Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Got books?

The wife and I are back from a visit with number two son in Washington DC. I can report that all is well in the Capitol (as long as you stay off the metro mass transit system there).

Scott works for the congressional service that is trying to translate and enact the new health care reforms that were passed this year. His office is in one of the buildings that houses the Library of Congress.

So Wendy, son and I traveled up to Capitol Hill to get a closer look. Couldn't get too close though. The building is not open to the public at large. But Scott thought I could take a peek inside, at least to photograph this impressive statue that sat off the lobby.

Ummmmmm, no. I took one picture (see above) as I approached the lobby, but when I stopped before the metal detectors and a cadre of uniformed security guys to try to take another picture, I was immediately challenged.

"In or out. You can't stay there," he barked.

Okay, okay. Sheesh, ya know. Then we headed over towards the somewhat more people-friendly Library of Congress building itself. There, we climbed to the third floor where there is viewing gallery that overlooks a giant reading room below with shelves upon shelves of books.

Quite an impressive sight. But you can't take pictures of it. Nor can you enter the reading room itself without special permission. Check out a book at the Library of Congress? Surely you jest.

Yes, security is tight here too. I even had to take off my belt and go through a metal detector. When we tried to find a restroom in the building, we took an elevator that wound up in the basement. No sooner had the doors opened when a passing uniformed security guard stopped and turned our way. I know, I know . . . we're not allowed here either.

They did have a public exhibition of old books and maps from a special collection of centuries old books and maps of early America, all behind thick glass. Couldn't take pictures there either. Kinda limited my picture-taking to the expansive great room entryway and the statues outside (see below). In otherwords, there's one thing you can't take a picture of at the Library of Congress: books.

They did have computer kiosks where you could do special research with materials not available at your local library. I sat at one work station, thinking I could try it out. Then I saw that the work station required you to enter your identification . . . in the form of a passport.

Couldn't my simple library card suffice?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Visit To The Big House

"Did you have a little deja vu this weekend?" my boss asked me yesterday.

I couldn't immediately guess what he was talking about. Then he reminded me, I went to the University of Michigan football game at their stadium, nicknamed the "Big House," this past weekend. U of M played Massachusetts, a supposedly a lower tier team in talent and ability.

The last time I went to see a U of M game, it was against Appalachian State, also a lower tier team. That year we suffered an embarrassing loss, one that made the front page of Sports Illustrated.

And it looked like for a while that Massachusetts was going to do the same. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH . . . now I get the deja vu remark. By the way, the boss is a Michigan State fan so he doesn't miss an opportunity to get in a dig in on my Wolverines.

Actually, I left the game early with U of M comfortably ahead, or so I thought. Turns out that Massachusetts battled right to the wire before finally losing 42-37. Whew, glad I wasn't there at the end.

Some may see that as missing the excitement of a thrilling finish. Not necessarily. To me, watching my beloved Wolverines lose is like watching a pet die. No, worse. There's both anger and grief. So it's like seeing a pet get run over by a truck driven by Al Qaeda.

Okay, maybe that's extreme, but it does stress me out. And look what the stress of an exciting finish did for Michigan State University coach Mark D'Antonio this past Friday. His team won on a trick play in overtime and he had a heart attack immediately afterwards. Whoa.

The headline at the ESPN website said " Dantonio has heart attack, MSU into top 25." Some wag, not me, thought those phrases should have been reversed."

Despite missing the thrilling finish at the Big House, I still got to wander the stadium and take pictures, including one of my son who is an usher there. The stadium underwent a major makeover the past two years, adding a concourse that features displays honoring past national champions, installing luxury boxes and adding thousands more seats.

A stadium renovation can't bring back those glory years and all those Big Ten championships. But hopefully a lot of wishful thinking can. I can help in that department.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Boy Versus Girl

My daughter-in-law Lindsay went in for an ultrasound last week with her husband, my son Greg. They were excited because they expected the tests to show the sex of the baby due next February.

I'm not sure I understand why so many couples these days are willing to spoil one of the surprises of birth, but maybe it's a generational thing. Besides, if they wanted to know the sex of the unborn child, I could have told them.

It goes back to when my parents first got married over a half century to go. Very shortly after they were married, they visited my father's ciocia Vickie. Ciocia is Polish for aunt and my father's Aunt Vickie always seemed a mystical character whose advice and predictions were respected in the family.

Put it this way. If ciocia Vickie had been around during the time of the Salem witch hunts, it would have behooved her to keep a low profile.

Anyway, aunt Vickie said our family would be blessed with boys. My parents had three boys, only one girl. And Vickie's pronouncement held true for the next generation as well as my parents were blessed with seven grandsons, no grandaughters.

I am told that my brother Tim, when expecting his third child after having two boys, asked my mother to go to Aunt Vickie's grave to ask her to "lift the spell" so to speak. And my mother did go to the cemetery with his request . . . to no avail. Another boy.

So, yes, Greg and Lindsay are expecting a boy.

Anyway, I'm trying something new here. One of my blogging buddies here asked about the lacquered rock I mentioned in a blog a couple weeks ago. I tried to take a picture but acccidentally took a movie instead. Even better, right? So I posted a little video clip of my lacquered rock. They would make great Christmas gifts, don't you think? Cheap too.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Dear Blog

Seems like I've been writing a lot of e-mail type letters lately. What's one more. Might as well write one here.

School's back in session around here though that doesn't mean nearly as much to Wendy and I as it did ten years ago when both boys were in high school. Scott's internship at Washington DC does count towards his Master's Degree at Cornell though.

He's been scoring points there already, having found a mistake in an important document that had been missed in previous proofreadings. A preliminary draft had already gone out to major players in government. Then Scott tried to find a post office via the underground passageways there but ended up instead popping up in the Capitol building in the midst of a public tour. So he still has a ways to go to learn his way around.

Another sign school is in session--I got my first e-mail from buddy Bob since spring. He's an English professor at a University down south. This summer he logged 5,300 miles in eleven days on a road trip to Seattle, stopping along the way at Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore, Little Big Horn battlefield, etc.

Bob and I trade barbs during football season since he's a Michigan State alum while I'm devoted to my Michigan Wolverines. I wrote after the Michigan win this weekend, "Looks like RichRod got the quarterback he wanted to run his offense in Dunard Robinson, eh. What a sensational effort! Too bad he couldn't have saved that for a better team. My son Greg watched the whole game from his new post of stadium usher. He thought it all awesome, especially the Air Force flyover and fireworks that dedicated the new Big House. Truly a record-setting, historic day for all who attended."

We'll see if that's enough to get a rant started on his end. Doesn't take much usually.

It's been bike-riding weather around here finally, so I had my Schwinn out and about. I found a five-dollar bill too over by the high school. "Found on the ground, found on the ground, I'm just a fool for found on the ground" (Sung to the tune of "Pants on the Ground" from American Idol).

But then I blew out a tire the next day and bought a new inner tube for $6. So I'm a dollar in the red after this weekend. I think that's three inner tubes I've gone through just this year. When are they going to come out with steel-belted radial tires for bikes? It's time.

Besides riding my bike, I also lacquered a rock I found up north (very productive weekend, obviously). Thinking it was a pudding stone, I dragged it through a swamp--thank goodness for bear trails--only to be told it was an ordinary conglomerate. Great. But my sister Sue suggested I coat it with lacquer to bring out the highlights. So I did. Voila!

So what's up this week . . . ? On Wednesday my number one son's wife has an ultrasound which should let them know whether we're going to have a grandson or granddaughter. Or both! Heh, heh. On a more serious note, my father is scheduled to have a somewhat suspicious nodule in his throat biopsied this Thursday. Probably nothing to fret about but when you're 80, any trip to the doctor is worth fretting about.