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Showing posts from 2015

Competitive Much?

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We just completed a food drive for St. Mary's Food Bank at work and it brought out the best in us. And, maybe a little bit of the worst in those of us who don't like to lose.

Our charity team came up with a great idea to increase participation this year. They set it up as a challenge between the North side of the street and the South side (we have a bunch of buildings as part of our campus).

One of my colleagues offered to match her team's donations up to a certain amount. She then emailed the other leaders in our building with the details. Several of us chimed in with more offers to match and several others put in some good amounts of cash as well. We raised a LOT of money.

The best part for me was that I just had to write a check - she did all the shopping. I admit it, I'm fundamentally lazy.

She then posted pictures on Facebook of her shopping results and tagged in some of us from both sides of the street.

I might have started some trash talking by posting the count…

Holiday Memories

Every holiday with my family and our long time friends consists of a few eternal things.

Steven will yell at Shorty to get out of the kitchen. Shorty won't be able to stop himself from offering cooking advice and commentary, even when he's not in the kitchen.Despite all of us having similar beliefs, there will be some sort of political discussion that gets loud.Steven will mix up the food on my plate so that it's all touching despite the fact that it's just wrong.I'll make several Brandy and Cokes for myself until I get lazy and make Steven mix them.Stories will be told with the assumption that we all know the people and context even though they happened before some of us were born or are about places we've never been. One change for this year was that I didn't have any Brandy and Cokes.
Maybe because of the lack of booze, I also didn't have the usual reaction to the stories. They're often about people long dead that I've never met so my eyes gla…

Love Springs Eternal

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I had the great fortune to attend a wedding this past weekend that gave me a huge warm fuzzy.

The Bride and Groom have both loved and lost, raised families and adore their grandchildren. You could say that they are seasoned veterans of life. Just seeing two people find each other is fantastic; seeing two people combine their families and friends so well is truly heartwarming.

They were both escorted down the aisle by their adult children. The Bride's ex-husband kept their youngest granddaughter occupied during the ceremony. Their grandkids played together before the ceremony and whooped it up on the dance floor together at the reception. This is what a family should be like.

(Side note - the youngest granddaughter has a future as a pop star or President of the USA. She danced on the stage with the band and refused to yield it until sheer exhaustion kicked in. That kid is going places.)

In addition to the families, there were many friends there. I got excused from table decorating …

17 Years!

Yesterday marked 17 years at my current job. That number is near to being a lifetime for new employees.

Sigh. I may be feeling old because of that. (And, by may, I mean I am.)

Those 17 years have been filled with lots of ups and a few downs. I look back to when I started and it's amazing to see the changes in the company since then. Technology, business processes, globalization, increased employees, payroll processing, benefits...it's been quite a ride.

I remember when telecommuting was not an option and now it's a standard. One of my first benefits meetings, I heard that birth control wasn't covered but Viagra was. Well, that's certainly changed with the times. We've since acquired operations in Canada, Japan, Denmark and Germany and that's not the end of it; there's more to come.

There are times when I wish we were still the same, small company I started with. My first week, some guy showed up at my cube to welcome me. It was our CEO, Curt, and I'…

Making Art At Work

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We recently remodeled our lobby (among other spaces) in one of our buildings but there's still one unfinished wall by the front door. It's waiting for us to complete our corporate art project.

It's quite the job, too. One of our VPs used to be an art teacher and she's really into pottery and ceramics with a kiln at her house. Our CEO is a cactus freak. Really. He even discovered a previously uncatalogued cactus one time and got to name it.

So, the project combines both of their interests. We're making ceramic tiles to put on the wall and we're using cacti shapes for the molds.

Everyone in the company has been invited to attend one of the tile making sessions. We need over 400 tiles in all so it's a lot of work.

A few experts cut the tiles into the right size height, width and depth. Then, the rest of us got to go to work.
We used molds made from actual cacti. In fact, a few of the molds still had cactus needles in them so we had to be careful. For the deep …

Parrot Head Spirit Exemplified

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When you tell someone you're a Parrot Head, you get several different responses:
1.  "Oh, what type of bird do you have?" 2.  Blank stare. 3.  "You're the group that drinks a lot to Jimmy Buffett music, right?"
Very rarely do you get the more accurate response:
4.  "I know of you, you guys do a lot of charity work while you're partying!"
I've been a Buffett fan for years. What made me join, and keeps me going, with the Parrot Head organization is the sincere and dedicated effort our members make towards making the world a better place. It's really what's at the heart of Parrot Head club members.
My friend, Sam Rainwater, truly exemplifies the Parrot Head spirit. A Rocket Scientist by day, Sam decided a few years ago to go back to his love of music. He started with the ukulele, learned songs, got on every stage he could, grilled other artists for pointers, started writing his own music and now has three albums of his own published. 

Bucket List - Stonehenge

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Or, as those of us in the know like to call it, the Stones.

I learned that from our tour guide and our bus driver. When in Rome and all, right, pip, pip and cheerio!

I've been fascinated by Stonehenge for years. I used to buy into the theory that the Druids built it because, well, Druids seem really cool. But, then I learned that they predate the Druids by 2,000 years or so.

There are different theories as to how the stones were assembled and how they got to this site since they're not native to the area. It will probably remain a mystery but I like the story that Bernard Cornwell wrote and the book just happened to be in the gift shop.

Per my usual, I listened to the audio tour while I walked around the Stones. You're no longer allowed to get up close without advance permission because the ground has eroded around them so I circled from a distance and listened.

Some interesting things I learned:

The nearby British Army training base used to use the stones for target practi…

My Love/Hate Relationship - Fantasy Football

I just got home from my second FFL draft. Thankfully, I only do two leagues because anymore would make my head explode from keeping track of the permutations.

I felt pretty good about my club team. Not so much about my work team. For those who are interested in it all, here's whom I have.

Parrot Head League:

QB1 Andrew Luck (my first round pick - I drafted 10 out of 12 and passing TDs only score 4)
QB2 Alex Smith
RB1 Andre Ellington
RB2 Joseph Randle
RB3 Shane Vereen
RB4 Devonta Freeman
RB5 David Cobb
WR1 Emmanuel Sanders
WR2 Golden Tate
WR3 Anquan Boldin
WR4 Eric Decker
WR5 Steve Smith, Sr
TE1 Rob Gronkowski
D/ST Packers
K1 Dan Bailey

SmartBall League:

QB1 Matt Ryan
QB2 Eli Manning
RB1 Matt Forte (my first round pick - I drafted 8 out of 10)
RB2 Lamar Miller
RB3 Andre Ellington
RB4 Devonta Freeman
RB5 Shane Vereen
RB6 DeAngelo Williams
WR1 Dez Bryant
WR2 Emmanuel Sanders
WR3Amari Cooper
WR4 Brandon Marshall
WR5 Donte Moncrief
WR6 Markus Wheaton
TE1 Jordan Cameron
TE2 Charles Clay

Bucket List - Crown Jewels

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I loves me the jewelry. The more bling, the better. So, I was very excited to visit The Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels.

First up on our visit was a lecture by one of the Beefeaters also known as Yeoman Warders. Those are the colorful guards who must have served at least 22 years in the military, reached the rank of Warrant Officer and been awarded a good conduct medal.

Our Beefeater is not one of the guys pictured above. He basically threatened anyone who took and published his picture. I chose not to mess with him about it. He seemed to be a pretty cranky Welshman. He did give a thorough and entertaining tour and answered many questions from the crowd. It was certainly worth the time.

It was amazing to think that we were standing in a structure built by William the Conqueror and housed too many famous prisoners to list here.

History lesson complete, it was off to see the pretty stuff! The line seemed long and we were getting antsy since we were on the tour's schedule. B…

The National Gallery

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My Sunday in London was spread over two places, British Museum and The National Gallery. They were both within walking distance to my hotel and I got the bonus of checking out Trafalgar Square in the process. And, I checked out several side streets as I took more than one wrong turn going to and fro. Natch.
Per usual, I rented the audio tour and made my way through the list of highlighted pieces. You can check them out here if you're interested. Several of them were on loan to other institutions but I did get a feel for the quality of work in the Gallery.

I also learned I was a Philistine. After an hour so, they all really started to look alike to me. Not in subject matter but in "Oh, look another classic painting by a really famous artist. Next!" It was probably a combination of lack of sleep, physical exhaustion (17K steps that day was way above my norm) and frustration with continually getting lost but I was jaded. The thrill was definitely gone.

There were definitely…

Bucket List - Rosetta Stone

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I've always been fascinated by the story of the Rosetta Stone. Just thinking about how this slab of rock moved around over a couple of centuries until someone figured out it was the key to understanding Egyptian Hieroglyphics is amazing to me. I would have loved to have worked on a team deciphering it but I would have had to been born in the mid to late 1700s. No thanks on that.

While I was planning my London visit, seeing the Rosetta Stone was number one my list for what to do in the city. Apparently, it's number one on the list for everyone going to the British Museum as well.

I was politely waiting before the official opening time right outside the door that led in to where the Rosetta Stone was on display. I should have plastered myself to the door to ensure I was the first one in because a group of tourists with a guide moved ahead of everyone. I'll let you guess where they were from but some stereotypes are based in fact.

The doors opened and the crowd swarmed in. Fl…

The Omens Were Ominous From The Start

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I had to go to Germany last month for another corporate integration. I decided to add on a stay in London on my way home.

All by myself.

Eek.

I'm a huge extrovert but I'm also a scaredy cat so it was pretty brave of me to plan four days in a foreign country without a companion. A companion who might not know anything more than I do but will at least have a better sense of direction than I do. Which is to say, any sense of direction.

To make it easier and less scary, I decided to take some structured tours. I found a company online and was persuaded not only by the itineraries but by the fact that they picked up at hotels. Again, no sense of direction but getting to a lobby is doable. A very thorough search at Hotels.com to find a hotel on the list that had A/C, a lift and wouldn't cost a million dollars and I was set. It only cost me a half million dollars. London ain't cheap!

Here's the itinerary for my first day's tour:

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Lacock and B…

Hello, Kitty

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Two years ago, we went back to Wisconsin to celebrate my parents' 50th Anniversary. In what is now becoming a tradition, we went to The Pfister Hotel for a meal.

When I asked the server to take our picture, my cousin asked, "Whose Hello Kitty camera is that?"

Yes, there was some judgment in her tone.

I was immediately offended. For about 30 seconds. But, then I started embracing the idea.

I spent the next two years on a mission to find a Hello Kitty sticker to put on my camera. Preferably, one with glitter. Because, well, glitter. Every time I went to the grocery store or a dollar store, I took a quick perusal to see if they had appropriately sized stickers.

I had no success until yesterday when I was in Target. Bonus is that I only paid $1 for a whole bunch of stickers.

There was just one problem. My pink camera is no more my working camera.

My first day in London two weeks ago, I pulled my camera out of my bag to find that the shutter button had come off. I thought may…

Sugar and Fat and Wine - Could Brunch Get Any Better?

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It's tough to get all of the Chick Poker gang together for an evening so we fill in with brunch dates. Sometimes, we go out, other times someone hosts at their house.

Stacey was a host this month and, inspired by National Doughnut Day (which has a very interesting history), declared that everyone had to bring three of their favorite doughnuts then we would sample and judge. The judging comes naturally to this group. We have one super baker in our midst so she was commanded to make duffins (that's a combo of doughnut and muffin for those not in the know).

To balance out the doughnuts, we were encouraged to bring fruits or veggies.

There was also some wine drinking though the majority had iced tea. I'm not sure why those people are still my friends.

There were only five of us...
I'm not a big doughnut fan and I didn't want to go way out of my way to get Rainbow Donuts (our work favorites) so I went to Krispy Kreme which was conveniently located next to Safeway where …

My New Retirement Savings Plan

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I've discovered a way to double my money. It's so easy peasy, I can't lose. Which I'm pretty excited about because I keep looking at my 401K and think it's never going to be enough to keep me in the lifestyle I would like to be accustomed to.

Here's how it works.

I start with a pocket full of singles. Then, I make bets with Crime Dog, dollar against dollar. Sometimes, he picks the bet, sometimes I do.

For example, if were bowling, CD would bet that Goat would pick up his spare. I would take the action. There is always an option to decline for bets like Dave Seaholm would pick up his spare. He's a bowling machine, that would be foolish money.

After a short while, I would have two pockets full of singles. So many that I miss making some bets because I can't sort out a dollar fast enough.

There's only one, slight flaw to my plan. CD needs to be good for his IOUs.

Oh, and maybe one more flaw. CD needs to have saved enough to keep me in the style to whic…

Girl In A Country Song

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I realize I'm on an anti-Brocountry crusade. Obsession, even.

This song does a great job of explaining why I'm unhappy. Nails it, in fact. This new genre seems to treat women like cars and tractors - just there to look good and be fast.

Oh, and don't even get me started on rap in country. Ugh. (Holding back 1,000 word essay on why it vexes me.)



I clearly need to chill as my blood pressure is high enough on its own. And, it would be better for said blood pressure to focus on some of the wonderful relationship songs that some male artists are putting out. The problem is that I hear one "good" song followed by three that aggravate me.

Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath, life is good, move on, chillaxe.

Billy, I've Got To Go To Town

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I had 60s on 6 going during my drive home from work tonight and this song came on. I recognized the tune within just a few chords but then a woman started singing. Wait, what, this isn't Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town?

Apparently, this was an "answer" song to Ruby. In the woman's version, she's not the low down cheating ho that he thinks she is.

I've heard Ruby a bajillion times but I never knew about this song. Guess I can file it under "useless trivia" but it was intriguing enough to get me to go look it up.


Jurassic Memories

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I just purchased tickets for Steven and me to see Jurassic World on Saturday at the Cine Capri. That's our local theater with the super big screen and sound system and where we like to see all of our premiers. It's fantastic.

It made me think back to when we saw Jurassic Park. Holy cow, that was in 1993 and Steven was only, well, he was younger. Nearly a baby. OK, a little older than a baby but I'm trying not to do the math.

For some reason, my Dad and Mom wanted to see the movie, too. I really can't imagine why because my Dad is not a movie goer at all. I think it was probably because it was a family outing and he's all about those.

Steven and I ditched them in the theater, though. My parents sat towards the back and we got up close and in the middle to be overwhelmed by the action.

What action it was! The movie had everything a fanboy/girl could want. Truly scary and realistic looking monsters. Corporate greed ("The Man") run amok. Socially awkward hero…

Just Another Gringo In Belize

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To:  Goat and Queen
From:  S. Holmes, Chief Detective for San Pedro Investigations
Date: 15/MAR/2015
Re: Disappearance of P. Parrott

The following account is my complete investigation into, and subsequently developed timeline of, the disappearance of one Phred Parrott of Scottsdale, AZ, USA while vacationing in San Pedro, Belize. I undertook this investigation after the local authorities determined that an official Missing Persons investigation would not be made by their officers as Phred Parrott is not, in reality, an actual person.

All interviewees presented what I believe to be true testimonies and accurate as they recall them. The photographic evidence was gleaned from multiple sources, primarily Facebook as many people seem unable to do any activity without posting there.

Princess:  I was excited to take Phred back to Belize but I have to confess, I was nervous as well. Traveling with Phred makes me appreciate the work the Secret Service does. Not only is he always a target, he…