Sunday, August 31, 2008

Closed Until Further Notice

A long day at the office. Nearly non-stop. Emails, phone calls, text messages, instant messages, and constant requests for updates or help. Most of our disaster recovery procedures worked as planned. A few tried to put up a fight but surrendered eventually. And we didn't have time to implement some of them. Overall, it went well.

It was uncanny to be one of only a half dozen people in a 3,000,000 sq foot facility. All the games and slots covered. Restaurants vacant. The Poker Room deathly quiet. Completely devoid of guests. A surreal moment we don't get to experience very often.

Eventually, every server was powered down. All PCs were remotely stopped then covered with viscueen. I shut off the domain controllers, pulled the power to our storage, and put in one last humble call to Las Vegas. Thanked them for their support and the good karma they were sending. Hopefully we'll all meet online this Tuesday, none the worse for wear.

For my efforts, I got a hug from our President. And maybe a few extra days next week. But when the time is right, we'll all be back to reverse the whole procedure. 

For now, the sign reads: "We are closed until further notice. Please be safe." 'nuff said.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On Gustav

I've purposely been avoiding any mention of Gustav. This isn't something I often admit, but I'm scared. Three years after the worst disaster in American history, there's another bullet screaming down the breach straight toward us. Thinking about it gives me nausea. So I think my silence on the subject is understandable. At least that is what I tell myself.

In the real world beyond my fears, Cindy has packed up and is preparing to leave tomorrow. She will take the kids to her family's farm in Hattiesburg. I have to stay. We're closing my property in the morning. We have to shut down the gaming floor, run all the reports, save the databases, run backups, and black out the datacenter. The hourly cost having our property empty would cost me half a decade of salary. Again, that is per hour. So no matter where Gustav hits, it is going to be extremely expensive for us.

But a man's got to do what a man's got to do, regardless of pitiless nature.To quote The Bard:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, and germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Katrina In Memorium

Power knocked out for 3,000,000 people. 400,000 rendered nearly homeless. 236 people dead. 63 missing. 35 million cubic yards of debris. $125 billion in damages. And that was just my home state of Mississippi.

But here we are, three years later.

How far have we come? Personally, my friends and family have all fully recovered. Our homes are rebuilt. Our damages have been repaired. Our wounds have healed. Most of them, at least. The ones on the outside.

But as a community, we are still broken. We continue to mend. Only 45, 000 out of 70,000 homes have been replaced. Admittedly, some cities (Gautier, Woolmarket, and Ocean Springs) have thrived. But others (Waveland, Pass Christian, and Long Beach) are vast rotting corpses. And worst of all, our main tourist attractions and the overwhelming majority of beach-side businesses remain missing or still lay in virtual rubble. See the pictures for routine views from my daily commute for examples.

I won't pretend to know the solution. I don't have any clever answers. I just know it is an embarrassment and disgrace to the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast to have a ruin of a highway along beaches littered with the continued corpses of our once thriving businesses. Tourism is our life blood. The cities and state should spare no expense and do whatever humanly possible to restore America's Third Coast to its former grandeur.

I am very proud of the progress we've made as individuals. But I'm ashamed to see how little progress we've made to restore our infrastructure and valuable business community. Hopefully, this fourth year will prove to be the turning point for our recovery.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sleeping Princess

Trying to find sleep. I discover in a surprise in bed: my daughter, her bear, and her blinders.

How can I resist memorializing such an angel? All quiet and peaceful, like a sleeping princess. Some day I'll have to walk her down the aisle and give her away? Not if Cindy has anything to say about it!

An Updated Flashback

Liam had a special project due tomorrow for school. I believe the guidelines were fairly simple: decorate a pet rock. But Liam's far from simple. He breathed his own life into the project and floored me with the results. Everyone else is planning on using Styrofoam. Liam bought a little pirate chest and tricked it out. Put some skulls and swords and crossbones on it. Blinged it up. There are all kinds of little features and the pictures I took didn't do it any justice. Liam even customized the inside!

Then came the actual pet rock. My boyo went outside and dug until he found one he was happy with. A great big, smooth black hunk of rock, the size of my palm. And them the decorating began in earnest.  Not happy with just cutting out a little felt hat, Liam added a little skull  & crossbones to the top. He put a miniature parrot on the left shoulder. A silver hook on the right hand. And a peg leg to bring it all together. One of the finest pet rocks I've ever beheld. And easily the best pirate pet rock in the South.

Not to outdone. Meg took up the challenge and created a pet rock of her own. A princess rock, at that! I'm not as good with fashion and design as Meg, so some of the details escape me. I think she has a dress and shawl, and flowing red hair. And a pouting red mouth. Sadly, I've forgotten what she named her pet rock. I'm sure it was something like Elisabeth or Isabella or Claire.

A very fun and exciting adventure for the kids. They did a great job and surprised me and Cindy with their creativity. We need to find similar activities for some weekend projects. Maybe next time I'll create an updated flashback of my own.

Couldn't Agree More

Is the internet awesome?

The Barbarian Group and I agree: YES!

 I clicked 100 times. It was an interesting experience.

FOOD: Pleasants in Ocean Springs

In my limited experience, it isn't often that you can order a barbecued "half-bird" and buy a set of used tires from the same place. But Pleasants in Ocean Springs, MS, is just such a place. A cramped, lightly decorated diner on one side, a tire shop on the other. We actually drove past it, twice, before we found it. It took a couple of phone calls to figure out we were circling it and missing the microscopic sign they have sitting at knee-height. The place must depend on word of mouth rather than any kind of advertising. And I think their street sign was only an afterthought.

Mike is the owner of Pleasants. He makes a mighty fine BBQ sauce. He cooks some impressive collard greens, too. I had a "half-bird" with some cornbread and a double-order of those collards.  All of it was very tasty and all of it was quickly consumed. And after we finished, Mike himself came out to sit with us and ask what we thought, where we were visiting from, and what we did for a living.

Great atmosphere. Great food. Good prices. It might not be good for a first date, but for hanging out with some friends and eating some delicious home cooking, I'm certainly going to find my way back to Pleasants.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Advanced Readers

Without fail, one of the high points of my day is talking to my wife and children when I get home from work. They always have something special to share.

Today, Cindy gave me one of the best surprises of the week. Meg (in first grade) had her reading level tested. She scored high enough to hit the third grade reading level. After a grand total of three weeks in first grade?

Then Liam shared the result of his tests with me. He's in third grade, but scored on the "8.6 grade" level. Now I don't know what ".6" actually means, but I translated it to mean: almost 9th grade level! That's six grades higher than his current one!

No matter how bad of a day I have at work, no matter how I'm feeling inside, no matter what chaos I have screaming behind my eyes, my kids hoist me up and remind me what's good in the world.

Let the storms rage. Let the last trump sound. As long as I have my little advanced readers, I'm content and I'm a happy man.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Down For The Count

This would be far more interesting if it were happening to somebody else.

Last night, at four thirty, Meg climbed into our bed. Then started talking (quite loudly) in her sleep. The sudden, unexpected yelping of my daughter promptly scared the beejesus out of me. I flipped over, far too quickly for a fossil of my advanced age. The motion spontaneously set off a vertigo attack.

The result was a lost day of work. I couldn't move without dry heaving for the better part of two hours. When the damage had passed, I collapsed on the sofa.

I opened my eyes thinking it was maybe ten in the morning. Instead it was one in the afternoon. I'd missed breakfast. And lunch. I was weak from hunger and the vertigo attack.

So, not much of a day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life After Fay

Odd night, apparently. I don't recall hearing any torrential downpours. Seemed like a normal night. And then the day breaks to reveal the depths of my apparent ignorance.

I woke up to find the front yard somewhat flooded along the edges. Not too many limbs down. Just some minor debris. Nothing worthy of a cleanup operation.No damage to the house. Not even a loose shingle. So other than a brief survey of the property,

On the way to work, the beach held some surprises for me. It looks like Fay did a number on Highway 90. A good portion of the beach covered the road. Some of the areas still had large stretches of standing water.It wasn't a dire situation, but I still kept both hands on the wheel. And kept a safe distance from other cars.

All in all, I think I slept through the worst of the storm. And life won't be any different after Fay.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Colossal Birth Control

The water tower for our neighborhood is getting its bi-decade makeover.

Every morning a team of engineers rolls out these big sheep skin looking sails and hoists them up, around the water tower. They use the material to stop the wind from smearing their work. And maybe to stop paint from blowing all over the place. Probably some OSHA policies involved in there somewhere.

Whatever it is for is up for debate. But, to me, it looks like colossal birth control.

This Olde House - Bathroom Window I

With Fay nipping at our heels, I replaced the window in the renovated bathroom. The old was ugly, hard to open, and, um, old. The new one is svelte, operates smoothly, and freshly minted in clean white vinyl.

Took out the old one, no problem. Would have done it sooner, but Lowe's ordered the wrong one. They ordered a window for a brick house. Not a window for a wood shingled house. So I had to wait a month for a replacement. Even then, the dimensions of the exterior hole are different than the dimensions of the interior hole. So I put in the new window, but there were gaps all over the place. Used some spray foam to fill in the cracks and make it as air tight as possible.

Once I had everything sealed, I fabricated the window sill with a jigsaw and a dozen measurements. Used spruce. Beautiful stuff. Used a couple of spruce one by threes to frame out the inside, completely concealing the gaps and the foam.

After nailing all the framing in place with my cordless finishing nailer, I spackled the holes and caulked the fine lines between the new wood frame I created and the drywall.

Just have to install a "stool" under the sill and then wait for Cindy to prime and paint it. Probably get a "treatment" to match the shower curtain. And then the window will be done.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Her First Lost Tooth

Meg called me. Said she was sitting on the floor, watching TV, and accidentally hit herself. In the face. Actually, right in the mouth. Said she felt something "go pop." Said she thought she imagined it. Until her tongue touched the tooth. And she knew she had lost her first tooth. So she called to share the announcement with me.

Cindy and Liam dashed over to record the event in all its glory. She posed for the camera and re-enacted the event several times.

The first-of-many-teeth-to-come was deposited into a plastic bag, photographed as evidence of the event, and put under a pillow for delivery to the proper officials.
We'll see what the dawn brings for her first lost tooth.

Slow Ambush

I went outside around noon to size up Fay. A day or two east of us, and we just sit here. Deers in God's headlights. Watching wide-eyed as the architect of our possible ruination goose-steps right up to our front door.
By the looks of the sky today, we are in for a long night.
Great weekend. Why can't nature ruin my work week instead?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Formative Years

Open House at the kids' school today. Went and visited Liam's two Third Grade classrooms. He spends some time in each of them. We met his teachers. Saw some of his friends. Some of the parents said hello to Cindy. Seems everyone knows the School Nurse....

The coolest part was the "black board" the kids have these days. It is completely digital. Liam rolled up on it, whipped out a digital pen, and started writing on the "screen." Different colors. Different brushes. Different sizes and shapes tips for the pens. Not only was it real-time for the kids, but the teacher could see it on her desktop. She could update it from there, as well. It was nicer and more complex than anything we have at work. And the kids took to it like fish to water.

Then we stopped by Meg's class. She has the same teacher Liam did. Sits almost the same place he did. A great teacher and she's glad to have Meg in there. No digital blackboards in there. But we're talking about First Grade. They don't get the new digital hotness until Third Grade.

Afterward, we swung by the new councilor's  room. Cindy made introductions and we actually had a grownup conversation for a while. In the interlude, the kids stalked up to the councilor's board and re-arranged the magnets they found there.

Thankfully, my kids are young. Were they teenagers, I'm scared to think what they may have written. As it stands now: Dad Rocks. And while they are in their formative years, my kids think: Mom Is Rad.

I do try to cherish these moments while they last. The more the merrier, I says.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Frederick Fauth runs one of my favorite blogs: One Project Closer (OPC.) It focuses on normal people doing home renovation projects. He also provides great renovation-related reviews, gives fantastic HOW TO instructions, and takes the the time to personally respond to comments, emails, and instant messages.

OPC currently has a Before & After competition that picks entries from viewer submissions, contributes to Habitat For Humanity, and has a prize for one lucky winner. There have been some really good entries over the past few weeks, too.

This week, OPC picked my submission and posted about my handiwork.Given the stellar quality of the other entries, I'm thrilled to have been picked to run along side them. The recognition from OPC makes it worth the hours of sweat and the reams of bills from Lowes. Click through to see the entire post, including my novel-length recanting of the adventure and some never-before-seen shots of the finished product.

New Beginning For An Old Lady

Aside from the lack of traffic and the proximity of my family, being close to my childhood friends keeps me sane during the Dog Days on the Gulf Coast.

I met Roger in the fourth grade. We played D&D, wondered who Ronald Reagan was, and planned year long vacations in Disney World. That was more than a quarter of a century ago.

Today we latched a flatbed trailer onto his New-Car-Smelling Silverado and took a slow, winding drive up to Ovett, MS. Thanks to the glorious excess of Craig's List, I hooked up with a Mister Summerall and reached an agreement to take a burden off his hands.

The burden took the form of a 1975 Super Beetle. Aside from the antique upholstery, the 8-track, and the lack of anything electric, it looked brand new. All the glass is in intact. The tires barely have any wear. The chrome still shines.

Mister Summerall, Roger, and I hoisted it on the flatbed using mostly sweat. Then filled the truck bed with ten boxes of antique engine parts. Just as we wrapped up and the neighbors' dog strolled onto the front porch for a nap, the rain came. We washed up (for the third time) drank a couple of cold cokes, and hit the road.

The Bug went into Roger's yard. The trailer went back to his Boss' Mom's House. And the nigh-dozen boxes of oil-patinaed steel went into a spare warehouse.

The adventure lasted nine hours. And it was the easy part. We'll breathe new life into this old lady. God only knows how long it will take us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Somehow, I've become my parents. Like them, I now take enough nutrient supplements to officially choke a Sasquatch.

I started off small. Just a couple of Men's Vitamins. And a few extras that I had read about over the years.

But recently, I've been having increased and prolonged bouts of lethargy. I honestly thought I'd been suffering from exhaustion. (Given my usual schedule of work + gym + kids + house + writing, that isn't impossible.) And my ear (Meniere's) has been increasingly growing worse by the day. To the point where I went home early 3 out of 5 days one week, fearing impending vertigo attacks.So I consulted a nutritionist and took a couple of tests to plumb the depths of my personal biology, especially my enzyme production and mineral levels.

The results came back this week. And while they weren't dire, they didn't do anything to make me feel better. It appears that I'm incredibly deficient in copper (to a degree my doctor had never seen in any of his patients before,) as well as mildly short on a few other items, and my body is not properly absorbing taurine. Taken as a whole, the lab which processed the samples said my symptoms could include: diminished energy levels (e.g. my lethargy!) moodiness (e.g. my recent gloominess and non-interest in writing) and inner ear issues (e.g. my inner ear issues!)

So to balance out everything, I'm on some additional supplements. The total daily pill count went from 6 to 20. Here's a run down of my daily dosage (click the picture, going from left to right:)
  • Fish oil: 2 pills. I've been taking these for a while, because I need the oils to compensate for the fact that I don't eat any (ANY!) seafood. If I run out and don't take any for a while, I notice my knees act up. So (at least in my theory) the fish oil is helping lubricate my old joints.
  • Flaxseed oil: 2 pills. I've been taking these for a while, too. In my experience they help with digestion and the ligans flaxseed contains have strong anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-bacterial benefits.
  • GNC Men's Vitamins: 2 pills. My original supplement. If I don't have these for while, my lethargy reaches very noticeable levels.
  • Mg Plus: 4 pills. Supposed to compensate for diminished levels of magnesium.
  • Basic B Complex: 4 pills. Supposed to compensate for diminished levels of B2 - B6.
  • Molybdenum: 2 pills. Yet another shortage inside this engine of mine.
  • Copper: 1 pill. Pretty high dose, though. See above. Shortage here.
  • Zinc: 1 pill. More short comings. Taken at an opposite time of day from the copper.
  • Florastor: 2 pills. This is a "probiotic" supplement that contains beneficial bacteria and yeast. Taking it to compensate (see a theme?) for some readings of bad bacteria in my digestive tract.
Somewhere in this complex machine of mine, something is off kilter. And it is throwing everything out of whack. I still have a couple of additional tests to take. Hormone levels. Glucose levels. We're able to see all the symptoms, but still aren't sure of what is causing the problem. Hopefully, we'll be able to isolate the problem, take corrective actions, and restore a balance to the rest of me.

On a positive note, I've been taking the supplements for 4 or 5 days. I feel muuuuuuuch better. Very active and clear headed. The ringing in my right ear is almost entirely gone. My mood has taken a turn for the better. And I'm much more productive. That's a good sign, to me.

Now I just have to get used to digesting a pharmacopoeia each day in order to feel this way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

See At Last

We were practicing sparring. Liam and I. Working on snapping off some front kicks to keep an opponent from getting too close. Meg was dancing. Jumping around the room. Singing her home brewed operas. Afraid of catching Liam's foot in the eye, I put my glasses on the sofa. Less than two feet away.

Meg had two feet of her own. She used them to spring off the Ottoman. Curled them behind her in mid-air. Curving backward like a slow crescent moon. And brought those pretty little feet down with her full air-born weight. Onto my innocent, unprotected glasses.

They were quickly and quietly destroyed. Not even Superglue could hold them together.

I yelled.

Meg cried.

Then we went back to sparring and dancing.

In the morning, I rolled to the Eyeglasses Warehouse. My prescription is so hardcore that the uninitiated put them on and can see through time. It takes years of practice to master them. And it takes a world class blacksmith to forge them. These days, few stores grind their own lenses. Down here, only EG does it. Since I (literally) couldn't survive without mine, I had to pay entirely out of pocket for new ones.

But they work. And I can see. See at last. See at last. Thank God Almighty, I can see at last!

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Olde House - Bathroom Completed

With the exception of a window that needs to be replaced, the back bathroom is completed. It took longer than we would have liked, but I think taking our time saved us money and helped create better results.

We made a couple of the improvements from the old bathroom:
  • The walls are now mold resistant "green board." 
  • There is insulation behind all the walls (there was none before.)
  • I caulked all the gaps, to create a better air barrier.
  • Now there is a vent and it generates very little noise during use.
  • There is more lighting and they are all CFL bulbs.
  • All plumbing and wiring has been replaced, and we installed a GFI outlet.
 I took a couple of photos of all the final products. First up is the shower area. Really happy with the way the results of the staggered tiling and the accent work along the top of it. It is a much cleaner, modern look. And it is infinitely better than the old pink and yellow 1960s tile we had in there. We bought everything in brushed nickle, but I really like the chrome soap / rag holder than Cindy found. Pleasant to the eyes and functional.

The toilet didn't turn out the way I originally intended. I wanted to get a dual-flush unit. But the price was just too prohibitive for the budget. And maybe it would not have turned out as nice. At any rate, we're pleased with the results and didn't have any major complications. As with the tub, it is much more modern and we're glad to be rid of the old wooden toilet seat.

The sink and cabinet turned out nicely. It is rare that Cindy and I find something we both like so much. As above, the color and design are really modern. Clean, simple lines. Nothing complicated. Just functional and elegant. Brushed nickle hardware to match the faucet and shower on the tub.

Last but not least, the lights. Amazingly, we both agreed on these. The three bulb armatures have a subtle range of motion and we were able to adjust them slighting to illuminate the medicine cabinet below. It seems like a lot of light in a small place, but they only use the same power as a single bulb.

It was a long project, but ultimately we did almost exactly what we set out to do. We took an ancient bathroom from the 1960s to the twenty first century. And I learned several new skills that will come in handy for future projects.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meg's Ensemble

When she gets bored, Meg dresses up. And she puts on shows for us. As different characters. With different voices. Always with different background stories. I wish I could remember the tale behind Meg's ensemble today. I'll let the picture speak for itself.

No, I don't know what is up with the flowers. It was a part of the production. Along with the pink glasses. And that hat?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Feast O' Brady's

Today was Liam's actual birthday. As a treat, we let him pick where he wanted to eat.

He wanted Longhorn. But the local one has only been open a week. It was packed. Beyond packed. The crowd spilled into the street.

Instead, we found ourselves at Beef Of Brady's. Liam tried Buffalo Wings for the first time. I took photographic evidence of the event. My burger was nummy and cooked just right. Meg's chicken was good. Cindy's salad was horrible, with very poor quality lettuce and cold steak. But for the rest of us, it was Feast O'Brady's.

On the way out, we noticed the sky. A strikingly beautiful sunset on Liam's birthday.

It made up for Cindy's salad.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Liam's Party

Another year. Another party.

The family came over in force. Cindy's brother's family. Her parents. My Mom. My Grandmother. The smallest girl in the pictures is Morgan, my niece from my brother. The smallest boy in the pictures is Tollar, my nephew from Cindy's brother. The girl next to Meg is Alix, one of the many nieces from Cindy's brother.

Pirates-themed ice cream cake.

Lots and lots of presents.

Liam got a new bike. And he blew out all the candles.