Going Bump in the Night

This was my third year helping the Frederick Jaycees with their haunted house. It’s not a haunted house in the strictest sense, the past two years it’s been the “Haunted Hayride” at Crumland Farm, the year before that it was the “panic asylum” at Harry Grove stadium, but it’s still a lot of fun.
One of the recurring bits of fun is the teen couples. They tend to come in with the guys trying to impress their girlfriends with how strong they are and perhaps hoping the girls will be scared and hold on to them. The more the guy struts, the more likely it is that he’s going to be the ones who screams. 🙂
I’d been up to help out two weeks ago, and spent the evening on a scaffold, screaming and dropping a piece of pipe onto some other pipes, making a lot of noise and watching startled people jump from one side of the hay wagon to the other. On Saturday, I was in makeup out in the cornfield, chasing people with a chainsaw racing.
It had been a while since I’d worn makeup for this event (last year was mostly spent on a scaffold screaming and dropping a dummy that looked as though he’d been hanged), so I wound up with Anna helping me with the makeup. After I’d put on the base layer of pale, she added a bruise across the right side of my face along with dark circles around my eyes and a few other black lines as accents. Then she added blood rolling down my face. It looked quite ghastly, which was the intent after all. The blood never did dry, so over the course of the evening it became increasingly realistic. I did experience a brief moment of concern when it rolled into my eye, but the only problem that caused was that my eye briefly got stuck shut. (A fine example of method acting!)
The temperatures on Saturday were a little chilly, but I was prepared and had worn layers. In all, the weather was actually perfect for haunting – clouds racing across the sky, a constant wind through the trees and the corn, and cold enough to make sure you knew it was fall. I don’t know how many people went on the Hayride that evening, but even though I was near the end of the route, quite a few of them were startled when the maniac with the chainsaw started running toward them.
After putting everything away on Saturday, the group headed out for dinner at TGIFriday’s. Having a bunch of zombies walk in always gets a few people at the bar doing double-takes, and the people sitting in the dining room usually have the most interesting expressions on their faces as the group heads to a table. I arrived a few minutes behind the first group and when I walked in, the hostess took one look at me and before I could even look for them, she told me, “oh, your group’s over here.”
When we eventually left Friday’s, I stopped off for gas. Nobody else was at the gas station, so my appearance didn’t get any attention unless the attendant happened to look out from the booth. Next, I stopped at the 7-11 to get a drink so I’d stay awake on the drive home. Nobody noticed as I pulled up and got out of the car, but as I walked up to the door, I definitely got the attention of the two guys sitting in front of the store. Likewise, the cashier and the only customer in the store also stopped in their tracks when I walked in. (Naturally, I encouraged all four of them to get up to Thurmont on Sunday for the hayride’s final night. I’m pretty sure that at least one of them did.)
When I finally got home around 12:30, Wylie was quite happy to see me and wasn’t at all bothered by the make up. I took him out for a late walk, the whole time imagining what would happen if any of the people driving around that night happened to come by when I was under a street light. Unexpectedly seeing a zombie out walking his dog would probably make you wonder if you’d somehow stepped into a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 🙂
The final horror of the evening came when I stepped into the shower. The makeup was all water washable and as it went down the drain, it made for a wonderful recreation of the shower scene in Psycho.
It was a fun evening.
Happy Halloween!

Today's amusements

A couple of Wednesday’s news items tickled my funny bone:

Friendly competition

This one’s kinda cool. Despite the way some folks out there rail against Internet Explorer, the folks who work on that product don’t seem to be holding any grudges against the competition.
The Mozilla corporation released a new version of the Firefox web browser on Tuesday (about a week after Microsoft released a new version of Internet Explorer). To celebrate, the Internet Explorer development team sent the Firefox team a cake!!!

Boxers or Briefs?

All the fire gear I’ve ever run across gets worn over the firefighters regular clothes. I hadn’t been aware of this, but apparently firefighters in some areas strip down to their underwear before putting on their fire gear (I guess this makes sense since not all street clothes will hold up to the temperatures). Well, it seems that in Vancouver, the city has set a rule that all firefighters are to wear boxer shorts. (By way of explanation: the Vancouver fire department is one of a growing number of departments with both men and women.)

The Signal

As the searchlight blazed against the night sky in the distance, a black car screeched around the corner. Startled from their slumber in a nearby doorway, two homeless men stared after it.

“Was that Him?”

“It must have been. No one else has a ride like that.”

Behind the wheel of the car sat a man dressed in black, his face, shrouded in a black cowl, set in a determined grimace. It had been three minutes since he’d first spotted the signal and it would be another two before he arrived at its source in the city center. Eyes alert for obstacles, he reviewed his planned course and decided he could save precious seconds by avoiding the new roadwork in front of the courthouse.

Arriving at his destination, he bounded from the car and with his cape billowing around him, ran toward the uniformed man standing in front of the spotlight.

“Officer! What’s the emergency?”

“Emergency? There’s no emergency sir.”

“But the signal….” His eyes falling to the man’s uniform, a sense of deep foreboding overcame him. “You’re not a police officer, are you?”

“No sir, I’m with Gotham Security, Ltd.”

“But the signal?”

“It’s the grand opening for the new supermarket, sir. The searchlights are meant to draw people’s attention to the new store.”

Returning to the car, Batman slumped behind the wheel and not for the first time wished he’d thought of a more distinctive way for the police to signal him.

Getting Better

One of the problems with getting over a cold is that you find yourself getting caught up on your sleep. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself; if I’d been getting a bit more sleep, I probably wouldn’t have got sick in the first place.
But after spending two days resting, recovering, and turning off the alarm clock; I find myself unable to go to sleep at bedtime.
And if you don’t get enough sleep, you might get sick!


Wylie’s always had a penchant for escaping. When he was living with Steve and Rhonda, he’d get out of the yard several times a year and not return until he was good and ready. One time, he was gone for more than a week; just as Steve and Rhonda were starting to think he might not be coming back, Wylie walked up to a police officer and “turned himself in.”
Fences have never been much of a barrier to Wylie. I’m not sure he even slows down for them. A couple years ago, I left him in the backyard while I went around front for a few moments. I returned to the backyard just in time to see him shimmy under the chain link fence and pop up on the other side. Knowing Wylie’s background, I hadn’t been counting on the fence for much. He was still anchored to the deck by a long piece of clothesline hooked to his collar. As he stood there pondering his next move, I sized up the situation and determined that the rope was about three feet too long. (Or, from Wylie’s perspective, at least 10 miles too short.)
Of course, it’s not just fences that Wylie escapes through. Within a few months of his attempt at going under the fence, he succeeded in escaping for four hours by pushing the screen door open. Over the past four years he’s also demonstrated his resistance to being penned up by breaking the latch on his crate; mangling the door on his cage; and on several occasions, trying to dig his way out of the bedroom!
With all the meetings during the final run up to Oktoberfest, plus a number of other evening events, Wylie’s late-afternoon walk was frequently cut short throughout the month of September and it wasn’t long before he noticed the pattern. Pretty much anytime I’d come home and immediately take him out, he knew that meant I was going to leave again shortly afterward.
Wylie wasn’t happy about being left alone so often, so in order to express his displeasure, he started slowing down about a quarter mile from home, trying to make the walk last as long as possible. Not a complete halt, more of a pausing to smell every blade of grass.
The weather last Monday was wonderful. It had been two days since the rain, I’d managed to get out of the office at a reasonable time, and for the first time in several months I was finally going to get a chance to mow the lawn!
Before mowing the grass, I wanted to take Wylie out for a walk. But it was already 6:00, there wasn’t a whole lot of daylight left, and I really didn’t want to waste any of it.
Wylie read the signals exactly the way I should have expected.
This time though, instead of stopping to smell the grass, he dropped behind and laid down in it. I turned around just in time to watch as he let the harness slip up over his shoulder. If I hadn’t turned just then, I’d have missed it.
Fortunately, Wylie’s pretty laid-back these days. Instead of running off like he did when he pushed the screen door open, he just sat there and looked at me as if to say, “Ha Ha! Fooled you!”
Quite the escape artist that one.

Human Energy

According to the story line of The Matrix, when the machines rose to power, the human race made a last ditch attempt to stop them by blocking out the sun. The tactic worked in that the machines were no longer able to get energy from the sun. But the machines were resourceful and found another source of energy.
The machines adapted themselves to draw energy from living organisms – their former masters. Humans were raised in vats in huge farms the size of cities. And in order to keep their human livestock docile, the machines connected them all into a shared virtual reality so detailed that the humans had no idea there was anything else.
Chevron has been running a series of ads lately about their efforts to find new energy sources and to make better use of the ones we already have. The commercials all end with a tagline about how they’re going to do this by using “…the energy we have most in abundance: human energy
I sure hope Chevron isn’t getting ideas from the movies!


The Germantown Oktoberfest took place this past weekend (October 7) and it was a rather soggy affair. The rain all day Friday continued on into Saturday morning, producing soggy ground and a few related challenges (over the weekend, we had four or five vehicles get stuck in the mud), but we pressed on. By 10:00 it looked like 70 vendors had showed up, rain or no rain, we were having a festival!
The rain did hurt attendance somewhat (2 to 3,000 people this year versus 8 to 10,000 last year), but most folks made the best of it. One woman who lived nearby came over to the festival in the early afternoon. Along with enjoying the festival in person, she also wanted to make sure everything was still in place for the evening. It turned out that she had invited 60 people over for an Oktoberfest party with plans for watching the fireworks from the backyard!
Of course, not everyone knew what to make of all the rain and mud. Perhaps the funniest moment of the festival came at the end of a conversation with Denise. As I headed off to my next destination, I took the most direct route. Denise had brought her three-year old son with her and as I walked away Parker cried out, clearly scandalized, “Mommy! He walked right through that puddle!”
There were two brief showers later in the day, but that didn’t seem to bother folks all that much. I spent part of the afternoon walking around the various booths, talking to the vendors. Everyone was in good spirits, not a single complaint.
As a safety precaution, we did cancel the German band as well as the Teen Band showcase (water and electricity aren’t a good combination), but Cops & Robbers was a hit for their third year running. We ended the festival with fireworks a little before 7:30.
It was a good day.

Getting the Boot

Four or five years ago, the temperature on Oktoberfest weekend was in the 70s or 80s. Tara and I were working in the funnel cake booth and I eventually ended up telling her to take a break to cool off. We still joke about me being the only person who’s ever “kicked her out” of an event.
The temperature today was in the 50s with a nearly constant rain. We were taking a break from setting up for tomorrow’s festival when I started shivering. Mark “kicked me out” to go warm up.
It seems that there’s some truth to the notion that what goes around comes around. What we need now is to close the circle and get Tara to “kick Mark out” of something!

Getting out the Vote

One of the downsides to living in the DC area is that you get inundated with political ads pretty much nonstop. And during an election year, it just gets worse. The barrage of ads is bad enough, but making it worse is that the ads contain little of any substance.
I ran into Zaphod’s campaign ad last year, shortly after the Hitchhiker movie came out on DVD. The movie’s not as good as the original BBC series, but that’s OK. I figure Zaphod’s a better choice than some of the other jokers who are running for office. His campaign ad is certainly no less informative.

Visual Enhancements

Folks have been telling me lately that the way to get more visitors to your web site is to add some eye candy. I really don’t understand why that would make a difference, but who am I to argue?
So first off, here’s some eye candy.
And then, for those who want something a bit more raw, here’s some eye candy with nothing on.
I have no idea why this would draw more people to the site, but if you find this sort of stuff appealing, please let me know!