Monday, December 31, 2007

P&R Ball



Last night several adults gathered at a table while the kids were playing dodgeball and stuff for their New Years Eve party at church. We played a dice game called "chicken" or "farkle." There was probably more whooping and laughing at our table than the kids in the other room. Lucie and I had intended to drop the kids off and leave but we stayed the whole time (till 11 PM). We ate a lot and had a lot of laughs. Elliott went over to a friend's house for the night afterwards and that friend's sister spent the night at our house with Ashleigh.

While there at church yesterday, someone challenged me to a game(s) of ping pong. Coincidental that I had just played Elliott earlier in the day. Anyway, he was all wound up and ready to roll. I beat him pretty good. Three times. The final game I was up 10-0 before he scored his first point. When will they learn...?

This morning I met some friends at the Y for racquetball. That was pretty good. I won twice, the other guy won twice, and his son one once. Very competitive and a lot of fun. Most importantly, no one got hurt (although the son did take my legs out once and I fell on top of him). I can sure leave a big sweaty wet spot on the floor!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

16-0


The top story is of course, the top story. The Patriots set many records this season and last night. Thrilling game. Three more to go...

Earlier in the day on Saturday, we went to brunch at the parents of one of Elliott's basketball/school friends. He is a minister at a local church and a really nice guy. He has ties to New England and a friend in Eliot, ME so we had a good time talking. About 40 people were there (including many kids) and good food.

After that, we stopped by the church and updated the floor markings that indicate where the chairs are supposed to line up. The chairs will all be moved out of the way for the youth group's New Years Eve party tonight and it makes it easier to put the chairs back with fresh 'markers.' (The markers are numbered pieces of duct tape placed at the beginning and ends of each row for alignment. Our engineer friend came up with that idea and I maintain it.)

Elliott has been playing a lot of ping pong lately. So today he stepped up and threw down the challenge to the old man. He came all dressed in a sports outfit so I put on my Celtics shorts and tank top. And proceeded to keep him humble... He didn't want any charity so none was given. Best of 5; I won 21-12, 21-12, 21-17. But he is good. I am betting he is the best at his age category and then some. I have wanted to set up a tournament at church and I even have a bracket template ready to go. Some day I guess.

For lunch today we used our Applebee's gift card that we received for Christmas. Every time we go there, it is an ordeal to pay. There were 2 families of four at one table and we wanted separate checks (we told her first thing when we sat down). That caused our waitress to lock up and roll her eyes. We got through that and the meal; then the trouble began. When the waitress gave us our bill, all of the drinks were on my tab. OK - not to worry; we will settle it up with our friends later. And she had added 15% tip to the bill. Fine. But then I handed her our new gift card, an older gift card (that still had a little balance left) and my credit card for the remainder of the difference (about $3). Our friends paid in a similar way but they only had one gift card and a credit card. When the waitress handed our bills and cards to the manager, he went to work like Pythagorus on an abacus (hey, that rhymed!). Twenty minutes and many waitress apologies later, we got our final slips back. The waitress said there was nothing charged to our credit card as the other gift cards covered the bill (that didn't add up but I took her word for it). So we left and when we got home, I called and checked the balance on the gift cards. The new one was zeroed out, and the older one now has like $4.67 on it! Well, it was not our fault if they short-changed themselves. Every time we go we have a payment issue. But that was our last gift card so we won't have to go through that again for a long time.

Tonight is the church New Years Eve service with food. The youth will stay till 11.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Today's title has nothing to do with the text, I just thought it was a good title for the picture of Britni on Elliott's face.

Another quiet day on tap for today. It is about 1 PM and we are just getting in gear. Kids slept in. Lucie played with her new camera. I did some online job searching and tried to teach a friend how to IM. Of course it took a child to step in and save the day.

Yesterday the kids went to a friend's birthday party at the University ice skating rink. Why, when I was a kid.... I could skate really well. It doesn't get cold enough here long enough for outdoor skating and there are no really good places to go anyway. They had a good time and came back without anything broken or bruised. We hung around here afterwards until Elliott and I went to basketball. I did OK but my knees started to get sore so I stopped early.

Our post-Christmas shopping day went pretty good. No traffic. No lines. We went to a bunch of places and found some good sales on Christmas stuff for next year. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Ashleigh is starting lacrosse when she goes back to school so today we are going lacrosse stick shopping. Movie night at home tonight.

We got invited to the house of a friend of Elliott's for brunch tomorrow. He plays basketball with Elliott and we see the parents at the games so that should be nice. Then at 8:15 PM, we willbe settling down to see history being made (beginning of the Patriots game).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Bore-y


The title does not refer to the Hale family Christmas this year (I will come back to that), but to that waste-of-time movie, A Christmas Story. For some reason, that movie gets a lot of praise for being a Christmas classic and the TBS network runs it repeatedly 24 hours in a row. For the life of me I don't know why. It is tedious, boring, slow paced, and really has no point. It is hard for me to give it credit as a great family movie when one of the central themes involves foul language. Maybe I don't get it. I didn't get Napolean Dynamite either but at least there were a few funny lines in that movie.

So after struggling through that movie, and even hoping maybe something in the credits would give it redemptive value (but finding nothing amusing there either), I decided to clear my mental palate with a viewing of Rudolph and the Land of Misfit Toys. I had recorded it about two weeks ago thinking it was the original classic with the stop-motion characters and the Abominable Snowman. Turns out what I recorded was a 2001 cartoon of the original. That lasted about 30 seconds before ending up in the deleted list. We ended the night watching the finale of the Mt. Everest documentary which was captivating.

The day went fine. Thanks to all who sent/gave us gifts. We had a nice, slow paced time. For a while we had that channel on the TV with the burning log in the fireplace. We had a really nice time. Which reminds me - on Christmas Eve we watched Christmas Vacation. Now that is a classic movie. The weather was cool but nice and sunny - hardly felt Christmas-y but that was OK. We ate lots of ham and made several friends and family phone calls. Gave the dogs ham bones to chew on so they were occupied. We got ourselves a new telephone system for the house with verbal Caller ID - an electronic voice says the name of the caller. I am looking forward to hearing some of your names announced throughout the house. I may even load up some funny names ("Don't Answer" is calling....)

Today Lucie wants to go out and hit some post-Christmas specials. For lack of something better to do, I will go with her. And I am sure I will find that trimming the lawn with nail clippers would have been more productive and enjoyable...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

Saturday afternoon Elliott and I loaded up the dogs and took them to Petco to get their nails trimmed. We had to get their rabies vaccination information faxed to us and with that in hand, we headed out. Both dogs love to ride in the car and I spread an old blanket over my back seat to collect the hair. The beagle cried and whined the whole way - I guess she wanted to get out and run around. We got there and the Petco people trimmed their nails quickly. While we were there, another worker was brushing out a big dog. I asked her what she was using and it was a "rake." So after the nail trimming, Elliott and I went and bought ourselves a rake.

Petco is right next to a Dicks' Sporting Goods so we put the dogs in the car and went in and bought me some new knee supports. These ones were one step up from my other ones and had the knee holes in them. When we got back to the car, the blanket was no longer over the back seat and the golden retriever was in the driver's seat. We went home and I vacuumed out the car and Windex-ed the windows (to get the slobber off). While wearing my new knee supports.

Then I went to the backyard and raked out the golden retriever. That thing worked great. I should have made a commercial for it. I had clouds of hair swirling about me. The dog is a shadow of her former self. Next, it was doggie bath time. I line up a bunch of towels and throw on an old T-shirt and shorts. Ashleigh helped by aiming the hand-held shower head. Britni the beagle is an easy wash. She is in and out pretty quickly. When she gets out, she puts her head against the corner of the wall where it meets the carpet and rockets around the perimeter of the rooms. Pretty funny. Jasmine the golden retriever happily hops right into the tub. But she is so big and hairy, it is quite a job. Having raked out the hair made things much easier. So now the dogs are clean and smell good. For about another 2 days...

I then plopped on the couch for a while and affixed ice bags to my knees with Ace bandages. That really helped.

That night we went over to some friends and played games and ate dinner while the kids were at church youth group.

Saturday Lucie and I went out and did a little shopping in the mall area. Parking was tricky but there were no lines in the stores. I had to buy some more blank DVDs because my DVD burner apparently doesn't like the Sony brand. Which I have a whole spindle of. And which is now for sale. I bought a spindle of TDKs and all is good now. That night we had some friends over to have some ham from the Honey Baked ham my father sends us every year. More eating and games.

Today it is pretty foggy out and we have no real plans after church. The Patriots play at 4 at Miami. Miami is on a 1 game winning streak.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Not the Only One

I just got word that my former counterpart in a large metropolitan city "pulled a Hale" and resigned from my former company. He was an executive in the FBI and he couldn't take it any more either.

I finally found the bad bulb in the Christmas net lights. I spread the net over a chair in the living room and started the one-by-one replacement process. After a few minutes, I found it. Replaced it. All good. Saved myself $4 from buying a new one. So I took myself out to McDonalds for lunch.

Tonight we are having some friends over while our kids are at the church youth group. The local grocery store that sells the weekend $5 large pizza is taking a beating from us.

As is usually the case at this time of year, we had a ton of people come out for basketball last night. Some church people back from college, friends of friends of friends, etc. We had 21 people come out. I sent 3 home when they came an hour and a half late. We were able to play full court which was good with that many people but it is a bit much. We go thru this cycle every once in a while - somehow the word gets out that I am running a YMCA and all sorts of people show up. So I have to cull the herd on occasion and get things back in order. Makes for some unpleasantness but I figure they can start their own basketball night at their church...

While I was playing, my knees were killing me on every jump. I wear knee supports but they aren't doing the job any more. I may have to look for a wheelchair league to play in...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shawn Griswold

Clark's got nothing on me... Last night a big section of one of our net Christmas lights went out. That usually means a bulb is completely out of the socket. So I went out there in the freezing cold and checked it out. All seemed to be in place. I brought my bag of extra bulbs out and started replacing the burned out ones. I must have replaced over 30 of them stupid things. And they are the kind with the little locking flap piece that folds over to hold it in place. After a while, my fingers were so cold I couldn't open the flaps. So I got a butter knife and went to it. A couple of times the entire bulb and socket would go flying into the void when I popped the flap so I had to replace the whole thing. Which was probably better than trying to thread those tiny bulb wire 'legs' into the socket holes. After a while of that, the big section was still out. I grabbed a stool and another string of lights and went to pulling out every non-lit bulb and plugging it into the other string to see if it worked. They all did. Still a big section out. At that point I gave up. I brought the whole net inside this morning and will give it another shot before I go to Wal-Mart and invest $4 in a new set...

Meanwhile, the bulb in our lawn decoration present burned out. As I was unscrewing that, it exploded and was smoking. Cut my finger but I didn't feel it because by then, my fingers were nothing but frozen popsicles sticking out. Put another bulb in and that is working now.

Continuing the theme of frustrations, I went to the church to work on the wifi network there. After much ladder climbing and poking around, I found the main cable line to the access point had no signal. So that needs to be rectified.

But I did have a good experience buying something at Best Buy using their online process. Bought it on a wicked sale online, went to the counter, showed them my confirmation email, ID, and credit card and walked out with it about a minute later. Nice. I like having them pull it for me and having it ready when I get there.

Royal Caribbean got back to me yesterday that there will indeed be televisions on the cruise to show the Patriots win the Superbowl.

I have a couple of interesting job leads right now that I just sent my resume to.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And......Action

I recorded Elliott's basketball game last night and we watched it when we got home. His team is taking about half the game to get their confidence up and their shots down. They have a lot of good shooters on the team and generally take good shots, but they are not hitting them early in the games and they are disorganized on offense. Elliott did well defensively but went 0-3 from the field. Good shots though. So we analyzed the video and he was able to point out some things he could have done better. One thing he needs to work on is his physical game and aggressiveness. All of it will come with experience. He is the youngest player out there and starts every game. The other team tried to pull a fast one and keep their 'stars' in the whole game. There is a rule about the time every player can play - minimum and maximum. So the other team had these two kids in for a long time, and they were ahead by 14 at one point. Our coach saw what was up and pointed it out to the refs. The stars got benched the rest of the game and suddenly, with 30 seconds to go, we are only down by 3 points. But we had a couple of traveling calls and turned over the ball so we lost. It was exciting and goes by so much faster than, yawn, baseball... His next game isn't until January.

I have some Christmas shopping to do today after meeting Lucie for lunch. Which will consist of Ramen noodles and sandwiches in her office.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oxi Moron

Elliott forgot some school stuff this morning so I took it over to him around noon time. On the way back, I stopped at BJs to get some dog food and other things including that laundry cleaner stuff Oxi-Clean. When I got home, I took it upstairs to the laundry room. I was opening the bag to pour it into the bucket thing and the bag split and it dumped out all over the floor. So that took a while to scoop into a ziplock and then vacuum it up. It was like a bucket of sand poured on the carpet.

Speaking of sand, today we got some Royal Caribbean documents. The cruise is coming. I reserved a 12 passenger van today for us to drive from the Orlando airport to the hotel. Taxis and limos are much more expensive so we will split this with another family going down with us. It is a one-way rental so we can drop it at Cape Canaveral but we can use it the night before the trip to do some local sight seeing. We are taking the RC bus back to the airport after the trip.

The church banquet went really nice Saturday night. I made an elf show of the church pastoral staff (like the one someone made of us - see the link below) and showed that up on the big screen after the meal. That went over pretty good. That night Ashleigh had some friends over for the night after going to the movies. And I can tell you, the biggest drama of the night didn't take place on screen... But I guess that is to be expected with a teenaged daughter.

Elliott has another game tonight. I am going to record this one and then he and I are going to analyze the video after the game. It really puts things in perspective to see yourself play. That is why I don't let anyone record me...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Elliott's First Game



This morning Elliott had his first organized basketball game. He did pretty well - shot 33% from the field with 4 points including a nice runner. As I always tell him, if he outscores the man he is guarding, he has done his job. The team, however, lost 40-29. A lot of it was first game jitters. They missed a lot of shots that they normally hit. And the other team had a kid over 6 feet tall. That was crazy. The picture shows some perspective (Elliott is #3 with his back to us.) I put a link on our home web page where I will track his stats scroll down on the page till you see the link:



I finally got together with my friend to move the treadmill over to his house. I still cannot figure out how I ever got it down to our basement on my own. We had to take off some door hinges and move it a couple of steps at a time. By laying down all the seats in my Pathfinder, we could roll it in (folded flat). But it has found a new home now where it will get a lot of use.

Last night we went over to some friend's house to watch the University of Delaware national championship game. Turned out to be not much of a game but we had a good time and most importantly, we had good food. I had to bail out early and fetch Elliott from a birthday party. But we got back in time to see the second half. And get some more to eat.

Speaking of eating, tonight is the annual church Christmas banquet. There is some predictions of snow tonight but it should turn to rain quickly and not be a problem.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shopping Wars

Last night at church, the person who normally does the sound for the service could not make it in. So I did the video and the sound. I even told the Pastor I would provide security service for the back door. He asked me about my weapons qualification so I sent him this photo from my old nuclear security days (as supervisors, we rotated being the tactical response force team leaders).



This morning I got a flier from BJs with a big sale on a home telephone that Lucie and I wanted to get each other for Christmas. The volume in our current phone is gone and it is pretty old with limited range. It has been eating up batteries too. So the flier had the phone we had been looking at for $30 off. I took it to the local BJs and they said they would not sell me the phone at that price. The manager said that was on online only price. The flier did not say it was an online purchase only. In fact, it said that the items in the flier complemented what is in the stores. It would cost over $11 in shipping costs to buy it online . Which made no sense since they had it right there in the store! So I wrote to BJs and complained (they didn't have a corporate phone number I could easily find) and headed to Costco (our preferred warehouse club). They had the same phone in stock but would not price match. I then marched myself across the parking lot to Circuit City. Not only did they match the BJs flier price, but they took an additional 5% off! Their normal price was pretty high so we wound up getting the phone for about 40% off their regular price. Not a bad day's work.



After this experience, I feel qualified to offer myself as a professional shopper if someone would like me to take care of their Christmas list this year...



Meanwhile, it continues to rain and mist here. Which sure beats snow but it looks like we might get some of that this weekend.



Basketball tonight. I make a point to have Elliott watch me to learn what not to do...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Elf Control


Today a friend of mine, with obviously way too much time on her hands, rendered this bit of Hale Holiday Happiness. That is a screen shot from the entire video at http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1326779715. Go there for a laugh and create your own. (It takes a few seconds to load.)

Quiet day here today. I found another online job site that had quite a few job listings - some I hadn't seen before. There was a posting for the vacant Security Director of the NBA. I could do that. But it is in NYC. I perused that site and signed up for alerts. I spoke to a recruiter yesterday but he was more of a finance and accounting guy. He did say he would keep his ears open for me if he stumbles on something suited for me.

I finally managed to get out in the mist yesterday and suck up the remaining fallen leaves. I hope that is the last time I do that this year.

I also did some work on the church wifi - installed some better range antennas, encrypted it, etc. That should help with the signal and keep the neighbors off our network.

The treadmill still remains in the basement. Every night that my friend plans on coming over to get it, it rains.

Had to lay down an ultimatum on the kids to get their rooms cleaned up. I specified a time it had to be done by and laid out the ramifications if it was not completed to my satisfaction by that time. They beat the deadline and their rooms are presentable. Now it is just a matter of daily maintenance and inspections. I was wondering where in the world they got so 'cluttery' - until I took Lucie's car out to get gas. Then it all came clear to me...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hale Christmas Family Photo

Here is an impromptu picture of the Hales at Christmas. I put a dot of black on Jasmine's eyes (the golden retriever) due to severe flash reflection.

Quiet day yesterday. We cashed in some more restaurant gift cards and went to lunch with some friends after church. That is the end of the cards so it looks like it will be meatloaf on Sunday afternoons for a while. Or Spam. Last night was the church choir concert, right in the middle of the Patriots game, so we raced to church, saw the concert, and raced home. I had recorded the game so we were able to watch it without the ending being ruined.

Speaking of the Patriots, I saw that this season's Super Bowl will be on the first day of our cruise. So I wrote to Royal Caribbean and asked if they were going to have onboard accomodations to see the game. I bet they do. That will be a Super Bowl to remember - the Patriots winning again and being able to see it at sea.

And now speaking of Royal Caribbean, yesterday they updated their web page and I was all excited to see that our $70 fuel surcharge had been refunded. So I spread the word among our cruise-mates. And of course a few hours later I check the page again and the refund is gone! Dang it. I had already picked out my RC bathrobe to spend the refund on.

Going to do some more leaf sucking today. I can't believe they are still coming down. The wet snow must have weighed them down a bit and made more fall. I am going to re-do our upstairs pantry too and move some of the stuff we seldom use (Jello mixes, etc.) down to the recently organized basement shelving. Tonight my friend who is buying our old treadmill may come by to pick that up. After rolling it into position, I cannot believe that I actually got that thing downstairs by myself.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's a Mall World After All

Last night Lucie and I dropped off the kids at youth group at church, donned our bullet-proof vests, and went to the mall. I should have worn some eye protection - what a collection of freaks out there. At first glance, some of these side-show characters look like they just crawled into the place. But if you look carefully, they have crafted themselves to look grungy. One 'person' stopped Lucie and I in our tracks and people around us laughed at our expressions. Hard to describe how 'it' looked but it was nightmarish. Anyway, we were able to get the stuff Lucie needed for her church workers and the lines and traffic were not bad.

When we picked up the kids later, we talked to a couple of friends. One recently unemployed girl used a headhunter and wound up getting a job very quickly. She is going to forward me his name. So that was encouraging.

Saturday morning I took Elliott to basketball practice. That went well. He got into a pick-up game before his practice and did well. When that was over, his coach still hadn't arrived so I jumped in and started to set his team up for a scrimmage. Then the assistant coach arrived and took over. They practiced for about 30 minutes, then played another unofficial game against the next team coming in. They lost 18-22 but Elliott had 6 points, a few rebounds and steals, and played well. One kid formed an alliance with another apparently and tried to force-feed him the ball every time down court. Which resulted in a lot of turnovers. The coaches yelled at him to "Get Elliott the ball." He can hit the outside shots and is doing great on defense. His first game is next Saturday.

Today Elliott has a friend coming over to finish a science fair project. Just when I thought all the leaves were down, more drifted in during the recent snow and rain. I guess I will go suck them up. And brush out Jasmine - she is looking pretty woolly and in need of some de-thatching. Tonight we are going over to some friends' for dinner.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Not the Grand Prize Winner

I checked the mail yesterday and there was an official letter from a court regarding some sort of settlement. I figured this was how it was going to happen - suddenly out of nowhere I will come into a financial windfall and never have to work again. I guess I was half right - due to some credit card kookiness, we are due a $25 settlement. Yahoo. But I guess every bit counts. Now if I can just get a settlement like that every half hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, we will be OK...

As I continue my house cleaning/reorganization efforts, I came across a box of old comic books. I had catalogued them a while back so today I sent the spreadsheet to a local comic book store. I was already preparing my statement for the newspaper interview for finding a rare and much sought after comic. Then the comic book store wrote back and said there was nothing of interest and I should try and sell them on eBay. Foiled again.

Yesterday Lucie was off so after taking the kids to school, we did a little Christmas shopping (and I mean a little). We got home and walked by Elliott's room and decided we needed to do something about it. He has (had) junk piled everywhere, clothes everywhere, etc. etc. He didn't like sleeping on his bed frame so he has been sleeping for years on his mattress on the floor. We changed that. Went to the basement and brought up the wooden frame that matches his furniture and cleaned up a lot of stuff. And threw out a lot of stuff. Now he just has to maintain it. Ashleigh is next on the hit list.

We are due a little wintry weather today. The kids have church youth group tonight.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First Real Snow


We got the first real snow of the winter last night. Well, if you call 2 inches real snow. But it did cover everything and looked pretty good. Ashleigh's school was delayed two hours but Elliott's was on time - even though they are about three miles apart.

I finished my basement rack work yesterday - separating the dry and canned goods from the other stuff. Stuff including china and big pots and pans and things like that. It came out well so now we know what we have on hand. Plenty of rice and beans.

Ashleigh came home from school with the announcement that she will be playing the Prince in the school play of Romeo & Juliet. Something odd about that but it is a fairly good sized role with some long dialogue. She is alone on stage for a monologue at one point. We are going to try and rent a recording of the play so she can hear the inflections and rhythm of the speech.

Lucie is off today so after we take Ashleigh to school, I think we will go snow brush shopping for me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Give Me an E

Elliott had a good scrimmage, then practice Monday night. When we got to the gym, another team was there finishing their practice and invited his team to scrimmage. The age range is 12-14 and Elliott is one of the youngest at 12. So he played some and scored a nice outside shot. He went 1 for 2 and had a rebound. He needs to be more aggressive on offense and call for the ball to make himself visible. His coaches were yelling at his teammates to "get Elliott the ball." He has a great outside shot. His team won 34-16 or so (I was the only one keeping score). Afterwards they practiced and played against themselves. Elliott had a lot of points during that.

Earlier that day he competed in the Math League. His school has three teams in the math league district. One team came in first and the other two teams tied for second! They are something else. Out of the top 10 scorers, kids from Elliott's school hold 8 spots. He finished this meet ranked #17 out of 54 competitors.

I went downstairs and started some work on the basement yesterday. A few years ago we put some heavy duty metal and wood rack shelves down there. In one section, we put them two deep which turned out to be too deep. We couldn't get to the back of the rear rack. So I moved the front rack yesterday and will spend the afternoon transferring stuff between the racks. I found some interesting stuff I forgot we had.

It is snowing out pretty good right now. Church tonight is looking questionable. We are only supposed to get about 2 inches but being the first snow of the winter, that will result in all sorts of accidents. I have my shovels at the ready. Typically, I am the only one who goes out and shovels during the storm. I would rather shovel 2 inches 5 times than 10 inches one time. My neighbors don't seem to get that concept so while my driveway is nice and clear, they are out there breaking their backs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Some Tea With Your Vinegar?

Sunday night the church kids play went well. That afternoon it was windy and rainy so I told my friend to hold off on the treadmill purchase and move. I didn't want to do that in the rain.

I saw a 6 outlet outdoor power strip on sale at Target but since that is so far away, I bought a similar one at Home Depot. On Sunday night I was standing out in the yard in the driving rain trying to pull apart extension cord connections to turn off the outside Christmas lights and had visions of someone finding me electrocuted the next morning laying in the bushes. So this outdoor strip is pretty good - it has a weather cover for the outlets and a timer. No more late night ventures out to the yard to turn off the lights.

Yesterday was coffee pot/machine cleaning day. The water reservoir was stained and needed a good scrubbing. I found a funny little brush thing and used an old toothbrush (that I kept for such an occasion) and went to work. It came out pretty good but I must have got the innards too wet because when I plugged it in, it wouldn't turn on. So I set it outside in the tornado winds to dry out. That took care of it as a few hours later, it was working fine. I mixed up a concoction of vinegar and water to run thru it a few times. After the first run through, the water was still in the pot and I was upstairs. Along came Ashleigh and saw the pot of hot water. She poured some into her cup and made some tea, and then mixed up some oatmeal using it. The tea tasted fine she said but the oatmeal tasted old...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On the First Day of December

The day began with Elliott's basketball practice which went pretty well. His team is scrimmaging pretty good and working on the fundamentals. Their first game is December 13.

After that, we started in on the Christmas decorations set up. Much like egg nog, it doesn't take but a little bit to remind me why I don't like it. I pulled out the lights for the tree and the outside bushes and icicles and started the bulb replacement process. A string of bulbs costs like $5 at WalMart and every year I say it would be a better use of my time to just throw out the strings every year and buy new ones. But I cannibalized a couple of old strings for the bulbs and got everything working fine. Dragged everything outside and started the install. The icicles went up fine and the net bushes went on pretty quickly too. Elliott came out and we put some lights on our new little tree and set up some lawn decorations that look like giant, lighted presents. The wind was whipping cold but it went pretty smoothly. Turned on the switch and found a bunch of lights out! So now I replace more bulbs but this time out in the cold. We have been watching a documentary on people climbing on Mt. Everest and one of the lines on the show is, 'lose a glove, lose a hand.' I tried to keep my gloves on due to the cold but that didn't last long. By now, it was dark outside and we were able to adjust the net bushes for maximum effect. Looked good. For about 10 minutes. Then one of the tiny fuses in the plugs blew out. Took me about 10 minutes and a Chilton's manual to figure out how to open the little door in the string plug to replace that. Finally I got it and popped a new fuse in. Looked pretty good.

Lucie had made us hot chocolate and was working inside the house on the tree. Meanwhile, the new crock pot I got her for her birthday was simmering away making a big stew. So Elliott and I went in and started fluffing the tree limbs for Lucie. She would stick them on the tree and rig the lights at the same time. And rig she did. Typically we have about 5 or 6 strings of lights for the whole tree. I get the dual colored ones - each bulb has two colors so that really lights things up. She was about halfway done and had used 8 strings! Off to WalMart she went to get some more. By the time we were done, 14 strings were run through the tree. I found I could turn the furnace off and we were all warm enough from the light of the tree. It looked really good though. Except for the top - there was an unspoken rule that no one was eating until the tree was done so I ran one string of lights around the top of the tree and headed for the kitchen. Then all of the tree lights went out. I learned from my net lights experience what the problem was and replaced a fuse in one string of lights and all was good again. Ashleigh started vacuuming up the needles that had fallen off onto the carpet and managed to suck the main power cord to the tree up into the vacuum. I fished that out but it was looking a bit rough so we had to replace that. Which meant disconnecting all the tree lights and attaching them to the replacement power cord. That was proabably a good thing because this time we broke up the strings and attached them to the power cord outlets evenly (instead of stringing them all together with just one plug).

Lucie and I went out to the yard to survey our handiwork. The tree is in a front window and we keep those shades open so people going by can see the tree. Looked good. Then the net lights fuse blew again... So this morning I ran another power cord out there and split up the strings like we did the tree. Finally we settled down and watched the movie, "Kicking and Screaming." That was pretty funny. What was not so funny was that we had rented it from Netflix and it was on regular (free) TV at the same time...

Tonight is the church kid's play so Lucie and the kids will be there getting ready for that all day. A friend of mine bought our old treadmill so he is coming over to get that this afternoon. They predicted icy rain all day and so far nothing. Which is good.

Friday, November 30, 2007

'Twas Another Hale Night

And Lucie in her jammies, and I snuggled deep,
Had been in bed to get some much needed sleep,
When at the foot of the bed there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from the sheets to see what was the matter.

To the bedroom floor we flew in the night,
I grabbed a towel and Lucie hit the light.
When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But the beagle, puking on my clean carpet - oh, dear!

That little episode took place at 5 AM this morning. I couldn't believe it - my newly shampooed carpet! I guess the crock-pot chicken and dumplings didn't agree with the dog. So Lucie ran Britni down and outside and I toweled up the spot (it wasn't that big) and sprayed it down with cleaner. This morning I re-shampooed the area.

Our experience at Lowe's yesterday was not as positive as the last time. The idea behind shopping online, for me anyway, is to speed things up. I want my purchased items waiting for me when I get there. Like they are supposed to be. We wound up waiting at the Customer Service desk for 10 minutes while someone went and found the sink cartridge and brought it up. I could have done that... Anway, we got home and Elliott and I popped it in. Took 10 minutes and works fine.

I managed to rip the flashlight brackets out of the drywall yesterday when I pulled the flashlight off. So I fixed that and got that hung up right.

Two weeks ago at basketball I was on fire hitting about every shot I put up. Last night I barely got a shot off before I was stripped of the ball or rejected or just lost it out of bounds. My shot selection was terrible, bad passes - just not in the game. We won maybe one game out of seven or so. It was still a fun night but I was not very productive.

Tonight the kids have gym night at the church. Lucie and I are going to bring the Christmas stuff upstairs while the kids are there. Elliott is spending the night at a friend's, then I will take him from there to his basketball practice tomorrow morning. After that, we start putting up the tree and decorations and lights. I have it down to a science so it should run pretty smoothly. They are calling for an icy mix on Sunday so we will probably be in the 80º's...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Yesterday I loaded up the carpet shampooer and went to work with it. Turns out they did fix it. Apparently it was a known Oreck problem and replacing the cord was the fix. Good for me. Or not. I did half the house carpets yesterday and will do the other half today. They should make the pick-up tank black instead of see-through because I sure don't like looking at the color of the water that is sucked back up.

Lucie and I went to Home Depot to get the faucet cartridge but of course they didn't have any. Today I bought one online from Lowes and when I go to pick up Ashleigh from school, I will swing in and get it. I love that. They pick it from the rack, bring it to the front, and all I do is show my receipt and take it. (I pay for it online when I order it.)

By the way, I solved the mystery of the bungee bandit. I found it halfway up a nearby tree. It had sling-shotted itself up there.

It was one month ago today I left my job. We haven't had to touch our savings yet (thanks be to God). We have cut back a lot and been really frugal - something we will continue to do going forward.

One of our cruise friends sent us an email about a very unusual occurrence. I will condense it but basically, a friend of his who he only hears from once or twice a year said he felt impressed by God to send our friend a check for $140. Our friend thought that was strange and then realized that that was the exact amount that Royal Caribbean assessed him for their new fuel surcharge. On top of that, the check was dated November 20 - the exact date that I had emailed our cruise friends about the RC increase. Pretty wild. It is more than coincidental - $140 is not a common number. But it shows a couple of things - that we need to be obedient to God's directives and that God is in the details. Now if any of my friends want to send me a check to cover some cruise costs, don't disobey the voice of God!

Today I sold our old treadmill. Barely used. Ha ha. Actually, we used it quite a bit, but then the pounding on my knees was too much. The elliptical is much more 'body-friendly.' A friend of mine will come over Sunday and we will drag it up from my basement and get it over to his house. So I actually made money today. I wonder what I can get for the couch...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mr. Fixit

Yesterday I went to Oreck and picked up our supposedly fixed carpet shampooer. I have never used it before but I am about to give it a shot. I will undoubtedly find they didn't fix it and I will be hauling it back to them.

Our bathroom faucet went bad last night. It started dripping a week or so ago, then stopped. I declared it repaired. Last night it wouldn't shut off and was a steady trickle. I shut it off using the valves under the sink. It is a Moen faucet so there are no washers to replace - just the entire cartridge. I replaced the one in the shower this spring so this should go pretty quickly.

Yesterday I blew and vacuumed the leaves in the backyard. Again. This time no dogs got out and it went pretty quickly. I bungeed open the gate while I brought something in, but when I went back, the gate was closed and the bungee was gone. In like 30 seconds. Either there is a bungee burglar loose in the neighborhood, or that bungee just launched into the great unknown. I never did find it.

My cold is getting better. Down to just a cough now. I am hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes a day now and that seems to help. I haven't lost a pound but I feel pretty good. Full court basketball at church tomorrow night due to the youth gym night on Friday (normally we play width-wise so the court is shorter).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Feeling Loagy

My great uncle used to have a word for how I feel today; "loagy." That is perfect - I have a cold and a cough and my head feels like it is the size of the great pumpkin. I never get sick and of all times, now I get sick (when I could have used a sick day from work...). So today I am hanging around the house, doing some laundry and vacuuming (I don't think I have to take the vacuum apart today) and some other things.

A friend of ours stopped by with a really nice present for Lucie's birthday. It is kind of a funny story but I will save it for later in case Lucie reads this before she gets home.

We brought our carpet shampooer in to Oreck a while ago to get it fixed under warranty. A month went by so we called to check on it. They could find nothing wrong with it. Of course, it would have been nice if they checked it for what the problem was: every time we squeeze the trigger to release the shampoo, the protection fault on the power cord trips. They didn't test that. Now they say they have it fixed. I may venture over there and pick it up. Then I will bring it home, try it out, find out they didn't fix it, and bring it back.

Last night was a close game with the Patriots but I figured experience would prevail. And it did. Still, it was pretty exciting. I think I would rather watch a blow out though.

We paid off the remaining balance for the cruise yesterday. It was the last day we could do that so now we are official. Today I made reservations at the airport off-site parking area so we can leave our car there. I picked the same place we used last time - they were convenient and had a nice drop off service.

I did a pre-emptive strike on our leaves a few days ago figuring most of them were down and the rest would eventually fall. Well, the rest fell - the next day. So now I have that exercise to do again. It is rainy today so maybe tomorrow I will blow them in a pile and get them out the back gate.

I think I will go and spend some time on the elliptical and try to sweat some of the cold out. I think a solid two minutes should do it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lucie's Birthday

Today is Lucie's birthday. It was pretty low key. We went to lunch with some friends after church using some gift cards she had received. Then came home for cake and a nap (for me). Going back to church tonight. Later on the Patriots are playing the Eagles with the biggest spread I have ever seen (24 points!).

Yesterday I was pretty wiped out from a cold. Lucie went shopping and left me strict instructions on how to strip and mop the kitchen floor while she was gone. But I found out that it is impossible to clean the floor while asleep in the recliner. I woke up feeling better and my sore throat was gone. I went out and checked the tire pressure on the Pathfinder and sure enough, all of the tires were at 32 lbs. - they were supposed to be at 35. So I put air in all around and the low pressure light went out on my way to the gas station.

When I got there, a couple of girls approached me with some story about being kicked out of their boyfriends' car and needing taxi money. I certainly have no money to spare and I told them so so they went after someone else. He gave them some money and they meandered behind away behind the gas station for a while, then started walking down the road. No taxi in sight.

Lucie wanted to put the Christmas tree up last night but I was not up for that. So Elliott set up the game of Life and we played that twice. That was fun - we hadn't played any family games like that in a long time.

When I let the dogs out for the last time around midnight, it was snowing. It didn't accumulate but there it was. And winter has begun...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Late Bird Gets the Worm

Lucie's birthday is tomorrow and she had pointed out a couple of things in the Kohl's flyer that she wanted. But we decided they weren't necessities and given our current situation, we should wait. And, they were 'early-bird' specials that ended at 1 (and when she pointed them out to me, it was 12:45). So she and Ashleigh headed out to go shopping and Elliott and I went out to trade in some video games for a new one. In our travels, we went by Kohl's. It didn't look too crowded so we went in and found the very last one of one of the thing's Lucie wanted. I took it over to the electronic bar code scanner and even though it was now 1:40, it still showed up as on sale. I asked a clerk and she said the scanner was tied to the main computer so if it showed it on sale there, it was probably still on sale. Elliott and I beat feet to the cashier and got it at the sale price. Not bad.

The rest of the day Elliott spent playing his new game and I blew the leaves out of the yard. I opened the front gate to blow some leaves out there and Britni (the beagle) took off. I just let her go hoping someone would take her in and give her a good home. But the neighbor across the street was trying to catch her for me so I figured I better bring her back. All I had to do was open the garage roll up door and she bolted back in. About an hour later, I had the back gate open and Jasmine (the golden retriever) took off. She is usually pretty good about not going out but not this time. I was concerned about her being shot by a deer hunter so I went out and coaxed her back in. Not all of the leaves have fallen so I will have more to do later but I got the bulk of them.

The kids went to the youth pastor's house for an outdoor movie and cookout around fires last night. So Lucie and I went out to do some Christmas shopping. On the way, my low tire pressure light came on in my Pathfinder. It has done that at least 10 times and I have taken it in to get fixed about 4 times. They replace a sensor or re-set something each time. It is very annoying as I have to get out and check to be sure it is not a true reading. So I guess I will take it to the dealer next week to get it checked out again. That light went off one time in my old Bonneville - and I really had a tire going flat then.

Last night we watched the three hour movie of "IT" and took a break from turkey with one of the special $4.99 large pepperoni pizzas from our local grocery store.

I woke up with a sore throat this morning. Usually I wake up grumpy but then she goes back to sleep...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hispanic Friday

I was going to call this blog "African American Friday" but I figured that years from now, when I am running for Congress, someone will dig this up and get offended. And Hispanic Friday it is - our three-quarters Hispanic family is heading out to...shop. Actually we have some errands to do at the church and at the youth pastor's house so we figured we would hit some local places while we were out. Elliott is trading in some old XBox games and is going to use those proceeds to get a new game.

Thanksgiving went well here. This is the first time in a few years we have stayed home (though we have had good times at the friends' houses we have been at before) so that was nice. Ate and napped and watched TV. This whole phrase of 'turkey and trimmings' has me confused though. The term 'trimmings,' when used here, means more. However, when Elliott and I go to the barber for 'trimmings,' we come out with less. So what's it going to be?

Lucie wants me to put up our tree today but I am not too enthused about that. Namely because we won't have much to put under it. So I am proposing that we stand a poinsettia in the corner and put all 3 gifts around it. If you didn't know or remember, last year about this time I had to cut down a spruce tree in the front yard. So I cut the top off and turned it into our Christmas tree. A picture is below. I suppose I could go out and cut down another one but that would ruin the landscaping. Maybe one of the neighbors'...


We had a limb blow down in the backyard overnight. It didn't damage anything and it was good for it to come down - it was hanging on by a thread for a long time.

Tonight our youth pastor is having a drive-in movie theme night at his house tonight. I am bringing our fire pit over so they can cook s'mores and stuff. Going to be a cold one for them tonight but I know it will be warm in my recliner.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey for me, Turkey for you

For those of you who don't know, the title of today's blog is a line from Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving song. And I know that line well - I heard it FIVE times on the radio yesterday! Two of the local radio stations went all Christmas music yesterday and apparently this song must be played on a regular basis...

The new church laptop performed well last night in it's first live run. Of course the first song on the list to be sung somehow didn't migrate over when I imported the songs from the old computer. I typed it in but now I am wondering how many others didn't make it. It is kind of weird because I checked both computers and the number of songs in the databases were the same after I imported the songs. We will just monitor it I guess.

The weather people said today would be cold and rainy so naturally it is sunny and in the mid 60º's. Beautiful day. We have no plans but to stay home and eat ourselves into oblivion. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? (Obviously I am thankful for all we have...).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Knuckling Down to Marbles

Yesterday I worked on the new church computer for a while at the church getting it set up with the different projectors in the sanctuary and chapel. Then came home and ran some more updates on it and so forth. We watched some Charlie Brown special about bullying and the main story line had to do with playing marbles. So Elliott decided we should play. He ran up to get his bag of marbles (everyone knows I have long lost mine - har har) while I looked up the rules online. Elliott cleared out some space in the living room and we used a thin blanket to serve as the playing field. It is kind of tricky but we managed to have a good time. Of course there was one obstacle we had to work around:


Today I went back to the church and finished setting up the computer. Tonight will be the first run through with it at the Bible Study. I think it is going to work out fine.

Elliott went over to a friend's house today to work on a school project and Ashleigh and I went to the mall to get something for Lucie's birthday (which is Sunday). While there, we ran into some of her friends so they walked with us while we got what we were looking for.

I talked to a couple of former co-workers today who gave me some updates on what is going on at the old office and one is going to forward me some leads he has tracked down. That was nice.

I think tonight we are having pizza for supper because starting tomorrow, it will be turkery, or a variant thereof, for the next three weeks...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hooverin' Hale

Again yesterday I had to take apart the vacuum and find out why it wasn't sucking properly. There was plenty of suction at the hose, but not from underneath when I attached the hose. I stripped the thing down but didn't find anything wrong. Got it put back together and fired it up. Like an early Thanksgiving miracle, it worked fine. I don't know what I did but it is back to its old self. Now Lucie has no excuse...

Elliott had a good basketball practice last night but now he has no more practices until next Monday night. No hoops for me either due to Thanksgiving.

The sanctuary computer at our church died last week. We use it to project the words to our worship songs and PowerPoint presentations on a roll-down screen. I resurrected it but it was ancient and slow. So our Pastor shopped around and found a great deal on a Toshiba laptop. He bought it and I set up the song projection software on it. This laptop runs on Vista which takes some getting used to but I got everything running. I will take it into the church to test it live later today but I think it should work fine.

Royal Caribbean hit us with a fuel surcharge fee for our cruise in February. I emailed them and called them up to complain but that did no good. They extended us another two weeks or so to get a refund without penalty but I guess we will fork it over. It is only $70 (for us - others in our group are being hit for $140) but it is the principle of the thing. And $70 is $70. That money could be used for a downpayment for another on-board salon session for Lucie...

Not much happening on the job front. It will be a dead week for hiring this week I imagine due to the holiday. Gives me more time for my beard to fill in.

I have been after the kids to clean up the family room. They shed their clothes and books and shoes and wrappers in there as soon as they walk in. I hate that because it is the first thing I see when I come home from a long day at work. Wait, let me re-phrase that... Anyway, today I scooped it all up and after several trips, I deposited it all in front of their bedroom doors. Now they will have to step over it to get into their rooms. And I have no doubt that is exactly what they will do for a few weeks but at least they are getting some exercise.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Have Some Football With That Food

Today I was invited to go to the Baltimore Ravens football game (in Baltimore) versus the Cleveland Browns. (I was thinking that this was the first NFL game I have been too that I was NOT on the field! I have been to about 14 pro games doing security assessments and was on the field each time). A friend of ours is a VP at an engineering firm that has a suite at the stadium. He drove us down with his son and we picked up the mayor of a neighboring town and the mayor's son. The suite was about above the 15 yard line on the Ravens side. It was pretty cold out but the suite was warm. There were about a total of 40 people there with lots of places to sit inside and a balcony outside with rows of seats. The people were friendly and nice. There were five flat panel TVs in the suite tuned to different NFL games (and the one we were watching). I met someone I had been corresponding with about an employment opportunity so that gave me a little chance to network.

And there was food. Lots of it. I had a crab cake, chicken tender, hot dog with chili, a slice of pizza with pepperoni, chicken and bacon, a chocolate chip cookie, a can of Diet Coke, two bottles of water and a cup of coffee. I watched the first half of the game outside and it was pretty frosty. So to warm up, I filled my coffee cup with hot crab bisque. Twice.


Meanwhile, there was a game going on. The Ravens were behind by two touchdowns at one point and it came down to the end of the game. The Ravens scored and went up by 3 with 26 seconds to go. Cleveland returned the kick-off and attempted a field goal attempt with four seconds left in the game. The ball bounced off one of the uprights and then off the support pole that comes out of the ground and back onto the field. The refs said the field goal was no good and the crowd went wild. The game was over. The Ravens ran off the field and half of the people at the game left. But wait. A full five minutes later, the refs determined (correctly) that the ball HAD to go through the uprights to hit the support pole - which made the field goal attempt good - then bounced back out. So Cleveland was awarded the points which tied the game and put it into overtime. Some people trickled back in and the Ravens had to come out of the locker room and back onto the field to play the overtime period. Cleveland scored a quick field goal and won the game. I bet there were people that left the first time the game was over and the Ravens 'won,' got to their cars and heard that the Ravens had lost! It was quite a controversial call which will be debated on ESPN for a while.

We came back in a cold rain. I sure appreciated being invited to go. The eating part was a good warmup for Thanksgiving...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Paintball

Today was the church paintball outing at a farm near us. First time we had been there. There were about 13 adults and 23 youth who went. We got to the place and they were short paintball guns (they rent them to players who don't have their own). Ashleigh, Elliott and I all had ours (thanks Gregg!) so we were all set. The other adults got their money refunded and gave up their rental guns for the kids. They required our guns to be chronographed to about 280 feet per second. But when the guy tried to calibrate my and Elliott's guns, the device wouldn't register correctly (it kept showing 360 FPS or so and wouldn't change regardless of our adjustment of the velocity screw. So the guy wandered off to check on it and never got back to us so we played with our guns at whatever speed they shoot at. We had a good time. No Hale got hit very hard - but we all got hit at least once where the ball didn't break. Elliott probably took the most people out and Ashleigh once made a sprint to the other side to win the game for our team.

While we were out shooting and getting shot at, Lucie went to breakfast with some ladies in a group she just met with.

We got a call last night from Royal Caribbean saying that they were adding a $70 fuel surcharge to our cruise. I was not pleased with that - nor were several others in our group that have TWO rooms which will cost them $140! So I sent an email to RC complaining and will follow up with them on Monday.

A friend of ours from church invited me to the Baltimore Ravens football game tomorrow. His company has a suite at the stadium and some clients weren't able to go so he invited me to. I guess you could call me a 'suite filler.' That was cool. We will go down after church tomorrow morning for a 1 PM game. Oddly enough, this will be the first NFL game I have ever gone to where I was not on the field. They are calling for rain but it won't matter to us. Suiteness!

Friday, November 16, 2007

R, B, and P Ball

Last night we had a good turnout for basketball. One dude came down hard right on the back of his head. Made an ugly smacking sound. His first words were, "I can't feel my legs..." Five minutes later he was up and playing and he was fine. I told his buddy to watch him during the game and afterwards in case he had some other problems. That was bad one at first. I, on the other hand, was good. I had some great shots and steals and a coast to coast lay-up. The game resumed 10 minutes later after that - once they got the oxygen tanks off the floor. Actually, my breathing has been much better due to my daily time on the elliptical. Speaking of, since getting it in September, I am only down an average of two pounds. Time to push the number of minutes per day up...

This morning I played racquetball with 4 other guys from church. We were on two courts at the Y with the winner of the 3 players playing the winner of the singles players. It was pretty fun. One of the guys (Gary) got hit in the eye (by me) and that drew blood from his glasses. Later on the youth pastor nailed him in the back and someone else got him in the right rear cheek.

Which brings me to tomorrow's outing for paintball. Looks like about 13 adults going and 20 kids. The first round will be adults against kids. We will have a state trooper on our side so that will help. We are playing at a farmhouse right near us. Should be a good time. Always is. We will pack our lunches to eat there and layer ourselves in clothing for warmth and to lessen the paintball pain.

I am almost finished putting the handles on the drawers and cabinets. Gotta run down to Lowes today (I didn't make it there yesterday) and get the last ones. Lucie likes them so much that I now refer to them as 'love' handles...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In My Drawers

I made my way to my local Lowes yesterday to buy a few more drawer/cabinet handles and of course they only had 1 left. So I bought it. I needed at least 2. Picked up Ashleigh from school and went home and installed them. I had a template to drill with so the screws would line up through the wood. I rigged up a plastic bag to catch most of the drill-dust and that worked OK. They actually came out pretty good. Like Lucie said, how did we live here for 10 years without them? I went online and found some more handles at another Lowes down the road so I bought them and will pick them up later.

One of the church computers is acting up so I ran some diagnostics and fixes on it overnight. I call Lucie every couple of hours to check the status and run something else. I will go over there shortly and do some more. I think it is salvageable.

FedEx came by yesterday and delivered a rejection letter to me from the place in DC that I interviewed with. Polite but pretty much saying that their current positions are all in the DC area. I sent the interviewers a thank you email and asked them to keep me in mind for future consideration. My friend who works there says he will look into it when he returns from an assignment but told me that new projects come in all the time and something may open up up here.

Basketball night tonight. Some people are off tomorrow so we should have a good turnout. Some other church guys invited me to play racquetball again tomorrow at the Y so I might go do that.

If the rest of the handles install smoothly today, I may have to think of making it a career. I am enjoying working in my drawers all day...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

15 out of 488

Ashleigh came home with her report card yesterday. 7 A's and 1 B+. Her GPA is 4.2 (they gave her extra points for being in the Cambridge Program) and she is ranked #15 out of 488 in her class. Below is a link to the Cambridge Program and if you look at the classroom picture, you will see her in the back with a white and pink shirt on and her head resting on her hand.

http://www.christina.k12.de.us/Newark/Cambridge/Index.htm

Today I saw there was a security project manager job in Wilmington for a consulting firm. I sent them my resume and asked for more information.

Yesterday I utilized all of my management skills and scooped about 800 pounds of dog poop from the backyard. It is the kids' chore to do and I even have a calendar with the responsible name printed on it to reduce bickering over whose day it is. But rainy afternoons and busy schedules, early darknes, and a bit of laziness on their part, has kept them from their appointed task. So I showed some great initiative and did the duty (doodie?).

I was going to install the cabinet handles but found when Lucie bought them, she was two short (no - I did not just write that Lucie is too short!). So I went to Home Depot, after picking up Ashleigh from school, and found that she had bought them from Lowes. So I will go to Lowe's today and get some more. I made a little template to use as a guide to be sure I put them in consistently. The biggest challenge was to install them horizontally or vertically (insert Pastor Ben joke here for those who know that one). I fell back on my decision making matrix processes and came up with the best solution (I asked Lucie how she wanted them).

In another effort to exercise my abilities, I took apart the vacuum to see why it wasn't sucking as much as I thought it should. Gave it a thorough cleaning and now it sucks no better than before. But at least I got it all back together and I am sure I can use the leftover screws for something else.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yesterday I took out my paintball gun ("marker" as the pros say) and tuned it up for the church paintball outing on Saturday. A friend of mine gave it to me for my birthday and I bought another one from him for Ashleigh. We bought Elliott one from a store over the summer. Mine has an electronic trigger that I can set to shoot single shots, bursts, or full automatic. I configured it to shoot single shots for Saturday since most everyone else will be renting guns from the place and those are all single shot ones.

A few of our crusie buddies ran into some airline problems over the weekend. Their flights were changed by the airline but they were never notified! Good thing someone checked and spread the word. They are all set now but we will have to watch that airline in case it happens again. Most of us are going down on Air Tran (the airline that changed the flights) but another family is going down on USAir. And if someone is wondering what I am thinking going on a cruise when I am unemployed, let me answer that: (1) we have already pre-paid for most of the cruise, (2) the airfare is non-refundable, (3) the hotel is 'paid' for by using points I accumulated, and (4) I intend to be employed soon. So there.

Ashleigh has pretty much decided to give up on the swimming. She was the only one on the team that has never swum on a team before. Working on the fundamentals (getting off the blocks, etc.) is becoming too time consuming during practice and mostly she is not having fun. Practice is two hours a day, six days a week. The practice pool is actually closer to the house than her high school but it is another trip out and back every day. Her drama class teacher has been after her to try out for the school play (Romeo and Juliet) so she is supposed to talk to her today. Needless to say, we did not go buy a swim cap yesterday.

Lucie bought some cabinet handles that I will be installing today I guess. I applied to another place online today but that well is running dry. I should hear from the place I interviewed last week within the next few days or I am to call them Friday.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Everyone's Home Today

Lucie took today off for her day off (instead of Thursday) and the kids don't have school. It is a wintery looking day out there so we will probably just hang around here today. Our quest over the weekend was to find a swim cap for Ashleigh - you would think that since all the local high schools just started the swimming season, somebody would have some for sale. Nope. I finally called the YMCA and they have some so we will venture out and get her one later.

Last night we all settled in to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and it went as it usually does around here during movies: Lucie and Elliott fell asleep 15 minutes into it and Ashleigh was IM-ing the whole time. I enjoyed it anyway.

Not much else happening on the job front. I emailed my contact at the State Police licensing division to tell her I was no longer the license holder for my old company. She gave me an idea to pursue and said she would keep me in mind if she comes across any openings.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Four Years till 11-11-11

Last night I decided rented Raiders of the Lost Ark to show the kids what a real action movie was like but we never got around to seeing it. Elliott had a friend over working on a science project so we took him home, picked up Ashleigh's friend, ate dinner, but by then it was around 9 and the kids just wanted to do stuff on the internet with their friends so we shelved the movie till tonight. Lucie and watched another episode on the Discovery channel about a group of lunatics thinking they are going to climb Mt. Everest.

The new software unlock code for my GPS map update finally arrived in the email so I installed that. That went fine so now I can find my way to the mailbox.

I watched the Kevin Costner movie, "Mr. Brooks" yesterday afternoon. Not exactly a family movie but very well done and interesting. Lucie wants to see it so we will watch it (again for me) this afternoon. The kids are going to a birthday party between church services. Then I am going to sit them down and watch Raiders tonight. They don't have school tomorrow.

The Patriots are off this weekend. The Celtics are undefeated so far this season. Could this be the year the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics all win their respective championships?

I spoke with the friend of mine in the local security chapter. I tried to call him all afternoon but I had two numbers of his home phone transposed. Googled him and got the right number. He was very supportive and gave me a couple of leads to look into and asked me for my resume to float around his contacts. So I emailed him that and will work on the leads he gave me.

The kids are off tomorrow and so is Lucie. My schedule looks pretty clear too... We will probably do some fun family thing like me standing in the hallway with a yardstick yelling at the kids to clean their rooms and then using the stick to point out the piles of clothes that remain after they say their rooms are all picked up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A...A...A...

Elliott got his report card yesterday. A+'s in 6 out of 9 classes; A's in the other 3. Obviously I am very disappointed in those last three grades which means his internet and TV time will be taken away until they improve. Of course I am kidding and he is doing great. Even while busy with after-school sports, church, and other stuff.

Today he had basketball practice and has picked up one of his old man's traits - lack of on court stamina. Starts off like a shot, but wears out quickly. So I will be introducing him to the elliptical machine later to work on that. It has done a lot for me with my breathing and pacing. He did really well though and scored several baskets during the scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh came home worn out last night from her first swimming practice and had another practice today. Today they were going to be filmed underwater to analyze their technique. She is the only person on the team who hasn't swum (swam?) on a team before but she is doing fine. They will work with her on some of the fundamentals like getting off the blocks and turns, etc.

Still no success on the map unlock code for my GPS. Another tech in India and I went around and around yesterday - each time him telling me they will email me the new code in 12-24 hours, and me asking why he can't email it to me right then - or just read the dang thing over the phone to me? I think I should move to India and be a tech support person who speaks English as a first language. I will be the most sought after person in the country...

Lucie's hayride was rained out last night. Sort of. She canceled it because they predicted a lot of rain but it mostly just sprinkled until about the time it would have ended - then it rained. But she had to make the call based on the information at the time. She did learn something from The Weather Channel yesterday - even though the radar shows a huge cloud cover and they are calling for a 70% chance of rain, that doesn't mean the rain will hit the ground. Sounds like a nice alibi for missing another forecast...

Ashleigh and I saw a meteor or shooting star or something like that the other night. We thought it might be a firework that never exploded shooting across the sky. But at least one other person I know saw it too. Nothing in the local news about it. The strange thing is, we lost about 3 hours of time that night and I woke up with puncture marks in my stomach...

Speaking of losing time, I still cannot get used to this time change. At 5:30 PM it feels like 10:00 PM. And no one is going to be able to convince me that changing the clocks has any benefit to mankind at all.

Yesterday I made myself a note to contact someone I know in our local professional security organization chapter . I thought I would give him a call on Monday. Well, he and some other former co-workers were at a function in NYC yesterday and my situation came up. He told them to tell me to call him at home today. So that is a good sign. He is a real nice guy and connected so he may have some leads for me.

And you know the holiday season is upon us when the fruitcakes are available. Of course they might be the fruitcakes that didn't sell last year just put out on the shelves again. But that doesn't matter to me. I dug deep into our reserve fund and bought one yesterday. Tis the season to be jolly...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Are You in There?

Not a whole lot going on today. Ashleigh has no school today OR Monday due to teacher conferences and the holiday. She has her first swimming practice tonight which should be interesting. She had her field hockey banquet last night and won the Rookie of the Year Award! That was good.

Elliott has basketball practice tomorrow morning. He is really liking that.

Lucie is supposed to have a church hayride tonight but they are calling for rain so that may go down the tubes.

Still no unlock code for the GPS from Magellan. They have taken the upgrade off of their website due to technical issues with it. I call every 24 hours and speak with a tech rep in India who tells me that they will email me the new code in 24 hours... When I told the guy yesterday that I was tired of hearing that, he told me he had emailed his bosses my request and that he had designated it as "hyper-important." That sounds like a line from the movie Spaceballs...

Based on that interview yesterday, I am going to look in some other directions for employment today. And the first place I am going to look is in the second racquetball court at the Y around 10:30... (I am meeting a friend there to play a few rounds.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post Interview

Well, round 1 of an unknown number of rounds is done. I got to the interview location in plenty of time and was feeling really comfortable. I met a friend of mine who works there and we went for coffee before the interview. We went over what he does, his interview experiences, the company culture, etc. I was really pumped up and ready to go. So I went in and was escorted to a conference room. The first interviewer discussed the company and my resume - typical interview. The second guy put me to the test in some scenario management which was heavy on analytical analysis and very quantitative involving measurements, formulas, regression curves, etc.. The last person was a combination of the previous two and we discussed some practical scenarios and the project assignment process. All were very nice and supportive - challenging but not rude or combative. Finally, an HR rep came in and she and I went over the benefits package and set a desired salary range. She told me they would de-brief after I left and I could expect a decision in a week.

I see some potential issues - this company's main client is the federal government and I have no experience in that area. That issue also means that most of their work is in the DC area which is too far of a commute for me. On the other hand, I bring to the table a lot of experience and an approach that is different from what they may be used to. So at the end of the day, I am not sure what is going to happen. I did my best and maybe I am a fit for them, maybe not. At the very least I got some interview experience going forward. I guess I will find out in a week.

Pre-Interview

Most of you all know I have an interview today at 2 PM but I will come back to that later.

Yesterday I spent some more time with Magellan trying to get the map update code to unlock. The problem is spreading across the nation but the fix is slow in coming. I was told they will email me a new code today. We'll see.

Lucie and I went to Costco's and picked up 25 chickens and bread and other stuff for the church fundraiser dinner last night. When we got to the car to load the stuff in, we found a box of Hershey bars at the bottom of the basket. A quick check of the receipt showed they hadn't charged us for them. So Lucie headed back in to pay for them and was met with astonishment and amazement. And confusion. Seems they have procedures on how to respond to thefts and shoplifting, but not much experience with returning items to purchase! So she set a good example there yesterday and paid for the candy.

The dinner was a great success and everyone had plenty to eat and a good time.

I am about to head out for my interview. Giving myself plenty of time to get there. I have to admit I am a bit nervous but I have no reason to be (besides being human); the company looks great, and the position I am interviewing for is something that I like to do and do well. I was reminded of the Biblical story of how God spoke, and spoke intelligently, through Balaam's donkey. So, with that in mind, I am praying that I get down there and talk like an ... well, like a donkey.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Have Known This for Years

Before I add the part that I have "known," let me recap yesterday. I worked on the application paperwork for my interview tomorrow and called some former co-workers for references. Everyone continues to be very supportive and understanding. One of the people I spoke with knew the company I am interviewing with very well and said he had only heard positive things about them. Several of his retired FBI associates work there and he encouraged me to use his name in my interview.

Elliott was home from school yesterday so we did a little food and clothes shopping (hard to find basketball shorts and shirts in the beginning of basketball season... imagine that). Last night we hung out and watched Heroes and Lucie finished off some shows she had started to watch, but fell asleep in before they ended.

I called Magellan about the GPS map update problem yesterday and they said it would take 48 hours to come up with a fix. I posted the problem to an online newsgroup and someone responded that he got through to another tech who knew of the problem and gave him a new unlock code. So that is my mission today.

Tonight is the annual fundraising dinner at church so Lucie is spending the day prepping chicken and the rest of the stuff. I am going over in a bit to set up tables and do some manual labor.

Tomorrow is the big interview day but I know my abilities and this opportunity is what I do really well at so I am pretty relaxed and comfortable. Just going to be me.

So here is the news that I have known for years:

Being a little heavy may have some benefits
Study: Those up to 25 pounds overweight may better survive some illnesses

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21655928/

CHICAGO - Being 25 pounds overweight doesn’t appear to raise your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease, says a new government study that seems to vindicate Grandma’s claim that a few extra pounds won’t kill you.
Released just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, the findings might comfort some who can’t seem to lose those last 15 pounds. And they hearten proponents of a theory that it’s possible to be “fit and fat.”
Having a little extra weight actually seemed to help people survive some illnesses — results that baffled several leading health researchers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

E Ball

Elliott had his first city league basketball practice last night. It went pretty well. The coach is a nice guy and had them do some good drills and warm-ups. There are only 7 kids on the team - 5 came out to practice. Elliott did well and scored over his guy several times. The kid he defended didn't score. I told Elliott if he thought I was bad when he played baseball (something I never played) he is in for a surprise during basketball season (something I do play but not very well!). He really enjoyed it.

We came home and watched Chuck. Lucie and Ashleigh went to bed and Elliott and I were ready for a late night (he has no school Tuesday). I went into the kitchen to put my dishes away, and he was sound asleep on the couch when I came back 30 seconds later.

Today I am working on my application and getting Elliott a haircut. Local voting today too. Then we are off to Kohl's to get him some more shorts for basketball.

Yesterday I got a map upgrade for my GPS. Went to install it and it wouldn't accept my unlock code. Of course customer support was closed so I will try it again today.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Seven Days to the Hour

Today I had a phone interview with a DC based consulting firm that was almost too good to be true. It seemed like a perfect fit for me and I was able to talk honestly and openly about my skills and abilities because it seemed like the job was made for me. The interview came seven days to the hour from when I resigned so I am taking that as another confirmation sign. I spoke with the interviewer about openings and positions and local offices and it seems that might be something we can work out. Things must have gone well enough for me as I have a face-to-face interview with them this Thursday. I am praying it works out. I am pretty excited.

Sunday was a pretty laid back day. Cooked some burgers on the grill after the morning church service. Ashleigh worked at a fund raiser car wash for the afternoon while Elliott and I hung out. I recorded the Patriots / Colts game and successfully navigated around those who knew the score at church Sunday night. We raced home and watched the game (mostly fast-forward). I have to admit the final two minutes of Brady taking a knee was anti-climatic but a win is a win.

Tonight Elliott has his first basketball practice with the city league. He is on a team of seven with at least one friend so he is pretty excited about that.

My blistered foot from the hike (over two miles by the way) is still sore so I am using that as an excuse to elevate it and stay off of it... ha ha

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Aphid a Day...

Mowed the yard Saturday morning and did some more online resume posting and job searching.



Then the kids and I decided to go hiking in the back woods. They go quite a ways back but not so far that we could ever really get lost. For long. So we headed out and found a weird clearing in the middle of the woods – like a former UFO landing spot. Nothing growing in a wide area. Anyway, we came across a corn field so we hiked through the middle of that and eventually found a road. Followed that for a while back towards home with the machete and hatchet hidden so people driving by didn't think I was Jason from Friday the 13th marching the kids to Camp Crystal Lake. Then we decided to get into the woods again for the final leg. That was a mistake. We ran into the thickest mass of prickly bushes I have ever seen. I had a machete with me but that wasn’t much help. We were too far in to turn around so we kept pushing on. I wound up forging through backwards while the kids followed with their hands over their faces. Woo-hoo, that was some fun. Then I developed some nickel sized blisters on the back of the heels of my feet. Finally we saw some houses and just made our way to them and emerged from the woods through someone’s backyard. Not too long of a walk back home. We were gone for about two and a half hours.

Ashleigh got some video on her cell phone of these weird looking things we saw on some branches. They looked like dandelion fuzzes all swaying on a branch. Did some research and found they were woolly aphids.


Click the play button to see each video (you may have to hit it twice).




video


video

TGIF

Yesterday I found a few more places to post my resume online including an executive search place. That one seems to have some promise. I did receive a call from a consulting firm that wants to conduct a telephone interview with me on Monday. That was encouraging. The firm is very respected and apparently a great place to work. So I have that to look forward to. I downloaded their annual report and will review that before the call.

Lucie and I took our carpet shampooer in to be fixed while it is still under warranty and then picked up the kids from school. Used our club card to buy a large pepperoni pizza for $4.99. I am thinking if we had lived like this the past 14 years, I wouldn't have to be looking for a job now...!!

On the way to dropping Ashleigh off for her field hockey bonfire, we were stopped at a red light. There were several lanes of traffic and the car next to us had the music thumping wicked loud. It was slightly ahead of us on the right. So I rolled down the window on my passenger side (the side that the thumping car was on) and yelled out at them to turn it down. Horrified Ashleigh and Elliott. Of course the people in the car didn't see me and certainly couldn't hear me (I knew that) so I carried on a bit. The light changed and as we pulled off, I realized that the car I had been yelling at was NOT the car with the music - it was the car in the next lane beyond! So it was a good thing they didn't hear me after all.

During the kids' church youth group, we had friends over and played cards.

After picking up the kids from church, we came home and watched the Discovery Channel show about a group of people climbing Mt. Everest. That is crazy. One guy was 400 feet from the summit and couldn't make it. 400 feet! That is something I have absolutely no interest in ever trying. But I would interview with the Sherpas if they called me...

Friday, November 2, 2007

At Least I Have My Health

Yesterday was a fairly productive day. Updated the resume and posted it on various local company websites. Some of them I just had to post the updated resume, others I sent info to for the first time. A friend of mine corresponded with me about an exciting possibility being formulated with his company. We will see how that goes but at the very least, it looks interesting.

We had some quality Hale family time yesterday and watched The Blair Witch Project together. You can either get freaked out by that movie or think it is a waste of time. It scared me. I can't look at our back woods the same anymore. A&E want to go running around there this weekend after seeing it.

I have been on our elliptical most every day since we got it about two months ago and yesterday I walked the dogs. At the very least, I and the dogs are going to be healthier!

Played basketball last night. We only had 7 out and one hurt his knee. Playing 3 on 3 means there is nowhere to hide. I played pretty well and had a great blocked shot. The teams were pretty even and it was a good workout.

Today is a day of more resume submission and online networking. I got a call from a place I had submitted my resume to a while back and we will have a phone interview next week. And I will be taking our carpet shampooer to a factory place to get it repaired (under warranty).

Tonight is Powerline for the kids at church. Ashleigh has a bonfire party with her field hockey team before that and then we will take her over to the church. Lucie and I would usually go down to the University after we dropped the kids off on Friday nights and get something to eat but tonight I think we will come home and heat up a can of Spam. Again.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Take Your Son to Work Day

Last night Elliott says, "I wish tomorrow was take your son to work day so I could stay home with Dad." Nice.

Yesterday was another day of phone calls and emails spreading the word and convincing some that I have not lost my mind (completely). Still most everyone knows my situation and are confident I did the right thing and the right job for me will come along. This morning in my Daily Blessing email, I got this (the title was Doing the Right Thing):

When you do the right thing, God knows it, and He makes sure you get blessed in return. It’s not always easy to do the right thing! Galatians 6:9 says, Let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap.

It is things like that that give me confidence that I am on the right track.

Meanwhile, Ashleigh had her last field hockey game yesterday. She is moving on to swimming now which will consist of 2 hour practices, 6 days per week. After that, she better be qualified for the next Olympics.

Elliott has try-outs for the school basketball team today. He is signed up for a city league with a friend of his. Seven players on the team. I think that will give him some good exposure to team playing and will develop his skills.

Elliott missed the bus this morning so I drove him to school.

That is the events of the day. Basketball for me tonight. Today I will be updating my resume and creating different formats for various opportunities. I found some online executive job search sites but I need to track down a headhunter.