Saturday, December 17, 2011


Last week, WKCTC (which I shall always call PCC)finished in the top five for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. They received a $100,000 prize for doing so. This of course reminds me of my days there and how much I enjoyed it and how great a place it was (and still is).

I had some great professors there. Jackie Moss made Calculus I seem pretty easy. Sarah Penry got me through the mysteries of Calc III and IV. John Robertson taught me a lot of things about Economics that I still remember. Dr. Neil Adams was a great Physics teacher. Dr. Counce made Psychology an interesting topic (even though I was forced to take the class for my degree). And who could ever forget Dr. Chun Ro? I made some great friends there. They let us play basketball in the gym and I probably played every day I was there. The main thing though is I was well prepared to move on to UK when I was done. The only thing they lacked with a few of the freshman-sophomore level Computer Science type classes I would need. But, I managed to get those in at UK later. I also never worked up the nerve to ask out one of the several nice, intelligent, pretty young ladies I met there (but that worked out for the best).

From my understanding, it's still a very good place to attend. They've expanded their offerings quite a bit in 30 years. They merged with the vocational school next to it to be able to offer a vast array of options for students. It's good for people who are wanting to start college right out of high school or go back to get a degree later in life.

The costs there are pretty reasonable. The tuition costs are about 2000 a semester (based on 15 hours). This is comparable to 3300 at Murray State and 4600 at UK (and even more at private schools). That doesn't even include the fact that most students attending there don't have to leave home and save all that room and board cost. There is also plenty of scholarship money available. In fact, all you have to do is make above a certain GPA or ACT score (or a combination thereof) and you can get part or all of your tuition paid. Plus, Kentucky residents can use their KEES money with this. If you have good grades and a decent ACT score, you can pretty well cover your tuition with no problem. Going there can save a student a lot of money and even keep them from running up the large amount of student loan debt most seem to exit college with nowadays.

The other benefit is a high school graduate can more gradually ease into college life. College classes and expectations of professors/teachers are radically different than high school. If you couple that with the newness of living on your own for the first time (and everything that goes along with that), it's a lot dumped on an 18 year old. I know a lot of young people who went away to school and end up back at home in a year because they simply couldn't handle all that. If they go to WKCTC, they only have to deal with the first issue and can get used to that before having to deal with learning to live on their own later.

Of course, one needs to research whether the college they plan on transferring to after WKCTC will accept all of the classes they take there. They also need to be sure they can get enough of their pre-requisite courses at WKCTC. There can be colleges and majors that simply are not good fits for a person to complete by starting at WKCTC.

Finally, I will hear the argument that "It's not a real college" (my own son most likely will tell me this after reading this entry). I can tell you of numerous colleagues and friends who went there (back when I did and even recently) who have done very well in their careers. I know in hiring where I work, I never knew PCC/WKCTC to cause the least bit of hindrance in hiring someone.

I would tell any young person (or older person) who is planning to attend college to at least consider the option of WKCTC. I certainly feel it's a very viable option

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Day John Lennon Died..

(I am ignoring the obvious story of the day for what I originally planned to post here today). This is one of those days I will always remember. 31 years ago, I was watching Monday night football when Howard Cosell broke in with a stunning announcement. John Lennon had been murdered outside his apartment in the Dakotas in New York City. I was not a huge Beatles fan at the time, I became one over the next few years. But I remember thinking how sad this was.

John Lennon had taken five years off from his singing career. He had started to become successful again. His freshly released album "Double Fantasy" was climbing the charts as well as the ironically named single "Starting Over". After he was murdered, the album rose to the number 1 position and stayed there for almost two months. The single stayed number 1 for five weeks. The album ultimately won the Grammy for Best Album. I remember watched the Grammy show while at UK and being surprised that it won. "Starting Over" lost out to "Bette Davis Eyes" for Song of The Year.

I remember this day for an entirely different reason now. It's my lovely wife's birthday. It's always a running joke when Donna will say "What's tomorrow?" and one of us will say "It's the day John Lennon died".

Proving that you can find anything on Youtube, here's a clip of Howard Cosell breaking into the Monday Night Football to announce John Lennon's murder. This moment regularly makes Top Ten list of the MNF most memorable moments. Howard Cosell announced it as New England tried to win the game on a last second field goal (which was blocked) and the game went to overtime. Notice how primitive the graphics look compared to today.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marathon Man

To all my readers, I owe you an apology. I've been keeping a secret from you for the past five months. It's part of the reason I've not been blogging as much (only partly, partly is sheer laziness). I've been working on something on my bucket list; something I said I'd do for the first time when I turned fifty (which I turned last month). I've been training to run in the St Jude Marathon.

I got a plan from Runners World that was an 18 week training plan for the marathon. I got very familiar with tempo runs, Yassos, and strides. I also got used to the weekly "long run". With most training plans, you build up gradually to several long runs of 20 miles. The most I've ever run at once is 14 miles (in training for a couple of half marathons I've run). When those long runs started hitting 16, 18 and finally 20 miles, that was rough. A lot of it is mental, it's hard to keep your mind occupied on a task that long. I listened to a lot of Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard pod-casts to make it through. The first 14 weeks or so went really well. Then, on my second 20 miler, I couldn't make it. I ragged out at 15 miles and was really discouraged. The next week started my taper where you reduce your mileage in the few weeks before the race to allow yourself to be fresh for the run. So, that little bit of doubt started to creep in.

Then the week before, I felt myself starting to get sick. I had congestion and a cough. I toughed it out til the Monday before the big day and finally decided to go see the doctor when I developed pink eye. My doctor (Dr. Pittard) wasn't in, but I saw the urgent care doctor (Dr. Grumley). He gave me what he called a "cocktail" of medicines plus antibiotic eye drops (which I referred to as magic eye drops). I dutifully took them even taking liquid cough medicine (which I usually cannot handle). I started finally getting some sleep and recovering.

That old enemy doubt kept creeping in. I kept saying how I didn't finish that last long run and now I've been sick. I tried to talk myself out of going. My two encouragers keep me going though. Donna told me she had been so impressed at how I'd stuck with my training and she knew I'd be able to do this. Jonathan gave me "tough love" saying "Old Man, don't wimp out now". I made sure to get plenty of sleep each night. I carbo-loaded all week. When Friday came and it was time to leave, we got our rental car and headed for Memphis.

The drive went well. Donna drove the whole way so I could rest. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on near Beale Street and the start of the run. I had managed to get a very nice two room suite with our Hilton Points. Donna and I walked to Huey's to eat dinner and had ice cream at Maggie Moo's. I felt fine and thought just maybe I'd pull this thing off. I went to bed early and offered up a prayer that I'd do OK the next morning.

The next day dawned with temperatures in the mid 40's. It was going to be a perfect day to run. I would not have to weigh myself down with gloves, hat, or sweat pants. I ate a good breakfast and loaded my pocket with my Mp3 player and a couple of packets of Chocolate GU and I was ready to go. We walked to the start about 7:30am to wait for the 8:00am start. I used the bathroom one last time and got into my corral. At St Jude, they have corrals you get into based on your projected per minute pace. I knew especially having been sick I need to get in one of the back ones. I got in the corral and found the pace man for a 5:10 marathon (they hold up a big stick with that number on it). Donna gave me a hug and kiss and one more word of encouragement and I lined up with my corral to start.

They release each corral about 2 minutes apart as to not clog things up. So, it was about 25 minutes before my corral got up to start. I was still OK. We got the signal to go and off we went! Everything was good. The only issue was people had gotten in corrals that were meant for faster people and we ended up having to slow down and ultimately dodge them. There were even walkers in front of us (which should never happen). We ran through down and past the Mississippi riverfront. Then, we ran down Beale Street. Donna was there and I waved and gave her the thumbs up that I was still fine.

After that, we turned and headed for the actual St Jude property. On the way, there were all sorts of young people entertaining us with singing and music. Running through the St Jude Campus is amazing. A lot of the kids and parents are out there high fiving you as you run through. It's hard not to get a lump in your throat when you see them holding up signs saying "I'm a Survivor thanks to you" or "I'm alive because of you". There was a lot of parents holding up signs thanking you for helping their kids. If that doesn't encourage you, nothing can. The race has fabulous encouragement all the way through. Even the policemen and women doing traffic control shout out encouragement all the way.

The first 13 miles went well. My pacer went a bit too fast though. He was supposed to do about a 11:49 mile and he did about 11:29. I did fine though. At about the 12.5 mile mark, the half marathon's head for Auto Zone park to finish and the crowd thins out. You loop back through Beale Street again. Donna was there again and I gave her the thumbs up to let her know I was fine. Now, you head out to the Fairgrounds (which I remembered from seeing UK's Liberty Bowl victory in person there a few years ago). Things started to get rougher and as I knew it would, my pace slowed. I had one more ace up my sleeve. Kentucky was playing North Carolina and I was able to listen to it. That got me through the next 8 miles. I am sure people thought something was wrong with me as I kept yelling and grimacing as I ran. I walked through the water stations as I drank powerade and water each time. I had a packet of GU each five miles. The encouragers were still there though and it helped a lot. I crossed the 20 mile barrier and was still OK. I kept up fine. At mile 24, a lady and her son had pretzels and Dixie cups of coke. That gave me a nice little boost and I knew I could make it. I got to mile 25 and I knew I'd make if I had to crawl.

Right before you get to Autozone ball park, you have to climb a ramp. I made it fine though and I knew it was downhill into the stadium. I was able to pick up my pace and run in just fine. There were plenty of cheering people there and I held up my arms in celebration as I ran around the warning track and across the finish! I had done it! I looked at my sports watch and saw I'd run a 5:32 time. I was very pleased with that. I got my medal and looked for Donna. She hugged me and told me how proud she was of me. She said how impressed she was with how strong I looked at the finish. They had a food area and I went through grabbing all sorts of things to eat as I walked. They even had Krispy Kremes so I had to grab a few and eat them as we walked back to the hotel. My legs were tired, but I had no pain. When I took off my shoes, I had no blisters or black toenails. My knees were fine too. I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of evening resting. I did manage to get up about five and walk a block with Donna to get burgers at Dyer's. I felt OK the next morning and we headed for home. We worshiped with the brethren at Hayti church of Christ (who were very friendly) and got home about 2pm.

I still have the glow of this accomplishment. I finished and I didn't finish last in my age group or overall. I had set a goal and made it. If a fifty year old man can run his first marathon and finish, you should be encouraged to set a goal for something you've always wanted to do and pull it off.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bob Forsch

I got an email from Donna last week with bad news. She mentioned she had seen where Bob Forsch had died. She remembered that he was the person who threw out the first pitch of the seventh game of the World Series. I remember thinking how fit he looked, you'd have thought he could throw a few innings if need be that night.

1974 was the first year I was really into the Cardinals. It was exciting year with Lou Brock chasing Maury Wills stolen base record. The Cardinals pitching staff was not that good. Bob Gibson was fading. Off season pickup Lynn McGlothen started fast at 12-3 and even pitched in the All-Star game but faded as the season wore on. Veterans like Alan Foster and Sonny Seibert weren't pitching well either. In mid season, the Cardinals brought up a young rookie named Bob Forsch. He pitched well for the Cardinals and they just missed winning the NL East that year.

Bob anchored the Cardinals staff for the next 14 seasons. He won 20 games in 1977. He pitched two no-hitters. They were the only two thrown in that Busch Stadium and he's the only Cardinal pitcher to throw 2. I remember listening to the first one in 1977 (vs the Phillies). I didn't know about the 2nd one in 1983 until somebody told me at work about it. I worked in Louisville and they didn't cover the Cardinals like back home. He pitched in three World Series. Bob Forsch was one of my favorite Cardinals.

I imagine Bob Forsch was on top of the world after throwing out that first pitch in Game 7 and then watching his Cardinals win the World Series. He never dreamed what would happen to him in a week. He never would have thought his old manager (Whitey Herzog) or Cardinal great Stan Musial would outlive him. This just shows how fleeting life can be.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Run for the Border...

Donna and I were at the church building working to get all the powerpoint slides (songs and lessons) ready for the Central Ladies Day. Jonathan was there mowing. After we got done, we decided to grab something for dinner. After some discussion, we decided to go Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is one of our favorite Sunday after church food destinations. They give discounts on tacos on Sunday and cleverly call this Taco Sunday. I usually think of Taco Bell as the epitome of inexpensive food. We ordered a standard amount of food and I was a bit surprised to find that our total was over 18.00. I started looking and found that tacos were now 1.09 apiece. They even had some burrito value meals that were more than 8.00! It's funny how you get certain things stuck in your head for years about what things should cost. For example. it took me a long time to not think a hotel room that cost more than 100.00 a night wasn't outrageous. This doesn't mean that we won't ever go back but I'll certainly give it more thought next time.

We did go to the Dollar Tree to grab some candy for dessert. Jonathan and I had fun playing with the cheap toys. I grabbed a light saber and held it to his face saying (of course) "Luke, I am your father". We also played with the plastic armor (which was of course too small for us). We finally got back to the church building. April had just arrived from college and of course Jonathan abandoned us immediately.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I see this commercial quite often during my daily dose of Daniel Boone on Retro TV and I really like it.

Because we have the two best sons there are, I am often asked "What advice do you have about being a good dad?" (as if I am actually a good dad). Anyway, one of the things I'll say is "Spend as much time with your kids as you can". This commercial reminds me that it doesn't have to being doing what seems "really cool stuff". Just hanging out with your kids is something they'll enjoy and it helps build that strong bond that will last.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Left My Ballard County

I'm reposting this from three years ago in honor of the day..

Monday September 15th was the 24th anniversary of a day that set my life (happily) on a drastic change.

I was a fledging programmer at what was called Martin Marietta then (now USEC) and living in an apartment in Forest Hills. I had gone over to my buddy Jeff Lawrence's trailer (known to this area as Dr. Jeff on WKYQ). He asked if I had plans for the next evening. I said no thinking we were going to have one of our regular marathon Trivial Pursuit matches. He says "Well, you've got a date". I was aghast. "I've set you up with someone I work with at Trader's Mart" (Trader's Mart is a long defunct want-ad kind of paper). He told me I had to go because I wouldn't be allowed to hang out at his place the next night so I reluctantly agreed.

The next day, I went with my friends Keith "Corky" Johnson and Jim Hill to Massac State Park. I sat on the bank of the Ohio River looking and thinking "What kind of idiot goes out with a girl he's never seen before?".

The hour approached and I headed out to meet her at Trader's Mart in my 1983 Trans-Am. All I knew is her name was Donna Woods and she'd be in a black Olds Cutlass.

I got there and the car was there. I watched the door open with apprehension. Out stepped the most beautiful brown haired brown-eyed girl I'd ever seen. I almost couldn't speak. I finally said "I'm Stuart, do you want to see my driver's license to prove it?". She actually laughed at my bad joke.

She wanted to go to McDonalds and eat so we did. She had a quarter pounder with cheese and I had a Big Mac. I saw some guys I knew and I think they were in shock when they saw me out with this beautiful girl.

She wanted to see Grandview USA at the Paducah Drive-In. I was glad to go there since I worked there for years each summer until I started working full-time at Martin Marietta. My boss (who recently passed away) Richard Phillips was at the ticket booth. I guess he was so shocked to see with such a pretty date that he let us in free. He also told me to go to the concession stand and get free drinks and popcorn. Donna told me later how impressed she was when I brought out drinks and a large brown bag full of buttered popcorn.

The whole date cost 5.00 (including gasoline). She even shared my frugality beliefs! I was enthralled...

The night went great and she even agreed to see me again.

The next morning as I was getting ready to go to church, my phone rang. The caller introduced himself as the "Ballard County Sheriff" and he needed to talk to me about an incident last night. The girl I had gone out with was from Ballard County. My main experiences with Ballard County were to go to the "Game Preserve" (as my Uncle James called it) to camp with my family and a visit to the "Green Palace" (which was really really Green) to watch Lone Oak play in a district basketball tournament. I remember all the kids there blew duck calls the whole game. Anyway, I thought "Oh man, she didn't make it home and now I am the last one to see her and the main suspect". It turned out that they had picked up a couple of guys I know as they came off the Wickliffe bridge and they wanted me to vouch for their idenities.

For reasons I'll never understand, she kept going out with me. We've been married 22 years. She still laughs at my bad jokes. I've worked at "Martin Marietta" for almost 25 years. We drove that black Olds Cutlass til it wouldn't run any more. I've lived in Ballard County for 16 years now. I still order a Big Mac when I go to McDonalds. And I couldn't be happier....

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ugly in Nashville..

When we found out last year that Western Kentucky's game with Kentucky would be played at LP Field in Nashville, Jonathan and I figured we would go. We knew we could easily get there in a coupleof hours. When schedule came out, we saw the game was on Thursday instead of Saturday. Jonathan doesn't have class on Friday and I knew I could take vacation so we decided we'd still go. The game time was 8:15pm which was late, but was OK for us. When the tickets went on sale, I went ahead and bought us club seats. I knew it was going to be hot on the first day of September, so I wanted us to be able to go into an air conditioned area if need be. I bought a parking pass for one of the LP lots as well.

As the time got closer to the date of the game, I kept hearing that ticket were not good. The hope was 45,000 but it looked like 30,000 was the best they'd draw. I picked up Jonathan at WKCTC and we headed out. We stopped at Zaxby's for dinner in Clarksville. We got to the stadium with no problem. The crowd was low. We had no trouble parking. We got into to the club level and it was great. The area was air conditioned. There were numerous TVs showing various football games. We were on the front row of the club section on the 10 yard line, so our view was great.

The game started and it wasn't so great. UK got the ball first and was stuffed and went three and out. Neither team could do much. All I'd heard all summer was how great the UK offensive line looked and how much better QB Morgan Newton looked. Neither was apparent here. UK couldn't do anything on offense. They had 35 total yards in the first half. A Newton interception set up a WKU field goal. The WKU QB Jakes was just as bad. His interception set up the only decent run by UK (by freshman Josh Clemens) for a TD. UK somehow lead 7-3 at the half. The lower half of the stadium wasn't even full. The whole place just seemed dead

The half time was nice. The Club area had plenty of cushioned chairs and couches. Jonathan and I had a seat and watched Louisville finish off Murray State 21-9. There was much complaining by the UK faithful. I was tempted to ask Mitch Barnhardt for a refund myself :-).

The second half wasn't much better. Morgan Newton litterally sacked himself bringing many groans from the UK faithful. He threw two more interceptions. The UK defense kept holding WKU off. Ryan Tylachka kept getting off great punts to bail UK out. The game was still 7-3 heading into the fourth quarter and we were worried. Finally, with about 6 minutes to go, UK made a couple of big plays. Morgan Newton took off on a scramble and ran for 58 yards. A couple of plays later, he made a beautiful pass to La'rod King for a touchdown. We felt a lot better with a 14-3 lead. UK's defense kept up the heat and UK ended up with a very fortunate win.

The attendence was 24,000. There would have been that many at a UK-WKU basketball game in Rupp Arena. WKU needs to do whatever it takes to get this game played on a Saturday when UK and WKU play again in 2013. MTSU has first rights to the field and would have to give permission. A lot of people including me are very discouraged about UK football now. If UK plays like this, they'll be lucky to win more than two more games (including probable losses to Louisville, Vandy, and UT for 27th straight time). The defense played well, but I don't know if they can do that against an SEC team. We'll see how things go against Central Michigan at home next week.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crown Me..

Several weeks ago, I started experiencing pain in one of my teeth. I kept thinking it would go away (for some reason). It kept getting worse. I started feeling it even when I ran. So, I asked Donna to call our Dentist's office (White and White Family Dentistry). I went on to work since I presumed that it would it would be several days before they could squeeze me in. I got a call from Donna at 8:25am saying that they could see me at 9 if I could make it. Of course, I said "Yes" and headed out.

Dr. Kelvin White tried various things to try and figure out what the issue was. I was sure which tooth it was. He did an x-ray and it turned out the tooth next to it was fractured. I presumed I would have to come back the next day. Even though Dr. Kelvin was very busy (Dr. Dustin Hall wasn't there), he said that I should stay and he'd take care of it. I would need a crown. I was even able to get a quote on the spot as to how much I would have to pay (after insurance), I didn't even have to leave the dentist's chair. Dr. Kelvin spent the next couple of hours running between breaks of other patients do all the work to get my tooth ready for the crown, take an impression for the permanent crown, and put on a temporary crown. Dr. Kelvin and his assistant kept apologizing for taking so long. I was so grateful for them working so hard to take of me as quickly as they could. I went back to work after I was done.

The next day I went in to work, but by mid-day, I was hurting pretty bad. Dr. Kelvin had thought this might happen so he'd given me a prescription for pain-killers and an antibiotic. Donna filled those for me and I came home and took them. After a couple of days, all the pain was gone. During those next weeks, I had to be careful not to crunch anything hard on the temporary crown and to be careful when flossing. I had no problems at all.

I went back a couple of days ago for the permanent crown. I expected some pain when the temporary one was removed. Literally before I could think about it, Shae said "OK it's off". In less than thirty minutes, Dr. White and her had my new crown on and I was on my way. I had to wait a few hours to eat, so I had a chocolate milkshake for lunch. As always, Dr. White and his staff took great care of me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Blazer

Now that Donna has gotten her the Chrysler 300, we have an overabundance of vehicles. With Josh home, we have SIX vehicles. It was simply time for one to go. The obvious choice was of course our 1989 S-10 Blazer. It has over 196,000 miles on it, the gas tank leaks, the engine doesn't run well, all of the radio speakers are out, and the exhaust sometimes filters through the car. All the same, it's hard to give it up.

When Donna and I married, I had a 1983 Trans Am. It was my cool car designed to attract the eyes of any woman who looked on it. Of course, Donna didn't really like the car at all :-). It was a neat car to drive, but it was not a practical family car. It had a backseat, but it was so small you couldn't really have anyone ride in the back. Jonathan often asks why I got rid of that car which is really ironic. When Donna got pregnant in 1989, we realized that car wouldn't hold a car seat very well at all. She had a hard time getting in and out of the car when she got further and further along. We finally bit the bullet and bought a brand new 1989 S-10 Blazer on sale at Royal Oaks Chevrolet. We traded in my Trans Am for it since we already had Donna's newer Olds Cutlass. It was the first new car Donna had ever owned in her life. Lest you think I was always a Dave Ramsey guy, we actually borrowed money to buy the car. It was the last car we ever had payments on and we paid it off in a year.

That car has gone through a lot. It took us to the hospital twice to get new baby boys. We took it on all sorts of family trips. It was always the car that could pull through any snow. A few years ago, it was the car that managed to get back to our house through snow (and over a few limbs) when the big ice storm of 2009 hit. We've sat on its tailgate to watch movies at two drive-ins (Mayfield and Calvert City). It's hauled all sorts of sports equipment and all sorts of Ballard County/Memorial athletes. Both of the boys learned to drive with it. It's been like a member of the family.

Josh has been trying to sell it through various means for the past couple of months. Then, my sister-in-law's husband Jimmy offered to buy it. We were thrilled to get anything for it. He knows how to actually fix things on a car so he can fix some of the issues with it and enjoy using it. Changing out bulbs and an air filter the limit of my capabilities. Donna got a little upset when she saw him driving it after we took it to him today. I'll miss that old car too.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stan the Man..

I had wanted to get the new Stan Musial book. Josh got it for me for Father's Day and I've been reading on it since. If you are not a sports fan, Stan Musial is the face of the St Louis Cardinals franchise. I cannot think of another person in sport who would be considered in the same way.

The book is excellent. It of course touches on incidents that I already knew about. There are long chapters but there are very short chapters (2 pages) that touch on specific incidents that relate what kind of person Stan was. There is a great story of something he did for a rookie one holiday season. I knew he was a really good guy but the book emphasizes that. It even brings up how he requested a pay cut when he had a bad season (I cannot imagine that happening nowadays). I also didn't know he was good friends with author James Michener.

Another theme in the book is how Stan seems to have been overlooked his whole life. The author points out that this wasn't as true as much when he played as later in life. I can't speak to that but there are incidents in my life I remember. I remember how he was left off the all time baseball All Star baseball team and was added by the Comissioner of Baseball. The book states that he was the first name brought up and there was no room for argument. The book also reminded me how Stan was upstaged at the All Star game at Busch Stadium a few years back by the appearance of President Obama.

If you are a Cardinal Fan, baseball fan, or a sports fan at all, I'd recommend you read the book. You'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's For Your Own Good..

I was at my doctor a couple of months ago and in the course of our discussion, he said "You're getting close to 50, you should go ahead and get a colonoscopy". I thought to myself "Whoa, What? Let's not go overboard here doc!". He asked who I wanted to use and I said "Dr. McCombs". Both Donna and my father-in-law go to him and really like him. He took really good care of Donna when she was having issues a couple of years ago. So, he got me signed up for an appointment with one of the PAs there.

I went to my appointment secretly hoping I'd get out of doing the colonosocopy. The PA talked with me at length and I told her I was having no issues. Alas, she said "Well since you are getting close to 50, let's go ahead and schedule it". So we did. She gave me a prescription for something called NuLytely and instructions for using it. My appointment wasn't for over a month, so I set the stuff aside.

About a week before my appointment, Donna went and got my prescription. She came back with what looked to be an enormous jug with white powder in it. I found out I was to drive 12 8 ounce glasses of this stuff the night before along with 2 Ducolax tablets. I had to drink 4 more glasses the next morning before my 11:30 appointment. There were four flavor packets you could choose from (cherry, orange, pineapple and lemon-line). I somehow doubted it was going to make the stuff taste like Kool-Aid.

For the week before, you are not supposed to eat beans, seeds, popcorn, peanuts, etc. I knew Josh and I were going to watch the Cardinals play the Saturday before and part of the deal with our seats was free food (including popcorn). I had Donna call hoping again I might get out of it by saying I'd be eating popcorn. Again, no luck. They said "Oh, one night will be OK".

The day before the procedure, you have to have a liquid diet. You are limited to Popsicles, broth and jello. You also cannot have any red or purple colored jello. My two favorite flavors of course are cherry and grape. So, I was limited to orange and blueberry. Donna strained three cans of chicken noodle soup for me. Josh got all the good stuff in his lunch and I got broth.

That night, I started with the liquid. I'd been warned to have something with you when you started this since you'd be "stuck in one spot" for a while. I took my new Stan Musial book Josh got me for Father's Day plus my laptop with Netflix playing. I had Donna mix in the cherry flavoring. The stuff wasn't too bad to start with. I drank the first couple of glasses at 15 minute intervals wondering what would happen. I didn't wait too long. I won't go into the gross details, but it was like a nuclear laxative kicked in. I got through eight glasses chugging them right down. After that, the last four got tougher and tougher. I got all twelve down though. I went to bed after that. I only got up a few times in the night.

Starting the next morning at 7, I worked on the last four glasses. I thought being hungry would help, but getting those four down wasn't as easy as it'd been the night before. I'd put away a gallon of that stuff. That cherry flavoring didn't seem as good at this point. We left at about 10:30 and even ran a few errands (with me close to a bathroom if need be of course) without issue. We got to the Gastro center at Western Baptist about 11:20. I filled out the usual paperwork and was ushered back to a room to wait. The nurse put an IV in and showed up a film about how a colonsocopy works.

Finally about 1:00pm, a nurse came to wheel me back. I looked at Donna and told her I loved her and back I went. They wheeled me into the room and I could see the monitor they would use to see how my colon looked. I could even see the tubing and I thought "Wow, that looks like a lot". Dr. McCombs put his hand on my shoulder and said "Mr Yancy, lets get this done and get you to lunch, OK?" I thanked him and said "Yes Sir!". The nurse started putting the knockout stuff in my IV and said "Here comes the good stuff!". I remember thinking if I should close my eyes. Next thing I knew, I was back in the room where I started. It was like they flipped a switch and I had gone completely out.

I saw Donna's beautiful face and knew I had made it fine. They gave me some Diet Coke to drink. They make you do something quite a bit before you leave. To put it delicately, since they put air in your colon to inflate it to see it better, that gas has to come out before they let you go. Being a male, this was a piece of cake. I looked at Donna once and thought she was crying. Turns out, she was laughing so hard, she had tears in her eyes. They wheeled me out to the curb and Donna picked me up. She then told me how I kept repeating "Dr. McCombs sure looked different" about 10 or 11 times. She also said I was quizzing the nurse about every beverage they had until picking what she knew I would - Diet Coke. That's some mighty good stuff they put in that IV I guess. She told me that everything was fine and they'd removed a small polyp and said I should eat a bit more fiber. Donna fed me when I got home and I just relaxed the rest of the night while my personal nurse took great care of me. I had no problem getting up and heading to work the next day.

Now, let me talk to my friends/classmates that are my age. This really wasn't anywhere as bad as you might sometimes be lead to believe. Please don't put it off and risk not finding colon cancer until its too late. I can tell you the people at the Gastro Center were great and took wonderful care of me. The only bad thing was I would have thought with two days of a liquid diet/not eating that I might drop a pound or two. Alas, that didn't happen..

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Drury Inn and Suites Convention Center - St Louis

I promised a while back I start reviewing hotels and the like from my travels. My disclaimer is that this is strictly based on my experiences and is no guarantee of future results. So, here goes.

We've enjoyed staying at Drury Hotels. It's not a huge chain and its confined to the midwest and south. I've rarely had a bad experience. We spent almost two weeks at the Paducah Drury Suites when we were run out of our home by the ice storm. So, I've accumulated quite a few Drury Key points. I had tickets for the Cardinals Phillies game Thursday, so I decided to see what I could get for free with my Gold Key points.

First, you have to call to redeem points. For Hilton and Mariott you can easily see how many points you have and redeem them online. You can't do this with Drury. That said, the reservation person I spoke with with very helpful and we hammered out the reservation very quickly.

The hotel is pretty easy to get to if you are coming from Illinois via I-64. You can get off at the MLK bridge exit and once you reach the Missouri side, you just make a couple of turns and you are there. You park at the front of the building to check in. I had no problem at all checking in. I could see how check-in could be a problem if there were multiple cars out front and the check-in lane was full.

You get free parking with your resevation in their parking garage. This is something to keep in mind when comparing costs to another hotel since you in effect get free parking in downtown St Louis. The hotel is very secure, your room key is required to enter the hotel from the parking garage. The elevator requires a room key to use. If you use the stairs, you need your room key to enter the door to another level. My room was very nice. The layout of the floor plan is a little different. Instead of one rectangle, it's like two linked rectangles.

Drury's have started having food in the evenings. This night, there were chicken strips, hot dogs, mac and cheese, baked potatoes, broccoli and cheese soup and chips/pretzels. There was also free soda. In the mornings, you get a good breakfast. It's usually exactly the same each morning. The breakfast consists of sausage, gravy, biscuits, scrambled eggs, and french toast. There is also fruit, donuts, oatmeal and the capability to make your own waffle. It's a good breakfast, but I could see where you might get tired of it after a few days. They also have free popped popcorn (with one of those popcorn machines like we used to have at the Paducah Drive In) and soda.

The hotel is a straight shot walking to Busch Stadium. It's about eight blocks away. It's close enough to walk but far enough away to be insulated from the noise.
If you absolutely didn't want to walk, you can grab the Metro and be taken right to the stadium. It's very nice after the game to not have the hassle of having to exit the parking garage's with all the other fans and wending your way home. The Arch is within about six blocks. Union Station is about a mile away, but I'd recommend driving or Metro as opposed to driving.

The cons I give above are not really huge deals. Overall, I'd recommend this hotel to stay in on your next visit to St Louis to see the Cardinals.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rolo McFlurry

Last Monday morning, I was in the area of McDonalds in the morning. I couldn't resist grabbing a couple of those $1.00 sausage biscuits. As I looked at the menu board while placing my order, I noticed something I'd never seen before. There was an advertisement for a Rolo McFlurry. Rolos are in my top five all time favorite candy's. They are not readily available which is probably a good thing for me. I immediately started singing this of course.

I will admit that I have never had a McFlurry in all my visits to McDonalds. I tend to lean toward getting either a chocolate milkshake or a chocolate sundae. I favor a chocolate chip or Midnite Truffle blizzard at DQ for my mixed ice cream and candy treat. I told Josh about it and he wanted one. After he went to the summer youth series, he went to the Mayfield DQ. He said it was disappointing. All he got was chocolate and caramel mixed with soft serve in a cup. I was heartbroken. He recommended I try one myself and see what I thought.

So today on the way home from church, I stopped by the Paducah Jackson Street McDonalds. I went in to order so I could watch it being made. I could see the young lady scooping what looked like chunks of Rolo into the cup! She doused it with a large shot of chocolate syrup and gave it to me. It was really good! There were large chunks of Rolo in it and it tasted great. I couldn't put it down long enough to pump gas at Supervalu on the way home. Donna was laughing at me as I came in the door. She saw me shoveling Rolo McFlurry in as I pumped gas.

If you can get a correctly made one, I'd heartily recommend it. It's a good thing for my sake they are only available "for a limited time only".

Friday, May 20, 2011

Family Vacation

It had been since 2007 that we'd taken a family vacation together. Jonathan will be a senior next year, so I hoped to have one more try at a vacation together. I was able to line up the week after the boys got out of school in the Smokys (right before they started their internships at USEC).

We got a 3 Bedroom suite at our Wyndham Resort. It had lot of room (1500 square feet) and four TVs. The trip down was uneventful. We got there about 6 and went out and got pizza and we simply decided to unwind from the trip.

The next day, Donna and I walked and we just rested in the morning mixing in a trip to Wal-Mart for supplies. In the afternoon, Josh and I went to the park to play tennis. It'd been over a year since we played. I managed to hang in OK, but still lost 8-5, 8-2. We had a enjoyable dinner that night at Longhorn Steakhouse.

The next day, we decided to try something on my Bucket List. The boys and I went ziplining. Several ziplining places have sprung up all over the Smoky Mountain area. By far, the most recommended one was Smoky Mountain Zip Lines in Pigeon Forge. I got us each 15.00 off coupons to drive the cost per person to 69.95 each. When we got there, we got geared up with a harness, helmet and gloves and settled down to wait. Once our party got together (7 of us plus two guides), we got on benches in the back of a truck and headed up the mountain. You are unloaded at the first platform where you do two lines that are easy and close to the ground to get the hang of things.

We got to do 16 zip lines total of varying length and height. About midway through, you take a break for water and photos. It was very safe. You have a guide on each end as you zip from platform to platform. You are constantly tethered to the zip line and they check things carefully as you go along. Everybody was very personable. I met a Reds fan (who was civil) and we talked baseball. At the end, you arrive back at the main building are given the opportunity to ride two more long (one almost a quarter mile that gets up to 40 mph) for an extra 20.00 (it's normally more than that). So we did those too. We had a blast and spent most of the morning there. There was a Krispy Kreme on the way back, so we had to stop there. We rested in the afternoon and had supper at FuddRuckers. We went to Wednesday night services at Sevierville church of Christ and enjoyed that as well.

Thursday, we got up and just relaxed more. In the afternoon, we went to play 36 holes of miniature golf at Fantasy Golf. It was warm, but we had fun. I managed to win both times. We went to the Kinkaku Japanese Hibachi for dinner. Our chef was excellent and the food was great as well.

Friday, we decided to go to Clingman's Dome. This is the highest point in the mountains there. It has an observation area. You park and and have to go a little more than half a mile on a very steep path. Josh and I got the bright idea to try and run - Jonathan thought we were crazy. I made it about .1 mile and Josh about .25 miles. We got to the top and waited for Donna and Jonathan. I talked to a lady who had hiked there from North Carolina. We then met a young lady who was hiking to Maine! We observed for a while then went back to the parking lot.

We had lunch and the boys and I decided to go Magiquest. If you've never head of this, it's like an interactive Dungeons and Dragons game. You get a wand to use and you go on quests. We had our wands from Myrtle Beach and they actually worked still. We bought an hour of time and headed in. It was OK but not nearly as big as Myrtle Beach. It did have a couple of secret doors and I did manage to beat the Goblin King. We then did the rest of the things there. First, we played Black Light Pirate Golf. It's all inside and very neat. Jonathan nailed a couple of hole in ones and won. Next, we did the Mirror Maze. It was very challenging. We had trouble in the second part of the maze. We saw Josh reach the Forest part of the maze. He waved at us and vanished. Jonathan and I did find our way out though. Finally, they have a room with Laser Lines in it. Your object is to through as fast as you can without touching any of the lines (you get a penalty for each one you touch). Josh won that. We went back to the room. I got chicken and Marble Slab Creamery Ice Cream for us.

Saturday, we packed up and reluctantly headed for home. The ride home went without event. We'd had a lot of fun and relaxation. It's a bid sad knowing that this was probably our last family vacation until we have grandchildren to take. I don't if I'll be up for ziplining by then though :-).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Decision Points

I normally don't buy a lot of books new. Books are one of those things you can pick up at an incredible discount if you are just a bit patient. However, I really wanted to read George W Bush's book Decision Points. I respected him as President. I didn't agree with everything he did or said. I know quite a few people didn't like him. Several called him "that Cowboy President" as if that were an insult. Personally, I think a cowboy is as American as you can get, so I didn't have a problem with a Cowboy as President.

Anyway, Amazon had the book for half price when it came out, so I gave in and bought it. I read a lot of it on my ill fated flight to DC that I've already blogged about. I finally finished it last week. It's not written like your normal autobiography. Instead of being a chronological writing of his life, he breaks the books into chapters about big "Decision Points" in his life (hence the book's title). It's quite interesting. He lays out why he made the decisions he did and how hard some of them were. Like I said, I didn't always agree with what he did, but this book helps me understand why he decided what he did. He even admits mistakes he made and regrets he has.

I really liked the chapter called "Stem Cells". I remember this being a big controversy. If you read the chapter and especially the part about "Snowflakes", you can understand why he made the decision against allowing using human embryos for stem cells (which was correct in my mind). Two other things permeate the book which I think are great. One is his love for his family especially his wife Laura. Second, he started every day of his presidency with reading the Bible. If this man with all his responsibilities could make sure he did that every day, none of us have any excuse (especially me) for not spending time with God's Word every day.

It's certainly a book I'd highly recommend.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bad Knight....

Bobby Knight is woven into the fabric of UK basketball as few others are. When I think of that the big rival game was when I first started rooting for the Wildcats, it was Indiana and UK. They were always good and ran a brutal picking offense that was tough to guard. I remember the first season I really got into UK basketball in 1974-75. Kentucky won its first few games and then traveled to Bloomington to play the Hoosiers. They lost by 24 but it wasn't even that close. Indiana mopped up the floor with UK. But that isn't what UK fans remember about they game. Late in the game, Bobby Knight was screaming at the refs about a call that went against his team (probably the only one in the game). Coach Joe Hall said something like "Go get 'em Bobby". As Joe turned back to the UK bench, he felt a blow across the back of his head. Bobby Knight had come after him trying to fight him. Knight was pulled away. I am sure UK used this as encouragement (along with the help of sharpshooting guard Mike Flynn who ironically was from Indiana) to upset the undefeated Hoosiers in the finals of the NCAA Southeast region.

I remember having a level of respect for Coach Knight at one point. He was the coach of the USA team in the 1979 Pan-American games. UK's Kyle Macy was a point guard on that team. A Cuban player suckered punched Macy and broke his jaw. The player received a one game suspension. Macy couldn't play for the rest of the games (which the US won). Knight traveled to Macy's home to give him his gold medal. Of course, Bobby Knight left the games on bail after being accused of a scuffle with a policeman.

Coach Knight ended up doing various things such as throwing a chair, choking one of his own players, and launching profanity laced tirades against refs, announcers and fans. He was eventually fired from Indiana. Now he's incurred the ire of UK fans.

A few days ago, Bobby Knight stated on ESPN that "none of UK's players in the 2009-2010 season went to class". His data was immediately protested by UK AD Mitch Barnhart, as well as Patrick Patterson and Demarcus Cousins. Even fellow ESPN commentators spoke against him. He followed up with a half-hearted apology saying he shouldn't have personnally mentioned UK. He didn't apologize at all for falsely accusing the players. I can offer eye-whiteness proof for at least three players.

Josh called me very excitedly at the start of the 2010 Spring Semester to tell me that all of the UK Freshmen players were in his Geology class. He said they attended regularly. Eric Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins and John Wall were in there. They even attended after the season ended and even while signed up for the draft. We held out hope that they would return since they were still going to class (but of course they didn't).

I hope UK keeps the heat on Knight and ESPN for an actual apology stating he put out totally erroneous and unsubstantiated information against UK.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Cousin Eddie..

I was doing my usual after work relaxation of watching Dragnet Tuesday when the phone rang. Josh generally calls at that time to talk to Donna on his way home from work. Donna came to tell me it was my sister Jody. When I got on the phone, I knew it was bad news, but I still couldn't believe it. She told me my cousin Eddie had died. I was absolutely surprised. He had some issues with his lungs and breathing but this was certainly unexpected. He was only 55.

Eddie was my cool cousin. I remember going to Reidland to see my Uncle Bill and Aunt Lee Anna when I was a kid. It seemed like a really big deal to go all the way to Reidland on a drive. They had a very nice house with a big basement. My Uncle Bill had a lot of radio equipment that looked like it belonged in the Bat Cave. They had Charles Chips which were potato chips delivered directly to their house in a large metal can that were excellent. I enjoyed playing with my little cousin Martha Sue. But I was always hoping I'd see my cousin Eddie. He was about 6 years older than me. He was a very talented musician. He was good looking young man, he was even in some clothing ads for a local clothing store. He dressed very cool and all the girls thought he was handsome. But despite all that, he wasn't aloof or stuck up at all. He always would always talk to me and ask how I was and genuinely listen and be interested in what I said. I was always in awe of him. As I got older, we would talk about music. He loved the Beatles and so did I. I saw the Rolling Stones in concert when I was at UK and he wanted to know all the details about the show since he'd seen them before.

The one thing I would say was most impressive to me about him was Eddie's singing voice. He had once of the best singing voices I've ever heard. I was not blessed with a good singing voice. When the Bible talks about "making a joyful noise", that is me. He was in several rock bands in his life. I remember my sister-in-law telling us once that someone had mentioned "Yancy,Barnhill and Dunkerson" once on the radio asking if that was me and my good friend Dr Jeff just laughed and laughed. When people met me, they'd often ask "Are you related to Eddie Yancy?"

I remember going to see his band "White Horse" play with my friend Rick Alvey (This was of course before I started spending weekends with a certain beautiful brown haired, brown eyed girl). I remember after the first set, I just waved and said "Hey Eddie" (not wanting to bother him). He said "Hey" and then rushed over to where I was sitting and hugged me and said he was so glad to see me. He sat and talked to me until he had to go back on stage. He made me feel really special. After each set, he would come over and sit with Rick and me and talk. Later he sang the song "Little Pink Houses" by John Cougar. Instead of singing 'Cause they told me when I was younger Said boy, you're gonna be president', he sang 'Cause they told me when I was younger Said Stuart, you're gonna be president'. Rick looked at me and we laughed. After that set, Eddie came up to me and laughed too. He said "I remember when you were younger you told us you wanted to be president". He really DID listen to all those things we talked about. Then he leaned over and said "Stuart, you won't be like most of these people, they'll never make make anything of their lives". "You are different, you'll make something of your life, I know you'll be a successful man". That made me feel really great.

We saw each other off and on through the years at family gatherings. He was always nice and personable to me and everyone he talked to. As my brother mentioned today at Eddie's funeral, he had that great laugh that just automatically made you happy when you heard it. I remember talking with him at his brother Bruce's funeral a few years ago. He said he lived in Kevil and we needed to see more of each other since we lived that close. To my shame, we didn't. I'll miss him a lot.

Please keep my cousin Martha Sue (his sister) and my Uncle Bill and Aunt Lee Anna in your prayers. They've lost two brothers/sons as young men (in their 50's).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Houston, we have a problem.

We left Friday for our trip to Houston within minutes of Josh's arrival home from Lexington. We did not plan to go the whole distance on Friday. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Arkadelphia Arkansas.

I got an incredible deal there. I am a Hilton Honors member. The rooms were only 7500 points apiece (generally a Hampton runs 20k to 30k points). I was able to get a room for Jonathan and Josh and one for Donna and I for 15k points each. The hotel was just as nice as any other Hampton I've ever stayed in.

We left that morning. We got off I-30 after reaching Texas. It was very interesting to drive on Texas roads. Highways similar to New Highway 60 here have a speed limit of 70. You slow down to 55 to 60 upon entering towns. We stopped at a Whattaburger. I've always wanted to try one of these after seeing them on "King of the Hill". I was not disappointed, the burgers were excellent.

We made great time. We got to our hotel outside of Houston about 3:00pm. Again, I got a deal. I got two studio suites at the Towneplace Suites for 70.00 each. We rested for a bit and headed out to the game (leaving Donna there). It was about a 30 minute drive to Reliant Stadium. I had bought a parking pass already and there was plenty of parking so we had no trouble. We even had time to walk to Jack in the Box to eat. We got into the stadium in plenty of time for the Butler VCU game.

Our seats were on the 2nd level. It was a very bizarre looking setup. I'd never seen a basketball court in a football stadium. It wasn't even in the center of the stadium. We were further away on our end than people on the other end. But all in all, our seats were fine. The people in the lower arena in the end zones had it worse. The seats were not tiered so the people had to stand up the whole time.

The first game started. It was close the whole way. Butler finally pulled away at the end to win. There were quite a few VCU and Butler fans. UConn had the fewest. Of course, UK had the most. I would guess over half the stadium was UK fans. The guy next to me actually lived in Houston and was there simply to "see good basketball"

The UK UConn game finally started. It was a bad omen when UK won the tip. They had lost the tip in the other games they'd won in the tourney. They forced numerous turnovers but had trouble scoring. They had a slight lead but finally UK got down by 10 at the half. They rallied to take a lead by two on some decent three point shooting. They missed numerous opportunities to pad their lead and UConn took the lead. Even with all that, UK never wilted. They stole the ball with 16 seconds left down two. Alas, they couldn't get off a decent shot. UConn hit two foul shots and UK a three at the buzzer to lose by 1. It was very sad. They reverted to old form where the three freshman scored most of the points and the three upper classmen did little.

We had already decided to go home if UK lost. Fortunately, the guy next to me wanted to bring his fiancee to the championship game. He bought my ticket. I sent Josh and Jonathan to the car to get it. I threw in my Monday parking pass. He was a very nice guy and enjoyable to talk to. When I got to the car, Josh informed my that he had manged to sell our other two tickets! I had however made a deal with Josh that he'd get 50% of any tickets he sold, so that worked out for him at least.

Leaving the stadium was tough. The roads around it aren't built to handle the sudden out flux of 75,000 people (a new NCAA record). It took us almost 45 minutes to go 1 mile to the bypass. We got back about midnight. I cancelled our hotel reservations for the next two nights and went to bed.

We got up the next morning and I made the decision to not drive the whole way the next day. The boys weren't really thrilled at first, but finally agreed. We went to 249 church of Christ in Houston. The brethren there were very nice and hospitable. We left and ate lunch on the way. We got to Prescott Arkansas and went to church at the Prescott congregation. The people there were very hospitable as well. We had a hard time getting out of there in fact. They were mostly Arkansas fans and told us they had rooted for UK last night and were sorry to see them lose. We drove on to Arkadelphia and stayed at the Hampton again.

We got up the next morning and headed out. As we hit I-55 in West Memphis, it started to rain and rained on us the whole rest of the way home. We were fortunate as it turned out. There were tornadoes in Ballard County. Several buildings were damaged and a person hurt pretty bad. When we got home, Josh hopped in his car and headed home. We tracked him on Google Latitude to make sure he made it.

The trip didn't turn out as well as I hoped (no final for UK). We had a good time together though. I've already applied for tickets for next year...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Final Four!

Whoo-hoo!!! After 13 years, the University of Kentucky is back in the Final Four. When I first saw the seed Kentucky got (they should have been a 3 at least) and saw they'd most likely have to beat Ohio State and North Carolina, I thought they'd never do it. I'm glad I was wrong.

We stayed up late Friday night to watch them play the number one team - Ohio State. They played lock-down defense and won on a shot by Brandon Knight with 5 seconds to go. I didn't know if they could recover emotionally from that to play well today. They did! They beat North Carolina by 7. The game was tied was just a few minutes left, but UK rode a couple of clutch threes by Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins to win by 7.

We left the car with the score 70-69 and went into church. People crowded around me as I kept up with the score on my Blackberry. We saw that Liggins hit a three with 35 seconds left just before we started services. Then, I saw the final where they'd won!

But that isn't the best thing of all. For years, I've put in an application to try and get tickets to the Final Four. I first tried in 1984 when the Final Four was in Rupp Arena - the year Villinova upset Georgetown. I've never gotten the tickets. In August of this year, I got this email..

Dear Stuart Yancy
Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that a random computerized program selected your application for tickets to the 2011 NCAA Men's Final Four, to be held April 2 and 4 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas

I honestly thought it was Spam. I did some research and even examined the email headers (being an email admin has it's benefits) and finally realized it was legitimate. I still didn't entirely believe it until I got an application to request a parking pass. The tickets actually showed up February! I figured I would end up selling them especially when the NCAA made it's bizarre ruling not allowing Enes Kanter to play. Again, I was wrong.

So, we'll be heading for Houston on Friday...

Monday, March 7, 2011

United Airlines...

Recently, our local airport (Barkley Regional) changed carriers. We used to fly Northwest to Memphis. Now, it's United to O'Hare. I've heard good and bad about the new service, but never tried it myself. I had to make a trip to our company headquarters a few weeks ago, so I would find out myself.

I was in Lexington visiting Josh, so I ended up flying out of Bluegrass Airport. They run a similar service to O'Hare as Barkley except they run four flights a day. I knew I was in trouble after Donna dropped me off and I went to the kiosk to check in. I heard the agent tell the guy in front of me "Well, we'll need to adjust everyone's itinerary". Turns out there was bad winter weather in Chicago and all flights were backed up. I ended up with a backup flight to Dulles (instead of Reagan) for my trip. I sat at the gate and they kept bouncing the times of departure around. My original time was 10:40, but they moved that to 12:30 then 1 then 1:30. I had checked the FAA web site and they said flights were delayed 2.5 to 3 hours.

Our pilot ended up loading us on the plane about 12:30 just in case a slot opened up before 1:30. Well, it didn't. So, we just sat there for an hour before we left. We got there just in time for me to miss my flight to Reagan. Turns out the gates for the smaller United flights (from Paducah and Lexington for example) come into a totally different terminal than the main United flights. It's easily a 15 to 20 minute walk. I got an alert saying I had already been moved to my backup flight to Dulles. I went to the gate and the agent assigned my seat. I showed her my baggage claim and asked about my luggage. She assured me that my luggage would be routed automatically to Dulles on my new flight.

I got on my laptop to change my rental car arrangements from Reagan to Dulles. I also saw there was a Winter Storm Warning for Bethesda. So, I changed my hotel to the closest one to HQ. I also set up up my final night at at Hampton Inn close to Dulles so I wouldn't have a tough drive that morning.

The flight to Dulles went fine. I waited for my luggage and it never came out. I went to a kiosk and was told "It was en-route". I waited some more and finally found a United baggage person. They checked and said "Oh, your luggage is at Reagan". I was incredulous and started to make my point about how I was told "it would be rerouted to Dulles automatically". I was then told that "Well, you'll just have to go to Reagan and get it".

Well, this is not as easy as it sounds. Reagan is a good 30 mile - 45 min drive. It had started to freezing rain. Plus, I had no idea how to get there and my cell phone (with GPS) was on its last legs. It finally died on me as I got close. After several wrong turns, I finally got there. My luggage was sitting in the baggage claim office. I grabbed it and managed the stumble my way (after a few more wrong turns) back to my hotel.

The rest of the trip went fine. I went to a fine Wednesday night Bible study at Clarkeville church of Christ. The preach there was from Fulton KY. I had little trouble getting to Dulles the next day and the trip home was fine. It was sure nice to see Donna waiting for me when I got off the plane and into Barkley.

I learned some lessons. One, I have a phone charger that I could use in a car still in shrink wrap! I unwrapped that and put it in my laptop case for future use. Two, I need to be more certain of my luggage re-route next time. Three, I should have checked the conditions at O'Hare before I ever went to the airport. I could have stayed in my hotel room for a few more hours and relaxed.

There isn't much I can do about O'Hare and weather. In the winter, it's going to have a lot more issues than Memphis did. I'll have to allow for that. What disappointed me was nobody at United ever said "I'm sorry about your luggage" Their attitude was almost as if "Oh well, that's just the way it goes".

I may give them one more shot. I will give the Nashville to Baltimore route on Southwest another serious look next time though. The main disadvantage to that is at least when I do get to Paducah, I am 15 minutes from home. At Nashville, I still have a 2.5 hour drive in front of me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

25 years!

Yesterday, Donna and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I remember thinking all those years ago that "I'll be almost 50 when we've been married 25 years". Well, that day has come.

It's been a wonderful 25 years. We sat down today and just reflected on our past 25 years. We couldn't honestly come up with any really bad things that have happened. We have of course had disagreements and arguments, but we've always managed to work things out. We've lived in three different places (an apartment in Lone Oak, a rental home on the Ballard/McCracken County line and our current home). We've raised two fine young Christian men who have bright futures in front of them.

I was blessed by God to have Donna in my life. I dated a few girls before her, but I'd never met anyone like her. She's the perfect woman. She's beautiful and smart and can be the most gracious lady and also roll up her sleeves and do hard work when the need arises. She's amazing with words and letters (I won't play her in Scrabble, she always destroys me). She's embraced being in a home with three men who love sports. She's supported all of us through all of our sporting endeavors. She's even embraced following Baseball, the NFL and College Basketball simply because I enjoy all of these so much. She's pretty athletic herself. She made the decision right after we got married to take on the job of stay at home mom because she felt it was best for our family.

She teaches me lessons all the time on how to be kind and loving towards others. She also doesn't believe there isn't anything she cannot do. Never tell her "You can't do that"; most likely she'll prove you wrong. She's my biggest fan in everything I do. She still thinks I am the most wonderful guy in the world. She's my encourager when I'm feeling down but knows when I need a "pull up your bootstraps" talk too. She's helped me be a much more faithful Christian.

I could talk for hours about her but I'll let the above suffice for now. I can't wait to see what the next 25 have in store for us..

Monday, February 14, 2011


I am currently teaching the 7th and 8th grade class on Sunday morning. For the first time I can remember, my class is made up entirely of young ladies. I've no experience in dealing with young ladies having raised up two sons. They are a wonderful group. They are very well behaved and seem eager to learn. They participate very well in the class. I've learned as much from them as they have from me, probably more so. I've had to ditch some of my usual sports analogies though..

We are studying the book of Acts. We recently studied Acts 8 and the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. One word in one the verses we studied struck me particularly.

Acts 8:29-30 - Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip RAN thither to [him], and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said , Understandest thou what thou readest?KJV - My emphasis.

The eunuch was in his chariot trying to read the book of Isaiah and was having difficultly. The Holy Spirit told Philip to go to him. Philip didn't hesitate, he RAN to make sure he caught up to this man. I can tell you what I'd have probably (sadly) done. I would have argued "But this man won't want me bugging him". Or, I would have dragged my feet until the chariot was out of sight and said "See he's already out of sight, I couldn't have caught up with him anyway".

Philip showed the enthusiasm for the work of the Lord that all Christians should have. He made sure he caught up to this man to help him understand what he read and ultimately to obey the Gospel.

I will tell you that a big hindrance I have is I am not a social person. I tend to be the "strong silent type". This to me is a hindrance to doing those things a Christian should. I certainly cannot teach someone or help them with their needs if I won't even try to talk to them or acknowledge them. I am trying to do better though. I was in a training class in St. Louis last week. I made a special effort to talk to everybody in class. On Wednesday, I was in class finishing a lab before lunch (everyone else had left). Our teacher asked what I was doing for lunch. I started to say "Oh, I am going to stay here and work". But, I finally said "I'm heading out to eat, mind if I go with you?". We had an enjoyable time talking at the Olive Garden. We saw a Lion's Choice on the way back and he said "I've always wondered how those are". I told him that these places put Arby's to shame. So, we went there the next day, and he totally agreed with me.

It's a start anyways. I am going to make a special effort to try and talk to people more and not be so reserved.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monkeys Eyebrow...

You are probably wondering where in the world this post came from, so here goes. I was reading several of the Kentucky blogs I follow. They mentioned an article by Pat Forde talking about Coach call-in shows and a reference he made to UK. You can read the article here. Here is what he said about UK.

Not surprisingly, given the over-the-top ardor of its fans, Kentucky has a history of sanity-challenging call-in shows. Tubby Smith (8) probably deserves some kind of humanitarian award for 10 years of enduring them. Tubby isn't a gifted orator -- he starts and stops and hems and haws and will employ the confusing thematic jump-switch in mid-sentence -- but he was a true diplomat during his days in the Bluegrass.

A lot of the calls to Tubby went like this:

"Coach Smith? This is Orville from Monkey's Eyebrow (9)*. I just want to know what it's going to take for us to play more up-tempo, like we used to, and when you're going to put Josh Carrier in the starting lineup. He's a Kentucky boy and I think he deserves a shot."

Translation: When are you going to resign?

Tubby's response: "Well, Orville, you certainly bring up some good points. We'll have to take a look at that."

Translation: You have absolutely no clue. Fifty-five minutes until we're off the air.

*Monkey's Eyebrow is a real town in Kentucky.

Of course, I had to respond..

stuartyancy (1/28/2011 at 6:54 AM)Mr. Forde, I seriously doubt you've ever been to Monkey's Eyebrow. I live in the same county - Ballard so here is some info for you.

I can't vouch for Orville, but I can tell you a little more about Monkey's Eyebrow (since I live in the same county - Ballard).

It's just a wide spot in the road. It's not an incorporated city, it doesn't even have a post office. It's claim to fame it is the location of the TV tower for the local NBC affliate WPSD-TV. I'll tell you I'm a bit skeptical that you heard an actual caller say "he's from Monkey's Eyebrow".

We love the Wildcats in Ballard County just like the rest of the state. We've always especially pulled for Kentucky kids who play for UK. Often, they turn down scholarships at other schools where they could start to just be a member of the UK team. As Adolph Rupp once said "When a baby is born in Kentucky, the parent's first wish is for him to be President like the Kentucky born Abraham Lincoln. The second is that he can play for the University of Kentucky Wildcats".

So, I decided I'd go to Monkeys Eyebrow. I haven't been there in years and years. When I mentioned my plan, Jonathan enthuiastically agreed to go with me. I knew the WPSD TV tower(our local NBC affiliate) was there, so I traced out directions to that.

We went through Bandana to get there. About 20 years ago, I had a "Twilight Zone" moment in Bandana. The congregation I was a member of then (Heath church of Christ) was part of a nationwide evangelistic effort called "One Nation Under God". For four straight weekends, we knocked doors in Western McCracken County and Ballard County. The last place we had to canvass was Bandana. Larry Davis, Keith Anderson and I set out to do that on a Sunday afternoon. We finished and headed out of town (or so we thought). After driving a few miles, we saw a green sign saying we were approaching another small town. Imagine my surprise when it said "Bandana"!. We left again and followed another road. We drove a while (making several turns) and were overjoyed to see another green sign. It said "Bandana". We tried following the sun and moss on the trees and every other sign we could think of and ended up back in Bandana again. Finally I said "Let's go against every logic we can think of and go that way". After several turns, I saw another green sign that said "Ingleside". We were relieved. I made sure I brought a GPS on this trip, just to be safe.

We got to the TV tower with little trouble. You could see it from miles away. We pulled up to its gate and all it had was a block letter sign saying "WPSD" with a phone number and FCC license number. I expected a bigger sign with at least a colorful station logo and "News Channel 6". If it weren't for the tower, the whole place looked non-descript. We drove down Monkeys Eyebrow road. We drove along the outskirts of the Ballard Wildlife Management Area seeing numerous ducks. I'd hoped to see something anyhing with "Monkeys Eyebrow" on it. My understand is the state gave up years ago putting up signs only to have them stolen every time. Finally, I remembered a web site about the area I'd seen. It had a sign in it with the name on it. I called Donna who gave me the address. It's the picture you saw above.

I loaded up the GPS and plotted our course home. Jonathan said "Oh, I know a much better way back to Kevil". I started having Bandana flashbacks. But true to his word, he got us right back. I should have taken him on that trip 20 years ago. He was only one and a half though.

Why is it called Monkeys Eyebrow? I've found several explanations. They range from the brush on hills around the area looking like a "monkey's eyebrow" to the fact that on a county map, the area looks like the eyebrow of a monkey to "this place is only fit for a bunch of monkeys".

Mr Forde, my guess is a Northeastern guy like yourself can't possibly understand the charm and tradition of places like Monkeys Eyebrow, Woodville, Boaz, Freemont, Hardmoney and my namesake Hendron. But we Kentuckians love those places and cherish them in our minds and hearts just like we do our Kentucky Wildcat basketball.

If you want more info about Monkey's Eyebrow, check out this excellent website

Saturday, January 22, 2011


A few days ago, I had to go to Franklin Tennessee to do some work with a consultant. I had not visited that part of Nashville suburbia. I've been to downtown, the airport area, and Lebanon Road church of Christ multiple times. I've visited Brentwood (home of Dave Ramsey) and Hendersonville (home of my little sister Melissa and her family). But never Franklin..

The trip started out with my getting a rental car at Hertz. The lady at the counter talked me into taking a Prius. I'd never driven a hybrid or a car like that. The car had push button start and I had a lot of trouble getting the exact sequence down of starting the car. The back class had a large horizontal divider making it hard to see out the back. When I picked up Skip Hancock to head to Franklin, I found out the car beeped the whole time it backed up. I was sorely tempted just to take the car back and ask for another one, but I didn't. Our trip went fine. We ran into traffic at the I-24/I-65 split, but besides that, we had no trouble.

Our work went well. We had a nice leisurely lunch at Steak-n-Shake. I polished off a Double Chocolate milk shake. After our day's work was over, we went to check into our hotel. All of the hotels at our exit were a step below where I generally stay. I am a Drury/Hilton/Mariott guy. These hotels were of the Comfort Inn/Days Inn/Ramada/La Quinta variety. We could have stayed at Cool Springs (a few miles away) but the rooms were 80-100 more. So, I opted for the La Quinta. The room was fine (for 55.00) but it just wasn't what I was used to. It wasn't quite as large and the bathroom wasn't quite as big. There was no workout room. The morning breakfast wasn't as good as even a Fairfield or Hampton. I guess I've gotten a bit spoiled :-) Everybody was nice there. I struck up a conversation with the desk clerk upon seeing him wearing a New York Giants jacket. I talked about my son who liked the Giants and we rehashed the stunning Eagles loss again. The wireless internet worked fine. I did get startled about 6:45am with the loud emptying of a dumpster. All-in-all though it was certainly fine for one night.

That night we at the Franklin Chop House. I have this standing policy (which used to drive my former colleague Craig Vincek crazy) of not wanting to eat anywhere that I could eat at Paducah (prompting my choice that night). They brought out an excellent basket of biscuits and the ribeye dinner was great. My sides of broccoli and baked potato were plentiful. We got out in time to get to the hotel to watch the UK-Alabama game. I shouldn't have bothered. UK got muscled around and got down 20 in the second half. They made a great rally to get the lead to 1, but made several mistakes at the end and lost.

The rest of the work the day as well. We stopped at the Cool Springs exit because I had to go to Krispy Kreme. Alas, the hot light was not on but I got excellent doughnuts nonetheless plus some to take home. We stopped in Clarksville and I devoured a rack of ribs at Chili's. I got home in plenty of time to go to Wednesday night Bible Study as well.

All-in-all it was a decent overnight trip for my first visit to Franklin. We'll be doing more work with this consultant in the future, so it looks like I'll be back..

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama...

Jonathan and I set out Friday to go to Kentucky's FIFTH straight bowl game. We've been to the previous four and plan to try and keep going to all the rest as long as we can.

I'd hoped that UK wouldn't go to a bowl game in Tennessee this year. We got our wish but not in the way we hoped. The BBVA Compass Bowl is the bowl game for the last eligible team in the SEC. Once Kentucky lost to Tennessee, they fell all the way to this bowl in Birmingham Alabama. I bought us tickets right after they announced where Kentucky would play.

We left for Birmingham on Friday. The ride down to Birmingham was uneventful. It's pretty much a straight shot on I-65 from Nashville. We stayed at the Hilton Perimeter Hotel. It was a very nice hotel. The desk staff was very friendly and acommodating. We did find out the Pitt band was staying there. They were very nice and well behaved. We checked in and then went to grab a steak dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse (which was excellent). We spent the evening just relaxing at the hotel.

We got up the next morning to a cool, sunny windy day. I went to McDonalds to get breakfast. I was asked "Do you want to try our new oatmeal?". I almost laughed out loud then ordered a few sausage biscuits. We ate and got ready to go to the game.

One of the big reasons we stayed at this hotel was it had a shuttle to Legion Field. I'd heard bad things about the parking there and that the field was in a bad area of town. The shuttle bus was very nice even having TVs tuned to ESPN on it. Our drive went fine. As we approached the stadium, I could see that the neighborhood was really bad looking. I was glad we'd rode on the shuttle bus. The bus brought us right up to the field.

The game is at Legion Field. This field has been there since the 1920's. It was the location of the Iron Bowl (the annual Auburn-Alabama game) for many years. They finally left when the stadium did not keep up with the quality of their home stadiums. The stadium certainly looks its age. I especially noticed this as I walked around. I noticed it more as the game progressed. The sound system was inaudible most of the time. We couldn't tell what penalties were called or what was going on. One of the two video boards went out as well. The seats were almost all bleachers except for a few suites. The seating was cramped as well. But as a guy next to me said, until UK starts winning more games, this is what they'll (and we'll get).

Pitt had been through a lot. Their head coach resigned (he was really forced out). They hired a new coach only to fire him a week or so later after he arrested on a domestic violence charge. Their defensive coordinator agreed to coach even though he'd accepted another job too. UK's quarterback Mike Hartline was out for the game because he'd been arrested at the end of the season. Pitt was a slight favorite.

Kentucky quelled the first Pitt drive with an interception. UK drove to the 35 but QB Morgan Newton fumbled. The game went back and forth with UK kicking a field goal to go up by 3. Uk drove down the field and could not convert a 4th and literally one inch. Pitt took a 6-3 lead. Uk had to punt with about a minute left in the half. UK's punter took forever and ended up getting his punt blocked. Pitt recovered at the 10 and soon scored a touchdown. It was 13-3 at the half. Uk started the 2nd half with the ball and stalled near midfield. Incredibly they tried a fake punt and failed miserably. Pitt drove 25 years for a TD to go up 20-3 and the game was pretty much over.

Needless to say there were a lot of upset UK fans. We couldn't understand why they didn't use the All American Randal Cobb more or run Derrick Locke more. They never went to the other backup HQ - Ryan Mossakowski. I'll save the rest for my UK futures blog entry later. We stayed til the bitter end (a 27-10 loss for the worst bowl loss in UK history). We took the shuttle bus back to the hotel and got our car and headed home.

We hoped that the UK basketball team would make it up for us. Jonathan and I listened to the game on the way home. Uk fell behind by 11 at the half. They rallied to tie the game and even take a slight lead, but ultimately lost by 7. We then listened to Seattle pull off the upset over New Orleans and the first half of the Jets Colts game.

The game didn't turn out like we'd hoped, but we had our usual good time just hanging out together as usual. We'll keep going to the games every year. Although, I am not so sure we'll get the chance next year. I'll talk about that later...