Category Archives: Brain Dripping

My Sandy Story Brain DrippingNew HouseNews

Everyone in New York or New Jersey has a story to tell about what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Here’s mine. Not because it is particularly entertaining, enlightening or inspirational, but just for posterity.

It all started around Tuesday when I began hearing about a huge storm coming up the coast. It still had a 50/50 chance of turning out to sea but it didn’t stop all of the over-reacting hive-minds from emptying the stores of milk, bread, eggs and water. Not that I was too bothered because I always have a ready stockpile: A case of water, a case of gatorade, 6 quarts of various juice, a six pack of organic “doesn’t need a fridge” milk, a dozen cans of veggies, a propane generator with 30 pounds of fuel, 3 sump pumps, 2 oil lanterns, 2 propane lanterns and flashlights a-plenty… and I didn’t even have to go to the store this week. I love it when a plan comes together!

By Friday the Governor was ordering evacuations and it was pretty clear the storm was going to hit somewhere in our area. It was an otherwise slow news week and the giddiness of the “reporters” was truly disgusting. They seemed ever so pleased to have something to say – even if it was “Cuba is getting battered but I’m safe in downtown New York!” Sandy heard that and took offense at being called “Frankenstorm”. I think it is the epitome of bad taste to be coming up with snarky marketing terms for anything that caused billions in damage and had 100+ people feared dead or missing in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas. But, hey – that’s show business, right? Superimpose the head of Frankenstein’s monster spinning in the air over a the Caribbean and enjoy those ratings!

Anyway, by Sunday we had hunkered down pretty well and stowed or tied down everything that could move. The “reporting” had reached a level of hyperbole that I couldn’t tell if they were trying to be serious or just trying to out fantastic the channel next door. Monday came and things had gotten pretty scary already. With my family freaking out I opted to stay at home rather than go into the office just to be sent home when the power went out. We went dark at 2:20 PM. I setup the generator, ran the extension cords and settled in for the long dark. Word on the street was that the power company had turned off the grid at the source in anticipation of lots of problems. Whatever the cause, I must not have been too worried because I decided to take a nap. I woke up around 4:30 as the sun was getting low and took a walk up to the end of the street to see the bay. The wind was insane and the trees were whipping all around. The remaining leaves were being shredded and the air was filled with colorful confetti. As I got near the bay I could hear the tide. Tide? We don’t get waves here on the bay, right? You sure as hell do when they’re backed by 60-80 mph winds! It was still a few hours before high tide and the water was cresting over the seawall and the waves were lashing the upper walkway. I couldn’t stand there too long as the rain coming sideways hurt and I was getting soaked by the spray. I retreated to the house, fired up the generator to chill the fridge for the night, lit the lanterns and read stories to Allison who had a perplexed and worried look but didn’t seem to be actually scared.

During the night I was awakened by the cessation of tempest noise and figured we might have been in the Eye of the Sandy. I fell back to sleep then awoke to a clear sky and very little wind. Turns out the storm had turned inland instead of hanging out around the coast. I went out for a walk before the family was awake to check out the damage. We lost the top of a tree in the back yard. It landed in the neighbor’s yard chipping their siding and crushing a little red wagon but narrowly missing their glass patio table. The big trees in the front lost a few branches each but nothing huge. One birdhouse was tossed down but our house was just fine. I fired up the generator and headed out to see what I could see. The leaf litter was fantastic. I’ve never seen leaves shredded so thoroughly and dispersed so efficiently! Tree tops were equally shredded and a big one was partially blocking the road at the top of the street. I helped a neighbor drag it out of the way so he could get his van through. The seawall was still there but the walkway was torn up and tossed aside. The trees that had grown up alongside the walk were nowhere to be seen and the telephone pole with the fake cameras on it was also M.I.A. When I reached lower ground – the actual beach – I was floored by the damage. There was no beach – it was all bay complete with waves and undertow. Ignoring the cold I waded across a stream that used to be the road to get some pictures. It was at this time that the rainbow appeared to the west. I snapped the picture below while standing in knee deep water next to a downed utility pole with wires and transformers laying all around. A water dept pump house had been smashed open by the storm surge and I could smell a natural gas leak. I phoned that in to the New Jersey Natural Gas hotline and headed for home.

Cliffwood Beach Rainbow


That day was spent without knowing anything about what was going on outside our own little section of town. No cell service. No radio stations. No anything. We did however have hot water thanks to the old-school completely mechanical water heater. We also had heat thanks to the even older-school natural gas heater in the basement. Its ambient heat – and the floor register in the bedroom – kept the house near 70° throughout the outage. Wednesday brought back the radio stations and we learned that it was this bad or worse all over New Jersey. Two dozen people were missing in neighboring Union Beach. Laurence Harbor and Keyport had been equally crushed. JCP&L – the Electric Company – was saying 7-10 days without power. I figured I had less than a week’s worth of fuel for the generator but offered to charge all of our neighbor’s phones and  proffered up our shower to those without warm water. They didn’t take us up on the offers but did bring over whatever propane they had laying around once they got done grilling everything in their freezers as food started to thaw. We had rarely hung out with the neighbors before this week but actually got to know a few more of them during the blackout. We actually sat around playing games by lantern light one night. Another evening we had a Victorian era sing-along…. with some Raffi thrown in for Allison’s sake.

Going stir-crazy I went for a bike ride and toured the horrific state of downtown Keyport. Until this time I just thought we had wind and high water. I didn’t realize the force with which it had come in. Every building at or near sea-level was gutted or utterly crushed by the storm. Fortunately nobody lived that low and only restaurants and a museum were demolished. By now you’ve seen pictures of much bigger devastation than what I saw that day so I’ll just link to the pictures rather than include them here. Throughout the week I occasionally checked in with co-workers and with the hotline to see if the office was open. I heard on Thursday that some people were inside holding down the fort but non-essential employees didn’t need to come in. I took this to mean they had POWER and went in. No power. Just generators. I was able to help out though by going on a mad shopping spree for extension cords to power the parts of the building that were still dark. Getting around wasn’t too bad down that way but up by us most of the roads were blockaded because the traffic lights were down and/or out. On Friday I went in to the office again to find the power was actually on now. I did a little work then got lost in the pictures and news reports where I saw for the first time the havoc that the storm caused. Unreal! Back at home we had gotten into a groove with the running of the generator every few hours to keep the fridge cool, run the sump-pumps and circulate the hot air in the basement. Halloween’s rescheduled date came and went and nobody much cared. After a week I finally stopped trying to hit the light switches!

Then the N’oreaster hit. The snow-storm was just rain and slush up by us but dumped nearly a foot of snow on the office. I left early that day to get home before the roads got too bad. Being perpetually cold was really starting to take it’s toll on people and the electric company was still saying “7-10 days”. It turns out we’re on the main grid powered by South Amboy which chose to build its main substations just outside a tidal marsh. Good idea! Once that was rebuilt it would only be a few days more while the bulldozers cleared the road pictured above so the poles could be replaced. After nearly 10 days in the dark our home town held a Town Hall Meeting with the mayor, chief of police and a bunch of silent nodding heads that were presumably some kind of board members in the town. Very few people in my area “lost everything”. Most were just without electric. Being hungry is bad. Being scared is worse. Being cold is even worse still and everyone in that room that evening looked like they had forced to take cold showers – or more common, none at all – for at least a week now.  I hung around for an hour until people started getting very animated berating the mayor and police chief. I heard later that the mayor ended up breaking down and admitting that he was powerless and that his is just a part-time job. I almost felt bad for him.

After 11 days, 2 hours and 20 minutes the power was suddenly restored. It was a crew from West Virginia that actually got in to do the work on our neighborhood. It came on while I was driving home from the office. It was nice to hear … nothing… in the night again after nearly a fortnight of generator noise all around. So, we survived Superstorm Sandy and its chilling aftermath. I learned that I could go long periods without power. I learned that I have neighbors that are people. I learned that a crisis brings out the best (heroism) and worst (looting) in people. Most of all I had real gratitude in my heart when Thanksgiving rolled around. I also had very little love for JCP&L. . .

A Song for the Electric Company: 

At first I was afraid. I was petrified.
Kept thinkin’ I could never live without my house electrified.
But then I spent so many nights thinkin’ how you did me wrong,
And I grew strong.
And I learned how to get along.
So now your back! From outer space!
I just walked in to find lights on all over the place.
But now I’ve got a solar charging dock.

And I can charge my phone for free.
My generator is gassed up and you’re powerless to bother me!Go on now go! Don’t want no more!
You keep your poles now.
Cause you’re not welcome anymore.
Every estimate you gave turned out to be a lie.
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I have my carbon monoxide tester I know I’ll stay alive.
I can’t watch “One Life To Live”
But I’m not about to give
and I’ll survive.
I will survive!
Hey hey!

God willing, we’ll never have another storm like that one in my lifetime… but if we do I’m ready. Ready to move to somewhere further from the ocean that is!

A day in the life… BabyBrain DrippingGeocachingHealth/FitnessNews

I don’t update this blog much anymore just because I rarely have the time/energy to really sit down and type something out. Like most of us workaday schlubs I succumbed to the quick fix that is Facebook. However I recently stopped updating my status there as I was drowning in shared images and game notifications. That seems to be 90% of what FB has become. To buck this trend I thought that I might, just for a day, pretend it was still 2009 when people were very excited by this new medium. I’ll would update my status at least once an hour with whatever was going on in my day regardless of the banality. is blocked at the office however so instead of dozens of updates slowly through the day, here’s what I would have typed if I really felt like wasting my company’s time. As the day progressed I jotted my updates down in a notepad right up until I went to sleep. It turned out to be a busy Monday. Enjoy my banality!

06:10   Good morning starshine. The world says hello!
06:30   Systems check. I’m not really sore from my kayaking yesterday. Except where I walked into the screen door handle with my right bicep. That’s sore as hell.
07:30   Running late for work, as usual. Snacking on some toasted sourdough bread with Country Crock ©. The breakfast of champions (or at least tardy champions).
08:00   Got to the office just on time. Now enjoying my weekly Snapple. Diet Raspberry. Made from the best stuff on earth. I have one every Monday then re-use the bottle all week refilling it from the water-cooler.
09:20   Just received a call from my wife. The damage to the car comes out to be the same as the deductable anyway so it’s a wash. Could have been much worse though and I’m just glad everyone is OK.
10:00   Cluster headache threatening. Maybe if I take a walk and stretch it will pass me by this morning?
10:10   Wow, the urinal cakes are blue instead of pink now. Changes are scary! The cakes are a lie!
10:45   The payroll system is goofy here. To compensate for employees working over night shifts the PR clerks enter the start time as 23:00 (11 PM) and the end time as 32:00 (WTH AM?) for a nine hour shift. My task is to help fix that. Giant Moth
   There’s a giant moth on the window at the office. As the bug man, I’m tasked with IDing it. It’s as big as a bat!
12:15   I went around to the outside to get a good picture. Google images comparison confirms we’re looking at an Antheraea Polyphemus or common Silk Moth. It’s named for the Greek Cyclops legend because of the eyespots. Of course, the moth has 4 “eyes” instead of 1 but who’s counting?
12:50   Caught a Squidcake Fish for the 4th Anniversary of Fish-Wrangler. Yeah, I still play this game. 🙂
14:30   Finally figured out a good way to fix the payroll programs I’ve been toying with today. Yay me.
15:20   New task: Purge some of the older employee timesheet files. We were talking about writing new programs and adding processing options but I think I’d rather type in a one-line SQL script.
16:45   Just lost the power in the office. Guess I won’t be able to work late after all! 🙂
17:45   Home! I worked my gas mileage on the current tank up to 32.5 MPG.
17:50   I thought Heather was out and about when I pulled in but I forgot her car was in the shop. I found her just finishing up a bath time for Allison. Wet baby hug!
18:10   Allison brought me her flip flops and sat down on my lap so I could put them on her. She is now running around wearing nothing but the flops and a diaper. I’m not trying to raise a Jersey Girl but I guess it’s baked in automatically.
18:30   Having “Mexican” for dinner – leftover Riceritos. Yum! I’m a simple man of simple tastes. 🙂
19:00   Another cluster headache triggered by flashing lights during a furious game of Peek-a-boo. I sequestered myself in a dark room to wait it out. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a minute… zzzzzzzzzz…
19:45   It occurs to me that “dollars to doughnuts” is actually in favor of the doughnuts now. Inflation FTW!
20:20   The Nugget is finally down for her “Night Sleep”. Tonight’s lap time reading list was “Hop On Pop” and the Cookie Monster “Hug Book” (Twice). The second time through Cookie Monster was a little brusque. 😉 AVGraphics wacky adventures part 5
Heather is wearing an old concert tour shirt tonight. Elton John’s “One Night Only” Tour – October 20th and 21st 2000. Hit “LIKE” if you can spot what’s wrong with that shirt.
21:50   Solved a Geopuzzle! This one took me longer than the others in the series and I never did find the magic nose goblin in the upper right.
22:30   Time to turn in to snuggle with Smech and a copy of Pratchett’s latest. G’night moon!

So, there’s my day. This will get thousands less looks than if I had actually posted two dozen updates through the day but I submit it here it anyway. Feel free to enjoy/deride it as you see fit – just as you would have if you had seen all this spam on ol’ Facebook.  =]

Could I still play in the NFL? Brain DrippingHealth/Fitness

As I rapidly approach the statistical midpoint of my life expectancy I was curious if I could still go through a mid-life-crisis and try out for an NFL team. Realistic? Of course! Why, a player a week older than myself led the league in tackles this year!

For posterity, here’s the list of all NFL players older than me as of the end of the 2011 season:
Ray Lewis (LB, Baltimore) – by 9 days!
Phil Dawson (Kicker, Browns)
Brad Maynard (Punter, Browns)
Charlie Batch (QB, Pitt)
James Farrior (LB, Pitt)
Patrick Mannelly (Safety, Bears)
Ben Graham (Punter, Lions)
Jason Hanson (Kicker, Lions)
Donald Driver (WR, GB)
Ryan Longwell (Kicker, Minn)
Jake Delhomme (QB, Texans)
Jeff Garcia (QB, Texans)
Kerry Collins (QB, Colts)
Adam Vinatieri (Kicker, Colts)
Orlindo Mare (Kicker, Carolina)
Ronde Barber (CB, TB)
Jason Taylor (LB, Miami)
Mark Brunell (QB, Jets)
Jon Kitna (QB, Dallas)
London Fletcher (LB, Washington) – One week older!
Sav Rocca (Punter, Washington)
David Binn (Safety, Denver)
Brian Dawkins (Safety, Denver)
Casy Weigmann (Center, KC)
David Akers (Kicker, SF)
Al Harris (CB, Seattle)

The majority are kickers, punters and backup “mentor” quarterbacks. I’m sure a handful will retire each year. When the last one does I’ll probably have to admit that I’m probably going to have to give up on that dream of scoring the winning touchdown in the superbowl. But not yet!

Brain Pain 2011 Brain DrippingHealth/Fitness

Just to fully document the phenomena, I went through a cluster cycle in January into February. To those who somehow missed my previous update on these almost exactly two years ago, I suffer from Cluster Headaches. These suckers suck but only for a few months out of the year then they go away for several months. The current cycle came on slowly. I had a few minor headaches and a few ocular migraines in November and December. It went full blown the second week of January and peeked the last week of that month. I then entered one of the more stressful weeks of my professional career and – survival instincts ruling out stupid head pain – the cluster took a two week break. By the first week of March the headaches had ceased.  By documenting these cycles as they happen here I’m definitely seeing a pattern.

1) They’re brought on by Christmas Stress – or at least the disruption in sleep patterns that seem to happen here.

2) Nitrates! I’m watching my intake of the pernicious ‘trates. Alas, they’re in Hot-dogs and Bacon so I can’t help myself sometimes.

3) They tend to peter out with the worst of winter. Humidity? Low pressure? Less sun? I spent a lot of time outdoors this year despite the cold and snow.

Combining 1 & 2 and thinking back… in the beginning of November I had a business trip to Ireland and the UK. Fairly stressful is travel and the time change wompted my sleep patterns. Then there was the bacon and sausage every morning. Yum! Ouch! If sleep patterns and nitrates have anything to do with cluster headaches one might think I was trying to bring on a headache cycle! Anyway, I haven’t had one in weeks now so I figured it was time to document the cycle. See ya’ll back here in 2012!

Corporate Charities – Give with your head Brain Dripping

First off, Breast Cancer is bad, mmmmkay? Something like 12% women will get it and 25% of those will be killed by it. Us men aren’t free and clear either as hundreds of men die from man-boob cancer. Seriously.

That said, consider the source and follow the money before you blindly give over your money to a “charity” that supports “awareness”. They’re largely wasting your money. Consider: There is nary a woman of breast sporting age who isn’t “aware” that she should be giving herself a periodic check. Money spent on “awareness” may very likely be used to make you more aware of the charitable organization rather than it’s goals. A good example here is the corporate entities that align with a charity to hopefully do some good… and to make you more aware of the corporation. Pink websites? Hard on the eyes. Pink splotches on NFL merchandise? Silly. Printing newspapers with pink paper? Wasteful.

3 Years of RibbonsThe timely example is Lee National Denim Day. For a paltry $5 you get to wear jeans on the first Friday of October (as long as the first Friday isn’t the first of the month apparently). That $5 (Minus Lee’s expenses?) is then sent to the Entertainment Industry Foundation which in turn supports various charities. You also get a pink ribbon emblazoned in gold lettering with the Lee logo. The past few years the logo has been getting bigger and flashier at the expense of the ribbon  (See picture at left) and that got me to thinking… what percent of my Lincoln is actually going to charity and why in the hell would anyone want to wear an ad for a brand of jeans? The answer is pretty obvious – we’re all riddled with guilt for NOT having cancer… and not doing anything to prevent it from forming in others. The more health and/or wealth you have the more guilt you likely suffer at the hands of the various charities or causes. This is why you can’t see a damned Broadway play without having a “message” shoved down your throat. Paying for your ticket and nodding don’t make you an activist but for some reason it dulls the guilt the tiniest bit. So does wearing a ribbon I guess.

But it doesn’t do anything to prevent breast cancer.

In this case we really don’t need money – we need education. There is no common cancer death more preventable. Except maybe lung cancer. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer spent the majority of their life and thousands upon thousands of dollars just to get to that point but I digress. Death by breast cancer is very preventable. Just phluff your girls frequently then tell the charities to save the “awareness” and use the money to help those who can’t afford a mammogram. Better yet, volunteer $5 of your time to print out and distribute some education keeping the money out of the hands of big industries all together. The health-care industry LOVES taking money from charities because it’s guaranteed while individuals may go bankrupt or worse – die before running out of money. And if an institution is getting free funds why not raise the rates to maximize income? Horrible but human nature. So where does the money go? Most family bankruptcies are due to illness. Hospitals are going out of business. But somehow insurance companies are thriving.  If you really need something to feel guilty about… buoying the medical insurance industry is a good place to start. Ah, but once again I digress.

Back to that magic five dollars. The EIF is only about 75% efficient in returning your money to the cause. They do a lot of fine work but I like a higher return on my investment. The Susan G. Komen group is one of the largest and is better at 83% efficient but it always bothers me a little when the president or CEO makes more than a half million dollars a year. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is better still at 91% but suffers the same problem. Regardless, I gave them my $5 and the anti-breast cancer charities netted an extra 80 cents. I also gave $2 to the website that compiles the data to which I’ve linked above. Paltry sums to be sure and I have plenty of health, if not wealth to feel guilty about but I do what I can. Like writing this rambling diatribe to clarify my thoughts. Not for you, who for some unknown reason is still reading it, but for me and hopefully for the greater good.

I’m wearing Jeans today but I’m not wearing the ribbon on my shirt.  Instead, I’ll be distributing education throughout the month. I think that will be worth a good deal more than the $3.75 I would have donated if I a spent with my heart rather than my head. For women it’s even easier – donate some time with your hands… and be well.

Breast Cancer Research FoundationBreast

I’ll never grow up until The Simpsons dies… Brain DrippingHealth/Fitness

The past two months have been tough for my “never grow up” edict. First I went and turned 35. It’s not just another year… it’s the first one that rounds up to 40! Next I had to admit my limitations on my quest to run a half marathon sometime this year. Every time I start training I injure myself. Just minor complaints mostly but enough to slow me down or force me to take rest time.

Now the biggest blow – possibly ever – has knocked my perpetual puerility for a loop. The Simpsons is no longer on in syndication. I’ve been enjoying my daily D’oh for as long as I’ve been shaving. Since before I could vote. Almost as long as I’ve been driving. How could this be? The Simpsons still was the highest rated show in its time slot this past Sunday, even in reruns, and Homer was just declared TV’s greatest character so again I ask; How could this be?! The worst part? They replaced it with life-long Jon Stewart wannabee Craig Kilborn’s new show. This is the guy who thinks he owns idea of asking his guest 5 questions and is so painfully uncharismatic that he originally needed writers to create a persona for him. I’ll say this for the guy: He’s apparently in good with the roaches… he just refuses to die.

Of course, my venom is mostly just in reaction to what he has replaced. I wouldn’t have had a cow, man if Fox overlayed TMZ. This almost felt personal and I had to find answers so I hit No mention of the Kilborn show. Interesting. Google was a bit more enlightening – it turns out the show is being tested in only a few markets! That means somewhere children of all ages are still enjoying 10-15 year old 21-23 minute comedic masterworks from the glory days of the show. There is hope! The test-run is only for 6 weeks – ending August 6th.

There are those who say the show is no longer relevant. Those naysayers have apparently allowed themselves to get old. For shame! Truth be told, I don’t watch the re-runs every day or even every week but it’s a comfort thing to know they’re there. I will also admit that the show isn’t what it used to be. It couldn’t be because I’m getting older and no longer fall into their target demographic. Impossible! No, the blame lies squarely on The Simpsons itself – in setting the bar too high. In a few years the Powers That Be will decide that the show has run long enough and I will… probably cry like a baby. Until then all I can do is wait and enjoy it while it lasts. Six weeks from now I may return to the glorious TV of my youth. Until then, Craig Kilborn can eat my shorts.