Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm Not Dead Yet....(Still Here)

Just a line from that Monty Python movie. No need to fret.  Aside from the Mayan thing, which may claim us all in a pillar of fire or outrageous storm.

Wow, what a month or two it has been.  I have been too busy experiencing life, mostly vicariously, to get on here and update, post, just say "hi".

First the daughter has a wonderful daughter of her own, and I am immediately in love with a new life on the planet.  People had always said this grandparent thing is incomparable.  Well, I suppose you can compare it with having a kid of your own, and that may be a hard one to reconcile.  But there is something about sitting in a room or, as we did this past weekend, a van, accompanied by one's wife, son, and then the new parents and the grandchild.  A new family, formed right before one's eyes.  "Blessed" begins to describe the feeling.

Having babies is clearly one of those natural acts that happens all the time - relentlessly in those larger urban hospitals.  Indeed, this one was born in a pretty busy urban hospital, and staff attention soon turned to the next in line after all was well, post-partum, with the one we were waiting for.

So now there is this new, inexplicably magnetic person on the planet, and there is this new activity (if you can call it that) which consists of quietly and peacefully holding this seven or eight or now nine pound baby, meeting any challenges, stifling the cry, sensing the bodily functions that may be underway, rocking and cooing and making ridiculous sounds that just seem to make sense.

There is the perfection of an up-and-down motion I call "the elevator"- a maneuver that can calm the unsettled baby, usually making her arms fall limply and her eyelids close within a few seconds.  There is the wonder of pivoting a "360" and watching her turn her head left, then right, to track the sunlight through a window.

The world stops.  Work issues, other pressing matters of the world all go away, and holding the baby becomes the world.  That's the best I can describe it.  Unparalleled.

OK, the other big vicarious event.  Our son told us this was coming, and indeed he carried it out.  He asked a really wonderful girl a simple yes-no question, but one with lifelong implications.  She replied in the affirmative and, bam, we have a new daughter-in-law to be, our new grand daughter has a new aunt-to-be, and we are looking forward to a big event in the spring.

So the big deals are all being orchestrated, if you will, by the next generation.  Me, I go to work and have good days and get some things done.  Come home and walk the dogs and practice with the band, enjoy time with my wife, think about seeing Pi or Lincoln.  These are all good things, but the spotlight is on the kids, and it is amazingly satisfying just to see how their lives are unfolding these days.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Change of Season

Summer is a hazy, heated blur.  The dog walk tonight required jackets for the humans.  The times, they are a changing.  We are welcoming a new season.  And with a (very) pregnant daughter, we are looking at fall as a season of new beginnings, perhaps moreso than spring ever was.
We have tried to squeeze some fun into the declining weeks of summer, and finally got up to the beach a couple weekends ago.  We got to wade in the water a bit and just hang out on the sandy beach for a couple hours.  Then we enjoyed a soft-serv ice cream cone at the local stand.  I had an orange-vanilla twist, in honor of my grandmother, who once upon a time downed a large orange-vanilla at the same establishment, after proclaiming "My, that IS large!"  Before we left the beach, it started to rain while the sun behind us continued to shine.  I knew this meant conditions were right for a rainbow, and we were rewarded!
This past weekend, we had a car appointment over near Cleveland, and after we took care of the free oil change, we departed for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and environs, only about 15 minutes farther than the car dealer.

It was a great escape of a day.  We rode the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad the 22 miles down to Akron and the 22 miles back, a relaxing three hour trip.  I enjoyed every rail crossing with gates down and cars a-waiting, sort of a payback for all the times I have sat at crossings, counting the cars and marveling at the illegible but really artful graffiti.


 We were told there would be an eagle's nest along the rail run.  You couldn't miss it as the train slid by, but unfortunately its occupants were out fishing or doing whatever eagles do on a Saturday afternoon (Buckeyes football?)

TWO weekends ago, we traveled up to the African Wildlife Safari park, which is just about an annual event for us.  My wife seems to score a carload ticket as either a radio prize or a half-off deal.  This year we took our son's girlfriend along and enjoyed her reactions to such stimuli as slobbering buffalos and highly strung llamas.
SO the past three weekends or so have been pretty active ones.  Sooner than we would like, it will get cold out there and these activities will not be so attractive.  They will be replaced by foliage tours and hikes, a coming venture up to see friends in Michigan, and who knows what all.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random Summer-Nearing-its-End Pictures (Mostly Roses)

 Just to represent the highlights of the waning summer, here is a group photo of our little ol' bank from church (said church actually making it into this picture, with the steeple back there on the right hand side).  We went out on our second annual "world tour" on August 11, traveling all the way down to this downtown park with a suitable gazebo and plenty of grassy area for folks to bring folding chairs.  It was a lot of fun, aside from the rain that settled in for the last couple of songs, causing us to shorten the set list by a tune or two.  Interesting factoid: the woman on the lower left-hand corner does not actually play guitar.  But she can sing. 
 We were down at the reservoir park with the dogs a week or so ago and I liked the way the light was infiltrating a portion of the woods here, casting a kinda Kincaidian light, if you will. 
 Then just yesterday, we went down to Columbus to celebrate our son's birthday and took him and his girlfriend out to a Japanese steak house.  I enjoy those places, and have been known to aggravate my wife on numerous occasions while clumsily trying to emulate the sounds and motions of the Japanese cooks who prepare the food in front of you, banging on and rattling utensils, flipping foods around and catching them on spatulas, etc.  Its' great fun.  Watching more than attempting in one's own home.
 So, anyway, there are clearly not pictures of a Japanese steak house.  After we ate, William's girl friend unfortunately had to go to work, but the three of us went on to check out the Garden of Roses in Whetstone Park up in the Clintonville section of Columbus.  It is an amazing place, and a friend on Facebook informed me that it would likely be moreso in June when there would be many more roses blooming.  But when we saw it yesterday, it was not bad. 
 I was amazed at the variety of colors among the roses.

 This is the view of the place from a nice little observation platform.  I am a sucker for observation platforms, whether in Gettysburg, a park out in the middle of nowhere, or an urban rose garden.  The grass was a bit scorched there on the left in the back, but whose isn't this summer?
 And a few more pictures from the Garden of Roses. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

American Politics, Appropriately, in a Nutshell

So Mitt picked Paul Ryan as running mate.  This is actually not a bad thing, as Mr. Ryan seems to actually have ideas.  I may not be a big fan of all his ideas, but at least he seems to be known as "that guy who came up with something".  The hope now is that the freight train of refuse known as the '12 presidential campaign, heading for the landfill we call Election Day '12, may actually turn away from the name calling and gaffe generation and focus, maybe just a wee bit, on things like -- oh, I don't know -- the economy, the need for jobs that support families, the global sea change in economics and productivity that has irreversibly shrunk the manufacturing workforce, the need to assist people that need to get back on their feet, and so on.  At least Paul Ryan put something on the table, and now it could be discussed and dissected. 

Of course, Paul Ryan is what would have once been called radical right.  Now he is a "Tea Party Pleaser".  This maneuver seals up what I consider to be the basic tenet of politics as we know them today.

Several years ago, there was a kid in my church who was talking about some of the rules at a summer camp, one of which was "no purpling".  Assigning the color red to girls, blue to boys, the concept here was that the two should not mix, at least not beyond some platonic level of friendly discourse.

Well, that's where we are as a nation.  Blues, stay over there in your corner and just get bluer.  Reds, you are over there.  Now, behave like you all just used the best detergent available - making the blues even bluer, the reds even redder.  All of you, just keep talking to each other, encouraging each other, distancing yourself from those crazy extremists over on the other side.  And if you try to chat with someone over there on the other side, you will be excused from the game.

No purpling!  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Flowers on Macro

It's always fun to take the camera out when some flowers are in bloom, throw the lens on "SuperMacro" mode, and see where the camera decides to focus (obviously, this is not a seasoned photog speaking).  Anyhow, despite the drought conditions, the flowers are blooming up a storm. Here are a choice few pictures I have taken recently, mainly up and down the driveway. 

 Meanwhile, the dogs of summer continue to guard the fort. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Just Taste-Testing 'em For Ya! Honest!"

My wife often stays up later than I do on weeknights.  Such was the case when, some time after midnight last night, she found this little guy on the third shift doing some quality control testing on the grape trellis.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Occasional Nudge Back Toward Positivity

I am in this group on Facebook where the moderator or founder or whatever, a good guy named Cliff (see WIXY to the right), poses a "Question of the Day" and people respond.  Sometimes the question is just silly.  What is your favorite this or that.  Other times, once in a while, the question dances around politics or religion or other netherlands for discussion.  And there are a few people in the group who attack such questions with both barrels.

Today's question, for reasons I cannot fully explain, was my favorite one yet.  It was simply this "
What is one of your simple joys? 
First, it was kind of fun reviewing in my mind what I considered to be the source of simple joy.  I finally decided on this:
" I like to go out on the deck last thing at night, just sit out there listening to the crickets and locusts, watch the dogs sniff around, and count my blessings."
This is actually something I do on a regular basis.  A few minutes of quiet out on that deck, in the darkness, thinking about the good things bestowed upon me, helps put the rest of the day, with its frenetic failures and foibles, in perspective.  
But aside from my own recipe for calm, I enjoyed reading what others had to say about their simple joy inducers.  Here is a sampling:
 My three year old son reading to my husband and I at bedtime.
 Feeling safe and loved is the best of simple joys.
 seeing my one year old grandson.
 Coffee, watching the sunrise and listening to the birds.
 A cold beer and a fine cigar.
 Getting a "Good Morning" text each morning from my guy to start start off my day....
 rain on a tin roof, a beach at sunset, my husband's smile, the vioce of my grandson, and all the above.
 Holding hands with my husband is good for me.
 forgot to mention my cat. he is a great joy to me
  As I read these, it struck me that the "simple joys" are far superior to the more complicated joys that we try to manufacture.  The best time of the day is often out where nature, Creation, or whatever you call it is front and center.  Or it's when you connect, even just superficially (a texted "good morning") with a loved one or good friend.   
Or when you can get a good, simple laugh out of something.  For example, here is another reply to today's question...
Good drink, good food and a good woman.
Well, I guess 1 out of 3 isn’t bad.
Damn, just ran out of ice!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Return to the Land of my People

A couple weeks ago we made the semi-annual pilgrimage to the land of my youth, my tribe, my people.  I'm talking Baltimore, the land of the Orioles and Jim Thome (argh!), the Bay, Natty Boh, some football team named for black birds that say "Nevermore", "Hon", and oh so much more.  We loaded both kids, (the son in law having to work) into the back seat (they are 30 and 25, and actually quite capable of loading themselves, truthfully).  And off we went on a Sunday (travel pointer: Do not head in toward an East Coast destination on a Sunday evening in the summer.  Understatement: You will not be alone on the road!)

We only hung around for two full days, but packed a lot in.  We visited with friends and hung out with relatives, staying at the comfortable and frog-guarded home of my sister; also saw my Dad and had the requisite dinner at the Double T Diner.  I am not sure why we always go out there.  It is just, as Tevye points out in 'Fiddler on the Roof', TRADITION.  The cuisine is more than ample, and not bad, quality-wise, but perhaps we ought to expand our culinary horizons a bit.  

Well, we did get to the G&M crab cakes before we left.  A trip to Baltimore does not even count without consumption of one of those.   

Anyhow, on Day Two we got downtown to the Inner Harbor.  There are two schools of thought about the Inner Harbor.  People from out here in the Midwest who visit it say things like "I had no idea Baltimore had such a wonderful area by the water, with museums, shopping, the aquarium, the sports venues..."  Then people actually from Baltimore say "aw, it's a big tourist trap and nothin' like the real Bawlmer".  

My opinion is somewhere in the middle.  The real Bawlmer is doubtless seedier and a bit more scuffed up.  This Baltimore's well-scrubbed best face.  Regardless, I like it.  The picture I've been featuring up top  is Baltimore's Inner Harbor, taken from atop Federal Hill, on the opposite side of the water from where I usually hang out when down there.  Here are a few more shots form our day in the city. 

 The ship is the USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war constructed in 1854.

 Most of what you see in this picture below is the Aquarium. 

 This shot is looking up North on, I think, Charles Street.  I used to see that gold top of the old "skyscraper" on the left (always was named for some bank) from my bedroom window, if I craned my neck a bit.

 We toured the Museum of Visionary Arts, which largely celebrates the work of artists who were not formally trained, per se, but just called to be artists for a variety of reasons.  Photography is prohibited inside, but here a re a couple things one can see outside.  This large overgrown weather vane of a sculpture has many moving parts and would make Rube Goldberg proud.

Son William poses in front of what could be the Who's magic bus for all we know... 

 I have no comment about this piece.  It is what it is.  Does kinda evoke the whole "freedom" gestalt, don't it?

 I mentioned taking pictures from Federal Hill.  This is a shot looking over at Federal Hill.   

A nice example of what the planners call "adaptive reuse".  All these uses - a Hard Rock Cafe, Barnes and Noble bookstore, and now a seafood restaurant, in a former power plant. 

This is a shot looking over at the city skyline via a game of hoops, at the base of Federal Hill. 

Another exterior museum shot.

And finally, I cannot complete a trip to my sister's without at least one frog shot and, for a bonus, a dragonfly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cleveland: City of Light, CIty of Magic, City of.... Fish?

We were looking for a fun day trip when the kids were home, so we hit the road for Cleveland and the newish Cleveland Aquarium.  While it does not boast the features of aquariums we have visited in Baltimore or Gatlinburg, it was a fun time and the fish world was well represented.  Here are some shots of our trip to the aquarium.

First, some of the occupants of the aquarium, including this turtle whose shell was being repaired with epoxy.  
 Avoid these when swimming.  A piranha.
 The aquarium has a "touch tank" where visitors can experience the joy of touching rays as they swim by.  Evidently the rays like it and are more than happy to swim up close to get the touch treatment.  Here my daughter displays the correct "two fingers, wrist deep only" technique. 
 Now we are in the realm of "interesting looking fish, but I have no idea what they are".  I liked the color.  I suppose it would blend in around the proper colored coral.
 I have no idea.
 Indeed, I should have caught the name of this spectacular species. 
 These are likely sand sharks.  They are kind of humorous, the way they just hang out on the sea floor. 
 My favorite feature of the aquarium is the "sea tube", where you walk through a totally glass "tunnel" through the large shark 9and others) tank, thus getting a sort of 360 degree view of the fish swimming around and above you.  So you get scenes like this guy coming right at you.
 Then once outside, and rid of the sharks, we took in the Cleveland skyline across the river, and its distinctive Terminal Tower. 
 Inside Terminal Tower and Tower City Center.  The tower was built during the skyscraper boom of the 1920's and 1930's, and was the second tallest building in the world when it was built.  It was the tallest building in the U.S. outside New York until 1964.  
 A couple blocks down the road, we found this "back street" brimming with restaurants and pubs, and found a place to eat.
 A last look at the distinctive tower that still rises above its neighbors.