Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout - "F"

Finding time...getting up early to put a blog not as easy as it was now that we are fulltime grandparenting with a two year old and a 7 month old getting up even earlier!  Maybe I'll have more time in retirement.  41 business days.  But who's counting.

And I've been wanting to blog and journal about heading into retirement -- fears, excitement, doubts, hopes --it's a big deal.  Bigger, of course, because I'm determined to analyze it to death.  Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "death".  Although I expect that to be a pretty exciting adventure as well although it will be frustrating not to blog about it. 

But I'm really tired and just planned to use some old shots for the theme this week.  Some are even fuzzy stills from an old videocamera.  "I've sunk to this," I mutter.

"I haven't shot anything new for weeks," I complain sourly, entering the Bagman and Butler studio...

BAGMAN (Leaping at me from the couch, screaming in glee) "F!!! We finally get to do F!!  We can fill the whole thing with one "F" word and that word is..."

CRASH!  BANG!  THUD!   Bagman blinks and gets a vacant stare as Butler crashes the printer over his head. 

BUTLER:  "We're not using your F-word in any Friday Shootout as long as I'm around!"

BAGMAN (now on his knees with little stars circling his head):  "Why?"

BUTLER: "Because I look at the blogs of most of the people who follow us and they are a much classier and more proper group of people."

BAGMAN: "You mean they've never heard of F...."  

KAPOWEEE!  The spare monitor shatters over Bagman who now goes down to the floor.

BUTLER:  "Get the duct tape!"

I don't usually like to muzzle Bagman but maybe I should in this instance.  Butler and I wrap the inert Bagman in duct tape until he looks like a shiney gray mummy.   

BAGMAN:  "Mfffmmfff Mfffphumm."

I find myself starting to drift off to sleep so I take a deep breath and load pictures.

"F" is for:

Fire (Camping with Brian)

(Charleston's Civil War Re-enactors)

More Firearms

BAGMAN (Squirming on the floor like a silver-gray worm): "Mmmmffff!!  Mummmmfff!"  Which I interpret as "How can you deny the appropriateness of my F interpretation and fill your blog with violence!  Make love not war!"

He's right.  I'll try to get more uplifting.  F stands for:

(Blue Angels came to Charleston last year)

Flying Upside Down

BAGMAN:  "Mrrmmmrrr.  Murmf."  Which I interpret to mean, "Entertainment to you, celebrating military bullies to the rest of the world!"

So I'll try something more celebratory of life.  F is for:

(I didn't actually take this picture, of course)

BAGMAN (Vibrating on the floor with fury like some silver gray cucoon):  "Maahhh!"  Which I interpret to mean, "How can you deny me my fun and show this?!  How do you think it got in there in the first place!!"

Deciding that I can't win, I just load more pictures as fast as I can so I can go back to bed!

F is for:



First Degree Black Belt
(Five years later, I can't remember how to tie it let alone how to break boards)

Fu the Fast Car

Feeding Birds

BAGMAN (Now motionless): "Zzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Hearing him snore reminds me that I might be able to get another hour of sleep before the alarm goes off.  I ask Butler to untape him after he hits the send button and I head back down the hallway to our bedroom.  Just as my head sinks into the pillow I hear Noah starting to cry for a morning bottle and Conner is climbing into our bed with a DVD he wants to watch. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

44 Business Days To Retirement

As a compulsive journalist -- heck, I even majored in journalism in college -- I've often made the effort, particularly, to chronicle the major events, transitions, and travels of my life -- books of things my children did growing up; trips to Mexico, France, Italy; the rather gory and bizarrely x-rated journal about my little bout with prostate cancer...

The problem with journaling, as I see it, is that when you have time to do it right, nothing much is happening.  When you are in the midst of the earthquake there is no time to journal.   So with a few exceptions, I missed most of the pithy stuff but have written millions of words about nothing much and illustrated this pablum with equally bland photographs. 

To be honest, I'm not quite that humble and will lay claim to a few clever and interesting things, but, if I dropped dead tomorrow, any distant descendant who might be interested would have to dig through a mountain of oatmeal to find the raisins.   I remind myself of the old Seinfield sitcom.

Which leads up to my current blog-journal epic about retirement and kicking ass in the last quarter of the football game.  Somewhere along the line, I got the erroneous idea that I would be sitting back in an easy chair, growing a beard and smoking a pipe and dispensing the wisdom of a lifetime.

But instead, I'm running around more manic and freaked out then ever.  Of course, I still haven't retired yet -- so part of it is trying to tie up loose ends at work. 

BUTLER: "If you haven't been able to tie up the loose ends in the 13 years you were there, what makes you think you can tie them up in the next 44 days?"

And home is chaos.  Wonderful chaos - but chaos.  With Brian, Melody and family moving back in a few months ago, the population of living mammals (dogs, cats, humans, grandhumans) has tripled and the furniture has doubled. 

I arrive home after work and my first assessment is that a tornado has hit the place.  Not only that but the tornado is still here, whirling from room to room while I stumble after it, waist deep in toys, all of which have batteries and movement sensors so I am surrounded by squeeky voices saying, "One, two three...Play with me!"   I push through toward where I hear a glass breaking. 

From somewhere else, Karen's voice is calling out for help.  "Brian and Melody have to work late!!  Can you please change Conner's diaper?!  And did you get the salad stuff I asked you to?"

Which of course, I had not done.  

Turning toward where I assume Conner's diapers might be, I step on a small plastic helicopter which, of course, in a squeeky voice, says, "Let's play the alphabet game!  A is for..."

"'A' is for AAAAAAAAH!"  I tell it. 

I wonder if I'll have time to blog about retirement in retirement.

Maybe I should just sit tight and work on blogging about the nursing home.  I'll need one with Internet Access.  Of course, I may not remember what Internet Access does.  Maybe instead of the computer, I'll just bring the plastic helicopter.  "One, two, with me!"     I can drive the nurse's aides crazy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Missing the Friday Shootout and an Old Governor

Well, I missed today's shootout...well, by the time I post this I will have missed yesterday's shootout.  I really didn't have any black and whites anyhow...well, sure, I have lots of old ones but my brain wasn't connecting them with anything.  And I could have cheated and just removed the color from any shot. 

And this morning I had to get up early and drive to Myrtle Beach for the monthly meeting of all the South Carolina County Directors of Alcohol and Drug Agencies.  I've only got two more meetings to go to (and 45 work days but who's counting?) until retirement. 

I'm going to miss these guys (and gals) -- a great bunch of dedicated, if sometimes odd, characters.  Even if we are still having the same discussions about the same issues that were being discussed 13 years ago when I first showed up in South Carolina. 

BAGMAN: "Hey!  Show the picture!!!"

Okay...From the first year I started my job...determined to change the world, or at least South Carolina, and wondering, at the same time, if I could remember where the restrooms were.

Governor Hodges was elected the year (or was it the year after) I arrived.   At least 1/3 of the people in that photograph have moved on to better things...or at least moved on.  I stood way in the back because I was still a real "newby".

BUTLER:  "There you go with those made up words again!  Why don't you use correct vocabulary?"

Anyhow, this was actually the only group shot we ever had with the Governor -- who appoints the State Director who gives us money.  Less and less each year now.  We were all very competative then, not to mention rather infantile.  We whined about the State Office a lot.   Which is probably why the State Director arranged to have all the County Directors have their pictures taken, smiling with the Governor.  ("I'm cutting your block grant but I got you into a photo-op.  You can thank me later.")

Since then, over a ten-year adolescent period, painfully we learned to work together and matured into a pretty effective group. 

I wonder if I'm going to start getting nostalgic about something every day for the next 44 days (but who's counting?).  

But I remember the day this photo was taken very well.  I remember what everybody was thinking.  Everybody in the room (except for three people) was thinking the same thing...

First there was the newly appointed State Director who was thinking...

Secondly, there was the Governor himself who was thinking...

And finally, hidden in the back of the crowd -- Hey! I still had hair then! -- I was thinking...

I hope I can show up for next Friday's shoot-out.   One of the things I've realized about having only 44 more days is that I have a huge amount of stuff to get done before I leave.  I really want to tie up as much as possible so I don't leave my successor a whole bunch of unfinished gunk.

At least I have finally figured out where the restrooms are!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shaving the cactus with Charles Darwin


Okay, so I’m not the world’s most careful man when it comes to shaving in the morning.  I have learned, through years of nicks and rolls of toilet paper stuck in little patches on my chin, not to cut myself.   Most of the time.

But I tend to use too much shaving cream and often splatter it on the mirror or wall or faucet in my haste to get to work on time.   49 more days until retirement – but who’s counting?

This morning, however, the flying glob of shaving cream landed smack dab on the little cactus that decorates the sink.

Splatterd shaving cream is usuallty not a problem.  On the mirror, wall, or faucet, I just scoop it off with my hand but this was a sticky wicket.  I am enough of a strategic planner to know that this time,  I’d come away with a hand full of prickers. 

BUTLER: “Prickers?”

I don’t care if it’s a word or not…I know what I mean. So, anyway,  I considered using a paper towel or toilet paper but I surmised that I would just end up with a bigger mess – suds and torn paper stuck on the cactus.

BUTLER: “At least ‘surmised’ is a word.”

Could I use a towel or wash cloth?  Probably end up with lots of little prickers stuck in the towel which would be an ugly surprise for whoever used it next.

BAGMAN: “Prickers prickers prickers…let’s write a bawdy song about prickers!”

And then I lapsed into the kind of meaningless digressive thought that hits me all the time and leaves me staring into space. Rather embarrassing when it happens during business meetings.  49 more days.

I considered, since there was already shaving cream on the cactus, if I might just shave it. Why don’t cactuses shave?

BUTLER: “Cacti.  The plural of cactus is cacti.”

Well, they probably don’t shave because they never evolved hands. And prickers were useful evolutionarily because it kept them from being eaten. And why do we shave – maybe I’ll grow a beard when I retire. More specifically why do we still have hair growing on our faces but not so much on our bodies? Millions of years ago, early men (which includes early women) were hairy all over. It helped keep them warm.

Aha! But then they invented clothing. And they invented it early enough to give evolution time enough to ditch the hair. (Note: To avoid the creation argument, I always figured that God did create man and was clever enough to use evolution to do it.)

So I figure that we don’t have hair on our bodies because Neanderthals invented clothes but we still have hair on our faces because Neanderthals did NOT invent the ski mask.

BUTLER: “What about women? They don’t have hair on their faces. “

BAGMAN (grinning to discover he had suddenly had an original thought): “Because they invented kissing!”

I think about that for a moment. But if they were kissing men, why didn’t the hair disappear on men’s faces over a million years?

Eureka! Because men are so impatient! They are unwilling to wait for a million years of evolution in order to start kissing, so they invented shaving! Always looking for the faster, easier way, we short circuited the smooth skin evolution.

BUTLER: “It must have been painful back in 1 million BC trying to shave with a piece of flint and no shaving cream.”

BAGMAN: “But if it led to kissing…small price to pay!”

At that point, I snapped out of it. I realized I was now late for work and there was still shaving cream on the cactus. I decided to leave it there and no shave the cactus. Maybe a million years from now the cactus will evolve into a cucumber.

Unless it evolves hands and starts shaving in order to kiss other cactuses.

BUTLER: “Cacti.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two unrelated thoughts during a busy weekend

Ah reality!  A life!  Brian and Melody went to Myrtle Beach for Brian's birthday and Karen and I watched the kids.  Lots of laughter.  Lots of fun.  Maybe a little too much fun.  I've now got a song stuck in my head and it will not go away --

"There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his Name-O
B... I... N... G.O...
B... I... N... G.O...
B... I... N... G.O...

     and Bingo was his Name-O.

Brian and Melody got back a little while ago and finally -- with as much politeness as I could muster -- I ran upstairs to have a little amount of time in my cave. 

I did have two semi-adult thoughts over the weekend, in between endless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants.   (Who came up with that?  Mickey Mouse I can understand... a talking mouse.  But a character who is basically a... well, a sponge 

Oh yes, the two adult thoughts...

  1. Strategic  Planning is simply the creation of a rationalization compelling enough to convince people to let you do what you wanted to do in the first place.  If it is done really well, you can also convince yourself. 
  2. I have never doubted God.  But I have always doubted people who claim to know all about God and what he is thinking.  This includes myself whenever I begin to think I understand God.

And now I think I'll go downstairs and rejoin the chaos.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friday My Town Photo Shoot -- Weird and Bizarre


Walking into the Bagman and Butler studio this morningm, I can tell right away that Butler is in a funk. Sulking, he looks up and gives me a weird look.

BUTLER (sarcastically): "So you finally deign to join us?"

It's too early to deal with squabbling, so I mumble about how I've been busy and emotinoally drained from finally making up my mind to retire in March and beginning to tell people.  And besides, who uses the word "deign" this early in the morning?

BUTLER: "If you're worried about the shoot, Bagman's already finished it anyhow."

I look over and acknowledge Bagman who has been jumping up and down and waving his arms and shaking like a wet dog for joy so much that whiskers from his long white beard are floating around his head like a little dust cloud.

BAGMAN (delirious with ego-fueled ecstasy) "And every picture is mine!!! I've collected them from a lifetime!"

BUTLER (sourly) "A lifetime of being weird..."

BAGMAN: "Better than a lifetime of ironing shirts!  Look how exquisitely weird I was when I was twenty!"

Valentine Chicken

BUTLER: "I'm not sticking around for this."  (He leaves).

I consider leaving too but since I am the only one in the room with actual physical fingers that can push the "Post" button, I'm stuck.

Popcorn Baby

Dog Morph

I wonder if this would get any better if I just shut my eyes.

Bagman's Best Friend

Hear no flamingo, See no Flamingo, Speak no flamingo

Hands #1

Hands #2

Cow that gives milk in cardboard containers

Sands of time

Gatekeeper of the sands of time

BAGMAN:  "Open your eyes, Mark!  You took this one!"

I remember shooting a classic facade of one of downtown Charleston's historic mansions a few weeks ago.  "That's not weird.  It's just a statue in some rich guy's drawing room."

BAGMAN: "Look more closely!  The statue is mooning all the horse-drawn tourist carriages that ride by!"

Typical Charleston 10K Runner

I shut my eyes again, trying to shield myself from the sight similar to the man in the background trying to protect his innocent young son.

BAGMAN: "Don't act so innocent, Mark.  You've got the driftwood below hanging on your office wall!

BAGMAN: "Didn't you ever wonder why people didn't like to go into your office?"

Eyeing the baby

Locking up Bagman in the drain

Butler and I should never have let you out." I comment.

BAGMAN:  "Let me out!  I escaped! No shower drain can hold the Bagman for long!  I'm the master of escape, the Houdini of exit-ry, the Shaman of showers, the..."

"Can we please get on with this?" I plead.

Bagman dances the tree dance
(You might click and blow this one up)

Bagman's Tree-Dance Partner

When in Rome do as the Roman's do...

"That's not even in our hometown," I say. "At least the treeman was local."

BAGMAN: "But Cleopatra is so hot!"

"Oh no!" I scream, turning away with disgust at Bagman's exhibit.

BAGMAN: "Don't act so squeamish and self-righteous with me, Mark.  You've posed for pictures that make nudes look tame!

Self-portrait with prostate

"That's not nude modeling, " I protest.  "That was scientific medicine and it cured me of cancer!"

BAGMAN:  "It's still weird!"

Why dontcha come up and see me some time...
A little wine, a little music, I could eat you right up.

Ooh...a praying mantis.  Yummy

Blowing a kiss goodnight as we mount the stairs.

BAGMAN:  "And now for the X-Rated ones!"

With desparation, I leap-frog the monitor, head-butt Bagman in his gluttounous gut, and hit the post button before he can do anymore damage. 

BAGMAN: "But it's not even Friday yet!!!"


Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Post

So I hit the "New Post" button and this white square appears and over it is a long narrow rectangle with a instruction: "Title."     I'm thinking I should waiting to push "New Post" until I had at least a tiny inkling of what I was going to write...

And then I am distracted by the word "inkling."   Where on Earth did that come from?!   Why do words pop into our heads like that.   It probably comes from learning to talk and then practicing it too much. 

I still don't know what this blog is going to be about.   Maybe I'll just title it "New Post."   But then I doubt myself because it will only be a new post if I never post again -- which I'm sure I will since I still practice talking too much.  Once I post again, this title will be, by definition, inaccurate.  

Titles don't need to be accurate.  They are only like fishing lures or bait.  

Hmm.  If I ever get back to writing poems again, I'll bet the title "Bait Box" would could lead to a slew of good metaphors.  Or is that slough?  Where did that word come from.   My brain just keeps sending me surprises like that all the time.  The reason I never became a profound philosopher is because I always get distracted by a slough of inklings. 

Goodness, gracious!  I just noticed that the white box that I didn't know how to fill is already over half full of words.  Is this going to be my post? 

I remember when I started to write it, with no subject in mind, that I might just describe the soft sound of warm air coming through the heating vents in the floor behind me and the fact that in the summer time I call them cooling vents.  

The back of my neck itches.  I scratch it.  One of life's greatest pleasures is scratching thngs that itch. 

Hmmm.  Scratching things that itch.  That might be a good title for a poem as well. 

The white box is now full.  If I can figure out a label, I can post it. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Shootout - Macro

I guess that a short entry is better than no entry...

And two entries were actually taken this week, so I've finally taken the camera out of the bag at least. 

This one is either titled: Fall in my backyard
Mae West

This one is titled:  Untitled

The following is from last year sometime - I'm not sure I haven't already posted it but it had good color.  It's too late now after posting for two years but I probably should have kept track of what I post so I don't make duplicates over and over.  I also begin to worry if I've told the same stories over and over.   I'm turning into the old geezer at the party who starts everything with, "Stop me if you've heard this one before..."

Sunflower in backyard

And finally, as I was skimming through pictures, I found one that fit the theme pretty well because, although it is a fairly close shot -- not quite macro -- it captures the entire city in one detail.   Although don't actually live in...

...New York

BAGMAN:  "A blond and a talking dog walk into a bar and...stop me if you've heard this one before..."

BUTLER:  "Stop."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three problems / One Solution

Problem #1:  Brian regularly loses his car keys.

Problem #2:  Now that we have four adults living in the house -- sometimes 5 when Barclay shows up -- the driveway is one of those sliding puzzles where you always need to move one car out of the way to get another car out.  We priced the cost of hiring a fulltime valet but decided we couldn't afford it.  So in the morning, whoever was leaving first, had to tiptoe into other people's rooms to find keys, or wake them up and ask for them to move blocking cars...

Problem #3:  Problem number 2 would often become more time consuming due to Problem # 1.


The Kitchen Car Key Bowl!!

It took awhile and a lot of mutual reminding for all of us to remember, but the idea is that when you first come in the house, you drop your keys into the bowl.  That way, all of us have access to any car at any time. 

By the way,  I just noticed in the background that I've captured the decoratve antique bean jars that I mentioned a few days ago in a discussion of Hoppin' John.  Notice the the jar on the right is empty?  Proof that I don't make things up.

BUTLER :  Not actually proof, Mark.  You could have easily emptied the beans for the photograph and put them back.  But it was a nice try.  By the way, the bowl looks more like a "bar code" bowl than a "car key" bowl."

So it does!  And how did it come about over the last decade that every supermarket, drugstore, department store now gives you a piece of plastic?   Marketing.  Phooey.

BAGMAN: "Hey!!  I just got my membership in the Food Lion Club!!!   Look at this cool membership card!"

Did you get the secret decoder ring as well?  When do they have their meetings?

I'm guessing that all the miniature key cards on the keyring above are Melody's.  Brian would have lost the card before he found his keyring.  And Karen keeps her cards in her purse.  In fact, she has a whole separate wallet like thing to keep them in.  

And I have refused to keep any card in my wallet that is not absolutely necessary -- and it is still to fat with plastic.  License, credit card (just one), ATM card, library card, and Sams Club Card (because this is one shopping chain that actually makes you show your card before they let you in the door!).  

BUTLER:  (Continuing to be his eagle-eyed self):  "Wait a minute. I just blew up the picture and look very carefully and..."


BUTLER:  "Brian's keys aren't in the bowl."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bathtime is more fun than I thought

Noah realizes what his big brother has been telling him...
Bathtime can be fun.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years, Hoppin John, Chaos, and Butler's Lecture

A few times this weekend, in the miniscule moments when my brain reached the surface of chaos gasping for air, I found myself thinking about Hoppin' John.

BUTLER (Dressed in his finest professorial robes and holding his instructional pointer, steps forward to the lectern that he had placed behind me, previously unnoticed in the whirlwind of playing with kids, dismantling the Christmas tree that broke my arm, dogs that -- because we were too busy to notice them -- had been pooping in the house -- and begins teaching in a practiced monotone): "Hoppin' John is the traditional New Year's meal consisting of black eyed peas, rice, and collard greens. Now a popular New Years tradition in many places, the earliest mention of Hoppin' John comes from coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and blah blah blah..."

This year, I had forgotten our Hoppin' John tradition until 10:00 p.m. on New Year's Eve when Karen suddenly announced, "Oh no! I never got to the store!! We don't have any black-eyed peas!! Mark! Mark! Can you make a quick run to the supermarket?!!!!"

I was overjoyed to take on the task since I was, at the moment, trying to hold a crying baby with my good arm and picking up dog poop with my bad arm. I handed her the baby, grabbed my car keys and bolted for the door where I heard her calling out, "...And collard greens!!!"

BUTLER (tapping his pointer on the lectern): "...although some gastronomic historians trace the roots of this dish to the Middle Ages where the tradition of eating beans on New Years arose in France and Spain where it was supposed to bring good luck and blah blah..."

Speeding to the supermarket, which I expected to be closed this late on New Years Eve, I was thinking that I don't particularly like collard greens. For that matter, I don't really like black-eyed peas all that much. Why couldn't the traditional New Years meal be pizza and ice cream?"

BUTLER: "...Nobody really knows why Hoppin' John is called Hoppin' John although some scholars think that it is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas, pois pigeons."

BAGMAN (Sitting in the back of the class and raising his hand) "How the heck do you get Hoppin' John from 'Post Pigeons?"

BUTLER: "Say it with a French accent! Pwa Pi-je-on. Then say it three times fast"

BAGMAN: "And I thought you said it started in the South! Where did Haiti come into the picture?"

BUTLER: "Because many of the African slaves came from Haiti because of the rice trade which blah blah blah..."

BAGMAN: "Oh yeah. The Civil War and all that crap. But how did the Middle Ages bean-eating thing get from France and Spain to Africa in the first place?"

So, anyhow, I get to the supermarket and it is actually open although the sales clerks are a bit surly having to work on a Holiday. I run around the store making their worse by demanding where the black-eye peas and collard greens are. In the bean section, I find tons of great northerns, snap peas, chick peas, but only a big gap in the shelf where black-eyed peas are suppose to be. The collard green bin that sits between the kale and spinach is also empty.

The manager looks suspiciously at me over the top of his bifocals as if to say, "How can you be such an idiot to wait until two hours before the ball drops in Times Square to start shopping for Hoppin' John -- particularly when you live in South Carolina?!"

"Do you think they have any in your other store?"

"No, sir. They've been sold out since yesterday. Have you tried France or Spain?"

BUTLER: "...One tradition is to always leave three beans on your plate at the end of the meal to ensure luck, fortune, and romance..."

I'm thinking we'll be lucky to have three beans at the beginning of the meal...

So I buy some Great Northern beans, knowing I'll be returning them, and drive home to confess my shopping failure to Karen, suggest pizza, and finish cleaning up after the dogs.

BAGMAN: "Maybe you should walk the dogs instead!"

Too busy, too busy, too busy...

But Karen is not the kind of person who ever gives up on anything. It's a desperate measure, but she pulls one of the decorative mason jars from where it has been gathering dust for decades and says, "We'll just have to see if these are still good."

I blink with dismay. This jar of black-eyed peas was decorating her kitchen when I met her in 1996! They should be petrified by now! It takes a plumber's wrench to open the jar. But we leave them soaking and go to bed. I dream of pizza and ice cream.

BUTLER: "The collard greens that go with the meal are supposed to represent good finances since they are the color of money..."

...and will probably be the color of my face after eating prehistoric beans.

But, believe it or not, the black-eyed peas cooked up pretty well despite the fact that I suggested we plant them instead to see if we could grow a beanstalk, climb it, and find the golden goose. The meal was not bad despite the lack of collards -- or, perhaps, because of the lack of collards.

I forgot to leave three beans on my plate but did remember to walk the dogs. In the middle of the night, I slipped quietly out of bed, snuck into the kitchen, and made myself a bowl of ice cream.

Happy New Years, everybody...even though it is already January 2nd.

BUTLER: "Don't forget that January 2nd is also an extremely important day. It is National Inspiration and Motivation Day as well as National 55-Miles Per Hour Speed Limit Day. It is Science Fiction Day and National Cream Puff Day. It is the day the drinking straw was invented although some people celebrate this on the 3rd. And finally it is "Run It Up The Flagpole and See if Anyone Salutes" day dedicated to creativity. Furthermore, blah blah blah...

As for me, I'm just counting the hours until tomorrow -- January 3rd -- National Festival of Sleep Day!