Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CHILLY New Year's Forecasts /What's My Wind Chill?

Looks like a nasty night to be outside on New Year's Eve from Virginia to New York. People in Boston will likely be INSIDE, as they're getting walloped with a big winter snow storm tomorrow. Meanwhile WIND CHILLS throughout the northeastern U.S. are going to be BITTER!! - To figure out your wind chills, use this National Weather Service Chill chart (CLICK TO ENLARGE). Air temps are at the top, wind speed is on the left... so pick your numbers and where they meet is the WIND CHILL (how it feels to the bare skin). Be safe and Happy New Year! Rob
Wednesday (New Year's Eve): Gradually becoming sunny, and WINDY with a high near 43. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph. Low 21, and still Blustery with Gusts to 32 mph, WIND CHILLS BELOW ZERO TONIGHT.
New Year's Day: Mostly sunny, Breezy, COLD with a high near 36. WIND CHILLS IN UPPER 20s DURING THE DAY. Low at night: 25.
Friday: Cloudy, with scattered showers after noon. High 41, Low 28
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 39. Low 26
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 41. Low 29

A Pain in the Neck with a LOT of connections

Today was my first treatment at the chiropractor for my neck pain. I can only move my head to the left about 20 degrees without pain, and you're supposed to be able to move it parallel to your shoulder! (90 degrees and pain free). So, as much as I hate admitting I'm getting old, I signed off on 12 visits over the next month. The doc cracked my back like it hasn't ever been cracked with a loud "snap" but it felt good.
I was shown this chart pictured here, and realized that spinal alignment and the nerves around it are connected to symptoms of allergies, asthma, headaches, numbness in arms (all of which I have), and so much more. Wow. If this works, I'll let you know. I'd love to be less allergic to pollens, and not have numbness in my arms any more. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

VIDEO: Happy New Year- We've Elfed Ourselves!

The local Baltimore country station I listen to daily found this video on JibJab.com where you can personalize it with your own and other faces (up to 5). After some editing to fit the images, up to 5 faces can be put on elves doing different dances. Then, you can purchase it for $4.99 to keep! - I did. Attached is our Video for the holiday Season!
Rob, Tom, Dolly (the Weimaraner)and Franklin (the dachshund). Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Head Bruisin', Cataracts and a Pain in the Neck!

The year 2008 is going out with a bang for me (Rob). On Saturday, I was kneeling on the kitchen floor, at the sliding glass doors trying to let the dogs out to chase a squirrel off our new bird feeder. Dolly, our weimaraner came running in underneath me as I was bent over tending to Franklin's tee-shirt (it was cold out) and she picked her head up quickly and the top of her head crashed into my forehead just above my right eye. Needless to say, 3 days later it STILL aches, and is still tender. Fortunately, Dolly's head is a lot harder than mine, so she's fine. I'm still taking Ibuprofen!
Another year, and getting older: I noticed about a year ago that I couldn't turn my head to the left more than 20 degrees without pain. Over the last week, the pain is now there no matter what I do. So, I decided to go to a chiropractor and had my first visit this morning (Monday the 29th). They took X-rays and I learned that the night-time numbness in my arms may be related to the pain in my neck. Also, lately I've noticed when I'm tired, my tongue doesn't seem to want to pronounce some words clearly without a lot of effort. I think all three of these issues may be connected.
- Although, Back in 2005, I took Actifed (with pseuoephedrine) for allergies, and it paralyzed one side of my body for four hours - landing me in the hospital, and prevented me from speaking (making my tongue half-paralyzed), so I wonder if it did any nerve damage that's being triggered by my "pain in the neck." (I love saying that for some reason). Will know more later as I get the x-ray results later today.
Oh, yeah, Tom's cataract surgery was now 3 weeks ago, and he's still seeing halos, and the edge of the plastic lens they implanted in his right eye. In fact, when I look into his eyes I can also see the lens. We hope that those side-effects go away, as he has to have the other eye done in mid-2009. God, it stinks getting old.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Photos!

Gingerbread men decorating Gingerbread men on Christmas Day! - Gary (far left)and Jeff (2nd from left) came over for Christmas dinner. Jeff and Rob cooked. Afterward we decorated gingerbread men (can you tell how excited Tom was about doing that?). I can't show them here, because this is a family web page. Needless to say, we had a lot of laughs, and it was a memorable time.

Dolly and Franklin waiting to open their Christmas presents. Dolly is dressed in a Santa dog outfit our friend Maureen sent last year. Franklin's in a Thomas the Train shirt.

Tom opens a present from Rob wrapped in 20 layers of plastic bags, just to make him crazy! :)

Christmas Day was 60F degrees, so Tom tossed sticks outside for Dolly (Franklin just harassed the neighbor's dogs along the fence) while Rob was cooking inside.

Christmas Morning Breakfast at Tom's parents' house - posing with Franklin and Dolly.
The only thing missing this Christmas was time spent with my family. We did everything long-distance this year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Dad's Spirit Visits Me Christmas Eve

On Dec. 23 when we were turning in for the night, I asked my dad aloud if he'd give me a sign that he's around on Christmas. He did. The next night, Christmas eve, after having dinner at our house with Tom's parents, we drove to a Grace Baptist Church in Bowie for their Christmas choir concert.
During the concert I wasn't feeling the best, and was a little lightheaded. It was a similar feeling I had before my friend Lynn's mother came through to me last summer. Anyway, about half-way through the concert, I closed my eyes and saw my Dad sitting next to a Christmas tree with my late grandmother (his mother) on the other side of it. Dad first appeared to me similar to the way he looked about a year or two before he passed, as did my grandmother. Then, they both reverted back to how they looked when they were in their 30s. This photo of my dad is from 1958 from when he was around 30 years old. The vision kept flashing back and forth between their appearances before they passed to their younger selves. (NOTE: When spirits pass, they first appear the way they did around that time, then choose what "appearance" to have in the next realm, usually younger. Both my dad and my grandmother looked young and vibrant, with light brownish hair (no grey and no wrinkles). This is apparently how they choose to look in the afterlife.
The next thing I saw was my Dad standing behind my mother, who was seated in a chair facing a Christmas tree. She was wearing black and white and I saw a flash of red.
Dad also showed me a gold decorative pin of a Christmas tree with little stones in it. He told me that this was his favorite and mom should wear it. The vision then faded.
After the concert, I called my younger brother's house, where my mom was on Christmas eve. My sister-in-law Sue answered. I asked her if mom was wearing black and white with red, or if she had the christmas tree pin on. Sue said "no" to all. I thought, Hmmm... what was that vision about then? I said Merry Christmas and after hearing how my nephews liked their presents Tom and I sent them, I hung up. Sue didn't mention it to my mother. The next night would be confirmation of what I saw.
The next night was Christmas of course, and after Tom and I had breakfast at his parents' house, and then a nice Christmas dinner here with our friends Jeff and Gary, I called my mom. She had just returned home from Christmas dinner. My older brother and his wife Dawn took my mom to Dawn's sister's house for Christmas dinner. I said to my mom "Are you wearing black and white with some red?" She didn't answer for a minute. Then she asked "Why?" I said, "Dad told me you'd be wearing black and white today, and sitting near a chair facing a Christmas tree. He showed me a little red, too. He also showed me that he was standing behind you the whole time." Mom was shocked. She was wearing black and white. She said when she was getting dressed, she also took out a red blouse instead of the white one she eventually put on. She wanted to know how I knew. I told her that Dad came to me and showed the colors to me, and that he was with her all day on Christmas.
Yes, mom cried over it, and so did I. She didn't have the Christmas tree pin on, but knew where it was and would look for it to wear on the 26th. Having this ability has been a real blessing to me, and a true comfort for my mother. Honestly, it still freaks me out when I confirm things that spirits show me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Doggone Early Present

We had the afternoon off today (Christmas eve), and I wanted to run an errand to Tom and I went out for an hour. As always, Dolly and Franklin have the run of the house. Well, there were several presents under our Christmas tree for them, and they found one and decided to unwrap it early. It didn't look as nice as this photo- in fact it was SHREDDED and all over our living room rug. It was a box of Scooby Snacks from uncle Doug and Aunt Sue in Massachusetts and it was half-consumed! At least they liked them.
Franklin, our dachshund has a better snoot for food, and he sat in the kitchen while we cleaned up. Dolly tried to greet us with a toy as usual, and she's not usually the one that tears packages. Once cleaned up, Franklin ran and hid behind me, which he does when he knows Daddy Tom is going to reprimand him!

A Feel-Good Christmas Cookie Story in the News

Everyone loves Christmas cookies, especially me. I'm making homemade oatmeal raisin cookies for Christmas among other things this year. On a similar note, in the news today, employees of a cookie bakery that closed in October got the greatest Christmas presents: Their jobs back and a bonus. Grab your hot chocolate and a cookie (of course), this will warm your heart! -Merry Christmas, Rob and Tom
Shuttered bakery reopens, rehires workers
From John King, CNN Chief National Correspondent
ASHLAND, Ohio (CNN) -- An Ohio bakery shut down in October is bustling again, with 60 eager employees who had expected a Christmas on the unemployment rolls.
Some 300 workers lost their jobs when the Archway cookie factory in Ashland, Ohio, was suddenly closed by the private equity firm that owned it. The workers also were left without benefits like health insurance.
But then Lance Inc., a Charlotte, North Carolina-based snack food company, purchased Archway at a bankruptcy auction. And last week 60 workers were asked to return immediately, with perhaps more coming back in the months ahead.
Kathy Sexton, a worker at the bakery, had been preparing her children for a very modest holiday. "They said they understood," Sexton recalls. "They said, 'That's all right, Mom.' You always want to give them more, but ... I didn't think I would be able to." Now she can. Like many small towns, Ashland is struggling. The outlook became especially bleak when the Archway plant closed. Workers at the bakery said they felt betrayed when Archway at first said there would be more work in a day or two, but then changed the locks.
Rita Devan remembers. "They just kept taking and taking until there was nothing left to take," Devan says, "and they didn't care that they were putting 300 people out of work."
Things are different now. When it promised to reopen the bakery, Lance gave all 300 former Archway workers a $1,500 prepaid debit card. "I was crying," Devan says of the gift. "I am like, 'What are these people doing? They don't know me. They don't know us. They don't know any of the Archway people. And they are giving each and every one of us $1,500.' "
Sexton -- the woman who'd been preparing her kids for a meager holiday -- says of the $1,500 gift: "It was awesome. My first thought was, 'I can give my kids a Christmas.' "
David Singer, CEO of Lance, says the gift cards were a way of letting Ashland know the new owners are different. "We wouldn't do it willy-nilly," Singer says. "We do want to make money. But this is the pool of folks that we intend to hire. We just wanted to let them know who we were."
The 60 workers rehired so far are earning their previous salary and retained their seniority. They also were provided health insurance from day one.
The bakery now produces Lance cookies that are sold to big chains like Target and Wal-Mart. But production of Archway cookies is scheduled to resume soon. Lance has told the employees that it hopes to have the plant fully operational by the end of 2009 -- that is, five lines of cookies being produced simultaneously.The new owners say that if new orders keep flowing in, more jobs will follow.
Terry Mowry is another worker rehired by Lance. He says what has happened is hard to describe: "You just saw life being breathed right back into the face of these people." And Devan says with a laugh: "I walked into the garage last night, and my husband says, 'You actually smell like a cookie again.' "
"He said, 'Boy, I missed that smell.' "

Alaska's 25 Ft. Snowman: Snowzilla

I happened to see an article this morning about a mysterious 25 foot snowman that appeared on a man's lawn in Anchorage, Alaska. The town government wants to remove it for some reason, but it seems to be only on his lawn and he doesn't care. Don't the people in Anchorage have other things to worry about, like a) Rampant alcholism and b) the country's most daffy governor?
Here's the story and a VIDEO of the snowman with the house's owner is on the link below:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A giant snowman named Snowzilla has mysteriously appeared again this year — despite the city's cease-and-desist order. Someone again built the giant snowman in Billy Powers' front yard in an east Anchorage neighborhood. Snowzilla reappeared before dawn Tuesday.
Powers is not taking credit. When questioned Tuesday afternoon, he insisted Snowzilla just somehow happened, again. For the last three years, Snowzilla — to the delight of some and the chagrin of others — has been a very large feature in Powers' yard. In 2005, Snowzilla rose 16 feet. He had a corncob pipe and a carrot nose and two eyes made out of beer bottles. This year, Snowzilla is estimated to be 25 feet tall. He's wearing a black stovepipe hat and scarf.
The snowman has since been knocked down by the city (idiots!) - One person that commented on the story said "Palin thought the snowman voted for Obama and had it destroyed" - funny!
TO SEE THE VIDEO OF THIS GIANT SNOWMAN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsdExL6xOAY&eurl=http://www.snowzilla.org/&feature=player_embedded Video by Marc Lester of Anchorage Daily News. Interview with the orginal Snowzilla creator Billy Powers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Blonde Christmas Story and a funny Stamp!

Merry Christmas from our friend John in Virginia Beach:
A blonde goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. She says to the clerk, 'May I please have 50 Christmas stamps?'
The clerk says, 'What denomination?'
The blonde says, 'God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists.'
I found the image of this Christmas stamp on-line while looking for an image to accompany John's joke above, but this struck me funny. It looks like Santa couldn't find a toilet and is using a chimney here. Okay, so bathroom humor makes me laugh sometimes, but you have to admit it looks awfully suspicious! :)

NEW STUDY: Men more responsive to caffeine

Below is the latest coffee research from Barcelona University...How come I never get called for this kind of research!? I'd love to make money taking COFFEE Surveys! Anyway, Dunkin' Donuts coffee is the best Christmas present for me!

A strong cup of coffee has a greater effect on men than women, research shows. In a study on 668 healthy volunteers, an espresso pepped up men after just 10 minutes. Women also became more alert after the beverage, but less so.
The University of Barcelona researchers say some of this effect might be psychological because decaffeinated coffee also worked to some extent. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry reports the work.
The volunteers were asked to drink either a classic espresso containing 100mg of caffeine or a decaffeinated espresso containing 5mg of caffeine.
Then the researchers looked for changes in alertness over the following minutes and hours. Both men and women saw an improvement in their activity levels after drinking the classic espresso and these effects began after as little as 10 minutes.
According to the investigators, 45 minutes is the time needed for maximum caffeine concentration to be reached in the blood, but levels reach half this concentration after just a few minutes. And the effect appeared to be greater in the men.
Interestingly enough, DECAF coffee had a similar, but weaker effect and tended to be more potent in the women rather than in the men.

Pope takes the Christ out of Christmas for Some

As someone that used to be a Catholic before this hateful, nasty pope was voted in, I continue to grow more and more disgusted by his actions and words. I used to love going to church. It was a place of hope and love and faith. It was a place to welcome everyone. In today's pre-Christmas speech, the Pope bluntly attacked gay people and the love they share with each other. Basically, he's saying love is evil. That's the same as taking Christ out of Christmas... stupid. My personal feeling is that appointing this Pope was a HUGE mistake. He's divisive, hateful, and unwelcoming. That's NOT how a pope should be. He needs to quit and be replaced by someone who actually does preach Jesus' love and acceptance of ALL. I'm sad that the church I once loved going to is now an unwelcoming place. I would love to go to church this Christmas, but it's not a welcoming place anymore. Jesus never said "love everyone except this group." Why people use religion as a divider instead of a uniter is simply sad. Thanks for the Christmas wishes, you unkind Pope.
Pope makes blunt statement on homosexuality
Big News Network.com Tuesday 23rd December, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI has said the world needs to be saved from homosexual or transsexual behavior. He said the issue was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.
The pope said: 'The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.'
In a pre-Christmas speech to Catholics, he reiterated the Catholic Church teaching that homosexuality is not sinful but homosexual acts are. He compared behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations as 'a destruction of God's work'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

a Fun Sunday in Washington, DC - Wax and Plants

Sunday at noon, Tom and I met our friends Jeff and Gary and Fitz and Will in Washington, DC at Union Station (the Amtrak station). The station was beautifully decorated for Christmas -and well worth seeing. There was a tree from Norway decorated with American and Norwegian flags. Boughs of Holly were everywhere with big red bows and white lights. Outside, there was a huge wreath hanging from the front of the station, and Fitz took this really cool photo of it, with the marbled clouded sky behind it. After a quick lunch at Union station, we walked through the National Botanic Garden, which was nicely decorated with models of the famous Washington, DC buildings made out of wood and plant matter. It was chaos inside though with waaaaay too many people. After that, we walked several blocks in the freezing cold to Madame Toussad's Wax Museum. It was a great place!! The wax figures were where you could touch them and pose next to them. Some were hauntingly accurate, others, like Madonna, were not. - All in all it's a cool place, and you can get some cool pics. Even Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are there! - including many other presidents. Jeff and I decided to be goofy and don the false "Mink Stoles" to pose next to Jacquie and John Kennedy, as Tom and the others looked on with grins.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The SPIRIT movie coming Christmas Day - Get the Spirit!!

This Will Eisner comic book character from the 1940s and 1950s wasn't one I read, but this movie looks fantastic. The comic has been revived and I can't wait for the movie. Of course, it has a hunky, handsome actor, Gabriel Macht in it, so it makes it all the more enjoyable!
TO SEE THE MOVIE TRAILER: http://www.mycityscreams.com/site/
SUMMARY: Down these mean streets a man must come. A hero born, murdered, and born again. When a Rookie cop named Denny Colt returns from the beyond as The Spirit, a hero whose mission is to fight against the bad forces from the shadows of Central City. The Octopus who kills anyone unfortunate enough to see his face who has other plans. He's going to wipe out the entire city. The Spirit tracks this cold hearted killer from the city's rundown warehouses, to the damp catacombs, to the windswept waterfront all the while facing a bevy of beautiful women who either want to seduce, love or kill the masked crusader. Written by Anthony Pereyra IMDb.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

Georgia Animal Shelter Out of Money! - Please Donate

I still read the headlines from the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, and read today that the SPCA no-kill animal shelter in Georgia is OUT OF MONEY. There are 90 animals there that NEED to be cared for! - PLEASE consider donating to them as a Christmas Gift to someone. I've donated in Memory of my Dad for Christmas. I know that Dad would want these helpless animals cared for.- Rob
Updated: 6:48 p.m. December 18, 2008
Animal shelters short on cash, long on needs
By MARK DAVIS The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The no-kill shelter in Suwanee is in debt, said Rita Edwards, who manages the Buford Highway facility. Times are so tight that the shelter is asking anyone with a few dollars to consider giving it to Curby and his pals. The shelter houses about 30 dogs and more than 60 cats.
“It’s got to the point where we just can’t keep up,” said Edwards. “We’re doing what we can just to keep the place afloat.”
But shelters, like boats, need constant infusions of cash. The shelter rents for $3,000 a month. Veterinarians who perform spay and neutering services want to be paid. No one is giving away supplies or food, either.
The nonprofit organization is about $12,000-$13,000 in the hole, she said. “That may not sound like a lot of money,” she said. “But when you don’t have what you need to pay, it’s a lot of money.”
The shelter needs $10,000 or more a month to stay in the black, said Edwards. In the past, the shelter has relied on donations and grants, but both have dwindled in the dwindling economy, she said. Other Georgia-based animal-care operations are reporting similar funding woes.
The situation in Georgia is not unique, said Terri Crisp, a program manager for SPCA International. For more information, call 678-765-2726, or visit www.georgiaspca.org.TO DONATE ON-LINE: http://www.georgiaspca.org/

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Feds rate U.S. nursing homes - Search for Ratings Here

Because Tom and I are in our mid-40s and are parents are aging, we've been made aware of nursing homes (Tom's grandmother was in one before she passed 2 years ago, and our friend Beverlee is now a candidate for one after she gets out of the hospital). We also have a number of friends whose parents are in nursing homes and it is always tough to find a good one.
Fortunately, USA Today published a story today with a federal gov't assessment of nursing homes throughout the U.S. There's a searchable database by name of facility, or if you just put in your state, all of the nursing homes will come up in alphabetical order. This is going to be very helpful to anyone. To search for nursing home ratings by state, go to:

Simple Pleasures - What's Yours for Today?

Every Thursday morning on WPOC-FM 93.1 in Baltimore (the country music station I listen to), they talk about simple pleasures. From a nice sunrise, to a child's good grades, to getting all green lights on a morning commute. It's a nice way to start the day. My simple pleasure of the day is my typical morning Dunkin' Donuts coffee and "cinnamon roll pop-tarts" for breakfast. What's yours?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wolverine Movie Trailer Surfaces!

(IMAGE: Wolverine fighting in an Alaskan camp. Credit: Marvel Comics)
On May 1, 2009, the "Wolverine" movie opens nationwide in the U.S. This is the prequel to X-men the Movie (one), and the origin of Wolverine.
According to MyspaceVideos: Hugh Jackman reprises the role that made him a superstar – as the fierce fighting machine who possesses amazing healing powers, retractable claws and a primal fury. Leading up to the events of X-MEN, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film series have long been anticipated. To see the trailer:

In the Christmas Rush!

(Photo: Courtesy U.S.Senate - Christmas Tree Outside the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC)
Today, Monday, Dec. 15th is supposed to be the busiest Mailing day at the U.S Post Office- so, because I had to drop Tom off at the airport to fly to NC for jobsite work, I got to the local post office at 6:00 a.m. Fortunately, Crofton, Md. has a self-serve, automated package weighing machine that takes debit and credit cards. There was NO line, so I was able to mail our 8 packages in a matter of minutes. I LOVE automated post offices!
This weekend was a Christmas rush for us, because we're mailing lots of things out. So, we ran errands from place to place and think we've covered it all - finally. We've even picked up little things for the neighbors. Between errands on Sunday, we walked the dogs a good 1 1/2 miles and then attended Tom's parents Christmas Concert at their over 55 complex in Annapolis. They're both in the choir, and it was fun! - Despite one soloist who was about 80 or so, and sounded like an injured cat wailing in pain, the other songs were well done and we got to sing along to the standards. Afterward, we spent the evening wrapping presents and got 'em all done!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas with Amy and Vince!

(PICTURE: The only one we took at the concert- we were really close to the stage)
This week we saw Amy Grant and hubby Vince Gill perform their Christmas Concert at Baltimore's Lyric Opera House. It was a fantastic show. Tom loves Amy Grant, and I love Vince Gill- together they were incredible. Funny, personable, warm and wonderful. Amy performed her many unique Christmas hits, including a great new one called "I Need a Silent Night" off her new Christmas CD. This song makes the CD well worth it. Vince brought the house down with his version of "O Holy Night" and made me tear up with a song he wrote about Christmas after his big brother passed away (reminding me of my dad's passing this year). Amy and Vince covered the classics and had a great band, and beautiful set, too. THIS was the best Christmas show we've ever seen!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Evil That People Do to Dogs

My friend and co-worker Rebecca and her husband have a dachshund, and foster others. Today she sent me this photo of a dog she's newly fostering from the North American Dachshund Rescue. There are many stories of dogs that come from this kind of abuse.
Rebecca said that this little guy was found in a dumpster covered in paint - weighing in at about half his normal weight (7-8 lbs) of 15-16 lbs...he is being treated for an incredibly bad case of heartworms....it is believed that the worms have done so much damage that he may not be able to continue on....but time will tell...and in the mean time, he will be warm, loved and have a full belly.
It totally disgusts me that humans could EVER conceive of doing such evil to innocent animals. If ever I see that kind of behavior, the person doing it will get a lesson they'll never forget (and likely won't ever be able to sit down again, because other parts of their anatomy will be in the way after I'm done with them).
There are MANY dogs like this little guy that need good homes, or foster homes.

Congress OKs bill to help retirees protect savings plans

Tom and I talk about how much money people are losing in their 401Ks all the time (including us). Good news! Congress is doing something for us about it. See the article below.
By Sandra Block, USA TODAY
Congress approved legislation that would provide relief to retirees who want to avoid inflicting further damage on their battered retirement savings plans.
The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign, allows retirees to defer withdrawals from their 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts in 2009 without triggering a penalty. Separately, it would temporarily ease funding rules for traditional pension plans.
Ordinarily, seniors age 70½ and older are required to withdraw a minimum amount from their tax-deferred retirement savings plans every year and pay taxes on the money. The amount is based on a life expectancy factor calculated by the IRS and the value of their retirement plans at the end of the previous year. Seniors who ignore the requirement face a penalty equal to 50% of the amount they should have withdrawn.
This year, the rule has created considerable angst among retirees who have seen the value of their retirement plans shrink dramatically since Dec. 31, 2007. Unlike younger retirees, they don't have the option of postponing their withdrawals until their investments recover. Many have postponed taking minimum withdrawals in hopes that Congress or the Treasury Department will provide some relief.
FULL ARTICLE: http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/2008-12-11-ira-savings-retirement_N.htm?csp=Daily%20Briefing

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DC Comic's "Final Crisis" - UGH!

(Image credit: DC Comics)
I'm a BIG fan of DC comics and their superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman, Red Tornado, and many more. I've been reading DC comics since my dad got me started on them back in the early 1970s when I was around 11 or 12. I've never stopped enjoying them since then.
Recently, DC Comics started a new series that is supposed to revamp the foundations of a number of their major characters. It's called "FINAL CRISIS." This follows the really enjoyable and awesome "Infinite Crisis" and "Crisis on Infinite Earths" series in the 1980s and then 1990s, where the "multiverse" and all of the DC heroes faced universal and multiverse challenges. Those were GREAT classic stories.
This year, DC has done "Final Crisis." Some of the spin-offs are good, like "Legion of 3 worlds," but Final Crisis in my opinion, is one of the darkest, most depressing, Confusing, fragmented, miserable stories I have EVER read in the history of comics.
I should say, that I've never, ever cared for the "New Gods" and Darkseid, the villain from another planet whose apparent plan is to send all humans to hell in servitude toward him, and has left the Earth a war-torn wasteland like today's photos of Iraq. He's also corrupted many of the superheroes with second and third stringer heroes to try and combat a world possessed of evil (all 6 billion people are already "gone"). After reading issue #5 (of 7) I'm SO disgusted, so disappointed and just so miserable reading it, that I don't want to finish the story - but I will out of curiousity. Just my opinion, but I think it's a horrible story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I Want for Christmas- An Unchipped Tooth

You never plan for it, but teeth present problems whenever they want to. Such was the case last night. When I brushed my teeth before bed last night, part of a tooth chipped off and fell into the sink. Turns out, it was part of a filling. Anyway, that led to a call to the dentist this morning. Fortunately, Dr. Cheryl Hunn of Greenbelt, Md. is excellent, considerate, thoughtful and always ready to help her patients! She worked me in, so I DID get an "unchipped" tooth for Christmas - with a new white filling.

How to Fall Up an Escalator

Here's a video that Tom howled over. I think it's kind of funny, yet, tragic... Maybe this guy had a bowling ball in his briefcase that weighed him down. Anyway, don't try this while Christmas shopping!
VIEW THE VIDEO HERE: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/mall-disasters/how-to-fall-up-an-escalator-316299.php
The Website writer said "You'd think that by now people would know how to handle those tricky new-fandangled moving stairways. That's gotta be embarrassing."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Exoskeleton makes software engineer 'Iron Man' with 20 times greater strength

ANI (News Service)Melbourne, Dec 9 : Software engineer Rex Jameson literally turned into 'Iron Man' when he stepped into a robotic soldier, and his strength got multiplied as many as 20 times.
In fact, by using the outfit's claw-like metal hand extensions, he grips a weight set's bar at a demonstration and knocks off hundreds of repetitions, and once he even managed to press it 500 times. Working for robotics firm Sarcos Inc in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the US. Army, Jameson is helping assess the 68kg suit's viability for tomorrow's soldiers. The Army believes that someday soldiers will be able to wear the exoskeleton suits, which work by sensing wearer's movement and amplifying it instantly, but now it's focusing on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment. However, the major drawbacks of the technology are its cost and short battery life of just 30 minutes.
FULL STORY: http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/index.php?sid=440107

RESEARCH: Dogs Do Have a Sense of Fairness

(CAPTION: Dolly content to gnaw on a big stick!)
Dogs Do Have a Sense of Fairness(as if we dog owners didn't already know it)
FROM CNN: Scientists in England have been studying dogs to determine if they, like chimpanzees, have a sense of fair play, and a wide range of emotions. They do.
Results indicated that dogs appear to experience a range of complex, unpleasant emotions such as jealousy and pride, scientists have discovered.

(CAPTION: Franklin pouting because he can't go outside and chase squirrels)
The research team was led by Paul Morris, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, England, who studies animal emotions. Scientists noted that dogs hate to see their owners being affectionate to other dogs and can suffer if a new baby or partner arrives on the scene. To test the theory, Friederike Range and colleagues at the University of Vienna in Austria asked 33 trained dogs to extend a paw to a human.
The animals performed the trick virtually all of the time whether they were given a reward or not -- when alone or with another dog. But the dogs' enthusiasm waned when they saw other dogs being rewarded but received nothing themselves. Dogs that were ignored extended their paws much less often, doing so in only 13 out of 30 trials. They also showed more stress, such as licking or scratching themselves. "They are clearly unhappy with the unfair situation", Range told New Scientist magazine. She also suspects that this sensitivity might stretch beyond food to more abstract things like praise and attention. "It might explain why some dogs react with 'new baby envy' when their owners have a child," she said.

Green Lantern Movie in the Works!

After costuming myself as the Green Lantern this Halloween, I just read about a movie being made about the character! Here's the latest from the LA Times: Screenwriter Marc Guggenheim talked to Jennifer Vineland about the Green Lantern screenplay he is working on with Michael Green and the film's director, Greg Berlanti. He explains that the core story is locked in and now they are working on streamlining it with an eye on budget matters (such as limiting the number of locations). He also said that during their fanboy tangents they chew on topics such as cameo appearances for other DC heroes: "And while there's already a lot of speculation over who would play Green Lantern -- Ryan Gosling? Matthew Settle? David Boreanaz? -- what about Clark Kent, who will make a small cameo? Will the part go to someone already established on film or television to be the Man of Steel, like Brandon Routh or Tom Welling? 'There were rumors that Tom Welling would have a cameo in "Batman Begins" as a young Clark Kent, to meet up with a young Bruce Wayne,' Guggenheim noted.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Grammar and Spelling Really are Important...: )

In my job as a Deputy news chief, I'm responsible for making sure press releases and other stories are grammatically correct and words are spelled correctly. I also check format. Today has been a banner day in editing for me -I've been swamped with fixing errors. Then, Tom sent me this email from his office, and the only thing he could say was "Oh dear. Where do you start?"
I read the memo he got today and just had to laugh out loud. I now feel much better about all the edits I've had to do. - Rob

Subject: Cleaning up after yourself's
REMINDER: Here lately, I been noticing that people are still not cleaning up after them self’s and leaving dishes in the sink and the counter dirty . It was also brought to my attention that some of you who worked over the weekend left the kitchen a mess with dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter. This kind of behavior will surely bring some unwanted guess into our facility if we don’t clean behind yourself.
Again, so please be courtesy and take the time to clean-up after yourself.
Thank you.

Well-Deserved Awards: George Jones and Barbara Streisand

Several singers that I enjoy were recognized for their contributions to music this week here in Washington, DC. George Jones, Babs Streisand and 2 members of the group "The Who." Of course, George Jones is the one I like the most (being the country-lover). His song "He Stopped Loving Her Today" has been called the "greatest country song ever written."
FROM USA TODAY: WASHINGTON — The star-studded performances at Sunday night's Kennedy Center Honors gala were a timely warm-up for January's inauguration festivities in the nation's capital.
Six recipients were honored for their distinguished careers and contributions to the arts: singer and actress Barbra Streisand, actor Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who.

George Jones' latest CD: "Burn Your Playhouse Down - The Unreleased Duets"
http://www.georgejones.com/home/ The Duets are pretty interesting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Without You

My all -time favorite Christmas album is by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, called "A Christmas to Remember. It holds a special place in my heart, especially now since my dad has passed, and this is my first Christmas without him. I have a special memory of that album with both of my parents, and when I listened to the upbeat song "With Bells On" and "Christmas Without You," both brought tears to my eyes - and made me miss my dad.
Here's the memory: Back in the 1980s when it came out I played it over and over again when I lived at home with mom and dad. One Christmas, after all was done, and both of my brothers left, I stayed home with mom and dad one Christmas night and played the tape (yes, it was a tape). I handed them copies of the lyrics to both songs, and all three of us sang them. Of course, we sounded really bad, and laughed afterward. It was a memory I'll always cherish, though. And now, "Christmas Without You" really does have more of a meaning. I miss you and love you Dad.
To see the Video of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX3c0DumGio/video

Tree Trimmin' Time!

This weekend, we had Tom's parents over to help trim our Christmas tree. We started the tradition last year, and it's really been fun! Below, Tom picks out the ornaments and hands them to Bob (his stepdad) and I to hang. Mom is supervising.

BELOW: The Ornament Men: Bob and I

BELOW: Mom being camera shy by thrusting Franklin in front of the camera. Dolly was on her bed gnawing on a bone and out of the picture.

The tree looks really nice and it is positioned in the living room, so you can see it outside through the large front window of the house. Looks good! Tom previously hung up pine boughs on the three posts in the front of the house and a wreath on the front door.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Nursing Home Visit

We went to a nursing home in Baltimore today to see our 86 year old friend Beverlee. Prior to that we hadn't seen her in 3 weeks, when I picked her up from the VA Hospital and brought her home. At that time, she was hospitalized for breathing difficulties (she's had them for years) which have become increasingly worse over the last 3 months. She's been on oxygen 24/7.
I met Beverlee 4 years ago at our friend Terry's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Terry met Bev at her Vet's office, and Bev was distraught having to put her cat down that day. Terry, being as she is, invited Bev to Thanksgiving dinner that week. Since then, I've always taken Dolly and Franklin to see her in her apartment in Baltimore City. She's funny, energetic, and very comfortable around everyone.
Today was a different story. She was sleeping when we arrived, and looked incredibly frail, now at around 75 pounds and drawn. She was hooked up to oxygen. The nurse woke her, and she recognized Tom and I, and the Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donuts we brought her. She seemed to go in and out of consciousness -getting fuzzy in between, and we couldn't understand her about 70% of the time. I wound up feeding her the donut, a little piece at a time, and she sipped the coffee through a straw. In her 15 minutes of lucidity, she wished Tom "happy birthday" (it was Nov. 23 and she remembered), and Dolly, too (hers was Nov. 29th). After about 45 minutes she was exhausted, and drifted back to sleep.
We just have the feeling that she's not going to be able to go home. She can't walk anymore, and can't even feed herself. She seems too weak to do anything but wake for less than an hour and sleep. It's heartbreaking to see her this way. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Bev has been a great friend over the last 4 years, and we love her very much.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meeting people around the holidays

I've met some nice people over the last couple of weeks through different situations. Maybe it's the holidays, maybe not. In the last week, Tom and I posted some free lumber and a free 6.5 foot pre-lit Christmas tree on Craigslist.com. (We bought a new tree together this week). Weeks before we also posted a free washer and dryer, that one of Tom's mom's neighbors wanted to give away.
Through these ads, I recieved a lot of email requests for all of them. I received several emails from people who couldn't afford a Christmas tree of any kind, or washer and dryer. It was heartbreaking to hear them. Regardless, the people that responded first and got the items were thankful, the others were understanding and appreciative for a simple email telling them the item went to the first respondent.
I also belong to bookmooch.com, a free book-swap service I enjoy. You post the books you want to mail to whoever wants them, and then use the web site to contact people who have a book you want. All you pay for is postage to mail your books out. The website maintains an inventory for you on-line. I've met a number of really nice folks there- just emailing about books they want to "mooch" or that I want to "mooch" from them. A woman in England noticed I had a dog book on my wishlist (as did about 20 others) and she emailed me to ask if I still wanted it. I was just contacted by a college senior studying marketing, now into superheroes (he swapped a couple of books with me).
The bottom line is that even if you have a bad commute, or someone takes your seat on the metro, or cuts you off on the road, there are a lot of good people out there, too. Just look for them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Halos and Christmas Trees

EYE SAY, IT'S A HALO - Tom's right eye is still recovering from cataract surgery, and it's going to be a slow process. He can see the outline of the lens the surgeons implanted, and it looks like a waxing moon in his peripheral vision. Further, around every light, he sees "Blue Halos." Our friend Patrick asked if Tom was seeing a halo over my head. I told him, he should, everyone else can see it! LOL.
Anyway, the surgeon told Tom it may take a week to months to get the eye healed. Tom has a followup appointment next month.

CHRISTMAS TREE ADVENTURES - Last year may have been our first Christmas in the same house but we didn't have time to get a tree we both liked and put up my 5 year old-pre-lit multicolored 6.5 foot tree. It was from my past, so this year, we decided we wanted white lights (and I got a taller artificial tree, now 7.5 feet high) and we need to put the past in the past, and pick out a tree we both liked. We did.
A simple pleasure was going to Lowes and finding all artificial trees were 50% off! Of course, the one we wanted was out of stock, so we drove to another Lowes and found it there. It looks great (see picture). We added blue lights, but are waiting for Tom's parents to come over and help decorate it (our tradition began last year).
Because the old tree was in great shape and all lights worked, we put it on Craigslist.com. In FIVE MINUTES, I received 6 desperate pleas for it. Single mothers with kids and more. If you want to help someone, buy a prelit tree and put it on Craigslist as "free." You'll get a lot of responses and you'll make someone's Christmas. So, we gave it to the first respondent, a single mom in Washington, DC who never had a tree. She picked it up last night with her dad and brother, and it choked me up. So, look around this year. There are a lot of people hurting that could use some cheer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On a Crazy "Qwest" with a Funny Ending

On Monday, while Tom was having cataract surgery, I used the time to get my blood drawn for my upcoming physical later this week. I was instructed to go to the "QWEST Laboratory" in Annapolis, not too far from the hospital where Tom was. - So, I checked the address on line, and also jotted down the phone number.
Tom and I got to the hospital early, so we decided to see exactly where the Qwest lab was, and we drove to the appropriate address. Knowing where it was, we drove back to the hospital, and checked him in. I then left for the lab.
When I arrived, I checked the directory, and there was no listing for Qwest labs. I called the phone number listed on the Internet, and it was a Fax machine. Hmmm. So, after walking through the building, I came across someone from another office who told me Qwest moved to "888 Bestgate Road." I thanked her and went back to Bestgate road (also still close to the hospital). I parked my pickup truck, went inside and again, no listing on the business directory. Hmm. Fortunately, I remembered the "order request" from my doctor, and on the back in tiny print was a main phone number. I called it, and got connected 3 or 4 times, finally to the Annapolis office of Qwest. Turns out it was about 5 minutes down the street.
Despite taking 40 minutes to find a place almost basically near the hospital (if ONLY they updated their website), my wait inside was relatively short.
HOWEVER, a young man who was there to have blood drawn, and who had downs syndrome (I think) was called in to have blood drawn before the waiting room started filling up with walk ins. The waiting room was packed with people and the boy was in the lab with a nurse (behind a door to the waiting room). Out of the dead quiet the boy shrieked and shrill screamed when the nurse was obviously taking his blood.
The faces of people (who didn't know the boy had downs or came in after he went behind the door into the lab) in the waiting room were looks of sheer Horror!! That made the extra 40 minutes to get there worth it. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tom Successfully Had Cataract Surgery Today

7AM: Today, Tom is undergoing cataract surgery in his right eye. (SEE POST SURGERY UPDATE FURTHER DOWN). It's apparently an inherited condition, because they usually form in older or elderly folks. Although at times I tell Tom he acts like "an old coot!" :) It's an outpatient surgery that required 2 different (expensive) eye drops administered starting 2 days before and for the week after. He doesn't like the fasting part before surgery... and I don't blame him!
What is a Cataract? Answer from Wikipedia: A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light. Early in the development of age-related cataract the power of the lens may be increased, causing near-sightedness (myopia), and the gradual yellowing and opacification of the lens may reduce the perception of blue colours. Cataracts typically progress slowly to cause vision loss and are potentially blinding if untreated... so get 'em fixed!
11:00 AM POST=-SURGERY UPDATE: Tom's surgery is over, and it went well. He's now home resting and I'm keeping an "EYE" on him. (Bad pun, I know). He has to put 3 different types of drops in his eyes (2 every 2 hours). We did stop at Panera Bread on the way home, though, as we BOTH had to fast this morning. He fasted for his operation, and I fasted to get blood drawn for my physical this Friday. **Tom's not allowed to do lifting or bending over, that means no housework, which is making him nuts! Thank God for TV!

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next