Category Archives: not sure where to put this

Hurricane Preparation — What I would do differently

According to ancient military wisdom, any battle plan lasts until the first engagement. We’ve planned pretty well, but this post is a link of what I think we did well, and what I would do differently. As the storm progresses, it wouldn’t surprise me to see things shift from the first list to the second list.

What we did well

  • We have hurricane protection. If I were to go back to 1999, when we moved in our house and do something differently, I’d try to find a way to include hurricane protection into the cost of the house. I can’t imagine trying to ride this out without protection. It’s worth every penny down here–the best present you can give your family, especially if you have kids.
  • We put ours up early. It was still okay Saturday, but when the breezes came up, here and there yesterday, it got a lot harder. By getting done early, we reduced our risk and put ourselves in a position to help others.
  • We adjusted well. There was no water, so we got pails and filled them. Plan B is vital.
  • We kept our heads. At various points, we thought about leaving, but our house is rated up to 140 mph. Considering the traffic on I-75 and the gas situation, it would’ve been dangerous and irresponsible for us to leave. One less car on the road, one less tankful of gasoline used.
  • We used Amazon to help prepare. Batteries, radio, flashlight–all of which we got. We were going to get food, but the delivery timeline was too long.
  • We identified one person out of the area as a conduit for information. No freaking everyone out.
  • We set expectations. We have no reliable cell service here, so if the power or Internet goes out, our landline doesn’t work. We told people that if they can’t get us, it means the power’s out. Nothing more.
  • Took pictures of our hurricane shutters installed on each window to show the insurance company, in case there was any damaged.
  • Advised people who had trouble with their shutters to call the builder’s warranty line to show a record that their shutters weren’t right.

What I would do differently

  • If we ever move into another house in Florida, the first weekend we live there, we’re going to put up the hurricane protection. Several houses in our development had ill-fitting or missing protection. Also, there’s a learning curve. But if you wait until the day before to put it up and it doesn’t work, you have no recourse.
  • We’d have prepared a little earlier. We just moved, so we didn’t have the water and the staples. We should’ve replenished earlier. We’ll be okay–I think–in terms of food and water.
  • We didn’t get extra cell charger batteries. They’re cheap and there’s no reason not to get them. If we’re out of power a long time, we’ll need the cell phone to communicate (though we’ll have to drive someplace).
  • Get box cutters to put in the upstairs bedrooms. If there’s a fire, the shutters (fabric shutters) would trap us in our rooms. That purchase will be made after the storm.
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Because sometimes you need a video of a washing machine, a brick, and a trampoline.


Star Wars review: A fun, fun ride, but…

Before I had a chance to see Return of the Jedi (my favorite Star Wars movie, but probably third best), I saw the headline in USA Today. Jumpin Jedi: Darth Vader is Luke’s Father. In fairness, it wasn’t a huge revelation, considering the scene toward the end of The Empire Strikes Back, but still…

SPOILER ALERT

There are spoilers below.

Big spoilers.

Life changing spoilers.

Read on at your own peril.

You’ve been warned…

Gratuitous Princess Leia picture

The Force Awakens is a credible, enjoyable Star Wars movie, certainly the best in 32 years, since Leia donned the slave suit and Luke torched Darth Vader’s remains. JJ Abrams has managed to do in Star Wars (so far) something he hasn’t managed in Star Trek–respecting the franchise. But there are flaws and signs of danger.

First, I never want to see a death star or death star derivative again. There’s a spoof song called All about that base (no rebels) that includes the lyric “Cause it’s not like it’d be blown up twice by the same Jedis.” The new improved Death Star (now a planet) works,  but only just barely. After  you have a planet that sucks suns to power its destructive force, you can’t really go bigger, which leads to the next potential issue…

Everything is bigger. Everything. The death star (planet), the battle destroyers. The battle cruiser used by the main antagonist. There are more clone forces, more TIE fighters, and more big-ass ships. The pattern of these moves tends to go bigger with each iteration, as if they have to out size and speed the previous movie. In this case, bigger was better. But in the next movie, smaller would be better. Which leads to the next issue…

The scariest thing about the movie was the hardware. In the original movie, the Death Star was scary, but Darth Vader was scarier. The main antagonist in this episode, Kylo Ren, is pretty powerful, mostly, sort of, but in a movie filled with reminders of past stories, he’s the new Anakin Skywalker–in all the bad ways. He’s supposed to seem fearful in his anger, but he seems more like a petulant little brat. And Supreme Leader Snoke, as supposedly bigger, more powerful version of the Emporer, is lacking judgement to give so much unchecked control to such a loose cannon.

At the end of the story, after Kylo and his tag-team partner, General Hux, lose brazillions of dollars (or credits or whatever) of super deadly technology, Snoke summons Ren home to complete his training. If you built a planet-sized Death Star, wouldn’t you rather have a fully trained co-commander? Kylo Ren isn’t imposing–the hardware was. The next moving needs him to be the main source of menace.

Kylo Ren, whiny punk

The confrontation between Han Solo and Kylo–his son–lacked emotional power. This should’ve been a powerful scene, considering Han dies. But the set-up didn’t work. The loss of the former Ben Solo to the dark side lacked the punch it should’ve delivered. Han and Leia should’ve reacted differently and more strongly to seeing each other for the first time, considering the loss of their son to the dark side made their marriage crumble.

And finally, the First Order somehow managed to hide the creation of a planet-sized Death Star, not to mention paying for it, from the Republic. In real life, if your military is building something that enormous, there has to be a back story, some sort of perceived external threat that allows it to be built. That’s not the case here. There’s no external threat strong enough to make the weapon seem wise in a theoretically free republic. You can’t surprise a sovereign government with a weapon built in a planet that can disintegrate half a dozen planets at once.

All of these flaws were forgivable because the story was fun and, except for the bad guys, the characters were engaging. Rey and Finn were great together, and I want to see more of Poe, the pilot. I want to see more of him. With Han gone, hopefully the gap makes room for more of his cocky fun.

But while they’re easy to overlook this time–because the story was fun and it was great to see Leia, Han, and Chewie, they won’t be if they aren’t addressed next time.

The fact that the next story seems to revolve around Luke seems to set us up for a smaller story with more character development–a bridge story to an ultimate showdown. But if JJ Abrams tries to make a bigger, faster Empire Strikes Back, he’ll make the money, but the franchise will suffer for it.


A moment in time

The woman sitting at the table in front of me at Panera is slight, wearing a lightweight summer dress with a cacophony of lines and colors and zigzags that somehow works. Her hair is up in a haphazard bun with a single wispy curl corkscrewing carelessly down her neck. Based on the pink strap that comes up over her shoulder on an angle, she’s probably wearing a bikini top.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” she asks her companion. Her voice has almost a sing-song quality, and I can imagine a suppressed smile as she speaks.

I can’t really see her companion. I know he’s eating a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and drinking orange juice.

I go back whatever it is I’m doing for a few seconds until I hear his slight voice say, “King me.”

She moves and then there’s a draw out discussion as they discuss his possible moves. He’s maybe five and he and his mom are having bagels and playing checkers at Panera. The checkerboard’s far from your typical cardboard $10 set. It’s finished wood, about three inches thick and he carried it like it was the crown jewels as his mom juggled the plates and drinks and her oversized purse.

And then he and his mom played checkers as if they were the only people who existed and the world consisted of them, the bagels, and the checkerboard. There was no time. There was no work, no deliverables. No agendas or positioning for advancement. No political vitriol or bold statements about God or tolerance. There was just a boy and a woman and a checkerboard.

It was the most ordinary thing in the world. And the most precious.

It evokes those old Country Time lemonade commercials about hammocks and running off the dock and jumping into the lake and those endless summer afternoons that seem to vanish when you grow up.

Those moments always end. The checkers game isn’t quite over when they pack up and leave. Time may not exist to the boy, but it does to the mother and something else awaits. But it was awesome while it lasted, even just to watch from behind.

No real point to this post, and maybe that’s the point. There doesn’t always have to be a point. It’s Saturday, after all.

Why exist if you can never simply exist?


Screw you, luddites

It’s become stylish in some circles to rail against technology. I mean, HOLY! FREAKING! CRAP! WRITE A LETTER! HAVE A CONVERSATION! STOP LIVING IN VIRTUAL REALITY AND DO SOMETHING REAL! AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES THE IRONY IN USING NETFLIX TO STREAM STAR TREK EPISODES ABOUT BEING ASSIMILATED BY THE BORG!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

To borrow a phrase from the great philosopher Sergeant Hulka…

Because of technology, I get to watch my daughter become a college freaking graduate from a hotel room. How do you rail against that?

Because of technology, people suffering from diseases like Celiac have dietary options they didn’t have even ten years ago.

Because of technology, people live through stuff they’d have died of ten years ago and wouldn’t even know they had thirty or forty years ago.

Because of technology, you can find someone in your shoes and get support from them even if they’re half a world away.

And more things that my puny imagination can list.

So honestly, take your hip little contrarian rant someplace else…

…mostly because this is a blog, on the Internet, delivered to you by technology.


A hero’s weekend

I remember a little girl. A tough, sweet, maddening, wonderful little girl. The little girl who broke her thumb, but didn’t say anything about it to us at the time because she was too busy playing. That should have been our first clue that nothing would get between her and what she wanted.

She went to sleep away camp for the first time and came back furious because she couldn’t stay for a full week like the older kids. At the time, I told my wife to enjoy her while we had her, because she wouldn’t stick around.

In sixth grade, she decided to go to the IB middle school located halfway to Miami from our house. If you aren’t familiar with IB, it means I be carting her halfway to Miami more than I can imagine.

Yesterday, when that tough, sweet, maddening, wonderful woman dressed in her cap and gown and walked for her undergrad degree (she doesn’t actually graduate until tomorrow), I–a manly man who’s all about manly stuff because I am the man–struggled to keep the tears at bay.

GWU-Congratulations

In sixth grade, this girl routinely worked early into the morning, grabbed a little sleep, then got up ridiculously early to go to school, so she could come home–typically after an activity of some sort–and do it all over again.

In middle school, everything is an abstraction. There was no grand plan to be the valedictorian at one of the best high schools around. She didn’t plan on getting into the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University or studying in South Africa or rubbing elbows with people who are just names in the news to most of us.

In South Africa.

The book of Hebrews defines faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.

When I see this woman, I see the definition of faith in action. I see a woman who didn’t know what was out there, but knew she wanted it. A woman whose believe in the life she could have was stronger than the desire all of us–teenagers especially–have to just freaking sleep.

IB done. An IB tradition enjoyed by her four years ago.

I see a woman who has amazed me through her entire life, but astounded me repeatedly in the last ten years.

Of course no one does it alone. Even people with great faith waiver. It helps to have someone there to talk you down from the inevitable knowledge that you aren’t going to pull it off this time, that the pile is too high and the work is too hard and that this time, even after all the other times, you just aren’t good enough.

So this weekend, as that wonderful young woman rightfully celebrates her amazing faith and confidence along with a damn lot of hard work, it’s not enough to leave it at that. It is right and proper to celebrate her rock steady support system who has never once failed her.

Congratulations to my wife, Laura for exemplifying what it is to be a mom through missed sleep and worry and faith in someone who didn’t necessarily have it herself just then.

And congratulations to Jennifer Hamilton.

It’s quite a wonderful thing to be inspired by the people you raised. In so many ways, you are a model for me of faith and hard work and accomplishment.

You have so earned this weekend and much more. And you are building an amazing life that will make a difference.

You are one big damn hero.


Grace Lee Whitney

Grace Lee Whitney died over the weekend. She was 85 years old.

If you don’t know Grace Lee Whitney, it’s no big deal. It’s not like you’re hoping for people to die, but 85-year-old women die all the time.

But if you remember her, her passing is a reminder of times gone by and time going by. Among heterosexual American males around my age, Grace Lee Whitney was a big part of discovering that girls weren’t icky pains in the neck.

That’s mostly because she was Yeoman Rand in Star Trek. When I first started watching–on the early evening re-runs–I didn’t know exactly why I liked the episodes she was in. I just did. Something was different about her than there was about the girls at school. (Except Julianne Thomas, who let me hold her hand one time when we walked through the leaves in her driveway.)

Yeoman Rand, sentenced to the fate of all grups.

What I didn’t know at the time was why Yeoman Rand was only in eight episodes. Whitney started taking amphetamines to keep her figure–a big deal on Star Trek. Depending on who you believe, she was written out after eight episodes so Captain Kirk could screw every willing female in the universe. Or she was let go because of her substance abuse issues.

That substance abuse took Whitney far from the bride of the Enterprise. She wound up homeless and participating in a Skid Row 12-step program. One story says that DeForest Kelley saw her on an unemployment line and said that fans were asking for her at conventions.

Once she got her life put together, she appeared in four of the movies, as well as Star Trek: Voyager, where her character had become a commander.

But in real life, she’d also done well. Her family said that she wanted to be known more as a successful survivor of addition than as Yeoman Rand. She also helped others with substance abuse problems at women’s correctional facilities and the Salvation Army.

As a guy of my age demographic, I’ll always remember Yeoman Rand an early part of my road to puberty and beyond. But the things she did out of the limelight were probably more important.