Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daddy

It's August 30, 2006. My father would have been 88 today and might still be around but for the asbestos-induced cancer he contracted in the automobile repair business.

The older I get, the more I understand my dad. He wasn't exactly an intellectual--it took him a couple of years to get through high school and he didn't bother with college--but he had a wit about him and was a genius with mechanical things. The smartest thing he ever did was marrying my mother, who should have gone to college and would have done well if she had, but she was the financial brains of the family and did really well with what little an auto mechanic brought in. With two kids of my own, I realize more now how hard a job being a parent is, something I didn't get as a child in the old days. He wasn't a big one for hugs or telling me all the time how much he loved me, his generation wasn't always that demonstrative, but he was there when I needed him.

I miss both my folks every day and wish they were still around to talk to. Happy 88th, Daddy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Usual

Well, Mrs. Blue, Littlest Blue and I had a good time in Atlanta. We survived the traffic, the multiple streets called "Peachtree" and the financial drain called Lenox Square Mall. Lots of pretty things, odd people and fairly good food were part of our experience during our stay in the hub of the South.

Life, upon our return to our fair city, has returned to what passes for normal for us. I did come back to my office and was told I'd gotten a raise on top of the one we'll all get in October, so I was pretty happy. I'm still underpaid for what I do, but it was a nice start.

Littlest Blue has left the fields of our local big public university (sniff) and gone back for the sorry excuse of what our School Board calls a "high school". No wonder the kid wants to dual enroll ASAP, even the so-called "magnet" program at her current place is so poorly run as to make the kids bored to tears. I'm not a big fan of the voucher program, so highly touted by the neo-cons as the answer to all our educational problems (since it is really just an excuse for the taxpayers to fund religious schools--"Rah, rah, GO BIG TALIBAN!"), I just want my daughter to get the education I'm helping to pay for. Lots of kids less well off intellectually than she will never learn much from the way things are currently going.

Meanwhile, Israel has stopped bombing the bejeezus out of Lebanon (at least for a little while), North Korea says it might preemptively strike at the South Korean and American troops running maneuvers in the South, Iran says it's ready for "serious talks" about its nuclear program (as long as the West kowtows to its demands, of course) and the Big W has said in a news conference that Iraq has damaged America's "psyche" (which to him probably means something like Tai Chi). Yup, life goes on.

Mrs. Blue turned....uh....39 on Saturday. She doesn't look a day over 38 if you ask me.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More Random Updates

Well, I've managed to let another sizeable block of time pass since updating this-blog-that-no-one-else-reads-anymore, so here's another entry into the blogosphere...

Went down for a conference in Hurricane Country (no, not the university, the place that's like Florida's glass jaw during hurricane season) and Mrs. Blue and I had a good time. Enjoyed a short stay in my old hometown, seeing the old homestead that not owned by us anymore, visiting my grandparents and parents at the Memorial Park and having good food downtown. We got a nice room in the hotel a bit further south with a beautiful view of the beach and the sunsets (when they weren't hiding behind rainclouds), which makes up somewhat for last November, when they put us next to the laundry room. I lost out on an annual award, but no big deal there. Came back through Tampa and visited with my brother and his wife, who showed off their new coffee house/art gallery--nice.

Bigger Blue seems to be enjoying school up in Thomasville (thank GOD!), making the increased fuel costs bearable. Littlest Blue is moving into her last week of a class at FSU, giving her her first college credits while still in high school. She wants to early enroll in the worst way and I think she's more than capable. Mrs. Blue is still working part-time and looking forward to her youngest sister's moving here (if she can ever sell their house down south).

We're leaving weekend after next for a few days in Atlanta, staying next door to the Lenox Square Mall and looking forward to touring some of the sights in the old heart of the Confederacy. I just hope I don't blow a vein dealing with the traffic up in Rhett Butler's old haunts. I need the relaxation; too many nutcases lately to deal with.

Maybe I'll start writing more creative stuff again one of these days. Just gotta get in the mood for it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Random Updates

Another couple of months have gone by without my updating the oh-so-important aspects of my life to the by-now-not-reading-anymore public.

My parents' house in Sarasota finally sold.

Bigger Blue decided to go back to school, this time a small college in Thomasville, GA, just up the road (and beaucoup gasoline in the tank).

Littlest Blue is enjoying her time off from high school. Good grades as usual. She's gotten her standard Driver's License finally, though Momma Blue and I don't plan on her driving anywhere solo just yet.

We survived Tropical Storm Alberto with no damage, although the winds that made the trees creak woke me up at 1:39 A.M. and kept me up worrying about fragile limbs coming down all over the place most of the night. Of course, last night, with nary a breeze to worry about, a cherry tree limb came crashing down into the back yard. At this rate, I told Mrs. Blue, we won't have to pay the tree service that's coming out next week a dime.

I've been nominated for a new annual award at our annual Conference, due to take place next month at a nice resort in South Florida. Some of the great honor of it all has worn off since I found out that just about no one else has been nominated so far. Maybe the lobbying group that's sponsoring it will attach a cash prize to it. I should be so lucky.

We've hit the 2,500 mark in U.S. casualties in Iraq and the U.S. Congress seems to be more worried about gay marriage.

I finally figured out last night why my DVDs were playing in black and white instead of color.

Father's Day is coming up Sunday. I still miss my father, who died in December, 2000 of mesothelioma, and wish he were still here. I think he would have been if the SOBs who knew of the dangers of asbestos had given guys like him proper warning.

Well, at least now I don't feel so guilty about not updating things for so long.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fond Fairwell

Well, it's apparently over with. The house I grew up in finally sold today, my brother calling to confirm the signing of the papers this afternoon. I'm pretty sure that the three lots that made up our property will be split up, the old 1926 house and the detached garage demolished and most of the old orange, avocado, mango and other trees will be pulled up and thrown into the landfill.

It's a bittersweet event for me, but then most events are. I've always tended to get emotional over inanimate objects with no perceivable soul. I've said goodbye to a 1971 Ford Maverick, a 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix and our 1998 Toyota Sienna over the years and gotten misty-eyed each time when I bade them fairwell. The house is a little different, granted, having been in our family since 1944, first purchased by my grandfather, then my parents after his death in 1948, then sitting silent and empty since my mother was moved out to a home up in Tampa after my father's death. Still, perhaps it is a bit foolish for me to get sentimental over a tiny (by today's standards), un-air conditioned, dusty old relic with jalousy windows and a single bathroom that was certainly not soundproofed.

I'll certainly enjoy the half of the sale proceeds (after taxes, of course) that I'll be getting soon. I'm sure my parents never would have guessed that the old place, in a run-down, ungentrified neighborhood in Sarasota, would ever have sold for what it did today, but I think that, wherever they are, they're happy that it did, just about the last asset they can pass along to their two sons to help with their financial security. After all, they were the soul of the old place.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Eating Out

Oldest Blue shocked us all last night by asking for us to go eat out "as a family". Of course, it was a ruse to simply eat out as opposed to eating something I might throw together, which lately has been tomato soup or some such concoction, since I've been under the weather for the last week or so. Anyway, we decided to honor the request and hit the road.

We went to a local Italian eatery which we've enjoyed now for a while and seated ourselves at a booth. The waiter was a very nice young man who took our orders promptly and brought them back pretty quickly. In the meanwhile, we did our family bonding thing, talking about odds and ends of things.

The food came and was rather here and there in terms of quality. It all LOOKED good at least. Littlest Blue had gotten manicotti, taken a couple of bites and declared that something was not to her liking. Mrs. Blue took a bite and agreed with her, so I took the next bite and figured out that there was a bit more than the usual amount of fresh parsley in the cheese stuffing. It was, I agreed, a bit off-putting.

My meat lasagna was just about that; ground beef and lasagna noodles, not much in the way of cheese (except on top) or sauce (not even as much as they've usually put around the perimeter of the noodles). Usually lasagna has layers of sauce, cheese, meat and noodles repeated three or four times. This one seemed to be noodles, some meat, noodles, some more meat and finally topped with some cheese. It was OK, but for the money we paid it should have been a lot better. My garlic bread (little pizza rounds with cheese and garlic) was much better, as was my salad. Mrs. Blue's salad and bread sticks (same thing, just no cheese) was also quite good, as was Oldest Blue's calzone.

Oh well, at least I'll get some money back for college expenses, since this place contributes to UPromise, which puts a percentage of the bill into a college savings account. We're probably over $160.00 by now; that'll pay for a book (maybe) by the time one of the girls goes to school.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Back Again

I seem to keep taking time off from updating the narrative, but things just keep getting in the way. Everytime I think about doing something, either my ADD kicks in and I shift gears to some other thought or I just keep thinking that I don't need to be doing another long rant about how stupid some situations around me continue to be. Maybe this time I'll break it down into smaller, more digestible parts.

I like jellybeans...but why, oh why in God's name do they persist in making licorice ones?

Tom Delay is least from the current political scene, but I'm sure we'll get more than enough of him when his cases finally come to trial and his crookedness is finally revealed in all its glory.

I haven't been to Utah since I was a kid...but I'd like to travel there if for no other reason that to get myself a six-pack of "Polygamy Beer" with the best tag line I've seen in a while; "Why stop at just one?".

Some of the best political commentary is on bumper the one I saw the other day that said "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for him, his daddy or his brother!".

Just because you find it on the Internet doesn't mean its someone in my office found out recently when they posted something purporting to be a "1895 8th grade test" that they downloaded, printed out and posted in the Men's Room bulletin board (I'll let you figure out just where THAT is!). The test was supposed to be from Salinas, KS and was so hard that someone with three or four doctorates today probably couldn't finish it. Fortunately, someone else looked up a site that deals with "urban legends" and found out that the "1895 test" post is almost certainly faked by someone with either a sense of humor or an agenda about "Why Johnny Can't Read".

Personal updates: Littlest Blue is sick as a dog with the stomach flu, Bigger Blue is still looking for a job, Mrs. Blue loves the new van and is looking ever forward to her youngest sister's return to town and I'm still waiting for my parents' house to sell and waiting to get over my current bout with sinusitis or just plain old Tallahassee pollen. Had to pay for a new capacitor for our heat pump (I looked "capacitor" up in an Internet dictionary--seems it comes from a Latin word for "costs an arm and a leg") and looking forward to paying for our TV to be repaired, which I'm sure will be quite reasonable (i.e., more than I want to pay, less than it would cost to buy a new one).

Until next time...

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Owe, I Owe, It's Off To Work I Go...

We got our new Toyota Sienna last week (finally). It's beautiful and our garage has that new car (i.e., chemical) smell in the morning. It's amazing to see the differences in design eight years have made from our original Sienna. This one handles better, supposedly has better gas mileage despite having a bigger engine and a lot more cupholders and assorted gewgaws thrown in for our convenience. Of course, now we've got to start paying for the remaining two-thirds that the insurance didn't cover.

Youngest Blue is on Spring Break with the family of one of her school friends. She left Friday and won't be back until the end of this week. She's staying at a Marriott time-share community down in Orlando that we had to sit through a ninety minute (and more) sales pitch years ago in order to get free tickets to Universal's theme park. Nice place; we just didn't have the money all those years ago to fund our "vacation lifestyle" in the manner they wanted us to.

Speaking of vacations, we're thinking about going to Montreal this year. I've started looking at websites and books about the cultural center of French-speaking Quebec. When I was very young my parents took my brother and I up there one summer on vacation--there was a family they'd known shortly after their wedding who'd been nice to them, so we went to visit. I vaguely remember some things, mainly the cathedral, wooden slides at a playground and a very cold swimming pool. Maybe this trip, if we go, will be a bit more memorable.

Mrs. Blue and I talked this weekend about what we're going to do with all the pictures and memorabilia we (mostly I) have in the hopefully distant future. It's unlikely our daughters will want to inherit and lug stuff around from place to place in their futures, which begs the question of why take photos of vacations anyway, if they are just going to be tossed someday into the trash heap post-funeral? Some stuff is undeniably historical and will get donated to a deserving museum or university, but most of it is of people and places that my girls have no memory or interest in, except to see their old man when he had hair and their grandparents when they were young. A photograph does freeze a moment in time, but I suppose all moments in time must melt eventually into the liquid of the past.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Boiled Down

The current political debate (if you can really call it that) in this country has stagnated to the point that nothing is really being discussed.

On the one hand you have the Republicans who, because of Karl Rove, have both a great strength and a great weakness in their present style of distilling everything into a literal "Good/Bad" terminology. For example, Taxes BAD! Small Government GOOD! Abortion BAD! Iraq War GOOD! Gays BAD! Well, you get the idea. It's a strong technique because it simplifies the discussion for those folks out there who really don't want to think much about anything. It's also a great weakness because it has reduced the discussion to the lowest level, a level that doesn't allow any real expansion of thought or maturity in dealing with the very real problems this society faces.

Do I like paying taxes? No more than then next guy. But taxes pay for the military, for the infrastructure (roads, sewage systems, etc.) and services that we've all come to depend upon. Get rid of all taxes and yes, we'll all be the richer for it for a short time, then we'll be complaining about having to pay a patchwork of private companies to do all the things that local, State and Federal governments do now (of course, maybe that's the real goal--privatize EVERYTHING!). Abortion also isn't my preferred way of keeping down the population and preventing unwanted pregnancies, but to simply say that no woman should ever have the right to abort a pregnancy for any reason is unrealistic and will simply create the same back-alley trade that existed before Roe v. Wade. The Iraq War did get rid of a brutal dictator, but it also created a power vacuum in Iraq that has allowed the growth of sectarian violence that will probably lead to a civil war, the way things are going lately. And NO, giving gays some rights in society to common ownership of property, among other things, will not cause the traditional family structure to fall apart.

But our Big Elephant friends will usually call anyone saying anything different either a LIBERAL or will say someone dissenting from the party line a "coward" or a "traitor". Our country was built on vigorous and lively debate, both verbal and in print, and any attempt to stifle that kind of discussion is both foolish and short-sighted. Rove and his disciples (and believe me, even in local elections, his style is being used by Republican candidates) have only succeeded in keeping Republicans, particularly the moderates, from presenting common-sense approaches to problems that might be acceptable to all sides.

But again, has my party, the Democrats, got anything better to present? Not lately, given the level of rhetoric. As most commentators point out, who knows exactly what the Democrats stand for? It's simple; they don't, because they are really two or three parties disguised as one that no longer has a single direction. You've got the traditional Northern Liberals with their positions, the Southern Conservatives with their positions and then the slightly muddle-headed Moderates like me who'd love to have a seperate party to run to if there was a chance in hell that someone with any national reputation would lead it. Nope, until the Dems either kiss and make up and let new leadership move the Party in one direction or split up and let the various factions go their own way, nothing much will happen.

Somehow, someway, the debate has got to move from the Republican side of the board.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I'd Give My Right Arm To Be Ambidextrous

It's Monday. No van yet

My brother-in-law (actually, Mrs. Blue's brother-in-law, since he's married to her sister; I guess that makes him my brother-in-law-in-law?) and I went to a local "pub" last week for a beer. He's back in town, working for a State agency as a lawyer after a private practice in the Orlando area, and living with the in-laws for a while before my sister-in-law and one of the nieces move back up here in the summer. He's been into beer quite a bit longer than I have and I can truthfully say that I've learned a lot about both the beer world and that of stronger spirits by having known him.

Anyway, this place is quite literally a hole in the wall. Apparently it shares business space with a used car lot (well, not exactly a lot, more like a postage-stamped sized parking lot in front of the pub, so there isn't a lot of parking for us patrons). You wouldn't be going there for the ambiance, as there is none to speak of, unless you call the odd mix of bar and used car parts ambiance. Most of it has been there for quite a while and not well maintained. But, it does have a huge selection of beers and ales, probably about as big as anyone in town and more than most. Anyway, we ended up having one of his favorites, Fuller's ESB, an English ale. It was quite good and had quite a bit more flavor than most of what Americans settle for in such things. One glass was quite enough for me.

I noticed that Ann Coulter was coming to speak to some campus organization at the local big university sometime soon. I've half a mind to go just to feel my blood pressure go up. She is one of those uber-cons (folks way to the right of the Neo-Cons) who are making money out of polarizing the political landscape with their intense hypocrisy. There was a big deal in South Florida a few weeks ago when they found out that she'd put her realtor's address on her voter's registration (which just happens to be in a different district than her house) and she ended up voting in a local election in the wrong district. Oddly enough, the Republican Election Supervisor for the area decided that Coulter didn't break the law, so he didn't file any complaint against her with law enforcement. I noticed our friends at FOX News didn't bother to pick up THAT little news item. So much for fair and balanced...

Yup, the Republicans are running scared these days, since George W. is a lame duck and very unpopular outside of the lunatic "base" of right-wing church goers and their well-paid preacher parasites. They are terrified of the November mid-term elections and fear that their stranglehold on the Congress might be lost. I'm not sure, however, that they should be afraid, since the Democrats apparently cannot punch their way out of a wet paper-bag these days. All they have any more is "Screamin'" Howard Dean, "Alky" Teddy Kennedy and "I'm Really a Conservative" Hiliary Clinton doing their talking for them and, believe me, even I'm not impressed. The Big Elephants have done such a good job of leaving the Donkeys punch drunk over the last few years that the Northern Liberal side and the Conservative Southerners cannot communicate any more and, therefore, cannot put out any kind of coherent message to the masses (who are apparently more scared of gay marraige and Arabs blowing up the local City Hall than they are of losing their basic constitutional rights, their dignity on an international scale and essential services that only a government can provide, so they've been siding with the Elephants).

Me? I just keep doing my job (and pretty well, lately), keep my head down and post the occasional anti-Republican jibe on the men's bathroom wall in our office. Someone's gotta let them know us Dems are still around...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Same-O, Same-O

I haven't posted for about a month; things are generally the same except for the fact that our beloved 1998 Toyota Sienna got totalled in a wreck with a 90-year old lady driving a Ford Focus wagon. Mrs. Blue got a little black-n-blue over it and littlest Blue got sorta-kinda traumatized by it (kept telling me over the telephone that "It wasn't that bad" and "We were able to pull over to the side of the road" when, in actuality, the van was literally pushed over into a culvert!).

My insurance company paid out roughly $9,000 for our pristeen eight-year old van, that had kept us safe to Washington D.C., Colorado and Chicago. We've got a new one on order, which should be quite nice, though I'm having to start paying for it a little bit ahead of schedule (of when I wanted to be paying for a new car). Well, at least about a third of it is already paid for.

The Legislature's in session and, of course, any consideration of guys like me getting a pay increase to make up for the lower-end guys getting bumped up a few years back is already DOA, according to the Speaker of the House (who managed to get HIS local boy a bump-up in budget outside of our Organization's pay plan, making him the 2nd-highest overbudgeted agency in the bunch). Politics as usual. Ain't America great?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Just One Of Those Days...

My work has good hours and bad hours...

I was on the telephone yesterday afternoon for a good half hour with a frantic daddy of a soon-to-graduate student who I'm in the process for prosecuting, trying to explain how easy it would be for the case to go far, far away. Today, the son comes in and starts nearly hyperventilating, trying to decide what do to. I have to basically hold his hand and explain the facts of life to him three or four times before the glimmer of understanding pops into his eyes.

My brother, handling the sale of our parents' home, called this morning to tell me that the deal was off because the prospective buyer couldn't get his financing in order. This afternoon, he calls and tells me that the deal is back on because the bank was concerned about environmental impact of an old propane tank and an old oil fuel tank in the yard; the buyer is apparently so eager to buy the old place that he's willing to take the tanks out at his own expense and resubmit the deal to his bank. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, since mentally I've been figuring out fun and exciting ways to spend (and invest) my half of the proceeds.

My process server won lunch for twenty from a local barbeque place. My fingers still smell like the ribs I had for my portion and it reminds me that I really have to go work out tonight at the gym. Mea culpa, mea culpa....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Long Time, No See

Time flies, particularly during holidays. I, master of procrastination that I am, kept putting off updating my usual verbose commentary on life around me from November 2, 2005 until today. Guess I just didn't have anything screaming to get out of me to say.

Not much has changed. We're still in Iraq, soldiers and innocent civilians are getting blown up by roadside bombs (IEDs in military vernacular); the President is still telling us that all the money and lives we're expending in Iraq will "keep us from getting hit here" (to quote him from last night's State of the Union speach) and that anyone who questions his policies "has no strategy" (again, to quote him directly). Of course, now the NSA is listening in to our telephone calls without recourse to obtaining a warrant through a special court established for that specific reason (because, to listen to the Bushies, it takes too long to follow the law and the bad guys will hang up first), the Palestinians exercised their democratic right to elect Hamas into power, a group that really hates Israel and has been devoted to terrorist activities over the last twenty years or so and Iran has decided that it's going to have nukes whether we or the Europeans like it or not. On the home front, Katrina victims are still trying to figure out how to rebuild their lives without much help from FEMA and the radical right has finally gotten one of their own on the Supreme Court, Sam Alito, who'll probably vote to OK torture and warrantless wiretaps the first chance he gets after helping put the screws to Roe v. Wade.

Like I said, nothing much has changed.

Me? I and Mrs. Blue have been going to a local gym for the last six months, trying to get healthy. It's gotten really crowded there, however, since January 1, with all the guilt-tripping New Years resolutionists trying to lose fifty pounds by Spring Break. I've had to just about abandon the weight machines in favor of elliptical workout machines and the track. At least I've managed to work my way up to five or six miles a night, three or four times or more a week. Don't know that it's done me any real good, but at least I'm not sitting around the house feeling guilty about NOT doing it.

It looks like my late parents' house is finally about to sell. My brother is handling all of that mess. It's only been three years since our mother died and we cleared the place out, but the delay seems to have really helped the final price tag because of the real estate bubble. It'll be sad knowing that the old place, which has been in our family since 1944, won't be there any more. No one in their right mind would try to refurbish it and it isn't exactly a Frank Lloyd Wrightish-looking place that someone would haul off for preservation purposes. Nope, it was built in 1925 and has probably been rode hard and put away wet. It survived hurricanes and termites. As uncomfortable a place as it was, particularly during the summer and winter (no air conditioning or central heat), it was home to me for my first seventeen years and will always be in my memory.

As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "So it goes".