the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Sunbeam Surprise

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

The weather turned suddenly and unexpectedly sunny today. I noticed the pattern of light on the kitchen floor as I was doing some housework and raced off to get the camera. Luckily, I got back downstairs in time to intercept Julia as she came into the room and was able to get this shot. She seemed just as confused by the sun as I was.

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Cats, Blizzards, Valentines, Curmudgeon

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.
Julia has a stupid new trick way to eat (see photo).

On the weather front, it took me about two hours to get home last night; I had two-inch thick chunks of ice that developed on my wiper blades, which made the last half hour or so really exciting. Got stuck in the driveway, but heroic wife Liz helped dig me out. Once safely inside, I shot some photos of the snow around the house; turned out kind of neat but made me wish I had a tripod for some cool long exposure tricks, and also to avoid having to bump up to ISO 1600 to get anything usable. Click on over Liz and I also had some fun rescuing cars that got stuck in the intersection in front of the house. Figure I earned some good karma there.

Luckily my plow guy got our driveway around 5:30 this morning, so I was able to make it into work for my 0700-1600 site monitoring shift on time and reasonably unscathed. The roads were all kinds of awful (still!) but the general lack of traffic really helped.

Valentines Day has been smooth sailing here, with nothing even approaching any real level of drama. (Okay, there was some excitement when we started breaking all kinds of previous record highs, but certainly nothing resembling bad drama.) Sites are up, snappy, rockin' and rollin', just doing their thing. It looks like the snow is tapering off, so hopefully the drive should be a lot easier today.

Oh, and it totally sucks that Case Western closed today. They never would have done that back in my day... Even when the roofs were collapsing, we still went to class! (God, do I sound old or what? Dang kids these days!)

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Punching for Our Supper

After a Monday night of drinking high-end sake and feasting on exquisitely delicious sushi with my high school buddy Josh, we hauled our sleepy behinds up to Napa for the kick-off of the week's wine country adventures.

We spent pretty much all day Tuesday at Tres Sabores, getting a tour by way of working for the winemaker, Julie Johnson. Liz and I punched down the caps on some 2006 Petite Syrah, took some samples of Zin grapes from the vineyard, and ran the samples over to a local lab for testing. After a lunch of burritos from La Luna (perfectly paired with Julie's 2004 Zin), it was back to work again: Liz punched down, then went out into the vineyard with Julie to do some pre-harvest maintenance, while I repaired some dodgy splices in the wiring for the shop's speakers and got the radio going again, all while standing on a series of ladders and entertaining a charming six-year-old girl whose father was up for the afternoon to work on his Cab. We've apparently been adopted by the various dogs and cats who romp about the grounds--two of the kittens even tried to sleep with us for a while last night. The sheep and guinea hens, however, remain a bit standoffish. Julie very generously treated us to dinner at the bar of a nearby restaurant, and then we slept the sleep of the righteously tired.

Today the weather is grey and misty. There is harvesting this morning (actually already completed) and preparations for crush are underway. Once that's completed (or at least going) it'll be time to hit the road and drive up north to Albion.

I have been fairly photo-crazy up here, so expect some updates once I get a chance to edit and see what came out well.

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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Two Weekends for the Price of One

Had two completely different weekends in one the past two days--one lazy and relaxing, and one busy and productive.

On the lazy front: sleeping in, watching the snow fall, playing with the cats, watching TV and movies of varying badness (from Hellboy to a Gene Autry movie whose title I never caught, but which was excellent MST3K fodder), wine and cheese, and staying up obscenely late playing KotOR2 (aka "The Next Damn Star Wars Game").

Busy? You bet: we set up and lit the Christmas tree, put some paint samples on the wall in the guest bedroom (and possibly chose a winner), renewed the repainting effort with the master bedroom and master bathroom doors, shoveled snow, cleaned up the kitchen a bit, prepped the annual Christmas letter, wrapped and shipped family gifts, roughed out the schedule for the upcoming visits from my mother-in-law and my parents, and researched replacement doorknobs (as ours are, to put it politely, "dated").

It would be nice, at some point, if perhaps it could stop snowing for more than a day or so at a time, but it's so far looking like my only recourse is to either grump about it here or simply shut up and cope.

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A Good Day to Slack

I suddenly ended up with five more vacation days than I had previously thought I was entitled to, so at the urging of both my boss and my wife, I am cashing in on a bit of my windfall today!

The best thing about taking a day off? Really, there are innumerable answers to this, but I think today's winner is the extra snuggle time in the morning.

The worst thing? Watching the tiny snowflakes start drifting down in little wispy traces outside the window, precursor of the coming storm. It reinforces the slight chill in the house, and makes my fingers feel even more like little fleshy icicles. I'm so not ready for winter yet. What happened to those lovely, clear, crisp fall days we were supposed to have? Brr!

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Adventures in the Weekend Zone

I managed to fritter away Friday night and almost all of Saturday with the skill and grace of a consummate slacker, knowing full well that I had Stuff To Do and that by gum, I was going to put it off as long as I could. I had almost forgotten I could procrastinate so well!

Saturday night I attended the WVIZ World Series of Wine at the Terrace Club overlooking Jacobs Field. I tried quite a few mediocre things but, thanks to Liz's careful pre-screening of the table listings, I mostly experienced tasty winners. Especially wonderful treats were the Carneros Creek "Grail" Pinot Noir, a Bordeaux vertical, Merryvale's Sherry, and a 2000 Barolo from the "Connoisseur's Table." I paced myself pretty well, dumped a lot, and managed to remain well-behaved until we got home, by which point the little sips I'd had throughout the evening managed to gang up and do me in. The subsequent morning hours were not fun.

For a couple of hours, it looked like I might not even get the chance to finish up my presentation for ClePy as the suddenly wild and wicked weather took out the power in our neighborhood, as well as several nearby trees. Let me tell you--it's not a lot of fun shutting down computers with a hangover, as each of the UPS's screams its own particular pattern of loud alarm noises. Once that particular battle with the forces of darkness was complete, I used the opportunity to sleep off the previous night's excesses, and I was feeling significantly more human by the time we had the power back. Liz took me out for some comfort food, and the rest of the afternoon and evening were spent thinking about and digesting TurboGears.

I'll post the presentation tomorrow after the ClePy meeting on the offchance that it might be of some value to someone, somewhere.

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New Jersey and Other States of Being

Friday was grey, damp, and cold in Cleveland, which made it an excellent occasion to get the heck out of town and go to [info]sam16 and [info]supercarrot's wedding in New Jersey. The drive out was mostly in the dark due to Liz's work schedule, but we still managed to arrive in the Collingswood area before midnight. Dinner was a surprisingly tasty bacon cheeseburger and chili cheese fries at a Bob's Big Boy along the Pennsylvania turnpike. Mmmm...

Slept in a bit on Saturday; watched Alien Versus Predator on HBO in the hotel room--what an astoundingly awful movie! Around noon, we met up with a friend who was temporarily assigned to a position in Atlantic City, just down the road a piece from where we were staying. We took in a wine tasting at Tomasello (surprise winners: the Villard Noir and the blackberry wine) and then had a late lunch at an Italian joint that claimed to have the "world's best spaghetti." (It was good, but not that good.)

We were quite delighted to see Scott and Carrie married in the park early that evening as the thick, golden sun began to dip below the trees. It's always heartening to see two people so happy to be together, to be so right as companions embarking on the grand journey of married life. We wish them heart-felt congratulations and all the joy in the world.

Had a bit of temporal disorientation this morning; we went to bed assuming that the bedside clock would be an hour off when we woke up as daylight savings had ended overnight. We went leisurely about our morning routine thinking that we had plenty of time, and that we were only fifteen minutes or so late to the post-wedding brunch. However, unbeknownst to our heroes, all of the bedside alarm clocks listen to the local atomic clock signal, so the "fall back" adjustment happened automatically while we slept, and we were in fact well over an hour behind schedule by the time we figured out what was what. In spite of this chronometric conspiracy against us, we hit the road efficiently and made good time on our drive back. The skies were clear and sunny, and the gorgeous weather made the drive into a real pleasure, a very nice cap to the weekend.

Now, I just have to catch up on my massive email backlog, and wrap my head around my impending workload of complete and total doom... But that can wait until tomorrow, right?

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Aftermath, and Cat Photos

After an afternoon study break to see The 40-Year-Old Virgin (amusing), we set to the task of cleaning up the yard, so that the overdue lawn mowing might occur. Had lots of little sticks and branches scattered about the back yard, and one skinny branch that was probably eight or nine feet long; those all went to the forested area behind our property. Dave Trudell, our friendly and extremely helpful neighbor, gave us a much-needed assist on the front yard, bringing both his chainsaw and m4d tr33-c4rv1ng sk1llz to the party. It's quite weird now to see the yard with only two of the three trees left in their grouping. Ironically, we have been talking about massively overhauling our landscaping at some point in the future; I guess yesterday's storm just gave our time table a little kick in the butt.

The new view of the front yard, minus one tree.

The former home of Stumpy the Ex-Tree.

The carnage from the front yard, all gathered up.

Post-cleanup, the evening was almost entirely a disaster, as the washer decided to leak all over the litter box, I managed to fill the kitchen with smoke from our almost-irreparably charred steak, Julia sprinted around the house in circles with a dingleberry hanging from her butt, and Liz tripped and spilled most of a glass of red wine--partly on the carpet, mostly on her, and more than is comfortable went up her nose.

At least I have two brave cats to protect us from moths, crickets, and other night-time insect hooligans...

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Storm Damage

Well, now that we have power again (after being down about 17 or 18 hours), I can post a bit about yesterday's storm. We were having a late lunch at Moose Head, out on their new patio, as the clouds rolled in and the distant thunder rumbled ever closer. We managed to finish our meals and head out before it hit--but we escaped being completely soaked by only about ninety seconds or so; by the time we'd gotten to the intersection of Detroit and Dover Center, the rain was coming down pretty hard.

Once safely home, we watched a bit of TV, occasionally pausing to marvel at the torrential downpour outside and thanking our lucky stars that the roof replacement had already been completed. The weather got increasingly wicked, and we watched our trees thrashing feverishly in the wind amid sheets of thick, grey rain. I heard a noise from the living room that sounded like the cats getting into trouble, but nothing seemed immediately amiss.

That's when I saw that one of the trees in the front yard had snapped in half.

Gradually, the storm faded and the rain let up. Oddly, it wasn't until the sun came out that the power went. I won my bet with Liz -- I had a feeling it was going to be out all night.

Now that things are starting to get back to normal, it's time to borrow a chainsaw from one of the neighbors and take care of the broken tree. On the plus side, the storm damage gives me an excuse to test out the camera on my new phone; it's not the greatest, but I have to confess that it is terribly convenient.

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