Jul 31, 2007

A question of writing...

Earlier today, John and I got into a discussion about how often we do (or don't) write on our respective blogs. We both came to the consensus that, really, even though there may be many things floating around in our heads, the truth is, we don't think it's really all that noteworthy...

The first inclination is to compare one's own writings with those of others. Because I like to write about whatever pops in my head, there is often no direction or grand purpose for my writing. I figure if it's in my head, it just as well come on out! :-)

Every once in a while, I try to write at least something each day. But, really, sometimes when I sit to write, I convince myself that what I am about to write (or in many cases what I write but do not actually publish) is not really worth the electrons it takes to form the words on the screen. That's not necessarily a knock on myself. Just the way life is sometimes, I think. Perhaps, I am over-thinking the whole thing. After all, my main 'purpose' for writing is get the stuff running around my brain out of head, and second to that is giving you, my friends/readers/etc, a peek into the world between my ears.

My niece's meningitis appears to be more serious than we had been hoping. We don't know the 'official' results, but preliminary results showed the cultures the doctor took are growing, which is a sign that it is meningitis. We are keeping all of them in our prayers.

Shan had bunco tonight, so the kids and I watched "Sky High" and ate popcorn and Whoppers. I had never seen the movie, and I thought it was cute enough. I enjoyed picking out the 'star' actors and actresses in the various roles.

(Warning: Geek speak ahead, proceed with caution)
At work, I was finally able to get the Sharepoint search working! I poked around enough that I came across an article on how to solve search errors related to document searches. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I read it anyway, followed the steps, and presto! Of course, I did have to modify one piece because I had previously changed a setting that screwed things up now that they were working.. :-) I hope that made sense... LOL! I am very excited to have that part working because it will open up so many other ways for people to get the info they need without drilling down through the lists and libraries! :-)

I have yet another confession... I actually LOVE some of the music I download from eMusic. It is not the mainstream stuff, but some of it is very well produced, or very cool to listen to or both! :-) I'd have to say one of my faves right now is a song called "Mary-Anne" by Adam Richman (lyrics). It is very pop/rock, and has one of those 'gotcha' kinda feelings to it... You're going along with the first few lines, and then he breaks into the chorus and you hear the anger, frustration, hurt, and helplessness the guy is going through (he met a hollywood hottie who treats him like crap but he can't help but want to love her). I think he is more upset with himself than he is with her... Great song! :-)

Another couple are: "Dirty Water" by The Standells (lyrics), "Freeway Bound" by Miko Marks (website), "Good Livin'" by The Supersuckers (website), and some others. Yes, the independent music bug has bitten me... :-)

Jul 30, 2007

When the lights go out, go to DQ!

Before I left work today, Shan called me on my cell phone to let me know the power had been out since 4:00 that afternoon, and that it would not be restored until 7:30. I drove home, and we sat around for a little bit before I remembered that my Mom has a gas stove! In the rain, I took a skillet, hamburger, a can of Manwich, and a can opener. After 1 turn of the opener, I broke the handle off. I have no idea how, it just happened. So, now I am in the fading light searching frantically for a can opener in my Mom's kitchen while stirring the meat to make sure it doesn't burn. Where would I find a can opener? I have no idea where Mom keeps her stuff! Believe it or not, I find one in the 2nd place I look! How cool! Now we're cookin' with Crisco - er, Manwich.

Cook supper, eat supper, hang out for a bit. Oh, and, after a call to the power company, it turns out the power should be restored not at 7:30 but rather by 10:00 pm... Meanwhile, my new baby niece has been taken to the hospital for what has been diagnosed as Viral Meningitis. A lot of phone calls back and forth, still no power, and everyone getting a little stir crazy, I suggest we go to DQ. DQ is in Hope, 20+ minutes away...

After a quick stop by the school to see if the free mini-blinds that Shan got would fit the window (they were 34 inches wide, window is 36...), we cruise down to DQ just in time to grab a dessert.

After a fast stop at Wally World (that would be Wal-Mart), we head home. Shan calls the house, and after a few rings, we get.... the answering machine! We have POWER! It is the little things in life... DQ Blizzards, Wal-Mart, electricity.... :-)

I started the day prepared to teach a distance learning teacher certification program. After a brief discussion with the one person who had signed up, we cancelled that course. I thought I would have the day to do 'office work.' Wrong. I ended up teaching Microsoft Access because the presenter for THAT workshop was in the hospital having an MRI done! All I can say is that I am so glad it was Access (because I've taught it before) and not something I had never seen! I just hope the participants got at least SOMETHING out of it... Nothing like teaching a class you were not expecting to teach! :-)

Gwynn/Ripken plaques. From Baseball Hall of Fame dot Org
Tony Gywnn and Cal Ripken Jr were inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame the other day, giving the world a much-needed break from the bonds (excuse the pun, but I couldn't resist) of the Aaron record chase....

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for so long that when it is no longer stuck in your head, you can't even remember what song was stuck in your head??? Yeah, me either... :-)

Jul 29, 2007

Blogger hits a WALL!?

(Small update: as of 11:50 CST, blogger actually started working again!)

Okay, I can understand an occasional slow-down in the system... But, for the past few DAYS, I cannot log in to create/edit posts. Right now, I am using the "email" feature that lets you post via an email message. Of course, there is almost no point in that because I'm sure most of the folks who drop by get sick and tired of waiting for the blankety-blank page to load.

I know, it's free, so I should be happy and shut up, right? Wrong. Free or not, there is a level of service that is expected...

Okay, I'm off the old soapbox now. Thanks.

A quick synopsis of the past few days - Tyler had a baseball tourney that lasted much of Saturday. Nothing like sitting in the 90-degree heat and humidity to watch two different teams slaughter your son's team... We lost 19-2, and something like 16-0... It was rough. But, the kids had fun (or at least SOME of them had fun). Plus, Tyler's team won the first game of the tourney on Saturday! I think our guys are just not used to playing multiple games in one day. Each time we had a double-header during the regular season, the 2nd game was always either very close or we got slaughtered, but either way, if memory serves, we lost the 2nd game...

For the record, do NOT try to clean the contacts of a Nintendo DS with a toothpick wrapped in a computer-screen cleaning wipe... In fact, I wouldn't stick anything in there that wasn't approved by Nintendo... I did, and so tonight, I had to buy my son a new DS since *I* am the one who ruined his... That was $130 I was not expecting to have to come up with! I know a lot of parents would have said, "too bad, so sad," but I couldn't do that. Had HE done it, then yeah, his fault and he could buy himself a new one. But, this was MY fault, so the responsible thing to do is replace the unit. I can prolly sell the other on eBay and someone with the proper tools could fix it (the screws are some kind of 3-pronged deals)

I played with Emily today. We played with some Hot Wheels cars and playsets that Tyler has had for years. It is so amazing to see the toys with fresh eyes. Emily was shouting out, "Oh, now that's cool! How cool is that!?" to almost everything we brought out of the plastic storage box. We set up a little 'town,' and had lots of fun pretending. Most of you know that I am generally a big kid at heart, and getting down on the floor to make "vroom vroom" noises with Hot Wheels-style cars was perfect!

On the way home from the store, we saw the brightest, most colorful rainbow I have ever seen. What's more, the closer we got to the house, the more it appeared to be in our back yard. When we pulled in to the house, we could "see" the end of the rainbow rising out of the field. I have never seen anything like that before. We could also see the other end of the rainbow coming down into the yard off to our right. It was transparent, and you could still see the trees and stuff behind it (or through it, really), but it came down and disappeared into the ground. ULTRA COOL! No pot of gold though, I can tell you that much... :-)

Jul 27, 2007

Blogger, Email, Baseball - still...

Okay, Blogger.com seems to be having some kind of issue, so I thought I would try posting from my home email account. We'll see how this goes...

I hate SPAM, and I have seriously considered having mail set up for 'approved senders only,' which means if you're not on my list, you can't send me email (or I won't get it anyway)... I'll have to think on that some more...

Okay, I know I have been on something of a baseball kick lately, but you're the one reading this, so you have only yourself to blame if you read it and are not interested in baseball... :-)

Kenny Lofton has been signed to the Tribe! This is HUGE news. At least, I think so. He is 40 now, and is larger than he was, though I suspect Twinkies have more to do with it than 'roids judging by the photo I saw of him! :-) Why is this huge to me? Because I love seeing ex-Tribers come back "home" again...

Atlanta fans (some anyway) are celebrating because Julio Franco (who I believe is currently the oldest active player in the league) has returned to the braves. Now, I will not say "home" for him, because to me, Franco's 'home' is Cleveland, not Atlanta... :-)

In both cases, though, you have older players returning to the teams they played for in their (much) younger days. This says a lot about the organizations. Both the Tribe and the Braves could have easily scoffed when their ex-superstars wanted to come back older and near the end of their careers. But, instead, they signed them! I would love to see Lofton finish out his career as an Indian. I would also love to see Franco do the same, but I think he will most likely go out as a Brave.

With all the hoopla surrounding Bonds, it's nice to see that every once in a while, teams wax nostalgia as much as the fans who help pay the bills....

Today, Tyler cleaned up and cleaned out his room to make way for his new desk. Emily also cleaned up and cleaned out her room. Shan helped them get things organized and keep them on task. I helped by staying out of the way - weed-whacking, taking old junk to the county landfill (that would be 'the dump' to those not familiar with the concept of landfills). Though, the man who helped me unload my stuff set aside more than we actually threw into the garbage receptacle. He would look over an object (say and old rusted bike) and say, "This is still good..." then set it in a 'special' pile...

I am not knocking dumpster diving by any stretch. I have managed to read at least two articles written by avid divers recently, and the stuff they have come up with would make some collectors on eBay very, very jealous.... It was just weird to me that he wouldn't throw out my 'junk.' Ah well, one man's trash...and all that, I suppose....

Jul 26, 2007

Spools and Paws, all in a day's work....

I made a site visit to a school 50+ miles from the office today. It was a 2nd visit this month to try and figure out what was wrong with their video equipment. You can call the system (from another location) and the folks at the school can see you and hear you, but there is no way to unmute, move cameras, etc. Why? Because no matter what you push on the remote, the menu overlay never appears on the screen (it is SUPPOSED to be there!)! In addition, the touch panel never gets a solid connection either. So, I unhooked everything except a microphone, a monitor and the main video unit and still managed to get nowhere fast... Oh wait, I could do "some" things with the remote, assuming I might happen to remember what the menu screens look like (which I did not remember very well). Eventually, I hooked up an old system they had disconnected last year and put the newer system in a corner for bad behavior!

After I got back to the office, I decided to try and make my ornery Sharepoint Search work so that we could actually have a useful search tool - but, to no avail. Every offered solution I could find led me right back to where I was before I started.... I have a feeling it will require many hours of the $250/hour Microsoft support....

After work at the office, Tyler had baseball practice, I took him home to get changed and ran him to practice before heading over to Shan's classroom. Tyler informed me there were several 'honey-do' items (not his words, but the meaning was the same all-in-all). After Tyler changed, we were riding in the truck and a commercial came on the radio. I don't remember what I was TRYING to say, but instead of "Backyard Pools and Spas," it came out of me as "Backyard Spools and Paws." Tyler laughed about that the whole way to practice and then had the nerve to re-visit the incident after practice!!

The 'honey-dos' were not bad at all... Move a desk and move a cabinet...yes, a cabinet that did NOT fit through the door in an upright position.... Okay, what cosmic storage force have I disturbed so badly that I've had to move TWO storage units in TWO days that did NOT fit through the door upright!?!?

I connected my new 320GB hard drive to the computer today and did a backup of the important stuff. Okay, honestly? The coolest part of the new drive is the YELLOW glow it gives off (which kinda pulsates as the drive is transferring info) - It goes well with my yellow keyboard/mouse/computer!! :-) It just occurred to me that I have black and gold everything when it comes to the computer! Okay, well, the LCD only qualifies when it's glowing yellow to let me know it's on but the computer isn't... But, still!

I got an email at work today... The subject? "You're Expired!" Holy smokes!! When did this happen and how is that I don't seem to have changed much since expiring? Am I like milk? Maybe I've expired but haven't gone bad yet? Someone could have warned me....

I have been putting it off for some time, but I've decided to put my two cents on the table about a few things... Here goes:
  • Barry Bonds - Like him, hate him, either way he will most likely break the Hank Aaron record. With or without steroids, a player still has to be able to hit a little white ball going about a hundred miles an hour over the fence 750+ times... 'Roids or not, there is still talent, even if it there is no charisma...
  • Tim Donaghey - What he did was wrong. He knew betting was wrong. Got in over his head, now he'll pay for it in many more ways than one. In retrospect, he may wish he had just taken the busting of his kneecaps....
  • Michael Vick - He may or may not have known dog-fighting was illegal. He grew up with it all around him. How many players beat or rape their wives and girlfriends, yet they get no punishment at all? Yeah, dog-fighting is cruel if you are an animal-loving member of society, but no where near as bad as beating the woman you are married to (or any woman for that matter).
  • Lindsay Lohan - Anyone ever hear of lock-down? Just a thought...

I came to the realization this morning as to why I had given up on putting my baseball cards into a database before - the work. Looking through cards to discover what I own is wonderful fun! And, putting them into a database, watching the grand total rise and rise is also fun and rewarding! But, the work stinks. The work is taking all those cards that I'm "ooo-ing and ahhh-ing" over and actually putting them in their respective binders. I know, I could be like thousands of other people and just put them in boxes, but that just doesn't cut it for me. No. In my mind, the only rightful place for the cards is in binders. Well, actually, I'd prefer them to be in cool frames and make wallpaper out of the frames, but that is even more time-consuming (not to mention space-hogging) than binders. The work is what got me in times past. The intentions of putting all those cards into binders was there, but the 'want to' was certainly lacking. Honestly, it lacks now, but I see now what it is for what it is - the "labor" part of a hobby that is truly a labor of love....

During Tyler's practice, some of the folks were asking about my leg. It has healed very nicely, except for where I am pretty sure I'll have a scar on my shin. That's not a bad thing... In this case, it will serve as a reminder to myself that I am not quite as young as I think I am, but also that I am not afraid to take a highly-embarrassing tumble in the name of playing ball with my kids.... :-)

Jul 25, 2007

A day in Texarkana, a night of rain

John and I headed out for T-Town this morning, going to Sam's to pick up a locking cabinet for the office. Evidently, our boss doesn't like the idea that some of the technology equipment appears to have 'grown legs.' Easy enough, right? Maybe not...

Go into Sam's, grab a flat cart and head off to where the cabinets are located. As John tries to load the only one in the store, I notice there is a stack of those "take one and give it to the cashier" papers nearby. So, we move the cabinet back, drag the cart to the front of the store and check out. We are told, "someone should be bringing it up here shortly..." And we wait.... We wait some more... We wait some more... Finally, we ask the 'helper in green' about our cabinet and she radios for 'hardlines.' No answer... She tries again... No answer... Finally, someone replies to let the helper know the 'hardlines' person was up on a forklift and that the cabinet would be out shortly. Yeah, we heard that line before...

Eventually, a short, tiny woman shows up with our cabinet on a flat cart. The cabinet is standing upright. Someone at Sam's has a sick sense of humor because the cabinet is about 2 inches too TALL to fit through the exit doors in the upright position. Someone at the cabinet factory has a sense of humor because they ship the things wrapped in saran wrap, which as we all know, sticks to EVERYTHING, including the cart you are trying to get the cabinet off of so that you can lay the blankety-blank thing down! Finally get it down and loaded into the truck.

Off to Best Buy for a bit of a shopping spree. John picked up a 19-inch Acer widescreen LCD computer screen for $129. Excellent deal. I grabbed a 320 GB external hard drive for $99! Another great deal in my book! I like the fact that I will be able to back up our personal computer to an external hard drive (much faster than CD or DVD).

After Best Buy, we head to Carino's for lunch. Now, I had it in my head that since we were eating LUNCH, we would be served LUNCH-sized portions. No such luck. Full meal... Of course, the bread is awesome, so by the time my lasagna arrived, I had already chowed down on some serious breadage! :-) I also drank 3 or 4 or maybe 10 glasses of sweet tea... I lost count at some point...

We had to ship of a computer part via FedEx, so off to the FedEx store we go. After that, we drive around somewhat (but not quite completely) aimlessly, looking for a battery shop that sells all kinds of batteries (we need one for a battery-backup that died). Of course, the company moved from where John remembers, so we continue on our quest. We find it, tucked on the side of the road. There is a sign on the door: "Back in 30 minutes." Well, that's all well and good, but how do I know when you put that sign up!? DUH! We wait....

In a few minutes, a man hollers from across the street and heads our way. Honestly, he reminded me of Porky from the 80's movies. I had terrible mind-flashes of what lay in store for us... Turns out, he owns the place and he is shutting it down next week.... Can't compete with nationwide battery companies (like Interstate). Also turns out that even thought HE owns the place, he has NO KEY to the door... Oy... We're told the delivery guy will be back in a jiffy... Yeah, after he walks back across the street, we decide to get out of there before we start hearing the banjos of "Deliverance."

On a lark, we head to Office Depot to buy brand-new battery backups instead of dealing with the hassle of replacing the dead battery. Amen, brother! :-)

A quick pit-stop, given how many glasses of tea I drank, and we head back to Hope... The ETA into Hope? Somewhere around 1:45, if I remember correctly... Just another day at the office.... :-)

Tyler had baseball practice tonight, so I dropped him off and went to re-fuel my truck after today's adventure. I decided to take my truck to the car wash since it hadn't been 'hand washed' in some time. Of course, since I washed my truck, we had a torrential downpour pop up after practice that I got to drive home (down muddy roads) in... I told Shan it was my fault it rained.... I should have known better than to wash my truck... Though, it DOES look a lot cleaner now.. :-)

Jul 24, 2007

A little bit of masonry drilling

A few days ago, Shan wanted some shelves hung in her classroom. The only problem is that her walls are mason brick, or cement, or some very hard (though porous) surface. We ran to the local Lowe's store (you may recall from the deck-building story that Lowe's is about 45 minutes away) to get cement anchors and a hammering drill. Now, thankfully, the anchors came with the screws and a mason bit all in one package. I'd hate to think what I would have ended up with had *I* had to pick out a mason bit... Well, actually, I would have ended up with the 30 or 40-piece drill bit set they had sitting in the floor display near the anchors.

After we got the anchors, and picked out the shelving, we looked at hammering drills. I didn't even know such a thing existed until I had 'googled' something about hanging shelves in brick walls. We found the Black-N-Decker Firestorm something or other hammering/driving drill. And, let me tell ya, it does both very, very well!

The first two shelves too about two hours to put up. The remaining six (yes, a total of eight shelves) took about an hour or so to complete. I learned a lot, and picked up a new skill to add to my non-techie repertoire - deck-building, mason drilling, horse-tending... In many, many ways, I am truly becoming a very well-rounded person (of course that may more to do with the double cheeseburger I had from Wendy's for lunch than anything....).

I'm sure I have told you of the mouse/rat troubles at work. If not, well, we have a rat/mouse problem at work. As a surprise, two of the women that serve on the training team presented John and me with a gift - edible mice. It's not quite what you may be thinking.... Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I offer these:

They were delicious, by the way.... :-)

Oh, and if you can't quite figure out how they were made: The bodies and tails are chocolate-covered maraschino cherries. The heads are kisses. Ears are sliced (slivered?) almonds. Eyes and noses are icing dabs... I appreciated them (and the creators!) very much!

Tyler celebrated his birthday today. We all had a good time, and he got a lot of stuff. I think he appreciated the desk Shan and I got him more than I thought he would... His meal of choice was hamburger helper... We're still scratching our heads over that one... :-) He also enjoys the MP3 player we bought him! I'll show him how to add/change songs on it and he'll be flying fancy free, I'm sure! (Oh, I'll show him the LEGAL way... no sense in having TWO people in the house that know how to obtain music without necessarily going through 'proper' distribution avenues....)

Jul 23, 2007

Of Baseball and cards

Yesterday (Monday), a first-base coach for Tulsa was struck in the head by a line drive. It hit coach Mike Coolbaugh right in the temple. According to one report, the rescue service that was on site said the coach died instantly, even before he hit the ground. My heart goes out to his family and friends. More information can be found at KTHV...

One of the blogs I like to check out is the Baseball Card Blog. Recent conversations have centered around collecting in general, and the "thrill" many collectors get when they open a pack cards from around the time they were kids. I love opening packs of cards. Yeah, I can buy whole team sets off the 'Net, and often do. But, there is something different about opening packs of cards, trying build my own team set. Or opening a pack to discover some player I had forgotten or someone I loved to watch as a kid. Guys like J.R. Richard, Cal Ripken Jr, Ozzie Smith, Cory Snyder, Len Barker, and others. Some of them are 'stars' only in my memories, while others achieved legendary status. There is the feel of the cards, too. Some are flimsy, some are thick. Some have very cool holographic images or game-used pieces of jerseys or bats. For me, though, the simplest cards tend to be the ones I love the most. In a response to a post on that site, I talked about my all-time favorite card in my collection - 1952 Bowman Dale Mitchell that I accidentally folded around a rubber band.

That doesn't matter (that it is in such bad shape) because it is the first "oldie" I bought as a kid. It was mid-to-late seventies and my Dad's parents lived in Cleveland. Down the road from where they lived was a hobby shop that sold Indians cards. I saw the '52 Bowman card sitting under the glass. It was a whole 25 cents! That was not a lot of money to me then, but it was the most I had ever spent on ONE CARD. I treasured it for years, carefully handling it wherever I went, showing it off to friends like it was a Mickey Mantle or something. One day, I picked up the stack of cards that it rested on top. The cards were held together with a rubber band (a gum band, we call them where I'm from...), and my hand slipped as I lifted the stack. Of course, my finger caught the card on top, and folded in half around the rubber band. My heart sank instantly, and then I cursed myself under my breath for being so stupid. Throughout the years, I had been tempted to just throw the ruined card away. But, I just couldn't seem to let go of it. Now, it has a safe spot in my 3-ring binders of cards, along with 4500 or so of its closest buddies... :-)

I rode with Mom out to Dad's grave site this evening. We took shovels and a rake and smoothed out/flattened down the sand/dirt that had been caving into the spot where Dad's body lays. When the situation requires it, I find I am able to do things I would not otherwise think I would be able to handle. I don't know if my need to be 'strong' during those times kicks in or what it is. I save my emotions for after whatever task is at hand, and usually even then, I'm usually not overly emotional. We each have our own way of handling feelings and emotions. Writing helps me get a lot of things out that I don't verbalize in other ways. Writing is my mode of expression. I wish sometimes it were painting or music, but alas, I was not blessed with such artistic talents.

It seems you have fallen victim yet again to the random musings of that which popped in my head... Good Night, and be careful out there (old "Hill Street Blues" reference..)

Jul 22, 2007

Could have been us up there! :-)

Okay, probably not... But, it could have been... The 'cars' that take visitors up in the Arch evidently had a malfunction. A line snapped. It is so weird that we had talked to the Tour Guide that rode up with us about that very thing. So, one of the lines snaps, and in the process hits some kind of electrical line and shorts everything out. People were stuck in the 'eggs' for TWO HOURS! I cannot imagine how hot it got in there, given how hot it got in just the 4 minutes we were in there! Apparently, some people at the top opted to walk down the stairs instead of waiting for things to get sorted out. I don't blame them - after all, there really are only so many pictures you can take out of the little windows... :-)

Mom is back home again. Yes, we had a trip to the hospital again, but we think we are finally down to the root of several of the problems Mom has been having. We have each had to work through Dad's passing in our own ways. Mom really didn't get a chance to do that with her surgery and getting sick and everything. After talking with a doctor, she decided that for now, it's best if we move Dad's stuff out of her house. I took on that task this afternoon. Much of it was clothing which held little to no sentimental value to me (read: was a little easier to pack up). Other things made me stop and think or remember. I am not a golfer by any stretch, nor do I plan on taking it up. But, Dad was. And packing up all the golf trinkets, figures, and other knick-knacks proved a bit harder than I even imagined it would. Then, there are the little things - Jawa collection, a couple computer games that he did not get to show off to me yet, a couple of baseball prints on the wall, the military flag we received when he passed away... I'm sure in time, Mom will want some of those things brought back out in order to have a little bit of what we remember of Dad, but for now, we are helping her come to the full understanding that he is no longer with us in the way he was not so very long ago. We will always miss him.

Jul 18, 2007

Big Brother (er, Sister?), Lost-n-Found, and Moving Day

At the office, we (which really means our Systems Coordinator) have installed some free software that tracks everywhere we go on the Internet. Well, specifically, where we go when we BROWSE the Internet. Now, I am not out surfing to places I don't need to go or anything, but I am just as guilty of the next person of popping into Yahoo mail or checking my "Buying/Selling Status" on eBay, popping in for a quick round of lunchfight, quick blogging, etc. I never saw this as a detriment to my being able to fulfill my duties at work because, for the most part, I am too busy running around to sit and surf the web. However, because there are 2 or 3 employees that DO spend a lot of time surfing during work hours, we are all being put under the microscope.

I know the computers and the network are 'owned' by the taxpayers, so technically, I shouldn't be using them for anything that is not work-related ever. So, even after hours, before hours, or during my lunch, I should refrain from virtual food throwing, virtual shopping, etc. I will say that since the system has been put into place, I have been better about it. Am I "more productive?" Who knows. My job requires a lot of Internet access and use anyway, so I don't know. Of course, at some point, we will also be asked to log our activities (phone calls, emails, etc) in order to basically 'justify' our position/salary. I should already do that, then take my findings in to the boss and say, "See, you should be paying me $100,000 a year..." Well, I saw an article somewhere (I'll have to find it) that shows employees who are allowed to free-surf 'within moderation' are actually happier, more productive employees... I better find that quick! :-)

I lost my cell phone... Well, misplaced it, really. I do that a lot... A whole lot. This time, I had left it in the conference room after a videoconference. I thought it was on my desk, but after moving my office around (more about that in a sec), I realized I had not seen the little bugger. So, we called it... No ringtones in the office, no ringtones in the computer lab... I had no idea where it might be. Then, as I returned to the office from my scavenger hunt, John tells me that the front office has it. Turns out, it kept ringing in there and someone finally took it to the front desk, saying, "This keeps ringing, but no one in here knows whose it is!" That would be mine... :-)

The kicker is that it's not a small phone, not a cool high-tech phone, etc. It's a basic Nokia - no flip, no downloads, nothin... I just can't seem to keep tabs on it, though. I often leave it at home on the charger... Or more often, at home NOT on the charger so the thing dies on me... I figure if someone calls and they don’t get me on the cell, they'll call the office. Seems logical to me, maybe not to anyone else though... My boss is never happy when she calls and later finds out the phone was dead, or at home, or both....

I've moved again. My office area is now located where our student software support person was. She has been moved to the 'main building.' I have yet to figure out if that is an upgrade or if being that close to everyone else in the company leads to less work/more sidebars... Anyway, I digress... Because of the partitions and shelving, it feels like an office - er, cubicle-like-office-space. It is bigger than a cubicle, but there are only two 'real' walls. The other 'walls' consist of various partitions and some wood shelving. This a description, not a complaint! I kinda like my new space, though I am finally coming around to the idea of 'decorating' it... I am NOT a decorate-your-office kind of person. Generally, my feeling is that my office is my office and I don't care what's on the walls, and I am certainly not into making it anything remotely "homey." If I wanted "homey," I'd quit my job and work AT HOME (which I would do if it actually paid enough for me to do, but it doesn't - well, I don't even HAVE a work-at-home job, so there ya go...). I have never grabbed on to the whole "plants, pictures, frou-frou" thing for the office. the closest I have come so far are a few posters attached to the front of my desk that you see when you walk in, a picture of each of the kids, and a picture of me and Shan in Chicago at the White Sox game.

Now, in contrast, Marilyn and John have various pictures, certificates, and other decorative items. I suppose I'll at least put some things on the walls...eventually... :-)

Jul 16, 2007

Crocs R (not) Us

I read an article from Slate.com in which the author tells the story behind Crocs (you know, those ugly shoes). From the first time I saw them, I hated them. Now, for the record, Shan, my Mom, Shan's Mom, the kids, and a whole slew of other people I know, actually love the things. They swear by the comfort, etc etc...

I'm too "old school" for such things. First of all, they are ugly. Second, I do not like the way they feel. People attest to the light, airy, squishy feel of them, and really, that whole feeling grosses me out. I want my shoe to feel like a shoe, wear like a shoe. To me, Crocs are something between sandals and boat shoes, and I am not real 'hip' on the whole 'open-toed' thing as it is. Yeah, I have issues, who doesn't? So, for me, I realize I am missing out on a trend bigger than Rubic's cube and parachute pants, but I don't feel cheated.

As for the 'socks-with-Crocs' deal... Look, if you are wearing long pants, fine. Wear socks with your Crocs. For goodness sakes, please do not wear socks with them if you are wearing shorts... And, if you just HAVE to wear socks,dear Lord, please do NOT wear black socks (refer to Pres. Bush in his Crocs photos...)... Frankly, that goes for ANYONE in shorts. Black socks do NOT go with shorts, nor do they go with Crocs, sandals, flip-flops, etc.

Okay, I said it... People, do you ever stop to look at yourselves in the mirror before you go out? Socks with sandals and shorts!? You just as well wear your shorts up to your armpits. Which, by the way, during one of the recent hospital visits, I did see an elderly woman who had her pants pulled up under her pits. I have never seen anyone who used their pants to support their breasts before, and frankly, I'd rather not have to see that again.... It was disconcerting on many, many levels....

I've had folks ask me about the LED frame I have on my truck. It's about $30 plus shipping on eBay.... I actually contacted a guy in Japan or China about selling them myself. He said he could sell me them in lots of 150 units. The discounted price he quoted meant I would have to spend about $2750 bucks. I just don't think I can sell 150 of them, nor do I have $3000 to blow on some gadget... :-)

Indians Collection Update: I've had a few set backs in getting my collection entered in the database with hospitals, kiddos, work, etc, but I have made some serious headway in past few days. All I can say is "Thank Heavens for the Internet!" Because we live in the age we do, I can type a few key points about a particular sticker, card, photo, etc, into a search engine and generally within a few clicks, I have the manufacturer and the year. I am also referencing various printed books (I know, the shock of it all!) which offer up pictures to compare with my items. At first, I was a bit gun-shy about adding my own sets into the database, but I finally held my breath and started inputting the cards that did not come pre-loaded. I still have a ways to go, and I have cards and items that I cannot find reference for anywhere (yet). That's okay, though, I have also discovered a bunch of cards and items that I never knew existed and have added those to my 'want' list (which may actually be bigger than my 'owned' list at this point). Of course, for me, part of the fun is finding cards that other folks did not know where out there (or at least weren't documented anywhere that I could find).

Speaking of baseball cards and being 'old school,' I love buying a box of cards to open the packs... There is just something about the surprise of what's inside that brings out the kid in me. I have a hard time justifying buying cards in boxes these days because you get so few for the money, but every so often, I reach down, pick up a box, and put it on the conveyor at checkout. I've actually netted more than a few cards for my personal collection, plus I give most of the cards to the kids. I think Tyler is just getting into the cards now that he has a favorite team. I hope my kids get the same enjoyment I do when it comes to whatever they decide to collect...

What long weekend?

We work four 9.5 hours days during the summer, so we 'get' Friday, Saturday and Sunday off each week. You'd think that a 3-day weekend would last forever. Nope, it flies by almost faster than a traditional weekend. I cannot believe it is after midnight already.... Time flies when you have a birthday to help plan and hold, help with yard work, move vehicles around, enter baseball cards into the database, play games with the kids, program new phrases into the LCD license plate frame, hang out, check email, check ebay, eat, sleep, clean out my truck and play with the kids some more. :-)

Em got a whistling Frisbee for her b-day. It's made of foam with little whistle-like things in it. If you throw it hard enough (say, 60+ miles an hour, evidently), it whistles. Now, the catch is that when you throw it hard enough to hear the whistles, you are throwing it too hard for it to maintain any kind of stability. We burned a lot of calories chasing that puppy around!

The kids and I have been playing more Oblivion. This time around, we are mainly hunting... Seriously. You can pull out the old bow and arrows and hunt bear, deer, crab, or whatever else happens along. I do not hunt in real life. Nothing against it other than getting up at 4am to sit in a tree all day just doesn't appeal to me... On the game, you have shoot most animals at least 3 times before they start rolling down the hill. Great entertainment, and you get the meat afterward as food!


Say goodnight, Gracie.....

Jul 14, 2007

Well, well....

So, if you're wondering what happened to me after vacation, I'll tell ya... Okay, I'll tell ya even if you aren't wondering...

Mom went BACK into the hospital this past week. Yeap... Believe it... But, I will say that the folks at Christus St. Michael blew the socks off the other hospitals we have been to recently! They did more to find out exactly what was wrong with Mom than Shreveport did in the month of visits we spent down there. I'm not one to instantly jump and down and say everything is cured since we have been through this, what, 3-4 times now... I'm skeptical, and until I see things are good to go (in a manner of speaking) for about a straight month, I'm expecting each day to be taking the trip to the hospital....

On another note, Em's birthday was celebrated with the family (she'll have a 'friends' party later). She had a great time and got several of the things she asked for (Pink DS, Pink Barbie car, pink MP3 player, are you seeing a pattern here?). We had lots of fun, especially with her giant bubble maker (it makes giant bubbles, the wand itself isn't giant, though it is pretty long)...

A while back, while in Shreveport, I picked up a local rag called "The Minute" and in there I found a few gems I wanted to share:
  • Brittany (age 4) had an earache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: "How does it know it's me!?"
  • Susan (age 4) was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. "Please don't give me this juice again," she said, "it makes my teeth cough."
  • DJ (age 4) stepped on to the bathroom scale and asked: "How much do I cost?"
  • James (age 4) was listening to a Bible story. His Dad read: "The man named Lot was warned to his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt." Concerned, James asked: "What happened to the flea?" (read it again, if you have to....)

  • The Sermon I think this Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon..."Dear Lord," the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without you, we are but dust." He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter (who was listening!) leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

I was poking around the Upper Deck trading card site some time ago, and saw that you could make your own custom trading cards. So, I did. (And, yes, Shari and Bill, I'll send you yours - I just haven't had a chance with all the stuff going on lately!):

For the record, I had a different design in mind, but the one I wanted had some kind glitch that I worked on with their art dept and tech support. They got it fixed, but I had decided to go ahead and get the cards without waiting on them... So, since Dad was a soccer fan, I thought it appropriate to have a soccer-themed background (you have to pick from the ones they provide)...

Quote of the day: "I am Pierre Schezwan! I put ze DUCKS in Crystal Pond!"

Jul 8, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity jog...

We made it home! On the way out of St. Louis, we decided to stop by the Union Station for some "quick" shopping. Three hours later, we were finally on the road. It's a shopping mall inside a former train station and there were a lot of shops, places to eat, history to read about and see. It was very cool, as was the entire trip. I whole-heartedly recommend a visit to St. Louis!

I have to say one of the best parts of the whole adventure was letting the kids take pictures with a "spare" digital camera. You never know what kids see from their perspective until you put a camera in their hands. Sometimes, they took pictures of the same things we did (arch, certain buildings, etc) and sometimes, the pictures surprised us (elevator buttons, street signs, themselves)... They were fascinated with taking pictures of themselves in various poses, making different faces, etc. Some of the pictures are priceless, and others left us (even the kids themselves) scratching our heads...

I strongly suggest the City Museum, though I say you go during the DAYLIGHT when you can SEE more - literally. I also suggest you wear long pants (for climbing about) and that you do not go on any scurrying about if you have a leg wound - ouch!

I don't know if things are ALWAYS this way in St. Louis, but in our experience, you should be prepared to WAIT at any dining establishment you venture into. It didn't matter if we were eating fast food (using the term very loosely) or a sit-down meal, the service was slow and generally awful. In fact, at two different places, we felt like the waitress had abandoned us - even BEFORE she took our orders. The ONLY saving grace in service was the sports grill right next to the hotel. By far, some of the best service I have had anywhere, let alone in St. Louis.... Diner beware and expect to wait... and wait... and wait...

We had a great time though, and I'd go back in a heartbeat!

Jul 6, 2007

The Zoo, Some Cards, An Arch, The Loop...

Any clues where vacation is this year? Well, okay, "An Arch" really should give it away.... St. Louis, for sure! I haven't updated much recently, and part of that is because we have been on vacation (I'll post some pics below). For those of you wondering if I had fallen off the Earth, here's a run-down of the action so far:

Monday - Since Mom had just come home from her second visit to Shreveport, we all decided the best thing would be for her to stay with my brother and his wife in Hot Springs while we went on vacation. She has been doing very well, and my sister-in-law has been keeping Mom busy with shopping, er, walking... :-) From Hot Springs, we began our quest for St. Louis. The drive wasn't bad at all, and really only involved three interstate roads! Awesome! And, it turns out, our hotel is VERY conveniently located near Forest Park (in fact, we didn't realize until WEDNESDAY just how close we were to the Science Center!). We got in a little late on Monday, so we called it a day and got ready for Tuesday!

On the road to Saint Louie!

At the hotel - FINALLY!

A cool car we saw while driving along...

Tuesday - Woke up, ready to take on the St. Louis Zoo and whatever else we would decide to do! The Zoo was great. Em had fun, especially at the penguins! We walked for hours, looking at just about every display they had there. Em got a lemur stuffed toy and Tyler got a transforming bug-thing. :-) We rode the train around the park, which was a nice break from walking, plus let us see the zoo from a different perspective... We drove around Forest park for a while trying to figure out where things were. Yes, they have signs, but the signs only get you part of the way to where you need to go. So, when you get to the end of the road where the signs for the Art Museum point, there are other signs... None of which say anything about the Art Museum! AUGH! We eventually figured out that if you didn't see what you were looking for on the sign, it meant you needed to turn AWAY from all the other signs - like map-reading through omission... Crazy!
We decided to hit the Science Center. That was very cool, with lots of space-related things for the kids to enjoy. OF course, one of the coolest things was the walkway over the highway. In the floor, you could look down and see the cars passing under the walkway! Yeah, a little freaky at first, but it really was neat!
I should mention that we have spent a lot of time....exploring... St. Louis - that is driving around trying to get somewhere that we're not sure sure where we are going. Kingshighway is a frequently visited road - for better or worse... :-)
We drove around for quite a while, looking for something that now we cannot even remember what we were trying to find! LOL... We ended up eating at Applebees, plus we had to make a Wal-Mart run, so it worked out okay.

At The Zoo!

A car passes under our feet!

Shan and Kay at the Science Center!

Wednesday - We woke up on the 4th of July and everyone (except me because my leg is still healing) went for a morning swim after breakfast. Once again, we kinda did some driving around. Then, we went and got our baseball tickets for the Cardinals game against the Diamondbacks. We learned a couple valuable lessons here... First, make your vacationing plans early if they involve a ballgame! We bought tickets from stubhub.com, which turned out to be a broker. So, we paid a little more than $20 for $10 seats... And, we learned that section 442 is not one, not two, but at least THREE escalators off the ground! In fact, when you look at the picture of the stadium, and you see where it says "Busch Stadium," we were literally on the other side of those letters! Can you say NOSE-BLEED!? Even so, the game was great! Ty got a cool baseball and Em got a foam finger. Yeah, we spent a bazillion dollars on some drinks, burgers, and a hot dog, but hey, it's a ballgame! :-)
We were told they were going to clear the stadium for the fireworks, but that not quite the truth. They cleared PARTS of the stadium, and we ended up on the top-level deck facing the arch for the 4th of July show! Talk about great viewing! Absolutely gorgeous, and the show lasted just about 20 minutes! That is a LONG time in fireworks-time! There was even a finale-like display at the halfway mark! The kids really enjoyed the show, and it turns out that our parking space was only two right turns from getting back onto the highway for the ride back to the hotel!! Talk about a great time!

Swimming Fun!

Our seats were behind the sign!!

Can you say "NOSEBLEED!!?"

All of us supporting the home team!

Thursday - Arch Day! The only two things I wanted to accomplish on this vacation was seeing the Cards play and going up in the Arch. Someone needs to get the word out on just how the whole "arch thing" works. After waiting in line for 30-45 minutes to get through security, you waiting in line for another 15-30 minutes to buy tickets, then you wait about 90 minutes before your group is called for boarding. And, THEN, you wait some more, watch a video, play with some hands-on displays, wait some more, and then you get into your...well, egg. Really, I felt like Mork. There are 5 seats in each of these 'cars' that you ride in, but we barely fit, especially with my leg being bum... We had the advantage of riding up with a tour guide who needed a lift to the top (so Em sat on shans lap). We asked him some questions, so the 4 minutes up was not too bad, though they REALLY need ventilation of something - way too hot in that cramped space. I didn't know what to expect at the top. From below, the 'observation area' looks very, very skinny.... In reality, it is about 4 people wide and 20-30 people long. I believe i heard someone say that the top holds about 200 people, I think. Anyway, the little windows provide several breath-taking views! I loved it! I overheard a couple of college guys talking and one said something like, "I am afraid of heights, but not closed-in heights. Just open-space heights. This is closed-in." I knew exactly what he meant.
The ride down was faster... MUCH faster... And the ride itself is a kin to something like a ferris wheel and roller coaster all rolled into one. Don't let that stop you, though - it is no where as 'open' or 'dangerous.' We were told that the ride itself COULD be operated with just one cable, but the designer built it with a 9-cable system for safety. Smart man.
After we got back down, we had 6:00 tickets for the 1-hour boat tour. Since it was just after 4, we figured it would be worth a shot to see if we could hit the 4:30 tour. Sure enough, there were lots of available spaces, so we were allowed to exchange our tickets (never, ever let the "no exchanges or refunds" signs stop you from asking!). The ride was informative and very cool, with plenty of photo ops for various sights and attractions around the riverfront.
After the tour, we headed west for "The Loop," which is a dining/shopping area that is closely connected to the local University near there. Definitely a college area. We ate at Qboda Mexican grill. I felt like the guy in the commercial that tries to pay with cash and everything comes to a grinding halt... I have never been to a Qboda (I have no clue how to SAY it!), so when it came time to order, we were kinda slow about it. The cook was obviously frustrated, but oh well... We walked around the strip for a bit and had dessert at "Ben and Jerrys," which was VERY good ice cream... Yes, we decided to forego the "Cold Stone" this time...

One of our first Close-Up views of the Arch

Em and Shan look out one of the windows at the top of the arch!

Busch Stadium from the top of the arch

With a little timing, you can get some very cool shots!

Walking around The Loop!

The kiddos have been wanting to see a movie, so after supper, and after we got back to the hotel, we decided to see the 10:00pm showing of "Ratatouille." It's a cute movie. Sorry, but it is NO "Toy Story" and certainly no "Cars." But, it was a cute and funny movie. I can tell you that 10:00 on a Thursday night gets you a nearly empty venue! In fact, until the movie actually started, we were the only ones in there.

What will Friday bring?? We'll have to wait and see!