30 September 2009

Holding on

Been a looong week. Early mornings, late nights can take a toll on an old body after a while. Whenever I stay up too late, I can feel it in the joints. Started a number of years back in Army when we got tagged as staff duty officer for the battalion. That means you worked your normal day and then you got to be in charge of the battalion after hours. Typically you stayed up all night making rounds or playing nursemade for your company/battalion. I broke up more than a few fights and had to escort several innebriated guys back to their barracks. After being awake for ~24 hours straight, my knees were the first to complain. Of course, once you were relieved in the morning, you went back to your normal duty assignment. No rest for the weary.

Our system update is going well. We are ahead of schedule and things seem to be going as planned (and that scares me). Been working on the process since last week and have been keeping crazy hours. Last night we were supposed to finish up our vaidation process at 2200 hours, but I got my testing done early and was able to pack out at 1930. Today is the big push. We will try to play catch up with all of the transactions which could run into the wee hours of the morning. Hope to start this beast sometime on Thursday. Of course, then the real complaining starts. Got to hold another workshop today for people who missed my last sessions (translation: they were too busy to make my classes last time). I am sure that no matter how much lipstick I put on this new & enhanced system, people will still think it is a pig. (Resistance is futile).

Oh well, "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself." — Ricky Nelson

22 September 2009

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

We are entering the final week of our system upgrade and are planning to go live this weekend. It has been a long and tortured road we have travelled. Lots of testing and retesting and trying to see if the system is going to work as anticipated. We have been playing with this upgrade since last December and, while I would still like some more time to get comfortable with it, there comes a time when you must cast off and hope for a favorable wind. Long hours, late nights, lots of last minutes things to finish up. Of course, with change, there are those who will embrace it as progress and those who will complain regardless of how much it will improve their lot. One of my jobs is to make them happy (or at least keep them quiet).

I think I need more Scotch.

See ya'll on the other side.

20 September 2009

Junk yard dog

Ever done something you haven't done in years and thoroughly enjoyed it?

I used to do a lot of my auto repairs on my stable of vehicles. Part because I am a hands on kind of person and part because I am a bit of a tightwad and hate to spend mega bucks for a job I can do in my garage. I've got the tools & skills to do some of the minor vehicle repairs. Over the past few decades, I've done a number of brake jobs, repaired windows, replaced many batteries/water pumps/radiators/shocks/gas tank, done tune ups, repaired a clutch, and even rebuilt a carburetor (that's a complex chore). I've busted many a knuckle or scraped my hands pulling parts off or putting them back in place. I've been in grease and grime up to my shoulders trying to fix one of my herd. More than once I've busted my head on the hood of a car and let loose a few colorful adjectives (Shadow didn't hang around those times). The past few years, I've been busy & have not had time to work in my garage as much as I used to. However, necessity is the mother of invention and I wound up back in my garage for a few repairs.

All of my wheels are of older vintage (we tend to keep our cars longer) and they are getting up in the mileage. Like the rest of us, as they get older, they tend to have problems that can only be addressed with copious amounts of money and/or a good mechanic. The driver's seat in the land barge has had problems with the seat track mechanism for a while. Momma cannot sit in it because the track gears are stripped out and you cannot move the seat forward. Had it priced out at the dealer and it could run from $650 to $1000 to fix. Being a fiscally minded person (translation: cheap a%%), I balked at those prices and chose to live with the issue. However, yesterday I embarked on a mission to hit several junk yards in search of a new motor/seat out of a wrecked truck. Spent about 4-5 hours on the north side of town in a couple of junk yards combing over wrecks looking for a working replacement. After several possible solutions, I finally found a seat track and motor assembly that I was able to disassemble and test out. Sure, it is a bit rusty and needs some cleaning, but it works well and is far less expensive than the repair shop would charge. This morning's challenge is to install it on the land barge (Hope this will is only a 2 beer job). The fun part (for me) was combing through all of the wrecks to find parts I can use on any of my vehicles. I used to do that many years ago in my youth. Sure it was hot, there were a gazillion mosquitos, got grease & grime up to my eyebrows.

Need a new door handle for that 95 Bronco? How about the ash tray from your 99 Cadillac? The backseat from a 03 Expedtion? You can pretty much find anything if you are willing to dig.

18 September 2009

Friday Follies

Another week down. It's been another one of those weeks where you come skidding into the weekend all beat up and bruised but feeling glad to be alive.

Weather has been pretty darn good down here (for south Texas). Moderate temps and cloudy/rainy, but after a summer of no rain and blistering heat, this feels great. Makes for great hunting weather. Work lumbers on with its typical fire drills, political infighting, and mindless projects. This week has been no less chaotic. We staged a mock disaster drill where we shut down operations simulating major disaster to our facility (like a hurricane) and moved operations across town for half the day. My role was to insure we had communications with our suppliers to contact them in case we needed emergency shipments, but basically I was on the computer testing our system and answering e-mails. Typical dog & pony show. Looked good in theory and on paper, but when the real crap hits the fan, who's gonna stick around town and be here to keep the fires burning? When Ike hit last year, most of the area south of us evacuated north and were not in town to help recover. I was one of the "dedicated" ones who stayed in town and "volunteered" to help run the place when the rest of Houston was shut down. The rest of the week was pretty much the same stuff. Meetings with suppliers, chasing down part issues, trying to finish up our testing and keeping the lid on minor issues. I would complain, but that's part of my job: part firefighter, part magician, part sage, part hall monitor.

One of my ancillary chores has been making plans to attend our 30 year college reunion in October. 30 years? Geeze I feel old. Can you recall what you were doing 30 years ago? Part of me wants to go and see my old friends/roommate/outfit but part of me is hesitant. I like to think that, in all of these years, we've grown up a bit, but some people never seemed to have left college. I'll go just to see what 30 years and several kids & pounds have done to a few people. Of course, it is always interesting to see how many are on their second (or third) marriage (I'm still working on my first) or how many kids they have or who took the longest to graduate. Past reunions were a visit to the past to see how successful you've become and how much you have changed (in a few cases it wasn't that much). At this stage, we're at the age where we can start comparing grandchildren and retirement homes (none for me, yet).

I'll let you know how it turns out.

16 September 2009

One year later (there goes the neighborhood)

About this time last year we were sitting in the dark eating an MRE and waiting for our power to come back on. When Ike hit our town, we did not get much rain but the wind was pretty fierce and a lot of trees went down and roofs were damaged. After the storm blew through the area, it was pretty much a war zone down here with all of the debris and flotsam. Damaged houses/roofs, downed trees/power lines, blown over fences, flooded streets. In our area, the rain & water was not as bad along the coast, but the destruction was widespread.

What was most disruptive was the widescale loss of power. We lost power late in the evening on the night when Ike landed and did not get our lights (and A/C) back on for 11 days. Some people were without power longer. What chapped me was that I would not have expected it. Our neighborhood has underground power lines and I would have never anticipated losing power for such a long period of time. While underground lines are great and fairl secure from storm damage, the weakness occurs where the power comes into the neighborhood. Alongside of our neighborhood, the lines came in through the normal over head lines and, when the wind picked up, lines went down and most of the transformers blew. It took many linesmen & women weeks to diagnose where the line was blown and repair the fault. Some of our neighbors got power back within a day, other sections (like mine) were without power for MUCH longer. It was highly frustrating to see your neighbors across the street with lights and A/C (and tv) and we were eating dinner by candle light. We tried to maintain our sense of humor, but it did wear thin, Even without power, we were lucky. The weather post Ike was nice (for south Texas). We had water and our gas was still operable, so we had hot water for showers. I had prepped the house for an extended outage so I had ice and we cooked out on my bbq grill every night. In situations like this one, I rely on the Marine Corps mantra: Improvise, Adapt & Overcome. I cooked outside, did a freezer dump, cooked up the perishibles first, used a set of solar power yard lights for indoor lighting, charged my cell phone in the truck. Still, it got old. Momma and I got frustrated with the power company and their standard answer that we would have power back on "as quickly as possible". I tried to understand & appreciate the worker's efforts (they were working 16-20 hour days to restore power throughout the entire Houston area), but we were a bit testy at times.

One of the really nice outcome of the situation is that we saw most of our neighbors out of their houses down here during the outtage. People were out walking and helping each other clean up. Neighbors pitched in a helped cut down and clear away downed trees. Our neighbors/friends would loan each other ice & food. My next door neighbor went up to the FEMA distribution center and picked up some ice and MREs for us. Some of those who did have power, would run extension cords from their house across the fence/street to their neighbors who were still in the dark. On day 8, we were eating a romantic MRE dinner by candlelight when my scout buddy from down the street (who had power), showed up at my doorstep with his generator and enough gas to power it for several days. Somehow, through all of this chaos and tragedy, people bonded together and helped each other out. Terri has an excellent post today about knowing (or not knowing your neighbor) and I find that somewhat comforting to know that we have some great neighbors.

If you don't know the guys who live behind you, go meet them. Don't wait for the next catastrphy to get accquanted. Of course if they are axe murderers, you might want to go slow...

15 September 2009

Life's lessons

    I've had this meme queued up for a while. I gathered most of these from an interview with a 94 year old who was being asked about his life and his advice. I find some of them are pretty darn close to home...

    1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

    2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

    3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone....

    4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch

    5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

    6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

    7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

    8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

    9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

    10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

    11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

    12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

    13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

    14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it...

    15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

    16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind..

    17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

    18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

    19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

    20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

    21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

    22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

    23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

    24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

    25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

    26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words, 'In five years, will this matter?'

    27. Always choose life.

    28. Forgive everyone everything.

    29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

    30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

    31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

    32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

    33. Believe in miracles.

    34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

    35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

    36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

    37. Your children get only one childhood.

    38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

    39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere...

    40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

    41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

    42. The best is yet to come.

    43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

    44. Yield.

    45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

    12 September 2009

    Ike - one year later

    It's been a year since Hurricane Ike tore through south Texas.

    The local paper is posting photos (before & after) along with stories.

    In our area, we were very lucky and did not suffer any serious damage, so things have returned to normal but for other areas it has been a much longer road. It may be hard to imagine, but even after one year, some houses are still sporting those infamous blue FEMA tarps awaiting insurance settlements and roof repairs. A lot of the homes and places on the coast were destroyed and only now are people rebuilding.

    This time last year, the storm was just off the coast and headed towards Galveston. It was listed as a Cat 2 (Category 2) hurricane with the possibilty of reaching Cat 3 before landfall. Most of the south Texas coast had already evacuated north and west, but we are far enough inland that we are outside of the evacuation zones and we hunkered down in place (did the same during Rita a few years back). We loaded up on supplies of food & water and locked down the fort to await the storm. From the traffic debacle back during Rita, we decided that we would rather wait it out at home rather than get stuck on the highways with everyone else. The biggest problem we faced was not having power for an extended period.

    Sometimes we are reminded that life is short and hard and we should enjoy the ride while we can.

    11 September 2009

    Friday Follies


    Sorry guys. I was going to post something insightful/funny today but with today I am just not in the right frame of mind to be witty. All I can say is that we should stop and remember those that have lost their lives 8 years ago. If you have been to this site more than a few times, you know I tend to remember these significant dates.

    08 September 2009

    Thorns & Roses

    Ever since my scout days, when we did treks or camp outs, we always like to have an after action critique of how the day's (or weekend's) events panned out and we named it thorns & roses. It is sort of a synopsis of the trip with the good & bad points (what did you like and what was not so good) to help learn and improve it next time. We gave everyone (scouts and adults) a chance to voice what they liked & disliked about the day's trek as long as you said one good thing to counteract any bad things.

    The weekend trip was pretty good. Just got back from parking my trailer and I am tired and not looking forward to work. I have one of them blackberry things that keeps me in touch with work and it looks to be a regular circus when I hit the ground tomorrow. Oh well, at least it is a three day week for me!

    Trip was good. Trailer did well. Still have minor problems with the lights, but those will work themselves out the more times I use her. This was a rally in San Antonio with my brother and my parents so it was good to go camping with them and get away from the office. We got to tour some different areas of San Antonio to include some of the old missions. The Mission San Jose was a very interesting site to explore. Try imagine living in this compound with the local Indians during the late 1700s. Was hot & dry last Sunday when we toured the site. Imagine how hot it was without a/c and running water.

    This weekend was the first road trip for Grayson and I would honestly give him a B+ for his first time camping in a trailer. B+ is because he did very well in the trailer and, whenever we left for an event or dinner, he would park himself on one of the couches and sleep (or drink my scotch - I never was sure). Shadow used to sit at the windows waiting for us to return. The only points off I give him was that he had the tendency to wake up at 0400 (last night it was at 0230) and want to go out. Not that I don't mind walking the dog, but at 0400 is a wee bit early for me, especially when he wants to play or explore at those hours. For the most part he did very well during the weekend. Got properly spoiled with grandparents feeding him all sorts of exotic foods (steak, fried cod, baked potato) that we do not feed him down here. He did not have any problems in the trailer and would sleep on the couches/beds whenever we left. Towards the end, he did seem to tire of living in the trailer and did not want to go back in whenever we were out (especially at 0430), but I would still rate him highly on his ability to live on the road.

    Of course, since he is off his heart worm treatment, he can go on walks and we made up for lost ground this weekend. He musta got walked 3-4 times each day (my dad liked to come take him out for a walk), so by the end of the day, he was worn out. He can catch up on his sleep now that we are back home on a normal schedule.

    We drove up to Austin yesterday to visit with our son and his new digs. He is doing very well and enjoying life as a senior. This is his first year to live off campus in an apartment and it is different for him. His roommate is way neater that he is (we were comparing them to the Odd Couple) being very neat and organized. I only hope they survive the semester together. Was a good run and we left early this morning after doing breakfast with junior. He looks to be in good spirits and ready to take on the world. I no longer worry about how he will do in life. I know he will be kick a&% in any endeavor he undertakes.

    Of course, after running a couple of miles and walking all over south Texas and hitting the pool for a few hours, even old dogs get tired…

    06 September 2009

    One for the road

    Howdy from San Antonio.

    The weather is warm (low 90s) but not as hot as I was expecting. The whole hill country region (San Antonio is in the middle) is in a drought and looks bone dry. Several lakes have either disappeared or dried up to creek level. May floating docks and marinas are sitting on dry land. Austin is not any better with mandatory water rationing. We got rain last night but just enough to knock the dust down.

    Been an interesting, low key trip, so far. Spend yesterday at Brackenridge Park and visited el Mercado (the market). Great place to get your colorful ceramic iguana or pick up a serape. Was going to pick up one of those masks that the Mexican Wrestlers wear but the wife vetoed that purchase. Today we attended a Mariachi Mass in Mission San Jose. San Jose is one of five missions located in San Antonio which includes the more famous Alamo. According to wikipedia: Misión San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was established in 1720. Located at 6519 San Jose Drive, it was designated the San Jose Mission National Historic Site in 1941. The historic site was administratively listed on the National Register on October 15, 1966. Mission San Jose was founded by Father Antonio Margil de Jesús. It is interesting/unique to sit in on a Catholic service with Mariachis serving as the music for the service.

    I hope every one has a Happy Labor Day. Play safe. Don't drink and drive. Don't eat to much. Remember to wear sunscreen. And for god's sake, don't go swimming right after you eat.

    04 September 2009

    Friday Follies

    Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's on the road we go!

    Survived another week at the farm. Had a major regulatory audit this past week and we passed with flying colors. People tend to get nervous and paranoid (aka cranky) when these audits come around and things get tense, but we made it through and things are looking calmer now. Now we can focus back on our system upgrade when we go live the end of this month. I am grateful to have made it to the weekend!

    Since I have been doing all of this system testing over the past 9 months, I have not taken much vacation (aside of the Seattle road trip) so I have a bunch of vacation to burn before the end of the year. So the frau and I (& dog) are hitching up the wagon and making a short haul west to San Antonio for a rally. Will spend a few days in SA with a small detour to Austin on Monday to check out my college investment. San Antonio is a cool place to visit. Lots of things to see/do. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World, the Alamo, The River Walk, the Mission Trail, the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Gardens, Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, El Mercado, the King Williams Historic District, Tower of the Americas. So much to do, so little time.

    First time out in the trailer for the dog, so this should make for an interesting weekend. This weekend marks the 4th week of Grayson's 2nd round of HW treatment so he is officially off house restriction. Vet says he is doing great and has greenlighted him for this trip, so we are taking this opportunity to show him something other than our backyard. Time to cut loose and hit the trail.

    Happy Trails!