Chris and Jane Go To Saratoga Springs (That’s in New York. Not Florida.)

Hey guys,

Just be clear, we went to Saratoga. Not Sarasota. Which is, unfortunately, what I mentioned to our friend Jimmy who used to live in Sarasota. Jim was so excited for us that he wrote back a long email filled with suggestions of places to visit. Top on that list for me would have been the 10th floor window of the County Administration Building (AKA his former office). Oh well, some other time perhaps. And, thanks again Jim. Really sorry about that.

In any case, here are some photos I took of our recent journey to upstate New York.

First, there was this dog who reminded me of our niece Enzo. Very cute dog. It was rainy drive but it wasn’t a long drive by Iowa standards.

And this is the view from our room. As I’ve already mentioned to some of you, that “Farmers Market” sign is a Pokéstop. So, that was cool. Honestly, how does anyone get anything done in their life when they live so close to a Pokéstop? It was an endless supply of ‘mons, ammo and battery for my cell phone. I really got wrapped up in that stupid game.

And, because Saratoga is such a tourist mecca in mid-April, Chris was able to score us a King Suite for literally ten bucks more than the conference rate. The room was big, I’ll give it that, but it seemed as if it were missing some of its furniture. It was sparse.

Here’s Chris watching Rachel Maddow on the TV.

And here is Chris trying to read the on-screen channel guide on the TV. Fortunately, I’d thought to bring the binoculars.

Anyway, enough about the room. It was fun and lovely. And if it had been warmer we probably would have sat on its balcony.

Here’s a view of a couple of old hotels along the main drag. The city is not big. It might be about the size of Northampton.

Did I mention the cold? It flurried on and off the entire time we were there. And it was windy. But, better than rain or drizzle I guess.

Saratoga was first settled by white people in the late 1700’s. In 1792 its first spring was found and that’s when things started to take off. It became a summer destination for Southerners moneyed enough to escape the heat of the south. [Note: The first spring was Congress Spring, not Columbian Spring, but I don’t have a photo of Congress Spring. I do have a photo of Columbian Spring. Columbian Spring is now plumbed with treated city water.]

In 1832, the springs and spas garnered so many visitors that the town got a train stop. And in 1847 Saratoga hosted the New York State Fair. Enter horse racing.

Saratoga had lots of references to horse racing, stuff to buy, things to see, but I just couldn’t get myself to care. Everything about horse racing seems sketchy to me. I mean, even the jockey doesn’t look happy.

Anyway, moving on, what does horse racing begat? Why, gambling, of course. Cue the casino. Again, it was just really hard for me to give a damn. This is the first casino built in Saratoga and it is now a museum but I didn’t go in. Maybe I would have if it had been raining but it wasn’t raining. (BTW, the casino is now also a Pokégym.)

An aside – these pictures I found of the museum remind me of the diorama set up in Old Man Twickum’s House in Gilmore Girls episode “To Live and Let Diorama.” Tempting as that was – still not enticement enough to go inside.

I did like the dogs though; a couple of Dachshunds resting on either side of the steps. The breed seems an unusual choice.

This particular spring was interesting. So much so that I walked back to it with Chris in order to share. The water here is described as, “a highly-carbonated water of an Alkaline-Saline flavor noted for its high mineral content and renowned as a digestive curative.”

It sure was bubbly. I’ll give it that. It sputtered out of those taps. But I think I’d have to be feeling pretty ill in order to consider it a cure to anything. I mean, it stank like rotten eggs.

And back to the hotel. We stopped along the way and bought Thai food for dinner. Have I mentioned the weather?

Oh and speaking of cold weather – here’s a bonus photo of me playing Pokémon on Community Day here in the Woo. That’s me in the yellow shoes.

I had fun. I caught lots of “sheep.” But I think best of all is that I had an excuse to wear that hat out in public. Normally, I only wear it when I’m shoveling the driveway.

And that’s it everybody!

I ordered two egg sacs of praying mantises today because, in theory, spring is right around the corner, the tomato plants will arrive and bugs will begin to fill the garden. : )


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Chris and Jane’s Day Off.

This year and for the first time ever Chris suddenly expressed a desire to visit The Big E.

For those who don’t know, The Big E is the Eastern State Exposition. It’s sort of New England’s answer to the Iowa State Fair. What the heck got into Chris to make him want go I have no idea.

Oh, wait, yes I do. That. He’d heard about that. That is a one pound meatball.

My only memories of The Big E are from having gone as a kid way back in the 1970’s. I vaguely remember there being some farm animals, some seemingly boring State exhibits, lots of amusement park rides (not one of which I ever rode on) and Hitler’s car. For some reason, the prospect of seeing Hitler’s car has left a lasting impression on me. These days the notion of Hitler’s car sounds like the butt end of a joke to me.

Hitler’s car was nowhere to be found on this trip but there was this.

Not to be confused with this.

The entry price of a dollar which hardly seemed worth it considering the behemoth below was being led through the crowd for free. A Clydesdale.

Note the man with the shovel.

There weren’t as many farm animals as I remembered but we did find some goats. Goats are so cool. They’re always inquisitive and they’ve got those nifty sideways eyes too.

Here’s a sheep. Sort of.

And a bear.

Not really.

There was a parade of sorts which we blithely wandered into the back of before it had even gotten started. I think we were looking for water or ice-cream or pie or something when – puff – we were behind the scenes of a parade.

There were three or four marching bands but this one might have been the best dressed.

And that’s a 1942 Ford painted Air Force blue. That is not a Jeep. The owner told me that, weather permitting, she and her husband drive the not-a-Jeep in the parade every day at 5:00. The parade always starts at 5:00.

The Air Force was there too. A few officers and lots and lots of sergeants – as if they hadn’t had a choice about attending.

And when these guys walked briskly by my reflex was to snap their photo because, holy cow, did they ever look like goons – ya know?

But later, during the parade, when they passed by sitting in the back of a Cadillac I finally figured out that they were supposed to look like Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson and Robert Di Nero. Because, that makes sense.

That’s makes about as much sense as clapping for a school bus.

There were these guys in pith helmets too. I didn’t understand their presence either but I do love a pith helmet.

About the big meatball – we never found it. But we did find this place – a tiny tented Hofbrauhaus.

The Hofbrauhaus shined compared to some other culinary options.

This soft serve place with its purple cow was appealing but by the time we found it we were ready to come home.

We’d seen enough. We’d had a fun day at the fair.

That’s it!

Bonus photo: The two of us together. Some nice man offered to take our picture. I did not expect that to happen.

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For Worcester’s Dante.

Sisyphus with a lime.

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Chris’ 20,000th Birthday

Hey there,

This is an update.

Yesterday, Chris turned 20,000 days old so I baked him a cake. Check it out. It was my first effort at making and decorating with Fondant. (A mixture of melted mini marshmallows and powdered sugar. All in all… it went pretty well.) Chris touches the Fondant. It didn’t taste horrible either which was sort of a surprise.

The numbers did stick to the top of the cake cover so, at the last minute, I had to peel them off and reposition them onto the cake.

Since fitting 20,000 candles on the top of a cake seemed daunting (at best) I opted for our usual system – the binary system.

That only required the use of fifteen (15) candles of which only 5 would need to be lit. Here’s the actual number in case you care. 100111000100000.

And the birthday boy himself.

For dinner, we bought Chinese food. It was a real party.

That’s it!

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The 2014 Halloween Candy Disbursement Performance Chart

Hey there people!

Once again it is time for the annual Chilton-Ahmadjian Halloween Candy Disbursement Performance Chart.

As is always the case, I need to thank my longtime friend, data analyst and amalgamator, AJD. He’s been scrutinizing our candy data for more than twenty years but his enthusiasm for the task has never waned.

I must admit, my enthusiasm for the holiday has waned or so I thought until the doorbell began to ring and I was cheered right up again.

Data gathering tools are prepped…

Candy and treats are made ready…

And some snacks set aside for us as well. Red wine, blue cheese and Soylent Green.

Once more, Atlas T. Cat sets about psyching himself out by gazing into the mirror above the fireplace…

I tell him not to do that.  I tell him that the mirror above the fireplace is nothing but a porthole to a world of rude unblinking cats but he doesn’t believe me.

I did not take any pictures of our trick-or-treators this year but I wish I had. I thought the quality of their costumes was up this year. We had a couple of Katniss Everdeen’s (nice for the girls to finally have a hero) and the triplets from down the street came, along with a couple of their friends, dressed to the teeth as the cast of Dr. Who. I really do wish I’d gotten a picture of them. One other kid came dressed in a gorilla suit that was so schön I felt compelled to pet him. (It might have been a her.)

Anyway… this year’s candy disbursement performance number is… [drum roll here]…

sixty-one (61).

Not bad. Not bad at all considering it was sort of cool, overcast and windy night. Plus, it was a Friday night, also known as not a school night, which I theorize diminishes my numbers as more people host parties. To wit, none of the O’Connor’s four (4) children showed and it was pretty obvious that they were hosting a soiree of their own. [Really, Dennis?  Three houses?  You couldn’t march your brood down three houses to my stoop?  If you had, there would have been a six-pack of beer in it for you.  Instead, we wound up foisting the eggs and the brews on the lady who lives across the street who, I must say, left here looking more than a little bit confused.]

Getting back on point – I am happy with 61. Very happy indeed.

Now, let’s see what our analyst amalgamator friend, Herr Gottfried “Gus” Feder III Xtipi Balashama, has to say:

Dear [INSERT NAME HERE] Ms. Chelton – Please allow me to extend my warmest regards to you and introduce myself as your account executive. As you may know [INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE], General Electric has recently completed a leveraged buyout of all the assets of Koch/NewsCorp Data Amalgamation and Workforce Rationalization Partners (KNDAWR). This transaction was completed on November 3 and we are extremely excited at interfacing with you as a valued client. Upon a quick review of your file, our team noticed several things that make your case unique, including your long standing attention to detail with your data submissions, your commitment to confectionary disbursement in one of Worcester’s most “dynamic” neighborhoods, and your dogged pursuit of ever increasing distribution levels. We believe that with our capability in both analytics and workforce and benefit rationalization, the GE/KNDAWR combination will give you insights that will raise your performance to uncharted levels. Our sales and accounts receivable teams will construct a comprehensive package for your review, in which we will detail new terms and conditions for the work performed as well as revised and ever competitive pricing guidelines. We think you will see that our modest and disciplined rate increases provide you the utmost value, while providing our shareholders a steady stream of predictable revenue. You may be Client # 448, 375 in our files, but you will always be [INSERT NAME HERE] Ms. Chelton to us…..and our relationship will be as close as it has always been.

Please pass along our best regards to [INSERT NAME HERE] Mr. Achmadian.

On to your results.

Please see attached your 2014 disbursement results. Our data amalgamation teams have put aside their corporate rationalization and integration efforts to complete your detailed analysis. Some highlights for you

– While 2014 experienced an 11% decline, we have utilized a new and innovative logarithmic trend line analysis to ascertain that your disbursement pattern has a solid foundation and should experience stable and predictable growth in coming years

– We have noted this relative level of in range performance despite a volatile confectionary environment, fueled by social media, socio economic trends and political activism

– We believe that it is possible to execute a continued growth strategy as opportunities exist to regain 2013 performance levels

– We have ancillary services that could support your ongoing efforts in value gap improvements and process simplification. Our account team will be in touch with an overview of those services and we are happy to schedule a conference at your convenience

Overall, we are pleased to see you committed to executing your action plan and can affirm that your outlook remains intact. We have reached out to several firms and we are pleased to announce that one investment house is considering initiating coverage with “Overweight” status. This would be a positive indication of future disbursement gains.

Thank you Ms. Chelton once again for your continued support. We at GE/KNDAWR are thrilled to consider you part of our GE family and look forward to years of positive and mutually profitable interaction

Yours truly

Xtipi Balashama

Chief Data Amalgamation Officer

General Electric Company

Thanks Gus. You’re the pit in the oyster of my peach.

BTW, we chose not to give out full sized candy bars this year as their leftovers proved problematic. As it turns out, the things are simply too big to eat. Eating a full sized candy bar fosters a level of guilt that I am not comfortable with. In fact, we still have a couple of full sized candy bars left over from last year. A “fun sized” bar though, while perhaps not so much fun – also not so much guilt. Fun.

Even eating three “fun sized” bars doesn’t spark nearly as much guilt as eating one full sized bar. The utter absence of logic involved in that doesn’t elude me but, nevertheless, candy, candy, candy!

And that is all she wrote.

Happy Tuesday everybody.

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Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round that Damn Pine Tree.

We’ve been living underneath white pines for a while now.

I’d never given them much thought until the ice-storm of 2008. Until then only their needles seemed a nuisance but after one snapped in half, landing on our garage, everything changed. I looked at them very differently starting then.

After that with each gust of wind my head would reflexively try to retreat between my shoulder blades like a turtle’s. It was the beginning of a long slog worry.

Three years later, a freak October snow storm didn’t do anything to assuage my fear. That’s the view, looking east, down the middle of our street as if I needed any reminders that stuff can fall from the sky.

Planted every five feet, about 100 years ago, I think their purpose was to designate the rear lot’s back property line. I’m sure they were short and looked delightful.

During this century though, I’ve been trying to console myself by thinking things like, “A tree can only fall once…” That three of them up and died didn’t do anything to improve their esthetics.

It only seems like it took forever and a day but last Thursday “the day” finally came. Tree Removal Day. The first contractor we talked to wanted nothing to do with this job. The garages… the wires… the garden… problems… problems… problems… “What you need,” the man said, “is someone with a crane.” And then he gave me the name of Mayer Tree Service out of Essex, Massachusetts.

Mayer been busy for the past few years removing trees susceptible to the Asian Longhorn Beetle. We visited them during a recent job on Marsh Ave.

They are not intimidated about removing big trees from tight locations.

And we had loads of them.

This is what the crane looks like when it rolls up your street. It’s big but not particularly impressive.

But this is what it looks like fully unfurled. It had five telescoping sections. Its boom is over 140’ long.

That’s plenty long enough to draw people from their homes and out into the street to stare.

And cutting to the chase (Oh, fun! A pun!) this is what years’ worth of worry disappearing in seconds looks like. [Hey Thea! That’s your house!]

If you want you can go watch the movie. You’ll hear my neighbors Sally and Jeffy gasping in the background. Jeffy lives in fear of her own abutting neighbors’ White pine tree. They’re just a freaking scourge.

I haven’t much more to say about the trees coming down. I find myself incapable of verbally expressing the magnitude of my joy. For years, I literally used to dream about their removal but then I’d always wake up. Now I greet the mornings opening one eye at a time while quietly hoping to hell that the trees are still gone. Sometimes I think, “If this all turns out to be a highly elaborate and detailed dream I’ll need to be medicated in the morning.”

There were over a dozen of those damn things and one after the other they got shoved into that chipper.

By way of repaying our abutting neighbor for allowing us the pleasure of spending thousands of dollars removing his dangerous trees we agreed to remove an Oak of his that he worried might someday fall on his garage. Seriously. That happened.

But setting aside any pettiness’ it was nothing other than a fantastic day. For instance, we met a new neighbor. This is Max. Max is from France, so he speaks French, but his walker, Katherine, is bilingual. She was lured to our street by the sight of the crane. (She was lured to this country by her husband’s job.) She too has a tree she’d love to see removed. That became the recurring theme when talking with our neighbors.

Chris sprung for lunch. Pizza and subs from Jason’s on June Street. That’s Dan on the right.

Dan’s the guy in the sky. [See tiny orange blot below dangling tree.]

The crane operator, Brad, was the fellow sitting on the left. The two work as a well-coordinated team.

They communicate via radio. I sensed a fair amount of chit-chat in addition to work related matters. “And THEN she says to me..”

And then, as if the day could get any better – it did. When they were all done and getting ready to leave – the crane broke down. (The crane broke down!) Try as they might there was no getting its huge boom to telescope back down.

Chris loaned them compressed air, metric sized tools and an umbrella but no go. It was stuck there; in our next-door neighbor’s driveway.

As they apologized for the inconvenience all we could think to say was, “You mean we get to have a sleep-over?!”

Let the stupid photo-ops begin!

Danger! Danger! Danger!

Chris and the cat climb on the crane.

Chris and cat sit on the crane.

Chris fixes Fiat’s first rattle – with the crane!

I weeded the garden with my brand new best friend – the crane!

Oh, speaking of the garden, look what I found growing in it.

I’ve left it there thus far. Brad has offered to take it out with the crane but my plan is to play with it first. I might put it in a pot and dress it up in embarrassing outfits on a seasonal basis. I just don’t know.

Oooo… but wait – I do know. I’m going to let it grow and then I’m going to cut it down with my own little crane.

Anyway, this morning the mechanic arrived. Here he is making friends with Wallie. He has two cats of his own.

I think Wallie is going to miss his crane. After four days it’s sort of become a fixture.

But they’re telling me that it’ll be outta here this afternoon.

That’s okay. I know the sunshine will remain. And three cheers to Chris for getting this job done. Here he is enjoying some of that brand new sun.

Later today I’m going to sit on the back deck with a pair of binoculars and watch for passing airplanes.

That’s it!

P.s. Thank You Mayer Tree Service. I’ll be singing your praises for at least as long as I worried about those damn trees.

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It’s a Cold Duck Wearing Galoshes

Okay wine drinkers,

Our next-door neighbor just found this bottle of bubbly tucked away somewhere inside of her house and gave it to me. She’d lured me in with the promise of something “French and old.” I’ve looked but, as yet, haven’t found any mention of this particular product on the Interwebs. I don’t think for a moment that it’s anything good (although, inured by my own Chateau Hobo, pretty much anything that comes with a price tag promises to be better) but I wouldn’t mind finding some sort of internet chatter.

Anyway, here are the photos.

Even with the jacket the duck is cold.

“To be served very cool.” Do you suppose that’s anything akin to “cold”?

Viola and there is no vin. Though promising “half white and half red” there appears to be no mention of a specific grape. Or, is “COLD DUCK” some sort of varietal umbrella term? I mean – wow – at least I mention which aisle at the grocery store I harvest my wine’s grapes from.

Don’t worry. We’re not drinking it tonight but I did think that it looked nice with tonight’s planned and prepped meal. : )

Cheers! Prost! Skål!

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