Christmas Gone

Christmas is over.  I'm still not wrapping my mind completely around how different it is than it used to be.

I grew up totally immersed in Christmas.  Our family wasn't a church-going family so it really wasn't the religious version of Christmas, which is of course what Christmas really is, but neither was it the overdose of commercialism that takes place now.  Back in those days we weren't immersed in the media blitz of commercialism that we are now.  Instead it was a feeling that permeated our lives, starting slowly but grew and grew as the month of December progressed. 

It was an experience.  It was something to feel good about.

To me, Christmas season was things like the weather getting cold, playing in snow, the daylight hours getting shorter, the colored lights going up around the houses, the smells of homemade scented candles and pine needles in the house, the sounds of Christmas music wafting from the oversize stereo cabinet.  It was a huge experience.  It was anticipation, of course, because we knew we would get presents.  We also were raised knowing the difference between good and bad, and of doing the right thing.  When Christmas season came around, we put on our best behavior at all times because we knew that Santa would not be kind to us.  You know what though?  That mentality is what made the season so merry and bright.  Everyone just felt strangely good inside.  It also taught us to be good people.

I don't know when I first became aware of how good it felt to give gifts, but I know it was at a young age.  That was another facet of Christmas I loved as a kid.  I loved to watch someone's face as they opened a gift from me.  Hoping with all my heart that it would be the best gift anyone had ever given them in their whole life.  Kids aren't aware enough to notice the subtle little things about adults pretending to be impressed with a gift, but it didn't matter.  We gave with our hearts, and we meant it.

The Christmas experience started waning several years ago.  I don't remember when.  I don't remember even if it was before I was grown with a family of my own or not.  I do know that I experienced a resurgence of interest in it when my daughter was born though.  My life was intensely focused on her childhood experiences of Christmas.  I didn't just give her things, we had rituals of going out driving, looking at the displays of Christmas lights that people had put up on their homes.  We played music, we read Christmas stories, and we watched Christmas movies.  I lived my life through my daughter's eyes.

When I divorced it was a time of turmoil.  On one hand I was relieved that it was behind me.  On the other hand, there was loneliness.  My first Christmas was one of an empty apartment.  No tree, no decorations, no nothing.  I remember taking walks and looking at Christmas lights, but it was weird--like a past life.  The following year I told myself I was going to make a halfhearted attempt at putting some Christmas into my stark apartment.  I bought a tree and all the decorations to make it look like a Christmas tree, but it wasn't the same.  Something was missing.  Sure, it was a fake tree, but that wasn't it.  It went deeper.

Now I'm married to a fantastic woman that doesn't celebrate Christmas.  Do I feel remorse?  No.  Do I feel like something is missing?  Maybe.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  Part of me is glad that I don't have the same pressures of gift-giving that I once had.  I know that Christmas gift-giving has become a requirement, and for many people has dropped to the point of being an obligatory checklist affair.  That part I don't miss.  But I miss something.  Maybe it's just the fact that there is nothing.  Maybe that's it.  I see Christmas lights all around, but I don't even feel the desire to go driving around to look at them.  It's just different.

Now Christmas this year is behind me, and it's almost like it never happened.  I guess I want the "magic" feeling that Christmas used to provide.  The childhood innocence and the wonder.  Now when I go to work someone (probably multiple people) will ask me, "Did you have a good Christmas?" Part of me wants to say, "What Christmas?" or "No, I didn't have a Christmas."  No, instead I'll say, "Sure... you?"

It's just not worth explaining.

The Short Guy in the Back

Again we find Microsoft as the short guy in the back of a crowd of onlookers, jumping up and down, waving some new product, screaming, "Hey, we can do that!  Hey, over here!  We can make one of those too!  Hey, look at me--I can do that!"

When will they stop?  It has gone on and on for several years now.  The Apple iPod came out and Microsoft brought out their Zune. The marketplace shrugs... Eh.  They keep doing that sort of thing.  They keep making the same mistakes on every one of their products.  First of all, they wait a certain amount of time to see if the competitor's product will really sell.  By the time they do decide to bring out a competing product the innovative company has become firmly entrenched as the leader.  The second thing they continually do is to try to create things using things they already own.  Kind of like a car company bringing out a new model that uses an old engine because they had a warehouse full of them already.

This time it's a "new" tablet to compete with the Apple iPad, only it's going to run Windows 7.  Hahaha...

They opened the Microsoft Store (hey, Apple had one so we should too!) so they wouldn't feel left out.  They brought out the Windows Phone so they wouldn't feel left out.  Both times the marketplace wondered why. 

Don't get me wrong--I like what Microsoft did for the computing world.  When I was in the computer sales business in the late 80's there were so many "flavors" of computers it was mind-boggling.  There was no one that out-shined the rest.  Microsoft has been instrumental in making the computer a ubiquitous item of our lives.

Funny thing though, I don't think Microsoft has yet to have had a successful product that they invented.  All of their products are things that they have bought, borrowed, tweaked (or completely redeveloped), and sold as theirs.  BASIC, DOS, and Windows are all things invented elsewhere.  The look and feel of a windows-based computer really got started with the Apple Lisa.  Even their Internet Explorer was formerly sombody else's product before Microsoft bought it. I like most Microsoft products.  It does upset me when they change something that was already fine in order to "improve" it but really only make it worse (Office 2007 comes to mind).  There have been countless articles on how Microsoft has failed to innovate or how they haven't really invented anything.  Oh, except for Microsoft Bob--They invented that.  It was such a colossal flop that they actually removed all mention of it like it never existed.

I think they have gotten much better with software apps though.  It's probably due to them buying good products from existing companies and making them their own.  Like LiveWriter--It's an excellent blog writing application and it's free.  In my opinion, one nice thing about Internet Explorer 8 is that it’s the most powerful Firefox downloading tool on the planet. Because that’s all I ever use Internet Explorer for: downloading Firefox.  A lot of people like the Bing search engine.  As I said, they have done a lot of things right, but they should stay out of the electronic gadget business.

I picture a big board room full of out-of-touch people looking blankly at each other, wondering what they can do to increase profits.  They can't come up with anything innovative so they tweak something the public already likes so they'll feel compelled to buy the "new and improved" version.  It's the same kind of thing we used to see when they'd show a bewildered parent listening to one of their children talk and not understanding a word they were saying.

But back to my original point.

Almost every time something new and truly innovative has come out in the world, there is Microsoft in the background: "Hey, don't forget about us!  We're going to sell one of those too, only ours will be better!"

No, I couldn't do better than Microsoft myself, I guess I just love to make fun of them.

Mother and Son

One of the great dilemmas of our time:  Who does a husband listen to--wife or mother?

Under normal circumstances this is a non-issue.  It should never even come up.  There should never be a time when a guy has to wonder which side to lean toward, but sometimes it's hard.  A typical male spends almost two decades under the watchful eye of his mother.  She fixes his wounds when he's hurt, teaches him right from wrong, disciplines him when necessary, helps him up when he falls, feeds him, provides him with a home, makes sure he gets the schooling he needs to succeed in life, and countless other things.

A mother can not turn off the love for her son, but the son can--and usually does--turn off the dependence he may have on his mother.  It's just a part of growing up and finding his independence. 
Part of that independence involves choosing a mate.  When there is a wife in the picture, a man finds that he has a new and different set of rules he is operating by.  Suddenly, and most likely without realizing it, he has a life that has become much more complicated.  There is a new influential figure in his life.  A new person that he confides to, listens to, shares experiences with, and coexists with.

There is usually not a problem when a new person comes into a family--families usually welcome the new spouse in with open arms.  Occasionally however, a there is show of power that takes place between the old authoritative female figure and the new one.  Sometimes it happens before the marriage takes place, and other times a rift develops over something.  The new relationship could also take on what I call the "mother-in-law" syndrome.  That's something we can blame on the media.  All through our lives TV shows and movies have painted the mother-in-laws into being potential problems to a marriage.  Everybody seemed to have at least one of those in a couple.  "It's your mother," the angry spouse would say, trying to pass the blame away from them.

When a man enters into a marriage it is his new life.  It is his life.  Hard as it is, he says goodbye to the old life that nurtured him.  When something arises that causes some sort of a problem and he has to choose between the wants and desires of his wife or his mother, he must choose his wife.  A little voice in the back of his head may scream at him, "What the ---- are you doing--are you crazy?!"  Unless his wife has done something that is morally wrong (murder, etc) he is almost always going to choose his wife's side.  He has to--it's his place to stand strong and support his wife.

There may be times like these that are horribly bleak for his mother.  She is far enough removed to see what is transpiring.  It's a plain as plain can be what or who the problem is but she's helpless to do anything about it.  He has a lot to lose in the short term if he chooses wrong.  He may lose his wife and/or his children if he chooses wrong.  This is a maddening scenario of a son caught between a rock and a hard place.  From a short term standpoint a mother knows that her son must choose to side with his wife and family.  His mother also knows that, from a long-term standpoint, she will always be there to catch him when he falls.

To me, we men are simple, usually non-emotional creatures.  At least we like to think we are.  We try to get through life by taking care of the basic needs of our family.  We work hard for the necessities to care for our family, When we're faced with danger we act, etc.  However, when we are faced with things we can't understand (like female emotions, moods, angst, and a multitude of other differences between men and women) we are stumped.  Our first instinct is to run but we can't.  Instead we are stuck like a deer in the headlights, feeling like we're in a police lineup in something we don't know the answer to.  There is a pressure there that makes us feel that everyone is demanding an answer regardless.

Sometimes a situation arises like we have down the street in Denny's home.  It's an unusual one because nobody is really sure what is happening, why it's happening or even exactly how it got started.  Things might go fine for a week or so then some sort of an explosion might reoccur.  Sometimes the explosion is public and everybody everywhere around knows about it (fortunately there hasn't been one of those for quite a while).  Other times it's indirect, meaning the animosity is directed at someone through someone else.  Still other times it's all under their roof.  While that may be fine for those of us in different households, it hurts the family members at close range .  Denny's method of coping is to work and work hard so he can stay busy and keep is mind on something.  He's a very talented man when it comes to all things construction-related, and he is busying himself with an almost complete home remodel.

It's confusing time for all of us, but it's especially hard on Suzie.  Like any mother, she wants the best for her family, and she has tried her best remedy any situation that has ever arisen with any of her brood.  This one has her stymied.

You only have to run into a wall so many times before you realize that the wall is not going to move.  All you can do is check back every now and then and hope that you will eventually find some sort of passage through it or maybe a bridge over it.

The Walking Dead

I have a pet name for my coworkers that smoke:  I call them The Walking Dead.

The only times of day that I see The Walking Dead are in the morning before work, break times, and lunch time.  The time when they most look like Walking Dead is in the morning.  Work hasn't started yet, and they move in a slow, shuffling gait--Some staring forward, but most staring down toward the ground.  They see nothing around them.  If you're waiting to turn into a parking spot and they're in your way you have to be patient.  They won't know you're there.  The break time crowd of Walking Dead is a little more lively and focused.  From my vantage point at work near the door, they come my right--From various places in the shop, all moving toward the shop door on my left.  It's a wave of Dead--All seeing only one thing:  The door.  They all have a glazed look in their blank, staring eyes, and they have but one focus:  Smoking a cigarette.  When break is over and they come back in they are much more lethargic than when they left.  I guess it's from having feasted on their dose of nicotine.  You can always tell when they come in though, by their coughing.  The Walking Dead almost always cough when the they start breathing the air in the factory again.

The Walking Dead have a sort of bond that seems to be shared among them.  They don't even know it's there.  It's invisible.  It is an unspoken, unconscious thing that they all have in common.  To be a smoker is a badge of honor among the Walking Dead.  It cements their standing among the others of their kind.  They are too stupid to realize how pathetic they look standing outside in the driving rain and shivering in a futile attempt at keeping their smoldering cigarettes dry.  I'm pretty sure that smoking is mandatory to be a member of the Walking Dead.  After all, what else would the Walking Dead do on their breaks?

The lack of brain activity is of course a given within The Walking Dead.  That is why they don't worry about potential health issues from their smoking. The Walking Dead are pretty much devoid of any brain activity that would lean toward self-preservation.  Without that ability they can't think ahead enough to understand that they should wear ear protection when they operate loud saws or machinery.  It takes a supervisor telling them each time it occurs.  Why should they worry?  They're already Dead.  I think The Walking Dead can only obey one variety of regular human:  A supervisor.  I don't think they can hear any words from any other normal human.  Because its against their nature to look forward they won't invest in any sort of thing that might enhance their workday experience.  Simple things like comfort work footwear--Out of the question.  Most of them are wearing old, nasty athletic shoes.  I'm sure the soles are worn out from dragging their feet all day.  They don't dare bring their own tools to work.  Tools cost money!  Why should they spend their hard-earned money to buy something when they can just borrow and lose someone elses tools instead?  That also takes away from the cash required to buy cigarettes.

None of The Walking Dead are smart enough to bring food to work to eat at lunchtime.  They seem to operate totally without foresight it would take to get out of bed early enough to make a sandwich.  They, instead, use up at least half of their lunch time driving to and from Wendy's or 7-Eleven.  I'm sure those places are filled with Walking Dead from other shops and factories during that small window of the day.  A scary thought indeed.

The Walking Dead don't worry about anything.  They don't worry that they don't have a car, or that they can barely afford the payments they are making on the car they do have.  They don't worry that the price of cigarettes would move them securely into the black financially if they didn't have to pay it.  They don't worry about doing anything during their workday that might move them up in the ranks.  They only want their paycheck and their cigarettes.  I think the only reason The Walking Dead even try to make it to work on time is because if they don't put in a full two hours they will not be allowed to take a break.  That would be tough to take--Watching the other Walking Dead outside the shop inhaling that sweet, life-depleting smoke.  Watching that kind of activity and not being able to partake in it would cause them gut-wrenching pain.  If a waft of smoke would find its way into the shop when the big doors are open it would surely cause their eyes to roll back in their head.  No, they must smoke, and must not do anything that could jeopardize their chance of smoking.

Quitting time is different.  When it's quitting time The Walking Dead almost resemble humans.  They move without much of their usual zombie-like foot dragging. They don't worry about their jobs at all when it's quitting time.  Not only are they not forward-thinking, they don't look behind them either.  When work is over they only see the door to freedom and nicotine.  If they drop something on the way to the exit door they won't pick it up.  Doing so could slow them down as well as potentially placing them in danger of being asked to work a little overtime.  I'm sure that's why The Walking Dead turn almost into The Running Dead at quitting time.

So Ends an Exciting Week!

A lot of stuff was rolled into one week.  We had snow, 3-day work week, Thanksgiving, power outage, Black Friday... Lots of stuff.

The snow we had was fun.  It didn't create much of a problem for me though.  I left for work early each of the three days that I worked, and I made it there just fine--Early each time.  Monday was crazy though.  Apparently, the snow crippled the Seattle/Tacoma/Everett area so badly that some people spent over 13 hours getting home, arriving finally after 2 in the morning.  Many of those didn't even make it with their vehicles.  There were vehicles abandoned everywhere--Freeways, highways, city streets, and rural roads.  I guess there are lessons in there somewhere, but I doubt if anyone learned anything.  Next time it snows they'll probably do it all over again the same way.  The best thing any of those folks could have done that day/night was to just grab a nice, convenient motel and camp.  The next day (Tuesday) the roads were so devoid of traffic it was downright pleasurable for the rest of us.  It was a good day of $$$ for tow trucks, body shops, tire stores, and any other business that was related to vehicular misfortune.

As I said, Tuesday was so much better because traffic was nil.  The weather was so nice I was sorry to be at work.  Sue texted me and said I was the only one of "our people" here in the neighborhood that went to work.  I believe it.  Even at work only two thirds of the people showed up.  It was bright, sunny day and most people stayed home and made the best of it--Playing with their kids and being kids themselves.  Sue got lots of great pictures of the various family members having fun.  I wished I was one of them!  Oh well--I already had to deal with a forced 3-day work week because of Thanksgiving.  Our shop is closed on Friday, but it's unpaid.  I didn't want to shorten my paycheck even more by playing hooky when I only work one town away.

Wednesday was cold.  Way cold.  Suzie and I enjoyed a crisp, cold soak in the hot tub on Tuesday night, and as a precursor to Wednesday it was already somewhere around 8 or 10 degrees.  That made for a great night of hot tub stargazing though because the sky was so clear.  Stepping out onto snow from that nice, hot water was quite a shock, but we had the woodstove blazing so we were able to go quickly from one comfort zone to another.

During these snow days I had fun on the newly-acquired Honda 3-wheeler.  I was out riding each evening of the 3 snow days we had, and had a great time zooming around the neighborhood.  Wednesday, I stopped on the way home from work and picked Sarah up.  She enjoyed a good time on the 3-wheeler herself.  Actually, I think we crammed a pretty good evening in on her schedule.  She got 3-wheeler riding (solo and as passenger both), cold-night hot-tubbing, enjoyed homemade soup, and relaxed by the blazing woodstove.  It was a good visit all the way around.

Thanksgiving at my parents' house was predictable, which means it went well.  Nothing unusual happened there.  One little tidbit of health news from mom & dad:  Dad is going in for a prostate biopsy.  That's usually not so good, but in this case might be fine--It is early they think.  Sarah had to work until about 4:30 so she showed up after that.  There was still food and stuff for her though.

Sarah and her mom, and their friend Noelle were planning their big shoppers feeding frenzy, a.k.a. Black Friday.  This year was crazy--Almost all of the real competitive stores were open at midnight.  Some never closed.  It was a new "flavor" of retail chaos.  Sarah and them never did go to sleep, instead going from store to store in their planned order of attack (I think they actually do have a battle plan when they do it).  Reports trickled in from Sarah via cell phone messages at various times of the wee hours:  "(at 2:20am) Don't come to Walmart--Nuts. (at 5:33am) This sucks--There's a million people out here."  She said they didn't even try to get into Kohl's because it was such a mob scene.  No thanks man--I'll shop Black Friday online.  I believe this may be the end of the traditional "Black Friday" as we know it.  When all the ads are posted in advance, stores don't close or are open at midnight, and shopping deals are available online--What's the point?  It's ridiculous.

What would Thanksgiving be without a power failure?  This year was no exception.  Halfway through a lot of people's cooking time (around noon I think it was) the power went out.  Apparently someone hit a pole somewhere in an outlying area.  When I got home from my folks' house at about 7, the power was still out, but our house was toasty.  Some folks in Sues congregation that live right around the corner were here, bathing in the warmth of our woodstove.  Actually, it was downright hot in the house!  The power stayed off until about 10 or 10:30 I think.  The 5 of us (Keith was here too) played games at the kitchen table all evening.  It was fun.

Most of the snow is gone.  Suzie and I took a drive out a ways yesterday but it was more of the same--Very little snow left.  Hopefully it will all be gone by the time the next wave of weather rolls in, Then we can do it all over again!

Snow Day Poem

This one came to me while I was at work yesterday.  Sort of trickled into my brain little by little as the day wore on.

Snow Day
Alas, I have to rise and face
the weather even though
my common sense tells me not,
so off to work I go.
Over snow covered streets I drive my car
when winter rears its head.
Why can't I stay all snug and warm
tucked safely into bed?

Of course, I'd rather be a kid
and go sledding down the hills,
but the boss comes first and after all--
The income pays the bills.

A white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel
when traffic lights go stale;
I never know when or if they'll turn
or if my stop will fail.

Hopefully when I make it home
to spend evening by the fire,
I'll arrive with all my parts intact
for the relaxation I require.
Rick Williams

Winter Arrives in November

Winter is here, and it arrived with a vengeance.

It snowed pretty much all day yesterday. Because it was cold (upper 20's) it was pretty small snowflakes, but there was even wind with it. Had it snowed at 30-35 degree temps there would probably be more like a foot of snow out there right now instead of the 3-4 inches we appear to have.

We went out to the hot tub last night at about 7:45. Because it was snowing quite a bit we opted to swing the umbrella out over it and open it up. The wind was blowing the wispy, small snow into our faces and making the umbrella dance. That was pretty weird--Sitting under an umbrella and still getting wet. The overall experience was pretty good. The water, of course, was very nicely hot. It would have been much better as an experience if it was daylight so we could enjoy the white back yard. We had quite the shock when it was time to step out of the tub though. Putting those tender, toasty toes into ankle-deep snow was a shock to the system! We were extremely happy to have a blazing wood stove to warm our tootsies back up when we came in.

Before the daylight was completely gone I went out and gave the "new" old ATC110 3-wheeler its inaugural test run. It performed pretty well. I had a great time running around the neighborhood with the snow in my face for 15 or 20 minutes.  Watch me catch cold from it... (knock on wood).

Today should be a bit of a knuckle-biter driving to work. I'm fortunate that I leave early and don't have to drive far, but the downside of that is that it's still dark out. Oh well. I'll try to give myself an extra half hour this morning. That's funny considering it only takes 15-20 minutes to get to work in normal circumstances.

It was 59.5 degrees on the thermometer I have at my desk at work.  With nothing running over the weekend it gets pretty cold in there.  Thank goodness I have my space heater!  By the end of the day it was still only up to about 63 degrees.

I would venture a guess that my picture-of-the-day today will somehow involve snow...  What do you think?


I have been bitching about it for far too long, but I finally have heat in my area at work!

As easily as I made it happen makes me wonder why I dragged my feet so long.  I guess it's because the area I have for a work "cubicle" is really just a corner or whatever.  It's not a room.  Because of that fact there are no actual outlets for electricity.  Instead, there is a heavy-duty drop-down cord with a square 4-outlet box on the end that hangs down from the ceiling.  When I say heavy duty, I mean it's about 5/8" thick wire (or cable) which is big stuff.  I guess because it's not permanent it always seemed like an extension cord to me.  It's really not--It's more like building wiring but flexible.

Suzie and I were out at Walmart in Auburn last weekend and went by the heater section.  I saw these little Sunbeam ceramic heaters there for only $18 and I thought, "Hey, why not give one a try?"

Long story short:  It didn't blow any breakers on low (1000-watt).  I wanted to make sure before investing in an extension cord to put it in a more convenient spot.  Especially because it's the same outlet area/breaker  that our company computer routers are plugged into.  The next morning I tried it on high (1500-watt) with the same results.  No breakers popped, and no problems at all.  Good to go!

Now I have convenient heat in my area and all is right with the world.  For now that is.

Don't worry--I'll find something else to bitch about.

The Rift

It's funny how things can change so drastically in a short period of time.

Take for instance:  Just a short time ago Denny's house was practically the family's hub of existence.  Rachyl and Tony lived there with them, and there was an endless amount of activity there all the time.  From my perspective, there was rarely a time when there wasn't an excess of conversation going on, outside doors being left open, nobody knowing where anybody was or who was going to do what for dinner.  It was chaos.  It also seemed like they almost thrived on it sometimes though.

In a relatively short time, a lot of things took place that changed all that.  What has happened?

Rachyl and Tony moved out and have a beautiful home of their own near us on this end of the street.
Mark, Rachel, and their family are here from Utah and are living directly across the street from Denny and Heather in one half of a duplex.
At one point, Kevin and his two boys were drifting aimlessly, trying to put their lives in order after Shirley took leave on a personal quest to find herself.  Now they both are together doing wonderfully, and living in the other half of the same duplex as Mark and Rachel's family.
Most everybody is doing well in their own right and happily spending time in their own homes as most people do.

Except that now Denny's house is pretty much avoided.

It's unfortunate but it's true.  Due to some sort of inner turmoil that is bubbling away in Heather's head, there has been a huge rift blown into the family.  She is waging a war with Shirley--Over what exactly nobody knows.  Has something snapped in her head?  Is she unable to cope with the reality of being a responsible adult in charge of her home instead of being a roommate?  Is she just jealous?  Did something actually happen that nobody is aware of?  Has she got a sudden medical problem that's causing her to lash out?  I know that it's wreaking havoc on everyone involved, not the least of which being her husband Denny.

Denny doesn't know what to do so he remains busy on a project remodel that he's doing in his house.  The busier he can stay the better.  It seems whenever Sue tries to help Denny with something she gets caught in the middle of it.  After it happening more than once she has seemingly become lumped into the enemy category with Shirley (at least in Heather's mind).  Fortunately Heather can't see our house when she looks out her front window or she'd probably be taking her frustrations out on our possessions when nobody was watching like she has allegedly done to Kevin and Shirley.

When will it stop?  How will it stop?  Will it stop?

Poor Mark and Rachel--Here from Utah to be with what was a tight-knit, loving family--Now forced to occasionally observe and hear things that nobody's family should have to endure, just because of their close proximity to the whole mess.

Shirley as turned into one of those moms that just loves being a mom.  She posts pictures of her culinary creations on her Facebook page, loves taking part in PTA things at Joe's school, and totally dotes on her husband and family.  She used to be the one we shook our heads sadly at from time to time as she struggled to find her place in life.  She has had some things happen in her life that shouldn't happen to anybody.  She has explored things, places, and herself.  Apparently the nonstop "bad luck" that she had in recent history has caused her to open her eyes.  Her epiphany is to everybody's benefit.  She is now a family member.  She is still uniquely Shirley, but that just seems to add to her appeal now.

Heather's had a constant barrage of outbursts.  We never know where or when.  I am lucky to have only witnessed a couple of them, but she has sent Suzie home shaking and fearful of what may happen. She has vowed to stay with her parents "until [Shirley] moves out" and does seem to be there every night, but just when you think it's safe to visit Denny guess who shows up.  She has become adept in speeding away in anger--Sometimes with Hunter--Sometimes alone.  Not only should she not even be driving (she has no license), but she shouldn't be driving in her mental state.  Shirley finally had to step up and file a restraining order to protect them from her, and even the cop that served the papers was scared of Heather.

It's just all wrong.  I can't wait for this to end and neither can Suzie.  It causes her more turmoil than people can imagine.  This is her family.  These are her babies.  I'm sick of it.  We're all sick of it.

Wednesdays and Water

My parents live just 10 or 15 minutes away.  They've been trying to visit for what seems like a month now, but for one reason or another can't seem to make it happen.

Apparently, Wednesdays are their choice of a day to visit.  The first time mom called, she asked if we were going to be around.  I had to explain that I had a dentist appointment in about two hours.  She said she'd try again another day.  The appointment I had was for a "deep-cleaning", and unknown to me (or it was probably explained to me but I immediately forgot as I sometimes do) it is seldom a one-visit thing.  Sure enough, they got half my mouth done that night and I scheduled my next dental visit for the following Wednesday (that's the one day a week that they're open much later).

Guess what day mom called again?  Yep, Wednesday.  I felt bad, but what could I do?  Well, the cleaning worked out well, but a small filling was needed so I scheduled an appointment for the following Wednesday.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?  Yep, my mom called yet again!  I don't remember the details of when she called, but I know that I was embarrassed that I had to tell her the same thing for the third time.  I asked myself if she would ever try again.  I know I would probably write Wednesdays off the list under my name if it was me...

This week we decided to make it up to them and invite them up for dinner on Wednesday.  Sue has a recipe for a few killer soups, and she was going to make them the best of the bunch.  Well, some unforeseen family drama down the street reared its head on Tuesday night.  The drama itself wasn't exactly unforeseen, but the level that it escalated to certainly was.  Suzie, being the mom, is also very often the mediator to such things--Sometimes requested and sometimes not.  It's her.  It's what she does.  She ended up not getting to sleep until very late, and didn't sleep well or for very long.  She texted me at work and asked me to postpone my parents visit.  She just didn't have the energy for all the preparation and such.  I understood of course, and after several tries, finally got my mom on the phone and apologized.

I wonder what she thinks?

It's just as well they didn't come.  I took my truck to work yesterday to pick up a bunch of scrap wood with, and while I was loading it up after work Suzie called.  The city of Covington had come by to replace our defective water shutoff at the meter, and as soon as they started working on it, a mysterious leak (a somewhat major one) magically appeared above it (on our side).  Well, they got their work all done and we tore into our driveway.  Now there is a hole in the driveway and we have no water.  I wish I would have followed my first inclination and worked at it last night to finish it, but Suz insisted we just get it apart, clean it up, and assess what we needed to buy or do.  Fortunately for us, Tony and Rachyl live right across the street so Sue can still get whatever water she needs today, but I don't have that luxury at 4:30 in the morning.  At least I got my coffee pot filled at their house before I went to bed.  Priorities you know.

As much as I hate (hate, hate, HATE) emergency repairs of any kind, at least it didn't happen in the middle of winter.

The Creative Arts... Or Lack Thereof

It's pretty apparent by now that I'm not destined to be a creative individual.

I do have a love for the creative arts as a whole, but in all of them that I've tried the quality of my product is about that of a counterfeit Rolex.  It seems like I've dabbled in most things but have not yet found anything I can do with any reasonable amount of proficiency.

But I'm not whining.  Okay, maybe I am.

I've spent several years in music but found it beyond my ability to excel at.  It may have something to do with the fact that music relies lot on math, which was my worst subject in school.  I spent all of my latter school years playing the alto saxophone, and was only barely good enough to stay in the class.  I think what I disliked enough about music enough to have never succeeded at it was the structure.  Music takes practice and dedication, neither of which I possess(ed).  In my more recent history I decided I was going to learn how to play guitar.  I jumped into it in earnest, but finally relented and let it wane.  I never seemed to be able to remember the chord fingerings, and if I could, could never go from one to another smoothly enough to make it work.  Now it sits in its case collecting dust.

Maybe I would have been good at singing, but I'll never know now.  I know they say, "It's never too late" but I have no interest to try.  Ditto on dancing.  (I mean really--Can you even imagine?)

I've never tried acting.  Who knows?  I doubt if I would have ever been any good--At least on stage--Because I have a crappy memory and would never remember my lines.

Art itself is a huge category and I have always had an appreciation for all forms of it, but I have no imagination whatsoever for anything "art" myself.  If someone gave me all the tools to create something on paper--Be it pencil, pen, paint, or whatever--I would sit and stare blankly before idly doodling with scrawls of nothingness.  It was probably someone with my talent that did the art on cave walls back in the day.  I do love to ooh and ah over other people's art though.  I love museums and galleries.  It never ceases to amaze me how people can pull something out of their heads and transfer it into a medium that other people can enjoy.  Sarah has that sort of talent.  I don't.

I've always enjoyed stories, writing, and even poetry.  I've written a lot of short stories but none of them amounted to anything worthy of mention.  From a writing standpoint, I guess I should just be content with occasionally penning a stupid or banal blog post. When I was in school English was always my best subject.  I can't really explain why.  It must have been that I just understood the mechanics of it though even that is escaping me now.  I find myself forgetting rules of punctuation and over-using forms of it--Like double-dashes for example.  I hope I don't ever forget the different forms of YOUR and YOU'RE. I think Suz would divorce me if I did. She can only take so much...

My ability to write poetry is right up there (or should I say down there) with my ability to write.  Sure, I can write witty rhymes, but how hard is that?  The ability to write real poetry is not within my grasp.  To me, the definition of poetry is a certain level of beauty.  It doesn't have to rhyme but it needs to convey a feeling.  I try but fail... So I sit and wail.

Now it's photography's turn.

I really have fun taking pictures, but I can't shoot a good picture on purpose.  I've had a few successes but they've all happened by accident.  Because I have little imagination I usually don't know what I like until I see it and I'm able to select it from alongside others ("This one looks less crappy than that one... I'll use it.").  I have a lot of trouble with composition.  I can usually get the other parts of the photography formula correct but I have a lot of trouble "seeing" a shot before I take it.  Ask anybody that has had me taking pictures of them.  "What do you want me to do?  Where should I be?" they might ask.  "I dunno..." I say as I look around blankly.  I end up just taking pictures every which way, hoping one of them is less than crappy and therefore usable.  I call myself a "mechanical" photographer.  I concentrate on the nuts & bolts of taking pictures.  I want the settings to be perfect every time.  Color, clarity, light--I want it all just right.  But what is just right?  Some of the best photography I've ever seen has obvious mechanical flaws in it like focus or color, but it still strikingly beautiful.  Even when I have pictures in front of me on the computer I can't seem to "see" that if I crop it a certain way it would be so much better.

I guess in all of this whining I've discovered that I am really good at one thing:  Mediocrity!

A Day of Goodies

It's fun ordering stuff online.  You get to do research about the items, read their reviews, compare store prices, and all sorts of related stuff.  It's also cheaper than shopping local stores in most cases.  Sometimes the items aren't available locally at all.  Sometimes they are available locally, but you're in no hurry and would rather avoid the traffic hassles and have them delivered right into your hands.  Sometimes it's a juggle between no sales tax or free shipping that sways the purchase in your favor.

I think my favorite part is arrival.  Most people I talk to feel the same sort of excitement.  You get a tracking number and get to follow it's trip to your doorstep.  Obviously, it's not the same with everything you would order--Say, a replacement supply item.  But for something new it can get exciting anticipating its arrival.

Yesterday was a "2-fer" type of shopping day.  Two items I ordered came in on the same day.  One was my new camera bag.  I needed a new bag pretty badly.  Not only had I sort of outgrown my old camera bag, it was in pretty bad shape.  Remember, it had gone through a traumatic experience (as did I) when it fell off the Harley one day during a ride.  Lately it had gotten to the point where the top zipper (the most important one) was coming undone.  You can't really repair zippers like that.  Luckily, it had two zipper pulls so I could zip it most of the way from either end, stopping just short of the bad spot.  Yesterday my new Ape Case (yes, that's it's brand name) came.  Pretty nice bag!  Lots of space and easily customizable to fit my stuff.

The other item was the best though:  A new lens!

I wanted a good "walk-around" lens to replace the lens that was originally shipped with my camera when it was new.  I liked the range, but not the optics.  It was never really crisp and clean in my opinion.  I lovingly referred to it as my "plastic lens" whenever we would discuss it at home.  My research led me to a Sigma brand lens.  Instead of 18-55mm of zoom range, I now have 17-70mm.  That lets me zoom just a little farther.  It also has excellent macro capabilities.

It was very hard to track down this lens though.  Apparently right when I was ready to buy they had pretty much been discontinued everywhere and I couldn't find one to save my life.  I could find their replacement model, but it was $100 more because it had an "anti-shake" stability feature built into it.  Imagine my surprise when my new lens showed up yesterday and it was the new stabilized version!  I don't think they knew they shipped me the better one at the older one's price, but they did.

Nice score!

A Whirlwind Weekend of Wrongs (and Wrights?)

Some weekends go by quickly, and this one seems like one of those.

Sue and I decided to give our trip around the North Cascades Highway one more try.  We left at about 9am Saturday morning, and the weather was on our side this time.  The skies were blue and it was clear and sunny.  This time we didn't make any wrong turns, but I did have one major error in judgment:  I thought we could do it in one day.

  • I failed to consider all the times we would stop for pictures, some of which were over a half hour long.
  • I failed to factor in the shortness of the day sun-wise.  By the time we got to our "halfway" point, the sun was almost spent already.
  • I failed to allow for the fact that the sun was on a fairly low orbit this time of year, and it never really got "overhead" like it does in summer.  Add in the mountainous terrain and there were lots of places that could only be shot during the optimum sun hours of the day.
Yes, I made several mistakes.  One could say I ruined the trip, but actually we did get a lot of really good shots.  I decided when we stopped in Winthrop and ate dinner that we might as well go ahead and head for home.  At that point, home was a long ways away.  It was during our drive out that we determined that we were passing some of the most colorful stuff we had seen all day but couldn't shoot it in the waning sun.  We drove out in a sort of frustrated silence most of the way along that potentially beautiful area.  A few hours later, we had just crested Blewitt Pass on the way home when the traffic stopped.  I mean stopped.  Nothing was moving and we had no idea how long it would be or how far ahead it was.  I had the choice about a half hour prior to that:  Do we go this way or that way?  Again I chose wrong.  As the day was already long and tedious, I opted to turn around and backtrack all the way back to the turning point so we could head home another way.  We finally got home at 11:30pm.  We both agreed that we should have stayed overnight--Whether we had our stuff with us to do so or not.  Here are some of the good parts of the day:

So what was this part of the title that mentioned Wrights?

Yesterday morning I got an email chat from my son daughter-in-law, Dana.  Mark was winging his way up here on a short business visit trip and wanted to get together.  Cool!  He wanted to see the Boeing Museum of Flight (remember the Wright Brothers?) in south Seattle so that to be our meeting place.  Sue wanted to go, but was torn:  She didn't want to miss the guest speaker from South Africa at her Kingdom Hall yesterday afternoon.  Instead, I stopped at my mom's house.  I knew dad wouldn't want to go, but you should have seen mom's face light up when I asked her if she wanted to go with me to meet her grandson!  She has been corresponding with their family since I learned about them a few years ago, but has never actually met.  We had a great visit at the museum, walking and chit-chatting.  We finished our visit with a stop for dinner at Red Robin.

I told myself this morning, had we stayed overnight in Winthrop the previous night, the meeting with Mark might not have happened.  Still, I wish I would have done several things differently.

All and all, a whirlwind of a weekend for sure.

Short But Sweet

I was feeling kind of melancholy at work the other day and this short poem sort of formulated itself as the morning wore on:

My throat is sore
and across the floor
a chilly breeze does blow.
My feet are cold;
I feel so old
when temperatures dip low.

The shining sun
is all but done--
it shines to be polite.
Not much appeal
or warmth to feel;
It's rays are naught but light.

The woodstove's heat
is hard to beat;
It's a winter friend to me.
Add homemade stew
to warm me through,
and comfortable I'll be.

Although these things
cut winter's sting
the summer is still the best.
The skimpy clothes;
the suntanned toes;
Ahh... Comfortably undressed.

Rick Williams

Weather-change Doldrums?

I feel like I'm floundering lately.  I guess it's the onset of winter, which is just on the horizon, that has me in a wishy-washy state of mind.

There is also the strange way my health rears its ugly head this time of year... Every year.  I get skin issues, strange swellings, aches & pains--You name it.  I've been having one thing after another for the last few weeks.  I'm going to attribute it to the weather change.  Our weather has been all over the map, but I don't have anything else to blame it on.  You know how it is:  When you have a lapse in the conversation you always bring up the weather.  Lately, I've been dealing with a swollen ankle and lower leg pain, and I did nothing to cause it.

It could just be age.

Before we went to Kauai I was going to order myself a new camera lens.  I had finally figured out what I wanted for my next foray into the photography world, and it was reasonably priced, but instead of buying then I opted to wait until we got back from our trip.  I only wanted to spread the bills and expenses out a little farther is all.  I'm pretty rational with money decisions.  I guess that's one of my good traits.  Anyway, I came back and was going to order the lens.  The calendar had finally put me past the billing date of my Visa card, and because I pay it in full every month it was "clean slate" time.  I went onto the website of my chosen retailer, and wouldn't you know it, they're a Jewish company.  So what?  Well, they had just shut the entire company down for a solid week to celebrate Succos apparently.  When they finally did reopen, guess what?  My lens was sold out and discontinued (it was not a recent model).  That sent me on a quest to find another source.  Everywhere I went it was the same thing:  Out of stock.  Discontinued.  I think I finally have it on the move though.  I guess I have located the last one in the world--Hopefully I'll get it.  All I can say is:  I'd better like the damn thing!

I also ordered myself a new camera bag the other day.  I don't know if the harrowing tumble down the freeway last summer when it fell off the Harley had anything to do with it, but it's falling apart.  The top zipper has a corner that no longer works.  Fortunately, it has a zipper at both ends so I can still zip it up from either end, stopping just short of the bad spot.  I have grown weary of the bag design anyway--It's just packed a little too tightly and I need a little more space.  We checked out a few at a store this weekend and I liked what I saw in a particular brand and style, so I let the web do the rest of the shopping research for me and chose one similar to the one we saw in person.  Same brand, different model.  WAY cheaper.

The "doomsday media" is constantly telling us here in the northwest that we're in for a winter that's colder and wetter than usual.  I don't know about the media.  Sometimes it's like it's driven by retailers.  A classic scenario is when they say something like, "...spokesmen say the price of gasoline may rise sharply in the near future because of..." then, lo & behold, it actually happens.  It's magic!  The media puppets can foresee the future!  Well, maybe this latest one is for all the sellers of firewood, tire chains, outerwear, and heating oil.  So what am I doing about it?  Well, besides the fact that I have us fairly well stocked up on firewood, nothing much.  One exception is that I am prowling around for a cheap, small Honda 3-wheeler for snow use.  I have found that they exist in relatively low demand--Partly because they're small and underpowered (they're only little 90cc or 110cc engines), and partly because the media went on a 3-wheeler "witch hunt" several years ago and actually got manufacturers to stop making them.  I know anything is dangerous in the hands of an idiot, but these little 3-wheelers I'm talking about are really, really fun in the snow, cheap to operate and practically indestructible.  I guess I should get myself fixed up with some tire chains for my car and/or truck too.  As much as I hate them, they're pretty necessary sometimes.

Well, that's enough for now.  Time to finish the coffee and get moving.

Double Bonus: It's Friday and Suzie's Back!

Yes, she's back, and I'm glad!  You know, it's always a good little break from things when you get the house to yourself.  You get to do, eat, or watch, pretty much anything selfishly and without fear of reprisal.  But when your spouse is your best friend that's only fun for a very short time.  Suzie stayed on at her folks' house in Anahola, Kauai for an additional week after I left and labored for them, and I missed her a lot.

She was lucky--Coming from Kauai and showing up in our area on a beautiful, sunny day--What are the odds?  When I picked her up at almost 5 o'clock pm it was in the middle 70's, and for the last day of September that's pretty good.

So now she gets to immerse herself in the family drama unfolding down the street.  I won't get into that here because I hate emotional drama and I also don't know facts.  No dirt from me... Sorry.

I bought a new video card for her computer a couple days ago and it showed up at work yesterday.  I had just enough time to install it before I ran out to pick her up at the airport.  Her computer has two monitors plugged into it, and it needed more video crunching power.  Her system just ran two slow on anything graphical in nature.  It seems to be filling the bill quite nicely so far and it was only 45 bucks.  I may have to get myself one while they're still out there to pick from.  Ours are not the most current computers in the world and we have to be selective about what will fit and work in them.

I looks like Sarah's college trip to India this January may be in jeopardy.  According to her, they need 3 more bodies to sign up for it or the program/trip could get cut.  In my opinion everyone that is going should be doing everything humanly possible to get the word out on campus.  Sell, sell, sell!  Get out there and get more people on board!

My 365 Picture-A-Day blog is officially half way through it's year-long run!  Yesterday was post number 183.  Posting any picture is easy, but posting something that looks like you put some thought into it is not so easy.  Some days the pictures are effortless.  My daily activities provide me with some sort of opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to get some good shots.  I might also go on the hunt for something good on the way home from work to see if I can get some good shots.  Other days (like yesterday) I just don't have the time to get anything good.  I have a self-imposed rule that I must take the picture that day--Even if I can't actually get it posted until the following day or whenever (which has happened due to lack of internet or whatever).  It's too easy cheat and use pictures from one particular photo event to fill more than one day's post, and many people do that.  I won't do that.  So, another half a year (groan).  It has been a learning experience.  It's an exercise in will power, motivation, creativity, and perseverance.  While I have had several "make do" pictures over the last half year, I have had some that were amazing.  I hope there will be more, but it's not going to be as easy during the next leg of the journey.  The daylight hours will be much shorter, and the weather much colder and wetter.  Translation:  Less time outside.

I'm so glad it's Friday.  I normally don't care all that much what day it is because I try to enjoy each day as I can, but I just want to spend some quality time with my wife.

Welcome home Suzie!

Post-Vacation Perceptions

Okay, so here it is--Saturday--And I've had just enough coffee that I feel like I should write about something.  (Apparently, coffee is somewhat of a catalyst for blogging to lots of people.)  Bloggers are not writers really... We're more of what you might call a writer wannabes or something like that.  Maybe a blogger is nothing more than someone with random brain activity coupled with the ability to type.  Here is a comic I blatantly stole a few weeks ago that I felt I may someday use it in my blog.  It is the public's perception of a blogger I think (Obviously, you'll need to click on it to see it full size).  Now that I've actually used it I can finally delete it from my desktop where it's been sitting there catching my attention--Waiting for it's golden opportunity.

I've been home from Kauai for a week now.  Okay, almost a week--Close enough.  My thoughts?

I miss the ability to get up and not have to put any additional clothing to feel comfortable.  (That reminds me--Thank you Flynn and Maggie for putting up with my wearing those garish boxer shorts around your house.  It made me feel very much at home in your house.)  Although the weather here and there differs greatly, I did welcome the change when I got home.  That is, when the house is comfortable.  I've already had a fire in the woodstove twice this week.  Here all it takes is a simple clothing change to match the environment.  Over there, you can only take so much of your clothing off at any given time... After that it's breezes, fans, or air conditioning.

I don't miss the mosquitoes.  I never really thought about them being there in Kauai.  I guess that's because the only other time I've been to any of the Hawaiian islands was a visit to Maui several years ago, and because we stayed on the arid side of the island I never saw a biting insect the whole time.  I remember noting that to several people ("I couldn't believe it--There were no bugs there!") at the time.  The mosquitoes there where I stayed in Kauai were very small.  They easily escaped detection while I was being eaten.  The itch started usually after they were safely on another part of my body feasting.  The ones we have here are slightly easier to spot, and fortunately not nearly as abundant.  While I was there I got frustrated more than once because I couldn't even rush from the car to the house without being bitten a time or two on my lower legs.

I miss the photographic opportunities.  I'm sure that was because I was new and taking it all in, but the truth is, the change of scenery made it so easy to come up with pictures every day.  Even if I had nothing the seemingly ordinary (like even the dirt for example) was way different that what we have here.

My job didn't suffer too badly in my absence.  My replacement, who is young and green, was bright enough to pick things up quickly, but wasn't really afforded as much training time as he should have been.  That part was mostly out of my hands.  He was recruited to work other areas of the shop due to personnel shortages before I left so he really didn't get as much training as I would have liked.  Still, the training I did give him, coupled with the help files, tip sheets, and screen prints that I made from scratch, enabled him to muddle his way through okay.  When I got back, the general consensus was that he did okay.  From what I heard, his first day was the hardest.  He got bombarded with stuff from multiple directions and realized that he should have paid more attention during his training (his words).  But again--The fact that even after going over everything he did and making some tweaks, fixes, and adjustments here and there I was caught up by Thursday.  That's a huge difference from when Suzie and I took 2 weeks to go to Utah and California two years ago.  Even though that was before we had the big computer system in place at work and my job was more "analog" (what a geek!), it still took me a full two weeks to get everything fixed and all the problems ironed out.  The person that filled in for me then was plainly not the right one for the job.  Not only did he not want to do it, he was just wrong for it.  He is a wrench guy, not a paperwork guy.

I don't like coming home to an empty house.  I miss my wife.  It's too quiet, too cold, and too weird.  Without my wife to share a hot tub with, even that's not as much fun.  We are, in my humble opinion, a great couple.  Although have our differences, she and I are a very good fit.  I can honestly say that Suzie is my best friend, my confidante, my photography buddy, and my life.  It will be good to have her back.

Maggie and Flynn were such gracious hosts!  They opened up their home to me as they do to Suzie.  That means a lot of bathroom juggling, bed juggling, time differences (waking, eating, etc), and all sorts of day-to-day things that people have to adjust when someone is staying with them.  I'm sure Flynn had reservations about me in the early days--Especially because I'm not within the Truth of Jehovah like they and Suzie are--But I'm pretty sure he decided that I'm good people.  I liked him a lot.  He was always eager to share things with me--Whether it was Hawaiian history, computer stuff, or anything.  The night before I left they took us out to eat at Dukes for a great, great dinner.  Thank you for everything Flynn and Maggie!!

The island of Kauai astounded me many times while I was there.  The beaches were all first-rate.  It's funny how beaches can vary so much.  I was amazed to see that Kauai has its own "grand canyon" too.  On an island?!  Hooda thunkit?  Everywhere I went I saw bananas growing... I'm sure the locals don't even notice them.  Probably like blackberries here...  I started to get used to the chickens, but they still made me look when I saw them.  I guess because they were everywhere.  Along the highways, roads, fields, even deep in the woods or on beaches.  Chickens.  Is it any wonder that one of the t-shirts I bought has a chicken on it?

I met so many nice people while I was there, and all seemed to be genuinely warm, nice people.  All the time the local folks were trying (in vain) to teach me to speak Hawaiian.  I did gain a more thorough understanding of pronunciations after reading road signs during my stay, and I was actually starting to get them right.  My perception is that all the people on Kauai are nice people.  Whether that's true or not doesn't matter.  I'm going to assume it.

It will be good to go back.


The fantastic week and a half at Flynn & Maggie's (Sue's folks, for you oblivious readers) home in Anahola, Kauai finally came to and end when I arrived back home yesterday afternoon.  It was a very memorable experience!

It's good to be home, but yet--It's an empty one.  I miss my wife already.  Sue won't be home for a week or so yet.  The weather I came home to was good for our area, but falls quite a ways short of the constant 86 degrees and breezy that our rental car always seemed to have displayed on the dash.  The grass needs mowing, but fortunately that seems to be the extent of the things that need my immediate attention.

I feel like bouncing around in this blog, so forgive me.

Starting out my departure in the wee hours (sorta), I got up at 5:30 so I would have enough time to wolf down a couple of cups of coffee before leaving.  Flynn got up right after I did, and Sue right after that.  Both she and I had some trouble sleeping.  We were half way to the airport when it came to my attention that that my cell phone was still at their house on the charger.  Oh no!  Well, Suzie had hers with her so we swapped.  Now I have to get used to calling or texting my phone when I want her.  Funny thing about that.  First of all, let me say that Sue's phone has a specific ringtone attached to her parents' phones:  The television theme song from Hawaii 5-0 (you old people will remember that).  Anyway, I had just walked into the plane and was right there by the pilot's cabin where you turn to go down the aisle when it rang.  I didn't even notice it because I was intent on getting myself on board.  The stewardess standing there all of a sudden turns to the intercom console that was on the wall right there and turns a knob.

"Who turned this on?" she wondered aloud, twisting the knob.  Then she turned to me.  "Oh, it's you!" she said.  As I answered the phone (it was Suzie, making sure I had made it through all the checkpoints and traps of the airport) I overheard that stewardess telling another, "We should get that on our phones!"

I was fortunate to sit in the very back of the plane only because I was one of the first to board.  The plane was almost full by the time my "seatmates" showed up.  I had the window, and a middle-aged "new couple" sat down--He next to me.  (You could tell they were a new couple because they were holding hands and all that sickeningly sweet mushy stuff.)

This time my seat was very comfortable.  I suspect that the seats we had on the flight over that didn't recline also had different seat cushions, because they never felt right.  The seat I had coming back was totally different-feeling.  Anyway, it was a beautiful day for a plane trip.  Bright, sunny, and lots of puffy clouds with ocean visible between them.  I had my iPod on and was playing music, while I gazed outside, putting shapes to the many cloud formations that passed beneath me.

Imagine my surprise when, about an hour into the flight, a Southwest Airlines jet went zooming by us in the opposite direction!  It was slightly lower than us, but quite obviously close enough for me to see what kind of plane it was.  I'd say about 1/4 mile away or so.  Let me tell you--When two jets pass each other going 600+ mph in opposite directions, they pass FAST!  Literally, if I would have blinked I would have missed it.  That was very cool.  I could see the white contrail as it was coming out of the engines for the second it was visible.

At one point I saw a tanker far below, steaming (funny how people still say steaming... I guess dieseling sounds too stupid) along on its way toward some distant port city. It was barely visible and barely distinguishable from the clouds from our altitude.

I both love and hate window seats. A window seat affords me with plenty of opportunities for daydreaming and letting my mind go blank, but at the same time makes me feel slightly claustrophobic and uncomfortable.  The guy I was sitting next to on this flight was very fidgety--Constantly scratching, rubbing his face or head, or whatever.  At a couple points he and his girlfriend painstakingly put some sort of medicine on her hands in various places with a dropper.  It was strange-smelling stuff, and my sniffer didn't need that crap.

They didn't have the breakfast sandwich I wanted to buy when I got on the plane, so all I ate the whole day was a free cookie they gave us right after we were airborne, and later a teeny bag of a snack mix.  By the time the snack mix came around it was a little later.  I ordered a coke and let my seatmates watch me lovingly select a miniature bottle of rum from my a bag I magically produced from the seat pouch in front of me (I stored it there before they got on the plane).

Rachyl picked me up at the airport.  I thanked her profusely and we yakked all the way home.

Okay, now to backtrack.

The last day in Kauai?  We spent it getting sun of course!  We visited the cemetery where Flynn's grandmother is buried, stopped at the local Harley-Davidson dealership and laughed at the price of their t-shirts, wandered around the beach cliffs at Poipu, hit Shipwreck Beach and watched surfers wipe out , visited the Spouting Horn and listened to it's wailing moan every time a wave crashed into it's lava formation, visited Salt Pond Park (the salt ponds were dry) and just generally had a really great time.  It was a perfect end to a great, great vacation!

Finding a Favorite Place on Kauai

I started the day today like I have a few other days:  Blogging.  The blog I did this morning was a pretty long one because of all the pictures I put in it.

When that was finally finished it was work time.  I went out and spent a couple hours finishing up on the caulking job that I started the other day.  After finishing that and getting the usual dose of mosquito bites, I showered and we took off on another jaunt.

The next part of the blog could easily be copied from my other blog, the 365 Picture Blog.  We had been by this particular stretch of highway several times since our arrival, and I just had to get a shot of it.  Anyway, I did get a shot finally.  You can read about it there, and see one of my pictures to boot.

Our next (and main) destination was Hanalei (remember the old song, Puff the Magic Dragon?)  We had already been through the town a few times, but never veered off the main drag.  The main drag was just a conglomeration of souvenir shops and overpriced eateries (for example, Tropical Taco... Home of the $10 taco), but this time we turned off the main drag.  There was a pier that Suzie wanted to investigate.  Well, we found it, and we both agreed:  It was our favorite beach place!  What we saw was the perfect pier for jumping from, perfect sand, and good waves (not dangerous).  There was also a laid-back, family feel to the place.  We saw lots of gray-haired surfers, little kids, and everyone in-between.  We fell in love with it.  Maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was just the perfect day to drop in--I dunno.  I just know I loved it and so did Suzie.

Tomorrow is my last (gasp!) full day on Kauai!!

Trying to Catch the Sun

We got up early again yesterday--This time at 5:30 to give us time to drive over to the Kilauea Lighthouse.  While it's not all that far away, we still wanted to be there in time to catch transitional sun rays as (or if) they touched the lighthouse itself.  Sue thought that if we got there early enough we could avoid paying the $5 entrance fee.  I said there must be a gate somewhere at a place like that, but in my mind I couldn't come up with where it would be.  Neither of us remembered seeing one.  Well, we got there fine, but as I guessed, there was a gate.  It was at the upper parking lot where we had parked for the distance shots of the lighthouse when we were there on Monday.  Anyway, we parked in the dim light and got out... And were treated to a magical experience:  The air was filled with swooping birds, some of which were only barely missing the tops of our heads!  There were two sounds filling the air:  The cries of the abundance of the different birds that were all around in the trees and nests, and the whooshing, whistling sounds that the swooping birds were making as they dove and rose around us at the viewpoint.  The whole thing was an amazing experience for sure--Hard to put into words.  When we looked up there were lots and lots of soaring birds, barely visible as they caught the air currents and hovered, wings held still.  The sunrise was a bust, but the experience was anything but!

On the way back home we stopped and filled a couple bags with coral from a local beach.  Maggie is using coral as ground cover around the house, and because Kauai is surrounded by coral there is no shortage of it.  When we got home I spent a couple hours playing catch-up with the giant blog post I made.

When we hit the road close to lunchtime, we started stopping at tourist traps.  We were on the hunt for cool stuff.  You know--Tourist stuff... The stuff that you can point to or wear at home that says, "I was in Kauai... Sorry you were stuck in Washington."  One thing that is really big in the tourist trade here is anything related to chickens or roosters.  T-shirts, mugs, signs--You name it.  Anything you can think of will probably be available with a rooster on it... Be it comedic, artistic, or just a picture.  After all... Chickens are everywhere here.

We made a stop at a local spot that had a Marriott next to it.  There were lots of places for surfboard rentals for all the visitors that decide they don't like being healthy and pain-free.  For those that long to inhale gulps of salt water and wear themselves out, there were lots of vendors standing by to cater to their wishes.

We wandered around the Marriott hotel while we were there, in search of photo opportunities.   Let me tell you--This Marriott hotel was the epitome of overindulgence and opulence.  It was horribly overdone with gaudy art museum-like flair.  Marble, statues, and everything else you can think of.  We did get some interesting pictures of the fowl that wandered the grounds freely, as well as the multitude of fancy flora that were no doubt carefully arranged by some sort of landscape engineer.  Funny thing though--No matter how fancy your grounds and architecture, here in Kauai there is one thing that will always be there:  Da chickens.  This is a common site at the beach at the Marriott.  To put it in perspective, the grass between the cobblestone sidewalk and the beach sand is fine, fine grass.  Seriously, it's golf green quality.  But that doesn't matter to da chickens...

We stopped at a favorite spot near the airport that we were at a few days ago and enjoyed a beer and some munchies as we watched the waves crashing.  I would like to think that it's a fairly unknown spot because each time we've been there it's relatively empty.

Let me back up for a second.  A few days ago I was surfing the web for whatever reason, and happened across some sort of link to a festival of some sort that had a free hula show.  I didn't get the details written down or anything, but I did show it to Suzie and she thought it might be interesting too.  Okay, fast-forward to yesterday again.  While we were sitting at the beach with our munchies we were discussing the hula thing.  "Too bad we can't remember where it was taking place at." Neither of us could come up with the details and we were sorry we didn't write it down because it was due to start at 5pm (10 minutes from then).  We did the, "Oh well" and decided to head home.  On the way back home from there, we had just gotten up to speed when we came to a Hotel sign.  "That might be it!" Suzie pointed.  I yanked the wheel and we turned in.  I inquired at the desk of the hotel office and the guy said, "Yeah, it just started."  He motioned out towards the beachfront courtyard.  Cool! We parked and grabbed our cameras.

While the hula portion of the show was okay, it wasn't real locals performing the shows, and weren't really authentic (Sue pointed out things that they did or didn't do to make it apparent).  The music and singing, however, were very good.  I really enjoyed that part of it.  Either way, it was a fun thing to stop and do, and we had excellent seats on the ground at the edge of the swimming pool.  Here are a few shots of the event:

Another full day in the life of a tourist!

Catching Up On Kauai - Part Deux

I didn't like the post I made yesterday.

I started playing catch-up and it just kept going and going.  I had to finally stop because the post was getting tedious.  The reason I didn't like the post is because it was just facts and pictures--No anecdotes.  I like to put little stories, thoughts, and experiences in my blogs when I'm sharing stories.  The reason I wasn't able to do that is because too much time had passed since the events I covered took place and I wasn't able (or didn't want to stretch it out even further) to recall all the stuff that took place on each of the trips.  When you play "catch-up" you do a lot of, "What day was it that we did that so-and-so?"  That's why I kicked myself for not keeping up.  There's not much of my vacation left, but I'll try to be better.

Okay, let's resume this time-tunnel thing and take up where I left off:  Wednesday.

Wednesday we had a full day planned out.  It was a day-long event that took us all the way to the top of the island (going clockwise as you look at it).  Here's a screen grab of the distance we covered during the whole day (which was 150 miles if you must know).  Click it so you can see it full size:

We had just gotten out of one of the heavily-populated town/shopping area of Lihue when I saw a road that caught my eye.  I turned around and we drove up the road.  As soon as I turned around Suzie acknowledged that there was actually a waterfall on that road too, called Kipu Falls, so it was a good place to turn.  The main reason I wanted to turn up that road though was the scenery.  The trees and the farmland screamed at me to take their picture:

While we were stopped, a couple of ladies stopped for the same reason and we talked for a bit.  Apparently, the area we were standing in was some sort of preserve.  I just know I loved it.  A little ways up the road took us to the falls.  We walked a little ways to get to it, through the tallest grass I've ever seen.  We watched for a few minutes, taking pictures of people having fun with a rope swing.  We couldn't stay long though, because the bugs were hungry.

Our next stop was a ways up... In a little coast town called Eleele.  After throwing a Subway sandwich into our cooler, we proceeded to a little road that Suzie knew of.  Past a refinery (not a glamorous part of town), we stopped at a beautiful overlook just above the water.  The whole coast was old lava formations, and the waves were crashing pretty high when they hit them.  There were also lots of blow holes and arches.  The blow holes made some pretty strong hisses and moans when the right waves hit.

Right next to this beach was a strange sort of thing.  Apparently the edge of the beach was at one time a junkyard.  There are lots of old, rusted car parts down at the water.  To give it a "warm, fuzzy feel, they named it "Melted Metal" Beach.  You can tell it's old car parts by the nature of them.  I saw old straight-8 engine blocks and flatheads, neither of which have been made in 50 years or better.  Right behind that was an old, decrepit Japanese cemetery too.

Hitting the road again, we stopped in the city of Waimea and visited a beautiful place called Waimea Plantation Cottages.  We got some killer shots!  Here are a couple:

Next stop: Waimea Canyon!  I never would have dreamed that the island of Kauai would have something like our Grand Canyon on the mainland.  After all, it's only an island!  Truth is, it really is a huge and beautiful canyon, and like the Grand Canyon, pictures don't do it justice:

Not far up the road we got to see the most awesome sight of the island.  Off the ocean side is a huge, huge canyon that is breathtaking, called the Kalalau Valley.  The thing is so huge that when a helicopter flies into it down below you can hardly see it.  Like the Waimea Canyon, pictures can not capture the immensity of it.  At one point, a raincloud drifted towards us from the far side and I was blessed with a small rainbow!

The final stop of our day was the most relaxing.  We drove a long, dusty, washboard road to Polihale State Park to watch the sunset.  While we didn't experience a very colorful sunset, it was most definitely a memorable one.  What a pretty beach!  It's no wonder they made it a state park.

What an exciting day... And a busy one!