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Big John

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Snow Foolin' [11 Feb 2010|11:49pm]
I'm glad another winter storm has come and gone. Luckily this one wasn't as bad as December's.
The trouble with this blizzard was that it took awhile for all the snow to decide when it was going to finish falling. I shoveled my driveway 3 times on Wednesday. The first time was around 7am, when there was only 2 inches of fluffy snow on the pavment. Took less than an hour.

As I was shoveling my driveway for the 2nd time (around 1pm), my neighbor Steve came out of his house, wearing shorts and a sweatshirt, and walked down his barely-cleared driveway to his son's car, which had been parked in the street. At this point, there was another 4 inches of snow since the morning, and the snowplows had already gone by a couple of times, so there was a good foot-and-a-half of snow encasing the little black Mazda. Steve cleared a 1 foot by 2 foot rectangle from the car's windshield, got behind the wheel, and proceeded to start "rocking" the car --- forward an inch, backward an inch, forward 2 inches, backward 2 inches... I figured he just wanted to move the car out of the street before the plows came around again. After 5 or 10 minutes, he had cleared about a foot of space in front and back of the car, but mostly he was just spinning his wheels.

I couldn't stand to watch him any more, so I went over and shoveled a large ridge of snow from the front fender area to give him a better chance of actually pulling away from the curb. He managed to swing out into the street, where I thought he knock some more of the snow off the car before putting it in the driveway. But instead, he honked Thank You and drove down the street until I couldn't see him anymore through the blowing snow. At this point, I was sorry I helped him out. That's the kind of thing I would yell "MORON!!!" at if I was driving the other way.

After about 20 minutes, I had reached the bottom of my driveway. Steve came rolling back up the street; the car had been cleared of snow. He kept going, driving around the cross street a few times until he finally pulled back in front of his house and parked the car about a car length ahead of where it was in the first place.
He got out of the car and headed back up his driveway. "Thanks, John!"
"No problem... What'd you do, just go out for a joyride?"
"I just wanted to see how my son's car handles in the snow. Not very well."
"Yeah, I noticed! I'm glad I have a Jeep now."
"Yeah, my wife had to go to work today [they also have a Jeep], but I haven't heard from her yet..."
And with that, he went back in his house.

Then the plows came by again. More of the white crap to reshovel. Took about an hour and a half total.

I went out one last time at about 9pm. There was another 6 inches of fresh and drifted snow. And this time it was damp and heavy. I cleared around the cars first, then figured I better do the end of the driveway before I get too tired. I cleared the foot-high lumps of slush from the driveway apron just in time for the plows to come by again with a fresh load. Thanks a lot, ya sons-a-bitches!! I appreciate the job they do, but at that point I just wasn't in the mood. I finally finished by about 11:30pm.

All this Global Warming is giving me body aches!

4 comments|post comment

Hey there, LJ ! [02 Feb 2010|11:23pm]
Well, it's been a while since I poked my head into my LiveJournal. I go on Facebook pretty much every day. I can even get on FB at work, which is odd, since LJ is blocked but blogspot is not.

I've missed posting on here, because if I don't write things down, I tend to forget what I've done. And it's been a pretty busy couple of months. Why don't I write my posts at work and post them when I come home? I'm not sure. But I should start. I miss interacting with my internet friends, and Facebook just doesn't measure up. It's certainly not what I would consider blogging.

So hopefully you'll see more of me here. Just not right now.
6 comments|post comment

Summer's half over already? [30 Jul 2009|09:09pm]
Wow, I can't believe it's the end of July already. It's been a good season so far. After a record amount of rain in June, the weather has evened itself out for the most part. We've spent a lot of time enjoying the renovated backyard. Squirrels managed to dig up and/or eat almost all of the 200 or so bulbs that we planted, but the flower beds still look okay. We've had plenty of friends and family come over for BBQs and to swim in the pool, and we're anxious for more. sweetmeow and her hubby spent the day with us a few weeks ago. That was nice. Any more of you locals want to get together?

I think it's time for some pictures.....

More behind the cutCollapse )
5 comments|post comment

Gettin' Ready for the Warmer Weather [04 Apr 2009|10:18pm]
I bought a new BBQ grill today. Squirrels chewed through the gas line of our previous piece-of-crap grill. The replacement part (a one-piece length of tubing that went directly from the regulator to the burner jets) would've cost about $60, which is about half of what the grill cost in the first place. Plus I would've had to practically take the whole thing apart to get to it. The first grill was a gift from my in-laws, who were anxious to do some Texas grillin' while they visited us, so while it wasn't a model we would have chosen, we weren't going to complain.

We also planted some bulbs in the recently-renovated backyard flower beds.

I don't remember if I ever got around to posting about the complete demolition and reconfiguring of the backyard last year. probably not. At the end of the Summer, we contracted a landscaper who came in with a Bobcat and a 10 man crew. The wooden deck, which was rotting, warping ang splintering in a few places got completely ripped up, including the decking around the pool. They dug out all the bamboo (which turned out to be growing underneath almost the entire deck), moved a row of hedges from the side of the pool to the fence line where a row of hemlocks had all died, and moved a small tree from one side of the yard to the other. They even moved the 8'x10' storage shed from one side of the yard to the far corner! Then they put down pavers on a concrete base.

So now the yard looks clean and open. But it also looks a little sparse. It went from overgrown and woodsy to spartan and stony. Don't get me wrong, it looks great. It helps that they put down new sod because it got too late in the season to plant grass seed in the newly bulldozed earth.

We're anxiously awaiting the day we can open the pool and follow that with a nice BBQ with friends!
6 comments|post comment

Is she serious? [24 Mar 2009|11:54pm]
A post I saw today on Suffolk Cafe, a Yahoo group:

Subject: [suffolkcafe] questions for the fellas and maybe some of the ladies
To: suffolkcafe@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 2:06 PM

im lookin all over the internet for a lighter. something that is good to use with fireworks. any ideas?

So I responded with:
Well, a real man would light fireworks with the stump of the cigar he has clenched in his teeth. And he would hold the fireworks in the stump of his fingers that got blown up the previous year.

But since you're not one of those, I would suggest hiring someone else to light them for you. Perhaps a Grucci employee? ;)


Then she responded to me personally, saying:



What did she expect after asking for advice about an illegal activity on a public forum???
3 comments|post comment

Hey! I used to write stuff here! [24 Feb 2009|09:16pm]
Hello, LJ my old friend!

I've had a paid account for the past 2 or 3 years. Considering how often I log on here, it definitely isn't worth the money. But now that another automatic payment has been taken from my bank account, I figured I better take a peek at my old finger-stomping ground.

I'm not gonna bother trying to update what's been going on in my life. I know it would take forever for me to type it all out. Let's just say things have been going fairly well.

I'm also not gonna go crazy trying to read old friends' posts, cuz I wouldn't know where to start.

But I do miss being on here and interacting with people and putting my thoughts and memories down in black and white. If I don't write things down, I tend to forget them very easily.

I've been fiddling around on Facebook for a while now, and it just isn't the same. I find FB rather confusing to navigate. Plus I can't access it at work, either. I've limited myself to only friending people I know in real life (with 2 exceptions so far, specifically from here on LJ). Although it does seem odd that I feel I know more about some of my online friends than I do about RL friends that I've seen only briefly or not at all in the past 25 or 30 years.

Anyway, the main reason I wanted to get a paid account in the first place was so I could use the voice post feature. I should go find the number and put it in my new (1 year old) phone.
2 comments|post comment

Monty Christmas!! [25 Dec 2008|11:32am]
Okay, I haven't been on LJ in forever and a half, but I HAD to come on and post a pic of the present my daughter and her boyfriend made for me.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!!!!!!!

Will I be on LJ more in 2009? I don't want to make any resolutions I can't keep...
3 comments|post comment

It's been exactly 1 month... [20 May 2008|07:54pm]
...since my father-in-law died.

I don't know if any of you are on marsidotes's FL, but I'm sure she posted about it.

Poppy almost made it to his 91st birthday, so he had a pretty decent run here on Earth.
He had only been living with us for about 9 months, and it seemed like we were finally getting used to each other. He was a tough old guy, very strong for his age. His nickname was "Larry the Bull" and it suited him perfectly, not only because he was stocky and muscular, but because he was also quite stubborn.

We thought he would live to be 100.

But Poppy had been complaining about pain in his legs. He always had some sort of pain in his legs and butt, mostly because he sat on his ass all day and didn't get enough exercise. His idea of moving around was using his walker to go from the TV to the computer.
One Thursday morning though, when he woke up, his foot was a dark shade of gray. Not good. We thought, "Oh, boy. Now he's going to have even more trouble getting around!"

We took him to the Emergency Room. They determined that he had a blood clot in his leg. A very large clot. It was clogging an artery in his leg from his knee to his groin. The doctors determined he needed surgery immediately. But there was another problem we weren't aware of. Poppy's heart rate was high, and his blood pressure was low. We didn't know if it was stress-related from the clot, or if this was something he always had. He'd been to the doctor several times for check-ups and other health-related issues, but no one had picked up on it.

The ER docs went so far as to say to MaryAnn, "You know, he's 90 years old; he might not survive the surgery. Perhaps you should say your goodbyes."
MaryAnn freaked, but the doctors didn't know Poppy that well. One little surgery wasn't going to kill him.
They put a direct line into his artery so they could pump it full of clot-busting drugs. That procedure went fine. But his heart rate was climbing and his BP was still low. They planned on a second surgery for the next day, with the intention of finding another artery to replace the damaged, clotted-up one.

Day 2: Poppy's heart rate was still high. It should have been below 100, but was more like 125. They started the second surgery but had to cut it short. They reattached the newly-cleared-out artery and hoped for the best. Pop's BP was dropping and his heart rate was climbing again. They upped his medication to stabilize his heart.
It was Friday evening now, and heart rate kept at about 140. That's about what it should be when you're exercising, not lying in bed. They told us that, especially at his age, the human heart can only keep that up for so long. We were advised to have any local family come and say goodbye before it's too late. MA's daughter and her family are practically around the corner, so they came right away. We all snuck into the ICU (even the kids) to say goodnight, not knowing if Poppy's heart was going to give out before morning. It was the last time most of us saw him fully conscious.

Day 3: More family came from NJ and RI, but during the night, Poppy's condition took an unexpected turn. The reattached artery apparently caused internal bleeding in his lower leg. By the time everyone got to the hospital, he was in for a third surgery. He made it through the procedure, but didn't fully come out of the anesthesia. We all took turns going into the SICU to talk to him, and he would occasionally squeeze our hands or nod his head to acknowledge us, but he was he had a tube down his throat to help him breathe, so he couldn't talk. All the while, his heart rate kept climbing and his BP slowly dropped some more. They maxed out the meds they were giving him to help regulate it.
By the afternoon, Poppy's heart rate was hitting 155. It was like he was running a marathon for 3 days straight. The prognosis was bleak. The muscle tissue in his leg was dead. The doctor said that he would need a below the knee amputation, assuming he could withstand another operation. We knew Poppy did NOT want to lose his leg. His kidneys were failing and he would need dialysis in the near future. Pop did NOT want to have to be hooked up to a machine for the rest of his life. His heart would need IV drugs for the rest of his life. He did NOT want to have tubes hanging out of him for the rest of his life.
So by Friday night, we had a "family meeting". Although it was technically MaryAnn's call, we agreed that we should stop the meds and let nature run its course. As far as we knew, his heart could give out at any moment anyway. After a huddle and a group hug, we told the nurse our intention. She told the doctor on call. He got a hold of the surgeon. The surgeon asked to talk to MaryAnn on the phone. MA got on the phone and the surgeon reprimanded her. "Why are you pulling the plug already?!? I wouldn't have bothered doing the surgery this morning if I knew you were going to just give up! You have to give him time to stabilize!" The staff were all wonderful up to this point. MaryAnn felt awful enough already. Now she felt like the surgeon was accusing her of being a butcher, someone who was trying tio get rid of her father.
So we gave the surgeon his extra day, not expecting Poppy to survive the night.

Day 4: By noon, Poppy's condition hadn't changed, at least not for the better. The meds were maxed out, his heart rate was fluctuating (going from 110 to 160), and he no longer responded to our presence. So once again, come afternoon, we restated our position. The staff did some final note taking. The chain of command, as it were, were notified of our decision, and they stopped the meds for his heart. They kept him on the ventilator and morphine, so he wouldn't suffocate or feel any pain.
He passed gently and quietly, surrounded by family. The doctor came in soon afterward, and we were all waiting for him to officially call the time of death. Maria spoke up. "Poppy had to have dinner with Nanny at 5 o'clock. She was waiting for him." The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said okay. So that was kind of cool.

Poppy's wake was on his 91st birthday, so we made it like a party at the funeral home. We brought balloons and played music. There was more laughing than crying, reminiscing about Poppy's impact on our lives (both good and bad).

The funeral was the following day. Pop was a veteran, so he even got a pair of honor guards as part of the interment ceremony. That was nice.

Yes, it's been a month now, and it feels strange not having him around. It's almost like he's on vacation or something, and he'll be back in a few weeks.
3 comments|post comment

In like a Lion...out like a different Lion........ [31 Mar 2008|11:27pm]
I know it's cutting it close, but I wanted to squeak a post in by the end of March. I turned 45 on the 14th, which seemed to sneak up on me too!

I decided that my impending birthday was a good reason to start getting back into some sort of shape. The winter gut was pretty bad.

Starting the first week of March, I started doing 5 push-ups an hour between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. It doesn't seem like much, but I wanted to start slow because in the past, every time I noticed that I was getting flabby and started working out, I would overdo it and then have to stop whatever my workout plan was.
For the third week, I decided to go up to ten pushups an hour, which caused me to strain my shoulder. I continued to do only five an hour.
For the fourth week, I moved up to six pushups an hour and now I am doing seven pushups an hour. It feels good to start something that I've been able to keep up with. Eventually I will add situps and some sort of aerobics to my routine.

I decided to take weekly "before" pictures and continue to do so as I progress. I want to be "presentable" by the time the pool is ready to be used which is approximately Memorial Day.

the first 4 weeks of body shots, behind a cut for your protection. CAUTION!Collapse )
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Let me know when it's 2008 [26 Feb 2008|11:40pm]
...oh, is it the New Year already?

So much for my New Year's resolution to post at least once a week. Or even once a month.

I got another nudge a week or 2 ago (or was it 3 weeks?), so thank you, Sarah, for thinking of me! Sorry I haven't been checking in on you.

For my first post of the year, here's the first video I ever uploaded to YouTube, which I did about an hour ago.
It's my son, Jamie, at our family's annual Christmas party. We have the DJ play holiday songs, but mostly he takes requests for everyone to dance. Ever since Jamie's school put on a production of Grease, he loves dancing to Greased Lightning.

So, yeah, Christmas was okay. We spent the day at MA's daughter's house, which was a first for me.

MaryAnn & I celebrated our 2nd anniversary on New Year's Eve by going out to our favorite restaurant and then going to the movies to see Enchanted.

Valentine's Day came and went too quickly. Money went too quickly, too, as we went to a really expensive restaurant for dinner. The food was good, but it's hard to justify spending over $100 for 2 people.

I took a little vacation last week, which I will (hopefully) write about very soon. As always, it's getting too late. I'm supposed to try going to bed before midnight.
5 comments|post comment

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town ...with the help of our credit cards [22 Dec 2007|11:58pm]
Don't really have time to post, but I've been nudged by an old friend, so I thought I'd pop in and show my face.

As always, there never seems to be enough time to do the things you wanna do (once you find them). I've looked around enough to know you're the one I wanna ---oops, where was I?

I'm doing the annual last-minute shopping thing. I was out for about 6 hours straight today trying to finish with my Christmas list. This year, I was smarter than usual (for me). Last weekend, I went shopping but didn't buy anything. Instead, I brought along a pad of paper and a pen and wrote down the stuff that caught my eye. I noted the item, the store(s) it was in, and the cost(s). That way, I was able to decide what to spend my measly budget on without worrying that I'd find something better down the road. It worked fine except for the items that sold out in the past week.

I still have 1 or 2 things to get tomorrow. We're having an Open House cocktail-type party on Christmas Eve, so everything has to be bought and wrapped before then. Anybody out there want to stop by?

3 comments|post comment

Thanksgiving Weekend [26 Nov 2007|10:33pm]
Thanksgiving went well.

By the time Poppy & I got to Maureen & Kevin's after a 2 hour drive, they were breaking out the champagne to accompany some appetizers. I had some beer after the champagne was gone, and soon after that Kevin started making specialty martinis. I had a pair of sour appletinis. Yummy.

So I had a pretty good buzz going when they asked around for a volunteer to carve the turkey. I've got 19 years experience as a cook, so I got chosen to volunteer. Maybe the alcohol kept me from thinking about it too much, because I suprised myself at how well the turkey got sliced. Everyone else was impressed, too. I cut off the legs and wings first, then removed each side of breast meat and sliced it, keeping it in its original shape. Then the breasts, legs and wings were arranged on a platter to serve. Kevin's brother was particulary impressed. "The breast meat's been sliced already?", he asked as he poked at it with a fork. A few slices fell down, dominoes-style. "Wow, it didn't even look like it was cut yet!"

Along with the turkey, we also had roast beef, 2 types of stuffing, 2 types of gravy, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, carrots, cornbread, and of course cranberry sauce. I also had a few glasses of wine during dinner.

Then came dessert.
I took a second shot at the disastrous Harvest Cake (see previous post) and it came out perfectly. But it couldn't compete with my stepdaughter's pumpkin pie with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce.
To accompany dessert, Kevin offered Port. I always thought Port was just a type of wine, but it's a combination of wine and brandy. It had a nice bite to it.

We played the Scene It! DVD game until my alcoholic haze wore off. Then we headed to our hotel in Nanuet for the night. Got there about 10:45pm. Unfortunately, I forgot to make sure that we reserved a handicap-accessible room, so Poppy had to walk up a flight of stairs to get to our 2nd floor room. Lucky he isn't stuck in a wheelchair yet, but his legs keep getting weaker. I would have made a fuss, but it was late and we were exhausted.

I had every intention of getting up at an early hour to go to work on Friday, even if it meant getting there late. But that didn't happen. At home, we have a queen size Select Comfort "sleep number" bed and keep the bedroom pretty cool at night. The hotel room had a double bed with a worn, lumpy mattress and we kept the room warm for my father-in-law. It was one of those nights where you know it's going to be a "long night", but in the morning it wasn't long enough.

Friday morning, we headed back to M&K's house for a brunch in honor of our granddaughter's birthday. We had a brie soufflé and bacon. Quite delicious.

In the afternoon, MaryAnn & I had a short visit with my daughter in Chestnut Ridge. It was nice to see her again.

Back home on Saturday, Nicky & Gianna came over and helped me get all the Christmas stuff out of storage. And they really did help! I was glad that I didn't have to squeeze into the crawl space to get the 12 plastic bins and assorted boxes and bags of all MA's christmas decorations.

I spent most of Sunday working outdoors. My friend Tom came over and helped me rearrange the shed. The pool stuff which pretty much got tossed in there at the end of September was organized, and we managed to fit all the patio furniture in the shed (2 tables, 1 serving table, 4 lounge chairs, 4 metal chairs, 10 plastic chairs, and cantilever umbrella with stand) with room to spare!
Then I cleaned up leaves until it was dark, but I didn't get anywhere close to finished.

Less than 1 month til Christmas! AAAAAAAAaaahhhhhhhgggh!!!
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Almost Turkey Day [20 Nov 2007|05:53pm]
Once again, my usual lunch buddy is not around. That's when I take advantage of not having to be social and write my infrequent posts.

Two days away from Thanksgiving. MaryAnn started doing some prep for the big meal on Sunday already. We're going to her daughter's house in New Jersey for the holiday... MA's heading out on Wednesday to help with more food prep, and I'll be following with Poppy on Thursday. We're not looking forward to driving home Thursday night, but I'm sure it's going to be a great day. The house is gonna be packed. It'll be the 3 of us, both of MA's daughters' families (4 people each), my stepson & his boyfriend, and our son-in-law's family (sister; brother, wife & kid; mother & her husband). That's 19 altogether ...I guess that's not that many.

As my contribution, I tried baking a Harvest Cake from a family recipe. It's basically an apple spice cake, made from a recipe that my aunt either came up with or found somewhere. The recipe has been hand-copied from one family member to another for years.

Anyway, I followed the recipe very closely. I wanted to make sure it was perfect for presenting to my "new" family.
The first thing the recipe calls for is 4 cups of chopped apples. We have a 2-pint measuring cup, so I filled it up with cubed apples. Then the apples get mixed with 2 cups of sugar, and you let the mix sit for an hour. The sugar gets all syrupy as it blends with the moisture from the apples.
Then add 2 eggs, 3 cups of flour, 1 tsp. of baking soda, 1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. I thought the measurements for the spices were a little stingy, so I doubled them. It also called for 1 cup of oil. The batter seemed awfully wet already, so that seemed like a lot of oil, but I added it anyway.
Mix and beat on low for 3 minutes. I mixed well, but forgot about the beating for 3 minutes part.
I greased and floured a bundt pan and poured in the batter.
I preheated the oven to 325° and set the timer for 90 minutes. I thought that maybe the batter was supposed to be as soupy as it was because it was supposed to be in the oven for an hour and a half.

At the end of 90 minutes, though, the "cake" was still all sloshy. "What did I do wrong?", I thought, "Did I miscount the cups of flour? Was the baking soda no good? Were the apples too juicy?" I guessed that maybe I didn't follow the recipe as closely as I meant to.
I thought maybe the recipe was written wrong. I thought fer sure that 1 cup of oil was too much... but the recipe was photocopied from the one my mom always uses.
I checked to see how much the 2-pint measuring cup actually held when filled to the very top. Almost 6 cups. Oops. But that shouldn't have made that much difference.

We figured I must have missed a cup of flour. So I poured the hot, bubbling batter back into the mixing bowl and added a cup of Wondra flour (the kind they sell to thicken sauces and gravies). I poured it into a new silicone bundt pan and baked it for another 30 minutes. Still gooshy. Another 20 minutes. Slightly firmer. Another 20 minutes. The cake/moosh was turning brownish-black but was still soft (and tasty!). It was getting late, so I took it out of the oven and hoped it would firm up some more when it cooled.

The next day, I managed to sort-of cut a facsimile of a slice of cake. It was gooshy, but tasted ...okay. A little on the sweet side. But certainly not presentable for a special occasion. Okay, for any occasion.

We could not figure out what the hell I did so wrong. MA bought new flour, apples, and baking soda so I could try again (as if there might have been a problem with those ingredients).

Well, today MaryAnn figured out the mystery. She called me to ask, "Where did you get the flour from the other night?"
"I got it from the canister"
"Which canister?"
"The tall one on the counter."
"Which tall one?"
"The one next to the sugar and brown sugar"
"That's not flour. It's powdered sugar!"

How could I NOT know the difference between flour and powdered sugar?!? If I was still a cook, that could get me seriously reprimanded.
So basically I tried to bake 6 cups of apples with 5 cups of sugar and 1 cup of flour. Apple glaze!

I'm going to try again tonight. Wish me luck!
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The REAL Reason I Haven't Been on LJ [14 Nov 2007|10:54pm]
Okay, I guess it's time I fessed up on why I haven't spent much time on LiveJournal.

It all started sometime at the beginning of the summer. The grandkids were going cuckoo over a new toy that you could play games with over the internet. I'm talking, of course, about

Webkinz !!!

In case you're not familiar with this craze, Webkinz are stuffed animals from Ganz that come with an ID number. You register your "pet" on the Webkinz website, choose whether it's a boy or a girl, and give it a name. Your pet gets a virtual room to live in, which can be customized by buying stuff from the "W Shop". All transactions are based on KinzCash, which you earn by playing a variety of games and activities. There's also a safe chat system that lets you communicate with other players, and you can create friends lists.

Initially, Nicky and Gianna showed us their Webkins and their pets' customized rooms. They showed us a few of the simple games they played to earn "money".
Of course, they were only allowed limited time on the computer, so they gave us their passwords. That way, MaryAnn and I could play some games after their bedtimes to help rack up some cash for their accounts.

The games are strangely addictive. They have some games that are similar to Tetris, Collapse and Bejeweled. There are others that don't require much thinking, just hand-eye coordination. But they're not all mind-numbing, either.
There's one called Lunch Letters, where words or individual letters (somewhat disguised as food) fall from the top of the screen, and you have to type them before they hit the floor, where the animated janitor slowly gets overwhelmed by the mess of food/letters that make it to the floor and have to get swept up. It's good for improving keyboarding skills, which is pretty tough for someone like me who still basically hunts-and-pecks.
My favorite is Quizzy's Word Challenge. It's similar to Boggle, with a 5x5 grid of random letters. The letters have different values, like in Scrabble, and you get more points the more letters you use. The catch is that you have to try to build words from the outside edge to the middle to get the most points. I once played it tournament-style with 25 other players for a winning score of over 3200. It took me close to 3 hours and I beat the next highest score by over 1000.

The problem was that the kids kept changing their passwords. They would share them with their friends, who either went into their accounts and used up their money, or shared them with other friends who would do the same.

So MaryAnn decided to get her own Webkinz. Then she could earn money, buy stuff, and give it to the kids (you can give gifts to other players ). But what she didn't realize was that you also have to take care of your pet. Each pet has a Health, Happiness, and Hunger meter. Most importantly, you have to feed your pet. You can either buy food, or buy an outside yard and do gardening. That usually keeps 'em healthy and happy. Giving them a virtual bath (complete with rubber ducky!) helps, too. To make sure they're healthy, you can take them to the Webkinz vet for a checkup. You can also make your pet happier by buying them stuff. Besides food, the W Shop has clothes, toys, games, electronics, furniture, decorating accessories, and more.

The whole thing seems a little capitalist, but it does teach the kids responsibilty when it comes to earning and spending money. Occasionally there are sale items, and every now and then you can get coupons (especially good for big ticket items like virtual TVs and such).

To sum up this whole story, the kids no longer seem to need our help earning them KinzCash. In fact, Nicky was anxious for me to register the Webkinz that MaryAnn got for ME, just so he could give me a "limited edition" Dragon Bed for my pet. In the meantime, MA & I have been spending a ridiculous amount of time using our shared account and building up our points. When we first started, it seemed tough to reach a balance of more than 1 or 2 thousand KinzCash, we're now up to about 24,000.

So go out and get yourself a Webkinz pet! Then look us up and we can play against one another!
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Trick or Treat, Matey! [08 Nov 2007|11:20pm]

Naturally, I'm a week late posting about my favorite holiday. But as often as I've been posting this year, it's no suprise.

It was suggested to me back in August that I should be a pirate for Halloween. In the past, I would've thought that was far too ordinary. But a friend of mine here at work, whose family puts together a haunted house in their backyard every year, said that this year their theme was going to be a pirate ship. But I still didn't sound like something I would want to dress up as.

Then I found out my granddaughter got herself a pirate costume, and she looked so cute in it I just had to join her (dressing as a pirate, not looking cute)

When I first saw the concept art for Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest's Davy Jones, I thought it would make an excellent costume, but I knew it was something I could never pull off. Even the "Professional" masks I saw in the Halloween stores looked like crap. I only recently found out that Bill Nighy(?) was completely covered with CGI effects in the film, as opposed to wearing prosthetics and makeup.

So I figured I go with a zombie/Davy Jones'-crewman-type pirate.

You can click on the pics for a closer look

The making of the costume, the rest of Halloween, and a few more picsCollapse )
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What I Did This Summer by John A. [13 Oct 2007|10:52pm]
Summer, like the whole rest of the year, just seemed to fly by.

This was the first Summer in my 44 years of life that I did NOT go to the beach, not even once.
Why? Well, for one thing, we've got a pool now. But I never went to the beach just to go swimming. One of the reasons I like living on Long Island is because you're never more than a half-hour's drive to the ocean.
But no, I spent my days and evenings doing stuff around the house. For a change, I even stayed home when I took a week's vacation in August instead of heading to the family retreat on Valentine Lake.

I called this past season the Summer of Bamboo.

Pretty much all of my spare time outdoors has been spent eradicating the planet's fastest-growing, invasive, unkillable grass. Yes, bamboo is a grass. A grass that can grow 20+ feet tall in a few weeks.

The problem is not that it grows tall, but it also sends out roots about as far as it grows tall. The roots are called rhizomes. The rhizomes are about as thick as your finger, with sections similar to your joints. Each of these sections is capable of growing a new bamboo plant. As a matter of fact, if you see a large group of bamboo plants growing in the ground, it may look like there are several plants, but chances are it's really all ONE BIG PLANT. If you cut down one plant at ground level, it will leave a stump and then send up a new stalk (known as a culm) after a few days or weeks. The underground root system (which is attached to the other nearby culms) will keep the plant alive.

So the only way to get rid of bamboo is to cut down ALL the culms and then dig up ALL the rhizomes.

We had a large grove of bamboo growing around the shed in our backyard. There was a plastic barrier installed around it to keep it from spreading, but it was not nearly sufficient enough. The bamboo breached the barrier at the corner of the house and the rhizomes spread down 2 sides of the house. Every couple of feet, they would send up a new culm or bunch of culms. 2 or 3 of the culms even grew up under the siding on the house. There was one large stalk growing in the space between the house and the oil burner tank, right up to the roof overhang. The worst, though, were the rhizomes that decided to follow the oil line down the back side of the house, nudging its way inside the pipe's foam rubber insulation and entwining itself between the double pipeline.

Botany 101 & Introduction to Eradication continue hereCollapse )
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Standing In A Field of Poppy's ...Stuff [10 Aug 2007|11:22pm]
Because my usual lunch partner was on vacation this week, I pieced together an actual full-length LJ entry instead of mindlessly Googling things while I ate my PBJ and carrots!

My father-in-law finally moved in with us July 21st.

We moved in our new house back in October 2006, so it only took him 9 months. That's 9 months for him to decide which of his possesions he wanted to bring with him to furnish his bedroom, his den, and a small section of the garage.

One thing to remember about him is that he is a collector/hoarder.

At 90 years old, he's had plenty of time to build up his collection of stuff. Like a dozen or so coffee cans filled with screws, nuts and bolts. Or a half dozen toolboxes filled with assorted drill bits, wrenches, screwdrivers and more screws, nuts and bolts. Or a large collection of decorative cigarette lighters (he doesn't smoke). Or a collection of old blow dryers (including 2 that are so old they have wooden handles), which might be understandable if he actually blow-dryed his hair at some point. He's also got a thing for timers and battery chargers. He packed at least a half a dozen of each.

Anybody need any light bulbs? We now have a 2'x 3'x 2.5' moving box full of them, plus a 2 ft. high metal barrel full of bulbs, and a shopping bag full of the ones that didn't fit in those 2 containers. Oh yeah, there's also 2 coffee cans full of small light bulbs, like the kinds you'd put in the dome light of a car, on a string of old-fashioned christmas lights, or maybe a night-light, but mostly tiny little bulbs that I don't know what they could be used for.

I'm not trying to say that the stuff he's saved over the years isn't useful (although a lot of it is outdated), the problem is just the quantities. And he's hesitant to get rid of any of it. Everything is "valuable" or "important". Or in the case of a lamp he used to have in the corner of his TV room, "That's precious to me!". It was a lamp with a base shaped like a cast iron stove, a hurricane-style lamp on top, and a cheesy green plastic lampshade on top of that. MaryAnn talked him into getting rid of it after telling him it looked like a reject from a WalMart clearance bin. He still hasn't decided which of his remaining 8 lamps he's going to keep in his 2 rooms.

One thing he kept asking for (while we were unpacking his stuff for him) was his shaver. I came across several, so I would bring them over to him, usually 2 at a time, and ask, "Is it one of these?" to which he would reply, "I've got a better one somewhere... let me hold on to these until we find the better one". I found a really old one, and as I approached him with it and tried to open the case to look at it, it broke apart. He said to MaryAnn, "Oh, I got that one when your mother and I got married. I guess we can get rid of it." Ya think?!? ...but he kept the other 7.

It'll probably be a few more weeks before things get straightened up. MA's made several trips to Goodwill, and I posted a few things on freecycle, but it barely seems to have made a dent.

The strangest part is that Poppy, skinflint that he is, actually paid someone to move all this extraneous crap.
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Mowers & Blowers [14 Jun 2007|11:09pm]
I haven't been on LJ much since we moved last October.
All my spare time has been spent fixing or improving stuff around the house. Some DIY projects have worked out better than others...

Well, anyway, here it is, the middle of June, and I haven't gotten around to mowing my lawn yet. The reason is that I haven't got a lawnmower. I've been living in an apartment for the last decade or so, so it wasn't an issue. I've been planning on buying one, but I can't decide which one to get, or what kind. So I thought I'd ask for suggestions from all you folks in LiveJournalLand.

Initially, I thought it would be a good idea to get an electric mower. I figured it would be quieter and lighter to push around, plus the price of gas doesn't look like it's going to go down any time soon. But my wife doesn't think electric mowers are reliable or think they do a good job. I've never used one, so I wouldn't know. All I know is that my dad's gas-powered mower was often a real pain in the ass to use ...or more specifically, a pain in the back, especially when the handle broke off the starter rope. The smell of spilled gas on your hands can be annoying, too.

Another item I'd like to purchase is a blower. Again, I think an electric one would be better. But I can't decide if it would be better to get a plain blower or a blower/vaccuum.

I guess I should mention that my family owns a Greenhouse/Garden Center in Bayside, NY, where I could get a good price on these items, but their selection is pretty limited. My cousin, who helps run the place, says that gas-powered equipment is always superior to electric, and that blower/vacs just don't work well.

But I'd rather hear the opinions of strangers. :)

I've also checked out epinions.com and other websites, but there just isn't enough reliable info out there.
Any input you can give is appreciated, whether you've got recommendations or horror stories. Yes, you should include brand names.

Oh, and in case anybody is picturing my lawn as a field of wheat, my neighbor was nice enough to come over and mow it for me. Once. It's getting to be knee-high again.
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B r i d g i n g _ t h e _ g a p [05 Apr 2007|09:45pm]
With no access to LiveJournal at work, my lunch breaks usually start with "So, what shall we Google today?" and my coworker Bobby and I try to come up with something interesting to surf.

I had forgotten that while he was on vacation around Christmas time, I got access to my old DeadJournal and tried to sum up the end of the year. So, if you've got nothing better to do, here are the links to those entries:

I'm adding some teaser pics which may or may not match up with the text, I'm not really sure...

The Last 6 months, Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The start of the Holidays

Eventually, I've got to go through more of my photos and decide which ones to post. I never did post pics from our wedding from over a year ago. Oops. I've got a couple of good shots of the new house and some pictures from Spain. And, of course, photos from Christmas and assorted shots of the kids, etc.
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Can it be ???? [02 Apr 2007|10:47pm]
* the camera zooms in, and we see wackdaddy squinting at the brightness as he crawls out from under the rock he's been hiding... *

...will he start posting again or does this mean another 6 months of disappearance?

Hello, everyone!

I know, I know, I've been a terrible LJ friend. I'd like to apologize for not replying to anyone's comments on my last post back in October, or for getting back to the half a dozen or so people who have contacted me since. It was rude of me, and I'm sorry.

Things have been pretty busy; there's always something to do around the house. Times when I did get on the computer at home, I would get distracted by YouTube or some other such nonsense. I popped onto LJ on a few rare occasions, but there was no way I could catch up with everyone on my friends list. And then I mostly got caught up on looking at the pictures posted in the adayinmylife community.
I didn't want to start posting again until I finished a bunch of chores around the house and could sit and write a proper "Hey-I'm-still-alive" entry. Kinda like not being allowed to have dessert until you're finished with dinner. And a lot of times when I thought I'd sit down and start typing, the internet would be all fucked up. I downloaded an updated version of McAfee and for a while it acted like more of a virus than any actual viruses I've picked up. But it hasn't been acting up lately.

So here's hoping I can get back on here a little more regularly. To all of you who haven't culled me from your friends list, thank you. I'll try to be around more often.
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