31 December 2010

Pre New Years

Been a quite week down here.  Weather has turned wet and cooler, but not as bad as elsewhere.  No floods like in CA, no single digits temps like in CO or 2 feet of snow like NY.  Just lots of rain and wind. 

Had to go back to work for a part of the week.  Since my boss is out of town and the other manager took the reigns last week, was my turn to hold down the fort during the holidays.  It's not a big deal in my mind .  I've been doing it for years ever since I was in the Army.  I've been on duty for more than a few Thanksgivings and Christmases so you learn to celebrate when you can.  Actually, this week was kinda nice.  Basically there was only a handful of people on the property so I was able to knock out a lot of projects and chores that I never seem to have time for.  Nobody to darken my doorstep with their problems or questions.  Took a co-worker out for lunch (I owe her a big favor) who is going to retire next year.  Known her for 15+ years and she will be missed.  Did lunch with my nephew who got fired/canned back in September.  He got an offer for a job to start in January, so things are looking up for him.

People keep asking the normal courtesy questions:  How were your holidays? 
Hard to answer that this year.  It has been quiet.  My son came home for Christmas, albeit for a brief time.  He is back in Austin working on a project/potential start up deal with his housemate.  I understand his drive and motivation, but momma wishes he would be here longer.  Of course, my reminding her that he is the same age as when I got married, joined the Army and moved to Germany does not score me any brownie points.  The wife's mother has been in the hospital for tests/observation which as put a damper on our holidays.  She's been there for two weeks due to a spell and it looks like they will move her to a extended care facility for a while.  She's doing better now and getting back to her old form, but she wants to come home.  Needless to say it has been hard on my wife and her sister taking care of her parents as they get older.  I have tried to help out a bit by taking care of everything at home.  I even did the entire Christmas dinner this year to give her a break.  Life can be hard/cruel as we get older.  

Because of her mom's condition, we chose to forego our annual rally out in Bellville where we camp with my parents and brother and our trailer group to celebrate the New Year.  I could go, but it would be just me and the dogs and I just did not feel right.  So this year,  no big party, no massive celebrations, no overconsumption of cheap champagne, just a quiet evening with momma and the dogs as they hide under the sofa while the fireworks go off.  I'm glad for what we have and grateful for our blessings, but I am kinda glad to see 2010 go.  .  It's been a long, interesting year. 

Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! 

Here's to 2011!

26 December 2010

Post Christmas

Don't you just hate it when you forget a present under the tree?

What happens after too much turkey & eggnog... 

Hope eveyone had a great Christmas!

24 December 2010

Getting closer

Pop quiz:


See if you can tell me what language each of these greetings are:


  Mele Kalikimaka
  Feliz Natal
  Feliz Navidad
  Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
  Joyeux Noel
  Fröhliche Weihnachten
  Selamat Hari Natal
  Buone Feste Natalizie
  Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
  Merry Keshmish

Merry Christmas to all and enjoy time off with friends & family!

19 December 2010

Holiday cheer

It's that time of year.  Time to let your hair down, time to cut loose, time to enjoy yourself.  After slaving over a computer or phone for ~12 months, it's time to let loose in that time honored pre-Christmas celebration, the office party.  We had our annual party Thursday night.  The new management crew decided to rent out the local country club and hold a shindig from 3-6 for the employees.  Was a nice soiree.  Lots of people, lots of noise, a fair amount of libations, food was sparse/marginal (a bit disappointing for a country club).    These kinds of gigs can be dangerous.  Sure, it's fun to celebrate the year with your co-workers over a beer or glass of Chardonnay.  But, remember, you have to work with these people every day.  You still have to show up on Monday and try to pass yourself off as a professional.  I've been to a Christmas party or two and seen more than a few people who got overly "joyous".  It's ok to let your hair down and enjoy the party, just remember that people have a loooong memory and nothing moves faster through a company than a good rumor or some serious dirt (or at least some ribbing when one gets "stoopid").  And with the plethora of electronic devices, you are only a few short clicks away from YouTube glory.

My nephew at one of our more exotic shindigs

Except for one loopy Engineer, nothing really noteworthy.  Although, there may have been pictures taken for use as blackmail later.  I guess I have gotten older.  I don't drink (to excess) at these functions because I have to live with these people and it is harder to live down some forms of stupidity.  I still remember the one girl who was dressed to the nines in a slinky black cocktail dress and tossing her Christmas cookies in the ladies room (got the story from my wife).

I was sporting a headache so I was not really in a party mood.  As usual, I didn't win any of the drawing prizes.  That's one thing I have kept consistent.  After 9 years of Christmas parties, I have yet to win any of the prizes.  Not the round trip plane tickets (anywhere in the US), not the Wii, not the iPad, not the basket of wine, not spa retreat package, not the 40 inch LED TV, not even a 5 dollar foot long gift card from Subway.

Ho Ho Ho. 

12 December 2010

Holiday prep

Seems like every year there is some new twist or added deal that makes life interesting.  I try to plan ahead, get organized, and stay ahead of the rush, but every year I seem to come screeching into the holidays, trying to figure out what gifts to give.  For some people, it seems to be a gift.  They are able to pick the perfect gift, the one that fits the recipient, the one that is most thoughtful (and it was on sale).   Normally, those are the people who have their Christmas shopping done before the Thanksgiving turkey has thawed.  As you might surmise, I ain't one of that group.  I try to find a gift that is appropriate/fun, not cheesy or something that winds up in a garage sale a year later.  For my old brother, it has always been a challenge.  Hunting, trailer travel, antique cars - he has interesting tastes/hobbies and, no matter what direction I take gift wise, I always seem to fall short (IMO) of the mark.  He has four boys we used to buy gifts for each, but not that they are out of the house and married, we are moving towards family gifts.  My other brother (nature boy living in yurt near Seattle), he is in a whole different category.  He married two years back to a wonderful woman (with two daughters) so he basically inherited a family.  His lifestyle is, how to put it, eclectic.  Prefers outdoors activities, high tech savvy, not in that trendy way.  Kind of a backpacking, kayak, Patagonia wearing outdoorsman, even if he is just shy of 6 decades.  Two years back we visited with them in Seattle in their house/land (the only ones from my family who have seen their place) - very nice, if not sparse, but it fits their lifestyle.  I tried to bring them some wine/beer for dinner but did not realize that they are on a gluten-free diet, so most of my food gift ideas would not work.  My parents, bless their hearts, are a real challenge.  What do you get for a pair of 87+ year young couple who still gallivants across the countryside in their trailer?  Anything I get for the home is pretty much a waste as they are not home a lot.  Neither is very much into techy stuff, but we are trying to bring them into the 21st century.  So whatever I get has to be mobile to be used in their trailer. 

Truth be told, I hate gift lists.  I know it makes it simpler, but I feel they take away some of the spontaneity of the gift.  Maybe it is just me, but it seems like when people give out a list of what they want, it is more of a "gimme" list.  That said, I did fall back to one yesterday.  My nephew married a few years back to a smart, organized, classy lawyer (he married up) and they're on the path for bigger things.  For the past few years, she has posted a wish list for him and I always felt it was a wee bit presumptive.  I have always had a hard time getting a gift for them because of their tastes/lifestyle, but I may resort to her list to save time/grief.  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I prefer something more from the heart than from amazon.com.           

For the immediate family, I have already a line on my bride for this year.  Already bought a quilting software package she has been eyeing for a year that let's you design your quilts.  I am debating getting her either an iPhone or iPad, but still on the cusp.  Have not gotten anything for the son but have some ideas.  

I am on the road again this afternoon for a short supplier trip.  At least this one is "local".  Will head to Austin for a one day audit.  Since I get to organize these trips, I kinda planned this one on the fly with some extra time allotted to visit with junior.  Will probably take him and his girlfriend out for dinner tonight.  Planning to try to hit a few stores in Austin for gifts/ideas.  As usual, I always blow the budget every year. 

Ho ho ho...

03 December 2010

Red Light District

It's that time of the year again.  The time where I schlep the Christmas tree down from the attic, haul down the lights & ornaments, pack up the Halloween and Thanksgiving hoopla and start decking the halls.  If the weather is decent, I will begin the task of hanging the outside lights.  Not a major endeavour, but it does take me about 3-4 hours to do it right.  Ever since we bought our first house in Dallas, I have always tried to decorate the outside of the house with lights just like my dad did back in Jersey.  I always loved the lights and had a dream to make a spectacular display.  In Dallas, I started one year with a couple of strings of multicolored lights with the big C9 bulbs.  I really liked houses with a single color theme (blue, green, red, white) and eventually decided to go all red.  I started buying strings of red only bulbs each year and replacement bulbs in red.  Funny that the red color would always sell out first before the rest of the sets.  Eventually, I built up a large stash of lights that could almost encircle the entire house.  Each year, I tried to buy a new set so to replace the older ones as they got worn out and replaced bulbs that broke or stopped working.  When we moved down to Houston 20+ years ago, I stuck with the them and kept putting up red lights each year.  I've considered going to a different system.  I even bought a few strands of the icicle lights but never could fit them in my plan.  A few years back, my son wanted me to put up multi-colored lights instead of all red.  I informed him that, while I appreciated his input and would welcome his help, when he gets his own house he can hang whatever lights he prefers.  

Some years they got up early (pre-Thanksgiving), other years it was halfway through December before they were up.  It really depended upon my mood and how busy we were.  Two years ago, right after after Shadow died, I didn't get them up until just before Christmas.  Honestly, my heart just wasn't in it at that time.

Weather was superb and I got most of the lights up today.  As with so many single bulb strands, there is always one or two finicky bulbs that have broken during the process and this year I have one dead socket.  Have strung the side bushes with small white lights as accents.  I want to string a few sets of lights on the palm trees out front but not sure if I will get them up this year.  I even got the two Sentries up with their spot lights.  Back when momma was in her craft era, she made up a lot of lawn decorations for various holidays.  For Christmas, she made two 6 foot tall soldiers (aka Nutcracker style) that I post every year.  Definitely not your store-bought decorations.  I station them out front with two spot lights to guard the house.  We have a few other freestanding yard decorations, but nothing as big as Curly & Mo.  11 months out of the year, they sit up in the attic awaiting their chance to shine. 

Not sure who is guarding whom

Let the festivities commence! 

01 December 2010

Home alone

Not really.  With a pair of overly affectionate, attention deficit dogs, one is never really alone.

I have off this week to burn vacation, but I am still having to work on several issues at the office.  Some people don't seem to understand the message "I am out of the office and will return next week".  The drawback of all this technology (e-mail, remote log in, blackberries) is that people feel that you should be able to respond even if you are off.  There are some people who will get pissed off if you don't respond to their messages quickly enough (what part about "being off" is hard to comprehend?).

Most of my stuff I am pushing off until next week or not responding.  I am simply monitoring the conversation at the office to stay ahead of the storm.  I am doing phone interviews this week for a new buyer and need to knock out several calls before I get back next week.  I forgot how much I hate interviews - both giving and doing.  Phone interviews are not my forte.  I have about 20 minutes to ask you a bunch of questions to see what kind of person you are.  It's hard to make a snap judgement based upon a brief call, but it is necessary evil to weed out candidates who will not fit the profile.  I have about 12 calls to make over the next few days and I am expected to have a short list of possible people for an on site interview by Monday.  I am not happy (nor is my wife) about doing this while on my time off, but I am under the gun to get this done quickly.  As I remind myself and my bride, it is what we get paid the big bucks for.  Management, in spite of all its glory, has certain expectations and being available/on call during off hours is one of the down sides.  At least I have a job I can complain about, unlike some people, so for that I am grateful. 

In between making calls and fielding the occasional e-mail, I am putting up lights and putting up the tree.  I think this is the last year for our old tree and I may break down and get a new one.  We haven't had a live tree for many years, and with son off in college, we are not in a hurry to change that tradition.  Besides, with his allergies, a live tree would just reek havoc with his sinuses.  Although, I do miss the smell of pine in the house during the holidays.  On the other hand, I shudder to think what the dogs would think about a live tree in the house. 

While I am off this week, I am playing the old retiree in the neighborhood.  Walk the dogs late, clean up the yard, hand Christmas lights, etc.  I noted the school bus roaring through the neighborhood for the various grades (high school at 0630, middle school at 0730) picking up kids for school.  What disturbed me was one poor kid was trudging his way down to the bus stop yesterday morning.  He was hauling a small rolling suitcase much like I take on flights for supplier audits.  Does he have that much homework/books to require a rolling suitcase?  Maybe he was carrying a big lunch?  In my day, that would probably earn you some harrassment from your classmates, but maybe this is the norm.   

30 November 2010

There's no place like home...

We're baaaaack!
It's a long ride from west Texas.  362 miles.  7 hours.  Survived another long road trip with my brother and we didn't kill each other. 
The ranch is very remote about 30-40 miles north of Del Rio.  No cell phone/blackberry reception (a blessing) but the ranch has satelite and internet connection, so we were able to watch some football games and keep up with the rest of the world.  Weather turned cold and windy for the weekend (~30), but at least it was dry and clear.  I like hunting in the west Texas back country - it's very rugged, sparse.  This is your typical west Texas landscape that you might picture from the old west.  Rocky, scrub brush, cacti, very dry. 
We did not see anything.  Too windy for the deer to be moving.  Despite the long drive and cold temps, I still enjoyed getting out to the sticks.  I guess that is due to the boy scout in me.  This was our last gig on this ranch.  I am bumming a ride off my brother and his company's lease and they are giving it up after this year.  Not sure if they will try to find some other place to set up shop or just let eveyone do their own thing.  In some ways, it was kinda sad.  We've been going to this ranch for about 6 years now and it has become a bit of a tradition.  The ranch manager runs cattle out there and there is always couple of dogs & cats up around the bunkhouse looking for a handout.  


Now I am enjoying the week off trying to put up the Christmas tree/lights and get some shopping done.

27 November 2010

Shocking

I spotted something on the news this morning. It appears my favorite old stoner Willie Nelson was busted for about 6 oz of pot not far from where I am sitting. Appears his tour bus was stopped at one of the check points down near the border and ole Willie got popped for having some weed.

I have just two questions:
  1. What's an 80+ year old man doing with weed?
  2. Given Willie's background, is anyone surprised by this revelation?

26 November 2010

Thankful

Was going to write something inspirational on Thursday, but Meleah pretty much covered most of me talking points. Good day. Ate too much. No turducken this year - just a smoked turkey and a really good sweet potato casarole made by our future nephew in law, Sherry. Cute girl. A real spitfire with a wicked sense of humor. She should fit right in with this family of nuts. Along with all of the standard thanksgiving fare, we had the typical assortment of pies (pumpkin, pecan, cobbler, and, of course, our family favorite/tradion, a butterscotch & chocolate merange pie. Both are old family recipies handed down for decades and kinda a running joke/thorn for most of the daughter-in-laws. My 87 year old mom still makes them from scratch and the recipie is mostly in her head. These kinds of merange pies are, not to be profane, a bitch to make. My wife has made several valiant attempts with good results (IMHO) but she thinks they are a pain in the ass and as refused to make them any more - even for special occasions (like her son's birthday or him coming home. I won't even tempt fate by asking for one. The fact that my mom still makes them amazes me - I won't ask for one but my brothers will. I will, however, enjoy a slice if offered. My mom, however, really doesn't eat much of them - after too many years of making them she has lost the taste for them.


Watched a great football game and team won, so life is good. Winter has finally showed up down here.  Temps dropped 40 degrees yesterday.  Was in the low 80s and we were seeing temps hovering around the mid 40s by 10 pm.  I am currently sitting on a ranch in west Texas about 30 miles from the Mexican border.  Hoping to have a go at some whitetail deer, but even if we don't see anything. It is good to get away from the office for a while.


Have a great Black Friday!

24 November 2010

Traditions

There's an old saying at my school - do it more than once and it becomes a tradition. 

For the past few years, we've had Thanksgiving over here.  The wife goes all out to plan, prepare and execute a feast of ginormous proportions.  We wind up killing ourselves to make the meal and invite the entire family over to celebrate.  I am more low key on these kinds of affairs.  I would prefer to have some smaller venue, less food, less hoopla.  I was pushing for one year to go camping over the holidays (it is still warm down here at this time of year) and cook a small turkey in a charcoal oven (old Boy Scout trick).  Needless to say, that idea got voted down before I even made it to the 2nd round.  Typically, junior comes home this week, mom dotes over him (as a mom should), we get some massive bird that could feed a small country, we invite over both parents and brother & his family, eat until we are sick, drink and talk trash about the brother who is not there.  As the families have grown and the kids have gotten older, each has gone off and gotten married (how dare they?) and started their own families.  I've seen this coming for a while, but the list of attendees has dwindled each year.  That tradition is ending this year.     

This year we are not having dinner at our place.  My son is out in California on a series of job interviews and is flying back to Austin today.  Talked with him last night and he is steeling himself to brave the airport on this day.  He gets in late and won't be home until some time tomorrow.  We have been invited to go over to my brother's house for dinner and to watch the football game.  My brother has always been a bit on the excessive side when it comes to these kinds of events, so I am expecting either a fried turkey or a turducken along with your normal Thanksgiving fare.  Lots of turkey/ham, sweet potatoes, corn bread dressing, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, pumpkin pie.  Honestly, I could do with a snack, but I've learned not to get in the way of the cooks.  So, this year, there won't be any leftovers to munch on at 0300 or feed to the dogs.  Probably better off for my (and the dog's) waistline.   

I'll be trying to keep up my running over the holidays to stave off the calorie demons.  Only 67 days until the marathon and I am woefully behind in my training. 

I hope everyone can enjoy the week and the holidays.  Remember, only 2 days until Black Friday!!!! 

21 November 2010

What's in a name?

Burning a few days off to burn before the holidays.  Took off Friday to take care of some chores, pick up groceries, finish up some electrical projects, drop the dog off at the vet.  No real agenda for the weekend, just trying to relax and get ready for the holidays.

Took Miss Claire in for a check up/grooming.  No issues with her, but it was her 6+ month check up since her heartworm treatment.  She's got a couple of lumps on her head (not from me) and I wanted to have them checked out.  Turns out they are normal for Goldens - kinda like skin tags or warts.  Shadow had a number of them and even Grayson has one on his shoulder.  They bother me more than they bother her (I keep thinking they are ticks).  While she was in the shop, I had them some blood work on her to check out her condition.  She is a bit heavier than I would like (like me) even though both of them are very active and they are eating the weight management (low cal) dog food.  She is not overeating but she is definitely not starving.  Grayson, on the other hand, is right where he should be for his age.  Claire has a couple of years on the boy, so she is not as limber/spry as he is, but she does keep him in his place.  While she was there, she also got a bath and grooming/new hair style (aka hair cut).  Michelle is the new groomer and loves both dogs and will cut them however we prefer.  I had Grayson done last month and really liked the style - not short, but not overly long (looks like a classic Golden).  However, momma prefers them with a shorter doo.  So, on this go around, momma's opinion won out and Claire is sporting a shorter, sassy coat.  Like most typical dogs, she doesn't seem to mind the hairstyle as long as there are treats/attention involved.  

Anyway, while Claire was out, it was just Grayson and I at home for most of the day doing "stuff".  While working on various chores, I would catch myself calling Grayson by Claire's name.  Even wound up with the mashup "ClaireGrayson" a few times.  Reminds me of my younger days when my mom would tend to run through her boys names "HapMikeJerry" on occasion whenever she needed my attention.  That was one of the drawbacks of being the third child.  First two got all the glory, I was (and still am) the youngest sibling.  Of course, by the time number 3 rolls around, mom & dad are pretty much used to the occasional crisis or trauma (aka Abby's saga).  I could regale you with stories of hot coffee, broken arm, car doors, fireworks mishaps, and even a severed finger, but I'll leave those for another posting.  Suffice it to say, life was interesting growing up with two older, loving brothers.  I almost pity Stephen being an only child missing out on the love and attention and excitement that comes from sharing with your siblings.  It is an experience you cannot buy on line or learn in school. 

Picked up Claire late in the day and she was happy to escape.  She's back home being underfoot, messing with Grayson, and generally enjoying the life of a dog. 

15 November 2010

Shopping while impared

No, I am no drinking & shopping.  Although, in the past there may have been one or two on-line acquisitions that I could claim were due to that last glass of Scotch. 

I normally shy away from the malls, avoid the chain stores, drive past the shopping centers.  I do hit wally world about every week or two, but that is for dog food & treats and a few odds & ends.  And Home Depot doesn't count.  I will definitely try to avoid the stores if I am not in the right frame of mind (like never go grocery shopping when you are hungry).  I was out making a few runs Saturday & Sunday.  I decided to hit wally world, Target, Home Depot for some items and, while I was out, I was going to pick up a few items off of the list for our unit we are sponsoring in Afghanistan.  The list is nothing fancy, just some plain simple ordinary every day things that you would never think about until you were lacking.  I got this list from the mother of one of the soldiers who is currently stationed somewhere out in the hills of Afghanistan.  It is off of a running list sent back to the families from the unit. 

Below you will see a few things that was sent to me this morning.

  • Other items that are always good to send:
  • Beef jerky, slim jims, protein bars, sunflower seeds and small pkg of mixed nuts
  • Gum and candy
  • Q-tips, baby wipes, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, **I am looking for some waterless shampoo...but have not had luck....let me know if you find this!!
  • Coffee
  • Coffee filters
  • campfire cooking utensils
  • mouse traps
  • pasta
  • little toys
  • beach balls
  • spices
  • sauces
  • canned veggies/fruit
  • Warm socks (its starting to get cold there)
  • *Basically simple ingredients to make meals*
  • Also, they killed a turkey..and they are so excited, because that's what they're going to have for Thanksgiving.

As I said, I should never go shopping if I am not sober or in a sane frame of mind.  I kinda went overboard.  I have a soft spot when it comes to the military.  To some extent, I've been there.  I've served in the field on holidays, had duty over Thanksgiving, missed Christmas while on maneuvers.  I sorta know how it sucks to be away from home & family and I am glad for the blessings we have.  That's one of the reasons I volunteered to help out this effort at the company.  It is not much, but I hope that what we send will give them some cheer.  I added a few things "off list" on the hopes it will make it there on time (small Xmas tree, Santa Hats, candy canes).  Mail service is slow, so we have to get everything out by tomorrow in order for it to be there by Christmas.   

11 November 2010

Veteran's Day

11 November

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Once again, we take time to stop and remember all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces both past and present.  As a member of that fraternity, I am humbled and honored to have served with an elite group of people who stood on the wall to protect our liberties and freedoms. 

Even today, I am reminded of how blessed my life is.  I served back in the 80's in Germany.   While we were not in armed combat during that period, but we were tasked to stand as a line of defense in Europe during the later days of the cold war.  There were days & nights in the field, countless hours of drills, exercise, practice "just in case".  But at least we got to go back to the barracks to our families.  Our troops currently serving over in Afghanistan and Iraq don't enjoy a lot of those luxuries.  One of our design engineers has been with the company for about a year.  He is around 28, has a wife and three kids (one less than a year old) and he just got called up with his Marine unit in Houston.  He leaves for Afghanistan around the first of the year and will be gone for almost 12 months.  It is hard to remember the sacrifices that people make to serve.  At least when I was deployed back  in the 80's,  I got to take my family with me.  The company is banding together to sponsor him and his family while he serves.  As an old Army fart, I volunteered to help organize the effort to coordinate a drive to send stuff to him and his unit while they are deployed.  We have also identified several others from the company who have son/daughters/family members serving active duty.               



Take a moment to stop and reflect on the sacrifices made by our vets who have served and those who continue to stand in harms way today.

07 November 2010

Football weekend

Another superb weekend.

Weather was fantastic. Road trip went well. Got to attend an outstanding football game Saturday. We were playing a ranked team on TV and I was honestly expecting to get shellacked but the boys stepped up and played some seriously good ball. I love going to a home game at Kyle Field, but the way the guys have been playing, it can painful/exasperating. Attendance would have been higher at the game but this weekend was opening day of deer season down here and a lot of old Aggs were listening to the game out on the deer lease. We actually beat up on a #11 ranked team and there was pandemonium in the stadium.

Took my trailer up to the game. There are two RV parking lots for big rigs. Not your typical generator lot where someone pulls up with a rented trailer and a hot tub and runs the generator all night long. Ours is a quieter lot that has families who have been there for decades. It is very hard to get a slot in these lots. It is a very close knit group and the list of people who have first right of refusal on these slots has been established many years ago and the only way to get a slot is for someone to give it up or die. I know, it sounds a bit morbid, but there have been situations where someone passes away and the family will retain the slot for future generations. One of my friends has taken over a slot from a couple that the husband passed away last spring. People take these tailgating gigs seriously. Anyway, the deal is if you cannot make a game, there is a website you can post up your slot for sale. First come, first served. Typically, the powered slots don’t last more than 4 hours after they’ve been posted and that was the deal with my slot. I scored my pass from a guy across town right after he had posted it. Was a nice weekend outing. I took momma and the dogs for the weekend. Grayson has done one of these last year, but this was a new deal for Claire. My parents and brother have two slots up there and make it a regular party every home game. All you have to do is show up and you are welcomed like family. A lot of student relatives (cousins, nephews) have figured out this routine and will show up for good food and plenty of libations.

Anyway, took both dogs just to get them out of the house. For a brief moment, I was worried if the activity and action would overwhelm them. HA! They were in doggie heaven. Lots of food, new smells/sights, people to meet, lots of attention. Both dogs were well behaved in the crowd and did not cause any many problems. Ok, if sitting at your feet with mournful eyes and licking your hand is a problem, then they were incorrigible. These two quickly figured out how to work the crowd and get a morsel and a head scratch. You could not tell this was their first time. Both dogs were the hit of the party and momma and I surmised that we were just there as the support crew.  

I took the opportunity to run both dogs over the weekend through the adjacent fields/woods in the morning. Grayson loves open field work and will run until his legs fall off. Claire is a bit more restrained and will typically stay closer to me, but she roaming a bit flushing some dove & quail. Both mutts came back thoroughly exhausted, dirty, smelly, and full of thistles but loved every minute. Good weekend for all.

Hope ya'll remembered to set your clocks back.

05 November 2010

Offt again

Wazup homes?  'Ere it be Friday and I be sitting again with some brain juice and hanging out with the dawgs.  Another Friday off and starting out on a 3 day weekend.  Will probably head north to catch the football game tomorrow.  Weather looks to be promising.  Been raining for the last few days, but it broke yesterday and turned clear and cold (~40s).  Should be a cooler, but dryer weekend.  Hello Fall. 

After some casual observation, I am beginning to think these dogs of mine got it pretty easy.  Indoor dogs, plenty of food & water, walked 2x per day, unlimited belly rubs, 1 hour of frenzied activity, 23 hours of sleep.  Not sure who is in charge around here.  It's a dog's life...   





Happy Guy Fawke's Day and have a great weekend!

04 November 2010

The look

Ok.  We've all gotten "the look".

It's a natural phenominum.  Try being married for more than a couple of years and you'll become familiar with "the look".  After 30 years of wedded bliss, I've seen "the look" more than once.


In even in the most hardened troopers, "the look" can send chills down your spine.  The look can stop a full grown bear in its tracks.  A smart man will recognize the look and know things are amiss (Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger!).  Some will foolishly try to ignore the situation and carry on with whatever activity or conversation that earned the look (typically, those are the ones who walk with a limp).  Others will dive for cover.  Some will try to make amends to avoid further exposure.  Still others will try to appease their partner on the sliver of hope that they can get back into good graces.  

As I said earlier, I've gotten the look a few times over the course of my married life.  I  dare say that I have earned it more than once.  Aw, heck, as with a lot of the calamities or excitement I've experienced in my life, I can say I probably earned it.  One of my favorite quotes has been:  "We've all got it coming, kid".   

Anyway, I "earned" the look this week.  Great weekend.  Weather superb.  Drove up to College Station and got to see a great game.  We beat a rival that been stomping us for years and this year was our time.  We never know which team will show up on the field, so we celebrate wins when they happen.  This weekend we play Oklahoma (ranked #11) so it could get ugly.  Drove back late Saturday night so I can get some things done on Sunday.       

Sunday, while working on a report, Momma and I were having our typical ping pong converstation (no fixed topic) - parents, car repair, son, DWTS, brother, politics.  I was making lite of something (sister and her horde of cats, the son's plans, DWTS, etc.) when I earned "the look" (Duh Duh DAAAA).  The only thing that save me from the full blast was Claire.  Note:  Having a cute, affectionate, licking dog between you and your advisary sometimes deflect some of the impact, but it will only provide you with some temporary cover.  Unless you make amends with your partner or leave the residence, you are in for some stormy seas ahead.  Fortuneately for me, it was Halloween and I was able to bribe my way out with Chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.   

29 October 2010

Offt

Yo homies!  I be sitting here with a cup o' joe and chillin' with the dawgs.

Fantabulous morning.  Weather's clear & dry and temps in the low 50's.  Actually had to put on long pants this morning to walk the kids. 

One more week in the books.  Made it through the week without too many scars/injuries.  As my old platoon sergeant used to tell me:  "One more day closer to retirement, sir".  I still got a boatload of vacation piled up that I have to take before the end of the year (use it or lose it) and I am playing hooky today.  No real plans for the extended weekend but taking care of lots of little projects.  I may go up to College Station to the football game tomorrow.  I may work on the Mustang.  Need to clean out garage.  Helping momma get her new toy this morning.  She's has been seriously into quilting for many years using an old Singer sewing machine she's had since high school (before we ever crossed paths).  The old 35+ year old machine finally gave up the ghost two weeks ago (I offered to take a whack at it to fix it, but was gently rebuffed).  So, momma has gotten the urge to get a new machine that will support her habit.  Just like looking at new cars, you just can't settle for the same old plain ride.  She picked a state of the art machine that will pretty much quilt by itself.  All sorts of bells and whistle and doo-dads.  Definitely not your momma's old Singer.  This new toy ain't the most expensive but it does cost more than my last computer.  It's a wee bit pricey/extravagant and she is feeling guilty about getting this but I feel she's earned it.  I've already given her the green light and she is still trying to justify it to me.  Ordered it two weeks ago and it just arrived at the shop yesterday so we are going to pick it up today.  This weekend should be like an early Christmas.

I keep expecting to get an espresso from it or maybe even access the Internet.   

22 October 2010

Friday at last

Here I sit.  Momma has is off at bunco.  One dog at my feet.  The other is sleeping out on one of mom's "Oh No you didn't" quilts.  Been a long week.  I figured, that, since my boss was off the grid for a week, this week would be some serious coasting time.  No worries.  Let's get this party started.  Au contraire.  I had plans to get a lot of things done but life has a way of throwing you curves.  I guess I should be glad I made it to the weekend in one piece, but just not sure in what condition.   

I sit here with a glass of scotch and one needy dog (Claire) and surf the net to see who or what is out there.  I'm listening to one of my favorite musicians, Jesse Cook, playing a mean flamenco guitar.  I got hooked on him about 10 years ago out in Fredricksburg while wandering through an antique/art shops.  Was so infatuated by his music (Tempest), I bought the store CD.  Literally I bought the dang CD they were playing in the store.  Been a huge fan of his ever since.  Ok, there was one or two CDs that I wasn't as impressed with, but, overall, I like his style of music.  I even managed to hook my redneck, opinionated, "A" personality brother onto his music, so there has to be some social benefit there. 


Ya'll have a nice weekend.  I am working on mine.

20 October 2010

Have a little Faith

Occasionally, I will mention the dog group we belong to/enlisted in.  Ok, maybe a bit more than occasionally.  I try to vary my topics so this doesn't wind up becoming a boring all-dog blog (Oops, too late), but when your kid is out of the house, and your spouse is spending her days over at her parents, and work seems to all about who's fault is it, the dogs tend to be my outlet.  It's cheaper that drinking and way more socially acceptable.   

Anyhoo, we are tied into the group in many ways. Last weekend's picnic, monthly meet & greets, the occasional parade, displays at local festivals, dog show, dock dog diving, Barktoberfest, Mutt Strut. All are great opportunities to showcase the club and show off some of the available dogs and recruit more minions for the cause. Given the amount of intensity that some of the group has, I'd almost classify us as "cult-like", just without the robes and secret handshake. There are lots of roles in the club. Adoption panel, recovery people (pick up new dogs), communications, foster families (we failed there). Many members have been with the team for a long while. Cil has been one of the die-hard devotes of the cause and has worked miracles with a number of dogs. She has two dogs of her own and is always ready to take on another dog who needs a home. She has fostered a number of dogs through adoption and we really don't know how she does it. We did two fosters and failed miserably. Her latest dog is nothing short of amazing.

Faith was picked up from BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation & Control) in early August in bad shape. Serious mange, skin conditions, joint problems, emaciated.  We honestly believe that she was going to be put down within a day or two.  The group swooped in and picked her up and gave her to Cil for some TLC. 






This past weekend, Faith found her new forever home with a loving family. 



THIS is one of the reasons I joined this crew. 

18 October 2010

Coincidence

With all of last week's hoopla over the rescue of the miners, I found it interesting to note that Thursday (10/14) was the anniversary of when they rescued Jessica McClure in Midland, Texas. It was 23 years ago that she fell down an open well shaft and it took 58 and a small army of of rescue workers to pull her out of the well. According to some of the pundits, her saga garnered worldwide attention that was only second to the death of Princess Diana.




Of course, this was before there was the Internet, 24 hour news feeds, instant messaging, cell phone cameras, digital photography, facebook, and twitter.  With all the tragedies and bad news around the world, it is nice to see & hear a few good stories.

Dogapalooza

It's that time again.  GBGRR Annual Picnic11th annual shindig. Seems to get bigger each year, but since this is only our 2nd year with the group, I will just have to take every one's word for it. Took both Chaos & Pandemonium out to the gig this year. Grayson participated last year and this was Claire's first experience. Lots of dogs to see, tails to sniff, balls to chase.


Clair gets a trim


Not enjoying myself

Grayon has a drinking problem

 Ok.  Seriously. 
Are we done yet?

More fun than a pack of wild dogs

There goes that grooming job

My ball!  My ball!

Can we haz some more BBQ?
Pleez?

One of our supporters who owns a local restaurant has 5 White Goldens.
Incredibly well behaved dogs.
They range from 18 months to 12 years old.

Everyone had a blast.  Over 250 dogs (plus a few humans).  Lots of food to eat, people to meet, fields to run in.  Even had some alligator tacos.  Both dogs slept all the way home.  Another successful outing. 

16 October 2010

Saturday chores

Made it to the end of another week.  The weeks just seem to keep getting longer & longer.  Would love a break, but boss is off the grid on vacation and I have to keep the home fires burning.  Had an offer to go up to College Station to see the football game, but too much to do to try and arrange the trip.  Besides, the way they played, I'm glad I did not try to make the trip. 

Finished up trimming the bushes today.  Four trash cans full of branches and leaves.  Glad it was not too hot to work in the beds.  The dogs hate it when I work in the yard and they don't get to help.  They always want to be apart of any activity.  My last mutt, Shadow, would sit in the side yard and never leave the yard (unless another dog was walking by).  Grayson & Claire I don't trust as much, yet.  Claire is a good dog off leash.  She will hang by me and comes when I call.  Gray, however, is always an excitable dog and will take off if he spots another person/cat/dog.  Working on that problem.  My ideal dog (if there ever is one) is one that will sit by you as your work in the yard or on the car or on the house.  But until he walks up my driveway, I guess these two nuts will have to do.

    

 

13 October 2010

How soon is too soon?

I like walking the dogs early in the morning.  Oh, sure, it is sometimes a pain to try & herd these two mutts around the block on their "sniff & pee" patrol, but I enjoy the early, pre-dawn quiet.  There is something serene about the early morning hours that inspires me with new resolve.  Typically, I take the time alone to go over the day's tasks, gather my thoughts and plan my attack on the day.  I've won lots of debates (internal) with myself as I walk the dogs. 

We also tend to see strange sites in the wee hours before dawn.  Yesterday, as I rounded the backside of the neighborhood, I spotted some lit figurines in a neighbor's yard.  A few people in my hood will decorate for the holidays.  Some, who will remain nameless, Lynn, seem to decorate for every holiday.  Now, this guy has not been one to put out a lot of decorations in the past.  I don't recall too many decorations for other holidays, so I figured this was some Halloween ornaments.  I know the family that lives there.  Nice guy.  Sweet wife.  A couple of cute/young kids (2 girls, 1 boy) and they are always out walking at night.  As I got closer to the two foot tall figurines (three), I was able to make out the statue of Joseph and Mary and one wise guy.  I know people like to get a jump on the holidays, but ain't it a wee bit early?

10 October 2010

Plant abuse

Weather is still unusually perfect. Dry, cool, sunny. We don’t get many days down here that aren’t either in the 90’s and/or 85%++ humidity.  Best enjoy it while it lasts.

I don’t have a wide range of plants around the house, but I have a few that tend to go wild unless they are beat back twice a year. I typically will trim back my bushes in the spring and then once more in the fall before the leaves begin to fall. Most are pretty nondescript plants.  A couple of wax leaf ligustrums (Ligustrum japonicum 'Texanum'), a pair of old Japanese yew, two holly bushes, one overgrow schefflera, four new Indian hawthorns, several crepe myrtles, a couple of red tip photinias, a gaggle of some ugly boxwoods, one lone loquat plant/tree, one large windmill palm, and a number of mystery plants that grow straight stalks and have a highly aromatic smell when trimmed (still trying to figure out what species those are). That doesn’t count the asian jasmine ground cover that surrounds the house or periwinkles I put in last spring.

When we moved into this place 20+years ago, there used to be a couple of balls of pampas grass – a particularly nasty plant I came to loathe. This is an interesting plant (weed) that you will see used a lot along the interstate and in the medians of Texas Highways. There is good reason for that – they grow with practically no attention or care. No water, lots of sun, they love it. We had three outside our bedroom window and three more back in the corner of the yard. None of these were particularly attractive, but they grow fast and need no maintenance. The ones outside of our window seemed to be a favorite habitat for some noisy critter that I could never find or get rid of. One spring I took the challenge to cut them down and replace them with something a bit more aesthetic. That’s when I found out how nasty these plants are. They sport very nice grass like stalks with fronds on the end, but the leaves are razor sharp with tiny barbs that will shred any gloves or hide. I went through two shirts, several gloves, and many scars before I finally achieved the upper hand. Once you got down to the root/ball, there was not much to just knocking them over. It is a good plant if you want privacy or a barrier plant. I cannot imagine any bad guys trying to work their way through a few of them without drawing blood.

Yesterday the battle was with a large windmill palm that has taken up residence out by the mailbox. It is about 4-10 feet in height and has 7 main stalks/trunks and is pretty much self contained and requiring little maintenance. The palm fronds will spread out like large windmill fans (ergo the name) and spread from each trunk in about a 3 foot radius. The palms will grow out from the middle and spread outwards and each older one will eventually die out as the newer vegetation emerges. These types of palms can grow to large trees if managed correctly, but mine has stayed about the same height for years. If I let this one go, it will explode with palm leaves and cover up the mailbox, so, twice a year, I cut it back dramatically to allow new growth to come in and be able to see the mailbox from the house. Like the pampas grass, this one is a particularly nasty job because of the palm stalks. The leaves are fine but sharp on the edges, but the stalks of have these barbs that will tear through leather gloves (got the scars to prove it). I prefer to trim this one back when it is cooler to avoid the heat and bugs so I will cut it in the spring (around Palm Sunday) and again in the fall before Halloween. My trimming may seem a bit severe, but the plant seems to love it and will explode in the spring with all new growth. At one point a few years back, I was going to tear out this plant to find something else, but I thought better of it.

Today will be an assault on the ligustrums.

Never give up!  Never surrender!

08 October 2010

The wheels on the bus go round & round

Ever have one of those days?

Morning starts out great. Weather is picture perfect. Cool temps, low humidity, no clouds. Been a fantastic week weather-wise.

I am turning the corner on my projects, making headway with my action list, catching up on reports. Today was to be a fairy light day. Two meetings booked, lots of time to finish two reports, start on my weekly, make a couple of calls to suppliers.

Was going to try to run a few miles during lunch while the weather is good, but left my running clothes at home, so wound up working through lunch. Afternoon was dragging on, but things started backing up on my. One part problem, two missed shipments, drawing changes getting rejected, last minute purchase orders, four sales calls, big boss is looking for answers. Somewhere along the road the wheels started coming off the bus. Sometimes I feel like we bounce from one ditch to another while we drive down the road.

I am not the HMFIC down here. I have a manager's hat, but sometimes I feel more like a peon around here with certain projects.  And no matter what, it always seems like it is my fault.  Reminds me of the old poem:

I'm not allowed to run the train 
The whistle I can't blow
I'm not the one who designates
How far the train will go
I'm not allowed to blow the steam
Or even ring the bell
But let the damn thing jump the track
And see who catches hell.

Good thing I have a sense of humor about this kind of stuff (and an ample stash of scotch).

07 October 2010

Need more time

It seems like the weeks/months are just flying by.

Keep getting new projects/chores at the office, dogs need grooming, truck is due for service this morning, trailer registration due this month, gotta repair the light fixture in the kitchen (no, it is not a simple bulb replacement), carpets need cleaning, need to fix window in momma's car, unjam the shredder, fix a plumbing leak at FiLs house, clean the cat hair out of SiLs printer, blah, blah, blah.  I thought that, once the kid was off in college and we were by ourselves, things would slow down. HA!

I guess we should be grateful for the blessings we have (job, health, family, home), but sometimes, just sometimes, I miss being a kid.  The nice thing about having a dog (or two), is that their expectations are pretty low.  Walk me, feed me, pet me, repeat.  And Golden Retrievers are pretty needy on the attention part.  It was bad enough with one "attention hound" but adding a second to the mix has somehow turned into an exponetial deal.  I cannot show pet or show attention to one without the other one showing up (Me Too! Me Too!).  One major benefit about these two kooks is that, no matter how lousy the day, how much crap has been tossed your way, or how late you are, they are always estatic to see you....   

03 October 2010

Ahhh....the weekend

Spendiferic weather.  Temps in the mid 60's to low 70's.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Humidity hovering around 40%.  Woke up this morning and almost thought I was back in SoCal.  We ain't used to this kind of weather.  It's been hot & humid down here since April and this weather is almost obscene.  Trying to spend as much time outdoors before it changes.  The old expression we have around here is:  "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute.  It will change.


Work's been kicking my butt.  Projects, reports, deadlines and fire drills.  I am almost caught up from my road trip to California three weeks ago.  I would complain, but I really hate whiners and, besides, I'm grateful to have a job given today's economy.  My nephew has not landed a job yet, but he is looking hard and hopes to land something soon.  Our next door neighbors at work, NASA, is starting to shut down programs now since they are on the last of the shuttle flights.  One NASA contractor in the area has just laid off about 1/3 of its work force on Friday with more to come by the end of the year.  Time's are tough all over.       


Tried to get out side over the weekend.  Yard has stopped growing.  Not sure if it is cooler temps or the lack of rain, but it doesn't really need to be mowed this weekend.  Got to spend 1/2 day out in Katy yesterday participating in their annual Rice Harvest Festival.  Our dog group (GBGRR) participates in the parade every year as one of the volunteer entries and we walk the streets with a pack of wild goldens looking for someone to lick or pet.  The dogs are typically a hit with all of the spectators and this year was no exception.  Always thinking ahead, we hand out bags with our card/website information, plus a treat for humans & dogs.  I took both Chaos & Pandemonium (Claire & Grayson) and the dogs had a blast and were well behaved.  No gutter incidents this year.  They did so well that I even took them to the local dog park in Katy as a treat.  I've taken on a mission to hit all of the dog parks in the area just to see which one is better and the one in Katy top notch.  Lots of grass/trees/shade/benches.  One of the better ones we've been to. 


A pack of killers

Tag teaming the crowd