Saturday, October 31, 2009

Creepy Things

Large Spider

Sharp Teeth

Creepy Man

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

On Vacation...Again

This year I've been fortunate to have more vacation time than I can shake a stick at thanks to the poor economy. Including this week, I have four weeks left before the end of the year. I'm fortunate that I still have a job when I come back and I don't need the regular pay and thus am able to make full use of this time off.

This week, I think we are going to head south to the St. Louis area. I've been there a few times but never for an extended time. This time, we're planning on around three days in the area to check out some of the sites, find something to entertain my daughter and find some good local food to entertain me. I also hope to use this time to gather more material for my future blog post fodder.

So until I get back, sit back and relax, perhaps look into my archives or merely enjoy the blissful silence from me blabbing on about something of no interest. If I get some internet access, I'll continue to stop by your blog and check in. So until November...

Friday, October 23, 2009

What a Small World!

Every once in awhile, I have uttered that old cliché, "What a small world." The last couple months have been no exception. That is when I discovered I have connections to three of my blog readers, two in a genetic way.

The first one happened when I posted one of my genealogy posts on a branch of mine. I met two distant cousins for the first time and learned that one of them is married to a good friend of one of my blog readers. I thought that was kind of neat but then was blown away when recently, by chance, I learned that I am related to my longest blog reader and former highschoolmate. She was actually a year behind me in school. Her 4th great grandparents and my 3rd great grandparents are one and the same. That officially makes us 4th cousins one time removed. Her mom, who also reads my blog would be my 4th cousin.

What a small world!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting Steamed On a Train

Not all was rosy on the Boone train that I wrote about in my last post. When we got on the train, it was a hot and sunny day so we chose to sit on the shady north side of the train. The seat back could be moved so that the seat could face in either direction of travel or as we did, you could face each other. The outbound trip was pleasant.

When we reached the end of the tracks, the conductor asked everyone to switch sides of the train so that everyone could see the scenery on the other side of the train on the way back. Since it was sunny and hot on the other side, I would have preferred staying in my shady north side seat but I also didn't want to deprive someone of their money's worth and so we stood up along with everyone else and switched sides.

When the people sitting in the chairs opposite of us stood up, we arranged their seat backs so that they were facing each other just like the other side and sat down. One of the couples who had been sitting in the seat were talking to each other and another group of four stole their seat (formerly one of our bench seats) leaving a vacated bench seat three rows back. On hindsight, I'm guessing they didn't know that the seat backs were adjustable and wanted to get the seats facing each other and thus jogged up a row.

When the couple realized this, rather than correct the people who took his seat, he tapped me on my shoulder and said, "excuse me but this is my seat." I politely told him that I was sorry but that the conductor had said that we were to change sides of the train for the trip back. He again repeated, "but this is MY seat."

I contemplated my options. My wife, Little Abbey and I were going to have to cram ourselves into a seat made for two people for the hour long journey back or we were going to have to separate ourselves to different parts of the train both several seats apart and on opposite sides of the train. We paid good money and got there early so that we could sit together so this wasn't really an option. I was just about ready to tell him that he needed to go voice his complaint to the conductor when his wife, evidently nervous from my silent pause to think through my options, pulled his sleeve and said that they would just go sit on the other side of the train. Like they were supposed to do in the first place.

We had an enjoyable trip back but it just got me that some people can't follow directions and then have to go and stir the pot. Everyone on that train switched seats, including a paraplegic lady who had to be lifted by three people to her new seat across the aisle and yet this couple evidently thought they were immune. That steamed me a bit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Pictorial Train Ride

A few weeks ago, we rode a 1920's era train up in Boone, Iowa along the Des Moines River valley. The trip lasted a couple hours and was very enjoyable. Coincidentally, they happened to be hosting Thomas the Train for kids there the same weekend. A bonus for Little Abbey. Here is a pictorial of what we saw.

We started out by fueling up with a classic Iowa lunch.

Then we drove by the old train graveyard.

Outside of town, we saw a few fields of soybeans and corn nearing harvest time.

I couldn't resist hanging out the window. This is what I saw.

High bridge ahead?

Wow, that seems like a long way down.

I sure hope the train doesn't jump the tracks!

Eye candy!

Cross the Des Moines river looking upstream.

A meandering Des Moines river downstream.

I get the feeling someone is watching me.

I get the feeling someone is following me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dancing Queen: Revisited

Little Abbey dancing her heart out

I'm finally getting around to posting a picture of this event that I blogged about awhile ago.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm Feeling Better Already

I took my daughter to daycare and then stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. It felt odd being there so early when everyone else was at work. Back home, I changed into some sweats, dosed myself with some medicine, made a cup of hot chocolate and sat down at the computer.

I am officially sick though perhaps not really sick. I just have a cold and it is in the latter throws of the duration but I hate being around people like me at work. You know those people. The red eyed, runny nosed and hacking cough people. I had the day so I just called it in, watched that October mist come down, sipped my hot chocolate and did something I haven't done in a long time. With the new blog post cursor blinking, I ignored it and instead just watched the two squirrels that recently showed up in my oak tree out front chase each other silly for over a half hour.

I thought about getting the camera out and taking a few pictures but didn't want to chance anyone spotting me out while I was sick. Besides, it was barely 40 and drizzling. Perfect weather for catching a cold or starting a fire in the fireplace. I'm glad that I had the presence of mind to carry in several arm loads of wood the day before. I have a big thick biography on James Madison that I am trying to slog through (read that the review on this one is not going to be the greatest) but I have a couple lighter fares still on the shelf, perfect for a day like today. So excuse me (sniffle) while I go sit by a roaring fire (cough) and read a good book while you all slave away at your day jobs. I'm feeling better already.

Monday, October 12, 2009

All Jacked Up

Coming back from my Missouri gravestone hunt for my four 3rd great grandparents not buried in Iowa, we took the graveled back roads back into Iowa. We hit the pavement just west of a little town named Pulaski, a town I know well, and proceeded to head east into town. Just on the out skirts of town, the traffic was stopped and off in the center of town, I could see a just a mass of cars and police car lights.

I assumed that there had been a big accident but having spent a few years of my life in Pulaski, including going to kindergarten there, I knew my way around. I swung off onto a side street and made my way through town and back to the main road on the very east side of town. But when I got there, I realized that some horrific accident hadn't closed down the road but the parade for the Pulaski Corn Show.

I pulled up to the stop sign, turned off the engine, rolled down the windows and proceeded to enjoy the parade from the comfort of the drivers seat. Soon, other cars that must have seen my departure on the other side of the town, pulled up behind me, realized the same thing I did and turned off their cars in a big line.

It was your normal parade with the normal participants but one stood out above all the rest. Having learned how to drive a tractor on a John Deere 4020, I am very familiar with it. This John Deere 4020 isn't like any others because it had been jacked up in the air several feet. I had to hurry to get my camera out of its case, out the window and snap this picture but I was able to capture it. It took me less time to think of a tag line for it.

What Farm Boys Do With Too Much Time On Their Hands

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seeking Advice

I need some advice, some girlie advice. No it is not what you are thinking. I'm still happily married and don't need THAT kind of advice. I need advice on what do you get a 3-1/2 year old girl for Christmas.

What got me started down this path was a recent trip up to Boone, Iowa where they have a 1920's train that you can ride for a couple hours through the Des Moines River valley, including a 170 foot tall bridge. We went up for that in particular but it just happened to be Thomas the Train weekend and they had a mini carnival for kids set up outside the depot complete with a tent packed full of Thomas the Train sets for the kids to play with. Little Abbey spent a couple hours just endlessly playing with various train sets and having the time of her life.

Little Abbey doesn't have a particular fascination with Thomas the Train, at least not like she has with Dora the Explorer but she is fascinated with trains in general. I thought I would research train sets but just about every advertisement has a picture of a smiling boy and every product reviewer talks about their son. This got me thinking about what do people buy a 3-1/2 year old girl for Christmas?

Out of curiosity, I checked several well known websites for kids toys like Fisher-Price and Little Tykes. On the latter site, you could add a filter by gender and what do you suppose came up for little girls and pretend play toys? Shopping carts and kitchens. Are we still in the 50's with the June Cleavers? Other sites have dolls, doll houses, dress up and art related stuff. My daughter has some Barbies and art stuff and though she does play with them, her favorite toys are the Legos, learning computers, books, and a big old cardboard box that I turned into a house.

So what do you give a 3-1/2 year old girl for a present? Is a train set going to scar her for life or do I need to get a doll house? Any advice out there?

P.S. Remember, only 78 more days until Christmas!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ancient Ways

I had been by this place dozen of times so out of boredom, Little Abbey and I stopped one sunny Saturday while the Mrs. was at work to check it out. When I first stepped in, my first impression was that it was just your average tourist shop with lots of polished rock, jewelry and other knickknacks on display. But the deeper we went into the shop, the more my view changed.

Behind the counter on the left, it looked like a medieval apothecary shop with lots of glass jars fulls of everything from frog wart to sand of eternity. Not sure what either one was meant to be used for but I certainly wasn't going to ask. Further back on the other side, there were shelves upon shelves of tarot cars and even a tin of Kuma Sutra with deck of cards and book included the label proudly exclaimed. In the middle was an eight foot long book shelf with both sides filled with nothing but different magic books. Not the sleight of hand stuff but casting spell on your neighbor type of magic.

In the very back there was a clothing shop of sorts where you could get your entire goth outfit and such witty T-shirts as "I Believe in God... The One Spelled Nature," and "Don't Mess With Me Unless You Want Me To Turn You Into a Frog That Is Ground To Dust and Stored In Some Out of the Way Shop Called Ancient Ways." At that point, Little Abbey announced that she had enough of the store and wanted to leave and I almost raced her on the way out.

As we crossed the street and got into the car, I noticed an old woman with long white hair across the street leaning on a gnarled cane staring at us. Goose bumps ran up my spine. Little Abbey and I got out of the area as fast as possible and returned home. I am still waiting to start growing scales or some sort of voodoo for not buying anything.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dining with the Hoity Toity Rich

Here in the urban jungle, we live just a very short walk from a house turned fine Italian bistro called Cafe di Scala. We had seen it several times from the sidewalk but never desired to go inside, at least until the Mrs. had her birthday and then it was her birthday wish. So one rainy weekday evening, we walked down to the cafe and were quickly seated next to the fireplace in what was once a living room.

I immediately felt a little out of place in my denim jeans and polo shirt. Almost all the men diners in the place were either in a sports jacket or at least a stiffly starched long sleeved buttoned up dress shirt. The lady diners were all wearing their version of the little black dress, had been dipped in perfume and makeup and wore more jewelry around their necks than I make in a year. They were all leaned back in their chairs, sipping glasses of wine and staring at us.

But the waiter didn't inform us of any dress code and graciously told us the specials of the day. They even quickly brought a high chair for Little Abbey and gave her a straw for her water in a fine crystal glass. We ordered, sipped our water and listened. Mostly the talk was of this fundraiser that they had attended, what problem their Lexus had given them yesterday at the spa, etc. But what really stuck out to me was the lady across the aisle that came in with her husband/boytoy about halfway through our meal.

The lady sat down and when the waiter asked them for their drink order, she asked what they had, evidently ignoring the substantial wine/beer/other drink list staring at her from a foot away in the middle of the table. After ten minutes of him listing everything in the menu, she snottily said that she hadn't heard him list any Italian wines. The waiter said that they indeed has three Italian wines to choose from and renamed them. The lady then asked if he had beer. Once again he said the entire beer list. The lady ordered a Heineken. That puzzled me. Her boytoy ordered a Budweiser which in his $2000 pin striped suit seemed a little beneath him. Of course when beer costs $9 a bottle, perhaps not.

So the beers were soon delivered with what I consider your regulation sized beer glass. The lady once again snottily asked if they had any smaller glasses. The waiter apologized but said he didn't know and would have to go look. The woman immediately told him, again in a very loud snotty tone, that he needn't bother looking for a small glass and that she could make do drinking her Heineken in this monstrosity of a glass. Actually those weren't her words exactly but she did say that she would make do with the glass he had given her. Don't make the mistake that I am judging her too quickly just on her choice of drink and how she decided to drink it. She continued to harass the waiter over everything from appetizers to the entree she ordered which happened to be the same one as I. Had I been in her shoes, I would have serious concerns at just how much saliva was going to end up in the pasta served to me.

Why anyone would want to start a restaurant to cater to those type of people, I will never understand. The food was good but again for two, our tab came to $54 and I thought that excessive for what we received. The service was excellent, the atmosphere unique but the clientele were all hoity toity rich folks who drive $50,000 (and much higher) vehicles and wore six figures in jewelry. If they would just kick those folks out or knock a $20 bill off the meal, they would have a hit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flu Shots The Slow Way

With all the hoopla over the H1N1 virus and having a week off on unemployment, I decided to take advantage of having the time to get myself and Little Abbey our regular flu shots. I stopped in on Tuesday to the county health office where we have always gotten our flu shots. They are open every Tuesday and it is generally much cheaper than getting them at the local clinic. However, when we stepped in and they gave me this look as if I were purple with three eyes, I suspected something was up. I asked if they were giving flu shots and was told that they were only giving them on the first and third Tuesday of the month and only between the hours of one and four. I suspect that they deliberately made such off hours when most of the normal world is working in order to stave off some rush that they were expecting. I was here between one and four and on a Tuesday but the fourth Tuesday of the month. The horror!

So we went down to the local clinic where you can get a flue shot Monday through Saturday at anytime except between noon and one when they are out to lunch. Much more reasonable I thought. However, I soon learned that the area of reason certainly wasn't indicative of the rest of their operation.

I had been there before trying to get a diagnosis for my exercise induced asthma so they had me on record but my daughter hadn't been. So they gave me a four sheet form, that had to be filled out front and back for a total of eight pages, with about thirty lines per page. In that form, I signed my name no less than five times, printed it another eight times, filled in my phone number and address six times. I have never seen anything quite so redundant in my life. But what really topped the absurdity of the form was when after twenty minutes I was done and was handing it in when they said that I had to fill out one of the same forms for myself. I was very close to just tossing the form back on the counter and walking out but after twenty minutes of my life gone all to get a single, simple flu shot, I filled out another one and thus nearly doubling the number of times I had to put the information mentioned above. I was only saved from having to fill out the legal guardian information since I was older than 21. At the county health office, all I had to do ever for a flu shot was show my ID and sign my name once.

Now 40 minutes into what was advertised as walk-in flu shots, I handed 16 pages of handwritten information to the desk clerk and then had to give them my insurance card whose information I had to hand write on those forms four different times so they could make a copy. No sooner has she walked into the room next door than another door in the waiting room opened up and they called Little Abbey and my names. I said that we were here but that I was waiting for my insurance card. Ten minutes later, the nurse who had called my name walked over to the counter to inquire why the lady who had by now made six trips to the back room to copy my insurance card was taking so long. She evidently had to make a copy of all 16 pages of handwritten information to include in the packet of information given to the nurse administering the shot.

50 minutes after we had arrived for our walk-in flu shot, we were finally ushered into a room and two minutes later were walking out with our shots having been administered. I guess the first and third Tuesday between one and four in the afternoon is in my future because I am not going through that process again to give Little Abbey two more H1N1 shots and probably myself one at a later date when it is available to adults.