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13 December 2014

Trying to Find the Holiday Spirit

I'm having a hard time trying to get into this Holiday season. Perhaps it's the after effects of my father's death last July. Perhaps it's uncertainty about my future. Perhaps it's my advancing age. It's just that I can't get real excited about Christmas and New Year's, and seem to be going through the motions. I hope this can improve for me rather soon.

Anyway, work has been going well. Plenty of business at our branch, and I'm good with that. I was working this morning and the four hours seemed to fly by.

While I was working today, colleagues at IPMS/Gateway made our club's annual donation to the US Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program in Metro St. Louis. This year, our club contributed $550 to the cause of making sure every child in our area has a toy to unwrap on Christmas morning. I wrote a press release announcing this contribution, and it's been posted on stltoday.com: http://interact.stltoday.com/pr/non-profits/PR121314042819722.

Speaking of IPMS/Gateway, our meeting this Tuesday night will include the annual Same Kit Contest. Along with several other club members, I've been working on a knight figure kit. I will have it ready by that night. More info on the club here: http://ipms-gateway.com.

One week ago today (6 Dec.), I co-hosted this month's episode of "Writer's Block," the monthly show from Naturally Autistic ANCA Radio. Host Tim Pylypiuk and I discussed the influence and genius of the late Robin Williams and on the intersection of mental illness and art. You can listen to the archived program here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autistic-people-/2014/12/06/writers-block-bleeding-heart-10am-pstradio-drama-grooming-hour--11am-pst. The next edition is Sat., 3 January 2015.

I'm up early tomorrow morning to volunteer at the Hot Chocolate Run and to later referee futsal games. More on that in my next post.

Later.

04 December 2014

Back in Town to Figure Something Out

My mom and I flew home from Charleston last Saturday morning (29 Nov.), flying via Atlanta. We were a bit late getting out of Charleston, as the aircraft needed deicing before take off (wise move), but we were back in our homes around 10 am that day. Plenty of time to unpack and start getting caught up on things in St. Louis.

I was off work on Monday (1 Dec.), as I thought we would not be in town until Sunday or possibly Monday. (The flight reservations were made after I had got my vacation time approved.) Thus, I did miss the ice storm that hit our area early on Monday, which did make things rather interesting at work, from what I understand.

Back at work on Tuesday, and things went well. We did get a bit of run on rentals from customers whose vehicles were damaged on Monday, but we got our customers taken care of and that's important.

After work Tuesday, I was running the IPMS/St. Louis meeting at Mark Twain Hobby Center. With just five in attendance, it was hard to do much more than my recap of my Charleston trip and a bit more hobby news. However, this was my last meeting as club president, which I made clear the past few months. Their website: http://www.ipms-stlouis.com/

Off work today, I was able to get some modeling done. This 1:8 scale kit of The Black Knight of Nurnberg is the subject of IPMS/Gateway's same kit contest at their meeting this month. I have much of the assembly done, and spent time today painting the face. I haven't done a figure model at all, but found some tips on painting faces, which I used to help. It has come out very nicely, I must say. Looks like this kit will be done in time for the meeting on 16 December.

Speaking of IPMS/Gateway, I also went to a couple of area hobby shops this afternoon, dropping off club flyers and giving each store a flyer announcing the IPMS/USA Region 5 Convention we're hosting in September of 2015. Here's IPMS/Gateway's website: http://ipms-gateway.com

Later.

28 November 2014

Doing the Charleston for Thanksgiving 2014

I spent last Sunday (23 Nov.) taking care of some personal business and starting to pack for this week's trip. (More on that soon.) Thus, I did not go to see another film in the St. Louis International Film Festival, which concluded that night. Wrap up, including award winners, are here: http://cinemastlouis.org/

The next day, I put in a full day of work at the car rental branch. Work was heavy in the morning, as usual, but calmed down by late morning, before picking up in the late afternoon. After work, I came home to finish packing and get some rest.

Mom and I were up early the next morning (25 Nov.) to catch our flight. A neighbor drove us to the airport, and we boarded a flight to Atlanta. After arriving there, we waited approximately one hour before flying from Atlanta to Charleston. A relative met us at the airport and we went to the guest house, where we have been the past few days. Mom and I went out for lunch in downtown Charleston and came home to rest.

Wednesday morning, I got a ride to go to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, just north of Charleston. There, I boarded the retired aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10), a veteran of World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Arriving just before the museum opened at 9:00 am, I stayed aboard Yorktown for just over four hours, following a tour throughout the ship, ranging from the engine room to the flight deck. I clicked away with my camera, taking over 700 images of the ship, several aircraft displayed on the flight and hangar decks, and displays throughout the ship. Despite the cold, overcast, and windy weather outside (which I thought was good for flight operations), I had a ball. The audio tour option that I chose was a great enhancement to my enjoyment of the visit. After lunch on board Yorktown and a visit to the souvenir shop, I was heading back to the guest house. Highly recommended to any history buffs (especially of naval and aviation history). You can find out more on USS Yorktown and other sites of interest here: http://patriotspoint.org/

Thanksgiving Day yesterday was real nice. I stayed at home, to--among other things--enjoy the 2014 MST3K Turkey Day Marathon streamed on YouTube. Six episodes of the 1990s movie-riffing show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST3K to its fans) were streamed online and I had fun reliving the hilarity of a man and his two robots talking back at some awful movies. Here's the link to MST3K's official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFzph9x-n9FR52BI94Zfgww

The feast--smoked turkey and company--was served early last night. My one brother and his family, and some friends of theirs, joined my Mom and I in the dinner. It was very nice and the food--especially the turkey--was delicious, plus we all had at least something to be thankful for in our lives. Here's hoping my fellow Americans enjoyed the holiday and had at least something to be thankful. (In my case, I'm thankful for having steady work, a place to call home, and many good friends and acquaintances around the world--in person and online.)

This morning, I was driven to Sullivan's Island just north of Charleston to visit Fort Moultrie, which is part of Fort Sumter National Monument. Established in 1776 to help defend Charleston, Fort Moultrie's defending troops successfully fought off a British fleet on 28 June 1776. This was an early victory for the Americans during the American Revolutionary War. Confederate guns bombarded the Union garrison at nearby Fort Sumter on 12-14 April 1861, starting the American Civil War. Fort Moultrie was modified and upgraded over the years, serving as a active coastal defense installation until 1947. The site is now maintained by the National Park Service. I had a great time visiting the fort and nearby visitor center for about three hours, snapping over 500 images. For more info on Fort Moultrie, visit: http://www.nps.gov/fosu/historyculture/fort_moultrie.htm

After the visit to Fort Moultrie, it was a good lunch at a Charleston restaurant, then to the guest house. Tonight, I'll start packing up for the return trip. I'll be back in St. Louis tomorrow and back to work on Tuesday. I hope all is well with you, especially those of you in metro St. Louis. The grand jury decision came down Monday night. Mom and I did not see any protesters on our way to the airport, but I am saddened by the violence that has occurred. I am not happy with the grand jury's decision and the underlying issues need to be addressed and soon; however, there is no justification for violence or bullying or other negative behavior by either side in this matter. I'll let it go at that.

Later.

23 November 2014

Of Voodoos, SLIFF, Scale Models, and Old Newsboys Day

I'm running a few days late with this post, but it's been busy of late. Anyway, here goes: A week ago yesterday (15 Nov.), I was at the James J. Eagan Civic Center in Florissant for a special meeting of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society (MAHS). This meeting celebrated the 60th anniversary of the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, a long-range fighter-bomber, photo reconnaissance, and interceptor aircraft. There was a panel discussion with pilots and engineers involved with the Voodoo, exhibits on the F-101 from the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum, and a movie about two record setting flights flown by Voodoos in the late 1950s. It was a most interesting program, and afterward I took photos of a restored F-101F interceptor-trainer displayed outside the Civic Center. More info on this event on the MAHS website: http://moavhist.org/

That night, I pulled my first volunteer shift at this year's St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) at Winifred Moore Auditorium in Webster Hall on the Webster University campus. As a volunteer, I helped answer questions from attendees, offer festival programs and give fan ballots to attendees, collect and tally ballots after the films, and even got to see some movies once my pre-show duties were done. Two environmental themed documentaries were shown that night: "Wrenched," about author and environmental activist Edward Abbey and his influence on environmental activists today; and "Above All Else," about activists in east Texas using passive resistance to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from passing through their land. Both were compelling in their own ways. More on SLIFF later in this post; for more on SLIFF and its organizer, here's the website: http://cinemastlouis.org/

After work last Monday (17 Nov.), I was in the police building of St. Louis Community College-Meramec, in Kirkwood. No, I wasn't in trouble with the law; it happened to be the venue for the annual futsal referee recertification clinic. My colleagues and I learned of the law changes, points of emphasis for the coming season, and (after presenting proof of registration payment and passing the online test) I received my referee badge for the new year.

It was cold early this past week, with temperatures below freezing. Fortunately, it wasn't really a problem at work (and work has been going well for me this past week). That was not the case this past Tuesday night, when IPMS/Gateway met at Calvary Presbyterian Church. The heater was not working, so it was rather cold inside the fellowship hall and many of us kept our coats on. Nevertheless, we did get in our final Modeler of the Year contest with the Humor special category, plus beginning to accept nominations for the 2014 Bob Stroup Award for Outstanding Achievement and 2015 club officers.

Last Thursday (20 Nov.) was my off day from work, but not from volunteering. I was up early to be a newsboy on Old Newsboys Day, an annual fundraiser for St. Louis area children's charities. I joined two other volunteers in Mehlville--the corner of Victory Drive and Lemay Ferry Road--to hawk the special edition newspaper, for whatever people care to donate. In just over three hours, I sold at least 20 papers and raised about $40. I was a bit cold from the weather, but warm in my heart for my efforts.

Later that morning, after a stop at home to change clothes and warm up, I drove to Plaza Frontenac Cinema for another SLIFF volunteer shift. Here's I helped staff the information table, although I did go see one movie: "Traitors" (Exit Maroc), a thriller from Morocco about a female punk singer who helps smuggle drugs in order to raise money for her parents and her band. Very interesting film. By the way, the SLIFF venue captain I worked with, Barbie Snitzer, reviews movies on her website: http://lemoviesnob.com/ Check it out.

That night, I was at Robert R. Hermann Stadium to support Saint Louis University's men's soccer team against Tulsa in the first round of the NCAA Championship. Two second half goals gave the Billikens a 2-0 win that sent me and most people at the stadium home happy. SLU plays at Louisville today (23 Nov.) in the second round. More at http://www.slubillikens.com/

After work on Friday, I was at Brown Hall on the Washington University campus for my third and final SLIFF volunteer shift. They screened a German film, "Windstorm" (Ostwind-Grenzelos frei), about a girl sent by her mother to the girl's grandmother in the country for a few weeks. Although she had never been near a horse in her life, the girl immediately took to a highly spirited horse, which she learns to ride in equestrian competition. (Think "The Horse Whisperer" meets "Rocky.") I really liked this movie.

I worked yesterday morning, then drove to the Delmar Loop neighborhood in University City to watch a SLIFF movie at the Tivoli Theatre. I saw "A Master Builder," a drama about a controlling architect who sees his control challenged late in his life. It was riveting; I could not take my eyes off the screen. After that, I drove to Webster University for a SLIFF special event, "Tribute to the Nicholas Brothers." Repertory film programmer and Nicholas Brothers friend Bruce Goldstein presented a talk about Fayard and Harold Nicholas, two African-American dancers who starred on stage and in movies from the 1920s through the 1990s. I really enjoyed this program, and I had a greater appreciation of and respect for the Nicholas Brothers after watching this.

I hope to catch one more SLIFF film today, plus taking care of some personal business. I have plans for Thanksgiving this Thursday. More on that in my next post.

Later.

13 November 2014

Scale Modeling Road Trip to Chicagoland

After work last Friday (7 Nov.), I got myself and my gear into a rental car and drove to Springfield, Illinois for a night stop. Early the next morning, I checked out of the hotel in Springfield and drove to Downers Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The Butch O'Hare Chapter of the International Plastic Modelers' Society/USA (IPMS/USA) was presenting its annual model contest at Lakeview Junior High School. It was my first time attending this show and I was most impressed. I entered two aircraft models in the contest, but did not place in the contest. This contest had a few general categories (aircraft, armor, cars, etc.) and judging teams that could award an unlimited number of gold, silver, and bronze medals in these categories. There were many high quality models in the contest, and some displays by the Butch O'Hare Chapter and several other model clubs in Chicagoland.

There was also a large vendor room to shop at, and I did buy a kit each from two of these vendors, plus a precision glue applicator tool from a third vendor. Having purchased six raffle tickets, I was lucky and won three more kits there. I saw a few friends from IPMS/Gateway who were there for the show, and a former IPMS/Gateway member now in the Chicago area. A friend living near Downers Grove, Kris Monroe, came by the show for awhile to visit with me. I knew Kris when she was playing softball for Saint Louis University while I was working in sports information there in the late 1980s. We had been in touch over Facebook, but this was out first face-to-face meeting in years. We got caught on things and I showed her around the show, which impressed Kris. (I had hoped to see some other friends in the area, but they weren't available for various reasons. Maybe next time.)

After the show, I checked into a hotel in Downers Grove and--apart from going out for dinner--stayed in my room until the next morning. After getting breakfast, I checked out and started the drive home to St. Louis, where arrived in the late afternoon. I was tired, but happy. The rental car worked great for me during this approximately 610 mile (981.7 km) round trip.

Monday morning (10 November), I drove the rental car to the branch to report for work and to settle my account. Work has been good this week, although the sudden downturn in temperature from Tuesday morning on took some getting used to.

Off work today, I got my hair cut, got a flu shot, and mailed a package to my brother Doug. Also, I got my laundry done. Back to work tomorrow.

This Saturday, I'll be at the Missouri Aviation Historical Society's meeting in Florissant in the afternoon, and at Webster University that night for my first volunteer shift at this year's St. Louis International Film Festival. Information on these events at http://moavhist.org/ and http://cinemastlouis.org/, respectively.

Later.

06 November 2014

A Weekend of Soccer, and a Great Book Club Meeting

After working at the car rental branch last Saturday morning (1 Nov.)., I came home to get ready, then went to Fox High School in Arnold to officiate two boys' youth select soccer matches. I was in the middle for the first game, an under-14 contest, which was rather spirited, and I had to issue two yellow cards--one per team--to help keep the players in line. Fortunately, all ended well. I had to work with only one regular referee, as there was a shortfall of available officials, and we had to use a club linesman for each of the two games we did. I'm glad to say it worked out well.

The next day, I was at Saint Louis University's Robert R. Hermann Stadium to cheer on the Billikens against Rhode Island in the final regular season home fixture. The Billikens left it late, but won it 1-0 on a goal scored in a goalmouth scramble three minutes from full time.

Work has been well this week. I was allowed to go home early on Monday and Wednesday, which I take was due partly to the efficiency of myself and my fellow car preps.

It was good to have gotten off early yesterday (5 Nov.), as this allowed me to get to Laredo on Lafayette Square, a Mexican restaurant in south St. Louis, in time for the Big Ideas Book Discussion Group Meetup. There were eight of us last night to enjoy Mexican cuisine and to discuss the book "The Man Who Never Died," a biography of Swedish-born US labor activist Joe Hill. He lived in the western US in the early 20th century, until he was executed by Utah in 1915 for a double homicide the year before in Salt Lake City. Many believed Hill was innocent of the crime and that he was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed because of his association with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), for which he wrote songs. The book, by William M. Adler, provides a fully-researched look at Hill and his times. The consensus of our group was that this was a good book, if bogged down in detail at times, and recommended reading. The meal was very nice. This was my first time dining at Laredo on Lafayette Square, and I very much hope it will not be long before I dine there again.

I'm traveling this weekend. Will tell you more in my next post.

Later.

31 October 2014

Halloween 2014: Grease is the Word at Work

For Halloween today, our branch adopted the theme of the musical "Grease." Other branch offices of our company adopted their own themes. We had the office decorated with streamers and pennants like Rydell High in the story, and we dressed up like characters from the musical. In my case, I wore a leather jacket, t-shirt, and jeans, plus my hair was slicked back. I came off pretty good, I thought. It was fun.

Work has been going well for me personally and for the branch. That's good. I hope to send a bit of my business there way soon.

Back on the soccer pitch last Sunday (26 Oct.), I was at Fox High School's stadium in Arnold, Mo. for a three game set. My middle was the first match, which pitted two under-14 boys' teams. It went well, with no controversies and plenty of action. I'm back at Fox High tomorrow (1 Nov.).

After work on Tuesday (28 Oct.), I drove to CRM Hobbies in south St. Louis, where this month's IPMS/Gateway business meeting was held. We planned out general and business meetings for November and discussed other club business. I took down the notes as secretary and will type up the minutes for the board and our newsletter in due course.

Speaking of IPMS/Gateway, I was at the Northwest Branch of the Jefferson County Library in House Springs, Mo. yesterday morning. I took my models out of the display case in the library, where our club had a display there this past month. It was good to help contribute to such a display, which helped promote our club and our hobby. For more on IPMS/Gateway, you can visit their website: http://ipms-gateway.com.

Later.