Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy 12th Anniversary!

It was 12 years ago tonight at approximately 9pm that Cindy and I first met. I was working as a DJ in a club and she came in dressed in a Medieval wench dress for our Halloween contest and asked me to play a song for her.

Within a few months I asked the little Witch (I say that in the most positive sense) to marry me and to my everlasting joy she said, "Yes."

(From The Witching Hour #36, November 1973)

These past 12 years have been the happiest of my life. Here are The Shades of Blue, performing how I feel, just for you babe.

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

I have kissed your lips a thousand times
And more times than I can count
I have called you mine
You have stood by me in my darkest hour

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

In our years together
We have had stormy weather
But our love has been so strong
That somehow we carried on

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

Girl you brought joy in my empty life
And all that was wrong you've made it right

Our love
Our love
Our love

Oh how happy you have made me
Oh how happy you have made me

Oh how happy, Oh how happy
Oh how happy, Oh how happy
Oh how happy

You have made me
You have made me
You have made me
You have made me

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where Does Candy Corn Come From?

Tomorrow is Halloween. If there is one modern-day candy that is associated with this ancient Celtic celebration of the dissolving of the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead, it is (perhaps because of the celebration taking place in the Autumn when crops such as corn are harvested) Candy Corn.

Whatever the reason, I love candy corn. Thanks to my friendly neighborhood doctor, I can't indulge myself these days, but I would eat bags of it if I could. I used to wish they would sell it all year, but now I'm glad they don't so I'm not tempted by it the rest of the year.

But where did candy corn come from? Mental Floss offers this short history:

Nobody knows who invented candy corn, but we do know it began to appear in the 1880s, and we know the first company to make it commercially was the Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia. Soon after, the Goelitz Confectionery Company began production of candy corn in Cincinnati in 1898. The process at first was daunting: a candy blend was mixed up, heated and then poured by hand into molds. Each mold needed three separate pours to achieve the tri-color glory that is candy corn. Today the process is mechanized and the tri-color composition isn't nearly as impressive as it was to the people of the 19th century, but the Goelitz Confectionery Company has never changed the recipe and continue to make the candy to this day.

Hmmmm, maybe Goelitz continues to make it, but my favorite brand is still Brach's...or it was when I could actually eat it.

Here's an entire blog dedicated to Sweet Candy Corn. They swear that today is National Candy Corn Day. I wish I could join in on the celebration. Oh, and there's a very funny cartoon over there that answers the question, "Where Does Candy Corn Come From?" so be sure and take a look.

Another Republican Endorsement For Obama

Prominent Republicans, such as Colin Powell, Scott McClellan and others, have thrown their support to Democratic Party Candidate Barack Obama in the closing days of the Presidential race. Now comes news that the ultimate symbol of the Republican Party has chosen Obama over the Republican party candidate.

Valerie, a 26-year-old female African elephant picks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's picture over Republican presidential candidate John McCain's at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif. The elephant, of course, is the symbol of the Republican party.

Whatever You Give A Woman...

I've seen this all over the blogosphere, but haven't been able to nail down an origin in order to give proper attribution. However, it's just too good not to share.

Heed these words of wisdom.

"Whatever you give a woman, she's going to multiply it.
If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.
If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.
She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.
So - if you give her any crap,
you will receive a ton of $h!t"

New Flickr Uploads

As promised, I've uploaded photos of our visit to our property on Sheepback Mountain

and our wonderful visit to The Gathering Place B & B in Maggie Valley courtesy of hostess Laura.

You can check them out by clicking here and here, respectively.

More to come!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Supporters Should Avoid Overconfidence

Or, in Senator Obama's own words:

"For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky and think this is all set, I just [have] two words for you: New Hampshire," the Democratic presidential nominee said during a fundraiser breakfast in New York. "You know I've been in these positions before where we were favored and the press starts getting carried away and we end up getting spanked. And so that's another good lesson that Hillary Clinton taught me."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.

I meant to post this earlier last week when we were in North Carolina.

We stopped into The Chocolate Bear, a gourmet chocolate shoppe on Main Street in Waynesville, and were surprised to see that the sister of our friend Rebecca was also in the store.

"I'll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!"

C'mon, you can laugh. It's almost Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman: 1925 - 2008

Tony Hillerman, acclaimed mystery novelist and creator of Navajo lead characters Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as police detectives working in both the Anglo and Native American worlds to solve crimes, died of pulmonary failure in Albuquerque, NM yesterday at the age of 83.

Tributes, memorial articles and personal remembrances are springing up all over the Internet; one of the best is here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Free Taco Tuesday

If you want to make a run for the border and not have it cost you a single peso, then Taco Bell has a deal for you, amigo.

Here's the promo wording direct from the website:

A base has been stolen in the 2008 MLB World Series, now America gets a free taco. Run on down to any participating Taco Bell between 2pm and 6pm on Tuesday, October 28th to get 1 free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco!

There's one within a mile of my home and two others within three miles. I'm all set for lunch this Tuesday!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Opie, Andy, Richie and The Fonz For Obama

I'm REALLY dating myself when I point out that I watched both of these series during my lifetime; the first as a child and the second in my early and mid-20's. I have enormous respect for the film work Ron Howard has done in the capacity of a director, and this is an amusing look by him at a serious subject; the future of our country.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Friday, October 24, 2008

Preparing For The Digital TV Switch

On February 17, 2009 (a little less than a month after we swear in a new president), full-power television stations nationwide must stop transmitting their old analog signal and switch to a digital transmission (DTV). If you already have a cable or satellite or Verizon FiOS TV connection to your TV, you will continue to receive your broadcasts as usual, but if you receive your signal "over the air" with rabbit ears or antennas, then in a little less than 4 months you'll be staring at a screen full of snow.

I, for one, am a little bummed because my cool combination lantern, radio, and TV will be useless for watching local news or shows when I am out camping.

To help prepare for the planned switchover, Uncle Sam is offering discount coupons to households that need to buy converter boxes (which will be useless in Florida when hurricanes strike and the power goes down, because the boxes do require an AC connection to power the conversion no TV weather for you if the electricity goes out). Here is an amusing look at the process of preparing for the digital TV switch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Is This Blog Pink?

Just a reminder that our color scheme is pink for the month of October in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as evidenced by the "Going Pink For October" graphic under my photo on the right.

If you haven't already done something to take part, there is still a week left in the month.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Is Real?

I'm not trying to get uber-philosophical, but what is real? How do you judge what you term to be "reality" as being real? Is the position that "perception is reality" a correct one? Is the physical life we lead real, or is there a mental existence that is the real life?

For example, most of my dreams are very real to me, as real as my daily existence. What if the dreams are my "real life" and my supposed "real life" is the dream?

How do you judge what is real?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Taj Mahal Of Tents

As promised in this post, here are some photos of our new "Taj Mahal of Tents" that we camped in while on vacation in North Carolina.

Not shown in these photos is that the tent has a cool built-in light in the ceiling that is attached to an 8-D cell power pack that also comes with a...REMOTE CONTROL! Approaching the tent at night in the pitch black darkness, it was beyond cool to turn on the interior light with my little clicker. Yeah, I'm easily amused by electronic toys.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Friday In Western North Carolina

Friday we drove to Maggie Valley with Cindy's parents to meet Art at Joey's Pancake House. Joey's is only open for breakfast, from 7am to noon, and is ALWAYS packed. When we had driven by on Wednesday morning at 9am the parking lot was overflowing, so we decided to arrive by 8am to hopefully beat the crowd, but that was to little avail. Every table was occupied and folks were waiting in the lobby area. When we left at 9am, the line was out into the parking lot on each side of the lobby and cars were parked in adjacent lots while their owners walked to the restaurant for breakfast.

Cindy's mom goes to a water aerobics class in Orlando and when she told one of her classmates that we were buying some property on Sheepback Mountain, the classmate told her that her son Art had recently purchased some property there also. Cindy's parents met Art a few months back, visited his property and wanted us to all get the chance to meet, so a breakfast at Joey's was arranged.

We had a great time at breakfast and afterward we drove up to see Art's property and what he was doing on it. I thought out property was steep as far as the layout is concerned, but Art's has us beat. He has cut out a road and had it graveled up to a certain point. We walked approximately a half a mile up the steep road from the base of the property, since he was the only one with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. At a more or less level area he has set up a lean-to and has been working on building a primitive log cabin using the trees he has cut down on his property. At this point he has the 10 foot by 15 foot area staked out and is drying the tree trunks he has cut down in preparation for erecting the walls and roof. There will be no electricity or running water, but the cabin will provide shelter as he continues to clear and level his land for the eventual construction of a more conventional cabin or house in a few years. I salute his initiative and told him that while I admire what he is doing, I don't think I would ever have the character to stick with such an undertaking. He has my utmost respect. I also took a couple of picture with my cell phone of the view he has from his planned primitive cabin site and of Art with some tree trunk logs behind him.

Afterward, Cindy and I drove to Sylva, Dillsboro and Bryson City to walk the downtown streets of each town and see what they had to offer for both tourists and locals. Suffice it to say that I still prefer nearby Waynesville.

Friday evening, Cindy's parents joined us for dinner at Bogart's in Waynesville. This was my first time dining at this restaurant (Cindy and her parents have been there previously) and it may well end up being one of my favorite places to eat when we move up here. This was another place that was packed; we waited about 45 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it in food quality, portions, prices and service.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Balsam Mountain Inn

Thursday afternoon our tires arrived and we drove into Waynesville to have them put on the truck and then made our way to Blue Ridge Books & News, which you can read about here.

Cindy's mom and dad had made 5pm reservations for the four of us and Cindy's uncle and aunt to have dinner at the Seven Springs Restaurant inside the historic Balsam Mountain Inn, about 2 miles from Moonshine Creek Campground. However, we had been granted permission to arrive at 4pm and tour the hotel's three floors of rooms which weren't currently occupied that remain, for the most part, as they were when the hotel opened in 1905. It reminded all of us of the Grand Hotel in the movie "Somewhere in Time" starring the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

The occasion for the dinner treat by my in-laws was to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. That anniversary was back in March, but since I had not been home any length of time since then to observe it, they were kind enough to make this meal in these very elegant surroundings an anniversary gift to Cindy and I. "Thanks, mom and dad."

The tour was a lot of fun and I have many photos that will be posted on Flickr. Each room has its own style of decor and every room is unique in its furnishings. A couple of rooms were very feminine and a couple were very masculine and the rest were gender neutral, but all were interesting in that they maintained the feel of the early 1900's. There is no air-conditioning (a sign, kept from the original opening of the hotel in a lobby display case, reads, "Air-Conditioned By Nature"), and no TV's, radios, DVD players or other electronic items, though each room does have electricity. Most bath accommodations are in-room, but bathtubs are the norm (except in the masculine rooms which had shower stalls) and all are in the old "Claw leg" style while sinks are the pedestal type and usually mounted in corners. It truly is as if you have stepped back in time.

No self-respecting inn would be without its ghosts and Balsam Mountain Inn is no exception. One room, 205, is supposedly haunted, but it was occupied by a guest so we did not get to go in it and see if we felt a "presence."

I did see a shelf of blinking wireless routers, so I assume they offer Wi-Fi, but I forgot to ask. They also have a wonderful reading room off the side of the expansive lobby that was stocked with a wide variety of reading materials and furnished with an equally wide variety of furnishings for sitting and relaxing. Front and back covered porches allowed for sitting quietly in rocking chairs while taking in the beauty of the grounds or enjoying conversation with companions.

After the tour we made our way to the waiting area of the Seven Springs Restaurant to chat prior to our 5pm dinner reservation. Before we knew it, the hostess was escorting us to the hallowed alcove dining table, reserved for special parties. Our server, Lindsay, was a jewel; making recommendations and answering our questions. The food was absolutely exquisite. We all shared appetizers of Fried Green Tomatoes and Fried Brie (except for Cindy's dad who ordered a cup of Peanut Chicken Soup), before moving on to our excellent entrees. Cindy had the Coffee-Rubbed Ribeye with Garlic Mashed Potatoes; I had the Angus Filet with Mushrooms; Cindy's mom had the Coconut Crusted Salmon with Asparagus; her dad had Venison (Bambi's mom, we kept telling Cindy, to her great distress), as did her uncle and her aunt had the Pecan Crusted Catfish. For dessert I had the Bourbon Pecan Pie; Cindy had the Creme Brulee; her mom had the Chocolate Torte and her dad, aunt and uncle all had the Pumpkin Cheesecake. All of this wonderful food was washed down with glasses of wine.

It was, for Cindy and I, a wonderful anniversary gift of great food and drink, coupled with the enjoyment of excellent company. If you are ever in the area, I highly, highly recommend the Seven Springs Restaurant inside the historic Balsam Mountain Inn. Especially if your wonderful in-laws are treating, lol.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Gathering Place, Maggie Valley NC

I'm writing this on Friday, October 17th while sitting in the West Carolina Internet Cafe in Dillsboro, NC and using their free (if you bring your own laptop) Wi-Fi. I chose WCIF because they also offer printing and faxing services and I needed to use both in connection with my employer. Earlier today we took a stroll through downtown Sylva, which is about 15 miles west of our campground and then drove here to Dillsboro which is just a couple of miles beyond Sylva so I could use WCIF.

So, driving around on the "donut" spare was not something I wanted to do a lot of, but we had an opportunity we could not pass up. My in-laws have been telling us for a while about a very charming bed & breakfast in Maggie Valley called The Gathering Place and in fact Cindy's aunt and uncle were staying there on Wednesday, so we were invited to join them for breakfast at the B & B and meet the owner, Laura, who my father-in-law refers to as his second daughter.

We had a delightful time! Laura is a sweetheart who owns and runs the B & B as well as housing abused dogs and horses on the lodge property. She is one of those few folks that I've met and liked from the moment we were introduced. Enjoying breakfast with her, my in-laws, Cindy's parents and two other guests just reinforced that affection. Later, Laura took Cindy and I on a tour of the B & B and we talked a lot about what work had gone into the B & B and our upcoming cabin construction.

I took two pictures of Laura to use on the blog and somehow both came out with her eyes closed, which I couldn't see on the small viewscreen of my camera when I checked the photos. But here is one of the B & B from the small lake with Cindy and Laura standing on one of the decks talking.

And, I should have noted in earlier posts, all the photos will be posted to Flickr when I return to Orlando.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Greetings From Maggie Valley, North Carolina

I'm writing this on Thursday, October 16th while sitting in the Blue Ridge Books & News in Waynesville, NC and using their free Wi-Fi. Waynesville is about halfway between Moonshine Creek Campground in Sylva (really Balsam, though) where we are camping in the Taj Mahal of Tents and our property in Maggie Valley, and is one of our favorite towns to visit.

We arrived Sunday afternoon around 4:30 after an 11-hour drive. It took us about an hour to get our new Taj Mahal of Tents (pictures later) pitched and camping gear unpacked and after a dinner of smoked chicken sandwiches we hit the sack.

Monday we had lunch with our realtor, Kelley Starnes (I highly recommended her if you need an excellent realtor in western North Carolina) and our building contractor Dennis Cook. We went over the building plans of our cabin, then later in the afternoon we met Dennis at the property to go over some placement details. That was a good thing as it turned out we needed to turn the cabin 90 degrees for optimum placement. Now our front porch faces the creek to the west, but we can still see some of the mountains to the south from the front porch and what will be my office.

Tuesday we decided (ok, Cindy decided) to have a picnic lunch on the property. That was a good idea. Then she suggested we drive down the access road to our property instead of walking. That was a bad idea. I realized it was a bad idea about 20 feet down the road when it occurred to me that our 2-wheel drive Frontier was NOT going to get us back up the steep incline. I stopped and tried to back out, but it was no-go. In the end I burned up half a tire's worth of rubber on both back tires, blew out one of the back tires and was almost run over by my wife trying to get the truck out. We finally had to call AAA to have a tow truck come winch us out and up the road. By the way, for everyone's future reference, AAA only covers state-maintained or blacktop roads, so we had to pay out of pocket for the service. By the time we got done with that and could drive back to the campsite, it was 6pm and all the tire stores were closed.

Wednesday we called to get two new back tires for the truck, but of course no one in town had the size we needed and we had to wait for them to arrive from Asheville on Thursday, so we didn't do much driving on the "donut" spare. But we did do a little on Wednesday and I'll catch up with that later.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Enchanted Forest

Here's a photo taken on our property from where our cabin will be built. Cindy has bestowed the title of "The Enchanted Forest" on our small piece of Sheepback Mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty

Note: From October 12th - 20th posts here will be new but pre-written due to my camping in the mountains of North Carolina where Internet connections are not always available or fast. Thanks for reading!

Today is Blog Action Day for 2008 and the subject that those who are participating will be posting about is poverty.

Poverty is the causative agent of malnutrition and disease around the world, while being a contributor to lack of education and crime in so-called industrialized nations.

It is incumbent upon those of us, both as individuals and countries, who possess the means to alleviate that poverty, to do so to the best of our ability. Those actions raise all of mankind to a higher level, while not doing so brings all of us lower.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Close To You"

Note: From October 12th - 20th posts here will be new but pre-written due to my camping in the mountains of North Carolina where Internet connections are not always available or fast. Thanks for reading!

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

When I was driving around Iowa I had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

In 1970 I was 15 and in the 9th grade when "Close To You" by The Carpenters came out and it always made me think of Lynn Palmer from the very first time I heard it. I first met Lynn in band practice over the summer between 6th and 7th grades, but didn't develop a crush on her until the end of 8th grade, that summer during band practice sessions and the year I was in 9th grade. Lynn played the bassoon and sat directly in front of me, so she contributed to my slow decline from first chair trombone to last (which ironically put me right next to Phyllis McCormick, who was first chair French Horn) because I was spending time flirting with Lynn instead of performing up to my potential.

Lynn had the kind of smile (even when her teeth were covered by braces) and attitude that just drew people to her. She was a genuinely nice person. She never seemed to be involved in the "catty" type behaviors that the other girls indulged in, and I always thought of her as being more mature than most of them were, in the way she carried herself and interacted with others. When "Close to You" came out, it seemed like a song written for and about Lynn, with the gender references changed to male.

Like Phyllis, I never saw Lynn after 9th grade, though we did talk on the phone over the summer between junior and senior high school. After that, we lost contact when I moved from Hialeah to South Miami.

Somewhere at home in an album I think I still have a Polaroid of her, another girl and our mutual friend (and her fellow bassoonist) Ray Thompson that I took of them on our last day of junior high school. But when I hear "Close to You" a memory of Lynn turning around to smile at me from her seat in the band is clearer than any picture.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Turkey On Wry

Note: From October 12th - 20th posts here will be new but pre-written due to my camping in the mountains of North Carolina where Internet connections are not always available or fast. Thanks for reading!

I first met Mary Ann de Stefano a couple of years ago at a Florida Writers Association mini-conference in Maitland. There is no doubt that she would not remember me from that conference, but she made quite an impression on me during a seminar she was conducting that day.

So when I had the opportunity to join Mad About Words I jumped at including my blog in the community of central Florida writers she has created with the Mad About Words Lounge. I haven't been able to participate as much as I would like to, though I have had a couple of nice exchanges with some members, especially after finding out that one had also been to Montmartre, France where Cindy and I spent a week in May of 2007.

Anyway, I got a real laugh this past week when I received the Mad About Words newsletter via e-mail and saw that my blog was listed under the "Must Reads" banner with the description;

See THE WORD OF JEFF (Wetherington)
for his wry take on life and fun photos

Thanks, Mary Ann, for the kind description and placement. I laughed because I thought that must make me a "Turkey on "wry." LOL. And I WILL make it to your wonderful seminars one of these days, if I'm ever in town long enough.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain's Incredible Boast

Note: From October 12th - 20th posts here will be new but pre-written due to my camping in the mountains of North Carolina where Internet connections are not always available or fast. Thanks for reading!

I was watching the debate last Tuesday night from Nashville and was understandably shocked to hear Senator McCain make the following statement, "I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him."

Does that declaration have the same chilling effect on everyone else that it has on me? Did we really hear a U.S. Senator proclaim that he knows how to "get" bin Laden, with the implication that he won't unless we elect him President? In other words, the man who has worn the "country first" label, has certain knowledge that he has not shared with the current administration in order to bring the architect of the 9/11 attacks to justice as soon as humanly possible. Let me ask you; if YOU knew how to bring this terrorist to justice, wouldn't you immediately share that knowledge with those who could put that knowledge into action?

While not agreeing with his politics, before this campaign I did have admiration for Senator McCain and felt he was an honorable man. However, his almost obsessive desire to ascend to the highest office in the land has completely stripped him of any real or perceived honor, and that is indeed sad for any man.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blast From The Past

I was kicking around my friend "LilDabster’s Blog" the other day and came across a page she had created to memorialize the surprise my staff had prepared to welcome me back to work upon my return from Scotland in May of 2006.

Yeah, I know it says "Bruce's Return" but it IS about yours truly, who had gained the nickname "Bruce" thanks to a total mix-up of my name by a "customer" of ours the year before.

I remember I got a real kick and a good laugh out of their surprise when I walked back into the office for the first time in two weeks that morning. It took me a few days to eventually get the foil off of everything they had wrapped, and then they took the foil and compressed it into a solid ball of aluminum about twice the size of a standard softball and all of them signed it. I still have it in my office at home. Thanks to Natasha, Rebecca, Heather and Denise for the fun and the thought. It will always be a good memory for me.

And thanks to LilDabster for the Blast From The Past. Catch her writings about being in Houston helping to recover from Ike.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Homeward Bound

I'm sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket for my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And ev'ry stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.
Homeward bound,

I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Ev'ry day's an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev'ry stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be,
Homeward bound,

I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Tonight I'll sing my songs again,
I'll play the game and pretend.
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me.
Homeward bound,

I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
Silently for me.

I'll be home soon my love.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Saying "Goodbye" To Iowa

Today is my last full day in the Hawkeye state. Our mandate is that we "Work ourselves out of a job" and I am told that I have admirably accomplished that goal. Barring any unforeseen changes, I will not be returning here after my already scheduled trip home tomorrow for a break.

So today I will be cleaning out my office, returning all my equipment and saying my farewells around the Cedar Falls office. I then have to go be part of a couple of last-minute training video shoots (Brad Pitt should have NO concerns whatsoever) in some nearby cities before I drive to Des Moines to spend the night prior to my 6am flight out tomorrow morning.

My flight plan calls for a short trip to Chicago, a layover of an hour, and then straight to Orlando where I'm scheduled to arrive around noon. I think I've mentioned before that, aside from the hideous aspect of getting up so early, I always prefer to catch the earliest possible flights to avoid the inevitable delays that stack up as the day progresses. Flying these days is distasteful enough as it is without having additional time spent on the runway or in the terminal because of weather/equipment or general incompetence delays.

I am flying United for the first time, so I hope my friend Michelle is right when she rates them as an "OK" airline to fly. When I flew up here almost 3 months ago our contract air carrier was American and that entire flight was a comedy of errors.

Cindy and I will be leaving Sunday to spend a week camping in the mountains of western North Carolina, then I'll return home for a week to catch up on all those things that get postponed when you're on the road (and hopefully relax a bit) before making myself available for a new assignment.

See ya tomorrow in Orlando!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Make Your Own Kind of Music"

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

Driving around Iowa I've had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

"Make Your Own Kind Of Music" was released in 1969 by Mama Cass Elliot when I was 14 years old. While I have enjoyed listening to it through the years, it never really made a connection to someone in my life until a few years ago, when the lyrics made me think of how much it could be applicable to my grandson Mikey.

I was watching the TV series "Lost" one night with Cindy and there was a scene where someone in the bunker was playing an old LP album by Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas, and particularly the song, "Make Your own kind of music". Sitting on the couch, it suddenly seemed as if the words were specifically about my autistic grandson. Especially the part:

"You're gonna be knowing
the loneliest kind of lonely.
It may be rough goin',
just to do your thing's
the hardest thing to do."

Longtime readers know that Mikey is an Asperger Syndrome child, highly intelligent but with real challenges in correctly reading, understanding and responding to social cues and with issues sometimes, because of those challenges, when it comes to behavior.

There's no way around it; I know he is going to be facing pressures throughout school and life because of the Aspergers. Especially because kids can be cruel and vicious to those who do not "fit in" and Mikey won't be like everyone else. He'll be called, at the least, a "nerd" and at the worst a "retard" because social interaction will not be his strong point. I've already had to steel myself with the thought that, no matter how angry it makes me, I won't be able to go beat the crud out of parents who don't teach their children better or, later on, older kids and adults themselves to treat him badly. I have to remind myself of that every time I think about it in an attempt to burn the message into my mind so it's there when I start to blow up, as I know I will. It's just preventative maintenance on my part.

Mikey WILL have to make his own kind of music, just as we all must. But where most of us pick up those social cues in an attempt to make our music blend in with the rest of the orchestra of mankind, Mikey will be performing a solo. He has strong, loving parents who have done and will do their best to help him cope with the effects of making his own kind of music, but at some point he will have to take their strength as his own in order to continue life on his own. He is learning coping mechanisms, both on his own and with instructions from his mom and dad and his teachers, but I think it will always be a struggle for him.

And here's the thing; here's the prize at the end of the contest. By making his own kind of music, no matter how hard it will be and no matter how many tears and how much pain it will bring to those who love him and hate to see him hurt, Mikey will be all the better as a person for it...and so will the rest of the world. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Here are the lyrics:

Nobody can tell ya;
There's only one song worth singin'.
They may try and sell ya,
'cause it hangs them up
to see someone like you.

But you've gotta make your own kind of music
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music even if nobody
else sing along.

So if you cannot take my hand,
and if you must be goin',
I will understand.

You're gonna be knowing
the loneliest kind of lonely.
It may be rough goin',
just to do your thing's
the hardest thing to do.

But you've gotta make your own kind of music
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music even if nobody
else sings along.

So if you cannot take my hand,
and if you must be goin',
I will understand.

You gotta make your own kind of music
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music even if nobody
else sings along.

There were always a lot of suppositions about what exactly the lyrics meant. Some said it was Mama Cass' rebellion against the record company that wanted the Mamas and the Papas to keep a certain commercial style to their music; others said is was an anthem for gay rights and still others believe it was all-inclusive, celebrating the diversity of all mankind. I myself am partial to the last theory. If you harm no one else intentionally, your music and your song add to the symphony of the universe.

Mikey probably won't read this for a few years, if ever. But I always want him to know: Granddad loves you Mikey. Always make your own kind of music in your life and sing your own special song. It will be great because YOU are great!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Justice Delayed?

Last Friday a Las Vegas jury found O.J. Simpson guilty of 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy. For those who felt that the former football star and actor had escaped justice 13 years ago to the day in his trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, the verdict was a satisfying piece of news and a hope that, while delayed, justice was finally being served.

The 61 year old Simpson, who has spent the last 13 years fulfilling his alleged post-trial vow of not resting until "Nicole's real killer is found" by searching every golf course in Florida, is facing a possible life sentence in prison.

It is, some would say, more time than Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were given by their murderer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cedar Falls Photowalk

Back on Sunday, August 31st I took an early-morning Photowalk around Main Street in Cedar Falls and I've finally uploaded to Flickr a few of the 300 photos I shot while the area was quiet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

National Fire Prevention Week - Prevent Home Fires

National Fire Prevention Week will be observed from October 5th through the 11th. This year’s theme is "Prevent Home Fires." Each year, fire departments across the country respond to over 400,000 residential fires. Annually more than 3500 people die from fire in their own homes. In many cases, some simple steps may have prevented the fire from starting or allowed the victims to escape. Each of us would benefit from checking our own homes for fire hazards and making sure that everyone in the residence knows what to do in case of fire.

By the way, did you know that National Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871?

The most common causes of home fires result from cooking, heating, electrical malfunction, smoking materials and candles. Each of these activities carries with it a risk of fire, but that risk can be greatly lessened if you follow some common sense safety tips.

1. Purchase a personal home fire extinguisher. That $15 - $40 investment could save your home, your mementos or your life.

2. Keep fresh batteries in your smoke alarms.It's recommended you change them every 6 months and most people find the twice-a-year-time-change to be a good reminder.

3. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. Many cooking fires start from unattended and forgotten cooking.

4. Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified professional.

5. If you smoke, smoke outside.

6. Keep things that can burn (like that blouse or shirt you'd like to dry by draping it over a lamp shade) away from light bulbs, light fixtures and lamps. For any suspected electrical problems, call a qualified electrician or at the least shut the circuit breaker off to that problem area until you can have an electrician look it over.

7. Use flashlights during emergencies, not candles. Blow out candles when leaving the room and keep them away from other things that can burn (like drapes, tablecloths, clothes, etc.).

8. Watch young children carefully, especially around stoves, ovens or if you have matches or lighters in the house. Little ones love to copy mommy and daddy and they can be deceptively fast.

Thankfully my wife and our children have never been involved in a house fire. But when I was a child my father was alone one weekend at a trailer we had in Key Largo and fell asleep in the bedroom while smoking. Friends of ours in a trailer nearby awoke to see our trailer on fire and were able to get my dad out safely before the entire place was consumed by flames. My father was extremely fortunate, but a lot of folks aren't.

Also keep in mind that, as the winter months and holidays get closer, the rates of fire and fire related deaths increase because of use of heaters and holiday lights. Take a little time to ensure that you and your family follow the safety tips above and let's do all we can to Prevent Home Fires.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Personal Demons

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Dream Blogging Chair

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Top 10 Blogs For Writers

My RSS reader is full of feeds from different writer-centric blogs. I used to have even more, but weeded out some that did not ultimately meet my needs. I NEED more time in the day...

This year saw the 3rd Annual Top 10 Blogs For Writers competition over at Michael Stelzner's Writing White Papers blog and below are, appropriately enough, the Top 10 Blogs For Writers. I'm going to copy/paste Michael's list and descriptions (though in reverse: lowest to highest order) along with a note from me about whether I already subscribed to that particular blog, plan to or will pass at this time.

10. Urban Muse: Susan Johnston covers a wide range of excellent topics that all writers will enjoy. Not one that I had previously read or subscribed to, but after a scan through this eclectic mix of pertinent subject matter I quickly added both the blog feed to my reader and the monthly e-mail newsletter to my mailbox. Great stuff here!

9. Freelance Parent: Two moms, Lorna Doone Brewer and Tamara Berry, provide excellent perspective on writing while balancing time with little ones. Another one that was not on my radar earlier. This indeed looks like an excellent blog for its target audience; freelancing parents with children at home, but I'm an old fart whose children are grown and have flown the nest. Passing on this one, but recommended for those to whom it applies.

8. Writing Journey: Looking for a great stop on your writing journey? Bob Younce’s blog will refresh and energize you. Here's where being an old fart (see above) is a detriment. This blog looks familiar, which means I probably tried it before and gave it up, but since I'm not sure and what I looked at today was more in line with what I like to read, I'm adding it to my feed.

7. Remarkable Communication: One part writing, one part marketing and one part selling, this excellent blog by Sonia Simone will help any writer succeed. Not previously in my feed and won't be added. The "one part writing" seems to be overshadowed by the other two parts. Just not my cup of hot chocolate.

6. The Renegade Writer: Linda Formichelli and Diana Burell, authors of a book by the same name, help freelance journalists find inspiration. Not previously in my feed, but I've read and enjoyed Linda Formichelli's guest posts in other feeds and the blog looks interesting enough to be added to my feed.

5. Confident Writing: Looking for encouragement? Joanna Young will help you take your writing to the next level. Not previously subscribed to, but if there is ANYONE who needs confidence in their writing it is yours truly so I'm adding this to my feed with high hopes.

4. Write to Done: This blog delivers a steady stream of excellent articles for all writers and is the product of top blogger Leo Babauta. Not previously in my feed and won't be added. I scanned through this one 3 different times (I think I must have subconsciously WANTED to find something to make me add it to my feed) but just could not come up with enough incentive to add to an already long list of such feeds.

3. Freelance Writing Jobs: Founded by Deb Ng, this site is the first stop for freelance writers seeking new work and great articles (and it remains a top winner since this contest began). This one has been in my feed for a loooonnnnngggg time. Good source of writing gigs and helpful posts and articles.

2. Men With Pens: James Chartrand and Harry McLeod are the dynamic duo who continue to deliver rich content and community discussion. Also in my feed for quite a while. My only negative comment is that every time I see it in my feed there is a nanosecond that I see "Men With Penis", which really bothers me.

1. Copyblogger: As the undefeated champ, this blog has held the number-one spot for three straight years! The baby of Brian Clark, this blog keeps winning because of its excellent and educational articles. Not in my feed and not planning to add. Copywriting is not my focus at this time. Neither is marketing.

I found the list of Top 10 Blogs For Writers to be very helpful in adding some hopefully new and informative writing feeds to my already overloaded reader.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in conjunction with that observance blogs and websites around the country are agreeing to Go Pink For October.

Last year, The Word Of Jeff limited its Go Pink participation to adding the graphic for the month of October, but, as you can see, this year the background on the blog will be pink for the next month. It's really my color, isn't it? LOL.

But in all seriousness, it's an important cause and one that touches so many lives, either directly or indirectly. My mother-in-law and my friend Rebecca are both breast cancer survivors. You probably know someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer.

I'll be making my annual donation, which this year will again support my friend Katrina as she takes part in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K Walk back home in Orlando.

I always view my donation as a way to support research that may one day help eradicate this disease that could potentially strike my wife, daughter, granddaughter or other loved one or friend.

Whatever your motivation, I hope you'll do whatever you can.
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