Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Day 343 - 01/30/2008

I really need to learn when to let things go vs. trying to win all the battles all the time. It would really make my life a lot easier.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Day 342 - 01/28/2008

I hit the gym this afternoon and picked M and Claire up from art class.

After we got home and grabbed a bite to eat, we watched the rest of "James and the Giant Peach" (which we started last night). It was alright overall, but I don't like the way Tim Burton changed the story from the book (especially with regard to Aunt's Sponge and Spiker).

The kids seemed to enjoy it, though, so I guess it was a successful movie night.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Day 341 - 01/27/2008

I spent the day in the kitchen...for the most part.

I made some pasta with N while D and M were at Mass (I went at 1045a and they went to 1230p; N wasn't feeling up to snuff, so he got a pass). He enjoyed rolling it out and mixing the eggs in with the flour. After M got home, she and I went to the store for ingredients for the sauce. I had some mushrooms in the fridge, as well as some spinach and ricotta cheese, so I figured I'd make a couple of fillings to be used in raviolis.

M had other ideas, however, so she made some spaghetti with 1/6 of the dough. As usual, it took longer than I thought and the next thing you know, we're sitting down for dinner at 6p.

The mushroom pesto was excellent and, after adding some cream to it, it really mellowed out. Unfortunately, the garlic was overwhelming in the pesto, so I kept that to a minimum.

For dessert we had tiramisu (store-bought, not home made). It was the perfect ending to a great dinner.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Day 340 - 01/26/2008

After putting it off and putting it off, I finally went over to fix mom's computer. Her video card had gone bad and when I tried installing it last weekend, I ran into other issues. I didn't have the time last weekend, so I told her I'd be back. I called over this morning and arranged to come over and then head to the art store to select a new mat for the Jiminy Cricket cell. N came along for the ride (and to play with Sarah) as M had a couple of birthday parties lined up this afternoon/evening.

Not wanting to go back again, I really wanted to get this working before I left so I went straight to work. I was able to get past the initial error regarding the corrupt iosys directory, but whenever I tried to install the drivers for the card, I'd hit a brick wall. After 2-3 hours of working, I was finally able to get the drivers installed after extracting them from the directory that ATI's setup program created (but that Win98 indicated wasn't a Windows application). Although a couple of hours behind schedule (I planned on being done by noon-ish), we headed out to the art store -- but only after I kicked off the disk defrag process. (I really wanted it to be optimized before I left for the day).

After some discussion, we finally agreed on a new set of mats for the cell. The previous ones were cream and really didn't do much for the piece. They pretty much stopped your eyes from focusing on the picture and kept them on the mats. No good. We went with the same frame and a set of sage and black mats (the sage is the primary mat, the black one will serve as the border between the cell and the sage). I'm sure it will look much better than it did before.

After we got back from the store, I fixed the DVD player so they could watch DVDs in the bedroom. It was pretty simple as the cables had been connected to the output vs. the input. Once I switched them (and figured out which buttons needed to be pushed) it worked and N and I were done. I was rewarded for everything I did with a nice bird book. It was quite unexpected, yet also appreciated. I'm sure I'll spend quite a bit of time pouring over the book as I try to increase my knowledge of our fine feathered friends.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Day 339 - 01/25/2008

I worked from home today to be around the house when the satellite guy showed up. We're switching our box in the family room for a HD receiver/DVR, which requires a different dish up on the roof. I'm also having him run an outlet to the office so I can Tivo shows in there without having to worry about whether the kids will stumble upon them (e.g., The Sopranos). Everything went fine until I set up the box in the office. For some reason, the second tuner's no longer working. I'm going to have to call DirecTV and have them ship out a replacement. Oh well, I guess we'll be down to two Tivo boxes and two DVRs.

After he left, I put the office back together and continued working on the migration. I made great headway this morning and am looking to (one day) have this tar baby behind me. While the migration was running, I started adding new features to Melon. Two of the features were suggested by a user (allowing the font to be changed on the lists and support for 64 million colors vs. the 32 or so that are available via Delphi) and the third feature (linking files) I came up with on my own. There's a couple minor items I need to get working (e.g., drag and drop), but once that's done, Melon will be out the door and I'll start focusing on iTriTracker.

We went out and got the car before D picked up the kids from carpool. Hopefully it'll be good to go for the next year or so. Even though we've spent a big chunk of money over the past few months on car work, we're still ahead of the game vs. having to shell out a monthly payment. While I'd love to get a new car, I don't relish the monthly payments that come with them.

D and some of her friends went out to dinner and a movie tonight, as well as went to visit a friend who just had a baby, so the kids and I were left to fend for ourselves. This we much easier than I thought it would be since as soon as D left, the kids went down to the Craigs' house to play. I followed them shortly thereafter and we ended up ordering pizzas and eating over there. Burke, Ted and I hung out in the kitchen eating, drinking and shooting the breeze while the kids played in the basement.

We ended up leaving later than I had intended, but the kids were having fun and since it wasn't a school night, I wasn't too concerned. After putting them to bed, I did some more work on the migration and Melon and watched a couple of episodes of The Sopranos before hitting the sack around 1130p. Surprisingly enough, I didn't even watch any TV on the new receiver as I didn't want to bother the kids (especially after N's TV watching escapades the other night).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 338 - 01/24/2008

M had art tonight (vs. Monday due to the MLK holiday) so I picked her up on the way home from the gym. She really seems to be enjoying it, although we never really thought she wouldn't seeing as she loves drawing. Tonight they did shading with black and white. They'll start working on shading with color next week. The instructor mentioned that M is doing very well and she's quite impressed with her skill set. Apparently M's school provides a lot more art instruction than the local public school does. I guess that's one benefit of sending her to parochial school.

I had to hurry out the door to the gym and tossed on my fleece. It was a little tight for me, but I figured it was just because D had washed it recently. When I took it off later on, I checked out the label to see what the care instructions were. I looked at the size tag after seeing the recommended washing/drying instructions indicate nothing out of the ordinary. I was shocked when it read: Y 14/16! WTF? I could've sworn I bought an adult medium.

Going off on a tangent, have you noticed how clothes are getting larger while the tags are getting smaller? I don't mean the physical properties of the tag, but the article itself. I have a few shirts in my closet that are Large, yet they're billowing on me. Five years ago, these would be labeled XL, but now they're L. I guess it's just another sign that we as a society are getting fatter. Hey, why not call a spade a spade and label the shirt XXL vs.XL. Or would that hurt their fragile self-esteem?

Anyway, I finally figured out what happened to the fleece: When Doug and Nancy were up a few weeks back, Micheal took my fleece and I took his. Case closed. Now I just need to swap them before his (mine) gets shipped off to St. Vincent's.

We dropped the car off...again. This time it's should be fixed for good. As I said the other day, the wheel bearing needs to be replaced. It shouldn't take that long, but with the satellite guy coming tomorrow morning, we went ahead and dropped it off tonight and will pick it up tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day 337 - 01/23/2008

I went in and left work early in order to get the van looked at again. There's a noise coming from the rear when you hit about 25-30 mph that wasn't there before D had her date with the curb. I ended up waiting in the waiting area for about 50 pages worth of reading (which translated to about 90+ minutes). As it turned out, the rear driver wheel bearings need to be replaced. They were also damaged in the accident. Why they didn't find them the other day is beyond me, especially since the service rep indicated they had inspected the van and deemed it to be in good shape. The only wiggle room they had was if they didn't drive it faster than 10-15 mph while going from the lot to the bay and back again (which they probably should have).

I was going to have them fix it right then and there and be done with it, but they didn't have the right parts. They ordered them though, so when they arrive, I'll have to take the van in yet again. Hopefully that'll be the last of it.

Once I got home, I worked from home for the rest of the afternoon. Network traffic was sort of slow, but after 5p it picked up. I guess everyone leaves thereabouts and I had the network to myself.

The kids' school was sponsoring Chick-Fil-A Night at the local Chick-Fil-A. It's yet another fundraiser the school puts on to suck even more money out of the students families pockets. Actually, the number of fundraisers haven't been too numerous this year. In years past it seems there have been more, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

The kids complained when I told them we were taking it to go. They both wanted to stay. We could have as it wasn't the zoo it's been the past few years, but D was waiting for us to bring dinner home, so I made the executive decision to hit the road. My popularity index wasn't that great...well, not until we doled out dessert in the form of cookie's-n-cream milkshakes -- they're the bomb!

After getting the kids to bed, D and I lounged on the couch and watched junk TV. We flipped back and forth between "Deal or No Deal" and "Hogzilla" (on the National Geographic channel). While I wouldn't say I'm a fan of DoND, I enjoy watching it when I can fast forward through the show and only play it regular-like when they open the case. In between, we switched tuners and watched Hogzilla (about the quest for wild hogs, including one reported to be 12' long and weighing about 1000 pounds). It wasn't great TV, but it kept our attention until it was time to go to bed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 336 - 01/22/2008

Since I didn't go yesterday, I went to the gym today. As it turns out, the gym was closed yesterday so it all worked out fine.

I found out from Tammy (the gym manager) that the whack-job was let go last week. I can now return to working out after work without being in fear of the nuttiness. Not that I was surprised, but I wasn't the only one who had issues with her. I was but one in a sea of people who had issues with her. the thing about it though, was that she wasn't fired or relieved of duty or anything. She just didn't show up for work one day. No phone call, no nothing. Oh well, no skin off my back. Like I said, now I can go back to my regular workout schedule.

I also got my prize for the Holiday Meltdown: an exercise ball and a jump rope. Just what I need...more stuff to clutter up the basement. Oh well, I'm sure the kids will enjoy the jump rope. I was hoping for a fleece the gym was selling last month, but I guess I'll have to settle for the swag I got.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Day 335 - 01/21/2008

The kids were out of school for MLK day so I took advantage of that and went in to work early. I was meaning to go to the gym, but since I had to go to the eye doctor this afternoon, I decided against it. I'll just go tomorrow (and then Thursday).

I haven't been to the eye doctor in a couple of years and, as it turns out, I need a new prescription. I definitely need new glasses (and possibly new sunglasses as well), so I'm glad I waited to get a new pair. Of course, if my track record is any good at predicting the future, I probably won't get new glasses for a few months.

After my exam I spent my time playing guitar as my eyes were pretty dilated and I really couldn't see anything anyway. I just hung out and strummed the evening away.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 334 - 01/20/2008

We went to 1045a Mass this morning and sat in the same pew as last week. I thought D would reach over and knock me on the head for picking it. I guess I didn't realize it was the same one as last week. It wasn't too bad for me as I was further down the pew, but D and the kids had to deal with the broken kneeler again (it's missing the center support, making it sag in the middle). Whoops. Hopefully next week I'll be more cognizant.

After Mass, the kids and I hit the basement to start on the Police SWAT vehicle we're making for a Lego contest for police-themed creations. The winner gets $100 worth of Lego product (which doesn't really go as far as you would think). I'm sort of taking the lead with the design (after asking the kids for their input and their approval of how I implement it) and M will be in charge of the essay (200 words on what was made).

Of course, after getting going with the building, I got way too involved in it and completely slept on the Patriots/Chargers game. By the time I got upstairs, the game was halfway over and it was time to head out the door to mom's for dinner.

We arrived in time to watch the rest of the game and get a start on the Packers/Giants game. We also ate dinner (a ham, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, a killer green salad with killer dressing and a fruit salad. For dessert we had chocolate cake in celebration of Vince's birthday.

We made it home just in time to watch the Giants' kicker miss the winning field goal at the end of regulation. Not that it mattered as the Packers turned it over and the Giants ended up winning. Oh well, at least the Super Bowl Big Game will be a good one!

Mass, food, family, birthday,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 333 - 01/19/2008

Since N's party isn't until later tonight, he and I went downtown to the Museum of Natural History to see dinosaur bones. He's studying dinosaurs in school and asked last night if we could go to the museum today. M is going over to Haley's house (who she went to day care with all those years ago) for the day, so I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity.

We got downtown around 10a and, after circling for what seemed like an hour, we finally resorted to parking in a garage about ½ mile from the museum. N didn't like that one bit, but he didn't complain too much. After a brief jaunt through the dinosaur exhibit, he was hungry for lunch. I tried to stall him, but the boy had lunch on his mind. We finally made it to the cafeteria and sat down for a delicious lunch of museum pizza.

Sitting there, eating our pizza, enjoying a man-to-man conversation about why there were two Coca Cola machines and why there were no lids to the soda cups, I was reminded of the trip D and I took to London to see the Cure. I won the trip on the radio (actually, D won the trip...but to be really accurate, I won the trip pretending to be D because I was ineligible). Anyway, I was reminded of that trip because that was the only time in my entire life that I've eaten pizza worse than the pizza I had for lunch.

It was bad. Oh, so bad. I don't recommend it.

As people walked by our table, I looked at their trays with envy. Oh man, I could have gotten a sandwich! I thought as someone walked by with what looked like a pint-sized Dagwood.

Everyone's food looked better than mine. Oh well, I bought it and now I've got to take care of it. And seeing as I was hungry, I did take care of it: I ate all but the crust.

After lunch we headed upstairs to the Insect Zoo, where we saw all sorts of things.

Centipedes. Millipedes. Spiders. Hissing Cockroaches from Madagascar (see below). All things a five year old boy should see.

After the Insect Zoo, we decided to head to the Museum of American History to see the train they have there. Unfortunately, it's closed for renovation and won't reopen until this summer. So, with that not possible, we decided to head over to the zoo to see the more things a five year old boy should see, like crocodiles, lions, tigers and the gorillas. He wasn't impressed with the gorillas.

But he was impressed with the reptile house. We probably spent the majority of the hour we had in the reptile house, making sure we found each and every one of the animals on display. While there, I was reminded of Stephen and his fondness for cupcakes. We joke that when he eats cupcakes, he unhinges his jaw (sort of like a snake) so that he can fit the entire cupcake in at once.

Well, I found Stephen's dream jaw:

As you can see, not only would it accommodate a cupcake, but a whole loaf of bread!

After our whirlwind tour, we made it back to the car about five minutes before the hour was up. They started charging for parking a couple years back and after the first hour (at $4), the price jumps up to $12. I wasn't about to pay that.

We left the zoo and made it home in time to relax before heading back to Pump It Up for another party. I should have stayed longer than I had so I wouldn't have had to turn around shortly after getting home. N wasn't feeling it and wanted to head home.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 332 - 01/18/2008

I dropped the car off on the way to work to get the wheel replaced. D dropped me off afterwards (she then dropped the kids off at school). Mike dropped me off after work. While they had it in the shop, I also had them take a look under the hood to see if they could fix whatever's causing the squeaking. They the tune of an additional $79.

I got home and hung out for all of 30 minutes or so before I had to leave to pick up N from a Pump It Up party for Charlie. I could've stayed home for an additional 15 minutes or so and finished up what I was doing, but I didn't. I ended up hanging around Pump It Up for the extra 15 minutes while the party ended. He's got another one there tomorrow (and then one at Frozen Ropes on Monday). He's a social butterfly, he is.

That night we read the second chapter of Treasure Island.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 331 - 01/17/2008

We had our first significant snowfall of the winter today. It started around 1030a or so and really started coming down fast with flakes the size of half-dollars at times. School didn't let out early, but evening activities were canceled, so I left early to beat the high-schoolers (and parents picking up their kids) on the road. I originally planned on working the rest of the day at home, but those plans changed when I got a call from D, saying she was fine, but she needed help.

As she was rounding a curve, the van did a 180° turn and she ended up on the curb. Fortunately, there didn't appear to be any major damage (other than a broken rim). I'll have to take it in tomorrow and get it repaired. I guess I'll go ahead and bite the bullet on the alignment as well, especially since it's either a) really out of alignment; or b) back in alignment.

The kids played out in the snow until it got dark and were called in. N came in first because none of the other kids would play with him (he didn't want to walk down to where they were playing, which translated into "they didn't want to play with me"). Usually he's pretty good about getting himself involved in the mix of things, but I guess he just didn't feel it today.

D had bunco tonight, so I had the kids to myself. We started Treasure Island, getting through the first chapter before calling it a night.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 330 - 01/16/2008

Another day at the gym and another day avoiding the afternoon whack-job. I went during lunch today and found out I came in first place in the Holiday Meltdown contest. I'll get my prize on Tuesday. (Actually, I tied for first with two other people; one person came in second.) I'm not sure how that was determined -- whether it was based on reaching the goal, exceeding the goal, working out the requisite number of times, etc. -- but I'll take the prize none-the-less. I'm hoping it's a fleece that they've been selling. I could use another one to give my black one a rest every once in a while.

I had a talk with M about setting goals and how to successfully reach them. She's been upset lately about some things I won't share, but she seemed to grasp the reaching for a goal concept. She even made a goal and associated it with a deadline, which is a must if you want to successfully reach your goal. That being said, the one thing I didn't tell her about were milestones. I'll have to be sure to do so as setting a goal makes no sense if you don't have intermediate goals to use as a measure of success. I mean, if you can't tell whether you're reaching your goal, how can you tell whether you need to alter your plan?

This took longer than I had expected and by the time she was ready for bed, it was 8p. I wanted to start reading Treasure Island tonight, but after getting halfway through the first page, I closed the book. Neither of them were listening that well and I didn't have the patience to try and compete with their toys. I should have listened to D when she told me it was too late to start the book. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

So, with them in bed, I hit the sack myself. Not to sleep though, to read my book (Rising Tide). I've not been good about getting daily reading in and I really want to get onto The Historian. It's a fictional work that I've read good things about and, after reading the jacket, want to start it even more. I'm pretty sure I'll whip through that pretty quickly. Although I prefer reading non-fiction, when I do read fiction, the pages just fly by. I'm not sure whether it's due to me wanting to process the non-fiction information and relate it to the real world (especially Rising Tide and how the flooding following after Katrina might have been averted had a different decision been made 100+ years ago) or whether reading fiction is just easier. Regardless, every now and again I need a vacation and a good story provides that escape.

I quickly grew tired of reading and was under the covers by 930p and soon out like a light.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 329 - 01/15/2008

I started my second round of guitar lessons tonight, this time with David, a friend of mine and the husband of one of D's bunco players.

When I told him last June that I had started taking guitar lessons, he was excited for me, but also chastised me (light-heartedly) for not having him teach me. I responded that I'd consider that in the future, but right now, I wanted a more formal instruction program in hopes of setting down a solid foundation. He seemed alright with the response and if he wasn't, I couldn't tell.

Anyway, when I told him I had stopped taking lessons at bowling last month and that I wanted to get together with him and play around, he was again enthusiastic over the prospect. Fast forward to this month's bowling night and we set up a session for tonight.

I wasn't sure what to expect as I headed down to the basement, guitar, notebook and six pack in hand. There were two stools set up and his guitar was on the table. He followed me down with a bottle opener and, after toasting the future of playing together, he asked to see me play.

I played with a pick first ("Bare Necessities") and then strummed "Sloop John B" (sans pick). Like Gary was at the music shop, David was also impressed with my penchant for using the right fingers for the right strings/frets. I guess all the years of picking paid off.

We talked music theory a bit before getting down to business. He went over some exercises he wants me to do over the next couple of weeks in order to increase my muscle memory, as well as some strumming techniques. While it's only been one session, I feel this is the beginning of something good. David seems excited about the prospect of teaching someone and indicated this will be good for him as well as it'll give him the push to play more often.

Hopefully it will be successful. If anything, I'm glad I'm continuing on with my learning how to play. Do I wish I had taken lessons all those years ago? Sure, but I don't regret not taking them then. My only regret would be if I never took them.

It's never too late to learn something new...until it's too late to learn anything at all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day 328 - 01/14/2008

After Friday's experience at the gym, I decided to hit it over lunch instead of risking getting stuck talking to Keri again. Although I shouldn't have been, I was somewhat surprised to hear the manager talking to other members about her. Apparently I'm not the only one who feels like she's a whack job. Hopefully she'll be gone soon, otherwise I'll change my schedule permanently.

Other than that, my workout was good. It's been a couple of weeks now since I started using the TRX system and so far I'm happy with it. It provides me with a lot more of a core workout than just lifting did. But what I really like about it is that it gives me a total workout in about 25 minutes, leaving me with the time to get in 30 minutes of cardio in the same amount of time as lifting weights did.

After the gym, I swung by the bank to deposit some checks. It took about 10 minutes and when the transaction was finished, I understood why: she printed a deposit slip for me. Apparently, if there are more than five checks, a deposit slip is required. Of course, when I was there before to make a deposit and asked for a deposit slip (for the kids to fill out as I was hoping to teach them the value of saving), I was told they weren't needed as long as the account number was on the back of the check. Well, which is it? Are they required or aren't they? I tell you, more and more I think about changing banks. The only thing keeping me there is the history I've had with them (15+ years) and the hassle of changing all my direct deposit information.

D and I watched the second part of T:SCC (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles) tonight. She gave up after a while and went up to bed (partly because she was tired and partly because she grew tired of the actress playing Sarah Connor). I'm on the fence right now, but I think the one who plays the cyborg sent to protect John Connor does a pretty good job.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 327 - 01/13/2008

We had Dad and Jan over for dinner tonight to celebrate his birthday. I wasn't sure if we'd see him so I sent him his card (which contained some lottery scratchers that he parlayed into $25). The only thing we had for him was Willard's barbecue and cake. Well, that and our company! There was plenty of food to go around and after dinner we had some birthday cake. I had made a white cake with vanilla icing and then M decorated it with colored frosting. She was only able to find 36 candles, though, so we had to use the numbered ones. I'm sure it was for the best as by the time we lit 71 candles, half of them would have probably burned down to the cake. (Not to mention the smoke that would've been put off when they were blown out!)

After they left, the kids were put to bed and D and I hung out watching TV. I Tivo'd the premiere of the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and we both thought it was okay. Actually, I thought it was good enough to season pass. I thought it was better than Heroes, but then again, Heroes is comic book escapism on the boob tube and it doesn't take much to be better than that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 326 - 01/12/2008

Happy Birthday, Dad! I hope you enjoy your day!

Our plan for the day wasn't to celebrate his birthday (that'll be tomorrow), but to make some homemade ice cream and raviolis (separately, not at the same time). Things got switched around, however, as Chris invited us to the Mason basketball game. M, N and I joined Chris, Connor and Lindsay as we watched Mason trounce Northeastern 80-52. It was quite the game. The kids enjoyed it, although N didn't like it when I put him on my shoulders and jumped up and down screaming in hopes of getting a pizza delivered to us by the cheerleaders. Apparently we weren't loud enough (I think it was a lost cause from the get-go as the pies went to folks higher up in the cheap seats).

While there, I saw a few of my fraternity brothers sitting a couple rows in front of us. I wasn't able to talk to them as they hit the Patriot's Club during halftime (we went and got Dippin' Dots instead) and then we left early to get Lindsay to her basketball pictures.

After we got home, we went ahead and started the ice cream, which turned out pretty good, although it was a pain in the ass to remove the lid to get the ice cream out. Unfortunately, M threw away the wrench that makes opening the lid a snap, so I had to use a small pair of vise grips instead. Fortunately, they didn't break the lid.

We had bowling tonight, which wasn't all that great. None of us were on the entire night. Instead, we went in fits, with one of us having a great game while the others were middling. Oh well, I don't think we'll be in the hunt for anything anyway, so it looks like we're just out for fun. After bowling a group of us went over to Burke and Heather's where the guys sat around the deck in the cold trying to keep warm by the fire, while the women enjoyed the warmth of the house and stayed inside. D asked why I didn't come inside if I was cold, but I had to remain in front of the fire. It's a guy thing you know.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day 325 - 01/11/2008

Work was a scramble...with family friends coming over for dinner and my desire to get to the gym, I wanted to leave work at 230p. However, migration issues popped up, almost causing me to have to stay late. Fortunately I was able to get them resolved (at 220p), so I was able to leave work on schedule.

When I arrived at the gym, I saw a new employee overseeing the place. She looked vaguely familiar, but not instantly recognizable. As I signed in, she said "Hi, M!" and I responded with a hello, are you new here, welcome aboard, etc., before heading into the gym for a workout. As I was riding the bike, I kept trying to figure out who she was, until it finally dawned on me she looked like one of D's roommates from college.

She came out of the office a couple of times and asked me how everything was and the more I saw her, the more I thought it was her. She (D's roommate) was younger than me by a couple of years and this woman looked older by a few years. Well, maybe she's lived a hard life I thought to myself, trying to remember whether she led a partying lifestyle in college (of course she did...who didn't?).

On the way out of the gym, I stopped in to sign out and struck up a conversation with her. It went something like this:

"Did you ever go to Mason?" I asked her.

"No, but I dated a guy who went there," she responded. "He's dead now."

"Oh, sorry to hear that" I said and explained the reasoning behind the question.

"I did go to McLean High School though." she offered.

I told her that my cousins went there and told her their names.

"I know them!" she said, "I just spoke with Michelle on the other day! So you were their little brother then?"

"No, they're my cousins."



"You probably know my brothers and sisters," she said, before rattling off their names.

"No, I went to Lake Braddock."

"Oh, do you know the O'Connells? They went to Langley."

"I went to Lake Braddock."


I've got to get out of here I thought. What have I gotten myself into? As I was turning to go out the door, she shared with me that she...

"...used to work in real estate, but since the market slowdown, I decided to go into property management. How long have you worked here?"

"About 12 years."

"Wow, that's a long time. So you worked for the company before they were bought?"


"Which property do you manage?"


"I don't," I told her and explained who I worked for.

"My brother-in-law works for them in Falls Church. Do you think you could get him a job out here?"

"He can check out the openings online."

"So, do you have any kids?"

At this point, I really wanted to just say "see ya" but for some reason I was fixed to the spot.

"Two. One of each."

"Oh, can I see them?" she asked, putting her hand out.

"I don't carry pictures of them with me. My wallets in the car anyway."

"So do you live around here?"

"I live nearby," I told her, not wanting to answer more than I needed to.

"I'm babysitting for my sister tonight, she has two kids." As she shared this, she held up four fingers, quickly putting one of them down so only three remained. "They're angels."

"Alright, well, enjoy that gig, I've got to run to pick up dinner." I told her and left before responding. As I was heading out the door, she stood up and put her hand out before pulling it back in.

"Sorry, she said, I would shake your hand, but it's covered with Cheetos debris. I guess I'll see you next time you come in. When do you work out?"

"Monday, Wednesday and Friday." I told her, trying to figure out why I told her that the second the words had left my mouth.

"See you then!"

I fled. I got into my car and got out of there as fast as possible, expecting to see her come out of the gym and follow me or something. I think I'll have to rearrange my workout schedule so I workout at lunch (or in the morning) from now on. I really have no desire to interact with that whack job unnecessarily.

Fortunately normalcy was just around the corner at home. When I got there, Doug, Nancy and Michael had already arrived, along with Pat and Larry (Larry served in the Air Force with Dough back in the '60s, Pat is his wife), their daughter Janet, son-in-law Mike and their two kids Taylor and Garrett. Garret's a musical prodigy and can pretty much teach himself whatever song he hears two or three times. After hearing him play for a while, we ate dinner (I got Willard's on the way home), before heading back into the family room for some more playing. I'm not sure why, but N brought my guitar up for me to play. I guess I should be happy that he thinks my playing is on par with Garrett's (who's pretty darn good!).

I played the few songs that I know and flubbed a few times as well. Afterwards, I got some feedback from Garrett on the intro and outro for a song and was quite embarrassed when he told me what it was. I couldn't believe how simple it was!

After they left and the kids were in bed, I sought out a couple new songs to learn and hit the basement to play guitar until the wee hours of the morning. D went to bed as she was beat after subbing today and then hosting, so she didn't get to hear me learn the strum pattern for "Bad Moon Rising" (which some might say is a good thing).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 324 - 01/10/2008

I finally made it to Barnes & Noble to return the duplicate book and CD I got for Christmas. I got store credit as I meant to spend it. I ended up getting Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (both unabridged) for reading to the kids and Feist "The Reminder" for myself.

I got home and N had already been bathed and on his way to bed shortly. He's been a bear to get up lately, so an early bedtime is needed for all. M needs to follow suit, so after a bout in the basement, both were in bed. (Although we were shooting for 730p, it was more like 750p for N and 815p for M.)

Afterwards, I read, played the guitar and hung out with D until she went to bed. She's working tomorrow (subbing for M's teacher), so it'll be an early day for her. I should have joined her in bed, but I had other intentions (like staying up way past my bedtime). Oh well, I'll catch up on my sleep...eventually.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 323 - 01/09/2008

I hit the gym again today and am still working out with the TRX suspension strap. While I enjoy working out with it, I need to learn to breath better as my head feels like it's going to pop at times.

N and I went for a run tonight (up to the corner and back). He seems to be excited about the prospect of doing track this spring (vs. baseball). If only M would share his enthusiasm. She ended up staying home after throwing a fit because D and I told her to do something.

It's amazing the difference in their personalities and how they react when asked to do something. M acts like she's been asked to clean up the world, whereas N does it and moves on (although sometimes he can be as difficult as M can, those times are few and far between). Based on this, I've become more of a "nature vs. nurture" believer. Sure, we can help the kids do their best and try to steer them down the right path in life, making the right choices (or, when they make a bad choice, help them recognize that and learn to correct it), but in the end, they are who they are.

I can recall a conversation I had with a colleague of mine once. We were talking about our childhoods and all the things we did that would have gotten us into trouble had we been caught. At some point in the conversation, I told him that even while I was doing those things, I knew deep down inside that I was a good egg and, at some point in time, those good intentions would take over. He sat there listening to me ramble on and when I was done he just nodded his head and agreed: he felt the same way.

But what caused the changes? Was our environment? Our drive to succeed? What was it that caused me to go from a troubled kid to a successful member of society? And who's to say I'm a success? What is the yardstick for success? Is it owning a home? Having a steady job? Going on vacation once a year? Who made these measurements up and why were positive things used?

I really don't know.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day 322 - 01/08/2008

Since nothing really extraordinary happened today, here's a little something that I've been thinking of writing about lately...

As the sun breaks in the east and climbs higher in the sky, the soldiers turn their faces to catch it's light. Farther down the ranks, the newly enlisted are reaching for the sky so that they might become equals to their comrades. They reach and grow and climb toward the sky, ever so adamant on gaining ground. It's a hard process, but eventually they might make it, if only to get cut down in their prime.

That doesn't stop them, as they get right back on the train and ride it towards the sky. They'll be cut again though. And again. And again.

The process is never ending.

Along the way they have to deal with the prospect of being trampled underfoot by those who don't know any better.

They've got to deal with chemical warfare that weeds out the undesirables and droughts that can kill the less hardy of the bunch.

Life is hard for them, but they never stop trying. When given the chance, they spread their seed, looking to pass along their bloodline to the future generations. At times they'll enlist foreigners to help them, other times they leave it to the whim of the wind, not knowing (or caring?) where their offspring grow up. This doesn't apply to all of them though: some like to keep their family close by, connected to their roots. This helps them maintain community, but it also helps them when being eradicated: Get one and you'll not have a problem finding it's kin.

Some of them are closely watched and cared for. This allows them to flourish, with nary a care in the world about bad seeds moving into their neck of the woods. Others are watched for fun, but no hand takes part in their upkeep. Others are ignored for years on end and end up living in squalor amongst some of the less desirables. Eventually their numbers will plummet and they'll soon be the minority in a sea of the unwanted.

Kermit the Frog had it right when he sang "It's not easy being green" all those years ago. As you have seen above, life for a blade of grass isn't a walk in the woods.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day 321 - 01/07/2008

Tonight's the BCS Championship game and I couldn't even make it through it. I fell asleep at one point and called it quits sometime in the second half. Oh well.

On another note, I've been doing a lot of thinking about things and have a few ideas of things that need to be built. I won't share them here just yet, but suffice it to say if these ideas are able to be put into use, there's a market for them and they'd bring value to the masses. Both ideas lean towards being green and would use user generated electricity to power the devices.

All I need to do is investigate how to create a dynamo and, once the power's been generated, how to store it for later use.

Yep, that's pretty much it. It sounds pretty easy, but in reality, I'm sure it'll be a bit more complicated.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Day 320 - 01/06/2008

While the kids watched a show in the basement, I used the quiet time to continue my quest to file the papers from last night. I used the kitchen table to separate the items into piles and then file them in their appropriate folders. There's still a stack that I need to sort again (I ran out of room, even with using two chairs and two bar stools), but for the most part, the pile is gone. Over the course of the morning I shredded paper in spurts so as not to overheat and kill the shredder (which I've done once before). I didn't get all the shredding done until after dinner, though, and after it was all said and done, filled up two garbage bags with shredded paper. I was quite impressed!

After procrastinating the better part of the morning, we finally made it to Mass at 1230p. Father Tony gave an extended homily and asked us for money for him to take back to India with him where $1 buys one person food for a day. After Communion, it appeared we were about to finish up when he invited a seminarian from Philadelphia to speak about vocations. You should have seen the collective groaning that went on throughout the congregation. We ended up leaving church about 145p, which wasn't so bad, but M and I needed to be at a friend's birthday party at 215p and we were cutting it short.

On our way home, Lori called and said she was at our house. D offered to watch Connor during the party but never heard back (Lori called while we were at church), so was surprised about the call. Not to worry, though, as we were just a minute or so from home. They dropped Connor off and left for the party; M and I weren't far behind.

Caroline's party was at ShadowLand by the Expo Center in Chantilly. It's a laser tag facility that hosts lots of kids parties. I had never been, but had a blast at paint ball, so I figured I'd enjoy this as well; I was right. (Chris had invited some dad's to attend and play along with the girls.) As it turned out, I came in first in the first game and third in the second game. Most of the kids were gunning for me in the second game which made it hard for me to be active and get any points. All in all it was a great time and fun was had by all.

Upon arriving at home, I immediately sat down and started watching the late playoff game (Chargers vs. Titans). After a few minutes relaxing, we started taking down Christmas decorations and a few hours later were done. Everything was put away until next year. We must've either gotten rid of a lot of stuff (not!) or D must've just packed more efficiently as we had an extra storage bin leftover after everything was put away. I made use of it with a garland and some lights, though, so it won't be sitting empty over the course of the next year.

While getting the kids ready for bed, N lost his first tooth. It's been on the verge of coming out for a week or so now and D finally got it out tonight. There was a mad scramble to find the tooth container for the tooth fairy (M has a little cylinder designed to hold the tooth until the tooth fairy can retrieve it), but we were able to find it before N went to bed. He handled it much better than M ever did, but I guess boys and girls are just different in that regard.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day 319 - 01/05/2008

I took advantage of the break in the weather (it was about 50° or so and dry) and took down the outside lights. Although the Christmas season doesn't end until February, it was time to take down the decorations. We'll take the indoor decorations up until tomorrow, but after that, it's business as usual.

D went to a baby shower for Donna, so it was just the kids and I at home. We spent the afternoon watching the 'Skins lose (as I had expected) and then they were off to bed. N's tooth is loose and we tried to jimmy it out, first with floss and then with my fingers, but it's just not ready yet. I told him about how I would yank the tooth out as a boy by tying floss to it and then the other end around a door knob. I would then slam the door and the tooth would pop out. I don't recall how many times I did that, but I know it was at least once. It worked, but I didn't feel like doing that to him in case it wasn't ready to come out. Compared to M, though, he's not shy about wanting it out (nor is he afraid of the blood).

After the kids got to bed, I focused on sorting through various papers that need to be filed. After putting the safe to use, I discovered a Xerox box full of papers going back to 2004 that needed to be filed (or shredded, as the case may be). I spent most of the night doing just that while watching the Steelers-Jaguars game in the office. I was glad to see the Jaguars win, although I think they'll give the Patriots a tougher time than the Steelers would have.

Looking through the papers, I came across lots of old stuff (as was expected), including the trail of appeals to United Healthcare concerning their payment for the neonatalogist called in when N was born. They said he was out of network and therefore would only pay 25% of the bill (vs. 90%). Our argument was that since this was an emergency situation, they should treat it as such. As it turns out, the neonatalogist's office was at fault for not having a contract with the insurance company and they had to end up eating the amount we owed.

Compare that with the estimated cost worksheet we got from Aetna for how much it would cost us in out of pocket expenses when M was born and the difference couldn't have been greater: She was (literally) the $5 baby. It's amazing how much healthcare coverage changed in just four years.

What's even more ridiculous is that now that I'm working for a company with 100k+ employees, we're paying more in healthcare costs (deductibles, coverage, co-pays, etc.) than we were when I was working for a 500+ employee company. I guess the savings is passed on to the shareholders vs. the employees. I hope that maybe, just maybe, this will change in the coming months as open season comes up on the calendar, but, for some reason, I don't think it will. If anything, I would expect to see another increase in healthcare costs. Oh well, at least we have insurance.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Day 318 - 01/04/2008

Today was the last day of the Holiday Meltdown at the gym. When the contest started, I weighed in at 184 with 21.5% body fat. As of this morning, I was 179.5 with 20% body fat. My goal was to lose 3-4 pounds over the past six weeks (averaging ½ pound per week or so), something I didn't think would be too difficult on a regular basis. Over the holidays though, with all those sweets, calorie laden beverages and stuff yourself until you pop dinners, I didn't think I'd lose that much. Of course, the 184 could have been on the heavy side for the day and the 179.5 might have been on the low end for the day, so maybe it wasn't a full 4.5 pounds loss. Regardless, I'm happy with the results and am looking forward to continuing my workouts into the new year. Of course, the new year also means there are new members to contend with. The gym isn't that big to begin with, so every new member that's added means more contention for the various machines.

A new "machine" was added over the past few weeks, but today was the first time I used it. Tammy (the manager) has been trying to get members to try it out since she got it, but it wasn't until today that I did. This machine actually isn't a machine, but simply a strap with handles for your hands (which you also use for your feet). The exercises don't do anything other than work your entire body with a series of resistance exercises. After performing 9 of the 12 exercises outlined in the exercise sheet, I was spent. (I didn't do the first three as they were leg specific and I didn't feel like putting too much pressure on the knees.) It'll take a few weeks of this to see if it will replace the weights, but if since I felt sore in places I didn't used to after working out, maybe there's something to it.

Later on, I checked out how much it would cost to get the strap for home use (I figure I'm paying $360 per year for the gym, why not get this machine for home use and save!). I was somewhat shocked to see it being offered for upwards to $200 (for basically a set of straps you could buy at Lowe's). I guess the R&D budget needs to get funded somehow. I'll pass for now (or look on e-Bay at some point in the future).

Upon arriving home, the kids and I worked on Lego into the early evening. We started building everything a few days ago when N found the instructions to the ambulance. We had everything except for one piece, so I figured we'd just keep building until we found the piece. Well, three days later we still haven't found the piece we're missing. Smokey has a penchant for eating Lego pieces, so that's where I'll place the blame right now. (Of course, with the kids and how well they keep track of their items, you never know where you might find it!)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Day 317 - 01/03/2008

Well, as much as we tried, we just couldn't get out the door. I overslept (I vaguely recall turning the alarm off) and the kids were anything but jumping out of bed when I tried to wake them up. I'm not sure if M's alarm went off or not, but if it did, it didn't wake her up. By the time we were out the door and off to school, they were late. I'll have to check the time on the wall clock in the kitchen as that's what I was going by. It appears it's ten minutes slow, though, so maybe I should check the time by committee (e.g., use the oven, microwave and my watch as well).

In the rush to get out of the house, I couldn't find my glasses and I couldn't take the time to search for them. Before heading to bed last night, I put them on the counter where my crap is kept during the week. This morning, however, they weren't there. I did a quick search through the basement and upstairs, but couldn't find them. With that in mind, I made sure to leave early enough from work so I could wear my sunglasses on my way home from work before it got too dark. While they'll work at night, I don't want to channel the likes of Corey Hart as I'm driving down the road.

With the winter weather moving in, I had an itch to get out and run in it all afternoon. Since I was home early and there were no concrete dinner plans (leftovers for the kids, fending for the adults), I decided to hit the road for a run. I layered properly to combat the cold, but failed to wear a neck warmer (which also doubles as a face guard if I so desired). I also failed to keep an acceptable pace while I warmed up and I paid for it: A half mile down the road I had to stop and walk while I worked out some side stitches. Two or three minutes later I was running again, but the damage was done. I ended up barely going 2.5 miles. While I was glad I did it after I was done, I wasn't too happy with the result. After getting home, my throat was raw from the cold. Next time I'll make sure I'm properly outfitted.

After putting the kids to bed (reading them the short story adaptation of "Babes in Toyland" from Disney's Fantasyland anthology), D and I retired to the basement where I played "Sloop John B" for her on the guitar. I was playing around the other day and came across part of the chord progression. They seemed pretty easy so I downloaded the full chords and lyrics yesterday and picked it up pretty easily. D thought I played it a little too fast, but it was even. I worked on slowing it down some and with a little more practice, will have it down pat.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day 316 - 01/02/2008

Well, the party's over, I headed back to work after being off for the past week and a half and the kids headed back to school after being off for almost two weeks. Whoops! My bad, they're off today as well. They go back tomorrow. D gets one more day of quality, house-bound time with the kids before sending them back to school.

With the kids not in school, I came into work early so I could hit the gym after work and still get home at a reasonable hour. It's the last week of the Holiday Meltdown at my gym and I've been pretty religious about getting in my 3 workouts per week (except for those weeks where the gym has been closed, then it's only been 2 workouts per week). While I'm not seeing the results I was hoping for, I didn't gain anything since Thanksgiving, so that's a plus. Hopefully I'll see a decrease in percentage of body fat come Friday.

N found some Lego instructions for his ambulance this afternoon, so after dinner we hit the basement to put it together. Now that the basement is somewhat organized, we're more likely to hang out down there. I still need to figure out what to do with Grandpa Pete's desk, but other than that, the space is usable.

After putting the kids to bed, I was back in the basement to watch the Fiesta Bowl where OU took on West Virginia. Hoping it'd be a game like last year's (Boise State vs. OU), I was somewhat disappointed. While it wasn't a bad game, it wasn't great either. I turned it off and hit the sack around 11p.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Day 315 - 01/01/2008

Happy New Year!

2008 started off the way 2007 ended...on the dance floor. As I said yesterday, we stayed out pretty late and didn't get to bed until after 3a. I was up a couple of times during the night and even contemplated getting up at 9a, but thought better of it. I'm glad I did. I finally rolled out of bed around 11a, giving me my just about 8 hours of sack time.

I spent most of the day in the basement finishing the shelves. I skipped breakfast and fueled my motor with coffee instead. D made some coffee for me as well (not thinking I had made any) and so I was double-dosing. The jitters finally hit around 4p and I had to take a break. That was perfect timing as friends of M and N were over so we spent some time visiting with Tim and Jen while the kids played. After they left, I headed back to the basement to finish the shelves.

Once they were done, I started filling them with various and sundry items. I set up the safe and, after one final sweep of the floor, rolled the Shop-Vac into place. I called D down for a final reveal of the project and we both considered it a success. It looks much better than it did before and makes the space look much better (as I was hoping it would). Now if only we can get rid of the pile of garage sale worthy crap, we'd be nearing the finishing line in terms of getting the basement in order. Given that we've been in the house for a little over 2.5 years, I'd say we're doing pretty good. I'm sure there are other folks who would've done it in 6 months, but we had other projects to focus on around the house. Our attention didn't get focused on the basement until three or four months ago.

After the late night last night, we all hit the sack a little earlier than usual (well, what's become usual over the past few weeks). I still stayed up later than I should have, but that's the price to be paid for being a Bowl fan: Regardless of who's playing, I'll be watching it. You never know when you'll come across a game like Boise State vs. OU last year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Day 314 - 12/31/2007

After getting to bed around 1230a last night (this morning), I was up and ready for work around 10a. I didn't go into the office, but I did start on building the shelving unit for the work area. I went out and got the wood last week (after sketching out the plans) and had the day ahead of me to work on it.

After working for 4-5 hours on it, I had half of it done, but needed to head out to the store to get some more wood screws (I thought I had two boxes at home, but only had one). After striking out at Wal-Mart and Target (they only have 4 packs and I needed 25 at least), I headed over to Lowe's, where I was able to get in and out by using the secret cashier. Actually it's not really a secret, it's just that no one is ever there, even if the rest of the lanes are packed with people checking out. Maybe people just don't know about it or maybe they think it's for contractors only. Whatever the reason, I don't care; this is a secret I'll not share (although I guess I just did, right?!?).

We decided to go to Mass tonight vs. tomorrow as we'll probably not be in the mood to go anywhere, depending on how late things go tonight.

Meghan came over around 745p and D and I left shortly thereafter to meet over at the Pettis' house before heading over to the club. We're not members, but a few of our friends are and they invited us to attend. It was quite the time and fun was had by all. The food was delicious and the bar was open, making for some uninhibited party goers as the night went on. Fortunately we were in the room with the DJ (vs. the jazz quartet) so that we were able to cut a rug on the dance floor. After ringing in the New Year, we partied some more before it all ended. Well, the party ended, but the bar remained open, so that's where we congregated. We finally left and didn't get to bed until past 3a.

I can't say for sure when the last time it was that I was up that late, but I hope the next one won't be for a long, long time. I'm getting too old for these late night escapades!