Saturday, October 30, 2004

Rarer than a three dollar bill

Me posting on Saturday, that is.

I'm running a bunch of reports this morning and so have a minute or two between each job before I have to kick-off the next one.

So, I'm taking this opportunity to do a little site maintenance and add a new "face" to the blogroll. Y'all go by and visit Hatless in Hattiesburg for a regular dose of politics and philosophy and a weird blog-related dream or two. (See! I'm not the only one!)

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    Friday, October 29, 2004

    Boo! Two

    Well it's been a whole year since I made this list. I thought it might be amusing to review/update it. Then again, it might NOT be amusing - I guess it just depends on whether or not your sense of humor is as twisted as mine...

    Well, it's Halloween.

    In recognition, here is a list of things that I'm scared of (in no particular order).

    • Teenaged drivers (including my daughter...sorry honey)
    • My mother-in-law coming to live with us
    • Zedekiah Hatfield burning down my house
    • My boss' pink blouse/red jumper outfit
    • Having to work until I'm 80
    • Hillary Clinton
    • Finding a rubber cockroach in my blackberry cobbler (it's a long story)
    • Not being able to tell the difference between people laughing with me and laughing at me
    • Chatting up people I don't know
    • Picturing Michael Moore naked

    What scares you?

    Let's see now ...

    Teenaged drivers still scare me, although my daughter has improved dramatically since last year. (Tuesday night's incident notwithstanding)

    My mother-in-law IS living with us.

    Zedekiah Hatfield has been a little less active this past year, although I do still watch him out of the corner of my eye when he's out in his (junk)"yard".

    My boss still has the pink/red outfit, but I haven't seen it lately. She's pregnant so it may not fit. Today she's wearing a black jumper with an orange blouse ... I don't think she appreciated my "Great Pumpkin" reference.

    I no longer fear having to work until I'm 80. I've already resigned myself to this. Now I fear working until I'm 90.

    Hillary Clinton? Still as scary as ever.

    The rubber cockroach/blackberry cobbler phobia. Still there. A company luncheon not to be forgotten.

    My default setting is that people laugh AT me. Which is ok, I guess, since it relieves any pressure I might feel to conform and be popular. If they're already laughing, I might as well act the way I want and say the things I want. And if it turns out they were really laughing WITH me? Well, that's just a bonus.

    Chatting up people I don't know? Well, present company excluded of course, I still fear talking to folks I don't know. I can talk in front of groups of people I don't know - that doesn't really bother me, but the one-on-one social situations where small talk is required. Run away! Run away!

    And picturing Michael Moore naked? People say there are certain things they would NEVER do. I say you don't know what you're capable of. Especially when the consequence of not doing something is being forced to look at pictures of Michael Moore naked. If there is ever another round of Geneva Accords, this will be specifically outlawed as a crime against humanity.

    So what else has crept into my psyche this year and wreaked havoc with my insecurities?

    • The network administrator will start blocking blogs.

    • The Youngest Aardvark Child discovers boys.

    • At the last minute, the EAC changes her name to "Hadijah", decides to skip college, and joins a commune.

    • My mother-in-law will come to live with us. (What? Why are you looking at me like that?)

    • Two words - President Kerry.

    So, I ask again, what scares YOU?

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    What dreams may come

    Y'all know how hard it is to craft words just so. (Yes, to write this poorly takes YEARS of practice)

    This morning I dreamt I was a speech writer, writing stump speeches for Dick Cheney. That part's a little weird, but the really weird part is I also had to craft the speeches so they could be delivered not just by Dick Cheney but also by a giraffe.

    Which I guess got me to thinking about giraffes and wondering if they chewed their cud. I concluded that they must not as the force it would take to get the cud back up from their stomach(s?) would probably cause them to explode. It's quite the visual. And it does make you thankful that I wasn't in charge the day giraffes were created or we'd have some real messes to clean up.

    Between speeches.

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    This guy looks familiar

    Saw a clip of the latest terrorist threat. This guy is sitting there with a scarf covering everything but his eyes. He looks like kind of a big guy. Maybe with a roundish face. Then he gestures with his hands.

    I looked over at Mrs. A and asked, "When did Michael Moore become a Muslim?"

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    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line

    I don’t know what that has to do with anything in this post, but I felt like saying it. So there.

    There’s a relatively new Volkswagen commercial that I’ve seen a couple of times. It invokes several urges in me. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, none of them is the urge to go out and buy their car.

    The commercial shows a woman in her late twenties/early thirties driving along farm roads. Sprinklers are running in the fields she’s passing. A shot of the interior shows that every few seconds the car seems to be jerking, like the engine is not hitting on all cylinders. An overhead show shows the car pulling to the side of the road. The woman gets out, opens the back door and now you see the source of the problem. There is a toddler, somewhere in the two to three range, who has been swinging his feet, kicking the back of Mom’s (as we now know her) seat. She reaches in and …

    Adjusts the seat backwards, thereby moving Junior far enough away so that his precious little tootsie-wootsies no longer reach the back of Mama’s seat. (Obviously Junior is deficient in the brains area as he tries to kick the back of Mama’s seat and can’t quite reach. Any toddler worth his salt would know that SLOUCHING DOWN in the car-seat is good for at least another two to three inches of reach) The marketing tag is that the new Volkswagen ________ (I’m too lazy to look up the model) has WAY more room than before.

    Let’s just say that if that was MY child, the part after the ellipse two paragraphs above would have been DRAMATICALLY different.

    I spend all my time in this commercial yelling at the Mom to quit tolerating Junior’s bad behavior and do something radical like telling him to STOP. Instead she simply removes him from the situation. Don’t get me wrong, that CAN be a good solution. (I've used it myself a time or two.) Maybe it’s just that over the years I’ve seen this technique used by too many parents, specifically the ones that wind up with kids who act like devil-spawn because they’ve never heard “NO” spoken and meant and they’ve never had any limits placed on their behavior.

    I get this mental picture of Junior as a surly 10 year-old, still kicking the back of Mom’s seat because she won’t take him to the skate park so he can hang out with his other delinquent buddies. And Mom is still trying to be non-confrontational by moving her seat as far forward as possible.


    Maybe I just need therapy.

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    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    "Reverse" Psychology

    Got a call from the Eldest Aardvark Child at about 8:30 last night indicating that she had finished work and was fixin’ to head home.

    Got a second call from the EAC at about 8:32.

    “I just hit a car in the parking lot!”

    She had dinged it a little and had dinged ours a little more. She didn’t know what to do, so she just pulled back into the spot she had been trying to back out of. “I hit the gas and it went faster than I intended to and so I backed into the other car!!!!”

    I reassured her that everything was going to be ok, and that she should just sit tight and we’d be there in a couple of minutes.

    Gathered up Mrs. A and headed out. Mrs. A called the EAC while we were in the car and gave her that reassurance that only a Mom can give. The EAC called again to tell us the folks with the other car had shown up and that they didn’t seem too upset. At that point we were less than a minute away, so once again we told her to sit tight.

    Got there and found that she’d hit a Ford Expedition. Mostly, she just scuffed the bumper. There was a light scratch a little higher that may or may not have been caused by this incident, but even so probably wouldn’t require more than just some touch-up paint. Our car had a little cosmetic damage to the bumper – mostly a scuff mark (it may have cracked the plastic – hard to tell in the dark) and broken the right rear taillight. Of course the whole taillight assembly will have to be replaced since it’s all of a piece nowadays, and I fully expect it to cost $100 or more. But I think that’s getting off pretty cheap.

    Mrs. A is calling our insurance guy today to warn them that a claim may be filed. If so, it should be minor, although with my lack of faith in the basic goodness of human nature, I wouldn’t be surprised if they claimed their car was totaled. Hopefully not. They seemed like nice folks, not that that matters when dollar signs appear.

    A digital camera sure would have come in handy to document the damage. Oh well.

    Anyway, Mrs. A drove the offending vehicle home and I followed her with the EAC riding along. More reassurance was given along with the reinforcement that she had done the right thing by calling and by sticking around and owning up to what happened with the other folks.

    When she had settled down, I did tell her that from now on when she called to tell us she was on her way home I was going to admonish her to “drive like a bat-out-of-hell.”

    She looked at me, shocked. “What!?!” (I don’t usually say things like that - using the “h – e – double toothpicks” word, as Radar O’Reilly would say)

    “Well, I told you tonight to ‘drive careful’ and you saw how well that worked…”

    Believe it or not, that seemed to relax her a little. I hope she thought that if Dad could joke about it, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after all.

    The big test will be on Saturday when she works again. Need to get her back on that horse…

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    All Points Bulletin

    Reported Missing: Tuesday.

    Last seen in the vicinity of Monday. Reported to be carrying a full 24 hours and not afraid to use them.

    Bystanders reported Tuesday to be jittery and nervous, jumping from minute to minute while muttering something about “cupcakes.”

    Approach with caution – extreme flight risk – may be gone before you realize.

    Anyone spotting Tuesday should notify the authorities immediately.

    Even though Tuesday can have a gentle, reassuring “Hey, I’m not Monday” appearance, Tuesday can become nasty and bitter without warning. Tuesday should be considered extremely hostile. Citizens are urged NOT to attempt to negotiate or capture Tuesday on their own. Citizens attempting to take matters into their own hands may find themselves waking up Wednesday with no recollection of their encounter with Tuesday.

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    Monday, October 25, 2004

    Where to start?

    Well, as I mentioned previously, I did a two-step with a headache off and on most of the day on Friday. I felt muy bueno after eating lunch, but then started to feel a little puny again later in the afternoon. (I figured out later that I’d forgotten to take my sinus pill that morning – duh) Still went to the football game to watch the band march. It rained before the game and then stopped and started again mid-way through the first quarter. By the time the band marched at half-time, it was coming down pretty steadily, but not in buckets as it oftentimes does here in Texas.

    The band came back to the stands and after the opening kickoff for the third quarter, they marched right back out to the bus and headed for dryer climes. It didn’t break my heart to go home early.

    As for the game, I’m glad we didn’t stay, even though our boys did win it in the end. It only took 4 overtimes to do it. Us old geezers need our sleep.


    Got up on Saturday and decided that I’d go vote on my way to work. Got to the main early voting site in bee-you-tee-full downtown Fort Worth and discover that the county has gone all high-tech on me. First time I’ve used an electronic voting machine. It was pretty simple to operate, but I still prefer the old paper ballots. With paper, you at least have some proof you were there. If some of those “1”s and “0”s decide to migrate where they don’t belong or die or reproduce and you wind up with a corrupted data file, I’m not sure you can ever convince most reasonable folks that it’s been recovered without errors. (not to mention the rather large subset of folks who are regular listeners of Art Bell) Sometimes low-tech is still better.

    I’m reminded of the cartoon where the sales guy spends ten minutes searching through the on-line real-time inventory to see if a particular item is in stock while standing next to a stack of that very item.

    Anyway, I don’t suppose it will come as a great surprise to know that I chose George W. Bush over John “Nuance This” F. Kerry. I mentioned before that most of the offices had an unopposed candidate, all Republicans with the exception of the Constable in my precinct, who is a Democrat. Probably the closest I’ve ever come to voting a straight party ticket. I did vote for one Republican candidate as a protest vote. The incumbent for the State House Representative is a Democrat, and all-in-all, I have no real complaints about the job he’s done. I almost voted for him until I remembered the redistricting fiasco of last year and how his fellow Democrats left the state rather than stay and vote.

    The other thing that ran through my mind as I was using the electronic voting machine was “flu season.” How often do they clean these machines anyway? Certainly not after every use. What if the guy who used this last had just picked his nose or sneezed or something? Ewwwww. Germ city. I rotated the dial and pressed the buttons using just my thumb. Then, as soon as I got to work, I went and washed my hands with soap. Another reason paper ballots are better.


    Saturday afternoon it was off to the local stadium for the 3A Area Marching Band Competition. The competition started at 9 AM, but we didn’t play until 3:30 and so I just snuck in (so to speak) late. The performance went well and the Eldest Aardvark Child’s brief solo was flawless (naturally). Twenty-five bands had advanced from the Region Competition to the Area Competition. Of those, ten would be selected to compete in the evening finals. The top five of those would advance to state.

    Finalists were announced about 5:30. Sweet. We made it. Not only that but by the luck of the draw, we played first at 7:15. The second performance went as well as the first, maybe even a little better. I grabbed the Youngest Aardvark Child and headed for the house. Mrs. A stayed with the EAC (and the rest of the band) until about 10:30 or so when the bands advancing to state were announced.

    Next weekend Mrs. A will be traveling with the band to San Antonio as they compete in the state finals. They leave Sunday night, compete Monday and return on Tuesday.

    I tell you, there’s nothing quite like living vicariously.

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    Friday, October 22, 2004

    Yes sir, that’s my baby

    The Youngest Aardvark child was awakened with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung in two-part harmony (well the last part of it anyway). This is somewhat of a tradition for the Aardvarks. I also measured her up against the door frame. Little stinker has grown a full two inches since last year. Most of it in the last couple of months. She got to open a couple of presents (from her sister and from Grandmother) this morning, but she has to wait until tonight to reel in the rest of the haul. We got her a new CD/Cassette/Radio for her room (the last one died some months back) and a new portable CD player to replace the El Cheepo one she got as a prize in some fund-raiser or another.

    We took her to dinner last night at TGI Friday’s (her choice). You know, following the Aardvark’s dinner conversation requires one to have a certain amount of the right kind of geekiness. (Fortunately, we specialize in geek, so it’s only awkward if we’re entertaining guests.) Many movie references were made and Mrs. A wound up with the best line of the night, remembering a line the rest of us had forgotten and inserting it at just the right moment. Plus, there was chocolate for dessert, so a good time was had by all. Guaranteed.

    Just in case you don’t believe the Aardvark children carry their parent’s genes, I should also probably tell you that the YAC is getting the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back for her birthday as well. (Oooooo – Darth Vader’s theme!!!!) And yes, it WAS on her list. I’m so proud.

    Happy Birthday sweetie!

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    “I think I’m going to hurl!”

    I got to work this morning feeling ok, but I hadn’t been sitting at my desk for more than ten minutes before my head started to hurt … and I wasn’t even thinking about Jimmy Carter. And, as sometimes happens with headaches, I started feeling very nauseous (WAY too many vowels in that word – nauseous). Almost to the point where I needed to go lie down. Almost.

    Decided around noonish that mayhaps I should go try to stick some comestibles down my gullet to see if that would make things better (or worse ‘cause then I could rationalize going home). (Un?)Fortunately, that seemed to be the cure. So, on the plus side I no longer feel like I’m going to see the remnants of last night’s dinner, but on the minus side I have no plausible excuse for leaving work early.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the way it turned out is the better of the two, but I wish I felt better AND could go home.

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    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Let fly the Aardvarks of War!

    I dunno.

    Just liked the way it sounded, that's all...


    In other news, it chaps me just a little (ok, more than a little) to hear how Fidel Castro is talked about by the not-so-main-stream-anymore media. On the radio this morning, he was referred to as "The President" of Cuba for the last 45 years. You know, just like President Clinton or President Bush. It's the same thing in the end, right? Like the people of Cuba just love him and keep voting him into the Presidency or something. Those wacky Cubans just love their Castro. They just can't get enough of that free medicine and schooling down there. It's a worker's paradise, don't you know. I mean, that's the only explanation for him being President for the last 45 years, right? No mention that he is a dictator who's kept his boot on the people's throat while single-handedly (ok, he had a little help. See: Guevara, Che) turning Cuba into a Third-World slum. President. Yeah, I know that's what he calls himself, but I call myself an Aardvark when the truth is (warning of impending shocking revelation) no matter how much I call myself an Aardvark, I'll never REALLY be one.

    Would it he too hard to call Castro the "self-proclaimed" President of Cuba, or the "so-called" President of Cuba or the "un-elected" (unless someone other than Jimmy Carter "legitimizes" it anyway) President of Cuba? Yes. Yes, it would be too hard. Obviously.

    Remind me someday to tell you what I really think.

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    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    With no particular place to go

    Me and Chuck Berry.

    Today is the first day in about two weeks when I haven't just been slammed. Don't get me wrong, I've got plenty to do and I'll be slammed by this afternoon, but since I managed to get to some semblance of a stopping spot in the project I've been working on (at 10:00 last night no less), I just haven't worked up to thinking about beginning to start motivating myself to jump into the next pile o' work. If you know what I mean.

    So that means that today's drivel is extra drivelly since I haven't really planned where I'm going with it. I figured I'd just get on here and start typing and see what happens. In other words, more of the same.


    Went to the Middle School Band concert on Monday night. The Youngest Aardvark Child plays oboe in the top band. Unfortunately, she sits on the second row right in the middle, so all I could see of her was her right ear. But you know how it is, being a parent and all, that was the cutest ear up there. The band sounded pretty good and for their last number they featured the trombone section - as well as the dad/school board member/preacher/professional musician guy who gives all the private lessons. (He's GOOD and a good guy to boot) All four trombonists stood in front of the band and they all played well. I do think, though, if it'd been MY kid standing up there, I'd have at least made sure their shirt was tucked in even if it wasn't ironed. Oh well.


    Got online the other day and printed out the info on early voting. I figure I better go ahead and vote on Saturday so I don't have to worry about scheduling around work on the 2nd. Printed a sample ballet out and everything. I'm always amazed at how many offices there are where the person running is unopposed. This time the unopposed people are almost exclusively Republicans. Looks like the Democrats just gave up or something.

    Arlington has the big Cowboy's stadium referendum on the ballot. They announced yesterday that folks should NOT be wearing any Cowboy's paraphernalia when they come to vote or they'll be asked either to remove it, change it, cover it or leave. Sounds kind of silly, but I guess it makes sense to keep the electioneering at the polls to a minimum (with zero, of course, being the standard). All I know is it's a good thing for the Cowboys I don't live in Arlington because I'd be voting no. I can't figure it out. If the new stadium ($650 MILLION!!!) is such a good deal and the Cowboys are putting up half the money, why can't they find venture capital folks who are willing to risk their PRIVATE money on the other half. Instead, they want the city to tax it's citizens and visitors to raise the other $325 million. Yes sir, nothing like taking more money from everyday folks to help those multi-millionaire franchise owners make a few more millions. I heard a song back in the early 80's that seems to apply - called "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler". I still remember some of the lyrics, "So when they hand the million grand out, I'm gonna stand there with my hand out." I tell you what.


    My friend, the Bigdog, is changing jobs. He's not only going to be the Bigdog at his new job, but he'll be the Big Cheese as well. He used me as one of his references. I did think it was odd that they called me for a reference AFTER they had offered him the job. See: cow, barn door. I asked the Bigdog what would have happened if I'd have thrown him under the bus (metaphorically, of course) resulting in a withdrawl of their offer. Since he'd already given notice to his current employer, it seems to me that that could get pretty ugly. Now, that DIDN'T happen, but I think it might be a good thing to know about the management of the company where he's going that it was even a possibility. Then again, I may just be over-analyzing. Again. (still)


    The Eldest Aardvark Child has her band UIL competition this Saturday. They don't march in the preliminaries until after 3:00 PM and will need to stick around until the bands making the finals are announced. If they march in the finals, the judging won't be over until 10:00 PM or later. If they don't march in the finals, the band will still stay to see four or five bands that DO make the finals, just so the kids can see what they lost out to. Either way it's a late night. The YAC was not happy this morning when we told her that we were ALL going. There's a bonfire on Saturday night for the Youth at church that she wanted to go to. That's why we told her now, so that she can work through some of that, "IT'S NOT FAIR!" stuff ahead of time so hopefully she'll just be down to sullen by Saturday.


    The YAC's birthday is Friday. She's turning 14. Wow. I'm old. (Mrs. A, on the other hand, is still youthful and fresh...that's my story and I'm sticking to it) She's been counting down the days, and of course, I keep telling her what I tell her every year (she'd be disappointed if I didn't...really), "Oh, I didn't tell you? We've cancelled that due to lack of interest."

    "Daaaaaaad," as her eyes roll back in her head.

    Believe it or not, I think that one of the most comforting sounds she can make. Fills me with that sense of accomplishment that only certain parents can lay claim to. My kid views me affectionately as a dork. A geeber. Someone who can reliably be counted on to cause her no end of embarrassment.

    Sweet. My work here is done.

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    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    I consider myself a reasonable man

    Your mileage may vary.

    I know it's wrong to speak of my employee this way, but some days I'm convinced she's too stupid to live.

    (Other days she is a normal, competent, thinking human being. The problem is I never know from one day to the next which version will show up.)

    Take yesterday for instance. We have a recurring printing job, but before we can print it, one of the head honchos (my boss' boss) has to indicate his approval by opening the program on his PC and checking the designated "Approve" box.

    I got a call from his assistant saying he had verbally approved printing, but we needed to wait a couple of minutes before trying to print as he was just now logging into the system to check the "Approve" box.

    I told my employee, "You're ok to print - just wait a couple of minutes before you try." She nodded her head in response. (Silly me, I took this as a sign of comprehension)




    That was at about 1:30.

    We are in an off-site location and as a result, we rely on three scheduled courier runs to shuttle stuff back and forth between offices. The last courier run of the day is at 3:00, and I had indicated to the folks waiting on the print job that it would be on that last courier run.

    As the courier walked by to pick up the pouch, my employee says to me, "So, what's the status of our print job? Have you heard anything yet?"

    "Only what I told you earlier - to wait a couple of minutes and then print."

    "So, we're good to print?" she says as I watch the courier go out the door.


    "Yes, you're good to print."

    "Oh, I didn't know if the job was approved so I haven't tried to print yet."

    (You can't print this job without the "Approve" box being checked.)

    "Well, since it won't let you print without it being approved, shouldn't you have figured out that it was approved when I told you you could print?"


    I had to call folks back to tell them the print would be on the 8:00 run this morning instead.

    Like I said, some days ...

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    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Public Service Announcement

    It's not too late to join in the Baby Pool for Jordana. If you haven't guessed yet, do so by the end of this week. The pool closes October 24th.

    And yeah, the winner gets a poem. Sorry, you HAVE to take the prize if you win.

    Winners responsible for all Federal, State and Local taxes. Contest rules subject to change without notice. All employees of "A little Aardvark never hurt anyone" are ineligible to participate. Must be present to win. May cause heart, liver and lung damage. If pain persists seek medical attention. No lifeguard on duty. Keep off the grass. Void where prohibited.

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    In other news

    Here are a couple of quick-hits on the status of the parents.

    Mrs. A's mother is still living with us (into the sixth week) and Mrs. A is still trying to track down a doctor that will treat ALL of her Mom's ailments. There is a doctor's visit this afternoon that may hold some promise...but then again may not. Mom has gotten a little bit better, but still is a long way from being able to care for herself. She's convinced that she CAN'T do some of the things Mrs. A thinks she should be capable of - like walking MORE than the 30 or so feet from the bedroom to the living room, or trying to squeeze a ball to gain some hand strength. Mrs. A thinks it's more of a WON'T than a can't and is going to ask the doctor about it today to clarify what to expect. Mrs. A also suspects that her Mom is using her infirmities as a tool for manipulating (never would have seen THAT one coming) what she will try to do or not. It seems that every time things don't quite go the way Mom wants, she goes through a "bad" spell. Mrs. A says it's like having a full grown three-year-old in the house. Needless to say, your prayers for compassion, patience and peace will be (are) greatly appreciated.

    I went to see my Dad two weeks ago and had one of the best visits in a long time. He had three good days in a row and seems to have stabilized a bit - with the rate of change in his tumor/cancer/???? slowing to almost nothing. Two of my sisters were there this past week and they report that he had some good days and some bad days and a few so-so days while they were there, so it looks like I really was fortunate that he felt so well when I visited. We all agree though, that if things have slowed down, there is a pretty decent chance of him being around for many years yet. So, call me "cautiously optimistic." He feels bad about "the false alarm" (it wasn't, but since he didn't die, he thinks it was) he raised earlier this year, but all the kids agree that it has provided us a great opportunity to spend some meaningful time with him.

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    Well, Ollie, here's ANOTHER fine mess you've gotten us into

    Work is still work ... not going to complain about THAT (for today anyway).

    What I will complain about is the utterly RUDE way that our poor Horned Frogs were treated by those mean Alabamians (Blazers is right, the way they burnt our secondary). And after Mrs. A and I went and rooted for Deidre Downs for Miss America 2005. Hmph. Whatever happened to Southern hospitality? Inviting us to visit you in Birmingham and then treating us so shamefully. (Final score UAB - 41, TCU - 25)

    Well, I still have that perennial (one 'r', two 'n's, not the other way 'round) lamentation of the Horned Frog faithful to fall back on...

    "Just wait until next year..."

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    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    It's bound to let up sometime






    Looks like I'll be working this weekend ... again. This IS my busy time of year, but the sad fact is that I haven't even BEGUN to work on what normally keeps me hopping. Once I get through the current mess on my desk, I can get started on making a whole new mess. Whee!!

    At this rate, I may not get a whole day off until the middle of November. (which is a planned vacation day to go to Belton, Texas and tour the beautiful campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with Mrs. A and the EAC)

    Waaaaahhh. Poor me.

    Ok, I feel better.

    Or not.


    Stay tuned for further updates whining.

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    Tuesday, October 12, 2004


    Whatever you came here looking for, it ain't here. (unless it was 'nothin' 'cause that's the only thing we've got plenty of)

    Not yesterday.

    Not today.

    Maybe not this week.

    That is all.

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    Friday, October 08, 2004

    It took over six years

    But I've been vindicated at last

    Six years ago I was an up-and-coming mid-level manager in a large corporate environment. I was in a highly-visible position and regularly rubbed elbows with the high muckety-mucks, movers and shakers. My boss made it no secret that he was grooming me to take over his executive-level position when he got promoted. You might say I was somewhat of a golden-boy.

    At least until the day I had an epiphany.

    If I wanted to move up to the next level, I was going to have to sacrifice my family and outside interests on the altar of work. When I realized this, I also realized that I was not willing to make that sacrifice. Or, as I sometimes say, the prize wasn't worth eating the CrackerJacks.

    I had a pretty open line of communication with my boss, and so, when I decided I wasn't going to take his job someday, I told him so. He was floored. "I thought we normally communicate pretty well, but this just came out of left field," he said. "We DO communicate well," I told him, "and that's why I'm telling you NOW, so you can let me step aside and give you time to get someone else ready." He thought I had lost my mind - that I couldn't take the pressure and just wigged out, or something. I assured him that I really was sane and I really didn't want to be the heir apparent.

    I only worked for him for a couple more months before I left his organization, and about a year later left the company for good.

    My friend, the Bigdog, still worked there - for my old boss. And they went to lunch together about once a week. He (the Bigdog) tells me that for at least a year or two, whenever my name came up, my old boss would look at the Bigdog and say, "You know LittleA. What? Did he just flip out? Was it a mid-life thing? What?" And the Bigdog would tell him, "No. He just values different things. I talk to him regularly and he seems happier than he's ever been." And that would be it, at least until the next time my name was mentioned.

    As a side note, when I left the company altogether, I took a steep reduction in position and pay at my next (current) company and had to convince my boss' boss that I wasn't a lunatic or axe-murderer or a psycho of some sort before he'd assent to hiring me. Obviously I can be persuasive. He told my boss after that interview, "I still can't figure that guy out, but if you want to take a chance and hire him, go ahead." (I don't think they've been sorry)

    I haven't really spoken much to my old boss. I'd seen him a couple of times and nodded and said hello, but nothing much more than that. I pulled into the gas station a week or so ago and all the pumps were busy, so I pulled up in a likely spot to wait on a guy that looked like he might be finished soon. And then I looked again because he looked familiar. He looked up at me about the same time I realized who it was. Yep. My old boss. I shut the car off and we stood and talked for a few minutes. He's been promoted (again) and is acting as one of the big senior executives until they find a permanent replacement (he's a candidate for the permanent job as well). He has been run ragged, traveling all over the country, burning the candle at both ends.

    He looked at me and said, "Do you remember when I had you in my office and laid out everything you were walking away from and you still walked away?"

    "Yeah," I said.

    "You may have been on to something..."

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    Like a one-legged man

    In an ... uh ... er ... well ... never mind.

    Today has been one of THOSE days. Actually it's the third one of THOSE days in a row, with several more queued up. I can only take the pressure so long before I start getting silly (I know, I can you tell?) and leading people in one of my favorite cheers
    Give me a "B"
    Give me another "B"
    Give me another "B"
    Give me another "B"
    Give me another "B"
    What's that spell?
    Of course, you have to move your finger up and down on your lips to really do it right.

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    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    Business Philosophy 101

    I have long held the belief that most businesses that succeed are successful IN SPITE of what they do, not because of it.

    Take Wendy's for instance. I worked for Wendy's for about a year right out of high school. They had a pretty simple plan and executed it well. There was only one register on the front counter, but that wasn't a problem, since the goal was that by the time the customer had ordered and paid and walked to the other end of the counter, their order would be ready. And the majority of the time that was the case. On the drive through, the goal was to not have any car at the window longer than 30 seconds. The menu consisted of burgers, fries, chili, frosties and drinks. (The only reason chili was on the menu is that's how they used the meat that had either been on the grill too long and was too dry or meat that had been cooked but not served at the time the restaurant closed. The meat was boiled, chopped and made into chili, keeping the losses from spoilage low.) It was simple and it worked. They had a good reputation for delivering hot burgers fast and their employees were proud that they could meet the high service standards set by the company. So, naturally, they began expanding the menu, first with a salad bar, then chicken sandwiches, then chicken nuggets. Until finally, they were just like every other "fast" food joint trying to have something for everyone and doing none of it well. Today Wendy's have multiple registers on the front counter, are as slow as Christmas, and seem to employee people with that ever-popular "I hate working here" attitude. It still bothers me (just a little) when I go there to see what Wendy's has become. No question that it is a much bigger and more successful chain than when I worked there, but I contend that the original concept was too good to mess up and was resilient enough to survive management's efforts to drive it into the ditch.

    Case two is Marconi Hut (not the real name), which I will not say too much about (for several reasons), but will say that it also was too good of a concept to have fail in spite of everything that's been done to it.

    And now, I may have discovered case three. Our home ISP is CompuServe (an off-brand of AOL, by the way - same company). We had been using AOL (happily, I might add), but when we went to purchase a new PC some years back, discovered we could get $300 off by signing up with CompuServe instead, even though it's the same company. Hmmmm. That was a tough decision...where do I sign? And so we've been with CompuServe ever since - even though the last year or so, they've been hot and heavy to have us switch over to AOL (I think they're trying to retire the CS brand), but I've resisted because I don't want to switch email addy's again (well that, plus I just have a little bit of "stick it to the man" in me that makes me naturally resist doing what they want - too many "in order to serve you better" lies over the years to fall for another one). Anyway, CS has been hitting my charge card religiously every month for years. So consistent were they, that a while back, I ceased paying attention and so didn't notice that they haven't charged me for service since last December.

    My credit card account had not changed in any way. For some mysterious reason the folks at CS just stopped taking their money. Now, what do you think a big company like CS (AOL) would do with an account that all of a sudden stopped paying (even though I hadn't really stopped, they did)? Maybe send them an EMAIL asking what the problem was or asking for new credit card info or something like that? I mean, they ARE my ISP and should have my email address handy, after all. But no, of course not. Instead, you wait nine or ten months and then just TURN THE ACCOUNT OFF WITHOUT NOTICE.


    Anyway, they didn't delete our account, just suspended it. Mrs. A called them on Tuesday and gave them the new credit card info and now everything's fine. But it doesn't seem to me to be a smart way to run a business.

    I'm just sayin'.

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    Wednesday, October 06, 2004

    Politics and such

    * I just don't know. Who are these undecided voters and what exactly do they need to make up their minds? It's scary that the course of the United States will be determined by folks who can't be bothered to pay attention.

    * Bread and circuses. Call me what you will for saying this, but I think you would eliminate much of the corruption, graft, pandering and pork-barrel spending of our political system if you had a rule that said you are only allowed to vote if you are not currently on the receiving end of governmental transfers. On welfare? Receive a housing subsidy? Kids get a free lunch at school? Receiving price supports for your corn, sugar, iron, etc? Government employee? Government contractor? Taking the EIC (aka stealth welfare)? On Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? Sorry, you're not allowed to vote due to your conflict of interest. Only the folks who are putting in and not taking out get to decide what happens with their money. It would cause two things to happen almost instantaneously. First, many governmental programs/services would be privatized, bringing market forces to bear, and second, politicians would stop handing out "goodies" to their constituents because every time they loosened the purse-strings they would LOSE voters (but they would start pandering to the opposition's voters to try to undermine their support - which would be entertaining at the very least) Never happen, of course, but it does make you think.

    * Words are funny things. Especially in the hands of politicians. There is no such thing as plain speech in politics. Every word must be parsed and even then there are times when you can't figure out what they really said or meant. I was in Missouri for three days and saw about 100 political ads, mostly for Governor (unlike the last time I was there and Missouri was still in play so most of the ads were for Kerry or Bush). All I can tell you from seeing the ads is that at LEAST one of the candidates for Governor is lying. My money is on both. There was a heavy emphasis on voting records. Unless you voted for every increase in school funding since Roosevelt (Teddy not Franklin Delano) you will be accused of Voting Against The Children®. And if you did vote for every school funding increase you will be accused of Mortgaging Our Children's Future® or some such. There is currently a referendum on the November ballot for the City of Arlington (Texas) to pass a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to fund a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. Proponents for this referendum are running ads saying that you should vote for it because of the money that will go to the city parks and it's For The Children® after all.

    * Words are funny things - part II. Driving through Oklahoma, there were all sorts of billboards of for State Question 712 - the "Education and Jobs" initiative. Well, who could be against "Education" and "Jobs", right? I heard a radio spot by Toby Keith explaining why you should vote "yes" on 712. Turns out it's an initiative to ... legalize gaming machines (aka slots) at three horse tracks in Oklahoma so they could "compete" and not have to lay people off. And of course, the tax revenues generated by the gambling would go into the Education Fund. No mention of how much tax revenue would be diverted out of the Education Fund to be spent elsewhere, but that's probably just my cynicism talking.

    * Words are funny things - part III. Call John Kerry what you will (and I do), but you have to give him credit for an ingenious strategy in last Friday's debate. By simultaneously claiming both sides of the Iraq issue, he insulates himself from criticism from folks to his left and his right. He starts out by saying he would never cede Americas right to defend itself or take preemptive action to other nations. Then he says what America does should pass a Global Test®. If this were a 60's movie this would be the point where the computer started smoking with lights flashing while repeating "does not compute" in a tinny voice. Maybe it's just my pea brain, but I can't reconcile these two statements. (It's like saying you think abortion is murder but you support a woman's right to choose) I realized that this contradiction was no accident when President Bush called him on the Global Test® thing the next day. Kerry just accused Bush of ignoring the first statement. And if the No War Ever For Any Reason® crowd were to criticize Kerry from the left, he could simply say that's why he included the Global Test® to do just that. It's evil genius I tell you.

    * It's debatable. Have to say that both guys obviously dodged some questions. And they both had instances where they used the next question to keep answering the last one, but I think Cheney only did this once, while Edwards did it at least four or five times - the most egregious of which was one of the last questions on what they would do to unite the country after the election - which Edwards never did answer. Best line of the night goes to Cheney for saying Edwards had missed so many votes in the Senate, he'd never even met him personally until now.

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    First the important things

    Peg-nose Pete is a character in the LucasArts game "Escape From Monkey Island" (or as it's known around our house, the Funky Drunk Monkey game). Peg-nose is a pirate who wears a prosthetic nose, has a reputation for being an elusive thief, and also has an intense fear of ducks (rumor has it his duck-o-phobia is because his nose was nibbled off by a duck some years ago). Peg-nose is paid by Ozzie to frame Guybrush Threepwood for robbing the Lucre Island bank.

    It all makes sense now, doesn't it?

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    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Channeling Peg-nose Pete

    I dun worked by doze clean off. And dow I am taken two days to go see my Da.

    I bill be back on Wedsday.

    (300 bonus points to any one who knows - without "Google-ing" - the Peg-nose Pete reference)

    (P.S. Mrs. A is inelegible to play)

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