30 October 2012


Lest ya’ll think we are all just about figurines and beer steins, over the years we have acquired a few nick-knacks or collectibles from our various travels (not all limited to Germany).
  • Hummels
  • Lladro
  • Wood carvings
  • Beer mugs/steins
  • Volksmarch medals/plates/trophies
  • Wine tasting glasses
  • Wine/Beer labels (have a book of various vintages/vinyards)
  • Coasters
  • Match books
  • Mardis Gras beads/Pat O'Brien Glasses
  • Clocks (from Germany)
  • Walking sticks with shields
  • Quilts
  • Power Rangers (son)
  • Beanie Babies (son)
  • 5k running shirts

Long ago, back in the days before kids, we had something really rare:  Spare time and Disposable income.  We used to fritter away our money on silly little things like trips to the Nuremberg Christmas Market or the Heidelberg Castle or touring the wine country along the Rhine River and Mosel River valley.  We would collect stuff from these trips as souvenirs or memorabilia. We've now reached that stage where it has become clutter or crap you pass down to your children.  If we had just a few more Hummels or beer steins, we might qualify for a Horder's episode. 

Each of the nick-knacks has a story.  Some saga or information we will recall many years from now when we are in the nursing home.  

To answer everyone's burning question about my hunting mug:  It is a trick mug constructed in a fashion that only the owner is able to drink out of it without spilling the liquid over himself.  There's a secret/trick to drinking out of it and it will cost you a beer for me to share it with you.  I may be easy, but I'm not cheap.  The other version designed for the married hunter has a couple dancing (ballroom style) etched into the bottom, but I never got that one.  Methinks my version was a bit more popular.

ShadowRun300, I am still amazed we might have shared some the same ground in Deutschland back in the 80s.  I'd love to share more about some of your in country stories.  Small world.  I have probably said this ad nauseum on many older postings, but we lived in southern Germany from early 1980 until late 1984.  We wound up serving served during the first Reagan term.  Stationed in a little Infantry post in Boeblingen Germany (south of Stuttgart), we spend 4+ really great years.  Many wild stories, lots of good/bad memories, incredible experience.  The one single piece of advice we got from a fellow officer that we took to heart:  Get out and explore the countryside every chance you can get.  We took every opportunity, every minute to get away from post and get lost.   

Getting back to normal

Finally have internet service for more than two days in a row.  Well, sort of.  Logged on this morning and halfway through my e-mails, it dropped the signal (several cuss words ensued).  After 15-20 minutes, it came back on only to drop it again 30 minutes later (whole new round of cussing).  Called into my friends at Comcast to chew some internet ass.  Sorry, but my patience has been worn down to a nub at this point.  I even told the woman that I was expecting a discount for this month's bill since I have been without the net for most of a week.  Foolishly, she tried to defend the outage by indicating that it was due to equipment on my end (the splitter was bad), but I gently informed her that this was the same freaking hardware that THEY installed 10 years ago and, if it was having problems with the all digital conversion, then perhaps they shouldn't have made the conversion.  Not really a conversation I wanted to have at 0500 in the morning.

Despite that, I am on line and able to do stuff again.  

Trying to catch up with all my blog friends, newsletters, e-mails.  

To answer everyone's question from a few days ago, yes this is a Hummel.  Actually, that should have been easy since the MI Hummel name is stamped on the side (I didn't see it when I posted it).  This one is one of a "few" we collected while stationed over in Germany and it is called "Ride into Christmas".   

For those who are not into these figurines, these are ceramic figurines that were made in Germany.  Some of the earlier versions are considered collectibles and very valuable.  Our collection is more middle of the road.  When we were stationed over in Germany in the 80s, we would spend the weekends exploring the local towns and countrysides.  Back then, we were regular DINKS (dual income, no kids).  With all that disposable income and free time and, since we were so far from home and family, we engaged in various activities.  Hiking, volksmarches, cooking, wine tasting, traveling, photography, etc.  Whenever we were out traveling, we would collect souvenirs of our journeys.  My wife would pick up the occasional Hummel or LLadro figurines and, over the years, we amassed a small army. 

Of course, I never had any interest in collecting figurines.  I acquired more functional memorabilia.   

My division 
 BTW - these aren't mugs, they are called Steins.   

My division 
The last one is probably my favorite and the most interesting.  It is a genuine German Hunter's stein that has an interesting twist to it.  Can anyone spot what might be wrong with this stein?

And, of course, being genuine German, the story is that there are two versions of the mug - one for the bachelor and one for the married hunter.  Each one has a translucent figure stamped at the bottom of the mug that can be seen if held up to the light as the stein is drained.  Of course, I wound up getting the bachelor's version.   

28 October 2012

Urban Market

Absolutely gorgeousness day.  Lite breeze, clear skies, temps hovering around the low 60s.  Really great day to ride the back roads on your two wheeler.  Makes me really long for that  Harley. 

Took the dogs to the Urban Market this morning.  2nd time we've done this gig and this one was a bit cooler.  Last time was back in May when it was hot and dry.  This one was a lot better.  Dogs loved the cooler weather and mild temps.  Just like last May, we have a booth at a local market where they sell antiques and art and old stuff.  Just like last time, the Urban Market is:   "The Urban Market Houston Antique Show is an Extraordinary Outdoor Antique Market held three times a year in Houston. A fabulous collection of dealers, designers, and shop owners with spectacular antiques, furniture, and home decor at unbelievable deals!"  Lots of interesting/old stuff to buy.  Our rescue group as been a regular fixture at this gig for a couple of years, promoting our group/service and educating people about what we do.  

As usual, the dogs were the hit of the market, with everyone just falling over them with all sorts of attention.  My two were naturals in this gig, with Claire being the attention hog.  

Great day, lots of fun, lots of attention given/gotten.  These dogs live for this kind of attention/affection.  


Terri pegged it.  The fear of getting rained on.  

My two don't have any qualms about getting wet.  As a matter or record, from the first day we got Grayson, he has always sought wet spots any place he can.  The wetter, the better.  Claire, always the lady, has been a bit more circumspect about getting wet.  She'll get in, but only after everyone else has done it.  

Last weekend was a bit different.  Claire actually spent more time in the pond than Grayson.  Not sure if it was all the other dogs or the warm temps or the allure of the muddy pond water.  

Just add some long hair and muddy water, mix thoroughly 
Synchronized dog swimming
Gutter dog

Mud dog
Last year's picture
Now, when it comes to rain, that is a whole other story.  When the weather turns foul, these two can sense it well before the first drop of rain or the first crack of thunder.  Grayson has the typical thunder phobia that most dogs have.  Whenever there is thunder and lightening, he will pace and try to hide.  He doesn't go all Marley crazy like some dogs do, but he ain't happy.  Claire, on the other hand, whenever there's thunder, will find a dark corner in the house and hide out.  She has hid out under the desk, tucked herself in the corner of the office, crawled under the bed (neat trick for a big dog), and burrowed in the corner of the closet.  I even found her tucked into a laundry basket at times (sort of overflows the basket).  

When it is raining out, Claire will absolutely refuse to go out.  She'll stick her nose out the door and if she feels one drop, it is back inside for her.  No matter how much I try to coax her, she refuses to come out.  Grayson will not readily go out, but if I lead him out or go out with him, he will finally go out to do his business and then come back in all wet and happy.  There has been a few early mornings I have had to stand out in the back yard getting soaked while trying to cajole the dogs to come out.  I imagine it is amusing to my neighbors to see me standing out in the side yard in the pouring rain under a golf umbrella trying to get Claire to do her business.  Grayson will relent when he has to go, but Claire is a typical stubborn redhead and seems to have the stamina of a camel and will hold it for a very long time.  It becomes a contest of wills and more than often she wins.  Our old dog, Shadow was a bit different.  He didn't like the rain any more than Grayson, but he did learn to adapt.  Whenever it was pouring, he would go out the side door alongside the garage where the roof overhung the beds.  He could stand in the ground cover and pee and not get wet.  Still not sure where he learned that trick, but I would love to teach that to the other two.      

Shadow during a thunderstorm

27 October 2012

Heeeeere's Johnny!

Ok, folks, I'm back on line.  Don't ask me how or why, but when I woke up this morning and found we have 4 lights on the router.  And the technician appointment is still for tomorrow afternoon.  I secretly feel that there is some sick, twisted, evil gremlin in the system that knows when the service technician is coming and then, MIRACULOUSLY, the system heals itself.  Kind of like when you take your car into the shop to fix that "noise" and the noise disappears (and the mechanic looks at you like you are all sorts of stupid).  This has done this to us before.  Had an outage before I was going to Manila and had booked an appointment but when the system cured itself I cancelled the appointment.  I did call Comcast again last night and really leaned into the CS guy (Shane) about the Sunday date and how I had been without a net since Monday and Is Sunday the Best you Guys Can Do?  He was, as with the rest, very apologetic and swore he would contact the local technician office and they would call me back in an hour to see if they could help.  Sat down to watch my latest NetFlix sucky choice:  Contraband (totally forgettable) and, after three hours, gave up on them (not that I had high expectations anyway).  So far, no call, but the net is working.  This time, I am going to keep the appointment tomorrow to see if the technician can figure out what the heck is the problem.        

Thanks for everyone's sympathy/well wishes.  We had been without the net I had almost reverted back to barbarism (reading the paper, watching the home shopping network, going to the library, etc.).  At least I don't have to resort to posting my blog via iPhone (for now).  It was a bit of a challenge, but in keeping with my mantra:  Improvise, Adapt & Overcome (ok, I stole that from the Marines) and I learned to work around the system.  Not to bore everyone with the details, but, basically, in order to post to my blog, I would write my blog notes in an e-mail to my yahoo account and then capture the note from my iPhone when I had a WiFi signal and post up on my blog.  And posting via that tiny screen is "interesting" to say the least.  That's why you see some repeated lines or mis-spellings.  Hard to correct some of my words after they have posted.  And forget about posting pictures (I ain't mastered that trick, yet).    

So, now I am playing catch up with everyone's blogs.  Been trying to read and comment via the iPhone, but it's been hard to keep up.  Especially with the frequent fliers (sorry Abby but your security password is hard to navigate from my phone).  

In the interim, getting back to something I started before I flew off to the Philippines last week - random pictures.  Anyone recognize this figurine?  I took this picture while on the phone with the Comcast service guy.   

Extra points if you can give me the actual name of this one  

26 October 2012

Still blinking

Houston, we have a problem. 

Yes I am still waiting for the all the lights to come on.  When I get home, I check the mail, let the dogs out, toss the coffee cup in the sink, and check the router.  If we don’t have 4 solid lights, that means no internet.  Been watching blinking lights ever since Sunday evening and I am way past frustrated.  I’ve even got the Comcast number on speed dial.  You have to wade through the typical automated response minutes before you can reach a real, live body.

  • No I don’t want to access the system En EspaƱol.
  • Yes, I know that I can check the status of my account on line (if I had online access, I wouldn’t be listening to frackin’ this message). 
  • No I don’t need help with my digital transition. 
  • No, I am not interested in the Xfinity package. 
  • Yes, I have tried to reset my router through the automated system.

After about 3-4 minutes of listening to various questions or commercials or elevator music, I finally reach a Customer Service rep.  Not sure where they are sitting, but have gotten a different voice every time.  Matt last night was, as usual, very cordial and professional, but, after 2+ days of isolation, I am a wee bit testy (my wife would say I have my AH hat on), but I try my best to be professional or at least civil.

  • Yes, Matt, I have no internet. 
  • No, there is no connection. 
  • Yes the cable is attached firmly to the wall/router.
  • No I don’t want to reset it (since I have already done it twice). 
  • Yes, Matt, I understand you are very sorry that I am having these issues.
  • Yes, I would like to have a technician come out to look at the freakin box. 
  • Sunday?  Really?  You mean I have to wait for ANOTHER 5 days before I can update my Facebook page or read everyone’s blog?  What am I supposed to do in the interim?  Talk with my wife?  Walk the dogs?  Watch more crappy tv?  Read a book?  Do another Sudoku puzzle?  Honestly, Matt, I’ve been without internet for days/weeks and I am getting highly frustrated.  Yes, I know you are sorry, but is there anything I can do to get an earlier appointment? 
  • Honestly, who do I have to kill or sleep with to get some@#$*@$  internet?

No, I did not say all of that, but I am getting close to that point.  I will have to give them some credit, Comcast has trained their service reps to be diplomatic/calm in the face of some very irate callers. 

And so it goes.  Sitting here in the virtual dark having to steal some bandwidth from the neighbor’s wifi and cruise the net via my iPhone.  And real the tragedy is that I found my muse and I have three posts in bag ready to post (with pictures).  Travel tips, crappy movies, vacation hints, more pictures from the dog picnic.  I’ve got another dog event this weekend – Urban Market.  We set up a booth at a local antique market and wander around letting everyone see/pet/play with the dogs (just what Golden Retrievers were made for).  Claire loves these events – more chances for her to be the center of attention.            

25 October 2012

Blinking lights

Once again, I am trying to blog from a tiny iPhone screen because my cable service is not cooperating.  Ever since Sunday evening, all I have is a blinking light on the router which usually translates into no Internet.  Sorry for no more pictures or reports from the road trip to Mana last week.  Trying to keep up with everyone's blogs from the iPhone's a real beyotch.  Hope to be back up soon but he EARLIEST I can get a technician out to the house is Sunday....

21 October 2012

Picnic (sans the rain)

Once again, it was time for our annual Golden Beginnings Golden Retrievers group annual picnic this afternoon.  I had made plans to attend if my road trip to Manila came out well.  This is the 4th annual picnic we have attended since we got joined the group and got Grayson and each year is another adventure.  Good food, lots of dogs, great weather.  This year was a drier than last year (no rain), but still wound up with a bunch of wet dogs.  

Who loves that "wet dog smell?"
Doggie heaven

I'm not afraid of you guys...

These people know how to seriously party.
Gulf Coast Shrimp

You talkin' to me?

The whole tribe
Definitely a wild group

Oh, yeah.  This is my kind of party.  

Does this look like I am having fun?
And, of course, when we finally get home, somebody has to guard the fortress from the invading horde...

20 October 2012

Me travel long time

Travel can be fun.  You get to see lots of new sights, meet interesting people, visit exotic lands, eat strange food.  It can also be a real pain in the ass.  Long flights, cramped plane seats, long lines, cab drivers who rip you off for 2x the fare, sitting on your glutes for 8+ hours, the plane is either sweltering or freezing, you have good old Ms Bighair who cranks her seat back into your lap, the one time you really, really have to pee, that's when the pilot decides to fly through turbulence and makes everyone stray in their seats for a looooong while.  

Back home after a very long trip and a very short, but fruitful audit.  I was adding up the miles in my head on the plane back and I realized that we spent as much time in the air or at the airport as we did in Manila.  Three long flights with very little time on the ground in between flights.  Added two new airports to my list of destinations.  Honolulu and Manila.  I've done Honolulu once before on our trip to Maui.  Nice airport, but it is weird to me to see an open air set up (no windows).  The Manila airport was definitely at the bottom of my list of places not to visit.  Long lines, surly agents, dirty, general chaos, everything had a price.  We even had to pay an exit fee (540 Pisos) to leave the country.  Found it interesting that one of the main news stories on the local news channel was how the airport had moved UP on the ranking of worst airport.  It was no longer the worst airport in the world, just in Asia.      

We really didn't have much time outside of the audit and we didn't get back to the hotel until late.  Unfortunately, that means no Balut this trip (dang it!).  We did go to an authentic Chinese restaurant for Peking Duck and Kobe beef.  With an hour to kill before we headed to the airport, but it was basically wandering around the downtown mall next to the hotel.  Nothing you could see at a local mall over here.  On the way to/from the plant, we tried to take pictures of some of the sights.  Lots of jeepney's, trykes, general traffic congestion.  Amazing how people can navigate the roads over there without major injuries or accidents.  We came to believe that the lanes on the roads were more a general guideline, not a hard rule to follow.  Still, an interesting trip.  Wish we had more time to explore the area outside of Manila.  

typical Jeepneys we spotted on the streets of Manila
Another Jeepney - they were hundreds of them all over town
Another Jeepney 

A demolition site next to the hotel.  Watched the guys as they removed the debris, rubble and did general clean up.  From what I could tell, I believe that several were living there as they worked the site. 

Security dog at the hotel that sniffs for explosives in guest luggage.
Sort of reminded me of some other "Custard" looking dog.. 

Crossing the International Dateline
Some cheesy looking mannequin at the airport gift shop.    

Airport gift shop - see any interesting gifts you might want to take home to the family?

How about now?