30 June 2009

There's no place like home

Trip report

I like to travel. Don't get me wrong. I may gripe and grumble about airlines and security lines and baggage checks and hotel beds and long flights and airline food, but I secretly like to travel. I live to the opportunity to see new places/things. Even on a business trip, I am always open to exploring the surrounding area, if given the time.

Our trip was excellent. Way too much to do/see in the few days we had. The weather was perfect for Seattle (low 50s, high 70s) and no rain. Got to see Mt Raineer from most areas in Seattle which, from what the locals tell me, is not too often. Got to spend a large amount of quality time with our son and see where he is working as an intern. Microsoft has a huge campus in Redmond, WA and is it immaculately groomed. You'd think you were at a park from all of the trees/landscaping. Got to hand it to MS, they do pour the money into their facilities. Junior is having the time of his life. Great job, neat apartment, lots of opportunity to work with a company he may wind up working for in the long run. After last year in San Jose, I would prefer Seattle for climate and home values. While he worked, we explored the surrounding area/towns. Really neat towns/villages on the east side of Seattle. The woods/roads remind me somewhat of our stay in southern Germany. We even spend a day or two wandering around Seattle and the suburbs. Did the touristy thing and took a lake tour of Puget Sound and University Lakes. Got to see the floating home where Sleepless in Seattle was flimed. I played chafeur for momma around the area on a quilt shop hop. That's were all of the local quilt stores open up for 4 days for a massive sale/shop hop. Did not know that there were so many quilt stores in the northern Washington area. The stores/groups even charter busses to take them from store to store. Flying solo, we were able to hit 5 over 2 days and even ran one woman from Houston that had flown up to Seattle just for the gig. Saturday we went out to Vashon Island to visit with my brother and his wife at their country home & yurt. Vashon is an island across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Only accessable by ferry and just 30 minutes from downtown, but miles from the city. Great little place in the country. They have a very nice, simple home that many would find small or "cozy" but I really liked it. Ate steaks with them and drank Washington State wine while we gossiped about family or got into a political debate. Sunday, we made a run up to Vancouver, BC. Was a long drive (3 hours) for a short stay (5-6 hours). Had some great fish, drank some great Vancouver beer, toured the local market before heading back home. I would have prefered to have a bit more time touring the area and seeing the town that will host the next winter Olympics.

Spent a large amount of coin, ate way too much, got home this morning at 0300. Tired, back ache, got a ton of work to do when I hit the office in the morning. Typical crisises & people problems at work and I know I am walking back into a s&$%#storm of headaches/work.

Was it worth it? I may gripe when the bills hit, but, in a word, yes.
Any time to spend with my kid is well worth the investment.

29 June 2009

From the road

Ever take a vacation and finally have to go home/work just to get some rest? We're wrapping up our short tour to the northwest and are flying out this afternoon. Been a great trip and I am worn out. Got to see a lot of our son and the local area during the few short days up here. Weather has been fantastic. Highs in the low 70s and low have been in the high 50s. I've been out running some of the trails around the Redmond (east of Seattle) area. These folks really know how to do trails. I was sick earlier this month, so haven't been keeping up with my runs, but I have made up for it here. Been out every morning in the 58 degree sunshine trying to knock down 5-6 miles. Compared to the 99+ degrees in Houston, this is nervana.

Have not seen everything we intended, but have seen a lot. Going to lunch with my son before we head out to the airport. I try not to think about how much this cost (has not been a cheap trip, but well worth it). Did a short trip yesterday to Vancouver, Canada. 3 hours to drive up and was able to spend about 6 hours touring the town before heading back to Seattle. Long day.

See ya'll down the road.

23 June 2009

So much to do, so little time

Gotta short road trip planned.

We're gonna head to the west coast to check in on numero uno son and how he is "suffering" through the summer in Seattle. I am not really jazzed about flying again so soon, but seeing how summer arrived a few weeks ago and the temps are projected to hit the 100s this week, I won't mind running off to the Pacific Northwest for a few days (highs are projected to be in the mid 70s). Trying to plan for things to do while we are up there. Making plans to visit with my older brother and his new wife out on the island.

Of course, he has always been the "creative" and outgoing one of the family...

19 June 2009

Alpha Dog

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

I may be slightly biased here, but I think I have the greatest dad. I haven't talked much about him in this forum but he taught me a lot in life.

As the 3rd son (of 3), I was always the "baby" of the family. My older two brothers always got away with more than I did (so it seemed) and they were always paving the way for me. My dad was not one for lots of affection and hand holding scenes, instead, to me he was a solid rock of confidence and inspiration. He is a born leader but not the kind of "A" personality that always has to be the one in charge or voice his opinions. He has the kind of personality that people naturally gravitate to and look to him for leadership and guidance in almost any situation. He is the true leader of the pack (when momma dog lets him) and someone I am proud to call dad. I truely did not appreciate his guidance and wisdom (and patience) until I had my own son. One of the few goals I have had in my life and one has been to be just like him. No way I can ever top that bar, but I certainly am willing to try.

dad chillin' with big brother

The nice part is that, at 85+ years young, he and my mom have not slowed down too much. They are both are still out on the road in their trailer camping with their caravan. They are in Madison WI for an international rally and enjoying the cooler weather up there. We probably won't see them back down in Texas until sometime past labor day.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!

15 June 2009

More things to see

I started writing the last blog a few days ago in my head and while putting down my musings on the net, I kept coming up with other interesting sites you will find in Texas.

For example, did you know that we have Stonehenge II out in Kerrville? I've actually been there one summer.

We also have the Alamo Village in Brackettsville (not the real one in downtown San Antonio but the one built for the John Wayne movie "The Alamo".

Of course, there is always the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.

For the more exotic tastes, we have the Forbidden Gardens (terra cotta soldiers) in Katy.

And for the worldly travelers, there is always the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas.

Life's full of interesting things to see/do if we only take time to stop and smell the bacon...

14 June 2009

I'll show you mine if you show me yours

The system upgrade I've been griping about has been pushed back 5 weeks to give us more time to work off some of the programming problems. A few weeks back, I brokered a deal to take off a few days to go out to Seattle to visit with our son. Given the tight schedule, it was a gamble to be able to squeeze in a road trip (was going to have to work some weekends and late nights to keep up) but, the new schedule gives us time to relax and enjoy the trip. We had a very short (1 say) stay in Seattle last year when we went to visit with family out on the coast and did not have time to see much of the area. A brief visit to Pike's Market, some general sightseeing, but not much else. This year, I would like to see some more of the area/sights that make Seattle "unique". The Space Needle, Pike's Market, the Original Starbucks, the Boeing factory tour, a couple of winery tours, a brewery tour, Seattle Underground, Vashon Island, Mount Rainier, Mount St Helens, the Freemont Troll. All are on on my "tentative" agenda. I have challenged my son to find us some unique and interesting sites/activities to do while we are in town. With his new job, we are not trying to badger him, but we would like to see him for a brief time while he is out on the west coast and figured 3-4 days would be just enough to not get too annoying.

Whenever I travel to a place or city I have not been to, I always try to find interesting things to see/do. Never know when we will be back this way again, so we try to see things that we would not normally see in south Texas (like mountains). I find it interesting to challenge people to tell me things about the place they live in. What is unique/interesting? Got any "must-sees"? You know, when the relatives from the sticks are in town for 3 days and they want to see the sights? EVerybody should be proud of where they live and have some interest in the local attractions. Can you list the top 5 things I must see if I was visiting your neck of the woods?

Being a native of south Texas, I can list many things about the area/state that I would recommend to anyone who has the time. Of course, with the high heat & humidity during the summer, weather can be a factor down here, so I would not necessarily recommend a lot of outdoor venues for some of my northern friends during July (kinda like I'd stay away from Minnesota during January). Since we are a big state, I will not limit myself to just the Houston region, but something within a day's drive.

Some of my picks:
  1. Johnson Space Center (Space, The Final Frontier) - while not as exciting as Cape Canaveral in Florida, the space center down here is the headquarters where they run all manned space flights. There is a pretty kick-a%% visitor center and you get to tour the rocket park and mission control (limited when there is a bird in orbit).

  2. Minute Maid Park (Play Ball!) - really nice baseball park with retractable roof. Good to see especially on a cool night and they open the roof up.

  3. Cyntia Mitchell Woodlands Pavillion (Music)- open air concert venue. Excellent for groups/singers (like Joan Jett)

  4. The Galleria (Shoptastic)- mega shopping mall with lots of high end stores/shops. I remember it from back in the '70s as one of the few places in south Texas with an indoor Ice Skating rink.

  5. The Beer Can House or the Orange Show (Art?) - some of our more eclectic sights. Ever been to a house that was cover entirely in aluminum beer cans? If your timing is right, you can even see an Art Car Parade. Lots of interesting cars/artforms (most are driveable).

  6. Hermann Park (Free) - the Houston Zoo, the train, the Butterfly Museum. Lots of free/cheap things to do.

  7. Big heads (more art) - Ever wanted to see a 70 foot tall statue of Sam Houston or Stephen F Austin? Or 35 foot tall statues of the Beatles? Or how about a picture standing next to a 23 foot tall bust of a President of your choice? There is a new Presidental Park being set up south of downtown that will feature the busts of all of the presidents.

  8. Galveston (the Island) - the Seawall, the Strand, Moody Gardens, the Elissa, the 1903 Hurricane Museum, Seawolf Park. Not as pristine as the Florida beaches, but we have sand & surf about an hour south of here. Galveston has some great history and cool places to see/go to. Hurricane Ike did them no favors last fall, but they are resilient and they are rebuilding a lot of the places.

  9. New Braunfels (the Hill Country) - tube on the Guadalupe River, the Schlitterbahn - whenever the temps start to climb, I always thing of the river in New Braunfels. Great German beer, cold waters, lots of trees/hills. Nice hill country town (ain't little anymore) with a German flair and lots of water to float/swim in. The Schillerbahn is, hands down, the world's best water park, bar none (and that ain't just me talking).

  10. San Antonio (tourist town) - the River Walk, the Alamo, Fiesta Texas, Seaworld. Lots of things to see/do in SA for the family.

  11. Austin (Offical Motto: Keep Austin Weird)- the Capitol, the LBJ Museum, the nightly flight of Mexican Freetail bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Very interesting and dynamic community. If you could ever picture a Texas liberal, more than likely they'd be found in Austin.

I figure you should really know something about where you live and work to make life interesting. So what's unique in your neck of the woods?

Old Glory

Historical trivia: today is Flag day.

According to Wikipedia: In the US, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, though on June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania became the first (and only) U.S. state to celebrate Flag Day as a state holiday.

Title 36 of the United States Code, Subtitle I, Part A, CHAPTER 1, § 110[2] is the official statute on Flag Day; however, it is at the President's discretion to proclaim officially the observance.

Interesting holiday. No Hallmark cards, no special sales at the stores, no parades. The flag is a symbol of our country (as with other nations). It represents a culture/heritage/history. Many people have fought and died for this symbol and the freedoms is represents. It stands for something bigger that a piece of cloth.

Fly a flag today.

10 June 2009

On My Honor

Nice way to end to a crappy day.

My days have been getting busier at the office. The system upgrade project is moving along at the speed of dark and I am only 3 weeks behind. When I try to block out a day to do some testing or verify the data, someone dumps another nebulous project or task in my lap (How many barks in a dog? or Where does light go when you turn it off?). Something that, it appears, only I can answer. At this rate, I'll be done with my project sometime in 2011. On top of that, I am trying to get things done before we hit the road to visit junior in Seattle in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I was a wee bit testy.

But, I digress. Last week I was invited to sit in on a Board of Review for Eagle Scout rank for a kid in our old troop. I've known this kid for 7+ years and have been on many camp outs and camps with him. Great kid with a bright future. I have not been as active in the troop since my son moved off but I felt the need to be there so I said yes. Fast forward to today and, with my schedule/workload, I was questioning my acceptance (don't have time, running late, etc.), but somehow, I managed to sneak off, drive home in record time, change into my scout uniform and make it to the church in time to serve on the board. An Eagle Board of Review is the final review of a scout to determine if he is ready/qualified to become an Eagle Scout. We get to sit in judgement of the scout and his accomplishments over the past 6-7 years to deem him worthy of the rank. Now, for those not as familiar with Scouting and what an Eagle Scout is, I will just say it is the highest rank in scouting and very few people have achieve that rank (my son is one). It is considered a great honor and represents a mark of leadership and accomplishment for a young scout that will carry forward throughout his life. Many leaders/important people have earned that rank and it can open doors for those who can get it. Not everyone can get this award and it is a long road to earn it, but of the few that do, it is a measure of their character (IMHO). I am glad/proud to be able to have served on the board and helped him achieve this goal. I was part of his experience and remember sitting on a similar board when he turned Tenderfoot 6 years ago. I challenged him then to stay with the program and reach for the stars and, tonight, he has earned the rank. I am a big supporter of Boy Scouts and tend to give them my support whenever possible. One of the slogons we have is that: "Scouting Builds Character."

Congratulations Kevin!

Outstanding job!

Semper Paratus!

08 June 2009

Weekend follies

Ever start working on various projects on the weekend and lose track of time? Pretty darn good weekend. Since the job has me tied down to a computer for most of the week, I chose to work outside for a bit but got a lot done. The weather was great but it is starting to get warm & humid already. The summers down here on the coast can be pretty brutal but I find the best way to handle it is to start early and not go inside to the a/c until done. And drink lots of water.
Had to retrim the trees again. Got my second notice from the city Saturday (Final Warning! Dire Consequences! Major Felony!). I actually got the first letter back in May when I was making my run to Austin to extract offspring. I've gotten this notice before (as well as a lot of my neighbors). The city has a 13 foot rule where no tree limbs are supposed to hang over the street lower than 13 feet (8 foot for sidewalks). I have two big Arizona Ash trees out front that tend to get a bit branch heavy and will hang down, but certainly not below 12 feet (there are a few in the neighborhood I can actually touch when walking the dog), but occasionally, the city deems it necessary to make their neighborhood sweeps writing up all miscreants and ne'er-do-wells. I actually trimmed (what I thought) were my offending branches last weekend and figured I was good for a while, but got a second letter Saturday with a snarky response date of Monday (two days?). So I was out again yesterday morning with the pole saw and ladder making sure that nothing was lower than 20 feet. Even took pictures just to prove it to the city in case there was any question of my efforts. From the comments I heard from several neighbors, sounds like a bunch got the same letter. With all of the other issues, seems like a petty thing for the city to keep hounding us on, but I guess I cannot complain too much. From some of my co-workers who live in other areas of town, their HOAs (home owners associations) can be pretty A/R. Letters about keeping your hedges trimmed below a certain heights, not edging one side of your driveway, or staining your fence the wrong color are typical. Aaah, for the open range...

Not a lot of limbage, but it is a pain in the butt to clean up.

01 June 2009

Back in the saddle

Ok, enough goofing off, back to work. Good weekend. Still sick, but getting better. Was able to get some yard work done and cut down some limbs in the street. The city is pretty A/R about certain codes and one of them is having tree limbs hanging down over the streets/sidewalks (must not be lower than 13' over the roadway). Occasionally, the city sends out an inspector who leaves us with lovely little note to cut the branches back in 14 days OR ELSE. I find it amusing/annoying, seeing how there are at least a dozen other houses in my hood that have tree branches I can touch when walking dog. I've got three huge trees (2 Arizona Ash, 1 Live Oak) and I've had them cut back before, but they keep coming back every year with more limbs. After Hurricane Ike last year, a lot of tree limbs were knocked down or hanging lower. I cut most of the major offenders back but there is still a lot of branches to be trimmed up. I may have to resort to hiring another crew again to clean up my trees. I don't mind tree work, but its the clean up that take longest part. Besides, momma is not very happy with me climbing up in those trees like a money with a chain saw. Keeps saying something about insurance money and selling my Mustang.

Talked with son last night. He is doing great. Loves the job. Loves the place. Redmond is very bike-centric and he is able to bike to work from his apartment just 3 blocks away. MS has a program to take its interns out on various "social activities" so they will bond as a team. Yesterday, they did the Theo chocolate factory (organic, fair trade, bean-to-bar) in Fremond, WA. Gee, life's rough....