Monday, October 30, 2006

What Sorry Looks Like

You can't get much more contrite than this!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Got Liquids and Gels?

Get a 1-Qt Ziploc bag. And just to be sure, make it a "Ziploc," with a capital "Z," not the generic "ziploc." The airport security people don't like it when you get smart with them and ask if they work for Johnson Co. It doesn't matter if your overnight bag is see-through either (as mine is) and you have nothing significant in the "liquids and gels" category (as I didn't). It still has to be in a 1-Qt Ziploc bag. If you expect to carry your bag onto the plane (as I did), and you forgot your 1-Qt Ziploc bag, be prepared to open your overnight bag for all to see (in front of your co-workers should you be fortunate enough to be traveling with people whom you know well enough to talk tax law, but not well enough to share information on what you carry in your overnight bag...not that I had anything to hide...just sayin this has all the potential for being an embarrassing situation). Also, be prepared to receive the cold piercing stares of those standing behind you in the security lines. Just how the 1-Qt Ziploc bag improves airport security is beyond me.

I just saw a news story about 20-something test (fake) "bombs" making it through security and how security folks needs to do a better job. Perhaps that would be possible if they weren't so busy marketing Ziploc bags and rummaging through our bags of toothpaste and mascara.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Foundation - Core Values

Note: Updated 10/29/06, to finalize the report I plan to present to my peers.

At our recent leadership conference, we were given Task #2: "State, in writing, your core values. Dig deep. Look beyond just behaviors, to the deepest core of what is most important to you."

As a Christian, I think these are laid out for us (meaning that I believe the Bible is the eternal, inerrant Word of God and is the ultimate guide to everything, as opposed to this). The hard part is narrowing it down to which are most important to me. I think the fact that so many people cannot articulate their core values is at the root of dysfunction in our society. How can we all get along if we don't even know what our core values are, let alone agree on them? I also think we confuse cultural differences for value differences and vice versa, which leads to further dysfunction, even by well-meaning people. My friend, Beau (Jen's husband), encouraged me to read a good book (The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis), and suddenly the mystifying subject of moral relativism became much clearer. It's an easy read (if you have time to read it twice, once to let it wash over you and a second time to digest) but also very powerful and I understand now why he uses it in his political philosophy classes. So, without trying to justify or explain these too much (because there is a whole world out there, filled with much better literature on this subject than I am capable of spouting off here and now), here are my core values, the things that I think important, the "rules" I try to live by, the intangibles that clarify the decision-making process for me:

Faith - the means to deep, relevant relationships (trust, honesty, integrity, consistency, commitment); relationships help us to see the beauty in others as well as ourselves; this value has as much to do with worldly relationships as it does the spiritual ones; people are our most important resource.

Hope - conviction that God is always present and that all things will be worked out for good (optimism; the power of positive thinking; call it what you will but I crave being around people who are full of hope)

Charity (love) - loving the unlovely (it's easy to love the lovely; love is the opposite of selfishness; without love, life is flat and lacks purpose) .

Justice - this is a difficult value to define; I tend to think of it in legalistic terms like fairness and equality, but God calls on us to take care of those who are disadvantaged, whether they deserve it or not.

Joy - A quality of being (that we choose), not just an emotion; it sustains us over the long haul, even when our circumstances may lead to unhappiness (as with hope, I crave being around people who don't wallow in their circumstances but are able to see beyond them and find joy).

Peace - diplomatic, healthy communications in resolving conflict, both internal (spiritual) and external (familial, communal, global, etc); Jim gave us plenty of scripture to support this core value, in this post.

Grace - forgiveness and giving others more than they deserve; living according to a person's potential rather than by obligation (doing the right thing even when no one is watching) ; we saw a perfect example of grace when the Amish responded to the recent school shootings in Pennsylvania. Beautiful response.

Stewardship - selflessness; a strong work ethic; perfectly captured in this line of scripture: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

Monty Python and The Holy Grail - this is the real deal breaker; if you don't enjoy this movie and can't find a way to enjoy it, then I'm afraid we just can't be friends. ;-)

Well, that was fun. It will be interesting to see how everyone else's core values compare and (hopefully) overlap.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Feed The Pig

Taking a short break from all the eating and learning goings on downstairs to do some "reflecting" here in my room. We are snowed in at the moment, which is fine because the conference is in the same hotel as our rooms, so the snow outside my window provides a nice view. It is supposed to stop soon, so hopefully the flights out tomorrow will not be a problem.

Last night, over dinner, we listened to a presentation by one of the higher-ups with the American Institute of CPAs. Apparently, the Ad Council (the folks responsible for Public Service Announcments that address critical social issues, the people who brought us Smokey Bear) has approached the AICPA to ask if we would back an ad campaign on financial literacy in America. There is a serious problem of "negative savings" in this country (which means people are spending more than they make, and not only not saving, but going into debt to make ends meet).

And so the AICPA, along with the Ad Council, brings you Feed The Pig. Check out the video ads that are about to run...coming to a theatre near you! I think they're pretty good but you be the judge.

A Mile High

So where am I?

I am away, at a leadership conference, in Colorado, sequestered somewhere in between Denver and Boulder, with all 240 of my partners from across the country. I am getting filled up on a year's worth of motivational speeches and core values and metrics, and tax stuff, and lots of desserts (it's true, the calories don't count when you're away from home). Three days of this stuff. Then we're free to go back home and put all that we have learned into practice. Here are some of the "soft" tasks before us:

Task #1 - Build a Mental Front Porch. Make a strategic plan for reflection. Check. I've got this down to a science. :-) Much as I complain about being too busy, I have no problem setting aside time for reflection. We spent a great deal of time talking about how important this is and how we regretted that people don't have front porches anymore, or if they do, they don't use them. Too true! Remember how DarkoV described blogging as being much like a front porch, onto which we invite others to ponder life? Blogging then, is a critical part of my strategic plan.

Task #2 - State, in writing, your core values. An alarming 90% of the general population cannot do this and yet, it is the foundation of everything that we do. (1)

Task #3 - Develop A Vision For Your Life. Make a list of your heroes and what you say about them. What do your heroes say about you (assuming they know you)? More important than what you do, is WHO you are. What will be your legacy? (2)

Task #4 - List your various roles in life and build out the action steps to become who you want to be; review this plan once a month and share it with someone who will hold you accountable. (3) Again, harder than it sounds. Here's the list of my various roles:

Family servant (wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt)
Community servant
Professional servant
Spiritual servant

Now I need to build out the steps.

Task #5 - Develop a true and joyful spirit of service. Again, harder than it sounds at times, right? (4)

Much as I sometimes balk at having to do this "touchy-feely" kind of stuff, I will credit my company with truly caring about its people and its clients, and understanding that without quality people, who do in fact care about all of the above, there would be no need to entertain a discussion about the more measurable goal of growing revenues.

And if I'm going to follow through on this stuff, I challenge you to give it a shot too. What can it hurt?

A sampling of quotes from today's materials:

(1) "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." Steve Bartkowski

(2) "Worse than being blind is being able to see but having no vision." Helen Keller

(3) "What lies behind us and, what lies before us are small things compared to what lies within us." Ralph Waldo Emerson

(4) "Master the complexity of simplicity." (unknown) This could be my theme song. :-)

Monday, October 23, 2006

10-Minute Feng Shui

I received this little book as a "gift" from a friend. Said friend thought I could use some help in the feng shui department. And I just spilled my glass of water on the feng shui book (fortunately, this prevented water from damaging the other books in the pile). There's something very feng shui about that, don't you think?

So, having just spilled water on the book, I feel compelled to open it (before the pages become irreparably glued together). Here's a brief summary of the things I will need to have installed in my office tomorrow if I hope to "cure" the ills that currently reside therein, and increase my health, wealth and happiness, or harness the ch'i if you will:
  1. Three coins in a red envelope, on my computer
  2. Three coins in a wooden box
  3. A picture of a landscape with a mountain in the distance
  4. A figurine of a lion
  5. Eight I Ching coins tied together with a red ribbon and hung near my computer
  6. A gold star
  7. A live plant (ah, yes, I have one of those, but it is on its last leg), in a red container
  8. Tape three coins underneath the plant
  9. A dried "money plant" (wonder if the dead plant qualifies?)
  10. Vacuumed lampshades
  11. A mirror that reflects the entrance to my office
  12. An octagonal mirror above my computer
  13. Something yellow, something white, something black, and something green
  14. A small, faceted crystal ball, set in the window
  15. A vase of yellow and red flowers
  16. A black stone
  17. A piece of amethyst, on my computer
  18. Eight pieces of jade, on my computer
  19. A quartz crystal, on my computer (and an extra one in my briefcase, just in case)
  20. Another crystal, on a 9-inch red cord
  21. A small pyramid or obelisk, on my desk
  22. A green square
  23. A red triangle, pointed upwards
  24. An egg-shaped object
  25. A framed paper money bill, prominently displayed
  26. A glass wind chime, in the window
  27. A wooden wind chime, in the window
  28. A small fountain
  29. Three objects that signify wealth
  30. The "Ta Yu" symbol, prominently displayed
  31. The symbol for the planet, Jupiter (looks like a "4")
  32. The number "1"
  33. The number "8"
  34. Burning pine incense, in a bamboo holder
  35. Eight small bells on a red cord, hanging on the door
  36. All files need to be moved to the Eastern side of my office (oh, wait, they are!)
  37. And finally, I need to chant a prosperity affirmation three times upon entering my office.

Whew! And that's just the office. I'm pretty sure this will confirm everyone's suspicions that I am a complete nut, just waiting for my chance to dive into the deep end (with or without water). Does anyone really believe this stuff?!?!

Update: I just added a link to the book and in so doing, read this blurb about the author..."She lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with her cats." No offense to cat owners or Massachusetts residents, but I could have predicted all of this. 8-}

A Blogging Respite

While I take a rest, I will share this from the inbox (via

For more than 30 years, New York magazine has run a contest in which contestants take a well-known foreign language expression, change a single letter, and provide a definition for the new expression. Feel free to take a stab at it. Or not. These are free and require no effort on your part. I've emboldened my favorites (because I know you care about these things). Enjoy. :-)

Harlez-vous français?

Cogito Eggo Sum.

Rigor morris.

Repondez-vous s'il vous plaid.

Que sera serf.

Posh mortem.

Pro Bozo publico

Apès Moe le deluge.

Haste cuisine.

Veni, vidi, vice.

Mazel ton.

Aloha oy.

Visa la France.

L'état, c'est moo.

Cogito, ergo spud.
(OK, more than 1 letter.)

Veni, vidi, velcro
(OK, another exception.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blog Fodder

I think Eric and Jim are onto something with their "I have a blog, and I'm not afraid to use it" slogan that bloggers should be required to wear at all times. Although then, we might not be able to get our hands on blogworthy material as easily. Case in point (although I don't think my Company's awareness of my blog would alter their decisions on matters such as signage...and don't get me wrong, I also don't suspect I'm flying under the radar with this thing, it's just a matter of time before my blog becomes fodder for my personnel file):

In our lobby, by the elevator, is the following sign:

"Visitors allowed only if properly escorted."

What concerns me is the use of the word, "properly." What constitutes a "proper" escort, as opposed to an "improper" one? I shudder to think what goes on in our building.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Show Me the Money

My recent discovery of sgazetti's money posts prompted this post. On our trip to Croatia back in 1993, it took some time to get used to the foreign currency, such as it was. The economy was very depressed and the exchange rate improved in our favor on a daily basis, meaning that, for the locals, it was getting worse on a daily basis. We arrived in Croatia by way of the train. Or was it a bus? Well, at any rate, we arrived empty handed in the land of new currency and went first to a little bank kiosk, got some local currency and then headed straight for some coffee, not yet grasping the exchange rate. My husband ordered the first cup. "That will be 2,500 dinaras." My husband gasped and began pulling out bills, handing them over to the barista. Understand that when he left his country, the dinara was roughly the equivalent of a dollar. Heh. Not any more. Every bill he handed over elicted a look of "are you going to pay for the coffee, or what?" By the time my husband finished paying for his teensy cup of coffee, he was most discouraged. "I can't believe how expensive things are now!" He pulled out the rest of the money in his pocket, which was by now, a big wad of bills and stared at it in disbelief. "How much money did that bank give us anyway? I've got hundreds of thousands of 'dollars' here."

The exchange was about 5,500 dinaras per dollar. In our pockets were many 1, 5, 10, and 25 dinara notes, as you see above. Sadly, I gave away my only remaining 1 dinara note as a souvenir (imagine needing 5,500 of these to purchase a soda!), so I don't have any of those to show you. But I do still have all of the above, the sum total of which is 1,665 dinaras, or 30 cents! All of that...really! The ink and paper alone are worth more.

So we carried around wads and wads of money and used it to buy many, many pastries, cakes, sausages and cones piled high with the most wonderful gelato ice cream in the world. For, friends, neighbors, tortes for everyone! Beers were 1,500 dinara each...a quarter, and that was before you returned the glass bottle to get your deposit back. We were gluttons for the duration of our stay, for the sake of cleaning out our bulging wallets. When the vendors opened their cash register drawers, wads of money would spring out of the drawer like a wound up Jack-In-the-Box clown. Gone was any sense of control...there was not room for a separate slot for each denomination; there were no cash register tapes to reconcile at the end of the day; many just left their drawers open and pawed around in the pile of cash until they found the right change. This was an auditor's worst nightmare.

Nowadays, they are slowly being pulled into the age of the Euro, although they still have their own currency, but it is much less volatile and more reasonably denominated, much more sane. But the other was so much more fun.

It's Over!!!

The 2005 tax season is finally over! On Sunday, I completed our own tax return and those of my parents. Just like the cobbler's shoes. Yesterday, I put out fires and finished up the few stragglers and an in-house return for one of our corporate entites. It was a full day but finally, today, I am free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!!

Every time a deadline nears, I panic, I sweat, I miss my family, I become depressed and hopeless, and then it passes. One way or another. Usually everything gets done but sometimes we crash and burn. Sometimes we have to deal with angry clients and in so doing, we have to keep a professional demeanor about us. Sometimes they are angry with us, sometimes with the government. Whatever it is, that is the most difficult part of my job, client service. But there's a certain euphoria that takes over after the adrenaline wears off. A sense of accomplishment, I suppose. We can't fully appreciate the good times without the bad.

Today, I received possibly the nicest card that I have ever received from a client. She is a dear sweet lady whom I called last week, wondering if she still wanted me to prepare her tax return. She's usually very prompt and I had not heard from her. She is a very lucid, intelligent, elegant 80-year old widowed mother and grandmother to many doctors in the community (also clients); her nails are always perfectly manicured in the most beautiful shade of red. We sat together and did her taxes last Friday. Here's what she said in her Thank You card:

"You were gracious, patient, kind, swift, and efficient and made me feel much better about the situation. It will not become a habit. Watching you work and your file systems was special. You do wear many hats! Super Mom. I tell my crew to "pace yourself" and they don't listen too well. Do you?

P.S. It is getting late...have played the Mozard CD three times. Excuse my rambling.



Is that just precious?! And yes, I must learn to pace myself better. Thanks for those comforting and sweet words of wisdom, Mrs. R. :-)


Saturday, October 14, 2006

New Blogrollees

I have added two new blogs (well, okay, one blog, and one "website") to my blogroll that you all really have to read.

By way of Cowtown Pattie, DarkoV recognized my profile pic over on her comments as being taken in Dubrovnik, Croatia and so he made a pleasantly surprising visit here, just as I was posting about the Croatian war. Upon reading his blog, Verging On Pertinence, I discovered a wonderfully funny and brilliant Slavic mind at work. Sure, I enjoyed the Croatian Travelogue posts, but there's so much more, like this recent music post.

The other website" was referred to by DarkoV in his most recent post, and is another Slav (this one from Slovenia, another former Yugoslav republic bordering Croatia). It's called Isoglossia (read this if you too are wondering just what is an "Isoglossia") and even if you don't have kids, I think you might appreciate this hilariously funny "daddy blog" (oops, I mean "website").

Go forth and enjoy!

Friday, October 13, 2006

And Now, For Something Serious

It's shaping up to be another very rough work week. There is a lot of work to get done between now and Monday, when final extensions on personal tax returns expire, and not enough hours or people to do it. It's 1 a.m. and I just got home. I am spent. On the drive home, I was trying to put my own circumstances into perspective. In those 40 minutes, I was transported back to the real life story I mentioned briefly in this post. And now, I am reminded that this too shall pass, and nobody is likely to die in the process. With tax returns, the worst case is it doesn't get done and there will be penalties to pay. Most problems can be resolved with money. As usual, I was reminded that accountants do not make the world go round. In fact, I don't think the world would be any worse off if suddenly there were no more accountants. We essentially legislated our own existence and we have nearly extinguished ourselves as well. But I digress...I've got a hefty billing rate to live up to (like that is even possible) and a blog to maintain.

Plus I have a war story to tell. Understand that this is from a small-Midwestern-town American girl's perspective and sheds very little light on the hows and whys of a war that I can never hope to understand, given the sheltered existence that I have been blessed to live. If I appear to take sides in this story, it is only because this is the only side I know. There are always two sides.

As I've mentioned, my husband hails from Croatia. He was born there and grew up there but left at the young age of 14, to join the Yugoslavian Navy (for the obligatory year of service) and then the Merchant Marines. When he left, he went alone, leaving all of his family behind. His intent was to ultimately make his home in the United States, a dream he had had since he was 6 years old when he remembers his mother having to sneak to church in fear of persecution and his father having to wear a gold star to identify him as a member of the Communist party (against his will). He wanted nothing to do with the Communist regime that held the forced make-shift country of Yugoslavia together since WWI (most Croatians will not even utter the word "Yugoslavia" because it brings up memories of oppression, corruption and evil).

And so it came to be. My husband left "Yugoslavia," came to America (first to San Francisco, then to Beverly Hills where he worked as domestic help for the movie stars...Cher, Gene Hackman, Zsa Zsa, are just some of his past employers...but he does not cherish those memories). He decided to stay awhile, he obtained Permanent Residency, he worked hard, left Beverly Hills for a more "real" existence on the Central Coast of California where ultimately, he met me some 20 years later. He had returned to his homeland only a couple of times, but not in years. A few years later, we were eeking out a meager existence and living paycheck to paycheck when my husband announced that he had been having a recurring dream about his mother and he really wished he could return to Croatia to see her. Afterall, it had been 20 years at that point and she wasn't getting any younger! Not to mention there was a war going on and some of his siblings had just spent six months living in a bunker. Life was a little uncertain for all of his family at that time. We could ill afford to make such an expensive trip and now did not exactly seem like the perfect time to be traveling to the region, what with a war going on, but my husband was persistent and eventually convinced me that we "needed" to do this. We asked my mom for a loan which she happily obliged and we made our trip reservations. Looking back, there has never been a moment in my life when it was clearer what God intended. Always listen to that small voice inside your head that often comes during the still of night.

When we finally arrived (and oh, what a laborious trip it was, but there is not time to tell that story...suffice to say that we went without sleep for over 48 hours and managed to take every mode of transportation I can think of short of pack animals, surprising as that may be), his mother was overjoyed to see him. Words cannot express. We all cried endless tears of joy. What a blessing for him to be with his family and for me, just to meet them all. We stayed for two weeks and spent all of that time with family, no sightseeing. His two closest nephews (because of their ages, they were more like brothers) were always dressed in fatigues and ready to head out the door on a moment's notice. The streets were patrolled heavily by armed militia. Country roads were travelled by U.N. convoys and guarded by both Croatian and Serbian armed troops, depending on where you were. I was never sure if we were on friendly or enemy territory. Although we managed to time our trip "in between" flare-ups (at that time of course, we did not know we were "in between" and hoped that it was "over"), the constant sight of guns everywhere and bomb damage was unsettling, to say the least.

When we arrived, his mom seemed perfectly healthy. When we left, she was feeling flu-like symptoms and told my husband that she knew this would be the last time she saw him before heaven. She was right. In a remarkable display of God's perfect timing, she passed away within three weeks of our departure. It was almost like she had been waiting for that last chance to see her son before she would let herself be taken.

Less than two years later, his oldest (and everybody's favorite) sister, the one who cared for his mother and the one with whom we stayed, also died unexpectedly, of stomach cancer.

And then, several months after she died, her son and the son of another sister, were killed in this operation. Thank God she did not have to bury her own son, although her husband did, and less than a year after that he also died, of a heart attack.

This left a gaping hole in the family and we had a difficult time grasping God's plan, but we were thankful that He did lead us to them before it was too late to share those last few hugs and prayers. This made our most recent visit, in Dec, 2004, a very difficult one. It included a very painful, but therapeutic, visit to the cemetery. It was at the cemetery where I realized the magnitude of the sacrifice his nephews had made. Until then, until I read the date on their tombstones, I did not realize that they died in the most critical battle of the war, the final battle, the one that ended the war with a victory for Croatia that at last, secured Croatia's freedom. I didn't know this because it was a long time after they were killed that my husband even told me what had happened. It was just too painful for him to talk about.

They were two of 174 Croatian soldiers who died in that battle. But possibly hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, on both sides, throughout the war. Those lives can never be replaced. I'm not endorsing war as a solution to world problems, but I do think that there are times, given human nature, when nothing else will do, to stop the torture, the abuse, the absolutely deplorable circumstances that some people must endure because of the despots who make it so. And sadly, innocent civilians die in the process. When talking to the nephews, they knew absolutely that they were called to fight for their country. I have never seen countrymen more proud of their heritage. They spoke with a twinkle in their eye, of what they saw for their country's future. They were not young kids. They were both roughly 40 years old when they were killed. They had lived reasonably full lives, much of it frustrated by the government under which they lived. It's difficult for us to fathom the strain that comes from an oppressive government. I don't think most people in America who are impoverished are so for lack of opportunity. But I saw it firsthand over there, in the blank stares and cold stone smile-less faces, in the shopkeepers dressed in color-coded smocks with absolutely no motivation to sell us a thing, in the bus ticket salesmen too busy smoking to bother selling us a bus ticket, in the farmer's markets devoid of all fresh fruits and vegetables, in everything. But I also saw in the nephews' eyes hope for a brighter future and courage to fight for what they knew was theirs. They knew that death was a possibility and they faced it with faith and knowledge that God is good and would take care of His good and faithful servants. Their enthusiasm was contagious. My husband was convinced he wanted to stay and fight also. He had dreamed of this since he was a child, the opportunity to give the people back their country. His nephews died doing what meant more to them than anything and by all accounts, their mission was accomplished. Yes, it is sad that they and so many had to die, but the country that we visited last year was not the country we visited in 1993. This country is beautiful and vibrant and alive! And what a rich history! If ever you get the chance, it is a wonderful place to visit. The city of Dubrovnik is a real treasure (the link is to an abbreviated photo album of our last visit) that was nearly destroyed in the war but has since been restored. And if you go, remember to honor those fallen soldiers who helped bring it back to life.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Happy Birthday To My Beloved!

Today is the day my husband was born, a certain number of years ago. Or more accurately, today is the date that we celebrate him being born. It could be that he was born yesterday (a certain number of years ago), or September 10th. The European dating system being what it is, and our government officials being what they are, seems to have caused a bit of confusion upon my husband's entry into our legal system many moons ago (1970 to be exact). His birth certificate says he was born 9-10-XX, which by European standards would be October 9th and by U.S. standards would be September 10th. But all of his U.S. documents say that he was born October 10th, and so that is the day we celebrate, because if it was September 10th or October 9th, well, then we missed it!

Happy Birthday, Honey Bear!! :-)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another Random Saturday

Since I've no time to write right now, I thought I would share these few tidbits of life such as it pictorial format.

Does anyone remember Blogathon? I won The Eggs! And I was so excited to get the package!! Before they are all gone, I remembered to snap a photo. If these had been M&M's, there would have been no time for a photo. As it is, the candies are rock hard and spicy hot cinnamon, like those cinnamon toothpicks we all loved as kids, so they are going more slowly, leaving time for a photo break:

The Eggs, They Are Delicious (Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Eggs)

And did everyone read Foo's post about his recent encounter with the viking helmet wearing gentleman? If not, you must. Foo seemed surprised to find such a fellow in the aisles of Costco, but for me, this used to be everyday attire:

Friends Do Not Let Friends Do This

I'm not even going to bother trying to date this photo as to do so would require geological carbon dating equipment that I don't have (the "big" hair provides a clue), but an old friend sent this to me...what good are old friends if not for memories like this one? We were preparing to march in the Saints and Sinners Mardi Gras parade. We were the 10 Amendments, all dressed as the California Raisins in lycra pants, white gloves, white shoes, viking helmets adorned with chicken feathers captured from feather dusters (okay, the California Raisins did not wear viking helmets, but we did), and hoodies, as you can see. We paraded down the street to the tune of I Heard It Through the Grapevine, by Marvin Gaye.* It was dark and we were wearing sunglasses.** I did the artwork on my, um, "sacred tablet" myself; bonus points to the person who can correctly identify the object of my art. 8-}

And lastly, because I need to balance out the above with a little cuteness, Smokey says Hi, and as you can see, the fall leaves are beginning to fall not far from the tree:

"I Just Chased A Baby Squirrel Up A Tree For You...What's Next?"

* I much preferred his version over the Gladys Knight or CCR versions. And though suggested by Cowtown Patti, contrary to popular belief, Duran Duran never recorded a New Wave rendition of this great Motown classic.

** For double jeopardy, name that movie. Oh, c'mon, that's an easy one...

Fridge Update

So, after the reboot, the jet engine noise has not returned, but the refrigerator has continued to struggle with maintaining a proper temperature, cycling between normal and 60 degrees (not normal), resulting in much curdled milk in our refrigerator. So I finally called back to the technician. This took some doing. First, the technician that Samsung referred me to could not come out until Friday, the 13th, and could not even schedule that until I could provide the serial # and exact date of purchase (I was calling from my office and even a phone call back to Samsung to obtain this information resulted in less than perfect results, hence the inability to schedule a service, they require precision to set up an appointment to service an imperfect NEW refrigerator...and even then, they would not be able to do so for a week and a half). Finally, I succeeded in having Samsung reps call the technician directly and talking them into coming out on Friday, the 6th, yesterday.

So, like my fellow blogger, I spent much of Friday waiting for a repairman to show up. I couldn't wait at home, but waited at the office for the pre-emptive phone call. Finally, at about 3:00, after staying close to my corded phone all day and rescheduling a lunch appointment so I could do so, I received that call. I was in the middle of a "very important" tax related task (matters of import are very relative, I realize...refrigeration, being the great modern invention that it is, also falls into the "very important" category when we find ourselves without it) and irritated at having to drop everything to leave at that very moment, but I did. I loaded up a box full of work to do over the weekend and headed out for the normally 35 minute drive home. An hour later, thanks to Friday afternoon traffic, I arrived home. Fortunately, our daughter was able to get home before the repairman gave up his wait. He was gone by the time I arrived. Still no refrigeration.

It seems our NEW refrigerator is in need of a new "main board" and "sensory unit." I think this is the equivalent of a new "mother board" on a computer. Parts have been ordered and the technician will return on October 20th to install them. The 20th! That's two more weeks away. So two weeks without refrigeration. Oy! The freezer compartment is okay, so we still have the frozen lamb and the ability to live on frozen dinners for a couple weeks, but no milk.

Does anyone else feel like we have become victims of our own technology? I'm not ready to give up the creature comforts of things like refrigeration, but really, do we have to complicate is so? Remember when the refrigeration was supplied by a block of ice? That's essentially what we are reduced to now, only it's a Coleman cooler on the floor by the fledgling high-tech refrigerator. Hrmph.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Might Be A Redneck

Okay, so here's the weekend report I've been promising since the weekend itself. You do realize that I don't expect anyone to be sitting around waiting for me, right? The very thought that I might have any "readers" at all makes me laugh. That said, I do appreciate those of you who return again and are precious in my eyes. :-)

Anyhoo. I've got a post to write. Here goes...

I'm inclined to start at the end of the race, such as it was. Wow! What a finish! I've never seen anything like it. Gas? Who needs it? This race was won on, it was actually won by coasting the last half lap. The fumes were gone, the engines vapor locked. 2nd place went to the next car to coast in 17 seconds later. 3rd? Same.

Jimmie Johnson ("our" favorite...I'm just following my husband's lead on this), who had been steadily increasing his lead for nearly 60 laps without a caution flag, knew he would run out of gas if he didn't make a pit stop. He stopped for a splash of fuel with 5 laps left to go and...ahem, got a speeding ticket on pit row (it's NASCAR, people...speeding happens...are you kidding me?!). And then, he too ran out of gas on the last lap. The penalty resulted in a 14th place finish after all of his hard work and narrow misses. Good grief! This was a huge disappointment for my husband who so badly wanted to see Jimmie win. Jimmie was driving so much better than anybody else on the track all day, plus he's a good guy (unlike the ultimate winner, the hot-headed Tony Stewart). There was mass confusion at the end of the race. Nobody (except those with track scanners) knew what was going on or who won the race. There was no gas left for the customary burning rubber spin around the track. The winner had to be pushed into the winner's circle. The whole thing was about as anti-climatic as it gets. The weird part about all of this to me was that others in the crowd didn't seem nearly as visibly disturbed by it all as I was. I was flabbergasted that a race of this magnitude could end with all of the top contenders coasting across the finish line. It all came down to pit stop strategy. Pfftt. Apparently, this is not uncommon? I don't know. Maybe it's not even about the race. More on that in a minute.

In the beginning, it was exciting.

It started with a fly-by of 3 F-18 Hornets. Am I the only one who immediately gets tears in my eyes when these incredible planes fly by? Really. I don't know what it is, but it's very emotional for me. And then there was the invocation, in Jesus' name no less, before a 100,000 or so people. Nice. And then, I will admit to getting sucked into the thrill of the battle cry, "GENTLEMEN! START. YOUR. ENGINES!" And then the incredible roar of the engines, as the green flag was dropped. But really, after that, there was one caution flag after another and it seemed like we would never see lap #267. Jimmie was having a difficult time making any progress with all of the "bunching" (a term I learned from Jen; bunching ruins The Amazing Race, imho). Essentially, the field was levelled every other lap. This went on for about the first 100 or so laps. Bunching ruins NASCAR. None of the crashes were spectacular, just irritating. It was at this point where I wondered how many days it would take to finish the race. It was at this point that I thought about getting out my book. But I didn't. I played along. I was a good sport, I think. I didn't cry when I went to sit down and my seat was up, sending me to the ground (we had to stand up every time a caution lap ended, to watch the race start over again...there was more standing up and sitting down than at a Catholic mass). I didn't cry when I climbed over the seats to get back to my own without stepping on people and the seat flipped up causing a severe toe injury (in case you are wondering, one should not wear Birkenstocks to a NASCAR race either). I didn't cry when the temperatures rose to record October highs, causing near heat stroke when combined with the concrete bowl effect. I did not even cry about Jimmie losing, although I wanted to for my husband's sake...poor guy.

So, if it's not about the race, then what? I believe it's all about the marketing. Let me just say...what a racket! I have never seen such an unapologetic, aggressive marketing racket in my life. It starts on the way in, bumper to bumper traffic and tailgaters flying flags as far as the eye can see. It's like a festival of numbers, each driver a spokesman for a Fortune 500 company and identified by his number. There is no end to the flags and tents and people. Before entering the stadium, we were accosted by vendors hawking t-shirts, hats, trinkets and wampum.

Shameless Plug for Jimmie

Once inside, we were faced with a choice of dying of heat stroke or paying $3.00 per bottle for water. We spent $27 on water alone (you can't bring in your own). The highlight of the day was the Fried Bologna sandwich...mmm...but combine sodium laced bologna with 90 degree heat and my ankles were pretty swollen by the end of the day. I heard, but have not verified, that the concessions (including product sales) bring in more money than the ticket sales. I don't doubt that. I am now the proud owner of a pink camouflage Jimmie Johnson hat, #48. I could have bought the exact same hat with the #38 on it instead, for $20 less. I must be a Redneck. ;-)

After the race, we took our hosts out to dinner to thank them for inviting us. When we got home, we were exhausted from the heat and the sunburns and went straight to bed.


Where was I?

Oh yes, this honkytonk bar on Saturday night, to see The Original Low Riders, a derivative of this band. I will admit that I didn't know what I was going to hear, but as soon as I heard them play, I recognized many of their songs (Cisco Kid, the Low Rider song...think Cheech and Chong) and enjoyed them a lot. I enjoyed the place nearly as much as the music. The Knucklehead Saloon defines "funky kitsch." It is a dive bar to beat all dive bars, located practically on the train tracks in one of the worst parts of town and it is built out of found parts (travel trailers, garage doors, outhouses, corrugated sheet metal, asbestos tiles, old cabooses, etc.) It is populated by a most eclectic mix of people, running the gamut from local residents who meander around the perimeter not wanting to pay to get in, to the governor of Kansas, to the rich white ladies of Johnson County, KS who normally wouldn't be caught dead on the Missouri side of the state line, especially in a place like this. But the place comes alive at night and the music keeps everyone coming back for more. The best part is that the trains run by about every 15-20 minutes and blow their horns mid-song. There was something very surreal about the whole experience (and I was stone cold sober ;-).

Which leads me to the last part of my post, which was the first part of my weekend. Getting high. And I mean, really high. Eight stories high. On scaffolding. Here's a picture.

Yet Another Flattering Self-Portrait

Look at the reflection in the window and you can see a nearby 4-story building below us. At first, I agreed to help my husband because he gave his employee the day off and really needed to finish just "one small part." He said all he needed from me was an extra set of hands. Little did I know that the extra set of hands needed to join him on the scaffold in order to push the button that makes it go up and down. Without me, he would have had to push one side, then walk down the plank and push the button on other side...needless to say, this increases the risk factor of working on scaffolding considerably. We arrived on site and I looked up at the dangling scaffold (which rocked side to side like a small boat on the was anything but stable).

Impending Doom

I followed MBH up to the roof where he checked all of the cables and clamps to ensure our safety and then went back down to the ground. Once on the scaffold, every body twitch resulted in movement of the plank on which we were standing. I grabbed the railing for dear life, anchored myself with that hook you see (the image that keeps coming back is of me dangling from that there hook in the event the cables fail) and pushed the button to begin our ascent. I did not look back and I did not look down. I just held on for dear life and pushed the button in concert with my husband, trying not to get out of sink causing a severe list to one side or the other. Once we arrived at the top story, I got to work painting and took my mind off of the fact that we were just minutes away from becoming easy prey for the evening news, dangling in mid-air by those hooks, waiting for the fire department to arrive. In the end, we managed to paint eight stories worth of window frames and my husband was very pleased with my work. He said I'm ready to become a righteous painter. Maybe now I can give up my accounting gig. ;-)

And while all of the above was going on, two tons of work sat in my briefcase at home and not a lick of it got done. We have another big deadline fast approaching on 10/15 and I am ill prepared to take it on.

But that's the weekend wrap-up, finally. Any questions?

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Moving Right Along

This post is just a placeholder until I can get some free time to post all about my exhausting weekend (and to move that silly picture down the page a bit).

Coming up:

Working in high places,
Honky Tonks, and

Stay tuned ;-)