Sunday, October 29, 2006

Not just a walk in the park...

Today we went to Signal Hill Park with the intent of taking a "family photo" for distribution (as requested). After many, many, MANY photos, I believe we came up with a few that were at least acceptable. Just remember, animals and photography never go the way you want. So after we took our glamour shots, we decided to give the k9s a mini-tour of the place, and I snapped a few shots as we strolled around.
Some branches:

The leaves changing colors:

And part of the new fence they've built:

Also we passed a few people who were... well... otherwise oblivious to the world... and I think this is the "ride" they came in on:

Yep. Nothing like a low rider truck to make the day complete. Although the slow-cooked pot roast upstairs is already smelling quite tasty, and may put up a good fight as a "day completer".

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mmmm Cake....

Time marches on as it inevitably does, and the wheel has paused once again on the annual celebration of my first attempt to leave my mother. (birthday, for those of you that are as tired as I am.) This afternoon my near-birthday-buddy KC and I were treated to a good lunch at Red Robin by some of our more humorous coworkers. (JamesF is a big fan of RR, well he at least takes the kids there a bunch. *grin*) The trixie hobbitses got the staff to sing to me and KC, but little do they know that revenge will be sweet. I suspect they will have several "unbirthdays" the next time we go out. *evil grin*

Da wife and I had a nice dinner out with some friends (steak tips - yum) and when I got home, to my surprise, my darling wife had even baked for me this year! A lovely carrot cake, and hey, let's not forget the cream cheese icing. YUM!

Yes, she even wrote on it for me. There were candles, but they were lit and extinguished without photographic evidence.

I also got a super jackpot. That's right, several bags of gummi cola bottles! These are by far my favorite candy item almost every time. (Once in a while I get an hankerin' for some malt, but my candy preferences deserve an entire post of their own.) Apparently she's familiar with my habits/preferences or something.

Despite work, a vet appointment (for the dogs, not me), and about 2.5 hours in the car today, it was a good day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Maybe not what you think... ;-)
*steps up to rant podium*
I'm frustrated with my current video/DVD burning/creation software.  Now, for small projects or projects NOT involving TiVo files, it does great.  As soon as you even ~try~ to look at TiVo files though, it slams the machine into a crawl, or worse crashes the app entirely (which doesn't ever really run correctly until you reboot).  With the research I've done I'm assuming it has something to do with trying to split the audio track out of the file (yes even for a preview icon in file explorer), and with the files on the order of 1 to 2 GB it's rough.  Normally I'm a big fan of Roxio products and have been for some time, but this one is personal.  I don't know how many times I've been trying to edit together my TiVo files so I can fit them onto a DVD and watch them upstairs or on a trip, only to have 15, 30, even an hour of work go straight into the ether.  Last night it was trying to get Lost episodes together so I can clear some TiVo space.  Got thru episode 3.2 and saved the cuts, then spent maybe 45 minutes working with 3.3 when it locked up and "lost" my changes.  This was after struggling with 3.2 for quite some time.  Yes, I will still go back and finish it, because I'm stubborn and I'm on a mission now.  But I'm not happy about it.  I went out and spent a little extra on this machine for the express purpose of video editing, and for what?  A great big [BLEEP] you from the software.  Wonderful.  I'd even consider going out to pick up Roxio 9... ~IF~ I thought it would fix the problem, but I haven't seen anything (in albeit minimal research) yet that indicates they have fixed this obvious problem.  Ok, now I feel better.
*steps away from rant podium*
Perhaps my shorter patience with things is a direct result of my impending celebration of the anniversary of my worldly arrival.  Or in JamesF speak "You damn kids!  Get off my LAWN!"  I've found myself thinking that, and have only gone so far as to ask them to stop kicking things into my fence, or leaving trash on my lawn, or poking sticks at my dogs, or drawing on my sidewalk, or hitting our cars with soccer/tennis/misc balls.  I ~want~ to say it, but have refrained.  I was shocked at one point when I asked some kids to leave the cul-de-sac where they had already hit both my and my wife's cars with a variety of objects (I'd asked them to play on the grass maybe 50 feet away) and got back not only a no, but so much of an attitude that I had to go inside get a phone, and actually BE the grumpy old guy on the block that calls the cops.  No, I hadn't called them, I had dialed my cell phone and left myself a message... but THEY didn't know that.  They did leave (especially after the wife took photos... *grin* I love her!) but not after making additional bratty comments.  Kids these days!  I would NEVER have considered not listening to a property owner ask us to move along.  Of course, growing up in Texas, you never knew if said owner was packing heat.  Better safe than sorry.  Not all the kids in our neighborhood are that bad, but a majority are.  And people ask me why I want to move...
Just to end on a positive note, I'll be going to dinner at a great place this Saturday with some friends I have not seen in a very long time.  The last time I was there, KenC wrote the review.  Maybe I'll do the next.  It is a really neat place called the Auld Shebeen.  They have classic Irish food like Reubens.  *grin*  Seriously though, they do have a good selection, and for those that like it, Guinness on tap.  Hopefully I'll save room for a tasty meal ender.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pulling some strings

This is the leadership post I'd promised to several folks. It's been knocking around my head for some time, and consists mostly of remembered discussions from military school leadership classes, lessons in boy scouts, life lessons, and even online gaming. There have been many jokes/stories related to the difference between leadership and management. I think it is best summed up by the quote below:

"Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all."
-- Dwight Eisenhower

An example similar to this was the most memorable of all from Sergeant First Class Couture. He was our main instructor for ROTC, as well as my rifle team coach and mentor. Strict but fair, he had many life, leadership, and shooting lessons to offer. Many of the students there hated him because he demanded results, attention, and respect. I found those to be his better qualities, and the things that made him an effective leader. (Most of those students that disliked him, also disliked learning and school in general, so I chalk it up to that.) He actually gave us string and had us try the exercise of pushing and pulling the string (we didn't know that day's lesson was on leadership, he hadn't told us what it was on. Some guys had even guessed it was for map reading or orientation *grin*), and then asking us to talk about it. When he related it to leading men, everything sort of clicked. He had built us up in weeks of classes for this simple, but undeniably effective lesson. The best results from people are gleaned from pulling them out and along with you.

Another quote that goes to this:

You don't manage people; you manage things. You lead people.
-- Grace Murray Hooper

Although this is essentially a paraphrasing, it emphasizes a reminder to treat followers/subordinates as people not things. Another key lesson. It leads to the joke/statement about corporate workplaces today. Managers push people, leaders pull them. I think that's mainly too many people seeing subordinates as things (or in corporate speak "resources") and not people.

This monologue culminates in my own coalesced version of leaders and leadership. I see strong/effective (i.e., many people act on the leader's requests/orders to achieve large results) leaders in basically these two categories. But they run a close parallel to other titles, at least in ~my~ mind.

Pullers: These are the good leaders, sharing vision and purpose with their followers. They use concepts of love and/or respect in their leadership. Meaning their followers respect their leader and follow because they CHOOSE to.
Examples: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Eisenhower (it is his quote after all), Lincoln

Pushers: These are effective leaders in that they can get large groups to comply, however they use the flip sides to the feelings used by pullers. Love's dark twin Hatred and instead of respect they use fear and intimidation. These are the "bully" types. Large groups follow, but more out of fear of being the target, or they follow and feel camaraderie based on mutual hatred (usually directed by the leader).
Examples: Hitler, Mussolini, Hussein, Stalin

While both groups can be said to be effective leaders (based on being able to move/motivate large groups of people), there are certainly leaders you would choose to follow and those you would not. Those that follow by choice, will always outperform those that do not. Both styles of leadership can be used for good or ill, it is much harder to lead as a puller to a dark goal.

I've followed leaders of both kinds and for different reasons along the path of my life, and I tell you this - given the chance I will always go for the pullers. I can only hope the times I am placed in leadership positions that I take the same road the pullers do, because it takes an awful lot of energy to push a string up a hill.

Friday, October 20, 2006

2 weeks off

Yes.  That's right.  I took 2 weeks off.  So What?!
No, I haven't watched Lost from this week (thanks for the comments about it James).  I like watching it on the weekends where I can think about it more.  I also haven't seen the last Heroes (or two), maybe I'll get to it this weekend.  (And no James, I still haven't watched Eureka.)  Although I do have a new show on my TiVo.  "I Pity the Fool!" the new show starring... yep you guessed it, Mr. T.  I'm always happy to see old TV actors getting work.  I think it will either be a colossal waste of time or freakishly amusing.  I am of course leaning towards the time wasting, but I'll give it a go.
[insert segue]
I don't know what's wrong with me this year, but I'm just not excited about Halloween.  I know, I know, a lot of people will be saying, "Yeah... And? What's the big deal?"  But for me Halloween was always one of the most exciting times for me.  I still like it, but this year it's just not exciting.  I suspect it's because I don't have any "projects" this year to work on, and that I'm not dressing up.  Ok I usually go to a costume party every year, and have seen some really cool homemade costumes.  A few of the more notable ones include: a fantastic Wonder Woman (whole thing hand made - it was great), a centurion soldier/gladiator (the guy MADE his own reticulated armor... yes stage thickness, but still you gotta give props to Frank!), same guy also went as a very good pirate (of the Capt.. Jack Sparrow variety), my favorite of my own costumes would still probably be the nun costume (especially effective since my wife went as the same... ever seen 2 nuns kiss? *grin*).  I also used to help Frank decorate his house for parties, and it always looked great.  We have setup graves in the front and the back (custom tombstones and fencing by yours truly), Frank built a custom caged skeleton that was quite realistic, we've blacked his main floor all in, done up the outside, sound effects, lighting effects, Frank even put together a jail cell in his basement one year, and there was a group project to build a pressure activated animatronic "dead guy" rising out of a coffin (custom built by frank - looked great!) when you walked near (Brian helped out immensely with the electronics and solenoid work).  So we've done a fair bit of craft work for the holiday, and I loved (almost) every minute of it.
So why not this year?  *shrug*  I still want to build things, and decorate, but I do not think I will - this year.  It may be a combination of the new house (and the neighbors *frown*), the new job, and other tasks taking up the time I would normally have used to prepare.  I hope to put ~something~ together for next year, even if it's just something to scare the bejeebus out of the neighborhood snot nosers.  *evil grin*
[insert segue]
I hear that my old office mate may be returning to my old place of employment to get some training and then ship out to a remote site.  THAT should be interesting to watch.  I also hear that there's a few of my friends from there that are also undergoing the change of career path that I did 2+ months back.  Good luck to you!  It's different away from there.  Much less stress, but I gotta say... I miss the folks.  Not a surprise to me, I knew that was what I was hanging around for.  So those of you that are still there, yes, I miss you.  :-P
[insert segue]
I got an email from my wife today that has reminded me of an old SNL skit.  "OOPS, I crapped my pants!"  It was stuck in my head all day, I'm posting here just to make it leave since sharing it at work didn't make it go away.  Heck, I even tried humming "Penny Lane", but to no avail.  I wonder if it would help if I actually knew the words to that song....  And just to clarify because I know da wife will get mad if I imply that she had an "accident", she did not.  It was comments about our little dog who was sick, but is recovering just fine.  I'll spare you the details, but she may post about the little girl's illness.  But for now, OOPS! I crapped my pants!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quarantine lifted (mostly)

So after several days of sleep, fluids, sleep, small quantities of food, fluids, and a little more sleep, I'm now only slightly ill. ;-) Hopefully another night of rest and water will have me back to near normal. Well... normal for me.

But you're prolly here to read about Lost season 3. Man oh man, did they start this one off with a doozie! "How can they have something bigger than a plane crash to open?", you ask? I would tell you, but that would be a spoiler then wouldn't it? I'll save those for after I watch it again, and then I'll put some filler at top and a large warning. They answer some big questions right off, however in their usual manner they give an answer only to generate 10 (if not 100) more questions. I will give the tiniest of teasers in that they certainly appear to be going into much greater detail with the "others" this season. We get to see into Jack, Sawyer, and Kate more this episode too. Some funny moments, some dramatic, all good. I will say there seemed to be an abnormally large amount of commercials, though I guess that's to be expected. Can't wait for the next show!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


So somewhere along the way I managed to pick up what appears to be the flu, and in my usual "sharing is caring" manner, have also given it to the wife. It all started with sweats before going to bed on Sunday, only to be rudely awakened at 3:30 in the morning with some projectile puking. I won't get into any further gross details, but the whole body aching and general malaise I (for the first time in I don't even know how long) had an entire day with no computing. Not even to check stocks or email. You know it's a bad day when I have access to multiple machines nearby, and still don't touch 'em. It's also a bad day if the only things I have to eat were a half a banana at 9PM, and 1 bottle of gatorade throughout the day (and a little water). All of which pretty much did not wish to remain with me for very long. Hopefully the aches, pains, and other stuff will finish their tour with me (and the wife) today. The only weird thing with this illness that I haven't seen before is that there are parts (calves, side, and others) that are simply sore to the touch. As in it hurts to touch or rub them, and not in a "I just ran 2 miles and my legs ache" kind of sore, but more of an "ouch! Quit it!" way.

After watching all that Lost, I want to inscribe the doors with the word Quarantine.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Weekend of Lost Time

Yes. That's right. The whole weekend. To this I exclaim, "Victory is MINE!"

Both seasons - finished. I definitely picked up a bit more from season 2, more things tied back in. With da wife contributing several new finds. Including a Kate's mom - Sawyer tie in, Kate's dad - Sayid, and the big one that I was upset I missed the first time (and only saw since we watched it back to back) the Sayid's GF - Locke exchange. I'm convinced they're trying to show everyone has a connection to everyone else by the end of the show's life. Pretty soon Kevin Bacon will jump out and talk about six degrees of separation.

All I have left to watch is the special "extras" for season 2, which I'm headed off to do now. I think James will be borrowing both "extras" DVDs when I'm done. I suppose I'll find a way to get them to him before Wed. ;-)

I must be excited about the new season, since I missed out on a dinner with Roy and family today. He always makes such scrumptious treats. I think tonight was pasta and chicken.... perhaps next time.
"See ya in another life, brutha."