Saturday, December 30, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF) - Late and 2006 Year-End Edition

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

My apologies that this is on a Saturday and not an actual Friday. Yesterday was nuts. I work in a call center and Austin had a major thunderstorm yesterday. We even lost power temporarily in the call center (which is bad, it reboots all the computers and servers, etc.). Call volume was very high, of course, from customers impacted by the storm, and I just didn't have the concentration I needed. Today is another matter.

2006 has been an incredible year. My family and I have been through a lot of changes. We had our first experience with identity theft. My wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. I bought a brand new Palm PDA. I started up NITNF at IR Haven (and it's been 6 months already!). We got a new cell phone. We moved from our duplex of 10 years into an apartment (that was a major adjustment, but it's worked out well).

It was the 5th anniversary of the 9.11.01 attacks. My wife and I witnessed the formation of a tornado from a funnel cloud. I added videos to IR Haven. I was in the hospital for 4 days with severe dehydration and pain caused by food poisoning. IR Haven transitioned to Blogger Beta (now Blogger Beta). And we had a Merry Christmas! Now we're almost in 2007.

That's the amazing thing about blogs: even if you don't think a lot has happened in a year, your blog will remind you what you've been through, good and bad.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Best Wishes,

Thursday, December 28, 2006

And A Good Time Was Had By All...

We had a great Christmas this year! It was fun, we enjoyed the company of both sides of the family, had yummy food (about half of which my wife did an incredible job preparing) and of course, cleaned up on presents! Woohoo!

I won't go into all the boys' gifts (too many!) but my wife's big gift was a 30 GB Creative Labs ZEN Vision:M Video and MP3 player!

Me, I scored my first laptop! My brother-in-law was kind enough to refurbish a Dell Latitude CPi. I used to work with those all the time, so I'm extremely familiar with them. It's not the fastest but it's extremely upgradeable. Plus, they're solid little workhorses. I've already equipped it with a wireless pc card and an ethernet pc card -- for less than $30! It came with Windows 2000 Pro (which I'm also very familiar with) and I've been customizing software, etc. It's my new pet project, so just move outta the way! Heh. Just kidding about the "move out of the way" part. But I have been having fun playing with my new "toy."

Well, that's all for now.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

This Blog Should Not Take Over 2 Minutes To Load

Starting last night, IR Haven was taking an incredible amount of time to load...and it was still acting up this morning. So, when that happens, I figure one link or one graphic, etc. is the culprit. The tricky part is eliminating the potential culprits without losing the HTML/javascript codes, so you can add back in what does actually work. It took about 20 minutes, but I finally tracked it down to the translation link. I like the capability to translate the site to other languages but if it takes 5 minutes to load the site, translation is goooooonnnnne!

Best Wishes,
Have Yourself A Merry Dose Of Cuteness... (Sing Along Now!)

I had to get in at least one more shot of cuteness before the holidays officially begin! Merry Christmas, Cute Overload!

Best Wishes,

Friday, December 22, 2006

Not In the News Friday (NITNF) - Christmas Edition #2

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Christmas Edition #2: The Christmas Tree

There are few signs of Christmas more beloved than the Christmas Tree. Here are some of the facts. There are nearly 35 million trees sold every year. The Christmas tree has been sold in the United States since 1850. Before that they were mostly cut in the forest by individual families. The Scotch Pine is the most popular tree for decorating.

The tradition of bring inside a tree was begun in the 1400-1500's. Some attribute the first Christmas tree to Martin Luther. He was a monk in Germany during that time. He brought home the tree because it reminded him of the beauty of the moonlight as it would shine through the evergreen trees in the winter. He put candles on the tree to represent the stars and moon light. The tradition spread from Germany to England in about 1841. From there it was inherited by the rest of the world.

Once the invention of electricity became more reliable and widespread the candles were replaced with electric lights. These are much safer and can be used for long periods of time.

Today's trees are both live and artificial. Whatever kind of tree you chose be sure to decorate it in a safe manner and enjoy it as a true symbol of the season.

Source: Tree Facts

Monday, December 18, 2006

Canon As You've Never Heard It Before!

This was very entertaining. Five minutes is a wee bit long but this guy is really playing all of this. Kudos to him!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF) Christmas Edition #1

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at leastIt took m fascinating.

Today's NITNF is definitely not in the news. It's about one of my sons and something he did today that was very much in the Spirit of Christmas. I got a call from my oldest son's school guidance counselor this morning, something that would usually be cause for concern...but this time it wasn't. She was calling to tell me that my son brought little toys from home to give as Christmas gifts to his fellow classmates (he's in 5th grade). She wanted to know if this was okay. She described what he brought and I told her, "Well, they're his toys. If he wants to give them away to others, then he can do that." She also told me he hand-made individual Christmas cards for each of his 18 classmates, with personalized messages for the children. It really was very sweet of him to do, with no prompting from anyone.

The counselor was very touched by his behavior but not surprised. My son is just like that; he's very loving and very giving. I'm proud of him, too, and I wasn't surprised, either -- but it was very heartening to hear, first thing of the morning.

So much of Christmas is about giving, and giving because you want to, not because it's expected. This morning, I realized that my son has already learned an incredible Life Lesson: the happiness you see in others when you give to them without expecting anything in return is its own reward. It's amazing to me that he's learned that when he's only 11 years old. In my opinion, it's something the whole world could benefit from learning.

Best Wishes,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Lights, Gifts, Music -- and Ghetto Pizza?

With a title like that for a blog post, you can't go wrong! So yesterday, I had a day off and I finally got motivated to finish the Christmas decorating in the apartment. It's our first Christmas in the apartment and we all want it to be special. Angel had so far been able to do about half of the decorating, some of it with the kids help/input (both of the kids wanted to be involved with the decorating this year). I had been wanting to help for about a week but had been waiting for some time and inspiration.

Yesterday morning, the inspiration hit me and I had the time. I looked at the apartment and was able to visualize a pattern to decorate with the set of multi-color/multi-fuction lights. I turned on and set up a new music playlist based on a Christmas song ("Silent Night"). A few seconds later, Pandora started playing some pretty nice Christmas music for me to hang lights by.

It was some work putting those lights up, because the set of lights is long enough to go around the entire living room, the hallway to the kids' room and the entire dining area! Still, looking at it afterwards, in combination with the existing decorations, was really pretty, very Christmas-like. I was pleased! And I had the satisfaction of surprising Angel and the kids with it, since I did it on the spur of the moment while noone was there.

Angel's been ill with the flu off and on this week but she did make the effort to go into work yesterday for a half-day. I got to surprise her when I brought her back home at lunchtime. The kids got the surprise when they got home from school.

Last night, the kids and I went to church while Angel stayed home to recover. There was a brief service then a rehearsal for this Sunday's Christmas program at the church. We're also gearing up for First Light performing at the Operation Christmas Gift (OCG) program next Thursday evening here in Austin. OCG is sponsored by our church as a way to provide uplifting Christmas music and free gifts to underprivileged kids in Austin (and around the world) as well as a Christmas message of hope from our pastor. First Light has been performing at these events for the last several years, since it started actually, and this year, we were chosen to be the official entertainment for the event from now on (we're excited about that)!

This morning, I got munchy hungry before going to work but I didn't really feel like eating pasta so soon after breakfast, so I decided to try Ghetto Pizza! I made angelhair spaghetti yesterday with a doctored up version of Emilio's Mushroom and Onions spaghetti sauce (I don't recommend it, his Roasted Red Pepper spaghetti sauce is much better). I tend to add a lot of paprika and extra pepper to "my" sauces. I also add a pound of either ground beef or ground turkey, often cooked with onions and garlic (or this time, with sauteed onions and mushrooms) to the sauce (after draining the meat, of course). I used wheat bread, put a couple of tablespoons of sauce on each slice and topped each slice with 3 pepperoni pieces and toasted it on medium. The pepperoni was a very nice addition to the sauce, added some missing spice and distracted from the extreme tomato taste the original sauce has. It was also filling as promised (the meat may have had a little something to do with that, being loaded with seasoned ground turkey and pepperoni slices).

Well, I think I've said more than enough for now. Tomorrow's a new NITNF. I'll have to start looking for Christmas and holiday trivia! Should be fun...

Best Wishes,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Making The Transition To Blogger Beta

So yesterday, I got the mass email about Blogger Beta being ready for me to upgrade my I thought to myself "Why not?" I've been curious about Blogger Beta for months. So I took the plunge -- and aside from having to reinstall one javascript code, it all worked well. In fact, I really like some of the new features!

It took me hours to apply "labels" to all 284 blog posts from the last (almost) 4 years but it was worth it. You can now view all of the Not In The News Fridays or all the videos or all of the non-dairy recipes, etc. In addition, it's much easier to write and edit blog entries. So, that's the reason for the subtle changes you may have noticed in the site.

Have a great weekend!

Best Wishes,

Friday, December 08, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Today's NITNF is, well, a little silly. But that's okay, that's where we started with NITNF. It's a recipe, it does use dairy (cheese - although you could always use soy cheese, if you can find some that melts well) and it is fun and interesting! For our bit of trivia today, totally not related to anything IR, I give you:

Ghetto Pizza

Note from Cheap Eats Editor in 08.22.06 post: I don’t mean ghetto in any derogatory, if you live in or near a sketchy neighborhood, I’m not saying this is the only type of food you would eat. In fact, you probably eat much better than me...

Warning - extremely Cheap Eats up ahead. You may want to look away if you’re adverse to main meal recipes with only three ingredients.

If you were ever a hungry latch-key kid coming home from school, chances are you’ve made an afternoon snack like this before. I call it Ghetto Pizza, although maybe it should be called “Starving College Kid Pizza”. I happen to think this is quite good for lunchtime meals as well (as long as you eat other stuff with it, veggies would be nice!).

I actually wasn’t a latch-key kid until high school, but I still found occasion to make these every so often. The recipe is stupidly simple, has endless modifications, generally tastes “good” and can be fairly cheap as long as you don’t go putting any gourmet toppings on top.

We haven’t had a recipe on Cheap Eats in awhile, and I know that this doesn’t really count, but hey it’s cheap isn’t it? Here are the basics:

2 tbsp spaghetti sauce from a 26 oz. $2 jar — $0.07
1 slice of white bread — $0.10
1 slice cheese (mozzarella, swiss, etc.) — $0.15

optional pepper, dried oregano — negligible

Total: $0.32

If you can’t figure out how to make this, then I don’t know what to say. Put the sauce on the bread and cover with the cheese. Optional dried oregano and pepper on top. Put it in the toaster oven and toast it until the cheese is bubbly. That’s it.

You probably want to make a couple of these to fill you up. You couch potato guys, I’m talking to you…

Although this is pretty dumb and lame-easy to make, here are a few tips to making your Ghetto Pizza experience truly worthwhile.

Varying the type of bread can do wonders. I particularly like to use English Muffins as the base, because they are round like a mini-pizza, they have nooks and crannies where sauce can get into and because they have that extra crunch that normal toast doesn’t have. Another favorite is the Ghetto Pizza Bagels.

By the way, I know they have all these “mini-pizza” things you can buy in the frozen food section. I try and avoid those, because these are so easy to make.

If you’re REALLY hard up for sauce, well you can try using Ketchup. I can’t particularly stand Ketchup Ghetto Pizza though, there is just too strong of a taste to the sauce. I’ve tried mixing tomato sauce, tomato paste, and some herbs but it’s rather bland. The best sauce (other than making your own for cheaper) is the ready-made kind in a jar, about 26 ounces for $2 is the going rate. Probably cheaper on sale, and if generic.

The good thing is that you can store the jar in the fridge for a long time, and then just take a few scoops out for Ghetto Pizza as you need it. I like to get the sauces that have stuff in them, like Garlic and Mushrooms… that one works pretty well.

The cheese is probably the most expensive part of this equation. But you can easily get away with American Cheese on top, or even canned grated parm cheese. In the photos here, I had procurred a load of Swiss Cheese from the inlaws so that’s what I used. Mozzarella is of course the favored one, but I actually find it tends to pull off the bread easily since it’s so stretchy.

I find it tastes better to sprinkle some dried herbs and pepper on top. Use your imagination for other toppings… whatever you have leftover in the fridge will do.

A tip for putting this in the toaster. You may want to cover the grille with aluminum foil before making these, especially if the cheese is larger than the bread. Burnt cheese on the bottom of the toaster is kinda bad. Also, I like to use the “oven” setting because I find I need a longer toasting period on my crappy toaster to get the cheese nicely melted. Just don’t forget about it in the toaster or you’ll have a nice burnt mess.

For me Ghetto Pizza ranks right up there with the best Cheap Eats for people living at home… it is extremely cheap, uses readily available ingredients, can be used as hors d’oeuvres in a pinch, and doesn’t get boring if you vary the toppings. Why not make a few today in your toaster today? End Ghetto Pizza Commercial here…

Price: $0.32
Cheap Eats Score: 9/10

Source: Ghetto Pizza at Cheap Eats

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Through The Eyes Of A Pearl Harbor Survivor

John Weinberger, a West Bend resident who survived the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor, right, talks to Slinger High School Band Director Dave Hanke and students about his experiences. Weinberger traveled with the marching band in November when they performed in the Waikiki Holiday Parade.


SLINGER - On the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a new generation is seeing it as though for the first time.

Slinger High School Marching Band members were able to experience the sights and sounds of Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a survivor, when they traveled to Hawaii with John Weinberger. The band was invited to perform in the Waikiki Holiday Parade on Thanksgiving Day, and also performed at the USS Missouri and attended memorials.

"I understand it more now. It’s a lot more realistic to me now," said senior Becky Faber, who said the most moving moment for her was watching Weinberger look at the memorial wall.

"You can talk about it in school, and it’s kind of like just something that happened in the past. Being there, it’s hits you how big it was," said sophomore Andy Vetrone.

"It was touching to see what actually happened, and to see the wall in Pearl Harbor with all the names on it," said senior Sam Duehr. "I have more respect now for all the people that fought there and for those who died over there."

Weinberger shared his experiences that day with students to keep the memory alive.

"It’s important (this generation) sees it first hand. Their parents should have seen it, now they know more than their parents," Weinberger said. "It’s all political, same as today. History keeps repeating and repeating itself."

"For us, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor is always going to be different," Band Director Dave Hanke said. "When we think of it now, we’ll be thinking of John. It’s not always where you go or what you do, but who you’re with."

Seeing Pearl Harbor through Weinberger’s eyes, Hanke said, completely changed the way he viewed that day in history.

"I went (to Pearl Harbor) last year and I thought it was a moving experience, but when we went with John this year, now it’s personal," Hanke said. "For our kids, what a great experience - watching John lay a wreath at the (USS Arizona) memorial, and knowing that he was 50 yards away when it was hit and you could see that he remembers exactly what happened - that was heart-wrenching. It was a life-altering experience. It makes us all different people."

Today, 65 years ago

"At this time today, I was working my tail off," Weinberger said.

"I had just turned 18 in June, and I was on the USS Whitney," Weinberger said. "It was the first time I had to handle a dead person - at 18 years old, whew, you think about that.

"Two of my buddies were on the Arizona. I went through training with them and wanted to get on the same ship they did. It’s a good thing I didn’t."

At the beginning of the attack, Weinberger said they thought it was just a training exercise. It wasn’t long, however, when it became apparent that Japan was attacking the United States.

"I heard something that sounded like rain, but it was the shrapnel, and the planes got so close with the torpedos, you could see the pilot’s face. The planes were 15 to 20 feet off the water when they dropped the torpedos. One just missed us. We were mad, I tell you. It just happened, just like that," Weinberger said as he snapped his fingers.

"I was 50 yards away from the Arizona when it was struck, and you swore the ship came right out of the water. You know when you go swimming in your clothes, and they stick to your body? That’s what the concussion felt like," he said.

"It was chaos all the way through, but we had so much darn training, that you automatically went through the motions," he said.

Once the attack was over, the chaos continued.

"The first ship to roll over was the Oklahoma," Weinberger said. "On the West Virginia, (those trapped) kept track of how long they were in there. They made marks until the 21st of December. That’s a hell of a way to die."

While Weinberger remembers the events of 65 years ago today, he notes how important it is for others to remember as well.

"We have to keep America strong and have a good military, and good civilians too," he said.

This story appeared in the West Bend Daily News on December 7, 2006.
A New Recipe: Allen's Texmex Spicy Chicken Soup

I haven't rolled out a non-dairy recipe in a quite a while! A couple of nights ago, I was really wanting to make a soup. I make meat dishes and grill stuff all the time but I've never really concocted my own soup from scratch before...and I love a challenge!

So I looked at various chicken and shredded chicken soup recipes online, first to see if there was something I could just follow existing directions on. Some were interesting but not all of the ingredients worked for me. So I narrowed my interests to two recipes and decided to combine them, plus some other ingredients I'd end up improvising. The result was a spicy "TexMex" (a blend of Texan and Mexican influences) soup with lots of white meat chicken chunks, served over yummy white rice that adds a nice texture and makes it more filling.

Best Wishes,

Allen's Texmex Spicy Chicken Soup

Note: If you like your soup really spicy, feel free to use medium to hot salsa. If you need to make it milder for yourself or your kids, feel free to use 1/4 jar of the mild salsa and diced tomatoes without the green chilies. Or just use regular tomato paste instead of diced tomatoes with green chilies.


- 4 large chicken breasts, cut in halves or 8 smaller chicken breasts
- 1 10.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 1/2 jar of mild salsa
- One 10 ounce can of beef broth
- organic chicken broth (about 1 cup or to taste)
- Vanilla-flavored Silk soymilk (3 tablespoons or to taste)
- Salt
- Pepper
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups long-grain white rice

  1. Wash and prepare chicken breasts (cut in half if they are large).
  2. Lightly salt on each side of chicken breasts and add pepper on one side only
  3. Brown the chicken breasts in a skillet with no oil. Do NOT cook all the way through (it will make the meat too tough)
  4. Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove from the skillet to a cutting board. Slice into thin strips with a knife.

    Note: I grilled the strips with my large George Foreman grill but you could also cook them in the oven in a glass casserole dish with a little bit of water on the bottom and covered with aluminum foil at about 350 for 10 minutes (check them at about 5 minutes to see if the meat has gone from pink in the center to white; if ready at 5 minutes, remove from oven, DO NOT OVERCOOK!)

  5. Once meat is cooked through and tender, cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes and set aside, cover chicken in aluminum foil)
  6. In a large saucepot, add beef broth at high heat
  7. Add the diced tomatoes with green chilies and stir into beef broth
  8. Add the mild salsa and stir into soup mixture
  9. Add Vanilla-flavored Silk soymilk and stir into soup mixture
  10. Add organic chicken broth and stir into soup mixture
  11. Add 1 cup water and stir into soup mixture
  12. Add chicken chunks and stir into soup mixture
  13. Bring to a boil then turn off heat
  14. In a large cooking pot, put in 4 cups of water and bring to a boil on high heat
  15. Add 2 cups of long-grain white rice and reduce heat to low
  16. Simmer for 15 minutes. DO NOT STIR RICE.
  17. Turn off heat, stir rice.
  18. Serve soup over rice. Easily serves 4 - 6.
But First, Some Cuteness...

(Photo courtesy of Cute Overload)

But don't let their cuteness fool you. They are prepared to pounce to their owner's defense at any moment -- because everyone needs trained attack cats for their bodyguards!

...they're snoring?

Nevermind. At least they're cuddly.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

(Mixed) Dog Tunnels Through Snow To Save Owners

I love stories like these -- and it's even a mixed (German Shepherd - Timberwolf) dog!

Best Wishes,

A seven year old German Shepherd - Timberwolf mixed dog named Shana is quite a canine hero in Alden as the story spreads of her efforts to save her owners during the October surprise storm.

Eve and Norman Fertig, who are both 81 years old, were out treating injured birds in the Wildlife Sanctuary on their Alden property on the night of October 12th. They left as the storm intensified but, were soon trapped by falling trees and heavy snow as they tried to walk back to their home. Eve realized they could die in the bitter cold but, fortunately, Shana was with them.

As the cold and snow chilled them both without heavy coats and gloves, Shana started digging under the snow and trees.

The dog actually dug a foot wide tunnel about 20 feet to the home.

Shana barked but, the couple hesitated, so they say the dog came back and tugged on Eve's jacket. She says the 160 pound dog actually pulled her onto its broad back and crawled through the tunnel. Her husband held on as well as they slowly crawled all the way back to their home. They made it back to the back deck, opened their door and fell in to the house exhausted but safe.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Don't Usually Do This...

...but I'm going to link to another blogger's post. I think it's an interesting read and worth your time.

Ooops I Did It Again...Does God Exist?

Best Wishes,
Star Trek: Of Gods And Men - Full Trailer

Second, longer trailer for the anticipated all-star fanfilm. This trailer gives much more insight into the story and characters.

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

Click on the above comic strip to see it full size in another window

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Today's NITNF focus is on a comic strip about a multiracial lead character named Candi.

According to the author, Starline X Hodge (who is also multiracial):

Candi lives in a scholarship house with 5 other roommates. It's cheap rent and they feed you, but there's a lot of rules and regulations to follow as well. She's pretty laid back about all of this though.Candi mostly has an optimistic personality, even though she does have her down times. She likes to see everyone happy, and hates conflict. Although she tries her best to be friendly to everyone, she has a tenedancy to not let people get really close to her.

Source: Candi's bio

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cute Animal Alert! Cute Animal Alert!

It may be a Wednesday but any day's a good day for a dose of cuteness from Cute Overload!

Have a happy Wednesday...

Best Wishes,

Friday, November 24, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Today's subject: my take on interracial adoption. I have total respect for couples and even individuals who adopt a child of a race/ethnicity other than their own. While I have never adopted a child, I am a parent...and anyone who adopts a child becomes a parent.

My children are multiracial (Black, White and Apache). I embrace all of their ethnicities. So I can imagine in some small way what it might be like to have a child of a completely different race/ethnicity. I think this gives me a unique perspective but it's still not the same as actually adopting a child that may have been born in another country and/or raised in another culture.

I'm going to skip the celebrity entries that have gathered so much attention in recent months and years because, well, you don't know who's real and who's just trying to look like a great humanitarian. It's a shame that it isn't easy to tell once fame and papparazzi and other elements enter into the picture. So, back to the real world...

When people adopt children of another race/ethnicity, they have to realize and accept right upfront that at some points in their lives, they will face questions, misunderstandings, racism and prejudice for their choice to adopt...just as an interracial couple accepts this when they conceive a child together. And yet they do so anyway, because they love each other and their child. I believe this must be the same for people who "transracially" adopt. They want to love that child and they would die to protect that child.

Some people say it's selfish to subject yourself to "undue attention" by mixing the races. If people want to give you undue attention, they'll find a way to do it anyway, they'd find another excuse besides race/ethnicity. People are people...but it takes a special person to take a risk to love someone else, to raise a child, to be a parent under conditions "outside the box."

So, to the parents of transracial adoptions, I salute you. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just `Cause A Holiday's Coming, Don't Totally Veg...

Click on the picture and read the captions over at Cute Overload, it's funny!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm Back...

My little trip to the emergency room turned into a 3.5 day stay in the hospital. I was released only a couple of hours ago.

The long and short of it: a very painful case of food poisoning, most likely. I was well-treated in the hospital and my wife, Angel, was with me the majority of the time (when she didn't have to be home for the kids). The first day, Angel's sister kept our kids overnight so Angel could be with me. I'm deeply grateful for that.

I'm also deeply grateful for all the prayers, silent and otherwise, that were said for me, in addition to any well-wishes.

I really don't want to go into all the medical details, except to say that the reason they kept me so long was because, with my medical history and biology the way it is, things could have become life-threatening. I'm grateful to my God that they did not.

I'm looking forward to spending this Thanksgiving with my family. We all have a lot to be thankful for.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Apologies, No NITNF

I've had a stomachache that won't quit since yesterday, made me quite ill last night and it's still with me this morning. So, on the advice of my doctor, I'm going in to the emergency room. I expect to recover but this isn't too conducive to blogging.

Not In The News Friday (NITNF) will return next Friday.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, November 11, 2006

If You Could Only Feel The Pow-er!

Somebody made a "Hello Kitty Darth Vader."

I don't want to know what part of "The Force" created that!

Does it have a white fur saber?

Best Wishes,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Featured This Week: A unique take on the life and career of Mariah Carey!

Excerpts from Free at last: Mariah Carey—the voice. The marriage. The multiracial drama. The so-called breakdown. The return

In some ways Mariah Carey, 35, is everything you would expect a pop diva to be who has sold 150,000,000 albums -- comes third behind Elvis Presley and the Beatles -- for most weeks spent on the Billboard Hot Singles chart and who emerged from her decade-and-a-half career as the best-selling female artist of the 1990's.

Others' responses would often take Carey by surprise. After all, it was impossible to know when her "of color" status was going to make someone flip. "My struggles began when I was 5," she recalls. Two moments crystallized this for Carey: The first was when two White teacher's assistants laughed at her for trying to draw her father with a brown crayon. The second was Carey's taking her 6-year-old best friend to her father's house and her friend's bursting into tears at the sight of a Black man hugging his now obviously not-White daughter.

She says: Her relationship with Tommy Mottola is at the center of "one of the greatest misconceptions" about her. "People think I've had this fairy-tale life," she offers quietly, "that I met this rich prince who gave me a life in the lap of luxury, put me in a mansion, made me a star. It wasn't that way. In fact, it almost killed me."

She and Mottola met at an industry party in 1988, where Carey was an 18-year-old waitress. When she wasn't clearing tables, she was furiously writing songs on the side and singing backup for 1980's dance music sensation Brenda K. Starr.

There's a reason fairy tales usually end with the wedding. "It was an emotionally abusive relationship," Carey says simply, though she admits that it was "good in the beginning." She adds, "Tommy represented something I'd never had, stability. There was mutual respect and his passion for me and my music."

Somewhere along the way, Mottola's love for the woman and her music morphed into a Svengalian desire for total control. "I was in a beautiful house surrounded by beautiful things, but I couldn't be who I really was."

Still, life after Mottola was no picnic. Carey chose to stay on his label, a move she now realizes was unwise: "I was literally fighting against a system run by powerful people who had an agenda to see me fail." Eventually Carey moved on from her manager and lawyer -- both were Mottola-affiliated. Forced to micromanage her own career, Carey left Sony in 2000 and signed to Virgin Records for a cool $80 million.

To make matters worse, Carey's winning streak seemed to grind to a halt with her acting debut, Glitter. The movie received (deservedly) scathing reviews. The sound track, released on September 11, 2001, made very little impact on the charts. And the next year her Island/Def Jam debut, Charmbracelet, fared no better.

The consummate workaholic, Carey responded by going into overdrive -- meeting every request her fame demanded. Finally, after five days of a grueling schedule and public appearances where she clearly seemed less than herself (most famously on MTV's TRL, where the media reported she did a striptease, but Carey says it was a planned spoof), Carey finally collapsed at her mother's home in Long Island, New York. She was hospitalized for exhaustion. The press ran nasty stories about her waning sanity. Virgin reportedly gave her $28 million to leave the label.

Now she realizes that her much-hyped breakdown was the proverbial blessing in disguise. "it forced me to put the brakes on everything and admit my life wasn't working," she says. "I had to reevaluate myself and get recentered." Slowing down also helped her shed some personal baggage. "I discovered that my desire to make music came from the need to heal myself. My desire to become famous came from the need to feel worthy and accepted. And that made me more of a freak than I ever was."

Source: Essence, April 2005 (Author: Joan Morgan)
Spidey 3 Is Coming! Spidey 3 Is Coming! Woohoo!

Looks intense! And no, this is not today's Not In The News Friday
(NITNF is still coming)!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This 'Awwwwww!' Moment Is Brought To You By Cute Overload...

What does this have to do with IR Haven? Well, um, consider the picture symbolic -- um, of peace between people of different colors! Yeah, yeah, that's it!

Yes, I know there are more black dogs than white dogs. So what?

...and no, they are not dead.

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Here, Have A Dose Of Cuteness To Make That Election Day Pass Quicker!

And check Cute Overload out while you're at it (you can make hours go by!)

Best Wishes,
Wow...Is Election Day Over Yet?

If you read/watch/listen to different media source, you'd think today was the be-all/end-all of days...but I just can't bring myself to be moved.

I did actually want to vote, even though absolutely no candidates in any election have intrigued me. But I recently had a schedule change at work, so I won't be available to vote today anyway.

That's not to say that there probably aren't any interesting political races this year anywhere. I just haven't taken interest in politics in a while. And what I have seen has reminded me why I lost interest.

Don't worry, though...since I didn't vote, I won't complain, either. I just want it all to be over with.

One thing was cool, though: it was free to ride the bus today! Woohoo!

Best Wishes,

Friday, November 03, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week's feature...I wrote a poem today. Yup! I done got cree-ay-tive! I hope you like it...

By Allen Steadham

I can't help it
I have to smile
This warm feeling that comes from my heart
for her
my one and only love
my wife

Anywhere I am
I feel this way for her
a good kind of pride
and joy
for my best friend in
the world

This is the one
so special to me
who gave me two beautiful children
such love
a blend of our worlds
our lives

Gifts from above
eyes filled with hope
reflections of ourselves mixed
with them
What potential
they have

I can't help it
I have to smile
The feelings that I can't contain
for them
the ones who earn my heart
My family

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Duelling Quotes of the Week (featuring Halle Berry):

"I never wanted to be a model. My modeling career was nothing but a stepping stone to my acting career and that's all I ever saw it as. A pointless rock in the river that has to be stepped on in order to get to the meaningful oasis of acting." - Halle Berry

"What is my real purpose here? I've looked at what I do. I make believe and make movies. I entertain people and get paid for it. Sometimes it seems like such a shallow existence. How insignificant in the scheme of life." - Halle Berry

Source: Biography for Halle Berry -

This is not to pick on Halle, but hey, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction...

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Finally Feeling A Little Better...

Thanks for waiting on me! (And thank goodness for Cute Overload!)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

No NITNF This Week

My apologies but I've just barely been making it through my work days the last few days. I'm getting over my cold, slowly. I will definitely be taking it easy for a few days after I finish work tonight (on my days off, of course).

NITNF (Not In The News Friday) will return next Friday.

*cough* *wheeze*

Best Wishes,

Thursday, October 19, 2006


yukimura - unwell + unfinished by
~kogepanM on deviantART

By Sunday evening last week, I started getting that "scratchy" feeling in my throat. I wasn't feeling ill yet, but I was worn down. We'd had our Middlefaire trip Saturday. Sunday, we performed at an after-church dinner as First Light. The dinner went off very well and we had a great performance. Monday, I did a fill-in shift for a coworker who swapped with me so I could have Saturday off. The shift was 1:00pm to midnight. By the time I finished the shift, I felt bad!

I spent all day Tuesday with fever and sinus problems (fortunately -- or maybe not so fortunately, Tuesday is one of my days off). I did get rest and plenty of liquids and forced myself to eat a couple of times, so by Wednesday, I was capable of working. I made it through Wednesday's shift pretty well.

This morning, I started out okay. I still had some congestion and sinus but I was feeling decently well. By the time I got back from lunch, though, things have kinda been on a slow descent. I'm not sure if I'm feverish or not but it does feel icky. With less than an hour to go on my shift, I know I can make it but I'm concerned about tomorrow.

I do hope I'm well enough to work tomorrow; I don't like taking off sick from work.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Last Saturday, I took the day off from work (well, swapped shifts with a co-worker) and took Angel and the kids to a renaissance fair in Hillsboro, Texas called Middlefaire. We were invited by a friend of mine who put the event together. Hillsboro is about 2 hours north of Austin and it was the kids' first "long drive" away from home. The kids had been to one rennaisance faire in Austin that was hosted by the SCA, but this was this faire's maiden voyage (and thus, a treat!)

The weather was a bit overcast and rainy on the way up there but by the time we got parked, the rain was subsiding. The event was held on farmland, which meant it was fairly removed from civilization and flat as far as the eye could see. The whole area for the faire was the size of a large Walmart, with several different stages and vending areas. Although we kept our distance from the "Tavern" area (not for kids), everything else was pretty neat!

Shortly after we arrived, they even had a parade with all the different performers and groups from the faire. When some of them saw Adam (my oldest son) holding his "sword" (a thick stick he'd carefully selected) in noble recognition of their parade, some of them invited him to join the parade, but he stayed back. I would have gone with him, but I guess he wasn't sure if we'd approve (I would've gone with him).

After initially checking out some of the vendors, we decided to see a few of the entertainers. There were some very good singers and musicians, and it was generally a very nice crowd (both in numbers of people and their personalities). We didn't see much of our friend who invited us, as he was busy making sure the behind-the-scenes work got done, but it was nice to finally meet both him and his adult son (who looks astonishingly like his dad, down the same type of beard, etc.).

The best musical group by far (although every musician and singer there was talented, as I said) was the Brobdingnagian Bards (pronounced "brob-din-nahg-EE-en"). They were lyrically very clever and their personalities really shined through their performance (they were hilarious, too)! They were musically talented as well, with one of the bards (Andrew) switching between recorder and mandolin (in the same song!) and the other bard (Marc) played autoharp while singing. It was a fun 30 minute set. Heart of Oak and the Abilene Pipers also deserve worthy mentions.

Angel got a very nice medieval-style torquoise-colored dress and hand-made tiara from the vendors. She very much looked the part of the beautiful upper class lady. I bought the boys some kid-sized shields and rings per their request. I got to be odd man out, as I wasn't prepared to drop down $100 for an outfit this time around (maybe next year). I do want to add that the merchandise was nice quality, with much of it being hand made.

Lunch was burgers from a local caterer. There was a huge turnout to the event, so it took an hour of waiting in line to get them. Now, in all fairness, the caterers were grilling/smoking them four at a time and they were at least 1/3 pound burgers (pretty tasty and not over- or under-cooked). So, to pass the time, my sons entertained everyone with their mock sword-fights, which covered about the area of 1/4 of a football field. Adam really got into it, so much so that I had to ask him to curtail his enthusiasm just a bit. There were also lots of butterflies flying around and landing on any brightly colored clothing (and there was plenty of that).

About mid-afternoon, Josey got to be part of the entertainment! While seeing the Emerald Dragon Crew's show, Josey was asked to be part of the show. He became "Pirate Curly" and was one of two audience volunteer pirates (another boy, a few years older than him, was the other "pirate"). They were asked to give their best pirate "Arrrrh!" At first, Josey was classic "kid shy." Then Angel shouted "Go, Josey!" and he let out with a loud, enthusiastic "Arrrrrrrrhhhh!" The other kid was asked to do the "Arrh" and he made a decent effort. They were asked to do so again. Again, Josey was very shy and again, Mom shouted "Go, Josey!" and he growled "ARRRRRRHHHHH!!!!" Shortly after that, Josey was voted "Best Pirate." He was so proud...and we were, too. It was all very cute.

After watching the bagpipers again, we found that the gatewatchers had "abandoned their post" (left their chairs unoccupied), so we kindly relaxed. The boys chose to take on the role of guards at the main entrance to the faire. About this time, the sun came out in full force (which gave me some lovely sunburn by evening) but since the temperature was still in the 70s, it was pretty nice.

About 6:00pm, we decided to head home. We'd had a full day, made some fun purchases (thus supporting the vendors) and we had all been thoroughly entertained and met some interesting and fun people (some of the entertainers came from as far away as Tennessee and even Canada). We arrived back in Austin around 8:00pm and went out to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for supper. Needless to say, noone had any trouble sleeping that evening...

Best Wishes,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Okay, so it took until slightly after midnight on Saturday...but I still consider it Friday! (Does that count?) Anyway, this week will be a short but sweet feature: Some facts about interracial marriage, children and relationships.

Multiracial children are one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. The number of mixed-race families in America is steadily increasing, due to a rise in interracial marriages and relationships, as well as an increase in transracial and international adoptions. Publicity surrounding prominent Americans of mixed cultural heritage, such as athletes, actors, musicians, and politicians, has highlighted the issues of multicultural individuals and challenged long-standing views of race.

Changing Times

  • About two million American children have parents of difference races.
  • In the United States marriages between blacks and whites increased 400 percent in the last 30 years, with a 1000 percent increase in marriages between whites and Asians.
  • In a recent survey, 47% of white teens, 60 % of black teens, and 90 % of Hispanic teens said they had dated someone of another race.

Source: The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) "Facts For Families" Multiracial Children - No. 71; Updated October 1999

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


(Generic picture of a tornado, not my picture.)

So I'm driving Angel to work this morning and the weather is getting nasty-looking but still seems driveable. There were some dark clouds and rain, plus a bit of lightning and thunder. But one light-colored cloud moved across the sky much faster than the others, disturbingly fast -- and then we both saw it rotate and turn into a very clearly defined funnel cloud! It was in front of us and it moved rapidly east, away from us (or so it seemed).

I pushed ahead and got Angel to work, since it was only a few blocks away. I got Angel inside, then I took off to head home. I turned on the radio and found out that a full-fledged damage-causing tornado was spotted less than a mile away only minutes after what we'd seen. And the debris was being thrown over 100 feet in the air! Shortly after that was seen, the tornado went back in the clouds.

As I was driving back down the same street, I saw a trash can knocked down, it's contents strewn all over the street. Had the (still weak) twister circled around behind us before pushing towards the highway? Who knows. I just thanked God for keeping us safe! You never know how things might go...

The local AM radio station I listen to was asking for eyewitness accounts from people who had seen anything, so I called in. I got through right away and got to be on the radio with the morning show crew and the Weather Channel meterologist for a few minutes. That was interesting. The weather people could not admit it was a tornado or call it that because it "didn't show any of the tell-tale signs on their equipment." I found that very amusing. People are telling you they saw it form and others saw debris being rotated into the air at high speed in what looks like a tornado -- but since it evaded the radar, it just can't be. It was just "strong winds." Yeah, right. *shakes head*

That's okay. The important thing is that nobody got hurt and the damage wasn't worse. I'm grateful.

Best Wishes,

Friday, October 06, 2006

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week we feature the "Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People" By Maria P.P. Root

"While completing those [Census 2000] applications was a mere formality to some, it challenged me personally, and questioned whether I was really a valued person. To have the chance to identify myself as biracial validated me and my experience, something that rarely happens for biracial people."

I Have the Right ...
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
Not to be responsible for people's discomfort with my physical ambiguity.
Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.

I Have the Right ...
To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently from how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently from my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.

I Have the Right ...
To create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial.
To change my identity over my lifetime — and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.

Source: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) Child and Family Program Early Childhood Education eNewsletter Vol. 3 No. 8, March 2004
Such A Bummer...

Today is my youngest son's 8th birthday, which should be great -- except he got food poisoning from a bad piece of lettuce last night and is pretty miserable, healthwise. Angel is staying home from work with him today and his older brother is home because it's a school holiday ("Day Before Columbus Day?"), so he has plenty of company. But it reeks to be sick on your birthday!

Still, Angel and I came up with some neat traditions for their birthdays some years ago. Since their birthdays are only 2 days apart (Josey's is on October 6th and Adam's is on October 8th), we give them the majority of their presents on October 7th...but they also get presents on their respective birthdays, too. And on their individual birthdays, we (usually Angel) hide several presents around our residence for them to find. They really love the "scavenger hunt" for presents! So far today, Josey has found four of his. Unfortunately, he's had to stop to sleep/rest in-between from not feeling well.

I'm sure Josey will be feeling better by tomorrow. He's a healthy boy and this is his first time getting food poisoning. It's just a bummer it had to happen today. ("Concerned Dad Sigh")

Best Wishes,

P.S. - I do still plan to do a NITNF today!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Interracial Pregnancy Led To Kidnapping, Teen Says

I wish I could say this surprises me, but it doesn't. I'm just glad the daughter got away and the parents were apprehended. If you have to break the law and try to force someone -- especially your own daughter -- to do something they don't want to do, just because you have a prejudice, then something is terribly wrong and you deserve the fullest prosecution of the law.

Best Wishes,

The Associated Press
Published: Sep 20, 2006

SALEM, N.H. - A Maine couple accused of tying up their 19-year-old daughter, throwing her in their car and driving her out of state to get an abortion were upset because the baby's father is black, a Maine sheriff said Tuesday.

Katelyn Kampf, who is white, told Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion that her mother "was pretty irate at the fact that the child's father was black, and she had made a number of disparaging remarks about that," he said.

Kampf escaped Friday at a Salem shopping center and called police, who arrested her parents, Nicholas Kampf, 54, and Lola Kampf, 53, both real estate developers from North Yarmouth, Maine.

The Kampfs were apparently taking their daughter to New York to try to force her to get an abortion there, police said.

The parents were arraigned Monday on kidnapping charges. The judge set bail at $100,000 each and ordered the Kampfs to have no contact with their daughter. They posted bail Tuesday afternoon.

If convicted of kidnapping, the Kampfs face 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison. Dion said he expects to bring charges in Maine also, after investigators consult with the district attorney today.

Defense attorney Mark Sisti said Tuesday that a sworn statement by police who interviewed Katelyn Kampf and her parents said nothing about the race of the baby's father.

Katelyn Kampf escaped from her parents after persuading them to untie her so she could use a Kmart bathroom, police said. She used her father's cell phone, which she had taken, to call 911.

The boyfriend, Reme Johnson, 22, last week began serving a six-month sentence for theft at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, Maine.

Johnson also has previous felony convictions for burglary and for receiving stolen property, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Source: Interracial Pregnancy Led To Kidnapping, Teen Says

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Video -- Upcoming "Star Trek: Of Gods And Men" Web Mini-Series Trailer

For all my fellow Trekkies, I found this on the web today and wanted to share. Looks pretty good! Here's the website.

Monday, October 02, 2006

After All These Years, He's Still Got It...Wierd Al's "White And Nerdy"

I love the Donny Osmond cameo...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

'Survivor' Ends Segregation Game

AP Television Writer


All the hubbub about the "Survivor" ethnic experiment turned out to be pretty worthless.

Why? Because after only two episodes, producers merged the black, white, Asian and Latino tribes into two mixed-race gangs. No explanation was given for the quick abandonment of segregation; it seemed to pass by so quickly as to mean nothing.

"We're back to America. We're a melting pot," said Parvati, a boxer on the new Raro tribe. "I love it."

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Little Humor For A Friday...

Realizing that my last several blog entries have been very serious, I thought I'd try to lighten things up a bit. I found these on another blog and thought they were worth sharing for a laugh...

Thanks, Rain!

Best Wishes,