Saturday, December 30, 2006

Been a Long Time, Been a Long Time, Been a Long...

Whew! Seems like I've been off-line forever!

Mucho apologies for you fictional readers of this blog. I would normally post at least once in a week, but there have been extenuating circumstances lately, consisting of:

  • Food Poisoning, which may have been a stomach virus, taking me out for 2 days
  • Dead Computer, which had two on-site service calls and finally had to be sent back to Sony for repair, taking a week to return
  • The Head Cold, which threatened to become strep throat, which I valiantly fought off for two days and now have forced back to the threat level of "Nuisance"
  • And somewhere in there, there was Christmas and the festivities thereof
I may have mentioned that my family's version of Christmas is embarassingly extravagant. I will detail only the highlights of the Holiday Haul to illustrate:

  • Kitchen Aid Food Processor
  • 4 appropriate for the office Shirts
  • 3 appropriate for the office Pair of Slacks
  • Stone Mortar and Pestle (for grinding fresh herbs)
  • Computer Game (The Movies)
  • Cast Iron Pot
  • Waffle Iron
  • 3 Books
  • Calendar (with pics of my wife so I won't miss her so much when I'm at work)
  • Bottle of Stoli Vanil Vodka
  • Umbrella
  • Money
  • 2GB memory card for her camera
  • Radar Detector (she doesn't appreciate it...yet)
  • Gift card for the Glo Spa
  • Hair Straightening Iron
  • Jeans
  • Blouse
  • Pajamas from Victoria's Secret
  • Desk Fountain
  • Scrapbooking Kit
  • Stepstool (for getting into bed)
  • Money
Trust me, there was more, but these are only the highlights. We couldn't fit it all in my truck to get home. That's Christmas in my family. Everybody shops year-round for gifts and hoards them in secret until Dec 25. The result is a Christmas tree that looks like this:
Not that I'm complaining.

Since Christmas, I've been back to work. Bernie's been off all week. Is that fair?

Hopefully, now that I've paid off the Visa card (oy, vey!), we'll be able to start saving again so we can afford our trip to Malaysia later this summer.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Totally Exhausted

My company has asked that each corporate employee spend one working day in one of our stores during the Christmas rush. This helps out the stores that need help the most. Today was my day.

I spent the day condensing the Christmas merchandise on the shelves and filling in the blanks with new merchandise. Then I spent the afternoon getting boxes of toilet paper unloaded and on the shelf. (I suggested to the manager that since the store had so much TP that we could make a display of it in the front of the store with a sign saying "This year, give your kids something they can REALLY use.")

Anyway, this is the hardest day's work I've had in a looooooong time. I am so sore, it actually hurts to sit and type. All that bending and lifting wears you out. I must say that I enjoyed it, though I certainly wouldn't want to work that hard every day (for $7.50 an hour!). Thank God for a college education.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bad Mood

I have caught a bad mood that I'm having a hard time shaking. Maybe it's a leftover from the food poisoning. I am grouchy and surly, and I am having to be very careful not to let it out on my family, who certainly don't deserve it.

Maybe I need to go out and get in a bar fight or something.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why I haven't been posting much

Well, my computer is dying, and persists in dying despite two on-site service calls. The darn thing keeps rebooting after a few minutes. Sony has replaced the power supply and the motherboard, and it stubbornly persists in continuing to reboot. Now I have to pack the thing up and send it to the repair depot and I won't see it again until after Christmas.

And the news of the day is that I had a bout of food poisoning last night and am still sweating and shivering today. Hopefully, I'll recover to go to work tomorrow. It's been a long week.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stream of Consciousness

Sometimes, I get a brainwave with a nice piece of philosophy.

Ever wonder why people get depressed when they are in college? It's the sudden realization that a gap is opening between the way you want your life to be, and how it really is - and that the gap is getting bigger every day.

You don't realize it until this point in your life because up until then, you don't have the freedom to really steer your life off course. Suddenly, the road you are on has no lane markers and very little signage, and you don't have a map. You can either decide to explore your new horizons and end up off course, or you can lock the steering wheel straight ahead, get where you're going, and miss out on all the fun in the process. As we get older, we learn to navigate better (or get used to being lost).


I haven't given a work update in a while. My new job is still fun and interesting. I don't dread getting up in the morning any more. The days fly by quite quickly now, and I think I'm bringing a lot to the team.

Every day I realize how bad my previous job was, with the CEO slinking around looking for people to criticize, an absentee boss, total jerks for co-workers, etc etc. I work with genuinely nice people now, and I don't fear for my job every day like I used to. I think for the last 5 years, I have lived in constant fear of losing my job (at IBM, at Arcatech, and at my previous employer). Not any more. And without that constant fear, I can be myself and do what I do best - be creative and think outside the box.

I've got love, I've got financial security, I've got ambition. Now I just need to do something about my fat body, and life will be perfect.

(sound of frantic knocking on wood)

Monday, December 04, 2006

On My Own...

Well, I'm all alone this week. Mama, Papa, Bernie, and my Mom and Dad are all living it up in Williamsburg, Va this week, and poor, vacation-less me had to stay home.

So, I'm a bachelor again. You know, this seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think I've gotten used to being married. I've never been alone in this house before, and I've gotten used to having a whole family around since Mama and Papa arrived back in October. At least I've got the cat.

To top it off, my computer has been acting up - rebooting itself, thowing dll errors on startup, etc. I couldn't figure out whether it was hardware or software, so I restored it back to October 31, and still had problems. So I did a complete factory restore. Still had problems. So I called Sony and told them it had to be hardware and they are coming on-site to replace the power supply.

Of course, as soon as the computer heard that, it decided to straighten up and fly right. Don't tell me that computers aren't intelligent and emotional. This one got well as soon as it heard that surgery was in the works. I don't care, though. The power supply is going to be replaced just as a precaution.

Now I have to decide whether to watch Heroes or the Panthers tonight. If I watch the Panthers, Heroes gets DVRed. If I watch Heroes, I join the Panthers at halftime. Hmmm...decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Update on the Imams

The Washington Times has this article today.

These guys need to spend some time in jail.

1. They were SHOUTING their prayers in the concourse.

2. They shunned their assigned seats and one of them sat at each of the exits of the plane (TERRORIST-LIKE BEHAVIOR), including two of them in first class, which they did not have tickets for.

3. All 6 asked for seatbelt extenders, despite not needing them, and they placed the extenders on the floor at their feet instead of buckling them. (TERRORIST-LIKE BEHAVIOR)

4. Then they refused to explain or get off the plane when directed.

Put 'em all in prison or ship them off to the Middle East. This was a planned, deliberate, and possibly a real terror operation. Even if they were doing this simply to provoke a fearful response, I consider that to be terrorism as well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If Only We Could Draft An Australian for US President

I stumbled upon this article on the web today. Gosh, if only we had such sensible people in US politics, with the guts to stand up and say these sort of things. What a shame that sensible attitudes regarding Islam and immigration seem to only exist in Australia.

Some exerpts:

On Islamic law being practiced inside democratic countries:
Peter Costello: "What I've said is that this is a country, which is founded on a democracy. According to our Constitution, we have a secular state. Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you. This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don't feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they'd feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs."

On whether Iraq is the cause of the anti-America attitude in the Arab world:
TONY JONES: Right. Given that the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is probably the leading cause of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, does that make us, as an ally of the Americans, a greater target for terrorists?

PETER COSTELLO: I don't think it's the principle cause at all. I think if you want to look for perceived areas of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, it was around a lot before Iraq. It's been around for a very long time, Tony, and most of it, I believe -

TONY JONES: I'm talking about what's happening right now. We're seeing it even in the lead-up to the Islamic summit we've been having in Canberra. What we are hearing is young Australian Muslims are particularly angry with the
American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

PETER COSTELLO: No, I couldn't disagree with you more profoundly. There was substantial hostility to the US in the Arab world long before Iraq. Whether it's over perceived injustices to Islam, whether it's over the Palestinian issue, whether it's over support for Israel. Most of these things, and I don't believe justify hostility at all, but it's been there long before Iraq. Let me tell you this, Tony - you are profoundly wrong if you thought hostility to the United States started in 2003. It was around long before that.

I was also led to this article, which has quotes from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

John Howard:
"Immigrants, not Australians, must adapt. I'm tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia. However there are a few things that those who have come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our language, and our own lifestyle.

"This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

"We speak ENGLISH; not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!

"We will accept your beliefs; all we ask is that you accept ours and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others."

Man, do I wish we had politicians like these guys here in the USA.

Then you hear about things happening in the US like this.

6 Muslim Imams on a commercial flight, decide to kneel in front of the gate and chant in Arabic before takeoff. What did they think was going to happen, I wonder? I don't care if it was that time of day, have some common sense! There are prayer rooms in the terminal for that! Even in Muslim countries, they don't pray in the terminal at the airport. And furthermore, they have the unmitigated gall to blame the rest of the passengers and the airline for "ignorance of Islam". Hey, dudes, maybe you should think about how ignorant you are of other beliefs. I call this a total lack of respect for others. Would you want to be on a plane with these guys after seeing them have a group chant to Allah outside the gate before takeoff? This was either complete and total ignorance on the part of the Imams, or it was a premeditated attempt to provoke an incident.

Hey, Imams - the guys who hijacked the airliners and crashed them into the WTC, the guys who blow themselves up in Iraq killing hundreds of innocent people at a time, the people who talk about "wiping Israel off the map", the people in Pakistan that sentence women to be raped because of some imagined insult by their families, they are praying to the exact same god that you do and using the exact same book you worship to justify their deeds. Some of them proudly call themselves "Imams" as well. Don't go around pointing fingers at other faiths and belief systems and accusing us of "ignorance", OK?

There's a saying from the Christian Bible:
"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Much To Say

Well, folks, we made it back from the beach OK. Charleston was disappointing, Myrtle Beach was nice. We went to the Ripley's Aquarium and I thought it was a solid B+.

Butch belongs to the Tar Heels, and the clown in Raleigh is shaking in his red booties.

I'm going to have to diet until Thanksgiving. I can't stand myself at the moment.

We're having dinner with the LeFebvres (Sophie's folks - and I hope I'm spelling that right) this weekend and I'm quite excited about it.

That's all for now. Maybe later I'll have more to say.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Butch Davis to UNC!!!

You heard it here first...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

So, How's It Going, You Ask?

This is a great week. The new job is everything I could have asked for. I keep remarking how it feels like IBM used to back when IBM was good, and that was very good indeed.

The first day, after a 1/2 day of boring orientation, I met with my manager and she took me to my cubicle. She had personally ordered and stocked my desk with office supplies, and cleaned it herself on Friday evening. A brand new Thinkpad with a docking station was installed and working, with all the applications I need already installed. She had already requested all the passwords I would need (only half of them were processed by Monday, but that's certainly not her fault!) I had a nice new office chair, and my phone had the instructions for setting up voice mail taped in front of it. She had printed out my ID's and passwords and handed them to me personally.

This company uses the "buddy system" for new hires. The Senior Business Analyst was my buddy and she had prepared a binder for me with business processes, all the current requirements that the team was working on, org charts, maps of the building...just about everything I needed to know.

This company is VERY strict about use of their IT assets. NO NON-BUSINESS USE INTERNET! And their IT team is actually competent because there's no way around it. If you try a non-approved web site, it's blocked. If you try an approved site outside of the firewall, you get 10 minutes on a timer before it starts tracking you. Chat clients are blocked. No goofing off.

Now, the above might have been a bad thing for me in the past. My previous jobs have sometimes had the work run dry, leaving me with not much to do on occasion. Well, the good thing here is that there is a great deal of work to do, all of it interesting, and the day seems to pass quite quickly. I don't mind getting up in the morning (much) any more.

Now that I'm no longer employed by my previous employer, I have to say that the worst part of working there was the people. I swear, there weren't three people working there that I would have spit on to put them out if they were on fire. Arrogant, abrasive, unhelpful snobs, every one of them with very few exceptions. All of them were indispensible because of their knowledge and experience, and they were very jealous of it and wouldn't spend a moment trying to teach you anything. I spent two years there and never found anyone I wanted to go to lunch with. Until this week, I didn't realize how that experience completely drained me every day. I don't know how I put up with it for so long.

Anyhow, I've already executed a test script, uncovered some bugs in the code, rewritten the same test script, and documented the business process that takes the requirements from concept to production with a Visio flow. Once I get access to some SQL databases, I should be full speed ahead.

Did I mention that I like my boss?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Starting the New Job!

Tomorrow, the new job begins. Orientation early in the morning, followed by HR paperwork, then "getting to know" the new department! I have to dress fairly nice, which is a big change from the slob company I just left. I'm sure wearing true business casual clothing will chafe a bit after the jeans and t-shirts I've gotten used to. This is going to be like IBM was before IBM decided to let the PC division rot on the vine and drown in its own filth. People taking pride in making changes for the better, I mean.

I'm excited. I'm going to knock them dead. They're going to want me to run the company in less than a month. I'm gonna be a STAR, baby!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Update On The Stealing Thing

Grrrr...It doesn't go on my Dad's car insurance policy. It goes on my Homeowner's policy, which has a $500 deductible. So these scumbags cost me 500 bucks. Makes me want to go back and kick some carnie butt, is what it makes me want to do. (The NC State police officer says it was almost certainly done by carnival people)

The best revenge will be that I will probably see $300 after the deductible, and I'm planning on replacing the camera on the Friday after Thanksgiving with something better that will probably be on sale.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Quick Update On The Big Weekend

We're back home for a quick nap before heading to the mountains for 3 days. We went to Raleigh and Chapel Hill this weekend and stayed overnight on Saturday to go to the State Fair. We had a great time, but someone broke into my parents' van while we were there and took my Dad's new Q phone, my Zen MP3 player, and my video camera. We got a police report, and I guess insurance will cover most of the loss. They rifled through my Mom's purse but declined to take the credit cards in there, choosing to take the quick score of electronics. We gave all the serial numbers to the police, and Dad got the phone turned off by Verizon.

Here's a strange coincidence - Bernie left her purse at my Parents' house and was complaining about it most of the weekend. If she had remembered to bring it, it almost certainly would have been left in the car and stolen. Sometimes fate works in mysterious ways.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Last Day On The Job!

Well, tomorrow (technically today, since it's after midnight) is my last day at my job. Today, I sent the customers the "I'm leaving" email, and I immediately realized that was a bad idea, the result being akin to saying "Well, we're about out of time, are there any more questions?" EMAIL FLOOD! Lots of "Wait, before you leave, can you do this?" emails.

Anyways, nothing serious. The boss took me and the department to lunch and we had a good time. I don't expect to spend too much time there Friday, probably just handing in my badge and going home. I'm grateful to them for giving me a job when I needed it, but I won't miss the constant stress one bit. I'm off to a better job where I won't have customers calling me. What I'm really looking forward to, however, is the WEEK OFF.

Bliss. Sheer bliss.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Weekend Events

Whew! I feel like I spent the entire weekend at a party! Friday night we had the family over for take-out fish, then Saturday, we went to the flea market and to the Asian Corner Mall to pick up some things.

Saturday night we went to Oktoberfest at the Waldhorn Restaurant and had dinner in the restaurant, then went outside to the beerhall and danced and partied until late. Papa Lau got a slice of black forest cake with a candle because his birthday was on Sunday. The waitresses and the accordian player came over to sing to him after dinner. Mama Lau danced quite a bit and had the best time of all of us, I think. The band was very good. Maybe next year I'll get my Raleigh friends to come and do this with me.

Sunday, the family went to church, but I stayed home to child-proof the house and make lunch, since I didn't want to miss any of the Panthers' game at 1pm. After the game, the family came over again and we celebrated Papa Lau's birthday again with cake, pie and pizza. Bernie got her "kid fix" with the nephews, who had a great time. We all collapsed afterwards and only Bernie still had the energy to stay up until 11pm. I was in bed and nearly asleep.

Tonight, I have to watch last week's Heroes before it comes on again for this week's episode. I may have to start watching this show on Friday nights when Sci-Fi channel replays it and be 4 days behind everyone else.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Strange Dreams

Two nights ago, we opened the windows in the house. The influx of oxygen has given me strange dreams both nights. Last night's took the cake, I must say.

I started out attending a parade on a college campus. As the parade rode by, some guy in a convertible pulled out a gun and fired a shot into the crowd and drove off. I saw it and told a policeman and gave a description of the man and the gun (a 44 Ruger, black). I turned the corner from the cop and somehow ended up in the basement of one of the buildings.

I came face to face with a homicidal maniac that looked like Pin Gillette, only 8 feet tall, 400 lbs, wild hair, unshaven, wearing overalls - kinda like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know? He chased me around the basement of this large building with some sort of weapon. I grabbed some sort of garden tool and hid and snuck up on him and hit him (You know how you can never actually hit someone hard in a dream, everything being sort of slow motion?) and ran away.

OK, well somehow, I ended back up in the basement again, only this time I had my friends from high school with me. Ed, Brendan, Jeff, Bert, and Dave. The maniac came after us and we all grabbed shovels, axes, picks, etc and scattered. A long melee and chase followed and after I hit the guy twice in the head with an axe, causing very little damage, Jeff managed the telling blow with a pick. It took two more whacks with the pick to kill the guy. (Again, this being a dream, there wasn't any blood or gore - his head was empty).

Congrats to Jeff! Now somebody tell me what this means.

Monday, October 02, 2006

They Have Arrived!

Bernie's parents got here safe and sound this morning. We got up at 4:30 to get to the airport at 5:45 because I knew the red-eye from LAX always arrives early. It did (6:12am scheduled, arrived at 5:54), and there were apparently less than 20 people on board. We got out of the airport at 6:30 and took them straight to Waffle House (best to get them acclimated to grease right away). Dad and I had to go to work, so I missed the initial reactions to our house and lifestyle.

I've checked with Bernie and her Dad is asleep (they've been awake for all but 3 hours in the last 48) and her Mom can't manage to sleep, so is watching TV.

Poor Bernie was soooooo stressed out, but now she can relax.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


  • Made breakfast
  • Both cars vacuumed
  • Shopped at Aldi for groceries (LOTS of Dutch and German people there)
  • Bought more plants from a local nursery (banana tree and elephant ears)
  • Lunch
  • Panthers game
  • Garage parking ball hung up
  • Pot rack put away
  • Kitchen ceiling sanded and painted
  • Stop sign removed from front yard and planted in a place any person with an IQ over 50 would have chosen

Just need to clean the kitchen and vacuum the house and I think we're all ready for Bernie's parents!

Saturday, September 30, 2006


  • Both cars washed
  • Bought supplies at Lowe's
  • Picked up comforter at cleaners
  • Spackled ceiling
  • Replaced shower head (Actually didn't. Instructions for new one referenced the 'leak' the existing one was having as being a 'vacuum release' required by code.)
  • Another trip to Lowe's to return shower head and to buy...
  • New shelves in garage leading to...
  • General reorganization of garage
  • Upstairs balcony tile scrubbed
I think that'll do it for today. It's 8pm.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm not buying Citgo gas any more

I, for one, will no longer be buying Citgo gasoline. Citgo, if you don't already know, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petrol De Venezuela. If Hugo Chavez can't sell gas to the US market, he'll sell it to China, but in order to do that, he'll have to buy a fleet of tankers which he doesn't have, and absorb the expenses of shipping it across the ocean.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The News Is Here!

Alrighty, and now we reveal the fruits of the secret project...

A couple of months ago, I had a series of bad bad bad days at work. I remember thinking that if I were the manager, I would probably fire myself. Well, that night, I made a foray into and sent in some resumes.

Well, those resumes got me two interviews. Those two interviews got me a follow-up interview. That follow-up interview got me an interview with a Vice President, and a week later, I got a job offer. That offer got me a chance to negotiate, and I got a better job offer and I accepted. Today, I informed my boss and gave notice. We are going to have to negotiate the notice because I need to give a bit more notice in order to collect for my untaken vacation, but it's official that I'm leaving and it's all out in the open now.

I'm getting a substantial raise, a shorter commute, a more narrow job description, a better management structure, a bigger company, and duties that I know how to execute and execute well. This will be a lot like the job I performed during my favorite time at IBM, before they decided to lay everyone off and let me do their jobs instead. I'm excited.

I do have to give up a trip to the mountains with Mama and Papa Lau, which I regret terribly, but on the plus side, I can stay home and make sure the cat doesn't get lonely and take revenge by peeing on something. I managed to salvage the Myrtle Beach trip and a few days of the Williamsburg trip in December, so all is not lost.

I hope some of you didn't die of anticipation! This was a big undertaking and I'm more than happy to reveal all and boast of my success. I think we may be financially secure enough to start thinking about kids now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Don't Lose Interest!

I have news...I just can't post it yet. Don't you hate it when that happens? Tomorrow, I should be able to reveal all.

In the meantime, here's a video about talking cats:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

They're coming!

Two weeks until Bernie's parents arrive! We've been housecleaning and also finishing off some of the home improvement projects that have been on hiatus. I finally got my office to look more like an office rather than a storage room, then we spent Sunday cleaning. Bernie did some new planting and landscaping. Only one more weekend remains to spiff up the place.

We also spent the afternoon and evening on Saturday with Brian and Sophie playing Empire Builder. We finished before 11pm, and I won and Bernie was sneaking up on me and finished second. She's the kind of player that you have to watch, because she starts earning money without you noticing and before you know it she's won the game. We love spending time with Brian and Sophie and little Elise, and should do it more often. Sophie says she'll bring Elise over on halloween for trick-or-treating, and we'll all have a grand time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quick Update

Not much going on that I can talk about, I'm afraid.

Haven't lost any weight in 2 weeks. Nutrisystem is a glycemic index diet and if you go off of it for a day, you can take several days to get back on track. I had 3 cheat meals this weekend, so I have to stay on the wagon all week this week.

The secret project might bear fruit this week, and there might be earth-shattering news in a few more weeks.

Stay tuned!

Oh, and PS: I accidentally kicked a chair leg last night and busted the bloody heck out of another toenail. Big toe this time. I must be cursed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bernie!

It's my darling's birthday. She had a pretty good one, I think.

Happy 33, my love!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

3 day weekend! Rah!

Man, there's nothing like a 3 day weekend! Especially that feeling on Sunday morning when you can kick that feeling of dread out of your life for one more day, because there's no work tomorrow!

After spending the morning at the Matthews street fair and the afternoon watching football yesterday, I will be washing my grandfather's vinyl siding today. After that, I just might put up the pair of blinds that have been at the top of the procrastination list and maybe even buy one last pair for the guest room.

The secret project has progressed into phase 3 and I could possibly reveal all in a week or so.

I got Bernie a banana tree and an elephant ear plant for her early birthday present and she seems pleased with that. Her birthday is on Thursday, Sept 7, for those of you who don't know. She tried to get my family to "don't do anything for me" on her birthday, but that isn't how it works here. I can't wait for my father-in-law to try that one on us, as his birthday is shortly after he arrives in October. Hee hee.

I smoked some peppers a couple of weekends ago, and they've all dried out properly now, so I've been chopping them up and putting them in my eggs for breakfast. Very nice. I'm thinking that if Chris and Elizabeth do a BYODish event for their Christmas party that I might find a way to use them for that. Maybe a sort of inside-out jalapeno popper or chipotle-cheese-stuffed rice ball.

That's all for today. Bernie wants to shop, and I've got to get washing.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quickly catching up

Okay, here's the Readers Digest verison of the past few days:

I sprayed weed killer on all the weeds in the yard (and there are a TON of them). 48 hours later, no noticable results. Now I'm planning on returning the pantywaist-nancy-boy weed killer and getting Roundup from the farm supply store. And now, my young will die. Too late, you realize the power...of the dark side!

I had a couple of dizzy spells over the weekend. I got suspicious and we took my blood pressure and it was 102 over 58. Very very low, especially for me. I have my theories, but they all center on the diet. For now, I'm not planning to do anything about it.

Bernie and I went to Sam's Club and I cheated on the diet a bit, tasting the free samples. Real food is like a nuclear taste explosion in my mouth compared to the Nutrisystem food. Bernie got revenge on me by eating KFC and McDonalds in front of me while I ate my recycled cardboard.

My secret project is progressing and I may have a decision to make come Wednesday afternoon. We'll see.

I put some jalapeno and poblano peppers in my smoker this weekend and made some chipotles. Now I just need something to do with them. I've had a jalapeno craving lately, and I think it's actually a vitamin C deficiency making me crave them. More juice!

Work is improving. One account is being extremely demanding and I've had to email my boss to tell him that I don't have time to accomplish some things for other customers. So far, he's been very nice about getting me some help. I can't wait to stick this customer with the bill for the time they've been using.

The glider seat we got for my birthday finally arrived today. I guess I'll assemble it tomorrow.

Madden '07 rocks, and I had to get a new game controller as my old one died (one of the springs in the D-pad broke due to my grip of steel). I decided to buy a good one instead of breaking more cheap ones, so I got the Microsoft XBox 360 controller for Windows. It's awesome! Bernie completely disapproves of my spending even 10 minutes playing a game, though she's being polite about it.

We hung up the new curtains in the guest room, officially making it the nicest room in the house, where we spend absolutely no time at all. At least Bernie's folks will get to sleep in there and enjoy it. It's probably the best decorating job I've ever had in my home. Bernie's pretty darn good at it.

Well that's all for now!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Football Game

Last night, Brian and I went to the Panthers game. Brian had an extra ticket since Sophie was suffering from an acute case of sports apathy. Her loss is my gain, most definitely.

I took advantage of Brian's generosity to do something I've never done, and always wanted to do - TAILGATE!!!!

Now, to be fair, I've "tailgated" to games with my parents plenty of times before, but they always wimp out and get KFC or Jersey Mike's subs or some other fast food for the tailgate, and arrive about an hour early, eat out of the minivan, and go to the game. Brian and I arrived 3 hours early, and I brought a grill, and a pickup truck with an actual tailgate.

I spiced and marinated a top round steak overnight (couldn't find a skirt steak, so I made do), and I grilled it over charcoal and sautee'd vidalia onions on tinfoil. Then I sliced the steak as thinly as I could and we put it and the onions on grilled tortillas with that good mexican cheese and sour cream.

(Yes, I broke my diet for this - it was totally worth it and I'm back on the wagon today.)

The game was just OK, but it's preseason, so you don't come in with great expectations. The Panthers are going to be really good this season, but the offense didn't really get it together for this particular game. They've had a lot of time off since the last game and it showed. Despite their offensive woes, they won the game handily.

I had a great time and I would like to thank Brian again for the ticket. I slept like a baby last night thanks to the welcome break in my routine and my good mood continues today.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sick Wife!

My poor darling is sick. I think she caught it by reading Chris's blog.

Seriously, she told me that the apple pie she made (and subsequently ate half of) had an expired crust, so maybe that's the culprit. I can't imagine how a frozen pie crust would make you sick, however. Bad butter? She's down with fever and nausea and headache.

Anyway, get well soon, honey! I'll be home from work in a few hours and make you chicken soup.

It turns out she isn't sick, just a migraine. No soup for her after all. She was well enough to beat me at Empire Builder this evening.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

I had a stunning realization this morning. As an adult, I haven't been a happy person. It seems like worry and depression are my constant companions. Only since I've been married has happiness come back into my life, but lately it seems like I've been slumping back into my old depressive ways, and I don't want to go there. So I wonder: what is the root cause of my depressive tendencies?

I started adding up the things that make me happy. There are a lot of them, but as I was making the list I realized something: Most of the little things that make me happy are "guilty pleasures". Thinking about it further, I realized that most of my little pleasures are things that the other people in my life do not approve of.

Here are some examples:

Playing games
Watching sports on TV
Food Network
Shopping for Electronic Gadgets
Sleeping late

Every one of these is something that I like to do, but a lot of the pleasure gained from them is lost in the "guilt" that they generate because others in my life are disapproving.

Maybe I care too much about what others think. The only problem is whenever I try to ignore what others think, I get in trouble. This is going to require some more thought.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Writer's Block

I've had a mild case of writer's block regarding this blog lately, so I've been avoiding posting much. I'm sure I'll get over it soon.

Here are the highlights of my life lately:

1. The diet is coming along nicely. Lost 5 lbs the first week, which meets my goal so far. 4 weeks to go and I'm not dead or disgusted yet. Not being able to go out to eat over the weekend was tough on me. I'm used to rewarding myself with food, and being denied that is really difficult.

2. Work is improving. My manager let me know that he knows my workload is more than anyone else's. He said I need to make sure my work is visible to others, though, because no one else seems to know it. I'm going to be travelling to Oklahoma once a month from here on out.

3. We did some yard work by putting out 10 bags of river rock around the trees and plants this weekend. I think maybe another 30 bags, placed in our natural area in front of the porch, around the driveway side of the fence, and between the crape myrtles and the fence will finish the job. I want to make it so I don't have to use the weed eater.

4. Bernie is jealous of my pre-packaged Nutrisystem food. I think she's a TV dinner junkie and doesn't know it. Since coming to the US, she's developed a liking for the 99 cent Banquet frozen dinners and Dinty Moore microwave meals. This has been an interesting observation on American culture infiltrating a non-native. What is so addictive about frozen dinners?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It Ain't Easy

Today is day 2 of the NutriSystem diet, and here are the highlights:

1. I'm not starving (much). Along with the entrees, you get a fruit, a protein/dairy and a low glycemic carb serving. This means that I can have an egg sandwich on double-fiber bread along with my breakfast bar and snack on an apple afterward. So far, this is keeping me sane.

2. Lunch entrees are tiny. They are hardly worth it, and so far they haven't tasted good, either. The sandwich and fruit are saving my life.

3. Dinner entrees are quite good so far. I've had a burger and a chicken sandwich and both were not bad at all. You do your own bun, so I bought whole-wheat buns, and I put a big slice of onion and romaine lettuce on them with lots of mustard.

4. I'm drinking a lot of water. At least a liter at work, and whatever I can take at home. I'm rationing myself to one diet soda in the morning (need caffeine!!!) and a glass of diet soda with dinner.

5. I got the first completely flavorless orange that I've ever experienced today. I peeled it and it smelled so good, but no juice and no flavor at all. When you are already 'settling' for fruit when you want french fries, this can break your heart.

6. I don't think I'm going to die from this, so I'm hanging in there. 5 weeks to go!

Monday, August 14, 2006

It's Killing Me!

I've been wracking my brains for a week now. I have a birthday approaching rapidly, and I can't answer the "what do you want for your birthday?" question. I literally do not want or need anything at the moment. Not clothes, not gadgetry, nothing.

That's bad enough.

On Friday, I got a bonus from work. Pretty nice one, too. I have nothing that I want to spend it on. This means it'll go into the bank account and slowly disappear with nothing to show for it.

Even when things are good, I can't enjoy them thoroughly. Sigh....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Mini-Vacation

This weekend, we went to the mountains of North Carolina. Specifically, we went to Linville Falls, Boone, Valle Crucis, and Blowing Rock. Originally, we were going to camp, but the weather forecast caused us to change to renting a cabin instead. (The cabin had satellite TV, so we got to watch the Panthers game on Saturday night as a bonus!) Not exactly roughing it - it was more of a fine-grained buffing, I suppose.

Anyhoo, on with the boring vacation pics:

First, Linville Caverns:

An amusing moment at the caverns - the tour guide told us it was considered good luck to get dripped on in the caverns, and water was indeed dripping on most of us from time to time. I snuck up behind Bernie and tapped the top of her head with my finger, and she turns to me and goes "Just got dripped on, hon!", so naturally I did it again a few seconds later. She turns and goes "Just did it again!". Finally, I fessed up, and it was a source of much teasing for the rest of the weekend.

Then lunch and a little free bluegrass music:

Then a little gem mine panning:

Gem panning used to be much better when I was a kid. Back then, you paid and got a bucket of mud that you knew had come out of the mine and no one had tampered with. Now you get a bucket of rocks, which you can be sure has been combed through and had pretty stones of no value added. Sure enough, the garnets and sapphires that we used to find when I was little are no longer present in the modern buckets.

And a quick nature photo on a damp day:

Then time for a Blenheim (the world's best Ginger Ale) at the Mast General Store:

The next day, we went to Grandfather Mountain, saw the bears and other captive wildlife, and walked across the mile-high swinging bridge:

It's a pretty nice trip, and only 2 hours from Charlotte, so we got home on Sunday in time for supper!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Just a Quick Note

Things have improved this week.

We got a 2 inch memory foam mattress topper that seems to have cured my back problems.

I'm going on NutriSystem for five weeks and plan to lose 25 lbs. If successful, I'll do it again for 4 weeks. I'm actually looking forward to this, believe it or not.

We're going camping with the parents this weekend to Boone and Grandfather Mountain. Should be fun!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Job

I don't know if I've ever been as close to just walking out on my job as I was this week. That includes my time at IBM. At IBM, I wasn't happy with management, but I was willing to take the money as long as they were willing to pay me. This is not the case this week.

This week, I was so overworked that I literally couldn't think. I found myself making mistakes in the most simple tasks, not noticing it until days later, and those mistakes caused me even more work and worry.

I am not in a job where work can wait or be done after hours. The stuff I do must be done during a window of time, and if there's too much to do, you can't stay late and do it - it's gotta be done now or never.

I travelled for 2 days this week. The first trip was a day trip to Atlanta, and it went well - I straightened out a problem at two stores. The second day was to Tennessee, and the power supply for the PC I brought was missing - I never checked before I shipped it. We had to ship a new one overnight and I made do with my laptop to train the contractor I met there.

This left 3 days to do a week's worth of work, and the contractor was calling me at night while he did two more installs. I got woken up at 2 am at least twice in those 3 days due to cell phone calls. Add in the stress of the mistakes I made due to mental fatigue, and I think I might have fired myself if I had been the boss. I couldn't remember things that I had done an hour ago. And then the weekend on-call schedule comes out and I have to be on call this weekend. Wonderful.

It's time to take some time off.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm Eviller than Chris!

You Are 70% Evil

You are very evil. And you're too evil to care.
Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.

Of course you knew this already, didn't you?

I'm also mostly conservative, though I'm ethically liberal, whatever that means.

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 65% Conservative, 35% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Friday, July 28, 2006

Rough Day - But I Win!

I felt like I won the lottery today simply because I survived work.

I mean, problem after problem after problem...all day. I'd get rid of one customer's problem, and the phone would ring with another, and so on, etc. I can't even recall most of the specifics because my brain has mercifully wiped out most of the memories. All I know is that I got through the week alive, and I can go into a coma for 2 days before diving back into the shark-tank.

But somehow, I feel pretty good. That can't possibly last, can it?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Note: I was informed tonight that my parents have finally found our blogs.

So, after church tonight, we went to visit the orphans. Then we volunteered at the local soup kitchen to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We just love helping others!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mastering the One-Day Turnaround

Last week, I drove to Atlanta and back on the same day for work.
Today, I flew to Nashville, TN and back on the same day for work.

The company I was visiting today decided to delay the trip, but didn't inform us until I got off the plane in Nashville. I decided to deliver the equipment and train the contractor anyway, and it was a good thing I did, because an important piece of equipment was in the process of being installed in the wrong place, and I "nipped it in the bud", so to speak.

This saved us from having to come back a third time, because we wouldn't have been able to get the equipment running next week, and they would never have been able to get the contractor back on site to fix it in a timely fashion.

And the good news is that the contractor I trained thinks he can do the work next week without me having to go back!

PS: The airline that will remain unnamed (but rhymes with US Scareways) absolutely sucks. I'd rather fly Delta and connect thru Atlanta rather than go through this again. Get this: I get the row in front of the emergency exit (won't recline), the air conditioning is warm and won't blow harder than a trickle, making the temperature about 85 degrees, no beverage service, and the seat in front of me over-reclines, leaving 5 inches (I measured) between the seat back and my chest. (I couldn't hold the in-flight magazine in order to read it!). The pilot never turns off the seat-belt sign, so no one can go to the lavatory during the flight. I repeat may asssertion here that if the USA forced these conditions on the prisoners in Gitmo, that Amnesty International would have a fit about "Cruel and Inhuman Punishment".

Monday, July 24, 2006

Surely There Must Be A Solution

I'm sure most of you have noticed that World War III has started in the Middle East.

I've been pondering what my opinion on the ME region should be, and I haven't quite gotten it figured out yet.

What do you do with millions of religious zealots whose primary goal in life is killing Jews, and secondary goal in life is killing anyone that doesn't share that goal?

You'll notice that I'm not grouping these people into the same religion. Obviously, there are flavors of Islam that don't support genocidal mania.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Message To My In-Laws

Mom & Pop,
I know that Bernie can't wait for your visit in October. I want to let you know that I can't wait, either! I think that I have the two most wonderful parents-in-law in the world, much like I have the greatest wife in the world, and I miss you almost as much as she does. Our marriage has been a total delight every day, and we are so excited to show you how much of an adventure our life together truly is. We haven't had a dull moment since the wedding. I personally can't imagine being happier, and I want to show the two of you how I've been taking care of your daughter. I hope you are proud of me when you witness it! We have so many things to show you about North Carolina and our home, and I can hardly contain my excitement about it. October can't get here fast enough!



Bernie and I went to see Poseidon tonight at the dollar movie.

Wow. This movie was much better than the reviews I read. Tense from the first minute and it didn't let up. You find yourself holding your breath a lot. Not a great date movie, though. You can't ever manage to kiss your wife because either somebody just died or is in mortal danger on screen. We both enjoyed it, though.

Then we get home, and I check out the 'net and see this.

No cruises for me anytime soon. Nope.

Kellie Gets Her Record Deal

Well, it looks like Kellie Pickler got her a Nashville record contract. Good for her!

The bad news is that they plan to release her new album in November, and she's going to be recording songs between stops on the "American Idols Live" tour.

What does this mean?

  • Putting out an album that fast means that there will probably be very little original material. I'm anticipating many cover songs.
  • Kellie will be singing and that's it. No creative input from her. Maybe that's a good thing, considering her song choices on AI.
  • No duets or collaborations. Not enough time to put it together.

Contrast this with Taylor Hicks' album, which doesn't have a release date yet. He's pledged to write most of his own songs, perform on the guitar and harmonica, and to do collaborations and duets with other artists. You'll notice this takes a lot longer to produce.

I'm hopeful for this girl. She's interesting, which makes her potential star material, but she needs a lot of guidance from her team.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Best. Weekend. Ever.

After getting home on Friday night at 10pm from our jaunt to North Georgia, we spent Saturday doing...absolutely nothing.

Having rested properly and recharged the batteries adequately, we then spent Sunday doing...absolutely nothing.

My favorite kind of weekend, right there.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Good News

Well, the Friday overnight installation in South Georgia has been changed to a Friday morning install in North Georgia, so I don't lose any part of my weekend after all!

Bernie's still coming with me to make sure I don't fall asleep at the wheel. The nice thing about these rental-car jaunts to Georgia is that it doesn't cost anything to take her along, so I can still have my wonderful wife with me!

This makes me feel so good, I think I'll grill something this weekend. Anyone want to come over?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Barker Family Travelling Road Show

1. Charlotte NC to Oxford NC and back for St Johns Day (both of us)
2. Charlotte NC to Asheboro and back to see the NC Zoo (both of us)
3. Charlotte NC to Rosemead CA and back for work (just me)
3. Charlotte NC to Wilson NC and back for Grandma's funeral (both of us)

Now I have to be present for an install for work on Friday night in Atlanta. Since it's the weekend, why not ask the wife to go with me, right? Geez, we've been on the road a lot in the past few weeks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Today, I lost my Grandma.

Actually, I lost her months ago, as she has been slowly taken away a piece at a time by mini-strokes. For the last two months, she has been immobile and unable to speak, and it tore my heart to shreds to go and visit her. I knew that the end was near, and I didn't want to remember her that way. I last saw her a couple of weeks ago, when I took Bernie to visit with me. It was horrible and I couldn't make myself stay.

I prefer to remember the woman that smothered her first grandchild with love, cooked wonderful southern meals, and was such a happy part of my life for so long.

I miss her already.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

My "Superman Returns" Review

I saw Superman Returns tonight with Bernie, and, without giving everything away, here were my impressions:

Brandon Routh was good. As good as it is possible to be when you are stepping into a role that was owned by Christopher Reeve. Routh doesn't have the universal good looks of Reeve, and he was playing a very mournful Superman, wheras Reeve was always a confident, smiling Superman (though a bit dumb, IMHO), but Routh did a fine job and will own this role eventually.

Overall, I loved the movie. It advanced the story of Superman in ways that you didn't expect, and that was the failure of all the previous incarnations of the Superman franchise. This one took brave new steps, which was refreshing.

I had only two problems with it:

#1. This movie was 30 minutes too long, and there were lots of places it could have been easily cut that would have benefitted it. On example is a scene near the end where Lois convinces her fiance' to turn around a seaplane so she can go back and rescue Superman, then they land, she jumps in the water, and finds him sinking, unconscious, and pulls him to the surface, then swims to the plane. They showed every bit of it. This could have been cut to him hitting the water, sinking and having a hand grab his cape and pull him out. This would have saved 5 minutes by itself. I didn't need to see Lois's motivation to go back for him. Obvious and redundant.

#2. The bad guy plot. Luthor gets the crystals from the Fortress of Solitude, engineers them to grow a new continent in the ocean that contains lots of kryptonite (and will also put the whole USA underwater, killing billions of people).

--a side note here, I always had a problem with Luthor being a genocidal maniac with a real estate fetish. Luthor shouldn't be motivated by greed, he should be motivated by revenge. He's supposed to be Superman's nemesis. The original movie made Luthor out to be a two-bit thug who thought big, and Superman Returns reinforced this premise. I hate it.--

Superman eventually lifts the whole kryptonite continent out of the water and puts it into orbit. This is after it's established that setting foot on the continent makes him so weak he can't stand up. It's just not plausible that he could overcome that by willpower alone. Kryptonite does two things by established rule - it takes away his powers, and it can kill him if he stays near it too long. Suspending those rules just because you need him to get out of a bad situation smells of deus ex machina, and is simply bad plotting. Shame on the writer!

Minor quibbles include:

  • The costume (which went in the wrong direction - it needed a muted blue and brighter red, and a bigger S shield, and the collar was too high for the cape to tuck in properly.)

  • A lack of "feel-good" moments for the big guy. This is truly a sad movie!

  • The fact that Clark Kent is apparently paid to sit around the office and not write a darn thing (He lets Lois do his assignment for him, for heaven's sake! Slacker!).

  • The fact that Superman causes three of Luthor's henchmen to get crushed by a falling cliff. Superman NEVER kills. Not ever!
But I don't let little things get in the way of enjoying the movie. There are some goosebump moments when Routh takes some iconic poses thoughout the movie. That was nice. The "Superman is Jesus" thing was nice (though I bet that my friend Chris pans the whole movie because of it). Jimmy Olsen is just great throughout the whole film. The effortless flying is wonderful. The cape on the costume is terriffic in the way it flaps and hangs during flight. The way the bullets bounce off Superman is great. Clark Kent is spot on - even better than Reeve's, IMHO.

Conclusion: Well worth seeing. Make sure you visit the rest room before the movie starts, though. I'm looking forward to the next one where we can hopefully jettison the baggage of the old movies and move forward. (Mr. Singer - please read some of the old comics for plots and villain ideas, OK?)

***Additionally, I agree with this guy on most points. The third act could have been much improved.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Waiter! Waiter!

Today wasn't the best day to eat out, I guess. We went to breakfast at a nice place in Indian Trail, Johnny K's. We've had breakfast there before on Sunday and it can be quite busy, but really good ol' Southern breakfast food. Today, it wasn't packed, but we had to wait 30 minutes for our eggs and pancakes after ordering. The waitress was really nice and apologetic, explaining that two really large groups had arrived just before us and therefore, the kitchen was backed up. We weren't in a hurry, and the food came out hot and delicious, so no big deal. I told Bernie that I'd never mind a wait for food, so long as it comes out hot.

We skipped lunch, and Bernie wanted to use some coupons we had for Steak 'n Shake, because she had never been there before. I told her that the food was just average there, but the ice cream was great. Anyway, we went there for dinner. Guess what? After ordering, the food took more than 30 minutes to arrive, and we saw food that looked suspiciously like our order sitting in the kitchen pass-thru window for 10 minutes. When the waitress brought us our food, that was indeed our tray, and the food was cold. We sent it back and waited 10 more minutes for our order to be re-made. This time it was hot. Still just average, though. I'd take a Hardee's thickburger or a Backyard Burger over Steak n' Shake any day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Johnny Cash I'm Not...

Here are all the States that I have visited (I don't include ones where I simply made a flight connection or drove through to get to somewhere else)

create your own personalized map of the USA

And here's where I've been in the world. Not too good, ah?

create your own visited country map

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Those Who Love Sausage and the Law...

...should never watch either being made. So true.

This weekend, my old buddy Bert will be coming down from Raleigh and we will be making loads and loads of homemade sausage. I expect we will start with 30 lbs of pork butt, and make about 5 kinds of sausage to freeze and use all year.

I got a new grinder attachment for my stand mixer for Christmas, and I can't wait to try it out. (We once had an unfortunate accident with the hand grinder, but Bert still has 9 fingers left. The sausage that year tasted pretty good, actually. Just kidding.)

We'll grind up the meat, divide it into batches, season each batch differently, and squeeze it into casings. (and, yes, we use real casings made from pig intestines. If you don't want to know, don't ask.)

We'll make some German sausage (ginger and garlic), Hot Italian (red pepper), Breakfast (maple and brown sugar), Southern (sage and herbs), and Chinese (hoisin and cinnamon). Then we divide it all up and freeze it.

The best part of all this is the seasoning and tasting - you season the batch, then make a small patty and fry it, taste it, decide whether it needs tweaking, then repeat.

This is actually quite fun, and there's nothing like throwing a coil of homemade sausage on the grill on July 4th!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Rant About Other People's Kids

Bernie and I went to church today. We've been shopping churches between weekends when we are too tired to go at all, and we tried a new one today. I have never been an enthusiastic church-goer, and I would desperately love to find something enjoyable about the experience, but I really haven't found it yet.

Today might have been the first exception to the rule, but I'll never know, because some woman let her 3 year old whine and bawl continuously (yes, CONTINUOUSLY) throughout the whole service. At the top of her lungs. Apparently without any effort from the mother to shut her up, and definitely without any attempt to remove the kid from the church so that others could attempt to understand the pastor. I just wanted to kill her and her kid.

Here's what the sermon sounded like:

"I would like to teach the sermon from the book of NOOOOOOO MOOOOOMMMMYYY where Saint Peter WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA on the road NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA DONNNNWANNNNNAAAAAAAAAA and said to them NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO brothers and sisters WAAAAAAANTTTT DAAAADDDDYYYYYYY....."

I noticed while I was trying to ignore the shouting and whining and bawling that many other children under the age of 3 were present, and some of them were not quiet, either.

So here's my rant:

WHY would someone bring a child that couldn't understand one single thing about what's going on to a church service? The mother isn't getting any benefit, either, since she's constantly picking up the child and bouncing her, trying to get her to look at a picture book, etc. Why not leave? Instead, hundreds of people are denied their chance to worship. Look at how churches go out of their way to give you a way to avoid this:

  • There is a free day-care at every church I've ever been to, to keep the kids happy while their parents worship.
  • There are usually 'quiet pews' behind glass where families with loud kids can sit and not disrupt the service.
  • There is also a 'children's church' where the kids can get a little bible teaching seperate from the adults.
And this b-witch decided to ignore all of them.

I'm not a big fan of ultra-conservative denominations, but in a Southern Baptist church, an usher would have come to this woman and escorted her out. And I would have stood up and applauded.

I'm telling all of you this - When Bernie and I have kids, they will not be coming to movies or to church or to weddings, funerals, etc, until they are capable of being quiet for extended periods. If my kids aren't a joy to be around, I won't force anyone to be around them.

I can only hope that there is a special circle of hell for inconsiderate parents.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I Got Nuttin'

Well...I got just a little...

Here's the week's events in bullet format:

  • One of my co-workers walked out of the office this week and never came back. Guess who gets her accounts now?

  • My friends Phil and Selena are visiting us for the weekend. We got to proudly show off the house last night. That always feels good.

  • Hockey. Go 'Canes, but I'm not planning on watching. It'll be nice to see the cranial smoke from Canada when the Stanley Cup heads to NASCAR country, though. Maybe somebody'll strap it to the roof of Jeff Gordon's car for a lap or two.

  • Spending freeze. Bernie tells me we spent $5000 last month. I already knew we were making improvements to the house too fast, and this confirms it. We can live with what we've got for a while. I plan on spending my free time this weekend trying to save the lawn from the forces of evil.
That's it. Pretty boring week for me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Forced Labor

I probably have the most unique relationship with my parents. My folks love me and want me to have nice things. Unfortunately, those nice things are subject to opinion, and the one that counts is theirs.

Today is a wonderful example. Last summer, Dad bought me not one, but seven crape myrtle trees to plant at our new house. Last summer, the house hadn't even been selected, much less built and moved into, so buying me trees - especially trees that neither Bernie or myself had approved - was just a bit premature. Lucky for them that Bernie and I don't hate the idea of crape myrtles. We simply have not assigned them a top priority on our "things to do" list.

Now, I am a fundamentally lazy guy. I'll spend weeks 'getting around' to something, then do it, then bask in the glory for a few more weeks before 'getting around' to something else. The pleasure of doing things at a slow pace is something I get off on. I also HATE wasting a weekend on physical labor. Weekends are for fun, not work.

So, after the fence was built (the fence was a gift from my Dad, but we had to put it up ourselves, which I wasn't thrilled with), we had a good place to plant the trees - outside the fence, next to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, after the fence-building experience, I was not crazy with the idea of digging holes in my yard, which appears to be composed of a thin layer of dirt above a neutronium-titanium base, with rocks, gravel, and construction debris filling the gap.

Starting three weeks ago, my Mom starts dropping hints, "When are we going to plant those crape myrtles?". My answer - "How about September?" was not accepted. I tried to brush it off, and managed to procrastinate until today, when I got a call in the morning, "We're coming over to plant those trees." I guess subtle hints don't do it with my folks and the fait accompli was issued.

Therefore, I spent my Saturday digging holes, getting blisters, getting severely sore muscles, and getting guilt from my Mom for allowing my Dad to dig the occasional hole, in order to plant trees that I don't have any enthusiasm for having in the first place. It's blackmail, by the way - If I don't dig a hole fast enough, Dad jumps in and starts doing it, and I catch hell from Mom.

Well, at least it's all done now. I have one day left to relax before going back to work.

Does anyone else have strong-willed parents like this?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Great Xenu! Kat's a whacko??

Apparently, Katharine McPhee is a budding Scientologist. If this had gotten out months ago, she'd have never made the final 12.

Kat and TomKat

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Disney in Malaysia?

My wife's native land is considering building Johor-Disneyland! (I can't wait to see the comments from the Mommy Librarian!)

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Return of the Grillmaster

For those of you who only know me through my blog, you need to know that I love to grill. I picked out the perfect grill for me two years ago, and it went into storage when I moved. When I got a 10th anniversary gift from IBM, I chose a charcoal smoker (and immediately rigged it with an electric burner). I have missed both of these guys terribly while they were in storage.

When we built the fence last month, I was able to put the grill on the backyard patio, and the clock in my head started ticking - "tick, tick, time to grill, tick, tick, time to grill..." Well, today was the day!

Grilling tools at the ready! (this includes the flipper Elizabeth gave me, by the way!)
primary burner on! [click]
secondary burner on! [click]
tertiary burner on! [click]
ignition in 3, 2, 1 [chunka, chunka]
[foof!] we have ignition!
(three seconds later)...Houston, we have flameout....
"This isn't fair!"

Out of propane. Shoulda known. At least the nearest place to swap the tank is just a mile away.
So, anyway, after one false start, I got the grill to make the jump to lightspeed. I hearby christen my grill the "Millennium Falcon".

The first meal from the "Falcon" was seasoned burgers and bratwursts with grilled corn on the cob and was eaten by myself, my wife, and my parents. The seasoning in the burgers was lots of my special rib rub and soy sauce. The brats were served with mayo, mustard and kraut on potato rolls. I had chili and slaw on hand for the burgers in case we wanted to make a "Carolina Classic", but they tasted too good to cover up.

I wish I had some pictures to share, but it all got eaten too fast!
The Grillmaster is back, baby!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

How I Spent My Sunday Afternoon

Today, I did the following:

1. Took Bernie to breakfast at her favorite place: Waffle House

2. Put brown-patch killer on the lawn

3. Put together the lawn mower shed

4. Cleaned out the last of the junk in the garage, and...
5. Moved the trash can to the backyard, and...
6. Got the truck in the garage!

Here's how Bernie spent her Sunday:

Midpoint of a nice, busy holiday weekend

This is a big weekend. Why? You ask...

1. It's our anniversary! One year of marital bliss! The best year of my life, for sure.
2. 4-day weekend. I love having memorial day weekend for an anniversary.
3. Nearly got the garage cleared. That truck is going in there today, if I have anything to say about it.
4. Carowinds. I got my honey on a roller coaster. I think that's the first time I've heard her scream.
5. Still got two more days to go!

Friday, May 26, 2006


Having the day off today, we got to see a matinee of X-Men: The Last Stand.

I disagree with nearly every review I've seen of this movie. There was nice continuation, characterization, dialogue, action, development, etc. What is driving the bad reviews is one simple thing: It disregards the canon of the comic book X-Men. The last two movies were decently respectful of the stories already told in the comics, but this one promised to tell the epic "Dark Phoenix Saga" on the movie screen, and it didn't do that. Too bad, so sad, nerds!

First of all, it couldn't tell the Phoenix story as written in the comics unless it delved into comic book fantasy crap that would never work in the movies involving X-Men in outer space and aliens.

Second of all, the first two movies built a story arc on prejudice and government regulation that had to be concluded in this movie.

I thought that this movie did a good job of concluding the story arc, while telling a Phoenix story that made sense in context, even if it was the back-up storyline in the movie. It also set up the next trilogy of X-Men movies with new, younger team members if they choose to make them.

Fanboys might sulk over some deaths to major characters that happen in this movie, but this happens in the comics all the time in order to move characters aside so that new ones can be featured, and I expect the younger members of the team to take center stage in the next movie.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


When I left IBM 2 1/2 years ago, it was primarily due to my disgust with our second-line manager. This scumbag was laid off by Lenovo last month, and I couldn't be happier about it except that I know he got lots of money in severance due to his 25+ years with IBM.

Here's a list of his transgressions:

  • He made an appearance once a quarter, just to show us that he still was our boss, but otherwise, we never saw him.
  • Played golf with other managers and went to manager meetings, and that's about all the work he ever did.
  • Didn't allow any training whatsoever, despite corporate policy that tells him all employees should get a minimum amount of training each year.
  • Wrote our personal business commitments for us (against policy), then ignored them at evaluation time (also against policy).
  • Allowed the company to move most of our department's work to another department, then assured us that our jobs were safe from layoffs. (Guess what happened? 50% of the department got laid off.)
  • Forced out my first-line manager, whom had allowed me to do the job I was best suited for and praised my excellent performance, reneged on the promise I was made of a promotion (never got a raise or promotion in 10 years with that company, despite good evaluations), then took away the job I was doing (change management) and made me do not just one, but three jobs I hated that had belonged to those who had been laid off. (doing metrics and bean-counting) and then added a fourth job later. All of these were jobs that produced statistics that were looked at, then promptly circular-filed and never acted upon.
  • After not allowing us training and reducing our responsibility so that we were all big targets for downsizing, he prevented us from taking other jobs in the company by refusing to give us release dates.
  • Never gave a single employee any recognition in 5 years.
Here's the second-worst one, which applied specifically to me...
  • During a layoff sweep through the department, I was called into his office and told that I had survived the downsizing, and would now be doing the job of the four people who had been laid off. Instead of offering encouragement, or some sort of motivation, he then proceeded to tell me that I was lucky because if ___ had not gotten married and left the company last week, then I would have been chosen to go. What a motivator! I could have killed him with a smile on my face at that very moment.
And here's the worst one...
  • My first-line manager and I were friends, having worked together for 8 years before he got promoted. I had let him know privately how unhappy I was with my job, and how I would love to get different responsibilities or move to a different department, etc. He was always sympathetic but let me know that the second-line was not allowing any of it to happen. So, one day, my first-line tells me that if I wanted to leave the company, he can offer me a severance package of several month's pay to leave the company voluntarily, just like a layoff. He gave me a month to think it over. I went looking for other jobs, found one with a different company, and told him that I accepted. The offer of the package, and my acceptance, was supposed to be confidential, HR stuff., incidentally. I signed a waiver of my right to sue before I accepted based on that confidentiality. On my last day, a bunch of friends took me to lunch, and my first-line announced that I was leaving because I had found a better opportunity. On my way out, another manager in my department (under my same second-line) pulled me into his office and told me that "he knew the real reason why I was leaving" and that he "thought I was being dishonest", etc, about my circumstances, but wanted me to know that he knew and I wasn't fooling him. I was too shocked and frankly, unconcerned about what this guy thought to disillusion him, so I just left, but I realized that the confidentiality of my situation was not honored by my second-line, who apparently decided to tell every one of his direct reports about it, and to embellish it to make me look bad.
Well, here's an article from the web today, describing 10 things not to do when you manage "geeks". This jerk was wrong on every one of them. Go figure.

Oh, and Skip Gilmer, if you happen to ever find this blog and read this - bite me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Polls Are Open

Alllllllrighty then! The last performance show of the American Idol season is over, and here are my thoughts:

The show:
Darn it, Idol producers! The original songs absolutely suck! You should have opened the show with them, as they definitely left us flat at the end. I realize you want mucho royalties from these songs, but you'd do better to let someone with talent write them and split the take. And please lay off the cheesy inspirational crapola songs! Neither of these finalists do that kind of song well.

She picked two of her best songs of the season to encore. Good choices, I think. When she did "Black Horse and Cherry Tree" the first time earlier this season, it was better than the version on the charts. This performance was not quite as good, but close. I think it was an appropriate choice, since that song saved her on a night when she wasn't good at all. "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was very very good. I didn't get to hear it last week, so I can't say whether she did it better this time or not, but nonetheless, great job. Especially since her monitor earphone failed.

I hate to say it, but Katharine got screwed tonight. The original single for her was just a pathetic song. It was too low and soft for her in the verses, and she couldn't hit the notes. It was so bad that Paula hated it. The composer should be taken out back and beaten, have his fingers broken, and then be kicked to the gutter and left for the dogs. It was that bad, and Idol should be ashamed of allowing the final vote to hinge on some unknown composer's bad song.

Now putting that aside, if Katharine were a better performer, she would have changed the key of the song and tweaked it in rehearsal to make it better. This is a skill she does not yet possess, however, and that's going to lose the prize for her.

He nearly made a bad mistake in picking "Levon" as his second song. It may be his favorite, but it's boring, and does not translate well to a "one verse and two choruses" format like you get on Idol. Luckily for him, he got the better of the two final numbers. He started off with the song he did back in the Stevie Wonder show, and it was a very good opener with good energy. The original single he got was far and away the better song when compared to Kat's. "Do I Make You Proud", was a cheesy inspirational song, just like Kat's, and I was afraid at first that it was going to be too low and slow for Taylor, just like Kat's. Taylor did what Kat couldn't, though, and made the song his own by coaxing the band to speed up and to back off of his vocals.

Let me reiterate my point here - Taylor can lead a band. He knows how to cue and coax and cajole a band (and an audience, too) to conform to his lead. This takes experience - something Kat doesn't have, and this makes Taylor the winner this season.

It's Taylor by a mile. I will be shocked if it isn't.

PS: At 9:30, Taylor leads on with 72% busy signals to Kat's 67%.

The Six Million Dollar Horse

Da da DAA daaaaaa... (sorry)

I do not follow horse racing. But for some reason, I have been enthralled by what has happened to this horse, Barbaro. I severely broke my ankle a few years ago, so maybe I have sympathy for this animal that's driving my curiosity.

I've been doing some reading on the subject and here's what I've learned:

1. A broken leg usually means the horse gets euthanized.
2. Broken legs on horses usually do not heal due to very little blood flow to the legs. There is no muscle below the knee on horses - just tendon, bone, and cartilage, and therefore very little vascular tissue.
3. Horse physiology requires the animal be upright nearly all the time. They cannot digest their food if they lie down for long.
4. Horses are not capable of functioning with 3 legs. Therefore, amputation is not a viable treatment.

The owners of Barbaro, whether driven by the prospect of millions of dollars in stud fees, or by simple compassion, are pulling out the stops to try to let him heal and live. The veterinary facility that is treating him put 28 screws and a metal plate into his leg so that he can immediately stand on it. He was floated in a pool while he recovered from anesthesia so that he could flail his legs and not cause more damage. He's being watched and treated constantly to make sure his spirits are high and that he is not in pain and that he gets the best chance at healing.

And so far, he's doing great. If he lives, he gets great food, fresh air, and all the sex he can handle until he dies of old age. What incentive, eh?

Who's It Gonna Be?

Tonight's the night! Which one of these two singers will America pick to be the next "American Idol"?

Katharine McPhee: The Hollywood-raised diva with acting aspirations and a classically trained voice but inconsistent stage presence and grace under pressure.

Taylor Hicks: The soulful professional performer with the propensity to make us smile, but sometimes leaving a cheesy aftertaste.

Pre-performance, I have to give Taylor the edge, but tonight's performances will tell the tale. Will 3rd place finisher Elliott Yamin's fans move toward Taylor or Katharine? Stay tuned!

Monday, May 22, 2006

In Order To Save The Village, It Was Necessary To Destroy It

I heard that quote from the Vietnam War the other day, and I realized it applied to our house. Now that we've sold what there is to sell, the boxes must be stowed and we have to reorganize what we're going to live with.

I started pulling apart my office yesterday - the only room in the house that has unopened boxes in it. Bernie gave me the look when I started taking things out of the office and putting them in the kitchen, but I think I was able to explain what I was trying to do. Once I got things moved around, the office seemed much larger than before.

Well, now we went and bought two more of those plastic wall cabinets for the garage (with hopefully one more on the way), so more mess must be generated in the name of organization. I think one cabinet is reserved for kitchen appliances that are not used all the time. The rest will be for tools and stuff that's been on the garage floor. I ordered a storage "shed" (it's really a plastic box with doors) for the lawn mower today, too. When I'm done, I think the garage might be empty enough to epoxy the floor, then put both cars in it!

However, I think our time will be spent this week on cleaning. Bernie's been dropping hints, and I have noticed a few places where cleaning is called for, and, like my mom says, "If Jason thinks something's dirty, you'd better call the sanitation department." I have the typical male ability to not see dirt until it reaches critical mass. It's time for a scrubbing.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Results: The Garage Sale

We made about $200 from the sale, and got rid of a lot of things we didn't want to put back in the attic. Aside from the dude who lied to me about a "pocketknife" he was buying (it was a Swiss tool that I had put a $20 price tag on, not a pocketknife that I put a $3 price tag on), it was a nice day. We donated the leftover clothes to Goodwill and I will donate the leftover books to the library, leaving just some plastic cups and a wicker chair to put away.

Note to self for future garage sales: Don't try to sell old lamps or lampshades. No one is interested.

Friday, May 19, 2006

For Sale- Cheap!

The neighborhood is having a huge multi-family garage sale tomorrow from 7am to 2pm. We have spent most of our free time in the past 3 weeks getting stuff organized and tagged for sale. Essentially, anything that fits the following criteria is for sale:

1. It's mine, and
2. Bernie doesn't want it around.

Actually, I'm selling all my "skinny rack" clothes (some with the tags still on them!), plus all the kitchen gadgets that didn't make the cut, plus computer hardware that I don't want any more, plus about half of my paperbacks. All the plastic cups and mugs that a bachelor accumluates are going away, too. So is the lawn mower that is guaranteed to start on the first pull (guess why?). We also went through my junk boxes and dumped them into a basket with "Free!" posted on it.

I don't think there's a single item for more than 10 bucks in the batch, and we'll take less. Anything that doesn't sell is going to Goodwill.

Come one, come all! We will NOT be undersold! If you don't buy something, I'll club this baby seal!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Elliott goes home, Taylor and Kat move on

Poor Elliott. Any other season, I think he'd have won this thing. He goes home with a 100,000 vote deficit out of over 50 million votes cast.

I didn't get to see the performance show due to being on the road, but thanks to the expanded results show tonight, I got to see at least some of the work done last night. In my opinion, the voters got it right, even down to the closeness of the results.

The performances this week, from what I've seen, were less uptight than previous weeks. I wonder if the three have finally learned to relax and be comfortable on stage? Singing live is the hardest part of being a singer, and if you can master it, the world is your oyster. The improvement this week tells me that all three of these idols have great potential as professionals.

Taylor: Three home runs on his songs. Joe Cocker meets Michael McDonald. Tonight's CD song, "Takin' It To The Streets" is one that I've been waiting for him to sing all season. My opinion of Taylor's gamesmanship went up this week. He knows what he sings best and has been saving it for the finals. It's his to lose, now that Elliott is gone. Taylor made it seem effortless this week, and that's the first time I've been able to say that all season.

Kat: Got a boost from the songs that were chosen for her. The one she chose for herself was the weakest, so she hasn't learned a lot from the experience. I loved her rendition of "Think" tonight.

Elliott: He goes home having maxed out his "Idol-tude". He did the most on this show even though his potential wasn't as high as the others from the very beginning. He won over a lot of people with his courage and hard work that might never have liked him otherwise. Kudos to him for doing that. I loved his song tonight as well, and his swan song from last night at the end of the show was great as well. Put him in a tour with Clay Aiken and they'd sell out stadiums anywhere in the world. You listening, Clay?

Finals - Taylor vs Kat:
I have to go with Taylor here. He wins the crowd over much better than Kat does, picks better songs, and makes better decisions. Notice how he sang his song with his arms around Kat and Elliott tonight? That scores points with the viewers. No sweat for Kat, though. Second place generally gets a better deal from the record producers since the "prize" for winning Idol is non-negotiable.

Can't wait for next week!

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