Second Tree Blog

Semi-regularly updated musings from the Tim, Julie, Benton, Carson, and Alana Wilsons.

Monday, July 30, 2007

And another "4,000 words"

Hmmm... Picasa seems limited to four pictures at a time, but...

That's Carson behind all that catcher gear.

And Carson at Rat-a-Jazz

Benton in his second cousins' pool in Lufkin, TX (Julie took the kids to visit Gerry, Suzy, Nathan, TJ, and Charlotte Powell a couple of weeks ago)

And Carson catching some serious air
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A 4,000 Word Blog Entry

Were you nervous at the title?

I'm copping out and going with 4 pictures -- the equivalent of 4,000 words, right? These are all pictures from the last month or so.

Alana snuggled up like a bug in a rug between Benton and her dad (Um. Yeah. that's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- figured I might as well get it out of the way.)

Alana with sunglasses, a backpack of sorts, and a snack. Ready for a hike!

From the kids going-away skating party. My dad has indeed shrunk as he has aged -- not sure if it's the weight of his earring dragging him down...or the fact that I'm wearing roller skates while standing next to him.

I did marry a tall gal...but she just might be wearing roller skates, too.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

"You're not going to leave before I get to take Alana clothes shopping, are you?!"

Kim's always been the member of the family with the most developed fashion sense. Her dad was born wholly apathetic on that front. Her mother cares deeply...but gets wracked with indecision when faced with a rack of outfits. Her brother (me) has spent the past 20 years trying to become truly apathetic...but not quite being there (yet).

Benton and Carson, so far, have taken after their paternal grandfather so far (um...and their maternal grandfather, for that matter). Alana, on the other hand, has insisted on picking out her pajamas each night for several months. And, once, when she was not much more than a year old, she made it very clear to Julie, while they were shoe shopping, that she wanted the PINK shoes!

Kim called up today to see if it would be possible to get a shopping trip in with Alana. While I took Benton to a rollerskating birthday party, Julie, Kim, and Alana headed out to select the above ensemble (Alana insisted on wearing the pink vest over the red-and-white checkered dress she was wearing during the trip). Carson is off in Gause for a quick one-day/one-night trip of fishing and peeing in the woods with a couple of 65-year-old twin of whom is his grandfather.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

What happens when you try to manage two blogs and don't pay attention?

For subscribers to this blog, my apologies...
For others, no apologies!
I just posted a geeky rant on my data-oriented blog...but inadvertently published it here.
I've corrected the mistake, but that bell can't be unrung for those of you who got that post in your inbox or feed!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Farewell to a driver's license

It hit me a couple of weeks ago that, within another month or two, I will no longer be carrying a Texas driver's license, for the first time since I became a legal driver.

This is not all that surprising, so I was a little surprised myself that the thought not only occurred to me, but that it continued to reoccur to me. I lived in Massachusetts for the better part of four years, but that was as a college student, so my residency and my driver's license remained firmly anchored in the Lone Star State. I thought of myself as an ex-patriot of sorts during those years. How Texan is that?! Travel to another state in the union and considering yourself to be living outside of your native country!

The fact that I'm going to miss being a Texas resident surprises me. Maybe it shouldn't. There's no doubt that I love Tex-Mex food. And, even though my musical tastes have evolved over the years, they've always stayed anchored to country/honky-tonk roots. I've always been more comfortable out in the woods or the desert than I have been in a dense, urban setting. I grew up camping, canoeing, bicycling, hiking, and playing in the flat, humid, mosquito-infested piney woods and rice fields of southeast Texas. I often tell people that was the perfect place to grow up, because if you learn to love the outdoors there, you'll be truly in awe of any other natural setting in the country!

On the flip side, Texas has a reputation -- based in countless examples -- of being narrow-minded and bigoted. Racism is still much more alive and well in many parts of Texas (and the South in general) than is excusable or even explainable. Athletics regularly and dramatically trumps academics when it comes to the focus of parents and administrators in our public schools. Conservatives rule, while conservationists are ridiculed. While there are certainly many, many Texans who are, first and foremost, citizens of Planet Earth, and who feel a responsibility to conduct themselves as such...they're a distinct minority.

To sum it up, Garrison Keillor did a Prairie Home Companion episode in Austin a number of years ago. As he warmed up the crowd before the show, he said something along the lines of, "The ACLU sends the Texas legislature a nice Christmas card every year. They do that because they know, every other year when the Texas legislature is in session, they'll pass some wacky law that will make national news, and it will be so offensive to card-carrying liberals the world over that the ACLU will see a big influx in donations a week or two later." This got a big laugh from the Austin crowd.

I know that, as odd as it seems, and despite the sterotypes that will be applied, I'll never be an Ohioan, no matter how long we're there. If we're still there forty years from now, I suspect, if asked, I'll automatically label myself "a Texan living in Ohio."


Monday, July 23, 2007

Apparently, we're quite typical

You'll just have to click through to get a chuckle.


Turn out the lights, the parties're over

Whew! We survived the weekend!

Early on in our planning of the move to Ohio, we decided that we wanted to leave Austin in style. I think Julie pulled that off!

Saturday night, we rented out the lower room at Stubb's BBQ, which is a semi-legendary barbecue and live music venue downtown. We hired the Jim Halfpenny Band -- I've known Jim and his wife for several years, and his band was perfect for the occasion. We had a bunch of barbecued chicken, brisket, and sausage (not enough sausage, apparently, as we ran out!). And we had an open bar. 60-70 of the friends we've made in Austin over the past 13 years came out to help us celebrate our pending departure.

The party was early -- starting at 6:00 -- and had a hard stop of 9:00 because Kelly Willis was playing at Stubb's that night. So, 12 or 13 of us headed over to Club de Ville for post-party drinks. Club de Ville is one of my favorite watering holes in Austin, because its outdoor seating is all eclectic retro patio furniture that backs up to a 15' cliff. I'd never been there on a weekend night, so I was a little nervous that it might be crowded. Hah! We walked over at 9:30 and had a wide range of options as to where to sit. By the time we left around 11:30 it had really filled up. But, clearly, the "head out at 11:00 PM for the evening" crowd (young, single) is still alive and well in Austin.

My parents relieved our babysitter so that Julie and I could stay out as long as anyone wanted to hang out with us. Leon and Isabelle Fainbuch won the longevity award on that front, as we bumped into them outside Stubb's as we arrived, and we walked out of Club de Ville with them at 11:30! Julie and I had a room at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel for the night. We crashed there and then got up on Sunday morning and walked over to the 1886 Cafe and Bakery for breakfast before heading home to relieve my parents by 10:15.

We spent the day running errands and doing more packing before heading out at 4:45 for the second party of the weekend -- this one was geared towards the kids. Mainly, getting Benton's friends together for a sendoff. We rented a roller skating rink, ordered pizza, brought in drinks and snacks, and had the run of the place for a couple of hours. It was fun to actually have the entire rink to ourselves. And, I actually strapped on rollerskates myself for the first time in a decade or so. Alana also got into skates for the first time, which was a mixed experience. But, Benton's oldest friend, Angela Campbell, who is 8 going on 27 and I did make it around the rink once with each one of us holding one of Alana's hands. Overall, that party, too, was a success.

There was some overlap between the two parties. In addition to my parents, there were several families whom were invited to and attended both events. I kind of felt sorry for them, as it was a weekend-long commitment to...US!

All in all, things went well, and we're glad we did it. I crawled into bed at 9:15 and was out by 9:30!


Friday, July 20, 2007

Life would be SO much easier if only my wife was more organized

Julie, I think, is still feeling fairly stressed about the myriad moving parts in our lives these days. As usual, she is way more on top of things than she realizes.

Below is an e-mail she sent out last night, which shows the degree to which she's got hers and the kids' lives schedule nailed down for the coming weeks:


I wanted to make sure those impacted by our travels had the details since this seems to be coming together somewhat. So, file this away as needed. If you are along the travel route, I will see you soon and am much appreciative of accomodations and help. With my mover's delivery date being unconfirmed, some of this is likely to change.


Monday or Tuesday, July 30 or 31st
Move kids to Dripping Springs - Fridge & Washer disconnect

Thurdsay, Aug 2
Movers arrive am
Clean house pm

Friday, Aug 3
Austin to Dallas - Stay with Bruce and Cheryl Bone

Monday, Aug 6
Dallas to Springfield, MO or beyond (will find hotel en route)

Tuesday, Aug 7
Springfield to St. Louis - Stay at , [details removed]
Afternoon - Grant's Farm
Evening - Hotel & swimming

Wednesday, Aug 8
Daytime - Science Center
Evening - Dinner with Alissa and Craig

Thursday, Aug 9
St. Louis to Indianapolis or beyond (will find hotel en route)

Friday, Aug 10
Indianapolis to Columbus stay at Lisa and Andrew Leatherman's
Afternoon - Closing on house and register kids for school

**Movers delivery date is still tentatively set for 8/11 to 8/13. The exact date will not be determined until after pickup on 8/2, so some planning is still unknown

Saturday, Aug 11
Stay at Lisa and Andrew Leatherman's if movers come and we are done late?
Movers possibly delivering (if so - kids to Wadsworth - Bob or Pam to drive them back?)
If no movers, Visit with kids' school, see house, neighborhood - drive to Wadsworth and stay there

I suspect she's got a "more detailed" schedule in the works! ;-)


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bulldog Solutions HR video soon as I got the post working...the person who posted it pulled it down to try to get a better quality version up! This one ought to work.


YouTube as a Recruitment Tool

[see next post -- the video posted here got removed!]

Here's a 4-minute recruiting video for my company, Bulldog Solutions. Yes...I'm surrounded by smartasses. I fit right in. ;-)

This was a good excuse to get my Google/Blogger account linked up to YouTube to try to embed some video in a blog posting. It wasn't quite as smooth as I would've hoped -- when I put intro text above the video, I somehow lost the video, and, despite my efforts to edit the source HTML, I couldn't get it working. So, I posted again and didn't try to move the text around. But, I did go in to the posting and add some links. Again...that made me lose the video. So, this is a text-only post, devoid of all of the links that would've been useful! [update: links now added...because I don't have the video posted in this entry]

The video itself, and how I got to it, is an interesting illustration of the Web 2.0 world. Obviously, as you will see in the first 15 seconds of the video, I was aware that the video was being produced. But, I was in training during our company meeting last Friday, so I missed the official rollout. And, being in training again Monday and Tuesday of this week, I just managed to miss the internal buzz about it.

But...never fear! I have a Google Alert set up for Bulldog Solutions -- it's a great way to keep tabs on new content that gets posted anywhere on the searchable 'net related to the company. At 2:02 AM this morning, I received a Google Alert e-mail with a link to our HR Manager's blog posting regarding the video. I clicked through and viewed it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Longer Homeowners

We closed on our house in Austin yesterday. Despite some last minute confusion on a handful of closing-related topics that I don't understand or follow very closely, we were done with our paperwork in 45 minutes.

The couple that is buying the house were very personable, and we did a fair amount of chatting about the neighborhood and what we could do to make their move-in as smooth as possible. It sounds like the house will be vacant for several weeks, so we're going to help them get set up with someone to maintain the pool as well as the yard. And, they now know what rooms they're going to repaint, so we'll know which touch-up paint to leave and which to dispose of. Debbie -- who seems to be the "Julie" of the relationship when it comes to handling myriad details -- apparently really liked the dark red furdown in the kitchen (which is the same color as the dining room wall). We love how that project turned out, so it's kind of nice to hear it will be staying as is. And, they're sticking with the taupe in the bathrooms...which were just painted in prep for putting the house on the market.

Understandably, the baby blue in the boys' room and the avocado-nasty in the master bedroom is going (I don't have many opinions on color selection...but I've never been a fan of this one -- it's become something of a running joke between Julie and me).

So, that's one major milestone down. I've also nailed down my transition schedule, with my last permanent day in Austin being August 17th (returning for the first time the week of September 10th). The going-away parties we're throwing ourselves are also coming together -- we have close to 70 people coming to Stubb's for barbecue, beverages, and live music on Saturday, and we've then got a big rollerskating party for the kids' friends on Sunday afternoon.

And...I'm still blogging. I'm actually running with two blogs. This one, which is random and personal, and Gilligan on Data, which is much more geared towards my day job. I don't think there's much overlap in interest between the audiences for these two blogs. But, I'm finding that the data blog is actually a useful tool for me to peer-network with myself, in a way. It forces me to sit down and articulate my thoughts and, hopefully, instill a bit more discipline in my day-to-day work. A close friend of mine for the past couple decades writes the Tammen on Marketing blog, and he actually stumbled across Gilligan on Data and claims that he quoted some of the content at work. On the "who woulda' thunk" front, if you'd asked me 10 years ago which of my close friends and relatives would I have the most in common with professionally, I never would have pegged Chris Tammen and Steve Massey! Kinda' makes me wonder who I'll be saying that about in another 10 years!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Subscribing to This Blog

I've had a couple of circular discussions with Julie about this, so I figured I'd add a brief entry to note two things for anyone who would like these periodic postings (I've been on a once/day roll here of late, but I'm sure that will taper off) to land in their inbox. I've had two takers so far.

The two notes:
  1. There's a much lengthier explanation of the various options in an earlier post
  2. There are options now in the righthand sidebar under the "Subscribe" heading

Truth be told, after I wrote that earlier post...I actually ran into some snags getting the "SUBSCRIBE" e-mail to work as planned. The issue, it turned out, was the spam filtering in the ISP that hosts (CrystalTech -- I can't say enough great things about the company; I've been with them for 5 or 6 years now) was stopping the e-mails that came from Google's blogger application, which I use to create and maintain these posts. Between poking around in the Blogger user forums and the CrystalTech user forums, I was able to ferret out the specific settings I needed to tweak in my spam filters to override that blocking. On the one hand, it was a success, in that the Internet enabled me to troubleshoot a fairly obscure problem by tapping into the collective wisdom of the online community. On the other took enough digging and experimentation to make me realize that the Internet isn't as smoothly integratable as it will some day be.


If I EVER act like that... redux

For those of you (again...BOTH of you) who follow this blog closely, you may remember my posting from a couple of days ago about my experience at a coach-pitch All Star baseball game.

The coach actually responded with an e-mail that's worth posting (published with his permission):


Sorry it has taken me a day to get back to you. Thank you for the kind words about the other night. This is my first time to be a head coach on an all-star team. I have been an assistant many times before including a Pinto team that went to state last year, so I have had many opportunities to witness behavior on and off the field that is unacceptable and embarrassing. I do agree with you that some of our parents got out of control during the game and I wish that had not happened. My nature is to keep things calm at all times regardless of the situation, as getting angry at anything associated with kid baseball will not set a good example for the boys and will only make them feel stressed and uncomfortable.

As far as the umpires go, I was not upset at all about the calls. I was glad that the one call was corrected when our player was tagged out at home. The umpires are doing the best they can with a very difficult job and I appreciate their work as I do not want to ever be in their shoes. Without them we would not be able to play the game.

There have been times this season when I wondered what I got myself into, but your email has made me feel like maybe I did make a bit of difference in these kids lives and hopefully they will play the game many years into the future. Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down in an email, I will be sure to keep it in my files for the rest of my coaching days.

Best of luck to you and your family on the move to Ohio and I hope you find a good fall league for your son. There is nothing better than the combination of father, son & baseball.

[His Name]

Classy guy!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Topical Movie Night: "The OH in Ohio"

We've just about decided the two-movies-at-a-time Netflix option might actually make sense. Julie and I only watch maybe one movie per month. But, at least for the next year or two, heading to the video store with Alana in tow will be a challenge. As much as Blockbuster is desperately trying to cling to their market share, they're not making much money when Alana-the-Randomizer hits the store, as she likes to collect as many movies as she can hold and carry them around (leaving them for store personnel to restock after she leaves). And that's even with Benton and Carson trying to distract her.

So, leisurely perusal of the options is not really a possibility.

Nonetheless, Julie had noticed The OH in Ohio during one visit and had briefly read the cover. I'd never heard of it, but Julie was under the impression that it was a small movie in the "independent but good" category as opposed to a small movie in the "low budget direct to DVD because it's just awful" category, so we decided to give it a try. When she went to pick it up, she actually noticed the cast: Parker Posey, Paul Rudd, and Danny Devito (and Mischa Barton...recently famous thanks to The OC...but not really in the class of those others). It would be hard to miss with that trio.

And it didn't. We're not big indy film buffs -- at our movie-watching rate, we're doing good to catch 10% of the blockbusters within 5 years of their initial release. But, we definitely enjoyed this one.


You just never know what will get picked up on the 'net

Somewhat suprisingly, considering that a not insignificant part of my job for the past 5 years or so has involved web analytics, but I spend next to no time looking at web traffic data for this site. Actually, maybe it isn't all that surprising, since, being in the field, I know how easy it is to go down inconsequential ratholes when just "browsing" through data.

But, I did take a look recently to see if there were any overall trends in traffic to the site. I noticed that there was a whopper of a spike back in July of last year (a "spike" meaning 5,000 visits to the site in the month rather than the more normal 2,000 or so -- these numbers are inflated for a variety of reasons, so don't take them as absolutes). That got me looking to see what drove the traffic, and I found out it was the image below, which is posted on a page I set up on a lark a couple of years ago.

Somehow, somebody who goes by the moniker "shoola" stumbled across it and posted it as a part of his/her suggested caption for a "Daily Picture" site for July 13, 2007. Scroll down a little bit and you'll see it.

It is a damn funny picture, though!


Monday, July 9, 2007

If I EVER act like that...

It's the All-Star season for Pony baseball, and it's the second week of the main tournament for the Pinto league (coach pitch). Benton didn't play baseball this spring, but a good friend of his (whose parents are good friends of ours) did play. We went to a few of his games. He was good enough to make the "B" team for the All Stars from Oak Hill (Oak Hill generally fields 4 All Star teams). It's been fun being in the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association area, because it's a really well-run organization, and every player really does improve dramatically over the course of the season.

The regional tournament that got played in north central Austin -- fairly close to my office -- had both the A and B teams from Oak Hill. The A team was undefeated through all of the invitational tournaments, but finally lost early in the regional. The B team stayed in the winner's bracket until Sunday (lengthy setup here, I realize), when they lost. That meant that this evening was the Oak Hill A team vs. the Oak Hill B team -- the winner would win the loser's bracket and, thus, advance to the next round of the tournament. For Oak Hill, it was kind of win-win -- one of their teams would advance. I know a few kids on both teams -- more on the B team, coincidentally, so I shot over after work to watch.

I really sort of wish I hadn't.

It was a hard-fought game that, ultimately, the B team lost.

Below is the e-mail I sent to the coach (who was also the pitcher) for the B team. I copied the Pinto League commissioner...and I'm posting the letter here. Being raised by a dad who was, at best, a reluctant fan, I'm increasingly realizing how lucky I was!

Hey Coach,

I just got back from the Bobcats baseball game. I've caught 4 or 5 Bobcats games this All-Star season, partly because we've got a good friend who was on the team, and partly just because I enjoy watching the sport. My oldest son played Pinto fall ball for two seasons and spring ball last year, and had a blast the whole time. But, he decided to take this past spring off. He often wants to go out and throw a baseball around in our cul-de-sac or grab a bucket of balls to go hit, and he enjoys going to the occasional game -- Pinto or UT. All that is to say that, when he plays, he plays for genuine enjoyment of the game, and he's never been one to hang his head when he gets out or when his team loses.

It really was sort of depressing to watch this evening's game. Not because the Bobcats didn't advance, but more because of the behavior of the parents. I've been around Oak Hill baseball enough for the past couple of years to recognize a number of the parents in the stands as being regular season coaches or assistant coaches. Many of the parents were entirely too concerned about winning at the expense of being concerned about good sportsmanship and the many life lessons that participation in sports can teach. Coaching from the stands, yelling at the umpires (or at least grumbling back to the stands about the calls), and even grousing about who was playing what position when. Clearly, of all of the adults there, you've put more time into coaching the team this All-Star season, so it was great to see you setting such a great example.

The coolest thing I saw was after the close call at the plate when the Bobcat player was initially called safe, then the home plate umpire appealed to to the other umpire, who overruled him and called the player out. Several people in the stands went ballistic. You wandered over to talk to the umpires -- about the call, I assume -- and then, just before you walked away, you made some sort of joke and then walked back to the dugout laughing as the umpires chuckled as well. Clearly, you don't take the game too seriously. I could empathize with the position you were in -- the fan-parents who were stepping near (if not over) "the edge" were riled up, and any pointed comments pointing that out would likely have simply set them off farther. They didn't set a good example for their kids, nor for the many kids who were watching their brothers play from the stands.

My family is moving to Ohio next month. Midway through this past spring season, my son asked if there was going to be Fall Ball in Ohio, as he'd like to play. I sincerely hope that, if he does, he winds up with a coach like you. Heck, I don't know if you were really steamed by a few of the calls yourself, or if you were fighting like crazy to bite your tongue to not be the fifth adult to tell one of your players that it was his "last chance" when he came up to bat in the sixth inning. From the outside, you were a role model for the kids on your team, as well as the adults in the stands. Unfortunately, many of those adults seem too old to identify a good role model when they see one!Best of luck with your future coaching.

Tim Wilson

That's the only thing I could think to do. At one point towards the end of the game, the father of one of the players, who is one of my closest friends, leaned over and asked, "Do you think the kids feel the pressure?" Honestly...he was one of the parents I was referring to in the e-mail I wrote (although far from being one of the worst). My only comment was, "I think they are...thanks to the parents." Several of the kids -- his son included -- were in tears after the game. One of the mothers actually stood in the dugout telling all of the boys, "It's a shame that you had to lose because of those bad calls, but you played a good game." Another mother was pacing up and down (out of earshot of the kids on team) saying, "That's bull****! That's bull****!"

I do recognize that these parents have put a lot of time into the game over the past month -- the kids have had 2.5 to 3 hour practices every weeknight and a tournament every weekend, with many of the tournaments running from Thursday to Monday. I wasn't a part of that, so can I legitimately judge their behavior?




Yeah, I can. There's no excuse.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Future of Far Flung Avian Adventures?

Growing up, Kim and I were subjected to the occasional birding excursion by our parents. They were, if anything "heavy casual" birders, which meant very few trips whose primary purpose was birding. There was the occasional day trip for that purpose, but the only multi-day trip that I remember was over Thanksgiving one year, when we headed to South Texas. Kim actually opted to be dropped in San Antonio to stay with my dad's parents. I was in what I envision as a very brief phase where I was interested in birding. I suspect that phase was triggered by a siting of a painted bunting on a day trip. To this day, I'm fascinated that such a multi-colored bird would actually live natively in southeast Texas.

After Kim and I left college, my parents slowly started to increase their interest in birding. This was fueled in part by their long-time friendship with Karen Johnson, who has been an avid birder for years.

Retirement hit...and they really went nuts. Thus, extended trips to the Galapagos Islands, the South Pole, Easter Island (not much birding there), Ecuador, Canada, and any number of places in the U.S. They returned from one trip to Maine late one week, and by the following Tuesday, were driving out to New Mexico after dinner at our house because my dad had picked up a tip on some rare species or other having temporarily taken up residence there.

Needless to say, whatever itch I might have had to scratch in that area was subtle at its strongest and passed decades ago. Kim hasn't shown any interest either. But...did it skip a generation? Benton -- no interest. Alana -- too early to tell.

Carson...loves it. It's not just that he loves the idea of using binoculars (which he does -- he considers binoculars one type of spy gear, so they work well in his active imagination). The little cuss actually learns birds! As you might imagine, my folks feed that interest as much as they can.

Last weekend, we were down visiting Kitty and Steve Massey in San Antonio. Their house backs up to a golf course and has a very active mix of wildlife: Egyptian geese, deer, garden snakes, nutria rats (extremely unwelcome), and a variety of other birds. Carson was out back on Sunday morning and came in asking what you call a "black bird with red wings." Steve jumped in and said, "That's a red-winged blackbird, also known as a Baltimore oriole." Carson didn't miss a beat: "It's a red-winged blackbird. That's different from a Baltimore oriole." There was a brief discussion on the subject -- I tended to side with Carson, but Steve grew up following the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, so he was firm in his assertion.

The dispute was settled by a bird book.

Carson was right.

When the rest of us went for a walk later that morning, Steve stayed behind to dig up a picture of a Baltimore Orioles uniform that showed a black bird with red shoulders. He was unsuccessful, and had to admit that he was corrected by a five-year-old! But he admitted it gracefully!


Friday, July 6, 2007

FAIR WARNING: Anti-War Posting

I was poking around in the web traffic data that is built into, and I saw that a page I posted back in September 2004 regarding US casualties in Iraq seems to continue to get traffic. One thing that shows is that I was definitely already a data geek back then. At the time -- leading up to the Presidential elections -- I was curious what kind of track we were on to lose as many American troops in Iraq as we lost on 9/11. I left out non-US casualties and non-military casualties just to be conservative.

After seeing the Web traffic, I got curious as to how my projections had panned out. Unfortunately, it showed what I expected. We exceeded my projections and passed the 3,000 casualty mark early in January 2007 rather than November 2007. See the chart below.

The purple line is the updated data -- trending up and above my fairly simplistic projection pretty quickly.


To be clear, I'm not of the, "We should just drop everything and bail." It's a messy, messy, messy situation. But, there are some really smart minds who have made well-reasoned recommendations. The utter gall of the Bush administration to get the Baker-Hamilton Commission...and then pretty much ignore their recommendations is mind-boggling.


Interesting Facts About Ohio Installment No. 2

I just noticed on the last posting on this subject that the bullet formatting didn't turn out too well in IE7. I'll check if it's a fluke and then maybe go back and manually try to fix 'em.

So, onto installment no. 2:

  1. Zanesville, OH, which is to the east of Columbus, is home of the only Y-bridge in the world. The bridge is built at the intersection of the Muskingum and Licking Rivers, with one part built to the middle of the river and the others forking to the left and right. It's a pretty interesting read -- the first Y-bridge was built in 1814, and they're now on their fifth one (open since 1984)
  2. Interesting in light of current events (U! S! A!...U! S! A! -- really would have preferred for Japan to have held onto this one), Ohio claims the first hot dog (in 1900)
  3. Oberlin College, founded in 1833, was the first college in the United States to admit women

Fun stuff!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

"I didn't do it!"

I was checking out Billy and Mary Moran's site today and came across this picture of their youngest, David. There are actually a lot of pictures in the latest set posted where he is wide-eyed...but none that are as hilarious as this one!


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pancake Fiends

It's that once-every-few-years occurrence of a 4th of July that falls dead in the middle of the week. That makes for an odd-ish one-day, midweek holiday. I spent the day in the garage sorting through and boxing up stuff. There's a bit of pressure there, as I need to make sure I keep out any tools that might be required for dismantling furnishings for the move, AND I need to label everything well enough that I'll be able to get to the appropriate tools quickly as we discover various short-term tasks that need to be tackled in the new house upon move-in.

Before all that, though, I made pancakes for breakfast. Julie suggested it, and I had to question her -- I'd made a triple batch of pancakes on Saturday before we left for San Antonio. Were they really all already gone? Apparently so. A triple batch is ~50 pancakes. I use the basic recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, except I add 50% more milk (1.5 cups instead of 1 cup) because the kids like their pancakes fairly thin. Neither Julie nor I are big pancake fans, so, more often than not, I wind up making some sort of egg-based dish for us. A triple-batch of pancakes is good for ~3 breakfasts with our kids, as far as I can tell. Of course, Alana likes to snack on them during the day. It's sort of like her own little rice cake -- she'll grab one cold and wander around munching on it until it's gone.

Back when I was Benton's age, or maybe a year or two older, our family drove to San Antonio to visit my dad's parents. This was within a year or two of my grandparents adding a room on to the back of their house. There was a big cased opening from the kitchen to that room, which was primarily a second living area. But, between the kitchen and the couches was a dining area. One morning of that visit, my grandmother made a dish that, apparently, had been one of my dad's favorites when we was growing up: buckwheat pancakes. Now, I honestly don't know what makes buckwheat flour different from plain old all-purpose white flour. In my mind (then and now), they mix in a bunch of grass and weeds, and maybe even soybeans and corn husks, with perfectly good flour. All I know is that those pancakes tasted awful to me!

Keep in mind that, growing up, Kim and I had to: 1) take a little bit of every dish for any given meal, and 2) clean our plates. In hindsight, and even at the time, these didn't seem unreasonable and they seemed to teach some nice life skills (like controlling a gag reflex when facing down a dollop of cranberry sauce). Despite the fact that I understood, accepted, and abided by these ironclad rules...those buckwheat pancakes were not going down. I managed one bite and was then done for.

I wish I could remember the book -- I'm thinking it was a John Irving one -- where the protagonist finds himself at the dining room table staring down his meal so long after dinner that he falls asleep and the rest of the family forgets he's there. I was facing a similar fate...except the dining table was right in the flow of all activity in the house. My dad was, presumably, embarrassed that his son was turning up his nose at his mother's cooking. And, presumably, also somewhat worried that he would be judged as not having instilled sufficiently good manners in me. He dug his heels in. This...was probably a mistake on his part, because then he really couldn't find a way to get us out of the stalemate. He underestimated my dislike of the buckwheat pancakes. I clearly remember that I would have dearly loved to have been able to fight them down. But it wasn't going to happen. I don't know if the stalemate lasted for 15 minutes or an hour, but my grandmother finally stepped in and whisked the pancakes away. I imagine that there were some fiercely whispered exchanges in the kitchen as to whether this would be allowed or not. One thing about Grandmother Wilson, though...she was a force to be reckoned with. I'll never know if she was disgusted with me or whether she pitied me.

But I'll never try buckwheat pancakes again. I haven't since, and I likely never will.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This Blog Is Awesome...but I Forget to Check It...

I heard a segment on my Wait Wait Don't Tell Me podcast this afternoon that reminded me of this blog (and many blogs, for that matter). In the "Bluff the Listener" segment, one of the (untrue) scenarios presented was that the proliferation of reality TV shows and the re-emergence of game shows was leading to more and more people having a psychological disorder that made them think that they were special in some way and that they, too, deserved to be on national television to showcase their unique talents. The real disorder turned out to be a guy in Sweden who managed to get a sick benefits for his addiction to heavy metal music.

With that's occurred to me that most of the people who might actually be interested in this blog (both of you!) are not the sorts of people who are subscribing to a bunch of RSS or Atom feeds. But, hey...if you are, then notice that I've got an Atom feed on this site (it was pretty much a default setting -- nothing I had to do). Just click the "Atom" link at the bottom of the righthand navigation and then copy and paste that URL into your reader (if you're using IE 7, you can just click on the link and then click "Subscribe to this feed" to add it to IE).

The problem is, if you don't actually check your feeds on a regular basis, then subscribing to this feed is about as useful as an ice chest at the North Pole.

Another option -- I tested this -- is to set up a Google Alert to monitor the blog. This is really pretty easy, and it's a fun little gadget to play with. You have to create a Google account to use it, and you have to use Google. So, if you're paranoid about your privacy or if you think Google is evil, then this option is out. If you do set up an alert, just set it to watch for "Second Tree Blog" and select "blogs" in the dropdown with what to monitor. You can set it to send you updates as they get posted, once per day, or once per week. Google Alerts are pretty cool. You could set up another one for, say, "Himalayan snowcock" (you know who you are!) and get updates when Google picks up that something new has been posted on the 'net with that phrase.

Still too much work? Never fear, dear reader! There's another option. I'm willing to go all 2006 and actually push this content to your inbox. All you have to do is send an e-mail to with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line, and you will start getting an e-mail every time a new post gets added here (assuming my spam filter doesn't block your e-mail). Unsubscribe by sending an e-mail to the same address with "UNSUBSCRIBE" -- don't look for any fancy-schmancy autoresponders to give you this information in the footer of each blog update. Poor form e-mail-wise, but it's a pure opt-in model, so you get what you get. If the list of subscribers actually grows past, say, five, I'll blast the list every six months or so asking if anyone wants to unsubscribe. I've got no terms of use, but I'm just providing this as a convenience -- you're e-mail address is safe with me and won't be shared with anyone else. Except maybe Julie. If she asks.


Some pics from our weekend at the Masseys

As I mentioned earlier, we headed south to San Antonio last weekend to visit Steve and Kitty Massey...and their dog Kayla.

Below are some pictures of the experience. In a couple of cases, I had a little fun with Picasa when I was cropping the photos.

Kitty and Alana

Benton and Alana on the Putting Green at Dusk
Benton's HUGE!

Kayla with Her Summer Cut -- Being Dainty

Kayla's Tongue

Benton and Carson Playing Croquet in the Front Yard

Wild Man Carson Charges Across the Green


Monday, July 2, 2007

Fifth Disease

I somehow neglected to mention that Carson came down with Fifth Disease some time in the past few weeks. It's a contagious-but-not-serious disease that manifests itself as a rash on the face that can migrate down to the trunk and limbs (which it has now done in Carson's case). Carson feels fine, for the most part. He has continued to go to T-ball practice and games (and love them!) and be no more temperamental than he usually is. He's had a little soreness here and there, but nothing that is really making him miserable.

Carson is no longer contagious...but there was no way to tell if Alana and Benton were infected, and they are potentially contagious. So, rather than visiting several folks with sensitive immune systems in Dallas over the weekend, we headed south to San Antonio to visit Kitty (my mother's cousin on her mom's side) and Steve Massey and their dog Kayla. That's always a fun trip, as their house backs up to a golf course, and we've developed several traditions over the past few years of visits: playing croquet, eating Rudy's barbecue, taking off our shoes and running around on the green behind their house with flashlights after dark.

Actually, croquet and Kitty will be forever intertwined in Benton's memory. Benton's first exposure to croquet was at their house when he was 3 or 4 years old. I don't think they were playing croquet (I don't think I was there, actually -- I either didn't make that trip or it was the trip where I went down for the first part but then caught a plane out to San Diego for a conference). While Kitty and Benton were playing with the croquet set, Benton took a croquet ball and threw it straight up in the air. He turned his face skyward to watch what happened. And, thus, in an unintentional homage to Sir Isaac Newton...he discovered gravity. The big lump in the middle of his forehead reinforced the lesson for the next week or so.

We found out just before our trip this weekend that Steve has an uncle who lives in Dublin, Ohio, so we're hoping we will continue to get to visit with them in person every so often.