Saturday, January 27, 2018

Silent Generation

My external hard drive crashed right after I came to Texas, and I've been slowly trying to get everything from my backups and back onto one new external hard drive. All my backups consist of things like Google Play Music for my music files, Google Photos for a lot of my photos, DVDs for the rest of my photos, and so forth. So, recently I came across these ancient pictures that my father has, and I scanned into the computer years ago. My dad was born in 1937, so he's older than the parents of most of my contemporaries. For example, my wife's dad is about the same age as my oldest brother.

My dad's not a baby boomer, like most of the kids my age, nor is he from the Greatest Generation...which I'm sure was called something else before Tom Brokaw came along and renamed them. He's from the generation between those two famous generations. The internet just informed me is called the Silent Generation. Could the name be more apt considering I had to look it up just to find out its name? He was born within the time that included the Great Depression and the Second World War, but he was too young to participate in them in any active way, and for the most part, he doesn't remember all that much about them. He was already an adult when all the social upheaval of the sixties took place. He was one of those kids in Back to the Future though. He graduated high school in 1955. And I think he tried to cut in on George McFly and dance with Loraine in that one scene only to be turned away when George finally grew a pair.

Sorry I ramble so much. The reason I made this post was to show you a picture. Because my dad is older than most of my friends' parents, he lived in a different time. A time before a lot of the technology that we consider an integral part of civilization was introduced or at least widespread. His house had an outhouse for example. And when Halloween came, his sisters wore costumes like these:



Why are old Halloween costumes always so frightening? And was Halloween in 1940 what it is in 2018? How was it different? I probably ought to ask him some time before he and his generation becomes permanently silent. Sorry, that was kind of a dark ending. Here's a puppy:



My dog when I was a kid. What a cutie.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Turtle

Went for a walk this morning with my son. Down at the canal, we spied a turtle crawling his way along in the shallow water.

I went down and got a couple of pictures of it. Unfortunately, he was scared of me, so he never poked his...well anything out of his shell.





There's a bunch of red-eared slider turtles that live down this way. We see them all the time. I always wonder whenever I see them if they are native to the area, or just somebody's escaped pets that really managed to take off.

Oh, on my way down the hill to take pictures, I slipped in the mud from the recent rains, and took a tumble onto my but. I was covered in mud, and even managed to cut myself on something too. So, way to go me!

This is my leg covered in mud and blood.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I'm Sad

I became a fan of the Minnesota Vikings somewhere around 1986. They were an up-and-coming team that sparked my interest, and I was a guy in search of a team to root for. Many times since then have I wished that I'd just picked the home team instead, and cheered the 49ers on as they won Super Bowl after Super Bowl.

But no, the Vikings are my guys. Since I became a fan, they've gone to the NFC Championship game five times. In case you're not a football fan, and have no idea what I'm talking about, the NFC Championship is the game that decides one of the teams that will play in the Super Bowl. The other team is decided in the AFC Championship game.

In 1987, they lost to the Washington Redskins 17-10, Darrin Nelson was unable to corral Wade Wilson's fourth-down pass to him in the end zone. A catch would have tied it up and sent it to overtime. He didn't catch it.

In 1998, they lost to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, 30-27. Gary Anderson was their kicker. He'd hit every single kick he'd attempted the entire season, both field goals and extra points, but at the end of regulation time, when he lined up to kick a field goal that would have sealed the game away, he missed. It was his first and last miss of the year. He never got another chance to shank it.

In 2000, the New York Giants beat the living snot out of the Vikings 41-0. Then the Giants went to the Super Bowl and got the snot kicked out of them. I don't know if I ever felt better about a Super Bowl result, unless it was two Super Bowls before when the Broncos kicked the snot out of the Falcons that beat us in 1998.

In 2009, the New Orleans Saints beat us 31-28 in overtime. Once again, we had the opportunity to kick a winning field goal as time was running out. Instead, one of our offensive linemen committed a false start, moving us back five yards, and likely out of range for our kicker. Brett Favre, who was our quarterback that year, did what Brett Favre did best. He scrambled around, desperately trying to get those five yards back, and threw a terribly ill-advised pass which was intercepted, keeping us from even having a chance to miss that possibly game-winning field goal.

Then there was today. The Vikings made it back into the NFC Championship by crushing their competition throughout the year with a ferociously punishing defense. The defense was ranked number one out of all the teams in the NFL. They saved their worst game for last. They looked absolutely lost against the Philadelphia Eagles today. The Eagles are playing with their backup quarterback because their starter had a season-ending knee injury a month ago. But today it looked more like the quarterback was the starter and our number one defense was the backup. I frankly couldn't believe how bad we were.

Had we won the game, we would have been the first team ever to have a home game for the Super Bowl, because the Super Bowl is taking place in Minnesota this year. Kiss that shit goodbye.

Instead, it's 31 years and counting. Will I ever see my team in a Super Bowl. Maybe I need to do like my friend Mitch did, and switch alliances. The Patriots win a lot of Super Bowls don't they? (oh, I probably just jinxed them just by letting my cursed fingers type their name).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ice Town

It's pretty much over now, though there's still a lot of ice out there on the ground, but I managed to survive the ice-pocalypse this week.

There was a big winter storm that came into Houston on Tuesday, bringing with it freezing rain, sleet, hail, snow and even graupel! That's right, graupel, look it up. Don't worry, it's safe for work.

The thing I thought most telling about the storm was one of our weatherman's graphics that showed the leading edge of the clouds passing over Texas. In one town the temperature was 54 degrees. In the town just next to it, where the clouds had already arrived, it was 34! A few miles meant a twenty degree drop in temperature.

Well, it got cold and rainy in Houston. Now, I'm no namby-pamby when it comes to weather. I lived for thirteen years in a region that saw heavy snowstorms that dumped many feet of snow every winter. We had blizzards, and cold that was enough to freeze your nuts off. If you're Rish's friend on Facebook, then this picture probably looks familiar to you:

He likes to place an action figure out on the deck to demonstrate just how bad the big snowstorms get.

But, the one thing we didn't see much there was freezing rain. I only remember one time that it happened there. It was about a year and a half before I moved away. I remember coming out to my car after work; going to scrape the window off, which was covered with ice; and having all the ice come away from my window in one giant sheet. It was pretty weird.

But when you're used to dangerous road conditions, nobody has to tell you to drive slow. So, even with ice on the roads, there weren't many problems.

Houston, though, isn't used to dangerous road conditions. They might know really well what to do if the road is flooded, but when it's icy and slick? Fuggetaboudit.

So, on Tuesday morning when the ice rain began, I got a little nervous about my drive in to work.

My kids didn't have to worry at all. Their school was canceled.

We were pretty amaazed when that happened. We'd never had a single day off of school because of weather until we moved here, despite having so much more snow. Everyone in the family chuckled, and called Texans a bunch of lightweights. Schools weren't the only thing shut down either. Businesses all across the city were closed. When I finally got on the road to work, the streets were pretty much empty.

I have to say that it was probably wise that they did that though. The drive was pretty hellish. The roads were ugly. When it's cold, bridges and overpasses are the places you have to be most careful with, because they ice up the most. And everything in Houston is a bridge or an overpass or at least an elevated freeway. I probably spend half of my commute driving on some structure up in the air instead of on a freeway on the ground.

I probably drove the entire trip at about 35mph. I can only imagine the disaster it would have been if there had been the usual amount of traffic out there.

It only got worse for my drive home. The icy rain had passed, but the temperature had gotten even lower, so it was dangerous wherever you went. I had Google Maps make me a route home that didn't include freeways (which is actually surprisingly easy in Texas, because there's a ground level service road that follows alongside almost every freeway). It took me through some pretty scary parts of town, but that was fine, because even the criminals were taking the night off. I did see one homeless guy pushing a shopping cart full of stuff down the middle of the street at a run though. I suppose he was keeping moving because it was the best way to keep warm, I don't know.

In the end, despite having to cross a few iced over bridges, I managed to get home safely. Again, the streets were pretty much empty, which had helped a ton. Especially considering that Houstonians haven't got a clue how to handle their vehicle in slippery situations. Doesn't matter how good I drive if the other guy can't keep himself from hitting me, as I learned the hard way recently. But if there are no other guys, then that drasticly reduces the chances of a catastrophe.

Come morning, the world was still pretty iced over, but it was starting to melt. So, I took a few pictures. They might look a little familiar.

The funny thing was that my wife and daughter were in New York at the time. It's my wife's new idea that when each of our kids turns sixteen, she'll look on Frontier Airlines (or whatever the discount airline is, I can't remember the name) and find one of those deals that we often get emails about advertising flights for $30 or $50, and take them on a special trip. So, they missed out on all of it. I sent her this screen grab of what Siri told me the weather would be, and she was surprised to find that it was actually colder in Houston than it was in New York City.

It wasn't by any means warm in New York, and on top of that, the winter storm was heading their way, and they'd get theirs, but for the time being, it was Topsy-turvy Day.

There was another drive to work that morning that was pretty hairy. Mostly the roads were clear of ice, and everything was melting, but it had its danger zones. Particularly when I passed underneath an overpass. The shadow from those things made certain that the ice on the road underneath didn't melt. There was one spot as I passed under the spaghetti bowl of overpasses at Beltway 8 that I lost control of my car for a split second, sliding away like a bobsledder. Then just as quickly the dry pavement on the other side of the shade jerked me back into place. It left my heart racing for a bit, but never really put me in any danger.

I also had to go around on a different route than normal again, because the elevated freeway that I usually take through downtown Houston was closed. I was about thirty minutes late for work...for the second day in a row.

By Wednesday night, everything was clear again, and I was able to take my normal route back home. I'm sure the folks up in the northeast are hating life right now, but we're doing much better down south. In fact, it's supposed to hit seventy degrees by Saturday.

And my wife and daughter managed to avoid it all. They flew home the day after the airport had experienced a bunch of closures. They did have to wait a couple of extra hours to board their plane because of the cumulative delays from the storm, but they got out of New York before it got bad, and landed in Houston after it was all over.

I am a newcomer here, and I'd always heard that Houston winters were pretty mild. This year hasn't been one of those. One of the anchors on our newscast commented about how we usually get one event like this every five years or so. This year has been crazy, because we have had three different occasions of hard freeze, two of them coming with snow or sleet as well. I hope it's not my fault. I hope it hasn't followed me here. Because if it is, then that means it'll follow me wherever I go, and I won't be able to escape it.

I'm really looking forward to 70 degrees this weekend.

Deputy Sheriff C.A.T.

I was at the auto shop the other day, getting the brakes fixed on one of our cars, and they had one of those cop reality shows on the TV. It was showing a chase from South Carolina, I think. When they stopped the guy, and were arresting him, there was a bunch of people wearing these vests that said Deputy Sheriff C.A.T. on the back. I couldn't help myself. I snapped a picture of the TV and made this:



A few months ago, I saw a truck that was labeled EMERGENCY CAT RESPONSE TEAM.



At the time, I made a stupid joke about how it was a bit of overkill to have a whole team for just cats, and that maybe they ought to branch out to include other pets or soemthing. But now, maybe it's a different kind of team. That truck might be filled with deputies like the ones in the picture above. Ya think?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bumblebee's Last Ride.

No question mark. A period. Bumblebee's last ride, period.

I went out to the auto body shop today because I found out (through back channels, not from the worthless people at Allstate insurance company, who have still yet to tell me anything at all) that my car, Bumblebee, has been declared a total loss. I was already worried that such a thing might happen, and I really didn't want it to. I don't know if it's a specifically American thing, but I kind of fell in love with this car. I really, really like driving it. The way it handles and responds is just phenomenal. It's a beautiful machine. I love its style, shape, paint job, and on and on.

At the body shop, they told me I needed to go out and clean all my things out of the car. I went out to where it was parked, and almost wished I hadn't. This is my car when it was in its prime:

This is what it looked like when I dropped it off at the shop:

But this is what I saw now:

They'd taken the whole thing apart. It felt like arriving at a viewing and seeing the corpse of a friend sitting in the casket. I was worried that Bumblebee and I had gone for our last ride together, but upon seeing this, it was certain. They weren't putting Bumblebee back together again. She was gone for good.

There was this time back when we moved out of the house that my kids had grown up in. My oldest son was really broken up about it. We'd moved in when he was four, so he didn't remember living anywhere else. I'd lived so many places by this point that I couldn't even remember them all, but this was all he knew. My wife told me that the two of them had gone to the house to make sure that every last thing had been removed, and after taking care of everything, she went to leave, but couldn't find my son. She called his name, and he didn't respond. In the end, she found him down in what had been his room, crying. He'd gone down to walk through the place one last time, and let the memories he'd made there wash over him, and he couldn't hold back the tears.

I had a hard time understanding his feelings at that time. It touched me, but I couldn't muster any feelings like that myself. It was just a house. The people were what made the memories, and all of those were going with us. We weren't even moving out of the neighborhood, so he wouldn't be losing a single friend.

Seeing Bumblebee all naked and debased kind of made me feel a little like he did that day, I think. We would never drive together again. The old girl had served me so well over the years. She didn't deserve an ending like this. It makes me wish I'd taken some time on that very last drive we had together to think about what was going on, and really lived in the moment. Our modern, rush-everywhere-we-go lives make it hard to actually be present for any particular moment in our lives, and then, before you know it, it's over.

Sadly, I didn't even stop to feel something even as I removed all my personal items from Bumblebee's lifeless corpse. It wasn't until the chance was gone that I thought maybe I should have said goodbye.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Anyone Binge Like This?

There was this ad on my Roku home screen today:

Binge on the first chapter? I'm not much for bingeing, but I do at least understand the concept, and you can't binge on just one chapter. Get a clue, CBS.

Somebody Didn't Get The Message

The names have been blurred to protect the innocent, but I saw this in the Wal-mart parking lot today:

It's possible that this guy started his business a long time ago, because they didn't remove Pluto from the list of planets until 2006, but it seems to me like it's more likely that he didn't get the message, so he named his business like it was the next planet out.

Struck me as funny, but probably isn't very funny at all. Cheers, folks!

Water Wall and Williams

I've been trying to get to know my new city, and see the things there that are cool. So, yesterday afternoon, I took a couple of my kids (half of them refused to leave their video games to come along, but I was fine with that considering how the last attempt had gone), and we went down to the Water Wall.

Aptly named, the water wall is a great big wall that water pours down from.

It's a sort of man made waterfall in the middle of a park.

It's pretty neat.

It even acts just like a waterfall. If you get close enough, you get all wet from the spray. Which wasn't particularly pleasant. It may be Houston winter, but it's still winter. It'd probably be amazing in the summertime though.

The Water Wall is on one end of a small park. On the other end of the park is this building:

This is the Williams Building:

I don't know if this marks me as a bumpkin or something, but I'm a little bit obsessed with this building, all the tall buildings in Houston really, but this one especially.

This building is the third tallest building in Houston. Wikipedia says it's 901 ft. tall (274.6 m. for all you imperials), which makes it the 200th tallest building in the world, and the 4th tallest in Texas.

It is, however, the tallest building in the world not located in a central business district.

Houston has a downtown, that I took pictures of and posted here to my blog a few weeks ago. But it is a bigger city that just that. Similar famously large cities like New York, there's a downtown as well as an uptown...and a midtown I think too. So, the Williams Building is in Uptown, or as it is more commonly known, the Galleria Area. And the reason I'm so obsessed with the building is just this fact. The building is HUGE, and it sits in the middle of an area that only has average-sized buildings. Here's the picture of the Galleria Area's skyline from Wikipedia:

By Henry Han - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Notice how the building, over on the left side, towers above everything else around it. The buildings on the right side look like they're comparable in size, but don't be fooled. That's just a trick of perspective. It's enormous, and nothing else anywhere near it even compares. It's still in the middle of a really big part of town. Uptown is comparable to the downtown of Denver or Pittsburgh. But again, the buildings around it are pretty average-sized.

Every day, as I drive past the building going to and from work, it jumps out at me. Especially at night. The building has a spotlight on the top of it that circles the sky all night long. Looks like this:

By w:Flickr user Bill Jacobus - http://www.flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1/125073346/, CC BY 2.0, Link

And whenever the beacon is circling in a cloudy sky, it totally reminds me of this:

I suppose that's the main thing behind my obsession. At least now I can say that I've been to the heart of Mordor and I came away alive and well.

So, to finish things up, here's a low angle picture that turned out to just be a shot of my crotch. Be careful of low angles, they can be more dangerous than the Nazgul.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ninjabread

On the day after Christmas, I was at Wal-mart, looking at their 50% off stuff, when I saw a box of gingerbread cookies. But they weren't your average gingerbread, they were ninjabread! I couldn't turn it down, and at 50% off, why would I?

They came with four cookie cutters, icing mix, cookie mix, and a few candy pieces.

Today, when there was a lull in the afternoon while my wife took (another) nap, I busted out that box, and me and the kids made some cookies.