Over Allison’s Spring Break we took a family trip down to the Asheville area to visit Aunt Claire, Aunt Glady and Cousin Xavier. We had a good visit and saw a lot of wild hills and scenic nature. Good times were had by all! Go ahead and click an image to see a larger version. I dares ya!
We arrived on Tuesday and met the family then Heather and I took a walk around the small town of Waynesville while the kids played at the house. On Wednesday we worked around the house a bit then enjoyed a trip to Lake Junaluska at dusk. Thursday was the day of adventure as we took a hundred mile tour through the Smokies checking out waterfalls and scenic vistas, getting in a few short hikes and finding caches in 4 different counties along the incredible Blue Ridge Parkway. On Friday we all piled into the mini-van and headed to Waterrock Knob & Cherokee where we, eventually, were able to track down some of the herd of elk that wonder through the town. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the warm weather at the tail end of the day in a park that is just rocks in a stream. Simple beauty!
Many thanks to Claire and Glady for hosting and acting as tour guides. It was a wonderful week!
I promised in a previous entry that I’d talk about what we did during The 2020 Pandemic. At least I thought I did. Regardless, I’m doing so now even if you were not forewarned!
I guess the best thing that came out of the spring of 2020 was Allison finally getting comfortable on her bike. For most of the summer she enjoyed just riding up and down our street learning how to hit the bumps and how fast she could go before her little bike would start to wobble. Of course we had to go on some bike ride adventures too – including hunting down the Easter Bunny who was riding around our neighborhood on the back of a firetruck. In the past year Allison little bike has been upgraded to a “big girl” bike but still prefers her original.
But there are days that are cold, lazy. dark or wet. Sometimes all four. Bicycles are not appropriate. You need to kill some time during lockdown? Forget a measly 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. Try binge-watching 706+ episodes of The Simpsons! It took a year and a half watching an episode or two or four a day but we made it through all 32 seasons available at the time. Not all of them are available on DVD so we had to pick up a subscription to Disney+ for a few months to finish it off.
Along the way Allison was introduced to hundreds of cultural references. Often I would stop the show and google up some explanations, maps, videos or movie clips. Off the top of my head, The World Trade Towers, the World Wars, The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, various world religions, Busch Gardens, Orson Wells, Lassie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Daisy, daisy…), Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Wars, Rain Man, Planet of the Apes (Rock Me Dr. Zaius!). So many movies and songs! Watching episodes of The Simpsons directly led us to then watching Gremlins, The Nutty Professor, Mary Poppins and Kindergarten Cop. Homer’s love of the song Funkytown led to Allison rediscovering her love of the Lipps Inc’s one-hit-wonder.
While the show does excel at low-brow humor, we did occasionally raise our brows with discussion of some of the many literary references in the show. Ayn Rand, Goodnight Moon (read by Christopher Walken no less), Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, Robert Frost, Kurt Vonnegut. The last was accidentally timed perfectly as I just happened to be listening to “Slaughterhouse 5” at the time it came up. Allison listened in for a while before deciding the poetic prose wasn’t her style.
Probably the most interesting part of (re)watching the shows for me was picking out the voice actors and guest stars… or just Frank Welker’s animal noises. We enjoyed watching clips of the actors doing their various voices and impersonators doing what they do… often poorly. My voice is naturally closest to Hank Azaria’s so I can impersonate the characters that he voices… often poorly, but good enough that Allison would recognize Comic Book Guy or Professor Frink if they showed up in one of her bedtime stories. I enjoyed cross referencing guest stars with other movies/shows she might recognize them. She enjoyed when I’d be quiet and let her watch the funny cartoons. 🙂
Two dozen seasons in Allison started to lose interest. I hadn’t seen any of the episodes after season 23 when we dropped cable TV so, while I still enjoyed the episodes, they were clearly not the classics that held up to the test of time. We both agreed that Season 29 should have been final season – and in fact I believe the writers set it up to be. It features flash backs to classic episodes and characters from the early years – all the way back to The Simpsons first appearances Tracey Ullman show. The last episode of the season shows how several of the characters meet their final end including many subtle references to the glimpses we’ve had into how the family would grow up and grow old. Bart dies wearing his Supreme Court Justice robes (Season 4 Ep 6). Marge does eventually marry Ned (Season 4 Ep 2, Season 15 Ep 10 & Season 21 Ep 5). Lisa is still pursuing Buddhist enlightenment (Season 13 Ep 6).
It’s not the best episode but it felt like reminiscing back to the golden age of the series. My favorite scene featured all of the “dead” characters – including Sherry Bobbins and Bleeding Gums Murphy. No Frank Grimes though. Now that I’ve watched the next 3 seasons I can really see the change. Season 29 was the last season under Fox’s creative control, still had the original voices for characters and still featured fan favorite Apu. It would have been a fine time for the series to fade to black. I wouldn’t mourn the loss but I will treasure the memories – from my own childhood and those I’ve made with my family.
Last week we had to say goodbye to Titus. We rescued him and his sister from a semi-feral litter when he was just a kitten. Heather named him Titus the Tiny Titan and the little guy did his best to grow and earn that title.
He eventually grew to be a long tall cat tipping the scales at 26 pounds despite being on a “Diet”. Over the years he took his dwindling food rations and then eventually insulin with characteristic nonchalance. He was a big goof-ball but nobody warmed a lap better. He was a beast to his sister but also a protective older brother. When young Allison entered the picture he shared his favorite warm spots with her.
He had a strange fascination with our slippers ever since he was small. Usually Allison’s towards the end. In the middle of the night he would start an unusual howling cry and then grab a slipper in his mouth and carry it downstairs where he would lay on it. Allison would wake up the next morning and, finding only one slipper, have to go find it in the basement.
His last few years we had his weight under control but cancer is not so easily controlled. Towards the end he had a lot of pain but he continued to eat and enjoyed his nightly lap rituals. We did what we could to make him comfortable and the last thing he did on this earth was purr. Farewell Mr. T. You’ll be missed!
I’ve been overdue for a cluster cycle for a few years now so every Spring I’ve been mindful of avoiding triggers. Stress and sleep issues are #1 and #1 again in the short list. The stress of 2020 apparently wasn’t enough or maybe social distancing during the onset months of April and May made a change? I can’t say. Well, I could say but it wouldn’t be backed up with scientific proof. Then again, the burden of proof doesn’t seem to even be a passing distraction for the bulk of the suddenly-an-expert-on-virology Interneteurs out there. But I digress… we were talking headaches here. Know what else is a headache? Wearing a mask that inhibits normal oxygen intake. Instant. Eyegraine. Brainpain. When forced into a desperado mask situation I found that full-lung meditative Darth-Vader breathing helped a lot. It also made sure nobody invaded my 6-foot bubble. Especially when combined with tantric eye-contact. But now I’ve trigressed. better start a new paragraph and pretend this one didn’t happen.
So, yeah. in April of 2021 I started getting the all-too familiar aura just as I was beginning my day. A few weeks later the aura was sometimes coming with sensitivity and mild nausea. The pain aspect finally kicked in near the end of May. The periods slowly shifted from morning to afternoon to evening – a vast departure from my old “10:00 to 10:30 every day” routine. Through June I was experiencing some form of headache 3 or 4 times a week, usually in the evenings. I had my last full-blown episode on July 10th and a few minor issues over the next few weeks and then nothing since. With the 2016 cluster cycle persisting into October I’m rapturously ecstatic at having a cycle apparently end in July. Was it something I did to shorten the cycle? Very maybe 99% sure!
The yuuuge difference this year is my environment. Working from home. The kid and wife often at school or work. Easy access to walking paths down by the bay and the weight set in the basement. Best of all: I could get a nice quiet dark room whenever I needed one rather than have to try and ignore a headache while trapped in a meeting at the office. I’m still finding the quickest relief with high-intensity lactic acid producing workouts that cause endorphins to be released en-masse. Ahhhh… a quick hit of the natural endo and the ‘graine is gone. This time around I also experimented with antihistamines now that I’ve found some good ones that don’t make me zombiesque. On days spent fully on histamine blockers I experienced nothing more than an aura of the headache. I try to only take the stuff when I need it for known allergens so more research will need to be conducted.
Speaking* of research, the world continues to become more aware of Cluster Headache and now uses a “CH” as a know abbreviation. The Wikipedia article is no longer a stub but a full article and many major medical sites now have some information on it, though their stock-photos of headache sufferers make little sense. Apparently CH is also called Horton’s syndrome now. Who knew that Dr. Seuss’ big blue elephant was suffering from clusters? The good doctor was obviously ahead of his time. He also predicted 2021’s use of pandemic politics in his book about Sneeches. Whether you choose to wear a star or not is irrelevant as long as McBean gets paid. Remember that and follow the beans! Be safe. Have fun. Don’t believe everything you hear. Fear nothing. Except cluster headaches!
Every fewyearsor so I get the notion to journal my day. Rather than micro-blogging or uploading a score of photos to Instabook.com I’m consolidating them all here for your condensed and concentrated consideration. Crikey!
05:?? The cat is reminding me that he’s nocturnal and nobody has offered play, grooming or food in hours. I tossed a blanket over him and fell back to sleep. 06:45 Hello world! Yet another rainy day. At least I’m scheduled to be indoors most of the day. 07:30 Morning discussion with the daughter: skid marks vs poop streaks. She decides she wants her bedtime story to be about “poop paint”. Hey, you can’t make this stuff up folks! 08:20 Daughter is spooning out canned cat food wearing a dust mask scented with essential oils. “This cat food is toxic.” she remarks. The cats agreed. No more of that brand. 08:30 Running late again. One bite of my English Muffin tells me it had gone moldy. Blech. Opt for some blueberries and peanuts to break my fast. 08:45 Finally leaving for work. Car reports 47.1 MPG on this tank so far. 09:10 Arrive at work safe and sound. 46.8 MPG now. The parkway is inefficient unless I can tuck in behind a bus or truck. 09:11 The Geese Police are checking out the office pond to make sure the Canadians haven’t invaded over night. The side of the truck says “Get the flock out.” 09:15 Only two immediate tasks await me in my inbox. A good start! 09:50 A coworker lets me know that Bitcoin is up yet again. Since nobody knows who started it Bitcoin is probably Skynet. I refuse to fund the future War of the Robots! Unless it looks like they are winning… then I for one welcome our new Robotic Overlords. 10:12 Thinking about a future redesign of the NJNG bills and comparing to other utilities. The JCP&L graph looks exactly like ours. Imitation/flattery and all that… but we splurge on color. 🙂 11:45 90 minutes filling in a spreadsheet documenting servers of which I am responsible. This is not exciting work but it’s better than putting out virtual fires – my usual morning routine. 11:50 The Lunch. Ham & cheese sammy, crackers & a green apple. #GourmetDining. 12:00 Heading to Red Bank for long meeting. My commute within my commute. 12:20 I stop off at Brookdale Community College to replace the missing second stage of the Jim Gary tribute cache stashed on campus. The rain held off until I was on my way back to the car. Usually a nice view but day was dreary. A woodpecker was drumming above when I took this.
A dreary view of the Swimming River Reservoir
14:00 I’m wearing Purple today to support one of the business resource groups at the office. We all line up on the office steps and have out photo taken for the corporate newsletter. Unfortunately I’m not in that office this afternoon so my purple has gone photographed. 16:46 Co-workers are talking about this new Corona Virus thing. Let me spoil it for you: The news outlets will milk it like a bloated heifer. It will reach New Jersey. Sheeple will freak out. In the end it will be a typical viral flu season. If the stock market catches a virus just buy early and buy often. Stay calm and carry on people. 18:18 Home at last! I got the gas mileage up to 47.2 MPG but I think I can do better. 19:00 Looking at output from the Christmas Gift night-cam. I spy with my little electronic eye… A few cats, a skunk and two fat raccoons at half-past-midnight.
Two fat raccoons retreat after exploring the wonders of our trash bins.
19:10 Daughter and Wife return from “The Little Gym”. 19:30 Like ships in the night, the wife is off again. Working in the public sector requires working when most folks are not. But can I get the kid fed and to bed on time? Of course! 20:05 A late dinner of left overs and more left overs. Beef & bean chili over rice, a few carrots and some home-made chicken soup. Not a bad mix really. More #GourmetDining. Bon Apetite! 21:00 Bedtime story! A story about a white kitten with brown streaks that likes sleeping on the toilet but gets stuck in the bowl. The cat’s name? Poopoopaint of course. The cat goes on to star in a series of toilet commercials to the delight of my single audience member. 21:30 Laundry. The tip of my finger is scorched off by static discharge. Dryer balls no bueno. I’m going back to dryer sheets! Or bribing the kid to wash her own clothes. 22:00 Watching a second season episode of “Game of Thrones” via a borrowed DVD. For a wonder nobody died in this episode. I can guess how the whole series ends: Dragons burn some zombie wights… but all of the people already killed each other so the zombies start a new civilization based on cooperation, peace, equality and a brain-based economy. Tourists visit “The Great Wall” and everyone lives forever in bliss and harmony. 23:20 I’ve uploaded all of the images for today’s entry. Now to head to bed and edit this thing later. Today wasn’t my most interesting day but I enjoyed it. 🙂
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).