Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Housekeeping

Thanks to the somewhat new and nifty new Blogger designs, I finally have an updated template that I find a bit easier on the eyes than the old one. Sure, I still have all types of crap jammed in here such as Twitter feeds, Zune pass, etc. What? You don’t want to know where I eat? You don’t want to know where I am at all times? You don’t want to know how much 70’s music I listen to?

I don’t blame you a bit. I don’t even want to know all of those things. I’ve been tempted to end my Twitter account several times in the past few months. I do update Twitter a lot less than I used to (unless I am all Starbucked to the point of being giddy). I hang on to it because I read interesting Twitter feeds from other people and you just never know when you might be present for something interesting that you can shoot out there into cyberspace with little to no effort. TwitPic is one somewhat useful thing to hold on to but I typically forget I am carrying a camera around with me at all times until the picture opportunity has passed me by.

There is an article on CNN.com today about making your blog MORE popular. (I would link to this article here but CNN has a habit of linking back to you and that brings in all kinds of traffic from people who love to make anonymous and unintelligent comments.) The authors of the article compare the need to get your blog popular to the need to be popular in high school. They suggest focusing on one “theme” or getting out there and joining online communities where you can register your blog and get it in front of more and more eyes.

It seems like too much trouble to me. I feel guilty enough for feeding my blog into my Facebook profile since I feel like I am spamming people against their will. But, if it wasn’t for the blog, I would hardly ever update Facebook at all. I just can’t think of enough witty comments for my status and I’m not big on sharing every personal tragedy I go through as a status/cry for support.

But, let’s say I did update Facebook every time something “tragic” happened. It would look a lot like this:

  • “The lawnmower is out of gas again. Why me?”
  • “It appears that the Shrek glasses I bought were covered in poison. Oh, well.”
  • “Tom Nook’s store is closed in Animal Crossing today. Life is NOT fair!!!”

I guess this blog is just not going to be popular since I am selfishly writing it for me and not for you (whoever you might be). We all have to have a hobby, right? You might collect thimbles. You might run marathons. I write about stuff. And, I’m not going to narrow it down to get visitors so I can sell ads. And I’m not going to photoshop characters out of comic strips so I can get a book published.

garfield minus garfield

I might not do it but I am glad that this guy is. Now that is a good blog (and popular too!).

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Joys of ChUNO (Chinese UNO)

There has been an unopened deck of “UNO” cards floating around the house for the last few days. I am not sure how they got here but I took a good look at them this morning and knew immediately that this was a counterfeit set of UNO cards!

1

Yes – a fake ripoff copy of UNO! At least we know the country of origin (like there was ever a doubt!)

2

Notice how funny the ChUNO looks beside a real deck of UNO cards? They appear to be a copy of the real old boxes of UNO.

3

I know quite a bit about these cards since I’ve been playing for about 30 years now. I’m no UNO expert, but I do dabble a bit.

4

I also have one older deck still left so we can compare real vs. fake. Hmm, something is missing from the fake cards. Maybe the registered trademark symbol? I wonder what that means?

6

I was disappointed at the lack of Chinglish instructions that I was so looking forward to sharing on the blog. The weird symbols and squatty font on the ChUNO cards made up for that a bit.

7_all cards

Notice how the Chinese ChUNO cards are printed with much cheaper and duller ink. Oddly, the card stock is quite comparable.

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My favorite cards are the Draw Four and Wild cards. I’m guessing the printing press has a limited color system. These cards were on top and I was a tad let down when I realized we did have green, yellow, blue, and red cards. I was hoping for the color scheme on the Chuno Wild cards – pee yellow, off green baby poop, poop, and light poop.

DSCF0190

These cards are going into storage. I washed my hands after I handled them also. Who knows what sort of chemicals are on them or what kind of fumes they are emitting? Oh, well – thank you, China, for another good chuckle.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Purge

Right before Christmas, I went through the closets and the attic and took a lot of stuff to the thrift store. At that time I decided that anything unused for 6 months from that time would be the next to go. The good news is that the thrift store has a bit more inventory today. And, a lot of it was pretty good stuff. Some of the loot included: clothes, a rarely used DVD player, a never opened HD converter box and antenna, a never opened photo printer, 2 old Palm handhelds, enough spare video and audio cables to open a Radio Shack, CD’s, software, etc., etc. And there ended up being 4 extremely heavy bags of trash.

Why did I hold on to all kinds of old paperwork and all kinds of cables (Why did I still have a Playstation TV Cable when the Playstation has been gone for years?), batteries, newspaper clippings and even old college papers? Who knows. It’s all gone now and I feel relieved knowing that my kids won’t have to go through a gigantic mess that I have left behind one day. That’s if I can resist the urge to hold on to additional odds and ends going forward.

Of course, there are still a few things hanging out around here that will probably eventually need to go. There are a few totes of old clothes in the attic but it’s just too hot to hang out in the attic now. And there are also some old videotapes and cassette tapes in the closet that have zero retail value but maybe a tad of sentimental value left. (Sometimes it’s nice to get out and drive with a random batch of cassette singles!)

All in all, it’s been a good week for clearing out the “stuff”. It’s amazing how the “stuff” can get in control. You’re always moving it back and forth because you might use it “one day”.

I was certainly nowhere near being on “Hoarders”. In fact, I’ve been weeding out extra stuff a bit at a time for several years.

It just feels good knowing that I no longer have a Fibber McGee sized mess hiding in the nooks and crannies of the house!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday tidbits

3 items – 1 blog entry – no cost (except for the time you are wasting reading it)

Item #1: Today was the day that one of my favorite places, Pensacola Beach, ended up being covered in oil. And, the news is only going to get worse. How this can keep going and going with no solution is distressing. How it hasn’t happened before is just plain amazing. It appears that all of these rigs have gotten lucky over the years since I get the impression that there is no plan for a failure.

oil

Don’t you love that a government agency has to issue daily oil forecasts? I wonder if BP is paying for this also? Regardless, the fact that there are people out there boycotting their local BP stations is just plain stupid. Let’s punish local families by ruining their business when they have done nothing more but license BP to provide their gasoline products. If we didn’t need all of this gas, these places wouldn’t be in business in the first place. And, the gulf wouldn’t be full of rigs.

Like it or not, any SUV owner that boycotts a BP station and then buys 20 to 30 gallons of gas at a Shell station is a massive hypocrite.

Item #2: I had no idea the US was playing in the World Cup today until after CNN tweeted about it. I have not seen any of it. I certainly wouldn’t take a day off of work to watch the game. I am trying to figure out where all of this excitement for soccer has suddenly come from. Maybe we’re all so depressed by the oil news and the Afghanistan disaster taking place that we are just looking for something to cheer for. Or, maybe I’m missing the best sport since competitive hula hoop.

Item #3: Yes, I know a vuvuzela is an annoying noise maker that is getting all sorts of attention because of the World Cup. Maybe I’m juvenile (I do still secretly laugh at the word ‘poot’), but it still sounds like something naughty and it reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry can’t remember the name of the girl he is dating but he knows it sounds like a female body part.

vuvuzela

These are the types of things I think about. Now, go look in the mirror and be glad that these are not the types of things you think about.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

From his blog

Entertainment Weekly is one of the magazines I got from my air miles (and one of the few I actually renewed) and there is a book review in there this week for “One Day” by David Nicholls.

It’s not really the review that caught my eye but the blow up of the cover:

one day

More specifically, this part:

one day 2

In the olden days, I guess these sorts of blurbs were arranged by the publishing companies and written up and mailed in/faxed in/emailed in, etc. Now, the blurb writer can simply spend a couple of minutes typing up an entry into the blog and shazam – from the blog to the cover of a book!

The actual entry is here.

So, what does this tell me? Three things:

  1. First, blogs are becoming so much a part of the mainstream that a publisher can put “from his blog” on the cover of a book without people wondering what in the world that means.
  2. Second, blogs are actually getting a little recognition as valid content and not just amateur meanderings (though it does help that this blog is actually written by a world renown novelist ((I hope there is not a ghostwriter or a social media company involved here. I sincerely think we can trust that Nick Hornby would not be involved in such tomfoolery.)))
  3. Third, this is an inspiration for me to post a few blurbs that I hope you will see on products in the near future.

So, have at it, corporate entities:

  • “I can eat Captain D’s fried pickles all day long regardless of the gastric disaster that occurs from eating them all day long. They are that good.” – Jason, from his blog.
  • “AT&T’s cell service makes Sprint’s coverage seem incredible. That is saying something. It’s not a compliment.” – Jason, from his blog.
  • “Fishing on Animal Crossing by Nintendo has become my daily stress reliever. This is much healthier that playing Grand Theft Auto as a daily stress reliever. My therapist approves.” – Jason, from his blog.
  • “The new ocean smell in BP gasoline makes me want to eat at Red Lobster every time I fill up.” – Jason, from his blog.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Elusive Storm Clouds

This morning we saw about five minutes of the pouring rain that lasted for over an hour just to the west of us.

And, this afternoon it happened again but we weren’t even blessed with five minutes of rain. The drops in this picture are all we were lucky enough to get.

IMG00168-20100617-1805

So, instead of Mother Nature doing her part, I ended up watering the flowers and the still growing trees I planted just last year. I dare not skip a day since I’m not sure how everything would hold up to the microwave we seem to live in here lately.

Today was crazy-busy. There are lots of different projects going on all at the same time and the questions seem to come in back to back and over each other. Sometimes I just about mix up who I am talking to about what. Keeping track of it all wears you out to the point that your amazed what you actually did accomplish and then you completely lose track of time. I’m surprised that it is only 6:45 PM as I type this since it feels more like 9PM.

Yeah for Friday tomorrow. I need a Friday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Homecoming

Today, I went home. Considering that home is only an hour away, you might think I would go there pretty often. Between the kids busy social schedule and the fact that they wear me out, this is not the case. Weekends have turned into endless series of birthday parties and nap attempts.

I worked at my old desk today so I could be in town for the memorial service for Amy this afternoon. I saw a lot of people there that I had not seen in years – many former teachers and a few friends from high school. It seems that I mainly see people from “the old days” at sad events like today but I guess that is just part of getting older. It does make you wish you’d realized how fast time was going by way back then because you might have made a bit more of the time you had.

On the way out of town I stopped by the cemetery for a moment to visit the grave of a friend who would have turned 37 today but will be gone 20 years next month. As cliché as it sounds, time certainly does fly.

Sometimes people leave us suddenly and they seem far too young to be gone and you never completely understand why – whether it happened just last week or two decades ago.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blah-ger

For probably only the third time I can remember, I sat at the computer last night and wrote two different entries for the blog and deleted them both. I typically just write and post without even considering deleting what I have written. I do attempt to check the spelling before I hit PUBLISH but sometimes the brain moves too fast for the eyes and that doesn’t happen.

Rejected entry #1 was about how fast the weekend went by and how there is no real time to rest. I could write that every weekend and nothing I do can change it. DELETE.

Rejected entry #2 was about me being forced to watch some of the Tony Awards (I was outvoted again but it’s hard to speak out against what is on TV when there is nothing I watch on TV lately). My only salvageable point was how weird it is to watch the Tony Awards with the economy the way it is. It felt like they were all on another planet with completely different priorities while we are still here watching jobs be eliminated and most people are barely making it week to week.  I don’t know. I couldn’t get my hands around why I kept thinking this was so I hit DELETE.

Maybe I was just ‘blah’ last night. I blame it on the heat.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How “Animal Crossing” is taking over our lives

animal-crossing-city-folk-us

Right before Christmas, Game Crazy ran a special where two different Wii games were $14.99. One was Wii Music and the other was Animal Crossing:City Folk. We bought them both. Wii Music bored the kids fast. For a while, our Animal Crossing was only played a little. We were curious about the game and amazed at all the stuff in it but the kids were also a tad intimidated by all the stuff in it and didn’t have time to sit down and really figure it out.

Fast forward to summer and me encouraging my youngest – Lindsay – to give it another shot. Now, most of our free time in the evening centers around us watching Lindsay play this game. We even take turns playing the game. I don’t think we’ve watched actual television in a week. Lindsay plays her hour of Animal Crossing and then we all go to bed. (Before you think to yourself, “These lazy bums”: We do actually get out of the house. We’re not just sitting in front of video games all of the time. In fact, we’re probably out too much. Just look at my Foursquare account for proof.)

Animal Crossing is a simulation game that is a lot like real life in these ways:

  • You earn money by doing different jobs or tasks
  • You have a mortgage to pay off (and when you do, you expand your house and take out another mortgage!)
  • You have to maintain friendships or the other animals will leave your little town because they feel ignored
  • You can drink lots and lots of coffee – just like I do in real life

It is a lot more enjoyable than real life in these ways:

  • You earn money by doing fun stuff like fishing or catching bugs in your net (not by having to actually do real work!)
  • Your mortgage is easy to pay off because you earn hundreds of dollars for bugs and fish
  • Your friends don’t expect you to help them move or call you to ask your opinion of why they can’t sustain a successful relationship (and this is a conversation that leaves no winners)
  • In the game, you don’t have to consider the health of your bowels when consuming those gallons of coffee

This game is a winner. It is so much of a winner that I bought a used DS copy at Gamestop and just bought a Gamecube off of eBay that comes with the older version of Animal Crossing. It’s fun and parent approved. No one gets shot. The creditors don’t call when your Animal Crossing mortgage is late. And, one of the “gifts” in the game is a urinal – a urinal that is always shiny and you’ll never have to poor Sizzle in it to get rid of that pesky urine buildup!!

Now, head on out to Gamestop and buy your own used copy and get yourself that virtual urinal today. You’ll be glad you did.

toilet

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reflections of the way things used to be

I received the news earlier today that one of my former high school classmates had passed away on Saturday.

Amy was only 33 and she apparently died suddenly and unexpectedly. Her mother was my freshman English teacher and was the person who somehow awakened a desire I had to be a writer. As part of her class, we had to keep a daily journal and by the end of the year that journal had grown into hundreds of pages. It was cathartic to release whatever mundane thoughts I had into that long gone old green folder and I guess that habit continues on with this blog and the fact that I basically write for a living now (sure, they are technical documents, but it is still considered writing!).

From the moment I saw Amy’s posted obituary (I think I looked long and hard at it on the screen just trying to process it), I began to think back and recall different times I spent with her all that time ago.

I believe I first met Amy briefly in her mother’s classroom in late 1987 or 1988 and but we became friends when I was a senior and she was a freshman in 1990-1991.

Why I still remember this one thing after all these years is beyond me, but in the fall of 1990, I somehow gained access to a garbage bag of stale doughnuts. Being that this was high school and we were all horribly immature, there ended up being a massive doughnut fight and my car was covered in stale glazed doughnuts. Well, it was Amy who let me use a garden hose at her house and helped me spray all of that off of my car so my parents wouldn’t kill me! It’s funny what stands out in your mind when you are looking back.

I had not seen Amy since 1994 or 1995. I lost touch with many people over the years. I don’t know if I did it on purpose out of being young and foolish or if it is just what happens.

On Amy’s Facebook page, there is a picture of the young children that she leaves behind –a son and a daughter that looks a lot like the girl I first met so long ago. I certainly can’t say why these things happen but I certainly know the lesson: Time is fleeting and valuable and we can’t afford to waste even a moment.

From time to time, as I get older, I do wonder if my time suddenly was up – have I done enough for my kids? Who would they grow up to be? Did I leave them with the right lessons? Did they learn from my mistakes? Would they know they were loved?

We need to ask ourselves questions like these every day because we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Each day is a gift that is not to be taken for granted.

For some reason, all day my mind has been going back to a poem by the great Edna St. Vincent Millay (my favorite poet). Many people know it because it was read at the funeral of Jackie Kennedy Onassis in 1994. It seems fitting to paste it here to close out this entry about Amy.

Memory of Cape Cod (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

The wind in the ash-tree sounds like surf on the shore at Truro.
I will shut my eyes . . . hush, be still with your silly bleating,
sheep on Shillingstone Hill . . .

They said: Come along! They said: Leave your pebbles on the sand and come along, it’s long after sunset!
The mosquitoes will be thick in the pine-woods along by Long Nook, the wind’s died down!

They said: Leave your pebbles on the sand, and your shells, too, and come along, we’ll find you another beach like the beach at Truro.

Let me listen to wind in the ash . . . it sounds like surf on the
shore.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear XM….

I know that you’ve brought me a lot of joy over the years. 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8, and 1st Wave have helped me rediscover a lot of great songs I had forgotten about. I’m sad to tell you that today I called and cancelled you.

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I just couldn’t justify paying you $25 a month when you just sit in the car most of the day powered off. I’ve been thinking about this for months but I knew our relationship was almost over when I kept you unplugged the whole time I was driving back and forth to Michigan last week.

You see, I have a Zune and my Zune has tons of wonderful music and lots of great podcasts on it that I choose. Your Casey Kasem countdowns are wonderful but are rarely on. And, when I get bored, there is this free thing called “radio” that has music and local weather and traffic on it.

I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.

Sincerely, Me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Commercials

It seems like both of these commercials were made by the same people. They were not. It is weird that both of them are from Alabama.

Sit back and watch the best political commercial ever made and then watch the best mobile home liquidation commercial ever made.

Thanks, Alabama.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Microblogging across the USA

  • 1136 miles driven since Tuesday**
  • 26 check-ins on Foursquare
  • 14 trip related tweets

I’m hoping I don’t have dreams about driving tonight.

Here are a few pics that didn’t make Twitpic:

So, another trip is in the books. Now I will decompress and I will attempt to resist the urge to Tweet or Blog all weekend.

(**=EDIT: My mind was such a blur last night that I had forgotten that I actually left on Tuesday and not Wednesday!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Last night in Michigan

The 9 hour drive home is tomorrow.

home

I came up through Ohio and I will go back through Indiana. I haven’t been all the way through Indiana since ‘92 so it will be good to see some different scenery again.

This was another good trip – everything went very well – lots of good people here. I am starting to get that false sense of security that I’m sure will be gone once I go somewhere where the bar isn’t raised as high. But, I know the secret is to enjoy the success while you’re in the midst of it and store some of that feeling for the not-so-successful times!

So, tomorrow is home and home is a good thing. The 9 hours of driving is worth it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday

As I arrived in Michigan this morning, I realized that tomorrow is my only full day here. Friday morning I’ll start driving back home – 9 hours or so. This was a quick trip and so far very uneventful.

I am looking forward to sleep tonight. I think I am finally starting to get a tad tired!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On the road

A long day of driving today. I stopped in Cincinnati attempting to fix a problem – couldn’t fix it. Did fix some little stuff around there and got a much deserved break from being behind the wheel. I am spending the night about two hours north of Cincinnati and I am two hours away from my destination in Michigan so I should get there mid-morning tomorrow.

Here are a few pictures from the day that was:

That’s all for day one!