Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation Seige Day three - doing mommy work

You know, every one of these vacations starts out the same way - with the best of intentions. I'm going to get so much done around the house.

Well here we are two days before Christmas and we still don't have a tree. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get four active people together for an hour during the Holidays? I think that's the tipping point on the whole real vs artificial tree thing.

We you can't get together long enough to get a tree, what's the point? You might as well just drag it out of the crawl space. As long as it's green who cares? My Grandmother lived in the city and for years had one of those silver table top models. I remember thinking that those poor people in the city couldn't get a real tree and had to get one that looked like it belonged on the Jetsons. Who thought of that anyway? A silver tree?

And talk about last minute, I did all the cards in a day including one of those cheesy newsletters.

That was two trips to Kinkos right there. The first Kinkos was like a third world country. The electric door was stuck half opened on day with 0 degree F wind chills. Mental note: if you ever approach a store three days before Christmas with the door stuck open, run. Something was going on with the high speed color printer and the guy behind the counter pointed me towards PCs in the back with like cheesy color printers on them. I said thanks, but no thanks.

The second Kinkos in the afternoon was the complete opposite. There was one girl behind the counter and like 20 customers and she was keeping up. She was like blur back there.

In between was Walmart, Lunch and Target. Walmart was disaster. There had to be a nice lady on one of those electric carts in every aisle. She would smile as she blocked the entire aisle. Friendly? Yes. I still couldn't get by.

I was there for a "ship-to-store" which is always an adventure. The whole Walmart/Internet intersection is an interesting thing to behold. The nice Hispanic woman behind the counter was trying to 'splain to me that it may be here but she could find it. "I give courtesy call" in the afternoon. That would have been helpful along with that nice email that told me you did have it here so I could have stayed home - or gone to Target.

Target was the complete opposite. Aisles wider than the Mississippi, numbered all the way up to 5-9-7. No electric carts, but ironically I could have used one as I was exhausted by time I got all the way out to seasonals. It was like remote parking at an airport out there. The need signs like at the Grand Canyon "You need this much water to get to Kitchen Appliances - Don't even try it with out it because helicopter rescues are expensive"

I then spent the afternoon gather Christmas card lists. I'm not sure why but this gets harder and harder every year. I tried to organize it in 2005 and it was disaster. I still have a list that I have to mentally adjust address as I go - "No wait they moved in 06" comes up a lot.

Anyway, I made it to the post office in hand with 90% of the cards. Then it was off to pick up my wife since we are back to the three people two cars thing. Then make dinner for the boys and the hoard that had invited over. By 10 I was exhausted and passed out. I woke up at 12 to an impromptu all night D-n-D session occurring thin the room below.

I am working harder at this vacation then I ever would at work.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The worst Christmas of my working life (so far)

I've started my annual Christmas vacation and this year I'm taking two weeks off. I'm leveraging 4 Holidays into two weeks off.

My first official actions on vacation? I emptied the sink full of dishes, got up at 6:30 to take my wife to work and started laundry. Not exactly soaking up sun and relaxing but it beats working. In fact, I have a motto about it: "I like vacation better than work".

I got into this habit of taking time off around the Holidays at my first long tenured job at a local Telephony Billing company. They had a policy of closing between Christmas and the New Year and would split the time with you. If it were 5 days between Christmas and New Years outside the normal Christmas Holidays, they would take 2 as off but not vacation days. They were freebies.

I got used to it.

There have only been two times when this hasn't been possible, when I started my current job and didn't have the required vacation days saved up and the year that local Telephony Billing company released "New Product".

In 1991, I was in Software development at Telephony Billing Co. at the time and the New Product was going to be our premier platform for gathering billing records. We had farmed out the conversion of our flagship product to New Product to a large internationally known hardware and software maker with two initials. Their theory was to take all of the old code, written in assembler and Fortran, which ran on their propitiatory operating system and convert it to C and Fortran on UNIX.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

This is like taking a large wooden machine from the 19th century and part by part copying it into steel and titanium. I guess if you are Vice President of a small software firm this seems appealing since you can continue with the old product with in house people and contract out the conversion.

It was a disaster.

The part by part copying went OK. Large, two initialed, intergalactic hardware and software firm hired three contractors for this job and as is usually the case in such situations, one contractor was totally useless, one was so-so and the third was brilliant.

On average they were OK.

So the conversions were also on average OK. Coincidentally about a third were terrible, about a third were OK and a third were brilliant.

The real problem came at integrating all these hundreds of parts back together because no one knew how they all should fit together. The software program they were converting had some parts that were reused from older products, some as old as 15 years ago. It was well over a million lines of code. The people that wrote and understood those parts were long gone, having been fired or laid off when the company went through lean times. By the time of this conversion, I had been at the firm 2 years and the generation of programmers that wrote a lot of this code were know by us new comers as "the ancients".

I saying I developed during these times was "not all the ancients were wise". Some of the parts in the code made no sense. It was like body parts that had evolved. Ones that once had an important purpose were now confusing parts that no one knew they did. Like an appendix or that tip of the spine that "used to be a tail".

There was a lot of "what the hell is that"? and "who knew"?

There was one among us who knew the ancients and had worked among them, B.

B had moved from North Jersey when the firm folded shop up there. B. had worked at the firm for over 10 years and He was the only one with "the big picture". The rest of us had parts of the system we specialized in on this unbelievably huge software product but B, allegedly, knew how all this fit together.

Other than B, it was like three blind men and an elephant. "New Product is like a column" one would say. "New Product is like a snake" another would say.

The only problem was that B didn't actually say much. He was a deep thinker.

We spent most of the year testing all the little parts that had been converted and then by fall we were starting to integrate it. Well, large, two lettered intergalactic software maker was integrating since it was in their contract to do so.

Because they had no blueprints or documentation, some times they put things together wrong. It was like they were building Frankenstein and sewed a leg were an arm should be, put his head on backwards and used a thigh for neck. It was a mess.

Not only was it difficult to put together, the conversion was based on an emulator of the original operating system that mimicked the proprietary operating system under UNIX. And that e-e-e-mulator sucked. To this day I can't say that word without stuttering.

By late fall, we were "helping" them. By December, intergalactic software and hardware giant had all but given up and it was up to us.

Now things were way behind schedule mostly because of the integration issues and we had assumed that customers were being told that we were behind. So far behind that we were thinking that it would be sunny and warm by time our Frankenstein saw the light of day.

Around Christmas, I learned "never assume"

On the morning of our Company Christmas luncheon, I had made the first real release of the software. It was more like a test. I had no idea if all the parts worked or not I was just picking them up out of the development tree and getting them into a production environment, via DAT tape.

Tape number 1.

At the luncheon, my boss asked me:

"You know that tape you made this morning? Is there any way we can ship that to customer X?"

It was a Dilbert moment. All he needed was pointy hair.

I honestly thought to myself that he was insane. Whatever I had would never ever work. We all knew that. We had months of testing and integration ahead.

Well for customer X, a salesman had told them they were going to have New Product by years end.

Two days later, the President of the little company I worked for canceled Christmas as if He were the Sheriff of Nottingham. We were told that starting bright and early on the morning of the 26th we would be working to get customer X a tape. One that worked.

30 official tapes and 8 months of 80 hour weeks for 10-15 people later it was all over. There were many stories in between but let's just say that it was a terrible Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH PHILLY

'Twas da night before Christmas,
You hear what I'm sayin?
And all through South Philly,
Sinatra's Christmas tunes was playin'.

Da sink was piled high,
Fulla dirty dishes,
From da big Italian meal
Of gravy and seven fishes.

Da brats were outta hand
From eatin too much candy.
We told them to go to bed
Or there wouldn't be no Santy.

And me in my sweatpants,
Da wife's hair fulla rollers,
Plopped our butts on the sofa
To fight over the remote controllers.

When out in da shtreet,
There was all dis friggin' noise.
It sounded like a mob hit,
Ya know, by Merlino and his boys.

I trew open da stormdoor
To look and see who's who.
Like a nosy little old lady
Who's got nuttin' better to do.

In da windows of da rowhomes
Stood white tinsel trees.
And those stupid moving dolls
You get on sale at Kindy's.

When what should I see,
Comin' from afar.
But fat Uncle Nick
In his big ole Towne Car.

He was swervin' and cursin',
Givin' all da gas he got;
As he barreled up the shtreet,
Looking for a spot.

More faster than Santa,
My drunk Uncle came;
Wit a car full of relatives,
All drunk just the same.

Yo Angie! Ay Dino!
Vic, Gina, and Pete.
He yelled out there names,
Then spit a loogee in da shtreet

I can't find no spot nowheres
Pissed off, he said.
So he double-parked the Lincoln ,
And came in to hit da head.

As he hugged me, he burped,
And passed a loada gas.
It stunk up da house,
Like a rotten sea bass.

His coat was pure cashmere,
His pinky ring shined;
His toupee was all twisted,
The front was now behind.

He ran up to da bathroom,
Bangin' pictures wit his hips.
Never lettin' da smelly stogie
Fall from his lips.

With eyes oh so bloodshot,
And a butt, oh so flabby;
In walked Aunt Angie,
All dolled-up and crabby.

Jeat yet? she asked,
As she thundered to da kitchen;
All da calamaris gone?
Aunt Angie started bitchin'.

In came Cousin Gina,
In Guess jeans too tight.
She was bathed in Obsession,
Her hair reached new height.

In strut Cousins Dino,
Little Petey and Vic;
Shovin' pizzelles down their throats,
It was makin' me sick.

I said, What da hell
Are all youse people doin?
Not one of them answered,
They was too busy chewin'.

Uncle Nick came down at last.
His face was beet red.
Sorry I missed da toilet.
I pissed in the tub instead.

That was it, I had had it.
I yelled, get the hell out.
Uncle Nick looked real puzzled.
Cousin Gina started to pout.

Wit that they mumbled curses,
And opened a Strawbridge's bag.
And fumbled round to find da gift
Wit our name on da tag.

I felt kinda stupid,
As I thanked them for their gift.
But they stormed out da stormdoor,
All of 'em miffed.

We tore open da paper
That was taped on and on.
It was a bottle of Sambuca,
And half of it was gone.

But I heard Uncle Nick yelling
As he slammed on da gas.
Merry Christmas, ya ingrate!
You can kiss my ass!


Yo. Happy Holidays, a'ight?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gonna take my heater back to rehab, I say 'no no no'

I know what you want hear about now... A heater update!

The fun continues as we had a factory representative out from Buderus to look at the German built Logamatic controller just before Thanksgiving. He was basically giving me the "so why am I here" routine since he drove in from New Hampshire on the day before Thanksgiving and so that is exactly what he asked me "Why am I here?".

The Logamatic controller ...ur ahh... that sound so formal. From now on, I'm going to call it a Farfanugan.

So the Farfanugan supposed to sense the outside temperature and adjust the boiler water temperature accordingly. If it is 50 degrees out, the boiler won't come up to 180 degrees as a typical boiler will, it only comes up to 125. It will take a little longer to heat your house but you save money since you are not bringing the boiler up to full temperature and if the weather is warmer this should be OK.

Those Germans sure are smart. Those of the single eyed persuasion.... well... you be the judge.

One-eyed Bob set the Logamatic/Farfanugan to the equivalent of not having a Farfanugan since every time I looked, the boiler temperature was one hundered and ninety freaking degrees. Remember now, he had come out in early October when I called one morning. The weather was warm and the heat never came on. I suspect at the time that just slammed the Farfanugan so it came on in warm weather.

I just reminded me of a scene in "The Hunt for Red October" where Sean Connery is conjecturing that the captain of the Russian Alpha sub "won't make that mistake again and right now is turning off the safetys on his torpedoes" but Sean says it more like "shavtys".

One Eyed Bob didn't want to tune the new fangled Farfanugan from Germany and so he set it as high as he could. He turned off the Shavtys since the heat didn't come on.

I told Buderus guy this minus the shavtys part and he says "let's have a look". He went nuts on the keyboard and dial. Four of us stood in 3 x 5 room filled with a boiler, a washer and dryer while the heater came on and went off. We waited and measured and tuned and watched for an hour. In the end, the Farfanugan was appropriately tuned. He told me "don't touch it now". He must know me. Maybe the thermometers wired all over the heater gave me away.

Great! The Farfanugan was tuned just in time for actual winter where it does very little since it is cold outside and the boiler temperature is going to be 180 degrees anyway.

Having been satisfied that the smarts on the heater were OK after he left, I noticed that the setback thermometer was making the heat come on at 3 AM in order to get the house up to a warm temperature by 7 AM. These new thermostats are supposed to learn how long it takes your heater to heat your house and then start at the right time to heat your house. It's called Automatic Intelligent Recovery or AIR, except mine wasn't being very intelligent. I'm pretty sure that's because the super smart thermostat learned while the farfunugun was mis-tuned.

I know the heat was coming on at 3 because I have more charts and graphs for my heater than NASA has for a shuttle launch.

See? The heat was coming on at 3:27 AM.

I wanted to fix this but I wanted do it without having it drop all the set back times and temperatures.

So I fiddled with it.

I turned off the AIR feature and then turned it back on not knowing if this would reset it or not. Actually I did it and then forgot I did it so wasn't I surprised Monday morning when I woke up on the coldest day of the year to a freezing house. I ran downstairs to see what was going on at about 6 AM and found two things:

1. It was 57 degrees.

2. The super smarty pants thermostat was flashing "IN RECOVERY".

The IN RECOVERY thing made perfect sense, because the thermostat was on some sort of twelve step program. Step 1, admit you have a problem: "yes, my house is freaking c-c-c-c-cold" I have a problem.

You know this "IN RECOVERY" message had to be the work of some engineer. Any normal person would used a word like "learning" or "discovering". IN RECOVERY sounds like it is raking leaves with Liza Minnelli or making Popsicle stick bird houses with Lindsay Lohan. But then that does explain the whole coming on at 3 AM thing. It was drunk and up at three AM. I guess I'm just lucky it didn't flash me on the way out of the Escalade.

It's the Amy Winehouse of thermostats.

That was Monday. By now Amy and I have come to accept each other for the way we are and I am generally leaving her alone.

This seem to be working OK now but I have no idea if I am actually saving money or not yet. I think I have to go through a whole season to figure that part out. Until then, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This has to stop. Today. Forever.

Have your men disabled the Hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Deer Down

On Friday of last week I put up the Christmas lights. This was two weeks and 20 degrees ahead of schedule as I usually get stuck putting them up two weeks before Christmas when it is 33 degrees out, 40 MPH winds and horizontal rain.

I put up those nets of lights around the bushes and bought some new globe lights for the tree out front. The secret is to have enough extension cords and a plan. I started 11 years ago writing down how I put the lights together the year before. I now have the plans for a lot of years between then and now.

I also put up the deer and I'm not sure why I bother. They only fall down.

Mrs F loves having the deer. We've always had deer. We're deer people.

The first deer we had was a bright white two dimensional model that had the equivalent brightness of 35 or so car headlights in incandescent lights. It had one red light on the nose. It was a Rudolph. Because it was two dimensional, it also had two giant stakes attached to the frame. The two stakes sank into the ground and anchored that bad boy into ground so that nothing was going rip that thing from the ground.

Rudolph never fell. He light up the neighborhood like it was mid-day but he never ever fell.

Rudolph was eventually replaced by a pair of three dimensional deer. Still white, male and female they were created, except in China. They stood three feet high but somehow they fit into a box that was 10 inches by 14 inches by 28 inches. They folded.

One was a boy deer and one was a girl. The boy stood on three legs like he was jumping before flying away. He never stayed up. Ever. I staked him down with PVC pipes, tent stakes, what ever and he never stayed up.

I would spend from December 1st to the first weekend in January picking boy-deer up off the ground after a stiff breeze. Girl deer had four full feet on the ground and never fell. Boy deer spent most days on the ground.

The other thing was that the lights would stop working in sections. The back legs would be dark or the front.

Somewhere in China there was a man laughing at me.

Eventually boy deer and girl ended up at the curb only to be replaced by stick deer. Stick deer is the one we have now. Stick deer falls down. A lot. He is down right now. I don't care.

Stick deer is three dimensional and painted brown. It is a technical marvel because it isn't bright white. It even has sticks on it's head.

"Deer down" Mrs F and I say as we pass our house.

This year when I put up stick deer, his head didn't light up. When he stands up, his head is dark.

That same Chinese man is laughing and now he bought a new BMW since I see a new deer in our future.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What Engineers do when they are bored.

It was an excellent Thanksgiving and I got to see all of my family with the except of my sister in law who wasn't feeling well. She remained in undisclosed location while brother-that-does-not-exist-on-the-internet-even-though-he-has-a-domain drove up with his boys.

I did not get to participate in this year's million man nap last Thursday but I heard it went well in spite of everyone have to give urine samples because of last years artificial tryptophan doping scandal (you know who you are cousin....). Mrs F had to work until 4 and my boys drove over to my mother and father's ahead of me in the other car.

That means that I was home alone for most of Thanksgiving. That is usually not good.

So what does an Engineer do when left alone for hours? I wired the heater with temperature probes. Or at least I did until I ran out of heat shrink tubing. (Did you ever try to buy heat shrink on Thanksgiving? Radio Shack is closed!)

I am not making this up. I have a computer connected, multi-probe thermometer that I have wired to just about every room in my house.

Thursday I put the final touches on connecting my new heater to the thing.

Why? I don't know. This is what I do.

I found this device years ago when I was just getting started on weather stations. I didn't have a lot of money and I found this Electrical Engineering Professor at Morgan State University who was selling kits of some of the projects he and his students designed using PIC devices.

I wanted to know the Outside temperature so I bought a kit and put it together. Pretty soon I wanted to know the temperature of everything in my house.

I hooked up the garage, the dryer, the family room and the freezer in the garage. I went a little nuts. I now have 8 probes and every three minutes the record their temperature. By the way, measuring outside air temperature turned out to be way harder than expected and I gave up on that and bought a weather station.

So I spent Thursday morning watching the Detroit Lions get destroyed by the Titans and hooking up this probe to the chimney so I can see every single time my oil burner goes off.

The plan is to tune my set back thermostats, adjust my heat flow and add insulation and watch the impact.

I'll be able to figure out exactly how much the dishwasher costs to run or if the flue from the chimney is open. Or I could just go look at the flue.

Sometimes having all this temperature information is not a good thing. Like the time I convinced myself that I had a ghost in the garage. I hooked up the freezer expecting to see like a straight line of below freezing temperatures all day and all night.

What I found was that the temperature in the freezer jumped to nearly 60 degrees F in the middle of the night. Now it was an older fridge, so I knew it was on its last legs but 60 degrees?

I was convinced that someone or something was opening the fridge at 2 AM until I realized that the freezer was doing an automatic defrost with little heaters in the freezer. Besides, having a ghost that opened the freezer seemed a little far fetched. What did they expect to find in there?

Or the time I thought I left a space heater on my room since the temperature was heading up. The room was being heated by the sun. I feel bad that two of my neighbors had to check it out for me.

So I'll just keep hook these little probes up and recording temperatures. I'll let you know how hot is in my attic next summer.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weird Lights


Last night we came home about 8:30 and saw something funny in the sky. It looked like the Aurora Borealis but it wasn't moving as much. It was weird so I got a picture.

It might have been the Aurora, it might be light reflecting into Ice crystals.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fun with the PA

I spent Thursday at a free technical "conference". It was hosted by a large intergalactic software company that is based out of Redmond, Washington. Their name starts with an "M" and has "oft" at the end. They make the operating system you are more than likely now using and something called "office". Maybe you've heard of them.

It was only a half day thing on "Virtualization". Virtualization is where software vendors have figured out that they can charge you four to eight times for the same operating system running a single hardware platform becasue you can't figure out how to share.

Its a win-win. Al Gore is happy and they get to keep making sail boat payments.

The one day "event" was held in a large Center City hotel and it drew people from all over the area.

The first speaker was OK but the second and third ones made me do this to the feedback form. (Yes, as a matter of fact I did hand it in that way.)

The best part of the conference was that I ran into old friends that used I used to work with and we spent a large part of the second and third speakers talking about "the old days". They are a bad influence. See above.

The "old days" were four years ago.

Really, we were 40 something year old boys who happen to work in a 30 something story office tower.

The building has a public address system manned by administrative assistants. These admins have rules about what can and can not be announced for all to hear. They are the dfenders of the airwaves.

In order to keep boredom from taking over our 9-5 existence, "the in crowd" would page people.

People that could not possibly be located in the building.

They would page body building stars of the 1970s and 80s.

I am not making this up.

You would hear, over the loud speaker on every floor, "Serge Nubret, Serge Nubret, please dial 4596". Or the same thing with Mike Menzter or Fransico Bautista. We found this endlessly entertaining. It was a way to make your friends on different floors crack a smile during the long day.

The admins never caught on. They might say something like "that's a strange name" when asked to page Dorian Yates, but "they" would always cover it by saying "He's a consultant".

It became a very popular sport until someone outside the little clique wanted in. They decided, on their own, to page a body building from the 1970s except they didn't know very many and were too lazy to to look them up.

The newbie paged "Lou Ferrigno".

The insiders just sort of looked at the newbie in disbelief.

You paged "Lou Ferrigno"? What the hell is wrong with you? Everyone's heard of Lou. We're going to get caught.

As is common with these things, as time went on, a lot of this "in crowd" moved on to greener pastures. It's been my experience that once the crowd catches wind that it's over, everyone finds a new job. At least that's what happened here. Over an 18 month period, just about the entire group of folks that worked together and made funny pages found new jobs and quit.

Now, so many of them quit and they were dispersed on so many different floors in different parts of the building that they needed a way to communicate that someone had left. It had to be clandestine and efficient.

It had to be the Public Address system. However, you couldn't ask the admins: "Could you annouce that Bill Smith has resigned?". The defenders of the PA would laugh at them. They needed a code.

The code that was developed was pure genius. If you resigned, you dialed the admins and asked that Matt PXXXXX be paged to your extension. Matt PXXXXX was the poster child for resigning at this company. He had done it 3 times at this point, always coming back and always resigning at some point.

He no longer worked there and it didn't matter. See above.

If someone "in the know" heard "Matt PXXXXXXX please dial 4596", all would know that the person with extension 4596 had quit. It really was clever and really funny.

There would be a page for Matt Pxxxxx and then cheering among the cubicled.

This is one of those little insider things that nearly got out of hand. Everyone started doing this. People we didn't know. People that we had to look up in phone directories.

Who is 7598? I don't know. Look it up. Ohh it's Bill Jones over in Procurement. I know him, I wonder where he is going?

Soon, as the population of those "in the know" dwindled, this code fell out of fashion and all the PA stunts stopped.

Now, today, some of the disbanded came back to work here and some of the same antics started up again.

If you happen to be in my building and hear a page for "Thip Needhag", just ignore it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One day conference in Philly

Does this mean I don't win the Xbox 360?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Eagles Giants.

I am still pretty tired from last night's Eagles game. Mrs F went as did Mr C's son. Mrs F did not end up buying a Jersey but instead made a wise purchase of an Eagles Hoodie at the Flea Market instead.

The temperature never got below 40 but she dressed like we were out looking for Luke on Hoth. In the third quarter I cut open a Tauntaut and stuck her inside it.

There seemed to be a lot more drunks than usual too. I know this sounds like "there seemed to be a lot more mini vans in suburbs" but I guess the iggles fans had found themselves at the end of a very very long Sunday tipping a few back.

This brings me to Mr C's son. He's a Giants fan. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not for me. Not only is a Giants fan, but he's a daredevil as well - He wore his #17 Plaxico Burress jersey.

Your father owns Eagles season tickets and of course you are a Giants fan. It makes perfect sense as you could never like anything your father likes.

Knowing that the Birds Fans had been stewing in Jack Daniels all afternoon long, I told Plax that we needed a safe word like "vacuum cleaner" in case the abuse got to be too much. That way we'd rush him to safety if he said "vacuum cleaner". If we could.

We hung out for a bit in the Phils parking lot and then it was time to head in. Now I've been here before, I know how this works. The Eagles faithful are going to point and call you A--hole, A--hole, A--hole. They are going to say bad things and it will get worse and worse until you get through security.

He kept saying "I don't see much blue".

Then we ran into this guy and his girlfriend waiting for security.


He was at least coherent. She was just sort of standing there getting mouth sweats and bumping into people. Mrs F had to defend him a few times to the angry towns people with "his my son" which none of them questioned but we never quite got to "vacuum cleaner".


Dare Devil
Originally uploaded by mfalcian

He made through the gauntlet and finally found "his people". After that it was pretty tame for Eagles - Giants fan interaction. After the Eagles lost and we had to walk back to the car we did have the common sense to cover up the Plax jersey - with an Eagles coat. Ha.

I was home by 12:30.

Pictures here. Videos here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Attending for Cycle

Since being forced at gun point to attend the World Series Game 3, you know the one that ended at 2 AM when it was 40 degrees out, Mrs F has become quite the sports nut.

Last week I got tickets to the Flyers and She was more than up for attending being the hockey is her favorite. She said she needed a jersey. I said that can wait.

They were excellent seats BTW.Yes, to the right of her is the glass. Third row. TV seats.

On hearing of her new sports fondness, Mr C has now extended the invite for her to attend the Eagles/Giants game tonight with us. She announced that she has purchased a Jersey for Lord knows who at the flea market this morning.

All we need is a Sixers game for cycle.

UPDATE: Pictures here

Saturday, November 08, 2008

5 Days in November

Donnovan McNabb is coming up on a dangerous time: The 14th through the 19th of November.

I've charted his injuries over the years and found that they always happen during this period and always at home. Maybe this is a good week to keep him safely tucked away on the sidelines feeding him warm Campbell's Chunky Soup. Queue up Kevin Kolb because it looks like he is going to play anyway. Do you think A. J. Feeley is warning Kevin to be especially ready this time of year?

Year Week Date Opponent H/A Results
2002 11 11/17/2002 Arizona Home Broken Right Ankle.Returned for playoffs Beat Atlanta, lost to TB.
2005 10 11/14/2005 Dallas Home Sports Hernia IR
2006 11 11/19/2006 Tennesee Home ACL Right Knee IR
2007 11 11/18/2007 Miami Home Sprained Right Ankle, returned week 14 vs Giants



This occurred to me last year when I sat in the rain to watch a miserable win over the winless Dolphins by A. J. Feeley after McNabb was hurt. I thought that he always seemed to get hurt around this time of year.

It's an amazing statistical cluster.

Another bad sign: I was at two of these games. Dallas on 05 and Miami in 07.

I'm planning on going Sunday thanks to Mr C.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rock the Vote

I voted first thing this morning and two things struck me.

1. Oldest Son was in the voter registration records. It just looked odd.

2. The guy behind me talked too much. The first thing he said to me? "I decided to do this before my colonoscopy" You just can't make up stuff like that.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Run Around Mike and One Eyed Bob

We've had a lot of work done to the house over the summer and into the fall. I think we're done for a while but that usually doesn't mean much. Much like the budget review committee, I am a junior member of the capital improvements committee.

One of the things we did was to break down and buy a new oil burner. The old one was the original from around the time of the last Phillies Parade. More likely it was from the Flyers Parade era.

We had a couple of bids and finally settled on a new oil contractor, one that all our neighbors used and loved. This is usually the first sign of trouble. If other people like some contractor, we are going to have trouble.

We signed a contract and make date for the end of September to have our old inefficient heater removed and shiny new heater installed.

The date comes and I work from home to make sure the heating contractor has everything they need. Two guys show up in trucks and sit out front for a while. Finally they come up to the door and I can't help but notice that one of the guys has one eye. His name is Bob. One-eyed Bob. He is the lead installer.

Now normally I'm all for helping out the handicapped. Unless they are holding a hot solder iron in my house and they have one eye. I'm thinking depth perception is important when building a labyrinth of piping.

The funny thing is - this is not our first one eyed contractor.

We also have Ed.

Ed is single handed the best Tile Man around. I'm not really sure where we found him but we've used him for years now, most recently to re-tile the boys bathroom. Excellent work. And he has one eye. I'm guessing here, but maybe depth perception isn't that big a deal for a tile guy. I mean you are only working in two dimensions, right? Anyway, Ed does great work.

But piping? Three dimensions. Maybe two eyes are important.

So Bob and his side kick go to work. It's a two day job and at the end of the second day, Bob approaches me around 5 and says that he has to go because his son is in intensive care because they had to remove his arm. Now he says this like he has to pick up a loaf of bread. The side kick will finish things up.

Obviously, I'm concerned. "Is your Son alright?" I ask. Bob doesn't tell me much. He was in a traffic accident yesterday and removed from the vehicle with the jaws of life.

It was just the way he said it. Like the son was stupid or something. Talk about nonchalant.

So Bob comes back in the morning and finishes up. I ask him more about the son and it turns out it's really his son in law and everything is fine. He tells me everything is fine with the heater too and if I have any trouble call them right away.

Fast forward three weeks. It's cold for the first time and I turn on the heat. I get nothing.

I call the contractor and a service guy comes. He has two eyes. He does something with the heater and declares everything should be OK now. Bye.

Hold on there, you of great depth perception. I actually try the heat this time, something I neglected to do in my sympathy for one eyed Bob and his now one armed son in law.

Still nothing. "Ahhh, it still doesn't work" I tell him.

He asked me who did the install.

I tell him "well, I know his name is Bob and he ahh, ahh had eye one". Of course! It's One eyed Bob he says. He tells me Bob gets really mad when you call him that too.

New guy has to call for back up. I bought a Buderus Logamatic R 2107 and apparently one eyed Bob is the only one that knows how the thing works. Now there are two of them down there. Bob can't come so another guy is back up.

They ask me for the manual. This can't be good.

After about and hour they get the heat working, but in some sort of manual bypass mode. They'll tell the home office that I need a visit from who else but now famous one eyed Bob.

I figure that I'll call Monday, they'll know what I need and I'll schedule something for Wednesday when my wife is home.

I spend most of Monday and Tuesday getting the run around. They tell me that I need to talk with Mike the salesman. Not good.

When we bought the new heater I had told Mike that we might be interested in buying Oil from them as well as the heater. Mike signed us up for a budget plan and sent coupons before I could say "one eyed bob". We checked out their prices. They were high. Real high. Outrageously high.

I check with our old company and frankly they were cheaper, I could cap the oil price for free and I knew they were reliable. I bought Oil from the old company for this year.

I called back Mike and Bob's company and told them to remove me from the budget plan. Well, you would have thought I walked up and slapped them across the face. "Why don't you want to be our customer any more" they asked. I'm thinking, I never was.

Finally, I get Mike on the phone at like 3 PM on Tuesday. Yes, Bob will come over on Wednesday and make everything nice-nice. I'm not there, but Bob does something to the Buderus Logamatic R 2017 on that Wednesday. I have Bob's report in my hand. It says:

"Set Up Logamatic"

Bob has a certain economy with words.

We seemed to be OK for a while until colder weather sets in. My wife says the heater is coming on a lot and I agree. There really isn't any science here other than "It seems to be coming on a lot". I also check the boiler temperature. It's coming up to full temperature or 180 degrees.

On Friday I has some time so I called the contractor. About ten minutes later I got a call.

"Bob will be right over"

I explain to Bob that we think the boiler is coming on a lot and that it is coming up to full temperature. The big selling point was that the Buderus Logamatic R 2017 was supposed to limit the boiler temperature during warmer weather so that you use less oil.

Bob is all attitude.

I'm asking questions and Bob is talking in circles. Bob is not planning on checking anything and is all talk. Finally I tell him that the boiler is coming up to full temperature in October and I'm concerned that I am not going to get the efficiencies I planned on for my oil.

Bob drops the bomb.

"Well, who do you buy your oil from?" he asks.

I tell him "what does that matter?". Apparently it matters a lot to Bob.

He tells me "Normally, we don't even work on equipment for non oil customers"

Whaaaaaaat the .......

I explain to Bob that yes, I have two years of maintenance and you had better well plan on working on this boiler.

I tell Bob we're done here and he leaves without a goodbye.

So now I have a problem. I guess on Monday it's back on the phone to talk to run around Mike and then I'll have to call the manufacturer. I want to know how all this works. I want to make sure it's hooked right.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Phillies parade.

When I first took my current job in 1999, I thought that the view on to the Center City streets would make an excellent place to see a parade. A sports parade. One like the Flyers parade in '74 which I saw or the Phillies parade in '80 which I missed.

I was right.

It just took 9 years to prove it.

Youngest son was hounding me since the Phils won it to go to the parade. I mistakenly assumed he meant with me.

No chance. He went with another dad that took him and 4 friends. He blew me off. Maybe it was because I headed into the city at 7:00 AM or because he could only bring one friend (it's an office, not a party I was thinking) or that he would have to spend 4 hours hanging out in my office.

I didn't mind that he was going with his friends but the Dad he was going with sounded like a center city amateur. I'm a pro. This is my neighborhood. I go here every single day.

Either way I was on my own.

My train ride in was uneventful. There were a few Phillies Phans on the train but nothing crazy like there was going to be in few short hours.

His was crazy. Every Patco station was packed. Some ran out of tickets. He couldn't find the Ashland station. At least I know where the Ashland station is. They ended up driving around to three Patco stations before a friend of theirs got in line in Haddonfield.

I slipped into town and went to work.

The co-workers that rode Septa had a different story. Theirs was a tale of packed trains, open beers and missed stations.

We didn't get much done at work today either. There were little kids running around and Phillies chants outside all morning long. We watched from our perch as the tide of souls came in with every train load. We could tell when a train came in by how much the stair wells filled up and onto to the street.

By ten the crowds were several people deep along the parade route.

We ventured out at about 11:00 to see how it was outside and were surprised at how easily we got up front. We could see but we figured the view was better upstairs 18 floors above all this.

The parade seemed to get a late start since it was about 12:15 when the parade came past 15th and Market.

While it was good to see the crowds and the "big picture" that high up, you couldn't see that Pat Burrell was on the Budweiser wagon or what Phillies were where. You missed the detail and being in the crowd.

In 15 minutes it was all over and then the chaos began.

A friend of mine at work had tickets to the Linc to see the festivities at the end of the parade so we thought we would try to get on the Broad Street line and head that way.

We went out our front door only to find that they closed the entrance to underground concourse. We should have stopped right there and asked ourselves why but we pressed on. We attempted to fight the crowd on Market headed towards 16 on the Souths side of the street.

It took forever.

We eventually got to the concourse entrance at 16th and Market and headed down. There was along line to buy tokens. (what were you thinking? You didn't get two tokens on the way down?) Since we had passes to get on we headed onto the platform for the El. We walked along that headed for the Subway on Broad only to find that it wasn't running.

We turned around and headed back and that's when I lost him. I turned around and he was gone.

I decided to get something to eat over at the Food Court on 16th which of course was a zoo.

I headed home on the Patco. I left the office at 2 and was home by 3:30. On the way home I heard that the festivities at the Linc had not happened yet and for the briefest instant I considered heading there.

I was glad I didn't. The real fun was CBP.

I'm beat and I'm tired of taking pictures.

These guys were the best

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Preparing for Game 3


  • Watching the Weather Report: Check. RRRRRggghh It changed! It was supposed to end raining before game three started. Now it is calling for Heavy rain after 9.
  • Phillies Gear: Partial Check. Big shout out to Tina for the hoodies. Now I need one of those nice lanyards for my ticket. And a hat. and maybe a nice pennant. and a blow up chair.
  • Tickets: Check. They have been safely tucked away in the house that eats things for over a week. I checked to today and miraculously they are were I left them. You have no idea how much this is supernatural.
  • TiVo: Check. But if the game is rain delayed I may miss the end.
  • Travel Plans: Check. PATCO and Septa, please.
I can't wait.

We are in the section that Ryan Howard first hit a Home Run into the third deck in Citizen's Bank park to, in the same row. On June 20 2006 Howard hit the ball an estimated 461 feet off Mike Mussina of the Yankees to section 304.

Howard hit seat 8 and it now is festooned with an "H". Can't wait to see it.

I spent the week watching the ticket prices on StubHub and telling people the story of winning the ticket lottery. I have to admit, I was thinking about selling. That's a lot of money. The tickets in that section were going for $900 each. I could have made $2,000 easily.

My wife is excited about too but I may have to bring a rule book or something. I just know its going to be a night of "but why?" I was speaking with another friend and he said bringing his wife to a game was like bringing his 7 year old. She wants ice cream in a Phillies helmet. She want cotton candy.

Either way, the city is ready too. Yesterday I caught this shot outside my office window.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Magic Beans

I got a pretty nice email the other morning from the Phillies.

Back up a week. I stopped by Zach's desk to see what was happening. Somehow we got on the subject of Phillies tickets and he told me about the lottery for playoff tickets that the Phillies were having. The NLCS lottery was over but the World Series Lottery was happening soon and you could still sign up for a chance to buy tickets along with all the rest of Philly.

I entered the lottery which for some reason I thought was to be held on the 9th of October.

At 8:55 yesterday I got an email from the Phillies. I had an opportunity for post season tickets from 9 AM to 9 PM. I was shocked since I thought the lottery had taken place and I assumed I didn't win.

I immediately checked NTP for the most accurate time and at exactly 9:00:00 I attempted to log in with the user name and password that came in the email. Luckily, I had no meetings or guess what, I was going to be late.

I nearly crapped my pants when they worked.

I could buy up to 3 SRO, Obstructed or Reserved seats. I selected "Best Available" and up came three seats in 304, first row in game 3 for $125 a piece for a grand total of $405 with all the taxes, fees etc.

Out came the credit card and ....I froze.

I had not cleared this purchase with the budget review committee, of which I am a junior, auxiliary member.

I literally turned to the phone and stared at it, turned to the screen with my three world series tickets, turned back to phone, back to the PC, back to the phone. I must have done that for what seemed an eternity.

Finally, common sense kicked in. Yeah, right I'll just wait until the next time the Phillies are in the World Series and I win a once-in-a-billion ticket lottery to purchase tickets and make sure I have the proper approvals.

I pressed buy. I figure worst case, I'd sell them on stub hub.

Then, in the back of my mind, I thought what if this some sort of Internet phishing thing? Was that really the Phillies site? I just clicked on some link in my mail and gave them a credit card, was I insane?

I went back and checked the site and felt better about it.

Then I called the rest of the committee.

"Hi. I just spent $405 on Phillies tickets"

Well, you would have thought I sold the family cow for magic beans.

I Said "I bought World Series tickets" as if I were saying "But you don't understand, they are magic beans, you put them in the ground and magic happens"

After her co-workers over heard the conversation and when they were amazed that she had World Series tickets, it was a different story. "Oh, OK who is going?" she asked.

"Why you are, honey" This isn't my first time around the block.

"And of Course Mr C"

Fast forward to tonight. She is rearranging her work schedule for that weekend so she is clear to go to Game 3. Let's just say she isn't the biggest baseball fan. In fact, this is more like a Catholic heading off to Mecca. Somehow, another friend came up in conversation and she said "You really should take X (the friend)".

Did you ever say something you know is just trouble and then say it anyway? For some reason at this point, I said "Well you know we can get $1000 each for those".

As the words were leaving my lips, I knew I had made a mistake.

"A THOUSAND Dollars?"

I had thought about that too. That's a lot of money.

I forcefully as I could I told her that if she wasn't going, I had a long line of people that wanted to go. We were not selling anything. Besides, how can you think of selling magic beans? This was true, I had a lot of new best friends since getting the tickets and they all wanted to go. God forbid I ever win the lottery. I would hate having all those people expecting something from you.

So we are going to the World Series Game 3 Saturday and I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Parade Watch: Philles NCLS edition.

It looks like the Phillies are within one game of heading to the world series, the Eagles are back at 500, The Redskins lost to the lowly Rams, the Giants lost to the Browns, the Cowboys lost to the Cardinals AND lost Romo for 4 weeks.

Unless Eli Manning gets an inoperable brain tumor by Thursday, I don't think you can have a better Philly sports week in mid October.

I feel like a bald kid with a terminal disease that they send to Disney Land.

Ohh and along with most of the Philadelphia Sports Fan universe, I hate Manny Ramirez. Everyone I talk to seems to say two things:

1. Boy, is he a talented ball player and he is going to the Hall of Fame.

2. Boy, I really I hate him.

UPDATE:
Boy was I wrong. The Joys just keep coming. This morning I got email from the Phillies, I was selected in the lottery for World Series Tickets. I have tickets to Game 3!

And the joys just keep coming. Pac Man Jones is out - suspended indefinitely, Felix Jones is out!

Monday, October 13, 2008

What would they do if I made no landfall.

We spent the weekend in Annapolis, MD with the C Family sans children. It was a beautiful weekend, one that you were surprised could happen in a month that ended in an "R". We also met up with my wife's sister and her husband at the annual Sail Boat Show at Annapolis.

You would have been shocked to learn that the stock market had the single most worst week ever. The place was packed and let's just say there weren't a lot of Democrats in the crowd. I saw a lot of McCain stickers and very few Obama supporters. Except these guys and technically they were outside the show.

After spending the day taking my shoes on and off to get on and off boats (you can't get on and of the boats with "street shoes"), Mr C and I decided to sign up for a "slide show" later that afternoon by a man that circumnavigated the earth while the wives shopped. It was a easy choice. I could go from one shop to another endlessly or I could sit on some guys boat.

We looked for the boat.

We wound our way through the marina looking for a Hunter 49 with red Hunter pennants flying. Once we found it, we realized we were the only ones going to see the show. We kind of hung out there for a while past the 4:30 start time. Finally, a family of five came out, just about worshiping the older guy that owned the boat. They were taking pictures with him and just chatting away at how fascinating the whole thing was.

We asked them how long they were there. They said an hour and a half.

Now, I was thinking that an hour and half seemed kind of long to be sitting on some stranger's boat while he showed pictures of his year long vacation. I was thinking of ways to get out of this in a half an hour or so. Ohh, looked I'm being paged.

IMG_9919_AMF
Originally uploaded by mfalcian

The Man introduced himself as Mike Harker and invited aboard and to make ourselves at home. Mike had some business to take care of and then he would be right with us.

Mr C and climbed aboard and went below and after a few minutes Mike came below as well. After getting water ready for tea and quick reboot of his laptop Mike began to tell us his story and show pictures on the flat screen behind him.

At no time during the next two hours did I consider bailing on Mike. His is a fascinating story of adventure, trial and courage.

Mike had very little idea what he was doing and decided to sail a 46 foot sailboat to Europe. He picked up the boat in Miami and sailed the inter coastal water way up Florida with an experienced Captain by the name of Boomer. Mike liked the guy and they worked out a deal where Boomer would sail with him to Europe.

At the last minute, Boomer got a another job running a sailing school for college aged girls in the Bahamas. You can't even begin to make something like that up. A job teaching college girls to sail? Come on. Mike said he understood and decided to head out anyway. By himself.

At the end of his show Mike had a picture of Boomer. He was smiling. Broadly. Big Teeth. We called it the Boomer smile. There were girls working on the boat behind him. They were in bikinis. It's hard to fault Boomer.

Mike just set the autopilot and headed for Bermuda.

He showed up in Bermuda in June and started looking for a crew. The guys in the marinas thought he was making this up. You sailed from where? By yourself? And you don't even know this is Hurricane season and all able bodied crew have left? That's right, Mike didn't even know when to start his trip.

Unable to get a crew, Mike set off on his own again.

If you are in the know about sailing the Atlantic, there is this guy named Herb Hilgenberg in Nova Scotia. Herb gives weather reports and such to long range sailors. During the crossing, Herb taught Mike the finer points of sailing blue water like "head into the waves".

Now at this point I was thinking "even I knew that". But Mike did not and he headed to 40 degrees North, turned the boat East and set the Autopilot. He showed us the route on Google Earth. It was straight as an arrow. Until about 3/4 of the way.

Mike went straight across the Atlantic until a giant wave knocked the boat to the point where the top of his mast went underwater. He let out the main sail, the boat righted itself and he got on the horn with Herb. Herb taught him to head into the waves and tack.

For the next hour and half we were mesmerized by stories like this as Mike picked up crew.many young and female and sailed from island to island.

By the end it would not have surprised me if Mike said:

"And that's when I found the colony of leprechauns, you know, the little people"

Slowly our entire crew ended up at Mike's boat listening to his stories.

If you find yourself at a Sail Boat show, look for the Hunter dock and sign up for Mike's show.

If you want to know more about Mike and his story, look here.

For pictures of our Annapolis trip, look here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dunder Mifflin?

I'm feeling kinda smart. On September 25th I had a little voice inside tell me why don't you have a look at your 401k?

I hadn't even logged in years. I didn't even know the password, or as I found out later, the username.

What triggered my little adventure into the land of finance was the fact that the President, a life long conservative and Republican, became a socialist overnight. the Government needs to step in? I thought "what did he see that scared the crap out him so bad?" It had to be something....

I moved my 401K into the most conservation plan my company has. Don't get me wrong, I've lost money, it's just not as bad as it could have been.

Today I found out what it was.

I had never heard of the Commercial Paper Market. Today I asked around at work. No one else knew what it was except Tom from Finance. He used to be in Treasury, he said. My favorite answer was "does it have to do with Dunder Mifflin?". Dunder Mifflin being the fictional work place of the TV show, The Office.

No, no Dunder Mifflin here. The Commercial Paper Market is where just about every company in the world goes to buy and sell money. Borrowing money they might need for today and lending surplus. It's a very mundane chore usually carried out by by the CFOs minions.

It's a Money Market. One that is never expected to make wild gains nor have bloody losses. Not a crazy deriative or Credit Default Swap or Mortgage backed security. A Money Market.

On the 15th of Sept, a Market called The Reserve did the something that scared the crap out of everyone. It "broke the buck". For the first time, businesses that put a dollar into the fund did not get a dollar out. Read about it here.

Once again the guys over at This American Life have done an excellent job explaining the whole thing is simple terms that everyone can understand. It is not boring I swear. Check it out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thief

I was food shopping last Sunday in the former Stop-'N-Shop that is now a Shoprite and while perusing the meat section, I found the bargain of the century.

I found almost a pound of Filet Mignon for 87 cents.

I am not making this up. There was a package of Filet Mignon marked $1.01 per pound.

Here is picture.

So I put it in my cart.

And that was all I could think about.

My 87 cent Filet.

I carefully chose a checkout line. No, not the sassy black lady. Not an older one. A young one.

I'm fifty, I have a good job, a good family.

I'm stealing meat.

In the check out line my conscience got the better of me and before my carefully chosen checkout girl starts ringing my order, I stop and show her the meat.

I tell her "This can't be right".

She looks at. Apparently this wasn't in the 8 hours of register training she had two months ago.

Often, in situations like this people say stupid things and that's what she did.

She looked at it and helped me with the math.

"Well, it's $1.01 per pound and .86 pounds so you're cool".

You're cool? Are you kidding me?

I ate the steaks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back to school night

Late yesterday I realized that back to school night for youngest son was at 7 pm that night.

We been doing back to school night for 13 years now and it never ceases to amaze me how it sneaks up on us. I mean it's not like it's a huge surprise, right? September, back to school. It was a choke-down chik-fil-a, what-is-your-schedule, race to the school, park a million miles from the school kind of night.

Just like every other year.

At least this year we didn't have two schedules to follow and it's actually kind of fun to walk the halls between classes seeing your friends.

We started with US History where the wise old teacher who has been through 36 back to school nights let his computer give his presentation. He had power point talk to us in a Steven Hawking voice for 7 minutes. He was a wise teacher. He has been doing this for years.

I loved the geometry teacher. He spent 4 minutes justifying learning geometry and you know every 15 year old he's ever met asked him "Why am I learning this?". I was thinking that I am 50 and I have never ever had the need for a proof. Good luck with geometry.

Youngest son later told us about when a student asked last year's algebra teacher "Why is this important?". His response? "It isn't, cooking and photography are". Smart guy.

We thought youngest son was loving foods class and were surprised when the new cooking teacher was cool to us and ambivalent about him. He loves to cook. Later it all made sense when we learned from him that we were in the wrong foods class.

And so another night of too small desks and hot classrooms was over. Two more to go.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Vortex

Our dishwasher broke this week. It made a noise and both of us looked at it strangely since in the X years we've had it, I don't think it made a peep. I say X years because we have no idea exactly how long we have had it. I thought it was pretty new until we thought about it. It must be over 10 years old.

Yesterday I worked at home and waited for the repairman to come and have a look to see it was something stupid. The something stupid turned out to be having the repair man out. It cost $80 to have him pronounce last rights. Oh, it can be fixed but the cost of replacing the pump and motor are about the cost of buying a new one.

So, off we go to the appliance store.

This is a slippery slope. I know. I've played before.

You start out replacing a faulty dishwasher and end up replacing the entire kitchen, the hall carpet, two pets and a garage door.

It goes like this.

You find the perfect dishwasher but it is stainless steel instead of black. It's a good deal. You buy the stainless steel dishwasher. Of course now it looks ridiculous with the black refrigerator and stove so it's back to the appliance dealer for new stainless steel appliances even though the fridge and stove are fine, they just don't match. You justify it by saying you need a fridge for the garage anyway and "I never liked that stove".

The stove arrives and behold! you need a new electric line run for the new stove. You hire an electrician who makes holes in the ceiling in the hall leading to the kitchen. You end up painting the hall a new color after fixing the dry wall. Well that new hall color can't go with that carpet so it's off the carpet store.

How can you possibly have that old floor with new kitchen appliances? Off the flooring goods store and so it goes - on and on until you find yourself at the garage door and you say enough!

I've also learned that you need to keep moving or you will get replaced as well. Try to blend in. It turns out the dogs aren't that quick.

Since we have no dishwasher that means washing everything by hand. This in turn leads to a "discussion at increased audio volumes" about actually how to wash dishes. Even though we have have had automatic dishwashers most of our adult lives, we both claim expertise in the area. Each presents the other with a resume of dishwashing experience.

"Well my mother never had a dishwasher when I was going up and they put in the one she has now after we were married" she says.
"You need a tub and drain board" I say.
"You need to rinse off all the soap or we'll get sick" I say.
"We don't have room for drain board!" she says.

I make a mental note "Buy plastic-ware and throw away dishes".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dallas Sucks.

Tonight is the Eagles Dallas game on Monday Night Football and as a life long Philadelphian I can not begin to explain how much it is that we hate Dallas.

I'm not sure if was ingrained at me at home when I was young because I don't recall my father actually saying he hated them. I sure ingrained on my kids though. I taught them two things:

  • The words to Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road
  • The fact that the last line of that song "It's a town full of losers
    And I'm pulling out of here to win." is about Dallas.

It's a hatred that has developed over years of watching Emmit Smith run through gigantic holes for first down after first down. Years of Troy Akman throwing a fade to Michael Irvin for a TD. Years of the Cowgirls winning the division while we fought the Cardinals for last place.

I hate the Dallas Cowboys and nothing gives me as much pleasure as watching them lose to the Eagles and no coach has done it more than Andy Reid. I recall it was in this very room that I watched, mouth agape, as the Eagles kicked an on-sides kick to start the 2000 season in Dallas in the famous "pickle juice" game. They got the ball, marched for a score and then kicked off to "Americas Team" and on the first defensive play, Corey Simon sacked Troy "the robot" Aikman.

I loved it.

I remember Reggie White, chasing Aikman. It looked like bear was on the loose.

I remember Jimmy Johnson trying to cover up his finely coiffed head to avoid being hit by snowball. A snowball that may have come from someone that then Philadelphia DA Ed Rendall may have paid $10 to throw. I am not making that up. The now Governer of Pennsylvania admitted to giving some kid $10 if he could "reach the field". I think he hates Dallas.

It's difficult to explain to people that it really was OK that we booed Michael Irvin as he lay prone and unable to move on the artificial turf at the Vet. We hated Michael Irvin. God forbid it ever happen to TO but if it did, they would get out of the stands and beat him. We hate Dallas.

I actually went to a Monday night game against Dallas in 2005. It was the one that ended McNabb's season. I went with a friend who has season tickets and he brought two other friends. The parking was really bad that year and we had to park far away. We were walking the 7 or so blocks to the Linc and a another couple was walking beside near us, also headed to the game. She had on a Green McNabb jersey and he had a Roy Williams Dallas jersey.

At first the taunts were distant and muffled but as we got closer to ground zero, the ticket gates, the taunts became sharper and more clear. By time the poor guy was in the final line to get in the stadium, he was nearly crying.

They hated him because he was a Dallas fan.

Last year I went to the Eagles Miami game. Waiting in line, spurious chants of Dallas Sucks broke out. They were playing the Dolphins!

Yesterday I was at the Phillies day game with my Brothers, Father and Nephew. When Shane Victorino hit a 3 run homer late in the game, the TV cameras showed the above guy in a "Romo is Homo" shirt. We just snickered. At least it wasn't a national televised game.

I wish I had a shirt like that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In time for Monday Night.

Just in time for Monday Night, print this picture and tape a pencil to the back. Hold in front of face.

It may distract Romo enough.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'm a chicken hawk.

Why was I wandering around my back yard this morning at 6:44 AM, scouring the bushes looking for a chicken carcass?

The short answer is "because its easier then looking for a chicken carcass with flashlights in the dark but it's a longer story than that.

On Sunday, as is my habit after 1 PM Eagles games, I cooked a whole chicken on the rotisserie on our grill at home. I've made these before and they are usually fairly fool proof. (By the way, what is it rotisserie chickens and Eagles blow outs?, the last time I wrote about this, the Eagles blew out Lions).

Anyway, a little olive oil and garlic on the skin, put the meat on the stick, turn on the rotisserie and come back in an hour.

What could go wrong?

I should have read my own blog before making my chicken because then I would have tied the legs together and put tin foil on the legs.

When I checked an hour later the poor bird was black, Especially the little legs, where the tin foil should have been. My best guess is that oil caught fire because the meat beneath the skin looked fine. The chicken looked like a blackened cartoon chicken, the burnt kind.

I served it anyway and it was pretty good. It was moist and delicious.

Usually these things make a mess when you cut them so I decided to cut it and we would eat outside. It was a beautiful day and setting up was easy. I thought the clean up was going to be easy too.

Take Chicken, place in trash can with liner.

Done.

Well I forgot about Provo and Lone and later that evening I came outside and found the trashcan knocked over, a sure sign that two schnauzers where in there, looking for a little something after dinner.

"they" say chicken bones are bad for doggies. I'm not sure how dogs survived all these years, avoiding chicken because the bones might crack and splinter. I'm not sure if this is folklore or true but it seemed wise to check the doggies out and look for the chicken.

The dogs seemed fine but the chicken......

The chicken was missing. A burnt chicken carcass was gone. No grease stain near the scene of the crime, no bones, no chicken - no nothin'.

We turned the giant flood lights on and searched. Yes, two middle aged reasonable people were out on a beautiful night, searching for a chicken.

We were even asking the dogs. "Shad, where is the chicken?", like she was going to answer. We know she did it. She always is the one that goes in the trash.

We got flashlights out and searched for the chicken carcass to no avail. It was gone - without a trace. A team from CSI wouldn't have been able to find this. Usually when the doggies steal some food it shows up in one of two places in the yard and both of them were clean. Also, you would think that since there aretwo of them, that they would have fought over it, leaving chicken parts everywhere.

Not a trace. It's as if the doggies were magicians. It would not have surprised me at that point if Provo had pulled a quarter out from behind my ear.

It's now 24 hours and the chicken has not turned up.

It's a mystery.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Parade Watch: Eagles 38 Rams 3.

This time of year in the NFL its difficult to tell after a blowout like the Eagles had today if your team is really really good or if the opponent is really really bad. I think today's game showed a little of both but it sure was fun to watch.

Deshawn Jackson, who will officially be known as Uno Cero on this blog had an unbelievable first game, someone was McNabulous, the Defense came within three of a shutout and even the special teams were, uh special. Fun game.

Oh and the Phillies won and are a game within first and play the Mets again tonight.

Except the part where the guy I was playing had McNabb, it would have been a perfect day.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A different kind of fall.

Its kind of a different fall for us with no Marching Band, Soccer or Scouts. Tonight for example instead of rushing home and making a pizza and running out the door for the weekly scout meeting, I am sitting and watching football in HD. This weekend is going to pour and be windy and I won't be putting up tents, spending the night listening to hurricane force winds blow branches out of the trees nor will I be holding up a 25 foot barn in a car wash.

Oldest son is off at college and seems to be having a good time, yesterday he called after going to Times Square for pizza. His roommates are good (so far) his classes are good (so far).

We get updates from facebook. We're so hip.

Speaking of HD, we finished the redecorating of the family room before Labor day and bought a nice 52 inch LCD HD set. We did zero research. Well we did some research. We asked the guy at Circuit City which one he liked and could we open a credit card.

Compared to the 32 inch tube TV that we had, which seemed OK when we had it, this is unbelievable. You find yourself watching anything that is in HD. Heck the other night, I watched Phil Collins in concert in Rome. I hate Phil Collins. Extreme Alaska? If it's in HD I'm there. We sat mesmerized by Spiderman 3 and Transformers.

But NFL football is unbelievable and so is Baseball. You find yourself looking at people in the stands, watching what they are doing.

Well football is on so I am going to get back to that now.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Why are these lights sticking out the top of shades?

We've taken our first steps towards going green, replacing three incandescent 75 watt light bulbs with fluorescent ones.

We were in our home away from home, The Home Depot, (because that is were we spend just about every weekend) to "pick up a few things".

We found ourselves at the lightbulb aisle checking out "green" light bulbs.

The first thing we noticed was that these lights last 8000 hours compared to about 800 for standard incandescent ones. I figured this would mean they would last until the next Clinton administration, the Chelsea Clinton Administration.

They also use much less electricity. The ones we were looking at were comparable to 100 watt bulbs and use 23 watts. This is a no brainer, right?

We were trying to determine what the difference is between "soft white" and "daylight" when I remembered my last adventure with these bulbs.

The eyeball lights in the family room.

These were on a dimmer and in the ceiling. Every time you turned on the lights, they would hum like a chorus getting ready for a concert.

And buzz. And the light was dim until they "warmed up".

Eventually they went in the trash.

This time I was prepared and demanded that we use the "dimmable" fluorescent lights.

These cost $8.97. I bought three nine dollar lightbulbs, thinking that I had lost my mind. Nine dollar lightbulbs? These bulbs had better make electricity at night for that price.

Then I replaced the other bulbs and found out that they stick out of the top of the light compared to the old bulbs. Ok, that's not great but let's see how much they save.

I figure the nine dollar light bulbs actually pay for themselves at about 1000 hours.

With three of these bulbs, at my current electric rates, I save about 2.7 cents per hour. Divide the cost of three bulbs plus tax by the 2.7 cents and you get about 1075 hours. The next 7000 hours are all gravy and this does not take into account the fact that I would have to replace the old ones nine times during that 8000 hours.

That made the lights sticking out the top a little more bearable.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One less egg to fry.

Today is move in day at Seton Hall for Oldest Son. Like every camping trip I've ever been on with him, he waited until almost the very last minute to pack and thereby making us (i.e. his mother) a wee bit nervous about the whole thing.

His mother wanted to step in and essentially pack for him but he would have none of it. She pointed to her years of packing experience and explained that she was a very good packer.

He said "but this is a trip you aren't going on".

True. This is a trip we are not going on.

Of course it's not the first time he is on his own . There were band trips, camping trips and this summer he was almost an infrequent visitor in our home with shore overnights and sleepovers.

But this, this is different. We won't see him again until Parents weekend in October.

They say that it passes quickly and boy are they right, who ever they are.

One minute you are looking down at a tiny creature under a french fry light in the hospital and in the next you are dragging his refrigerator to his second floor dormitory room. Ohh and some other stuff happens in between.

Where did 18 years go?

So we moved him into his 3 person room. It was chaos for about 2 hours as we shifted heavy dorm furniture around among piles of boxes, suitcases and gear. Were was the TV Cable? Where were the network cables? Where will the fridge and stereo go?

The three of them worked out who was going where with Jordan on the only bottom bunk next to his expresso machine, the microwave and one of the two fridges in the room. I was told don't worry we have all worked out on face book and he was bringing the fridge. I was a little surprised to see two fridges but I guess it makes sense since you can get awfully thirsty walking from one end of the 15 foot dorm room to other. Now they have to only walk 7 1/2 feet for "water". Like that is the only thing going in the fridge.

The only things missed were a longer coax cable for the TV and light bulbs for the new lamp he has.

Finally it all came together and the leaving was sort of anticlimactic. A few friends that he had made during orientation came by and asked him and his room mates if they wanted to eat. They were about to blow out of there when his mother insisted on pictures. So there were pictures, a brief hug and he was off.

I know he couldn't wait for us to get out of there.

We left him and hit the bookstore where his mother bought a sweat shirt. She couldn't help herself and asked the girl behind the counter if they were hiring. She then called him and let him know that he could get a job there.

So much for being on his own.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I'm thinking of converting to buring twenties.

Up until the moment we received July's electric bill, I have to admit that as a household we were not very green. Lights are on 24/7, All the TVs are on while boys snooze in front of them and heaven forbid we turn the A/C off.

For July's usage we received a 700 dollar electric bill. Seven-Hundred-Dollar.

That is just unbelievable. Let me say it again. s-e-v-e-n hundred dollars.

We have had what we thought were high bills before but this was good 40% higher that anything we have seen before.

Suddenly I see what Al Gore and Ed Begely Jr are talking about. We have to do something about this global warming thing.

Part of the problem has to be our appliances. Most are ancient. Our electric clothes dryer sometimes takes two 80 minute cycles to dry towels. The Air Conditioner compressor would be more efficient if it ran on twenties. And don't forget the garage full of ancient computer hardware, the kind before they had that little energy star thing.

We started by turning the Air off on marginally hot days, not that this would helped in July. It's been great sleeping with the widows open at night but the boys have been complaining about "it's hot in here". I'd tell them to suck it up but I'm spending me day in nicely air conditioned office and it would be a tough sell.

I grew up with no air conditioning at all. In July you would stick to your sheets at night while fans blew hotter air in from outside. Then there was the cruelest of the devices, the oscillating fan.

While this moved a lot of air around, it only blew on you once every 60 seconds while you waited for it to come around again. Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, ahhhhhh, there it goes, there it goes......

I've also previously documented the whole house fan that my father had when we were growing up, the kind where even the toilets need seat belts from the volume of air moving through the house. Now my father has central air and never opens the windows. My mother says "because something has to be on".

Since we had A/C we ran it all the time too. It's just that we ran it at like 79 degrees so the house was hot anyway. It was cool in the downstairs but upstairs was downright scorching AND WE HAD HIGH BILLS. It didn't make any sense.

So we have been digging out the fans and sweating a little. In our room I threw the box fan in our back window. In the morning, when the fan is blowing in chilly damp late summer air, it feels like Wildwood for some reason.

My wife and I have been "discussing at elevated vocal amplitudes" the merits of blowing hot air out of the house vs blowing air in. I'll come in find the fan sucking air out of the house because "that is how her father did it". I'm not sure it matters anymore.

I also bicycled over to the library and picked up a copy of Living Like Ed. I felt so green. People had no idea I had a 7-0-0 hundred dollar electric bill.

Ed says I should switch to those compact fluorescent light bulbs. I hate those compact fluorescent light bulbs. I had them once in back family room. In the winter when I turned them on in the morning, they would be dim and they would hum. Finally I just pulled them out and replaced them with the kind Ed and Al hate.

Ed says I should have an electric car. Right. So I can have a 700 dollar electric bill year round, I suppose. That electricity has to come from somewhere.

My wife also started hanging the wash out side to dry. On a hot summer day it makes sense but our dreaded home owners association frowns on laundry hung to dry. We are not even allowed to have clothes lines. It's as if they want to appear more prosperous, as if we all have maids inside drying our clothes for us. But, since we have no clothes line, she sticks the clothes everywhere including trees. It's like camping.

I guess our refrigerator has to go too. The freezer keeps opening just a little and that must make the compressor come on more frequently. I guess that has to go too.

There are so many things we need to replace that I am not sure we can get to them all in reasonable amount of time (and money).

In the mean time, I'm thinking converting to static electricity like Steven Wright:

I lived in a house that ran on static electricity...If you wanted to
run the blender, you had to rub balloons on your head. If you wanted to cook,
you had to pull off a sweater real quick.