Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #17

Thirteen Thoughts After Completing National Novel Writing Month

1. I'm surprised that I can write so freely on the computer. I have always much preferred to write with pen and paper. It's the blogging I've done for the past eight months that has made this possible. Cool.

2. It's harder to keep facts straight than I thought it would be. I made my novel up as I typed, and kept having to scroll back up to look up names, and time of day, and things of that nature during my writing.

3. This one is hard to explain. I've always felt the need to write character biographies and outlines, but never have been able to do it. Now that I have actually written a novel, I see what I personally need to work on before starting my next one. I think that from now on I'll be able to write effective character biographies and a general outline or plan of action before I write future novels. Make sense?

4. My characters used the word "yeah" a lot.

5. I need to relearn the proper use of quotations and punctuation. I was always so good at English in school, but it has been years since I was really concerned about punctuation. For example, I'm not sure of the proper way to write: "Are you too stupid to understand simple punctuation?" she asked.

6. Writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month has been one of the very few things of any value I have accomplished in the whole month of November, 2006.

7. My hero was too good to be true. He's a compilation of every trait I wish I had but don't. Basically he was Brad Pitt (looks) meets Arnonld Schwartzenegger (Conan's buff body) meets Jesus (always does the right thing).

8. I'm surprised that my hero and heroine didn't fall in love. The book ended with them just friends. Maybe next year, huh?

9. I thought going in, that my hero would change and that the villain would stay the same, be unrepentant to the end, and pay. My hero stayed the same, and the villian cracked, but he still paid for his transgressions.

10. It was nice knowing up front that I gave myself permission to write a bad novel. I never once dreaded sitting down to write because of the self induced pressure to perform perfectly. Don't get me wrong, I came up with all manner of lame excuses to avoid writing, but self pressure to write well wasn't one of them. It seems that is my main reason for failing to continue writing in the past.

11. I'm embarrassed by how truly bad my novel is, but I saw so many promising seeds in it that I know I can keep at it, and keep getting better and better.

12. Avoiding passive voice is something I now realize I have trouble with. ;-)

13. I didn't write each and every day of the month. I had to do some catching up in the last half of the month, but I am astonished at how fast and easy the words add up. I needed to average 1667 words per day, but some days were 0, and some were 6000. The 6000 word days weren't very hard either. Thankfully there were only a couple of those necessary.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Something Smells Terrible!

What IS that smell?

Oh, I know.

It's my novel for National Novel Writing Month that I've been working on.

Le Peu! Moi No-VELL Iz terry-BULL!

As of this post, I'm at 47,680 words, so I should cross over the goal of 50,000 words tonight sometime.

I still have more to go to finish the actual story, but I will have met the NaNoWriMo goal of an original novel of at least 50,000 words, written entirely in the month of November.

So if y'all check back tomorrow, I should have the little word tracking widget over on the right hand side of this page over 50k words.

If I cross the line tonight, I will have done so on the 29th day out of an available 30 days in November.

I hope the words keep a-flowin'.

Here are some more gratuitous photos to fill up space for you to admire, until I finish NaNoWriMo and can start writing decent blog posts again.

These were all taken recently behind the Melbourne, Florida public library on Fee Avenue. There's a huge pond behind the library, with a walkway around it. It's a pleasant place to relax, right in the middle of the hustle of Melbourne.

Brave ducks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Changing Oil

I have a dark, dirty secret.

I'm one of those men who, dare I say it?

I know next to nothing about how a car engine works. There I said it.

I'm not proud of it, and when relating the merits or problems of various types of engines, or even worse, when the old Ford versus Chevrolet versus Chrysler debates come up in conversations with groups of men, I "suddenly" remember something I should be doing elsewhere.

It's not the problem it was twenty years ago though, because, well, you can buy a Chrysler that's made in Canada now. And Chrysler is no longer an American company, the company is owned by Germans.

You can buy a Ford made in Mexico or a Toyota made in Ohio, or a Mercedes SUV made in Alabama.

That has little to do with me not knowing the mechanics of the internal combustion engine, but it has stopped a lot of the talk about cars and how they work. It's just not the topic of conversation among men it was a generation ago. Also, cars are so complicated now that the average guy can no longer do work on his own cars any more.

Don C., my Dad, was a really cool guy. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He had a great sense of humor, but he was a quiet man too. (That's a pic of Don C. He looks angry here, but he wasn't, he wasn't a very "smiley" person, but he was very nice.)

I was always a bit intimidated by him, though he never really did anything intimidating to me. He just always seemed so sure of himself where I pretty much have never been very sure about myself with regards to anything.

Don C. was pretty good with cars. He could do lots of basic maintenance, but he knew his limits and would take our cars to the pros for serious repairs.

My older brother Paul had an interest in, and also an innate understanding of how cars worked. And my maternal Grandfather (we called him Papaw Hinton) was an auto mechanic for many years.

I got zilch. Nothing. Nada. In fact, I never really cared or wanted to know how the inside of a car works. Electronic devices like computers and games and such, yes; cars no.

So here's this wealth of knowledge about cars in my family, and I couldn't care less about them.

But hey, I was a teenager, and I wanted to fit in, and I wanted to impress Don C. (what kid doesn't want to impress his Dad, right?)

In Louisiana at the time, late 1970's, we could get our driver's license at the age of 15.

When I got mine and started driving, Don C. decided I need to learn a few basic things about cars.

Don C.'s vehicle was a 1975 Ford F-150 custom, a pickup truck. And he needed to change the oil in it one day and decided it was time for me to learn to do that simple task. (That's a picture of the truck I talk about here, with me at nineteen, a few years after this incident I talk about today.)

Only problem, my reputation, or lack thereof, with cars preceded me, and when my brother Paul and his buddies found out that John (me) was going to learn to change oil in a motor vehicle, well, I ended up with an audience.

Don C., Paul, and several of Paul's friends. They all had that "this is going to be good" look on their faces in anticipation.

Lucky for me, changing oil was an easy thing to do back then. That full-sized pickup had lots of room to reach around the motor in the engine compartment, and it was high enough off the ground to easily slide under there and take out the oil plug on the bottom of the oil pan to drain the old oil.

I'm taking all the funny remarks and jokes at my expense in stride because this turned out to be a really easy job. Wuh-hoo!

I felt like that dude hanging off the front of the Titanic in that movie. "King of the world!"

All because I changed the oil in my Dad's pickup truck.

But then I was handed me a golden opportunity to get back at everyone for their picking on me.

Don C.'s patented process for oil changing was this: open oil fill cap on top of motor, drain oil into pan from bottom of motor, re-plug drain hole in bottom of motor, change oil filter out for a new one, put in five of the six needed quarts of oil into the motor at the oil fill cap on the top of motor.

Now before he would pour in the last quart, Don C. always ran the motor for a few minutes to get the new oil filter filled with oil. This would (theoretically) make room in the oil pan for that sixth and final quart.

So I'm sitting there in the cab of the pickup truck, letting it run. This pickup had a loud exhaust system on it, so I could see Don C., Paul, and Paul's compadres standing around the open hood of the truck and talking, but because of the noise, I couldn't hear them or join in the conversation.

Just then, one of them pointed at something in the engine compartment, and all four of them leaned way over into the engine area.

I calmly smiled, and HONKed! the horn with a good long blast.

I'm laughing as I write this, remembering the one and only time I ever scared the snot out of my Father; not to mention getting a world-class jump out of my brother and his two friends. Now, in my mind, they were all airborne for about fifteen seconds, but in actuality, they just all four jumped back a step when I honked the horn.

It took them a minute to calm down, but eventually they had to laugh with me.

Because one hard and fast rule of manhood is that you don't ever let the other person know that they've gotten under your skin. You laugh it off.

Otherwise they'll pick on you about that forever.

But that was a funny day. They were making fun of me and turned around and handed me the perfect chance to pay them back.

Revenge really is a dish best served cold.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Good Accident

Years ago, and I'm talkin', like, 1984, I had a good accident with my Canon AE-1 camera.

Lovely Wife and I were on the beach in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It's up in the Florida panhandle (aka the Red Neck Riviera).

We got married in August of 1984, and I worked for Johnny's Pizza House. When I went into restaurant management with them, their unit in Ft. Walton Beach was my first gig as an assistant manager.

We were there until December of 1984, when they closed the restaurant for the winter. That's common out on "the island" as business dropped because of the lack of winter tourism there. As it turned out, the company didn't reopen the store, and sold it. It was too far from the rest of the chain of stores and didn't make enough money, that area wasn't an instant success for the company like opening another store in Louisiana would have been; there was no instant recognition of the company down in Florida.

Anyhoo, when we got packed up to move back to Louisiana, we went to the beach despite the cold weather. Our few months there were like a three and a half month honeymoon. How many people are fortunate enough to live in such a beautiful place when they first get married?

One of those last days, we had gone to the beach and I took a couple of pictures of Lovely Wife. It turned out that these last two photos where the last ones on that particular roll of Kodachrom slide film.

Also, I had apparently neglected to take up the slack in the film when I had first loaded it into the camera, and these last two photos should have only been one photo.

I took the one photo, wound the film, and took one more of her. The film didn't really advance to another section of film, my winding just took up all the slack in the roll in the exposed area, but it also released the camera to take another photo.

What I ended up with was an accidental double exposure.

And I LOVED it.

I've always wanted to take it somewhere to have a lab crop the photo and make a print for me. But, like many things in life, I put this off all these years.

I just came across this slide again this past weekend in my seemingly endless endeavor of scanning and archiving my 35mm slides.

But with the wonders of the digital age, I was able to color correct it just a bit, and make two different crops. So although I haven't printed either one, it's still great to have this accidental winner of a photo in a form I can look at and enjoy.

I submit, for your perusal, the original scan, and the two crops I made.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Picture Post, Sunday November 26, 2006

Coral Castle #3

Alright. If you haven't seen my last two posts on Edward Leedskalnin's Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida, please scroll down and read Friday's and Saturday's posts. I'll wait.

I'm going to just put today's pictures in amongst the text instead of describing each photo like I usually do.

My favorite story about Ed Leedskalnin from the 28 years it took him to single handedly create everything you see at Coral Castle is as follows:

No one ever really got to watch Ed work. The only photos of him working show him using big log tripods like I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, as well as parts scavenged from Ford Model A's.

People said that when they snuck through the woods to where he was working on Coral Castle and would hide to see him work from a sectret place, Ed somehow would know they were there and would wave in their direction, stop working, and ask them over. He never let anyone see him work, and they couldn't watch in secret because he always knew when someone was hiding.

So, after working on Coral Castle for a number of years at it's first locaton in Florida City, Ed found out about the upcoming construction of U.S. Highway One which would run through nearby Homestead, Florida.

Ed bought a piece of land next to where it would be, and hired a man with a truck to haul his massive coral stone carvings over to his new property.

I've forgotten this truck driver's name, and am too lazy to look it up, but when we went to Coral Castle in 1984, we were told that this truck driver who hauled Ed's stones to the new Homestead site, for many years came by Coral Castle several times per week to tell his story of helping Ed move the stones.

This man said that he would drive up in his flat bed truck, I think this was 1936 or so, and would be instructed by Ed Leedskalnin to park near whatever stones he wanted moved, and to leave the area, and that he, Ed, would load the truck. Come back in sometime later.

The man would disappear, and return later to find his big flat bed loaded with these massive, many tonned, carved stones.

Ed Leedskalnin had loaded the truck with thousand pounds of stones, by himself.

The man would drive the stones and Ed over to the new Homestead location and would again be instructed to disappear. He would come back after a while to find his truck unloaded and Ed ready to go.

So how does a five foot tall, 100 pound man do that kind of lifting in such a fast time, COMPLETELY ALONE?

Ed would only tell people that he knew how they built the pyramids in Egypt, and that if he could figure it out, anyone could.

This is the end of my posts on Coral Castle, one of the most intriguing places I've ever been.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Coral Castle #2

If you didn't read the previous post, please scroll down and read it first.

You back?

Ok. More pictures of Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida.

In the last pic in yesterday's post, I showed and mentioned the massive rocking chair up on the pedestal. This is a picture of me (at 21, sigh) sitting in that chair. Two elderly ladies were there when we were, and after I posed for this and started to climb down, they asked me to stay seated so they could take a picture of it too, with someone sitting in it. I obliged them of course. Anyway, the chair was actually comfortable and it rocked effortlessly. A 1500 pound chair carved from ancient coral.

This next photo is of a piece of coral that Ed Leedskalnin set up for people to see because it was chock full of interesting fossils. In the lower center part, you can see what looks like a face with yellow eyes. Back when we were there in 1984, they had a tour guide, and he told us that decades ago, a visiting child saw what he thought looked like a monkey face in among the fossils, and took out two of his yellow marbles and stuck them in where there were what looked like eye sockets. They've been there all these years.

Ok, I know I'm gonna sound like a dummy here, but I can't remember what you call this part of a car. It's where the gears reside that transfer the drive shaft's spinning into rear wheel motion. Ed Leedskalnin had this on hung on chain, as you can see, and if you pushed up from the bottom center of it, the top of this metal case cracked open. Ed would put potatos and things he wanted to roast in there, build a fire under it, and roast his meals. It was his oven, made of coral and Ford Model A parts.

This one takes a little explaining. See that monolith in the back, with the big hole near the top? It's about 15 feet from the shorter wall you see in closer to you in the picture. That shorter wall? There's a table and bench seats built into it, if you look for a minute, you can see this. Now, right above the right edge of the table, at the top of the short wall, you can see a small dark circle. If you were to kneel on the table, or stand on the right bench seat and lean to your left a bit and look through this hole, you would see that the hole is a routed out hole at an angle up toward the top of the monolith. On a clear night, if you look through this lower, angled hole, or tube drilled in the short wall, you will be looking through the bigger hole at the top of the monolith behind it. It points you right to the north star. For a 5 foot tall, 100 pound man who had recovered from tuberculosis, to build and set these two many tonned pieces of ancient coral with such precision, is just flat-out crazy. Again, he never, ever had help in building and placing any part of the many things in the Coral Castle.

A little more on Coral Castle tomorrow, to finish this up.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Coral Castle #1

Around 1980, I saw a re-run of the old television show called "In Search Of, With Leonard Nimoy." This particular program talked about a place in Homestead, Florida called Coral Castle, and how it came to be build. I was mesmerized by the show, and the first time I got to go to south Florida, I went to see Coral Castle.

There once was a Latvian man named Edward Leedskalnin. He emigrated to the U.S., then in 1918 he moved to Florida after he had developed tuberculosis.

He ended up buying some land and building a monument, Coral Castle, to his "sweet sixteen", his almost-bride who jilted him in Latvia. (Billy Idol's 1980's hit, Sweet Little Sixteen, was written about this after he visited Coral Castle in the 80's. THERE's a bit of trivia I'll bet you didn't know.)

The Coral Castle, Ed's monument to his lost love, was built entirely by Ed Leedskalnin's own hands, with NO HELP FROM ANYONE. Every stone was cut out of the ground, lifted, carved and placed by Ed, BY HIMSELF, with only the aid of mechanical devices he devised from parts of a Model A Ford.

The ancient coral he dug up and carved is extremely heavy.

And Edward Leedskalnin was five feet tall (1.52m), and weighed 100 pounds (45.4kg).

We visited here in 1984 on a trip to south Florida, and these are a few of the pictures I took on that trip. We went again in 1998, but I won't be up to that point in my slide scanning for a couple of years yet.

It is basically a coral wall about eight feet tall and forming a square about 150 feet or so per side of a square. He filled it with all manner of carved coral things he prepared himself.

This first one is the outside of the "castle" wall. You can see the pit where Ed cut and lifted the coral from. Each section of the wall weighed like 20-40 thousand pounds.

This tower was in one corner of the "castle" and the lower room behind the doors is where Ed kept his tools, and the upper section with the windows is where Ed lived and slept. Look at the size of each of those chunks of coral, and think about how much each must weigh, and then picture a five foot tall, one hundred pound man lifting and placing each one by himself.

If I remember correctly, this monolith weighed 30 thousand pounds and is about 12-15 feet tall. He cut it out of the ground, carved and lifted into place by himself with the aid of only the tripods and ropes he assembled.

This is a view of part of what is inside the four walls of Coral Castle. The rocking chair on the right of the photo up on the pedestal weighed about 1500 pounds (680kg) and it was comfortably carved in the seating area and rocked really easily. This whole place is simply astounding.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #16

Thirteen Things Most Folks Like, But I Don't

1. Coffee. I hate coffee in all forms. Even coffee flavored candy and stuff like that. Love the smell, but hate the taste.

2. Pork Roast/Pork Chops. I can eat sausage all day long, and even eat pulled pork at barbeque places every day, but for some reason pork roast and pork chops just don't do it for me.

3. Boiled Shrimp.

4. Sitcoms. Although I have always loved Gilligan's Island, Andy Griffith Show, The Munsters, The Addams Family, etc. Let me just say I haven't much liked any sitcoms that were made after 1970, and that'll pretty much cover it. Does Earl count? I like Earl. It's 'live action' and not on a studio stage, and it's funny.

5. Horror movies. I'm really good at "suspension of disbelief" when reading books or watching movies, but the stupid way people act in horror movies turns me off in the first 10 minutes.

6. Halloween. Don't believe me?

7. Grits. I know, I'm from the south and I think there's a law that says I have to like them, but I don't. Never have. So lock me up. (They don't make you eat grits in prison, do they?)

8. NASCAR. Now don't go getting your panties in a wad. I'm not saying anything about NASCAR, I'm saying something about ME. I don't like watching NASCAR, but that doesn't meant I think it's dumb, just that I find nothing in it that interests me.

9. Low rider / hip hugger pants. In general, I think it's stupid that these pants arrived on some freaky time machine from the sixties when everybody knows most Americans are overweight. It's painful to be out in public and seeing people's excess baggage spilling out from the top of these things.

10. Curry. Nothing with curry for me, ok? Nothing. The smell alone makes me want to blow chunks.

11. Yogurt. Plain, flavored, with fruit at the bottom, or even if you put cruchy cereal or something in it. Nope.

12. Celebrity based TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, etc. I don't impress easily. I don't really want to know what Hollywood stars are doing. I might watch their movies or TV shows, but beyond that, I really don't care.

13. Huge subwoofers in skanky old cars. Ok dude, you ain't impressing anyone with the thousand dollar stereo in your 1986 Caprice. Plus, from the outside, all you hear is stuff rattling on your old car every time the subwoofer booms. You think you and your car are cool, but let me tell you, your poor car is just embarrassed.Wait, this one doesn't belong on this list does it? NOBODY likes these cars.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY! I know lots of people are doing the "I'm thankful for..." thing today, but I just thought I'd carry on as usual, doing whatever my mind dredges up.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Key Biscayne

Three different shots I like that I took on Key Biscayne in March 1984.

Kodachrome Rocks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Miami At Night, 1984

I took these shots from one of the barrier islands off Miami, after visiting Key Biscayne. These are looking at downtown Miami.

I like this one best. When you enlarge it, it looks as if I happened to catch a meteor streaking across the sky. I'm not sure if it is, but I like to think so.

Monday, November 20, 2006

...And Hold The Goat Meat, Please

Our weather here has been nothing short of spectacular the past few days. Highs in the low 70s F, 23 C, and sunny with warm breezes.

Our church has a Thanksgiving dinner every year, and this year's was this past Saturday, the 18th.

Lovely Wife cooked all day Friday, making cornbread dressing, collard greens, cornbread muffins, corn, mashed potatos, and gravy, and sweet potato delight.

So when I got home from work Friday, the cool weather, the windows open in the house, and all the smells of holiday cooking, conspired to make me realize just how much the smells of certain foods trigger a holiday mood in me.

The sad part is, that I had to work Saturday and miss the church event. Some years the work calendar falls in such a way that we have to work the Saturday before Thanksgiving to be able to have the Friday after Thanksgiving off.

I'm pretty low on vacation time, so I worked.

I hated to miss the gathering at church this year. (Lovely Wife made me a plate of all the good stuff she knows I like and brought it home to me. Yummy.)

What makes the whole thing fun to go to, is that our church is really, shall we say, multi-cultural. I will be guessing here, but I would estimate that our church is about 40% white, 40% black, and 20% latino.

And to mix things up a little more, many of the black people at our church are from island nations like Jamaica, Trinidad, and Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

So what ends up happening is, when Pastor Mark tells everyone to bring some of their favorite traditional foods to the church's Thanksgiving dinner, he says that with full knowledge that many of the dishes brought will be things that average white Americans don't even know exist. Turkey and dressing isn't traditional in the above mentioned places.

As a consequence, the church's Thanksgiving dinner, is a really casual, low-key affair, with turkey, dressing, goat, plantains, curry dishes, pigeon peas and rice, and stuff I usually am too scared to even ask what it is.

It's always a good time of fellowship across so many cultural and social boundaries that it's really hard to explain.

But the bottom line is, it's a bunch of Christians getting together to thank God for his many blessings, to fellowship, and to eat lots of food. Christian people are an eating people.

It's actually pretty much like any event at our church with regards to the food selection, but the Thanksgiving dinner is a little more special because it tips everyone over into the holiday mood. And you can feel that.

I hate that I missed it, but Lovely Wife said that a good time was had by all.

And I got a plate of good stuff too.

No goat meat for me though, thanks.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Picture Post, Sunday November 19, 2006

Some recent photos I've taken with Ye Ol' D70s...

This foist one, was taken yesterday morning in our next door neighbor's front yard. These ibis were pigging out on something; bugs I reckon. (What is the plural of ibis anyway, ibises?, ibii?) I love these birds, and love it when gangs of them meander through our yards as they move through the neighborhood looking for food.

The rest of these were taken last weekend at a Melbourne Florida park called Kiwanis Park at Geiger Point. It is on the "mainland" at the foot of the Melbourne Causeway over to "the beachside" barrier island. I have spent many of my lunch periods at this park, it's about 10 minutes from where I work, enjoying the sunny days, open water, dolphins, and dive-bombing pelicans. In the hurricanes of 2004, this park got pretty torn up and was closed for almost two years. It recently opened and we went for a walk around it to check it out.

This first one at Kiwanis Park was of the road leading into the park. You can see Hwy 192 as it ramps up to become the causeway over the Indian River Lagoon, our section of the Intracostal Waterway. That big droopy looking pine tree is an Australian Pine. Bunches of them were planted in Florida decades ago. I personally love them, they have a sleepy, droopy look about them, but when they die or are destroyed in hurricanes, they are not replanted. They replace them with native Florida plants, which is ok I guess, but I really love these pines.

This is looking out over the park with my back toward the causeway, so that had me pointing south here. It's a small park as most are down here, but there are bunches of them.

This is looking west, back toward mainland Florida, with a bit of the new bridge that replaced a section of the sidewalk that washed away in the hurricanes.

This isn't a great picture, but this building amazes me. I'm looking southward at a newly built set of condominiums. They built these right out on the end of a point out into the Indian River Lagoon. The units go for about $1.5Million each. I hope the folks who buy these stay on "ready" to leave for the next hurricane. It' just a matter of time.

These bridges are the underside of the Melbourne Causeway. I thought the reflections of the light in the water were pretty.

I was just diggin' the symmetry of the two bridges of the Melbourne Causeway here. Looking east toward the Atlantic Ocean (which is about three miles from where I'm standing).

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Number One Daughter Turns 21!

This year the hits just keep a-comin'.

Number Two Daughter turned 18 in September.

Number One Daughter turns 21 today.

Where did the time go? When I was a kid, Christmases seemed to be years apart from one another, and now? It seems like Christmas is every four months.

Lovely Wife and I were as clueless as any couple ever when it came to raising kids, so I'm actually pretty amazed she survived to 21.

Now she's old enough to go to truck driving school and do something with her life.

All kidding aside, I love you Rebekah. Always will.

I took this firt picture when she was only a day or two old, at the hospital in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Sometimes you take a photo that just captures someone's personality perfectly. This photo was taken at Yellowstone National Park, in front of Old Faithful, in July 1989. I have always loved this photo. Her entire childhood was spent in motion, pretty much like this.

This was taken around 1993 or so, when we were living back in Monroe, Louisiana and I was working on my engineering degree at Louisiana Tech. She and her sister did some beauty pageants and this was a pro photo taken for her to have a portfolio. I always thought this was really cute.

This was taken last year on her twentieth birthday in her dorm room at the University of Central Florida. She wanted a turntable to play vinyl records on. Go figure. The old saying, "What's old is new again" is true.

Friday, November 17, 2006

At The Lie-berry

I took these one day at the Melbourne, Florida public library.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #15

13 Random Things and/or Thoughts From JAM

1. I tried, and love those individually packaged cheddar cheese sticks with chipotle peppers in them. Free advice: Don't eat them on an empty stomach.

2. When heating cooked hamburger meat in the microwave, use a lower power setting. Otherwise the high setting will turn some of the little bits of fat into rocks that will break your teeth.

3. I'm only a day's worth of writing behind the proper pace for finishing National Novel Writing Month successfully. I feel good about that, and haven't really been stressed about the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, my novel is complete crap so far, but it is just flowing out of me. That's pretty cool.

4. It's still startling to me to walk outside after work and it's dark. The building I work in has no windows, so the darkness still surpises me. When I get used to it, it will be time to switch the clocks back the other way.

5. I paid $2.19 for each gallon of gasoline the other day. I think the price fluctuates WAY more than the market prices for crude do. But I'm glad I'm paying $0.75 per gallon less than a few months ago.

6. I wonder if that dude in the BWM who passed me on I-95 is still alive. The guy was weaving through morning traffic like a mad man. It's times like that I wish I drove a tank to work, then I'd be sure he was dead. Not really, but the thought did flash through my mind.

7. A few weeks ago, at the surgical center where Lovely Wife had her surgery, there was a guy who had the most unique comb-over I had ever seen. Instead of letting a monstrous flap grow on one side of his head and plastering it over his bald dome, this guy grew his long hair in the back of his head and had it combed straight over his bald dome forward from the rear. AND this long hair was cut into bangs in the front. I couldn't stop staring at him. And obviously I can't stop thinking about it.

8. I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving, but we have to work this coming Saturday to make up for having the Friday after Thanksgiving off. It doesn't happen on most years, but it worked out that way this year. Bummer.

9. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I've lost about 45-50 pounds this year by eating low carb. I've only cheated twice and got right back on the program after a couple of days because I feel dramatically better when I'm eating low carb. I'm looking forward to all the goodies and crazy foods on Thanksgiving, plus, when I get back on the diet after being off for a couple of days, it supercharges my weight loss. So I can look forward to all the good vittles, AND look forward to the quicker weight loss of getting back on my program.

10. I've been watching almost no TV since starting National Novel Writing Month, and I haven't missed it at all. I've gotten out of the "Lost", "House", and "Numbers" habit.

11. I'm so sleepy writing this that I keep zoning out. What should have taken ten minutes has already taken thirty. (sound of snoring)

12. It's really hard to believe that Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays are upon us because it's still so hot here. But I love them anyway. Plus I watch every Christmas show and movie we have on tape and DVD and listen to Christmas music so much that most people would die of overexposure.

13. I'm hoping to make a trip back to visit my family in Monroe, Louisiana the week after Christmas. I haven't been back there in five and a half years due to hurting my back and having two surgeries. Not to mention Lovely Wife and Number One Daughter having surgery too. I'm not getting my hopes too high because I've had them dashed a couple of times the past couple of years, but right now it looks like a trip to Louisiana will be doable next month. Five years is too long to go without hugs from your family.

I can't get Mr. Linky to work this morning, so just leave a comment with a link to your T13 and I'll come back in here and manually make a list of everyone's links. Thanks.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fort Lauderdale 1984

I'm a bit behind on my National Novel Writing Month quota, so y'all are getting slide scans. (Try to contain your excitement.)

These were taken in March of 1984 on a trip to Fort Lauderdale.

This is a photo of some stranger's kid on the beach. I wish I had a picture this good of my own kids on the beach. Now it's strange to think that this little girl is now a 24 year old (or so) woman.

Call me a loser, but this was the first time I had seen cool beach chairs like on TV. I still don't get out much, but I was a really sheltered person back then. The things laying on each pair of chairs opened up into a cool looking half-dome shelter.

This last one is of one of the draw bridges over the intracostal waterway in Ft. Lauderdale. At the time, I was thrilled with the whole sailboats and canals thing Ft. Lauderdale had goin' on. The road traffic had to stop when a sailboat came by, which I thought was pretty spiffy. All of that plus the fact that it was 80 degrees F in the day when even Louisiana was still cold, had me loving Ft. Lauderdale.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More Election Thoughts, One Week Later

Do the Democrats, I mean the really liberal ones like at DailyKos, realize how much the Democratic Party takeover of the U.S. Congress is based on newly minted conservative Democrats? Several of the Representatives and Senators elected under the Democrat banner were pro-life conservatives.

Do the liberal true believers really think that their socialist agenda is just gonna sweep the country, knowing that this depends almost totally on the support of these pro-life conservative Democrats?

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the rest of the ultra-liberal vanguard are still doing a happy dance at the prospect of the power they think they'll wield, but the wild cards here are these new conservative Democrats.

Will these conservative Democrats live up to their campaign promises? Only time will tell, but the absolute joy in the hearts of liberals all over the country, and the snide, We Won!, cocky attitude may be short lived.

That's how the Democrats won, they ran conservatives. Now it's quite obvious that the really way out there liberals are chomping at the bit to push their socialist agenda on the American public, but will they be able to?

I find it refreshing and encouraging that there is such a thing as a pro-life Democrat, it kinda helps restore my faith in humanity just a little bit, but we'll have to wait and see if they are willing to fight to save the lives of the unborn, or if they were just saying what was needed to get elected, and will turn on their campaign promises and slogans.

Also, since all the liberals are still in paroxysms of joy over the election, I haven't seen even one of them smart enough, or aware enough to look around themselves and see who else is also glad, namely the terrorists and islamo-fascists of the world. Oh, and the French too.

I mean, if we do something in this country that makes Europeans and muslim terrorists happy, don't you realize that what we did was maybe, just maybe, WRONG?

Nah, they're too drunk with looking at themselves in the mirror to realize that. They're too in love with themselves to be aware enough about the world around them to be properly scared that we just did what moronic Europeans and islamic terrorists want us to do.

Even more plainly; when you do something that makes your enemies happy, you just did something stupid and dangerous to yourself. American voters just did something very stupid in the election last week.

It took us just about five years to forget 9/11, and to collectively start whistling through the cemetery. Again.

It's now obvious that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and the final blow which brought down both towers was long enough ago that American liberals are content to try to pretend that we once again live in a pre-9/11 country.

I hate to say it, but it looks like the American voters are so dumb and short sighted that it's going to take a similar attack every couple of years before it starts to register with them that we are in a changed world, and at war with islamo-fascist terrorists.

There's no going back to the halcyon days of old, and sticking our heads in the sand, which is what happened in our mid-term elections last week, can only spell disaster somewhere down the road.

Make no mistake, the American voters made a turn that our enemies only see as weakness, and that will make them even more determined to kill as many of us as possible.

I wonder how soon the next terrorist attack on American soil will be. Probably not very long since we can't intercept terrorist phone calls any more.

As soon as the next attack occurs, watch, they'll blame it on Bush, when it was the cowardly American voter who elected cowardly cut-and-run politicians and put socialists like Nancy Pelosi in positions of great power. I'm not the sharpest pencil in the cup, but even I can see that coming.

When we get attacked again, it won't be Bush's fault. It will be the fault of every American who decided to turn and run from the fight by voting Democrat in this past election.

Again, like I mentioned at the start of this post, there is much riding on the Congressional and Senatorial votes by newly elected conservative Democrats. They are truly wildcards. Will these conservative Democrats vote down party lines like Pelosi and the gang expect them to, or will they stand up and vote like true conservatives when it comes to abortion, taxes, and the military?

The liberals of the Democratic party wrested control of both houses of Congress by putting up conservatives, and ended up with more Ds than Rs in both houses, but can they count on all of these new Ds to toe the socialist line?

God give them wisdom; God help us all.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Hope Chest

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and assume that not everyone knows what I mean by "hope chest."

If you do know, bear with me, ok?

Sometimes when women are young, they and their parents start what is known as a hope chest. This is simply a gathering of, buying of, some of the things that a new bride will need after she's married and moves off. Because, unless you are a trust fund baby, you'll need all the financial breaks you can get when you're a newlywed.

Sainted Mother however, actually started such a collection for me. We called it my hope chest. Hey, I take jokes really well, but a guy having a hope chest in Louisiana is a situation rife with possible jokes.

Sainted Mother, having had four kids, was pretty good at bargains. And at her grocery store of choice in Monroe, Brookshire's, they often offered good quality silverware, and dinnerware, and so forth, as a reward for spending beaucoup money. (Choice of grocery store is a solemn thing, not to be taken lightly.)

It just so happened that, three of the four above mentioned children were boys, who had hollow legs. How can teens eat so much? Jeesh, it's embarrassing to think about now.

Anyhoo, Sainted Mother dutifully collected said silverware, dinnerware, and kitchen items over a period of years.

Hey, they really were good quality things, and they were free, so I don't blame her. Heck, it was the next best thing to S&H Green Stamps, which had kinda died out over the years. And if you are going to spend hundreds of dollars per month on groceries, you WILL take the freebies too.

Flash forward to when Lovely Wife and I were dating. We had been dating a while, and it was a little while before our engagement, but I was over at her house and her Mom mentioned her hope chest. Her stuff was literally in a big chest beside her bed.

I mentioned that I had a hope chest too, and her family all got a big kick out of that, then we let the subject die.

Well, sometime later, when Lovely Wife (to be) was over at our home, Sainted Mother told me to show her my hope chest stuff.

I went and dragged it all out and showed her the utensils, silverware, plates, and all that stuff. I distinctly remember that Lovely Wife seemed completely underwhelmed.

Of course I thought it was that it was too early to talk about such things and that I had probably scared her by Mama and I doing that.

Then, next time over at her house, she says, "Come with me. I want to show you something." And we went back to her room.

She clears off her bedside chest, opens it up, and starts to pull out her hope chest dinnerware and silverware.

Guess what?

She had the exact same stuff that Sainted Mother had saved for me over the years. Same plates, cups, etc., with all the same patterns. She had the same silverware with the same pattern on the handles, everything.

It was surreal.

That was why she was so quiet at my house; she was stunned and kinda freaked out that we had all the same stuff for when we got married.

And like I said, this was before we were even engaged, so it scared her.

It's funny to think about now, and when we talk about it, you can tell that she still recalls how scared she was when she saw I had all the same hope chest items she did.

And when we finally were married and out on our own, we had PLENTY of plates, saucers, knives, forks, etc., and when we broke some over the years, it didn't really matter, because we had so many to begin with.

I mean really, didn't she know that it was a sign from God that we were meant to be together? (hee hee)

Actually, I think it was that very thought that scared her into silence that night.

Good times, good times.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Picture Post, Sunday November 12, 2006

First off, I want to say congratulations to former U.S. President Gerald Ford, who, by being alive today, although recovering from sickness, and being 93 years and 121 days old, becomes the oldest ex-US President ever. Ronald Reagan is now second, who lived to 93 years, 120 days. John Adams, our second President, held the age record until Ronald Reagan passed him in 2001.

Liberals in this country always made fun of him, as if he was a complete idiot, but he was always, and still is, a perfect example of class and restraint, both as a Congressman from Michigan and as President. Compare him to former Presidents Carter and Clinton, and he shines with a class that those two bottom feeders cannot even hope to ever approach. Carter and Clinton have the dubious distinction of being the first two former U.S. Presidents who publicly criticised a sitting President; proving beyond doubt they fully deserve their reputations as laughing stocks.

They should both learn something from Mr. Ford's example of class and grace. But they won't, they're too arrogant.

For the photos, I finally ride my 1983 visit to the U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile Bay to the ground. These are the last I'll post from that trip, but I love so many I took there.

This first one is of the U.S.S. Drum, a submarine moored next to the Alabama. You can tour it too, but I wouldn't recommend it if you have claustrophobia. I'm a big guy, and not very scared, but this almost freaked me out. It was very interesting and gave me a true respect for those who have served on subs.

Someone with more knowledge than me could say for sure, but I'm thinking this was a p-51 Mustang, a "Flying Tiger" used by General Chenault and his men in China before WWII, to fight off the Japanese who had invaded China.

An F-86 Sabre Jet, which, if I'm not mistaken was used in both the Korean War and in Viet Nam. I always have thought, and still do, that these fighters were some of the best looking planes we ever used.

I couldn't resist a final two photos of the Alabama itself.

This shows the Alabama's battle ribbons and you can see it's markings from Pacific island campaigns and also markings for each Japanese war plane it shot down.