May 31, 2008

Survivors and Ex-Survivors

It's time, boys and girls, for this year's installment of "let's look at Ted's purple clematis" (which sounds dirty but really isn't).  Anyway, here 'tis from just a couple of weeks ago:
Note the haziness of portions of the picture.  I used a softening filter for romantic effect.  (Translation: I discovered a finger-smear on the camera lens, which has since been cleaned.)

Last year, I wrote this:

It's scraggly and chewed on and spotted with fungus, but damned if it doesn't keep stretching upwards and weaving its scrawny self through the trellis bars. After all of that, it even managed to pop out a single pretty bloom. I hope it makes it through the winter, because this is a tough little plant and I admire its deterimination to survive.

This year, here's what that wee beastie did:
And right after it pushed out those beautiful flowers, it died.  As a doornail.  It's not obvious, but it's replacement is already growing next to it, in the photo it looks like part of the same plant.

That plant had personality.

Posted by: Ted at 10:06 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Last month Liz and I flew out to Arizona to visit my Dad and his girlfriend, Beverly (more about that in a later post).  Now, just a few months ago we got a call from Bev letting us know that Dad was in the ICU and the doctors didn't expect him to make it.  I started to make plans to go and then, hours later, Bev called back and said Dad was out of the woods and would be fine.  I called Dad a little after that and he sounded amazingly good.  Good enough that we decided that I could wait until our already scheduled vacation.  He was going to need dialysis for a short while (everyone hoped), but other than that and the usual "old people" problems he was gonna be fine.

I prepared myself for the worst when we saw him.

I come from tough stock!  His kidneys had gotten going again almost immediately, so no more dialysis.  I knew he used a breathing machine, but didn't know it was only at night because of his sleep apnea.  He used a walker, but only when he was really tired and he never did during the week we were there (nor did I ever think he needed it).

In fact, he was the same old Dad.  We moved furniture from their old house to the new one, including a massive metal workbench that weighed a ton.  We hung two flat-panel TV's on wall mounts.  We put up a new television antenna on the roof, and ran the wire inside.  He showed me the extension he built to his workshop.  It was just like old times.

At one point, we were working on two different projects right near each other, and I told him that he was working too hard.  His reply caught me by surprise:

I don't work hard.  I work steady.

And it's true.  Dad gets more done than most people half his age, and he does it by methodically taking it a step at a time.  There are no frantic bursts of energy, no show-stopping surprises in mid-project, he just thinks things through and then follows his plan.  Give the man a hammer and a two-by-four and he'll build you a spiral staircase.  He's amazing that way, and his secret is as simple as "don't work hard, work steady."

I've been going through some fundamental changes in my personal life over the last year or so.  Call it a midlife crisis (like Liz does) or just finding myself (whatever that means), I've done a lot of thinking about and tinkering around the edges of my life.  Examining everything closely and figuring out what I really want and how I can change things to make it better.  That's part of what the new "Lifetoys" category is about, where you're gonna see some of the things I've looked at and experimented with.

Those five words, distilled down to their perfect essence, explain perfectly a huge part of what I've been trying to do.

Thanks Dad.

Posted by: Ted at 06:04 PM | category: Lifetoys
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May 30, 2008

Skittles Vodka

Right up Jim's alley.


Complete instructions on making your own are here.  Beats pruno I suppose.

Posted by: Ted at 12:57 PM | category: Links
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May 29, 2008

Space Pen

So have you tried the PocketMod (I talked about it here)?  Visit that first link to at least find out how to fold the paper, it's worth the minute or so it takes.

All righty then, you've got a handy piece of paper or small notebook to jot down stuff, but what are you using to write with?  To me, the PocketMod is only half of the equation, because I also carry a Fisher Space Pen!

You know that bit 'o history about NASA spending a fortune on a pen while the Russians used a pencil?  It's an urban legend.  Fisher developed the pen technology on its own dime and then sold pens to NASA, hence the "Space Pen" name.

Works like a champ too.  Upside down.  In the rain.  Greasy paper.  No worries, because this puppy will write!

Best of all, you can get their little bullet pen and it's small and rounded and fits perfectly in your pocket without snagging or poking.  When it's time to write the cap fits perfectly on the back and you have a full-size pen.  I got the matte black one without the clip, and I love it.  It goes everywhere with me.

Check out the various types and colors at The Writer's Edge.

Remember, life is too short not to have cool toys.  And coolness does not have to be digital.

Posted by: Ted at 11:41 PM | category: Lifetoys
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Date:  Saturday, July 5th

Place:  Pfitzner Stadium, Woodbridge, Virginia

Event:  2nd Annual Blogger's Baseball Day and Destruction Derby*

The game starts at 6:35pm against the Salem Avalanche.  There will be a fireworks show after the game, and believe me, it's a good one.

We have two options for tickets.  For $8.00 a seat we can get grandstand seats, which will be easier to get in a block.  These would be directly behind the green boxes 4, 5 and 6 on this seating chart.  These seats are next to 3rd base.

For $10.00, we get reserved seating.  Think section 6 in the red area on the seating chart.  Up higher, but still bench-style seating.

Emails will be going out over the next couple of days.  Let me know if you'd like to come, and the more the merrier.  Drop me a line letting me know, and I'm going to check with the stadium about seating availability.

See ya soon!

* Destruction Derby courtesy of Buckethead and Dawn, if past history serves. **

** No, it's not the 2nd "annual" anything... hell, it's not even the "2nd".  Don't be so literal.

Posted by: Ted at 10:53 AM | category: Square Pegs
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May 26, 2008

Blogmeet A-Coming!

Liz and I met with Nic and Victor yesterday for a Potomac Nationals ball game.  It was "bring a dog day" or something, so there were several fuzzy buds in the seats with us.  By the end of the game, I had a husky-something mix named Mookie curled up under my seat, with his head laying across my feet.

Good friends, good game, good times.

I'll be checking the schedule and we'll see about setting up a date for a baseball game blogmeet.  Check back over the next couple of days for details.

Posted by: Ted at 10:41 PM | category: Square Pegs
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May 25, 2008

Pocket Mod

Last summer I stumbled across Pocket Mod and started carrying the little things every day.  Basically, it's a cleverly folded piece of paper for note taking and jotting crap down.  When you fill it up, just print up a new one and you're good to go again.  I've found it to be very useful and I always have one in my pocket.

Now the link above is full of nifty little templates and such to customize your Pocket Mod to be just how you like it, and I used them for quite a while.  Recently though, I've simplified things even further.  I go here and print a sheet of graph paper and then do the folding thing.  No trimming needed.  A small hack I've done it to cut out a snippet of manilla file folder and slipping it inside to stiffen it up just a bit.

Pocket Mod. Making my life a little easier, one simple toy at a time.

Posted by: Ted at 12:27 AM | category: Lifetoys
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May 22, 2008

New Category


Let's see where this takes us, shall we?

Posted by: Ted at 01:05 AM | category: Lifetoys
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May 21, 2008

Officially Summer

Dinner tonight:  grilled brats, potato salad and cole slaw.

Posted by: Ted at 11:29 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Observations at a Minor League Baseball Game

Did I mention that Liz and I bought season tickets to the Potomac Nationals?  I think we got the 15 game package, but when you include all the freebies and such, it comes out to 21 games.  Add in the "dollar night" every Monday and it's conceivable that we might catch 30 games this year.  Oh yeah, field level box seats.  Third base side.  Closest to home plate, right next to the visitor's dugout.  Check it out.

Way up on top of the lights on the right field side, a hawk sat quietly and watched, as if waiting for some edible critter to panic and make himself known.  Or, more likely, he was looking at the people and wondering what kind of crazy creatures would behave that way.  Suddenly, the hawk was attacked by a sparrow or some such tiny bird, maybe a quarter of the hawk's size but absolutely fearless as he dived and twisted and drove the hawk away from what I presume was a nest.  Most of the crowd watched and cheered, and I was reminded of a Mig fighter going after a DC3 Gooney Bird.

In the several years that we've been going to P-Nats games, one constant has been a certain outfielder who shall remain nameless.  I posted last year about his poor choice of music when he came up to bat, because the loudspeakers invariably blasted out Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing".  He tries hard, but every play to his position is an adventure and potential disaster.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that he's the Geronimo Berroa of the P-Nats, and if you watched American League baseball in the 90's you'll get the reference.

One of the between-inning events at the games is a race between a youngster or two and the team mascot, "Uncle Slam".  They start off at first base, round second and third and home plate is the finish line.  Uncle Slam has a record of 0-23 this year (as usual), but what's funny (to me anyway) is that they're now sponsored by the Baker Funeral Home.  I now refer to it as "The Race With Death".

A couple of games ago, the entire row behind us was occupied by a group of yuppie larvae who were attending the game so they could put another little checkmark on their list of "life experiences".  Not a one of them knew much about baseball, and it wasn't long before everyone else ignored them.  I could tolerate the cries of "foul tip" when the batter ripped one 200 feet down the right field line and into the bleachers there, and I rolled my eyes when they all jumped up and cheered for the "home run" when the runner at third scored on a wild pitch.  But I had to go for a walk when I heard them talking about Hurricane Katrina and how they all wished that they could've done more to help.  That part wasn't bad, but one actually confided that she'd checked to see if there were any federal programs that would pay her mortgage for a year or so while she volunteered in Louisiana.  She was deeply hurt that she couldn't feel good about herself on the taxpayer's dime.

She's lucky it wasn't souvenir bat night.

Posted by: Ted at 12:31 AM | category: Square Pegs
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May 19, 2008

Too Stupid To Breed, But We'll Assist Them Anyway

So I'm listening to the radio on the way to work, and there's a commercial for a fertility clinic.  I have a lot of compassion for couples going through that, because Liz and I had some difficulties ourselves.  It took us many months of trying before Liz got pregnant the first time, and her second pregnancy left her clinically sterile because of complications after the delivery (all three were c-section).  Our youngest was truly a miracle in that it was supposedly impossible for Liz to get pregnant again.  A very happy surprise indeed.

Anyway, back to the commercial.  I'm listening and empathizing when they got to the clinic motto or tagline or slogan or whatever the hell it's called:

"Because money shouldn't be a factor in whether or not you have a baby."

What. The. Hell?  I understand the context there, but still, that is an asinine thing to say.  Being able to afford having a child should be the #2 question on your checklist, right after "do we really want one at this time?"

I'm going to get pulled over one morning as I'm yelling at my radio.  I can see it now, "Your Honor, the ticket says 'road rage', which is technically correct, but my ire was directed at a radio commercial, not another driver."

Think I'd get off?

Posted by: Ted at 02:40 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Team America Rocketry Challenge 2008

Yesterday was the Team America Rocketry Challenge for 2008, rightly billed as "the largest model rocket contest in the world."

You can look through my archives for posts about TARC from previous years, but the short version is that teams of middle and high school kids design, build and fly rockets designed to accomplish three goals:

1.  Get as close as possible to 750 in altitude.
2.  Be airborne for exactly 45 seconds - from first motion to touch down under parachute.
3.  Carry aloft two raw eggs and return them undamaged.

This year, around 650 teams from all fifty states and Puerto Rico accepted the challenge.  Over 60% made successful flights and sent their results in to be scored.  The top 100 teams were invited to The Plains, Virginia for a one-day flyoff to determine the winner.

There were a few new wrinkles for this contest, besides the usual alteration of the objectives to keep things fresh from year to year.  This time around, the top 18 teams were required to make a second flight, and the scores from these two flights were added together.  This way, consistency was rewarded and the contest was less likely to be won by a team making that one perfect lucky launch.  A presentation event was also added which teams could enter to explain their process and thinking as they designed, built and tested their rocket designs.

Here are some highlights that I remember... (oh, and lots and lots of pictures here!)

Posted by: Ted at 02:34 AM | category: Rocketry
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May 18, 2008

Mee Moving Into Nu Digs

Ok, many suggested alternatives to abandoning blogging on Rocket Jones. Ultimately, you are all wiser than I, because I found that it really bugged me to just up and walk away.

Pixy has set me up over at the new Minx-based Rocket Jones. I believe that your links will be fine as is, because the "old" domain will get redirected to the new one in the near future. Pixy is kind and does nifty things like that, and although it is now literally possible, I really don't want to have his babies, but I am extremely grateful for what he does.

I am in a transitional phase in my life at this time, so I think I'm going to get back to basics: Rockets, movies, a little introspection and storytelling and humor. I think I'm excited about writing here again, because it took me a while to figure out exactly what my priorities were, and how to best satisfy them.

So use the link above to get to the new place (which make you laugh look away in embarrassment marvel in awe at my wicked CSS artistry. And one day soon, the "old" link to Rocket Jones will automagically take you to the new gingerbread house in the woods.

Posted by: Ted at 07:59 AM | category: Links
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May 10, 2008

The Spam Has Won

I give up. The only thing I do around here lately is clean up the mess, and it's just not worth my time anymore.

See you in your comments.

Posted by: Ted at 08:44 PM | category: Square Pegs
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May 04, 2008

Buy Me Some Peanuts And... What the Hell?!?!?!

Minor league baseballs teams do some wacky things for promotion nights, and almost anything goes as long as it draws a crowd. Seldom though, does the concession menu enter into the equation.

The Sioux Falls Canaries and Dakota Provisions are teaming up this summer to bring Fowl Balls to concession stands at the Birdcage. The venture makes Sioux Falls Stadium the first sports venue in the country to offer their fans a chance to enjoy turkey testicles.

Yep. Deep fried turkey testicles. Offered with a variety of dipping sauces. The local poultry processor has some 32,000 extra Tom-bits left over at the end of each day, and someone became a marketing legend by convincing folks who should know better that nothing says baseball quite like a piping hot basket of Fowl Balls.

I wouldn't eat the fries at that stadium either.

Don't even mention corn dogs.

Posted by: Ted at 06:02 PM | category: Square Pegs
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May 03, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Hello all. Got home last Sunday morning (early AM). Been berry berry busy. All work-stuff that was supposed to get done by "backups" didn't. Most did, but still spent a day catching up.

On the home front, our dishwasher went kaput while we were gone. Of course, the kids didn't notice, so an inch of dirty water sat in the bottom and went rancid. Ick. Then Liz's laptop went kaput too. She's out right now, getting it taken care of. Thank heavens for our "stimulus" check.

That was sarcasm, by the way. I refuse to say "thank you" to someone who magnanimously decides to give me back some of my own money.

Arizona was beautiful, we fell in love with the place. The vacation will get it's own separate post, maybe tonight.

Gotta run. Things to do.

Posted by: Ted at 01:02 PM | category: Square Pegs
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