Monday, October 31, 2005

Lions and tigers and heffalumps, oh my!

Did you notice that people seemed to really get into Halloween this year? There were more of those big inflatable creatures on lawns, pumpkins on every step—lots of pumpkins. One house in our neighborhood even had a miniature haunted house constructed of empty appliance boxes. Orange light strings, pumpkin lights, cobwebs on bushes—like a preview of Christmas decorations.

While walking Kodiak one afternoon I saw a remarkable witch seemingly lashed to a light post. She was all in black with green tinted hose. It was rather alarming, since she looked so real. I was sure I was looking at performance art! One summer I saw a woman dressed in a gossamer, filmy gown doing a bit of performance stuff in the city. She was standing gracefully with her stare fixed on her tip jar—a smart move. This witch though was freaking me out—it was the knees. They looked so real that it wasn’t until I was very close that I could see it was just a mannequin after all.

Tonight we had a grand total of 67 trick or treaters—about average for the last few years. A sampling of the costumes we saw: lots of devils, Power Rangers, skeletons and Harry Potter characters. Cutest costume: a princess bumble bee. We saw a big sister pushing a stroller, which was sort of odd. Of course there were lots of big kids stretching out their childhood for one more Halloween.

Max was a Heffalump and he included us in his trick or treating rounds. Shane reported that Max had exclaimed, “I love getting candy from strangers!”—thus undoing centuries of parenting admonitions.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Due to popular demand, here is a photo of the noble beast Kodiak. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

How Many More?

So now we have passed the mark of 2,000 American dead in Iraq. Is the best way to “honor” them adding more to their number, as the President says he plans to do?

The parallels to the Vietnam War are striking. Presidents Johnson and Nixon both wanted the nation to “stay the course” lest the dead had given their lives for nothing. Neither had an exit strategy, though it galled me when Nixon hinted at a “secret plan” to end to war and thus conned his way into the White House.

This President is caught in the same bind as his predecessors in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. If we leave Iraq, does that mean that all those soldiers died in vain? Are we locked into this war like it or not? Do we stay and hope for the best—that the Viet Cong insurgents can be finally wiped out and democracy be established? Or do we find a way to pull off Vietnamization turning over the security responsibilities to the Iraqi’s?

I’m not pretending that this is an easy problem to solve, but it is Bush’s to solve, since he initiated all this. No doubt Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, but the original rationale for the war has never been borne out.

Certainly not every mother feels like Cindy Sheehan. It must be wrenching to feel that your child died for nothing. I cannot imagine her pain. Other parents cling to the hope that there is a greater cause here—I cannot fault them either. We must respect both views. Vilifying either only produces deeper alienation. Oh--alienation--another product of the Vietnam era.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dad Comes to Town

We’re having a great visit with Dad and Marie. They landed on Friday afternoon about 4:15. I took them to the hotel first, then to our house where Kathy had prepared a sumptuous dinner for our guests. Greg and Lois and Jessica and Shane and Max came for dinner, too. I think Dad got a kick out of Max, as he was a perfect angel on Friday night (Max, not Dad). Max was quite the little host, as Kathy gave him jobs to do like helping set the table and put out coasters. He went around with the toothpick container asking people if they would like one. He certainly made a nice impression.

When Max was born three years ago, Dad said he'd wait to meet him until he could "have a conversation with him." I think that happened this weekend, though Max never stops talking and you kind of have to jump in when he takes a breath. Before they came, he carefully practiced their names: "Grampa-dogs" and "Miss Marie". ("Grampa-dogs" because our kids called him that since my parents were the ones with canine pets.) Dad and Marie both brought presents for him—cars—his favorite. Dad’s was a remote control car (Max loves remote controls of any type), and Marie’s were wooden cars handmade by her son. Dad also brought him a pretend shaving kit that you can use in the bathtub. Max was appreciative of it all. Last night Kathy and I and Dad and Marie went to church and thence to dinner at an Italian place near us. The food was very good, but there was so much that everyone boxed up their stuff and left it with us, so we have dinner for the next week! Marie and Kathy entertained each other and got along famously. (I had forgotten that they had never met before this weekend.) The weather has been so lousy here with rain and cold all day, we haven’t been able to do much except sit around the living room and yak. Today the sun is out briefly, so maybe we’ll take a drive to see the leaves or perhaps downtown to see the buildings. (What? They don’t have leaves and buildings in New Jersey?)

I had taken Friday off to clean the house and run errands and I am just now feeling a little rested. I must say the house is immaculate, even to Kathy’s standards, after dusting, vacuuming, straightening, mopping and artfully arranging furniture and family photos. Kathy says we should keep it at this level so it’s less work preparing for the holidays. It’s funny that even with just the two of us, it can still get away from us. Mostly it’s my junk around the house, magazines unread, mail laying around, Max’s and my toys out. We’ll try to maintain for now. If it starts to slip, we’ll blame Kodiak.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I am a pony!

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Changed my profile

I am a little alarmed by how easy it is to find me, so I changed my profile by removing my real name. I now go by "Career Guy". I'm still me, just a little less visible. You see, I would not want co-workers to be reading this--not that I say anything weird about them, just that having them see it is a little too close for comfort. Other bloggers have had to "disappear" for a while and resurface as someone else. I hope this small change does it for me. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Walking the dog

The Rolling Stones version of Rufus Thomas’ classic blues song aside, walking the dog is not what I expected to be doing these days. When Ann left for Ireland, we inherited Kodiak, an eight year old Great Dane/Lab mix. Kathy had been asking me to take their other, younger dog and I kept saying no. When Ann asked us to take Kodiak, how could I refuse?

Now I see our neighborhood from a very different perspective. For years I only experienced it from the inside of a car, rarely walking anywhere. With Kodiak’s required dog maintenance, I see things now that I’ve been missing for so long.

For one thing, there are some very nice people living here! The dog always draws comments, since he is a handsome brute after all, and so I’ve been able to meet a bunch of people that I’d never seen when I was zooming along in my car. There are many older people, but the neighborhood is changing. More younger families are moving in. There are lots of kids now. There are a couple of Polish kids on the block, brothers. I made a point of saying Hi to them and their mom, so we have a friendly zone in front of their house. Just smiling and saying hi seems to dispel any suspicions and create an overarching passageway of friendliness house by house, block by block.

Two blocks over is the Ukranian stronghold. Neatly trimmed yards full of flowers, grammas sitting on porches and boys practicing their skateboard moves. Kodiak makes quite an impression as we walk along. Max lives on that street, so it’s always a treat to head that way.

There are people from church that I see and I never knew where their houses were. There are well kept houses and others that need some serious attention. Once I saw a contractor building a deck on the front of a house and I was so impressed with how he spoke to an elderly woman living in the house, that I asked for his card. We may decide to do the same thing on our house. He lives in the neighborhood. His house is huge, with new siding and skylights—very nice. Another guy had two pallets of patio bricks sitting in his yard since last spring. One day we walked by and saw that he had finally laid them out into a nice backyard space. I remarked on it, congratulating him on his work, as if it were any of my business!

We meet other dog owners and compare notes while our pets stare each other down. We encounter clumps of preteens who ask to pet Kodiak. Great ice breaker. One time he stopped to investigate a fire hydrant and I heard someone pounding on their front window to get us to move along—afraid we would poop on their tree lawn. One time on the Fourth of July, a group of twenty-somethings were blowing off fireworks, but they respectfully waited until we were a safe distance away before continuing, so as not to scare Kodie-Kods.

We also get great exercise, as he races along for the first half mile then gradually slows until he is just plodding along. I wonder how we’ll do in the winter once the snow settles in. Of course, by then, everyone else will be inside, and it won’t matter what anyone’s lawn looks like. All we’ll want to do is poop and scurry back inside. At least I will. Scurry back inside, that is. Not the poop part.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

John needs...

Ann passed on an odd way to idle away the hours. All you do is Google the phrase, “your first name needs” (as in John needs) and put the first ten entries in your blog. Here is what I turned up:
1. AnimeNation Anime Forums—John Needs Help. Is it that obvious?

2. DVD John needs a new name. This one is fine, thank you.

3. Apprentice 101: John needs to learn the art of negotiating. How true.

4. Forever Family: John Needs A Good Home. OK on that count as well.

5. John Needs Your Bone Marrow. Eeyyewww. No, I don’t, but my brother once did.

6. John needs a way to assign an item's UUID to an attribute. Something about XML. Let’s move on.

7. John needs cash for rent. Donations cheerfully accepted.

8. John Needs OUR HELP. Apparently “John” is about to be replaced as the voice of Home Depot. Doityourselfers Unite!

9. Saint John needs to embrace 'family value’s. A town in Massachusetts, apparently.

10. John needs to get his patootie back here. Hmmm. It’s nice to be wanted.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


The other morning I decided to iron a shirt for work. Our director had declared it to be “Jeans Day” and I wanted to wear my denim shirt with my jeans. We don’t work in a place that has regular jeans days, though Fridays are business casual (khakis and golf shirts for men, whatever for women—they have more choices and consequently I can’t tell sometimes when they are being casual and when they’re not.)

Kathy came around the corner and glared at me. I said, “What? We won’t be late.” She just continued to glare without saying anything. Finally she went back to the kitchen to do her hair and such.

She was still mad when we left on time, I might add, but I knew why she was upset. She doesn’t like changes in the routine that might slow us down. We have to stop at McDonald’s for her large coffee and two creams in the coffee and two creams out, and sometimes we breeze through and sometimes there is a wait, depending upon who is working the window. If Karen is there, things go pretty smoothly. If anyone else is taking drive through orders, it’s a mess. There is a talent to multitasking at that window, and Karen’s got it.

On the way down to work, steam was still coming out of Kathy’s ears, so I made the best of it, telling her I understood what was bothering her. Later I got a voicemail from her apologizing. Imagine that.

Back to ironing. Yes, I can iron my own shirts. Excluding the denim one, there is only one other shirt I own that needs ironing. There are two that I finally decided to take to the dry cleaners and have them done there since they are such a pain to do. 100% cotton. Penney’s has wrinkle free 100% cotton shirts, so I bought a bunch of them and they work great. If I iron my own shirt, Kathy says, “I would have done that for you.” I know, but I hate to ask, after she’s been on her feet all day at work. If I do hint that I need a shirt done, there is some grumbling, so I guess I’d rather take the grousing when I do it myself than not.

So where do you stand on the issue of ironing? Does anyone ever do it anymore? How about McDonald’s coffee: best ever?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

One of the benefits of working at a state university is all the nifty holidays you get, and today was one of them.

There is nothing like a wide open day with nothing scheduled. Hours and hours spread out before you. The possibilities are endless. Sort of.

I spend the morning in the basement. We have boxes and boxes of stuff from two children that were left here for safekeeping. What’s in those tattered cardboard vaults anyway? Notes passed during class in eighth grade, notebooks from college courses long forgotten. Passionate political papers smolder there.

Of course, some containers are stuffed with complete crap. Old Pez dispensers, outdated cordless phones, bits and pieces of toys. Notes passed during class in ninth grade. I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy, so I didn’t catalogue these, just realized what they were.

I’d like to toss a good bit of this flotsam and jetsam of teenage years, but I’ll wait for them to visit the old homestead and offer them a chance to review the material and decided what they’d like to keep. The emotional attachment to some items may be too strong, and I can’t gauge which pieces might provoke outraged howling, should they go missing.

So, lots of boxes got moved around and furniture rearranged to “winterize” the basement. One goal was to get the treadmill in position. Another was to find a place for a table I am reluctant to throw out. You see, that table was once in my parents’ kitchen in the 1950’s when we were growing up. We five Scanlan kids ate a lot of hot dogs around that table. It was quite the modern kitchen piece of its time, with a sort of power strip built into it. I’m pretty sure I’d blow fuses if I ever tried to use it today, but still, I can’t quite part with it yet. If it did go missing, would there be outraged howling? Oh, I don’t really think so.

In the afternoon I moved upstairs and decided to surprise Kathy by cleaning off our kitchen table. What’s the big deal, you may ask? We now get mail for three families (Ann and Peter in Ireland, and Kathy’s deceased parents), so we’ve got triple the junk mail and triple the magazines and triple the catalogues. There was actually some first class mail that was important stuck in there too.

At the last second I remembered to do the one thing that Kathy had asked me to do today: wash the curtains from the bathroom and the hallway. Whew! It was close, but I got it done just in time.

Now I’m so tired, I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow so I can get some rest.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Darlene got me started on thinking about denim jeans and their place in my life. When I left for college in 1968, I thought I would be getting semi-dressed up for class. Who knew the world would be turned upside down in those years and that denim would be the thing to wear for any self-respecting independent non-conformist?

All these years I kept wearing jeans, no matter what. Sometimes I felt stodgy, like I was wearing Bermuda shorts and black socks, as the fashion trends spun around me. I never owned a pair of “stone-washed” jeans, never owned any “Jordache” jeans. All I ever wore were either Wranglers or generic jeans from Penney’s. Then one day that all changed.

I was curious about what the big deal was about Levi’s. They cost a little more than the jeans I usually bought, and with three kids to clothe, I didn’t have extra money for such extravagance. My epiphany came in the department store dressing room when I pulled on a pair of Levi’s 505’s. Like butta. I loved those jeans! They just felt so right, they couldn’t be wrong, could they? That was it. Nothing but 505’s for me from then on.

Shhh-don’t tell Kathy—I have four brand new pairs tucked away in the closet. That will probably be a life time supply for me, but I know I’ll keep buying them, especially if I can trick her into paying for them. They’ll be part of my estate. My kids can make a fortune on eBay.

There is a hierarchy of jeans, of course, just as there are several levels of Hell. My particular Inferno consists of four levels. The lowest tier is occupied by painting jeans, those that are too far gone to be good for anything else. Next highest is grass cutting jeans. Good enough to be seen in public, but not up close, and who cares if the cuffs turn all green? On the third level we find everyday jeans. These are ideal for wearing around the house and for the occasional run to the grocery store. These see the most use. Finally, at the top of pyramid are dress up jeans. These are typically new, perhaps never worn, but certainly used only for special occasions. I’ll use these if I have to go a casual party, like a family Thanksgiving Day deal, or maybe a meeting up at church.

You can see how each level devolves into the next, since dress up jeans eventually become everyday wear, everydays drop into grass cutting apparel, and grass cuttings are demoted to painting.

Do I change jeans in the course of a day, depending upon the sartorial demands of the situation? You bet.

Are you surprised that there is a parallel system that runs with my sneakers? Grass cutting, everyday, and dress up. Gotta be Nike walking shoes. (you have watch to Nike—they change models all the time and you might find a favorite like I did and then find them suddenly unavailable.) Oh, and there’s a brand new pair of my favorites hidden in the closet.

Shhh—don’t tell Kathy!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Who me?

Today I am being bad at work. Usually I do what I am supposed to do: show up on time, take my one hour lunch without coming back late, always leave on time and never shave a few minutes off the end of the day (much to Kathy’s chagrin, as she waits downstairs in the car for me). In short, I am a model employee. Sort of.

Today is different. I am being bad. A few weeks ago, a professor electrocuted himself and died. As a result, every single employee has to go to “Safety Training”. So here I sit, in an auditorium with hundreds of other people. Am I carefully listening to this guy’s lame jokes and boring exposition of the history of his particular state agency? Am I fascinated by his sparkling Powerpoint? Not exactly. I am blogging my way through this penance.

A few other people attended the “training” the other day, so I was forewarned. As I look around the room, though, I don’t see any other laptops lit up. I would do my office email, but for some reason, the Lotus Notes script won’ run, maybe because I am working wirelessly. I’ll have to find out about that.

This is a wonderful thing, though, wirelessness. Especially when you want to be bad at work.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Weeds and baseball

Some people have a favorite season, and for many, it’s likely to be Fall. Cool nights, sunny days, leaves changing colors, the best of summer lingering just a little longer before the slide into stark, bare trees and icy winds with slicing rain, soon to be snow.

So it’s Fall. If you kept up scrupulously with your weeding the flower garden, do you give up now and let the leafy interlopers have their way with your lovingly tended perennials, knowing everything’s going to die back anyway? Walking past our church tonight, Kodiak and I noticed that that seems to be our groundskeeper’s attitude, as we saw some insidious weeds infecting an evergreen hedge.

In our backyard, I will usually make one final sweep, figuring maybe it will help in the spring. At the same time, I think about how I want things to look after the winter. For the first time in nine years, I ordered some more tulip bulbs for the front yard, about fifty or so. Something ate half of the ones I’ve had there—at least I think that’s what happened to them. Only the yellow ones, the red ones are still there. The new batch will be mixed hues. Maybe in seven months or so I’ll post a photo of what comes up.

Another sign of Fall is the end of the baseball season. Thanks to a friend in the Cleveland Indians front office, we get tickets to a few games each year, and one of those is usually the final game of the year, which was Sunday. Everything hung on this game in terms of our wild card chances for the playoffs. If we won and Boston lost, then we still had hope. As it was, Cleveland lost and that was that.

I took our son Shane, as I usually do, since his birthday comes at the end of the baseball season, and this is sort of a birthday treat. It turned out to be a spectacular one, as we wound up in one of the Indians’ suites. Free hot dogs and pop are cool features, not to mention the great view of the field. The wife of the Cleveland mascot was up in the suite with us, so that was our brush with greatness. Slider, the mascot, came up briefly and then went back to work.

Slider is a goofy character who does a great job of keeping things fun during breaks in the game. Our other son Patrick was once a mascot for a major bank in the area, and had the chance to hang out with Slider for one game, even throwing out the first pitch. Very heady stuff for a teenager.

OK, so now that baseball is over, at least for Cleveland fans, I supposed I can concede that summer is also finally over. I give up. It’s Fall. I’m not sure it’s my favorite season. I’m not sure I even have a favorite season, since each one has something to offer, except maybe Spring.

Time to weed one more time.