Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not My Fault

The lack of a post here yesterday was NOT my fault. The Internet connection went down in my hotel so I couldn't even post the Cheese Grater Slide photo, but that was just as well.

Most of yesterday was spent on the road, driving from Atlanta to Tifton, a 3-hour drive, then taking part in a 3-hour meeting and giving a presentation to several congressional staff members, then driving back to Atlanta, another 3-hour drive. So I was pretty worn out by the time I got back into town. I grabbed some dinner, came back to the hotel to discover no Internet connection, then watched "Lost" and hit the sack.

Today I spent all day in the office, but as I said to Cindy in a text message, my "hair was on fire" with all the work I was trying to get done. That's usually typical at the beginning of these deployments. I was so busy I didn't even get to leave the building for lunch.

One "plus" about this assignment is that our offices are located in a 12-story professional office complex. A much nicer and more work-conducive atmosphere than the usual places in which we set up camp. In the lower lobby of this building is a small cafe that serves sandwiches, salads and drinks. I went down there for lunch today and Mario, the owner working behind the counter made me think I was in a scene from an old SNL episode with the late John Belushi shouting, "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Pepsi!" in a heavily accented voice, except this guy was shouting "Reuben! Club Sandwich! Turkey! You like turkey! Is good!" in a heavily accented voice.

But he was right, the turkey sandwich WAS good, lol. Even if I did have to eat it at my desk while working on reports.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Cheese Grater Slide

Well, I haven't had to use this since late last year, but today is just ending for me, 18 hours after it began. So without further ado I present...

Will try to be back tomorrow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shaken, Not Stirred

That's how I felt during the latter portion of my flight on AirTran this afternoon from Orlando to Atlanta. During the last 15-20 minutes of the flight, which was the approach to Hartsfield-Jackson, I think they let the co-pilot or maybe even the Lead Flight Attendant, fly the plane.

I say that because we went from a very smooth flight to something akin to a bad carnival ride. We dipped, fell, rose, shook, sped up and slowed down during the final approach so much that the lady next to me was holding onto the back of the seat in front of her. I think she was afraid the seatbelt would not withstand the crazy gyrations we were experiencing.

The pilot never announced that we were having any wind, weather or equipment problems, so I can only surmise that someone was doing some on the job training with a plane full of passengers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Georgia On My Mind...Again

A few hours ago I got the call I had been expecting telling me to report to Atlanta where they're setting up an office for this deployment. I'm flying out from Orlando Monday afternoon around 2pm and arriving in Atlanta just in time to drive through rush hour traffic from the airport to my hotel.

I had thought I might be going back to Valdosta, so I had left my suitcases packed from my last trip up there 10 days ago as if I would be driving back there, but with the office being situated in Atlanta I will have to fly and that means re-packing to bring the weight down so it doesn't cost as much as the plane ticket in luggage surcharges.

The last time I was in Atlanta was June of 2007. I was only there for 3 1/2 weeks for some training, but I did get to see my first live MLB game, as well as touring a nice art museum and taking the CNN behind the scenes tour on my off time. I probably won't have much of that for the first few weeks of this deployment, but perhaps later on I will get a chance to tour the Coca-Cola Museum, something I didn't get to do when I was there almost 2 years ago.

I'll be getting to work with some old friends and some new folks that I've been wanting to work with, so I'm looking forward to this assignment with a little more anticipation (though I love ALL my deployments) than usual.

As usual, I'll be Twittering as much as I can, so that will be a good place to keep up with where I'm at and what I'm doing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Someone Put A Diaper On That Sign!"

Late Thursday afternoon my grandchildren, Mikey, 7 and Heather, 3, walked from my home to McDonald's for dinner.

To get there, we have to walk past a school crossing and upon spying the crossing sign pictured in the photo below, Mikey exclaimed, "Granddad, someone put a diaper on that sign!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Are You Named After A Celebrity?

My mom named me after Jeff Chandler, an actor she had a major crush on when I was born. Too bad I didn't turn out as handsome as he was.

Are YOU named after a celebrity?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How Our Dog "Wolf" Felt Last Year

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today, Wednesday, April 22, 2009, is the 39th anniversary of Earth Day. What began as a protest movement in 1970 (and brought the word "ecology" into prominent usage) has grown and evolved into a worldwide observance and celebration of our big blue marble's environment and a greater commitment to its protection and well-being.

If, like me, you live in Central Florida, here is a helpful list of local Earth Day observances and events in the area.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 10 Books For Writers

Over on the forums of Editor Unleashed, they've been polling writers for the past two months about their favorite books for writers. Here are what they have compiled as the 10 best books for writers:

On Writing
by Stephen King

Plot & Structure
by James Scott Bell

A Dash of Style
by Noah Lukeman

Between the Lines
by Jessica Morrell

Writing the Breakout Novel
by Donald Maass

The Forest for the Trees
by Betsy Lerner

Zen in the Art of Writing
by Ray Bradbury

The Elements of Style
by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

Characters & Viewpoint
by Orson Scott Card

Bird by Bird
by Anne Lamott

I am almost embarrassed to note that I have only read 3 of these 10 (though I did skim Bradbury's book in the bookstore before choosing a different tome to purchase), so I obviously have some titles to add to my Wish List now.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anything You Might Have Done

I always chuckle AND bristle a bit when I get this screen. "..and anything you might have done that may have caused the error." Um, yeah...all I did was CLICK ON THE LINK TO YOUR SITE!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

United Airlines To Charge Overweight People For 2 Seats

Airlines make the seats smaller (17" to 18" wide) and closer together so they can cram more of them into the aircraft and thus have more paying customers on any given flight, THEN say if you can't fit into one of our ridiculously small seats, we'll charge you for two. Oh, and we're only doing this because of the high number (almost 800) of complaints we've received from other passengers.

Hmmmmm, strangely enough they haven't bothered to respond to the THOUSANDS of complaints they have received about extra baggage charges, snack charges, scheduling changes, flight cancellations and generally poor service across the board. They've only responded to the complaints that they can turn into a revenue stream for the airline. Hmmmmm.

Now, I fly quite a bit. I myself am a large person (6'4" and 260 pounds), but I'm always careful to not intrude on a seat mate's space because I know I don't like my space being intruded into. My travel agent knows that my preference is to sit in an exit row window seat, if for no other reason than it gives me a bit more leg room, and they always try to book such a seat for me when possible. On any given flight I'd rather be mashed up against the window than hanging out into the aisle to be pummeled by flight attendants, people walking the aisles and drink carts

I HAVE sat next to people, both large and not, who "flow" into my seat space. Yes, it's aggravating. But even more aggravating are the loud talkers, the screaming kids, the people who don't control their kids, the people who kick the back of my seat, the people who recline their seat back into my space, the people who bring their surfboards, skis and golf clubs on board as carry-on luggage and the flight attendants who will do nothing about any of the above. Can we charge all of them extra as well?

I thought not.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sidecar Sideshow

I just thought this was amusing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thoughts On Wallpaper

Can I just say I hate wallpaper? Not the nice digital kind you find on your computer monitor, but the awful, creepy, horrible kind you find on the walls of your home.

Cindy and I have been saying for 12 1/2 years that we were going to remove the wallpaper that the previous owners had hung in the guest bathroom. We never liked the pattern or even HAVING wallpaper on the walls. But that's all we did for 12 1/2 years; talk about it, threaten to do it, think about doing it and plan to do it.

Today all the talking, threatening, thinking and planning came to an end. Since we are on sort of an accelerated schedule for trying to get the house ready to put it on the market, my "honey do" list has grown and the need to finish it has become more imminent. A couple of weeks ago while home, I built and hung new doors on our storage shed. Yesterday I painted them and worked on replacing the fan blades on the ceiling fan in our bedroom. And we've had two separate contractors come out and offer estimates on the projects that I either do not have the knowledge and/or tools to complete successfully. But we're trying to do all that we can ourselves to economize the process.

In all my life I have never hung or removed, until today, wallpaper. Cindy and I took a crash course via the Internet and a "wallpaper removal" kit sold at Lowe's. We started early this morning and finally had to stop when I broke the scorer that is used to perforate the paper so that the glue dissolving liquid you spray on it can soak through. We were probably 3/4 of the way through the paper removal process when that happened, so I already know how I'll be spending part of Saturday.

Part of what made the removal so difficult is that the previous owners never bothered to prime the drywall before gluing the wallpaper. That means that once I've completely finished removing the paper and scraping the drywall of leftover glue and paper, I'll have to do some patching before we can actually paint the damn walls.

Thanks, you lazy b@$t@rd$! I hate you and your wallpaper! LOL

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ovation TV

If you have Ovation TV available on your cable system, you should definitely avail yourself of the excellent content this channel dedicated to the Fine Arts offers to viewers. Programming is dedicated to Art, Music, Opera, Dance and Film. This week features documentaries and profiles revolving around photography and photographers, which is of particular interest to me.

Watching how great photographers of the past and present practice their art and hone their skills has been informative and inspiring, Listening to them express and explain the philosophy behind their process is enlightening and helps me understand my own feelings when framing a shot, coloring a photo or cropping a view.

Alex, I'll Take $1.99 FTW

Over at The Consumerist (one of my favorite RSS feeds, btw) they have a fun feature called "How Much Is...?" with photos from consumers of confusing retail pricing signage.

As you can see, those seeking relief from their halitosis would end up more confused than a democrat at yesterday's "tea parties."

Seriously though, for some excellent consumer advice and alerts, The Consumerist is a great online resource.

Top 10 Most Inspirational Books

Well, at least according to a UK research/polling company. Below is the list of books their research and polls determined to be the most inspirational. Not sure I agree with all their results (though I have not read numbers 3, 7 and 8), but I suppose that may depend on how you define "inspirational." What do you think?

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)

2. The Bible

3. A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer (2001)

4. Men are from mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray (1993)

5. Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank (1947)

6. 1984 - George Orwell (1949)

7. A Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela (2002)

8. The Beach - Alex Garland (1994)

9. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (2005)

10. The Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger (1951)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sunrise On The Beach

After enjoying the day at KSC, we left around 3:30 in the afternoon and made our way north up I-95 for the second part of my anniversary surprise for Cindy. I had reserved a hotel room on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores for Monday night so that we could wake up Tuesday morning and watch the sunrise from the beach, something Cindy LOVES to do. Here's a picture from our balcony that afternoon.

After getting our room and showering, we went to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant across the street from the hotel and then took a walk along the beach, hand in hand, in the darkness of the evening. After such a full day, we slept like babies that night.

We had set our alarm to get us up about 30 minutes before sunrise so that we would have time to get dressed, get our cameras and walk down to the beach and be there before the sun began to come up across the water. We each took hundreds of photos. One of mine is below and I have uploaded others to my Flickr page.

I was happy that I got to surprise Cindy for our anniversary and even happier that she enjoyed what I had planned as a celebration of our marriage.

Thanks again, baby, for the best 12 years of my life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Ground Control To Major Tom"

On Monday, March 30, 2009 I took Cindy to the Kennedy Space Center as part of a surprise for our 12th wedding anniversary. Cindy and I had both been to KSC before we met and were married, but not once had we been together to enjoy the center of our country's space program. It was time to remedy that and I'm glad to say Cindy was pleasantly surprised to find out what our secret destination was on that Monday morning.

Beginning at the Visitors Complex, we had a very enjoyable tour. Here is one of the many photos I took that day and I have uploaded the best ones to my Flickr page.

But the Kennedy Space Center wasn't the only surprise for Cindy that day. Check back tomorrow for the other surprise I had in store for her on our anniversary.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Photos On Flickr

I went through the Easter pics from yesterday and uploaded the best to Flickr.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter In Orlando

Well, we pretty much finished up the preliminary work we were doing in Valdosta and southern Georgia, so I was able to come home to Orlando Saturday morning. I left Valdosta at 4:30am and arrived in Orlando in time to surprise Cindy and her parents as they were meeting for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I loved the look of shock and then pleasure on their faces, lol.

I got to see the same look on my daughter's face when she walked into the family dinner at Cindy's parents' house this afternoon, since I had been careful not to post anything on this blog (she doesn't follow me on Twitter or Facebook) that would clue her in that I was home. It looks like I'll be going back to Georgia later this week.

We had a wonderful dinner prepared by Jeremy and Wendy (2 days of cooking and preparing!) and great visits with most of the rest of the family (Jason, Mikey and Steve weren't able to come) but of course the best part of the day for me was watching my 3 year-old granddaughter Heather hunt for Easter eggs and playing in the garden.

Here's one of my favorite shots, where she's reaching for an egg hidden at the top of the arbor. I hope to have all the Easter photos uploaded to Flickr tomorrow.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thoughts From Georgia

Georgia women really DO talk like Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson on "The Closer", thank yew.

I knew Georgia was famous for its peanuts, pecans and peaches (the fruit, not the women), but what I DIDN'T know was that they are also known for their blueberry crops.

People in Georgia really ARE the epitome of Southern Hospitality.

Georgia "Good ole' boys" really ARE.

When I arrived in Kentucky in February the local radio station played "Cold Kentucky Rain" by Elvis. While driving down a dirt road the other day outside Valdosta, the Ray Charles song "Georgia" was played. I'm sensing a trend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wetherington Lane

Driving to meet a congressman at a damage assessment this morning in Valdosta, I came upon something that made me stop to take a photo of it. I mean look at it, wouldn't YOU have made the congressman wait if you were me and you saw this?

Wetherington Lane...I like the sound of that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

And Then There Was One...

Last week while I was home for a few days, Cindy and I followed the next step in "The North Carolina Project" and did some car trading.

We knew, from painful experience, that we will need a 4WD vehicle to navigate the mountain roads. We also knew that we will need either a small truck or a small 4WD SUV so that Cindy will be able to cart her candles and incense around to various craft shows, farmer's markets and businesses in the mountains.

For a while now we have had a truck that I drive when I am home and a small, fuel-efficient car that Cindy drives back and forth to work every day. With me being gone more and more, the truck was just sitting in the driveway costing us insurance coverage money 6 days a week and the monthly loan payment. Cindy would use it on Sundays to take her wares to the Eola Market, but otherwise it would sit idle a great deal of the time.

We have also been taking steps to reduce our monthly expenditures so that we would be able to put money toward our cabin construction loan. Given the above facts, it seemed obvious that we could accomplish some savings by having just one vehicle loan payment and our insurance costs would be reduced as well.

So, last Friday we traded in both the truck and the car for a 2008 Kia Sportage. It has the 4WD power we need, as well as the cargo space Cindy will require, with the small environmental impact that we want.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hello, Operator...?

OK, had an EXTREMELY busy day traveling around parts of southern Georgia (300 miles on the rental car), escorting folks on damage assessment outings and various meetings. I am very tired and have another day of more tomorrow, so this will be short.

BUT, I HAD to share this with you. One of my meetings was at a local emergency services building and when we arrived I was in desperate need of the "facilities", if you get my meaning. I hurriedly stepped into the restroom to find this:

Yes, that is a working multi-line phone in the bathroom stall above the toilet paper dispenser.

I didn't ask.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hello, Valdosta!

Monday night at 6:50pm I got a call from my employer directing me to rent a car and be in Valdosta, Georgia this morning (Tuesday) at 8:30am.

What followed was a whirlwind of activity culminating in 3 hours of sleep and an early morning drive up Florida's Turnpike and I-75 to the "Azalea City" and most of the rest of the day driving around the city with damage assessment teams in the morning and with congressional VIP's and City officials in the afternoon.

The olfactory highlight of the day was a tour of the wastewater treatment plant that city workers and volunteers heroically and successfully (for the most part) managed to save from flood waters over a 4 day period last week. Their unselfish work averted even more serious problems that would have arisen for at least half of the city population. Kudos to all.

The saddest part of the day was touring homes and neighborhoods that were flooded, some with the water reaching the eaves of the houses and consequently damaging not only the physical structure but the lives of those within.

NOTE: This is a cellphone photo and thus not the best quality, but I was trying to be unobtrusive and considerate of those who had suffered through this flood.

Thankfully, throughout all this, no one was injured and no lives have been lost. But the impact will be felt for a long time.

I am tired so it is off to bed. I have an early morning drive to Thomasville for an 8am meeting and it will take an hour to get there, according to GoogleMaps.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Father Of Our Country

I'm in a sharing mood.

Here's something almost no one knows about me.

When I was in elementary school I was cast as George Washington in a play our class was performing about the Father of our Country. My life as an actor was cut short when, even after my parents had purchased the appropriate "costume" for me to wear and I had memorized all my lines, the school inexplicably canceled the play.

I could have been a star!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Busy Saturday

We began the day with a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel with Cindy's mom and dad, then over to Jeremy and Wendy's to see the wedding event photos/DVD and pick up the souvenirs they brought us from London.

Back home we spent most of the rest of the afternoon tearing down the special table I had made for Cindy a couple years ago to make her candles on and cleaning/rearranging the area in preparation for getting the house on the market later this year.

Now we're on our way out the door for an early dinner in downtown Orlando and then over to the Arena to enjoy the Celtic Woman concert, compliments of Jeremy and Wendy who bought the tickets as an early Mother's Day gift for Cindy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Irrefutable Logic

I am nobody.

Nobody is perfect.

Therefore, I am perfect.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Autism Awareness Day

Back in November of 2007, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring April 2nd of each year beginning in 2008 to be observed as World Autism Awareness Day. The resolution seeks to promote early diagnosis, early intervention and necessary services for individuals affected by Autism Spectrum.

That day is today, the second World Autism Awareness Day to be observed around the globe. In addition, all of April is Autism Awareness Month.

The more awareness of autism, the better chance there is of understanding and developing even more educational breakthroughs to assist those who are affected by it and their loved ones.

So observe World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in your own way. Educate yourself further, make a donation to an autism charity, or if you see someone wearing an autism pin, stop a moment and talk to them. I'm sure they'll be happy to share their story or knowledge they have.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kentucky Horse Park Photos

I finally had a chance to get the photos uploaded to Flickr from my tour of the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday, March 15, 2009.

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