Saturday, November 08, 2008

What Does The Elephant Say?

video

Saturday So Far

Marissa took Jack to work with her this morning at the YMCA, so I slept late. I've been waking up earlier during the week now, so it was nice to sleep in, even though it was noisy enough outside that I didn't get too much real sleep.

Marissa called to wake me up about 10:15 and I drove down to the Y to pick up Jack. He hadn't eaten too much that morning, so we stopped at McDonald's and got him a Happy Meal and then headed for the library. Jack was pretty excited and kept saying "Me get new books!" He knows how to drive to the library from our house, so when we came in from a different direction he was a little worried about it. He cheered up pretty quick when he saw the building though.

Once we got there we went directly to the kid's department. First Jack wanted to put some puzzles together and we did about three of those. Then we picked out about three books and checked them out and headed back to the car. I was feeling like getting some exercise, so we then drove to the Greenway at the dam. We walked about half a mile down the river then turned back around and walked down toward the dam to watch some people fishing.

All four of the floodgates were open today, so it was pretty noisy down there. Jack was very interested in the fishing, even though no one seemed to be catching anything. Every time someone would cast he would yell out "Cool!" or "Awesome!" I'm going to have to get some fishing gear soon and take him back out there.

Now we're waiting on Mommy to get home and we're going over to Uncle Paul's house to watch Alabama play LSU.

"Jack, what's the elephant say?"

"Roll Tide!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

R.I.P. Prissie Sue

My Mom's dachshund Prissie Sue died this morning. She was 15 or 16 years old and had been in poor health lately. She was a chocolate miniature dachshund that my step-father Ray bought a year or two after he married my Mom.

I remember when they brought her home for the first time. I was living at home again after a few years in college, and the first few nights she slept in the bed with me. She was so small that she fit in the palm of my hand, and a lot of times she'd end up rolling off the mattress and sleeping in a loop of the sheet that was hanging off the bed. She also had a crooked tail and was the runt of the litter, so they got her for a bargain.

She loved to howl along with anyone that would start it for her. Back then we also had three outside dogs in the carport, and usually if I got her started howling the chows out there would all start howling along as well. Prissie was also the alpha dog. The chows would all roll over when she came out because she was always aggressive with them.

Prissie was dachshund #4 in my life. The first two were Lady and Heidi, who were full size dachshunds that my parents bought before I was born. Heidi was actually Lady's puppy. The third one was Turkey, who was old when we got him after someone dumped him out on our road. Our Annie dog in Nashville is #5. I loved them all and Prissie Sue will definitely be missed.

My Cute Kids

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bad Morning, Good Morning

I woke up really tired this morning. My sinuses were all stuffed up, despite taking Claratin for a week now. It was dark, rainy, and was a great day to just roll back under the covers and sleep. After I got back from taking Victoria to school, I made Jack his milk and went upstairs to open his door. Usually, I open it a crack then hide in the guest bedroom or the bathroom to wait for him to come running out with his blanket. This morning, nothing.

I waited a few minutes then went in to check on him. He was stirring around a little, but definitely didn't want to get out of bed. I rubbed his back while he tossed and turned for a few minutes but finally he sat up and gave me his usual "Hey Daddy" and pulled his pacy out to give me a kiss.

I was still thinking about calling in to work and going back to bed, but seeing my boy made me feel a lot better, and since they've been laying off people at work lately I figured I might as well go in. The hot shower cleared up most of my sinuses and I got Jack dressed as well after we read the Froggy Goes To School book first.

Finally, on the drive to work, just outside our subdivision, I saw the wild turkey herd that lives around the area. There were about 50 of them grouped together this morning, and I got to sit on the road for several minutes enjoying the sight while they all ambled across it in front of my car. At that point, not even the reports on NPR that the stock market was going down rapidly put much of a dent in my good mood.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama

My father-in-law David has been working full time for the Obama campaign in Nashville for the last few months. We kept asking if he had ever met him and he had not until the debate came to town. Here they are shaking hands.


Personally, I'm pretty discouraged about the elections this year. Everyone seems to think Obama is going to change things, but I think he's just a career politician like McCain and is unlikely to make any bold decisions that will need to be made. McCain is just too old and desperate to be President. He's saying and doing whatever he thinks will get him votes.

Both candidates have made horrible decisions for VP running mates, although McCain picking Palin has to be one of the worst decisions ever. In the end, I'm voting against Republicans this election. I've always been a Libertarian, so I've leaned towards the Republican party, but they've pretty much betrayed everything they stand for in the last 8 years. They have no fiscal responsibility, no moral responsibility, no courage, no heart, no clue. This is actually true of both parties, but McCain is the poster boy for a party that's fallen the farthest lately.

8 Years Free of Cancer Sticks

I smoked for the last time 8 years ago today. It was in the parking deck of Cat Financial in Nashville. Having watched my wife's uncle die of lung cancer and her grandfather die of complications from emphysema this year, I'm hoping I quit in time to avoid too much damage. I smoked for 14 years, having quit for a year twice in that time period.

I know Paul Clemmons and his Big Tobacco cronies are gnashing their teeth at this news, but they're just going to have to back off.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Overcoming Brainwashing

My own aunt and uncle tried to brainwash me when I was a kid as well, but I was able to overcome it in high school. Sadly, there are still pictures of me somewhere wearing orange and blue.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Both Parties Suck

"When the government's boot is on your throat, whether it is a left boot or a right boot is of no consequence." - Gary Lloyd

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back At It

It's been a long two weeks, but I'm finally doing 10k days again. Back on about the 17th or 18th, I started getting really stuffed up and I could tell my sinuses were filling up. I still walked 15k steps on the 18th, but the next day at work I was feeling bad. I had a meeting with my manager about 2:30 that afternoon and I told her I was probably going home early cause I was completely out of gas at that point.

I got home about 5pm that day, and went to bed by 6. I basically stayed in bed for the next 3 days, and I had a fever that didn't break until Friday morning. I still felt bad the rest of the weekend, and the past week I haven't gotten a lot of sleep because I couldn't stop coughing. By the way, the new Nyquil without the pseudoephedrine is really not very effective. I want to thank all of the drugged out rednecks out there for ruining what was one of the best medicines for me getting over a cold.

Today I didn't wake up until 11, so I slept about 12 hours, but I think I just needed to catch up. I've still got some excess nasal drainage, but it's not filling up my lungs anymore and I'm barely coughing at all now. I decided I'd try to hit 10k today, so I cut the grass early this afternoon just before the game, then sat down at 7pm to watch Bama play Clemson. What a great game! I was on such a high after the first half that I walked a mile during halftime. By the end of the game I was charged up enough to go out and do another two miles to put me up over 10k for the day.

The funny thing is, I didn't gain any weight during all this. I actually lost 4 pounds! I'm at 296 pounds now, which puts me down 19 lbs since June 17. Now I'm just going to keep piling up the days of 10k steps in a row and watch the pounds keep coming off. Another bonus is the 11 days of not walking very much has let my ankles and heel rest up, so they're not bothering me at all tonight after the walk. I did miss my monthly caving trip to Hardins this past Wednesday though, which I heard turned out to be a good one.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Wild Chesney Glen

So I was out doing one more lap around the neighborhood tonight, since it's only 67 degrees out right now and just perfect to get out and exercise. I was on the back street of the neighborhood, heading back to the house, when I saw something small running down the middle of the street directly towards me. At first I thought it was a dead leaf blowing along, but as it got closer I could tell it was some type of animal. I assumed it was a rat until it got about 30 feet away from me and I could tell it was a really small rabbit.

It ran right past me about 3 feet away, then hung a right at the cul-de-sac and went about 20 more feet before it stopped, right in the middle of the pavement. I walked over to it, and it scrunched itself up really tight, including pulling its ears in. I could tell it was really young, since it was trying to hide from me instead of just tearing ass down the street like a more experienced adult would do. I put my feet around it and bent down to grab it, but I wasn't quite quick enough and as soon as my hand touched its back it shot off down the street again and ran down the side of a house.

I kept going, wondering what would make such a young rabbit panic like that and run away from the nest. A few houses later I had my answer when I saw a rather large opossum sniffing around in a yard near where I first saw the bunny. I didn't try to catch the opossum, but when it saw me it had enough sense to run away.

Earlier in the evening I caught a frog on our back deck sliding door and showed it to Jack. He thought it was really cool, but he didn't want to hold it. We've been seeing them sitting on the sliding door for several weeks now. It's getting to be like a jungle out there.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Six Years

Yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary. Tempus Fugit was never a truer statement. We celebrated by going out to lunch after church at Sakura, which is Marissa and Jack's favorite restaurant. I have a kid that loves broccoli! How cool is that? When we walked in, Victoria was already there with her Dad and new step-mother, along with several other members of the Dowdy family. It's her favorite restaurant also.

Then it was home for a nap, then back to church for a reception for our pastor leaving after 22 years. Then we went over to Opry Mills for a while and I got about 2.5 miles of walking around while Victoria and Jackson shopped and Marissa read a magazine. Opry Mills is a great place to get some walking in since it's a circular mall and a lot of it is carpeted and of course it's air-conditioned also.

On the way home we stopped by for a romantic dinner at McDonald's off the dollar menu. That's good living right there, I tell ya!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lucy, You Got Some 'Splaining To Do!

So earlier in the afternoon, Marissa wanted a couple of holes drilled into a board for a craft project. I showed her how to do it, but the battery on the drill was really low so we let it charge for a while. A few hours later she comes into the room where I'm reading and shows me the drill bit, shown here with no modifications having been made to it after that point.


I'm not sure I know how this happened or even want to know. Of course, it's turned into my fault since I'm obviously "not enough of a handyman." Heh.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cave #22 - Custard Hollow Cave

After I got back to the campground from Overlooked Cave, I put my helmet outside of the tent, leaving it there overnight. Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily that night while I was asleep, so the Apex got completely soaked again and was back to having the same problems it was having the day before. Everyone was planning on going to Custard Hollow Cave that morning, so I didn't have time to get it all dried out again before we left on the trip.

Fortunately, fellow caver Alan Cook from Birmingham had an extra cheap led light that he let me borrow. I put it on the helmet, thanked him profusely, and climbed into the back of the waiting pickup truck. Custard Hollow is only a few miles from Sinking Cove, but it's on some fairly rough dirt roads, so like true Alabama rednecks we loaded up 30 people in three pickup trucks and headed down the road. It was a pretty wild ride, and dodging the limbs was the primary concern.

Truck #3 Full of Alabama Redneck Cavers

We all got to the parking area with only minor lacerations, and everyone unloaded and got geared up. We took a group photo, then we all headed up the mostly dry stream bed to get to the entrance. After a very short walk we came to the first of three entrances to the cave, which are all pretty close together. Half of us went in the first entrance while the other half went to the second. All the entrances come into the same entry room, which is mostly scalloped canyon with a good bit of water flowing through it.

Group Shot Before Entering Custard Hollow Cave

There was some crawling soon after this room, and the first place you're really required to get wet. This cave has a lot of water in it, mostly in waist deep pools. The water is cold, and the first time you dip your boys into it is not so pleasant, but after a while everything from the waist down just goes numb and you deal with it. There were a few spots that required some crawling and a bit of bent-over duck walking, but most of the cave was big booming borehole that goes on for miles and gets bigger as you go deeper.

As we got deeper into the cave, we split into lots of smaller groups, which changed up a lot as people stopped to rest or one group went off in a different direction. There's a good number of decorations in the cave and I didn't see many broken formations either, even when they were right next to the path like one really pretty piece of cave bacon was. I guess since the cave is so remote and access is somewhat restricted the yahoos haven't gotten in there to break everything.

I went pretty far back in the cave, but didn't push it as far as some people did. I came to another low crawl and was feeling pretty tired at that point, so I decided to turn back with Terry and Van and we exited the cave together. We did get turned around at one point and ended up in a pancake room that may have kept going but I was generating so much fog at that point that I couldn't see far enough to tell.

Also, I really missed my Apex on this trip. The borrowed light was adequate when I turned on my mini-mag to go along with it, but I realized that there has been an arms race going on in cave lights the last few years, and a 15 dollar Walmart light is not going to illuminate much for you when you're surrounded by Sten-Lights, Apexs, and big carbide lamps. When I was away from all of the people with those lights it was fine, but when they were near me my eyes couldn't adjust enough for my spot beam to do much good.

After we got back to the campground, after another wild ride, James and I walked up to the resurgence entrance and rinsed off in the pools. We went back as far as the twilight zone, but we didn't have lights with us. I'm not counting it as a cave visit anyway. I found a pretty large snake skin around one of the pools, but no sign of the snake it belonged it. We had a great meal that night, with Jason Wall smoking up about 30lbs of butt all day and a great buffet of other stuff layed out as well.

It rained again that night, but this time I had all my stuff in the tent. We packed up pretty early the next morning and headed back to Nashville. This cave was definitely a treat, especially considering I had never heard of it until that weekend. There's still more of it to see, so I look forward to going back soon.

If you want to see more pictures, head over to Spelunkologists.com and see the three pages of pictures from the trip that they have up there. All the pictures in this blog post are courtesy of the photographers there.

Hatch and Others Enter Custard Hollow Cave

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Good Week

For the first time since I started using a pedometer about 3 years ago, I've managed to walk more than 10k steps a day for seven straight days. Over the last 7 days, I've put 79,254 steps on it, which is over 36 miles and averages 11.3k per day. I've actually walked enough to lose weight without doing the low carb diet, and pretty much eating like I normally would other than not going to buffets.

I'm going to try to push it out to 8 or 9 straight days this week, although I may rest up some for my caving trip this Wednesday night. The best day this week was when Jack and I went to the Greenway yesterday afternoon. It was really hot, and I burned through almost 2 liters of water, but we walked a little over 4 miles. Here's a picture of Jack on one of the bridges.

The Joy of Leather Furniture

Yesterday afternoon, Marissa, Jack, and I were upstairs together for a while, watching Barney or working on the computer or playing with Jack. Marissa had removed his diaper and we were letting him air out some before we put a new one on.

At one point, Jack was over near the banister and we were not really paying much attention to him. I heard him say something like "pee pee Mommy's chair", but I didn't think anything of it at the time since there was no chair anywhere around. After a few more minutes, we put a new diaper on him and I went downstairs.

As I was walking by the leather chair in the living room, I noticed it had liquid all over it. Suddenly the pieces all came together. Apparently he had managed to pee through the balusters and only got the chair wet. Since I found it, I had to wipe it up, but at least with the leather it didn't soak in.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Best Lynyrd Skynyrd Cover Evar!

You have to love the Internet when it lets you dig up things like this.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Cave #21 - Overlooked Cave

Way back in 2001, during the 4th of July weekend, I went caving for the first time at Sinking Cove Cave in Franklin County, TN during the Birmingham Grotto's annual camp-out. I had a great time, and it eventually led to it being one of my major hobbies. I've been wanting to go back for a while now, so this year my Nashville caving buddy James Wood and I decided to crash the weekend and get some caving done. James is also from Birmingham, and his brother and other friends were going to be there, so we both knew plenty of people.

James' brother Daniel and some others had a vertical trip planned to Guys Cave on Friday morning, so we left out about 7:30 to get there in time. After a quick stop for gas and a few Hardee's biscuits, we hit the road and headed down past Sewanee to get to Sinking Cove. It's in Tennessee, but you can't get there from here. You have to drive down into Alabama and then back up into Tennessee.

We got to the campground about 10:30, and the Wood brothers and their friends left for their vertical trip. I got my tent setup and all my gear unpacked, and then sat down to work on my main light. I had sprayed my Apex off the night before with the garden hose along with my other gear, and now it was refusing to turn on. I disassembled it and let it sit in the sun for a few hours while I talked to some of the people still in the camp. Jason Wall from the Birmingham Grotto was there to cook for the weekend, and I helped prepare about 100 pieces of chicken that he put in the smoker. He had a spicy Cajun marinade that I don't remember the name of, and he put about two chickens in big zip lock bags along with a can of beer and let them sit for a few hours before he put them on. They turned out awesome. I think one of the reasons so many people show up for the weekend is just the food that Jason turns out.

I talked to Hazard Bryant for a while, and we started talking about a cave he found a few years ago that he named Overlooked Cave. He called it that because people had basically been going by it for years and apparently no one had ever found it. He kept it to himself for a few years while he was exploring it, so not too many people have been in it as of yet.

I decided that if I could get my Apex working again I'd go check it out. I put the light back together and put the batteries in, and it started working. It was doing some funky stuff with the settings changing rapidly, but since it was such a short cave I figured I could do fine with my backup lights if I had to.

I got a few sketchy directions from Hazard which included the phrase "look for the big sycamore tree then go straight up the hill" and hitched a ride with someone leaving who dropped me off where I hoped was near the cave entrance. As he drove off, I looked at the hill and saw about 20 or 30 damned sycamore trees and no signs of a path. I finally just picked a way through the undergrowth that didn't look too thick and started up the hill. I got up to the first rock line after about 200 feet, and headed down it. After a short walk I came to a hole that I figured must of been the cave, although it didn't seem to have a lot of air coming out as everyone had said Overlooked Cave would have.

I rested a minute, got my gear on, and got down on my hands and knees to crawl into the hole. I only went back about three feet and realized that it dead-ended at about 7 feet total. There was a small crack in the back that seemed to be blowing a little bit of air, but this was definitely not a cave. I backed out and decided to keep going down the ridgeline.

After some more bushwhacking and keeping a careful eye out for snakes, I came upon a large, rocky, dry stream bed. No one had mentioned a stream bed in the directions, but I decided to check it out anyway. I climbed up it a good ways, and it was full of old rotten logs and wobbly rocks, but nothing that looked remotely like a cave. Once again, I retraced my steps and kept going down the ridge line. Finally, I crossed a fresh trail of trampled undergrowth and could feel a very nice stream of cool air pouring down the hill, so about 3 minutes later I was standing at the entrance of the cave.

I had worked up a pretty good sweat by this point, so I sat down in front of the cave for about 20 minutes, enjoying enough cold air pouring out that it felt like I was sitting in front of a large air conditioner. There were butterflies and dragon flies all around, and I watched a snail crawl across a leaf for a while too. Very relaxing to say the least. Now I was ready to do some caving.

The entrance of the cave is about 2 1/2 feet high by about a yard wide, and is shaped like a half dome. I stuck my head inside and turned on my light, which had finally settled down and was working fine. I belly crawled in about 10 feet and stopped to consider things. I don't really enjoy crawling very much, so I was tempted to stop at that point. I decided I had to at least go far enough back to get out of the twilight zone of the cave so I could at least claim to have been "in" the cave.

The entrance passage goes back about 50 feet with a slight curve to it and then takes a hard left. I considered stopping here again, but eventually decided to just quit being a wuss and to push on. After about 30 more feet, the cave opens up a little so I could stop belly crawling and sit up and rest for a bit. A that point I was at a T, with one passage heading back in the general direction of the rock face and looking like it got pretty low again. The hands and knees height passage continued further back, so I headed that way. The floor was still dirt, with lots of old vegetative matter laying around. The ceiling also had a lot of crinoid fossils and I spent some time while I was resting looking at those.

I kept crawling further back into the cave, and noticed several times that there were green leaves in some of the holes in the walls, so I guess the cave has several much smaller entrances. After a short while, I came to a room that was about 40 feet long by about 10 feet wide and the ceiling was about 5 feet tall. The floor here was covered in old nut shells, so I started referring to it as the Nut Room. I stopped at the end of this room and once more thought about turning back, but I started hearing what sounded like water in the distance, so I kept pushing on.

After about 50 more feet, the passage started getting taller and I was finally able to stand up in the cave in what was a much bigger room. It had hundreds of soda straw formations on the ceiling, and a small stream ran down the middle of the room, disappearing under a small pile of rocks. The water was making a large echo underneath, so it was obvious that there was space down there, but the hole leading down was obviously too small for me to fit in. I found out later from Hazard that it leads down to a small room with a 10 foot waterfall, but then gets too tight to go much further.

I followed the water upstream and came to another low crawl with a good bit of water in it. I didn't really feel like getting wet at that point and my knees were starting to talk to me, so I decided to turn around at that point. I found out later that it was just a short crawl before it opened into an even larger room with some nice flowstone, so I'm going to have to go back and check that out at some point.

I crawled back out of the cave, stopping frequently to rest and look at more crinoid fossils. I spent about 2 hours total on my trip, and had a nice walk back to the camp where Jason had some of his chicken ready to munch on.

I don't currently have a camera to take caving, but to make Heff happy here's a link that has some links to some video and some pictures taken in the cave last year by Scott Fee of the Birmingham Grotto.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cave #20 - Indian Grave Point Cave

Ever since I started caving a few years back, everyone has mentioned Indian Grave Point (IGP) cave to me. I was starting to feel like I was the only person in Tennessee who caves who had not been there yet. As a matter of fact, I was sitting at Paul's house Saturday night watching fights, and we started talking about caving. One of Paul's friends immediately asked me, "so have you been to IGP yet?" I told him I was leaving at 8am the next morning to go. He told me about going there 40 years ago with the Nashville Grotto.

So we all met up at the McDonald's off Hwy 109 at 8am, and headed out about 8:30 or so after waiting for a few stragglers. There were 12 of us total on the trip. We got to the parking area near the cave a little less than an hour later.

The landowners of the cave are very friendly. The cave is located in a cow pasture on the side of a very steep hill. You park on the side of the road next to a creek and then go over the fence on a climb-over that's been installed to avoid damaging the fence. Then you're staring up a hill that you've got to go up about 250 feet at about a 50 degree angle. The view of the surrounding valley from up there is great. It was early enough that you could still see some mist moving around on the hills.

Once you get up there, you're at the entrance sinkhole. You slide/climb down about 8 feet, with a nylon rope being there to help out. The entrance sink hole is fairly large, with a good bit of water dripping down and moss growing on a lot of the rocks at the bottom. At the back of the sink, you head down into the cave through what at first is a low crawl.

It opens up fairly quickly into what I was told was some old saltpeter works. There's a small stream channel twisting through the mud and the ceiling gets low a few times before you get to another short crawl which opens up into the first good-sized room, which has a small dome at the top. On the right side of this room, there's a huge chunk of rock that at some point in the past broke in half, leaving a crack that you can crawl through to take a shortcut to the deeper parts of the cave. This rock is about the size of a trailer, so it's pretty impressive to think about it breaking in half at some point.

After that is a crawl down a big pile of breakdown. It's not that big of a deal normally, but almost all of the breakdown in this cave is covered in mud, so you have to be extra careful. I still banged up my shins and my forearms a lot, and my ankles and knees took some extra punishment as well. All of them are talking to me today.

Then you come to a nice open area with a fairly clean floor that you can walk around. Since this is such a popular cave, someone got the bright idea to build a fire ring here. I'm not sure what the attraction is about building a fire so deep in a cave, but it doesn't appear to have smoked things up too badly.

After milling about in this area for bit, we headed deeper into the cave. At one point there was a low crawl that everyone went through. I saw a slighter taller space to the left that I decided to go through to spare myself a bit. Unfortunately, I had to slide off this into mud. I didn't think it was that deep, but it ended up going about half way up my calf. Nice. Now my boots weighed about two pounds more each.

We slogged on over some more muddy breakdown, where my newly muddied boots caused me to slip and slide even more. That's where most of the bruises on my shins came about. Eventually we arrived in the largest room of the cave, known as the Cascade Dome. It featured twin domes which had some water coming down. Apparently there's a route to the top of them, which James and a few others explored a bit, but didn't attempt to go to the top.

After resting there for a while, we pushed on back some more. Joey and I ended up in the area known as the Garden of Eden and we waited there for the rest of the group. This area features some dried up rimstone dams and a small pool of water known as Madonna's Pool. It has some nice decorations as well, and what appeared to be bivalve fossils in the ceiling. Someone had also crafted a miniature Stonehenge out of mud and left in on a shelf here.

After we met up with the rest of the group, a failed attempt at rocking an abandoned pack was discovered. We also played around for a bit with the strangest discovery of the day. Someone had left a stuffed marionette cat in the cave, wrapped in a baby blanket. This prompted stories about the "ghost baby" the rest of the trip, and we left the marionette hanging by the register on the way out to intrigue the next group of cavers.

By the time we were headed out, I was just about bushed. I had to stop and rest several times, but finally climbing out of that sink hole was awesome. This time is wasn't my legs that were so tired and sore, it was my shoulders and arms. I guess all the walking for the last few weeks paid off, so now I need to do some more push-ups.

This was supposed to be a clean-up trip, and all 12 of us had garbage bags, but only 4 bags ended up being hauled out. There was also very little visible graffiti, so someone has apparently been doing a lot of work on the cave lately. It was definitely worth the trip, and I'll definitely be going back at some point to see the parts I missed on this trip.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Defatassification Update #1

In what's sure to bring a tear to the eyes of Jefferson and Wilfred, I "brokeback" under 300 pounds today. Today's D.B.A.N. was 298.7, for a total of 16 pounds lost in the last 10 days. With the exception of a family reunion incident last Saturday, I've been very good about keeping my portion size down, along with keeping the carb count low.

I've also been doing a lot of walking. So far in June I've gone over 10k steps on 7 different days, including every day this week. I should be able to bring that up to at least twenty 10k+ days in July. Yesterday after work I hit the Stones River Greenway for 3 miles, since Marissa and the kids weren't at home. The dam trailhead is on the way home from work, so it's not too hard to stop and even do 20 minutes worth and it's not nearly as boring as walking through the neighborhood. There's also a nice little blackberry patch that has been ripening this week, so I treat myself to a few of those on the way in and out.

One of the key things that helps me make sure I get at least 10k steps in a day is to get as many as I can before I get home every day. If I still need six thousand steps at night, it's harder to motivate myself to get out and hit the sidewalk than it is if I only need four thousand. Getting about two thousand steps at lunch is a good way to make sure I get home with at least 5k. It's been getting hot and humid at lunch time lately, so yesterday I drove two miles and walked all around the K-Mart for about 20 minutes. I would drive to Opry Mills, but that's about a 10 mile round trip and there's no need to waste that much gas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vacation Wrapup

We got back late Monday afternoon from our trip to Florida. I'm not going to try to write it all up in a coherent story, since I'm on Day 2 of Low Carbs and my brain is not working so well right now. I'm just going to throw it all out there in a series of musings in what is hopefully approximate chronological order.

1. Atlanta is hot.
2. Atlanta traffic still sucks. I-85 at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and it's still wall to wall cars.
3. The Westin hotel in downtown Atlanta is still missing a lot of windows from the tornado back in March. It's sort of creepy to see that. I didn't see any other signs of tornado damage on the way through.
4. Buckhead has some really large buildings now that weren't there the last time I was in the area.
5. Atlanta had the most expensive gasoline I saw on the trip. The highest was $4.09, but fortunately I didn't have to pay that. The most I paid was $3.98 at the Florida/Alabama state line, so I still haven't had to buy gas for over four bucks yet in my life. I'm sure that's only a matter of time, however.
6. I played Wii for the first time at my friend Dave's house. It's pretty cool. We're going to consider getting one for Christmas. Wii Bowling and Mario Kart were both a lot of fun.
7. I had intended to do a lot of walking on the beach that week, but I ended up mostly sitting on the deck drinking beer with Uncle Gene.
8. My Uncle Johnny and his nephew caught a 7 foot Hammerhead shark while we were there off the pier. Pretty impressive looking. They cooked it up the next day and it wasn't too bad. I'd probably still rather just look at them swimming though.
9. I finished two books out of the four I took with me.
10. I failed to find good fried oysters in my two attempts. They tasted ok, but they were smaller than the tip of my thumb. I tried a few raw oysters that were much better.
11. Dobb's BBQ in Dothan was just terrible. I paid 12 bucks for a platter and it had two small scoops of pork and beef BBQ, along with 3 tiny ribs that had gristle all over them. Marissa got a BBQ sandwich that only cost 3.99 and it had almost as much meat on it. The only thing worth recommending was the hot sauce, but it's not worth going back for.
12. We spent a few hours at Gulf World in Panama City Beach on the day we drove back. It was pretty cool, but at 25 bucks a person I don't think it was quite worth it. The dolphins were the best part, and this was actually the first time I'd ever been to a dolphin show. I guess they need that much per person to pay for keeping them. I can see going there every few trips, but it's not a "can't miss" type place.
13. Panama City Beach has totally let itself get too big by the way. There are condo buildings there that are larger than almost any building you can find in Nashville or Birmingham. I can't imagine wanting to go to the beach and being surrounded by that many people. Mexico Beach, on the other hand, was practically deserted. There were about 15 to 20 families on the stretch of beach we were on, and even the pier was rarely crowded.
14. The Birmingham Zoo is a lot nicer than I remembered it being. We spent about 5 hours there this past Sunday with the whole Hatcher family. They have a better animal variety than the Nashville Zoo, plus they still have the train, which Jack of course loved.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Another 10k Day

I did another 10,000 steps yesterday to make it two days in a row. I actually did a little over 10.7k steps. It nearly wiped me out though. I went out last night about 9:30 still needing to do about 3500 more steps. I wobbled back into the house about 45 minutes later, walking past Marissa who was sitting on the couch.

"I think I may have overdone it," I told her as I headed to the kitchen to take some Aleve. I laid down a few minutes later and I was out like a light for the rest of the night. Fortunately I got to sleep a little later since Victoria is out of school for the summer. I feel pretty good today, although my legs are still a little sore.

I made myself walk at lunch today, even though it's way too hot. It's just so much easier to hit 10k in a day if you make it home from work and don't still have to do like 7,000 steps that night. Plus there's a nice hill at work which is much better for getting the heart rate up and getting me ready for more caving and hiking. I have a goal in mind of doing the Ranger Falls hike again this fall over in the Savage Gulf area. It's been almost 7 years since Kevin and I made that death hike out of that valley and I've got an itch to see it again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

10k Again

For the first time in a while, I finally put 10k+ steps on the pedometer yesterday. It took me about two weeks to work up to it again. I'm not currently dieting, since there's no point in starting one just before I go on vacation for a week, but I'm planning on keeping the walking up while I'm down on the beach. The diet will wait until after I get back.

Of course I waited until it got hot outside to start all of this. It was still 81 degrees last night when I started my long nightly walk, but at least there was a decent breeze. It looks like it's going to be cooler next week at the beach than it is here in Nashville.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hatch Haiku

Vacation Comes Soon
I Strive to Exit Early
Employment Pesters

Sandy Beach Awaits:
Siren Calls of the Gas Pump
Quicken My Cash Loss

The Son Waits to Go
The Sand and Water Await
Imprints of His Toes

Future Castles Rise
In the Surf of Youthful Dreams
Where We Will Build Them

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend Movies

I didn't really care for it that much. I thought the actors playing Heff and Wilfred were not very realistic. They couldn't really pull off the squirrel's butt on the back of Heff's head. I guess modern SFX technology is not really up to that level yet.

Weekend Update

Ah, Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally the start of summer, although we have almost a month until the solstice. The smell of BBQ and Blog Wars are in the air. I'll be anxiously awaiting the prosaic responses as they start rolling in from places further north and south of here.

In other news, Marissa, Jack and I have spent a wonderful weekend together. Yesterday we went to the zoo, and despite the crowds we had a lot of fun. We're working on Jack learning all of his colors right now, so the zoo is a great place to do that. He still tends to call everything blue or purple right now, but he's getting better every week.

This afternoon we went to my friend Hal and Lisa's house for a cookout with a lot of my caving friends. Hal's last name is Love, and yes he has a PhD in Biology, so we get to call him Dr. Love. How awesome is that? It's almost as good at the guy named Dr. Strange that we met last year when Jack was getting tubes put in his ears.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thursday's Thoughts from Friday Night

Well, let's see.... American Idol is done with - and I have no idea who won since I am also not henpecked and I also don't burn brain cells on useless reality shows or puttering around a rundown piece of crap hotel on the crap side of a major American city wishing one of the pimps outside would finally bust a cap in my ass and put an end to it all. No sir! Also, there's nothing like getting up in the morning knowing you still have all of your hair. This can't be stressed enough. I like to just stand in front of the mirror and admire my lack of a bald spot, often for minutes at a time. Even better, I can walk out of my home without having to instinctively move in an erratic pattern to avoid the gunfire from the various gangs fighting over their turf.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fried Hatch

You know that part of the lawnmower that gets really hot? You know, the part that has a big symbol of a hand that is crossed out? Yeah, that one. It's not a good idea to put your palm up against it. Trust me on this one.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Walking

Jack and I hit the greenway twice over the weekend. On Saturday we parked at Two Rivers Park and walked across the Cumberland River on the new greenway bridge to Shelby Bottoms Park that just opened a few weeks ago. It's a nice bridge. It's really high over the river, probably 200 or 300 feet maybe. It's hard for me to judge. It was high enough that I had a little bit of acrophobia when we first started across it.

According to my new Omron pedometer, we did a little over 3 miles total. It's about half a mile from the parking area to the other side of the bridge, and then we went about another mile before we turned around. Jack rode in the stroller for most of it, but he got out and walked for probably a half mile total. For some reason he prefers to walk on the grass at the edge of the pavement, although he will take off running down the middle of the greenway for several minutes at a time.

On Sunday after church and lunch, Marissa and Victoria wanted to shop for clothes so Jack and I did about a mile on the Stones River Greenway next to Kohl's in Hermitage. We didn't have the stroller, so he walked some of it and rode on my shoulders for some of it. The river was running pretty fast, and at one point we saw a mallard duck sailing down the middle of the river, moving at a pretty good clip. He tried to swim upstream at one point, but didn't make any progress at it and eventually just took off and flew up the river, much to Jack's delight.

Since I got a replacement pedometer last week, I've been trying to walk a lot more, but I'm having some real issues with tendonitis in my right Achilles tendon. I'm supposed to go to a specialist about it, but I probably won't be able to until after our Florida trip in June.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Reading Hatch

Unofficially, I have a goal of trying to read 52 books this year, so I'll be averaging one per week. I've also turned into a total cheapskate, so I've only actually purchased one book so far this year, and that was this past week when I ordered a new pedometer from Amazon and needed to add a few dollars to my order to get free shipping. Every other book has either been the free PDFs that Tor books is sending out this year if you sign up for their newsletter, or from the library.

I've also been reading several books over a span of weeks and months any time I need to kill a few minutes in the bookstore or even at Kroger. Yes, I know this is horribly cheap, but I do actually purchase a cup of coffee almost every time I'm in there, so I'm not completely ripping them off. I don't actually mean to do this most of the time, but I read pretty quickly, so just starting a book to see if I like it can mean I read 20 or 30 pages of it.

So far I've finished 16 books, which puts me a little behind the pace I need to be since we're in the 19th week of the year so far. Since I'm usually reading several books at once, I'm not too far off though, and should be able to catch up fairly easily, especially since a week at the beach is coming up in June. Ah, thong season approaches, eh Bill?

Happy Birthday Bro!

My brother Brian turned 35 today. Hard to believe. I was five when he was born, and I still remember my Granddaddy and MawMaw Strother taking me up to Brookwood Hospital to try to sneak me up to see him. Back then they didn't let five year olds visit the maternity wards. Of course, I was mostly disappointed since I had made my Mother's OB/GYN promise me for months that I was going to have a little sister. I used to grab the doctor's hand and refuse to let go of it until he promised. Obviously this was before ultrasounds were common place as well.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Movie Review: Iron Man

Ok, I'm a comic book geek. I don't buy comics anymore, but when I was a kid I read Marvel comics constantly. One of my favorites was Iron Man and the Avengers, though I tended to lean more towards Captain America and Thor in those days.

I was pretty happy with the first Spiderman and X-Men movies, but then they got pretty far off kilter and the last two showings from those two franchises were pretty disappointing. So I was worried about how they would do with Iron Man, and when I first heard they had picked Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark, I thought they had ruined it right off the bat.

I guess I was picturing him from his brat pack days though. I still don't think of myself being middle-aged, and so I guess I can't picture Downey being middle-aged either. As it turns out, I was completely wrong. He was the perfect choice to play Stark. The movie was just about perfect as well. My only quibble was the huge hole in his chest where his implant goes. The implant itself is something I would have been fine with if they had just left it out completely. There's nothing wrong with retconning something if it really just doesn't make much sense.

Still, that's a very minor thing. I have to say that this is the best movie I've ever seen that's based on a comic book character. I'm sure some of the Batman fanboys will disagree with me, but I was never a huge fan of DC books anyway.

Now I am still really worried about how they're going to pull off the upcoming Thor movie. I was a huge fan of this comic, especially in the days when Walt Simonson was writing it. What I'm really worried about is if the CGI is up to making someone look like Thor should look like. I guess time will tell.

Rebate

Well, the rebate check from the IRS came in Friday morning, just in time for us to drop about $500 to get brakes put on both cars. The Civic was down to metal on metal on the front left, and needed pads on all 4 brakes, so the new rotor and pads and labor were $260 at Budget Brakes.

A few hours earlier, the Montero was in the same shop and needed a new rotor and pads on the back brakes, plus they don't make cheap pads for it, so it was $235. The rest is going for our vacation in Florida next month. I think it's going to cost us at least $250 to $300 just to pay for the gasoline going down there and back.

Speaking of gas, the price actually started going down a little around here the last few days. I was actually grateful to only pay $3.38 a gallon today when I filled up Marissa's car. I still remember being pissed when it took $25.00 to fill the Montero up a few years ago. Now I'm just glad it's back under fifty bucks at least for a little while.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Weeknight Caving

We went back to Hardins Cave this past Wednesday night for our monthly grotto trip. We recruited people from the Earth Day Festival in Nashville last weekend, and we had 4 or 5 people show up because of that. We had 17 people on the trip, and several of them were first time cavers, including a 5 year old and 7 year old that did pretty well.

I've lost about 10 lbs since last month when I went, plus I've been exercising more, so this time it was easier for me. We went back to the rope climb-up and then turned around, which is our usual route. Not a bad trip and everyone seemed to have fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Back on the Greenway

I let my diet and exercise get away from me since October, and I put on about 25 lbs since then. After three days of gastrointestinal debauchery in Tuscaloosa this past weekend, which included 3 trips to City Cafe on Friday, it was time to get back into gear. I did discover a new combination at City Cafe that was great though. I've always loved their chicken livers, and at the suggestion of my old friend Michael Bolden, I also tried the candy yams to go along with them. Wow. Definitely a great combination.

My pedometer is out of commission, so until I can order a new one I'm just making myself walk a certain number of strides per day. Tuesday and Wednesday I hit the small walking trail near work, which is just shy of a 1/4 mile per lap. I did one lap on Tuesday and two laps on Wednesday.

Yesterday it was pretty nice outside, so when I got home I loaded up Jackson and his stroller in the car and made the short drive the Stones River Greenway, at the dam entrance. Jack had a really good time, and we did a little over 1.5 miles, and it pretty much wore me out. It sure doesn't take long to get out of shape.

I'm also having some pain on the back of my heel, which is likely the tendon being too tight. It was really bad last week, but I've been stretching it, putting ice on it, and taking Alleve, so it's down to being a minor annoyance at this point.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

40.0027397620

So I had a pretty good birthday yesterday. My friends at work took me out to my favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch. Then when I got home I loaded up the wife, the girl, and the boy and we headed for the local Thai restaurant. Marissa had mentioned this a few weeks ago and I was all for it. Of course, starting the day before, she started whining about it and offering up different suggestions. I think this was after she looked at the menu online. So as we were driving there, I kept going on and on about how good it was going to be to eat a lot of good spicy Thai food, and then I drove past it and went to Panera. I love Thai food, but I won't torture my family for it.

After dinner we walked over to the pet store and let Jack look at the animals. He got pretty excited about the tank full of clown fish. Can you tell what movie he's been watching a lot lately?

I kept looking for Heff to show up for dinner, but I guess Nashville is just too far to drive for someone you've known for oh, 28 years now?

Here's one more Mojo Nixon tune, just cause I feel like it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ambushed at the Office

They got me. People were giggling when they saw me when I walked in the building this morning, so I knew something was up. There was also German chocolate cake waiting as well, so I guess I have to forgive them. When I woke up this morning, Marissa and Jack had a chicken biscuit with a candle in it for me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Turn Right at the Light, Go Past the Trailerparks

As I go into the last 8 hours of my life of being a pre-old fart, I'm going to celebrate what little rebelliousness remains with me. Let's take a trip to Mojo World. Turn it up.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Boy Gets Sewn Up

We had our first trip to the Emergency Room with Jackson late yesterday afternoon. He was playing down in his sister's room when he sat down on a glass vase and cut his legs up. He had two small cuts on his left thigh, and two cuts on his right calf muscle. Three of the cuts were pretty minor, but one on the calf had carved up a small chunk of muscle, and kept oozing blood even after we put pressure on it for a while.

I wasn't sure if a clinic would do stitches, so we went ahead and took him to the ER at Summit. Fortunately, they weren't very busy and took him back pretty quickly and the doctor looked at it about 10 minutes after we got there. He decided that the cut would need some stitches plus they wanted to take a X-ray to make sure there was no glass in it.

The X-ray was not fun, since we had a hard time making him hold his leg still enough to take three shots. Then the nurse came in and put something on a cotton ball and taped it over the wound to deaden the area. After about 15 minutes, the doctor came in with an EMT that was helping out that day to do the stitches.

It turns out the cotton ball was just to lightly deaden the area so the doctor could inject more stuff to really deaden it up. Marissa was holding Jack's chest, I was holding his thighs, and the EMT was holding his feet. This part was just terrible. When the doctor stuck the needle in Jack started screaming at the top of his lungs and bucking all over the place. His face turned beet red and he kept saying "Daddy are! Daddy are! Daddy are!" Jack was crying, Marissa was crying, I was crying, and the EMT didn't look very happy either. The doctor, who looked to be in his late 50's, was completely unconcerned and put the three stitches in very quickly.

On the way home, we got Jack ice cream and potato chips, so he cheered up pretty quickly. We also got him some band-aids with the characters from Cars on it, so he was pretty happy about that and made Marissa put a few extra ones on him. Marissa and I were nervous wrecks the rest of the evening, and I don't think either of us slept very well.

Guessing Game Update

Ok, no one had a clue what the image was from last week, so here's the original picture in all it's glory. Maybe you can tell where I cropped the image from now. Are those skid marks?

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

I forgot to wear green today, but to make up for it, here's a classic to help celebrate.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hardins Cave

We went to Hardins Cave last night. This was my seventh trip to this cave, but it was still a lot of fun. We had a good group, including several new grotto members. I would try to name all of them but with my poor ability to remember names I'm sure I'd mess things up horribly. Joe Stewart was there with his seven year old grandson, along with Kylie. Jody Bailey actually showed up, which was great since he knows the cave so much better than I do and was able to point out things that I never noticed or had forgotten about.

We went back to the rope climb-up and then turned around since it was getting late and we had gotten a late start. I kept up pretty well on the way into the cave, but I started slowing down a good bit on the way out since my total lack of staying active over the winter started catching up to me and my quad muscles were just about shot from climbing over the piles of breakdown.

We found some really nice crinoid stem fossils in the ceiling in a few places. The biggest difference between this trip and most of my previous trips was the amount of water in the cave. This was the first time I've actually seen the stream in the cave with running water, and there was a small waterfall very close to the entrance that had never been flowing on any of my previous trips. The waterfall in the big room was flowing as well, whereas in the last few years it's only been dripping.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Photo Guessing Game


So let's have a guessing game. Anyone care to ponder what the above image is? I cropped it out of a larger image and enlarged it a bit, but otherwise it has not been enhanced in any way. Actually, it represents a "de-hancement" of sorts. If I stare at it long enough, it starts looking like the face of a demonic bunny.

The winner of the contest gets a virtual overnight stay at the Motel of Love in Chicago.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Back to Cedar Ridge

So several people in the grotto have been asking me to arrange a trip to Cedar Ridge, which I first visited several years ago. I finally relented and planned for a trip this past Saturday. One by one, everyone dropped out, so only John "I am the" Law showed up at Shoney's on Saturday morning. This cave is really awesome though, so we loaded up in the Honda and headed for Monteagle.

There were snow flurries that morning in Nashville, so I was expecting some possible bad weather going over the plateau, but the only thing bad up there was the fog. You could only see about 30 or 40 feet ahead on top of the mountain, but of course people were still blazing past me at about 80 mph or so. By the way, if you're going down I-24 past Murfreesboro, the local cops there apparently need to make up a budget shortfall, since they had about 6 brand new SUV vehicles planted in the median waiting to write tickets.

We got to the cave about 10:30 and headed in. It was pretty chilly outside, but the cave was much warmer. The first time I was in this cave, we didn't have any really bright lights, but John brought a 50 watt track light hooked up to a big battery that we used to help light it up for pictures. This is definitely the way to see this cave. This light made my 3 watt Apex look pitiful by comparison and showed off a lot more detail when it was turned on.

As I've said before, this cave is simply amazing. I've never seen one this beautiful anywhere else, and I've been told by long time cavers in the area that it's one of the best for the sheer number of decorations in a small space. We spent about 3.5 hours in the cave, mostly letting John get his camera set-up.

Afterwards, we did the obligatory tacos and cold beer at the Mexican place in Kimball, TN and then headed back to Nashville. I could tell it had been a while since I'd been caving since my shoulder and upper back muscles were pretty torn up, and are still sore today.

Here's a picture of me that John took in the cave. You can also see more of his pictures by clicking here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enoch McDonald Strother

I was trying to find something earlier tonight and I stumbled across a metal box I got out of my grandparents house about 10 years ago. I'd never really looked through it, since it was mostly full of paperwork, which my grandparents tended to hang onto like grim death.

Once I started looking through it though, I realized it belonged to my great-uncle George W. Strother, who died back in 1974. I spent an hour looking through all of the papers, most of which were really old life insurance policies from the 1950's, along with bills for what were apparently sawmill parts.

Down near the bottom I found this picture, which is my great-grandfather Enoch McDonald Strother, who was born in 1866 and died in 1919. There aren't a lot of pictures of him that I've seen before, and I'm not sure if I've seen this one. The picture was really small, measuring about 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches. I scanned it at really high resolution and I think it came out pretty well. You can click on the image to get a larger version than this.

This picture proves once again that I didn't inherit any of the Strother genes that I really would have wanted to. His mustache puts Tom Selleck's to shame, but when I tried to grow one years ago it just looked sad and pathetic.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Reading Lists

I've updated my reading list for 2007 and started the new list for 2008, which you can find over on the right side of the blog. I didn't read as many books in 2007 as I wanted to, but I think I still read a few more than I did in 2006. My father-in-law gave me several caving books for Christmas, and I finished the first one last night. I still have a pile of about six books that I'm in various phases of reading. I read a whole book sitting in the book store waiting on Victoria over the course of about a month, 50 pages at a sitting.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Our Little Book Worm

So almost every night, I give Jack his bath, get him dried off, and then into his pajamas. Then I read 2 or 3 books with him in my lap and tag up with Mommy who reads him another book or two and rocks him for a bit before she puts him in his crib with some soft music playing and his blanket, duck, and whatever else happens to be in there, usually including a book or two.

Last night we went through this whole process and then headed back downstairs as usual. I'm sitting on the couch with the laptop and Marissa is watching TV in the next room, with the baby monitor next to her. After about half an hour she says "Go upstairs and check on Jackson, I swear I can hear pages turning."

I'm dubious about this, but I go up the stairs, open the door, and duck inside. There's almost no light in the room, just a little from a small night light and maybe a little from outside through the blinds. I go up to the crib and there's Jack, leaning against the back of the crib with a book in his lap and his pacifier in his mouth, turning the pages. He gives me a look that basically said "What?"

His eyes are drooping and you can tell he's just about asleep, but he's still sitting there trying to read. Marissa came up to take a look as well, and read him one more book and rocked him again before he finally went to sleep for the night.

He's just been obsessed with them lately and he probably has about 200 books already in his collection. I'm so proud of him. He's a book nut just like his Daddy and Nana.