Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween - the youngster really is growing up fast

The wife brought up the topic last night...what kind of costume ideas do we have that either take advantage of, or minimize the effect of a broken arm....or one in a cast that might be broken. Granted, it was the night before Halloween...a little late to be brainstorming, but still, the topic was out there.

"Oh, I'm not dressing up this year. I'm not trick or treating. I'm just going to walk around the neighborhood and watch "girlfriend's" little sister with her."

This will be the first year since he was two that he doesn't go on the annual candy raid.


the politics business is really getting to me

I will be so happy when this election is over. One day....I'm hoping for just one, where I can solidly support a candidate instead of looking at one as less of a problem than the other...or one than pisses me off less than the other.

Now the two of them are invading Monday Night Football. I watch Monday Night Football, partially to get away from that crap, but no. McCain and Obama are being interviewed at some mook like Chris Berman. Oh, that's helpful. McCain is going to once again call all of us his friends, and Obama's going to suggest we take away 7 of the Steelers points and redistribute them to the Redskins to make the game more equitable. Wasn't that stupid Wednesday night infomercial enough? Isn't the deluge of lies and deceit in regular commercials enough? If you haven't made up your mind by Monday Night Football, are you really going to get the message then?

If I have to hear John McCain call me his friend any more, I just might puke. I'm sorry John, but if you don't even know my name, or anything about me, or if I even exist, you're not my friend. Part of the SNL bit on Sarah Palin (or one of the many) jokes about using the work "maverick" in a drinking the old "Hi Bob" game from the Bob Newhart show (OK, showing my age, but hey). I'm thinking if you wanted to go there, you'd get a whole lot more plastered if you used the two big guys. If you took a drink every time McCain says "my friends" or Obama says "George Bush"'d be under the table in no time.

Please...just let the madness be over.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

I guess it really didn't matter...

...or it shouldn't. It was just kinda...because I can, and that pissed me off. OK, the fact that I don't particularly like him factored in more than a little. I've already accepted the probability of the Obama presidency...plastering his mug on every major network out there was just the icing on the arrogant cake. It certainly didn't make him any more palatable to me, but I wasn't the target audience.

Wednesday night Pushing Daisies night. At first I was encouraged. Looking at the schedule, it appeared the one network that wasn't kowtowing to Barak Obama and his infomercial was ABC, home of my show. It was also mom's birthday, and I was definitely calling home, so I figured I'd call about 7:30 and maybe catch some of the show...though definitely not the beginning. Calls with mom tend to be lengthy, and that's not a bad thing.

So I called mom, and afterwards asked if Pushing Daisies was on. The wife said no...that Obama had that network monopolized too. She was channel surfing for "anything else." Guess I'll catch Daisies later online, if it's there.

Did watch the end of the World Series though. Congrats Phillies. It's been a long time coming.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

bits of stuff

The FBI stopped some nutbags from an assassination attempt on Barak Obama. (Hi there FBI guys and CIA guys scouring blogs for any mention of Obama and assassination, by the way. Welcome to the Lumberyard.) I hate the fact that shit like that happens in this country. I don't own a gun, or want a gun, or have any designs on Obama's or anyone else's life, but I'll be surprised if he lasts a year if he gets elected. The hate groups are going to be coming out of the woodwork, and why that boil festers in our society I do not know (well, that's not true - I think I know, and it goes back to people not wanting to accept responsibility for their choices, but that's a whole nuther pontification), but it does. I went to his little tax cut website and plugged in our numbers. He's promising me an extra $1300. He'd better be around long enough to deliver, because if he gets elected, that's going into my budget (the youngster's going to need....gasp...wheels next year). I may not like the idea of President Obama, but if he's there, I'll stand in line with everyone else and take what he's giving....if he delivers.

Poor Philadelphia. It looks like the losing-est franchise in American sports could win the World Series for the second time in its history, if they can ever stop raining all over themselves. They're kicking Tampa's butt, and deserve to win, if they can ever dry out. Tonight's forecast...chance of snow.

The Jaguars....I went to the game Sunday night, and washed away any playoff expectations I had. Sure, there's still a chance my boys can get there, but before last weekend, I expected it. Now, I'm just hoping. We're getting better in some places, but we suck up front where it counts, on both sides of the ball. The offensive line can't move anybody out, and the defensive line can't get to a quarterback. Put those together and, even if we do get to the playoffs, we won't be there long. I think we have most of the right guys to do the job, but some are rookies who need time to develop...and that won't happen before the end of this season.

The youngster promised the little girl across the street he'd teach her skateboard tricks. I learned this from her mom, talking yesterday afternoon. I asked if she's seen the youngster lately, and reminded her that the huge cast on his left arm is the result of skateboard tricks. Yeah, he's just the tutor you'd be looking for...NOT!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

they only say something when they're not happy

This morning was my semi-annual teeth scraping, and all weekend I was psyched.

You see, for years and years I'd go in for my semi-annual cleaning and get a lecture from the hygienist for my inability to floss....or inability to remember to floss...or flat out unwillingness. Take your pick. No matter how you slice it, I wouldn't floss and I'd get the lecture.

This time was different though. You see, I've actually been doing it. Thanks to the little Reach flossing thingie, I've actually been flossing, pretty much every night. That little sucker makes the chore a lot less of a chore, and it's made a huge difference. I can probably count the nights I missed on one hand, and I was damn proud of myself. Still am.

So I waltzed my big butt in there this morning, and sat down and waited for the glowing assessment. I waited....and I waited some more. Then, I waited. Nuthin'. No, "Wow John, the message finally sunk in. Great job!" The only difference was no lecture about not flossing, and don't get me wrong...I am grateful for that. I just expected some kind of celebratory party...some kind of big deal to be made of the fact that I took care of my teeth for once, and made the whole cleaning process a tad easier. Confetti and a parade down the hallway, maybe. Someone dressed in a tooth suit leading the marching band. Not a word though.

I was so tempted to bring it up "C'mon, you had to notice." but I left it alone. Maybe I'll just have to believe that silence is golden, and accept that as a compliment.


Friday, October 24, 2008

National Make a Difference Day is back

Once again, it's National Make a Difference Day weekend. Somewhere near you, if you reside in the US of A, there's something you can be doing this Saturday to make a difference in your community, just sitting there waiting for you to jump in and help.

For the last two years, I've taken the youngster with me to help with a community project. Since he's on the "physically unable to perform" list this week, I'll be going it alone, but going it all the same.

You yourself and your community a favor tomorrow. Find a Make a Difference Day project near you and be there.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tony Hawk Jr. is still in limbo

The wife took him to the pediatric orthopedist this we could get a definitive answer. Is the arm broken, or is it not? I was hoping for a negative answer and his arm free of the cast they put on it Sunday night.

So much for the certainty of medical science. Still really can't tell for sure, so they're going to put it in a cast for two weeks and look at it then. Hopefully, that means the best of both worlds. He'll get a cast, and a fair amount of sympathy. The arm will be chock full o' artwork. Then in two weeks when it's getting to the point where he can't stand the smelly itchy cast anymore, they'll find the arm's OK and he can get rid of it. Hey, a guy can hope.

On the flip side...things working against me and my hope...
I was on my way home last night, and I stopped at the store to buy some fried chicken for dinner. It wasn't quite ready, so I had to stand around for 10 minutes, waiting for the chicken to finish frying (at least I know it hasn't been sitting in a warmer for 3 hours) when the phone was the wife.

"Are you in the store?"
"Good, can you pick up some band-aids?
"The youngster says he wants some that stick real good."
"Ooookay." In my book that means plain old band-aids. I don't see a "with extra sticking power" label on any of them. Got the band-aids.

Got home with the chicken and band-aids, to find the youngster with skin missing on one finger, and the base of another...on the hand not in a cast.

"How'd you do that?"
"Well, I was down at the basketball courts...hanging from the rim."

Yeah, the mental picture should be enough.....


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

girlfriend is...ummm...better?

About three years ago, when the youngster was in his little league days, he came to me one evening over Christmas break. There was this girl he met at the ball fields, and they've kept in touch through IM.

"Can you drive me over to Yonder Oaks," a nearby development.
"Sure, but why?"
"I want to go over to a friend's house."
"Who friend?"
"Uhhhhh...well...she's my girlfriend." the blush invades his cheeks.

The conversation continued, and eventually, after I tortured him enough and talked to her parents on the phone, I agreed to transport him. The "girlfriend" label made me smile though. I was pretty sure if you asked the girl about her status, she'd be surprised, but I left it alone. In the end, it was the only time he went to her house and any relationship the youngster envisioned quickly evaporated.

So now, the youngster is 15. He and a friend were skateboarding through the neighborhood a few weeks ago, and happened upon two girls who had lost a dog. They helped find the dog and one of the girls befriended the youngster.

All of a sudden, his cell phone activity skyrocketed. The girl doesn't go to his high school. She goes elsewhere, but he now wants to go to their football games. Within days, he reached his limit on text messages on his phone, and wants to discuss unlimited text messaging plans. (Uhhh, no freaking way, by the way, and thank you AT&T for parental controls.) Monday, when she got out of school, he asked the wife if he could take his "girlfriend" to a nearby smoothie place. She said OK, and they walked there.

The wife and I were talking, and she said, "That's the first time I heard him call anyone his girlfriend."

I told her about the earlier incident and offered my opinion that it was pretty much the same. He may be calling her his girlfriend, but she's probably not of the same opinion. I tried to silence the "HE'S GROWING UP TOO FAST!" alarm going off in my head with that rationale, and it kinda worked...until last night.

I was in my little computer room at home, which is really a spare bedroom with a futon/couch, a desk on which sits my computer, and a filing cabinet. Some of my old Navy stuff and a pennant from the alma mater on the Main Line outside Philly grace the walls. It's down the hall from the youngster's room. I could hear that he was conversing with someone, but that's all I could hear, and I was more than OK with that. I figured he was on the phone with his "girlfriend," and kinda chuckled. I went about what I was doing, until he walked down the hall, still on the phone. It soon became apparent the conversation was ending because outside my door I heard, "love you, too...goodbye."

Excuse me? Was that the 'L' word, and in a context that said someone else used it first?

Someone is growing up too fast. It's been a few years since we had the gazinta talk. I think it might be time for a refresher that puts more emphasis on responsibility, and grown up decisions.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tony Hawk Jr. is still in limbo

Well, it's a day later and the youngster is still in a sling, and we're not sure what the deal is with his arm. I am thankful that it's just his arm. When he first walked in the door Sunday and both knees and elbows were bleeding, I had worse visions.

He wants it to be he gets a cool cast and a lot of attention and....I tried to tell him it's a lot like braces. He thought they were cool for the first week or so. Now, 9 months later, he can't wait to be rid of them...3 to 6 months more to go. A cast would be cool until all his friends sign it. Then, it's all downhill and itchy. He went back to school today (needing help from us to get dressed..very uncool when you're 15), and he told me he's going to tell everyone it's broken. I asked him, "Why would you want to do that? What happens if it's not, and a week from now that cast is gone? You're going to look like a fool. The truth is always a better option."

Through some of the wife's contacts, we got the x-rays read by several radiologists, and the results were inconclusive. They said it looks like the results are negative, which means no breakage, but they can't be sure. They also recommended a follow up with an orthopedist. That happens Thursday morning.

It seems strange that with all the technology and expertise, the doctors can still be uncertain, but it's the way it is. In this world where we tend to expect immediate answers and to get everything we want when we want it, some things still take time to work themselves out...which isn't such a bad thing. Patience is something we need to exercise on occasion, even if it's forced.


Monday, October 20, 2008

bits and pieces

lighter fare....sort I don't stir the pot too much

I'm pretty much resigned to the idea that Barak Obama will be the next president, especially after the Colin Powell endorsement. It'll be what it'll be, and there are obviously reasons they don't make me king outside the confines of the Lumberyard.

We spent last night in the emergency room. The youngster (aka Tony Hawk Jr.) took a spill on a skateboard, and walked home...very slowly. When he came through the door, both knees and elbows were bleeding and he said he couldn't move his arm. Yet another ringing endorsement for knee and elbow pads, neither of which were in the vicinity when he went tumbling. I guess we're too cool when we're 15. After hours in the emergency room, we're down a hefty copay and up a splint, but we still know nothing. They took x-rays but the emergency room doc saw nothing definitive in the way of a break, but couldn't rule it out either. Today radiologists take a look and we try to get an appointment with a pediatric orthopedist.

During all that, we watched the Rays beat the Red Sox. I harbor no ill will against the Red Sox, but it sure was fun watching the surprise of the season get extended. Again, I'll not have a clear favorite in the World Series. I'll be happy no matter how it turns out. If the Phillies win, the team from home takes the title for only the second time, and the National League pulls out a rare World Series win...which would be pretty cool. If the Rays win, there's hope for every small market, low budget struggling team out there. Even you, Kansas City. Either way, I'll be watching with more interest than I would have if the Red Sox would have won...because I would have just expected the Red Sox to take the Series in between yawns.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

litmus tests

I hate thinking that my vote has a litmus issue on which it all hinges. I don't believe it does, but I know there are some things on which it's real close, and one is abortion.

I know when Barak Obama last night said the court got it right in Roe V. Wade, I bristled. I believe abortion is murder. That fact was never more clear to me than when I saw the first sonogram of the youngster, and realized that this was a living person, and yanking him out of the womb and round filing him would be criminal.

I believe we're killing babies, and to say that's a moral issue is just as ridiculous as calling rape a moral issue...or robbery...or drunk driving...or anything else we have a law against because it's freaking wrong. Ted Bundy killed women across the country and went to death for it. We kill babies every day and that's a "moral issue." The only opposing argument I hear is.."Well, would it be better to have unwanted pregnancies? Do you think it's OK for 13 year old kids to be mothers?" and as soon as you go there, you're conceding that it's murder and's OK to kill people out of convenience. Is there a more inconvenient truth? I have yet to meet someone who has the balls to actually verbalize that, but it is, in effect, what they're saying. In order to prevent a 13 year old girl from being a mom, we advocate killing people. Do people actually believe that? They try to rationalize it away, by convincing themselves it's not really a person, but every one of them, in their heart of hearts, knows better. They smooth that over with "Well, I think it's wrong, but I don't want to force my beliefs on someone else." Why, how "holier than thou" of you. What's the difference between that and a mother who sends her kids into a lake to drown in the family car? "Well, I think that's wrong, but..." my ass. For the record, I don't think it's OK for 13 year old kids to have children, but I don't think murder is an acceptable alternative.

Foreign policy is another that's pretty close. I think a short term view of our place in the world and whether or not we can live in peace is disastrous in the long term. We can survive those disasters, but why should we? I don't know anybody that doesn't want the world to live in peace, but I don't know any terrorists, either. People want to use the amount of lives lost in Iraq as an argument for abandoning that effort, but you have to realize that you're looking at it through the eyes of a person who values human life more than freedom, and you're dealing with an enemy who values human life so little, that the justification for ending their own is how many others they can take with them. In the short term, you'll save a few lives. In the long term, you'll lose more lives and the freedom you gave up to save the few in the short term. That enemy looks at the fact that you hold human life in high regard as a weakness to be exploited. That doesn't mean you sink to their level, but it does mean they have to be stopped.

Taxes and the whole class envy topic, which Obama loves to exploit. Why do people making $250,000 a year have to be taxed at a higher rate than people making $100k a year? Let me first add that the wife and I combined don't come close to making $250k a year, and don't expect to anytime during the foreseeable future. Just because it's not me, though, doesn't make it fair. Why is it OK to penalize people for being successful? Is it have more than I do, so we should take more? I don't see what's so fair about that, and it's a disincentive to achieve. Why bust your ass and try to be more successful just so you can give more to the government? Let's also be clear that people making $250k a year already pay more in taxes that people making $100k a year, or $35k a year, or $200k a year, for that matter. When they pay 36% of $250k a year, that's already more than 36% of $240k a year, or anything less. These folks are already bearing a larger share of the tax burden than I am...or just about anyone I know. Why is it "fair" to ask them to bear even more? That whole "from each according to their ability; to each according to their need" thing doesn't work. It sounds noble, but human nature isn't noble. If you just give to each according to their need, you'll never see anyone realize the full potential of their ability, or anything close to it.

For example, let's say I'm a successful guy, making 200 thousand dollars a year. Me? I ought to quit right there, but let's let the imagination run wild. I'm this successful guy, and I have this great idea. If I run with this idea, I'll start a new company. If it's successful, I'll hire 500 people who will in turn support families and pay taxes. They'll buy homes, and cars, and flat screen TVs, and keep the economy going. To do this I'll have to bust my ass and work nights and weekends to get it off the ground, and it's still a gamble. Maybe it'll be successful. Maybe it won't. If I'm wildly successful, I project my profit after the whole mess will be about 51 thousand dollars a year, but then after Obama taxes even more of my income, it's a wash. If I'm successful, I end up taking home exactly what I take home now. Why take on the risk and the extra work?

Now, I know John McCain isn't exactly Mr. Pro-Life. He supports the Pro-Life movement more than Obama does, but hasn't always. If Jerry Falwell was running though, I don't think I'd vote for him just because of this issue. I actually would have a hard time voting for him at all. I need more information on other issues regarding the economy, foreign policy, taxes, what or who you use as a humidor, and so on.

Together though, all the issues do come out as a litmus test, and they determine my vote. No amount of posturing on half truths in a "debate" and commercials that pretend to address issues will change that.

Based on all that, I see the priorities of your typical pro-choice Obama fan looking something like this:
1) convenience - if it's easy and gets me out of a jam, it's better
2) human life - it's important, as long as it doesn't interfere with convenience, or Suzie's clubbing schedule, or her friendship with benefits with that hot guy in 3rd period English that might be the father of her baby..oh, excuse me, what baby?
3) freedom - it's important, but it's not worth dying for
4) entitlement - if you can let me keep what's mine, and give me some of someone else's who has more than me, and make me feel like I somehow deserve that...sign me up

Please, someone show me where I'm wrong, because that's what I'm hearing and I think it's pretty pitiful.

I'm John of the Lumberyard, and I improved this message.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the debates rage on

About the best thing I can say about tonight's presidential debate is, it starts at 9:00, so it shouldn't push the one and only show I make an effort to watch, Pushing Daises, off the air. After that, it's all downhill. McCain and Obama collaborate on one thing. Together, they frustrate me with their dancing around issues and posturing on half truths, and that puts me in a mood most foul. Does anyone seriously wonder why I have such low expectations of my government?

I'm John of the Lumberyard, and I improved this message.

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baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and....

Baseball. I have a love/hate relationship with baseball. I like watching the game, but it sometimes leaves me shaking my head. I haven't followed one specific team since the strike in '94. At that time, the wife and I used to follow the Braves...all through the '80s, when they sucked. Leave it to us to quit on them when they finally got good, but that's another story. Just watching Tommy Glavine try to justify the strike on TV, while we were planning a trip to Atlanta that September, holding tickets to a few games in a series between the Braves and the Giants that never happened...and would have been the first time we actually went to see them in person instead of watching them on TBS, pissed me off big time. Add insult to injury when we only got about 70% of our money back in a refund, and that just made it all the worse. I'm still getting over that, and its been over a decade. I never did get to a Braves game. I know, I know. Time to let go. I wish I could. That and the designated hitter rule in the American League. How can a guy call himself a baseball player if he never comes to the plate with a bat in his hands, but I digress....

Still, I love watching the game. We go to minor league games in J'ville, where the double A Suns play, and root for them. This year, I've been drawn into the playoffs more than in the past. I like watching the Rays, maybe partially because they're from Tampa, down the road, but mostly because they've sucked for so long, it's nice to see them rise from the gutter. Nothing against the Red Sox, but I'm smiling watching the upstarts hand it to them. I'm not exactly a huge Rays fan though. If the Red Sox come roaring back and make it to the World Series, I won't lose any sleep over it. I'm also watching the Dodgers with some interest, because they are the major league team affiliated with the J'ville Suns, so I get to see some of the guys who played here on TV. Granted they're losing, but it's just cool to see Billingsley, Kershaw and Loney in the playoffs.

So little by little the game is getting me back. I don't know if I'll find sufficient reason to follow any specific team again...but at least I'm enjoying baseball.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

behind closed doors

Everybody puts up fronts...the things about them they let the people around them see. They push out the things they think people will want to see and put them right up front, while pulling back the stuff about them even they don't like. You do it. I do it. I doubt anyone's immune. Some folks are fond of saying, "What you see is what you get." More often than not, and probably always, that is what you get...but you get more, and you may not like the more part.

I say this because you never know what's lurking behind that front. Sometimes it's harmful, but it doesn't have to be. More often that not, it's just stuff people think of as embarrassing. Yes, I'm going someplace.

The youngster's first baseball coach is a great guy. His son went to school with the youngster, but I never knew him until he picked the youngster to play on his team. The kid knew nothing about baseball. Under this coach, though, he flourished. he learned and enjoyed it. The coach was encouraging, and really cared...not just about the youngster, but all the kids. The youngster played three seasons under this coach, and they were the most enjoyable of his little league career. His wife was always at the games and did a lot of the team mom kinds of things. She let everyone know when there were pictures, organized volunteers for the concessions, kept score...which is an art I never learned, that sort of thing. We got to know her and their other kids. They were just great people...and still are, I think.

We'd see him at church or school on occasion. When his son and the youngster went to separate high schools, we saw less of them. We'd see them at church on occasion, but rarely all together. His wife was a nurse and worked nights, so she was rarely there. I saw him a few times in the last month, and stopped him a few weeks ago, just to ask how it's going. Everything was great. His son switched schools, because transportation was getting difficult to the Catholic school in downtown J'ville, so he was going to a new public high school. It also helped that the new public school hired a baseball coach he had worked with in the past. He asked about our upcoming bike the youngster was faring...and so on.

Sunday evening, I was talking to a neighbor who's a realtor. She said, "I finally met the youngster's old baseball coach, but as you know, the circumstances weren't all that great. You always said he was a real good guy, and he is, but.."

"Whoa...circumstances?? What (knowing her profession)? Are they selling the house? Is he having money issues (thinking another foreclosure victim)? Lose a job? Moving out of town?" I had no idea.

"Oh, you don't know...they're getting divorced. She's leaving him. He's looking for something small and cheap to rent."

I just saw the guy, and he didn't say a thing. Granted, that's not exactly something you blurt out when someone asks "how's it going," but I'm shocked..still...over a day later. They always just seemed to fit together. I never thought...but then again, all I ever saw is what they showed me. I have no idea what went on behind closed doors, or what led to this decision. All I saw was two people devoted to their kids, and not a whole lot about what happened between the two of them. You just never know....


Monday, October 13, 2008

conceding, but not

After watching the last debate, seeing the economic dive and watching the candidates' reactions, and seeing the amount of advertising being done by both parties, I can concede that Obama is probably going to be the next president. If he isn't, the media, all dressed up in their Obama cheerleading outfits, sure is providing a great smokescreen...but it wouldn't be the first time.

Having said that, I won't vote for him. I can't. He and I fundamentally disagree on way too many points. I don't care how good a show he puts on here or there, or who accuses who of what, and who counters with whatever else. I don't care that he may or may not be able to come through on all his promises. I disagree on what he I'm left with McCain. I'll admit I expected a bit more of John McCain in the last month or so. I can't exactly tell you more of what. I just expected more. I think his message in the last debate was too narrow. While neither candidate answered any of the questions, McCain seemed to beat the same dead horse all a bloody pulp.

So we're coming into the final stretch, and unless something major happens in the next few weeks that changes things, I can easily see Barak Obama being the next president. Still, if he is, he'll be that in spite of me...not because of me.


Friday, October 10, 2008

doing business with friends

I rank this right up there with loaning money to friends. It's one of those things that can take a decent friendship and just flush it down a toilet. The absolute best thing that can happen when you do business with friends, is your friend will do a fantastic job and charge you an agreed upon price and you're still friends. Just like loaning a friend money, the absolute best thing that can happen is they pay you back...promptly. Alternative endings are countless, and they almost always end with disaster.

I bring this up because we have a friend in the neighborhood who's great with plants and gardening. She knows a lot and her front yard is always picture perfect. We, in the lumberyard, are none of that. I keep the grass cut and bushes trimmed, but that's about it. I have no desire to be a gardener. If I'm not getting nasty letters from the homeowners association, all's right in the Lumberyard world, but I'll never see a "yard of the month" kind of award. The wife would like a picture perfect front yard, but she's not great with plants, and she knows that's not my thing.

Our friend decided to start her own business...doing landscaping. The wife thought it'd be a great idea to turn her loose on our yard...get it going and impart some gardening knowledge, so maybe the wife, too, could maintain a decent flower bed. She called. They talked. The wife told me about how much she thought this would all cost and I was OK with that. The work started.

The woman did a fantastic job. We'd come home from work and see the progress each day, and it just got better and better. The flower bed in front of our house looks like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. I was sitting there thinking...all this for that much money? Such a deal! I was amazed.

Then the bill came. It was NOT what the wife expected, or such a deal. When you itemized it all out, it was fair. I mean, the woman did put in a lot of time and material, and I couldn't say she didn't earn what she charged. What it wasn't though, was what we expected, or budgeted. When the friend and the wife talked, they came to a price understanding, or so the wife thought. The bill more than doubled that. If we would have known this was the price, we might have scaled back the effort some...or just declined altogether. The wife was floored, and didn't want to tell me how much the bill was, at first. She knew though...I would find out. All our finances are shared and out in the open. She apologized to me and said next time she'll get a firmer estimate if she gets more done. It's not like we won't survive, but we really weren't prepared for that kind of bill.

The thing is, though, now this elephant has entered the room where that friendship is concerned. The wife feels a little taken advantage of, but she doesn't want to (and won't) say anything because she doesn't want to ruin a friendship. Still, it's stuck in her mind, and therefore it affects the friendship whether she wants it to or not. If we never would have "hired" her, this issue would never exist.

Things can just get a little strange when you start mixing friends and money.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

it's not a spectator sport

Those of you who have read this blog for a long time have been through the chronicles of my new found love affair with bicycling.

It began almost two years ago when I decided I had slumped too far into the couch potato world and needed to do....something...anything...exercise. I started going to the gym, but then in the spring of 2007, someone approached me with the idea of doing what was then known as the MS 150 bike ride. I had always wanted to do that. Year after year I'd hear about the ride from one place or another, and it intrigued me...biking to Daytona Beach and back. Now seemed like the right time to try. I had an old Trek road bike I bought in 1984, so I figured I was set. I added Saturday morning bike rides to my exercise regimen, and began training for my new goal. By the end of May, I decided the 20 year old bike wasn't going to cut it, especially when the bike rides started approaching 50 miles and the bike was making lots of unidentifiable noises. I decided an upgrade was in order.

Since I owned a Trek and was happy with it, I went to a Trek dealer. Why change? When I got there, I ended up buying a different brand....a Lemond. The geometry just fit me better. It's not quite a racing bike. You sit more upright and it's a more relaxed ride. (You can see the difference in the pics below from the ride, of the youngster and me. He's bent over more...more aerodynamic than I am. His is more of a racing geometry.) The bike was made at Trek's factory, but it's Greg Lemond's design/brand/whatever.

Since then, Greg Lemond got in some pissing contest with Trek and the two have parted company. Trek didn't need Lemond anymore because they have Lance Armstrong riding their bikes, and Greg Lemond is an outspoken critic of Armstrong. That's a big part of the pissing contest. I don't know if anyone makes Lemond bikes anymore, and frankly I don't care. Real bike people had (and maybe still have) debates on who was at fault and who's the bigger asshole..Lemond, Armstrong, Joe Biden.

A complete stranger asked me my opinion at a rest stop on this year's MS Ride, I suppose because he saw me get off a Lemond bike. I didn't get into it with him. I just shrugged, and to be honest, that's the short version of my opinion.

For me, bicycling isn't a spectator sport. I don't watch the Tour de France, and think that'd be right up there with watching paint dry. I don't know who won. I don't know the names. I don't know the teams. I don't know the personalities. I don't care enough to learn. I don't care what kind of bikes they ride or why. I couldn't identify Greg Lemond in a police lineup. I might be able to recognize Lance Armstrong, but only if he still has that Olsen twin attached to his hip. I like my bike, and I like riding it. I'm interested in the stuff that will make that experience more enjoyable, but beyond that, it just doesn't matter. For me, bicycling is a doing thing. It's not a watching thing. The egos and drama and doping and yellow jerseys and whatever else lives in that world holds no interest.

I guess part of it is I'm not all that serious a bicyclist. I'm a blissfully ignorant bicyclist, who's responsible enough to know how to be safe out there, but other than that, I'm out there because it's fun for me, and a form of exercise I enjoy.

I had to take the car into the shop for routine maintenance Monday, so I bought a bicycling magazine over the weekend, so I'd have some reading material while I waited. It was the second bicycling magazine I've purchased in my life, but I saw some articles on the front cover that I thought would interest something about exercises to make you faster and have more fun. I like having fun, so I thought, "that'd be good." I read the article...well, part of it. It listed different kinds of bicycling and then exercises to do and duration. I don't know enough to know what the hell they're talking about. They don't tell you how to do the exercises. They just list them. They assume a level of knowledge I just don't possess. Then they tell you how it will improve some aspect of your riding ability. I don't know watts from Vo Max, and really don't care to learn. If I figure out how to improve my wattage (if that's the right way to say it?), maybe that makes me faster. I'm not sure if it makes it more fun.

Now a Saturday morning ride down a road with a tree canopy as the sun comes up and sparkles through the openings...that's hard to beat.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

what don't I know and how will I learn it?

Watched the debate last night, and shook my head countless times. That's some hard to watch TV, and I don't see the next one getting any better....and it's not because one guy is better or worse than the other. They both frustrate the hell out of me.

"What don't you know and how will you learn it?"

That was the last question in the debate. Unlike either of the candidates, I'll answer it.

What I don't know is....if either of these bozos will actually answer a single question posed to them in a television debate, instead of dancing around it and then going off on some unrelated, self promoting tangent. As for how I'll learn it, I don't know that I will....because I don't know if I can actually sit through another debate long enough to find out.

Politicians....and these are the people some folks would like to fix health care, lead the poor out of poverty, cure the drug problem, stop genocide on an international level and maybe the killing of millions of innocent babies in our own country, and bring us world peace. Obama was right when he admitted that this shit is above his pay grade. It's well above....and that's not saying his competition is all that much better.

I'm John of the Lumberyard, and I improved this message.


Monday, October 06, 2008

the house of cards comes tumbling down...on national TV

Last night was difficult in the Lumberyard.

I went to the Jaguars/Steelers game, pretty much knowing what to expect and hoping I was wrong.

On the good side, I'd be meeting my college roommate there. We don't live all that far apart, but don't manage to see each other all that often, and this would be a chance to catch up and spend some time together. Sometimes I have to sit back and realize how lucky I am, in the friends department. I still have quite a few friendships that have lasted 25 year or more...high school and college friends, Navy buddies, and the like...and I need to appreciate how lucky I am to have that.

On the bad side, we were meeting at the Jaguars/Steelers game, which looked like a recipe for disaster. It's always a very physical game when these teams meet, and right now, the Jaguars just don't bring that kind of game. The offensive line is still depleted, leaving our running game toothless. Our passing game is still average at best. Our defense can't get to the quarterback, making it hard on a secondary that is also injured. Add to that the fact that it was a Steelers game, with the requisite obnoxious Steelers crowd that shows up at every Steelers game...and the fact that the Steelers have lost the last 4 games they played against the Jaguars. These people could smell the blood in the water....and to be honest, so could I. The Jaguars have trouble selling out the stadium for games, so not to worry, Steeler Nation comes down from Pennsylvania and does it for us. I don't know how those people afford to travel like that for regular season away games, but they do, and because they do, you can imagine the passion that goes with that kind of coin outlay. I have to admire their commitment, even if I question their priorities.

The game was every bit as frustrating as I thought it could be. All my fears lay naked on the field. Yes, the Jaguars led...for a lot of the game, but behind the score was a performance that left me shaking my head...and in the end, the smoke and mirrors couldn't hold up forever.

Yes, we will eventually get people back who are hurt, and it will get better. The question is, can it get better soon enough to make a difference in the season? I can only hope...


Friday, October 03, 2008

...and, I was right

Neither Vice Presidential candidate did anything to embarrass themselves in their debate last night. Palin came off fairly knowledgeable and confident and Biden didn't say anything half cocked and stupid. It will take it's place in the history of the world alongside Pamela Anderson's second marriage, and a notch below this blog in the hierarchy of newsworthy events.

The one thing that always bothers me in these things is the way the truth gets stretched, which is a polite way of saying...these people lie. It's not one side or the other that does it. They both do. I don't mind so much when the side I don't favor does it, because, honestly, I expect less of them. I sit back and say, "See? They're lying!" I hate it more when the side I agree with jumps into the lying mess, because I want them to take the high road. I want them to win without resorting to all that crap....but they don't. In the end, they're all politicians.

So after a while I get pissed off and stop watching. Thank God for baseball.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

does it really all?

The debate between the Vice Presidential hopefuls happens tonight, and I'm thinking....what a non-event. When it comes down to who you'll pull the proverbial lever for next month, does this thing have even an ounce of merit?

Who the Vice Presidential candidate holds absolutely no sway with the American voter. The perfect poster boy for that statement is Mr. Potatoe Head, Dan Quayle. If anyone would have sunk a campaign from the passenger seat, there was the guy. Then again, some might argue he did, but I doubt he was a factor in Bill Clinton's first victory.

Right wing radical, Bill Maher seems to think it's scary that we might have someone of Sarah Palin's experience a heartbeat away from running the country. Evidently it's less scary to have someone with even less, already in that position, who believes the answers to the important issues of the day are "above my pay grade."

In the end, isn't it true that the only people who will watch this thing already have their minds made up...and it really doesn't matter? The only people who will actually watch a Vice Presidential debate, are those passionate about one candidate or the other, and they'll watch this thing to see how much it will help or hurt their cause if their person does well, or not. They won't be swayed one way or another, but they believe others will. I give you as examples two people who occasionally read this blog. My liberal friend Jessie won't be voting Republican no matter how bright Palin might shine this evening. On the other side, Joe Biden has no hope of making an Obama convert out of Lynsey. If either of their favorites completely melts down, or says something stupid enough to be news the next day, it won't change their vote, but they'll fret over what other people may think. Just so nobody thinks I'm singling those two people out, I know I'm the same way as well. In the end, nobody's vote turns one iota based on this evening's festivities. Undecided people will still be that way, casting their vote on the person on top of the ticket, not the bottom. The only way I think I could be wrong is if Sarah Palin completely melts down and comes off like a blithering idiot, and it gets the national attention that would go along with that. If that happens, the undecided vote takes a hard left. I guess one redeeming factor'll preempt CSI:Fresno.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Al Davis - the man's lost it

I was in the gym last night, watching ESPN News while sweating on the elliptical machine and the stationary bike, each for 35 minutes, and then a few other things.

ESPN News is on a loop, for the most part. Some things get updated, but some things repeat on the half hour. Therefore, when you watch it for any length of time, you see the same stuff over again...and maybe over yet again.

Over the course of an hour and a half, I had the opportunity to watch portions of the Al Davis press conference, where he announced the firing of Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, multiple times. I swear the guy's lost it. I watched his performance and just kept thinking, "What a piece of slime." Kiffin was in an impossible situation in Oakland. He had no support from the front office. It was widely known Davis wanted to get rid of him but didn't want to pay him what he owed the guy according to his contract if he did. That press conference was just a show, to make it look like it was all Kiffin's fault, so he could say he got rid of him for cause, so he could keep his money.

I don't really have a dog in this fight. Lane Kiffin isn't anybody special to me, and neither is Al Davis, but that's just the impression I get from watching this thing unfold, watching those clips last night, and forming an opinion. I realize I could be swayed by the media and be completely off base. Maybe I'm wrong, and Al's on the up and up. Honestly, nobody knows what happened inside the organization except those who live there. It sure doesn't look that way from where I sit though.

Al Davis probably won't pay Kiffin a dime, whether there's a lawsuit or grievance involved or not, and whether he wins it or not. He can ask Broncos coach Mike Shanahan how that works. Kiffin was screwed the day he took the Raider coaching job...and so's the next guy stupid enough to jump in that brier patch.