Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve 2010

I watched the kids most of the day while Cindy went off and did whatever Cindy does. Blasted through a back and bicep workout before dinner. And ended the year with some drinks, lots of music, a rare meal at Waffle House, and a cautious drive home.

Goodbye, 2010. It was good while it lasted.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Liam and I went to the gym. He had a Parisi class. Lots of prisoner squads and suicide runs and bear crawls. I'm so proud of that kid. He might not be the fastest off the line, but when distance is involved, he ends up finishing in the top three. Today he completely dominated the other kids. Finished strong and made even prouder. He's running so much better these days. Can visibly see the improvement. Maybe he'll learn from my mistakes and focus on his health like I should have when I was his age.

I had a good core and forearm workout. Nothing spectacular or note worthy, but continued progress for me.

Afterward, we both swam laps. I did 1600 meters. Liam did 300 meters. Six full laps for him. His new record. He started to get cold, toward the end, so I wrapped up a bit early.

I figured we deserved some rewards, and drove to Mugshots. Bishop Burger for Liam. Brisco Inferno for me. And, of course, a magnificent mug of Woodchuck Cider.

Great way to end the day for the McDougal men.

Refinishing - Round One

Unfortunately, the floors in Liam's room are badly scarred. Big swirling scars. Probably the reason the previous owner put cheap tiles on top.

I know what I cannot do. And I also know what I should NOT do. Refinishing a nearly-fifty year old hardwood floor is something I should NOT do. Outsourcing the job is one of the most expensive pieces of renovating Liam's room. But paying somebody else to do it is quicker, easier, and will have better results. If I did it, I'd have to learn as I go, rent equipment, and take four times as long doing it all. So I'm paying to have it done right.

Had a local guy come through with all kinds of equipment and make quick work of the first pass. Sanded off the top layer. Removed all the scars and pitting. And there was almost NO mess left behind. Very impressed at how fast and clean it went.

Unfortunately there was a snag. The process of getting up the tiles left behind some moisture. The refinisher said the small wet spots had to dry, or the varnish would not absorb correctly. I'll have to rent a humidifier and put some fans on it all weekend.

We're getting there. One step at a time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Foreign Invader

Woke up this morning to find some odd foreign invader clinging to my car.

Not sure what to do. 

So I waited it out. 

And they left.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


So. I'm working.
And I feel the most god-awful gas about to take flight.
Potential to shit myself.
Get up. Jump next door, into the datacenter.
(It's 10 feet from me. Bathroom is like 100 feet.)
So I'm in there, and my ass goes off like the mf'ing atomic detonation at Hiroshima.
Sounded like somebody strangling a hippo.
I think it popped my spine.
It was like being shot with a tazer. I couldn't move while it was going on.
I may have been moaning, I dunno.
Like some kind of gaseous retard.
I had to lean against the wall, as if I'm being frisked, and catch my breath.

And the Network Engineer comes out from behind the telco cabinet, wide-eyed and speechless.

I just catch my breath and walk away. Slowly.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dinner & Drinks

Peter made his annual pilgrimage from D.C. to the Gulf Coast for Christmas. I did not get to hang out with him yesterday (since Liam & I were ripping up floor tiles.) So we met for dinner in Long Beach, at Juan Tequila's. Roger joined us, too. He was nice enough to let me collect a meal due to a lost wager.

Couple of drinks. Couple of fine Mexican dishes (Pete and I had fajitas, Roger had a couple of very nummy looking tacos.) And our old classmate Heather makes an appear. She was on the Coast for Christmas, too.

Funny thing about Heather, some of my first memories include my Mom babysitting her, and all of us playing in our backyard. So I'm technically known her since we were four or five years old! Anyway, it was great to see her and she is contemplating a return to the Coast, to be near friends and family. She's an high school English Teacher and maybe she'll find something to keep her busy.

Peter isn't moving any time soon. But I admonished him for only visiting once a year. I told him that since we're paying his check with our tax dollars, we deserve at least two visits a year. Easter and Christmas sounds about right to me!

Roger, of course, is an unyielding, unflinching rock. Does his thing. Creates his own happiness. And takes it one day at a time. Always an excellent source of alternate viewpoints.

I wish we all had more time together. But it was good to see everyone. And there's always next year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tile Removal

Part of renovating Liam's room is to rehab his floor. The former owners put down cheap, ugly black & white linoleum tiles. Of course, underneath is a beautiful, almost fifty year old hardwood boards. And it falls on me to restore the floor to its former glory.

Fortunately, it is Liam's room and he's eager to contribute to the project. He was a great help last weekend, with the demo work and the cleanup of the drywall. Any help he can offer is appreciated, and I'm glad to actually spend serious, productive time with him.

Today, Liam was manning the heat gun. Used it to soften the adhesive on the bottom of the tiles. Thankfully cheap tiles have cheap glue holding them in place. A couple of seconds exposed to the gun and I'm able to pull them up. Not long into the adventure, Liam made the observation that the black tiles heat quicker and take half the time of white ones. He figured the dark ones absorb energy faster, making quicker work of the glue. Right or wrong, we enjoyed pulling up those black ones.

I thought we'd be done in maybe two hours. It took four. Liam lasted for half of it. Cindy helped briefly, but couldn't stay focused. So I wrapped up by myself. Eventually, all the tiles were gone. But years of mopping had pushed gunk between each tile, leaving behind a dirty grid. And, of course, the heat gun didn't actually REMOVE the adhesive. Half of the glue was on the bottom of the tiles. The other half stayed on the floor. Used some simple solvent to dissolve it, then my bladed scraper to remove it. That took the better part of two hours, all of which I had to do alone.

Finally, tile-less and adhesive-less, Cindy put down some floor cleaner, and we cleaned up the remains. She had a mop. I had a bunch of old towels. She'd scrub. I'd dance around with the towels under my feet, walking like some bloated penguin. About an hour later, we declared victory.

Total, about seven hours of my labor. Two from Liam. One from Cindy. Forty bucks worth of materials. And a ton of elbow grease. A major improvement, and a great family effort. On Thursday, a local contractor is coming to re-finish the surface. Then we're on to the next stage of renovation!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

Meg didn't fall asleep in her own bed until well after midnight thirty. Asleep myself by maybe 0200. And by 0500 Liam had decided to slip into our bed. Which pretty much wrecks my ability to sleep. 0700 and the kids wanted to storm the front room. Raid the Christmas tree. A very rapid assault. Mission accomplished within 10 minutes. Tattered remains of presents littering the ground. Liam liked his futon and game-related surprises. Meg liked her origami book and girl-related surprises. They both enjoyed the keyboard. And there was surprisingly little drama. Until later.

Off to Great Grandma's house. Cindy and I get a check and some gift cards (Lowe's for me. Target for Cindy.) Liam gets a Harley jacket and some cash. Meg gets a Barbie Stage and some cash. Earl was working. His crew and Susan's rolled in late. Not enough seats at the table, so my family sat on the sidelines, not eating. Then Jason's Baby's Mama shows up, completely oblivious to the sudden silence in the room. Thankfully she left before I was forced to.

Speed over to Glenda's. A 2PM lunch. And more presents, along with Darren's family, Aunt Judy, Uncle Terry, and Allison. Good times and good food. Lot's of pictures and playing. Liam dashing around on his new scooter. Complete with sparks shooting of the trailing edge. And Meg trying to set a new pogo record.

I scored some nice cargo biking shorts, a long-sleeved training shirt, a biking jersy, and a biking jacket. Had bought Cindy some books, a bunch of cooking gear, and goods from Pajamagram. I like to think she was surprised and happy. But she had bought herself a pair of boots, which was likely enough for her.

Another night at home, for me. The drama didn't start until after dark. Mostly from Mister Attitude. But not as bad as I had predicted. What is, is. What isn't, isn't.  Hoping this grim cloud passes sometime soon. Tired of grinding my teeth and sighing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Candle Mass

Slept last night. Only the second time this week. A small gift before Christmas. Could have slept a bit longer. Kids felt otherwise. All manner of noise and laughter and jokery bellowing from the front room. Would have been nice if they had been quiet. Or somebody reminded them that I was sleeping. But I'll enjoy their voices while I can. I'll blink and they'll be off to college. Sleeping late is over-rated, anyway.

Picked up some supplies to clean adhesives off Liam's floor this weekend. Paul Blackwelll was the owner of the place. A1 Flooring. Hadn't seen him in probably 25 years. Either he's smaller or I'm bigger. Still has a head full of hair and a gorilla's handshake. Good to see old ghosts from our past sometimes.

Had lunch with Mom. Royal Super Buffet. North of I-10. Love that I can cobble together my own plate of beef and noodles and onions and red peppers then have them cook it up on the Mongolian grill. Rest of the food is good, but the grill is the deal breaker for me. Gave Mom the present for Dad (a pancake compressor) and finalized the plans for tomorrow.

Swung by Lowe's. Set up a visit from one of their contractors. Measure and plan out replacement windows for Liam's bedroom. Want a pro to do it, this time. May cost more, but will look better and take less time. I can make more money. I can't make more time. And I can't make my failures look any better without help.

Wanted to go to the gym. Didn't work out that way. But I probably need the break. Not feeling the motivation. Not into it right now. Have to clear these cobwebs out of my head somehow. Accept that what is, is. What isn't, isn't.

My family and Darren's and Glenda went to the 7P candle mass at church. Simple service. Lot's of singing, but not much standing. Took communion. Meg wanted more wine ("Blood of the lamb.") and Liam wanted more bread. Peace unto thee. Just wish I could find peace of my own.

Wanted to go out, afterward. Didn't work out that way, either. Instead, I sit here and write again. On Christmas Eve.

I'll wake Cindy up, shortly. We'll pull in some more presents. Unpack Liam's futon. He'll want more toys. Won't appreciate the work I've done on his room. Or the price of everything involved. Just that he didn't get enough toys. Or the right ones. But it is what it is. Maybe one day he'll appreciate it. And maybe I'll sleep tonight.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Eve Eve

Fourth night of bad sleep. Out of five. Been a while since The Insomnia tore into me this hard. Completely undermining most of my thoughts and souring my mood. Too much going on, internally. All these mental conflicts. The apple is rotting, from the inside out.

At work, downtime finally concluded. Some pain there. Then some more at the end of the day. My day, at least. Trying to leave. Boom. Hammer drops. Another brief outage. Brief enough to slay the gaming floor and erupt my phone into a series of nasty calls. Rescued the kittens. Declared victory. It's what I do.

We went to my Father-In-Law's house for dinner. And to celebrate Christmas Eve Eve. Some pizza. Some barbecue. Cindy's spinach dip. Swapping of presents. Taking of pictures. Good times with the family, again. No fights or crying. Possibly the easiest, quietest gathering we've had to date. All the kids growing up. No diapers. Or bottles. Everyone happy and pleasant and enjoying the time we have together. All of us. Together.

Had a party to go to, after. But didn't go. Didn't drink. Didn't enjoy myself. Didn't socialize. Didn't see any friends or cohorts. Not worth the drama and mental carnivals. All freakshow and misfits in the wake of me being involved in anything remotely resembling fun. Instead, I sit here and write, on Christmas Eve Eve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tick Tock

My head is ticking. Like a pulse behind my eyes. Winding down the seconds. A slow count for the imminent cerebral detonation. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick. Tock.

Third night (out of four) without much sleep. Read too much. Not tired enough. Liam crept into our bed at 0200. Wrestling me for covers and space. My alarm blaring at 0500. Working by 0600. The downtime went sour by 0700. Had to reschedule for tomorrow morning. Another night of diminished rest. Tick tock.

Half day of school for the kids. Molly goes to get her tubes tied. Cindy calls crying to tell me she paid $12 for pain killers for her. You can spend $12, baby. Helps the dog feel better? Party on! Tick.

Meanwhile. Phantom problems creeping through the network. Fingers pointing in every direction. Phone calls coming in. Emails coming in. Instant messages. Tickets. Boss visiting for updates. Nobody knows what broke. Or why. While I try to leave at a decent hour. "Been here since six!" Tock.

Another poor performance at the gym. Trying to work shoulders. No patience. No motivation. Energy levels nearly absent. Forced through it. Fighting for every rep and set. Tick. Tock.

An Xmas gift for Dad. My parents 42nd anniversary. Singing to Pearl Jam on the ride home. Newfound respect for some of the songs. Different perspective twenty years down this road. Early presents. A mouse pad from Liam. My Dad, My Hero. Keychain light from Meg. #1 Dad. Some of Liam's furniture arrives tomorrow. Another downtime. Another attempt at the gym. Another Christmas dinner with the family. Another Christmas party with co-workers. And hopefully some booze. A drink or two to numb the count down. To quiet this damn ticking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm re-thinking my gym schedule. Spending a couple of hours in there after work is stretching my time with the kids too thin. I stopped taking energy drinks in the evening because I think they were part of my previous sleeping issue. But now I'm feeling the effects of a full day of labor on my workout. No mood or energy for cardio. And a sluggish performance during the normal routine.

I think I'm going to try (TRY!) to work out before I got to the office. At least I'll be able to chug some rocket fuel. And it might help get me ready for the day. Just have to get out of the house early each morning. But I think the rewards will be worth the risk.

We'll see. I can always try.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Water & Wrestling

Great day in the gym. New personal record. Forty laps. 2000 meters. Had maybe 10 more in me, too. But didn't want to push it. Very happy with my performance today. Eager to try open water. When the weather permits. Get those fears put to rest and move on with my life.

Interesting guest appearance at the gym, too. As I'm driving up, I noticed a HUGE motor coach. Just as I swipe my badge, a young, pumped-up, short-haired guy with a deep, raspy voice told the front desk attendant, "I'll be right back," all Arnold-like, then went to the motor coach. She didn't know who he was. I'd never seen him in the gym before today. And who the heck drives around in a multiple hundred thousand dollar private bus?

Wait a second! Isn't the WWE in town tonight? They're filming a show, in Biloxi.

"I think that is John Cena," I told the attendant.

"That's his name. Who is he?" She showed me his sign-up form for the day. "John Cena," across the bottom.

And I explained. Wrestler. Action movies. Video Games. She probably kept his signature. To show her girlfriends.

After he returned from his bus, he stopped for a picture with me. Nice guy. Very mellow. Just snapped one shot, wished him a good workout, and left him alone. I'm sure he didn't need any Redneck fanboys stalking him in a Mississippi gym on a Sunday morning.

By the time I left, about a dozen other wrestlers were there. All  buffed-up young guys. Jobbers, I think. Didn't really recognize most of them. Polite and funny. Nursing their aching joints with bio-freeze and heat wraps. Told me they never know who they're going to fight until right before the show starts. Joking about previous fights. Maybe four locals in the whole gym. And and a dozen of these professional wrestlers working out. Ended up asking me for a good place to eat. Sent them to Buffalo Wild Wings. And said I hope they have a safe show. They probably did. Then moved along to the next show. Living their life on the road. One match at a time.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another Birthday

Tolar turned four, today. Day after my Mother's birthday. All the Grandparents, Cindy, our kids, and I ventured over for some dinner and cake and icecream and singing. A good time with the family and another year under Tolar's belt.

Biloxi - Reindeer Run 2010

Another weekend, another 5K run. This time in Biloxi. At eFitness. A much nicer morning than last weekend. No bugs. Less cold. But fewer people. I planned a little better for this one, too. I didn't work out last night (unless eating Italian food is a workout.) And I didn't have anything to drink this morning. I think my performance last week was hampered by the swimming from the night before. And I know I had to pee the whole time, last week. So I changed tactics.

Seems to have paid off. I ran the race in 29:20. And placed first, for age group. Two minutes quicker than last week! And I only slowed down once, to get a mouth full of water.

Next race is in two weeks. December 26th. Another 5K. In Woolmarket. At this rate, I'm hoping to do a bunch more 5Ks throughout 2011, hit a couple of sprint triathlon, and maybe pick up some 10Ks and half-Iron Man races in 2012. Of course time and my patience may prove otherwise. But I'm going to try.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Projects & A Birthday

Liam finally saw the completion of his grandest experiment of the year: The Penny Project. He has been working on it for several weeks. And I have honestly never seen him put so much effort into something for so long. He randomly picked 1931 as his year and had to find out tons of details from that year. Not only did he have to learn all the details, he also had to put together a costume and present the project to the entire school. Like 600 kids. He did a great job and the final product looked spectacular. (The girl next to him was Catherine and she had 1930!)

After work, my Mom came over. My tradition on December 10th  is to put up our Christmas tree, to celebrate her birthday. I've been doing it since Liam's first Christmas. But today, everyone (except Meg) was tired. And we passed on the tree to go eat at Salute, in Gulfport. Thankfully the kids behaved, the service was quick, and the food was great. Mom and Cindy had seafood dishes. I had Chicken Parmesan. The kids both had pizza.

Great day for Liam. A great birthday meal. And a good visit with my Mom. Not bad, for Friday.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Semblance of Normalcy

Some left over woes from yesterday: partially tore my thumb from its nail while peeling an orange, Blackberry keeps rebooting, and bah humbug.

Much more focused, today. Hammered out some projects. Cleaned up some piles. Felt good to make serious progress on several fronts. Greatly enhanced my mood.

Concluded my day with a great Back + Bicep workout at the gym. Music raging. Clear minded and focused. Everything coming together. Put some laps under my shoes. Good to run again. Another 5K beckons on Saturday. Hoping to hit a new personal record. 

Brought home some fresh RX scripts. Cindy just noticed one of hers is a "black box"  med. Doesn't know how long she's missed that little bit of trivia. But there are lots and lots of reasons to never touch it again. And that kicked her into Gonzo Mode. Nothing else exists in her mental universe until she takes care of that in the morning. And woe unto her Doctor if he actually gets on the phone with her. But hopefully by lunch she'll have that under control and we can return to normal tomorrow night.  Or at least a semblance of normalcy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Round and round.

Ever have so much to do that you look at the list and go, "Nevermind, I'm not doing anything!" Why bother when the list never ends? Clobbered busy at work today. Plan on being clobbered tomorrow. And the next. The next. Etc. Even if I took time off, I'd have a list at home to wade through. It just never stops. Ever.

And something is missing somewhere. A whisper I cannot understand. An itch I cannot find to scratch. Knuckles that won't pop. Something. Somewhere. Calling. But I cannot find the source of the sound, let alone make out what it is telling me.

Just not in the right mood to chase my own tail any more. I see the rut I've worn into the floor. It goes nowhere. Round and round, Jon. Round. And. Round.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Circus Night

Started work at 0200 today. Infogen downtime. Too dull to bother detailing. Home by 0900. Some sleep until my phone rings at 1100. Some more sleep until 1300. Pick up the kids from school. Then wait for Cindy to return from some adventure. We head to the Beau for dinner.

Circus Night. Special buffet treat for the kids. Beau Rivage has a double whammy this month. Not only do kids (under twelve) eat free, but locals can get a two-for-one deal. Instead of spending >$70 for all of us, it cost $20 and some change.

They also have a spectacular section of the buffet geared just for the kids. Grilled Cheese Station, fried Mac N Cheese, four different kinds of fries, burgers, corn dogs, chicken tenders, ravioli, cotton candy, popcorn, chips & dips, and all kinds of candies and sweets.

We all enjoyed the menu and had a nice time. Great unexpected treat and nice surprise for everyone. May even do it next week, too!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Fits & Giggles

Heading to bed early tonight. A silly downtime is starting at 0200 and I'm hoping to get maybe 4hrs of sleep. Thought I'd mention some interesting adventures with the kids. They're growing so fast and changing each day. I don't want to forget these lessons they're teaching me.

  • Fit - On Saturday morning, after I get home from my run, Liam blows a fuse because he doesn't want to go to the gym. But nobody was even talking about taking him. I wanted to take them to the arts fair in Biloxi while Cindy went to the gym. Boom. Pow. Mister Moody, Liam's evil doppelganger appears. Screaming and yelling and making outrageous statements about our lack of love and his lack of fun. And when we get to the arts fair? Yup, he actually enjoys it. 
  • Fit - Saturday evening, after we get home, Meg spontaneously combusted because Cindy wanted her to try chicken or sliced roast beef. Some of Meg's top-of-the-lungs declarations included: "I'd rather starve than eat that!" As well as, "I'm going to die and they're going to cut me open and find my stomach full of paper and crayons!" And, "You're going to have to follow me around with a bucket or I'll throw up everywhere!" Eventually her dinner was a plate of fruit and the next day she tried EIGHT new things at Samurai sushi bar
  • Giggles - Sunday afternoon, while browsing Lowes, Liam rolls up to a locked door with a keypad on it. In less than 30 seconds he figured out the four digit combo and had opened it. Maybe less than 15 seconds. 
  • Giggles - Sunday evening, out of nowhere, Meg decides she wants to figure out origami. She inuits how to make a paper hat then looks up how to make paper whales and a phone and some kind of purse! She wants to do swams, next. Note sure where the idea came from, but now she's folding every slip of paper she finds.
Every day it is a new adventure with these two. They never let me get bored. It is either fits or giggles with them. And I'm enjoying them while it lasts.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Mending Fences

Didn't ride this morning. Wanted to. But my calves and quads and abs are sore. From the run yesterday. Need so much more training on my roadwork. After the long swim on Friday and productive run yesterday, I rested today. Spent my time with the kids and mending fences.

The guy who owned my house before me built the fence himself. His lack of experience and low standards are readily apparent. Very little of it is level. The gates are poorly designed, nearly impossible for Cindy or the kids to open them. And since he used untreated wood, the bottom of fence is completely rotted in places. Huge gaps have been worn between the bottom of the wood and the grass line. Some spots are so deteriorated that the dog could get through them.

So I bought a dozen new pickets, tore out the worst of the ones clinging to life, and used decking screws to fasten down the replacements. All in all, it was quick and easy. No more holes for the dog to plot her escape. But eventually, the entire fence will need to be replaced. If only he had done it right in the first place... But I can always use more projects, right?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Long Beach - Jingle Run 2010

When I purposely drag myself from a warm bed at seven in the morning to run in fifty degree weather, I question my own sanity. Long Beach held its Jingle Run 2010, this morning. Part fund-raiser, part fun run, part 5K.

Supposedly over 300 people signed up for it. Crowd looked close to that size. Big mix of folks. All ages from still-swaddled babies to Grandparents. Cindy's brother (Uncle D) and his family went, en mass. I flew solo.

Strangely a bunch of biting gnats while we were waiting or signing up. Not many folks warming up. Mildly warmer by the time we started. I made it almost half way without slowing. Almost. Personally down hill from there. Had to pee BADLY. Lost my pace. Lost my focus. Toughed it out and finished in 31 minutes, 2 seconds. 108th place, supposedly. I know 107 people didn't pass me on their way back. Closer to half as many. But it wasn't a race to me, it was a goal. And I achieved it. But I'm definitely going to have to work on my running cardio.

After the race, I grabbed some local milk & curd from the Long Beach Farmer's Market, then visited my Grandma for a while. Glad to see her in good spirits and have to remember to spend more time with her. Wanted to help her by installing a replacement security light in her back yard. But it was NOT a One Man On One Ladder Job. So I delegated that one to Dad & Uncle Earl another day.

Wrapped up the bulk of the day by hanging with the kids. We grabbed lunch @ MugShots. The Briscoe Inferno for me. Bishop Burger for Boo. And Chicken Strips for Meg. Good times and good food for everyone involved.

Concluded by a visit to Biloxi's Christmas In The City. Nice break from the norm. Some interesting local artists pedaling their wares. Kids bought some "sand art" that they made. I bought some pastas for me & Cindy. Couple of interesting food vendors. Some folks singing. Not much else for young kids, though. But a good distraction and nice to wind down the day together.

All said and done? Mission accomplished!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Off The Green

Had lunch at Fallen Oak today. My Cousin, the Baron Von Sheckart, is their Head Chef. I try to sneak over whenever they have a computer outage out there. I fix his digital woes. He cobbles together the finest fast food on the Gulf Coast. I get to enjoy it right there, just off the green.

Cindy took a trip to USM, in Hattiesburg, MS, and talked with them about their Nurse Practitioner Program. If she gets accepted and completes everything according to their proposed schedule, she'll graduate in December of 2013. A long hard road she's plotting. But if any one of us can do it, Cindy can.

Concluded my night with a 1200 meter swim. Wanted 1800 meters. But the goggles were pressing into my skull. And I was gassing out. Long day. Dark pool. Not conducive to a good swim.

Going to try to run a 5K event in Long Beach, MS, tomorrow morning. Go to some holiday events after with the kids. Work on the house later. And fight the good fight one more day.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Our own blood

We cannot see the universe. We are in the darkness of a trench, a deep cut, dark water heavier than earth, presences lit by our own blood, little biolumes, heroic and pathetic Promethei too afraid or weak to steal fire, but still able to glow.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

My Almost Good Deed

Picking up dinner. Local sub-shop. Something for the kids. Nothing for me. Or the bride. The customer in front of me vividly remembers the Great Depression. Pale-haired. Long, dark, thread-bare jacket. White, flowery dress. Bright yellow socks. Grey sandals. Somebody's wispy Grandmother.

She didn't know which sandwich she wanted. But it had to be $5. The Sandwich Artists, as they're called, kept offering suggestions. And she kept confirming they were $5. Finally, she settled on grilled chicken.

As they're wrapping it, she turns and smiles at me. "I'm sorry to be so picky, honey. I only have $5." And she pulls out some money to show me.

It's a $1. A lone dollar. Wrapped tight as a cigarette.

"Oh," she says. Looks at me. At the bill. "Oh?"

I said not to worry about it. Nodded to the the Sandwich Artist and said to put it on my tab. Then let  Somebody's Wispy Grandmother know I was sure she would do it for me. She gave me a huge smile, patted and rubbed my shoulder. Thanked me for being so kind before  leaving.

I placed my order. And Somebody's Wispy Grandmother flipflops to the door. She goes to put her stray dollar in her pocket. Then stops. She pulls out another bill. Turns around and flipflops back to me. She has a $20 to keep the $1 company, now.

With another smile, she pays for her own sandwich. Then thanks me again for my almost good deed before disappearing into the night.

And everyone has Happy Bellies tonight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happiness Is ...

Happiness Is ...

... Talking to a friend and learning I'm more depressed about her breakup than she is. Sometimes, it works out better for both parties involved. I may not agree, but I can be happy that she isn't distraught or floundering for sanity, like I would be.

... A long, sweaty, challenging spin class. Soaked down to my knees. 150BPM. And in this moment, I am happy.

... the fine fine Irish singing voice of my bride.

... My beautiful daughter running for 3rd Grade Class President.

... My dashing son rocking all A's at school. (Though the villain and his friends have recently been disrupting the class.)

Happiness is not "stuff." Happiness is not drama. Or worry. Or regret.

Happiness is enjoying "the now." Being thankful for what you have. And loving your friends and family, while you can.

Me? I'm happy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Unwelcome News

Mondays are never the high point of my week. Deluge of issues. Picking up projects. Angry phone calls. Double-so, today. Coming off a four-day weekend, I had nearly five hundred emails sulking in Ye Ol' Inbox. And some unwelcome news that friends of mine had split up. I knew it was likely, but I thought perhaps they'd patch things up. I never understood the rift between them. Obviously they never did, either. Even knowing the possible end game, the news still left me grim and fatigued. I skipped the gym (shame on me) and waded unexpectedly into a new maelstrom at home. No relief to be found.

But there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Surrounded By Heroes

Work was cheerfully interrupted by a humbling and emotionally moving Veteran's Day ceremony. Gerald N (NE Manager) was the Master Of Ceremonies. Jeff P (NE Tech) was a Color Guard. I was proud to have them representing not only IT but also our entire property and our community. Their amazingly diverse military experience (Gerald as a SpecOps sniper, Jeff in his sixteenth year as a National Guardsman) made my Country Mouse life feel sheltered and insignificant.

Also gave thanks and praise to several other employees such as a Player's Club executive who served in 320 combat missions in Baghdad, Iraq. His toursconcluded when an IED went off near him, taking most of his hearing and earning him a Bronze Star. Another employee, served in Cambodia in 1959. He and 220 other soldiers were captured then held as POWs until 1964. Only he and 39 other soldiers returned home safely. One of the final employees recognized during the ceremony had fought in the Battle of Normandy! I think he was on a bomber that was shot down, crashed, and he survived, earning FIVE purple hearts and a Silver Star.

I live in a small town. It is a small community. We're fairly simple folks. And yet I'm surrounded on all sides by heroes.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Being Able To See

When you're used to being blind for six months, there's something magical about suddenly being able to see. Swimming with my new goggles was surreal. So many new factors to absorb: seeing the other side of the pool, seeing the bottom so clearly, watching the form of my own shadow, noticing the bubbles in my wake as I turn, the slower pace of each lap since I'm able to focus on the bottom moving below me. Weirdest of all, the length of the pool seemed insanely shorter. As if being able to see had suddenly compressed the space.

In my excitement, I set a new personal record: swimming 600 meters non-stop. That was my third set. The first two were 500 meters each. Previously I was doing 4 x 400 meters. The new goggles inspired me. At least in the pool. Hopefully they inspire a similar improvement in open water.

Three Dreams

I usually do not remember my dreams. Did when I was younger. Seems like twenty years without. And last night, I have three. Remembered each:
  • Wading through my silly assortment of daily sites and links and RSS feeds, when the pieces start to snap together. I stumble across a quixotic, ghostly trail leading (remember this is a damn dream!) ultimately to the Holy Grail. Cobble my limited cash together. Draw some maps. Conceive some silly plans to snatch this thing and share it with the world. Ended up writing a note to Cindy. And fleeing for the road. On my quest to get the grail. 
  • Meg finding a new pet. Like a grimy black civet. Turns out to be some escaped test subject from a government-funded bio weapons experiment. It starts spewing ichor. Meg gets caught by a stray drop. Ghastly transformation. Followed by black helicopters and agents. And I'm raging outside an unmarked hospital demanding to see my child. 
  • Geekiest of the three dreams, I find myself in possession of an Iron Man-esque suit of high tech men's ware. But rather than zipping around the globe rescuing kittens & widows, I sit at home, eyeballing the neighbor, who has a black set of armor. I spent my time eyeballing this guy, to see if he'd be a villain or a hero. He was neither. And my time in my suit was for naught.
Anyway. I slept. And I had dreams. Both rare treats. Figured I'd capture the details before they are written in the water of my mind.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Forty Degrees

I like sleeping late on the weekend. I do not like rising before the sun. Or layering on a pile of clothes while sliding into shorts. Frost on the car windows. No coffee. And I'm in Ocean Springs, MS, getting ready to ride in forty degrees. Small price to pay for health, I suppose. The day did heat up. We rode about fifteen miles. Talking and cruising through the harbor and park and the Visitor's Center. A tough couple of hills. Then back again. Nothing too difficult. But a good ride. Meeting folks and talking. And planning for a longer, harder ride next week. 

Home by lunch time. Dinner at Juan Tequila's. Left the leftovers on the table. Bryce stayed the night. Cindy in bed early. I can't sleep. Nothing new under the sun.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Pooling Alone

Another Friday. Another night pooling alone. Instead of a night listening to local bands, eating fine local cuisine, nursing a nearly-frozen cider, and contemplating a dance or three once the booze takes hold, I wander to the gym. Core and forearms routines in a nearly empty hangar. Then climb into my Mexican wrestling uniform and grind through 1200 meters. Strangely, all the other lanes were full. Though I was the youngest and slimmest (whoa!) occupant. Why is a seventy six degree room warm but a seventy six degree pool is cold?

I'm thankful for my health. And the solace of the gym. Under water my thoughts can breathe. Dance and drink are over-rate, anyway. I'll take sweat and toil. I like the way they hurt.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hat Champ

Second time in a row, Meg wins the craziest hat contest for her grade. Only five kids in the whole school, and she was one each of the last two times the contest was held. I think Liam's "Tower Of Leaning Hats" (complete with supporting blue monkey) should have at least won an honorable mention. But a victory for dearest Meg is a victory for all of us. Even when she doesn't win she is a bright, blazing star streaking across our skies. Never a dull moment in these parts. Never.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Typical Lunch

Part of this self-inflicted and self-described "lifestyle change" of mine is a divergence away from tasty, filling, and enjoyable foods towards something healthy, quite bland, and boring. I usually skip anything fried or drowning in fat or bad carbs, like white bread, white pasta, pizza, etc.

Take today's lunch, for example. Extremely typical of what I've been eating for months. Grilled turkey & swiss on whole wheat. Veggies. (Red potatoes and whole kernel corn today.) Small salad. And some fruit for dessert. (A quartered pear this time.)

This style of eating may be better for me, but it rapidly grows boring. Especially when the cravings hit. Fierce, prolonged cravings for things like chili cheese dogs, or burgers with blue cheese and butter-sauteed onions. Well-marbled steaks paired with a fully-loaded potato. French fries fresh from the oil, covered in cheese and bacon and gingerly dipped in full-fat Ranch dressing. Those kinds of cravings whisper to me. Endlessly. Even now I hear their distant voices. Calling me to indulge. To grow fat and old with them. They'll make me happier, they say.  Oh so much happier than any salad or soup could.

Each day those voices grow louder. Harder to resist..

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Join Or Die

Old Ben Franklin drew his Join Or Die political cartoon in 1754. During Franklin's day, folks believed that you could cut a snake into pieces but somehow magically restore it if you put the pieces together before sunset. Franklin was making a point about the importance of a unified country.

256 years later, we've  forgotten that point. Left versus Right. North versus South versus East versus West. Rich versus Middle class versus the growing masses of Poor. And don't try to fathom the unmentioned racial collisions.

Need an example? Look at our modern election cycles. They are no longer about finding and voting for a candidate we can support. We've degraded to the point where our officials are elected simply because we hate them less than we hate their opponent.

I'm not even paying attention to tonight's results. Doesn't matter who won. Nobody won. We are all going to lose. The illusionary changing of the guard will produce none of the results we're being promised. By either side.

Here are some predictions for our Disunited States:

  • Government won't get any smaller
  • Spending won't get controlled
  • Rights won't be returned
  • No entitlements will be diminished
  • and taxes for the Middle Class won't be substantially lowered

I'll check in again next year to verify, but I don't see anything getting better. The best we can do is hope it doesn't get worse. And we've seen what happens when we put faith in Hope or Change.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BOOK: Zero History By William Gibson

William Gibson has been one of my favorite authors for more than 30 years. The older we get, the more I dig his writings. His latest is "Zero History." In it the oddly aloof and stylish international instigator Bigend (a Belgian philanthropist and control freak) again hires his favorite former-musician (and the novel's central protagonist) Hollis Henry to investigate the anti-fashion memes of the Gabriel Hounds. And an odd near-modern adventure ensures.

Gibson's been writing near-modern fiction the last half decade or so and "Zero History" is a phenomenal follow up to "Pattern Recognition" and "Spook Country." It isn't really science fiction though it is drenched in technology. Most striking about all of it is Gibson's clean, crisp prose. His economy of word and minimalist, fast-paced narrative makes his works extremely hard to put down. And I usually tear through his books in only a couple of nights. "Zero History" was no exception.

Already looking forward to Gibson's next book. Maybe even catch him on his next tour.  If he writes another book and tours?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Keep Winning

Chased away a case of the Mondays with a good ride. About seventeen miles in forty five minutes. Had to approach a thousand calories worth of sweat and toil.

The usual conflict: Me against myself. I win by pushing just a bit further. A bit faster. A bit longer.

Won today. Plan to keep winning. For a long, long time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Quite ungrumpy today. Swam again. 1600 meters, this time. One whole mile. Thirty two laps. Less than six months ago, I struggled with 100 meters. By the end of summer, I could do one thousand. Now I'm working my way toward 2500 meters. The distance of a half Ironman.

Went ahead an ordered some prescription goggles. Should help with my anxiety in open water. Right now, I can barely see the opposite end of the pool. And when I'm in open water, I can't see the shore from more than about 25 meters away. So I splurged on goggles calibrated to my bad vision.

Anyway, much better mood, now. Amazing what some exercise will do for you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Bad day. Like a mouth full of broken glass. Washed down with a flaming shot of Bacardi 151. Did not workout. Did not eat well. Did nothing even remotely approaching fun, productive, or exciting. An emotionally empty day. So dry and soul numbing that I'm fairly certain I'm sterile just having survived it.

I don't like days like this. Or their associated nights. I don't want to waste another minute of my life in a waking state of sullen hibernation. Boredom does not become me. We're bitter foes. A whole world outside that door, and I'm tethered to a keyboard on a Saturday night.

I could go on. I won't. Such stark realizations  me grumpy. So I let the house sleep.This too shall pass.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Running Man

Been training on the track a bit more seriously. A bit. The serious part is my dislike of running. Just when I think my cardio is sufficient from biking and swimming, along comes real running. Treadmill work doesn't compare. Elliptical doesn't either. Real road work kicks my ass. Well, my feet mainly. And my joke of a cardio system.

Fortunately, for all my loathing, it is an exceptional workout. Profuse amounts of sweating. Muscle soreness. And a releasing sense of getting tired. Just hope I'm able to adapt. Make some gains. Condition this mortal coil to a point where 5K isn't so strenuous.

At least I have a new goal.