Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New year

Happy New Year. May everyone's 2009 be safe, fruitful, and fun. Course 2 outta 3 ain't bad either. A great number of things happened this year both happy and sad, and I look forward to the coming year.

In other overdue news...
Results from the previous work-related "Biggest Loser" contest, our team came in first place (though I think I was only third within our group - go DON!) and I managed to lose 21 pounds so I'm happy. I'm even happier that it was 21 pounds over 3 birthdays in the house, Thanksgiving, office parties, and the start of the Christmas cookie season. While I am still not at my final goal, it certainly feels like I'm on the right path, and with Da Wife helping out it's been decently smooth sailing.

Also the new position is working out very well. I am again busy, and currently working on scripts again. It is great to be working on problems and solutions again, I hadn't realized exactly how much I'd missed it until now. Sadly my new co-workers have discovered that pun wars are a favorite of mine with the worse the pun the more the fun. Fortunately, they dish it out pretty well too. That combined with the "pooping penguin" (seen below in packaging) on my desk make for a fun environment.

I expect most of the coming year will be filled with me learning as much as I can to reach to the goals I've set for myself at work. As geeky as I am, I still have a lot to absorb.

Have a great new year, one and all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What is wrong with people?

Not necessarily a "Blog O' Scorn" post, but some days I just don't know where we're headed as a species.

Friday was black Friday, a massive early morning rush for slightly better than average deals, and the start of the holiday shopping season. I mean, the time of year when people, in the mission of bringing good cheer to others, become worse than animals to each other over such things as parking spaces and place in line. I love the holidays, but I hate what it seems to bring out in so many people. This year it reached a new level for me. I read in shock about the trampling death at a Staten Island, NY Wal-Mart and then later listened to reports of the men shooting each other after the women they were with got into a fight in Toys R' Us in southern California. And after doing a quick search there was apparently a man that hit a 15 year-old girl in the throat in Rapid City.

Yep... Happy Holidays. Fighting, Shooting, Trampling. That certainly sounds like peace and enlightenment to me. How can a person's priorities get so skewed that $100 off a TV is worth trampling someone? This year all I'm wishing for is that we as a species wake up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Not much of comment-worthiness of late. Except for the fact that I start a new job (sort of) on Monday after the holiday. It's not with a new company, it's not even a new contract. I took an opportunity to do something similar, but more exciting for me. This is a pathway I thought I'd not be able to follow given the path through security I had taken, so once it was available I just had to jump on it. This is a chance for me to greatly expand a skill set that I have let slide over the last many years, and I am eager to jump in on Monday.

*EDIT: 11/27/2008 1:15PM*
Due to a few questions (comments and elsewhere) I will further clarify my new job as being a Lead Test Engineer. I'll be working with some very competent folks on test plan evaluation, system evaluation, and hopefully some other activities that line up with testing type work. It's sort of like joining the Lone Gunmen for me.
*End EDIT*

For now I look forward to "Cajun zebra turkey" this afternoon/evening (it's spice injected turkey cooked in a vertical no oil fryer - and it is DELICIOUS), a good meal with good company, and maybe even a nap!

May you all have a wonderful day!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Walk in the park

Sometimes life *is* a walk in the park. Take today for example...
Da Wife and I had postponed our annual anniversary trip to Great Falls this year, for a variety of reason (including a dog show). So as in years past, we grabbed a picnic type food, the dogs, and the camera and went walking at Great Falls park.
This year lunch consisted of sammiches from one of our usual local restaurants, Anthony's. I had my favorite sammich there, the gyro (very tasty and held up to travel decenty) while Da Wife had the steak and cheese. We enjoyed a very pleasant lunch under a thinning canopy and a light cool breeze on what seemed to be a day in early summer with it being in the mid 70s.
The dogs absolutely loved it. More on that from Da Wife (since they are her favorite topic!)
I managed to snap a few pics of the water

And the falls too

Here was a kayaker that was resting for a few minutes.

In the middle of the falls pictures, we had some excitement...

Still have no idea what happened, but this thing circled for a good 20+ minutes.

And my favorite for the day...

Fred Flinstone's car!

A good time was had by all (except maybe the helicopter crew), and the weather was divine.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yeah... about that.

So since it's already 5 days into November, and I was otherwise occupied for those days. I am NOT in the NaNoWriMo event this year. Ah well, there's always next year, or the year after, etc. I still have an interesting idea for a topic, and perhaps after it has bounced around my brain for a year, it will be ready.

And now that the election is over, I suppose it's back to regular news again. Can't say I'm thrilled about Democrats (or Republicans for that matter) running EVERYTHING. I've always thought our country did better with split responsibilities. I sincerely hope they prove me wrong. At the end of the day, regardless of any issues or disagreements I have with "the management", there is no other country I would rather live in.

And that is the most political content I will ever put in here. ;-)

I'm just looking forward to the new 007 movie.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

But it isn't Thanksgiving yet

No, it isn't Thanksgiving yet, but since Da Wife and I have birthdays so close together I decided I'd take a weekend and cook her favorite dinner. Turkey dinner, and I don't mean the country.
So today was the day I picked, and I made her a rotisserie turkey breast. I used one of the only "as seen on tv" items I own and swear by. The Ron Popeil Showtime Rotisserie from Ronco. Yes, this is the thing where everyone yells back in response to him saying "Just set it, and..." Crowd: "FORGET IT!" I tell you what, this baby does a great job. (I think I've mentioned that before.) It's going 6-7 years now, and still going strong. But back to the dinner...
Along with the turkey breast (it was nice and juicy btw) was homemade garlic mashed potatoes (mmmm), homemade mushroom stuffing (mmmm), fresh green beans (SNAP!), and the obligatory cranberry "stuff" (this time with whole berries - mmmm). Everything came out tasty, so I am pleased and I think she is too.
For a twist on the classic apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert, I wanted to try and make one of her favorites - Tiramisu. Espresso and amaretto soaked lady fingers wrapped in a luscious sweetened and whipped mascarpone filling (almost tastes like a light whipped custard) and topped off with some cocoa. Took a little more work than brownies I used to make, but well worth it. A little more refinement and it will be just the way I want it. Hrmm... I wonder if Da Wife will volunteer to taste the next batch...
Oh, this is what it looked like:

Meant to snap some pics of the golden turkey breast, but got too hungry and carved it up quick! Maybe next time.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!
Well it seems as though I *may* have been a little too generous at the beginning of the candy dispensing evening. Since I had to turn out the lights just before 8PM due to insufficient sweets. Buffer under run. Sad sad tale. If you recall, I'm in a group at work that is competing in a Biggest Loser type event, so we were trying really hard not to have extra candy and sweets (my Achilles' heel) in the house. To that end we tried to aim for "enough with a little padding" to give out. To be fair we did purchase enough to have covered the number of Trick or Treaters (ToTs) from the past two years with some to spare. Even DOUBLED up. The last two years we got somewhere between 30 to 40 kids visiting the house. Using that figure we picked up enough for about 45 kids (I thought a 5+ kid buffer would be enough and I could be less generous if it looked scanty...).
Silly me, I told Da Wife "Nah, you don't need to go get more, we should be ok. It looks like it's slowing down." Wrong. For whatever reason they came in groups about twice the size of last year (usually we get groups 4-7 kids big), this year we had groups around 9-12 and one that had a string of 15 kids in a row. (I don't think traveling together, but they were all at once nonetheless.)
Now, I did put up more outdoor decorations than I have for the past two years, including two carved pumpkins and a spider hanging from the tree.

Guess who carved which:

If you said I carved the puking pumpkin, you guessed wrong! I have the cutesy face pumpkin and Da Wife made the ill one. All by herself. (OK. I cut the top out and made a notch for a candle, but everything else was her.) I think hers came out great, and we got compliments and fantastic reactions all night long! I took several pictures, but too many were fuzzy so maybe I'll take more during the day and see if I can't get more of the decorations in (and a better pic of her pumpkin).

We enjoyed our annual tradition of Thai for dinner, and as usual it was tasty. So tomorrow is leftovers day, while I go through my arsenal of Halloween decor and try to thin it out to a few plastic bins. I have a lot, and seriously need to shrink it down. Anyone looking for anything? *grin*

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rice rice, baby...

So when I got home today, Da Wife had a pot full of steamed rice waiting for me. This can mean only 1 of 2 things. 1 - One of the dogs has been violently ill for a few days and we need to feed them something very plain to help keep them nourished. 2 - She wants me to make fried rice. Since neither dog has had the slightest upset I knew it was the latter.
Over the last few years I've refined my fried rice recipe and am quite partial to it as it appears she is too. The normal recipe was again followed using whatever leftovers we had in the way of veggies and/or meats. I also usually add fresh mushrooms and onions and tonight was no exception on that front. Although I tend to add frozen peas and carrots at the end, tonight's little change was to peas, carrots, beans, and corn. I thought it blended nicely, and may use that next time as well. The big change tonight was the meat portion of our program. Usually I'd carve up some leftover grill items like pork chops, steak, chicken, or even sausages to use, but tonight I had some exotic leftovers - ostrich and buffalo. We also had some teriyaki kabob beef marinating so I cooked that up, cut it up, and into the vat o'rice it went. (The ostrich and buffalo had both also been teriyaki style so this was a bonus.)
Now when I say "vat o'rice" I mean it. This is the biggest pan I have to cook in (takes up two burners) and this is what it looked like after I was done cooking:

**Note: That is a full sized spatula that fits inside the pan.

Oh yeah... that picture was taken AFTER we both had our dinner bowls filled with tasty scoops from there. I almost always make this much, and we always have leftovers... but not very long. The first time I ever have to throw leftovers out, I'm reducing the size. *grin*

Of course now that I've made fried rice, I'm thinking about making some fresh summer rolls with spicy plum sauce and/or Pad Ken Thai (my version of pad Thai noodles). Some day I may even try one of the desserts they have at a restaurant nearby - rotee.
I tried looking up more info on them, and this seemed pretty close, if you're interested.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fun at the dentist

As it comes around, so it came to my semi-annual dental checkup. 3 years out on X-rays so today I have filled my quota of exposure to radiation. Thanks. Bite wing AND the full panorama to boot. I hate taking the bite wings because usually the film is tall and stiff and scrapes my mouth in quite a sharp way. Today however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have changed to a more malleable film that conforms to the contours of the mouth better, so... no scraping. They saved the scraping for the metal implements on my teeth directly. Truthfully this has never bothered me, and I often imagine myself as wildlife having my teeth cleaned by birds. (ok so I have a wild imagination, whatever.) The hygienist (same one Da Wife goes to) was mostly happy with my teeth, and the doc found nothing wrong. Which is like good news, but not quite. Certainly better than the alternative, so *I* take it as good news.
After a thorough scraping and polishing, Vivien (the hygienist) starts explaining how this time there won't be a fluoride rinse, and before I can ask, she says that today we'll be using a painted on fluoride that is stronger and stays on longer. There's just one drawback - it feels like old gum coating your teeth. No real after taste, but there is an aroma (faint though it may be) that I occasionally smelled that reminded me of airplane glue without all the buzz.
And what could be better after the dentist than lunch with Da Wife at the sushi place! Well Vivien *did* say nothing crunchy, so I blame her. (Thanks Vivien!) We usually go to a place called Tsunami over in Fairfax. Great for lunch. Now they even have calamari, tempura style (lightly breaded) that is very tasty.
After lunch a few quick errands, and I have secured my future jack o'lantern (or possible jill, not 100% on face yet), we even got one for Da Wife. I considered the Vomiting Pumpkins I have seen. Though I suspect they would not last long in THIS neighborhood. Perhaps this year we've seen enough horror in the market, and I will make a whimsical gourd.

Tomorrow - another dog show. Hopefully Roxie will score her title, if Mother Nature can hold off on raining long enough. At the very least it will be holiday shopping for the "kids'" presents.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November approaches

Just 10 days away now, and that means 10 days from NaNoWriMo again. This is the annual "write a novel in 1 month" concept, that I had attempted before, but stalled. I am currently debating whether or not I will try again this year or not, and if so what my topic/genre/theme/plan/etc will be.
They say write what you know, but last time I tried that all I got was a pamphlet. Seriously though I'm not sure what would make a good story. Which of course the NaNo folks would say that's my problem. I'm trying to write something GOOD not just a novel. I guess if I can jump that hurdle, then I'd be able to finish and not care that a cyber-thriller turns into cowboys in space fighting mutant twinkies or something worse. Just as long as I kept writing, who cares about plot anyway. Plots are a crutch.
By the same token, I would like to write something at least semi cohesive, and I know I want fiction (b/c that's easier - GEEZ!). And as much as I think I'd like writing a comedy, I just don't know about that. I think that I would prefer to write something else with humor sprinkled in among the story like jimmies on a sundae. Much like it is woven into life, not all focused in one spot, it should help the story not BE the story.
If you have any ideas that you want to offer up, by all means throw down!

(Oh and it's not too late to signup and join in the insanity!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still FALLing...

In keeping with my last post, Mother Nature graced us this morning with frost to prove that Autumn had indeed arrived. I believe the temp this morning got to 28 degrees or lower where we are.
Thanks Mother Nature.
Not that I like the cold. I don't. I REALLY don't. But I can't argue the beauty found in tiny ice crystals surrounding the edge of a fallen leaf. There would have been a picture of that as well, but without my cup of coffee it appears as though my concept of focus on a macro shot is lost. (i.e., the pics of that were dang fuzzy and all beauty was lost)

On the bright side I have additional wardrobe items I can wear now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I've FALLen

Ok, maybe not ME, but the weather has certainly turned a ripe shade of Autumn. And with that our HOA decided to throw a Fall Festival... in our neighborhood... on our street... in front of my house... and told me (and my neighbors) we all had to move our cars from 10-4. Me and Da Wife moved our cars alright, but I dragged my heels in protest until about 10:09. That'll show 'em. (That I'm constantly late.) Fortunately my worst concerns were avoided, and there was no massive pile of litter or torn up lawn on our property. Though you can definitely see where LOTS of people walked across and down our hill. Our neighbor across the way didn't fare as well, it looked like a popcorn machine had thrown up on her side yard... at least the birds and squirrels will help her clean up. ;-)

We met up with our friend Ed for lunch at Coastal Flats today. Now I like this seafood place a lot (don't get out there often, but they have good stuff), and I almost always get the:
Sauteed Shrimp & Creamy Grit Cakes
with Smithfield ham, roasted corn, asparagus, peppers, sweet onion & Cajun cream
(and it is divine.)
This time however, I went off the beaten path and ordered something I've only read and considered each time I went, only to have it fall to the wayside in the wake of the mighty grit cake. But today... today the Sea Bass won out:
Hong Kong Style Sea Bass
steamed with fresh leaf spinach in a soy sherry broth with sesame ginger, scallions & sticky rice
(It too was divine.)
It's very similar to P.F. Chang's sea bass, but with some subtle flavor differences. I think I would have to give the edge to Chang's dish (possibly the marination in Oolong does it for me), but you couldn't go wrong with either.
Da Wife had her usual Coastal Shrimp Roll (it's a sammich, don't let the name fool ya!) which is quite tasty, with the cutest little skinny fries that also pack a surprising amount of yumminess in a slender package. Ed had the Salmon stack (I have also looked at this, and it seemed like it was very tasty, but I don't think it will ever beat the shrimp and grit cakes for me, or the sea bass) which comes with whipped cauliflower.
Sadly we all managed to fill up on lunch, and left no room for the scrumptious desserts they have. My favorite there is probably the Key Lime Pie... mmmm... I can almost drool at the thought. Maybe next time we'll save room...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rhode Island trip

Went up to visit Saunderstown, RI with Da Wife and to meet some family of mine recently.

The Good:
I got to see my family, AND my extended family some of whom I met for the first time. I am now certain that EVERYONE should have a crazy (great great) Aunt Alice! If you had asked me to guess her age, I would've missed by decades. She has to be the YOUNGEST nonagenarian I have EVER met. Most of these folks were from my Dad's side of the family, and for various reasons had not ever been visited. I had a great time listening to the stories of them AND my dad as a boy. Not to mention I got a chance to do a couple of sets of material, though I think Alice wanted another for the road!

We each took turns cooking dinners for the group, starting with Jeff and family creating his wonderful pot roast! (After consulting with him, I have his secret ingredients and plan on upgrading my own recipe. Muahahahaha! Ahem.) Then my brother and his wife slaved for hours to dish up some homemade paella (with lobster, clams, shrimp, scallops, chourico [Portuguese chorizo - I think], and chicken) that was delicious. His wife also graced us with a collard greens and navy beans side dish that was very tasty. And despite my anxiety about having to follow homemade paella AND a perfect pot roast, I churned out some tequila/chili/lime chicken quesadillas and my homemade guacamole. (Ok it's more of a fresh avocado salad, but it sure is good on a tortilla chip!)

The house was loverly, and quite spacious even for the herd of us that descended upon it. It had a fantastic multi-tiered lawn that both dogs and children (and adults) enjoyed to romp and play on. Down at the water's edge, a beach of shells harbored all manner of aquatic life including crabs, snails, and starfish. Even Roxie got to do some exploring in the shallows (hopefully Da Wife has a K9 post about their adventures coming soon.)

Da Wife also took a 2 hour side trip up to go see her sister that also trains dogs (Boxers I believe). So those two got to share some training tips and got to have a big K9 meet and greet. (I think that's mostly alot of barking and butt sniffing... kinda like a college party.) She and the dogs seemed like they had a fantastic time, and with a new leash handling technique, Viggo (or "the Kraken" as I often refer to him when I let him out of his crate in the morning [old reference to "Clash of the Titans" movie]) even managed to behave himself more. THANKS Auntie J!

The Bad:
As with all vacations, it is never enough time. And while I wanted Da Wife to meet Alice, it just wasn't to be this time, and I'm VERY happy she got her side trip to see her sister. I would have also liked to make "Cheeseburger" quesadillas for the kids, but alas I did not start cooking in time for their slightly earlier dinner time. Perhaps next time. And my MP3 player ran out of juice on the way home (and I forgot to bring my charger D'oh!) Good thing I had Da Wife with me, or it would've gotten lonely with only the radio.

The Ugly:
Killer drive. Over 10 hours on the way up, and insult to injury on the way home they had CLOSED I-84. The (unmarked) detour was through a very long, very slow, very gross town called Middletown, NY. *shudder*. If you've ever seen "Vacation", I felt very much much like Clark W. Griswold saying "Roll 'em up!" and then driving off.

So overall it was a great trip. Now if I can just invent that teleportation device...

*** EDIT: 10/16/2008 ***
After some additional research, it seems as though there was a propane leak around that section of I-84 that involved a huge effort by firefighters to find the source of the leak.


I've noticed over the last couple weeks that we are, as a nation, plagued by a singular word. More to the point, I was surprised when I found myself using it, and frequently. What's worse is that once aware of my overabundant usage, I seemed to be unable to break the habit! I put concerted effort into this for at least a week, and while there is improvement, I still slip up. Da Wife too, has noticed (ok ok, SHE is the one that told me) and made an effort to adjust her speech.

Just look around. Or better yet LISTEN around. To the people around you, people on the radio, on the tv, in stores. The word ACTUALLY is everywhere. When did that take over everything?
Seems as though some people noticed back in 2002!
And another in September of '07.

And from Lake Superior University's "Ban a Word" website the following from Jan '07:

Comment from Casey Lutton
Time: January 5, 2007, 6:28 pm
Actually I actually think you should actually consider banning “actually”. Actually I actually believe this word is actually overused and actually superfluous.

Though I do think they are ACTUALLY going a little overboard...;-)

*** EDIT 10/16/2008 ***
I was graciously reminded by JamesF that he had noticed this earlier in June of 2007 as well. He noticed the usage in his kids, and Barry agreed in the comments, that he had observed the same behavior in his kids.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Study

So according to this article, in USA Today 45% of women "rule the roost". (I can't believe they call women chickens right there in the headline.) It further declares that their men content themselves with this dominance. My wife tells me I agree with this. I mean... *I* agree with this completely and fully while not under duress of ANY kind. (Did I say it right, honey?)

The article did bring up a few interesting comments, the most notable one (in my mind) being the statement someone made about their needing to be "only 1 decision maker". I will agree and disagree with him on this. As a generalization, I disagree. Across the board that is not true in all cases, and probably not even half. I think there is a direction provider, or one member in the partnership that offers a direction to go with discussion/decision made by all. Some may argue that the offerer is in essence the decision maker by providing the options, but the non-offerer can always reject and offer alternate plans.

As for the times when a decision maker is needed, may or may not be something important. For example where to go to dinner out. If both parties are not overly picky, the plethora of choices (depending on your location) can sometimes be a paralyzing roadblock to progress. In cases like that a decision maker can step forward and declare an option just to move along. (Though that declaration can, and sometimes is rejected.) On a hard choice, the "joint decision" may be made by both partners sharing thoughts/feelings on the topic, and one taking the info and forming a decision based on that data. Again, a mutual decision, but 1 party taking the lead on action. Quibbling with terms, but I think there is a good bit of refinement in the difference between a Neanderthal issuing orders, and a quick discussion with one person taking initiative.

A few people pointed out that many men at work are decision makers all day, and when they get home are all "decided out", and are content to be followers. Clearly these seem to be men that have never stayed home with kids, and dealt with the endless choices, direction, and structure required to have a good routine and happy kids. On this point one woman wrote that she'd rather have a partner than a third child, suggesting her partner possibly abdicated too much authority at home. In the rush to not have to make anymore decisions, he doesn't share his spouse's responsibilities, and creates imbalance. Just as a man that requests no input from anyone in the household, and simply gives orders as to how it will be creates imbalance.

In the end, there is a piece of decision making that can almost be seen as being vulnerable. The decision maker is putting their idea and indeed a part of them self out on the line for judgment, and in opening oneself to that kind of judgment there is a vulnerability to rejection/disappointment. Depending on the person, even a mild fear of being rejected for something as simple as an idea of where to go to dinner can be daunting enough to prevent even voicing an opinion about it, let alone being able to choose. They are plagued by doubts, "What if someone doesn't like what they serve?" "what if we get bad service?" "What if it's too expensive/cheap?" All of these what ifs can mire down even a normally clear thinking person's initiative and result in a "Whatever is fine." response, just so the responsibility for any one's disappointment is redirected.

If when the decision's worst result means that someone didn't enjoy dinner can be that stifling imagine how hard the decision becomes as the consequences increase in severity. Every day decision makers take on the responsibility of projects and assignments, money and investments, and in the strongest cases the very safety and lives of others. Accepting the responsibility for another person's life and safety is something that I hope no one ever takes lightly, whether it be willingly or unwillingly. And in many cases, those leaders that emerge are not leaders by choice, but by necessity.

I don't know how I got here from there, but it was fun for me. Oh and "Yes dear, the article is spot on!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

He did what?

This story came across my way, and I had to "pass" it on. I couldn't help myself. Normally I wouldn't share this, and I'm sure most people have seen it already since I'm usually "behind" on things like this. Butt, regardless of whether you've seen it or not, take some time to scroll through the comments. They're a gas! (Sorry about the puns, I know they stink.)

***UPDATE 9/25/2008***
They have dropped the bomb... err.. battery charge. That stinks!