Saturday, December 31, 2011

Close The Tab

Ending the year with food and drink and music. Old Man Hodge. His lady friend. Lookout. Woodchuck. The Quarter. Nothing too radical. Don't want to temp a visit from The Law. A burger. Some beers. And an odd band that plays everything from The Eagle's Hotel California to C-Lo's Eff You.

Time to close the tab on 2011. Turning 40. Finally putting together the pieces. A lot of training. Bunch of races. Never been better. Spot of trouble at the office. Continued delays on budding prospects. Liam's music. Meg's writing. The kids continuing to grow beyond my anything I ever expected. Cindy's change of careers and return to school.

2012 ought to be interesting. An all new adventure. For all of us.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Next Steps

Time for another challenge. Some loony, self-imposed sanction to prove to myself that I'm capable of doing the things I never did when I was younger. A protest against those haunting voices of my past. Raging against everyone who doubted or underestimated. Including myself.

So my next steps will include training for a half marathon. The Rock N Roll Marathon, March 4th, in New Orleans, LA. Thirteen miles through the heart of that ancient Crescent City.

Of course I've never run more than 5K. Or 3.1 miles. But this time last year, I hadn't  even run that far. Or competed in a triathlon, either. Didn't let that stop me. Plus, I think a half marathon is a natural progression for me. And if I can do that, I can probably do a half Ironman.

I'm going to try. Try real damn hard. And I'll finish. Even if I have to crawl across the finish line.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Greatest Present

Everyone seems happy. Easily the least dramatic holiday season we've had together. Nobody really sick. Nobody passing away. Nobody disappointed or depressed. The odd air of happiness that has caught me off guard. I keep expecting an outbreak of anger and venom any moment. Instead I get Meg choreographing routines on Just Dance III while Liam plays on his new electric bass in the background. She picks a new song. He plucks out the beats, one note at a time. Peace & quiet at the McDougal house? The greatest present I could receive.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lost Along The Way

Interesting break from the norm at church. Local string orchestra joined the fray. Special performance. Nothing modern. Nothing electric. A pure and powerful acoustic set. Then the choir joined in. Including Glenda. (Hidden behind the conductor.) Their word joining with the clear, cool notes. Bleeding together against the church walls. Voices and musicians and instruments. Under the stained glass dome. All of us rapt by the sound and motions of it. Including me. All water-eyed as I think that sweet Meg and grim jawed Liam might be up there. Some day. Adding their light to the too bright glare. Both of them capable of so much more than their father ever was.

How did this get lost along the way? Musicians playing. Singers singing. Families and couples sitting together. Just enjoying an orchestra and an accompaniment of gowned choir folk. No screaming front men. Or howling  groupies. Or sweating dubstep pumping DJs with their taped-up headsets. Or the drugs. Or the booze. Or any of the other ten millions things we have keeping our eyes into our brains and convincing ourselves that we're blind and deaf without a blackberry in one hand and a venti non-fat double decaff in the other.

Just performers. And music. And words. That's all. But it was the performance I'll remember the most this year. A too bright glare amid too many unbright days.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meg's Christmas Choir

Long day. Concluding with a visit to Meg's Christmas Choir. Usual litany of holiday songs. But on Joy To The World, I could hear distinctly hear my little girl singing her heart out. And when they sang Up On The Rooftop, it was transformed into Rap On The Rooftop. All the kids whipped out Santa hats and sunglasses. Then they took creative license with the lyric. Put a slightly modern spin on it. Completely enjoyed themselves. And the crowd went wild. All the while, Meg was feeling the funk and getting her unique little groove on. Beautiful to behold. And angelic. As always. Meg adds light to our lives. She never fades. Ever.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Health Through Duress

My shoulder is better. Much better. My wrist is better. Much better. Hardly notice any ills now. Scale of 1 to 10? 8.5!

Started working out again this past Saturday. Nothing heavy. Nothing spectacular. Or impressive. But DAAAAAMN does it feel good to lift again. Lots of cardio. Lots of sweat. And some light lifting. Full range of motion. Move slowly. Maintaining full control. Two weeks of slack helped. But getting back on the weights feels like it is helping more. Some odd mechanism of health through duress.

Need to hit the road and train for a half-marathon. One coming in March. But I've run in a week. Too damn cold here in South Hell. But I'm going to have to fight through it and get up to speed or run the risk of walking thirteen miles. And that won't be pretty. But for now, I'm fine as fish fur.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tolar Turns Five

Tolar turns five today. Cindy's nephew. Darren's son. Liam's buddy. Quite the interesting little character. Sullen and careful with his actions. Keeps a strict economy of words. Makes me laugh when he decides it is the right time to speak to me. An old soul, I think. Like his cousin, Liam. Kindred spirits.

Pizza and a Batman cake. Angry birds blank, duplicate Nerf pistol, and Bayblades. What more could a boy of five need? Good times for the youngest lad in the family. Topped off by a win for the Saints, Cindy's final test, putting up our Xmas Tree, and a late dinner at TGI Friday's.

A slow Southern Sunday concludes a slow Southern weekend. Enjoying it while it lasts.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kim's Wedding

I went to college with Kim Kelly. Both of us with aspirations of writing. We drank more than we should have. Read a lot of books. Wrote some interesting stuff. Struggled with relationships. Each trying to find a path through the morass of our private realities. Nearly sixteen years ago, Kim came to my wedding. Today, Cindy, Meg, and I went to Kim's wedding. Liam, in his infinite wisdom, has decided he has had enough of weddings for a while. He opted to spend time with Gigi (Glenda) and Cousin Tolar. Much more fun, he says, than a wedding. Meg, however, was thrilled to be able to dress up and see two people get married.

Regardless of Liam's expectation, the wedding was great. Started with music from a pianist, a violinist, and a cellist (Liam's instructor!) The church was fairly new. A recent build of a Presbyterian congregation that used to reside on the beach, until Katrina. The music lead to the official ceremony. Slow creeping entrance of the groom and his crew in crisp grey attire. The bridesmaids approach in sleeveless purple. Then Kim. A longish, soft white dress. Hand in hand with her beautiful little girl, Zya. Very subtle, though very traditional affair: love, admonitions, vows, promises. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And we, the watery-eyed friends and family, begin the crawl to the reception.

Bayou View Tennis Club. Vents blowing frigid air. Until Sheridan (another co-writer from college) speaks her mind.  The four of us sitting by the glass, overlooking the river. Talking about New York, theater, Meg's writing, Liam's music, Cindy's career, triathlons, and wine. The bride & groom arrive. We eat at the modern Southern buffet. Cindy eats too little. I eat a little extra. We hug the newlyweds. Give them our best wishes and prayers. Cake is cut. Cake is eaten. Somewhat quiet. Somewhat subdued. And tomorrow, their life begins anew. Where there were two, now there is one.

Good things come to those who wait. And great things come to those who wait the longest. Godspeed, Kim Kelly. Godspeed.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Goofy Technology

So we make a connection. Liam from home. Me behind an overly-Gestapo corporate firewall. He's on a laptop with a webcam. I'm on a souped-up workstation powering six monitors and supervising a billion dollar facility.

Even though neither of us install any software and we're using two different operating systems and I'm not even equipped for voice or video, but we fire up a Google+ Hangout and everything syncs. Point click. We're able to almost instantly communicate.

A couple of years ago, only true geeks were setting up direct connections like this. Pray everyone's webcam works. Find some sort of middleware to bridge the connection. Firewall ports. Bandwidth concerns. Everyone using the save code. Same version. Patch levels. But today? Point. Click. Communicate. Moses and the burning bush didn't have it this good.

And how do my kids show their appreciation for being able to access this amazing level of digital wizardry? By making faces,  streaming LOLCats, and finding the most inappropriate use of the now goofy technology. A billion moving parts, and they put it to good use making themselves laugh. And me along with them. 

As usual, I'm enjoying it while it lasts. They won't be young and affectionate forever.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time Out

Going to rest. Briefly. Time out from the gym. And tri training. Right shoulder been aching. Right wrist, the same. Haven't lifted since Friday. Getting better, slowly. Still not 100% though. Don't want to tear anything. Not, again.

And these short days. Depressing. Too much darkness. Too much cold. Feel it in my bones. Morning and night.

So I'll take a week off. Regroup. Decompress. And come back strong. Hopefully.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

She says: gaping

The stitches are out. Cindy's not happy with the situation. If you can imagine. The flexing isn't right. And the wound is not closed. Still open? She says: gaping.

Doubts it will heal. Doubts removing the alien tracking device was the right move. Doubts the stitches were in long enough. Swarms of doubt lingering around her head like a dull army of slow gray bees.

My prediction? The wound will heal. The flexing will get right. And she'll be the only one on Earth to notice the scar. But by the time those memories fade, she'll be on to the next arm of bees to keep her buzzing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Patient Zero

Cindy had homework. An assessment. A complete physical assessment of a patient, to be exact. And guess who had to be Patient Zero? Yeah, the husband. Moi.

Not only did I get to be the victim for twenty minute, I had to do it in a flimsy medical gown, while being videoed. Sounds like the plot for a really bad adult movie. But that is how I spent my lunch.

Hopefully she gets an A. All I got was a pack of cigarettes and a pat on the back, "Smoke up, Johnny!" 

... Thanks...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Third 10+ hr day this week. Tenth day in a row.  With two days to go before I can relax. I'm just plain tired. Mad. Tired. Disappointed. Stressed. Anxious. A Big Gulf sized swirl of negativity. That's me. 

It's the second half of a massive overhaul at work. A push to get the enterprise re-Citrixed. The current system was old when I inherited it six years ago. It's stunk up the place long enough.  

After three years of asking, I finally have the budget for a replacement. And exhaustion is a small price to pay to get out from under the old, rotting dinosaur. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Current Distractions

Bieber's Non-Baby. Hannah Montana's Growing Waistline. KK's 72 Day Marriage. Missing Baby Lisa. Cain's Groping. Cain's Other Groping. Cain's Other Other Groping. Maks & Hope Voted Off. Dr Murray Killed MJ. Another Twilight Movie. Solyndra. Millionaire Basketball Players Want More. Broken Heart Syndrome. Facebook Spammers. Penn State Riots. iPod. iPhone.


Monday, November 14, 2011

To Say No

I don't understand addiction. The apparent loss of control. The willingness to sacrifice health, money, family, friends for a little bit of a rush. Or a brief escape from reality.

I've always had the ability to stop when I wanted. Or to say no. The only thing that ever held a grip one me was, strangely enough, Mountain Dew. I even remember the last one I had: August 3rd, 1999.

At the time, I didn't realize what I was consuming. Never thought to look. Each night like four or six of them. "Green devil," we'd call it. A quarter per can from the machine just outside our office. A dollar a night. Sometimes more. Helped pass the time. But while waiting for Liam to be born, I noticed the contents of the bottle. The sugar. The caffeine. The calories. And I quit that moment. Cold turkey. Twelve plus years ago. They still call my names sometime. But the voices grow fainter each year.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


70+ hours later, issued an emergency downtime, transferred the last critical server to the new cloud, and I'm finally finished. Nothing like a 7-day work week to test your mettle.

Paid for the conflict with a lot of my dwindling sanity. Couldn't take too much more during my fraction of a day off. Spent it unwinding. Hair cut. Movies with the kids via Netflix. Knocked out some choirs.

And tried to break in some new shoes. My Filas Skeletoes. Only put in a mile before rain fell upon me. But had a good little run. Easier to feel the difference between heel striking (bad) and keeping on my toes (good.) Already notice a different stretch in my calves. Not sure how it will affect my training in the long run, but I'm going to try it for a while and see what comes of it.

Tomorrow: another week, and another project. Hopefully it won't be as crazy. But I'll keep running, one way or another.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Sixth day in a row. Sixty hours. Or more. Finally managed to get  redundancy setup. Maybe not the best manner. Or most direct. But it works. And if any piece of the equation fails, other pieces catch the load. Tested everything. Twice. And it finally works.

So tired. Too much time focusing. Measuring too many possibilities. Compounded with the physicality of racking and cabling and labeling and powering and dressing the myriad connections. Physical. Data. Network. All different layers and concepts and concerns pressing through my skull. Need ten hours of sleep. I'll be lucky to get five. So I'll stay tired. Until everything is done.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Agent Scully's Surgery

Some alien object has embedded in my bride's lovely hand. Not sure what it is. Not sure where it came from. Discovered it several weeks ago. At first, touching the area sent lighting through her hand, straight to her spine. Then she shined a flashlight through the meat between her fingers. And spotted the foreign invader. Like an angry grain of brown rice. Finally, last week, it started to rise to the surface. Forming an impressive zit-like head and daring me NOT to dig it out. (Click to zoom.)

However, Cindy being Cindy, I wasn't allowed to carve it out with a buck knife. Instead she opted for an out-patient adventure. Simple stuff, pretty much in line with what I wanted to do at home. But instead of Cindy slamming a couple of Jagerbombs, they'll put her under. And instead of a knife, they'll use a scalpel.

Ultimately, she did very well. Waited in pre-op for a couple of hours, texting checking Facebook. Then off she went. Twenty minutes later, the doctor comes to see me. Said he wasn't sure what it was, but sent it off for testing. Didn't have to dig to deep. Didn't see any nerve damage. Shouldn't even need physical therapy. And ten minutes later, they rolled her back to me. Shivering from the anesthetic, talking non-stop. A good sign. And she kept getting better from there. 

Hopefully Agent Scully's surgery will not offend the alien hivemind. I think it was a tracking device. And once they realize she's off the grid, then the real adventure will begin!

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Chaos To Come

My last semi-sane day. Tomorrow, a major work project begins in earnest. Not looking forward to the chaos to come. Resources flying in. The network team down a man. More than doubling the network density of my VM farm. More than tripling the storage reserves. And more than six fold more memory and computational resources. A big big upgrade. With me at the helm of this rocket. Changing out the engine while still in flight. We'll either crash and burn, or launch into a higher orbit.

Let's light this puppy... I'm ready to roll!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Full & Bored

Didn't go to the Peter Anderson Festival. Didn't get the Jamaican food I wanted. Instead, Cindy went to church with the kids, I went to Academy Sports (for shirts and shorts,) then wasted a trip to Best Buy (for short power cables I couldn't find,) and Lowe's (for light bulbs and clothes hampers that didn't fit.) Fortunately, lunch made up for my disappointing morning when I had a delicious Philly Cheesesteak at Tony Nelson's, in Gulfport, MS. The freshness of the ingredients was very apparent, especially the buns. And I actually enjoyed the owner (Tony!) preparing the food in front of me. Also LOVED the hand-made raspberry lemonade on the side. Everything well worth the price and the not-too-long wait. Easily the high point of my entire weekend was the few minutes I had savoring this fantastic sandwich. The best cheesesteak I've had in 5+ years!

More of my infrequent To Do's once I went home. Replaced some bulbs. Scoured my room and drawers for unused/unwanted items. Ended up reducing everything to far more manageable levels. Now, if only I could find a way to donate my mountain of books, I could reclaim even more of my life, time, and sanity. 

Finally an interesting workout at the gym. Standard superset for forearms. Then a KILLLLLLER core workout, courtesy of P90X. I thought I had some core conditioning. I thought wrong. A third of the way into an 18 minute workout and I was drenched in sweat, panting like a teenager on prom night. Wrapped it up with some great yoga. By the end of which, I had been joined by a 60+ year old Indian gentleman. He was across the room, doing poses, too. We didn't speak. Or I didn't. Had my headset on. But if his routine was half as enjoyable as mine, he went home a happy old dude.

And that was my weekend: Tasks. Training. And ho hum. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Training, Footwear, To Dos, & Dullness

Started off with some training at the gym this morning. Shoulders: dumbbell raises, machine press, machine raises, cable lifts, and machine shrugs. Plenty of energy and strength. Didn't over-commit but pumped up the intensity on most of the sets, especially the machine presses. My old wound continues to hold its own. I'll see if it can raise the bar, next week, with some new exercises.

My old Zoot running shoes wore out waaaaay too quickly. Not even six months of moderate workouts and they're worn thin. Like me. But some of the pads have faded. A couple are missing. And the heel pad is rapidly peeling off. I won't buy any of those again! Replacing them with Fila's new "They Aren't VFF" brand: Skele-Toes. Super minimal and I won't be able to use them during a triathlon (since it takes so long to put them on) but should be good for training. And they only cost $35. So if I loathe them, I'm not out TOO much.

Knocked out a could of lingering "To Do" items around the house. Went on a mini-cleaning spree to bundle all my training supplies into one much smaller location. Everything pretty much fits in a box twice the size of a breadbox, now. Including water gear, fuel, and cold-weather gear. Also found a door-stop I'd bought for Liam's room. Brushed nickle. Installed it on the inside of his door, complete with a cool magnetic catch. Then I whipped out the wood chisels and reseated the latches on his door and the bathroom door. I doubt anyone will notice the fruit of my labors, but now the doors shut properly and do not require any muscle to catch correctly.

Concluded the daylight on a semi-run with Cindy. Went fairly normal for us: lots of holding back. I slow down to keep her pace. She stops frequently and doesn't push herself enough. Frustrating if I dwell on it too much. But at least it got us out of the house for a while. And I squeezed in some light cardio.

Grilled steak. Washed it down with a Woodchuck. Then fired up Netflix and Cindy slept while I watched "For Your Consideration." And that was the night I opted for, instead of music and blues and drinks in downtown Gulfport. Slings and arrows. Slings and arrows.

Friday, November 04, 2011


Another item added to the long list of things "Jon Wishes He Didn't Know." Today's reference being: Fifth Disease. Also called "Slapped Cheek Disease," because the child develops a redness that looks as if she (in this case: Meg!) was slapped. And that is EXACTLY how it looks. (Click the picture to zoom.)

Fortunately it is a fairly common disease of childhood and has no lasting effects. Nurse Cindy diagnosed it last night, after we came home from the orchestra. I took Meg to her pediatrician for a time consuming, expensive, but official verdict: Fifth Disease. Except the doctor said the redness could last weeks and it isn't usual to see it spread so far down the back and belly.

But, it is what it is. And we all know Anxiety Woman will keep a close eye on Poor Meg for further developments. Left to her own devices, Meg's perfectly normal and still plotting to rule the world. Good girl!

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Following another brutal day at the office, the family converged at Gulfport High. Me, Cindy, Meg, Nana, Jason, Morgan, and Paw Paw Raybourn. A big fall music event. And Liam orchestrated for us. (Click the pic to zoom.)

All the schools kids dressed up in new clothes. Liam rocking a bowtie. Listening to them warm up. The bass notes low and clean. An excitement hanging thick in the auditorium.

Liam's group sounded great. Half the songs were very dependent upon his bass. Spy vs Spy. Stand by me. We all cheered and gave Liam a standing ovation. Great show. Everyone proud of him. Huddling around him and taking pictures. So much talent at such a young age. Lightyears beyond anything I was capable of. Already grown beyond the limits of any talents I passed along to him.

Then we come home. And out of nowhere (NOWHERE!) he picks up Meg's violin and starts playing. As if he'd been practicing on it. Took the songs he knew from his bass and played them the violin. It wasn't perfect, but we could hear what he was doing. And it wasn't bad at all. No idea where THAT came from, but it blew my mind right through the back of my head. And he's only twelve?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Rough Week

Non-stop at work. Three hours of back-to-back calls yesterday. Five hours on the phone total. So many projects. Each with a multitude of moving pieces. Everything up in the air. Vendors. Other engineers. Folks flying in. Hardware to unpack, rack, and cable. All different configurations. Most of it is breaking new ground. New network. New storage. Now layers. Nobody with any experience to help. No formal project plans. Just lighting the rocket and praying I can hang on. The air getting cold and thin as we climb higher. I'm staring into the sun most of the time.

Still training in the gym. Half marathon group starting up next week. Biking this weekend. Was supposed to swim today. But (of course!) seconds before I leave, something goes sideways. And I don't surface for nearly two hours. No mood for swimming, or anything else, after that.

There's always tomorrow. Another step closer to the end of this rough week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Ruse Is About To Be Revealed

How quick that green worm turned. The illusionary euphoria of "the market" dispelled like a cheap parlor trick. The hedge fund wizards' bluff of pretending debt can be infinitely extended called by the Greek President himself who went All In, issuing a surprise public referendum on the pseudo-enforced referendum deal.

Maybe Greece will just accept default and go their own way, much like Iceland in late 2008. The Greeks can't pay their debt now, haven't been able to pay it for more than a decade, and even a 50% reduction by their creditors won't help. Any deal they accept now just prolongs their suffering.

But why all the drama and fury by the weeping wizards of Wall Street? Because they know the ruse is about to be revealed. That the financial emperors have no clothes. And even less money. Much like the burning hordes of Greece, the market mavens are all in debt to their red-rimmed eyeballs and have no way of paying their own liabilities once the collection plate gets passed around the room.

If Greece goes Tango Uniform, failing to meet its obligations, then a hailstorm of counter-party risk, in the form of Credit Default Swaps (CDS) will need to be paid out. Computerized triggers will get pulled. Bank accounts will open. And suddenly several million CDS holders scream "BINGO!" because they're owed several trillion (yes, TRILLION!) dollars on their risky investments. Except nobody is excited. Nobody is getting ready to collect their filthy lucre. No screams of bingo. Or triggers being pulled. Instead, the panic has started anew.

It is very likely that even though CDS have been piling up for more than a decade, few (if any) of them will be cashed in. Why? Because of the other end of the ruse, the other half of the lie: the so-called owners of the CDS never actually paid real money for those CDS they're clutching so tightly. Instead, they just promised to pay real money at some future date, which never arrived. No money has ever changed hands, and those risky investments aren't worth the paper their printed on (if they're printed at all!) because the owners can produce no receipt proving payment. So the effective worth of all those "investments" is actually close to zero.

And that is what this crisis is about: the fiction of money. There is none. No hedges. No bonds. No deposits. No protection. No backing. No insurance. No real cash. Nothing. Just a punch-drunk collection of grinning frat boys electronically exchanging nods and winks and promising to pay the beer tab next week. Like they promised last week. And for ten years worth of weeks before that. But now the tab is so ungodly huge that it dwarfs the Gross Domestic Production of many small nations. And the only thing the frat boys can produce for payment are rancid burps and well-manicured beer bellies.

Meanwhile, all their cars and houses in the Hamptons andregularly scheduled pay-per-views of Ultimate Fighting Championship have been funded by our IRAs, our pension funds, and the hollow shells of our 401Ks. Every penny and every real dollar we "invested" in the magic show of "the market" was instantly converted into ones and zeros then mixed into a toxic slurry of computer generated financial vehicles like collateralized debt obligations, naked shorts, fault resistant traunches, and other indecipherable forms of financial derivatives. We're all competitors in some pre-apocalyptic version of Thunderdome: two men enter, one man leaves! Except in this twisted version of our new reality: your so-called retirement enters, and nothing leaves.

Maybe Greece has seen the truth and they are going to accept their fate. They would rather reject the deal of 50% debt reduction, walk away from Thunderdome, and take their chances at starting over from scratch. That is what is spooking the exulted wizards of Wall Street.

Meanwhile, the rest of us rubes cling to the steel bars and stare, slack-jawed and clueless, as Dr Dealgood recites his all-too-familiar lines:
Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we've learned, by the dust of them all... Bartertown learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two men enter; one man leaves!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Cindy, Angel Meg, and Liam The Bounty Hunter prowled the streets by Gigi's house while I defended our door against would-be invaders. At least that was the plan.

Aside from one group of six kids, I had no visits. And I am not even sure those children were from our neighborhood.

Next year, I think I'll just leave a sign reading: "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!"

So much for Halloween. Turned out to be HalloBLEH!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

These Easy Days

Took Liam to get his haircut, today. My old comrade Dane's place. Known Dane since we were in Kindergarten. Didn't see him for almost twenty years, after Jr High. We didn't recognize each other for six months. Now he cuts my hair. And Liam's.

The kid needed a cut. Badly. Down past his eyes. And thicker than Cindy's Southern drawl. Thankfully, Liam behaves these days. Doesn't give me much grief, especially when he knows an outburst would result in a loss of electronics.

Lunch with Mom & Grandma, afterward. Chinese buffet. Grandma eating as much as I do. Mom piling thick green wasabi on each piece of sushi. Morgan and Liam hanging out with Dad. Burger King for those three. Though Morgan likes Chinese food.

Grandma looked great. Sounded great. Still lots of holes in her short term memory. She always asks me if I lost a lot of weight. How I did it? In her mind, I'll always be that slow, 217lb grandson. I suppose it is a pleasant surprise for her every time she seems me. I hope so. I don't mind telling her about my training and races each time I see her. It doesn't hurt either of us.

Off to the gym, afterwards. Shoulders and legs. Fantastic workout. Having to purposely try much harder to push myself, these days. My normal workout wasn't doing much. I'd grown used to it. So I am changing to some different exercises and adding even more weight. Been a while since I have been this sore. But at least I know it is effective.

I will miss these easy days. Things could easily turn sideways. When Liam and Meg are off to college. Or when all they want to do is challenge me. When Mom's memory starts to tatter. When Grandma joins my Grandfather. When the gym isn't comfortable or accessible to me. So I enjoy them while they last, these easy days of mine.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Festival - 2011

Fall Festival at Bayou View Elementary. Beautiful day for it. Just perfect. Big problem with the pricing, though. pretty much $1/ride minimum. As much as $5 for some of them. Or $30 for an all day pass. Thirty dollars? Am I the only who realizes how many meals that would buy for a kid? Or that we're in the throws of a prolonged recession? I'm thinking thirty bucks is a bit excessive. Fortunately, the kids settled for 10 tickets each. $20 bucks between the two of them. Within the range of my limited budget.

First thing they do? Paint their hair. Pumpkin and purple. It will come out in the tub. But for one day they're in disguise. Though most of the women there would kill or die to have Meg's natural hair color.

Liam played  laser tag for almost an hour. Meg shuffled around with a classmate, tearing through the inflatable mazes, then  made her own sour candy. They bought pizza and a Coke. And finally tackled the rock climbing wall! Sadly, I missed Meg's adventure while I was rounding up Liam. Then it was his turn. Liam almost reached the top. Two more steps and it would have run the bell. Listened well. But the height and the uncertainty got the most of him and he rappelled down. Meg and I cheered him up (it didn't take much) and we called it a day.

For $20, I think we had a great morning at the Fall Festival. Even though I didn't get to climb or eat anything!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Magicians & Drachma & Bluffers, oh my!

The magicians on Wall Street celebrated with a furious stock market rally today. Their jubilation grew from their newfound hopes of fooling the American people into once again thinking there's an end in sight to our Great Recession.

"Markets up after Greece deal." and "Greece Worries Ebbs" causing investors to "give a thumbs up" and ask Siri to dump more imaginary money into the still-over-inflated Dow Jones. Gaining nearly 3% in a single day.

The world markets are playing a game of three card monte and Greece's unplumbed cauldron of debt is the pea they're trying frantically to conceal.  European and American vaults are morbidly obese with Greek bonds. About $3,000,000,000,000 (that's trillions!) worth of toxic, unsecured Drachma. Stinking up the place like rancid moussaka. Greece is a drunken albatross dangling from Europe's neck. Nobody wants it. Nobody can save it. But they're too scared to let it slip into the Aegean Sea. So instead of cutting off the Euro's dead limbs, the magicians are trying to convince us that debt can revolve forever. But the other members of the Euro currency union (with the exception of Germany) cannot pay what they owe. And, like their big fat cousins,  they teeter only a single Facebook update away from mob violence, political revolution, and perhaps even armed conflict fueled by cheap French cigarettes and little cups of seemingly-endless cappuccino.

Not to be outdone, politicians have taken to bluffing at the poker table while wagering the economy of an entire nation. The Republicans did it this past summer, bluffing during the tax talks, pushing the United States to the edge of financial default (with the rest of the world to follow) over whether or not to repeal the Bush tax cuts. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (their version of a President) did it today. She looked across the table and told the bankers to either accept a 50% write down of Greece's debt, or be prepared for the country's total financial collapse.

Hours later, Wall Street opens, the magicians conjure their best illusions, and suckers around the globe invest billions more in a failing system.

Oh my.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Uncivilized Reform

Modern American society continues its downward spiral today as Oakland explodes in a cloud of tear gas, flashbang, and rubber bullets. Several hundred armored policemen, under cover of darkness, moved to disband members of the Occupy Oakland movement, which had been camping in a public park for several weeks. Jean Quan, Oakland's major who initially supported the protestors, left the job of breaking up the camp in the hands of a new police chief, and then she fled town.

The chief unleashed hell, on multiple levels, introducing all manner of violence and chaos on what had been a fairly peaceful (though messy and potentially illegal) protest. Those in favor of Occupy Oakland were incensed. Those opposed were inspired. Both sides now planning to turn it up a notch. The 99% vs the 53%, while the 1% quietly snicker behind their castle walls.

The question now becomes: Was Oakland a fluke or a sign of things to come? It is either an exception and we won't see any more Occupy events turn ugly, or it is the first of many more clashes between the entrenched, degrading system and a motivated collective of challengers.

Seems to me that Oakland is just following the pattern of uncivilized reform in America and across the globe. Feels awfully similar to the buildup to the "race riots" of the early 60s. How about the politically fueled Chicago riots of the late 60s? Remember Tunisia? Egypt? Libya? Greece? Isn't the pattern the same?

  1. An unacceptable system is weakly held in place across the nation. (ie: political / social / economic oppression of the majority by a few select groups or individuals in power) 
  2. Compliance to the system is codified by laws, legislation, military or social enforcement. (ie: Increased influence of money and corporations over governments, dictatorships, autocracts, dogmatic theocracy)
  3. Eventually, due to corruption, entrenched bureaucracy, and excessive public suffering, the system losses its legitimacy. (ie: The Great Recession starting in 2007)
  4. Reformers appear to challenge the system, usually starting by exposing the corruption inherent in the system. (ie: Wikileaks, Occupy Wall Street) 
  5. New technology enables the people to organize in previously impossible ways. (ie: Twitter, Facebook, GPS.)
  6. Reforms requested by the people are flatly rejected by the corrupt system.
  7. The people continue to lose faith in the old, corrupt system and its legitimacy continues to degrade.
  8. Eventually, civilized reform escalates into a full blown conflict between the two opposing sides, old versus new. 
  9. The old system either reforms itself (Mubark resigned after 18 days of protests) or the old system forcefully collapses (The Soviets Fall in 1989, Gaddafi's execution was a public spectacle)
  10. Eventually a new era begins with a new system, and there is peace. For a while. 
So. Is Oakland a fluke? Or just an inevitable stage of the process? Will our system reform itself, or collapse?  Are those bankers in the shining glass skyscrapers getting nervous? How long before somebody realizes they ought to be Occupying D.C.? Or stage the mother of all protests outside the next GOP Debate? The story unfolds even as I type.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The End Of Your To Do List

I should patent or copyright or otherwise codify my latest theory: you will never reach the end of your To Do List. Neither personally nor professionally.

At work, there are too many sources for adventure: tickets, emails, IM, bossman, walkups, phone, text, monitoring system, etc, etc. And it never fails that just as I'm trying to leave, somebody decides to call, write, or message me with a new request. Ended up leaving two hours later today. At the office, I'm up to four pages of items. About half are scratched off. Though I had only two pages at the beginning of October.

At home. Well, I have a motivation issue there. Plenty of projects calling my name. But I haven't touched any of them lately. Kitchen to patch. Boxes to unload. Attic to insulate. I suspect the lack of moral support as well as appreciation is a major impediment. I'd rather train, or spend time with the kids. Far more enjoyable and cost effective than toiling on the house.

I'm working on my lists, though. The more items I scratch off, the more room I have in my head. I know I'll never reach the end, but I'll pick up the pace and see how much damage I can do. Might as well...

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Addiction

I've been harboring a new addiction as of late: Android!

Turned in my old Blackberry and picked up a new Google G2X. The transition was comparable to going from an analog, black & white television, to a fully digital 1080p HD signal on a 52" screen. Not only do I have the same access to all my work data, but I can trick this new one out will all manner of personal digerati: news feeds, training programs, even a customized OS if I get snarky. Camera is much better. GPS is much better. 4G signal at home. And I can actually talk on the phone while using all the data services, unlike my craptastic old Blackberry.

Next month, the quad core tablets should start appearing. Already contemplating that Christmas present. Pick up one of those and only touch my PC for gaming purposes. Well, except for my addiction to multiple screens. But, hey, this old dog learns new tricks all the damn time! At least I tell myself that...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


After my first triathlon at Traditions, it took nearly ten days before I could walk normally. A month later, Buster Britton cost me a week of downtime. Now, after my fifth triathlon, I have not skipped a single day of training. My quads and calves are sore, but I was still able to run for three miles last night. And today I had an excellent chest & triceps workout. Tomorrow morning, swimming. This weekend, a 5K. I like this style of recovery!

I've never had any kind of recovery abilities before now. In high school, I was nearly cripple with scoliosis. I didn't run. I didn't swim. I didn't play any kind of sports. There were days when I did little more than lay as still as possible on the floor, hoping my spine would line up long enough spend a few hours without headaches or the muscles in my back seizing.

20yrs later, I'm up @ 0400, doing triathlons. Plan on training for a half-marathon. And maybe a half-Iron Man.

Monday, October 10, 2011

GAME: Dead Island

For months this summer, Techland's Dead Island offered a multitude of promises: potent game engine, depth of plot, vibrant heroes, progressive character development, and zombies zombies zombies! Unfortunately, aside from a boring mass of drab, unfrightening undead, the promises were amazingly hollow.

The game engine was visually interesting, but there were so many devastating bugs that it is was obviously rushed to market far too quickly with too little testing. For example, getting multiple players together in the same game was tricky on the best of days. One of the crew routinely had to completely exit the game and restart in order to host sometimes. Throwables like grenades and Molotovs were unpredictably useless. I was killed more often by other players' throwables than I was killed by any enemies for the first week. And sometimes thrown blades would be rendered unrecoverable if a corpse fell incorrectly and blocked the item from your view. Once weapons became excessively expensive, the idea of losing them under a mound of rotting flesh was enough to make me stop throwing all together.

Dead Island's plot appears to have been developed by 12yr olds hopped up on Four Loko. The inconsistencies bordered on comically impossible.  (When did we find Semtex?  Why don't we just shoot these guys and take the keys? We'll cover the truck load of supplies by hiding in the sewers?)  Even my ADHD-impaired attention span was rapidly lost at times. (Why are we on this boat? We're protecting this girl because...?) And the few elements that were actually believable were so trite that we predicted them well before most of them were unveiled. Horrible, horrible, horrible writing. Easily some of the worst I've endured since Zero Wing. What offends me worse than the pitiful content of the game was that somewhere, somehow people were paid to come up with it!

Then there were the characters. Impossibly worse than the plot. Each of them horribly stereotypical, badly acted, and drowning in dialog that was written by hung-over 12yr olds without access to their morning dose of Adderall. Again, the fact that somebody was paid to develop this seething cauldron of rancid monkey turds named Dead Island made me wince so much that my bone marrow was bruised. The characters were so bad that we collectively cheered when one of them was killed in a cutscene!

And finally, the main draw of the game: ZOMBIES! Sadly, Techland couldn't offer any form of innovation or the faintest speck or originality with their enemies. It was such a derivative rip-off of Left 4 Dead that we didn't bother using Techland's names and stuck with the names from L4D: boomers, spitters, and tanks. Dull, dull, dull.

Dead Island contributed absolutely nothing to the undead game genre. The lone redeeming quality was being able to suffer with my friends. We were able to mock it together and find humor in our shared sorrow. We'd inadvertently kill each other or barter wire for diamonds and champagne.

There's nothing even remotely worth recommending about this game. Were it not for the fact that I could play online, I would have deleted Dead Island after the first "Act" and demanded a refund plus compensation for my pain and suffering. I could never recommend ANYONE attempt to play it by themselves. And I certainly won't be playing it again. There's not enough booze in Biloxi to get me that drunk!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Liam's Turn

Finally the day has come. After twelve years on the Earth, it was Liam's turn to mow the yard!

Happened because my second-hand mower refused to start and Pawpaw Mac brought his over as a loaner. Since it is easier to steer as well as dead-simple to shift, Liam took the wheel.

Some practice laps and a couple of tips on carving the yard into squares, and he pretty much did the whole thing by himself. Bit of a tussle with Anxiety Lass, but other than that, I had a great time turning over the reigns of yard work to my first born. Now if only he'd do his OTHER chores my sanity might return to pre-child levels!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Mighty Magnolia 2011

Good news: I slept! First time I've ever managed to get more than three or four hours before an event. Bad news? I had an hour and a half drive followed by a two hour wait for the race to start. All while wearing tights and a t-shirt in low 60 degree weather.

Fortunately for our wayward hero, the sun paid the site a visit and quickly raised the temperature a few degrees. I stopped shivering around 7AM. And as 8AM approached, the water climbed into the mid 70s.

The swim went well. My wetsuit kept me warm and floaty. The course hugged the shoreline and most of the time I was in less than six feet of water. I did drift to the right too much. I couldn't find anyone decent to draft. But I didn't drown and finished the first let in about ten munutes.

The bike course was mostly good. Only a couple of challenging hills. I attacked most of them. Didn't gasp for air the majority of the time. And didn't have to touch my second water bottle. Before I pulled into the sub-division and slowed down, my bike computer said I averaged about 20.1MPH. And finished the 20 mile run in something close to 54 minutes.

The run was my best run, yet. Still had to stop a couple of times, but not for long. Usually 10 - 20 seconds. And only twice during the first two miles. Even jogged up most of the hills. And for the first time in any race, I actually passed a couple of people. As a result, wrapped up the run in a touch over 29 minutes.

Total time with transitions? 1:40:28. About 20% faster than my first event (2:02!) and good enough to finally break me out of the bottom 25% of competitors. I came in 98th out of 156 people. Only 5min behind Lisa (pictured) who is 10yrs younger and a much better runner than I am.

So I'm thrilled thrilled thrilled with my performance, enjoyed the event, and looking forward to my second triathlon season in 2012!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pre-Race Day

I took the day off. Have time to burn. And can use a stress-free day for a change. Less thoughts dedicated to digital woes. More thoughts dedicated to not drowning.

Started with a bit of a swim at 0745. Testing out the wetsuit. Getting a taste of the cold water.Robinwood Lake was appropriately cold. First ten seconds stunned me. Had to catch my breath. Focus on reaching forward. Trying to glide through the water, minimize my effort, concentrate on spotting my destination, keeping straight. That was the plan, at least. Of mice and men, and such. Ended up constantly pulling to the right. Taking me off course. Forcing corrections. All of which wasted time and effort. But, on a bright note, the suit provided a ton of buoyancy and I had no worries about drowning. First lap was the hardest. Second a bit easier. Third easiest, ever. I purposely took my time on the last lap. And it didn't slow my average pace at all. Showed me that fighting for speed resulted in nearly the same lap speed as keeping my cool. A trick I hope to use tomorrow.

After lunch, I drove over to check out the course and pick up my race packet. Thought the event was in North East Hattiesburg, MS. A big national park or such. I was quite wrong. I actually drove to West Hattiesburg, MS. Less than five minutes from Cindy's family farm! I could have brought all my equipment with me and stayed the night. Sparing myself an hour and a half drive. Waking up at 5:30A rather 4AM! (sigh) Oh well, maybe next year.

And the site was a bit odd. Nestled in the back of a stillborn subdivision out in the middle of No Man's Land. I couldn't get a single bar of cell coverage and if there was another human soul within a mile of the transition area, I'd be shocked.

But, aside from the isolation, it was actually a very nice course. The swim portion of the show was a point-to-point across a fairly nice lake. The bike leg covered some rolling hills through lightly populated back-roads. And the running section was entirely inside the un-trafficked neighborhood. If the weather holds up, it should be an interesting event!

Three hours on the road. Forty bucks worth of gas. But it beats sticking behind a desk resolving digital woes. Best day off I've had in a while. Hopefully tomorrow is even better.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


"Your hands remind me of my father," she says.

Sometimes I don't recognize my hands. Wrinkled from age.Veins more prominent now. Calluses. The training and all.

"He worked on a boat," she says. "A deckhand. Tending the rigs. Oil mostly. Sometimes gas. Only the hard jobs for deckhands. He would work a month on and a month off. Straight. No calls while he was gone."

"You only saw your father every other month?" I ask.

"Yes. But it was always a good month. He took care of us. Worked like that for twenty seven years. We were happy."

I know a couple of guys who work on rigs. Oil and gas. I know a couple of former deckhands, too. All tough, wizened old bastards. But I never heard of any local boats that are gone more than a week at a time. Certainly not a month at a time. And not for a quarter of a century.

"He always had such strong hands."

I'm sure she and her family were happy. I bet another family was, too. I don't tell her, though. She knows. Even if she doesn't tell me. Or admit it to herself. She knows where he was. And his hands.