Dec 29, 2008

Christmas Secrets and Birthday Wishes

Now that Santa, that lazy slacker, has finally delivered all his gifts I can tell you what he was up to this past week.

First of all, only moments ago Santa's elf who works for UPS in England finally delivered our Christmas package to Morley's family--four days late. Ho, Ho, Ho, my butt. And thus later today I'll be having a chat with Santa's elves in UPS's billing department about getting a refund on those whopper fees we paid to get the stuff there by Christmas Eve.

As for Heather's visit from Santa, her gift wasn't easy to wrap so she had almost nothing under our tree before Christmas. She found her gift yesterday when she returned home from Kentucky--while she was out of town that sneaky Santa broke into her place and whipped out a mini Extreme Makeover on the bedroom in her new apartment. I wish I had made some Before and After photos to show you how great it turned out but Elf Morley and Elf Susan were so wigged out and pooped after toting all that booty up and down the stairs at Heather's place that they were too exhausted to push the button on the camera. (Not really. Elf Morley and Elf Susan just forgot to take their dang camera with them.)

As for the rest of the kids, we stopped giving them individual gifts a few years back when we realized we are clueless old codgers with no earthly idea of what teenage boys like or what the girls or my son-in-law really want. So now we give them something we enjoy together: a family adventure. We call it our "Family Christmas in July" and all of us look forward to it all year long.

This year Santa delivered a DVD to them with instructions to play it on Christmas Day:

Or go here to watch a larger version on YouTube
--and please, for Heaven's sake click the "watch in high quality" link below the screen so you can see a better, clearer format than the over compressed, blurry "normal" format.

And so that is (finally!) the official end of our Christmas season. Whew! That was intense.

And now our Birthday Season begins, and in this family Birthday Season is almost as intense as Christmas. We have a LOT of birthdays packed into the next ten days.

On that note, Happy Birthday Michelle and Carol!

Dec 26, 2008

A very mellow Christmas

What to do at Christmas is always a bit of a quandry for Morley and me. Although we know perfectly well that we could show up at any family member's home and be welcomed with open arms, that solution has never felt quite right to me. Chalk it up to being single for too many Christmases, but being a participant in somebody else's Christmas feels a bit like being Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany in the movie "Griswold Family Christmas". (At least I never felt like I was being a Cousin Eddie but my family might have a different viewpoint they haven't shared with me.)

We used to solve the dilemna by going on a tropical cruise during Christmas week but two years ago we discovered by accident that we were paying super premium prices to cruise during the exact week the ship contained the maximum number of brats running wild children exploring the ship under minimal supervision while their parents got hammered at the pool and totally ignored their hoodlums relaxed.

Since this has been an intense year with precious little time to chill out and relax, what I really wanted to do for Christmas was as little as possible. And that's what we've done.

On Christmas Eve we attended the first half of a candlelight service at a Baptist church near the house. It's a long story about that half-sermon, but let's just say it was the most depressing somber Christmas message I've ever heard and we sneaked out the back door discreetly left the church before we gave into our sudden urge to put a bullet through our brains the minister finished his thought provoking sermon. We dropped by some friends' house for a quick visit, then went home and built a fire and stayed up late waiting for Santa to show up.

On Christmas morning we exchanged gifts and hung around the house reveling in the rare sensation of not having anywhere to go and nothing to do, then we packed up Shelby and headed here to the boat.

In the early afternoon two couples joined us for a long, leisurly Christmas cruise around the lake. It was perfect: we had the water to ourselves, the weather was warm (nearly 70 degrees), the sky was sunny and blue, the seagulls were playful, and the boat was decked out in Christmas lights and garlands. We had Christmas carols playing on the radio but the best music of all was the sound of our cell phones ringing with calls from the kids in Kentucky and our families in Tennessee and England.

After our cruise was over, our friends left and we grilled a nice simple dinner for ourselves. Despite the wonderful weather the dock was quiet and peaceful and we had it all to ourselves for awhile, except for the ducks and the seagulls and the occasional fish jumping out of the water.

In the early evening another couple from a neighboring dock dropped by for coffee and dessert. We stayed up late again, talking and laughing and sharing memories of Christmas Past spent with our families. It was, all in all, the perfect low-impact Christmas celebration.

Today we not only get a visit from Santa (the satellite guy is coming to finally move our TV signal from the old boat to our new one), we get to be Santa by finishing a little project for Heather that wouldn't fit in her Christmas stocking. I'll have to tell you about it later since she might be snooping around the internet while she's spending Christmas with her sisters and her dad in Kentucky. All I can say about it for now is that we've had a ton of fun plotting our little project and can't wait to implement it, and she's gonna love it.

And that's what we've done with our Christmas holiday so far.

From the decks of Magnificent Obsession, we wish you a very merry remainder of the Christmas weekend, and to all a Happy, Mellow and Less Frantic New Year.

Dec 24, 2008

M-m-m-m-merry Christmas

I'm crazy trying to get ready for Christmas but there's always time to enjoy a few minutes listening to the best Christmas song. Ever.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Dec 17, 2008


It's not that I don't love you guys anymore, truly. It's just that the office is so busy here in Engineer World and it is the end of the year (almost) and I am responsible for accounting (allegedly) so I am up to my a** in alligators (allegorically speaking), but I swear things will get better after the holidays.

Really and truly, they will get better. Meow'y Christmas.

Dec 11, 2008

Christmas in Tucker

Okay, this isn't really our house but only because I hardly have time to scratch my own butt much less to waste on stuff like this we don't have enough trees in our front yard.

Dec 9, 2008

Alive in Tucker

Our Thanksgiving turkey arriving by golf cart

This is going to be a quick posting because I have precisely one hour to get myself showered, dressed and packed to go because Morley and I are going here for a couple of days courtesy of one of the firm's vendors. It's a free two day getaway at a luxury resort dressed up as a three hour seminar and these things are always a lot of fun. And can I just mention that one of the things I'm personally looking forward to the most is while Morley is sitting through his seminar I'll be catching up on my sleep.

But just so you know I'm still alive (despite the evidence to the contrary this last week or two) I've slapped up a few photos from Thanksgiving and the Christmas party we gave the weekend after. You'll find them on the website and I swear I'll add more later this week.

Gotta jet. More soon, promise.

Nov 18, 2008

UK Driving Test

Using your mobile whilst driving is a big (bad) deal in England. Here's an online driving test from the UK that measures how well you do two things at once. My test results indicate I would be a menance on the roads of England--much like I am here in the USA. Go figure. So give it a go and let me know how you fare.

English Driving Test: Driving Whilst Using A Mobile

Nov 17, 2008

Cold in Atlanta

Suddenly it is darn near wintertime here. The high and the low temperatures were almost the same and the wind whipping off the lake on Saturday made it feel even colder. Brrr!

Here's Morley shoveling our sidewalk last year. Guess it won't be long before I'll have to dig out his wings for the season.

Nov 16, 2008

Docking with a pucker

Here is a boat identical to ours in a video entitled "amazing docking".

Amazing indeed. Morley and I got a pucker just watching it.

Nov 15, 2008

Queen of the Deal

Please note this photo has no relationship whatsoever to the story that follows.

My mission, my life's work, is to buy exactly what I want at the price I am willing to pay (although it may be necessary from time to time to adjust my definition of what I want or how flexible the budget is, but that's a lesson for another time). Paying retail is for wimps and sissies. I spit on paying retail. Phtphht! Phtphht!

I will patiently stalk a deal like a cheetah tracking a wildebeest thru the Serengeti plains until the perfect moment to strike presents itself, then I pounce! and in one swift movement cut my prey from the rest of the herd, grab it by the throat and wrestle it to the ground, then I dispatch it with one deadly bite to its throat. Then I return home victoriously dragging my bargain booty in my teeth to share it with the other cats in my pride. Or something like that. Point being, I get a thrill from a deal.

Anyway, until now my personal best effort was to score the fancy $1,800 two drawer dishwasher that I absolutely couldn't live without for a mere $695 including the optional stainless steel panels (you can read about it here, scroll down till you see the post called "The Love of my Life).

And you may remember earlier this year when I filled my entire SUV with plants for $10.

But the deal I got yesterday....My. Best. Work. Ever.

The prey I've been stalking lately involves the renovation we're planning for our outdoor kitchen. We love cooking out there in the summer but it is starting to look a little tired and in need of some TLC (I'd show you a photo of it but I'm at the lake today so you'll just have to take my word for it).

We thought about replacing the wood doors on the cooking island with stainless steel like in this photo, but the cost was going to be brutal--just one set of doors would cost about $400 and we needed several sets.

So yesterday I was killing time waiting for an appointment with the eye doctor when I spotted my prey--an outdoor living boutique going out of business.

And it was the last day before they closed. And they were motivated and willing to damn near give it away entertain reasonable offers.

And they really didn't give a rat's ass what the stuff sold for as long as they didn't get stuck with any of it.

I shifted into Cheetah mode and moved in for the kill.

And to make a long story short, I walked out of there with $2,000 worth of stainless steel doors, drawers, bins, trim kits--everything we need to renovate our outdoor kitchen. For $116.

I am indeed the Queen of the Deal. All hail.

Nov 13, 2008

Opportunity Lost

I know you think I'm making this up, but I am not. Really, I'm not.

This is a real product called the Bumper Dumper which the inventor says is a "must have" for any hunting or camping trip. Basically it's a toilet seat that attaches to a contraption that attaches to a trailer hitch. You can outfit your Dumper with a garbage bag as shown above, or large families with healthy gastrointestinal systems can upgrade to the deluxe model with a five gallon bucket.

This device should look slightly familiar to my family: my brother Roger and I invented damn near the identical thing a few years ago when about 30 of us met for a weekend camping trip in the mountains. One night we held a progressive dinner with a competition for best theme, and Roger, Brenda and I entertained you with the entree course.

You might recall our theme for the competition (which we won in a three way tie by the way) was "Redneck". Along with a clothesline strung between the trees filled with boxershorts jauntily flapping in the breeze and Christmas decorations blinking in the July heat (not to mention Roger's authentic redneck attire), our decor included a sporty "thunder bucket" much like the one pictured. The only difference was we didn't hang it off a pickup truck--we put it near a tree close to the dinner table for optimal viewing in hopes of garnering more votes for the best theme.

That simple decision--to shamelessly pander for votes instead of hitching our toilet to a truck--turned out to have a severe impact on my retirement planning.

These Dumper Dumpers are selling like hot cakes at $69.95 a pop and some redneck named "Uncle Booger" (I am still not making any of this up by the way) holds an honest-to-gosh patent on it. Uncle Booger has appeared on TV shows such as The Tonight Show to promote his product. The host gets an opportunity to air all his redneck jokes at Uncle Booger's expense and Uncle Booger gets to laugh all the way to the bank.

I am not amused. What we considered to be nothing more than an tacky prop for a theme night dinner party turned out to be--with a minor tweak here and there--a gold mine for some guy named Uncle Booger.

All that stood between me and Uncle Booger's millions was my total lack of imagination, complete absence of vision and follow-through, and my utter disinterest in being the brunt of endless redneck jokes. In the words of Maxwell Smart, I was that close. And to make matters worse, this comes just when I was finally coming to grips with the knowledge that someone beat me to the punch with the concept of the ziplock bag.

If you want to stuff some cash into Uncle Booger's pocket instead of mine, you can cop a Bumper Dumper here.

While you do that I'll get back to work on my idea for The Next Great Idea, the specifics of which I am trying to figure out.

Nov 12, 2008

Stray neuron

I ran across this photo and wondered if anyone thinks it looks exactly like me in a bathing suit:

No? Maybe it's just me then.

In other news, check out my website when you get a minute. I'm finally making my move to consolidate my bazillion websites into one All You Can Eat Buffet of Meaningless Trivia. Nothing much works over there yet but it will give you a peek of things to come.

Nov 10, 2008

Same Circus, Different Tent

Wilmer and me on a picnic long ago in a universe far, far away.
When I see this photo I don't think "oh, how sweet", I just
think what a bad 'do I had back then.

So what me had me thinking about my former boyfriend Wilmer yesterday was a telephone call I received out of the blue recently.

It just so happened that our Receptionist Extraordinaire was in another part of the building, so when the phone rang I picked it up. The caller (whom we'll call Lucy) asked for me.

As soon as I said she had me, she immediately launched into a rushed apology:

Lucy: "This is Lucy and I'm calling you to ask you to please ignore the email because my friend had no business sticking her nose in my business and when she told me what she had done, it made me furious and of course I called you immediately to ask you to please ignore it and forget the whole thing ever happened. I'm really sorry and terribly embarrassed by this whole thing and really angry even though she was my best friend and just trying to help me but I most likely will never speak to her. Ever again."

Me: Huh?

Lucy: This is Lucy. I'm calling you to ask you to ignore the email.

Me: What email? Who is this?

Lucy: This is Lucy--Wilmer's Lucy. My friend who sent you that email had no business sticking her nose into my business. I'm sorry and please ignore it.

Me: Wilmer who?

Lucy: Wilmer Gobsmacked.

Me: You mean Wilmer Gobsmacked?

Lucy: Yeah. Wilmer. I'm his girlfriend. We've lived together for a couple of years now.



Me: H-o-l-y s-h-*-t.

And in that moment, like two prisoners of war held by the same captor in the same gulag at different times, I felt an instant bond with Lucy.

Since I hadn't received her friend's email, she explained the circumstances that caused her friend to try contacting me. Let's just say it was deja vu all over again--Wilmer has not changed his ways nor learned any lessons and continues his groundbreaking work in the field of Head Games, except now Lucy is his lab rat instead of me. The friend had tried to contact me to do a little fact checking because, as usual, things weren't adding up on Planet Wilmer.

I told her about the dark old days when Wilmer had kept me in such a state of confusion that I thought I was nuts half the time, and how I had finally come to the end of my rope with his lies and deceptions and how my Operation One Good Flush had saved me. (I think I might have also recommended she watch Cathy Bates in the movie "Misery" and take a lot of notes). And then I advised her to run for the hills as fast as her legs could carry her.

I also told her she needs to patch things up with that friend of hers because she'll need a friend to lean on when things go to hell in a handbag which they invariably do with Wilmer. And then I wished her luck and told her to call again any time she wanted to.

Afterwards I thought about how bad I feel for Lucy and how glad I am it isn't me living that crazy life with Wilmer and how grateful I am for my nice sane husband who never plays mind games or tells me lies.

Then I spent the next two hours scouring the company's SPAM filter trying to find that darn email.

Wouldn't you just love to know what it said? Lawsy mercy, me too.

Nov 9, 2008

Operation One Good Flush

Back in the dark times before I met my husband, I was in a relationship with a guy we'll call Wilmer.

Wilmer and I had one of those red hot relationships you read about in cheesy romance novels. It was passionate and wildly romantic, but mostly it was unbelievably messy with way too many twists and turns in the plot--one of those books that make you want to ask the author if they really thought their readers were that stupid.

Wilmer had issues. In fact, Wilmer was a pioneer in the field of relationship issues, a veritable genius with a flair for achieving new levels of relationship complexity never before seen in human history. Wilmer's particular expertise was the field of Head Games and I played the role of lab rat during his most productive years.

The only consistent thing in our relationship was a spectacular degree of inconsistency. Our relationship was ON then OFF as quick as flipping a light switch, changing from one to the other in a blink of an eye for reasons understood only by Wilmer.

It was a world where yes meant no, and no meant maybe, and nothing was ever what it appeared. We were speaking jaberwocky that even Alice's rabbit would have thought bizarre--we believed we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together at a time when Wilmer was unable to say for sure if he'd show up for a date on Friday night.

When Wilmer was good, life was very good indeed but when he was bad life was miserable. For example, he had an amusing habit of disappearing for days or weeks at a time without notice, and more than once I (literally) checked the local obituaries to see if Wilmer was dead or if he'd just stood me up--and it wasn't always clear to me which would have made me happier.

Eventually, of course, he would reappear with a perfectly reasonable explanation why he had disappeared without a trace. Until I met Wilmer I had no idea alien abductions were so commonplace.

So, the point is Wilmer came with baggage and thus over time I came to collect a little baggage of my own, and eventually we collected up enough baggage between us to fill a good sized cruise ship.

After a few years of Wilmer, having my heart ripped out and enjoyed with fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti was just not as much fun as it once was, and so one night when Wilmer added one last new twist to our relationship I finally came to the end of Crazy Relationship Road.

That night I stayed up into the wee hours formulating a self-rescue plan which I called "Operation One Good Flush". It was based on my list of all the aspects of my life that weren't working very well and needed some work. It was a very, very long list but without Wilmer around to keep me occupied I had plenty of time on my hands to work on it.

I began with my house which was chock full of debris left over from bad relationships. And it wasn't just Wilmer's debris--there was still debris from my ex husband who had left behind quite a lot of crap when he'd made tracks from the marital home a few years prior.

I began in the bathroom, filling the bathroom trash can with toiletries my ex husband had left in his half of the vanity. Goodbye men's cologne and shaving cream, hello curling irons and mousse in the newly expanded real estate of my vanity. Fifteen minutes and it was done, but the simple process of claiming the entire bathroom for myself was so exhilirating, so cleansing, so freeing that it mobilized me. I am Woman, hear me roar. I upsized to the kitchen trash can and moved on.

I filled the kitchen trash can over and over, stuffing it with bad karma out of my house until the can was so full and heavy that I could hardly lift it to dump it into the giant bin at the curb. This went on for a few days until I streamlined the process by tossing aside the kitchen trash can and rolling the giant outdoor bin itself right into the house. And for the next three weeks I continued my maniacal methodical mission to search out and destroy everything I didn't want or wasn't mine.

My neighbors watched in mounting concern at the sight of me wheeling a giant trash bin in and out of my house and the growing mounds of household items piling up at my curb. With concerned voices they asked if everything was okay and I assured them everything was great! couldn't be better! peachy! but I think they secretly thought I had gone a little postal. And on a temporary basis I probably had.

After I finished purging all the bad man karma in my house I began to make changes.

First I painted my hallway a color nobody but a half crazy woman fresh out of a bad relationship(s) would choose.

Scene at paint counter:

"I'll take a quart of this color, please."

"Interesting choice. Bad relationship?"

"You have no idea. Better m
ake it a gallon--this might take several coats".

I bought a canopy bed because nothing says "woman sleeping alone" like a lace canopy.

I programmed the remote control to stop only on the channels I liked to watch. All Dr. Phil, all the time, with occasional repeats of Cathy Bates' movie "Misery" for motivation.

I borrowed a garden tiller. One Saturday morning I stood in the middle of the street eyeing my front lawn for about twenty minutes, then as my neighbors watched in fascination, I fired up that bad daddy tiller and plowed up half of my front yard to create a massive flower bed that replaced much of the lush lawn that my ex-husband had taken such pride in.

I transformed my garage into the female version of a fantasy craft room/workshop complete with cable TV (Hello Dr. Phil, what do you have for me today?), then took to sitting out there most evenings, sipping wine and playing with power tools. Good times.

I bought velvet covered chairs for my dining room and a wool rug with ladybugs for my living room. Toilet seats glued down.

Then I stood back and looked at what I hath wrought and it was good.

I checked off my list "my house doesn't feel like me".

Next: Operation One Good Flush, Part 2

Nov 7, 2008

Red Hot Britt

I got a couple of emails in response to my posting yesterday. None of them disagreed with the premise that I'm unhip and totally not cool, an oversight that I'm sure you meant in the nicest possible way.

What they commented on was that one line where I said I think Britt Hume is hot.

Yes, it is true. I've got it bad for Britt, and as further testament to my un-hipness, the guy I have the hots for is a retiree as of yesterday. I just keep getting hip'er and cooler by the minute. It's a gift.

Anyway, for those of you who have not yet succumbed the magnetic charms of my man Britt (and surely there aren't many of you), may I present the many faces of Britt:

Serious Britt:

"Tell me, Senator, when you accepted the campaign contribution from "My Old Lady's Trust Fund", were you aware this organization was a front for your wife's trust fund?"

Skeptical Britt

Britt says: "You can understand, Senator, why many find that hard to believe".

Britt thinks: "That's bulls**t, Senator, and we both know it".

Fair and Balanced Reporting Britt

Just telling it like it is and keeping his personal opinions out of it.

I've been very naughty, Britt.
I think I need a spanking.

Baby Britt

Pre wrinkles and gray hair.

Oh my, those lips. That hair. Those eyes. That voice.

Makes. Me. Want. To. Pinch. Those. Cheeks.

I have to go now. I need to go take a cold fair and balanced and news the shower. Or something.

Nov 6, 2008

Maybe it's just me then

The results of Tuesday's election made one thing perfectly clear to me: I am not in touch with the times. I'm out of the loop, unhip, a political dork. I'm a loaf of Wonder Bread two weeks past its expiration date in a world dominated by organic multi-grain artisan bread.

What is alarming to me is not that I simply disagree with the new President's position on this policy or that. Nope, it's worse: I just don't get it. When the question is asked about what experience, what insight he offered (other than a vague promise of change), all I heard was the sound of crickets while other people heard a symphony of..well, I'm not sure. Something else that got them excited and charged up. While half the country is singing his praises, I'm walking around with a bewildered Homer Simpson expression on my face.

Clearly, I'm out of step. I'm marching to the tune of a different drummer. I've become officially un-hip.

I've suspected my un-hipness for some time now. I passed up a pair of gorgeous shoes on the clearance rack because they had ankle straps. In years past, those shoes would have called out "Sexy Shoes! On Sale! Must Have!". Now all they say to me is "broken ankle". I move on, shuffling past the sexy shoes in my search for something with good arch support and a sensible heel.

I possess a considerable stash of the very pinnacle of unhip and not cool: knee high hose. Even though I know how dorky they look and despite my firm declarations in my (earlier) hip and cool days about being caught dead wearing them, I love them. Knee high hose, I can't quit you but I promise to draw the line at wearing you with dresses. God help me resist the temptation.

I flip through People Magazine in the waiting room at my dentist's office and wonder "who are these people?"

Morley and Heather know all the lyrics to songs on the radio that I've never heard before in my life, but I hum along with tunes played on the 1940's channel on XM Radio--and I wasn't even around in the 1940's. I'm not only out of touch with the current times, I'm out of touch with my own time. Bess Truman called: she wants her era back.

And there's more.

I like red meat and white bread.

Text messaging bewilders me. When I get a text from my daughter, I automatically pick up the phone and call her which, she tells me, defeats the whole purpose of a text message.

It bugs me when parents fix a plate for their children before anyone else gets to eat, instead of the elders going first like they did in the good old days.

I use phrases like "good old days".

I secretly think Brit Hume is totally hot.

My newfound un-hipness shows up in my social life too. Recently a group of people I didn't know showed up for a dock dinner and my unhip reaction to this new crowd was to channel June Cleaver. Their racy language and jokes sent me into a June-like retreat to join the group who had gathered on our boat to discuss politics, the economy, thermonuclear physics--anything unrelated to body parts or what you do with them.

(Of course if I'd really been June Cleaver I would have handled it totally differently. First I would have sent a subtle signal of discomfort by fingering my pearls and smoothing my apron, and then I would have tossed out a distressed "oh, dear". And if that gentle hint didn't do the trick, I would have said "Wally! Beaver! Both of you go to your rooms right now!". Then I would have dispatched Ward up there to wash their mouths out with Palmolive soap and beat the ever lovin crap out of them send them to bed without their supper.) June, you the bomb girlfriend.

Sorry, stray neuron. Where was I? The election? Right.

So even though my guy doesn't get to sit in the big daddy chair, I still respect the office of President. We've elected a guy whose only accomplishment as far as I can tell is to write two books about himself a hip new President and for the next four years I will do my best to keep an open mind while keeping my hand over my wallet and see how things go. Even though I didn't vote for him, it is in everyone's best interest to wish him success.

And now I need to strap on some knee highs and get to work. I want to get home early tonight--I hear there's a Matlock marathon tonight right after Ed Sullivan.

Nov 5, 2008

I'll feel better tomorrow, promise.

Nov 4, 2008

Happy Election Day. I hope.

I've done my civic duty. I voted this morning and I hope my loyal blog readers, all four of you, will get to the polls and do the same.

I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that this election is finally over. No more campaign speeches, no more political commercials, no more screaming at the TV during national news shows, no more recordings on our answering machine asking for our votes or our donations, and most of all, no more tense moments at parties over words like "l*beral" and "soci*list", or phrases such as "spr**ding the w**lth around". The number of emails flowing through my inbox is going to drop like a stone. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all that free time.

All I know for sure is come tomorrow morning half of us will be estastic and relieved and the other half of us will be absolutely miserable.

So as a salute the end of this very long election, I present this moving performance of "America the Beautiful". It brought tears to my eyes.

Oct 31, 2008

A Halloween Story

When my niece Heather posted this photo of me and her dad (my brother Bratley) on my Facebook page last night I'm pretty sure she had no idea how spooky her timing was. This photo was taken exactly 47 years ago tomorrow and was one of the most memorable days of my life.

The tale of events leading up to this photo is one of tragic death, terror, suspense and mystery--in other words, the perfect story to tell on Halloween. Let us begin.

On a crisp Fall afternoon just before Halloween 1961, a friend of my dad's came to our house for a visit. While he and Dad sat on the porch talking for a couple of hours, Bratley and I played in the yard nearby, blissfully unaware of the tragic events that would soon unfold.

It was when Dad's friend got into his car to leave that tragedy struck. Unknown to any of us, the warmth coming from his engine had tempted my beloved kitten Ribbon to take a cozy afternoon nap under the hood. She was having such a nice snooze that the sounds of him getting into the car didn't wake her, or at least didn't wake her in time to make tracks before he started the engine.

The next few minutes are forever burned into my memory like one of those slow motion segments in a horror film. I remember this as if it happened yesterday: we heard the 'varoom' of the engine starting and then a horrifying, gut wrenching scream came from under the hood. Ribbon came flying out from underneath the car screaming in a tortured cry of agony that came from the deepest pits of hell. She flung herself up in the air over and again, then fell to the ground where she writhed and screamed for what seemed like hours but was probably only a moment or two. And then she went quiet and still.

I do believe I became completely hysterical when I saw this. I have absolutely no recollection of what Dad was doing or where Brad was, nor what my Dad's friend's was doing, nor what happened after Ribbon stopped moving. All I have is a foggy memory of watching her and then my Mother rushing outside from whatever she had been doing in the house, and her grabbing my arms and telling me to stop screaming, and of me not being able to stop. And the next thing I remember is Mom slapping my face for the only time in my life and telling me to stop screaming and then her hugging me and telling me Ribbon wasn't in pain anymore and was now in Heaven. And I vaguely remember hearing my parents trying to comfort the friend and telling him I'd be alright.

I don't remember one single thing that happened next, although I do hope there was a proper funeral service for Ribbon and I hope I attended.

Fast forward to Halloween. Because we lived in the boonies (zip code EIEIO), trick or treating was an affair that required a car and driver. Just before dark when trick or treating was the spookiest and best, Mom dressed Brad and me in our gypsy and hobo costumes (we were always dressed as a gypsy and hobo--thinking up new and innovative costume ideas was not Mom's thing--then she loaded us up in the Buick to head out for booty.

Mom knew all the best places to go, too: the houses with mothers who gave out homemade popcorn balls or cookies, and that one special house where the mom handed out the motherlode of all treats, homemade candy apples.

After a successful night of trick or treating, we arrived back home. The moment we pulled into our driveway my mother froze in her seat and issued an order in her most powerful, no-nonsense voice: "You kids stay in the car".

She had spotted an alien object on our front porch.

There, right in front of the door where we couldn't miss it, sat a wooden orange crate with a lid on it. With a muttered oath about someone putting a skunk on our porch (the named suspect being an associate of my teenage brother Roger) and with a final stern warning for me and Brad to stay put, she got out of the car and gingerly approached the orange crate.

She crept up on it, and while keeping a cautious distance between herself and the suspicious crate, she peered between the slats to see what evil lurked within. And then she said a bad word that starts with an "s"--which was totally out of character for Mom--and she flung open the lid.

And out of the crate came cats. Lots and lots of cats.

There were cats of every color, description and size--fluffy cats and short haired cats, big cats and little cats, black cats, white cats, brown cats, spotted cats, stripey cats. That orange crate was the clown car of cats. Cats kept pouring out of that crate, and when I saw them I sprang out of the car and dove right into the middle of them. I grabbed as many cats as I could hold in my arms and started hugging on them and kissing on them, all the while dancing around the porch in pure unadulterated joy.

The mysterious question of how those cats arrived on our front porch was answered later--most likely a confession extracted during a torture session administered by my mother.

My Dad's friend had felt so terrible about what had happened that he'd done his very best to find me a suitable replacement. In hopes of finding that one special kitty that might replace Ribbon in my affections, he had gone around asking people if they had an extra cat and apparently everybody did. When he'd gathered up a nice selection he gift wrapped them in an orange crate and made his delivery while we were out trick or treating.

And that's the story of one of the happiest days of my life. It's a tale that's repeated in our family almost as often as the one where we accidentally forgot Bratley in the graveyard, and even today if you mention that friend's name to my mother who is now in the fog of Alzheimer's, she'll say that same bad word and talk about that damn crate full of cats that showed up on our front porch 47 years ago.

I, on the other hand, still feel joy when I think back on that magical night in 1961 when I had all the cats in the whole world right there on my very own front porch.

PS In case you wonder what we did with all those cats, they worked it out amongst themselves. All but one of them took off for parts unknown over the next couple of weeks, no doubt to find a house with less competition for the hugs and kisses of a five year old girl.

Or don't don't suppose that Mom....nahhhh...

Oct 29, 2008

Update From The Winners' Circle (not political)

I need a break from politics. My nerves are shot from talking and thinking about the election all day every day. And I'm guessing you would probably like to see something other than political videos posted here for a change. So how about an update on what became of the executives of ITMG?

For the blissfully unaware, ITMG was a corporation that employed 500 employees in 26 states back in the late 1990's. I was ITMG's President/COO, a title that carries with it the same honor, prestige and admiration heaped upon Edward John Smith, the Captain of the SS Titanic, except with less favorable media coverage.

Long story short: ITMG suffered a ugly fate. We had a nasty spat with our client--which just happened to be the US government--and the company imploded, we filed bankruptcy, then we sued the Feds for being a very naughty and quite disagreeable client. Three years later the Feds settled with us and handed over a butt load of millions which the lawyers immediately fell upon like buzzards on roadkill and divided among themselves. And then all of us former ITMG executives dusted ourselves off, rebooted our damaged careers and got on with our lives.*

*There was a bunch of other stuff that happened in there but that's a story for another day lifetime. I'm sick of talking about that too.

Anyway, by sheer chance I recently met the ex-husband of someone who played a part in that lawsuit which got me wondering what ever became of the members of my old ITMG management team. I started Googling and here's what I found out:

One of the largest stockholders founded another company, this one. He's doing fabulously well but that's no surprise--he's hands down one of the smartest people I ever met.

Another big stockholder owns a company in Denver and appears to be doing well also.

The former Chief Financial Officer is now a senior kahuna with a big corporation. That's no surprise either because he is a great tactical thinker. It was his brilliant idea to file bankruptcy when we did which, for reasons way too complicated to recount here, is what saved our bacon and allowed us to pursue the litigation that produced the multi-million dollar settlement which I got almost none of because the bastard lawyers kept most of it. But I'm not bitter. Issues.

Anyway, the real stunner is what our majority stockholder and Chairman of the Board--my former boss--is doing these days. Being as how he won the grand prize I'll have to say he is also doing well, albeit in a way that uses a totally different skill set than the one I was familiar with. Click Here to See A Current Photo of My Old Boss.

As for the other members of senior management, several of them were at my wedding last month so we got together for an Executive Photo Shoot. Here we are in the pose we frequently assumed when we were negotiating with our former client:

For the record you'll notice that all of us had our "L" backward except for Doris, the lady on the right. She was destined for the top, that girl.

Oct 27, 2008

Obama Radio Interview, 2001

Please. Just listen to this before you make up your mind. Is this really what you think is best for America?

Oct 23, 2008

Engineer Joke of the Day...and
No More TV for Old People

Q. How can you tell an Extroverted Engineer from an Introverted Engineer?
A. The Extroverted Engineer stares at your shoes when he's talking to you.

Doesn't that crack you up? No? Maybe it's just me then.

No More TV for Seniors:

Oct 22, 2008

A Lesson About Women
and a replacement video

About this photo, I'll get to that in a minute.

One day, when a seamstress was sewing while sitting close to a river, her thimble fell into the river. When she cried out, the Lord appeared and asked, "My dear child, why are you crying?"

The seamstress replied that her thimble had fallen into the water and that she needed it to help her husband in making a living for their family. The Lord dipped His hand into the water and pulled up a golden thimble set with sapphires.

"Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked.

The seamstress replied, "No."

The Lord again dipped into the river. He held out a golden thimble studded with rubies.

"Is this your thimble?" the Lord asked.

Again, the seamstress replied, "No."

The Lord reached down again and came up with a leather thimble.

"Is this your thimble ?" the Lord asked.

The seamstress replied, "Yes."

The Lord was pleased with the woman's honesty and gave her all three thimbles to keep, and the seamstress went home happy.

Some years later, the seamstress was walking with her husband along the riverbank when her husband fell into the river and disappeared under the water. When she cried out, the Lord again appeared and asked her, "Why are you crying?"

"Oh Lord, my husband has fallen into the river!"

The Lord went down into the water and came up with George Clooney. "Is this your husband?" the Lord asked.

"Yes," cried the seamstress.

The Lord was furious. "You lied! That is an untruth!"

The seamstress replied, "Oh, forgive me, my Lord. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said 'no' to George Clooney, you would have come up with Brad Pitt. Then if I said 'no' to him, you would have come up with my husband. Had I then said 'yes,' you would have given me all three. Lord, I'm not in the best of health and would not be able to take care of all three husbands, so THAT is why I said 'yes' to George Clooney.

And so the Lord let her keep him.

Moral of The Story: Whenever a woman lies, it's for a good and honorable reason, and in the best interest of others. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

Now, about that replacement video. In case you're wondering what happened to that Halloween movie that was here yesterday, I moved it over to my family's website. The funniest part of the movie was kind of an inside joke so I put it over there where the insiders who get the joke can find it. Some of the people in my family...well, you gotta make things easy for them.

However, to replace the lost entertainment value for all my blog readers who are not family members (all four of you) here's another video with no inside joke whatsoever. It's just stupid. My brother Roger (the dancer in the fishing hat) and my brother Bradley (the goofy looking one) flashing their "whitey tighties"---now that's entertainment.

Replacement Video:

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Oct 20, 2008

Reason #498 Why I'm Glad I'm No Longer Single

Butt Ugly Boat Update, Part 2

Other than a half day meeting on Saturday morning, we took the entire weekend off and hung out at the boat. I came down with a miserable cold or flu (hard to tell which at this point) and spent most of the weekend sleeping, sneezing, blowing my nose and generally feeling lousy while Morley soldiered on without me fixing things on our very long to-do list.

Before we left yesterday I took some photos of the rest of the boat to show you our progress so far. First things first--your room. Here's the guest room before:

Here's what it looks like now--fresh crisp new linens and Now! Cootie! Free!

And here's the galley before. It's hard to tell from this photo but there was junk sitting everywhere--hardly enough free counter space to make a sandwich:

...and here's the galley now with lots of room to cook. That is, if you don't have a bad cold/flu and actually feel like cooking (sniff) (sneeze):

Here's the salon before:

And here's the salon now:That coffee table is just a temporary fix, by the way. It actually belongs outside in the cockpit but it does the trick while I search for a permanent solution.

We've made progress but we're still a long way from our goal which is to look more like this:

As you can see, we have a long, long, long way to go. (Sigh)

Moving on, here's a "before" shot of the office/third cabin:

This is my personal hanging-out spot when we're onboard (Morley's spot is the pilot house which I refer to as "Man World). Coincidentally it is also a very cozy place to sleep off a bad cold/flu.

Here's what it looks like now:

Basically what we have now is a clean boat but one that's still Butt Ugly--only new carpet and upholstery is going to transform this baby into anything short of Butt Ugly.

On other matters of the BUB: We spent our third weekend in a row with no working toilets. The only marine plumber we know has come by twice to "look things over" but hasn't started fixing anything yet--where's Joe the Plumber when you really need him--so we still have to use the bathroom on our other boat. I can tell you from personal experience that short walk is a real pain when you are not feeling well.

Also our battery charger crapped out sometime during the last week which meant we had no 12v system--no overhead lights and no juice to crank the engines to take a cruise. The dead charger was original equipment so rather than repair it we'll just replace it with a new one which our buddy Steve will install this week. Actually this is one of those bad news/good news situations--we already knew we had electrical problems (see BUB Update, part 1) and we were thrilled at the news that we'd have to spring for a new charger to fix them. Chargers are a lot cheaper than replacing the batteries.

Update added later: As it turned out, we needed a new battery charger and new batteries. So much for the Power of Positive Thinking.

Finally, Morley made big progress in the Onboard Entertainment department this weekend. While I was busy whining and sneezing and taking naps, he unhooked the satellite dish from our old boat and ran it to the BUB, so as soon as we buy some new TVs we can resume watching BBC America in bed. I'm really excited about this since I was starting to go into serious Cash in the Attic withdrawal.

So that's it for now. I am going to the office this morning just long enough to take care of my desk but not so long that I infect anybody else with this crud. And then I'll come back home and resume my reclining position on the sofa because (hack) (sniff) (sneeze) I don't feel so good.

Oct 17, 2008

Lost Marbles and Joe the Plumber

The "Joe the Plumber" episode made me really cranky. He was just a regular guy standing in his own front yard when a candidate for president walks up his driveway (albeit with a couple hundred supporters and several TV cameras in tow) and when the candidate asked him for his vote, Joe asked a legitimate question. And for that he got slammed and mocked and derided and made fun of. What's up with that?

For the record, I am a Libertarian (less is more when it comes to government) and also for the record, I truly don't give a rat's rear whether Joe has a plumber's license or if he's just a guy who does plumbing. I thought he asked a very good question.

I relate to Joe. I just finished closing out the books for September and saw that Morley and his partner worked a total of 481 hours between them last month, or an average of 60.1 hours per week each. Or to put it another way, they each did a week and a half's worth of work every week.

We sacrifice a lot because of work. I often blog about how rarely we have free time or even take an entire weekend off, and Heaven knows our family hasn't seen much of us this year because we're always working. But we don't mind really. Even though we get tired of it sometimes we're willing to make the sacrifices now so we can enjoy ourselves when we retire in a few years. That's the American way--the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Joe the Plumber is working hard to get lucky too. He's a single parent raising a kid and would like to buy the small plumbing company he currently works for.

Except in the opinion of people like Senator Obama, people like us and Joe the Plumber are bad guys--we're too fortunate. Ours is one of the evil businesses that will have to pay higher taxes so Obama can "spread the wealth around because it is good for everybody". (Oh, really?) It just isn't "fair" for us to have more than our fair share--how much ever he decides that is--regardless of how hard we work or what we sacrifice to get it. Never mind that we're soon to be old codgers and are working like dogs while we can so we'll be able to support ourselves in retirement. And never mind that the company might possibly use that money to pay employees or buy better technology or something else useful that would grow the business, rather than handing it over to the government so they can "spread it around".

In fact, they say it is our patriotic duty to pay high taxes so the rewards we reap from our hard work can be given to others who are not as fortunate as we are--you know, those unfortunate people who don't work 60 hour weeks and get to take weekends off.

And before you think I am some insensitive jerk who doesn't care about the least of my brothren, that's not true. I give a bigger percentage of my income to charitable works than Senator Obama does (based on the numbers in the his tax returns) so I'm already doing a better job of "spreading it around" than he is. That is, my money is where his mouth is, and like Joe says in that video, I don't need another set of parents called "The Government" to tell me how to run my life or what I need to do to be a good person. Really, I'm on it. Doing the best I can here.

My anger isn't just about tax brackets. It's about the mindset that a government should decide so many of the details of your life and take away so much of your liberty for the "common good" as they perceive it. It's anger that a group of elected officials believe it is up to them to decide how well, or how poorly, citizens should live or what's "fair". And it's the eagerness to heap derision and ridicule on some poor rube who had the nerve to ask a politician a simple question.

And while I'm on a rant here, can somebody please tell me where exactly in the Constitution does the government get the power of income distribution? What gives it the authority to tell you how you will live, or how you will teach your kid, or how "fortunate" you are entitled to be? If you find those answers anywhere, please let me know at your earliest convenience.

While you are at it, if you find a single instance where a tax hike actually expanded, not contracted, the economy please let me know that too.

Has this country lost its marbles? Seriously.

Oct 16, 2008

So long, Jay

Yesterday I got the sad news that Jay Wilson died last Friday.

Jay was a retired engineer living near Sedona, AZ who began a blog after learning he had cancer. His writing was so exceptional and so good that it brought his readers along on his 18 month struggle in a powerful, personal way. More than anything, his writing showed such grace and dignity that even those of us who knew him only thru the internet felt like we knew him well. We cheered his remissions and were sad when he had setbacks, and the day he told us he had come to the end of treatment and was beginning hospice care we were so bereft that words were impossible to come by for a couple of days.

Even though we readers knew he was sick we didn't realize how quickly his health was fading, and so when he fell silent several days ago I just assumed he was once again so busy with visitors that he didn't have time to write. Sadly, this time things were different. Jay had asked a friend to post a final update on his blog when the time came, and yesterday the friend posted the news of Jay's passing. I was stunned. I guess you are never really prepared to get news like that.

I had written Jay to tell him how much I admired his grace, courage and dignity but I had planned to write a blog piece about the inspiration he had been to me and how much he had taught me about the quality of a person's character in times of adversity. This little piece comes a few days too late for Jay to appreciate it. Some things just should not be procrastinated upon.

The internet is a strange and wonderful thing when it connects humans who might never have crossed paths otherwise. I'm so glad I got to meet Jay, if only via the internet. I will truly miss that guy.

If you have some spare time, I recommend you read Jay's blog starting at the beginning with his first post and reading backwards to the final entry.

Oct 15, 2008

Dancing Dog

After my dog Shelby watched this video she just hung her head in shame. That "indoor voice" trick of hers looks pretty lame compared to this:

That dog probably doesn't play in the cat's litter box either.

Ode to Ensalada Caprese
or "We're Aerogardening"

Our girls gave us an AeroGarden. They know I have a serious basil addiction from which I suffer greatly all winter long (basil grows like a weed in hot weather but turns into black, slimy muck at the first forecast of frost) and my mental health depends on a steady supply of fresh herbs at all times. And it is a fact of life in this house that Caprese salad--fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, and balsamic vinegar--keeps me in a good humor when consumed on a regular basis. Thanks to the girls, my little garden is going to keep me in the happy place this winter.

An AeroGarden is a hydroponic garden that circulates highly fertilized water through little spongy plugs embedded with seeds and gently bathes the little guys in artificial sunlight for ten to twelve hours a day. There are several garden "themes" available, but the girls hooked me up with the gourmet herb version which sports not one but two types of basil. How cool is that?

Morley and I found a spot in the kitchen for our new garden, filled it with water, dropped in the little foam plugs, and added the little nutrient tablet. And then I hit the "on" button and the kitchen was instantly flooded with a bright light--really bright light. As in, "ET, phone home" bright light.

The light spooked the cats so much that they hauled tail to hide under the sofa for a couple of hours and Shelby dove for cover under the dining room table. Once Morley and I found protective eye wear and waited for the sunspots to fade from our field of vision, we agreed that the "artificial sunlight" an Aerogarden puts out is akin to having an alien spacecraft land inside your house. Morley is still getting used to it but I just look at our AeroGarden as being a handy night light. For everyone in our zip code.

But apparently gourmet herbs really groove on all that bright light and water circulation. Here's our garden sometime around day 7:

The little herbs are beginning to poke their heads up and some of them have already gotten big enough that we removed their little plastic domes.

And here's our little herb garden around day 20 or so:

All those herbs are jumping out of their little foam plugs and growing like crazy. And the best part...

The basil really, really likes it.

Oct 14, 2008

Butt Ugly Boat Update, Part 1

Judging by the number of people who've asked me how it's going with the Butt Ugly Boat, I guess I've been remiss in posting updates on our progress.

Ever since we got past the wedding craziness last month, we've spent almost every spare minute at the lake cleaning, polishing, and de-funking and we've now reached that happy stage of the project where everyone who comes on board does a little double take of surprise.

The biggest improvement so far doesn't translate very well to the internet--smell. The BUB smells way mo' bettah than it used to thanks to liberal applications of soap and water followed by a couple of gallons of teak oil and topped off with an entire weekend strapped to a carpet shampooer. The delicate aroma of deisel fuel with a top note of crud and a subtle hint of cootie is gone. Morley now feels free to walk about the cabin without his shoes on and Shelby no longer whines and holds her nose when she's aboard. I could kick myself for not taking a photo of the carpet after just one pass with the shampooer--it looked like one of those TV commercials for miracle carpet cleaners. Except a lot more gross. And disgusting.

Anyway, here's a fairly current view of the salon after 20 trips (at least) to the dumpster with a dock cart full of crap:

It is cleaner and there's less junk sitting around, but no dramatic changes in decor change yet. And here's a fairly recent shot of the master cabin. I replaced the old bedding with some fresh, clean cootie-free linens:'s what it looked like before in case you forgot (shiver) (retch) (gag):

We've started making some repairs and improvements too. We replaced the funky, decrepit 1980's style leather/brass cabinet pulls with some new ones made of brushed pewter that are slightly retro-yet-sleek (plus we replaced the cabinet hinges--all 86 of them).

The kitchen faucet had been leaking for ages so Morley installed a snazzy new one. Please note that the faucet in the photo below is the old leaky one, not the snazzy new one:

We'll eventually reconfigure the entire galley to move the sink towards the wall, install an 18 inch dishwasher, then replace the countertop with Corian--but that leaky faucet had to go now. Keeping a bath towel wrapped around the kitchen faucet didn't exactly compliment the decor.

Our project this past weekend was to figure out the electrical system and its mysterious ways. Sometimes the boat was slow to crank after we'd been sitting for a while which made us suspect the batteries weren't charging as they should. We crossed our fingers and hoped it was a simple solution because we have huge 4D batteries aboard and they are darn near impossible to manhandle in and out of the engine room (they weigh 130 pounds each). We dreaded the prospects of having to replace them and getting his-and-hers hernias, not to mention they ain't cheap and we have three of them.

After a little investigative work we discovered all they needed was to more water, and fortunately water--even the prerequisite distilled water--is cheap. Just topping off those bad girls took about three gallons' worth of water and took about half an hour. They are seriously big batteries.

The next big thing is to make some major decisions on the new decor because our favorite upholsterer, brother in law Jim, has put us on his schedule next month. We'll spend the next few weeks debating the merits of various shades of beige, then choose the new carpet and the leather for the sofas. And then Jim will liberate us from our 1980's den of decorating hell, and then we'll have a nice memorial service for that gawd-awful blue carpet--may it rest in pieces--and the BUB will look modern and cheerful and clean forever and ever. Amen.

So that's the news from the Butt Ugly Boat. I'd like to announce the BUB is officially a cootie-free zone with a fresh Springtime scent. It's safe to come visit us now.

PS: Matt, I'm looking at you.