April 17, 2006

Where's Gary?

Hmm. Not like me to go a whole weekend without a single post, I know.

No, I've not been cloistered away pouring through my tax return. It's been more like a perfect storm of real life events hitting at once. First, I had a funeral to attend - my second in two months - only this time in my family. My aunt died last week after a long bout with emphysema.

Then you've got the whole load-up-the-entire-clan-in-the-van thing for Easter, heading down to grandma's house for the holiday. Throw in some minor plumbing problems and an inability to pull myself away from the one Mets game that actually gets televised on my $%&#^! cable system and you've got a PC that sits idle for two days.

On that last item, I'm obviously giddy with anticipation tonight as the Braves come limping into Shea. I've been waiting for this one for a long time.

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April 05, 2006

From Father To Son


It was exactly ten years ago that I first cradled you in the crook of my arm. It was 5:30am on a gray April morning. Out of the hospital window I could see a light snowfall and the chill of winter seemed to be desperately holding off the changing of the seasons. But for me, it was the real first day of spring. After a sleepless night of waiting for you to come into the world, you finally arrived.

I held your mother’s hand for most of those early morning hours; reassuring her that everything would be all right. And I knew it would be, except for the thirty seconds or so when I saw the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck and I forgot how to exhale. But the doctor deftly slipped it back over your head and it wasn’t long before you were as pink and perfect as a newborn baby should be – 7lbs, 1oz. Your “official” time of birth was 5:18. The irony that 5-18 is my own birthday was not lost on me.

I rocked slowly back and forth in a rocking chair that the nurses brought to us as mom slept beside me in her hospital bed. I was exhausted and relieved at the same time. It wasnÂ’t long before I noticed a few tears of joy running down my cheeks as I looked into your little face. At that moment there was just the three of us and no one else existed. It was so quiet I could almost hear my own heart beating. That birthing room, so peaceful with the lights dimmed, was like a transport taking me to a world larger than the one that existed before I walked into that hospital - the world of a parent.

From that moment, everything changed. In ten years, I’ve tried to experience my life through your eyes. And many times, despite all the moments of frustration, anxiety and even anger, I’ve come to be reminded just how special a world this is. I laughed when you laughed, I hurt when you hurt and, so often when everything seemed to me to be so complicated, you helped give me perspective. You have before you a gift; a life to live with hopefully a long time to enjoy it. But I have been given a wonderful gift as well – the opportunity to be your father.

Happy birthday, son.

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March 07, 2006

Locked And Loaded

I finally signed-up for Netflix. Why didn't I do this a long time ago?

First up in the Queue: "Just Like Heaven" (for the Mrs.), "Superman II" (for the nine-year old and...

"24: Season One, Disc One"!!!! (for me! we waaaannnnttssss it!)

Got a LOT of catching up to do.

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March 02, 2006

I Don't Believe In Chelation Therapy

On to a serious subject here. I write this as a parent of three children who have been diagnosed with autistic-spectrum related disorders. There has been a lot written about what appears to be an epidemic of Autism these days. Many have speculated as to the specific causes, none have been proven. I personally feel it's a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors combined with an ever-broadening diagnostic criteria. Hopefully, one day, medical science will figure it out.

One therapy de jour that has become popular (and is very expensive) is called Chelation. This therapy operates under the premise that Autistic-related disorders are caused primarily by the mercury in Thimerosal, a preservative that was used in childhood vaccinations. Those who offer "Chelation" therapy claim that it removes the mercury and - over time - will "cure" the condition.

Look, I understand the pain, anger and frustration that parents of a child with autism feel. I understand it three times over. I have nothing but empathy for these folks who desperately want to do anything they can to find a cure. But having researched this myself, the evidence is overwhelming to me that Chelation is at best a scam and at worst an even greater threat to the child's health. You can find plenty of sources on the internet that debunk the claims about Chelation including sites here and here.

I've avoided this subject because I know there is a lot of hostility out there for those who question it. Politics is one thing, but this is personal. I was always doubtful about Chelation but the best evidence I have against the validity of the Thimerosal claim is one simple fact: The last lot of thimerosal-containing vaccines expired in January 2003. My youngest son, who has been diagnosed with mild "classic" autism, the most severe condition of the three boys, was born in June 2003. If the claims of the Thimerosal crowd are valid, then the incidences of diagnosed autistic-spectrum disorders should now be plummeting. Since this didn't happen in countries like Canada and Denmark who mandated removed of Thimerosal from vaccines back in the 1990's, I'm highly skeptical it will happen in the U.S. now.

What spurred this post was something related to me by Orac at Respectful Insolence. He has written extensively on the subject and he recently came across a story that shows how this Chelation movement has gotten even more bizarre. I urge anyone who has even a passing interest in this topic to read it in full. It's an eye-opener.

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February 28, 2006

Seven Songs I'm Listening To Lately

Okay, so I got tagged with this by Pam at Blogmeister USA. What the hell. By strange coincidence I've been searching through the iTunes store lately looking for old songs that I always liked. I don't have an iPod but I burn these disparate selections onto CD's and call them "mix" collections. The mix I just did has a lot of interesting tunes but I picked what I think are my favorite seven that I'm currently enjoying - nothing especially out of the ordinary:

Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett) - One of those songs I've always liked but have never owned. It's a great tune to play when you're just hanging out, having nip of tequila - ideally, a margarita. It also always helps me get through the winter time. Play it on a warm day in February and you can almost feel Spring coming. There's a line that goes, "blew out my flip-flops, stepped on a pop-top". Nowadays anyone under the age of thirty probably wouldn't even know what a pop-top is - that little metal thingy you pulled off to open a can of beer or soda and just tossed on the ground. Well, when the Mrs. was a youngin' she though the line was "stepped on a pop-tart". And she never thought to ask "why?"

Born To Fly (Sara Evans): This is a hit from Sara's album of the same name, not her current release which is "Real Fine Place". I just really find this song uplifting.

"But how do you wait for heaven,
And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet on the ground,
When you know that you were born,
You were born to fly!"
I also have to admit to having a bit of a crush on Sara Evans.

Listen To Your Heart (Roxette): Strangely enough, I wasn't all that big on this song when if first came out in 1989. Recently, I heard a slower acoustic version on the radio. I really listened to it and I came away thinking, "wow, that's a really good song". So I downloaded the original.

Just The Way It Is, Baby (The Rembrandts): I never felt like shelling out for the whole album. Thanks to iTunes, I don't have to anymore. These guys are more famous for their theme song from the TV show "Friends", but that got damn annoying after a while. This one on the other hand is a real toe-tapper.

No Myth (Michael Penn): The hard strumming of the acoustic guitar bangs out this catchy tune and I can't stop listening to it but the lyrics make no sense to me:

We said goodbye before hello,
my secrets she will never know,
and if I dig a hole to China
I'll catch the first junk to Soho.
What if I were Romeo in black jeans,
What if I was Heathcliff, it's no myth.
Maybe she's just looking for,
someone to dance with.
I get the Heathcliff reference but the rest is like...whatever. It's still fun to sing it. And, yes, Michael Penn is Sean Penn's brother.

Theme From "The Greatest American Hero" (Believe It Or Not) (Joey Scarbury): C'mon, who doesn't love this one? Who can't help but sing along? The funniest use of this song was in the TV show "Seinfeld" when George Costanza adapted it to make a message on his answering machine: "Believe it or not, George isn't at home..." I always think of that episode whenever I hear this one.

Let My Love Open The Door (Pete Townshend): I used to be a huge Who fan and I like a lot of Townshend's solo work. Then of course he got all weirded out. But this is a very upbeat, bouncy song that was also used for the closing credits of the movie "Look Who's Talking". Makes me think of that little kid, Mikey. Also, my youngest goes nuts when I play this one. Must be very appealing to the little ones. Pretty ironic when you consider what he got nailed for downloading.

Well, that's it. Now, I'm tagging:
The Real Ugly American
The Wordsmith

They'll be hearing from me soon.

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February 24, 2006

Hoop Dreams Come True For Autistic Teen

High School Senior Jason McElwain of Rochester, NY plays in the final four minutes of his team's last home game. What he does will make you cheer.

Jason has autism.

The story has special meaning for me because autism is a part of my family's life. Be sure to watch the video that goes with the story. Special thanks to BullDogPundit for linking this.

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February 20, 2006

Happy Presidents Day

Actually, happy Lincoln's birthday (late) and happy Washington's birthday (early). The whole idea of creating one municipal holiday to honor not just these two greats but all 42 men who've held the office - even the lousy ones like Carter, Buchanan and Harding - has always bugged me.

Anyway, I have today off from work (and didn't even realize it until the end of last week) but I'll be working nonetheless. I have a "honey-do" list a mile long and, believe me, I've got my work cut out for me. The rest of the crew is off on a day trip and my success or failure will be judged exclusively on how "neat, tidy and organized" the house is on a surface level only (i.e., if it looks clean, it is clean). No "deep" cleaning exercises today. It's all quantity over quality. And no questions asked.

Over the years this kind of domestic whitewash has become my specialty, going back to the days before the kids when the Mrs. had to work every third Saturday.

Today's agenda is daunting, but I'm up for it. And may even have time for the occasional post.

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February 15, 2006

Share Time

Today I attended a funeral where a poem was read that I thought was pretty inspirational.

It's called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis and it refers to the dash between a person's birth date and death date. It was written in 1996 and, since it's copyrighted, I'll simply link to it rather than reproduce it. I'm sure I could get permission but I'm pretty tired right now and I wanted to post this ASAP.

Read "The Dash".

Linda Ellis' website is here and it features a very nice flash movie version of the poem.

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Funerals Are Not Fun

One of my wife's uncles passed away suddenly last week and the services are this morning.

So posting will be light today, to say the least.

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February 13, 2006

Basic Men's Room Etiquette

Why do some men feel it's necessary to walk up to a urinal and pull their pants and underwear down just to take a pee?

Dudes, pants have these things called zippers. Their purpose is allow access for ol' one-eye to the urinal. Granted it's a little easier if you wear boxers but if you can't figure out how to move aside the flaps on a pair of briefs to let your meat-puppet see the light of day maybe it's time to change your style of underwear.

There is nothing more annoying in a men's room (outside of stupid conversation) than to have some guy walk up beside you and go through the trouble of unbuckling his belt, unsnapping his snap (or unbuttoning his button), unzipping his fly, untucking his shirt and yanking the whole works down to his knees just to take a whiz! Is he afraid of actually touching it? Maybe he figures then he won't have to bother washing his hands. But that's a whole other topic.

C'mon fellas. You've had the equipment for decades now. Learn how be more efficient with it, will ya? Sheesh!

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February 12, 2006

The Blizzard of '06

Well, here's a look at how badly we got blasted:

Feb 12 017.jpg

This is my garbage can to give you an idea of accumulation. I reckon that's at least 18 inches on top, probably a little more.

Feb 12 022.jpg

Here's a view of our street.

Went out to shovel a little (the stuff that the plow guy doesn't get) and although it's very fluffy, I dealt with a LOT of it. I just thank God we didn't lose power. As soon as my legs thaw out I'm considering getting a fire going in the fireplace. Then again, I might just fall asleep right here. I can smell sausage and peppers cooking. Mmmmmm.

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Old Man Winter Kicks Me In The Balls

You see this:


If you look closely, in the middle there's this little blue strip just a big darker than the surrounding blue - right through Connecticut. Well, apparently I'm located in the worst part of that little blue band. And the "heavy" stuff isn't even supposed to come until after noontime.

Reports of power outages in the area have me concerned. I've got three kids ages nine, five and two. If I lose TV, I'm screwed. I better charge up that portable DVD player!

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January 01, 2006

2005: A Blogger's Perspective

Well, a lot of bloggers have posted retrospectives on the year that was. I thought I'd do the same considering I got started at the beginning of the year. I've decided to recap my year, covering some of the major events and some of the minor ones. It's been an interesting experience to say the least.

This is a long one, so click "read more" if you dare.


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December 11, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Christmas Tree Edition (Redux)

Last Saturday, I started the tree trimming process. But due to a nasty illness and the demands of life during the week it didn't get finished.

Well, I'm happy to say, it's DONE!

Dec 10 017.jpg

Of course, the colors scheme is all the wife's doing. And the kids are young enough where it's not yet overburdened with homemade ceramic ornaments.

Now that we're done, I'm getting ready to relax and plop myself in front of the TV to watch the Giants game. As I'm on my own for dinner, I took the liberty of assembling this lovely three course meal:

Dec 10 014.jpg

No beer yet. I'm not 100% with this dang cold. But my intestinal tract is going to take a beating nonetheless.

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December 05, 2005

Extreme Makeover - Christmas Tree Edition (Update)

Well, the final stage of the Christmas Tree Makeover is temporarily on hold. My nine-year old and his ten-year old cousin got a little overzealous in their desire to put the ornaments on.

Frankly, it's a God-awful mess right now. And those #%$@*&! beads that I spent so much time on need some serious adjusting. So I have to wait until the wife rearranges the balls, er, the ornaments before I would even consider taking another photo.

Still sick, BTW.

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December 03, 2005

Extreme Makeover - Christmas Tree Edition (Part One)

Well, we got the tree last weekend, but I wanted make damn sure the thing was still fully alive before I put anything on it. So by mid-week, the tree was taking water and I made preparations to give it the big makeover this weekend.

Now a Christmas Tree is like a woman. Every one is different and you really have to evaluate them carefully before you decide how you're going to approach them. Now take this one:

Xmas Tree 1 001.jpg

She's short, squat, full in the front and round in the back. Not unlike a young lady I once dated. Hopefully the tree won't be as difficult to handle.

But by just looking it over, I figure I'm going to use a little less lighting than normal. So it's time to rig the lights. And damn me, if every strand doesn't have a couple of bulbs out. Of course, I didn't bother to pick up any more strands or replacement bulbs so I'll have to canabalize one strand for replacements. Luckily for me I'll have one to spare with this baby.

OK, so the lights are up.

Xmas Tree 1 004.jpg

Wait, what are those nasty orange blobs on the tree? Well, they're these ugly wicker stars with bulbs in them. The wife figured I didn't have enough work to do stringing lights together. So she stopped by the Christmas Tree Shop (and no, I don't just love a bargain) a couple years back and picked these up. Actually, they're more yellow but my crappy digital camera doesn't pick up that nuance.

Now what? Well, step two is putting on these pearly-pink, gay-ass strings of beads. I really hate these because you're supposed to "drape" them over the tree so they look "natural". What exactly does that mean? I don't know, but my wife tells me when it looks right. She's not home right now, so this is what will be waiting for her when she gets home:

Xmas Tree 1 006.jpg

I once suggested to the wife another use for the beads, which was sounding rejected. But, hey, you don't get what you don't ask for.

Now that this much is done, it's her party. She puts on the rest of the stuff. So until tomorrow, you'll just have to wait to see what our little tree looks like with all the trimmings. This year my nine-year old wants to be more involved. Should be interesting.

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November 02, 2005

Election Reflections

Wow, has it really been a year already? I'm not going to analyze to death November 2, 2004 but I will make some personal observations about that election.

Prior to 2000, your typical Presidential election was decided by no later than 11pm EST on election day. In fact, if you looked at the right polls you could pretty much put money down on who was going to win. Guessing the popular vote margin and the number of Electoral Votes was the real challenge.

But in 2000, all that went out the window.

(More below the fold...) more...

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October 23, 2005

Has It Been 20 Years Already?

Wow. Last night I went to my 20-year high school reunion. Not quite the turnout I was expecting, but a decent showing nonetheless. I was stuck by one particular observation. It seemed that of all my former classmates that I met again, they either looked pretty much the way I remembered them or looked completely different.

Some, had undergone a bit of a transformation because of...ahem..."hard livin'". One woman I had known pretty well back in school looked like she hadn't aged a day while another reminded me of one of my great aunts. Strange. It's also funny how after twenty years you can find so much more in common with some one than you did when you were younger (marriage, kids, job, mortgages, etc.)

But the most interesting part of the evening is below the fold... more...

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October 16, 2005

Won't You Take Me To...Funkytown...Pumpkintown!

Oct 16 05 017.jpg

Headed East today and stopped in East Hampton, CT at a local flower and garden shop that becomes "Pumpkintown" every October. Two-year old Kevin (my little pumpkin) had a ball with his brothers, Ryan and Justin. Unfortunately he's squinting in this shot, but it was the best one I could get.

When we got home, I was unloading the car and smelled a fireplace roaring somewhere nearby, the wind blowing through the trees on a cool fall evening. The full moon (a harvest moon) was shining it's pale light down into my backyard. Even the Giants game can't get me down. I love this time of year.

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October 01, 2005

Back Home!

Well, made it back OK. Had a great trip. Got some interesting photos of Southern Vermont. Man, it felt like this little corner of New England has been invaded by moonbats.

More tomorrow, when I can make a proper report.

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