May 31, 2010

The older I get, the more it means

As a child and a teenager, Memorial Day meant little more than cookouts and an extended weekend.  In actuality, I can't even remember a single Memorial Day that stands out more than any other summer day from my youth.  I'm sure we spent the day at my grandparents' house, perhaps at our own house, grilling and drinking Kool-Aid.  And though, I'm sure I was told what Memorial Day meant to the population at large, it meant very little to me back then.  I was a kid and had no connections I could make between the holiday and my own life.

My grandfather served in the military, my uncle served, and my father had served.  But their experiences were never discussed so far as I could remember.  In fact, the only I do remember is watching a video of my uncle that had been converted from 8mm reel-to-reel to VHS many years ago.  I also remember being told once that I was to never ask my grandfather about his time in World War II.  He saw and experienced things that apparently were beyond discussion and comprehension.

As I've gotten older, having recently celebrated my 41st birthday, Memorial Day has come to mean more and more, especially in light of 9/11 and of the ongoing wars that the USA has created or has involved themselves.  It is easy to get wrapped up in hot dogs, hamburgers, drinks and picnics.  But, what we must do is take time to stop and remember those who have given their lives in the name of serving our country.

It doesn't matter if you agree with the military actions this country has taken or not.  Memorial Day is not about politics.  It is about honoring the men and women who donned military uniforms and who stood in harm's way to sacrifice their own lives.   It is with honor and reverence that we take this day to pause and say thanks to those who survived their military careers to live beyond those years and who passed on outside of their service time.  Any veteran who has since moved on from this world should be held high today and brought to the forefront of our memories.

The outward expression of our genuine gratitude demonstrates itself in the form of a US flag rippling in the breeze, for it is that very flag that represents everything those who served were protecting.  If you have a flag on your home, take a moment and watch it.  Remember the men and women whose blood, sweat and tears make up the very fabric with which that flag is allowed to be flown.  If you do not have a flag, please consider getting one.  For all that is right with this country and for all that is wrong, we fly the flag today for those who played a part in the freedoms we enjoy - whether that part was small or large. 

The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate everything that has been done, and is being done, by the men and women of our military forces so that I can say, "I'm proud to be an American."

May 30, 2010

This is a "Like"-free zone!

What is a "like"-free zone?  It means that students who are giving presentations will be penalized for using "like," "um," "ya know," and other filler words.  It is about speaking with authority and conviction.

On-The-Job Training

My mantra these days, for as long as I have been employed as a 'Tech Guy,' is this: "I am a TECH GUY!" The response to that mantra is often this: "Other duties as assigned."

For much of the past year, I have been working with the architect, contractor, my Director and Assistant Director, the City Manager, AT&T, the Department of Information Systems, and anyone else that happened to be in the crossfire in regards to the new office building under construction.

One of my 'other duties' was to spec, order and generally figure out just how much, and what kind, of conduit we need in order for AT&T to provide connectivity to our new building. For the record, I installed the water pipe that runs from the well house to our home when we moved in. I helped repair the water pipe at Mom's place when her pipes burst this winter. That's the extent of my knowledge regarding conduit.

Turns out, we needed 3,000 feet of piping. We've got three 1,000-foot runs that go from the building to the highway where AT&T says we must stub out. I didn't know what that meant, but it means where our pipes must end. In addition, I had to find and order two "pullboxes." As it turns out, "pullboxes" is a term used by a handful of people in the world, and evidently not by those people who actually sell the things. Through trial and error (mostly the latter), I came to find that most folks call these "hand-pull boxes" or "transfer boxes." It also turns out that these are not always readily available. At one point, I was looking at having them shipped from South Carolina. The shipping charges precluded me from following up with that route.

In the process of getting the pipes ordered and delivered, the fire alarm/data guys called to let me know they would be punching down our connections and wanted me to come up with a naming scheme. Now, I am not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I figured a simple ROOM#:RUN# system would be easiest to follow. I also figured that since the call was made the week before last, I would enter the building and see all the wires joyfully punched down and labeled. Uh, no. The wires are coiled up above the ceiling grid. Lovely. And, even better, it's not my problem. I just told the lead contractor and he takes it from there.

The other thing I noticed was the absence of security camera wiring. The data guys were supposed to provide wiring so that I could "just come in and hook them up" (their words). I am hoping those wires show up about the time the punchdowns are completed.

I've heard many of my colleagues and peers complain that they aren't invited for input until after the project is already finished. I haven't decided yet if they are actually in a better position than walking through everything as it moves along. My hope is that when all is said and done, I can look on the project with pride, knowing that I had a hand in making sure the connectivity was taken care of. Either that or I'll be booted on my butt for screwing everything up. Either way, I hope I never have to do this again. :-)

May 26, 2010

Finally, Idol Finale

And so it comes down to Lee and Crystal.  Of course, the question that should be on everyone's mind is this: How in the heck did Lee even make it this far!?

Wow, Alice Cooper on Idol!  I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad one. I mean, you're talking one of the greatest rockers ever, not really known for the "pop" side of things.  Well, in any case, very cool to see him live!

This is a short post because I moved over to a live Plurk-up during the show. All I want to say is that Idol is over.  I mean, next season will be the last. Lee winning is the biggest bunch of crap this show has seen.

May 22, 2010

A Night Out at Murry's

For our anniversary, I took Shan to Little Rock for dinner and a show at Murray's Dinner Playhouse. It's located in the "old K-Mart shopping plaza" near University and Colonel Glenn Road (which most Arkansans would know as Asher Ave). In fact, it was hard to find, and we only found it because we turned down a dark alley trying to get out of the dead-end we found ourselves facing.

The front desk worker was very friendly and we were escorted to our seat along a railing with a great view of the floating stage (though I had to turn my chair around to watch the play).

The food is served buffet, and it was mediocre at best. The salad was fine (hard to screw up lettuce) and there was an interesting selection of of food (chicken enchilada, pasta and cheddar (read mac and cheese), variety of veggies and fruits, choice of beef, pork, chicken). The taste of the food, however, was not good at all. Needed to be HEAVILY seasoned to make it palatable. The desserts were actually decent. Our waitress did a pretty good job of keeping our glasses filled. A couple of times, she seemed to look over us and not see us at all, so I had to get her attention.

The show was one of the funniest things I have seen live! We saw "Christmas Belles." Yes, the show ran from April 20 to May 23. Why Christmas? I have no idea! It was very well acted, hilarious, and had only a couple of line flubs which the actors just incorporated into the program almost flawlessly. We had a GREAT time watching the show (though I would have liked to have been able to sit beside my wife).

The place was full, but not sold out. Patrons ranged in age from high-school kids to elderly folks. Attire covered a gamut from nearly-formal to dressy-casual to blue jeans and plaid shirts. I asked about the dress before we went and was told "casual." We were dressy-casual and the seemed appropriate, though jeans and a polo would have been fine.

My recommendation: eat somewhere else first then come for the show (though the price would make that not cost-effective) *or* know ahead of time that you will probably want to hit a fast-food place after the show.

After the show, we checked into our favorite hotel in West Little Rock: the one in the same lot as Krispy Kreme!  Once checked in, we walked across the parking lot and snagged some doughnuts and milk.  We headed back to the room and settled in for the night.

Saturday morning, we got up early out of habit.  We stayed at the hotel, though, just hanging out and enjoying each other until it was time to go.  We had a GREAT time!

May 19, 2010

American Idol - And then there were two

Well, nothing worth saying other than Shan called the boot-off before the show started. Casey James says goodbye. Who will be the Idol?

It should be Crystal, but Lee will probably get the nod. Unfortunately. Then again, several runners-up have done better than the winners, so we'll just see.

May 18, 2010

American Idol Top Three


Casey's first song - uhhhhh... hmm... Not good.

Crystal's first song - I would have guessed she would pick a Melissa Ethridge song. Started out just like Melissa's version, but then diverted a little. Seems like a safe, predictable choice. Not great. Not bad, though.

Lee - Well, he is better than the other two so far for sure.

Casey's second song - John Mayer's "Daughters." Wow, he picked very bad songs. Or this was a poor choice for him. Wow.

Crystal's second song - This is very well done, though I think she should have changed the lyrics since she is a woman singing it, but whatever. Well done!

Lee's second song - Hallelujah - Bother. I like the song, but come on, how many times do we have to hear it? Not bad. Shan liked it more than I did.

Happy Anniversary

I Corinthians 13:4 is probably one of the most-quoted passages of love in history.  To me, it describes what love should be in our daily lives.  Sometimes, the love we show and the love we share aligns itself perfectly with the words on the page.  Other times, the expression of love barely qualifies as being in the same realm as "love."  The simple fact is that we are human and free will plays equally for the things we ought to do as well as the things we ought not do.  People come together, fall apart, survive birth and living, find comfort in times of hardship, triumph in times of joy and celebration, endure death and dying.  It perseveres.  

Shan and I have been married now for 19 years - just a blink of an eye.  We have experienced amazing, incredible highs and we have survived heart-breaking, gut-wrenching lows.  There are times when our love follows the path laid out by the words in the Bible, and times when those words may seem like any other words typewritten in any book.  And through everything, with each step we take and each and every day we have together, love has persevered.

My wife is the most amazing woman I know - she loves fully, starting with her love of God.  She has faith and devotion to the Lord in ways I can't even begin to describe.  Her love of everything her faith brings brought her though very dark times in our relationship.  Her love extends to our children, whom she cherishes beyond the mere words I could ever put here.  She is gentle and soft, but can be stern when she needs to be.  Our children are her pride and joy, her world.  

And her love for me simply amazes me.  There are the little things she does, the things she says, the looks she gives me.  It is the times when a look speaks more than actual words would.  We love to talk about the memories we've made and the ones we will make as we spend our lives together.

Today, we are married just 19 years.  I can only hope and pray she can put up with me for at least that many more.  She has always been the most beautiful woman I have ever met - from the first time I met her while hanging out with a bunch of soon-to-be friends in a dorm room through the fires of life and to this day and beyond.

I love you, Shannon.  With all of my heart, all my soul, and everything I have.  Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!  

May 16, 2010

Daily Photo (Self-Portrait)

Today's DailyShoot challenge is the self-portrait.  Though I could have made myself more presentable, I'm sure, I chose to take the picture as I was at that moment.  I was contemplating what I might be writing today and considering what I had already written.

I started the day by getting out of bed just before 7am. I have no idea what would make me do such a thing on a Sunday, but there it was.  I threw on some clothes and wrote a blog entry for my card-collecting site ( and also created a post for here that will appear in a few days.

Friday morning, I recorded a few thoughts regarding the scene in the hotel where I was staying:
The aroma of eggs, bacon, and what is most likely sausage, fills the air in the hotel lobby. It is not not the sweet smell of a home-cooked meal. Rather, it is the pungent odor of meals long forgotten. That of hospitals and ancient schoolhouse meals of days gone by. This smell is disrupted every so often by the very pleasant one of maple syrup that floats across the air in wisps, giving one just enough hope that breakfast might actually be worth eating.
   "You gonna eat that bacon, boy?" A man beside me asks the boy at his table. "Nope," the boy replies as he drops his plastic spoon into his styrofoam bowl filled with milk and cereal. The boy walks over to the silver metal trashcan, opens the lid and begins to spit into it. "What are you doing?" the father asks.
   "It's the bacon," the mother replies. The father rolls his eyes, saying, "It's just bacon." As the boy bounces himself on the couch, it is evident the child is autistic. He is beating his own head because he has managed to spill a cup of orange juice. Let's go get in the car," the father says.
   And they leave. As they do, the boy says, "What's the matter Marv!? Come on Marv!" I take this as a reference to "Home Alone" rather than him addressing his father.
Self-Portrait: What will I write today?

May 12, 2010

THIS is American Idol!

Ah yes, it's MOVIE NIGHT on American Idol. Let's see how things go tonight! Remember, I am actually writing up Tuesday's and Wednesday's blog post in one fell swoop. Watch out for spoilers!


Lee - Ouch. The high notes are not working for him. I could see him getting voted off. This is the worst I've heard him. I know, that means the judges like him, right? Shan liked parts of it.
Batman Forever [Blu-ray]

Michael - Michael does MJ. Not too bad, but not the 'knock-my-socks-off' I was hoping for.
Triple Feature: Free Willy/Free Willy 2 - The Adventure Home/Free Willy 3 - The Rescue

Whoa, what up with the duets!? Okay, Lee and Crystal do *not* work well together. She overpowers, outperforms, and generally dominates him. This was a *bad* idea. Ugh.

Casey - This okay. I guess. Nothing special, but not as bad as Lee. ROTFL, oh yeah, the whole reference to Kara - that's funny right there.
The Graduate

Crystal - Finally! We've got some singing here! I love this version of "I'm All Right!" This is awesome! Wahoo!
Caddyshack [Blu-ray]

Michael and Casey - Hmmm. Well, I don't know what to think about this. I wouldn't care to hear this on the radio. It's just... meh.

Okay, folks, so here we go with the ELIMINATION! Who is going home?

I predict Lee. Shan won't commit. She is torn between several.

Fantasia - Whatever. Not a fan.
Daughtry - One of the best Idols. Though, he is certainly leaning toward the "-er" groups... You know, Hinder, Seether, Nickelback-er...
Bon Jovi - I hope this song sounds better recorded than it does live. Ouch.

Casey is SAFE and in the TOP THREE! That's not really a surprise for me at this point.

Lee is SAFE and in the TOP THREE. Yawn. That sucks. That is ridiculous.

Crystal is SAFE and in the TOP THREE. I am very glad! I hate that Lee took Mike's spot, though.

Michael is going to do very well post-Idol. He's got a great voice and is a likable guy! I'm looking forward to his album.

May 5, 2010

Top Five Idols

This is Top Five and we'll see who gets voted off. SPOILER ALERT!


Sinatra and Connick Jr. Ladies and Gents, it's crooner night. Oh, bother.

Aaron - Okay, I guess. Still slow and old-fashioned.

Casey - Blah. Again, not updated. Old, slow, bo-ring.

Crystal - Shan says she's bored but likes Crystal's voice. I agree that the voice is good.

Michael - Okay, now this is what I'm talking about. Get in there, give it life and soul and git er done. Awesome.

Lee - As much as I don't want to like him, I actually do. I think he did well. He changed it up and made it his own.

Okay, so let's see who gets voted off...

Like Shan said, Aaron should probably go home, but we think it will be Casey. Let's see.

Lee - Safe. We figured that, since he actually did well on Tuesday.
Crystal - SAFE
Michael - Bottom Two
Aaron - Bottom Two
Casey - SAFE

Bummer. Poor Mike has had to work his butt off through this whole thing. Let's see who goes home...

And going home is......... Aaron. Wow, Shan called that one.

May 2, 2010

Get the eBook version of "All This Digging" for just 99 cents!

That's right!  As a summer special, you can download the eBook version of my short story collection, "All This Digging" for only 99 cents from Smashwords!

Use Coupon Code UJ23R when you checkout from (this page)!

What's cool about Smashwords?  The eBook on there is compatible with a whole slew of eReaders!  It is awesome!

Starting Monday, May 3, 2010, you can also get the Kindle version for 99 cents!