About me

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Of things that could have been

The Vietnam War was well underway in the early 70s, and I flirted with the Navy as a place to go after I graduated from Chapel Hill with a degree in Physics. They offered me good money. Twice. And I even took the exam, AAFES, again twice, I think. I also think I have that acronym right. Who knows, though, as it's been some 40 years.

But it didn't work out. The Navy was all over me going into something called the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) training. In hindsight, that was probably a good opportunity and by now, I'd be a retired submarine commander. (Assuming I could pass the personal interview with Admiral Rickover.)

However, I wanted to fly, and the recruiter was truthful regarding how my vision would make that impossible. This was long before the days of corrective surgery. He did say I could be a navigator. Being somewhat of a smartass even then, I simply responded that if I can't be the catfish I'm not gonna swim. 

The thing was I wanted to fly a fighter off a carrier. That takeoff has to be the best kick in the ass short of riding the space shuttle. Yes, I wanted to fly the fucking F16, which came online a few months after I graduated. (We can thank Dos Gringos for the adjective.)

So instead, #1 Son is in line for that duty, and in his sharing some of his experiences as he passes through the stages of training, I find myself living vicariously through some of what might have been, right down to the very occasional sip of Jeremiah Weed. Unfortunately, we can't have the flaming shot as we salute today's cold sunset because North Carolina doesn't carry the 100 proof variation, but this is the South, and I believe we can make do JW's Sweet Tea.

I rarely have a taste anymore except after a race, but tonight I'm making an exception.

Fox 1 is for the inventors of the corrective surgeries that allow the nearsighted wannabes like I was to embrace their dreams as they choose. Besides, they get to wear some of the coolest shades on the planet.

And yes, I do know what Fox 1 really means, and I'm taking poetic license with the term, along with the other two, for the evening. 

Fox 2 is for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. My sexuality would have been a problem for me in the military during that time, but those days are mostly gone now, though I'm sure the culture has a bit more adjustment to make. 

Fox 3 is for me. I have managed 60 years on this planet, and while we don't have any promise of one day more, we do have what we have, which for me is substantially different from what I would have made it, not that many people get their druthers like that. However, don't see this as a regret. I don't carry many regrets. That's a substantially unhealthy thing to do. 

Now let me be clear. I have no intentions of running away and joining the circus. However, if the US military were to open up F16 opportunities for Old Farts, I'd be one of the first in line, and I could easily make do with the F15 and F18. No problem whatsoever. Yes, I have a propensity for air sickness, and I'm quite certain we can learn how to manage that. Until then, I'd keep my belt filled with barf bags. I'll say the same thing if NASA ever advertises for an Old Fart crew to send on a Mars exploration mission. 

But neither of those is going to happen, and I'll continue to occupy myself with the steady stream of paying work that keeps my refrigerator filled, not so much because it keeps me from being hungry, but because it keeps me in fresh running shoes and MP3 downloads of Dos Gringos, wherein I find my daily hour or so in which I get to be the catfish, if at least in my mind. 

Parched pecans

My dad used to parch pecans in the winter. He used my grandmother's recipe that called for pecans, butter, and salt on a bread pan. Grandmother sold these in the curb market on Friday afternoon's in Smithfield. It was one of the ways my grandparents made their living.

I've changed the recipe a little. You probably expected that. I start with the iron skillet.

I add pecans. It'd be better if I shelled the nuts myself, but that is so not going to happen anytime soon.  I also drizzle more than a little olive oil on the nuts in the pan, and then sprinkle on more salt than you'd think proper. 

C'mon! You know you need to give that potassium-sparing diuretic a workout.

I bake the nuts in the pan sitting on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees (F). Yes, this is an American recipe. The reason for the cookie sheet is that I really don't have anywhere else to put it. 

If you look online, you'll find a bazillion recipes that are all a variation on this theme, and they mostly call for temperatures between 250 and 300 degrees. They also call for baking times of 20 minutes. I back the nuts for about an hour and a half because I like them lightly burned. 

About every 20 minutes, I pull the pan from the oven and stir the nuts. I also add more salt. You have to remember that pecans burn quickly. I have to remember that I like them slightly burned, and that's why I bake them for 90 minutes. 

Keep baking. Keep stirring. Keep salting. At some point, the level of burn is about right.

Set out the pan to let the nuts cool. Stir a little more. At some point, put the nuts into a couple of containers. Add the lids later as the temperature cools more. 

I eat the nuts about a cup at the time. In doing so, it's 1960 all over again. A little too cold outside. School's in session with farm work at bay. We're sitting by the table making pigs of ourselves on the pecans we shelled a day earlier. I can work with that now and again. Well, more now and more again lately.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

And so I forgot one

My short-term memory has never been something I'd brag about, and when it comes to schedules and those activities I have to do, my memory is useless. I keep a calendar. I keep to-do lists. I have a variety of accommodations that, usually, keep me on schedule and on task.

And then there was today. My work permits flex time and telecommuting, and this means I can get a lot more done with far less grumpiness (and blood pressure medication) than would be possible by being in the office 9 to 5. (I also eat better.) Besides, the requirements of an office schedule are pretty much the kiss of death to my productivity. Fortunately, my current boss recognizes this, and he puts up with my schedule that I'm sure looks somewhat erratic on the surface. Not many bosses are so reasonable, and in my nigh on 60 years, I've had my share of bosses.

So I'm working at home today, and I'm seeing the end of one reporting project, which means the next can start soon. I also know I have a conference call at 4 to finish another project that's been hanging around for a few months now. Seeing this schedule before me, I realized I'd be working a bit into the evening, which is not a problem, and I knew this would permit me to get in a run during the daylight hours.

Yesterday, I stayed in the office too long, and it pushed my run into the evening. I don't mind running in the dark, but I do mind being a target for distracted drivers, and so yesterday while lit up like a Christmas tree, I ran three miles in the evening instead of the planned six miles in the light of day. No big loss, and I knew I'd have some time the next day, today, to get in the six miles.

No problems.

Boom! At 2, I'm off and running. I love it when a plan comes together. I also knew that I'd be back home by 3:15, and that'd be all the time in the world to prep for the conference call.

As I began the last mile, I noticed a penny on the road, and I paused to pick it up. In doing so, I also noticed the phone was ringing. Now, I usually ignore the phone when I'm running, but for some unknown reason, I pulled it from my back pocket and looked at the screen. I lost my collection of attaboys with the ensuing “ah shit!” as I gazed upon the list of missed calls from work and accompanying text messages.

So I called The Man.

Instead of screaming, he was calm and glad to hear I was all right as I apologized for being an idiot, and we rescheduled the call for 3:30, leaving me to double-time the remaining piece of a mile. (I even hit 10 mph for a brief period. Yeah me!) The call went off without another hitch, and all is well.

What led to this problem was that I'd gotten lazy, and I was depending on my memory instead of my calendar and lists. I'll make the necessary adjustments, but we all know I'll get lazy again in a few months, and we'll do it all over again, just in some other manner.

Of course, I'm me, and I need to over-analyze the situation. In particular, The Man had every right to be upset, but he wasn't. Instead, he was worried that something had happened to me, and he thought that because it was out of character for me to miss something on the schedule, at least without notice of compelling reason.

Yeah, I'll take that ego stroke, though I'm somewhat surprised to have earned it.

If you've dealt with me in my personal life, you know that planning and scheduling are not something I do much of. I do those things at work because it's unrealistic to expect my colleagues to have antennae that divine my intentions. The only instances of that mess in my personal life occur when other people are involved and it'd be good if we all arrived someplace at about the same time. Needless to say, we don't have many instances of that. I go at the going time; I arrive at the arriving time; and I leave at the leaving time. It's very simple.

Regardless, maybe all this telecommuting and flex-time are working out. I hope so because it's non-trivial keeping the many office people up-to-date, but if The Man was more worried about my situation than my missing an appointment, I'll take that as, mostly, getting it right. We'll see how long it continues.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 was a different kind of year

2012 was a different kind of year, and I'm not sure I'll ever put my finger directly on whatever was the fundamental difference. The thing is I'm not sure I really want to.

May brought the graduation of #1 Son from Embry-Riddle, whereupon he bought his 2nd Lieutenant car and moved to Del Rio, Texas, where he is now learning to fly fast planes. Apparently, he's on track to fly fighters, which is something I might have done back in the 70s except for this pesky business of excessive nearsightedness and no LASIK at the time.

Yes, I might be living a bit vicariously here, and I'm fine with that.

May also brought the opportunity to dine with extended family predominated by ex-in-laws, few of whom will speak to me now, as we celebrated graduation. Fortunately, we had two large tables, and this motivated the group to bifurcate. One table for the young people, the ones I like, and the second for the old folks, the ones I avoid. Needless to say, I sat with the young people. There'll be time enough later to moan ad nauseum about a world going to hell in a hand basket, and I certainly have no current need to participate in that most assured indicator of having lived too long and aged too poorly.

My only regret was that I didn't ask for popcorn shrimp, or hot dogs, to be on the menu so the son-in-law could dine on more than a baked potato, but I did get to buy drinks and victuals for a few warriors, and I was proud to do so.

More to the point, Josh and I had spent that morning running quarter-mile sprints on the beach with sandbags on our shoulders. Situps and pushups for rest stops. Timed 30-second spots to breathe. We called it Death on the Beach. His girlfriend sat in the dunes with her book, occasionally looked up, and shook her head.

Concurrently with all that, Lily decided her boss was a damned fool, and found other, more empowering, employment. Upon hearing her story, I could only smile and gladly sign the papers to put her back on my health insurance. Did I need a reason to love her more, and what do they say about apples not falling far from the tree?

And then there was this other thing.

January presented the unexpected death of a closer than I thought bud concurrently with yet another carbuncle, this one inflaming half my abdomen, causing the lucky physician at the Urgent Care to ask me why I waited so long to have it lanced. I'm not sure he believed that it was less than 36 hours old. One canceled birthday trip to the beach and two return trips to the clinic for follow-up treatment, and my tummy sports an asterisk-shaped scar beside the rectangular scar where I pulled off an adhesive strip.

I should have gotten signatures. Or a tattoo. Sadly for oh so many, the carbuncles were to end toward late summer.

Then #1 Son posts something on Facebook about Tough Mudder, and I go and get all hot and bothered. Bear in mind it's been some ten years since I did more than walk from the couch to the bed, but I've never been one to let reality get in my way. The following week, I mentioned this plan to the doc during the annual physical. He smiled, and said that my current walking schedule wouldn't be sufficient. I agreed, and the very next week by the bay in San Diego, I ran a long haul, nine miles, for the first time in a very long time, think a decade, leaving me in a position to report that running is indeed different from walking.

Yes, I fractured a metatarsal. Again.

And so this mess continued for the next several months. Recovery. Breakdown. Rinse and repeat. In the last cycle, the FNP gave me the look as I sat in her examination room with The Event only a few weeks out. She told me I needed to rest six weeks. That didn't happen, and she never thought it would. Nine months to the day from #1's post, we finished Tough Mudder, and I felt reborn. Enough so to do it again this coming summer. WITH MY LILY!!!

Of the many peeps from work who were equally all hot and bothered with the idea, only three of us faced the reality.

Something clicked on 27 October 2012. Maybe it was going without an abscess for a week. Maybe it was a dozen miles and two dozen military obstacles. Maybe it was just clearing the cob webs out of my aging cortex. We are built to move, you know.

Regardless, see this.