Today’s the Day…

… to enjoy a slice of Pi.

Cherry Pi. Pumpkin Pi. Peach Pi. Banana Cream Pi. Raspberry Pi. Pecan Pi. Blueberry Pi. Apple Pi. Key Lime Pi. Rhubarb Pi. Lemon Meringue Pi.

They all sound pretty good.

Well… maybe not one of those crazy British meat pi’s. Not sure about those.

Mmmmm. Chocolate Pi.

Mmmmm. Chocolate Pi.

Just remember: cake are squared, pi are round. Or something like that.

Happy Pi Day!

A Better Day to Forget

If I ever come across a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, I’m sure not going to program January 27, 2015 into the computer and drive 88 miles per hour into the past.

Not that the day was tragic. Just awful enough that I don’t want to repeat it.

Technically, this lovely day began the night before. I went to sleep dreading the snow storm that was breathlessly predicted to arrive with a foot or more of snow. New York was awaiting the snowstorm of the century: the “Blizzard of 2015.” (Just imagine James Earl Jones doing the voiceover announcing the “Blizzard of 2015.”)

Well actually, I wasn’t dreading the arrival of snow. After all, I’ve lived in Upstate New York for a long time. A foot of snow… no big deal. I laugh in the face of a foot of snow. I guffaw at everybody who panics. At least until I start shoveling. Then I grumble, but only a little.

Actually, what I was not looking forward to was the lack of snow. The lack of snow that was not predicted by just about every meteorologist. The vaunted “Blizzard of 2015” had shifted to the east, largely sparing New York State.

Sorry Boston.

But why my dread?

I knew I would have to wake up my kids and tell them that school was on. These were the kids who had put their PJ’s on inside-out and backwards. The kids who dropped ice cubes in the toilet and placed cold spoons under their pillows. If any of us had the knowledge and ability to do a “snow dance,” I’m sure that would have been attempted.

No snow day. No sleeping in. It would be a normal day of Common Core and more.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke to the morning I expected. Tears and gripes, at least from the older son.

Off to school for the boys. Off to work for me. And the day got better.

And by better, I mean worse.

Shortly thereafter, my wife texted to say she’d been pulled over and ticketed for an expired inspection sticker.

I guess in the midst of my wife’s major December medical emergency, we forgot to get her piece o’ junk car inspected. So, just as my wife pulled into a medical facility for a blood test related to her previous stroke, she was warmly greeted by a Schenectady police officer.

With a ticket.

And then our day got even better.

Turns out, the big blue lemon needed $500 in repairs to pass its inspection.

But time trudged along, and soon enough I was on my way home from work, negotiating my way through blowing snow that had shown up to the party, fashionably late.

Still, it started as a relatively normal winter commute.

And then it got even better.

I was slowly driving under an overpass on my way to the toll booths at the entrance to the New York State Thruway.

A deep rumble from above startled me. It was followed by a massive curtain of snow falling from the overpass, right in front of me. There was a plow above me relocating some snow. And that snow formed a wall directly in my path.

There was no stopping. All I could do was ease off the gas and cruise straight through.

The snow thumped onto my car. For a heart-stopping moment I could not see a thing.

I’m pretty sure I said a naughty word. (Sorry, Mom.)

I’m not wishing for anymore better days.

Vulture Kitty Wants Your Milk

There’s nothing quite like the glare from an annoyed cat. Or one that wants to steal the milk from your bowl of cereal.

Vulture Kitty

Vulture Kitty is Watching You

Lately, our 14-year-old cat, named Frito, seems to enjoy imitating a famous comic-strip beagle, who in turn liked to imitate a vulture.

It used to be that Frito would pad quietly into the kitchen at the first sound of cereal clinking into a bowl. He used to look up at me, widen his eyes, and mew softly.

It was as if he were saying in his best British accent,  “Please sir, would you kindly share your milk?”

It’s true, he can mew like a character from a work by Charles Dickens. Accent and all.

But these days, he just perches on the end of the couch and harnesses his inner “Snoopy.”

Can’t blame him. It works. Even if it kinda creeps me out.

Dusty Data

During a dull day at work, the smallest bit of humor can bring relief, even when it’s due to an anachronistic discovery.

But I’ll get to that in a moment. After all, I’ve got to make a short story long.

My current job consists of working in a communications role in a legislative office. Some of the writing I get to do is even quite interesting.

Over the last two weeks, though, it’s been all about getting the office ship-shape. Call it an early spring cleaning. (Not that spring seems like it will ever arrive, as temperatures keep diving far too close to absolute zero.)

You see, my office was supposed to be shut down for a couple days during the holidays for a quick carpet replacement. Instead, it was closed for two full weeks for asbestos remediation.

Fortunately, I suppose, this inconvenience came at the same time that my wife was admitted to the hospital. I was out of the office, so I didn’t have to deal with being relocated temporarily to another office.

Upon our return to the office, we discovered that the new carpeting looked fantastic.

On the other hand, boxes of books were strewn about. Furniture was waiting to be moved. And everything was covered in dust. Even the dust bunnies were sneezing. Have you ever seen a dust bunny sneeze? It’s not as cute as it sounds.

It was an asthma attack waiting to happen.

Still, we decided to tackle the cleanup. Hundreds of law books, three-ring binders, and other information had to be re-shelved.

It was a pain in the neck. And arms. Some of those law books are h-e-a-v-y. Seriously, why do we need a gigantic summary of legislation from 1976? (But then, I’m a communications guy… not an attorney.)

However, relief came when I opened the umpteenth box, and this fell out:

Haven't seen one of these in decades!

The 80’s called. They want their data back.

I chuckled a bit when I saw it, and I’ll admit it brought back memories of the clicks, whirs, and grinding of a disk drive. Or even the unique sound of tapping on the keyboard of the first computer I ever used – an ol’ TRS-80. (Look it up kiddos.)

I showed it to my boss. She laughed even louder.

“We should get it framed,” she said. “Hang it on the wall.”

Sure, I thought. It might serve as a quaint reminder of a technologically simpler time.

I think, though, she meant it should be preserved as a historical artifact.

Geez. Am I that old?

The Nose Knows

After nearly four decades, the bridge of my nose is telling me it’s time to lose the glasses.

For the last week, whether or not I’m wearing my glasses, I feel like I have to push ’em up a little higher on my nose. It is a singularly annoying sensation.

I’ll wake up in the middle of the night feeling the need to push up my glasses. And poke myself in the eye.

Getting rid of the glasses? Sounds like a great idea!

Until I run into the wall. And bang my head on my car door. Or try to drive my car.

I think I'll let the stuffed cow wear my glasses. She's got a bigger nose.

I think I’ll let the stuffed cow wear my glasses. She’s got a bigger nose.

And before you suggest contact lenses, I think I’ve poked myself in the eye enough today.

The Gift of Distraction

Ah, early January. It is that time of the year again. Time to focus on…

If you thought I was going to say it’s time to focus on your New Year’s resolutions, you are sadly mistaken. Everybody knows that resolutions fall by the wayside faster than that gigantic ball in Times Square.

Nope. It is time to prepare for an important upcoming holiday.

That’s right: Christmas.

Now I don’t want anybody to panic, but there are only about 352 shopping days until Christmas.

I know, I know. It’s right around the corner.

Fear not, though. Black Friday deals are almost upon us. I think they start on Valentine’s Day this year. Try not to get too caught up with the fact that Valentine’s Day is actually on a Saturday.

Not to brag, but I’m just about ready. I’ve even got my outdoor Christmas display set up ahead of schedule this year.

IMG_1112 IMG_1119

Yet, there is one part of the Christmas holiday with which I struggle every year.

Gift wrapping.

Just thinking about it makes me want to grumble. Too often, the gifts I’ve wrapped end up looking a bit ragged. You’d think that I ran the wrapping paper through a shredder first, or cut it with a dull chainsaw.

For all you gift wrapping challenged folks like me, please allow me to offer a solution.

Distraction.

Lately, I’ve turned to battery-powered mini-LED lights to draw the eye away from the wrinkled paper and excessive scotch tape. The brighter the better.

Here’s a classic version:

Gift - Lighted

This past Christmas, (that took place months ago, right?), I even added a little poetry to the mix.

Keep in mind that my idea of poetry consists of epic works like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are purple.

I drank so much soda I started to burple.

Hey… it gets rave literary reviews, and guffaws, from six and eight-year-olds.

But I digress. Here’s a picture of this year’s gift to my brother-in-law, before the built-in switch was flipped.

Gift - Before

And here it is after the switch was flipped.

Gift - After

I suppose it kind of ruined the surprise, but I’m hoping the four-pack of Ommegang Gnomegang beer was a  good choice.

So, just remember: if you can’t wrap, distract. Or befuddle, amuse, divert, and bewilder.

If that doesn’t work, you can always replace the wrapping paper with duct tape. Silver and red are quite festive!

Finding Joy in a Cooler

For this return to blogging, I want to share a recent story about discovering joy.

Joy can be hard to describe. It is much deeper than simply being happy. Sometimes it is easier to describe how we find joy. In the past I’ve experienced the joy of a sunset at sea, and I’ve discovered joy in the twinkling lights of a Christmas display. Perhaps you’ve found it in a beautiful song or in the successful completion of a challenging task.

But can joy be found in an ordinary cooler?

Not once have I ever thought, “Gee, I think I’ll grab me some joy out of that ice chest. I think it’s somewhere between the soda and the beer.”

Yet, that’s where I found it. In a cooler. A cooler sitting just outside my front door.

How it got there is a bit of a story. Here goes…

Before finding the joy, I first discovered terror. Now that’s an emotion that I can fully describe.

I’m talking about the heart-pounding, panic-inducing experience of feeling helpless during a potential life-and-death situation. It was 3:30 am on the Sunday before Christmas. I awoke with a start to hear a banging sound. That alone was scary. What came next was worse.

My wife, who was getting ready for her usual –very early– Sunday morning shift was banging her hand on a counter to get my attention.

When I asked her what was wrong, she could not respond coherently. Her eyes were wide with fear. In that moment, I’m sure my eyes became an instant reflection of hers.

Of course, I called 9-1-1. As I held my wife’s hand, I desperately pleaded with the operator to send help quickly.

I’m pretty sure it took less than eight minutes for help to arrive.

It felt like hours.

When the ambulance arrived, I swear it looked like the responders were moving in slow motion. “Hurry-hurry-hurry-hurry-hurry-hurry-hurry,” I wanted to scream from the door as they grabbed their gear.

Not long after arriving at the emergency room, we discovered that my wife had experienced a mini-stroke.

I don’t like that term. There was nothing “mini” about it. The terror was full-fledged.

Fortunately, she recovered quickly with no lasting neurological impairment. But she did spend a few days in the hospital, thankfully returning home on Christmas Eve.

Enter the cooler.

Erin Carter, a family friend, contacted us that same Sunday to let us know that a cooler would soon show up on our front step. She had arranged for meals to be delivered over the next two weeks.

Joy abounds inside!

An ordinary cooler containing much more than food.

She set it up so that the generous cooks and talented bakers could simply put the food in the cooler, whether or not anyone was home.

Everything was delicious. It was especially meaningful because I’m a less-than-stellar cook. (Yes. That is an understatement. The other day, I burned my own grilled cheese sandwich… while I was carefully watching.)

Frankly, without the food, the boys and I might have subsisted on a menu of pancakes, soup, and sandwiches.

I’m not sure if I can adequately express to Erin, and so many others, just how much their generosity means to us. But I’ll give it the ol’ college try.

It was such a comfort to see the cooler on the front step after returning from the hospital in the evenings. It was a physical representation of goodwill. It symbolized an antidote to the fear we were facing.

Every time I opened the cooler, I smiled. Not just because it contained delicious meals. It served as a reminder of all the folks who were praying, of those who visited my wife in the hospital, of the family members who dropped everything to help out, of the neighbors who came over at 3:45 am on that terrible Sunday to keep watch over our sleeping children.

That cooler was much more than an ice chest. It was a treasure chest.

And the treasure was JOY!

How Not To Apologize

Need to apologize? It’s really quite easy. Just follow this easy process:

Step 1: Say, “I’m sorry.”

Step 2: See step 1.

It’s really that simple.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that… but not much.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

First, don’t follow Kenneth Langone’s recent example. Mr. Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot, and recently found himself immersed in controversy over comments he made about income inequality. Now, I’m not going to critique his initial comments in this post. I don’t care to delve too deeply into that issue on this blog. But his response… well it is lacking, to put it mildly. Here it is, quoted from a Daily News article about the comments:

“My remarks were intended to discourage pitting one group against another group in a society. If my choice of words was inappropriate — and they well may have been that — I extend my profound apologies to anyone and everyone who I may have offended,” Langone said in the statement.

So, is he sorry that he made the comments? Personally, I’m not convinced. It sounds like one of those typical quasi-apologies. You know: “I’m sorry that you were offended by something I said or did.” Weak. With a capital W.

Want another example? Try this situation from the Schenectady City School District that recently made national news. For the record, I live near Schenectady, but my kiddos do not attend school there. (Thank goodness.)

Long story short, a five year old girl accidentally got on the wrong school bus and ended up at the wrong school for a full day. Her mother did not discover this until her daughter did not show up at the bus stop after school.

The school district claims they thought this kindergartner was a new first grade student due to arrive that day.  It is a series of errors so strange that it’s almost comical. Except for the fact that I’m sure the mother was absolutely distraught to find out her daughter was missing. For a more complete rundown, you can read about it on the Daily Gazette or Time Warner Cable News.

Quite frankly, I don’t believe the school district is providing the full story.

Thankfully, the young girl was returned safely to her mother.

But then the school district had the nerve to issue a lengthy statement that comes across with a theme of “blame the li’l kindergartner.”

You can read it here. I call it pathetic.

The last paragraph starts with this sentence:

“We regret that Ms. Rodriguez spent yesterday afternoon worrying about her child,” said [Superintendent] Spring.

Is that an apology? Methinks not. Especially after they effectively blamed a five-year-old and her mother for the entire situation.

By the way, I’m sorry in advance if the administration of the Schenectady City School District views my post to be offensive due to any misperception on their part.

That’s not an apology. It’s sarcasm.

-stepping off soapbox… for now-

Bring on Spring

We’ve been overdue for a good ol’ New York winter. And this year, we got one. So did most of the rest of the country.

I’m guessing that my friends in Texas and Georgia haven’t been as accepting of this year’s winter weather, though. Heck, I’m not sure my friends downstate have appreciated all the snow. Certainly, Governor “I panic at the first sign of snow” Cuomo will be glad to see spring arrive. That way he won’t have to close Interstate 84  ’cause a wee little snowflake hit the ground.

Still, I admit it. I’ll be glad to see the arrival of warmer weather. And I’m hopeful that it will get here soon.

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the outdoor skating rink at the Empire State Plaza during my lunch break one more time today before they close it for the year. Or until winter returns in July. (I’m kidding… it probably won’t return until September.)

Skating Rink at the Empire State Plaza - NYS Capitol in the background.

Skating Rink at the Empire State Plaza – NYS Capitol in the background.

Bring on Spring!

Getting Reconnected

Just a brief post to catch up on things…

Earlier this year, my beloved MacBook died. Like doornail-dead. Like it makes a great paperweight now.

Even so, I had been able to use my even-older iMac to get online. But that, too, started acting persnickety. (I love that word… but not when my computer acts that way.)

Unfortunately, a new MacBook wasn’t in the cards, at least not until I got a tax refund headed my way. But a stubborn desktop has been making it difficult to get my money back from the money-grubbin’ eye-are-ess.  Translation: my computer needed some upgrading before I could get my taxes filed.

But after some fixes, my desktop is running better now, my taxes are filed, and I shall soon have a new laptop. Huzzah!

That means that I should be able to return to the online world with a bit more regularity. So stay tuned. I’ve got some fun stories to share soon…

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