Monday, June 30, 2008

An Unsettling Realization

I've noticed at this new office we're in that every time I enter the men's restroom, the automatic wall-mounted deodorizer high up in the corner goes off. Almost as if it senses my entry and finds it necessary to release a spray of sweet-smelling mist into the air to counteract my presence. Either that, or it's a pre-emptive strike.

How embarrassing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Scary Global Investing

Am I the only one who thinks this picture of a Chinese investor from behind looks like some kind of horror movie monster? Look at his fingers, look at the back of his head.

The photo appeared in this past Tuesday's edition of USAToday (free at my hotel, thank you) above an article about global investing. When I first glanced at it, I thought they had mistakenly put in some horror movie photo.

No offense to the subject in the photo, but dude, a manicure and some hair on that head would do wonders.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What Does "Des Moines" Mean?

Most of the names of cities in Iowa, including the state name itself, have their roots in Native American language. But is that the case with its capital city?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Enjoying A Day Off

We're now required to take off one day each week, so I was off Wednesday. To insure that my day off would not be filled with "must do" things, I went after work Tuesday night to get a haircut and buy some groceries. I also bought a bathing suit in case I ever get enough time to use the indoor swimming pool at the hotel for some exercise.

I slept in until 9am. That was SO nice, lol. Of course I woke up out of habit at 5am, but it was nice to pull the covers over my head and fall back asleep. After showering I went out for a late breakfast to a local Perkins Restaurant because I had a real craving for my favorite dish. I always order the same thing from them for breakfast (Country Club Omelet, bacon burned, hash browns and pancakes) but it tasted different from what I get when I'm in Florida. Maybe it's the water, maybe it's that the chickens are closer to me here in Iowa and their eggs are fresher or maybe the cook used some different recipe, but whatever it was I was disappointed.

Then I stopped in at both Barnes & Noble and Borders to pick up some magazines and a couple of books I need to read and then returned to the hotel.

About an hour later I left to go to an early showing of The Incredible Hulk which I enjoyed more than I expected (I have a review up over at Athena), though again the CGI was not up to par.

A late lunch/early dinner at a place called Legends American Grill rounded out my time out and about the area. I returned to the hotel, did my laundry and ironing, then relaxed and wrote the above-noted review before hitting the sack because 5am comes early.

Welcome to my exciting life, lol.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Here's A Funny Thing...

You might think coming to the Midwest, especially our country's farmland, that everything would get an early start. You know, farmers up at dawn to milk the cows, feed the chickens, slop the hogs and that sort of thing. But instead you find out that some things, like the local news (at least on the network I usually watch), don't go on the air until 6am on weekdays and don't even air on weekends (though admittedly I'm so punch drunk all the days are running together anyway). expected, they DO air the hog futures first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How Long?

When I first arrived here in Des Moines the timeline was described as "Be prepared to take part in a Halloween costume contest" which meant they thought we'd be here through October. Then it became "Pick a Christmas tree to decorate" and lately it's been "We're planning an Easter egg hunt."

In other words, your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Long-Awaited Day Off

I have the day off tomorrow. I'll spend the majority of it inspecting the inside of my eyelids.

I hope.

Meeting People From Previous Incidents

Having worked at various locations and incidents around the country over the past few years, it is inevitable that I run into people I've worked with before. Sometimes those little reunions are joyful and sometimes you want to run the other direction when you see them coming (which was how I felt earlier yesterday upon recognizing a fellow who could not cut the mustard in Louisiana last year yet somehow still works for us).

Regardless, I am horrible with remembering names (just ask my friend Denise, who I'm always asking, "What was their name?"), but I usually remember a face, even if I can't place where I have seen it.

What always surprises me though are the number of people who remember me or know my name that I have no recollection of meeting or interacting with previously. My wife says it's because I naturally make an impression upon people, even though I prefer to be quietly in the background (I suppose that's why her descriptive of "naturally" may apply).

Yesterday afternoon I saw a young woman and an older woman standing off several feet from me and as I glanced at the younger woman she smiled (with that kind of "Do you remember me?" look) but my eyes slid on past her and back to the person to whom I was giving some direction. Still, I heard her quietly say to her companion, "Oh, he doesn't remember me, come on." and they walked a little farther away and had a happy reunion with someone here that I DO know from Florida, so I'm assuming I knew her there and just don't recall her.

I felt bad, because most people don't want to feel that they are not memorable, especially to someone THEY remember, but I'm an old man and just can't recognize or even recall everyone I work with, much as I might want to or try to. Either that or my brain is too small to hold all the memories and some fall out along the way.

I hope they understand and forgive me my shortcomings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Being Excited For Your Children

Saturday proved to be a fun diversion throughout the day as my daughter kept me up to date on her trip to Atlanta to hear R.E.M. in concert by text messages and cellphone photos.

Isn't it funny how parents can be so happy for their children's happiness and excited for their excitement? I moderately enjoy R.E.M.'s music, but my Princess is completely enamored with them and has been since she was a teenager (long, long ago, lol). However, knowing how excited she was to be flying to Atlanta to attend their concert this past Saturday night made ME excited for her! Her happiness made me happy. It kept a smile on my otherwise dour face while working, which I'm sure confused the hell out of everyone working with me. :)

I'm also sure she'll have a blog entry up about her trip soon, if she hasn't already posted something.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hello, It's Me

Things are still hectic here in Iowa, but I have a few free moments (i.e. not working or sleeping) to write up some thoughts. I'll try to spread these out over a few days.

I won't touch on the flooding. If you watch the national news you've seen the destruction, but like most things, the reality is much harsher than TV, newspaper or the Internet can convey. Smelling the dampness; the mold; the sewage, fertilizer and fuel mixed in the water; hearing the rushing onslaught of water or the creaking of soaked wood and drywall in flooded, water-soaked homes and working with folks whose lives have been irrevocably changed by a force of nature is much different than the sterile viewing that media permits.

Suffice it to say that this has been, and will continue to be, a huge incident and recovery will not be a short-term undertaking. In addition, taking part in America's "breadbasket", this is affecting not only residents here, but will also affect all of us down the road with higher food prices, at the very least.

Obviously, I've had no time for writing, but I knew that would be the case at times when I accepted this position, so I deal with it. I do try to jot down thoughts, and occasionally something that might see the light of day (eventually), but for the most part it is work, sleep and eat when able. We all try to stay as healthy as possible and take care of ourselves as much as we can, but a lot of times those issues take a back seat to the more immediate needs of others. You don't usually hear about that, but it's typical.

Which is where I should mention that I am grateful for family and friends who e-mail me inquiring as to how I am doing health-wise and encouraging me to take care of myself. Your concern is appreciated. Before I left Orlando, my doctor asked me to e-mail her with certain information and readings and I've been remiss in doing that while here, so I hope I can get that done tonight or tomorrow.

I've also had no time for taking photos, other than a couple I snapped the other morning while eating breakfast in my car, and those were just some possible shots for stock photo submission.

Needless to say, my creative side is being severely suppressed, lol.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

While my late father is always in and on my mind, Father's Day sharpens my thoughts of him.

My father was a huge fan of Hank Williams and his music. I, on the other hand, being a child of the rock and roll era, hated listening to what I came to call (although never in his presence) $h!t-kicking music.

So it was a little bittersweet today when I decided to treat myself to a steak for lunch at a place outside Des Moines called Texas Roadhouse. While the food is great, their choice of music is sad. Yep, you guessed it, they play country-western songs. While I tried to block out the awful stuff, my attention was suddenly grabbed when I heard the (unfortunately, lol) familiar strains of "Hey Good Lookin'" over the sound system.

Dad would have enjoyed it.

Today, I'm fortunate enough to have a fantastic father-in-law who is dear to my heart, and a wonderful son-in-law who is a great father to my grandchildren. I hope they both know that I love them and wish them a very Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday In Iowa

Today I spent most of the day traveling to northern Iowa and back to attend a press conference with both U.S. Senators from Iowa in a small town that had been flooded last week. Driving up there I saw flooded farm fields and watched the water lap at the edges of the Interstate in some areas. It was disheartening to see fields of corn and soybeans covered in water or fields with ugly gashes that had been gouged out by flood waters cutting across them. Reports are that those crops will not grow to harvest.

Not far from where the press conference was held a tornado was spotted while we were there, but the last I heard it never touched down. I'm glad because a Storm Hunter I'm not, lol.

Driving back to Des Moines I went through a town that was devastated by a tornado on May 25, 2008, killing 8 people. The level of destruction was unbelievable, yet so was the determination of the townspeople who have made so much progress in recovering and even beginning to rebuild what was lost.

Tonight is my last night in the (Not) Quality Inn. Tomorrow I move to a different locale and not a moment too soon as when I returned to the hotel tonight I saw that the ever-encroaching water had moved to the edge of the parking lot. We're expecting more thunderstorms tonight and tomorrow, so I hope when I leave in the morning that I can drive out and not have to paddle out.

One last word. If you're able, take the advice of my friend ZenGrrl and make a donation to the American Red Cross. It will help someone and make you feel good. Today, I watched a woman whose home was destroyed by flood waters cry when she found out she could get some immediate help because people like you make donations to the Red Cross. It made me think about ZenGrrl's post and how much those donations help those in need.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Wet And I'm Tired

Parts of Iowa are submerged beneath inches and, in some places, feet of water. So are other sections of the Midwest U.S., but Iowa is where I'm at and what I'm experiencing. Last night we learned of the tragic deaths of four people at a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa after a tornado descended on their gathering. Reports are that if not for the quick action of those present, the loss of life might well have been even greater. My hat is off to those heroic young men and my thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones.

If you watch the news, you already know what's going on here. I can't tell you much except it's worse than what's shown on TV. My days are hectic, non-stop and exhausting, lasting at least 16-17 hours between waking up and going back to sleep, then waking up and starting all over again. In fact, I'm going to post this and then hit the sack. We're expecting to stay on this kind of schedule for at least another two weeks, barring any other situations.

If my posting is sporadic, you'll understand why.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Blub, Blub Blub"

A makeshift concrete and sandbag flood wall is constructed across the Walnut Street bridge in Des Moines ahead of expected flood waters earlier this afternoon. Several bridges leading into the city were closed late today as the rising Des Moines River was expected to flood over and cover the bridges, making them impassable.

More severe thunderstorms are expected to begin dumping more water on the area beginning tomorrow through Thursday on a part of the state that typically receives 1.75 inches of rain in June and thus far has been inundated by 8.25 inches.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hello Hawkeye State

After a day of flying and airports I arrived in Des Moines at 3:20 local time and by the time I got my checked luggage and rental car it was a few minutes after 4:00pm. I opted to go to the local office first instead of the hotel and I'm glad I did. They're on a 7am to 7pm shift, so I was able to get a lot of check-in paperwork done this afternoon and I can hit the ground running tomorrow morning.

I've got more to say, but I'm tired and the day starts early tomorrow and lasts 13-14 hours, so I'm hitting the sack.

Mikey's Birthday Celebration

Saturday Cindy and yours truly joined Ann, Jason, Mikey, Heather, Amber, Jeremy and Wendy at Downtown Disney to celebrate Mikey's upcoming birthday. We took Mikey to his favorite store, The Lego Store, and he picked out two new Bionicle toys that grandma and granddad bought him, then we had an early dinner at the McDonald's next door and afterward walked down to one of the Disney toy stores where he picked out another toy with money from other family members.

Walking to the toy store Heather saw the large scale choo choo train and cajoled mommy into taking her on the ride, while the rest of us sat in the nearby shade (well, except for me...I was taking pictures and shooting video of course) and we all had fun looking at all the toys (Jason, remember "Darth Tater"? lol) that sometime make you wish you were a kid again. Mikey picked out a Nerf Ball shooter and had the law laid down by mommy that he would lose it if he ever pointed it at his sister or anyone else.

By this time he was pretty much ready to call it a day, so he'll use the rest of his birthday money later at some other store. Here's one pic from the outing showing Mikey and his daddy having a good time.

I haven't had time to get the photos uploaded to Flickr yet (or work on the video footage I shot) because I've had to get ready to fly out to Des Moines, Iowa on Monday morning. I'll be in Iowa for a month and that's where my next post will be coming from.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites For Writers 2008

If you type "writer", "writing", or "author" into Google you'll find, as I have, about a brazillion (see Brazilian/Bush joke here) sites listed. How do you judge, or even find the time to visit, all those sites to know which ones are useful for you as a writer? You don't because you can't.

But the editors at Writer's Digest magazine have done the next best thing. They waded through some 2,100 sites that were nominated by readers and chose the 101 Best Websites For Writers 2008. They've also divided them into 9 categories for ease of use:

General Resources
Publishing Resources
Writing Groups and Communities
Agent blogs
Protect Yourself
Just For Fun

And if you know of a great writer's site that isn't on their 2008 list, you can submit it to them for nomination in the 2009 list.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Mikey's Award Ceremony Video

Here's the short video version of Mikey's First Grade Award Ceremony. Thanks so much to Mikey's dad Jason for shooting the video while I took a few hundred stills with my camera.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Princess

It was 33 years ago tonight at about 7:30 that my little princess entered the world and my life. I know that I never did anything that made me deserve such goodness in my life, but I am certainly thankful for her. From the moment I laid eyes on her in the hospital until today, she has been one of the brightest parts of my life. And from that same moment in the hospital, she's had her daddy's heart wrapped around her finger.

I've said before that parents want their children to grow up to be better than they themselves are or have been. My princess, as a person (and that is the most important measuring stick in life), is SO much better than I could ever hope to be, as are most of my family and friends. To say her old dad is proud of her would be an understatement of major proportions.

So, Happy Birthday Princess! I hope your day was and will be all that you want it to be. And in my heart, you're still daddy's little girl.

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