Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Grasshopper!

Today is not only Halloween, but it is also the day of birth for my yet to be determined trick or treat, Grasshopper. 8 years ago today we disappointed all of the neighborhood kids by being at the hospital instead of handing out candy. So happy birthday to my little boy. Don't grow up too fast on me.

Here's some pictures for you to enjoy. First (by popular demand), Grasshopper and his pumpkin cake, made appropriately enough out of Devil's Food Cake filled with vanilla ice cream:

Next is Grasshopper and Maverick in their Halloween costumes. Note the Longaberger basket in the background? I'm sure you want one and should contact the Wife to order you one.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Back to normal?

I'm not sure what normal is around here, but next week should be as close to normal as possible. Only the usual thing going on. I'm looking forward to Halloween. Grasshopper is really excited for his birthday. Plus the trick or treating. We totally cleared any events for Tuesday to make sure we could enjoy the day with him.

Today was his family birthday party. It actually went pretty well. We got most of the preparation complete Friday and yesterday. The Wife went insane and got into her Pre-Party-Going-Out-of-Her-Mind insanity mode for only about an hour. We had everthing pretty much ready to go by the time the first guest arrived. My sister amazingly got here first and sent one of the kids to the door to make sure she had the right date of the party. She's NEVER first. It was too funny.

Being that a bunch of Italians were in the house, there was far more food than needed. My mom was instructed in what to bring, and of course she brought more stuff. I asked for 2 stuffed breads, I got 4. She said she'd bring a few other small dishes, and of course, she made WAY more than necessary. But, no one went hungry.

The boys get their cake of request at thier birthday parties, so Grasshopper asked for a filled cake. We have that Betty Crocker set where you make a cake that you can fill, so he asked for chocolate cake filled with vanilla ice cream decorated as a pumpkin. My mom managed to find orange frosting last minute yesterday so we were in business. It came our quite good, and the Wife did an awesome job decorating it.

The house was as loud as you'd expect with 12 Italians and 5 boys running around. Later on, Grasshopper's best pal showed up for cake and there were now 6 boys running around. It took about 5 minutes before I kicked them out, I mean suggested they play outside. While it was nice having everyone here, I must say I very much enjoyed the quiet in the house after everyone left.

Grasshopper got some of the toys he asked for and he got some nice clothes as well. He was most happy with all of his gifts. He's dying to put together the big Bionicle set he recieved, but I told him it might be a day or two before there's a good time for hit to start on it. He was good with that, for now.

Next weekend should be interesting. The boys and I will be doing a cub scout sleepover at the Buffalo Navy Yard. The boys can see how Dad lived on a ship back in the day. I'll be sure to get you guys some pictures and compare what they tell the boys to what it's really like. They say that the ghost of one of the Sullivan boys haunts the ship the USS Sullivans where we'll be sleeping. If I run into him, I'll let you guys know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More sea stories

I wasn't really planning on posting this week, but I'm feeling like I'm letting down my peeps, not at least putting something out there for you guys. I might have had time to write a post during my 2 hour stay at the karate dojo, but I caught up on some work and read all of your blogs instead. Since I have no idea what to post, I shall treat you to another sea story.

This is the story of crossing lines. In this case, these lines are the Equator and the Arctic Circle. Yes, indeed, I've crossed both. As a matter of fact, I crossed the Equator then crossed the Arctic Circle on the same deployment. We crossed the Arctic Circle about 3 weeks from crossing the Equator, and that included a one week stay in Toulon, France (a wonderful place that would require a separate post. Smash sandwiches rule!)

Of course, there is a ceremony involved in Crossing the Line (that is the equator). A few terms you'll need to know. Someone that has not Crossed the Line is considered a Wog (short for polywog). Once you've crossed the line, you become a Shellback (as in the shell of a turtle). I'm sure these are steeped in mystical, navular lore, but I have no idea why these terms are used. As an interesting aside, the reason coffee is referred to as a cup of Joe does have a navular background. Back in the 1800s, all sailors got a rum ration to drink. The Joe MacDonough became Secretary of the Navy and he was staunchly against drinking and outlawed it and replaced the rum ration with coffee. So when sailors drank it, they would mockingly toast Joe with their coffee. Thus, a cup of Joe. But I digress.

Crossing the Line entails many "rites of passage" so to speak. The evening before you cross, is considered Wog Night. This is the night Wogs get to run around and try to create havok. I say try, because Shellbacks are usually too smart to fall for our antics. Such as paging an officer that is a Shellback to the wardroom so we can jump him, duct tape him to a pole, pull down his pants, and spray him with perfume. This actually happened to my Shellback roommate the last time the ship crossed the line. There were even pictures as proof. The other big entertainment of the evening is the Beauty Contest, naming of the Ship's Mascot, and coronation of Baby Neptune. Baby Neptune is the fattest sailor on the ship. You'll see the significance momentarily. The Ship's Mascot is a Wog that gets to crawl on all fours and bark like a dog. For the beauty contest, each department selects one Wog to put on a dress and strut his stuff.

This time, one of my fellow Nuclear Power Officers, a gentleman of Japanese decent we called Taco, cause we couldn't pronounce his name, was chosen hands down. You could tell we'd been at sea a long time. We actually had a woman on board this trip. It was about 4 months in to the 6 month deployement when we Crossed the Line. Taco was WAY hotter than the only woman on board. As another side note, the next time we went on a deployment with a female officer on board, she was so-so plain at the beginning of the trip and really hot after about a month. This female officer was not attractive at the beginning of the deployment, and STILL not attractive over 6 months later. A sad statement. For her. But I digress further.

The day you Cross the Line as a Wog begins with an early wakeup call. I believe people started beating on our door at about 4 am. You need to dress in a uniform, but Wogs are not allowed to wear underwear under their clothes. You need to wear them over your pants. We were required to crawl around on our hands and knees, because Wogs cannot walk upright. We crawled around on the non-skid. That's REALLY rough strips that go all around the deck to keep you from slipping and falling. Did I mention it cuts through your knees and palms? While you crawl around, Shellbacks feel bad for you, and smack you with bits of fire hose, decorate you with trash several days old as well as feed it to you, clean your hair with bearing grease, and wash you down with the fire hose. Once you've crawled around the deck in a circle a few times, you finally become worthy to enter the Kingdom of Neptune.

This part of the ship contains many interesting activities. You might be required to blow a bottlecap around the deck. You might be required to do pennance by "gargling" in a toilet with all kinds of nasty stuff in it. You get to crawl through the Tunnel of Terror, which is filled with garbage, while Shellbacks beat on it from the outside. But EVERYONE is required to pick the cherry out of Baby Neptune's belly. Just what is this, you say? Well, Baby Neptune (remember him?) covers his big belly with lard. And puts an olive in it (the cherry). You need to take the cherry out of Baby Neptunes belly button. With your teeth. And of course, Baby Neptune grabs your head and makes sure you bet up close and personal. If you're lucky, you only need to do that once. It's up to the Shellbacks to determine if you were sincere enough.

Once you've done all these things, you get to go through a bath (water with dye markers in it) and get asked "What are you!" by guys screaming in your face. Most stupid Wogs (ahem) will say "I'm a Wog!" to be told "No you're not! Go around again!" Another lap through Neptune's Kingdom. The smart Wog (you only need to tell me once) will say "I'm a Shellback!" and recieve congratulations and can now stand upright and walk. And walk you do. To the rail of the ship to take off your clothes and throw them overboard. You then proceed immediately to the shower to attempt to get everything off of you. It usually takes a few days.

Crossing the Arctic Circle is known as Bluenose. Cause, you know, it's so fucking cold out there your nose turns blue. Those that have not become a Bluenose don't have a colorful name as in Crossing the Line. This time around, the way you earn becoming a Bluenose is to paint the bullnose of the ship blue. The bullnose is a chock at the bow of the ship that the bowline goes through when you tie up to the pier. Sounds simple, right? Did I mention that while you do this, in your underwear, those that already have Bluenose are trying to keep you away with a fire hose? No?

Oh, my God, you must be thinking. He must have nearly frozen to death doing that! Normally, I would have replied, "Yes I did." However, that year the seas in the North Atlantic were 60 feet high. Yes, you read that right. SIXTY FEET HIGH. The ship was rolling 30 degrees each way consistantly. Our maximum roll was 47 degrees. And the higher in the ship you are, the further the distance you travel port to starboard every time you roll. Of course, my stateroom was in the highest level of the ship. Imagine, if you will, looking straight aft off the fantail at the horizon. Now, imagine that horizon is moving up and down. First you see only sky, then about 3 seconds later, you see only sea. And I'm talking when you look up, you can see only the sea, no sky at all. We had a pair of antenna right on the fantail (the aft part of the ship) that could be raised and lowered. We lowered the antenna for flight ops when a helicopter delivered parts or something. The antennas got stuck in the down position. The next morning, they were GONE. The waves ripped them off. These were 30 foot high antennas that were 8 to 10 inches thick where they attached to the ship.

That's the weather we crossed the Arctic Circle in. Our captain, being a wise man, said it was too dangerous to do the Bluenose ceremony, and Omni Domni pronounced us all Bluenose. I have many more tales of the Navy. I was on active duty during the Tailhook scandal (remember that, anyone?). We did drug ops in the Carribean. I've been to GITMO and Puerto Rico. Then there was the Compound when we visited Curacao. I shall have to relate some of those stories to you one of these days.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stop the Insanity

I just wanted everyone to know that since it's been crazy busy at work (one of my team is in training and now our admin is sick), that I probably won't be around much this week. I usually visit all my blogger pals at lunchtime, and something tells me I'll be working through a bunch of lunches this week. After getting home, I really don't want to touch the computer, so I doubt I'll be doing much surfing at night.

So if I'm not around much the next weekish, I'm not ignoring you. I'm just too busy or too tired. I'll try and check in when I can and may do more reading than commenting.

I'm shutting off my laptop now so I can stare at the Wife and relax.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sea story

It's been a mellow weekend with not much going on, so I thought I'd post a sea story of sorts from my Navy days.

I was over in the Middle East during the first Gulf War at the end of 1991. As part of that trip, we "Crossed the Line" (that is, the equator). The ceremony by with a Wog (one who has not Crossed the Line) becomes a Shellback (one who has) is a post in and of itself. Suffice it to say it involved many gross activities. The reason we crossed the line was a visit to Mombassa, Kenya. Yes, people, I've been to Africa.

It was probably the most interesting country I've ever visited. The first thing that really struck us was the poverty. When we pulled alongside the pier, there were literally hundreds of people waiting for us with things to try and sell us, mostly carvings of stone and ebony (one of my favorite woods). These people did not leave until we did about a week later. And they would literally fight for our business. If you talked to one vendor, didn't buy anything, and started bargaining with a different vendor for a similar item, they would start arguing with each other or worse. Trading was acceptable and we would trade our ripped up t-shirts and old hats, things we would normally throw away, for whatever they had. It's sad that what we consider garbage is actually valuable to them.

Speaking of garbage, we had to put an armed guard on our garbage barge because there were litereally people going through it. They'd smoke our cigarette butts, eat our old food, and wear our old clothes. I'd never experieced such poverty. And the demand for things we had was amazing. I had one vendor try and trade me several carved figures just for the neck strap for my sunglasses. One of my shipmates gave a pair of $45 Ray Bans aviators to a Kenyan naval officer and the man said it would cost him a month's salary to buy them and was so grateful he invited him to his home for dinner. The saddest example was another shipmate that had a $200 watch that a vendor really wanted. He offered every carved figure he had in his booth (probably about 40 or so) for it. When he refused since the watch had sentimental value, the vendor offered his daughter. It was unclear whether this was a temporary loan or permanent payment.

There were many very cool things to see as well. The Kenyans were a very proud people. Monkeys were running around the way you would see squirrels in the park. They were everywhere. Probably the funniest thing that happened to us was a cab ride we took. The driver had a human femur bone in the back. He verified that it was indeed a real leg bone, but would not tell us where he got it. When we asked if it belonged to a relative, he just smiled.

We also had a local convince my buddies and I (there were about 10 of us) to have him show us around Mombassa and see out of the way things for about $5. He showed us a Buddist temple and a Mosque that we would have never found on our own. He was also the person that hooked us up with the above cabbie. Towards the end of the tour, when we were going through some alleyways, we wondered about the wisdom of going off with a stranger as we had, but we figured we had numbers on our side.

The other thing I remember most was it was my buddy Buzz's birthday. That was actually the name I knew him by for 2 years before I heard his wife call him by his real name. Buzz was a rancher from Oklahoma and a real "man's man". But a lot of fun to hang out with. We somehow managed to find a place that sold tequila in Mombassa then headed out to the hotel Buzz was staying to celebrate. We found Buzz in the pool and he was most appreciative of the tequila. I also remember many drinks flowing but not much else. It was a great time.

Overall, it was a very interesting place and I would love to go back, though I doubt I will. If you ever have the opportunity to go, you should.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What to call this post

I was going to post about something else today, but this was much more on my mind.

There was a message last night on the voice mail from the social worker from Grasshopper's school requesting we call. I called her back today. It appears that Grasshopper is having some difficulties at school this year. It was causing me some anxiety at work. That prompted the Wife to say "What, you've just started now?" Of course I meant over and above the normal anxiety.

Now, the call from the social worker was not a bad call. She wanted to talk to us about what Grasshopper's been doing in the classroom, if we've seen the same behaviors at home, and ways to get past the behaviors. Not one mention about whether he's a difficult boy, no accusatory tones, and no hints that "we" need to do something.

One of the issues has been that he's struggling a little academically. Not because he isn't bright, but because he's turning into such a perfectionist, that he won't move on to the next thing until he has the current thing exactly right. He got upset because even though he got the right answer to a question, he didn't answer it EXACTLY the way the teacher did. Therefore, his answer was wrong, and he could not move on until he corrected it. And the teacher cannot hold up the whole class for him to do that, so she needs to move on. Which causes more anxiety.

Also, he's starting to use autism as an excuse. For example, if he's having difficulty with something, he'll say "I can't do it! Don't you know I'm autistic?" He does that at home as well and we don't let him get away with it. He's just getting very frustrated at school right now since the workload is a little higher, and because they're beginning to teach him some abstract concepts. His mind is very logical and fact based. He's great at memorizing and repeating things back. But analytical thinking, such as estimating, he has real trouble with. I know he'll get it, but we need to work past this and he'll be great.

Another issue for him is that he doesn't have as much time to draw at school as he used to. Drawing has become a way for him to calm himself and escape from the world for a little while. He's been taking paper with him to lunch to "catch up" a little.

One of the positives is that the social worker asked if I thought it would be beneficial if Grasshopper spent some one on one time with her at lunch. He has group time during the day, but she's free during that time and thought it might be a good idea for the personal time. I thought it was a great idea. At a minimum it gets him away from the loud, crowded lunchroom so he gets a little time to come down and relax before going back to class.

I must say that I'm very happy with our school district and the way they handle all kids like Grasshopper. They really are all about including them and helping. I've heard so many horror stories of other districts it amazes me that more are not like ours. It's not that much more work, and the kids benefit so much. I can't imagine what Grasshopper would be like if not for the social skills he's learned by being around other kids.

We talked to Grasshopper about what's been going on at school and about not needing to be exactly right. He gets it intellectually, but I don't think he really gets it yet. We'll see how things go.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Can't Stop the Rock

Faith on Fire played their monthly Mass last night. One of our singers (and the piano player for that matter) tried to reign in the Rocker Guy, to limited success. We began rehearsing and the singer commented that she really liked the sound of my guitar at our last practice, because there was less distortion in it during practice. I explained that I wasn't using my amp at practice, but one of the drummer's dad's amps, which had a different sound. She sounded disappointed, so I was trying sound combinations to try and better replicate what she heard earlier in the week.

So as I was trying something, she yells, "that's the sound! What did you do!" As it turns out, I turned OFF the distortion to make an adjustment to the amp. "Why don't you play like that, then?" The piano player chimes in, "It sounds good. It sounds like electric guitar and it doesn't have to be distorted to be rock. We're a Catholic rock band, not Catholic heavy metal band."

Ok, now you've got my dander up. The sound I was using was more 70s hard rock than heavy metal, but there was no point in argueing the sublties. So I did the polite thing and tried it out all Mass with clean guitar, only reverb and chorus on the amp. And I made some discoveries. Some potentially expensive discoveries.

I asked the Wife after Mass what she thought. She said when she first heard me start playing, she thought there were 2 guitar players. I normally play out of the bridge pickup on my Yamaha to get the brightest tone. I found I had to play out of both pickups since totally clean the sound was TOO bright. I found that with my Super Overdrive pedal, the sound dues get dirtier, but at the cost of brightness and sound quality. With my equalizer pedal turned on, I actually roll off some of the gain than if I turn it off.

The worst part of it all (besides feeling like I'd been turned into one of those whiney British bands like Coldplay) was that I REALLY liked the sound, except that it was just a little TOO clean. I got so much variation in tone. It reminded me of the axim I'd learned long ago that less is more. Less processing of your signal means the guitar itself can sing.

So here's the expensive part. I may have to begin again the Quest for The Sound. I thought I had The Sound when I bought my current amp. I had what I thought was a great metal/hard rock sound. But I noticed that all I got was low end and that all my guitars sounded the same. I thought it was a problem with my pickups. Until I went into the studio and plugged directly into a 1960s Marshall stack with no effects. The sound! The tone! I never knew my guitar could sound so good! So I went out to find a pedal to play through the clean channel that gave me The Sound. And I found a Boss Super Overdrive. And I thought I had The Sound. I was happy for over 5 years.

But yesterday I heard a closer proximity to The Sound than I've ever heard before. That clean sound I was getting. If I could get that same sound but with the kind of drive that Brian May gets, THAT would be it! So how do I get The Sound? I believe it begins with a tube amplifier. Mine is a transister amp, and while it sounds great clean, you can't drive it naturally like a tube amp. To get gain on a tube amp, you just turn up the volume. Now, you don't want to blow out the room by turning your amp up to 11, so how do you do that? Get an amp that has a channel volume to drive the input, and a master volume you can turn down so the amp has that overdrive without being screaming loud. So which amp can do that?

Wait for it..... wait for it...... Vox amps. That's right, the amps Brian May uses. I played around a little bit with a Vox AC15 at Guitar Center, and it might do the trick. But it's $600. And it may not. I may need a two channel amp, like, say, a Vox AC-30. Which is $1500. And I don't have money for that kind of gear. So now I need to do some research as to a good amp that I can afford one of these days.

And the Wife can't blame me for this one. I was perfectly happy with my sound until our singer made me play clean for the whole Mass. If she hadn't done that, I would have never know how inadequate my tone was. So the search for The Sound continues.

Stay tuned my gentle rocker fans.....stay tuned.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sleepover from Hell

Last Saturday Maverick and I went on what at first looked to be a cool sleepover. We were going to spend the night at the Genesse Country Museum, which is a local historic village set in the early 1800s. There's old homes and buildings all from the area and during the day you've got people in period costume running the village like it would have been back then. Overall very cool.

Well, I should have figured that hanging out with a dozen 10 year olds at night might not be a good thing. And truthfully, it might not have been so bad if not for one scout in Maverick's den, whom we'll refer to as PIMA. He's one of those kids that you just want to smack after hanging with him just a few minutes.

We began with a nature hike to earn badges. We were looking at different kinds of trees and plants. Now, mind you, we started at about 6:30 and knew it was going to take about 2 hours so we were anticipating walking in the dark at some point. Right from the begining PIMA holding up the group, asking questions totally unrelated to the topics the guide was discussing, not following rules, and giving stupid, ridiculous answers to the questions the guide asked the boys. All these distractions just served to slow us down and make the walk go slower. Once it got dark, PIMA thought it would be fun to jump on other kids backs, try and scare other kids, and other annoying such tactics.

To make it even more difficult, PIMA's mom doesn't do sleepovers, so the den leader had to take responsibility for him. He's a pretty easy going guy normally, but by the end of the walk, he was pretty frustrated with him. After the nature walk, we had a snack, then a campfire with smores. The dad's kind of japped out at this point. Someone ordered a sheet pizza, so while the den leader and a couple of other parents were at the camp fire, I and another group of dads hung out and ate pizza and wings without the kids. It was very cool. However, the den leader came in at one point and wasn't sounding too happy, so we went out to make sure the kids weren't trying to burn the place down.

After campfire was a night-time walk through the village. Normally that would have been cool, but of course PIMA was being loud and obnoxious and made the walk less fun than it could be. Bedtime was more of the same. I could hear him talking with the other kids instead of going to sleep. Mind you, it was tough enough sleeping there as it was. For some reason they wouldn't let us bring air matresses so I got to sleep on a mat, which wasn't too comfortable. I woke up every so often when an arm or leg fell asleep and I had to roll over.

The next morning, the first thing I hear after waking up is PIMA coming up and telling me how Maverick got up in the middle of the night and was causing trouble. Skeptical of his version of the story, I asked Maverick what happened. He said he and another boy got up to use the bathroom about 1 am and talked in the bathroom for a little bit then checked out the turtles in the room below where we slept before coming back to bed. Causing trouble indeed.

We took off after breakfast and actually made it to church on time. That was definately an evening to crash early, which I did. Over all we did have a pretty good time, but that boy sure put a black cloud on the event. Our next sleepover is in about 2 weeks at the Buffalo Naval Museum. I've been told the ship we're sleeping on (the USS Sullivans) is haunted, so it should be interesting. Grasshopper is going on this one as well so the boys can see what it was like when Dad lived on a ship. I'm sure I'll post details after the event.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I gotta rant

I've got so many things I want to blog about this week but no time for it all. That's a switch. I'm going to do a post on the sleepover last weekend, but I want to wait a bit on it. I just had to blow off some political steam from two things I saw today.

The first is the ongoing saga with North Korea and nukes. First today I see that N. Korea has stated they will consider international sanctions an act of war. I'm sorry, but I think their leader si pulling a Bush, that is, come up with some reasonable sounding excuse to attack somebody. I think N. Korea really wants to nuke someone but just needs some provocation. Kind of like Bush invading Iraq. THEN I read later how John McCain is blaming Bill Clinton for N. Korea getting nukes! Because if Clinton hadn't blown it and come up with some good policy to keep them from developing missles/nukes back in the 90s we wouldn't be in this mess. Never mind that the Bush administration, while categorizing North Korea as a member of the Axis of Evil has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about it! What I want to know is if Bush really thought that both Iran and North Korea were really part of some unholy, evil, alliance of doom, they why the fuck are we dicking around in Afghanistan and Iraq? Oh yeah, cause if we attacked either of them it would be an even bigger mess than the one we're in.

The thing that really got me shaking my head and wondering what people were thinking was a bumper sticker I saw. It said "Save traditional marriage, vote yes on the Marriage Ammendment". So I had to wonder, how exactly would an ammendment decreeing that marriage only be between a man and a woman save traditional marriage? Just how many people out there are thinking to themselves, "well, if they let those homosexuals get married, then my marriage don't mean nothin' so I'm getting divorced".

Let's just look at the divorce rate now for traditional marriages. Over 50%, right? And this is without letting gay people marry. Just how much worse can it make it? Perhaps thier worried that if more couples, of any sexual persuasion, are getting married, then they'll probably get divorced too and make the statistic even worse? Or that the law will force churches that don't believe in gay marriage to marry them anyway?

The crux of it, which is too logical an arguement for the Religious Right to consider, is that we're talking about legal marriage here, meaning a legal contract between two persons, that results in each person recieving certain benefits and rights under the law. Same as any other legal contract that can be drawn up. I once emailed someone on the difference between spiritual marriage, which is the real bond between two people, and legal marriage.

What my conservative brethren fail to realize and will never admit, is that they are trying to legislate morality. And since when has the government been responsible for, let alone capable, of legislating morality? Let's look at this for a moment. Prostitution is a moral issue, is illegal (almost everywhere in the US) and yet it goes on anyway. Has the law deterred anyone who wasn't already predisposed against it? What about drugs? Same result. Let's look at serious crimes, like rape and murder. How many murderers have you heard of that thought about the legal consequenses, up to and including death, before commiting the act and thought they'd better not?

So what is the function of the government? Well, I think Jefferson said it best in the Declaration of Independence. The government's job (among other things) is to protect man's inalienable rights, including "life, liberty, and the perfuit of happineff". Where's the moral judgement in that? Life, ok, laws against murder. Liberty, again, laws protecting people's rights to do what they like, as long as they don't imping in other's perfuit of thier life, liberty, and happineff. And the perfuit of happineff. Ah, that's a little more sticky. But again, what makes me happy may not make you happy but as long as I don't affect your life, what do you care anyway?

I have been accused of moral relativism before, for believing as I do. Because I think it is the place of the family and church to teach morals, not the government. And I also believe that you can seperate the two. As in you can make something I find immoral legal. As in one of the above examples, I find prostitution to be immoral. It goes against all of my beliefs. But who am I to push my beliefs on everyone by making a law about it? What would happen should it be legal everywhere? Less crime and disease perhaps. And maybe morally outraged people could do something constructive, like try to teach the younger generation about how immoral they find it and try to convince others with sound arguements and two way discourse that it is immoral and maybe we could make it obsolete instead of illegal. I know, I'm a hopelessly optimistic dreamer.

But isn't that what Conservatives really want anyway? Freedom from government? Freedom to do their own thing without outside interference? What the fuck to they care anyway if Johnny wants to marry Steve, and Emily wants to marry Jane? Why can't they teach thier kids, if they believe in God and Jesus, that God teaches men and women should be married to each other, but that not everyone believes that and that God will figure it out when we all die, but our job is to love your neighbor as yourself and that everyone, even those you disagree with, is your neighbor.

Imagine what kind of world we'd live in then.

New Linky Love

For those who don't read this blog already, I wanted to point out a new blog on my blogroll, Deni Bonet, aka The Last Girl on Earth. She's a classically trained violinist that is forging her own muscial path. She's played with everyone that is anyone AND has put out her own CDs. If only I were as successful a musician. She found me through Se7en. I was acutally kind of excited that she'd found me as I've lurked on her blog on occasion, having found her through other mutual blog friends. Anyway, she's totally cool AND her blog features Deni clinging to the Empire State Building, which Grasshopper thought was the coolest thing EVER! So go check her out.

And while you're at it, go visit Momcani. She's having a bit of a costume crisis for Halloween and needs your guys advice. And while you're at it, stop a while and check out her blog. I think she's cool, therefore she must be worth you reading and giving her some love. She's got 4 kids for God's sake! If anything she needs you guy's support to keep from going insane!

One quick amusing quote from band practice last night. The practice quickly degenerated into all kinds of sexual talk and innuendo. We were rehearsing diction on one of the songs and our pianist says "When you get to comes, make sure you spit it out." We totally busted up and that pretty much ended the practice.

My phone is ringing off the hook so I better get back to work. Have a good hump day, or at least a good hump if you can!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Project Laundry Room

Before I get in to picutres and the sordid story of Project Laundry Room, I want to give a big internet hug to the Wife. I looked at her at dinner tonight and she seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. There's been some stuff going on at work and she's crazy busy at home between the boys, Longaberger, other family stuff, teaching faith formation, thank you's for the Autism Walk, you name it. I've been trying to help her out but I can only do so much. So please give her some interent love (the non-creepy, asexual type).

On with Project Laundry Room. Ok, the plan was to begin on Thursday with the boys at school, and continue Friday and today with the boys at home on vacation from school for the Columbus Day holiday (Friday was Superintendent's Day so the kids were off). First the pictures. I'll concentrate on the laundry tub area as that's where the big changes were.

Before (everything plain white):

After painting (color biscuit) and tile and grout:

Totally put back together with laundry tub:

Now for the story. Painting actually went quite well. I managed to get EVERYTHING out of the room, wash tub, washer and dryer, and not have anything in the way in the hallway outside. A major miracle if you saw how small the hallway is. Painting took a little longer than expected, but then again there was never a coat of paint on these walls except the flat white the builder put on. While I was at it I put another coat on the walls in the hallway since they were the same color and had gotten dirty from gubby little boy hands. All complete before the boys got home at 4. Sweet.

Day 2, begining of the tile project. I had done some pre-work the night before, figuring out the layout and where I would have to do my cuts and decided to start with a full tile on the second row, as the molding I was butting them up against on the floor was not quite level. I had some tile provided by a friend of the family that's in the tile business, and my dad had given me so extra tile from a project of his that looked to be the same color. So far everything looks pretty good. Now it's Friday morning and I'm starting the project. First thing I need to do is double check the bullnose tile (the curved finishing tiles you put on the edges). Right off I realize there are no corner bullnose tiles. Bad juju as you the two end corners need the edge top and side. So, I'm off to Home Depot to find corner bullnose tiles and get a tile cutting bit for my Dremel tool. Turns out the corner bullnose at Home Depot are a slightly different size and thickness. No good. So I'm off to Lowes to look for the same. Same problem there, no corner bullnose. However, I buy the bit for the Dremel. Already I'm starting to be a not happy camper, with two boys in tow. Last chance, I go to the tile store where we purchased the tile when building the house. They have corner bullnose tiles that are the right size, but slightly whiter in shade. Fuck it, they'll have to do. So I get them.

Now, I was expecting to start putting up tile at about 9:30 am. It's now nearly 11. I'm WAY behind. So I go to find my trowel to put the glue on the wall, and I realize that I don't have a wall trowel, I only have a floor trowel. What's the big deal you ask? Floor trowel's have 1/4 inch notched teeth and wall trowels have sawteeth maybe 1/8 inch thick. The glue would be way to thick on the wall if I used that trowel. So back to Home Depot to buy a trowel. Now it's WELL after 11 and I'm FINALLY getting the first row up. I start with the tile my dad gave me so I can get as much up as possible and maximize the tile hieght on the wall. I get 3 rows of it up, including all the cuts for the bottow row and go to put on the first tile of the lot from the tile guy. And guess what? The tile is a fucking different size. They don't match up. So now I have to take down all the tile I put up and start all over from the beginning, including figuring out anew how many tiles I'll get on each wall.

With that worked out, I FINALLY start getting the tile on. It's going well, and I get to the point where I need to cut the tiles to go around the water lines and the drain line. I go to find the nice new Dremel bit to cut the tile, and guess what? I've somehow managed to lose the damn thing. I spend maybe 15 mintutes looking for it, and now fuck it, BACK TO HOME DEPOT to buy ANOTHER FUCKING DREMEL BIT. Grasshopper made the mistake of complaining that he didn't want to go out again. Bad move on his part. I totally lost it on him and gave him an earful, including some colorful language. Bad, I know, but I was beyond unhappy camper at this point. He and Maverick were very quiet for the duration of that trip.

So I finally get back home with my Dremel bit, get the tiles cut, and finish the job by 2:50 pm. Oh, did I mention, I had to leave the house at 3 to get Maverick to a doctor's appointment? No? And how I left the house on time but still ended up getting there late because I couldn't find the new office where the doctor was? All in all a VERY bad day for this dad. However, all the lines in the tile were STRAIGHT! And I had warned the Wife on the phone that she was going to go into the laundry room and the only comment on how wonderful it looked. Or else. She was most compliant.

Today was the grouting job. I wasn't looking forward to it because I HATE grouting. The way my dad does it is a very messy and time consuming process. When I went out to get grout this morning, I noticed the had a nice squeegy/trowel looking tool to put the grout in. So I got it. OMG what a time saver it was. It made it easy to put the grout in, get the excess grout off the tile, and score the lines so it looks very nice. In the past, I've had to go over tile 8 or 10 times to get all the grout off of it. With this, I went over it with a damp spounge twice, and polished it 2 hours later with an old diaper. And it looks wonderful.

I mentioned to the Wife that the laundry room as DONE, but she reminded my she now wants cabinets and shelves in there. So I rephrased that this phase of Project Laundry Room is done and she chuckled. It was a damn bit of work, but it came out good. This is a good object lesson to me why you really should hire people to do shit like this. As a good friend of mine once said, it's more than makes up for the amount of acida you go through doing it yourself.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quick update

I'm sitting in karate class with the boys on a Saturday morning. I've left my coffee at home so I'm caffiene deficient right now.

I got the laundry room painted and the tile up. Only thing left is the grout. I got a before picture and will have after pictures when it's done. I will say that yesterday turned into the day from Hell in getting that tile up. More details when the job is done. I'm amazed that the tile came out so well considering my frustration level.

Today will be crazy busy as well. After karate, I drop Grasshopper off at soccer, take Maverick home, go back to soccer with Grasshopper, come home, take Maverick to soccer, come back and maybe have lunch, go get haircuts, come back, have quick dinner, then run off to a cub scout sleepover tonight with Maverick.

But there is NOTHING planned for tommorrow but a round of golf with Maverick. I'm very much looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll have pictures up on Monday night from the laundry room. Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rocking the Cathedral

I just had to blog about yesterday cause it was one of those "what else could happen" kind of things.

Faith on Fire was playing a ceremony where high school seniors were being awarded the Hands of Christ award for service. The Bishop was presiding and we were playing in the Cathedral in front of our largest crowd yet. I was very much looking forward to this yesterday and was psyched about the whole thing. I was planning to leave work at 4 pm to have time to have dinner with the family and spend a little time with the Wife and kids before getting out there. We were starting at 7:30 and I wanted to get there between 6 and 6:30.

Well, I got out of work about 4:15. A little later than I wanted, but no biggie. I get out to the car and put my laptop in the passenger side when I see it: the passenger side front tire was flat nearly to the rim. Can you say "oh fuck". So I call the Wife and get the number for the tire place. They're open till 6 and think it will only take maybe a half hour or so to get it done. So I put the spare on while amazingly not getting my work pants dirty, and head off to the tire shop.

I get there about 10 minutes to 5, they close at 6, and I don't need to be at the gig til 6:30, so I'm still good, right? So I ask the guy about how long to get to my car. He says about an hour. Shit. So I start making calls. First I call our bass player to let him know I'm going to be late. He gets there, let's the rest of the group know, and I get a call from our piano player. Do I think I can make it? I'm thinking I still can. Cool. I let the Wife know what's going on, go to Wendy's to grab a bite, and wait.

About a half hour later, I get a call from our piano player again. What's the status? It's like 5:45 and my car isn't even in the shop yet. So she tells me our drummer's dad is there (our drummer's 16) and he plays guitar and can fill in, so don't worry about missing the gig. They got it covered. I'm a little dissapointed, but all right, now no rush, right?

So I call the Wife and update her. As I'm finishing talking to her, my phone is beeping. I get the other line and it's our singer. She's like, Vince, you can't miss the gig! Do you want us to come pick you up? We need you here! So I tell her I'm sure I can make it. She says they'll have everything ready so I just plug into an amp and play. So they finish my car about 6:15. I run home to throw my gear in. Even though they said an amp would be ready for me, I decided that since I didn't know the quality of the amp, I better grab mine. It's now about 6:30, it's 20 minutes to the Cathedral, so I should be cool. On my way to the cathedral, I get a call from our piano player asking, by the way, one of the amps we have isn't that good. Can you bring yours? I replied it's in my trunk. I was told the Holy Spirit was working in me.

I got to the Cathedral just before 7, quick set up and tune, with about 10 minutes to spare to start the gig! We had a few minor technical issues which we worked out during the prelude, but after that it all went smooth. It was a great gig and a very nice ceremony. Probably the worst part for us as musicians was the part where the seniors recieved the Hands of Christ award. There were over 1oo recipients and each got thier name announced and their hands blessed by the Bishop. We were playing quiet music during this time. We'd planned on doing just one number, but after playing it for 2o minutes with no end in site, we had to go to a different song. That's when we got a little goofy. Although we were only supposed to play music, myself, the bassist, and the drummer (who NEVER sings) were quietly singing the lyrics. We had to vamp for about 40 minutes total. OMG I had trouble staying professional during that. The urge to do something wild and crazy was strong!

After the gig they had really good cookies for everyone! Nothing like some sugar after a 2 hour gig! All told it went off very well. I managed to stay calm throughout the entire ordeal, from flat to cookie.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rocker Guy Ramblings V2

As you can all see, I've gotten the KILLER blog upgrade courtesy of Se7en. Hope you like the new digs! I must agree with Lisa B that he totally rules! I absolutely LOVE the new look. Hopefully all of you do as well!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another successful walk

The 2006 Autism Walk was a HUGE success! The day was beautiful. A little chilly but sunny. Light breeze. We had over 1000 walkers who raised over $115,000, double last year's amount. We got major sponsorship this year AND local TV coverage. Team Grasshopper raised over $500 and have some pledges for more. If you wanted to donate but didn't in time, the website to donate on line is still up. If you care to use another method, contact me and we'll make sure the donation gets to Autism Speaks. I'd like to thank everyone that sent a donation. It is greatly appreciated.

The boys really enjoyed the walk (as did the Wife). We had one minor blow up. Grasshopper suddenly broke down, started crying, and wouldn't just after we checked in. We finally managed to calm him down enough to figure out what was wrong. In a word: BALLOONS. Grasshopper does not like balloons at all, unless he's in control of them. He's afraid they'll pop and he doesn't like the sound. They were everywhere. One of the groups was giving them out and there was a clown making balloon animals so kids were holding and wearing them. We finally managed to get him in an area of the walk where any balloons were not too close, and he did well. This is a good example of the kinds of fears autistic kids have. And why the walk was so important.

Should be a very interesting week. There's the gig at the Cathedral. Also, I'll be painting and putting tile in the laundry room. I got the tile about a year ago and its about time I put it up. I'll be home Thursday through Tuesday (mostly cause the kids are off Friday and Monday). So please send good home improvement vibes at the end of the week.