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Friday, December 30, 2011

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Nara-Fuji Road & The Trip Home from MA

By Steve Frenkel, 2009


We arrived home from Massachusetts a day ago, and this picture describes how I felt during the car ride home rather accurately.  While it took us 19 hours to drive to Plympton, MA, it took us over 23 hours to drive home.

Why?  Blasting in Virginia, construction in South Carolina, and Godzilla in Pennsylvania (because there was no other reason for us to sit on the road forever there).  The delays added between three and four hours onto the already too long drive time.  Luckily, the kids kept themselves entertained as I tried to sleep off the medication and infection (see previous blog post for details).

Now, I slog through emails and snail mail, trying to figure out what I want to do in 2012.

First, I decided to post on my blog daily again.  I like presenting my ideas, thoughts, and such to the world, even though I know not everyone agrees.

Second, I will have at least one novel on Amazon by the end of the year.  Actually, I want to have my NanoWriMo novel on Amazon by July, and a vampire novel on there by December.  Wish me luck, folks!!

Third, after coming up with 30 picture book ideas, I want to follow through on a few of them and see where it leads me.

Fourth, I want to experiment more with cooking and food.  I am *so* excited - we have a real butcher in our neighborhood now!!!  Currently, I'm looking for recipes with rabbit in them.

Fifth, I want to read more.  I enjoy a good book (or a great book, even a mediocre book).  This year, I want to finish about two books a month.

So, does anyone else out there have any New Year Resolutions?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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My Winter Travel Diary: Now, A Word from The Dentist...

I apologize in advance if this particular blog post makes little sense, but currently I am taking vicodin for pain and I feel a bit floaty.

Why, you ask, am I taking the medication made famous by Dr. House?

Because the day after we arrived here in Plympton, my teeth began to hurt.  I assumed that I clenched my teeth too much, so I spent most of Monday trying to relax against the rising tide of pain.  But by Tuesday morning, with the left side of my face swollen up, I admitted defeat and went to the local dentist office (name gained courtesy of my wonderful in-laws).  I learned that I had an abcess in one of my teeth - a fairly large and painful abcess that required a root canal.  So, the dentist drained stuff from the bad tooth, packed it with antibiotic paste, gave me a massive amount of amoxicillan, and two prescription - one for more amoxicillan and one for vicodin. 

Last night was a nightmare.  I alternated vicodin and Advil, but when time ran out of either medication my face ached.  When I went back to the dentist this morning, he reopened the tooth and basically drained out as much today as he did yesterday.  Argh!  So, he sent me to a specialist  - a dentist who only does root canals.  He also gave me a new antibioti to take, because the amoxicillian clearly was not cutting it.

The new dentist saw me this afternoon.  He tested my teeth to ensure that only one was infected, then he innocently asked me if I wanted him to lance an area of my gums that was swollen.  I agreed, and he numbed my mouth.  Then he went in with a scapel, made a little incision, and exclaimed, "My!  That was more exuberant that I expected!"

It turns out that I had a *huge* pocket of nastiness in my mouth that was causing a significant part of the pain.  Once the doctor removed the nastiness and relieved the pressure, I felt about one hundred times better.  My tooth is still open, so I have one more appointment up here to close up the hole in the tooth.  But I think I'll be able to sleep tonight without waking up to pain.

And maybe tomorrow I'll be able to walk around with floating on vicodin.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Birthday!!!

I almost forgot, the reason we're here (and not in Georgia) is that my lovely, smart daughter turns 10 years old today. 

Happy Birthday, Blue Butterfly!!!!!

My Winter Travel Diary: Getting to MA

Greetings, from Plympton, MA!  You might be wondering why I'm here.  Here's the story...

Last winter, my daughter was lamenting that she never saw her Patterson grandparents on her birthday.  Looking ahead at the school calendar, I realized that the children got out of school the Friday before her birthday.  So I dutifully called my in-laws, and we arranged to spend the winter holidays with them.  Oh, joy!  Oh, bliss!

Then in a completely underhanded move, four members of the Cobb County school board changed the school calendar for this year, making the kids go to school through December 23rd.  Disaster!!  If the kids were in school through December 23rd, we would not have enough time to even drive there!

I felt angry and betrayed by those who put their own personal needs and agenda above those who voted for them.  Then, I decided that life is way too short to let the pettiness of those people ruin our plans.  Therefore, I thought, screw the last week of school.  We're going to Massachusetts anyway!

In preparation for this trip, I planned out our route with Google Maps.  That's when I learned that it would take just over 19 hours to get here.  Another ugh, since 19 hours in a car with four people sounded not fun at all.  But I decided  we could drive 10 hours on the first day and 9 hours on the second day.  That way it would feel like we accomplished something the first day of driving.  So I worked out that 10 hours from our house is Winchester, VA.  Looking around, I made a reservation at the Holiday Inn off of exit 313.  Then I got my car ready for the trip, bought some peanut butter Ritz Bitz, and packed the car.

The alarm went off *way* too early last Saturday morning - 5:00am - but the entire family woke up and did the last minute stuff.  We finally made it out the door and on the road by 7:30am, the kids busy with their Android tablets and the adults discussing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the front seats.  The entire day went by without incident.  The kids got along fabulously, and the Holiday Inn in Winchester turned out to be a perfectly delightful hotel.  We ate dinner at Bob Evans and relaxed for an hour or so before going to bed.

Yesterday, though, got a bit too exciting. We awoke at 6:30am, got ready and loaded the car before continuing on I-81.  Early afternoon, a dark red SUV nearly sideswiped us!  My dear husband looked over and saw that the SUV's driver's eyes were completely closed.  The man was completely asleep at the wheel!!!

The SUV careened across all three lanes of traffic, got all four tires off the pavement and into the median, then jerked back into the left lane to careen across the other way.  We sped up, honking our car horn to try to wake the man upand wishing that a police car would show up.  I yanked out my cell phone and called 911.  The cell towers dropped the call four times before I finally got in touch with an operator.  Four times!  By that point, we spotted a state trooper turning around in the median.  We pulled over and my husband ran over to tell the man about the crazy driver.  By that point, the SUV raced into the distance at 90 mph, ne'er to be seen again since we exited I-81 about two miles later.

The adrenaline rush had everyone bouncing in their seats, so we pulled off the road and found a quaint Burger King to eat lunch in.  I thought long and hard about the man asleep at the wheel while waiting for the food, and I realized two important things.  One, I would try to save that man again if the situation presented itself.  Why?  Because somewhere, someone will be waiting for him, and saving him is the right action to take.  Two, I realized that at no point in the car chase did my kids ask us why we were trying so hard to help out.  They just assumed that we needed to help someone obviously in trouble.  I felt good about this, because I want my kids to assume that a person needs to help out others in trouble without expecting a reward. 

The rest of the day went by fairly normally.  On the plus side, we passed through nine states in one day, most of them part of the original thirteen colonies.  On the negative side, being so much more north meant the sun went down around 4:30pm, making all of us feel like it was much later at night then it was.

Eventually, we pulled into the driveway to a warm welcome.  More about our adventures in Massachusetts later... 

Friday, December 16, 2011

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The Post Office Dilemma

December is a busy month for most people, as most run around getting ready for the holidays.  Even the post office overflows with people sending packages around the world.

Unfortunately, the post office desperately needs the business this year.  Due to a bad decision in how the post office runs, the entire organization is going down in flames, with a debt of billions and no solid path to get back to running in the black.

The bad decision I refer to is the decision to let Congress determine how the post office runs.  Every change must be run past a body of politicians who have nothing to gain by helping out; instead they act as though they have much to gain by not acting, or acting poorly.  Sometimes I think that Congress wants the post office to fail, though for the life of me I cannot understand why.

What the post office officials need is the power to manage themselves without daily Congressional oversight.  They need to change according to the economy, the real current economy, and not according to the fairyland economy that most politicians live in.  Maybe with some power to change things, the post office could turn it around and begin to make money.

In a case of life imitating art, Terry Pratchett wrote a book called "Going Postal", in which a man is forced to turn around an almost dead city post office.  Pratchett creates his own version of Internet and email as the leading contender for sending messages, then shows that you need a letter for SWAK (sealed with a kiss).  He examines the various types of communications and how each has a place in the world.  If I were a rich man, I'd give every postal official a copy of this book for Christmas.  Even though they probably could not use the methods in the book for prosperity (it is fictional), I think they would find inspiration and hope.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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Hanging Out with Their Hero

Portal Pirate, Jonathan Coulton, and Blue Butterfly


Last December, we took Portal Pirate and Blue Butterfly to see Jonathan Coulton in concert.  They had a marvelous time - hearing Paul and Storm for the first time, finally seeing Jonathan Coulton perform in person, meeting all the wonderful patrons in the audience.  But nothing beat after the show.  Someone at the theater gave the kids extra concert posters, and they got autographs from all three performers.  Then, even though it was after midnight and everyone looked exhausted, Jonathan Coulton smiled for this great photo.

Rock on!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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A Google A Day Keeps the Neurologist Away...

...at least if the current theories on stopping dementia are correct.

Yesterday, I discovered a new game from Google called A Google a Day.  If you go to the website, it will look like a regular Google search page on top, but there is a separate section on the bottom.  Every day, starting on December 1st, Google puts up a new question in the bottom section.  The point of the game is to use Google search to find the answer to the question.  If you guess wrong, click on "Hint"and the game offers you hints.  If you just cannot find or figure out the answer, click on "Full Answer" and the game tells you not only the answer, but also the search terms used to find the answer.

I realize that Google wants to help people increase their Google fu*, but I find this particular game, well, fun.  I love learning new information, and so far I have learned something interesting about the Muppets, NASA, and crocodiles in Europe.

The only problem I've encountered is the question "Today you turned 35 on earth. How old would you be on Earth’s twin planet? (Disregard the extra days from leap years.)" You see, this question does not say what unit they want the answer in, years or days, which is important because on Earth's twin planet a day (as defined by one rotation around its axis) is longer than a year (a rotation around the sun).  The answer needs to be in years, for those of you who do this question.

Other than that one problem, I have loved going to A Google a Day and discovering a new nugget of knowledge.  For those who want to stop dementia or just get better at Googling, I hope you enjoy this as well.

* Google fu is the geek term describing a person's ability to use Google to find information.

Friday, December 2, 2011

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Book Review: "Reckless" (Reckless #1) by Cornelia Funke

Reckless (Reckless, #1)Reckless by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Reckless" by Cornelia Funke begins with a young boy angry at his father, who disappeared one day and never returned. The boy, Jacob Reckless, haunts his father's study at night looking for clues. In the very first chapter, Jacob finds where his father might have disappeared - inside of a Mirror World. The discovery changes Jacob Reckless' life forever.

Ms. Funke uses this book to explore the themes of family, relationships, and love. I find her exploration to be a tad on the obvious side; the reader expect Jacob to regret his actions when they lead to his brother, Will, getting infected with a curse and for Will to be angry at Jacob for keeping the Mirror World secret. The reader also expects Fox to be in love with Jacob, even though Jacob seems to be unaware of her feelings. Of course, Ms. Funke might have include that to offer sympathy to all the teenage girls out there in the same predicament.

I only gave this book 3 out of 5 stars, because the plot seems too predictable at times.

View all my reviews