Friday, August 31, 2007

Moving and Storage

It is the day of Kid1’s departure for year 2 at the University of Hartford. She was ready for this day since May 13, the end of Year1 for Kid1. She really enjoyed her time there and could not wait to get back. In fact, this weekend she will be part of ‘Howie’s Helpers’ (named for the school mascot), helping primarily freshman move in…STN2 stands for the Student Television Network, and working on the TV station is her favorite activity.
There was talk of taking two vehicles, for the five of us and her stuff. As you can see, it was a bit of a fit, but everybody and everything did. This is the best testimonial to the benefits of driving a 15 MPG behemoth, even if it works perfectly only one time a year…About an easy hour away from us is the university.

Her building was built in that prevalent late ‘60s ugly dorm style. She is on the fourth floor, no elevator so I just did the best I could to help, barking orders, etc. The movers were all carrying out orders (and a refrigerator and microwave as well). At least I know what her 16x9 room looks like.
Check out our intrepid moving crew Patti, Gooma & Kid2 (not Moe, Larry & Curly). We are happy that she is back ‘home’, for three more school years anyway.

We drowned our sorrows (not) at the Olympia Diner, a fixture on the Berlin Turnpike. I will say they make the best corn beef hash I’ve had. A great place for these hungry diners: Hash & eggs, meatloaf, hamburger club. This was a rewarding day, really. We await Kid2’s move next year…

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fortune teller

Well, who is to argue with this assessment. I received this very good fortune at City Buffet, a local (1.9 miles) Chinese/American all you can eat place. How do they know? Food is their forte, of course. But for $10.99 and the all the General Tso chicken I wanted, I received this nice assessment of my character and abilities! Of course, the term Disability has as its root Ability...Forget the 'chair if you dare, then this nugget makes sense (IMHO). My legs might not work, but my brain works pretty well even if it darts around frequently...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just the facts, Ma'am

Just like Sgt. Joe Friday, I was 'printed' today. This, of course, is the prelude to world of substitute teaching I hope to be trying soon. The fun part of this was going to the Derby Police Facility, for whatever reason, they are no longer Police Stations - has the PD gone PC? A very nice young officer took me to the print area, and it is at the same place as the holding cells. I admired the engineering of these bars and doors. And have decided that these cells look better from the outside in, than from the other way. Nice metalworking at least.

At any rate, I have a suitable mug shot that fits well with my prints taken at the lockup, and it really looks like a mug shot of me as an angry 18-year old. Some have seen this, but it is still oh-so-appropriate. If I didn't have the sneer of a know-it-all perp, nobody did. I wonder what the background check will dig up on me? This is probably more of a need to know thing, that perhaps I'd rather not know :>)

As for just the facts, I still think that there is nobody better at that than Jack Webb, aka Sgt. Friday. Dan Ackroyd did a nice tribute in the 1980's Dragnet movie, but Badge 714 still delivered those lines best.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You say tomato, I say tomahto

Since the spring, I have been yapping about homegrown tomatoes from the 5-gallon pots on the sunny side of the garage. And here are three early specimens of one of my favorite hybrids, the small-to-medium delicious orbs known as the Jetstar. These are delicious merely dressed lightly in salt and pepper, or with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. Or like I did last week, as part of an antipasto with mozzarella, Genoa salami and capicola ham. It is nice to have fresh tomatoes, and they are all over the area. But they seem to taste the best from the 5 gal. pots next to the garage. I'd love to throw tomatoes at the morons at Social Security...but not these babies!

On another note, I may be a substitute teacher in several area school systems. I was contacted by Judy at a local Kelly Services branch office about this (they handle subs for many school districts nationwide). I am going to the Ansonia PD tomorrow for the fingerprints needed for the background check (like they're going to find much more than boring :>) I wonder if these events are occurring now to perhaps direct me in another career direction from manufacturing. Education? I couldn't say that for sure, although it is slightly alluring to think that if I got to know the 'right' people in say, the Ansonia system that it could lead to other possible career opportunities. Let's just say that I am intrigued right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Here a book, there a book...

I saw this fabulous quiz, and borrowed it from Odat and the lovely Patti. I took the quiz myself, and his is the result:

I am Catch-22! (Joseph Heller)…Incredibly witty and funny, you have a taste for irony in all that you see. It seems that life has put you in perpetually untenable situations, and your sense of humor is all that gets you through them. These experiences have also made you an ardent pacifist, though you present your message with tongue sewn into cheek. You could coin a phrase that replaces the word "paradox" for millions of people.

I am a bit paradoxical (not to be confused with weird). Maybe I am a bit daft, offbeat, and different. Certainly not as serious as you might think. I am reserved by nature, but not shy (right Patti?). Perhaps my oddities might be explained as I am married to a writer, and my dad was also a writer - I think people who write (and there is a lot of terrific writers in the blogosphere) think a bit differently. And that is a great thing.

This is the all-time favorite book of our 18-year-old college daughter. Perpetually untenable situations? Ironic? Yup! Nice test, better answer.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Friday, August 24, 2007

Look away, Dixie land

I enjoy travelling, and did a lot before wheelchair, family responsibilities, etc. I like seeing different places and different things. Offbeat is okay, too. I like to take pictures of road signs of places I'm going or where I've been. You never know if it might be important. Or not. On a family trip some years ago, I noticed this one on US 1 at the PA-MD state line. It is, of course, that famed Mason-Dixon line, the sort of divide that separates the North from the South. A psychological barrier? I couldn't say, although I have spoken to people up here that thought the line was actually in the deep south. Further north than northerners think. I don't think that there is really that much difference between the regions these days (although Miss Bee might differ on that). Some rural areas up north are probably as insular as rural areas in the south. Urban areas such as Atlanta have as much sprawl and traffic as northern cities as Boston and New York. Even the local TV news readers down south have no noticeable accent (to me, anyway). The local TV news is such that news anchors in New Orleans are as un-accented as those in New York (who don't have a New Yawk accent themselves). It's like much of the noticeable differences between regions are slowly disappearing. Is it because so many snowbirds have moved south and west and have brought their non-accents which is slowly decimating twangs, drawls and other local nuance? I like regional differences and hope it stays that way...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Man's Best Friend

Of course, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? I can't get the attraction of animal fighting/blood sports. I never will. Michael Vick might have been exciting to watch, but was not an effective quarterback. The plea, as the TV lawyers explain, might be better than going in front of a jury (especially this one). I am not a PETA supporter, and I don't like animals better than people exclusively. But it is a short walk from abusing animals to abusing humans. I grew up with two loving mutts (Boris and Maggie) and can't imagine how someone could be that abusive to a dog. Or a cat. Or any furry creature. I for one are tired of superb athletes who are coddled while those in charge do as they please. Even if you are not a fan of animals, the IRS might have an interest in this case, for even illicit gambling winnings are taxable, and income must be reported...undoubtedly it wasn't. Vick is just a gangster...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The First of Ralph

Like Mimi and her papa, I had an affinity for the man, and he was much larger than life. He was as unique a person as I have known. He fixed police and fire department radios around Steubenville from the thirties until 1978. In a steel mill and coal-mining region, most people did that for income, but grandpa was such an iconoclast - he could not work for a boss. He wanted to work for himself, and he finally received his radio license in 1934. In this picture, he is showing his radio license and car license plate. The license, it was personalized auto 1937. It is common these days; I do not know how he got these in 1937. Now maybe he needed attention...He owned Post Office Box No. 1 in Steubenville until he passed away in 1981. The big frog in the little 

pond, I guess.

I have a few anecdotes regarding him. He told me a story when I was small, maybe 8 or 9. He mentioned that someone asked him to setup a radio connection from the local horseracing track but he would be wearing cement shoes. This is the first time I heard this term. As a grownup, it made much more sense to me: local Mob interests asked him for this radio link to the betting parlors downtown, probably for more money than he'd ever seen. Of course, if he had done the work, he really would be sleeping in the Ohio River wearing cement shoes. In the Depression, most people would have taken the money, but he knew not to. Not for his personal safety, but because it was wrong. Honor matters.

When I was little and my family would visit the 'Ville (as we called it in college), he would take me along with him on his runs to replace radios at firehouses. He would always introduce me to firemen as his grandson. When he went downtown to the bank, he would always get twenty crisp new $1 bills. That was him. Finally, I remember how his driving cap always smelled like Vitalis (with V7, as the label said). I really liked that smell when I was little. I believe that he is wearing it in this 1957 picture (great suit, very stylish).

This picture on the top was taken in the mid-seventies, probably around the time he sold off the last part of his business in 1978. Obviously, the old radios that used vacuum tubes were to be replaced with solid-state equipment. What grandpa really sold was not just his list of customers, but his reputation. His honesty and dependability. His Integrity. I am very proud to have been named for him.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Qu'est que ce?

I saw The Interview on Andreanna’s site today, and I found it so intriguing that I requested my interview questions from that madwoman (as she describes herself, not me!). This has been fun yet thoughtful. Let the interview begin!

1) What is your favorite childhood memory?

Memories, actually, of vacations in Brigantine, NJ. This barrier island suburb is just North of Atlantic City, and has beautiful beaches. We stayed at first at the Sea Gull cottages, later the Sea Gull motel, both of which were efficiencies. Mom cooked some, not every meal. But Grandpa bought donuts and honey buns every morning. The trip down usually began in East Hartford at 4 AM, and the kids traveled in their bathing suits. When we arrived, our parents waited to check-in, and we were allowed to go to the beach right away. These beaches were patrolled so well by lifeguards; it was perfectly safe to let the kids go. Grandpa would take us to Luigi’s, a red sauce place in AC (long since gone for today’s glitzy casinos), rode bicycles early in the morning on the boardwalk, and Taylor Pork Roll sandwiches (I haven’t seen Taylor pork roll yet in southern CT). I haven’t been to Brigantine since 1972. It was a nice vacation as a kid, and lots of great memories.

2) What is one talent you wish you had?

I wish that I could read music and play an instrument. And just for the pleasure of just playing. I never had lessons when I was younger, yet today we seen the value of music, and this is why we have had our children take piano lessons, and happily they continue to play. Kid1 a flute in her college pep band; Kid2, sax, marimbas and trumpet this year in his High School band. They are not nor probably will ever be professionals, yet they really enjoy the music. I take pleasure in their playing as well.

3) What is your all-time favorite movie?

Right now, I have to say that it is Casablanca. I really enjoy so many things about this classic. Humphrey Bogart is perfect as the cynical club owner Rick serving both the French and Nazi’s equally cynically, but is redeemed at the end. And I love when the French patrons are singing La Marseillaise, drowning out those drunken singing Nazis. As Time Goes By. And the lines:

“We’ll always have Paris”

“You played it for her, now play it for me”

“Not only are you a sentimentalist, you are also a patriot”, and my favorite, Rick to Renault:

“This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

4) Name three material things you couldn't live without.

  • My trusty Ford E150 van. Setup as a driver vehicle (I transfer from the chair to the driver’s seat to drive ‘normally’) and it gets me around fine. There is no mass transit in our suburban location, and the local Para transit service doesn’t run on Sunday. My Ford is my freedom.
  • Our computer. I couldn't blog and follow other bloggers without it, and even more prosaic uses such as doing taxes, writing rebuttals to SSA’ s idiotic decisions, scanning photos, etc. My latest thing is making and arranging music files for when I’m working again and then can purchase an IPod or Zune player.
  • My shower bench, really. I have a 3x5 ft roll in shower, drive the chair into it and transfer on to the bench, then back the chair up a bit, and pull the shower curtain. It doesn’t seem like much, but when I started using a chair on 11/17/1995, I didn’t have a bathroom I could use for a year. For example, I took showers at the picnic table when it was hot outside using city water (brrrr…58 degrees, COLD). So being able to take a shower is nice.

5) What is your dream vacation?

I really want to see Paris while using the chair. The nicest sites are in old buildings and narrow streets (nothing bombed and rebuilt after WW II). This would entail a private tour guide and vehicle (Citroen, Renault and Peugeot wheelchair vans can be rented), and this guide certainly would know all the places a wheelchair can fit. Patti and our daughter went to Paris twice on school trips, and did note that places like the Louvre were quite accessible, and the elevator at the Eiffel Tower will fit a wheelchair. Where this tour would shine is the guide’s knowledge about non-touristy bistros, clubs, and other places. I think this trip will happen someday.

If you'd like to play, here are the interview rules (copied from Andreanna):
1. Leave me a comment saying “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The great outdoors

I enjoy the time of year that it is not an ordeal to go outside, ie: no coats, scarves, hats, etc. Any season but winter works for me.

To the right is a favorite pic of ours. It was taken sans knowledge of us. We were at the soccer field at the Ansonia Nature Center to watch Kid2 when he played. It was one of those wonderful mid-October days, one of the last of the year with the sun beginning its Southern exposure, about 75 degrees and the foliage at its peak in Southern New England. The best part of this artistic shot is that it shows both of us together without revealing too much, or too little. On a nice day in a nice location.

But of course, the kids, especially when they are young, don't necessarily complain about the heat, they actually do something about it. Like play in the sprinkler and cool down fast. They are cute at this age (six and four), and look like then, as they are now, the best of friends. No sibling rivalry here. And they are so cute wrapped in that beach towel. I'd love to go under the sprinkler, but my 24 volt ride might object to the bath...

A couple of decades ago, I visited relatives in northern Minnesota, and was attracted to Lake Itasca, about 25 miles north of Great Stony Lake where I was. This lake, to the left, is the source of the mighty Mississippi River, which is flowing to the right. I did walk in those days, and I did across the Mississippi. Watch out for the mosquitoes, which are huge and plentiful (the joke being that the mosquito is the state bird) It is a gorgeous state, 13000 lakes, but winter might be a bit tough...

Saturday, August 11, 2007


A few things going on lately. Saw The Simpsons Movie today with Patti, Kid1, Kid2 and Patti's mom. I liked the movie, it was a loopy as the TV show (try the multi-eye large pink squirrel, for example). I think that the fictional Ranier Wolfcastle would have been the better president...I have the SpiderPig song in my head, and the movie ended eight hours ago. I tried the Simpsonizeme site, and after 45 minutes found me amongst all the possibilities. The sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt fit me well, except there was no wheelchair in the accessories. I say 'nay' to a sequel...

I have been working on my final rebuttal to the Social Security Administration. They are awful, but I have been 'efforting' (made up verb that the news media love to use) to gather all the paperwork to buttress my arguments. I hope to put this issue to bed by Mid-September. I have said before that my aim is not to trash government workers as a group, but SSA has the worse workers that I have seen, and I'm including the CT Motor Vehicle employees in this. Without descending into sanctimony too deeply, I am feeling pretty good about my chances in this fight...

Since I have been going through old paperwork, I decided that it was time to purchase a shredder from Staples to get rid of old and unneeded documents. It is almost therapeutic to eliminate old credit card statements just like that, and only for $15 after the rebate. Now imagine eliminating your personal debt as easily (like the Staples tagline: 'Now that was Easy')...

And today we tried to use the shreddings as a charcoal fire starter.They can help start the fire, but they didn't work well, and it took quite a while to get the fire as you see in the picture. The ultimate fire had to bring the coals to at least 600 deg F, which cooked the meat perfectly. The victim today was a London Broil marinated in limes and jalapeño peppers...Still, it has been a pretty good week, some angst (SSA) but more pleasure (the Simpsons and family sharing meals together). Life is good...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Off Target

Patti invited me to the governor's bill signing yesterday at the Ansonia Tar-Jay (okay, it was open to the public). Governor Rell is a woman of immense charm, and in CT politics, she is a Republican with a veto-proof Democratic majority in the state House and Senate. Yet, they could not override her budget veto. She is really a nice but politically tough grandmother, with a 74% approval rating. However, the most impressive thing about these staged events is how the advance team has everything set up so nothing goes wrong in the half-hour or so she was on the premises. Actually, the most impressive thing I saw was the security detail for the gov. They were two Ct State Police scanning and paying attention to everything. And they were large. And they didn't smile. And they wore earpieces. And their hair was brush-cut military style. And they didn't take their suit jackets off in the 96 degrees on the parking lot. They looked serious, and I'm sure the gov was safe.

I enjoyed watching Patti asking questions among the politicos and business types that were there for the ceremonial signing. The story was on the newspaper's State page (three), but CT is a small state (only RI and DE are smaller) and the Brownfield remediation law is important for development. And I like to see her byline in print...

One word about Target vs. Wal-Mart. As a wheelchair user, Tar-jay is much easier to get around. At Wally World, there are point-of-purchase skids with Cheetos or whatever cluttering so many aisles, it is just hard for me to navigate. There are even ceiling tiles. This place is just more refined and classier. I'm not necessarily a big-box fan, but I went with Kid1 and Kid2 later in the day to IKEA in New Haven. That has to be a fave of mine for a big place. I didn't buy anything, but I could have fun (if money were no object) buying lots of that fantastic Swedish designed furniture and other things. Who said that men don't shop???

Monday, August 6, 2007

Layered (like Shrek)

I was recently tagged by the Queen herself from Bloggingham. I call it the MiMiMeMe, which is also the Layered Meme. To Mimi, I am happy to be tagged for this one. The truth ought to set me free?

LAYER 1 – On the Outside
Name: Ralph Irwin V------ III
Birth Date: 26-Apr-1955, Atlantic City, NJ
Current Status: Married, Kid1, Kid2
Eye Color: Blue
Hair Color: Brown

Layer 2 – On the Inside
My Heritage: A mutt: Irish, Scot, and French with a hint of Steubenville
My Fear: Running out of fuel in my thirsty Ford E150
My weaknesses: Intelligent potential conversation
My Perfect Pizza: Tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil

LAYER 3 – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
My thoughts first waking up: Depends on the headlines on News 88 on the clock radio alarm
My bedtime: 10:30 (P.M. - I'm not that old!)
My most missed memory: Much more good memories than bad…

LAYER 4 - My Pick
Pepsi or coke: Pepsi
Single or group dates: Group date? I'm 52!!!!!
Adidas or Nike: The Nike swoosh will never adorn anything I wear…
Tea or Nestea: Tea, brewed, black, sans sweetener
Chocolate or Vanilla: Fudge ripple
Cappuccino or Coffee: If I'm good, with a shot of Sambuca

LAYER 5 - Do You…
Smoke: Not Since 1984
Curse: Usually not
Take a shower: Only a roll-in wheelchair shower
Have a crush: Too old to remember…
Think you’ve been in love: Thought I was, am now and will always be
Go to school: Learn always; School? No mas...
Want to get married: Wanted to and have been happily for 21 years
Believe in yourself: Always
Think you’re a health freak: Maybe aiming for the freak, but not there

LAYER 6 In the Past
Drank alcohol : 18 was legal in CT when I turned 18
Gone to the mall: Went to Sears to buy a coffee maker in June
Been on stage: Nope
Eaten sushi: Fish was steamed first
Dyed your hair: And give up that dashing gray?

LAYER 7 - Have You Ever:
Played a stripping game: Jamais!
Changed who you were to fit in: I'm not a chameleon (usually)

LAYER 8 – Are You Hoping…
Get married: See Layer 5

LAYER 9 - In a Girl:
Best eye color: Green
Best hair color: Red highlights in natural lighting…
Short hair or long hair: Naturally full, looking like a perm but never permed…

LAYER 10 – What Were You Doing:
A minute ago: Signing in to Blogger
Hour ago: Finishing up my leftover enchilada from 'Baja's' restaurant
Month ago: Burning meat on the charcoal grill
Year ago: Planning our trip to Cape Cod

LAYER 11 – Finish The Sentences:
I love: Family
I feel: Calm, occasionally intense, generally focused
I hate: Inefficiency
I hide: My fears, on occasion
I miss: Walking (only sometimes)
I need: To do more what I like for a living

I Tag:
A Tired Mama
Erstwhile Librarian

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Weighty issues

I'm thinking about counting calories to better maintain my weight. Actually, cannot really check my weight, as I would need a big floor scale to try to weigh my wheelchair and me. However, I figure that if I keep an honest written record of the daily calorie count of a reasonable number (say, 1700 per day) and keep it up; I can maintain or lose weight. I did this in 2003, and I think I made a difference then. I know that I lost something with the worst effects of the Ulcerative Colitis I had earlier, because people asked if I was losing weight. About three weeks ago, I met a someone I had not seen in about three years, and after talking a bit asked if I had lost weight. Maybe I should be flattered, but it was a heck of a weight loss regimen!

I tried something a bit different to prepare for supper last night. I chopped up two of the fresh bell peppers my friend brought last week, chopped up a large onion, minced one jalapeno and diced up two Idaho potatoes. I cut up three pieces of bacon and cooked the small pieces. When the bacon pieces were finished, the potatoes were sautéed in the bacon fat, then added the peppers and onions, and cooked for a while, added 1/2 cup of white wine, and a bunch of grape tomatoes and simmered for about 1/2 hour. It was served with the crunchy bacon bits. I thought it was good. Okay, can I eat this way more often? It is not vegetarian (bacon, of course) and I did not figure the calories in the servings, but aiming in this direction might be a good way to go…

Thursday, August 2, 2007

So-called Security, part deux

I visited the Ansonia Social Security (SSA) office today, and met with the snippy Miss Hardy, the field service rep who is handling my SSA-561-U2 appeal. I met with her on June 5, and I have to work with her, I am afraid.

I am to present an offer that might begin negotiations on what SSA calls a “Compromise Settlement.” Unfortunately, my offer will be based on what I can pay in one shot to settle this. In a compromise settlement, no staggered payments can be offered. So I am prepared to offer only what cash we can. Of course, this is a very small amount of the disputed overpayment amount.

First, though, I have already contacted the constituent services office of our US Rep (CT-2nd), and they have agreed to review the particulars of this battle with SSA. Before I respond to SSA, I expect to meet with the constituent services people. The upshot at this time is that the seven-year problem with SSA will be settled soon, somehow. Moreover, of course, being out of work now changes the dynamic somewhat. SSA is going to have to negotiate with me, and since I am not working, this might alter the equation in my favor.

I am not out to bash all government workers, but SSA employs a majority of idiots. Really. I could not explain this situation without taking up too much bandwidth, but suffice to say, I am far more bullish that the SSA issue will be settled in full in the next 60 days. I am happy for that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Motoring things

  1. With my wheelchair comes a big van with a wheelchair lift. This doesn't mean I can't be involved with real guy thing, such as making dump runs. How, you ask? With the lift I can have bulky items loaded easily to drive to the final resting place: an old power chair, a dishwasher and oodles of scrap plywood. Dump runs and guys, a natural. I find amusing that in our town on Saturdays, the landfill closes at 11:45 AM. There is a parade of pickups arriving here at 11:25 or so. I'm sure that these gentleman promised their wives that they would get rid of all this junk today. They of course forgot but remembered at the last possible moment on Saturday ('It's about time' said the significant other...)
  2. Of course, this vehicle is good for picking up stuff as well. We picked up a new desk chair for the lovely Patti. Since we purchased the chair assembled, it was a snap to put it on the lift and into the van. The Staples guy who wheeled it out for us seemed to be impressed as well. His jaw didn't hit the ground exactly, but he was paying attention...
  3. On the TV in the background is all the coverage of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis this afternoon. After watching things like this, twisted metal and crushed cars, it jolts you into not complaining about petty things...