A Family Affair

This post could also be titled "They Pay Us To Have These Conversations".

We have an IT team meeting every other week. The idea is to share any accomplishments and bring everyone up to date on your current projects or issues. This morning's meeting was off to a bad start with a conversation about the coffee tasting like "ass" so I should have suspected we'd get derailed.

One of our colleagues started his update with, "I'm growing out my beard and I'm calling it Mr. French."

A little background for you. This particular colleague grows facial hair like no one I've ever seen. He can have a fu manchu one day then muttonchops the next. So, it's not unusual for him to be doing something like this.

A little more background for you. We have a lot of people under 40 and some under 30 in our department. They have no idea who or what "Mr. French" is.

I said, "Oh, from A Family Affair. Brian Keith was the star." Another person said, "Yeah, and he had three kids." I corrected him, "No, he was the playboy uncle in NYC and Mr. French was his manservant. The kids were Sissy, Buffy and..." I couldn't come up with the boy but the Mr. French wearer said, "Jody."

Yep, that was it. Although, he only knew because he had just looked it up.

I then said, "Buffy had a doll...I can't remember her name but lots of little girls got one."

Sugar Daddy chimed in at one point, "Was this show even in color?" Implying that we were so old, shows weren't in color when we were children but, aha, he was barking up the wrong tree on this one. Definitely in color.

An hour later, I was walking out to lunch when it hit me, "Mrs. Beasley!" I pulled out my phone and emailed my Mr. French wearing colleague ASAP. I knew he was probably worrying about not knowing the doll's name. Or, he had completely put it out of his mind.

Who remembers Mrs. Beasley?
The show ran from 1966-1971. I probably saw episodes as a wee tyke but most likely remember it from syndication. I do remember when the girl who played Buffy (the youngest girl) died from a drug overdose when she was only 18.

I don't think I had the doll but I "feel" like I did. If I did, my Dad no doubt threw it out before I had given up playing with it. He's like that.

By the way, I am available for team trivia if you need a ringer.

I Blame Hollywood, I Blame The Movie Studios, I Blame Peter Jackson, I Blame The People Paying To See These Movies

Man, do I have a bone to pick with a lot of people!

One of the movie options on my overseas flights was The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug. I hadn't seen the first entry in the trilogy so I passed on the second but considered I might want to watch it next time. So, out of curiosity, I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on HBO On Demand.

It should be called The Hobbit: An Unnecessarily Long and Aggravating Reimagining Of A Classic Story That You Loved.

Yeah, that's a long title. But, fitting for how ridiculously long the movie was. To call it bloated is kind. It was beyond overstuffed!

Sugar Daddy and I were discussing the initial movie and the first thing that got to him was the Dwarves singing as they put away the dishes. I told him I thought it was in the book but it's been so long since I read it, I wasn't 100% sure. That made me think about a lot of other things in the movie that I don't recall from the book so I did some research.

And, by research, I mean I reread the entire book.

I did have to tell Sugar Daddy that not only did they sing with the dishes, they sang even more that night in Bilbo's house. His reply was, "Yeah, but did they sing for 45 minutes like it was in the movie?" No, it was just a few stanzas. I had to agree with him, though, it felt really, really long.

I'm all for a little poetic license to make a film version of a book more understandable or even a better story.

I'm NOT for adding a gazillion characters and extended scenes so that you can take a 300 page paperback and make it into three movies that are each so long that your body is crying for a biobreak during them.

Oh, and making Bilbo into some sort of action hero by defending Thorin in a scene that "sorta" came from the book? Don't get me started on that or I'll go off for another fifteen paragraphs.

These guys - in the book.
I'm cool with them.
This guy - not in the book and completely unnecessary to the story.
So not in the book. Seriously, Legolas?
I can only imagine his addition was to appease Orland Bloom's fan girls.
Galadriel? Oh, come on now!
And, apparently in a love story with Gandalf!?!?!? 
I don't know how much money someone would have to pay me to watch the next two movies. I know I'm not paying a dime to see them. Not even continuing to see Richard Armitage and knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch is in there will entice me to allow myself to get angered at the spectacle.

Call me a curmudgeon if you will but overwhelming the audience with CGI and extraneous plot and characters does not entertainment make.

School Golf Sign Challenge

We "sell" golf signs every year at Parrot Grande. The signs are displayed on the course during our tournament then on the stage on Saturday night. People can put whatever they want on a sign - birthday wishes, embarrassing pictures of someone, business promotions, etc.

Signs were a little light this year when Tkay had a great idea - a challenge of which College or University could get the most signs. I upped the ante a bit when I said I would use the winning sign as my Facebook profile picture for a week. Considering my feelings for the University of Arizona (or that school as I call it), it was kind of a big deal to me.

I sent out the following challenge:

The Challenge Is On - Be True To Your School!

Our Parrot Grande Golf God, Russ, has thrown down the gauntlet. Who can show the most pride for their school via a custom Golf Sign for the weekend? 

Russ is doing an Aggie sign. Is that actually even a thing besides a nickname for Agatha?  Tammy is countering with an Ohio State sign. At least a Buckeye isn't a made up object. Though, it's hardly as awesome as a Sun Devil. Just sayin'. I don't even know what Canadian team mascots are like - a super friendly employee from Tim Horton's covered in Maple leaves and drinking an highly taxed Molson?

We have lots of other schools and regions represented in our group. There's at least one person from Michigan who, frankly, needs to do a sign just so we can remember which school is which. Is it Michigan Spartans? We also have someone whose school color is orange. Orange is the color of a child's drink. It's not exactly majestic like Maroon and Gold are. Those are grand school colors! Oh, and you Nebraska people - calling it Scarlet is just trying to make red sound fancy. Fancy does not equal Nebraska.

Signs are $25 each and are considered proceeds towards our charity. Email your art work and sign design to ...

All signs will be displayed on the golf course on Saturday morning then inside the ballroom on Saturday night.

To make it a little more interesting, we'll have an independent judge pick the best sign and I will make it my Facebook profile picture for a week. (That just made the U of A peeps salivate. For you U of A peeps, salivate in this usage means to display great relish at the sight or prospect of something.)

Don't let me down fellow Devils!

Two people volunteered to judge the contest and I gave them no guidelines at all except to pick a sign based on their personal criteria. 

Man, was I happy when I saw their choice!

Great job, Rocky Soderman!
They chose it because it not only represented the school, it represented Parrot Heads and the event as well. 

I shall proudly use this as my Facebook profile - maybe even for more than a week!

Not Quite A Master Painter

The Tempe Center for the Arts is running a weekly series called Art After Work. The gist of it is that an instructor walks you through replicating a painting, most of them by Master artists. My Chick Poker pals, Angela and Stacey, went with me and the artist we were imitating was Monet and his water lilies.

The class ran from 6 to 8:30 (we got out closer to 9) and all of the supplies were provided. It was $35 but we also got a voucher for $8 for booze or, as I like to call it, "Creativity Juice".

When we walked in, this was the picture our instructor had done that we were going to copy.

It wasn't quite the Monet water lilies I was thinking we would be doing but, oh, well.
The first thing our instructor told us to do was to draw out the lily pads and flowers lightly in pencil. She explained how to divide the canvas into sections and how to estimate the size of the pads. Helpful. We started drawing then she gave us the next step which was to erase the flower lines and paint them in white followed by filling in the ocher (or as the common man might call it, spicy mustard) pads.

Our paint colors - I had very little blue left by the end.
I was dutifully following the instructions because I am a rule follower as everyone should be. Not so my companions.

Um, nothing was said about starting on background colors!
Stacey and Angela abandoned all pretense of listening to the instructor and went their own merry ways. I, however, lack the creative genius (or even an inkling of skill) to do that so I continued to follow all of the prescribed steps.

My finished piece was close enough to the model that I wasn't ashamed. Not exciting enough to hang up anywhere, though. Maybe my Dad will want it. But, I'll have to sign it for him first.

Eh, not too shabby.
I'm not one for muted pictures nor do I have the technique to make the color go on smoothly so I always have a lot of bright, textured and thick paint on my canvases. However, the instructor gave out several tips on applying paint, combining colors and creating a "wash" with paint and water that goes on lightly over existing color. I filed all of the information away into my mental painting database.

Whatever. ;)
Of course, Stacey had the coolest picture that was completely different than the original example except there were pads and flowers. Every time we do something crafty, she's consistently the one who excels. And, she only had one glass of Creativity Juice to my two. Dang her. If I weren't 100 times better at Poker than she is, I would have to dump her as a friend. ;)

A different take on it.
Angela ended up with lily pads, water and flowers but in a very different fashion than prescribed. From a side view, it looked like cacti to me. Still cool.

It's always fun to see how every one else approaches a project. Many in the class (there were close to 25) strayed a bit from the model with a very small minority just going their own way. Some whipped through the painting process while others were still working when time was up. You could tell there were some seasoned painting veterans as well as some complete newbs.

We enjoyed it but decided that the sessions where you can bring your own wine and not all paint the same picture were more fun. So, we'll be looking for another Living Social or Groupon to do that again. I think it's a great value to play around with paint without investing a small fortune into buying my own supplies. And, finding space in my tiny house for a work space.

Oh, and keeping everything from the little terrors that live with me. I left my painting in the trunk of my car to dry since I knew there was nowhere I could put it in the house that they wouldn't get to it then drag paint all over the place.

Kitteh Update

A little more than a month has passed since Samwise and Starbuck joined the family. They've settled in well. They haven't calmed down a bit. Kittehs, what are you going to do with them?

Several people told me boy cats are mellower than girls and these two are proving that out. Samwise is perfectly content to curl up on my shoulder and nap. Starbuck also wants to curl up on my shoulder and on my chest and on my leg and on Samwise when he's on my shoulder or my chest or my leg. However, she stays still for only milliseconds before rearranging herself which involves stepping all over both Samwise and me. All the while, she purrs super loud. Hard to resist that.

Rare moment where they're both settled.
They discovered the basket of toys within two days and quickly scattered them throughout the house. Makes a great excuse for me not to sweep or vacuum - too much work picking up mice and balls.

Starbuck actually stands in the basket and picks toys out of it.
In doglike fashion, Starbuck has become a fetch expert. I recently restarted reading in bed at night before going to sleep. I have one hand on my Kindle and the other waits for her to drop a crackle ball or a mouse down next to me so I can fling it across the room. Lather, rinse, repeat. George used to do that when she was young, I hope Starbuck doesn't outgrow the game. Samwise, meanwhile, might make a stab at the toy but she takes it away every time. He usually just gives up and lies down somewhere.

Catch the red dot is fun, too!
Anything left on the arm of the chair that I'm sitting in gets dumped to the floor due to Starbuck's incessant jump up, jump down moves. She also tends to bounce directly to and from various pieces of furniture. Perhaps she's playing her own version of hot lava.

The remote is about to bite it.
Blankets, pillows and the bathroom rug and towels are all irresistible. More mornings than not, the towels are on the floor. This morning, Samwise rolled himself into the bathroom rug and managed to get stepped on. Neither of us were happy about that.

80 degrees in the house but being wrapped in a blankie is important.

At least I get a corner of the pillow.
Every morning is the same. Some time before sunrise, they decide to literally sit on my head. Not near my head, on my head. Complete with paws pushing my nose shut and bodies over my mouth. I suspect they're trying to smother me and haven't figured out the food train would end with my corpse. As soon as my alarm goes off, they settle down on the bed and go back to sleep leaving me exhausted. Nice.

I paid them back for all of their shenanigans by taking them to their first Vet visit. Per usual, Starbuck was all over the examining room while Samwise was more content to just sit it out on the table. The tech started with Samwise and did a quick exam and weigh in. 

I had prepared by wearing jeans because Starbuck tends to use my leg as a ladder. Sure enough, she used me to make it up to the exam table. She also climbed on the tech twice, ending up on her back at one point. When the tech took Starbuck back to take her blood, she said "We'll trim their nails for you at no charge." That wasn't her being nice, it was her trying to save herself.

Samwise and I waited while Starbuck was apparently violated and broken. I say that based on the amount of crying she did that was loud enough to hear through the door. When the tech brought her back in she told me Starbuck had peed on herself so they had used some waterless shampoo which was still on her leg. 

OMG, the drama! Spitfire Starbuck was no more. I was left with a panting, pathetic creature whose back legs no longer worked. Seriously, she lay on the table and moved her front paws but dragged her rear end. I took pity on her and put her back in the carrier. Miraculously, her legs started working again!

Samwise took it all in stride, no crying from him, and the vet came in for a final examination. Right after Starbuck had calmed down, too. She tolerated the additional handling but was clearly not happy.

Before the exams when it was all still interesting and not terrifying.
The good news is that they both are in great health, tested negatively on their virus test and survived their first round of vaccinations. The vet was quite impressed with what great shape they were in for coming from a feral litter. That's a direct testament to how well my friend Rhonda raised them.

It's been quite the change going from one older, fat cat to two young, skinny kittens. They are literally all over the place to the point where I have to look at my feet with every step for fear of crushing them. They eat way more than George did at her heaviest and think they're starving even when there's food in the dish and aren't happy until I add a few more crumbs.

I couldn't be happier with the little terrors. (I was going to call them little terrorists because of their destructive tendencies but I'm afraid the NSA web crawlers would flag me and I'd lose my Global Entry approval.)

I would just like one full night's sleep.


One of my colleagues turned me on to the idea of 100 Happy Days. I jumped on it because I felt my 21 days of gratitude exercise a few years ago really had a positive impact on my outlook on life.

The concept is to post a picture every day that makes you happy. You don't have to explain it, just post it on your medium of choice. I chose to do them all on Facebook because it was fast and easy. A few of my other friends joined in, too. It was fun to see what was making them happy.

My last day was yesterday and this is my favorite picture of all.

Joan, Charles, Bill and Mary - Pfister kids
My Dad is turning 80 next week and three of his siblings flew out for the party. They got in yesterday and weren't expecting me to come over but I surprised them by leaving work early to go hang out. I'm lucky to have a family that I truly enjoy being with.

I reviewed all of my pictures today and saw that I missed posting more days than I thought I had. Not a big surprise, those were days from my last Germany trip when we were working 10, 12, 14+ hour days.

Here are some of my other favorites and why.

First posted picture - I love reading and discussing books with my friends.
We've had so much fun with our Dark Shadows marathons - looking forward to the next one.
Celebrating my birthday with the fam and honorary fam, The O'Malley Babes.
Continuing the birthday celebration with a wine tasting with Sonja and Steven and more Parrot Heads.
Touching the Berlin Wall.
Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg - I've been there twice and would go again.
With my snuggle bunny, Thom, at the DBacks.
I love that Steven and I go see all of these movies together.
Ladies of the Round Table (Directors and Senior Manager group).
I've really enjoyed getting to know these women better over the past year.
Quite representative of our Germany trips.
This was taken because the next day was Saturday and I got to sleep in.
That was worth celebrating.
My standard beer in our hotel bar in Hamburg. The staff went out of their way to offer me these at all times.
Doing fused glass crafts with my Chick Poker group.
20 years or so of friendships.
Home after one of my longer Germany trips.
There's really no place like it!
The first day with the new babies.
Our daily view from my trip to Seattle.
Tracy and Scott's surprise visit to Arizona. Miss them so much!
Another DBacks game, this time with Scooter.
I always post a selfie of us and call him My Sweet. This last time, people really thought we were dating.

Overall, I thought this was a good exercise but I'm glad it's over. It had become more of a chore than a pleasure to find something, especially on days when I was down. It will be interesting to see how everyone else felt about it.

Speedy Seattle Siteseeing

One of the lures of going to the Laid Back Attack event in Seattle was a chance to see the city. I've only been there once for a four hour layover at the airport. That wasn't very fun.

My San Antonio peeps offered to let me tag along on Thursday as they ventured into the city to see some of the action. We started on the light rail at one end as our hotel was right next to the airport and ended on the light rail at the other end. Then, it was a monorail ride to our first destination.

It sure looked tall.
The idea was to have lunch at the restaurant in the Space Needle. The reality was that we should have made reservations way ahead of time. The line just to go up was super long so we made ourselves feel better that "our" towers were taller. Of course, my tower was in Berlin and theirs was in San Antonio.

For the record, we were justified in that feeling of superiority. The Space Needle is 605 feet tall, the Tower of the Americas is 750 feet and my TV Tower dwarfs them both at 1,207 feet.

We decided to head back towards the water to have lunch. But, first a beer stop was in order. After all, it was past noon! I was so thirsty and not alone in that feeling. We walked by an establishment and turned like bloodhounds towards the smell of hops and barley.

Thank you, Blue Water Taco Grill, for having Dos Equis Amber on tap!
We ended up eating out on the patio at The Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar. The food was good, the company was delightful and the view was great. 

I wondered what the poor people were doing at this time.
After lunch, we started roaming around in what felt like a random fashion to me but there was some planning involved. We walked along the water and saw the outdoor markets and learned that parking is dear down there.

The original Starbucks.
There was a line out the door to the first Starbucks. Crazy people waiting to shell out their hard earned cash for overpriced coffee just to say they've been there. My Dos Equis cost less than a grande, mucho macho largo whatever with flavors to make it not taste like coffee drink so I think my money was better spent.

We HAD to watch them toss some fish!
We walked through the Pike Place Fish Market and perused some of the wares. We also saw them toss a few fish back and forth at the famous Pike Place Fish Company. Fun!

Walking back to the light rail took us on more of a city tour than expected because we went up the wrong street and walked two blocks further than we needed to. For the record, I was not in charge of the route.

Our ride home took us past CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field again so I get a different view of both but no pictures. It was after 5 PM and I'd been up since 4 AM traveling and then walking (again with all of the walking) so it was all I could do not to completely snooze in my seat. Oh, and I had some beers in there, too.

Some of the gang did more touring on the other days, including a guided tour of the underground tunnels. They said it was great but I was more than happy to try to catch up on some of the sleep I lost in Germany and be ready for the live music that started at 11 AM. 

The site I saw the rest of the weekend.
It didn't suck.
My only regret is not seeing the Gum Wall. We were so close! I'm sure I would have found it disgusting but, hey, it's famous.

I know I only scratched the surface so I would love to go back and spend several more days exploring not only the city but the surrounding area. Putting that on my to-do list for when I have both time and money to do so. 2019, maybe?

Phamily Reunion

It's not an uncommon Parrot Head practice to replace the letter f with the letters ph when typing. Phriend, phlock and phlocking and phamily. Some go to the extreme and throw away their f key, some use the replacement judiciously and some absolutely hate the practice.

I use it when it gives better meaning to my words. Hopefully, that helps you get what I mean by a Phamily Reunion.

Every year, I try to hit a new Parrot Head event put on by another club. This year, I chose Laid Back Attack up in Seattle. I've been meaning to go for years and a friend of mine said he would attend, too. Our plan was to go in early, explore some of Washington then hit the event.

Unfortunately, he couldn't get the time off from work so I just scheduled myself to get in on Thursday and leave on Sunday. Fortunately, that worked out well since I was trapped in Germany for so long.

I have to admit that, even though I'm a major social butterfly, I was a little anxious about attending a weekend event without a designated wingman. I knew there were going to be several hundred people in attendance and I suspected I knew a dozen or so for sure but that was it.

As the event drew closer, I saw a few of my phriends on Facebook talking about going so I felt a little better. But, I still had a bit of the "first day at school and I'm the new kid" flutterings in my tummy.

I needn't have worried.

First thing, I ran into Cheri from SoCal on the shuttle bus to the hotel. Then, as I was standing to check my luggage, Cooler Dave from San Antonio walked by and invited me to go with his gang to explore the city. Before I even had my room, I had a fully booked day!

Thursday evening found me sitting with a pair of friends from the local club. He's a bit of an introvert, the kind of guy who sits back and laughs at the silliness of others, and he was amused by my continued surprise at finding more and more people there that I knew. It finally got to the point where, feeling cocky, I asked him if he wanted me to introduce him to anyone in his own club that he didn't know.

I was even trusted to guard the San Antonio PHC mascot, Woody! 
By the time the weekend was over, I had reconnected with people from Washington, California, Texas, Alberta, Tennessee, Arizona, the West Indies and Florida and I could be missing some locales. I also made several new friends, natch.

The group was more than just a bunch of party companions to me. We talked about families and travels and what was going on in our lives and I recognized that I've been with some of these people for years and we'll continue to be in each others lives for many years to come.

And, to give you an idea on how much we care about each other, let me tell you an anecdote. One night, I decided to take a power nap between the two major bands playing. While I did wake up with my alarm an hour later, I decided to put on my jammies and go back to bed instead of rejoining the party. The next morning, I was heading down to breakfast and couldn't find my purse. I suspected I had left it on the chair in the ballroom but I had no concerns at all that it was permanently missing. I "knew" one of my friends would find it and keep it safe for me. And, they did.

It was an awesome Phamily Reunion!

The family you're born into is a matter of luck. I'm very lucky in that regard. The phamily you end up with is a matter of choice. I chose wisely.