Sunday, August 31, 2008

See You in September!

August is breathing its very last. The hottest, awful-lest part of the year is past, and the very best is at hand.

September! September has everything to recommend it. It's the month of my birthday, so there is that. But even better: it's the month that begins FALL! My hands-down, no-contest, totally favorite time of the year, fall is as good as it ever gets. Nothing else even comes close. Well, Heaven maybe, but still.

I love the crisp snap in the air, the blue, blue sky, the smell of wood smoke, crinkly leaves crackling underfoot, the colors of the leaves. Even in Texas. But fall isn't only a feast for the physical senses. It is a gala for the emotions.

Fall makes me homesick for someplace I have never been. It is the time of harvest and plenty. The intense work of the year is finished, and now it's time to slow down and savor. Fall is the time to gather in and reflect and take stock. It is the hint and the promise of home-centered life to come, when the world takes a break . . . or so it was before we determined to change the order of nature with our techno-superiority. live by the seasons....

There is still plenty of summer to come in this part of the world, and I wouldn't even mention it, except, well...I am as always, ecstatic that the calendar of summer is joining history. Its days are numbered, even in Texas, and it will eventually have to cede to the better season...

Autumn...absolutely worth living for.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Eggplant Casserole

Fresh from the farm:
Eggplant Casserole

eggplants (I used the skinny little Japanese ones)
flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
olive oil
some onion, sliced
some bell pepper, sliced
more olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
minced garlic (recipe says optional, but I say garlic a must)
bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

Slice the eggplant about 1/2" thick. Dip slices into flour and saute in some olive oil until almost tender. Arrange half of the eggplant in a greased casserole dish. Then add half of the onion and half of the pepper on top. Season with salt and pepper and garlic and then drizzle with olive oil. Repeat the layers. Mix the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese together and sprinkle this over the top. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 till done. Original recipe says 4 minutes, but I'm thinking more like 40...
Voila'! Another potluck hit!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gustav vs. Katrina

Hurricane season is on, and Gustav ~ PC-ness even in the world of hurricane-naming, but that's an altogether different rant for a different time ~ is gearing up for the big time according to the weather guys.

Ever since Katrina, the weather people are afraid of the ensuing hue and cry if they accidentally miss anything, so they bend over backwards to dish out some severe over-hype any time the smallest possibility of weather presents itself, making it sorta hard to take them too seriously anymore...sorta like the boy who cried wolf. The Age of Excess is alive and well. But I digress, and that, too, is another rant for another time. As for Gustav...well, time will tell...

Meanwhile, I keep hearing in the media about FEMA and Gustav's potential, and I got to thinking that this entire topic merits a closer look.

As far as I can tell, the discontent seems to center around the FEMA trailers that were made available for the refugees from Katrina. Well, ok, maybe they weren't the Hilton, but...any port in a storm, right? Apparently the trailers were better than the waterlogged, snake-infested, low-lying swamplands they were escaping from, or, I imagine, the evacuees would have stayed where they were, right?

Not only were these trailers not top-of-the line, according to the news reports, but "FEMA put those people in those trailers and kept them there for three years." WHAAAAAATT?!!!! FEMA put them there? I wasn't aware anyone had been taken against his (ok...or "her.") will. And FEMA kept them there? How'd they do that? Locked them in? Put armed guards around the perimeter? Boarded up the doors and windows so they couldn't get out? And not only did FEMA put and keep them there, they kept them there for three YEARS!!!! Am I just waaaay off here thinking that three years is enough time to find a job and start taking some control of your own life back?

So. Fast forward to the present: Gustav is presumably coming along next week and when/if it does, another batch of refugees is going to be forced to move into another batch of bad FEMA trailers, and history is going to repeat itself, because according to whiner wisdom, "FEMA didn't learn anything from Katrina." let's agree that FEMA didn't learn anything. What can we say about all these upcoming refugees? They are back where they were pre-Katrina, seemingly none the smarter for their ordeal, trusting FEMA to provide better trailers for next time. If FEMA is the abysmal failure they think it is, and I'm not saying it isn't, why, oh why, are these geniuses depending on it?!

Who didn't learn anything here, anyway?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

It came to my attention recently on the evening news that cheap-ish gas from Mexico is not allowed to cross the border into this country. How's that again?! Like this: An American couple went and filled up their gas guzzler and its extra tank with less expensive gas on the other side of the border. On their way back north they were denied exit from Mexico with all that *cheap* gas in their truck.

Ok. They have rules. And here's my question: How come Mexican nationals, both legal and illegal, are welcomed into this country to work for the express purpose of exporting US $$$$$ into Mexico? Why is that allowed? Not only is there no repercussion whatsoever from this government, but they are tacitly, and maybe not so tacitly, encouraged by their own government in a ploy to foist off its own financial burden for its own citizens onto the responsibility of the US taxpayer.

Sooooo... Can somebody explain how this *good neighbor* policy works again?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sign of the Times

Hate Crimes up in LA County

So, crime is up in LA. Oh, that's definitely headline-worthy. What, exactly, is a "hate crime" anyway? Is a hate crime something worse than a love crime? If anything, if there's really a difference, I think it would be the other way around. Having never been assaulted myself, I can't say for sure, but I'm thinking that being attacked by someone who loved me would be a whole lot more devastating that being attacked by someone who hated me. If I'm right about that, then it's really a good thing that *hate crimes* are up. Who thinks up these inanities, anyway?!

West Point Makes the Grade

Earlier this month The Princeton Review placed West Point in the Top Ten of all American colleges in the areas of "most accessible professors," "best classroom experience" (whatever that means), and "most to do on campus " (not that anyone actually has time to do it). Other accolades include: small class size (10-19 students), Honor Code system, great academic and athletic facilities, safe campus environment, and great career services.

A week or so later Forbes joined in, ranking West Point as the sixth best college and best public college in the nation, citing quality of education and achievement of students.

West Point: ". . . the finest. . .educational experience in America." Imagine that!

Monday, August 25, 2008

School Days

School starts today. It shouldn't matter to me, being that I have no one in school. But it matters a lot. Because I live in the Bermuda triangle between the high school and two elementary schools. Oh, and the bus barn. No matter which way I go when I leave my house, I have to pass a school. Not much of a problem during the summer, but when school starts... look out!

Trips have to be pre-arranged to the minute if I don't want to spend hours just trying to get out of the driveway. And once I am on the I go this way and risk getting run over by a team of teen-age drivers in training for the Indianapolis 500...or do I go that way and risk running over a herd of oblivious pedestrians who have been taught that all traffic on the street will stop as soon as they step off the curb...? Decisions, decisions...

All summer long, traffic on our street has been disrupted by the Black Hole of Calcutta a few houses down from us. It has been growing by the day, filling up with *water* (?), overflowing into nearby yards and running down the street. Fortunately, we live upstream. . .

All summer long, the only fix provided by the city has been a traffic cone in the big middle, a challenge to every driver along this narrow obstacle course: orange cone on the edge of the hole, cars parked along both sides as far as the eye can see, and a bus coming down the middle.

On Friday, just a weekend away from school, a full crew finally showed up to dig up the street, plug up the leak, and fill up the hole...just in time for the wannabe race car drivers from the high school to have plenty of room to accelerate from 0 to 90 in two blocks, unimpeded.

Why now...?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Day

CBT is officially over and the cadoodles are officially cadets. I am so proud of my boy. My only regret is that I didn't get to see it.

I checked the USMA website in hopes that there would be a live stream of the parade, but no such luck. Or maybe I am not tech-y enough to find it. That's a definite possibility. In any event, I will soon be back to haunting Plebe Net for pictures and videos from the families that were able to go, and *Where's Waldo?* should be in full swing again before long.

D called this morning, and just as we were about to hang up, the other phone started to ring. When I saw M's picture on the caller id I grabbed it right up~ Hello, hello, HELLO? No one was there! WAAAAAHH!!!! I immediately called him back, but no answer. So much for Verizon's good reception at West Point... But a little bit later I was checking gmail, and there was my boy!!! So, all is well in my empty-nested world.

After IM-ing with him for a bit, I am thinking that maybe it is just as well we didn't get to go. He was planning on hitting a couple of the many picnics/events he/we was/were invited to, and then taking a nap, a heretofore barely-contemplated luxury. And of course he will have "ESP" tomorrow: Evening Study Period (not, as I surmised, the well known sports channel ). Had we been there, he almost surely would have missed his nap, and I think he sorely needs one.

So... Happy Napping, M! It may be your last one for another while. The race is on!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The March Back

They're back, intact! The class of 2012, "For More Than Ourselves."

Today won the prize for the biggest surprise.

I was in MoreMart, on the phone in consult with C about which shoes to get BB3 for his birthday. After the shoe business was concluded, C asked me if we would hear from M today. We have been warned repeatedly that the cadoodles will be busy, busy, busy moving in, standing in line, and generally getting *squared away* for school to start on Thursday, so I told her we should not expect to hear anything until the weekend. And then I hung up.

And immediately the phone rang again. It was M!!!!! Back from Buckner, all in one piece and happy. Tired, exhausted, with a whole crop of new blisters which fortunately did not appear until the very end, but definitely happy. Proud. And accomplished.

When I got home I immediately signed in with Plebe Net to check for new Waldo sightings. "Where's Waldo" has slowed down to almost non-existent the last few weeks, due not to any lack of interest on my part, but rather to the fact that I have studiously inspected every picture on the internet and there are no more Waldos to be found. Now with the passing of the March Back and with the advent of A Day, I expect to be back on full-time duty with the Waldo hunters again soon. I have only had a glance through the new crop of pictures posted so far, and alas, no Waldo has been revealed, but the game is young, and there are many more pictures to come.

One remarkable thing I noticed, though: Among the 100's and 100's of cadoodles coming home to West Point, there are big smiles on many, many, many of the faces. What a striking difference from R Day, when there was only fear and apprehension on every face, including those of the parents and other spectators. What a wondrous change West Point has wrought. In *only* seven weeks of Beast Barracks, a bunch of mostly scared, uncertain new cadets was transformed into a band of confident survivors, and I stand, once again, in total admiration.

So 2008 CBT joins the legends of West Point, and now on to the next challenge.

That officer lady, back in that other reality of R Day, was right: They have what it takes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wedding Bell Blues

So. S and Gi are getting married. On a cruise. Well, woe is me.

Don't get me wrong. I imagine that a cruise is a wonderful thing. Not having ever been on one before, world traveler that I am, I really wouldn't know; I'm just going on reputation. But I am getting ready to find out for myself. My man and I are invited to come along on this five-day cruise, to ports/parts unknown. If we manage to survive the getting there.

First there is paperwork. Boarding passes must exactly match birth certificates must exactly match photo ID's. Oh, your first and middle name have been reversed ? Sorry, and it's too late to change. Homeland Security regulations, you understand. But for only $50 and a few seconds of our time, we can set it right. Huh? How is $50 going to change a terroristic heart? I suspect it's not really a security issue. More like another way for them to suck a little bit more $ out of the cruising public.

Then there is the issue of how you are going to get home. Car at the pier? Friends/family picking you up? Shuttle bus to nowhere (if so, name of bus company, # of bus route, exact time of pickup)? Taxi? Why do they care? What if the friend that is coming to pick us up calls to say his car broke down, how about us hopping on the bus? Will they let us on the bus without a letter from home saying it's ok? If they are so worried about it, I think I am going to change my plans from "car at the pier" to "you are giving me a ride."

And then proper *cruise attire.* Shorts, tank tops, no cut-offs, rubber-soled shoes, casual, casual, casual. And be ready to show off your beautiful evening wear. Well, which is it?

And your *dining assignment.* Formal dining room? Captain's table? Early seating? Late seating? Midnight buffet? Bistro? 24-hour pizza parlor? I DON'T KNOW!!! How many meals do we have to eat, anyway? If I am assigned to the early seating, do I still have to hit the midnight buffet? This is just too many choices and too much information, and waaaay toooo much food!

And don't forget~this one is really important~Be sure and set up your *sail & sign* account right away. This will allow you to buy anything you want, with invisible money! All you have to do is sign...and voila'! You'll never miss what you'll never see, right? So...spend away! This convenient little account even keeps the worry about tips and gratuities from intruding on your fun. You won't ever feel awkward wondering if or how much. Instead, *they* will determine that their service merited a tip, and the amount, and it will be automatically added to your bill. You don't have to do a thing. Oh, except pay.

And of course on the home front, prepare to be gone. Stop the paper and the mail, notify the neighbors and the cops, arrange garden and dog care, clean out the refrigerator. Pack the suitcases, but first make sure you have something to pack in them. Get haircuts...don't wanna go cruising the world looking like we look. Although...we're never gonna see any of these people again ~ well, except for our family, but they've already seen the worst ~ so maybe that's one little detail we won't have to worry about.

Unchained stress...Next time somebody wants to get married I am going to suggest a quick trip to the JP. Well, there is one thing to be thankful for. Or two.... One, a lovely new ddil, and two, I'm not the mother of the bride...WHEW...!

The Case Against Rubbernecking

In case you ever wondered what's wrong with rubbernecking, let me tell you.

Yesterday there was an accident involving a motorcycle on the interstate. Not just anywhere on the interstate. Picture one of those Dr. Seuss-type mix master arrangements.

The accident took place on the bottom level, and while traffic was clogging up down there, what with the emergency vehicles and all, traffic was clogging up up there, what with the rubberneckers and all.

One of those rubberneckers was seriously interested in having a really good look, so he leaned waaaay over, the better to see you, my dear. So very far he leaned over that he fell over. And splatted on the pavement right next to the startled EMT who was treating the had-been motorcycle rider.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

An(other) Ordinary Day

It seems like a good idea, writing up an everyday day, and it probably is. Perspective and all that kind of thing. But how ordinary do you want to get:

No time to write today~WAH! Walked a mile with weights, did grocery shopping and other errands, finally arranged Nellie's alignment ~ thank God for good mechanic connections ;-) ~ talked to S on the phone, watched Michael Phelps get another gold medal.

Not so ordinary for Michael Phelps and some of the rest of them, but for me, definitely ordinary. And sometimes, ordinary is as good as it gets... ;-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back To School

I rarely watch tv. Really. But, I confess an interest in Michael Phelps (The Princess thinks it's M himself, on tv! But that's another story altogether.), so I have been taking a peek at the Olympics now and then.

So.... What's on tv these days? Well, the the main event from what I can tell, seems to be one long MoreMart commercial, interrupted only occasionally by the latest Olympic update. There are two commercials that alternate, playing over and over and over. Both feature a mom of a daughter.

In the first one, the daughter seems to be a middle teenage girl. The mom laments, "I can't go to school with her and remind her how wonderful she is, but fortunately, I can get her everything she needs to feel good about herself at MoreMart without breaking my budget." This is important. "What she needs to feel good about herself..." I'm guessing that would be snazzy new clothes, shoes, the right makeup, a cool backpack, an assortment of "school supplies." An interesting, if shallow, proposition.

But there's more. Mom then finishes up with: "All she has to do is be herself." Huh? So...Could "herself" really be enough? Or does she really need all the sundry accoutrements of crass commercialism run amok? Which is it?'s something to think about.

Then there's the second commercial, the one featuring the little girl. This time Mom proclaims, "I can't get on the bus with her or hold her hand and lead her around, but" ...once again, MoreMart to the rescue...! "I can get her everything she needs to succeed." And then there sits the little girl, surrounded by all sorts of fun school supplies: Notebooks, paper, pencils (Do kids even use paper and pencils anymore?), crayons, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc.

Just imagine ~ Everything they need to succeed. Everything you can buy at MoreMart. Fortunately... brain not required.

The Empty-Nested Truth

Just in case I don't have time to read the whole newspaper, I make sure to read my favorite page first.... the comics. And one of my favorite comics ~ often funny, often poignant ~ is Arlo and Janis.

In case you don't know Arlo and Janis, they are a couple whose son, Gene, grew up, as kidlets are wont to do, right before our eyes. Last year Gene went off to college, and like all good kidlets, came home for the summer. Well, summer vacation is over, and it's time for Gene to go back to college, prompting this from Arlo:

"I thought when Gene went away to school, we'd get our lives back. In reality, those lives, those people, were long gone. If anything, we got our lives back when he came home this summer."

And that is the truth. Looks like I'm never gonna get my life back.

Monday, August 11, 2008

One Last Beastly Phone Call

Saturday was the day we got our highly anticipated last phone call from Beast Barracks after three days on high alert ~ Three days of non-stop phonesitting. Three days carrying the phone in my pocket. Three days not doing anything I could not drop to answer the phone. Three days of sleeping with my phone ~ well, not the sleeping part... But yes to the rest of it. Three full days of waiting and anticipation, but in our new world of empty-nestedness stretching out as far as the eye can see or imagine...what's three days?

Today, the cadoodles are being flown out on helicopters to the last week of Beast Barracks. They have already packed up their old rooms; everything not going with them has been taken to the trunk room to await their return at the conclusion of cadet basic training.

Next week they will march back to post and move into their new rooms to begin the academic year and their new lives as "cadets," "new cadets" no longer.

The end is near. And the beginning.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Give Him an A!

John Edwards, erstwhile blow-dried vice-presidential candidate, out on the campaign trail. What a guy! While his wife is duking it out with breast cancer, he, in the best tradition of Bill Clinton, is having a "liaison" with another woman. Yep, he'd definitely be my pick!

Now, some years later, Edwards is still/again politically involved. Business as usual, except that now there is an extra little kidlet running around, though, of course, Edwards is almost certain it isn't his.

So then...why is he (non)confessing at this late date? Well, it seems that he doesn't like reading about himself in the tabloids. In other words, he got caught. If the tabloids hadn't brought it up, I don't imagine he would have, either. Not much of a confession, is it? we go again...

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I love things. Big things, little things, novel things, obscure things, old things, new things, borrowed things, blue things...I loved them all. And somewhere in my muddled mind, "loving" equated with "having," until the day I was enlightened in a little backwater town in nowhere Texas.

We don't ordinarily stop when passing through these little towns unless we need gas, but whyever, this quaint little antique "General Store" caught our attention enough and we actually went in, only to be instantly overwhelmed with treasure upon treasure. This one and that one and the one over there~beautiful, perfectly splendid things.

Just look at this one here! If only I could have this thing, I could, I would... and here dawned the epiphany: I could and would have to pay for it, cram it into the overloaded car or arrange (and pay) to have it delivered, find a place to put it in the house, dust it, polish it, pay to insure it, move it to clean around/under, keep the kidlets away from it... Losing its luster by the minute...

Do I really want to have this thing? Do I really want this thing to have me? Nope. Not so much. We walked around the store a bit longer, greatly enjoying every little thing, and then we left. Unburdened. My life and my thinking changed in the moment when I realized that I can thoroughly enjoy a thing without having the responsibility of owning it.

Now, many years later, I still love things. Only now...I love them freely.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Enter Edoard

There's nothing quite like waking up in the wee, dark hours of the morning with the feel of raindrops on your face and the smell of petrichor in the air. It's what happens when you sleep with the windows open, and Edoard comes along to break the drought! ...unlike Hurricane Dolly, who was just a lot of, literally, hot air...

I'm going to be sorry when I'm trying to stay awake after lunch, but I was soooo excited that, even though it was only 4:30am, I got up and went outside to reacquaint myself with real RAIN! I almost didn't recognize it after the weeks and weeks without.

It isn't going to last. The sun isn't even up yet, and already the rain is down to a trickle. But the cool-ness of the washed air remains, and after weeks of crackly crinkling underfoot like autumn leaves, I think the grass is going to be a lot happier today. I know I am!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Something to Keep in Mind

Soooo...Saturday morning on my way back from the farmers' market, I decided to stop and fill up at the gas station next to the MoreMart. I wasn't running on fumes yet, but the gas was, well, not so cheap. Not even cheap-ish. But generally less spendy than the other places.

Now, my brother has a rule: Never lock your car door unless you have your keys in your hand. Not in your pocket, not in your purse, but in your hand, right in front of your eyes. Leave nothing to chance. It's a good rule, and I generally live by it in addition to my own gas station rules: Keep your keys in your hand until you are well out and clear of the car, roll down your window, and of course, DON'T lock the door!!!

I pulled up next to the pump, ran through the check list, stepped out of the car, and slammed the door. And before it even hit... I knew...!!! I reached out and tried the door handle, and...sure enough. LOCKED!!! with my keys dangling in the ignition.

Gas station? Who locks their car at the gas station?! Ummmm...ever since we lived in Houston a *few* years ago, locking my car is like my deeply ingrained, I don't even think about it. I just do it.

Well, we carry Roadside Assistance on our car insurance, and all I had to do was call them for a *free* rescue. Except that along with my keys, my cell phone was safely tucked into my purse which was sitting pretty right there on the floorboard.

Now what? This is just too hard. I can ask the girl in the bullet-proof cage if I could use her phone. But whom would I call? The rescue phone number is safely hidden in the car. I could call my Man, but he won't be out of work for another 30 minutes, and he is 30 miles away. And I don't know anybody in this town! WAAAAAHHH!!! Oh, well. My arm isn't long enough to reach the phone through that little slot, anyway. That sorta leaves me back at Square One, doesn't it.

Oh, and did I mention I have two sets of people waiting for me, and no way for me to contact them?

I approached the glass cage. There was one customer standing there ahead of me, and she and the captive inside were carrying on an animated (and lengthy) conversation. Kids, exes, school, vacations, you name it. Oh well. I had time to wait, and it gave me a chance to sorta rehearse what I might say to try to minimize the indignity of the situation. In the final analysis though, as everyone says, honesty is the best policy, so I decided to man up and be honest. Besides, I could not think of one possible/plausible person to blame it on. Other than me, that is...

Well, let me tell you, that girl in the cage was all business. I barely got the words out before she went into action. "Honey, this happens ALL the time! Well, mostly over there at MoreMart, but here, too. Let me call the police department for you. They will send an officer over here and open it for you for free. They do this every day." She knew exactly what she was talking about. The number was either on speed dial, or etched into her brain, because she had them on the phone in no time flat. "We have an idiot locked out of her car over here at the MoreMart gas station. Red Cavalier." "Honey, what year is it?" "2001. Right here at pump #6." And then she hung up and said, "They'll be here as soon as an officer is available. Don't worry. They know all about this kind of thing."

My credit card was the only thing that had escaped the lockdown, so I went ahead and filled up my car while I waited. It only took a few minutes, and then...well...nothing like feeling stupid. No place to sit, no one to talk to, no phone, no book; so I tried to think of all the things I could be thankful for while I stood around like a streetwalker: I'm in the shade, there's a nice breeze, what a nice clerk at this gas station, what a lucky break that the cops were on the way.

I'm sure it probably didn't take as long as it felt like. I mean, this is small-town Saturday morning. The cops are probably glad to have something to do. And soon enough, only minutes, really, a Sheriff's car came along. And kept right on going. What's up with that?! Then a police SUV drove up. Didn't want to get my hopes up this time, but YES!!! He pulled in right behind me. The driver got out and came over to me, clipboard and pen in hand. Oh, no! He wants a record of this! Well, I'm not really in a position to refuse, am I, so I answer the questions: Name? Physical address? Date of birth? Driver's license # (oh, sure...If I knew that, my brain would be in a lot better working order than this, wouldn't it?)? Height? Uh oh...what's next?! If he asks me my weight I'm gonna ask him his... ACK!

The second officer was still digging around in the back of the SUV, so my guy took off in that direction. He was back in about one second, with a doorstop in one hand and a long, bendy, heavy pink wire in the other. I don't know what this guy did for a living before he became a cop, but he knew his business! Wedged that doorstop in the door, jiggled that wire around, and voila'! I'm in!!! I got my purse and looked up my driver's license for him, and that was that. I hopped in my car, they hopped back in theirs, and...We're off!

Something to keep in mind...If you're going to lock yourself out of your car, make sure you do it in Lampasas, Texas.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Fun @ Beast Barracks

  • Don't sign up for the Army, no matter how much they smile.
  • Scaling a 75-foot cliff is not easy in boots.
  • M knows how to make a one-rope bridge. In case anyone at home needs one.
  • Rappelling down a 75-foot wall is too short. They will not let you go again.
  • Rappelling in the rain = GREAT!
  • The girl from E totally flat-turtled on the cliffs. Like twice.
  • Prickly heat on the back is NOT fun.
  • Omnipresent and omniworsening shinsplints lead to ibuprofen.
  • A hole in your protective gear can sear your neck.
  • Tear gas smells like being really close to a huge bottle of clorox. x10 or so.
  • We thought a pear was a big deal? M ate a BANANA. TWICE!
  • Piano playing is a rare treat.
  • Nc's take their new M-16's everywhere.
  • M was accepted in the Cadet Chapel Choir.
  • There are no picky eaters at Beast.
  • M was *referred* to the Glee Club. Wow...referred...Sounds official, doesn't it?
  • Near the stairs is not a good place to faint/pass out.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Solar Eclipse

There is something Not. Quite. Right. about watching a total solar eclipse in the total dark of night.

In another world, I would have had accomplices, willing or unwilling, but in the empty-nested world of today, I was on my own, at 5:30 am, with a small group of people stumbling our way through the dark into the planetarium where we were gathering to witness a total eclipse of the sun. In China. Well, it was this "morning" here. I don't know what day it was over there.

Just inside the door we came upon a table laden with donuts and coffee. A very nice surprise, which I virtuously passed up on my way into the auditorium where things were already underway. The live feed from some obscure plain in China, hosted by a leftover hippie with a long pony tail hanging halfway down his back, featured a Who's Who of helio-science guys holding forth on sunspots and solar activity, totality and prominences and coronas along with other solar mysteries in a(n) heroic effort to educate the Man in the Auditorium enough to view the upcoming spectacle with some modicum of intelligence. It seems that a total solar eclipse occurs in any given place only once every 325 years (Can that be right?), but this part of the country lags woefully behind, our last total solar eclipse having occurred back in 1500-something.

While waiting for the moon to make its move, the Head Hippie enthusiastically described the scene: as far as the eye could see, hordes of people clustered around telescopes all over the plain, a "chill" descending as the temperature began to drop ~ all the way down to 90 degrees! And then, clouds rolled in to cover up the sun....

AAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!! The story of my life! I can't even begin to know the times over the last many years I dragged my kidlets out of bed or kept them up half the night to witness some wonder of astronomical events, only to have the clouds take over. Comets, eclipses, meteor showers, and the very top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art technology...clouds trump them all. Even all the way over in China, there's no escape.

Anyway. The Hippie called on a helio-guy to entertain the crowd. I'm not sure exactly what kind of connections he had, but he stepped up and said, "I think the clouds will start to clear up in about 30 seconds," and just like that, with a monumental cheer from the crowd, they did! Just in time, too. The clouds stood aside, the moon took center stage to obliterate the sun, and the sky went dark. For the next 11 minutes, it was nighttime in midday China, complete with a 360-degree sunset.

We sat mesmerized for the duration, and then it was time to take on the day. As we filed out of the auditorium, we were invited once again to a breakfast of coffee and donuts and given a couple of reminders:
  • If you have a parking ticket when you get out to your car, bring it to the desk and we will take care of it. A parking ticket?! Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is CTC where "Off'cer ____, CTC P'lice D'prtment" is relentlessly on duty and never passes up an opportunity to exert his authority.
  • Next total solar eclipse coming up on April 8, 2024, right here along the 190 corridor!!!!
The next wave of helio-watchers will be here from the world over to study and take notes, so I'm marking my calendar. I still have time to buy up some land to rent out for telescopes and tents and porta-potties, and maybe, just maybe, the clouds will stay home that day.

See you here!!!

Between My Boys

One month in, one month out. Midway between my boys, two milestone family events. One month ago, M left home with a one-way ticket to G-Company. In one month to come, S is getting married, to G. Things are definitely changing.