27 November 2009

Friday Follies (gurgle, burp)...

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

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

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

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

26 November 2009


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

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

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

Thank you...

25 November 2009

Prep'in the LZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2009

Short week

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

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

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

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

22 November 2009

Bless your heart

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

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

21 November 2009

Break out the parkas

Finally turned colder (cooler) down here this week.

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

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

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

15 November 2009

More fun than is legally allowed

Here we go again with the stupid pictures...

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

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

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

Main street car show

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

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

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

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

13 November 2009

Friday Follies

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

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

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

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

11 November 2009

Veteran's Day

11 November

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

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

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

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

03 November 2009

Post Halloween

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

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

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