Foliage

Jun 6, 2003

Leaving work early to mow the yard is not normally something I look
forward to. Today was no exception.

But I did it anyway. Cambell’s dedication is this weekend and,
as expected, a little shindig will occur at our home afterwards.
The yard, along with the rest of the house, needed to be in
tip top shape. Mission accomplished, at least as far as the
outside of the house is concerned.

I didn’t leave it at just the yard, though. I applied the
weed whacker to the sidewalks and the fence. I used my
chainsaw on a stick to get at those low lying branches.
I also trimmed both the bushes in front of the house and
the small pine trees that adorn the space between the
sidewalk and our home.

I don’t trim the bushes all that often. When I do, my bushes
quake with fear. It’s not that I normally do a bad job. It’s
just that – how can I say it – I’m a little aggressive. I
don’t mess around. There’s a buzzing noise, a smell of
burning wood, and it is quickly over.

I trim the pine trees even less. I believe the wife was the
last one to touch these specimens. They involve a little
more effort – after all, they are much bigger than the bushes –
and a bit more artistic talent. They sit in the front of the yard.
Folks that drive by can actually see them.

My trimming didn’t start very smoothly. I hacked and hacked and
discovered one tree had quite a large hole in the front.
There isn’t much you can do. Unlike a Christmas tree, there’s
no way to turn the bare spot towards the corner. Fixing the hole was much
like trying to fix a bad haircut. Cut a little bit here and there and you only make things worse.

My other trees frowned at me and said, “you aren’t going to do
me like that. Are you?”

Thankfully, the other trees were much luckier.
No embarrassing scars will haunt their youth. As for the
ugly duckling, we can only hope that we can keep the
heckling to a minimum. It’ll grow back. We swear.

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The local weatherman said that since April 1st, we have had 35 days of rain. Seattle had 34. It’s been two days since then, so we are now up to 37. I’m so glad that we still have the lead.

He also mentioned that we had four inches of rain to Seattle’s one. I believe it. Mushrooms have begun to grow in large quantities in my front yard. The dog now waits for me wipe his paws when he comes inside. The weather around these parts make you long for a good drought.

It puts one heck of a damper on your Memorial Day weekend. The malls are packed solid as there is nothing else to do. A nice layer of fog accompanied us both to and from church. We could cook out on Monday but the muddy backyard makes that unlikely.

The misty air makes you just want to settle down for a nice nap. That’s just what Cambell is doing. I wish I could join him. I think his mom just did.

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Classic Automobile

May 22, 2003

While doing some surfing for Trans Am links for a previous blog, I was surprised to discover that my Trans Am is now considered a “Heritage Car” by Pontiac. This heritage designation means that Pontiac has finally made good on its threat to stop making the Firebird. I had heard the rumors. Now they are true. I must admit to thinking that it is a good thing.

The obvious reason is that my car has just became a bit more special. American muscle cars are a dying breed. The Chevrolet Camaro can likewise no longer be found. The Mustang is just a shadow of what it once was, with Ford just recently offering a standard one with any real power. Scarcity can be a good thing, provided you are one of the haves, not the have nots.

I could worry that mechanics may get harder to find but I doubt that the maintenance work for these beasts will dry up anytime soon. Besides, I always have an “in house” grease monkey (hi dad) for emergencies.

What I really wonder is how any potential change in value (real or imagined) in my car will effect any future vehicle purpose. I’ve told the wife that I’d love to hold onto my car when I purchase another one, provided it is financially feasible. With a more family oriented car on the distant horizon (very distant – I’m not anxious to take on another car payment), it would be nice to keep a fun car around for those warm spring nights. Yep, that’s my driveway sporting a vehicle under a plastic blanket.

Oddly, enough, I believe a boost in value makes me more likely to sell. I take good care of my car but I’d worry about exposure to the elements over the long haul. Rust is thine enemy, especially when preservation is suddenly found on my list of priorities. I already worry plenty about depreciation. I need no extra pressure.

But you never know. Maybe the lure of one day parading my car at a local classic car get together will hook me. Vroom, vroom.

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Paid in Full

May 21, 2003

Yesterday I mailed away the last car payment for the Trans Am, effectively
completing both the largest and dumbest purchase of my life in one fell swoop.
Let me explain.

My Trans Am was the gift I gave myself for completing college. I researched
it for months. A Super Bowl commercial first brought it to my attention.
The Firebird had a sexy new body. And it could eat other cars.
I had to have one.

I was very surprised to find that it fit within my price range. Somewhere
along the line I had determined that I would need about $20,000 for
a nice, reliable car. The base Firebird barely missed that mark.
The Trans Am, basically the Firebird with everything, was still within
sight. I could swing it. My living expenses were suddenly much below
my salary.

The test drive sealed the deal. Fifth gear, fourth gear, third gear –
it’s all good at fifty five miles an hour. My current car at the time,
a 1979 Mercedes 240D, only made the trip more impressive. It couldn’t hold a candle to this rocket ship I was driving.

Negotiations went smoothly, despite the fact that some factors worked against me. The spring air meant I had lots of competition for a rapidly decreasing pool of available cars. My requirements, T-tops and a manual transmission, only made the situation worse. You wouldn’t believe how few Trans Ams come with a stick between the car’s front seats. We have a gold one in Indiana. Want to pick it up?

I paid well below sticker price but the price itself was not the issue. The issue was the financing. At the time, I thought I had two choices: spend the summer saving for a sizable down payment or accept a hefty car payment. The dealer presented me with a third option, called a balloon payment.

A balloon payment essentially means that you pay off only a portion of the total amount over the length of the loan, waiting to pay the rest until the end. There is a piper to pay and it is your very last payment. The upside is that your monthly payments become more manageable. The downside is that you accept an interest rate hike in addition to still having to face your worst fears at the end. (I should note that there are options other than paying the a large sum of money at the end of the loan, including selling your car back to dealer for what you still owed them. However, these options weren’t on my radar screen. I wasn’t renting. I was buying.)

On that day, a balloon payment made sense. Instead of spending the summer saving for a down payment, I could save for the balloon payment. It would be sort of a down payment in reverse, with the added bonus of T-tops all summer long. I signed on the dotted line and regretted it only a month later.

I won’t share the details – those close to me can probably figure it out – but things changed. I wouldn’t be able to stash a large sum of money away on top of my car payment. It just wasn’t going to happen. I could, however, make my payments and add a bit on top to ensure that when piper came knocking, it was only a light tap. I’d have the large monthly payments that I abhorred along with the bonus interest rate. Lucky me. Sometimes I would remind myself that I drive my dream car to work every day. It helped.

I’ve debated that purchase many times over the years
and one moment always comes to mind. Early one morning after no more than
three months of payments, I was driving to work like I always do, heading
down the speedy lanes of interstate 95. Suddenly, a car in the far
left lane swerved into mine at a sharp angle.
I reacted by immediately darting one lane to the right and moving very quickly
back again to avoid a sure accident with the car on my left and a car
already to my right. The incident took less than a second at over
70 miles an hour. In that second, the wheels of my car screeched in protest
as I spun the wheel to one side and the other.

I remember thinking quite clearly that my Mercedes could not have made
that maneuver. This machine, whose payments I had already begun to lament,
may have saved my life. If that is true, it was worth every penny,
financing and all. Every penny.

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Too Little Time

May 8, 2003

Astute observers – astute in the sense that they can tell the difference between April and May – may have noticed that my blogging has dried up more than a little over the past couple of weeks. The days have been flying by as of late and, while I’ve found the time to keep up on my favorite blog sites, I’ve haven’t had time to update my own. You see, I’ve been spending a large portion of those last two weeks at a location you can rarely find me blogging: work.

It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts. They occur on occasion. Some of them even include subjects outside of HttpServletRequests and “why the hell isn’t this working now”. It’s just that when you arrive at home at midnight, all you really want to do is sleep. And play NBA Street Vol. 2. You have to play some Street.

Lately I arrive home well after the house is asleep. The wife has retired for the night. I normally find her in bed and remind her I’m still around. Yesterday, I found her on the floor of the baby’s bedroom murmuring something about teething. It seems that working late isn’t hard on only one of us anymore.

Cam runs off to grandmom’s before I wake and is well asleep before I arrive home. Spending the week essentially without him has been a bit tough. He’s at that tender age where he changes at a incredible rate. Blink your eyes and he’s different. Spend a week at work and he’s all grown up now. Remember me? I’m daddy.

The whole overtime episode sadly reminds me of Hawaii, my location the last time I put in this much overtime. I imagine that there’s a ocean just miles away (both down and off to the side) that eludes me from behind the walls of my cubicle. If only I had the time to sightsee.

Now that things have settled down a little bit, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sunlight and more of my son. I even hope to visit my own blog site a little more often. I can’t make any promises, though. A busy workday always seems to lie ahead.

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Counting Down

Apr 23, 2003

Today is my birthday. I know, yea me. One more year has passed.
Your kind wishes about my fading vitality are very much appreciated.

The idea of mortality won’t be breached today. It’s not that I don’t occasionally think about it, it’s just that, why bother do so? The inevitable is something we can’t escape and time is short. I’ve got better things to do.

I’d rather leave philisophical wrestling matches to things that amuse me. Today, I’m 71. I may not look it – thank you very much – but I am. I have a goal of 100 and I’m working my way back from there. Countdowns seem like a much more cheery subject than getting older. They bring to mind images of the space shuttle or Wile E. with some TNT – subjects that are much more appealing than say Metamucil and Depends undergarments.

Counting up is fraught with uncertainty. When do you stop? Counting down feels natural. It’s sort of like playing 99 bottles of beer on the wall except that a gravestone waits at the end of the long, song-filled journey home. And I’m not starting at 99.

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Trashed Can

Apr 18, 2003

Oddly enough, one of my first chores of the spring is to throw away something that I may have trouble convincing the trash man to take. That’s right. I need to throw away our trash can. Take our garbage and, while you are at it, please take the container too.

If that were my only chore. As the snows of winter melt into the past, they seem to reveal a myriad of things that must get done around the house, both inside and out. That right there could use some repair. Could we touch that up a bit? The washing machine is making a funny noise. The list seems to go on and on.

Here’s some of the big tasks and purchases on my way in the next few months.

Grow Some Grass

Our yard has a myriad of problems. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that paving it over is a realistic option so I’ve decided to go with plan two. The side yard has some holes that need filling. The front yard has a giant bare spot where a pine tree stood before tumbling onto our home. The yard as a whole could use some weed killer and some patching. To top it off, our mower no longer wants to go backwards. I always thought that grass just grew, you only had to wait. I was only partially right.

Light up my Life

Both front lights sit in the dark, their bulbs long blown out. I’d swear that they only last a week but swearing doesn’t seem to get me anywhere. Looking at the big picture, it hardly matters. We’ve purchased a new light for the front of the house I’ve yet to install. The voltage/continuity tester we purchased last week has rid me of my last excuse.

The people who delivered our beautiful new armoire took it upon themselves to decorate the light pole in our front yard with their truck. Depending on the wind, it now sits at an odd 45 degree angle and waits for its replacement. We now must get an estimate of the damage. Thankfully, that is one task I don’t have to worry about.

Cling, Clang

I wasn’t joking. The washer is making a funny noise. Perhaps a sock has discovered it cannot escape and has begun to wail in frustration. The real problem is that some folks (meaning my wife) seem to think that the washer and dryer come as a set. I’d resist but the dryer never seemed to work properly anyway and well, resistance hasn’t gotten me much in the past.

Paint by Room Numbers

The walls of the bedroom could use something to hang over their fresh paint. The walls of the living room, dining room, and basement need to be touched up. The kitchen walls are about to feel the wrath of my wife, who is finally sick of diarrhea yellow.

Draw those Curtains

The curtains in the bedroom need to be replaced. They are too sheer and I’m tired of entertaining the neighborhood. Something has to be done about the computer room curtains as well. They block too much of the sun – something I don’t get enough of anyway. And I haven’t even mentioned the living room curtains. I never liked them anyway.

Sadly, I’m sure I’ve missed all sorts of stuff. The warm weather on the horizon can be a bit of a mixed blessing on the home front.

In fact, just the other day I was walking through the yard early in the morning. A warm breeze greeted my bare legs. Dew glanced upon my toes through the slits of my sandles. I looked down and thought, “Crap, I need to mow.”

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Still Digging

Feb 21, 2003

Undercover Car

The snowstorm over the weekend had us buried and, in some cases, it still does.
The combination of my Trans Am’s torque and the height of the snowfall made me believe that waiting for the spring thaw would be a good idea; no sense digging out what I can’t drive. I’m not sure but the melting snow on my car may be a more official indicator of the season change than that silly groundhog. On the other hand, maybe not.

After some sweat, tears, and a bit of digging, my other vehicle threw down the shackles of the clingy white stuff and ventured into the world. It was a fun trip. My normal excursion to work was highlighted by the sights of giant earth movers and abandoned cars buried in snow drifts. The Xterra rumbled over the terrain, just happy to have terrain to rumble over. The feeling of a good snow pack underneath your no-so-paid-for SUV is a bit like wanderlust. That four wheel goodness wasn’t a total waste of money. Let’s drive around the neighborhood just for fun. Let’s do it again.

A couple days later most of the snow has been pushed to the side. The little powder left near the road is now nasty shades of black and brown. No one need remind my shovel and I that I live on a corner lot. This whole sidewalk thing is vastly overrated.

Parts of me are still wishing for Sunday to return. Watching the snow fall while you sip hot apple cider in front of a fire is my idea of relaxation. Other parts of me are beginning to yearn for spring. Once the rains of this weekend wash away the weather of last, the T-tops of my Firebird will be waiting. The baby is ready to see much more of the sky. His mother will be pleased to accomodate him.

I hope this snow wasn’t a one time deal. In a few years, I’ll have another shovel next to me and a sled yearning for the slopes in the shed. Tiny snowboots will be on order. They better have something cold to walk on.

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It’s going to be a stormy kind of weekend. Stormy in a good sense,
that is. I know, snow can be a bitch if you have to travel, but
there is something about the prospect of buckets of white stuff falling
from the sky that gets me excited. The fridge is full. The wood is
split and nestled by the fireplace. The Wootton family is home, safe
and sound. Let’s do it.

It’s always fun to watch the snow totals fluctuate as a big snow approaches.
Every forecaster wants to be the first to predict doom. Every network
wants the ratings (Frosty the Snowman spotted at Walmart – news at eleven).
This time not only can’t the networks agree but
neither can my web sources. There seems to be some consensus that
Sunday will be the day of reckoning. The actual total, though, is
still quite up in the air. Somewhere between five and twenty inches
of snow is virtually assured. I can’t wait.

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I’m not so sure I have the authority to do this but I’m not
going to let that stop me. Circumstances have intervened.
It has become necessary. I’m moving Valentine’s Day.

I’ve always assumed Valentine’s Day was secular in nature.
Cupid, the son Venus, the Roman goddess of love, is the
poster child. Candies and flowers decorate its borders.
Love, in this instance, didn’t seem to have a direct connection
to the church.

But, history
tells
me different.
It turns out the holiday may have been a convenient way for the
Catholic church to rid the world of some old Roman traditions they
didn’t much appreciate. That’s all fine and good but the fact that
the church, not
Hallmark, officially declared
the date makes my action a bit more dubious.
I hope Pope Gelasius doesn’t mind.

The reason I’m doing this is to counter a recent change in lifestyle.
The wife and I are now
parents.
We, being lovers (even if, in the future, it’s in that, “Ewww, mom and
dad.” sort of way), would still like to celebrate this romantic holiday.
However, this just isn’t as convenient as it used to be. In other
words, you try to find a babysitter on Valentine’s Day.

An official move should rectify this problem, provided the word doesn’t
get out. You see, we are moving Valentine’s Day but we aren’t
going to tell everyone else. They are free to celebrate on the old
Valentine’s Day, oblivious to the fact that the holiday has been moved.
Go ahead. Give candies on the 14th. We’ll try not to laugh and point.

If you are interested, and this is strictly on the down low, the new
date is the second Saturday of February. Yes, I realize this means
it will no longer occur on the same day every year, making it
more of a kin to Mother’s Day than April Fool’s Day. At least
there’s a precedent for this. I’m all about tradition.
This year, because we got a bit of a late start, it will occur on
the third Saturday of the month. There was a lot of paperwork
to fill out. It’s the exception to the new rule.
I’m also all about personal convenience.

You may worry that I will abuse my newfound power over the calendar.
It must, no doubt, be held responsibly.
Rest easy. Thanksgiving is staying right where it is – for now.

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