30 March 2009


There is a local writer (Leon Hale) down here who has written for the Houston Post/Chronicle for many decades. I have followed his columns for many years and one of his more popular themes was an annual trip he and a friend made to go and find spring (he named the journey as Primavera). He and his buddy would load up the pick up truck and head into south Texas to find the first signs of spring. It was always an adventure trying to describe the journey and where they would wind up finding spring. His friend passed away several years ago and he has given up the trek, but many of his readers (I, for one) miss the tale. I had always fancied taking a journey like that myself. I am an explorer of sorts and love the open road. When ever I drive cross country, I am always wondering what lies down those back roads and turn offs.

My oak tree has gone crazy and I have a ton of pollen/leaves in the yard as it has been reborn. The bluebonnets are blooming down here right now in the hill country. We spotted the first signs a few weeks ago when we drove to Austin, but they are just now hitting their stride. I know of many folks who take a day trip to Austin/Hempstead/La Grange just to take pictures of the fields of bluebonnets. The Texas Highway Department even has a program where they deliberately seed the medians & roadside of the highways with bluebonnets every year.

Spring is in the air...

28 March 2009

Reno post mortem

Made it through another whirlwind week. Spent three days in Reno this week only to come back to a mountain of work. At least I got to enjoy some of the sights & sounds of Reno this week.

For the brief visit to the Biggest Little City in the World, I thought that Reno was actually pretty fun. A "small" town with a lot of money flowing through it. Located on the western border of Nevada, it is only 2 hours from Sacramento and 4 hours from San Francisco. According to a few of the locals, a lot of their tourist are from the northern California region, although, with the current economy as it is and the recent editions of several Indian casinos in California, Reno is feeling the pinch. That is why, even though this was a business trip, we got a great deal. Couple of days in a hotel/spa/casino for less than $70 per day. I could have scored a spot in one of the bigger casinos (Eldorado, Circus Circus, Harrah's, The Silver Legacy) for less (one rate had it down to $40 per night), but I did not want to stay away from the over used, smoke filled places. You know those places. Hotels built back when smoking was allowed every where and, even if it has converted to no smoking, there is still that distinct feeling/atmosphere. Now, don't get me wrong. I ain't getting preachy about smoking or smokers. Hell, I am no saint when it comes to smoking. I smoked a little bit back in high school and switched to chewing tobacco in college and even migrated to cigars in the Army. I have pretty much given up on those vices (there are so many more to enjoy) except for the occasional cigar, but that is another blog. I am just getting old and cranky and my travels of late have me in many motels/hotels for short stints and I would prefer to stay in non-smoking venues, if given the chance.

Anyway, I picked a nice hotel/casino (Siena Hotel Spa Casino) that is just across the river in downtown and a few blocks from the bigger casinos like Eldorado or Ren-Cal or Harrah's. It was a nice hotel that overlooked the downtown region and located right next to the National Automobile Museum. Great museum that shows the history of autos and I was pissed that our schedule prevented us from touring the museum, even though I ran past it every morning while doing my early morning runs. Speaking of runs, when I am on these supplier audits, I tend to kick it up a notch on my running schedule to try and compensate for the obscene amount of food we typically eat on the road. I like to get up early (aka 0430) and hit the streets before anyone else is out. Reno was a weird/interesting dichotomy at 0430. I actually ran up town through the casino district and they were still open and running at that time. For a downtown region, it was surprisingly clean and neat at 0500 in the morning. I saw very few people on the street except for an occasional homeless person or a group of guys stumbling back to their hotel after losing their collective shirts. I even stopped into a souvenir store where you can get your cheesy dice and Jack Daniels at 0530 in the morning. Was a cold (~32) & dry run, but very invigorating. Reno is at about ~5000 feet in elevation and in the high desert region so there is no humidity and the weather is fairly temperate, for the northern California/Nevada region.

Anyway, weather was perfect while we were there. We did our audit and the second night we had time to kill before we flew out on Wednesday. We tried out the $5.99 sirloin dinner at the hotel (was pretty good) and then decided to walk off the meal by hitting the other casinos. The Siena has a small casino, but nothing like the other bigger places. We walked for blocks downtown and went through several casinos. Having never done Vegas or Reno, we only knew what we had seen in the movies or on TV. While not as glitzy as Las Vegas, the casinos in Reno were huge. Several of there were more than one block long and, in some cases, the hotel/casino covered several city blocks. We went into the Silver Legacy and it was a rush to see all of the slot machines and black jack tables. The legacy even has on working silver mine derrick in the middle of the casino floor that stretches up to 8 stories tall (it is in a gigantic dome) and has projection displays shooting off of the derrick. Of course, most of the patrons were more interested in the slot machines/craps/blackjack tables. Everywhere there were people feeding the machines to try and beat the system. The tables were the most interesting where people were lined up 3 deep watching some young (drunk) blond try to keep her streak alive and bet the line. I never had the courage to try the tables and stuck with the video poker for most of the trip. I will try my hand a few of the cheaper venues, but did not want to wander into the deep waters of the tables where the betting limits were $5.00 minimums and $300 max. Knowing my luck, I would blow through $300 in about 10 minutes. I did try my hand at some slot machines but tended to stick with video poker. The first night in Reno, I won $40 before I quit. The last night, I gave that all back and pretty much broke even. Overall, I'd call the trip a draw - I didn't make or lose a lot of money. I'd recommend Reno to anyone to enjoy the experience/sites. Just wish we had more time to see some shows or more of the area.

$3.99 breakfast

25 March 2009

Heeeeeeree's Johnny!

Just got back from a very long and rough flight from Reno. The leg from Reno to Dallas was nothing to complain about but the hop from Dallas to Houston took us 3.5 hours. Original flight was cancelled, we had to run across halfway across DFW to see if there was any room on the next/last flight out at 1700. We caught the last three open seats on the plane. Of course, nothing comes without a price. Storms over Houston forced them to redo the flight plan and we had to go back to the gate for more fuel (that's a comforting thought). Passengers were getting a wee bit testy. We finally pushed back for take off at 1845 and, after some delays on the runway, we lifted off at 1900. I think we were routed almost to New Orleans to avoid the storm. Very rough flight. Ever flown inside of a thunderstorm? Nothing gives me a thrill to look out the window and see lightening all around us. Plane was up & down more than a yo-yo. We finally landed in Houston around 2045 and were glad to be on the ground. Remeber I said earlier how I am not a big fan of these supplier audit trips? This is one of the reasons why.

In spite of this long day, Reno was great. Had fun, saw lots of lights, played some slots (broke even), ate some cheap meals, smoked cigars, drank house whiskey. Great little town. Would like to spend a few more days there.

Will file a trip report later when I get caught up.

22 March 2009

Thanks, Mom!

Not to be narcissistic, but 52 years ago yesterday, a terrific woman went into the hospital and unleashed upon this innocent world me. In some ways, she is to blame for my condition. She gave me life and love and opportunity that I can never repay. No matter where my parents are on the road, I know my mom will always call to congratulate me (she did) and I am truely grateful to her for being here. Why should I wait for May 10th to thank her?

I am not a big fan of birthday parties (especially mine). I prefer to celebrate mine in quiet reflection of the past years. I feel that I owe a lot to other people and they deserve the credit/recognition for my success.

Went out to BJ's Brewery with the spouse and son to celebrate. Nice place, not too noisy, good food, good beer. I really don't expect anything for my birthday but do appreciate what I get. Got a new watch and DVD (Batman) and a good bottle of Glenfiddich. Life is pretty darn good.

21 March 2009


As promised, here are the answers to the contest. Remember, the goal was to name the movie that these quotes or lines were used in. Some old, some new.

1. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave. (Serenity) - Nice movie based upon the plot/characters from the short series Firefly. Kind of a western meets sci fi theme. Funny plot lines. The series has a bit cult following but I only picked up on it this last year.

2. Go ahead. Make my day. (Sudden Impact) - Clint Eastwood. 4th Dirty Harry movie. I've seen all of the DH series but the first two were the best.

3. Oh, I'm sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What's the matter? Oh, you were finished! Oh well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like? (Pulp Fiction) - Cult classic by Quentin Tarantino. Very dark comedy.

4. Chance favors the prepared mind. (Under Siege 2 – Dark Territory) - Lame movie. One of Steven Segal's brooding, kick everybody's ass movies. Loved the quote. Turns out it was actually creditited to Louis Pasteur.

5. Is it just me or is Valentine's Day on steroids this year? (Sex in The City) - chick flic.

6. I was not hit by a train. Damnit, I am the paterfamilias! (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) - A very funny, but strange movie. Was based upon Homer's Odyssey.

7. Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way. (True Grit) - Classic John Wayne.

8. We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round. (The Bucket List) - Nice comedy with a dark side. I like Nickolsen & Freeman.

9. Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy. (The Outlaw Josie Wales) - 2nd Clint Eastwood movie on my list. A great, but different western.

10. C: He’s making his first mistake. N: It’s not a mistake. They don’t make mistakes. They don’t do random. There is always an objective. Always a target. P: The objectives and targets always came from us. Who's giving them to him now? N: Scary version? He is. (The Bourne Supremacy) - Suspense/thriller. Loved the character/plot.

Man, I really need to get a life. These are some of the movies I have seen over the past 52 years and I have copped a few quotes from these that I occasionally use.
Congrats to terri for taking first place. I will mail it off next week when I get back from Reno. I will hold off showing everyone what you've won until you get it.

20 March 2009

Nice lookin rear end...

Ever pulled up behind a car that you instantly recognized? I was driving in this morning on a beautiful, clear day when I pulled up to an stop light behind a 1969 Boss 302. I recognized her from 300 yards away.

With all of the generic cars around today, I really miss the cars of our youth. In my younger days, there were cars who had distinctive style and flare. While I love a lot of the older cars, I tend to favor the older Mustangs and Corvettes. Whenever I spot one on the road, I'll succumb to one of the deadly sins (lust)...

MArooned likes to post Friday fun threads with cars of different eras/styles. I always wondered if he would do one on rear ends.

I am the proud owner of a 1968 Mustang Convertible. She just is not in showroom condition (yet)...

Do you feel lucky, Punk?

I should be happy. I'm on the road again next week for another whirlwind supplier audit. In my current position, one of my tasks is to go out to our suppliers and audit them to insure that they are complying with the regulations/standards. It is part of a requirement that FDA has on us to control our suppliers. This usually entails flying out to the various suppliers and conducting an intensive all day inspection of their facilities/operations. A lot of people enjoy these audits about as much as getting a tax audit. While this sounds like fun, to me they are a pain in the ass. You gotta prep/organize the audit weeks in advance. Coordinate the logistics (flights, car, hotels, etc.). Travel to the sight is normally 2 days (one up, one back) with one day for the audit. That means a typical audit eats 3 days out of my week. No time for sight seeing or touring the local areas. I have done a few audits where we fly up early and back the same day and those were absolute killers. The whole process may sound exciting but, in reality, an audit is fairly intense process that will consume 8+ hours on site (at least mine do).

That said, I am leaving Monday for an audit in Reno, Nevada. Now, I have gone to some backwater places and traveled in the dead of night, so this one is a bit of a break for me. I can control my schedule to some degree so if I know the destination in advance, I will try to plan it around my schedule (if possible). This audit has been on the books for months and I have been planning for it, but, with my current slate of projects at the office, I really don't have the time for this. I have a million things to do and only one day left at the office before I leave.

I am going to try and enjoy this road trip. I've never been to Reno and everything I know is from movies/TV. Since I am the trip organizer, I have booked us in one of the hotel/casinos. Supposed to be a nicer one (not as dingy) with lots of restaurants and games. I am not a big gambler. Actually, I am kinda tightfisted when it comes to money. Took me so long to earn it, I hate to blow it on blackjack in 15 minutes. I will probably take some finite amount and hit the nickle slots for a while. To me, those can provide hours of be relatively cheap entertainment. Actually, I think I would prefer to hike the local mountains/paths around Reno instead of hitting the casinos, but do not have the time. There is an automotive museum is right next to the hotel so I hope to have an opportunity for a quick tour while we are in town. On top of that, the area is supposed to be picturesque, so I will take my camera along for some scenery shots.

As I said earlier, I should be happy/grateful for the opportunity to visit other places, but I feel under the gun right now. I guess I'll just have to make do. I'll try to do some testing from the casino floor.

17 March 2009

And the winner is...

Boy, this was harder that I thought.

I was trying to come up with my own little contest to generate some interest/reply but I musta made the quotes a wee bit too hard. My biggest fear was to hold a contest where there was no winner (or participants). But we have a winner, folks! The winning entry got two of the ten quotes dead on. Either I made these way too hard or I seriously need to get a life.

The winner is someone who needs no introduction. They stand head and shoulders above their fellow bloggers, whose constant missive's provide humor and insight to the masses. Someone who could blog about nothing for 500 works and make it a compelling read. Someone who has a razor sharp wit and is never for a lack of words.

Ladies and gentlemen. The envelope, please.






And the winner of the first Two Cents triva Contest is:



Kudos! Congratulations! I will be shipping up the mystery gift to you shortly.

I am getting ready to hit the road again for another supplier audit in Reno and will try to post up the answers this weekend before I leave...

Last Call

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Ok, peeps.

Last call for the contest. So far I've had a lot of speculation but not many solid guesses, but I definitely have a front runner. Last change to submit your answers and take your chances. Speculating gets you nothing - if you have an idea, guess or inkling , send it on to me. Bragging rights and the mystery prize awaits.

Remember The Great One: You lose 100% of the shots you don't take.

16 March 2009

Weekend road trip

We've been on the road again for a short hop to Austin. We drove up Saturday for a short visit with junior over the weekend. He's doing well and will be home later this week for spring break but we wanted to see him and see the apartments he is looking at for next semester. One is an older (circa 1980) complex just a few blocks away from campus in a residential neighborhood. Not much to look at but is is a nice unit with decent space and covered parking. It has a balcony but there is a brand new parking garage just completed right next door so the view is of a giant concrete wall. One downside is the lease is for 12 months and he would have to sublet the place during the summer. The other unit is in an older building a few blocks to the south that overlooks the campus. At one time, I think this one was a nursing home but has been bought out as condos and had some rennovations. The unit is on the top floor with a very nice view and the inside has been recently rennovated with some really nice hardwood floors/appliances. The parking may be a challenge as it is only for one car. But this can be leased for 9-10 months. They both have pros & cons but are are nice options that are really close to campus. I have my preferences, but it is really up to him.

Weather was cold & dreary for most of the weekend. We ate out at a Chuy's (popular Mexican place), but I think it is highly overrated. Way too noisy, the place was packed and we had to wait an hour to get a table. I am not sure if it was the margaritas or the beef or the cilantro, but I wound up with a major case of indigestion/heartburn Saturday night and that kept me up for most of the night. Was a bit better on Sunday for our drive back but will plan to stay away from spicy stuff for a while. There are lots of good places to eat around Austin. Rudy's BBQ is a run down place with crappy parking that has some killer BBQ. For Sunday lunch, we ate at Hut's Burgers (local burger joint downtown) that has a great atmosphere and some of the best burgers in Austin.

I am starting to close the books on the contest, but need everyone to submit their answers to my e-mail address. I think I made it too hard or too obscure for most of my audience.

13 March 2009

Poo patrol

In my younger days, there are a lot of things that I would have never considered doing (even on a dare). However, as you get older, life changes your outlook and things that were once considered beyond your limits become acceptable or almost routine.

One of those things I never imagined I'd be doing (willingly) is poo patrol. I've been reminiscing about my dog lately and, while I still miss his hairy snout and bad breath, I don't really miss picking up his warm "souvenirs" from our walks. When Shadow was still around, it became my job to walk him every day to take care of business. Twice a day - early in the morning before 0600 and again after I got home from work (and occasionally one more on weekends). Every time he never was at a loss for a contribution to the flora & fauna of the neighborhood. Of course, I tried to be a good neighbor and pick up his souvenirs (if possible), although there was one snarky (aka smart ass) neighbor who I was not quite so diligent on the retrieval process in his yard (I know, I'm gonna burn for that). Picking up poo is not something we did in our youth. Back in the 70s, our old dog (Peanuts) had the run of the neighborhood and we never gave it any thought to retrieving his contributions. It was when I got Shadow that somehow the responsibility gene kicked in and I began to take care of this detail. Even got special bags/implements to handle the process, but it still was a nasty process. I find it funny that, in my youth, I would have gagged over the prospect of this chore. But after having a child and handling a multitude of diaper episodes (I won't regale you with the diaper incident in the Summer of '88), I have learned to deal with a lot of things that would make a person gag/faint. In comparison, picking up dog poo was a walk in the park.

Now why am I reminiscing about this crap? I am still walking the block every day and last night I was contemplating how nice it was not to have to pick up doggy droppings (although, I would gladly do it again if he were still here).

Always drink upstream from the herd...

12 March 2009

What's that smell?

Ever smell something that wasn't there? Woke up this morning and though I smelled toast. I even falsely accused the spouse of cooking toast last night and she thought I was nuts (I am, but that's besides the point). Occasionally, I can smell something and not find the source. I went to the range two weeks ago for some stress reduction exercises and could smell the smoke for days afterwards. Even after showering and changing clothes, I still could smell the smoke.

Maybe it is old age, maybe it is mental, but I have noticed those little things more & more. Like when someone cooks fish heads in the breakroom microwave or somebody burns popcorn or somebody decides to marinate in their cologne/perfume. Sometimes the odor is so pervasive that you can almost taste it (and not in a good way).

BTW - ya'll are depressing me. Only one has given me feed back on my contest. Too hard? Too lame? I'm starting to feel like Ben Stein here (Bueller?...Bueller?...Bueller?). I'll even give some hints: sci fi, action, cult, action, romance, comedy/saga, western, comedy, western, action/thriller. There's a prize in it for the winner.

Gotta run now. Need some toast.

07 March 2009

Do you remember these?

Spring is around the corner. The sun is shining, days are getting warmer, the trees are blooming, got pollen all over the truck.

So that means contest time! Name That Movie!

I am shamelessly stealing a contest idea from Rock Chef. Time to tap that vast array of trivial knowledge that I know you all have. I have listed 10 sayings/expressions lifted from various movies I have seen over the decades. The challenge for you is to list the name of the movie. Send me your answers by email (jlg19779@yahoo.com) - the winner will not only be gloat over the others but they will also be the recipient of a cool PRIZE!

I am trying to make this easy, but I am sure many of you will recognize a few of these expressions. Using Google is a bit of a cheat, but I cannot prevent you from using it. I'll just have to trust ya!

1. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.

2. Go ahead. Make my day.

3. Oh, I'm sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn't mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What's the matter? Oh, you were finished! Oh well, allow me to retort. What does MW look like?

4. Chance favors the prepared mind.

5. Is it just me or is Valentine's Day on steroids this year?

6. I was not hit by a train. Damnit, I am the paterfamilias!

7. Baby sister, I was born game and I intend to go out that way.

8. We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.

9. Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy.

10. C: He’s making his first mistake. N: It’s not a mistake. They don’t make mistakes. They don’t do random. There is always an objective. Always a target. P: The objectives and targest always came from us. Who's giving them to him now? N: Scary version? He is.

I'll give ya'll a week to see what the results are...

Bonne Chance!

06 March 2009


Ok, who moved my week?

I swear I was just minding own business sitting here drinking my coffee on Monday and cruising the net (aka reading up on everyone's blogs) when I turn around and Friday smacks me in the face. Time is a relative (or so I've been told) and how fast or slow it moves depends upon which side of the bathroom door you're on. Between work and home, the week has flown by. On one hand, I am frustrated by how quickly it passes and I have so much to do. On the other hand, it definitely is not boring. I have been with my current company for 8+ years (joined them right after 9-11) and it has been a hell of a roller coaster ride for most of those years. Between projects, new products, material problems, personnel issues, stock price fluctuations, the one thing I can say is that it has been very interesting.

My previous job was with a smaller firm and, at times, I felt stagnant. The pace was a lot slower and the crisises were not as severe. Honestly, I was bored. When my current role opened up to me, I jumped on the challenge and it has not been a dull ride. Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

For those who complain about their jobs/positions/roles, remember that we sometimes live with our choices. I chose this position with both eyes open and, while I may occasionally grouse about the work load or co-workers or management decisions, it is my job and I try to give it 110%. Anything less is not in my nature. So, when I look around at the pile of work and tasks in front of me, I remind myself to be grateful for the opportunity (and paycheck).

Was planning to head to Austin this weekend to check out my offspring, but he is busy (he has a life) and I need to knock out a few more tests at the office. I hope to get some yard work in this weekend. Spring is knocking on the door down here and the yard is looking sad. Of course, momma has a list of chores for me to do as well. Where does the weekend go?

But I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep...

01 March 2009

Nickle & Dime

Ever felt like you were being nickled & dimed to the poor house?

Maybe it's just me, but lately, I have been noticing a lot of charges/fees being tacked on to the various things I do/have/experience and it is starting to frost my cookies.

Last week, I flew to Oklahoma for a supplier audit and when I turned the rental car back in, I noticed on my bill a minor fee for Frequent Flier Recovery Fee. It appears that if you link your frequent flier account to your rental car contract, they will charge you a recovery fee for the service (what service?). I called the rental agency and the airline to get this clarified and got a line of crap. I guess I have not noticed it before but it is supposedly becoming the standard. We are already charged fees for 1st/2nd bags, in flight meals (thanks, American!), pillows/blankets, and, now there is one idiot out there who is proposing to charge you to use the bathroom while in flight. Since my company pays for this trip and all of this is reimburseable, I really shouldn't complain but it really irritates me when they try to milk every cent from their customers.

The cable bill's up $5.00, my credit union is starting to charge for printing a hard copy of my statement, the cell phone bill has all sorts of new fees/surcharges, all sorts of new "little" fees. Maybe I am just being overly cranky this morning, but it just irritates the crap out of me.