A College Degree In Colleges

Annie Merner Chapel

The Daughter is in the midst of her college search.  Her area of pursuit is pretty specific, and there aren't many places that offer the degree, nor cities where you can do it for a living.

But Chicago has both the schools and the jobs.

But that doesn't mean the search isn't confusing.  One of the schools that I told her to check out that offers her program was Northwestern.  Cora and The Daughter looked it up on the .net and were confused. 

It had nothing like the program they were looking for.  Turns out they were looking at Northwestern COLLEGE.  I meant Northwestern UNIVERSITY.

And while Illinois is like every state with the other "compass" schools: Northern, Eastern, Northeastern, Western, and Southern, there's also East-West University.  Just to mess with you.

And to really mess you up, do NOT confuse the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago.  The SIAC is the good one.

Another school she is looking at is Columbia… College, not University.  One is in Chicago.  The other is in New York.

I remember back in my school hunting days, I was always confused between DePaul University (on The Daughter's list) and DePauw University on no one's list.

And don't get me started on the whole University of Miami (FL) / Miami University (OH) thing.

Of course, I went to MacMurray College, which everyone thinks is Murray State.  It's not.  It's not even related to the MacMurray Ranch Vineyard.  But Fred MacMurray did once own the ranch.  He still has no relationship to the school.

And let's not forget IUPUI (OO-eee-POOO-eee).

Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis.

Make up you mind, you euchre playing Hoosier heads!


The Daughter

Since my last post was about The Daughter starting her first last day of high school, I thought I would keep the theme going.

You know, before Cora and I even started dating, I knew that there was a little girl who would also be involved in this relationship.  That didn't really bother me.  I had dated women with children before.  One's child I never met.  One's child I met when she was about a week old.  (The mother and I wouldn't date for another 4 years, relax.)  So, I would just see how this went.

I think on her first visit out here, when The Daughter didn't like the fancy (spiced) mac & cheese from the restaurant and I solved the problem by taking her to McDonald's for nuggets and a cookie vs. going home and getting her a cold bagel with cheese was the moment that she knew I was looking out for her.  (Since then, she has had a good number of bagel and cheese sandwiches at my place.  As well as more Ritz & cheese than should probably be mentioned.)

And now, I really only have two things left to do with my life.

  1. Make Cora as happy as I can, every single day.  I married WAY out of my league, and I know it.  Now I just want to let her know by gestures both grande and subtle that I love her with all me heart.
  2. Make sure that The Daughter is set up to be successful in life.

It's really that simple.  And doing #2 (Heh!  I just wrote "#2"!) solves #1 a lot.

See that countdown over there –> (if reading in a real web browser)?  The one that says about 60 days?  When I put that up there, it read about 1000, and is the countdown to her 18th birthday.  She about to become LEGALLY an adult.  She has the maturity already.  But she also has some of the innocence of child, and sees the world sometimes as it should be, and not how it really is.

I hope that she can keep hold of that, and not let the world make her cynical and jaded.  That would be a tragic loss.  But I'm sitting here, right next to her mom, and I know we will fight very hard to keep that from happening.  You can't shield your kids from having bad things happen to them, that's simply a part of life.  We all know that.  But The Daughter knows that we have her back, and are with her through whatever life is going to hand her: good & bad.

So, to end this somber story on a happier note:  I'm writing this on Labor Day.  The last day before school starts.  Maybe I will take my girls out for ice cream tonight.  One last fling.  One last smile of summer.

And my job will be complete.

For today.


The Beginning of the End of the Beginning

Tuesday is/was/will be The Daughter's first day of school.

The first day of her senior year of high school.

Her last first day of public school.

I know she's going to be emotional.

I know her mother is going to be worse.

I know I'll probably be the worst of all, even if I won't show it.

Her mother's been through this before.  Kindergarten.  Grade school.  Middle school.  Junior high.  This is really my first last time.

If sucks, and it's awesome at the same time.

Right now, she's sitting on the sofa, "The Simpsons" marathon on FXX playing silently on the TV, while she reads the 4th Percy Jackson novel to us.  A year from now, we'll be moving her into her dorm somewhere.  She'll won't be leaving forever; but she will never really live here again, either.  She'll be spreading her wings.  Growing into an independent young woman.  Taking those first step down the path of the rest of her life.

So, I'll try to spend the next year not looking too far forward (The school visits, admissions deadlines, and whatever the heck FAFSA is).  Rather, I'll be looking back at the 4 years she's been my Daughter, when she's gone from a beautiful young …


… to an even more beautiful young lady, and enjoy the now.  Because the now is pretty dang sweet.


Just like her.

Man, no one said this parenting thing could be the happiest and saddest thing in the world.  At the same time. Good thing I've got a wonderful partner to share these highs and lows with.


All Washed Up

Things have been falling apart around here.

Besides "The Car Wars" (oh, and the A/C in the car broke and was fixed for the 4th time!):

  • The hot water heater blew a pin hole leak in the pressure vessel tank.  Small hole + Hot Water under pressure = Huge Mess.
  • The water from the water heater warped some of the hardwood floors right there.  (The floors are starting to chill out, so we haven't gotten them fixed yet.)
  • The oven stopped working.  The stove top worked, but the oven wouldn't light.
  • My laptop's hard drive died.


And then there was the washer / dryer.

When I bought this place, it had the "contractor special" cheap-o-matics installed.  The washer was loud, and the dryer had a piece missing so that it shredded and frayed most things we placed in it.  It got to the point that we were hanging more clothes around the condo to dry than we were processing thru the dryer.  I'd hoped to replace it last year, but that didn't happen.

This year we did it.

Cora and I made up our minds, and one day we were in Home Depot, and we saw a set on sale for $300 off.  Each.

While the delivery and haul away was free, we were of course, dinged for the upgrade to the gas dryer model, new hoses and tubes, stacking kit, etc.

They fit, just barely, into the closet where the old ones were.  One of the delivery guys was a the skinniest little spider monkey of a man you ever saw.  With about 3 inches of clearance all around spider monkey boy climbed behind the old units and unhooked the old one.  And then when they installed the new one, he was behind it.  I figured that they'd encased him like the workers in the pyramids, but he climbed up over the top like one of those parkour dudes.

These are our first "High Efficiency" units so it's taking some time getting used to.

Firstly, the by the small amount of water that seems to be used for the wash cycle.  It seemed like the clothes barely get wet, but they are clean.

Secondly, is how quick the dryer does its job.  It seems like it takes no time for the clothes to dry, but they aren't even hot when we pull them out.  I guess that is a side effect of not having so much water in the washing.

And they sing.

When they finish, it's not a harsh buzz or a ding, but a happy little tune that they sing.  It almost makes laundry… enjoyable.

Not if science would just invent the auto-folding machine, we would be so set.


Coasting To Victory

Earlier this summer, my little family flew out west, and joined up with Cora's mother, sister, brother-in-law, and their munchkins for a week long drive from Seattle down the Oregon coast.

I've never been to Oregon, so that knocked another state off my list.

The 9 of us caravanned in two cars and headed out to the Pacific Coast highway, US-101.  After lunch in Olympia, we headed to Astoria.  Sitting on the Columbia River, Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor (Not be confused with John Jacob Astor IV – who took the extreme ice bucket challenge on the Titanic.  While sporting the same color scheme, this wasn't the Titanic.)


Astoria has served as the backdrop for a few movies.  Most important to our group were Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies.  We were in our hotel room, and Google mapped where the Kindergarten Cop elementary school was, while looking out the window.  Turned out I was looking out the window at it about 300 yards away.

So, we all took turns reenacting Arnold running out of the doors on his first day, screaming in frustration.


Okay, some of us more strutted after our photo-op…


We then got our Goonies on by heading to the jail the Fratelli's broke out of at the beginning of the movie.  And that's their bullet riddled Jeep parked in front.


Some prisoners weren't so lucky to escape so easily.


You can also walk up to the Goonies' house.  People live in the house, so they don't want you climbing all over, but they don't mind if you shoot pictures from out front, especially if you drop a little sump'n/ sump'n in the donations box.


And this is my little band of Goonies; The Daughter and her 3 cousins.  And there may or not be a picture of me doing the "truffle shuffle".


In the movie, the plot was that their house was going to be turned into a golf course.  While I'm no golf course engineer, I don't think the steep hills and cliffs on this side of town really lend themselves to gently rolling fairways.  Speaking of geography, the Goonies totally would have gone to the Kindergarten Cop elementary school.  You can clearly see the school from the house. (But "The Goonies" is from 1985 and "Kindergarten Cop" is from 1990, so none of the kids would have been in Arnold's class.)


And speaking of geography, there's no way those kids rode all the way to Haystack Rock.  It's like, 27 miles away, and Chunk would have died long before they even crossed the bridge over the Youngs Bay.


We didn't go straight to Cannon Beach, but instead spent a couple of days in Seaside, OR.  Our hotel was right off the beach, and I took the opportunity to get my toes in the sand.  (While I've been TO the Pacific Ocean before, this is the first time I've ever been IN the Pacific Ocean.)

Seaside reminded me a lot of what my memories are of the one time my family went to Ocean City, NJ when I was around 10 or 12.


Anyway, back to Haystack Rock, we didn't walk all the way to it, but got pretty close.  It was a bit overcast and grey, and there was a bit of sea mist in the air.  So I got a shot of my 3 beachcombers.  (My two plus the middle munchkin.)


And to totally embarrass The Daughter, here's her mother, smooching her in public.  But also, a bit of trivia, that cliff behind them is where the lighthouse restaurant was in "The Goonies" and also the site of the school carnival in "Kindergarten Cop".


And now, a little more "road" on this "road trip".  (PS – The photos are not necessarily in order.  I could order them properly, but we all know I'm too lazy to actually do this.)

Anyway, this is us at Cape Foul Weather.  Slightly before she was born, Cora took a trip down the Oregon Coast with her family (do I need to spell it out people), and her mom remembered stopping here, so, between our trip down and back, we missed finding it twice.  We were about to give up on our third try, when we thought we'd try what looked like an RV park for a bathroom, and found ourselves at Cape Foul Weather.


Just up the road from C.F.W., we pulled off at a scenic outlook and got this tree that was growing bent due to the constant onshore breeze.


And this sweet old bridge.


We also stopped at the Sea Lion cave.  It was pretty cool.  But unfortunately, since it was in a cave, and flash photography was forbidden, most of the pictures didn't turn out so well.  Anyway, this was my favorite shot.


There's actually a light house WAY out there on that point if you zoom in far enough.  It's the Heceta Head lighthouse outside of Florence.


Up the coast is the Yaquina Head lighthouse.  It's near Newport, and located in an outstanding natural area (it's called the "Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area") with a visitor's center and gift shop.


And the lights of my life outshine the 1st order Fresnel lens atop the tower.


Down the staircase from the light house is Cobble Beach.  The beach is covered with millions of round basalt rocks.  The Nephew really liked it down there.


The rocks were cool and rolled under your feet as you walked.


Some people loved the beach, but didn't enjoy the "walking on marbles" feeling so much.


From the light house, we could see the sea and saw it smash against rocky outcrops.


Some other rocks could have used a good rinsing by the sea.


Which leaves me wondering if that's really rock, or just a huge pile of fossilized bird crap.


In addition to the natural scenic wonders, we also toured the Tillamook cheese factory.  We had dinner, watched them make some cheese, sampled some cheese, and ate ice cream.


While there, we stayed at the Shilo motel.  We'd been seeing them all up and down the coast, so how bad could it be, right?  Do you remember the story of "The Bozeman Inn" from about 3 years ago?  It wasn't that bad, but you did get the sense of time travel.  We were issued metal keys, there was no elevator in the building (okay, it was only 2 stories tall, but it did kind of make the luggage carts moot), and the TVs were old CRT TV's from the 90's.

And there was an odd smell.  But there was an odd smell all over (remember, there was a working dairy, so I think the smell was just my dairy air.)

Definitely shy away from the Shilo.

And speaking of lodging, if you are planning the trip, make sure you book your night's stay early in the day to avoid getting the "No room @ the inn" treatment.  Sure it worked out for Mary & Joseph, but it might not work so well for you.  And if you are thinking of driving US-101 pulling, say, a vintage Airstream trailer, make sure your driving skills are up to snuff.  The road is twisty and narrow and the sun streams through the leaves of the trees dappling the pavement and leaving the road a deathly patchwork of depth destroying light and dark patches.

And now something completely different.

We stopped at Denny's in Tillamook, and The Daughter order the Peanut Butter Cup pancakes.  They were as tasty as they looked.


And, to wrap up this story, this guy was just begging me to take his picture.


One the way back, we swung up through Portland and hit Voodoo Donuts.  Whatever you've heard about how good these donuts are is wrong.  They're better.  So much better.


I Lost My Drive; Not My Yen

And I was doing so well, and then came July!

The perfect storm of our anniversary (4 years already?  Only 4 years?), a 2 week vacation, and then my hard drive crashing so hard my laptop wouldn't boot (thank God for backups).

But, in looking thru my loose change a while back, I found a quarter that didn't look right.  It's not that you can look at a back of a quarter these days and tell anymore, but this didn't look right, it had two heads.

But I flipped it over, and what I assumed would be good old George, and it was "100".

I was starting to feel ripped off until I Googled it.  Turns out it's worth about 97¢.  Hey, I just made 52¢.

Yen-1 Yen-2

I can handle that kind of exchange.

Now that I've almost gotten the computer back up and working right, I hope to start posting again on a more regular basis.  I'll fill you in.

Especially about the vacation.  Road trip down the Oregon coast.


Car Wars Episode 6 – The Breakdown

My car is now over 12 years old.  And in car years, that's no spring chicken.  But, it's lived a sheltered life, either in a car port or in a garage.  And talk about pampered!  It only has about 62,000 miles.  But it's made it very clear in the last month that it is hitting a (hopefully) mid-life crisis.

So, as I was feeling the car acting a little funny in low speed corners, so the evening of the zoo trip, we took it to the mechanic to get looked at:

  • Engine mounts (The cause of the steering issue)
  • Rear shocks & struts
  • Brakes
  • Rear tires resealed.  (Aluminum rims = Slow leaks)

We pick it up the next day, pay our $1,200 bill, and get in the car.

It won't start.  Battery will turn it over, but it won't catch.

  • Timing belt.  Mechanic says if it had broken while driving down the road, the engine would have seized up and I would have been looking at a replacement engine.  That's another $400.

Then, 2 weeks later, we are driving around on a Saturday when I try to turn on the air.  It's blowing warm air.


So, we go to the calling hours for the husband on my mom's best friend from high school trying not to sweat in the car or get too windblown from the open windows and sunroof in the process.

  • A/C condenser.  That's another $875 into the pit.

So, on the drive home, we turn on the air, and it's blowing cool-ish air.  No way I'm dropping that kind of coin on cool-ish air.  For almost $900, I want the freakin' polar vortex coming out of my vents.  So back to the shop it went.

  • Gasket on new AC leaked out coolant – Free!

So far everything's working, but I'm keeping an eye on it.  With a book value around $3,000, I've basically bought the car again in the last month.  (A tank of gas made up the difference.)  With a daughter heading into college in a year, I'm really going to need this car to hang on another 5 years or so.

So, Memorial Day weekend, we drive down to Southern Indiana for a cousin's graduation.  We're 300 miles out of town on a hot weekend, and guess what?

The AC goes out!  AGAIN!

That was a looooong drive home.


Old Meme's Never Die

I've really been slacking recently after being on a slightly decent run, so here's a quick* meme for your Saturday.


* "Quick" – I probably spent about an hour finding the base template, determining the joke (I was originally going to go with the "Blue Beetle" but then realized that he might not be famous enough), and then getting the lettering correct (this is one of the few valid uses of Comic Sans, as it is a comic), and then ghosting in the "SCOPE-TECH" so if I see this somewhere else, I'll know.

And I thought I would give you, my blog followers, the chance to view this masterpiece before I release it to the plebs on Facebook.


The New Zoo Review

Over spring break, Cora and I needed to get "The Daughter" out of the house to prevent her bottom from grafting to the sofa.  So, I took a day off of work, and we headed to the Brookfield Zoo.  We've done zoo trips before.  We like zoos.  We've hit Chicago's other zoo, The Lincoln Park Zoo, and the zoo in St. Louis last spring break.

We hit the road early, so we could try to beat the crowd.  After all, it was spring break, so everyone would be taking kids to the zoo to get them out of the house.

I coaxed the car down there (it'd been behaving a little odd, and I'd planned to take it in later in the week.), and were a little surprised pulling into the parking lot.  There were a handful of school busses there, and some cars, but the place wasn't as slammed as we expected for the spring break week.

As soon as we got in the gate, we notice the giant carrousel, where the mantis appeared to be preying on the gorilla's arse.


The giraffe, overlooking the whole affair, is above this sort of behavior.


It was a cool spring day, but after the winter we'd just made it through, it was nice to be out in the sun.  And the animals felt the same way, too.  And that's no lion.

It's a tiger.


Since whenever we go any where, Cora usually is the one with a camera in her hands, I do try to sneak an occasional picture of her and The Daughter.  They were checking out the tiger.

Wanna see lions?


Sea lions! Okay, they're grey seals basking in the sun.  But that doesn't work with the joke.  But I did ask the grey seal how did it feel to be so wise. (Elton video)


A little later, I saw a sign warning me that the seals might not be the only things getting wet that day.


Luckily for us, the rhinos stayed along the back wall, and no "lemonade fire hose" action was experienced.


This guy was one of Cora's LEAST favorites.  I guess their weird heads and crazy necks give her the creeps.


Or maybe not, since this guy, with his crazy neck and weird head was her absolute favorite.  We stayed in the giraffe house for a good bit, watching them lick the tops of poles and whatnot with their insane Miley Cyrus tongues.


So I had to do my thing and try to take a picture of something framed by a foreground object.  This "little guy" was still HUGE!


And now we come to the part of the show entitled:




And we resume our walkthrough is a picture of me, taking a little break from all the walking we've been doing.


And The Daughter hopping and hoping for a prince.  Or at least that our pet frog was this sized.


And before we said, "after while" to the zoo, we had one more place to explore:


The planet of the apes.


But before we did, the girls had to ogle a colorful peacock.


We watched the gorillas fro a while.  I might be hard to see, but the mother ape that is sitting down, has a baby in her arms.


Yes, this is the same habitat where, on August 16, 1996, a 3 year old boy fell in to the gorilla enclosure.  One of the female gorillas protected the boy until zoo personnel could rescue the boy.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find an embeddable video.  So, click HERE if you want to see it.

But, since I know you want to see some monkey business, here's some video I shot.  With my favorite monkey putting in a cameo.

It was a really good day.  We'd taken a lunch and ate it in the car, so saved some serious coin.  And the crowds we were expecting never materialized, so it was like we had the place mostly to ourselves, which was awesome, too.

And after we got home, we took the car up to the shop to see what some of the weird things that it had been doing were and what could be done about them.

But that's a story for another day.