The Odd Mix

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Location: Virginia, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Of Pups and Ponies

“Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” Serious (or at least snarky and frustrated) post ahead.

When I was in the military, I spent more time than I like to remember on what we called “Dog and Pony Shows”; or, in the words of a more colorful officer than I, a “Canine and Equestrian Extravaganza”. Whenever a senior officer or dignitary would visit our area; whenever there was a change in our chain of command; whenever there was a major holiday; or whenever someone in charge just got a wild hair stuck you-know-where, we would have a Dog and Pony Show.  No real dogs (usually); no real ponies (with a couple of notable exceptions); just a whole lot of people suffering a whole lot of stress and spending a whole lot of time and effort to put on a whole lot of glitz and a grand old time – and all for the benefit of someone who probably didn’t care anyway.  We would go for long runs. We would shine things (like tanks) that are normally left drab for a good reason. We would stand in very large formations for very long times pretending we could hear the very boring speeches and listening to the band play very bad music.

And then it was back to business as usual. Now what did it cost us?  Well, the soldiers had to be there anyway, so cost of manpower wasn’t an issue.  A drive through the training area would re-drabify the equipment pretty darn quick.  The runs were not bad for physical fitness.  And junior officers are supposed to be stressed – it keeps them alert.  So really it just cost the hassle... and the pain of listening to the really bad band music. And the senior officers and dignitaries were happy they had been honored. No harm, no foul.

Now I work for the government as a civilian and I have discovered a new kind of Dog and Pony Show – one which bothers me a lot more than standing in snow, or marching in the rain ever did.  Because we cannot make our people do impressive (albeit sometimes silly) things to honor our seniors, we show them how much cash we can flush.  It is an apparent competition to see who can spend the most taxpayers’ money sucking up to the big cheeses without getting arrested.

In one agency this year, the head office staff managed to have life sized oil portraits of all of the past agency heads commissioned to be hung in the hall to the head’s office – where few will ever get to see them (even if they wanted to).  Then they had 5x7 reproductions made of each portrait – thousands of them – so everyone in the agency could have a set. In another instance an agency had brass medallions struck and mounted as pins to give to every member of the agency – to honor them (so that the cost could be justified).  One agency had a fish tank put in its cafeteria – a ten foot wide by eight foot high fish tank with an artificial reef!

These are not isolated activities.  Washington, DC is littered with the detritus of the honors shown to upper level bureaucrats. A statue here, a giant bronze plaque there, faceless names and dates graven in every flat stone surface you see.  Fountains, gardens, memorial trees, giant ugly vases, huge bells without clappers… The list goes on and on.

Some of these people have, no doubt done yeoman service to their country – I work near a statue of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing – and others were no doubt corrupt and criminal.  When honors are deserved, honors should be given.  Great service should be well rewarded.  But occupying a seat and signing papers, while it might take dedication and long hours to climb to the post, does not a hero make.  And we pay them very well indeed to do it.  Spending great gobs of taxpayers’ money – my money – to make them look like heroes is repugnant.  And spending the money on your own boss should be criminal (in my humble, worker-bee opinion).

I ask the question, “Why did you spend. all. that. money?” and I am shushed. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. It’s all legal – shoot, it’s usually lawyers doing it. They ran it by counsel! You see, the honoree never gets to keep the statue or the fountain (though I’ll bet he kept a copy of the paintings) so it isn’t a gift – and that makes it alright, right?

Gahk! This is why I will never climb much higher than I am now, I suppose.  I cannot generate sufficient suction with my lips to kiss up in executive style.  When I should be kissing, I keep laughing … so I don’t start crying.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Little Things

It’s the little things…
I hate Metro! I ride the Washington, DC subway every day – not a long ride, but every day. It is mostly clean, mostly on time, and mostly safe – and I hate it. “Why?” you may ask. Good question… I asked myself the same thing. It’s the little things.

I have been doing the Metro thing for quite a while and I have polished my route down to which doors to use on which trains. I could almost do it in my sleep. And sometimes, having left the house at 4:30AM, I think I do. But there is always a problem.

The elevators and escalators are always breaking down and, in true Murphy fashion, always in the most inconvenient times and places. The signs in the metro are terribly confusing. This wouldn’t be a problem for me except that it confuses the tourists, and a confused tourist is an immobile tourist, and a clan of immobile tourists (they travel in clans) is a traffic jam. The station attendants are always mysteriously absent when the clans are immobile – I think they are behind the brown doors watching us like “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on all the CCTV cameras. The fare machines are generally reliable, but again seem designed to bring the uninitiated to a confused halt. And the Metro-powers-that-be seem to believe that rush-hour, which around here lasts for three or more hours, is the best time to send their armed teams with strong boxes in to remove the day’s take from the machines.

More often than not, I end my 15 minute ride on Metro shaking my head and grumbling my mantra, “I hate Metro! I hate Metro! I hate Metro!” Lesson learned? No mater how good your product is, people will hate you if you don’t get the little things right.

Last night as we were getting ready for bed, Annelise announced that she needed her “Snugglewuffie”. Great… except for one thing. Neither MDW nor I had the faintest clue what a Snugglewuffie was. She said it was downstairs, so MDW went down to see if Caleb could help unravel the mystery.

MDW: “Caleb, ‘Liese wants her Snugglewuffie.”
Caleb: “OK. Which one?”

MDW: “What color is a Snugglewuffie?”
Caleb: “That depends on which one she wants.”

MDW: “Can you help me find her Snugglewuffie?”
Caleb: “If you tell me which one you want me to find.”
MDW: finally finding the right question “Caleb, What is a Snugglewuffie?”
Caleb: shrugging “A stuffed animal.”

Turns out she wanted her “Duck Snugglewuffie” which we discovered is actually an ostrich beanie baby. After we found it she wandered around the house for a bit… making her ostrich quack. Evidently, according to Gabriella, the term came from a show about a fish. Kids... Gotta love 'em.

Idiots and Maniacs
There is an old saying about other drivers which references their speed. It is true.

Yesterday I was driving to work in the fog – thick fog. I know the road well enough that I was able to keep it close to the speed limit. When I hit a straight section I was surprised by a roaring noise as the USS Nimitz passed me doing 70, in the fog, on a winding downhill road, in the dark, in a dear crossing zone. Maniac! The only thing that will probably keep him alive is the solid steel, 1974 vintage, powder blue Cadillac he was in.

This morning on the same road I got stuck behind a Buick. With 4 middle aged construction workers of Latin origin in it. Going 35 to 40 in a 45 zone where most people travel 55. On a clear, dry morning. Almost made me miss my train. Idiot!

Just for Susie… and the rest of us cheaters
Here is how to make macaroni edible and cheat the fate of the freezer while you do it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

New Recipes

I am tired and today has been a long day. An old injury flared up in my ankle this weekend so I am limping around wondering how badly I did it in ( I had surgery on it in 1995). Not much else to post, so I'll just point out a couple of new recipes on my Odd Mixings blog.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Busy Weekend

Milo getting first dibs on a new round bale.

We had a busy weekend getting the farm back in shape after the rough weather for the past couple of weeks. Having a long weekend helped - the sea of slime did not - so I suppose we broke even. Anyhoo, we still got a lot done; hay distributed, feeders moved, stall mats fitted, and a whole lot of horse, ah... crap, moved.

And I got a new project.

Poor Eddie had a tough life. He is a retired race horse (read arthritic) who had been badly mistreated in a stall. Now he is well behaved under saddle, and is fairly sweet in the field. But get him in a stall and he is fear agressive. It is probably a very good thing I don't know who did this to him because it makes me very, very, very mad.

Eddie and I get along very well. He knows better than to bite or kick me, and I know better than to do the things tat scare him. I think he will someday relize that not everyone who comes in his stall is going to hurt or be mean to him, thgh he will likely always react that way to strangers. He particularly dislikes loud, hyperkinetic people - so I always move deliberately and quietly around him. I have found that he likes it if I sing low and quiet while I groom him.

Eddie is probably a bit small to cary me - we'll see. But we can at least be friends, and that's what he needs.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cold is a Homonym. Is Freezing?

Thank you so much, blogging parents. I don’t know how you did it, but all you virally infected families managed somehow to pass it on to my healthy family. I am now floating in a sea of green slime and I can feel it growing in my sinuses.

This morning MDW let me sleep in. Yes, Tink, for two days running now I slept until 10:00 AM. Heaven! What a good wife – she says it is my Valentine’s Day present (and a good one, I might add).

So, this morning as I lay there holding my six year old (who was the primary vector for the green slime) ‘Liese came running in, flipped on the lights, and jumped on the bed to show us her Band-Aid (Band-Aids are the subject of another entire entry for another day). She lay down to snuggle next to her big sister and the green slime settled into a new part of her chest, provoking a coughing jag.

Gabriella: gathering her up in a hug. “That happens because you have a cold.”
‘Liese: with a stuffy, squeaky voice “I no have a code, I have a Freezing!”

Suddenly I seemed to be overcome with a fit of coughing myself. I would never laugh in a situation like that, would you?

Friday, February 17, 2006

I Rock!

OK. Normally I am a pretty self-deprecating kind of guy. Not usually prone to tooting my own horn. But today, I've just gotta say it, "I Rock!"

"Why do you rock?" you ask. Well let me tell you.

Having had what some might call a lackluster Valentine's Day, my children and I were somewhat dissapointed. They, because they had to sit in the truck or the waiting room for eight hours, and me because I had to sit in the truck or the waiting room with them for eight hours. And because I always try to use V Day as an opportunity to rack up those ever important E points. Well, to ease the kids feelings (and double my oportunities to get those points) I told them we would observe Valentine's Day this weekend.

Due to the vagaries of the Federal Government's personnel scheduling system (and it is very vague sometimes) I had today off, but being the sneaky sort that I am, I did not tell my wife. Instead I bought the groceries for a special breakfast and some flowers. This morning I got up as if I were going to work and went out to the garage and built a tray for the bathtub. Cooked breakfast and sent one of the kids down to wake her up with a rose and bring her upstairs.

I give you... My Wife's Valentine's Day Surprise :cue sappy oooohs and aaaaws:
(note the rose petals in the water, please. I want full credit, here)

OK, Let's all say it together now... LOL
"OddMix Rocks!"

The Valentine’s Day from H-E-Double Toothpick

Monday evening MDW (my dear wife) called me at work. “Call the dentist,” she says. This is significant for several reasons; primary among them is she is severely phobic of dentists (is there a word for that? dentomedophobia?)  and has not, therefore, been to see one in about three years. At this point she was in an extraordinary amount of pain.  I knew she was in an extraordinary amount of pain because she was volunteering to go. Our old dentist said that in 25 years of practice she was in the top 5 phobics he’d ever met.  She hyperventilates when we park at the dentist’s office even after having taken Xanax.

So, I dutifully secured an appointment at the local family dentist. She took a Percocet and a Hydromorphone and went to sleep.

Tuesday morning actually started out fairly well.  I slept in (till 8:00 which is like noon for me).  The kids liked the little boxes of chocolates I left on their bed.  They tried to share with my wife who declined politely (another reason I knew she was in pain – MDW is a chocoholic).

I went out and got the horses fed and watered, got the kids dressed, got MDW medicated, made the kids lunch, load up the kids, carried MWD to her truck…  Yes carried, the Xanax had hit her hard enough that when she tried to get up from putting her shoes on, she wound up tripoding with her knees and face. OK, time for the fireman’s carry.

So we get to the dentists office and I get her into the chair.  The dentist tells me I should not have given her the Xanax. I explain that without it she would not be in the chair. OK, let’s take an X-ray.  Oops, MDW needs a root canal… but this dentist doesn’t do root canals – or extractions.  How about a referral, sir?  Go home and call for an appointment sometime next week. Riiiiiight. Jerks.

So we head into town from the dentist’s.  And the truck starts to loose power. You guessed it – out of gas. Off I set on a two mile hike in the slush to the nearest gas station while MDW naps in the car – along with the four kids.

On my way to the gas station I pass a dentist office and figure, “What harm in asking?” Yes they can do what she needs.  No they don’t have time to do it today. “Would you like us to call another dentist’s office and get you an appointment?” Why, yes, thank you, I would like that very much!

Gassed up and MDW still drugged, we were off again to our last stop of the day where MDW spent over two hours in the chair getting a root canal.  The good news in all this is that the last stop was the first dentist she has ever had who didn’t hurt her.  She went back the next day without any hyperventilating and got three fillings.  The best part was when I went in to get her after her fillings; she looked at me with a dazed expression and said, “It didn’t hurt! Wasn’t it supposed to hurt?”

Not the Valentine’s Day I had planned, but a good thing in the end.


Annelise was very excited to get her “choc-ats” in the heart box.   She took a small bite out of each one to see what was inside before she selected a caramel to eat.

MDW: “Can you count them, ‘Liese?”
‘Liese: Touching each as she counts, “One, Two, Eight, huh? Chocat on my fing-er!”

Monday, February 13, 2006

Oh, Hurt Me So Good…

I got a massage. Sounds good, right? I have never before enjoyed someone inflicting so much pain on my body so much.

I am not into pain. I have been suffering for a long time from old self abuses (voluntary and otherwise), poor physical condition (OK, so I need to exercise more), and the sporadic but intense nature of my secondary profession (farmer). Life has not been good to my body. Some people thrive on the military life, I did not. I have ailments from stem to stern, most of which are orthopedic in nature. I would like to get in shape, but doing so just hurts so damn much, the motivation is hard to maintain. Enough moaning.

I got tired of hurting when I move my body so my wife sent me to Jen. She is a massage therapist who sidelines as an Equine Massage Therapist. There were moments this weekend when I thought she had the two confused. This weekend she focused on the pressure points in my right Scalene muscles. For those of you not anatomically educated (like me until this weekend – after which I am NEVER likely to forget where my Scalenes are) these are the muscles that run from just below your ear to your clavicle. Think Vulcan nerve pinch.

Whooo, Brother! Now I want to caveat this by saying this is just one of the types of massage she does, she did ease up if I asked, and my back and arm are better than they have been in quite some time. But – as I was saying – Whoooo, Brother! The right front side of my neck feels like I volunteered to be the kicking target for an advanced Karate class. Just by putting pressure on this muscle she provided me with interesting sensations ranging from my fingertips to my shoulder blade to my forehead. She made things move on their own in my neck, my back, and in my arm. She made me hurt and like it. Sounds kinky – it wasn’t. It was what it was.

Was it worth it? Well I am going to go pay her another $70 to hurt me next weekend. And the weekend after that… If you need a massage in Northern Virginia, let me know.

"I Follow You Foot-teps, Daddy!"

Here are the pictures from this weekend's snow. There are more to see on Flickr.

Between the snowsuit-shock and the depth of the snow, 'Liese had a tough time walking. She decided the way to go was to follow in my footsteps. I am fairly sure there is an important alegory in there.

This was after the snow had already settled an inch or so.

Happiness is... freezing the back of your head in the snow while making a snow angel.

Here are the kids exploring the sideyard. Inevitably, the bean is out there somewhere on guard duty.

Yep.. There she is.

Caleb and Bissy decided the best way to make a snowgirl was to simply coat a real girl with snow. This was all good until he went for the face. Much screaming ensued.

Big sister's helping hands!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

One More Dose of the White Stuff

According to the weather report this afternoon, we have had 4.5 inches of snow this winter. We are currently in the midst of a winter storm which is predicted to deliver between 10 and 13 inches by tomorrow morning. Now why couldn't have this of happened on Sunday night?

We have postponed the "big" party for Annelise. We are now going to have it next Sunday so everyone can come without driving in the snow.

I am going to have fun with the mother of all Tonka toys in the morning - the farm tractor. Today I was leveling the footing in the round pen. Since we have a quarter mile of driveway, plowing our was out of here is going to take a while - but, Oh, such fun!

I am also looking forward to getting some pictures in the morning. I will post some here later.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Modding the Template, Even!

Poked my nose into my template today. For a web programmer I have felt remarkably reluctant to dig into the code that is my template. Took the plunge and started tweaking things, Added a picture and some links. Sometime I think I will change a bunch more, but not today. Does that make me a Lazy web developer, or just bleary from sleep deprivation.

‘Liese got on the phone and announced to me, “Daddy, I get gum for my monies! I got to store. Bye.” Then my wife picked up the phone and explained that my little one had found two pennies and wanted to buy some gum. I am going to see how much gum I can get away with giving her for two pennies.

A little Odd phone conversation

OddMix’s Wife: I need you to pick up my prescription on the way home.
OddMix: OK. Sure.
OMW: It is at the ------- pharmacy. [On the other side of town, 30 minutes out of my way]
OM: Crap!
OMW: MmmmHmm.
OM: Crap, crap, crappalicious!

OMW: That word was… wrong! Just… wrong! Don’t do that again.
OM: Uhhh, OK.

I think I should have finished with, Oh look! Cheesecake! but didn’t think about it till later.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thanks. Now. Must. Go. Sleep.

Such fun. I had to patch a server today, which meant waiting till the server was not being used. So I got home at 9:00 and put the kids down by 10:00. Spent a bit of time with my lovely wife, and I have to get up at 4:00 in the morning to do it all one more time. G'night.

Thanks to you all for wishing my little one a happy birthday - it really made her day!

I am still tired. I cheated and slept 'till 5:00, but was up until nearly 2:00 before I got any real sleep.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Happy Three!

Annelise is now three. Her Birthday was Monday and we had a great time. Just our immediate family - The "big" party is on Sunday. My little baby isn't a baby anymore.

We sang "Happy Birthday" while she played with her new Leapster. At this point she had already tried on several new outfits and was wearing the pink sweats that say, "Will Trade Kisses for Candy!"

She seemed rather astonished when the cake appeared before her eyes.

The little fasion horse loved the barrettes.

And the new videos were very exciting, too.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Meme of Fours

I have made a discovery. Memes are more fun than they might seem. And they make you think (at least they do me). So, stolen from Hello Josephine comes the meme of fours:

Four jobs I’ve had
1. Sears Catalog Employee.
2. Army Officer.
3. IT Contractor.
4. Federal Government Employee.

Four movies I've could watch over and over
1. Lord of the Rings (any of the three)
2. Narnia
3. Pirates of the Caribbean
4. Finding Neverland

Four places I’ve lived
There are too many – I’ll just list the first four.
1. Tachikawa, Japan
2. Alexandria, VA
3. Kwajalein Atoll, Micronesia
4. Philadelphia, PA

Four TV shows I love
1. Dirty Jobs
2. Mythbusters
3. Iron Chef America
4. Amazing Race

Four places I've been on vacation
1. Vancouver, WA
2. Honolulu, HI
3. Lake Saranac, NY
4. Orlando, FL

Four blogs I visit daily...that you might or might notexpect me to.
1. Desperate Working Mommas
2. Poop and Boogies
3. Crazy-ass Family
4. Breed ‘em and Weep

Four Favorite Foods
1. Steamed Blue Crabs
2. NY Strip Steak (the thicker, the better)
3. Krispy Kreme doughnuts
4. Hummus (with lots of garlic)

Four places I'd rather be
1. Home
2. Fishing on the bay
3. Skiing anywhere there is snow on a hill
4. Kayaking where the water is still and clear as glass

Four CDs I listened to most recently
1.Trace Adkins – Songs About Me
2. Iona – The Woven Ring
3. Faith Hill - Fireflies
4. Shania Twain – UP!

Last four vehicles I’ve owned (all by myself)
1. Little red Hyundai Accent
2. Ford Expedition
3. Buick LeSabre
4. Oldsmobile Silhouette

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Head spinning!

Somebody stop the world… I am dizzy and I want to get off.

What a weekend. This past one, not the one coming up. I was so busy I didn’t even have time to read blogs, much less write in one.

We built a round pen for the horses (big round 6’ high fence).
Had surgery done on the dog’s knee (corrective and planned).
Ditto on one of the horses’ neck (emergency and not planned).
Did the weekly Costco run (the greatest place in the world to go broke saving money).
Caught up on my course work.

And to make it all that much more exciting, my wife threw her back out on Sunday driving the tractor so I got to do all this while being the primary care giver for one couch bound wife, four small kids, two dogs (one with a bad knee), and a whole bunch of horses.

OK. I wish I could write more but my pillow is calling. Hear it? G’night.