Monday, July 31, 2006

Are We There Yet?

'Tis almost vacation time... and not a minute too soon.

Time for us to go away and spend some concentrated family time, sleep late, swim, hang out with Mickey Mouse & company, visit with friends that we haven't seen in a long time, and generally chill.

As usual, the last few weeks before vacation can be fraught with lots of irritation. Things like visits to/from parents and or in-laws; trees coming down in the yard; insane deadlines happening at work; bad employees that decide to take "emergency" leave when they have deadlines to meet; etc... What a pain in the ass!

Looking on the bright side, no matter what pisses me off, the clock won't stop ticking, and I will be Florida-bound this Friday morning.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Game They Play In Heaven

In many of my posts, I have made reference to the fact that I am a rugby fan and that I believe that compared to rugby all other sports pale in comparison. I have never discussed WHY I enjoy rugby as much as I do. So... With your kind indulgence, today's post will be about "The Game They Play In Heaven".

Most Americans never have any exposure to rugby, and those that do primarily see it as some sort of weird, not-quite-normal football game. I'd like to take a moment to dissect the game and make it make more sense to you.

To begin, let's take a little trip back in time to 1823, at a place called Rugby school, in Warwickshire, England.

Legend has it the during a soccer game (the Brits call it football) at the school, a student named William Webb-Ellis, picked up the ball and started running with it. This caused the other boys to chase him down and tackle him, and rugby football was born.

Basically the story is a myth, but what is true is that the game that later evolved into rugby began there. Lets see what has happened in the years since.

Soccer is the father of rugby, and rugby begat North American football, Gaelic football and Australian rules football, but I digress.

As the British Empire grew and grew, it's games went with it, which is why soccer is so popular the world over. Rugby is less popular because for so much of it's history, it was the game of the middle and upper classes. Rugby was (and to a much smaller degree today) a "gentleman's game" while soccer was the game of the working class. Indeed rugby didn't enter the professional era until just ten years ago!

In rugby, the game has two 40 minute halves, separated by a 20 minute halftime interval, that are played without timeouts except for injuries. The two teams on the field consist of 15 players, all of whom play offense as well as defense.

There are five different ways to score in rugby, and they are:

Try: A try is scored when a player moves the ball onto or across the goal line, touches the ball to the ground and applies downward pressure, with no part of the player's body is "In-Touch" (out of bounds). The try is where American football derives the term "touch-down". A try is worth 5 points.

Conversion: A conversion kick happens after a team scores a try. The kick is made 22 meters from the goal line, in a direct line from whatever part of the goal area the try was scored. So, if a try is scored at the goal line, but right near the sideline, the conversion kick will be made from 22 meters out, but on the sideline itself. As a result the kickers must be adept at kicking with either foot, often at an extreme oblique angle. A conversion is worth 2 points. So a "converted try" is worth 7 points, sound familiar?

Penalty kick: A penalty kick can be taken after a penalty, although the team that benefits from the penalty has the option of restarting play without kicking for the goal. The penalty kick will be taken from the point of the infraction. A penalty goal is worth 3 points.

Drop Goal: A drop goal can be made from anywhere, even while the ball is in play and being contested. The drop goal takes place when a player drops the ball to the ground and after the ball touches the ground, he (she) kicks the ball over and through the goal posts. A drop goal is worth 3 points. Drop goals are exciting, albeit rare.

Penalty Try: A penalty try can be awarded by a referee if a defender gives an intentional infraction which would certainly have prevented a try from being scored. Again, fairly rare. A Penalty try is also worth 5 points.

If this sounds confusing, don't sweat it... it is easy to figure it out while watching.

Another important facet of the game is that although players are allowed to pass the ball, the ball must be passed in a backward direction. That's right, no forward passing. Oh, and no blocking for the runner either... s/he will just have to use speed, finesse or raw power to avoid being tackled to the ground.

Should a team want to move the ball forward by air, that will have to be done by a kick. You can kick the ball forward to one of your own players, but the recieving player cannot be forward of the ball when it is kicked or that player is "offside".

Players on a rugby team are divided into Forwards and Backs, all of whom play on the field at the same time.

The Backs and Wingers are much like American football backs and recievers. These are usually the more slender speedster-types that run like the wind. The object is to get the ball to these guys to do some broken field running and to score tries. Some of the most notable Wingers in the world of international rubgy today are: Doug Howlett (NZ), Joe Rockocoko (NZ), and Bryan Habana (South Africa).

The Forwards tend to be built more like me. Heavier, stonger guys that are made for physical confrontation but are much less fleet-of-foot. These are the guys that are up front, battling for the ball in the scrum, ruck, and maul. Some of the most notable forwards in international rugby today are: Andrew Sheridan (England), Rodney "Rod-zilla" Blake (Australia), and Jacobus "Os" (Ox in english) DuRandt (South Africa).

The game begins with a kick-off, much like our game, but once it starts there is no timeout after a tackle.

Once a tackle is made, the tackled player must release the ball, and may not play the ball again until he is on his feet.

After a tackle the "ruck" is formed. This happens as the players from the team in possession form a shell over the tackled player so that they may pick up the ball and continue to advance. The opposition, at the same time, try to push and pull the other players away from the ruck, so that their team can contest for possession. Players may also use their feet to dig for the ball if it is being intentionally covered by the team in possession.

If a player has the ball and is tackled, but not taken to the ground, his own teammates can bind around him (hold him up) and continue to advance while the opposition may bind around the tackler and push back. This is called the "Maul".

The last thing I want to tell you about is the "Scrum". The scrum or scrummage takes place when play needs to be restarted for some reason. The forwards (numbers one through 8), on the signal from the referee, push back and forth as the scrum-half of the team in possession puts the ball into the scrum.

I know this sounds like a lot, and there is a lot, but to tell you the truth, rugby is much less complicated that our football, and more importantly, much more exciting, as the play is almost continuous.

If you are interested in seeing some good rugby on televison, you might want to try your local sattelite provider (I have Directtv) and see if they carry Setanta sports... this is an Irish sports channel that carries rugby from the UK, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as international competitions including the upcoming 2006 Women's Rugby World Cup, and 2007 Men's Rugby World Cup.

Rugby is a fast paced, hard hitting, exciting game that is free of grandstanding and showboating. Rugby is a game where teamwork is paramount, Rugby is a game where people that fail drug tests wind up out on their backside for two entire years for their first offense. Rugby isn't for the meek. It takes courage and strngth of character to play. Rugby is a game played by men as well as women. Rugby is a game of international competition.

It is passionate, it is infectious, and I love it.

Geez, this post is longer than I wanted it to be.


Monday, July 24, 2006

My Labors

Well! That was interesting. Is it Monday already?

My weekend went by in a blur, but I am rather pleased at what I was able to accomplish.

I got most of my tasks done, except for powerswashing the deck. I got behind schedule while I was laying out Susan's new flower bed (Do you have any idea how many trips to Lowe's you have to make for soil and mulch when you drive a Mercury Sable?).

Thursday and Friday went well enough, but Saturday was the real kicker. I got started first thing in the morning @ 7:30. Just me and my Ipod... I trimmed the boxwoods waaay back, and manicured the azalea hedge that is in front of it. I then cut back our two wayward rose bushes. Getting all of that done enabled me to get at the vines (Virginia Creeper and Ivy... Some was poison Ivy) that were starting to choke the hedges and roses. After all of that was done, I went to Lowes for garden soil and mulch.

Aside: It's a damn shame when you have to go and BUY dirt!

I loaded my trunk with 5 bags of garden soil, @ 3 cubic feet per bag, and 4 bags of shredded cypress mulch, @ 2 cubic feet per bag, and urged my car towards home. Once I got there, I unloaded the car and spread the soil in the nicely prepared bed (already dug out and lined with anti-weed cloth) , and then mulched it.

I knew it wasn't going to be enough, so I decided to take a break and then go back to Lowe's for another load... but first, I was going to take a bit of a break. I rewarded myself by watching most of the first half of the South Africa v. New Zealand rugby match that I had recorded live at 3:30 that morning. Bad news for New Zealand... South Africa scored a try in the opening 14 seconds of the match! Fortunately, they rebounded and were doing quite well by the time I was off to Lowe's again.

I went through the garden section and got the same things again and while I waited to pay (there was only one checkout person) I realized that I smelled like a used horse! Geesh!

I drove home and finished my project!


It was 1:30 and I was done...

Or, so I thought.

While I was doing the aforementioned work, I noticed some nasty (and large) roots from our late lamented tree that were just at the surface of what is left of our lawn. I got out my trusty two-pronged hoe (that's "hoe" as in garden implement, not "'ho" as in Britney Spears). And dug around that sucker. It was huge! Since I was doing some digging, I figured I would get at a few more semi-submerged roots so I dug out a few more. Once I was done, I went into the basement and delved into my collection of tools and got out my hatchet and went to work. It took nearly an hour, but I got some very large roots out of the yard that would have undoubtedly caused me some problems when it is time to sod my lawn in September.

Um... did I mention that while I was doing this work it was getting hotter, and hotter, and hotter? Well, trust me, it was. I stayed hydrated as best I could, with frequent trips to the 'fridge for aqua fria (cold water, for those of you that don't habla... big points if you get the movie reference).

I figured I had done all I was capable of doing for the day, without making a heat casualty out of myself.

Aside: If you have never suffered from heat exhaustion, trust me when I tell you that it is something to be avoided.

I cleaned up the yard, sidewalk, and walkway and got inside the house at just about 4:00. I finished watching the game, which New Zealand won 35 to 17. (See Rugby news and results here:

Feeling virtuous, I decided to get cleaned up and go to the movies. Being alone for the weekend provided a great opportunity to go see something that I wanted to see. No chick flicks. No romances. Nothing with Reese bloody Witherspoon! What did I go see? Superman Returns! OK, I can hear your eyes rolling, so quit it!

I loved this movie. I am not going to recap it other than to say, that Superman is still "the man", I think that Brandon Routh did a creditable job as The Man of Steel, as well as playing an appropriately geeky Clark Kent. I do, however, think that Kate Bosworth was miscast in the role of Lois Lane... that woman was to skinny to be believable. Maybe it is just a personal bias (I admit the zaftig body-type is more to my liking), but I didn't care for her... and her acting wasn't what you could call great. I thought Kevin Spacey was an excellent villain!

Anyway, go see it... you'll like it.

By the way, it rained while I was in the theater, so everything was cool and clean when I got home. I settled in front of the TV with a pint of Dead Guy Ale, and promptly went to sleep.

So there is my day.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My "Weekend Off"

About 30 minutes ago, I dropped my wife and wee daughter of at National Airport for their trip to Wisconsin to see my In-Laws. I will have today through most of Sunday to myself.

Although I often think that having a few days where I don't have to cook; shop; pick-up from the babysitter, etc... Would be nice, to tell you the truth, I am going to be so bleeding busy, I won't have much time to really enjoy the peace.

Let's see what my schedule looks like:

Today I am teaching a class on the tactical employment of handguns in close-quarters combat. This evening, I will be doing some work with a federal SWAT team. When I get home, I have some yard work to do.

Friday: I am going home early to get started on more yard work, which will consume most of my day.

Saturday: I have to rehab Susan's garden, which has fallen on hard times, and power-wash the deck.

Sunday: Go to church (I am taking Susan's place as lay-reader in her absence), go to the airport and pick up my travelers.

God, it makes me tired already!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Random Shots III

  • If you aren't going to update your blogs for months at a time, perhaps it really isn't your thing.

  • Australia completely dismantled South Africa, 49-0, in international rugby this weekend.

  • This is going to be a VERY busy week for me... but not to worry, Wendy, I am going to have a long post for you about the joys of rugby.

  • It is going to be very hot in The Washington, DC area today. Be careful.

  • A 12 gauge shotgun slug does serious damage to a computer hard drive. As does a 5.56mm bullet.

  • Stir-fry is the new casserole.

  • Just because they make it in your size, doesn't mean you should wear it! This is aimed at the woman who was so horribly dressed at Potomac Mills Mall yesterday. SCARY!

  • Do any of you have an electric stove? What do you think of them?

  • Using a laptop computer while it is actually sitting on your lap is really a pain in the ass.

  • I'm getting my haircut this afternoon (I thought you all should know).

  • Are any of you subscribers to XM radio? We have it, and love it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

100 Things

1. I love to read.
2. I read alot.
3. I usually read sci-fi or military/nautical fiction.
4. I have tons of books.
5. I don’t have as many books as Susan.
6. Despite my tough-guy image, I am a romantic at heart.
7. I sometimes get choked up during sappy movies.
8. I avoid sappy movies like the plague.
9. I have a huge violent streak in me.
10. I never let anyone see it.
11. My job satisfies the violence that uncle sam taught me at 17.
12. I think violence is usually learned behavior.
13. I shouldn’t whine about it. I am what I am.
14. Truthfully, I make a good living from violence.
15. Theoretical violence, not applied violence.
16. My comradeship with violence sometimes collides with my faith.
17. I love children.
18. Especially mine.
19. I love dogs.
20. All dogs.
21. Especially retired racing Greyhounds.
22. I want a new dog.
23. My neighbor has an sweet pit-bull named Darla. I love that dog… and she loves me.
24. Rugby is my favorite sport.
25. Rugby is the best sport in the world.
26. A good backscratch is almost better than sex.
27. No. I’m not joking.
28. It is stupid to believe terrorism is caused by anyone’s hatred of freedom.
29. My maternal grandmother is my favorite person.
30. She is a saint.
31. It will very nearly kill me when she dies.
32. she is nearly 87.
33. Plenty of time, I hope.
34. I believe compulsory military service would be a good thing.
35. Without loopholes for the wealthy.
36. I was married to a woman that I had no business being married to.
37. I hope she and her husband are happy.
38. I have been married for 12 years now.
39. To a brilliant historian.
40. Who is scary smart.
41. Like a Wizard.
42. She is a genuine smartass... and I like that.
43. She is also a great mom.
44. She “gets” me. Few people do.
46. I’m a good boss.
47. My people like me, but more importantly, they respect me.
48. I hope I am not fooling myself.
49. I think invading a nation that isn’t threatening you is criminal and immoral.
50. I sometimes think that I should enter the clergy.
51. Late-life ordination isn’t uncommon in the ELCA Lutheran Church.
52. I always look forward to family vactions.
53. I like to dance.
54. I’m not a very good dancer.
55. Not being a good dancer doesn’t keep me from dancing.
56. I like to sing.
57. I sing in the shower.
58. I sing in the car.
59. I sing in my patrol car.
60. Sometimes that makes people laugh.
61. That makes me happy.
62. I like hymns
63. I like headbanger music.
64. Some people find that odd in a black man.
65. Generally speaking, I don’t give a shit what most people find odd.
66. I enjoy my life of contradictions.
67. Predictability is a bore.
68. I like teaching.
69. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a history teacher.
70. I still do.
71. I think Lee Harvey Oswald probably WAS a lone gunman. I could have made those shots.
72. I enjoy British television.
73. I want to visit Australia some day.
74. I have travelled quite a bit.
75. Some of those places I’d like to see again.
76. Especially Vancouver, BC.
77. I have a conformist's job, but I'm not always a conformist.
78. I enjoy good beer.
79. Especially malty, hoppy American made beers.
80. I’m very sociable.
81. I crave human contact.
82. My wife doesn’t.
83. I reckon that is part of the reason that I blog.
84. It works for me.
85. Socializing takes a lot of time.
86. I’m too busy.
87. I like take-out Chinese food.
88. From hole-in-the-wall places.
89. Eating pizza from Dominoes is a sin.
90. I’m respected in my career field.
91. I find basketball, baseball, and football intensely boring.
92. I wish our professional sports leagues weren’t havens for felons.
93. I wish the same about Congress.
94. I frequently wear kilts
95. That bothers some people.
96. I can get a way with it.
97. Being a big guy helps.
98. I need a new bed.
99. I like expensive Scotch.
100. My name is Bill, I’m pleased to meet you.

40 Questions

A meme. Seen everywhere, swiped from here: Suburban Lesbian.

1. My uncle once: Got REALLY drunk at a family cookout when I was around 8. My brother and one of my sisters and I still laugh about it over 30 years later. We shouldn’t laugh though… he was being a real ass.

2. Never in my life: Have I played a game of rugby. I discovered the game at age 40, and I am just too bloody old and have too many injuries to start now. A great regret.

3. When I was five: I extorted a new drum out of my mother. I told her that I would willingly start kindergarten if I had a drum. She fell for it.

4. High School was: Exceptionally boring!

5. I will never forget: My first day of Marine Corps recruit training.

6. I once met: Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, George H.W. Bush, King Hussein of Jordan, Nelson Mandela, and Al Gore.

7. There's this girl I know who: Loved me unconditionally.

8. Once, at a bar: I asked a woman, after one dance and five minutes of conversation, if she’d go home with me. She did. (Circa 1987)

9. By noon, I'm usually: almost done with my workday.

10. Last night: After I put my daughter to bed, I watched one of my favorite movies from the '70s: "The Wild Geese" with richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, and Hardy Krueger... do any of you remember that one?.

11. If I only had: The ability to fly.

12. Next time I go to church: Will be the day after tomorrow. I’ll be serving as the worship assistant and watching my daughter serve as acolyte for the first time.

13. Terry Schiavo: A sad story made so much sadder by political opportunists that were more concerned with grandstanding than letting this woman die in peace.

14. What worries me most: I won’t live long enough to see Olivia grown and independent. A little girl needs her daddy.

15. When I turn my head left, I see: Pictures of my family.

16. When I turn my head right, I see: More pictures of my family.

17. You know I'm lying when: I work for the government. Would I lie to you?

18. What I miss most about the eighties: My youth.

19. If I was a character in Shakespeare, I'd be: Hamlet… and I would have killed the King without agonizing over it.

20. By this time next year: I will have gone on vacation, coached another two seasons of youth soccer, read a lot more, and done some major renovation in our house.

21. A better name for me would be: Your Majesty.

22. I have a hard time understanding: religious fanatics (which shouldn't be confused with religious people), right wing freaks, and people that get all of their news from FOX.

23. If I ever go back to school, I'll study: History (or German and Japanese)

24. You know I like you if: I am nice to you. People that I don’t like know it right away.

25. If I ever won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: My wife.

26. Darwin, Mozart, Slim Pickens & Geraldine Ferraro: Schroedinger, Tchaikovsky, Robart A. Heinlein & Mark Warner.

27. Take my advice, never: put your finger on the trigger unless you are prepared to fire.

28. My ideal breakfast is: A ham and cheese omelet, with shredded hashbrowns, crispy bacon, orange juice and coffee (I have destroyed SO many hangovers with that remedy).

29. A song I love, but do not own is: My Sharona, by The Knack.

30. If you visit my hometown, I suggest: Getting a Joe’s Special, at Joe’s Pizzeria at the intersection of Springfield ave, and Milburn ave. It is what pizza is supposed to be and rarely is.

31. Tulips, character flaws, microchips & track stars: Red roses, tolerance, sattelite TV & The New Zealand All Blacks.

32. Why won't people: quit buying SUV's when they are clearly never driven off-road? Can anyone say "Miniscule penis"?

33. If you spend the night at my house: You’ll be made to feel welcome. I hope you like Rugby.

34. I'd stop my wedding for: Not a thing.

35. The world could do without: George W. Bush.

36. I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: Have to spend time alone with my mother-in-law. Here is a quote (to my then girlfriend, now wife of 12 years): "Bill is a nice guy... to have as a friend..."

37. My favorite blonde is: I don’t have a favorite blonde, so I’ll just say…. Scarlett Johanson?

38. Paper clips are more useful than: Most people that I know.

39. If I do anything well, it's: Being decisive in a crisis.

40. And by the way: I already know that I am articulate. That you would actually comment on it makes me believe that you are shocked by the revelation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The "Blogosphere"

I am certain that you have heard this term applied to the world of Blogs, haven't you? I hate the term, mostly because I think it sounds silly, but that isn't what this post is about.

This post is about all of the realllllly strange folks that are out there in the "Blogosphere".

If you use Blogger or some other blogging service, you will find ways to search other blogs just by entering key words that would signify some sort of interest in a particular topic, and then a list of related blog entries will appear from which to browse through.

I did that this morning. I entered a couple of key words that are central to my profession and I got a list of blogs to look through. My God... some of them were quite scary.

Look, guns are an important part of what I do, indeed they are central to what I do.... couldn't do my job without them. I enjoy shooting, I also enjoy training people how to fight with guns (as opposed to teaching people how to shoot, which is a horse of an entirely different hue). I enjoy using well-manufactured guns, just as a car enthusiast enjoys driving a nicely engineered car. Having said all of that, I have to say that there are lots of people in the world that have a really unhealthy relationship with firearms.

I'm not going to rant about how wrong-headed I think some of these people are (to each, his/her own), but I think that some of these people need serious psychiatric help.

In my world, those people are commonly referred to as "gun queers"

At times I feel alone in my line of work, but I do realize that not all of us that inhabit what I like to call "gun world" are a bunch of freaks.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Of Mice & Microbursts... the FINAL chapter

The tree has been removed from my yard as of an hour ago, and the stump (or most of it) has been ground down, along with the major roots that were above ground (or just subsurface).

Guess I'll be gettin' a new tree tomorrow.


Chicken Picatta For Suzanne

This recipe comes from my friend, Janet. It's a good 'un!

Four half chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/4 cup clarified butter (or unclarified if you're lazy like me)
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
1/4 cup lemon juice2 Tbs capersLemon slices for garnish (optional)Flour

Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika and dredge in flour. Alternately, mix salt, pepper and paprika with flour in zip loc bag and shake chicken pieces to coat. Heat butter in saute pan on medium to medium high heat until melted. Add chicken pieces and saute until golden brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan and drain on paper towels. Drain off all but 2 Tbs butter if you have more left in the pan. (I usually don't.) Turn heat to high and deglaze pan with wine or stock, scraping to get all the good bits off the bottom of pan. Add lemon juice to pan, turn heat down to medium low, add capers and chicken and mix just long enough to cover or heat through the chicken if it has sat for a while. Serve with fettucine tossed with olive oil, sweet basil, (garlic if you wish) and parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Of Mice and Microbursts part deux

We left work at noon on July 3rd so as to get a bit of a head start on all of the work that I am going to have to do to get this destroyed tree out of my yard. Having spent most of my morning dealing with irritating bureaucrats I needed to replenish my energy, so the first thing we did on the way home was to get lunch (remember, I get crabby when I don't eat).

After lunch, I determined that I couldn't really be expected to perform my manly chainsaw duties if I didn't look good, so I went to the barbershop and got a particularly good haircut.

I dropped my wife off at home so that she could retrive our daughter from the babysitter's house, while I did the bi-monthly grocery shopping. After the grocery shopping, I realized that I had left several items at the store, so I had to go back and retrieve them (hey, I paid for that stuff!).

Now... now I am ready to get started (it is now 5 PM). I fired up the chainsaw and went to work... and work.... and work. Do any of you have any idea how much labor is involved in cutting up half of a fallen tree? No? Well, let me tell you... it ain't just cutting it into logs. In order to get to the bigger pieces, I had to cut through all of the small stuff.... and I had to make sure the pieces were small enough to drag away. OK... enough whining. Anyway, I got three hours of labor out of the way and had made a pretty good start.

I got started again at 9:00 yesterday (which is NOT the way I planned to start my 12th wedding anniversary), and was done by noon. Not too shabby, the walkway and sidewalk were cleared and swept, all was fairly presentable.

Now... I had planned to grill a really neat turkey tenderloin recipe last night... but it was not to be. "Why not, Bill?" you ask?, because there was a late afternoon storm in my area yesterday (betcha know where this is going...) and as I watched the storm through my living room window... I watched the REST of the @$%*ing tree fall onto my OTHER neighbor's yard.

This part of the tree was even bigger than the first!

I was NOT amused.

The tree-removal guy is coming to begin his labors late this afternoon, and I shall be glad to see him.

Our homeowners insurance is only going to give us $525 for the tree removal and replacement tree, but we are going to spend the extra money and have the lawn re-sodded and have a new border put in.

Ah suburbia.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Of Mice and Microbursts

No, this post has nothing to do with mice... it just sounded pithy. Read on.

So... there I was, last night, sitting at the kitchen table, talking to my mother on the telephone when the storm blew in. I knew that the rain was coming... I could hear the thunder and see the lightning in the east. All of a sudden the wind began to howl (stole part of that line from Jimi Hendrix), and the power went out briefly (just long enough to damage my Ipod in it's Bose speakerbase, damnit!), I told my mother that I needed to go and almost immediately after this, the wind and rain died abruptly.

I thought no more of the storm, figuring it was just some sort of fast moving thing that was of little consequence.

I was wrong.

Around 10 P.M., I looked out the front door windows, through which I can normally see the street... but this time all I saw was branches. I opened the door to find that the ornamental Pear Tree in my front yard (sans Partridge) had been struck by lightning. Split the trunk, quite nicely, as a matter of fact.

Not only was my tree trashed, so were the trees of two of my neighbors. Fortunately, there were no injuries nor any property damage besides the trashed trees.

My wife has been on to the insurance company already (thank you sweetie), and the rest of my day, today, will be spent with chainsaw in hand, clearing some of the debris... unless I can get in touch with the bloke that just removed two trees from another neighbor's yard just three days ago.

Watch this space.


Internet Friends

You know what an Internet friend is, don't you? Sure you do. Odds are that if you are reading this, you probably have some yourself.

Internet friends are those people that you frequently interact with, but, solely (or mostly) online. They are your correspondents via blogs, bulletin boards, forums, mail lists or listservs etc... For those of you that have them, have you ever stopped to think about how weird all of this would sound to someone just 15 years ago? I mean, in 1991 we weren't even talking about this internet thing, were we? I guess that some people were if they were technogeeks (and I mean no offense to techy-types (God bless 'em). I am certain that in 1991, I had never even heard the terms "Internet" or "World Wide Web".

I only became 'net-aware in 1994 or thereabouts.

In 1999, I found a website called Canadian World Domination. The people there were a wacky and fun lot. We existed, and still exist elsewhere, as a group of people from across the breadth of Canada, the United States, England, Scotland, Sweden, and even Australia and Germany from time to time. Nice people, all of them (well, most of them).

Over the years,I have made many Internet friends. Some from the aforementioned Canadian World Domination group, some of them from some of the Disney forums that I use, and some of them from a literary website dedicated to discussing the novels of PatrickO'Brien.

At first blush, it may sound weird to some, but some of these people seem every bit as close to me as those few friends that I keep close to me in real life. Hmmm. Perhaps I should have said "real life"... my internet friends are real too, aren't they? I know about their lives, loves, spouses, children, occupations, habits, and oddities... that makes them real, doesn't it?

I want to tell you, briefly, about my friend Janet (Janet, if you are reading this, don't be alarmed... what follows is high praise): Janet is an internet friend that I have actually met in person a few times. Janet lives in a mid-western state, but has family here in the DC area... when she comes to see her brothers, we sometimes get to meet for a burger at a place on Capitol Hill. Janet is a nice person with a heart of gold, although she might try to deny that. There is nothing pretentious about Janet. She is smart... and I like smart. I have only met Janet face-to-face three times since I have known her (since 1999) but Janet is my good friend, and I value her friendship.

OK, praise time for Janet is over (sorry dear!).

The people that read my blog, those two, maybe three people out there in cyberland are all Internet friends, people I know through the web.

I am glad that I met them.

So here they are... if I have left anyone out, and they are reading this... please Email me, and I'll edit my list:

Brutal P
Charlie P
Fulda (both of you)
Genevieve ("You're as cold as ice" remember that?)
Janet (of Chicken Picatta fame)
Kathi & Brian (and Cara)
Laini (who really needs to leave Texas)
Lloyd (who, oddly enough is married to a Clydesdale horse)
Marianne (my favorite wee fish doctor)
Mark H
Pammy K
Sammie G (and family)
SPU (pronounced Shpoo)
Suzanne (who probably lives less then 5 miles from my office)
The Generals: Claire and Jenny (peace be upon them)

I am pleased to know you and call all of you my friends.