Monday, May 31, 2004

Mark talked to my father-in-law to let him know we'd seen the writeup in the Inquirer.

My father-in-law complained that the Inky had some of the details wrong. The camp was in Austria, not Czechoslovakia, and the division won three battle stars, not seven.

Still, I've seen the medals he earned (including the Purple Heart) and heard him recount many different experiences that he had during the war. Yet, he never mentioned (in my hearing) that he liberated a concentration camp before. I can't even imagine what it would be like to witness that kind of suffering firsthand.

Next time I talk to him, I want to say "Thanks". It's the only response I can think of after reading that writeup in the newspaper.

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, and I can't think of any better way to honor the people who served our country than to print my father-in-law's own words. He was interviewed recently because he is a WWII veteran. His comments appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, May 30, along with the stories told by other veterans.

Here is what he said.

Mine was one heck of a tour

I was inducted on Nov. 13, 1942. I was 20 then. My training was in the 11th Armored Division for light tanks. We were the 41st Tank Battalion, and I was a tech sergeant 4th grade.

We were trained to fight in Africa and then the desert. The locale of the fighting kept changing. We were finally shipped to Europe and landed in Liverpool in the fall of 1944 - just in time for the Battle of the Bulge under General Patton. We fought with what remained of the 101st Airborne, which had lost many men and were trapped in Bastogne.

My most vivid memories are of the intense, freezing cold of that winter, and the many lives that were lost. After the battle was over, we traveled through Germany and took 78,000 prisoners. We finally reached Czechoslovakia and liberated the prisoners still alive at Mauthausen concentration camp. The sight of dead bodies piled in heaps - and that of those still alive, wasted to skeletons - will remain with me forever.

Our division had seven battle stars gained in the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. I received a Purple Heart for injuries (sustained from barbed wire strung across roads and waiting for tank drivers like me).

I do have pleasant memories: the many friends made along the way; Bob Hope on one of his many trips to entertain the troops; and the small children who came to us for food and "gummy" (chewing gum).

Lawrence A. Momorella

Willow Grove


Friday, May 28, 2004

It's taken me a little while, but I'm in a better frame of mind than I was when I got the rejection post card from [department store]. Not that I'm done being ticked off about it, because that's not entirely the case. But at least I've filed it under "AFGO" (short for Another ****in' Growth Opportunity) and have decided to move on.

Too bad that darn post card had to arrive when it did. I was all set to post about some much NICER stuff that went on last weekend, but then the post card arrived and my emotional state took such a nosedive, for a while I didn't feel like posting much of anything other than the rant I wrote a few days ago.

So NOW I think I'll post about the nice things that happened on Saturday and Sunday.

First of all, Mark's and my fifth anniversary was Saturday. We started the day by going to see Smarty Jones do his exercise run early in the morning. It was open to the public, and it was even more thronged THIS time around than it was a couple weeks ago.

That's OK, though. This time we walked alllllll the way to the end of where spectators were permitted to stand, and got a place next to a chain-link fence. I was able to aim my camera through the fence, and I think I got better pics this time around than last time. The only challenge this time was competing with a few PRO photographers who kept managing to get in the spectators' way as they were setting up their own shots. Some properly-timed "HEY! DOWN IN FRONT" exclamations from people in the crowd got the pro photographers to move, though. :o)

Shortly before Smarty Jones came into view, the track announcer instructed the crowd to please keep sudden noises to a minimum in order to not spook the horse. (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the point.) Looking back at it now, I wonder if they were hoping to head off the sort of sudden noise that is made when an annoyed spectator yells at a photographer who has suddenly gotten in the way. Hmmm... food for thought.

As we watched Smarty Jones gallop, then stayed to watch the other horses exercise after Smarty Jones was finished, I thought, "No wonder little girls love horses". When I was a girl, I loved all animals, not just one kind of animal in particular. But those race horses were so beautiful and graceful, it's easy to see why some little girls feel a particular affinity for them. If I hadn't already been in "dote on ALL animals" mode, I probably would have been enamored of horses, too.

We'd noticed that the Pennsylvania State Fair was set up on a part of Philadelphia Park's parking lot. (Say THAT three times fast! ;o) ). So once we were done watching the horses exercise, we went to see what was up at the fair.

This was pretty early in the morning -- not quite 10 AM -- and not too many things at the fair were open yet. We did, however, get to see the petting zoo (including a miniature horse, which was utterly adorable), the ferris wheel, the bumping cars, and a few other things.

On we went to Peddler's Village, with a stop at a large flea market that we passed on Street Road. We didn't buy a lot, but the highlight was a small aluminum stepladder for $3. If all goes well, I want to bring said wee ladder to Belmont so I can see above the standing-room-only crowd this year. I still remember well how challenging it was for a vertically-challenged person like me to see the track last year. Standing on the bottom step of the ladder will give me enough height to match a TALL person's point of view.

We got to Peddler's Village in time for lunch. The sun was out and it had turned into a gorgeous, if hot, day. Next time we go, though, I'd like for us to make a whole day of it. The most we got to see is maybe half of Peddler's Village, if that. We had to leave semi-early so we could arrive in time for dinner at my in-laws' house.

So, everything up until and including dinner was great. :o)

And then we got home in time to see the final period of the Flyers game, in which they lost to Tampa Bay and were eliminated from the playoffs. DARN DARN DARN DARN... but that's an "I'm disappointed!!!" rant for another day. One thing I'm NOT is angry about the loss... the Flyers overcame more than their share of injuries and came to within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals. They played their hearts out and gave it everything they had, and lost to a DARN good team. How can I be angry about that?

The next day, Mark, Joe, and I went to a graduation party for one of my oldest friends. Beth Ann and her twin sister, Eva Marie, have been my friends since we were all in 4th grade. Beth Ann was graduating from law school, and it was great to see her again. Unfortunately, Eva Marie wasn't there; she had to return to Ohio because of prior commitments that she couldn't reschedule. I hope we can catch up with her the next time she's in Philly.

One other friend who it seems like FOREVER since I've seen is Eva (not to be confused with Eva Marie). I can't believe it's been about 10 years since I've seen her.

Seeing how much Beth Ann's kids have grown, and seeing pictures of Eva's two daughters for the first time, really underlined for me how long it's been since we have all gotten together. Beth Ann's son TJ is about to graduate high school (which did not surprise me, as I remember he was born in 1986) and he's taller than I am now (then again, isn't everyone?). What really DID floor me, though, is that he's about to go into the National Guard.

On the one hand, I agree with Beth Ann: TJ has always wanted to go into the military, and she's not about to stand in the way of his dream, even though she's very concerned that he's doing this during a war. On the other hand, I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that the firstborn child of ANY of our group of friends is about to put himself at risk and could possibly die for his (and my) country. WILLINGLY. God bless TJ and everyone who is willing to serve. I hope to God that this war ends and our people come HOME as soon as humanly possible.

I definitely am going to go out of my way to try and keep in touch, now that Beth Ann is out of law school. She has been so busy for the past few years, between being a mom with a full-time job and law school classes into the bargain, that spare time was unheard of.

Heck, I can empathize -- for five years, I just had the "full time job and night classes" to worry about, and I hardly knew which end was up I was so busy. That's WITHOUT having four kids and a husband into the bargain. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be committed to work, school, AND other people all at once.

Too bad that the Flyers and Phantoms are both done for the season. Beth Ann has been a hockey fan for as long as I have. If the Phantoms were still playing, I'd have invited her to go to a Phantoms game with Mark and me. Oh, well. Next season, for sure!

Now we're heading into the Memorial Day weekend. Tomorrow, Mark and I are going to Atlantic City with Jean and Joe J. I hope we don't run into the Shore Traffic from H*ll, considering that this is a weekend when half the world seems to want to go to the shore. But traffic or no traffic, I'm looking forward to going.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The post card was mixed in with today's mail.

"Thank you so much for your interest in [department store]. We took a good look at your qualifications and found we just don't have a position at [department store] that's the right match for you. We wish you the best of luck in your job search and much success in all you do."

So in other words, I showed up at that job fair about a month ago in a suit, one of only three people to do so (out of a few dozen). Everyone else came in dressed like they were headed to a picnic.

I talked at length to the recruiter about my experience and the fact that I have a background in computers, office support, and customer service, AND the fact that I'm fluent in American Sign Language. Other people were asking her, during the open Q and A session, whether a prior conviction for a crime would prevent them from being hired.

I also asked about the salary range of several positions. I didn't tell HER this, but the salary for their sales floor personnel, the most numerous position that they will have openings for when the store is built, is distinctly less than what I'm making now. Considering that I'm hardly breaking the bank where I am now, that's pretty sad. I'm considering taking a part-time job as it is; I'd DEFINITELY need a second job if I were a sales clerk in that store.

And yet, my resume (showing a bachelor's degree and continuous employment of some kind or other since 1985, primarily my 12-year stint at the bank) doesn't meet [department store]'s requirements.

Color me REALLY angry right now.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Well, that worked nicely. And FAST. My gosh, the post was there almost immediately. :o)

This is good to know. Blogging via cell phone, etc, here I come.

Last night was fabulous. The Flyers won a VERY dramatic Game 6 to stay alive in the playoffs vs. Tampa Bay. What a see-saw game it was! We fell behind 1-0, took the lead 2-1, Tampa tied it, we re-took the lead 3-2, Tampa pulled ahead 4-3... and this was in just the first two periods of the game.

When the third period rolled around, the score remained 4-3 for what seemed like forever. Finally, with 1:49 remaining in the period... and the Flyers' season, had we lost the game... Keith Primeau scored a brilliant goal. I cheered my head off. The fans at the Wachovia Center must have been DEAFENINGLY loud; they had spent most of the third period chanting "Let's go, Flyers!" and trying to WILL the puck into the net for a tying goal.

Overtime was nerve-wracking. We had a ton of chances to score, but TB's goalie Khabibulin kept them all out.

That is, until we had just under two minutes remaining in the first OT period. Then Simon Gagne scored a beauty of a goal, and all of Flyer Fandom went nuts with joy and relief.

I let out the cheer of all cheers... my throat was sore afterward, but who cared? I have until Saturday evening and Game 7 to get it back. :o)

So, today I went to work and discovered that Ruth, who is one of the underwriting assistants and is also a major Gagne fan, had worn a Simon Gagne jersey to work. :o) Hey, Friday is casual day... a hockey jersey might be just a TAD more casual than is normally sanctioned by the company guidelines, but hey. Simon scored the OT GWG and kept the Flyers' season alive. I can't imagine why anyone would object. (Of course, mine is probably the least unbiased opinion in this time zone on this topic, since I like wearing jerseys, but hey. It's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.)

On the way home I had some errands to run. I pass what used to be known as the Audubon Mall every day when I drive to work. I used to go there with my parents when I was a kid, and I remember it as a bustling, active shopping center with a variety of stores. Its name was changed some years ago, though -- I think the new name is "Black Horse Shopping Center", or something like that.

Anyway, I thought, "Hey, I haven't been there in years. Why not hit that mall? It's right on my way home". It sounded like a good plan to ME, in any event.

So much for good plans. To my astonishment, I pulled into the parking lot and discovered that it's a ghost town. I've never seen a totally empty mall before. :o( I thought I might at least find something in the Bradlees, when I saw some people walking past it, but I guess they were just taking a shortcut. I drove over to the entrance that they had walked by, and discovered that the glass doors were completely dusty and dirty. No department store would EVER let their doors get so cruddy if the store was in operation. Plus, I should have been able to see light and activity INSIDE the store through those glass doors. Nothing. It was totally dark.

So that was a surprise and a disappointment... the Audubon Mall is dead. I had no idea.

Blog by email?

Well, if this works, I will be one happy person.

blogger.com has set things up to allow us to post to a weblog via
email. So, of course, I'm trying it out.

Here's hoping! :o)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Yesterday was great. It was the annual fair at Camilla Hall, the mother house for the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They always have food, raffles, a flea market to die for, pony rides and games for kids, and bingo. Quaker City String Band is one of the main features.

My friends and I have been attending since, oh, I'd say the early 1990s. Our late friend Joan used to love to go. We still think of her every time we go there, especially when we visit the chapel at the convent for part of the day. She used to go with us to the chapel, too. Now we go there and remember her when we say a prayer.

Yesterday, a bunch of us travelled in two cars. Mark and I printed directions from the internet... sort of. Mapquest doesn't recognize the address of Camilla Hall, but it did know how to locate the nine-digit ZIP code. So what we had were directions to the ZIP code, rather than the actual building we were looking for. We went through the same thing last year, as I recall, and life got pretty interesting for us when we reached the end of the directions and were in the middle of nowhere. But we managed to find our way to the convent last year, so we figured we'd remember what we did and find the place more easily this time around.

Joe called us early in the morning to find out if we were going. That's because I wanted to go, but as of Friday night, Mark didn't. I wasn't over-fond of the idea of driving all that way myself, especially without precise directions, which meant that I was hemming and hawing on Friday about the possibility of going.

But Saturday morning rolled around, and the weather was beautiful, so Mark changed his mind by the time Joe called: he wanted to go, too.

So Joe said, "Lucy and Tina (two sisters we know) are coming to my house and we'd like to leave about 10 AM. Be here for then and we can follow each other. We can keep the cars in contact by cell phone -- you and Mark have yours, and Joey D and I will have ours. My cousin Michelle got directions from online". That sounded like a plan, so we agreed to it.

However, neither Mark nor I was at ease with the idea of making this trip without having a copy of the directions in OUR car, too. So I found the directions online, which Mark proceeded to print shortly before we were ready to leave.

It turns out that Mark printed the directions two different ways -- one as text only, and another that included a map of the immediate area. This took longer to print than we expected, so we exited the house at 10:03.

I called Joe via my cell phone to say we had printed directions and were on the way. He had a fit. "What do you MEAN you printed directions? You wasted time, I told you my COUSIN printed directions" and so on.

I just listened to him vent, said "We'll be there in a little bit", and we hung up.

When Mark and I were about 3/4 of the way to Joe's... which is to say, about a mile and a half to two miles from our house... my cell phone rang.

It was Joe. "Lucy and Tina need to get gas. They picked us up and are going to the Sunoco station at 19th and Oregon. Meet us there.

"Oh, and by the way. It's a good thing you printed the directions. My cousin got directions from NORTH Howard Street" (which is at least 40 blocks away from the block Joe lives on). "Who even KNOWS where the #)$(#%* THAT is?"

Now, for the non-Philly-based among us, this gas station where Lucy and Tina wanted to fill up is about, oh, four blocks from my house. Maybe less. So basically, Mark and I drove almost the entire way to Joe's for no earthly good reason. If we'd known that Lucy and Tina were going to pick up Joe and Joey D, then head for the Sunoco station, we'd have been able to drive THERE to meet them within two minutes. So we basically wasted a half hour heading most of the way to Joe's, and then turning around and heading back to almost exactly where we started.

Ya know, if a writer suggested a sequence of events like this for a sitcom, they'd be told, "Nah. That's too ludicrous. Nobody'd believe it". I swear, if I wasn't already nuts, these road trips with friends would DRIVE me crazy. ;o)

Anyway, eventually Mark and I reached the Sunoco station, just as Lucy and Tina were finishing up getting gas. Since Mark and I were the ones with the correct directions, we decided that we'd be the lead car. Tina drove the other car, with Lucy, Joe, and Joey D as passengers.

We set off for Camilla Hall. The first leg of the trip involved the Schuylkill Expressway, a highway which can be stressful to drive on, at best. But fortunately, the traffic wasn't too bad this time. Well, there WAS one on-ramp where about four or five cars all entered the highway together. THEY should have been yielding to oncoming traffic, but apparently they all thought it was THEIR highway and the rest of us were just driving on it. Mark slowed down to let them pass us.

My cell phone rang shortly afterward. It was Joe, calling on HIS phone. Tina wanted to know which exit we'd be taking, so I checked the directions and told him. Then Joe added, "And tell Mark to stop letting all those #$(#@($ cars in front of him! We're losing time!"

I told Joe, "If Mark hadn't let those cars in ahead of us, they'd have come in BEHIND us and there'd be at least four cars between us and you. Probably a bad idea since you're following our car".

Joe thought about that one. "Well, we should be right on your @ss"... then, to Tina, "Get on his @ss!", and Tina closed the somewhat long gap between her car and ours. Joe resumed talking to me. "OK, bye!" and hung up.

We both reached the exit and made it to Rt 202 with no problem. However, when I realized that it would soon be time to exit 202 and get on a different route, I called Joe's cell phone again. To my dismay, he'd turned his phone off. DRAT, was I mad! It's frustrating enough that he leaves the darn thing off 99% of the time. Normally, that's not a major issue, but when we're trying to keep two cars in touch with each other, it's counterproductive at best.

We exited 202. Tina's car followed. My cell phone rang. I saw Joe's name on the Caller ID and answered, not with a greeting, but with "WILL you keep your $(#@( cell phone on, you idiot? I tried to call you when our exit was coming up, and all I got was a freaking error message!"

"Well we followed you when you exited, we were fine".

"Yeah, yeah, just keep the freaking phone on till we arrive. OKAY?" Then I let them know when the NEXT exit was going to be, and we hung up.

This was when things got interesting. Mapquest was missing a step somehow. It told us how to get from Rt 202 to Rt 29. But it did NOT mention that Rt 29 suddenly comes to an END and we would have to turn onto Rt 30.

We got to that intersection, and Mark and I vaguely remembered that we should be turning there, but we weren't sure. My phone rang. Joe and Tina were in agreement that we needed to make a right at the intersection, so to the right we all went. Hello, Rt. 30.

This was the correct thing to do, regardless of the omission of this step on the Mapquest directions, because we recognized the road once we were on it. My phone rang. Guess who it was? :o) I told Joe to relay that our next turn would be a left onto Sproul Road.

Once we made our left turn, we knew that the Mapquest directions were going to be of no help and we'd have to rely on memory from that point on. So we got to Sproul Road, we drove along it, and things looked familiar.

Unfortunately, they looked familiar because we got lost in this same freaking area LAST year. We relied on memory and as a result, made the same mistake THIS year and ended up in the same wrong place. ARGH!!!

After a few creative "let's turn here and see what happens" maneuvers, our cars ended up going in opposite directions along a street called King Road.

Mark and I were still seeing "Hey, I remember that landmark from when we were lost last year" sights. Tina's car, meanwhile, actually found Camilla Hall. My phone rang. Joe gave us the street names we needed to follow to get to our destination, so we made a U-turn and sure enough, Joe's instructions were right.

Maybe NEXT year we can get to Camilla Hall on the first try, and avoid the scenic tour of Malvern or wherever the heck we were when we got lost.

Once we got there, though, it was a good day. I picked up only a tiny few knick-knacks at the flea market. I found a couple of nearly-new handbags, one with the price tag still on it, that I liked. I was particularly happy about that one, because I've been looking to replace the handbag I normally use, but nothing in any of the stores I've visited recently was quite right. This one needs just a small bit of repair work -- it needs a new clasp, which I am sure I can do myself -- and it'll be just what I was looking for. Considering that the bag only cost $1, I might end up spending more on the clasp than I did on the handbag. And if I can raid an OLD bag of mine I no longer use, and recycle a clasp from THAT, so much the better. I love flea markets. :o)

Other than my flea-market victory, the main event for me at the Fair was the bingo game. I never played bingo there before, but it's a very reasonably-priced game and I'd be more than willing to join in again next year. Jackpots are modest (for example, I won $5 in one particular game), but since the point of the fair is to raise money for Camilla Hall, I don't have an issue with that.

Since the Flyers were going to be playing on Channel 6 yesterday, I brought my little battery-operated TV to Camilla. I had a feeling that we'd still be at the fair when the game began at 3 PM, and I was right. I set the TV up on the table in front of me, plugged in an earphone, and listened to the game (with an occasional glance at the screen, based on the announcer's tone of voice), and played bingo for the first hour or so of the Flyers game. :o) Reception was a bit staticky, but I lived. All I needed was to keep track of what was going on with my boys in Orange and Black, and I was fine.

When we got ready to leave for home around 4 PM, I tried to watch the TV in the car but the reception was just impossible. So I put it away and listened to the game on the car radio instead. By the time we got home, the Flyers had won the game, 3-2. Life is good. :o)

We had plans to stop at home briefly, then head over to Joe's for dinner... Mark and I were going to join Bob, Lucy, Tina, and another friend, Mark F. But before that, we watched the Preakness on TV. The Philly-based horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones, was going to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Mark is interested in horse racing, so we decided to leave for Joe's after the race was over.

Smarty Jones did not start out in the lead; he spent a lot of the race in second place. But shortly before the fourth turn, suddenly he positioned himself inside, at the rail, and I had a feeling that he was about to turn on the afterburners.

Sure enough, just at they made that turn, Smarty Jones surged to the front. Not only did he continue to put distance between himself and everyone else for the rest of the race, he won it by a record 10.5 lengths. DANG, was he impressive to watch! :o)

So now, I've been discussing with Mark that I want to go to the Belmont in three weeks, the way we did last year. That was fun. I also asked Donna H. if she's interested in going, which she is. I figure that NYC would be easier for her to get to than coming all the way down to Philly, so we can have a little get-together without her having to drive all the way down here to do it. So, stay tuned. There'll be more Smarty Jones posts on the way.

So anyway, to recap: yesterday we had a nice day at the Camilla Fair, the Flyers won, Smarty Jones won, and later on I found out that the Phillies not only won, but moved into first place in their division. Yep, yesterday was a good day, all right. :o)

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Drat. Drat, drat, drat.

The Phantoms were eliminated from the playoffs on Friday night. (I was about to say "tonight", until I realized that it's after midnight and this post is going to be listed as having Saturday's date.)

I'm so disappointed. This team had the potential to go far, but our offense failed during this series.

I haven't seen a team with this strong of a chemistry since the year we won the Calder Cup. That, as much as the team's play on the ice, had me convinced that we could win it all this year, too.

Nope. No dice. The Penguins were a thorn in our side all year. During the regular season, they shut us out three times in a row. Take that, add the fact that their NHL affiliate sent down at least five guys who spent most of the season in the NHL, and it adds up to problems for the Good Guys.

Drat.

It's going to take me forever to fall asleep tonight. Not that I have an easy time falling asleep on ANY given night. Thank God tomorrow's Saturday and it doesn't MATTER if I have my usual "can't fall asleep at night, can't wake up in the morning" start to the day.

Drat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

WTG Phantoms! We just won 4-2, drawing closer to the Pens in the process. Wilkes-Barre still leads this series 3 games to 2, but this was a do-or-die game for us. So will Friday's game in W/B be. But I hope we keep this momentum going. So far, we haven't scored in W/B during this playoff series. That's one scoreless streak we HAVE to break. Nobody here wants to see our boys go home for the summer, and I'm sure the Phantoms want to keep going, too.

Get those Penguins on Friday!
BTW, tonight is a do-or-die game for the Phantoms. We're trailing in this series vs. Wilkes-Barre, 3 games to 1. In other words, if we don't win our next three games, this team is going home for the summer.

I am SO frustrated. We're better than we've shown ourselves to be during this series. We blew a 4-1 lead en route to a 5-4 loss in Game 1, won Game 2 in OT, and were shut out by the Penguins in games 3 and 4.

I still believe that this team is better than the Penguins' team, but if we can't solve their goalie, the point's going to be rendered moot.

Come on, boys. WIN this thing. W/B came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit and beat Bridgeport in the previous series. That just proves that it CAN be done.
On Saturday morning, Mark announced, "The grass is starting to come in". Sure enough, two weeks after he dug the whole thing up and spread half a bag of grass seed on and under the soil, our lawn looked like the green version of a five-o'clock shadow.

I never saw brand-new grass blades before, because normally they're part of a lawn that's so thick, it's hard to really perceive one individual blade of grass without kneeling down and looking at it close-up. But now, when all we have are newly sprouted blades of grass on a patch of otherwise bare soil, it's easy to see that new blades of grass seem hair-thin.

Now that a few more days have passed, our lawn looks more like a green crew cut. The grass is about 1.5" tall, in the places where it has sprouted. There are still some bare or nearly-bare areas, but since this seed is supposed to sprout in 4-6 weeks, I'm hoping that those areas start to fill in with a green crew cut of their own before long. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Hey, good news! The birdies have given the grass-seed buffet a few days, and they seem to have decided that they like their OLD restaurant, the bird feeder, better! :o) I noticed about a half-dozen sparrows congregated on and around the bird feeder this morning. *No* birds were on our future lawn chowing down on grass seed.

Maybe they like the variety of seeds in the feeder better, especially since the store-bought seed is made specifically to attract birds in the first place. Probably they also prefer being able to eat several feet above ground level, where they feel safer, instead of right ON the ground where they're more vulnerable.

Either way, I'd much rather see the birds making use of the bird feeder again. And, of course, so would Harmony. She sure loves that Birdie Channel on Kitty TV (aka the front window).

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Just a quick update, and then I'm outta here and heading to work.

I was a bit concerned because the bird seed in the feeder is not disappearing anywhere near as quickly as usual. Normally what goes in there in the early morning is gone before lunchtime. This time, what we put in there on Saturday is STILL not finished.

Ya know that theory I had, that filling the bird feeder would keep the birds from being hungry enough to eat the grass seed? Well, I had the right idea, but it's working in REVERSE. I saw the sparrows congregating on our not-yet-a-lawn for a nice breakfast buffet of grass seed. No wonder the seed in the bird feeder is lasting forever. :o(

Oh, and yesterday morning I thought I saw something green poking out through the soil. I thought, "That's fast! Only two days! I thought this seed was supposed to sprout in 4-6 WEEKS". Then I took another look. It's a dandelion. ARGH...

Monday, May 03, 2004

Remember my "redo the lawn" saga from a few posts ago? Mark did it... on Friday he took a vacation day, which he spent digging up our lawn. Once he was done with it, it looked like this. He also planted plenty of grass seed. He buried some of the seeds beneath the surface, but there were a LOT of seeds on the surface, as well. I was concerned that the local birds would take one look at our seeded patch of soil and cheer, "BUFFET!!! All you can eat!" Fortunately, so far we've only had one pigeon who's come a-visiting for a free lunch. However, this grass takes 4 to 6 weeks to sprout, so the wait is far from over in the "guard our lawn-to-be from invading flocks of birds" department.

On Saturday, the lawn-care guys came. They take care of the grass for nearly our whole block, which is to say they cut it with a weed whacker as needed. As you can see from the photo, nobody's lawn is big. They barely qualify as being small. So this job's not extremely daunting, but it IS a big help to people who are elderly, or who work all day and don't have time to fool with even a miniature lawn like we have.

They took one look at our ex-lawn and chastised Mark for not telling them in advance what he was planning to do. Then they smoothed out the ground completely, since it'll be a lot easier to cut... er, weed-whack the grass evenly if it grows on nice, flat ground. If we'd left the ground all lumpy, as it was in the first photo, cutting the grass with anything at all -- weed-whacker, mower, whatever -- would have been a royal pain in the neck.

So now we have a nice FLAT bird buffet... um, future lawn. We've also been keeping the bird feeder full of REAL birdseed at all times. I figured that if we let the birds fill up on the seeds they're known to like and are SUPPOSED to be eating, they won't be hungry and eat the grass seed. We'll see if it works.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Yesterday was Game 6 of the Phantoms/Norfolk series. We led three games to two, and we had the chance of taking the series if we won that game. That would have been a far better outcome, from the Phantoms' standpoint, than winding up in a 7th game where BOTH teams' seasons were on the line.

Not only that, but the next series (vs. Wilkes-Barre) would be due to begin on Wednesday, if we advanced to the next round. If we lost game 6, Game 7 of this series would have been on Monday. If we needed 7 games to advance, we'd have a mere two days of rest before we took on the Penguins. The Pens have been resting for a week now. I'd hate to be see us have a tired, banged-up team going against a fresh team, that's for sure!

About an hour before our game began, the Kentucky Derby was due to be run. There's some major local interest in that race this year, because we have a horse from Philadelphia Park running in it. What's more, the Phantoms' arena announcer, Keith Jones (no relation to the former Flyer), is also the announcer at Philadelphia Park.

Mark brought his little handheld TV so he could watch the race while we waited for the pregame warmups to start. I was standing a few rows behind him, talking to Karla (whom we met on our way into the Center). As Karla and I chatted and watched the warmups begin, suddenly she caught sight of Keith Jones in a suit and a bright blue baseball cap(!). Keith was smiling, high-fiving, and shaking hands with anyone within arm's length. Karla and I ventured down toward the glass, until we could seee that Keith's hat had "SMARTY JONES", the local horse, printed on it.

"Boy, he REALLY looks happy!", I remarked to Karla. "I wonder if Smarty Jones won?" So turned around and asked Mark, "Is the race over?"

Sure enough, Mark confirmed that Smarty Jones had won the Kentucky Derbt. :o) No wonder Keith was beaming! We were only a few feet from our elated announcer at this point, so I called down, "Yo, Keith! Any relation?"

"The horse is named after me", he joked back. Then he quickly added, "No, not really", in case anyone within earshot took him seriously.

I sure hope we get to see Keith Jones all happy like that after a couple more races, though. It would be absolutely great if the first Triple Crown winner in eons was a Philly-based horse. :o)

And speaking of wanting to see a win... I noticed that the Phantoms were wearing their new purple third jerseys for this game. I figured they wanted to close out the series, also, because we were undefeated when we wear those jerseys. Our record going into yesterday's game was 8-0. They like these jerseys so much that they balked when it came time to auction them off for charity a few weeks ago. The team wouldn't let their lucky jerseys be auctioned off before the season was over, LOL! Hey, I don't blame them. Some players are more superstitious than others, and anything that keeps the team in a winning mindset is a good thing to have around.

The Phantoms started off really well, building up a 2-0 lead by the time the first period was over. That right there was an improvement over our last game, in which we only scored one goal. Not only that, we really dominated play for the whole 20 minutes. I knew that another two periods like that would definitely win us the game.

The second period we started off well, scoring another goal. This time it was one of our blue-chip Flyers prospects, Jeff Carter, potting his first tally of the playoffs (and I think his first pro goal, period). But we had some breakdowns and gave up two quick goals to Norfolk, and finished the period with a 3-2 lead. The Admirals came out a lot harder in the second than they had in the first.

In the final period, we spent most of our time withstanding a furious Norfolk onslaught. They could see their summer looming before them, and they had no desire to have their season end just yet. I don't blame them. However, our goalie Antero Niittymaki absolutely stood on his head between the pipes, and the Ads just couldn't solve him. Plus, the guys in front of Nitty did a good job of helping to break up some of Norfolk's chances before they ever got to him in the first place.

The end result was an improvement to 9-0 for our record in the purple jerseys, and a handshake line with the Phantoms being the guys on the happy side.

There were a lot of Norfolk fans who made the trip to Philly for the game. I feel sorry for them, because at this time it's not known if they'll lose their team during the summer. If the Norfolk City Council doesn't get off their collective caboose and do something, the Admirals might end up moving to another city between now and next fall. That would really rot -- I would hate to see those fans have to bid their team goodbye. :o( It'd be even worse if the Norfolk city government is stalling on making any effort to keep the Ads in town, because they have some misguided notion that the major-league baseball Montreal Expos will be moving to Norfolk. IMO, the chances of that are slim, at best, and they'd be much better off keeping the team they HAVE instead of letting it move out and then not getting the pro baseball team after all.

Today, it's the FLYERS turn to try and win a crucial game. We are tied at two games apiece with the TO Maple Leafs. Game 5 will begin in about a half hour, and we really need this win. I want us going back to Toronto with a 3-2 series lead, not trailing and facing elimination. So I'll be putting my lucky jersey on soon :o) and tuning to ESPN to see the game. Let's Go, Flyers!