30 December 2009

Happy New Year (early)

Time to ponder what the last year has brought us. Lots of good & not so good news.
Still alive & kicking (actually made it to the end of the year without breaking anything).
Still employed.
Still have a roof over our heads.
We've been able to take a few trips.
Still owe way too much (but working on it).
Still need to drop a few pounds.
Along the way we picked up a new mutt.
All-in-all, I would count my blessings and consider this a pretty good year.

We are headed out to the country for the holidays to celebrate New Year's with family. Planning to camp out in the trailer with our club and will try our hand at blowing some stuff up (fireworks) and eating until we pop.

Good bye 2009! Hello 2010!
Have a safe and happy new year!

27 December 2009

Happy Returns!

I hope everyone got what they wanted (or deserved)!

We had a great time, in spite of all of my worries/challenges/tasks. We were able to celebrate the day not too early before the rest of the clan showed up. Lots of gift cards/trinkets, plenty of food and wine. Everyone was well behaved. I got a few new shirts/pants, a nice bottle of 15 year old scotch from son, a infared thermometer, a new cordless drill. Momma got a new camers, junior got a lot of orange gear along with some new attachments/accessories for computer. All-in-all, I consider myself very lucky/blessed. Was the dog's first Christmas with the family and he was very well behaved. Stuffed, but well behaved. As is typical with most Goldens, he is a real attention hound and will seek out anyone who will pet him endlessly.

One of our holiday traditions is to attend a concert or event of some kind (one of momma's goals is to instill some "culture" into her family). We have done the Nutcracker Ballet for a couple of years and the last holidays it has been the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This year, I got floor tickets to the TSO but momma is not feeling up to it so I will take my son, girlfriend, and one of my nephews. It is a great show, but I think three years running is enough. Next year we will try something different (A Tuna Christmas?).
Here's to hoping the return lines ain't not too long and everyone has their receipts handy...

25 December 2009

Shhhhh


It's Christmas!

The old days, everyone would be up at the crack of early, opening gifts and checking out the latest scores. Nowadays, junior has adopted the college student mantra and stays up until the wee hours and we sometimes don't see him until noon (or later). Gives me time to stuff the bird and finish wrapping some surprises. Long day ahead. We'll have our own celebration some time this morning with the rest of the extended family showing up later this afternoon. Let the feeding frenzy begin.

Merry Christmas, ya'll!


Fröhlich Weihnachten!

24 December 2009

Joyeux Noël

It's Christmas Eve!

Put down the credit card, quit looking for that last minute gift, log off the website, put away the wrapping paper, gather up the family and recall Christmases of old. Time to celebrate the season.

The last gift has been acquired. The turkey & ham are safe in the refrigerator. The pies are made, the dressing is being mixes up. Time to slow down and reflect upon the blessings of the season. Oh crap, I still have to wrap a bunch of stuff. Looks like a late night for moi.

Our tradition tonight is dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then midnight service at church. Even though it may be a late night, I am looking forward to the chaos.

I look back and recall last year was not as much fun for me. Having just lost our dog & busted up my shoulder, I was not in a real festive mood. Looking back over this year, I am grateful for the blessings we have. Health, continued prosperity, new dog. I am grateful for what we have been blessed with. I may not own the coolest car, I may not own the raddest TV system, I may not have the latest technological device, but I consider myself blessed nonetheless.

Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

23 December 2009

Happy Festivus!


Time once again to gather round and celebrate the season of festivus!


Time to put up the fetivus pole and begin the airing of grievances.
Here's to looking for another festivus miracle!
---
Off to work for one more day before the break. Typical pre-Christmas mayhem/chaos.

20 December 2009

Wassail


Still working on a few gifts, but narrowing the field. Enjoying the clear weather for a change. It's nice having a four day weekend again to catch up on the holiday chores/projects. I was finally able to get most of the leaves up out of the yard for the garbage guys to haul off. My two Arizona Ashes out front are still holding on to their final few leaves, but those should be bare by Christmas. The oak in the back yard is a stubborn old tree and won't shed until spring. Took care of junior's tires on Friday, but in the process of checking it out, I noted that the brakes are worn thin. Today's new holiday project: new brake pads.

I thought I might share something I've been making for years. I came across a really good recipe for Wassail many years ago. It's become a tradition around here for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I made it a few times at the office for our department luncheons and still have people come up to me every November/December asking if I am going to make it again. Seems to have become my trademark. Since it is such a simple mix, I thought I would pass it along for anyone who cares. It is non-alcoholic, but very sweet. Some have suggested adding rum to "spice it up", but I have never tried. At one point, I actually got burned out on it after having to make it 5 times in a row one holiday season.

Wassail

  1. Apple juice (64 oz)
  2. Cranapple juice (64 oz)
  3. Pineapple juice (32 oz)
  4. 5 cinnamon sticks
  5. 5 cloves

Combine the apple juice, cranapple juice, and pineapple juice into one large (36 cup) banquet-style coffee maker. Crush 5 cloves and break the cinnamon sticks in half and add into the brewing basket. Turn on coffee maker and let percolate until done. Serve hot.

As one might surmise from the juices, this is a fairly sweet concoction. Let is sit for a while and the whole house will smell of Wassail. If you let it steep a while, it tends to get stronger. IMHO, this tastes much better when it is cold & snowy outside. I typically keep whatever is not finished off in the refrigerator for days afterwards and reheat it. Again, you can add rum (or whatever your poison) to give it a "kick" but I tend to find it sweet enough. I will try to test it out this year with some Captain Morgan just to see if it improves the flavor.

17 December 2009

No Soup for You!

My streak is still intact! 9 Xmas dinner/luncheons, 0 prizes. Woo-Who!
I really didn't have any need for 2/4 round trip airline tickets or $250 to Academy or a $150 spa treatment.
At least everyone had a good time and pigged out on BBQ.
Now for some serious shopping. I'm thinking a new set of tires would be nice...

16 December 2009

Greetings!

Junior finally made it home around midnight last night. Of course momma is overjoyed to see him (while scolding him on starting out so late). Typical chaos. Poor old car looked was overflowing with his "important stuff" (computers, monitors, guitars, amp, clothes, etc.). It's nice to have the little hatchlings back in the nest, even if only for a little while.

Company Christmas lunch today. Another 2 hour eat-a-thon. Hoping to score one of the big prizes (round trip airline tickets) but given my track record over the past 9 years, I am not expecting much.

Been spending some time cruising the net in search of just the right gifts for my brothers. Found a site with lots of garden/outdoor stuff including door mats. This one struck me funny. It may wind up on my door step...

Life's never simple

More drama. Just what I need to enjoy the holidays.

Was hoping to coast tonight while doing some on line shopping, finish up some chores at the office, wrap some gifts for my buyers, get ready for another 4 day weekend, and prep the LZ for junior's arrival tonight. He was supposed to be home yesterday, but he stayed over another day in college to sign up for a course next semester and transfer the utilities on the apartment to his name. He woke up late and finally started south toward home around 1700 (5:00 pm for you nonregs). This is typical for him but it drives his mother nuts. Anyway, I'm sitting hear trying to enjoy my solitude before the swarm decends upon the home when I get the call. Remember - I only get called when it involves some expenditure or there is some technical problem. It appears he has a tire problem on one tire somewhere west of Columbus (small Texas town). He was stopped by the side of the road trying to diagnose the problem. I felt like technical support trying to talk him through the issue and figure out what the problem was. He was able to limp into a local gas station with lots of lights and open parking lot and finally see the problem (thrown tread). Now, if it were me, I'd cuss a lot and swap out the tire with the spare and limp on home. Junior is a whizz with computers and high tech stuff, but he is not as handy with auto repair and I was not comfortable with him trying to do this on his own. I have loaded up the truck with my tools & jack and prepared to head north, but he is a good 1.5 hours away. Fortuneately, a long time ago, I signed up for AAA roadside service for this very situation. I was worried that he might be way out of the range for a service call, but they have dispatched someone to go help him so I am hoping they can fix the tire and get him back on the road shortly.

Kids. So much joy, so much anxiety.
I'm already making plans to get a new set of tires on my day off.
- - - - - -
Corollary: AAA showed up at 9:20 pm, changed the tire, and he is back on the road. Should hit the doorstep in an hour. Glad to have AAA available. I am mildly surprised that they were able to make it out that far into the countryside, but then again, that is why I signed up with them.


If you ain't the lead sled dog, the view never changes...

15 December 2009

Melancholy

It's been a year since I lost Shadow. I've moved on. Been busy with family & work. We were blessed with another great dog (Grayson). It's funny how one mutt had such an impact upon me. Even now, I still miss his sorry little butt. Grayson is an excellent and loyal dog, but Shadow and I spent a lot of time together and I miss him. I think I spend a lot more time with Grayson because of some lingering regret. I have definitely taken a lot more pictures of the new dog than the last. Partially because I realised that I did not have as many shots of Shadow in digital format and partially because it is easier to document the changes as he grows.


I am not sure why I was so emotionally attached to him. We shared many hours on the trail together. I shared with him many things that I have never told with anyone else. Shadow and I had a good understanding of each other. He knew who the alpha dog was, he knew when to take care of business, he knew when we were going out of town, he knew when dad was pissed off (or watching football), and more importantly, he knew the adage: When momma dog ain't happy, no body's happy. The new guy hasn't quite gotten the lingo down, yet, but he is learning.


When it comes to kids and dogs, I sometimes regress in maturity and act like a kid (or so my spouse would claim). I used to make up dumb songs on a lark. One of the stupid little ditties I used to sing to him:

I've got a smile on my butt for you,
A smile that is always true.
I'm grinnin from ear to ear,
and it's showing on my rear,
I've got a smile on my butt for you.


I never claimed to be a lyricist...


In the meantime, I will eat a fig newton in memory of a great dog.

11 December 2009

Friday Follies


Off again!
I told ya that I had a bunch of vacation to kill. I have turned into that old guy at work that had so much vacation stocked up in the year that, come November, he wound up taking off every Friday through New Years.

Four day weekend ahead! Time to start some mega shopping. Hope to get the lights up today before it starts to rain (no snow :( ). I am trying to sign up for one shift to build some bikes at Elves & More. Of course the highlight of my day is that I am heading off to the doctor this afternoon for my annual physical (BOO-YA!). Nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit like getting "up close & personal" with my internist. Should be ok, but it is kind of like taking the truck in for a service - you never know what they will find under the hood on those high mileage check ups (need a new set of shocks, tires need to be rotated, transmission's leaking). Nothing cheap or easy to fix. Not really looking forward to it but I want to get it done before the end of the year and the new deductible kicks in. I expect to have a follow up to a gastroenternologist for my heartburn - ANOTHER fun filled adventure to enjoy.

Confirmed that son is coming home next week. He called last night to pass along some good news. Now, keep in mind that my son doesn't really call me to chat. He typically calls me when there is some vehicle problem or some major change in his status (translation: $$$). But last night he informed me that he had entered the student lottery for tickets to the BCS Championship game on January 7th and he got picked! Was all sorts of fired up. Amidst trying to finish a project and study for finals, he was trying to figure out the logistics of getting out to Pasadena, CA and where to stay. Lucky kid.

Have a great and warm weekend and try not to ponder that there is only 14 days until Christmas!

Addendum: Doc gave me a clean bill of health. Ya gotta love those paper gowns with no backside to them. I'd like to meet the sadistic sob that designed them.

Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes you're the fire hydrant...

09 December 2009

Tradition

Back in college, we had an old saying that if you do it more than twice, it's a tradition.

The holidays are full of all sorts of activities/tasks/excitement/traditions. As a kid, we always had certain traditions we did during that long stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Putting up a live Christmas tree, shoveling the driveway (multiple times), building our snow fort, my brothers and I trying to kill ourselves on the toboggan. Life was pretty simple back then (no video games, no cable, no internet).

As I "grew up" (the wife will challenge that premise) and struck out with my own family, we adopted new traditions. First, when we were stationed in Germany, my wife and I started our own traditions to celebrate the holidays. An oversized Christmas tree in a tiny apartment on the 4th floor (imagine the logistics), trips to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, hot Glühwein, collecting lots of handmade ornaments/figurines.

When we moved back stateside and started a family, our traditions changed again. Since we were initially the most "mobile" (young married couple, no kids), we spent most of our holidays traveling to see family in Houston, Corpus Christi, or Oklahoma City. That is about the time we bought our first home and I started on my collection of Christmas decorations/lights to put up outside. My vision was for a single color (red) string of lights to encompass the entire house. In Dallas, there were whole neighborhoods that decorated in the same theme. We used to drive out to tour several of these neighborhoods along with the rest of the crowds trying to imagine that, one day, we'd be just as festive. There is one major subdivision in Fort Worth that every house is decorated in massive fashion and they even have to hire traffic cops to control traffic. Some enterprising youngsters sell hot chocolate along the route to make some coin. Along the way, junior joined the crew and we began our own set of traditions (buying a tree, decorating it together, touring some of the local neighborhoods for the light shows, going to visit Santa,etc.). Each year, the number and complexity of the ornaments grew. We continued to acquire new Xmas ornaments every year while continuing to display the old ones (still have 2 from my childhood).

Eventually, I found a new career in south Texas and relocated back to Houston. Some of our traditions followed as well, some new ones were started. Eventually, we caved and moved to an artificial tree (allergies) that I would put up every year right after Thanksgiving usually while watching a football game (required lots of patience, detailed instructions, and a fair amount of scotch to assemble). More ornaments, more holiday glitz, more displays. Monogrammed stockings for everyone (including the dog). Lighted garland, Nativity scene, wreaths. I was still maintaining the single light theme on the outside. I just like the old school C9 lights around the house, but it is hard to keep the lights burning/unbroken year after year. Normally, I buy a new string every year to replace the old burned out bulbs and keep the strings fresh. My son and I even got into a debate one Christmas over the colors on display (he wanted multi colors). We still tried to tour other neighborhoods to see the lights, but there don't seem to be as many as in north Texas. One house we have always gone to every year has been Roller Coaster Santa. A very creative guy has build a huge, handmade roller coaster track and with a 25 foot lift hill and a single car (small wagon) that makes the circuit. He loads up a Santa figure in the car/sleigh and sets it off on the track. Takes about 2-3 minutes to climb the hill on a chain motor and about 20 seconds to careen around the track and start all over again. Not sure how his neighbors feel, but on a good night, the line of cars will be backed up 3 deep in front of his house. We also used to go to the Nutcracker down town every year if I could get good tickets.

All that changed a few years ago. With junior off in college and engaged in other interests (aka girlfriend) and getting backed up at the office, my drive and motivation to put out all of the decorations has waned a bit. Some years, I put up the lights/tree right Thanksgiving. Some years, I have not been as energetic. Last year, with Shadow's passing, I didn't put up lights or the tree until the weekend before Christmas (my heart just wasn't in it). I did get the tree up last weekend, but have yet to get the lights up on the outside (still going red). Having the family at home helps boost everyone's spirit. I am trying to get in the spirit this year, but with all the various challenges this year, it may be a another week before everything is up and running. With one more year to go in college and given his proclivity towards the tech industry, I am afraid that Steve will land a job that is not close by (translation: out of state). NOT looking forward to those times. In the meantime, he is about finished with this semester and getting prepped for tests/finals. He should be home again next week in a flurry of clothes and boxes.

And, of course, I have yet to start Xmas shopping...

Deck the Halls!

07 December 2009

Back to work

Been off a week.

Did not get as much as I had hoped to last week due to a minor crisis, a funeral, and the mini blizzard. I did get the tree up yesterday but the outside lights are still in their boxes. Our brush with winter weather turned into a steady downpour yesterday and any hints of frosty the snowman turned out more like slushy. I did get a few chores done, but did not make any headway on the new floor for the breezeway. Front door is painted and carpets cleaned. Still need to fix the window in momma's car, but that will have to wait for next weekend. In the meantime, I am headed back to the salt mines. A week off from the job can leave me with a pile of projects/meetings that will take me a month to resolve. The only good news is that I have been monitoring the activities via e-mails and my crackberry so I know the headaches I need to tackle first. Oh, well, it beats shoveling stuff in Louisiana.



In all of our preparations for the upcoming holidays, we should take a moment to remember that today is December 7th. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day


Photograph from a Japanese aircraft of Pearl Harbor including Battleship Row at the beginning of the attack. The explosion in the center is a torpedo strike on the USS West Virginia

04 December 2009

Once in a blue moon (updated)

Temps stared out around 41 this morning and light rain. It's now 34 and the snow just started. Still too warm to stick, but temps are dropping. For once, I am glad to be home camped out on the computer drinking wassail and watching the traffic reports.
---
Looks like squirrel moving day. I have spotted 5-6 of the little tree rats scurrying out in my yard trying to pack it in before the freeze. Dog's going nuts trying to get at them.

----
Addendum:

Seems that somebody is happy with the snow...

03 December 2009

Frost on my cacti

Forecasters down here are projecting the possibility of snow tomorrow.

From the way the news crews are covering it and the city is going into massive preparation, you'd think that we were hunkering down for another hurricane. Typically, when the road conditions get dicey, they wind up shutting down school districts, closing businesses, firing up the sand trucks (hey, we only get to use them once every 10 years or so!).

I love my fellow Texans, but as I've pointed out before, a lot of them don't how to drive on ice/snow. I am not going to claim to be a seasoned veteran, but I've logged a fair amount of hours on winter road and have some experience handing lousy road conditions (driven on black ice on the Autobahn). Even with that experience, I am off this week (working on chores) and have no intentions of hitting the streets mañana. Although, I may keep any eye out for all of the shennanigins on the road.

Who knows what mother nature may bring?

02 December 2009

Home on the range

Back from west Texas.

Very long drive, tired. Weather was good, still trying bag that elusive jackalope.

The trip/weekend started out well, but I fouled up big time. I got a bit of a mess on my hands and I am seriously pissed off. No one I can blame but myself so I am in a very foul mood right now. I will get past this issue, but right now I am not in the holiday mood, but I am getting better.

It may sound morbid, but what helped raise my mood yesterday was attending a funeral for an old acquantance I worked with/knew for a long while. Harry was 58 years young (only 6 years older than me) and passed away suddenly while returning from Oklahoma visiting with his daughter and grandkids. Harry was a great man and the service was packed/oveflowing. As one of his close friends noted, with so many people attending, they should have charged admission. Most of the people attending were from my old company and, while we got talk on how everyone was doing, but it was a sad occasion to play catch up. I am in a quasi network of people who worked in one company that formed a close bond and it seems that the only updates I hear now is when people pass away.

It spite of my very sour disposition at the time, what sobered me up was that my problems, no matter how bad I make them out to be, pale in comparison to the loss of a friend/loved one. Life is way to fragile/brief to sweat the little stuff.

"Dance like no one is watching, love like you'll never be hurt,sing like no one is listening,and live like it's heaven on earth."- William Purkey

27 November 2009

Friday Follies (gurgle, burp)...

OK. Mildly overdid it. Better than previous years, but still had too much. Need to run extra 5 miles just to pay for the pie.

It is great to have my son down here, even if for a very brief time. He is working on a project for one of his classes so he has to go back early Sunday but momma's ecstatic to see him. Of course, it was interesting last night as we watched the game. You see, my son, Bless His Heart, attends that other university that just happens to be the rival to the Alma mater that I attended. In spite of my best efforts at indoctrinating/cajoling/brainwashing him, he chose his own path and he elected to attend the other institution and has done great. Outstanding grades, top of the class, already has pulled in three intern slots over the past three years and those were not lightweight jobs. So, he made an excellent choice in his academic selection and I have not doubt that he will be a great success in life, but, once a year, when the two football teams meet on the gridiron, things can get heated. Somewhere along the line last night, I think momma said that if the other team wins, he's on his own for spring tuition. In the end, my team didn't lose, they just got outscored (again). In the morning light, everything alright with world again and, no, he does not have to pay for his tuition.


Black Friday. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Stuffed with Turkey & dressing, and oozing giblets and gravy, the masses have descended upon the malls/stores early this morning. Armed with adds and shopping lists cranked up on coffee and leftover pumpkin pie, the mobs are wandering the retail landscape like some seen from Zombieland. Already hearing reports of mall parking lots being 1/2 full (and it is only 0645). Given the choice of braving the malls/traffic, hanging the Christmas lights, raking up leaves, or heading west, I chose the latter. I am headed out to the Pecos region with my brother for a short hunting trek. Scored an open slot on the lease and, since I was off next week anyway, thought I would snatch up the opportunity. Should be back in a few days.

Vaya Con Dios!
Have a great weekend and enjoy the rest of the holidays!

26 November 2009

Gracias

Many Thanks !
Muchas Gracias !,
Molte Grazie !
Shukran !
Xie Xie !
Tusind Tak !,
Merci Beaucoup!
Danke Schön !
Domo Arigato !
Muito Obrigado !
Bolshoiy Spasibo!!!!

As I get ready to stuff the bird and toss him in the oven, I like to take a moment to remember what we have that we to be thankful for:
  • our life
  • our health
  • our families
  • our friends
  • our home
  • our prosperity
  • our freedoms
  • our upbringing
  • our surroundings

I am grateful to have the opportunity to enjoy some of these blessings with my family. I want to remember those who cannot be home with their loved ones. To those men & women who serve abroad, to those working to protect us from harm, to those who stand ready to lend aid and comfort, I thank you. It is on your shoulders we stand so that we can enjoy today with our families and friends. I hope that whereever you are, whatever you are doing, you can take a moment to enjoy the day and remember our blessings.

Thank you...

25 November 2009

Prep'in the LZ

One day left.
Turkey's thawing, wine's chilling, the beer is iced, the ingredients are ready, the table set. One more day until we gorge ourselves until our eyes bug out.

I have bird duty. On t-days of old, I used to run in the local charity 10 k run on Thanksgiving morning (sort of justifying the massive intake). I would get up at the crack of early, stuff the bird and toss it in the oven before I headed out for the run. Nowadays, I run a bit less, but still do the needful and then go take the dog for an extra long walk/run. Festivities start around 1300. Of course, we always tend to have way too much food and this year looks to be no different. One interesting twist this year is that this is Grayson's first turkey day with us. Shadow pretty much knew the score. He knew who to kiss up to for handouts (mom) and who to cuddle up to for constant petting (dad). I won't even get into the whipped cream incident of a few years back. By the end of the day, the dog would be totally stuffed and worn out. To the new kid, it will be like a kid in a candy store. We'll see how his manners are. Junior is expected to be home this afternoon. Mom hugs to follow.

Half day at the office today. It is always fun (NOT) to hang around work during the holidays. People start to disappear/leave like a zombie movie. Of course, there is always some crisis or fire drill or urgent report that needs to be done and, apparantly, I am the only one with two working brain cells (not at the same time) who is available that can fix the problem or give them their report. Look, people. I am here to take care of my own trivial problems/crisis. You need to find a solution or wait until next week when the "expert" is back from vacation. Hard to stay in a festive mode when you keep getting these requests. The one bright spot is our typical "let's leave early" rumor. Typically, it starts sometime on Wednesday morning. Casual coffee conversation (Do you know when we can leave? Have they released everyone yet? How long are we going to stay today?). When I know, you'll know. But yesterday, the powers that be (the company lawyer is in charge this week) decided to make the call and let everyone know the schedule early (OMG - they actually thought this out!). We got the notice early yesterday:

In appreciation of your efforts and results, we will have an early release day tomorrow for some employees who comply with a healthy lifestyle. Any employee who agrees to exercise at least once during the extended weekend (Wednesday-Sunday) can leave at 3 pm tomorrow. If you agree to exercise at least twice between Wednesday and Sunday, you can leave at 1:30 pm. If you're willing to exercise three times, you can leave at noon tomorrow. We will use the honor system and you can decide the type and duration of your exercise. Our Compliance Officer asked if the operation of a remote control or performing 12 ounce curls (drinking a beer or a big glass of Cakebread wine) count as exercise events and we said "no".

I used to have shipping and that normally made me the last one out, but since I plan to knock down another 10k and will be out hunting this weekend, I will take the 1200 exit strategy.

Take care and travel safely. Enjoy the holidays.
And if you venture out on Black Friday, shop safe, shop smart.


Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2009

Short week

I am a fan of short weeks (sort of).

A lot of people have taken off for the holidays and I am ususally wind up being one of the "last ones out" to take care of the place before we close up for a few days. With family in town and my son in school until Wednesday, we don't need to go out of town like many people do. It is nice to stay home for the holidays and play catch up on chores, put up lights, eat way too much, brave the crowds on Black Friday, watch a number of games, hit the auto show, get in some hunting. Even with everyone coming over on Thursday to my place, it still gives me time to work on some projects around here.

I normally like having the quiet time at the office to finish off some reports and make headway on several projects, but, typically something breaks or someone has an emergency shipment/problem and I wind up getting sucked into helping them. The one good thing is most of the big chiefs are gone so the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed (but not much). We had our company Thanksgiving dinner last week. A lot more mundane than previous years (less hoopla, fewer gifts), but it was fun nonetheless. In the old regime, we used to have a Christmas party for the entire company in one of the large hotels in downtown Houston. Very nice affair with massive amounts of food and liquor and a ton of door prizes. Nothing like seeing your CEO dressed up like Santa Claus or Elvis or wearing a genuine kilt. The guy was always a wee bit over the top at times, but at least it was amusing to watch him. At least the company is doing pretty well and we can celebrate the holidays on a high note. Another year I did NOT win the prize....

Only two more days until Thanksgiving.
Watch your giblets...

22 November 2009

Bless your heart


I got the dog blessed this afternoon, but the camera died on me and I only got off a few crappy let's not look at the camera shots. So I stole one from the vault back when I was repacking my hunting gear. The service was as chaotic as you'd expect. Lots & lots of dogs of various breeds, a few nervous cats, a pair of box turtles, one parrot, one iguana, and a small horse. Grayson had a good time, although I think he was miffed at me cause I would not let him off leash to "mingle". He did add his voice to the children's choir, tho. I think he enjoyed the car ride and stopping by the storage yard to drop off a few things in the trailer (he got to run amok with the dogs in the yard). This dog has it pretty darn good.


Dropped by the parent's house after the blessing. They just got back from the weekend game and they were cleaning up their trailer and putting their gear away. They are pretty damn spry for a couple of 87 year olds who have been married for 64+ years. My parents retired right after I graduated from college and have been travelling the country in their Airstream. I am grateful that my folks have had the spirit and energy and ability to stay active for so long. Many people have moved into nursing homes or have been limited in their activities and I am glad that my parents have been able to enjoy their golden years. Of course, these kids have never slowed down a lick (they organized the family cruise last year at this time) and they are trying to convince us to spend a week with them in February in Maui with my Seattle brother. Life around the hacienda is never dull and we will be glad to celebrate the holidays with them on Thursday.

21 November 2009

Break out the parkas

Finally turned colder (cooler) down here this week.

I know, I know. There are others who have been braving much colder temps than we have (tip of the snow shovel to terri & Abby) since September, but our weather has been quite nice down here (mid 70s) and definitely unwinterlike. I am grateful for the temperate weather we've been having, but it's hard to get in the mood for Thanksgiving (much less Christmas) when you are out shopping in shorts and Tevas. Might as well be in south beach or Maui. But finally, on Tuesday the front came through and dropped the temps 20-30 degrees around here. Got up to drive into work on Wednesday and it was in the mid-40s. I know, that's t-shirt weather for some northern dwellers, but down here, people dress up like they are preparing for the ice age. You ought to see this place whenever we get the occasional dusting of snow every 10 years. Entire school districts close, stalled cars, lots of traffic accidents. I've lived in Jersey in my yout, trained in Kentucky during the winter, lived in Stuttgart for 5 years, so I have a wee bit of experience in cold weather, but people down tend to go crazy when at the first sign of frost on the pumpkins.

Slowly getting ready for the Thanksgiving onslaught. Picked up a huge turkey yesterday. We typically invite over my parents, my brother, some of my brother's sons (& spouses), the wife's parents, her sister, my son and his girlfriend, and occasionally a friend or two. Typical controlled chaos. I don't really go in for the massive feasts any more. Would much rather prefer as smaller gathering, but we have started something (tradition?) that is hard to put aside. With all of the preparation, cooking, clean up, we tend to spend way too much energy preparing for this event. I'd rather have a small plate of turkey & dressing and enjoy the game. I tried to convince my wife one year that, instead of gorging and killing ourselves for this one meal, we should volunteer to serve at the annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless downtown. I got the evil eye for that suggestion (Please forgive my impertinence, milady). In the meantime, we will enjoy the time with our families and be thankful for all of our blessings.

Speaking of blessings, I'm off to get the dog blessed this afternoon. My old church is conducting its annual custom in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all critters. I am not overly religious, but we did it for Shadow (and he enjoyed a long and happy life) and somehow feel we should afford the same blessings for our new mutt. I'm quite sure that Grayson ain't Catholic or Jewish or Hindu (or even Methodist) so he wouldn't care if he got blessed by the Pope or by Bubba. He'll probably enjoy the car ride and chance to visit with other dogs (& cats) more.

15 November 2009

More fun than is legally allowed

Here we go again with the stupid pictures...


Had an incredible weekend! We took off Friday on our mystery rally not knowing where we would end up and it turned out to be a blast. After several stops and cryptic clues, we finally reached the campground in Bastrop, Texas (about 30 miles southeast of Austin). Was a very nice drive, weather was great, and we took our time. Made it to the campground in time for happy hour & burgers.


Bastrop is an old Texas town that has a lot of history and some really cool events. It was supposedly going to be the capital of Texas but it didn't work out for various reasons. Still, it has a lot of history and many old homes/places to visit. I've been to Bastrop many times before with the scouts (there is a huge camp just outside of town). Saturday there was a massive craft fair/auto show/veteran's day celebration that just about shut down the entire main street. Dog & I got to see a myriad of old cars and tour many of the local stores. Momma found a really cool quilt store in town so everyone was happy.

An old vintage Airstream trailer polished up very nicely. Can you spot the (skinny) dog in the picture?


Main street car show


Of course, since Bastrop was mere 25 miles away from Austin, we snuck off for a visit with son and girlfriend for lunch. Haven't seen them since the Labor Day rally and it was opportunity to have lunch with our offspring to see how he was doing (very well in my opinion). Great to be able to visit with him on such a short notice. The rally itself was very interesting. Dinner consisted of a very nice catered meal with lots of wine and then a show. I am not proud to admit this but I was "recruited" to sing karaoke as part of the show. Had to dress up and sing a Sinatra song (I get no kick from Champagne). Unfortunately, I did not take the top prize but I was not voted worst singer, so I would take that as a good thing.

This morning, we broke camp and hustled back to Houston to hit the Golden Beginnings Golden Retriever 10th anniversary picnic. Mere words cannot describe it but I'll try. Pandemonium. Chaos. Massive tail wagging, butt sniffing, leash dances. Great job by the volunteers and club. Try this site to view other pictures of mayhem.



Hard to tell but we had a huge turnout. Many activities. Lots of dogs.


I would label it a tremendous success, but I think I broke the dog. He ran his legs off trying to meet every single dog out there. I think he covered several miles in his travels. Of course, he swam in the muddy pond so I had to take him to the dog park to hose him down. He is worn out, tired, wet, and ready to go again.

13 November 2009

Friday Follies

Help! I was kidnapped by aliens and haven't been able to keep up with my blog duties. I finally broke away by singing my best rendition of Sting (Roxxxxaaaannnnne).

Up to no good. Been trying to catch up at work and stay below the radar. We have 7 weeks left in the year and I have to burn 2 weeks of vacation (or lose it). Because of our system implementation/testing this year, I have not used up my vacation like I normally do so I am left with a challenge to use it or lose it. Interesting dilemma to have. Basically I will be taking off just about every Friday until the end of the year (Whoo-Hooo! 4 day work week!). Ergo, I am off today getting ready to head out to another weekend rally with the parents/brother. Should be a packed weekend. We are heading out to an unknown destination (it's a mystery rally) for an unknown agenda. It is kinda like a scavenger hunt (for old people). We head out to a specific spot west of town and stop in at the local RV dealer and get the next clue on where to go. Should be interesting. Hopefully, everybody can decipher the clues to get to the rally. The only clues I have is that it is within a 2 hour radius of where we live.

On top of that gig, I am signed up for a dog picnic this weekend. The rescue group (
GBGRR) that we got Grayson from is having a 10th anniversary picnic this Sunday. They have been fostering and adopting Goldens for over 10 years and have placed roughly 2-3000 dogs over the past decade. This weekend the group is holding an anniversary picnic to celebrate. So far, there are over 250+ dogs signed up to attend. I have just got to go just to see that many tail wagging, face licking, flea bearing fur bags in one group. It will look like a freakin golden convention. This group is excellent about promoting its cause so I am certain it will wind up in the local paper.


Ya'll have a great weekend and remember, always drink upstream from the herd...

11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

11 November

Somehow, I did not get this posted on Wednesday. Been pondering this thread for a while.

I wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all the men and women who have served or are serving in the armed forces. Your unselfish sacrifices have enabled the rest of us to enjoy the lives and freedoms we have today. To me, one day is not adequate enough. This is not some sort of Hallmark moment or excuse for a 50 off sale at the local electronics store. There are a lot of heroes we encounter in life and the men and women who serve our country should be at the top of the list. Too often we idolize movie stars or aging rock star and we hold massive memorials when they die tragically. The average guy or gal who is patrolling the hills of Afghanistan or the streets of Baghdad or has manned a fox hole in some foreign land wants to be home with their families, wants to enjoy a normal evening, wants to go to school, wants to cheer on their team to victory. To me, these people are the true unsung heroes.

I say this with some humility. I have had the honor and privilege to serve in the US Army back 25 years ago. I spent 5 ½ exciting/long/excruciating years as an Armor officer in Germany. The Army – It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. Where else will they let you run over thing with tanks and blow things up for a living? Life in the Army is pretty much 24/7. You are on call every day and a lot of weekends. The time we were stationed in Germany was at the tail end of the cold war era. Right at the end of the Iran hostage crisis and about 10 years before the Berlin wall came down. We were still the primary barrier against an East German/Russian invasion force. My unit was stationed south of Stuttgart and not a border unit, but we did man the border along East Germany at times and our primary mission was to back up the units on border. Let’s not sugar coat it here. While I did not feel we were in jeopardy during our years in FRG, our primary mission was to slow down any advance in case the Eastern bloc invaded the west. While we trained and prepared, I had no illusion as to our longevity if the balloon ever went up. Kinda fatalistic, but I felt you couldn't let that weigh you down. A lot braver souls than I have served and died for our country and I always felt I had an obligation/duty to serve.


But even with those 5+ years in the Army, I still don’t consider myself as a veteran. I know, technically, I am one. I served in the military for an extended period of time and have slept out in the mud & rain for many a night and have eaten more c-rations that I care to remember. I was lucky enough to have served during a time of peace, but I was not engaged in any active conflict (Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, WW II) so, in some way, I don’t feel that I have earned the same accolades that my fellow soldiers who have been in harm’s way. My dad served as a B17 pilot in WWII and I consider him a true veteran, but he does not wear it on his sleeve and I tend to follow his lead. I was proud & honored to have served. I’ve had some people thank me on Veteran’s day and I am grateful for their comments, but I don’t truly feel I deserve it.

03 November 2009

Post Halloween

Great weekend.
Weather fantastic.
Outstanding game.
Nice road trip.

Spent the weekend with the parents & brother camped out in the RV lot on campus and participating in various pre football game activities. It's been a while since I have had the time to enjoy touring the campus or hitting some of the pre & post game activities. I walked the legs off of the dog and he loved it. I took him on several walks on the surrounding field adjacent to the RV lot and then hiked over to campus and did a tour of my old stomping grounds. After 30 years, things change. A lot of new buildings, but many of the older ones still remain. I always like how my school has a strong sense of tradition and they tend to keep a lot of the older buildings in use (with some modernization). Brings back lots of memories. The dog was well behaved in the crowd of people, but he still acts like a puppy when he sees other dogs (wants to play). He even got to greet the school mascot (Reveille) - a beautiful full blooded Collie. I'm just glad he behaved himself and was a gentleman (not cool to have your dog get into a fight with the school mascot). Of course, Grayson was always up to the challenge of meeting new dogs. Our next door neighbor dropped by with her dog, Tahoe, a Great Dane. And when I say Great, I mean GREAT. This dog stood flat footed and its head was over 4.5 feet tall and weighed in at 185 lbs! Grayson is not a small dog, but he was dwarfed by this beast/horse. Tahoe was easily 3 times the size of Grayson but as gentle as a lamb (or cow). I don't even want to ponder the logistics with handling and supporting a beast of that size....

Friday night was a treat (& trick). A lot of people had set up for the game so there were a lot of families camped out on the lot. I guess that, because the game was Saturday afternoon, most people decided to do trick or treating Friday night. It was a hoot to see all the families and kids dressed up and go trick or treating from camper to camper. With a football game camp out, you'd expect to have a lot of rowdy fans, but is was like a close-knit neighborhood with everybody decorating their trailers and trying to out do each other. Kids had a blast and scored a ton of candy. Even saw a number of dogs dressed up in costumes for the festivities (I didn't subject my dog to that torment, yet).

30 October 2009

Friday Follies (Trick or Treat version)

BOO- YA! Made it through another week!

Loading up the truck and heading north as soon as the rain stops. BTW - for those who actually read this tripe, I commented this summer on how bone dry we were. The saying goes: If you don't like Texas weather, just wait a minute and it'll change. Over the past two weeks, we've just about caught up to our rain deficit. Earlier this summer, we were behind 7-8 inches in rainfall. Lots of rain/flooding in low areas. The hill country is always susceptible for flash flooding, so you gotta watch the river crossings. Even though people are griping about the rain/nasty weather, I am glad we are finally getting the rain. I've been out on the trail or in the field when it was pouring down and I'd much rather sit in my office or at home and listen to the rain on the roof and watch the show.

The office had a costume contest yesterday to encourage people to show their spirit. It is kind on an interesting culture where I work. Some groups/department are a bit more open/relaxed and get fired up for these kinds of events (you ought to see them during the Christmas holidays). Other groups (mine) are a bit more reserved and some folks tend to frown on this "dress up". My boss is one who thinks this is silly/unprofessional but I am ok with it. I have told my people that, if you want to dress up for Halloween/Xmas/Mardis Gras, knock yourself out, just keep it legal (no thongs/fishnet). Anyway, there was a company contest and a number of people dressed up in various costumes to see if they could win the prize (dinner, $$$). I applaud everyone's spirit and imagination, but you should always be cognizent of your gear/attire. One pair of engineers dressed up as two Star Trek characters (Kirk & Urhura). I don't think that Lu (Urhura) fully realized the logistical issues with the mini dress uniform that they wore back the 60s. I was in a design meeting with her in the morning and she was having issues maintaining her decorum in the leather conference room chairs.

Lots of ghosts & goblins out on Saturday. Make sure you keep any eye out for the little ones.

Hope everyone has a great and safe Halloween!

28 October 2009

In Training (a lost cause)

Been too busy (or is that lazy?) to come up with anything meaningful to write about. The past week has just flown by and I am staring down the barrel of another weekend. Normally we hold out at the house for Halloween and pass out candy to the roving hordes that roam the neighborhood, but we are heading out to catch a football game at my Alma matter and will spend the weekend camping out in the RV lot in the trailer. Been doing this gig for years with my parents & brother and it is more of a mini-vacation away from home/office. With the fall weather finally here to stay, we try to enjoy the outdoors a lot more.

Got sucked into a training class yesterday. One of those classess/seminars that the company has determined that its entire management team needs. This is one of a series of 4-6 hour classes on various management/leadership techniques (communication, dealing with stress, how to plan projects, conflict resolution, etc.). Not counting the 5+ wonderful years I spent in the Army, I have been in business for ~25 years in various roles from individual contributor to department manager. I have had a plethora of these styles of classes/training over the years and even spend time learning communication when I got my MBA. Given all of that background, I honestly feel that these classes are a total bust. I am trying not to be one of those old, entrenched farts who sits in the back of the class muttering "That'll never work here", but I feel that some of this material cannot be adequately covered in a 4 hour class. To me, some of these classes should be 2 days to be effective and we are cramming them into 4 hours (not counting breaks). Yesterday's class was on communication. We are learning techniques on how to communicate effectively. Would be a good class for the masses, if they spent more time allowing people to absorb the subject. For once, I was glad to have my blackberry so I can keep in touch with the outside world. To me, the highlight of yeserday's training was reading about terri's potty problems. Of course, after years of taking these classes, I tend to go "off script" when it comes to the role playing exercises just to lighten the mood. In one scenario, where my partner (another manager I have worked with for 8 years) and I were to practice communicating about a problem. I was supposed to encourage and empathize with my co-worker about his work load when he griped about it to me, but it came out more like: "Is that all? Oh, just man up and deal with it. Quit whining like a 5 year old and get back in the saddle." Somehow, I don't think the instructor did not seem to appreciate my sense of humor.

And I wonder why I keep getting invited back to these classes...

18 October 2009

Outdoors (part duex) - It's called a DOG park

Weather is still fantastic. It is almost criminal not to be outside enjoying this.

Took the dog to the new dog park yesterday. It is a brand new dog park built down in the bottom land near the Brazos River. Nice big park but still needs some more work. The ground must have been saturated last week because it looks like a herd of elephants had roamed through the area. Not a lot of grass next to the pond and the pond was very muddy. The grass needs to grow a bit more to make it less of mud pit. Of course, the dogs didn’t care. Grayson thought it was just like going to the play ground to meet all sorts of new friends. Young dogs, old dogs, fat dogs, tiny dogs, hairy dogs, slobbery dogs. Dogs with their own bones/balls to fetch. Dogs who loved to swim. Dogs who loved to chase each other. I played with a pair of Huskies who seemed to be enjoying the cooler weather. One girl brought a tiny Corgi named Bo. And by tiny, I mean this dog couldn’t have been more than 4 pounds soaking wet. My dog’s head was bigger that this entire dog. Of course all of the big dogs (including mine) were fascinated by this new “toy” and were checking her out. Funny sit to see three big dogs sniffing out this small, but undaunted Corgi. In spite of his diminutive stature, Bo held his own against his bigger brethren. All in all, the dogs seemed to enjoy the freedom of the open park and the new sights/sounds/smells. On our way out of the park, as Gray & I passed through the gate, I noted a young couple bringing in their dog. What caught my attention was the girl was carrying (ISYN) a ferret! I did one of those classic double takes. A ferret? Who brings a ferret to a dog park? I almost turned around to see if this was going to turn into a YouTube moment but had to head on home. If the pack was interested in a tiny Corgi, I was curious to see what hilarity would ensue with a ferret.

17 October 2009

Outdoors


Must get out.

For those of y'all north of the Red River or east of LA (Louisiana), south Texas weather is sometimes a unique experience. One day it will be 99+ degrees & 95% humidity and you will be camped out in the a/c, but by the afternoon, you are putting on a jacket. Normally, the temps crawl up into the 90's around May and don't come back down until October. The last week, we've had some serious storms roll through the area and the temps have dropped dramatically ushering in the fall season. Yesterday, the clouds finally broke and it is now crystal clear and ~58 degrees and should hold this way until some time next week. Beautiful hunting weather. We typically don't have this kind of weather but once or twice a year. I actually drove home to/from work with all windows down enjoying the fall afternoon (hard to do in traffic). I intend to take advantage of this situation and max out my outdoor activities. My plans are to work in the yard, trim up some bushes, work on the Mustang, and will take Gray to the new dog park in our town that just opened up last weekend.

I hope everybody has a great weekend!


Life's short. Enjoy it while you can...

16 October 2009

Friday Follies

Another week in the bag.

Two weeks down on the new system and everyone is starting to get comfortable with the changes (translation: less whining/complaints). Perhaps they are now comfortable with the new system and are begining to grasp the improvements that will make life easier/better. It's that or they just got tired of complaining to me (or I've stopped listening to them). We've actually been making progress every day. Would have liked to go live with a perfect system, but we didn't have an army of programmers to fix everything and we wanted to implement this before we all retired. So we chose to cast off with a few holes/leaks and a couple of rolls of duct tape. Life's more fun when you have challenges ahead of you.



Oh, yea. Forgot to post this up on my way out of town on last Friday.


You can blame terri for this picture.



And, no that is not mold on my tongue
(was enjoying a blue lolipop from the vet)

11 October 2009

Reunions...

are for old people. Wait, I think I be one.


Such a innocent looking bunch...

Hard to believe it has been 30 years. Just got back this afternoon from our reunion. We really had a really good time. The weather finally turned cooler (~59 degrees)down here and it was damp/drizzley for most of the football game. Spent some time roaming around campus trying to remember where we had classes and just griping on how many new buildings have gone up since we left. We got to see a whole bunch of people at the reception and meetings, many of which I did not recongnize. The good news is that most of the guys from my outfit made it to this year's gig so we were able to spend a lot of time trying to remember the old war stories. Most of the formal meetings/gatherings were more of a trying to remember somebody's name or where they've been over the last 30 years or how many kids (or wives) they've had. One of my guys lives in town and we all met at his house Saturday after the game and spent about 6 hours reliving the glory days.


Man, what studs...

Now, I know that many people may not like or go to reunions because they tend to be dry and boring filled with old farts trying to relive their youth. Most of the participation at these reunions comes from the people who were in the corps and some of these guys have yet to grow up. I consider myself lucky in that a lot of the guys in my outfit still communicate with each other. Out of the 16 young, cocky, hot heads that survived the freshman year, we graduated 13 guys (some took longer than 4 years) and 9 showed up this weekend (two from out of state) for this shindig. I spend 4+ intense years with these guys and we formed as bond that still exists today. It is funny to sit with these guys 30 years later and try to remember all of the crap we did when were were young and invincible (& stupid). Looking back, I am surprised we made it out alive. Interesting to break bread with guys I used to get drunk with or fight with or study with. Most of these guys are bit older, a bit grayer, a bit heavier, have less hair, and have 2-3 kids (plus 2 grandkids) that are our age when were we were in college. I asked my old roommate if he would let his daugher date a guy like he was back in our days (did not get an answer). It was heartening to see that most of the guys were still married/hitched to the same partner that they knew in college (all of the wives know each other from back then). Everybody has kids, everybody is doing well, everyone is in good health.

After all the votes are in, I'd have to say that a good time had by all.

Addendum: As typical with any football game weekend, accomodations were sparse and not cheap. I was able to find a room at the local LaQuinta across from campus that served us well. The interesting point about this factoid is that this is the exact same hotel that my wife and I stayed in after we got married and before we headed out on our honeymoon. Pretty good shape for a 30+ year old hotel, but then again, I don't recall too much of the decor the last time we stayed there...

09 October 2009

Back to the stone age

Off to my 30 year college reunion.

Get to see a bunch of old farts reminisce about the good old days back in the 70's. Back when there was:

  • Only one Star Wars movie
  • The first gas crisis
  • Smokey & The Bandit
  • CB Radios
  • Disco
  • Billy Beer
  • Sony Walkmans
  • Three Mile Island
  • Pink Floyd - "The Wall"
  • Gloria Gainer - "I Will Survive"
  • The Eagles - "Hotel California"
  • First Cell Phones
  • Happy Days
  • Charlies Angels
  • MASH
  • Space Invaders
  • Transalaskan Pipe Line opens
  • The King Dies
  • Roots

All of a sudden, I feel old.

07 October 2009

Health food

My nephew was in Dallas last weekend watching my team lose in the new Cowboys temple.

While there, he partook in the annual tradition of cheesy carnival games, car displays, and animal exposition (aka Texas State Fair). Somewhere along the way, he & his buddy got hungry for some good, nutritious health food.



Fried Butter...Mmmmmm.