Saturday, April 30, 2011

So how are those New Years Goals coming along ?

At the very start of this year I blogged about my goals for 2011.  At the time I knew I wouldn't achieve them all, but I did want to set some realistic but challenging goals for myself.

So here we are at the end of the first four months of the year and I think it's high time for a check-in on those goals.  Why one third of the way in and not monthly or quarterly or at the mid-year point?  Because ... I'm me!  I hate doing things based on societal stigmas or conventional conditioning.  Be free and do your own thing!  Don't conform for the sake of conformity!  ... plus I didn't think about it last month or I would have blogged it earlier.  :)

Goal #1 -- Blog more.
I am happy to say that with this blog I have completed 114 blog posts in 120 days ... and I expect to "catch up" those other 6 missing blogs in the next month or so.  My apologies to those readers who don't particularly like my recent style of 3-5 blogs at a time.  Like Frank Sinatra, I'm doing it my way!  :)
Score = Mostly On Target

Goal #2 -- Control my basketball temper.
Um ... I think that is working ... I guess I'll have to ask around ... probably not as good as I'd like it to be yet but there's plenty of year left.
Score = Some Progress

Goal #3 -- Spend more "quality time"
with my wife and children.
Done and DONE!  I can think of a half-dozen activities we have done as a family (or in small groups) and I've really been there in all of them!  Yay me!
Score = Keep It Up Winner!

Goal #4 -- Run at least three 5K races.
No progress yet, but I am more of a summer into fall into winter kind of runner.  I did buy a new pair of actual running shoes so that counts for something!
Score = The New Shoes Won't Run By Themselves Bucko!

Goal #5 -- Say a sincere "Thank You"
to a different person each day.
This one is hard to track ... but that's just an excuse to keep me from having to say "I think I forgot this goal and so I doubt I've done it yet."  Better hop to it ...
Score = New Month, Time For New Thank You's

Goal #6 -- Live worthy of the Priesthood I hold EVERY day.
I am an honest person and I will tell you that I have not achieved this EVERY day (by my own accounts of what constitutes worthiness in my own mind).  I am proud to say that I can count on one hand the number of days where I didn't feel "worthy" and that is much better than last year.
Score = Read Some Scriptures and Pray More Dude!

Goal #7 -- Add body mass (preferably muscle)
and reach my target weight of 180 pounds.
I have gained about 5 pounds since the start of the year and I am fairly convinced that NONE of it is muscle mass.  That's why I said preferably in my goal!  :)
Score = On My Way!

Goal #8 -- Read at least 3 books
that I have never read before.
Already done!  And I have several more books in mind that I hope to read by the end of the year.  I have finished the following books so far:
 - The Five Love Languages
 - The Five Love Languages of Children
 - The One Minute Manager
On "the docket" are the following I hope to fit in during the rest of the year:
 - Freakonomics
 - 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
 - And the whole list of books from Josh Jr's "Battle of the Books" competition.  I have to start prepping for Ben's turn in two years.  There's like 40 books!  :)
Score = Success !!!

Goal #9 -- Complete at least ONE "project"
with each of my six children.
Hmmm ... I did Ben's pinewood derby car with him ... and I think that's about it!  But this summer will provide lots of opportunities to go camping with Josh Jr, and do some coloring or painting with the two middle girls.  Brooklyn and I need to paint her room so that's just a matter of doing it!  Myra might be a hard one.
Score = 1 Down, 5 To Go

Goal #10 -- Attend the Denver LDS Temple
at least once per month.
So we went in January ... and then again in March ... so that's 50% successful.  In baseball I'd be making millions, but in school I'd be getting an "F" ... I always liked baseball better than school anyway!
Score = Batting .500  :)

Overall, I'd say I'm doing well for 33% through the year ... here's hoping this review will help me get the rest of these things done well before the end of the year!

How are YOUR goals progressing ?!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

How can you think the day was ruined ?

I love my wife, but sometimes ... she frustrates me to NO END !!!

Karen as ... Superwoman!
serving others!
Before you get all defensive for her, I am not picking on her.  She is amazing!  She is the most selfless, giving person I have ever known.  Even when she doesn't want to help, she still helps.  Even if she is not feeling well she ignores her own needs if anyone needs anything from her ... and she doesn't resent them later for this.  She shares her food and drink with her kids.  She makes phone calls to get things done.  She makes meals for people who are not feeling well or for mothers that just had a child.  She gets the kids off to school EVERY day ... two sets of them!  (Since the oldest three go to school full-day and the next two only have 1/2 day preschool).

But she absolutely cannot accept help from others ... even ME !!!

This is a problem, and surprisingly it is not centered on me and my needs (shocking I know!) but it is a problem for her.  She feels tremendous guilt ANY TIME someone does something for her.  It is often so bad that she can't even relax and enjoy being pampered ... because her mind is thinking "Oh so-and-so is doing this for me.  They must be tired.  I should really ... call them / help them / make them dinner / offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date, etc."

Yesterday she twisted her ankle as we were getting ready to head out for errands (drop the second set of kids off at school, have a nice romantic lunch, shop for some better shoes (oh the irony in that activity!) for her and basketball shoes for me, etc.) ... and she fretted the whole day about how she had ruined the day for us with her "clumsiness."  I hate that !  Not that she considers herself being clumsy ... I mean the thought that she ruined the day!  What a crock!
It was still a GREAT DAY !!!

We watched several episodes of our favorites shows on and talked about life, finances, our kids, etc.  It was very enjoyable.  I got to do a little waiting on her hand-and-foot (I would have done more but remember it is very hard for her to accept that kind of well-deserved pampering).

Anyway ... I just wanted to share my frustration about my sweet wife.  I wish it was easier for her to accept service.  Like today, there is just too much to do with the little girls and seeing as she can't really put weight on her ankle/foot yet, the solution was simple and clear to me ... I cancelled my golfing plans with a buddy from work.  Small sacrifice (and we'll get to go out sometime this year, the season is just beginning) but I know she is going to fret about it all day today and probably until we do go golfing.  I hate that!  :(

So in honor of my awesome wife ... here's one of my favorite songs ... "Darlin' " by one of my all time favorite R&B groups ... Boyz II Men.  I especially love the line when they sing "You complete me in every single way.  I wanna stay forever in love with you girl, let's raise a family!"  Pretty Lady ... you are my "darlin' " and eventually I hope you'll let me serve you (at least a little bit)!  I love you so much!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What happened to the Dufrains ?!

Another of my favorite comedians, although he was a little foul on the language sometimes, has been Mitch Hedberg.

His delivery was slow and drawn out ... just enough ... to make sure you were really listening intently to his offball, but keen observations on life.  Like how he loves to play blackjack, not because he is addicted to gambling ... but because he is addicted to ... sitting in semi-circles.  Or the fact that everyone says "Here is a picture of me when I was younger" ... but EVERY picture is of you when you were younger!

The title of this blog is a reference to my favorite joke that he tells about ... well ... you'll just have to watch it to find out.  Trust me, it is WELL worth it!

So here's a link to one of his performances that is probably my favorite that I've seen on YouTube.  I hope you enjoy!  (Apologies in advance as he does say "Hell" several times ... but the other language is bleeped out and he is still hilarious).

Let me know what you think.


How's this for an acapella Queen "cover song" ?

In honor of my cousin Matt, who posted a recent blog about some of his favorite Queen songs, here is a remake done by the A Capella group "Straight No Chaser" from their newest album "With a Twist" ... the song: You're My Best Friend

I hope you like it ... I sure do!  :)


Why Did I Worry So Much ?

Recently at work I received my 1st quarter PE (Performance Evaluation) from my Manager.  I've never received a quarterly PE before as a Supervisor, so I didn't really know what to expect.  On my first reading of it I was moderately disappointed.  Sure I was rated as "Meeting Expectations" in all categories.  But in each of the last two years I have received an Annual overall PE rating of Exceeds Expectations ... so this felt like a huge step down.

I wondered what I was doing wrong.  I wondered if my new Manager (we've only worked together for 3 months now) was disappointed with me.  I wondered if this was going to be a terrible year where I was not going to be recognized for the hard work I always strive for.  I wondered if my previous Manager had been too generous in his assessment of me.

And I wondered and wondered and wondered.

I lost some sleep over it.  I never shed any tears, but my emotions were stronger than I expected.  I sought counsel from peers and a former Manager (not the one who gave me exceptional reviews).  I re-read the PE and tried to look at it through different eyes.  But nothing seemed to help.

Today I met with my Manager and we discussed it.  Long story short, I was getting worked up and worried over virtually nothing!  He reassured me of my good works and helped set expectations for how to get to "exceeding expectations" by the end of the year, if not within the next quarter or two.

So why didn't I have faith that this was going to turn out okay?  Why did I just assume the worst possible meaning?  Why did I labor over how to approach my Manager for clarification?  I don't know.  But the experience has taught me some valuable lessons, both as a receiver of PEs but also as a giver.  I think I'll do a much better job empathizing with my direct reports than I have in the past if and when they have strong emotional reactions to their PEs.

And maybe, that was the point of the whole experience ... everything happens for a reason!


Excuse Me ?

"Did you wipe your butt?"

That is the question my wife asked as I exited our bathroom just a few days ago.

Now here's the "rest of the story" ...

Our two "middle" daughters (Catalina and Savannah) both seem to have a problem with wiping themselves after using the bathroom.  My apologies for any non-parents who are reading this blog.  Yes, this is one of the reasons why you can't stand us but we DO talk about this sort of disgusting behavior as parents.  I am truly sorry.  Feel free to stop reading.

Savannah (left, 5 yrs old) - Catalina (right, 3 yrs old)
"We don't wipe ... and we're PROUD of it!"

Anyway, Catalina was coming out of the other bathroom on the main floor of our house at exactly the same time I was exiting our bathroom.
So Karen's inquiry was directed at her and not me.

Still, because I am who I am, I replied "Yes I did.  Would you like to check to make sure I got it all?"  After a good laugh I decided this was crude and a little immature, but great fodder for a blog.  My sincerest apologies if you did not find it funny.  Just another evening and experience in the life of ME!  :)


How do I use this thing ?

Thank you "Easter Bunny" for the new phone!  My "old" one was really just fine and only maybe two years old.  But this new one will make many things easier for me, like texting, updating contact information, etc.

But even with all the contact info copied over I still have hours of time to spend in getting this new phone to be like my old one.  I have to reset my settings and ringtones.  I need to take new pictures of all my contacts so their faces will come up when they call me.  I have to set my shortcuts and quicklinks.  The list goes on and on.  Please don't mistake this as complaining.  That would be ridiculous in so many ways.  Our pioneer ancestors would mock me to scorn for such a trivial complaint ... so I am NOT complaining!  Just sharing some of the impact this will have on my current day-to-day experience.

Despite the "challenge" I am so grateful to my parents (especially my dad) for the gift!  My kids had joked earlier in the day that the Easter Bunny didn't bring me anything ... but he did.  And I am very grateful for it!  :)


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Which is better ?

I can't decide.

I have watched both of these videos literally dozens of times and I cannot decide which video is more impressive and entertaining to me.  They both include elements typically never used in music videos.  Visually they are quite stunning but I think what keeps me coming back to them is that once I start watching them ... I ... can't ... stop ... until ... I ... see ... the ... BIG ... finish!

The song is "This Too Shall Pass" and the group is Ok Go.

They originally became mostly famous for their extremely creative use of treadmills in a video that went viral on YouTube.  And that video in itself is still very cool, but maybe a year or two ago I stumbled across the song "This Too Shall Pass" ... and I just love this tune!

Then I saw this video and found myself even more impressed by the group and this music.

This is a still picture from the video ... soooo cool!

I noticed another video for the same song and thought it looked like a cool remake ... but it isn't!  It is the same group doing the same song with a completely different, and equally entertaining, video.

Watch the video to see what this IS

So check them both out and tell me which one you like better.  I promise you won't be disappointed or feel like you wasted 8 minutes of your time!  But let me know if you don't find either of them very impressive ... or if you don't like the song.  I promise not to think you're crazy but I can't guarantee that others won't think that!  :)



Saturday, April 23, 2011

How many lives does she get ?

Cats get 9 lives, or so it is said and written in folklore.

But what about cars?

My car, Jazzmine, has had more than her fair share of situations of seemingly eminent "death" to the junkyard or used car lot.  But she keeps on coming back!
At this time of year when we celebrate the new life (a.k.a. Springtime) I thought it would only be fitting to honor my sweet ride!
Reggie Mantle always made fun of Archie Andrews for his "jalopy" but the connection between a man and his car is an important one.  Especially in the past two or three years I have become much more connected to my car and I understand why good ol' Archie spent so much time fixing his.

So here is a mostly complete list of my baby's ailments ...

On Halloween night in 2003 (or 2004) I was driving faster than I should have been on Powers Blvd. and slid off the road.  Heading backwards, I rolled over onto the driver's side of the car and skidded down the dirt on the West side of the southbound lanes.  Oddly enough the airbags never deployed, but my seatbelt held me safely in place until the car came to a sort of stop ... and then landed back down on all four tires just inches away from a HUGE hole big enough to swallow my car!  Long story short (trust me ... this IS the short version), the only repairs needed were for a busted tire and rim, replacing the driver's side-view mirror, and re-attaching the gas tank hinged door.  I was driving her again within just about a week.

A few months later, Jazzmine's horn started acting up.  It would just go off with no warning.  One such incident was quite funny because Karen was driving and was a little perturbed at a slow moving pedestrian.  As we drove past, the horn let out a loud (and very long) HOOOOOOONK which frightened the lady on the street and embarrased Karen something fierce!  It was very hard to stop laughing.  Faulty wiring that had to be "worked around" was the cause here (but eventually I've run out of a need for a horn so it's all good!)

Only about a week later I began to notice a grinding sound when I switched the car from 2nd to 3rd gear.  It usually only occurred when slowing down (or speeding up ... hee hee) around corners, but eventually it required me to hold the gear shift in 3rd gear to keep the transmission engaged.  Finally, it wouldn't even go into 3rd gear at all.  A local mechanic stated that our transmission was "shot" and that it would be around $1400 to replace it (or $900 if we wanted to go get the transmission ourselves from a junkyard).  My solution?  Just drive it without 3rd gear.  5 years later and still no additional "transmission" problems ... maybe I should have invested the $1400 ... naaaahhh!  :)

Years went by and with only a few minor issues (flat tires, battery failure, etc.) things were sailing pretty smoothly.  Then on a cold and snowy Saturday morning in October, 2008 (what is it with that month?!) I was driving into work and one of those idiotic "slick roads won't slow me down" drivers (see: ME from a few years ago) lost control of his big ol' truck and then slid right back over in front of me ... WHAM !!!  This time the airbags did deploy (giving me annoying chemical burns on my hands) and I thought my baby was a goner!  The jerk drove off but a kind stranger tracked him down so eventually the police found him (there's a LONG story there ... ask me if you're interested).  The damage?  Lots of body damage to the front end and of course the airbags deploying made the car a "total loss" for insurance purposes, but ultimately ... she was fine to drive!  A few weeks later I removed the power steering fluid reservior** because it was rubbing against the flywheel of the alternator, but that didn't take long at all.  (**Read on to find out how this poor decision comes back to haunt me!)  Sure this meant I was without power steering, but who needs that anyway?!  Ask my wife if you don't think that is an actual problem.  :(

About 10 months later I was driving my brother-in-law, his son, and my two boys back from Broncos open day training @ Invesco field.  Out of the blue every time I tapped on my brakes there was a scary clunking noise from the front passenger side of the car.  I assumed it was something wrong with the tire so I eased on the brakes and planned to pull off the side of the highway (I-25).  Apparently this was a very bad idea, because the sound intensified as the car slowed down and soon smoke and sparks were blowing out of the hood and wheel well!  Once we were completely stopped I attempted to open the hood (not easy to do since the "hit and run" accident smashed everything tight in my little engine compartment).  Smoke billowed out and it took a LONG time before we could even try to assess the damage.  After a long, slow tow-ride back home (thanks again Dad!) and some "dirty work" we found that ... the alternator had "seized" and the flywheel had SNAPPED so the alternator and serpentine belt had to be replaced.  And to do that, I also had to ... wait for it ... replace the power steering reservior** (and so we did the pump too).  About two months went by but eventually she was road ready again and I had power steering back (which was VERY nice, especially around corners and parking lots!)

Fast forward to March of this year.  Karen is on her way back from the Denver LDS Temple and she calls me on the phone asking why the radio keeps cutting in and out.  Uh oh.  I recognize that as a telltale sign of either the battery or alternator not working.  Long story short, she is eventually stranded on the side of I-25 and it is truly the end for my sweet ride.  She and her dad spent quite a bit of time re-charging the battery and getting the car back into our garage.  And there she (Jazzmine) sat for several weeks until I had time to open her up again.  For some reason, the alternator had failed again.  My father in law helped me pull it out and I had it tested.  It wasn't producing any charge, so $160 later and with some impressively fast help from my buddy Tony, a new alternator and serpentine belt are in!  This time I'm keeping the receipt (because I bought the lifetime warranty!)

So when is it "over" for my little car?  NEVER !!!  I've learned so much about cars as a result of needing to "fix" my current one, but I am so grateful for the experience and I really do love my baby!  I know she won't always come back to life, but I'm going to do all I can to help her hang on as long as she can!

It's you and me against the world Jazzmine!  :)


To Shave or Not To Shave ?

This is not another question about my beard like in this blog, but is rather a question about the hair on top of my head.

Several years ago, as the summertime approached, I did something very rebellious which I had considered doing for a long time.  I shaved my head.  Clean off.  Took the clippers and with no blade or extension proceeded to eliminate any remnants of hair on my dome.  I spent another 30 minutes using my electric shaver to trim the rest of the stubble until my head was as smooth as it has been since the day I was born.

Not the "first" time I shaved, but the most recent time.
(I'm holding my youngest daughter Myra)
 Off and on throughout the last 4 or 5 years I have shaved my head.  In between these "no hair" looks have come a variety of other looks, including the longest hair I have ever had, which looked really cool after adding curls to it.

Ultimately, I end up going back to the "bald" look for several reasons:
#1.  It is soooo easy to maintain!
#2.  It is a good way to save money on shampoo (this is NOT a real reason!)
#3.  It is comfortable, especially in the summertime!
#4.  It is one of many "looks" that works for me.
#5.  It is ... something different.

I've always done different things with my hair.

I have had bowl cuts (mostly when I was much younger), buzz cuts (one terrible summer in middle school), and parted down the middle cuts.

I have worn a reverse mullet (long on top but shaved short or off on the sides and back), grown out a tail (that was a horrible idea!), slicked back (with and without gel), and grown it out long (at least two separate times I was able to pull it back into a small ponytail).

This was during one of the "long hair" phases.
I just LOVED the curls!  :)
(That's Savannah on my lap!  Soooo cute!)

I have dyed my hair at least twice (red, which didn't take too well; and jet black, which only stayed for about 3 days) and have bleached the tips and/or the whole thing (including my long goatee / facial hair) at least twice.

I have worn for many years a traditional "Mormon Missionary" hairstyle, with short sides and back, neatly trimmed neckline, and parted on one side but still very short overall.
My normal hairstyle with "The Naturals"
Jordan, Jaimee, ME, and Jeremy
I think the main reason I have changed my hairstyle so much is that I haven't found one "look" that I really love.  For different reasons, each of these hairstyles appealed to me at the time I was wearing it.  Some have been forced upon me (childhood and missionary styles), but I liked those looks.  Some have been just to be crazy (the long curly hair and first time shaved head style).  But most have just been an attempt to try something different.  I figure, while I have hair, I should try out new things until something sticks.  Or maybe that is to be my lot in this hairy life ... to always wear a different style.

So come on readers ... chime on in!  I've included a few of the pictures I have of these different looks.  Which one should I gravitate to next?  Right now I am very strongly leaning toward the clean-shaven look again ... but I'm open to suggestions and requests (as long as Karen approves it!)

Thanks for your comments!


What is the BEST Superpower ?

My wife's blog post a few days ago was on how she wished she had the super power of stretchiness.  I understand why this would be important to her (as a mom of 6 kids, who has to chase them all over the place), but I personally believe that would not be the best choice of a super power.

(As my father-in-law would say) ... The answer is:

That IS (or would be) the BEST superpower to have.  Many of you will challenge me on this, and that's fine, but when I'm invisible I will log on to your computer in your home and change your comment to say "Oh Josh!  You are so wise!  If only I could be just a little more like you!"  :)

To you who say super speed would be better ...
I say ... since I'm invisible, I will still beat you in any race we have.  How?  Because I'm invisible!  I'll just use a car or boat or whatever other devices I need to use to get to the finish line faster than you can.  Plus getting places quicker only means you have to do more things.  Where's the fun in that?

To you who say the ability to fly would be better ...
I say ... psshaw!  As an invisible person I can fly anywhere I want to.  Sure I might have to take classes on safely landing an airplane or navigating a helicopter, but with invisibility I'll eventually be able to fly whenever I want.

To you who say that x-ray vision would be better ...
I say ... why look through things (buildings, walls, etc.) when you can just go inside without being seen!  It works for anything you'd need x-ray vision on (except medical diagnosis, but let's face it, we have enough machines that can do that already so if you did have x-ray vision you wouldn't be wasting it in the medical field).  No offense intended to any medical staffers whatsoever ... YOU are not a waste at all!  YOU are as close to superheroes as we have in this world.  Thank you!

This kid looks like a
terrible "planner"
 To you who would say that super strength would be better ...
I say ... sure, for a little while.  But eventually what is there left for you to lift or carry or push back into place?  Any need for your super strength probably comes back to poor planning.  And invisible people are known the whole world over for being excellent planners.  Okay, I might be making that last part up.

To you who would say mind-control would be better ...
I say ... you can't control what you can't see and/or don't know is there.  I'd simply hide a safe distance from you until you weren't expecting it and them BAM!  Put you in a head shield like Magneto had, except that it would block your ability to control minds.  Either that or I would just hide out until you got bored with running everything.  Imagine the headaches you would get!

To you who say shape-shifting would be so much better ...
I say ... you still can't shape shift into an invisible person!  I'll be around to see you come back to your original form and then I'll pop you in the nose.  Not super hard, just enough that you'll think there is a fly or someone tossing very small rocks at you.  Eventually you'll shape shift into a tiny little child huddled in the corner asking for all the torture to just stop.  Then I'll appear with a big lollipop and your favorite movie.

To you who say control over fire, water, earth, etc. would be better ...
I say ... good for you.  You'll be a hit at parties and will make a good living with your landscaping business.

To you who say that being able to control time would be better ...
I say ...

Dangit!  Looks like time stopped and you win.  Invisibility can't hide me from the past, present, or future.

Well played time controller ... well played.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's your Favorite Soda ?

I am not addicted to soda, but I do love to drink it often.  I like many different kinds of soda and, like people pair wines with their food, I fancy myself a connoisseur of sodas, being able to pair the perfect one with different meals, settings, etc.

For instance, root beer (especially "Dad's" brand!) is basically the perfect soda for pizza.  Sprite (or any lemon-lime soda) is a great match for pasta dishes.  And some sodas are really just best by themselves, like Welchs Grape Soda, Mountain Dew, or my current favorite soda ... Wild Cherry Pepsi.  Mmmm!

One thing you should try (besides Wild Cherry Pepsi ... yum!) is the Sonic Happy Hour drink specials.  Between 2-4pm every day their drinks and slushes are half-priced, which makes it very inexpensive to try many different combinations.  I've become partial to Sprite with Watermelon flavoring added, but there are literally thousands of other possible combinations.  Root Beer with Vanilla is good.  My wife is partial to Dr. Pepper with Cherry and Vanilla added.  Their Powerade Slush is very tasty too.

So what's your favorite soda?  I'd love to hear and try it out myself some time!


Did we really just "Host" 4 days in a Row ?

On Sunday, 4/17 the streak was broken.  It began with no real planning and was never really intended to happen.  It just worked out that way.  Through a series of somewhat random events, we found ourselves hosting dinner and games, or just games, or just dinner, with four different groups of people over four consecutive days.  And it would have been 5 in a row or more if we had actually intended on setting some sort of personal record or something!

On Wednesday, 4/13, we stole Karen's parents' thunder by making them come to our house for dinner (after they had invited us over to their place).  Truth be told, I really wanted hamburgers and hot dogs from my awesome charcoal grill (which was a gift from my in-laws) so that's why we declined their invite and, in turn, told them to come over here.  We didn't have time to play any games, but in addition to Karen's parents, we were also able to have the following other family members over: her brother and sister-in-law, her sister, another sister-in-law and her newborn son (her husband was @ school), and our teenage niece and nephew.  It was super crazy, super loud, and also super fun to have so many people over mostly "on the fly."  I also got to have a very good chat with my niece and I hope it helped her out because it sure made my day nicer!

On Thursday, 4/14, my buddy Craig and his two boys came over to hang out.  Craig and I played some pool and some Wii.  Then later, after Domino's pizza for dinner, his friends (who hopefully will become our friends) Paul and Krista came by to play some Dominion.  It was very fun and great to get to meet this newlywed couple who are expecting their first child later this year.

The Campanella's
 - Our Best Friends!
 On Friday, 4/15, our good friends Mindy and Tony came by with their kids.  We had dinner (the salad was soooooo good ... which worked out nicely because the main course ran out even though Karen made a HUGE double-batch!) and then played some Dominion.  They are such great friends and we love having them over.  Tony has to go back to Guam for work in a few weeks so we're trying to get together as much as we can with them before he goes.  Maybe we can sneak a round of golf in!  :)

Kevin ...
in Japan
 On Saturday, 4/16, we got to have the Amsdens over.  What a treat!  And not just the Scotch-a-roos she made for dessert.  Yum!  The Amsdens have 5 kids and they're all very close to our kids' ages.  Even better, all of our kids seem to get along pretty well.  Amy, the mom, is so fun and full of energy that it is hard not to enjoy yourself while eating, chatting, playing games with her.  Their dad (Amy's husband) is on assignment in Japan right now, so we're excited for when he gets home and we can hang out with him too!  Funny story ... he usually calls home to talk to Any and the kids, but they weren't there.  So that night he called Amy's cell phone.  She didn't answer.  So he called my wife's cell phone ... and she didn't answer.  So finally he called my cell phone and even though I didn't recognize the number I went ahead and picked up.  His reply when I answered was slightly delayed and he said "Konichiwa this is Kevin."  It sounded like a recording and I almost hung up on him because of it.  Luckily I said "What?!" and when he said it again I recognized his voice and the foreign greeting.  We chatted briefly and then I handed the phone to Amy.

Anyway ... Sunday rolled around and without thinking about how we had already had people over for the last four evenings, Karen and I reached out to several family members and friends.  No one could come over at such short notice and on a school night no less, so the streak ended.  I am still glad for all the fun we had over those days ... but I am a competitive person so you can bet I'll try to break that streak, especially when the summer comes and we don't have to worry about "school nights" and such.  I'm thinking 7 days straight is a very realistic goal!  Get ready to be invited over and you can forever be a part of the new record!  :)


What's on my To Do List for today ?

Quick and easy blog for me here ... you'll see why if you keep reading.

Today is my first day off this week (I'm off tomorrow as well, but that day is all booked up with Josh Jr's "Battle of the Books" regional competition).  And there is (as always) a TON of stuff on my to do list.  I'll likely only get half of this stuff done, but here it is for your reading pleasure (and maybe I'll add a comment at the end of the day to let you know how I fared):
 - Get the first set of kids (Josh Jr, Ben, and Brooklyn) out the door on time for school.
 - Get the second set of kids (Savannah and catalina) dropped off @ preschool on time.
 - Call Auto Zone to see if they test alternators for functionality.  Then do these next two or three items if the answer is yes.
      - Pull alternator out of my car (to be taken in and tested).
      - Drop off alternator to be tested.
      - Replace new alternator -or- determine time to take car to Bear Auto.
 - Finish my turn in all 6 online Scrabble games I have going right now.
 - Write and post at least 4 blogs (to "catch up" for the week).
 - Take my Pretty Lady out to lunch (something fast food 'cause there's not much time).
 - Go Bowling with my siblings (and hopefully my Pretty Lady too!)
 - Deliver at least half of the DVDs for my team at work (to their home addresses).
 - Feed my Zoo animals on Facebook (they're very sad and hungry).
 - Go to dinner @ the in-law's house.
 - Send scathing text or e-mail to all the basketball guys who didn't show up last night!
 - Send e-mail out to 11-year old scout parents about our need to reschedule the May campout.

There will obviously be other things added to that list, but it's a full day already so I'm gonna get started on another item on that list.  Wish me luck!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do You Ever Feel Like This ?

I can honestly say I have felt like the employee (Dilbert) in this comic strip, but more often than not lately I feel like the Manager (the pointy haired dude) ...

It is hard to explain how I can be both "available" for my team and peers but also be "very busy" in the same instance.  I don't like not being available, but a lot of the time the work I am doing is not evident if you were to just look at me and see what I'm physically doing.

I sit at my desk.  I appear to just be staring at the computer screen, but almost always I am reading when you see that.  I am typing from time to time, which usually does appear enough like work that people realize that I am, in fact, not just pretending to type.  But you cannot tell if a person is typing a funny comment to a peer, or posting a blog, or having an Instant Message (IM) chat with someone ... OR if you are actually putting "pen to paper" on a very important note or presentation for your team, site, company, etc.  At least 3 or 4 times a day I am actually not staring at my computer or typing or meeting with someone.  And 2-3 of those times are not just me "zoning" (which does happen maybe once or twice a week) ... almost always I am seriously contemplating something relatively important (like a rep's development plan, or a call I just heard that needs feedback to be given to the rep who handled it, or reviewing more company-wide level material and considering how best to present that message to my team).

Enough rambling ... the point is that I am often "available" but "busy" and I'm not sure how to convey to people around me which one it is.  I am worried that my facial expressions (for instance, when I am in serious, deep thought) make me unapproachable.

Either way ... I love the Dilbert comic strip above and have it posted at my desk as a reminder that I should just laugh about that situation rather than worry about resolving it.  Lots of things in life are like that.


What are the Odds ?

I enjoy playing pool (or billiards  for my friends with British accents!)

Not my actual table
(but this one is similar)
I have a pool table in my basement, that I got from my brother's father-in-law's family for an excellent price (I really should thank them again or at least invite them over to play pool if they ever want to!)  The felt is a little worn and will need to be replaced in the next year or two (but I'll probably wait until the kids are a little older just like we're doing with the carpet upstairs!)

I don't play all that often, but it is a nice tool for relaxation if I ever need to blow off steam or just enjoy a little "me time."  I love playing with friends or family members, mostly because very few people have pool tables so I know it is a bit of a "treat" for them.  If you're ever at my house and want to play, don't hesitate to ask!  I may not suggest it (because I know it isn't my wife's favorite thing for me to disappear downstairs to my man cave) but trust me when I say I'm always up for a few games!  I'm usually a pretty gracious host when playing, especially if my opponent is much less skilled than me (not as rare as you might think, but I'm barely "okay" compared to anyone who really knows how to play).

My personal favorite game is straight up 8-ball. All 15 balls on the table.  Stripes versus Solids.  Just the basic version of rules for that on my table -- you have to call the 8-ball at the end, but almost anything else is okay (slop shots are allowed if they are ridiculous or cool enough!)  I have actually sunk the 8-ball off the break one time on this pool table.  Depending on which rules you follow that is eaither an automatic win (that's how my table counts it!) or an automatic loss.  Either way, that shot is a rarity, even among very skilled players.

I also love to play Cutthroat, which is a three-player game that is especially fun when you don't want to make one person sit out every other game.  If you've never played, the premise is very simple.  Each person gets 5 of the numbered balls (1-5, 6-10, 11-15) and your goal is to knock in the opponent's balls.  Last player with a ball on the table is the winner.  Against my wife and son I usually just take 3 balls and they each get 6.  That evens things out fairly well.

This past Thursday, my best friend from high school, Craig Shaw, came over to hang out.  He was in town with his boys on their Spring Break and it was nice to spend some time catching up with him.  We played some 8-ball and even when I switched to left-handed shooting (very hard to do since I am a righty!) the competition was about as fair as when he plays against me in Ping Pong (he is very much the master of the two of us in table tennis!)  That day, the poor guy just couldn't catch a break.  So we switched to 9-ball ...

And that was when it happened!

9-ball rules are very simple.  You play with only the 1-9 balls, alternating turns and only knocking the next numbered ball in (in order from smallest to largest).  The first person to sink the 9-ball wins.

My left hand was tired from several games of shooting backwards so I told Craig I was going to switch back to playing right-handed.  He wanted me to break first so I set up my shot.  He joked and said "Let's see how the pros do it with their right hand!"  And then I shot the cue ball toward the pile ...

CRACK !!! ... wait for it ... w a i t    f o r    i t  . . .

The 9-ball went in the left corner pocket!

Automatic win for Josh.  Devastation for Craig.  All in attendance were in awe!

This is not such a rare feat on the professional circuit, but I have never seen it done before in person.  It was the coolest shot I have ever made playing pool.  I joked with Craig and laughed about how it just wasn't his day.  I racked the balls again and we played the next game with Craig breaking.  It was close but I pulled out the win at the end.  And then it was my turn again to break.  The balls were racked and I set the cue ball.  I joked that I didn't want to break again because it was never going to get better than the last break!  Craig almost said something, but didn't ... and I struck the cue ball toward the pile ...

CRACK !!! ... wait for it ... w a i t     f o r     i t  . . .


The 9-ball went in the left corner pocket AGAIN !!!

Automatic win for Josh.  Utter shock and dismay for Craig.
The rest of the crowd was silenced.

Not only had I made the most incredible shot of my life but I had done it TWICE ... in a row!  We played a few more rounds and my game was all downhill from there, but it was the most fun I have ever had playing pool!  I'll probably never do that again and certainly not twice in a row, or even the same day for that matter.

I was mostly just glad to have my good friend Craig there to witness the event and cheer me on.  Thanks buddy!  Like Johnny in the song "Devil Went Down to Georgia" I say to my pal Craig ... "I told you once, you sonofagun I'm the best they's ever been!"

Not really, but in that moment it sure felt like it!  :)


When is the best time to shop at Wal-Mart ?

We all do it.  Even people who say they refuse to shop there do it.  Perhaps the most polarizing example of all that is good (or all that is bad) about Capitalism in America, Wal-Mart is now as much a part of our culture in the States as baseball or Apple Pie.

I have shopped there literally hundreds of times (I doubt we're in the thousands yet, but I'm sure I'll get there in my lifetime).  I have been in that store at basically every different time of day.  Early morning, mid morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid afternoon, afternevening, at night and in the wee hours of the night/morning when you can tell the bars are closed because of the clientele in the store.

In all this time there, I have always found many more people shopping at "odd" times than I'd have ever expected.  There are always many cars in the parking lot and almost always several lines of people in the process of checking out.  And there are almost always employees re-stocking shelves, especially in the early morning between 6-8am.

Today at around 6:30am was different ... and it was very nice!

I parked my car just about as close to the front doors as you can and counted only about 15 cars in the parking lot (besides all the employee cars which are easy to spot because they are on the side of the store and up that aisle, so as not to take good parking from valued customers).  I strolled in and was greeted by a nice (and surprisingly not "elderly" at all) lady who actually smiled at me.  There were only a half-dozen or so employees stocking shelves (in the food side of the building anyway) and the aisles were clear of all the leftover boxes, etc.  There was only ONE checkout lane open (none of the self-checkout were up and running yet) but there was no line to wait in to check out.  All in all, I only counted 8 customers in the store besides myself (again, only speaking about the food side of the building ... ain't no way I'm trudging all over that store unless I have to!)

So I'll have to test the theory again on another Saturday morning in the 6:00am hour.  Perhaps that time is the best time to avoid the crazy crowds, terrible parking, and disgruntled greeters.  :)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are we (the U.S.) still Segregated ?

Disclaimer: If you're looking for a SERIOUS blog on the separation of people in our great country due to their class, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other socio-economic factors ... then you've come to the wrong place.  This is NOT a SERIOUS blog on the topic ... I'm not ready to spout off about anything so heady (although I am certain a very strong argument could be made about how far we have come in our integration efforts, but how far we still have left to go before we really "get there.")

While riding home from work with my awesome older brother Jeremy (thanks again buddy!), I noticed the following sign posted around the corner and down the street from my house:

Of course my twisted brain immediately thought "Why do these poor kids who already have a 'disability' have to be quarantined to a certain area?!  That's just not FAIR !!!"

I shared that comment with my brother and this blog was born out of the discussion that followed.  So herewith are some other "signs of segregation" that you may see in your area or neighborhood.

Why can't they play
with the FAST kids ?!

This sign just makes
me laugh ... I know ...
I'm a horrible person!

I guess this will
save some time ?!

My recommendation: Don't stand idly by and allow these children (or old people) to be so unfairly mistreated.  Invite them over to you home and let them play in your yard.  So what if the neighbors talk.  You can be a trend-setter.  You can make a difference.  Your actions can get those signs taken down so these children (or old people) can play or walk whenever and wherever their hearts desire!  Let's make a real difference and be part of the solution!  :)


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So Who WON that "Case Wii Tournament" anyway ?

Although the Final Four round was played over a week ago, it was not until today that the winners received their official rewards as Champion and Consolation Champion.  So it's finally time to share their story ...

If you don't know what this blog is referring to, might I suggest you "catch up" by reading this blog post about the First Annual Case Family Wii Tournament.

Before the "big reveal" here's a quick recap of the final round:
Daddy, Mommy, Josh Jr. and Brooklyn all made the final round, with Ben earning the Consolation Bracket championship (which entitled him to compete against the Champion - once determined - at the very end of the competition).

Daddy picked Hula Hoop as his preferred game.  Mommy chose Skiing.  Josh Jr. selected Mario Kart (for obvious reasons!) and Brooklyn went with Bowling.

Scoring was as follows: 5 points for 1st place or best score; 4 points for 2nd; 3 for 3rd; and 2 for last place (if you finished the event).  Bowling total score was the pre-determined tie-breaker.

Bowling was first ... and these were the scores: Mommy - 231 (she was unstoppable on rolling strikes and had 7 in a row at one point!); Brooklyn - 188 (she also got "hot" and rolled 5 strikes in a row at one point!); Daddy - 168; Josh Jr - 162 (missed "wide left" or he would have been in 3rd place).

After Round 1:  Mommy (5), Brooklyn (4), Daddy (3), Josh Jr (2)

Mario Kart was next ... and of course Josh Jr smoked us all!  Daddy narrowly beat Mommy for 2nd place and Brooklyn actually finished the race not in last place (a BIG personal win for her).

After Round 2:  Mommy (8), Daddy & Josh Jr (7), Brooklyn (6)

Skiing requires the Wii Balance Board so we had a brief intermission while setting that game up.  Mommy is usually dominant in this game, but just like in the earlier round of this championship, she faltered and Daddy took advantage for the win.  Daddy - 50.56 seconds; Mommy - 1:08.51 mins/secs; Josh Jr - 1:26.43; Brooklyn - 1:43.22.

After Round 3:  Mommy & Daddy (12), Josh Jr (10), Brooklyn (8)

Hula Hoop was the final event, which usually favors Daddy, but he exhausted himself helping Brooklyn swing her hips to the tune of 226 spins.  Josh Jr struggled to rotate his long legs and only mustered 30 spins.  So it was down to Mommy vs Daddy.  For a while it looked like Brooklyn's score might hold up against Mommy, but with a late flurry of twisting body parts, Mommy threw down 242 spins!  It was Daddy's turn.  And he caught FIRE !!!  For only the second time ever (on our Wii anyway) the 300 spin barrier was broken!  Daddy went absolutely nuts and posted a new high score for the event with 314 spins!

Final Round - Final Scores:
Daddy (17), Mommy (16), Josh Jr (12), Brooklyn (11)

But wait ... there's still ONE MORE CHALLENGE !

Ben had won the opportunity to face off in two games against the Champion.  The games were selected by Daddy (Ski Jump) and Ben (Lotus Flower).  Both "Case Men" successfully completed the Lotus Flower challenge (sitting perfectly still for 3 whole minutes!) so it came down to the Ski Jump (which is Daddy's favorite Wii Fit game!)

Ben jumped first and his two-jump total was a very respectable 245 meters.  Daddy's first jump was a solid 140 meters.  He only needed to safely land his second jump and complete victory was his ... but he *scuffed the liftoff and ... Ben was declared the Consolation Winner !!!

Here's some pics of the winner(s) and their spoils!

*Daddy remembered the importance of charity and somewhat intentionally allowed his character to roll like a snowball down the hill in an effort to let Ben enjoy a small, very meaningful to him victory.


Did that really just give me a headache ?

Today my oldest son had his "practice round" for Battle of the Books.  It was called the "District Tournament" but the scores were like those on the show Whose Line Is It Anyway? ... they don't matter.

This year's Battle of the Books logo / t-shirt

If you're unfamiliar with Battle of the Books, here's a brief synopsis:
5th Graders in Colorado Springs are provided an opportunity to sign up for a reading challenge.  There are 40 books selected, which the kids are told about months in advance, from which questions will be taken on a variety of subjects.  The kids who sign up are placed into 4-person teams and then after having had time to read the books, they have a competition in each school to pick the Top 2 teams, which go to Regionals.

Josh Jr decided (largely based on a challenge extended by his mother) that he wanted to try to read all 40 books before the Regional Tournament.  This was after his team earned the right to go to Regionals, which was only a little over a month ago.  He had read about 15 of the books, but in the past month he has cleared another 15 or so books, which is amazing to me!

Anyway, Karen and I attended his "practice" at the school today ...
and the stress gave ME a headache!

It was so hard to sit there, knowing nothing about the books being discussed, and watch my son struggle to remember the answers to all the books he has crammed into his brain.  He did so good and was really carrying his teammates, but I cannot believe how much this experience stressed ME out!  I am not sure how supportive of a parent I will be able to be for my kids if a simple "practice" session gives me a headache!

My amazing bookworm son

The practice was very good for him and his team though, as they learned for certain the weakness of one team member (who hopefully can be replaced with the alternate, who did much better!) and also the importance of being very specific with their answers (they missed several questions by leaving out just one or two words that they knew but just didn't include).

Next Thursday is Regionals (held at Colorado College) and Karen and I will be the Ridgeview Elementary school chaperones (riding on the bus with the two teams and keeping the kids together and in line).  I hope Josh Jr does well and that his team works well together ... but selfishly, I hope the stress doesn't give me another headache!  :)


How are Doctors given a World Ranking ?

One of the episodes of Scrubs that Karen and I watched the other night involved the doctors all being ranked by their patients.  This got me thinking about (and talking to Karen on the subject) how you always hear that a certain hospital or doctor or surgeon is "rated #3 in the world" in such-and-such procedure or handling things related to a certain type of illness or body part.

Where does that ranking come from ?

I know there is a logical answer to that question, which I would research if I actually cared where the rankings generate, but I prefer to make my own snarky assessment and answer to the question in my entirely made-up way.  :)

Who else would you have hosting ?!
Welcome one and all to the 23rd Quadrennial Surgery, Doctoral Diagnosis, and Team Hospital Challenge!
I am your host, George Clooney.

Let's get right to the competition for Top Surgeon in the world!  In a heated (and very LONG) battle between Dr. Heimlich and Dr. Jones, the young surgeon from upstate New York has defeated the former world-champion from Germany in the most shocking upset of the tournament.  Heimlich just seemed to choke under the pressure and now he will have to wait until next year's World Surgery Championships to attempt to regain his top ranking.  That has got to hurt his advertising efforts for new appendectomy patients.  Tough break for him.

Over in the doctor bracket, the up-and-coming Dr. Zhivago continues her rapid ascent up the rankings after solid defeats of Dr. Feelgood in the round of 64, Dr. Pepper in the 2nd round, Dr. Scholls in the Not-so-Sweet Sixteen, and Dr. Ruth in the Elite-like Eight.  She now has her toughest competition yet in the overall #1 seeded Dr. Doctor, who has been "giving the news" to all of his opponents with reckless abandon throughout the last two weeks.

On the other side of that bracket Dr. No has been seen chanting his own name as a taunt ("Did I win Doctor? ... Nooooooo!) to each opponent he has out-diagnosed for several rounds.  Left in his wake are Dr. Huxtable (who was disqualified for a racial slur), Dr. Doolittle (who lived up to his name and just sat there!), Dr. Quinn (who looked like she hasn't practiced medicine in centuries!), and Dr. J (who kept trying to dunk his patients into their beds ... awkward!)  His Final Four opponent, Doogie Howser, M.D., retired from competition to host an obscure awards show in Bollywood, so the notorious villian Dr. No awaits his Championship foe.

Dr. Ross from
County General
Okay, before our commercial break let's check the standings in the Team Hospital Challenge.  It looks like County General Hospital (my own personal favorite!) is holding a slim lead over Sacred Heart Hospital.  Rounding out the top ten are the following "also-rans" : #3. Seattle Grace Hospital
#4. General Hospital
#5. Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital
#6. St Jude's Hospital
#7. Johns Hopkins
#8. NCMC
#9. Memorial Hospital
#10. Children's Hospital

That's all the time we have for you this evening.  Be sure to check your evening news for the final results of this exciting competition!  I'm off to plan Ocean's 14 with all my buddies that are now WAY too cool to be TV Doctors!  Ciao bella!
Check out my "SMOLDER!"