30 June 2013

Where's Waldo?

Been off the grid for a week enjoying some really, really good beer and some decadent chocolate.  Got to see some interesting sights, travel the countryside by train, sample some new food, meet some unique people.  Ate way too much, sampled many new local brews, ran several kilometers every morning, walked my tail off the last two days exploring the local area.  Two guesses on where I've spent the last week.     

Heading out this morning for the long flight back.  12 hours strapped into a shiny metal tube with 300+ other brave souls as we eat/sleep/read our way home.  Glad to be heading home to my loved ones but I am not looking forward to returning to temps in the 100s.   

Details and pictures (and there are lots) later.

Tot ziens!

20 June 2013


Some people have them.

Maybe it is just my my recent brush with theft, but I seemed to be noticing things more of late.  I went in to the office early yesterday.  I am way behind on my office chores, working on another system validation and getting ready for my road trip next week.  

I was running some reports when the guy in the office next door came in asking if I had any binoculars (Sure - they were in my trailer).  Curious thing to ask one while at work.  We work in a 6 story office building and my office is on the 5th floor and looks north towards Houston.  Nice view.  With the airfield a few miles to the north, we get to see the occasional Space Shuttle or Air Force One or Squadron of WWII planes cruise by.   

Normally, you don't see a lot of action going on out of my window.  The occasional accident or congestion or fire engine.  But every once in a while something catches my eye.  Early yesterday, we spotted a guy on the roof of the local strip center (red wall) just north of us.  Now, we are used to seeing guys up on the roof on occasion working on the A/C units, but this guy just seemed, to quote a good friend, "wonky".  Being on the roof didn't catch our attention, it was the ninja stealth, low crawl movements he was making that seemed out of place.  He would crouch low up to the edge, peer over, then go back to the cluster of A/C units.  We spotted he had a pair of bolt cutters and seemed to be working on the A/C units.  Made sense to us - the building next door has been undergoing some roofing work and has guys up there for most of last week.  We thought they were doing renovations to the restaurant that had closed, but the more we watched, the stranger he got.  We alerted our security officer downstairs and he contacted the local police.  After about 20 minutes, the police rolled up on the building and started investigating.  Turns out that he wasn't supposed to be up there and was stealing copper piping out of the A/C systems.  When they rolled on him, they figured he had roughly $50 - 100k worth of copper in his truck.  We thought it was pretty ballsy for somebody to do that during the middle of the day.  I guess he didn't figure on people from adjacent buildings spotting his antics.  

The good news is the cops busted him before he could make off with the copper.  The bad news is the Japanese restaurant right on the corner was closed for the day because they had no A/C.  Sorry to see them closed - they are usually packed for lunch every day.  Hopefully, they can get it fixed quickly and get back to serving sushi.  

17 June 2013

Not exactly according to plan

Well, let's not do that again.  

Weekend started out with lots of promise.  Summer has arrived down here in full force.  Predicted to be hot & steamy with a chance of showers.  Great conditions for a run, right ShadowRun?  That was my plan.  Time once again for the Annual Father's Day 5K run downtown.  This is my yearly attempt to give myself heatstroke.  And what better way to prepare for the run than to smash your little toe stepping over a recumbent dog?  Not as spectacular as ShadowRun's road rash, but hurt like heck.  Thought I might have broken it (been there, done that) but just was bruised. 

And this little piggy went wee-wee all the way home.

Post race mingling.  

Looking for course times.
Mine was on the sheet to the right - survivors. 
Temps at race time was in the low 80's.  Lots of cloud cover, but not brutally hot like last year.  I did about as well poorly as I expected.  I haven't been running much in the last three months and I could tell.  At least I beat out little miss TuTu this year (tripped her up at the halfway point).  

Spend the rest of Saturday prepping for my long road trip coming up next week.  I fielded call from Stephen late in the afternoon.  He has just been in a accident.  Got hit while making a turn.  Rebecca was not with him at the time.  Sounded shaken up but was ok.  The family in the other car were shaken as well but no serious injury.  From his description of the scene, sounded like both cars were pretty beat up.  He went to the local doc-in-the-box and got checked out.  No damage, just sprained.  Sent him home with some muscle relaxers.  On top of that, his Camry is in the shop for a radiator problem so the they are without a set of wheels in the interim.  I tried to instill my fatherly wisdom, albeit from a distance.  Cars can be fixed/replaced, as long as he was ok, that is all that mattered.  This saga will play out for the next few weeks until they can straighten out their auto problems.  

Was attempting to have a quiet Father's Day yesterday.  Hit the dog park early in the morning before it got hot.  Pretty sparse at the park but the dogs weren't complaining.  They got lots of field time and got to play with the other mutts.  Was mowing the yard with my wife told me that Shannon (owns our storage yard) called and said several trailers had been broken into at lot and my rig was one of the ones hit.  I cannot tell you the exact words that when through my head but they weren't pretty.  Ran up to the yard to check out my trailer.  Busted a window out and opened up the door from the inside.  Ransacked the trailer looking for things they turn quickly for some cash.  The good news is that I don't keep a lot of expensive electronics in the trailer (paranoid) so the only thing they got out of my rig was an old DVD player (gift from SIL) and a broken pair of binoculars.  I think they may have gotten a voltage meter as well but I need to recheck my tool kit.  The main thing is that they pulled out everything out of the cabinets/drawers.  They did damage one drawer trying to open it - it has a road lock that keeps it from opening when travelling and they couldn't get the drawer open so they ripped the cover off.  That and the busted window were the only things damaged.  The window I can replace easily - it is hinged and I can put a new one on in under an hour.  The drawer facing is the real pain to fix.  Splintered the wood and will be hard to glue it back together.  I may have to get a new drawer (if they make those anymore).  

Spent most of the afternoon picking up glass and sealing up the window.    

The one minor consolation was that the guys (there were 6 of them) came into the yard from an adjacent field.  They cut the fence and crawled into the yard and hit about 12 rigs looking for electronics (tv's, dvd players, etc.) - things they could turn quickly for a profit.  To get to the yard, they had to cross a field/retention pond area and come through the backside where it is heavily wooded.  According to Shannon, that entire area was completely covered with Poison Ivy.  Karma.  

Not exactly how I wanted to close out the weekend.  

16 June 2013


To all the big daddies out there, especially my dad out cruising the highways up north, Happy father's Day!   

15 June 2013

Small world

With all the tragedies and disasters in the news, one can sometimes get numb.  Unless you are directly affected or have some ties to it through family or friends, you may gloss over it as another news story.    

In the last two months, we have seen a plant explosion in West, Texas, Boston Marathon bombing, several devastating tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma, flooding in the Midwest  storms in the east, devastating fires in New Mexico and Colorado.

It is the latter that has been on my mind of late.  I've been deeply worried about Abby and her family/home up in Colorado Springs.  After going through the same drill last year, she seems to be fairly calm and well prepared.  I am not sure I would be as calm given the circumstances.   

Life is funny how things are related.  I watched the news thinking that the wildfires in Colorado would not have any impact upon us this far south.  I did not realize until yesterday how close we are sometimes tied together.  A friend alerted us as to the status of our scout troop.  Our troop has been in existence for over 25 years and very active in camping and other outdoors activities.  They typically do camp outs every weekend and two long term camps in the winter and summer.  During my stint with the troop, we were always looking at new camps for the summer.  One of our criteria was simple:  some place cool.  That pretty much crossed out most of Texas and Louisiana.  Many summer camps for the troop were out of state:  New Mexico, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma.  Ever since my son left for college years ago, we haven't been keeping up with the troop activities.  It turns out that 1852 was spending this summer at Camp Chris Dobbins east of Colorado Springs (east of Black Forest).  They just hit camp last weekend and were to be there for a full week.  On Wednesday morning, the Elbert County officials pulled the plug and evacuated the camp.  Most of the local troops went home while several out of state troops were housed in the fair grounds.  Our troop was one of those.  Camped out at the fair grounds until it was either safe to go back to camp or they would head home.  Last word I had was that they were headed back here.  This was the first long term summer camp my son and I attended in scouts.  I led the trek there and it was a great camp for scouts and adults.  It had never occurred to me until recently that I was in Abby's neck of the woods (13 years ago).   

So many homes lost, so many people affected.  I'll keep praying for everyone in Colorado.  Hoping for some rain or a late snow storm.  Or at least the wind to die down.  

13 June 2013

Road trip

In my younger days (looong time ago), I loved to take road trips.  Gas up the car, toss in the gear, load up some munchies/drinks in the ice chest. crank up the tunes and head out.  
  • 3 hours to the beach?  No sweat.  
  • 5 hours to Dallas for a weekend football game?  Let's go! 
  • 10 hours to ski in Red River, NM?  Let me get my gear.
  • 14 hours from Fort Knox, KY to College Station, TX to see my fiance?  No problemo.    
  • 20+ hours to Orlando to visit Mickey's house?  Sign me up.  
  • 3 hours to San Antonio to meet up with a famous blogger/chef/runner?  Piece 'o cake.    
When ShadowRun300 let slip she might be headed my way, I was all sorts of excited.  Another chance to meet one of my favorite bloggers in person!  I've already had the privilege to break bread with Terri and Rock Chef and was hoping that I could meet ShadowRun while she was in my neck of the woods.  The problem was, I had already committed to the wedding on Saturday with my bride.  As much as I would have liked to bail on the wedding, that would not have been a good career move.  On top of those plans, we wanted to have dinner with my folks one last time Sunday night before they hit the road again for their rally up north.  Given my work schedule and the wedding on Saturday and dinner Sunday, I figured there was no way I could make it over to San Antonio for the weekend.  Was really bummed out until about Wednesday when it finally dawned on me that I was looking at this all wrong:  Why not a day trip?  I mean, if I can pull off a 5 hour drive to north Texas, buy a trailer, and then return on the same day like I did last year, a short hop to San Antonio is a walk in the park.  I had a window of opportunity to meet with her for lunch and to catch up before heading back to Houston for dinner.   

So, after the nuptials, I got up early Sunday morning, walked the dogs, loaded up Elvis and headed west.  First long road trip in Elvis and it was smooth sailing.  Hit San Antonio around 1000 and parked downtown right next to their hotel.  I texted ShadowRun I was in town and they came down to meet me.  Started to store my gear when I spied ShadowRun and her entire crew heading my way.  It was easy to recognize that smile.  She mentioned something about recognizing Elvis.  I find it awesome to meet the real person behind the keyboard along with her wonderful family.  I got to meet her husband, Amp and Mario.  I'm always curious/anxious how the rest of the family feels about meeting one of my blog buddies (Great.  Mom's dragging us out to meet some wacko she met on the Internet).  After the initial introductions, we decided to hike over to check out the Alamo.  I've been to SA a few times, so I was more than happy to give them my two cents on the various sites to see, places to visit, things to do.  I have my opinions on many of the places, but since this was their first time in SA, I'll let ShadowRun provide the play-by-play.  

Since I was the one on a tight schedule, we did a quick tour of the Alamo, exploring the mission grounds, checking out some of the exhibits.  After wandering with the mission with the mob, we headed west to El Mercado for lunch.  We hiked along the River Walk part of the way, enjoying the the sights.  The River Walk is a neat place but many spots along the river are narrow and can get crowded.  Lots of great restaurants, bars, and interesting people/animals to see.  A good place for people watching.      

Remember the Alamo!
Duck Dynasty San Antonio style?

River taxi

Stylish head ware
We eventually moseyed over to El Mercado (The Market).  It is a local market with shops/stores/booths with all sorts of Mexican wares.  Sombreros, ukuleles, shirts, purses, paintings, religious emblems.

For some real authentic Mexican food, I recommended a local institution:  Mi Tierra.  A San Antonio tradition that has been in business since 1941.  Open 24 hours, great bakery, usually packed at lunch and dinner, Christmas lights up all year long.  I was worried that the wait would be obscene during lunch, but we were able to score a table within 45 minutes.  

I got a chance to break bread, or chips, with ShadowRun and her family.  It was great to share stories and fill in the gaps on everything we've seen and done.  Comparing notes on family, dogs, kids, traveling, and, of course, other bloggers.  We've talked so much through our blogs and shared many stories, this was like catching up with an old friend I haven't seen in years.  My only regret was I couldn't stay any longer and had to leave early to head back to Houston.  Still, it was uber cool to spend time with ShadowRun300, even if only for a short while.  Well worth the drive and I would do it again without hesitation.  

I consider myself one lucky SOB.  I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting three of my favorite blog celebrities.  One more off my bucket list.  Thanks ShadowRun!  And sorry about the Austin traffic.  I am definitely going to have to work on getting a supplier set up in the St Louis area.        

10 June 2013


Man, what a weekend.  Was been busy from first light on Saturday until late Sunday night.  I have to go back to work just to get some rest.  Still, that's the way I prefer it - I'd rather be busy than bored.  

Hit the ground running on Saturday.  Up early, walked the dogs, short run, then off to the Farmer's Market.  Small, farmer's market at the old sugar plant where a lot of local farmers and artisan sell their stuff.  Our Golden foster group has negotiated a spot at the market just to promote our group.  Lots of happy, hot dogs.  Of course, being Goldens, they are always the center of attention.  

Came back and mowed the yard (good thing since it rained hard later in the day.  Then we threw on our country chic and headed off to the wedding.  Held on a local ranch/park down south of here.  Used to be a large ranch that was donated to the state as a park/museum/event area.  It is a working ranch with several older homes/barns and will host many corporate events.  They also have a small chapel for weddings.  Very nice affair.  

Of course, it wouldn't be a wedding without a longhorn steer.

I had a serious hankering for some good Mexican food so I hit the road to this little place I know.  Bit of a drive, but very good food, very popular, always open.  This place has been in business for many, many years (since 1941) that is open 24/7 (yes, 24 hours a day).  They are also located in a Mexican Market where you can find your ukulele or sombrero.  

This place is very popular and it seems like everyone goes there.  Of course, you never know WHO you will run into while strolling through the market.   

08 June 2013

Staying busy

Been a heck of a week month.  Between work and chores and family, I feel like I've been rode hard and put up wet.  My purchasing team has been pretty much decimated of late.  One of my buyers injured her eye and has been out for 3 weeks.  Another has been reassigned to the validation project for the new facility.  One was off in the Caribbean on vacation which left me with one buyer to run the show.  Of course, with that set up, Murphy likes to show up.  Not only do we encounter all sorts of crises and emergencies, but last weekend, my one remaining buyer calls me on Sunday and said her son was in the hospital with appendicitis.  So, come Monday, I was the entire purchasing department.  Was able to muddle through for a day or two until two buyers made it back to work.  Still, we are running short handed and have a lot of sticks in the fire.  I am using the weekends to decompress.  Spent last weekend at the dog park and working on the yard.  This weekend is pretty full.  I'm doing a short stent at the farmer's market with the dogs, mow the yard, attend a friend's daughter's wedding, having dinner with my parents before they head off to the wild blue yonder.  I am seriously jonesing for some good Mexican food this weekend, even if I have to drive across 2 counties to find it.     

In the interim, I thought I would dump a few more shots from the past month's activities

Flowers for our anniversary
Mother's Day with the dogs
(Collarless Grayson)
Despite all my gripes/whining about work, I like what I do and it is good to be working for a company that helps people.  It also helps that the company is doing well.  I mentioned that we've been doing well since the new CEO arrived several years ago.  They are doing all sorts of new things over the past few years.  For the 2nd year in a row, we were picked as one of the top 50 Houston companies to work for because of our benefits, growth, pride and spirit.  They are always looking for things to motivate and inspire the workers.  Did I mention the results of our Epilepsy Fundraiser?  Every year we collect money for the Epilepsy Foundation and give it during the Epilepsy walk in April at the zoo.  I did not make the walk this year since I was up at Pate.  This year we wound up handing over a check for $100k - all of that raised from donations and fundraisers.  No too shabby.    It is always interesting to see how they celebrate their success.  We wound up our fiscal year last month in a very good position.  Hit our goals, made the numbers, increased sales, stock is up, everyone is happy.  As part of the success, the company likes to pay back it's employees with some of the success.  Some of it with bonuses or awards or corporate events.  Last week, everyone got one of these notes on our cars.  

On the reverse side was a note from the CEO thanking them for the past year and telling them that they could expect a little "something" in their paychecks.  Nice/amusing way to share the success.  It is times like these that make some of those late nights and endless meetings more palatable        

And next weekend is the annual Dad's Day 5K run.  Charity run for Prostate Cancer.  I got hooked onto this one a few years back and this will be my 3rd run in the heat.  A warm, humid run on a flat course (one bridge/overpass).  With my schedule of late, I haven't been running much over the last two months so this could get ugly.  

Next week's run

Still, I am looking for the rematch with little Miss TuTu.  
You're going down!

02 June 2013

Summer plans

I haven't pulled the trigger on the Marathon, yet.  They just opened up registration for the Run for a Reason sign up on Thursday, but the general lottery doesn't open up until the 5th.  I  am debating taking my chances in the lottery and letting the running gods decide my fate.  Still, I started this gig 5 years ago for a reason.  Not sure I am ready to hang up my laces.  I appreciate everyone's support/encouragement, but as some pointed out, this is up to one person - moi.  Like they say in the movies, the buck stops here.  I hope to call the ball this week.  

Meanwhile, in non-running news, the weekend has been pretty quiet/uneventful.  That old 90 year old lady across town is doing well.  Definitely feeling better.  She is going back to the doc this week to get a check up and hopes to get cleared to enable them to head north to South Dakota for their international rally.  She's one feisty old broad.  Not one to let a little thing like getting a new pacemaker keep her from hitting the road.  

We are mucho busy over here as well.  Typically, our summer plans have been chaotic.  Back when we did the scout shtick  every summer I spend a week + in scout camp with my son.  Two summers I spend two weeks at Philmont.  When my son went off to college, we kinda got our lives back but we didn't have any solid vacation plans and my job had me jetting off around the states for various audits.  This year seems to be even more packed with work stuff.  We have an ongoing major software validation for our new plant that will eat up most of June with testing/reports.  I also have a number of audits to conduct this year which will have me on the road way more than I have in the past.  I mentioned earlier about the number of placed we need to visit and it has only grown since then.  Most of the Midwest sites (aka Minnesota) are being done by my boss or one of my buyers.  I've been tagged with the international road trips this year.  Looks like I will be headed back to Belgium late June for a couple of audits.  I had hoped to work out a short side trip to London, but I am traveling with a coworker this time and will not have as much leeway as before.  I still need to make a hop out to California for an audit in July but the logistics still need to be worked out.  The big one is a week plus trip to China in late July or early August.  Got to audit/tour/visit a supplier in Hong Kong and, since we are going all that way, I am trying to coordinate a visit with several suppliers at the same time.  My philosophy is, if I am going to do an extended flight halfway around the globe, we are going to maximize our time in country.  Last fall, when we flew to Manila, we had just enough time to do the audit and then fly back home.  I am hoping for a few more days to get in a few more companies and see some local sights.  Going into China will be a new twist for me.  Oh, sure, all this international travel SOUNDS all sexy and glorious, but we are talking about a 22+ hour flight to Hong Kong and a 14+ hour flight to Belgium.  I love to travel but, to spent one entire day of my life strapped inside of a metal tube with 300 other bodies flying 35,000 feet above the globe is not all that glamorous, despite all the air miles and hot towels.  At least I know enough to plan accordingly.  Nano's charged up, scoped out the on board movie listing, loaded up on Advil PM, tagged several books for the ride.  I haven't made the jump to at Kindle or Nook.  I'm old school - prefer turning pages and using a bookmark.  Besides, I have never been told to turn off my book while taxiing to the runway.  With that much chair time, my plan is to polish off one or two good books while in transit.  Top of my list, a compelling ready by Lotta Joy - Treadwell.  Something I have been looking forward to for some time.  With an increase in my travels over the past few years and I have gotten into a habit of collecting books for the flights/airports.  It makes all the delays and flight times more tolerable.  I tend to get somewhat compulsive about my reading - when I get hooked on a story, I cannot put it down until the final chapter.  Looking forward to some interesting stories during the long flights.