Storm update for North Alabama area

I talked with both my sister Maddie and her husband Mark in the last couple of days and they filled me in on a lot of things.  They have no power, and most of North Alabama has no power.  Their phones are working, and most of the time I have been able to get through to them.  There are problems with landline phone lines in a lot of places, though.  Most cell towers are no longer working due to the power loss.  Internet connections seem to still be up, at least depending on who the ISP is and how long they can run their generators.  One of the tornadoes (probably this one  – knocked down the main transmission lines from the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, which knocked out power for a LOT of people.  There are now something like a million people in central and northern Alabama with no power, and power will likely not be restored for much of them for 5 to 7 more days, although parts of Huntsville should have power restored by Monday.   The church near their house in Madison has lost its steeple, and there is a lot of visible damage in their area.  There is now a dusk-to-dawn curfew for all of Madison and Limestone Counties, and for other areas of Alabama as well.  Several thousand National Guard have been called up, since many small towns are overwhelmed and there are already problems with looting.  There has already been at least one incident in Huntsville of someone shooting and killing a looter who broke into a gas station.  Most people are unable to get gas for their cars or generators because so many gas stations have no power to work the pumps.  Most schools are closed until at least Monday, and some may be closed longer.  UAH is closed.  All non-essential personnel from Redstone Arsenal have been told to stay home.   Most businesses are closed, although some (like Publix) are open with reduced hours as they manage to keep their generator running.

This site shows you before and after of some of the damage, as seen from the air.

The total casualties for this are still unknown, but the official count for the state is now up to 254 dead (remember, that is just Alabama) and the number of injured is almost certainly into the thousands, as I have seen reports of hospitals in the Tuscaloosa area alone taking in 900-1,000 injured.

So yes, although it is quite a mess and I have not spoken with all of the people we know, at least immediate family and friends are ok.

Reports from Alabama

Just posting quickly to let everyone know that we’ve heard from just about everyone and so far the news is good.  Minor damage to homes, people without power, but everyone is alive and has a roof over their heads.  People who were without water have it more or less back.

Our friends who were close to the F4 wedge in Limestone county were REALLY close.  It is only because of a miracle that they still have a home.  There is storm damage, visible tornado tracks, dead animals, and wiped out subdivisions within 6 blocks and less of their home.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers.


Alabama devastation

Hi folks,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who have called, commented, emailed, etc.  Geoff and I really appreciate it.  So far all family members are safe and accounted for.  For that we are truly blessed.

We can’t say the same for our friends.  Many of them don’t have land lines and cell towers and power lines are literally gone.  Some of them live in the hardest hit areas of AL.  We’ll let you know when we know what’s going on.  We’re keeping calm and making calls and hoping that they, too, have been spared, but we just don’t know yet.  Please keep them and everyone who is suffering in your thoughts and prayers.



Dyngus Day

I was talking online last night to my friend, Ray.  I was telling him about how yesterday, known more or less globally as Easter Monday is known is my circles as National Church Musician Recovery Day.  I also guessed that it is probably known among clergy as National Clergy Recovery Day (though they may need a week).  Anyway, he told me that not too far away from where he lives, Easter Monday is known as Dyngus Day.

I had never heard of this holiday, but he informed me that it involved squirt guns and pussy willow branches.  Wow, OK.  I decided I had to go look it up.  Here is what I found.  (From

Did you know that the legend of Dyngus Day goes back to the year 966? Where is the largest Dyngus Day celebration in the world? What is the deal with pussywillows? Why sprinkle water? Who founded the modern Dyngus Day celebration in Buffalo? How do you say “cheers” in Polish? Can you really find your TRUE love on Dyngus Day? Become a Dyngus Day Buffalo expert before headed out to celebrate!  

Wow.  There’s more where that came from.  If you’d like to read all about it click here.  It helps if you can read Polish though, the site has a bit of it sprinkled in here and there.  I find it funny that I’d never heard a word about this before yesterday.  I used to live on the edge of the largest Polish neighborhood in Boston.  It was called the Polish Triangle and it was the kind of place where when you walked into a neighborhood store which, naturally, flew the Polish flag and carried home made pierogies in the freezer, they greeted you in Polish before they greeted you in English.  I had almost figured out how to say, “I don’t speak Polish” in Polish before they realized I was a Welsh/Irish transplant and started greeting me in English when I came in for a gallon of milk.

So, um, a belated Happy National Church Musician Recovery Day, National Clergy Recovery Day/Week, Easter Monday, and Dyngus Day!


The Royal Wedding

All sorts of stuff has been popping up about the Royal Wedding.  This has included the Guy’s Guide to the Royal Wedding on the Today Show.  Geoff was totally unimpressed when I told him about it and wondered if such a guide would tell him why he should actually care about the Royal Wedding.

Anyway, I find I don’t particularly care about the whole thing too much.  I am mildly interested in what the bride is wearing if only because I’m also getting married this year.  If she’s following in her late MIL’s footsteps, it will be high fashion, woefully out of date, and laughably tacky in 10 years.  I will also, in all likelihood, be totally horrified at how much it costs.  I am rather proud of the fact that my dress cost $250.

I find the insane memorabilia craze surrounding the wedding absolutely hysterical.  Some of the stuff that has popped up on Etsy and Regretsy is absolutely wild.  I think my favorite piece of ridiculous memorabilia so far is this.  Can you imagine waking up every morning and wandering into your kitchen to see that?  Of course, you could sit in your kitchen and sip your morning coffee out of this as you wake up.  Unless of course you like your memorabilia accurate and all…

Of course, I was browsing tonight and I came across the following headline: BrewDog releases beer with Viagra.  Naturally, morbid curiosity caused me to click.  And, yes, folks, this would be THE weirdest Royal Wedding related thing I’ve run across so far.  To wit, a quote from the article:

“With this beer we want to take the wheels off the royal wedding bandwagon being jumped on by dozens of breweries,” BrewDog says on its website. “The Royal Virility Performance is the perfect antidote to all the hype.”

Antidote to the hype? Hmm.

Alas, don’t go looking for this one at your local liquor store. It won’t likely make its way to our shores. BrewDog is selling Royal Virility Performance only in the United Kingdom and only via its website,

Um, wow.  When you put it that way I think that’s about all there is to say.  Needless to say, I’ll be asleep at 4:00am on Friday.


ETA: I stand corrected.  It can get weirder.

They’re baaack…

You know, it happens every year.  And every year I forget about it until they arrive.  And then I swear like a sailor Geoff and want to hide in my house till it’s over.  I hate them, I really do.  You’d think that having lived here for the better part of 2 decades I would be used to this by now.

I’m not.

It’s the annual invasion of the Smug Twig People.  Lord save us all.

The best part?  This time, Marathon Monday, properly known as Patriot’s Day, coincides not only with Holy Week, but also with Passover Week.  Somewhere in Heaven God is laughing really, really hard.  Or, God’ s a Yankee’s fan.  Whatever.  I’m going to check the Muslim and Buddhist calendars and see if they’ve got any major holidays this week because if they do, then I know something cosmic is going on and the joke is on us.

Anyway, if you haven’t experienced Marathon Weekend in Boston, don’t.  It isn’t worth it.  The city is invaded, quite literally, by people from all over the globe.  These people are of two types: there are the Smug Twig People (STPs), the “runners,” and then there are the STP Entourage People.

The STPs are bad enough.  They walk around the city in their Boston Sports Association track suits and t-shirts.  It doesn’t matter that it is, oh, 39 degrees fahrenheit as I write this.  They will wear any piece of clothing they can find that will identify them as a Boston Marathoner.  The older, the better.  Mind you, by and large these are not the professional runners.  These are not the people who might qualify for, say, the Olympics by running this race.  Oh, no.  These are people who run marathons and put 26.2 stickers on their SUVs to prove that they can do it.  Running for them is some kind of drug.  These folks are, for the most part, painfully thin.  They don’t have muscle mass like the healthy, winning runners do.  They pride themselves on being bony and sinewy.  They walk down the street and ride the train with a palpable hauteur that makes you want to get as far away from them as possible.  These are people who will finish with more or less respectable times, but these are also people who think that a slice of peach and 32oz. of water is appropriate for breakfast.  This is an eating disorder disguised as running.

The STPs bring their own Entourages with them.  The people who come with them are usually adoring family members and friends.  These people are of all shapes and sizes but they are absolutely Better Than You because they are a Friend Of A Runner.  Most of these people are from TheMiddleofNowhere, TX or You’veNeverHeardofIt, Europe.  They have no idea how to ride public transportation, no idea how to cross a street in a major city, and God forbid they ride an escalator properly.  They literally tie up traffic for blocks and they are completely fine with this.  Nearly getting killed by a Boston driver is practically a badge of honor or, probably, something to check off in their bright green “Stuff to Do on Marathon Weekend” guidebook.

The best, and by that I mean worst, is getting stuck on the T with the STPs and their Entourages after the race is over.  On Monday the race literally goes all day.  People cross the finish line officially till sometime around 8:00pm when they stop handing out medals and unofficially till about midnight or so when the 11:00pm news wraps up interviewing the last people gasping across the line and collapsing in front of the Public Library.  If you are unlucky enough to be stuck on, say, the Green Line with a pack of sweaty just finished STPs, woe betide you.  You might as well get off the train and walk.

First of all, they will get on the train with their Entourage and stand immediately inside by the door thereby blocking the entrance for everyone else.  Anyone who has ever ridden public transportation knows that this is the mark of 1) a jerk 2) a provincial idiot 3) an entitled blowhard 4) someone who needs a kick in the head.  Next, they are covered in sweat.  The Marathon folks provide the STPs with a silver “Astronaut blanket” to keep them from cooling off too quickly, so the STPs wrap themselves in it and, medal hanging rakishly, lean against whatever pole is closest to the door and try to look beatific.  Meanwhile their Entourage are usually on their cell phones, also standing in the door of the train, talking to anyone who will listen about how fantastic the STP was in the race.  As if they could actually SEE said person in the huge pack of other STPs.

The best part is when the Entourage decides that the saintly STP deserves a seat.  Woe betide you if you are occupying a seat and the Entourage decides that the STP deserves it.  They will do everything up to and including outright demanding that you get up and give it to the STP because, you know, they’ve just taken a bus out to Hopkinton and run back.  Because, you know, that’s the mark of a totally sane person.  Sorry, folks, but if I have a seat I’m not giving it up to some person who just punished him or herself by doing something that can actually be bad for your heart.  And giving me the, “you’re fat so get up” lecture won’t win you any points either.  Contrary to what you may think, Boston does not close down just because a bunch of runners show up and slog their way up Heartbreak Hill once a year.  The rest of us still have jobs, still have errands to run, and with the occasional exception, most of us don’t care at all who wins or doesn’t.

Is it Tuesday yet?


Of pet food and creationism

Ok, stick with me.  This one gets a little weird.

So, today I discovered that the place that I usually order our expensive and highly specialized cat food from is run by a bunch of right wing creationist wackjobs.  You must understand, Geoff and I are firm believers in voting with our feet, our wallets, and, you know, at the actual voting booth.  (Interestingly, I discovered the complete wackiness of the pet food vendor from the vendor themselves, Google just confirmed it.)  Anyway, I called Geoff at work and explained the dilemma.  The food is really good for our cats.  They love it, it’s been easy on their kidneys and bladders as they age, but I really, really, can’t abide lining the pockets of a company run by someone who describes himself as a “New Earth Creationist” or who holds that everything modern medical science has told us about “cholesterol and the human body” is a “myth”.

Right.  Um, this guy is a Veterinarian, not an M.D.  I wonder if anyone has pointed that out to him?

Anyway, we feed our dogs this stuff and they scarf it down.  They LOVE it.  Thumbelina’s skin has improved 200% since she started eating it.  She’s almost 10 and still has a waist which is a minor miracle for a dachshund.  Rerun?  He looks more like a sausage, but I think that has more to do with the fact that he is patently lazy than anything else.  Anyway, as Royal Canin was one of the few pet foods only marginally involved in the major 2007 pet food recall as most of their food did not at the time use wheat gluten, (none of it does now, as far as I know, or if it does, it is all domestic) naturally, I looked there first for a new cat food.

I found a perfect substitute, only it required a prescription.  This was absolutely fine by me and, turns out, fine by my vet as well.  (I love my vets, they’re awesome.)  So after checking out our vet’s affiliated order and ship website I also checked out  I had received an email or two a while back from Dogster about this new service from PetFlow and had filed it away thinking that if I ever needed to have cat food shipped I’d check it out.  Well, there’s no time like today while running screaming away from creationists.  I was able to sign up for regular shipments of the new prescription food, the price is better than the vet’s affiliate site, and with the coupon code “Dogster” the shipping is free.  As in, free always.  And it ships automatically every 6 weeks.  I have not yet discovered if the people who run are in bed with the Koch brothers or anything, but for the moment the Liberal science teacher in me can rest easy.

Pretty cool, huh?


More good news

As some of you may know, I teach part time at the Museum of Science here in Boston.  My excellent boss turned over the review of the St. John Passion concert to the PR department.  Apparently they like to have little blurbs about employees to publish.  They may be publishing something about the concert in an upcoming blurb somewhere.  Stay tuned!


A very long but good weekend

Geoff here – Kelly and I managed to survive the very epic weekend, and what’s even better is that we actually had a pretty good time all around.

Kelly’s mom – Jo – arrived Thursday night and we picked her up from the airport.  After I got off work on Friday we went out to dinner at the Fireplace.  Jo had never been there, but she seemed to really like it.  The food was pretty fantastic, as usual.  I tried something different and got a special – hake.  Boy, it was good.  And Kevin, the awesome manager, actually donated some gift certificates to their “Fireside Chats” special events for us to sell at the auction.  It was very cool of him.  Stuff like that is why we like the place so much and are glad to have our rehearsal dinner there.

Saturday we had to split up as Kelly and Jo went off to do their own errands, and I had to run a bunch of my own before my police detail.  The detail ended up being a lot of fun, as we got to meet the Red Sox mascot, Wally, the Green Monster.  So I got his autograph for Kelly and then got some pictures with him.  I will post those as soon as I can.  After the detail was over, I ran home to shower and change and then the three of us went to the auction at our church.  Kelly and I had contributed several items to the auction:  a series of dog training lessons from Kelly; a few hours of IT tech support from me; and an entire home-cooked four course Portuguese dinner with table and dessert wines.  So together Kelly and I raised over a thousand dollars with our donated items.  It turns out that the family who bought the dinner from me is pretty interesting – the husband was the auctioneer for the church, and his wife is the one who kept bidding on the dinner.  I am looking forward to making them dinner.

Kelly has already talked about the concert, but I wanted to throw in my two cents worth.  I had a slightly different perspective, since I was running around at the front tables and doors while Kelly was running around inside and then performing.  We were quite pleasantly surprised when people kept showing up, even after the concert had started.  I think the last ticket I sold was at around 4:15, well over an hour after the concert started.  But people seemed to really enjoy it, and the reception afterward was a lot of fun too.  I got to watch one of the Deputy Superintendents talk with our landlord, who it turns out was in the CAPD himself from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.  Apparently they knew a lot of the same people.  And this couple from our church had nothing but praises for all of the help that they got from the officers on the detail.  So although we were pretty exhausted by the time we got home Sunday night, we were quite happy that everything had gone so well and everyone had such a good time.