Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Essential pet care accessory

Earlier, I posted about levels of jeans: Dress up, everyday, grass cutting, painting. I'm pleased to report that I have added another designation to this taxonomy. Are you ready? Fleece-lined! Yeah baby! I bought a pair from LL Bean and tried them out for the first time tonight on a wind swept dog walk. Mmmm-toasty. Winter wind chills? Bring it on--I'm ready.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The rest of the story

The other day I told you about making cookies with Max. Here’s what I didn’t tell you: We played Christmas music all the while and explained that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday. Later, he heard “O Holy Night”, and he remarked on the line “the night that Christ was born.”

“Christ?” he asked.

I said yes, that’s Jesus’ last name.

“Jesus Christ?” he asked.

“Yup, that’s right.”

He considered that for a moment and then he said “That’s mom’s name for bad drivers.”

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Thanksgiving Deferred

Did you ever hear of Play-Doh cookie dough? It comes in bright Play-Doh colors but is real cookie dough—you shape your cookies and bake them and ten minutes later you devour them. That’s what we did with Max the other day. We made wreathes and candy canes and Christmas trees and space ships and snakes—your typical holiday fare. Sadly, none of our handiwork survived through the next day.

With my new digital camera, I video’d some of the action. Max kept predicting that the cookies would be “Quite tasty.” He was right.

The winter storm blew away our Thanksgiving plans. We decided to do it on Saturday afternoon when the weather will calm down. Right now many more inches of snow are predicted with wind chills below zero. The funny thing is that Kathy made all the side dishes including green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls and stuffing. We had a turkey defrosted for ourselves for later. Her sister was making turkeys for today, but that’s all she wanted to do. So—we had a nice dinner with our youngest son who came in from Atlanta.

I kind of liked it that way. No pressure to pack up the car and rush out to be someplace on time. Maybe we should always do it this way. There’s always this expectation that the holidays should be a perfect Norman Rockwell scene and often they don’t quite meet the standard we have in our heads. When it’s all over we feel strangely empty and wonder what the big deal was supposed to be.

Today was a nice relaxing, low expectation sort of day. The car didn’t leave the garage. I walked to church in the morning. There was no need to go to the store. We had everything we needed right here.

When we do head out to sister-in-law’s on Saturday, I bet the whole experience will be…quite tasty.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My Trip to Chicago

This past week I spent a few days in Chicago at a conference for work. I got there Wednesday night and returned late Friday night.

I love Chicago. Our daughter and her husband Peter had a house there for a few years, and I loved going out there for meetings, because they would pick me up at the airport and then I might stay at their house till the weekend and then they’d run me back to catch my flight.

Peter has his fixed wing pilot’s license and a helicopter license and has taken me up in both formats. The helicopter was the best! We went up in a little bug of a machine and puttered in a circle around the city at 1,000 feet. Kathy would have freaked, had she known our secret plan to fly that day.

Gosh I missed seeing her (OK, and Peter) out there this time.

These trips are fun because I get to see my friends from around the country, but oddly tiring, as I am in executive board meetings and committee meetings most of the time. Next summer the annual conference is in Cleveland, so I’m helping plan that, too.

This time the flights were fine. It was the ground transportation that faltered. Getting there was a breeze. Went to baggage claim, turned around and walked right onto the shuttle. No problem. Coming home, the shuttle showed up at the hotel right on time. Only problem was, it was going to the wrong airport! I found out in time and bailed out at another hotel. Finally got to the gate with ten minutes to spare, which is cutting it close for me. Usually I plan to sit there for several hours, which I spend writing up newsletter articles and such.

On the ground at Cleveland, I took a taxi home (it was 10pm and Kathy didn’t want to come out that late). As we pulled out of the airport, I saw that the interstate was closed, with police cars blocking the road. Darn! I would have been home in fifteen minutes. The driver, who happened to be from Somalia, want to go down this other road that would take much longer, but I said, no, let’s go back up on the interstate—catch it further down past the police. So, he got on the northbound interstate to catch the eastbound outer belt, but it turns out the northbound road does not have a freakin’ exit for the eastbound road! So we went for a merry chase around Cleveland finally arriving at my house some time later. It probably cost about the same, had we stayed on the side road, but jeepers—isn’t the taxi driver supposed to know which road goes where?
I’m over it now. Not another word.

Good news! As we were driving to the airport on Wednesday afternoon, the UPS truck was dropping off my new Nikon Coolpix 7900 digital camera. Woo-hoo. I’m going to go read the book right now and try to figure it out.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How to buy a digital camera when your wife is against it, you don’t really “need” it and you don’t know what you’re doing anyway.

About 25 years ago, Kathy bought me my first 35mm SLR camera. I remember the moment even now. At a small birthday party, she placed several wrapped boxes on the table. I opened the smallest one first. It was 35mm film. I looked at her quizzically and like a dope I said, “But I don’t have a camera that uses…!” And the next box was a Mamiya manual SLR with a 50mm lens. I was completely blown away. She went out on her own, talked to the guy in the camera shop and decided on a model and bought it, all without saying a word to me.

I eventually replaced it with a Nikon FM2, a completely manual camera. No autofocus, no auto-anything. You set the aperture, you focus it and hope for the best. I bought that for myself as a graduation present in 1992, along with a 28-80mm lens. It worked perfectly up until this past summer, when I put $200 into it to put it back in good shape.

Then the digital bug started nibbling around the edges. I listed all the things I didn’t like about them: the parallax error with the traditional viewfinder (you don’t quite see everything you’re shooting because the little viewfinder is not in line with the lens, but is over on the side); using the LCD window to frame the shot (thinking I’d be shaking all over the place with my three foot arms out trying to line up everything); wondering how I’m going to print now; and just general trepidation about moving away from my beloved manual, traditional, comfortable, familiar old dog.

But the thing is, we are going on a cruise in January and I was leery of bringing the big clunky camera with me.

I did all my research, consulting my son in law Peter (I really like being able to say “son in law”), and the dpreview website. Peter has a photography business, so if you don’t mind a bit of shameless promotion, go here to check out his work.

It looked like the Nikon Coolpix 7900 had everything I was looking for. I read all the reviews, good and bad, and decided that there is such a thing as too much information. The next thing was to convince Kathy to let me buy it. Turns out she was dead set against it. Even though it was not coming out of our checking account, but rather money I’ve been saving toward the cruise. She was highly ticked off at me, partly because she thought the somehow we would not have enough money to do the things she wanted to do on the cruise. I assured her that this was not the case, but there was no joy in Mudville, at least for the following week.

She thought we should buy a digital video camera so we could capture Max at his finest. Finally she broached the subject with her good friend Cookie, who suggested that we buy a camera that could do both. Just talking things over with her friend helped her sort things out. I told her that yes, this camera will also do movies. (OK—with a 1gig memory card, it will hold 15 minutes of video).

So finally, it was with her blessing that I went back on line and bought the camera and a bunch of “must have” accessories. I am so excited. This is going to be cool.

I wouldn’t have bought it until she was comfortable with the idea. The whole process was like a “Lifetime” movie: it ran for a week, had lots of ups and downs and ended happily.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


It gets dark so early now that I almost always wind up walking the dog by streetlight. I’m always struck by all the big blue screens I see flickering in the households I pass on our nightly hike. I get to thinking about how everyone is plugged into the same soporific. We must be entertained. We must be amused. We must be isolated.

We share a common popular culture though. We all watch reruns of Friends, Seinfeld (even if we never saw these shows when they originally ran). There are reality shows that resemble nothing in my particular world; lots of home makeover programs; and channels running old black and white movies and last year’s blockbusters. We just have regular old cable—no hundreds of channels for us—there is plenty for us right there without NFL Ticket or that other stuff. I do wish I could see “Six Feet Under” and some of those other great HBO shows, though. I have to wait for a business trip to a hotel to catch that.

Some people have these huge TV’s—I saw one tonight that must have been four feet wide. And what were they watching? Beavis and Butthead. Sigh.

My mother used to do that in her writing. Make on observation on some subject and remark, “Sigh”. The seventh anniversary of her passing was this week. Hard to believe. She used to mix in all sorts of bits of Irish wit and wisdom, 40’s cultural stuff, snatches of songs into her speech and writing. Just now I was listening to “Prairie Home Companion” and they closed the show with what sounded like an old country song. It had the line “Beautiful beautiful brown eyes—I’ll never love blue eyes again.” Mom used to sing that one line, but I’d never heard the song it came from till now. Kathy says Mom is talking to me…maybe!

Since we only have blue eyes and green eyes in our family, just who was Mom singing to? I remember now--she'd croon that one line to the dog.

Another anniversary slipped past me this week as well—it’s been six years since my artificial heart valve was installed. Woo-hoo! I love that clicking sound. Very comforting, especially at night when I crawl under the quilt and listen to it reverberate through the waterbed. I always send the surgeon a thank you card on the date along with a photo illustrating something I can do thanks to his work (and His work as well). Lately it’s been a photo of Max and me having fun. Gotta get to the card shop tomorrow.