Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Real plates and In Your Face

Amanda is understanding the mechanics of things now. Everything from the time it takes to download to an I-pod to which is hot and cold water. This is like going from 0 - 60 in an instant after being told the car was stalled and out of gas. It's a lot of fun.

Last night I went and picked up dinner for myself because I was told if I didn't want cereal I better do something about it. Tina and Amanda were both worn out by the flu and had eaten while I was covering the pool. When I got back from the food run I found a plate on the table with a drink and silverware. I'm not afraid of getting sick because it will either happen or it won't, this wasn't going to make a difference.

Tina said Amanda set the whole thing up for me because she said I was a good daddy and needed something special. It's a running joke at our house about real plates versus paper plates and Amanda has a great sense of humor.

After dinner we played Tiger Woods golf on the Wii. I set Amanda's level on easy and mine on standard and I do the putting. We had a blast, I love her trash talking. "In your face" never sounded so sweet. In the end I won, it's only fair.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall is here

It's the kind of day I wish I were outside doing most anything else. That is, until the mosquitoes find me. We've had such wet weather the past month that these pests are like angry little birds. The only plus side is they are so fat and swollen that they are too slow to escape even a carelessly aimed swat. But then they do explode like a small grape.

I'll be covering up the pool this evening and for the next six months looking at a large Hefty bag in the backyard. It will be mocking me with memories of hot days and cool water. Oh well, such is life and the passing of time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cleveland Show

I watched the Family Guy spin off last night, The Cleveland Show, and I just don't know where to start. But i do have to ask, why give the deadpan straight guy of a series his own show.

It is obvious that the staffs of the Family Guy and American Dad were not raided to put this show together. It's as if the writers wanted to get back at the Fox Network. After it was over the only thing I could think off was, "King of the Hill was canceled for this."

Wasn't Cleveland Jr. a skinny hyper kid? Maybe his ADHD medication fattened him up and slowed him down.

For a show that has been hyped for almost a year, didn't anyone with any talent screen the finished product to see if it was worth the time? The only thing that kept it from being as bad as the Jack Black's movie, "The Pick of Destiny" was that it was an hour shorter.

It looks like Cleveland will be back in Rhode Island before mid October.

The Flu - regular, not unleaded

On Thursday Amanda received her flu shot, Saturday morning she was running a temp and then later that day tested positive for the flu. She has felt terrible ever since.

She is on Tami-flu and and hasn't had a fever for 24 hours, but is still feeling on the poor side. When she wants to go to bed before the sun goes down you can tell she is ill.

So, we just watched football all day yesterday while she drew pictures. She is a stoic little patient with too much practice at being ill. But at least she wasn't hospitalized this time. We all agree that we don't like IV's.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It Just Makes Sense

"It just makes sense." That is what Amanda said this morning about a plan that I have four 4 man scramble team. I'm glad she likes the way I think when it comes to important matters such as this. I also like that she used that expression for the first time that I know of. She is making great progress.

But to keep it in perspective, I am also aware of how much easier it is for the average four year old to speak. Without software to hardware interface issues like Amanda's, they simply say just about everything the want to. It doesn't necessarily make me sad when I hear how much easier it for children a third of her age speak so much more clearly. It just makes me acutely aware that my little one just must put in the extra effort to get her thoughts broadcast to her audience.

I truly compare it to me doing upper level algebraic calculations. Anyone who knows my track record with algebra would probably argue that statement. Their argument being, "But John, Amanda can speak to the point of understanding, while your abilities in Algebra 4 were what you could see on other people's paper. "

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunglassed and Fog Lights

Authors Note: I drive a 2008 Chevy Malibu LTZ with a 256 HP V-6 with a six speed transmission. This car is what Chevy should have been building all along. It is quick, powerful and responsive. It also gets 29 MPG on the Highway. It is black with 18 inch wheels and speed performance tires. The audio system has XM Radio, something I have had for more than six years. All and all, it is a great car that suits most of my needs.

Now, on with the blog entry.

I woke up yesterday morning in Bedford, TX, just outside of Ft. Worth. It was a quarter to six, the alarm was set for 6, so my one power was working well.
I had spent the previous day with a long time good friend and we called it a night around 10 pm. I was asleep by 11, but now I was looking forward to getting home.

After my shower I debated shaving. I put the razor back in the kit with the rationalization that four minutes is five miles. I was out of the hotel and bought a 20 oz coffee at the QT next to the hotel and on the road by 6:30, it was still dark, the roads were empty and I was headed east.

I have made this drive countless times in the last 24 years. The drive to Dallas was the first long drive most of my peers made back when we were first licensed by the state. But this time, this morning, this drive fell into perfect balance. I tuned to station 45 on XM, The Spectrum, and listened to The Baker's Dozen. My drive for the next hour had a sound track as well compiled as any play list or mix tape I ever made.

The music was adult contemporary: Dave Mathews and Bell X1 were the best of the lot. The rest were just a bit of a blur, I was just so caught up in the moment and recall a single artist by name. As I went across Lake Ray Hubbarb for an uncountable time the sun started to rise in the east forcing me to wear my sunglasses. I was finishing my coffee and wanting a second cup. I found a good store on the otherside of the lake and reloaded. Further on down the road I drove into some fog and hit the fog lights on my car just to let the traffic know that I was there. Sunglasses and fog lights make for a strange combination. Muted glare is the best way to describe it.

I was isolated from the world. In a cocoon of a cockpit, perfect music with the only destination that matters. It was what I had needed but dared not wish for knowing I would only be disappointed if I did.

By the end of the day my drive was all but forgotten. It had morphed into pleasant day at home even though the Steelers had lost. I cleaned the pool and a few other chores that were on the list and fell asleep on the couch while watching the Cowboys' defense bend until it broke.

This morning had me thinking of sunglasses and fog lights. It was a serene time and a simple pleasure. I hope everyone who wants one can have such a time very soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here's to an old friend and a great day

I spent the afternoon and most the evening with one of my oldest friends. We've known one another since the third grade when we played on the same peewee baseball team. Since that time we spent six years in band, played softball, scout camp, backpacking adventures, we were in one another's weddings and we have attended a lot of ranger games together.

Today we did just that. I made it to town before two. He showed me his office, we played Tiger Woods golf on the Wii, went to dinner and then to the Ranger game. It was better than old times.

All those times before we were in a maturing stage with the need to go a lot further than we had been. Today while we were driving around we were talking about 401K plans and roth IRA's. Worse yet, we really knew what we were talking about. We were like a Mike Myers character from Saturday Night Live, Middle Aged Man. We both noticed it and laughed about it. My friend and I have enough common ground and yet enough differences where we genuinely enjoy talking to one another because while there is overlap in experiences, their are also enough differences where I truly look forward to getting caught up.

For now, I'm in a hotel for the night. I'm going to sign off, watch the rest of the UT v TT games and crash out. I'll be up and out of here early in the am. Amanda and I have a date for pizza and football at noon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Defining my mold

After a long day at the office and handling problems that literally circumvented the world, I arrived home at just past 5. Tina and Amanda were at a friend's house so my lovely home was quiet and I had a chance to relax.

I poured a glass of Merlot and sat down on the sofa. I took a deep breath and thought about people my own age doing about the exact same thing from the east coast through the central time zone at this exact moment. We are the mid life people who aren't kids anymore, we have upper management positions in this economy and a head full of knowledge that has been acquired as much by experience as by education or instinct. Then I did what I had to do, I poured a second glass of wine and turned on the TV, but not to cable news or CNBC or even ESPN. I found Kung Fu Panda and watched Po and decompressed.

I believe in the power of silly. I'm not a prankster but I have a quick wit, and if I don't laugh a couple of times a day I feel the day has been wasted. Yesterday was not a wasted day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She said what?

We all hear things throughout the day that cause us to pause. I'm a fairly outspoken person so when I pause I follow up by speaking. Yesterday I had to get some new headphones for Tina so she wouldn't take mine. While Amanda and I were checking out I heard two clerks talking about a night class.

Clerk #1: Got enough candy there?

Clerk #2: Just stocking up for the most boring class ever.

Clerk #1: What is it?

Clerk #2: History, it's killing me.

I paused for about 4 seconds, which in John time is a long time before speaking up against an outrage.

Me: Are you kidding me, the worst history class I ever took was better than the best math class and I should know because I took most of my math courses twice.

Clerk #1: (Surprised look on face) Have a nice day sir.

Me: Seriously, history at the very least should be an easy A even if it's not interesting to you. It's not like you have to carry the one or divide a fraction.

Amanda: Yeah!

I like it when she backs me up.

Clerk #2: I just don't like.

At that Amanda starts to drag me out of the store. She doesn't like her daddy arguing.

I know not everyone has my love of history. I've studied the Ottoman Empire, China's Boxer Rebellion, our own civil war, WWI and WWII, American history to a point of distraction and a great deal of European and Middle Eastern history. So I suppose I took offense at someone calling one of my passions boring.

I was one of those students in class who would read ahead in the books weeks at a time. I would read so much I would forget to do the work, but I'm much more disciplined now.

I hope clerk # 2 at least is willing to put in the effort to learn something. Even a boring history teacher can teach a student something if they are willing to learn.

Wasted effort in dreamland

It is another rainy day, something I'm used to by now. I keep forgetting to buy some non insulated rubber boots or shoes. My Bean boots would just cook me today, but something along that line is definitely needed. More rain is on the way.

Do you ever wake up tired. Last night I had a dream that Tina woke me and Amanda up at 4 o'clock in the morning and put us to work on important list items. The dream was so vivid that I actually woke up from it because I thought I was getting back into bed. I looked at the clock and it was 5:15 a.m. At the point I knew I wasn't going to make it. After cleaning a dirty garage in my dream I was exhausted. It had to be a dream, because my garage is never like that. Not long after that I was up for the day.

Just too weird. I prefer my sleep to be much more restful than that. Tonight I hope to dream about sleeping, that way I can double. Kind of like putting chocolate syrup on chocolate ice cream.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Wait Is Over

After a ten day wait, the TISD Board of Trustees made their decision. I wasn't chosen, but I feel they made the best choice. When I first expressed interest in the post, it was because no one knew who would fill the empty seat. I wanted to make sure it was filled with someone capable. While I feel I could do a fine job in the post, the chosen candidate has more experience within the district. I wish him well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My ADD is one of the things I have going for me, at times.

Truth be told, I'm not sure what I even want to write about today. There are a number of topic spinning around in my head at the moment but none will stay in place long enough for me to figure it out. Like a saxaphone solo from a jazz player after a double espresso, I just can't pull out a true theme.

1. First date anniversary
2. John may not be so common any more
3. Almost too much football, almost
4. Instrumentals vs. vocals
5. Papa Murphy's Pizza makes me feel good
6. Woody Harrelson is everywhere
7. Thick neck shirts and no chicken on the rug

I just don't know which way to go, so if anyone has an opinion, let me know.

30 minutes later: Turned on my NPR podcasts

I think I will go with number 6. I have watched two movies in the past five days that have Woody Harrelson in, "The Battle in Seattle" where he played police officer during the riot of the WTO meeting in 1999. It was a very serious and believable roll.

Last night I saw him with a part in "Seven Pounds" playing a blind pianist who also worked as a phone salesman for a steak company. He was very humble and kind in this roll.

But, the one I am looking forward to seeing him in is "Zombieland." I think anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about zombies. This movie should be a hoot. I love comedies and zombies just need to be hunted and killed, because they are pure evil because they just want to kill you and make you a zombie.

I also saw him in a movie last month called, "The Grand." He played a poker player who had been married more than 70 times and was actually thrown out of his own casino. It was a great movie. 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

#2 - The original title of my blog was, "John is a common name." Well, this weekend while playing a game with Amanda I read out loud every name from her school yearbook. Out of 700 students, about half of them boys, only two were had the name John. There were two Jonathan's, but they just don't count. Other names that were noticeably missing were: Chris, Robert, Tony, Allan, and a lot of other names that I grew up with. I guess my generation just didn't want to carry on the tradition.

Well, that's it for the blog now. I'll have to attack the rest of the list this week. That is, if I can remember them.

Friday, September 11, 2009


September 11th, 2001 I was in Sacramento, CA on business. It was early on the west coast and I was preparing for my day and listening to NPR. Like everyone else, I instantly turned on the news to see what was happening.

I won't go into the particulars about how I felt at that time other than extreme sadness for all of the victims of our terrible enemy. People I could easily identify with because I to am a business traveler, noncombatant, and simple citizen.

I know how the airline industry works. So as soon as I heard flights were grounded, I rented a car. The first day I made it to Flagstaff, AZ. The next day I was in Amarillo, TX. The third day brought me home.

It was a lonely drive, filled with talk radio and an audio book book I purchased for distraction, "The Third Hand." Not a particularly good story, but it was something to listen to other than the radio.

Bruce Springsteen went onto do a great album about the attack, The Rising. One song in particular caught the essence of my drive, "Empty Sky." I've been on so many planes I instinctively look up and count the airplanes when I am outside. There were none on my drive and it made me feel very lonely. I don't mind being alone, and sometimes I crave it, but that is different than feeling lonely. The world was different that week.

It has tried to get back to normal, but it never will be. The bar for evil has been raised to an all time high. Anxiety is founded on reality, and just leaving on a business trip or vacation has added stresses that we never thought of before this date in 2001.

I still travel, as do countless other people. But isn't it more than just sad to think that your fellow passengers and crew are so similar to all the people we lost eight years ago, as well as the people working in the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

The brave firefighters and police who ran into the carnage are heroes of unmatchable courage, and I will always admire them.

Flight 93 in western PA was full of selfless people who saved possibly hundreds if not thousands of lives, and the will always be heroes.

It's 9-11 again, and that is how I feel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Towel Is Out!

When I was five years old my family moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Pittsburgh, PA. We lived there only a couple of years, but it was during that time became a Steeler fan. In 1976 we moved to TXK where if you don't watch the Cowboys you don't watch anything. And while I do admit a fondness for the Cowboys, I believe in the Steelers. Their ownership is the best in football, their coach is carrying on the tradition of greatness and tough guy class, and the team speaks for itself.

Waiting and waiting

Ten days ago I interviewed for a position on our local school board. A seat had become vacant do to the board member moving out of the area and the board will appoint someone to that seat until May of next year when there will be an election for a full three year term.

I sent in my letter of interest the first day as did five other people. I feel the interview went well.

I had reviewed the documentation provided to all candidate and knew the budgetary facts of the district. When asked what my agenda was, my reply is I don't have a specific agenda at this time. I am simply volunteering my time, passion for education, and expertise from the business world to fill this spot. I don't believe a singular agenda makes for good management, particularly in a large organization.

This last week I have been waiting, the announcement will be made Tuesday evening at the board meeting. If I am appointed I will give it my best effort, if the board chooses someone else I guess it is back to the bench and that is not such a bad place to be.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Second on the list

Amanda doesn't say, "next," she uses the phrase "second on the list." That is because her mother is a highly organized person who always has a list. I know what is going to happen today when I look at the list the night before. If I ever read, hit John on the head with a shovel I will make sure to wear a helmet that day.

This last weekend I actually dealt with the list pretty well. But the thing about a list is this, it is very easy to write three words, "fix the shed." Actually fixing the shed requires a lot more blood, sweat and tears. But for those of us who don't use lists as effectively as people like my wife, then it is easier to just fix the shed than it is to keep up with a list reminding us to fix the shed.

But I know the secrete to the list. The lists are never more than three days out, so if you want to know what is coming, you have to check the calendar. That is where I saw the item, "wash the eaves." That wasn't for three weeks but I knocked it out this last weekend. Therefore, it will never be on the list. And while I may have actually had to do the work, it was never on the list, which means I am getting ahead of the game.

Will Tina put something on the list just to fill the space? The answer is no. Tina plays fair. That is one of her many beautiful qualities. And the list today didn't have me doing anything but going out to dinner with a friend passing through town. The list is for her benefit, not mine. She needed the shed fixed so she put it on the list knowing I would do it, but it wasn't on her list to nag me. That is what the list is for. I just make a point to write my name on the list from time to time to make sure she is still reading it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hence the name

Another three day weekend like this last one I will just go ahead and get a second job.

Saturday I helped a couple of friends move and remove furniture. The moving was pretty easy. The removing had some effort involved but was also a lot of fun. We took an old three cushion sofa to a dumpster at my factory. Now, a three dumpster sofa will not fit in a dumpster so it has to be modified with extreme violence by two large men with crowbars. By the time we were done the sofa could have fit in a garbage can. The old roach infested sofa will no longer be a threat to my friend's carport.

Later in the day I mowed the yard. I may have mentioned this about my yard, but when I am in the back corner with my push mower, this yard is as big as the Ponderosa of Bonanza fame.

Sunday was the real work day. My brother and I installed a new door on my shed. We had the frame fabricated at work but we had to router the hinges, and drill eleven holes through steel, each hole requiring three drill bits. Quick math says that is 33 drillings. There was some other parts of the construction that went on and the door swings perfectly for the first time in years.

That night I did a cook out for my brothers family and our parents.

Yesterday I finished the trim work on the shed and washed the soffit on the front of the house.

On all of the jobs Amanda was close at hand with the exception of the sofa violence. I don't like her in the area when I'm swinging a crowbar. I think it is caring on the side of caution.

She was a total little trooper all weekend, but we both agree that we need to get back to work and to school to get some rest.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cowboys and Amanda

Ok, I haven't had a beer this year, so I'm watching a Cowboys game and drinking red wine. It is a little different, but I'm managing. i really don't miss the beer and I physically feel better. I swear, some days I feel like Allan Harper from 2 1/2 Men. At least I can move my half of a 150 pound outdoor fireplace.

Amanda is back in the playroom with Tina and she is going on about something. She gets pretty worked up this time of night. She always has actually. She was very late to baby babble, but when she did it was always this time of evening. She was quiet for a big part of her life, but now she is like Donkey from Shrek, it is getting her to shut up that is the trick. It is very nice to hear.

Years ago I remember talking with a child psychologist about Amanda. She asked, "What do you want from this child?" I answered, "I just want a conversation." Well, I have that and it really is enough.

BTW: Cowboys just scored, they have a good backup with Kitna. He doesn't have the weak arm like Wilson did.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My new toy

I have a new laptop, a Dell inspiron mini. This is a nice little machine with long battery life and a hard drive as large as my desktop, all for $4oo. That last part I find amazing. My first laptop cost as much as my last three and it was less powerful than my Blackberry.

But more importantly, I gave Amanda my old Dell Latitude 400. She will never turn it on, just mimic the actual use of a laptop. At this moment she is "blogging." She thinks I hung the moon.

The tie that binds

Today was one of those rare occasions when I needed to wear a tie. So this morning I put on my black suit, with my blue shirt. I didn't put on my tie at home because my meeting wasn't for three hours and the longer I can avoid putting a leash around my neck the better. When I got to work I did some review for my meeting and then went to put on my tie. Try as I might, I couldn't get my top button done. A long time friend and coworker tried to do button me up and finally said, "I think you need to go up to a 17 1/2 inch neck."

Here in lies the problem, this was an 18 1/2" neck shirt. I get the athletic cut shirts because I have a 46" chest and 35" waist but my shoulders go right into my neck. One of my friends says that I have a neck like a Rottweiler. So I went home and found another large necked shirt. The collar is cut a little different and it fit well enough, but it looks like I will be adding 19" shirts to the wardrobe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

She is too modest, so I have have to say it

The other night Tina and I are watching TV and an ad for E Harmony comes on. The ad emphasized that selections were based on like intelligence and values. Well let me say this, I am so glad I didn't go that route. It was very necessary for me to find someone who is smarter than I am who possesses a moral compass. It would have been very easy for me to have dropped out of school and wound up selling stolen car parts out of a friend's garage.

Tina has inspired me, guided me, coached me, and corrected me. I wouldn't be me without her.