Saturday, September 29, 2007

Day 220 - 09/28/2007

D left for the weekend. She and a bunch of her friends headed to the Eastern Shore to spend the weekend in Chestertown. So, with that in mind, I went in early to bank some hours. That didn't happen, of course, as I left at 2p to get the van inspected (which also didn't happen because the lines were long, it being the end of the month and all). I then picked the kids up at school and we went home, where they pulled the wool over my eyes saying that D always lets them watch TV when they get home on Friday.

Not wanting to start the weekend off on a sour note, I went along. That gave me the chance to dial into work from home.

After a dinner of leftovers (for M and I) and a Lean Pocket (for N), we headed out to the football game. N has been on me lately about going to a football game and I have no desire to take him to a 'Skins game just yet. Maybe when he's older and can actually watch (and enjoy) the game I'll pull the trigger, but right now, it's not a wise use of dollars.

There were no home games in the immediate vicinity, so we headed up the parkway to Herndon to see Chantilly play. They (Chantilly) have fielded a pretty decent team over the past few years so I was looking forward to a good game. Fifteen dollars later (and $3 for drinks) and we were in our seats for kickoff. The Hornets were no match for the Chargers and at halftime the score was 21-0 (Chantilly). I didn't plan on staying for the whole game, but the kids wanted to see the halftime show with the band and all that, so we stayed. Shortly after the 3rd quarter started, we left for home. As we were walking toward the car, we heard that Chantilly scored another touchdown. I'll have to check to see what the final score was. It could easily have been 35-0 the way the Hornets were (or were not) playing.

We got home and the kids hit the hay. I stayed up and watched Tivo. I finally called it quits around midnight. (It would've been later, but we have a full schedule on Saturday.)

Looking back on it, everything above falls under the "mundane" category. I guess I could've summed up the day by saying that nothing out of the ordinary happened, other than D leaving for Chestertown and the kids and I taking in a high school football game.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Day 219 - 09/27/2007

My back seized up again. This time I had just finished working out (no weights -- just 45 minutes on the bike since I didn't think weights would be good for my back) and was getting undressed, about to get in the shower.

I lifted my right foot and pulled off my sock. I was able to lift my left foot and that's when it hit. I let out a wince of pain and fell into the wall so as not to fall down. Fortunately, I was able to right myself pretty quickly and continue getting ready to head back to work.

Don't read that as being pain free, however, as the pain never went away, it just lessened. Lucky for me we had a software release party this afternoon, so the Guinness helped ease the pain.

Before heading out to the party, I found the ultimate time-waster online. There is absolutely NO interaction required. All you do is open your browser to http://play.blogger.com and sit back and enjoy the ride. (If you must know, this is a display of all the pictures currently being uploaded to blogger.com from around the globe.) It's pretty interesting looking at all the pictures that are out there. I kid you not that you could easily sit there for hours on end watching these pictures. It makes you think of who these people are, what they're doing, why are they wearing lime green bandannas, etc.

I wonder what people think of the pictures (albeit few and far between) that I've uploaded?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 218 - 09/26/2007

My back still wasn't working properly when I woke up and it didn't improve throughout the day (Sitting on my ass all day probably doesn't help matters much, regardless of the fact that I try and work out 2-3 times a week and get up out of my chair on an hourly basis.)

What did help was the shiatsu chair massager on sale at BJs. While D had the kids at swimming, I went shopping for cat food and kittly litter at BJs. Not only did I find Christmas decorations on display (!) I also found a shiatsu chair massager. Wasting no time, I plopped myself down in the chair and started going to town. Twenty minutes later I was a new man. My pain was gone and I was ready to face the day. Not only was the pain gone, but I sort of felt like I had a runner's high as if feel good juice was flowing through my veins. Relief!

I kept waiting for it to subside, but it didn't. If it continues to hold, I may just end up getting one of them so that the next time my back goes out I won't have to go to BJs for relief!

Day 217 - 09/25/2007

Is it okay to make a six year old run laps? If it is, there are a couple who deserve it.

We had practice tonight and, as usual, we did hitting and fielding. After the kids hit, they play first base. After each batter, they rotate around the field so that after all the kids have batted, they've also played every position in the field. Usually after the kid bats, he'll grab his glove and hat and jog out to first base while the rest of the players rotate to their new positions.

Not this kid.

After he batted, he headed over to the bench, sat down and started drinking.

"C'mon [player's name], hustle on out to first base." I called to him after noticing him sitting on the bench. "You can get a drink later." (We had been practicing for all of ten minutes at this point.)

Silence.

Drink.

Silence.

Stare.

"C'mon [player's name], your teammates are waiting for you."

Nothing.

"Go on out to first base like the coach told you to do." I heard his mother yell from behind the plate where she and a couple of other moms were sitting.

With that he got off the bench and started walking towards first base.

"Hustle it up [player's name], we're waiting on you." I told him, trying to hurry him along.

It didn't work. But it did cause him to turn around and look me square in my sunglass covered eye and gesture with his hand that my words were falling on deaf ears.

I told him to come over to me. He didn't budge. When his mom told him to listen to the coach, however, he came over, tail between his legs.

I didn't want to be over the top, but I also wanted him to realize that his behavior was unacceptable. He got the picture, but I don't think it'll make an impression like having him run laps will. Maybe I should take this up with the commissioner.

To top it off, when I got home I threw out my back by hanging up the phone. (Yes, you read that right.) I was on the barstool, checking e-mail when D handed me the phone to hang up. I twisted around and, reaching with my right hand, attempted to place the phone on the cradle over my left shoulder.

Pain shot through my back like it had been stuck with a red-hot poker. I tried to reverse the position, in hopes of undoing it, but like trying to unring a bell, it wasn't to be. I popped a few Advil, but to no avail. Back pain is the worst.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day 216 - 09/24/2007

My soup bowl went missing at work, so I had to head home for lunch. This (and my stomach ache) caused me to skip my afternoon workout at the gym. I'm not sure what happened to the bowl, it was on my desk when I left on Friday and I don't recall seeing it when I stopped by the office yesterday. I'm thinking the cleaning person broke it when she was washing it -- there were a couple of hairline cracks -- and simply threw it away. I just wish she hadn't tossed the spoon as well.

When I got home I finished seeding the yard before taking M (and N) to swimming. When we got home, D was still out (she was at a neighbor's house watching Designed to Sell on HGTV -- our neighbor and a couple of our friends were on this episode), so I read to the kids before putting them to bed.

After D got back, I headed out for a run and ended up going 3.2 miles in just under 27 minutes. While I normally wouldn't be proud of that pace, since I pretty much haven't been running much for the past two years, I'll take it. I felt pretty good the entire way (save for a stretch or two where my knees weren't feeling the love), so I'm pretty sure the bird festival race will be a piece of cake (especially considering it'll be somewhat flat).

Day 215 - 09/23/2007

We finished watching Swiss Family Robinson this morning. The kids seemed to enjoy it, even though it wasn't anything like the book. (In case you couldn't figure it out, it's much better than the book.)

Nearing the end of the movie, the lawn guy came by to aerate our yard. I saw him doing our neighbors' yards yesterday and arranged for him to do ours today. For $65 he'll aerate the lawn and for $85 he'll aerate and fertilize. I couldn't beat that with a stick (seeing as it's $55 to rent the aerator for four hours and then I'd have to do it myself. Paying this guy allowed me to stay in my pajamas an extra hour while he did the work.

I didn't have him fertilize though, as I wasn't sure when I'd get the grass seed down. As it turns out, I was able to get some of it down today (as well as the fertilizer). Even still, it saved me money doing it myself, plus I'd much rather fertilize and seed myself to ensure it was done properly (or at least think it was done properly).

I almost finished but had to leave for Mass, so I put off seeding until later. When we got home, M and I had dinner (N and D had already eaten) and the kids got ready for bed. We started Robin Hood tonight; hopefully the kids will like it.

Day 214 - 09/22/2007

If it's Saturday, we must have some ball games on the calendar. While I enjoy watching the games, I've discovered that coaching takes a lot more out of me. I'm sure my outlook will change in the coming years, once the players have grown up and their attention span is a little longer than a minute, but for now, it's trying, to say the least.

I'd love it if the boys would pay attention to the game for at least one inning. The other team is able to do it. I wonder how they're successful while we're not. Is it the way we're organized (or disorganized, as the case may be)? Or is it the way we treat the kids. There is very little yelling going on and each of the kids is treated respectfully. Maybe if we were a little sterner in our approach, they'd listen. Or maybe they'd just ignore us like they currently do. Who knows.

Since Sarah is spending the night tonight, it was suggested we watch Swiss Family Robinson. It wasn't available at any of the local video stores, so I checked the local booksellers. Sure enough, it was available at Borders in Kamp Washington. Off N and I went while M and Sarah stayed back with D. When we returned, we not only had the movie, but also the next book to be read: The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Since the movie is over two hours, we ended up watching the first hour or so before the kids were sent to bed. We'll watch the rest of it in the morning.

Day 213 - 09/21/2007

I wasn't walking like an Egyptian today, but I was walking a little slow. Who knew that crouching and crawling would put a major hurt on me? (I did, but not to the extent it did!) That being said, I still went to they gym (in hopes that a good workout would help me recover...I don't think it did).

We finished up Swiss Family Robinson tonight and boy am I glad that's over. I grew up knowing the story based on the Disney version of it, so I was quite surprised when the book had very little in common with the movie. Major plot points in the movie were non-existent in the book. Actually, there really wasn't a plot to the book. It was more of a series of adventures with little connection between them. Had I known how painful it was going to be to read the book, I would've skipped it and settled on something else.

Oh well, live and learn. At least I can say I read it. More importantly, at least I can say I read it to M and N.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Day 212 - 09/20/2007

My office played hooky today and spent the day at Hogback Mountain Paintball. There were 16 of us to begin the day and we were separated into two teams. Most of the games revolved around capturing the other team's flag, but some were more tactical in that there was one flag and one team had to defend it, while the other had to take it. Here are a couple of pictures from yesterday's event

Before....


After....


As you might see from the look of the after picture, we had a blast! We're already planning on making this a semi-annual event. Not only does it give us a day out of the office, but also the chance to cover your colleague with paint. If you haven't done this, it's pretty fun.

Of course, after I got home I mowed the yard as I wasn't nearly as sweaty as I should have been and hadn't had nearly as much exercise as I should have had today. I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow. I'm also sure I won't be the only one!

Day 211 - 09/19/2007

I hit the gym during lunch and barely beat the lunch-time rush. Fortunately I was pretty much done with my warmup when the crowd came in so I was able to get the machine I wanted and was able to get my workout done without having to wait on anyone. I'd rather not workout during lunch (morning or late afternoon is preferred), but since M has swimming tonight, I didn't want to get home too late. (Plus, since N went to a friend's house this afternoon and I wasn't going to take him with us to the pool, I was planning on doing laps, so I didn't want to be too worn out for that.)

After showering, I headed back to the office where I continued working on the migration. It's still the albatross around my neck, although the end is near. (Where have I heard that before?)

After work I took M to her swim class and, as I hoped, was able to get an open lap lane. It's not that I couldn't have gone in one of the other lanes, but it's easier to have the lane to yourself. I started off with 500 meters breaststroke (100 meters at a time) and then switched over to freestyle for 500 meters (50-100 meters at a time, depending on how much water got in my goggles). I ended up with 200 meters of breaststroke as a cool down and finished up just in time for M's class to end.

Day 210 - 09/18/2007

Happy birthday, CL!

Aside from that, we had a busy day. Both M and N had practice and M had to finish her astronomer project for school. Even though she started it early, it still wasn't done due to scheduling conflicts (crab feast, swimming, etc.) so she had to work late into the night to finish it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 209 - 09/17/2007

After working all day on the additional logic required for the migration, I hit the gym and got in a pretty good workout. Unfortunately, the bike was in use (the recumbent was available, but that gives my knee fits) so I couldn't warm up like I usually do. Instead, I hit the treadmill. After I was done lifting, it was time to head home. Oh well, no cardio today. Maybe tonight at the pool.

M had swimming again tonight and this time we were on time. To the front desk. Hopefully on Wednesday she'll actually be at the pool on time. Chalk it up to traffic, but next time, we'll leave early. M doesn't understand the importance of being early. Maybe that's something we need to work on. One thing I can't stand is being late. Growing up, being late was a constant; as an adult, I'd rather have it as a variable.

While M swam, N and I hung out on "the beach" (that's what they call it). Actually, I hung out and N played. After hanging out for a while, I hit the spa, where I interrupted a dry cleaning industry meeting.

Day 208 - 09/16/2007

I attempted a morning run but it didn't work out as expected. I walked to the tot lot, stretched and then started my run. The weather was nice and cool, so I didn't have to worry about over-heating like I did last week. I felt good for the first, oh, three minutes or so before my head started pounding. I adjusted my breathing pattern, but no luck, the throbbing behind my forehead wouldn't calm down. With that I checked the pace and was surprised to see I was hitting 6:45 minutes/mile. Yikes! No wonder I wasn't feeling it. I tried slowing down, but I couldn't readjust. With that, I stopped and walked to the trail, where I was able to start running again. I never felt it, though, even on the trail, so I cut it short. Oh well, sometimes you have to listen to your body. Maybe Wednesday.

We headed down to Fred for a crab feast on D's folks porch. We ate our fill (of crabs and banana pudding...yum!) and even had some leftovers to take home. Of course, since Stephen, Rudy and I were all slated for 10 crabs each (and some folks not slated for any), there were plenty to go around (even though we were unable to finish them).

On a completely different front, my fantasy football team fared about the same as we did bowling last night. For the second year in a row, the Titans held Peyton at bay and I never stood a chance. By the end of the game, I had 86 points to my opponents 106. What made it even worse was that I left 102 points on my bench. Oh well, live and learn. Maybe next week.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Day 207 - 09/15/2007

Both M and N had games this morning and both of them were at 10a. I dropped M off at her game and then took N to his. (D went and watched M's game.) They both played well and seemed to enjoy themselves. The weather has taken quite a turn in the past week. Last week temps were in the 90s and the sun was baking everyone on the field while this week temps are in the low 70s with very little humidity and a brisk wind. Fall is definitely on its way.

We had our first bowling match of the new neighborhood season. This year they first game counts towards the overall standings in order to try and avoid people sandbagging the first time out so as to get a good handicap. That didn't do much for us, though, as we weren't able to keep up with our foes. Even though I rolled a 180 in the first game, the guy I was up against shot a 208. Oh well, I gave it my best shot.

My second game wasn't nearly as good and by the time the third game rolled around, I was done. (Actually, I didn't want to do too well in the second and third games as there's no way I'd be able to keep up the 180s for the rest of the season.)

At one point Ted talked me into doing some fancy shots (e.g., rolling the ball behind my back) to go along with my between-the-legs stance. (That's not the "granny-style" between the legs, more like a leg-lift and I bowl under the lifted leg.) It's hard to describe but it gives me 9-10 pins on each ball. Last year I ended the season with a turkey bowling in that manner. This year I might just roll the ball every frame just to see what happens (of course, not until I practice a few games on my own).

I'm pretty sure we went 0-4 on the night. Since last year the champions only had 3.5 losses, I don't think that bodes well for the rest of the season. I guess we'll just have to find out.

Day 206 - 09/14/2007

We had a luau at work. There were prizes for best shirts, best hats and best hula-hoopers. Everything was in place to remind you of the islands (either the Hawaiian or the Caribbean), even the snow-cones (sans rum, naturally).

It was catered by Moe's.

Moe's is a burrito place.

I don't get it.

What I did get, however, was a second burrito stuffed with rice, beans, guac and pico de gallo. I passed on the carne, though, as I didn't want to feel ugh when I went to the gym later on.

Speaking of the gym, I upped some of the weights I was working with and had a great workout. Hopefully I'll be able to replicate it on Monday (or Wednesday, depending on my schedule).

Day 205 - 09/13/2007

Met Larry up at Sweetwater, as well as Mark, the brother of a friend of ours from high school. Even though it's been about 12 years or so since I've seen him, he hasn't changed a bit (well, he did shave the dreads he'd been trying to grow, so there is that!).

He just got back from New Orleans where he was helping restore an old house that belonged to the guy who first brought ice to New Orleans back in the 19th century. I couldn't imaging NOLA being without ice. That place is hot enough as it is, I'd hate to have to drink my hurricanes at room temperature. Or daiquiris. Egads, man, banish that thought!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 204 - 09/12/2007

Always the technology, never the user.

Yet again, one of my colleagues proved my mantra. We had a lessons learned meeting and he stated that one of the reasons why he couldn't move forward was because he was using a new tool (JavaScript) and he didn't have the right debugging tools.

"It's hard to debug 1000s of lines of code when you're writing in Notepad." he said.

Or something like that.

I'm wondering whether this is the last person in the world who hasn't heard of Google. After the meeting, I typed "How do you debug JavaScript?" in Google and got a great result set. Within the first ten items I found out there are multiple ways of debugging JavaScript.

Like I said: Always the technology, never the user.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day 203 - 09/11/2007

Since it's Tuesday, I went across the street for my guitar lesson. Today I brought along some music to try and learn (the Dead's Box of Rain and CCR's Proud Mary). After giving Box of Rain a listen, Gary pronounced me not ready for it. (I'm not sure it's because I'm not ready for it or he had a hard time trying to pick it up.) He then cued up Proud Mary and we started strumming along. I sort of got the strokes down for the intro, but still need to work on the last three chords of the intro.

After guitar, I headed over to Lee Road Deli for a Reuben. Since baseball practice is Tuesday nights, I don't have time to head home for lunch, so I typically stop by there and grab a sandwich to fill out my lunch. They have pretty good meatball sub's too -- four LARGE meatballs with three slices of cheese on a nice soft baguette -- they blow doors off of Subway's meatball sub. Anyway, as I'm standing there waiting for my sandwich to be ready, a teenager walks in and just stands at the counter not saying a thing.

The owner's wife looks at him and asks him if he wants to order anything.

He mumbles something in EspaƱol, but that falls on deaf ears.

"Honey, I don't speak Spanish, so you're wasting your time. Do you want a steak? One of these?" she asks, picking up a steak. "With some onions?" she adds, tilting the bin of chopped onions so he could see them.

Silence.

"Does anyone here know Spanish?" she asks to the three of us that are at the counter.

No one says anything and the look in the kids eyes have such a look of desperation that I overcame my fear of using my Spanish skills in public and stepped up.

"Un poquito," I said. A little.

I turned to him and he started talking in a voice just barely above a whisper. The only word I picked up was trabajar. To work.

"¿Quieres usted trabajar en la tienda?" I asked him. Do you want to work in the store?

Store? Why did I use store? This isn't a store! I thought to myself. Oh well, he'll understand.

I guess he did as his eyes lit up when he discovered he could communicate with someone. "Si!" he told me, which I then relayed to the owner.

"Sorry, honey, I don't speak Spanish. You'll have to wait for my husband."

"Un momento por favor," I told him, just a minute please, the phrase rolling off my tongue as if it were my natural language.

A few seconds later, the owner came out and the boy walked back to him. I could hear them conversing in Spanish as I walked out the door. I wonder whether he was hired.

I wonder if he was illegal.

Day 202 - 09/10/2007

M wasn't feeling well today so I took her to the doc's office for a throat culture. She's started complaining Sunday about her throat and when she woke up this morning, she was running a fever. D dosed her up on Motrin and sent her to school since it was a short day (they got out at 1130a today due to a teacher planning session). I took her to her appointment at 1230p over in Centreville and were ushered back about 1240p. After a quick weight check and ear scan for temperature, the throat culture was attempted.

I say attempted as it took about 15 minutes for M to finally succumb to the pressure (or realize that, no, it wasn't going to hurt and/or make her throw up). I think the nurse was about to quit when she finally let her do it. After it was done, M commented that it was no big deal.

As I expected, it came back negative and we were told by the nurse-practitioner that it was probably due to drainage from M's allergies (even though she's been taking her Claritin regularly).

Monday night was a nail-biter with regard to fantasy football. I went into Sunday night's game behind by 43 points and was able to make up 36 of them with one player. Going into tonight's game, I had two players vs. one player on the opposing team. I reasoned that as long as my kicker matched her player (her kicker), I'd stand a pretty good chance of winning. Her kicker played in the early game and posted 8 points. Great. I'm down 109-94, there's no way I'm going to make that up, especially with the way my players were posting (or should I say not posting) numbers. Fortunately, they both came alive in the second half and I ended up winning 111-109. Oh well, a win's a win, right?!?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Day 201 - 09/09/2007

I ran this morning in my new kicks. Although I only went three miles (and a slow three miles they were!), it felt good to be out in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, the heat was not helping (even at that early hour) and I was left with a headache for pretty much the rest of the day.

After Mass, I settled into the couch and watched the 'Skins season opener. Nothing was happening so I paused the game and headed out for a bike ride with N while D read to M. It wasn't nearly as hot as it was this morning, which made the ride more enjoyable. After we got back, I settled back into the couch and caught the rest of the game, which they ended up winning in overtime.

N expanded his palate a little more at dinner tonight. D served pecan chicken with an orange sauce and he actually ate some of the chicken. He had to soak it in ketchup, but he ate it none-the-less. That being said, he wouldn't try the corn or the peaches, even for a twenty spot. Oh well, at least he didn't gag when he ate the chicken (like he did with the egg noodle last week).

I was constantly checking my fantasy score throughout the day and it looked pretty disappointing. Going into the night game, I was down by forty points (103-63). I had Plaxico Burress in the Giants-Cowboys tilt and he was on fire. After the game I was only down by nine (103-94). I have two players left to play (a WR and a K), so I should be able to pull it out. I just hope that Baltimore doesn't go on a field goal tear with their game against the Bengals on Monday as Karen has the Ravens kicker yet to play. It'll be an long night on Monday, to say the least. At least I'll know what I need to do after the first game. Of course, not that I can do anything about it anyway.

Day 200 - 09/08/2007

Opening Day of the Fall baseball and softball is today. N's games are all at 10a (thanks to being on the commissioner's son's team), which will make Saturday mornings that much easier. M's games are scattered around the day, but they're all at the same location, making it easier than in previous years.

Even with N's game starting at 10a, it was still hot. Temps were forecast for the 90s and we pretty much hit the target by the end of the game. Afterwards we headed over to M's game, relieving D (who then took N home with her). Fortunately I brought the beach umbrella and enjoyed the rest of her game in the shade. Heather was glad for that as well.

The rest of the day was spent inside; none of us wanted to be out in the heat.

Tonight is movie night. It was decided (by parental consensus) that D and I would pick the movie. After perusing the kids and family aisle at Blockbuster, we finally settled on Herbie Fully Loaded. M didn't like the pick as she thought it was a baby movie. Ten minutes into the movie, however, she changed her mind as the four of us were laughing on the couch. Overall, I was surprised with the movie. I thought it would be way cheesy, but it was actually laugh-out-loud enjoyable!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Day 199 - 09/07/2007

Remember that package that I had to file a claim for at the Post Office? Well, I went to another branch today to attempt to file the claim. I say attempt as I tried, but this time it was for naught.

Apparently I needed proof that the insurance was actually purchased, either in the form of the original form or the receipt. You know the tag that's put on by the postal clerk when you buy insurance? The one that has the bar code and says something like "Certificate of Insurance"? Well, that's not proof of purchase.

And even though the words on that tag state nothing about requiring a receipt, one is required. The words actually say something like: To file a claim, this package, contents and estimate of value must be presented.

When I pointed this out to the supervisor (because I guess the little old lady couldn't understand my logic and felt threatened by my reasonable state), he said "You can't put everything on there, it's too small!"

"You're right, but if you put something on there, it gives the impression that that is ALL that's needed. If you need more, put a reference to something else, like the form instructions!"

I don't even know why I wasted my breath. Jackie sure wasn't going to do anything about it. He was too concerned with getting back to his lunch from the looks of the crumbs on his shirt. Either that or he didn't feel like doing the additional paperwork required when no proof of purchase is presented.

The kicker occurred when I got back to the office. I went to the USPS website to see how I could file the claim online (I recalled seeing that as an option when I printed the form out). As it turned out, I didn't qualify, but I did stumble upon this little nugget:

The following items are needed to file an insurance claim for a Domestic mailpiece:

Proof of Insurance. If Purchased Insurance at a Post Office™, one of:

o Your "original" mailing receipt for Insured Mail, Registered Mail™, COD, or Express Mail® service (the original postmarked receipt is required for Insured Mail, Registered Mail and COD).

o The original sales receipt from the United States Postal Service® showing article number and insurance amount is acceptable if original mailing receipt is not available.

o The wrapper showing the name, street name/number, city, state, and ZIP Code™ of both the sender and the recipient and the proper mail endorsement, tag, or label showing that the article was sent insured, COD, Registered Mail with postal insurance, or Express Mail. If only the wrapper is submitted, indemnity can be limited to $100 for insured, $50 for COD, $100 for Registered Mail, and $100 for Express Mail.

Just to be sure, I called up 1-800-ASK-USPS and asked them what was required. Sure enough, no receipt is required. The above instructions are correct. It appears the form is outdated and not complete in stating what is required.

That being said (and just in case I end up being banned from all the post offices in the area), I sent a request to the seller for the receipt. Hopefully he still has it and I'll be able to clear this up without having to resort to calling the media. I probably won't do that anyway, but...

On a completely different front, Frank came over for dinner. After dinner we pretty much spent the rest of the evening talking about what's going on in his world. We don't get a chance to do lunch that often anymore; it seems he stays pretty busy with work. It's always good to catch up with him and hopefully everything will work itself out for him. He's a really good guy who doesn't deserve any of what's being thrown his way.

Day 198 - 09/06/2007

They should've called it a "serminar" as that's what it turned out to be.

My boss gave me a ticket to a Get Motivated seminar that touted speakers that would improve our business skills (e.g., sales, leadership, negotiations, etc.). I must've read it wrong because that's not what was provided.

The doors opened at 7a for an 8a start, but we (we being two of my colleagues and myself) didn't get there until 930a. We decided we weren't motivated enough to get up early fight traffic. We arrived in the middle of the best speaker of the day. Had I known he was the best, we would've turned around and headed into the office. As one of my colleagues said as we walked back to the car, "I would've spent the day writing code instead of being here!"

Unfortunately, the marketing department failed to notify the public that a lot of what was presented was faith-based. There were no cutting edge techniques, no secret words to use to close the sale, nothing new under the sun. What was included was a series of speakers touting how their faith caused them to become successful. Or a product that they're willing to sell to you for $6500 $6000 $950? Yes, in a matter of five minutes, the price was dropped over $5000. I felt like I was in some large-scale window sales presentation.

The moment of cheese came when Zig Ziglar (who I was actually looking forward to hearing) came on stage...with his daughter. They then went on to do a father-daughter interview that was completely scripted and the only motivational words of wisdom came from when they played Zig speaking at previous sessions!

I felt ripped off and I didn't even have to pay for the ticket!

It got to a point where I didn't even care about seeing Sugar Ray Leonard or Colin Powell speak. I just wanted to get out of there. And that's what we did. In the middle of one of the speakers, we all just up and left. We didn't care about having to disrupt the folks around us, we wanted out.

Out on the concourse, we compared our thoughts and pretty much each and every one of us felt the same way: cheated.

So, if you ever get the chance to go to one of these, pass on the opportunity (unless, of course, your boss is forcing you to go), you won't regret it.

Day 197 - 09/05/2007

We had a win party after work that I didn't want to go to, but when the boss comes into your office and asks whether you're going, you put your corporate face on and say "I'll be there -- I even dressed for the occasion!" (as evidenced by the corporate logo shirt I had on). Actually, I had completely forgotten about it when I got dressed this morning. Oh, well, sometimes things just work out like that.

I got to the reception pretty much right at the opening bell and stayed for an hour or so. It's a good thing I did leave as a few folks stayed late and continued the party in the bar once the open bar at the reception shut down.

After getting home I set to work repairing the turn signal on the Altima. For the past six months or so the signal has been intermittently failing. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn't. After I changed the bulb, it'd work for a few weeks until the bulb burned out. Or until I thought it did. As it turns out, there's a short somewhere causing it to think the bulb is burned out and therefore display that information to the driver in the form of rapid on-off flashing inside the car.

I stopped by the local auto parts store and picked up a replacement socket for the bulb, in hopes of replacing the one that was there, but it wasn't a match. Apparently the guy who picked it out for me (and who I thought knew what he was doing) went solely on the type of bulb it supported instead of also determining whether the socket supported the make and model in addition to the bulb.

That being said, I put the assembly back together and, lo and behold, the short is gone; the blinker now works fine. I guess it was just a matter of twisting it a few times. I'm not sure how long it will work, but at least it gives me some time to find the part before the inspection is due.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day 196 - 09/04/2007

Today is draft day. This year there are 12 teams in our league (up from 10 last year) and -- Gasp! -- three women owners!

We picked our draft orders a while back and I was lucky enough to be 6th. (There's sarcasm there, you just can't see it.) If you ask me, 5-7 are the worst picks to have, especially when you do a ladder draft (where you draft 1-12 in odd rounds and 12-1 in even rounds). You might get someone good in the first round, but most of the big names are gone by the time it comes back around. The best picks (IMO) are 1-3 or 9-12.

The first round started out as usual until the 5th pick. Instead of picking Frank Gore, Joseph Addai or Peyton, she picked...Drew Brees. Uh, what's up with that!?! (Her third pick was the Bears defense!) We'll see how well she does with her unorthodox drafting. Maybe there's something she knows that no one else in the Fantasy Football universe does. I guess we'll all find out come game day!

Alright, enough jibber jabber, here's my team:

Brett Favre
Peyton Manning
Fred Taylor
Cedric Benson
T.J. Duckett
Jamal Lewis
Anquan Boldin
Plaxico Burress
Mark Clayton
Mike Furrey
Owen Daniels
Zach Miller
Joe Nedney
Shane Graham
New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers

There you have it: my roster going into this weekend's game. Now I just need to figure out the starters. I guess we'll just have to see how this season pans out. Hopefully my first round pick will continue to put up numbers like he's done the past few seasons and the lower round picks will step up and put up some points. I guess only time will tell.

Day 195 - 09/03/2007

Today is Labor Day. It's a day of rest. Unless, that is, you labor in the retail establishment. If so, it's just another day at the office. Of course, with school starting tomorrow for the county kids, it's more like a day before Christmas.

Crowds were everywhere we went, regardless of the store. I took N to Kids World, Target and Wal-Mart to check out bikes (he's so too big for his current bike) and everywhere we went, the places were crowded. I can understand Target and Wal-Mart, but Kids World?!?

(The local bike store was not crowded, but the cheapest bikes in there in his size were about $300. I'm not about to pay that much for something he'll just outgrow in a couple of years.)

What prompted him getting a new bike was the family outing we had in the morning. D and I were going to run the trail while the kids rode their bikes. N kept lagging behind, however, due to him being too big for his bike. Every time he pedaled, he'd hit his knees on the handlebars. To compensate, he'd put his knees to the sides, but that just caused him to go slower. We were finally able to get the run in (with a lot of walking and water breaks as it was soooooo hot -- or at least M felt it was), but had to cut it short. Maybe next time, once N gets his new bike and is able to better keep up.

After our unsuccessful shopping trip, we changed and headed to the pool for the last time this summer. While the weather was great (highs in the upper 80s, low humidity), the water was on the cold side. I guess the cooler nights we've been having the past week or so has caused a lot of the heat in the water to dissipate and the warm days haven't been enough to compensate. Oh well, the summer is now over (from a meteorologic standpoint). It's now (again, from a meteorologic standpoint) Fall and the hot weather of summer is a thing of the past.

Day 194 - 09/02/2007

After the late night out at the party, Sunday was a much needed day of rest for all of us. I ended up not going to Mass until 5p (at St. Veronica's) and came home to a crab cake dinner. N expanded his repertoire by eating (well, gagging on) an egg noodle. You'd have thought we were feeding him roaches or something of that ilk the way he balked at it. After a tantrum and being sent to his room for a while, he finally came back down and ate it.

We're trying to get him to try foods other than his regular menu, but it's trying on our patience (as well as a peaceful dinner). That being said, there's no reason why he can't eat what the rest of us eat; there's also no reason why he still needs a special dinner. The way I see it, he's now of the age where he can either eat what we put in front of him or he can go hungry.

Day 193 - 09/01/2007

Our neighborhood Labor Day picnic was today. D volunteered to help prep and showed up at noon, only to find out that she wasn't due until 3p. However, they were looking for help in setting up the tables and chairs, so I went up and helped out. It was pretty much put together by the time I got there, but I made the lemonade and helped carry food between the clubhouse and the tent. I was happy to help out as there's a lot of work that goes into putting on the picnic. It's a lot more than just making the announcement and having people show up. I'm sure if the community knew how much work was required, there'd be a lot more involvement.

D headed over about 3p to prep and setup the sno-cone machine (she volunteered to manage this event). The kids and I walked over about 4p to help making sno-cones. They weren't too keen on walking over (it's about a 10 minute walk), but I wasn't too keen on driving as there was no reason for it. We got there and put in our time making sno-cones before being relieved by the next shift of workers. It was perfect timing as most of our friends that we invited showed up right about that time.

The party is free for residents of the community, but outsiders -- those not living in the neighborhood and therefore not paying HOA dues -- need to be invited. Between the neighbor of ours working the registration booth and our invites, we were able to have a few of our friends from outside the neighborhood attend. Both M and N enjoyed having their friends there, as did D and I. (Not that we don't have friends within the neighborhood, it's just that we're not as close to them as we are those outside the neighborhood.)

The rest of the afternoon (and evening) was spent having fun at the various booths (moonbounce, basketball toss, soccer kick, magic show, etc.) and eating two items from the carnival food group (sno-cones and cotton candy). This pretty much went on until the DJ started and the kids started dancing. N and Connor showed off their mad dancing skills on the the empty dance floor/parking lot, prompting the DJ to comment that he's never seen breakdancing to Motown before (not that it was breakdancing per se, but I'm not really sure there's a category to the way N dances).

D and N left about 830p or so, but M and I stayed late into the evening. She was having too much fun dancing with a new found friend (who shares her birthday with M and was wearing the same dress as M got for her birthday). She and I finally left about 1030p and walked home. She wasn't too keen having to walk through the woods in the dark, but the alternative (walking along Stringfellow) wasn't even an option. I held her hand through the woods, which helped her remain at ease.

Once we got out of the woods, we started looking at the stars. It was a pretty clear night, so the stars were out in mass (although the street lights didn't help the dimmer ones be seen). I tried to identify them the best I could, but I only showed that I need to brush up on my astronomy.

Day 192 - 08/31/2007

I went to the Post Office during lunch to file an insurance claim for the place settings we bought on e-Bay recently. Two of the cups were broken upon arrival. I waited in line (no numbers at the Centreville office) and after a few minutes of people watching, I was called to the counter and explained to the two (!) clerks at that position what I was there to do.

Clerk 1: T handles insurance claims.

I'm not sure who T is, but I guess s/he's the person I need to talk with.

Me: Ok. Blank stare. Uh, how about you either go get T or tell me where to go.

Clerk 2 (after a 3-4 second pause): T's not here.

Me: Ok, who can I...

Clerk 1: She's on vacation and won't be back until next week.

Me: Ok, who can I...

Clerk 2: She's the only one who handles insurance transactions.

Clerk 1: She's on vacation and won't be back until next week.

Me: Ok...

Clerk 2: You can go to the main Centreville office or the Chantilly office.

Me: Is there a form I need to fill out so that I can be ready when I arrive?

You'd have thought I asked her to call T on vacation and find it the way she gave me the evil eye. But I guess my blank stare and non-movement gave her the impetus to get moving and start getting me the form. Ten minutes later she comes back out and looks in the cabinet that is right behind her.

Bingo.

It's amazing the level of competence you get at the front lines of the post office. I wonder how successful they'd be were they a private business?

Yet I can send a letter across the country for 41¢!