Friday, April 30, 2010

Memory Lane

Just got back from the Intelligraphics/ASI office closing party. It was a great event, albeit low on attendance. Saw some great old faces from my days of digitizing on a 6' digitizing board with dual black and white screens using a VAX 11/780 mainframe and an Intergraph IGDS database management system. Why I know these things I do not know. It's important though to remember your roots and from whence you came so you can keep it all in perspective. It allows you to know not only where you came from, but where you're going to, perhaps.

Spent the majority of the night with my good friends Bill and Patty. Talked a lot about the old times and the crazy stuff we did, but a fair amount about what's transpired since then. People lead such diverse lives; divorces, place changes, job changes, kids come and gone and come back again, etc. It is so weird to think that something that feels like it was just last year, was actually 18 years ago now. The people are still the same fun loving sorts, it's just weird to see what time and life has done with/to them. For the most part it's good, but some bad stuff too.

The party was held in a building that I never worked in. Toured it once as a spectator. The building I worked in has been empty for years. They can't seem to find a tenant. Kind of off the beaten path. A shame really.

Wanted to post an update. Life is good. Changing every day, but very very good. I'm glad I went to this event. It was like going to my 30th reunion last summer. I feel called to touch base with those that touched me at some point in my life. Life is incredibly short, and the important thing is the people in it, not the stuff, or the money. Good friends, family, co-workers, pets, parents, etc. Relationships are where it's at for me right now. Hug someone and tell them how you feel about them. They might be gone tomorrow. I'll stop with the philosophy for now and blog off!~~~

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Welcome to the Random Thought Table

Just got back from a walk with the dog on a gorgeous April evening. Probably still 72 degrees with a light wind. I'm wearing a pair of shorts and a shirt, both stained with the grease from the Beef Brisket Donna made for dinner. I probably shouldn't have left the house in them. I always worry about running into someone I know and looking like I've got some eating disorder or something.

I do that a lot. I won't go out in public with just sweats on. I think it's sloth looking and I don't want to be that guy. It's like Jerry Seinfeld said when he saw George in sweats. "You know what that says to people? I give up."

So true, that statement. People have become so lazy they can't even get changed to go out. C'mon, how old are we? PJ bottoms and flip-flops in the grocery store? Really? C'mon. Spare me the visual, guy.

Yesterday was writing class. Only five people showed, and most of those were poems. It was a nice change and I got some good critiques. One of the three I brought is included at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday of this week was the Bike Rodeo at Boys Club. I always enjoy this event, every year. Like all years, it starts off with boys "warming up" by screaming around the courses willy-nilly until two of them crash and go down in a heap. Of course one was a kid from MY post, but he got the good end of the crash. The red-headed boy, not so much. Got the wind knocked out of him and a good scrape on his hand, but that was about it. It's a classic case of the thrill of speed overtaking you to the point of distraction, and then Wham! Game over! Luckily for all, he was able to gut check it and finish each of the events later that night.

I was thinking as I watched all the boys having fun with everything how much I will miss the whole boys club thing next year. Ben's last year is this year and I've decided not to continue. For all the griping I've done, I do enjoy the camaraderie of working with the boys. It really is the disorganization that I can't take. Part of that likely falls on my shoulders, but much does not. I have enjoyed being able to be a mentor to the boys and Ben and will always treasure these times, but need to take a sabbatical from it for a few years I think. :-)

I got an e-mail today inviting me to the Office Closing Party for Ramtech, (aka. Analytical Surveys Inc, aka Intelligraphics International, aka, Donohue Intelligraphics, aka Donohue Telecom). They are moving their offices out of WI forever to Stillwater, MN. It is really kind of sad, but the company has been dying a slow death since...well, since I was there.

I look at it as a chance to reconnect with some fun people from my distant past. (I left there in 1992). The company itself was OK to work for, despite the nickel and dime raises (seriously). They had decent benefits and the work environment was great. Lots of young, mostly smart, people working hard. Because it paid for crap, you had your comers-and-goers too. We called them warm bodies because they would take anyone with a pulse for a while. Hard to find good help.

My friend Bill will be there and if no one else shows up, it'll be good to see him. The guy cracks me up. He left before me and his parting blast was that if he needed a good shot of radiation, he'd just put his face on the copier and hit copy. (We worked on HUGE CAD machines...dual screen beasts that beamed the neurons at your face.) Probably not real good for you in either case.

The freakin' fridge is on the fritz again. What was life like when I didn't own such large, expensive appliances? I sometimes wonder. We think the stupid coils are frosting up and shutting down the thermostat. So, we're in defrost mode again, with the intent on cleaning out ALL the water that we find when it's done. We think there was some trapped water that vaporized and then froze to the coils since we did this 3 weeks ago.

This weekend is the Writer's retreat for It's a three day deal in IL, and gives you a chance for some great feedback as well as a lot of free-write time. Sounds like heaven, but it wasn't in the cards this year.

I will be going fishing next weekend though, so that's cool. Steve and I are heading up to St. Germain, WI for a long weekend (Thurs after work til Sunday.) Hopefully we'll hook into some walleye and pike. Heck even crappies sound good right now, shoot.

Otherwise, not too much else is happening. I ran two miles today without stopping, so am getting my wind back. It should be in good shape by the time I run in the Lombardi Classic in mid-June.
I'm looking for sponsors if you're interested.

Here's the poem, in it's rough form:

Shades of Grey Matter

The mind of an eleven year old boy
Lives out its dreams, its fears, its wants
In a reckless, serpentine fashion
Understood only by like kind

It fuels itself on sugar, noise and virtual violence
Ingesting all three en route to something else
Creating a combustible mixture
Of scabs, belches and bad jokes

Gathering steam as the afternoon warms
It pushes the boy to unreasoned risk and thoughtless action
Like a circus trainer, it cracks a whip
And its helpless host climbs a tree, rides a skateboard

Flitting from dreams to fear and back again
It molds the boy into a superhero afraid of the dark
Breathing fire into his parents lives
Leaving a wake of smoke and melted plastic

As nightfall approaches the mind beds down early
Demanding less of the boy, he settles for TV

A hard candy shell soon covers the mind
Their breath is best saved for tomorrow

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's a Boys Life

Last night was the boys club lock-in at church. It is a crazy affair, kind of a disney-world end of year event for the clubbers. It used to be held at the YMCA in Greenfield, but it got to be that the numbers dwindled so much that they had to scale back.

There were probably 55-60 boys in attendance, a dozen rangers, and a dozen dads. It was an absolute blast, even as a full grown adult. (The boys liked it too).

The night started with a prayer and some ground rules. From there, I was dismissed to get ready to oversee the fishing event down in the baptismal pond. It was nice that way because in years past I was released at the same time as the kids, so had to frantically bait 8-10 hooks while kids waited. This time I was able to get a jump and have all the lines set up and baited by the time they got down to the pond. I even got to cast a line out for 10 minutes alone. I Didn't GET anything, but hey, I wet a line.

It was as crazy as in years past, but at least this time the boys were catching fish. We must have hauled in 20 fish in the hour and a quarter that we were out there. This included the catch of the night, a 11 inch largemouth bass. It was a sweet fish, one that would have made for good eating if we had decided to keep any. We caught and released all fish though, and near as I saw, ended up killing none.
I awarded candy prizes to the first, biggest and most. The "most" award went to a boy who caught four fish. Not a bad night and a dandy as my swan-song for the boys club lock-in. (I think if they asked, I would be willing to head up this event every year, even though I don't intend to be a ranger past this year.)
From there I went indoors and played a few games of what is known as "pillow polo". What it really is though is club hockey, or hockey with clubs. Granted the clubs are padded sticks like the marines use in their hand to hand combat training, only single sided. The ball is a foam ball about the size of a volleyball and the goal is to bash it into the other teams goal using your club.
Now I don't know how you can sugar coat a hockey game with clubs by throwing the word pillow into it, but I do know that it is crazy fun. What's really interesting is when the ball gets airborne and the boys take to swinging their clubs like baseball bats. It's downright frightening at times. How no one got brained during the course of the night, I'll never understand. Crazy fun though.
At about 8:30 we broke for a dinner of Toppers pizza and lemonade. We went from there to story circle where a childrens pastor from Kenosha spoke about worry and trust. He was engaging and kept the kids attention, in part using a "vote with your feet" demonstration.
The kids had free time after that, so I helped referee the 3-0n-3 basketball tournament that Ben was in. He played up against 3 6th graders, so they took a pretty bad beatin'. I was proud of his fierce play though, actually have never seen Ben try so hard. Something about the fact that he's 1/3rd not 1/5th of a team made him kick it up a notch.
From there to too-big ice cream sundaes. It was just one good thing after another.
After we'd eaten ourselves sick, what better way to work it off than an hour of Dodge Ball? It was sweet. Of course I am absolutely lame today and feel like I'm 70 years old, but it was worth it. There's something so primal about bearing down on a smaller individual with a foam ball thrown as hard as humanly possible. What's with that? I don't know what comes over me, but it's all rage, baby! Totally harmless in most cases. A couple of kids got hit in the "gentles", but because they were hyped on the adrenaline and primal rage, they often weren't on the sidelines for long before they were heaving with zeal again.
I think there's probably dodge ball in heaven. Maybe no head shots allowed there though.
We closed out the night with a game of sharks and minnows in the gym. Every boy there was exhausted and sweaty, and most had the time of their lives. Its really a great thing to be a part of . I'm grateful for my chance to have taken part in Boys Club over these past four years. I know it's incredibly unorganized at times and I am forever complaining about it, but it's only because I love it and want it to be better. My co-ranger feels the same way and is actually committing to taking on a leadership role next year in hopes of making it better.
This morning we were forced to watch Ben's soccer game in a driving rain. He and the rest of the team battled it out and ended up in a 2-2 tie. I was amazed at the effort those boys gave despite the weather. Us adults could learn some lessons from the way these kids tuned out the weather and focused on the task at hand. We so often shelter ourselves away, afraid that we might melt if we get wet.
Went and learned about rain barrels/rain gardens this afternoon and from there to Gander Mountain to get line for my reels and a few Husky Jerks (buy 2 get 1 free!) It's the second week in a row that I've been at Gander Mtn., so I figure I NEED to get fishing soon. I'm jones'n.
Tomorrow brings a movie and food with friends and a workout for me. I love weekends.
Blogging off for now...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dogs and Fires

The wind died down today and made it a fine day for living. Started like every Sunday with a great message at church. Stuart Briscoe is working on a 6 week study in Matthew that is convicting and poignant.

Cut the lawn, raked a little and tried to make it look like we're not hoarders.

Then I took Toby to the dog park with Sarah. It was as good as always. Such a little piece of heaven in the city. I am such a dog and animal lover. Today's showman was the French Bulldog that looked like a small pig.

When we were on our way home, we saw smoke billowing from an area right near Ben's school. It was frightening and we were curious, so we stopped and pulled onto a nearby street. As it turns out, it was only a garage, which was a great relief to both Sarah and I. No one should have to lose a house to a fire, especially on a Sunday. I think it was especially shocking to Sarah who claimed that she'd never seen a fire before. All fires are spooky to me, especially given my past, where I almost burned our house down...on more than one occasion. (A couple of good stories. Ask me sometime.)

With Earth Day (Earth Week to me) coming up, I want to implore any and all who read this to take some action this week toward making better, greener choices in something you do. I plan on taking a tour of the Materials Recycling Facility in Waukesha here, as part of my week. I'll also continue to walk, bike or bus to work. I'll pick up trash that I see as well and try and get my kids out to do something too. In the past, I've taken them to Bethesda Park, near the Fox River and had them pick up trash. I doubt I'll get them to do that this year, but I'll make a point to at least remind them of the fact that it's Earth Week.

We really need to carry our actions like this into every day. I think the whole green movement that the world is undergoing is awesome. I know there are some political types out there that think it's all a liberal sham, and frankly they're idiots. If doing the right thing is a liberal sham, then call me a liberal shamster. I've always tried to be eco-conscious, and we all SHOULD. Do your part. The earth thanks you.

Blogging off...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Warrior

Alas the weekend is upon us. Hooray!

Had a busy start to the day today. Ben had soccer at 10:15. His team played much better than last week, but still lost 2-0. The goals were both lucky as the goalie got his hands on both, just couldn't seal the deal.

Then, after drinking a full strength Starbucks at the game, I went into spin mode where I had so much that I wanted to do, I wasn't sure which thing to do first. I ended up getting most of it done, but not at all in the order I planned, nor to the level of satisfaction that I'd hoped for some of it.

Had a decent week last week. Writing class was OK. We had an outstanding poem submitted by Alita on Google. She was looking up how to make a recipe, and ended up turning what the auto-fill came up with into a poem that was hilarious. How to lose weight, for example was right above how to get pregnant. Brilliant it was, funny and poignant.

Tomorrow is writing day. I've got to keep moving on the memoir, lest it fester and die.

I will blog about my adventure to Feet 'n' Fingers of a couple of weeks ago with Ben. It was one of the strangest experiences in a while (for me), but he had a blast, so that's all that matters. There was too much to take in and process immediately, so I'm kind of letting it age and will use it for a future post, or publication perhaps.

My mom turns 77 today. What a great day for a great woman! She raised 7 of us the best she knew and we all came out normal. Amazing, actually. So mom, if you're reading this, Happy Belated Birthday. You're the best!

Everyone but us is at Myrtle Beach today. I DO love it down there. So much to see and do. I loathe the long drive, but love the salty air and southern hospitality. Those trips will always stick in my mind as some of the most relaxing, though the last few years we went down, the weather could be so spotty. The first few seemed so perfect every year. It's truly a crap shoot. We'll be using vacation for Colorado, California, and Canada this year. Cannot wait.

We got a GPS yesterday, which is a bit of an insult to my directional skills, but it'll come in good use on our long trips. I particularly like the "Yeti" voice we downloaded. When you make a wrong turn, he just goes "Rrrrowoowllowoowaaa!" Funny stuff.

Well, the dog beckons and dinner smells delicious, so I'll keep this post short. Perhaps more tomorrow? Let's hope!

For now, I'm...blogging off.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Crack of the Bat

I went to the first baseball game of the year yesterday with Ben. It was just OK. The Brewers managed to lose badly 7-1 to the Cardinals.

I'm probably un-American, but it was a bit of a love/hate experience for me. I love watching live baseball. I can never sit through a full 9 inning game on TV, excluding the playoffs when either the Brewers or Twins are in them. The game moves a bit slow for my liking, but I can tolerate it if I'm AT the game.

The downside to being at the game however is what it has become. It's the seven dollar beers, the blasting music, (and I mean blasting), the cramped seats, the countless drunks, the food lines, the overpriced parking and food, the traffic, and to top it all of the closed dome on a 70 degree day.

See I told you I was un-American.

I don't mean to be a stick in the mud, but I guess I could tolerate it more if I liked it as much as say, professional football. I think back to the days of County Stadium, when things were still overpriced, but not to the level they are now, and at least you had the outdoor thing going for you and you didn't feel like you'd been to a Def Lepard concert when it was all over and done with.

Unfortunately this friggin sensory assault thing has become the norm for most sports. Part of the whole experience, I guess. To me it's just annoying. I know the last Bucks game I went to was much the same way.

What ever became of going to a game, to see a game. If I wanted to dance in the aisles, I'd go to a wedding. Call me old, but I kinda miss the games where a bad organ was the only music you'd get. That's what I like about Wrigley.

And then there's the issue of the drunks. Ours drifted to our section about the 6th inning or so. Evidently the tailgate party went well into the game and they got kicked INTO the stadium. While it makes for entertaining people watching at times, most of the time it's just sad and annoying too. These twenty somethings drunk dialing or drunk texting their friends, hardly know who's playing, let alone who's winning, the game. They kept getting up and moving around, unable to figure out that they had eight seats, four in front of four more in the back. At one point a guy got up and after not realizing his seat had sprung back upright, proceeded to sit on the floor (flop onto the floor is a more exact description, really).

Then there was "can boy" who was drinking a Coors light out of a can next to us. I told Ben that if security ever saw that he'd get the boot. Within one minute of saying that, the "Event Staff" picked the guy out and gave him the boot. 20 minutes later, after his drunken cronies had left, likely in search of him, he returned, gazing at the crowd looking for his friends. Not seeing them, he kind of shrugged his drunken shoulders and sauntered away.

So it was an experience that I'd like to have been better. No doubt it was good bonding with Ben, as we had some good laughs. Hopefully he'll remember the good and the bad will go by the by. I can say that if i don't get to another game this year, I'll really be alright with that. Getting free or reduced tickets would be the only way to entice me. I guess I'm jaded.

Gotta get to bed, so am blogging off...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Change for Change Sake

I got tired of the look of my blog, so changed the template. I like this new look much better. Let me know if you do too...whoever you are.

It's been a brutally long week, this being the third Thursday of it so far, it seems. I think when you get 80+ degrees on Monday and it's snowing on Thursday morning, that kind of drags the week to a halt. I hope someone kicks it in the butt, because I'm getting tired of going to work.

Writing class was a drag last night too. Only 3 of us showed up, so it was a quiet session. I've grown to like the big groups where we cover everything from wild, whacked poetry to far fetched fiction, to thought provoking memoir and all points in between. The group gets kind of rambunctious and I'd almost say punchy after the first hour of bad coffee and sugar sweets.

This group has really grown on me. I feel I'm with equals again, even though most of them are more accomplished writers than me. There is no putting down of anyone, it's a mostly supportive bunch. Oh sure there are some mildly tense moments when someone is a bit too critical or pushes a point a bit too far, but those moments are pretty rare.

What I like about the group is the incredible diversity of people and the great variety of writing styles and genres. I cannot for the sake of me get my arms around what's in some of these fiction writers' heads. I don't mean this in a derogatory way at all. It's more admiration. I cannot think up some of the wild crap they think of to put in a book. I deal much better with reality/memoir/creative nonfiction salted with lots of humor. That's my thing.

As I say, I admire their ability to pull stuff out and get it down, but I've never really been that kind of writer. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. I think as a writer you need to be true to self. Now if you'd have ever told me that I'd be not only writing poetry, but publishing or even attempting to get poems published I'd of called you a monkey's uncle. I guess it's something I'm using to stretch myself while I just go along for the ride. It's great fun and I'm doing something right because people are liking it.

All of this leads me to believe that a fiction work is in my future at some point. The closest thing to it was the short story piece I wrote on the painting for the AllWriters art crawl reading that never happened. That piece was a stretch for me because I had never done that much dialogue and scene setting before. I enjoyed that too, but it was waaaaayyyyyyy different than anything I've done before. Time will tell, but I really think that a fiction work is somewhere down the road.

Well, alas, speaking of my writing class, I should probably be working on next week's lesson, so I'll cut this off at the knees. Hopefully when I awaken tomorrow morning, it won't be Thursday again.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter, Opening Day and Tuesday

Had a great Easter celebration with friends this year. We did a progressive dinner thing with two other families. It started at our place at about 2:30 with drinks and appetizers. It moved to the Barretts at about 4:15 and finished up there with dinner and desserts. It was a ton of laughs with them and the Merschdorf's, as it always is. Such good friends they are, both of those families.

It wasn't without bloodshed, as both Lauryn and Tom got hit with the basketball during a game of elimination. No one needed professional medical attention, though Tom did have an ice pack on his schnozz for a bit. The pickup basketball game was actually kinda fun and a nice outside diversion on a very pleasant spring day.

Opening day for baseball was yesterday and was a non-event for me. It was a beautiful day, which is a rarity for the opener, but didn't mean much to me, as I was at work and really didn't even get to check the score until they were down 5-1. They eventually lost 5-3. And so it begins I guess.

Otherwise, it has been pretty event-less around here. Taking the good weather days with the bad and counting our blessings.

So just wanted to get a quick post in. For now I'm blogging off...