Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

I have not bought a Christmas tree in years. Generally I throw some ornaments on a terminally ill houseplant that I have spent the year trying to kill. This year's Christmas miracle surely has to be that this plant is alive after 12 months in my care. Nonetheless, I'll still try and kill it by hanging overweight ornaments on it. Someone referred to it as a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree". That tree was dead and brown, although this one is sure to meet the same fate in the near future.

I'm off to pick my Mom up at the airport soon. She's going to enjoy a week of 60 degree temperatures, which will be double of what Buffalo has this time of year. I've long since forgotten what it's like to have snow at Christmas.

Merry Christmas and safe travels to all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


It's a great bowling score. A decent car from Chrysler. A movie about warriors. And now it is officially my maximum bench press.

Some people run, some people lift. I don't run, well. I lift far much better and genetically that's what nature intended. Not that I can't run, about six years ago I was running five miles a day, three times a week. My body and mind hated every step, but I could do it. I'm in awe of people that can run marathons or cross-country. For the record though, I did run the Peachtree 10K when I was 25 and I still have my number.

Three hundred was a particular number of pounds I wanted to bench press by Christmas of this year. I hit it a week early after a very botched attempt last week. A shout out to my workout partner Vern who kept my chest from being sliced in two. I deviated from my usual warm up and I paid for it. Today he spotted me as I benched 300 pounds three times with no assistance. It may sound somewhat of a meathead thing to do, but I'm going with what I'm good at. And for the record, my blood test will pass Congressional scrutiny.

Back in 2004 I was not sure when my future held for upper body weightlifting. I had torn my rotator cuff and split a tendon during a rugby tournament in 2003. My surgeon, Dr. Christine Ekstrand at UCLA Medical Center said the best I could ever hope for was 90 percent recovery for my shoulder. That was the best, the most likely was 70 to 80 percent. She must have been a better surgeon then analyst as today there is no difference between the left and the right shoulder. ADI Physical Therapy in Hollywood deserves credit as well. I never missed an appointment.

Now that I've met this goal, I'm not heading any higher. I will stay at 300 and get more reps. Increasing weight is a slippery slope and every joint and muscle on my body works fine and I'd like to keep it that way. In case your wondering, the only supplement I take is amino acids. Any nutritionist would probably label my diet as "somewhat crappy", and with the donut intake I'm not going to argue. I tip the scales at 220 pounds.

This month marks one year in Texas. And everything is bigger here, including me. Must be something in the water...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mr. Beef and Pizza

Brrr. I think that's the best phrase to describe Chicago in December. It certainly was appropriate last Friday as I flew up there in the morning to meet my friend Mike who had taken an earlier flight.

Now a week ago, I had no intention of heading to Chicago in the late fall. Mike had purchased a 1988 Pontiac Fiero and was going to drive it down it back to Austin. I said I'd watch his dog to help out. Last minute plane tickets to Chicago were not in my budget and while I'm a generally helpful person riding 18 hours or 1170 miles in a two seat Fiero is not the first thing on my list of things to do this month, or even year. The weather forecast was calling for snow though, and at a Christmas party last Saturday, my friend Gary offered up a free plane ticket. Mike has never driven in snow. I'm from Buffalo. Say no more.

It's important to have goals and Mike's has always been to own the car of his high school dreams, a 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT. A few weeks earlier he had found one on AutoTrader and it's a gem. In immaculate shape, this 20 year old car has only 30,000 miles on it. But it was in Chicago. Sounds crazy to some, but remember six months ago, I bought a 20 year old BMW is New Jersey and drove it back to Austin. So I did all I could to help.

We arrived at the dealership and it was all that the car promised to be in the pictures. The friendly folks at Muller Pontiac in Highland Park had the paperwork ready and within 45 minutes we were on our way. With the weather threatening to turn horrible, we made plans to head South that day rather then do some Chicago sightseeing. But first we need lunch.

Quintessentially Chicago, I headed for Mr. Beef and Pizza in Mt. Prospect. Turns out the downtown location that I once lived a few blocks from had closed. I'm sure it's footprint is now a condo structure. Mr. Beef and Pizza did not disappoint, and we were so lucky as to have won a free hamburger for our next visit before 1/8/08. Luck would hold out for the rest of the trip back to Austin.

I decided our road names for this trip would be Mr. Beef and Pizza. Me being the beefy Irishman, I got to be Mr. Beef by default. Mike was Pizza. He's not even Italian, but actually more English. If we could have found a Mr. Beef and Shepard's Pie, things would have been pefect. Hmm. No such luck. At about 2:00 pm the dynamic duo hit Illinois' I-294 and headed South.

Mike was not interested in driving in Chicago, so I took the helm despite the clear roads. The sky did look like it was about to open up into a snowstorm, but we made it out of Chicago to I-57 without a drop of anything from the sky. Illinois is a very long state and we made it all the way to Marion and spent the night. The next day we drove about 14 hours straight and made it back to Round Rock about 10:30.

I was surprised at how well the Fiero had help up over the past 20 years. There were no interior rattles, the engine ran great and the car tracked straight forward. I would like to say everything worked well, but there were a few things that needed attention. I'm certain there's a small vacuum leak that's keeping the cruise control from working and the engine surging slightly at idle. Pop-up headlight always fail and sure enough, in Sulphur Springs, TX after dinner we suddenly had a Fiero that was winking at everyone. Any 20 year old car is going to need repair as I assured Mike who was having a minor melt down. Part of owning a classic car is fixing your classic car. The only guarantee you get with a 20 year old car is that you're going to have to fix it.

Day three of Mike's Fiero ownership did not start out well. On the way back to the airport to retrieve his truck, we ran out of gas. Oh, I guess the fuel gauge needs some attention too. This unhappy Mike photo was taken on 183 here in Austin. We don't normally stop next to run-down trailer parks for photo shoots. No thanks to AAA of Texas, after 90 minutes of not showing up to give me a gallon of gas, Mike walked over to the gas station that opened at 10:00am and bought a gas can. We were back on our way. Tripple A receives a tripple F for service as my original quote was for no longer then 45 minutes. I don't think I sold Mike on the AAA membership but an auto club membership of some kind is quintessential when your car is out of warranty.

In the end, all's well that ends well. We're home, the Fiero is in one piece. And my hot tub is waiting for me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wrapping Things Up

No, it's not Christmas wrap either. Today is my last day of classes at UT for my Certification in Project Management. Unless I do something incredibly egregious I'm going to pass this course and receive my certification. However, I'm no slouch. Next month I start finishing up my Certification in Human Resource Management, but that will be online learning.

No more drives downtown to UT. I will miss going to class that's for sure. We had a great group to work in and our presentation on Monday went well.

Now to celebrate with a weekend adventure... Stay Tuned!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Year One

One year ago today I closed on my house. The picture on the top is from my first blog entry. It was taken by the realtor when I was looking at my house. I took another one today, wow the trees have grown. I guess that three feet of rain and fertilizer sticks really did their job.

Nothing eventful to report lately. But thanks for checking in... :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Improved Home Improvement

Just a bit more housework going on lately. Nothing too crazy but coming up to my first anniversary so I'm going to spruce the place up a bit.

Sometime ago a I ranted about an awful experience I had a Lowes. Well they have redeemed themselves. A few weeks ago they had an incredible appliance sale on Maytag. When I mean incredible, I do mean incredible. After selling my old appliances, a new dishwasher, stove and over-the-range microwave set me back less them two fill ups on a pick-up truck. I kid you not. And it was all their middle grade appliances too, not builders grade. Since I can install appliances myself, I really cleaned up. Delivery was free too. Nice.

Well all was not well Sunday night when I attempted to install the last appliance, the Range. The rough in specs were 30 inches. No problem, the builder who built my place left exactly 30 inches to install a stove. The width of one Maytag stove? Exactly 30 inches as well. Not believing my eyes, I measured again and again. It would not budge. The tale of the tape measure does not lie, that range was not going to fit.

According to Lowes website the range is 29 7/8 inches. If it were, it would have slid in nicely and I would have posted this a day earlier. With receipts and tape measure in hand, off to Lowes I went. Here is the incredible part. I arrived at Lowes at 10:00 am Monday morning. At 11:12 am, the same morning, I waived goodbye to the Lowes delivery guys who dropped off a new upgraded Frigidaire range. Of course we made sure it fit before they left.

Without any fuss or muss, Amanda and I walked over to the Maytag range in the store and she agreed. It simply was replaced. Such service is typically reserved for Nordstorm shoppers, not mass market home stores. Amanda's manger of course received a nice letter. With their price matching policies, I'll never need to shop for appliances anywhere else. And I won't.

When you come to visit next time, the first thing you'll see is my new front door. A DIY design on-a-dime project if there ever was one. Just cruising through craigslist I found this front door that was sun damaged. It was originally stained, but there was no way it would ever be stained again with the sun damage. It could be painted however! Coffee Bean from Eddie Bauer Home, thank you. Some new door hardware and mounting adjustments and I was set. Much improved.

So there it is. Come knock on my new front door and I might just might cook for you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Truck, Blue Truck

I never turn down someone's request for help in buying a car. I know there is so much to think about and the vast vault of automotive knowledge in my brain needs to be tapped every so often or it will burst. This time it was my friend Mike's turn to suffer through my exhaustive download of automotive information.

So here is his new truck. He's happy and I know his mom is reading this now. Yes you'll see it at Thanksgiving.

In a watershed moment for Ford Motor Company, the last issue of Consumer Reports recommended the F150 due to it's strong record of reliability for the present model. Of greater shock was that they did not recommend the Toyota Tundra due to it's numerous powertrain problems. Historically reliable Toyota has become a victim of it's own growth. It's not easy building that many cars and getting it right.

Thanks to my dad, Mike enjoyed a steep discount on his truck with Ford's Friend and Neighbors program. If you're reading this, you're pretty much my friend I assume. This program is also known as the X plan. A few of you have taken advantage of this and if you haven't hit me up. The plan is basically 91% or MSRP and all incentives are included. At times there are additional incentives for X plan buyers, such as the additional $500 rebate that Mike used on his truck.

Keep in mind I'll talk to you about any car and you don't need to be buying a Ford. But of course I'll strongly suggest it....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hook 'Em Horns

This was meant to be yesterday's blog but the arrival of my niece pushed it to today. Being a non-Texan by birth, I would say that the arrival of a new niece is more important then football, but the natives here might argue that. It's my call and Chloe wins.

Everyone knows about Texas and football. Not having attended college here I landed in Austin without an allegiance to any team. I have friends who went to A&M as well as UT and whoever took me to a game first, I would pledge me support to that team. Last Saturday UT won my affections thanks to Mike. Go Longhorns!

I've been to numerous professional football games, but never to a college game. And certainly not to a college that takes it's football as seriously as UT. I thought that going to a school with a big football team would be fun, but the majority of the 84,000 in attendance were not students. It's not cheap to go to a game, even for students. I think the lure of the big school athletics like UT is the lifelong affiliation once you graduate and can afford the price of admission.

It was a perfect day for football. The weather was cool and there was a bit of a breeze. Prior to the kickoff, we spent a few hour tailgating in the parking lot with Mike's friend Terri. What a spread she put out. I think she was the belle of the LBJ Parking lot as her tailgate party had LIVE satellite television. We watched A&M loose to Missouri. Several other less fortunate tailgater's crept over to watch the game with us.

Once inside the stadium it was a sea of burnt orange. Last fall when I bought my house I was in Sears looking for a new washer and dryer. I came across a set and exclaimed to my salesperson, "Who buys a pumpkin colored washer and dryer?". I had so much to learn.

UT won and it was a great game. They handily beat Texas Tech, and everyone in the stands was polite to our guests from the opposing team in my section. The half time show was actually interesting to watch as both marching bands took turns on the field. There was plenty of tradition although I failed get a look at Bevo, the UT mascot.

There are two things Texas loves. It's football and itself. I've been told many times by natives, "There's Texas and there's not Texas".

And they're right.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oh Baby

She's here! Yesterday my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Chloe Elizabeth Santoro. Mother and daughter are doing fine after an intense 17 hours of labor. She's a few weeks early but she's still 8 lbs. Not a bad size and thankfully she arrived when she did as if she stayed full term, she may have hit the double digits which is common in my family.

She's adorable and perfect. I now have four nieces and one nephew. You can count on more baby pictures to come in the upcoming weeks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blow Hard

Here's Big Red, my new favorite toy. No shop is complete without an air compressor to inflate tires or remove those unbelievably tight and difficult suspension bolts. Not to mention brake caliper bolts too. Nothing like a good impact wrench to take your lug nuts off without hurting yourself.

Mucho thanks to Mom and Dad for the early Christmas present.

Last week i picked up the new front springs to my 635CSi and met a set of unweilding brake caliper bolts while trying to remove the front strut tower. The car has about 110k on it which means it's had about two brake jobs in the past 19 years. Those brake calipers bolts have not moved since daytrading was an occupation. They are very happy where they are but I need to change that.

But not today. I've inflated the tires a bit and played with all the accessories. Hats off to the guys at Home Depot for being so helpful. I hit the guys up at the contractor desk and they could not have helped me more in picking out the right model and the correct nailer for the woodworking jobs I have planned for my house. I know I usually slam Home Depot, but these guys were great. You bet I'm going to fill out that survey at the bottom of my receipt.

I can't stop smiling and playing with it. I've properly inflated the tires on all my cars. The difference between men and boys certainly is the size of their toys.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Candy Land

I think I did ok, but it sure has been a long time. When I was 10 years old my family left the suburbs for rural living. There's not much trick-or-treating when the houses are miles apart. Since then I've lived in apartments and condos mostly. I did live in a house in the Hollywood Hills for several years, but on a street that's at a 20% grade and with thirteen steps up to the front door deters even the most avid trick-or-treater.

Now I live in a subdivision with about 600 homes, and there are families everywhere. It's my first time passing out candy and I guess I did ok. I went to Target yesterday and bought two big bags with 102 pieces each. I don't know why it was 102 versus 100. I did substantial product testing and found the candy was suitable for distribution to the children in my neighborhood. The bulk of the activity was between 7-9pm and there's about 30 pieces left.

All the kids dressed up and their parents stood at the end of the driveway as their kids made their junior attempts at door-to-door salesmenship. However, it would take the coldest heart to refuse a child a piece of candy on a night like this. The costumes were the usual timeless classics like Spiderman, Batman, Hobo's.. etc. And the most popular costume of the evening?

Every girl is Daddies' little Princess.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hello Again

Just a quick news flash. My new cell phone arrived today, so you can resume using that number and my home number will once again bounce to my cell. Text messages return!

Not a great advancement in technology, but it's a Treo 650. I was all geeked out about the iPhone when it arrived and was sure I would get one. I am an early adopter of some Apple products, ie. Mac Mini and Powerbook. However I'm not really pleased about Apple's iPhone price reduction so early in the launch and on-again, off-again third party application lockout. Early adopters are your best customers and it's not the way to treat them. Also, I don't like being forced into AT&T as my cellular provider. I'll pick, thank you.

So I'm staying with T-Mobile for now. The new phone works great according to my first callers. TTYL!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Under Contract

It was a year ago today I first stepped foot into my house. It was not the first I had seen it as there was an extensive website with tours, photos and floorplans. I think I had spent about 30 minutes in the house before I decided to make an offer and go under contract. In the three prior times I had done this, the decision was about 30 minutes and there were no regrets. When it feels right you know it.

Moving to Austin was not a hard decision to make. Buying a house involves a series a large checks to be written and I didn't flinch once. The decision to move had been part of an on going conversation with friends of mine. My friend Jason had left So Cal shortly after I did. Our time was up.

I love my house. It's something I would not have had there. A year ago I wondered what I would do with 1900sf all to myself. I seem to have filled it up nicely except for one bedroom which remains empty. I may never use it while I live here and a three bedroom house may have been better suited over a four, but I like the floorplan and the option of having that extra room.

I know not everyone wants to own a home. They are a lot of work. Los Angeles is not a bad place if you want to rent. There are an enormous amount of rental properties available and laws that are tenant friendly. Texas is more landlord friendly. While the market there has slowed a bit, it' has not fallen off the face of the planet as some might have expected it too. It's still a struggle more most people to buy a decent place in Los Angeles area on a single income. My house in Round Rock would be about $900,000 in El Segundo.

There are other benefits as well. I can commute to UT in the city from the 'burbs in about 20 minutes to get to class. I can get just about anywhere in 20 minutes for that matter. There is no general angst about getting in the car and going somewhere. You'll get where you need to go, no worries.

And yesterday I jacked the BMW up in my garage and removed all the wheels and cleaned them in my driveway. My two dogs were playing in my backyard. That's priceless.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I don't watch much series television. So when I do, I'd like to think it's significant to me at least. Over the past 12 weeks there has been one show that I have not missed an episode of and I thought I'd share it with you.

FX's Damages appears on Tuesday evenings and it's marquee star is Glenn Close. The story revolves around her law firm and an attempt to settle a class action suit against Ted Danson who plays an Kenneth Lay type of character who's company took a dive like Enron.

There's murder and plot twists. You never know who to trust and neither do the characters. It's well written and shot. Glenn Close is great. The show is shot in NYC but makes no mention of it or uses the city's landmarks. Rather then Toronto passing as NYC, NYC is passing as any western city. There's a twist in its' self.

This Saturday FX is running a Damages marathon. If the weather is unpleasant where you live, I'd recommend catching up. Tuesday 10/23 is the big season finale where all the story lines are supposed to be wrapped up and I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cold Front

Fall and a nice cold front is beginning to settle into Central Texas and it's more then welcome to stay for a while. Nice cooler temperatures recall lazy Sunday mornings when you can't seem to get moving. I don't mind, one of my favorite programs comes on at 10:00 am, Meet The Press

This Sunday's topic was off the usual political path and the guest was Bill Cosby. Yes that Bill Cosby, the Jell-o pushing loud colorful sweatered man who has made us laugh for generations. If you've kept up with the 'Cos lately, he's not a laughing man anymore. He's distraught with the status of African-Americans in the United States. I could regurgitate the somber statistics but they're of no surprise to anyone.

While it's early in the race, we are tracking to elect the first female president of the United States. Barak Obama may be extremely competent, but it's hard to beat Hillary's experience and the war machine on her side. The two candidates though could be poster children of equal rights and the progress and lack thereof we have made over the last century.

If equal rights were a horse race, woman would be back in the barn getting brushed down while race relations would be still out on the track. Woman have not had an easy run of things but their message hits close to home. Most every home for that matter.

Woman did not make it to where they are today by hunting elk while wearing burlap underwear. In general, they still like pretty things and have softer pursuits. And all that is fine. The startling realization is that woman are fundamentally different from men. They have different physiology, thought patterns and interests. Race on the other hand is primarily a difference in skin color. So why are we still so far away from racial equality?

Home is where the heart is. It's hard to look someone in the eye across the dinner table and tell them they are inferior. It breaks their heart and if you have one, yours too. While it will never happen, a law requiring us to partner up with someone of a different race for the next 100 years probably would solve our racial problems. It's crazy idea anyway because love is what love is. But it could possibly work...

Lying next to someone in bed inherently makes them your equal. If you didn't agree, the next cold front could be the one coming across your pillow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Different Light

Yesterday I complained about too much light. I feel like I have a direct connection to mother nature or something like that. There was no sun today. At all.

So what to do? Like the kid in a candy store I headed to Lowe's and went on a landscape frenzy. I planted nine grass plants and five crepe myrtles in my back yard. Everything was 50% off, so I made out like a bandit. Done by three, the landscape plan for the backyard is nearly complete and well under budget. No sun and 70 degree weather meant I didn't even break a sweat.

But who cares when I can take cute doggy pictures instead. I know you could care less about what my backyard looks like. I get many more comments about doggy pictures anyway. So with today's overcast lighting I broke out the camera for a few more shots. Today they are in a larger format so you can click on them to make them bigger.

The biggest challenge today was not breaking through the limestone in the yard. Try getting two dogs less then 13 months old to look into the camera at the same time...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Baxter's BFF

It's been a week and I've shown great restraint in posting adorable puppy pictures. Obviously things are going well. Baxter and Logan are inseparable. Both of them play constantly together and enjoy the other's company. In one of the cutest things I've ever seen, they have pulled their beds together so they sleep right next to one another. Logan's only thirty pounds so he has taken to sleeping on my chest while I watch tv. What can I say, I'm a softie.

I can't hold out much longer, so here's some pictures. My house is not the greatest place to take photography. If I use the flash, the dogs end up with devil eyes. On the other hand, my house has an abundance of large windows and it's always bright in here so things are washed out.

Next time I'll venture outdoors with the camera.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Secret Admirer

I'm smitten and I feel guilty. I can't hold this in any longer. I'm in love with the new Cadillac CTS. Ok, it's not a Ford or Lincoln. I'm not normally a huge GM fan, the last car I liked and owned that was from GM was my 1984 Pontiac 6000STE. It was a great car and they had not made one as nice since. (I may be exaggerating here) The new Cadillac CTS has my eye and I can't seem to let go.

I'm a sucker for an aggressive front end on a vehicle. Hence my 635CSi, which was nicknamed "The Shark" for it's "get the #$^&##! out of my way" look in your rearview mirror. The present day Dodge Charger has a menacing looking front end as well. The new CTS has a front end that recalls a Burlington locomotive bearing down on you. I approve.

The whole look has the car moving forward even when it's standing still. The front quarter view from either side of the car emphasizes the rear track that is wider then passenger compartment. This gives the vehicle the athletic look of broad shoulders. This car looks like it was made to dance when the road says, "let's tango".

The interior does not disappoint. It's very modern and nothing like in another GM products. The dashboard comes from the same supplier Mercedes uses. The radio is not something available on any Impala or other bread and butter product in GM's stable. Cadillac is something special again and GM has spent the money to back it up. The Escalade may still be a tarted up Tahoe, but the CTS is it's own dog. It doesn't share it's body panels with anyone.

If this all sounds like I'm gushing, well no apologies. Remember, I'm smitten.

Rental Star

1981 Lincoln Town Car

2008 Lincoln Town Car

I often think it's best described as the car we love to ride in but few of us would care to own. It's taken me to the airport countless times and when I've landed, I've grabbed one to cart me around at my destination. It hauled my older sister to her wedding as it has done for thousands of brides since 1981. The answer to this riddle is Town Car.

Town Car has been such a part of our lives since it's birth in 1981 that I've long ago dropped adding an article in front of it's name. A reliable relative to borrow or take us to somewhere eventful in our lives. A faithful friend. As comfortable as our living room sofa. As safe as the vault at the bank we leave our treasures in.

Our friend is dying and deserves some last respects. For 2008 Lincoln has not discontinued Town Car but it's apparently an "order only" vehicle and fleet model. Order only means that they will not build them to sit on the lot for walk up customers. They will build you one but you have to ask for it. Town Car will be available to fleet buyers (rental cars/livery services) as it always has been. And they buy the majority of them anyhow. It's the beginning of the end.

Once an aspirational vehicle, Town Car has now just become a work horse. Very sad indeed as what other car has had the chance to impress so many people. Especially people with money. Lincoln will introduce a new flagship vehicle later this year named the MKS. It's big, based on the first Volvo S80 platform that now builds the Ford Taurus/500. It will be front wheel drive/all wheel drive and have only a six cylinder engine. Not the robust V8, body-on-frame, rear wheel drive vehicle that has made Town Car the darling of the livery crowd.

I'm sure the MKS will be a better vehicle in most every way. However it will never have the cache as saying "they sent a Town Car to pick me up".

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Black And Tan

Yesterday's pick up of Logan went off without a hitch. Hats off to the staff at Town Lake Animal Shelter for another seamless adoption. He was fixed in the morning and ready for pick up at five in the afternoon. After a long ride up MoPac in rush hour traffic he was at his new home in Round Rock.

As per proper protocol, Baxter and Logan met in a park in the neighborhood. I introduced them there and then walked them back to the house. Introducing a new dog to a house with a resident dog is supposed to be a traumatic experience for the resident dog. If this true I have yet to see it. Baxter and Logan have hit it off without a hitch. As for Logan, he's housebroken, well behaved, slept through the night and gives Baxter a constant workout. I think he actually may end up being the dominant dog of the two. Baxter is constantly engaging him in play. Logan has already started eating Baxter's food. I think Baxter is going to have to learn to eat when his food is put down or else. Although he could stand to shed a few pounds I think.

It appears to be a good match, but then again time will tell. Surprisingly Baxter is not jealous of the affection. Having been just the two of us so far, I thought he'd intrude when I pet Logan. No such thing so far.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Race To The Finish

So here's my new dining room set. It's all in position now in my dining room. I'm very much into symmetrical placement of furniture and this piece fits perfectly. My dining room is basicaly a square and while there is room for a china cabinet and a small table, it would not be centered on the window. That would drive me nuts. So instead I opted for a large 60" table that can seat eight. Round tables are nice for entertaining as you can make the most of the surface area and you can make eye contact with just about everyone. And there is always room for one more.

I found the table on Craigslist, as many of you know my favorite furniture shopping place. This is a nice old set with a beautifully carved pedestal. The top was damaged so I purchased a new one and stained it to match this weekend. I've never stained furniture before, but if you do recall from a few months ago, I did stain my deck. I'm utterly amazed at how easy it is to stain a piece and achieve beautiful results. This is my first crack at staining furniture and I may be hooked. Not that it did not take some time. Each coat took four hours to dry and I did have to put three coats on to match the pedestal and chairs. After the final coat of stain I had to wait eight hours to put the polyurethane coat on. Four hours later, it was a second coat of polyurethane and now it's finished. In twenty-four hours the last coat has set.

Just in the nick of time. Tomorrow my Project Management class is meeting here at six pm; twenty-four hours from how. I had committed to having everyone over last week for a group meeting. Now they have somewhere to sit.

Friday, October 05, 2007

You're The Other One That I Want

Now that it's official, I'd like to introduce to you my newest buddy, Logan. It's very clear that Baxter is a active social dog and I need to find him a playmate. Now that my time at home is not what it used to be, I have to think about Baxter and finding him a companion. Baxter's been a great companion for me, now I need to find one for him.

So it was back to Town Lake Adoption Center where I found Baxter last February. I've been looking over the past week and interacted with a few dogs. I did find a nice German Shepard mix that stole my heart, but the choice was up to Baxter (for the most part) and he immediately took to Logan. Logan is a four month old Lab/Golden mix that was abandoned and left in an apartment for a week when his owners moved out. He does not appear to have any socialization issues though as this trauma happened early in his life. With Baxter and me, he'll have a structured home environment and constant companionship. Not to mention food, water and an abundance of snacks.

The bummer part is that Logan needs to be fixed. I was hoping to have him this weekend, but that will not be the case. Monday at five in the afternoon I can pick him up and bring him home when he has recovered. I'm sure I'll be there a few times this weekend to play with him a little bit more.

More unbelievably adorable puppy pics to follow...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Highly Trained Professional

Tomorrow I'm off to take another computer learning course. This time it's advanced Microsoft Project 2003. Having taken beginning Microsoft Project 2003, this seems like the next logical step on my Project Management career path. I'm taking this course at New Horizons learning center here in Austin and the instructor is excellent.

Of course I'll get another certificate. This will be a "Certificate of Completion". I can add it to my other certificates with such titles as "Certificate of Accomplishment", Certificate of Achievement" etc... I'm a professional pack rat and save most things that have pertained to my work experience such as performance reviews, kudos from the boss, and the results of those personality tests. Oh yes and these certificates I was supposed to hang in my cube.

Going through them has been a fun trip down memory lane. According to the the certicates on the wall, I am quite a talented person. The Coast Guard says I can operate a boat. If your house is destroyed I can tell you how much it will cost to build a new one and how it should be built. I have permission to adjust insurance claims in the State of Texas. If I suspect you're committing fraud, I can investigate you. And of course if your car is mangled I can put it on the machine and realign it and calculate your bill.

Some of these certificates were earned by simply reading a book, others took weeks of training. For now, I'll put them back in the drawer and save them for another day. Unless of course you have twenty extra frames you're not using....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Take A Hike

It's the last day of summer and we're going out baking. The high today is 94 and it's probably going to be one of the warmest days of the summer. Austin and Central Texas had an unusually cool summer due to the rains, but no one is complaining. In the next few weeks things will cool down and life outdoors will be habitable.

Early in the morning Baxter and I took a nice lap around Lady Bird Lake. Lady Bird Johnson was instrumental in developing the three mile hiking/walking/biking/running trail that loops around the lake, or slow moving portion of the Colorado River. As it actually is a river, you need to take two bridges across when you do the full loop. The weather did cooperate and there are many shady portions of the trail to keep the sun off. At most points the trail is about 10 to 15 feet wide which may have been nice about 20 years ago, but it's clearly too narrow in spots for all the traffic lapping the lake now.

Baxter was pooped, while a playful dog, he's accustomed to short spurts of playtime followed by napping. The long walk wore on him for sure. At one point under a bridge there was a shallow spot for him to take a dip. He's so comfortable in the water, he actually just sits down. I've never seen a dog so content to be in the water.

I really think I need a pool.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Back To School

Yes it's back to school time. I've decided to pursue my PMP in project management. Oh yes, what does PMP stand for? Project Management Professional. Yes I had to look it up too.

So yesterday I began my first class in a one semester program. I've been back to school in the last sixteen years and taken classes to brush up on some management skills, mostly at UCLA while I was in Los Angeles. Post graduate education with working professionals is much more fun then sitting in a class room with people who may or may not use the course in real life. Everyone is much more vested and the war stories are much more interesting. Instructors are usually working professionals without PHD's or even Master's Degrees for the most part. Real people who teach based upon their years of experience.

Looking back at college I don't recall much of the same experience. Most everything was theory and most of my business classes were taught by Phd's. The one instructor I bonded with was the accounting professor, Christine Taylor. She was a CPA for what is now HBSC. I loved her instruction, it was very real. None of my journalism classes were taught by journalists, I think something was missing there.

At the end of the semester I'll have my Certification in Project Management from The University of Texas at Austin. After that I have to apply for my PMP designation with the Project Management Institute. With my work experience in the past, that should not be a problem, the only obstacle could be the 200 question multiple point exam. I know how much I love testing.

I just wish it was 20 years ago when I could count on my parents for a new back-to-school wardrobe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Tell-Tale Tick Tick

It started with a tick-tick sound when I would turn the wheel. Next, I lost the use of the highly addictive steering wheel radio controls. Finally it was the chime of the air bag indicator every few minutes with the warning light glowing on the dash. Part number 56042770AD, the clockspring, had failed.

Like the flasher that broke earlier this summer, this is another black dot on the electrical system of my Jeep Grand Cherokee. More disturbing is this is the second failure of the electrical system that controls a safety feature on the vehicle. I'm not sure how long clocksprings have been in cars, but the earliest reference dates back to the original telephone about 1875. Surely we must have mastered this technology by now.

Thanks to the internet I was able to quickly find others who have had the same problem. Diagnosis was easy and off to the Jeep dealer I went to pick up the necessary part. $109.00 later I was back in my airbag-less Jeep headed for home. A quick trip to AutoZone for a two-leg puller and I was in business.

While I was growing up, we mostly had used cars despite my father's employment at Ford Motor Company. All cars break. All parts have a finite life expectancy. Nothing lasts forever. I'm sure my father and I would have had a much easier time with car repairs had the internet been around while I was growing up.

Also while growing up my father turned his back on luxury items such as power windows and seats as "that's just more to break". Rather ominous from a man who's occupation was to build vehicles. However my father's seven year old Explorer does have such hedonistic items as power windows, door looks and (gasp) a power seat. All were working last time I checked. But his basic electrical system has gone to on hiatus a few times over the last year too. I guess we could have had power windows growing up after all.

Not one to take this lying down, I have reported both failures to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They have a form you can fill out when you have a safety related problem with your vehicle. I have reported both and included the part number. Curiously enough, Chrysler had to recall one million minivans for clockspring failure. If there are enough of us to file, hopefully the vehicle will be recalled and I will be reimbursed for the parts.

In the automobile world these days, safety sells. Confidence that your safety systems will work however, is what keeps them coming back.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Make A Wish

This weekend the Texas Classic Car Show hosted it's sixth annual meet at Rudy's with the proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish foundation. The weather was perfect and it was a well organized event with shuttle service to a remote parking lot. The set up was unsegmented which works for a 300 car show as there's time to see everything. Larger shows have Fords in one section, etc. I like the smaller unsegmented shows as you never know what you'll see next to that classic Mustang. I thought Make-A-Wish was very appropriate charity as I often go these shows saying "I wish I had one of those.."

I went with my friends Richard and Mike, and I was asked the usual question. "If you could add one car to your collection from here, what would it be?" Car people are always asked this. Based upon what I have now, I would like a 60's American luxury sedan. One of the most iconic vehicles of that time was the Lincoln Continental. It's clean lines and smooth sides were the polar opposite of the garish Cadillac's and Chrysler's. Lincoln was about style and Cadillac was about big. Oddly there were no Lincolns at this show.

That car will have to wait. I have no more garage space and they just don't build garages in this century for sixteen feet of car.