30 May 2013

The 700 Club

Welcome, my friends, to the 700 Club.  No, not this one. I mean the 700 Club that with this post I join today. Of course, I refer to this being my 700th post.

Believe it or not, this is the 700th post. I've been at this blogging thing for five some odd years now and I want to thank those of you, all two of you, who have been along for the ride on the sofa in the Den from the beginning. I want to thank those of you who have been brave enough to proclaim yourself a follower as well. I have appreciated the comments and the interaction that this little forum has afforded me.

As I have with other 'milestone' posts, I'll share some interesting, well to me at least, data about the Den and its readers:

  • My Apollo 13 anniversary post is still the most widely read - again, I apologize to all the 8th graders who Google 'Apollo 13' and get directed to this post. I'm fairly certain it did nothing to help you with your report.
  • Google has been the preferred way for folks to find the Den, with 'Apollo 13' being the most popular search keyword that gets people into the Den
  • The bulk of the visitors to the Den are from the US. Who is in 2nd place? Russia. I have no idea why either.
So there's a little peak behind the curtain in the Den. I've slowed down the pace of my posts this year, a little intentionally I guess, but I've found a pace that works for me right now. I don't see the content changing much as I move past the 700th post. It'll still be my musings. I don't pretend that this blog is changing the world. It's not. It's my little train wreck and I'll keep it going.

Thanks for taking a seat on the sofa here in the Den. Hope you are comfortable and that you'll stick around.

27 May 2013

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, wherein our nation pauses to remember those who have given their lives in order to protect our nation and the way of life that is America. For all of its faults, this is an amazing country and I am most grateful to those who have given their lives to protect it and us.

I thought I would rerun last year's Memorial Day post, with a couple of minor edits. Please read on:

Today is the last Monday in May, when the United States observes Memorial Day. While the day has become a time to remember those who have died, millions across the country will pause to remember the meaning of the day and will honor those who gave their lives for the freedom of this nation.

It is a solemn day.  So many gave their lives defending the freedom of this nation. They may have questioned the reasons why they were sent to war (and I don't just mean our current one, so calm down, Bushites), but they went. They died defending our system of beliefs. They deserve our utmost respect and reverence.

I've often wondered how my generation would have reacted had we faced the cataclysmic events that catapulted the U.S. into World War II or had we been teenagers when the Towers fell on 9/11.  My gut tells me the reaction would not have been as admirable as that of our counterparts in 1941 and 2001. I'm not proud of that. Perhaps that's why I have a particular obsession with the literature of war. From the Revolutionary War to the current brouhaha in Afghanistan, I have read a slew of books and I have been inspired and humbled by the sacrifices of those who were far less selfish than my generation. I mean what does my generation have to call its own? MTV. Madonna. The coke-addled 80's. We set the bar pretty low, people.

I'd like to share a list of some of the books that have had a profound impact on me as I've considered the actions of those who fought for this country. For your consideration:

  • Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose - actually anything Ambrose has written is worth reading, but this telling of Easy Company and World War II is amazing.  The HBO mini-series is an incredible companion and should be required viewing in any and all American History courses.
  • In the Company of Soldiers, Rick Atkinson - gripping look into the early days of the Iraq War
  • The Greatest GenerationTom Brokaw - the generation I wish my generation could be.  Read this and understand why.
  • Behind the Lines, Andrew Carroll - letters from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War.  Deeply personal.
  • War Letters, Andrew Carroll - the first of two books that capture war from the eyes of those that fought.  Stunning.
  • One Bullet AwayNathaniel Fick - inspiring story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.
  • The Heart and The Fist, Eric Greitens - second story of the making of an officer in the Iraq War.  Both are stories of very smart young men who could have been sitting in an office on Wall Street, but instead chose to fight for their country.
  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand - incredible story of a U.S. Olympian turned soldier turned P.O.W. and his story of survival.  I was so sorry I hadn't heard this story when I was in school.  But I went to public school in Arizona, a state where you'll do more time for knocking over a 7-11 than for killing a child.  I shouldn't be shocked about the quality of my education.
  • The Cat from HueJohn Laurence - a reporter's ground-level view of the war in Vietnam.
  • Final SaluteJim Sheeler - this is one of the most moving books I've ever read.  I wrote about it here.  I defy you to read this book without weeping for the lives that were cut short.  The subtitle of the book is 'A Story of Unfinished Lives.'  Is there anything sadder?
  • Lost In Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff - while not about a battle field incident, this book is an epic story of survival and ingenuity during World War II.  Further proof why they were the Greatest Generation.
2013 update - I would also invite you to find this movie on DVD and to watch it. Please watch "Taking Chance" as a part of your Memorial Day remembrance. It is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made and the honor given to our soldiers.

I am profoundly grateful for the actions and sacrifices of those who gave all for the freedom of this nation.  May we honor their memory on Memorial Day

25 May 2013

The Loner(s)

With the impending and highly anticipated arrival of our first grandchild, The Boy Awesome, first-born of Our Lady of Awesome and Awesome, the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML did as she promised upon hearing that she was to be a grandmother. She packed up her bags and left the Boy and I to fend for ourselves. She's happily ensconced behind the Zion Curtain, waiting for our grandson to show up. That's precisely where she should be and we wouldn't have it any other way.

In the meantime, the Boy and I are the proverbial loners in the Garden of Eden. I am pleased to report that we are quite fine. The bed, well mine at least, has been made every morning. The Boy's effort has been more interpretive, if you know what I mean (and if you have, or have had, a 17 year old son, you know precisely what I mean). We are eating, mostly at home, too. The laundry is done and I even did all the ironing, too. So the house is running along nicely.

That said, we are loners here. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML has a way of filling our house with a sweetness that it needs. That need is made glaringly obvious whenever she is gone. That sweetness is not cloying, let me be clear. It's something that makes the Boy and me strive to be better. It will be good to get her back. The loners need her.

23 May 2013

Get A Haircut!

In my ongoing quest to hasten the advance of middle-age, with all its attending quirks, I did something today that probably pushed me from middle age to early onset aging. What was it that I did, you ask? I wished this on someone:
That's right, little man, get a haircut!
Say what now? 'Get a haircut!' is what I said, invoking my father's generation with said declaration.

I'm interviewing interns for a role on my team. To date, the interviews have been on the phone and, rightly or wrongly, I refuse to make my way to BookFace to see what the prospective candidates look like or what shenanigans they may or may not be up to, as it really doesn't matter to me. I brought in one of the candidates today and as I soon as I saw him in our lobby, I suddenly became an elderly man, driving my Cadillac down the road, with one seat belt hanging out the door, creating a shower of sparks, muttering how the 'Commies will be the end of us and how every young man with long hair looks likes a girl and needs a haircut.

Yep, the kid needed a haircut in my book. The shaggy Bieber flop o'hair in the eyes may work on campus but I'm not certain of its workplace efficacy. So the flop-o-matic hair and the fact that he wasn't wearing a suit truly wore on my last nerve. But I'm nothing if not professional and I managed to put my desire to get him to a barber aside and was impressed with the smarts he demonstrated. I'm not going to discount him because he needs a haircut. But, man, get a haircut!

Good grief, I sound like I'm 72 years old. I'm not even a grandfather. Yet. That's right, the Boy Awesome has not arrived, but we are hopeful and are waiting, not so patiently, his arrival. So get here, little man, so I can feel a bit more justified in making comments about people needing haircuts!

19 May 2013

An explanation

From time to time, a picture is taken that finds its way into the netherworld of social media. That picture requires an explanation. The following is an explanation for this picture:
What on earth was going on here? Seriously...
We live, technically, in a smaller town, a 'ville' really, within an already small town. It's been interesting adjusting to life in said 'ville. This past Friday, we experienced the ville's vaunted Jamboree, which appears to be the annual fund-raiser for the volunteer fire department. It turns out that the area in which we live is the ideal vantage point for viewing the fireworks show associated with the aforementioned Jamboree.

So Friday night as the skies finally darkened, The Boy and a couple his friends set up on our deck in preparation for the fireworks extravaganza. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML joined them in order to watch the show. As we sat on the deck, we decided to take a picture of ourselves. It took the intervention of one of The Boy's buddies to show me how to work the flash on my friggin' iPhone in order to get the gem featured above.

Turns out the flash on the iPhone is akin to the glow of, oh I don't know, a nuclear bomb explosion. Except the iPhone flash lasts for what feels like a minute before it turns off.  Seriously, you get a nice retina burn before a picture is taken. Hence, the travesty you see above. So there you have it. An explanation.

Here's the thing though - I love this picture. The stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I have laughed countless times since taking it. I love that at this stage of our lives and our marriage that we are able to laugh at ourselves. I love that she had no problem agreeing to having a silly picture of the two of us make its way onto the infinite well of nothing that is the internet. I love that this picture captures the joy on my wife's face. I wouldn't want it any other way.

12 May 2013

On Mother's Day

I remember my mother's prayers and they have followed me.
They have clung to me all my life.
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, while not the most educated President in the history of the United States, was one of the nation's most gifted orators. He was profound and instructive as he spoke. He held his late mother, who died when he is a small child, in the highest regard. As reflected in the quote above, her influence was never far from him.

The influence, whether good or bad, of a mother can never be downplayed, belittled, or discounted. Ever. Mothers play an immeasurable role in shaping who their children will become. Lincoln's mother, who lived only a few short years after his birth, influenced him for the rest of his live. Her prayers were woven into the fabric of who he was. Mothers are like that. It doesn't matter if you gave birth to the child you mother or not, that influence is undeniable.

Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards my mother. Her influence and her words have, like Lincoln's mother, clung to me all my life. I am grateful for what my mother taught me, for what she so seemingly willingly endured from a child like me, and for the happiness she gave our family. I am grateful to a mother-in-law who raised a daughter who wanted nothing more than to be a mother. She gave that daughter an incredible guidance and as a result, my own family has been blessed forever. Generations are blessed because of the actions of one mother.

This is particularly acute now as I reflect on the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and her role as mother. It has been her life and it still is. Just because we only have The Boy left at home does not mean she's ratched down the mother role. Nothing could be further from the truth. She will be a mother forever. My children are beyond lucky. With The Boy Awesome about to be born, making our first-born daughter a mother for the first time, I want her to follow in the footsteps of her mother, my amazing wife. If Our Lady of Awesome will incorporate the lessons she learned from her mother and follow her example, then she will be ready to take on motherhood with confidence.

Like I said, I am so blessed and grateful for the mothers in my life. I have been richly blessed and it is an honor to celebrate them today. As information, though, if you have not finalized your plans on how to make this day special for the mother(s) in your life, please, I beg you by all that's holy to not do this:
And no, it's not the tat that concerns me
Indeed, Hooters, that pinnacle of food (and I use that term loosely) and scantily-clad skanks waitresses is giving Mom a free meal today. Because there is no better way to say "Love you, Mom and thanks for everything" than having a server, spilling out of her tank top, bring the woman who gave you life or who gave your children life a platter full of chicken wings. 

Um, yes there are. There are countless ways to show that love. Man up, my fellow sons, sons-in-law, and husbands, and take good care of the mothers in your life today. They more than deserve it.

11 May 2013


Rest assured...this isn't allowed in CT, people.
Martha Stewart wouldn't have it, no way, no how.
Once again, the good and unseen souls at dictionary.com have given meaning to words and today's word is:


and it is defined as the state of being prominent; conspicuousness.

Take a look at the train wreck couple to the left and I think it's safe to say that they are just a tiny bit conspicuous. But hey, it was their prom night and they felt justified in what they unleashed wore. The Trail Blazers should sue them.

We have Prom on the mind here in the Den because tonight is The Boy's Junior Prom and it's an event of some prominence, no matter how silly it all seems. We were able to join him, Olivia, his date, and several other couples and their parents for pictures before they all left. It is shaping up to be a fun, memorable night for The Boy. I'll let a few pictures tell the story.
Pinning the corsage...no blood drawn!
The Boy and Olivia

The Boy and some of his bros
The Boy and Dad (um...that would be me)

The Boy and the mighty fine SML (um...his mother, of course)

Look up!
So this rite of passage for The Boy is under way. Prom has changed since I went to Prom thirty years ago. There was only one event, no Junior Prom one week and a Senior Prom the following week. There was no "lock down" concept and you went to dinner wherever you wanted. The Boy's Prom is a lock down, where dinner and the dance are all in the same place. From the looks of it, dinner appears to be something from the economy class kitchens of SkyChefs, and no good can come from that.  None. Further, they have to do a breathalyzer upon arrival at said event. Again, none of that when I went to Prom and given all the sordid shenanigans that were part and parcel for many of those in attendance, there should have been.

It will be fun to hear his take on things when he gets home. He's got a pretty unique take on things. This is one of those nights where you trust that the things you've taught your child, be it a son or daughter, stick. I felt a little bit of pressure, self-imposed mind you, to tell Olivia's parents that their daughter would be taken care of by the Boy. It felt good to hear them both say they trusted him completely. Yeah, I think it's going to be a good night for these guys and all their friends.

07 May 2013

Itchy & Scratchy

As you may be aware, or not, my go to television show for consistent laughs is a little program called "The Simpsons." Two of my favorite characters are stars of a show within the show, the murderous frenemies, Itchy and Scratchy. They rule and that's all I think I need to say about that.

Since last Saturday, I've gotten up close and personal with my own Itchy and Scratchy. What, you say? I'll let the pictures do the talking:
Meet Itchy!
Meet Scratchy!
Itchy is my left leg and Scratchy my right. Those red marks are just a smattering of the bug bites I got on Saturday as the stunningly patient and mighty fine SML and I did some yard work. It was a gorgeous spring day, worthy of wearing shorts, and we wanted to take advantage of it by getting a planter ready, as well as getting the lawn mowed. The shorts, at least for me, turned out to be a bad idea.

During our time in the yard, we were assaulted in a most subtle fashion by what appeared to be gnats. They weren't mosquitoes and whatever they were, they seemed far too small to bite. Wrong again. Whatever these flying minions of Satan were, they did a number on me and the mighty fine SML. We've both been itching like lepers and just as one series of bites seems to ease up, another group gets all red and angry again. It is not awesome. It's a suckfest, quite frankly. 

So I'm not all that happy with Itchy and Scratchy right now. I've learned an important lesson though. Apparently, here in our little corner of Connecticutistan, spring yard work requires the donning of a Haz-Mat suit in order to avoid the assault of these insidious biting little devils. Lesson duly noted. I'd write more about the other lessons learned but I have to itch and scratch the backs of my legs now. I'm out.

04 May 2013


He seems to be enjoying his progressives
The unseen souls who maintain dictionary.com define the word 'progressive' as follows:

Making progress toward better conditions; going forward or onward

Well, I must protest. You see, which is a bad word to use because I don't see, I learned yesterday that my thirty year (30!) run with contact lenses is coming to an end and it's back to glasses. It's over. How is that progress? Apparently, because I've been wearing rigid lenses for twenty-five of those thirty years, I've developed callouses on my eyes. Cornea=soft/rigid lenses=hard. Advantage=rigid lenses. As a result, no more contacts. Oh, and PS, since my vision continues to be absolutely craptastic, I get to wear progressives. Awesome!

So I see this as one more stop on my 'Middle Age is Friggin' Awesome!' tour. As some kind of further karmic smackdown, I woke up at 330AM this morning because I had to go to the can (they make a pill for that, right?) and discovered that my hip was aching and so was the bridge of my foot. It would appear that I am falling apart faster than troubled former teen skank star Lindsay Lohan's rather tenuous understanding of rehab. No good can come from this.

Well, some good. As a wise friend of mine, who is perhaps the best caller of bull on the planet, pointed out on BookFace yesterday as I posted my progressive lament:

Don't knock it. You're about to be a Grandpa. That will more than make up for the glasses thing.

Yep, that's true. Counsel duly noted. At least now, I won't be looking at The Boy Awesome through one eye or over tops of my readers at the end of my nose. Silver lining found!

01 May 2013

Spring and lawnmowers

From "The Happening" - alternate title "This Isn't Happening"
Spring has sprung. Finally. Proof positive came today as I drove home and saw a fat shirtless dude running along the river.

Spring not only brings out ill-advised running attire decisions but it also means, at least here in Connecticutistan, that it's time to bust out the lawnmower because the lawn is back!

As I drove home last night, my brother and I were catching up via phone when he mentioned he was racing home because the kid who mows his lawn had just ran over his foot with the lawn mower. My brother is a lawyer and was getting home to make sure his homeowners' insurance was in order. I'm not a lawyer and would have had a different reaction. He texted me this morning to report that the kid only lost a toe nail in the debacle, but was enormously lucky.

I had my own run-in (oh, bad pun) with a lawnmower the summer after my unfortunate freshman year of high school. It involved one of those push mowers with the rotary blades at the front. That summer, like so many other boys my age, I'd gotten a job mowing lawns in the neighborhood. One of the neighbors insisted I use their mower, the aforementioned rotary death machine. Now remember, I was pushing 105 lbs. of teen-age dorkiness and it was summer in Arizona. So I got up early to mow, wearing my school-issued gym shirt, a half shirt. Yes, you read that right - a half-shirt. Anyway, their lawn was still wet from the morning flooding, I mean watering but I went about cutting.  Because the lawn was wet, I had to stop pushing and yank clumps of grass out of the front blades. This went on and on.

And then in happened...I'd yanked several clumps of grass out and gave the rotary a $10,000 Wheel of Fortune-worthy spin. I decided the spinning needed to stop and without thinking, I stuck my hand at the base of the rotary. Good-bye, tip of my index finger on my right hand. Well, it wasn't completely gone but it was hanging. I rolled onto the wet grass and ripped off the ridiculous PE half-shirt to staunch the blood. Quick FYI - half-shirts made of questionable materials for lousy public school districts do not make good bandages. You have been warned. Anyway, clutching my wounded finger, I made my way home. And here's where things get stupid. Or more stupid. My parents must not have been home because I never went to the doctor or ER. I doctored up the thing and hoped for the best. The result? A scar across the top third of my index finger, no feeling in it, and fingerprints that no longer match.

So, the moral of this story? Half-shirts are ridiculous. Stay away from rotary mowers. Just stay away.