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.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Your Legacy

Steve Jobs passed away some long moments ago. The media already eager to brighten  the mewling California night with a thick swarm of digital pyres. Pre-written eulogies crawl on the scroll line of every channel. Maybe the Apple Stores will stay open longer. Flowers piled outside their polished glass doors. All the tech elite will make their pithy comment. His family will release a comment. Probably mention a charity. And then they will begin the long droning diatribes about Steve's contribution to the world. As if he alone was responsible. Parted the digital seas. Spread his jean-clad legs and birthed out the iPhone and iPad and iMac and iWhateverElse. The rebel Messiah of a billion fanboys. Hopefully the newshounds will keep the teartime to only a week or two.

But it all makes me think: What is your legacy? What will I leave in my wake? Crates of dogeared books. Dusty computers. Notebooks of unwritten novels. Bags of dice for forgotten role playing games. Known for my snide mouth? My dreams that always outpaced me? I don't want my name writ in water. I want to stand on the shoulders of giants, like Steve did.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I was supposed to have a vacation day.

I was supposed to train.

I was supposed to visit my massage therapist.

I babysat a semi-sick redhead. I sat on four hours worth of calls. I fixed some computer woes. I drained the battery on my cell. Twice.Didn't visit my massage therapist. Didn't train. And no vacation emerged from the depths. Nothing went as supposed.

But there's always tomorrow.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Down With The Sickness

Started with Meg. Odd lethargy. Exceptionally quiet. Reserved. Diminished appetite. And then the fever. Slightly north of one hundred. Tapered off with some OTC meds. But re-appeared twice yesterday and over night.

My Mom to the rescue. Swung by to watch Red Meg. Then (surprise) gets a call from The Boy. Liam, knowing his sister is home, develops some stomach woes. Home Again, Home Again for him. Two for two.

The Trifecta of McDougal Sickness occurs in the ninth inning, after Lady McDougal returns from her Day Job. Symptoms present as a sore throat, perceived thickness in the right lung, and reduced energy levels.

Papa McDougal feels great, though. Excessively hungry from training. Full of vigor and venom. Elevated mood. Eagerness to take on the world. Certainly not down with the sickness.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Distance

Started off sideways today. Did not get the yard mowed. Did not work on the gutters. Or the kitchen walls. Usual conflict on the long term endeavors: lack of vision, lack of commitment, lack of resources. Soured my mood rapidly. So I threw in the towel on being productive.

Somehow, a nap flipped all my bits. Resynched everything under my hood. And I found myself going the distance at the gym. Three sets of 900 meters in the pool. A strength and drive that I hadn't felt in a long while. 54 laps. 2700 meters in total. Almost 1.7 miles. A new record, for me. Better part of an hour. But I did it. And felt incredible afterwards. The sense of accomplishment sweeter than anything I might shoot into my veins or drink from a glass. Leaving me, of course, wanting more.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


September mostly sucked. Traumatized early into it by an all-too-intimate brush with unemployment. Tens days of uncertainty and doubt. Weeks to regain my footing. Skipped a couple of triathlon events. Didn't have the mental or physical (or fiscal!) reserves. My buddy Ron's encounter with a flood. My bro-in-law Darren's vigil with his friend Wade. Nudging Jason towards closure on his legal liabilities from a failed union. Continued mysteries with the source of my Father's twenty thousand dollar ER visit. Just not a good month.

On a brighter side, the kids are doing well. Meg's new dance class. All her tales and drawings. Liam's taken to the trumpet. Continued success with the bass and the piano. And all A's for him thus far at school. Cindy is continuing her education as well as trying to get in better shape by running with me. So I do have blessings to count amid the slings and arrows I suffered.

October has a newness. An end to the blaze of summer. An end to the threat of hurricane season. Only two more triathlons. The holidays. Long sleeve weather. Lower power bills. And the opportunity to let wounds heal. Maybe one day I'll look back and laugh. I hope so. But right now, I'm still a bit sore. So I need some newness.