October 2007

Every so often I like to think that I write interesting stuff but then I go read something from a professional blogging writer and then I get back to the science because that’s what I’m good at.  But I’ll let James Lileks sum up my life lately:

Life is good, the daily pangs and botherations notwithstanding. Or, more accurately, included; they’re required to make sense of everything and grant us perspective. He said, creating a flimsy philosophical scaffolding that lets us stucco over the random cracks decreed by Dame Chaos. Today was good; if it wasn’t, I was too busy to notice.

Evan has a billion things to get done and is freaking out every evening.  One day soon I’m afraid he’ll lock himself in his room and just play guitar all day.

The band directors have gone completely off the deep end and dumped another dozen pages of marching sets and music on the kids that they have to learn before going to the Grand National competition in a couple of weeks.  This is on top of all the papers and tests that Evan has.  Also he has to have T-shirts made for his band section because he is the section leader.  None of the other kids who said they would help have done anything so he’s had to do it all which means that Mel has picked up the slack there.

Oh, and our niece is getting married on Saturday.

I don’t even want anything for Christmas – I just want all this stuff to stop.  We have college applications to work on.

One day I intend to write a big expose’ on the marching band.  Then write the directors and ask them if it’s really worth it.  Of course to them and their careers, it is.

It’s finally turned cooler and has therefore brought in hat weather.  My Indiana Jones hat that I had for cub scout leadership has, over the years, weathered from its cool “Loden” color to a worn gray color.  It had been many miles in the sun, wind, and rain, and had given up the hat ghost. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad except that the whole thing became floppy.  It morphed from Indiana Jones to Festus Hillbilly and had to be retired.  I used to look like I might be carrying a bullwhip.  In the end, I looked like I might be carrying a corncob pipe.  Fortunately I happened upon a replacement.  Hat that is.

My brother-in-law found himself with a free afternoon recently and dragged me with him to The Bass ProShop.  It’s a pretty interesting place except that he just wants to go stare at boats.  Boats are OK too but he stares way too long.  He’s got that stare that makes me think he would cross the line into crime to get his hands on one.  I don’t want to be around him when that happens.  I can imagine the guys in security watching the monitors and saying “Hey, look at this guy.  He’s been there a long time don’t you think?”

Anyway, while he was doing this, I wandered over to the “apparel” and discovered that they sold hats.

I looked all around and found one just like the old cubscout leader hat without the chin strap.  Well, I bought it straight away but that was in August so it’s been awaiting the proper weather.  Saturday dawned cool and clear and we had to attend the marching band competition Saturday night at Union High School stadium so I had my first wearing opportunity.

I have that fashion-blindness that has haunted me all my days; I’m just lucky to have women in my family who care enough to say “no” whenever I cross the line.  I donned the hat as we got out of the car and nobody said “No”.  I actually checked; saying “what do you think?” Mel didn’t care and Erin gave it the thumbs up.  In fact the friend she brought with her even offered the comment that it looked cool.  That’s a teenaged girl talking so that carries weight in my book.

The competition went on all day but we waited until the finals competition started before we got there.  That way we only had to sit and watch for four hours instead of all day.  These things are a pretty good value in terms of dollar per hour but only if you like to watch high school bands march and play.  One hour is about my limit.  Still, Evan has had a rough few weeks with all his schoolwork and obligations so we decided to go watch and be supportive.

The Pride gave their usual exemplary show.  They typically perform last and I always end up thinking that all the other bands are pretty good and then the Pride comes on and blows them all out of the water.  Their shows are in a category by themselves.  I have many gripes about The Pride and how much time and money it takes but I cannot deny the excellence of their show.  They won everything; first place and all the category prizes.

After the show, we went down onto the field to catch up with Evan and congratulate him.  He even commented on my hat – asking if he could wear it sometime.  Score!   Apparently it is customary for the winning band to form a concert arc and play an encore.  This they did without shooing away the parents and friends and so I found myself in the awkward position of standing on the field right next to a large performing band complete with flag-flapping color guard.  I was not alone and it was apparently no big deal.  There were hundreds of us standing down there.

It was pretty fun although it was getting pretty chilly by the time we headed to the car.   The hat doesn’t warm up my legs after all.

It was a late night for all of us so we slept in on Sunday morning.  Evan had gotten in way late Friday night and I had supported a missile launch most of Friday night (coming home at about 4:00 am) so we were all in need of some sleep catch-up.  Evan had to spend the day working on college applications, essays for same, and various other give-me-money-for-college projects. It was a weekend that has become typical for us.

I just now rescued a mockingbird from my screened patio. He was frantic in that birdy way that they all get when they can’t see what’s keeping them from getting where they want to be. His stressed-out response was to poop all over the place – perhaps by way of lowering his weight. He could fly better that way.

I finally trapped him in the corner, gently grabbed him and took him out.  I opened my hand and he was off like a shot.  But no more bird poop.  Good thing too – I think he had been eating purple berries.

I like the idea of karma; that I rack up some good points for saving a bird.  Perhaps this can balance out some past oversights and indiscretions.  But Christianity doesn’t allow for that; it only proposes that you do things because they are the right things to do.

That bird will never know how much worse this could have turned out.  For example if the dog were to have been the one to catch him.

Evan got back from the band trip to St. Louis last night; apparently they took first place and won all the caption awards.  (“caption awards” being things like “high music”, “high concept”, and other unintelligible categories).  He was typically taciturn about it.  “Yeah, we won; no big deal.” is his attitude. His opinion is that they win because they practice more than anyone else and I must say I think he’s right.

He’s also pretty mad at us parents for making him study more to bolster his test grades.  Never mind that his low scores are his own fault; no sense getting mad at himself – that’s the teenager way.

The photographer came by the house to drop off some of his senior portraits and they look pretty good.  She’s quite young and I at first thought she was yet another teenager stopping by the house to do some fundraising.  I was all set to browse a catalog and order some overpriced gourmet coffee but no – she had a box of photos for us.  They look pretty good.  These photos are more artsy and edgy for him to give to his friends.  We also have some traditional ones to give to grandma and put in the yearbook.

I accidentally hurt the dog this morning.  Her claws have gotten too long and I thought I’d try trimming them myself.  That was a mistake.  She’s pretty old now and didn’t put up much of a fuss and so I have no excuse for cutting off too much.  It must have hurt and she bled a little bit; now she won’t come to me.  She’s got that “you hurt me!” look on her face.  When you lose the trust of a dog, you have really messed up badly.  I would not have thought it possible.  I just hope she doesn’t try to get even by pooping in the house while I’m at work.  I briefly thought of leaving her outside but it’s rainy and nasty today and that didn’t seem right.

So we win some and we lose some.  I just hope the losses can be forgiven.

I’ve had fun this week; I took off the time from Wednesday to Friday along with the kids on fall break.  I like time off; I should do this more often.  Actually, I will have to; I have excess untaken vacation.  Now that the weather is cool, it’s the perfect time to build stuff in the garage.

Mel has been fighting a rather bad cold and ear infection and I feel like my body is doing its best to catch it but as of yet, I’m still walking.  She’s been mostly in the bed for three days.  I’ve been quite busy though.

A friend has bought a computer-controlled router to build guitars with and I went over to his house to help with the unloading of this awesome device.  Another friend was there to photograph the process and his photography is such that it appears that I was doing all the work.  That’s not true but I like the way it turned out.  The truckdriver (who would normally just drop the item and drive off) was so fascinated with the thing that he stayed for about an hour and helped us uncrate it and move it inside.  Good thing too since he has all the tools to move heavy things.  This thing weighed in at about 1000 pounds so his tools were a welcome addition.

For my part, I have done a number of weird things during my time off.  I went to the barber shop in the hopes of finding it empty on a weekday in the middle of the day.  No such luck; I still had to wait for about three guys to get their hair cut but they were older than normal.

I also decided to fill the cracks in my driveway.  Driveway cracks are something that everybody has and that everybody can live with forever so it’s not at all the sort of thing that will interest many people but it bothered me that there were such huge cracks there.  There used to be boards there left over from when the driveway was originally poured but that’s all rotted away and now there are weeds.  I discovered a wonder material made for such things and so bought a bag and installed it today.  Now my driveway looks just like it ever did but…  well, I’m not sure what happens now.  No more weeds I guess.  I like it though.

I decided to finally try my hand at making real raised-panel cabinet doors.  I have a set of router bits for that purpose and I finally got around to making the time.  I had to make a new router base out of plastic and the problem was always where to get the plastic.  Erin and I went on a road trip to get a frozen drink from Starbucks (my little bribe to her to get some time with her) and to find a place that would sell me a scrap of clear acrylic plastic.  We were successful on both counts and so today, I finally made all the requisite pieces.  They fit too.  Now all I need to do is get some nice wood of the proper length and I can make some cabinet doors to replace those in our bathroom.  It would have been far easier to call a cabinet shop and have some made but I like to build my own stuff.  Mel has been quite patient with the lack of doors in the bathroom and finally she will be rewarded.

Evan is off to St Louis on a band competition and so is not here to sleep late and watch TV.  He’s been under a tremendous strain lately what with his hard classes, huge time commitment with the band, and the fact that all his friends have taken a very easy senior schedule.  He’s pretty sensitive and grumpy because of it and he has my sympathy.  I wish we had it to do over again; we would have made him take an easier schedule or drop band.

And now I have an entire weekend left over to do more stuff!  I wish I had made a date with a friend down in Texas to meet at a state park and go hiking.  But I still have more vacation time left.

The latest idiot light on my dashboard is a “TDC” sensor problem.  That’s “top dead-center” sensor.  That’s hardly a very useful translation.  I think this one may be one for the mechanic.

I took Erin and a friend to a play last night.  On the way, they were discussing having siblings and decided that they both wanted to have more than one child.  Her friend quipped:  “I’m not having girls; I don’t care what Jesus says!”  I’d love to know the story behind that statement.

Mel has been frantically making baked goods and candy for the wedding shower at our house tomorrow.  We’ve been gaining weight eating the broken ones.

Football game tonight – should be nice and cool.  Fall-ish.

Oh, and what with all the stress at work, I’ve decided it isn’t fun any more.  I don’t like it as of last Thursday.  But that never stopped anybody from going to their jobs before and it won’t stop me.

I lost this weekend to a head cold. Two days of sitting around the house napping is not too bad but I accomplished nothing. Then the “check engine” light came on again. Grrr.

I got my first bifocals Thursday.  They take a bit of getting used to; I wasn’t sure if I was feeling dizzy due to the bifocals or the head cold.  Possibly both.  I don’t need them bad enough to make it an incentive to wear them all the time which is bound to be trouble in the long run.

A friend said recently that she noticed that all the articles that she’s read lately on the subject of how to get rich or retire when you’re 45 were written by people who have no children.  I must say, it seems that no matter how much money you bring home, a teenager can suck you dry.

Evan has come home with a number of things this fall and none of them are unreasonable or unexpected.  They just all hit us at once and they are all $200 and up.  There comes a time at which I want to throw up my hands and say “enough!” but I can’t really do that.  Why?  Because “everybody else does”.  He has never said that; it’s just what I feel.  In the past year, I’ve bought another car (bringing my driveway total to three), two rings (a class ring and a championship ring), senior portraits (two of these actually since Mel didn’t like the first ones), and a number of other things.  According to my cash flow analysis in Quicken, it’s actually the “other” that costs the most on a month-to-month basis.  That’s just crazy that of all my expenses, “Other” could account for such a high percentage – higher than taxes.  But them’s the facts.  And we’re not even paying for college yet.  Nor have I purchased the inevitable college computer and dorm room furnishings.

I guess I’m never going to get that new table saw.

I finally got back to the infamous “check engine” light on my Honda.  I went and bought the pricey part and installed it last night according to the Haynes manual and reset the error code using the handy little secret from the aforementioned manual.


Well, check that item off my list of things to do.  Now on to the next big thing.

The “Brake” light came on today and stayed on.  *sigh*