Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No Sleep 'Til . . .

I just read an article (here) about a guy named Tony Wright. He is, at this very moment (Wednesday night), attempting to break the sleep deprivation record. He is coming up on three whole days awake.

The current record was set back in 1964. A 17 year old named Randy Gardner went 264 hours without sleep. Tony Wright thinks he can beat this.

If you want to follow along and see if the record falls, you can watch it live via a web cam. Click here. From the looks of it, I guess he's just going to play pool for the next few days.

Of course, not sleeping does all kinds of weird stuff to your body and your mind so maybe we can witness a mental breakdown or something!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Vacation Ends

Well, that's it!

I decided to drive home today (Saturday) so I will have one day to recover from vacation before the shock of going back to work.

Alex and I ended the trip on a high note (weather excluded) by taking Jacob and Lauren to a Toledo Mudhens game Friday night.

Unfortunately, the only interest the kids had in the game was the M & M's Alex brought for them. Oh yeah, and the popcorn and pretzel. But they did well, considering the game started after their normal bed time, the temperature was below 50 degrees, and it was between misting and drizzling most of the time.

The highlight was when Jacob and Alex went "potty." Lauren and I were standing over the right field corner when a foul ball came rolling towards us. The Mudhen's right fielder picked it up and tossed it to us! Both of us were shocked.

I had to break the news to Jacob when he got back that he missed Uncle Joe catching a ball.

It gets even better after that! We left the game around the sixth inning and, on the way to the car, we found another game ball on the sidewalk! Both Jacob and Lauren ended up with baseballs.

The kids were so excited that they didn't even sleep on the ride home until we were almost in the driveway. Lauren was taking everything we said and repeating it over and over. It was pretty funny. She may have been delirious from being so far past bedtime.

So that's it. Vacation's over. I have a million other stories (really, a million!) to share so will have to add them to the blog before they drift from my memory. This Ohio trip has been the most fun and I even got some relaxation in during "quiet time" in the afternoon.

Now let's see if I can deal with going back to work on Monday!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Vacation Begins

Can we talk about something other than the Yankees?

For those of you who are not baseball fans, this was not the best weekend for the Yanks. My brother and I were excited to watch three games against the Red Sox all with national TV coverage so we get to see them here in Ohio. And in every game, the Yankees were embarrassed by the Red Sox.

Friday night Mariano Rivera blew a save, after a great pitching performance by Andy Pettitte and two home runs from A-Rod. Sunday night, the Yankees gave up four straight home runs to Red Sox batters enabling the first sweep of the Yankees at Fenway since 1990. Great.

OK, enough about that. The Yankees are playing the Devil Rays tonight so I'm fairly certain their fortunes will change for the better.

Who wants to hear about Ohio?

I left my house Friday morning at exactly 4:20 AM (on 4/20) and didn't stop until I was at the Waffle House in Scranton, PA, 200 miles later. I really was tired on that leg of the trip, but there was very little traffic (I wonder why at that hour?!?!) and the time flew by.

As a lot of you know, I couldn't wait to get to the Waffle House. I walked in and was immediately greeted with a "Good Morning!" and I answered, "I'm so glad to see you!"
I sat at the counter overlooking the grill and it was definitely worth the drive. The food, coffee, and service were exceptional. I made sure to tell them I would be back next Sunday.

The rest of the drive to Ohio was surprisingly uneventful and easy. I made it to Bowling Green at about 3:30 PM with no back pain and I only used about 1-1/3 tanks of gas.

I unpacked, ate dinner, and then Alex and I went out to Grumpy Dave's to see a band composed of a some of his students. I think Alex was as tired as I was.

It was a fun night and we made it until about 1:00 AM. I got to meet a lot of his students (they all called him "Dr. Goberman"!) and they were extremely nice. Alex quit after two beers but I kept going until we left. I did feel a little old hanging out with all these college students, but Alex and I enjoyed reminiscing about our college days.
Morning came early on Saturday but we had plans for the Toledo Zoo. Alex, Jacob, Lauren, and I went (we even remembered the stroller this time!). Both kids have been to this zoo many times so they know exactly where they want to go. Jacob read the map and was our tour guide.

The highlight for me was watching Jacob and Lauren on the carousel. Lauren was very hesitant about getting on and she was hanging on for dear life when it started spinning, but she loved it! I was really proud of her for keeping up with her big brother.

After a stop at "Old" McDonald's and a little quiet time, the rest of the afternoon was spent playing outside on the playset and in the sandbox.

What a first 24 hours in Ohio! As always, the kids a great and Alex and Claire couldn't be better hosts. They always made me feel comfortable. And, of course, Eli is the cutest 2-month old in the world!

It's Monday night now and Alex and I are heading out to Kroger's for some Vernor's and ice cream (which I just learned is called a Boston Cooler). I'll try to post tomorrow about our Sunday and Monday adventures (including a train ride and fire trucks!).


Wow- it's already Monday and I haven't posted anything about my trip yet!

We have been so busy that I am only about half way done uploading my pictures from my first day here. I don't know how Alex and Claire do it- these kids never stop moving!

Anyway, Alex and I now have my web stream working from his house so check it out below. I'll try to keep it on when we're home (which isn't often!).

I have uploaded some videos to youtube from Saturday. My favorite is below. I was having the kids call me "Uncle Tater" in public to see if anyone would look at us funny.

Click here for more videos. In some of them you can see Eli smiling, which he just learned to do in the past few days.

Now I'm off to school with Jacob and Lauren. We're taking a field trip to the fire house!

Free Live Webcams - solution by Camstreams

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Travelling Man

When I travel by car, I look forward to the drive as much as anything.

From the first day I got my license, I would drive anywhere just to say I did it. I had a sweet deal, too- I could use my dad's company car any time I wanted and they paid for all the gas. Can you imagine that?

Of course, it was too good to be true. After I crashed the car head-on in to a tree, I was banned from the company car.

So I bought my own car. I picked up a 1984 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser which previously used by the Clinton Police Department as car 13. As long as I could afford to put gas in it (14 miles per gallon), the highways were mine.

In college, my friends and I took many road trips. We drove to Washington D.C. in the middle of the night, walked up the steps of the Capital building, then turned around and drove back to school. I drove to Florida a few times. One time I just woke up on the Saturday of spring break, told my mom I was going to Daytona, and left that morning. She thought I was crazy.

And for all the trips I made, I used a pocket map of the United States. I would look at it and think, "It's only 1/2 inch on the map, how long can that take?" Of course, the scale of the map would mean that it would take many hours to travel the "1/2 inch."

Today, I don't travel anywhere without planning the drive ahead of time. I gather maps, printed directions, my cell phone, and at least two water bottles. And with gas nearly $3.00 per gallon, it's cheaper to fly most places than drive anyway.

I viewed a web site recently about a guy who left work at 5:00 PM on a Friday, visited all 50 states on his week-long vacation, and was back to his job at 8:00 AM Monday morning. He drove a rental car to all 48 of the contiguous states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii.

He drove over 8500 miles, stopped for gas 22 times, and the whole trip cost about $2750. In order to hit all the states in just over a week, he had to drive about 1100 miles per day.

Pretty amazing. You can read all about it
here, how he planned for it here, and he answers many of the questions he's been asked about the trip here.

I think the part I like best about the trip is that he didn't tell any of his co-workers about it beforehand. He just left work on Friday and started driving. It wasn't until after the drive and he was back at work that he told people about it.

A little lower on the coolness scale, is the story of a man named Winter, who has "dedicated his life" to visiting every Starbucks in the world. A DVD about his quest named Starbucking is being released this month. Read more
here and watch the trailer below.

Happy Trails!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Uncle Jay Explains the News

I missed a week of Uncle Jay Explains so here are two of them:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday, Rainy Sunday

Another washout today.

Rain, rain go away,
Joe and his kayak wanna play.

I don't think the weather around here can get any worse. We have had about a month of cold and rainy weather. It's spring for crying out loud. The temperatures are supposed to be close to 60 degrees.

About a month ago, one of the weathermen (or as they like to be called, meteorologists) said that we have a cold and stormy pattern developing in the Northeast and it looks like it is going to stay around for awhile. I laughed it off, thinking that, this time of year, when the sun is out, the temperatures shoot up to the 60's at least.

Well, for once the weathermen were right. Since then, the weather has been horrible.
Yesterday, I tried to go kayaking but the wind was blowing too hard.

Today, we are having a major Nor'easter in Connecticut. Right now it is snowing in northern Connecticut. Later this afternoon, the winds are supposed to be up to 50 miles per hour with flooding rains. Of course, the weathermen try to
hype up every storm to be bigger than it really is, but at least some people put it in perspective.

This coming week, the forecast is for showers on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday!

How about a little humor to shake this gloomy weather?

Here's Will Ferrell in a short film called The Landlord:

Do you like puppets?

Here is Jeff Dunham with Walter:

More puppets?

This is Kevin Johnson with two of his friends:

Keep dry!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sports Videos

Whenever I see an interesting video on the internet (and I watch a lot of them), I save it for future use on my blog.

I have so many saved, I'll probably never post all of them. I think that some subject will come up that I can write about and incorporate the videos. Most of the time this doesn't happen.

In any case, here are a few of the videos I have enjoyed (or cringed at) recently.

This first one is a high school cheerleading highlight video by a guy named Simon. I used to know a male cheerleader when I was at UConn and, regardless of my preconceived ideas about male cheerleaders, he was a jerk. He was always bragging about how he worked out harder than any of the basketball players, how he could bench press more weight, run farther, and on and on. He was actually a little chubby, so I don't know if he was telling the truth or not. I kind of doubt it.

Here's the video:

Next is a video of a couple of Washington Wizards NBA players having a three-point shooting contest during practice. The players are Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson. Arenas shoots one-handed, then acts like fool while Stevenson is shooting, but they are both pretty good shooters.

This video is from a slam dunk contest in Europe (?) where a white player tries to slam over a woman from the crowd. She should have known better:

The last video has to do with the most upstanding citizen, "Pac-Man" Jones. He is one of the worst of the worst when it comes to NFL players and crime. This video is definitely R-rated, so watch it at your own risk.

Oh, yeah, and Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

R.I.P. Grandma

My grandmother died.

96 years old! She broke her hip a few months ago and was home mending from that. According to my dad, she began having trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital where she passed away.

I know it sounds really mean, but I haven't talked to her in 15 years or so. The last time I saw her was at one of my brother's wedding- I don't even remember which one.
I know many kids are close to their grandparents and with both parents working, sometimes the grandparents practically raise the kids.

My relationship with my grandmother was not like that. She lived in Jacksonville, Florida from the time I was born, so the only time I saw her was when she would visit for a few weeks in the summer.

She was a great person. She lived on her own until a few years ago, was very active in her community and loved peace.

Unfortunately, she drove my whole family crazy when she visited. My poor mom dreaded the times she would stay at our house. Of course, my dad would leave for work early every day and my mom would be stuck with his mother all day long. These were very stressful times in my house.

Some memories of my grandmother:

My family visited her at her home in Jacksonville one August and my cousins were running wild inside (where there was air conditioning). One of them knocked over her TV set, causing my grandmother to freak out and throw all the kids outside (where there was no air conditioning). It was a miserable day.

My grandmother used to travel by train back and forth from Florida. She used to say she enjoyed the 30 hours or so it took to get to Connecticut from Florida: "They served me some very nice crackers," was one of her quotes.

One time my mom and us kids were waiting for her at the Old Saybrook train station. I'm sure the train was late and my mom was probably ticked off already. As we were standing on the station platform, a dead bird fell out of the sky and landed at our feet. Me and my brothers were simply amazed. Talk about a bad omen!

Another time, my dad and I were at the New Haven train station, once again waiting for a late train. Her train pulls in, everyone gets off, and still no Grandma. Finally, a conductor gets off the train helping my grandmother. If I remember correctly, she had fallen down during the trip but refused any medical help until she reached her destination.

In high school, we forced Grandma to watch MTV with us. The Whitesnake video for Here I Go Again comes on and that model is squirming the driver of a white Jaguar while he's driving. Grandma yells, "That's a good way to get killed." I yelled back, "It does look like a good way to be killed!" She didn't think it was funny.

That same visit, we were watching professional wrestling. Totally fake but Grandma is falling for it. A wrestler is writhing on the mat in pain, and Grandma's yelling, "He's hurt! He's hurt!" The more she yelled, the more we laughed. She kept screaming, "His back! He broke is back!" Very enjoyable.

She was always writing peace songs ("Peace. Peace. Peace is good. Peace. Peace. I like peace."). She would write letters to TV stations, trying to get my brothers and me our own TV segment to sing her peace songs. She would bring the lyrics of all of her songs when she would visit and force us to sing them. I think one of my brothers even played the recorder while we sang.

I could go on and on but this last memory is my favorite. It made a big impression on me when I was a little kid. My grandmother was up for her visit and she and my dad had a huge fight over something. He got so fed up, her called the airlines for a ticket, drove her to the airport, and forced her home on a plane. I remember how shocked I was. I couldn't believe that you were allowed to do things like that to your parents!

She was really a good woman. I think we drove her almost as crazy as she drove all of us. She will be missed and I'm sure she touched the lives of many people in her community.

I guess the only proper way to honor her is for all of us to join together and think of her. . .

. . . as we watch Here I Go Again:

Cold Outside, Warm Inside

Can someone please tell me why it is 35 degrees and windy today?

I have the day off, packed up my kayak and gear, drove to the lake, and it was too damn cold to go in the water!

Now, I'm stuck inside. I mean, it got so bad that I just cleaned my bathroom. Don't worry, I washed my hands before typing this post!

Anyway, enough complaining for one day. I should be happy. I have a three day weekend, this is my last day without beef, and I'm on my way to the Cuckoo's Nest for lunch. I guess it's not so bad.

I came across a few videos having to do with
bike messengers in New York City. The few times I've been to New York I've seen them bicycling in and out of traffic. I'm sure some get t-boned crossing intersections but it doesn't seem to slow them down at all.
I searched for some statistics about the dangers faced by bike messengers but couldn't find anything good. After watching this video, I'm sure that the life span of a bike messenger is very short. It's called "Bike Messengers On Crack."

This next video, however, is even more horrifying. It is a clip from a 1980's movie called
Quicksilver. Somehow, I don't think Kevin Bacon lists this movie on his resume. Or maybe he does! Watch it if you can:

I'm not really into the pedal-powered bikes. I'd rather be on a motorcycle. Here a motorcyclist that would give these bike messengers a run for their money in craziness (and stupidity).

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm Not Writing Today

I have a lot of things I should be writing about.

I'm on my last week with no beef and it hasn't been bad at all (except for missing Ted's steamed cheeseburgers!).

I was kind of rude to a patron at the library Monday morning (which never happens).

Gloom" hit a deer with her new car over the weekend (the third deer she's t-boned since I've known her).

Baseball season started yesterday (and the Yankees already have a one game lead over the Red Sox).

But I'm just not in the mood.

I'm not feeling down or anything.

And I really want to write about all of the events listed above.

But I'm not feeling like it today.

My mind is on everything I want to get done at work before I head out to Ohio for vacation. And I'm already planning what I have to bring with me (I'm up to 4 chargers (phone, cameras, computer). And I'm obsessed with stopping at the brand new Waffle House in Scranton, PA.

Anyway, not to be a real downer, but I've come across three versions of the song
Hurt, originally done by Nine Inch Nails. This version is a little gruesome, so skip it if you can't stomach that kind of stuff:

Johnny Cash did a version of Hurt, also. It was the last video he made before his death. This is by far my favorite version and it's right up there with my favorite Cash songs:

Finally, Kermit did another version of the song. Yeah,
Kermit the Frog!

Caution: Contains Drug Use By Puppets:

Last for today, here's the latest Uncle Jay video. It's about "deja vu" in the news:

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Smokeshow Sunday (about Friday)

I worked at the library on Saturday which means I had Friday off.

Friday started off on a bad note. I was puttering around my apartment getting ready to shower when the power went out. I waited a minute, thinking it would come back on. Nothing. Then I waited five minutes. Nothing.

After an hour with no power, I figured it must be something big and I wasn't going to be taking a shower for a while. I packed up my kayak and headed to
Pattaconk Reservoir in Chester.

I stopped for a breakfast sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts and was at the lake before 9 AM. I almost didn't put the kayak in- the wind was blowing and the temperature was around 40 degrees. It felt cold!

I decided to blow up the Marge Barge anyway and I'm glad I did. Aside from a group of gnats that attacked me and my kayak, it was a great trip. Once I started moving, the wind wasn't very bad and the north end of the lake was mirror smooth. It was very relaxing (and much easier than my Connecticut River trip!).

I took a couple of videos (of course!). The one below actually has paddling footage!
Click here for others.

After a couple of hours on the Pattaconk Reservoir, I came home to find power had been restored. I took a shower, then met Kevin and Kathy for lunch at the
Cuckoo's Nest. I always like the food there, but the Shrimp and Scallop Cajun Pasta was outstanding. A good way to celebrate my last Friday of Lent and no meat.

From there, I bought $37.02 worth of car cleaning products. I took my car through a car wash (another 9 bucks) and once I got home I started waxing. I used the 3-step Meguiar's system so, in effect, I waxed my whole car three different times. Between kayaking and the waxing, my back was a mess!

I finished around 7:30 PM and my car looked really good. Unfortunately, it was almost completely dark so I could only take some night pictures of my handiwork. I made a
Photoshow of the pictures, click here for more.

Not a bad Friday off. If it wasn't for the working on Saturday part, I would really enjoy not working on Fridays!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Miniature Wonderlands

Thanks to the internet, I have found the largest model railroad in the world.

It is called Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. Much of their information is in German, but this is an HO scaled layout with over 1000 trains, 200,000 lights, and 150,000 figures. Click here for an overview of the layout. There are many different scenes, ranging from downtown Hamburg, to the Alps, to an America section.

There are thousands of different scenes, many with a bit of humor included. Click the photo below for many others.

In this country, we have the Panorama of the City of New York located in the Queen's Museum of Art. It opened for the 1964 World's Fair and covers 9,335 square meters and includes 895,000 buildings.

When it was built, it took a team of 100 people three years to complete. When it was finished, it was the largest scale model ever constructed. It was kept up to date until 1970. The next change was initiated in 1992, when 60,000 buildings were updated.

You can read more here and here. Click the photo below for a few more pictures.

On a sad note, one of my favorite sites, Forgotten New York, recently had a story on the poor conditions of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the New York Panorama is located. What was once considered to be the "crown jewel" of Queens, has been left to slowly rot away. Click the photo below for the whole story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Uncle Jay with Peyton Manning

Maybe Uncle Jay isn't as funny as I first thought, but I still like him:

Speaking of funny, Peyton Manning was recently on Saturday Night Live. While I'm still not the biggest fan of the Mannings (Peyton or Eli), this skit is hysterical:

"I think he's really hurt."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Connecticut River Kayaking

After finally finding my missing keys on Saturday, I packed up my kayak and gear and headed for Pratt Cove in Deep River.

My plan was to follow this inlet out to the Connecticut River and then cross to the Old Lyme side. Being that this would be my second ever kayak trip, I figured that I would be paddling at least 100 times farther than I ever had before.

I put the kayak in the water and headed off. The temperature was just below 50 degrees and the water was still very cold. It took longer than I thought it would but I eventually made it to the Connecticut River.

That's when it got a little scarier. I normally have the feeling of being very low in the water and, while a 13 foot kayak looks big in my living room, on the water it feels pretty tiny. There was a breeze blowing from the south (not even a wind, just a breeze) but it made some waves that tossed my kayak around.

I'm sure most boaters would call the water conditions "calm," but being all by myself in the Connecticut River, it seemed a bumpy to me. I never felt like the kayak was even close to tipping, but I could definitely tell the difference when I left the cove. The waves were probably under a foot, but they seemed towering next to my kayak.

Anyway, I paddled up the river to
Deep River Landing, stopped and had a banana (still trying to resolve my hangover issues). I decided to nix the Connecticut River crossing idea. If anything happened to my kayak while I was crossing, I don't know what I would do. There were no other boats out on Saturday.

The trip back was a little tougher- the breeze was in my face, the tide was against me, and my back was really hurting (I have to find a way to adjust my seat for more support). I took a couple of
quick videos to show the "rough" conditions. The wind would push the kayak sideways pretty quickly, so the video is short:

I made it back to Pratt Cove and it was pretty easy paddling back to my car. It really was a nice day but, until the water temperature rises a little, I think I'll stick to places with smooth water.