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Child Two and I took I took Child Three and some of his friends to paintball today. A grand time was had by all, especially by those of us who escaped without wounds.

I was shot once in the neck (by Child Three!) but recovered quickly. I was shot once in my bad knee by a paintball that didn’t burst and that hurt for a minute.

Child Two and I formed an effective fire team in the latter games. We got ourselves into enfilade positions and ripped through the opposition like the killers we are.

My favourite moment of the day came when one kid crept up to the corner of a building to get a shot at Child Two. I let loose a volley of five shots and all landed. I saw my target dance a little and disappear behind the wall. I learned afterward that four of my shots had hit his hand and made him drop his gun – uh, drop his marker. My trophy:

Child Three got hit three times on the bicep in the last fight:

It look like two hits, but the top welt is two hits stacked. The lower, fainter welt shows up much better this evening than it did when I took the photo.

Here’s a masked “before” photo and one from a break in the action.

Mysteries of the ancient world

I’m back home now, but I still have a few photos to share. It took three full days, but I finally managed to clear out my dad’s office and closet – only to fill the closet again with stuff Brother Two wants to keep but couldn’t fit in his suitcases.

I found a Mac PowerBook 1400C in the closet, deep in the strata. I think in total, my dad had 11 computers, of which two were hooked up. I cleaned up a clamshell iBook and then plugged in and powered up the PowerBook. As you can see if you click on the thumbnail to the left, it booted into System 8.6 as perfectly as possible. I think my dad last used it in early 2003, judging by the dates on the files. Good thing he kept it around.

We also found a brass case. We have no idea what it is. Other than the photos below, here’s what we know…. The “fan” folds open and closed and rotates freely. The axle fits into some sort of plastic apparatus that barely resembles a small electric motor, although there is no resistance to rotation. There is no place for batteries, and since the entire case is made of metal and there are no wires, we doubt it is an electrical device of any kind, or any sort of motor for that matter. But of what use is a manual fan or propellor?

The bottom of the device opens up. Is something supposed to go in there? Take a look, and please guess – or even better, inform.

The inscription on the bottom of the case reads: “PATENTS PENDING / DON QUIXOTE / MADE IN BRITAIN”. Don Quixote is a cigar company and I suspect this has something to do with tobacco, but I’m stumped.

Speaking of mysteries, this video has me, an avowed skeptic, stumped:

Bonus l33t CSS skillz:

I’ve been struggling with getting slideshows to center. I’m using a WordPress plugin called Portfolio Slideshow, which is easy to use and format, but which is inexplicably impossible to center on a page.

Many people have the same predicament, but the developer’s only official response is that the Pro version ($9) has the ability to center the slideshow.

Nine bucks? I didn’t teach myself CSS for nothing! Here’s my custom Portfolio Slideshow CSS code for WordPress. On your Dashboard, open Appearance > Editor. Click on the Stylesheet link at the bottom right. (I ignore the stylesheets for IE6 and IE7. Screw ‘em.) Add the following code to your stylesheet and save:

div.portfolio-slideshow {margin-left:auto; margin-right:auto; width:60%; margin-top:20px; border: solid 1px #d4d7ca;}
div.slideshow-nav {text-align:center; margin-bottom:20px;}

You may want to play with that width percentage to get it perfect on your layout. The margin-top and border styles are optional, as is the entire .slideshow-nav class.

This only works for one specific size of slideshow image. In my case, I’m using 400-pixel-wide images.

Dogs and the family

We never knew this story until Tuesday, when we cracked open a scrapbook that once belonged to my grandfather’s brother, Max.

When Jacques (my grandfather, although he went by “Jack”) was a kid in the Netherlands, he owned a small dog. His father, Bernard, thought that a big photo of their boys and the dog to hang on the wall would make a great present for his wife, Josina.

The photograph was taken, blown up, framed, and presented to Josina. She took one look at it and exclaimed that there was no way she could hang that in her house. She pointed out the dog, which had an erection that the males had somehow overlooked.

That’s one well-endowed terrier. Jack is on the left, Max on the right.

The gift was modified by the 1920s’ version of Photoshop – that is, an artist – and the final product, um, hung in their home for 50 years. I don’t know what happened to that, but thank goodness we have a print of the original. Jack was born in 1914, so I estimate that the photo was taken around 1925.

The dog’s name, even before this photograph, was Dickey.

But 1925 wasn’t Max’s last appearance in a photo with a strange dog.

That’s a trained dog, allegedly, but the look on its face says, “If you take my picture, I’m going to kill somebody.” This has meme potential.

Bonus schadenfreude:

That’s a lot of caulk

In a previous blog, we established that my dad hoarded junk. He also hoarded useful items. Elvi was working on the garage, and she came across my dad’s caulk.

She couldn’t believe how big my dad’s caulk collection was. It was massive: enough caulk for three houses.

Here’s a pic of her and my dad’s caulk:

Elvi needs more than two hands to handle my dad's caulk.

I swear this post was her idea.

Fashion and faux pas

Much of Sunday was spent going through Dad’s clothes with Brother Two. Brother One (both are younger than me, by the way) wasn’t yet in Freeport and the clothes wouldn’t fit him regardless.

We found a lot of clothes… – from the ’70s, let’s say to be charitable. And what better way to celebrate the ’70s than with a slide show!

You may have noticed that I put a modern twist on the jeans. I think my favourite bit of these photos is my brother’s hands clasped with glee in the first picture.

That wasn’t all the clothing-related hilarity. After some delicious snapper and cracked conch (best I ever ate) at Billy Joe’s on the beach, Elvi bent over to wash her hands in the ocean. Two ladies and a man walking by in the right place at the wrong time got an eyeful of her underwear as her shorts ripped from stem to stern. The man cracked up – you can’t blame him – but the helpful ladies gave us a towel to keep.

I used the towel to highlight the damage.

Elvi, learning from my father’s poor example, did not keep the shorts.

Bonus observation:

If you think I’m fat, check out this curly-tail lizard.

At least I signed up for flag football this spring and summer.

Dealing with the hoard

Elvi and I landed in the Bahamas yesterday afternoon and immediately started helping my sister, Brother Two, and Marion (the widow Nyveen) to clean up my dad’s house.

While my dad never hoarded enough to make reality TV, he rarely threw anything out. That’s now our job. For example, there are four fax machines, three printers, and an eight-track player (see pic) occupying shelves.

I spent most of Friday emptying the attic while my brother piled the stuff on the patio. A lot of it was Quorum products (a multi-level marketing scheme) left over from the early 1990s. You never know when old electronics will come back into fashion.

We’re throwing them out. The old phones, too (see other pic)- although I wold have kept a rotary-dial phone had there been any. All we found was a dial.

The photo below shows about three quarters of the attic contents on the patio. Unfortnately, you can only barely make out the five different briefcases we found. They are at the back of the pile.

For the first time ever, we have left the children under their own supervision. The girls have checked in.

Child Two:

Everything’s fine. No problems yet.

Child One:

Nothing much has changed since this morning. I made lunches, we all went to school. Child Two is over at a friend’s for some amount of time, so I’m having a drunken orgy. Other than that, all clear.


Tomorrow, I’ll have pics of Brother Two and I getting jiggy with Dad’s wardrobe. Even more awesome.

More family jaw surgery

Not long after I cracked my own tooth, Nibbler suffered his own damage. (Nibbler is my Mazda 3, remember?)

Wife One took Nibbler out of the driveway so she could take the minivan. She parked him across the street. What she didn’t see was the large ice boulder on top of which she parked. You can see the imprint of Nibbler’s fron left tire on it.

This method of parking not only served to keep Nibbler from rolling forward, it cracked his poor plastic jaw.

Like any anyone with a broken jaw, Nibbler suffered some swelling in his cheek.

Nibbler is a trooper and still drivable, but I can’t stand him suffering so. I plan to get him a new jaw soon. It should be $600-$800.

Speaking of cars, even if we do tend to anthropomorphize, there’s news in the lummox category. Our 1999 Grand Voyager finally choked and died. It had been running with a crack and drip in the transmission case, forcing us – OK, Wife One – to keep it topped up with transmission fluid. The key would often refuse to turn until whacked on end with a hammer. Still, it soldiered on. Something has gone wrong with the electrical system, forcing us – yes, really both of us – to boost it every time it had to start.

A week and a half of research into Toyota Siennas and Honda Odysseys let us to a 2006 Odyssey EX-L with a scant 96,000 kilometres on the odometer and a tip-to-tail warranty to 160,000 kilometres. We’re quite happy with the purchase, which also came with summer tires on alloy wheels, although it did not come with the cute Honda hat on the roof rack.

Yes, those are leather, heated seats.

Wife One has no plans to name the van.

Mmm, pulpy!

Child Two mocks Uncle Jeff.

I’m sitting here with a mouthful of aches. About two hours ago, I got up from the dentist’s chair after a root canal. There’s still some anaesthetic in my mouth and what aches the most are my TMJs (jaw joints). It’s hard to keep your mouth open for 90 minutes.

Why did I need a root canal? Child Two (whom you see at right) is quite the baker, and she decided to make homemade snack bars. I guess you could call them granola bars, but they were mostly dried fruit and hazelnuts (that’s the other photo, left). I had a hunk and the stuff pulled out a filling on my rearmost top right molar. My tooth cracked and part of it went with the filling. The inside of my tooth had been infected, to the surprise of me and my dentist, so I need to have the root canal.

Despite the name, a root canal is the removal of all pulp from within the tooth and the root canals. The dentist uses these diode-like files to pull out all the living tissue.

The procedure was painless, after the needles in my palate. The right side of my face was frozen from eyelid to neck. The freezing is wearing off as I write this, and it’s starting to ache a bit. The dentist told me to take Advil for any subsequent pain, and I hope that’s sufficient. If not, I have my migraine stash to raid.

I have two weeks to wait before the broken molar gets a permanent fix.

When my car got rear-ended

No new footwear lately.

Back on October 3, I took Child Three to an interview at a high school he’s interested in attending last year. When we returned to my parked car, we discovered that a navy blue Volkswagen Golf had snuggled under my car’s rear bumper.

I didn’t have a camera and as I was puzzling out what to do, a woman who lives in the house in front of which I parked came home. I showed her the situation ad asked of she could take a photo for me. She did.I recorded the license plate of the offending Golf and left a note on its windshield. I returned Child Three to his current school and ran errands.

When I got home, I had a phone message from the driver of the Golf. She was apologetic and couldn’t understand how it happened. I called her back and told her I would send her the photos as well as photos of the damage, which, as you can see, was minor: some abrasions on and under the bumper lip. But the car was barely six months old!

I still hadn’t received the photos of the cars so I went back to the house and spoke to the woman’s husband. They couldn’t figure out how to download or send the photos on the cell phone. A few days later, I got this, which seems to be a photo of the cell phone screen. It arrived as a 314 dpi image of 2.3 MB:

I sent the photos. I wasn’t expecting to have to go through the insurance companies.

The last communication the driver sent me was an e-mail that in its entirety read: “Please be advised that I am totally unaware of how your car was damaged and deny any responsibility for said damage.”

Well. I think she took some bad advice from friends or family.

The next call I made was to my insurance company. I had the offending parker’s license plate number, e-mail address, and phone number. I also had the witness who took the photos for me. The agent told me to go ahead and get the car fixed, so I did, at the cost of a $500 deductible I was sure to get back when this was settled.

The agent handling my case got in touch with me again on November 11. The offender refused to provide my insurers with the name or contact info of her own. My insurance agent said that I should go to the police to file a report for a hit and run. The police would get in touch with the other driver/parker and ask her for her insurance info.

The police were not cooperative, but the officer who dealt with me was extremely helpful. She told me that my insurance company was taking the easy way out instead of hiring their own researcher. They wanted the police to do the work for them. Further, the officer called the Golf driver and explained the situation, strongly advising her to cooperate with my insurance company. The officer spoke with her for a good ten minutes. The call ended and she told me that the offender had promised to call my insurers.

I was hopeful, but it never happened. By the end of the month, my insurance company went to find the parker’s info.

I heard nothing for two months. I sent an e-mail to my agent on January 11 and heard back that while the company was in touch with the parker’s insurance company, said parker stilled denied the incident. Given the photos and the witness, that didn’t seem to me to be a prudent course of action.

Last week, I got word: my insurance company had prevailed and I would be reimbursed in full. In one way, it’s a shame, as I was all set to launch Operation Public Humiliation, but now that the issue is settled, I can leave the parker anonymous.

Yeah, so…

The fourth from last line in my last post was “In the meantime, my dad has stabilized and appears to be out of the woods for now.”

Not so much, it turns out. He died Monday, December 5 at 6:05 a.m.

Marion, my dad’s wife, transferred him to the hospital. He was placed in isolation in the emergency ward, but the folks there didn’t mind allowing as many visitors as wanted to go in.

I showed up to relieve Marion around 9 p.m. Sunday night. My dad had double pneumonia and kidney failure. The doctor wasn’t sure my dad would make it through the night.

I offered to stay overnight. Everyone else left to get some much needed sleep. I stretched out on three plastic chairs and drifted off for about a half hour. My dad’s heart rate was about 125 bpm, his breathing rate about 25 per minute, and his blood pressure was too low to be recorded. Metabolically, his blood potassium was high – his kidneys weren’t clearing it.

Now, I wrote “my dad” and I’ll continue to do so, but since I’d left him Thursday afternoon, he was only a body that gasped rattly breaths while being fed 100% oxygen.

The night shift doctor came to visit around 2:30 a.m. He was careful in introducing the subject of morphine, which my dad might not handle well, he explained. I told him that if it had been up to me, I would have stopped my dad’s feeding 13 months ago. The doctor quickly pointed out that he wasn’t advocating euthanasia; he was only hoping to make my dad more comfortable. I was pretty sure my dad wasn’t feeling anything, but the morphine couldn’t hurt, so I approved it. Shortly thereafter, Marion responded by phone and approved it, too. It was legally her decision. So sue me.

At 3:20, my dad’s heart rate took a tumble. It fluctuated between 28 and 70 bpm. Whenever it dropped below 33 bpm, the monitor alarm would beep loudly. The nurses came in to turn it off – apparently it has no volume control – and told me to use the call button if I needed anything.

I no longer had the monitor to calculate for me, but I could tell my dad’s breathing rate was slowing.

The nurses administered a second dose of morphine and a dose of something else that was meant to relax his breathing. I was in the middle of a wicked game of iBubble Shooter when I realized I was no longer hearing breathing. My dad’s face had turned… – what’s that colour? Pallor? I checked the clock and it said 6:06, so I pulled my estimate of his time of death back a minute to compensate for my inattention.

I pressed the call button twice but no one came. I stepped into the hallway and spotted the kind doctor at the main desk he looked up at me and I did that signal for “cut”, swing my hand in front of my neck. he understood and came to confirm that my father had died. He said he was glad my dad had gone on his watch and in comfort.

We had the funeral on Wednesday. The day went perfectly, even with my brothers cracking into laughter at the cemetery, first at my sister’s attempts to shovel dirt and then at my dad’s friend Allen’s near tumble into the grave.

I have a few things I want to blog about, but this had priority. I hope I remember what they are. Regardless, I have a pile of grading and freelance to get through now.

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