Kite flying

As it turned out, today was a good day for kite flying. Elizabeth, 6, had been bugging me about flying her new kite since returning from the vet this morning. We had brought all three pugs in to see Dr. Paula: Daisy due to recurrent painful skin irritations, which magically disappeared by the time Dr. Paula saw her; and Joey and Chandler to get their nails trimmed. She didn’t charge anything for Daisy because there ended up being nothing to do. We were only charged for the nail trimming and some toothpaste for Joey because he has horrendous breath. You can’t use human toothpaste on dogs. They make chicken-flavored toothpaste that dogs can just swallow, which works out well because it’s hard to get a dog to rinse their mouth out, let alone gargle. 🙂

There was some excitement on the way home, just a quarter mile from Dr. Paula’s. We had the windows down because it was such a beautiful day, and in flies this bumble bee, bounces off the steering wheel and lands under me, somewhere in the crotch area. I said, “Holy sh*t!” and pulled over as soon as possible while trying to keep my ass off the seat, avoiding getting stung, especially down there. I managed to stop the car and get out, found the bee still buzzing sideways, apparently delirious, right where I’d been sitting, and I flicked him out of the car. Of course, Elizabeth thought the whole thing was hilarious, and I had to apologize for my foul language. But hey, when a bee lands in your crotch, your usual composure and decorum tend to suffer.

Once back home, while I was outside trimming the edges (and struggling with the stupid trimmer to keep the line working), Elizabeth searched the entire house for her new kite that her cousin Valerie had given her for her birthday. Tara was taking a nap, so Elizabeth pretty much had free rein, which is always scary.

She then came outside with the kite and started putting it together on the driveway, all by herself. She tried flying it while I was still trimming, but later admitted that it wasn’t going very well. Once finished with my trimming, I took a look at the kite, moved a couple pieces around, and that’s when we discovered she’d forgotten the horizontal cross beam. “I’ll go look in the package,” she said. Sure enough, there it was, in two pieces. Once installed, it made all the difference.

We flew it a few minutes in front of the house on the sidewalk, but I got tired of dealing with the power lines and oncoming cars, so we adjourned to the conveniently empty and newly-mowed field on the hill behind our house. I had to poke a temporary hole through the fence by removing a couple of boards for us to squeeze through, but that was no problem and nails are easily replaced.

We spent a good hour up there just flying that little lady bug kite to our hearts’ content. I was impressed with how quickly Elizabeth learned. At one point, she told me, “I’m an expert flyer.” I just laughed and agreed. We have such a modest, humble child.

Supermarket meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria

Another reason to go vegetarian, although their math isn’t right. Forty-seven percent is much worse than “1 in 4.” Maybe we should actually read the article? 🙂

via 1 In 4 Supermarket Meat Samples Tainted With Drug-Resistant Bacteria.

"They took samples of meat and poultry around the country and found that 47 percent had evidence of Staphylococcus aureus contamination. More than half of the bacteria they found were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study, published online today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases."

New job starting next week

I’m starting a new job next week, so I ran a test of how long it would take to get there after dropping Elizabeth off at school. It was 7:42 when they started letting the kids inside, allowing me to leave. I could do like a lot of parents and just drop her off and take off, but I like to make sure she’s safely inside before I go. Other parents keep their kid in the car as they wait for the doors to open, but Elizabeth likes to get out and hang out with her friends rather than wait in the car with boring old me. It’s okay. I would do the same.

Anyway, I took I-24 to Briley Parkway to the area near the airport known as Century City. Twelve and a half miles later, I was pulling into their parking lot at 8:07. Twenty-five minutes to go 12½ miles. Exactly 30 miles per hour. Not bad in “rush hour” traffic, I guess. So, it’ll take roughly half an hour to get to work every morning. Next I need to learn how long it takes to get from work to her school at the end of the day. I’ve got until 6pm before they start charging, I don’t know, a dollar a minute over-time. If I take a half-hour lunch, I can leave by 5, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

And now it’s time — two weeks past time, actually — to finally plant the second bed in my multi-faceted “square foot” vegetable garden. Starting next week, I won’t have time for these chores.

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Tour of Nashville

Elizabeth and I played tour guide to my sister Jeannie, her daughter Tiffany, her husband David, and their kids Shayden, 9, and Skyla, 1½. We started with a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel one exit east of the airport. My brother Don wanted to go to Shoney’s — like when our other sister, Lucy, visited last year (on May 1st, day 1 of the May floods) — but he was voted down. He lobbied hard via email, but good sense and common decency prevailed. They don’t have Cracker Barrel in California, but they had seen billboards while driving to Nashville from Johnson City — where they attended Jeannie’s grandson Finnegan’s first birthday — and they wanted to give them a try.

My wife Tara, brother Don and his wife Diane joined us for breakfast, but not the tour. The food and service were both great. I was a little worried because someone had given this particular one a bad review online. Just goes to show you never know how things might work out for you on any given day versus how it went for someone else. Maybe the person doing the review was the jerk, insulted the staff, and then received the bad service he deserved? Who knows? Everyone sitting at and serving our table was very nice.

I offered my individual-sized syrup bottle as a souvenir for David and Tiffany, but then we agreed that, no, airport security would just confiscate it on the flight back. Shayden and Elizabeth spent a lot of time making up games with those peg-board games the restaurant puts on each table for the kids. I don’t think the kids were playing it the way they were supposed to. Neither one of them is the type to follow someone else’s rules when it’s so much more fun to make up their own.

Once finished eating and after the requisite souvenir shopping in the gift shop portion of the restaurant — about one third of every Cracker Barrel is a gift shop — Elizabeth, almost 6, wanted to start the tour and show everyone her favorite park/playground near our house, which was nowhere near our current location. I had to explain the concept of being a tourist, which doesn’t usually include visits to neighborhood playgrounds.

We said goodbye to those not joining the tour and loaded into the rented minivan. Our first stop was at the Harley-Davidson dealership on Fesslers Lane. Jeannie’s husband Matt collects Harley t-shirts, so now he’ll have one from Nashville with Warner Brothers cartoon characters on it. I asked if he liked those cartoons. Jeannie said, “I’m buying this shirt because I can stand looking at it. It’s blue. I’m tired of all the black shirts.”

Next stop, downtown Nashville. We were trying to get in and get out before Clinton, Gore and whatever other dignitaries would be attending our former governor’s funeral for which they would be barricading streets. Our timing was perfect. Just as we drove past the War Memorial building, the site of the funeral, the police were setting up the barricades. Immediately prior, we had gotten a pretty good look at the Broadway and 2nd Avenue area, the tourist spot in Nashville since Opryland was dismantled a dozen years ago. We also slowly drove past the original Grand Ol’ Opry location, Ryman Auditorium, just off Broadway.

David asked which bars I would recommend. He and Tiffany wanted to check out the nightlife later that night. I suggested the entire Broadway/2nd Avenue area because you can hop from bar to bar. I didn’t think any of them had a cover charge.

Across the street from the War Memorial is Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) where Elizabeth had her dance recital last year. Catty-corner (sp?) from there is the State Capitol building up on the hill. Elizabeth feigned exasperation, saying, “Ugghh, my school just went there!” It’s true, she and her classmates were there a couple weeks ago. Poor, abused child.

From there, we meandered over to the downtown farmer’s market, near which I used to work at Franklin Industries. We drove through Bicentennial Mall, which is a park, not a shopping mall. We gave a passing nod to the Germantown neighborhood, which is really nothing special, surrounded by bad neighborhoods. I don’t know why some people find it noteworthy, but I’m probably simply uninformed.

Heading south, we drove through “The Gulch,” starting where it’s not yet called “the Gulch.” It’s down by the railroad tracks, below most street levels, between The Tennessean (local newspaper) and the beautiful old Union Station Hotel. I think The Gulch officially starts after passing under Broadway, going south, if there is an official starting point. Again, there’s nothing terribly special about that part of town, but I like it for what it is.

We turned right on Division Street and came upon the “controversial” Music City Roundabout. It’s controversial because it features an over-sized, anatomically-correct, bronze or iron sculpture of people dancing naked around a fountain! Naked! I heard Tiffany telling the kids that “everyone’s naked under their clothes.” And that’s the sort of sentiment that prevailed when they put that sculpture there.

We circled through the roundabout a couple of times because Jeannie, our driver, “accidentally” kept turning left. Half a minute later, we were on 17th Avenue, the “lesser” half of the two main streets that make up “Music Row.” I guess it should be called “Music Rows,” but that’s not nearly as catchy. It’s an old residential neighborhood from the 20’s or 30’s that has been turned into offices for record labels, recording studios, artistic management (agents), etc. It’s much more attractive than typical office buildings. We circled around to check out the 16th Avenue half, and another few minutes later we were circling Vanderbilt University.

“Vandy” takes up several square blocks, consisting of three separate hospitals (Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Children’s, and the V.A.), the school itself, its athletics fields, stadium, dormitories, etc. On the north side of the campus along West End Avenue, we pulled into Centennial Park to get out and let the kids play at the playground there. Well, looky there: I guess playgrounds are part a city tour, after all. The kids got snowcones and played for a while until the adults grew restless and we all walked over to the Parthenon, a life-sized replica of the real Parthenon in Greece. On the other side of the Parthenon was the much more interesting — to the kids, anyway — duck pond to feed the ducks and geese. Interestingly, there was a wedding underway about a hundred yards to my left. I had heard the music, but it wasn’t until the bride’s veil billowed up in a gust of wind that it caught my attention.

From Centennial Park, I showed them the HCA Data Center where I used to work years ago. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Where did the time go? “Down the drain,” Diane informed me later when we stopped by her house. She should be a motivational speaker. 🙂 Anyway, we visited Don and Diane in a very nice part of Nashville called Green Hills. I’m still not sure how they can afford to live there, but they do. I stayed with them a few months when I first transplanted myself to Nashville from California.

The miles between Green Hills and my house in the Cane Ridge part of Antioch were filled in with a trip down Hillsboro Boulevard to gaze upon the beautiful estates on the hills above the road. There are some very nice homes there, a couple of which I think are occupied by one or another of the many famous people who live in and around this town.

Turning east onto Old Hickory Boulevard, there are several more beautiful properties before getting to the business end of Brentwood, a popular part of town for various corporations to setup headquarters. Tara and I have both done our time therein. They keep it from looking like a “downtown” by enforcing a four-storey limit on all buildings. Several years ago, there was a constant stream of new buildings under construction, but now almost every building has “space available” signs out front. It’s still a vibrant, attractive business district, there’s just plenty of space available now.

About eight miles later, they were dropping us off back home, and we said our good-byes. Family visits are always nice, and almost always too short, except of course in those instances when it’s relatives you can’t stand, but that was definitely not the case here.