Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do You Need a Pillow?

There are somewhere between 4 and 47 pillows on my bed.  Whatever the number is, it's too many.  Seems to me that anymore than two pillows is too many.  One for her.  One for me.
When I lay down to sleep I don't need to have my head elevated to the point of sitting up.  I want to be lying prostrate.

Each night I plop into bed and my head hits the pillows.  My next move is to reach up and throw a pillow to the floor.  Depending on the amount of pillows stacked on my side of the bed on a given night, I'll continue reaching up and tossing until I'm either too tired to repeat it or until I find the bottom of the stack.

I guess I never thought about Cari handled her mountain of pillows each night.  After all, she's the one that re-builds the massive stack each morning.  But last night, after I had finished throwing a few pillows to the floor I heard another one fall.  I opened my eyes in the darkness and looked around in the blackness.  "Did you throw a pillow?", I whispered to her.
     "yeah.", she answered.
I didn't say anything else.  I just sat there wondering why we have so many pillows.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coke 600

The other day I told you my good fortune of getting race tickets.  Today I'll share some photos from our trip.

First of all, Cari and I have been to a handful of Nascar events at various tracks.  Charlotte, by far, has the best traffic management we have ever seen.  We arrived a few hours ahead of the start time and had no problem finding free parking.   When we left with the 100,000 other fans we had about a five minute wait getting out of the parking lot and then it was smooth sailing the whole way home.  It was incredible considering the amount of people that were out there.

The SPEED broadcast booth just outside of the track.
 When the Budwiser horse cart showed up they were instantly popular.  For the beer or for the horses, I'm not sure.

Look at us!  Mini-Jeff Gordon twins!
Another reason mini-Jeff Gordon was funny is because we didn't know they had a regular size figure at the other side of the booth.  As I was going through the pictures we took I saw the guy on the right of this next shot.  
You can't have a NASCAR race until the Airforce does a flyover.  As this plane approached you couldn't even hear it.  As it passed directly overhead the sound shook the bleachers.
Let's go racing boys (and Danica)!

 Our seats were up above turn 2.  We were high enough that we were able to see around the entire track.  We were also high enough that the sun was beating down on us while the front stretch was shadowed in shade.  It was incredibly hot out there on Sunday afternoon and we kept checking how much lower the sun had moved.  It seemed to be standing still.

There were no wrecks in the race but we saw some great racing and were able to keep track of things with the scanner programmed into the driver communications as well as the radio broadcast.  It's totally different being at the track vs watching at home.  You have to remember that there are 43 cars starting one of these races and the TV cameras are only focused on a small handful of them.  There is always something happening on track.

It's hard to describe the sound, sights, and smell of the cars roaring past.  It's something you would have to see in person to really understand.  Here's a short video from my cell phone to give you an idea of what it was like.
We had an amazing time at the race.  It has been a few years since we have been to one and this experience reminded us how much fun it is. Does anyone have any tickets to Dover that they don't need this Sunday?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Social Media Success

Memorial weekend is a special weekend on the calendar for race fans.  Some of the most spectacular racing happens this weekend.  We will have the Indy 500, the Nascar Coca Cola 600, and the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco.

A few weeks ago at work there were a handful of race tickets being given away.  These tickets were for events at the Charlotte Motor Speedway but didn't include any for the Coke 600 on Memorial weekend.  The tickets got me thinking that maybe someone in the company would have some available tickets for that event.  I emailed my boss and he responded that he no longer gets the tickets like in past years.  He apologized that he couldn't help me.

My next thought was to message someone I had never met, but knew through social media.  He works for the same company as I do but he works in the corporate offices.  I hated to feel like a beggar, but I didn't think there was any harm in asking.  He messaged me back that he didn't have any tickets.

Fast forward to this past Friday around lunch time.  A text came through on my phone, "Still need tix for Sunday's race.  Call me fast. . ."  It was the guy that works at corporate.  I excused myself from a conversation and called Cari.  "Do you still want to see that race?".  She quickly answered yes and I told her I would call her back.

I called my contact and we spoke for the first time.  Up to now our relationship was commenting on social media postings.  He offered me the tickets that he had just won and couldn't use and we made arrangements to get the tickets to me.

On the company messaging system I thanked him for the tickets.  He replied, "My pleasure. . . nothing like good social media and company contacts, right?"  He was right.  What a social media success this was.

After three extra hours of driving the state on Friday afternoon, I arrived home Friday night around nine with tickets in hand.

Memorial weekend racing will be a bit more special this year as we watch the cars run under the lights. . . in person.  Thanks to a generous contact, a terrific sister, and social media.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Diablo 3 - rage!

I know the majority of you don't play video games.  In fact, as badly as I might want to, I don't play video games anymore.  There's not much time for that these days.  It's ok that we don't play games, just keep reading.  This YouTube video can be appreciated without understanding the game.  You only need a little background information.

Diablo 2 was a huge major successful computer game way back when.  Then the company that makes the Diablo games, Blizzard, said they were working on a new game.  Diablo 3.  Diablo 3 has been one of the most anticipated games for more than a year now.  Just mentioning it to a game geek would get him foaming at the mouth.

Well, the time came a few weeks ago and the game was released.  To play the game, you must connect online to their game servers.  On that first day, there was such a rush to play, the servers started to crash and give errors.  This video is one gamers response to the situation.  WARNING - there is a lot of cussing in this hilarious video and I would not consider this safe to listen to at work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Cat(s)

Sometimes I feel like I am living in the cats' house and not the other way around.  Maybe it's the way that the cats lie in the center of the hallway and then try to scratch the hell out of my leg if I step over them.  Pardon me for using your hallway.

Have you ever woken up to a cat breathing in your face?  With the look that says, "If you don't get out of that bed and feed me, I will claw your eyes out."  If it was my house, the cat would say good morning first.

In the house that I live in, if you leave a cup on the table and walk out of the room the cat will jump onto the table, investigate the cup, and then methodically push it until it falls to the floor.  As a solution to this problem, I tried setting my glass on the floor.  All that seemed to do was give the cat the impression that I was offering it to him.

Maybe sometimes I feel like I'm living in the cats' house and not the other way around because they don't care. They don't care if I'm comfortable.  They don't care if I get fed.  They don't care if I poop on the floor (I don't).   The cats only care about the cats and they will allow me to serve them and make them comfortable.

Things are going to be changing around here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

War Paint!

Getting ready to work in the garden.

Be sure to apply your war paint!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Farming in a Bucket

For the past few years I've thought that I would like to start a garden.  Last year was my first half-hearted attempt at this game and it failed miserably.  

There were a few problems that contributed to my failure, and I hope that I've learned, at least a little since that time.  Two problems last year were that I started the seeds entirely too late in the year.  The plants sprouted in the hottest parts of the summer and didn't stand much of a chance.  Once they had come up I transplanted them into some poor soil on the side of the house where proper light and drainage don't exist.

That was all part of Farming 1.0 (beta)

This year, the girls and I started our seeds in early spring.  We checked them daily and kept them watered.  They sprouted quickly and I felt like they were already out-growing their tiny homes.
Not wanting to fully commit a portion of my yard to gardening yet, we decided to try container gardening.  We set up our plants in a few five gallon buckets.  First we put a few inches of drainage rocks in the bottom of the bucket to try and allow some space for the water to drain away from the roots.  Next we added real planting soil.  Not like the clay and rocks we used last year.

We have three buckets going right now.  One plant in each, to give the roots plenty of space.  We are growing two corn plants and a green bean plant.  Still in the black plastic trays are several carrot plants.  The carrots are extremely tiny plants still and I'm nervous about transferring them to a larger bucket still.  This will come in the next week or two.

If farming in a bucket yields even one ear of corn or one single bean then next spring we will dedicate a small portion of our yard to gardening with multiple crops!  If that happens, you'll be sure to know.  You've probably never seen a gardener get so excited over a single ear of corn.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Amputated Legs!

This past Saturday, we talked about going for a family hike.  Before force marching the kids into the woods again we decided we would take a poll. We asked the two older kids this question:

We're thinking about going on a hike today.  How do you feel about hiking on a scale of one to ten?  One means you want to hike all day and ten means you would rather your legs amputated and never hike again.

Kid #1 didn't want to hike and registered a 4 on the scale.
Kid #2 didn't want to hike and initially registered a 1 on the scale.  After hearing the definition of the scale again, the answer was updated to a two.  Just above amputation.

After a little bit of planning, Cari and I headed out for a hike, without children, to see Falls Creek Falls.  The hike is less than two miles long (one way) and we've been years ago, so I told Cari it shouldn't be too bad.  What I forgot to look at is the "strenuous" listing in the description of the trail.  This is a steep trail and it wasn't easy.

At one point I was wondering what Cari would register on the scale of hiking.  We were having a good time together, but that trail was kicking out butts for a few minutes.

We were relived to hear the crashing water keep getting louder and louder until finally the falls revealed themselves.
The above shot is the upper part of the falls.  You can almost see that part in the next photograph below.
As I climbed over the rocks trying to get different views of the falls I saw a lot of salamanders in the water and on the edges of the rocks.  Probably a bit hard to see, but there is a salamander in the next shot.  In the crack between the two center rocks.

It was great to have a hike to ourselves again.  Even better, we didn't have to have any amputated legs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Insult

My coworker asked me what I was having for lunch yesterday.  I told her I brought a sandwich, and after being questioned to the type of sandwich I brought, I told her it was a hard salami sandwich.

She frowned a bit and said in a disgusted voice, "salami?  That's a Yankee meat."

Using the word "yankee" wasn't a descriptive word of my sandwich.  It was meant as an insult.
Don't describe anything as "yankee" unless you intend it to be insulting.

Tomorrow's lunch will be a ham sandwich.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blokus Challenge!

Here was the family game night last week: Blokus.  Rules of the night were that the winner could send one person to bed at the end of the game!

The oldest declined to play at first, but I told him he would still be vulnerable to being sent to bed by the winner so he might as well play and increase his odds of winning.  One strategy that came out from the kids was to send a parent to bed if a kid won.  Ideally kids would tie for a win and send both parents to bed.  That way nobody would be able to send the kids to bed and they'd stay up all night.

Cari won the game and after a a tense few moments she made her choice. In those moments of thought each kid was pleading their case to send someone else to bed.  Cari announced that she chose to send our son to bed, which didn't make him very happy, and because it was already passed the bedtime for the girls, all the kids went to bed!

Family game night is awesome.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Super Moon?

Here's my photo from last weekend's "Super Moon".
You know, they really hyped up that moon.  When I set my camera up and went onto the porch I expected to see this HUMONGOUS moon.  A moon that looked to be minutes away from crashing into my house.   Instead I saw a fairly normal full moon that was a bit brighter and perhaps (very) slightly bigger.

I wonder if they news media have ever heard the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Books on a Tablet

One of the useful things that I have found I can do with my tablet is reading books.  Since getting a tablet last year I've started reading a lot more.  Most of the books I've chosen to read are old books because the old books are free!  I've read Treasure Island, Guliver's Travels, Dracula, and now Moby Dick.
     Yes, I know that books are free at the library too, but I read slow and don't devote much time to it, so checking out a library book isn't ideal most of the time.

Once I started reading on the tablet I had to find an app to use for this purpose.  There are a lot of options when it comes to this.  I started out using Google's own book app.  It has a fancy page turning animation that does a good job acting like paper as you slide your thumb across the page.  But the Google apps still felt like it was missing something.
     As I kept reading, I tried the Kindle app.  I'll tell you right now, this is the winner.  Kindle doesn't give you fancy page turning animation, but it offers so much more.  Some of my favorite features are the ability to highlight text, make notes and bookmarks (and quickly get back to those places), quickly change the brightness of the page (2 finger swipe up or down), and a built in dictionary.  Some of these older books I'm reading use vocabulary that I've never heard of.  If I hold my finger down on the word, a short definition comes up on the bottom of the page.  It never takes me away from my page and I keep going.  If you need more information, touching the small definition will take you to the dictionary page.  There are a lot of other cool features in the Kindle app that I haven't seen in other readers, so I'll be sticking with it and the Amazon online book store.
     I wasn't sure about reading books on a screen.  I didn't think I would like it, but now that I've been doing it for a while, I like it a lot.  It's easy to carry multiple books with me or quickly reference back a note I made. Being able to adjust the screen brightness has been helpful.  I've never felt that the reading on a screen was uncomfortable.  A bonus of reading on a tablet is that when I am connected to wifi, I can quickly jump out of the reading app and switch to Wikipedia or Google to get more information on a topic, and then back to the book.
    Some people complain that they prefer holding a book and feeling the pages.  I think there is something to that, but I also wonder how many of the people saying that have really given reading an electronic book a chance?  I still read paper books too and there is good things to each.  Before you decide that e-readers are not for you, I encourage you to try it out.
     I've really enjoyed going back and reading these old books on my tablet.  I'm also glad that the tablet hasn't just become a big screen for Angry Birds marathons.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Earn Your Dessert!

A few nights ago, after dinner, I asked my kids,  "what would you do for a Klondike bar?" 

The answers:
13 year old: my chores
10 year old: sing karaoke
4 year old: eat it

Two of them got a Klondike bar. The third is going to have to give a better answer.

So after some singing the 10 year old ran into the kitchen to enjoy some ice cream.  The 4 year old joined her after a short dance.  The oldest had to think of another challenge.  

He rejected wearing a dress and getting the picture posted on Facebook.  
He rejected singing.
We compromised on standing on one foot for thirty seconds.

By the time we got the challenges settled up, I went into the kitchen for my dessert and the kids asked me what I would do for a Klondike bar.  I didn't realize I was playing.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Gangster Paradise?

Who does this?  I've never seen it before.

For several hours one evening my neighbor worked on this project and I could hear the earth moving equipment working beyond the trees that separate us.  The next day I drove around to see what all the noise was about.

At that point I couldn't wait to get home and tell Cari.
"The neighbor is a gangster.", I told her.  I was excited to be sharing my neighborhood gossip with her and I waited for her to beg for more.
     She looked at me, but not with the excitement about my news, and said plainly, "Why do you think the neighbor is a gangster."
     "Well, you heard all the noise yesterday, right?"  Cari nodded and waited for me to continue. I spoke with hushed excitement, "They filled in their swimming pool!"  
     She asked, "Why does that make him a gangster?"
     "I mean, who does that?  Who fills in a swimming pool?", I smiled as I put the puzzle together for her and took a breath.  "How many bodies do you think are buried in the bottom?", I asked.
     "Maybe they just didn't want a pool anymore.  It's a lot of work."
     "Maybe. . .", I answered her.  ". . .they are gangsters!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Return to Vogel. Honestly.

My good friend Chip emailed me a few months ago and said, "Hey! My family loves camping! What do you say we have a family camp out.  You bring your family and I'll bring mine!"

Ok, honestly, that's not exactly what he said.  That's kinda what he said.  Exactly what he did say doesn't matter because from that email we planned our family camp out.  It was decided that we would return to Vogel State Park.  Our first time there was a father / daughter camp out a few years ago.
March 2009

The park has some great tent camping sites and I was glad to be going back.  The sites at Vogel are some of the best sites for tent camping.  They have plenty of space, the tent pads are away from the road and the driveway, and they are clean.

We set up camp in the rain Friday night and huddled under our new canopy.

Honestly, I was against buying the canopy.  This was Cari's idea and her purchase.  I was against the canopy the whole way. . . until Friday night. . . in the rain.
Chip and family arrived shortly after the rain stopped and set up camp next door.  Dinner in our camp was hobos.  Ground beef with mixed vegetables wrapped in tin foil and tossed onto the fire.  This is an easy camp meal that tastes great.

Saturday morning Chip and I force marched our families on a mile long hike around the lake.  Excitement from my kids seemed low, but we made it down to the waterfall and back without being attacked by a goose, so I felt like it was a success.
We snapped this shot after she realized spiders were in there with her.

Nap time. . . for the mom's and the baby. . . followed our excursion.  This left Chip and I in charge of the rest of the kids.  The time with us in charge went something like this, "Go play."  It was during this time that we almost let a squirrel run off with a chunk of banana bread.

Dinner Saturday night - smoked sausage.  I don't eat this good when I backpack, so we took advantage of car camping with a big cooler.  Cari hooked us up!
We were so excited about Chip's cherry pie we didn't take the photo until after dishing it out.

We spent a good chunk of time at the playground next to the creek each afternoon.  All the kids were having fun in the water, but the baby had the best time.  She fell in "accidentally" fully dressed.  She spent the rest of the time trying to get wetter.
The rope didn't break under my weight.  And neither did the limb!

Mud bath!

Twisty slide?
Ghost stories around the camp fire got cut short when people started telling the story about the raging lunatic that wanders the woods each night looking for a new victim.  Then when talk turned to Black Bears being in the  park it was decided that we should play the ABC "I'm going on a camping trip. . ." game.  L= Lama.  Honestly, I still remember them all. . . go ahead, try me.

  Our camp volunteer staff.  Mr Attitude and Miss Party
Our weekend turned out fantastic.  We had great weather, great food, great company, and great fun.  Honestly, I don't know that it could have been much better.