Monday, December 31, 2012

After The Apocalypse

Ever since the Mayan Apocalypse occurred and the world ended, I've been feeling kind of low. I was so looking forward to 2013 and beyond, and I have to admit that I'm pretty upset I won't be able to enjoy all the things I had eagerly anticipated.

Like most of you, I'm currently just wandering around in the post-apocalyptic limbo, unsure of what to do, where to go, and which gods to hang with for eternity. I'll admit that so far, things don't seem as awful as I'd expected. Limbo looks and feels a lot like real life did before the apocalypse. 

The house that the Apoca-gods have provided me with is eerily familiar. The stain on my bedroom carpet in this limbo looks just like the one on my real bedroom carpet. The top step on my staircase still has that particular squeak, just like the other one. There's even another ghostly figure wandering about my post-apocalyptic house who looks exactly like Lady Marshmallow, and she insists that I'm still alive and well, although I'm positive this is just a trick to comfort me about the end of the world.

I know because there are sure signs that this is the afterlife. For one thing, Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow didn't bring home any dirty laundry from college over the winter break. Dead giveaway! And one of my other progeny, Kevin A. Baconateur Marshmallow, offered me a chair when I walked into the limbo house family room last night. Lady Marshmallow said we should order pizza from the good pizza place, not the less expensive pizza place. She never did that when we were all alive. 

The two Border Collies, Disgrace, and To Your Breed, still bark when the doorbell rings. And when it doesn't ring. And when they think it should ring. And in their sleep. So that's got me a bit baffled. But I'm not fooled. I know we're all actually in the "better place" I always kept hearing about during my life. Because seriously, how could millions of people be wrong in interpreting the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar? Phil Plait's not gonna convince me with his logic and sciencey-talk, dammit! I'm dead and nobody's going to convince me otherwise!

But just in case I'm mistaken and someone alive actually reads this, go ahead and leave a comment so I'll know. Because 2013 could be pretty cool and I'd hate to miss it. 

Thanks a heap.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I've Simply Had Nothing To Say.

I haven't been reading blogs lately. Not writing, either, but that's obvious. There's nothing wrong, I've simply had nothing to say and very little time to read what my blogging friends have written. 

Carry on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

They Really Liked Me!

For the Marshmallows it has been summer swim season since the beginning of June. Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow is doing his bit and agreed to swim one last season following his high school graduation. He has a serious case of "I wanna just leave and get to college!", so I was ecstatic that he decided to grace the swim team one last time rather than slack off all summer and drive us to drink (more).

What I hadn't counted on was my own case of "12 years of swim team burnout". I became fully aware of it last night, during our biggest dual meet of the year. We have about 170 swimmers on the team. That is a huge number of families, by the way. And I think every one of the parents of those swimmers commented to me along the lines of, "Wow! You finally made it to a swim meet!". Yep, last night's meet was the first one I managed to attend this year, due to work, travel, conflicts in scheduling, and the aforementioned burnout. Which is made doubly ironic by the fact that it was the last dual meet of the season and the last meet that Wolfgang will swim in. Ever. Oh, but that's not the best part. No.

The best part is that for the past  years I have been the official swim team photographer. And I have been at ALL the meets, ubiquitous as the lifeguard stand at the pool. Hot Saturdays and buggy weekday evenings, on the deck for four to eight hours, contorting into whatever positions necessary to get the shots, sweating like Ted Striker piloting a Boeing 707. So people know me. I just didn't know that they know me, because I've been concentrating on framing, focusing, and shooting hundreds of images every meet. Chat time was limited, to say the least. I watched swimming with one eye closed, through a tiny hole in the back of the camera. I never even knew that it was live and in 3D!

So it was quite a surprise to find out that people have missed me at the meets. I'd like to think they missed my sunny personality and warm charm, despite knowing what they really missed were the action shots of their kids. But I can live comfortably in denial of the truth on this one.

They missed me. They missed me because they liked me; they really liked me.

A couple of shots to share with you. Enjoy!

Random kid.

Swimmer eyeing up his lane.

This one is Wolfgang. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Suddenly, The Questions Pour In.

A Work Of Deluded Fiction

As a paragon of wisdom, wit, and style, I'm often asked how I do such and such, or how I've achieved esteemed levels of prominence in my myriad fields of expertise. Because so many people have helped me become ridiculously successful in every arena of human endeavor, I wanted to magnanimously share the give and take of the conversations with my fans. Here, in as modestly brief a format as I can create, are some of those interactions, with my responses to queries being as completely disingenuous and full of crap as I can manage.

From a Famous Dude in a Robe:

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama: Venerable Marshmallow, how do you manage to balance the demands of fatherhood with your work as a photographer for Playbuoy?

DM: First, let me say I totally dig your glasses, Dal. Very understated yet current. As for my photographic pre-eminence in the field of Oceanic Markers, I just have to say that I feel I am just very fortunate to have stood on the shoulders of giants. Literally. Because without them, I would have had to rent boats to get those shots. Plus, my wife and children are behind me 100%.

This,  from a former United States President (sans robe):

Ronald Reagan's Ghost: DM, you mention in your autobiography that you had a chance to stop John W. Hinckley the day he attempted to assassinate me, but that you didn't do so. Why is that?

DM: Dutch, come on, we've been over this a million times. I said that I could have stopped him from trying to impress Jodie Foster by shooting you. And what I meant by that is that I could have accepted her repeated (and quite frankly, annoying) attempts to date me. If I had given in to temptation and said yes to her incessant come-ons, I most likely would have turned his attention away from you and onto myself. Dude, you were the POTUS. I was a college student. You had Secret Service protection. I had zip. Stop whining and get over it. You survived that attack anyway, and it only served to make you more popular.

From, the Big Guy (also wearing a robe):

Jesus (the Christ): DM, I wish you'd stop using my name in conjunction with the phrase, "On a Popsicle Stick.". It's pretty blasphemous by most standards. And my Dad is sort of pissed. He's been talking smiting lately.

DM: Yeah, about that. First, that's not a question. Second, I don't mean anything personal by it. I would say the same thing using anybody's name who was crucified on a tree or big piece of wood. If you want, I'll use Spartacus' name instead. I'm good either way.

Jesus (the Christ): DM, that would be great, thanks. He's here with me now and says it's cool with him. Oh, by the way, St. Peter says hi. He also asks if you'd stop with the jokes about his life (and death) being turned upside down. He's super sensitive about that.

DM: Man, you're killing me with these requests! First he asks me to stop the "rock and roll" jokes, and now this. But I have a soft spot for Pete. As long as I get can a RapidPass®, he's got a deal.

From the Big, Big Guy (non-corporeal, but always pictured with a robe):

The Lord On High Himself: DM, how do you consistently hit such a smooth draw off the tee?

DM: Well, actually, I just attribute it all to you. Pretty freaking clever, huh? But the real trick is keeping my right foot forward of my left and bringing my swing plane a little out of horizontal. I close down the club face just a touch too.

The Lord On High Himself: I knew it! You sneaky bastard! Lol!

That's it for this week. If you have any questions you'd like to ask the Defiant Marshmallow, please write in. I do my best to answer every letter personally, but due to the high volume of mail and requests, I can't guarantee it. Thanks and have a groovy day!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lazarus Was a Pantywaist

You wanna read something cool? Sure you do. Read on!

Remember my friend, Rob? The one who was essentially dead (see my last two posts)? Yeah, well he's not dead now. No kidding. I'll preface this (and end it for powerful dramatic effect) with a summation from the head of the Cardiac ICU at a certain world-renowned medical center where Rob was a guest:

In 16 years his is the most remarkable case I've ever had. He is the most ill patient I have ever seen recover.
Lazarus was a pantywaist in comparison.

I'm lying about that last sentence, but I swear he was about to say it. It was right on the tip of his tongue.

I've waited a few weeks to post this, as I didn't know it would turn out so great. On May 22, my buddy woke from a one month coma. He is at home at this very moment, surrounded by his dysfunctional family*, enjoying Father's Day weekend! 

That warrants a highly charged gif.

Briefly, since we last met, here is what transpired. 

"Murmur, murmur, hospice, rutabaga, last will and testament, murmur, it would take a miracle, murmur..."

"I need a few days to decide..."


Yeah, basically, he just got better and woke up. After they told us he would die, no matter what. It was "pull the plug" time. With all the procrastination-of-the-week she could muster, Rob's wife decided to wait a couple of days to figure out what to do and how to do it.

Now who says procrastination isn't a good thing? 

The meaningful stats, in Lay-terms:
  • Cardiac Function - 15% ejection fraction, irreparable damage to heart muscle, CHF, atrial fibrillation. In other words, he needed a heart transplant. His heart was shit.
  • Liver - fuggedaboudit. Shot to hell. 
  • Kidneys - Even the underground black market kidney thieves stayed away.
  • Diabetes - enough to share.
  • Brain - Total question mark (of course, I would argue that this was not much of a change from his pre-hospital condition).
One month of multiple organ failure, not a single positive prognosis, death just moments away (Up yours, Death!) And then, in a feat worthy of medical journals and Guideposts magazines everywhere, all functions began to improve. Slowly at first. But in one day, his liver and kidneys went from "offline" to "bring it, bitches!" 

And as I wrote before, he just woke up.

Since that day, Rob has continued to defy prognoses, Death (I said, "Up yours!" already!), the doctors, the nurses, his wife, me, and Timmy, down the street. But he never liked Timmy anyway. 

The day after he woke up, the experts gathered in his room and told us and him that even if he continued to get better, he'd probably be bedridden for life. I kid you not. What did Rob say to that? Nothing, actually. He still had the tracheostomy and was still on a ventilator, so he couldn't speak. Rather than fight that battle, he decided to just get up out of bed and walk over to a chair in the room and sit down. Death? You listening, you big pussy?

So the docs revamped their estimates and said Rob would spend "months and months" in acute rehab, probably on a ventilator, and sent the social workers scurrying off to find a suitable rehab facility that offered vent support, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, and physical therapy. What did Rob say to that?

I'm not making this next part up - I swear to you. By the time the social workers, working in conjunction with the insurance company, found a rehab facility, Rob was too well to go there. In fact, they had to kick him out of the ICU because he was too well.

Then, by the time the social workers and the insurance company got re-organized and found  a new rehab facility that suited Rob's improving condition, he screwed with them again by coming off of the ventilator and having the tracheostomy removed! He became too well to go to every acute rehab facility! He did all this recovery in less than two weeks! Not only that, he was too well to be transported anywhere by ambulance! 

So, before Rob could totally hose these poor social workers, they threw him out of the hospital and into a nursing home near his house, where he would "spend the next several weeks". He would receive all his therapy there. 

But you know where this is going, don't you? Death, you still in the room? Give up, asshole. Rob spent five days in the nursing facility. After too many visitors confused him for one of the staff, the people at the facility decided he had to leave.

So today, and with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, Rob came home. He is now at the mercy of his wife and kids again. And he is already pestering me to drive to Atlantic City with him to go shoot photos at the air show there in August. He had the temerity to ask me if I thought he would be well enough to go by then. I told him that no one was ever betting against him again. Not even Death. 

Why not?

 In 16 years his is the most remarkable case I've ever had. He is the most ill patient I have ever seen recover.
Lazarus was a pantywaist in comparison.

*Whole 'nother story.

Edited to add: OMFG! As I was finishing up this post, I got a text from Rob. It reads: "Going to Polo tomorrow with family".

I swear, if he dies at that Polo match, I'm going to kill him!

Friday, June 1, 2012

This Is Other Times.

There are times you want to write. You want people to read you.
You talk, jump, wave your arms and whistle. You want people to hear you.

Then there are other times.
You want to be quiet. You need to be quiet.

Refill yourself and wait.



Ride the spinning blue ball in silence from light to dark. As many times as necessary. When you're ready, stand up and greet everyone again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Know It's All Part of Life, But...

I'd love for this post to be a witty, cheery respite from the last two entries. I'll bet you would, too. We'll all have to wait for that; sorry.

For those unaware, my closest friend (Rob) collapsed on April 23, and has been unconscious since. He suffered from Congestive Heart Failure and Atrial Fibrillation. Other factors which I will not discuss also contributed to his illness. Rob went into cardiac arrest, too. He was taken to a local hospital, and then transported to the University of Pennsylvania Cardiac ICU after six days.

Two weeks and two days later, things are as bleak as they were then. His heart is a mess, and still in atrial fibrillation. His liver is shot, making him ineligible for a heart transplant. Since his heart is so damaged, he cannot have a liver transplant. Catch 22 of all Catch 22s. He has never regained consciousness. I think it's best he doesn't. 

Up until this morning, his kidneys were functioning ok. No longer. 

He now has a fever of 104FÂș. The ventilator is still in. Unfortunately, those last two items are almost certainly connected, but we have to wait for the cultures to come back from the lab. Regardless, it is the news I've been dreading and it was just a matter of time.

It gets worse, but those bits of information are too personal to share. I will hint that several family members are not the most supportive or functional. His wife has barely left his side though. She is so alone. 

I'm the only adult male they know who has a clue about what questions to ask, or who has been there on even a somewhat regular basis. Unfortunately the move to U. Penn. puts Rob out of my reach. I just can't keep taking days off of work to drive out there. His family needs to pick up the slack. 

***My writing was just now interrupted by a phone call from Rob's editor at U.S. Presswire (after "retiring" Rob began work as a pro sports photographer). I gave the editor my number when this happened and alerted him that Rob would not be going out to photograph any sports for the foreseeable future. Dan, the editor, is a very kind man. He apologized for bothering me, but my number was the only connection he had to Rob, and he was hoping I might have some positive news for him. By the time we hung up we were both nearly in tears.***

There is no outcome for this in which a happy ending abides. The anger and hopelessness I have been feeling for two weeks have taken their toll on me as well. Depression is a vicious and ruthless foe. I am seeing someone professionally who can help me with it. I recognize the danger of trying to handle this on my own.

I know that we are living beings and, as such, our only true and unalterable bond is that we all must cease living at some point. I get it. I understand it. 

But, you know...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You Will.

Who deserves a heart?

Who decides who deserves a heart?

Who gives the power to the one(s) who decides who deserves the heart?

Where do we stand, ethically? Are we on a continuum, moving toward a greater and more comprehensive understanding of human life? Of all life?

Because we can do something, are we obligated to take action and do it? 

Have we created societies that expect things that we cannot continue to support, even though we are technologically capable of achieving them? And why can we not continue to support certain actions?
Because they are costly? Because they use up resources that should go elsewhere? 

Because one individual may be more deserving of the resources than another? Which one of us gets to decide?

If you haven't thought of these yet, you will. And more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Can't Write About This, But I Have To

Have you ever needed to get some words out? Just out...anywhere, any way,  out of you and onto the wind?

This post is that, because there's no point to it other than that I need to write the words, speak the words and get them out of me. I don't even care if anyone responds, because it's not necessary to do so. I'm not asking for sympathy or platitudes. It's enough that someone will read them.

Earlier, you saw some posts of mine with photos of amazing wildlife from south Florida. I captured those images while on photo-safari with my buddy. Let's call him Rob. I stayed at his house for the week and we went out every day together on our little adventures. It was great. He lives up in the north, in my town, and likes to spend colder months in Florida. We've been joined at the hip with photography for years, and our photo safaris are my ideal time to do exactly what I want to do. His too.

Enough background. My gut punch came yesterday, when his wife sent me a text message telling me Rob had had a massive heart attack and was in the Cardiac ICU in a hospital an hour away from where we live. I was there in just over 45 minutes.

My buddy lies among the most godawful tangle of tubes, wires, pumps, and machines you'll never want to see. The first thing you notice in the ICU is the smell. I've been there hundreds of times in the course of my work, maybe thousands, but it smelled worse than usual. It's that mix of smells: chemicals, ozone, cleaning fluids, antiseptic, latex, linen, and of course, people. Or more to the point, all of the things that drain and leak from people.

In the span of an hour or so, Rob went from being a dad driving his wife and daughter on a college hunting tour to a comatose mass of flesh. A ventilator breathes for him. Another machine takes his blood out of his body, oxygenates it, and returns it to his body because his heart is too damaged to pump and his lungs are too weak to do the job. At least a dozen other lines feed into and out out him, all of which support some measure to keep life in him. There are more things going wrong with his body than are going right.

His youngest daughter asks me questions faster than I could possibly answer, even if I had answers. She initially shrinks back from her father's motionless form on the bed until I can explain all of the tubes and the bloody things to her. Some of them are unfamiliar, even to me. Then she pokes his forearm over and over, trying to make him respond. Of course, he does not, but maybe deep down under all of the sedation and paralyzation drugs - maybe he knows it's her.

Rob's wife tells me she doesn't even know what questions to ask the endless stream of doctors and nurses. She thanks me for knowing and being there. I don't want to know and I don't want to be there. I want to be walking with camera in hand, with Rob, answering his questions about how to get this shot or that shot.

There is no winning here, only the opportunity to delay the inevitable. He cannot be transferred to another hospital - no way to survive the move. Everything is taken minute by minute right now, hour by hour. There is no grand plan, just small, hopeful steps. Survive this machine long enough to have drug "X" withdrawn. Hope the vital organs begin to work again. Hope that the oxygen deprivation hasn't caused brain damage.

Right now nothing works. Unhook any one of the tubes and life is gone.

I'm not asking "Why?". We know why. We just don't know, "Why now?". And that doesn't matter. It simply did happen now.

The nurses are great. No one stops working; no one stops stops trying. The cardiologist is a socially inept dick, but then again, so many are. I don't care. I just want him to be competent.

Go back and look at those photos I mentioned. They are almost the last thing I did with Rob. The very last thing I did with him was celebrate his eldest daughter's marriage two weeks ago.

There is that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's Here!

Oh, how I've waited for this moment! I won't make you wait to guess because it's too grand, too important, too wonderfully pee-inducing.

Here, in pictures and in words, is what arrived on my doorstep this afternoon:

You would have loved my shriek of delight - it brought my dogs running at their insane best.


                                        Amazon! Ooooooh! I know what this is!

Tear this thing open HERE!

The boys scorched the lawn in their zealous affirmation of my glee. My prize...

Direct from The Bloggess, or whatever warehouse her publisher uses.

Mine! Mine!!!

Let's just say I know what I'm doing this evening.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Photo To Share

No big updates or other craziness to share right now, although lots of things still brewing. But for today, another photo to share from the Myakka State Forest during my recent expedition. Enjoy!

A Rosiette Spoonbill seems to parachute gently over the water:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wild Times in South Florida

A long meeting in Orlando, followed by five days of a mini-vacation/wildlife photo shoot in south Florida. And I'm beat!

Few words, but maybe a couple of these photos will tell you all what a great time I had out in the open spaces doing what I enjoy.

So, enjoy!

An alligator munches on a fish he caught at the Venice Rookery.

A Great Blue Heron displays and shows off.

DIVE! DIVE! DIVE! A Gray Pelican hits the water hard for his lunch.

Again, and again!

And another heron gets his catch of the day by spear fishing.

All in all, I'd say it was time well spent, even though my back went out and I still had to lug all my gear around to get the shots I wanted. Can't wait for more!

And a bonus if you've read this far. Added 3-31-2012. Big Bird.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Good News, But I'll Keep It Brief

WARNING: Rare, genuinely heartfelt moment follows.

Since this isn't actually a "Daddy" blog, I'll keep this brief. But since I've teased you with recent posts about Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow and the impending college choices, I want to share the news.

We have now heard back from all the schools that Wolfgang is interested in attending and to which he has applied and auditioned. Briefly, U. of Maryland, Shenandoah U., and Ithaca College were the three front runners. All have offered scholarships now. Shenandoah wants Wolfgang so badly they practically left drool on his paperwork.

However, it looks like Ithaca is the final choice. It's a great school with an impressive history for music. They awarded Wolfgang their Presidential Scholar Award, which was way beyond our expectations (they accepted 190 applicants from a pool of some 2000, and just under 10% of those receive that scholarship). We're excited, proud, and happy (happy the long wait is over).

I can finally say without feeling boastful or hyperbolic that the kid is pretty damn good. I'm proud of him, because he took a legitimate gift, worked very hard, and turned into something that will touch other people in a wonderful way. All I ever wanted for myself and my children was to do something to make the world a better place. Music does that in profound, yet often unnoticed ways.

I wish him a life of fulfillment and joy. Thanks for letting me share this with you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Saturday Grab Bag

Just in time for the big "Wear a Certain Color And Pretend You're of an Ancestry That You're Really Not and Get Stinking Drunk" holiday, here is the Saturday Grab Bag!

Yes, my newly created blog post that may or may not occur on every, many, some, just this Saturday, according to my level of laziness and creative nadirs. It's almost like the old Random Tuesdays, Funky Fridays, Thought Thursdays, etc., but not really.

You can pick and choose what you feel like reading from the below list of unrelated topics. Read them all, or read this far only. It's up to you. Go!


So That's What Blogging Is!

For those who have read this blog before, and as a warning for those reading for the first time (Sarah Mae?), you'll see that I still haven't completely figured out what blogging really is. About a year into writing this blog I learned that blogs, in general, are supposed to have a certain theme, or fall into a category. Wine blogs, Mommy blogs, Daddy blogs, Science blogs, etc. This blog has been pretty well themeless all along. 

Fortunately, I now know that blogs should be themed, henceforth my blog will be very concretely and firmly, a blog about whatever I feel like at the moment I start typing. There. Rock-solid. I hope you enjoy this theme.


Proof of Loopiness

As if it were needed, I am providing links back to some previous posts which will demonstrate this blogs dedication to written wanderlust and ambiguity. Enjoy!

The Do-Over, a creative writing assignment
and lastly (thankfully) Baby It's Cold Outside

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just Discovered I'm A Snob.

I've always thought of myself as a very down-to-Earth guy. People who know me would say, "What you see is what you get." when describing me. Therefore, I never thought of myself as secretly harboring any bizarre feelings of "them" vs. "us" when looking at people.

But I had a very disconcerting experience of that today, at lunch. I learned that I don't like being called Dude, or Man, as in "Hey, man!". Well, at least in the context of my being a customer in a sandwich shop, ordering my food.

I tried a new place in Harrisburg, PA, today. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches. It looked really good. Great signage, and a decent amount of lunchtime activity. So in I went. At first it went well. Although the music that was playing loudly in the shop was off-putting to me, it wasn't exactly driving me out the door, so I walked up to the counter to examine the menu and order. I was greeted by a 20-something guy with a baseball cap on, who asked me if I'd ever been in before, to which I replied I hadn't. He cheerfully took me through how the process was going to go. Then the wheels fell off the wagon.

Another very young worker began to chime in with the first one, saying things like, "Dude, you're gunna love this stuff!", and "Yo man, we got lots of different bread for these."

I should have been happy. I mean, they were conversing with me in complete sentences, which is more than you get at a lot of places these days, especially during the lunch rush. But I was so put off by the immediate, ultra casual intimacy, that I just felt odd instead. Here I was, dressed in jacket and tie, clearly a middle-aged bore (although quite dashing, of course), and I was suddenly thrust into Seth Rogan Dudedom. I hated it! The conversation continued that way throughout the order process. By the time I was done I felt like Maynard G. Krebs.

Maybe it's my upbringing, but even a low key guy like me prefers to be called "Sir", or "Mr. Potato Head", over "Yo man", by the skateboarders-cum-baristas and the hip young dreadlock crowd. As I sat and ate my lunch I heard lots of other customers get the Dude treatment. I realized then that I must be a snob. I really wanted someone there to say, "Hello, sir! Would you like a refill of iced tea?". Just once. Make me feel my age. I'm not hip any more. Never was. Don't want to be. I just want young people to laugh at me behind my back and talk about the old fossil in the corner drinking his tea that they spit in. Is that too much?

Any other snobs out there that will back me up on this one?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Waiting Is The Worst Part

I don't like waiting. I may have mentioned this before. Despite not liking it, I've been forced to sit in limbo while I await word of Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow's final college acceptances and financial status offers.

There has been some news, but I am delaying posting it until I hear from all parties involved. The news so far has been very good. One particular university has been most generous in its praise of Wolfgang and in its subsequent offer. However, we can't make any decisions until hearing back from all the universities, and it is just flat out kicking my ass. I want to do something, but there is no rushing this process, so I wait.

Wolfgang and Mrs. Marshmallow are doing only slightly better than me with this. They have not yet required medication and bed restraints. But every day, we all race to the mailbox to see what might be inside, and every day we collectively sigh.

This is really all I want to write for now. I did it partly because of some irrational fear that somehow this page will dry up and crumble if I don't write in it. It needs fresh ink.

Stay tuned. I'll be back to my normal self soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Part II: The Waiting

Auditions are finished!

Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow has completed the audition portion of this college odyssey. He seemed to keep my words of wisdom ("Please dont suck!") foremost in his mind during this process, which served him well. At this point, we have three acceptances out of four auditions, with the last one, Ithaca College, pending adjudication. We will hear from them in mid-March.

Now, we wait. I didn't get good marks in waiting. Neither did Wolfgang or his mother. I anticipate much suckiness and attempts at making the calendar turn pages via psychokinesis over the next several weeks.

This is Wolfgang waiting:

He's the tall one in the middle of the photo. I don't know who that woman is next to him, but she tried to make small talk during the time we had to wait for the audition. It was kind of her but frankly it was annoying. We don't like small talk at these times. We don't like it any time really, but especially at these times. We like to wait in silence, like this:

Ok, we text or read. But we don't talk! We meditate quietly.

But now we have to wait for a whole month! I can't not talk talk for a whole month. That means that you, who are reading this, must suffer with the blogging equivalent of small talk. Ha! I'm so hypocritical!

Maybe I'll post a link to a few minutes video of a performance, just to really test your devotion to this blog. Nah! Too much to ask. And too much work on my part to do it using this iPad. That's true laziness, folks. I hope you appreciate it.

Over this coming month we'll have to run various scenarios through our heads so that when this last acceptance or rejection comes through we are ready to go. Ithaca as a little fish in a biggish pond? Shenandoah as a big fish in a puddle? University of Maryland as a minnow in the ocean? Or somewhere else?

The updates will come, in the form of fantastic proclamations with lots of exclamation points. Maybe a hyphen or two. Keep your eyes peeled.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Three Down, One To Go

The noose is closing tighter.

No, not the way I wanted to start this.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Nope. No good either.

Ok, we'll go with this: you insert your own cliché here__________________________________.

Now we can get started. The ongoing saga of Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow's college auditions continues with some very good news all 'round. He's three for three with school acceptances from auditions. Here is one of them:

Even better is that one school in particular, Shenandoah, was so impressed, they have asked him if he wouldn't mind coming back there this Monday to play for their Artist in Residence, John O'Conor.

I think he wouldn't mind. Therefore, we are off Monday to go see the man, himself. Excited much?

We are still in the process of learning which schools might offer scholarship money and which ones can piss off might not offer so much. Two of Wolfgang's older siblings, Frank Lloyd Marshmallow and Pablo Marshmallow, have pulled most of the leaves off the Marshmallow Money Tree in our backyard. Frank Lloyd is currently in Rome, doing his best imitation of a Gaul. I expect a telegram any moment from the Italian government, thanking me on the one hand for single-handedly rebuilding their economy by propping up their wine market, and also asking me when the sacking will be over.

So it's enthralling times ahead. I'll be sure to take my meds and keep you posted.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Tribute To Dick Tufeld

Had I known that I was going to be honored with the Versatile Blogger Award by Mrs. Tuna, I would have prepared something more upbeat. As it is, this will be a tribute to a legend of the small screen. 

If you were paying extra close attention to news coming out of La La Land this past week, you would have read this article about the death of character actor and voiceover artist, Dick Tufeld. For those of us of a certain age, he will be remembered as the voice of the Robot, on Lost In Space, and from hundreds of television commercials like this one

Honestly, the man's voice was so ubiquitous on TV, that I can't think of a time when I didn't hear it over the past 40+ years. He stayed very active and was still voicing characters as recently as 2004. Considering he started in TV when TV was brand new, I'd say the man had a hell of a great career. I'm drinking a toast in his honor tonight. 


And since Mrs. Tuna has bestowed the award, it is my duty to post seven interesting facts about myself for you readers. The cool part of this is that I can make up just about anything and you'd never know I was yanking your chains. But in the interest of full disclosure, propriety, and veracity, I will tell you things that are at least mostly true.

  • I applied to be an astronaut while an Army Aviator. NASA probably got a good laugh out of reading my application. I never heard back from them. 
  • I am afraid of gorillas. Really. Their stare scares the living shit out of me.
  • I don't like heights, even though I was (and technically still am) a pilot. 
  • Mrs. Marshmallow is by far, better at DIY home projects than I am. It's not even a contest. She built a two-level, heavy wooden backyard play set for our sons, from scratch, while I was at work one day! It would have taken me longer to buy the materials for it! That play set is still standing, and probably will stand forever, because she over-engineered the hell out of it. I will call in a demolition team to get rid of it before we die, however.
  • I love single malt Scotch Whisky, but I can no longer tolerate it because of some major abdominal surgery a couple of years back. Now I have a trove of the stuff that smells like heaven to me but makes me sick if I drink it. That's just cruel.
  • I have rescued two drowning swimmers in my life.
  • (breast or brains?) Yeah, I was asked that recently, by a woman. I thought it was an inappropriate question. Not because I was offended by it, but because I thought it was unfair to have to choose between the two, like they were mutually exclusive or something. Come on! And how do women get away with asking things like that? I'd get slapped if I did it (by the way, brains always, always, always win - except at the beach - sorry, but there must be some exceptions). 

Here's to you, Dick! Prost!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big, Honkin' Boobs!

The drought is over. I've decided, as the saying goes, that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Today, you get boobs.

According to in-depth research I've done regarding my posts here, topics like science are boring. Not just a little bit boring, either. Skull-crushingly boring. In fact, even with help from The Bloggess (via traffic from her site to mine), my post on Centripetal Force garnered the highest ratio of page views to lack of comments I've ever received*. What does that mean? It means boring.

Therefore, you will all now be treated to Big, Honkin' Boobs. (Wait! Slow down on the clicky finger, Sparky!).

Before you click on that link (which is quite safe, I assure you) you need to know that I use the word "boobs" differently than many people. To me, a Boob is a stupid person; a fool; a dunce (as defined on Many people are boobs. Lest you think me harsh or judgmental, even I am a boob, for thinking I could post shit that was somewhat educational without it being duller than an unpolished bowling ball.

Sure, some of you commented, and for that I am pitifully grateful. Some of you actually read it, too. For that I'm not sure what I am. Some of you refrained from commenting out of the kindness of your hearts, so as not to make me look like a boob. For that, I will gladly father your children or buy you ice cream - your choice.

Have I learned my lesson regarding what to blog about? Hardly. I'm a boob. I don't learn lessons well. In fact, in all likelihood, I'm probably an evolutionary dead end**. I would self-describe as someone who acts before thinking. "The Defiant Marshmallow?" Oh yeah, he's definitely a 'Ready! Fire! Aim!' kind of guy."
You all don't know just how lucky you are the world didn't end shortly after August, 1984***.

So sit back, enjoy the boobs, and feel free to stroke my fragile ego by commenting - or not. I no longer know if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Centripetal Force: The Real Force

This is my disclaimer:

I am not a physicist. I am not a teacher. My expertise and credentials, if one may call them that, are in Geography, Biology, and to some extent, Photography and Astronomy (I consider being an active Amateur Astronomer for over 30 years somewhat of an expertise in general astronomy).

However, I am highly motivated to share science of all types, and specifically, scientific methods, and critical thinking. This is why I like to post about science topics. I get things wrong at times, but try very hard to do my homework and to not get things wrong. I enlist the help and expertise of others to make sure I get stuff right. 

The short of it is I will share information which I find interesting and useful and hope you will enjoy and share back. 


Last week I choked my way through a pitiful attempt of an explanation of Centrifugal Force. This week, I will put two brain cells together and try and explain Centripetal Force, or as some* have called it, Who Gives a Shit?

Easiest way I know to explain it is to go with this example:

Ball on a string.

Find a ball attached to a string. Go ahead; I'll wait. 

Got it?
Ok, now swing the ball around on the string. Faster! Faster! 
Oops. Sorry. First, call the glazer, then take the ball and string outside. 

Now swing the ball around you like a Crusader with a Ball and Chain** 
There, you've done it. You've demonstrated centripetal force. Go back inside, pop open a bottle of wine and congratulate yourself. So what did you do?

Back to Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion. Remember the first one? An object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by another force? Yep. That one.

The object in motion (ball) was really traveling in a straight line, or at least it would have if it weren't attached to the string. The ball was accelerating, but the string was causing it to change direction constantly, therefore, the net result was that the ball was continually being pulled toward the center, which is the end of the string in your hand. The net force was center seeking, or centripetal. 

The outward force that you felt was not centrifugal, but simply the velocity of the ball in its original path. The ball was trying to fly off in one direction. You felt the ball's mass and velocity. Test this (outside) by swinging it again and letting go of the string. 

Zing! Off it goes. This works even better if you have a kid to retrieve the ball and string each time. It's like a game of fetch, but with college credits possible.

The super-simplified explanation. Possibly. And I managed to work in the words "you felt the ball's" without being skeezy. 

Now go out there and play physics!

*Everyone I've tried to explain this to.

**An actual ball and chain. Don't go to the other place, gentlemen, or you will see a demonstration of the skillet in flight force. Which also strikes me (badoom-cha!) as sexist.

Being the nice guy I am, I'm including, at no extra charge, links to two websites that explain this correctly, with diagrams and everything.
Diagrams and equations and stuff.
Another nice site: Flash required

Friday, January 20, 2012

Part 1, Act 2: In Which We Are Considered Special

Bags in hand, we saunter into the exclusive resort shuffle into the Hampton Inn, College Park, MD. The lovely young lady at the front desk is practically orgasmic upon seeing us. By us, of course, I'm referring to the six foot-one inch, blond haired, blue eyed youth (his schlumpy manservant goes unnoticed).

But there is a very special sign being displayed prominently on top of the front desk. It's twin sits on the dresser in our room, along with a generous gift basket.

It seems we are the Guest of the Day. The night manager even trots out from the back room to greet us, and upon seeing me says, "It's about time you got here!" 

Ahhh, yes. We are special. Very special.


The audition, you ask?

Yes. That went very well too. We were the first ones to arrive, greeted by a friendly faculty member, and whisked off to the practice rooms, whereupon Wolfgang could warm up his fingers. 30 minutes later, whisked down to the lobby, whisked into green room, whisked into concert hall and off to the races. Apologies for the overuse of "W" there, especially without proper alliteration.

The Parents were kept at a distance and not permitted to watch the auditions. They apologized for it. I thanked them profusely for giving me a chance to miss out on my 352nd listening of Liszt's Vomit in G major, or whatever it's called. And Beethoven's Prelude and Weasel. And Bach's Hair on a G-string
I don't know. They all run together and every time I try to get the names right and blow it, Wolfgang looks at me like apes descended from me.

One down, three to go. And you can bet your ass I emptied that basket out before I left the hotel. No beer left behind!

Part 1: The Warmup

The Clarice Smith Performance Center at the University of Maryland.

The Warmup. Wolfgang is calm. The Defiant Marshmallow is not.

The Marshmallow. Butterflies included, but not visible.

He's playing as I write this. It's time to go lie down. When I come to, I'll write more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wolfgang And The Papa Take a Road Trip: The Beginning

Prologue and Part The First

There's no prologue. It just looks cool in the header.

Today begins the first journey of the Wolfgang and The Marshmallow to Auditionville. One of us is looking forward to this magical excursion and the other is driving. However, both of us are anticipating the cool, possibly awesome opportunities for buddy stuff to happen. Happy Meals, the D.C. Beltway at rush hour, Hampton Inn Breakfast. Thrills galore. College Park, MD, here we come!

And we will be ready for any situation because I have apps. I'm chock full of apps. Bring it on, world!

These upcoming adventures mean different things to Wolfgang and me. For him, they are the setup to life and a career. For me, they bring thoughts. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, worrisome thoughts. Thoughts like, "Will Wolfgang get me good seats and a backstage pass to his first Carnegie Hall recital?" 

That's all to write for now I guess this really is just the prologue. 
More to come...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Fictitious Force

Picture this: you're driving in your car, with some item on the seat next to you. Let's say it's your cell phone. As you scoot on down the highway, all is right with the world. Your CD of Songs From a Colonial Tavern, by Taylor Vrooman*, has you bobbing your head gleefully.

You come upon an exit and need to pull your car onto the side road. As you veer off you hear the sound of you phone sliding sideways across the seat and clunking against the passenger door, then dropping onto the floor. "Why", you ask yourself, "did my phone going flying off to the right?"
"What pushed it over there?" It's only natural to ask those questions and wonder what happened.

The problem is that there is no good, direct answer because the questions are poorly worded. Nothing pushed the cell phone across the seat. However, we were most likely taught that something called centrifugal force was behind the mysteriously sliding cell phone. We were incorrectly taught that centrifugal force pushed the phone to the right while you put your car into a left-hand turn. The same force supposedly caused us to go flying off of the Merry-go-round in third grade. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as centrifugal force. So what happened, and how do we explain this?

To learn what happened we have to invoke Isaac Newton, and his three laws of motion. To put this as simply as possible for the purposes of this writing, the cell phone was traveling in a straight line along with the speeding car, but the car decided, at your insistence, to move out from under the cell phone. All objects in motion, like the car and phone, will continue to move in a constant direction unless acted upon by an external force.

In this case, your car was acted upon by friction; friction of the tires against the road surface caused your car to change its direction. Your tires were able to create enough grip, or friction, to redirect the movement of your previously straight-moving car. So it turned left. However, your cell phone and the seat it was resting on were not able to generate enough friction to change the direction of travel of the phone, therefore it continued to move in the direction it had been moving, as per Newton's First Law. Nothing pushed it. It was simply continuing to do what it had been doing.

So why were we most likely taught that something pushed the phone off the seat? I'm not exactly sure, but I think that answer to that has to do with many factors, including, but not exclusive to, laziness, lack of knowledge of real physical forces, teaching to the lowest common denominator (don't crucify me for being the messenger on that one!), and intellectual inertia. It's just easier to explain the phenomena through the simplest means rather than to have to go into more and more detail.

In order to really grasp what really happens, you would have to be taught more things, like those pesky laws of motion, friction, force, mass, acceleration, and the real force - centripetal force. It's time consuming and, in the long run, you can live your life to the fullest without having to know all that extra stuff. That's why I'm guessing we weren't taught properly. But I could be wrong.

Speaking for myself, I'd rather go to the trouble of learning all of that "extra stuff". Because I'd prefer to know how the world really works, even if I don't actively use that information on a daily basis, or ever. I simply want to know how things really are, and I am a little bit annoyed that our institutions of education don't always feel the same way. I know. Picky, picky, picky. Sue me.

Next week: centripetal force, or why a lack of something can cause another thing to happen.

* If anyone but me actually owns this, that person should be very ashamed. I know I am.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thankfully, You All Forgot...

Yes, I know that many moons ago I promised to put some short items in here about science topics that getted all balled up and are never taught, or never taught properly.

It's not like I lied. I've just been busy and I think I lost my draft of the piece on Centripetal Force. It's probably somewhere. Might have been flung off the Merry-go-round into space. I'm looking for it.

I did send part of the first draft out to someone to look over, so I'm hoping it still exists in email limbo. Time to check sent messages and see what comes up.

But here's the really, really short version, just for the heck of it.

What you think of and call Centrifugal Force (see the Merry-go-round comment above) is actually the absence of the Centripetal Force. Centrifugal Force is not a considered a "real" force.

There's your teaser.

And if the person I sent the draft to could let me know if it still exists, I would be grateful.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Because More People Should Be Aware

Just linking to a great post by The Bloggess today. Because she wrote it so well, and because more people should be aware of the daily struggle some people (many more than you think) face.

Thanks, Jenny.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Waiting For Wolfgang

No, not Puck. Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow. If you've followed this blog for any length of time you've read about him. The pianist. The prodigy (stop giggling, please, I have a headache). Really, he's good. He can do Rachmaninov or Beethoven like no other blond haired, blue eyed white male I've ever seen. And I've seen one of them.

But I question the value of driving an hour and a half every week, to another state, in order to take lessons from a big time piano teacher. An I supposed to be impressed because I have to drive far? Is that what makes someone an expert; that he isn't in your town? What do the people who live in his neighborhood think of him? I'll bet that to them he's just the guy that gives lessons out of his house and who doesn't remember to zip up his pants or comb his hair.

I protest.

I want an expert in my own town. I mean, we've already got plenty of guys in my town who don't remember to zip up their pants. Well, technically, those guys aren't exactly in my town so much as in prison right now. But you know what I mean. We have plenty of goofballs where I live. Can't just one of them teach piano to kids who are going to be concert pianists, or who might at least go to work at Howl at The Moon?

I don't know. It seems to me the distribution of genius art and music types is just all wrong. I thought you ought to know.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone