30 April 2012

Weekend fun

I'm still playing catch up from last week.  Took advantage of the great weather and spent most of my time in the yard this weekend trying to bring it back to life.  Last year's drought did a number on the grass and a few bushes and I am working to recover or replace some.  I'm planning to bring in a truckload of mulch and rebuild the beds in the back.  Last year I bought some Pavestone border blocks for one of the beds and I am planning to try a 2nd bed this year.  I wound up trimming the bushes back on Saturday.  Did the lawn yesterday, dogs loved spending the day outside.  Someday I hope to add a sprinkler system so I don't have to get up at 0400 every morning to move the sprinkler.    

We attended a BBQ cook off Saturday night.  Scored some VIP passes to a cook off for the local Ronald McDonald House. Some really nice BBQ from different teams, cold beer and a couple of great Texas bands (Roger Creager).  We haven't done a cook off in a while.  Each team has their own specialty to cook that you just had to sample.  Of course, everything was off the bone good, but after about 3 plates of brisket, ribs, chicken poppers, beans and potato salad, we were pretty much tapped out.     

Wedding update - Stephen and Rebecca were in town this weekend to meet with more wedding logistics.  .  The church and reception hall are locked down, now they are working on cake places.  They went to two tastings on Saturday and met with the minister on Sunday.  Lots of things to plan/arrange for their big day.  They are looking for a DJ and photographer next.  I don't recall all this chaos around our shindig, but, then again, it was almost 32 years ago and a lot of water has gone under that bridge.  From what they are gathering, each visit opens up a new avenue for expenses.  

Transformer Groom's Cake

What's your preference?

More Groom's Cake
Some of the groom's cakes were more expensive than the wedding cake.  

And they have settled on a destination for their honeymoon.  Care to guess where they are heading?  Sunny Caribbean?  Hawaii?  Southern Spain?  Europe?    

Nope - they've elected to go to ........ Sweden & Norway.  It's all about the Fjords.  

25 April 2012

A sign of the times

Whew!  It's been a busy two weeks.  I've been trying to sit down and bang out a few words, but nothing seemed to stick.  So, just for the sake of brevity, I will hit the highlights over the past week or so.

I'm back to juggling cats again.  Since we last chatted, I've been fighting with the taxman (lost cause), conducted two supplier audits (local), working to wrap up several key (but late) projects before our year end (this week), attended a scotch tasting extravaganza, went camping at a local state park with the wife, two dogs and some amorous alligators, been looking at a new set of wheels, working on getting quotes for a new driveway, planing a day trip to the hill country for some bluebonnet shots, almost got another dog, was making plans to attend an old swap meet in North Texas that I haven't been to in 10+ years.  Hmmm.  And I thought that, when the kid left, things would slow down.  I could expound upon each of these ad nauseum, but I'll let y'all tell me which story you'd rather hear about.         

In the meanwhile, I'll regale you with a minor thought of mine that's been on the tip of my tongue.  If you drive a lot (and I know some of you do), you see lots of things on the road that draw your attention.  Wrecks, traffic jams, moving/rolling billboards, flying advertisements, political signs, roadrageous acts, thunderstorms, stupid drivers, etc.  Things that tend to make the trip interesting.  Of course, some signs we take for granted.  You see them day after day, year after year, on your normal commute.  They become part of the background, a landmark you use to mentally mark your trip.  I tend to use these like orienteering markers in my travels so I don't have to refer to the map (or the Garmin).  Houston's has had it's fair share of cultural icons/landmarks.  The Astrodome (now rotting away), Astroworld (now gone), the Galleria, Transco Tower, Herman Park, the Beer Can House, Johnson Space Center, the Orange Show, all tend to lend to the character of the city.  It sadden me to read the other day that one of our cultural icons is gone.  For many years, there was a company sign posted on a small building overlooking the southwest freeway.  Billboard sized, at 25 feet long, it was one of those overly large, tacky neon jobs that advertised the company's business.  It stood out day and night as a beacon in the sky on a spot on the freeway that, in my mind, marked the point where the uptown area started.  We've grown used to seeing it as we passed by at 70+ MPH on our way into the city.  A few years ago, the sign was taken down as part of a company name change and renovation.  The company had said it was going to refurb it and put it back up, but, alas, that was not to be.  I just heard a few weeks ago that the sign, which has been sitting in a warehouse for a few years, was sold off for scrap and dismantled.  To some, it was an ugly, tacky sign that cluttered up the landscape.  To a few of us, it was part of the unique, sometimes weird background that the city interesting.
Tacky or Chic?

15 April 2012

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

Another one in the bag.  It’s that time again for the after action report from the Epilepsy Walk.  Each year my company conducts numerous fundraising events from a chili cook off to a tailgating party to Superbowl squares to a gold tournament to various raffles to charity donations tied to the marathon to sneaky jeans passes to silent auctions.  All of those efforts culminate in one donation to the Epilepsy Foundation that we hand over at the annual fundraising walk/stroll.  Every year in spring, they hold the walk in various locations throughout Texas (Dallas, San Antonio, Houston) to spur donations to Epilepsy research and treatment.  Last few years, the walk has been held in the Houston Zoo.  It is not really a walk, but more of an amble/stroll/saunter as you mosey the zoo grounds for a couple of hours until the big wrap up event at 1100 where they announce the results and have the drawings for the big prizes.  We did pretty well this year in twisting arms for donations.  Through the efforts of many people, the company was able to hand over one of those Publisher’s Clearing House sized checks for – (drum roll, please).............$100,000.  Not too bad for a year's work. 

As with the past events, there was a very good turnout.  Hard to determine the exact number of participants.  From the website, our team had over 700 people signed up for our team alone and there were supposed to be 2000+ people total signed up for the stroll, but it did not look anywhere near 2k there yesterday.  Our team wore red shirts – a good call since we could easily identify everyone in the zoo with that color.  No matter where we went in the zoo, you were always seeing red.  We even had a number of former NFL players there signing autographs and you could have your picture taken with a couple of Texans Cheerleaders.  All for a good cause.

Prestroll registration pandemonium

Up with the chickens

Future cheerleader

You lookin' at me, bub?

Hanging around the water cooler

Bored Leopard

An old married couple?

Looking at him reminded me of Abby's picture

Albino Alligator

Hanging out with my litter mates
Now, I have said before, I am not a big fan of zoos.  Something about lions and tigers and the larger animals caged up in pens has always seemed slightly depressing to me.   The Houston zoo has done a nice job of developing areas for the animals that is supposed to simulate their natural habitat, so it is not the old tiger in the cage venue of the past, but I still can’t help but thinking they would be much happier, if not hungrier, in the wild.  It may be that I no longer have kids to accompany me in the zoo.  Something about seeing all those exotic animals up close and in person brings out the kid in a lot of people. 

And it what's a zoo without a pirate? 

And, in keeping my winning streak intact, NO, I didn't wind the $!@#% i-Pad3 (again).   

11 April 2012

Type cast

It's been one of those weeks (again).  Lots of deadlines/projects at the office, no time to slack off.  It seems like I am juggling chainsaws at times.  I haven't had the time to get in my lunch runs like I want to, so I guess that's making me a wee bit cranky of late.  

But, while I was working up another presentation over lunch, I did take a break to hop on line and read the latest news.  While perusing the local channel over lunch, I spotted a story that struck my funny bone.     

What a man's dog says about him
A man's best friend reveals much about his personality

The story basically goes on to explain how to gauge a man's suitability by looking at the type of dog he owns.  I guess it is trying to give pointers on how to find out if you're compatible with a guy by looking at his dog.  One of those "potential mate" tests, I suppose.  Funny premise that caught my eye, but as I read into it, I uncovered the first dog at the top of the list:

Golden retriever: Settle down with this stable-minded guy

A guy who owns a golden retriever is pretty much guaranteed to be drama-free and stable.
This man is ready to settle down. He probably figures he's already got the family dog, so why not just add the family?  The man who chooses such a canine is likely pretty down to earth and calm. People with this type of dog usually enjoy a lifestyle that includes taking relaxed walks and just being active in the great outdoors.  These dogs are known to be lovable and warm-hearted, just like their owners. Guys with this breed value their devoted companions as much as they value the idea of a shared life. If you are lucky enough to find a guy with a Goldie, snatch him up quickly before someone else does.

Not sure how to take that.  I never pictured myself as a "stable minded" kind of guy.  And if the dog is supposed to be a measure of the guy, I would guess I come off as pretty weird.  

07 April 2012

Movie time

It is rare that I go to the movies anymore.  With 4000 channels on cable, Netflix and streaming movies, why go pay $7-10 to watch a big screen?  Normally, I wait the 4-6 months afterwards for it to hit Netflix.  The last one I saw in the big house was the last Harry Potter movie.  I've followed that series (both in book and on screen) since my son got hooked on it years ago and kind of had to watch the last movie to wrap up the saga.  I was going to go see the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in the theaters, but I just waited until it was available from Netflix.  I read the books and even watched the original movies that were made in Sweden (with subtitles).  The Swedish movies were a good rendition of the books and I wanted to see how Hollywood did.  Not sure I would have cast Daniel Craig in the Mikael Blomkvist role, but he kinda makes it believable.  As you might surmise, I like to read the stories before I watch a movie.  I prefer to understand the story before it gets boiled down into a 2.5 hour visual saga.  Sometimes it helps explain the gaps, or gives more details than the story provides, but some times it turns out disappointing.  To me, it is a crap shoot going to see a movie when you've read the book  - not how I would have imagined the story to unfold or they leave out key subplots or they cast some big name actor who in no way looks or sounds like the main characters or, even worse, they change the ending.  

With those thoughts in mind, I fell in line for the latest movie trend - I went to Hunger Games.  I've been reading all the hoopla building up to the release and the stories of the characters.  Heck, with as much press as this one's been getting, you almost don't even have to go to the movies to see it, you almost get the whole story.  Still, I wanted to invest 2.5 hours of my life to see how this plays out on the big screen.  Before I went, I decided to get the book at plow through it.  Since I don't have a Kindle or iPad, I typically buy a paperback version and start reading.  Usually, I reserve these reads for when I am traveling and get stuck in the airport or on a long flight.  This one was a fairly easy/simple read.  Good narrative, good character development, nice plot lines.  Hooks the reader early and keeps a fast pace.  I have not been a Suzanne Collins fan, but I might have to look up some of her books for future reads.  The movie was, IMHO, an excellent representation    of the book.  They pretty much stuck to the story line with some minor omissions left out for time.  I found it interesting that they did add some subplots or stories that were not in the book that complimented the story.  Some might say they did it to explain points to the audience who hadn't read the book, but I thought it was OK.  Definitely will have to how the next two books/movies pan out.  

Oh, and BTW, one of the reasons I DON'T typically go to the theaters before (aside of cost), is all the previews shown before the main movie.  Movie time was listed at 1040 yesterday and I was running late and did not get to my seat until 1045.  They showed 20 minutes of trailers/ads before the movie kicked off at 1100.  One trailer caught my eye and had me laughing, or to apply the overused Internet phrase ROFLMAO.  You thought you knew your Civil War history?  Coming this summer to a movie theater near you: 

05 April 2012

Driving me crazy

Rant Alert

I drive a fair bit every day to work.  About 32 miles one way from one side of the town to the other that takes me about 45 minutes to complete, give or take a light or two.  Most of it is highway/toll road driving, so I am not stuck in stop & go traffic any length of time.  Most of the time I am cruising at 70+ on a toll road and I am not the fastest driver by any means. Most days it is fairly boring/mundane, but each day provides a new adventure.  Accidents, road rage, bad weather, stuck traffic lights, all contribute to help start or end the day.  Monday seemed like it was Clown day.  Three times, THREE TIMES, I was almost hit on the toll road and ALL three had the same problem - idiots behind the wheel.  The first candidate (to be removed from the gene pool) was driving a very nice Lexus G35.  70 MPH, left lane of the toll road (I'm in the right) he drifts into my lane 3 times.  Of course, my radar instantly goes off and I am on high alert until I can get past this genius.  Figuring he is having a heart attack or there is a bee in the car or he has to go pee, when I finally manage to pull alongside of him to pass, I glance over to see this numb nuts driving, holding the wheel while texting on his blackberry.  I so wanted to NASCAR his a%% right into the wall, but figured that wouldn't be socially acceptable, so I pass him up.  The next candidate was a woman driving a Toyota Corolla who pulled onto the road from the right side.  As she drifted over into my lane, I thought to myself, "Am I a just a magnet for these asshats?"  Of course, as I passed her, I can see she was trying to check her e-mail on her iPhone.  Some people shouldn't be let out of kindergarten (just my opinion).  The final contestant decided to ride my bumper me at 75 MPH for several miles.  Now, keep in mind I drive a big land barges/SUV vehicle that weighs in at around 7000+ lbs and your little POS Buick is about 1/2 of that.  Drafting me at 75+ MPH might work well in NASCAR, but on the wet toll road in heavy traffic is probably not the most intelligent choice you can make today.  I so want to stomp on my brakes just to get a rise out of you, but I'm told that's not the mature thing to do.  I strive to be a patient man, but the Lord likes to test me at times.     

I am used to my daily commute, it is almost therapeutic to unwind from a rough day at the office, but there are days where I envy those who travel by two wheels to get where they need to be.    

04 April 2012

Running wild

OK, Mel carded me.  It's been a week + since I posted up anything.  I was going to say "anything meaningful" but that would probably have been a few years since that's happened.  I'd like to say that my absence is due to making arrangements for my windfall fortune in winning the recent MegaPowerball lottery last week ($460 million), but, alas, we missed out on the winning ticket by just a few numbers (like 5).  I would claim that I am busy with work, but after reading ShadowRun300 working ungodly hours sans potty breaks, I cannot make that claim.  I could fain illness/injury, but hangovers don't count and I've been in good shape.  I could claim that I have been working hard on my dissertation like some old rock star who starting a rabbit farm, or trying to figure out who's going commando at the gym or dealing with sex changes and pond scum, but that would be stretching the truth a bit.  

In reality, I don't have a good excuse aside of being a bit lazy.  Work's still kicking my butt, but it pays the bills, keeps me off the streets, and is definitely not boring.  Last couple of weeks it feels like a circus around here and I'm the guy in charge of clean up after the elephant parade.  

Here's a shock.  I didn't win the lottery.  Was doing pretty well in ignoring the whole hoopla up to the last weekend, when several people at the office banded together to buy a block of tickets.  I figured it was worth a ten spot to kick in just to make sure I wasn't that lone guy who didn't join in when the rest of the group won the lottery.  I figured our chances were about as good as getting hit by lightening (twice), but, as they say in Vegas, you lose 100% of the bets you don't make.  Oh well, will have to postpone getting the Porsche for another year.  

Doing some e-mail clean up, I got tagged for a reminder for the sign up for the Dad's Day 5k in June.  It is a 5K run in downtown Houston I ran last year on the Saturday before weekend of Father's day tied that is tied to collecting money for Prostate Cancer research / treatment.  It's dedicated to people who have had or have prostate cancer.  I spotted it last year when I was getting my new shoes at the running store and, since I am a charter member of that club, I signed up.  I figured that I could do a 5K on on a flat Houston street before breakfast without breaking a sweat. Forgot to account for the fact it was in Houston in the middle of June.  Starting temperature was 85 and humidity was downright sauna-esque.  Still, I managed to finish up in 3rd place in my category (Cancer survivor over the age of 50) - whoo-hoo!  Only problem was that the winner was a 74 year old grand-dad who kicked a%%.  Still it was a good run for a good cause.  I am debating doing it again just because I am a sucker for these things.  Sign up for next year's Houston Marathon is in early June and, given the popularity of the last few years, it's going to be a tough job to get into the 2013 Marathon, but I have a strategy.

Speaking of runs, I am on a couple of e-mail lists to notify me of deadlines and dates for upcoming runs/events.  One that popped up recently I found interesting.  Anyone ever done/seen a "mud run"?  Something about doing a 5K through various obstacles including copious amounts of mud/water.  Excuse me?  Why would one pay $60 to run through mud/water???  I was paid (not enough) to do that in the Army.