Friday, August 31, 2007

Living on a Prayer...

I haven't written about the latest goings-on regarding our cat, Bud Kitty (yes, she is a girl). The simple truth is that writing means facing it, and I am not ready to face things just yet. But, after today, I have no choice, so I share with you my thoughts and prayers about our beloved Bud.

During the past two weeks, we have noticed that she has lost a TON of weight, lost appetite, and has had various other health problems. I called the doctor on Monday but today (Friday) was the soonest they could see her. I think if I had understood more about what was happening to her, I would have tried to get her in somewhere sooner, but life ran the course it did. So, today, I took her to the vet.

I'm sure in some of my previous posts, I have explained that, generally speaking, I am not an "animal person." I understand that some people are, and they think of their pets as being like a child or a large part of the family. Though, over the years I have loved Bud Kitty, in my head she is always "our pet cat."

That began to change when my Dad passed away. I'm not sure why that happened, but it did. And, watching her go from frisky to lethargic in about two weeks has increased my "part of the family" feelings about her. Today, it manifested itself into a full-blown "Bud Kitty is a very loved part of our family" feeling. It really started with the car ride to the vet.

I wrapped Bud in a towel (as a blanket) and I put her in the open cardboard box in the passenger seat, expecting her to lay there not wanting to move. Instead, she carefully got out of the box, and made her way to the middle armrest part between the front seats of my truck. Her balance has been off for a few days, and navigating this move in a moving vehicle was no easy feat. She laid there for a bit, but was soon up looking around. Before I knew it, she was in my lap, looking out the window, then into the back seat she went, exploring everything to see.

I did not go to the vet with the intentions of putting her to sleep. If that is what we needed to do, then so be it, but I was not planning to do it. The ride down, with her roaming around and actually cuddling, etc, only fortified my resolve NOT to put her to sleep unless there were no other options.

Once we got to the vet, we had to wait for almost an hour before they took us back. During that waiting time, she wanted to roam and explore, and I had a hard time keeping her within arm's reach! This was the most active she has been in a while, so I let her roam some...

The doctor called us back, and he examined her, took blood (after shaving the poor girl's throat), and ran some tests. Her pH was very (okay, extremely) high for urine. Her glucose was normal, as was her temp. Her kidneys were a little smaller than 'normal' cats. The doctor was telling me things I couldn't quite grasp, and I asked him about some of those things, but even then I was "getting it." I know she is old (16+ years), and I understand her health is failing, but I needed something more...concrete. If she's dying with no hope of saving her, tell me. How hard is that? Well, it turns out that we could give her an IV and see how she takes to the fluids. The doc said he had seen cats in her condition (and worse) bounce back once fluids were administered. He also saw cats not show any change afterward.

Faced with the "impulse" decision whether or not to end Bud Kitty's life, and given that I am not usually a "pet person," I surprised myself as I said, "Let's give her the IV and see how she does. If nothing changes, then I will know I did what I could, and we will have to let her go. But, if she does bounce back, we can make diet changes and do what we can to make her remaining years worth it."

So, after a 'good-bye' moment, I left her there, praying that if she can get better, that she will - and praying that if it only means pain and suffering, that she won't. Since this is a holiday weekend, we probably won't know anything until Tuesday. However, tonight we did our usual shopping trip, but when we came home, Shan and I both had those moments of "Where is Bud Kitty?" as we scanned the area, only to remember that she was in Hope, at the animal hospital. For all the times that cat has hissed, growled, swatted, bit, and scratched us, not having her here at the house is a very empty feeling.... One I am praying is only temporary (at least for a few more years)....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

(The rest of Wednesday's Post)

Holy Free-holies!

Hang on, folks! I'll be all over the place today! :-)

When I first got my MP3 player, I loaded it up with about 150 songs. Seeing as how I am not in my vehicle enough to go through that many songs, I decided to work in smaller numbers, and just update more often. That was good in theory. In practice, even 45 songs can be burned through pretty quickly, especially if I am not in the mood for a particular song or 'style' at that moment. At least with 150 songs on there, I could skip to the ones I wanted. Now, if I really wanted to go all-out, I would dump all (or what all would fit) of my music onto the player and then I could go through and pick what I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear it. The problem with that is that my player only goes forward or backward, though I could create a "My Selections" playlist and edit it at various times. But usually, if I am on song 79 and want number 375, then I have to wing my around until I get to the song I want. That is not a complaint against the player, because I love it (and it matches my truck to boot!!).

I just need to find my "comfort" zone and see how many songs I am happy with on the player. Granted, part of my problem is that I like to take my "new, untested" music with me. This means that I have a bunch of (for example) Miko Marks songs on there now. While I like a lot of her music, some of it I could live without, and sometimes I am not in the mood to listen to the same artist play 8-10 songs in a row, ya know? Now, one of the very cool things about my player is that it will do random song playing, if I tell it to. That makes for some very interesting listening "adventures." It also plays the songs in order by filename (that is how it normally operates). What is so cool about that? Just by adding "03" or "15" or whatever numbers I wish to the beginning of the filenames, I can create my own playlists. It is very easy to do, and I can do it while the player is hooked up to my computer, on the fly. :-)

I will say when riding with the kids has also forced me to think about the order of songs. Not so much because I might have something they shouldn't hear, but because if I group the songs I know THEY want to hear together, I will spend less time fast-forwarding to "their" songs. So, in a nutshell, 150 was almost too many, and 45 is way too few... :-)

Now that Sharepoint is behaving, I am branching out to see what else it can do that I haven't been able to try. Since I seem to have my head stuck in the search features, I thought I would try "Keywording." Now, the idea is that I can create a list of words that I think people will type while looking for content. For example, one of our providers is the Distance Learning Center out of Maumelle, AR. In the course database, they are listed as "ADE Distance Learning Center." Okay, so? Well, most folks call it the "DLC," or the "ADE-DLC," or maybe "DLC-Maumelle." I want people to be able to type the "common" words and phrases they sue for things like that and be able to find the information, regardless of how it is actually listed in the search database... I've tried 3 or 4 times, and cannot get it to behave. So, I did two things that I have come accustomed to doing when it comes to sharepoint: 1) post a message on Sharepoint-U, and 2) back away from keyboard. I have learned that if I leave it alone, an idea may hit me when I least expect it... Guess we'll see... :-)

Speaking of branching out, I connected my Logitech Fusion camera to my desktop in order to connect to my school sites without needing to use the "big" equipment in the Distance Learning lab. this is useful when our lab is booked, or when I don't feel like getting my big sorry butt out of the chair.. :-) I digress... Because the state has it's own private network for video data, connecting to sites with the computer I use for general work is something of a nightmare. Right now, I have to (literally) unplug one wire running into the back of my computer and plug in another. But, I have a network adapter on order that should help me solve that problem. I should be able to run data on one card and video on the other. In any case, where i was going with this whole story was Seoul, Korea. Seriously. I poked around the Internet and found a list of publicly available "test" numbers for video equipment. One of them is in Seoul. So, this morning, I fired up my camera and dialed the number. i have no idea what the time difference is (and yes I could look it up), but I connected and the room was dark. i could tell it is some kind of office, but that was about it. I also connected to a site in Virginia, Texas, and somewhere else (I forget now that I am such the world traveler). Once again, sit amazed at the technology we have available to us. i can sit at my desk in Hope, Arkansas, and connect (over the Internet - no charge) to another system in KOREA, and had there been someone there, I could have talked (assuming he/she spoke English) to that person. The whole thing is just... COOL! :-)

Now, I know, people will say, "But, we've been doing that with webcams and yahoo (or whatever) for years!" Yes, I know. But, much like when I open a pack of baseball cards and get "the one I needed," it is the awe and wonder of it that still gets me.

I have been talking with a person at the National baseball Hall of Fame in order to set up a lesson between them and one of my schools. And the whole thing gives me goosebumps and leaves me wide-eyed with wonder and amazement. I mean, really, HOW COOL IS THIS!?!? And, to be PAID to do it!? I know how blessed I am, and maybe that's what plays a part in my wonderment over technology that some people see as "every day..." There is a part of me that has never grown up, and I hope it never does...

I received an email from a teacher I used to provide tech training for. The issue was (or is) a weird sound problem. Some things (not all) sound as if there are chipmunks in the computer. I offered a few suggestions, poked around the 'net, and came across an idea that should have first struck me - reinstall the sound driver. When things go haywire, the first place t look in most cases is the software controlling the errant hardware. A simple rule I forgot... Don't know if it will fix the problem or not, but it is always worth a shot! Of course, since it is a school computer, the technology coordinator at the district may have to be the one to fix it. Which goes to show you a lot - this teacher contacted me instead of the local tech... That's not bragging on me, but rather serves to point out that tech support people need people skills as much as they need techie skills....

Sonic claims there are 168,894 possible drink combinations. And, of course, I decided to check it out... How did they come up with this number? The answer can be found on various sites on the Web, but I thought I would just go ahead and share the answer with you (why make you do all the work, after all?): According to the posts, "They gave 13 base drinks, and said that 5 of those base drinks already have one of the 16 add-ins. There are 6 other drinks they count in after since they don't normally get an add-in. Then, they subtract 1 for the base slush, since not many people would want a flavorless slush." and, in an apparent e-mail directly from someone at Sonic, we have: "First, we have 8 "base drinks" and 5 "drinks mixed with water" for a total of 13 - however, the drinks mixed with water already contain one of the flavors, so you have to compute them separately. Hope that makes sense - for example, a Lemonade couldn't be mixed with lemon, so for those other 5 drinks, you drop the number of add-ins to 15. (Then once you're all done, you have to subtract one for "base slush" which no one would order by itself, without an add-in and also add 6 drinks that we sell outright with no addin options such as Apple Juice, Orange Juice, Iced Tea, etc.)"

I'll give you time to re-read that.... I'm not a math person, so the whole "combination"/"permutation" formula thing is lost on me. So, I looked it up... Turns out that because it doesn't matter what order the add-ins are (er, uh) added, then we can use a combination formula. Evidently, if order were important, we'd have to use a permutation... LOL, as if I even know what I'm telling you... :-) Anyway, because of the way Sonic figures it up, it's not a straight-forward formula (It's a couple of combinations with a few additions, multiplications and subtractions thrown in for good measure).

Because I have no idea what I'm doing, I thought I would put the posted formula to the test, and I came up short... But, here is a working "version" that gets you the right answer. If I could explain it, I'd be a math person, so instead I will offer my thinking as to the WHY of it all....
(16C6 + 16C5 + 16C4 + 16C3 + 16C2 + 16C1)=X
(15C6 + 15C5 + 15C4 + 15C3 + 15C2 + 15C1)=Y
(X+Y)+6=Z (adding in the 6 without add-ins)
(Z-1)=A (subtracting the "flavorless" base)
(A+13) = Total Flavor Combos (Adding in the original number of base flavors, for reasons only known to Sonic, I'm sure)
So, X=14,892 and Y=9948. Therefore, Z=168,882. Subtract 1 to get A=168,881, and then we add in the original 13 to get 168,894.

Now, don't you feel better? I know I do.... (BTW, I posted on that web site in order to get a math person to explain it. We'll see if they explain it like i did here.. LOL)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good Intentions...

Well, I have a "real" post for today, but it is located on my desktop at work. My original plan was to connect to my work computer from home, copy the text file, add to it, then post it. When 4:00 hit, I was in such a hurry to get out there that I shut down my computer by mistake (habit, good practices, whatever). So, I will post my additional thoughts when I get to work in the morning (yes, before official work hours)...

One of the baseball card sites I visit is having a 'vote for the best, er, worst' kind of contest in which viewers look at two cards and choose the one that best epitomizes the given year. In this case, they are doing 1981 Topps (which I found cool, since I had just talked about"hat kind" cards on my card-related site...).

I am not about to do one of those kinds of contests, but rather decided to look through some of the cards I had handy to show off the obvious style and flair some of these players demonstrated at the time the flashbulbs were going off. These are the "best" nor the "worst," but rather just a sampling...

I would like to first offer up Enrique Romo, 1982 Fleer. Of course, the uniform alone instantly dates the photograph. I grew up around Pittsburgh and remember both the player and the uniform. Note the poof hair unable to hide under the hat (not that he was even trying). Naturally, the oversized 'stache and beard also scream 1980-something! :-)
Next, I offer Matt Keough, 1983 Donruss. Believe it or not, he actually shows off the style that many guys of the time had - The "Magnum PI" moustache and haircut. Notice he even tries to cop (no pun intended) a Tom Selleck smirk (including dimple). Believe it or not, I think my uncle had this same style, though my memory is a little weak on that given how many years have passed since.... :-)
The last card from the 80's is another Fleer 1982. This time, we see Jeff Jones blowing a bubble during warm-ups. Okay, at least it's not the big side of chaw that most guys had in those days. But, really, did these guys get even see the pictures before they were plastered on baseball cards all over the world? His face will forever have that pink bubble in front of it as the lasting momento from his stint in the bigs....
Moving on from the 80's, I found this Ken Griffey, Jr. card which looks "mostly harmless" at first, right? But then, your eye trails off to the right and what the heck is going on there? A limp-wristed, kneeling shot with the ball just beyond his hands? Okay, obviously he just threw the ball, right? But, come on... That has to be one of the worst positions I have seen on a ball card (aside from those awful 'pitcher in motion' shots - which I will share at a later date)... Of course, even the pointing, smiling shot looks cheesy as can be, too....
Finally, for tonight, I offer up a 1994 Topps Stadium Club of Frank Thomas. At first glance, he is putting on glare-blocker. But, is he really? No, actually, he is giving the photographer the bird! Look at the expression on his face. He knows exactly what he's doing... What surprises me more is that the folks at Topps didn't pull this one faster than the "Billy Ripken" card... (You know, the infamous card where "someone" had printed F##K FACE on the end of the bat he was holding in his Fleer photo (scroll down the linked page)) I'm sure someone has done a photo study of how many players have had their baseball card photo taken of them posing with their middle finger extended...

That's all for now folks... Tune in next time, when I post what was supposed to be Wednesday's entry... :-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Mentos at the end of the tunnel...

(photo credit: Jen Leigh (tunnel) and Sp2007 (logo) - I assembled them)

The light at the end of the tunnel may not be the exit, it could be a train! And, lately, that train's name seems to be Sharepoint!! AUGH! I was finally able to nail down the ultimate culprit with our search function not working. turns out to be an issue with the Authentication Provider. (Warning, geek-speak ahead) When the default (usually Port 80) site is set to BASIC authentication, the crawler cannot access the information because the crawler service MUST use NTLM! Well, if someone had told us that to begin with, we wouldn't have these issues, would we!? Turns out the "fix" is to create a mirrored site (extension of the application) and have THAT pointed to a locally-named, locally recognizable (in DNS) name, while the rest of the world see the FQDN! Of course that's the fix! (Wacks hand on head a' la V-8 veggie juice). Of course, I took the low road when "fixing" our server... I just turned on NTLM authentication for the main site, ran the crawl, then set everything back to the way we like it (basic)! :-) Works like a champ!
So, is that a light, or is it Sharepoint coming to run us down (again..and again..and again)?

My Aunt asked me what kind of bedliner I bought for my truck. I bought a drop-in, and I bought that kind for two reasons (well, three, I guess):
  1. It was within our budget.
  2. I can take it out anytime I want to/need to.
  3. It's what I wanted.

Although spray-in liners are nice, even on sale they are about $300 aroud here, and that was more than I wanted to pay for a bedliner period (regardless of type). While bedliners are great to have, there may be times that I don't want the bedliner in my truck (can I think of one of those times right now? Of course not...). So, a drop-in that I can "drop-out" may prove very handy down the road. If it turns out that I'm wrong, and I never take it out and have to ultimately replace the bed, I imagine that by the time that happens, I will either have sold the truck or a replacement bed for a 2004 Ram will be cheaper at that time than a spray-in liner is now... :-) So, that's why I went with drop-in.... :-)

After I typed my reasons, i decided to poke around the 'net to see what other people thought about drop-in vs. spray-on... While there are people who are polarized to one side or the other, many folks see the advantages to both kinds. One guy, though, wrote something that caught my attention: I'm a parts manager at a Dodge dealer and received info on conventional vs spray on bedliners. Plastic bedliners(Mopar, I don't know about other brands) offer 2x the impact resistance, 10x the abrasion resistance, 21x the UV resistance, require no drilling or scuffing on the bed, most offer a lifetime warranty, and are 100% recyclable. With that being actual testing info, I know what I want in my truck.

I read a lot of complaints about fading and knicking/denting with spray-ons. I also read issues with drop-ins (rusting the bed being a concern, yet even after 5-6 years, most people said there was no rusting though the paint had been worn off to the shiny metal). I like my drop-in, and it was only $150 INSTALLED. Can't complain about that at all.... :-)

I guess no matter hwo much money someone makes, if they have superstitions, they have them... While reading various articles about Sharepoint, I came across a couple sites that talked about the new version of Office. The current version is Office 2007, which is really Office version 12. Logically, the next version should be Office 13, but apparently at Microsoft, 13 is an unlucky number, and so the next version is codenamed "Office 14." Billions of bucks, and Gates is still afraid of lil ol' 13...... :-) (Source1, source2, source3)

I took the kids outside on Monday for the "Great Mentos Demonstration." We opened up a bottle of Diet Coke, dropped in about 5 Mentos, and WHOOSH! Diet Coke shot up like Old Faithful herself! It was one of the coolest things I have witnessed. We're doing it again when I buy some more diet cola. I'm hoping cheap-y Great Value will have the same effect without hitting so hard on the wallet... :-)

Tyler dropped a couple into a regular Coke can, and we watched as nothing happened....for about 20 seconds... then, it started pouring, overflowing. Now, THAT'S a great trick to play on someone! :-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Truck Photos and other thoughts

Barry Bonds' 755 and 756 homerun balls will be auctioned off, but not on eBay! The owners of those two balls have inked a deal with Southeby's to sell the balls in an online auction. Estimates are that the record-setting 757 ball will go for about $500,000. More info is on the SCPAuctions site.

In a tech-related story, a guy who was busted for uploading Star Wars III to the Internet, served time in jail and is under house arrest. So what, you say? well, he is ranting and whining that part of his sentence includes computer-monitoring software that must be used on his computer. So what, you say? Well, the software only runs on Windows and he uses Linux. Boo-hoo... This guy needs a life. Heck, at this point, he should feel lucky to even be allowed on the 'net at all, let alone own a computer! The story is on CNet news.

And, how's this one for ya? Elton John hates the Internet. He says that we should shut the Internet off for five years and see how creative people become again. In an interview, he blasts the Internet for all kinds of things. Here's the rub, not only is his OWN web site up and running, but he recently posted his entire music catalogue online for purchase! Evidently, he doesn't hate it THAT much... :-)

I haven't posted pictures of my truck lately, so I thought I would show off the most recent updates! :-) On Saturday, I got my bedliner! I am VERY happy about having a bedliner for my truck, and wish I had asked for one when I first got my truck! :-) While I was there, I also had them put on the Vent Visors over the windows (keeps rain out, lets air in).

Other things that I cannot remember if I've posted or not: Razorback decals above the "RAM 1500" on each door, the Indians flame logo on the tailgate, "" at the top of the rear window, and a razorback cling inside the back window. I dunno if those are 'new' to y'all or not, but I thought I'd share 'em anyway... :-)
Here is a weird thing I have noticed that I do: If I look at a clock to check the time, and the time reads 9:11, I always stop and think about 9/11 for a moment or two. It's like some kind of reminder for me. I didn't know if I was the only that did that or not, and if I am, well, just add it to the growing list of weird things I do! :-)
On Sunday, Emily and I had quite a day... We played cars, played Barbies (well, I was the guy dolls, except for one Barbie that we deemed the "ding-donger" because she always rang the doorbell on the Barbie House and ran away...), watched a slew of Spongebob videos from one of Tyler's DVD's, fed and watered the animals, and then she helped me clear out some overgrowth/brush that was blocking the gate to where Daisy is... We both hit the bed at about 8:50 and didn't wake up until Monday morning! :-)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Murphy's Law, Havablast and my latest "invention"

In light of my recent bouts with Sharepoint, servers, and technology in general, I find it quite the coincidence that I should find an email from TechRepublic with a link to the origins of "Murphy's Law." As it so happens, there really was a Murphy (I say was, but he may still be alive for all I know) in the late 40's for which the phrase "Anything that can happen, will happen" is attributed. Since I've provided a link, I won't rehash the details, but know my link points to the "meat" of the story on the article's Page 2. If you wish to read the whole article, then you can scroll to the bottom of that page and click on the "1."

One of the groups I listen to (because I found a couple of their songs on eMusic) is a group called "Havablast." They are rockin, loud, sometimes screaming, but what I find most intriguing is their "get up." Bored with "regular" performers, they have gone the way of KISS with costumes, make-up, the whole shebang... Different, that's for sure:

Speaking of Sharepoint, Marilyn spent 6+ hours on the phone with a guy from Fargo on Thursday, and then more time on Friday talking and resolving issues. She and I both finally feel "good" about Sharepoint - logins work, search works... We were such early adopters than when we hit snags, no one could really help us. Now that the product has been out for a while, it seems more of Microsoft's techs are able to help out. And, he SPOKE ENGLISH!! :-)

For a while now, I have been thinking about how cool it would be to have an LCD screen IN my tailgate. Yeah, I kno,w the cost would be through the roof, I'm sure. But, while I was playing around with some ideas, I came up with a DUAL-LCD tailgate:
Dodge Ram with dual LCD (prototype)
Now, before you ask me, so far as I know, this DOES NOT EXIST. This is not some photo I found on the 'net somewhere. I created it using Paint... But how cool would THAT be!? :-) (Of course, since I just thought of it, I'm sure it has been invented somewhere... Happens to me all the time.)

And, as life would have it, Murphy's Law strikes again. At one point, we had everything Sharepoint running great except for a few "minor" glitches. When I left work, the DL Portal was down and the memory leak in SQL was back.... Really, it is too much to ask for things to... I dunno.. WORK?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The fit hit the Shan

I received an email today from our Systems Coordinator and in it, she said, "...better late than never!" this immediately triggered the story that Wally (a friend of mine from way back in my college days) used to tell that ended in "Better Nate than lever!" Ahh... the all-time great pun tales. There are a lot of them, especially ones that end in the same pun. For example, there are quite a few than end with "better Nate than lever," though Wally's centered on a group of Egyptians that were having trouble moving large blocks in order to erect a pyramid. They tried placing a long piece of wood beneath the blocks and then leaning on the opposite end, which stuck high into the air. However, they were unable to budge the stone. The strongest man in the land, a man named Nathan, studied the situation, walked over to one of the large stones, and simply picked it up, asking, "where would you like it?" The Pharaoh was amazed and gave Nathan a huge reward for his efforts. The moral? Better Nate than lever... I know, I know, groan away...

But, this led me to search out other pun-stories, and in the process, I came across the one I used for the title: "Where were you when the fit hit the Shan?" Because, believe me, there have been times when that WASN'T a pun! :-)

For a list of punchlines, you can go here... Good luck to ya!

Though for fun, I'll list some here:
  • Two obese Patties, special Ross, Lester Cheese picking bunions on a Sesame Street bus!
  • They're twins. If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal.
  • Well, there's something about an aqua Volvo, man. . . .
  • Rudolph, the Red, knows rain, dear.
  • But actually mah hammered alley is really cashew's clay. (You may have to think about that one...)
  • There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise.

On that same site listed above, I found a page of limericks. This one made me chuckle:
A swimmer whose clothing got strewed
by breezes that left her quite nude
saw a man come along,
and unless we are wrong,
you expected this line to be lewd.

On TV the other day, I saw yet another one of those "our toilet paper is softer, so you can use fewer sheets" commercials. Look, I don't care how "soft" or how "thick" anyone's TP is, I am going to use the same number of sheets that I usually use. In the commercial, the little bear tears off like 3 sheets for his cub. Okay, I can't even get my hands around 3 sheets, and sure in the heck ain't going anywhere else on my body with 3! After some experimentation (yes, these are the kinds of things that run through my brain), I have concluded that 8 is a nice even number. Provides the -er, uh- coverage i need for my hands while still accomplishing the task. So, there you go, more information than you ever wanted to know, but I bet now you'll at least think about it once next time you have to decide just how many sheets you need... :-)

While getting my oil changed today, CNN or whatever news channel was on had a story about teens using Viagra. Why on Earth would TEENS need to use the magic blue pill?? It turns out, they use it because they think it 'enhances' their performance with their girlfriends. They are also taking it to counteract the performance side-effects of other drugs like Ecstasy. Of course, teens don't care about cause and effect, but it turns out that in teens, the blue pill can cause serious drop in blood pressure, which may prove fatal... When you're a teen, dying in that manner, in that position if you will, may seem like the ultimate way to go, but when you're a teen, there is no "good" way to die... I realize there are most likely no teens reading my ramblings, but it struck me as odd that kids would take Viagra...

The broken record continues - Our Sharepoint server suffered a hardware issue and also whatever software issues we are having with the thing. Marilyn spent ALL DAY on th ephone with Microsoft and for all I know at 7:00 tonight, she may still be there. It has become just a tad more than a bit ridiculous....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thoughts and things and lunch with a train

Well, after all my ranting and raving yesterday, it turns out the issue regarding the Portal seems to be a matter of terminology and semantics. It's hard to explain without making your head spin, but the person who said the portal was not 'official' still stands behind it, but not for the reasons I had thought.

In my opinion, that person is still mis-speaking about it. In any case, I have decided to take it upon myself to speak with the Commissioner of Education if I have to in order to get whatever "endorsement" or "official" status from the state department. I figure it would be similar to the process the NFL uses with candy bars makers ("The official chocolate carmel-cookie sponsor of the NFL").

Sometimes, I really miss those days when I was "just" the tech guy.... :-)

I did remember what I was going to write about yesterday - Brad Paisley's video for "Online." Have you seen this? It features Jason Alexander and is one of the cutest/funniest videos I have seen in a long time. The video also features "Marsha Brady" and William Shatner and a few other celebs. Ironically, the song fits Alexander perfectly, or vice versa... :-)

I left for lunch, went to Mickey-D's, got some nuggets and headed back to the office. On the way back, traffic was stopped by a train on the tracks. Trains in Arkansas have a tendency to block roads - for long periods of time. Just sit there, not moving. And, we did just that. Several cars made U-turns and headed for greener pastures. I hung out, away from the office, listening to my MP3 player (now that it has a fresh battery in it!). I munched on some fries, sipped the Coke, and hung out. After 5 minutes, the train pulled forward. After 2 minutes, it stopped again. That is another strange thing the trains here do... Anyway, while we waited for the train to figure out which way it wanted to go, I had finished my fries and started eating the nuggets. I was finished with lunch (Coke and all) before the train finally decided to go backwards and get out of our way.

What I noticed most was the graffiti on the side of the train cars. Some of it was very elaborate, artistic even. Other 'tags' were simple or sloppy or both. I don't know if anyone has taken pictures of train graffiti in order to preserve it, but I think it would be fun to do. Though, the thought of sitting around waiting for trains does NOT sound fun....

I hate being on television, which I know is weird considering I am on the screen for 50-75 percent of my job. I went into radio in college for a reason, and now I am on the screen more than I care to know. Of course, I also got out of computer science because I hated programming... Now, with the DL Portal, I am programming more than I ever thought I would. I think God has a wonderful sense of humor, and He uses it at every chance he gets... :-)

And, to answer my Aunt's question... For the most part, yes, you are the only one that posts a comment to my blog. Sometimes, other folks do, too, but that's kinda rare... Not sure what that says about me.. or you.. or them... hmm....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Writing things down...

I started writing things down that I saw during the day. You know, the things that I would later write about here. The only problem with my little idea is that I have a tendency to move things around, thus losing the paper upon which I wrote my brilliant insights. Like a great idea jotted down on the napkin the waitress threw away because she assumed you were gone and not just in the bathroom, my flitting ideas are riding the wind somewhere... Most likely, today's would be floating somewhere between Fouke and Hope.

I do remember one thing from this morning - a mini-van with a tail. The rear window wiper on the van ahead of me had become dislodged, or something. It hung down like a little tail. The funny thing is that it would ... well... wag. Left to right, right to left. My first thought was that it was the wind and sheer coincidence that it should look as if it were wagging. But, no... It was too mechanical for that, as if the driver still had the intermittent setting turned on in hopes that one time, just one time, the wiper would gain enough speed to actually right itself and sweep across the back window. But, yeah, it wagged.

On the way to school, Tyler likes to listen to music (as do I), and he has been very frustrated with me because my MP3 player's battery died. He "made me" write down the word "batteries" on a scrap piece of paper so that I would not forget to get some before I came home today. The paper is long gone. The batteries? I bought them. He was happy to hear I had a new battery for my player so that we could enjoy a music-filled trip to school in the morning.... Well, "happy" is a strong word. He took it a lot like he took his first day of school yesterday - "oh."

I saw a bumper sticker today that read: "Cars don't kill people. Drivers with cell phones do!" I laughed because I usually get stuck behind the guy whose sticker reads, "Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than my guns!" Just once, I'd like to put, "My guns have killed more people than [whatever]," but I don't think that would go over so well... :-)

My trip to Fouke went like this: I pulled up, went into the DL room, and fired up the system. I made the system changes and rebooted the equipment. We plugged the network cable into the data switch and AS WE WERE PLUGGING IT IN, their system accepted a call! It was awesome! I was there for about 45 minutes total, 39 of which were spent visiting with the technology coordinator there about cabling raceway (the stuff used to hide cables) and these cool wire ties that have built-in ID tags. I love it when things come together the way they should! :-)

I was hoping to remember what else I had written down, but it's not happening... I do have an addition to this post, but I wrote at work and it is stored in a text file. I'll post it tomorrow.. Or, maybe I'll try connecting to the work network and remoting into my desktop... HEY, THAT WORKED! HOW COOL!! Here it is:

I cannot stand people whose sole purpose in life seems to be to cause friction between the people around them. Unfortunately, I am the victim of such a person.

It turns out that this person has been spreading the word that the Sharepoint site I manage for K-12 Distance Learning is not "officially recognized" by the State Dept of Education. A portion of the funding for the Curriculum Portal comes from the Dept of Ed! I called the woman who oversees our project and I asked her about it. She told me that the portal is as recognized as any of the providers funded under the same umbrella, and asked me to find out what it would take to become "officially recognized," and while I was at it, to inquire as to what "officially recognized" actually means.

I have no doubts the person who is spreading the word about the "status" of the Curriculum Portal is doing so because I raised a stink about being excluded from presenting at a state DL conference. Ironically, I presented the portal LAST YEAR at this same conference... So, what, all of the sudden it's not recognized? I don't think so.

Of course, once this person heard that our portal was funded through the project monies, there was evidently a look of shock and awe...or maybe that was disdain... It's so hard to tell sometimes... :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

After lunch

My lunchtime update ended with me saying that I had hoped we would get the problem in Genoa solved soon... At just about 3:00, things clicked and Max at DIS was able to call INTO the system in various ways!

So, I still have to get Fouke up and going, but hopefully DIS will have made the same changes as Genoa, and I'll be able to waltz in, change a few settings and be connected to the world... Yeah, I know... Wishful thinking... :-)

The kids had a great first day at school. Emily was very excited about her TWO recesses and her ZOO lunchroom. Everything she showed us was done with the enthusiasm of winning the lottery (even her 'take home folder').

Tyler, on the other hand, delivered his news of the day with the enthusiasm of the evening news. Just the facts, and even those we had to drag out of him. Hopefully as the year goes on, he'll get more into it... Or perhaps that is a bit more of that wishful thinking...

Lunch time thoughts

It is just about 12:30 in South Arkansas, so I thought I would chime in for a bit...

Today is the first day of school for most places in Arkansas, and for me, that means running around trying to make sure video systems are working. Well, three sites in the Texarkana LATA are down, but I had something of a brain-fart and came up with the idea to route video traffic across the data network as a temporary fix. The good folks at the Dept of Info Services in Little Rock thought it was a novel idea and said "go for it!"

Arkansas High in T-Town was first. Their local network had a few hiccups, but then we were able to establish a connection! We could dial out, and after about 30 minutes or so, we were able to get AT&T to dial in. Turns out, my solution means that video calls have to "appear" to be coming from off-network (basically meaning they have to look as if they are coming from outside the state). So, now a video call in the T-Town LATA goes from T-Town to Longview to Oklahoma to St. Louis then onto Little Rock, and back around again. It's a wonder anything works... :-)

During this writing, I am in Genoa Central, waiting for DIS and AT&T to figure out why we dial OUT but cannot receive a call... We believe the problem lies in the firewall that DIS controls - the video conferencing ports are shut off to prevent any willy-nilly from using video here. Normally, not a problem. Today, B-I-G problem... :-) Hopefully, we'll have it sorted out soon...

I'll keep ya posted...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Details, details...

Well, if you happen to read the comments that people leave, you will see that I am apparently not giving enough details in some of my stories. Before i give those details, allow me to explain my take on details: You don't need 'em. As long as you get the gist of the story, the details only serve to take away from the quick little ditty I am trying to tell. Now, if I were writing a short story or a novel, perhaps, then details would be all over the place... :-) (Yes, I am being partially hard-headed, and partially a smart-arse...) :-)

The question posed in the comments was something to the effect of, "How were both the van and the truck at home on the day you got a flat?"

Shan had come home after working at the school all day. After supper (I believe it was), we were talking, and we decided to go back up to the school to work on her room. I'll have to re-visit the post, but I thought I was pretty clear on that part, but perhaps not... :-)

In any case, I'm sure you See how that little detail really adds nothing to the story as whole, at least not for me... Just to give all my readers fair warning, I am NOT a details guy... There are a lot of things that I assume you will figure out on your own, or you will ask me about if you really, really want to know.. :-) Thus, the continuation of my flat-tire truck story. I'm always happy to answer questions, just be prepared for the answer mixed in with whatever else happens along in my head.. :-)

I finally did it - Tribecards is now up and running! I will discuss various Indians-related baseball card topics and issues, post team checklists, etc. I am very excited about the whole thing, even if I am the only one that ever visits.... :-)

Shan asked me to rinse off her van for the first day of school. I did one better. The kids and I washed her van from head to toe.... Notice, I said "the kids and I" washed... I tried to make sure they scrubbed everywhere and did my best to go back over spots they may have "overlooked." Because we were doing this using my Mom's hose, I figured it would be nice to wash her car, too. So, the kids helped me wash the Cadillac. Well, I figured I just as well wash my truck, too, so we did that as well. They were quick washes, so I am very afraid to see what they look like in the morning.... VERY afraid.... :-)

Today was "ride in the back day" around here. First, Mom came over and asked for Dad's stuff back. She is slowly putting things back out again. I think that's great! I just hope she doesn't go "too" fast... Anyway (see, details just distract me from the story!!), she came over to ask if I would bring a box of his things back to her place. It's a heavy box, so I put it in the back of my truck. Emily wanted to ride back there on the tailgate, so I put her up there and as I was pulling away, Mom stopped me and jumped on the back, too. Fast forward. I got in Shan's van and Tyler opened the back and sat in the cargo area, his sister riding behind him (so she wouldn't fall out). While washing my truck, the kids got in the bed and had fun cleaning it. I admit, I never think much about cleaning the bed of my truck... But, there ya go... Emily rode in the bed as I drove the truck back down the hill to our place.

I caught the last inning of the Little League World Series game today between Maryland and Minnesota. Tied at 3... Bottom of the 6th... First kid up to bat gets a high fastball, swings the bat, and POW knocks the puppy out of the park! Now, that's how you win a game in the LLSW! :-) Maryland moves on to the next round... The kid that hit ball is the coach's son. How cool to be the coach and watch your son knock in a game-winning HR in the LLWS! Awesome!

School starts tomorrow (Monday). I ran up to Prescott school to check out their video system. I could not connect to it on Friday (or for the past couple weeks, really), so I met the tech up at the school this afternoon (Sunday) and we eventually traced it back to a non-jumpered fiber connection. Evidently, the school had some new fiber put in, but forgot to move the video connection after it was all in place - oops... The main ting is that we tracked it down and got it up and running again! I appreciate Doug (the tech) for walking through the troubleshooting with me and getting things done to make sure classes started on Monday! :-)

Oh, crap, details... Look, Shan and her Mom took her Mom's van to Sonic for drinks. While they were gone, the kids and I washed the vehicles. I would have washed her Mom's after they got back, but it was too dark...

I am having a heck of a time getting some of my cards into my database. The cards I'm talking about are ones that I have to hunt down the year, manufacturer, style, etc (sometimes ALL of those things). Once I have that info (or enough of it to feel okay about it), I create a new "set" in my database and add the cards. As it turns out, though, some of the cards in my "I have no idea what these are" box are ALREADY in the database as if I had marked them "in collection!" So, then, I have to see if I can find the card in my ACTUAL collection... I have a feeling I accidentally put some of my "to be filed, these are in the database" cards in to my "what the heck ARE these cards" box... Obviously, I'm not getting enough sleep.... :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Shan's Door

As promised in another post, here is a picture of Shan's classroom door! This was taken by her Mom a couple days ago, so it doesn't have the "cutesy" things in the basket at the bottom, but it shows the kids' names on the shirts hanging on the lines! :-)

Getting to school with a flat and Jim Thome

My aunt asked (in response to a recent post) how I got to school if I had a flat tire on the truck? We drove in Shan's van..... (Having a "coulda had a v8" moment there about now, Shar?) :-)

(1991 Classic Best Minor League/Rookie Card)

I have been a Jim Thome fan since the day he showed up in an Indians uniform many years ago. I was upset that he went the way of the Phillies, and ultimately to the White Sox (the friggin White Sox of all teams - like deciding to work for the arch enemy or something, man!). Nevertheless, I remained a loyal fan to Thome because somehow I saw the greatness in him that many, many people did not. In hos first few years, he was at the top (or near it) in many stats, and yet never once had he been invited to the All-Star game. People got wise eventually, especially after he left the Tribe. Thome is rapidly approaching 500 homers, and will most likely smoke past 600 in the coming years. But, even more impressive is the number of STRIKEOUTS he has accumulated. 2000+ whiffs or watches... To put that into perspective, he is now FOURTH on the all-time "most times to strike out list." Number one on that list? Reggie Jackson. Yeap, you read that right. Who is 2nd? How about Sammy Sosa? Big names on a "bad" list. How can that be, you say? Because, it means these guys (for the most part) swing for the fences every time. Well, maybe not even for the fences... They swing (or just stand there, sure, but with 490+ HR's, Thome ain't just standing there too often) to put the ball in play. Now, if Thome had 100-200 home runs and still had that many strikeouts, he'd be laughable. That's not the case, and even though it is a somewhat "notorious" or perhaps "dubious" place to be, it is a record that he can shoot for with pride. He hates to strike out - you can see it in his face and his body language. After 2000 of them, you'd think he might be "used to it." But, he is a player. He loves the game and hates to strike out.

He has come very far since those first years, and I hope he reaches both milestones before calling it quits - 600 HRs and the record for most strike outs. A sign of a true ballplayer! :-) Most fans will boo him every time he strikes out, but I'll be pulling for him to reach the record.

Friday, our systems coordinator (Marilyn) and I went to one of our school districts to help do some work in their distance learning lab. We ran network wiring to the computers in the room (they had been on wireless), and I taught the facilitator and her back-up folks how to use the system they now have in place. Things went very smoothly for the most part, but as 3:00 approached (the time we had said we would leave), we were inundated with questions from different folks, and eventually had to also meet with the guy who was coming to inspect the fiber runs. It was almost 4:00 before we could leave, and the school is 50+ miles from HOPE, let alone the 20 miles to my house. It was a long day. Productive, but long.

Tyler had his orientation Friday night, and the parents were supposed to dance with their kids. Tyler would have no part of that.. :-) He also had a problem with his schedule, so we are getting that fixed. Should be a very interesting school year... :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stay with me...

Today's ramblings will be all over the place. I'll try to keep them in some kind of order, but, really, you're kinda on your own... Sorry... :-)

Tuesday, after the staff meeting, I end up in a bout of phone tag surrounding a training I am to help out with on Wednesday. I have a tendency to speak before I think (I know, you may find that rather hard to believe), and before I knew it, I had basically upset to colleagues (at least, temporarily anyway). In a nut shell, one person (Person A) had asked the other (Person B) to help me out with the presentation on Wednesday. Person B said s/he was swamped, but would help out and had called me to pin down some details. Person A called to let me know that Person B was trying to back out and that I might be presenting on my own. Not a problem, except that Person B and I were under the impression that Person A was helping us and that there would be other helpers as well. Person A had scheduled a presentation at another school. With me so far?

Person A was upset because Person B was backing out a commitment, even though Person A had backed of the same commitment in order to present to a school. This hit me sideways. Not that people were rescheduling and/or backing out, but rather that the person who was not happy about the other person had already backed out of the whole thing. So, before I could stop myself, I told Person A, "I don't know how to say this without sounding ugly, but the commitment thing kinda goes two ways..." In summary, I had told Person A that s/he should not be too hard on Person B because Person A had done the very same thing.

In less than 5 minutes, Person B called me to ask what I had said to Person A. I explained a little about what happened, and it turned out that Person A ended up doing the presentation with me after all.

Wednesday - The presentation ROCKED! We were the perfect tag-team for teaching the group of folks about proper techniques for conducting video conferences, making them interactive, etc. Everyone had fun, and we got rave reviews on our evals! It also turns out that the school was happy about Person A cancelling because they wanted to move it to a more convenient time. Seems to be another case of "everything happens for a reason."

Thursday - Our Sharepoint server goes completely wiggy on us, and we aren't exactly sure why. I have to leave at 9:00am in order to present at a school at 10:00. I presented Virtual Field trips via Video to a group of High School teachers. They went bananas!! I think I have created a super-pilot school. Nearly every teacher had questions, had ideas, wanted to know when they could start doing the interactive video lessons. It was awesome!

Emily starts Kindergarten on Monday, so tonight was "orientation." She was very excited to learn all about her 'new school.' We talked with her teacher some, and hung out for a bit. I'm glad to see she is so excited about school! :-)

When I got home, I had a new PC Gamer magazine waiting for me. I love getting that magazine and seeing what cool new games are coming out. Before I could even open the clear plastic wrap, in the upper right corner, I read a headline about Clive Barker's new game. Several years ago, Clive Barker created a game for the computer called "Undying." One of the scariest games I have ever played. Excellent game! And, one of my Dad's all-time favorite games. When I saw the headline, my very first thought was that Dad would have loved to see a new Clive Barker game and he would be talking about to no end until its release date. Then , he would be the first in line to buy it, load it, and get sucked in to its scary world.

For some time - seconds, minutes, I don't honestly know - I just looked at the headline and thought about Dad. All the games we can't play together. All the games Dad would play and then tell me about - whether it was worth buying or even playing at all.

I usually keep myself pretty busy, so as to help not dwell on things, on his passing, so much. I think about Dad every day in one way or another (usually when someone needs help with a computer, only to find out an hour later they had 'forgotten' to tell me a key bit of info that would have helped at the start!). But sometimes, things stop me dead in my tracks, and I take time to think about him, and to miss him. As I have said before, we weren't "best friends" or anything like that so much as we were becoming buds - gaming guys. With DSL at Mom and Dad's house and DSL at ours, we were planning on doing some head-to-gaming. My brother has his car. A red Hyundai Elantra. Whenever I see one, I don't look for my brother to be driving it, I think of Dad. I don't write much about it because writing is my outlet. It's a catch-22... I like to write to get it al out, but when I write, I get it all out, which means all the thoughts and emotions come out, too. It's a hard place to go, and often, an even harder place to come back from....

On Friday, I am going to a school district to help run some wiring to connect laptops to the network. I have been so busy with things lately that I am 99% sure I will need to drive about 30 miles out of the way in order to pick some parts I will need. I knew better. I almost stopped and got them today, but I was so consumed with trying to find this little electronics place (never did find it) that after an hour of searching, I was ready to just head back to the office. Next time, I'll just go to Best Buy, which is where I had originally thought to go, but lost the idea in the midst of finding this other shop.... I either have ADD or CRS or some combination of the two.... CRADDS... LOL, I can tell you right now, there is NO WAY that I would go around saying "I have CRADDS." Sounds a bit too much like something else, and can you imagine trying to EXPLAIN it? I don't need that... No one does... :-)

The other night, Emily had fallen asleep on the couch. I put her in her bed. I went to bed and fell asleep - deep sleep. Evidently, the poor girl rolled over and fell out of the bed. She has a small cut on her head. Honestly, we're amazed she didn't have a concussion. Her bed is a LONG way down to the floor....

I can't tell if Tyler is excited about school or not. I don't think I was too excited about it at his age... Guess we'll see! :-)

A woman we know made me a cake. A Mountain Dew cake. She said she is going to tweak the recipe because you can't really tell its Mt. Dew... It is very moist and does have a bit of the Dew flavor, but she was hoping for more of a "WOW" factor. I'll gladly be the "kitchen tester" for that experiment! :-)

I pulled into the laundromat today so that I could buy a mini box of detergent for Shan's classroom door, and when I got out of the truck, I noticed some red fluid on the ground. Now, a friend/colleague of mine just had her truck taken to the shop after it spewed red fluid all over the place, so I was kinda freakin... After I bought the detergent, I pulled out, and drove a bit then stopped to see if maybe that red stuff had been there already. I voting yes. There was no fluid on the ground and my truck seemed pretty normal. I'm guessing the people there before me had not left long before I got there.... Well, that's the version I'm going with anyway! :-)

Phil Rizzuto passed away. I am only young enough to know him from his "Money Store" commercials. I never followed his baseball career or his broadcasting gig. Nevertheless, I was sorry to hear he had passed away...

My searching through "doubles" in my baseball card collection has paid off very well. Cards that I had assumed were duplicates turned out to be team set-completing additions to my collection! :-) It's also been fun looking at the photos on the cards. In the future (after I get my collection in the database and after I create a blog for Indians cards, I'll post a few samples. Some will make you laugh, some might make you cry (Is that REALLY a guy?)....

I love watching "Ace of Cakes" and "Trick My Truck!" Man, can those guys do some very cool things!! :-)

That about does it for me. I think I'm tapped out. The random thoughts in my head are no longer forming complete sentences - a sure sign that it's time to wrap it up and hit the sack....

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sounding like my father-in-law

It happened. Monday night. I came home, life was good, the end of Monday.... Or was it?

I turned on the stove, or rather TRIED to, and no lights. Oven? Nope. Okay, so I check the breaker and it is not flipped, but I go ahead an reset it anyway for old times sake. No light on the range. I pull it out, unplug it, wait a few secs, plug it back in (the low-tech version of a reboot), and HEY it works! For a little while, anyway. Soon, the light is out, the partially cooked meat sits in the skillet. Being the creature of habit that I am, I go through the same motions I went through last time. After all, I'm not sure which of my voodoo moves got it kick started, right? Not this time, buddy. Dead. Nothing.

I look online for help, clues, anything. The manufacturer site says to check the outlet. Outlet? Okay, maybe if the house was a hundred years old or something, but come on... I think it's the element, thermostat, or something. Then again, I have no idea what I'm talking about, so there ya go. Supper is effectively ruined.

Fast forward 30-60 minutes... We all decide to head to the school to help Shan get some things done in prep for the start of the new year. We walk out the front door, and POW! My truck has a flat tire. Not good. And, here is where I begin to recite the same lines I heard my father-in-law saying not long ago, "I knew better... I knew better.. I just knew better than that!" Yeap. You see, for the past week or so, I have been telling myself that I need to get my tires changed. I'm no mechanic, but I know when my tires are "worn slap out," as they say... And mine were. But, you see, I *WAS* going to stop at the discount tire place in Texarkana on Monday while I was down there... However, in my frustration with the tech situation there (refer to Monday's post), I forgot all about my withering tire. I knew better...

So, we went up to the school because there was NO WAY that I was going to change my tire in 100+ degree heat. I also wasn't going to change it later that night because I don't like doing things like "sticking my head under several tons of truck" in the dark. Maybe it's just me... So, I decided to wait and change the tire at 6am today (Tuesday).

Off to school we go, and I help hang a few things by pounding cement nails into the mortar and stone walls. Legalized destruction of school property... Man, how can you go wrong? :-)

Fast forward to today (Tuesday). Wake up at 5-something, snooze for a bit, and finally get up at 6-something. I don't know if you have ever changed the tire on a big ol' honkin truck, but it ain't easy with the tools they give ya and it ain't too much fun either. The biggest problem I had was figuring out how to connect all these goofy metal poles together in order to make a lever that turns in order to lower the spare tire from under the bed. I finally figured it out, but really, figuring out the Sharepoint search was easier (and if you've been playing along, you KNOW what a mess THAT was!).

Next, if you've changed a tire on a car or minivan, there are these nice little notches that guide you where to place the jack... Not so on a truck. Instead, I had to look in the book only to find out that I have to use the lower rocker arm (or something like that) as my brace. Okayyy... Get the tire changed, take the truck to Goodyear, Goodyear takes me to work and I am thrust into the madhouse!

Today was our annual staff meeting, which I had somehow managed to know nothing about, or blocked it out of my mind, or something.... Let's just say that staff meetings at work are a mixture of infomercial and circus. The highlight of the meeting was the discussion on pandemic outbreak. Ah yes, in the continuing trend that is the world we live in, we were warned of a major flu outbreak that could happen any time... blah blah blah... Frankly, just like all the other things we are supposed to cower in fear of, I took it all with a huge lump of salt. I refuse to be swayed by talk of death, destruction, trials and tribulations. If it happens, it happens. No sense in getting all wiggy about it.... Now, in my boss' defense, she did a good job of trying to temper the fear with fact and calmness, but really, when talking about pandemic, the goal is fear. That is, after all, the way of the world these days, isn't it? Yeesh.

Tonight, I helped Shan in her classroom again, and I have to say her door is decorated VERY cutely! We'll take pictures and post them here... :-)

There's more to post, but the kiddos just got back from "Family Night Swimming," and they demand my attention (loosely translated as 'wont leave me alone to finish my thoughts')... Until next time, Hide-the-Oats!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Low-Refrig - A/C Off

We spent the weekend in Little Rock (as previously mentioned, the last "hoorah" before school starts). Had a great time - swimming, shopping, eating! Come sunday, we still have a few errands to run, so my Mom and I get in her Caddilac while Shan, the kiddos, and her Mom get into her Mom's van. All is good for the first couple of places, but after the 2nd or 3rd, I notice the car doesn't seem to be cooling as quickly as it had been. I don't say anything because it is 100+ outside and figure it's just my "hot-natured" self acting up. After our errands, we head down the road toward home. Approximately 75 miles or so still TO GO, and the car starts blowing HOT air. At about the same time, a message on the dash reads, "Low-Refrig - A/C Off." No, that can't be right... We turn off the A/C blower (fan) and we try again. The car responds, "Low-Refrig - A/C Off." AUGH! We power down the windows a bit and continue driving in the 106-degree heat (tha is the OUTSIDE temp, who knows what the temp inside the car is at this point!). Being the stubborn fools we are, we try the A/C again. The car responds, "Low-Refrig - A/C Off." Though, I am pretty sure the car would like to respond, "The A/C doesn't work, you idiots! There is no freon and I am trying to save the car by not letting you run the thing on empty!" However, the car refrains, and only responds with the usual message.

I am young enough to "remember" the days of cars without air conditioning. I do not, however remember 100+ degree heat as a child, however. I finally turn off the fan which was still blowing (the A/C had been shut off by the car, but not the fan). If you have never had to endure insane heat while more hot air is blowing in your face, you are missing a real treat, I assure you. About 40 miles away from home, I pulled over to Mickey-D's for a drink (just some sweet tea, folks!). Eventually, we made our way home, where the welcoming comfort of central air rushed over and around me in a big hug when I entered the house!

That little adventure did raise a question, though: At what age does going "slightly" over the speed limit become "speeding?" Both John (you know, my friend at work) and my Mom are about the same age. They both have this "thing" where they like to watch my speedometer and let me know that I am over the limit. Mom takes the indirect approach - "You know, your sister-in-law has been stopped twice near here for speeding..." Where John is more direct - "Uh, you do know the speed limit is xx here, right?" To which I respond (in both cases) - "Yeah?" Of course I know WHAT the limit is, but that doesn't mean I plan on actually GOING it anytime soon... And, really, I am usually just 5-7 miles over. Okay, sometimes it's like 80 in a 70, but even then, I am usually keeping up with the flow (as opposed to setting the pace).

But, I wondered when does that shift in mentality start? It can't be experience-based (I've gotten a speeding ticket before). I can't help but wonder if it is about the same time the ol' "handicapped" driving thing comes about (refer back to the post about handicapped drivers). Or maybe, it is the same time that the radio becomes "too loud." From my experience, I'm guessing somewhere around 50, a switch in our bodies gets flipped. I've already told my kids some things to watch out ofr, and if I start doing or saying some of those things, they are to "correct" me.. :-)

I saw a sign on a grocery store as I was traveling through Texarkana... It read, "2 Leader Cokes - 4/$5" Yeah, I had to read it twice to make sure....

Monday - Spent part of the morning moving an Audioscience ceiling microphone from one building to another in Texarkana. There is nothing quite like lugging an 8-foot ladder around in 100-degree heat... :-) Spent the other part of the morning trying to hunt down and troubleshoot connectivity to the video system. That's not exactly accurate... I stood around waiting for the techs at the school to troubleshoot connectivity problems... I hate standing around. Nothing wastes my time and abilities more than standing around while someone else tries to hunt down a problem that I could usually find and fix within minutes. i spent more than an hour twiddling my thumbs before I finally had to get back to the office. I handled much of the rest of what needed to be done by cell phone. And, it turns out, some of the problem was not local at all, but a widespread problem with the telephone company in that area.

Here is a bit of useless trivia for you... The Internet connection to Texarkana, Arkansas, is in the Texas LATA. So, in order for data or video to be seen by the folks IN ARKANSAS, their information must travel from Texarkana, Arkansas, to Texarkana, Texas, then to Longview, Texas, and finally be routed back to Little Rock. Honestly, it's a wonder ANYTHING works down there..... For the districts close to Texarkana, it's even worse... Genoa has to send its data to Texarkana, Arkansas, in the first place before taking that whole convoluted trip.

It is very akin to taking a trip from New York to Paris, France, by way of Los Angeles. Or Pittsburgh to Cleveland by way of Philadelphia! Say what!? (All together now - "WHAT!?")

(WARNING - serious geekiness ahead, and on a soapbox no less)
While looking for a way to try to force a web browser to open a new TAB instead of a new WINDOW, I came across the following discussion: ...tabbed browsing question. Now, the gist of the article covers the possibility of forcing a site visitor's web browser to open links from a page in a new IE7 tab, rather than in a new window. But, far and away the funniest (and possibly the most problematic) comment came from the author of the post in response to another person's reply. DIGITALV (the author of the question) says, "I don't care about the W3C and any of that other hippie crap."

Why problematic? For starters, let me say that the author is working on an INTRAnet site (no one from the outside world will see it). That said, I find it more than a little reckless that we have someone who is writing code for an application that becomes highly proprietary. He says he doesn't care because it "is" proprietary. the problem with that logic is that when he leaves for another job, would next person coming in behind him be able to decipher his 'proprietary' coding? This is not some software application we're talking about. We're not creating Windows or Pagemaker. It's a web site. By throwing away the standards set up by the W3C, we go back to the early days of HTML and "the web."

Perhaps that author is too young to understand what life was like circa the early 90's when the World Wide Web had just been invented/created. The INTERNET has been around since the 40's, yes, but the graphical, name-based WEB we have all come to love to hate (or hate to love, or hate, or love for that matter) was not 'born' until the early 1990's. *I* do remember those days. Vividly. Code would work for one browser but not another.

I know, he is only using it within his organization and only with IE7. Still, the fact that he is only seeking a solution to solve HIS problem and not try to come up with a solution that is farther-reaching is irresponsible, in my opinion. And though it may be cool to force new tabs when a user clicks a link, I would not want this person working for me! I am not so dumb to think this person will be at the same company 5, 10, 20 years from now. Yeah, I know, his code would be long gone by 20 years. But, I think you follow, right? You may not agree, but I haven't lost you (for the most part) right?

We have standards for a reason - so that things can be done in different ways, using common methods. Anyone, anywhere can replicate a solution by using those standards. It's the reason a 3/8" screw is the same whether you buy it in Arkansas or Oregon. By using the "hippie crap" (web language) standards put in place by the W3C, any one can use any browser and see standards-based content. When that author leaves his company and no one seems to be able to figure out what he did, they will end up scrapping it all and starting over with something else, most likely standards-based.

I realize that by not following the standards, other standards may come about (monitor and adjust, rule and adapt). So, it is something of a catch-22. Frankly, I don't mind someone playing around with features, creating new features, etc in a non-production environment. But, where you have mission-critical data and applications that serve the organization on a daily (if not minute-by minute) basis, no way... Not on my dime, buddy...
(Okay, I'm off this soapbox for now. Mainly because I started this on a Friday, left it over the weekend, and kinda lost interest in it by the time I got back to it on Monday)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thought I'd Share...

John had posted some of these to his blog, so I thought I would share them:
Customer Service Calls (may or may not be real, but they are real funny):

Customer: "I've been calling 700-1000 for two days and can't get through; can you help?"
Operator: "Where did you get that number, sir?"
Customer: "It's on the door of your business. "
Operator: "Sir, those are the hours that we are open."
Caller: "Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?"
Operator: "I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand who you are talking about."
Caller: "On page 1, section 5, of the user guide it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning. Now, can you give me the number for Jack?"
Operator: "I think it means the telephone plug on the wall."
Then there was the caller who asked for a knitwear company in Woven.
Operator: "Woven? Are you sure?"
Caller: "Yes. That's what it says on the label -- Woven in Scotland."

Coke Man, Africa Hot, Saw III (spoiler ahead)

On Thursday, the Coke machine went a little crazy. If you put in your money, you got your drink but you would only get the nickels and dimes of your change. Any quarters were kept by the machine. Of course, we do not have a contract with Coke, so we have to fix it ourselves, and since it is plugged in and uses electricity, it is, by default, technology. Yes, the Coke machine manages to fall under the technology department's umbrella when it acts up... Go figure.

After some poking around, and a lot of trial and error, since none of us had any kind of "Coke Machine-related" experience (other than pushing the button in order to get a drink), we managed to get the change-giver loose. Sure enough, a quarter was jammed. After some more poking, the stubborn little fella popped out and hit the floor.... Along with 5 or 6 of his buddies. Guess they figured they'd make a break for it while they could! Too bad for them, because they were all rounded up and herded back into the "overflow" bin.

Thus, I can add "Coke machine repair" to the laundry list of skills I now possess. I used to kid Shan by saying that if I ever got bonked on the head and forgot everything I knew about technology, I'd be useless... As my list grows, I see there are many things I could do... Though, I would guess that I would not be paid quite the same....

I saw a movie when I was younger. It had Matthew Broderick. The quote from the movie is something along the lines of, "Man, it's hot... it's like Africa hot!" Thinking, I believe the movie was "Biloxi Blues," maybe? Sure, I could look it up on IMDB, but I'll leave that for you.. :-) My point is, here in Arkansas, it is Africa Hot... Humid, 100+ thermometer degrees (heat index? Puh-leez... We don't need no stinkin' index, we GOT the heat!). Frankly, I don't see the point of "heat index" or "wind chill." Look, it's hot. If the temp is 100 degrees, and the heat index is 105 or 110, it's still hot. And, will my plans change because it "feels" like 110, or it "feels like" 12? No, if it is already close enough to be that hot or cold, those "feel like" degrees do nothing for me one way or another! What if they came on and said, "It's 100 degrees, but with the wind, it feels like 95!" Whoop-dee, friggin doo... Just tell it like it is - "It is D**N hot, folks. Drink water, and be careful out there."

This weekend is our annual "last hoorah" weekend. We head off to Little Rock (though last year, we went to Shreveport) and spend the weekend swimming, school shopping, goofing off, etc. Since Shan had to be in Conway Friday, she and the kids headed to Little Rock to stay with her brother on Thursday. The co-op where I work has/had three video conferences going on for Friday, so I had to come to the office to help out. So, Thursday night I decided to watch "Saw III" for the first time. I received it for Christmas, but it is hard to find a time when everyone is sleeping except me and that I wanted to watch it. As you know, I have been spending most of my 'open time' getting my Indians baseball card collection into the computer. I did start the DVD once, but I just wasn't into it, so I turned it off. (As usual, I digress...) :-) So, last night (well, technically very early this morning), I fire up SAW III. I have the unrated version, so I'm not sure what you did or did not see in the theater (though I would guess I saw much more in the 'freezer' scene than they showed in theaters). Side note: Shawnee Smith has lost a lot of weight. She looks so much different than she did in "Becker" and you can see the difference from previous "Saw" movies. I'm not saying it's good or bad, just making an observation. Anywho, I liked the movie, but it was not as good as the first one (in my opinion, of course). Frankly, I don't remember much about the 2nd one except the "needle room." The ending of "Saw III" was stupid. Again, I don't know what was not shown in theaters, but the blood coming from Tobin's cut throat looked so fake, so forced, it ruined the mood. Instantly, I thought I was watching some B-level horror effects - like something out of "Evil Dead" (almost comical). Of course, there was the obligatory "the movie doesn't end here" ending... Again, stupid. I am not one of these "all movies should have a happy ending" kind of people, but if this was the last movie in the series, then it should have ENDED. After everything that happened throughout the series, if they had ended it with Jeff forgiving John and finally learning to let go, I would have found that to be much more satisfying. Especially as a means to contradict Amanda's argument that people don't change. Then again, ending it the way they did, Jeff's little girl may very well prove to be the "next Jigsaw."

I am making a lot of progress on the baseball cards, by the way. To date, there are 5,639 cards in the database. I have 50 or so that are in my "to be entered" box (meaning, to be entered into the database), and at least 200 or so that are in my "to be recorded" box (meaning 'cards for which I have to create a record in the database' (mostly way-off oddball stuff)), and I have at least 2,000 that are in a "duplicates" box that I want to go through and make sure they really are duplicates. I have already discovered many cards that I *thought* were duplicates but turned out to be singles I needed! I have decided to take the "assume nothing" approach for this endeavor. Once I have everything entered, then I will know for sure that those truly are duplicates and I can start packaging them for sale on eBay or give away or whatever. You would think that once I get done with my Indians cards, I would be finished except for additional cards I pick up as time goes by.... No, no, no... You see, in addition to my Indians cards, I also have another collection of cards (I am sure I have mentioned this already) that are stars, rookies, players I like(d). And, yes, they too will be entered into a database for record keeping... :-) Though, i admit, I am not a gung-ho about those - I don't particularly care how long it takes to do those, so they will be done "whenever" or maybe even "if" ever... :-)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bonds hits 756

Congratulations to Barry Bonds - the new all-time MLB home run leader!

A very few came...

I slept like crap. Well, supposing of course I have any inkling as to just how crap would sleep... But, yeah, I slept like crap. Actually, now that I am thinking about it, why *DO* we say that? After all, crap just... lays there... So, really, if you sleep like it, then you'd just lay there and sleep all night, right? Or maybe, because it just lays there and ISN'T sleeping, that fits the description perfectly... When one "sleeps like crap," they usually mean they just laid there with their eyes open, NOT sleeping... So, in that regard, yeah, I slept just like that.

I have no idea why, so we won't even bother with that question! All I know is that I woke up every couple hours, at one point my "Smarty-pants" thermostat must have decided I really WASN'T in the room after all. I was burning up and I have the thing set at 69! I think tonight I may leave the TV on low, or maybe I'll rig up something that waves around when the vent blows to create movement or something...

I finally got up at 5:45 because I was too tired of NOT sleeping to bother fighting anymore. I am a 'morning shower' kind of person. So, it wasn't until I went in there as the sun was deciding whether or not it wished to make an appearance today that I made the discovery - there was no shower curtain. I have never had that happen before, so I looked the curtain rod over a good couple of times to make sure my eyes were not playing some sleep-deprived trick on me. It entered my head that perhaps only those people who actually stay for an "extended stay" would receive such a gift as a shower curtain in their room. Now, if I were the kind of person to get upset over such things, I would have picked up the phone or stomped downstairs and demanded a shower curtain. Instead, I took my shower, letting the water fall where it may. On the way out the door to the conference, I stopped by the front desk and let them know I did not have a shower curtain. The guy at the desk was partly amused, partly embarrassed. He assured me one would be in my room when I returned. He was right, there was.

Unlike yesterday, my phone rang only twice today. Once from each of the schools that could not connect to the video conference from yesterday. Both sites were still offline would not be participating in the 2nd day of the VC.

I arrived at the Agora center around 7:15 or so, and there were already people inside waiting in line to get their name tags and binders. I actually recognized some! That's kind of big deal for me, because I tend to convince myself that I won't recognize people I should know (don't get me wrong, there was some of that too). People started arriving, and we all took our places, trying to help find their seats or get registered (for those that hadn't or whose registration had been mistakenly left off). And they came.. and came.. and came... All tolled, we had more than 325 participants! Facilitators, teachers, principals, superintendents, coaches, techies, and more. I took pictures throughout the day and I'll post some once I get them out of my camera (seems I left the USB cable to the house).

So, why the title of my blog if we had 325+ people? Well, you see at lunch, someone decided to put signs up above the doors to the breakout sessions. Now, mind you there were signs on the main doors to the sessions, but you could also get to the sessions directly from the main ballroom. Well, that someone put the wrong room names over the wrong doors.... My first session about the DL Curriculum Portal had about 6 people in it. I wasn't expecting a big crowd or anything, but six people??

Turns out, everyone went to the room "marked" with the name of my room, so they all went to the wrong room without realizing it! They were packed to over-flowing and no one came to my room because they thought I was packed! We half-heartedly laughed about it later, but it's definitely something that needs to be worked out before next time! :-)

My second session was packed to over-flowing... :-) Guess we'll see how Wednesday goes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Let's take a walk...

Allow me to set the stage... On one hand, I volunteered to schedule a two-day video conference for a group of folks. Simple enough, right? On the other hand, there is a statewide distance learning facilitator training unlike any initiative put forth to date. As fate would have it, what we have in reality is the make up of a 'perfect storm.' For, you see, the first day of each of these two events happened to fall on the same day - today...

THE DAY BEGINS - The video conference is scheduled to begin at 8:30am. The video conference (henceforth VC to save my fingers!) is NOT being held at my office, but rather at six locations around the state (sites which changed on a nearly daily basis for the last month and a half, meaning I had to schedule and reschedule the event with our videoconferencing bridge in St. Louis - not fun).

In order to prepare for the distance learning facilitator training, I must be in Conway (approx 2 hrs from my house) by 11am.

At 8:32am, my cell phone begins ringing. It is one of the sites for the VC - they are not connected to the event. I hang up and almost instantly another call comes in from another site - no VC... No problem, I call St. Louis and talk to a friendly video tech who tells me the VC is scheduled and running, though no one is in it. He does some checking and we can't figure out WHY no one is able to get connected... I hang up and start calling the sites... One site is having a local problem (cannot connect to the network INSIDE their own building), one site is having a wide-area problem (cannot connect outside their network), one site doesn't know HOW to tell the system to answer the call, the other sites have a myriad of issues.

It is now around 9:00am. We live in the country, as many of you know from my previous postings. Cell service is spotty on its BEST days. This is the 'perfect storm,' not even a good day... :-) I hop in the truck and head to Conway, all the while TRYING to maintain enough contact to try and troubleshoot while driving down the road.

By 9:20, we finally have TWO of the sites in the VC. During the course of the two-hour trip to Conway, I can easily estimate that I made and/or received well over 50 calls. To some, that may not seem like a lot. For me, that's a ton while driving down the road at 75 miles an hour... :-) The rub? Even after a two-hour ride and 50+ calls, we still only had 4 of the six sites up and running.

The problem with troubleshooting from afar is that you cannot 'touch' the equipment, and you spend a lot of time waiting for this person or that person to call you back. During the day, I got so many calls that my fellow techs were ribbing me about how 'popular' I was.

AGORA - I arrive at the Agora center in Conway. Now, I've heard a lot about this place - how large it is, how wonderful it is, blah blah... Honestly? It looks like an old warehouse that has been converted into a conference center. There is a large central ballroom area with 6 various-sized breakout rooms surrounding that main room. Of course the rooms are not called 'rooms,' for that would be too common. Instead, they are called "Stoas." Fancie-shmancie, eh?

My job, along with the other 3 people in the 'tech team,' is to figure out what technology is needed where, get it there, and set it up. A quick walk-through, and we knew we would things like, um... TABLES! Yeesh. A lot of the DL folks brought computers (laptops), projectors, etc. Throughout the day, I was crawling under tables, pulling wires and power cords, while on the phone with whichever person I was trying to get connected to the VC... Or sometimes, I was talking to various people in order to UPDATE them on the status of the non-connected sites.

The tech team was running everywhere, trying to set this up or connect that, or test this, or try that. Somehow, *I* ended up being the one who served as 'task manager' for this project (just the tech install part, not the overall event!!), and I felt like an overbearing supervisor with a clipboard (though, I did not have a clipboard for my checklist, so i feel a little cheated on that one). In some places, we did very nice cable management. In other places, frankly, we were too bogged down trying to get everything working to worry about how "pretty" things looked! Honestly, I'll be amazed if it all still works in the morning... :-)

LUNCH - At 2:00 or so, we take a lunch. We figure a quick stop over at Chili's and we'll be back in action.... More than an HOUR later, we finally got back to work. I have never seen such slow service in my life! At least 5-10 minutes before the waitress shows up for drink orders. Another 5 or so before she returns with out drinks. Another 10-15 before she takes our orders... Another 20 before our BURGERS get delivered. Yes, we ordered burgers for crying out loud... How long should that take!? We wolf down our food and get back to the Agora around 3:15 or so. Oh, yeah, Cathi (the true task manager of the whole project) had asked us to bring back a drink. She thought we had given up, got lost, fell into the ocean, something... Yeesh...

A CALL FROM MAX - Around 4:30, I get a call from DIS (Ark Dept of info Services). Evidently, they got tired of us bugging them about one of the sites not connecting to the VC. I explain what I think the problem is, and Max starts troubleshooting from Little Rock to the site (near Texarkana). We talk a bit... Max and I have known each other for years. After some poking and prodding a few, "What the-?'s," Max agrees with my assessment - the problem is NOT at the school, but rather with the telephone provider that supplies their Internet connection (their ISP, if you will, or even if you won't). I figure it's pretty bad because he verbally scratching his head, wondering out loud things like, "How are they even getting connected at all?" and "How could they even see anything if they DID get connected?" Then, Max being Max, he goes off on a tangent which I can no longer participate - Frame Relay this, protocol that... Way over my head, buddy...

In a few moments, though, he comes back to Earth and begins speaking English to me again. He says he's got "some work to do..." - which means he will probably be calling the telephone company in that area and chewing them up one side and spitting them out the other... Max is not happy with them, but is very happy with my analysis of the situation.. :-) A bright spot in the day, for sure.

More phone calls, and I explain the problem (in English, as best as I can translate) to the folks that need to know. A little after 5:00, I leave, heading for the hotel in order to check in.... You'd think the 'storm' would be over now, wouldn't you? Of course it's not....

THE HOTEL - I find the paper on which I had written the directions to the hotel, and follow them accordingly. The hotel, Candlewood Suites, is actually THROUGH the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express next to it. I find this to be rather odd that the only way into a hotel is through another hotel's drive, but whatever. Turns out, they are owned by the same parent company... Ohhh... Okay... And, it turns out, this is "an extended stay hotel." That's what the girl (yes, she is 20-ish, probably a college kid) tells me. "Have you ever stayed at an extended stay hotel?" She asks this because I am not very good at the whole poker-face thing, and she can obviously tell that those words are as Greek as Max's were earlier... And, like the kid in Christmas Story, I simply move my head in a "no-like" fashion, though no words are forming from my mouth... "Well," she takes on a very 'matter-of-fact, this is the way life works tone, "it means we only have maid service once a week. Since you are staying less than a week, your bed will not be made up each day. Also, you may bring your used towels to the front desk and we will exchange them for clean ones."

I have never heard of such a beastly place. A hotel that.. ISN'T a hotel!? Crap lady, you just as well tell me I have to make my own bed, do my own laundry, and clean my own commode! I'm staying at home away from home, and not necessarily in the way people generally use that phrase!! Stunned, I take my key, get my stuff and come into the room... I am greeted by a hard-wood "kitchen" area (Fridge, stove, micro, etc) which leads to the nice-sized bathroom and to the carpeted "living" area (bed, desk, leather recliner, flat-panel TV)... VERY NICE! The thermostat is on the wall, which I learned to look for since our stay in St. Louis (who says you don't learn anything on vacation??). The Internet connection (wireless) is wiggy at best, but I happen to have a network cable in my laptop case.... Uh-Oh, it's a crossover cable (not a standard cable, and it has nothing to with the way it's dressed, thank you!). Turns out, it works just fine here! YAY! I turn on the TV, set the thermostat for a nice 69 degrees, and pause... A sign on the thermostat reads, "This thermostat uses SMART technology and it knows when you are not in the room. It may take up to 15 minutes before the room reaches the desired temperature." How the blankety-blank does it know if I'm in the room? Maybe when I'm awake and moving around, sure... But how about when I am in the bed asleep?? How does it know I'm sleeping and haven't left?? Hmm... If I had more time, perhaps I could test this device.... But, with all the prep work (and blogging) I have, there is no time for such shenanigans (and, since I will NEVER stay in an "extended stay" hotel again) so I will never know the 'secret.'

A little after 6:00, my phone rings (oh, I forgot to mention the phone rang at least three times while I was getting 'settled in.'). Cathi lost her room. Evidently, she got to her hotel after 6:00 without letting them know and they gave her room away! Well, because of our event and some kind of pageant going on, there are no rooms anywhere in the city! She called me because a group of us were meeting at Mike's Place in Conway to eat, but she now had to drive to Little Rock for a room! Ouch! Evidently, I am alphabetically first in her contact list of DL folks, so she called me to pass the word on to the other once I got to the restaurant..... Yeah, which brings me to just that:

(Getting to and leaving) THE RESTAURANT - I look up on Mapquest how to get to the restaurant from the hotel. Easy enough, head out to Harkrider St (or road or whatever), hang a right, turn on Main and it's right there on Main and Front streets... Yeah... I start heading down the road. At about the time I think I should see Main, it never comes... I keep going, convinced that it must be further than I thought... Ahead of me, I see another DL guy in his car. It's Brian. We pass under a traffic light, and I see him turn off into a parking lot to make a U-turn. I take the next right and do the same. I manage to get myself behind him again and we drive back the way we came... Eventually, we come to some road, and turn left. When we get to an intersection, we turn right (oops, should have turned left) and we drive a bit before finally whipping into another parking lot to make another U-ey... I grab the first parking space I see, which is a little out of the way, but I know where my truck is, and I know how to get out there for when supper is over.... Or so I thought....

I jump in the truck (which dings at me to remind me that I am low on fuel because I never stopped to gas up after I got to town), and make "a block." When I come around, I turn RIGHT instead of the left I should have made. As I drive down this road, I look for a road sign, and when I see it, it is NOT the road I was looking for! I'm on the wrong road... No problem, I can take the next right (or left) and then another turn and be back on track.... Or not... I drive, crossing over roads that have familiar names, but I have no idea if they run parallel or perpendicular to where I want to be! I keep driving because: a) I'm a guy, b) there is no where to stop, and c) because I'm a guy. I finally cross "Dave Ward road." I remember seeing an exit for Dave Ward on I-40! Wow, I think I am a bit out of the way. I turn LEFT (should have turned right) and head down the road a bit... I see Wal-Mart and figure I just as well stop for gas (and at $2.62, why not). I ask the attendant which way to I-40. I ask because: a) I'm tired of driving around, b) I truly have no idea where I am, and c) I just want to get back to my "no made for you!" hotel.

I gas up, and head out in the direction of I-40.... And drive.... and drive.... and drive.... Some 5 or miles later, I get to the I-40 interchange. Dave Ward exit is 129. My hotel? Exit 125. Good heavens, I am STILL about 5 miles out of the way! I grab the Interstate and head for the hotel. Parking is scarce, so I have to get between two other trucks... I misjudge the turn. I have to do a 5-point redirect to get lined up for parking. Naturally, there are a zillion people in the parking lot WATCHING my lack of parking skills play out.... And you know what? I just didn't care anymore....

I figure there is very little (knocking on the wood desk at which I sit) that can be added to this 'perfect storm' of a day....

On a bright side, when I opened my laptop, there was a card from Shan! :-) Lots of hearts and smiley faces - just what I needed to help break the clouds of the storm! :-)