Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Blind Side (spoilers?)

The Blind Side was a pretty good film. But for some reason, I just couldn't enjoy it. I kept waiting for something tragically climactic to happen. I was nervous through the whole thing.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Do You Communicate?

I recently joined Toastmasters - for several reasons. One being I need better public speaking skills. Anyway, I gave my first speech this week - it's intended to be an "icebreaker" - kind of a "get to know me" speech. I didn't expect this, but to my surprise, it ended up being about communication and grammar. Here it is, if you're interested...

I just recently figured out that one of my passions is communication. This is the kind of thing that sneaks up on you and you don't realize how important it is, because it subtly permeates every aspect of your life. Of course, having a passion for communication doesn’t necessarily make me self-confident or a good public speaker. That’s where Toastmasters comes in.

I've found that I place a lot of importance on the “how” and “what” of communication. First, how do you communicate? Do you communicate poorly? Do you communicate correctly? Since we’re all different, we’re never going to completely understand each other – this is why proper communication is so important to me.

Also, what do you communicate? Is it accurate? Is it true? Or is it based on rumor, urban legend, or outdated and archaic information? Of course, my wife might say that this isn't my passion for communication, just my passion for telling people they're wrong. But I think it's bigger than that.

I think that this passion is something I've always had. I remember being about 9 or 10 in a group of people, and my dad mentioning something about the state of IllinoiS. Wouldn't he want to know that the correct pronunciation of that state was Illinois? So I corrected him. In front of everyone. That didn't go over very well.

But this has helped me all through my academic and professional life. I enjoy writing. I enjoy editing.

And today, we are constantly communicating with people; whether it’s professionally – in meetings, in memos, in e-mails, in trainings; or socially – in person, on the phone, in chatrooms, on Facebook. Communication is a pervasive part of our lives. This makes the “how” so important.

I never cease to be amazed at how so many people on the internet – in email, blogs, or forums – have a problem telling the difference between there, their and they're. Or your and you’re. And BTW, “lose” – has one “o”. You didn’t cry last night when you watched The Biggest Looser. That was me crying when I read your Facebook status.

Or when people use the word “literally” for emphasis – instead of to mean “literally”. That literally drives me crazy. Well, no – I guess it just really drives me crazy. Literally is not a synonym for really. I was in a training once, where the trainer was finishing the last day and said, "we are literally sliding into home". I looked around wondering if I was the only one not playing baseball.

That doesn't mean I think I'm perfect – I make mistakes. Half the time I can't remember when to use “whom”. I know what the rule is, I just can never seem to conjure it up when I’m talking.

And this doesn't always help me make friends. Even here at Toastmasters, I sit and think, “hmmm...I don't think they used the Word of the Day correctly.” I'm wondering if I should stay away from the Grammarian role.

And, while the term “lectern” is probably preferred for “a stand used to support a book in a convenient position for a standing reader”, and the primary definition of “podium” is a “dais or elevated platform”, the secondary definition of podium is…“lectern”.

But I felt for Whitney's comment when she was grammarian several weeks ago and began with “Please don't hate me.” I've had some difficulty learning the importance of how to properly communicate these kinds of things without losing friends.

But not only is “how” you communicate important, but also “what” you communicate. I have a horrible habit of checking facts to find out if what people are saying is true.

In graduate school, I discovered Snopes.com – and sometimes for me a little info can be dangerous. I was sure to inform people that no – Craig Shergold was not a little boy with cancer collecting business cards – he was now 15, has made a complete recovery and had already collected so many greeting cards that the Guinness Book of World records would no longer update his old records with his new records.

This habit has resulted in me rarely get emails like this any more, telling me about the latest missing child (who most of the time is either a hoax or has already been found by the time you get the email), or about Facebook selling your cell phone number to telemarketers.

But it still happens sometimes.

More recently, I've seen interesting stories come through my work email. Amusing stories, being passed off as fact, though all fiction. The woman on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire who didn't know what was bigger – an elephant or the moon (the picture was photoshopped); the amusing story about Nancy Pelosi talking to a psychiatrist who makes her look stupid (printed in several joke books since the 60’s); and the hilarious video about the Australian politician being interviewed about a ship falling apart (it’s a comedy sketch from the early 90’s).

As difficult as it was, in the interest of peace, I let all of these go.

In the last few years, all of this has made me realize I have a passion for communication, and that I want to weave this into my life even more – probably as writing. I'd like to formally make this more important in my life. So I've spent more time applying it, with what little time I have. And every chance I get, I attempt to apply communication and writing to my job.

But I know I can always improve my communication. I communicate better when I've had time to think about it – that’s another part of the reason I joined Toastmasters – I need to be able to think on my feet. Hopefully, as time goes by, I'll be able to apply this love for communication and writing – and even allow it to help me become a better person and better leader. And I'm very much looking forward to hear what the Grammarian has to say about it my speech.
(A couple notes. In each Toastmasters meeting one person is appointed Grammarian and pays attention to all the speakers, listening for um's, uh's, poor grammar, repeating words, etc. Each meeting has a Word of the Day, and speakers are encouraged to incorporate it into their talk somehow. Also, several weeks ago, the President of the club made the point that you don't stand behind a podium and use it to hold your notes - that's called a lectern. I had to look that one up. And mention it.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

D&D Limited Edition Jones Soda

I know what you're all thinking.

I want to get Jim a Christmas present.

And I want to get him an early one. Like, maybe at the end of September.

Well - I've got the perfect gift!!

Jones Soda has Limited Edition Dungeons & Dragons Spellcasting Soda.

This is the coolest, nerdiest thing I've ever seen.

So if you find yourself in this predicament - problem solved!!


I knew the iPhone could do anything.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

Pixar vs. Dreamworks - Ha!

Ha! Pretty funny!
Pixar vs. Dreamworks.  So, so true. on Twitpic

Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't waste your time on Marvel SuperHeroSquad

Like I did.

Quite possibly the stupidest superhero cartoon I've ever seen.

Juvenile vomit, fart, burp, snot, toilet, and underwear jokes. Way too silly - written for 3-year-olds, but nothing intelligent for the older crowd.

Bad writing. Annoying animation.

Not even a Battlestar Galactica joke could save it.

I've always been turned off by bad Marvel writing (and that includes Stan Lee). The way they nickname everyone? Wolvie, Falc, Ms. M, Squaddies...

And "HERO UP!"

Good grief.

Marvel SuperHero Squad

I almost missed this! A new show, Marvel SuperHero Squad, is on in 30 minutes at 7 EST / 6 CST on Cartoon Network. http://bit.ly/cRn0y



Monday, June 29, 2009

Web Site Story

Fresh from the web, today.  Hilarious stuff!!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

River Heritage Park


Thursday night we took some Zaxby's to River Heritage Park (behind the Marriot) and I caught some pretty decent pictures of the sunset with my phone!









Wednesday, May 13, 2009

At Country Boys in Floence




Wish they'd give me some ice with my Coke.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Disney Star Wars Weekends

Came across these posters on Twitter.  Hilarious!





Check out the rest at Alice's Blog.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bad Friday Home

Friday was a crazy trip home. No delays the whole day; I thought I was home free when we were in the air on the way the way to Huntsville. A little too optimistic it turns out.

When I made it in the air with no problems from the St. Louis and Cincinnati airport, I thought all risk was behind us. Learn something new every day. I should've known something was up when they asked for volunteers to move to the back to "balance the plane.". I moved to the back since I'd have the seat all to myself on the crowded plane.


First problem. I moved back to the back row. Next to the restroom. The restroom smelled like pee. So I settled my into the seat, thinking that if I could ignore it, it might be a trade off (I need to lose some weight - these airplane seat belts are getting a bit too tight).


Second problem. We flew through a storm. I don't ever think I've ever experienced such bad turbulance. Or maybe just not on such a small plane. At one point, we jumped so hard it felt like we hit something. It even woke me up from my nap.

It did clear up and the rest of the flight wasn't too bad.







Third problem. We finally landed. But it was storming so bad that they wouldn't let the workers get out the ramp for fear of getting struck by lightning. So 90 minutes on the plane, waiting out the storm. I think I'd have gone stir crazy if I hadn't had my iPhone. You may have seen nearly an hour-and-a-half of solid activity from me on Twitter.

This us the storm we were waiting on.







Fourth problem. We finally got off the plane and trekked down to baggage claim where they announced those ramps were closed and we'd have to wait for out bags. 45 minutes of that, and we finally get our luggage.

Fifth problem. I forgot on which level I parked. I was pretty sure it was either 4 or 5, but I couldn't quite recall. So I tried the 4th first and got it right on the first try.

Sixth problem. I couldn't remember where I put my parking ticket.  You know - the one that says on it, "If you lose this ticket, pay maximum amount." I didn't know what that was, but I knew I didn't want to pay it. Finally, I found it buried in my notebook.  *whew*

Seventh problem.  Storms again.  At least 3 times on the way home, I hit spots where visibility seemed like it was about 20 feet.  Which is pretty dangerous when you're doing 70 mph.  (That was the speed limit!)  Suffice it to say, I slowed down a bit, but when you're just wanting to get home, slowing down is that much harder. Visibility was good in this picture compared to other times that night.



Eighth problem.  Pulling into Florence, coming down Hwy 72, about where it turns into Florence Blvd - I'm in the right lane, and somebody from the other side of the street decides he wants to make a left-hand turn, cuts across all the lanes right in front of me. In the pouring down rain.  While I'm doing about 50 mph.  Good grief. Krista gets mad at me when I lay on the horn, but I just do it when people do something really stupid.

I finally made it home OK - though it was about 4 hours later than I planned. 


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Waiting for Wolverine

Missed opening night Wolverine. On a date to see The Soloist tonight. But we cut it so close getting here and the theater is so packed that we opted to see Wolverine since it started 30 minutes later.

Here's the line.





I really hope it's better than I've been hearing.

(this didn't post for some reason Saturday night - so I'll post it now; BTW, Woverine was pretty good)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Planes





Just sitting here in Huntsville, stuck on a plane because they won't let us off due to lightning, sitting next to a restroom that smells like pee, sqandering my iPhone battery, blogging run-on sentences, and pondering weird things.

Like - I haven't eaten anything today sitting down (not counting airplane peanuts).

Had Pop Tarts in the hotel room while getting ready.

Ate my Jody Maroni's chicken Italian sausage sandwich while walking to the gate in St. Louis.

Snacked on a Milky Way walking to the gate in Cincinnati.

I need to sit down and eat a meal.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

7-11 Mutant Berry Slurpee

Sweet.

Or maybe I should say tart. It was a bit on the sour side. Pretty tasty if you like berry. Thought I'd share a pic of the cup and the straw / toy.







Florence needs a 7-11.

Monday, April 27, 2009

India Palace

Got some takeout from a place called the Indian Palace in St. Louis tonight. I was looking for someplace on Yelp (it's an iPhone app that points out places you're looking for then pops them into Google Maps and gives you directions from your current location; isn't technology awesome?). It had some good reviews, and I was craving some Indian food. It took me forever to get to it since it was off of a highway and Google doesn't tell you how to take the side streets.

(Switching tenses here - be forewarned.)

I pull into the parking lot of the Best Western and see this.



A drive-in??

I pull in and find myself in a dark, scary parking garage. I see a sign that says India Palace is on the 11th floor.



Don't let the sunlight fool you. This garage was dark. And scary. So I walk in the back door to a tiny, creepy elevator.



Yes - that tiny and that creepy. I almost didn't get in, but my love for Indian food goes a long way.

I head to the 11th floor.



Walk through a back hallway, open a door, and

I've got two stupid blurry pictures of the amazing lobby.

But here's the bar.



And a couple shots of the inside of the restaurant.





And the chicken vindaloo (plus the garlic nan) was fantastic. (This was takeout.)



What staging!!

(Note: if you want to see better pics of this place, take a look at the website - linked from the top of the page.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nothing's too good

Nothing but the best will do when I travel.

Walked toward my rental car and got really excited. Guess which of these two cars was mine.




If you guessed the red Ford Mustang, you'd be wrong. If you guessed the silver Ford Fusion, you'd be right.

Same goes for my room. Was this the view I got?




(the view of the courtyard is better than the pic; excuse my poor iPhone picture-taking skills)

Or did I get this one




of the parking lot?

If you guessed the courtyard, you're wrong again.

Sorry - no prize for you today.

Spring Park in Tuscumbia



Had a nice day in Sping Park yesterday. Wasn't too crazy, even with the kids running around. Though by the end of the day, both kids drew blood - both by sliding off a picnic table bench (and not even those crazy concrete tables). Max busted his lip and Julianna scraped her knee. But they both ended up ok with the help of a couple of magic ice cream sandwiches.













Saturday, April 25, 2009

Almost done

Needs a little caulk and paint, but the finished product isn't too bad. (I did the floor, too.)


Finishing touches

High tech baseboard holder. Hope this Liquid Nails works.





More improvements

Baseboard. Measure twice, cut once, right?





Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lessons learned for today (4/23/09)

Well besides what I learned this morning.

1. Always check to make sure the lid is on before you try to shake something up. The other day it was the OJ; today it was my coffee creamer. (Who's leaving the caps partway off?!?)
2. It's easy to not snap that coffee creamer lid all the way closed. (But that's no excuse for not screwing the OJ lid on all the way!)
3. Always look in the mirror before you go out. You may have chocolate coffee creamer all over your best shirt, and not realize it until you get to work.
4. The Tide stain stick doesn't do as great a job getting International Delight Chocolate Caramel Coffee Creamer as it does some other things.

Always something more to learn




Ah, morning. Time of new beginnings, revelations, and self-examination.

I just became friends on Facebook with a friend from high school. The first thing she said to me (somewhat jokingly) was "I thought you knew everything." (She was commenting on a status.) I probably haven't talked to her (except at the 10-year reunion) in about 20 years.

As much as I may have changed over the years, it's good to know that some things remain constant.

I was a know-it-all then and I'm a know-it-all now.

At least I know. And knowing is half the battle (I sure hope they use that line in the G.I. Joe movie).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday. Definitely Monday.

It started with being late for my first meeting of the week. I sit down out of breath and frazzled only to hear the guy across the table incessantly clicking on his pen. After about 20 minutes of that I know what I would have done with that thumb if I'd had a pair of garden snips (sorry - it's been a long day).

Of course, then, preparing for my 11:00 meeting, I realize I didn't bring my lunch. Who starts a 2-3 hour meeting at 11 anyway? The thing is we have this big meeting with all the managers on Tuesday and right after the 11:00 Monday meeting, I've got to turn in charts for tomorrow's meeting based on what happened in today's meeting. So, since I was dumb enough to forget my lunch, my choices are: (1) get lunch at 10:30 in the morning or (2) possibly wait until 2 or 3 after I get my charts done.

At least I can be working on my charts during the meeting. Oh, wait, no I can't. Due to some technical difficulties, since the guy who normally runs the PowerPoint is out, I get to run the meeting from my computer. By the time the whole fiasco is over and I turn my charts in for tomorrow, I'm an hour late. Welcome to my workweek.

And then this is what greets me in Madison on my way home.



I guess I should be thankful my day is only full of minor irritations and that I have a job to complain about.

Still...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Home Improvement Woes

This is what happens when I try to install a sink.



Maybe the water will just flow straight from the drain to p-trap via gravity.

Speech-to-Text for iPhone?

So - anyone know of any good speech-to-text or voice-to-text iphone apps coming out? I'm looking for something that I can record thoughts and e-mail them to myself, rather than just recording them and having to transcribe them myself (which usually means they pile up and I never transcribe them).

I've been doing all kinds of looking, but can't find anything I like.

reQall is the first one I came across that looks promising.  The app is free, and so is the service.  The service?  Basically, you have a service that you send  audio recordings to and it's transcribed there.  But they have complete access to your recordings and can use them as they wish.   Since I'm planning on using this for writing ideas, any service that can take your text isn't a good fit for me.

Jott seemed like another possibility. It's a free app, but requires a monthly subscription for the service.  Once again, I'd rather not utilize a service - especially if they're charging for it.

Then I came across vLingo. It's free and doesn't use a service, but the only thing it will transcribe right now are updates to Facebook and Twitter. It's primary purpose is to be able to use dial and do other functions via voice (which is nice functionality - just not what I'm looking for).

On the surface, the most promising thing right now seems to be Voice Text Pro.  It will send texts by voice, and I guess I could just send multiple short texts to my e-mail - but it costs $5 and has horrible reviews.

So, I guess I'll be waiting for something a little better to come out soon.  Let me know if you hear anything.  I'll update if I see anything better.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

It's been a long week, and I've learned a lot.

  1. How to install a toilet.
  2. How to replace a keyboard in a mini laptop.
  3. That toddler riding toys make great dollies to move heavy toilets.
  4. That if you can't figure out what to eat for lunch and you work close to a Super Target, an asiago cheese bagel, a quarter pound of seasoned Angus roast beef, and some wasabi makes a good sandwich.
  5. That two packets of wasabi is probably too much for a sandwich like that (though the flames shooting out your nose are pretty cool).
  6. Target has some delicious looking sushi (I was afraid to try it).
  7. I shouldn't go into home improvement - some things are better left to professionals. 
  8. I'm old #1: My forearms and hands are sore as can be from cutting tile (see #7). 
  9. I'm old #2: Ralphie (you know, from A Christmas Story) turned 38 today.  I turn 38 this year. 
  10. I think I like Nickelback. (I love the song Rockstar.)
  11. Seether did a cool remake of Wham's Careless Whisper.
  12. What "waiting with bated breath" means ('bated' is similar to 'abate' - so it's like trying to abate your excitement or hold your breath). 
  13. It's not "baited breath".
  14. You've got to have a good strategy if you're going to beat a 6-year-old at Mario Kart.
  15. Finally, I've learned I'm still not very patient. I'd like to slap the next person who answers a multiple-choice question with "yes" (when they're not joking - just not paying attention).  When you ask someone if they prefer A or B, and they're only half listening and instead of choosing A or B, they say "yes".  It drives me nuts! 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comic / Pillow

Quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen. A Spider-Man comic book and pillow all in one. Saw it at Sam's. I really wanted to get it for myse- er, uh, for Max.
But I didn't think it warrented spending $20.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quote of the Week

"I've got some Trix up my sleeve."
-Liz Lemon

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Clouds After the Rain

All kinds of interesting sights after the storm...

Rainbow Over Florence

Into the Darkness

Heading home a little early, hoping I won't have to drive all the way home through damaging winds and hail. Got more work to do, but guess I'll be finishing at home.

April Fool

Got hit by a good April Fools joke yesterday. I'd been having trouble with my Outlook mailbox filling up quickly and I figured out I had 50 MB worth of stuff in my calendar and in this "synch folder" where apparently Outlook keeps a record of email when it has trouble synching with the mail server.

So I deleted the stuff in the synch folder and archived all my old calendar stuff, which freed up a lot of space.

My mistake was sharing my new-found info with the people I work with, thinking it might help them to (this is what I get for being a good Samaritan).

I emailed them all and told them what I was able to do. Suddenly I was inundated with emails telling me people were getting weird errors, pop-up messages that certain parts of Outlook were admin-accessible only, and even references to the Conficker worm (which was warned about on our company's homepage).

Of course, dupe that I am, I fell for it all. I didn't get suspicious until one guy said it removed half of his future calendar notices - that's when I remembered it was April Fools day, and thought maybe I had been taken for a ride.

See...no good deed goes unpunished.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thinking

Urrrrgh!

Too many thoughts floating around in my head. 

Think I'll need to get them out soon...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Huh

My allergies are breaking up and so are the clouds.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

CrossPoint Guitar Hero Tournament

Yes, we are putting together a CrossPoint Guitar Tournament.  It's primarily for fun, and all proceeds will go to CrossPoint.  Since we're inviting everyone at all levels to play, we've gotten the question a few times on how we'll play out the tournament.  So, though I put this information on the Facebook Guitar Hero Tournament Page, I wanted to let everyone who doesn't have a Facebook account know how we planned on playing out the Guitar Duels. 

We did a lot of thinking about this. What we wanted to do was to make sure that everyone could come and have fun, regardless of what level they were at. But, without a ton of time, and a qualifying round, how do you break people up into brackets? This is not something that’s easy to do, especially with our time limitations, and not knowing how many people we’ll have, so we settled on what we thought would be the most fair. Plus, we didn’t want to make it too complicated. Not sure how well we succeeded on that front.

Basically, we’ll start with two brackets: Beginner and Advanced. If you play on Easy or Medium, you’ll start out in Beginner. If you play on Hard or Expert, you’ll start out in Advanced. We started out this way to make it a little quicker, but to also give people more chances to play. This way, everyone gets to play in at least two guitar duels, even if they lose. [Note: If you tend to 5-star just about every song on Medium, you’ll probably want to start in the Advanced bracket.]

We’ll randomly draw names in each bracket to find out who will play each other in a Guitar Duel. Who wins this round will determine which bracket each person goes to in the next round. Everyone in the Beginner bracket will play their first round on Easy; the winners of the Beginner bracket will advance to the Medium bracket. Everyone else will advance to the Easy bracket. This way, everyone that loses in the first round gets to play again against someone else who lost in the first round. Both of these brackets will advance the normal way, until there is an overall winner in each.

The same thing will happen for the Advanced bracket. All of the duels in the first round will be played on Hard. Winners advance to the Expert bracket, while everyone else advances to the Hard bracket. Duels will be played out in the same way until there is an overall winner.

We’re hoping that this gives everyone a chance to play, and still be fair in who gets to play who.

What’s to stop people from being dishonest about what level they’re in, or sandbagging on the first round so they get to play easier on the second? Well, nothing. We hope that, this being a CrossPoint event, everyone will be honest, and come to have fun and do their best.

For early registration, feel free to click on the picture below, and print it out.  Give it to me, or Joe with your registration fee.

Thanks, and hope everyone comes to play (or at least watch)! I'm hoping we'll have time at the end for some free-form play and Guitar Duels.  Maybe we'll even break out the instruments and get another band going.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Max is still talking

Krista teaches him some great stuff!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Feel Lucky

Really? In this kind of economy? People are losing their jobs and people are going hungry, and there's still a market for $60 jeans for your infant?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yay for Friday

But good grief - how many people are going to cut me off today?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rude

Update.

Ok; while there's an advantage to pre-picking your seat at a theater like the Monaco, the downside is when you get rule-follower nazis that don't realize they're picking seats right next to you. So when they walk into an empty theater after picking seats right next to you they sit right next to you. Duh.

oh cool - Watchmen trailer

A Darkened Movie Theater

Here am at the Monaco in Huntsville (by myself in the theater) about to see Push. Why? Well because it's not in Florence, of course. I'll let you know if it's any good.

Aw, crud...it looks like I might not have the theater all to myself. Oh, well. The trailers are about to start.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coraline

Julianna and I are at the movies ready to see Coraline in 3D!! (Julianna suggested that I add two exclamation points.)