Monday, November 30, 2009

November - Adieu. Aufwiedersehen. Gesundheit. Farewell.

Another month has flown by and the nation is all caught up in the spirit of giving.

This is not true.

Actually, the nation is recovering from adding to an average per family credit card debt that makes most incomes look like a mere speck on Black Friday and is still totally fixated on Tiger Woods and his golf club wielding wife.

It takes very little to entertain us all and we're easily distracted.

Our forefathers would be so proud. They built this country with their blood, sweat, and tears and the far majority of us sit at keyboards all day long with the greatest risk of bodily harm coming from a jammed finger or rolling our chairs over our own feet.

It's been one of those days - pondering junk like this can put you in a foul mood. Sitting in my office as one of the last four people left in a 130,000 square foot building with heating that reminds me of my old '73 VW Super Beetle doesn't help lift my spirits either.

I was lucky that I had very little time to sit still long enough to be cold. I ran back and forth between fixing 3 different laptops (try rebuilding just one laptop and get ready for hours and hours of Windows Updates before you can finish it up and ship it out) and 1 PC and 1 printer all day long  and all of it will still be waiting for me to finish up tomorrow as I make yet another 40 mile trek back to the office. Staying busy does make the day fly by and that is a blessing even when I feel I made little real progress against my never-ending to do list.

Just working at all in times like these more than makes up for any complaints I could have and I'm blessed eventhough this will be our tightest and most budgeted Christmas in years. I avoided Black Friday this year in part due to the fact that I just can't afford any impulse buys this year. It's all strategically planned like a military procedure. Just call me Captain Christmas.

I'm glad there is nothing new on TV tonight because I need the break. There is so much pressure to keep up with TV shows and that's probably why I watch less and less TV each year.

I am going to clean up some stuff and I am going to finally attack the stack of coupons that is taunting me. Hopefully, I won't get a papercut. I'll be brave and think of the many coupon clippers that came before me.

That's how I am going to close out this November.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Decorating = Done

It seems like I worked non-stop all holiday weekend. Wednesday night, the tree went up - with ornaments. Thursday was a small break but I can't remember any actual rest. I did all my Black Friday shopping online at 2AM so Friday this years was all about the decorations (I confess that I did make two midday trips to Big Lots and Radion Shack) and going through the "6 Totes of Christmas" which meant deciding what to display and what to leave packed up (Sentimental but out of style) and what to give to the thrift store so someone else can junk up their holiday.

I ended up with a car full for the thrift store. This is a good thing. We finally went through all the kitchen cabinets also and pulled out all the extra mugs, glasses, and silverware. It's part of the 6 month rule that reigns here - if it is not used in 6 months, it is gone. And, why should we just keep things we never use when someone could need it? Since we really cut back on the clutter this year, the thrift store has made off quite well.

Saturday was the outside of the house. It was almost 70 degrees here which is unusual. I tested all the lights and still a part over the highest point of the garage went out which is typical. This added even more time but after 6 hours of work, it was all wired up and finished. All the totes were back in the attic and we are done decorating for the holidays. Now, we just maintain and try not to think about the effort it will take to pack it all back up again in a month.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More holiday decorating progress!

With the help of child labor, we got all of the ornaments on the toxic gas emitting interior living space tree substitute! (At least that's what the Al Gore people call them.)

Notice that there is no theme on this tree - just tons of ornaments from different places and times.

 "Baby's First Christmas" and "First Year Together" and "A Christmas Story" and different odd places we happened to visit.

Today I will dig out my E.T. ornament from my childhood and will sneak that on the tree somewhere.

Do you have an ornament that looks like the front of a Cracker Barrel? I do. I have 10 (they were a dime a piece) but I am only allowed by the Wife in Charge to display one. I wish I could collect all types of businesses such as McDonalds and Wal-Mart. Let's do a Capitalism Christmas.

I do have a Walmart in the ceramic Christmas village and can't wait to find something tasteless to add there like an ATM machine or a Coke machine. Don't worry - there will be pictures.

Christmas at my house - it's like a holiday mismatch timewarp came in an barfed all over the house. In a weird way, it's oddly comforting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

He's watching you - each and every Christmas

Yes, kids, the Elf on the Shelf sees your every move and reports back to Santa in real time. One false move and poof - coal under the tree!!!



And you thought I was joking for the last three years about how creepy this is. I love filling my kids with fear and paranoia for the holidays.

I'm writing the sequel which I am sure will be a hit: "The Christmas Tree in the Living Room That Beats Up Bad Kids While They Sleep".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A different kind of Christmas gift...

Looking for something meaningful to give this Christmas? Well, the old days of heading to Zayre and buying some trinkets are long gone.


This Christmas, instead of diamonds, show your love with lead.


Yep - right there on the front page of the sale ad is your chance to bear arms for the holidays.


It's perfect for getting those pesky reindeer off of your roof!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Michigan - Day 3

Harry:
Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile. So I down shift into small talk, and I asked her where she went to school and she said. "Michigan State", and this reminds me of Helen. All of a sudden I'm in the middle of this mess of an anxiety attack, my heart is beating like a wild man and I start sweating like a pig.
Sally:
Helen went to Michigan State?
Harry:
No she went to Northwestern, but they're both big-ten schools. I got so upset I had to leave the restaurant.


Our final full day in Michigan ended with the drive up to East Lansing to visit Michigan State and eat our best and cheapest meal of the trip. Yes - I bought pencils and stuff for the kids at the Spartan Bookstore. It's always good to get out and drive to a few places when you're out and about.
 
I'm looking forward to being home tomorrow. I'm ready for some non-hotel rest.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michigan, Day 2


And each town looks the same to me
The movies and the factories
And every stranger's face I see
Reminds me that I long to be
Homeward Bound


Believe it or don't - warm enough here that I have the air conditioning on in the hotel room. And, I've already taken the Tylenol PM so the coma is already starting.

I hoping that I can check off the rest of the "to do's" on my list tomorrow so Friday won't be rushed. We have to leave around noon to drive back to Detroit and make our flight.

Not much else to add here - a fairly non-eventful day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Michigan

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"



Another week, another airport, another hotel room - but this should about wrap it up for 2009. My travel agenda is empty for the remainder of the year and I am ready for the break. I've been all over the east since February and returned to some places two or three times. Visited every major city in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina - by car. Enterprise Rent-A-Car probably had a sales increase just because of me this year.

Mentally, I'm just about exhausted.

This would explain why at dinner tonight that seeing popcorn shrimp on the menu at Red Lobster reminded me of going there with my mother starting from age 4 or 5 and always ordering that. I guess that was our tradition and "our time" through the years and these are the little details that start hitting you randomly when you realize you are watching someone slowly fade away. Then, you feel guilty because you haven't been there and preserved "our time" as much as you should.

To say my mother is not exactly healthy is an understatement but there is an incredible amount of uncertainty to what that means exactly. I started writing here right as she was admitted to the hospital for surgery in 2007 but she is avoiding the doctors and a diagnosis this time. Part of me understands when there is no desire to go through all of that again but then there is the constant fear of that unexpected phone call (much like one I got in 2007). And then  part of me wonders if it is all in my head and this is all moving much more slowly than I think.

The bad part is that I'm not usually wrong about these things. I can only hope that this time I am and that these holidays won't be a series of lasts. Yet, I can't help but treat it that way. We'll do what we always do - have faith and move forward. What other options do we have?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Detroit Tomorrow

If I see this guy running down the street, I will turn the rental car around and return to the airport...

The good news is that I am only flying into Detroit. I jump right on I-94 West and drive 65 miles west to Jackson, Michigan for 3 days of work in chilly, rainy Michigan. At least there will be no snow and no below-freezing temps. I owe Al Gore one.

I have not been to Michigan since 1989 and that was just passing through on the way to Toronto. I'm looking forward to this one because I think it will be helpful for the job and I will finally put a few faces with voices I have heard on the phone. And, it's one of the few places I haven't been so new places are always a bit fun.

Hopefully, I'll update the blog safe and sound from the warmth of the Comfort Suites tomorrow night!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Fun With Coffee Creamer!

The weather has been perfect here for some coffee creamer fireworks so we took the opportunity last night to clean out all of the expired coffee creamer from the cupboards. Good times were had by all.

This was all filmed by Sara using our RCA Small Wonder video camera.

Special thanks to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for posting a document (click here) on how to convert and edit the Small Wonder videos. This camera gave me a ton of grief at first since the version of AVI kept crashing Movie Maker and even took out Adobe Premiere Effects!

This is a very handy guide especially considering that Big Lots is now selling a version of this camera for $28 in the US!

Without any further delay...enjoy the video while my eyebrows slowly grow back.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More weekend memories....

Some more pics from our weekend out and about...

Here's where all dad's take their kids - the bar. We're waiting for Sara's cocktail - her shrimp cocktail.


Here's Lindsay and her nutritional advisor.


Here's Sara with her nutritional advisor.


And, here is Sara - who watched me doing some impressive cart slides before wanting to try her own. This is the first step to becoming the female Johnny Knoxville. They would have asked us to leave but we bought a lot of stuff.




Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall Festival Night (and pictures I will pull out on prom night)

Yes, it was the Fall Festival thingy up at the elementary school. It's the one time each year when I take a wad of 1 dollar bills and blow them so the teachers will actually have enough money to buy paper and other things you'd think our tax money would pay for when we're actually too busy funding pork projects but that is another subject for another time.

This is "Minnow Races". Guess how you make your minnow win? You repeatedly pop it in the fish butt with a popsicle stick. The kids should pay strong attention to this since it closely resembles life in the American Work Force (for the lucky 89.5% of us still employed).


In the next two pictures, look at how Lindsay reacts to getting her hair spray colored. She begs me to let her do this and then reacts like she is getting sprayed by a flame thrower.




Sara has a slightly less dramatic reaction. This reminds me of the face my grandmother always made when taking medicine.


The finished results:


Sara looks like a real nut in this one. I will hold this out for some really big bribe.


Finally, another picture of the weird dog inflatable.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sights and Sounds from the Road

I did not update the blog while I was in the Charlotte-area since I was too pooped every night when I returned to the hotel. But, I got my entire list of fun tasks including installing receiving scales, installing printers, etc. finished so that counts for something.

Here are a few pics and a video that pretty much capture the excitement of the trip:

 This is the huge statue/fountain at the airport. The airport in Charlotte is excellent except for the attendants in the restrooms with the huge tipjars. I call it the Charlotte Pee Tax.


I like that we have a Turbo dot matrix printer - because regular dot matrix is not fast enough in 2009. And yes - this bad boy is USB and yes - I installed it.
Enjoy these exciting specs right from the Oki website:
Tank-Tough® reliability, expanded head gap and zero-tear capability for dedicated forms printing. This 9-pin dot matrix printer is blazing new trails in productivity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The Blackberry makes a little shutter sound when I take a picture so I don't have near the number of candid pictures anymore due to this annoying sound that I have not been able to get rid of. However, I had to risk it and take a picture of "Guy in a Suit wearing Tennis Shoes". Only Letterman can pull this look off.


Finally, the toilet at the hotel sounded like it was a train every time you flushed it. The horrifying gasping and weezing would last as long as five minutes and I could hear other people flushing up and down the halls. I thought I was staying in a train station.


The good news is that I am home all next week. Then, I take my last trip of the year to Michigan for four days of chilly fun!

Monday, November 2, 2009

What happens when you outsource your food container printing to China?

Aunt Jemima knows what happens...


You send out packages proclaiming the new fast cooking tool - the "mircowave"!


It sounds so cool that maybe some company I can't pronounce in China might be developing it right now!

In other fun news, I have a 6AM flight to Charlotte tomorrow morning. I've tried later flights but then I hit all the traffic. So, I'll be in a sleep-deprived coma most of the day - which is not much different from the boredom or anger comas that I am in every other day.