Showing posts from 2012

Thundery Thursday

This is almost here so I will be brief.


We used this staycation day to visit two major shopping malls and a place called Cheekwood which is a botanical garden and museum. They had a very brief program tonight featuring the Nashville Ballet. We also took a tour of the treehouses that have been built to commemorate different works of literature.

Lindsay had no idea that I was posing with my natural look instead of my typical fake smile.


Both Lindsay and Sara enjoyed the rubber band ball treehouse thingy.


That’s all I have time to do. I need to shut the laptop off since the lightning is getting insane. Hopefully I will still have a roof, siding, and a shed tomorrow.

Staycation Wednesday

We spent our staycation day at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville. The kids have been there on field trips. I went there on field trips when I was a kid. After almost 30 years, I still recognized a few things. For example, this used to be on the first floor and was pretty fascinating back in ‘79 or ‘80. I didn’t see anyone go near it today.

gravity well

Unfortunately, the old lunar lander game is also gone. Kids today probably wouldn’t have the patience for it.


The kids did enjoy the moonwalk.


So did this crazy guy. Every time he was pulled up, he made all sorts of karate kick moves and furthered stereotypes in the process.


I discovered a solution to my fat problem. I just need to move to the moon.


We also saw a perfect use for an old Pontiac Fiero. How many people does it take to lift a lemon?


The kids convinced me, yet again, to climb of a tower on nonsense and slide most of the way back down. I’m getting too old/out of shape/fat for this stuff.


How will we top today? Tomorrow we are planning on a day at Opry Mills and possibly Opryland Hotel. I also have coupons for mini golf. I know it’s not Disney World but it will have to do.

Outside Workday

I spent this hot and humid day off marking things off of the “to do outside” list.

  • Mowed the yard
  • Repainted and renumbered the mailbox
  • Repainted the wheelbarrow

To top it off, I grilled pork chops for supper.

The poor wheelbarrow was needing the paint job quite badly. I bought the paint four or five years ago and it has sat in a cabinet in my garage all of these years. Today it went from white and rust to green.


The wheelbarrow was a hand-me-down from our neighbor at a house we were renting about 10 years ago and it is supposedly over 50 years old now. The tire appears to be at least that old.


I blame years of band camp for my continuing inclination to voluntarily work outside even on the hottest days. No one else was out mowing at noon when it was 93 degrees with a heat index of 103. I’m obviously the craziest person on the street. I’m glad there are no yearbooks in adulthood because I would probably be voted “Most Likely to Die of Heatstroke While Performing Yard Work”.

Tomorrow we resume vacation mode and head over to the science museum in Nashville. World’s largest booger – here we come!

I watch TV: Miami Vice

I find it hard to believe that I have never written a whole entry here dedicated to Miami Vice.

I find it harder to believe that it premiered 28 years ago this September. I had never seen a show like it and every time I travel to Miami I think about it. Some people don’t like it. I have every episode of Season 1 just about memorized.

There are a lot of comparisons to music videos and the “MTV effect” is pretty prevalent. I did also love MTV at the time back when they actually played music videos. However, the stories were gripping also. At times, they were downright scary. It was hard for me to believe that a world like this actually existed but in reality the stories presented each week were not that far fetched.

The oddity of Miami Vice is how quickly the show sort of fell apart. It became gimmicky. Glenn Frey was good the first time. Phil Collins should have never been on there and I love Phil Collins. Don’t even get me going on G. Gordon Liddy and Willie Nelson being on there.

For the first season and parts of season 2, it was about as close to perfect television as I’ve ever seen. Only Mad Men and Person of Interest have come close to making me feel the same way I do about Miami Vice.

So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at some scenes from Miami Vice:

  • “It was real, wasn’t it?” Here is a scene from the first episode. It introduces us to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and the art of filming a car at all sorts of new angles. Also notice how you don’t hear the noise from the actual driving but only Tubbs loading the gun. That’s a bit eerie. The scene with the phone booth under the neon sign is like framed art. It wouldn’t be so dramatic today thanks to cell phones.
  • In episode 5, Crockett and Tubbs head off to bring Calderone to justice. This involves a boat ride that appears to be making Tubbs quite sea sick. The song, “Voices”, by Russ Ballard seems to me to be the perfect fit but it was nearly impossible to find at the time and unlike “In the Air Tonight” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” that appears at the end of this episode, it did not become a hit.
  • “It all happened right here”  This is from episode 21, “Evan”. Evan was played by William Russ. You may know him as the dad on “Boy Meets World” but as Evan he was a cop dead bent on taking a bullet and you find out why in this clip. Miami Vice was pretty ahead of its time on the subject matter. You’ll want to turn annotations off on this clip since it is posted as part of a script writing example.
  • A clip of William Russ from this episode is at this link. It can’t be embedded for some reason.
  • Finally, here is a clip from episode 34, “Definitely Miami”. For me, this is the last great episode of the series and it was aired midway into a very uneven season two. The show kept going for three more seasons and though there were some bright moments at times, it had really had lost the magic. There are two excellent storylines in this episode but the ending with Godley & Creme’s  “Cry” is just about perfect (yet a bit out of place if you don’t see the whole episode).

Ben Franklin’s Virtues in the Internet Age

I just started reading “The Happiness Project” mostly because it has been recommended time and time again on a podcast I listen to but also because I need to get out of this bored, unmotivated, uninterested rut that I have found myself in for the last few weeks. At the beginning of the book, the author talks about Ben Frankin and his list of virtues:
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversations
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing
Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly
Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty
Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think you deserve
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or habitation
Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation
Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Ben did his best to live by these. I first read them when I read his autobiography back in high school. I highly recommend the book – he was quite the guy. My post-it that marked the virtues way back when is still attached to page 95.

A lot of the virtues really make me think about a topic that I have gone back to over and over – the internet. It’s really a time suction that I am increasingly frustrated with. I’m not fussing and threatening to take down the blog again even though I would certainly understand you, as a reader, deciding to cut it out of your personal life so you can reapply that time to a better pursuit.

That is part of the virtue that Ben called industry – “cut off all unnecessary actions”. I would like to think this means never checking Facebook at all. But, I do have family on there and a handful of friends I respect so what I have done is unsubscribed from all of the people who are not those people I care to hear from. For example, if I see a post invoking what you don’t like about Obama or Romney that is in the form of a rant and not a thoughtful introspection, BAM! Unsubscribe!

Facebook has sucked the joys out of high school and college graduation because it has made it where you never truly leave. I was fine without a lot of these people for the 15 years since college that there was no Facebook and being reacquainted with them over Facebook has reminded me why I chose to move away and lose touch with many of them in the first place.

Using Ben Franklin’s Virtues as my template, I can also easily see the need for silence. So many people are baited into virtual warfare by stupid Twitter and Facebook opinions. Facebook especially is like having all of the social fake drama of high school / college played out virtually for the rest of our lives. Have you noticed that the same people you wished would shut up back in the school are the same ones patting themselves on the back all of the time for supporting politician A or social cause B? Silence means not engaging them because they are not important. If they were important, they would be too busy being important to post all of that crap in the first place.

Tranquility is tough when you’re surrounded by opinionated people on their virtual soapbox so I don’t think you can just ignore the messages flowing in. You really have to turn them off. You’ve really got to stop the incoming flow. I worry for my kids who are already entrenched in this sort of living that is not really living. It’s just bytes of data trying to trick us into thinking that this is actually living. This “new world” is wonderfully portrayed in this commercial:

One virtue Ben missed is have fun. I don’t have near enough fun. I will be on vacation again next week and I plan on us getting out of this house every single day since I sit in this house every single day working. I plan on doing some reading and listening to some podcasts during my down time when we’re not running around doing stuff. I won’t be scrolling through Facebook posts or worrying about work emails.

Maybe this vacation will be the beginning of my own happiness project.

Hump Day

Since my Sunday entry where I whined about all of the dry weather, my rain gauge has been filled with six and a half inches of rain.

Here was the rain as it approached the house this afternoon:


This looked particularly nasty:


The rain arrived with full force and everything quickly filled up with water again:



Aside from the rain, the word for this week is “frustrated”. I can’t explain exactly why but I have been on edge all week. I’m not sleeping well so maybe that is the problem. Next week is another vacation week so maybe I can make it to then and all will be well.

Mother Nature comes for us again

I remember the good old days when it would rain and we wouldn’t get 60 mph wind to go along with it. We just had the finishing touches on our house from the last big one and I thought we were spared today when I noticed that something in the back yard looked a little off.

This is not normal. The shed normally sits on level ground. The door normally opens to the side and not from the side.


Mother Nature had lifted the shed off the ground and threw it back down when it gave up on flipping it.


No, I don’t usually store everything like I am on “Hoarders” so this is also not normal.

It was more of an annoyance than anything. My lawn mower survived and that’s really the only thing out there that has any value. I emptied the building and sat it back down and fixed the door. We’re ready for the next line of storms which, unfortunately, should be here in about 15 minutes.

A break from the heat?

Our almost two week run of 100 degree-plus weather (105 yesterday) is supposed to start coming to an end today with a high of just 98 followed by a week of rain and highs in the 80’s. It will feel positively like fall here. We need the relief quick. I’m not sure how much longer the AC unit can handle this. I also have fans running in every room of the house trying to keep the cooler (barely) air moving around.

As hard as we have worked to keep the house comfortable, there is nothing I could do for the yard.

I could have watered every day but that is a huge waste of water and it means I would be the only idiot on the street mowing when it’s 110 degrees.

I did water the tomatoes often so we have a green patch in one part of the yard but they basically have stopped producing anything so I guess it didn’t help much.

That tiny sprinkler in the picture came from QVC and it is amazing. It is adjustable beyond belief – notice how the right side is watered more than the left side?  It also has a timer on it so you can set it to water for up to 120 minutes and then it turns off. I just love yard gadgets.

With the heat going away, I’m now a bit concerned that we might move directly into fall as we did a few years back. The cool weather came in so early that we couldn’t go to the pool after the first week of August and we were frozen by October. My snow shovel sits in the garage taunting me and reminding me that the weather works in mysterious ways.

Yes, I love technology…

…but I cannot get used to this:


That’s why I am still writing in one of these:


I don’t like “typing” on a touchscreen because it feels clumsy.

I do like having a permanent record available that I can flip through that does not require charging and won’t run out of memory and won’t get lost somewhere in a backup on an external hard drive. Once I fill up a notebook, I can put it away for a while just in case I need it.

I usually buy these little notebooks in 10 packs but it takes me forever to use one up. I don’t write a whole lot, just a word or a sentence here and there with a date beside it. Blog ideas, work scribble, etc. – it’s all in my notebooks.

I go to the movies: Moonrise Kingdom

It’s been quite a while since I have been to the movies, partly because they are crazy expensive and partly because I have lucked out and not had to see any kids movies lately (there is only so much animation I can take). I have been wanting to see Moonrise Kingdom because I really enjoyed Rushmore and because the trailer for the movie looks so surreal.

I’m sure there are better words than surreal to describe the trailer and the movie but I just can’t think of one right now. The movie is set in 1965 but it’s not the 1965 portrayed on “Mad Men”. It’s a 1965 that we might have wanted 1965 to be if we were sitting in 1965. It’s an incredible mix of fantasy, potential, and reality. It’s much more than a first love story centering around the two junior high aged main characters. The adults certainly have familiar problems and they sometimes react as we would expect them to and they sometimes react as we would like them to. The kids fulfill fantasies we all had as kids – escaping whatever situation they are in and striking out on their own but the movie captures the awkwardness and reality that comes with being given a chance to make such an escape. Most of us would have never made it out of the driveway.

There are multiple strong performances in the movie. Bruce Willis especially shines through because he plays a character that he doesn’t have the opportunity to play often. He may be recognized with awards or at least nominations when that time comes around. Edward Norton is also fantastic as the Scout Master. The kids, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, effortlessly make it all seem genuine.

I thought the story was good on its own but it’s the attention to detail at the hand of Wes Anderson that lifts it from good to magical. The visuals are fascinating, almost dream-like, to watch on a huge screen. Each scene is framed in such a way that you feel like you are looking at an old photo album rendered in Kodachrome colors. Instagram fans will wish they could make videos after seeing this.

I obviously highly recommend the movie. It’s not fall in the floor funny. It’s not grab a Kleenex sad. If Spider-Man is more your speed, you would probably walk out of this movie scratching your head so go see Spider-Man.

For me, it’s a 94 minute trip back to a childhood where fantasy can overtake reality not just for the kids but for the adults also and it’s a very satisfying trip indeed.

Looking back at Canada Day over the years

This Canada Day is quite unique due to this:


It’s been 105 or higher every day since Thursday. This is why, for just the second time I can remember, we are not having a cookout tonight. It’s insanely hot so there will be no volleyball, swimming, etc. In fact, cooking outdoors is part of the burning ban we are now under. Amazingly, fireworks is not. I plan on guarding my house Wednesday night with a garden hose.

I do intend to get the flag out sometime before sunset (as soon as it cools down to 100). We will be watching the Canada Day celebration on TV as we always do via the power of the internet. I hope we have much better weather next year so we can do this up right and eventually make it up to Canada to see all of this in person.

Since we’re stuck indoors this year, here are some pictures from our previous Canada Day cookouts. Oh, if you are wondering why non-Canadians celebrate Canada Day way down here in Tennessee, I explained it once a while ago.

This from last year on Canada Day. Look at all of that grass! We must have had rain last year because there is no grass to be found this year. Even the weeds have given up.

2011 back

We even decorated the front yard in 2010. The neighbors obviously think we’re nuts.

2010 front

We had a pool in 2009 but it was so cool that I don’t think the kids were able to get into it. I miss cool weather!

2009 flag

In 2008, we really went nuts.

2008 house

2008 table


Happy Canada Day!

Still gaming after all these years

June 1, 1982 was a landmark day in my life. It was the day I got my Atari VCS. Yes, we were probably the last house in town to get an Atari and the video game industry would collapse the following year. Up until then, all of my video game experience was with the Pac-Man machine at Kroger, the tabletop Galaga at Pizza Inn, and assorted other games at Barrel of Fun in the mall and Showbiz Pizza Place.


The VCS came with Combat and but my parents also bought me a copy of Pac-Man. We plugged into the old floor model RCA tv in the living room and I wasted an entire summer. It wasn’t long until I had a variety of games. Some were new, like Pitfall! and some were old like Night Driver and Breakout. The $9.99 games were just easier to come by than the $30 games like Defender.

I didn’t own another system until I got a Super Nintendo. For the better part of 10 years, my home gaming was all Atari except for the games I had on my wonderful dual disk Amstrad PC that ran DOS. It couldn’t handle Windows.

I think my decade with Atari molded me into a very casual gamer. I don’t play games for hours and hours. I don’t want to solve anything or make any leaderboards. I play games to escape from reality for a few minutes at a time. I play games when I want to do something completely mindless.

After Super Nintendo, we didn’t get another system until we got the Wii and that was mainly for the kids. I spent most of my time on Wii Sports Bowling and Tennis. Then, the kids got DS’s and then DSi’s. They were having so much fun with their DSi’s that I also got a used one but I neglected it over the last few months because the screen is just too small for my aging eyes.

Yes, I can play games on my iPod Touch and iPhone but it’s just not the same. A while back, I wrote that I thought iPod’s were the future of gaming but the more I play on touchscreens, the more I don’t like it. I’ve been missing the real games on the DS vs. flicking stuff at stuff on the iPod so I finally turned in my white DSi and traded up to a DSi XL.

dsi xl

The screen is fantastic. The kids borrow it and play it more than I do. It’s nice to have a dedicated game machine but I still question the longevity of the economics of basing a system on cartridges. Of course, if I get really bored, I always have all of my Atari VCS roms waiting for me on my laptop. Spending 20 minutes playing Yars’ Revenge is always a good way to clear the mind.


New FM Radio : Tecsun PL-118

I have travelled with a lot of different radios over the years. Some were too big (Kaito KA-1103), some wore out too fast (Kaito KA-11, Grundig G8), and some just plain sucked (Grundig Mini 400). I’m not really looking for anything fancy but most radios have way too many features like hundreds of memories and shortwave. Shortwave isn’t going to work worth a flip in most hotels. I just wanted a digital FM tuner, automatic tuning (ATS or ETM) and a simple to use alarm clock.

I finally found the best of all worlds with two minor issues in the Tecsun PL-118:


Unfortunately, you can’t just run over to Walmart and pick this up. I bought it directly from a seller in Hong Kong on eBay. It took about 2 weeks to get it and I paid right under $20 for the radio and the shipping combined. I bought mine from ANON-CO and was very happy with the transaction.

It runs on 2AAA batteries. It has one touch ETM (Easy Tuning Memory) which scans the FM band and automatically adds a preset for each station. Hold down the clock button to set the clock. Hold down the alarm button to set the alarm time. The display lights up while you are doing these things. Another plus for travel is the tiny size.


Is it a DX machine? No, but it pulls in everything that you want to listen to comfortably even in a hotel room. I want the local stations and that’s what I get. It also sounds quite pleasant for the tiny speaker it has. It has decent enough audio range that it doesn’t sound tinny (too much treble) compared with similarly sized radios.

The two very minor issues are:

  • There is no lock function so the radio could turn on if bumped in your luggage. It won’t come on easily since the button needs to be held in for a second to turn on. It has not happened to me yet.
  • The alarm turns on the radio but it only stays on for about 1 minute and then it turns itself off. I believe it will come back on again in a few minutes and do that again. This is to save battery. I find it annoying but I’m lucky that I wake up quick and have a hard time going back to sleep once I am up. Heavy sleepers might miss the alarm completely.

The radio is also available in black and orange. I was so close to choosing orange but changed to white just because of the contrast between the case and the display.

This is my favorite travel radio now. The value for $20 is amazing.


Almost 4 months after the storm, the repairs are complete

On March 2nd, our house ended up in the path of a tornado-producing thunderstorm. The funnel cloud went right over the house and ended up touching down two counties away. The wind (estimated by the Weather Service) at 70 mph was bad enough but the hail it drove into the back of the house and the roof was what caused all of the damage.


They don’t look that bad, right? Consider standing outside as thousands of golf balls fall from the sky. In a windstorm last year, an area of shingles was ripped off the roof. This storm was far worse. Not only did more shingles get ripped away, but I also had holes and cracks (that you really can’t see in the picture) all over the back of the house. It’s odd but none of the other sides had any damage because the wind was blowing straight back to front. Also, everything that was sitting outside (including the poor Ford Contour) was dinged up.

Right after the storm:




Right after the storm:




It looks like a new house thanks to Mid-Tenn Exteriors.

Severe weather season arrives again in September so we’ll see how that goes.

Songs of Summer

My iPod is filled mostly with music from about 1975 to 1990. I can’t help it. I’ve turned into Harold from “The Big Chill”.

Michael: Harold, don't you have any other music , you know, from this century?
Harold: There is no other music, not in my house.
Michael: There's been a lot of terrific music in the last ten years.
Harold: Like what?

Even I need to hear new music from time to time.

So, where do I hear new music? I hear most of it on a local station here in Nashville - Lightning 100. I highly recommend them.


Here are some of my latest iTunes purchases that I am enjoying as we bake this summer. One note – I never see videos anymore so the first time I have seen these is while writing this:

1) It’s Time – Imagine Dragons

What a cool song. This is my favorite song right now. I’m just not sure why they were inspired to set the video in some sort of end of the world wasteland. Odd.

2) Tongue Tied – Grouplove

Finally–a video that captures the mood of the song–but it’s backwards and it makes no real sense plus there appears to be some 3-D thrown in there for good measure. Still a good driving too fast song.

3) Cough Syrup – Young the Giant

Glitter! Swimming! The video has it all. Seriously, I know people who say they never listen to the lyrics in songs–they just hear the beat and never really think of the words. I’m not sure how this is possible. I think this song has fantastic lyrics.

4) Lights – Ellie Goulding

A few years ago I was on the road a lot. I kept getting 6AM flights out to places so I would be driving to the airport at 4 or 4:30AM. The Fear by Lily Allen was popular at the time and was a perfect song for hauling down the interstate when hardly anyone else was out. Lights has that same driving really late/really early quality about it. It’s probably responsible for a few speeding tickets.

5) Time is Love – Josh Turner

I’m from Nashville so there has to be some country music on this list. I really like Josh Turner and I really like this song. The video reminds me of how much better life was before text messaging. It also gives me the impression that poor Josh has no love and no life while all of his friends have these things and are sort of flaunting it in his face. Josh might go on a killing spree at some point when he snaps from the loneliness and abuse. I guess that will be the next video.

Lights Out! (or the lengths I’ll go to trying to beat the heat)

If I ever buy another house, I am going to remember two things. First, I need a dining room and not an “eating area” that is part of the kitchen and way too small. Second, I need to consider the amount of shade around the house (hardly none here) and which way the sun will be coming in the windows at which time of the day.

The sun comes in directly through the back of the house I did buy in the late afternoon during the hottest part of the day. This turns our kitchen and living room into a toaster oven due to the higher ceilings. Another part of the problem was the $4.50 blinds I put up in a rush when we bought the house. We moved in very fast considering that we were renting and had a short window to move. This was also while I was travelling all of the time for work. And, I was cheap.

I have replaced many of those cheap blinds with newer, still cheap, blinds over the years. I’ve also resorted to using newspaper to cover the kitchen windows on 100+ degree days so that the AC does not have to work over time. Due to our huge stretch of hot weather this year, I was getting desperate. I was about to buy these things to get us through temporarily:


But, instead of that, we chose to invest in decent blinds (as we’ve been discussing for years) and I ripped down all the cheapies. It took me 8 hours (until 2 in the morning) to do the whole house, but I did it and the difference is amazing.


These are fake (faux) wooden blinds and they are not blackout blinds but they still keep out the majority of light and heat. Our old cheapies let everything through. When I want light, the slats are so much bigger that the room seems a lot more open and brighter.


I don’t know – these give the whole house a more “cottage-like” feeling. I can’t really describe why. They are just – nice. But, I didn’t stop there.

I was getting so tired of all of the little flashing lights in the bedroom at night coming off all of the electronics. The television, the cable modem, the monitor on my desk – everything has an annoying little light to remind us “I’m on!” or “There is data coming through!”. Ugh!!! I went around with the electrical tape and covered ALL of them up. I even covered the lights on the surge protectors.


I sleep so much better in total darkness as I’ve noticed in hotel rooms. Returning home from the road meant returning to all of the LED’s until now. I do recommend touching each light and making sure that nothing is hot before doing this. The difference is incredible.


The difference is amazing. Electrical tape is cheap. Do it – you won’t be sorry.

It might be time to move north


I wouldn’t mind it if summer hadn’t started in February this year or if it had rained in the last month. At least I no longer have any grass to mow. It’s strange having to water the trees every night. I’m too lazy to set up sprinklers and do the whole yard but I might do that right ahead of the 4th so the neighborhood hoodlums don’t burn down the house with fireworks.

The good news is that relief is in sight. We’ll be back down to 99 on Tuesday if the forecast holds up.

Thank you, Nora Ephron

“I’ll roll down the window.”

Blog Vacation!

Remember when I was on actual vacation and blogged everyday through it?
Now I’m not on vacation but I am taking a break from the blog for a few days. The last week was a real energy drainer so I am taking some time to NOT THINK!

I should be back by the end of the week unless we all melt before then.

The Mid-Week Report

If you’re expecting an exciting tale from the pages of my life, it’s not going to happen. The highlight of my week was when my office chair suddenly imploded on Tuesday. After three years of propping up my doughnut-filled rear end, it gave out. It now sits on the deck awaiting its trip to the recycling station.

Oddly, I had felt like I had been leaning to the left most of the day. I found myself leaning more to the right to offset it and had just started to accept this as normal behavior when – BAM! – the left side gave out and I was suddenly at an angle.

I can’t blame the chair. It had enough torture.

There is not much other news. The week after vacation always drags and this week has been no different.