Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Best Christmas Present Ever?

Wow I can't tell you how much better I feel. Once again I can drive my big SUV, fly my private jet, burn wood in my fireplace, leave my incandescent lights on all night and even exhale a little carbon dioxide without Al Gore and his church of rampant environmentalism following me around and blaming me for destroying the universe.

carbon certificate

The best part is you can get your own freedom at http://www.freecarbonoffsets.com

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to Yours.

Outdoor Christmas Lights

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Meme

Mostly Cajun had this Christmas Meme up on his blog. So I decided to follow his lead and instead of sending it to 7 other people, just posting it here and if you want to add it to your own blog or copy it and paste your answers into a comment, then go right ahead and do so.

Here goes:

1. Wrapping or gift bags? Wrapping, with the color sunday funnies. I learned this from my Dad. Except that we don't get Sunday funnies anymore we get Saturday Funnies but so far no one has complained.

2. Real or artificial tree? I grew up choosing, cutting and bringing home real trees, but living here in the desert real trees are too far away to hunt yourself and when 9-10 ft tall Noble Fir trees started costing over $100 we went artificial.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Martin Luther King weekend.

5. Do you like eggnog? YES!!! Especially with Kahlua. The kids get theirs straight.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hard to say, there were so many that they all kind of blur together. My mother made sure that each kid got so many gifts that none of them ever had a chance to stand out. Yes, I do have issues about that. However I'm getting a new car for this Christmas and that is got to be pretty high on the list.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Several

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Again there were so many that they don't stand out. But I do seem to remember at least once each year wondering "What the hell am I supposed to do with this?"

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Snail Mail. I like writing the Canned Family Christmas Letter each year.

10. Favorite Christmas movie? Holiday Inn or Christmas Vacation. I could so easily turn into Chevy Chase's character in that movie.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? When I see something that I think someone might like. I bought one of my dear wife's gifts in July this year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Rosettes, krumkaka, Cherry Bonbon cookies, fruitcake, lefsa and fried turkey.

13. Clear lights or colored? Colored.

14. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night - I love Jim Nabors and Kate Smith's versions. But Mannheim Steamroller's version of Silent Night is a close second. All of Chicago's Christmas Album is great.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?
We used to travel a lot since most of my family refuses to come here. But the last few years we have decided to stay home. I love being with family at Christmas but I also like being home.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Duncer, Panzer, Puncher, Victim, Coma, Stupid, Dumber and Blitzkrieg. And don't forget Rude Elf.

17. Angel or star on the top of your tree? Angel.

18. Open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas Eve. I grew up wondering why we opened gifts on Christmas Eve. None of the older family could tell me. They all just said "that is the way we have always done it." Several years ago while doing some genealogy research I discovered that opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve is an old Norwegian custom. Traditionally most celebrating was done on Christmas eve as Christmas Day was a quiet day with the family. Which is pretty much how we do things here. But at least I can tell my children why.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Idiots on the road who left their brains at home but are driving anyway.

20. What do you leave for Santa? Cookies and Eggnog.

21. Least favorite holiday song? Anything recorded in the last 5 years by anyone under that age of 30.

22. Do you decorate your tree with any specific theme or color? Bubble lights and home made decorations. We also have several strings of specialty lights. The tree has so much stuff on it that it is hard to see the tree.

23. Favorite ornament? Bubble Lights.

24. Family tradition? I'm an old fart so traditions are pretty important to me. I have written about our Christmas Traditions here and here and here.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services? Not lately. Midnight Christmas Eve services have been a part of our Christmas Tradition as long as I can remember. I love walking out of church a few minutes after midnight and knowing it was Christmas morning. However our local churches all wimped out a few years ago and they hold midnight church at 10 PM now. So we get out of church around 11 PM. I HATE THAT!!!

So if you want to share your Christmas stories feel free to copy this and post it.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Spirit

We had something happen at our house this afternoon that has never happened before.

We came home from picking up the new car and my wife noticed that the wreath that was hanging on the front of our mailbox, was missing.

Checking out the mailbox pedestal I found the wires that had held the wreath onto the mailbox were still attached to the pedestal. The ends that were attached to the wreath looked like the wreath had been ripped right off from them.

My dear wife surmises that someone just drove up, hopped out of their car, ripped the wreath off the wires, jumped back in their car and drove off. Which is pretty daring for the middle of the day, since I remember seeing the wreath there when we left the house earlier in the day.

The rest of the family is pretty upset by this. My youngest children can't seem to grasp the situation. They keep asking why someone would steal our wreath. The only thing my dear wife can tell them is that they are a lot of people out in the world who only think of themselves or who are just thoughtless, mean spirited, evil or just stupid. Who knows why people would do this.

I guess I am also slightly baffled also. It is not like the wreath has much intrinsic value. It was home made, and had spent the last couple years hanging outside in the sun. So if any of you hear someone bragging about driving around and stealing wreaths feel free to lay a little Christmas spirit upside their heads for us.

New Car

I have one of these parked in the driveway.


My dear wife's two conditions that I would have to meet to have her blessings to start a volleyball club were: Get a cell phone and a new car. She didn't want me running out of town all the time with my old pickup that is falling apart around me, or without a way of getting a hold of me. I was willing to do some car shopping but the cell phone really hurt. I hate these things. But she did make sense so I got the cell phone. That left the car.

I have been shopping for a while and really struggling with what to do. Should I get a new car that I would keep for another 20 years or longer? Should I buy something small and practical that gets good gas mileage that I could drive for a few years then let my oldest daughter take to college with her. Should I finally break down and buy myself that nice fancy sports car or truck with all the bells and whistles that every guy always wants to own?

New or used, big or small, truck or car? I have been looking at cars online and in lots for several weeks. I hadn't really made any decisions, or picked any particular types of cars. But I kept coming back to look at the Honda CRVs, the Dodge Magnum, the Dodge Charger or a couple different used cars. Yesterday I stopped by the local Dodge dealer. They had a 2007 Dodge Magnum sitting on the lot. So the dealer and I took it out for a ride. The car was the low end model SE. That means it didn't have a lot of fancy bells and whistles. But then my basic requirements for a car are simple - air conditioner, stereo and cruise control. Everything thing else is optional. It was the silver color that I liked and it drove well. It pretty much has the same engine in it that our van has, and it has run great for the last 10 years.

The dealer made me what seemed like a pretty good offer on the car. But I wanted to do a little more looking around. When I got home I ran some numbers online to see what this particular car was running. It seems that the offer way below what most guidelines were telling me that I should expect to pay from a dealer.

So today I took my dear wife and kids back to let her check it out also. They all loved the car. I asked the dealer why the offer was so low. She told me that this car had been sitting around taking up space on the lot and no one has even casually looked at it. Everyone was looking at the loaded 08s. No one was interested in the low end 07s.

So we spent a couple hours getting all the paperwork signed and drove home my new car.

BTW, I let my wife write the check (from our joint account) for the downpayment we made on the car. That way she can claim she bought me a car for Christmas. I hope she doesn't try and take it away and wrap it up for Christmas Eve, like we are going to do with our daughter's letter jacket. She got it on Wednesday. We told her she could wear it for a few days but then we were going to take it away from her, wrap it up and put if under the Christmas Tree. We will have to do this at night though, because sleeping and showering seems to be the only time she isn't wearing it.

Back to the car, I like it even if it is a station wagon. I grew up knowing that station wagons were not cool. But now that I am an old man I put a little higher value on space, gas mileage and function that what is cool. besides being a station wagon it looks a little bit like a hearse and what better car for an old man to be driving than a hearse?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Starlings Director's Meeting

Well I made it back from San Diego this evening. I had driven down on Friday evening so I could attend the Starling Director's Meeting. I really wanted to to attend this meeting since I am new to the organization and I had a lot of questions to ask.

We met all day Saturday with an itinerary that covered a wide range of topics for discussion. The highlight of the day was the presentations by John Kessel of USA Volleyball. John was an engaging speaker who spent a lot of time discussion changes to how we should be coaching. I was pleased to find out that several of the things he proposed are things I am already doing. But he made several more points that I liked and need to start working into my normal practices.

On Saturday night we went over to the Epic Volleyball club and played a little volleyball. The facility there was fantastic. It sure puts anyting we have here in town to shame. I had a blast. It was the first time I had been on the court competitively with adults for 12 years. I wasn't moving very fast, I have no vertical left and my timing was nonexistent. But I got through 4 games without damaging my knees or ankles. I scored a few aces, several kills and had two roofs. I didn't keep track of the number of shanked passes I had, but I did blame them on my blurry eyes. Which was about 90 percent true.

After volleyball we all went to El Torito for dinner. That was a total zoo, but fun none the less. I ended up sitting at one end of a very long table with four women from Indianapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia and South Dallas. They were a hoot. We had several discussions about club management, grilled tacos, coaching, salsa, young players, mixed drinks, volleyball parents, slow watresses, inner city volleyball (I couldn't contribute much to that conversation)and just volleyball in general. These four women sure made my little one team club seem like a pitiful effort. I had to keep reminding myself that I have to start somewhere.

On Sunday we met for about 4 hours of more meetings, then an informal hour of just talking afterwards.

I left San Diego around 1 PM this afternoon. I needed to be home for practice by 6 PM. I made it just fine. But i turned out that there was a communication breakdown between the facility director and myself. So I had 8 girls standing around in a chilly parking lot outside a closed and locked building. Eventually I got a hold of the manager and found out that we could not use the facility because they still had things set up in there from some big event they had yesterday. So I gave my girls the night off and came home to try and catch up on a few things I didn't get done because I was gone all weekend.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 5

Well it has been 8 days since my surgery. I didn't go to work again today. The time I was there on Monday convinced me that I'm not ready to spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen yet.

Over all my eyes are doing much better. I was actually able to read the 20-30 lines on the eye chart during my doctor's checkup on tuesday. Since the legal limit to be able to drive is 20-60 he said I could start driving if I felt up to it. So I did. Occasionally I run into a road sign that is hard to see, but for the most part things were pretty clear. Tuesday night I drove myself to my volleyball practice. My dear wife and I were both worried about how I would handle oncoming headlights. But they didn't seem to bother me. However I did notice some sensitivity to bright tail lights. I assume that the color red had something to do with it. But don't really understand why? This evening though I drove home from my daughter's volleyball practice and neither one bothered me much at all.

Today things are a little more blurry than they were yesterday. My close up vision is getting bad. I was warned that this would happen. But I was hoping that since it stayed so clear for so many days that it would stay that way. But apparently that isn't going to happen. I'm wearing my +1.0 reading glasses right now. I'm also preparing to be that old guy who is always looking for his specs in order to read things.

It's late and my eyes are getting tired again so I'm going to end this. Besides I have to get up early. The floor installers are supposed to be here to start our new dining room and kitchen flooring first thing in the morning. Since I probably can't get much done at work anyway I'm going to stay home with them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Shine a Laser in My Eyes - part 4

Well it has been five days since my surgery. My eyes feel much better. Getting those contact lens bandages out of my eyes on Friday made a huge difference.

My vision is improving. But it varies enough that I'm still not driving. Which means that my dear wife is still driving me to and from - everywhere.

My close up vision is still pretty good. I've been warned that I may have some trouble with it as the distance vision clears up. But I was having that trouble with my close vision while wearing my contacts anyway. So I already have a couple pair of reading glasses laying around.

My distance vision comes and goes. One moment I can see pretty well, the next things are blurry. Yesterday I was having trouble with double vision. Everything had an after image to it. The double vision is gone today, but my eyes are tired and I have a mild headache. My right eye is definitely clearer than my left and when my eyes are unbalanced that way I tend to get headaches. The nurse at the doctor's office told me that apparently most engineers have this trouble. Monovision is an option the Doctor's offer with vision correction. This is where one eye is focused for distance and the other for up close. But the nurse said that most engineers never opt for monovision. She says it must be the way our brains are wired that the unbalanced eyes give us headaches. But regardless of how it all works, my eyes are a little unbalanced today and it is giving me a headache.

The bright side of my vision clearing up a bit is I was actually able to see my volleyball players at this afternoon's practice. I had two new players show up at the last practice and all I could see of them was a blond blur and a brunette blur. So it was good to finally get to see them today so if I run into them in town I will know who I am saying hello to.

The local doctor who will be checking my vision told me that I would see pretty good improvement over the next few days but to expect it to come and go on occasion. But so far I have to say it is improving nicely. I'm not sure how long I will be able to stay at work tomorrow. I can't look at a computer screen for very long and if I can't do that there may not be much I can do there. So if my eyes start hurting I will probably just have to have my chauffeur err, my dear wife drive me home.

Now that said this screen is getting bright again and starting to hurt. So good night.