30 November 2008

Move along. Nothing to see here.

We survived the holidays with a few less dollars and a few pounds more. Family has gone back home, Stephen left for school this afternoon with his girlfriend and her sister. Have not yet heard from him but I assume he made it to Austin before it got dark. Update: He just called in and they had arrived with out any problems (traffic heavy). Was nice to see him home for a few days. Over the past 2.5 years in college, he has really grown (both spiritually & emotionally) from when he left for college. I no longer have concerns if he will do well in life. I know he will do well and wind up with some high tech job making more money than his dad. He has already lined up a intership with Microsoft in Seattle this summer that most college kids would kill for. Certainly beats some of the summer jobs I had back in the ‘70’s. We are already making plans to go & visit with him this summer in Seattle next summer. We will drop in on my brother as well while we are in the northwest.

Did not accomplish much this weekend aside of getting a the computer set up. I had planned on getting the Xmas lights up and cleaning up the yard, but seemed to be running in slow gear all weekend long. I think the cruise has put me off my schedule (seems like a good excuse).

Speaking of cruise, now that my pc problems appear to be resolved, I will try to catch up on my vacation report (if anyone cares). Spending a week on a boat with your family will test even the hardiest of souls. We left Galveston a week ago on Sunday and, after 2.5 days of straight sea hauling, we reached Jamaica only to find the port closed. Rough seas closed the port on Tuesday and we could not dock. Of course, that meant all of the shore excursions were cancelled as we 180’d the ship and headed for Grand Cayman. My brother & I were slated for some doing some zip-lining in Jamaica but that was not to be. 4 days of straight sailing can get kinda boring, in spite of the ship board entertainment. I had planned to exercise/run every day on the ship to stave of the effects of non-stop eating, but Tuesday the wind was so strong on the upper deck that running laps was a serious challenge. I did hit the ship gym for a while along with sitting in the sauna, but prefer to run outside. I will note that running track on a moving ship is a weird feeling.

29 November 2008

It's Alive!

Did I ever mention that I hate shopping? I think I'd rather try to give a cat a bath than brave the crowds on Black Friday but that's just what I did yesterday. Normally, I stay away from the stores during this time, but necessity forced me to venture out in search of a new PC. I really hate changing systems. I typically wind up losing a lot of my favorite bookmarks and e-mail address accounts. The only good think is that I bought an external hard drive in October and was able to back up most of my important pictures/data/music. I was able to score a new system from Fry's Electronics (gianormous electronic store) for a pretty decent amount of coin. Have been setting up new system since 0500 this morning and have about half of my favorites clocked. More bells & whistles in a smaller, faster box.
Now all I have to do is figure out to set up my e-mail accounts.

27 November 2008

Be Thankful

The bird's stuffed & in the oven.
For many years, we have had Thanksgiving dinner at out house. Since both my family and my wife's family are in town, we have tried to serve as the gathering hole on Thanksgiving day. Lots of prep and stress, but we have a great time. We try to share the preparation duties but one of my roles is to stuff the bird early in the morning. This started way back when we lived in Dallas when I would try to run in the annual Turkey Trot. I would get up at at oh-dark-thirty and stuff the turkey, toss it in the oven and hit the trail. Been a while since I have been doing the annual run, but I still have the bird prep responsibity.

This year will be a little less hectic (I think). Stephen is home from college. My parents are having dinner over at their house (2nd brother is still in town from our cruise), so we will only have my wife's family and my son & girlfriend. Should be fairly calmer by those standards. Later today, we will go across town for dessert with my family (translation: more eating). Lots of food, conversation, football, naps. Will need to run an extra mile today to make up for the intake.

Even with all of the stress that sometimes comes with the holidays, I am tremedously grateful for what we have. We have our family. We have our health. THAT is what I am most grateful for.

Be safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll!

26 November 2008

Great. Just Great.

Of course, just when things appear calm & everying is quiet, that's when life likes to reach out and slap you back into reality. Seems like my PC has taken off on a cruise of its own. I have an older PC and right after we got back home I noted that Sparky is making all sorts of interesting clicking sounds (uh-oh, that doesn't sound good). I may be a novice in the IT department, but I think I can diagnois a pending hard drive crash. The only good thing is that I bought external hard drive a few months ago and have been backing up my data on a regular basis. I am lucky enough to have a surplus laptop I bought from work (old & slow) so life is not all bleak.

Oh well, I guess I need to Cowboy up and starting looking for a new system. Looks like I will be going out on Black Friday to get an early Xmas present. Anybody got suggestions?

24 November 2008

Bon Voyage!

Back on land after 7 days at sea!

We got back to Galveston early Sunday morning and finally made it home around noon. Very good trip. This was the first cruise I have ever done and I enjoyed it, even though I got sick the last day of the trek. We did a 7 day trip on the Carnival Conquest running out of Galveston, Texas with a trek across the Gulf of Mexico with stops in Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Was to be a family trip with my parents and both brothers and their wives. Interesting to be that close on a boat with my family for a week. Many interesting stories/debates ensued throughout the week.

We had a good time and ate/drank non-stop. The first 2.5 days were “fun days at seas” where we basically hauled butt across the Gulf on the way to Jamaica. There is a lot to do on the ship from a myriad of shows, playing games, gambling, exercising in the gym, playing miniature golf, run/walk the 1/10 mile track, or just sit out by one of the pools. I never pictured the Gulf as being that big, but once you leave Galveston, it is huge. Miles of open water with an occasional oil platform or passing ship off in the distance. Very peaceful. Sunsets were spectacular. Life aboard is whatever you make of it. You can get up early and walk/run the deck or sleep in. Have breakfast in your room or eat in one of several dining rooms. They typically have ton of planned activities each day that you can participate in or lay out by the pool and read/catch some rays. Lunch is pretty much wide open between 1100 until 1430 with plenty of good eats available. Dinner is either early (1800) or late (1930) seating and is in one of the formal dining rooms. Very fancy service full course meals every night. If that is not your cup of tea, you can always get hot dogs/hamburgers/pizza up on the back deck by one of the pools. Of course, you can always find an open bar close by. As with most all-inclusive cruises, once you book your trip, the meals are covered in your fee. What is NOT covered is your “incidentals” like any liquor or sodas or souvenirs. Of course, they take pictures of you throughout the trip for you to remember (buy). Getting on the boat, getting off the boat, having dinner, playing craps, doing bingo, posing with one of the showgirls, posing with Sam the Pirate. We did have one group/family shot taken and I did buy that package. Be careful with these little incidentals. You can run a hefty tab by the time you get home.

More to follow…

23 November 2008

Land Ho!

Sorry about the late last posting but we were leaving early and I had worked up a post but never published it.

We docked about 0700 this morning and just got home.
Lots of unpacking to do, laundry, catching up on e-mails.
Dog did great! He loved the two ladies who came over several times each day to take care of him. To say they spoiled him is an understatement. In spite of all of the attention he got, he was still jumping up and down (as much as he can) when we came home.

More details on the boat trip later. Very tired.

16 November 2008

Anchors aweigh!

Been prepping all day. Just about finished packing and have way too much gear to take for a week long trip. With a couple of Philmont backpacking treks under my belt, you'd think I could travel lite but I always tend to over pack for trips. Never sure if it will be cold, what kind of dinner attire will we wear, what about trips off the boat? We have never done a cruise so we have no idea as to what to take and not to take. I will probably take 40 lbs more than I really need or use.

Last minute shopping yesterday. A few more Hawaiian shirts (hey, they were on sale). Bought bottle of scotch & rum for the room (parents are bringing the vodka). At least I have my medications lined up. Speaking of medications, we have prepped the dog for our eventual departure. If you read any of my earlier missives, Shadow is a very intuitive dog. He knows when we are leaving for a road trip and that he is not going along. He was a Humane Society dog so I am not sure he has some abandonment issues, but he is normally not happy when we leave him for any extended period of time. He usually gets very depressed and will mope around while we are gone, in spite of who we have take care of him. I’d put him up with the vet for the week, but we did that 10 years ago and he still had not yet forgiven me for that. So we leave him at home and have someone come over and take care of him. Now, prepping him for our trip we have taken him to the vet and had him check out from stem to stern. Poor old guy. At 13 years old, he has a myriad of problems (bronchitis, cushings diesese, mitral valve prolapse, bad hip). Hell, I have seen people with less problems than he has. Despite all of these challenges, he is still a puppy at heart. Still looks for his daily walks. Still trying to catch that damn squirrel. Always ready to mooch a snack. Looking for a place to take a nap. I was setting up his pills for next week and realized that he is taking 9 different pills every day. I won't even mention how much those suckers are costing.

Bon voyage, ya'll.

15 November 2008

Bless your heart

Another expression I tend to use/abuse:

Not exactly sure where this one came from, but many moons ago, my family picked up the phrase “Bless your heart”. While I am sure it started out as well meaning, it has morphed into something you say when making comments about someone else. According to the Urban Dictionary, it literally means:
  1. a phrase used by Southern women to excuse themselves for speaking ill of someone else. “She’s as ugly as a mud-fence, bless her heart”
  2. an expression of sympathy or pity “Well, bless your heart, that must have been terrible”

Down here, some folk tend to use it as a left-handed insult or to call someone stupid (usually offered up after someone gives their unwanted opinion). As the youngest of 3 boys, I am always getting advice from my older siblings on how to run my life (gee, how did I ever make it to 50 without their sage wisdom?), and my response is typically along the line of “Reeeally? Gee, thanks! Bless your heart!”. Needless to say, I expect to hear that expression several times next week on our boat ride. My bride has forbade me from using that expression but it will be hard to keep it from slipping out occasionally.

Slowly, we’re getting ready. ½ packed, up & out early for short run, going to get a haircut, last minute supplies. The day down here is perfect. Low 50’s. Clear skies. Windy. It is this kind of weather that makes one love the outdoors in Texas (forget about those August afternoons). I am truly grateful for these days as it tends to make all of my troubles minor/insignificant.

Keep those you love close, and seize the day!

14 November 2008

Preparing for liftoff

Life’s way too short to sit around complaining about it. It’s been another one of those weeks that seems to fly by. Once again I find myself facing a mountain of projects/chores with little time to get them all done, but, even with this kind of intensity, I’d rather be fully engaged in stead of being bored.

I’m trying to get ready for our little boat ride next week. A week long cruise and I have not yet begun to pack. Should I be worried? Ok, I've been taking care of the logistics (dog, paper, etc.), but trying to decide what to carry on the trip for me is an exercise in wardrobe coordination. Since this is a cruise in the Gulf, I am figuring to take a lot of tropical attire (shorts, sandals, Hawaiian shirts). There are a couple of formal dinners, so I am hauling my suit, but don’t expect it to see much use. Now, I'll admit I ain’t much of a shopper, but I did head out last weekend to pick up some supplies and scored a few nice Hawaiian shirts at Kohl’s for next-to-nothing (off season deals). Since we are traveling with my brothers & parents, I decided to go back and pick up shirts for my dad & my brothers so we match (how’s that for geeky?). My brother already bought us all matching guayabera shirts for dinner (the wedding party wore these shirts during his son’s wedding in Puerto Rico last summer), so we will probably look like we just arrived from Cuba. I'm really looking forward to the trip. As with all of my major road trips, things tend to get a wee bit hectic before we leave, but once we step off, the trip goes on autopilot and I can begin to relax and enjoy the adventure.

Chance favors the prepared mind.

12 November 2008

Fortune cookie

From a recent fortune cookie epistle.

We are taught by every person we meet.

It’s funny how some of life’s simpler observations are profound. I find that saying very true. Every day gives us an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things (kinda like being back in kindergarten).

11 November 2008

Happy Veteran's Day

To all of the men & women who have served or are still serving, you have my undying gratitude. From my perspective as a tanker, I truly appreciate the sacrifices that these great men & women have made to protect my ass, our country and our way of life. Countless days/nights/weeks/months/years away from family & friends, serving in distant lands, working in extreme conditions, placing your life in harms way to protect or defend a country. No mere words that I can put forth will ever express my appreciation for what these soldiers have done. It was my privilege to have served alongside some of the finest men & women in the world and I salute their sacrifices.

Please remember them in your thoughts & prayers.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

10 November 2008

Semper Fi!

From an old tanker, Happy Birthday to the Few & the Proud.

Good night, Chesty Puller, wherever you are!

09 November 2008

Great. Wonderful. Best Day of My Life.

Ever notice that life is full of sayings? We all tend to gravitate towards certain expressions & sayings to make a point, express our opinion, share some humor, or close a conversation. I noticed that, over the decades, I have gathered a few of my own. Some I picked up by accident, others I have shamelessly stolen & usurped for my own evil purpose.

Take for example, the title of today’s diatribe: “Great. Wonderful. Best Day of My Life.” Actually, my brother started that one many years ago and I have adopted it as my standard response when I greet people. I use this reply whenever asked “How are you doing? Or How have you been?” The typical response has been “Good” or “OK” or “Can’t Complain”, but I’ve always felt those were throw away responses, used as a generic reply to others when you either don’t want to engage in conversation or they really don’t want to hear about your problems. Honestly, how many people want to hear about the kid’s latest escapades or how gassy the dog is getting or how your hemorrhoids are (by the way, should that be singular or plural?). A long while ago, I adopted my current reply as a response to any queries and it has sparked many interesting conversations. People are not typically expecting such an answer and it usually gives them pause when they hear it. It usually generates a smile or laugh from most as they may not believe me. Trust me, this is not a line for me. I try to live that mantra and am more than willing to explain it to those that ask. The origin of that line comes from my older brother who, after listening to an NPR show about some guy in prison on death row, came to the conclusion that, in spite of all of his troubles/problems, his day –to-day life is way much better that this guy. So, from that inspiration sprung our expression. To me, it actually started as a corny line, but I have made it a cornerstone of my day. I actually believe in that expression, even when sometimes challenged (Is it really the best day? What about your wedding day? or Graduation? or the Birth of your son?) True. I consider each of those days was tremendous and memorable, but every day beyond those that I am upright and healthy I consider a blessing and I am grateful for. When I look at what I have, I am healthy, I have a good job (ok, it has its ups & downs), I have a good home, a great wife, smart kid, loyal (but old) dog. Everything else is relative. Given the problems we face today, life ain’t too bad. As Terri has stated many times: Life’s Good. (Thanks again for the cup!)

A few other favorite expressions I have gathered (or shamelessly stolen) over the years that I tend to use ad nauseam:

  • Life’s Hard. Get a Helmet. – credit Terri
  • Chance favor’s the prepared mind. – think Steven Segal
  • Go ahead. Make my day. – timeless advice from Clint
  • Cowboy up.
  • It’s time to put your big boy pants on.
  • Never drink downstream from the herd.
  • Life’s short. Play hard.
  • Every man dies, but not every man lives.
  • Never give up! Never surrender!
  • If you ain't the lead dog on the sled team, the view never changes....

08 November 2008

Moving at the speed of dark

Damn, it’s getting hard to keep up with everything. Ever since I hit the tarmac last week, I've been buried at the office & home. Was trying to manage a mountain of work at the office (endless task) when my son e-mailed me late Wednesday asking if I was going to the game in College Station last weekend as he and his girlfriend might come down from Austin. Honestly, given all of the projects and problems I was juggling, I was not even considering it, but since this was the first time we have seen them since he started school in August and we would not see him again until Thanksgiving, there was no question about us going to the game. Had to spend a day and a half trying to negotiate a slot on the RV lot ($125 thankyouverymuch) along with coordinating handoff of the parking pass with a woman in Baytown (I’ve done military maneuvers less complicated). On top of that, my trailer was not even prepped for a road trip, so it was a truly “seat-of-your-pants” excursion. In spite of all of the obstacles, we were able to pull this trip together on short notice and get to College Station for the game and spend the evening with our son. It was great to see him and his girlfriend for the weekend. I may be biased, but I feel think that they make a great couple and may eventually get hitched, but, since they are both juniors in college, that is putting the cart before the horse. Spent the weekend with them as well as the rest of my family and was totally exhausted by the time we got home on Sunday. I like to clean up my trailer before I put it back in the storage yard, so it was late Sunday before I was finally done. By the time I got done, it was well past 1600 and I was looking at a long week at the office.

Now this week has been a serious challenge for me. All of my buyers were in training all week which left me not only in charge but doing all of the grunt work. I am not complaining, but it was hectic at times. Needless to say, I was not as civil or patient with some of the nebulous requests that we handle on a daily basis. The nice part is that I know how to do this and kinda like getting my hands dirty in the operations. There are times I would rather stay out of the political side of the business and handle the normal day-to-day tasks, but that is not what is always expected of my role.

It’s been a hell of a week. After all of the election pandemonium, a long week of handing orders, I am off on the road again. Heading off to Dallas tomorrow for another supplier audit, but, thankfully, this is a short one day hop. Will be back on Tuesday to deal with the normal chaos.

Boat ride coming up! The frau & have a serious road trip coming up in a week that we are trying to get ready for. My parents have organized a cruise for us as well as both of my brothers & their wives. We are going to spend a week on a big boat with my family and I'm not exactly sure how we are going to survive.
Life’s tough, Get a helmet.