that I'm over 40), did some ab and back exercises, and then went for a run.  I put my shuffle on under my shirt, started up a network security podcast, and began a slow jog through the early morning heat and humidity of southeastern VA. 


It just felt amazing.  Just 15 minutes, about a mile and a half.  I needed it.  I had been craving it for a while.  No aches or pains, just a slow comfortable jog sweating bullets early in the morning.  I won't say it is the best way to start the day...PG remember...but it certainly is a great way to start.

"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In case you needed to cool off some....

Maryland, February 2006

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not Chicken Pox

But most likely chiggers. After a few days at home...which I needed...I still didn't have any other accompanying symptoms. I went back to the doctor and it appears chiggers is the most likely culprit. I have missed civilization! I am so happy to be able to go back out into public spaces!!!

My favorite cheese steak place, Philly Style Steak and Subs, has opened a new location just around the corner from me. It is called !GGLES I didn't recognize it. Now I can go get one! :-)

SGG and I went on a hike at York River State Park Saturday. We figured it would be a good way to get out of the house and not really expose the public to what turned out not to be my illness. It is a really beautiful park on the York River. In addition to many miles of trails for hiking, they are supposed to be one of the top mountain bike destinations on the east coast. They also have trails for equestrian too. I saw a Bald Eagle fly past over the river, but SGG didn't believe me.

One of the beaches there is called Fossil Beach. They literally have thousands of fossils right on top of the sand there. They will let you take one. SGG found two predatory snail fossils so we took those. At one point we were sitting on a log just resting and the Bald Eagle I saw earlier dropped out of the tree it was in with a big WHOOSH, right over our heads. Every time the eagle flapped it's wings it made a loud whoosh sound. We don't see them very much around here and it was really cool to be so close to one in the wild. We saw some deer on the trail and a fawn on the way out of the park. No Chiggers this time.

York River offers canoeing and kayaking in the estuaries and on the river itself. Every two weeks they offer either a starlight kayak tour or a moonlight kayak tour. They also offer a guided fossil hike.

Explore your state parks, you may be amazed at what you find. Those of you that live close to national parks...I am envious!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I have chicken pox.

My best guess on how I contracted it is the theater I saw Transformers 2 in.

So I am working from home, not scratching anything, and trying to get better fast. It doesn't appear to be too severe....and I REALLY hope that doesn't change.

Someone I would like you to meet....

Percy is a 12 year old boy in Sixth Grade. He has some learning disabilities. ADHD and Dyslexia are chief amongst them. He has never known his father, and his mother has raised him since his birth. He lives in New York City. He has been kicked out of every school he has ever been in.

He doesn't sound like some kind of hero...

Percy is the main character in an amazing series of books that are called Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The first book is "The Lightning Thief" and the author is Rick Riordan.

Like many kids with issues, Percy isn't meaning to get into trouble, but for some reason he can't stay out of it. He really wants to do well, and he really wants to please his mom. Fortunately, she knows the source of his problems and loves him no matter what happens.

You see, Percy is the son of a Greek God, and what we interpret as impediments are really characteristics of his supernatural nature.

Rick Riordan has done an absolutely incredible job with this series. He has masterfully woven Greek Mythology into the modern world and created an amazing story. In the process he may be helping a lot of children regain some self esteem. Children with ADHD spend a lot of time in trouble. They really mean to do well, but often cannot control their impulses. Any child with ADHD will immediately identify very closely with Percy, the quandaries he finds himself in, and the expected punishment to follow. Percy gets bullied and punished a lot.

My son started reading the book to me out loud in the car and was cracking up saying things like "Who does that remind you of Dad?" And he is right, it did remind me of him.

Rick is able to then turn those traits from problems into assets as Percy realizes his true heritage and his destiny.

These books are great for any middle school child and I highly recommend all five. You may even be tempted to read them yourself, but I would warn you against it. You may find yourself drawn into the story and strangely unable to put the books down.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Summer stuff....

Sometimes it is the way the ocean looks. It is different in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
Sometimes it is the Dolphins.
Sometimes it is the big or little fish jumping. The minnows sometimes land on my board.
Sometimes it is the Pelicans flying high formations or skimming the water like bombers.
Sometimes it is the Ospreys.
Sometimes it is the taste of salt water, or the residue of it later on my lips.
Sometimes it is that crusty feeling of dried salt all over my body.
Sometimes it is the smell of ocean and sand.
Sometimes it is the feel of the warm grainy water all over my body and the way I float and move in it.
Sometimes it is the sense of euphoria when I am physically exhausted at the end, strange as it sounds.
Sometimes it is because I feel like a sea otter in the waves.
It is always because of the way I feel when I have paddled the board just enough to get caught in the awesome power of an ocean wave. The way the board picks up speed as though pushed by Poseidon himself. The way everything becomes a blur and the wind whips past. The balance of the board, leaning for a turn, crouching, trailing a hand in the wave, pumping for a little more speed, the sense of accomplishment if I make it long enough to ride the second break, and sometimes even the ability to walk back and forth on the board.

Evenings on the beach are always so tranquil. One night SGG and I danced in that space where it isn't quite ocean and not quite land. Truthfully, it was because I herded a crab straight at her. :-)

Chichos at 29th street has a band, $1 slices of pizza, and $5 pitchers of watered down beer on Monday evenings. It also has a couple of the volleyball teams when we finish playing on the beach. Chichos is 20 blocks from where we play volleyball. We had to walk 20 blocks back too. I'll bring some water next week....or drive. :-)

Piano lessons for me are back in full swing. I'm going to conquer the metronome and eighth notes. Had I been seriously playing and practicing the last six months it wouldn't be a problem...but I haven't. However, I have really missed it and I'm mad I let it drop for a bit.

Lots of changes happening at work. I think they will all be good changes, it will be a little difficult in the short term though.

I don't really get to go on week or longer vacations at points during the year, so I try to make a little vacation/fun time each day. Besides, you don't even know if you have a tomorrow until it becomes a yesterday so try to make the most of moments you have right now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speaker for the Dead...

I first came across this concept from the book titled "Speaker for the Dead" by Orson Scott Card. The concept as I recall it (my memory is way corrupted these days) is that after someone dies, a person interviews people and compiles a more or less true portrait of that person, good and bad, and then presents the compilation publicly. I want to do something here that is similar for our Cockatiel, Choker, who died on May 19, 2009.

In 1991, a Cockatiel was hatched to a breeder in Tampa, FL. This Cockatiel was hand-fed. A short time later, my brother Brian and his girlfriend Rocquel went to this breeder to purchase a Cockatiel. They chose this particular Cockatiel.

A short time after they brought the bird home, Rocquel was very concerned when she saw the bird was opening it's beak wide repetitively. She called to get Brian out of class because she thought the bird was choking. Thereafter, they called the bird Choker.

Living with a couple of college students can be dangerous. Choker's middle name must have been Danger though. Choker lived through a small fire and various other potentially life threatening events.

It was during this time period that I first made my acquaintance with Choker. I was in the Navy and visiting my brother while my submarine was temporarily in Port Canaveral. Choker and I got along pretty well at our first meeting.

I met Choker again when I attended my brother's graduation from the University of Southern Florida in 1993. Soon after Brian and Rocquel moved to North Carolina so that Brian could pursue his Master's degree at UNC (He never said, but I guess he couldn't get into Duke...just kidding!).

Brian, Rocquel, Choker, and their dog Zaney lived in NC up until December 2006. During that time Brian and Rocquel got married, moved within NC, went on many adventures, and eventually had two children. When I would visit, I would always take some time to whistle with Choker, hold him, and scratch his neck. Rocquel would make the comment that the bird really loved me as he really didn't take to many people. Brian would say that they sometimes forget they have a bird until I come over.

Choker was very well taken care of. He still had some mishaps though. Once or twice his cage was left outside when it got a bit colder than anyone expected it to get. I was there one time when we had to pull the cage out of the bushes where it either fell or was pushed by a cat.

Choker learned to whistle the Adam's Family theme song, the "Charge" tune, and various other things. Sometimes he could immediately imitate something, and sometimes it took repetition. Choker really liked to greet the morning with a series of shrill whistles. :-) The reality is that he was probably looking for Brian. Cockatiels tend to bond with an owner and often shrilly whistle when they cannot see that person.

In December 2006, after the birth of their second child, they asked if I wanted to keep Choker. Trying to take care of two pets and two children was a little much for them. I instantly agreed. My son was ecstatic.

So, for two and a half years Choker lived with us in Virginia Beach. Every day I would come home and Choker would start squawking as soon as my key went in the door. As I ambled about the house, I would whistle and Choker would answer. Occasionally the bird would break out into song. One night when I was up fairly late, a car alarm was set off in the neighborhood. Choker immediately started mimicking it and I couldn't stop laughing.

In December 2007, Brandon and I got a much bigger cage for Choker, and then he really started singing. I was teaching myself how to play piano and Choker learned The Entertainer from that. Often, Brandon would be sitting quietly after school doing his homework and I would be in another room working on something else. Choker would just start belting out The Entertainer and both Brandon and I would start laughing. When I would leave the room, Choker would start chirping, I would answer, and it was like our own version of Marco Polo.

One time I set him out on our patio, with the umbrella up to cover him. He would squawk every time I walked away. Then he started squawking and wouldn't stop. I looked over to see what was wrong and realized that there was a wasp nest under the umbrella. A big one. The wasps weren't bothering him, but I rushed over to grab the cage and take him back inside.

Choker loved to have his neck scratched. I would pick him up, and scratch his neck, picking off the sheaths over his feathers until I was covered in that and dander. He would perch on my shoulder pulling at the hairs on my neck. He would submit to having other people pick him up and scratch his neck, but only if I wasn't in the room. If I were there, he pretty much wouldn't have anyone else pick him up, and he would flap, claw, nibble, and climb to get to me.

On the afternoon of May 19th, 2009, we found Choker dead in his cage. He was about 18 years old. He had been through a lot with our two families. Even now I still whistle out, expecting a reply, but one doesn't come.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writing....last hurrahs...etc

My favorite museum in DC is the National Archives. One of the first times I went in there when I had moved to Maryland in 2004 I was completely overcome. There is something about seeing a memo penned by a Senator from the early 1800's. There is something about being so close to history, about being near a piece of paper and ink that was written by a person that has helped shape the course of history. I'm not even talking about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or the Magna Carta that were on display. It is the little things, the memos, the letters, and other bits. The grandiose pieces mentioned are amazing, but I feel more connected to the smaller things...the things that the people that wrote them probably never thought may be on display somewhere. It almost feels as if you could get to know these people that are long gone.

Can you imagine what it would be like to find personal writing from your grandparents, great grandparents, or beyond? I love talking to elderly people because they are so rich with the experience of living through history. There is so much about their past that will never be in a history book, but it is so pertinent to the times if you really want to understand them. Art can help to convey feelings and emotions, but to live their lives you really need to do it through reading their writing. That is how people live on, through their writing.

I had a surprise Friday morning in a blog I read. Oh the Joys put up a post Friday that was a memoir from her father, and thusly spawned this part of this post.

I had another surprise Friday as Rachel and Dr. Leah chose to feature me and several other single dads in their week long tribute to single fathers for Father's Day.

You should check out all these dads here, here, here, and here.

Also, the two blogs/forums Single Mom Seeking and are fantastic places for conversation, ideas, and help. If you are looking for inspiration, frank and open discussions about all kinds of things related to parenting and relationships, or you just need to know that you aren't the only one out there going through this these are two great places to go to. Rachel Sarah writes Single Mom Seeking and Rachel and Dr. Leah collaborate on While both of these women are amazing by themselves, each of the blogs are wonderfully enhanced by the comments of those that read. So go read and participate! You will not be sorry.

I'll also have to make some time today or this week to add the other single dad blogs they mention to my reader and my blog roll!

Friday my son and I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. I was all set in my BUS ZEN mindset, expecting traffic, big crowds, long hot lines...but was going to enjoy every minutiae of every minute just because I was there with just my son. We were going to have fun no matter what. While there were two accidents on the way there and lots of traffic, when we got in the park we received a gift. It was essentially EMPTY. The first roller coaster we went to, Loch Ness Monster, we walked right up to a car and sat down, no line at all. The Griffon, the best roller coaster I have ever ridden, had the shortest line I had seen there to date. About 5-10 minute wait. Apollo's chariot was another we just walked up to and sat down. In two hours we had ridden all the rides and eaten lunch. :-) We left not too long after that to get back home so he could spend some time with his friends in the neighborhood before he left for the summer Saturday.


Saturday we went to SGG's house for breakfast. I took my son and SGG's boys to see "Race to Witch Mountain" at Cinema Cafe. We ordered pizza, chicken fingers, sodas, and sundaes. They loved the moved and had a great time. Soon after I took Brandon to his mom and bid farewell for the summer. I will talk to him and email every couple of days to see how things are going. He is going to have a great summer!

SGG took her children to the airport where they flew to New York for six weeks with their dad. We are kid-free!!!

SGG hosted a dinner for her family for her mother's 75th birthday. Afterward we went to see world famous fiddle player Charlie Austin and a band he is currently playing with called Rock Star Parking. Unfortunately, the early twenty somethings in the club didn't really appreciate the band. :-) We did though.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Hope yours is a fantastic one!!

(GRRRRRR, thanks to a horrid MS Word 2007, it has taken me over an hour just get the formatting for this post correct. I often will cut and paste things in Word when blogger isn't exactly acting properly. I sometimes compose in Word and then paste into blogger. Now in 2007 and Vista, MS has made the piss-poor and unalterable assumption that I want all the formatting in HTML pasted with the text. Blogger chokes on this makes wild changes to font sizes and spacing...which would take me hours to sift through the HTML to weed out all the un-needed MS crud. I just need a simple word processor MS, not a wonderful wasteful way to wreck words. Sometimes more is less and it is obvious you haven't been listening to consumers or to governments around the world.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Poem....

It's the way you hold my hand when we are out,
It's the way we run, laugh, sing, and shout,
It's the day to day memories we make and do,
That I want for Father's day from you.

There is no gift or other token,
There is no nifty phrase that's spoken,
There is no tool or toy that I could use,
That's any better than the time I spend with you.

Day to day I get to see you grow,
Increasing all the things you know,
I pick you up when you fall out,
That's what fathers are all about.

And if I love and raise you well,
You'll have your own kids this to tell,
And I'm sure you will certainly agree,
That every day is Father's Day to me.

I wrote this poem for Father's Day last year and figured I would just post it again! :-)
It has been another eventful school year. My son has matured a lot the past nine months. He is now a seventh grader and 12 years old. I see so many differences in him. I'm working on trying to make him a bit more independent. Giving him more freedom, exposing him to more of the world. It isn't always very easy. Sometimes he doesn't want to let go of me, then sometimes he doesn't want to be near me. That is ok as I sort of feel the same way. In four more years he'll be driving. 48 months. 72 months he'll be 18. What once seemed like it was a long ways off now seems like just around the corner.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The Winds have changed, so has the tide,
I feel this draw, to be outside,
The Sun's energy warms my skin,
Emotions stir from deep within,
The air is hot, the sand is too,
The local bands play just for you,
Beach is nice, but friends are better,
Memories made last forever,
The cars are filling up with sand,
Lovers kiss and walk hand in hand,
As Summer dawns upon the land.

Edited to add:
Summer is here. My son leaves to go spend it with his mom on Saturday. The transition is hard for me. Each year I'm the only care giver for him from the end of August until the middle of June. Along the way we get a bit tired of each other. So, it isn't so much that I'm sad to see him go. I'm actually pretty happy that he gets a little adventure and gets to spend some quality time with his mom. It is a different home, different rules, etc.

What is hard is me making the transition from care giver dad to soloist. I'm ready for it, but it takes a while to break my parenting routines....and by then it is nearly time to implement them again! :-) SGG is kind of the same way...and she will be without her kids for about six weeks, the longest she has ever gone without seeing them.

Today was the last day of school, finally. I'm not sure why Virginia Beach seems to keep adding days to the calendar. There really is no need and they don't really do anything in class the last week or two of school anyway.

I took off from work today to deal with my son's abbreviated schedule and early dismissal. While he was in school this morning I went surfing. I'm finally actually up and riding waves. Today was pretty rough. The waves were bigger than normal and there were more of them. I got a couple of rides in, but my arms soon gave out. Paddling out into the non-stop barrage of waves can tire you out quickly. It can be hard getting through the break and into position.

Regardless, I had a great time.

I'm playing volleyball again on Monday nights. A great sport, on the beach, with great friends. Softball has been in swing again since the beginning of May. I might pickup soccer again in July, we'll see. No dodgeball this kills my arm.

It's SUMMER!!! So get outside, enjoy the weather! More to come!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ugggghhhhhh.....A Month!

Hmmmmm....I've been busy. We have been busy. All of us have been busy.

Here we go...the Reverse.....

Tonight, 6/16/09, my son had his piano recital. He did fantastic! The pictures, and video, are here. Since he leaves to go to his mom's on Saturday, I will pick up his lessons like I did last year. All the students tonight did a great job, and since the piano is my favorite instrument, I could have sat there all day to listen to the children play.

This past weekend was not great. It would be a stretch to say it was even fun, but some parts of it were. Friday afternoon was very interesting for the SGG and I. SGG is my girlfriend. Her name is Chris. I would bet that in a million years you could not guess what SGG stood for! :-) So, on Friday SGG was hosting a gaggle of cub scouts for a backyard tent bonanza. I went to do my upper body workout and then went on to surf for about 2 hours. My goal this summer is to get up and surfing and I put in a honest effort Friday. After surfing I took my son out for sushi and then we went to keep SGG company for a bit. Saturday morning I got up and did another hour and half of surfing. I actually got up and road about six waves for more than 5 seconds. It is actually sort of like a rodeo. It wasn't a great idea because I was still physically recovering from Friday evening. SGG also got up early and took the cub scouts out for a hike at Seashore State Park here in VA Beach. I think she deserves a medal for what she did Friday night and Saturday.

About 2pm Saturday we finish packing for an overnight camp at Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's eastern shore. We have four kids (still trying to figure out where the fourth came from), a canoe, three tents, fishing poles, crab nets, boogie boards, skim boards, sleeping bags, bug spray, sun block, and much more. SGG and I started setting up the tents. By some freakishly strange alignment of the planets, I managed to trap a bee between my sandal and my middle left toe. That bee stung the snot out of me. I haven't been stung by a bee since I was 9. GRRRRRRR. Now my foot was hurting and swollen. We finished the tents and then I went to the store to get some Benadryl, compresses, band aids, baking soda, and some Coke for the Rum I was going to buy at Liquor store next door. As it turns out, I got Children's Benadryl by mistake, so I chewed up four of those things right away.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and swimming at the beach...though I really mostly slept. SGG has some friends there and we hung out with them for dinner and conversation until 10pm. I can tell SGG needs some time away from her children...every time she left camp for something she was gone for an hour and a half! :-)

While Rachel and Dr. Leah of would espouse the benefits of dating people without kids....if you are not a parent you might not fully appreciate the next part of this story....

SGG and I get the kids in their tents and threaten them with eternal restriction from all electronics if they make a peep. We lay down in our tent, on an air mattress, and start watching a South Park episode on my ipod. We are both more or less instantly asleep. Deeply asleep. At some point in the night a shivering twelve year old boy is saying "Dad. Dad. Dad" in his most hurt and pained "i need help and sympathy right now" voice. He is on the verge of tears. He is very cold. His ear is killing him. His nose is stuffed up. SGG and I are now both out of the tent. I am not so patiently telling my son five time in a row to put his shirt on first. Then we walk down to the bathroom. Then SGG gives him Ibuprofen for his pain. I happen to have a fresh supply of children's benadryl, through my own unfortunate providence, and I give him some to help his allergies that were exacerbating the ear situation. It has the added bonus of helping him sleep. I also ask him if he would now like the sleeping bag he so adamantly stated he didn't need earlier. He does, is grateful, and soon warm and asleep.

Not too long after that, another child awakens our now not so restful slumber. This one is ten and his stomach hurts. The two adults are slow to respond, addled really, until the ten begins to vomit at the opening of our tent. SGG is barely not screaming at the ten to move away from the tent and to direct the unpleasant upheaval somewhere else. It takes the ten at least two heaves to comprehend and act on the instruction. Having lost my sanity, I lay back and just start laughing inside, because if I laugh out loud I was going to get hit. I am also thankful that the wind was blowing west to east and carrying the smell away from the tent. SGG gets the ten settled and we get situated again.

In the morning, SGG goes out for breakfast for everyone....and is gone for an hour and half. :-) We get our act together finally and get the crab nets and fishing poles situated for the boys. One of them, mine, has wandered off as he want to do, and SGG has gone to pay for the pier pass...and is gone for an hour and half. I finally find my son...who has been swimming at the beach, and he and I go to the beach to swim some more and then I lay down again. My foot is throbbing and swollen and I am really tired from all the joyful parental experiences I got to participate in during the night. About 1pm I figure I've had enough fun for the weekend and we pack up everything to head home.

Ok so that was kind of painful...but maybe it was needed to balance out the weekend of 6/5/09. On this weekend we were planning to drive to Charlottesville, VA for SGG's 20th college reunion at UVA. Friday night was a bust as we had intense thunderstorms come through and a tornado. We decided to leave in the morning. Leaving in the morning was the right choice. We made it into Charlottesville just in time to start meeting up with SGG's friends. We went through her old hangouts, had some drinks, and then attended the ROTC cocktail party. While I didn't know anyone there, turns out we knew some of the same people and I got to have a lot of interesting conversations. One of the people had a room on the UVA Lawn by the Rotunda so we went back there to have some more drinks and look out over the lawn. The evening was amazing. The weather was perfect, the company was great, and the band was The English Beat. We spent the night in Afton at a friend of SGG's. Some of the pictures below are from her friends house, and some are from out hike up Humpback Rock. Humpback rock is a truly remarkable hike and vista.


The weekend of May 29th was spent playing at the beach, surfing, and playing volleyball. :-)

Memorial day weekend was spent resting. Believe it or not.
The weekend of the 15th started off in an interesting way.

We were going to camp at Northwest River park for the monthly Astronomy Association demo night. We had a group of cub scouts with us. I was going to be late because I do my workouts in the afternoons after work. Brandon and I got packed up and were getting ready to head out when SGG calls and says she needs a favor. She wasn't expecting to 'Start', but did, and needed some 'supplies'. I say no problem and we detour for Target.

In the parking lot, Brandon is anxious to get to the campsite so he wants to know why we are going to Target.

I take a deep breath. We just had the 'Talk' a few weeks prior to this. He is actually mostly mortified about the whole thing and gets dreadfully embarrassed when I bring it up. But, he did ask why we were going to Target. He regrets it now. I begin asking him if he remembers our talk, and how we talked about women and menstruation. My son is at this point red from head to toe, and can't seem to look up from his feet. We are surrounded by women in the parking lot and it really isn't all that easy for me either. I tell him SGG needs some tampons and we are going to get them. We were also looking for a coffee press, but we never found that.

After giving up on the coffee press we headed to the tampons. This is where I become intrigued. What a variety. The specific request was a small box of regular tampons. If you have looked closely lately, that product line was obviously phased out some time ago. There are generic and name brand versions. Quantities start at "a lot" and go up to "a hell of a lot". There are a wide variety of different absorbency levels too. Some even have flushable applicators. They are stacked in Target over 6' high and extend down the row about 8'. 48' square feet of menstrual mecca. I'm not actually counting the pads either. My son is sulking and lurking about a few aisles over while I diligently read EVERYTHING in search of the specifics that SGG gave me. I had a few women come by to offer condolences and support...sort of. So, I settled on a variety pack that seemed to embody the quantity request while offering an assortment of absorbency capabilities for which I'm sure SGG could find a 'regular' in.

At the checkout counter, the woman clerk said "Awwww, you are a good guy aren't you?"

And then we were on our way to camping, geocaching, fishing, and tick pulling fun. :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

OBX ...

Ok, the last post was written lying down at Oregon Inlet, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It was a windy, clear, beautiful night with a full moon that lit up the entire landscape with its familiar yet eerie milky white glow. As excited as I was just to be there, I was very tired.

Sleeping wasn't great, but when we woke we did feel rested.

We went down to New Inlet in the morning to do some canoeing. It was the suggestion of the Park Ranger and it was an excellent suggestion. While there was some wind, it was not too bad. The water was shallow and at its deepest it was about 3ft. We saw some skate rays while we were paddling about. We found a small island where we could beach the canoe and walk about for a bit. The very astute Chris found some of these little guys. What a strange little creature...looked like a small bunch of seaweed, only with some well blended legs and it was moving.

A skate swam in between Chris and I while we were walking around too. On the way back to the ramp we went by an Osprey nest. It looked like there were two adults and some smaller chicks. We didn't get too close.

When we got back to the truck, it looked like someone had purposely killed a small water snake. It wasn't poisonous and only its head had been smashed. Snakes are an important part of our environment, even poisonous ones, and killing for the sake of fear angers me. Unless a snake is startled, cornered, or attacked it is almost always going to flee the presence of a human. There is no real need to kill them.

Overall we had a fantastic weekend. We headed back home to a Mother's day dinner with Chris's sister and her mom. Glucklich Muttertag (Chris's mom is German).

The horse pictures aren't the greatest as they were taken with my phone....


Saturday, May 09, 2009

OBX ADVENTURE - onsite blogging

Brought to you live...via cell phone.

today has been very interesting. my girlfriend and i were going to the outer baks (obx). we were slow moving in the beginning. we took our time packing and deciding what we would do. we loaded the truck with the canoe and camping gear and headed south. we knew we wanted to go to corolla and drive on the beach. we didnt know if we could camp there...turns out you cannot. we saw a LOT of wild horses. pictures will be up sunday. we could not sit on the beach because it was too windy. we did some hiking and then headed out to find a campground. roanoke island does not have any anymore. we did find one at oregon inlet. right now it is nearly midnight and im too tired to type anymore. good night and happy mothers day!!!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Open letter to Verizon

I have been a happy customer of your FIOS Internet service for almost three years. I used your FIOS TV service for nearly two years, but since I do not really watch TV I recently had that disconnected. I recently put in an order to get a basic copper line telephone, with only local service, and that was supposed to be put in today. The reason for this is that my VoIP provider is shutting down their service.

Two years ago I tried to switch from my VoIP provider back to a basic Verizon land line at the same time I got the TV service. When the technicians got here, they did not know about the phone install, just the TV. Towards the end of the day, I still had not seen a phone technician. When I called I found out that some how they had lost the phone part of the order, were very sorry, and asked if I could take another day off from work to wait around for a phone technician to possibly show up at some point to install my order. I told them no and then asked them to cancel the order. In 10 minutes, I had phone service back through my VoIP provider, and all of the control I wanted over the line as well.

Today I had to be at work first thing, but quickly came home to wait for the phone technician. The order did not specify I needed to be here, and really the circuit just needs to be turned on at the local central office. You see, phone service has been here for a long time. I did not need to pay $40 a month for special FIOS service, I just need dial tone and local service. Specifically 911.

I called to make sure I needed to be here. I was transferred around, went from IVR to human to IVR to human to disconnect to redial to IVR to human, etc. The second time I talked to a dispatcher they said I did not need to be there. Being in short supply of time to get things done at all times, I left to go do something I was going to have to put off until next week. They called in that two hour time span and left a voice mail to tell me that the technician was there, could not get in, and would need to be rescheduled. I am a very unhappy Verizon customer at this point.

I called back, bounced from IVR to human to IVR to human to human to IVR to a human that was still unable to help me but offered to transfer me again and then I went to another IVR and was disconnected yet again.

At this point I have wasted over 90 minutes of my cell phone time, on Verizon Wireless, and I am sure they will not credit me back because they are different companies. You see, I worked for Verizon for a short period of time, and divisions or sub companies might at as well be speaking different languages, in different countries, and at war with each other. It is not going to happen.

I hooked my VoIP provider back into the house wiring, I called them back, went through the whole process all over again bouncing from IVR to human and so forth until I get to someone that tells me I have to reschedule and the earliest time is next Friday, and I MUST WAIT FROM 8am UNTIL 5pm so that a technician can get access to the premises.

I will not take another day off from work. I once again asked Verizon to cancel my order. I will choose from a variety of other VoIP providers and move my serivce to them if I even get another line at all.

Yes, Verizon is getting my money for FIOS Internet. FIOS Internet has been the best Internet service I have ever had. Installation was not too bad for me, but I have talked to many other people where they have had the same experience above getting even the Internet service installed. The Verizon FIOS TV service is too expensive and not nearly flexible enough. They riddle you with extras to boot (i.e. renting the set top box, other hookups, etc). A cafeteria type plan would suit me better, just the basics and a few other extras I choose. I also don't want to rent a set top box.

Verizon is also getting my money for Cell Phone service. Again, it is an overpriced service, but the coverage is better and it is worth a little more money to know that I'll have service where other providers do not.

Verizon is an institution and I am insignificant to it, therefore they can afford to just bounce me around like a ragdoll and it does not make one bit of difference to their bottom line whether I am a satisfied customer or not. Everyone I talked to was pleasant but unable to help me and unable to offer restitution or an explanation as to why I was told I could leave or why someone needed to be there in the first place. Other companies can make after hours appointments. Other companies can schedule specific times. Verizon has no reason to do so. The Virginia SCC will not revoke their license to operate or penalize them for this ineptitude, they are too big to fail as the current presidential administration would say.