Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekends will never be the same

Big news! For the first time since my junior year of high school before I ever got a job, from senior year at Camelot Music, to multiple jobs in college, to my first gigs the first year out of college, to nine years at CNN, and then my first two-and-a-half years at my current news director position, I finally have a Monday-through-Friday shift.

Yes, starting on Labor Day, I will be off on weekends. This means that I get to attend family functions like everyone else, I get to sit down and watch football all day long if I want, get to go to church Sunday mornings and not be in a hurry to get to work afterward, and I get to fight for seats in the movie theater instead of having ten rows to myself at a random matinee on a weekday afternoon to stretch out, eat hot dogs and nachos and not worry about morons kicking my chair. Okay, I kind of liked that last part.

Of course, I will be doing the early morning 4a-to-Noon shift, so my years of being a night owl are over, but in the news business there are no 9-to-5 gigs for technical folks.

Val, of course, is thrilled, although it doesn't matter a whole lot since she only has nine days of work left before she quits to stay home and wait for our mini Cooper to arrive. Every day will be pretty much the same to her. Hopefully she'll use the next two months to hibernate so that she won't be so tired in November and December (and January and February and March and ... well, you get the idea).

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get Val to realize that at seven months pregnant she can get away with wearing anything, and only judgy bitches will care. A week ago she broke down and bought some crocs since none of her other 50 pair of shoes fit anymore due to bloating (her feet must be ballooning up from 6 1/2 to what, 7?) So far, they're comfy, but I'm having a tough time convincing her that she can wear the crocs to church or wear sweats to work.

What else is going on?

Well, AT&T is finally coming to install DSL tomorrow and to turn on our land line. They were supposed to come ten days ago, right after DirecTV was installed. However, the day the DirecTV lady told me AT&T would be out, I slept on the couch for my afternoon nap after work to wait, and wait, and wait, and finally at 5:30 called and was told that AT&T had rescheduled for the 31st.

Really, AT&T? Anyone ever going to call and tell me this? It turns out they did change the date in an email that was sent out, but it was one of five that I got when I ordered the bundle, so I just figured it was confirmation for the 20th. And what if I didn't have cable internet right now? How exactly would I check my email to see the date change? A phone call wouldn't kill you. I mean, somebody there owns a phone, am I right?  

By the way, it took until approximately 7 p.m. the very first night we had DirecTV for the signal to go all squiggly due to a thunderboomer. At least the local channels worked, I tell myself, reassuringly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday links

- Not that I ever feel on edge, but just in case maybe I should be mowing the lawn every day: "Feeling stressed? Then go mow the lawn, claims research":
Researchers have discovered that a chemical released by a mown lawn makes people feel happy and relaxed, and could prevent mental decline in old age.

They claim it works directly on the brain, in particular the emotional and memory parts known as the amygdala and the hippocampus.
I could have saved them a lot of money and time long ago when I have blogged about how great it feels to finish mowing my lawn and relish a green Valfrey Estate.

- Another great moment in government-controlled health care:
A Montreal man, bed-ridden with acute appendicitis, waited six hours for an ambulance Thursday after calling 911 four times, raising concerns the city's emergency-response service is putting patients at risk. ...

A committee was set up to address the problem in 2008, he said, but fell apart this year when the union and management couldn't agree how to spend $500,000 set aside by the previous health minister.

"We have lots of equipment and ambulances but not enough personnel," Leclerc said. "People take the job, work for one or two years and then quit after seeing the work conditions, the psychological stress and the low salaries." ...

- While the Obamedia labels Ted Kennedy a "Happy Warrior" and all kinds of gooey mess about how lovable he was, don't forget how he contributed to the increasingly negative political discourse with this speech in the Senate against Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."
Kennedy began such a ferocious attack on Reagan's nominee from the Left that "Borked" became a verb.

Giving one away

The Good News: The Red Sox were on MLB Network last night.

The Bad News: Tazawa gave up eight runs in three innings as Boston lost to the White Sox, 9-5, to prevent a four-game sweep.

The Stupid News: The announcers for MLB, who apparently have never seen a Red Sox game, thought the fans were booing Kevin Youkilis when he came out for his first at-bat, apparently unaware that for the past, oh, five years, every time he's at the plate or makes a play fans yell "Yoooouuuuuukkkkkk." Good research, MLB Network announcers. In the middle of the eighth inning, I'm sure they were perplexed that "everyone at Fenway seems to know the words to "Sweet Caroline!"

The Weird News: Francona gave up on the game so much so that he let infielder Nick Green pitch two innings, and he didn't even give up any runs.

Why I'm Not Worried News: J.D. Drew hit two solo homers, weak-hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez added another and the Red Sox have hit more than one homer for the 11th time in 13 games and have 48 in August.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We're in the wrong division

Big Papi hits his ninth walk-off home run with the Red Sox, breaking the team record his shared with Jimmie Foxx, and Boston has won three in a row over the White Sox.

Let's see ... a couple of weeks ago the Sox won 3-of-4 over Detroit, and in July the same against Kansas City, swept Detroit in June ...

Hey, can we join the AL Central for the rest of the season?

You can probably guess a couple of mine

- has the list of The Obamessiah's pet peeves, which as expected are the lamest pet peeves ever, things that you'd make up on your resume, like, "I'm just too awesome of a father," or "I would never cheat on the White Sox," or "I just work out so much it's tough to be a slobbering blob."

In the follow-up I expect that we'll learn that he doesn't like it when people cut in line at the White House cafeteria or that he gets so embarrassed when the Obamedia spends too much time filling his drinks by the pool and insisting on adding the little umbrellas.

- Great Moments In Socialized Medicine:

"The babies born in hospital corridors: Bed shortage forces 4,000 mothers to give birth in lifts, offices and hospital toilets"

"'Cruel and neglectful' care of one million NHS patients exposed: One million NHS patients have been the victims of appalling care in hospitals across Britain, according to a major report released today."

As Mark Steyn says, "C'mon, America, let's make it happen! Let's do it for Teddy!"

- Speaking of Kennedy's death, I couldn't believe it when I was watching an NBC news update on the Weather Channel at 5 a.m. yesterday and the anchor starts off by shaking her head, saying, "What a terrible day for us all." Um, what? For his family, definitely. For Democrats, sure. But the rest of us? Eh, just another celebrity death with far too much news coverage. I doubt she expressed such grief on behalf of all of us when, say, Gerald Ford died, or heck, even when Ronald Reagan passed.

Teddy Kennedy was what was wrong with the Senate and Democrats for nearly 50 years, a mean S.O.B. who would defame Republicans with nary a wink and a nod to politics, and who escaped justice for letting his aide, Mary Jo Kapechne, drown in his car while he panicked about his precious career. Even Time magazine had to admit that Kennedy was a “Palm Beach boozer, lout, and tabloid grotesque.”

- Democrat Party headquarters in Colorado vandalized. Why those good for nothing anti-health care Republicans and their mobs ... oh, wait, it was a Democrat trying to make Republicans look guilty. Never mind.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I guess it's okay to play with girls' balls

I became the owner of three new golf balls while mowing the backyard Tuesday:

- An MC Lady (my research, i.e. Google, tells me it's made by Bridgestone Precept, and I can't blame a golfer chick for it necessarily because apparently it's also popular with men who don't generate much clubhead speed.)

- Something called a Srixon (the "s" is underlined)

- A Titleist with a FedEx logo.

Two of them were dangerously close to the house, and the other, well, the other actually wasn't on my property per se, but once a group came and went and didn't claim it near the out-of-bounds marker, I took ownership.

I was also almost hit for the first time by a stray ball. As I'm mowing near the neighbor's garden I hear a "tink!" and look over and see the white ball bounding up after striking one of the metal cage thingies and falling into the squash, ten feet from where I was obliviously unaware of projectiles missiling towards me.

You'll be satisfied to know that the golfer found his wayward ball, and in nodding with a grin, he seemed apologetic in that "Gee whiz, if I'd seen all 6-foot-4, 370 pounds of you mowing that really loud mower I would have yelled 'fore.'"

The front was still pretty flat, but shaggy, so basically I'm mowing just to rake the hundreds of flimsy leaves that fall off my trees like Quentin Tarantino kills Nazis.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Plan

Monday night we got a home visit from a dietitian who freelances with the healthcare group her Ob/Gyn uses to help Val set up a plan to battle her gestational diabetes.

Bonus points: The dietitian didn't criticize Val for her lack of veggies, merely suggesting alternatives and allowing Val to figure out what she could eat and what she couldn't. Which is good, because Val doesn't like most veggies, and frankly I'm not going to make her. I knew what she liked and didn't like when I married her, and it's not my duty to change her, am I right?

(Disclaimer: Val has every right to change my habits. I mean, really, do I have to tell the same jokes a million times? And who leaves the house without caring how wrinkled their clothes are?)

Taking it like a pro and without complaint, Val now has to prick her finger four times a day for 21 days, and was given all the supplies to do so, including a peachy keen electronic monitor that actually sucks the blood off her finger onto a little stick for a reading. Then Val has to call in the number to the group, which is keeping track. No word on if the Obamessiah himself will call down the authorities to pull the plug on the plan if Val isn't following closely enough.

Val also has to pee on those Ketone strips that are so popular with Atkins dieters, measuring carb intake. I had to laugh when the dietitian explained that it's not good when your body doesn't have enough carbs and must burn from fat instead.

Which, of course, is the entire point of the Atkins Diet, in between constipation and getting sick of eating sausage and green beans all the time. Yeah, I tried it in college. Even I couldn't stand to eat that much meat without veggies.

The basic point to Val's plan seems to be to keep her as hungry as possible all day long, because that's what's happening. Even though she eats something every two hours, it's never enough of a portion, so she's always anticipating the next unfilling meal.

One of the teachers at her work just told Val about her 12-pound son, courtesy gestational diabetes, so that may be all the motivation Val needs to stay with the diet plan. And the teacher had the baby naturally. Owie.

Speaking of, anyone want to revise their numbers for the Baby Valfrey Challenge after recent health revelations? I may not require all entries finished until the end of September, hoping Cooper isn't five weeks early, of course.

Place in this World

- WHAT I'M LISTENING TO. Michael W. Smith isn't just my favorite Contemporary Christian artist, he's my favorite singer, period. Not just for his hits but also his worship songs. Today in the car a song of his came on The Message channel on XM/Sirius, and I thought, "I sure don't listen to enough of his music regularly." So tonight while I'm on the computer for a few hours I made up a playlist of the albums I own (several hours worth) and am shuffling through them. Yeah, some of the stuff from the early 90s that I liked while in youth group is a bit cheesy, but what wasn't in that period?

- THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL FOR THE NEXT FIVE WEEKS. From on how John Smoltz went from lame-o in Boston to fame-o in St. Louis in the span of two weeks:
Smoltz's tenure with the Red Sox could not have gone much worse than it did. He gave up 25 runs in his last four starts before Boston pulled the plug, signaling what looked like the end of his career. So St. Louis rolled the dice on him and then quickly solved his pitching difficulties with a revolutionary training technique known as watching him pitch. (emphasis theirs)

Coaches noticed right away his foot was slipping off the pitching rubber, so they told him to stop doing that. Then starter Chris Carpenter noticed that Smoltz was tipping his pitches on the mound. So they told him to not do that either. The result? Five scoreless innings, no walks and nine strikeouts, including seven in a row. Was that so difficult?

In an interview with Dan Patrick today, Smoltz graciously did not blame the Red Sox for his sucking, nor did he point out that the Cardinals are eight games in front of their division while the Red Sox are 7.5 games down in theirs. I'm sure these many things are not related.
Great googly moogly. And here I thought that it was just because he left the American League for the National League. If this is true, then seriously, Red Sox, could someone make a note to, say, Clay Buchholz that he looks scared to death out on the mound and the opponents can smell fear from the plate? (Smells like tiny droplets of urine in his jock.)

- CIVIL LIBERTIES FOR TERRORISTS, NOT FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS: You remember the Valerie Plame kerfuffle? Here's a doozy for you that the Obamedia won't touch: "ACLU attorneys defending Guantanamo detainees illegally showed terror suspects photos of CIA personnel in an effort to implicate interrogators in acts of torture." I would imagine that's a no-no, eh?

- AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN TO YOU AS WELL. The Obamessiah, in trying to convert the Jews this week to his cause, wished a group of rabbis "shanah tovah," or happy new year in Gentile speak. Of course, Rosh Hashana is nearly a month away, but who's counting when our supreme leader has a vacation to attend on Martha's Vineyard? (By the way, you needn't guess what happened when Bush was a week early with a similar greeting two years ago.)

- THAT'S EFFED UP. Here's a Memphis Memories from August 21, 1884:
There were some lively proceedings in City Court yesterday, the most interesting case, according to a poll of the spectators, being that of a man who was arrested for whipping his wife because she refused to give him 25 cents to put in the contribution box at the church. He was fined the customary $10 for such activity.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fenway rules!

GO SOX! - finally came around to roasting Fenway Park in their Why Your Stadium Sucks series, and it's pretty much what you'd expect: Cramped seats, new wannabe fans and obnoxious fat guys with funny accents. Wait a minute, that last one sounds familiar ...

THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON. The Yale University Press is publishing a book about the Danish cartoons of that pedophile Muhammed that ignited a firestorm of hatred from the Muslim world, but out of fear of reprisals the book will not include the cartoons.

- MSNBC host Contessa Brewer freaked out that someone outside at a health care reform rally was carrying a gun, deciding that this meant that the protesters were racists, that "there are questions about whether this has racial overtones" because of a bunch of "white people showing up with guns." Oh, except the protester with the gun is black. Facts are stupid.

- CARE TO REPHRASE THAT? A headline in the Boston Herald advises: Docs: Treat sensitive redheads gingerly. "Ginger," of course, being slang - and not in a good way - for redheads.

- GLOBAL WARMING CLIMATE CHANGE WATCH: The outgoing leader of Greenepeace admits he makes stuff up to make money, such as telling people that the Arctic sea ice will melt by 2030 "it had survived much warmer periods in history than the present."

The Health Care Debate

The Obamessiah, the Greatest Public Speaker Ever, said that the health care divide was getting all "wee-weed up". White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reassures us that the president really just meant to call us all "bedwetters."

Caroline Baum on the president's blame game, and how he's hitting all the wrong targets.

I can't imagine where my girl, Sarah Palin, got the idea that the government would be rationing health care, essentially forcing doctors into running so-called "death panels." It boggles the mind. Oh, wait, found it. Here is what Obama himself said on this question in an April interview with David Leonhardt of the New York Times:
Obama: The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

Leonhardt: So how do you--how do we deal with it?

Obama: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now."

Some great moments in socialized medicine courtesy Mark Steyn: A young mother in England gave birth outside a hospital because the hospital wouldn't send an amublance to her home. In Ireland, a pregnant woman was told that she couldn't get her first prenatal checkup until she was 7 months pregnant.

Democrats argue this point by saying, "Yeah, but bad stuff happens here, too!" Yes, but when it happens here it's a private company and the government has oversight to fix the problem. When it's the government screwing up, then the Democrats will never, ever, ever, let an investigation look into nationalized health care negatives for fear of it biting them in the butt.

Harry Reid called town hall protestors "evil-mongers." Nancy Pelosi decided they were "un-American."

When will pundits decide in the future that Obama lost the battle? When he admitted that the U.S. Postal Service is a worse operation than private companies like UPS and FedEx.

Senator Barbara Boxer tried to dismiss town hall protestors by telling MSNBC's Chris Matthews that they were all too well-dressed. Later, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan takes a different tact to slander the protestors by saying they're a bunch of slobs

From the Daily Mail in the U.K.: "I deeply resent the Americans sneering at our health service - but perhaps that's because the truth hurts."

If you're one of those pesky people - say, just out of college or rich enough to afford to pay for health coverage without an HMO or the government - and Obamacare goes through, if you don't follow the leader then he may sic the IRS on you.

Finally, in case you believe the Obamedia who would like to debunk the idea that the pres is trying to institute a nationalized health care system, from 2003:
I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
What, me worry?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

No more duck hooks into the lake, okay guys?

All I'm going to tell myself about last night's embarrassing loss by the Sox to the Dang Yanks is that a 20-11 loss counts the same as a 2-1 defeat.

Just treat it like match play in golf. Lose a hole, shake it off, come back and win the next hole. I was pretty good at match play, so with that mentality you can forget any bad shots and move on confidently.

Of course, to continue the analogy, this would be five bad holes in a row against our hated rivals after eight wins against them this spring, so I think it's about time to end the streak, eh?

Admittedly I expected this to be a loss, with us starting Brad Penny, who has one win in his past 11 starts to go with a 6.37 ERA during that span. Then once Francona knew this was a lost cause he essentially told reliever Micahel Bowden, whom Boston recalled that morning to protect their bullpen, "Good luck, you're our sacrifice, now go get 'em!" He gave seven runs in two innings, and that may be all he sees the rest of his life. Thanks Michael!

Now, let's bring on some decent pitching and start over!

Oh, wait. We're starting Tazawa and they're starting Burnett. Never mind. Maybe it's a good thing we won't get today's game locally on Fox?

UPDATE - Never mind. The Sox rebounded with a rout of the Dang Yanks, 14-1, proving the adage, "If you want to prove Jeff wrong, it's not difficult." Go Sox!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mind of a Soon-To-Be Father: Nobody Told Me There'd Be Math

There are two things about getting through the 28th week: 1) We're solidly in the third trimester, and 2) Holy crap just a few months to go until Val and I are actual. you know, parental unit thingies.
On the first note, I'm pretty sure about being in the third trimester? Pregnancy Math is harder than Algebra, and I stunk at Algebra. I think Pregnancy Math goes something like, Val-squared times Jeff-squared equals Cooper-squared?
I'm a guy (thanks for not disputing that), so I may not be able to get this straight. Val's supposed to be gestating our mini Cooper for nine months, if my memory from health class serves (there was something about guy parts and gal parts and the end hanging out at Putt-Putt Golf & Games with friends if they shall meet).
And yet, according to the fifteen calendars that Val carries around, it's 40 weeks? Let me see ... nine times four ... carry the two ... subtract for spicy foods ... that's 10 months?
Except, the first two weeks she's not even pregnant. The math says to rewind back to her last period, which of course means that she's not pregnant at the time, hence the period. And my little guys attacking her egg didn't begin for another two weeks? So she's pregnant for about 38 weeks? I'm so confused.
I must unlearn what I have learned.
Speaking of math ...
Now that Val's been essentially diagnosed with gestational diabetes pending her doctor's authoritative word, not only is it time to watch her diet, but mine as well. I've certainly been watching my weight, only to see it go back up the last several months. How can I tell? When I wash my jeans they're so tight I have to do that thing where you walk around in them and sit down and get back up a few times to stretch them out. 
And so it is that I am getting back on Weight Watchers. I need to be a good example for my Darling Valerie. Really, I'm a terrible, terrible influence, buying cookie dough to splurge seemingly every Friday night, practically shoving ice cream at her while watching our shows ("Eat to be happy! You're not happy without extra calories!"), not encouraging her to ride the exercise bike, and happily ordering all kinds of badness (albeit that is sooo good) at restaurants.
Plus, I figure since my parents like to tell me how I, as a baby, started walking at eight months and they couldn't keep up with me for the next three years, I have about one year from now to get in shape to be able to handle Cooper. And by handle I mean "tether him to the couch in the living room."
Keeping Jeff Accountable
Starting Weight: 379
10 percent goal: 341

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pregnancy In These United States

More of the funny stuff I found at Reader's Digest:


While on duty as a nurse in the obstetrics department at the hospital, I was checking a young mother-to-be. "Is this your first baby?" I asked her.

"Yes," she answered calmly.

"Are you having any contractions or pressure?" I continued.

"No," she stated.

"Are you having any discomfort?"

Again the response was no. Laying my equipment aside, I said, "Honey, may I ask you why you're here?"

"Today is my due date!" she replied happily.


A group of Alaskan housewives had gotten together for morning coffee and, since several of us were pregnant, the talk drifted to babies and doctors.

One of the women announced that she was now going to a woman doctor. "At least," she said, "I'll be able to depend on my doctor being around during moose season!"


When my wife was about to have our first baby, we brought a tape recorder to the delivery ward to capture the sounds of the birth, the baby's first cry and our doctor's voice saying, "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" We intended to use the tape as a fun message on our answering machine to help announce the birth to friends and relatives.

My wife's labor went relatively smoothly and, when it seemed appropriate, I inserted the blank tape and began recording. Shortly thereafter, our baby was born and we all heard the first cry. The doctor held up the baby and, with tape rolling, loudly proclaimed, "Wow, will you look at the scrotum on him!"


A couple we know were in Lamaze class, where they had an activity requiring the husband to wear a bag of sand—to give him an idea of what it feels like to be pregnant. The husband stood up and shrugged, saying, "This doesn't feel so bad."

The teacher then dropped a pen and asked him to pick it up.

"You want me to pick up the pen as if I were pregnant?" he asked.

"Exactly," replied the instructor.

To the delight of the other husbands, he turned to his wife and said, "Honey, pick up that pen for me."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Good for change, but not for cleaning

- CAN'T THE OBAMESSIAH JUST WAVE HIS WAND?: This pretty much sums up what you need to know about the Obamedia and Democrat special interest groups during the years of Hope And Change ahead:
For years, the Bush administration was criticized for not cleaning up enough of the nation's most contaminated waste sites. The Obama administration plans to do even less. Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers railed against President George W. Bush's cleanup record. But this time, they're shying away from speaking out against a popular president who's considered an ally in the fight to clean up the environment.

- SOMEONE HAS A CRUSH: Check out the writing from the AP on Obama's trip out West, which is presented as a news piece, not labeled as analysis:
With the wonders of his country at his disposal, Obama did things that might seem a little out of his comfort zone. It's safe to say that this Hawaiian-born president has spent more time on beaches and in cities than he has in the mountains of the West.

But this is also a guy who clearly has a zest for recreation and a curiosity about the diverse nation he governs. He seems game for trying just about any sport or activity. And he appears intent on broadening his kids' interests and, perhaps, his own.

- WELCOME TO THE FUTURE: Memphis Memories from Aug. 18, 1934:
Doors that open when you walk up, that don't even have to be pushed, will make their first appearance in Memphis in a couple of days. The doors, controlled by an "electric eye," are being installed at the Pantaze Drug Store, Main and Madison, according to J.E. Cursey, manager. The only other such doors in the South are in Dallas.

- SOME PROBLEMS GO AWAY IN TIME: Memphis Memories from Aug. 15, 1934:
Small farmers and gardeners are besieging the city authorities with pleas for the manure and refuse now scraped off the city streets and dumped into the river. The farmers want the dirt to enrich their farms since the increasing cost of prepared fertilizers is pricing them out of reach of the small farmer and gardener. It is thought that the dirt thrown away by the city every year is worth $50,000.

- BOO HOO: The Dutch got all weepy and apoligizingy to these African descendants of a chief killed 171 years ago, supposedly to "right a historic wrong." The Dutch held a ceremony to return the severed head of the chief, while the ancestors all claimed to be personally hurt by the episode that, again, happened in 1838. I don't have much of a memory from that era, but I was hopped up on opium and trying not to get killed by Indians along the Mississippi River.

Oh, and why was the chief killed in the first place?

"The head was taken by Maj. Gen. Jan Verveer in 1838 in retaliation for Bonsu's killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose heads were displayed as trophies on Bonsu's throne."

Seriously. It's like if our government groveled to Mexicans whose ancestors were killed at the Alamo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Boo to Pregnancy Health Problems

My Darling Valerie failed her glucose test this morning, so now she'll have to deal with gestational diabetes, which is a little scary, having to adjust our food and exercise out of necessity to insure a healthy pregnancy for Val and a healthy Cooper. We'll be talking with her doctors and a referral specialist over the next couple of weeks to make sure we go about it the right way.

The test that she failed Monday morning, we hoped was a fluke because the books all say that it's normal to have a high score at first. But for the three-hour test this morning, after the second hour the nurse stopped then and there and said no need to go further, Val's results were too high.

It's not that Val has gone crazy with food. Her weight-gain is normal (19 pounds so far) and she even stayed the same since last month's appointment. She enjoys chocolate once in a while, but she hasn't been going overboard. We think it's all of the processed foods. Instead we need to make more things from scratch and cut down on instant mashed potatoes and frozen dinners. We'll certainly be organizing and analyzing the groceries from here and out, and hopefully the next few tests will show as much.

Overall, though, except for the normal back pain and being tired a lot, Val's been feeling fine and happy.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but for a few different reasons, and since we'd already decided that she'd be a stay-at-home mom for as long as possible, Val's quitting her job as of September 11th. So she'll be able to focus the last several weeks on nesting and getting ready for our mini Cooper to arrive!

Me? I'm cleaning out the nursery, getting ready to paint. The crib is in a big box in the living room (her Mom and Dad insisted on buying it as their gift), and we're ready to put it together so the room can start looking like an actual nursery! Very exciting!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Val's first baby shower!

Family from Val's Mom and Dad sides, plus her longtime friend Tracy, met up for her first baby shower, thrown by my Mom-in-Law, and many thanks to Stephanie and Glenn for letting them all congregate at their home and to Jan for help in the kitchen and sending out the invites.

Val had a blast and was so thrilled at all the unbelievably great and useful things for our mini Cooper, I think she just wanted to roll around in all the bags of adorable clothes and blankies!

Val felt good and spoiled by all the attention, as she should be as she's carrying our first little one! There were these little cakes that were delicious (oh yeah, my Darling brought me a couple), and Stephanie bought a gorgeous centerpiece, and there was plenty of food on hand:

Val's Mom made this fruit "baby carriage" that's just too cute:

Cousin Coley won whatever game this is that involves toilet paper?:

We're getting plenty of items along the lines of sports, which, of course, is right down our alley:

And lots of Pooh stuff, which is good because that the theme of the nursery (still not done!):

Five years on Blogger

Today's my five-year anniversary on Blogger. Wow how things have changed since then, eh? I mean, who knew that five years later I'd still be blogging constantly about myself, relationships, my family, the Red Sox and politics?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't give up and use the tarp, either

- Former Red Sox great Jimmy Piersall on how to diaper a baby:
Spread the diaper in the position of the diamond with you at bat. Then, fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher's mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again.

- From Memphis Memories for July 18, 1909, those Beavers mean business:
More than 5,000 youngsters are expected to have the time of their lives this week at East End Park when they will be guests of the Memphis Dam of the Beavers who will be hosts to every child in Memphis and especially the orphans. There will be plenty of food and lemonade and even two ambulances to take care of youngsters who eat or drink too much. For the boy or girl shamming sickness to get a ride in the ambulance a sound spanking is promised by the Beavers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thoughts while Val is at her first baby shower ...

- Friday night I had the fortune (misfortune?) of watching the MLB Network just as the Red Sox game was taken live in the 9th inning, Boston down 4-2. They pick up an easy run, and with Varitek on second, manager Terry Francona inserts skinny runt of a pitcher, Clay Buchholz, as a pinch-runner, running bases for what, the first time since high school? AL MVP Dustin Pedroia then hits a line-drive double off the wall in left field. Buchholz scores easily, right? Nyet. Somehow he got confused between second and third, watching the ball instead of his third-base coach, and gets thrown out at home plate.

Check out Francona's take on both his and Buchholz's blundering: “He did everything extremely well except he thought the ball got caught. He was in great position." Yeah, Tito, he did everything right, right up until he was thrown out at home by five feet. Varitek, who had just beaten out an infield single, could have been carrying Buchholz and scored from second on that double.

What was Francona's major clue that Buchholz wasn't ready for this? When he took off his jacket in the dugout when asked to go in and run, Buchholz was wearing the wrong jersey.

No matter, in the end, even as MLB Network stopped showing the game and only provided highlights as Francona was saved when Victor Martinez promptly doubled to score two runs, Jason Bay hit a run-scoring single and then J.D. Drew hit a two-run jack and the Sox ended up winning, 8-4, which was beneficial considering the Dang Yanks may never lose again and the Rangers are our primary competition for the wild card.

In other non-ranting news this Saturday ...

- Step one of ridding ourselves of The Comcast Menace is complete! This morning we had DirecTV installed in the living room and two of the bedrooms. (Cooper's nursery can do without, unless we desperately need something to watch during 3 a.m. feedings.) Next Thursday the bundle will be finished as AT&T installs DSL and we get a land-line again, something I haven't had in over five years. But since I never switched our cell phone numbers when we moved back from Atlanta (what, it's only been 2 1/2 years), it will be nice to have a 901 area code again.

There are only two problems with having DirecTV instead of Comcast: 1) No picture-in-picture anymore, and 2) No local radar channels. Oh, and it might be tough to find Cardinals games without buying the sports package, same for Tigers basketball games this winter. But other than that, we're excited to pay some $25 less for the entire bundle than we did for just internet and cable with Comcast.

- Only found one golf ball when mowing this afternoon, which isn't much of a reward considering it's 95 degrees outside. That, and one of the local dogs in the cove took a massive dump in our front yard, so thanks for letting them roam free, neighbors.

- CARE TO REPHRASE THAT? An article in The Commercial Appeal about prison basketball praised the players doing moves that "left defenders helpless." Isn't that kinda why they're there in the first place?

- Finally, the Vols may still not be able to beat Florida this year, but hey, they'll always have this picture of them shirtless in front of an orange Lamborghini. They then got oiled up and went to play beach volleyball before flying Navy jets.

Friday, August 14, 2009

When your dream was eaten by a dog

How can you not feel sorry for the R&B singer Wednesday night on "America's Got Talent?" He spends his entire life working on a dream of getting a shot to perform for the country and release a single on the radio, an album and fame. Wednesday night he found himself in fifth or sixth place in voting, out of 12, so the judges had to pick between him and ... a dog.

Yes, your life has come to this, on stage next to a dog who catches Frisbees. And then the dog act won. The singer should be kept away from booze and guns for the near future.

Admittedly, if it came down to choosing to go see a dog or some random R&B singer, I'd pick the pooch, too.

In pregnancy news, I think we can add to the list of things that are not my expertise: painting toenails. Val's reached the point to where she can't reach her toes easily, so I took on the task last night, and let's just say that I'm more Jackson Pollock and less Monet when it comes to my ability with the little brush.

That's after Val marveled at how it took me a half-hour just to remove the old polish. Hey, in my defense she has these teeny tiny adorable toes, and I already inflicted accidental pain when clipping her nails last week, so yeah, I was timid.

I will gladly chip in for a pedicure to fix the damage. And now she's probably scared to death that she can't shave her legs anymore, either.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jeff's Keys to Watching Chopped

One of our favorite shows on the Food Network, it's easy to find the trends that will make or break you as a choppedtestant:

- Out of four contestants, at least two foreigners happen to be on every show. One usually makes the final course, while the other gets bogged down by trying to incorporate flavors from their homeland that the judges don't think works. The Americans are too often arrogant a-holes.

- There's only one woman, and it's likely she'll have short hair and be a lesbian. She could also be a sassy New Yorker or a hippie vegetarian, but either way the women rarely make it to the second course, let alone the dessert round.

- Take a risk in the first round to prove that you have original ideas and even if it's not good they'll keep you around.

- Always clean the food! If there's poop in the shrimp, you're doomed.

- Chicken and pork must be cooked all the way through. You do not want to hear the dreaded, "It's too raw, I'm afraid to eat this." If you do, it's Goner City, population you.

- If you don't finish in the allotted time, it's very bad. Finish too early? Equally bad, because you could have spent your time perfecting the arrangement. 

- For example, a citrus zest is always a good addition if you have an extra 30 seconds.

- Bacon is never a bad thing. Even in dessert.

- If you use a spoon to taste your sauces, do NOT use that spoon again! In fact, you should probably chuck it to the other side of the studio, just in case.

- At a loss of how to use one of the goofier ingredients? Puree it! Or, reduce it!

- Balance the dish. Know when to go sweet and spicy and sour. Always make sure if it's a soft dish that you include something with crunch.

- Too many trips to the pantry is a sign of desperation, and the judges can sense it and criticize accordingly.

- Do not disappoint Alex Guarnaschelli, she is fierce! And she doesn't like women chefs. Cat fight! But if she's your biggest fan you can't lose.

- Sometimes they want you to defend your dish, other times they look at you like, "How dare you defend this mess!"

- On dessert, judges love a good fritter. Crepes are too easy, so dress it up.

- If you lose, during your walk of shame stop saying that you "should have won this easily" or "the other chefs are stupidheads." Sissified sore losers look like idiots.

- Host Ted Allen - former a queer eye - rocks. Treat him like your bestest friend forever, because he will talk with the judges during presentations.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today is Wednesday, August 12, 2009. Plan accordingly.

- On our Comcast digital guide, Fox dating show "More to Love" about big people and big love is in the category of ... wait for it ... seriously, this is legendary ... ... It's labeled under "Fitness." Oh yes. I kid you not.

- I will finally admit to you guys what you already knew, as someone whose life's work is in local television news, we run soundbites from the weirdest and dumbest people because we find it hilarious and it makes the newsroom and control room crack up. Well, that, and the reality is, tragedy and violence disproportionally affect the poorest and more uneducated of the masses than the rest of us who speak in understandable English and don't have, to borrow a popular phrase from a soundbite last year, "a mental delay."

- Imagine my pleasant surprise when I read this blurb in People's "What They're Reading" box a few weeks back, by Melissa Joan "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" Hart: "Peggy Noonan's "When Character Was King," about Ronald Reagan. I go to lectures at the Reagan library, so I have to be up on him!"  (Swoon!) (And yes, I occasionally peruse my darling wife's People magazines. Sue me. I like fluff.)

- At church a few weeks back, during the baptism after the sermon, a little girl slipped on the stairs down to the water (out of sight, but clearly audible). Her family in the section next to us? Laughed. Adults, kids alike, all 10 or so of them. Not kidding. I couldn't glare enough to make up for it.

And a note to First Baptist Millington staff, this happens almost every week nowadays. Could someone please put some kind of no-slip pads on the stairs? Instead of taking in a glorious moment of conversion, instead we're taking bets on how many time we'll hear a splash. Oh sure, I'm making good money off of it, but the pastor would probably consider that wrong.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jeff reviews "Julie & Julia," plus other notes

- I took Val to see Julie & Julia Monday afternoon, a film that is fun for people like us who enjoy watching the Food Network to see how great it looks to cook such fancy meals, but neither can't match the recipes nor do we have a tremendous desire to try it ourselves. We're mac & cheese folks, and fine with that.

Meryl Streep is simply delicious as Julia Child, the gregarious and excitable redhead cook who changed a generation of women in the kitchen, way before Martha Stewart even dreamed of committing stock fraud. Funny thing is, if you look at clips of Child herself, Streep is channeling what we think of Child as a pop culture stereotype. Which is fine. There's plenty of depth and truth to her story (and the funny voice is all there) without trying to go overboard in re-inventing the iconic cook for a new generation.

As Julia's hubby, Paul, Stanley Tucci plays it straight as the loyal lover to a bigger-than-life wife, letting her play among hobbies until she finds a true obsession as a French cook. The scene where he comes home to find her trying to master the art of chopping onions is hilarious, both in tears because of the stack of dozens of onions that she's gone through, and his completely understanding of why she's doing so.

Amy Adams is actually supposed to be the film's focus as Julie Powell, a married woman in a dead-end job who never made it as a writer but finds her inspiration during a year of making every recipe in Child's cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," all the while blogging about it. Val got a kick out of the talk between her and her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), as he supported her blogging though made sure she didn't go overboard. Because, golly, what kind of narcissist weirdo would just write about their lives, for better or meltdown, for anyone to read?

I've read a lot of criticism that the scenes with Amy Adams drag the film down, but I still found her to be charming and lovable as always, if not as bubbly as, say, in "Enchanted." It got a little weird the further she fell into the chick-crush she had on Julia, but hey, I watch Red Sox games and get a little too invested in whether Jonathan Papelbon has the look of a winner from night to night, so who's to judge?

I don't think you have to be a foodie to enjoy "Julie & Julia," and I don't think you even have to know the difference between Julia Child and Paula Deen (besides, both use more butter than is churned in Canada any given year). I think it's a lighthearted comedy with heart, and a tasty nibble of entertainment.

- I don't know who's voting, but anyone who thinks that root beer isn't the best flavor of Dum Dum pops, you're nuttier than a pecan pie!

- A couple of notes from the health care/town hall controversies surrounding Obamacare. First, from Jonah Goldberg:
For the record, I wish some of these protestors were a bit more civil. But I don't recall Nancy Pelosi declaring the Code Pink crowd "un-American." Moreover, if Pelosi and Hoyer had their way, these townhalls would be delivering a fait-accompli because the Democrats, starting with Obama, wanted their partisan version of health-care reform to be made law before the August recess. If they had won, there would be no debate, civil or otherwise, right now because they would have steamrolled the opposition already. So what are they complaining about?
Next up, from Mark Steyn:
Gotta love this "post-racial America": Democrat union heavies can beat up a black guy using racial epithets and leave him in a wheelchair unable to speak — and happily (unlike, say, a black professor being asked for picture ID) it's not "symbolic" of anything at all. Not a Sharpton in sight to speak up for him: Mr. Gladney's only shot at fame is an entry in The Guinness Book of Records under "Least Famous Black Hate-Crime Victim In America."

- Finally, a note of condolence to my big bro, Scott and his wife, Jenn. They had to put their 13-year-old pooch, Reagan, to sleep Monday morning as she was suffering from diabetes and cancer. Reagan was a big fluffy playful companion, and Scott and Jenn deserved many more years of walks with her. Val has lost five pets over her lifetime with her family, and says it never gets easy, nor should it. Here's hoping that our beloved pets meet us when it's all over down here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trying to make me look bad?

The neighbors on our right put up a privacy fence in the backyard to replace a smaller white picket fence, but they didn't put the fence up all the way around the side of the house this time.

Instead, they laid sod where it used to be stone. As a result, well, the fence used to block the sun and allowed leaves to build up, and grass doesn't grow well. With their new sod, let's just say that it exacerbates how dead the grass looks in my side yard!

So thanks for that, neighbors. You think if I blow on their grass towards my house I can get it to grow our way?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Taking our ball and going home

You know those ridiculous home security ads where the "intruder" always seems to look like Kirk Cameron instead of, you know, people who look like crooks? Well, even those make more sense than what just happened this week to the Red Sox.

I'm holding up surprisingly well in the face of the beatdown, a four-game sweep of the Sox to the Dang Yanks this weekend.

Sure, they didn't score for 30 innings, sure, they blew an actual lead Sunday night, sure, the most beloved player on the team is a big fat liar, sure, they had to drop a future Hall of Fame pitcher for amazing suckitude, but it's only August 9th, and before losing six straight to Tampa and New York they beat up Baltimore.

So bring on the weaker opponents, go back to Fenway and hopefully by October 1st the Sox will have figured out how to be decent teams.

Chickasaw 2009

Last month we took a trip to Branson, Missouri, with Val's folks as our summer vacation to make up for not going to Chickasaw State Park, which her Dad's side of the family had done since before he was a kid. Still, we couldn't resist, so we got a few cabins for this weekend for a mini-Chickasaw of sorts, hitting the hot spots (such as seen in our 2007 photo album): Swimming in the lake, walking along the bridge, Arnold's for dinner, playing poker until 2 a.m., getting fed breakfast by my Mom-in-Law, and in general, just enjoying being away from it all, even if it's only an hour away. So here are some pictures of all the relaxation (trying to ignore that the Red Sox are choking dogs in New York right now):

Friday, August 07, 2009

Jeanine is your favorite dancer, America

Unfortunately, the Red Sox game against the Dang Yanks was on the MLB Network last night, and unfortunately I got to watch for myself to see how bad John Smoltz has been this year. Future Hall of Famer, veteran leadership, blah blah blah, it looked like he was telling the hitters in pinstripes what was coming, that's how easily they were smacking around his pitches. Capital U, Ugly, as a 3-1 lead gave way to a 9-3 deficit in the fourth.
Meanwhile, on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN WIN SEASON FIVE, it was finale results night, and what Val predicted to me two months ago came to fruition as Jeanine won the whole shebang. I guess I was in denial, thinking that she only stuck around to the top ten because of Phillip's popularity, but maybe he only stuck around as long as he did because of her?
Anyway, I still think Melissa should have won it all, and my runner-up choice, Kayla, got the boot first last night, so what do I know?
The highlight was watching the so-called favorite dancers of the choreographers and judges. I say "so-called" because I'm sure a few were left out due to the lack of props, heavy makeup (the crash-test dummies dance) and lack of stairs on the Kodak Theater set, which I think doomed the chances of seeing our favorite dance of the season, that jazzy robbers dance with Janette and Brandon. And then, they let that duo do their disco, when Melissa and Ade's disco was one of our top 3 of the season. Obviously Team Valfrey and the SYTYCD team disagreed.
But hey, at least we got to see Randi and Evan reunite for their "butt dance!"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Almost done!

In the small window of our picture-in-picture last night we had the Red Sox-Rays game on, at least until it became so frustrating that I turned it off most of the time. Oh sure, my guys just swept Baltimore, but now they just got swept in two games by the Rays, and have four games at New Dang Yank Stadium, a.k.a. The House A-Fraud Built, which may be just what Boston needs. After all, the Sox are 8-0 against the Evil Empire this season, am I right? At least Brad Penny won't be starting there, so that he can continue his bad habit of giving up two runs for every one that his teammates score.
Meanwhile, in Really Important News, is Paula Abdul really gone from "American Idol?" Last summer when we found out that the show added Kara we figured this time would come, but I still wonder if it's all a contract ploy. If she does go I'll be a little upset. I'd actually rather have crazy Paula and her entertainment value than fake, overeager and unfunny Kara.
And now, the penultimate episode of season five of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN AVOID DIRTY OLD NIGEL, this week at the Kodak Theater so that they can try to capture that Idol magic without the pesky pressure of having 30 million viewers.
The final four start us off with a Wade routine, which is about cheerleaders and jocks, and yet none are zombies or Cajun vampires. Go figure. "Rah rah ree, kick 'em in the knee! Rah rah rass, kick 'em in the other knee!" This opening number also fulfills the apparent contractual obligation to play at least one Lady Gaga song per show this summer. (Last year it was the Black-Eyed Peas.)
JEANINE & EVAN - Their first pairing of the season is a Sonya jazz routine, and it made them look good, at least. It's also Nigel's first chance to play down Evan and his droopy eyelids and start playing up Jeanine as The Most Awesome Dancer In The Whole Freakin' Entire World to try and keep Evan's ardent fans from, you know, voting for their favorite dancer.
KAYLA & BRANDON - They get a Broadway number by Tyce, and it's high-energy, frantic and strobey. Adam points out another reason Kayla should win, there's nothing she can't do!
EVAN & BRANDON - The guys are pitted against one another to Janet Jackson's "Nasty," a pop jazz number by that choreogpher woman who insists on wearing those stupid pink headphones around her neck that aren't attached to anything. Gimmick, anyone? Do you think I could get away with walking around with a putter sticking out of my pants all the time? Anyway, it's another nowhere near as good as last season's awesome Russian dance with Joshua and Twitch, and just a chance for everyone to talk up Brandon at the expense of poor Evan.
KAYLA & JEANINE - The ladies aren't pitted one in competition, but Mia gives them a fairly dull piece about "a journey" or something that at least has the benefit of them taking off layers of clothing as they go. This makes Nigel The Perv happy, though not as much as if the piece were about, oh, 30 seconds longer. Either way, both dancers disappeared in the dance, in my opinion, and it helped neither but hey it was another chance for the judges to tell Mia that her crap don't stink.
KAYLA & EVAN - Wow, a jive to Travis Tritt's "T.R.O.U.B.L.E.?" I don't know if it was brave or foolhardy, but yee-haw I had a good time! Kayla looked especially good, and then Adam criticizes the choreography as not finale-worthy. I start to see what he means when the next two are up ...
JEANINE & BRANDON - If I were the conspiracy nut I would think that the show teamed them up with a powerful Paso doble to make sure they end up in the top two, because even though the music gave me a headache it's tough to mess this up, especially by two very talented performers.
In their solos, Brandon is half-naked and very dramatic again, Jeanine is elegant and classy, Evan does his timeless Fred Astaire impression and then gets ripped by the judges for being popular and Kayla is perfection. At the risk of sound too much like Nigel The Perv, Kayla doesn't have long legs nor is she that tall, and yet when she dances her legs look seven-feet long. She captivates me as a dancer, is what I'm getting at.
Who will win tonight? Val says Jeanine. I have no idea, and I don't even think I have a guess. I kind of say that the entire season's narrative (designed by the show) has been leading to a Brandon win, but it depends on how the girls and Evan split the votes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oh yes, it is Hump Day

Found two golf balls mowing the yard yesterday, which is getting old. Mowing, I mean, not finding golf balls. I really need to set up a lemonade stand/ball shop at the end of my yard. Anyway, I'll take it the mowing, since the alternative is that it's so freaking hot that the grass dies and I don't have to mow but every few weeks.
Instead, we had a wet July and the coolest in decades (that's the good part), so I have to mow once a week and even then the crapgrass or whatever makes up my lawn is so high that if I don't raise the blade the mower stalls. For every inch of rain that falls, the grass grows double.
While you marvel at how my yard is a melting pot of various weeds and wild grasses that is at least green and flat once freshly shorn, you'd also notice a patch of grass that is unmowed in the backyard. There is an ant hill dwelling there and I didn't feel like battling those suckers yesterday, no matter how much fun it is to run over the mound and watch them freak out.
On the Baby Cooper beat, Tuesday afternoon Val and I went to the UT Health Science Center offices for our first visit to take part in their CANDLE Research Study. We thought it would be cool to be part of a study (with about 1,500 of our closest pregnant friends in Shelby County) that would measure Cooper's development from birth to three-years-old.
That, and they give us gift cards along the way. That doesn't hurt. But "doing it for research" sounds better than "gimme freebies!" We get Wal-Mart gift cards of different amounts for two office visits before the birth ($50 and $35, respectively), another in the hospital when they collect all the gross stuff that comes out with Cooper ($50), two home visits ($35 apiece) and three office visits when Cooper is 1, 2 and 3 ($100 apiece).
Sure, we'll feel a little judged when they come to Valfrey Estate and check the living environment like an episode of "House" when they go to the house of the odd-patient-of-the-week and find harmful bacteria or something, but it's for science. And Val was a little embarrassed when the researcher asked about her diet, going through all these screens of the food she eats and she basically had to say, "Yeah, all that good stuff? You can skip it." Hey, she takes her vitamins, drinks V8 and tries not to overeat the sugary goodness, so I think she's doing just fine.
It's only an observational study, too, because other than giving a blood sample do you really think I'd subject Val to being poked and prodded like that evil little needle ball that Vader uses to interrogate Princess Leia in "Star Wars?"
I was so sad when, on the way home, we stopped at Sonic because all she really wanted was a cherry slush, and she was so disappointed when the cherry flavor was weak and lacked any punch whatsoever. My poor darling. So yes, when she called later that evening as I was at AutoZone replacing a bulb on my car and asked for a hot fudge sundae, do you think I turned her down? Not a chance. Pregnant Val gets what Pregnant Val wants!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tuesday's tidbits

- There are 144 days until Christmas!

- The government can't figure out how to get enough money for a Cash for Clunkers program, and now the Obamessiah wants to run 1/7th of the nation's economy and tell you how to get your health care?

- HEADLINE I: Mexico shuts Cancun beach, alleges sand was stolen

Okay everyone, stop! Check your shoes and your butt cracks!

- HEADLINE II: Gay police officers who had baby are both still ‘married’ to other men

Marriage ain't what it used to be.

- HEADLINE III: “Hooker Named Lay Person of the Year”

Looking back, it seems so obvious.

- Piece this together: 21 Movie Posters Recreated with Lego

- Life was different back then, seen in Memphis Memories from Aug. 2, 1909:
Fire Chief Neely Sullivan has supplied himself and his aides with large megaphones and at the next big fire they will demonstrate this up-to-date way of giving instructions to their men by climbing atop ladders and shouting their orders.

This one's from July 31, 1884:
The good people of Bolivar, Tenn., will be treated to a public hanging next week when a murderer is strung up. He has confessed the crime and said that he walked eight miles to commit it, blaming jealousy.

One more, from July 30, 1884:
About a dozen members of the Memphis Bicycle Club had a delightful run last night from Adams and Second through the southern portion of the city, taking the dirt streets as practicable since they furnish the easiest riding. Nearly all the members now have excellent control over their wheels and the horses are becoming so used to seeing them on the streets that they scarcely raise their heads any more.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Let's Go See A Show! My Branson Vacation Travelogue

(Want to see the pictures first? Go here!)

I admit that being a lifelong Memphian with a fine history of exploring the Mid-South region, when thinking of hot and hip vacation spots in the area, it never occurred to me to go to Branson, Missouri. In my young and super cool mind, it was a place for geezers to watch old-timey country western shows, and even though I watched "Hee Haw," I wasn't sure it was worth spending a week there.

Yes, Branson is a place where old folks go to see old-timey country western shows. But wait, there's more! It turns out that I married into a family that has made many trips to the little town in the Ozarks, and indeed there is plenty to offer, including a variety of shows playing in 50 theaters, family activities including almost as many miniature golf courses, shopping, restaurant chains out the wazoo and in that outdoorsy place it appeared many enjoyed the surrounding lakes for boating, fishing and whatever people do outside while I'm inside in the A/C in the summer.


The trip's participants include me and Val, her parents, Glenn and Carol, sister Cheryl and hubby Randy, and her Mammaw. My father-in-law, Cheryl and Randy took one car, and we rented a Buick Lacrosse, which is supposedly a full-size but without leg room in the backseat or trunk space. Other than that, though, it served a purpose and I had enough leg room, driving the whole way there and back, but I like that sort of thing, complete control, speeding along, controlling the radio (er, with Val's permission, of course). Everyone else gets to relax and I only occasionally wandered over to those noisy grooves on the shoulder of the road that always wake me up from a needed nap.

Our cabin at the Thousand Hills Resort in town was both sweet and sour. There was plenty of room, the back porch was screened-in to make for pleasant evenings and mornings outside and the kitchen came with all of the necessary appliances. Also a bonus, the shower upstairs had two big rain showerheads and the downstairs bath had a jacuzzi tub. However, there were only two bathrooms, and one upstairs, so while Cheryl and Randy slept in the loft, they had to share our bathroom and come through our bedroom. Did I mention Cheryl's tiny bladder? Not that I was ever awoken by foot traffic, but Val had to wake up to empty her pregnant bladder frequently also, so she never gets a full night's sleep.

In the morning we had to tiptoe around the late sleepers in the loft or on the couch, but the smells and noises of breakfast usually roused them anyway. Val's mom made full breakfasts of pancakes, sausage, biscuits and bacon, so much so that we were rarely hungry for lunch a few hours later.

After dropping off our bags we had barely enough time to change out of sloppy travel attire before skedaddling to dinner before our first show. A buffet was decided to be quicker than a sit-down dinner, so we headed to the Golden Corral (the world's largest!), which was packed with long lines and resisting the urge to smack people's hands who tried to sneakily reach for food in front of you.

That night we went to the big show of the weekend, the one our Branson fans were looking forward to most, Shoji Tabuchi. If there's one show to see that is headlined by a Japanese violinist who loves country music and still has a thick Jackie Chan-like accent even after 30 years in the States, this is it.

I wasn't sure what to expect, really, certainly not a flashy Vegas show or a professional and elegant Broadway show, just good down home folksy fun with some singing and dancing, and that's what you get. That, plus a pair of the best restrooms in the nation. The men's room has a billiard table, black onyx sinks, the women's' room, I'm told, is full of flowers and jeweled chandeliers. For real.

The show is more of a variety show, full of props and lighting (blacklights and neon are featured), surreal sometimes like the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. I did not photograph the Hawaiian belly dancers for my own safety as a married man with a wife whose belly is ballooning.

The Shoj plays the violin for most of the numbers, backed up by an orchestra and a troupe of entertainers who look and act like every Glee Club or theater major in your high school who was just a little too eager to perform on stage. They're now all in Branson, the whole of 'em. At first I wasn't sure what to think, since they aren't really great dancers, but you have to take the show as a whole. The entertainers have a lot of hard work to do throughout the whole show, through a good 12 costume changes, learning how to twirl a rope for a cowboy number, square dance, play Japanese drums (my favorite part) and before the show they come out and have a fun Mardi Gras bit with giant puppets and run all around the crowd to pump up the audience.

The show, his 20th anniversary in Branson, is a montage of music styles, starting with Big Band, early rock and roll, country, his homeland and then a Broadway tribute. In between he'll talk with the audience, telling jokes that are both funny and corny, at least from what I could understand through his accent.

During intermission they wouldn't let my father-in-law get an autograph while Shoji talked with others in the audience. I suggested we kidnap him after the show. They get away with it in the movies, am I right? Everyone else, however, wanted to get back to the cabin that night instead of going to the pokey in a paddy wagon, or whatever the fuzz does in Branson. (Maybe they have a place to tie your horse?)

This is the most popular show, so much that I'm pretty sure I even saw a black guy, and he was there on his own accord (meaning, not part of a baseball or basketball team in town for a tournament). I know! Diversity rules!

Seeing as how we didn't have any time to relax between checking in and heading out for the evening's entertainment, we still had to go to Wal-Mart for provisions. Trying to get there at 9:30, as all 50 of the theaters in town were letting out? Bad idea.

After it took an hour just to get to the Wal-Mart a few miles away, every trip from then on was designed to avoid the main drag, Highway 76, through Branson. There are few outlets and constant traffic, so it's jam after jam all day long. It was a parking lot, only with less room to move and a better chance of bumping into pedestrians walking next to traffic distracted by giant cones of custard.

Back in the cabin that evening, one of the highlights of the trip had nothing to do with Branson and everything to do with the joys of Val being pregnant. While reading to Cooper via Val's tummy I was able to feel him move for the first time. It was a bit unexpected how obvious it feels to have a tiny foot poke her skin from the inside. I mean, not that I expected to feel like rumbly tummy after Taco Bell or look like "Alien" with the thing coming out of the stomach, but it's cool nonetheless.


Friday was a day for Val and I to explore Branson for ourselves, enjoying the almost-fall-like temperatures and abusing the engine of the rental car, speeding up and down the hilly roads like riding a roller coaster. With the roads outside of Hwy. 76 given names on the tourist maps like Blue Route and Red Route and Yellow Route, it's like an amusement park. And yes, there is funnel cake. From maps you can't get a sense of just how hilly the city is, and we'd love to come back for Christmas shows but if it's icy or snowy that would be next to impossible.

We started out at Branson Landing downtown by Lake Taneycomo, walking the boardwalk, strolling down the shops, eating lunch at Bar Louie's on the patio over the water.

We decided to go swimming for a little while, but the outdoor pool for the cabins is teeny tiny and it was full of tykes. The resort has an agreement that we can swim indoor in a hotel down the street as well, so we tried that instead. Which was fine, except for the obnoxious teens (one buy and two girls, equally hopped up on hormones). They were comparing cannonballs, racing back and forth, and even when I would stretch out from Val to establish our own space they would knock into me with nary an "excuse me." Please tell me I had more respect as a kid. Now I know why our old recreation club had a ten-minute "adult swim." Not to let the kids rest, but to let the adults have the pool to themselves without getting kicked or splashed constantly. Am I told old to be grumbling about "those young'uns and their rock 'n roll music"?

That evening we dropped off Val's parents and Mammaw to see Noah The Musical, which sounded cool, what with all the animals running down the aisles. We were enjoying time to ourselves too much, though, so we set off again.

I have to remember that when Val says she's getting hungry, it means that she is hungry, right then, and needs food immediately, and if she says she can feel her bladder getting full, it means she needs to go to the bathroom right then, immediately. I am of the mindset that when I say I'm getting hungry or have to go to the little boys' room that I have a good hour or two before I really care, but I'm not pregnant, and Val rarely says what she means because I should be able to figure out what she's saying if I really love her, so I'm not only learning to be a mind-reader as a husband, now I'm having to be a mind-reader as a husband to a pregnant wife!

So anyway, I finally settled on Shogun for dinner, which became quickly obvious that it is not affiliated with the Hibachi restaurant of the same name near us. It was a Japanese steak house, sure, but not nearly as clean or organized, and the food was questionable in preparation and taste. The rice was actually crispy. And I ordered a second helping ahead of time but barely got any extra, so I know of what I speak. The cook served all of us who ordered steak at the same time, even though I ordered mine well-done, the guy to Val's right ordered his medium, and the couple to my left both ordered theirs medium-rare! You can guess that mine was not pretty in pink. Admittedly, a so-so meal at a Hibachi restaurant is better than meals at most any other chain, so I can't say that I didn't shovel my food down my throat as fast as possible.

As the sun was setting over the hills we stopped at one of the ten-per-square-mile miniature golf courses in town. This was surprisingly our first time playing mini golf together. I guess that happens when your courtship is about, oh, six weeks before you get engaged and married, and most of that time is spent staring googly-eyed at one another over your Maggie Moos ice cream. I shot a 42, one-over-par, to Val's 53, which really wasn't bad since it was one of those tougher mini courses full of waterfalls and steep-hilled holes. Oh, who am I kidding. I came, I saw, I kicked her butt! Boo-yah! Who rocks your world, Sweetheart!

Once Noah let out and the audience filed out two-by-two, we all went to B.T. Bones for dinner for them, an appetizer for me and a dessert for Val. In absence of their dogs I finished off my mom-in-law's steak as well. I hope we didn't offend the live singers by requesting a move to the very very back after being seated up front at first. We like to chit-chat. Not that someone singing in a steakhouse should be offended. There was a live singer at the Golden Corral the night before, too. I hope it pays at least a little, because telling everyone how you moved to Branson and "Now I sing at the world's largest Golden Corral for tips" won't exactly earn accolades of "You finally made it!" on your Facebook status page.


Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, we found out that Cheryl had made sure Randy had a good life insurance policy as he took a mysterious tumble at the bottom of the stairs, spraining his ankle and rendering him on the injury list (Ankle-Pushed) for the rest of the day. It didn't prevent him from getting out, though the triathlon was out.

That afternoon we went to the only other show attended as a full group, a tribute to Broadway. Like Shoji two days before the theater was less than half full, but with 100 shows I guess they can't all be sold out.

The entertainers went through about a dozen costume changes and performed ditties from at least that many Broadway shows from the decades, including "Oklahoma," "A Chorus Line" and a couple I've never heard of but did recognize the songs. The lead woman only did one solo from "Les Miserables" ("I Dream a Dream," same as Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent") and they surprisingly did nothing, nada, zip from "Phantom of the Opera."

Again, the performers are just mostly good and fun to watch, but you have to take it as a whole that they have so many different routines to remember and they're out there for almost two straight hours jittering and jiving for our entertainment. Also, apparently these dancers all work for the theater since they also star in the other two shows there, Spirit of the Dance and the Twelve Irish Tenors (I think they really only need eight or nine, but one dozen looks better on paper). We decided that the self-described "international" dance troupe was actually trained in Irish dancing but learned Broadway, not the other way around.

Much of my attention was spent trying not to get caught watching the girl dancers and thus figure out the stereotype of the tall blonde guy, the most recognizable of the 20 or so on stage. It started out as a joke about him standing out and looking like the blonde German in "Die Hard," then he put on a brown wig and looked like superstud nephew Cody's friend Kevin, and then it turned out that he could sing, was the best male dancer and definitely the strongest of them all. Go figure. And all that time I figured him as the TV-movie-of-the-week type as the quarterback who cries to his father, "But I want to dance and sing!"

The key to watching it with an interested eye is with fellow fans of So You Think You Can Dance, trying to match routines with the choreographer you think would have put together such a piece. It's easy to say that Tyce would do all the Broadway numbers, though there were a few tougher pairings that could have easily been Mandy Moore's.

After dinner at Lonestar Steakhouse, my in-laws went back to the same theater to see Spirit Of The Dance, a Riverdance-type show, while Val and I relaxed in the cabin's jacuzzi tub, albeit without the jets on because supposedly that's a no-no for pregnant womenfolk. When Val got out I did turn on the jets for myself for a few minutes, which she said was fine. Was it? I mean, she said it like, "Please, go ahead and do all those things that I can't do, just because you're a guy and can't carry your own child with a need to protect the baby inside, I'm okay with all of it." Seems like a green light to me!


Up at the crack of 7, out the door an hour later, zipping up and down the Ozark hills, forgetting that my mother-in-law and Mammaw were in the backseat as I abused the rental car and whipped around every curve like it was a go-cart at Putt-Putt.

Except for the dead battery that kept Val's mother and grandmother at our house for an unexpected hour, all were back in the comforts of home by 3 o'clock. We enjoyed our local Mexican restaurant for dinner, caught up on a few shows on the DVR, and then it was early to bed, early to rise, Val went back to work and I, alas, had to return the rental early Monday morning.

If I have any final thoughts on the trip, it's that Branson is good clean family fun, with better weather in the summer, entertaining shows that are much cheaper than Vegas or New York, plenty of your favorite foods, plenty of places to stay, all kinds of options to play, and only six hours away. Good times.

(So you didn't cheat and see the pictures first? Then you shall be rewarded here!)