Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our kayaking adventure

OK, maybe "adventure" is a bit too strong.  Today K and I went to White Rock Lake in Dallas and rented a couple of kayaks for an hour to just try 'em out.  It was great fun, and I was surprised how quickly K took to it.  She's a natural:

Me....not as much.  These rental kayaks were absolutely ragged out and old, too.  (I think I saw "Jesus" carved in mine.)  My problem was the seat back: it caught me about 3 inches above my waist, right in the small of my back.  And the padding was so old it literally fell off the frame, so whenever I pushed back in my seat for paddling leverage the raw plastic cut into my lower back.  Ouch!  Overall I enjoyed it, but....

Back home I went on the internet and looked up "kayak seats" and found this:
Now I know I can continue to rent for a while longer and get a bit more into kayaking, and when the day comes I'm ready to buy one I can purchase an aftermarket seat for it and cruise in comfort.  :)

Coffee and a bit of reading at Starbucks later in the afternoon rounded out our day.  What did you do today?


Friday, July 29, 2011

All Hail King Steve!

"Latest figures from the US Treasury Department show that the country has an operating cash balance of $73.7bn.  Apple's most recent financial results put its reserves at $76.4bn." (BBC News)
Isn't the solution to the deficit/debt ceiling crisis obvious?  Fire all the politicians and let (Apple CEO) Steve Jobs fix things.  ;)

If Friday's didn't exist I'd have to invent them

A bus station is where a bus stops.  A train station is where a train stops.  On my desk I have a work station.  (What were they thinking?)

You do not need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute to skydive twice.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Move over Lewis & Clark....

....make room for Scott & Kelly.  

Yesterday evening K and I took a class at REI Coop (an outdoors store) on map and compass reading.  Years ago I knew how to navigate by compass but over the years I've forgotten most of it.  We hope to be able to go back to Colorado next year and thought we'd try some hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, hence our new found interest in maps and compasses.  

Now if we get lost we can put our new skills to use....or use our iPhones to just call for help.  (Just doesn't sound as rugged, does it?)  

We have reservations to rent some kayaks this weekend and paddle around White Rock Lake.  They've actually rigged a portion of the Trinity River to include some rapids for recreational use, but I think we're a long way from being able to do that.  Baby steps first.

Tropical Storm Don is in the Gulf of Mexico and looks to eventually make landfall somewhere along the lower Texas coast.  While I certainly don't want to see anyone get hurt by it, some rain would be welcome.  We're bone dry here, some lakes so low you can't put a boat in, some further west totally dry.  This heat and drought is working its way to the very top of the record books.  I'm hoping the northern-most projected storm track, the one that comes closest to us, will be the correct one.

One day closer to the weekend.  Yea!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The ultimate "silver lining"

They say if the debt ceiling impasse isn't resolved soon the government will be forced to furlough all "non-essential" personnel.

Umm....won't that be pretty much ALL of 'em?  (Think how much money THAT would save!)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Playing "air timpani" with Enya

As my idol Alfred E. Neuman once said, "Why be normal?"

I learned long ago I wasn't coordinated enough to play "air guitar", but I can tear a timpani up!  (It's a kettle drum)  Tonight I was sitting around listening to my iPhone/Pod (Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, Carla Bruni, Norah Jones, Pink Floyd) and I re-discovered my Enya collection.  She's an awesome Irish female singer/songwriter, really big in Europe.  I wish she'd tour here as I would go out of my way to see her.  And if her timpani player should suddenly take ill, I'm ready!

We got a bit of a break on the heat today....until about 4 pm.  It was cloudy all day until then, and we even got sprinkled on.  Nice!  But late in the day the sun broke through and the temperature shot back up into "Oh Shit!" territory.  We officially topped out at 102 for the 25th straight day of 100 degrees or more.   :(

My favorite OCD client notified us today he was going to be out of town on business until August 8th.  Actually things will soon be much better from my standpoint as my part of his home (structural) is about finished, and now my brother will soon be taking the lead with color selections and the detail stuff.

Hope you have things going your way, too.



In my email in-box this morning:

"Those who work for a living are now outnumbered by those who vote for a living."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hell is frozen...pigs are flying...

...and one of the world's preeminent technological Neanderthals (that would be ME) now has an iPhone.  Unlikely as all those might be, I know for a fact the last one is true, so I'm sure scientists will soon be holding a press conference to announce the first two also.

My anniversary with Verizon finally arrived which entitled me to a subsidized iPhone.  Actually I tried a couple of months ago but found that my brother had "appropriated" my upgrade, so I had to wait for his upgrade to come due.  (Patience sucks!)

My new gadget is actually pretty intuitive.  I think Mr. Gates could learn a few things from Mr. Jobs.  Although I know I'll never learn (or use) all the capabilities of an iPhone, I know enough right now to make it a viable business tool.  And if I were into electronic games I could make this thing smoke.  Wow!  The apps available are unbelievable!  

Oh....but you already knew all that.  I guess Mr. Neanderthal is just easily amused.  This, however, does NOT amuse me:


It's started again....

More changes.  That's what greeted me in my Monday morning email from my client with his "vision" of what he wants today.  He won't leave well enough alone.  (OCD is a terrible thing!)  He seems to constantly peruse architectural magazines and when he finds a picture he likes he sends it to me and says to incorporate those elements into his study/den/bath, etc.  Except we're past that point already.  

Now it involves tearing stuff out, calling back in the electricians, sheetrockers, etc.   Grrrrrr.......  And of course he questions why it costs so much.  "Because to get the look you want it now takes 3 steps instead of one;  put it in the first time, tear it out, do it again."  I didn't sign up for a lifetime job with this guy.  Will the madness ever end?

the insane man formerly known as S

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Branching out

Tomorrow we sign the paperwork with a new customer (actually the sister and BIL of one of our current homeowners) and will commence work on their new room addition.  This involves turning the attic over their existing 3-car garage into a media room and an artist studio.  In one sense I'm looking forward to it as it will be something different.  

The strange part will be doing pretty much the same type work with the same number of trades as we would in a 6,000 square foot home, but compressing it into <800 square feet.   It will be like cooking a four-course meal in a phone booth.  Odd, but do-able.  

Maybe with one of our signs in the yard some of the neighbors will call and ask us about adding on or remodeling their home, too.  We're very well known in the area for our new home construction, but I doubt many people think of us when it comes to small remodel jobs.  I think a little diversity will be good for us. We'll see.  :)


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some information you can actually use....

In most parts of the US this has been one of the hottest years on record, with little relief in sight.  We've all parked our car out in the sun while we went in to work, shop, etc, then come back to find it scorching hot inside, even with one of those aluminized sun shields in the front window.  And tinted windows help, but....

To cool things off in a hurry, try this:  When you return to your car, open a window on one side of the car, then on the other side open and close the door 5 times.  This turns over the air much faster and cools things off in a fraction of the time.

You can see a demonstration for yourself by visiting The Presurfer here.  The video has Japanese titles, but you can still get the idea.  I'm going to give this solution a great workout.  Anything to beat this miserable Texas heat!


Friday, July 22, 2011

The right way and the wrong way....

A while back K ordered some professional books (HR-type study books) from Amazon and they shipped them via the United States Postal Service.  She never received them, so yesterday she emailed the USPS, gave them the assigned shipping/tracking number, and asked for assistance.  She eventually got a reply which said they could not help her find her missing package. 

So what's the point in having a tracking number?  This is government logic at its finest!  (I know, I know...the USPS is a stand-alone entity, not taxpayer funded, but I contend they still operate with a government mentality.)  This is definitely THE WRONG WAY to do business.  Obviously "customer service" is a foreign concept to the USPS.

She then called Amazon and told them of the problem and they apologized and told her they would either refund her money or ship it again.  She opted for the "ship again", and shortly received an email confirmation that it was on its way, and they even upgraded her shipping to 'next day delivery' at no additional charge.  This is definitely THE RIGHT WAY to do business.  Kudos Amazon!

And the USPS wonders why they're losing billions of dollars. They're even contemplating a cut-back in delivery service to as few as 3 days a week.  I say just close 'em down and don't look back.  Yes, there would be some temporary job losses, but car washes are always needing new rag boys (and girls).  ;)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beginning to feel 'beat down'

You know how you feel after you've finished all your chores?  Your work is done and you know you can relax and enjoy yourself for a while.  And then there's before you've done your look ahead and all you can see is work demanding your attention.  Ugh!

I feel like the latter.  I have one client who is wearing me pretty thin.  (My brother, too.)  He's a very nice guy, but he tries to micro-manage everything.  His new home is well in excess of $1M and of course I want to accommodate him, but it gets harder every day.  He admits he's OCD and apologizes and says he'll try to do better, but nothing changes.

In a different sense, everything changes....daily.  What he originally told us he wanted, and what we bid, in no way resembles what he wants today.  Or what he'll want tomorrow.  He's all over the board.  He can't make up his mind.  I'm just too organized for my own good sometimes.

And I'm sure this weather is taking it's toll on me, too.  I'm used to hot Texas summer weather, and if this were late August I could put up with it better knowing cooler weather would be here soon, but this is still mid-July.  I would love to have a cool, drizzly, lazy Saturday.  *sigh....maybe in 3 or 4 months*

On a brighter note, yesterday we were given the go-ahead by a new customer to begin a room addition project for them.  It's not a big job, but it is a job, and I'm grateful to have it.  :)


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I went to the eye doctor this afternoon for the standard exam and new specks, and before I could escape he clipped me for $462.00 AFTER insurance.  I think I just paid a good chunk of his car payment!  *What the hell does this guy drive?*  It would have been cheaper to just get one of those cool dogs.

And I didn't even get dinner or a movie, much less a kiss.  


Monday, July 18, 2011

We need to think this through a little more....

Lemme see if I have this right:  The Republicans say no new taxes on the rich because they (the rich) are the ones who are the "job creators", and taxes on them would kill off the new jobs we desperately need right now.  

Sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't seem to hold up under scrutiny.  When the economy imploded in 2008 it was estimated that over two TRILLION dollars was moved out of various investment vehicles (stocks, mutual funds, corporate bonds, etc).  Just today CNBC (business news channel) said again that roughly a TRILLION dollars was still on the sidelines not invested.  In other words the rich are NOT using their money right now to create new jobs.  They're sitting on their wealth waiting for lucrative investments to come along, but there are too many unknowns right now to make them feel comfortable parting with their cash.

So if a little less of rich folks money was sitting idle on the sidelines not creating jobs, how would that hurt the economy?  Seems to me if it were part of an agreement (along with cutting tons of waste, fraud, and bloat from government programs) to dramatically reduce the deficit, THAT would eliminate some uncertainty and help create jobs.  Think of it as a bit of "pump priming".  

Make sense?


World's DUMBEST couple

This was an actual email I received yesterday.  I usually trash things like this immediately, but this one was so funny I had to read more.  It said:

"Patch Up With Your Girlfriend With Luxury Designer Replica Watches.  If you are worried about your breakup, then you should be bold enough to patch up it with grace and style.  By having a beautiful luxury designer replica watch, your girlfriend will be surely inclined towards you at once. All of a sudden, natural feelings of love, peace, comfort, romance, and sex will be restored again between you and your girlfriend for long time."

So a replica designer watch will have her rushing back to your love nest?  Yep, that would prove without doubt you're a "graceful and stylish" guy.  Not to mention one cheap bastard!  And she's not too bright for falling for it.   

If news of this gets out it will put the flower and diamond industries out of business.  *better call my broker*  :)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is it over? Did we win?

I'm watching the women's soccer championship and I must say soccer is one boring game. just goes on and on and....

And now it's going into overtime. I keep hoping they'll stop the game to re-stripe the field or mow the grass....anything.  (At least hockey has a Zamboni.)

Go USA. Zzzzzzzzzz.....


EDIT:  I finally gave up and took the dog out for her dootie call, and when I got back it was over.  Bummer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Well, DUH!

Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, "In case of emergency, notify...." I put "DOCTOR."

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Silver Lining

So the crooks in Washington are locked in a Death Battle, each side wanting to "fix" things on the backs of someone else.  One party wants to preserve their special interest's privileged position while the other party is unwilling to give on programs their special interests "depend on".  And the clock ticks toward midnight.  The experts predict "catastrophe". 

Last night on the news they did people-on-the-street interviews, and coast-to-coast the attitude was disgust with Washington.

Do I dare hope for a 10-million-man march on Washington, and every state capital, and every party headquarter, and every congressional and senatorial office in every district?  Marchers with torches in their hands and snarls on their faces, demanding all the crooks abdicate office before things turn nasty.  Marchers demanding a new Constitutional Convention to update our beloved Founding Father's brilliant document that could never have foreseen how the subsequent centuries would play out.   Marchers wanting to return sanity to government and remove all the graft and greed that pervades it today.  

Do I dare hope?  *To be continued*


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Colorado whitewater rafting trip

Yesterday we received in the mail the photo CD from our Colorado whitewater trip.  It was by far the most fun thing we did (with our clothes on at least) on our recent too-short vacation.  Our guide explained that they had a later-than-normal spring snowfall, which meant a later-than-normal snowmelt.  The river was running at 2200 cubic feet per second, much higher than usual.  

On this fairly narrow stretch of the Upper Roaring Fork that translated to Class 4 rapids.  (Class 4 means a strong swimmer should be able to swim out if he's thrown overboard.  Class 5 means he couldn't, and MUST be rescued.  Class 6, the highest, means if you fall overboard they hope they can some day find your body.)

Our group met on Sunday early afternoon and were given instructions by the Head Dude on how to stay alive if you fall out (obviously a CYA exercise):

We split up into 3 groups of 6 and headed out.  The water was a frigid 38 degrees.  The first few minutes were rather calm, giving us time to contemplate what it would be like to get dunked in 38 degree water:

Kelly and I took the front, most vulnerable positions...."If you're gonna be a bear, be a Grizzly!"  We shortly hit a churning section and found our wet suits helped...until  a wave went right down the front of my "splash jacket" and got me wet inside my suit.  O...M...G!  Note K was playing Wonder Woman and refused a splash jacket:

There was some spectacular scenery along the way and some absolutely gorgeous homes on the riverbank and on the overlooking cliffs....I'm talking $10-$20M "cabins"....but without our own cameras (no time) we didn't get any shots.  The rafting company guy took these from the bank along the way:

When it was all over and we had warmed up some K and I compared notes and we confessed that I almost went overboard twice and she three times.  There was a pocket sewn into the bottom of the raft at each position for us to tuck one foot in, the other foot free to provide balance.  (I found I have very little balance when I'm gasping for air!)  

K said once she saw a big wall of water coming so she ducked her head and closed her eyes and mouth, then after it hit she opened them up and got hit by an immediate second wave, which left her half blind and spitting water for a few seconds.

It was an absolute blast, and if you ever have the opportunity I suggest you jump at it.  It's hard to be scared when you're grinning ear-to-ear.  I...we...look forward to our next trip.  Thanks Aspen Whitewater Rafting Company.  :)


Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is actually a fruit.  Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.


Take this bank and shove it

It feels SOOO good.  After threatening to break off my banking relationship with Viewpoint Bank for years, yesterday I finally did it.  I only waited this long because I wasn't sure of a better alternative.

Viewpoint used to be Community Credit Union, and they were constantly sending us newsletters and emails reminding us how much better credit unions were than the mean old banks, and asking us to write our congressman and tell him to keeps hands-off of credit unions.

Then they decided they wanted to be a bank themselves, and they sent us tons of correspondence asking for us to vote to allow them to do so.  Hmmmm....something smells.  I voted "no" and they sent me another ballot asking I change my mind.  "No" again.  Finally they had someone call me and try to convince me.  I told the guy that either they were lying when they first told me credit unions were better, or they're lying now when they tell me banks are better.  Either way they're liars.  I told him SOMEONE was making a killing on the deal, and I'm sure it wasn't me.  He hung up with his tail tucked.  It finally passed without my vote and the downhill slide began.

Yesterday I switched to USAA Bank.  I've had a savings account there for years, but as it's out of town and I don't trust "bank by mail", It wasn't a serious contender until now.  They have electronic bank-by-email, so I just take a photo of the front and back of a check to be deposited, email it to them, and the deposit is complete.  I'm sure all banks will have something similar soon, but USAA has been technologically cutting edge for a long time.

I'm moving on, and it feels good.  :)


Monday, July 11, 2011

We pay HOW MUCH? For WHAT?

All I hear on the news these days is the deadlock over budget reform / raising the debt limit.  What I want to know is where exactly does our tax money go?  I'm sure with enough time and research abilities anyone could comb through the federal budget and find out, but really, no one I know has that much spare time.  I would love for someone to tell me in plain English what all is included in the budget for the Agriculture Department, for example.  How much is paid out in subsidies to well-connected "gentleman farmers" and mega-agra-corporations to NOT grow certain crops?  Name names, give me dollar amounts.

We know what the bottom-line is for the State Department budget, but specifically, how is that money spent?  Who do we give foreign aid to?  A complete list, please.  (I see that as of this past weekend we have another new country in the world, South Sudan.  How much is THAT going to cost us?)

I'd love to know how much tax breaks to oil companies and banks cost us, and big pharma and big-insurance, too.  And I'd love to know the thousands of little-known programs we fund.  I'll bet that would be a REAL eye-opener!  (I once served on a city commission with a lady, a federal bureaucrat, who told me her job was to coordinate federal programs that seek to promote a healthy family life for American Indians.  HUH?  How much?  $50M?  $100M? More?)

My point is I don't think they (the bureaucrats and their masters, Congress) want us to know....too many favors being handed out to too many cronies.

I say off with ALL their worthless heads.


Friday, July 8, 2011

I honestly couldn't make this up

This is an "un-posed" picture of Elliot the bulldog trying to beat the Texas heat after his owners dumped out their ice chest on their driveway.  It was taken in Sachse, Texas, just a few miles from where I live:

Have a great weekend everyone.   Stay cool.  (Move over Elliot.)


Two women I love share their birthdays today

Today my wonderful wife and my youngest daughter celebrate their birthdays. It's the Big 30 for daughter Erica, and...umm...just a couple more than that for K.  Happy Birfday, ladies!  *huge applause*

Now for a complete 180...At last night's Texas Ranger baseball game a guy fell over the upper deck railing to his death trying to catch a foul ball for his little son sitting next to him.  It just goes to show how fleeting and fragile life is.  One second you're having the time of your life, treating your little son to a Major League Baseball game, not a care in the world, then a foul ball comes your way...a fans dream...and in the blink of an eye you're dead.  Lesson learned: Enjoy every second God gives you on this earth.  Condolences to his family. 

Clarification:  The fan who died was trying to catch a ball that had gone foul, but was picked up Ranger Josh Hamilton and tossed up into the stands as a souvenir, a simple goodwill gesture that went very wrong.

TGIF  :)


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another day, another yawn....

Thank God it's a short work week.  For some reason I'm just dragging.  And I absolutely HATE to get out of bed in the morning, not because I dread the day ahead, but because I'm into such good sleep.  K bounces right up and dresses and goes to the den and does her yoga or goes to the gym, and since I'm trying to exercise more she wants me to bounce right up with her and get going.  Hahahaha!  Scott doesn't do mornings too well.

Last night I stayed up much later than normal watching re-runs of Frasier.  I haven't seen an episode in years and frankly forgot how funny that show was.  I'm sure that sleep deficit just adds to my morning lethargy.

I need a job as a Texas weatherman.  At least in the summertime they have a slam-dunk job.  "Today, triple-digit hot with an ever-so-slight chance of a pop-up afternoon shower (just to cover all bases).  Now back to you Buffy..." Do they really get paid for that?

In today's email:  Barnes and Noble is offering a 20% off coupon (plus my 10% member discount) for one purchase through the weekend.  It's usually 15%...I guess they're really feeling the recession.  And I was tickled to learn a Nigerian prince has a fortune he wants to share with me, and there are women in Plano who want to meet me.  Hmmm...I wonder if there are men in Plano who want to meet K?  (I'd better not go there.)

My shower awaits.  I love my morning shower, and have actually been known to fall asleep standing under the warm spray.  I somehow never fall over as I have strong big-toes (balance).  OK, that's probably TMI.  I'd best go now.  :)


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Once I thought I wanted a career....

....but now I realize all I want is a paycheck.

Is it just me or has life become dramatically more difficult in recent years?  Thirty *cough, cough* years ago when I became a homebuilder it was actually fun.  I began in sales and did reasonably well, watched and learned "how-to" build homes, and finally joined with my brother in our fledgling family business.

Back then a contract was one side of letter-sized piece of paper.  Then it went to two sides of a legal-sized piece of paper.  Today it's 28 pages long.  We have to follow rules by OSHA, EPA, HUD, Fed banking regulators, Storm Water Run-off regulators, city mandates, state registration, etc, etc....Oh, and of course, the IRS.  And insurance audits, too.  Actually building the home is the EASY part today!

And homebuyers....*biting tongue*.  They see something online and tell me, "That's what I want!"  Except it won't meet current building codes.  Or it features a product made by a local artisan in Vermont and isn't available here, and I don't dare order it sight unseen and with no local support....but that isn't what my customer wants to hear.  They just think I can walk into Home Depot and buy 'em by the case. And they want me to negotiate a super-cheap deal on their behalf, but then quibble over my margin.

Please don't misunderstand.  I am SO grateful the Good Lord has given me work during these tough times.  I'll work diligently as always, but like that old B. B. King song says, "The thrill is gone."  I don't want the thrill to be gone.  I'm just not sure the thrill-kill genie can go back in the bottle at this late date.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Little Johnny's baaaaa-ack

The math teacher saw that little Johnny wasn't paying attention in class.  She called on him and asked, "Johnny!  What are 2 and 4 and 28 and 44?"

Johnny quickly replied, "NBC, FOX, ESPN, and the Cartoon Network."


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A redneck kind of day

It was also a "do anything you possibly can to stay cool" day, too.  This morning we slept late ;) then went to Starbucks and had a coffee (her) and a frappaccino (me) while we read the Sunday Times.  Then we decided to go visit the new Cabelas that opened recently in Allen, TX.  

We were there because it was something to do indoors, but I think for everyone else it was "redneck" day.  We did look at kayaks because that's something we might someday pursue, but otherwise we were just trying to stay cool.  I did see this OTT den recliner, but for some reason K objected:

I'm thinking with a brass spittoon beside it and one of those talking fish mounted on the wall behind, it could make a powerful Architectural Digest statement, don't you?

We survived the 104 degree heat and are back home now.  I'm baking K's birthday cake (don't be too's out of a box) and enjoying a margarita, and later I'm going out to grill hamburgers, sausage, hot dogs, and whatever else I can find to scorch.  

There will be some fireworks just up the road at the ballpark (after the baseball game that I turned down tickets to), and we might go up on our rooftop parking deck and check them out.  Or not.  TBD.

Hope y'all are having a nice weekend.  :)


Friday, July 1, 2011

Fireworks? We don't need no stinkin' fireworks...

...I'll be the entertainment this 4th of July.

Here's something I'm expecting to see any time now:  I'll be walking around outside and just explode...BOOM!! a kernel of corn explodes suddenly to make popcorn.  I wonder at what temperature that might happen?  We're probably pretty close right now.

Seems momentum is building to cancel several large fireworks shows around here due to the drought and extreme fire danger.  Most of Texas' 254 counties have fireworks bans already in place, with exceptions for controlled municipal shows.   Now those are in jeopardy, too.

I was offered tickets to a Sunday baseball game with fireworks afterwards, but turned them down because of the heat.  I love fireworks, but I hate to sweat.  In this case fireworks lost.

I really need a summer home elsewhere.  Maybe back in Colorado, or Chile.  I've seen pics of Chile in July.  It looks refreshing.

Stay cool...