October 31, 2010

Wedding Photos and Facebook

There seems to be a lot of discussion about social networking these days. The movie “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook by wunderkind and now billionaire Mark Zuckerman is garnering very positive reviews. (We saw it a couple of weeks ago and would give it 4 Penguins, no question asked / I am reading the book Accidental Billionaire right now too.) It is a #hashtag topic, with pros and cons and conflicts and confidentiality being discussed in all manners of the media, from CNN to internet blogs, from Facebook to Twitter. Our family actually had a discussion about the seeming demise of Facebook and what might replace it. You could tell that there was going to be problems in Facebook’s future when the internet meme “my mother’s on Facebook” became such an indictment. As you might guess, this influx of adults has the kids all tied up in knots. Well, a few weeks ago I experienced what might be the real essence of the value of Facebook to all of its 500 MILLION followers – wedding pictures!

We went to a wedding a couple of Saturdays ago, It was at 2 pm. The reception at 6pm was at an aquarium, some 2 hours away. The families of these people are far flung including us in New England as well as North Carolina, Florida and Belgium, among other places.

In the old days, what this meant was that after the film was printed, maybe a second set was made and sent to someone, or you waited until the next big family event to look at the photographs. It could be months easily and I have looked at wedding photos for the first time two years after a wedding took place.

Beside the lack of timeliness in this process. you are looking at only a small selection of photos taken. What about the ones Aunt Mabel took? Didn’t anyone get a picture of Uncle Pete with the lampshade on his head? Did you see that little kid steal the show on the dance floor? You get the idea, right?

Well Facebook has changed all this. As we were driving home from the wedding on Sunday, Mrsfabp turned to me and said something like “I wonder when we will get to see some photos of the wedding”. MollieJupiter, snickered and said they probably are already posted on Facebook and sure enough by 5 pm on Sunday, less that 24 hours after the reception, there were some 150 photographs posted by the family. By late that evening there were more than 300 and by the next day there were well over 500 pictures of the wedding and reception posted by a number of people.

Now this is something Facebook does well, sharing the information to all who might be interested. Plus now other people can be directed to the photos with a simple email link. All I can think is how much my dad would have loved being able to share the 500 photographs of clouds he took from the plane on the first trip we took to California when we were kids. Much easier than sitting through 17 Kodak Carousel Slide holders of the same pictures!

October 28, 2010

A Response...

A friend (I follow her blog and we are also Facebook friends, and I have written to her before and about her before. I never know how to categorize this type of relationship. I think of her as a friend…) wrote this blog post yesterday. At first I was simply going to write a reply to it but it had me thinking all morning so I thought that it became post worthy – Thanks Peggy for this “making me think” moment.

Peggy is an amputee like I am. I first started reading her blog a year ago because it provided a slice of life from a perspective that I enjoyed. She was not an amputee who is also a wife and mother and blogger, she is a productive, intelligent, caring person who happens to be an amputee. And she writes a very good blog about her experiences.

In her post on Wednesday, October 27, 2010, she talks about turning down a discount available to her due to her handicap. She says “I just don't feel comfortable accepting a reduced fare simply because I am an amputee. I am taking up the same amount of room as the bi-legged passengers and I am capable of paying for the fare. I see no reason why I should pay less for the same train ride, and accepting the discount would make me uncomfortable.” Later she adds “I am not against accepting other perks afforded to me because of my disability status. I will park in handicapped parking and I will utilize the "fast pass" at amusement parks to bypass the lines for rides.

I understand this perspective but thought I wanted to add my own two cents to the topic.

To me this is an economics issue. If I have learned only one thing from reading “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics” by Dubner & Levitt and several of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, it is that incentive is at the core of economics. The question really is “why would the transit system offer discounts to handicapped people?’ It is not just that they are being nice and treating their customer well. If that were the case, the trains would never be late, always be air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter and have extra comfortable seats. No, they do it as an incentive to use the service. By the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws, there are codes in place that make accessibility mandatory. They have to be there. The lower price then is a strong incentive to use it. The transit department wants to be seen as "user friendly", as caring for their users and this helps in that goal. The same is true for the amusement part being “handicapped friendly” They have to have ramps and hand rails and handicapped bathrooms. To treat someone with a handicap in a special way is an incentive to use the park and to be seen using the park you are being a walking advertisement for their “product”. Peggy mentioned a week or so ago about going to “Pumpkinville” which was not handicapped friendly at all. It was obvious to me when she wrote about it that it was not the type of place that I would want to go to. Her experience was a “disincentive” to say the least. She said she felt she would not return. The “Pumpkinville” loss is not only not getting money for her and her son’s admission as well as any treats and souvenirs that they might have bought but also the negative publicity, both written (in her blog) and implied to the people who might have seen her struggling in the park that day.

Really if you think about it, handicapped parking is an ADA law but the reality is that sufficient parking is an incentive to shop at that store. Even the availability of an in store scooter, is a positive incentive to go there. What about senior discounts? Sure it might be hard to admit to being of the appropriate age, but 10% off on Tuesdays is as good an incentive to eat in a restaurant as is the clam chowder.

My point is that these assists, discounts, special deals are just as good for the owner as the patron. I have no issue with using any and all available to me as I would offer complaints if they were not. I vote with my dollar.

October 27, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: Halloween on 215th street

As anyone with a few years on the old tires would tell you, Halloween is so different now then when we were kids some 40 years ago or so. It is one of those childhood memories that always brings smiles as we raise our eyes and struggle to remember what it was like way back then...

My first memories of Halloween we when we lived in the first house on 215th street, sometime between the ages of 6 and 12. I can remember being in our front room, by the front door, waiting for the costumed kids to make an appearance. At the younger age, we went out and trick-or-treated on our block with Halloween bags made of orange and black paper in costumes with masks that had been purchased at a local store. I do not remember specific costumes at that time, but think they were pretty generic – police man, cowboy, ghost. I do not remember ever trick-or-treating in a costume I had made.

When we were older in the 10 – 14 year age bracket, the fun became seeing just how much candy we could accumulate. We traveled blocks and blocks from our home and on at least one occasion went home, dumped our sacks – no more Halloween bags, now just pillow cases – and then went back out. At the end of the evening there was the “Big Trading Day” as each of my siblings and I sat on the floor behind a large pile of candy and traded to each other for the things we liked the best. After age 14, it was all about creating mischief, which for me included some shaving cream, toilet paper and a very occasionally an egg or two.

I only made a costume one time and that was as a adult for a party with many of the guys I went to college with at one of their homes. There was well over a hundred people there, many that I knew. I went as a Arab businessman with a briefcase and a kaffiyeh on my head and full robe. This was before the terrorists won. My girlfriend at the time (not the fabulous mrsfabp) was going to go as my interpreter, dressed in a woman’s business suit but chickened out and went as the Fruit of the Loom Grapes, purple balloons stuck onto a purple body suit. We got very drunk and had a great time.

In retrospect, Halloween was a fun then but not huge holiday like it has become today. Between Walmart and Hallmark, billions are spent on this holiday now every year.

My kids went out every year and I can remember taking MillieJupiter out at about 2 years old to watch the parade in town and hit up a couple of people we knew. I think she wore a bunny suit but I am sure someone will correct me on this. CollegeBoy did the same at that age but by then MJ was already 7 years old and hanging with some friends. We live in a rural area so we would drive to a nearby town where we lived first because it had a neighborhood to walk in and a “Parade of the Horribles” to watch.

One final note is that my favorite costumes my kids wore were ones we made with them. MJ was a hot air balloon and CB was a most incredible Waldo. I think we might have the pictures around. If I run across them, I will scan and post them.

(These are stories about things that actually happened with plenty of witnesses. It has passed from the apocryphal to canonical in nature. Wiki says of canon –“material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator.”)

October 24, 2010

I’m Going to Mars!

Yes, you read that right, T Fab P, The Fabulous Penguin is going to Mars!

I ran across a note in Reddit (what a great social networking/news aggregator site) that pointed to another website, for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. There you can read about and actually watch the building of the next Mars Rover, slated to go into space in 2011. On this page you can fill in your information and your name will be included with others on a microchip on the Mars Science Laboratory rover. I quickly filled it in for myself and became one of the 90,000 or so that have done this. I am going to Mars!

(click pictures to embiggen!)

Don’t stop there however, as the JPL website offers a myriad of things to do and ways to remain informed. There are twitter links, a live cam to watch progress on the building of the rover and an entire section dedicated to education with kids pages, student pages and teacher pages and resources. This is a wonderful place to go and lose yourself in the internet.

So, come and join me on Mars, send your name to be put on the rover microchip.

October 22, 2010

The Canonical Penguin: You Call That Food?

I recently read this article about a Manhattan artist who photographed a McDonalds Happy Meal every day for 6 months and documented that it had not significantly changed in that time nor had it showed any signs of decay or mold. This story became such an internet phenomenon, that the PR people of McDonald’s felt it necessary to make a press release saying that their food COULD in fact grow mold. When this is the basis of your advertizing scheme, I think you might be in trouble. It made Good Morning America and is well on its way to Internet Meme status.

We, it reminded me of a college incident that is hauntingly similar and blog worthy because of this, so here it is.

In my freshman year, as the first semester was winding down as finals were in progress, stress was at a high and people would do off beat things. There were basketball games at 3 am, bowling in the dorm corridors and way too many people up way to late. A guy I knew casually said he was going to go to a local fast food hamburger palace, The White Castle, about three miles away.

It was 1 am.

It was snowing outside with about 4-5 inches on the ground and another 2-3 inches expected.

He did not have a car but did have a bicycle and this was his chosen mode of transportation.

He took a bunch of orders, hopped on the bike and left. Yes, he braved the storm, rode the 6 miles round trip and returned with a sack of cold hamburgers. It took him almost 4 hours so he did not get back to the dorm until almost 5 am. Needless to say, most of the orderers were asleep but some were still up studying and so the toast-r-ovens were fired up all over the dorm. There was one burger left in its little cardboard box and it went unclaimed.

In the confusion of the next couple of days, heading into Christmas vacation, the little lonely burger stayed there, left on the desk of the guy who rode out to get them. When we returned from the winter break about a month later, he was inviting people into his room to see the “miracle.” The burger was totally unchanged. It looked exactly like it did, the night he bought it.

He decided to perform an experiment and placed the burger on top of his book shelf where it stayed for the entire spring semester. Every once in a while he would let people take a peek at it and triumphantly declare it free from any decay. It stayed there for a total of 5 months. No special treatment at all. At the end of this phenomenal run, it looked exactly as it did the first night except for one fact – the pickle slice had turned black. There was no mold, no decay, no breakdown whatsoever, except for the pickle.

I firmly believe that this lonely little burger earned the famous nickname that they were known for as we were growing up in NYC – “The Belly Bomber”

October 20, 2010

Is that a 30 foot derrick in your yard or are you just happy to see us?

So, the well failure is in its second week and we hired someone to do the job. He was recommended by a friend and he seemed like a nice guy. He was straight forward with us, was willing to get paid over several months and most importantly was willing to start as soon as the weather cooperated. After our Nor'easter on Friday, he was there bright and early Monday morning.

First some good news. He only needed to drill down about 300 feet. At $10 a foot, the less deep the better. There are wells in our neighborhood that go down 600 feet so we did get some luck here. He only needed 20 feet of cement casing down to bedrock. At $17 a foot, again we are lucky. Some wells in the area need 100 feet of casing or more.

Some more good news. He expects to have the trench dug for pipe, pipe installed, pump installed, water tested and a completion form submitted to the town today. Seems like a lot to get accomplished in one day but our desire for hot showers on demand, flushing toilets and attacking the dishes piled up in the sink begs, BEGS for optimism. However even if we have to wait another day, the end can be seen on the horizon. Again lucky in that the other driller we tried to hire, would not have even been here for another couple of weeks.

Now for the bad news. Total cost is somewhere around $6000. Its money we don't have but will figure out how to pay it off some way. It has been another bump in the road to Las Cruces, a large one; maybe even a pothole of sorts but this too shall pass. I am not going to let some hole beat us. We have endured!

(Click to embiggen. These are our cats, Millie on the left, Kanye on the right, playing on their new toy. Hopefully they will not be too disappointed when the DRILLMASTR 1600 leaves!)

October 18, 2010

THE Fair

In a world where special interests rule, I can think of only one group that rivals the NRA and AARP in both scope and conviction and that is KNITTERS! Well, this past weekend, the knitters of the world or at least the northeast corridor united in one of the greatest shows of strength in the field of textile arts or arts and crafts. Yes, this past weekend was the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, also known in the Penguin household as KNITTERPALOOZA!

We attended back in 2004. I am sure of that. We were at the fair the weekend the NY Yankees beat the Red Sox in a blowout to take a commanding lead in the divisional series only to have the Red Sox come back to win that series. I prefer to remember it as the year of my first KNITTERPALOOZA.

It was marked with rows of vendors selling wool in all forms, from the raw product right off the sheep to knitted hats, scarves and sweaters. You could buy yarn as well as patterns and tools to complete anything from simple to complex projects. It was also a great place to people watch as the crowd was a mixture of extremes. There were young and old, hippie and upper crust cultured, female and male, straight and …in the round needle users (HA HA, you thought I was going to go there, didn’t you…) Yes, this was prime textile crafters heaven. I thought the 2004 Fair was big until we arrived for the 2010 funfest.

Yes, the rows of vendors were all around. The buildings were filled with product and demonstrations and raw materials and animals and their owners. It was a beautiful autumn day, a bit cold and windy but one that allowed many to show off their hand crafted hats and sweaters and scarves and bags and all the rest.

We met up with a friend, Laura, we had not seen for years. She gave up the corporate lifestyle of the Washington DC area to raise sheep and make yarn. We wandered around the fair, watched a boarder collie herding demonstration and sampled some fine fair food – overpriced as expected but still enjoyed in the cold air.

(A sample of the colorful yarns available)

(Beautiful autumn sky in upstate NY)

Only two comments left to make. The first was related to the exit from the fair. The parking situation was a mess, very confusing and we waited more that 45 minutes to advance like 50 feet down the main aisle of the lot. A woman, thought it was ok, to cut through the parking lot, zig zagging through the different lines of cars to get to the front of the line and she tried to enter by cutting in front of me. I did not allow her to do so, inching up so she could not get in. She rolled down her window and made a nasty comment. I rolled down my window and calmly told her she was wrong to do what she was trying to do…Nah, I rolled down my window and called her a very unladylike name. She shut up after that.

(A warning to the lazy sheep and lambs???)

The other comment – I remember commenting on this fact at the 2004 fair and again this year. The food areas are dotted with all the standard fair fare. You know dogs and sausage and burgers and pizza and ice cream and the like. But there also area food booths that sell things like lamb chile and lamb stew and lamb sausage and other similar eatables. It just leaves me to wondering if this is what happens to the sheep that are no longer able to produce the high quality wool any more. Our friend assured me that even old sheep make nice wool and this was not the case but I’m not so sure about this!

(You could be stew!)

I have attached a few photographs of the even, highlighting some of the sights there.I hope you enjoyed them!

(an obviously disinterested alpaca, there was no alpaca soup there!)

October 15, 2010


For the regular readers of this blog, you know we have has some water issues. As I wrote, last week, our shallow well failed, leaving us high and dry, and necessitating a series of actions to make sure our lives continue. You really do not know just how necessary water is until you have none.

This failure has radically changed our lives. Although it is just a time limited inconvenience for us, it is impossible to go through this challenge without thinking about other people who are in much worse situations.

When you have plenty of water or easy access to it, you tend to forget about all the times water touches your life. Live without running water for a week or 10 days or two weeks or however long it will be until we get a new well, and you get a significantly better understanding of what it means to be without.

The issues become obviously very quickly. We are rationing water so that we can get by on the failing well until a drill goes 200 to 300 feet into the ground to find us some water. We have to turn on our pump and then turn it off a couple of times a day to have the basics. This means flushing toilets only once or twice a day. Very quick showers spread out over the day, not consecutive or too close together. No washing of clothes, no dishwasher. We bring in bottled water to drink or to cook with. Trips to the Laundromat. A single glass of water used to brush teeth. All of this because we cannot get enough of the stuff from a well 50 feet from the back door of our house, pumped to our basement tank.

Imagine having to walk a mile to get water of questionable quality to drink or cook with. Imagine having to carry the heavy containers back with you. Imagine not having water to shower or wash with. How do you get clothes clean or wash cooking pots or dishes? Water is something we often take for granted until this is none.

So today I am writing about this in support of Blog Action Day, an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year's topic is water. If you go to the website you can read some of the almost 5000 bloggers, with a readership of some 35 million people, talking about this issue. Read some of the blogs, sign the petition, maybe donate to the fund to provide wells for clean water for people who have none. Reflect on your own water use. Stand in the rain and enjoy the feeling. Recycle your plastic bottle. Have a drink of water on me!

A special thanks to Clairz of The Zees Go West for information about this important effort!

October 13, 2010

Pick your own pumpkins!

We live in the country. We are about 30 minutes from any large city, in an area that is known for its farms, farm land, dairy cows, horses and farm stands. We visit the local farm stands all summer for things like corn and tomatoes and enjoy the local flavor.

In an area such as this, a phenomenon exists that is quaint and old fashion feeling. Let’s call it “Pick Your Own.” In the late spring, PYO is strawberries. There are plenty of places to plop your self down and pick quarts and quarts of the red gems. Soon after that it is blueberries and sometimes raspberries. Our freezer has always held the frozen little blue balls, waiting to be made into a topping for pancakes and ice cream.

In the late summer there is apple picking and there are just too many local orchards to count that offer PYO sessions. We went a couple weeks ago to get Mrsfabp’s favorite apples, Macouns, but they were not ready to be picked yet so she settled for some Cortland’s instead. The day was marked with reminiscing at the orchard because we used to take the kids there all the time when they were young and the memory banks were super-charged up by the smell of the locally well know apple dumplings with ice cream.

Even the winter provides plenty of PYO opportunities with the Christmas Tree farms that dot the country side. We used to make it a regular outing to go and cut our own tree and bring it home to decorate.

So Monday we went to a local farm, Breezy Acres, to get some pumpkins and gourds and visit with the goats, a MollieJupiter favorite activity. It was a beautiful day and we spent a long time there getting into the fall spirit. However when we were leaving, I was shocked, SHOCKED I say, at what I saw. There was a “Pick Your Own” pumpkin patch filled not with pumpkins but with deceit.

(Not Breezy Acres "Pumpkin Patch" but an incredible reproduction of the deceit!)
When you pick your own strawberries or blueberries or apples, you go to the plant/tree and pull off a fresh fruit. But this was not the case in the PYO Pumpkin Patch. What we had there was a field with a bunch of pumpkins lined up in rows. No vines, no hay mulch, no cutting the pumpkin off the plant. They were simply lined up like some sort of bazaar beauty pagent, with crates next to the plot of ground to replenish the stock. The only difference between this pick your own and Walmart was that in Walmart they leave them in the cardboard crate instead of lining them up in rows. How disappointing.

(What a PYO Pumpkin Patch should look like!!!)
Really Breezy Acres? Seriously? Pick your own? No, just a feeble attempt at pulling the wool over the consumer’s eyes. I am dissapoint! (For the uninformed...Internet meme)

October 12, 2010

A Perfect Fall Weekend

Despite several issues converging to create problems related to out retirement plan, this past weekend was just about the perfect New England Fall weekend. It was the kind of weekend that makes me feel I will be missing something when I move to New Mexico.

First with Columbus Day, it was a three day Fall Fest. The weather, seemingly on command, after a rainy week was just about perfect. Crisp, clear, sunny, autumn-like. MollieJupiter was so moved she posted the following tweets:

And then:
It was the kind of weekend that just screams New England. The trees are in almost full color, deterred only by the very dry summer. The light is such that is craved by photographers, so rich, warm and with the slight yellow color that brings out the full autumn palate.

(Famous print of the Apple Country Fair done by local artist Jacob Knight...)

The Saturday before Columbus Day is the Apple Country Fair in the Brookfields. This event is a classic crafts fair on the historic and picturesque Brookfield Common. My daughter said that it seemed smaller this year than previous years, which is sad. I have participated in this fair a number of years ago, selling photographic note cards, so it is just too bad that it is losing its steam. Perhaps it is a victim of the slow economy or maybe people just don’t have as much time to make, sell or buy them at a fair. I’m note sure but I do hope that it continues to be a shining beacon for the community.
(Apple Country Fair Community Quilt, new one each year)
Sunday was football weather. It was the first weekend of the year where it was nice to be warm, dry and near a TV screen watching the NY Giants play a good football game.

Monday was a fun day too. We went to a local farm to pick up some pumpkins, Mrsfabp and MollieJupiter went into the corn maze, we smelled the smells of autumn in the farm store including warm cider, apple pie and fresh fruits and vegetables and visited the farms goats.

We did not “Pick your own” pumpkins and on the way out, made an incredible discovery, one that just begs to be ranted and posted about. But you will have to wait for my next post to know what I am talking about.

October 10, 2010

Sooooo rude

So I mentioned here that I went to NYC for a wedding. Dispite the mishaps (PANTS), we had a nice time. However there is one thing that bears some scrutiny about that weekend, something needed to be addressed. That is returning to NY as a driver.

Listen, I lived there for almost 30 years and I felt that I had mastered both the roadways and rapid transit system. I commuted to school and work for years, braved the Long Island Expressway, the George Washington Bridge, The Cross Bronx Expressway, The Van Wyke, all without so much as a bat of the eye. I rode the busses, took the train, waited on the Long Island Railroad. But when you leave that system, you lose your edge, you lose that “nerves on the edge” mentality. And this is not something that is like riding a bike, you do not get that back, it is not muscle memory (no, my brain is NOT all muscle). But it is also not just about the aggressiveness, it is about the rudeness, and one sees it wherever you go there.

Knowing I was going to NYC and spending a bunch of time driving, I knew to expect the worse. So much so, that I was hyper vigilant even before we left for New York. I went to see my cardiologist (that makes me feel so important, MY cardiologist!) on a very rainy Friday before we were to go to New York. As I was leaving the appointment, I was exiting thru the automatic sliding doors. I was using my wheelchair because it is quite a distance from the parking lot to the office, so I am wheeling quickly to the doors anticipating a quick run to the car so that I do not get too wet. A person ahead of me gets to the doors first, walks thru and stops short just outside the entrance effectively blocking the doors. She has an umbrella so she is dry but she “needs” to adjust her hat and look for her ride to pick her up and she stands there. I am behind her, without the benefit of an umbrella, and cannot get past. I am not the only one, as several hospital patrons are now stuck behind her getting wet. After what seems like several minutes (Einstein’s theory of relativity…) she moves out of the way and at least 5 people stuck behind her getting wet, move on. So rude…

So now onto NYC. We arrive at the Throgs Neck Bridge and prepare to pay the $5.50 toll (imagine having to pay to enter the city? I can see making me pay to leave…) The lines are long but moving along when I notice a car about 6 cars in front of me on the line pull up to the booth. There is a long pause and finally the person hands the toll taker some money, gets change and moves on. Seems pretty innocent except for the fact that that person waited on line for at least a minute, pulled up to the booth and THEN got the money out of their purse or wallet. The car in front of me did the exact same thing. I had some money at the ready as soon as I got on line. I know, it’s only a minute here or there but still, making others wait is so rude…

Because of the PANTS episode, I had to go to the store to buy something to wear. Thus I had to deal with Long Island Mall traffic. This means lots of stops and starts at traffic lights. All I can say is look, everyone has someplace to go or someplace to be and we all hate waiting for traffic lights. We are going to sit there for 45 or 60 seconds waiting for it to turn green. If you are in a car waiting, could you please pay attention so that when it does go green, you GO! At every light it seems someone is too busy texting, talking on a cell, talking to passengers, day dreaming, whatever and so when the light turns green, they sit there not noticing. We only get green for a minute, could we get a few cars thru? And it is not just the first car in line, several times I saw the 4th or 5th car back not go and just sit there looking down or not paying attention. It is only after car horns blare that there is movement. So rude.

Speaking of horns, obviously this is a necessary event at this time. However does every NYC driver have to blow their horn for everything? Really drivers? Let’s give it a break once in a while. Save the horns for necessary situations. Please…

October 9, 2010

Book Review: Flashforward by Robert Sawyer

I was looking for a new TV show to watch as I am almost up to date with Eureka and Leverage and Burn Notice. I remembered that there was a show FlashFoward, which had really good commercials last year so I started to do a bit of research. What I found out was that the show lasted only for a year and that the synopsis didn’t appear too interesting. However, I also learned it was based on a book, Flashfoward, by Robert Sawyer and the synopsis of that seemed really interesting. Interesting enough for me to download a mp3 of it and put it on the iPod, and I am glad I did.

I like science fiction. When I was a kid, I did read it a bit and enjoyed it. However TV sci-fi (ScyFy?) provided me with a steady source of science fiction, like Star Trek. Movies like Star Wars also feed this. My all time favorite movie is “The Forbidden Planet” so it was not a stretch for me to think that I might enjoy this book.

A quick summary; Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland do an experiment and the entire world experiences a glimpse 21 years into the future. This sets up a look at how the lives of several people are changed, the world itself is changed, and the fact that the future is not immutable. There is politics, relationships and intrigue. I found myself rooting for specific characters, which means I had bought into the whole process. They repeat the experiment 21 years later and we are given a glimpse of the universe millions of years in the future. This is where the only problems that I had with the book occurred as it seemed to fall into the weird music/flowing images/odd circumstances formula that often abounds in this genre. It is as if the author could not figure out how to end it so he went with the “dream sequence” like Kubrick’s 2001.

One thing still puzzles me. Why would TV executives take a good book with a great hook of an idea, and so change it and reduce it to pabulum on the small screen. This had potential and just missed the target.

By the way, I found this book similar in nature to Michael Creighton’s Timeline, where scientists conducting an experiment, go back in time to Medieval France.

Overall I liked the book. I am giving it 3 Penguins…

I wish it had not go so formulaic at the end but I feel that anyone who likes science fiction would really enjoy it and those who like fiction in general would find it interesting as well.

October 8, 2010

One door opens, another door closes

I wrote that I would update the process of our moving plans to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Well here you are.

One obstacle detailed was the failure of our Septic System’s Title V test. We are working toward getting the necessary repair done, having hired an engineer who will draw up the plan. Next up is applying to the town for the proper permits to do a “Perk Test” and find or create an appropriate area for it. I have the form in front of me and will be submitting it soon.

Of course, we have no way to pay the anticipated 12 thousand dollar cost for the repair. However, the engineer, a family friend, told us that the person who would do the repair is someone who will do the job contingent on the sale of the house to get paid, once we get to the point of selling the house. I figured that we could take the money we have (about 3K) to make a down payment. So this door that was closed shut, was now open, if even just a crack.

However yesterday, that mighty slam you may have heard was the door slamming once again. Our well failed. We have had a very dry last 8 months, the water level was very low and it failed. We had the pump re-primed with the thought that with sparing use we could get it to recover somewhat but it immediately failed again today. Sometimes life really sucks. We had some people coming to look at the house last night, have a failed septic, a failed well and am feeling like such a failure myself. Sometimes life just sucks.

I spent a significant part of morning yesterday trying to make the necessary arrangements to get a new well put in and figure out how to pay for this whole endeavor. Life is too short to stress out about all these issues yet their importance is paramount to our planning for retirement and moving to New Mexico and having a quiet retiring life.

This is what I look forward to now. Talking through this process with the DW. Moving money from different bank accounts and writing checks for all manner of money to get work done. Squeezing the last few drops of water out of our well so that it lasts the 2 weeks necessary to get the new one put in. Figuring out where 20 thousand dollars will come from. Reevaluating the dream of purchasing a house or condo in Las Cruces. Accepting the fact that apartment life will be the only way to get there. Shifting gears, changing plans, modifying dreams.

Sometimes things just suck. Excuse me, I just got something in my eye........

October 7, 2010

Pants at Home

(Not my pants, but ones I wish I had in NYC!)

This is why I can’t have nice things…

So as mentioned in previous post, we went to NY for a wedding this past weekend. We left early Saturday morning, planned to stay over in a hotel on Long Island and return on Sunday. This meant packing a bag to take with us. We usually over pack; not so much this time.

All week long I had planned and got ready all I needed to bring including medication, clothes to wear travelling back and clothes for the wedding. We were to meet relatives in Queens and change before the wedding.

I bought a new shirt. Mrsfabp bought me a smart tie to go with it and I took out my dress pants and sports jacket for the trip down. Mrsfabp and I packed the garment bag; I helped her by holding and passing hangers through top of the bag. I did not notice anything amiss. Did not notice I forgot one item.

Sitting in hotel room, one hour before wedding, I grabbed the garment bag to get dressed. Shirt, check. Jacket, check. Tie, check. Pants, ahh, pants? Pants!!!!! No pants /sigh

I am a big guy, not east to fit, but this is NYC, the city that never sleeps, the city where if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, city. A few frantic phone calls and I found a store close by that was open and had something for me.

60 minutes on the clock. GO!

20 minutes ride to Lake Success Shopping Center. 10 minutes riding around looking for a store right in front of my nose. Stress does bad things to my ability to reason. Store is empty and a sales girl is very helpful and pleasant and gets me into the changing room with a couple of options. After a few minutes I choose a pair and move to cashier area. A man there is trying on watches, being helped by the only store person. Behind him another man is looking to check out and then there is me. It is 20 minutes until the wedding begins. I had to do it. I asked the man if he minded if I went in front of him because I was late for a wedding. He allowed me to go. The clerk heard me and opened the other register so I could pay while the first gentleman continued to try on watches. I paid and left the store.

When I started the car, I had 17 minutes to return but there was traffic. I arrived at the church just as the wedding party was getting to the front door.

Piece of cake!

October 5, 2010

Wedding Bells Were Ringing

I went to a wedding in NY this past weekend. It was a chance to see some relatives on the DW side of family as well as catch up with CollegeBoy who was also attending. There were four items of note that bear repeating. Here they are:

1 - The ceremony was in the church I attended as a youngster and when I arrived (with pants and that is another story to follow…) I saw someone who looked familiar. My first thought was he was one of the distant relatives maybe I had met previously but then I realized he was helping with the church activities. When the ceremony was over, I had an occasion to talk to him and he introduced himself as someone I remembered from grammar school, a full 42 years ago. As he said his first name, Owen, I recalled his last name, unique as it was and we chatted about my dad, who he knew, some of the priests that I was associated with when I lived there and my brother who was a year younger than him. A surprising start to the festivities…

2 – As we exited the church, there was a limo/bus for the wedding party ( a large one, tipping the scales at 21 people, yes 21), parked in front of the bus was a Mister Softee Truck – a truck that sells soft ice cream and frozen novelties. At first I thought this tacky on his part, until I was told that this was part of the celebration and that ice cream for all was free. A unique, funky touch that pointed out one of the childhood memories I miss…

3 – The wedding reception was held at an Aquarium way out on Long Island. Cocktail hour outside in a plaza near the penguin habitat (fitting), dining inside by the tanks holding thousands of fish in millions of gallons of water. There was a shark tank that people walked thru constantly, which I think was the hit of the evening…

Why yes, yes the Penguins have arrived!

Mrsfabp with a drink in her hand!

The band

4 – We stopped at a Jewish Deli on the way home for late lunch – both Mrsfabp and I had brisket sandwiches on real Jewish Rye bread. This is a treat we miss very much. We go to Water Street in Worcester occasionally where there are some really good delis around. Makes my mouth water…

Real Jewish Rye Bread!
A no pants story to follow...

October 4, 2010

CollegeBoy - Always on the Cutting Edge

CollegeBoy has always been on the cutting edge of things. He was doing Twitter and Facebook for years before they became the social media norm. He was listening to RAP music long before it went main stream. He just seems to have a knack for getting out there on the edge.

This is a picture of CollegeBoy from a couple of years ago. He's pretty cool and hip don't you think?

I remembered this photo when I saw this one from LIFE magazine.

It is from a 1950 edition of LIFE magazine. Notice the similarities? Right there, above their noses.

Obviously CollegeBoy suspects that these glasses, like wide ties, bell bottoms, and mini skirts, are coming back again. It is only a matter of time before we are saying:

"That CollegeBoy is always on the cutting edge..."

October 3, 2010

This is the Best Time of the Year for Sports

I have not written about sports too often in this blog. It is not because I do not like sports, but rather I think that sports has a limited appeal to a wide spectrum of people who might read this and I feel it is important not to bore but to entertain. If I started to talk about golf or curling, then this would serve to limit people who might be interested in what I have to say. Consequently I have generally avoided this. That is until now.

This time of year is my favorite time. First and foremost, I love the fall. Cool days, leaves turning colors. The baseball season is winding down, only a few games left before the playoffs and less than 5 weeks remain in the season. College football has been going on for almost a month but it really doesn’t hit the “must see” stage until closer to Thanksgiving. Professional football has just started and it is too early for your team to be totally out of it yet and there is 3 full months of the season and then a month of the playoffs to look ahead to. I like hockey and college basketball and these will be starting soon enough. No, I do not like nor do I watch the NBA. So this is a time of transitions – baseball to college football, to pro football, to college basketball, to spring training, to “March Madness” to hockey championship. But baseball and the World Series and pro football are where it is at.

It usually is best if the teams you like, that you follow, that you live and die for, are at least competitive. For me, this begins with the NY Yankees and I must admit I am not feeling too confident with their chances. Despite their mastery of the Red Sox this year, I am afraid their pitching and ultimately their age, will catch up to them before the World Series is upon us. I have no horse in the College Football race even though I wish they would get with the program and develop a playoff system. As for Pro Football, I am also afraid that the NY Giants have little chance of getting closer to the Super Bowl than I do. For College hoops, I expect, as always, that Duke will do well but also welcome the opportunity to see if the New Mexico kids do well, especially in light of the plan to move there someday in the near future.

So that is my sports roundup for this fall day – Yankees a maybe, Giants sorry, Lets Go Duke!

October 1, 2010

The Apocryphal Penguin: Barely in my Memory - Runny Eggs

This is the kind of story that I would love to be able to check with my father about, to fill in the details, to correct my perceptions, even enhance them a bit. Alas, it cannot happen that way as my dad suffers from dementia and at this point would have no idea of what I am talking. But it is now and always will be a positive memory that I have, fleeting as it is…

A couple of times, maybe more, my dad took me with him to New York City on an early Sunday morning for some sort of “Communion Breakfast.” I will guess my age at about 8 or 9 years. I remember there being lots of his friends there so it could have been maybe city workers, or the Department of Sanitation specific, or maybe a “Holy Name” or “Knights of Columbus” or similar type fraternal order. No idea anymore, I do not remember my dad being a member of any of those groups. He was a VFW member but the memory would then be filled with flags and uniforms and patriotic fanfare, and it is not.

One time I remember it being very cold and most of the men had overcoats on. Another time it was warm but not hot so I would guess that this took place in the late spring time, when it could still be very cold and windy in the city but could also be warm and sunny too.

We attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city, and then walked the two or three blocks together as a group, to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Dining Room where we sat for breakfast, listened to speeches and men talked about what ever adults talked about then.

There are two very strong memory images I have of these events. One year we were seated at a table in the corner of the room. It was decorated in the red crushed velvet and gaudy gold fixtures of the time for a hotel of that magnitude and the tables had white linen table cloths and elaborate place settings. In this memory, I can see myself returning to the table with a plate of breakfast and the table being empty of people. I am assuming that the rest of the people were close behind. One interesting note is that I do not remember any other children, not even my brother, and this feels odd to me. I don’t suspect I was the only child there.

A second, more vivid memory is of the food. I can see large steam tables, with men dressed in white, serving food. It was typical breakfast fare, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage and toast. All of this is unremarkable except for the fact that the eggs were particularly loose, runny perhaps a better description. I can remember loving the eggs that way, not because they tasted any better than at home (they didn’t) but because they were different. We did not eat runny eggs at my house and this was the only times I can remember getting them. I can also remember looking forward to the breakfast, knowing they would have the runny eggs and I was not disappointed.

One final thought. Most of the memories of this in my mind seem black and white. The walk from the church and the men’s overcoats are in black and greys. I don’t have a specific memory of St. Patrick’s cathedral except for exiting into the side street but the hotel dining room is in color. I think perhaps there was not much color around on a cold spring day but the warmth of the dining room, brought the color back to life for me.

(Wikipedia defines the term apocrypha as a word “used with various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", and "Christian texts that are not canonical". The story that follows is handed down in my family as history, with no one to actually verify its veracity. In the interest of full disclosure, this story is possibly apocryphal and I am making no claims that they are 100% accurate. If any of my siblings read this and make comments / corrections/ or have different memories, I will share them too.)