Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It Be Talk Like a Pirate Day, ARRRRRRRRR!

My pirate name is:
Captain Sam Flint

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network

For more piratey fun, check out International Talk Like a Pirate Day And if you need any help with the talking, go see Ol' Chumbucket and Cap'n Slappy. They'll help you learn the Five A's

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

They Love Us!

Check out the reviews for Guys and Dolls! Both the North County Times and the Poway Chieftain agree that we rock. Some excerpts from the Times include:

The company's summer staging of the classic musical "Guys and Dolls" is their best yet at the outdoor venue, with a strong principal cast, smooth pacing, elaborate sets and costumes and sharp choreography.
And why not a little pat on the back for yours truly?
Scott Kolod and Brian Weissman are both strong singers and colorful personalities as the gambling duo Benny Southstreet and Nicely Nicely Johnson, and their delivery of the musical's Runyonesque dialogue is just right.
This is definitely one of the better shows I've been a part of, so it's nice to see that recognized, particularly by a normally tough critic.

The Poway paper's review is also very good, though has a minor factual inaccuracy. Frank Sinatra did not play Sky Masterson.
However, the true standout is lead actor Bob Himlin, playing Sky Masterson, a role assumed in the film version by the ever-suave Frank Sinatra. Himlin does quite admirably in shoes formerly occupied by so lofty a personage.
Still, as Bob said, nothing wrong with a comparison to Sinatra. And this reviewer can be forgiven a detail like that. After all, she thinks
...this “Guys and Dolls seems at times almost every bit as good as a professional version might be.
She, too, was a fan of Scott's and my performances:
Two standouts in this supporting cast in which everyone is notable are Brian Weissman as Nicely Nicely Johnson and Scott Kolod as Benny Southstreet.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Boa To Be Wild

I was trying to think of a name for this post that included the boa and the slippers, but I thought "Slip Me The Boa" would get the wrong kind of search hits. The only other thing I had was "Pink Slip" and that might make people think of things I'd rather they didn't. At least not with respect to me. Anyway, I owe you all an update on my fundraising activities, especially since you all have been such big supporters...

We've reached level 2. I have the Red Sox cap and I'll be getting the Yankee cap later today. I just need to find a place I can legally burn it. Soon!

Level 3 pictures are here! Because I made you wait, I wore the slippers for two days. They may make a comeback if I make it all the way to level 8.

Level 4 pictures are up and I look fabulous in Robin's boa. I also wore this one for two days to make up for the delay.

Level 5 is reached, which is the tutu. I'm having trouble finding one, but I'll make that up to you as well. I had said I'd wear it over my normal clothes. Instead, I'll wear it with pink tights. I'm going to check my theater's costume collection this weekend.

We have level 6 as well. Since I have the pink outfit, we'll leapfrog that one while we are waiting. That'll have to be a one day affair though I may reprise it after the outfit is through the laundry. I'm wearing the outfit now and will get it photgraphed today.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Opening night!

Well, Guys and Dolls opened last night and the opening was great! We had over 100 people there and the mistakes were minimal, forgivable, and well covered. The North County Times did a bit on us in their Preview section and the Union Tribune listed us as a Best Bet. Recognize the guy in the NC Times photo? We also had a few reviewers there last night. It will be interesting to see what they say. Of course, I'll link to all reviews as soon as they come out. Stay tuned! And if you are in the area, stop by Kit Carson park and check us out!

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Perhaps There IS Hope for Democracy

A new poll came out recently on the heels of the assorted "voting irregularities" in places like Ohio and California

Asked whether Americans have the right to view and obtain information about how elections officials count votes, 92% of respondents concurred.

Zogby International

In the poll, they asked a number of questions about voting transparency. People overwhelmingly support checks and balances on our elections process. So, how do we turn this sentiment into action? November is nearly upon us and e-voting machines are becoming more and more prevalent. Here in San Diego, you enter and electronic vote and it gets stored in the machine at the precinct. Then the precinct votes are aggregated and sent to the central tabulator. It spits out the results. No ballots. No paper trail. No verification.

The Open Voting Consortium has what I would consider a decent solution. Any thoughts as to how we make it happen?

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Level 1 reached!

Thanks to all your donations, I have achieved level 1 of my Breast Cancer Walk fundraising goals. I've actually made it to level 2 and am frighteningly close to level 3, but level 1 is the only one I have had time to complete. I assure you that the picture you see *is* of the back of my head and I have been parading around with it uncovered. In fact, this has resulted in four more individuals donating.

Special thanks to the folks in the finance department for helping paint my skull. Rebecca, Tara, Tanisha, Wayne, and Heather all helped, though Rebecca did the actual painting. We opted for the back of the skull as it seemed more visible.

Shortly after the painting was done, my donations jumped up a bit to $666! I was concerned that perhaps my work was the work of the devil, but then someone threw in another $5 to make it $671 and I was saved!

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Monday, August 14, 2006

It's the Law

So, Josh was recently climbing on the climbing wall in the back yard and he was trying to explain how to do it to a friend of his. "You have to hang on or you'll fall. That's cuz of grabbity."

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Think Pink!

Time for some good old-fashioned self-abuse. But not just any old self-abuse. It's self-abuse for a cause. How many times do you think I need to type self-abuse to be tops on Google for the term? Of course, that may direct the wrong kind of traffic here. Ah, who am I kidding. I'm a traffic whore.

So, what is this self-abuse, you ask? I have joined my company's team in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. So, I am working on raising funds. If our team raises $15k, Cymer will match it! However, I've never been good at telling those sappy, syrupy tales to get people to give money. I'm opting instead for giving some entertainment for people's donations. This is where I need your help.

I'm creating donation levels. Every time my funds raised pass a certain level, I will do something silly or embarrassing and post pictures and or video. For example, when my total has passed $300, I am going to complete shave my head and paint a large, pink ribbon on it. I need ideas for other levels. How can I debase myself for people's amusement in order to raise money? You can check my progress here. Ready? Go!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is This Thing On?

Ok. So, I've been gone a while. I don't think I've transitioned from "while" to "eternity" just yet, but I'm on the cusp. Life has been a bit on the hectic side. There's too much to go into right now, and I don't want to scare myself off. I gotta ease back into it. So, I'm probably going to throw a few quick hitting updates in over the next few days and get back into a rhythm. After all, it's been weeks since I've read or wrote anything. And I'd like to re-establish myself in my net communities before I throw too much of my own stuff out there. I feel like I need to reconnect with you all first. Find out what is going on in your corners of the world. But, rest assured, I am back.

I do want to thank everyone for their condolences about Nala. That was a pretty hard thing to go through. And I still see her death replay in my mind's eye a little more often than I'd like. But we are doing much better with it. The only lingering affects are Maya thinking her room is haunted by Nala's ghost and Josh developing an obsession with exactly when everyone and everything will die.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Christmas Trees are Safe

Nala and Maya in happier days...I know I haven't kept up on the blogging of late. Life has been a bit on the hectic side. I mean, none of you ever really come here for timely news or commentary. I've always moved at my own pace. And you've always stuck around. I appreciate that. Occasionally, a story comes along that moves me to write it as soon as I can. To make time when I really have none. This is one of those occasions...

Today, at just a little before noon, Nala left us. I wish I could say that she went peacefully in her sleep, but neither she, nor we, were that lucky. The trouble started a couple of days ago. She was having a weird drool problem. She would chew as though there were something tough in her mouth and her mouth would twitch and there would be saliva everywhere. I thought it was just an oral irritation and tried to be more careful of what I gave her to eat. But it increased in frequency, and yesterday, during a particularly bad bout, I tried to get her to go out to the backyard as we had just cleaned the floors.

She looked at me with little awareness or acknowledgement, and when she finally did get up to go outside, she couldn't remember how to walk. She walked in a circle three times and then lost the ability to walk altogether. That's when it got scary. She starting having a seizure. She stumbled to the ground and began spasming uncontrollably. We all stood helpless watching her. As the seizure passed, I scooped her up in a blanket and whisked her off to the vet. During the drive, her breathing was labored, but she was calm. We had prepared the kids when I left that I might come back alone.

While at the vet, she slowly started to revive. When the vet saw her, she looked almost normal. She did have one of her drooling episodes while the tech was taking the case history. Based on history and examination, the vet recommended bloodwork first. By the time that was done and the results were back, Nala was walking around like herself again. Apparently, apart from the twitching and drooling, Nala was a perfectly healthy dog. The best they could come up with on the seizure was one of two things. The more easily treatable was the bacterial infection in her mouth. The vet surmised that the pain from the infection could cause her to spasm. Possibility two was a brain tumor or other neurological problem. That would be harder to diagnose. So, the plan was to put her on the antibiotics for a week to ten days and if she wasn't better, we'd go back and decide our next move. We never got the chance.

This morning, while I was out getting last minute things for our trip to Puerto Vallarta, She Who Must Be Given Sympathy called me on the cell phone. Nala was having another seizure. What was she supposed to do? I told her to administer the valium and then call the vet. I grabbed the last few items, waited in the checkout line, and rushed home. The seizure lasted twenty minutes. We couldn't get the valium in her. I just stood there and watched her slowly die. I rubbed her fur and tried to ease her passing, but I'm not sure she was there. When it was over, I covered her with a blanket and we saw to the kids.

They took it pretty hard. It's tough to say who had it worse. Nala was originally bought for She Who Must Be Given Sympathy to help her through two consecutive miscarriages. Maya pointed out that she had known Nala her whole life. They had grown up together. Just was just appalled that dogs could die. And me, well, I'm a pretty emotional sort and a dog person. We all made little tributes and put them in her box before I took her off for her final arrangements. Maya wrote her a letter and made her an origami purse full of dog food. Josh drew a picture of her. She Who Must Be Given Sympathy and I wrote her little notes on old dirty socks. It was kind of reminiscent of the send-off a Pharaoh got. And that was it.

All that is left is the grieving. And the memories. Josh wants to know if I'll miss him when he dies. Maya just wants to know why. She Who Must Be Given Sympathy blames herself for not taking care of Nala's teeth sooner. And me. I just want to get that image of her out of my head. The one where she is lying on the ground shaking herself to death.

I'd rather remember her as she is here. As the silly dog who barked when Christmas trees rode past. Or motorcycles. Or bicyclists. Or pedestrians. She felt like she was watching the flock. We'll miss you Nala. Thanks for keeping us safe these last ten years.

In eight hours I get on a plane to PV. I'll try to check in while I'm there. If not, see you on the flip side. Sorry to bring you down. If you made it this far, thanks.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Nicely Nicely, Thank You

As some of you may have picked up from that reference, this is a post about the classic musical "Guys and Dolls". That just happens to be the show the theater is doing for Plays in the Park this year. Auditions have come and gone and I am happy to say that my amateur theater career is proceeding apace. Check out the cast list and you'll see what I mean. It's the Stubby Kaye role from movie version. I get to sing some of the best sons of the show. I'm part of the trio for "Fugue for Tinhorns", part of the duet for the titular "Guys and Dolls" and get "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" all to myself. I also sing backup on a few other numbers. I'm feeling pretty good about myself on this one because this was the best turnout audition-wise I've ever seen at patio and there were some really talented people that landed in ensemble roles.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

She Who Must...

For those of you who haven't followed the comment thread, my wife, the artist formerly know as L shall henceforth be know as "She who must..." and I'll finish it with whatever seems appropriate at the moment. In general, I'll fall back on "She Who Must Be Obeyed" and "She Who Must Not Be Named", but I'm sure other situations will arrive which will afford me an opportunity for cleverness. And we all know how I enjoy opportunities for cleverness. Thanks to barbie2be and B.O.B. for the winning suggestions. Anyone have any thoughts as to a suitable prize? I could make a certificate suitable for framing, but who really wants that? I mean, seriously. I must have a whole box of those somewhere. They may be suitable for framing. But just because something can be done doesn't mean you have to do it. I mean, just cuz these boots were made for walkin'...Ok, that's a bad example. But you see my point. Or you don't. Either way.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Karma Goodbye Song

Well, the lunch has come and gone and I sang her song. She requested "Like a Virgin" with dance moves. I think she was hoping to embarrass me into not doing it. Sorry, but THAT is not the kind of thing that embarrasses me. My only regret is that I was unable to acquire those paper snowcone cups to fashion a makeshift pointy bra. Herewith are the lyrics. There are some better verses, but they crossed too far over the line and had to be left off...

She made it to the luncheon
The least that she could do
She's here under duress
We forced her to

Likes to eat stuff that's sweet
But won't touch, bagels much, it's true
Cuz she says that they're
Yeah she says that they're
Fattening for you

Her aversions! (Hey!)
Keepin her awake at night
Her aversions.
And she knows that
She is right

Gonna eat some watermelon
My victory's no fluke
Think I ate a bit too fast
There's a bush, I'll puke

Got some base on my face
Lashes long, like all women should
That's the only way
Yeah the only way
I feel I look good

Her aversions! (Hey!)
Keepin her awake at night
Her aversions.
And she knows that
She is right

Oooh, oooh, oooh

The fast food here's not good
It's so lame, yeah it's quite a shame
Just chicken and rice
Yeah chicken and rice
They all are the same

Her aversions! (Hey!)
Keepin her awake at night
Her aversions.
And she knows that
She is right

Her aversions, ooh ooh,
Her aversions
Now we'll say goodbye
So you're leavin', no more teasin', please don't be mad

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Ooh, baby
So I had to tease you
For the very last time

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Name My Wife

Odd title for a post, no? After all, she already has a name. But she doesn't want it to appear here on the blog. She was a victim of identity theft at one point and is now a trifle cautious about what information she lets out. So, I've been referring to her as "L" or "my wife". I grow tired of this labeling scheme. So, we need to decide what to call her in this space. Some of you know her. Others do not. So, here are some tidbits about her that she probably wouldn't be upset to find on the internet. She works in education. She greatly values reading. She's an outdoors activity sort of person. She hates being told she can't do something. So, is that enough info to come up with an approrpiate fictional name? I hope so. I'll choose my favorite from amongst the comments. Ready? Go!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

The Resemblance is Uncanny

We interrupt the utter lack of news reporting to bring you this quiz. I know, there's lots of stuff going on out here and I'm not telling you any of it. I'm just trying to work my way back into blogging. So, you're stuck with this stupid quiz that I stole from someone. Sadly, I can't remember who. So, hat tip to whoever.


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Friday, June 09, 2006

A Moment of Silence

First. Yes, I'm back. Lots to tell you about, including all that transpired to keep me away. But, it took a pretty momentous event to jolt me back into the game, and I need to get to that first. No, I'm not talking about al-Zarqawi. That's big news, but it's pretty widely reported. I have stuff to add to that, but it can wait. This has a more direct impact on you, the reader. No, not L's broken leg. That's is 'impactful', but more of a cause of absense than an opportunity to write. We shall recover from the leg. Especially me. This is about Karma. She's leaving...

Allow me to paraphrase a quote from..er...well, I can't remember who. If you know who it was, do a mental attribution. If not, just know that I'm borrowing it. "I have mixed feelings about this? I'm torn between joy and elation." It's going to make my life tougher in the short term, but in the long term, it's a truly wonderful thing. The one downside is, what will I do for material?!? I mean, she was a font of inappropriateness. She was a source of nigh-perpetual outrage. She may have been, to this blog, what Dubya is to the Daily Show. Fortunately, I have not written all the Karma stories there are to write yet, so you will still get to experience her in all her intolerant glory. But it's not the same as having it happen virtually real time, is it? I mean, the sign wars were a chance for you, the reader, to help me mess with her.

She doesn't want a going away party or presents or anything like that, but my friend Robin and I brainstormed a little gift basket for her. What do you think?

Ivory soap
White chocolate
A Ream of white paper
A couple t-shirts (white)
A personal white board
A couple bottles of white-out
White Knights on DVD

What else should we add?


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Friday, May 12, 2006

Computer Troubles and Mother's Day

My computer at home is freezing up, so I need to get it looked at. The likey culprits are the power supply or the fans. So, I haven't been able to do much blogging from home of late. I'm just firing off a quick missive during lunch here to let you lot know that I havn't abandoned you. The computer won't get fixed before the weekend is out as we are taking L away for Mother's Day weekend. We are doing our YMCA campout this weekend instead of Thanksgiving this year. I'll try to catch you all up on the flipside. Be good to your Moms!

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Liveability Index

It's always interesting to me how there is this urge to rank and order things in our world. There are a number of surveys on which are the best places to live. Forbes Magazine has a list of the top 'smart places to live'. Number 1 is Nashville. According to a new book reported in USA today, the best is Louisville, Colorado. MSNBC reported on a book called "Cities Ranked and Rated" where they swear number one is Charlottesville, VA. Then there are the custom polls. They take existing data and try to organize it based on your personal preferences such that you get your own, individual best places list. Progressive Farmer will help you pick the best rural spot. And Find Your Spot will look anywhere in the country for you with an extensive questionairre.

Why the sudden interest? No, we aren't moving again. I'm just wondering where that mythical place is where the quality of life is high and the cost of living is low. Gas, home, and grocery prices out here have me wondering. I mean the Boston and San Diego areas both have high qualities of life, but are amongst the highest in cost of living. I'm sure there are some spots in Alabama and Mississippi that have rock bottom costs of living, but infrastructure and services aren't so good. So, where do you go to raise a family while still saving for retirement and college?

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Literary Phenomenon

Here's something I've pondered recently. I was reading the book "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini a few weeks back. I was about halfway through the book and was enjoying it immensely. However, up until that point, I was under the misconception that the book was nonfiction. I believed the characters were real people and felt for them as the conflicts of the story arose. At some point, I noticed that the main character's name was different from the author's and felt the need to do some research. That's when I found out it was fiction. The rest of the book was less satisfying to me and in certain places predictable. In others the author asked me to suspend too much of my disbelief. Yet, a few days before, he wasn't asking and I was believing. The only thing keeping me from blaming my perceptions entirely is that the part of the book where I felt compelled to check constituted a major change in the flow of the story. So, I don't know if the writing led me to question or my question led me to doubt the writing. I think it was still a good book and I would be interested in the thoughts of others reading it knowing it was fiction the whole time. Anyone else ever have an experience like this?

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

How Could We Ever Replace Duke?

I have the great fortune to live in the California 50th Congressional district. That's the former home of Congressman for hire Randy "Duke" Cunningham. You remember him. He recently went to jail for taking millions of dollars and a hooker or three in bribes while steering contracts to those who paid. He ran for reelection and won easily in spite of the fact that he was under investigation for political corruption. In fact, the race was SO not close that he didn't even show up for the candidates debate. We loved us some Duke. And when I say "we", I mean the North County population at large...

I have to admit, I was surprised to discover how conservative the area of California I moved to is. I mean, Duke wasn't just a Republican Representative, he was a lockstep Bush Republican. He parroted talking points and sold whatever the President wanted. And people loved him. And this fall we will replace him. But who with?

Well, we had a special election a few weeks ago to see who would replace Duke. The way it works out here is that if nobody gets 50%, the top two have a run-off. And this run-off is just to finish Duke's term, which ends in December. They'd have to basically start running again before doing anything so as to be ready for the November election. Thanks, Duke. Well, nobody got 50%. Francine Busby, the Democrat, got 44%. The next closest competitors were Republicans Brian Bilbray (15.4%) and Eric Roach (14.6 %). This decisive victory makes her only a slight underdog in the general election.

What? You heard right. Registration out here is 50% Republican, 32% Democrat, and 18% everything else. So, Busby is running a close second to Bilbray. This is especially infuriating because Bilbray is a former Congressman turned lobbyist. He has ties to Abramoff and Delay. When in Congress he voted against regulating ephedra based supplements such as Metabolife in spite of the evidence directly linking Metabolife to deaths. Oh, did I mention that he received tens of thousands of dollars from Metabolife? So, we are replacing Duke with a younger version of himself. Way to clean house North County.

The RNC is getting involved as well. I get a mailing a week from the RNC telling me about Francine's vices. Allegedly, she laid off teachers while giving bureaucrats pay raises and praised a teacher fired for possessing child pornography. She's a member of the school board and they are Swift Boating her. The ads come across as though she is anti-education and supports pedophiles. Meanwhile, a lobbyist is seen as a good choice for cleaning house. Great.

I will be campaigning for Francine and hoping she can pull it out. I will put a Democrat sign on my lawn in Republican central and debunk all the nonsense they throw my way. Wish me luck.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Holy Crap The Man is Scum!

Sorry. I realize I may have lost my cool there, but the Criminal-in-Chief has managed to shock me. I found this tidbit on a site praising Steven Colbert for his roast of all things establishment at the press corps dinner. It seems that Dubya doesn't feel that following the law has anything to do with enforcing it. That's why I say he is a criminal. Apparently, the reason he has not vetoed anything in his tenure is he doesn't want Congress to have the ability to weigh in on the issues. So, instead, he appends "signing statements" to the newly signed laws after everyone has left. These statements tell the rest of the government how to follow the law. The provisions for how usually entail which parts can be ignored because the President feels they are Unconstitutional or because he feels they infringe on his rights as Commander-in-Chief. Funny. I thought it was the Court's job to decide questions of Constitutionality and Congress' jobs to write and re-write the laws. Here's an example. Congress has twice declared it illegal for the government to divert money from approved projects to secret torture camps. Bush has signed it twice. Both times he added that he was not bound by the law as C-i-C. Anyway still think we aren't slipping toward a fascist state?

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Karma on the Protests

I don't know if it affected where you live or not, but here in Southern California, yesterday was a huge Hispanic protest day. The Hispanic community across the country was staging a work and consumerism boycott to show how big an impact they have on the economy. I think it's a very positive and effective way to influence the debate in Washington. So, I went in to work yesterday not knowing what to expect. I suppose I should have known. It was 9:50 and our boss had not yet arrived for a scheduled 10 am meeting. Karma was concerned...

I suggested she call him. "He never answers when I call." Maybe he waits for the message when he is in his car and calls the important ones back right away? "He never calls me back." Oooops. Well, he's probably just stuck in traffic. He lives pretty far south. "There shouldn't BE any traffic. THEY all stayed home today." And there it is. I shouldn't have been surprised given her history, but this one still caught me off guard. She followed it up, in front of the department manager no less, with this gem. "Today is the perfect day to go to Wal-Mart." Why? "Well, THEY aren't working or shopping so the place will be empty." How she did not get sent to HR on the spot is beyond me. But she wasn't done. As we walked to her cube so she could give me the phone number so I could call, a member of the janitorial staff walked by. She happened to be Hispanic. A member of the cleaning staff passed in the opposite direction. Same ethnicity. As we walked on she said "What are they doing here?"

Clearly, she has a bug up her butt about the current immigration debate. A few weeks back, she cornered a janitor and demanded to know if he had his green card. Because, you know, his life is all sunshine and roses. I mean, he gets to work from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. emptying her trash and cleaning our messes for slightly better than minimum wage. I'm glad she straightened him out.

She also recently vented to a coworker of Mexican descent that these protests were on her nerves and she was tired of seeing the Mexican flag being waved everywhere. He offered her a deal. Because, you know, one Hispanic has the power to speak for them all. "We'll agree to stop with the Mexican flag as soon as the people down South get rid of the Confederate Flag."

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Wisdom of Youth

I cut my finger this evening while doing some handyman stuff in the kitchen. Josh was assisting me a little too closely, so I delegated the task of getting a band-aid to him. He agreed only if he could take my flashlight with him as the bathroom was dark. That seemed fair. I handed him the flashlight and off he went. A few seconds later there was a thump and a crash. "Oh, shoot!" This was not followed by any screaming or crying, so I decide to wait and see what happened next. Nothing. Odd. "You all right, Josh?" I called. "I'm a little wet," he answered in a pitiful whine. "How did you get wet?" "Well, I standed on the stool to get a band-aid..." "Um, Josh? There is no stool in the bathroom." "I know. Sadly, I standed on the potty and I fell in."

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What's the Opposite of Recognition?

I'm honestly not sure what single word could be the antonym of recognition, as in "voice recognition". Why am I fixated on such an important issue when there are bigger and better things to post about? Because I wanted to rant about my cell phone and it's voice recognition feature and I can't do the rant properly without this information. I even went to dictionary.com and used the thesaurus feature. No luck. There are antonyms for recognition, but not in this context. And as we all know, context is king. Or something. Do I make up a word? Let's break it down. "Re" is a prefix typically meaning "again" and the root word "cognition" evokes "thinking". So, re-cognition would literally be to think again. Did anyone else just have a Michael Keaton "Night Shift" moment? I'm so off track here. Let's just go with discognition and an apology from the fine folks at BriWise for an inadequate rant...

Wouldn't it be funny if you clicked and the whole rant was "my voice recognition doesn't"? And that was it? All that buildup for nothing? You'd feel cheated, and we don't want that.

So, in case you hadn't heard, my cell phone has a voice recognition feature. This is not the kind where you record the name and it matches when you say it that way ever after. This phone matches what you say phonetically to the names in your phone book. It's good for hands free car dialing. Or it would be if it worked better. Oh, it works great if I want to call Bob...er...Kidd, assuming I knew a Bob Kidd. But trying getting it to recognize Arnold Schwarzenegger. (What? Like I couldn't call the Governator?) So, I have to learn how to say things so the phone will understand. Great. Instead of me training the phone, the phone is training me. This is better how? So, now I have to say names in odd ways. Typically in public. The entry "Bube & Zade" in my phone has to be pronounced "Boob Zehyd". It isn't smart enough to translate the ampersand as 'and'.

All this is annoying, but still manageable as it is a form of recognition. What vexes me is the command recognition. There are only a handful of commands, so it shouldn't be hard. Of course, many things shouldn't be, but are. The most common command is "Name Dial". It even displays that command on the phone screen as soon as you press the command button. And yet, when I say "Name Dial", no matter how slowly or clearly, it says "Calling." Who is it calling? Why the last person I called of course. It thought I said "Redial". It thinks this consistently. Even if I insert a two-to-three second pause between name and dial, it will still redial. And of course, there is no command for "disconnect" or "hang up". So, I have to grab the phone and press and hold a hard-to-press button on the outside phone before it makes the connection. Occasionally, I miss and hang up on someone just as they are saying hello. Then they call back and I have to explain that I am incapable of operating my phone. All of this defeats the point of going hands free.

And yet, fool that I am, I keep pressing the button and saying "Name Dial". Often, I say it like those cliched people trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English. If I say name dial loudly and slowly enough, surely my phone will understand. One day, I had to punch in a number for a conference call. It was not in my phone, so it had no associated name. I needed to make the call from my car, though. So, clever person that I am, I dialed manually and hung up. Then I could just tell the phone to redial when I was ready. I pressed the button and announced "Redial". I'm sure I detected a smirk in the mechanized voice as it said "Say the Name".

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Aaron and the Eggs

Over at Aces Full, James was recounting a story about an old prat of a coworker and this tool's idea of a clever joke. I reflected on how the situation would have been handled had he and I been working together at that place. After all, in the past when he and I worked together, we were generally merciless with the arrogant. The whole exchange reminded me of the summer that he, Bull, and I were working at McDonald's together...

One of our fellow crew mates was a fifteen year old named Aaron. He felt cool because he was one of the first fifteens to be allowed to work a regular job under the revised child labor laws. And he got to work at McDonald's. It was a pretty playful environment and we all spent lots of time ragging on each other. He wasn't quite as good at it as we were, particularly when we tag teamed. After one particularly harsh exchange, he vowed revenge. Playful teenage revenge, but revenge nonetheless. Aaron concocted a couple of clever jokes to play on us. He tied my jacket in knots and dropped a rotten tomato in James' hat. Like I said. Clever.

We decided we had to show him what clever truly was. A couple of weeks before, we had played a little egg prank on one of our weekend breakfast shift buddies. We had carefully drained the egg out of a whole tray of eggs. We didn't waste it. We scrambled it and set it aside in the walk-in. Then we carefully put all the eggs back with the open side down and watched the fun as our foil tried to fill the requested order for a dozen McMuffins. There are around sixty-four eggs per tray. James had also taken to writing messages like "Help!" and "Let me out!" on uncracked eggs. So, we were in an egg frame of mind.

Our egg draining technique was well honed by this point. So, we made short work of twenty or so eggs and hid them where Aaron would not notice them. We left all but two empty. Then we waited. Aaron went on break at a fairly slow part of the morning. James was on biscuit detail and I was supposed to be setting things up so we were ready to switch to lunch at change over. Both of us had legitimate reasons to be in the stock room. We might even have had legitimate reasons to be in the door of the break room. But we didn't. We stepped into the door eggs held high and spares cradled in our aprons. Aaron saw us. We paused for effect. "Yeah. Like you guys are gonna throw eggs at me. Psssh." That was our cue. We let fly and he ducked down trying to get under the built-into-the-floor McDonald's table. He got pelted with empty eggs and gradually began to realize he had been had. He sat up. "Ha ha," he said. And stood up to show he was no longer afraid. By this time we had unloaded all but two of our eggs. He stuck out his chest to make a better target. After all, what was the big deal about being hit with empty eggs. We grinned back at him. I let mine go. He barely had enough time to register the shock of being hit with a water filled egg when James' hit him and he disappeared in a cloud of biscuit flour. Biscuit flour and water makes a nasty mess on ones apron. We beat a hasty retreat laughing all the way.

The best part was that the manager on duty thought it was funny. He just asked that we take some time when the rush died down to clean up the egg shells, flour, and water. Ok, that wasn't the best part. The look on Aaron's face as he realized we'd set him up was the best part. Not getting in trouble was a nice bonus.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Recent Comments Broken

By the way, I noticed this evening that my recent comments feature is busted. It looks like my digest feed went away. I'm looking into it and will get it repaired as soon as I can.


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Maya's Back On Stage

She had an audition for Charlie and the Chocolate factory last Wednesday and made callbacks. They wanted her to read for Veruca, Violet, and Mike Teavee. She was given three monologues to practice and told she would have to perform those as well as do some cold readings. We worked on different interpretations for each character until bedtime and then she kept working when she got home from school the next day. Some of the older girls were a bit shocked that she got called back and told her so openly. She handled it with great aplomb. She ignored them and went to talk to some people who were nice to her. I have to say, I enjoyed all three of her monologues and she got some good applause after each. Still, there were a lot of kids there and we told her not to get her hopes up. She tried psyching herself up for an Oompa Loompa part. We checked for the cast list Friday. Not there. Saturday. Not there. Sunday? Argh! We looked at the calendar and saw that it was scheduled to be posted on Tuesday. We looked today anyway. Here is what we found. In case you don't want to follow the link, she's Mike Teavee!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

People Suck - II

I'm feeling surly about life still. Ok, not really. But I am up in arms about some stuff. Where's the common sense in this world gone? Where's the customer service? I recently attended a time management class to improve...well...my time management. We are hoping it helps me be more focused and productive at work. One of the things that came out of the class was that I need a planner, as opposed to a PDA. It's interesting that the time management trainer concluded this. He said I was a personality type who would get a Palm, fill it with addresses and data, and then never use it. I'd say he is dead on since that has already happened. But I digress. I needed to get a pen and paper style planner. So, I went to Office Despot knowing full well that finding a 2006 planner was going to be tough, it being April and all. My plan was to find one of the handful of leftover planners they had that was now 1/3 useless and get it at a deep discount. I wanted to make sure it worked for me before I invested in a more serious system...

Luck was with me. I searched for close to half an hour, but found a plain, black, 2006 calendar that had all the features I wanted. It didn't have a price on it, though, and wasn't in the discount aisle. So, I brought it up to the checkout to find out what the damage would be. The woman behind the register was working another task, but stopped to attend to me. The exchange went something like this

Me: Can you please tell me how much this is?
Her: *Boop* Thirteen ninety-nine.
Me: (incredulously) It's not marked down? It's a 2006 planner.
Her: (like I'm a moron) It *is* 2006.
Me: Yes, but we're partway into the year. A third of this planner is useless.
Her: I'm sorry, but that is the price.
Me: There are some planners that run from August '06 to August '07 that are similarly priced. Why would anyone pay the same price for something that is obsolete?
Her: Well, I can't mark it down.

I shook my head and started to walk away. She was a manager. If she didn't have the authority, who did? I was just thinking to myself what a stupid store Office Despot was when she returned to her previously abandoned task. She had a price gun with ornage labels in it and was tagging merchandise. And what did the orange tag mean?

Her: Oh, I'm marking this stuff down.

But no, my disgust was not yet complete. What items was she marking down? 2006 planners.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What Time Out Is For

We were in the car driving the other night and I teasingly commented "There are some people in this car who don't understand the meaning of a time out." I was referring to and incident the previous day where my wife and I had a bit of a disagreement and I gave myself a time out to calm down. The trouble was that the door to my time out seemed to be a revolving door, so it was hard for me to move past it. Anyway, I was teasing my wife about it when Maya chimed in. "I know the meaning of a time out." I think she thought I was teasing her. I decided to play along. "You do? Please. Share it with the rest of us." She smiled. "A time out is when you have to go to your room so you don't turn into Dick Cheney." I have no idea where it came from either. Mom decided to press her. "And who is Dick Cheney?" "Well. He's the President's...um..what's the word? He's like the assistant President."

So, go to your room when you are sent or you may turn into a surly assistant President. Wonder what political leanings her parents have.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

People Suck - I

I finally got around to trying to find a geo-cache. My good friend Chuck had sent a Travel Bug called Petey Cruiser out west to me to see if it could make it all the way across the U.S. on the backs of assorted cachers. For a while it looked grim. Petey puttered around in New England. Howewver, he made it to Jersey and from there jetted his way across the states all the way to Cali. In November, he landed at a spot a mere 20 miles from my house in a park that we have been known to frequent. However, our theater lives were quite busy through March of this year. Finally, we had time to look. I checked the cache to make sure he was still there. I found this message waiting for me in the log:

Update, 1/28/06: I had to mark 4 or 5 Travel Bugs "As Missing" as they were not in the cache. I do not recommend leaving travel bugs here. Either someone is stealing them or cachers are not logging them out. If a TB shows up here, I will remove it and place somewhere safe. End transmission.
So, some dickweed has made off with Chuck's TB. Chuck, I'm sorry I didn't get there to pick it up sooner. Unfortunately, some people just suck.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Pushing the Envelope

So, we had to come up with a new rule in our house. Josh is only allowed to stuff his "letters" in envelopes that we get in the mail. You know, the postage paid kind that come in credit card offers and such? He can also have the unpaid ones with the address or the little window that come with offers for things you have no interest in buying. He may not use the ones stored in the cupboard under the printer. This rule was not made hastily. At first, we thought it was cute that he wanted to put every note he wrote to us or to his sister. "Der Dad, I luv you. Frum Josh" That wasn't a sample note. That was every note. Cute. For the first few days. However, we began to get alarmed about the volume of envelopes he was writing. We had a box of five hundred. Note I say "had". We implemented the rule in time to save the last ten.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Guess what this is a picture of

This picture was taken last month and right here in Escondido. Some of you may recognize my back yard. What you may not be used to seeing there is the fine white coating of hail! We actually had a two day on-and-off hail storm. I was out during a portion of it and those suckers sting. Here we see Josh holding a container of hail. He was quite excited about it.

I guess the weather here can occasionally be as odd as it is back east. And when the weather here goes wacky, nobody knows what to do about it.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back. With a Vengeance.

So, Thursday was a particularly unpleasant day for me and left me in a foul mood by the time my commute home had arrived. There were just two little things that were at the root of my foul mood. My mp3 player and my wife's. Both were bought Thanksgiving weekend. Both had 90 day warranties. Both broke at the 120 day mark...

We both have Rios. She has the 256 MB Rio sport, perfect for jogging. I have the 6 MB Carbon Pearl, which is more of a jukebox system. L's Rio has two current flaws. Neither render it non-operational, but both decrease its capability. The battery cover fell off while she was jogging. The bigger problem is the volume control. The decrease button has stopped working. She can increase the volume all the way up, but she can't make it softer. A power-cycle can reset it to the default volume, but that's it. Mine has a slightly more serious problem. The volume wheel popped out of the casing. This wheel also serves navigation functions. Had I just accepted that this was the natural way of things, I might have been fine, but I decided that I could get some help from the store, manufacturer, or credit card company. Oh, the folly of man.

I started with Rio support. I had to call for Out of Warranty "assistance". This consisted of the support person asking me all kinds of irrelevant questions while I tried to interject what the problem was. In the end, she couldn't answer my question. She could only have me navigate to the repair service web page. She could tell me every single link upon which I was supposed to click, but she could not tell me what was contained therein. Perhaps she thought I would despise her less if I found the bitter truth myself. I paid $250 for the two combined. If I wanted Rio to fix them for me, it was going to cost $170 plus shipping! To add insult to injury, a refurbished 256 MB Sport was selling on the site for $39! She asked me if I wanted her to create a case for the Rio Sport as well. I willed my voice to glare at her through the phone. "Is there anything else you need?" I told her that there was, but I think I had gotten all I was going to get. She laughed and agreed with me!!! So, to sum up part 1, Rio sucks and so do their audio players!

I decided to check with Sears and see if they offered any kind of customer service that might alleviate my pain. I went to their website and found a menu item called "Worry Free Shopping". That's what I needed. I had shopped. Apparently it had been worry free. Time to cash in on that worry protection. I had options, too. I could choose from "No Hassle Returns", "We Service What We Sell", or "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back". Interestingly, drilling down to the details shows the latter two to be exactly the same thing. And there is no hassle. You just have to return it within 30 days and pay a 15% restocking fee. So, what they mean is "No Hassle for THEM". I don't know about you, but I consider having to pay a fee to return an item that broke a little too quickly under normal wear to be a hassle. I decided to try the service option. After all, how much could it be to have them open the cover and put the wheel back on? (I had already tried unsuccessfully to open it myself. Not like I was going to void the warranty.) So, I called 1-800-4-MY-HOME for electronics help, like they said.

I navigated an annoying voice activated maze of menus, growling displeasure with each new answer. After I answered a dozen or so questions, I was given clearance to wait on hold for the next available representative. I was reminded once every thirty seconds or so how much they appreciated my patience. They appreciated it enough to continually cut into their own commercials to tell me so. Their appreciation was like a steady drip slowly eroding what little patience remained. Finally, when they no longer appreciated me, they let me talk to someone. He cheerfully told me that I wanted a different number for electronics. He cheerfully gave it to me. He cheerfully asked if there was anything else he could do to help me. This raises an interesting question. Which is more annoying, being thanked for patience you don't have or being offered more help from someone who has failed to help you. I stewed as I dialed the other number.

This phone maze was more straightforward. I had two options, warranty or out of warranty. Out of warranty immediately took me to a message informing me that the cost of Sears' "worry free" repair service was a minimum of $159 plus parts. I can see why they weren't worrying. Given the fact that I could buy a new one for that price and a refurbished for less and given the fact that they wanted me to have my credit card ready before they would even find out what was wrong helped me make the easy decision to stream profanity into the phone as I hung it up. To sum up part 2, Sears sucks and so does their "Worry Free" shopping experience!

Two strikes down, I turned to my last option. I'd check with Mastercard to understand how their buyer protection plan might protect me, the buyer. I did an extensive search of their web site and even logged in to my account in the hopes of finding some answers. No luck. I'd have to call another support person. I navigated through another minefield of voice prompts and was reminded often of all the answers I could find on their web site. I entered my card number to "enable us to serve you more quickly". Finally, I was connected to a person or person-like simulacrum. "Can I have your card number again, sir? It's not showing up on my screen." Blah. "Thanks! And your name?" Blah. "And your zip code?" Blah! "And your mother's maiden name?" BLAH! "Ok. I think I have enough information. And how are you today?" Not all that great, to be honest with you. "That's great. Let me just pull up your account here." Lovely. It's great that I'm miserable. This is going to go well. I can tell already. "Now, what can I help you with?" I explain to her that I am just trying to find out about the purchase protection that my card is always touting. "Hmmmmm. I'm not sure, but I think I can find out." Could you? Oh wonderful! "Let's see. It says here that you can have anything that is lost or stolen replaced within 90 days of the purchase date." And if it is outside of the 90 days I'm SOL? Because I purchased two mp3 players 120 days ago and they are both broken. "Was it more than 90 days from the purchase date?" Ummmmm, yeah. "Then the plan won't cover it." Lovely. "Anything else I can help you with today?" Grrrrrrr. "Thank you for calling MBNA. We appreciate your business!" More like you appreciate giving me the business.

So, quick quiz. How many things out there might you purchase that cost enough that you might care about a warranty and yet do not have a warranty of at least 90 days? I couldn't come up with any either. This 'benefit' seems about as useful as a receipt for a donut. So, to sum up part 3, MBNA sucks!

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Ladies, you need not read further. This one's for the boys. Last night, Josh made a proclamation that, taken at its purest interpretation, resonates in most of us men. As he chased his sister's friend around the house, planting kisses on her, he shouted, "I'm a girl lover! I'm a girl lover!" We hear you Josh. And we're with you.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

More Drama Drama

Ok, it's not actually drama per se. It's more like more theater jinxes, assuming you believe in jinxes. If you don't, then it's just more bad timing of everyday life. My latest project has been the direction of two youth theater shows...

This has been a bit of a rocky ride, albeit an enjoyable one. There have been communication problems, rehearsal space issues, transportation issues. We even accidentally cast two people in the same role. Through it all, the kids have been great. Even Josh. I think it is hard for him to view me as anything other than Dad. So, he can't listen to me as a director, no matter how much he may want to. Through it all, the kids grew and learned and we were marginally ready by opening weekend.

After rehearsals and pickups, I expected us to hit our stride on the second weekend. At least until the phone call came. "Hi. Amy has a high ever. She may have pneumonia. Can you pick up the boys and bring them to the show? I need to get her to the doctor." Amy either plays one of the leads or else four supporting characters. I got this call in the afternoon for a show with a 6 p.m. call. That double casting accident was looking fortuitous all of a sudden. So, I had to get help. Enter Maya. Even though she never went to rehearsals for the show and all saw it a couple of times, she managed to tackle the biggest of the four supporting roles and pull it off marvelously. The first night she did two of the four roles, but out of a desire to share with the other girls who had stepped in to help, she gave up one of them.

I was quite impressed with her for a couple of reasons. First was the whole no rehearsal thing. Second was how convincing she was in the role. She, an 8 year-old girl, had to play Mother to a much taller 13 year-old boy. And she really pulled it off. She had to do four performances instead of the usual weekend three, as well. We had a traveling performance at the Children's Museum in Escondido. It was pretty funny seeing Maya scolding Sammy for playing with the musical instruments in the museum. "We need to practice young man!" Then she led him away by the hand to the backstage area!

At any rate, all three last minute replacements did a great job! We had a traveling performance at the Library on Tuesday and Amy was better. End of story. Time to post.

But wait! As I drove to work on Thursday morning, my cell phone rang. There was a performance for a home school group that day at 10:30. "*cough* *cough* It's Amy. I'm really sorry. I'm having a relapse. I can't even get out of bed." Amy is one of the most dedicated and professional youth actors I know. If she said she couldn't, it was for lack of desire. I spent my commute trying to get Maya pulled out of school and tracking down my other saviors. They pulled it out and the show went great again. Hopefully, Amy will be well by tonight. If not, I have my stunt doubles. End of story. Time to post.

Or not! Last night at the pickup rehearsal, one of the kids from the other youth show was not at the pickup rehearsal. Turns out *she* is really sick now. She won't be at the Friday night performance. We are hoping that she can make it for Saturday. So, I need another stunt double. Maya to the rescue again! She started learning the lines at bedtime last night and was going to study them today.

She has really emerged through this process and established herself as a talented actress. I feel really badly for Amy and Angel. They both worked so hard. It stinks to put in all that effort and miss some shows. But I am glad Maya was there to help pull us up.
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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Local S.W.A.T. Action

We had a little excitement here early last week. It started when a 75 year old man punched a 92 year old woman in the chest. It turned into a S.W.A.T. standoff at a seniors' apartment complex mere blocks from my house. Here's the story. A maintenance man hear the woman shoting for help and called the police. They arrived and talked to the two, though I can't find a report of what was said. Whatever it was prompted the man to walk back to his apartment and come out shooting. Somehow, he didn't hit anyone. The officers wounded him, but he was able to retreat into the house with his assault rifle. One officer was left pinned down for hours. He couldn't move without entering the man's line of fire. Even though he had stopped firing, the officer couldn't risk it. Once the S.W.A.T. team was in place, they were able to get the officer out. By then the shooter was barricaded and unresponsive. He was also intermittently holding a handgun to his own head. So, we transitioned into standoff mode.

A lot of people were evacuated from the area and the local schools were ordered NOT to dismiss. They didn't want the kids walking home across his field of fire. My wife works at one of those schools. So, she found herself with a room full of third graders who were not allowed to go home. She had to keep them entertained and occupied until after 5! Fortunately, they were in no danger. They just had to stay put to stay out of danger. I guess it was too hard logistically to let the unaffected kids go home and move the ones who couldn't go home to another location. It made for an exciting afternoon, though a tragic one. The man shot himself at around midnight in spite of a plea from his son to surrender.

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Child Proof Lid

Robin over at Hearding Kittens has an amuising musing about child proof packaging. It got a chuckle out of me and is an interesting read. The short form is that perhaps things that are bad for grownups like high-sugar, high-fat foods should have adult-proof packaging.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Brain Teaser

Here is one for you. How would you make a d6 that could be used on an overhead projector? That is to say, a random number die that, when rolled, will generate a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 with roughly equal likelihood and clearly display that result on the overhead. And my wife has one, so I know it exists. I'll post the answer after enough people have given it a try.


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Monday, March 13, 2006

Quote of the Day

See if you can guess where I heard this quote:

"Hey, brainwashing works. That's why we try to stop it."

Did I hear this quote on:

a) NPR
b) FOX News
c) The Daily Show

Answer below the fold...

That's right! FOX News (b) is actively engaged in the prevention of brainwashing. This is true for all values where 'brainwashing' equals anything critical of President Bush. I heard it and actually laughed out loud. Fortunately, nobody was around to hear me at the time. I live in the Conservative part of California.

The story in question is one I'm sure you have all heard. A Colorado High School teacher was suspended for suggesting that the tone of some of Bush's State of the Union Address statements were eerily similar to things Hitler said. He has recently been reinstated.

Apparently, the teacher's main failing was in not presenting both sides. They have a "fair and balanced" policy in Colorado education. You can't present one side without the other regardless of how ludicrous those positions are. I wonder if they teach their students that the world is flat and that if you sail off the edge, the world serpent eats you.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Mister Worf, Triple Axel on my mark...

It's totally random, but I've seen some silly ones thus far.

Gold Medal Winner in...
Figure Skating while dressed up as your favourite Star Trek character

'What rejected olympic sport would you win gold in?' at QuizGalaxy.com

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More stupidity from FOX

I know, I know. Using stupidity in a description of FOX is like using hunger in a description of famine. But my occasional glimpses into their world chafe me so. And I have to share the pain. *grin* I was over at the cafeteria yesterday and saw the "headline" on the bottom of the screen. It was stationary, not a crawl, so I guess they were planning a lot of discussion on it. Was it about how Bush lied about awareness of all things Katrina? Of course not. Was it about how Bush and Rummy are in denial about the Iraqi civil war? Nah. Was it about the Dubai ports deal? Surprisingly, yes, but not in the way you think...

"Bill Clinton helping Dubai on ports deal while Hillary tries to block it?"

That's right, they found a way to tie the DP World fiasco to the Clintons! Aside from the fact that there is no good reason a husband and wife cannot be on different sides of an issue, they are not entirely in opposition. It's just another attempt to avoid the real issues of the day and paint everything as purely black and white. Clearly, the fact that the Clintons are not in total agreement on everything is far more newsworthy than anything the President could be doing.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise

So, last Thursday for Josh's birthday, my parents were supposed to pop in for a visit. My wife had been stressing and obsessing over the visit for the past week and more and I couldn't understand why. My parents have come before and it is always laid back. We usually take the kids somewhere and then send the kids with my folks and have some quiet time. Instead, she insisted I take the Friday and Monday off and was frantically cleaning and buying stuff at Costco. She got them a case of water and, a Pepperidge Farm snack assortment, and a dozen mega muffins. The water I could see, but Dad's a diabetic. He doesn't need the muffins and Mom won't eat them. I tried to argue the point, but she said "They'll want them. Trust me." You can see where this is going because I'm distilling the clues for you. But with everything going on, I was oblivious...

The morning of the arrival, I called to check in with Dad as they made their way from the airport. L had told me our lunch plans were off as Dad's blood sugar was low and he needed to get a bite to eat before they left Long Beach. So, I mentioned this to him and he said, "Yeah. We were all hungry." All? What do you mean all? "Well, Mom and I." We decided to meet at the hotel instead. They said they'd call when they got there. As we only live ten minutes or so from the hotel, no big deal.

I pulled into the hotel after getting the call and set about finding a parking space. I saw Dad standing over by a van, so I pulled up. As I approached, I thought I noticed a couple of people hurrying away from the van. I honked my horn. They didn't look up. They continued making a bee-line for the side door. I was positive I recognized them now. I honked again. I rolled down my window and shouted. Dad said, "It's no use. He sees you." Two of my three sisters stop dragging their bags and slunk over to my car. "What the heck are you two doing here?" "It was supposed to be a surprise!" Laurie said. "I knew we shouldn't have talked at the car!" Sara-Anne complained. They both looked at me. "Surprise!" And they went to put their things away. So, I went into the hotel to let the surprise play itself out. If Sara-Anne and Laurie were here, that meant Samantha probably was too. I went into Dad's suite and heard giggling. Sam, Iggy, Ian and Jonah jumped out at me. "Surprise!" They actually did surprise me because I couldn't see where they were hiding and they jumped out at me! It turns out the whole clan was there and L. was in on it from the get-go. All three sisters, my 2 brothers-in-law on that side, my three nephews, and my parents flew out together for a visit!

I'll post some of the highlights (and lowlights) later on, but suffice it to say that it was a great surprise and it made Josh's birthday weekend extra special.


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

That's NOT a Burrito

Courtesy of Wombat comes this WTF moment on AOL News. It's the story of a couple who tried to beat a drug test using a urine filled fake penis. They needed it warmed up so it would pass the temperature test. They made the brilliant choice to go to a convenience store where the microwave was behind the counter. So, they had to pass Mr. Happy over to the attendant to microwave it for them. It was wrapped in a napkin so she didn't see what it was at first. However, upon taking it out, she caught a glimpse and thought she had nuked a real, severed one! What makes the story most amusing to me is that it was the woman who had to take the drug test.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Quiz time!

I'm in a foul mood, so I've decided to mock one of my favorite targets. No, not the President. Karma! I have created a little quiz called Are You Karma? It's a simple 10 question quiz where you are asked to try to determine how Karma would respond. So, a perfect score does not really mean that you ARE Karma. It just means that you know how she would respond in a variety of situations. Some of them are tricky because I've added some responses that she might have made, but she didn't. Good luck.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

My Gamer Daughter

So, Maya saw me playing Kingdom of Loathing and wanted to try. I told her to give me a minute as I needed to get my turns down low enough that I wouldn't lose any at rollover. If you aren't following, go back and read the post "An Adventurer is You!". There's too much to cover here. Suffice it to say that it is an online adventure game that is turn based. You get a certain number of turns each day. If you don't use them, they are rolled over, but there is a limit. And I was pushing it. Once I was squared away, I decided it would be okay for her to have a turn. We made her a character and she played for a while and enjoyed herself thoroughly. So, thorughly, that it's all she wanted to talk about at dinner. She proudly announced, "Mom, I looted a corpse!" My wife's response? "You're grounded." But she meant ME! Maya tried to help. "Oh, don't worry. *I* didn't kill him. I just found the body in the forest and took his stuff."

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hulk..er...Kong Smash!

So, it's Josh's Birthday. Happy Birthday little guy! Earlier in the week, he had a party at pre-school. He wanted a King Kong theme, or King Kond as he likes to say. So, my wife dutifully went to the party store and bought the plates, napkins, and such. Sadly, they were out of King Kong pinatas. She didn't have time to go to other stores, so she went a different way. She bought a Hulk pinata and told him that she got him Kong. She then instructed me to paint it black. "He'll never know the difference." So, I spray painted it to the best of my ability. It looked like the Hulk pained black. "No, it looks like King Kong," she insisted. Not sure if she was trying to convince me or herself. Josh came to have a look because he wanted to see his pinata. "See, Josh. It's King Kond" He started jumping for joy. "It is! It is!" He stopped. "It looks more like the Helk".

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dubai or Not Dubai, that is the Question

Ok, time for BriWise to get political again. I'm sure that by now, you've all heard of the deal to allow a state owned company from the United Arab Emerates to run shipping operations in six major U.S. ports. These ports were previously controlled by British P&O shipping until Dubai ports made a bid to buy British P&O. So, we didn't actually sell the port access to the UAE so much as they bought the company that had the contract. Now much of Congress is in an uproar over the deal. They asked the Bush administration to postpone approval of the deal so they had time to study it. The President declined...

You can read the details here. I know I linked to FOX News, but I wanted to get their perspective as I figured it would be the most sympathetic to Dubya. And before we start, there is no truth to the rumor that he was pushing the deal because he misread Dubai and thought that he was going to get to take over the "place where all the boats go". You can also read this AP story on Yahoo to fill in some of the blanks. All my quotes come from these two stories.

The above opening more or less sets the stage for what is a very complicated issue. The visceral reaction is "We can't let the Middle East take over our ports!" But is there any substance to that fear? There are a number of factors here and many of them are politically or financially motivated. That makes it doubly difficult to find something closer to objective truth. Therefore most people are going to believe the person or group they already feel is looking after their best interests. If this were an issue typical of the recent political unrest, the Democrats would be on one side and the Republicans on the other. However, this one seems to be split between the Administration and their friends and everyone else.

There are some high profile Republicans lining up to take shots at Dubya on this one. Bill Frist wants to introduce legislation to delay the deal. Hastert and Bohner, the House Republican comedy duo announced they were going to be "flexing muscle" against the administration on this. Then there are the Republican Governors of New York and Maryland, Pataki and Ehrlich. They are concerned about due diligence as two of the ports are in their states. Ehrlich is willing to go so far as to void the contract between Baltimore and DP if he doesn't get some satisfaction.

Given all the high profile Republican opposition, you'd think the President would at least be willing to talk about it. Delay things for a month or so to give all concerned parties a chance to investigate. But, no. What was I thinking. This administration will not tolerate being questioned. They know what's best and we just have to trust them. According to King George, "they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully." How many of us will sleep easier knowing that? And if Congress decided to legislate to get their way? Dubya has an answer for that, too. "They ought to listen to what I have to say to this. I'll deal with it with a veto."

How does that sit with the Republican leadership?

"I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
That's right, the Homeland Security Committee doesn't like it.

Muddying the waters are some financial interests. There is a Miami based port management company that is suing to overturn the deal. What do you suppose THEIR motives are?

And the Democrats have stepped in as well. Most of the criticism is similar to the Republican side. Senator Joe Biden isn't against the deal. "Sure, we have to link up with our Arab friends but ... we want to see and those in Congress want to know what ... safeguards are built in." Then of course, there are the usual suspects such as Senators Schumer and Rodham-Clinton.

The main concerns from both parties are that the administration did the oversight of the deal as they do most everything. In secret. So Congress has no way of assuring their constituents that the review process was faithfully followed other than "trust Bush". Given his approval ratings, I don't think many is Congress feel like trusting their re-elections to that. The other area of concern is the one that potentially has substance.
Lawmakers from both parties have noted that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base. In addition, critics contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

Rep. Edward Markey, from Massachusetts is coming at this from another angle. He feels our cargo security is already inadequate and is capitalizing on this transaction to highlight the issue. He is not against DP so much as he is against all of our current procedures.
"Cargo containers represent a cheap, deadly method for delivering (a) bomb on U.S. soil. We cannot afford to be lax in our oversight of the shipping and handling of these containers. This administration's scrutiny of this UAE deal is just like their treatment of tons of cargos at our door: insufficient, incomplete and incomprehensible, given the security threats we face," he added.

Lest you think we have covered all the bases in this morass, there is still at least one more. Let's add a conflict of interest for the President to spice things up. You see, he recently nominated David Sanborn to be U.S. Maritime Administrator. Sanborn testified before Congress earlier this month. Why is this a potential conflict? Oh, did I forget to mention that Sanborn is currently Director of Operations for Europe and Latin America at DP World? So DP would be overseen by a guy who used to work for them. Does he still have stock? What are his personal connections to DP World?

Every time I try to decide which way to come down on this issue, my head hurts. There are too many angles and I have no idea how we can shake this one out. I suspect I'd have an easier time mapping the topography of R'Lyeh. If it weren't so serious, I might enjoy the irony of Bush having 9/11 used against him or a change. The one thing I do feel certain about is that this deal needs to be held up until we sort this out. It may well be that there is no greater security risk in having DP take over than we presently face from our cargo security procedures. Perhaps that issue will surge to the fore and result in reform that makes the ownership of port management irrelevant. But given the way this administration handles dissent internally, what are the odds that this has gotten a fair review? We have no way to know at present. Is a month or two really that long to wait to ensure our safety and security?


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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Closing Jinx -or- Bringing Down the House

Well, we closed out our show at Patio Playhouse. "Chicken Every Sunday" closed out to an oversold house. Apparently, we decided to sell the seats normally reserved for our concessions and box office volunteers. Fortunately, they had all seen it. This was by far the most eager to laugh audience we had during the run, so it was a good way to close it out. And, although nobody died or was even injured, we managed to keep our Sunday jinx run alive. There is a curtain that separates the lobby from the seating area. It also conceals the actors making stage right entrances. The former is important during matinees because, if anyone opens the door, sunlight streams in. The latter for obvious reasons. So, it was truly unfortunate that it came down halfway through Act II. It was not something easily fixed, so we had an assortment of volunteers hold the loose end of a fairly heavy and wide canvas backed curtain up as high as they could for the rest of Act II and all of Act III!

We have some set construction folks stopping by this week for the next show. A few of us got together and engineered a solution that ought to prevent a recurrence. We are going to have 3/4 inch pipe bracketed to the walls on either side of the entrance. The curtain will be hung with rings looped through grommets. Take that!

For my next trick, I will be in a musical review while co-directing a youth theater show. Both are listed on the front page of the Patio website. The challenging part is that the performances and rehearsals overlap! After that, I'm taking a break until the summer musical, "Guys and Dolls"! (I'm going for one of the Guys.)

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday morning donuts

Ok, so it's an old Foliage tradition and I don't really work there any more, but it is still a fond memory. Every Friday, someone was tasked with picking up a couple dozen donuts and bagels, and a bucket o' munchkins. I even got to do it for a while. So, in memory of that, a donut quiz!

You Are a Powdered Devil's Food Donut

A total sweetheart on the outside, you love to fool people with your innocent image. On the inside you're a little darker, richer, and more complex. You're a hedonist who demands more than one pleasure at a time. Decadent and daring, you test the limits of human indulgence.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Today's Exercise in Self Loathing

So, my friend Kerri pointed me to one of those self knowledge type applets. This one is called a Johari Window. It was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram, hence the name. The way it works is that you select six adjectives for yourself from the grid. Then you have all your friends select six for you. Then we see how your self-knowledge matches with others' perceptions of you. There are four quadrants of results: Arena - the area of overlap, Facade - Things you believe about yourself that nobody else sees, Blind spots - Things others see that you don't, and Unknown - neither you nor any participants thus far have selected these. Here is my Johari window. By clicking the link, you will be taken to a page where your adjectives for me will be recorded. Then you will have a button to press to see how others voted.

There is also an insidious inversion of this. In the inverted version, you pick the person's weaknesses. I chose five for myself here. I think these are both masochistic in their own way. To contribute to the pain, click on my Nohari window.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

This Week's Jinx

Well, we had a Sunday performance again this week and again something went awry. I am actually nervous about closing Sunday. I realize I'm being silly and superstitious, but that makes three Sundays in a row that things something screwy has happened to mess with the show. We've had a cancellation to illness, and actor not show, and now, we can add an elderly gentleman collapsing near the end of Act I. Fortunately, he seemed to be all right when the EMTs wheeled him out. They wheeled him in a sitting position and he was upright. They thing it was a diabetic low sugar reaction, but they took him to the hospital just to be safe. So, we had a 30 minute intermission instead of a 15. At least nobody died. We also got another good review!

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Next Time We Do Christmas in Colorado...

I found the shirt I am going to wear. I'm going to wear it every day and to every event. I think it will settle, once and for all, the issue of whether or not I am saved. Observe:

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Meet the new boss...

So, the GOP are cleaning house, eh? They have a new majority leader in the House. They have other new leaders as well, but the majority leader is the guy who has what it takes to clean things up in the House! Honest. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, we salute you! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

For those who don't want to follow the link, allow me to 'splain. No, there is no time. Allow me to sum up. Boehner is renting an apartment from a lobbyist. Read that again. You know those influence peddlers who he is planning to sweep out of Congress? He writes a check to one every month. It's not illegal as he is paying market rate for his rent, unlike Duke Cunningham and his defense contractor yacht. So, why am I upset? Oh, I don't know. His landlord happens to lobby on issues that come before the committee that Boehner is the chair of. Boehner's spokesperson insists that there is nothing unethical and that Milne, the landlord has not lobbied Boehner on any of his issues.

What a strange coincidence, then, that Boehner co-sponsored the Small Business Tax Fairness Act, which Milne was hired by Buca di Beppo to lobby for. He also helped write what evolved into the Economic Security and Worker Assistance Act. This was lobbied for by Fortis insurance, which is, surprise surprise, another Milne client. Now, while it is not always true that where there's smoke, there's fire, it's certainly a good place to look. And if Boehner really wants to clean things up, then he needs to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Sorry, John, but you're gonna have to find a new place to live.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Another Openin', Another Show

Well, we're at it again. We've put two weekends behind us for our latest production, Chicken Every Sunday. So far, every show has been sold out. That's pretty unheard of for this theater. The show has not been without it's bumps and bruises, though. Much of the cast has gotten pretty ill during the run. We actually had to cancel the Sunday performance of opening weekend because our leading lady had no voice and we don't use understudies. Three performers even had to wear body microphones for the whole second weekend because their voices were so weak. Then, this past Sunday, one of our actors missed the show entirely. He thought it was an evening show, not a matinee. And he had his cell phone turned off, so all our calls to him went for naught. One of our props guys, who is actually a pretty talented actor in his own right had to go on. He studied his lines during Act I as he didn't come on until Act II. He had the script with him for two of his scenes, but he never looked at it. He did the character quite well, too. I have renamed the show "Jinxes Every Sunday" and am wondering what will happen this week. In spite of it all, we got a pretty good review! Maya got written up as a "scene stealer", while the wife and I just get mentions. But that is appropriate for our characters. None of us has terribly huge parts and the fact that the reviewer feels that we all add life to the show is a very good thing!

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