I don't like...Wednesdays

I don't know why everyone says they hate Mondays.  Mondays are full of hope and dreams and optimism about the things that you want to accomplish. Mondays are great!

Wednesdays are the days when your hope dies, your dreams crash to the ground, and your optimism turns into the realization that you will never reach your goals. It's hard to even get out of bed.

I hate Wednesdays.

On Death and Dying and Social Media

My father-in-law passed away yesterday. I'm assuming that as part of the notifying of relatives, as well as for emotional support, my mother-in-law called her sister.  Her sister then notified her children so Ellen's cousins found out fairly quickly.  It was shortly thereafter that the cousins started posting about it on Facebook.

While I appreciate the use of social media to express condolences and offer reflections, especially from those who live so far away, it presented a problem.  The speed at which the posts were made meant that they were posted faster than the notifications.  Because of his job, we hadn't been able to get in touch with Iain to let him know that his grandfather had died before it hit social media.  (Same for our niece in Vermont.)

But, bad as I believe that to be, it wasn't the worst.  In one of the posts, the cousin actually tagged my wife.  Tagging her means that the post will show up in her timeline where it will be seen by all her friends. Instead of Ellen getting to decide when she was ready to share the news with her friends and co-workers, her cousin made that decision for her.

Lest you think this is just an exercise in hypotheticals (we did talk to Iain before he found out on Facebook, and who knows which of Ellen's friends saw/read the post), this is where I come into the story.  From the time we were notified of the death, Ellen started packing and I then drove her the two and a half hours so she could be with her mom. I had planned on notifying my family once we got there.  About a half hour before we arrived I got a text from my sister asking if Ellen's dad had died. So my family found out about it from the social media post.

Ellen says I shouldn't be so angry about this, but I am. We have a saying in our house (that, ironically, came from Ellen's family) - "that's not your news to share".  In this case, as the extended family, that's not their news to share.  When my mom died last year, there were no social media posts about it until after Susan, Andy, and I had been able to craft an "official" announcement that we posted on Mom's page.

Here's what I'm saying - can we have a little consideration for people's emotional state, and agree that if you are not immediate family, you refrain from posting about someone's death until the family does? And for god's sake, don't tag them without their permission.

Weirdest Thing I Saw Today

Memorial Day parade.

A woman pushing a stroller down the sidewalk.

In the stroller - a monkey.

A real, live monkey. Looked like a capuchin.


They say you shouldn't start a blog post by mentioning how long it's been since the last time you posted, so I won't. But, holy cow.

I often think I should get back to this and I end up working in fits and starts. Recently my cousing posted a link from a Facebook page called The Writer's Circle, with a "challenge" if you will. The challenge is 30 days of writing.  They have nicely provided a list of thirty topics on which to write, and the idea is to write on one of the topics each day.

I thought that sounded like fun, and maybe if I was given a topic on which to write I'd be better at actually getting it done.  Since there are 30 items on the list, and it was the end of October when I saw the post, I thought November would be a great time to start. So, here we go...

Requiem for a Bunny

"Kramer, you have been a bad boy!!"  Edna, our next-door neighbor exclaimed from her back porch. Ellen and Miriam went over to see as Edna said "Oooh, do I have something to show you".  As they approached the porch, Edna held the lifeless body of a young rabbit over the railing.

As she set it down she said "Oh, it's breathing. It's still alive!"  Not knowing what to do exactly, possession of the rabbit transferred to our family. The box top was brought out and the bunny placed gently in it. It had some greenery in it's mouth, as if it was eating when Kramer the cat got it, so some more was added to the box.

After a couple of minutes it sat up, but it was still pretty dazed and it's breathing was heavy.  As Ellen, Miriam, and I stood over the box, it breathed its last.  RIP little guy.

The bunny was given a nice burial in the backyard. Now all that's left to do is to wipe up the tears.

Vintage Motorcyle Show - 2014

Saturday started out bright with a little chill to the air as I climbed aboard my motorcycle and headed out.  I was bound for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.  The trip would take me just about two hours through some back roads, towns I never knew existed (Nashville, OH?), and Amish Country.  By the time I reached the venue, the day was starting to warm up.

The route started with some pretty main state roads, but ended with some surface roads that were not well marked (or at least well marked with the route numbers, as I was expecting).  I did make one wrong turn, which actually proved fortuitous.  I sensed the error almost immediately and pulled over to check the map on my phone. Yes, I should have turned left, but I also looked ahead and found the route (303) that was the next turn. Except it wasn't.  There was actually a turn before it, onto 603 for about 100 yards before it intersected with 303.  Had I not gotten lost and checked the map, I would have blown right by it.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and I pulled into Mid-Ohio pretty much on schedule. I laughed at the hundreds of motorcycles parked on the grass next to the "No Parking on Grass" signs, and pulled mine into line and shut down the engine.  Slathering on the sunscreen I made my way toward the paddock area, noting how good it was to be back.  (I hadn't been there since Ellen's brother Jim moved from Ohio and stopped racing cars.)

The 20th Anniversary Vintage Motorcycle Days featured Indian as its "Marque of the Year".  The Indian tent was full of some classic bikes that I really wished I could take out for a spin.  I grabbed a picture of a 1929 Indian Scout that is owned by a guy not very far from where I live.

Although his was probably closer to 1920, when I imagine the Indian that my grandfather rode, this is what I picture.
I also entered to win a 1949 Indian, but I didn't win. :-(

One of the features of the show is the "world's largest motorcycle swap meet".  I spent about an hour wandering around that, but think I only saw maybe half of it.  If you're looking for motorcyle parts or an old, used, beat-up (or not so beat-up) bike, that's the place to be.  I'd love to get a hold of a 1983 Honda Nighthawk - my first bike - and I'm thinking that might be a place to look for it. Next year.

In the swap meet area were a couple of motorcycle enthusiast clubs.  I was pretty taken by the Ariel bikes.  I think I had seen a couple at the International Motorcycle Show over the winter, but for some reason the ones I saw here intrigued me. I don't know much about the bikes, but I think it might be fun to learn more.

I did find a couple of clubs online where I can probably get more information - one in the UK, and one in North America.

After heading back past the paddock and over the bridge to the infield, I came across the Wall of Death.  It's the daredevil show where they ride motorcycles sideways around the inside of a big barrel.  The show was being hawked carnival-style, and of course, I had to go see.

The first guy in rode a bicycle around the barrel, which was mighty impressive.  Next came a go-kart, then a motorcycle, then "Charlie Ransom" climbed aboard the 1928 Indian and took to the barrel. After a couple of passes he took one hand off the handlebar, then the other, then both!  Then, he switched to sidesaddle!!  He was totally amazing.  They finished up with a motorcycle and the go-kart in the barrel at the same time chasing each other, and weaving and bobbing!  They also took up a collection for their self-insurance, but one way you could donate was to hold your bill out over the top of the barrel and Charlie would ride around and pluck the money out of your hand.

 Here's Charlie Ransom doing that ride I described.

After a quick bite to eat, I settled in on the infield hill just at the end of the back straightaway where they go into the S-curves, and watched some of the races they were running.  Eventually I made my way back to my bike by way of the vendor area where I bought a rainsuit and a cargo net for a good price.  And, of course, I had to stop off for one of those fresh-squeezed lemonades that are over-sugared, but oh, so tasty!  My excuse was that it had gotten really hot during the day, but between the lemonade and the air rushing past on the way home, it was a good day.

Island Party!

While I'm really a city boy, one of the things I like about the small town in which we live is the number of community oriented activities that take place.  Hands down my favorite, though, is the museum Island Party, the 20th Annual version of which was held last night.

The Island Party is sponsored by the Massillon Museum, and is held on the museum grounds and the adjoining municipal building plaza. It features live music and good food.  I like it because it's great to just go hang out and enjoy the evening - admission is free, and it's a really mellow atmosphere.

This year the music featured the Jackson High School Steel Drum band and the reggae band Umojah Nation [Facebook].  In the previous years, the reggae band was Carlos Jones and the PLUS Band [Facebook], but this new (for the party) band was also awesome!

As we walked in we saw our friend Brayden manning the meat roasting pit, cooking up some tasty pulled pork and jerk chicken.  For the first time that I can remember, there was a giant sand sculpture right by the entrance.  The museum had been posting pictures for a couple of days prior, showing it being built.  This is what it looked like completed:

We got our bearings, then got in line for the food. It was a tough call, but I went for the pulled pork sandwich with chips and the incredible mango salsa that the museum makes (well, presumably someone at the museum makes).  I topped it off with a margarita and a soft patch of grass, and settled in to listen to the music.

When they finished eating, the kids went off to find the children's activities which were all eco-friendly - consisting of "bubble" activities.  Also eco-friendly was the water. Instead of handing out (selling, really) water bottles that would be thrown away when empty, the museum had water bottles for sale for $1, and strategically placed water stations where they could be filled up.  Cool idea.

This is me enjoying the evening, although I still didn't get the t-shirt. Have to rectify that one of these years.

2014 Tour of New England: Vermont - a Heady Fish Fry

Our last full day in Vermont started with Ellen and me heading down into Waterbury on a Heady Topper quest. Actually, I was looking for the Craft Beer Cellar, which I hoped would have Heady, but at least would have a good selection of craft brews.

Our plan was temporarily thwarted by Waterbury's "Not quite Independence Day" parade.  The parade was going right down Rt. 100 past the store, so we couldn't get there. We did find a side street place to park, and walked a couple of blocks to the store, though. Even though we missed the parade, we got there in time to see the fire truck with the giant American flag that was hanging over the route. Ellen took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook.  The kids saw it and now think we went to a parade without them!

The Craft Beer Cellar did have Heady, with a one four-pack per person limit, so we got two, and a couple of other things that looked interesting. Definitely a place to check out earlier in the week next time.

The afternoon saw the cousins come over and they took the kids fishing in the little brook by the house.  Everyone caught fish and threw them back in, but a couple of them were too badly damaged to return to the water, so those came home.

John taught Iain how to clean a fish, then Liam fried them up for a tasty dinner.

Cleaning the fish

 It was a nice, relaxing end to our Vermont vacation.  Sunday saw us back on the highway to Connecticut to spend the night (and one more time at Village Pizza), then back to Ohio on Monday.

2014 Tour of New England: Vermont - Shelburne Farms

On Friday we were going to go to Texas Falls, but all the people who had to drive didn't want to drive that long.  So, we called an audible and went to Shelburne Farms instead.  It was a lot of fun.

Main barn and grounds from the trailhead

We toured the main barn area and the kids got to see the cows, goats, and chickens in the barn. We also went to the outdoor area where those animals roam (relatively) freely.

A chicken crossing the road. I asked 'why?', and he said 'BRAAWWK'.

We hiked one of the trails on the grounds that led to a spectacular view of Lake Champlain.

My favorite place was the cheesemaking area.  We went back there several times throughout the day to watch them making, well, cheese.  It's an interesting process that takes all day, but makes a very large amount of cheese - they make about 140,000 pounds per year.  And, of course, they had samples.  Very tasty.  I enjoyed the 2-Year cheese very much.

Zack making the cheese. The cheese has been cut into "fingers" and he's "salting" it to stop the process

As Iain and I were intrigued by the process, we bought a book with recipes and tips for making your own cheese at home. Can't wait!!

As we were leaving - by way of tractor-pulled cart - I noticed the bread shop/bakery. I've been to Shelburne Farms twice, and neither time did I go to the bakery. I don't know why, but I have to remember to make that the first stop next time I go. Unless there's something interesting in the cheese making.

2014 Tour of New England: Vermont - Stowe

Today had us laying about "Stowe Haus" for a while, then Laura joined us and we headed into Stowe proper. We took a back way that avoided all the traffic on Route 100, and as a bonus, featured a covered bridge!  The road that passed through the bridge was a dirt road, and I noticed that the road was actually better maintained than the asphalt streets back home.

The "back way" also had the advantage of coming out right by the place where we usually park.  Ellen and Laura took the kids into the post office to mail a postcard to our neighbor.  The kids were excited to see this, as they have never been in a post office before (or so they claim).  Still, the card was hand-cancelled, so they got to see that which is kind of cool.

We went to our regular stops at the Stowe Mercantile, which has all kinds of Vermont-related items, from food to beer to t-shirts to games and toys.  Ellen found some jelly made with Heady Topper beer, and picked that up. The sample that was out was made with a porter and that was pretty tasty, so I'm going to have to make some Bready Topper when we get home and see how the Heady Jelly tastes on it. (If it's good, we - and you - can order it from Potlicker Kitchen.)

I get tired of shopping easily, so while everyone was still in the mercantile (and the shops in the same building), I went outside to enjoy the sunshine and the view of downtown Stowe from a bench.  Found a friend, too:

As I was sitting there, I started to smell something good.  I looked up the street and could see what looked like some people setting up a large grilling device on the side of the road. Smoke poured out of it, and the smell was delicious.  As I looked more closely, something wasn't right. It almost looked like that smoke was coming out of a car. In fact, that car almost looked like an old-style Volkswagen Beetle.  I had to investigate.

I was right. Behold the Carbecue:

Apparently, they are in Maryland and Vermont. Ellen, Laura, and the kids found me there and Ellen lamented the fate of the Bug.  I thought it was brilliant!

We wandered around Stowe for a while longer, finally ending up back at the Carbecue. It was there for a small craft fair that was just getting under way, so we browsed through that on our way back to the car.  We did come across a great booth for Green Village Soap Co. [Etsy / Facebook], whose producst are similar to Lush's - natural products, goat's milk soaps, etc.  We got some charcoal-based soap to try when we get home, and Ellen got some deodorant that smells really nice.

One last shot from Stowe, presented without commentary: