27 December 2006

Holiday video...

See the link here for the Steph and Tom holiday video for this year...

Happy holidays everyone!

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Stranded, part 2...

Part deux (I wrote this later on during my travels when I was put onto a later flight than anticipated)…

Yeah, so I am late in getting home again. This is something that I complained about before, but it actually looked like, albeit for a short time, that it wasn’t going to happen. That everything was going to be fine and dandy, and that I would actually get home on time. Boy, was I wrong. I was led down this path of assumption by the friendly and cute gate agent in Portland. She assured me that yes, the plane was in the air, and would be landing in about 10 minutes. This would have been about 15 minutes behind schedule. The plane did land when she said that it would. Imagine my surprise. And then in speaking with said same gate agent, after checking my ticket, she assured me that I would have plenty of time to get from point A in New York to point B when we landed, because flight time from Portland to New York is less than an hour. I’ve got to say, I was in, hook, line, and sinker (unless you’re a fly fisherman, and then there really isn’t a sinker per se). The plane that was inbound from New York landed (like I said right at the approximate moment I was quoted), and then the folks sitting on the plane de-boarded fairly quickly (these are small planes after all), and we were loaded in. This was about 2:20PM, we were supposed to leave at 1:50, hey only 30 minutes, not too bad. And I was told that my gate was right next to the one we were arriving at. I was psyched. I could get home on time, get my bags, and be back at the house before 7PM most probably. We load up, taxi out, and then sit. We get an announcement, we’re being held for about 10 minutes. 10 minutes pass, we have another announcement, we are being held for another 10 minutes. 10 more minutes go by, and one last announcement. No, we weren’t moving out, we were being held for another 15-20 minutes. Add this up now. 10 + 10 + 25 (I timed the last hold) = 45 minutes, add this into the already 30 minutes that we were held up, and indeed, 1 hour and 15 minutes later we’re airborne. We make good time, land, de-board, and of course, my original plane has already left (like an hour or so ago). Knowing my luck, and I normally have nothing but bad luck, the next plane leaving at 6:05, is chock full o’ people. Oops. This means, I get pushed over to the 7:30PM flight. About 2 hours or so of flight time, and this puts me back into RDU at 9:30, maybe. Then I have to wait for the notoriously SLOW baggage handlers at RDU to unload my stuff (if it even makes it there in the first place), grab bags, and wait for my ride from the fiancée. This is how I roll when I travel. If I ever ask you to travel with me somewhere, please be aware that you’ll be kicked off of flights, made late, and or delayed and you’ll get to your destination a lot later than was planned for you. This happens to me probably 9 out of 10 times when I travel, and I can’t actually remember the last time I flew home, where coming back, or even going for that matter, where things were on time, and there were zero hassles. I should just stop this whole traveling business. It would make my life much less hectic. At least traveling by plane. Here’s the sad thing, the really sad thing. If I had driven home for Christmas this year, and if I had left early this morning, I’d just about be pulling into the old home driveway as I write this (at 6:05PM in the evening on December the 26th). I guess the good part about it, is indeed, I will be home this evening. It could be worse. I could be sleeping in the chairs, or the floor at the airport this evening. And to think how bad I have swamp ass now. If I had to sleep here, I can only imagine. I would be able to hand out some sweet stink palms though to the people who have placed me into this position if that were the case, luckily for US Airways, this isn’t the case. No stink palming today my friends, none at all. OK, maybe one. Nah, on second thought, I won’t do that today. I’m still feeling in the Christmas spirit. The best part about this though, is the fact that I won’t have to help clean cat poop this evening at home, since the fiancée is going to get home way before I do. And since our cat, “The Shark” also known as Daphne, is a rabid floor pooper, and she’s been home alone for about 3 days now, there ought to be a ton o’ cat shit on the floor as we speak. I’m sure I’ll be doing the cat poop cleaning for another week or so before I can be caught up to what the fiancée is going to encounter upon walking into the house this evening. I do feel for her, as it is not a really fun job to do, but don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that I don’t have to do it this evening.

One last note for this evening, and for this trip. How come when I sit down in a chair, I have to have someone come and sit RIGHT NEXT TO ME? It’s not like there aren’t a bunch of open and empty chairs hanging around, because there are. And it’s not like I smell nice, because I don’t after traveling around and sitting in hot vinyl seats and hot aircraft all day. So why do people do this to me? Hey chief, how about you back up off me? Well, they changed the gate of the people sitting next to me, and lucky me, they’re on my flight. So time to pack up, and move gates, which means, I’ll probably end up sitting right back down next to them again. Ah, I hate flying sometimes. I remember the good old days, when I used to like doing this sort of thing. Of course, that was when flying held interest for me, and it was new and exciting (about age 21). After 12 years of flying here, there, and everywhere, I’m done with it. I’ll fly now when needed, but it’s not something I relish. It is a means to an ends though, so I’ll keep putting up with it. And with annoying people, and annoying airlines. It’s all part of the game. There is outstanding people watching at the airport though, so for that, I’m thankful, and I do get to read a ton while I’m inevitably delayed, so that’s a good thing as well. I guess I should stop being such a negative Nilly eh? OK, time to move, and go find my new seat buddies.

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Traveling delusions and Iraq...

What did I expect?

Not sure, it being the day after Christmas, and the weather getting socked in starting this morning. I woke up, looked out the window into the old family homestead backyard, and what did I see? Snow. Bear in mind that it hasn’t snowed yet this year in Maine, and here I come home, and the day that I need to leave, it snows. Couldn’t this have happened on say Christmas Eve when it would have been more appropriate? Or maybe the day after I leave? But no, the day I do leave, but get this. That isn’t even the problem, that’s not the reason that I’m stuck in another airport trying to get back to North Carolina. No. Get this, in New York, there is some fog, and planes are not allowed to leave as frequently as they normally would, and hence, here I sit. So far, the flight has been delayed by about 45 minutes, so “they” say (they being the airline and Orbitz where I booked my flight). I’ve flown enough over the years to know that the first delay will inevitably lead to the second delay, and then to the third, and then probably to me sleeping in an airport somewhere, most likely in New York knowing this kid’s luck. This has happened too many times to me in the past, I know how this story ends. It ends with me probably getting an overpriced hotel room somewhere in New York, or worse yet sleeping on a very uncomfortable seat. Although I can’t complain half as much as the poor souls that got stuck in Denver earlier this week when they get hit with a big storm.

The thing is though, with all of the technology that we do have now, why can’t they fly safely in fog? They have instruments, ground radar, and other technologies that let them safely operate in daylight, and nighttime, and yet they can’t make it through some fog? What is the deal with that really? I guess, they need to be safe and all, but come on, it’s inconveniencing me greatly. I’m just wanting to get home, and hang out with the fiancée and open our Christmas gifts together, and hang out with the cats, and clean up the cat poop that I know awaits me at home. Always, this happens to me. Always. I haven’t had a hassle free set of flights in so long I don’t know when the last time was that I had no issues either going or coming home. Ah well, that’s the price we pay for flying right? If I was driving, I’d probably be almost home by now, but with a lot more headaches than I have right now. At least this morning, I could sleep in a little, go for a run in the snow this morning, have a good breakfast with the family, and then drive down here at a leisurely pace and all. So yes, this kid is bitching, but I really shouldn’t be. I don’t know what is going to happen, quite yet. We’ll see. As a side note though, it appears as though some Jet Blue customers have been here quite some time, and they handed out free pizza to them. You don’t see that coming from airlines that often. Maybe this is why they are building a loyal customer base, and why they are doing well, as opposed to other big name carriers these days. Customer service. I’ve found that indeed, people are more willing to pay a little more money, or in the case of Jet Blue and or Southwest, less money, and get some good customer service. You don’t see that too often these days, so much so that when you do find a company with good customer service, they are the exception rather than the rule, and people will flock to said companies. That’s where I think business folks, and their business models get messed up a lot these days. Just provide some kick ass customer service for whatever it is you’re doing, and people are going to come back, and they are going to recommend you to their friends, and people will come calling. Bad customer service, people will still come, just in less numbers, and it’s more likely that the folks who do come will refer you back to their friends, and word of mouth dies out quickly. If you’re out there, and you’re starting a business, give out some good customer service, folks will love you for it.

On another note, I should have brought my power cord for my laptop, as I sit here and watch the battery drain away while I write this out. Why don’t I ever think of doing that when I travel? Maybe I’m getting dumber as I get older? It’s possible.

This Christmas was pretty low key this year. We had the usual assortment of family folks over and all, and a good dinner as per usual, but we didn’t have a houseful of people stopping by, and or coming in and hanging around. Which was good I think. Different, but good. I think it’s the mere fact that less and people who have come over in year’s past are coming around for the holidays now. They have their own families in different locations around the country and or world, and they’re doing their own thing. While we’re still doing the same old thing, more or less, that we have been for years. It’s nice to be able to just spend time with the family, hang out, eat some good food, have a good talk, and get yelled at for farting in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. We had such a lack of presents this year under the old tree that we did almost everything on Christmas Eve, which is something that we’ve never done before according to my memories. Nobody really got anything this year, well, people received some gifts, but they had been passed out previously, and in my case, my present was my flight home and back, so I took that one with me when I left RDU at 6AM earlier this week. It’s all good really. As I think people get older, we need less “things”, and we already buy the stuff that we do need, so receiving more things, something most of the family doesn’t need anymore. We of course did our stocking stuffers, which is the most fun thing normally anyway, and the good old Yankee Swap (aka Chinese Auction I think, and probably known as a few more things no doubt). I did not participate on said Yankee Swap, as I had bought gift certificates for everyone anyway. I’m good like that. I know that for the most part, they were well received. I think. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want an Amazon.com (I should get paid for that plug right there) gift certificate? You can get just about anything under the sun in that place. People should be clamoring for those. I know that a person such as me would always appreciate such things (just a hint there, just a little one, plus look at the wedding registries on Amazon and Pottery Barn, it’s all in there).

I just finished reading this book, called Fiasco, essentially about the missteps of the war in Iraq and how the Bush administration took us into it, without really thinking things through too well. And it speaks to the effect of how to fight a counterinsurgency, which is what we should have been doing, but we haven’t been, and how we are now changing course to finally, almost 4 years after invading that country, fight a counterinsurgency action. This book, I think, contrary to its title, is not all about pointing out the bad things, and the mistakes (although it does do that), it also points out where things have been done right, and what the effect of that is. Being as it was written before the war has ended, that are some conclusions towards the end that could prove to be true, or maybe false, depending on which road we go down in that country, and or what happens in the very near future. There are good things that can come from this, but it’s going to take a lot of work on behalf of the military, and the US government. One of the basic conclusions reached in this book is don’t expect troop levels to drop very low over the next 4-5 years, at the very least. Those guys are now needed on the ground to fix the issues that came up when we first invaded, and the disaster that has ensued over there. Another conclusion reached was that it is entirely possible that history will look back on this war, and equate it back to the first Gulf War in 1991 which started with a short protracted ground offensive to expel the Iraq military out of Kuwait, and was then followed by 12 years of a very successful containment exercise conducted by first GHWB, then Clinton, and then GWB for a couple of years, until certain people gained his ear, and essentially convinced him, and other leaders that we needed to get in there, and that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to the security of the US. It’s sad really, since all of the reasons why we invaded that country have been either debunked or were not founded in anything representing the truth. Turns out that the containment actions that were being conducted were doing a good job of wearing down the Iraqi military, and Hussein. It turns out that after the 1991 Gulf War, most of their caches of WMDs were destroyed, and others were taken care of later on down the line before we invaded in 2003. Turns out that the Iraqi military, although large in number of troops, was ineffective really, and was nothing more than a paper tiger. A lot of the military industrial complex infrastructure in Iraq had been destroyed over the years during air raids by the US Air Force and Navy during the time of containment. One of the biggest things that struck me reading this book was that containment, was slowly whittling away at Iraq, and the cost of containment for a year was “only” 1 billion dollars. Remember, 1 billion per year. Still a ton o’ money, but a far cry from the 200 billion that we’ve spent fighting over there so far, with another 100 billion being requested as I write this now from the US. Think of what we could have done with 300 billion dollars in that region (or even just say, 5 billion a mere pittance compared to what we’re spending now). The face of the middle eastern education could have been changed easily. Instead of kids in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other middle eastern countries (funnily enough Iraq students attended mostly secular schools in the country) attending fundamentalist madras’s which essentially indoctrinate young people into radical Islamic fundamentalism ways of life, we could have set up schools through these nations where kids could have received a great education without the hating of America talk. Hell, take that same 5 billion dollars and invest it into US schools, our education system would be burgeoning again. Meanwhile, while we have been Iraq, the real locales of terrorism around the middle east have been essentially ignored. The Taliban are gaining another foothold into Afghanistan, and are making a sort of “comeback” in that country, with ever increasing attacks against US and other coalition troops operating in that country. Pakistan itself is just one military coup away from becoming a radical Islamic country with actual operating and functioning nuclear weapons. Iran has been ignored for far too long, and they now empathize and or sympathize with the new majority Iraqi government. Syria, also has been ignored for far too long, and they also identify with the new Iraqi government very closely. If there were a strong leader to come into Iraq, and take over the government, and one who was more about the people and leading Iraq, there is a good chance he or she for that matter, could unite the country, and also possibly have Syria and Iran as allies, and then where would we go from there? Think about Saudi Arabia being overrun by a allied group of Iraqis, Iranians, and Syrians. One government, possibly not very happy with the US could control most of the world’s oil. Think of oil jetting up to about $200/barrel, and think about the prices we were paying for gas and heating oil before. We would be in serious trouble, and would most likely have to re-invade with a weaker army, and most assuredly, we’d have a draft to get the bodies needed as this war would be a lot bigger. It could get really ugly, really quickly. Before with Saddam in control, we had a stable Iraq run by a crazy man, but at least it was stable, and it kept the other players in check.

Anyway, time will tell what the outcome on this will be. History will prove out that George W. Bush was a damn genius with his thinking about invasion, or prove him out to be the moron that a lot of us think him to be now (well, I think him a moron at least). That being said, we won’t be out there for a long time to come. I hope it all comes out in the wash.

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21 December 2006


So for a short while I decided that I would really and truly try to grow a beard. Those of you that know me, know that in fact, a beard for me wouldn't really so much as be a challenge as a fashion statement of sorts. Well right before Thanksgiving, I went and had some new tires mounted for my car. I went to the shop where The Fart Sniffer works over in Cary to have his guys do it, because that seemed like the right thing to do. He was sporting a beard, and so I took it as a personal affront to try and top that one that he was growing, so off I went. The last day I shaved was Thanksgiving day, and I was pushing for March for the timeframe when I would shave again. As you can see for yourself in the picture attached above, the beard growing was a resounding success. Of course, there was a lot of white going on in there, and I needed some Just For Men for beards and moustaches, but instead of that, it started to wear on me, and started getting really fuzzy and annoying, so off it went. I couldn't help it. The March timeframe was just a pipe dream. My goal was to look like Sean Eaddie (a track racer from Australia who grew the most kick ass beard ever, while still racing his bike, and shaving his legs no doubt). Through this little experiment though, I found out that indeed, I am not a beard kind of guy. I can't stand having that hair on my face for too long, and March would have been a long time coming for me, so off it went. Ah well, maybe next time I'll keep it for months on end. Although, since I am flying this weekend to go home for Christmas it's probably a good thing that it is gone, because I'm sure that security would have loved to have taken a longer look at me. Beard, dark complexion, and the fact that when I do have a good stubble going the people I work with think I look like a terrorist, well, strip searching probably wouldn't have been out of the question. That would have been disturbing methinks.

I have been off from work this week thus far, which has been a great time for me. I've been able to kick back, relax, ride the bike (when the sun is out and when it's sort of warm out), and essentially just live a normal life for a short while. Work this year has been, shall we say, rough. I have a bad case of burnout that's for sure, meaning I don't think I could have been there for another week this year without flipping out in some way, shape, or form. I can see now possibly why people go really super crazy and go into work and start shooting people. Not that I would do this, but I can see how one could. If I got to that point, I'm pretty certain that I'd just quit, and maybe go work at a McDonald's or something for a short while to get the head back in order. You know, something low key and easy to do, no pressure. Just go to work, do work, and go home with nothing to worry about later on down the road. That would be the best bet right there. Luckily, I haven't gotten to that point, but a vacation was required. I've been off since last Friday, and I'm not going back until the 2nd of January, which again, is a nice long time off for me. I haven't had much in the way of vacation time this year, so this is a nice break. I wonder how I'll manage next year since I won't really be taking any vacation until December anyway, at which time I'm getting hitched, so then I'll have a couple of weeks off at the start of the month, and then another week towards the end, lumping lots of vacation into one month again, but that means another 11 months or so with little/no time off. Maybe I'll just have to be "creative" shall we say with "sick days". Don't even sit there and scratch your head like you don't know what I mean, because you do. Normally it goes something like this, "Hey (insert your boss' name here), I can't make it into work this morning, I must have eaten some bad fish last night or something like that..." Does anyone's boss really think that many people get that sick on fish every year? They play along with the game though as well, so they can't speak. At least I know that my boss takes more so called "sick days" than I do every year that's for sure. Well, that and for my boss, days off to go to field trips with her kids, days off to take her kids to school, days off when her kids are sick, days off when she wants to bake cookies with her kids, and so on and so forth.

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17 December 2006

Burning things and drinking beer...

There is something that is very nice about standing around in the back yard, drinking beer, and burning things that just makes you feel good. I can't explain it, maybe it's a guy thing, but alas, it's just a good time drinking beer, and burning wood pallets that your neighbors retrieved from the local Wal-Mart (indeed, Wal-Mart IS good for something after all). This is especially a good time, on a night like this. It's a little chilly, the sky is clear, and well, it's just nice out there. This definitely goes back to the old high school days of when we would have parties on Scotty's Mountain behind the high school in the middle of the woods. Of course, back in that time, I didn't drink the beers, but I did hang around, and I did stand around and burn things. I normally would play the part of the DD, driving my drunk ass friends home late at night, and then crawling into bed. I never had a hangover, so that was a good thing, my friends, well, they weren't so lucky methinks. Just like this evening, as opposed to the last time there were people over here, I won't have a hangover. Last time though, before Thanksgiving, I was IN THE DITCH. Meaning, too much beer, too much bourbon, too many Jello shots. Yeah, I said it. Too many Jello shots. I hadn't really had any for a long time, and now I remember why, especially when they're made with Everclear. For those of you not in "the know" about Everclear, essentially, it's paint thinner, it's almost 200 proof corn alcohol, and a few drops of that will taken you down to Chinatown, and before Thanksgiving, that's what happened to me. Although, my hangover the next day was not as bad as it could have been, due in fact to the guys who live downstairs being paramedics, and due also to the fact that when they party with their friends and get hammered, they tend to start hanging IV fluids on the drunk people to decrease the chances of hangover. That night, I had 2 bags of saline, and about a liter of water before I went to bed, and the fact that I was still hungover the next day can speak to the volume of alcohol that I did consume that evening. If I hadn't had that IV drip that evening, I don't know how I would have ended up the next day. It was bad enough as it was, but without the saline, I dread to think.

It's getting late, so it's time to hit the rack. Get some sleep, and get up tomorrow, and not fear Sunday. Why don't I fear Sunday this week? Well, mostly because I don't have to go to work on Monday. Ah yeah! Vacation. I'm off work now until the 2nd of January, which is, in my mind, a well deserved hiatus. Many things to not do over this break, and much kicking back and relaxing to catch up on. More on that later on.

02 December 2006

Yesterday's post...

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but fell asleep before I could do so. See below...

It’s official kids. It has been 2 years since I’ve been with this woman who was first identified on these pages as “The SO”, and then last Spring became “The Fiancé” (her name is withheld to protect the innocent of course). Over those 2 years, we’ve had lots of good times, some bad, but hey, everyone has their ups and downs in relationships don’t they? Of course they do, but like most successful relationships, we’ve had a lot more up, than down, and this is a good thing. Of course after popping the question in a somewhat informal way to her, we decided that we ought to move in together, which we did back in June. I might add that without the help of The Chad, the move would not have happened, since the now Fiancé was out of town at the time, and couldn’t contribute to the moving of material from my current place of residence to the new place if residence, and wasn’t available to move her own items from her place of residence to the new domicile. Ah well, she owes me one move on that one. It was all good. In a nice twist of fate though, our wedding date will be on the anniversary of our first date and or meeting on December 1st. I think that worked out pretty good. Talk about tying things together. First date, December 1st, 2004. Wedding date, December 1st, 2007. Sort of like that rug in the Big Lebowski, having the wedding date on that day really ties things together man (if you’ve never seen The Big Lebowski, then I really have no use for you, please watch it. It’s life changing really). This evening, we’re heading back to where it all started, The Lantern in Chapel Hill. If you have never been there, and you live in the area, you’re doing yourself a culinary disservice. The place is stupendous. They have so many different delicious things going on, with the ever changing menu thing happening, you never know what you’re going to get. And, I think sometimes, they have special dinners where they cook everything from local foodstuffs, and it’s like a 5 or 6 course dinner, or something like that. Anyway, check out their website linked above. The best part about it, is that the prices are not that bad actually for some fine dining. This is the most amazing part. Great food, great service, decent prices.

Anyway, back to the point (sorry for the foray off road there) of this entry. The now fiancé. I’ve had a great 2 years being with her, and I look forward to many more with her, as in, until we grow old together. I love her very much and I’m certain that this love will continue to grow. I really do hope that other people can be as lucky as I have been in finding someone that they can really connect with. Yeah, it’s true, I’m totally sucked in. I can’t help it. So if The Fiancé is reading this, just know, my heart is always with you and always will be.

Yes, even I can get sentimental and emotional at times. And no I wasn’t crying when I was writing this.