Friday, March 30, 2007

Termite, or termite not

My wife and I have, over the years, become somewhat of termite experts.
We bought a house with termite damage. We knew this going in and the house was sold with a termite bond.
Before everyone gasps in horror at the idea of buying a home with termite damage, let me clarify...
Termite damage does not always mean that your house is about to collapse. It is not like those commercials where swarming termites are flooding your home, and it doesn't mean that your interior wall studs are being eaten away as you eat dinner. It can be something as simple as some drywall paper having been eaten away. Having said that, we have had to puddy up and repaint alot of spots in our house (But to the untrained eye, you'd never know, we are just that good!).

We had a swarm last week (swarm, in this case, = 6 to 7 termites). Let me educate you really fast. Unless you work in the outdoors alot or with wood, you've probably never seen a TRUE termite. You may have seen the termites with wings, but honestly, the winged ones don't eat wood at all. They do no damage. The real termites are ugly white bugs that look like ant larva but with a mouth and legs. Their job; Eat wood as high as possible and make a hole for the winged termite to crawl out of and fly away. When the winged termite finds a nice cool spot to burrow in, it digs itself 60 feet underground, has about 500,00 children, grows to look really fat like a grub worm, and is pretty much uncatchable by predators or man. (See picture on this blog, thats a full grown queen, but they only look like that once they are way in the earth).

We pay $70 a year for our termite bond. This means someone comes out once a year to inspect the house for new damage. It also means that if I see a swarmer... even ONE, and find the damage she came out of, they will come out, and AT LEAST fill the hole with a shaving-creme-like stuff or at MOST they will dig a trench around my house or drill out some predrilled holes in my carport and fill it to the top with termite killer (keeps them dead for 12 years)... this is free for me as long as I pay $70 a year. To the average joe, this costs at least $385, and up to $1,200 just for the treatment. Last summer we were lucky, no swarms or damage. This year we did okay. One spot of damage and about 6 or 7 winged ones. Pretty good for us. It's sad but kind of funny that the termite specialist with Zap Pest Control knows me and my wife by name (they see us pretty much every year). These are good folks. They are sensitive to our pregnancy and spray accordingly. They all have kids, so they understand.

In any case, my termite guy just left. The news isnt so great, but could be worse. Turns out, I have a crack in my foundation. The recent damage occured in the hallway... the middle of the house. Termites only attack places that are near the ground and they dont aimlessly roam inside walls. Their job, as I said before, is to go up and out. And somehow they found a crack so small that i never even noticed when we laid the new carpet. My termite man said they only need 1/8th of an inch of a crack. How do bugs with a brain the size of a pin head do this?

Then I asked him "I thought my house was sprayed for termites when it was built" (It was built in 1994, and the good stuff lasts about 15 years). He said that the residence of my neighborhood about 10 years ago filed a class-action lawsuit against the company that Alfa home builders hired to pretreat the foundations. Turns out, they were spraying water... taking the profits and saving money on the chemicals. Needless to say, that company went out of business. So it is a bit comforting to know that pretty much all my neighbors that dont have a brand new home suffer as I do.

But again, there is no rotting wood, no cracking walls, and only enough swarmers to count on two hands gernerally. And they do it during a one month window per year. I freaked out the first time I found them, now I just shake my head because I hate fixing the walls all the time. The treatements they did around my house and in my carport honestly worked; I havent seen any termites in the front of my house or along the walls of the carport for ages. But this damage in the hall is a new one for me. They will have to roll back my carpet in my office, drill 3 holes in the foundation, and pump the termite poison in the ground... they said it will affect an area in about a 10 or 15 feet radius so it should cover that cracked area, whereever it may be...

It'll suck, but it is free and it has to be done and honestly, I am not worried about it. All part of home ownership I guess. Things could be worse. I hate termites so much that I have studied them to no end and have actually began to appreciate them. They aren't heartless little woodeaters... they just work really hard to spread their seed. Fortunately, the ones that leave the roost to spread the seed dont fulfill that dream when they fly around in my house...

"What Is That Smell"

Starting yesterday afternoon, my office took on a very strange, and quite horrendous odor. It smelled like death, or rotten eggs. I sit underneath a air vent, and I have a pretty piss poor sense of smell, so it didn’t bother me too much. Only when I moved out from under the vent, or first came into the office.

We searched the office for something peculiar. The trash was investigated for rotting foods, the corners and underneaths checked for dead things. Nothing was found.

Today we complained, conjectured and made faces about it. But there was nothing to find as for a cause.

About a week ago, the group who work upstairs from me had complained about bats in the attic. There was some conjecture about whether it was bats, birds, or mice, but measure were taken to get rid of them. Somewhere on the roof there was a slight opening which, it was thought, would be the place to which the bats might enter. A wire cage was placed around the opening and the problem was theoretically solved.

The smell, so went our thinking, might be from a trapped bat/bird/rat from the cage, that has since died. We got a ladder, pulled open the drop ceiling and went to investigate.

Nothing still.

No sign of dead vermin, less stink in the opening. We sniffed around the vent, thinking something might have died in the furnace.


By afternoon I was crazy mad over it. It stunk. It is my office. That’s not right.

We searched in every cranny, and nook. There is a box on one of my cabinets filled with junk from my predecessor. I looked casually in it, but found nothing. Then we noticed some mouse droppings on some papers near the box. I checked again and found droppings on a glove inside the box.

Then I found the mouse, dead, inside this box. Rotting. My office. Dead things, for who knows how long.

I worked amongst the dead.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

No Room For Rest

I work in what can be nicely considered a converted house. I say nicely because for the most part, the conversion consists of moving some desks into the house and wiring it for multiple broadband connections. I am quite literally in the basement. I would add “converted” basement to modify that noun, but then I would be lying. The only conversion that has been done is to add to walls to create my office, throw some desks around, and we have a refrigerator and a photographer’s basin that we use as a sink.

In the middle of the floor still sits the furnace, the floor is hard, cracked concrete, and most of the wall are cinder block. As it is the maintenance department, tools hang everywhere. There are also no windows, so I feel like I am in a dungeon, or a cave.

The only bathroom is upstairs, which is where the billing department is located. Every single time I go up, the ladies up there give me the oddest looks like they don’t know who I am, or what I’m doing there, or they do know and they don’t like it.

The bathroom, also, doesn’t have a lock. It’s a single toilet (like you’d find in your house) but after doing a thorough search, there isn’t a single way to actually lock the thing.

My first two weeks on the job, I thought we had a system worked out – the bathroom door would be left slightly ajar when not occupied thus everyone could easily tell when it was available for use. But this week, being my third, that system has been thrown off. The last several times I have gone upstairs to use the facilities, the door has been closed. After waiting several minutes, I have gone back downstairs and held it. The thing is, I don’t think anyone was actually in there. There didn’t seem to be a light on (but it is hard to tell because there is a big window in there) and while waiting I heard no signs of use.

But I just can’t tell, and without the lock I am afraid to walk in on someone. I’m now too scared to even go up. Yesterday, I actually used my break to run to a convenience store and bought a Coke and peanuts just so I could use their restroom.

This is nuts. But I don’t know what to do. This place is so crazily PC and weird that walking in on someone on the toilet would not only be awkward, but potentially job dangerous.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Trippin' follow-up

This is a follow up to the blog entry below.... Movie and pics...

float trip

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Trippin' (Written by BigSip, posted by Jamison)

“Adventure” was the word upon our lips as we surveyed the rock-laden glory of the Tallapoosa last Friday morning. Our trucks were loaded with coolers containing no sparse amounts of beverages, foods, and snacks, boats (mine, at least 40 years old and Jamison’s, only a year at most), and camping gear for a one-night stay. We were ready to conquer the river; or was it ready to have its victory over us?

As Mullins and Jamison unloaded Jamison’s truck, Charles and I walked upstream and took in the breath-taking rapids. I was glad to have seen them and even more glad we were releasing our small barks below them into the milder currents of the yet-unexplored river. After we unloaded my boat and gear, we left Charles and Mullins to guard the provisions while we and Jamison’s friend Wayne headed to our parking spot across from the Tallassee Police Dept. Wayne was a good-natured country boy of around 45 who deserves props for taking his time to help us out (thanks, Wayne, where ever you are). Jamison and I arrived back at the river to find that Mullins and Chuck had not yet arrived back at the boats. We soon found them, but not without some walking that allowed us to take in more of the scenes.

We left at about 7:30 AM with the idea that the river current would be as strong the whole time as it was from the start. How wrong we were. The initial push from the rapids would be one of the strongest currents we would experience on our two-day, 35 mile journey. We soon began to row and row and row. We lashed our boats side by side (a configuration affectionately referred to as a “red-neck pontoon boat) and began to power our heavy boats down the river, our muscles already burning. It was the kind of hard work that made you feel alive and really appreciate your desk job, but it was worth every stroke for the sights and adventures we were soon to have.

The first sites we noticed were the gorgeous rock formations and wilderness. High, striated, colorful rock faces enveloped us as we paddled along. In fact, we all had to concentrate hard on keeping a steady pace as we had so much to divert our attention.

Next, we noticed the fish jumping: striped bass, large mouth, trout, and others we had no time or opportunity to identify. There were entire herds of deer, too. Beautiful, strong animals they were, crossing the river in the shallows. Then the birds flew by and we knew we had reached the center of it all. Kingfishers and woodpeckers abounded. We saw at least 2 blue herons. But the most amazing site of all was two bald eagles who were apparently nesting in the vicinity. At first, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Two bald eagles in Alabama? None of us had any idea that such a thing was possible. Although we really didn’t get close enough to get good footage or pictures of the majestic birds, Jamison, to his credit, took film and pics, nevertheless. It will etched in our collective memory from now on, I can assure you.

The most physically exciting parts of the adventure were the strong currents and downhill runs. The first one we saw would seem quite bland to anyone reading this, but let me explain, if I can, how amazing it was. At about 100 yards, we noticed that the river seemed to end abruptly up ahead. We prepared ourselves for some unknown falls or drop that was, as yet, unmapped. As we got closer, we saw from about another 100 yards that there was a 50-60 foot rock face running perpendicular to us, but we were almost eye level with the top of it. And then, we saw it. A downhill run loomed before us, accompanied by a rush of water we hadn’t heard since the rapids at the start of the trip. We steeled ourselves and made to row into the strong current. We strained against the flow and we topped nearly 5 mph, running with the river, out of control, and into a sharp bend at the bottom which spun us into a wide arc, from which we quickly recovered. The roar of beastly men that went up to the heavens after that run cleared wildlife for a mile at least. The river’s first test was done and we had triumphed!

We ran with the river 20 miles that first day. We heaved and sighed. We gasped at the landscapes and wildlife. We gave and took orders from each other, “Mullins, rudder! Chuck, row! Sip, wake up! Jamison, where the hell are we?” We laughed and sang snippets of songs and laughed again. We named movies from the most obscure movie lines. We shared everything in our small, floating commune. Food and drink were in abundance as were stories and remembrances.

Fortunately, (and I say this at the risk of sounding hypocritical) we had solid cellular communication for the duration of the trip. As a result, we were able to correct an oversight and have Larissa charge a battery for Jamison’s trolling motor which we planned to pick up at the toll bridge the following day.

Eventually, we made for an inviting sand bar and landed our small craft. A grassy trail led us to a small, circular glen, perfect for making camp. It was obvious that the area hadn’t been used in years, but we found plenty of firewood and kindling, including some pre-chopped wood that lasted us through the night. Jamison had pre-cooked some chili which he warmed on the fire after we made camp. It was delicious. Unfortunately, the day was not without one casualty. The mixture of sun, exertion, chili, pineapple wedges and few puffs of the pipe later found Charles in a deluge of upper gastrointestinal infortitude which caused our first and only sighting of a geyser for the entire trip. The rest of us pitched-in and took care of our brother as he heaved and moaned. After 10 such bursts as never witnessed by man, he was calm in the guts and ready for bed.

We rested peacefully under the stars that night, peering through the tangled circle of trees as sleep filled our bodies. The enjoyment and sweet rest were only punctuated by the hard work and visions of the day.

We awoke shortly after daybreak the following morning and fried bacon and hash browns that Jamison deftly prepared. We also had some nice bread (provided by Mullins) and fried summer sausage (my provision). We broke camp soon thereafter and took the boats out much lighter since we had eaten, drunk, and burned many of our provisions. We also took our boats separately. Chuck and I took my boat while Mullins rode with Jamison.

All was smooth sailing except for the occasional exhortation to “Keep rowing!” from one of us toward another. There were a few obstacles which we managed to get into including some logs Chuck and I couldn’t avoid, but managed to bounce off after a few tense seconds. And Matt and Jamison stuck themselves pretty well on the bottom of the river in one spot (the river flowed only inches deep in some areas, making for some creative paddling for us all).

We had brought one fishing rod and some light tackle which Chuck used to hang one plastic worm from the end of the boat. At one point, the pole bent, but just as Charles attempted to set the hook, a beautiful, striped bass no more than 2 pounds leapt from the water and removed the lure from its jaw. We tried a couple more times to fish, but stopped as we needed to make good time to the bridge.

Good time we made! Jamison and I crawled from the boats beneath the toll bridge and took with us the 2 heaviest packs and one empty cooler. This was no small feat considering the bank was slick and nearly straight up. But, we managed the climb and walked to the nearest gas station where Larissa (who would twice save the day) picked us up. We rode to their house, loaded the motor and battery while she made us some sandwiches (best ever!) and went back as quickly as possible. On the return journey, we placed the battery in the cooler to share the load and took turns carrying the motor. Finally, we slid down, untied, and once more set out for parts unknown.

We were disappointed, at first. The motor would only last so long, so we found ourselves still rowing most of the trip and using the motor for some much-needed rest now and then, which cheered us up and let us know we could continue, at least part of the way.

You see, our original plan was to go 43 miles all the way from Tallassee to Ft. Toulouse, but our hopes of making it to that ramp before the park was closed, trapping Chuck’s SUV and our boats, were dashed. We rowed hard and used the motor, still clinging to the hope of finishing our original undertaking, all-the-while our hopes slipping and finally broken by a beach full of drunk rednecks who insisted we’d never make it before dark.

But, again, resourcefulness and a wonderful, selfless mate prevailed. Jamison knew of a little-used boat ramp at a small camper-trailer park just past the Hwy 231 bridge. It was our best hope and our most difficult task yet. When we arrived at the bridge, we noticed the step rock and muddy faces of the banks first of all. But, those were not the worst of our obstacles. The unfriendly and territorial trailer park residents, Jamison told us, were not welcoming to people not of their lot using their ramp. What would we do?

And then, we hatched the plan that would make our trip even grander than we could have imagined!

Jamison called Larissa. She would meet us soon at a gas station just down from the bridge and transport Chuck, Jamison, and me to Ft Toulouse to get Chuck’s SUV. Meanwhile, Matt would wait on the opposite bank with the boats and pull up to the dock at our signal.

We pulled up to the rocky face beneath the bridge and began our ascent. The cliff loomed before us, but we had no fear. Hand and foot, we scaled the face and were to the gas station 5 minutes before Larissa’s arrival. Soon, we were in Chuck’s ride and motoring to the abandoned gas station across from the police station.

On the return trip, as we neared the trailer park, we saw Mullins, already nearing the ramp. I honked, he waved and he began his convergence on the dock.

Moments later, Jamison and I were in my truck, driving literally 2 mph (the posted speed limit) and acting like we belonged there. I backed down the ramp slowly. The ramp was steep and precariously paved, so great care was needed. At the bottom, Mullins had already begun the Operations Consolidate and Unload. We were ready!

The gear, coolers, and boats flew onto the truck and were tied minutes later. Mullins walked up beside the boat as we slowly (painfully slow) climbed the ramp in the truck. But, our hearts sank slightly as we neared the top. A man who looked like a cross between Panama Jack and Yosimite Sam waited at the top of the ramp, watching us climb.

Fortunately, we had the right man for the job to sweet talk these wary trailer-dwellers. During his wait on the opposite side of the river, Mullins had witnessed this same fellow attempting to start his small boat for about 45 minutes. Finally exasperated and possibly hen-pecked by his awaiting, halter-top bedecked wife, the man admitted defeat, shirtless, hatless, and shaking his mop over the trailer tongue.

“Did you ever get that thing started?” Mullins chortled to the man’s defeated surprise. We were soon home free and laughing again over some cheap Mexican food.

Did we conquer the river in those two days? Did it win over us? I think everyone was victorious. But, don’t ask the river.

Monday, March 26, 2007

As Seen On TV

as-seen-on-tv.jpgYou know those As Seen On TV store you find alongside the interstate across America. Well, I think I'm going to start an "As Heard On The Radio" store. And if that does well, I'll branch out into "As Spammed On the Internet" stores.

My Dilemma

Hey guys! I hope everyone is doing well. Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. I’ve been student teaching and therefore have been very busy. I thought I’d send an update your way about what’s going on in the lives of the Stubbs’s.

1. Charlie’s doing great. I’ve never been more proud of him. Last Friday, he made his directorial debut. He has been working on the play Beau Jest for the past few months and it just opened. The show is great. He did an amazing job directing.

2. Harrison’s doing great. I’m 29 weeks along now. He moves a lot, especially when music is playing. The pregnancy has gone well. My biggest complaint is a lot of lower back pain thanks to the baby being on the sciatic nerve and driving two hours a day.

3. Why are you driving two hours a day, Diana? Because the school I’m doing my student teaching is an hour a way. I was at a much closer school but I was in a horrible situation and MISERABLE. Now I’m at a different school the next county over. I only have two more weeks of student teaching left. I’ve had a great experience and can’t wait to get my own classroom.

4. This leads me to my dilemma. I had a job interview today. I have given my résumé to the county and have been patiently waiting for a call from a school. Today I interviewed at a school about an hour from our apartment. The interview went very well. The principal asked if I was interested in working at the school. I told her I needed a week to think about the job. She said she will call me then because she’s “very interested” in me.

Why I should take the job

-Duh, it’s a job.
-It’s a school a lot like my internship school. I’d be used to the demographics and what-not.
-The school is getting a grant to keep their class size under 15 children.
-Since she’s hiring so many teachers, I can pick about any grade I want.
-Based on what the principal said in the interview, it sounds like a school I would want to work at. For the most part, our philosophies match.
-Who knows if there will be another offer?

Why I shouldn’t take the job

-It’s an hour away. Charlie and I would probably move. Ew.
-The principal at my school doesn’t think very highly of this principal. I’m not sure the exact reason why. All I was told was it was because this principal was really tough and not always very friendly. I really respect the principal at my school, so her opinion is valued. Also, they have high teacher turn-over at the school I interviewed at.
-There probably will be another offer. Our district is hiring hundreds of teachers so I could get a call from a closer/friendlier school.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bigfoot and UFOs

As a child, I adored the idea of UFOs existing. Among other things; Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, Abominable Snowman, etc...

I would literally check books out at the library on said subjects, hopeing to see some great new photograph of one of them.

I would always stop at the Discovery channel or what-have-you if these mysterious beings were being featured...

I would imagine how wonderful life would be if aliens allowed us access to their knowledge. If we were able to mate Nessie and produce little dinosaurs to display in zoos.

I have finally come to a sad conclusion... none of them exist.

How did I come to this conclusion? All religious and scientific reasoning aside, it was simple deductive reasoning my friends…

First off, back in the day, few people had cameras… and those that did didn't take them EVERYWHERE they went. So back then, you had to be in the right place at the right time, but you also had to have a camera on you! What are the chances...?

Today, urban sprawl has taken over, there are more people in more places. And EVERYONE has a camera. Even if it is not a point and click camera, everyone (pretty much) has a camera on their cell phone and they take it everywhere.

So, we have more people, in more places, the majority of which have a handy phone on hand.
So why is YouTube not filled to the gills with footage of Bigfoot or UFOs? Sure, the chances of seeing a drunk 17 year old girl dancing to "Getting' Jiggy With It" are greater than that of seeing Bigfoot, but I am no longer convinced he exists.

I swear I saw a show on one of the cable channels with this team of 'experts' dedicated to finding Bigfoot. The promo hailed it as being the end all, be all of Bigfoot footage. I NEVER saw Bigfoot, I heard a strange growling in the forest, I heard someone CLAIIM a rock was thrown at them, and back at the "home base" some guy had all the fancy equipment out and on his laptop screen was Microsoft Streets and Trips…

Just like the giant squid hoopla… show me some real, high quality footage, until then, let me watch Seinfeld reruns.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What Happened to the Blogathon?

Indeed, I cannot blog at work any longer. So sorry to be gone so long, but there are a few good excuses/reasons:

1. I have a new job where I work in a secure environment and things like Blogger, MySpace, and pretty much every other fun thing on the internet are blocked. This is a good thing in many ways, though since I really enjoy the work I'm doing. Have I explained what it is I am doing? Well, here goes: I am in charge of writing and enforcing the standards used to protect the entire Air Force network. No small task, but one that has been actually fun for me. I work with some very nice and fun people, too, which makes the job even better.

2. I have 2 little boys now. Luke just turned 3 on March 4th. He's lots of fun. Every afternoon, I come home and we play with his train set or in the backyard or something. By the time he and Noah are asleep, I just don't think about the blog...Noah is beautiful. He's growing way too fast, but strong and well.

3. We're about to renovate our kitchen and family room. This entails so much more than I can mention here. We're doing it ourselves, though, with the help of my dear old Dad. It's going to add some significant space and open up the rooms quite a bit. Lots to do, lots to do...

OK, 3 reasons are enough, right? Wrong. I feel bad about not visiting my dearest friends. Hopefully, this post will expunge my trespass from the blog record. But, I do hope to chronicle a few more things here. I miss writing, too. So many things must move to make space, but for the best, my dear friends.

Oh, I almost forgot! Some of you know this already, but Rachel is working from home now! I'm very proud of her, and the extra cash helps, too.

Alright, that's it for now. I'll write again as soon as I can think of something to write about and have time to do it. Love and peace, my brothers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Good Service

I’m a writing fool today. Sorry for those who get bumped.

Amy and I visited my grandmother the other day in Maryville, Tennessee. While there we attended the Maryville church of Christ. What a joyous thing it was.

The congregation is decent in size, probably around 300 members. This made for a glorious song service. It really is amazing what a few hundred extra members will make in the singing. But beyond just the change is numbers, the member all seemed to truly be singing with joy from their hearts. I hate to sing congregations that don’t really sing, and adore it when everybody gathers together to create a “joyful noise.”

The lesson, likewise was marvelous. The preacher spoke about avoiding temptation, and feeing the devil. He spoke energetically and enthusiastically. He used some examples from current events (some local teens had just been killed in a car accident involving alcohol,) told some personal anecdotes, and made us crack the Book multiple times. The scriptures were actually read (instead of just alluded to) and he applied them directly to his points in the sermon.

The congregation was not overly friendly, but no less than half a dozen members approached us and chatted us up amicably.

All in all it was a very wonderful service where we worshipped God appropriately, and left feeling enthusiastic and encouraged.

Ice Storm In Indiana

Though it is warm and sunny here these days, it was but a few weeks ago that we were covered in a thick layer of ice. Being the incredibly brave (or insanely stupid) adventurers that we are, me and Amy of the Chaldeans took off and captured the beautiful ice in picture form.

Technology VS God

We now have a variety of ways to communicate with each other instantaneously. Through e-mail, blogs, instant messaging, text messaging, and cellular phones we can talk to the world instantly. Yet, it seems to me, that the Church is using this new technology only to tear down each other through gossip and maliciousness.

For example, at the congregation I attend we receive a newsletter from a congregation in Mississippi that is always filled with the errors and problems of other congregations and our universities. Every month there are articles lambasting Abilene Christian or David Lipscomb University for some liberal movement that have partaken in. Likewise other congregations are decreed as unscriptural for something found in their bulletins, or spoken by one of their leaders.

This is but one example. There are many other places printing similar bulletins and writing similar things on blogs and webgroups.

My assumption is this newsletter’s editors are scouring these organizations web sites and bulletins for something damning. Likewise, like minded people are forwarding gossip over to their offices for write ups.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a liberal movement in the church, and there are congregations moving away from the Word. These things need to be dealt with, yet I cannot say that damning them in a printed bulleting is the way to do it.

Rare is it that I see one of these types of publications actually attempt to contact the offending congregation and get the full story. Few are the times when we gently try to lead those astray back to the fold before we print their hanging in large, bold type.

I guess I’m just tired of seeing so much hostility and gossip, and very little energy spent on encouragement and spreading the joy of the Gospels. It seems like technology could be used in such amazing ways to improve the Church, yet so often it is only used to attack others.

Tags, Part III (The Last Post On This, I Promise - Maybe)

I hate to harp on this again, so soon after my last one, and especially since you guys are actually starting to use the tags, but before it becomes a bigger mess, I want to point out a few things.

In the space where you can write in your tags, there is a link labeled “show all.” Please use this as it will show you all the tags that have previously been added. Before you add a new tag, please use the ones already invented.

Also, before you add a new tag, think a moment about whether or not we need to be that specific. Tags need to fall somewhere in between really general and really specific. If it is too general then basically every post we create will be tagged as that, and then it is useless. Too specific and you only have one or two posts with that label and again its usefulness in questionable.

Honestly, I don’t mind the really specific stuff as much as being too general. So, while “smoking” or “jamboree” may never get used again, I don’t think it is a bad thing to have to specifically labeled out. My main concern, here, is that we are using the ones already created. For example, Mullins you used “mullins” as a tag, when “mullinz8” has already been created. And neither of you two used “personal” or “life story” when all of the recent posts fall into those categories.

I know, it is all new, and you both probably could care less, but I’m really into the tags and want to make them work properly. And I don't mean to constantly be jumping on anyone. I'm thrilled you went back in and tagged, I just want to make sure we do it properly, otherwise we'll have a whole bunch of tags for the same thing.

Just to stave off confusion, I’m going to break down all the tags and their meaning.

All Labels:

  • ACPO: Any post dealing with the American Coalition for Peeing Outside.
  • Art: Any post dealing with painting, or sculpture. This can entail discussion of classic artists, making your own art, or a picture of a particular artistic piece.
  • BigSip: All posts written by the illustrious BigSip.
  • Blog: All posts about this blog, or blogging in general.
  • Charlie: All posts written by the not so illustrious Charlie.
  • Church: Honestly, I didn’t create this one. I was tagging all spiritual discussion under “religion” but we could make this more geared to attending church services, or related specifically to the church of Christ.
  • Current Events: Any post geared to items currently in the news. This is not for personal posts about events that recently happened to ourselves.
  • Diana: All posts written by the beautiful and luxurious Diana.
  • Dream: All posts written about dreams that we have had or, dreaming in general.
  • Fun: A pretty general category. I created it originally for our random posts about funny things we’ve found on the internet, but can be used for anything deemed enjoyable.
  • Internets: Mainly used for posts which contain links to outside websites, but could also be used for general discussion about the cultural phenomenon that is the World Wide Web.
  • Jamietoons: All posts about Jamisons cartooning endeavors.
  • Jamison: All posts written by Jamison.
  • Kermitgrn: All posts written by the funny little green man.
  • Life Story: Personal posts that are written in story form. The original idea here was to separate the simple personal posts, “I applied for a job today” from the longer posts that tell an interesting story.
  • Literature: All posts about the written form, can be classic literature, pop fiction, or even our own attempts at writing fiction.
  • Mat Brewster: All posts written by that hack.
  • Movies: All posts written about the cinema, including our own attempts at short film.
  • Mullinz8: All posts written by David Crosby
  • Music: All posts written about music.
  • Personal: Any posts of a personal nature. A very broad category which encompasses most of what we write, but excludes all the random silliness we are all fond of.
  • Photography: Originally intended for any post containing a picture we have personally taken, but it kind of morphed into any post that contains a picture.
  • Politics: Any post about politics.
  • Rachel: Any post by the glorious and wonderful Rachel.
  • Religion: All posts about God.
  • Reviews: All posts that review something. We haven’t done these in awhile, and I really created it to try to get Jamison to do more reviews, like he used to do.
  • Television: All posts on TV
  • Tnmommieof2: All posts by the effervescent Juliana.
  • Travel: All posts about traveling.
  • YouTube: all posts that contain a youtube video.

I know that’s a lot, and probably most of you didn’t read half of this. But please do browse the selection before choosing a new one. This simply won’t work if we don’t use it properly.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Breathing easy

I am very proud of my wife and you all should be too.

As many of you know Jules has smoked for the past couple of years. She stopped when pregnant (thankfully) but has been a slow burning chimney none the less for quite some time.

Recently I had to play nursemaid to a sick wife who was too wiped out to do much of anything including smoke. After just over a week the illness passed and Jules was already most of the way through her de-toxing without having put too much thought into the whole process.

The next week was pretty tough because her routine at work was shaped by her need to smoke: lunch, breaks, trip in and back home all with smokes in place.

On a weekend shopping excursion Jules asked if she could buy one pack, smoke one and let me hold the rest for her. I told her if she bought a pack she would have to give the rest to me and I would instantly throw them away.

She continued to be smoke free for another day. To date my wife has continued to be smoke free. What that really (selfishly) means is that Isaac, Caleb and I don’t have to be unwilling second-hand smokers anymore and for that I’m very thankful.

I don’t know that you guys really know what it is to quit one of the most addictive and socially accepted drugs in history so please take a moment and let her know how happy you are for her determination, strength and courage to fight this addiction.

Julie, I love you and am very proud, thank you.

Grove Park Inn

The Mulls and The Brals had a grand ole time in Asheville, NC.

Sometimes I forget how much I can laugh, and sometimes I forget how much I can make other people laugh, but apparently I had because we all laughed alot... likewise, we rested alot.

I won't go into how good the food was, and how nice the spa was, nor about how nice it was to stay up late in the grand hall by a fireplace that 15 men could fit in while I tried to convince Mullins to use some of my material in his standup routine. I will also pass over the part about getting a box of chocolate (And the box was made of chocolate) delivered to our room by a guy Mullins had befriended that worked there...

But, I will leave you with a few pics... I have some awesome ones of all 4 of us, of the Mulls, and of just me and my wife, (another one) but this is all I had at work. The rest are at home.

I am really relaxed in this first picture...

Sat on their park bench like bookends...

Everyone has friends. What seperates folks is the quality of those friends and the bond of that friendship.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Jamboree was last weekend and I did the stage managing duties, as always. This year, John Gordon brought in a few old school Jamboree hosts and hostesses from years past. One of those was a one Jennifer Puryear (Now Jen Duncan).
Jen was one of my first friends at Faulkner. Yes, before Brew, and before Sip. Maybe not before Ryan though. Jen and I have seen little of each other since she graduated F.U. She came to my wedding, I went to hers, and other than that, it has been virtual radio silence. Sure, the occational email will be tossed in there, but not much else.
Were we mad at each other? No. Did we have a falling out? No. Was our friendship put on hold? No. But relationships do this from time to time... they don't fizzle out, they just slow down for a period of time I guess. Life takes over and life changes, and friendships adjust accordingly.

Joining MySpace may have been one of the best things I have ever done to push out any remaining depression I may have had in my life. Reconnecting with so many old friends has been glorious. Jen being one of those friends. We were able to reconnect, catch up, and appreciate our friendship again! I then learned she would be coming to town for Jamboree and I was as happy as you could imagine.

When Jen came into town, we went to lunch that day. Let me tell you folks, it was like she never left. We laughed at everything. Just like the old times. Back in the day we would just look at each other in chorus practice and laughter would ensue. I have way too many memories to share so I won't even start. But after lunch last week we grabbed my camera and shot at least 15 pics of ourselves with as many expressions as we could come up with. The top picture is "Melancholy".

A test of a true friendship is going a long period of time without seeing or talking to one another, and seeing how strong the relationship is after that "time out"... and not freaking out or losing your mind when you realize that the relationship is in a time out . I'm happy to say the friendship I share with Jen is as strong as ever, and ever will continue to be.

Of course the obvious question people used to ask is "She is beautiful! Why didn't you ever go out with her?" All I can say is that I never looked at Jen based on her looks. She became my friend when I honestly had few if any friends at Faulkner and from that day forward, that's what she was to me. I wouldn't even call it a brother-sister thing, we were pure and simple friends! I am sure I considered it once or twice in the many years I knew her, but 2 minutes later she would call and ask if I wanted to play hide and seek or go climb a tree and those thoughts just went away for what ever reason.
Hearing Jen sing last weekend was unreal. We all have known her our who college lives, and we were all friends with her. I grew to "get used" to her singing abilities. I guess you could say I took them for granted. I knew she sang well, but I had heard her sing so many times and I knew her so well that frankly, I stopped getting a thrill out of her amazing singing voice. When she started to sing Friday night at Jamboree I could not move. Ussually I am busy backstage when there is a performance going on. I rarely just stop and watch. But I sat there remembering that "Hey, she is a really good singer" because frankly, I had forgotten. I guess in a way this is just another sign of a true friendship; I wasn't her friend because of her looks or her singing abilities... but man, can she sing!
Anyway, I know many of you know Jen, and thought you may enjoy that story. A quick update, she is in a suburb of Nashville with her VERY good looking husband who runs a recording studio. He must be good at what he does because he has a few Grammy's to prove it. Success and money have not changed the Jen we all know and love. She is as solid as she has ever been.
I leave you iwth a few more pics taken during jamboree, of more "Old Friends" as the title of this blog suggests (Assuming you have heard that song).

Me and the lovely Compton sisters.

You can't talk about old pals without talking about Fred...

Perhaps you remember Jason Gray?

Who can forget Knapp?

Saying something I never thought I'd say

Jamboree has come a long way.
Sure, the hosts and hostesses aren't going to win grammys anytime soon.
Sure, the club shows can be cheesy and repeatative.
But this year, I actually had ... FUN!
And next year, I actually HOPE I can do it!
The students at Faulkner (At least the ones in clubs) were a pleasure to work with. They were all fun, well behaved, and extreemly nice and welcoming. And ALL the shows were actually GOOD!
Gone are the days where you have one club show that is really good, 2 that suck, and one that doesn't even exist. The clubs work VERY hard on their shows, and honestly, few really care if they win or lose, they just have fun and do really great shows!
I did a video. Unfortunately, there are no shots of the new clubs show (cant remember their name... basically they are Mu Beta Sigma with alot of Kappa members in them) who did an awesome Alladin show, complete with the blue and red genie! I also didnt get any shots of the Zeta and AAA show, who did a fun pirate show. The two best shows were Kappas and Epsilons... and guess what? Epsilon didn't win this year, shocker! But both clubs did great shows!

Enjoy the film! If you have MySpace, check out all my photos from Jamboree on my page...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Death Of The Blog. Plus Tags, Part 2

The blogs not really dead, but it is definitely sick. In the last month we’ve seen a lot of Jamison, quite a bit of me, and a smattering of Mullins. No Sipper, no Mrs. Sipper, no Stubbs (Mrs. or otherwise) no anyone else.

I’m not really complaining, just stating the facts. We’ve seen very little action around these parts for some time. I realize there are reasons, Josh can’t blog at work, and would rather spend his home time with his family instead of us (this is a credit to Josh, again not a complaint.) Mullins seems to have landed a job where they actually expect him to work, and likewise spends his home time with family. I’m sure Diana is busy with school and Charles was eaten by a crocodile. We’re all busy. I haven’t posted as much as I used to, and I’m less busy than any of you folks.

The truth is, for whatever reason, we all haven’t been that active. Even the discussions have been bereft of the regular Café-ers. Thank goodness we have some new readers who have greatly added to the discussion.

My point here, is what’s next? I very much don’t want to see this blog die. I know in the past, I have spoke out against inviting other writers, but times are changing. I’m suggesting we grab a couple of other folks and invite them to join our little blog family. Ryan, I’m looking right at you. You’re already a member, and kindly have only kept yourself to the comments, but I see no reason you can’t chime in with posts of your own.

There are others we could invite. In fact, I have secretly made Kellie a member, due to the fact she agreed to help me with the tags. Anybody have a problem with her adding new posts? I would so much rather this blog take on new voices, than fade away due to our busy lives.

What say ye?

Speaking of Kellie and tags, she has spent many long hours helping me tag the 600+ posts we have written over the last two years. This was not an easy task, as the blogger software doesn’t let you mass tag very easily. Our posts are also often rambly, covering multiple topics at once and thus, are not easily tagged.

I am proud to say that we have finally completed this endeavor and every single post we have written is not gloriously tagged and categorized.

A few notes about the tags:

Names were tagged when you wrote a post. “Life Story” is simply a personal post written in long form with some sense of storytelling. “Personal” denotes a more personal post meant to pass along simple details about our lives. Although, somewhere along the way life stories also got tagged with “personal.” So there is overlap.

“Internets” for the most part denotes a post with an external link to various things we felt were worth mentioning. “Literature” denotes any discussion of the written word. The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

Some fun facts:

Jamison is king of the blog with a whopping 153 posts written, followed closely by BigSip with 143. Rounding out the top four posters with over a hundred posts a piece are me and Mullins. Person with the fewest posts is one Charlie with a mere 4 posts written.

Our favorite topic is “personal” of which we have written about 212 times. Showing how literary we all are, “life story” closely follows with 143.

I beg, nay plead with you to please add tags to your new posts. It took a lot of time adding these things in, and I don’t want to have to go back and do it again, because you all are too lazy. If you don’t understand how to do it, just ask. Please also note that you can click on “show all” while you are writing a post and it will give you a list of all the tags we have thus far used. Though if you feel it merits it, you may add new ones.

Tags are a great way to organize the blog. At a touch you may now read every post by Jamison or tnmommieof2. Want to know if we’ve ever blogged about the evils of instrumental music? Click on the religion tag and find out. Want to create some categories for next years blog awards? With the tags you can easily look through all our posts and find the best of the rest.

Now go forth and write!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Family Secrets

I’m still trying to research this a little, and fill in the details, so there will likely be a longer, follow up story in the weeks to come, but I found some information about my family I wanted to share.

My grandfather fought in the Philippines during World War II. This is a fact that not even my father knew until a few years ago, for grandfather never, ever mentioned it. Last summer I brought it up with him wanting to get some stories out of him before he died, but all he would say is that he had seen action.

Talking with my grandmother, this past weekend she told me that when his active duty was done that he was told to stay in for two extra weeks, doing office work, and he would get a nicer benefits package. He refused outright and wanted to be shipped immediately home.

Once he returned home he boarded up his windows and nailed his door shut, afraid that the Japanese would sneak in and take him.

For a year after he returned he would often cry out to his mother that he could never go to heaven. That he was bound for hell for the things he had seen. The things he had done. For he had killed men. He had bombed buildings, murdered innocents. He had seen little children’s arms and legs flying dismembered from the explosions he had caused.

Eventually, she said, they calmed him down and made him understand he had served his country, and the Greater Good and could indeed go to Heaven. But hearing that story, broke my very heart.

Here was a young man, 17 at the time, I believe, from the hills of Tennessee. Seventh grade education, never seeing much beyond the farm he grew up on. Suddenly he is shipped to the wonders of California where he learns how to be a warrior, a soldier, and killer. Then he is shipped to some exotic island to experience what hells I’ll never understand only to again be shipped back and expected to live a normal life.

I may not agree with the politics of our current wars, but my heart goes out to all the men and woman who quite literally put their lives on the line ever single day. I pray God brings them home safe, healthy and able to adjust to normal life again.