28 February 2009

Dragging my feet

Sorry for the dry spell.

Been too busy (translation: lazy) to draft anything meaningful. Between therapy, work, travels, and various tasks, I've kinda been slacking off (yes, Terri, I'll admit to being a slacker). I know, excuses, excuses. Everybody's got one.

Still doing physical therapy 2-3 times a week for the shoulder. Getting better but it still hurts. Range of movement has improved but I still have problems fully extending the arm above the head. I got a little irritated (at myself) for the lack of progress and have been pushing it a bit more. Penne (therapist) is doing a great job although I have accused her of enjoying the pain/torture a bit too much. What does not kill us, makes us stronger.

Did a short road trip to Oklahoma this week. Had to audit another supplier located in the booming metropolis of Chickasha, Oklahoma. Every heard of the place? Located about 45 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City, it is in the middle of the plains. Very small town atmosphere, not a lot of night life (that we found). I know if from my years in the antique car hobby. They hold an annual kick-ass swap meet at the fairgrounds for a lot of old car nuts. Aside of that, there ain't too much to the town. I ain't knocking the town (ok, maybe a wee bit) but any place where cow tipping is a sport has to be noted. Notes from the road: Oklahoma BBQ is not the same as Texas BBQ.

Work is still kicking my butt. The software projects is still there and not getting any prettier. I have been trying to coordinate the validation effort, but it kinda like trying to herd cats. Many of whiney people complaining about the system and its shortfalls (we haven't even implemented it yet) and they definitely feel it is my fault. Hey people:, I did not pick the system, but I will support it and make it work, so you need to cowboy up and either help me make this work or get the hell out of the way. I got one manager who keeps telling me that, back at his old company, they had a great system that did everything for you short of wiping your nose. I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling him that, if it was so great there, why don't you go back (not a really good political move).

Junior is looking for an apartment in Austin for his senior year. He has finally had enough of dorm life and wants to move off campus. He & his roommate had a line on a condo in west Austin ($$$), but the parking turned out to be sucky. A one car garage and no spots for a second vehicle. At first he sound like he was in love with it (kept calling me to get my blessing/backing). I think they were just about settled on it but when he dug into the parking (at my encouragement) he did not like the response, so the deal is off the table. They are looking again for another place this weekend. We'll probably make a road trip to Austin next weekend to help cement the deal. Momma wants to go up anyway to check on her baby.

No dog, yet. I've been looking at various sites for a new mutt, but I just cannot bring myself to get one (yet). Momma and I really miss the old fart and will probably get another rescue/pound mutt.

In spite of all of these challenges, I am happy to have made it to the weekend. The weather's ok (low 50s) but spring is just around the corner. Gotta start fertilizing the yard soon.

Have a great weekend!

18 February 2009

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid


Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.

It’s been a long, hard week (and it’s only Wednesday). I’m beginning to feel like a carnival ride that’s been to one too many fairs. Aside of the normal fire drills and problems, I am working several major projects at the office that are eating my lunch. The big one is a software update we are in the middle of that will convert our current material planning system over to the latest, state of the art system that will just about tell you when you run out of toilet paper. I’m glad/excited that we will finally have the new system (the current one was installed back before they had iPods) and it will definitely make life much better, but, getting a system installed & validated is a major hemorrhoid. We have to test and retest every single screen/menu/transaction of the system before we can go live and, since I am considered one of the super users, guess whose task it is to make this happen? This is going to take several months to convert and validate and I cannot let up on any of my normal assignment/chores. Needless to say, lots of late nights and weekends are in store for me and my team. My wife has noted that I am extra grumpy (irascible curmudgeon is the word she used) of late.

Sometimes you’re the nail, sometimes you’re the hammer.

Anyway, yesterday was no different. Lots of testing/problems, not making much headway, constant fire drills (IOW, typical day). Last night we took out one of our programmers that is down here helping re-write the code for dinner for Japanese food (Samurai Hibachi). Honestly, I was not really up for it and just wanted to go home to catch up on sleep, but I played the nice host and ate my share of sushi and tempura. Left late and was headed home around 8:00 pm. The drive from my office is about 35-40 minutes, depending upon traffic and it is normally a mindless commute. I was almost home (1/2 mile away) when some $*#&%$# turned in front of my truck forcing me to slow to avoid running over him. Kinda got a little po’d and decided to go around him even though my turn was coming up. Of course, as I passed him, he sped up so I had to gun it to make it past. As I moved over to make the turn, I noticed that a car was drafting me and followed me into the neighborhood as I made the turn (uh-oh). Of course, as I turned into the hood, the lights came on (oh, #$&%@^*%). Of course, I pulled over, turned on my flashers, turned off the truck, turned on the interior lights and dug out my license and insurance (been down this road before). Of course the cop came up to my window and asked the inevitable questions: Do you know the speed limit on XXX? Do you realize how fast you were going? Is there a reason for your urgency? Now, I could have lied or made excuses, but I have a morbid honest streak and I tend not to try and piss off any law enforcement, if at all possible. [Life Lesson #14: When stopped by a police/trooper/MP, act courteous, professional and respectful. NEVER mouth off to a cop.] I told him that, honestly, that there was no justifiable reason why I accelerated (aside of passing the other car) on the hopes he would appreciate my honesty, courtesy and respectful response and he did - right up to the point he gave me the ticket. Crap. I had kinda hoped to get off with a warning but no luck (Guess I should have showed him my legs). Great. Just what I frickin’ needed. Now I am looking at a court date and a possible $200 ticket. Will try to plea my case next month and may have to take defensive driving to get the ticket reduce. All for one stupid, careless moment.

Even though I ain’t happy, I cannot really complain. I am not a saint when it comes to driving and have been known to exceed the posted limit on occasion (especially on the toll road), so this is probably karma. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not mad at the officer. He was doing his job and I would never fault him for giving me a ticket. Instead, I am more pissed at myself. Just like in December when I tripped and dislocated my shoulder, this one brief lapse of judgement will cost me time and money to resolve. Of course, there are many people out there in the ether with issues/headaches much worse than my little problems, so I am trying to be grateful, but it annoys me nonetheless. At least I have a truck to get a ticket in.

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

14 February 2009

Bon voyage

Here's a shout out to a fellow canine lover who is winging her way over to England for a couple of years. Good luck Rachel and best wishes in your new digs. I hope you enjoy your new life across the pond and don't miss the Texas heat (too much).

I applaud your bravery & spirit to face the challenge of moving to a new home (much less a new country) and giving up your loved ones. We'll miss your daily updates on Maggie & Sunny but know they are enjoying life and eating green beans.

Avoir un voyage sûr

Taste this!

Ever thought about why foods taste different? It's kinda amazing. Your tongue and the roof of your mouth are covered with thousands of tiny taste buds. When you eat, saliva in your mouth helps break down your food. This causes the receptor cells located in your tastes buds to send messages through sensory nerves to your brain. Your brain then tells you what flavors you are tasting.

Taste buds probably play the most important part in helping you enjoy the many flavors of food. Your taste buds can recognize four basic kinds of tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The salty/sweet taste buds are located near the front of your tongue; the sour taste buds line the sides of your tongue; and the bitter taste buds are found at the very back of your tongue.

Everyone's tastes are different. In fact, your tastes will change as you get older. When you were a baby, you had taste buds, not only on your tongue, but on the sides and roof of your mouth. This means you were very sensitive to different foods. As you grew, the taste buds began to disappear from the sides and roof of your mouth, leaving taste buds mostly on your tongue. As you get older, your taste buds will become even less sensitive, so you will be more likely to eat foods that you thought were too strong as a child.

What if you could not taste anything? Things like medications, smoking, not getting enough of the right vitamins, injury to the head, brain tumors, chemical exposure, and the effects of radiation can cause taste disorders.

More interesting but totally useless facts:

  1. We have almost 10,000 taste buds inside our mouths; even on the roofs of our mouths.
  2. Insects have the most highly developed sense of taste. They have taste organs on their feet, antennae, and mouthparts. (that is mildly disturbing)
  3. Fish can taste with their fins and tail as well as their mouth.
  4. In general, girls have more taste buds than boys (the wife always told me she has better taste than I do)
  5. Taste is the weakest of the five senses.

Taste is that exotic sense that can create joy or sensory overload. I have tasted a lot of things in my life and some can bring back vivid memories:

  1. Spicy food – jalapenos, peppers, horseradish, General Tso Chicken, Wasabi Peas, Spicy Chicken wings. I’ve burnt my lips on a wide variety of foods in life that have brought me to tears. Life lesson 104: When handling jalapenos, never rub your eyes.

  2. Sweet – honey, maple syrup, candy. In honor of Valentine's day today - remember your sweetie.

  3. Sour/bitter/tart – some sour tastes are good (lemon, lime, vinegar, sauerkraut) while others are bad (milk, wine, cheese). One of my favorite sour tastes is a Whiskey Sour. Here’s a challenge: Try to describe what sour tastes like to someone who has no sense of taste.

  4. Salty – crackers, chips, pretzels, popcorn, bacon. I’m one of those guys who loves salt. Fortunately, I inherited some of the good genes from my momma and have very low blood pressure.

  5. Hot – hot chocolate (or cider, tea, coffee, spiced wine) on a cold, snowy day. After a cold snowy day skiing the slopes (or shoveling the driveway), a cup of hot chocolate was a favorite treat.

  6. Cold – ice cream, popsicles, ice cold beer. Cold is something we appreciate down here on the coast especially during the long hot summer months. Temperature can vastly change the flavor of food/drink and affect your enjoyment. Ever try a warm beer?

  7. Chocolate – dark, sweet, milk. For some, chocolate has been elevated to an almost erotic experience. Almost everybody loves chocolate in some form or another. While I am really not as much of a fanatic as my wife, I have my favorites. M&Ms and Whoppers are some of the ones I would prefer. I will avoid some of the more exotic brands (cherry filled).

  8. Scotch/whiskey/bourbon (hey, this is my meme and I’m listing my favorite tastes) – Over the years, I have acquired a taste for good scotch. There is a difference between the cheap, mass produced swill and a bottle of single malt scotch (think Macallan).

  9. Beer – I have had a chance to taste a variety of beers from around the world. For almost 5 years, I lived in Germany which is considered, by some, to be the Valhalla of beer. I’ve tasted dark beers, ales, bock beer, wheat beer, stouts, porters, lite beers, pilsners, pumpkin beer, cherry beer (ugh), and one particularly nasty variety called a rauchen (smoke) beer. Trust me; do not try that one - even on a dare. (Hmm, I’m thinking a beer meme for later).

  10. Food – of course, what good would a taste meme be without some reference to food? I have a thing for Chinese & Italian food. German food is great but a bit heavy (wiener schnitzel and spätzle ain’t light cuisine).

Taste is one of those senses we all secretly enjoy to some excess. Whether it is too much chocolate or too much salt or too much bacon (impossible), some tastes are indulgences. Remember the motto:

If it tastes too good, it is probably bad for you…

10 February 2009

Status quo

I hate change. No, I'm not going political here, but I'm one of those people who gets set in my ways and used to my stuff and hate to make changes.

I've got a 9 year old truck with 121k miles. My previous ride was an 85 pickup with 325k miles and the only reason I traded her in was because I needed something to tow my trailer and haul scouts in. Got an old trailer we camp in. Would upgrade my rig, but I am kinda attached to my current set up, even if it is considered a classic and doesn't have all the latest technology. I wear my boots until the tops wear out (think about it). I have a couple of shirts/jeans that were in style back when my son was a toddler. I have a pair of Bass deck shoes I bought back in the 90s that are way too comfortable to toss out. I've kept my Cannon AE1 camera long after I have gone digital. I still have a turntable and a large number of LPs. I still have a VCR and some old tapes. I guess I am old school and get attached to my gear/toys and find it hard to let things go.

Seems like things are piling up on me after the new year. My phone decided it was time to quit displaying anything. Still works, but I cannot see any numbers on the screen. Of course, momma's phone has joined in the party, so I am looking for new gear. I went by the store this weekend to look over the new offerings/toys. I would like the latest tech, but, honestly, most of it would be a waste on me. I already have to lug a blackberry for my office work, so having a second one for personal use would be like putting a "nerd" sign on my back. I would prefer something simpler, less flashy. I want the video/camera feature (good for emergency picture or that random celebrity siting). I want texting ability to stay in contact with my son at college. I would like some of the bells and whistles available, but those are more "nice to have" features. What to get? Blackberry/PDA or flipphone style with texing ability? Something with GPS and 3G capable? Bluetooth? I hate to have to convert to a new phone and reload my numbers (I know, the SIM card can transfer the data) but I am used to my old Motorola.

Finally got an iPod Nano last spring so I can listen to tunes while I run. Helped me out during my 1/2 marathon last month.

Broke the nose piece out of my glasses Sunday so now I need new glasses as well. Of course, it has been a few a few years (2005, I think) since I upgraded my prescription and got new specs and I am dragging my feet. I've always wanted to go for Lasik, but keep talking myself out of the procedure (too old, too much $$$). I am afraid that I will finally have to go for bifocals this year, but I am still in denial.

I know it is inevitable (Resistance is Futile), but I don't do change easily.

06 February 2009

Soft touch

Touch - I’ve had a harder time trying to verbalize this sense. While the other four senses (sight, hearing, smell, and taste) are located in specific parts of the body, your sense of touch is found all over. This is because of many tiny nerve endings in the dermis which give you information about the things with which your body comes in contact. They do this by carrying the information to the spinal cord, which sends messages to the brain where the feeling is registered.

The nerve endings in your skin can tell you if something is hot or cold. They can also feel if something is hurting you. Your body has about twenty differnt types of nerve endings that all send messages to your brain. However, the most common receptors are heat, cold, pain, and pressure or touch receptors. Pain receptors are probably the most important for your safety because they can protect you by warning your brain that your body is hurt!

Some areas of the body are more sensitive than others because they have more nerve endings. Ever bitten your tongue and wondered why it hurt so much? It’s because the sides of the tongue have a lot of nerve endings that are sensitive to pain. However, your tongue is not as good at sensing hot or cold. That is why it is easy to burn your mouth when you eat something really hot. Fingertips are also very sensitive.

Interesting but useless facts:
  • The least sensitive part of your body is the middle of your back.
  • The most sensitive areas of your body are your hands, lips, face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet.
  • Shivering is a way your body has of trying to get warmer.
  • There are about 100 touch receptors in each of your fingertips.
  • Rattlesnakes use their skin to feel the body heat of other animals
Touch is one of the lesser senses that we don’t really appreciate how important it can be. The sense of touch or feeling adds texture to our lives. To feel the softness of a baby or the hardness of cold steel is something we can remember for a long time. Some feelings or touches I recall from my life are:

  1. Holding a newborn child – indescribable feeling of holding a tiny soul in your hands and knowing you are responsible for him/her.
  2. Petting a dog – Petting my dog (and cat) was always soothing to me. No matter how crappy my day was or what challenges life had put in front of me, Shadow always seemed to understand the situation and was available for some spiritual renewal. Nothing like a good belly rub or scratching his head seemed to make a lot of problems smaller.
  3. Tickling – I am not overly ticklish, but my wife is. Some people find it funny while others find it torture.
  4. Pain –What does not kill us, makes us stronger. Pain, while it may build character, sucks. I have had my fill of pain lately with my shoulder injury. In the ER, they ask you to give them some indication of how bad is your pain by drawing a circle around a facial expression (happy face = no pain, grump face = mild pain, screaming face = severe agony). I was hurting but I rated it as mild when compared to the others in the ER. Perhaps if I had rated it higher, I would have been treated sooner, but, honestly, there were other people in there with worse injuries/illnesses than I had. That little trip was over a month ago and I am still hurting. Just did anther round at the therapist and my arm hurts. I don’t mean to whine, but I am living on Advil and scotch this evening.
  5. Hot – Don’t touch that. It’s hot. Ever been burned? When I was young (~4), I pulled a full cup of coffee off the table down onto my arm & leg and got scalded. That kind of pain takes a long while to recover from.
  6. Cold – I hate the cold. Oh, I love snow and snow skiing. Even lived in New Jersey and Germany for years, but I still hate the cold. One winter while in the Army on maneuvers in Hoenfels, Germany, my feet got wet and I almost got frostbite. Ever since then, I am very sensitive to cold temps. That’s why I live in Texas.
  7. Rough – toilet paper. Need I say more?
  8. Sticky – cotton candy from the state fare.
  9. Soft – feather pillows on a king size bed with a down comforter. Soft leather jacket.
  10. Hard – as a diamond. Hard candy. Hard hat. Hard ass.

05 February 2009

Care for a mint?

I'm dying here. Went out to dinner last night with my parents to celebrate my mom's birthday. She's pretty spry for an 86 year old lady. I am grateful that both she and my dad are in great health and still out traveling the country in their trailer. I only hope that I am still that mobile/active when I cross that bridge in life.

We ate at an elegant place in Houston called Perry's. Very good steakhouse, but a bit fancier than I prefer. One of their specialties is a huge pork chop (the size of a small dog) - very tender and tasty. I normally don't eat much at night, so this meal put me under the table. I'm still burping up this morning. Will have to run an extra 2 miles at lunch just to make a dent in it. Of course, topping it off with Banana's Foster didn't help, either.

Happy Birthday, mom!

02 February 2009

I win! I win!

It's not often I come out on the winning end of any contest, so was surprised when I won the contest over on Rock Chef's blog. Watching all of those movies over the years has finally paid off! I like that meme. I will have to try it out as well.

The arm is still hurting. I've been doing therapy for two weeks and it is like a mild form of medival torture. I feel that some of those therapists are a wee bit sadistic.

Hope everyone is staying dry & warm.

01 February 2009

Brain fart

Ever had one of those days/weeks where you just can't seem to get it together? I've been trying to put together some meaningful thoughts/ideas but everything I start seems lame. Have had several cool ideas for themes, but none have taken off.

I'm working on my last two sense memes (touch & taste) but I am still adding to the lists. Lists to be published shortly.

Been a long week. Trying to make progress on a major software project at work but everyone seems to have some crisis or another that prevents me from testing the software. I spent two days in Fort Worth on another supplier audit at the same time an bodacious ice storm hit town. BTW - I know that some of you guys up north may scoff at our weather woes down here the Tejas, but honestly, when it comes to winter conditions, most of these people down here do NOT know how to drive on snow or ice and it literally scares the bejesus out of me to be on the same road with them. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have spent a couple of years learning how to navigate winter roads in New Jersey and Germany. Been laying low this weekend with no real agenda except some chores around the house. Except for the mid-week freeze, the weather has been nice. Will try to clean up the garage and throw out some junk. Trying to gen up an inventory report for work. Will probably cook up some brats for the game tonight. I'm not really rooting for any particular team, just want to see a decent game. I still think it is an overblown spectacle. Of course if one of my teams was playing, I might be more inclined to buy into the hoopla. I've lived through the OIlers ("Love Ya Blue") and Texans long enough to be fairly jaded. The last time Houston had any major action was the when the Rockets took the NBA title back-to-back in 94/95.

Hope ya'll are enjoying the weekend.

Sempter Paratus!