The Happiest Blog On Earth! Eric Dalton

Happy Vets Day!
I love animals as much as the next guy, but I’m surprised they give a whole day to their medical professionals instead of those who fought in our wars. But I digress…

Today I was alerted by my magical inbox that Mr. Eric Dalton had registered a hotel room in Anaheim for 4 adults and two kids under twelve at the Travelodge on Disneyland Drive. A room there is only $89.99 a night and includes a continental breakfast for you and ENDLESS SPAM FOR ME FROM THE HELL TORMENTED GHOST OF WALTER ELIAS DISNEY!

Thanks for using my email address dude. If you do it again I’m calling the hotel and canceling the reservation. Maybe I’ll move it up a day so you still get charged. Too bad you wont know because the confirmation will be in my inbox. I’m sure you’ll have fun explaining it to the children and the other couple. Buahahahaha!

But seriously, every week someone signs me up for something new. There’s really nothing I can do about it beside grouse here. I guess I could cyberstalk the other Eric Dalton’s via the interwebs and waste much more time than I would have just cleaning out my inbox. Instead, I’ll try to see the humor in it and try to be funny. Maybe eventually one of them will reply and we can laugh about it. Hopefully they’ll use their real email address when they reply. Buahahahahahahahaha!

Disney Vacation

EDIT: I waited to publish this until after their stay then forgot it about for another month but I’m leaving the original publishing date so I don’t lose the Vets Day joke. Bua. Um, Ha.

My email address is not your spam folder! Brain DrippingEric Dalton

Back in the early days of the world a friend of mine sent me an invitation to sign up with Google’s brand new email system. I jumped at the opportunity and was surprised when my Ericles moniker was already taken. Unperturbed, I used Eric.Dalton since I already had the entire Ericles domain.

Well, it seems that other blokes sharing my name don’t want to use their own personal email address so they give out mine freely. This makes little sense to me. Do they think Toyota, RedBox, or Apple is going to have their feelings hurt when they realize you used “bogus@email.com”? Only Mr. B. Ogus has anything to complain about when you use that address. Or is it S. Bogu? But I digress…

Some of the uses of my address are comical and some are sad. I’m sure many are by accident like forgetting a middle initial or not knowing if Eric is with a C or K. Regardless, I’ll be sharing these minor transgressions under this new category and then sharing that category on EricDalton.com which I’ve neglected to do anything with for a number of years. I’m finding that by doing a little research I’m able to find out quite a bit about the senders and receivers. Let the fun begin!

The first one goes back to March of 2008 when Shelley Brady of the Carolina Garden Company out of Raleigh, NC sent me 9 pictures (in 9 separate emails) of random landscaping that she found interesting enough to share. They had different names – either “Scott and Kelly” or “Importation Pictures” or just the default file name from a Panasonic digital camera. The pictures were of businesses, retirement homes and random front yards. I didn’t bother to respond. What I wish I had done was reply “Thanks. I’ll take #8.” and just wait for the fun to start. Hopefully Shelley eventually tracked down the right email address and made a sale. Hopefully Mr. Dalton learned that if you want to see the pictures the landscaper sends… you have to give them a valid email address that you own.

DSC00042 cbg 008

Hackers promote (or provoke) changes Site Update

This site has basically looked the same for the past 6 years since back when I mentioned some minor cosmetic changes that included displaying the post categories as icons.

The theme I chose at that time has not been updated in years and apparently the script kiddies found an exploit and managed to screw up the look of the site. I fixed the look easily enough but decided I should go with a more modern theme that will actually be patched/updated as idle hands find their way into the software.

To replace it I chose the most current and most ubiquitous “twentytwelve” theme, created a child theme to protect my customizations, and then proceeded to make a few minor modifications mostly removing all of the unnecessary white space. It looked Ok but lacked that personal touch. It still looked like the default vanilla WP theme. I needed my icons back!

There are a few WP plug-ins that do something similar to what I manually coded but they are either not working or old enough that I have to figure they’re adding yet another porthole that someone will try to reach through. So I re-wrote my version. It is now all just two lines of code (plus styling) but alas I had to update one of the vanilla theme files. This means that I’ll be too lazy to re-apply my changes when the theme is updated and I’ll eventually be hacked. However… if the theme lasts 6 years again I’ll be overdue for a refresh anyway and I can live with that. Maybe I’ll even get around to updating those icons that I promised I would change?

Nah. =]

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

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!

Brain Pain Twenty Twelve! Health/Fitness

Cluster Headache SimulationJust an update in a series of Brain Pains – I have officially survived the Cluster Cycle of 2012. For those who are seeing this for the first time or are otherwise unacquainted, I suffer from cluster headaches. They’re related to migraine headaches and are a part of daily life for several weeks a year. Worldwide acknowledgement and support for this rare type of migraine has expanded exponentially over the past decade. We’ve come a long way since a pair of doctors shrugged and referred me to an eye specialist back in the 90s. Duh.

Anyway, I started feeling this pending cycle in April though I had a few “ghost” headaches all the way back in January. It took a while to really come on. I actually thought the trip to Ireland might bring on a cycle as it seriously messed with my sleep patterns but only one ocular migraine resulted. At Heather’s urging, I had (nearly) eliminated nitrates/sulfates from my diet. As usual, an ocular cycle precipitated the full blown cluster routine. The cycle went full-blown at the end of June and lasted until mid July when it began to taper. I had my final headache during the last full week in July. A rather short cycle this time but friggin’ intense. With my new job I have access to the little work-out room and I used it 2-4 times a day for a quick adrenaline burst to prevent the full onset of headaches. That many headaches in a day has been rare over the years. Fortunately, that density lasted for under 2 weeks when it settled back into the one-a-day routine.

Purely conjecture on my part but the stress of a new job and very active toddler might have been enough to kick off the cycle. The fact that I only grunted through a handful of headaches without the “adrenaline intervention” of pushups, curls and presses might have caused the dense cycle. On the other hand, being very busy at work might have helped end the cycle. As long as I can drop and push out 40 ups just as the throbbing starts to prevent the full agony of a cluster headache I’m going to take that opportunity. If it makes me have another one an hour or two later? Worth it. As long as I get a few hours to recover my muscles – or have other options like stationary bikes or stair-masters – I’ll take the quick fix any time.