25 April 2010

Out of office

On the road again. It's the end of our fiscal year. Several key projects are hanging. Got to finish up a supplier review for my boss. Trying to negotiate a contract with our calibration house. Need to write up reviews for my buyers. Planning for a trip to Kerrville in two weeks for my nephew's graduation. Trying to plan a trip to Austin in May to help junior move out of apartment. So what am I doing now? I am packing for another supplier road trip this week. Will be off the reservation until Friday in Philly on supplier audit. I've said it before - I love to travel, but these audits are a regular PITA for me. Oh, sure, it's great to break away from the office and travel to different cities/states, but these are not vacations for me. Lots of prep work, coordination. I am the defacto leader of this trip which makes me the bus driver/chaperone/cruise director for this gig. If it were just me, I can handle the logistics of travel (flight, car rental, finding hotel) but I have the VP of operations and one of my buyers going with me this time. The former (VP) is an old hand at this and knows everything; the latter (buyer) has never done this before and looks to me as mentor. Of course, I am still expected to achieve all of my tasks even though I am on the road. The expression that comes to mind is: “That’s what they pay you the big bucks for”…

I know it will work out fine, but I tend to fret/worry over these trips up until we take off. Once we are on the plane, things are pretty much locked down so I figure there is not much I can do about the situation.

As an aside, weather has turned out fantastic for the weekend. Was pouring down early Saturday, but it did not last and the rain pushed out by 0900 and a clear, sunny day set in. I was able to mow the yard by noon and loaded up the mutts to take them to the local dog park. I’ve been dying to take Claire to the park ever since the vet cleared her from her treatment and yesterday was the first opportunity. Grayson has been to these parks so he knows the score. As soon as we got out of the truck, he was chomping at the bit to get inside to play/run free. Once inside the gate, I let him off leash and he was off like a kid at a playground. Claire on the other hand did not quite know what to make of all of this open space and lots of dogs running free. I let her off the leash and initially she hung right beside me. I tried to get her to run with the other dogs and explore, but she was somewhat intimidated. Not sure if it was the open spaces or the plethora of butt sniffing, ball chasing, wet dogs that made her skeptical. One big fuzzy German Shepherd tried to get a little “friendly” with Claire and she “politely” declined his offer. Eventually, Claire opened up a bit and tried to explore the area, but I never got her to go into the water. Grayson, on the other hand was all over the park, splashing in the water, running to play with other dogs, meeting other people. It must have been Golden Retriever day at the park yesterday because there were at least 5-6 other Goldens there at the same time. More than once I lost Grayson for a while. Just when I thought I had spotted him, I then noted the dog was not wearing the same collar. One observation I noted was that Grayson is more of “dog’s dog”. He likes to seek out other dogs to sniff/play with. Claire is more of a “people dog”. She preferred to seek out other people (when not parked next to me) for petting/attention. Of course, she’s good at getting lots of loving.

Afterwards, I took both dogs outside the park to give them a bath. A lot of the new parks have a dog wash area to hose them off from playing in the mud and ponds. In the end, both dogs had a blast and were thoroughly worn out on the drive home.

22 April 2010

It's official

I guess we'll have to keep her now.

Claire just cleared her 2nd round of HW treatment so, according to the vet, she should be free & and clear of those nasty heartworms and able to run amok. Not that she hasn't been an angel. Throughout the treatment, we are supposed to keep her calm and sedate, to make sure there are no complications, but she has been anything but. Grayson is your typical goofy Golden Retriever. Very loveable, lanky, clumsy, always jonesing for attention, a paw-s on dog. He has his hyper moments, but I had gotten him to pretty much settle down as an indoor dog. Does not jump up on you (much) and will greet you at the door with a smile and a wag and wait for you patiently as you change work clothes before he gets attention. I love how he sits at the window when I come home waiting for me to come in.

And along comes trouble. Claire has upset the natural order around here. She is an absolute sweetheart with deep brown eyes and a constant smile on her face. She is happy to see you whatever the time of day. She hasn’t quite gotten down the “I’m leaving” thing down and will sit by the door staring at it for most of the day until you come back in. When I come home and let the two nuts out, as Grayson races around the yard, she will sit there and try to get my attention. And these two do not share the spotlight well. Whenever on dog gets attention, the second is not far behind. It is funny to see these two try to box each other out for some head scratching.

Anyway, Claire is by no means innocent. Grayson is your typical goofy Golden teenager. Claire is the more seasoned, adult mom, but she does have a bit of a wild streak in her. Whenever Grayson is running wild, Claire will sit in wait for him and, as soon as he is in range, start attacking him. He loves the attention but doesn’t quite know what to do when someone bites him back. She’ll wind him up into attack mode and then roll over and submit. As soon as he stops, she will start biting him again. What a scamp. Those two will go after each other until they both are on the floor exhausted.

We sent in our adoption papers last month and made it official. She has joined the clan. I think the two of them make a good pair. I tried to take both to the dog park last weekend as celebration, but a storm rolled in and the place got washed out. I am planning to take them to the park this weekend to allow Claire an opportunity to roam.

18 April 2010

Walking with a purpose

I mentioned a while back that I support a few causes.  Cancer.  MS.  Lukemia.  Golden Dogs.  Yesterday it was Epilepsy.  Once a year the Epilepsy Foundation holds various walks/strolls nationwide as a fundraiser.  Yesterday the Houston Chapter held its annual Stroll for Epilepsy at the Houston Zoo.  Since my company's primary focus is the treatment of Epilepsy, we are heavy supporters of the foundation.  Throughout the year, we hold a variety of fundraisers and events to collect donations culminating in one check presented at the stroll.  This year, the company was able to pony up $62k in donations helping the foundation reach it's goal.  I wholeheartedly support the organization & the company's efforts because I believe in their mission to help people afflicted with Epilepsy.  I have a connection with this from my son's earlier brush with seizures many years ago (outgrown them now), so, to me, it is somewhat personal.  

Anyway, yesterday I attended the stroll.  It really wasn't a walk but more of a scavenger hunt that covered the entire zoo grounds.  I haven't been to the zoo in decades.  Lots of new exhibits/animals.  Much updated from when I last was there (in the 80s?).  Not sure I am a big fan any more of seeing such majestic animals in cages/enclosures, even if they have been recreated to mimic their natural settings.  I do think that the caretakers (zookeepers) have done a good job of trying to care for the animals and I think it provides a lot of people/children the opportunity of seeing animals up close that they may never see again in their lifetime.  I would note that (IMHO), touring the zoo is not as much fun without kids.  You really need to have some young kids in tow to share in the experience.  Maybe it has to do with seeing things through the eyes of a child to make you appreciate them more.   

Speaking of causes, my two nephews are currently headed to Austin on the MS 150 ride.  2 day bike ride from Houston to Austin (~186 miles) to raise money for MS.  I bet there are a bunch of sore butts at this point. 

16 April 2010


The memorial was a very good service. Can I say that?  I don't want to appear callous or jaded, but I've been to more funerals than I care to admit.  Especially for family.  I come from a big family and it seems like in the past four years there have been more departures than arrivals (births) or mergers (weddings).

I made the short trip up to visit with the family and represent my side of the family tree.  My mom & dad were there, but I felt that one of their sons should attend as well to show support.  Honestly, with my work schedule and obligations and the projects that I have coming due, I did not have the time.  But I have missed the last three funerals for the same lame excuses and I felt that I needed to go and I am glad I did.  Was a long drive, stayed in a cheap hotel, missed an important presentation, but it was good to see the family and share this time with them.  Life's too short to spend it at work.  Family comes first.

My dad was born into a large family of 4 girls and 4 boys (in that order) back in the 20's. He is the eldest boy and, while not the oldest member, he has always been looked upon as the defactor leader of the clan. While most of the family has set down roots in the Arlington area, we moved away (considered a sin) back in the 60's. Most of the family is still there and the only times we seem to go back lately is for funerals.

Beth was married to my dad's brother (Jim) and we've been close to their family. 2 girls and 2 boys (twins).  All the kids have grown up and started families on their own.  Most have moved away.  Jim and Beth have been married for 60 years and they were uniquely matched for each other.  Jimmy has always been a very regimented type of person.  Up early (ala 0400) every morning, goes for regular walks (typically at the mall), eats at specific times (must eat by 1800) and goes to bed early (2030). They even had specific meals on certain days (Wednesday was meatloaf night).  Beth loved him and his routineness.  She even had her own schedules (Friday was hairdresser day).  At 80, she had her fair share of issues (gall stones, colon cancer, heart murmer) and she passed away while in the hospital undergoing treatment.  

Her sons & daughters are helping their dad clean out some of her things and reorganize the house.  After 60 years, it is hard to deal with that kind of dramatic change, but we all have it coming.  While going through some of her purses and drawers, they came across a stash of breathmints.  And by stash, I mean cases of brand new mints.  Enough to give the entire city of Arlington fresh breath.  Seems that Beth always made sure she had breathmints handy for anyone who needed it and they always were picking up a new box/case everytime they went to Costco.  So, at the visitation, there were baskets of breathsavers and everyone was given a roll to take home.  In spite of the sad occasion, everyone was in good spirits.  We'll all miss Beth, but she is in a better place now.   

14 April 2010

Busier than a one armed paper hanger

I should't complain, but been way to busy on all fronts. 

We're winding up our financial year and everyone is scrambling to get their last minute projects done so they can achieve their bonus goals.  Typical.  Happens every year  Wait until the final 2 weeks in the year to pull a rabbit out of the hat and they expect you to drop whatever you are working on to help them.  I gots my own fish to fry.  I have one major analysis to be done by next week and it will be tight to make it.  Between nonstop meetings and conference calls and supplier audits, I don't have time for any real work, just meetings to explain why we are behind.  I am headed off to Philly in two weeks for another round of audits.  At least the weather should be warmer.  I guess it beats being bored at work.  

Been trying resurect the yard over the past few weeks.  Weather has been great and I have decided this year to completely rebuild the beds.  Started last weekend with a couple of yards of mulch.  Turns out that 3 yards was not enough and will have to get another load this weekend.  I am finally replacing the bushes out front as this last winter seems to have finally taken out the remaining stragglers.  I have one lone azalea left over from a planting I did years ago, but she has been a scrawny bush and never taken off much.  I may move her to the back yard to get more sun but I doubt she'll survive the trip.  New plants?  Indian Hawthorne.  Hope they can take hold.  Dropped in 6 bushes and need to get another 6 to round out the front.  Will add some color to the front as time allows.  I will be on the road for the next 3 weekend for various events (graduation, business, hunting). 

I am taking a day off from work to head north to Dallas today for a funeral for my aunt (dad's SIL).  She was in the hospital for colon cancer and gall bladder surgery last week.  Had made it through the procedure with some difficulty but had a heart attack in recovery.  With the work schedule, I don't really have the time to make this trip but I feel I need to attend the memorial service and see the family.  Short trip, long drive.  I normally enjoy driving cross country, but not for this reason.              

01 April 2010


Just thought I would pass along some advice when doing a presentation for a large group of people.

I had a distinct pleasure this morning of conducting a training session for a very large (150+) group of people (engineers, managers, directors, accountants, etc.). In the past, I used to be petrified whenever speaking in front of a group, much less a sizeable audience. But a long time ago, when I was getting my MBA, I took a communication course on how to speak to an audience. The teacher encouraged us to join Toastmaster to hone our speaking skills and it really helped put me at ease in front of groups. Now I can pretty much talk to a big or small group at the drop of a hat. Still a wee bit nervous (don't want to look like a total idiot), but, once I hit my rhythm, I can speak for an hour. Preparation is the key. Practice helps. Throw in some humor and you can win over most audiences. Training went well. Was not harassed too much and I was able to keep the entire mob awake for most of the 90 minutes.

Anyway, my take away from the meeting this morning was, when you use electronic equipment and do your presentation via PowerPoint, you are at the whims of your equipment. Make sure you set up your equipment early. My laptop and projection system took a bit of finagling to make it work but the slide show was slightly off-center for the presentation. I borrowed a wireless remote control to run the slide show and it took a few minutes to get that set up. Arrived 1 hour early to the training to make sure everything was set up and working. I hate getting into a roomful of people and the computer or projector don't work as planned. I am ok in front of people, but it throws me off my game if things go south during my presentation. This morning I was fairly well prepared.

  • Computer set up - check
  • Projection system working - check
  • Remote control working - check
  • Laser pointer = check
  • Can access PowerPoint slides - check
  • Back up copy of slides downloaded to hard drive (in case I lose the net connection) - check
  • Room set up - check
  • Initiation sent out three weeks ago - check
  • List of speaking points/notes - check
  • One last trip to the head - check

So, with all of that going on, presentation went fairly smoothly. Some questions mid-stream and engaging discussion sidetracked us for a bit, but I was able to drag everyone back to the topic. At the end of the meeting I had parked on a Q&A slide to discuss specific questions or issues people might have. I guess I had the slide up for a bit longer than I had intended, because my laptop kicked over into screen saver mode. Now, folks, when you are doing a presentation in front of a large group of people who are primarily your peers, having your pop up some inappropriate or unprofessional screen shot does not help your reputation. Point to consider - Try maintaining that professional image when a picture of kittens or World or Warcraft or your goofey kids pops up for all the world to see. Fortunately, my default screensaver was set my goofy mutt Grayson. Still, it was rather interesting to see a 20 foot projection of his mug plastered on the wall.

At least I got a few laughs out of this one...