Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ho-ho-ho

After noticing a few other DadBloggers doing this (MetroDad via DadCentric and Mr. Big Dubya also via DadCentric) I wanted to share with all of you (since it IS the season of sharing and giving) my favorite holid— (sorry, let me rephrase that, lest I get a phone call from House Speaker Dennis Hastert) my favorite Christmas movies.

Some classic, some irreverent, and some that’ll make ya ask; ‘How the hell is that a Christmas movie?’

One has to love the Christmas season. The sales, the commercialization (if I see one more reference to Chriskwanzakkah or Festivus, I’m gonna scream… or go postal… or both) and the eerie-workings of a man who knows all and sees all (or as Calvin once put it, “Santa Claus: kindly old elf, or CIA spook?”)

What I really look forward to though is the surfeit of Christmas movies. We all know them and welcome them; those shows and/or movies you see that make you realize that Christmas is just around the corner and will be here before you know it.

So here’s my list of my favorite Christmas movies, complete with links to Internet Movie Database (IMDB)…

How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – My all-time favorite, and I am referring to the animated version, NOT the train wreck of one caused by Ron Howard and Jim Carrey, that one, in the words of Bart Simpson, ‘both sucks and blows’. Boris Karloff is excellent as the narrator, with his unique voice booming classic lines such as “All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did not,” and “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!” Plus, I portrayed the Grinch in a 7th grade play… and I was ‘da bomb’… though back then that phrase meant there was a bomb somewhere…

A Christmas Story” – An 11-year old, a Red Ryder BB gun, Chinese duck for Christmas dinner and the Bumpus hounds. An instant classic (though I have heard that watching 24-hours of the movie will cause one to go mad) that has aged well. And let’s not forget that the kid who played Flick (Scott Schwartz, who also starred in The Toy with Richard Pryor & Jackie Gleason) later became a porn star before retiring in 2000 in order to try and break back into mainstream films… still hasn’t happened.

The Santa Clause” – Tim Allen at his best (and I use that term loosely). Original and funny. The only problem with this is the incredibly inferior sequel, “The Santa Clause 2”. Now comes word that they have made/are making a part 3… God help us all…

Scrooged” – an update of “A Christmas Carol” with a decisive comic-twist and an excellent performance by Bill Murray, Carol Kane and John Forsythe. Best quote from the movie: “The bitch hit me with a toaster.”

A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the music, the dancing, the beautiful oratory by Linus. And let’s face it… when the theme music starts, how many of us start doing the ‘Snoopy dance’… you know what I’m talking about…

It’s a Wonderful Life” – I know, I know. It’s trite and overdone and overly analyzed, and I think it is one of THE most overrated movies to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 films, but having said that… it is a classic, and no Christmas season seems complete without at least one viewing of it. Besides, it’s also fun to turn the volume down and make up your own dialog… and Jimmy Stewart has to be the worst actor/singer not named William Shatner in the history of cinema.

Miracle on 34th Street” – The original from 1947. Not the hokey 1994 version and CERTAINLY NOT the 1973 TV-version with David Hartman (whomever green lit that one should be shot by the way). Pure entertainment; Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood are all phenomenal. It’s simply an amazing film with a very good message: believe in what you want to believe in regardless of what others say. (And let’s hope they don’t remake it again because I know they’d cast Dakota Fanning as the girl, and I would NOT be able to forgive anyone for that… ever…)

Die Hard” – Ok, maybe not ‘technically’ a Christmas movie per se, but think about it… the action occurs on Christmas Eve, has quoting of Santa Claus… and it’s an incredible update of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Yes, you read that right, and if you don’t believe me read MetroDad’s take on it and tell me (and him) we’re wrong. I never thought of it myself until I read his post… and he’s right…

And finally, all the classic, animated/claymation movies like: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “The Year Without a Santa Claus” and “Frosty the Snowman” – Produced by Rankin-Bass and starring such luminaries as Burl Ives (who attended my alma mater Eastern Illinois University and got the art studio named for him), Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Booth. With memorable characters like Yukon Cornelius, Charlie-in-the-Box, Heat Miser and his brother Snow Miser, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Winter Walock, etc. There’s even a boxed set now that I know I better get the Missus or I’ll be sleeping on the couch come Christmas evening.

And as an extra bonus, the WORST Christmas movie ever made…

Christmas with the Kranks” – the most unfunny, convoluted, idiotic, worst-book-to-movie-adaptation, pile of crap EVER put on film. Talk about 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back… (the movie itself is only 1.5 hours, but it took about 30 minutes to regain my intelligence and gray-matter) I could literally feel my brain losing brain cells while watching it. If you ever have an opportunity to throw a movie into a fire, this should be that movie. John Grisham, whose book: Skipping Christmas was the basis for the movie, ought to sue screenwriter Chris Columbus for defamation of talent.

You can mention “Jingle all the Way” and “Surviving Christmas”, but trust me when I say this one has them ALL beat. If you don’t believe me, rent it for yourself and find out the hard way.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A couple days off

After taking a few days off from writing for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I am back on this cool and thoroughly wet Sunday night… well, Sunday while I’m writing this, but Monday by the time I actually post it.

You may be asking yourself what I did these past few days? Well, lemme tell ya:

  • Ate WAY too much turkey, stuffing and potatoes (no yams for me, I just can’t bring myself to eat something that has the same color as Lucille Ball’s hair…) Not to mention too much wine… some really, really good wine though.
  • Watched the hated Dallas Cowboys lose to Denver in Turkey-Day Football. At least one of the two games was entertaining…(why the ‘hated’ Dallas Cowboys? Cuz’ that’s how I was raised; to hate, abhor, detest and loathe the Dallas Cowboys… and Notre Dame)
  • Went Christmas shopping… on Friday afternoon… the day after Thanksgiving… [Shudder] I’m still having nightmares about it…(Though I was NOT one of the crazy people who got up before dawn to shop… and if you were one of the crazies, my apologies. I did get a great deal on my wife’s present though… a new digital camera and printer-dock. And don’t worry, she knows about it already, so her reading this won’t ruin the surprise)
  • Purchased “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” for only $5 at Target and, while watching it, realized that Alfonso CuarĂ³n is a brilliant director…
  • Decided what to get the twins for Christmas. (Ever since their Abuelo, my Dad, got his corvette, they have wanted one. In fact, every time someone asks them what they want for Christmas, they reply; ‘corvette’. So, that’s what they’re getting, a toy, motorized corvette that they can drive around in. And thus the madness begins…)
  • Dropped hints to my wife about what I would like for Christmas… hint: it starts with the letter ‘i’ and ends with the letter ‘d,’ with ‘Po’ in the middle…(I know the best part of Christmas is the giving… and we have gotten friends and family some truly wonderful gifts this year, the same for our daughters, who will be very happy on Christmas morning. Having said that, I dropped hints because she was trolling for present possibilities, and I had to comply… right?)
  • Hung Christmas lights and decorations outside (the weather was so nice I just had to do it Saturday; though I have NOT turned them on yet… and won’t until December 1st. BUT… all the lights are up, my inflatable Homer is up, and the inflatable snowman family is up. I just need to get another extension cord so I can plug them all in and fire ‘em up this Thursday… and not a minute sooner. And yes, for those of you wondering, Homer is me and the other three are my wife and daughters)
  • Found all the inside Christmas decorations, but we can’t put them up yet until we paint the kitchen (the remodeling is finally done) and the dining room this weekend… yay, what fun.
  • Had the twins’ Christmas picture (part 1) taken with the cousins (9 kids… oldest is 13, oungest is 5 months… you can all imagine how that went… [Shudder])
  • Realized, while watching snippets of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, that Tim Burton is taking some truly amazing drugs. How he comes up with some of his visions confounds me…
  • Went to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in Chicago with my wife’s family… all 18 of ‘em. (The circus was entertaining, but I maintain my position that clowns are evil… pure, unadulterated evil…much like this guy)
  • Ordered my daughters a gift that I had wanted to get them for some time. They weren’t available for their birthday, and they had been hard to find for the last few months… then I found a website that had them in stock. What are they you ask? Plush Star Wars lightsabers… one green for the oldest who likes Yoda, and one red for the one who likes Darth Vader. (Yes, they are only three years old and I have already showed them 5 of the 6 films – no Revenge of the Sith yet as I still think a few scenes may be too much for them. I.E. Palpatine’s face getting scarred by his force-lighting, Anakin and his implied-slaying of the Jedi Younglings, a few beheadings… things like that)

That’s about it… well-packed 4-day break if you ask me.

Back to work on Monday… with only 26 days until Christmas…no need to panic just yet…

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shout Out!

"As God as my witness... I thought turkeys could fly..."

To you and yours, have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Flashback of Babies (Part 2)

PART 2

Immediately I ran over to talk to my boss and he, seeing the look on my face, told me to get the hell out of there...

Already having a phone list and an order in which to call people the minute I got into my car. First call: my mother-in-law in Kankakee. I call her, and tell her the babies were here.

At first, she did not believe me, thinking that I was pulling a prank (for those of you wondering; yes, I could see myself doing that) But, after hearing my voice and checking her caller id and seeing a University of Chicago phone number, she stated that she and my father-in-law would leave as soon as he got home from work in about 10 minutes.

I then called my parents and they jumped in their car and began the 4-hour trip to Chicago from St. Louis to see their first (two) grandchildren.

Worried that I, or any other family member, was not going to be there when my wife woke up, I called my brother (a professor) at his DePaul University office in downtown Chicago. Without a moment’s hesitation, he hopped into a cab and rushed over to the hospital to be with his sister-in-law when she woke up. (For that, my wife and I can never thank him enough.)

Because this was, in medical terms, a ‘Crash C-Section’, my wife was put to sleep and an IV inserted. Dr. Ismail was at a meeting elsewhere on campus and, from what we were told, bolted out of the meeting when he was told the Mono/Mono twins were coming. He got there in time and delivered them both, skillfully and with a very modest incision, at 4:19 PM on May 22, 2002.

My wife and I were told later that ‘Baby A’ came out crying and that ‘Baby B’ came out floppy and unresponsive – meaning she had to be given oxygen immediately after birth. Additionally, there were five/six knots in her cord and a twin-to-twin transfusion had occurred. She was the baby that began to decell upstairs.

My twins came into the world at 4 pounds, 14 ounces and 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Very good weights for 8-week premature, mono/mono twins.

I arrived at the hospital about 2 hours after I heard the initial call at home – traffic, of course, being worse than usual. I parked the car and ran (faster than I have ever run before) into the hospital. Upon entering the Lying-In center, I saw my brother walking out of the Labor and Delivery department while reaching for his cell phone. My wife had woken up and was very happy to see a family member staring back at her, even though they did mistake him for the father and showed him a picture of the (very large) placenta…that is something that I know he will never forget. Exchange between him and an intern: “Ever seen a placenta that large?” “Not since breakfast.”

Because my wife had had an emergency c-section, she was, essentially, knocked out and woozy for the rest of the day/night. This meant that she would not be able to see our children until the next day. Again, my brother to the rescue.

He is an amatuer photographer, never leaves home without his camera, and had already taken a plethora of pictures of the girls. So he went out and got then developed so my wife could see them. Why is this special you ask? Well, the University of Chicago Hospital is NOT in the best neighborhood of Chicago... so it was a tad, I don't want to say dangerous... but you get the idea, for him to walk the streets to get some pictures developed... but got them developed he did, and my wife and I truly appreciated it.

The next three and a half weeks my daughters were living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Chicago Hospital while my wife and I lived next door in the Ronald McDonald house. The care they received at the NICU was above par and words cannot express how much they were cared for and tended to. The care my wife and I received at the Ronald McDonald House was also phenomenal and has become our number one charity to give and ask donations for... (hint, hint)

On the first day they were both on oxygen and had a feeding tube with 'Baby A' having her oxygen taken out first, followed by Baby B the next day. The feeding tubes stayed in about a week.

Additionally, both girls were in incubators in order to keep their temperature maintained and to monitor their heart and pulse. Every time the alarm went off, my wife and I immediately jumped, but the nurses, knowing how sensitive those things were, calmly checked on them and then sedated us.

After one week, they both started to feed off a bottle and were not receiving any oxygen assistance.

The girls had many tests while they were in the hospital, and passed each one with flying colors. The only issue was that one of them (the one born floppy and unresponsive) was having some trouble maintaining her temperature at times, but, since that was the only issue, they decided that the girls could be released. They would be moved from the NICU at the University of Chicago to the NICU at our home hospital, Provena St. Mary’s. (I would have preferred Riverside, but we all know how insurance companies are...)

The day of their move, the girls were each placed in a portable incubator (that looked like it was a centuries-old iron lung) and placed in an ambulance with drivers who obviously had no idea how to drive. My wife rode home with them in the ambulance while I followed in our 'chase' car.
After being at St. Mary’s for two days, they were both maintaining their temperature and overall doing well, so they were released and sent home.

The effect of a pregnancy on couples can be anything: profound, disconcerting, inspiring, and problematic. But when you see their faces for the first time, it all dissolves away. Our (read: my wife’s) pregnancy had its share of problems; but the final results were, in no elongation, totally worth it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Flashback of Babies

Reading on ChildsplayX2’s website about another fellow blogger’s twins being born (Matt @ Abbie Update), I thought I would post our story, in 2 parts. Read, and enjoy.

My wife and I were married on April 5, 1997 and began trying to start a family in the fall of 1999.

In April 2001, with a year and a half spent with a local doctor and NO success, we decided to seek an expert opinion and, based on a friend’s recommendation and success, my wife contacted the University of Chicago Hospital and was referred to Dr. Eric Bieber, a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. During my wife’s first appointment the ultrasound showed numerous cysts on her ovaries and speculated that she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, a condition that goes grossly undetected in many women.

On November 8th, my wife went to Dr. David Cohen's office (Dr. Bieber left the University of Chicago and Dr. Cohen took over his practice) and had a blood test that confirmed a pregnancy, saying that she was 5 weeks, 1 day along. The first ultra sound was ordered for November 16th at the University of Chicago. During that ultra sound it showed one yolk sac and that she was 5 weeks, 3 days along. They scheduled us to come back a week later for another ultrasound to see if a heartbeat could be detected.

On November 23, 2001, the day after Thanksgiving, we returned to the University of Chicago for the follow-up ultrasound. This time, the doctor, nurse and my wife and I saw and heard something that was somewhat surprising: the sight of two yolk sacs, and the thumping of two heartbeats.

We could not believe it. My wife and I always knew that twins were a possibility with us. They run in her family (her maternal Grandmother having the first set some 30 years prior) and the fact that we were using fertility drugs. The doctors told us that our twins were the result of genetics and not the drugs.

After the appointment, we got back in our car and, not able to contain our joy, called our parents to inform them that they were getting not one grandchild, but rather, two of them. (Numbers 5 & 6 for my wife’s parents, numbers 1 & 2 for mine)

After that ultrasound, my wife was released back to her local Dr in Kankakee. On December 12th, 9 weeks pregnant, my wife experienced some bleeding. The two of us went to her local Dr's office the next day and had an ultra sound done at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee. During the ultra sound they were unable to see any space between the twins and thought the twins were conjoined. The Dr’s office called and scheduled a Stage Two ultrasound at the University of Chicago for the next day. Talk about the longest waiting period in our lives – exacerbated more by a sense of fear and feelings of what might be.

We went back to the University of Chicago the next day for the Stage Two ultra sound. Dr. Abramowicz (head of the ultra sound department at the University of Chicago and another fine doctor) confirmed for us that they were not conjoined but told us for the first time that they were Monoamniotic/ Monochorionic (mono/mono) twins.

(A Monoamniotic pregnancy is when each embryo or fetus from one single zygote ( commonly known as identical twins) is located within the same amnion which is itself in one chorion (Monochorionic). Sharing the same amnion (or the same amnion and placenta) can cause complications in pregnancy. For example, the umbilical cords of monoamniotic twins can become entangled, reducing or interrupting the blood supply to the developing fetus or becoming wrapped around the others’ neck. A mono/mono pregnancy occurs when a zygote (egg) splits after the 5th week)

Dr. Cohen was informed of this discovery, contacted my wife and referred her to a high-risk ob-gyn at the University of Chicago. Dr. Cohen also told her what to expect over the next few months, saying that she would need constant follow-up, no traveling past the first trimester, and hospitalization weeks before delivery.

My wife’s high-risk ob-doctor was Dr. Mahmaud Ismail. He was brilliant! (Both my wife and I suggest anyone who is pregnant with mono/mono twins in the Chicago area go to him. He is a very religious and very "human" doctor who made my wife and I very comfortable)

Dr. Ismail worked right along with my wife’s local Dr in Kankakee. Our first appointment with Dr. Ismail was on January 7, 2002; she was 12 weeks, 5 days pregnant. My wife saw her local doctor (or one of their associates) every two weeks and went to see Dr. Ismail once a month for an ultra sound. At 23 weeks, Dr. Ismail became her primary doctor. After her appointment with Dr. Ismail that week, he called two days later and ordered her on strict bed-rest at home. She had worked up to her 23rd.

Starting with the 24th week of pregnancy, my wife began to see Dr. Ismail once a week for an ultra sound – the only activity she could do on home bed-rest. She had failed her one-hour glucola test and had to have the three-hour test, which she passed the first time.

During the 25th week appointment my wife had an ultra sound to check the twins’ movement and fluid. All was fine. On April 8 (3 days after our 5th wedding anniversary), she returned for another doctors appointment and ultra sound. On this day she was feeling very, very sick.
My wife’s morning sickness had lasted for the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy and on this day she felt like it had come back with reinforcements. During the routine appointment, they performed a Non-Stress Test (NST) and an ultrasound. Before Dr. Ismail even walked into the room, he told my wife and her father that he was admitting her to the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy.

(I was not present for this appointment, deciding along with My wife that I would forgo this appointment so I could save my time-off for when the babies came home…if I knew then what I know now. That also, coincidentally, was the day my co-workers threw my wife and I a Baby Shower. Was this a prophecy of some kind?)

My wife and I knew that this was going to happen, but not so soon. She was admitted into Labor/Delivery because she had the flu and they were concerned about the babies. They instantly started her on a regime of steroid shots and told her that they might have to deliver the girls soon. Her first night in the hospital they were able to stabilize her and the babies. Throughout the time she was hospitalized, she was hooked up to a heart monitor that tracked each baby’s heartbeats.

They moved her to the Perionatal Special Care Unit for constant fetal monitoring the next day. It was during the second night that one of the girls decided to de-cell (the heart rate suddenly dropped) and they rushed them back to Labor and Delivery where she then spent the next three weeks with very limited movement. She was not allowed to get up to shower, use the restroom or go off the monitors. If one of the girls was not traceable, the medical students, residents and/or nurses were in the room immediately with the ultra sound machines. On average, my wife was having 4 to 5 ultra sounds a day.

Every Monday my wife had a “routine” stage 2 ultrasound. Each one showed that the girls were growing and doing well. When we were in our 29th week of pregnancy, My wife was moved back to the peritoneal ward and was given permission to be off the monitors for 1 hour each day, still with continual ultra sounds. At 31 weeks, a stage two ultrasound showed each twin was close to, or over, 4 pounds. They repeated the glucola test and she tested positive for gestational diabetes, immediately she was given insulin only when her sugar levels were high. After three days of this, they decided to give her insulin twice a day.

On Sunday, May 19, we were 32 weeks. That Monday, May 20th, my wife and I were told that we had entered a very crucial and very critical week. Her privilege of being off the monitors was revoked and she was back to being monitored 24 hours a day with limited movement. Dr. Ismail’s desire was to get the babies to 34 weeks before delivery, scheduling her for a c-section at 33 weeks, 4 days on May 30th. Also on Monday, May 20th, they started her on a second round of steroid shots.

On Wednesday, May 22nd, my wife had another stage two ultra sound in the morning - the girls and their cords looked great! She ate lunch, and was feeling fine. Around 3:30 pm, one of the girls went off the monitor, the nurse assigned to my wife came in, and without any success in finding the heartbeat, paged the resident who came in with the ultra sound machine. The resident also could not locate the babies’ heartbeat at first - once she did, one of them was falling very quickly. They rushed her back down to Labor and Delivery under the guise of doing another stage 2 ultrasound. My wife tried calling me at work, then tried calling her mom at home… neither of us answered.

She delivered both girls at 4:19 pm on Wednesday, May 22nd. I was not around, nor was any of our family. I had gotten up from my desk at work to grab some coffee before I started my nightly trek to Chicago from Aurora, IL to see her. When I got back to my desk my voicemail light was lit, yet there was no message. Sensing something was wrong; I called home to check our voicemail. At 4:33 PM, I heard the message from one of the residents, Dr. Karp, saying that my wife had been taken down to Labor and Delivery for an emergency c-section and that she and the babies were doing well.

My daughters had arrived…

END OF PART 1. CONTINUED TOMORROW…

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You're kidding me, right?

No, I am not kidding. I am 100% serious... it is on its way.

What is? Christmas. And herein lies the problem.

Let me get this out of the way and just say that I like Christmas. In fact, I have nothing against Christmas as a holiday and as a Christian holy day. I don’t even have anything against Christmas becoming commercially crass in the last few years (Evolution baby! “Intelligent design” that, Pat Robertson!) as it was bound to happen.

Having said that, I feel I must rant about this topic, as if I don’t, I may very well have my head explode.

It is WAY too early for Christmas commercials… way, WAY to early.

It is to early for Christmas displays in department and retail stores.

It is to early to hear Christmas ‘muzak’ coming out over the loudspeakers.

There, I’ve said it.

I feel a little better now… actually I don’t. While watching football yesterday, I saw so many Christmas commericals I could feel my holiday anger and anxiety grow.

It is six weeks away… six freakin’ weeks!!!

Six weeks is too far in advance to see a little girl leaving an Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion out for Jolly Old Saint Nick. (and let’s just think about THAT for a moment. Do you really want Santa to be eating a great big glob of grease before he slides down your chimney? Ewww)…

… or to see beautiful people dancing around tossing gift boxes around for to push Target…

… or to see the plethora of toy commericals that, with every one, brings the inevitable uttering from at least one of my three-year old twins’ mouths: ‘Daddy, I want one of those.’ Never mind that the last one was for snow tires…

This past week, I saw houses putting up Christmas lights (never mind the one house I pass on my way to work, on a daily basis, who decided this past week to take down their icecicle lights… from last year! At this point in the game… wouldn’t it make more sense to leave them up?) I saw people taking down their Halloween lights (a separate rant altogether) and stringing up their Christmas lights. Now, this one I can almost forgive, as I almost did the same thing so I could get them up while the weather was nice and warm’ish’… but I wouldn’t turn them on yet, I wouldn’t even set up the extension cords yet… but these people turned them on THAT night…

I mean, shouldn’t there be a law? That is one reason I would want to become President, so I could pass a law making it a federal crime to put up Christmas decorations, play Christmas music or Christmas ads, or have Christmas sales until AFTER Thanksgiving.

Who's with me?? Leave me a comment and let me know.

It’s still 6 weeks away! Can I, for the love of all that is holy, get through Thanksgiving before I have to get inundated and see lights and holiday traffic coming out the yin-yang?

I understand marketing and advertising, but the commercials can start the Monday of Thanksgiving week, since that Friday is the big shopping day. That I would allow.

The rest of it though has to wait until AFTER I have gotten my fair share of L-Tryptophan, watched football and taken my nap!

I mean, come on now.

And why, when I hear the word turkey, do I think of... never mind, I'll save that comment for another blog.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Today's Shameless Plug


If someone as smart as Albert Einstein were to read The Bush-Whacked Administration, shouldn't you?

Friday, November 11, 2005

SHOUT-OUT!

Today is Veterans' Day, and while I could post about our brave men and women who have been fighting and dying for our freedom, I won't. Rather I will give a great big shout out with a very, very, very, very big:

THANK YOU!!

And special shout outs to Veterans in my own family: My Uncles Jimmy, Eladio, Henry & Warren, my cousin Tom, my father-in-law Bill and my brother-in-law Frank. Thank you all.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

The Great Lakes cover over 90,000 square miles and supply one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, with Lake Superior being the largest. The Chippewa Indians call Lake Superior “Kitchi-gummi” which means “great-water”. Later discovered by French explorers who named the lake, “le lac superieur”, which translates to upper lake.

Lake Superior is one of the busiest shipping lanes in North America and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway. More than 1000 ships travel its waters each year landing either in the port of Duluth in the United States or Thunder Bay in Canada. Lake Superior is also large enough that it has considerable effect on the weather, especially when winds blow across its surface. Duluth sees over 50 days of fog between spring and fall and sometimes during a particularly cold winter the entire lake will freeze over. Another weather phenomenon common to the region, and particularly to Lake Superior, are the sometimes-vicious “northeasters”, which are gales that occur (mostly in November) and are formed when intense low pressure systems pass over the lake, thus creating hurricane-force winds that churn up enormous waves.

(Locals refer to these storms as “the witch of November.” It’s little wonder that the bottom of Lake Superior is littered with the skeletons of no less than 350 ships, most of them falling victim to the temperamental November ‘witch’)

That’s fascinating Kemp, but why the hell are you telling us all of this? And why the hell so many links?

Simple. Today (Thursday, November 10, 2005) is the 30th Anniversary of the most famous sinking on Superior (as well as the most baffling): that of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is a story that has always interested me and I knew, after realizing that the anniversary was today, that I had to write about it and give all you loyal readers the means to find out more, thus the superfluity of linkage.

The Fitzgerald was one of the largest lake vessels of her kind at 729 feet long, 75 feet wide and with a cargo capacity of 27,500 tons. The 7,500 horsepower engines were built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and helped the ship set different shipping records.

The captain was Earnest MacSorley and gale warnings had already been issued when MacSorley steered the Edmund Fitzgerald, loaded down with taconite, out of Superior, Wisconsin’s docks shortly after 2PM. Meanwhile what looked like a typical November storm was intensifying. On the morning of November 10, heavy rain was falling and winds were gusting from the Northwest in excess of 60 mph as the storm tracked toward Canada, pummeling the Fitzgerald. A little after 3PM that same afternoon, Captain MacSorley reported that his ship was suffering damage and listing. At that time, another ship (The S.S. Arthur M. Anderson) that was sailing close to the Fitzgerald, agreed to stay close until they reached the calmer waters of Whitefish Bay.

In less than a half hour, the storm intensified with wind gusts clocking in at over 100 miles per hour. Shortly thereafter MacSorley again called in to the Anderson, and reported that the ship had lost all radar. Both ships continued on through the worsening conditions, the Anderson keeping track of the Edmund Fitzgerald on her radar screen. By early evening, around 7PM, meteorologists believe the storm’s pressure reached its lowest point; this combined with energy from the jet stream and created a series of enormous waves that first slammed into the Anderson and then into the Fitzgerald. The Anderson sustained damage but survived the onslaught and immediately The captain of the Anderson, Jesse Cooper, radioed the Edmund Fitzgerald to warn the crew of what to expect. The last words that came from Captain MacSorley were, “We are holding our own”.

Ten minutes later, around 7:25 PM… the big freighter had disappeared from all radar screens and the ‘witch’ had claimed yet another victim.

The day after the wreck, Mariners' Church in Detroit rang its bell 29 times, once for each life lost, a memorial that continues to this day. Every year on the anniversary, the church reads the names of the crewmen and rings the church bell.

An investigation by the Coast Guard suggested that the Edmund Fitzgerald had likely suffered enough initial damage that she began taking on water, causing the ship to list. Already unstable, the Fitzgerald was unable to ride out the onslaught of the massive waves once the northeaster worsened and she foundered, plunging to the bottom of Lake Superior with enough force to snap her in half. That report proved controversial, with the most common alternate theory contending that inoperative radar forced the crew to rely on maps that were woefully inacurate and, as a result, the Fitzgerald ran aground on a shoal without the crew knowing it and received bottom damage, thus causing it to gradually take on water until it sank.

The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies rusting under 550 feet of water. None of the sailors bodies were ever recovered. On July 4, 1995, a submarine expedition salvaged the ship’s bell and replaced it with another (as a tribute to the sailors and their families) with the date of the disaster and the names of the dead engraved on it. The bell is on display at the Whitefish Point museum near Paradise, Michigan.

The mystery of exactly how and why the Edmund Fitzgerald sank has never been discovered and the attachment of the ship and the story lives on, helped by the Gordon Lightfoot song: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” (lyrics to the song can be found here)

After reading a piece about the sinking in Newsweek, Lightfoot was inspired to write one of the signature songs of his lengthy career (and also one of his greatest hits) that turned into an improbable Top 40 smash.

Maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse, when speaking about the song, states: “In large measure, his song is the reason we remember the Edmund Fitzgerald. That single ballad has made such a powerful contribution to the legend of the Great Lakes.”

Three decades after the tragedy, the Fitzgerald remains the most famous of the 6,000 ships that disappeared on the Great Lakes. And the reasons for its sinking will probably never be known.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Busch Stadium Update



On the third day of the demolition of Busch stadium in Saint Louis, the structure now has a huge hole on the south side as the demolition gets in full swing. Check back on my blog for periodic updating on the status of the demolition.

It pains me to see this, but I know the new stadium will be just as breathtaking.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Went to a building demolition and a chess match broke out...


All you St. Louis Cardinals fans out there reading this, I have one question to ask you:

How many more times are we going to have to say goodbye to old Busch Stadium?

How many times are we going to gather around this old cement and steel edifice and pay homage to an old ballpark that just doesn't seem to want to go away quietly?A few scant months after its first, “regular season” goodbye, and just weeks after its final goodbye game (let’s not talk about the outcome here please… I’m still a tad upset about it… I mean… come on! Houston!? The freakin’ Astros???? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FU***** KIDDING ME!!!!!…Sorry, lost my head there for a moment. I’m okay now), A mere hours after it was supposed to be bid adieu by a colossal wrecking ball, the ol’ gal was still standing firmly and in one piece early Monday evening.

Thousands of Cardinals loyalists, cameras flashing, milled about outside the stadium, peeking through the fences and trying (in vain) to catch a glimpse of what was supposed to be a monumental destruction by a monumental wrecking ball.

What they saw… was incredibly anti-climactic. Monday, November 7, 2005 was supposed to be the day that Busch Memorial Stadium (Part Two) met its maker in order to make way for Busch Memorial Stadium Part Three. I mean, this was the day the wrecking ball was supposed to drop down with a virtuous fury and give the world a dramatic scene of a crumbling of a 39-year-old sports palace.After the first swing happened (it wasn’t even a swing… it was a drop) there was nary a nick on the stadium.

It didn't explode.

It didn't crumble.

It didn't crack.

It didn’t collapse (which can’t be said for the 2005 Cardinals…I mean come on! The Astros???? … sorry, lost my head again… I’m ok now)

Just after 3 p.m. you could see the big ball hanging just above the stadium roof, like a 1,000-pound pendulum (where’s a pit when you need one?) slowly swaying to and fro from the monster crane that was positioned inside the ballpark.One could just imagine what was to come next; a dramatic and colossal obliteration of a historical baseball relic.

Walls would cave in.

Roofs would crumble.

Witnesses would ooh and aah… (and maybe even shed a tear?)

Then again… maybe not.

Three ...

two ...

ONE…

[KERPLUNK!]
It did not crash.

It did not ram.

It did not rumble.

People came, I got online to watch, just so I can see the ‘breathless annihilation.’

But as the ball fell toward its target, all anyone got (whether you were standing there in person or watching it online like I was) was a weak and unspectacular... 'kerplunk.'

I didn't get online at work for… a ‘kerplunk.’

I wanted action damn-it!
I wanted a crash!!!!
I wanted a ka-blewie!!
I wanted a slow rumble…then a crumble…then a swoosh of falling concrete.

But no… what I got, what we ALL got, was a ‘kerplunk.’

This was a letdown of epic proportions.

I mean; it was more a letdown than the series finale of “Seinfeld”. It was more a letdown than the viewing audience for this year’s World Series. It was even more of a letdown than “President” Bush has been for an alarmingly large segment of Republicans that voted for him last November…

People came looking for drama… looking for action.

Not for a ‘kerplunk.’

Friday, November 04, 2005

Labels... (not the kind on clothes, the human kind)

Read an entry like this on another blog (and for the life of me I can't remember which one - otherwise I would give credit where credit is due) and decided it was something that touched me as well... so here ya go, my version.

I've never generally thought of myself "as" a particular something. Not as an ops manager (my career), not as a political/humor/educational essayist (something I am enjoying doing now), not as an especially deep-thinker (what can I say, I love The Simpsons). Of all the identities and labels (see, a tie-in to the title) that I've worn in my brief stopover on this hunk of rock we call Earth, the only one I truly have felt perfectly comfortable wearing has been that... of Dad.

For the most part I am comfortable being a father. Weird as that sounds, considering I've only been a father for a little over three years, I find more enjoyment, more excitement, and more keenness out of fatherhood, then anything else I've ever done. It is not because of any particular outstanding achievement on my part. As a father, I'm run-of-the-mill material, maybe more involved then some, maybe not. In all probability, I'm probably fairly average with regards to my generation. To put it another way; I muddle through.

Practically anyone can have a child (and God knows, some people who shouldn’t have children do, but I have no control or power over that… yet) but to truly be a father involves more then just supplying half the genetics. You have to like being a father. And that means liking the wholeness of it. The essence of it, not just the playtime with your kids or the joy on their faces on Christmas morning, but all of it - the endless face-cleaning, screaming, clamor, arm-pulling, vomit-cleaning, potty-training, broken plate, "who the heck did that", "stop pulling the dogs tail" crying, shrieking, laughing mess of it all.

You have to like it. It has to be a part of who you are and what you are.I guarantee, that if you can embrace it, you will never look in your mirror again without seeing a reflection of that essence in your eyes, or in your viewpoint on life.Granted (and this can serve as a warning to all the father-to-be’s and father wannabes out there)… not all of it will be fun.

You can't be awakened for three nights in a row at 1:00 am with a sick child who just threw-up, not only on the last set of clean sheets in the house but on her sister... (and on her stuffed animals... on the dog who had to run in to see what the hub-bub was... on the floor... on the walls... you get the picture) and necessarily enjoy it, but....you need to be able to deal with it and deal with it well.

You have to be able to deal with it in a...dare I say it...’professional’ style. (Let’s face it, you may not like your work or career choice from day-to-day either, but it’s the certain elements of the job that inspire you, that uplift you, that bring you enjoyment, success and excitement. Though they may only be on occasional instances and not the whole. But these things color your choice, inspire your interest, and keep you fighting the good fight)

Fatherhood feels somewhat like that.

You feel it most when you are with your child. Last week I took my daughters to one of the parks near us (Only I went because my wife was painting our family room. Why was she painting it you ask? Because I suck at painting... at least that’s what I like to make her believe, but that’s fodder for another entry on another day)

I had the girls at the park, sliding down the big slides, swinging on the swings (sense a theme here?) and running around.

After doing this for about an hour we stopped (Dad isn’t as young as he used to be) and I proceeded to load them into the car for the quick trip home. As I’m climbing into the drivers seat, I spotted the two of them watching me, peeking under their Eastern Illinois University sweatshirt hoods, to see what I was doing.

They were just watching me.

Watching… their dad… with a smile on their face.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Kemp's House of Useless Knowledge

The dot over the letter 'i' is called a tittle.