28 February 2014

Pull my finger

Because Abby asked, I thought I might regale you with some of the mis-steps of my younger days.  I've been around a while and I've got the souvenirs to show for it.  You don't get this far down the road of life without collecting a few dents/dings/scrapes along the way.  

Most of those dings came early in life.  Back when I was young and stupid and didn't know any better.  Now I am just old and stupid.  Let's tally up the score so far:  

  • One fractured wrist/arm early on (playing "cannon ball" with my older brothers)
  • Concussion in grade school
  • Burned my arm (pulled a cup of coffee off of a TV tray)
  • Tried to cut my finger off at the garden shop (almost succeeded)  
  • Fractured wrist (fell while walking Velvet)
  • Broken toe (stepping over Shadow)  
  • Dislocated shoulder (prep run for half marathon
The one that always gets revisited at family gatherings (aside of when my loving brothers broke my arm story) is when I tried my hand (finger) at gardening.

Hearken back to those days of yesteryear.  Back before the internet, YouTube, Twitter and selfies.  I was a young pup and still new to the world.  I looked up to my brothers and tried to emulate them.  One sunny spring afternoon, we all piled into the old Pontiac Catalina station wagon and drove to the garden center (nursery) to get some plants and flowers for our yard.  Being all of 4 or 5, I went along for the ride.  While in the garden center, my parents were off trying to buy some bush or flowers and left us to our own devices.  My brothers, being more worldly and smarter than I. set out to explore the store.  My eldest brother found this industrial can opener device that would open cans with some sort of church key contraption.  He took several cans an commenced to "opening' them (translation:  destroyed the cans).  After a while, he became bored with such trivial matters and left the machine for other adventures.  I saw an opportunity to take over for him on his mission of general mischief (monkey see, monkey do).  While playing with the contraption, I failed to follow proper procedures (like keep out of the hands of children) and the soulless device did its task, which, basically chopped the end of my middle finger almost clean off and left me with a unique scar to this day.  The event was traumatic. not so much for me but for my mom.  I don't really recall the pain or the injury (aside of the sudden "aw shit" realization ) at the time but I do recall the the ride to the hospital.  My dad, who never speeds or had any traffic tickets. driving like a bat out of hell getting us to the hospital.  Riding in the front seat between mom and dad with my hand wrapped in towels and bandage and I was kept thinking how my mom was pissed (she wasn't).  We made it to the hospital in time for the docs to sew my finger back on with minimal damage, just an unique scar to regal my descendants.  Either the damage was not as severe as imagined or the docs were pretty damned good, but I was able to gain full feeling.  The only lasting evidence was where they sutured it back on leaving me with a small scar that I will carry forever.  They say that SCARs tell a story of life's lessons and I would agree.  Life can be a rough game that is full of twists and turns.  To me, a few scrapes along the way are just a measure of one's perseverance (or stupidity).  Remember:  a lot of memorable  events were proceeded by the words:  "Hey Bubba, watch this!"   

To quote Shane Falco:  Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.

24 February 2014


Coming from the military, I am familiar with many useless expressions and names that might not see much action on the civilian side.  One of those that comes to mind was a boneyard.  The military uses lots and lots of vehicles in their campaigns and, once they reached the end of their service life, most are hauled off to the boneyard or junkyard.  It is a collection of vehicles or, more famously, aircraft that have been decommissioned and parked for scrap or salvage or just for storage.  There are several located out in Arizona that are veritable ghost towns for old aircraft.

Fascinating look at history and what happens to technology as time progresses.  

But that's not the type of boneyard I want to talk about today.  The weekend was pretty good.  Spring seems to be teasing us with some really nice weather and decent temps.  Was able to get out with the dogs for a while over the weekend.  The Golden Beginnings group tries to stage events or "meet & greets" every 2-3 weeks, so it is hard not to go a weekend without some activity involving the dogs.  This past weekend we arranged for a gathering at a local place in town that we thought would make for a good awareness/fundraising event.  Seems that some enterprising person decided to combine people's love for a good beer and love of canines into one place.  What better name than The Boneyard?  It opened up three years ago with a simple idea - an enclosed area to allow dogs to roam and play freely and a bar to serve the two footed guests.  It turned into a gold mine for the owner.  Great place to take your dog (or dogs) to allow them some exercise and socialization and you can drink a beer with friends.  

Our group decided to have our weekend gathering at The Boneyard to generate interest and see if we could do some fundraising.  Any chance to promote the group and further the Golden cause.  Pretty decent turnout for the group and we got to mingle with a lot of neat people/dogs.  A very nice place.  Not as big or open as one of the dog parks, but an excellent place to take your furry friend for a pint.  Everybody loves their dogs, but our crew was definitely drawing some attention.  Of course, my two furry kids had a blast.  

Of course, for some reason I tend to draw a crowd at these things.  

18 February 2014

Breaking Bread

Overall, another successful road trip, despite the slight twist in plans.  Even with all the late night scrambling, my buyer was able to make it home the following morning to be with her daughter and new granddaughter.  The daughter was born last Tuesday night around 2300 (5 lbs, 12 oz).  Being a bit early, she is still in the hospital getting some extra care, but they are hoping to take her home later this week.    

The trip went very well.  Met with both suppliers, conducted my audits, reviewed business.  All-in-all, a very productive road trip, despite the temps.  It was not necessarily the optimal time of year to tour Minnesota, but we are behind in some of our audits and needed to get these trips done before things start to pile up.  Besides, I've spent a good part of my youth in northern climes so a little snow/ice doesn't necessarily phase me.   However, a lot would probably give me some cause for concern.  We really lucked out on this road trip.  I've been watching the weather to keep an eye out for the temps/conditions prior to the trip and figure out how much gear to pack.  Down here, we don't drag out the arctic survival gear very often, so I was trying to figure out how much to take (or not take).  The prior week, several co-workers had a short trip to Minneapolis for a meeting and they ran into those sub zero, double digit temps (-20, I believe).  I met with one Engineer on Friday after he got back and he was still shivering.  We hit the road expecting the worse but it turned out fairly mild for the week.  Was -11 on Monday morning when we left Houston, but it had warmed up to a balmy 12 degrees by the time we landed.  Drove over to Wisconsin for our first audit without any issues (except for the unexpected arrival).  With the sudden departure of my buyer, I wound up running both audits solo.  Not exactly how I planned it but not something I hadn't done before.  Nice little drive out into the country.  Small town about an hour east of the Twin Cities.  I even managed to stumble across a small quilt shop in the local town - not something I would have expected to find in a rural community.  I mention this because Mrs Agg is a ardent quilter.  We have a running agreement that, whenever I spot one of these, I am supposed to go in and pick up some fat quarters or something similar (wound up visiting two quilt shops when in London last year).  I always manage to take a picture just to tease her.  I did manage to find something "unique" for Valentine's day.     

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Temperatures were brisk, but nothing to create any problems.  They were actually having a slight warming trend while I was there and I believe that they were due for snow this week.  Everywhere I went, the Atlanta ice storm was on the news and winter preparedness was the topic of conversation.

I got to break bread with Terri and Mark once again.  It was great to be able to spend a few hours with them over lunch.  Family, religion, weather, hunting, sports, football stadiums, the Winter Olympics, travel, work, and dogs.  I think we covered pretty much all of the topics. I am shamelessly stealing Terri's picture since it came out better than mine.

The flight back home was delayed over an hour due to the plethora of cancellations around the nation.  I got to the airport early so wound up spending a few hours at teh gate waiting for my plane.  I have finally figured out how to stream Netflix on my iPad and got hooked on the Netflix series House of Cards.  The delay in my flight allowed me to plow through half of the first season before we had to board the plane.  Looks like a new addiction for me.      

Was a good trip but I am, once again, way behind at the office.  Will have to play catch up for the next week just to stay even.  The weather down here is trying to decide if it wants to be winter or spring.  One day freezing, one day sunshine.  So much so, even the local trees are starting to show a sign of things to come.   

12 February 2014

Improvise, adapt and overcome

I am an old fart.  I've been down the road a good ways.  Some of that journey was on pavement, some was on dirt, and a few times it was in a ditch.  Life has taught me a few valuable lessons you don't get any any school, some lessons have stuck, some took a while to set in.  Set a goal, work hard to achieve it.  Enjoy the little things.  Always maintain your sense of humor.  And always remain flexible.  You never know what lies ahead around that curve.  

Out trip started out well yesterday.  Was pretty much on track per my plan.  Made it to Minnesota in good time, picked up the rental, and set off to a small town in Wisconsin where we are camped out for the night.  While heading up to our rooms, my coworker got a call from her daughter back in Houston. Daughter is 35 weeks pregnant and not due until mid-March but had gone into hospital for check up.  She felt the baby might not wait until March 20th, but had plenty of time.  Or so everyone thought.  Daughter called to tell mom that her water broke.  Young girl (if you call 25 young) first kid, husband is with her but is in high panic mode.  My coworker, the mom, had every intention of being there with her from the outset but this did not factor into her plans.  Ok.  Change of plans.  We are an hour from the airport, it is past 1800, last flights leave MSP around 1930, and it was starting to snow, so getting out last night was not an option.  Spent a good hour plus on the phone with the airline and my travel agent and was able to get a spot on an early direct flight out first thing this morning.  The rep from the company I am visiting with today offered to take her directly to the airport so as to let me continue my audit.  I felt guilty that I was not taking her, but he has way more experience than I when it comes to driving on snow and ice, so I took him up on the offer.  I would buy him a drink, if he drank.  Maybe a latte.  As of 0600, coworker is at airport waiting to board.  Should be back in Houston by 1030 and with her daughter and new granddaughter by noon.  5lbs, 10oz born around 2300 last night.  Everyone is doing fine.  Wild way to start out a road trip, eh?

11 February 2014

Road trip

It's been a busy week or so.  Spent last week with a consultant telling me all sorts of advice that I already knew.  Something we paid for to tell us how to make changes.  Outcome was pretty much what I expected and I will wind up paying for it over the next month or two making all sorts of changes to procedures/processes.  It's hard to change your ways when you are comfortable with them.  

Last Tuesday was my mom's 91st birthday.  A nice, low-key affair at their favorite Italian restaurant with just the parents and the two local sons (plus wives).  Mom has been a bit under the weather of late, but still pretty spry for an old lady who has been around the block a few times.  They are still out traveling in their trailer (just got back from the valley) and had planned to do a short cruise this past weekend with my oldest brother, but she wasn't feeling up to it so they pulled out.  With my SIL still recovering from her surgery, no way we were going to be able to tag along.  

Was hoping to catch up at home over the weekend, but I was fighting off a cold.  Spent most of Sunday laid up with a headache trying to avoid getting sick and playing catch up watching a TWD marathon.  

Work is uber busy, I am behind on several projects, reports, tasks, so what better time to hit the road for another audit?  We are behind in our audit schedule and are playing catch up over the next two months.  My boss and buyer are headed out to the west coast for a couple of audits.  I drew two other companies to visit from our list that were in a slightly different direction.  Now, heading out to California this time of year might seem tempting to some, I chose some place a bit more interesting.  Somewhere we might see a bit of snow and cooler temps.  Some place where the morning temps are at least 50 degrees lower than where I am sitting now.  Someplace where people really know how to handle ice & snow without shutting down the entire state.  The Gopher State, North Star State, Land of 10,000 lakes.  It's been a while since I got to test my driving skills on ice & snow, so this should be fun.  

I've been playing with a new website I discovered recently (flightaware.com).  It gives a real time status of flight delays and cancellations for all airports.  I been using their Misery Map as a guide for my travels.  Pretty neat tool.    

And who knows who I might run into while wandering the area.

03 February 2014

Betting the farm

Well, that did not end well.  My heart goes out to all my Broncos friends.  I had high hopes that they would preserver, but it started out badly and kept going downhill.  

Normally, I don't get into all of the big game hype.  Our team has been so far out of the hunt, they were looking towards the 2014 season back in November.  I am not a die hard fan like a few friends of mine who live, eat, sleep and poop the team colors.  I'm not going to name names, but those green and gold colors really stand out.  

I do watch some of the game to catch all the advertising hoopla.  Some of the commercials were funny/interesting, but, in my mind, most were lame or just plain dumb. Besides, I had already seen a number of them the internet.  Still, it amazes me on how much money it costs to do a 30 second commercial during that game.    

Speaking of costs, a lot of people lost a good chunk of coin on that game.  The one that I found interesting is a local businessman down here.    

To set up the story, I need to give you a few background details.  We have a local guy who owns a furniture place on the north side of town who has been a cultural icon down here for years.  Jim "Mattress Mac" McInvale owns a little place called Gallery Furniture.  He started out with $5000 and his own pick up truck back in the 80s selling furniture on the north freeway in one of those places were you can get your bean bag chairs, lazyboys and discount mattresses.  He now has a massive warehouse/showroom on the north side where he is selling a ton of furniture every day.  He has a sort of a carnival barker sales approach and is always at the store running promotions.  Back in the 80's, he bought some airtime on the local tv stations to run ads for his store to run late at night.  At the end of one of his commercials, he was frustrated with trying to come up with some catch phrase and wound up pulling some bills out of his pocket and jumping up and down on a mattress saying that "Gallery Furniture will save you MONEY!!!".  Seemed campy at the time, but it caught fire and stuck and gave him a cult like notoriety.  One of his key selling points is that, if you find something you like and buy it today, he can have it delivered the same day (Buy it today and have it in your home TONIGHT!).  His huge warehouse store has a restaurant (free food), ice cream for the kids, several big screen TVs, and a huge playroom for the kids.  He is a pretty savvy business expert who has built a huge business and is often speaking at the local college or event on how to get ahead in life.  He is a big supporter of the USO and donates a lot of items and money for returning veterans (big points in my book).  I've met him a few times and, despite all the hype, he is a real nice guy.  He is big into the community and is always donating furniture or money to people in need or organizations who need it.  He has helped with scholarships at the rodeo, sponsored charity events, and always been an interesting character to follow.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's go back two weeks ago to the championship games.  Mac made an interesting proposition:  if you come to his store and buy $5000 worth of furniture and have it delivered before the championship games, you can bet on the two teams who will win the championships.  If your two teams win, you get your purchase for free.  Turned out that almost 80% of the people who participated bet that the Broncos and Seahawks would win.  And Mac lived up to his promise.  Wound up costing him $600,000 that weekend.  That bet was not covered by insurance so it came out of his pocket.  Needless to say, there were a lot of people questioning his motives or his sanity.  Afterwards, he was a good sport about it and took it in stride but did say that he didn't expect the turnout to be so great and wouldn't be doing that again any time soon.  

Well, never say never.  Mac must have had a change of heart or drank too much because starting last week he came out with a new bet:  If you come in and buy $6000 worth of furniture and have it delivered by game time and, if the Seahawks win, you get it for free.  No strings.  Needless to say, that bet did not come out as he had hoped and this weekend's game wound up costing somewhere near the $7 million mark.  As with the prior weekend, Mac was upbeat about it and has been doing a number of interviews with the local media.  Mac was quoted as saying:  "It's great,It's the perfect outcome for our customers.  In the long term, we made a lot of happy customers and that's what it's all about: building customers for life."  I gotta give Mac credit, he is living up to his word.  Of course, he is getting a lot of free publicity an outcome. 

BTW - this is the place where we got our couches a few months back.