The Audacity of Hype

If the plates, coins, and shirts aren’t enough, you can get yourself a box of Obama Chicken Fingers…

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Wash it down with an Obama Soda…

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And when the inevitable happens, you can always use a roll of… wait for it… Obama Toilet Paper!

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You guys keep pitching them, and I’ll keep hitting them…

Picture Gallery Updated

I changed to Coppermine for my picture gallery.  Pictures can be found at http://biscuitpix.freshbiscuits.com  My goal is to post at least one picture a day.

Suspense

This cake was left in our breakroom today. I don’t know who left it there, but they certainly left everyone in suspense. “Honey, I…” what? Love you? Am leaving you? Am gay? Lost the car keys? You can never be sure with this crowd.

Wha’ Happened?

It was the day after my birthday. My wife brought me to a nearby restaurant for birthday dinner with a lead-in of beer and cheese sampling. I was delighted to see a few of my friends already there to join us. Right as the tasting began, a few more friends showed up, and we began to try the different flavors set in front of us. The topics of discussion covered everything from one friend’s recent engagement to trips to Hawaii. Finally the final, and arguably the best, offerings of cheese (a Swiss blue cheese) and beer (a strong Belgian ale) were poured. Two of my friends chose that opportunity to leave, having to get their young daughter home. We said farewell, and sat back down to finish our samples and move over to the main restaurant for dinner.

It was then I began to feel a tingling sensation in my hands which began to move up my arms, and a dizziness began to swarm in my head. I turned to my wife to ask if I looked alright, as I certainly didn’t feel alright. She responded that I looked fine and asked what was wrong. A few years ago I had been bitten by a spider and had a severe reaction to it. This seemed similar, though whatever was happening was moving through my body at a much faster rate. I told her so, and turned back to the table…

…and woke up in an ambulance fighting for the ability to breathe. Thoughts raced through my mind of my wife, my son, my parents – would I be seeing them again? My body felt cold, entirely locked up. I heard voices but could not make out what they were saying, and I could not see, though I didn’t know if my eyes were open or closed. With what consciousness I still had left, I said a prayer to God asking for “more time”. I gasped “I can’t breathe!” to whomever might be listening, and I felt a needle go into my arm. Slowly, my lungs started allowing more and more air back inside, but my heart was still beating like a Ringo Starr on a bender.

Shortly after, we arrived in the emergency room where everything blurred over for the next several minutes. I felt like I had been frozen in ice, and my chest felt crushed. Needles were pushed into my arms, lights into my forced-open eyes, and I caught glimpses of those around me. I recognized my wife’s voice near me, sometimes talking to me, sometimes to others. Slowly reality rematerialized around me, and I began to figure out where I was and what might have happened to me. I was being treated for a severe allergic reaction to something and an irregular heartbeat, though there was some confusion as to causes. I was wheeled upstairs for a rough CAT scan, and then placed in the ICU for overnight observation. My heartbeat was beginning to return to normal, but I was not presumed to be out of danger at that time. My wife kissed me goodbye as she need to go pick up my son from the overtaxed babysitter, but I had no concerns that I wouldn’t see them the next day.

I spent another evening and day in the hospital under observation, but feeling mostly normal again. Cardiologists and allergists came and went, each taking their respective measurements and samples from me. My activities were limited to TV, sleeping, and reading, but I quickly became anxious to return home and rest someplace where my vitals weren’t being measured every hour. Finally, they let me go in the afternoon, with that obligatory but less-than-dignified wheelchair ride out the door.

That was over a week ago – and I still do not have any results back from any of the tests. As a results, I’m avoiding all beers and most cheeses, and I’ve been keeping my activity level fairly low (trips to Monkey Joe’s not withstanding). I’m very anxious to get said results as I don’t like maneuvering around food like it’s a minefield. Also, the realization of everything is still settling in – I’m not 100% sure that I would have died that night without intervention, but the incident has given me pause. I’m certainly checking up on the life insurance policy, and not taking very much for granted these days. While waiting to leave the hospital, I spoke with a 93 year old minister who reminded me that nothing happens from chance. I really think this was a tap on the shoulder from God – I could have been taken, but I wasn’t. There’s still more for me to do here – though some is obvious: being a father and husband – there is still some purpose to be discovered. These are the thoughts that occupy my mind at this time.

38 Times Around

Well, here I am starting my 39th trip around the sun. This past year was one of joy and sorrow. The joy has come from all the blessings around me, and the sorrow has come from not grasping the true nature of those blessings. I have problems – problems with communication, with time management, with attention to the important signs around me. I have allowed myself to become fat, lazy, and distracted. Money has pushed itself ahead in the line of idols that I find myself worshipping and hoping to appease. I feel myself running out of steam – motivation is waning, and I am looking over my shoulder at the “what-might-have-beens”. My fears and anxieties are at an all time high – we have a new president in whom I have many misgivings about where he will try to take this country. There is uncertainty about employment. For the first time, Death has poked his head into my affairs to alert me that he’s no longer going to be a vague notion.

But, amidst all that, there is still that flicker of hope – a chance that things can get better. I hear a whisper in the air that it will be alright – that I have been given the tools and means to make it better, and there is Someone who will be there when I fall in my steps toward improvement to guide me ahead. Thank you, my friends, for coming along on this journey, and there will be more to come!

Updates

And it was very sloppy of me to not give an update on my aunt who suffered the aneurysm in November. She has made almost a full recovery and has returned home this week. There are still some health issues to work through, and she’s going to fight to end her nicotine addiction once and for all, but this has been an answer to a lot of prayers. Thanks to all who were asking for an update!

I’m Outta Touch, I’m Outta Time

Wow – a Hall and Oates reference! I’m sorry it had to come to that…

Anyway, I apologize for the silence. 2009 began with a starting gun that’s turned into a Thompson Automatic. After getting back from a “Country Christmas”, we turned around and took a trip to Sweetwater Beach. No, we didn’t visit the Hooter’s Home Base, but we did get some good food and sun time.

Work has been crazy-go-nuts since getting back, too. Security compliance, lawyer requests, and staff sickness have made the first few days extra hectic. But I’ve got some new stuff in the mental Q. I’m going to start a series of TD reviews – from the beginning. I’ve provided a series of short reviews to an e-music store, but I’m not going to say much more until they are posted. Also, I’ve been starting to play with Joomla – and I’m trying to decide if it will work as a home-page or blog, or both, or neither. Too many choices!

There’s excitement for the new year: a new President, new Star Trek movie, new adventures with Lukas, and all that! So there will be plenty to sing about, cry about, and blog about!

Happy Thanksgivingmas!

Yes, it sounds like a clichéd event, but this Thanksgiving was a “Country Family Thanksgiving”, and I really could not be happier with the weekend. My entire immediate family was here, as well as some extended family that I hadn’t seen in ages. My mother outdid herself preparing almost every dish personally and to perfection. Lukas managed to fight off his cold so that everyone could enjoy his antics, and Tucker only chased a few cows in the pasture and was able to remember how to get back this time.

While I’m not going to sit and say life is perfect at this point, this weekend I have been overwhelmed with how many blessings I’ve been given. I have a wonderful family. My son, though a little snuffy, has had great overall health and has been a joy in everyone’s life. My parents are in good health and still very active. I still have a good job despite all that’s going on in the wild world of economics. Where there are rough spots in life and relationships, there is hope for improvement.

Update: right after posting this message, I found out that my aunt was being life-lined to Nashville due to a brain aneurysm. She is still alive, thankfully, due to some quick but careful surgery by some of the best surgeons in the country, and also a large amount of prayer from family and friends. But this episode has served as a solemn reminder as to how fragile life is for all of us. With that lesson as well, I saw a family and community come together quickly and solidly to form a bond of support and love for all those impacted by this. The final outcome for my aunt is still unknown, but blessings such as these will always be remembered.

Refreshing to the Ear

Last week I had to call a vendor to resolve an issue – nothing too extreme. But what I found wonderfully refreshing was that, while being placed on hold to wait for the next technician, I was given the option to “hit ‘1’ for no hold music”. The experience has since heightened the annoyance with being on hold for any future vendor. It’s either torturous Muzak (how many ways can you arrange “Elanor Rigby” anyway?), or endless looping of some classical piece. Today, I was on hold with the phone company with no choice but to hear a salesman screaming promotions in my ear to the point that I was nearly deaf by the time a live person came on the line. More vendors and service providers should consider this option for their customers. Really, how many times have you thought when a live person picks up “Awww, I really liked that song?”

20 Years Ago

I need to look up the exact date, but it was around this time 20 years ago I first saw TD in concert. Optical Race had just been released by the group. I’m trying to recall from memory the actual event…

It was at the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas, Texas. I was a senior in high school, and I risked a first date on the concert (actually, the first girl I asked out turned me down because she had to work that evening, but I had a back-up plan). Getting there was easy enough, and we browsed the merchandise stands. Unable to decide on the black or white Optical Race t-shirt, I bought both (a wise choice in retrospect: the white shrunk to half its size on the first washing). We met up with a few “converts” I had turned onto TD at school – the concert was free, if I remember, so it was risk-free for them. We then proceeded to find some snacks and some good center seats as close to the stage as we could get.

Andy Summers was the opening performance, and being a big fan of the Police (well, Stewart Copeland, actually), I was interested to hear him play. Well… it really wasn’t what any of us expected… It was darker and much more ambient than what I was used to at the time – abstract sound structures on his custom equipment. At one point he pulled out what looked like a 2-Liter soda bottle with strings on it, which invoked a “What the hell is that?” from an audience member (whom Andy threatened to spank). My date gave me an anxious look, and I reassured her that Tangerine Dream “sounds nothing like this”.

When Andy finished, the stage was reset for TD – we noticed that there were two guitars being setup in the back, and we wondered if Andy was going to jam with Edgar. At that time, we weren’t aware that Paul played rhythm guitar in the band. We were also trying to figure out the design: there were a series of metallic columns placed around the band whose purpose was unknown. The break gave all of us a chance to run to the bathroom so we wouldn’t miss anything during the actual show. Finally, the moment arrived for the main event. Tangerine Dream appeared, stepped behind their respective equipment, and began the opening lush chords of “Mothers of Rain”. I was in launched into Heaven…

“Mothers” segued into an (then) unknown song later released as “After the Call” with its increasing intensity and overwhelming percussion sequences. We saw that the columns were used as reflectors for the stage lighting of different colors and shades, which was a very effective and economical effect. An instrumental “Tyger” gave us time to catch our breath before the tempo stepped back up with “Alchemy of the Heart”. My date responded with a “Wow!” in the pause before Paul stepped up to perform his piano medley of softer tunes. No, too early to try to hold her hand…

We also noticed the “third man” in the middle. As this was before the internet, we weren’t really sure if Chris Franke had left the band, as he wasn’t credited on Optical Race, but this guy certainly didn’t look like him. One of my friends thought that he looked like the guy from Mr. Mister; I disagreed, but I couldn’t be sure. Later, we would find out his name, Ralf Wadephul, and he would not be with TD very long after the tour ended.

The sequencing returned anew with a modern arrangement of “Phaedra”, a song which my neo-Dream ears would not be familiar with for another year or so. This lead into the second movement of “Livemiles – Part One” – which seemed oddly appropriate. During the third movement of the song, the lighting was turned up bright white on the columns to produce a brilliant effect during the refrain – quite blinding! Instead of going into the 4th movement, the song twisted itself into a remake of “Logos – Blue Part”, another song I would learn later – I was wondering why the crowd started cheering at the melody. With the washout of “Logos” we were treated to a wonderful passage of more unreleased music (why did I leave my tape recorder at home, I kept asking myself…).

The second half of the concert began with the third man, Ralf, on a simple piano solo. This led into a powerful guitar solo duo with Edgar on lead and Paul on rhythm guitar. This was definitely the high-point of the show, and it was way too short. It was rocking, rhythmic, and just a joy to hear. The ambient break before the next song, “Cat Scan” was drowned out with cheers and hoots. The next few songs of the show were live versions of the recently released Optical Race , and the drum “solo” after “Marakesh” was a nice lead-in for the closing song, “Ghazal”, with its extended ending.

As we were cheering for an encore, my date leaned over to tell me she needed to be home within the hour (and we lived about 50 minutes away south of Dallas). I told her that we could at least stay for two more songs. As both of them were as yet unreleased, I wanted to stay for more! But knowing that I was severely risking not getting a second date with the fair Michelle, I acquiesced, and we *slowly* began to make our way out of the amphitheater and back to the car. I caught the opening chords of “Optical Race” as we found the car, and with a sigh, we began our trek back.

Fortunately, the local radio station sponsoring the concert was playing an evening of just Tangerine Dream songs, so we had an extra half-hour of TD for the ride home. I got Michelle home on time (barely), and I had an evening of memories to last me a long time. The next day, I wore my black Optical Race shirt proudly under my pin-striped jacket… 20 years ago…

Thanks to Tangerine Dream for releasing Rockface, which provided some reference points of recall for the memories!