Small Town Paper

Oct 19, 2005

Here are two interesting facts about my hometown paper:

1) They were able to acquire the URL They might be small but they were forward-thinking.

2) I found this story just below the fold last Friday. Yep, small is definitely a good description.

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Finding Home

Jul 8, 2005

I’ve been thinking about moving. Actually, I’ve been thinking about moving for a long, long time. It’s difficult to describe the reasons. I talk about my preference for trees and rolling hillsides. I speak unfavorably about the ragged streets and cramped surroundings of Baltimore, my current city of residence. But these things don’t really catch my wants and desires. What may come closer is my personal feeling of belonging.

I don’t belong here. I belong over there.

“Here” is easy to describe. My little suburb of Glen Burnie isn’t bad. It’s relatively clean. My neighborhood is quaint and workable for my purposes. You can, quite literally, get to anything in 5 minutes from my current home. That includes 4 parks, 3 movie theaters, probably 10 shopping centers, 3 malls, and bajillion restaurants. If you are looking for any of those things, my current home is definitely the place to be.

Still, it pains me to say that the best thing about my current abode is that it is reasonably close to the place I work. My 1/2 hour commute is convenient, and that convenience was and is a driving factor in the location of my current house. I’d add that my home is also close to family, if that were as true as it was 5 years ago. My sister recently moved to Virginia and one of my brothers has been West of the Mississippi for a long, long time. My wife’s family has spent the past couple of years migrating West and North, to the foothills of Pennslyvania. There are a couple of exceptions — both my wife and I have a set of parents and a single sibling close by — but our families just aren’t as close by as they used to be.

The “over there” part of the equation is more difficult to explain and requires a little bit of history to understand. While I’m fond of saying that I grew up in Westminister, a town found a bit to the left of Baltimore on a map, that statement is only partially true. I did a bit of growing up in both Westminster and Baltimore. I made it to fourth grade before heading towards the suburbs in the East. I spent my young childhood in Westminister. I did a whole lot of actual growing near the city that the Orioles call home. My roots feel a little bit country but my branches have city written all over them.

It’s an interesting dichotomy that I wrestle with. While it feels that I’ve lived in Baltimore nearly all my life, sometimes I don’t really feel at home. I feel at home when I chase my dog around the yard of my father in Westminister. I feel at home when I’m hunting rats from a perch in second story of my brother-in-law’s barn in Hanover.

Home, apparently, is truly where the heart is and, more than occasionally, I have trouble finding that feeling on my own front doorstep.

Suddenly, my wife and I have resolved to fix that little problem.

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May 5, 2005

In the swirling world of links we call the internet, the opportunity to share humour is rife. Allow me to share a quick chuckle.

I can’t dance would make Phil Collins proud.

This woman is likely looking for work.

Is this the true purpose of the internet? Maybe so.

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Tax season is pretty wonderful, provided you are getting a return. If you don’t, well it sucks. Trust me.

Thankfully, the wife and I fall into the former group. Like a lot of folks, a good chunk of this money was earmarked for various expenses long before the government was kind enough to return a small portion of our earnings. For example, a good portion of this year’s return went toward our home equity loan, meaning, among other things, that the camper we purchased about a year ago is now paid off.

While that fact fills me with glee and I’m anxious to get that particular loan number closer to zero, the wife and I have been building a list of smaller things around the house that are in desperate need for an upgrade. We’re hoping to use some of this cash to work on our personal “to do” list, a list that seems to do nothing but get longer and longer. Here’s what’s currently in our plans and, in some cases, already in place.

Replace the Shower Towels

The wife and I had never purchased a set of showers towels for ourselves up until a weekend or so ago, when we corrected this oversight. Our previous stock of towels were made up of castoffs from our parents and the occasional Christmas present. Some of our towels were tattered to the point that the only person in the house with no right to complain about their use was the dog. Some did a better job impersonating a wash cloth due to their small size, lack of girth, or combination of the two.

Their replacements are purposely big and fluffy due to my desire to make up for lost time. The price tag of their replacements gave me a reminder of why it took so long for us to make this purchase in the first place.

Get a Decent Bedroom Curtain

I’ve never considered my wife and I exhibitionists but you wouldn’t know that from our bedroom curtain. Somewhere along the line it got replaced with a fabric that should have the word “sheer” somewhere in its title. A brief quest to purchase an affordable set of blinds that fit the dimensions of our bedroom window was abandoned almost a year ago, with no replacement in view.

What I’m looking for is a fabric that can block both the sun and any spying eyes that might glimpse any of our nighttime activities. Some fancy curtain rods that fit the style of our relatively new bedroom furniture would be a nice complimentary upgrade as well. It will be nice to wake up in the morning without a bright reminder of just how lazy I am.

Replace the Back Door Light

Not long after I replaced the porch light of our house, the light that hangs just above the our basement door went on the fritz. It died completely, leaving bits of its final light bulb embedded in itself for good measure.

The porch light required an upgrade because it was a piece of junk. You needed to physically remove the entire mechanism from the house to change the light bulb. It’s replacement allows you to change it from the bottom without ever turning a screw, lowering the time it takes me to replace a blown bulb from a month to merely weeks. It’s high time I do the same for the back door. Lowe’s had a sale on this particular light fixture about six months ago. Surprisingly, this past weekend, I caught that same sale again.

Rest Comfortably

The bed that the wife and I currently rest our bodies on in the evening is not aging gracefully. The box spring is broken on one of the bottom corners. The wood is broken clean through. Last week, the wife noticed that one of the springs had popped through the mattress to say hello. It’s eight years of service are appreciated. It will soon rest in peace.

The bad part of this purchase is that it really can’t be considered small at all. Beds are expensive, expensive enough that salesmen are hired specifically for the purpose of selling this one item. Because of this, I’m not looking forward to the process of purchasing a new bed. However, I am happy about the idea of having less of these to sleep with. Eww.

Fix the Spigot

Our previous faucet in the kitchen leaked from its base. This probably had something it being asked to force water through a faucet mounted water filter we purchased a couple of years or so ago. This behavior used to be limited to the use of said water filter. This is no longer the case.

It’s replacement, a shiny new faucet that is one of the few items in our kitchen not made in the seventies, is complemented by an under the sink water filtration system. The act of its replacement is about as close to actual plumbing as I’ll come in a long while.

That should do a pretty good job of draining the old bank account of our funds, that were the government’s funds, that are our funds again. If not, I’ll have to get a new computer. Oh, I already did.

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Jan 5, 2005

I never knew insect bites could cause such a raucous. Surely, a tiny bug couldn’t send me to the hospital, my surprise location just hours after the 2nd birthday of my oldest son?

The party went well enough. Presents were liberally scattered on my next of kin. Kind gifts of clothes were tossed aside in favor of an eye catching toy or ten. In between bits of shared joy and appreciation (both him and his parents were treated very, very well), my thoughts traveled to an apparent insect bite on my right thigh. What had once been a little bump was now something closer to a wound, having grown in both size and color. It hurt. I took the advice of a close friend and registered nurse, both one in the same. Hours later, I was staring at the business end of a scalpel.

It all started about two days earlier. As I said, I didn’t think much of it. I can’t tell you when or how I got it. I remember initially mistaking it for acne at one point. There was an attempted popping – never a treat on the soft skin of my outer thigh – but then it faded from memory.  On Friday, however, it surfaced (or resurfaced depending on the timing of said popping). My bite wasn’t so tiny anymore. Pain was mixed with its growing shape.

On Saturday, I knew something was up. I worried about infection. I phoned my doctor. No response from the on-call clown. I phoned my soon-to-be ex-doctor a second time. Again, no response was forthcoming. Then the party happened. My leg hurt but there was a house to clean and prepare.  I muscled through, successfully ignoring the pain. Somehow, the source of my irritation came up in casual conversation. A room full of people, most of them relatives, ensured that I never stopped fielding questions about my little injury.

(Those that are faint of heart, may want to cover their eyes at this point in my story.)

Shortly after the party, a kind friend volunteered to look at my wound. I believe my wife made the initial request. I’m unsure I could have asked her to do the dirty deed. My wound had grown nasty. It was bright red and hard. It had formed a nice little blister before the party. That blister was no longer a problem. It was ghastly. I suppose it isn’t good party policy to invite your friends to inspect nasty things but that’s exactly what I did. My surrogate doctor sent me to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital not knowing what to expect, beyond a long wait. The emergency room was full of people. I settled down with a book to find myself in Triage about 5 minutes later. The physician’s assistant took a look and mentioned something about a possible recluse spider bite (I have since, through a little internet researching, begun to very much doubt this theory. Do your own searching at your own risk.). The doctor came in and ordered it opened and drained. I kind of expected the draining part. I didn’t expect, however, the cutting portion of the procedure. While waiting for them to return with their instruments of death, I couldn’t help but my liken my experience to an episode of ER. You know how they are always laying that cloth down on folks with the big hole in it? That was going to be me!

(During my wait, I was visited by some curious colleagues of my direct medical staff. Oh yeah. Guess who was the topic of the day at the hospital water cooler. Please hide your jealousy.)

To be honest, the hospital visit wasn’t that bad. The staff was nice and everything happened much too fast for me to properly react to it. I’m getting surgery? It’s almost done. I’m getting blood drawn?  Hey, you are pretty good at that. I’m getting a tetanus shot? That’s nothing! Get out of here and get your prescriptions filled.

(Cover your eyes. I warned you!)

Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time with warm compresses to both drain the wound and control the swelling. I redress the wound a two or three times a day. Today, I’m crumbling to public demand as I offer a picture. Here’s my wound as of yesterday. Get your stomach contents cleaned up. I’ll wait.

Today, the pus in the middle is gone, leaving something akin to a bullet wound that is still very much getting care. I hope to one day entertain my children with my stories of ‘Nam. Maybe I’ll respond to the media’s incessant insistence that video games cause violence by claiming that I played Halo 2 so much that this is was the result. Regardless, I’m pretty hopeful that my stories will be of recovery. I find that to be a good thing.

Earlier today, I called my dad, who recently had lung surgery to scrape pneumonia from its surface. He spent a large percentage of December in the hospital with a tube draining fluid from his lungs. He spent the last week recovering from his surgery and attempting to do simple things, like eat.  He’s been home for all of two days. His first words? “How are you feeling?”

Well, it could be worse.

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Books About Money

Nov 5, 2004

I’m starting to work on my Christmas list for Santa and surprisingly – at least to me – three books about economics have floated to the top. I shouldn’t label it as a total surprise; I was one class short of an Economics minor in college. However, the fact that I’m choosing non-fiction over my normal fare of swords and sorcery is certainly a change.

Both The Armchair Economist and Fair Play by Steven Landsburg are on my list. I seem to catch Landsburg’s articles on The Slate relatively often (check out Bush’s Tax Cuts Are Unfair … for a interesting sample). My interest in his books is definitely an offshoot of that. I have a particular interest in Fair Play. The subtitle of this particular book, “What Your Child Can Teach You About Economics, Values, and the Meaning of Life”, provides a great angle for a fun discussion of economics. Interest in economics? Check. Kids? Check. This preview was the clincher.

The third book about money to make my list, The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Profitable Decision Making (3rd Edition), came to my attention via Joel on Software, a software oriented blog I frequent. Joel casually referenced it while discussing IMail, an application that apparently doesn’t understand what it is worth. Again, the preview sparked my interest. It has almost nothing to do with the fact that the paperback version of this puppy costs more than the hardcover copy. How intentionally odd.

I don’t intend to spend my whole winter thinking about macroeconomics and price tags but I do expect some variety in my reading. I just hope this doesn’t take the place of any potential toys I might garner. I wouldn’t want to think I was growing up.

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Oct 30, 2004

John Scalzi, the grand poobah of AOL’s journals, has a regular habit of handing out weekend assignments to his readers over at By The Way. He provides the idea. You write it up and provide a link to share the results of your labor.

I can’t say that I don’t need the help — my head feels empty more than occasionally — but I’ve never bothered to take one on myself, even if some of the ideas are genuinely good. That is, until now.

See, a while ago, I chimed in on his site to offer what I considered a fun idea for weekend assignment. Apparently, he agreed. The assignment for this weekend was written by yours truly. For those with a lazy mouse finger, here it is:

Write your own, preferably rhyming, epitaph. For example,

Here lies Jed,
He fell out of bed.

Extra credit: Write a cute epitaph for your favorite loved one, relative, or family pet. Suggestion: keep it light. You might want them to continue being your favorite loved one, relative, or family pet. Nothing is worse than having Fido dissing you over some silly words on a gravestone.

Given, that I’m the originator of the assignment, I couldn’t avoid the work. Here’s my attempt:

Here lies Ken
He had a wife named Jenn
They were found together dead
They didn’t expect a piano on the head.

Shew, I completed my homework and the extra credit all in one shot. Mom would be so proud.

If anyone else bothers to do so, shoot me a link in the comments thread. There’s nothing like good gravestone poetry. In the meantime, I’ll regurgitate the entries collected by the kind Mr. Scalzi below. Enjoy. I know I will.

Collection 1
Collection 2

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Tooth Fairy

Sep 14, 2004

I lost a tooth on Monday. This was not a surprise. I knew problems were on the horizon when pieces of tooth were ejected from my mouth last week, leaving a sharp edge and scratched cheek in its wake. After a bit of jaw pain, I was on the phone with the dentist.

Come to think of it, perhaps “lost” is a bad word. I didn’t misplace it, although I can’t tell you its location at the moment. The dentist removed through a surprising quick but forceful move. The resulting crack still echoes in my skull.

The removal itself reminded me of shaking a tin can with a penny inside. You hear the dentist rummaging inside but the effects of novacaine leave you a little detached. Snap. Crackle. Gone.

For a moment and about the 2 hours afterwards, I had time to compare the effects of novacaine to that of Bell’s Palsy, an affliction I suffered about a year ago. With Bell’s Palsy, a side of your face becomes paralyzed. It stops working. Feeling goes away. In some respects, novacaine acts in much the same matter. Things go numb. That snapping sound made me flinch, but not from pain. It was the sound.

But novacaine is really much different. Novacaine makes you feel numb. A slight tingle warms your face. Bell’s Palsy doesn’t feel at all. Things just go away – frightenly away. You don’t feel numb. You don’t feel at all.

I found this incredibly comforting. I wanted the two to be different. That desire is less about dredging up nasty memories. It’s much more about keeping my nerves straight about what’s going on. This isn’t a relapse. It’s something different. Novacaine is good, especially when bone is being removed from your skull.

And good is how I felt when I left the dentist. Yes, I was minus a tooth, a tooth mostly forced from its home by an unruly wisdom tooth. As I understand it, it’s gone forever. That’s a bummer. The good news is that the unruly wisdom teeth in question aren’t the problem. An issue with my impacted wisdom teeth means surgery, a surgery I had hoped to put off permanently. I’ll trade a tooth for surgery, at least this time. Procrastination has a strong foothold in my psyche.

Now I just need to wait for the tooth fairy. I don’t have the tooth. The dentist kept it, a bit to my dissapointment (let’s think penny in a glass jar this time). But I swear its gone. She missed me last night but that’s almost certainly an oversight. Mom, give her a call. Will you?

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Damnit! I’m probably one of the biggest fans of MT-Blacklist out there but I’m going to have to be more careful with my left mouse button. A good friend of mine stopped by the other day and left a rather wonderful comment regarding Doom 3. Unfortunately, in my haste to remove my spam from this weekend, I somehow removed his comment as well.

Argh! I’m guessing this has something to do with sneaking into my blacklist. MT-Blacklist always gives you the option to add URLs discovered in comment spam to your blacklist. I normally choose this option, blindly ignoring the list itself. Apparently, this can backfire, leaving innocent links to fend for themselves among correctly incarcerated.

Bummer. If you come by and notice your comment gone (you may know who you are), I apologize. Like everything in life, blame spam.

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Weekend Summary

Aug 16, 2004

Madden: Acquired

Poop: Brown

All in all, a fairly good weekend.

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