Friday, November 30, 2012

Au revoir, Novembrevoir!

It was the best of months
It was the worst of months
There was frivolity, jollity, friends and fun
Overdrawn accounts and sleepless nights
String theory and a Titan flexing his back
A Florentine’s descent to the underworld
Gas lines and power outtages and two-hour commutes
Soccer games and girl scouts and play dates
A little girl suffering painful mouth sores (Ah, parenthood!)
A kraken, Ulysses, and double-oh-seven
Dispensing the Eucharist right next to the priest
And the year-long anticipated Thanksgiving feast!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


How many things do you see wrong in the picture below?

I can see about 500,000 things wrong: every single pixel in the damn thing!

Seriously, this is in a “gender-neutral” Swedish children’s toy catalogue. There are many pictures of little girls playing with soldiers and guns and little boys playing with dolls and other cuddly things. You know, because that’s what we want to foist upon our little innocents.


See here for more, uh, animated discussion.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


“You see, Dr. Stadler, people don’t want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some sort of instinct, they feel that they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they’ll bless and follow anyone who gives them a justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue – a highly intellectual virtue – out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness and their guilt.”

“And you propose to pander to that?”

“That is the road to popularity.”

- Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, page 324 of the 35th anniversary paperback edition.

Forget about the rise of the anti-capitalist, socialist state. Forget about the war on success. This sad observation of current society’s antipathy toward critical thinking is perhaps Ayn Rand’s greatest prediction-come-true.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His antient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

[The official poem of this past Thanksgiving. Why? No reason – ’cept that the first night at my parents’ home I cracked open Tennyson to this random page, and it stuck in some secret, antient, dreamless, uninvaded corner of my mind.]

[Love those pearly whites, baby!]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Megalomaniac Required Reading


I just learned, that every Bond supervillain –

from Dr. No, Auric Goldfinger and Blofeld to Scaramanga to Stromberg and Drax to Zorin and Le Chiffre, every single one of them, including Harlem’s Mr. Big and Latin America’s Franz Sanchez –

every Bond supervillain has read

Atlas Shrugged


Make of that what you will.

[Note: full review, including my subjective (gasp!) and emotional-intuitive (gasp!) thoughts on Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, coming some time round New Years Day!]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Carpet Crawlers

Just a little tune I heard yesterday that I have not been able to get from my mind.  My mind works that way.

There is lambswool under my naked feet.
The wool is soft and warm, gives off some kind of heat.
A salamander scurries into flame to be destroyed.
Imaginary creatures are trapped in birth on celluloid.
The fleas cling to the golden fleece,
Hoping they’ll find peace.
Each thought and gesture are caught in celluloid.
There’s no hiding in my memory.
There’s no room to avoid.

The crawlers cover the floor in the red ochre corridor.
For my second sight of people, they’ve more lifeblood than before.
They’re moving in time to a heavy wooden door,
Where the needle’s eye is winking, closing in on the poor.
The carpet crawlers heed their callers:
“We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out.”

There’s only one direction in the faces that I see;
It’s upward to the ceiling, where the chamber’s said to be.
Like the forest fight for sunlight, that takes root in every tree.
They are pulled up by the magnet, believing they’re free.
The carpet crawlers heed their callers:
“We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out.”

Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite,
And the wise and foolish virgins giggle with their bodies glowing bright.
Through the door a harvest feast is lit by candlelight;
It’s the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight.
The carpet crawlers heed their callers:
“We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out.”

The porcelain mannikin with shattered skin fears attack.
The eager pack lift up their pitchers – they carry all they lack.
The liquid has congealed, which has seeped out through the crack,
And the tickler takes his stickleback.
The carpet crawlers heed their callers:
“We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out
We’ve got to get in to get out.”

[Note: Still new to the song, so hopefully there’s nothing metaphorically suggestive, brutal, or ugly about the lyrics that’s sailed completely over my head.  Superficially it just seems to be about some bugs trying to escape a room.  Maybe to go to “Bug City,” as the Presidents of the United States of America have speculated.]

Life Capital-L

For the second half of the nineties, I lived by myself in my own apartment.  I had the same job for twelve years.  I was winding up the whole music / band thing and had finished night school.  With the exception of dating two women for a month or two each, I was single.  My existence was predictable, stable, and uneventful.

How I yearn for those days again!

But, without valleys you can have no peaks.  Those five or six years I wanted Change, Change with a capital-C, I wanted a significant other, wanted to start a family, move somewhere else, do something else.

And lo, I did.

With a vengeance.

I met my future wife, and everything changed.  Quit the job, relocated 250 miles south, got a new job, met new friends, got married, moved back north, bought a house, had a child, went through four more jobs, had a second child.  All in the span of maybe eight years.

I am exhausted.

This past Thanksgiving was spent at my parent’s home in PA.  Despite hectic activity and a crazy day of children-gone-wild, it was a lovely interlude from Life, Life with a capital-L, but unfortunately Life intervened.  Had to go to work Friday, so that entailed a two-hour commute from their house both ways.  Because Patch is sick, and my mom watched her and her big sister that day.  Work is busy, and that’s good, because it’s security.  Spent Friday afternoon moving into a bigger desk there.

So that’s my excuse for not posting over the past two days.  I’m still slogging through Atlas Shrugged.  Paused from my workouts, though, due to, er, not being at home to work out.  But Sunday evening I’ll resume; I’m itching to do it.  Because of those workouts I feel more fit post-Thanksgiving, and I’m noticing I’m noticeably eating less.  Good. 

Later this afternoon the wife and I will venture out to the movies, either to see Lincoln or Skyfall, depending on what’s playing where.  Out here in the sticks movie theaters are far and few between.  Regardless of which we see, I’ll post a review of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


and tired.

After tipping the scales at an utterly unacceptable poundage, after being reduced to one pair of work pants that fit, after weeks and months and years of chronic fatigue and insomnia and being sick and tired of being sick and tired, I initiated a Plan of Attack.

Now, I don’t want to be all proud of myself just yet. I’m only five days into it. (But I swear I see results already! I swear!) And being somewhat superstitious, I don’t want to jinx myself. But I just gotta say –

It works! If you JUST DO IT!

What am I doing?

Getting up at 6:15 before the herd of women in this house wake up. Tip-toeing downstairs to the little work-out area I cleared away last weekend.

On odd days, I do ten minutes on the exercise bike, then stretch out my hams, quads, lats, and calves. That’s it.

On even days, I only do five minutes on the exercise bike followed by the stretches. Then I do two sets of curls, push-ups, leg dips, calf raises, and crunches.

I record all this on the PC, and creep back upstairs to make myself some steel-cut oatmeal – a half-cup with three-quarters cup of boiled water, half a cut-up apple, and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. And I chase it with a one-gram Omega-3 and a vitamin-D supplement.

About this time I’m attacked by hungry pre-tween girl zombies.

At lunch I’ve been eating an apple and a banana, with some roasted almond and carrot snacks throughout the day. And I cut out soda, drinking only from the filtered water thingie we have in the work breakroom.

My goal is to lose twenty pounds over the year and to increase my overall energy and mental well-being from a holistic, body-health angle.

Half-a-week in, it’s working.

So far.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


“I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” – E. M. Forster

An odd quote, don’t you think? One you’d never, ever imagine yourself ever having to weigh and consider. It’s at the at the fronts-piece of one of my on-deck books, a pretty famous, famously regarded novel, and I just came across it earlier and am not sure what to make of it.

Am I being histrionic to think I will have to come to terms with it at some point in my life?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hector Spake

So Hector spake; the Trojans roar’d applause;
Then loosed their sweating horses from the yoke,
And each beside his chariot bound his own;
And oxen from the city, and goodly sheep
In haste they drove, and honey-hearted wine
And bread from out the houses brought, and heap’d
Their firewood, and the winds from off the plain
Roll’d the rich vapour far into the heaven.
And these all night upon the bridge of war
Sat glorying; many a fire before them blazed:
As when in heaven the stars about the moon
Look beautiful, when all the winds are laid,
And every height comes out, and jutting peak
And valley, and the immeasurable heavens
Break open to their highest, and all the stars
Shine, and the Shepherd gladdens in his heart:
So many a fire between the ships and stream
Of Xanthus blazed before the towers of Troy,
A thousand on the plain; and close by each
Sat fifty in the blaze of burning fire;
And eating hoary grain and pulse the steeds,
Fixt by their cars, waiting the golden dawn.

* * * * *

I think I could survive an apocalypse given only a Bible and a Tennyson anthology.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mistaken for Gary

As I’m leaving church this morning with Little One in tow, a woman accosts me from out of nowhere in the middle of the parking lot. She’s probably around 50, short gray hair, dressed in that weekend / business casual dress that the preponderance of Catholics wear to worship their Creator.

“Excuse me,” she says before I can react, “but you look exactly like my brother!”

What do you say to this?

An awkward smile and, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a sister.”

She doesn’t seem to buy it, strangely enough. “His name is Gary. He lives just outside of El Paso.” She scrutinizes me a bit, as if waiting for a response.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

I tell her.

“Well, okay, nice meeting you. I have to get her – ” I point to my daughter – “over to CCD,” and I nod in the direction of the church school.

And I high-tail it out of there.

What disturbed me most about this little 30-second interaction was that I could not remove my eyes from her chest.

No, it has nothing to do with the first thought that came into your mind.

She was proudly wearing one of those big obnoxious “Yes We Did!” buttons she must have recycled from the 2008 election.

To this day it amazes me, utterly, completely, astonishes me, how anyone professing to be a Catholic could vote for Obama. Had this woman never heard of the HHS mandate that forces religious institutions to provide medical coverage for abortion to their employees? Was she completely ignorant on his pro-abortion stance, such his voting against giving newborns basic Constitutional rights as an Illinois senator? Did she never hear of his “evolving” views on that oxymoron known as homosexual “marriage’?

Truth is, I just had to get out of her presence.

And that’s not something I’m proud of, coming right out of mass.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

That's the Ticket!

Since I enjoyed my audio-visual tour of The Lord of the Rings, and since I’m finding similar results with Atlas Shrugged, an idea popped into my head. Early this morning, chugging some Kashi cereal-and-milk at the downstairs writing desk, I glanced about the seventy-plus books – paperbacks and hardcovers stacked in a half-dozen precarious towers on and about the book case. My eyes fell upon The Killer Angels, the Pulitzer-winning epic of the Battle of Gettysburg that’s always in the top ten (maybe even the top three) of any true Civil War aficionado’s list of essentials. A quick jaunt to the county library website revealed that a library just one town over has the audio CD of this book.

Woo-hoo! That’s what I’m hitting January 1st.

PJF, step aside, at least for a month or so. Hopper’s on a role.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Desert of Classic Rock

When I drive home from work on the way to picking up the little ones from daycare, most of the time I drive in silence, detoxing from ten hours of ceaseless crosstalk and random yelling all about me. Sometimes I listen to Talk Radio, but I’m on a post-election news fast. Occasionally I listen to an audio CD in the car. Once in a blue moon I pop in a Sibelius or Dvorak or Tchaikovksy or Beethoven disk.

It’s almost as rare as a solar eclipse that I’ll listen to the local classic rock radio station.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, driving home amidst the fallen trees, wires, and cordoned-off side streets, I listened to four or five classic rock songs. All well and good.

Tonight on a whim I dialed in the same station for the first time since. And wouldn’t you know it – the very first song I hear is one of those four or five I heard fifteen days ago!

I mean, c’mon! What are the odds? Do classic rock station programmers think there are only a dozen classic rock tunes?

A big pet peeve I had in the Eighties that drove me to listen to more obscure metal, certain punk, and more than a handful of grunge bands. When a DJ said that Black Sabbath was coming up, you knew they’d be playing “Paranoid.” When they said AC/DC was on deck, you knew it’d be “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Rush? “Tom Sawyer.” How many times can you listen to the same two or three dozen songs over and over and over again, should you be a loyal listener to the local classic rock radio station.

[For the record, the song I heard twice in the span of six songs was “American Girl” by Tom Petty.]

Okay. Cranky Old Guy signing off.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Atlas, Shrugging

All right. I made this boastful vow sometime after the first presidential debate that if Romney won I would read the Book of Mormon, and if Obama won, I would re-read Atlas Shrugged. Feeling all cocky and defiant, I spotted the Mormon good book in a store the week before the election and picked it up in somewhat interested anticipation. I’ve read just about all the “good books” out there, save this one and the Koran.

Then, Tuesday, November 6th, happened.

Now – how do I get out of reading Atlas Shrugged?

I kinda remembered the plot of the 1,100-page book. I did go through a pseudo-Randian phase in 2000 when, living down south in Maryland for 18 months, I read a couple other of her books.

Then, I became Christianized, so-to-speak, and every major life event since has only served to cement that certainty I had found in Christianity.

What has this to do with the economic themes of Ayn Rand? Well, a lot. I was surprised to find such vehemence towards her work on Catholic blogs and forums. Now, I know one of her central themes is the “prime mover,” the industrial giant who moves society forward despite the antagonizing efforts of the “looters” and “moochers,” i.e., socialists and those who make a living off the teat of the government.

But what was so immoral about all this? Do not these prime movers make goods and services that elevate us? Do they not provide jobs for the lesser-capable and opportunities for the greater-capable to join them? (For the record, I’m still a “lesser-capable.”) Isn’t it immoral to be socialistic and willingly dependent?

I don’t know. Well, I have an inkling, but I’ll save that for a future investigative report.

Last weekend I went up into the attic to put some of the girls’ summer clothes into storage and saw three boxes of books. These are books I read back in the bachelor days and could not see throwing out over the years. Maybe there are twenty books in each box, and I fished through the nearest one and pulled out a yellowed and slightly warped Atlas Shrugged.

“I really, really, really don’t want to read this,” I whined to my wife, thumbing through the hefty tome.

“Go get a night job,” she said, not too concerned with my plight.

So I put it on the shelf for a couple of days. I thought: I must get out of my anonymously public proclamation to read this damn thing. Somehow. Might make a good blog post.

Well, I was driving home from work late Monday night when, on a whim, I stopped at a local library I haven’t frequented since my Lord of the Rings third reading.

Hey … that gives me an idea!

I went to the audio CD section, found the fiction, found the Rs, and – there it was! – the audio CD book of Atlas Shrugged!

What a co-inky-dink!

Atlas Shrugged is, interestingly enough, almost the same number of pages (1,100 and change) as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, at least the published versions I have. It took me three months to listen to Tolkien through and through – can I listen to Rand’s book in, say, half the time? Have it finished by the end of the year? A challenge, but one that would make reading this again fun. Fun in a book-wormish, book-nerdish way.

I’ll be eighty pages in by the end of tonight, averaging 20 pages a day. Mathematically that puts me at finishing the book/audio book in 55 to 60 days, just a little too long for my goal. That means I’ll have to read/listen to a little more on the weekends. We’ll see how life, the wife, and the little ones cooperate with that.

So – damn Obama! Now he’s got me re-reading Ayn Rand, despite all my protestations! Is there no end to his nefarious schemes?!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Interesting, in a pseudo-(reverse gauge symmetric synchronicitous)-way, all this talk of “secession” from red states (and even from red populations in blue states, like mine) since the One was re-anointed last week. Of course, I think the whole notion is utter bunk and hogswab, but, hey, it’s a free country (so far), and one can think and say what one wants, as far as one is allowed. Which still pretty much rules as the greatest latitude in any country on the globe.

For the past year I’ve been reading a lot about the Civil War. Mostly the battles ’n stuff, but also the root causes. Which I believe to be South Carolina seceding from the Union because it felt threatened slavery would be abolished in the near future, as portended in the election of Lincoln. So after dousing myself in this in the form of ten or twelve books over the past year or so, I find it quite amusing to see mutterings of “Secession!” from here and there on the Internet.

By the way, after some days of depression and thought, I urge perspective. Think of how liberals must’ve felt when W won re-election in 2004. The pendulum swings back and forth so violently and frequently in politics it’s impossible to say at this juncture who will be running for president in 16, let alone who will be president. The best advice I’ve read is that my side needs to win back the culture. The Left has the media, Hollywood, the news establishment, academia, and the education system beginning at Kindergarten. That’s a lot of culture to win back, but I think it can be done to a not insignificant extent.

Just don’t be firing on any 21st-century Sumters, m’kay?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Whoa From String Theory

Read a little book on string theory last weekend called, uh, The Little Book of String Theory. Written by a young man named Steven Gubser. It was my ideal read: tight, compact, action-packed. Well, not so much action-packed, though the author does through a couple of rock climbing analogies into the mix.

It was tight and compact. One idea thrown atop the next, building up to the current trends in string theory research. No unnecessary detours in the history of physics you read in every . single . book . on . pop . sci. You know, where you start out with the Big Bad Church persecuting Galileo to Einstein as a cut-up kid visualizing sitting atop a ray of light.

But I digress. Gubser kept it interesting because he wasn’t talking down to stupid ol’ me. I felt like a kid in his graduate class. Minus all the calc and differential equations, of course. And though I prefer fast-paced and current-trends in my pop sci books, I did find myself lost in quite a few places. Sometimes I went back and re-read, sometimes I just forged ahead.  Branes upon branes upon branes started to make my brain ache.

All-in-all, though, it was a good return to my youth and took my mind off all the craziness of the past two weeks.

And there were some koans, too! My favorite is found on page 44:

Time running at different rates in different places is gravity.

Meditate on that in a rice paddy. Want a little elaboration? Okay:

Time running at different rates in different places is gravity. In fact, that’s all gravity is, provided gravitational fields are not too strong. Things fall from places where time runs faster to where it runs slower. That downward pull you feel, and which we call gravity, is just the differential rate of time between high places and low places.


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wrath of Sandy

Pre-storm, the day before.  My front lawn.  Note the big tree trunk against my cross-the-street neighbor's house.

My well-manicured back yard, pre-storm.  Note the girl's clubhouse.

Post-Sandy.  What happened to that hundred foot tree across the street?

The Wrath of Sandy.  Good thing I didn't send the girls out to their clubhouse with a flashlight to spend the night, like I threatened ...

Now, fortunately, our house sustained no damage.  Not even a shingle lifted off our ancient roof.  Lots of branches and debris, as you can see.  That tree across the street luckily fell into the backyard of the adjacent house (and not on top of it), but it did smash a six-foot wooden perimeter fence. 

Most of the damage we took was in the form of 170 hours of no power.  No electricity, no heat.  Did have gas, so in the beginning we could cook hot food.  Did have hot water, which is such a blessing.  We lost a refrigerator and freezer full of food, perhaps $100 worth.  We both probably spent an extra $50 in gas driving all over the New Jersey-Pennsylvania corridor.  And due to my work being closed, I lost about $240 in gross pay. 

I learned my lesson.  Don't cuss out Notus the Anemoi, by Odin's Beard!  (to mix mythologies ...)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'mmmmm Back!

Two weeks I’m glad are over: Hurricane, week of no power and no heat at home and limited power and internet access at work. Four days at my parents’ house 75 miles away. Additional six hours of commuting due to that. As well as an extra $75 in gas. Tossing out a refrigerator and freezer of spoiled food. An election in which America voted to give the Amateur President another four years. A nor’ easter which fortunately only dumped an inch-and-a-half of snow on us. And to top it all off, a conundrum on What to Read Next.

But that’s all in the past! I’m back to a post-a-day. Because it’s good for the soul.

What can you expect to read about in the upcoming days and weeks?

Hmmm. Good question.

How about –

Some string theory nuttiness

The greatest 270 words ever spoken in the English langauge

Hopper’s questions for Siri

Thoughts on a 700-year-old Italian metaphysical poem

Thoughts on a 25-year-old novel of Egyptian time travel

An ode to an ever-en-fattening belly

How I’m gonna get out of my vow to re-read Atlas Shrugged

Chicken Boy versus the Roach Coach guy at work

What I’d do in the Zombie Apocalypse

Why .99999 ad infinitum is actually equal to 1

And other exciting, pulse-driving, white-knuckling thrills ’n chills!

So why not stop back tomorrow, eh?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pounds of Books

Well, what does the Hopper do when he's displaced and has a weekend to kill?

Buy some books, of course.

Thanksgiving, and one other time in the winter or spring. They have three used book stores within a half-hour's drive of their house, and you all know my feelings regarding used book stores within a half-hour's drive of one's house. So yesterday when the wife and I escaped - I mean, left the little ones with the grandparents - I hit one of those used book stores.

The one in question was having a "Books by the Pound" sale. I wound up buying three-and-a-half pounds of books. Nine books, actually, for $18. Not bad, not bad at all.

What did I get? What did I get, you ask! OK! Here ya go ...

(1) The Book of Mormon. Not predicting a Romney win. Nah, that would be presumptuous, wouldn't it? (sssshhhh - Romney by four points ....) Anyway, it'll sit on the shelf until the spirit - or should I say, Spirit - moves me to read it. But I promised I would read it if the Amateur President loses re-election.

(2) Men of Mathematics, by E. T. Bell. This one's been on my list to find for a while, something that'll take me a full month to traverse. I especially dig that this classic book could never be published today - with that title. Persons of Mathematics would be a more likely title (doesn't that just roll of the tongue?).

(3) The Hawkline Monster, by Richard Brautigan. A gothic Western. Wow. I've read Westerns, and I've read gothic horror, but I've never read a blending of the two. Should be interesting. Hopefully it's better than that unnameable movie that blended Western and Sci-fi that was out in the theaters last Spring.

(4) Treasure, by Clive Cussler. I've read a pair of Cusslers. In fact, Raise the Titanic was one of the great highlights of my childhood reading career. They're all pretty generic, though, in an interchangeable sense. This one involves the lost treasures from the Library of Alexandria, and that's a subject that I've always been interested in.

(5) To the Stars, by Harry Harrison. A trio of novels under one hardcover. Always wanted to delve into Harrison. Read just one of his books, about three years back, and thought it was moderately okay. Need to read more of his to form a better appreciation of the man's talent.  This one seems, at least by the cover, to be quite Heinleinesque.

(6) The Hollow Earth, by Rudy Rucker. Like Rucker and his mathematical weirdness. His Fourth Dimension is an absolutely essential beginning book concerning mathematical weirdness. This one takes place in the past, involves Edgar Allen Poe, and takes place inside the Earth. What's not to like?

(7) and (8) A pair of Larry Nivens: A Gift from Earth and World of Ptavvs. I like Niven. I loved Ringworld, which I read a dozen years ago and deserves a re-read. I liked his short story anthology A Hole in Space, reviewed somewhere on this blog. I should enjoy these books. In fact, I might read one of them next.

(9) My absolute favorite score: The Atlas of Middle-earth, by Karen Wynn Fonstad. Holy Cow! Where was this when I was re-reading Tolkien for the second time this past summer?! How come I never heard of this book before?! How did it fly low under the radar?! Over 200 pages detailing the geography, climate, people, events, travels, wars from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings! Maps, maps, maps, and more maps. And the detail! Awesome. A book I could spend hours thumbing through, and one to keep handy for my next voyage through that wondrous land from Professor Tolkien's mind.

Let the page turning begin!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


OK, I may have shaken my fists at the sky a la Lieutenant Dan, cursing the storm clouds and, perhaps, He Who may have been blowing them, and that may have not been the wisest of things to do.  But I only did it based on past experience.  And isn’t past experience an indicator of future performance?  (That was facetiouos.)

So here I am, day three at my parents house in Pennsylvania.  They have power.  They have electricity.  They have internet and phones.  They have heat.  They have refrigerated food. 

Back at my house, we don’t.

We lost power at 6:25 last Monday, just as Hurricane Sandy was coming ashore at the New Jersey shore.  We were prepared, mind you.  We lit candles.  Had a half-dozen flashlights at the ready.  Battery-powered radio.  The wind was mighty fierce, so we had the children camp out in sleeping bags in the first floor living room, instead of their tree-menaced second-floor bedrooms.  I read some of Dante’s Inferno in bed while the wife read a book on Lincoln.  By 10 we were asleep amidst the groanings of the wind-tossed house.

The next few days were of me tentavely striking out to work.  For me, no clock in, no pay.  Our trip to France erased all my PTO, so I had to clock in.  I worked 2.5, 5, and 6.5 hours each of the next three workdays.  Conditions at my place of business were less than optimal.  A sputtering generator kept the lights on but the computers down.  No fresh water, no refrigerated drinks.  They brought klieg lights into the office where my desk was, increasing the ambient temperature as the days wore on.  A slight odor of stinkiness as people were coming to work without showering due to circumstances.

One of my duties is payroll, and Friday was the pay date.  I needed Internet, and the phone companies were telling us we’d be lucky to have internet capability early next week.  My wife packed up the children – who had no school due to power outages – and drove them up to my parents in PA.  They had power.

And internet.  I made the decision to telecommute on Friday to get payroll in.  My bosses concurred.  Gas shortages were just beginning and many were worried they wouldn’t even make it to work.  Gassing up before the storm, I had 3/8s of a tank left.  I remembered a can of gas used for the lawnmower in my garage.  I threw that in the tank.  I drove up to Pennsylvania Thursday night, alarmed at the lines for gas stations even over the border.  Finally, though, nearing my parents rustic home, I found a gas station open with no lines whatsoever.  I filled the tank plus that spare, 2-gallon can I brought with me.

Ah!  Warmth!  For the first time in four or five days I got an uninterrupted, pleasant night’s sleep.

Friday the wife and my mother took the children to the movies in town.  I did the telecommuting thing on my mom’s laptop and got 165 employees paid … albeit late, a Tuesday paycheck at the behest of my general manager.  Took a hot bath afterwards and finished reading Inferno.

Yesterday I took the girls to the local playground off the local lake, but an icy 39-degree wind swept us soon back inside.  The wife paid some due credit card bills over the phone.  Then the wife and I motored in to town for a beer and burger and some window-shopping.  Today we’re off to church and then to watch the football games.  Still undecided as to when we’re heading back home.  Power is still out, but I have to be at work tomorrow.  No clock in, no pay and all.

Strange to be in a house unaffected by all the strife in the tri-state area.  That’s all we see on the news: the long lines, the foot shortages, the persisting power outtages. 

It’s scary.