Category Archives: News

The Polar Bear Club Photo Essay News

Back around 1990 I joined the local “Polar Bear Club” by jumping into a partially frozen river on January 1st. I remember it being a VERY cold day. We had to break some ice away from the river’s banks to be able to jump in. I also remember standing on snow after getting out because IT FELT WARMER THAN THE GROUND. Good times! A few years later I needed a Christmas break photo essay for my high-school photography class and I remembered the Annual Polar Bear Plunge. I arrived on scene with my 35mm loaded with classic black & white film. I snapped a few photos of the plunge, developed the negatives that week, printed/mounted the shots the following week and got a decent grade on the photo essay. I recently unearthed the poster-board on to which I had glued the photos. Rather than just throw it away I have decided to retype my essay correcting only the spelling errors and share it with the world. Ladies and Gentlemen… The Polar Bear Club!

The date is January 1992. The time is 11:59 A.M. The temperature is approximately 34 degrees and the stage is set for the seventh annual Polar Bear swim in the Tulpehocken river at Stone Cliff. This year the number of Polar Bears slipped to five after peaking at thirteen in 1986 but there could be no doubting the bravery of the remaining quintet.

A small crowd of spectators and photographers as well as passers by stood waiting as the local heroes stripped to their swimming suits and prepared for the inevitable [shock] that awaited them. Then as watches and alarms announced the start of a new hour, five figures plunged into the frigid river and, after much gasping and wheezing, swiftly departed the murky waters. Shivering visibly, the five quickly donned warm and dry clothes, thankful that it was over but already anxious for their next opportunity to prove their worthiness of the title Polar Bear.

A split second before the Big Chill

The Polar Bears take the plunge

The swimmers hit the beach

Now back to cleaning out the basement (and justifying keeping the flat-bed scanner).

Not just rich… Beanie Rich! BabyNews

I was recently mindlessly browsing the Facebook and a post caught my eye with an idiotic title suggesting that “if you have one of these 11 beanie babies I can retire now”. I must have been avoiding doing actual work because I clicked through and crunched the numbers. If I had all of them and could sell them at the prices the inflated prices and EBay/Amazon didn’t take their cut… I would have only 150 thousand dollars and couldn’t possibly retire. Sounds like a Pump-and-Dump scam to me. But it got me to thinking…. so I brought out my Beanie Baby collection. Yeah, I have a whole collection! Back in the late 90s when they were all the rage I noticed the pattern that if they had “hard parts” like pincers, beaks, horns, etc, they were not collected as aggressively so they became rare. This collection method seems to have worked as my paltry beanie-stash contained 2 of the 11 on the list. Hooray! Good thing Allison wasn’t too interested in them the last time I brought them out.

So, can I retire for a month or two at least? The two should fetch $3500. Let us check the Electronical Bay of Auctions to see for what price they are actually selling:
Mystic the Unicorn (with the Iridescent Horn & Yarn Mane) goes for $5.00 NOT $1,000. Oh well.
Claude the Crab (with the “error” on the hang-tag) goes for $4.00 NOT $2,500. Dad Gummit.

So, no I can’t retire or even pay for my Fat Tuesday meal tonight at Popeye’s. The BBs were only a few bucks each back in the day so I’m just give them to my daughter. Any she doesn’t want can go into a Beanie Baby geocache. That way I get a few smiles out of it … and hyperbole spewing bloggers and the EBay listings that feed on them don’t get a cent. Yeah, Babies!

Pain in the Brain 2016 News

Question: What rhymes with couch and hurts like hell? Answer: OUCH.

I’m a few months late in writing this but BLTN as they post. Only two years after my 2014 cluster headache cycle I started a new one in 2016. This time around I fully documented every headache in an online calendar log. I started with the Auras in early May and by the end of the month was having at least a minor episode nearly every day. The onset of the cycle was likely expedited by the pressure/sleep and stress changes involved in a trip out west. This cycle was a little strange in that they headaches skipped tuesdays for the first month and then were not as long or as painful as I expected. Unfortunately by late July I was having them every day. August saw many days with multiple occurrences and a few dreaded waking eye-graines. The pain continued into September and faded out over about four weeks into early October. So May through October with 2 and a half months at full blast. This was a few weeks longer than the previous cycle and very painful. Since I started really documenting these each cycle has been longer. This is not a sustainable happiness model.

The good news is that these are now mainstream. Google has special results for when you search for them. They are considered Common and the pharmaceutical industry is standing by ready and willing to push me into a heroin addiction whenever I’m ready to offer up a co-pay. They may be willing to substitute a cancer causing steroid. Hooray! Ok, so yeah, the bad news is that nobody has figured out what the deal is with these as of yet but mainstream awareness just may prove useful. Can an awareness ribbon be far behind? We’ll have to pick a color. I recommend something dark that doesn’t strobe and kick off a headache for anyone actively in a cluster cycle.

Some links that give me hope:

  • Clusterbusters.org – Somewhat new website that offers something of a support group and has info on clinical trials. I joined the patient registry and will be following them closely.
  • Clusters are now well documented in the International Classifications for Headache Disorders… so where is our Awareness Ribbon already?!
  • The disorder now has its very own ICD9 code. Once insurance companies recognize a disorder proactive pharma/nutraceuticals soon follow. Money talks!
  • The top 5 links under Cluster Headache all seem to have been updated in the last year.

Until some solid science comes up with a preventative I’ll just keep stomping up and down the steps and doing pushups at the first hint of an aura. Adrenaline still works for me which is a blessing. I will leave you with a fun quote:

Experts have suggested that cluster headache may be the most painful condition known to medical science.

Well, at least I don’t have THAT kind of cluster headache! [attribution]

Yet another day in the life… BabyBrain DrippingGeocachingNews

Every two years or so I get the notion to journal my day. This time around I picked my birthday. Not for any special reason but just because it seemed like it might be a full day. It was! I then forgot about actually posting the entry for nearly 2 months. Better late than never! Without further palaver, this was my day:

06:18  A full 12 minutes before the “first” alarm I’m up and heading for the shower where I will hopefully wake up before I start driving anywhere. Sleep driving is never advisable.
07:15  Allison is awake. She’s very excited that we’re going to go see her Meemaa in “ONLY TWO DAYS!?!”
07:40  Pizza. It’s what’s for breakfast. Nice home-made stuff prepared by Heather and Allison the night before. Yummers!
07:45  Out the door and pulling out of the driveway. Allison waves good-bye and blows kisses as she does pretty much every morning. “Bye Dad! I love you one hundred million years!” I blow a kiss back. She eats it. “OM!” Then I toss one “for Mommy”. Allison pretends to jump up and intercept it. “OM!” You read that right. We eat our kisses. Yummers!
Flowerbee08:15  I’m parked in the last lot at Durand Park in northern Freehold attempting to be the first one to find the new “Float like a butterfly…” mystery cache. A few minutes later I had the cache in hand. Very cute. FTF! I complete a loop of the walking path and then head off to the office.
09:00  I make it into the office right on time only to find I had no reason to rush. No fires to put out this morning. A perfect birthday gift!
10:30  I just spent the morning coding a new automatic process that will update the status of “child” work-orders when the “parent” work-order is updated. When I go to test it I see a checkbox right there on the screen saying “Update Children”. Did nobody ever notice this before asking me to make a “behavior modification” to the program? Fortunately the option “does nothing” so my changes were actually needed. Yeah, my job is exciting!
11:00  When signing into the website, some customers aren’t able to see their bills that were generated last night. Turns out there was an internet outage that took down the interfaces last night. Craziness! What is crazier is actually getting bent out of shape because you can’t immediately sign in and view your bill hours before it even makes it into the mail.
12:00  An email from my brother: “Haha You’re old!!! Happy birthday, treat yourself to a hip replacement!!!”. I reply with a promise to use my new hip to kick his ass the next time I see him.
12:30  My program changes are working. Time for my PB&J sandwich then a half-hour lunch-walk around the pond to scare the frogs.

Watersnake

13:00  Frogs go splash as I walk along the edge of the pond. Some frogs are taking flight where I am not… then I notice the water-snake moving along the bank. It is pretty scary to a frog too I suppose. I also spot some Sun-Fish and a mockingbird looking at me mockingly.
14:00  Everyone in the office is pretty busy this week. One co-worker has put up a sign across her door-way saying “Please Do No Disturb”. If only the door-way had an actual DOOR she’d be able to get some work done.
14:30  I’m informed my Mentee went home early today and will not be attending the Graduation this afternoon. This is part of “Project Venture” a collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Ocean Counties of which I’m a mentor. My mentee is a great kid but has a poor attendance record.
15:00  I pop by the graduation anyway. Hey, free pizza and snacks are not something to be spurned! A half hour later the official ceremony is over so they break out the pizza. I wait for the ravening hoard of middle-school students to get their slice on then get in line just in time to have a choice between “White” and “Stuff we swept up off of the floor” topped pizza. I choose the white and miss the red sauce. Man those kids can eat!
16:00  “Small World” moment: One of the BBBS coordinators has looked familiar to me since I started the program back in September. I finally take the time to chat her up and figure out that we probably have met before. Turns out they have a branch office at the same church where I used to drop off non-perishables for a food-pantry. Neat coincidence.
17:45  I have left the office and I’m heading to Tatum Park where I will meet up with the family for a short hike in the woods to replace one of my geocaches that had been vandalized.
18:00  I’m listening to an Audio Book version of “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. Funny stuff. Much lighter than my last book which was “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. “Tell me about the rabbits again George!”.
1My little Buttercup8:15  Hiking in the woods with the family! Allison picks every flower she sees and gives it to one of us. I show her a game from my childhood where you hold a Buttercup under your chin. If your chin turns yellow… you like BUTTER! This amuses Allison to no end – especially when it turns out that Heather, the lactose intolerant member of our party, is incongruously a big butter-fan.
19:15  Back to the cars, Allison decides she wants to ride home “with Daddy”. I treat her to some James Herriot who is relating an amusing anecdote about the time the pigs got out and ran down town. She sometimes likes the “Grown-up stories” I listen to. Separated into bite-sized chapters this one is a good fit.
20:00  Munching Cheddar Bacon Burritos as the Birthday Dinner. Yes, they are yummers. 
20:30  My mother-in-law pops by to hand me a B-Day card (Thanks!) and asks if I had seen the Chewbacca Mom video yet. We pull it up and it is indeed very funny. Her laugh is contagious! Allison also thinks the lady is giggle-worthy. We then watch Star Wars Wookie clips instead of reading a bedtime book. YouTube Parenting!
Horseback 7 year old Eric21:00 Allison’s Bedtime story features Chewbacca who accidentally ends up crashing his spaceship in Cliffwood Beach, NJ and is then tormented by a butterfly that keeps landing on his nose. Eventually he re-wires the Dalton family cars into a new spaceship & rockets away. As he settles in for a nap the butterfly lands on his nose again & flutters in the snoring Wookie wind.
22:00 Time for some Throw Back Thursday action pulled from the old slides I had developed for my birthday present from Heather. Horse. Heh.
23:00 Tired of fighting with GSAK trying to set up way-point filters for the trip I think I will instead turn in for the night. I had a good day. Here’s to another year!

Another day in the life… BabyBrain DrippingGeocachingNews

Back in July of 2012 I cataloged a day in the form of 2 dozen Facebook posts rolled into one blog entry. This past week I took a vacation day because of the endless snow and decided to make a record of my day. Enjoy my banality! Here is my day…

07:30  Who needs an alarm clock when you have a 2 year old? Allison wakes us up by bringing all of her teddy bears and blankets to our bed and hopping in.
08:00  I’m called a “Wimp” by the folks at the office for taking a vacation day and not braving the elements yet again. They’re just Jealous!
08:30  Allison and I are cracking peanuts with a lineman’s pliers. Not the right tool for the job but it certainly makes instant peanut butter!
09:00  While Heather is preparing breakfast I’m watching funny cat and fox videos with Allison. What does the fox say? “Abay ba da bum bum bay dum” obviously.
Snowman201409:30  Breakfast is served! Vanilla Almond Pancakes with Banana/Strawberry/Apple compote. Before we begin Allison taps her pancake on mine and says “Cheers!”
10:15  Breakfast is all cleaned up and we start to get dressed to go outside to play in the snow. We had 6-8 inches of fresh powder but it was starting to turn to sleet.
10:45 Finally dressed, we head out into the… rain? Drats! Regardless, we make a snow angel and a snowman/fireman because a little rain wont soak through too quickly.
11:15  Allison back inside with Mommy. Shoveltime! I clear the entrance, the drive, the walk and a path to the trash cans. Super soggy snow is triple heavy. Sux.
12:15  Ok, that’s more than enough shoveling for now but the driveway looks good and I don’t fear it will freeze into a brick overnight. Inside!
12:30  Time for a pretzel snack and some My Little Pony. Yeah, it’s a show for little girls but for some reason the whole family likes it. Maybe it’s the inclusion of mythological and geek-culture creatures like the Cockatrice and Tribble-esque Parasprites. Or maybe I’m just a Brony? True Bronies are a fascinating bunch.
13:30  Lunch. Wraps and leftovers. Nothing to write tweets about I guess.
14:00  Allison is calling me “Dad” instead of Daddy today. Not sure what to make of that.
14:30  Time for a few minutes with Central Jersey Chat and uploading this mornings adventure to Facebook (the snowman picture above).
15:30 Allison is down for a nap. She wanted to lay on “MommyDaddyBed”. Heather is out shoveling so I’ll just lay here too until she falls asleep. . .
17:00  I wake up with my legs tingling because Allison is laying across them like the cat usually does. Nice nap though!
17:30 Checking my afternoon mail and solving an easy Geopuzzle before Allison wakes up.
17:45  Allison has invented a new drink: Milk & Grape Juice. I dubbed it Purple Milk and the name has stuck.
18:30 My Little Pony Round Two. It was still up on Netflix and it’s hard to say no to a grumpy toddler. I take the opportunity to set up the massage and Heather hops on for a tune up to the back and arms.
19:00 Story time on the sofa while dinner prep begins. I make up the story of the little reindeer with a boo-boo inside herself and the time Elmo took too much stuff to the beach.
20:00  Late dinner. This tends to happen if I’m home to distract, Teehee! Ravioli, asparagus and spiced cauliflower are worth the wait.
20:30 Playing games with Allison and her stuffed kitty cat. The cat keeps going pee-pee on the carpet and we keep making it go outside while we clean up. Suddenly Allison changes the game and the cat goes nuts and sprays all over the whole room while I scream. Instead of cleaning up I decide we have to move out. Great fun!
21:30  Allison is snoring quietly. Owl Babies for the bedtime book. Little Bill’s “I WANT MY MOMMY!” gets a giggle every time. Time for a massage to fix the damage done by shoveling!
23:00  The bed is calling. It’s been a long day but a good day. Night-night!
23:01  ZZzzzzzz….

Broken bones while home alone BabyNews

Two years after our daughter was born my wife finally felt comfortable taking a long weekend trip and left Allison home with Daddy to attend her college reunion 5 hours from home. I figured I would document the long weekend in detail with one of those cheesy time-line posts or maybe pie-charts with time spent doing certain activities. I had a little note-pad with me on Friday and started recording our time.

That all stopped when I broke Allison’s leg.

Friday started at 6:57 with Allison shouting for “Daddy!” from her crib. At 7:20 I failed to slice the apples correctly and they were rejected as breakfast. Oh well. Around 9, to give Heather some time to pack-up,  I whisked the little one away to grab some go-food for the weekend at the  local grocery. Allison was having a grand time shopping with Daddy bopping in her cart-seat to a collection of soul oldies on the in-store-radio. We returned about an hour later, unpacked and ate the apples (Heather had fixed them with cinnamon). Helped with the packing effort by  starting a load of laundry. Allison helps to toss stuff in. 10:45 and it is time for Brunch. Honey Mustard dipping sauce with cauliflower and crackers. Heather managed to get out of the house only 20 minutes late at 11:20. Allison watched through the window then enjoyed a few minutes of threading pine needles through the screen. Spent the next half hour watching “Baby Einstein – Mozart” while I cleaned up brunch and pre-cooked dinner. Allison then wanted to go “Ow-side!” so we loaded into the stroller and rolled up to the sea-wall where she (re)discovered the fun that is tossing rocks into the bay and letting sand drift through her hands. Back home at 12:50. Spent 10 minutes flipping the laundry from washer to Allison who would then yell “Hup!” and toss it into the dryer. Back upstairs, Allison has a snack then watches Elmo brush his teeth on YouTube. Time for a nap! Allison sleeps until 4:00. Supernap! During her nap I load the car for adventure. When she wakes up I spirit her away and drop her into the car seat before she has a chance to fully wake up. She enjoys an early dinner of travel-sized Spinach Rotini while we drive down to Ocean County Park which takes around 50 minutes. We arrive at the park around 5:15 and I notice Allison isn’t wearing any shoes. Did I forget to put them on or did she kick them off while I was carrying her around as I loaded out? I deploy the backup shoes (Brown Crocs – a favorite) and we spend an hour watching tennis, spotting racoons and deer, playing with pinecones and finding a geocache. At around 6:20 we head for the playground … but it’s roped off. Danger! Keep out! I’m tempted to cross the line but instead load Allison into the Adventure Backpack and head west a half mile to the backup playground. Allison plays, slides and swings for 15 minutes but is getting hungry. I offer to let her go down one more slide. She’s capable of going down the slide by herself but not getting up to the top alone so I have to guide her up then she rides down in my lap. We’ve done it 100 times. This time she somehow gets her leg pinched between me and the side of the slide and the super-tacky-crocs yank her leg backwards pushed by our combined weight.

*snap*

This is where I stopped keeping track of time and started going into denial. Allison started crying immediately and I figured she had twisted her ankle or knee from the way it bent back. I held her and offered comfort while trying to see if I could see any damage. Nothing apparent. Some drink and a snack bar calms down Allison but she’s obviously in pain. I’m a half mile from the car so we beat feet and, with as little jigging as possible, I powerwalk her back to the car. From her car-seat I test the leg… she’s able to bend it and is pointing to her knee and saying “Boo boo!” At this point I’m thinking a sprained knee… but there’s no visible swelling. We had originally planned on meeting some friends at a nearby chicken place (which is why I drove 50 minutes to this particular park). Change of plans – just drive straight home to get some ice on the leg and some children’s Tylenol. A few minutes into the ride Allison was calm again and finished her snack bar. Yes! The endorphins have kicked in and she’ll be fine. So I changed my plans back and went into the restaurant, met my friends, shared some chicken-chunks with ketchup and the whole time Allison didn’t complain or fuss. She sat there eating her nuggets… with a broken leg.

After maybe 45 minutes we drove home. She nearly fell asleep on the ride back and was very clingy asking for Mommy when we got home. I never even put her down. We got some ice… but there really wasn’t any noticeable swelling. I tested the leg again and she could still bend it. She got a good dose of ibuprofen and went to bed. And slept through the night… with a broken leg.

Tibia-FractureIn the morning Heather’s mother came by. I had originally planned to attend an Earth Day beach-cleanup with the county parks folks but after coaxing Allison into trying to stand and finding she was unable we made an appointment at the pediatrician’s office instead. They got is in by 10:00 and by 10:15 had referred us to the hospital as X-Rays were deemed necessary. We opted for Monmouth over Jersey Shore since Allison was born there and hadn’t been back since. We walked into the main entrance looking for Radiology and were shunted into the emergency room. Apparently that’s the only way you can enter a hospital these days. I’m guessing insurance companies only pay if it was an “Emergency”. After being checked out briefly by the ER doc, Allison got to ride in the gurney bed to Radiology where she had a meltdown on the X-Ray table but they got what they needed and the images confirmed a radial fracture of the right fibula (See picture at left).

The pediatric doctor had to come in from Princeton so we had a few hours to wait. We killed the time by watching crazy “children’s shows” on TV with no sound and making games out of everything we could find in the diaper bag. Heather’s mother was kind enough to venture out to find some grub. Allison snacked on chicken and fries with apple juice and some other various snacks. She was very cranky as it was well past her nap time (and lets face it – it had been a very stressful day) so I crawled into the bed with her and she fell asleep on my chest. Right on cue – the doctor finally shows up. This was a blessing in disguise however as my little girl actually slept through getting her cast applied! We opted for purple over hot pink because she has more than enough pink already. A broken toddler leg in a nutshell: 4-6 weeks in the cast. She can walk on it but don’t encourage it for a few weeks. Don’t get the cast wet. Come back and see me again in 3 weeks. We left the hospital around 4:00. Allison woke up as we left but fell right back to sleep in the car snacking on crackers.


Kissing her Boo-Boo

Kissing her Boo-Boo


I had been keeping Heather abreast of the developments. You might think she’d be pissed because I ruined her get-away weekend but she was very supportive and didn’t lay on the guilt. This is one of the reasons I married her! It messed up Allison’s weekend pretty good but she got to take extra rides in the Adventure Backpack and didn’t seem to be feeling too much pain. It took a lot of convincing before Allison stopped asking us to take the cast off. I painted her toe-nails to match it but that only helped for a few hours. By the time Heather made it back Allison was able to stand on the cast without whimpering. Within a few days she was walking on it but hadn’t figured out the balance thing yet so she needed support. I caught her using her little pink chair like a walker to get from point to point. Over the next week she learned more how to deal with it and gets around by the old “butt-scoot” that she did when she was a year younger and has reverted to crawling. The biggest adjustments have been to routine. No more baths and the leg has to wear a bib during feedings. Even so, I just know that when we cut the cast off in a few weeks we’ll find an animal cracker wedged down in there. I already had to do surgery with a hemostat to remove some toilet paper that got stuffed down into the cast. Allison’s baggiest pants and our largest socks fit over the cast so we’re using what we can to protect it… but I think after a month the cast is going to look (and smell) pretty awful.

I hate to admit it, but there is a lot more TV time now and Allison asks for “Elmo” as much as for her parents. We re-purposed her old car-seat into a lounge-chair and she loves relaxing with the gang from Sesame Street. During the healing process we’re trying to not just turn on the TV but invent more interactive games to play. It helps that Allison received a bunch of new toys for her birthday. She has rediscovered some of the toys that we more mind or dexterity work than things she could throw and run after. The end result of all this may be that our little girl learns to slow down a bit and be more contemplative. Or… she’ll all of a sudden go nuts with a months worth of pent-up energy at the moment of cast-off. I’ll post back with an update when that happens.

2nd Birthday

Birthday Girl in Cast