Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weekend Assignment #277: Your call is very important to us

First, I have to say that I missed last week's assignment by total accident. I was confused as to what day it was (it happens with my work schedule at times) and I thought I had another day to do it. Yes, I need a calendar in front of me at all times. Better yet, someone to just sit next to me and remind me what day it is.

Anyway, on with this week's assignment. Karen asks:

Weekend Assignment: #277: We've all become used to automated phone routers ("To continue in English, press 1"), long waits at government offices and other bureaucratic obstacles to getting something done. Have you any particular horror stories along these lines, or have you had mostly good experiences with government agencies?

Actually, mine haven't been too bad. It's very surprising since most of my phone dealings with government agencies were tax related. Those are never good. I get nervous just thinking about taxes and the IRS. (They are reading this now, aren't they? Crap.)

Anyway, a couple of years ago when I had our taxes done, the person preparing them asked if we wanted to file electronically. I said yes thinking we'd get our measly refund back quicker. So, when we got our packet of materials in the mail I opened them, gave them a quick once over, and put them to the side. My brother, as he usually does, called when he got his refund and asked if we had ours. We didn't, but I didn't think too much about it. Until it was about April 13th, or so, when I thought we should really have gotten the money since we filed so early.

So, I called the IRS to check on our filing. I was nervous just dialing them up. I was afraid I'd trigger some kind of audit by calling them. (Ha Ha! No need to audit, if you are still reading. Everything is cool here!) Surprisingly, I got a gentleman on the phone pretty quickly and he informed me that, no, we had nothing on file. That's when I decided to look more closely at the papers we had received about 6 weeks before that and noticed we had to send everything in. We still got our money, but not as early as we would have liked. At least the guy on the phone was nice.

This year was a little different. We tried to file our state return electronically ourselves but we needed a PIN number for some reason. Since we have someone else do our taxes usually, we had no PIN. And since I was being the typical me and waiting until the second-to-last day, when I tried to call the number I got the, "We are experiencing and unusually high call rate. Please try again later." Yeah, right. I ended up mailing it in. I did notice a short blurb in the local people about people not able to get through. They said they were overloaded by an unexpected number of calls. Really? How can it be unexpected at tax time? Everyone waits until the last day, surely they understand that! (This is a state matter, nothing to do with the national IRS system. No siree!)

The only other thing I have learned over time is to not wait until the day before you need to have a new village sticker on your car to go buy them. That was a long line!

Extra Credit: Does this problem seem to be getting better or worse?

Well, it seems it isn't getting any better. Maybe not worse though.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One way to make sure your family never forgets you

Personal Urns. Isn't it just better to keep pictures of your loved ones? This is super creepy.

It could scare the crap out of would-be burglars though, right?

It could also be a nice Christmas tree topper.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, July 27, 2009

In real life

I've been absent from here a few days, sorry about that. It's been a busy week. I've been on the afternoon shift at work, which always makes things a little more interesting, and we've been busy around the house too. I don't want to say why yet, if everything works out I'll let you know of course.

But, one fun thing did happen this weekend. I got to meet a blogger friend, in real life and everything! It was a little surreal to think about it at first. It's not like I know many people from here anyway, but actually meeting someone who I've never met yet, at the same time I know, was strange, cool and fun all wrapped up together.

See, Florinda was here in town for the BlogHer convention, so after several e-mails, and work tweaking, we got to meet downtown for lunch on Saturday before I had to go to work. It was fun, but way too short. I only had about 90 minutes before I had to fight traffic to make it back to work on time, but it was totally worth it. I had a good time, and since she hasn't blocked me from Twitter yet, I guess she did too. I did feel like I was talking at an extremely rapid pace, but sometimes I do that when I'm a tad nervous, and when I only have 90 minutes to tell my life story. Good thing I didn't have any caffeine to make it worse.

The funny part is that we would have had a little more time to talk, but I got a little lost. I don't drive downtown much, hate the traffic, but I did okay there since it was right off of Ohio street. For those of you not from Chicago, that is the street you get off the tollway from, in that area at least. I was fine there, the problem came after parking. It was one of those garages where you pull in on one street then come out somewhere else. Or so it seemed. All I know is I came out of the garage and I was totally turned around. I called Jenn for some help, but she couldn't help without seeing where I was. Then I remembered I had GPS on my phone! Somehow I got a decent signal, figured out which direction to go (the opposite of which I was heading) and started to jog to the restaurant. I'm sure I looked like a total goober. So, in short, the person who has lived in the Chicago all his life, was slightly late meeting the person who had never been there because he was a little lost.

Anyway, we had a nice lunch, talked a bit about the conference, family and the city. We didn't have enough time at all, but it was still great meeting Florinda. She said her and her husband plan to come back to town, so hopefully we can get together again. This time I'll have Jenn with to guide me.

One thing I wanted to do was take a picture with both of us in it to post here, but I forgot. See, goober. Want to know what pictures I did remember to take that day? Take a look:

Yes, I took pictures of in the parking garage so I could remember where I parked. Nerd!

Anyway, Florinda, thanks for taking time out from your convention to meet me for lunch. I hope I didn't talk your ear off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #47: Patterns

This week it's all about patterns. Carly wants us to photograph some kinds of pattern.

I wasn't sure what to photograph at first, until I looked outside. Needless to say, we have some shadow work again.

Here is sunlight through the back of a patio chair.

Actually, now that I look at it there is two patterns. The pattern from the chair, and the pattern of the small rocks that make up the concrete in the patio.

This other is the pattern of the fake bricks on the kids old playhouse.

Nothing all that exciting this week. Maybe I'll post more if I see more around later this week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodbye, old friend

Well, the old car is gone. It wasn't supposed to be this quick, but we left her at the dealership, gave her a hug and took our new car home last night.

What was supposed to happen, was Jenn and I go to the dealership last night, check out the car that came in, sign some of the papers to get some of that done, then come back today or tomorrow and pick it up. Somehow we ended up being there until after 10pm and came home with the new car. I didn't even have the title for the old car with me. I need to find that to bring it in. I'm pretty sure I know where it is. Maybe.

So, now we have a new car with the new car smell and no dings. Yet. See, that is the part I hate about a new car. Now we have to watch where we park, make sure we have room to open the doors, and enough room for the loser next to us to open his door without smacking it into our car. There is nothing worse than the first ding on new car. It always comes too soon. Am I right?

Anyway, before we traded the old car in I was able to witness this:

This is the first car we have owned that broke the 100,000 mile barrier. Every other car has bit the dust just before that mark. I found it fitting that it happened on the day we sold it. Don't you?

Okay, I need to go to work.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #46: Seen in Summer

My post this week may be a bit different than the others. Most of it is because, as I said before, this summer has been very cool, so not much of your usual summer activities happen as often. Going to the pool is out most day since it is too cold, and I don't see as many kids running around outside. Who wants to wear long pants, or a light coat, in the middle of summer?

Anyway, Carly wants us to take some pictures of things seen in the summer, or what summer means to us.

Well, one thing that summer means to me is weeds. I don't like them, and I don't like removing them. What a pain?

Next, is bugs. There are way too many in the summer, and I don't like them at all. That is one reason I don't like to eat outside. I like to grill the food, then bring it in. I know, I sound like a wimp. But, one bug I have learned to loathe is the Japanese Beetle. We have a tree that became infested last summer, and they are back. Look at this guy gnawing on that leaf!

The biggest problem, besides the destruction of the tree, is the sap and debris that falls on the cars when they are parked under the tree.

This tree is right along the driveway so it is impossible to avoid.

Today I took control of things, bought some insecticide my brother recommended, and sprayed the tree. Here is the carnage I left behind. Warning, not for the squeamish, or the bug lover.

That's all for today. Go check out the other pictures at Carly's site.

Edited to add: I can't get into the comments on Carly's site so this may not be official. So I hope some of you guys get to see it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Halfway to 80

I turned 40 a short time ago, as you may recall, but today we are going to a party for a couple of friends tonight. They decided to have a "halfway to 80" party to celebrate turning 40 a different way. Not a bad idea. Maybe it will make me feel a little less old for a short time.

I probably would have felt younger if I put a deposit down on a Corvette rather than a Camry today. Of course, I'd need a bit more money. Anyone want to lend me some? And a trailer to attach to the back to put the kids in?

Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weekend Assignment #275: Staying cool

Really, I should have no problem with this since I'm cool like The Fonz. (For you kids out there under age 30, go here to find out who The Fonz was.)

Anyway, Karen wants to talk about summer. How do we stay cool, beat the heat, whatever other term there might be for it.

Weekend Assignment: #275: What's your favorite way to stay cool in the summer? Is this even an issue where you live?

The good thing about this summer, so far, is it has been very cool here in the Chicago area. This spring was one of the coolest, and wettest we've had, and the summer hasn't changed much. It's not quite as wet, but it is certainly cool. There are a lot of people around here complaining about the lack of heat, but, I'm sorry, those people are just plain wrong. What is so wrong with it being warm enough to wear shorts, but not so warm that you can't go to the end of the driveway with out a water station set up there?

I guess you can say, I'm loving this summer. The humidity has been low, the temperature has been nice, there really isn't a whole lot to complain about. Sure, you can't go to the outdoor pools very often, or the beach for that matter, but so what? If you had a pool in your backyard I could understand the frustration, but otherwise there is not a whole lot to complain about. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like driving to a pool in order to get splashed and trampled by a million other people. And the beaches around here aren't all that great. When they are even open that is. We seem to get a lot of closures due to contamination in the water near the beaches. Doesn't that sound fun? Let's go swim in filth!

Sorry, I'm totally getting off the subject of this assignment. What I usually do during the very hot days of summer, is sit in the air conditioned house. Summer isn't all that long here, but when we get the really warm days it is usually accompanied by high humidity thanks to the warm, moist air from the Gulf. It's not fun. Heat is one thing, but when the air is so thick that you can actually see it, it's just unbearable. So, the air conditioner is your friend around here. I crank it up in the car and in the house. The electric bill isn't so fun, but I don't stick to the couch. That us totally worth it right there.

Extra Credit: Was climate a significant factor in deciding to live where you do?

I've lived here all my life, so I really didn't get to pick the climate. I don't know where the weather is perfect all year round. I don't think that place exists, at least in the United States. Maybe when Jenn and I retire we'll do something like our neighbors do, go somewhere warm in the winter, then come back here for the summer. Of course, we need money for that.

So, how's the weather by you this summer?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Believe it or not...I'm a big dork.

So, we got these shirts in the mail today:

We have a good reason for it, I swear. See, Jenn and I are doing The Great Urban Race in Chicago and these are going to be our team shirts. Cool, huh?

By the way, you know the show this shirt is from, right? Just in case, it was called The Greatest American Hero, and it was awesome. Don't let anyone else tell you any different.

So make sure you keep your fingers crossed for us in the race, It's on August 1st, so I'll let you know how it went afterwards.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weird vacation, or just an unfortunate cut-off?

I was looking at the EW site (What?) and I noticed this link on the bottom that when to a Huffington Post article. (No, I don't read that site).

(Don't click the link if you are at work, or offended easily or have an irrational fear of fruit. Really!)

That was how it was cut off, and I thought, that's kind of funny, he's partying with a banana. What a hilarious cut-off of a headline. Then I clicked on it. Whoa! I wasn't expecting that. I'm not sure which is more funny now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #45: Black and Blue

Carly wants some black and blue things this week. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I don't have a have bruise to show you. Those are always fun to share.

Here's what I do have for you this week:

I had a little trouble finding some things with the correct colors at first. Then I remembered some wine bottles we had in the house. The wine bottle pops up a few times.

On this first try, I tried to focus through the bottle. It turned out okay, not great.

Next, I tried to get more of the lettering, the lighting wasn't great, as you can see:

It was more of a flash problem than anything else.

Then, I took a picture of my new baby in it's protective case.

You didn't think it was going to be an actual baby, did you?

Lastly, the wine bottle came back and I tried to work with some sunlight coming through a window.

Like I said, I tried.

For the extra credit Carly wanted to know something about or favorite colors and favorite color choices for photography. Well, my favorite color is red, but I don't find it easy to photograph. I find some shades of green easier. Maybe it's just because I like nature shots.

That's all for today. Go check out the other shots now.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Born to Dairy Queen

Well, not Dairy Queen, but you get the point. This is where I get pissed at myself for not exercising properly over the winter, so prepare yourself.

The last race I did was the Shamrock Shuffle back in March. While I wasn't super prepared for it, I did okay considering the conditions. Then, after the Shuffle, I fell off the wagon. Actually, I fell of the wagon, the wagon backed-up and ran over me a few more times, then the driver spit on me. It's been a long cold Spring Involving many snacks and sweets, and very little exercise.

But, I've been working at changing that. It's going about as well as I expected, which means it's been terrible. Each day I go running I get pissed at myself for sitting on the couch and eating enough M&M's to feed a small country. Like Canada. The tons of burritos and tacos haven't helped. Curse you, Chipotle and Qdoba for you Delicious and relatively inexpensive Mexican food!

Anyway, I've been trying to be better. Really. I still have M&M's, but I no longer buy the large bags to keep in the house. That way I only eat a human portion of them per day. Also, both Jenn and I have been trying to eat better overall. I'm not sure the last time we had a burrito, though I did ask her if she wanted one the other day. Hey, I was on midnights, I'm very weak-minded when I work them! Luckily, Jenn kept us on track. I don't remember what I had, but it was better for me than a giant burrito. Then again, what isn't?

So, what I'm telling you, and trying to convince myself, is that I'm trying. I've been running. Really. Just not a whole lot yet in the distance department so far, but I'm working on that too. I need to find some races that I can do soon. That always helps motivate me. Terror is a good motivator, I don't care what other people say.

That's all I have to say about that. Where's the ice cream?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Weekend Assignment #274: The Pursuit of Happiness

Wow, Karen didn't pick an easy assignment topic this week. Sure, it goes with the Independence Day theme, but it's not all that easy to answer the question she poses this week.

Weekend Assignment: #274: How do you personally pursue Happiness?

See what I mean? It's not like I lead a miserable life, or anything, but putting this kind of answer into words isn't all that easy. At least, words that other people can understand since everybody's perception of happiness is different.

I guess, for me, it depends on the situation. Sometimes music can make me happy. Or, at least more content. For example, lately I've been listening to my iPod at work much more. Mostly when I'm bored or restless while I'm there. Or, when there is nobody at work that I really talk to much. See, we all have rotating shifts to different degrees, so there can be days when I'm working with people that I don't know as well as others. I know that doesn't make much sense, but I can't really explain it. It's not like I don't know who everybody at work is, just that I know some people better than others. So, on some days work can be really boring and long, that's when I break out the iPod to keep me motivated and in a good mood. It works pretty well.

A good comedy, either or TV or movie, can make me happy, too. Actually, sometimes I like to watch bad movies that crack me up in ways that they are not meant to be funny. I guess that is why I like Mystery Science Theater 3000 so much. Usually, when I'm watching one of these bad movies, I'll hop onto Twitter and make some jokes about it. I know most people don't get them, or even see them, but it makes me feel better just to make those lame jokes.

Last, but not least, would be my family, of course. With the kids I try to have fun with them playing video games. It makes me happy because they are doing something I enjoyed as a kid, though with much better graphics. And with Jenn, I like to try to get out alone on occasion. That always makes me happy. It just doesn't happen enough.

Extra Credit: How do you know when you've caught it?

I guess I know, because I'm not all stressed out. Just ask Jenn, I get like that a lot.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hey, where is my credit?

Oh, now the Chicago Tribune hops on the bandwagon and brings up Rainn Wilson's tweet about it. Hey, I brought it up in January!

I get no respect, I tell ya. (Just Imagine me adjusting my collar as I say that).

Happy Sequential Day, people. I hope you were up at 12:34:56 this morning to celebrate. I was at work, but I forgot. That's what happens when I work overnights.

Good night.

What a week I'm having!

Quick, what movie is the title from?

I'm on the midnight shift, which is bad enough, but, since this was a holiday weekend, of course our son was also sick.  He has strep throat. Again. It's the third time in about 2 months. The doctor said if he gets it again before October his tonsils have to come out. Let me just tell you how much I'm looking forward to that. How do they do it these days anyway? He said it was outpatient, so does that mean it's some kind of laser surgery? You know they do everything with lasers these days. I want to know when they are going to have laser scissors for home use. Won't that be cool? Or, how about a laser lawnmower?

Anyway, since he was sick, the two of us stayed home on the 4th and played some video games and watched some TV. It wasn't exciting, but it worked out in a way since I had to go into work that night. I got to sleep as much as I wanted to the first day after work, but since he wasn't getting better (this was before we had the diagnosis) it made the rest of the week interesting. Jenn took the morning off on Monday, took him to the doctor, then I got up and she went to work. I got about four hours of sleep that day. That wouldn't be terrible, but when I'm working the midnight shift I need a lot of sleep.

After Jenn came home from work I tried to take a nap, but I couldn't sleep. I think I was worried I wouldn't wake up. I'm not sure. So on Tuesday, today, I took the kids over to my mom's house and I tried to sleep there. It didn't work out too well. The kids were really loud, and they came to wake me up a couple of times. Once to tell me they were hungry. Why they had to come and tell me that instead of my mom who was in the same room as them, I'll never know. But I wasn't very happy about that. And I let them know that.

So, yes, I'm a little cranky, and tired. But, at least my week of midnights is over after I get home. I think I'm going to fall asleep as soon as the my head hits the pillow. Maybe sooner. Hopefully I wait until I get home at least.

And, since I'm crabby, I'll ask you a question. Does it annoy you when you are driving and there is a lane closed up ahead and some dickweed has to drive all the way up to the barricade before he merges over to the open lane? Do you want to plow right into that car as much as I do? Now, I'm not talking about when the person can't see it because there is a huge line of cars and nobody knows what's going on. I'm talking about that guy that is diving in the lane next to you, and slightly behind, and nobody is in front of him, and he keeps driving and finally gets a little ahead of you and makes you slow down so he can get in front of you. Even when there is nobody behind you and he could have pulled behind you. But no, he has to get in front of you so he can get to that red light .015 seconds ahead of you, even though he isn't going anywhere. Just wait until I got those lasers installed in the front of my car.

Okay, I'm done. I need to sleep. Can you tell?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Want to take a nap at work? Just buy the Cozy.

No longer is the blanket with the built in sleeves enough; now you need a blanket with a built in head rest. I give you the Cozy.

Look how comfortable it is to take a nap anywhere now. Sleep at your desk, on a plane, in a lounge chair in your backyard. Your chair doesn't have a head rest? No problem, the Cozy will take care of that for you? Want to possibly get tangled up in it an choke yourself accidentally? Or maybe not so accidentally, if you know what I mean, then you need to get a cozy.

Look how comfortable that guy is sleeping at his desk! Don't worry, his boss will understand that he needs to energize himself after that tough business lunch that included four beers. And look, when you use it folded up your arms seemed to be trapped inside, thus adding extra stress on your neck that the pillow is attached to. How comfortable!

Oh, you really need to watch the video on that site. I love the part where the kids are running around the house while the mother has her arms in the Cozy. It looks like they tied her up in there so they can do what they want!

Also, if you order now you get a bunch of other stuff for free, well if you include 9 bucks as postage and handling as free. Actually, with the postage and handling on the whole set you nearly double the low, low price of $19.99.  What a bargain!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sequential Day is almost here!

I've been noticing people on Twitter talking about how on July 8th and 04:56 am it's going to be 4:56 07/08/09. I won't mention where I saw it started, but let's just say it was a cable network with a rather patriotic set of letters.

Anyway, as all of you who read here know, back in January I was talking about how on 12:34:56 am the same day it will be 12:34:56 07/08/09. So let's spread that around. Ok? And, as that old post says, I'm going to be waiting for the wave to hit here. I think I need to set my alarm to remember.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weekend Assignment #273: Music of my life

I've talked a lot about music on here since I listen to it while doing everything, like right now, but also because it means a lot to me. I'm not sure why, but I know that certain music will pull me out of a bad mood, or get me to keep running when I'm too tired to go far, or to transport me to a completely different time in my life. So, I'm glad that Karen brought up the topic of music and musicians for this weekend assignment. I just wish I got to it sooner.

For me, there are certain stages to my musical journey through life. So I'm going to break it up into sections.

My infancy, so to speak, of music started with the first album I owned that was all mine. I had several hand-me-down 8 tracks from my sister, but nothing I listened to with great frequency. Except maybe Cheap Trick At Budokan. I think I listened to that a lot. But, on Christmas my stepsister gave me The Cars debut album on cassette. I think I wore a hole in that tape. I carried around one of those clumsy shoe box sized cassette players and listened to it all the time. That was my first introduction to rock music. I don't want to bring up my older embarrassing music I listened to prior than that.

The next stage came with music I actually bought myself. Mostly that was Styx and Kansas. I loved those two bands. They were a bit different in style than The Cars, but they had the right mix for me. Some good rocking music, but also some slower songs mixed with a little progressive rock; especially with Kansas.

I think Styx Paradise Theater album was the one I listened to the most. It was certainly one of their biggest albums and it hit at the perfect time for me. What I want to know, though, is why is not on iTunes? That is driving me crazy. I can't find that album anywhere. I have all of Kansas' albums, I have to finish up the nostalgia trip with Styx.

Those two bands carried me through to my high school years. Around sophomore year one of my friends bought Metallica's Ride the Lightning. At first I hated it. I thought it was a musical nightmare from which I'd never wake up. Then, one day I was asking him to put it one. After listening to it a few times I could see what these guys were doing. I could hear that they had talent and were just doing something a little different. This lead me to my metal years of Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Megadeth, and many others. It was a good time. I still listen to them this day.

Even though I started listening to Rush before I heard Metallica, I'm listing them at the end. See, I was one of those guys that liked all of their albums up to Signals then thought they got to mellow. That was until sometime late in high school, maybe even just after graduation, when I saw the live video for A Show of Hands concert. On this they played plenty of songs from those albums I thought we no good, and I realized I was wrong. So, I went and bought them all up. Rush is still my favorite all time band. They have great musicianship, they do what they want and they still put on a good show. Not bad for some 50 something year old guys.

Those are my four bands, through four musical eras of my life. What about you?

Extra Credit: What is your personal reaction, if any, to the death of Michael Jackson?

I think it's sad. He was certainly not old enough and he's leaving some young kids behind. That's probably the worst part.