Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Love Boat

Well it has been an unbelievable past couple of days in terms of doing some final planning for the cruise. We have made a few trips to Kohl's and Wal-Mart and probably have a few left to go. Last minute preparations and confirmations. And then we found that Elliott outgrew the suit that we bought him before he ever wore it. That was another Kohl's trip. But it is fun and we are excited.

What is really exciting is the group of people we are going with. All from our church and we all get along so well. No worries about personalities or hurt feelings. We can talk about plans as a giant group, smaller groups, families, or even individuals without worrying about stepping on toes. In fact, our biggest challenge is trying to figure out the nighttime dinner seating so we can all hear each other. So that is cool and we feel blessed and are thrilled to be going. Months of planning is only a few days away.

On top of that, I have been contacted by some former co-workers with job offers that I have to consider - when we get back! So things are rolling along.

A&E got their report cards. Elliott got straight A's (as usual) and Ashleigh went up in a few subjects and is now ranked #11 in her class of 469. Not bad. And they are busy with church, plays, sports, etc. etc.

Basketball tonight but I am going to take it easy. I don't intend to spend the next week on crutches.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Elliott Light's It Up

Elliott had a breakout game last night! His team was playing a team that was undefeated and whom they had lost to earlier in the season by a score of 28-16. The other team has a girl player who shoots 3-pointers like layups. She came out and hit 3 in a row and their team took an early lead. Elliott plays guard so his coach put Elliott on her. And he shut her down! She didn't score another 3 the rest of the game until the end - when Elliott was on the bench. Elliott played almost the entire game - the coach of the other team was fussing that he played so much (there are rules on how long each kid can play). He took more shots this game than almost the entire season combined. He had 6 points (which was as much as the entire season combined) and he was rebounding, feeding assists, causing turnovers - a real team spark. It was Elliott's steal and assist that lead to their team taking the lead and they never looked back. Elliott was anticipating passes, jumping to steal or deflect passes - he was on fire. Some guy in the stands was yelling out for the team to "get Elliott the ball" and after the game, other kids' parents were patting him on the back! He had to keep laughing at himself when he looked up at me because he knew he was playing like never before. So his team won by at least a score of 36-26 (the scorekeeper was lame and not doing very well). The bad news is he will miss the next FOUR games due to the cruise. His coach said he cannot go! Ha ha. He was so pumped up all night. Now he has his confidence, there is no turning back.

On a less exciting note, I will be turning back to Circuit City to get $10 from them - the UPS battery backup I bought is on sale for $10 cheaper than when I bought it so off I go to re-claim that.

Rainy day here today. Elliott will be home early. Ashleigh has a late play practice. She is feeling much better so that is good. Going to be a good night to start packing...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Keepin' the Beard

As some of you may know, my former employer contacted me recently about returning to work. At first it looked like a good deal – going back to a different division than what I left (the division that I really liked). I thought it over and was set to go back. Then when we started to talk some nitty gritty contract and return-to-work conditions, things took a strange and unexpected turn. I will not post the whole story here – email me for the details if you want. But, as the icon to the left indicates, I will not be involved in idol worship. And as you might guess from today’s blog title, my former company didn’t allow beards…

I sent my resume to the state for a job I saw there and another friend is working on some things for me. Still keeping the faith.

Just a few days left until the cruise. Working out some details every day but basically we are ready to go! Ashleigh has a cold but should be fine. Elliott has a game tonight he is looking forward to. He will miss some games next week but we will be back in time for the playoffs.

Speaking of, I finally got to see some of a Celtics game on TV yesterday. They were down by 7 with just over a minute to go. Against Orlando. They came back to tie it up but Orlando hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win. The Celtics are still in first place and it was good to see them play.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We Got A Winna

Elliott had a game this morning and I am happy to report his team won! Yahoo. Elliott went 0 for 2 from the field but they were good shots. He has really stepped up his defensive game and he had 4 rebounds. At least two steals too and an assist. I told him how Larry Bird used to play. (For those who don't know who Larry is, look him up...). When Larry had an 'off' game offensively, he would make up for it defensively, working the boards, etc. I have Elliott's stats on the web page.

Today is house cleaning day. Mopping, etc. That is OK. It is rewarding to see the floor clean for the full two minutes before the dogs tread and shed on it....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hale's on Fire

Elliott and I did pretty well in our respective basketball games last night. Elliott played some great defense and grabbed a couple of rebounds. No turnovers. He handled the ball well too. He got his shot blocked by some kid much taller than him but he fired off 2, 3-pointers that were in and out. He did hit a nice jumper. Unfortunately, his whole team didn't score in the third quarter (he had to sit out - there are timing rules so all the kids can play) and they lost again. Lots and lots of turnovers.

We left there and went to my church basketball night. Only 8 of us but I had a huge night. Drained most of my outside shots. We had a good night overall. My knees don't bother me at all - which is strange since a few weeks ago I thought it was time to hang up the sneakers. Early in the night someone gouged my middle finger with their fingernail. You would think they punctured an artery the way it bled. I didn't even notice I was dripping blood on the carpet until I happened to look down. Elliott scrounged up a Band-Aid but was almost too grossed out to stick it on me. It was on my shooting hand but since I shot so well, I am thinking of wearing a Band-Aid every week. If Michael Jackson can wear a glove on one hand...

I picked up my Pathfinder yesterday. They did an excellent job replacing the bumper and washing the car. It looks brand new again.

Ashleigh is going to a sleepover / birthday party tonight. Not sure what the rest of us will do. Probably catch up on some Tivo-ed shows.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No Respect for the King

Whenever there is a holiday before our trash pickup, our trash pickup is delayed a day. Wednesday is our usual pickup day so I packed up the trash and put it out this morning (Thursday). No pickup. I called our trash company and while on hold, a recording was playing re-stating that holiday delay pickup policy. Right then a live person came on and said that the company doesn't recognize MLK as a holiday. And they have no trucks in our our area until next week. So, as someone told me, I have to do the roll of shame and bring the trash back.

Tonight Elliott has a basketball game. We always look forward to those.

I did my civic duty today and sent in my absentee ballot for the presidential primary (which will be held while we are cruising).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Silent Mouse

I have a new mission - find a silent mouse. When I am updating church info on Wednesday nights at the church, the mouse I use seems to be quite noisy. (Noisy being loud when I double click. I could use the touch-pad but that is not too easy to control.) I am not sure if I am actually disrupting the service but it seems loud to me. So I did a google search and found there is quite a potential market for silent mouses (mice?) and keyboards. One company makes one but it is expensive. And I found a step by step guide on how to dissassemble a mouse and take out the click-maker. Not going to do that.

Actor Heath Ledger was found dead today. He was in some of Lucie and Ashleigh's favorite movies (The Patriot and A Knight's Tale). He was pretty good.

We have been spending the past few days finalizing cruise plans including car rentals and what excursions to go on. I actually laid out my bathing suits the other day. Won't be long now...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Catch Up

What a busy past few days. Whew. Thank you Dr. King for sharing your dream and giving us all a slow day... ha ha.

I will add some things in no particular order. Today we went down to the Rehoboth Beach outlets to do some shopping. My Pathfinder is in the shop now for most of the week to get the bumper replaced from the accident. They gave me a Chevy Impala to drive. So we piled in and braved the freezing cold to do some shopping. That went well. Elliott and I got some new cruise sunglasses and he got some t-shirts and swimming trunks. Lucie got some shorts.

On Saturday, Elliott couldn't go to his basketball game as he was on one of his school's academic challenge teams that was competing with several other schools. It was sort of like a giant Bible Quiz competition (for those of you who know what that is) or a trivia game show. Complete with buzzers and judges and timers. The morning started off rough with us heading out and Lucie forgetting her camera. We hadn't gone far so we turned around and went back. She grabbed that and off we went. We met at a school in Wilmington and then I found out this was an ALL DAY event. I was mentally prepared for a half day. So I became a big poop for a while (until he started competing - then it was interesting). Meanwhile, Lucie gets her camera out and finds that the battery was missing so she figured she left it charging at home. It wasn't until we were on the way home that she found the battery in the camera bag and she had had it the whole time... Anyway, Elliott's team went 5-1 with their only loss being against another team from their school. So they came in 2nd place. His school, Newark Charter, placed 1st, 2nd, and 4th. (His basketball team won big even though he and one of the other good players wasn't there. Next game is this Thursday.)

On Friday I had to take him to the doctor for a follow-up checkup. According to my math, the doctor makes $540 an hour. So Ashleigh and Elliott are now going to be pre-med majors in college...

On Sunday we got busy doing things in the afternoon including running Elliott from ice skating with the church youth group to a birthday party. So I Tivo-ed the Patriots game and watched it later. No one got to me to spoil it either. As soon as that finished, we flipped over to the Packers / Giants game and saw the Giants win. So I know who will be playing Sunday night while we are cruising the open seas. I too have a dream...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Frosty Day

Ashleigh is in the middle of mid-terms at school so she is on a crazy test schedule. Short days.

Lucie was off today so we went to pick up Ashleigh from school, then race over to her (Lucie's doctor appointment). When we got there, Lucie wasn't sure if she was at the right office. Turned out, it was the right office, wrong time! So she went back later.

On the way home we stopped at our bank and got our request for absentee ballots notarized. The presidential primary will be held here while we are at sea. The guy at the bank seized the moment to tell us about this plan they have. Every time we use our credit/debit card, they put $1 in a savings account at 5% interest. At the end of the year, they match the amount in this savings account 5%. Sounded good so we signed up.

It has now started snowing pretty hard. Not expected to accumulate much but it could be rough later for basketball. Then it will turn to rain.

I checked all my cable internet connections in the house, replaced some splitters and wires, tightened everything. I haven't lost connection in 24 hours so maybe I am good. I called the Comcast guy directly (who was here last) and he said he has been in my neighborhood daily due to the Verizon cabling work. At least I am pretty sure any more problems will be from outside the house.

I will have a work update soon on here I think. Some weird things are going on that I won't post here. Keep praying for me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I took my car in for an oil change yesterday and the TV in the dealership lobby was tuned to the show The View. What a mess that is. A bunch of cackling hens each trying to be more controversial than the next. I finally got up and changed the channel to The Price is Right. Drew Carey is no Bob Barker but he is better than that noise.

I bought a giant BJs can of nacho cheese yesterday. I love that stuff but they don't make it in smaller containers. So I bought some Tupperware like things and ladled the cheese into about 6 of those. I will freeze them and thaw them as needed.

Elliott had another game last night. Again, he did pretty good. His defense has really stepped up and he is quicker on his feet. But his team goes into a complete fog at the tip-off. No one wants to take charge and they are not a very aggressive group. In warmups and practice, the team is confident and shoots well. But they seize up in the game. In this game, they scored more points in the 4th quarter than the previous three quarters combined. Elliott is the youngest and smallest one on the team so when he gets double-teamed, it is intimidating. But he only had one turnover. He had 2 or 3 rebounds and 3 shots. They were good shots and I am glad he took them - you can't score if you don't shoot and his team wasn't shooting. His next game is Saturday but he won't make it as he is competing in an academic challenge at school.

I am still struggling with my modem connection. I am 99% sure it is due to the work in the neighborhood (Verizon is installing FIOS and it is interfering with us Comcast users). But I am going through and checking all my connections and being sure it is not a problem on my end.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dice and No Dice

I wanted to post this picture of the translucent dice our friends gave us for Christmas. Actually it is a second set of dice they gave us - the first set was so tiny they got lost in the wrinkles of my palm... Anyway, these are really cool looking. And they will be joining us on our cruise.

Speaking of, we had a cruise planning party last night at a friend's house. All 33 of us there. We ate a lot and talked a lot and had a couple of computers going researching places to go on our excursions. The general consensus, after consulting Google Earth, books, online reviews, and personal experiences, is to hire our own island transportation to go places we want to see/do instead of using the Royal Caribbean sponsored excursions. All that planning and activity almost distracted me from watching the Patriots win again. Almost...

I got up this morning and did my usual stumble into the computer room only to be greeted by a high pitched whining noise and the computer and monitor powered off. That is one way to jump start your morning. Without caffeine. Turned out my battery backup system malfunctioned. It had saved my skin many, many times after power bumps and outages. Years ago I lost a hard drive during a bad storm when the power kept coming back, going out, coming back, etc. in rapid succession. With the UPS battery backup, the batteries kick in and keeps the power supply 'smooth.' If the power goes out completely, the batteries will keep my computer on for about a half hour, then software will shut down the computer before the batteries die. So I had to go out and buy a new battery backup today. Got that installed and all is good.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thunder Dog

This morning there was some thunder rumbling around at 4:30. And how do I know this? Because it was right about then that the 80 lb. golden retriever piled into our bed all shaky and afraid. The beagle typically sleeps on the bed with us at night. But this morning, the golden displaced her and took her rightful spot all snuggled up to me for protection. For some reason, the thunder doesn't bother the beagle.

Yesterday, Lucie and I broke in her new GPS (Magellan Maestro 4000 - bought on super sale at Circuit City with gift card and friend's employee discount) by taking a trip to the Target store in Dover. She had never been down there so we headed out. She loved it. But nothing we do is not without some story. We got back to the car and realized she had been double charged for something. So back in she goes. Got that straightened out so we then headed out to grab some lunch at the drive through. Pulled into the KFC for lunch, and instead of giving Lucie the two wings meal she ordered, she got a leg and a wing. And my Mt. Dew wasn't a Mt. Dew - it was a Pepsi. Oy. However, we did notice that they are putting the final touches on a Sonic down there so that will be good.

We got back to town and picked up Ashleigh and a friend from school. The friend said she lived "just around the corner." Well, that friend must have previously lived on the Ponderosa because "just around the corner" was about three miles away from the direction I wanted to go.

And where did I want to go? Why to Lowe's of course to get a replacement piece for the toilet that I had snapped off that morning. I was walking by the downstairs bathroom before we left and I heard the toilet trickling water. So I lifted off the tank cover and bent the floating ball adjusting arm. And snapped it right off. When we got to Lowe's, I ran into the plumbing department with my gift card in hand, and go to get the replacement part. Turns out, there are 8.5 inch and 12 inch toilet tanks. I don't know what I have! So I asked the Lowe's guys which is more common? No clue. I then start looking around at the toilets at Lowe's and still can't figure it out. The piece was inside and it was hard to tell. Elliott was home by now so I called him and got him to shove a yard stick into the tank and tell me how high the broken piece was. Turns out it was 12 inches for those of you taking notes. So we headed home and I slapped in the new piece. Today I sent a thank-you email to the person who gave me the gift card. I told her I would think of her every time I flushed the toilet...

I should end on that funny note but I will end today with a request for prayer for an upcoming decision. More on that later.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

E News Daily

Elliott had his first basketball scrimmage and practice last night since the holidays. He had a New Year's resolution to step up his defensive activity after watching the video I shot of his last game. Well, he lived up to the resolution. He got into the game and smothered his opponent. Knocked the ball out, tied it up for a jump ball, moved his feet, ran back on fast breaks to break up the play, etc. I had told him he doesn't ever want to come home from a game or practice not tired. So he gave it his all and was worn out. That was a good night.

Earlier in the day, he had another Math League competition. His school still holds the top three rankings and he is #14 out of 59 individuals. Pretty good.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bumper Bucks

I got an estimate today to have my car fixed - $1,333.00 not including a 3-day car rental. Mostly bumper replacement and some exhaust work. But they cannot get to it until the 21st. The car rental place wanted to set me up with a small car but I said I am getting an SUV fixed, so the insurance company should rent me an SUV. They will work on that...

Meanwhile, the temperature today is in the low 60ยบ's. Going to be even warmer tomorrow.

Elliott has basketball practice and a scrimmage tonight - his first since the holidays. I expect him to start feeling the effects of a lot of Christmas candy...

Our pre-cruise party has been re-scheduled to this weekend. But it is during the Patriots play-off game. Fortunately, the party host has a wide-screen, HD TV so I am thinking we might be able to sneak off and watch the game.

I did some more networking this morning for a job. Got an interesting potential prospect I will look at. Very early but encouraging.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Rear Ended

Today I was driving to get a haircut and was stopped at a traffic light (for the locals, it was over by BJs on Route 72). There were about 15 cars ahead of me and I was just sitting there waiting for the light to change. Suddenly I hear the screeching of brakes and look back to see a guy plow into the back of me. WHAM It pushed me forward a bit and you can see the damage it did to his car (1997 Geo Prizm). His airbags deployed and he had a bloody lip. He left about 20 feet of skid marks so he was moving along. There were two lanes of traffic each way with a middle turning lane. I was in the left center lane. I called 911 and then the other driver and I managed to get off the road and into a parking area. No one else in either car. I felt kind of bad for the guy as he was from Africa and went to an AG church. We talked for a while and noted how it could have been much worse, it could be raining or something, etc. He wound up getting a citation. My cell phone lens had condensation in it so I couldn’t take good pictures. Lucie was just a couple of miles away so she came over and took some pictures. I will go Monday and get an estimate. A new bumper for sure. My arm that was on the wheel is a bit sore and my neck did whip back but so far I am OK.


Today is the day we start to unChristmas the house - take all the stuff down and pack it away for another 48 weeks or so. If I could figure out a reasonable way to save the tree in its current configuration, I would. Just bag it and stash it till next year. It has been very cold lately but today it should be warmer so I can get the outside lights down today and tomorrow - while Lucie undoes the 17 strings of lights she affixed to the tree this year. We should see a dramatic decrease in our electric bill.

Ever since Christmas day, my cable modem has been dropping off line periodically. Makes me so mad. No rhyme or reason. Just drops. I have to unplug the power for a minute, then plug it back in. Then I am good for a couple of days. My signals all look good. I called the cable company and they are coming out tomorrow. Of course they can only come when I am at Elliott's practice. I like to be here to learn what they do and keep them in line. They always want to come in and mess with my setup. Last time though, they found the last tech that came out to the outside box cut my cable and split it to the neighbor. My tech was pretty mad. He re-wired it and I was good for months. This is a new cable modem too. And Verizon is around installing FIOS so maybe that is the issue.

Had a fair night at hoops. I have been icing my knees all week and went back to my old sneakers. My knees feel pretty good today but it didn't help my game. I see it now takes at least 40 seconds for the play I have in my head to make it's way to my feet. Then they start to move but by then the opportunity is gone. The 'abort mission' signal is another 40 seconds behind that but by then it is too late...

We were going to go to a final cruise planning party this weekend but the host had to cancel as the husband is going to be out of town. But it seems all of us (33!) are all ready to go. Now it is just the waiting part...

I see the late night talk show hosts have been keeping tabs on me: Letterman and Conan have both grown beards. Shawn-wannabe's...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

...Know When to Walk Away...

A&E and I had to stop by BJs the other day to pick up some stuff. We grilled out on New Years Eve and needed some meat. Ashleigh stayed in the car while Elliott and I went in. After a few minutes, Ashleigh called me and said that a car came and parked next to ours. A couple of kids got out and opened their door into the side of mine. Then they and their mother walked away and knocked my outside mirror forward. She gave me a description of the family so I sought them out. And found them. I went up to the woman and told her that her kids had opened their door into my car. Without even asking "what car?" or anything, she immediately starts yelling that they did not and she told them to be careful and on and on. A real scene. She then wanted to go out and look. I told her I was not going back out AND that her kids knocked my mirror the wrong way. She again said they did not. I told her my daughter saw it happen and had called me from the car. She said she saw Ashleigh and wanted to go out and look at the cars. At that point, nothing would be gained so I told her to be careful next time. And then I walked off and went about my business. But what a mess. So defensive yet guilty. She never asked me who I was or what I was driving. I told Elliott the point of me confronting her was to instill some sort of accountability for her actions. But when it was apparent nothing was to be gained, and there was no damage to fix or recover, it was time to bail. She was something else.

New Years was pretty quiet. We watched the ball drop and Dick Clark struggle through another count down. Time to pass the torch, buddy.

Elliott got together with a bunch of church friends and went bowling. The scoring is mostly electronic now. He did pretty good.