Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Watching CNN reports on the approach of Hurricane Gustav to Louisiana and dreading what will follow.

Regular readers know that I was in Louisiana from November of last year until May of this year, with the last 3 months being spent in Baton Rouge doing recovery work from Katrina.

I have friends and co-workers in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, some who are still there working on cleaning up after Katrina and some who were just deployed there in preparation for Gustav. They, like thousands of other first responders, have put themselves in the path of this storm in order to be ready to assist as soon as the hurricane passes.

Please send your good thoughts their way tonight and tomorrow. I know I will.

McCain's VP Pick

Friday morning I was driving in Iowa at 11am when Senator McCain was scheduled to make his choice for a VP running mate known during a rally in Dayton, Ohio. I tuned to NPR to officially hear what had previously been leaked (I had already received multiple "breaking news alerts" from all my news subscriptions on my Blackberry); that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate.

Having never seen Governor Palin, I found myself listening to her speak to the crowd of 15,000 and visualizing what she would look like based on her voice, tone, inflection, etc. This is one of those fun games that never turns out right. It's like when you hear the voice of a radio DJ and imagine this tall, dark, handsome man, only to see him at a live event and recoil from the short, fat, balding, gray-haired guy who looks like he lives in his parent's basement.

Sort of similar to the time when someone told me, "Jeff, you have a voice and face made for radio."

Driving along Friday, I pictured a Barbie doll with short, stylishly cut blonde hair. That was really the only variation of the popular toy that came to mind.

So, of course, when I arrived back at the hotel on Friday night and turned on CNN to watch the replay, I was totally shocked to see that McCain had chosen Tina Fey as his Vice-Presidential running mate!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

She's A Brick House

It's almost impossible to drive a mile in any direction here in Iowa without coming across a silo. Nothing unusual about that; there's enough corn alone to fill them all a few times over.

Most of the silos I've seen in my travels around the state have been made of metal, some have been made of wood and a few have been made of poured concrete. But the other day, driving along a back road on the way to a small town, I came across this incredible sight...a silo built of bricks.

I have no idea how old it is, though it certainly looks to be pretty aged and I'm assuming that, being made of bricks, it would pre-date most modern-day silos. It just looked SO compelling to my eyes, standing there like a solitary sentry, that I had to stop and take several photos of this beautiful leviathan towering above the road.

She's a brick house.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bad Grammar Not A Good Defense

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson pleaded guilty August 11th to using a marker and liquid white-out to correct a sign in the Grand Canyon National Park that was filled with grammatical and spelling errors.

They were fined $3,035 for repair costs to the sign and sentenced to a year of probation, during which time they may not enter ANY national park or modify ANY public signs.

Like the rest of us who cringe when we see those signs with misspelled words and grammatical gaffes, Deck and Herson will have to be content with shaking their heads in disgust or laughing and making fun of the language-challenged sign makers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breaking News

Earlier this month I signed up to receive a text message on my cellphone when Barack Obama announced his choice of a running mate.

A friend of mine has signed up to be notified when John McCain makes his choice known.

He'll be getting a telegram.

New Flickr Photos

Just in case you hadn't noticed by looking at my Flickr badge over on the right, I've finally uploaded photos from the Des Moines, Iowa Art Festival from back on June 29, 2008 (they are all blown out looking because I messed up my settings and didn't notice), downtown Des Moines on the same day (most of those are not blown out because I finally noticed the settings), some photos from our trip with the grandchildren to Downtown Disney on July 19, 2008 and then some photos from the family birthday party on July 26, 2008.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road

Way back in 1972, when I was just a young man of 17, Loudon Wainwright III became famous for his novelty song "Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road" with its (in my opinion) hilarious lyrics. The first time I heard it on the radio I was driving through the downtown section of Miami Springs, Florida in morning traffic and I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

Crossin' the highway late last night
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn't see the station wagon car
The skunk got squashed and there you are!

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven!

Take a whiff on me, that ain't no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose
You don't have to look and you don't have to see
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven!

Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
The blood and the guts they're gonna make you swoon!
You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven!

C'mon stink!

You got it!
It's dead, it's in the middle
Dead skunk in the middle!
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high heaven!
All over the road, technicolor man!

Oh, you got pollution
It's dead, it's in the middle
And it's stinkin' to high, high Heaven

Play the video below and sing along!

Driving down an Iowa back road the other day, I had my own "Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road" experience (he or she was already dead when I came across its carcass) and here are the photos. You'll have to imagine the smell on your own, because it was indeed "Stinkin' to high Heaven!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Build Me Up Buttercup"

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time in your mind?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

Driving around Iowa I've had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

I was 13 years old and in the 7th grade in 1968 when "Build Me Up Buttercup" was a hit for The Foundations at the same time that I had an unrequited crush on Phyllis McCormick.

I had known Phyllis all through elementary school and we walked to band practice together over the summer between 6th and 7th grades, but I didn't really notice her until 7th grade started. We were both in band in junior high; I played trombone and she played the French horn. I developed a big crush on her, but in a strange twist, it turned out she had a crush on me in 6th grade (that I never knew about until she told me in 7th grade) and had lost interest in me by the time I had a crush on her.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

At the end of 9th grade, my family moved to another area and I never saw Phyllis after that. But whenever I hear
"Build Me Up Buttercup" I briefly wonder what ever happened to my first big crush.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is It Tougher To Be A VP?

I was reading this article about tension between Obama and Clinton supporters at the Democratic Convention in Denver. This paragraph in particular caught my attention and made me do a double-take:

Some senior Obama supporters are irritated at how they perceive the Clintons fanned - or at a minimum failed to douse - stories that she was not even vetted as a possible vice presidential nominee. This is because she told Obama she preferred not to go through the rigorous process of document production unless she was really a serious contender, an Obama associate noted.

I admit to being slightly confused about this statement. Ms. Clinton was a presidential candidate, aspiring to the highest office of the land; and she doesn't want to "go through the rigorous process of document production" unless she's a serious contender for the VP position.

Does that mean it's more difficult and detailed to produce background vetting documents if you're a VP than it is if you're actually the President? Wouldn't you think that a President would have to be "vetted", either within the party leadership or by the law of the land, to a greater degree than a VP? Or am I naive and uninformed about how the process works? Are Presidents held to a lesser standard in this area than those within their administration? Wouldn't that be odd?

If anyone has a thought or explanation, I'd appreciate reading it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Schlitz And Me

"Schlitz returns, drums up nostalgic drinkers"

That's the headline I read a few weeks ago in an article about the return of Schlitz beer and it DID bring back memories for me. My late dad, when he was a drinker, used to drink Schlitz early in my life. Later he became a Budweiser (The King of Beers) man, but when I was young it was common to see bottles of Schlitz in the refrigerator or ice chest during fishing trips in the Keys. And seeing a picture of those bottles belonging to "the beer that made Milwaukee famous" in the article I was reading brought back my connection to that brew.

You see, Schlitz was the first beer I ever got drunk from drinking, and it was LONG before I was anywhere close to being of legal age to drink.

As the story goes, I was just old enough to be toddling around when my dad and his brother sat down in the living room one Friday night to talk, watch TV and share a few beers. My mom was working in the kitchen (this WAS the late 1950's after all) so after they emptied their first bottle each, my dad asked my mom to get them a cold one. I was a helpful child, so my mom gave me a bottle and told me to take it to my dad. Apparently, when delivering it to him, I made some indication that I would like a sip and when my father gave his permission, he and my uncle laughed as I made a face of revulsion at the taste. They then promptly forgot me and turned their attention back to the TV and talking with each other.

But, like most sons, if my dad did it I wanted to do it come hell or high water or even revolting taste to a toddler's tongue. So, as the two of them watched TV and talked, unnoticed I toddled back and forth between them, taking sips from each of their bottles. Soon, my toddling became stumbling into walls and furniture and my usually quiet blabbering became even more incoherent and punctuated by cackles of laughter. Drawn by her usually quiet son being so loud and boisterous, my mom stepped into the living room to see what was going on and, after a few moments of astute observation declared, "James, that boy is drunk!"

And a good laugh was had by all, especially me.

Everyone soon figured out what had happened and after that I was never allowed to sip beers with the guys again. But Schlitz and me, well we had it going on early on.

"Bartender, give me a Schlitz!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Iowa Water Towers

In my travels around the state of Iowa I have noticed that 99 percent of the cities, towns and communities have a water tower, and few of them have the same design. I thought I would start taking photographs of these various Iowa water towers as I drove around and put them up on the Internet.

But then I thought, "You know, there's probably already someone who has done that, so I should check the web and see before I undertake this project."

And sure enough, someone has, so go enjoy all the different water towers in Iowa.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" II

Well, no one has gotten the correct answer yet so I'll give this another week before I reveal the answer, unless someone comes up with the right answer before then.

Here's a hint: "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" is a song title...though to the best of my knowledge I've never heard it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Garmin Nuvi 260W GPS

In May of 2007, when I knew I was going to be away from home a lot on business, Cindy and I decided we needed to buy her a GPS unit. Our first experience with one was while we were driving through France last year in a rental car that had an in-dash GPS system and we fell in love with the convenience and ease of not having to constantly refer to paper maps. Because Cindy can be "directionally challenged" at times and would be doing a lot of driving on her own while was I was gone, it seemed prudent to supply her with an easy way to get from point A to point B without somehow ending up at point Z. So, she did some research, found a model she liked and we bought it before I hit the road. It has proven to be a good investment and given her peace of mind that she will not get lost while driving around without her chauffeur (me).

Several times I have thought that I would buy a GPS for myself to use when traveling, but my employer has always provided one if needed at the different locations where I have worked. That, and a reluctance to add another piece of electronic gear to my already "looks like a portable Radio Shack" carry-on luggage has kept me from purchasing my own. If I needed to navigate somewhere on my own time I would generally route and print a Google map, though the downside to that is that you either have to memorize the route or keep taking your eyes off the road to read the printout.

So, when I arrived in Cedar Falls and found out that my employer would not be providing a GPS to me and that I would be trying to drive around this vast, wide open maze of roads, streets, trails and corn rows, I decided the time had come to bite the bullet and purchase my own GPS unit.

After looking around at some different units and their features, I finally settled on this model. I ended up getting it from a local Best Buy at a very good price (in fact it was $20 cheaper than their website advertised). I could have saved another $10 if I had ordered it from an online retailer, but I needed it in a hurry and couldn't wait for it to be shipped. I don't need the more expensive model's features like being able to play mp3's (my mp3 player and my blackberry do that) or display photos (my mp3 player and my blackberry do that and, really, I can't figure out why you would want your GPS to do such a thing. If anyone knows, please enlighten me) or wireless add-ons. Other than needing it to navigate for me, the only two features I wanted were naming of streets (instead of "Turn right at the next street" I prefer "Turn right at Main Street") and the wide-screen view. This unit has both of those.

My only small concern is that the name of the GPS reminds me of one of Mikey's Bionocle characters.

By the way, here's a letter from the late Arthur C. Clarke positing the future of a GPS system based on orbiting satellites.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama, McCain And Saddleback

I watched the "event" Saturday night that brought Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain to the altar of Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. Other than considering the possibility that Senator McCain may have somehow pierced the "cone of silence" he was supposed to be in while Warren questioned Senator Obama (McCain practically blurted out answers, sometimes before Warren finished asking the question), I was not overly impressed with either candidate and nothing was said that changed my voting intentions come this November.

Here's the thing for me; I could give a rat's ass about either man's so-called "faith." My desire is to see a president who believes in and practices this great country's principles of democracy found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The rest of it shouldn't even be in consideration.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Top 10 Movie Theme Songs

I was driving down the corn-lined roads of Iowa last week when the local radio station DJ played the theme from the first (although it was actually episode 4) Star Wars movie. While flashing back 30 years, I began thinking about my Top 10 Movie Theme Songs. Not necessarily the entire movie soundtrack (such as The Big Chill), but the theme song identified with the movie.

Here are mine:

10. Chariots of Fire

9. Batman 1989

8. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

7. Shaft

6. Beverly Hills Cop 1984

5. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

4. The Magnificent Seven

3. Star Wars 1977

2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1979

and the Number One Movie Theme Song...

1. Superman 1978

What are yours?

Bonus Favorite - This week's favorite spam e-mail subject line. G-mail does a great job (about 99.9%) of filtering my spam e-mail, making it easy to skim the sender/subject lines in one place. This week's favorite subject line?

Angelina Jolie's Lips Explode

Hey, it COULD happen!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gathering What You Sow

I walked into our conference room this morning for a manager's meeting and was able to start my day off with a laugh.

During an earlier meeting by another group, the whiteboard had been utilized to communicate a series of steps that were required to complete a certain project. They were obviously off to a bad start with Step 1 which read:

Gather Intellagence

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not My Day

I got a on a writing jag last night and since I had today off I ended up not going to bed until 6am this morning. "Not a problem", I thought, "I can sleep in today."

Except that SOMEBODY called me at 9:30! It's a good thing it was SOMEBODY I love and that I enjoy the sound of their voice.

After lying in bed trying to go back to sleep, but only succeeding in reaching that place where you're not quite awake but not fully asleep, I decided to get up, shower and go treat myself to a late breakfast at the only Perkins Restaurant in a 40 mile radius. Apparently every other living soul in that 40 mile radius was thinking the exact same thing. Since I was not in a mood to endure the herd, I trashed that plan.

I stopped to buy a few groceries, then returned to the hotel to do my laundry. But when I arrived at the laundry room there was a big handwritten sign on the dryer proclaiming it to be "OUT OF ORDER." So I had to drive to a laundromat a few miles away, which meant I couldn't make use of the washing and drying time to work in my room as I usually do, but at least I was able to read about half of a book I brought with me.

After returning to my hotel room and hanging or folding all my laundry, I sat down to read the Sunday paper and afterward, since my eyes were burning from fatigue, I thought I would lie down and nap for a few minutes. But almost as soon as I closed my eyes SOMEBODY called me and it's a good thing it was SOMEBODY I love and that I enjoy the sound of their voice.

Then too, I read an e-mail from my brother telling me about his visit to see our mom yesterday before he has to move back to NYC. Between her deteriorating health and emotional condition and the issues we are having with the Assisted Living Facility she is in, my mood has not lightened.

I also know I'm a little edgy because Tropical Storm Fay is approaching Florida and here I am in Iowa when I feel like I should be home to protect and provide assurance and assistance to Cindy. Though it doesn't look like it will be a strong storm or hit our area directly, we're being prudent and taking precautions (because we went through Charley four years ago and Fay is following a similar path) since you never know with these things. That means Cindy's having to get all the loose items out of the yard and bring so many things inside the house from the screen porch to protect them from wind and rain damage. She's already stocked up on water, fueled the vehicles and gotten herself some cash to have on hand. Before I left a couple of weeks ago (in anticipation of not being home when a storm hit) I brought down all the hurricane supplies and stacked them in the living room, but I still feel bad not being there because she has a lot to do that I couldn't do before I left. Fortunately her parents, son, daughter and my daughter and son-in-law are all nearby and can fill in for me in my absence if needed.

The coming week is full and hectic and so far it looks like there at least two nights I will be at meetings, but I've written some things ahead of time to post in case I run out of time.

So, here's hoping the coming days are better than today. I'm sure they will be.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Love Learning New Words

Sitting in a conference call the other day and I heard someone giving a report from the field. That in itself is not unusual, but one of his statements was when, without a hint that he was anything but serious, he stated, "There was a lot of saturationing of the equipment."

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa

Almost everyone, especially fans of science fiction and/or the paranormal, is familiar with The Bermuda Triangle, a region of the northwestern Atlantic Ocean in which a number of aircraft and surface vessels have disappeared and guidance tools have malfunctioned.

According to history, Christopher Columbus was the first person to document something strange in the Triangle, reporting that he and his crew observed "strange dancing lights on the horizon", flames in the sky, and at another point he wrote in his log about bizarre compass bearings in the area.

While driving through an area of Iowa last week, I observed first hand something similar to the bizarre compass bearings that Columbus experienced in an area that, after further anecdotal history from residents, I have come to refer to as The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa.

The branch director and I were on our way to a Board of County Supervisors meeting and to get there we had to drive through an area of Iowa known as Fort Dodge. He was driving and we were using his GPS and experiencing no problems until we turned off of State Road 20 onto State Road 169. Suddenly, the GPS told us to make a right hand turn at the next road and it named the road. This seemed odd as we knew from looking at a map earlier that our ultimate destination was still 15 miles or so north on State Road 169, but we assumed the GPS was, as we had programmed it to do, taking us by the shortest route so we turned.

After a couple of miles the GPS again told us to turn right and named the road. I point out that it named the road so that you, dear reader, will know that it was not just randomly giving directions to turn, but instead that it knew exactly where we were located. Now we became concerned because at this point we were driving in the opposite direction from our destination.

Then, after a mile or so it directed us to turn right again which, after a couple of miles, brought us right back to State Road 169. We had just driven in a square as directed by the GPS.

But it gets better. The GPS then directed us to turn left onto State Road 169, which would again have us driving away from our destination. When I looked at the future trip route, it was obvious the GPS was going to take us about 2 miles back the way we had originally come and then have us drive around in a square again on the opposite side of State Road 169 and then take us back to State Road 20.

At this point I was watching to see if Rod Serling was standing on the side of this Iowa road with a cigarette in one hand and an ear of corn in the other telling us the next stop was...The Twilight Zone (cue the theme music).

Now we were in danger of being late for the meeting so we decided, of course, to ignore the GPS and proceed in the general direction of our destination and attempt to reach a contact of ours for directions. We did that and shortly before we finally arrived (right on time, thankfully) the GPS started giving out correct directions as if nothing had happened.

Later, when relating our tale to some residents and blaming it on a possible Garmin GPS malfunction, they informed us that it happens to everyone when drivers attempt to navigate using a GPS in the Fort Dodge area of those two state roads. A few days later some state officials said the same thing and a day after that a coworker of ours related a similar episode of "drive through the corn fields on dirt roads." It seems that every GPS in the area, no matter the make and always knowing exactly where you are, will seek to return you to a point near State Road 20 and State Road 169.

Fort Dodge, Iowa...The Bermuda Triangle of Iowa.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White"

I'm wondering if anyone (well, ok, most likely only family and/or friends will be able to, but anyone is welcome to take part) can spot the connection between the title of today's post and this writer?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You Look...

I am exhausted, but I wanted to put a post up before bed.

Yesterday I was in a shopping mall (yes, on business) when I saw an attractive young lady walking toward myself and my companions with a T-shirt that read:

You Look Hotter Online

I had to stifle a laugh, but one of my fellow workers didn't and burst out with a huge guffaw that garnered more attention than the shirt.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Waiting For The Third

I will admit that when I heard Bernie Mac had passed away on Saturday, I didn't have much of a reaction other than, "Wow, he was young!" because I've never been a fan. I think the only thing I've ever seen him in was "Ocean's Eleven" and I don't recall being impressed by his performance.

The death of Isaac Hayes the next day was more disturbing on several levels.

I've been a fan of his work since I bought "Hot Buttered Soul" when I was 15 and, of course, 2 years later when he hit Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his mega-hit soundtrack and theme from "Shaft." What I didn't find out until years later was that I had been a fan of his before that because in the mid-1960's he had co-written several of the hit songs performed by Sam and Dave including "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming."

As with the late Barry White, I always enjoyed Hayes' deep bass voice. Whether singing or speaking, that voice just oozed power and it will be missed.

The other disturbing aspect of his death is on an even more personal level. Hayes apparently collapsed and died while working out on a treadmill or shortly thereafter.

When I'm on the road I typically work out on the hotel treadmill.

You see where I'm going here?

They say these things come in threes. I'm watching the headlines to see who the third is...but I'm also avoiding the treadmill.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Scream Heard Around Iowa

So I was about to go to bed last night when I heard some voices from out in the hallway. I looked through my room door's peephole and saw some people coming up the stairs, but the view was blurred by something on the lens.

The people walked on down the hall and I went to the bathroom and picked up a washcloth. I returned to the door and rubbed the peephole
lens on the inside, but when I looked through the lens it was still blurry.

Making sure that no one was coming up the stairs, I opened the door slightly and reached out to rub the peephole lens on the outside. I moved back to look through it from the inside and it was still blurred, so I reached out again to rub the lens and as I was rubbing it I happened to glance up and see a video camera mounted on the ceiling at my end of the hall with a wide-angle lens, giving security (or front desk clerk) a clear view down the hallway...including yours truly who was nude.

Yeah, all of Iowa probably heard the scream of horror that erupted from the hotel office.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What Is That Smell?

I made it to the fair yesterday afternoon and spent about 2 hours walking around and ended up taking approximately 300 photos. I'll be working on getting them uploaded to Flickr after work each day this week.

The experience reiterated to me why I am not a "go to the state fair" kind of person, but at least now I won't be saying at some point in the future that I wish I had taken the opportunity to go to one of the most famous state fairs in the country.

What I WILL probably be saying in the future is that I can STILL smell the cow, pig, sheep and horse manure.

I moved into my new hotel this afternoon and it is a vast improvement over my previous one. Plus it was nice to know I'll be here long enough that I don't have to live out of a suitcase anymore. I was fortunate enough again to get a corner room on the top floor, which eliminates a lot of potential for noise and disturbance from less than polite guests. Though my week is extremely full, I hope to work in enough time to make use of the hotel's fitness center and indoor pool. If I can, my doctor will be happy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Busy Iowa Saturday

This morning I have to drive back down to Des Moines to teach a class at the office there. I should be finished up around 3 or 4pm, so my plan is to head over to the world-famous Iowa State Fair and spend the last few daylight hours taking photos and experiencing a bit of the event that spawned a musical stage production and 2 films.

Postcard courtesy of Iowa State Fair Postcards website.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mad-Eye Moody

This past Monday when I walked into my first manager's meeting here in Waterloo/Cedar Falls, I scanned the faces of the group of people sitting around the conference table. None of these were people I had worked with before, so I did not expect to recognize any of them. But, as I my gaze shifted to the far end of the table, I found a familiar, though out of place, face.

Sitting at the end of the table was Mad-Eye Moody.

Now I'm not the type to publicly make fun of someone's physical differences or disabilities, so even though this man had a very obvious problem with one of his eyes (which you could see even through his tinted glasses) that immediately brought the Harry Potter Professor of the Dark Arts to mind, it wasn't JUST the bulging, slowly rotating orb that made me think of Moody. No, this gentleman had a face and head that looked like just like Moody's would if he had shorter hair that was combed and a fresh shave. Even his voice was similar.

It was an eerie feeling each morning at meetings this week to feel like I was sitting with the late member of The Order of the Phoenix, but today was his last day so I thought I'd bid him a fond farewell here.

Farewell Alastor, farewell.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fortune Cookie

I had dinner at a pretty authentic Chinese restaurant here in Waterloo tonight and it was very tasty.

But over and above the enjoyment of the food were two things that stood out:

My fortune cookie had two fortunes inside (is that good?) and one read, "A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed friendship" which was puzzling to me. I don't have any friendships to renew, lol.

When the fortune cookie was brought to my table, this is what the server delivered it on...

Yeah, that's some beautifully crafted metal container with a heavy white smoke flowing from various openings and it lent a very exotic air to what was simply me eating my favorite Chinese food meal and reading a magazine.

Does anyone know what the significance of this practice might be? The server did not speak English very fluently and anyway I was a little embarrassed to ask in case it was some kind of special honor or something.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Ever since Cindy and I went to see "Mamma Mia" the week before last when I was still in Orlando, I've had various songs stuck in my head and ever since last Thursday, when I found I was coming to this part of Iowa, "Waterloo" has been front and center. If you're familiar with ABBA, you'll understand why.

My schedule has been full and hectic since arriving here Sunday. Monday I worked 7am until 10:30pm and yesterday 7am until 11:30pm.

The hotel room is not much, (though it's infinitely much better than sleeping in a tent, which is always a possibility on these jobs) but it doesn't really matter since I'm barely here long enough to sleep and shower. I was fortunate enough to snag a top floor corner room, but the trade off for that is this magnificent view out my window.

Obviously, I keep the drapes closed most of the time.

Sunday I'll be moving to a hotel that is closer to the Cedar Falls office and should be there through the second week of October when I take a break to go camping in the mountains of North Carolina. In addition to being closer, the hotel is a nicer brand that I've stayed in before while in Atlanta last July.

The cold from Hell is finally abating; all that remains is just a nagging cough that usually makes itself known by waking me up through the short night.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cornfields, Barns And Silos

I slept in until 7:30 this morning, trying to get as much rest as possible on my only day off with the hope of stopping this cold that has plagued me since Wednesday.

It didn't work.

Check-out wasn't until noon so I took my time, moving slowly, showering and then packing my bags and loading the car. I still managed to be checked out at 10:30am, so I headed to Perkins Restaurant for a late breakfast, then stopped by Walgreens to pick up more cold medicine.

By noon I was on I-35 heading north to take Highway 20 eastbound for a 2 hour drive that would bring me to Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa and the scenery for my entire drive consisted of cornfields, barns and silos. Still, after the floods that wreaked so much damage in June, it was good to see some fields with corn that was five to six feet tall waving in the wind.

It will be a busy week ahead as I familiarize myself with the area in this branch, prepare for a class I'll be teaching next Saturday and even work on a webpage for our intranet. If I don't post much, you'll know why.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Hate Being Sick

Cindy dropped me off at OIA Wednesday morning. Man, I love using the CLEAR program. It is such a breeze going through security.

My flight left Orlando on time and even arrived in DFW about 15 minutes early, but that wasn't a good thing. Since we were early the gate was still occupied by a plane that had not yet departed. On top of that, the departing flight was delayed so we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes waiting for it to get out of the way. Originally I had a 90 minute window between flights, and that is usually needed the way connecting flights are spread out around the city-sized DFW airport; now I had a little over an hour.

I rushed to my connecting flight gate and arrived just as they were supposed to start boarding...except they weren't. I spotted a friend and co-worker, Pat, sitting at an adjacent gate, but it turned out she was actually on the same flight I was and we were both heading into...The Twilight Zone.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 1:35. At 1:55 they informed us there was a maintenance issue with the plane that they were correcting and at 2:20 they began to board us. I didn't think I was going to like this part of the trip because it was on one of their regional jets and I had not been able to reserve an exit seat to accommodate my long legs. However, I discovered that there was no one sitting in the seat next to mine on the very last row, so I was anticipating a more comfortable flight. It was also my first time flying in the last row on a regional jet.

The pilot came on the PA system and apologized for the delay, explaining that a bird had failed to get out of the way as the plane was approaching Dallas and they had sustained some damage that they wanted the maintenance people to check out. That was fine with me; I'd always prefer any maintenance issues be resolved on good old Terra Firma.

The cabin door was closed and we waited to back away from the gate. And waited. And waited some more. Then we waited a bit more.

Finally the pilot came on the PA system again and announced that the baggage handlers could not get the cargo door to close and maintenance was on the way back to the plane. A few minutes later the cabin door was opened and the pilot left the cockpit and exited the plane. Then, a few minutes later, the co-pilot did the same. We could hear bumping and banging sounds from beneath us, and probably a few choice curse words as well.

After a while the pilot returned to the cockpit and announced that our plane was not going to be flying; maintenance was unable to seal the cargo door and we were going to have to de-plane ("De plane! De plane!") and wait for a replacement aircraft. So we all trudged off the broken bird and made our way back to the gate.

And waited. And waited some more. Then we waited a bit more.

Eventually, we were told there was no replacement aircraft available and that maintenance had left to "get another part", presumably at the Dallas area Pep Boys store. Then, 4 hours after we were originally scheduled to depart, we were put back on the plane. I had visions of being at 39,000 feet and hearing a "bang!" followed by a shudder in the plane and then looking out the window to see my suitcases falling from the belly of the plane, but fortunately that never happened.

What did happen was that as I sat back down in my last row seat I felt a small tickle in my throat. A small tickle in my throat always, ALWAYS means I'm about to get a cold. As soon as the beverage cart came out, I asked for an orange juice in an attempt to halt the inevitable.

I also want to mention that flying in the last row of a regional jet is like riding in the last car on a rollercoaster. I don't know how that is possible inside a straight tube of aluminum, but I honestly felt like I was being whipped around during various flight maneuvers and reached for the barf bag a couple of times. Thankfully, I never had to use it.

By the time I arrived in Des Moines, got my rental car (a Mustang fastback, BABY!!) and made it to my hotel, I was feeling so sick from the cold that I bought some cold medicine, took it and immediately fell asleep in my bed.

I was up at 5am Thursday morning and worked 12 hours, came back to the hotel, ate some dinner and immediately fell asleep in my bed. Rinse and Repeat on Friday and today. I have been so wiped out that tonight is the first time I have even taken my laptop out of its case on this trip. It's been nothing but work, eat, be sick and sleep.

I'm off tomorrow (Sunday) but am leaving Des Moines to move to Waterloo to work from that part of the state. More on that tomorrow (I hope).

And I still hate being sick.
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