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.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Need Attention

In case I'm chatting with you on instant messenger and suddenly I seem to disappear, this may be the problem. With camera in hand, I have documented my distraction. With unrelenting zeal, Baxter requires attention now and then. He seldom takes no for an answer. The more I push back the more he pursues this.

The second picture is a well documented example of his favorite trick. When I'm typing and won't acknowledge him, he uses his snout as a lever to push my hand up and off the keyboard. He's a very smart dog.

He's maturing nicely and mellowing out a bit with some very puppy moments. This week we are going on a nice three mile hike around Town Lake. At the end, someone is going for a swim.

Hopefully it won't be me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Perfect Getaway

I'd like to say that I'm in the picture above, but even if I said I was, you'd be hard pressed to figure out who I was. Therefore I did not pay $24.00 for a picture of myself rafting down the Arkansas River. You'll just have to imagine me on the raft.

This weekend I headed to Denver to catch up with a friend and go white water rafting through the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. It was a great four hour trip with class four rapids. We had raft full of friends and we all made it through without going in the water or driving our guide to drink. The water was cold and the first splash definitely wakes you up. Surprisingly we did not wear wet suits as I did when I went down the Kicking Horse River in Alberta a few years ago. You did not want to end up in the water on either river. Brr.

The trip took us from Denver to just south of Colorado Springs. It's about a two hour drive from Denver, but we broke it up with eating both ways. The road trip was fun too, Jordan's friend Greg from Australia provided some entertainment when we said, "last night I went to the movies with two ducks." Ok, what he actually said was he went to the movies with two "Dougs", however with the accent it did not come out that way. Perhaps we had too much sun, but it was the funniest damn thing I had heard in a long time. Hats off to Greg for being a great sport and the kind of expat who is proud of his country but not afraid to laugh at the differences between us.

Denver is a nice city, but a big one. Commutes can last hours and it did take me nearly 50 minutes to get through security at the airport on my trip home to Austin. There is something to be said for living in a smaller city where it takes you less then ten minutes to get through inspection and to your gate. But the weather was mild and pleasant. Sunny and in the 80's, but cool at night. Sleeping with the window open again was awesome.

I'm still looking for that waterproof digital camera and you'll get more pics. My mom sent me a Ziplock bag, but that's not going to cut it. Nice try.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Twenty Years Ago Today

Immediately after Labor Day 1987 I moved into my first address away from home. 312D Hendrix Hall, SUNY Fredonia Fredonia, NY 14063. Fortunately my parents were there to take this picture of me and my younger sister while I was unpacking. One item of note, that Porsche print is hanging behind my desk here in Round Rock. I've had it since I was ten.

I remember the day well. After packing the car I remember walking up into the back pasture with our dog Max and looking back at the house. I knew I would never live there again. I stayed in Fredonia for those four years, working summers and most breaks.

College was not going to be an easy proposition for me. Academically I was not a strong student. My parents had me pay 100% of my first semester as I was not a sure bet to make it through. I did and they funded 100% of my second semester. From there on it was 50/50 which I firmly believe is a sound proposition for any parent/child going through the college years. It was a vested partnership for both of us.

After the hike with all my stuff up three flights up un-air conditioned stairs. I was settled in. We went to lunch and I was on my own. The first suite mate to move in was Andy from Lake Placid.

And it goes on from there. A tale too long to tell on these pages. But you know how the story ends up today, twenty years later.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Dire Consequences

How could I have ever let it get this far? Despite the five hundred renewal notices, I failed to renew both my Car and Driver and Automobile subscriptions.

Car and Driver and I have been together since I was ten years old. I've even been to their offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan. How did this apathy come about?

Honestly I'm not the only one. I don't think editing a car magazine is an easy task, but I would guess that is what drives readers to continue subscribing. I think the biggest problem is editorial inconsistency when it comes to reviewing cars. A certain car can be the the star of one edition and a dog only a few months later in a comparison test. Also, as per previous posts, testing every car as a performance model when it clearly was not intended to be that can raise a few eyebrows. The once latest hot new car news can now be retrieved from the internet daily making monthly publications less timely.

Yes buff books are dying off. If you didn't know it before, pick up an issue of Car and Driver today. You'll notice the dearth of advertisements buy such brands as Ford and Chrysler. In the past you could count on at least two ads from each somewhere in the magazine. I can't say I really blame them for looking elsewhere. Their products are usually panned in both magazines. When you spend the money to place and ad, are you going to put it pages from a review that disses your product? Certainly you don't have worry about that when you're advertising on television, radio or the non-automotive internet sites.

The slick car ads of the past have been replaced by sexual enhancement ads that we would have never seen before. It's sad to see heroes and legends fade to shades of their former self this way. I guess I haven't renewed as part of me can't bear to look. Like watching Farah Fawcett go from pinup to punchline, some things don't age gracefully.

But I know I'll renew. At $16.00 for twelve issues, it's not going to break me. I just wish my heart were in it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Kayakity Yack

Time to play a little catch up.

I've previously discussed how much Austin is a water town. And it really is true. Today I had the pleasure of touring Town Lake and Barton Springs by kayak. This mode of transport was new to me and it's a great workout. Had a fantastic time and looking forward to trying it again.

Town Lake is not actually a lake and it's actually no longer Town Lake. Lady Bird Johnson passed away last month and while she was alive she did not want Town Lake to be named for her until after her death. Town Lake is now Lady Bird Lake, it doesn't exactly roll off your tongue, but it does pay tribute to the woman who advocated the nature and bike path around the lake and many other environmental causes. The lake itself is just a really slow and wide section of the Colorado River.

Enjoy the post photo of the trip as I don't have a waterproof digital camera!

In other news....

Last weekend I jetted off to Tucson to catch up with some friends who were so kind to host me on my road trip to Austin from Los Angeles. You may remember that Tucson was my only overnight stopping point on the trip. I did not remember my digital camera while I was packing. Shame. While I was there I caught up with my friends and played in the pool. The University of Arizona is in a nice section of town, but for the most part Tucson is unremarkable. (Sorry Tucson). My friends are leaving at the end of the year and none of us will be running back there.

Baxter celebrated his first birthday sometime last month according to his birth records from the adoption center. He celebrated by learning to bark at me when he wants to play and I caught him lifting his leg on my shrubs for the first time. He's a big boy now, about 90 lbs.

As the rain stopped and the temperatures began to rise, I've turned my attention to the inside of the house. I've painted the guest room, kitchen and master bathroom. Previously they were builders grade flat white paint. Now they have some color. I'm painting a few more walls in the living room, but not the sixteenfooter that needs scaffolding. The pros will have to take that on.

Next weekend it's off to Colorado for some white water rafting. I have an abundance of free airline tickets and it's about time I used them. Again, I suspect there will be no photos due to the water.

Guess what I could use for Christmas....