Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm a fantasmagoric fan of all things Halloween. From the spooky shows to the ghoulish garb, from the unearthly yard decorations to the princesses and warlocks who haunt my front stoop on All Hallow's Eve--it's my favorite season.

Check out my pumpkin which I carved and decorated personally. I forwarded a picture to my sister who showed it to a co-worker. Her response? "He needs help."

What! I thought I did a good job all by myself. Does the mouth look too crooked or something?

And how about my yard display. And my Michael Jackson dummy is quite light and mobile. He's been there to scare Wendy as she stepped out of the upstairs shower, and again by hiding behind the door when she went to bed at night. Fun stuff.

Can you guess the theme of my yard display? Hint: count the skulls. And don't miss the few lying on the ground by the grave of Evil Bob.

I sent a picture of my yard display to my buddy Bob via e-mail. He wondered why I picked "Bob" and not some other name for the tombstone. I said I couldn't remember since it's been a few years since I fashioned the epitaph, though I couldn't rule out it being inspired by one of his anti-University of Michigan rants, Bob being a Michigan State alum and booster.

So beware any would-be Wolverine bashers out there, lest you be similarly immortalized in my garden of horrors.

My sister-in-law out in Kansas thought my yard display was "pretty cool... but stop terrorizing all the little kids!!!"

But that's what Halloween is all about? Isn't it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do I Know You?

Stop bugging me already! I know, I know. Internet social networking is en vogue. But I don't do Facebook, Flicker or Friendster. I don't text or twitter. Don't have time for multi-player on-line gaming. And I don't care who has a crush on me or who has checked out my profile.

Yet I'll check my Yahoo e-mail box and find tons of e-mails trying to entice me to check out such websites. It's not that I have anything against MySpace, Facebook, WoW, or the people who frequent those sites. It's just that I barely have time for blogging. (And fantasy football this time of year--Go Blogs!)

One such e-mail did escape my Yahoo spam filter with the subject "Kathleen O'D has sent you a private message." So I checked it out. It was a message sent via Flixster, asking if she could be my friend. Well, I did join Flixster once to take a movie quiz from one of my blogging buddies there. I thought I would investigate.

I did check out Kathleen's profile, she had a picture of Lauren Bacall there. Nope, nothing familiar about her. In fact, I have my doubts that she's a real person. Many of the comments on her site seemed like they were planted, like voluminous requests for her and her friends to take various movie quizzes. Do you think maybe Flixster is scamming people trying to build traffic for their site by creating "friends"? Methinks so.

Kathleen O'D, if you're out there reading this and are a real person, I apologize. But I think you're a spambot myself.

Let's check my spambucket and see who else wants to be my friend . . .

Here's one with "Hi, come talk to me" in the subject line. The message says my soul mate could be out there. I'm already married to my soul mate. How many more do I need?

Another says "2 New Singles Want to Meet me." Yet another e-mail from says that two people have searched for me today. Hmmmm, must be the same two people, you think? I probably owe 'em money or something.

I get e-mails from stating that various numbers of people have checked out my profile. I didn't know I had a profile. Wonder if they mean my FBI profile. I don't think I have an FBI profile either but if I did, I wouldn't want people checking it out.

E-Harmony wants me to review my matches which they have compiled as of 10/13/08. Then a follow-up from E-Harmony wanting me to review my matches as of 10/15. Sounds like my stock is rising there if they have to update my matches every couple of days. I'll wait another month and see how many matches I've got then.

No, I think I'll just create a social networking website for folks who are not too keen about social networking on-line. You're all welcome to join. Check your e-mail soon for the official invitation.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our Haunted Hayride

Taking refuge from all the scary economic news of late, Wendy and I joined her sister's family for a little virtual terror this past week--a haunted hayride at a local apple orchard and cider mill.

I think this is natural. Remember how during the Great Depression of the 30s people flocked to Universal horror movies like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy? It's an escape from the realities of everyday life. So afterwards you can say, "Well, there are worse things than seeing my savings disappear. I could be bitten by a vampire and become one of the living dead."

So it wasn't surprising when we arrived at Wiard's Orchards near Ann Arbor to find a huge line for tickets to their haunted attractions, even if tickets ranged from $15 to a VIP package of over $30. Better ghosts take your money than the bank or the government, right?

We got a ticket for the haunted hayride. I've never been on a hayride before, let alone a haunted hayride. As we got on the haywagon, the gentleman employee assisting us said, "No flash photography, no flashlights and no touching the monsters."

What monsters? The advertising didn't mention any monsters. And so much for the flashlight I had stuffed into the pocket of my hoodie. My brother and I had toured one of Wiard's haunted houses many years ago and found out the flashlight came in handy.

I remember my brother shined the flashlight ahead as we led our young boys through the pitch black haunted house. "There's one," my brother said as his beam lit upon a creepy-looking character. "There's another one," as his flashlight revealed another before he could jump out and shout, "Boo!" Seems ironic that my brother, who sometimes comments here as "The Enforcer" would want a flashlight under such circumstances, but I remember being thankful he had one.

Back to the hayride. The first part of the ride was uneventful as the tractor pulled our wagon through the field. But once we hit the woods, all heck broke loose. A damsel in distress charged out wagon, screaming for us to save her. Sorry. We were told to stay seated. So some demon jumped out, kidnapped her, and chopped her up or something. Bummer for her.

Then followed a parade of other maniacs, costumed characters and ghoulies who ran after our wagon, waving machetes, axes or chainsaws. "You can't touch us. You're not supposed to touch us," Wendy reminded one of them when she thought he got too close. True, that was something else the gentleman told us as we embarked on our adventure.

"This is interesting," my nephew Billy said looking down the trail we'd just traveled. I looked back and saw some figure in a long billowy cape eerily silhouetted by the full moon as he ran to catch our wagon. He eventually caught up, jumped on and said we were all going to die . . . or something like that. By the way, when we arrived at the hayride, Bily insisted on sitting "in the middle." Not sure why, but I'm guessing he felt safer there.

The climax to our hayride came when we entered a barn, the doors shutting behind us leaving us completely in the black. Then a strobe light illuminated the interior and a couple monsters attacked our wagon from various vantage points, including a loft above. By then we were kinda used to it though, even if one of them had a chan saw that he pressed against the wagon bottom, rattling the whole floor.

Though we all agreed that in the end it wasn't that scary, it still frightened me into having a creepy dream that night. I dreamt that we were headed to that haunted hayride in a school bus, and the bus was chased by a man dressed in a black, billowy cape. Very close to the plotline in the movie Jeepers Creepers 2 if anyone has seen it. When I told my sister-in-law about the dream, she said it was a bonus for the price of my ticket.

I guess.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Now This Is Scary

As someone who's afraid of heights, you'll never catch me skydiving. But I feel like I'm getting the equivalent virtual reality in the stock market free fall this past week. It's a gut-grabbing experience to see yourself falling financially, just hoping something will kick in and stop you before you hit rock bottom.

Why didn't somebody TELL me to get out of stocks before the market crashed. Oops. Turns out somebody did. It was me. In fact, right on my own blog way back in February. On my blog Ask The Life Coach, I gave my pearls of wisdom which included, "Get out of stocks now." Didn't even heed my own advice and now I'm paying the price. I need to listen to myself better.

Someone recently told me it takes 25 years for the market to come back from a crash. Well, that makes me 80 before my retirement portfolio is financially healthy again. Guess I can retire then. If you see a 79-year-old big guy greeting you at Wal-Mart's some time, be kind. Smile anyway.

The news is full of personal stories about people who have lost big money in their 401k. I personally know someone who has lost $140,000 since earlier this year. At least my mistrust of the stock market has led me to diversify so that I'm only about one third invested in Wall Street. Still, that's enough to make you cry. Well, me anyway.

A colleague at work, whose portfolio is about 90 percent invested in stocks, said that a year ago the market was at its peak about 7,000 points over what it is now.

"That's funny," I said.

"It's not funny," he deadpanned.

"Well . . . " I scrambled for a better word, "It's ironic."

"That's the word," he said.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Lot On My Mind

I've had a lot on my mind lately. Isn't that a phrase that seems out of vogue lately? I haven't seem to have heard it much. Or maybe I'm just not listening. But it's true with me. I have a lot on my mind.

There's our old (1983) Thunderbird that is in the shop, awaiting repairs. I know that repairs are an everyday part of life but what's going on there seems symbolic of something. In the seven years or so I've had that car I had dreams of parading it in the Woodward Dream Cruise, a Detroit area gathering of classic cars.

But the car's never been trustworthy enough to take the 70 miles or so to Detroit. Now we're just hoping to make it drivable enough to sell. So goes another of my dreams. Just the way it goes with me lately.

Then today our government is set to enact a government bailout bill that is supposed to cost taxpayers like myself over $5,000. "Experts" say our financial system needs $700 billion to cover bad loans that banks made to people who can't or won't pay back the money.

So, let me get this straight. I have preached to my kids and others about avoiding stupid taxes--everything from speeding tickets to running up credit card bills with ungodly monthly interest--and now I'm being essentially assessed a $5,000 "stupid tax" to pay for foolish bankers and people who got in over their head borrowing more than they could afford to pay back.

And to make it worse, my representatives in government added $100 billion more in tax breaks, of course I don't get any of them, to make it more likely the bill will pass this time. So I'll in all likelihood will be paying more in taxes to give others a break on their's. Just the way it goes with me lately.

Even the fortunes of my fantasy football team Da Blogs have gone south, being winless in four tries thus far. This, after the Blogs finished in first place after the regular season last year. Do you think that my winless Blogs garner any sympathy from my fellow family members in my league?

Here's smacktalk my brother-in-law posted on-line after he beat me: "Woo hoo, I beat the Blogs. Then again, hasn't everybody?"

And from my nephew whom I play this week: "I still respect you, Blog. And I totally mean it without even snickering at all...Oh that is sooo hard to say with a straight face."

And so it goes with me lately. My Detroit Lions are 0-4 also. Even my beloved Michigan Wolverines have been struggling this season, only 2-2 while our cross-state rival Michigan State Spartans are 4-1. Some are predicting that the Spartans may actually finish better in the Big Ten this year, something that hasn't occurred in something like 40 years.

I think I'd rather pay for the bail-out.