30 October 2012

A whole lot of nothing and that's OK

After 48 hours of non-stop media hysteria (trust me when I tell you that it was wall-to-wall coverage), Hurricane Sandy arrived in this, our little corner of New England.  We are fortunate enough to not live on the coast and so we were spared the shrewish Sandy's angry, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, fury.  Instead we got this:
Nothing. And a whole lot of it.
We were ready for the worst.  The Boy and I had the garage converted into a storage area for all our deck furniture.  The generator had been tested, charged, and ready to go.  We were prepared.  That part of the hysterical media's message we did heed.  Sunday came and so did Sandy and for us, what happened? There was some rain, but nothing dramatic.  There was wind, but not a lot of it.  Sure it howled occasionally but we've experienced far worse. It seemed for a second during one of the howls that things might get interesting, but alas, no.  After all the hysteria, a little part of you kind of wished something did happen.

Then we woke up Monday to the coverage of what had happened in Jersey and New York City. All you wished for now is that your friends in Jersey and NYC were going to be OK. I'm just sick about the destruction, the impact on people's lives, and am in scary awe of nature's unequaled power.  To quote my mother, "Oh my hat!"

So am I ever glad we got served a whole lot of nothing.  I am secretly glad that I didn't have to fire up that generator.  I feel pretty firmly that I would have wound up blowing up the house had we really needed to use it. I am really grateful for the myriad friends and family who reached out to see if things were OK in the Den during the Sandy debacle.  How grateful I am to be able to report that all is well.  Our prayers are now extended to those who didn't escape her wrath.  It's going to be a tough recovery.

27 October 2012

Hunkering Down

For those of you currently living under a rock or who are fortunate to not have access to the Weather Channel, you've not heard about Sandy, a late season hurricane whose eyes appear to be squarely set on our neck of the New England woods.  Sandy has been described with equal parts somberness and delirium by the local weather hysterics as the following:

The Perfect Storm!!!!

If my years of living in Florida are any indication, Sandy will be none of these things. Every hurricane I rode out in South Florida was a big old bust.  I hope Sandy will prove the same.

However, if she doesn't, thanks to the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and her wicked organizational skills, we here in the Den are ready for Sandy's arrival.  We tested the new generator this morning and it started immediately.  I did have to go down to the local Ace to ask one of the extremely harried salespeople where I'm supposed to set the generator up.  After he looked at me like I had two heads, I quickly explained I was new to the area and never had need for a generator before.  He made it clear that I needed to leave it outside, regardless of the weather, once I had it fired up and going.  He started to give me a lecture on the perils of carbon monoxide but I assured him I was aware of said dangers. I've got more oil for the generator as well as several gallons of gas. We're ready there.

I had to stop at the grocery store for one last item for the "hunkering" and that was additional amounts of Diet Coke and Coke Zero.  This was critical.  How can we be expected to ride out some crazed hurricane without said beverages? Based on the gutting the store was taking, it looks like a lot of people were not ready at all for the impending cataclysm.

I get it.  We've heard all the stories from those folks who lived here last year and endured another late season shrewish hurricane (Irene).  No power for eleven days.  Not good, so the simmering hysteria is merited.  It is, however, being fed by a nutty local media.  The local NBC station is running a maudlin, gooey sweet commercial of their coverage of last year's storm and reminding all their viewers of how they were there for us last year and that they'll be there for us this year.  It is cloying and more than a little ridiculous.

So we'll see what the next few days bring.  Like I said, I'm leaning toward my previous experience with hurricanes and that this is going to be a whole lot o'nothing.  In the meantime, we in the Den will do as instructed above:  Keep Calm and Hunker Down

24 October 2012

I probably shouldn't admit this

The Den is my place to say what I want.  There's no safe word here as it my space and I've had plenty to say over the last few years.  In some cases, I've said more than I probably should, but that's rarely stopped me in the past.  And yet I've gone back and forth on whether I should admit this:
Just Dance 4, people, deal with it
I didn't realize that Just Dance 4 has been unleashed on an unsuspecting public and I could not be more excited.  CAL texted me earlier tonight that she and her roommates had just picked it up.  I called her and she was full of breathless abandon about the awesomeness of said game.

That I am in the full graying, bi-focal contacts with readers on top of that horror of middle age and that I am more than excited about this game is equal parts pathetic and terrifying.  I documented our fun with Just Dance 3 in my December 31, 2011 post.  On one of our last nights in Chicago, we played JD3 with friends for several hours.  You don't look at life the same after you've watched your friend Greg bust it out to "California Gurls."  You just don't. Just looking at the JD4 playlist promises for more full-body seizures disguised as dance moves. They Might Be Giants!  Panjabi MC! and Rick-Rolling with the 80's Ginger Poster Boy, Rick Astley.  Oh, the awfulness. It's going to be awesome.

I should be completely ashamed of myself, shouldn't I?  I couldn't dance 30 years ago when it mattered and dance is one of my 'skills' that has decidedly not improved with age.  But what is life if not to have fun?  So what if I'm going to embarrass myself about this.  There are far worse things in life. Far, far worse.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have been trying to carve out some time to break out version 3 again.  Now we have to ramp up for the coming train wreck that is JD4.  Good times ahead, people, good, good times.

21 October 2012

And then the note got passed

Yesterday, the Boy and I volunteered to help clean up the yard (note to self - if I get to the point where I have more than one abandoned vehicle on my property, it's time to move, or set fire to things) of an elderly couple who worship with us at church.  It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day and a good way to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning.  While we were driving home, the Boy asked me a few things about college life and I got to reminiscing about how I would go back to those days in a heartbeat.  I loved every minute of my college experience and regretted nothing.  Except the following:

Living in what was then known as 'Condo Row' (today it qualifies as a tenement) in Provo, we'd gotten very tight with our neighbors.  One of them, a cool girl from Salt Lake City, had made the decision to go on a mission and so a slew of us, including my roommates and the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, drove up to SLC for her farewell.  Now this was back in the day when the farewell was a two day affair (open house the night before, farewell talk the next day, and another open house after that).  We decided, as I recall to only show up for the farewell.

So here we were at a chapel in SLC, a slew of young twenty-somethings, assembled to hear our friend speak about the experience upon which she was about to embark.  Now you have to remember that when my roomates, A. and M. and I got together, typically there was a lot of laughter, some tears, and somebody walked away offended (I give you the audience of a late showing of "A Fish Called Wanda" in Orem, UT who stormed out because of our laughter as evidence).  Anyway, as I recall, the mighty fine SML was seated next to me as a buffer (little did she know that it was during this meeting that the 'stunningly patient' title would be born) between the three of us.  Shortly before the meeting started a woman and her daughter sat down in front of us.  The daughter was adult-aged but clearly was developmentally disabled.  Because the three of us were idiots, this would prove our undoing.

As the meeting began and progressed, the young lady in front of us began to make guttural throat clearing noises.  As the meeting progressed, the noises grew louder and, well, chunkier.  As I noted earlier, because the three of us were young idiots, we started snickering about what was going on.  The mighty fine SML shot more than a couple of disapproving glares, as did a couple of the other girls that were with us.  However, we were not to be deterred.

In timing that Hollywood could not have scripted, three things converged at once: our friend was hitting the spiritual acme of her talk, the girl in front of us reached thunderous heights with her snorting, and M. passed the following note to A. and I:

Do you want a fork with that?

We tried to not laugh audibly.  We could only stifle the laughter by what must have looked as though we were have full-body seizures.  I can't recall who finally lost it first but one of us did and the laughter was loud and noticeable.  And it also became uncontrollable.  In what I'm sure was a flash but felt like an eternity, the three of us stumbled over those seated next to us, like three people fighting to escape a fire in a theater, to get out of the chapel.  We could not have been more obvious.  Or awful.  Really, truly awful.

I'm the first to admit that it took us awhile to stop laughing once we got outside. We wisely chose not to go to the open house after the meeting ended. Besides, I was getting a flight to Dallas that afternoon anyway.  That was probably a good thing.  To say that the mighty fine SML was displeased was an understatement.  Yet somehow, she managed to find it in her heart to forgive me and still marry me.  This would not be the first time she'd have to endure my poor judgement.  Hence, the 'stunningly patient' title.

I really do regret this one.  It really was bad form on our part to be laughing at this girl (good grief, it's not like we were a bunch of 5th grade boys...or were we?).  I feel bad about the farewell and the ruckus we created.  So, Sister JF, if you read this, I'm sorry.  Really sorry.

However, is it bad to admit that nearly every time I see a fork, that darn note still comes to mind?  Thanks, M.  You played that one well.

20 October 2012


The great comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia has said, "The internet is an infinite well of nothing."  Knowing that truer words have never been spoken, I have not wanted to add to that infinite well by posting something in the Den, simply because I should.  It's been a weird week, one where I've felt almost zero compulsion to post.  I've had nothing to add, nothing to say, nothing to share. So I've stayed silent.

Silence can be is golden, as the saying goes.  I guess I've been pretty golden this past week.  I intentionally opted to stay above the latest Presidential debate angerfest that broke out on social media this past week.  Is it November 6th yet?  Lo, that it were...

Speaking of that auspicious date, I'll be in China, where I'll be silent on the blog, as it appears the blog is still banned there.  That said, it will be interesting to see how Chinese media covers the elections.  The stunningly patient and mighty SML and I were in Sydney, Australia during the 2008 election campaign, and watching the Australian media cover President Obama's nomination at the DNC Convention was awesome.  It was no-holds barred commentary, something that any of our dying broadcast media networks would ever dare to do.  I somehow think the Chinese will cover the U.S. elections a little differently.

So, on this quiet, gorgeous fall afternoon in this little corner of New England, I'll get back to pondering what I can do to contribute more actively to the infinite well of nothing that is the interweb.  Feel free to post your suggestions.

14 October 2012

Walking it out

Along the Farmington River
With the leaves falling and with those trees that have retained their leaves exploding in brilliant hues of orange, red, and yellow, fall has decidedly arrived here in our odd little corner of New England.  It is an absolutely beautiful time of year and I'm glad that we are able to experience this season here.

Yesterday the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I decided to take advantage of the crisp but not yet cold fall air and take a long walk along the Farmington River.  As you can see from the picture, with leaves serving as our carpet much of the way, it was a beautiful walk. While the scenery was exquisite, even better was the opportunity that she and I had to simply talk.  I am pleased to report that after nearly 24 years of marriage, we haven't run out of things to talk about.  Of course, with me as a spouse,  I'm not sure that the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML will ever run out of things to discuss. Admittedly, I give her plenty of fodder.  Unfortunately, it can often begin with "Why did you have to say (insert my latest inappropriate comment/observation) while we were out with (insert couples' name)?"

That said, much of what we talked about on our walk focused on what's next for us, particularly as a couple on the cusp of full empty nestedness (I don't really think that's a word).  The reality is, though, that with Our Lady of Awesome married, CAL in school full-time, and the Boy less than two years away from a mission, we are much closer to being lone parents in the Garden of Eden than we probably think. It was a little exciting to talk about some of the things we might do.  It was a little scary to talk about some of the things that could loom ahead as well, too.  Scary simply because of the unknown, nothing more dramatic than that.  I can report though that my dream to be called 'Fred' in place of 'Grandpa' is dead.  I will not under any circumstances be allowed to let any grandchildren that we might have call me 'Fred.'  And before any of you think that I am telegraphing an announcement here, let me be perfectly clear, I am not.

I hope we get a few more walks in like this before it gets hideous here.  Maybe we'll get lucky and we'll have a mild winter.  We'll see what else we can figure out on our walks.  Perhaps we can tackle what to do about the Middle East next....we're all for a good challenge.

13 October 2012


VITRIOL - as defined by the word nerds at dictionary.com, means: something highly caustic or severe in effect, as criticism.

Welcome then, my friends, to the week that was in social media.  It's been a veritable cavalcade of vitriol.  And what pray tell was the source?  That would be the one and only Vice Presdential debate of this insufferably long political season.

Earlier this week, America's favorite crazy uncle, Vice President Joe Biden, and Republican congressman, VP candidate, and P90X/Tony Horton acolyte Paul Ryan debated.  I was only moderately interested in the debate and as it began, my wise best friend, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML, suggested that perhaps I watch something else or watch nothing at all.  I opted for watching nothing at all.  I then started checking my Twitter feed and comments on the interweb's favorite place to spew, Facebook, and decided that maybe I should not look at that either.  So I started reading a book about North Korea and the modern-day underground railroad that exists to help people escape that vicious regime.

Based on the invective that was all over the two aforementioned social media outlets the following morning, I was never so glad I opted to read a book.  I'm all for a good debate and I'm all for political discourse but the level of personal vitriol that has erupted is incredible to me.  And I'm not talking about the snarkfest that was the spat between Biden and Ryan.  I'm talking about what I saw on the FB and Twitter and for comments that were directed to me personally because I am not of the Mittite tribe. Wow.

I have friends from across the political/social/religious spectrum and if I stack up the comments that were made during the VP debate and the first Presidential debate, in terms of acting/reacting really poorly and spewing personal attacks on those who choose not to support their candidate, the folks supporting Team Romney win.  Frankly, I'm not sure that's an award you want to win.  It's been interesting to have those supporting Team Romney (and who, ironically enough, share the same faith as me and Romney) call me an idiot, call me ridiculous, and mock me because their candidate "won" the first presidential debate or because I somehow had something to do with crazy Uncle Joe's snarky performance.  If only I had that kind of influence...I don't.

Everybody, relax.  Remember what you were taught in your high school civics/government class (except for those of us educated in the Arizona public school system), these things have a way of working themselves out.  We still live in a mighty and great nation.  Be grateful for the freedoms we have.  Be grateful that we are free to have open political dialogue.  Be grateful you aren't a young Pakistani teen-age girl with a bullet in her brain, courtesy of the Taliban, because you had the audacity to speak out.  Be grateful that you aren't living in a vicious, oppressive regime like North Korea.

That said, Tuesday, November 6, can't come soon enough.

07 October 2012


Yeah, these numbers are going to have new meaning
Every six months, we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gather for a worldwide conference.  It is a time to be fed and taught spiritually, to be reminded of what is important in life, and, occasionally, to shake things up.

Thanks to the satellite television and the interwebs, this is one conference that we enjoy from home.  It makes for a different experience as we gather to hear the counsel of a prophet and to be taught.  Sure, we also wait to hear of anything new, like new temples (congrats, Tucson and Arequipa, Peru) or to see if any long-rumored changes come to fruition (c'mon, two-hour meeting block!).  While the two-hour meeting block was not announced, yesterday an announcement involving the numbers 18 and 19 was made that was nothing less than epic.

In the Church, it has long been expected that young men upon reaching their 19th birthday embark on two-year missions.  Young men sacrifice two years of schooling, work, etc., to serve these missions at their own expense. They are sent all over the world to do some good.  These are life-changing experiences.  I was honored to serve the Spanish-speaking people in Miami for two years in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission and my life was forever changed for the better as a result.  Not only did I learn practical skills, including another language, but I learned to be a better man.  I served with a lot of great people, including young women who voluntarily served for 18 months, beginning at age 21.

As of yesterday, 18 and 19 became the new 19 and 21.  It was announced that now young men can embark on missionary service at age 18, provided, of course, they have graduated high school.  Young women can now serve, if they choose, beginning at age 19. The reaction to this announcement was priceless.  The reaction of those assembled at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City was audible.  Several young men who looked to be about 18 and whose reactions were caught on camera looked like they had just been punched. Young women were giddy.  Several mothers looked stunned.

The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML was one of those stunned mothers. She immediately began to cry, saying, "I just lost a year with him (him being The Boy, of course)!" Well, not really, I explained to her. He doesn't graduate until May 2014, about four months shy of his 19th birthday.  This realization seemed to be a bit soothing.  I'm sure plenty of families have tons to think about right now.

This is a pretty exciting thing for members of the Church.  It will be most interesting to see how this plays out. I'm eager to see how this goes down.

While this little bombshell announcement has overshadowed the Conference, there has been great teaching this weekend as well. The counsel to man up here is one I will be studying and will work to implement. I've got to be better for my family and for me.

06 October 2012

Trial by Jury, Part II

Mercifully, Hollywood opted NOT to inflict a second installment of Pauly Shore's crapfest acting opus, "Jury Duty," on us. I, however, have chosen to give you a follow up to my last post on my fun in the jury pool.

Once we fled Arizona for Nirvana north of San Diego, it seemed like the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I got jury duty notices with alarming regularity.  This is where I was introduced to professional jurors. These are, for the most part, elderly people with nothing better to do than hang out at the local Courthouse, hoping to fill in for all the prospective jurors who elect to skip out on their summons.  It was also in SoCal where I ran into maniacs who would stop at nothing to get out of jury duty a la Liz Lemon from "30 Rock:"
The costume didn't work for Liz and similar shenanigans failed for some of the prospective jurors I ran into on multiple occasions.  It was on my last summons that I found myself unable to get out of my civic duty and I was selected to serve on a jury.

In spite of my pronounced desire to NOT be there, once I was picked, I took my role as a juror seriously.  You don't grow up the son of a highly-respected trial attorney without respecting the legal process.  I wish my fellow jurors had taken the case a tad more seriously.  It was a criminal case, involving charges of police brutality and questionable immigration status.  Anyway, the juror next to me spent the bulk of the trial downloading porn to his cell phone.  Nice.  The other jurors, a mishmash of the aforementioned professional jurors and a few people who were more concerned about where they would be going for lunch, seemed pretty much disconnected from it all.

I made the mistake of taking notes.  I made the mistake of noting that when the Spanish-speaking mother of one of the accused was speaking that the court-appointed translator incorrectly interpreted what she said. Why mistakes? Because when the case was handed over to the jury, guess who was made foreman unanimously?  Me, good readers, me.  Fantastic.

When one of my professional jurors announced, with more pride than she should have, that every jury she'd ever been in had ended in a mistrial because she was always the lone hold out, I knew things were going to be interesting. When she said that, I looked at her, and said simply, "Ma'am,that will not be the case with this jury." So we deliberated for a day and a half.  This was no "Twelve Angry Men" but our deliberations had there moments.  I am delighted to report that we reached unanimous verdicts on all of the counts.  We did our work.  Civic duty done.

A funny thing happened the day after we delivered our verdict.  Since I'd been in the trial all week and working at night to not be completely buried at work, we took the kids to the San Diego Zoo.  As we walked around that animal jail (I'm not a fan), lo and behold, we run into my professional juror lady.  Her husband pulled me aside and said, "She's been on a lot of juries and she says you're the best foreman she's ever worked with."

So, I guess that was a good thing? Now we wait - wait for the summons here.  Who knows what lurks in the jury pool here...

03 October 2012

Trial by Jury

Please, no.
It struck me the other day that as new residents of this corner of New England that a jury duty summons can't be far away.  This thought does not make me want to make a beeline for the mailbox every day to see if the summons has arrived. Rather, it makes me want to curl up into the fetal position and weep uncontrollably.

I should feel like serving on a jury is an honor.  In my experience, it is not.  It is, instead, a parade of the damned and that's just the collection of society's flotsam and jetsam in the jury selection room.

When we lived in the barren wasteland that is Arizona, I got called to jury duty with disturbing regularity.  I almost always managed to get out of it.  My best excuse was to simply mention that I was my father's eldest son.  My late father was a pretty well known attorney who had done much to champion legal ethics and attorneys and judges knew who he was.  That typically got me out.  Also, saying that the defending attorney was so attractive that I would not be able to focus on the trial worked once.  Although that nearly got me a psych referral because said attorney looked like the sister of JoJo, the dog-faced boy.

It was while were in Arizona that I was selected for my first jury.  I did all I could to get out of it, to no avail.  Here's the skinny on that case (and beware, it's going to get unpleasant) - it was a civil case, involving an injury on a worksite. As the case was being explained to us, the prospective jurors, we learned that it was a most delicate injury.  A cement truck driver was delivering cement to a site and, long story short, he'd gotten out of his truck and jumped over an area where cement was being poured.  He slipped, or something, and was impaled on a piece of rebar.  Said rebar penetrated one of his testicles and kept on going up through his abdomen.  Can I get an OUCH!? Suffice to say, he was a mess.  The instant the defense attorney described the injury, every single of us men in the room, slammed our knees together and gasped audibly.  I hadn't even been selected yet for the jury and I was already prepared to award this poor soul $10Million for pain and suffering.  The wife was suing for, well, loss of services.  So this case was going to be a good time all around.  Until two yentas in the jury pool started asking about workmen's comp. The judge had made it clear that this case NOT about workmen's comp.  This mattered not an iota to these two idiots.  They kept asking questions about the intricacies of workmen's comp and they kept being admonished by the judge to shut it, basically.  This led to a couple of other prospective jurors asking aloud about the comp issue.  At this point, the judge called for a recess, asking the attorneys to follow him.  I knew this wasn't going to end well.

It didn't.  A very irritated judge returned to the bench and announced that he was declaring a mistrial before the trial had even begun.  Laying the blame squarely at the feet of the two women who would not shut up, he said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial because of their actions.  The poor plaintiff and his wife were crestfallen.  They'd waited so long to get to trial and now it was time to set the clock back.  I feel quite certain that if the judge could have ordered the summary execution of the workmen's comp yentas, we would have seen them eviscerated.  That would have been a powerful lesson to foolish jurors everywhere.

That would not be my last jury.  I would get a chance to serve again.  This time in California.  That's a story for another post.