July 30, 2011

Tragedies Are Distressing

A good friend of mine died last night. I revised my post about it three times now, and for the moment I'm just going to leave the post in draft mode. Partly it's just that the circumstances are unclear. All I know is that she took benadryl, and now she's dead. Our social group is processing conflicting information about the exact details: was it suicide? An allergic reaction to, ironically enough, an antihistamine? Was it an unintentional OD, perhaps with a little alcohol for a lethal cocktail? I imagine I'll learn the facts sooner or later. But long and short of it is, a woman I've known for more than a decade is dead, tragically.

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July 26, 2011

This Is How It's DONE

I cannot summon the words to explain how awesome this is. Just watch. Watch!

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Pack Your Trash

I've been in the same apartment since I returned to the University at Buffalo, two and a half years ago. (*gulp!*) It's in an apartment complex owned by the school, and it was the first of the student apartments built, way back in 1992-93. It's not a big complex, because there were unsure what the student demand would be. Suffice it to say that the school now has three more apartment complexes, all much bigger than this one.

The university in its capacity of landlord has decided to improve the fire alarm systems in this complex. The planned upgrades will require adding quite a bit of new wiring through the walls and ceilings. It'd be tough to work around the residents, so they are getting us out of the way.

There are about fifteen or so buildings in the complex, and each one is being emptied in turn, the residents having to move out for two weeks for the alarm system upgrades. We're being moved into an extra-fully-furnished building, with not just furniture but also complete kitchenware. So all we had to do was pack up our clothing, bedding, and toiletries, and hump across the parking lot. All the furniture left behind had to be shoved in specified corners of the old apartment to make sure it was out of the way of the wiring crew.

Moving day was Saturday July 23rd, and you may recall it was hot as hell and sticky humid. Fun fun! Also, of course, two weeks is long enough that one can't just take a suitcase of clothing.

I originally planned to take just my laptop for computing purposes, but the furniture moving orders required me to unwire my desktop. That's the hard part of moving a PC, so with it broken down to components, I just brought the key pieces over and set it back up. Headphones only for sound is bringing me back to my barracks days. Having only provided institutional furniture is also a bit of a blast from the past.

One more week, and I have to not only move my stuff back to the old apartment, but drag all my furniture out of corners. It should be loads of fun. Especially the bookcases.

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July 18, 2011

Root Root Root for the Bisons!

Hil has a second, part-time job. But, the part-time job is working for the same company. It's all very confusing.

At any rate, her part-time position is to escort groups of people with mental disabilities on social outings. They go out for pizza, they go bowling, they walk along Riverside Park, whatever. The goal is to get some non-work related socialization for their clients, and also give the client's primary caretaker an evening off.

Last Thursday, the group was going to watch the local AAA franchise, the Buffalo Bisons. America's pastime, what could be better? They had a big pile of extra tickets, so Hil and her coworkers were asked to bring friends or family along. (Normally doing that is specifically disallowed, as they are supposed to be socializing with the clients, not with their off-duty friends.) So Hil and I went to see the mighty Bisons take on the Rochester Red Wings.

This hasn't been the Bison's year: they were 40-54 as of game day. It wasn't my day either. Hil had to drive her clients to the game, so I went in my own car, and I failed to account for traffic being slower while heading to a 7:05 PM game at the stadium in the heart of downtown. Not only did I miss the first half-inning, I had to call Hil to come outside the stadium and meet me to give me a ticket to get inside.

Our seats gave us a, shall we say, panoramic view of the field. We were up in the top corner of the edge of the grandstand out along the first-base line. The day was still warm, but up where we were the wind from the lake was quite brisk. That didn't stop us from making a seventh-inning visit to the ice cream vendor.

The game itself wasn't bad. The Bisons got off to a good start, up 2-0 after the first and adding three more in the fifth. They went through five pitchers, but being the minors, I expect the manager tries to keep pitch counts down. The Red Wings got in three of their own in the seventh, but they couldn't close the gap, and the Bisons won 5-3.

I didn't notice when the game ended. Seriously, I was confused when everyone stood up all off a sudden. It was late, I was cold, the damned game was just dragging on.

The last pro ball game I went to, I was 14, and according to my father I was not shy about expressing how bored I was. This time was better, but I don't think I'm going to invest in season tickets anytime soon.

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July 15, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic

I'm not quite sure how young I was when I first heard "Weird Al" Yankovic on the radio. His songs were in frequent rotation on Dr. Demento's radio show, which I started listening to in middle school. The show was on from 10PM to midnight on Sunday night, which was late for a school night! I'd often fall asleep before the top ten countdown.

Monday, while checking a university webpage for unrelated reasons, I discovered that Weird Al was playing my university's mainstage on Wednesday. I don't own any of his recent albums, so I mused on Facebook "Weird Al Yankovic is playing a show in Buffalo this Wednesday. Should I get back in touch with my younger self and attend?" Responses included "OMG why are you even asking?", "YESSSSS", and "Absolutely." Respondents included a selection of all four of my major Facebook lists: family, high school friends, university friends, and Marine buddies.

With the advice going overwhelmingly in favor, I shopped online for tickets. Those villains at Ticketmaster wanted about 20% of the total in fees, so I cycled over to the campus box office. Exercise plus saving money is just about a family tradition.

The show started at 7 PM. There was an opening act of Star Wars cosplayers from the 501st Imperial Stormtrooper Legion, Excelsior Battalion. (New York is the "Excelsior State", so the 501st's NY group named themselves that.) Hil couldn't get out of work as soon as she'd hoped, so we arrived just in time to find our seats. We were only waiting about five minutes before Weird Al came out.

He opened his show with one of his traditions, a polka medley of recent music hits. I came to the realization that I have no idea what the kids are listening to these days, as I simply did not recognize most of the songs he was parodying.

The rest of the show was more to my taste. It was a mix of his classics, along with new ones from an album he just released. He has to face the same problem of all long-running performers, striking a balance between old and new pieces, and I think he did a good job with that.

I had a good time, and I think Hil did too. What else can one ask of a concert?

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July 11, 2011

BBQ & Ballin'

Over the weekend, Hil (my GF), her sister Court, her brother-in-law Iggy, and I took Hil and Court's elderly grandmother out to lunch. The grandmother is no longer very mobile, but Iggy is a nurse, so he was more than capable of popping her between wheelchair and car.

We ate at "Suzy Q's", a BBQ joint near the Buffalo waterfront. It was in a not-great part of town, a neighborhood that has suffered greatly from the Robert Moses-style insertion of a limited-access freeway along the waterfront, cutting off the community from the beach. At any rate, the food there was amazing. The proprietor claims to have opened the place only after traveling across the country learning the BBQ traditions of different regions. This gave Iggy and I a wonderful vision of an idealistic cook walking into the distance, with a bindle of chef's tools across his shoulder. Think "Kain" from "Kung Fu."

At any rate, they had pulled pork, smoked polish sausage, ribs, and piles of other meats that I can't recall right now.  There was also some amazing cornbread, smothered in butter and honey, and the best fried corn I've had since I left Georgia.

After we returned the grandmother to her room at an assisted-living community, Iggy and I went off to join some friends for baseball. Iggy did quite well, impressing himself, as it had been 14 years since he last played. His best story was that when he was didn't make his high school baseball team, one of the older players on the team was a kid named Manny Ramirez. And Manny was only the second-best player on that team! Their star also went of to play for the pros, but apparently didn't quite reach Manny's rarefied heights.

I, on the other hand, was a soccer player in my youth. I played softball a dozen times or so in the Corps, but I'm still a terrible hitter. I just can't get the ball past the infield. Luckily, I'm also terrible at throwing and mediocre at catching. I managed to misjudge the hop of a ground ball and it smacked right into my ankle. I laughed it off, since it didn't seem too bad. But that evening, I took off my shoe, and BAM that ankle swelled right up as soon as the shoe's pressure was relieved. A little RICE and I'm good as new, or at least as close to new as someone in his third decade can be. We're going to play again in a week or two. Practice makes perfect! There was some talk of challenging a T-ball team that was practicing at the next field over, but our consensus was that we would have been crushed in a manner most humiliating to a bunch of adults.

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July 03, 2011

The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

It's a beautiful day for a stroll here in the Buffalo region. Accordingly, this afternoon Hil and I perambulated our way to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, just three blocks away. Except for us it was five blocks, because we took a wrong turn on Thompson Street.

Tonawanda in the late nineteenth century was the leading producer of automatic organs in America. The Allan Herschell Company started as a foundry making small steam engines. After a while the owner noticed that quite a few of his engines were being sold to New York City companies that used them to power carrousels. He decided to cut out the middlemen. Besides organ manufacturing, Tonawanda was a major source of fine cabinetry, so Mr. Herschell hired a bunch of German immigrant woodcarvers and set up a factory to manufacture his own line of carrousels.

The company survived the transition from steam-powered equipment to electric and internal-combustion powered gear, but moved factories in the 1950s. The old complex decayed until the 1980s, when a group of preservationists acquired it and began restoration. Today there's a nice museum, with two operating carousels. One is trailer-based for a traveling carnival, manufactured in 1923 with a gasoline engine, while the other was a 1916 semi-permanent with a huge honking electric motor. Both are in use, and Hil and I got to ride the older one. (The traveling one is kiddy-sized, with the mounts being the size of Shetland ponies.) Both had been converted to use modern electric motors, for safety and efficiency reasons.

It wasn't a big museum; an hour or two is all it takes to tour the place. But I'm glad I went, and I expect I'll be back sometime.

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July 02, 2011

Triathlon

Yesterday we cycled to a local community pool for open swim. The pool itself was rather interesting. Built just after WWII, and thus inevitably named "Memorial Pool", it's the biggest above-ground pool I've ever seen. Clearly intended as a community pool as opposed to an athletic one, it's a big oval. The locker rooms are alongside the long edges of the oval, with the roof of the locker rooms being the pool deck, and the inside wall is the pool's bulkhead.

The pool's popularity has apparently waned, as in the men's side half of the lockers have been removed. It was a nice pool, except the water was cold, and according to the lifeguard it never really warms up.

It had a nice water slide, which was fast enough to make me nervous. It also had two diving boards, which I used with enthusiasm. The university pool does not allow use of their boards unless you are actually a member of the diving team, to my annoyance; thus this was the first I've used a diving board in probably a dozen years. It took a few tries to get the hang of the correct rotation rate.

Having had a swim and a bike ride, only one event was needed to complete a triathlon. First came dinner, though. Hil has a new grill, so I cooked burgers while she cooked fries and tossed salad, then I whipped up some apple crisp for desert. By the time I'd digested enough to think about running, it was night. But all the better! I love running at night. It's cool, it's quiet, and the roads and sidewalks aren't crowded.

The run was cut short by a cut on my foot. I'm using Vibram Fivefingers shoes now, and still adjusting. The skin on my right pinkie toe wore right through, as those toes are a bit malformed on me, but are protected when I use normal shoes. I guess that little toe is going to have to toughen up.

But as I'd never declared a length, I didn't technically withdraw from the run. I hereby declare myself the victor of the First Annual Boviate Challenge Cup Triathlon. I wonder if I should get myself a cup to award myself?

(Image of pool after the cut.) more...

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