December 2014 Archives

NYE 2014
December 31, 2014 2:37 PM | Posted in:

Well, this is certainly not how we planned to spend New Year's Eve. I'm sitting at the computer, hammering out one last inane post while listening to the sounds of The Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy and of Debbie making chili in the kitchen. There's nothing wrong with any of those things - in fact, there's a lot right about them, on just about any other night - but we were supposed to be dancing in the new year, as we have for the past several years.

But weather happened. Mother Nature laid down a sheet of ice yesterday evening and continuing overnight, and getting out on the streets tonight, especially after midnight, is a game with odds I don't like.  

So, here we are, and I hope you're not reading this on New Year's Eve, because that might mean that your social life is as bad as ours. Or maybe your weather is. Yeah, let's go with that.

So, here are some things running through my mind on this final day of 2014.

Her: The Interview stars Seth Rogen and is a collection of juvenile trash.

Him: Really? I thought it was just a zany comedy.

Her: Which part of "Seth Rogen" did you not understand?

The preceding is not to say that juvenile trash can't also be a zany comedy. Tropic Thunder was on TV today, and I hadn't seen it since it was released in 2008. It has very little socially redeeming value, but it's also funny as heck, and if you can catch it on a basic cable channel, the censors make it much less cringe-worthy.

New Year's Day is my favorite holiday of the year, because it comes with absolutely no expectations or agenda (other than black eye peas). We can sleep late, we have no social responsibilities, and it's perfectly acceptable - nay, expected - that the day will require nothing more strenuous than watching football or movies.

Having said that, we also indulge ourselves in the superstitious tradition that "whatever you do on New Year's Day, you'll do all year long," and so we try to get in a bike ride or a run or another kind of workout. However, given that the forecast for tomorrow calls for continued icy conditions and a high temperature in the lower thirties, I doubt that a bike ride will happen. Strike that: a bike ride will definitely not happen.

We did get in a bike ride on January 1, 2014, according to the Historical Excel Spreadsheet of Physical Activities. In fact, we rode 22.2 miles in what I characterized as "very windy" conditions.

The HESPA also documents that I managed to average just over 31 minutes of aerobic workouts (running, bicycling, or elliptical trainer) throughout the year. My annual goal is to average at least 30 minutes a day, so I can count 2014 as a success in that regard.

The breakdown of that activity - just to demonstrate my Excel skills and/or OCD tendencies - is as follows: running - 150 miles (I don't run very much, to be honest); cycling - 850 miles; elliptical - 94 hours (there's a mileage figure to go along with that, but it's probably not very accurate; I record it mainly to track relative intensity of workouts). And, finally, those statistics came from an average of 19 workouts per month. I'm hardly a workout addict, having learned that rest days are essential for maintaining a consistent level of fitness and activity.

My other accomplishment this year was another cover-to-cover reading of the Bible, which I believe was the 24th consecutive year I've done that. As important as staying physically active might be, I believe that staying in The Word is even more so. Every verse in the Bible is there for a reason, and we do ourselves a spiritual disservice by ignoring any of them.

In closing, my wish for you in 2015 is that it's a year of peace, joy, and blessings, mixed with just enough challenges to make you fully appreciate the rest. Thanks for stopping by, and we'll catch you next year.

Sleeping Child :: Great I Am
December 24, 2014 9:39 AM | Posted in:

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would some day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered,
Will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby,
You've kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary, did you know...?

The blind will see,
The deaf will hear,
And the dead will live again.
The lame will leap,
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb...

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy
Is Heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
Is the great

"Mary, Did You Know?"
Words by Mark Lowry, music by Buddy Greene

Miley Cyrus Warned Us
December 20, 2014 11:13 AM | Posted in:

I've been going back through some old posts - articles that I had deleted when I thought I'd kicked the blogging addic...habit - and I ran across one that I wrote back in April of 2008. I wrote it as a reaction to a Vanity Fair profile of Miley Cyrus.

The primary focus of that post was on the semi-nude photo of Miley by acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz, but not because of the sensationalist nature of said photo of a then fifteen-year-old Disney star. I was, frankly, hammering the photographer for "phoning it in," which in turn led to a discussion of how one maintains a creative spark after years of doing the same thing over and over.

However, the 20+ comments on that post took on a life of their own (one of the things I miss most about the "golden age" of blogging) and the discussion turned to what Miley's future might be. My contribution to those musings was this gem:
I'll admit that the track record of female teen idols isn't very good in terms of a smooth transition to adulthood, but I'm not sure we should write off Miley for this one indiscretion.

While it might prove to be the first public stumble in a long downward spiral, it's equally possible that it's a wake-up call that puts her back on track.
So, anybody want to hire me as their personal stock-picker? Yeah, neither would I.

In hindsight, Miley told us everything we needed to know about her now-infamous career path, in response to the interviewer's "dumb" question.
I ask a dumb question--I'm sorry, it's hard to interview a teenager; they're intimidating--about whose career trajectory she'd like to follow. Her answer is a deft amalgam of showbiz savvy and girl-power mantra: "Before, I'd say like Hilary Duff"--the star of Disney's Lizzie McGuire--"or this person or that person. But there can't be a thousand Hilary Duffs. Then that doesn't make Hilary special. And there can't be a thousand Miley Cyruses, or that doesn't make me special. That's what a star is: they're different. A celebrity is different. So, no, mostly I want to make my own path."
Two years later, we saw the first signpost on her "path" to being "different" in what was then a shocking performance on Dancing With The Stars (but which now seems positively quaint by comparison).

There are many ways to make a of which is apparently to ride a wrecking ball in one's skivvies. But whatever we might think of Miley Cyrus today, we should never believe that it all came about by chance.

On the other hand, I'm still waiting for someone to explain to her the fundamental difference between "celebrity" and "train wreck," in terms she might be able to internalize.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions for Miley's next awesome career move? Email me or hit Facebook.

"Code 7 - Dinosaur on Aisle 9"
December 19, 2014 11:47 AM | Posted in: ,

You've been there. You've done your grocery shopping - which is stressful enough by itself - and waited at the end of an interminably long checkout queue, and you finally - finally! - get your groceries loaded onto the conveyor belt, ready for the checkout process to begin so you can move on to the important things in your life, and the guy in front of you, getting ready to pay, pulls out a...checkbook! *cue soundtrack from Psycho shower scene*
You know that guy, the inconsiderate relic whose car probably has hand-carved rock wheels? Yeah, I'm that guy.
Who writes checks anymore, anyway? Besides me, not very many people, according to this article, which cites a Federal Reserve study showing that the number of transactions conducted via written check decreased by more than 50% between 2000 and 2012. (There are still billions of checks written each year, but most of them are mine, apparently.) People are instead using debit and credit cards, with a few - most likely Tea Partiers or Preppers - resorting to cash. Interestingly, the value of cash transactions still exceeds that of either debit or credit cards, which makes sense if you assume that really big payments - like those for house down payments - exceed most credit card limits.
Anyway, I'm old school enough that I don't have a debit card...never have, probably never will. I've also never gotten comfortable buying groceries with a credit card...and I'm not prepared to offer any logical explanation whatsoever for that bias; it's just how I roll. I can say it's not because I'm averse to credit cards in general. Our credit card bill represents the largest single expenditure by far we have in any given month, although we always pay it in full, but I guess I grew up thinking that people who bought groceries on credit just weren't good money managers. Like I said, no supportable logic. In fact, the cash back programs that most credit card companies provide justify putting everything on a card, assuming you can pay off the balance each month.
But, lest you think I'm a hopeless dinosaur, I can't wait for the day that we can conduct all of our business via PayPal or by using NFC capabilities on our phones. How are these things different, conceptually, from debit cards? I don't know, but the fewer things I have to carry around in order to give someone my money, the better. (The phone-payment thing - like the system Starbucks uses [which I do love, by the way] - doesn't qualify because the phone isn't the key to the transaction; it's just the facilitator.)

In fact, in a perfect world, grocery checkout would involve rolling a cart full of items directly from the aisle to your car without even pausing at a payment terminal because an NFC reader at the door would instantly read, price, and debit your bank account for your purchases.

It's worth mentioning, if only to protect her if you ever get behind us in a grocery line, that Debbie isn't onboard with my preference for checks. As with most things in our marriage, she's simply humoring me [and since we never had teenagers, I rely on her for my required allotment of eye-rolling].

Insightful and/or supportive comments welcome; haterz will be doomed to an eternity of standing behind me in a checkout line. Either way: email me or slap something onto my Facebook page.

December 18, 2014 12:29 AM | Posted in:

We had our first significant T.E. (Tumbleweed Event) of the season last week. It was actually rather mild compared to the springtime varieties, where the prickly beasties have been known to knock semis off the interstate and dig deep gouges in concrete streets*, but it was still good/bad enough to be a topic of conversation at a dinner party the next evening.

Almost everyone had a tumbleweed story, except for the poor couple who lives in the Texas Hill Country and thus has only heard rumors and scary tales around the campfire. Most of the stories involved out-of-state tourists with an inexplicable fascination with tumbleweeds, to the extent that most of us had actually spotted them inside said tourists' cars, presumably being transported back to New Jersey or Massachusetts for some kind of show-and-tell about surviving the Old West.

Most of the dinner party guests who had lived in Midland for a couple of decades or more also had stories of finding tumbleweeds piled practically to the eaves of the house or blocking their garages after some particularly nasty storms. One man described how his wife cried for a year after they moved to Midland after getting married and she discovered the havoc the winds can wreak around here. And, of course, we here at Casa Fire Ant have experienced that disquieting predicament ourselves (the tumbleweeds and dust, not the crying for a year. Ours was no more than three months.). 

Anyway, our neighborhood experiences a phenomenon when the weeds tumble unlike most others in the area, because we have a couple of ponds. The combination of tumbleweeds and water is somehow even more depressing than having them pile up in your yard, except for the fact that someone else has to clean out the ponds.

I took a few photos after last week's T.E.


I wonder if the migrating ducks were perplexed by the stickery things floating in their temporary rest stop?


Our resident geese are, however, unfazed...jaded...or simply clueless. They're geese. What do you expect?


The dock doubled as an effective weed sieve.


The answer to the age-old question of whether tumbleweeds float is, apparently, "sort of."


The 45-mph winds blew tumbleweeds into a mass close to the bank of the pond; this was just the beginning.

Living on the outskirts of town has its advantages, but being a drag strip for tumbleweeds isn't one of them.

*These are obvious exaggerations. All of our roadways are asphalt.

Got a tumbleweed story of your own? Share it via email or on my Facebook post.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2014 is the previous archive.

January 2015 is the next archive.

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