28 April 2011

There's just so much I can get done in 24 hours

The one thing I hate about these road trips is that, the longer I am gone, I further behind I get.  Teed of the week with 3 audit reports to write (from last week), two weeklies, one cost summary, three reviews, set bonus goals, run a year end inventory analysis.  And each week I have to explain why I am behind.

Playing catch up this week but hope to draw even by the weekend.  While I am waiting for one of my reports to gen, here's a few more from the road last week in Burbank.

A random shot of houses on the side of the hill looking over LA.  IMHO, not a place for someone who sleepwalks.
At least you don't have to mow the yard...
Californians must love their pets.  While doing my morning jogs in Woodland Hills, I must have passed 6-7 vets or animal clinics or groomers in a short 3 mile circuit.  One of the clinics across from my hotel had this sign and I had to run back for a picture.  

We can treat that...

24 April 2011

So much to do, so little time

Happy Easter, ya'll!  May all your eggs fit into one basket!

What day is it?  Did I remember to turn off the sprinklers?  What time zone are we in?

Back from the road once again and playing catch up.  Was good trip, everything went as planned but was a long flight out and back to LA.  I like Southwurst better than most of the other carriers, but still find it a pain to travel.  Flights went well, but all of them were packed.  People, please remember that you are strapped in a narrow seat inside a big metal tube hurtling through the skies with about 200+ other souls.  Two words come to mind:  deoderant & breathmints.  And kids and long plane rides planes don't always mix well.  Fortunately, as a Boy Scout, I came prepared (this is where an iPod/iPhone really pays for itself). 

Weather was cool and wet.  For once, California actually has some decent rainfall, not like my home state that is literally burning up in a drought.  

Hollywood at last!
Was able to make time Friday for a short trip down to Hollywood Boulevard to catch some sightseeing before heading out.
Grauman's Chinese Theater

One of my favorite stars

The Walk of Fame (extends for blocks in both directions)

LA has always been a bit "different" than other cities
You never know who you'll run into in Hollywood

The plaza in front of Grauman's

and for you, Mel, sign of another bat-shit crazy actor

18 April 2011

It's a zoo out there

Great weekend.  Fantastic weather, clear skies, cool temps, very low humidity.  Are we still in south Texas?  Spent as much time as I could outside.  Mowed the lawn again, still working of a few bushes, grilled some brats took the dogs to the park multiple times.

Lots going on down here.  This weekend was the annual BP MS 150 bike ride.  That's where you ride your bike from Houston to Austin, Texas to raise money for MS.  My nephew is in it this year (been doing it for 3 years now) and haven't heard how he did.  Takes two full days to do the trip.  Great time of year to do the ride.

Saturday was also our annual Epilepsy walk.  The local chapter has a "walk" to raise money for the Epilepsy foundation.  Since we provide a device that treats Epilepsy, the entire company is behind this effort.  All year long we have multiple fundraiser to collect money so we can hand over a big a$$ check at this event.  This year we hit our goal of $77,777 to the foundation.  All told, the foundation raised $195k this year.  They moved the walk to the zoo last year to encourage more participants.  Actually it is more of a meander than a walk.  You basically wander all over the zoo on a scavenger hunt to collect stamps or answer riddles (posted at certain areas throughout the zoo) and turn in your answers at the end for a prize.  Neat way of getting you to actually visit the zoo and the prizes weren't too shabby, either (two round trip airline tickets, an iPad, family membership to the zoo).

While I was there, took mucho pictures (forgot camera last year).  Even got a few of my co-workers enjoying themselves.

Did somebody say "cake"?

The office prima donna

One of the crusty old farts still holding on until retirement

Duuuude.  What a weekend!

One of the directors

Just the gang hanging around the water cooler 

I'm back out on the road again.  Packed up and ready to head out for a week in California.  Hollywood, here I come!  I'm ready for my close up, Mr DeMille... 

12 April 2011

Worked like a dog

Where the hell do they come up with these expressions?  If you spent time with my two dogs, you'd know that they don't work all that much.  Chase a squirrel. Run circles around the yard.  Challenge the occasional cat (and lose).  My two champions spend a good portion of the day enjoying my carpet (Claire is currently stretched out under my feet).  

But. like RC, I spent a good part of my weekend working around the house/yard and my back is complaining.  First off, we held a garage sale at work to collect funds for the Epilepsy Foundation.  We do lots of fundraisers and my group wanted to have a company garage sale.  Has been pretty successful in the past, but the rule is not to have them every year.  This year we only cleared $808 but it tool up most of the day.  I don't think we will repeat it next year as it seems to be more trouble that we yield.  I donated several items including a Singer sewing machine cabinet that fetched a nice $135 on a highest bid.  I kicked in three TVs and an old camcorder, but none of that sold.  So, I brought everything back home.  We've  done a few garage sales at the house and, IMHO, they are more of a PITA than you will gain in money.  Don't do them to make money, but only to get rid of things.   

Got up early Saturday to take the TVs and camcorder to the local thrift store.  I donated everything just to get rid of it.  Good sets, everything works, just older technology.  Sad part is I spent some good coin on the camcorder back in the day to record our son..  Now, you can get a cell phone that records better pictures for almost nothing.  Anyway, was nice to finally get rid of this junk.  Was kind of cathartic. 

Spent the rest of the day cleaning up the back yard.  I've been on a mission to clean up the leaves/catkins and rebuild one bed.   I built up one bed with flowers last year only to lose them to the cold temps.  This year, I am actually putting down edging bricks to outline the bed (never done that before).  Been buying the bricks 20 at a time from the local box store.  These are heavy stones and weigh down the truck when I load them up.  Started with 20 to see how I liked the look.  Was nice but only a single row did not look well, so back for anther 20.  That hit the spot, but it did not cover the whole bed, so back for another 30.  That covered the length of the bed but I still lacked enough for a double stack.  Went back on Saturday and got 16 (guesstimate) and it turned out to be exactly one brick over what I needed.  The engineer in me was just giddy with planning.  Of course, when I started, the bed was closer to the garage, but the bushes made it stick out too much (not in a straight line) so Saturday, I tore out the entire row and realigned it with a plumb line (I know, being a/r).   Finally laid in the bricks and filled in the beds.  Added a pallet of vinca to give some color and it looks nice.  Momma is much happier.  Of course, my back is still sore from the bending/lifting/raking, but that is the price you pay for getting old. 

Cleaned up the garage on Sunday and through out a bunch of old crap and clearing off my work bench.  The dogs loved spending the day outside in the yard with me although they were more interested in laying out in the sun.  Finally finished up the day with grilling some links I had marinated in some Shiner Bock.  I'm making progress on the yard, but is it slow.   The nice part of having junior in college is that we are no longer tied to the scout/soccer/baseball schedule and we have time for ourselves. 

07 April 2011

past Road Trips

I mentioned briefly of my earlier road trip to Tinseltown.  About 5 years ago junior was on the college circuit looking at various institutions to attend and spend my entire savings.  He was considering several high end academic institutions for his education.  MIT.  Carnegie Mellon.  Caltech.  All private schools.  All muy expensive. 

Now, I come from simplier stock.  I only had a few colleges that I was interested in and most were in Texas.  This was back in the days that, if you applied to one of these state schools and you could pay your bills, you were in.  Not like now where you have to have perfect grades and you have to apply to each university with a 3 page thesis on why you should go to the University of Overpaid Professors and Ugly Mascots.  My choices were down to two:  Stephen F Austin or Texas A&;M.  If I pursued my love of nature, I would have gone into Forestry and SF Austin was the place to be.  But, I am more of an Engineer by nature and blood.  Like to take things apart and put them back together.  Ergo, as an Engineer, A&M was one of the top Engineering Schools in Texas.  Besides, my dad and older brother went there, so it kinda ran in the family.  

Junior, on the other hand, followed a different path.  He was going for computers.  Most of the schools I listed before were the top placed for computer geeks, but, honestly, they were obscenely expensive.  I cringed at the tuition requirements, but I did not want to hold him back from his dream.  We took a road trip out to LA to check out Caltech in Spring 2006.  Great weather.  Got to tour the general area around Pasedena, CA.  Being an A/R sort, I planned ahead and score us some tickets to the Tonight Show (yes, we met Jay Leno).  We did Six Flags California, toured the Rose Bowl, did the Walk of Fame, oogled Grauman's Chinese, toured NASA JPL, got hit on by a hooker.  An outstanding road trip. 

Waiting to get into the Tonight Show

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Will try to score more pictures this time, if time allows.  Not sure I can do a good video, but I'll try.

06 April 2011

Road trips

April/May/June is already lining up to be a busy couple of weeks.

Looks like I am going back out on the road for a couple of supplier audits. Gotta spend a week in California just before Easter. Will have to go back out for a short hop in June. I am trying to pull together an audit trip to Germany some time this summer as well. On top of that, I'm planning a side trip to Austin/San Antonio in May. Something about attending a graduation ceremony for some college student.

Normally, I look forward to these audits with about as much enthusiasm as going to the dentist. The California trip is turning into a typical PITA to organize - three suppliers to audit, three auditors to manage (can you say babysit?), logistics on how to get there, where to stay, car rental, etc.  Oh, sure, traveling out to the sunny west coast sounds like fun, but I am the leader of this little expedition and the success or failure of it falls upon my shoulders, so I am highly motivated to make this work. I've done a few of these, so I will pull it off, but, still, it is about as easy as herding cats. Not really jazzed on this trip until I finally realized exactly where we would be. Southern California? San Fernando? North LA? Burbank? Anyone want to guess what’s in the neighborhood?  

How about a clue?

My son and I were actually out in LA a few years back while on the college hunt and we got down to Grauman's Chinese and the Walk of Fame.   Did not get a good shot of this sign at the time.  Since I typically run these treks, I try to plan some extra time for exploration of the area.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll spot someone famous. 

04 April 2011

Fighting with the trees

Spring is here.
Spent a good portion of my weekend trying to recover the yard. It's my annual futile attempt to bring life back into the yard after a cold, dry winter. I mow, fertilize, spray, trim, rake, water, rebuild beds. But given the bugs, the heat, the drought and two large, highly prolific dogs, I might be more successful if I just paved over the yard (like a co-worker did).

This year I am trying to build up one of the beds with stone so I can replant the Vinca that died out in the last freeze. Almost 1/2 way done.

One of my challenges is with my trees. We set up camp at this house back in 1990 and there were a number of trees already on the lot. Five Arizona Ash in the front/side yard, one plum tree and one live oak in the back yard. Over the years, I've taken out three of the Ash trees and the plum (died due to freeze damage and disease). Replaced the side trees with two live oaks and one Bradford Pear on the side yard. In hindsight, we should have only put in two trees given that the oaks will probably overshadow the pear some day. I used to be an amateur arborist. Loved trees. At one point, I was going to major in Forestry but chose to be an engineer. I love trees, but some I am not a big fan of. Arizona Ash are in that category. They are cheap trees that builders plant at new houses to give the appearance of greenery. The builder planed a ton of them all over the neighborhood when this subdivision was being build back in the 70's. They are very messy trees with nasty habits. Drop leaves 3 times a year (and not just a few leaves). In spring, when they bud out, the drop all their seedlings all over the roof/driveway/yard. They have a bad root system and are prone to cause foundation problems and disease. They are also very "twiggy" and drop twigs all over the place. I typically spend big $$ to have them trimmed every few years, but they thrive on the attention. The two trees I have left are gargantuan and not easy to take out. I had a third mammoth on the side of the house (less than 5 feet from the breakfast room) that we took out 10 years back because it was dying and we were afraid that it might topple over during a high wind/hurricane.

In the back yard there is basically one huge Live Oak. This one has been my favorite, although it is a bit root bound. This is a very mature tree that covers most of the yard and has withstood several storms/hurricanes/bugs/squirrels. This tree stays green/full all winter long but around spring, drops all its leaves. Within about 2 weeks, the tree drops everything and starts sprouting new leaves.  One of the byproducts of this oak are the catkins.  Those are the fuzzy looking fronds that fall off the tree.  Started about three weeks ago and it has been raining catkins ever since.   

The male catkins of post oak release millions of pollen grains when they flower every spring.

Maybe it's the drought, maybe it was the hard freeze back in January, but we are being buried under a ton of these things.  I clear off the back patio only to have it completely covered within a day or two.  And every time the dogs go out, they seem to be covered in this stuff and bring it back in the house with them.  We're having to vacuum twice a day just to keep the floors clear.  On top of the mess, these produce a lot of oak pollen which is driving my hayfever through the roof.  Was up on the roof Sunday trying to blow off the accumulation and had to use a surgical mask just to breath.  These should pass in another week or two, but we really need a good rain and wind to clear the tree out.  A few years back after Hurricane Ike, we had a bumper crop of acorns, but they weren't as annoying as these catkins. 

01 April 2011

You are what you eat

It sucks getting old.

Not too long ago, I used to be bullet proof (or so I thought). I could eat anything, drink anything, smoke cigars, dip snuff, without any consequences. Back in college, I could eat two pizzas, down a liter of coke, a pitcher of beer and still go out for some dancing at the Sparky's. I could easily drink two six packs of Lone Star (The State Beer of Texas) at night and still get up 0700 and stagger off to class. Now if I drink a lite beer past 8 o'clock at night, I have to get up at 0200 to go pee. My standard breakfast used to be 2-3 sausage biscuits drenched with picante sauce. Now I have to take Prilosec in advance if I even think I am going to eat something spicy. In Germany, the frou and I used to be regular wine connoisseurs. We did a number of trips to the wine region along the Rhine and Mosel river to local wineries. Did numerous wine tastings and brought home cases of wine. Now, if I have even one glass of Merlot or Cabernet, I am up all night with heartburn. Jalapenos used to be my favorite topping at Whataburger, now I cannot even look at one of those little green suckers without getting indigestion.

Last week we had a chili cook off at work as part of our fundraiser effort. I did ok as long as I prepped for it and did not eat too much chili (shied away from the Chili Sheen team - Duh!). They even had a jalapeno eating and root beer chugging contest (winners get an extra day off). The winner of the jalapeno contest downed 8 (eight/ocho/ocht) medium jalapenos (medium in size, but uber hot). Made me cringe to think of the poor guy the next day. Jalapenos is one of those "payback" foods - you wind up paying for it later.

You learn to adapt as you get older. I no longer eat pepperoni on pizza. Will shy away from jalapenos & habaneros and tend to skip the cilantro. Greasy foods are kryptonite to me. Even alcohol needs to be regulated. Even at night, I tend to watch what I eat or how late I eat so it does not affect me later. Thought I was doing ok last night. I only had a chicken pot pie (old childhood favorite) last night for dinner. Not sure if it was that or the vodka tonic that I had (been a long week), but I was up 1/2 the night with some serious butt-kicking heartburn. Doubled up on the Prilosec, popped some tums, drank milk - nothing I took seemed to help. The only relief I got was to sleep sitting up, but even that was minor. Finally dropped off around 0230 only to get up at 0400 to get ready for work. Even now, I am still urping. You'd think, after all these years, I would know better.