Friday, October 31, 2008

W.O.F. 36: Weird House


Every town seems to have one, but in the town where I work, and in a neighborhood where a few of us frequently go walking at lunch hour, there is this home. The quality of their spooky stuff seems to be a cut above the inflatable stuff at Wal Mart. Just seems more authentically Addams Family. Anyhow these pictures, shot from a camera in a car across the street (too scared to take a close up!), only begin to do the place justice....
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick or Treat Report 2008

We always enjoy the annual Trick or Treat night. This year, our city had proclaimed it to exist from 7:00 until 8:30 p.m., a ninety minute window of opportunity for kids to gather all the sugar-coated product they could rustle up from homes where the porch light shone.

I had predicted a bumper crop of kids. Easy enough to predict. In this economy, in this part of the world, what family would not jump at the chance to receive free entertainment and free candy for the kiddies? I also expected to see more homemade costumes than usual, and I think I was right on that count as well. Times are hard; eighty more jobs up the road in the next town were just today officially announced to be heading to Mexico by the end of '09. Makes me wonder if there were fewer households turning on their porch lights too.

We were out there on the porch swing, Linda (with a rabbit costume on, except for the ears), the dog (with rabbit ears on, although they kept falling off), me (with a Cat in the Hat hat on), and two bowls with various candy products. The final tally shows that just about 200 kids visited our porch within the 90 minutes, or a bit over two a minute. Of course, they come in big clumps separated by down time, but still, that may be a record number for us.

I try to take note of the most popular costumes. It is a pop culture survey of sorts for me, just to see what's cool with the kiddies. (It goes back to the year a friend and I made trick or treaters sit down in his parents' living room and fill out surveys about what they were supposed to be, favorite candies, etc. I am a closet sociologist or something). And this year it was definitely a mixed bag. I would guess the most popular, among the boys at least, was some sort of medieval knight type deal, and many of them were carrying makeshift swords or hatchets. Not sure what that was all about. Can someone help me out with that one?

There were a couple Batmen, perhaps reflecting the popularity of the movie this summer, and an assortment of dragons. Some local sports heroes (one Cleveland Brown, a couple Cleveland Indians). A few witches, a couple angels, a handful of hippies, one pirate, only two guys doing Munch's "The Scream" this year (it was a bigger item last year). One Ninja Turtle. Just one. Three or four guys done up in camo. I pretended I didn't see them.

My favorite group included one kid with a big inflatable body suit, looking to be 400 pounds, saying "personal trainer", and another kid dressed up convincingly like a mustard squeeze bottle. Originality points for that one.

So no real trends this year. Thankfully, no Sarah, Barak, John, or Joe gracing our porch steps, although considering how frequently they've all been stumping Ohio, it would not be surprising to see them working the trick or treat circuit.

Once again, I was impressed with the civility of the evening. I would say 90 percent of the kids said "thank you" or "happy Halloween" to us. Many of them were prodded to do so by watchful parents. It kind of restores your faith in America's future, clothed as they were.


I need to sneak in a brief memorial to Tony Hillerman. He was a mystery writer who died over the weekend at age 83. His books were auto-buys for me, and I would read them rapidly (and I read very few books rapidly) and pass them on to my father. His books made the American Southwest very real to me - with stories set mainly in the deserts, mountains, and tribal lands of New Mexico. His story telling was nice and easy-going but it moved the plot right along, and he knew how to create sympathetic, human characters with real feelings and foibles. I will miss Lt. Joe Leaphorn (retired) of the tribal police, Detective Jim Chee, and the various supporting characters. I felt I knew them pretty well. And I admired the fascinating way in which Native American practices and lifestyles were woven into the storytelling. Thank you, Tony. Ahéhee'.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Up Close and Personal

One of our favorite leisure pursuits is to head over to a place called "African Wildlife Safari". They have a small zoo there with several species, but the main event is to drive your car through the area where the buffalo....and dozens of other critters...roam.

They give (sell, actually) you these cups full of all-purpose animal feed. You are supposed to allow the kindly critters to eat from the cups. Right. More than once we've had a moose simply rip the cup out of our hands and guzzle the feed. So we break the rules and do a lot of hand feeding. It makes you want to beeline for the hand sanitizer or restroom immediately afterwards, but there is no thrill quite like hand feeding, say, a buffalo.

The inventory of critters probably makes no sense; I am sure African wildlife is mixed in with domestic deer or northern moose, with some llamas or alpacas tossed in. The good news is, the animals do not seem to be intent upon eating each other, so I guess they researched their mix pretty well.

We met the daughter and son in law there and sacrificed Linda's car. You tend to end up with a car with feed in all the crevices and on the carpets, and more than one large slobber mark on the exterior. And at least once I heard the smack of a horn or antler against the car. Yeah, I spent some time today shop-vacuuming out the car.

One observation: It is remarkable how far a moose (the kind without a rack) can extend its head into an automobile: past the driver, over to the passenger side. Then it detects an apple (intended for human consumption) on the console, where one may put one's coffee cup. Long story short, the moose got the apple in one swift bite.

It may sound all scary or dangerous, but these guys (and gals) are just happy to get fed by the countless humans who drive through, and aside from fighting for the cups, they are just taking care of the business of getting fed, practicing a "live and let live" philosophy. Ok, maybe not quite "Ghandi-mals", but pretty close. seems pretty peaceful out there in the "wild".

So here are but a sampling of the bazillion pictures I took while driving, avoiding collisions, and holding off the varmints.
The venerable wart hog. A lovely, regal specimen, eh? This one is not "at large", but in a pen with others of its kind.
This is what you face as you drive through the gate...
Roll down a window and you get this kind of action.
Some get their feeding done by other means.
It's like trick or treat.
Well, THIS one was a little intimidating.

Friday, October 24, 2008

W.O.F. 35 Rustle up a Dust Buster

I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when the product design team at the Lectrix Company came up with this one.

"Okay, we need a different angle on the hand-held vacuum cleaner market. Everyone is familiar with Dust Busters"
"Yeah, or those red ones made by Dirt Devil"
"What can we do to differentiate our....Yeah, you back there, Higgsly, what've you got?"
"Well, what about a hand-held vac in the shape of a...barnyard animal?"
"Well, sure, how about a pig?"
"Nah, it's too obese, ya know, and it's sorta too much stereotyping....'this pig'll eat anything', ya know?"
"Plus, pigs sorta signify sloppiness, not cleaning up."
"And, well, a chicken shape is just too hard to adapt to the dust collecting mechanism. What else?"
"Hey, why not a...cow? You know, they are sorta 'in' right now, people are collecting them, decorating their kitchens in 'cow'."
"You're right. It's decorative. It's highly functional."
"I can see the marketing team now: 'The Vac-U-Cow. Udderly awesome!'"
"I like how you think, Higgsly."
This one was brought home from a garage sale. Not sure what I think of it, but when it is running a little low on power and you turn it on, I swear it sounds like a "moo", sort of.
Lectrix Model 0301
3.6 V DC (comes with adapter/charger)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Border Collies!

A pretty busy weekend back home. Aside from that trip to the rez with the dog to snap the above banner shot, we went to a wedding yesterday - sister of one of our son's best friends. Then today we went to one of those outside old-timey craft and such festivals, about a half hour from home. The big draw for me was the border collie demonstration - entertainment of the highest order! The owner turned the B.C.'s loose on sheep and some ducks.

The owner told us the reward for the collies is the work itself. They just love to herd them sheep, ducks, kids, whatever. Turns out their least favorite call from their owner is "That'll do" (who here has seen "Babe", one of my favorite films?) because that means they may be done for a while and will have to sit out while another collie takes over. Here are some shots of the collies at work.
These working dogs may be distant cousins of our non-working dog, pictured here coming home after that fun time at the reservoir on Friday.
And here are some shots of the festival, called the Oak Ridge Festival, including a pretty fun musical group that seemed to like to play old Irish sailor drinking songs and the like, if I am not mistaken.
And finally, on the way home taking the back roads, I stopped at a bridge to take a shot of the scenery.

Friday, October 17, 2008

W.O.F. 34: When Michael Had Hair

As alluded to previously, here is the Michael Jordan Nerf backboard that hearkens back to the day when Michael had hair. Just when WAS that day?
And here is some detail on the likenesses of Michael on the backboard.

And finally, in response to a query from a faithful reader, here is the "air hammer" in its natural resting spot:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

First Book at Harvest Fest

In our county, the Soil and Water Conservation District puts on a fall Harvest Fest out in a large building at the Fairgrounds. It lasts for four hours, 10 to 2 on an October Saturday this year, today. It is in its twelfth year or something, and it has gotten bigger every year as a free event for families to bring kids and have some good ol' fun.

My wife, Linda, is on the board of an organization called First Book. Its mission is to put a good book in the hands of kids, at no charge, targeting children who are least likely to have libraries, or any books, of their own. So First Book came out and had a table at the Harvest Fest, starting the day just 41 books shy of hitting 50,000 books given away in our county.

This is an overall view of the event and the venue:
Here is the photogenic girl who happened to get the 50,000th book, along with one of the First book volunteers:
First Book gave out helium balloons - which made for very effective advertising as one looked around the crowd...
Ah, the ever-popular stack o'straw bales. Sorta reminds one of Mayan ruins. They will not last as long as the Mayan structures, as there is a horse event in the building Sunday.
Speaking of horses, outside there were horse rides. Also long lines for the chili (one of my reasons for being there).
Toward the end of the event, I looked up above the First Book table (sorry, no pictures for this story) and noticed maybe thirty balloons with ribbons tied to them that has been lost, way up against the ceiling. We had run out of balloons down on the ground level, so I sped home for a last pack of balloons. Also got my tree branch cutter - one of those things with a rope that extends to maybe 18 feet where you can operate a blade and cut off limbs way up above your head. I took some tape and cardboard to cover the blade, and converted it to a ceiling balloon retriever. Upon my return and after some practice, I became a minor hero of sorts to a number of kids (and their parents) who really, really wanted a balloon. One exuberant mother was even guiding me to a couple of the easier ones to nab (they are easier when the ribbon curls at the bottom and goes sort of horizontal - a much easier grab). Linda says there was even some applause as the balloons were being snagged. And every time I came carefully down with one, thinking I could give my arms a rest, there would be some doe-eyed kid with her mom just quietly waiting... Up I would go again with the balloon grabber.

I brought about twenty of the thirty balloons down. Some had no ribbons and will be coming down in the cold tonight, I suspect. Otherwise, they will give the horses something to look at and ponder tomorrow.

Meanwhile back at the homestead, our livestock include the our ol' dawg and the grand-dogs. I know the last picture is difficult to make out (especially Lilly in her usual spot atop the couch), and there is an extension cord in the way, but I sort of like the overall effect, the play of light, etc., etc.

Friday, October 10, 2008


We visited the son Wednesday night before he shoved off for Honduras for ten days. He lives in an apartment house with four other guys, a chinchilla, and these characters. I don't know much about these specimens - they basically hang out on the sides of their container. I think they like the heat and light. Their feet make for some interesting subject matter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Things I've Done or Will Do This Week

In too many ways, this goes down as one of those goofy, crazy weeks that defy normalcy. My job has been goofy (actually in a good way). My home life has been practically nonexistent, as I think of it. My future, along with the retirement plans of millions of others, has been clouded by plummeting "fortunes" (can anyone say "85-year old Wal Mart Greeter"?)

Anyhow, this week, I have: taken pictures of grungy basement bathrooms in our county courthouse for environmental review purposes (long story); talked to a small village's committee on how to do some town-wide planning on the cheap; sped from that meeting to a church band practice, where the entire band fell in to a 12 bar blues structure and just jammed it for a sweet ol' time; just met today with two entrepreneurs down in a village south of here about their plans for some expansion and job creation (a rare thing these days) and need for financing from a loan program run by a village Community Improvement Corporation; left that meeting, picked up Linda and we drove the two hours down to have dinner with our son at our favorite Mexican restaurant down there in his college town, since he leaves Friday for a week in Honduras to visit his girlfriend who is teaching for a year down there; zipped home to practice a bit for my role Friday as co-emcee and "one man band" for a portion of our annual meeting of all employees, where we have to regale them with a game of Jeopardy (topics relating to our jobs and our employer; teams picked from each department); went out Monday night to help with square dance lessons. Oh, and tomorrow after work I get a handoff from the son in law, as we have agreed to DOG-SIT their puggle and boston/fox terrier as they travel to Columbus this weekend. Always some photo opps when it's a three dog night down home.

Which reminds me of the (out of focus a bit - it was dusky) license plate I saw across the street from the son's apartment as we were leaving tonight. (This is for you, Margaret, and all others who can identify...)

Friday, October 3, 2008

W.O.F. 32 Big Inflatable Hammer

Here's the story of the big inflatable hammer. I went to some seminar in Cleveland maybe eight, nine years ago. As a learning device, at the end of the day, they had this game of "Jeopardy" where we had to answer questions based on what we were supposed to have retained that day. I was the big winner. The big prize was this inflatable hammer. I got to carry the thing, inflated, through the parking garage to my car, and take it home. This was pre-9/11, so you could carry giant over-sized tool facsimiles through urban parking garages with no stares or intervention by public safety authorities.

The odd thing about this big inflatable hammer is it has survived, inflated, in a prominent location in our house. Specifically, it has been dangling from a Michael Jordan nerf basketball hoop in our kitchen. The Michael Jordan backboard is a weird object in itself. It is so old that Michael has a full head of hair in the artist's rendering, but that object can wait for another Weird Friday of its own.

Every once in a while, someone will take the hammer down from the hoop and use it to smack someone else on the head. It is pretty harmless, and it makes a funny squeaking sound upon impact. But I doubt that it has been down from the hoop in months, if not years, since the kids left the nest.

Perhaps most odd is that no one has thought to remove the hammer from our kitchen decor. I wonder what that says about our interior decorating savvy. On the other hand, perhaps an over-sized hammer bespeaks cultural awareness and artistic significance, like the giant rubber stamp in Chicago or wherever and giant objects placed in the streetscapes of other cosmopolitan cities. However, this hammer does not bear the name of a famous creator, like the rubber stamp, or those odd Calder scuptures. It was probably made in China for 23 cents.

At any rate, the hammer takes up its space in this home full of memorabilia, and I would venture that if it were removed, a kid of ours would, when visiting home, inquire as to its whereabouts. "Hey, Dad, where's that hammer?" So, after the photo shoot, it will continue to take its place gracing the hoop in the kitchen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Public Service Message

Found along a trail as I was taking pictures for a plan for a township in west-central Ohio. Trying to take pictures while there are still leaves on trees which, sadly, won't be much longer!

(Yes, they misplaced the apostrophe, but the message is still there. If our dog could read, I'd put a sign in our back yard saying "clean up after yourself". And if she could read, she'd have a good laugh at that notion.)