greatbear: (aerial me)
That famous holiday, a favorite for the florists, chocolatiers, restaurants, candy makers, wineries, Hallmark and others, has come and gone. I hope everyone was able to make the best of it, and didn't fall into the "Singles Awareness Day" negativity. Valentine's Day can be whatever you make it. A coworker from years ago would get gag chocolates from another friend who worked at the company. It was a highlight of his day.

This week had been a downer for me, as it happened every year. My Mom's name was Valentine, and being that her birthday is four days prior, we used it as an extra day for something nice. Mom would say that my birthday fell on a holiday, so she was in her right to claim the next closest for hers, and none other would be more appropriate. Yeah, it was in the realm of silliness, but it was our little bit of fun. About two weeks apart, we had out own personalized days, mine thanks to that weather prognosticating critter from Pennsylvania, of course.

For whatever reason(s), the last week or so has been rougher than usual on me. Another winter in a row filled with constant pain and the side effects of narcotics play a part, so does the colder-than-usual weather, feelings of uselessness for greater than in the past, getting one more year older, I could go on. I've mostly salvaged the days for the better, and today seemed to be no different. Jeff had been asked to be a personal chef for some friends of mine. It seems he and his partner have decided to change up some things in their lives, and coupling that with buying some sort of business, he asked Jeff to take a shot at helping them entertain in a little bit more formal fashion. Tomorrow is the gig, a sort of test run for them as well as Jeff. We went to Wegman's today to pick up the fresh ingredients for the meal as well as our own weekly supplies. Well, wasn't the store a total mob scene, with the typical batches of self-absorbed Columbia patrons that normally tend to block aisles and snarl traffic with their carts and clustering, except at least three if not more the usual number of them. We didn't get into the store for more than two minutes before declaring it to be an absolute disaster, with Jeff's already busy mind planning the event and being more easily frustrated as a result, I put the single loaf of bread I managed to pick up on entering the store back on the rack and we both went back home. I went for a nap, and apparently Jeff did the same in order to cool off. After a while he went to our local supermarket instead, with me staying behind this time. I said we should just take care of this gig tomorrow and deal with our bit some other day. I conked out again while he made his run. Just as well we put off our grocery run, as our mostly empty fridge became filled with food for the party. Because of the setback, we ended up changing our dinner plans. We had picked up a really nice rack of lamb and other stuff to have for our VDay dinner. Because Jeff had to do prep for tomorrow, and I didn't want to overburden him with even more kitchen mayhem, I made us dinner for the night. My appetite has been shot for months now, and rather than attempting to enjoy an involved meal after a day of stress (and pain for me) we had a nice, relaxing meal of sandwiches and soup and chips and samples of tomorrow's big dinner. And you know what? For that moment, it was just as good as that lamb dinner would've been. If all goes well, we will have our postponed dinner in the early evening on Monday.

I ended up being more than a bit on the cranky side today, anyway. I know, what else is new. I slept worse than usual the night before, with the weather alert radio going off four times in the middle of the night, warning of high winds and extreme windchill from the nasty weather system currently beating up the northeast. During most of the day, the weather was very calm, and a late afternoon snow had begun once Jeff returned from the store. So much for all the noise that kept me up the previous night. Jeff couldn't get a couple items while out, the store was out. So I did the deed going to another grocer nearby. There was already a couple fluffy inches of snow everywhere, and during the short time I was out, perhaps 15 minutes or so, the snow had erased all the signs of me leaving the house. The footprints, the dry area where the truck had been, the tracks on the street were completely gone. I had recently bought a little cordless snowblower to keep the walkways and deck clean, and I've been jonesing to use it since. Knowing how my actions here at home can affect statewide weather patterns, buying this snowblower as well as getting the big monster blower all set for use at a moment's notice meant there was a good chance our area would remain snow-free. Sure enough, though it amounted to maybe three inches of accumulation before stopping, the long-promised wind had finally shown up as well, and unless there's going to be some drifting, my maiden voyage of the new toy snowblower might end up being a disappointment. I love how technology is blasting ahead in so many ways. For years, I used an electric snowblower to keep the decks clean. I used to shovel the snow from the deck, and I had engineered in a means to make this task a bit easier. The railings have a six inch space between them and the deck floor. All that is needed is to push the snow off the edge rather than heaving it over the top. I hadn't considered what would happen to the snow once pushed off the deck. Being a story in the air, and with bushes and shrubs below, the snow would crash onto the plants and break them. So, I had gotten a little electric blower to fling the snow well beyond the area of the plants, with the bonus of giving Mom something very easy to use as well. A couple years ago, though, I inadvertently ran over a stray bungee cord hidden in the snow, and it wrapped around the spinning axle and blade. The resulting friction melted the plastic housing and the bearing mount. In my attempts to cut the tangled rubber with a utility knife and slicing open three fingers quite badly, the damaged blower has been sitting in the basement since, waiting for me to fix it. Last year became the time that cordless, battery operated outdoor tools such as lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers and even chainsaws and snowblowers had finally matched the power of corded electric and even some gas engine powered equivalents. I decided replacing the old corded blower with this new cordless thing would be even easier for me to use than the old one. It's lighter, I don't have to bend over and pick up the icy cord, and it's even more maneuverable. I really, really detest not being able to do even a fraction of the tasks I would think nothing of. I've been spending a lot of money on effort-reducing things to help me along. And I am that fucking stubborn to want, nay, need to continue doing some stuff on my own. I mean, I already am burdening Jeff with a lot of things. And this is a man that suffered a heart attack not long ago. I have to pull as much of my own weight as I can, no matter any consequences. And I absolutely can't change that.

Since I'm in the social media space here, I can talk about things I can change. I'll be cleaning up my LJ presence, streamlining it some, perhaps freshening things a bit. I paid for it, so I might as well use it. This will remain my primary point of presence on the net. I already ditched a lot o other things, and those remaining, like Facebook, will most likely only have links to here rather than any substantial posts over there. I have gone on a lot about how I don't like FB and how it handles information. Sadly, most, if not all of the people I knew from LJ have migrated over there, and seem to have lessened their once detailed posting for lighter fare. The remaining few that have continued their long-form posting style have ended up being boxed in by the format of other social media, and more often than not, I never see these posts because Facebook decides to let me see what they think is important, and not what I want to see. A good many if not all of my posts are not seen by anyone there at all, once again due to how the site works and not including my stuff in what others might want to read. Of course, I can pay the fucker(berg) to put my posts in the streams of friends. Nah, never going to do that. If people really care, they'll come looking.

Tonight the wind is howling outside, gusts so far at least 30mph. And it is only 8 degrees F as I write this. However, we are reaping some of the benefits of my earlier work last year. The drafty front door is gone, the cold air that used to come in through the recessed lighting in the kitchen is gone too. These were the most major air infiltration points upstairs, and there is a big difference in comfort levels as well as energy usage. As I write I am also babysitting the upstairs woodstove, keeping it filled with wood and making it undeniably cozy. When the wind blasts outside like it does, it blows across the chimney and creates a vacuum. This "turbocharges" the draft through the stove and makes the fire burn very hot. The stove has a catalytic converter, similar to the ones in cars. This captures and burns unburned smoke and gasses from the wood fire, and adds to the heat. The studio here is a balmy 80 degrees. Snickles, who never misses a chance to sleep under the covers with us, is instead parked in front of the stove hearth. A warm dog in winter is a content dog, that's for sure. Since having these damn spine troubles, my legs absolutely can't take the cold anymore. I park a little space heater under the desk to keep them warm, also so I can keep the rest of the house cooler. I don't need it now. This was also planned way back when I was designing and building the house. A woodstove was intended as a form of backup heat and as an occasional thing to use, like a fireplace. It didn't take long to find out the stove is much more enjoyable in the winter than previously thought. And on a night like this, it's one of the few things that make me feel secure and happy in a time where I feel less of these things.

Anyhow, I've rambled on enough for one night. I hope everyone has some way of escaping the cold if it's currently causing grief. And I hope you had a good Valentine's Day. Even if the highlight was only sandwiches.

ETA: I almost forgot to include this lovely little ad for the holiday. It's from a Spanish department store chain called El Corte Ingles (colloquially: The Tailor's Cut) As such, it's in Spanish, but you don't need to speak the language to tell what's going on. Click the "CC" button on the bottom right of the frame to turn on English subtitles) If you click the YouTube button on the bottom right of the frame, it will take you to YouTube itself, where you can also see it closed captioned. Do what I initially did. Watch it in Spanish, and see if you got the gist of the story. My Spanish is rustier than the Titanic, and I got pretty close. Love knows no language barriers anyway. The guys are adorable, with an awkward, dorky charm that's nearly squee-worthy.

greatbear: (zep runes)
I am in total love with this video. I mean, it's got so much cool stuff. Weed, munchies, philosophical meanderings, rap, Cards Against Humanity, and... three lovely grandmothers. How perfect is that? Here is what you get when you find three older women who have never tried pot before, get them in a room together, fire up a bong with some smooth ganja, and wait. What results is a trio of gals I want to spend the entire day with just knitting and shooting the breeze. And I can't knit. This is better than The Golden Girls.



This little gathering took place in Washington state, where recreational marijuana use is legal. If word gets out, I think Leisure World will be some of the most happnin' places...
greatbear: (four cycle)
I've gone on and on about my love for music via these pages since I began the whole LJ thing over ten years ago. I also have written ad infinitum about my love of automobiles (when they aren't causing me some hellbound fit because something is wrong and I am in the midst of fixing them, at least). I've been perusing a bunch of saved links (not much else I can do) and found this video, one I meant to post here some time ago. It's somewhat of an ad, but it has no focus on a particular product. In it, we are treated to something very simple, but for people like me, it has a very special, deep meaning. It is the sight and, more importantly, the sound of several high performance cars being started up. Domestic to exotic, every one has its own place among some of the greatest performance automobiles. Each one has it's own voice, it's own song. Like some of my favorite music, hearing this music brings a smile to my face.

Find your best set of earphones, or killer surround system, maximize your screen and enjoy.

greatbear: (building face)
What would happen if a Danish chamber orchestra were to encounter red hot chili peppers? Not the funky rock band, but the actual peppers?

Behold:



And, yes, the bearded fella conducting is really named Chili Claus. I have to say, the musicians kept it pretty much together despite eating some of the hottest peppers in the world. After finishing the piece, though, their reaction is pretty much the same as mine after watching the recent election results.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Jeff and I met 14 years ago on October 23, 2000. That was yesterday (Thursday). Until we got married, Oct. 23 was our "unofficial official" anniversary date, one we'd always celebrate with a dinner out. While our marriage date has become the "official" anniversary, we will continue to celebrate both days. Why? Well, because it's fun and nice and we get to have a special dinner in unusual places and we can get all sappy and lovey and just plain be happy. So, as has been our tradition all these years, we went out for dinner, trying to pick some place where we never had been before. As it turns out, we didn't have to travel more than about a mile from the the house to a restaurant that opened a couple years ago but one we had not explored yet, saving it for, well, a special occasion. Funny how that turned out. This new place, Sushi Tendou, turned out to be a delightful little Japanese steakhouse. The menu was packed with selections, and we were settling on some interesting things we never had before. Now, I'm not sure exactly why this happened, perhaps being a stone's throw from La Casa Mayhem, or the way that strange things seem to happen to me, but the system they have playing new age-y styled Oriental-tinged music begins playing a song very familiar to me, but one I had not heard in many years, "Midnight in Moscow," also known as "Moscow Nights." Why a Japanese steakhouse would begin playing a very Russian song in a light new age style is beyond me, and it took me a few seconds for the minor keys to register in my brain. Once that happened... I lost it.

This was my Mom's favorite song.

A little bit of history is needed. In the mid-1950s, Mom was settling into her life as an American citizen, having left stateside Army duty as a WAC during the Korean war, and starting to build a domestic life that eventually settled in Maryland not far from where I am today. She got married, Mom and Dad moving into a new home yet still remaining connected to the Army at nearby Ft. Meade. She had come a long way from her early life that began in Kiev, Russia. Around this time "Moscow Nights" was written, being initially penned in 1955 then reworked a bit to become what it is to this day. In 1956 the song was recorded for use in a documentary movie. The movie didn't get very far, but the song became unexpectedly popular. The song won an international song contest, and became popular worldwide, especially, oddly, in mainland China as well. My mother had become more than a tad homesick, as you would imagine, by the time she was settling down. Via shortwave radio, she heard the song first via Radio Moscow. A few years later, this undeniably Russian song was recorded by, of all things, a British jazz group called Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, which had a U.S. hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 right about the time I was born. So now this Russian song that made a circuitous trip from Mom's homeland and eventually finding it's way to our shores as a New Orleans-style jazz makeover, became permanently attached to me as well. In 1966, when she figured I was old enough to travel, Mom and I made our way back to Mother Russia, where I was shown off to her family. I actually remember quite a bit from back then. I was very big and strong for my age, and when Mom's mother asked what she was feeding me, she told her I ate a lot of oatmeal. It was then that I was introduced to Russian oatmeal. I think it was more like oats they fed to horses. Blecch! It was also the time I was introduced to Mom's old friend Alyosha, who worked with electronics and I believe was an aerospace engineer. He also spoke English and he and I hit it off immediately. He saw my very early precociousness with mechanical and electrical things, as well as my extreme interest with things that fly. He and I made several forms of paper airplanes, flying whirlygigs and other fluttering, twisting and soaring bits made from paper. By several, I mean lots. Hundreds, maybe more. We tried different things and tossed them from the window of Alyosha's high-up apartment. I don't know how many things were "designed" and flown from that window. but the street below looked like a parade had gone by. Paper littered the area like autumn leaves. Somewhere in La Casa is a Russian kid's book that I used to be able to read quite well from back in those days, though now I can only at best fake a Russian accent. More importantly, inside that book is a paper airplane that Alyosha made for me. Alyosha and I had a lot of fun. Much more importantly, he worked with me using some of his electronic and electrical bits he had at home. He convinced Mom that I had a natural talent for this sort of thing, to the point where he was practically astounded. He urged Mom to have me pursue these interests as my vocation. It was then she realized I was not taking my toys apart just to be destructive, but I was using the parts to make my own versions of my toys. I have vague memories of a lot of things Mom and I did on that trip, which took us not only to Russia, but had stopovers in Prague, London and I believe France. I got lots of interesting toys that may have strained Mom's meager wages, the one thing I remember well was a die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 from Thunderball, which was equipped with all the awesome gadgetry as the one in the film. I wish I still had it (it'd be worth a mint if mint), it was lost or stolen soon after I had gotten back home. Mom's beloved takeaway from the trip was a 78rpm recording of the original version of "Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights)" on the Russian state label Μелодия (Melodiya). That record remains safely ensconced in the record collections here. My life took a turn for the better on that trip, and upon coming back to the states, we began visiting hobby stores, and it was that time I discovered Radio Shack. That, dear readers, was my heaven. As things turned out, a seemingly agonizingly long 16 years later, I took an electronic engineering and test job which was involved in the building of fighter jets and radar systems. Funny that, from paper airplanes and little electrical and mechanical experiments to this. And from Russia with love, apparently.

Fast forward to last Thursday once again. Jeff was suddenly confronted with me doing a total 180 from our happy perusal of dozens of sushi and seafood items to me having a complete breakdown in less than five seconds. It took me a while to regain enough composure to tell him why and to ease his worried look. I was being bombarded with memories too fast to sort them all out, but I began rambling with stories from my deep past. I managed to gather myself up enough to give my order to the now somewhat concerned waitress then sat there awash in pleasant memories. Jeff said it was Mom's way of joining us for our special night. He's right, I suppose, and what better way to make an entrance. We had a very enjoyable meal, and added the little restaurant to our must-go-again-especially-with-friends list. And if the initial shock and aawww from hearing the song didn't make me feel there was something more to this special night, hearing it being played once again(!) just before we were finishing up kinda made it clear.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff.

Hear the music )
greatbear: (forearms)
This one one of the most beautiful things I have seen.

Louis Schwartzberg, a filmmaker whose focus is on nature, gave a TED talk in 2011 about an often unseen activity happening all around us: pollination. Nature's method for continuing, diversifying and expanding is not only an essential mechanism, but has such unbelievable beauty as well. After his talk, he shows excerpts from his film that positively must not be missed. Find the biggest screen you can, sit back, and prepare to be awestruck.



This is one film that begs to be seen in 4K.
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Despite my working in aerospace for over 30 years, and my childhood years on being a bit of an aircraft aficionado, I never tire of seeing promotional and action photography depicting what the aircraft are capable of. Being that I worked with warplanes and military craft the closest, our promo video showed a lot of really cool planes being totally awesome. I'm no warmonger, and I didn't like what some of these bits of handiwork would be involved in, but the flip side being many were used to protect our own people and allies. A good amount were also used in science, research and civilian fields. And there were the boring, workaday commercial aircraft that many mostly ignored. What is rarely seen outside of industry people and enthusiasts are promo films and video of those big commercial beasts outside the workaday world. Many people know of the Boeing (Boo! Our competitor!) 787, aka the Dreamliner. This in the newest, most technologically advanced commercial airliner ever built to date. Advanced materials, computer systems, powerful and efficient engines, it's got it all. While it's had some growing pains (pesky fires, structural issues, etc) not unlike any new plane, it's still one of the most anticipated and talked about airplane in years. Boeing is bringing the Dreamliner to the Farnborough Air Show in the U.K.. Before this big event, pilots gave the 787-9 a few test flights. This Boeing promo shows what the big gal is a capable of, without even breaking a sweat.



Amazing how something so big and otherwise utilitarian can look like it's light as a feather and maneuverable as a Cessna. I think it's one of the sleekest metal tubes in the air these days. Nice to see this bird with a chance to play before it begins its daily grind.

As for us? Well, we're off. Not flying, unfortunately, but instead, we're dragging the Travel Trailer of Mayhem up the coast to PTown for about a week and a half. This trip, planned last year, was so close to our wedding day that we are considering it as a honeymoon of sorts, but not the only one. Not sure yet what the real deal is, but I'm happy for this one. This time, I'm heading up in the middle of the night, with the traffic being lighter and, hopefully, little or no construction. Unlike our trips departing from Pennsyltucky, this is the first time in years we are heading up straight from MD. This should, with luck, get us up to Provincetown in the fairly early morning, were we then can set up, take disco naps and enjoy the afternoon in style.
greatbear: (oh schnapp)
Automotive advertising is inescapable. It has been for at least a century. Print, billboards, television, even entire movies and TV series have been thinly disguised advertising vehicles (see what I did there?) for the automobile industry the world over. Some are clever, some are annoying, some are so pompous as to not even show the actual car (looking at you, Infiniti). But all of these ads have one thing in common. They introduce new marques and models. The latest, if not greatest, things. The shiny stuff of dreams and dealer showrooms. Macho truck ads. Those you-have-arrived spots for luxury models. Snow flying off of SUVs. Tire smoke and speed for the sports and muscle cars. You know the drill. Many of those cars and trucks are familiar to lots of people, being made for decades. Honda Accords. Toyota Corollas. Chevy Impalas. Ford F-150s. Sure, some nostalgia creeps in, and the new models pay homage in styling or in resurrected models from their heydays past. Still, it's all meant to get feet into the showrooms and butts in leather trimmed seats. No one would ever advertize an old model, or even yet, spend screen time and print space telling people some vehicle is going to end production, not to be replaced with something new, would they?

Well, if you are Volkswagen, a brand familiar to just about everyone on the planet, and the vehicle is the Type 2, aka Kombi, better known as the Bus stateside, a sight seen on roads the world over for over a half century, an icon of pop culture and counterculture everywhere, sometimes a good run has to come to an end. Rather than silently letting the model die off as the industry is known to do, it is instead a cause for celebration, even if it is bittersweet. Still being produced in Brazil much the same as it had been at the start, the last models rolled off the production like in September, 2013, ending an era of automotive production of a particular model since, well, that other bug-shaped car from VW. This is a sendoff, a goodbye, a farewell, but, oh, what a wonderful sendoff it is. Betcha never got choked up at a car ad before.



I think practically anyone old enough to drive has memories of these quirky buses, even if they never owned one or knew someone with one. Thing is, despite no longer being made, there will be another half century filled with people who will know of the humble Type 2/Kombi/Bus. This touching tribute has stops all over the world, including practically my back yard, in Baltimore. They are still quite plentiful in these parts.
greatbear: (me and mom)
Presented without comment. Tissues, however, are required.

greatbear: (picard kick)
Today Jeff and I did some things that were way past due in order to get with the season. Firewood is brought up to the house, the snowblower is ready, vehicles are good to go, freezer and fridge fulla goodies, generators ready if needed. The weather radio sent up a couple of SAME alerts for impending winter weather doom. Other than the unfortunate fact that Jeff might end up driving in it Monday, we are all set. Since we live next to a primary road that must be cleared for emergency vehicles, the worst we usually see is the quarter mile from the driveways to the main drag, the to major roads which already have been pretreated. I probably won't go anywhere.

Here's an engaging little ditty in honor of the imminent Weatherpocalypse:

greatbear: (yes)
I posted this video ages ago, but the original YouTube video was long taken down and there wasn't any replacements until late last year. Needless to say, I made sure to save my own local copy. This is Yes, playing "Parallels" from the album Going for the One. Unlike the finished product from the album, or the rather thin, early vocal rehearsal mix included in the recent Rhino reissue, this take shows the band playing the tune more as an energetic instrumental jam with Jon Andersen sitting out. Unlike the Rhino rehearsal/demo take, this one has the glorious church organ at Saint Martin's Church in Vevey, Switzerland, high in the mix. It also demonstrates, by Chris Squire's highly technical playing, this track was originally meant for inclusion in Squire's solo effort Fish Out of Water but was left out because he didn't feel it fit in with the overall style and feel of that record. I love the energy in the room, the guys are playing locked and tight, and "Parallels" takes on a different life as a pure instrumental.



Oh, how I wish the sound quality of this track were better. For its time, this track pushed the envelope a bit for studio recording by utilizing a bidirectional, high-fidelity stereo telephone link feed between St. Martin's and the studio (Mountain Studios, Montreux) to allow real time playing and recording of Rick Wakeman and the pipe organ while the rest of the band and the engineers did their thing in the studio. The resulting album track is a soaring treat for the ears, the organ serving as a constant backdrop for the harmonizing vocals and Steve Howe's practically airborne lead/rhythm guitar before taking the lead later in the song. Synths are cool and all, but you can't beat a bigass pipe organ for presence. I also kinda giggle at this video, since around the time this was recorded, I had about the same hair as Alan White (drums). And the same 'stache. Well, it was the '70s, after all.

This tune, repeated a few times as well as others were the backdrop to my day. It helped make the day better.
greatbear: (Lemming)
Right wingers, religion-addled nutcases and even self-hating closet cases go on and on about how Teh Gheys™ are out to destroy "traditional" marriage. It's all a big lie, of course, but that gigantic fact is lost in all the stupid. However, if indeed some nefarious homosexual wants to set out and eliminate so-called traditional marriage, may I suggest a drone strike!



This is actually a wedding photo shoot gone wrong. Some overenthusiastic wedding photographer and, presumably, RC flight enthusiast decided to "wed" his two pursuits by attaching a GoPro video camera to a Phantom quadrotor RC helicopter and use the contraption to take flyby/flyover video of his subjects. By the comments in the video, it seemed the first take went well and the photog decides to do another take. This one resulted in too much forward speed and not enough lift, and it literally took down the poor couple. It is kinda funny, but it could have been a lot worse. The groom received a cut on his head, but the couple still laughed it off. With four fast-spinning rotors, the thing is basically a flying weedeater.

So much for the sank titty of marriage.

I want one.
greatbear: (forearms)
Here's a short guaranteed to tug at the heart strings like a kite in a gale force wind. Beautiful locale, gorgeous photography, perfect soundtrack, wardrobe and scenery spot on, and Oscar-worthy performances from the primaries. Not a single spoken word, but unnecessary anyway. A thousand words probably couldn't tell the story any better.

Did I mention it's only 30 seconds long?



I guess I didn't mention it's a dog food commercial either.

Bear stuffs

Jul. 8th, 2013 12:39 pm
greatbear: (forearms)
Here's a silly little video just in time for Bear Week in Provincetown next week, from local artist Tom Goss.



Who else is heading to PTown?

Triggers

Jun. 18th, 2013 12:34 am
greatbear: (me and mom)
We had a busy weekend, Jeff and I. I had planned on doing more yard work but I needed to fix the car, plus I ended up doing a lot of work on a friend's car as well. Jeff did work outside and around the house, plus made a nice dinner of baby back ribs on the grill which we ate outside in beautiful weather. Sunday rolled around and I was able to to some more stuff outside, having to take time and pull the carburetor off one of the lawnmowers because it was acting flaky from dirt inside. Jeff made a pot roast, searing it first and making the house smell wonderful before braising it in the oven. I was still outside doing all manner of things and came in later. I walked into the kitchen to get a drink and stopped dead in my tracks. The kitchen was enveloped in the aroma of the pot roast as it was nearly finished cooking, and I was immediately hit with a flood of memories of Mom and all of her wonderful meals. I quietly bawled my eyes out for a few moments, collected myself and went along with my business. Later, as Jeff was getting dinner onto the table, I told him what had transpired earlier. He said the same happened with him, he couldn't help but think of all those meals with his family. The schmoopy feelings were good ones, of course, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Funny how my rather copious schnozz tends to trigger so many memories at the most unlikely moments. Of course, my thoughts have been drifting in that direction a lot lately, I lost Mom in June nearly 7 years ago. Last night I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and I could barely wrap my head around it being that long already. Time has indeed softened the hard edge of loss, but, just like the Sunday dinner, or the blooming of the lilacs and mock orange, or seeing pictures or hearing a certain piece of music or something else entirely, I get knocked into silence with memories pouring in.

On that subject, many of you know my fondness for Pixar movies, and everyone knows most of those movies have at least one major reach-for-the-kleenex moment. A year to the day after losing Mom, Ratatouille was released and in the theaters. Named after the dish that my mom was fond of and made a lot, I worried I might get choked up while in the theater and made sure I had a pocket full of tissues just in case. But, as the movie progressed, delightful as it was, I didn't get the usual "hit" I had gotten from most of the other Pixar flicks that preceded it. Well, that was a short-lived assumption, because the scene came up where the "evil" food critic Anton Ego is served the plate of ratatouille (as confit byaldi) and has the flashback to his youth, with his mom and all the happiness and warmth it encompassed. I absolutely lost it, and I lose it every time I see that scene. The few seconds of that flashback so mirrors how I feel in such a situation.



Sunday dinner was a feast for more than the palate.
greatbear: (forearms)
This commercial seems appropriate today.



Jeff's dad is poised to be living in the new place today. He's barely waiting for the final use and occupancy permit. Just in time, as the generator I loaned him to keep the trailer batteries charged bit the dust. No good deed goes unpunished I guess.

Speaking of houses, the new house across the road from me is practically flying up. This is a conventional, stick-built house, and yesterday most of the first floor and a part of the second story are up. I expect the majority of exterior framing to be done today, and probably under roof by the weekend. It won't be long before The House of Seven Terlits is complete either. This crew is working overtime and on weekends.
greatbear: (blackness)
I was really saddened to read actress Jean Stapleton had died. Of course, she's most famous for her role as Edith Bunker, wife of America's most favorite bigot, Archie Bunker, in the series All In The Family. Her character was the perfect spoil for Archie, her seemingly limitless ability to know and do the right thing always came from the heart. AITF was must-see TV for me when it first aired, despite my relative youth at the time, I knew I was seeing something incredible on the small screen. Issues and controversy was examined in nearly every episode, be it politics, religion, homosexuality and gay rights, racial relations, you name it. Ms. Stapleton's portrayal of Edith allowed so many people to relate with her, she was Everyperson's aunt, grandma, mother. In the end, Archie would come to see that week's error of his ways, most often with Edith's heartfelt help. If I see the show in reruns while surfing channels, I always stop. I remember all those episodes, some practically word-for-word.

I also remember this scene, from 1980. I bawled my eyes out.



As "edgy" as television is considered these days, a show like this couldn't be made now. Too many people would get "offended" I'm sure. I feel fortunate that Norman Lear was able to completely destroy the boundaries of stuffy television series values and give us a show that not only changed television forever, but countless hearts and minds as well.

RIP, Jean Stapleton, and thanks for some of the fondest memories of my earlier days.
greatbear: (boom de yada)
My email and messages began to light up yesterday evening from people sending me links to this YouTube video. "You're gonna love this", etc. Well, indeed I do love the hell out of this video. It has my two greatest "loves", science and music, assembled in a touching, awe-inspiring combination. And it's all real. Backstory: Cmdr Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, is ready to bid farewell to the International Space Station after being aloft for five months. A sensation in his own right among Canadian science lovers and already a bit of a rock star in his own way, he, along with an Earth-based collection of musicians reworks Davis Bowie's 1969 masterpiece "Space Oddity" as a fitting end to his tour of duty. Definitely must-see TV.



This shows all the incredible things humanity is capable of when they put their collective minds together. I've been in awe of the space programs ever since my early youth. Even though trips into space had mostly become workaday outings that made most people lose interest, I still appreciated all that went into every trip. The recent Mars rover mission proved that there is still a lot of out-of-the-box thinking going on that rekindles that feeling of awe I had as a kid. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
greatbear: (forearms)
Any time I hear or read "Istanbul", the auto-complete routine in my brain, scrambled as it is, adds "not Constantinople", then I am subjected to a half day-long earworm of said song by They Might Be Giants. I decided to share this time, here's the wonderful version starring Plucky Duck and the Tiny Toons.



Other news from around Mayhem Acres, Snickles continues his painfully long assimilation into family life here. It's at times a rocky road to ride, what with teething, chewing and barking that puppies are wont to do, but there are also those moments of starry-eyed schmoopiness that make it all worth it. I will write more in a State of the Pooch entry later on.

I am finally clearing out the long-neglected Lab of Mayhem of hundreds of pounds of obsolete and worthless electronic gear and other cruft, carrying this activity into the garage as well. Some of the stuff is being dismantled into the few remaining usable parts, the bulk is going into boxes to be taken to the recycling center. The lab itself is getting an overhaul as well, with some new tools and supplies obtained to make and repair stuff built with surface-mount components. I've also taken some of the reclaimed parts and cobbled them into usable items; an old fluorescent arm lamp, a salvaged DC fan and filters for a range hood became a soldering fume extractor, and ancient spectrum analyzer has been brought back to life with donated components, and a number of collected items have been finally installed and put to use. I want to get this all done before the weather breaks and I spend more time outside.

Health wise, I've noticed more healing of nerves in my legs and feeling returning to my feet in the last few months. I had resigned myself to never having normal feeling and abilities in my legs post-spine surgery, but I am not stumbling as often as I had been, and I can resolve temperatures better in my lower extremities. I might not have a future as an acrobat or b-boying, but anything is better than previous numbness.

I hope all is well with my fine readers this week. Stop in and chat a while!

Superb owl

Feb. 4th, 2013 03:32 pm
greatbear: (Default)
These days I have more of an interest in football than I ever had prior, thanks to Jeff. Any time his beloved Cowboys or Penn State are on TV, he's there yelling at the set. He had warned me of becoming a "football widow" during the season, but rather than trying to beat 'em, I joined 'em, as it were. Jeff dutifully answered my questions regarding the finer points of the game, along with the not-so serious ones ("Why is it called 'football' when they rarely use their feet and it's not technically a ball?") and in no time I started getting pulled into the action. I would often watch the Super Bowl throughout the years just for the spectacle of it; it would occasionally fall on my birthday weekend like this year. The programming preceding the game often shows the personal side of the game as it relates to player, coaches and whatnot, this adds to the human side of the game, reminding me that it is not just all about the game itself. Stories like that of O. J. Brigance, former Ravens linebacker (as well as linebacker from the defunct CFL Baltimore Stallions) stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) who, despite the advanced stages of the disease is still active with the team as Director of Player Development. It was a touching story, made even more so at the end of the game when they dedicated their win to him. The win was also a huge one for Baltimore, which, after years of mediocre activity of their major sports teams, economic issues and so on, have been buoyed recently by improving economic conditions, an almost-World Series from the Orioles, a successful Grand Prix that will be held again this year, and lots of external good will. It is easy for me to dismiss the success of a city's team, especially when I hear of rioting and destruction in the wake of a major win. No, the effect is real, with local businesses doing well, folks upbeat for more than just a winning team, and lots of positive benefits for the city and the people as a whole. Sure there will always be negatives, but even seeing the old folks wearing team colors in public along with the very young, brings smiles to faces.

Of course, the big draw of Super Bowl Sunday, for some even more than the game, is the commercials. Those who know me well are aware of my love/hate relationship with advertising. Yes, there is more hate than love, as I see advertising a parasitic relationship with the environment and most times quite dishonest. Super Bowl Sunday, however, is a time when advertisers pull out the stops to make some really good commercials, often with the actual product being secondary to the overall message. No one does this better than Budweiser with their ongoing series of ads featuring the trademark Clydesdale horses. These have always been very entertaining and some quite moving. I really fell in love with the ads when the Dalmatian was brought on board, and recent years have made the ads something I look forward to even more than favorite movie sequels. This year didn't disappoint. I dare the viewer not to get even slightly misty-eyed at this one:



Anyone who knows horses can probably attest that this is not a far-fetched scenario (I'm looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] badgerpdx).

The Big Game is over, Baltimore can hold its collective head a bit higher, along with the entire state of Maryland, and I can dote on Jeff as he goes through pangs of football withdrawal. :-)

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