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Jackson. (July 4th, 2009 - May 28th, 2011).

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Nearly two years ago, Teddy and I adopted two kittens from a liter that was rescued not far from our house. Teddy named them Ashley (for the color of Ash) and Jackson (after the King of Pop). Ashley was always the friendlier of the two. Not especially cuddly at first, but eventually she warmed up to us. Jackson was afraid of me. He was also afraid of everyone else, but mostly me. 

Over the first year, I tried to make friends with him, but he would usually run away when he saw me coming. But in our second year together, we found some common ground. First he started visiting me at bedtime. Once I got under the covers, he would jump on the bed and allow me to pet him for 5-20 minutes before remembering that I was terrifying and running away. Then he discovered that he liked to be wet. So in the morning, after I brushed my teeth, he'd jump on the sink and wait for me to wet him. Not just a little bit. He liked me to run the water, fill my hand, and dump it on him, petting him all over until he was soaked. If I turned off the water, he was gone.

A month or two ago, I got a new cat brush, and he loved it. Whenever Katie was sitting next to me on the couch, Jackson would feel safe enough to lay in my lap and be brushed all over. He would collapse, legs in the air, purring with his eyes closed, in complete ecstasy. I was delighted to be able to make this little guy happy, even if for only a few minutes at a time.

Yesterday, while brushing my teeth, he cried a little, then fell of the window sill where he usually hung out. He landed flat on his back and his legs got stiff and were shaking. His eyes were opened wider than I had ever seen. I thought he had either broken his leg or his back. He was clearly in some serious pain. I ran downstairs to get a carrier to take him to the vet, but 30 seconds later when I returned, he wasn't moving - just staring. I put him in the carrier and raced to the vet a half-mile away, calling from a red light to tell her I was coming. 

When I got there two minutes later, his eyes were closed and he wasn't breathing. The doctor confirmed that he was gone. After letting my cry for a few minutes, the doctor explained to me that it wasn't the fall that killed him. It was probably a heart attack or maybe an aneurysm that killed him and caused the fall. His sister, Ashley, and I watched it happen. Fortunately, Teddy was downstairs and didn't see Jackson die, but of course, he is very sad. Jackson was his favorite right from the start.

There's one more angel in heaven and one more star in the sky. But I miss my little kitten.

Jackson on the window sill
Jackson, on his favorite window sill

U2 (x2)

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This isn't about how I came to be in London to see U2 at Wembley Stadium. Nor is it about why I saw a band twice in two months when I wasn't really even a big fan. Finally, this is not about Bono, RED, politics, religion, or the economy of the music industry.

It is simply my reaction to the concerts individually and my comparison of the two.

First, U2 at Wembley Stadium, August 17th, 2009.

I was tired today. My plan was to take it easy since I walked so much the day before but as it turned out I spent a lot of time walking and exploring, taking two breaks for an hour or so each. Since Katie worked during the day, we met at a train station on the way to Wembley. When we got to our destination we had a long walk and were missing the opening band so I was stressed. Our tickets were at Will Call which I generally prefer because it makes it impossible to lose or forget them. But with a large, unfamiliar venue it turned out to be a mistake. There were two ticket offices on opposite ends of the stadium and we had to find the right one (which took two tries). Fortunately, once we got there, the ticketmaster pickup window had a short line and was quick. Our tickets indicated that we should enter via the Bobby Moore gate. We consulted a map and didn't find any sign of the Bobby Moore gate, so we asked a security guard where it was. We were directed to the gate behind the giant statue of Bobby Moore. I guess if we had known who Bobby Moore was, it would have made a good landmark. Those silly Brits.

DSC00268

Once we found our way to our section, we split up. I got on the beer/food line and Katie went to find the t-shirts. I did my best, buying meat pies and cups of beer. Katie did much better, buying an awesome red 360 tour shirt. We walked to the seats and marveled at the massiveness of Wembley Stadium. I looked over The Claw, wondering if it was there to entertain me or subjugate me.


Once it got dark, the Claw started smoking. The crowd recognized this as evidence that the show was about to start. Sure enough, the Bowie music immediately followed. Next came an intense 24-song set that was a a very good mix of old and new. My favorite was skipped, but having checked out the playlist from recent stops on the tour, I wasn't expecting it. The music was great. That really wasn't surprising - a band that can sellout a 90,000 seat venue two nights in a row is going to be great. The concert as a whole, however, was weird. When I saw signs warning people not to engage in anti-social behavior such a standing up, I thought it was amusing. But being at a stadium rock show and having everyone spend almost the entire time in their seats was not at all amusing. Personally, I prefer sitting down and enjoying the show. I never realized, however, how important it was to have people standing, dancing, singing, and cheering. Without that, it's kind of depressing. A handful of dedicated fans, including the beautiful one in the seat next to me, stood up, but the general mood was dull. Even the crowd walking back to the train station was quiet. No singing.




Flash forward to Giants Stadium, September 24th.

I left work an hour early and drove to NYC to meet Katie, then we took the subway to the train. The wait for NJ Transit tickets was about 45 minutes, but the trip was otherwise easy. We got to the stadium (tickets in hand this time), got a few beers and cheesesteak sandwiches, and found our seats. Once again, nighttime fell, the smoke started, and the speakers piped in some Bowie. Therein ends the similarities. Well, obviously it was the same band playing many of the same songs but it was a totally and completely different concert. The energy of the NY crowd was so exciting. That's what a live show is supposed to be like.


UK US Winner
Initial
Excitement
Holy Shit - I'm seeing U2 in London! I hope this isn't as lame as London UK
Transit Easy, cheap, clean Understaffed, but acceptable -
Beer Warm 12oz cups,
one brand only
Cold 16oz bottles,
many choices
US
Food Terrible meat pies Pretty good sandwiches US
Fans Quiet and calm Excited, but not rowdy US
Band Perfect Perfect -
Shirts Katie got a tour shirt Katie got me an Edge shirt -
Next Day Tour of Buckingham Palace
Tom Stoppard Play
Work UK

Disneyland, Day One

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Teddy and I woke up early, packed our bags, packed the car, and were ready to go by 9:00am when Leslie arrived. She was flying from Newark to San Diego on Continental a half-hour before our Continental flight from Newark to Orange County, so we drove to the airport together. I parked in the economy lot ($18/day) and hopped on the next bus to the terminal.

 

The five and a half hour flight was very good. Teddy brought his Nintendo DS and played a Pokemon game for about three hours. Since he was happily occupied, I watched a movie. The in-flight feature was Duplicity, which I had watched on the way to London so I watched Slumdog Millionaire on my Mac instead. The second feature was Confessions of a Shopaholic. Even considering that I was confined to an airplane seat while watching it, I'm sure I could have found a better use of my time. We took a Disney bus from the airport to the hotel ($30), checked-in, dropped off our clothes, then started the 2-mile walk over to Disneyland.

 

We didn't have a plan for today because we weren't planning to go to Disney until Friday. When I noticed that they stay open until midnight, we reconsidered. Our first stop was the Mad Hatter on Main St. I thought Teddy would like a design-your-own ear hat, but he opted instead for a Mickey baseball cap. Then we walked the closest land, Tomorrowland and went to Star Tours, a virtual visit to the moon of Endor. This is a fun ride, with cameos from some familiar Star Wars characters. Teddy and I are both fans and enjoyed this. At the end, Teddy was unsure if "that was supposed to happen" which is exactly the effect the Disney Imagineers were going for. Next stop was Innoventions, a look at the technology of tomorrow (in the literal sense...most of the stuff shown is technology that is available and I could purchase it tomorrow if I wanted to). The structural design of this exhibit is really cool, built in a rotating circular building that guides people though, but doesn't restrict free movement. Microsoft's Dream Home technology is featured and allows for a good amount of hands-on play. It always fascinates me how a digital native like Teddy can use new technology he's never seen without any instruction. We walked into the den of the Dream Home and Teddy approached a control panel, changed the music, and lowered the blinds. Obviously that's a compliment to the designers (probably students of Donald Normal), but also just a generational difference.

 

On our way to Honey, I Shrunk The Audience (which had just crashed and was being rebooted), a young girl gave us two Fastpass cards for Space Mountain with only a half-hour to wait. While waiting we went to explore more of Tomorrowland and found Autopia. As we were getting on line, another kid gave us Fastpass cards for that ride that were already in the valid time slot so we were able to get on within 15 minutes. Contrary to the Walkee description, Teddy was allowed to drive the car. He couldn't reach the accelerator pedal enough to push it down so I kept my foot on the pedal and he steered the car. By the time we were done with this ride, it was time for or Fastpass entry to Space Mountain. The wait was only 10 minutes or so and the ride was amazing.

It's hard not to compare it to Skull Mountain at Six Flags since they are both indoor, dark, family coasters and we did both this week. But really, it's an unfair comparison. Space Mountain is so incredibly cool. I rode the one in at World Disney World in Florida when I was seven and after riding the one at Disneyland, I have the same question: How the hell do they fit all of those lifts, dips, banks, and twists in that tiny building? I know there is a certain amount of magic that goes into the design and construction of Disney rides, but this is more than that. This is Tardis-style engineering. I would love to see the ride with the lights on just to see how they did it. When you hear 8-10 year old kids asking "were we really in outer space?" then you feel the power of Disney.

 

Teddy spent a little while playing with a massive marble sphere, spinning on a water fountain. He is usually drawn in by non-attraction attractions. I enjoy the breaks.

 

Next up was the Matterhorn Bobsleds but I didn't realize at the time that Teddy chose it because he mistook it for Splash Mountain. Good thing he did because I enjoyed it a lot. Again, so much ride in so small a space. Teddy loved it, except for the appearance of a red-eyed, growling Yeti. Teddy is not a fan of a growling furry things even when they aren't showing teeth. We knew we'd have to wait on long lines for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and we were right. It was about a 40-minute wait (short by Six Flags standards) but the ride lasted over 15 minutes so the ride to wait ratio was very high. This is a relaxing but exciting ride though coral reefs, enhanced by underwater animation staring characters from Finding Nemo. The diving and surfacing of the sub was very convincing.


We decided to look for one more attraction since we were both getting tired. We found a few hundred people sitting on the ground facing the castle, so we decided to join them. We waited there almost 30 minutes but then the fireworks show started. The show was fantastic, completely choreographed to Disney music. Tinkerbell flew in to light up the sky and even Dumbo made an appearance. Honda sponsors the show, but you have to really pay attention to catch that. The show must cost at least $30,000 a night so having a sponsor is important. Disney does it tastefully.


We stopped for an egg roll and some drinks on the way back to the hotel, then went to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

Rejected on Facebook

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There's a girl I kind of knew in high school. She was a few years younger than me, but she was in the band, so I knew her. Plus, she was beautiful, so I spent a lot of time looking at her. I developed a bit of a crush on her but I was very shy, plus the age difference seemed significant in high school. The first person I admitted the crush to was actually her mom. That was odd, but our Jazz Band was invited to Russia this girl's dad came as the photographer and brought her mom too as another chaperone. I was feeling down one day and her mom showed me some photos of her daughter and it she was so smiley and happy that it really brightened my mood.

Anyway, I noticed recently that she had become friends with a few of my friends on facebook so I sent her a friend request. She rejected it and replied with the following in a private message:


Hi Foster,

I have chosen to just have people I know well or grew up with or work networking as friends. Just want to have a little more control over my facebook page. 

Hope you're well.


That hurt a little bit, but then when I noticed she has 222 Facebook friends, it really made me sad. It shouldn't, I know. I have a great list of friends here, there, and everywhere. But it still left me feeling really hurt and rejected. Kind of like Jennifer not returning my phone calls. That's probably a topic for a different entry. 

Howe Caverns and The Dutchess County Fair

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I took two days off this week for vacation. A real vacation would be nice, but since I am broke and also buried in projects at work, two days is all I could manage.

The first day was a trip up north to visit Howe Caverns. I had heard about it several times, but it was even cooler than how people described it. The regular tour takes about 80 minutes, starting with an elevator ride down 150 feet into the cave. In the evening, Teddy and I went to play mini golf because our hotel package included free passes.

Day two was spent at the Dutchess County Fair. Wow. They take their agriculture very seriously in Dutchess County. [info]atroposnomore invited us to go and got us cheap tickets too. She was one of my first friends on LiveJournal and she lives about 90 minutes away but this was the first time we got to meet in real life. It was very exciting. The fair was a little overwhelming, so we didn't actually get to spend the day together, but we agreed to try again in a calmer setting. There were so many beautiful cows and other animals on display. I really enjoyed looking at all the prize-winning crafts and produce. Teddy and I spent some time in the birthing barn watching a new mom care for her day-old calf. There were five other cows expected to give birth at the fair too. We also went to the milking barn and watched three cows getting milked (by machines) at the same time. I was very surprised by the amount of milk flowing into the tanks. 

I haven't taken many vacations. I can count my childhood vacations on one hand. There were two when I was a child. One to Florida when my grandparents moved there (I was seven years old) and one to Cape Cod for a weekend when I was twelve. In high school I went on vacation with [info]jonathanrobbins three times. Once to Cape May, once to Hilton Head, and once to Vermont to ski. I hope to take one of Teddy's friends on future vacations with me. Jonny's parents were so generous in that regard and I plan to pay it forward.

I know vacations are important and I try to plan them more now that I am somewhat in control of my life. The week in Cape Cod a few years ago with [info]davidschloss and [info]abigailanderson was so relaxing and refreshing. Especially since Abby did all the planning and we just had to show up. The last two years, I've had to forgo a real vacation because of work and money. Teddy went on a dinosaur dig in Montana last summer, but we only had enough frequent flier miles for two tickets (because they were 75,000 each ticket). A third ticket would have cost $1,200 so I had to stay home. The summer before, we did get to go camping for a weekend in CT and it was fun, but I need to get away from work for some real vacation time. 

40,008,964

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40,008,964. That is how many times I've told my son Teddy that I love him. Apparently, he's been keeping count since birth. That works out to about 12 times a minute (assuming I say it in my sleep too). I think it's probably a fair estimate. He's a really great kid.

I took the day off from work so I met Teddy at the bus stop after school and took him out for some shopping and dinner. We bought some Webkinz and a Wolf Cub Scout Handbook. Then we went to the Nanuet Restaurant for pizza. When we got there we bought $10 worth of QuickDraw tickets with our last $10 in cash.

While there I referred to the guy on TV as "The Weatherman" and Teddy corrected me telling me that he is a Meteorologist. Then he giggled as if to say either "how could my father not know that" or perhaps "I bet my father is impressed that I know what a Meteorologist is."

We ate our dinner and won $59. Good thing too because when it was time to pay we learned that they don't take checks or credit cards. That would have sucked not having any way to pay for dinner. 

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