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.