Archive for the ‘Life The Universe and Everything’ Category


This is one of my biggest complaints about mask-wearing*.

I naturally tend to smile a lot at people I interact with. I enjoy seeing the smiles from others. When I walk by you and we all look like steely-eyed ninjas, or impassive zombie-doctors**, or just people who might be fresh from a bank-robbery, you just lose a bit of that human-interaction that greases the gears of society and keeps us feeling connected.

Maybe we all need to go back and watch America’s Next Top Model and figure out how to “smize” (smile with your eyes) as Tyra Banks trained contestants. Or better yet – someone come up with a transparent-yet-still-effective facemask!

*Yes, masks are uncomfortable/inconvenient/not fun. Please do your part and wear one in public, anyway. The next person you interact with could depend on it!

**That is, a doctor who is a zombie. Not a doctor who treats zombies. What would be the point of that?


Today I hit the “I….Declare….Bankruptcy!” button on my email inbox.  I took all my emails earlier than March 1st and put them in a “Cleanup” folder.  Out of sight, out of mind. (But still available if I ever have to go looking for them.)

22CrThe fresh white screen of an empty inbox is so soothing. I know dealing with emails is like playing whack-a-mole – the more you clear, the more pop up.  But getting rid of 1000+ emails that obviously aren’t all that important (or else I would have responded to them before now) is such a relief every once in a while.

Now only if I could do something about those moles in my backyard…

AMAThe podcast, that is.  Lately, I’ve been binge-listening to a bunch of episodes of this NPR quiz show in the car – the puzzles are fun and challenging enough to keep me thinking, without being so tough I can’t get any of the answers.  To mix things up, they also bring in “special guests”, which are usually celebrities in some form (last episode I listened to included Ed Helms of “The Office” and “The Hangover” fame), but who are usually featured in such a way that they dig into aspects of their lives you may not have heard of before.  They feature other people’s creative pet projects, too – I discovered Mike Rowe’s “The Way I Heard It” podcast through this show, as well as Joseph Fink’s “Welcome to Night Vale”, both of which have ended up in my permanent podcast subscription list.

One of their signature hooks is the nerdy word games they feature, and they conclude the podcast with catchy anagrams of the show title, venue, and host names.  I decided to plug in my name into an anagram machine and discovered that my name anagrams to “Blogger Dross”.  Pretty appropriate, given that I haven’t posted on here in years.

Anyway, if you’re into quiz shows, word games, or puzzles, check this one out on NPR’s podcast list. (You can also listen when they air it on the radio, too, but who listens to the radio any more???)


The family and I took a trip to Charleston last weekend (more about that in another post later). Since the Color Princess got a phone for her 12th birthday a few weeks back, I’ve been helping her get used to the technology. Along with Pokemon Go, one of her favorite new things to do is take high-quality photos with the smartphone. I’m very impressed with her eye for composition and hope she keeps up the enthusiasm as I’d love to take her out for photo-walks in the future.

Here’s one she took while we were on a boat, coming alongside the USS Yorktown (aircraft carrier museum) at Patriots Point:


And another shot through a cannon-port in the 5-foot-thick wall of Fort Sumter:


(Yes, that’s a sailboat anchored off the shore of the island – I’m not sure what they were doing there but it certainly was a nice day to be doing it!)

I’ll probably be posting more of her best shots here and there as I come across them.

I mentioned (in passing) that late last year, my family moved out of Casa de Bedlam into our new (as yet unnamed) home. It was a whirlwind move and my head is still spinning, but almost all the boxes are unpacked and we’ve already had family over for a number of celebrations (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years’) and love the additional floor space for “entertaining.”


Home Sweet Home!

What I’m not loving so much? All the headaches that come with inheriting someone else’s home with all the hidden (or not-so-hidden) problems that tag along for the ride. Last month, the magnetron on the microwave went kaput, leaving us in a Hippy-like “No Nukes!” status for the better part of the week while we scheduled an appliance repair guy to come out and take a look. We all had a good laugh at how hard it was to adapt to life without a microwave nowadays (as The Bean said, “Guess we’ll be eating out all week, right?”) but we weren’t laughing when the invoice for the repairs came due. Yes, it was cheaper than buying a new microwave, but that didn’t make it any more palatable to shell out the funds for the repair.

I had actually considered buying a home warranty to cover those “unforeseen” repairs, at least for the first year while I was getting a feel for the state of the house, but didn’t get around to purchasing it at the house closing. And of course, the warranty companies put a 2-week hold on claims from when you sign a contract to prevent you from “purchasing after the fact”, and it slipped my mind to follow up with a purchase after the microwave was working again.


Picture this, but made out of 1/8″ cable on each side of the garage door. Not pretty.

So of course, what happens this week? Breakdown #2 – this time, the garage door. Torsion bar / springs failed, causing the cables to snarl in a big bird’s-nest mess on both ends of the bar. My mechanical knowledge in this area was limited to figuring out how to disengage all that mess from the door so I could roll it down and lock it in place, and (of course) figuring out how to use the telephone to call the Garage Door Doctor. Luckily for us, they were able to schedule a evening appointment same-day as I called, and replaced the entire assembly in an hour (to the tune of an emptying wallet).

So at this point, I’m expecting it’s only a matter of time before the third shoe drops (yes, I’m assuming there’s an octopus wearing shoes in the room above me, shut up). Time to get on that home warranty purchase before the next repair forces me to take a job as a male escort to pay the bills.

Anyone have any experience with home warranties? Any good companies I should consider? I can use my Google-fu to do some research, but it doesn’t hurt to have a head start on the process…


Anyone who interacts with me on even a casual basis probably knows that I enjoy running. Heck, my blog and email addresses let that cat out of the bag for folks who haven’t even met me! But as I joked to my friends some years back, there was a time after college when I more aptly should have used the nickname “RossUsedToRun” (despite it not rolling off the tongue nearly as nicely).  Between health issues and a general lack of motivation, I had seemingly interminable periods of non-running life interspersed between bouts of training, usually for a race, after which I tended to drop the habit pretty much cold-turkey the next time something came up.

Last spring was the latest of those dry spells, and my wife’s determination to run her first ever half-marathon this past December on our wedding anniversary was the impetus to get me going again. From my birthday in August until the day of the race in December, I was back on the wagon, training and loving it. We ran the race – Dee was amazing, and I? Well, let’s just say that this race set a new record for the slowest half-marathon I’ve run yet. Amazing race, I just didn’t turn out an amazing performance to match, but that’s completely off-topic and a story better left for another day.

I took some time off after the race to “recover” and could feel myself sliding into another bout of non-running-Rossness. I didn’t want that, but couldn’t figure out how to change it around. I could feel myself giving in to my personal version of Matthew Inman’s Blerch. As a last-ditch effort, I decided to institute a running streak to get me over my hump and turn myself around – in 2015, I plan to run a minimum of 1 mile a day, every day, adding on extra miles as training plans call for it. The “off days” may only be a mile, (as will any day I have to travel for work), but this kind of dedicated schedule may do more for me than any normal training plan could. Three days in and I’m doing great – I’m looking forward to my runs and no Blerch in sight.

Except that the streak isn’t really what is inspiring me right now. What’s got me so galvanized about running again is my tenacious little 7-year old who I invited out for a jog with me on Friday, who ended up running virtually the entire mile with a smile on her face, and who saved enough energy to “beat me” in a race to the “finish line” at the end of our second lap around the block. My daughter’s energy impressed me so much that Saturday I invited her to join me on another 1 mile jaunt around the neighborhood. This time? In the rain.

She took me up on my offer (really, what self-respecting 7-year-old wouldn’t jump at a chance to go running in the rain?), and we geared up to brave the elements. After stepping out into the rain-shower, she giggled at the raindrops dripping off her nose. We strolled over to the corner where we start our route, and as she took off, I actually had to speed up to keep apace her churning little legs.

I couldn’t help but keep looking over at my daughter, who laughed as she splashed through puddles and cut a swath through the raindrops. She ran so freely, so naturally, so happily. Her bangs plastered to her forehead, she told me, “I don’t care that it’s raining, I like it.” I agreed.

Near the end of our mile, we passed a decorative shrub that she calls “The Pretty Tree”, which happens to be our designated starting line for our last 50-meter-all-out-go-for-broke-race-to-the-finish. She took off, squealing with laughter as she cut directly in front of me and forced me to slow down or tangle my much-longer legs up in her own. Despite my “best efforts” to pull ahead, she managed to outpace me and tap the lamp-post a single stride ahead of my reaching hand, winning our race for the second day in a row. “I told you I’d beat you,” she said. “I know you did,” I replied.

As we strolled back to our house, still breathing fast but cooling down quickly in the remaining drizzle, I told The Bean how much I liked running with her. I didn’t mention how she had inspired me to get back out there and leave my lazy days behind me once again, but I’m pretty sure she’s got that one all figured out, already.

Over the past 4 days, I’ve spent about 12 hours (total) walking door-to-door in my neighborhood, trying to collect signatures on a petition to get a parcel of land adjacent to the neighborhood (recently annexed by the city) zoned under a low-density classification to curb development and ensure our neighborhood doesn’t receive an influx of new traffic/noise/lower-quality housing that could adversely affect everyone in the neighborhood.  I’ve got another resident who’s helping me with their end of the neighborhood, so I only had to hit about 80 or so houses, rather than the 160 I’d have to hit on my own.  I’ve got a vested interest in this issue, since my house backs up on the land in question, but I’m also on the Homeowners Association (HOA) Board, so I felt it was my duty to participate in this activity regardless of whether it was my land or someone else’s land in the neighborhood impacted by this zoning issue.

I’m not a shy individual by any means, but the idea of cold-calling people or making door-to-door “sales” pitches is NOT my idea of a good time.  Nevertheless, I decided to suck it up and make an effort.  My biggest concern (and proven rightly so) was that people would think I was selling something and just wouldn’t come to the door, even if they were home.  I can’t very well yell through the door, “No really! It’s OK! I’m not selling anything and I’m not a crazy axe murderer who will abduct you if you open your door in the middle of the day! I’m out here for your own good, trust me!”  (Well, I could yell all that, but I doubt it would be very effective, even if the people inside DID hear me.)

So what did I find out from all my efforts?

  1. It is insanely hot outside right now.  And muggy.  Within seconds of stepping outside and into the sunlight, my forehead was pricked with sweat, and it only got worse from there.  I carried as much water as I could and stayed in the shade where possible, but it was just TOO DAMN HOT out there.
  2. I met a number of kind, friendly, open-minded individuals who welcomed me inside their homes to discuss the issue.  These are folks I may have met in passing in the neighborhood but in most cases, they didn’t know me from Adam.  Yet they were kind enough to notice my plight and offer me a cool drink or at least a few minutes of A/C while I discussed the zoning issue with them.  These are the people that make my neighborhood such a nice place to live.
  3. I met a number of people who came to door full of suspicion, all prepared to chase me off with a curt word if I DID turn out to be selling something.  Most of these individuals warmed up a moderate amount once I explained who I was and why I was there.  A few still seemed to think I was selling something, even after I explained IN DETAIL that I was just collecting signatures from residents to petition for the Rural zoning classification.
  4. It’s a lot easier to get people to sign a petition if they see an almost-filled form, rather than a blank sheet or a page with 1-2 signatures on it. Herd mentality, I think.
  5. It was TOO DAMN HOT to be walking around.  I should have applied some sunscreen, too.
  6. I met a couple of people who were so anti-Homeowners Association & HOA Board that they almost didn’t want to listen to me after I introduced myself as a member of that elected group.  Even though I was walking the neighborhood, in the heat, for their benefit (as well as my own, of course).  These people couldn’t say enough negative things about the Board, and seemed to think that they could say anything they wanted to me, including lying/embellishing about any “wrongs” done to them by “The Board”.  I kept what I hope was an apologetic face on, acted contrite if the situation warranted it, and actually got some good discourse going with a few of them after they ran out of steam on their initial gripe list.  End result? Signatures on the petition, a bit of venting, and maybe some not-quite-so-cranky residents.
  7. Did I mention it was hot out there? Wait, no, it wasn’t hot.  It was TOO DAMN HOT.
  8. The people in the neighborhood that were renting their houses were happy to be included in the petition effort, and were some of the nicest people I met overall.  Just because you don’t own a house doesn’t mean you’re a second-class citizen in a neighborhood primarily composed of people that do own their houses.  (And it definitely doesn’t mean you should be treated like one!)
  9. People who are home and don’t answer their doors when you ring their doorbell suck.
  10. People who aren’t home and leave their televisions on to pretend they’re home suck.
  11. People who have a sticker on their door asking firefighters to save their pets really should fill out the information indicating how many and of what type of pet they have, rather than leaving it blank and assuming the rescue workers will be able to magically find all the animals in the event of an emergency.
  12. Most of the people who invited me in have immaculate houses.  I’d never invite someone in just because I’d be ashamed for them to see the inside of my house under normal conditions.
  13. It was TOO DAMN HOT.  I’m not walking down the neighborhood for another petition until at least November.  Or maybe January.  Whew!

Total Houses Hit: Approximately 80

Total Houses Where Someone Answered Their Door: 45

Total Signatures Acquired: 44


It’s probably a good thing Superman built his Fortress of Solitude out of ice & crystal instead of Girl Scout cookies.  I think he would have received a sudden influx of new neighbors, Arctic wasteland or no Arctic wasteland.

Cookie Fortress

I still can't believe I lugged in 80+ boxes for my coworkers and forgot to order any for myself.

Oh yes, did I mention your Girl Scout cookies have arrived? $4 a box, please form an orderly queue, and line-jumpers will be shot on sight.

Gives new meaning to "jiggle the doorknob", right?

NOT the Bean's new doorknob.

Early this morning (i.e. before 7AM), I replaced the Bean’s doorknob with the one from my closet door.  The new one? It does not lock.

4 year olds do not need a door that locks.  ESPECIALLY when they use it to act out in anger.

On a related note, my wife will now be able to lock herself in the master bedroom closet when she can’t take the kids anymore.

What did you do before 7 AM?  What do you WISH you had done before 7 AM?

Just a quick note here to point out the following:

  • Even when you try to take care of tech problems in a proactive manner, they’re still a pain.
  • Hard drives click when they’re angry. They chirp when they’re sick. When they take 2 hours to transfer data to a backup that should only take 20 minutes, you better dig yourself a hole because you’re going to be holding a burial service very shortly (either for the hard drive or the first unsympathetic person who makes a comment about how you should have backed up more often.)
  • Having a backup is great. Even better if it is an automated one.  But knowing how to properly restore from said backup without accidentally deleting your data is key.
  • No matter how much backing up you do, you’ll always overlook something.
  • Settings and applications don’t get backed up. Make sure you know what was installed and how to restore your computer the way you like it or you’ll be pulling out your hair for hours days weeks. I recommend running Belarc Advisor (Windows only) to generate a list of everything you’ve got installed so you don’t overlook anything later.
  • It’s OK to feel naked without your computer. It’s not OK to go around naked without your computer. Unless you’re in a nudist camp or the comfort of your own home.