Friday, November 20, 2009
Sorry that it's been so long.
While I find blogging therapeutic to an extent, the time to do it has been fleeting.
I've been so busy with work and softball. I have two new clients that I've been working with in Maryland to add to the third one. I've been running up and down the road to the tune of a hundred miles a day or more back and forth.
Softball has been pretty good. The travel team did fairly well. We won about half of the the games that we played, beating most of the teams that we should have. We will struggle at times because we are going to end up playing 14U teams that are a year older and stronger.
We have been caught up in the whole swine flu epidemic the past two weeks. My dearest Ellen had a cold for a couple days, then my youngest (now 5) got sick a couple days later at the same time I did. It all lasted about 5 days. Now my dearest and my oldest are sick.
I will try and post some more later...
Monday, August 17, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Actually, we got back pretty late last night, so there was no opportunity to blog about anything (not that I'm that consistent or anything).
The truck managed to hold on long enough to get us home. We still need to figure out what's going on with the rear end (torque steer from a rear wheel drive truck?).
The rain came again in the morning while we ate a delicious breakfast at Mammy's Kitchen (Rt. 17 near the big parking garage and Rt. 501). We decided to do some souvenir shopping on the way out. I got a few T-shirts and other trinkets for the kids. Spent a hundred bucks. It was pretty easy to do that.
I think the highlights overall were the weather and the accommodations. We had a comfortable room at a reasonable price. Location was ideal as it was close enough to good places to eat, but not too far away from the hubbub. Best meal was a tie between Preston's and Mammy's with a "Surprise!" Vote to the Villa Romana. Villa Romana serves up traditional Italian cooking (4 course meal: appetizer, soup, salad, and entree'). It's pricey (14.00 for Spaghetti and Meatballs), but you get a lot of food for what you pay for.
There were a few lowlights. Some of the behavior of 9-12 year olds is trying at times. The Landmark didn't employ lifeguards, but there was a lot of staff around and some of them did their best to keep the rif raff down. Probably the worst was "Creepy Video Guy". I noticed this guy (a balding paunchy white guy with Aviator sunglasses) standing on his oceanfront balcony with his video camera scanning the beachfront. He'd record something for a few moments, pull the camera down, scan the sand again, raise the camera and record something else, etc. repeating the process several times over the course of my observations. When someone came out of an adjoining room to stand on their balcony, he slid back into the safety of his room, leaving the balcony door open to finish recording and then closing it slowly, while standing and seemingly admiring his handiwork. Creepy. My dearest saw him do it too. I'm hoping that impressionable young ladies in revealing swimwear have not been captured for any untoward website or DVD sales.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
It's been pouring here for the past hour or so. They chased us out of the pool at around 2pm. It's been pretty hot (around 97 degrees F), so it was bound to happen at some point, even if it was just the excess humidity kicking off.
The kids are trying to be good. We're heading out to see an IMAX 3D movie and perhaps shop for souvenirs.
I'm sitting here on our last full day at the beach having a little room service breakfast.
We had a good day yesterday, although I'm a little sunburned. We spent the day at the many pools and the beach. Then we had a nice dinner at a place called Preston's in North Myrtle Beach. Th buffet was really nice: full salad bar and dinner bar with seafood and country cookin'. The kids have been pretty good (only a small minor 4 year old meltdown today).
Update to Beach Blog #2. I mentioned that Ladies needed to keep their tattoos on their backs on the small side (no Constitutions or Dead Sea Scrolls, Ladies). I saw a replica of the South Carolina flag (palmetto and crescent moon) on the lower back of one woman (nice but unusual). I also saw another one that was a complete no-no: horseshoes. I can't imagine what someone would want horseshoes on their lower back. What kind of message does that send?
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've been here in Myrtle Beach, SC for about 48 hours now and have seen a boatload of tattoos. I've seen cheap tattoos, expensive tattoos, small tattoos, large tattoos...the whole gamut. I have no tattoos on my body (not that I haven't thought about it though). Nor does my dearest Ellen. I've come to a couple of conclusions taking in the skin art here at MB:
1. Small is better, especially on women. Ladies, a large, amorphously shaped tattoo on your shoulder doesn't seem too sexy. However, a small butterfly, heart, or star on the front or back of your hip is really hot. Guys, a dessert plate sized full color picture of a Rottweiler on your left chest is nothing short of weird. Tribal designs are OK, so long as they don't end up looking like Ivy vines crawling up your pants leg.
2. Location, Location, Location: Ladies, make sure you don't put your tattoo in the wrong place. Unless you plan on covering a whole body part or parts, make sure the spot can be covered up or accents your body part. Large dessert plate sized animal art on your entire calf just doesn't do it for me. Back of the next, ankle, small of the back (again, small is better), or front of the hip are sexy spots. Guys, covering the whole leg with just one tattoo is fine, but it needs to look finished. Multiple tattoos need to be limited to the arms unless you plan a sleeve.
3. Where not to put a tattoo: ladies, never put a large dessert plate sized tattoo in between your breasts. It's just weird.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
I've been out of that for a little while since my oldest was only playing in high school and my middle daughter had only just started to achieve that level.
An opportunity appeared one day in the form of a bridge between the 12U and the 14U level...13U!
This gave me an opportunity to get my daughter on a tournament team and then to bring her along as she grows, helping her to get the right skills to play high school.
This particular organization is pretty prestigious compared to the organization in which I used to coach. The caliber of player is higher and there is a lot of support.
I hope I'm able to fill the open spots with good players.
My house league team was runner up in their 12U division. The team entered the playoffs having lost more games than they one, but the average loss was only by a couple of runs. They played very well throughout the playoffs, winning an emotional game against one of our rival teams in the last inning on a deadly change up pitch by my dearest 12 year old daughter.
I was asked to coach a summer league all star team. Despite being loaded with good pitchers, we only had a .500 record. My dearest 12 year old lead the team in RBIs and triples. Rain dogged us in our early tournaments, where we only got to play two games out of a four game tournament. Our second tournament was much better as we seeded #1 on Saturday only to lose Sunday to the eventual tournament winner. Our last tournament was rained out on Sunday. We played very well on Saturday despite losing one of two games. We were seeded #4 going into the Sunday bracket, so we had a good seeding, although if we had won we would have needed to most likely play the #1 seed.
As you all have probably already figured out...I'm not the world's most consistent blogger.
Nonetheless, when I get time to blog, I blog. (Sounds Shakespearean, doesn't it? To blog, or not to blog...that is the question).
I'm sitting here in my hotel room at the Landmark Resort here in Myrtle Beach, SC (http://www.landmarkresort.com/). It's the first time I've been here, but my dearest Ellen and the kids have been here a couple of times. I haven't been on vacation with the family in about 4 years because of lack of available vacation time. It's a nice place, about 4 out of 5 stars, and has lots of cool stuff for the kids to do, outside of just being in the sand and the ocean.
I'll catch you up on all the happenings in subsequent posts!!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thank you for contacting me about global warming and related legislation. I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.
In order to best protect America's citizens and environment, I believe that we need to develop a comprehensive energy policy that both reduces our emissions and utilizes alternative sources of energy. Doing so would not only help to preserve the environment, but would also create green jobs and ultimately lower domestic energy costs. Any discussion of our national energy policy must also consider the international scope of this challenge as individual nations confront problems such as the finite supply of fossil fuels, overhauling outdated energy infrastructures, and many other important environmental challenges.
Members of the relevant Congressional committees are currently working on legislation that would address climate change on a national level, and I look forward to participating in this debate during the 111th Congress. Though the science surrounding this issue supports the need for dramatic changes in policy, any comprehensive legislation to address climate change must balance this interest with the need to keep our economy viable during this challenging time.
Thank you again for your input on global warming. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor related legislation and will consider your views as the Senate debates and votes on relevant legislation. I very much look forward to serving the Commonwealth during the 111th Congress.
MARK R. WARNER
United States Senator
Talk about doublespeak! Sheesh!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Nice. If these are the future leaders of our country, I hope I don't live too long.
It wasn't me actually, it's my dearest Ellen. She's down with the flu today. I was working from home since the Speck is in the shop and she came down with some nastiness overnight. So much for my quiet day away from the office.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
You see, my oldest daughter plays high school sports. I won't say which one, but it involves a ball with seams. Somehow, two of the least likely kids on the team were "selected" captains. Usually this involves a vote, but there seems to have been some kind of skulduggery at that as well. No matter, on with the story. It seems that no one told these girls that being elected team captain does not immediately make them tin plated dictators. Being a leader is one of the hardest things to do (just look at our last couple of presidents) right, but one of the easiest things to do wrong. Boy, do these girls have it wrong. They seem to thing that barking orders and doing nothing to support the team is what a captain is supposed to do. WRONG! A captain leads through the examples they set. A captain should be the first one on the field and the last one off. A captain should be the first one to cheer their teammate when they do something exceptional and the last one to criticize them for making a mistake. A captain never uses the word "I" only the word "We". A captain doesn't sit around with a penis shaped lollipop in her mouth giggling like she's some sort of mental patient.
I'm done. The soap box has been put away for a while.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
(With all due apologies to Perez Hilton)
It was a whirlwind weekend of drama last weekend.
The dog bit a neighborhood boy. It wasn't aggressive or anything, just going after a ball the boy was playing with at the time (the dog loves to chase them). Unfortunately, my middle daughter's friend was holding the dog's leash at the time and let go. The boy's stopped by later looking for my wife or I. The mother verbally assaulted my oldest daughter asking questions like: "Where is your mother? You do have a mother, don't you? When is your mother coming home? She does come home, right?" I'm a little more old school in that any adult should feel free to correct the behavior of a minor child, so long as they are not abusive. The questions and demeanor of this woman towards my oldest was bordering on abuse. She left my darling child in tears. So much so that she couldn't speak to me on the phone about it. I was very angry, but my dearest Ellen talked me down from the ledge. She handled speaking to the mother. Thankfully, the injury was minor and the mother must have come down off of her abusive "high" and spoke to my wife about the situation. No harm, no foul, she basically said. However, she chastised my wife for having a daughter "with a sassy mouth". I can't imagine what my oldest said back, but I'm pretty sure it was in response to her abusive comments and tone.
Saturday was a completely different story. My middle daughter (it was her major drama weekend) and a friend went to the movies. It was the last weekend of an already long run for this particular movie and it was in our small town theater. Besides my daughter and her friend, there were only three other children in the movie. From what I've been told, there was disruptive behavior by the other children: running, gymnastics, and noise. My daughter's friend decided to throw some popcorn. That escalated into some chair kicking and finally some mild touching/tapping. For some reason, my daughter's friend arm looked appetizing to the oldest of the other group, so she bit her! I would have expected this from a toddler or perhaps first grader, but not a fifth grader (the approximate age of the biter). I received this frantic call from the theater (my middle daughter is old enough to attend the movies with friends without a parent) about the biting incident, so I raced right over. I confronted my daughter and her friend and found out that the biter was still there. In fact, the biter's father was sitting in the lobby of the theater! After some searching I found the movie theater manager and I requested he make a report of the incident and take down names and phone numbers since I was responsible for my daughter's friend's well being. I lectured a little bit on the proper behavior in a movie theater and what they should have done if someone was misbehaving in the theater. I had to tell my daughter's friend's parents about the incident. They said "kids will be kids". Not quite the reaction I expected, but since the bite marks were superficial, there seemed to not be any sense of urgency (in their opinion).
I'm hoping this is the last of the drama for a while...
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
My dearest Ellen has been trying to get in to see her endocrinologist in order to get the necessary prescriptions for the mail order pharmacy (they won’t take a transfer or photocopy). The doctor has been OK authorizing her refills, but we were up against “the wall” and had only one more refill before being cut off. The doctor could not see her for four months since it wasn’t an emergency. As a result, we hit the wall and weren’t getting her meds paid for. We were able to get an “override” for a retail pharmacy refill from our insurance company, but we were “cautioned” (more like scolded) that this would be the ONLY override we’d get. In the meantime, my wife decided to change doctors, finding one that would take her almost immediately. We thought she was in the clear.
However, the new doctor would not write her a refill prescription because 1) there were still active refills on her bottle and 2) the doctor wanted to take a gallon of her blood to check her “levels”. Back to square one. We contacted the insurance company to explain our plight. Needless to say we weren’t received well because we had ALREADY used our ONE “override” the prior month. ARGH! No amount of explaining could provide the necessary refill. We were weeks away from another doctor visit. I decided to go to my HR group and see what they could do. They were very nice about it, sympathetic you could say and they were able to get me in touch (via email) with a “member advocate”. I thought this was a step in the right direction and we’d have more meds than we could handle in a few days. I articulated our situation (not being able to see a doctor in a timely fashion and quickly running out of medication in the process and having no more overrides) in a brief email and waited for the response. This was our golden opportunity.
SLAM! That was sound of opportunity slamming the door. The “member advocate” should have been more aptly titled “Policy quoter”. She advocated following the insurance company policy and nothing more. One of the more impolite quotes from the “advocate” was “… if your wife is in need of her medication, her Dr. is the only one who can write a prescription for it. Without a prescription, her medication is not able to be filled at any pharmacy (retail or mail order)…” DUH! How about taking a step outside of your protective policy bubble and see if you can help me keep my wife from running out of her medication!!
We ended up paying out of pocket for a supply of the medication (50 dollars for the initial 20 dose amount with an option to get another 50 dollars worth more) on which to get by. We are still waiting for the doctor to get the blood test results back. That should take about a week. I’m hoping we get something before we have to exercise that other 50 dollar option.
I can hear some of you saying “Feh” at my chafing at 50 bucks of medication. Sorry, I don’t have very deep pockets.
For example, Honda sells just a few models. Three sizes of car (if you count the hybrids), two sizes of SUV, one minivan, and one truck. GM has four car divisions: Cadillac, Chevy, Buick, and Pontiac. What about Saturn? I don’t consider them in the same vein, but I will get to that later. Each of those divisions has multiple models of car at varying price points with varying features. Simply put, most of the cars sold in the Chevy, Buick, and Pontiac divisions are the same except for some sheet metal and badges. There are Minivans and SUVs sold in three out of the four divisions (none in Pontiac). And the Chevy and GMC truck divisions are the only ones that sell trucks and large vans. Saturn sells cars, minivans, and SUVs out of its division, the only one to do all three. Pontiac seems to be a division devoted to young people only, while Chevy appeals across the age spectrum. Buick and Cadillac are supposed to be upscale cars with the Buicks seemingly for a more senior crowd.
Chrysler seems to be in the same boat. They dropped the Plymouth brand years ago because no one really could tell the difference between Plymouth cars, Dodge cars, and Chrysler cars. Smart move then. Chrysler seems to be the luxe division with cars, SUVs, and minivans. Dodge seems to be in the middle of the road with cars, SUVs, minivans, and trucks. Then there’s Jeeps, which are only SUV.
Ford seems to have solved the choice problem by limiting their divisions somewhat. They still have a lot of overlap between Ford and Mercury with cars and some of their smaller SUVs, but they have squarely placed all of the luxury models in the Lincoln division and the majority of their trucks in the Ford division (still trying to understand the Lincoln Blackwood…weird).
Anyhoo, here’s what I think GM should do:
1. Stop playing around with my taxpayer money and file for Chapter 13. We all know you can still operate, so do it. If an airline can do it and I can still board the plane maintained by that airline and get to where I need to go safely, then it should work for you. Clean the slate with the unions and start over. If they are interested in supporting your business and getting back market share by building great cars, then they’ll negotiate. Right now, their labor rates are unsustainable. If they aren’t willing to negotiate, start advertising for employees. Give the employee a reason to want to come help make a great car.
2. Stop making so many freaking cars! Drop the Pontiac nameplate for cars, minivans, and SUVs. Drop the Buick nameplate completely. Stick anything that could be considered a “crossover” vehicle into Pontiac. Make the crossover the “high tech innovation” line. Drop the GMC Brand of pickup trucks and SUVs. Put GMC on large trucks and semi’s only. Leave pickup trucks in the Chevy division where you will also make a “value line” of sedans, SUVs, and minivans. Cadillac will be your lux division with their unique cars and SUVs. Retain nameplates for limited edition cars like the Corvette, Camaro, and TransAm and produce them in moderate numbers or produce a model line every so often and make them unique enough for the model line to sell out. Retain the Saturn division for small cars and sedans. Stop trying to produce econocars like the Aveo to compete with the other econocars in the Saturn division. Niche vehicles should be carefully marketed between divisions so as not to compete with each other.
3. Adopt a marketplace style of sales model. Publish the costs of the vehicle on a central website and allow customers to pick from a small number of trim levels for that model (3 at the most). If a customer is intent upon loading up extras on a standard Chevy sedan, offer them the ability to compare online against a loaded vehicle from the lux model line. The packages can then be updated at the dealer should the customer wish to add something that isn’t part of the package. That cost is predetermined between the dealer and the manufacturer.
4. Give all vehicles a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
5. Stop financing vehicles at the dealership. Let banks to their thing. If you want to buy a bank to use nationwide, fine. You can also let local dealers establish a relationship with a local bank. Let the customer know how much they are going to spend before they even walk into a dealership. The dealership is going to make most of their money on extras and repairs with moderate sales kickbacks from the manufacturer to cover the cost of salespeople and management. The achievement model is the same as before. The more models you sell, the more money you make. Salespeople will need to be knowledgeable about the cars for questions, comparisons, and to help finalize the sale. No more “dancing” with various people in order to get your car. Even if you walked into a dealer without first browsing the online marketplace, you still should be able to start and finish with the salesperson. The only other people that should get involved would be a cashier or finance manager and on rare occasions, the sales manager. CARMAX seems to have done a real good job making the sales process more simplified. Even they aren’t perfect though.
Chrysler is in a similar pickle, but not quite as bad as GM. Based on experience, I’d never buy a Dodge or Chrysler car again. I’d put all my minivans out as Chryslers, stop building SUVs in either Chrysler or Dodge nameplate (leave SUVs to Jeep), and put 80% of the cars in as Dodges. Only the lux cars would be Chrysler. Import the new “A” class Benz as the Dodge compact car. Crossovers would be left to Dodge in a similar path as Pontiac.
Either that or just pick up the mess and fold.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
1. The Stimulus package - Congress plans to try a jump start the economy by taking on more debt to fund more pet projects and other stupid political stuff. I don't feel so stimulated.
2. Israel - The election is so close they have to take it to court. I recommend Norm Coleman and Al Franken's lawyers. They are definitely earning their 500 dollars an hour.
3. Global Warming - It was 10 degrees with a wind chill below zero in late November and 70 degrees yesterday. Who the heck is right?
We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I woke up this morning to my birthday feeling sick to my stomach and a little dizzy. I’m 45 today. Laying down didn’t help…in fact it got worse. I went on with my morning (I was better when I was up and moving around) and gathered up my things and was walking with my 4 year old to the indomitable Speck when…there it was…in all it’s rubbery glory. A flat tire!
Undaunted by the cold I sent the 4 year old back inside (that was the intent, she kept coming out to “check on you, daddy”) and set to work. I pulled open the trunk and lifted the cover and pulled out the temporary tire. It looked a little worse for wear, but I assumed it would be OK. I went back for the lug wrench. Where was the lug wrench? That was when I saw it: the Styrofoam insert holding a screwdriver and an empty indentation where a lug wrench would go. Crestfallen, I went back to the garage and sought some tools. I saw one of my neighbors and asked to borrow his lug wrench from his Acura. Sadly, it was too small. I then saw another neighbor who owned a Honda. Bingo! His wrench fit. I managed to get the tire off and the spare on using my floor jack. I inspected the tire. Yup, a wood screw head was clearly visible. I must have run over it the day before and parked on it that night.
No matter, I thought to myself. I can take it over to the tire shop and get it patched. I tightened the lugs and lowered the car. Ugh. The temporary was almost as flat as the tire with the screw in it. I didn’t have much choice. Towing would have cost me hundreds. I put the tire in the trunk and strapped in the 4 year old. Slowly I made my way to the nearest station which had an air compressor. Natch! It was broken. I hobbled to the next station. Topeka! I filled up the temporary and took the 4 year old to breakfast. I was feeling a little better, so we shared some pancakes and sausage. I dropped off the tire at the local tire shop for repair and decided it was in my best interest to stay local since the temporary tire made a pretty bad rumbling noise. After an hour, I drove the Speck back to the shop, had the tire put back on, and was on my way to work.
Happy 45th Clark!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
There are supposed to be over 4 million people descending upon the Metro DC area today. I purposely requested the day to work at home. Roads inside the beltway are being closed down. Hotels have been booked up for months. Some folks are offering their homes for rent for over 100K for the weekend.
My dearest scheduled herself to be off of work today too, so I suspect I won't be getting much work done. She wants to watch the Inauguration on TV. It's cold and there's a dusting of snow on the ground. Perfect weather for an Inauguration.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
It's been a few weeks since I last blogged. Sorry about that. Life has been pretty much a whirlwind since early December.
My oldest has been pulled over three times in the past two weeks by the local police. She's been driving the truck and doing a pretty good job, but the cops decided she needed to: do a better job of stopping at stop signs, make sure that she is doing her best to wear her safety belt, and to make sure her lights were on when driving at night. Fortunately, she received no tickets for these minor mishaps. The lesson was learned however. Still, she managed to bump into the back of a car just enough to dent the truck bumper, but not damage the other car. Weird.
Speaking of the truck, I spent three days trying to find two tires for it. Why so long you ask? Well, I purchased two tires back in September because the truck needed it. Why not four, Clark? Well, my pockets haven't been very deep lately, so I opted for two then and would pick up two more later. Well, the same tire shop, the local Super Wal Mart, was consulted on the latest tire purchase as they were the shop who did the tires in September. They have very good tire prices. However, this time I spoke with three different people who told me that the tires I purchased in September were suddenly not available there. I must order them from Wal Mart online. No problem, I said. Being Intertube savvy, I went to the site and tried to place my order. Tried. You see, the website said the matching tires were out of stock! I went back to the shop and explained my predicament and they said they would call around and get back to me the next day. The next day comes around and I get no phone call. Frustrated and concerned I would have to buy two other tires or FOUR new tires (that wasn't going to happen), I called and spoke with the assistant store manager. In five minutes he was able to determine that indeed the store did have the tires I was looking for (In fact, they had 8 of them). I was perturbed and happy all at once. Why didn't they bother to look in their inventory three days ago? The assistant manager was nice enough to discount some of the services to save me about 30 bucks overall.
I found out in December that I have diabetes. Not the really bad kind, but the kind that comes at you when you are too fat. I have to diet and exercise now. Blah. I have to give up tons of good stuff to eat and take meds. It was hard, but I'm doing OK. I've lost a little weight and have tried to step up my exercise. Since leaving my last job I've lost about 20 lbs. I think 15 of that came from having much less stress in my work life.
I've been working hard, but not too crazily. I am running around, but it's a good thing. My work stress level is near zero. I am working with nice folks who care for a change.
Christmas was pretty cool. It seemed to come and go pretty fast. The kids had a great time, too.