Sunday, August 30, 2009

Morning Beach, Evening Clouds

I'm really glad I had the 2 giant margaritas in me Friday night at Rosie's house. I had chosen that weekend to come for 2 reasons: tropical storm Danny party and no more kids with their dogs.

Tropical Storm Danny? BUST!

Kids & dogs gone? Nope!

But you know what? It didn't matter. Margaritas make everything better.
It was a terrific evening -> night -> morning -> afternoon -> evening.

Warning - lots of pictures ahead. I couldn't decide which ones I liked the best, so put in a whole bunch.
Sorry if that bores you, except . . . not.

After breakfast in the morning, Rosie & I wandered over to the beach to see what havoc had been wreaked on the poor tourists.

Hmmm, they don't seem so upset.

There was a bit of a bigger surf . . .

. . . and the big, red "No Swimming" flag was out.
Did that deter the surfers, one of whom was Rosie's youngest?
No. There is a video of that gripping excitement at the end.

On our way home, we stopped by to say hello to my good friend from high school & college, Russ of blogdom fame. His blog is at times hilarious, at times thought provoking, but always worth a read.

He has a house that used to have a nice view of Jockey's Ridge, the tallest sand dunes on the east coast. They can barely still make the claim though, as they have been slowly shrinking over the years. They are visibly smaller now than they were in the early 70's when we first started vacationing there (my father has lived there since 1976). Dunes don't usually do that, as they shift and move with the winds, and Jockey's Ridge normally migrates slooooowly to the south-southwest. But these have a problem. Their normal migration pattern has been halted by development. If you were allowed to dig at the southern end, though, you would find a bit of their revenge - a miniature golf course that was buried and a bit of a castle that once decorated it just visible peeking up through the sand. The sand also gobbled up a hotel in the late 1880's. So what's a dune to do when it has nowhere to go? Simply and slowly blow away.

In fact, the entire Outer Banks are on the move, shifting to the southwest. Oregon Inlet, connecting the northern Outer Banks to Hatteras Island, has migrated more than 2 miles since it first opened up during a hurricane in 1846. Consider this - when the existing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built in 1870, it was more than 1500 feet from the shoreline.
Since the construction of the lighthouse, the shoreline has been retreating at an average rate of 15 feet per year. By 1935, the shoreline had retreated to the point where the base of the lighthouse was in the surf zone, forcing the lighthouse to be abandoned. This prompted the construction of a series of palisade dune ridges in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service. By 1950 the lighthouse was deemed safe and returned to service.
And the whole lighthouse had to be moved inland in 1999. I got to see that. It was the coolest thing ever.

Sorry, I got distracted by the dune saga. Where was I? Oh, the view of the back corner of the dunes from Russ's house.

Oops. Caution - objects in the zoom mode are farther away than they appear.

I am feeling very sad for the dunes.

But back at Rosie's house, we passed a nice afternoon watching Monty Python & the Holy Grail, only the best movie ever made (along with about a couple dozen best movies ever made), but as dusk drew close, I had to pack up & go home. Goodbye goodbye hug hug had fun come again thanks for everything blah blah blah. As they walk me to my car, I glance up and . . . oh wow!

I love the 3 layers of color in these clouds. Now I was on a mission - get to the beach as quickly as possible to see these cool-as-all clouds over the water with a couple photo-op stops en route. Clouds change quickly.

Dusk is my favorite time of day, as long as the air is clear. And it was clear as a bell that evening. Dusk feels full of promise. Dusk is full of energy. Dusk feels like something exciting is just around the corner. Dusk feels like fun. Dusk feels like peace.

Ooh look, the moon.

And then I turned to the western sky.

Lastly, my blind videography. Of course, the whole morning of beach pictures was blind. Blind for a couple reasons.
1) The day was so bright I couldn't see the little screen on the back of my camera.
2) Even if it hadn't been bright I couldn't have seen it since I forgot my old-lady reading glasses.

I've decided that surfing on the east coast is really nothing but long periods of self contemplation whilst paddling on your surfboard interspersed with a few seconds of upright posture before the wipe out. Uhhh, yeah, to each his own.

Youngest Hawthorne lived to tell the tale.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Relaxin' at Rosie's

I had a conference today. Just a one-day thing, but I was looking forward to it, seeing as how it was about traumatic brain injury. I just love the blood & guts, doncha know.

I could NOT wait for the thing to end. It was the most boring seminar I have been to in a long time. But that's not the whole story. The site of the seminar was the nastiest hotel in Norfolk. This hotel has changed ownership & management probably a dozen times since I moved here in 1970. And gee, I wonder why it has never done well? Could it be that the builders paid no attention to the old addage "location, location, location"? When you look out the big picture windows on 1 side, you have a nice view of the projects. Go to the other side and you get to see the Greyhound bus station (do I have to paint that picture for you?) and the blood bank where you can go hawk your blood when you are desperate for drug money.

The hotel was closed for renovations (except for workshops, I guess) and workmen were everywhere. The decor made me want to puke - glass & chrome & black & white & brown & beige & angular furniture & black & white paisley wallpaper over the brown & beige carpet with giant circles all over it. Gak!

The only rooms that were air conditioned were our conference room & the main lobby. This means, sadly that the bathrooms had NO VENTILATION. They were hot, muggy & smelly. Why smelly? That would be because the toilets wouldn't flush.

Nothing is too good for their customers.

At lunchtime I went a couple blocks down to one of our landmarks here (who shall be unnamed for reasons you will soon see), one of the claimers of the original ice cream cone.

As I sat at the counter, enjoying my minced pork barbecue (that's for you Buckykatt), a giant cockroach came crawling down the wall, dangled off a shelf, dropped to the counter, then jumped to the floor. Aaaaack! Somehow, the barbecue didn't taste so good anymore. Now, I know even the best of kitchens can't eliminate the critters altogether. I just don't want to see them so near my lunch, thank you so much.

Then back to the hotel-of-doom for the afternoon session, whence commenced drilling through what sounded like concrete in the room next to us. And 3 peoples' cell phones went off. I could. not. wait. to. leave.

The bright spot in all this? This evening I came down to the NC Outer Banks to visit with my good friend Rosie Hawthorne, of blogdom fame. She had invited me for a Tropical Storm Danny par-tay.

We met online. We are internet stalkers.

I knew I could forget about the horrible day with my buddies & a giant margarita & homemade pizza - crust courtesy of Rosie & toppings courtesy of Mr. Hawthorne.

Speaking of Mr. Hawthorne, his birthday is Monday, so I got him a bitty gift. If you have ever read Rosie's blog, you will know that they do love their pizza. Just search the term "pizza" and 847 posts about pizza will come up, so when I saw this, I knew Mr. Hawthorne had to have it.

Trouble is, he saw a different use for it.

But Rosie was able to convince him of it's true calling in life through the selective use of colorful metaphors. There may have even been painful retaliation involved. I don't know. I averted mah eyes.

Then she wanted to know if the picture made her ass look big.

By that time, our pizza & Caesar salad with homemade dressing (also courtesy of Mr. Hawthorne) & 2 giant margaritas had made me forget about the misery of that hotel & the cockroach. Hic.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caterpillars & Flowers & Fish

Even though that nasty porker (Swine flu) is spreading his cooties around St. Mary's, not all of the kids are sick. And yesterday, we got to take a few of them outside for some fresh air, a swing, and a stroll around the gardens. Part of our building & grounds includes 2 courtyards that were lovingly planted by volunteers. And our maintenance crew put in a koi pond a couple months ago. So, I took the opportunity to play with the aperture & macro settings on my camera when some new fish were put in the pond. Here are the results.

Keep in mind that I am NOT a gardener, and I don't know all the names of these plants. So don't ask.

And RAD, I need you to show me some things on this damn Adobe Photoshop Elements thingamajig, 'cause there are about 846 icons for editing. I figured out the crop one. The rest scare me.

There is a bush next to the pond that is full of monarch caterpillars happily munching away & destroying the bush. The maintenance manager is NOT happy about that, so he has been moving them over to the bushes next to the interstate. We are going to take some of them and grow butterflies. It's what we do. We have schoolchildren here.

But this guy was not happy when I put him on some flowers for a nice Kodak moment. I don't think they tasted good to him.
He definitely made a face at me. See?

The fish stayed in their plastic bags for a bit to let them get used to the temperature of the pond. It also gave the other fish time to come be nosy. Look at that great fish face.

Oooh, a bee!

And look - a fly!

I am easily amused.

This one isn't very clear, but there were droplets of water from the sprinkler that sparkled in the sun.

The pond has a switch inside the building by the picture windows that the kids can hit to listen to the fountains.
And there is an angel watching over us. All day. Every day. We need her (or him. Do angels have a gender?).

Our gardens were created with lots of 'ove'.
They are maintained with lots of 'ove'.
And the building is full of 'ove' every minute of every day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiney Virus

At least that's how we have been pronouncing the H1N1 virus that is wreaking havoc across the universe. Just change the 1's to i's and you have it.

AKA "Swine Flu". Quite the misnomer since you won't get it by doing this:

Normally, an outbreak of flu would rate only a passing 'hmmm' from me, but not this time.

It's our kids.

Those wonderful, special, medically fragile kids at St. Mary's. They have enough to cope with on a daily basis as it is with their myriad of complex medical problems. Now they have to deal with a strain of flu that no one has significant immunities to yet.

3 of our kids have been positively diagnosed as of late yesterday. We were already taking extra precautions all summer, but when you have employees coming and going, you can't isolate everyone from every germ that comes along.

So, extra precautions will be in place in the coming months. We usually have about 1/4 of our kids going out to special ed classrooms in the local public school systems, but they will now stay put and all the kids will get their educational services at the Home. This means a lot of extra work for the program that provides the learnin' at St. Mary's School. They are going bleary-eyed & losing sleep over the logistics of this even as I speak . . . or type.

All outings that are indoors and/or involve crowds have been canceled.


This means that our 3rd annual trip to Blacksburg (scroll to Nov 13th) to take Brandon to a Virginia Tech football game is off for this year.


No trips to the mall.


No going to the movies.


No ODU football (brand new this year - my alma mater got a football team. Whoo-hoo!) or basketball.


Are we overreacting, you might be asking yourself? It is a very reasonable question. And the answer is . . .


If these were healthy kids, maybe, but they are not healthy. They deal with more medical obstacles on a daily basis than you or I will likely encounter in our entire lifetime. A virus that we can shake off with little difficulty can be devastating for our kids, so we will take every precaution to keep them as safe as possible. The CDC is concerned about large outbreaks once school starts back up. Add to that 20+ of our kids in the public school system and you can see the problem.

(Here is their latest press briefing about the virus. And it seems that the buggar is a nastier specimen that originally thought.)

So, as much as I want to take Brandon to the movies, to the mall, and to Blacksburg to cheer on the Hokies, those things will have to wait. We really like our kids, and we kind of want to keep them around. They are worth the extra precautions.

I'll just have to do those things with BS instead. He's okay with that. Really.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So it's root, root, root for the home team . . .

. . . if they don't win, it's a shame (what a shame).

And it wasn't a shame last night at Harbor Park
("one of the finest baseball facilities in existence" - quite the grandiose claim, huh),
home of the Norfolk Tides (formerly the Tidewater Tides),
the triple-A farm team of the Baltimore Orioles.

"Harbor Park was selected by Baseball America as the finest minor league facility in the land in 1995."

Oh really?!
Mymymy, I didn't know it was so impressive.
Something tells me this would be a surprise to many other citizens of this fine region too.

The Tides were the League champions in 1972, 1975, 1982, 1983 and 1985,
and played in the championship series in 4 other years - '71, '88, '88, and '95.

Wait . . . nothing since 1995. Whaaaaa?

The Tides were the farm team of the Mets for 37 years until 2006,
when someone likely got mad at someone else and got in a huff.
Or something.
Then the Orioles came on board in 2007.

Our boys of summer played the Gwinnett Braves last night.
5 points if you know where or what a Gwinnett is.

The sunset was totally gorgeous.

Auto setting

Night setting

BS's boss gave him a couple of free tickets to the game along with a bunch of co-workers,
and, bless my child's fat heart, since friend Tina couldn't come, he let me have his other ticket.
Our seats were waaaaaay out beyond 3rd base.

Now, baseball isn't my favorite sport to watch.
Pretty low scores, slow paced, and no one gets beat up or trampled on.
Bones don't crunch and the nice sight of a nice big package due to the presence of a cup
isn't appreciable from so far away in the stands.
Unless you have binoculars.
Which I didn't.

But there is something about being THERE, in the stands, among other fans, yelling & hooting & hollering
on a warm summer evening that transcends boredom into a collective joi-de-vivre that is contagious.

That, and hot dogs.

It just seems wrong somehow to go to a ball game and NOT eat a hot dog.
Ball parks have expanded their fine culinary offerings of late, but . . . no.
It has to be a hot dog.
Or a giant soft pretzel.
Or peanuts.
Or beer.

I chose the hot dog.
With thin chili & cheez whiz (which really didn't look green) & onions & a bit o' ketchup.
Is this not a thing of beauty?

I relished every bite.
They taste better in the open air.
It was good.

Ooh, ooh, and I got an action shot with the action setting on my camera.
Just look at that pitcher.

And look - we found a pair of cardboard rainbow glasses in the seat,
so doncha know I had to take some pictures through the plastic lens.


Oh yeah, and we won: 3-2.

If your town has a baseball team, a football team, or any other kind of team,
get on out there and support hometown athletics.