Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Phillies game.

I love September.

Our group of three with five seats has the final (phinal?) regular season Phillies game today vs Mets at 1:30 and of course the logistics are something out of Operation Dessert Storm. Oldest Son is taking a bus and train where I pick him up at 11:30 in Hamilton NJ, then it's back to Mt La-La to pick up the next 2 of 5 and drive to CBP where we meet the final member of our crew.

We are locked in for our tickets for the post-season now all we need is for the Phillies to lock it as well. If the Phils win and Atlanta loses, it's all over. I'm expecting to see Jim Rollins in swim goggles at some point in the next few days, hopefully that will be today. 

The Eagles are on at 4:15 and some where during all this, Oldest Son has to get back to School tonight. It sounds busy and I'm going to need a full charge on the blackberry.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

College Visits.

Yesterday was a whirlwind tour through two local Universities with Youngest son. It was a fast paced day so hang on.

The day started with me waking to the sound of the garage opening and closing and then realizing that The Chancellor had taken the Mini-Van leaving me with the ever deteriorating Aluminum Falcon to take on a hundred mile journey around the I95-I295 loop. Since the check engine light had recently popped on the Falcon, I thought better of it and this forced a meet up to exchange cars.

She was not happy and just said "we'll meet at the Wawa" which isn't very specific. When I finally woke up and was on my way I realized we are blessed with numerous Wawas here in the Mt La-La and I really need coordinates if we were going to make this work.

In her um "excited emotional condition" she just kept screaming THE WAWA. After the third cell to cell call I nailed down to the Church St Wawa where I exchanged a car with a full tank of gas for one with considerably less.

Of course I didn't notice the gas situation until we left for our circuit around the tristate area.  This forced my second Wawa stop of the day all before 9:30.

Somewhere along the way we realized that Youngest Son had not exactly signed up for the TCNJ college tour but had completed step one of five. We were coming unannounced. This of course meant that we had imprecise directions. We knew where the campus was but details beyond that eluded us. What building? Where to park? etc were questions that would be answered in hurry once we got there.

Somehow we nailed it. There were signs that you should park in lots 3 & 4 for for the "open house". So we did. Next was a game called "guess the building" since Lots 3 & 4 were adjacent to several. Nailed it again. On the first guess.

This was going to be a good day.

While we waited for the presentation to begin, we chatted it up with all of the other white suburban parents. Is this your first? blah blah blah.

About 15 minutes into the presentation a woman and her daughter joined us. If you know me, I am not derogatory towards women in any way but when this woman walked in the room, only one name popped into my head. It was a name that would be forever stuck with this woman. For the rest of the day, every time I saw her, the name popped into my head and I visibly cracked up.

That name was "Tits Mcgee".

Sorry lady. You are now Tits McGee. It happens. I'm cracking up even now at the thought of it.

Since she was late, Tits had lots of questions. Questions that should have been answered back at the presentation with some one that knew what the answers might be and not with the kid whose finest skill seemed to be the ability to walk backwards and talk at the same time.

A funny thing happens on these college tours where normally aggressive middle aged men and women become putty in the hands of some college senior and they do just about anything the college kids tells them to do. They are on his turf. He is in charge.

I think that is what happened when the entire tour ended up in the Men's room with me.

I'd had a cup of coffee while waiting for the tour to start and by time we approached the dorm visit portion, I was really feeling it. I'd seen plenty of dorms and they are all alike and my biological needs outweighed any desire to see my 50th college dorm so I asked our tour guide if there was a Men's room.

I thought this was a simple request but the security conscience colleges have turned the Men's room into a place were you need a key to get in. So off he went in search of key, except he didn't really explain to the group where he was going and what he was doing.

When he came back and opened a locked door I guess the group assumed it was the dorm room visit.

He opened the door, I went in and didn't really notice that I had a parade behind me until I got to the end my search for a urinal. I turned around and saw Youngest Son and Tits trailing behind me.

Weren't they surprised when they realized what was going on and all scurried out of there.

Next up was Temple University in Philly. It was 12:05 by the time we were seated in the car and ready to leave TCNJ and the Temple tour started at 2. We hadn't eaten yet and the logistics were further complicated by me having to stop by my office in Center City.

We had 1:55 to get to the city, park, eat, stop by the office and get to Temple.

We nailed it. Again.

The ride down I-95 was like the fast and furious but we hit no traffic. Next up was lunch so we called ahead to Shank's on 15th. We parked next to Shank's, ate and were in my office by 1:15. It was unbelievable.

We took the subway up to Temple. I think Youngest Son just loved the hustle and bustle of the trip uptown. What he really loved were the food trucks lined up on Montgomery St just off Broad.

We sat through the presentation and then decided that he needed to get to work rather than lead another set of strangers into a Men's room on tour.

The ride home was the worst part of the day. It took nearly 2 hours to get home, get him dressed for work and drop him off.

By 5 PM I was exhausted we both decided it was a very productive day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Fall is here and with it the 6:30 AM screaming matches over when a High School Senior should print something required for that day have arrived.

It's a peeve of mine (not a pet peeve, just a peeve) as I spent 4 years with oldest son printing some highly required document moments before the bus arrived. These episodes would always end with the help-desk (me) performing some heroic last minute act to save the day.

Thursday morning as I was shaving, I heard the distinctive sound of the printer over the wall and screamed something like "Really? we are printing now?". It was a 89 page power point, in full color, highest resolution slowly spewing forth from the printer and spilling out onto the floor.

By the time that Youngest Son had realized that he was not printing 6 slides per page as intended, he had already printed a forest's worth. Screaming ensued. The print was canceled. It was not pretty. He recycled the paper and I helped configure what printer driver configuration had gone amuck (by looming over his shoulder and pacing in my underwear) and he started printing again only to find he was printing on the previously printed side. This left one side that looked like a Jackson Pollock painting and the other pristine and virginal. His ride came. Nothing was accomplished except some trees died in vain.

On Tuesday I helped the Chancellor pick up a "Teddy Bear X-Ray" Machine for Saturday's Community event at her Hospital. We brought it home and tested it finding that the little light in in the "X-Ray" machine didn't come on when the push button was pressed. I assumed it was because the 9-volt battery needed replacement and made a note to find one.

This of course means I did nothing until Friday night.

I happened to be in Target anyway and picked up a battery, replaced it and still the "X-Ray" machine was dark. I took the whole thing apart only to find that the "X-Ray" had no bulb. No problem, I'll fix it Saturday morning.

Saturday came and McGiever swung into action. I found a spare brake lamp for the minivan, bent a few tabs back on it and connected it to the X-Ray/Science Fair project and pressed the hand held push button. It worked. Now I had to make it tough enough for transport.  That is how I ended up splicing wire, cutting heat shrink tubing and soldering at 10 minutes before The Chancellor had to leave like someone defusing a bomb before the timer ticked to all zeros. 

The Chancellor spoke up during all this and said this reminded her of something. Something like "don't wait to the last minute to print something" something.

Gee I wonder where he gets it. In the end the X-Ray machine was used in broad daylight and the stupid thing didn't need a light because you couldn't see it anyway.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Tuesday is a mulligan. On Monday I got up, packed a lunch and headed to a Dental appointment for an early morning follow up visit before work. Only problem? I went to the wrong office and had to then go out of my way to the right one and by time my 5 minute appointment was done, I had to head home to be on time for a conference call.

Tomorrow I shall head out in Monday's clothes with Monday's lunch.

It was a beautiful day to be home and I spent the morning on conference calls watching out the window as the neighbors Irish Setter had his lunch money stolen by a couple of squirrels. They were just messing with him. They would run on the edge of the fence and then jump into one of the two trees and the setter would wait, head up, looking into the tree for as long as his little doggie brain would allow. Then he would get distracted for a minute (which isn't hard if you are an Irish Setter) and the squirrel would dart to the next tree across the yard.

You could almost hear them laughing.

If he had underwear, the squirrels would have it up over is head. 

Yesterday was spent at the Eagles game with Gail, Mr C and Gail's brother. Mr C had four seats and two of three kids in college so he was looking for friends to fill up seats and I was more than happy to oblige.

I was hoping for a win but Mr C tempted fate by buddying up with some Packer fans during tail gating time.

It was not a good game to at the game because there were a lot of injuries and you don't get a lot of information sitting in the stands. For example I had no idea Kolb had a concussion until Vick showed up in the second half.

We knew that Stewart Bradley had been taken out because it was becoming a joke in the stands that every time someone went off the field it was "Stewart Bradley". We also knew about the Leonard Weaver injury because they actually showed the  fullback's knee injury on the big screen and the entire crowd ewwwed at once.

I heard the ewwww but missed seeing the brutal replay because I was juggling a beer, crab fries with cheese sauce on the side and chicken cutlets with buffalo sauce while sitting in the stands. Well, sitting and then getting up for people to walk by and then sitting again.  I had opened the container of "buffalo sauce" and it was as if the crew of the Deep Water Horizon hadn't pumped enough concrete into the well. Redish oil squirted through the cardboard beverage holder in my hands and onto my shoes. It left a permanent stain on the concrete and it just kept coming. Some how I kept it from getting completely out of control and ate it all with out getting any on me (beside the shoes) so you'll forgive me if I missed a replay.

Given the situation it was amazing I only got it on my shoes.

The chicken and crab fries were from the Chickie and Pete's concession. Gail's brother, Gail and I went and we each got in different adjacent lines. When I got my order I looked over at Gail and she was 4 people back in a line with no vendor. The girl manning Gail's line had simply closed her register and walked away. She said she was going to the bathroom and would be back. That was ten minutes ago and now the natives were getting restless. I was waiting there for Gail so I started asking if there was a manager. That, and all the angry townspeople were enough for a hero to step up and start taking orders for crab fries and beer.

It was testy there for a bit.

The Chickie and Pete's was actually my second night in a row of eating dare-deviling in confined quarters. On Saturday, my parents, my brother and his wife and my mother's Augustian Priest cousin all went to dinner at a South Philly "red gravy" Italian restaurant.

I wore a white button down long sleeve shirt. It was as if I was saying "bring it on".

I came out unscathed at both events.

Pictures here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Rhythm and Grill

I still have an overwhelming desire to buy ice.

It's hard to shake it off after spending a week at the beach. You get into a rhythm, a structure, a routine very quickly. Get up. Ride the bike. Find an obscure Breakfast place. Shower. Get Ice for the cooler. Put up the tent. Go to the beach. Pack up and leave from the beach. Ice Cold beverage. With Lime. Maybe two. Shower. Occasional 5 PM tipsy shave. Eat snacks. Make Diner. Boardwalk. Acquire. Repeat.

I'm easing back into my regular routine. We came home yesterday and unpacked. The house looked great thanks to my friend John and family who stayed here. It was swept and cleaned and the fridge was so clean I could have sworn some one stole out ours and replaced it.

I've also had a bad string of luck with gas grills over the past 3 days. One of the many outstanding features of the home we stayed in was the gas grill . In Ocean City, gas grills are as rare Hurricanes that actually strike the shore.

This is for a good reason. The houses are very close to one another and there is always a breeze so if one house catches fire, they pretty much will all go. So unless you have a very large patio, you can't have a grill.

I love grilling and was looking forward to grilling - a lot.

On Tuesday, I grilled hotdogs as a dry run. No problem, the grill worked fine. The secret to good grilling is knowing your equipment. This one had only three burners but the were new and even. This was good. No hot spots. No noticeable issues.Ready to go or so I thought.

So Tuesday night I came out, preheated grill and went inside just like every elementary school fire safety movie tells you not to. I had to prepare the chicken, right?

Not ten minutes into chicken prep and my niece yelled "The grill is on fire" from downstairs.

I raced downstairs and sure enough, flames were visible below the grill and black smoke was pouring out the top, attracting the attention of everyone one on the boardwalk. The thing about having the nicest house on the boards is you don't want to mess up. It's very noticeable.

I reached under and shut the gas and the neighbor came over with the kitchen extinguisher. I held the extinguisher and waited, watching fire decrease. I kept the lid shut and was happy I didn't have to shove the grill into the pool or use the extinguisher. 

The fire was out and we found that a summers worth of debris had built up in the tray below the grill and caught fire. We cleaned that up, re-lit the grill and found it was out of gas.

There would be no further Ocean City Grilling and I had narrowly avoided becoming the "Mrs O'leary" of Ocean City.

Last night we decided to have grilled mesquite shrimp and so I lit the grill to preheat it while preparing shrimp kabobs. Everything was moving along fine when I came out the grill with the kabobs. I noticed the flame was a bit low but threw the kabobs on anyway. They sizzled and I was delighted.

Then the gas ran out.

No Problem, I had a back up.

For years I had gone with a single tank and when it ran out, it forced a trip to refresh it and disappointment. Now I had a spare and it was simply a matter of replacing the empty with the spare because I had filled both last time.

Or so I thought. I lifted the spare only to find it too was empty. Unbelievable. In four days I had seen the end of three 20 lb propane cylinders. I'm still not sure what happened to the spare but this meant I was forced to use the broiler, again.

Now I;m sure I had filled both tanks at the same time and never switched tanks. I was sure the other tank was ready to go, so sure in fact that I suspected foul play. Who stole my gas? Maybe the tank leaked? Leaked 20 lbs of gas? I doubt it.

I filled both tanks today and was determined to solve this mystery. When I came home with the freshly filled tanks I had an idea. Why not put the tanks underwater and see if they leak?

Really. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wouldn't Archimedes been proud of me when I tied a line to the first tank, put it in the pool and watched it float away.  I had expected it would sink like a stone but it made sense after seeing it float away that it was mostly compressed gas in a metal tank and therefore less dense than water.

It also did not leak so I have a mystery.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

And a wake up.

Another Ocean City vacation is in the books and this one was punctuated by Earl, the Hurricane that couldn't close the deal. Not that I would want to actually see a Hurricane hit Ocean City but there is a certain sense of disappointment when something takes a week to get here and then is "Just a bit outside" like a Ricky Vaughn Fastball.

Earl did make for some drama on the beach Thursday and Friday with high tide. By high tide at 4 on Friday the water was up to the dunes. Other than that, it was hard to tell this wasn't just a passing shower.

This house is beautiful. Boardwalk front, pool, ocean view out the front window. I spent the week yelling "Looking Good Billy Ray" to who ever was on the top deck. Like this:

But the house had a lot of flies. They were everywhere. I had 3 confirmed kills including the one handed to me when the fly came in the shower and I simply directed him into the water stream. I'm sure the gawkers on the boardwalk were not saying "It's a beautiful but I'll bet there are flies" but that is what I'll be thinking from now on when I see a lovely shore house.

And now it's time to go home. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Houston, we have a problem

My In laws and I are all in IT and being on vacation this means that we brought more technology with us than actually landed on the moon in 1969. I personally have a one to one relationship between people in my immediate family and laptops at the shore.

The house we are staying in is well appointed for Ocean City rental standards technology wise. It has a nice older 42 inch LCD panel hanging on the wall with one major short coming: The HDMI is video only and therefore you need to run a second audio line to be able to see and hear content.

Being In IT, this means that we have to watch movies from the laptops onto the big screen. This ends up being one of those things that sounds like a good idea but becomes complicated quickly while the old people stare at us bewildered.

Attempt 1. Sunday Night.
The Goal: Watch Avatar blu-ray on the big screen from Uncle Rick's brand new HP laptop.

Rick has an HDMI output on the new laptop  and so he thought it would be a simple as connecting the HDMI to the big screen, redirecting the output and off we would go. We connected the HDMI no problem but couldn't get anything to show there and after and hour of fiddling determine the TV end of the HDMI did not go all the in so reseating it fixed it. Then Rick would try to switch to the HDMI out while the movie was playing only to be foiled by Windows 7. It would not let him output the signal in any reasonable HD format and we had no audio.

Outcome: Fail
The Lesson: Microsoft Sucks.

Attempt 2: Monday Night
The Goal: Watch Iron Man from The Chancellors laptop from the 1.5 TB external drive with MPEG movie files.

This went a little better but we had to fool with the HDMI cable again for some unknown reason. The biggest obstacle continued to be the audio but we came up with a rather novel solution. It was Rick that said hey can we use the Boom Box some how? and then we laid out an assortment of cables and connectors that the roadies for Pink Floyd would have been proud of and starting working.

It was like that scene from Apollo 13 where the Engineers in Houston have to make "one of these from one of those" using these parts.

When I saw the FM transmitter I knew had this licked.

Outcome: Success! Laptop with external drive and HDMI out for Video. FM transmitter connected to the laptop broadcasting 10 mw at 88.1 MHz to the BoomBox FM receiver.
The Lesson: Those FM transmitter thingees work great at the shore.

Attempt 3: Tuesday Night
The Goal: Watch the Niece's iTunes Rented copy of "The Last Song"
The Niece's laptop has no HDMI out and therefore has no connection to the big screen. We copied the movie onto the 1.5 TB external hard drive and imported into iTunes but were foiled by iTunes. We tried everything to authorize The Chancellor's laptop to view the rented copy of "The Last Song". Finally I simply gave up and re-rented and downloading it on The Chancellor's laptop.
Outcome: Success using the now patented FM transmitter method.
The Lesson: DRM Sucks.

God only knows what tonight might bring but I know it won't be as simple as popping a DVD in and watching it.