Friday, March 28, 2008

We Keep Our Minds to Safety. Truely.

I am beat.

Pinewood Derby was Wednesday night and -- I think, I didn't look up & take it all in much -- it was awesome. Thanks to our kind and crafty Plant Manager at Shain Solutions, the boys and parents of State College Cub Scout Pack 40 got a brand new handmade-from-the-finest-birch plywood Pinewood Derby track. Orchestrating that was a little stressful, but Plant Manager did all the real design & working work. I offered all I could, and he let me do some sanding and gluing, but really it was the Plant Manager show. The parents were so appreciative, and gave such great applause, I don't know how to give that back to Plant Manager. I did take a couple of photos & hoped to print them out with "Thank You (Plant Manager)!!!" on them. . .

. . . but I didn't get to take any action shots like last year. I was the gatekeeper for the races, see. Also, my Lightning Patrol (11 year old, technically Boy Scouts and not a part of the derby) operated a "Speed Shop" for the cubs. I brought in all of my tools and goodies, and we applied graphite, we added weights, we removed weights, we aligned axles, we weighed to help the Cubs be ready to go their fastest. THAT part -- again I think, because I didn't look up much -- was the most totally awesomest like ever. I'm told it was a great success, and many were grateful for our forethought, time, supplies & efforts. My scouts were also very good about helping more than goofing off. They were supportive and enthusiastic and excellent models of service and leadership for the younger scouts. YAY LIGHTNING PATROL!

Max and I spent a lot of time this year getting our cars (he built his own, me my own) ready this year. We did as many of the speed secret things as we could, and we did it more together than ever before. By the time the race came, neither of us much cared how fast our cars were. Which was a good thing, because in the post-derby "Family Race", our cars were strictly mediocre. Hmmm . . . But again, not so much a problem. Max has simply oozed love for his Daddy lately with all this dude time and with all the stuff he gets to really DO himself now. I think the derby should continue through Boy Scouts. . .

Totally conflicted. That's how I feel about spending next week at a commercial photography seminar in Pittsburgh. Grrrrr. I'm sure I'll learn a lot. But it costs so much and it uses vacation days and I can't believe I'm going to VOLUNTARILY spend a week away from my most adored wife and munchkinlings! Am I HIGH? Sheesh.

Allow me to post a picture on my blog, for once, before AK does. It's the big orange sweater she's been working on for Max for quite some time and it's awesome . . .

AK says it doesn't show the sweater as some other shots, but it's my favorite of Max. He's got that teen look going here, since his hair is unshorn. He's rocking the Shaggy Efron 'do. It's combed here but usually falls forward like a cross between Zac and The Beatles.

We wanted to help him audition for a local production of Sound of Music. The other theater kids in his school are auditioning, and it would be a great start for him. But alas, the rehearsal schedule is IN. Frazzling. SANE. He'd have to give up every other activity until it was over! Now I remember, I gave up track so I could be in theater. I gave up the unicycle club so I could be in theater. I couldn't be in band because I was in theater. I was going to stop global warming and bring peace to the Middle East. . . BUT I COULDN'T BECAUSE I HAD REHEARSALS TO ATTEND!

We need a children's theater here in State College. Who wants to come start one?

This photo has nothing to do with anything. I found it surfing around my hard drive, in with a bunch of other photos I took on a trip to Japan. I love the Japanese fascination-with-and-totally-shaky-grasp-of our English language. My favorite soda in Japan? "Pocari Sweat". My most treasured keepsake? A motorcycle shop banner that reads "A Motorcycle Is The Sport Of Naked". This here was proudly emblazoned on a very small cruiser's gas tank, so we all could know with unshakable certainty that the owner of the tiny motorcycle was One. Bad. Ass.

Now I'm off to a whirlwind weekend of munchkin-shuttling and packing for Pittsburgh. Have a bo'fiddlin 'dacious weekend my peeps. Kiss those babies and drive safety.



Saturday, March 15, 2008

My First Saturday

I've had job work to do every single Saturday for a long long time. And if there was some event that kept me from working on a Saturday, it was accompanied by anxiety about the work that wasn't getting done.

Then I put Lux Graphics to bed. Closed the door, as it were. Very difficult to do.

Then I had a Saturday, but I had to spend it flying home from Orlando.

Then I had another week.

NOW I get to have a total SATURDAY! Just like you do, most likely. I left my work at work. I have a whole day to do what I want (within budget of course. But the budget is good since I sold my inventory of bodies and my inventory of fancy laquer paints last week). What do I want?

Well, I slept in. That is important, since I get up at 5:30 all week. It is also an unexpected bonus of having the afternoon church session this year, I get to sleep in two days a week instead of just one.

I want to work with Max on our Lip Sync routine, due next Saturday. I'm always wishing our church did stuff like this, and now they are, and it looks like I'm one of only a few who are down with it :(. But goldarnit we'll get up there and shake our tailfeathers in the name of family entertainment. Max and I are planning the very same Blues Brothers routine I so fondly remember doing with my buddy in high school. I'm worried about the dance steps, though. Max is good hearted, smart and disarmingly sincere & un-angsty -- but I don't think he's Nando on The Dancefloor yet. He's only in the 6th grade. Speaking of which, I'm on a Rockabilly/Swing music kick and would love to teach the kids a swing dance class in Extended Day next year. But we think there won't be enough boys for it :(. Where was I? Lip sync? Yes. I bought shades, black ties and cheap glue-on sideburns last week. A few days later I bought us real Blues Brothers hats. They cost more than the costume-quality ones, but I hope we'll get some use out of them and to be honest I don't think I could squeeze a costume hat over my gargantual noggin even for the duration of one song. Note to self, go shopping for coats & black pants today after. . .

I want to go see "Horton Hears a Who" with my boys. So we're gonna do that as soon as AK gets back from Lowes with Gramma. They are buying lumber for the raised gardens we'll have at "Gramma's Gardens" this year. OH the corn I will eat this Summer! Big BBQ. You're all invited.

I want to post a blog including this coolio photo I found on Gramma's camera from Christmas, but I accidentally sent it to AK with her Smithsonian photos so SHE posted it first. Tough. Here 'tis. . .

THEY ARE SO NOT MY LITTLE BABIES ANYMORE! *sniff* Ben has a VERY Max'ish look on his face here. And Milo looks healthier than he has in weeks. Between the Big Yuck of '08 that's been going around, a 2-day stomach flu, and general chapping from the cold/dry air? Milo has been Doctor Crustyface for most of my recent memory. This reminds me he IS under there somewhere.

I am going to go tickle their bellies and pretend they are still small enough to carry places. And hope I don't get kicked unconscious. It's a sad milestone when tickling your littles becomes as dangerous as it is intoxicatingly fun.

Savor those Saturdays!



Saturday, March 08, 2008

Nordic Track. Rhymes with Laundry Rack.

Coincidence? I don't think so. But we have one. Now we can add that to the list of things we'll soon have in common with most Good American Consumers: we've owned, neglected, and then un-owned a Nordic Track. THANK GOODNESS we didn't pay one red cent for it. That lessens the sting a little. I am still mortally, morally, physically, spiritually and otherwise'ally opposed to Freecycle in all of it's hidden evil perpetuating our consumer crap culture. Inamajeezcrisamen.

NSSEA took up most of my week. After 8 years attending almost every Bike Week, I end up in the Educational Furniture industry. And where do they hold their hugest convention? Orlando. When? Bike week. Aside from a few Harley jackets on the plane, there was no actual Bike Week experienced, but I thought it strange. I DID love/miss the near-daily short torrential downpours in Florida. Florida is such a strange landscape, so overcast (I'm always there in March) and so eerily flat in every direction. And so soggy. Stomp on the ground and you'll have a little shoe-shaped lake come up. I give the whole state 10 years. Then Gainesville will be beachfront property and only fishes will be clubbin' in Miami. Global Warming 1, Timeshare Owners 0.

I painfully and miserably missed my newest and longest and most bestest friends (my wife & sons) all. Week. Long. I had to travel on a Saturday, see. So I'm wondering if anyone's going to offer me a comp. day, see. Then it occurs to me that I ALWAYS traveled/worked events on weekends for Honda. And I never asked for the days back. I always got some SWAG or tickets to a race or something and never ever ever even once balanced the value of that special treat against the value of the time I was missing with my family. I guess today I wouldn't be nearly the rep I was then, huh? Weird how things change.

I'm so grateful that I ran over that rabbitt and made those changes 3.5 years ago. And here we are in the midst of another great change, with me ending one career and starting another. And AK is finally thinking it's time for her too to make a change. And I'm finding the Pointy Haired Boss thing less-than-rewarding. My gripe is surely influenced by all the tradeshow work I just did, but still I'm thinking of seeing what it'd take to become a schoolteacher. It probably pays the same as I'm getting now to start. BUT SUMMERS OFF, PEOPLE! Sum. Mers.


Field trips. Waterslides. Camping. Memories to last a lifetime. Memories to keep me company in my old age low-rent care facility, because no matter WHAT I do when I grow up it's getting a little late for 401K Palm Beach retirement fantasies.

S'what I'm saying. Know what I'm saying? Just saying.

Weather landed all up in the USA today, making travel home inconvenient and interesting, but not as bad as it could have been. Heaven help those going to or through Ohio today. When I finally got home it was just wet and icky, most all of the snow being melted. Pennsylvania was looking butt-ugly for sure. But by evening it had cooled enough that all ugliness was being coated in white. I hope it lasts!

AK is giddy with excitement about Spring and all the things she will grow this year. I must admit I'm excited about our own CROP of super ultimate mega fresh sweet corn. Anything more than last year would be a bonus. AK did so much work, yet our canning shelves are sparsely populated.

Politics AK put a Hillary sticker on "our" Taurus :(. Also an optimistic "Clinton/Obama '08" sticker. On one hand, it doesn't get much lefter than a college town, so we're not likely to get run off the road for this (I had my life threatened in rural Oregon one time, and was told most likely it was due to me a)riding a motorcycle and b)having a CA plate on the motorcycle). But I've never ever ever put a bumper sticker on any vehicle so I'm a little confuzzled and conflicted about it. Regardless of the whole "you don't discuss religion or politics" (and wasn't money part of that too?) thing . . . they are tacky and hard to clean off! But back on what to discuss or not discuss -- it's just someplace I'm not comfortable going lately. More than any other time in my life, I'm confident enough in who I am and where I stand to not need to talk about it with anyone. I talk about it to my wife because I'm an extrovert and still need the words coming out of my mouth to solidify/clarify the ideas. But otherwise, even with all the new people in my life at work and at church, even with such exciting things going on in politics, I'm quite content to talk about it (or not) with no statement or commitment to one side, candidate or party. It's sad, but saying "I'm a democrat" is giving people one more excuse to generalize about me or otherwise pigeonhole me as this-or-that type of person. And you just KNOW I'm not saying the word "Mormon" to anyone! I think I've said "Latter Day Saints" at work in passing once or twice. But I don't think they make that connection in Philipsburg. By the look on their faces, I might have said "New Ministry of Presbyterian Unified Unitariate Methodarians".

(so I just said how I don't want to talk about it? Now commences the talking about it. Good thing no one reads this blog. . . .)

I don't know where I stand in the Dem primaries, but I am registered that way and PA might make a difference for the first time in awhile so I'd better figure it out. I have much to say about all the candidates' presentation skills and speechwriters :). And I do listen to NPR's "On Point" everyday. The show is just as likely to be about a Portuguese dissident Haiku-writing performance artist as it is likely to be about the elections. But it's still 20 minutes more of in-depth coverage than I'd get otherwise.

I just deleted 3 paragraphs here. To be concise, I think Obama is more electable vs. McCain but I think Hillary would be a better president. What to do come primaries?

Maybe I should become a republican because I have more faith in capitalism than I do in bureaucracy most days? Or maybe I should be a libertarian because I'd like to keep all the money I earn and think I'm more capable of putting it where it belongs than the government is? As with most things in life, I'll have to be what I am for reasons that go deeper than sound-bytes or doctrine. Deep deep down, down where I can't really even argue the point, I believe we are who we are because of money or the lack of money. I tend to see all strife & conflict in the world as a result of financial conditions more than political or religious struggles. So I understand why I have this chip on my shoulder about people with money (and I had it even when I was one of those people. . . ). But for all my maturity and business education and rock-solid faith in markets and Ayn Rand fantasies and even family-values'ism . . . I started out po'. That chip on my shoulder is awfully small anymore -- but I imagine it will always be there. And that's what puts me where I am.

Like our decision on who to vote for, in the end it's little to do with policy or stances on issues. It's who we like. And while we're given masterminded sound bytes to explain WHY we like one or the other, we like who we like for those reasons that are hardest to understand and sometimes harder to acknowledge. My chip doesn't make any sense, and my chip has NO IDEA what's best for the future of our country, and I wish I could be more objective. I hope to teach my progeny that the objective work is of utmost importance, it must be done, and all arguments must be considered on their rational merits. Because then we're best prepared to see -- and embrace -- the other part of our vote.



Saturday, March 01, 2008

What. The. HIZZLE?

Leap Year Lunacy? Yesterday was totally weird.

I was stoned all morning, as though I was on Benadrool. But I wasn't. I couldn't think straight, could get much work done, couldn't seem to get it in gear at all. Which was a bummer, because it was shaping up to be quiet at work and I had some long term projects to work on. Then the phone guys came. To make a long story short, my first day at work (Jan 3rd) I declared that we'd be overhauling the phone system to make it customer and user friendly. 2 months later, it's still not done, and for the past few weeks this is because of heinous customer service from our phone vendor. When they came to finally make the actual changes (again), I'm told that what I wanted, what we'd been discussing with them for weeks, couldn't be done. I had to choose either this, that, or the other. None of the options sounded right, and on top of all the other things they screwed up I couldn't believe that I was being put in the position to make this decision RIGHT NOW because they were FINALLY HERE and ready to make the changes. I was upset and I let them know I was upset and I let them know in a calm but disappointed tone (I think) exactly why I was upset. I asked that they give me 10 minutes to consult my boss (who's in Wisconsin). I called her and gave her the short version, that we had to choose either a, b, or go with another vendor (I'd expressed my disappointment in 3 consecutive management meetings now and had the business card of another phone system service vendor). As boss & I talked, I was told the phone guys left. They told one of my team "Tell Chris to find another vendor". They walked out. They declared, in not so many words, that I was such a bad customer they didn't want my business. And I understand they've HAD our business for some time now. Weird.

I've known those customers, the ones so bad you don't want their business. I've told them so to their face (customer: "I'll never buy another Honda!" Chris: "Promise?"). But I can't imagine that on my worst day I am that customer. I'm not irate, I don't yell, I don't threaten or intimidate. I asked everyone there (small office, everyone hears everything) and they said I was calm & reasonable.

I suspect there are two things going on here. First, I'm slowly learning that I can't hold our vendors to the same standards of customer service I hold myself and my team to for our own customers. This is unfortunate, and I'm honestly not ready to accept it's a reality. So we'll see on that one. Second -- and this is from AK not me -- apparently I can be a really big scary serious bald man. :(. I don't FEEL big or scary. But I am serious when I'm serious. And I am bald. She says I'm like the muppet Sweetums. . .

. . . the monster who doesn't know he's a monster. I don't think I like this. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway THEN the bottom falls out of the reality market for the rest of February 29th. Then the phones light up and everythings bad and everything's right now and oh my gizzle this that and the other. It was hands down the craziest few hours I've ever spent at my new job. And everyone ELSE in my life was panic-themed too . . .

AK spent yesterday afternoon having the e-mail equivalent of a shouting match with THE PRESIDENT OF ONE OF HER CLIENT COMPANIES! This is SO not like AK. She did the right thing, see, something went weird somewhere, and people all got pissy and mad. So she stood up for herself and said DAMMIT I WASN'T DOING ANYTHING WEIRD OR PISSY I WAS DOING -- AND I KNOW THIS IS NOT THE NORM IN OUR INDUSTRY -- THE RIGHT AND HONEST THING TO DO IN THIS SITUATION!. It all sorted out by the end of the day, but still. Who are you pod people and when are you bringing my wife back?

Gramma Gaye did something -- and we don't know what -- we think maybe something terribly offensive and personally against her podiatrist like *gasp* NEGLECTING TO PUT LOTION ON HER FEET -- to tick off her podiatrist. As retaliation, her podiatrist did something to her feet that caused her to bleed in her socks all day. What the fizzle, people?

Is it just us? Did anyone else have a totally surreal February 29th?

I was hoping it was all over. However, I've been out-of-it all morning again. I did some stuff for Gramma this morning and she is also "rummy" as she puts it. I had to growl/bark at the two college boys who boldly cut right in front of me at the symphony ticket office this morning (this is what reminded me of the Sweetums Dilemma, as I walked out and they apologized for the 2nd time I thought "Hm, you'd have think they saw a monster the way they reacted. . . "). And AK's just reported that not only did she have a typically heinous customer service issue at Wal-Mart just now. . . but she boldly confronted the Customer Service people and waited while her issue was addressed and personally apologized for. Is it us? Are we uppitty? Have we reached our tolerance for unacceptable paid services? Is it the barometer? Is Mercury retrograde? Is it the end of the world as we know it?

We'll see. I have to go pick up Ben and Milo from Emma's birthday party, so any number of unthinkable things may be reported at that time. Then Max and I go see a local production of "The King and I" this evening. More potential for weirness, weirdiosity and utter weirditude.



Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.


Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.



Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.



 Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.








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