Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flooding update

As I mentioned in my last post, we were having a flooding problem in our basement. As I also mentioned, we thought we'd found the source.

We determined that one of the basement window wells on the side of the house was the source of the water. It doesn't have a window well cover like the ones out front. So Marc went to search for one at the local home improvement stores. In the meantime, the rain started again full force.

Jeff and I went downstairs. While he stayed with me to help empty it as needed, I operated our Shop-Vac wet-dry vacuum. It's a 10-gallon one, and we had to empty it three times before the rain started to let up. Then once more, as it was about half full when we finished.

After the rain reduced, Jeff and I went outside and grabbed one of the front window well covers (where the roof overhangs that area, so it shouldn't be as big of an issue for it) and moved it to the problem one around the side (this was Marc's idea--he called from the road). Then we grabbed some stone blocks we had in the back of the yard and rebuilt the lip around the window well.

I carried the blocks and Jeff rebuilt the lip and then placed the relocated cover on top. I hope that will stop more flooding when the next round comes. Looking at the weather radar, more storms should be here in an hour or so, unless they break up first.

I'm just glad Jeff was here to help. He's always been a good friend, but he's really gone above and beyond today!

As safe as can be (unless he'd just stayed home)

Marc is doing some baking today. He needs some ingredients, so he decided to run out and get them. Jeff, who is visiting this weekend, went with him.

As he was leaving, the skies were looking ominous and it was starting to rain. I told him to take my car. His car, a Toyota Camry, is a pretty safe car, but I felt like my new Volvo S80 was the better choice if things were going to get bad while he was out.

I'm really glad I said what I did. Not only has it started to rain, but it's actually pouring and lighting bolts are streaking down all over the place. This is quite a storm! The lights even flickered a few times.

If he has to be out there in this mess (and, of course, he does... with apologies to the USPS, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor lack of ingredients shall stay my hubby from his appointed baking), I'm glad he's in the safest car I know. Now I just wish he'd get back here. This storm is wild. Mandy is upset and hiding, and Dodger is barking at it. If I knew how to save a snapshot of the radar image right now, I would. Lots of red!

The "Oh, hail!" update: The good news is that they're back home safely. The bad news? Well, these impressive storms now include hail pelting down. Worse yet (unless, of course, a tornado is next) is that we got a flood of water in the basement. On the plus side, we think we've figured out where it's coming from, and it looks like an easy fix.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

July 27th was her birthday. She was taken from us way too soon.

She was wonderful beyond words. A wonderful person and the most wonderful Mom anyone could ever hope to have. I hope she's with Dad and they're happily dancing the night away, joyous in each other's arms.

I miss her so much.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'd forgotten about that horrible day

I was just reminded of something from way back in my memories. In my senior year of high school, my physics teacher organized a class trip to Six Flags Great Adventure. He was the worst science teacher I'd ever encountered, but this at least seemed like a good idea.

So we took a bus to southern New Jersey and spent the day riding roller coasters, etc. The date was May 11, 1984.

As we reached the end of the day, smoke started to blow across the park. By the time this started, some of us were heading back to the bus. The smoke was thick, and we ran to the bus and started to shut the handful of windows that had been opened earlier.

We didn't know what was burning right away, but we soon learned. Some of my classmates returned to the bus a bit later and told us they had been waiting in line for the haunted house when smoke started pouring out of it. It took a while for everyone to get back to the bus. A few of our lot were on a rollercoaster when the smoke started to spread, and some rocket scientist decided that stopping the cars in mid-ride would be a good idea. So they were briefly stuck in the middle of the ride as the smoke filled the air. They didn't inhale enough to need medical attention, but they certainly weren't pleased.

I was worried that the news of the fire would get to my parents before I did (since we had a roughly two-hour drive before we got back home), but that didn't happen. Later that night, the word started to spread. By the next morning, the horror of what had happened was in all the papers: 8 PEOPLE KILLED, 7 HURT IN BLAZE AT THEME PARK

I don't know if that link from the Times archive will work once I post this, but the headline really says it all. Eight people were dead.

So what reminded me of this? Well, our local news radio station, WCBS 880, is celebrating "40 Years of News Radio" by revisiting big stories from the past 40 years. I hadn't thought of that day in ages, and then they started talking about it and it all came rushing back. It's funny how we bury some memories deeper than others, only to have them come flooding back when we're reminded.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nice things to see

We went to a barbecue this afternoon. It was at the home of some friends. We knew some of the people there but not others. Among those we hadn't met before today was a couple who had brought two of their kids, a boy and girl, and a friend of the boy.

I'd guess that the two boys were around 12 or 13 years old. I occasionally noticed the friends interacting and, eventually, as I saw Marc looking at them at one point, I said, "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Marc was: "The friend is very affectionate with him."

It was clear that the son's friend has a huge crush on him. He would lean in close to talk to him and place his hands on his head and shoulders in ways that one normally doesn't see except with lovers. It was touching, really. I don't know if the father sees what's going on, but maybe he's just glad that his son has a friend who loves him. Or maybe he just thinks they're too young for it to mean anything.

The really funny thing is that the one who apparently has the crush is the far better looking of the two. In fact, unless his looks change a lot over the coming years, he is going to be a strikingly handsome man. (Now where were such affectionate, handsome boys when I was that age?)

This display of affection was nice to see. Of course, they're kids, so who knows what, if anything, might come of it in the years ahead. I just hope they stay good friends, since the caring is so very clearly there.

After the barbecue, we did a quick run to Trader Joe's for some groceries. Then we drove down to the beach. As we drove along bridges over the water, we opened the sun roof and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset. Thin, high clouds were lit a beautiful pink by the setting sun, and the rippling water was shimmering beautifully.

Just one nice thing after another today.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

So full of shit

The weather prognosticators and talking heads on TV are such bullshit artists. Yesterday morning, we had a small typhoon here. My roughly 10 mile drive to work took almost two hours, due to flooded out roads, and we had water in the basement (not much, thankfully). There even was a tornado east of us... A Long Island style tornado. Not a Kansas F-5. More like an F-minus one (it just knocked over some trees and fences).

So did the weather idiots predict any of this? Not at all. I didn't expect a tornado prediction, of course, but maybe "the possibility of heavy rain" or words to that effect. Not a bit of it. The night before, they said something about afternoon and evening storms, but nothing about torrential downpours for the morning commute.

Of course, having completely botched the forecast for yesterday, they're trying to redeem themselves by overreacting today. Typical forecast for today: "OH MY GOD! EVERYONE RUN FOR IT! GET INTO THE CELLAR! DEFINITE CHANCE OF SCATTERED HURRICANES AND TORNADOES! POSSIBLE HAIL AND LOCUSTS!! IF YOU'RE STILL ALIVE TOMORROW, TUNE IN FOR COVERAGE OF THE DEVASTATION!!!"

Um, yeah. Yesterday, the surprise storm dropped an average of about 4 inches of rain in an hour or so.

Now? It's drizzling.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No, I don't want a business affiliation

I received an e-mail today that complimented me on the content of my website and asked me to form an affiliation with a particular gay-focused company. I must admit that I read it very quickly, so it's possible that it was a sincere comment on my site.

That, however, is unlikely. I get these e-mails every so often. I'd be willing to bet that lots of you got the same e-mail. It probably was mass-mailed to a bunch of gay blogs. I suppose there's nothing wrong with affiliating with whomever you'd like and perhaps even making some money from the deal. But that's just not my purpose here.

I'm here to share details of my life (boring though they may be), occasionally rant about politics or some other subject, and share my photos, whether they're of hot boys from the rugby matches, travel photos or the occasional family hound shot.

So I'm glad to trade blogroll links, but forming more commercial affiliations just isn't my goal at the moment. Besides, the commercial sites should know better. How many hits do they think my poor little blog gets? This isn't Towleroad or Joe.My.God!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What a name!

Were you aware that the British have a dessert called spotted dick? Sounds like a reason to rush to the doctor, but it seems that it's actually a kind of pudding (and, I suppose, remains a reason to rush to the doctor if it shows up in the way that first comes to my mind).

I don't know why I'm surprised. When we visited London last February, our hotel, the Rubens at the Palace, included a "genuine English breakfast" in the price of the room, and that breakfast caused us enough gastric distress to nearly require medical attention. So why should an appalling dessert name come as any surprise?

Still, spotted dick? Now there's a name that can use changing!

Friday, July 13, 2007

I was at my aunt & uncle's apartment

The blackout of '77 hit while I was staying at my aunt & uncle's apartment in Brooklyn. When the power went out in the apartment, we went to the apartment's balcony so we could look around and see if the whole building was out.

Well, not only was the whole building out, but all of the surrounding buildings were out. And what I found amazing was that we could see the power dropping out neighborhood by neighborhood. Huge squares of blocks were dropping out at a time. If not for how much a summertime blackout sucked, it would have been pure entertainment.

We were pretty well stuck in the apartment for the duration of the blackout. We could have gone down the stairs to street level, but going back up would have sucked, since their apartment was pretty high up in the building. So we stayed in the apartment.

Eventually, the water ran out. Water in the building came from tanks on the roof. The tanks were filled by electric pumps. No power meant no refilling of the tanks. So the water ran out.

When that happened, there was some added entertainment. Some of the people in the other apartments had fishing poles and were using them to lower buckets down so people on the ground could fill them with water from other sources.

It was an event to remember, but I'd hardly call it fun!

That was 30 years ago today. It sure doesn't seem like 30 years, but the calendar doesn't lie. 30 years. Wow, I'm getting old! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A medical mystery unraveled

For years, I've suffered from neck and back pain, cramps and muscle spasms. Massage therapists have noted how hard my muscles get. That, of course, is because I'm such a musclebound stud (in a fat, non-muscular kind of way).

Recently, I've again been having neck and shoulder pain, and Marc finally talked me into going to see a doctor. The doctor sent me for x-rays which I had done in my hospital's radiology department today. Since I work there, they had a radiologist look at the x-rays and provide a report right away. Normally, the radiologist just reports to the referring doctor, but, under the circumstances, he was nice enough to tell me his findings directly.

Radiologist: So you've been having some neck pain?

Me: Yes, for a while, so I decided to finally have it checked out.

Radiologist: [Indicating screen where x-rays were] Well, that'll do it.

He then proceeded to show me my x-rays and a "normal" x-ray of a cervical spine, so I could see the difference.

Apparently, despite my having pretty normal "range of motion" in my neck, I've been working with some hidden challenges. It seems that I was born with some problems in my spinal column that no one has detected until now.

Specifically, quoting from doctor's report, "fusion of the C2 and C3 vertebrae . . . fusion of the C4 and C5 vertebrae . . . [and there] may also be a small area of fusion between the C3 and C4 vertebrae." All of these issues have existed from birth.

In other words, a number of the bones in my neck and upper back that should move independently of each other are instead, in essence, welded together.

Fortunately, there's nothing life-threatening or even crippling in any of this, but it does mean that the pain I've lived with for so many years is likely to go on and can only be treated, not fully resolved. He also said that there's a good chance that there are disc herniations, but they can only tell that with an MRI. Even if there are herniations, it doesn't mean we necessarily need to do anything about them just now.

In a way, I'm glad to have these results. Yes, something that could be resolved simply would be better, but at least I now know why I've had so many painful problems. Hey, if not for this, maybe I would have been a star athlete! :)

Most importantly, this news makes for good blog fodder, and what could be more important than that?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Should they be saying that?

I didn't get enough sleep last night. Then I went to give a pint of blood this morning and followed that with a couple of shopping trips. By this afternoon, I felt like taking a nap. So I set the clock-radio and climbed into bed.

When the alarm goes off, it plays 880 AM, the CBS news radio station here in New York. Sadly, they sometimes abandon news coverage so they can broadcast Yankee games, for those who don't find baseball quite boring enough live or on TV. :)

Anyhow, the radio comes on, and I hear the broadcasters discussing how one of the players is "on the DL."

For all I know, maybe the guy doesn't have a wife or girlfriend, but, if he does and she hears that, he's dead meat.

Besides, professional sports isn't exactly a gay-friendly environment. So what are they thinking? If they happen to know he's "on the DL," they shouldn't be announcing it to the world! Geez!

The new criminal code

It's only fair that I begin to share some of the changes people will see when I'm elected Emperor. So here's a first example.

When I'm Emperor, anyone who disposes of chewed gum by throwing it on the ground where someone else may step on it shall be killed.

Murder won't get the death penalty. My regime will favor life in prison for such offenses. Toss chewed gum on the ground, however... shot in the head. The beauty of this plan, as well as teaching some decency and manners, is that the crew that cleans up the blood and gore can also remove the gum.

Great, right? :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Where did that come from?

For a while now, there's been a project underway to replace the current incarnation of New York's Pennsylvania Station. I'd regularly walk by the main post office, across the street from Penn Station, when I worked in Manhattan, and have seen it draped in huge tarps as work has been going on.

The idea was supposed to be to replace the current station with something grander, more fitting for a great city like New York and more like the old Penn Station that was demolished decades ago.

The prior version of Penn Station

Inside old Penn Station

Another view inside the old station

That sounded great to me, but now comes word that the project is blossoming into something new and huge. According to today's New York Times, the project now includes grander plans, including building two towers, one of which will be taller than the Empire State Building!!!

Okay, so where did this come from? I'm all for new business ventures and progress that will help move the city forward, but what's that all about? Clearly, there's a feeling that we've all gotten over the post-9/11 "I won't work in a tall building" sentiment, but do we really need such huge towers there? It just seems like it's a bit much to me, but then what do I know? Plenty of people will become filthy rich through this project, while I just sit here and wonder what they're thinking. Clearly, they know something (or at least "someone") that I don't!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Scooter thing gets more upsetting

I wish I'd thought of this, but I didn't. Rather, I read this post by Miles Mogulescu on The Huffington Post and realized that Bush's actions may be even more sinister than I'd realized. When I heard that Bush had commuted Scooter Libby's sentence to eliminate the jail time, I thought it was some hypocritical half-measure, but I didn't put it together the way Mr. Mogulescu has. Here, read it for yourself:

President Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's [sentence] may seem like some kind of compromise between a full pardon and sending Libby to jail.

It may be more sinister than that. Since Libby's conviction stands, Libby will almost certainly continue his appeal to have his conviction overturned. His many Republican supporters will probably defray the costs of the appeal so it will cost Libby nothing.

Now, with an ongoing criminal appeal, if Libby were called before a Congressional Committee and asked to testify about efforts by the Vice President's and President's offices--including Cheney, Bush and Rove personally--to discredit Joe Wilson and reveal that his wife Valerie Plame worked for the CIA--Libby can refuse to testify by taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. If Bush gave Libby a full criminal pardon, the Fifth Amendment would no longer be applicable and Libby could probably be forced to testify o[r] face jail for contempt of Congress.

The same applies to the civil suit by Plame against Libby in which he could otherwise be asked in depositions or on the witness stand how the Vice President's and President's office participated in Plame's outing. Moreover, if Libby knew he was going to jail (and he probably received secret assurance from the administration all along that they would never let that happen), he might have gone to federal prosecutor Fitzgerald and provided information on Cheney, Bush and Rove in exchange for Fitzgerald recommending a reduced sentence to the Judge.

So by commuting the sentence, Libby avoids prison, and the Bush/Cheney administration keeps the details of its campaign against Wilson and its outing of Plame secret. Libby's supporters will almost surely raise money to pay off his $250,000 fine. And while Libby may be disbarred from practicing law, he still has a lucrative career ahead of him as a lobbyist or consultant for a right wing think tank.

It makes so much sense that I'm really pissed off!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

If that's the best they can do...

Let me begin by saying that I'm glad no one was hurt by the car bombs in London and that there were no major casualties from the flaming car in Glasgow (the burned terrorist doesn't count). With that said, if that's the best they can do, I'm quite relieved.

If the best these clowns could do was cans of gasoline and some hardware to make shrapnel, they're just not a huge threat. Although gunpowder may be tougher to obtain in Britain than here, I'm still amazed that they couldn't even manage a gunpowder bomb. I mean, we're talking about material that Guy Fawkes was able to get in great quantities for his plot over 400 years ago, let alone anything more modern like plastic explosives.

I'm glad these murderous bastards couldn't get better material, but I think it says something about the real capabilities of our enemy (sorry to sound like W, but this is one of the few areas where he's right--they are our enemy--not that his actions have helped the situation!). Yes, the fight must go on and we must remain vigilant. These people really would like to kill us. Still, they seem a lot less threatening now. I just hope all the rest of them are as incompetent as the ones who've been causing trouble in Britain lately. (Selfishly, I also hope this week is quiet here, since my baby is traveling to visit family down south later this week, and I don't want anyone messing with things while he's flying.)