Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The art of omphaloskepsis

Or, how it's all about me.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

- A couple of weeks ago, I changed the 6th AM preset on my radio to Air America. I listen to it when I'm bored with all the other presets. It amuses me.

- I'm having lunch today with a coworker from my previous job. She is one of the executive admins, and as such, may have the inside skinny on the possibility of going back there if here doesn't work out. I expect the biggest hurdle, by far, is that I'm not sure I WANT to go back there.

- I'm going to quit teaching Sunday School at the end of September. It's not that I'm tired of teaching or burned-out, but more that I have been a spectacular failure at developing folks to take leadership roles. They're perfectly happy letting Mrs. A and me do the heavy lifting. The best way to create the necessary changes is for me to step aside and promote to the next class. The plan is to start a new class in about three or four months - long enough for the new leadership of the existing class to become established. If I were to just start a new class without taking a short sabbatical all that would happen is the folks in the old class would just start coming to the new one and we'd be right back where we started. Anyway, I plan on doing a few things differently the next go 'round.

- I'm not going to Missouri to see my Dad over the coming holiday. With the expected changes at work, I'm not sure cutting out early Friday afternoon is such a good idea. Which means I'll actually spend Monday at home. Monday has been designated as "Clean the Garage" day. It IS Labor Day, after all.

- While typing this entry, I have stopped to make a pot of coffee and TWO pitchers of iced tea (sweet and unsweetened). The lady who normally does this fell at work a couple of weeks ago and broke her upper arm. (An object lesson in why you shouldn't run indoors) She has yet to return to work.

- Words I've saved this year from my Word-A-Day calendar: Octothorp, crapulous, obloquy, widdershins, quincunx, autochthonous, haplology, frigorific and nictitate.

- I've been nictitating this whole time.

- Watched the Lawrence Olivier version of Hamlet on PBS the other day. From back before he was Sir. I liked Mel Gibson's version much better.

- Speaking of Mel, I have an unopened copy of The Passion of the Christ sitting in the entertainment center. (It was a gift) I have yet to watch it. I will eventually, I'm sure, but I've never been of the opinion that it was something that HAD to be seen. (I mean, we have, somehow, managed for millenia without it)

- Other movies in the house I have yet to watch: Lonesome Dove (loaned to me with the instruction that I MUST watch it...that was at least 6 months ago), Everafter (owned by the YAC I think) and Labrynth (on loan from somebody).

- I've started re-reading the Wheel of Time (WoT) series from Robert Jordan. I'm up to book five, but have stalled out the last couple of weeks. Book 11 - The Knife of Dreams hits stores October 11th. Supposedly, there'll just be one more after this.

- I have yet to even come close to my Chuzzle score of last week. When I close my eyes I see exploding fur balls. I discovered that if you click on them they giggle, blink, sneeze and then lose all their fur (it grows back). Yes, I am a sick man.

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    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    I know it's none of my business, but...

    If you're name is Cindy and you were looking to give some credibility and moral gravitas to your cause, you might want to get someone other than Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton to come and lecture the President about the importance of telling the truth.

    I'm just saying.

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    What we have here

    Is a FAILure to ComMUnicate.

    Which, I guess, puts me in the role of the Captain of the road gang and the YAC in the role of Cool Hand Luke.

    We leave the house every morning at about 6:50. The YAC needs to be at the school by 7:00, and since we don't live that far away, ten minutes is just about right.

    So, this morning, as I'm pulling up to the band hall, I hear, "Great. I'm late."

    "Wha'd'ya mean, you're late?"

    "Dad, I'm late. I'm supposed to be here before 7:00."

    Thinking perhaps that I had accidentally crossed into another dimension where the flow of time differs from ours, I checked the chronometer, which the engineers at Honda so thoughtfully built right in to the dash - 6:58.

    Having established that the flow of time had not been altered after all, I stated the obvious.

    "You are here before 7:00. It's 6:58."

    "No, Dad. You don't get it. I'm supposed to be here BEFORE 7:00."

    "You're right. I don't "get" it. It is BEFORE 7:00."

    "But I'm supposed to be here early enough to help get the pit instruments (kettle drums, marimbas, xylophones, etc.) out on the field before we start stretching, and we start stretching at 7:00."

    "So, what you meant was that you needed to be here before 6:55, then?"

    "Well, if we left the house at 6:45, like we always do (we don't), I should be here in time."

    ::grrr::

    Once again, her inability to communicate is, naturally, my fault.

    "Well figure this out later. Get out of the car."

    That loud noise you just heard was the sound of the planets realigning to begin their proper rotation around the YAC.

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    Monday, August 29, 2005

    I hate when that happens

    Lost another preset on the radio on Friday.

    It's a little jarring to turn on the "Light Rock Oldies" station and find it's been taken over by Tejano hip hop. (Now with MORE accordian!!!)

    So this morning, I messed with the Youngest Aardvark Child's mind (it's wrong, I know...but I'm weak) by randomly flipping back and forth between PowerFM and WRR Classical.

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    Budweiser

    There's a new billboard for Budweiser on the way out of downtown.

    There are a large number of Spanish-only speakers in the Northern part of the city - in what is, oddly enough, called North Side. Downtown butts (heh, heh) right up against North Side and so there are sometimes Spanish oriented billboards on your way into or out of downtown.

    This new Budweiser billboard is one of those. Maybe it's a cultural thing that I just don't understand, but this ad is eye catching. In a train-wreck sort of way. It has the Budweiser name and a photograph of a person. The clothes on the person have been drawn on (in kind of a MS Paint way) in colors of orange and yellow and pink and blue with wisps that swirl up around the person's head.

    The problem is, I can't tell if the person is a man or a woman. The "clothes" would suggest a woman, yet if so, that's one ugly woman brother. The best analogy I can come up with is to picture Ricardo Montalban's Kahn in drag.

    Then again, maybe this is one of their PSA ads warning of the dangers of drinking.

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    Monday morning

    Time for a big, steaming-hot, cup of malaise. (Also good iced!)

    Nothing you can put your finger on. Just that general sense of "eh, whatever" that sometimes comes without invitation and goes without even a "by your leave".

    It might be because I'm sitting here wondering just what this week is going to produce. By week's end, we should have a pretty good grasp of the coming ch-ch-ch-changes in the office structure.

    Then again, it could be because I'm a self-absorbed, narcissistic, weenie engaged in non-stop solipsism, and somehow that's harder to pull off at work than it is at home.

    Nah. That can't be it.

    (But it IS all about me, even so)

    Anyway, I'm hoping that once I get into my work routine that I'll snap out of it.

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    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Stick around

    So, one of my errands I needed to run at 2:00 yesterday afternoon in the broiling hot sun was to go to Wal-Mart (yipee...) and pick up some sugar and some more tea bags. (One of the few perks of the office, free coffee AND iced tea) I managed to make it to Wal-Mart by the time the temperature in the car was down to about 95. (see previous post) I go into the store, and naturally, realize I've parked on the wrong side. The food is on the far side of the store.

    Oh well, might as well walk in the AC, eh?

    As I traverse the length of Wally-World, I come to the realization that in the last two minutes I have seen just about every possible permutation of freaks, geeks and weirdos that can produced by the human genome. Then I begin to wonder if some of those folks I just passed had been thinking the same thing about me.

    Probably.

    Anyway, I manage to get the tea and sugar and make it back to the car. Back at the office, I decide that, rather than just leave the tea and sugar on the breakroom counter (which would have been perfectly acceptable), I would put them away. No problem with the tea, but the sugar needed to go in a canister. And, well, you see, I'm about as coordinated as a methed-up, one armed baboon. So naturally, I manage to spill the sugar as I'm putting it in the canister. I cleaned up the counter okay, but realized I'd need a broom and dustpan to sweep up the sugar that had made it to the floor.

    About that time, the cleaning lady (who speaks very little English) walked in.

    "I need a broom."

    "What? You need broom?"

    "Yes. I need a broom because I made a mess."

    "A mess? Where?"

    "There."

    "Oh. I take care of it."

    And she proceeds to produce a broom and dustpan and starts sweeping up the spilled sugar.

    That's when I noticed the broom she was using was wet.

    ::sigh::

    Oh, well. She's the cleaning lady. If she can't figure out that adding water to sugar and smearing it all over the floor isn't a good idea then who am I to say otherwise.

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    At least I have cloth seats

    I had to run an errand for work yesterday afternoon about 2:00.

    Have I mentioned that it's hot? Only about 103 yesterday with a THI (that's Temperature Humidity Index for you folks in cooler climes) of 107. I mean it's warm enough that a light jacket should keep off the chill...

    And there is no shade to park my car in.

    I open up the car and slide in and crank it up. First order of business is to dial the AC up to permafrost. The second order of business is to remove the sun shade from the front windshield. (It's a violation of the natural order not to employ a sun shade in the Texas summer) The LAST step in the process is to close the door. Hopefully by this time, SOME of the heat (130 or more in a closed car) has leaked out the open door and your AC has a fighting chance.

    As I pull out of the parking lot, I can feel the, as yet, tiny beads of persperation beginning to form. I have the AC on recirculate (for maximum cooling) and so it should soon start to at least get incrementally cooler. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to really make a difference as the removal of the sun shade allows the full radiation of the Texas sun (you didn't know it belongs to us, did you?) to better heat the front dashboard, creating a temporary counterbalance to the cooling of the AC.

    After a couple of blocks, I notice that it doesn't seem to be getting any cooler. By this time those tiny beads have become BIG beads, some even refuse to maintain their state of beadiness. My hand to the vent can only feel hot air coming out. Oh, great. What's wrong with my AC? On the hottest day of the year, naturally.

    By this time I'm getting a little concerned. That's when I notice that the button on the dash that controls the compressor. When the AC is activated, it has a little green light that stays on. There is no little green light. Ergo, the AC is not on. This button sometimes gets pressed in the process of removing the sun screen. In other words, it's my own fault. After pondering my next course of action for .000003 milliseconds, I reach up and press the button.

    Almost instantly, I can feel a difference in the temperature of the air coming out of the vents. It's no wonder I was so hot. All I had been doing before was recirculating the increasingly warming air (close car, apply sun, repeat as necessary).

    At least now I know what it's like to sit in a convection oven. (I can mark that one off my list)

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    More Sports

    High school football started in a few places last night. For many others, including us, it starts tonight.

    In case you may have forgotten. We live in Texas. It's August. Daytime temps have been in the 100's all week. By 10 PM, the temps have fallen to the low 90's. Oh, sweet comfort!

    I want to know who exactly the geniuses (geniusi?) were that decided playing high school football in August would be a great idea.

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    Sports

    I've been hearing on the radio this week about Commissioner Tagliabue's ruling that all fans attending NFL games this year must be "patted down" before entering the stadiums. And how most teams aren't waiting until the regular season starts before implementing this policy.

    As a result, tonight's pre-season game in San Francisco will mark that city's first-time compliance with the Commissioner's order.

    To reassure fans, the 49ers have announced that men entering the stadium would only be patted down by men, and women by women.

    In. San. Fran. Cis. Co.

    Were they trying to reassure fans or alarm them?

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    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    Under 'de sea...

    I've never outgrown the mental picture I had of Davy Jones's locker when I was a kid.

    (Of course, there are a LOT of things I've never outgrown) (Did TOO!) (Did NOT!!)

    I always had this idea that Davy Jones's locker was like a school locker, so there'd be binders, papers, old tennis shoes and a jacket, maybe a secret stash of bubble gum. You know, stuff like that.

    Anyway, it's been a long time since I've thought of that, but it came back to me yesterday.

    The company I work for has problems. Not necessarily financial problems, but some operational type things that have been neglected for so long that they're just landmines waiting to explode at the slightest jar. Of course, the underlying reason these landmines exist in the first place is that the owner doesn't understand the importance of spending any cash on infrastructure. If it's not generating another dollar in revenue, he doesn't see why it's necessary.

    Take the point-of-sale system we have. It's DOS based and outputs text files. That give you any hints on how old it is? It sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. The owner can't see how much this is costing him in lost productivity, both in the restaurants and the home office. He only sees how much getting a modern system costs and doesn't want to spend that much. He can't see that he's already spending MORE than that just to keep what's he's got functioning.

    Anyway, that's just one example. The other reason some of these landmines exist is that when he did decide to spend some money on infrastructure and hire some administrative types, he did it on the cheap. And the people he hired were worth exactly what he paid for them. They managed to exacerbate the problems to the point they formed a Gordian knot. When it did, finally, dawn on him that he had a REAL problem, he went out and hired the Bigdog, who then convinced him it was good idea to hire me. And I came, knowing what I was getting into.

    Then, about five weeks ago, the owner hired one of his "buds" to be the new CEO. He seems to be a nice enough guy. And he's smart too, so that's always good in your executive types. But he's inflicted with the same myopia that the owner has. He wants to cut costs. By outsourcing.

    Now, this won't necessarily affect me (I've been assured it won't), but spending less money on infrastructure won't solve our problems. He's convinced it will. The real irony is that with his outsourcing plan, we won't even be spending less money. But that seems to be beside the point. His mind is already made up.

    So, where does Davy Jones come in?

    Yesterday, I used this analogy to the Bigdog: It's like we are on a ship with a big hole below the waterline and a raging fire on deck and the captain and first mate are deciding how to turn the life-rafts into extra cabin space so they can sell additional passage.

    ::sigh::

    Anyway, I've not given up here. Yet. But I'm also going to start sending out feelers (Ewww!!!) for other opportunities. I don't know that sticking around just so I can say, "I told you so!" will be worth it.

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    Who told her she was old enough to snark?

    So, there I am. Minding my own business for a change. Driving the Youngest Aardvark Child to school.

    "Hey, you're sister called me last night."

    "Oh?"

    "Yeah. She was telling me all about her crazy speech teacher. She said this guy showed up 10 minutes late to class and when he got there he was bald with a comb-over, and was wearing this purple and orange striped shirt, red suspenders, multi-colored toe socks and sandals. Then he spent the rest of the class period telling jokes. Bad jokes. She said she only understood about half of them and those were really lame."

    "Well, she ought to be used to that."

    ...

    ...

    ...

    !!!

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    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Things that make you go, "Hmmmmm."

    Yesterday's mail brought a missive from Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. A nice letter and full color 8.5 X 11 brochure on heavy cardstock (expensive to mail, not to mention produce) about how successful their organ transplant program is.

    Well, isn't that nice?

    But I've never been to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. And I don't know anyone who's had an organ transplant. As far as I can tell, I have absolutely no connection to this hospital.

    So, why are they sending me information about their transplant program? I must have missed the hook in the letter asking for money. Better look at the letter again. No. I didn't miss it. It's not there.

    Now I'm wondering...what do THEY know that I DON'T?!?!?

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    Billy Reuben was a jaundiced soul

    In the last couple of weeks, I've become the de facto desktop support guy at the office. Not that I volunteered for the job. And not that I'm real technical. (Sorry Jordana) In fact, I'm one of those guys who only knows enough to be really dangereous. But over the years I have picked a couple of things up. And I have a cardinal rule I never break (anymore): Don't do something you can't undo.

    We had a guy that did the desktop support stuff, but he got fired a couple of months back and we haven't replaced him. The other IT guys we have are okay, but desktop stuff is not their thing. Plus they are not always what you'd call the most approachable and/or available folks around. That's where I come in.

    I have done some mildly technical things like removing some mal-ware (I get really nervous poking around and making changes with regedit)and hacking (well, not HACKING technically, just bogarting the sysadmin id and password) into the mail server to reset a password.

    But most things are much simpler. Some are just stupid. Like the frantic call I got yesterday morning from one of the admins up front. "I just turned my computer on and the keyboard isn't working." I wander up front to find this person's haunches sticking out from under their desk. "Let's take a look," I say. (At the PC, not the haunches) They back out and I reach down to pull the PC out a little further. No go. The wires are routed such that there's no give whatsoever. So, I get down on the floor and worm my way to the back of the computer. The plugs are color coded. The purple keyboard plug is in the green mouse port. "Try that," I say. "Oh, it's working now." Naturally, she has no idea what could've happened to the plug.

    This is the same woman I sent an email to last week. Not trusting her "skilz", I walked up front to follow up with her. First she had to open Outlook. Which, to me doesn't inspire confidence, especially for an admin. I mean, wouldn't you NEED to have your email up and running all day? You know, to like, SUPPORT the people you're an admin to? So, Outlook starts and then she says, "Well, I hope I can find it. It used to be that all the new emails showed up at the top and now they just are wherever." And after glancing at her inbox to see everything sorted alphabetically by sender, I say, "Well, if you'll click right here (pointing to the date column), that should fix the problem."

    And I'm not sure she's the worst of the lot. The other day, I showed her and another person how to get to the address book by clicking on the "To:" button. "You can do that?" I showed another person how to sort "To do's" by categories. "See this right here that says 'Sort by:'?" Another person I showed how to create more than one calendar in Outlook by using the "Copy" command. And then I had to show someone how to stop the Startup Task Pane from opening every time they got in to Word or Excel. Nothing terribly difficult, but some that are worrysome. Hopefully these folks are bringing other skills to the table.

    If I were a gambling man, I'd bet on the the under.

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    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Inauspicious beginnings

    Today looks like it's shaping up to be one of THOSE days.

    First off, let me admit that I sometimes do things that could be considered counter-productive. It's shocking, I know, but true. This usually is most obvious in the area of time-management. So, last night, Mrs. A is watching the news and I'm at the computer playing a game of Chuzzle. About 9:30, I lose the game I'm playing and decide I still have time for one more before going to bed. This is mistake #1.

    As it turns out, I'm pretty good at it. 10:30 comes around and I notice Mrs. A has turned off the TV and has headed for bed. Oh well, I think, I'm going to lose any time now. I'll just play a little bit longer. Mistake #2.

    Unfortunately, not only am I pretty good at Chuzzle, I also had an incredible lucky streak going. I finish level 12. Hey, I've never been this far! Level 13. Level 14. The next time I look up it's 11:30. Oh my gosh! I need to stop this and go to bed. My eyes move from the clock back to the monitor. Hey! There's a good move! Mistake #3. I'm sucked in for another level. In some remotely OCD way, I am incapable of stopping a level once I make the first move. (Yes, I am a 14 year old trapped in an adult's body)

    Finally, a little after midnight, I do the unthinkable. I just finished Level 17 with a score around 760,000 and have yet to make a move on Level 18, when I discover the red "X" in the upper right corner of the window. Hey, when did they put that there?

    So, technically my day started with me going to bed. Which meant I got up late this morning dragging my tail. Mrs. A took the YAC to school, so I had a little extra time to get ready. Wrote out a bill that I could drop in the big blue mailbox I drive right by on the way to work. Which, even after remembering I needed to be in THAT lane over there instead of my normal one, I was off in la-la land when the time came and drove right past the mailbox.

    Yep. It's going to be one of THOSE days, alright. And with no one to blame but me.

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    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Bumpersnickers

    "Snipers: It doesn't do any good to run. You'll only die tired."

    Not very PC, but it did make me laugh out loud.

    "War is not the answer"

    Very PC, but it also made me laugh out loud. Perhaps they haven't heard of human nature? Or maybe they just aren't asking the right question. Anyway, I could be more sympathetic, supportive even, if they said "War is not ALWAYS the answer" 'cause that leaves open the possibility that sometimes it is.

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    Someone at our house

    Is having separation anxiety.

    And I'll give you a hint. It's not me and it's not Mrs. A.

    We got the EAC moved in to the dorm Saturday morning. It was really cool the way they had things organized with swarms of sweating young men and women ready and waiting to unload the cars and deliver the stuff to the rooms. We had two cars moderately full and I may have carried two or three boxes total. Usually by the time I had moved the car from the loading zone to the parking lot across the street everything had already been hauled into the dorm. Sweet.

    Met the EACs roommate, her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. (Not only does she have a larger family, they all live closer to the school) Got the EACs computer checked out by the network guys, filled out forms, stood in lines, ate lunch, stood in more lines, filled out more lines, met the university president and his wife, ate their snacks and then it was time to go.

    A few tears back in the lobby, but everybody was doing okay until the hall director came over and told the EAC it was okay to cry. Then the faucets opened up all around. (Except for yours truly, who merely sniffled a time or two) Since we had driven both cars, I was by myself on the trip back. Mrs. A says the YAC cried most of the way, at least until she fell asleep. She was predicably clingy the rest of the day.

    Yesterday morning she was up earlier than the rest of us and we found her reading on her sister's bed. It's textbook grieving. We just worked at keeping her occupied and distracted and so far everything has been ok. Still, we'll keep an eye on her.

    The rest of us are fine. It's still a little odd with the EAC gone and we haven't really had time to establish any new routines, so the old ones feel like they have a gap. That too is just a matter of time.

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    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Where do we go from here?

    Since I stayed home from work on Wednesday, I took the opportunity to talk to the Eldest Aardvark Child about a few things.

    The main one being about the nature of the parent/child relationship and how it changes over time. I told her there were a couple of models (at least) for how parents could treat their grown children. One was the model of how my parents treated me when I moved out. (The long-standing joke is that I didn't move out so much as they moved away and didn't take me with them. Which is even more funny because it's mostly true.) They basically said, "We've done the best job we knew how for the last 18 years and it either took or it didn't. You get to call all the shots now." And they backed off completely. They would offer advice if I specifically asked for it, but they never pushed me or criticized my decisions. They didn't call every week and demand an update. The downside is that I made a lot of mistakes. The upside is that I made a lot of mistakes and learned from them.

    The other model is the one Mrs. A's mother used. The "just because you moved out, don't think I can't tell you what to do" model. I think her intentions were good (mostly), but this model carries with it a certain amount of unavoidable tension. Especially if the child involved has ideas that are different from the parent's. I will tell you that on more than one occasion during our courtship, while listening to one side of a phone "conversation", I wondered what exactly I was getting myself into. And over the years, the relationship has improved. Not so much because Mrs. A's mother stopped trying to give orders, but more so because Mrs. A got better at ignoring them.

    I explained all of this to the EAC, and then (sweetly) asked which model she thought she would prefer.

    And then I explained that the reality is that we would probably fall somewhere in between, though mostly like my parents. We are basically going to assume that she's got everything under control and that if she needs help she'll ask for it. But we're not completely disinterested and we do have some stake in her college years and therefore some right to at least provide input. And then I reminded her that we're new to this too, and we're bound to make some mistakes along the way.

    I don't recall her exact response, but it was something along the lines of, "Yeah, Dad. What time does the mall open?"

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    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Work and Blog are both four-letter words

    (I don't know what that means...but it looked good in the Title box)

    Back to work today. I can breath okay as long as I don't breath too deeply. Or through my nose. So, as long as my coworkers don't mind sitting next to a panting mouth-breather, I expect today to be much better.

    The other day MarcV asked for an update on my work situation and what led to my long hiatus. I could take these one at a time, but they're so interconnected that it's easier just to tackle them both.

    Work is fine. For those who don't know or may not remember, I used to work for an insurance company and now I work in the Home Office of a regional chain restaurant. I work directly for a long-time friend and previous co-worker, The Bigdog. We used to only get to hang out together once every couple of months. Now we hang out almost every day. I've been here almost five months and as far as I can tell, our relationship hasn't been affected adversely. And, as I suspected, the restaurant business fits well with my retail background. From a business perspective the biggest difference is the shelf-life of the product.

    At my previous job I mostly worked by myself, though I did have a couple of direct reports to monitor, and either sat in the back of the room (when we had cubicles with low walls) or had my keyboard & monitor positioned such that you couldn't immediately see what I was working on. Sometimes, that was because I frequently worked on sensitive material that the general population had no business knowing, and sometimes it was because I was taking a break and didn't want to broadcast it. What I did was mentally taxing and complex, and there were plenty of opportunities to make mistakes if you weren't careful, so actually taking frequent, short breaks was a good thing because they kept me from getting bogged down in the minutiae and they gave me time to consider how to best accomplish what I was doing. (Now THERE'S a rationalization for you) It was a primo setup for living an online life. And the fact that for about six months (longer actually) I worked just about every day, including weekends, meant that I had easy access to a good PC with high-speed internet.

    At home, I have dial-up. Not to mention a wife and two kids who like to use the computer just as much as I do. Then there's the problem of keeping my blogging persona hidden from the kids. "What'cha doin' Dad?" They're not so small anymore that they can be easily satisfied with shallow answers meant to deflect curiousity. "Nothing" from me sounds as suspicious to them as it does to me when they say it. Then there's the problem with the home PCs tendancy to lock-up randomly. There were several times, when I was either up early or up late, that I sat down and started a post only to have it lock up part way through. Those posts never got written. Either the kids began stirring, or I ran out of steam, depending on the time of day.

    At my new job, which I love (have I mentioned that?), I sit boldly in the FRONT of the room and everybody can see my monitor and see what I'm doing. This job is not difficult at all, though you'd think it was by the way the previous employees managed to screw things up. I was able to sit with the person I replaced for all of an hour and a half my very first day on the job. I spent the next few days in the restaurants seeing that side of the business, and by the time I got back to the office, my predecessor was gone. It wasn't too long after that (a couple of weeks) that a second person was let go. I didn't pick up 100% of their duties, but enough that even though the work isn't difficult, there's plenty of it. Oh, and they were at least three months behind in most areas and much further behind in others when I got here. We're still not completely caught up, but we are much, MUCH closer now than we were five months ago. It actually helps that the two people I replaced aren't here any longer. Pretty much anything they touched was done wrong, which means they were either consciously working to sabatoge the operation or they were both just dumber than a bag of rocks. My money's on the latter. Anyway, I told The Bigdog that if I just came in every day and slept at my desk, he'd still be ahead of the game because at least I wouldn't be creating more messes to clean up.

    And that's the story...or a version thereof, anyway.

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    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    This may be it for today

    Yeah, I know...back two days and already slacking off.

    My cold has moved into my chest and I spent a good deal of last night coughing. I did catch a couple hours worth of sleep propped up on the couch. Anyway, I'm staying home from work today and will try to sleep some more.

    Okay, I'm through whining now.

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    False Advertising

    In yesterday's mail was a flyer from a certain department store.

    And inside the flyer it said that intimate apparel was 50% off.

    Now I studied that picture for a while, but the best I could figure, it wasn't more than 10% off at the most.

    Think I could sue for "pain and suffering"?

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    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Genius

    Pure marketing genius.

    You remember the debacle that was "New Coke"? Well, so do the folks at Coca-Cola. And somebody at Coke deserves a big bonus this time around because this time they got it right.

    Brand loyalty is a funny thing. Once we become entrenched, it's hard to get us to try new things. We have our favorites, the old tried-and-trues, and that's all we want. So how do you get people to switch? What if you have a new product to sell, but can't afford the risk of it not catching on? Coke may have hit upon the secret. And ironically, it's the same thing they did last time - take a new product and give it the old name.

    I'm talking about Diet Coke. The formula has changed so that it now contains Splenda instead of Nutra-Sweet. Though if you go shopping right now, you can probably still find some of the old stock, since it's still in the transition period.

    But what if you don't want Diet Coke with Splenda? What if you want the OLD Diet Coke? Well, you can still get that...only it's now called Coke Zero. But most folks won't figure that out and eventually Coke Zero with go the way of Pepsi Clear.

    Coke won't care, because they will have pulled off the switch to Splenda without diluting the brand or losing market share. I think it's going to work this time for two reasons. One is that the formula change is more subtle than the New Coke to Coke change. With diet drinks, the sweetener change is harder to detect. (Gosh, I sometimes still miss that "twang" you got from saccharin) The reason the switch will work this time is that the change is not in their marque product. Oh, Diet Coke is a heavy hitter for sure, but it's still not the 800lb gorilla. And since it's not, people pay less attention to it.

    Besides, anybody who drinks "diet" must have something wrong with them, so who cares if they complain...

    (I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I pretty much only drink "diet" myself. Oh, wait a minute. I'm trying to DISPROVE my previous assertion...)

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    Age and craftiness win again

    Teenagers.

    You know the look. First thing in the morning. The glazed-over eyes. The slack jaw. The "don't talk to me I'm not awake" attitude. Oh, wait. That's me.

    But this morning it was also the YAC.

    Our orbits didn't much intersect this morning until it was time to go. Then she loads up with all her gear (backpack, binders, purse, lunchbox, etc.) and heads for the car.

    "You can put some of that stuff in the back seat," I say as she continues to put everything on the floorboard of the front seat. "Or, you can just cram it all down there and sit all scrunched up with no leg room. Makes no difference to me."

    Then I proceed to do to the YAC what I did to the EAC when I drove her to school the last four years...pester her with silliness.

    After a very brief round 1, I'm hit with a, "Dad. I'm in a bad mood and I'm cold."

    "Well, I can fix one right now," I say as I cut the AC, "and I'll work on the other one the rest of the way."

    "Daaaaad."

    Oooh. That sounded like a challenge. Better step it up a notch.

    I don't know if it's the cold medication or what, but I've been somewhat manic the last two days. (Picture a fat Basil Fawlty) Anyway, it was no problem to deliver my "A" game this morning. Needless to say (but I'm going to say it anyway, duh), she wore a smile the rest of the way to school.

    I have a secret weapon that works on her every time...it's called attention. Pure, undivided attention. She craves it as much as the rest of us. And she was soaking it up this morning even as she protested at my pestering.

    When I dropped her off at the band hall, I had to remind her, "Remember sweetie, you're in a bad mood."

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    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Decisions, decisions

    You know, it's always been my intention to give the Eldest Aardvark Child the ALANHA address once she was safely ensconced in college.

    Now I'm beginning to have second thoughts. I mean, does she really WANT to know the inner workings of her father's mind? (For that matter, do YOU? But then again, you must since you're here. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste.) Can she handle the realization that I've just been winging it the past 18 years and really DON'T know everything? She already knows I'm a dork, so THAT won't be a problem. There's nothing specific that I can put my finger on (at least not without washing it first), but I just wonder what I would have done at her age if I discovered my dad had a secret identity - but lacked the spandex crime-fighting suit. Then again, that last part is a blessing.

    Anyway, I don't want to freak her out. Her life is changing enough already, what with moving out and starting college life. Does she need this too? Or am I just trying to talk myself out of telling her?

    And then there's the whole "can she keep it a secret from her sister?" thing.

    Well, I guess I've got the rest of this week to decide.

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    I been to skool

    And I seen what it done to folks.

    Today is the first day of school for the Youngest Aardvark Child. She was excited and eager to go. We were excited and eager for her to go. So all's well, I guess.

    Since I still wasn't feeling 100% this morning, Mrs. A took her to school. School doesn't start until 8:00 (or so), but since she's a band weenie, she has to be there by 7:15.

    You know what that means? That means, at least on the mornings I'm up and moving (and Mrs. A will see to THAT!), that I get to take her to school and then head on to work. But I don't have to start working until 8:30. Hmmm. WHAT should I do with that extra hour in the mornings?

    ...

    ...

    ...

    I give up. But I'm sure to think of something. (Tee hee)

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    I guess it's only fair

    That I take a turn having the family cold. First was the EAC, then Mrs. A decided she could carry it a while, and yesterday I started my turn. Actually, I don't think mine is going to be so bad, at least judging by how I feel now. Yesterday was a different story, but I donated platelets Saturday and that may have been playing a larger role than I gave it credit for. Either that, or I've managed a miraculous recovery.

    Hmmm.

    Good thing I shaved with Occam's razor this morning. We'll go with the platelets.

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