Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


We had a lot of fun opening presents this year. The kids had asked for an Xbox 360 as their major gift. We got it for them, but decided to have a little fun giving it to them.

It was the only present that wasn't under the tree, so after everything was opened, we asked them if they had had a good Christmas. They both answered politely that they had, but we could tell that they seemed a teensy bit down. I then reached up towards the top of our tree and pulled out a folded piece of paper stuck in the branches and exclaimed "what's this?". they both perked up, walked over, and started reading from the note. It said:

A grand gift awaits, but you must solve this riddle to find the next clue:

I am under a place of slumber
in a room with a view of lumber

They knew immediately that it must be referring to one of our bedrooms facing the backyard where we have our wood stacked. When they looked under Nick's bed, they found a bag containing a can opener. They looked a little perplexed, but opened it at our urging. Tucked in the packaging they found another note, this one said:

I'm on the table
without a label,
open me
and set me free

They remembered a can sitting on our kitchen table that Michele and I had earlier drawn attention to. We had asked them who put it there, and where was the label? All tongue in cheek of course, we knew exactly where it had come from.

They used the can opener, and inside they found another note, this one said:

Come down...
...and PLAY!

Now they knew to run down the basement. In front of the tv they found a stack of presents containing the Xbox 360, extra controllers, and assorted games. They were delighted!

I'm sure it's a Christmas they won't soon forget.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all some good gaming. I know we will. :)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Civil War in Four Minutes

This is really cool. It's an animation showing the land held by the North and the South throughout the Civil War, as well as the casualties as they mounted. Gives a unique perspective of the war, both in the context of its geographical bounderies, and its cost in human lives.

Winter Fun

A small winter storm last weekend inspired some winter fun. Here are Alex and Nick sledding with cousins Jessica and Anna. John and I were on hand to record the event for posterity.



Posted by Picasa


Alex has added another sport to his growing repertoire by joining the Parkside wrestling team. Here he is in his first match of the first meet, which he won handily.


He wasn't as fortunate in his next two matches, but there's a whole season in front of him.
Posted by Picasa

More Jazz

Alex and the Parkside Jazz band performing their Christmas concert. These guys just keep getting better, and better.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 07, 2007

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

No better way than with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, these guys Rock!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jazz Concert

Here are a few shots taken at Alex's first Jazz Band concert. He is one of two 6th graders who were offered positions in the band, the rest are 7th and 8th graders. They sounded great, we found ourselves dancing in the atrium.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Transformation a la Nick

After seeing how much easier life has been for his older brother, Nick decided he too would take the plunge into wearing shorter hair. Here he is only moments prior to the complicated removal procedure.

One last look with everything intact.

Here we are, at the halfway point.

Ah yes, there's a kid I haven't seen in years.

Good to have you back home, son.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Grandpa and Grandma Rollin' Thru


Grandpa and Grandma rolled through last weekend on their way back to Iowa. We hadn't seen them since earlier this summer, and were glad to find them in good spirits and good health.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Transformation a la Alex

Alex has set his sights on the Parkside Wrestling Team which is open for tryouts later this week. After researching the requirements, he discovered his hair was too long. So today, he decided to grant access to his golden locks.

Here is the official before picture. I really didn't expect this big of a smile.

One final view of that hair, bangs and all.

We're halfway there, definitely light at the end of this tunnel.

Introducing, for the first time in years...Clean Cut Alex!

Welcome home, Son.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Halloween Fun

This year, Alex and Nick chose costumes that were much scarier than in previous years. Alex dressed up as an orc sword carrying crazed lunatic, while Nick chose to be a troll masked grim reaper. Definitely not your standard fare. They were joined by Danny (hockey player), Brian (Wrestler) and Sam (Dracula).

I dressed up this year also, well...not entirely.

I had a little accident while carving pumpkins. I've never been real handy with a knife, and on the night before Halloween I was attempting to slice open one of our gourds when my steak knife slipped...

Five stitches later...I became...



Here's another angle.

There wasn't much pain, just a lot of blood. I saw it as a good lesson for the kids, and for Dad too!

The kids ended up collecting more candy than they'll ever eat, just like last year, and the year before. And, as I did in those previous years, I'll step up as the father they can lean on...

...in these times of crisis.
Posted by Picasa

Open House


We went to an open house at Nick's school recently to find out what he's been spending his time on. We discovered that he's been reading about the Age of Exploration (Vikings, Christopher Columbus, Cortez, Pizzaro, etc.), the vastness and beauty of Space, the fundamentals of Language, and faster techniques in Math. We also discovered a teacher who loves to teach, and whom Nick adores (Mrs. Shackley).

It's comforting to know that Nick is in such good and capable hands.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Let There be Rock

I saw these guys in 1977 when they opened for Cheap Trick in Sioux Falls, SD. It was a night I'll never forget, definitely the best live show I've ever seen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Copperhead Road

Love this song. Got to be one of the greatest songs EVER!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Autograph Signing

Howie Long and Anthony Munoz stopped by work this week to sign autographs. It was neat to see these guys in real life, television doesn't always project a person's size accurately. I avoided the long line for autographs, choosing instead to capture the event with pictures.



Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cross Country - State Finals


1st place went to the Parkside boys, the girls took 7th. As expected, Carly Pederson of Chiddix (pictured above) broke the State Record by 11 seconds, capturing the Girls state title for the second consecutive year.

Michele and I worked at the event as computer chip collectors. We had lots of fun, our booth was right at the finish line so we had the best seats in the house. Alex worked concessions with a few of his friends, Nick (still fighting pneumonia after two weeks) stayed at his cousins house. It was a great event to cap off the season, we're already looking forward to next year.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


In the mid 1990's I worked for Citibank as a Customer Service Representative. It wasn't exactly what I had gone to College for, but it paid the bills (well, most of them). Anyway, I worked the overnight shift answering phones, mostly from confused card holders, and sometimes even angry card holders (more than sometimes actually but that's material for another post another time). These card holders came from all walks of life, and occassionally, even famous ones.

Some well known personalities I had the pleasure to speak with over the years were Riddick Bowe, Catherine Bach, Christopher Cross, James Spader, and Tom Petty's first wife Jane Benyo (yes, she's not the famous one, but she's fewer degrees away from Tom than Kevin Bacon). Anyhow, these folks were all quite pleasant to speak with, but none of them left the lasting impression as a lesser known famous person with a very unusual name. He was born Joe Engressia, but had legally changed his name to Joybubbles.


I became familiar with Joybubbles through his repeated calls to customer service to correct an on-going problem with his credit card. The problem was with the way Citibank had listed his name on the card. Instead of JOYBUBBLES, it read as JOY BUBBLES. That's right, there was a space in the middle of the name. You see, our system wasn't designed to handle names that didn't contain both a first and last name. If either were missing, the card creation process would simply error. To make the card then, someone had to manually intervene by splitting his name into two distinct components. I recall someone telling me that this problem had been resolved for Cher by entering a period for her last name (which would have showed up on her card as CHER .).

Well, when Joybubbles first began calling about this issue, he spoke to a representative named Susan, who happened to be a smoker. Us smokers would huddle outside in the cruel South Dakota winter air swapping stories about the unusual calls we had taken since the last break, and believe me, we never experienced a shortage of fresh material. During one of these "smokefests", Susan told us she had spoken to a person named Joybubbles. Having never heard a more unusual name (ignoring Moon Unit and Dweezil of course), I was intrigued. Susan told us that Joybubbles was an extremely polite person, but as a matter of principle, wanted his card corrected, since his name was not "Joy Bubbles", and a period at the end was not satisfactory since his name was not "Joybubbles .".

As Susan worked with him to correct his problem, she became Joybubbles' favorite representative. Whenever he called in, he would insist on dealing only with her. I had the pleasure of transferring him to her on a couple of occassions, and in the short conversations I had with him, he seemed like a very pleasant individual.

To this day I don't know if Susan was able to get that space between his name removed, or if she had to resort to the Cher period. I am glad this was an issue though, or I may never have heard of a man named Joybubbles. His name popped into my head a few days ago, and after doing a google search I was surprised to learn that Joybubbles was a famous person, and sadly had only recently passed away. I wish I had a better tribute to his life than to say I heard his voice on the phone a few times, but unfortunately that's all I knew of him until I read about his life. Here's to you Joybubbles, I hope you've found your neverland.

Update: Here is a short video on youtube that shows a young joybubbles in action during his phone phreaking days.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cross Country - Meet #10


Yesterday we watched Parkside run through the cornfields of Delavan for the final regular meet of the season, Sectionals start next week followed by the State Meet the week after. Parkside did very well against the other 33 teams competing by placing first for the boys, and second for the girls. Alex set his own Personal Record (PR) with a time of 14:26, beating his prior PR of 15:22 by nearly a minute!

Congratulations Parkside, it's been a great season.

I've uploaded some great photos that can be viewed here. Enjoy!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 28, 2007

Return of the 33rd

The National Guard's 33rd MP Battalion returned from Iraq yesterday to a hero's welcome in Bloomington. All 70 of those deployed returned home safely after spending a year in Iraq. Alex and I were among the bystanders on Veteran's Parkway when I photographed their departure back in June of 2006. I don't know any of these soldiers, but I felt a warmth in my heart as I watched the smiles on their faces, and the faces of their loved ones. It was an event I'll never forget.

Welcome home.

I took a bunch of photos, the best of which can be viewed here. If anyone from the 33rd happens to stumble across this post and would like a digital copy of any one of my photos, email a note to webmaster@syslfrog.com and I'll gladly email it/them to you.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cross Country - Meet #9


On September 24th there was a small inner city meet held at Parkside. Our team did very well and as usual, I was taking pictures, the best of which can be viewed here.

What made this event unique was the addition of a race by future Cross Country runners. The coaches at Parkside extended an invitation to Elementary school aged children to come out and run as an extension of their PE class. Nick and his buddy Brian both ran, and finished in the top half of a large group of kids. This accomplishment will get them a free pass from having to participate in the next "fitness day".

Distance 2.1 miles Alex's time 15:48
Distance 1.5 miles Nick's time 13:19
Posted by Picasa

Cross Country - Meet #8


September 21st found us just North of Peoria at the Dunlap Invitational. We again witnessed another dominating performance by the Parkside team with the boys taking first and the girls capturing second. I posted some great photos of the event here. Enjoy!

Distance 2.1 miles Alex's time 15:46
Posted by Picasa