Sunday, April 30, 2006

One Great Sunday

Just Finished Reading: Cell by Stephen King

Just finished a pretty long, short week. Short week in that I was back on a 4 day work-week but long in that three of those four days were 10 hour shifts. To be honest, it didn't really catch up to me until I STOPPED. I was fine Wednesday, Thurday and Friday. I didn't start to get tired until I hit Saturday, my short day. Go figure.

Another weird week coming up too. One of our groomers is taking a short vacation so naturally we have to adjust the schedules to make sure everything is covered. We bathers will get extra hours during the peak periods to make sure the groomer isn't overwhelmed by the number of dogs. So for just one more week I'm back to the 5 day schedule, then NEXT week back to the 4 day schedule for two weeks, then, I think, back to the 4 day schedule because the OTHER groomer is going on vacation. Confused? Me too. That's why I just write it all down and show up when it says I'm supposed to :-)

To make up for all that, the fates have been kind to me today. I had a great day :-)

Started it off by sleeping in. In fact, I didn't even get out of bed until 10:30. Oh I was awake at around a quarter til 10 but I didn't get UP until after 10:30. CC and the dogs came and kept me company so we just laid there, relaxing, petting the dogs, talking, that sort of thing.

When I finally DID get up, CC made me breakfast. She made toad in the hole for me and for her. I made some cinnamon rolls for a sort of breakfast dessert and that all came out great.

Lazy time after that. We went out onto the patio and watched the birds fly by. The bird that made a nest in our hanging basket is pretty funny. She kept flying by to see if we were gone yet. You'd see her fly past about the height of the basket and if you looked closely, you'd see her slow down just a little bit to check on the eggs before moving on again. CC says she won't come back to the actual basket unless you lay really still, like if you're reading or napping. I'm guessing after a while she'll realize we're not a threat and not bother moving anyway.

I walked the dogs after that. And since it was SUCH a nice day out, I told CC we just HAD to do something. We settled on baseball again. It's really fun and it gets better with practice. CC can hit an overhand pitch now (assuming I can actually throw it accurately) and HER pitching is getting better too. We started off in the batting cage then some kid showed up. We usually give up the cage when a kid shows up because HE actually needs the practice for whichever baseball team he's playing on. We're just doing it for fun. So, while he was in the cage, we decided to try our luck on one of the actual baseball fields.

It's a LOT more fun hitting on the field. True, today it was pretty wet and we ended up slogging through a muddy infield, but it's great watching the balls fly out into the outfield. It's also pretty funny when you pop-up and the ball comes down in soft clay with a THUNK and doesn't even bounce :-)

We stopped off at the car washing area on the way home. Had to rinse out the gear. Everything was covered in clay. While I was doing that, CC thought it'd be a good idea to wash the truck so she walked back to the apartment and got car washing stuff and we did that too. So once again the truck is clean :-)

Home again, we had steak for dinner. CC was craving steak earlier so I suggested we cook the ones in the freezer. I did that while she handled the side dishes of rice, au graten potatoes and veggies. Great dinner :-)

As you can imagine, by this time we've run out of energy. CC wasn't very active the rest of the night. She watched videos online, many of which you'll be seeing over on her site. She's drawing up a playlist of video to run in her sidebar so make sure you check her site from time to time. While she was doing that, I walked the dogs and had a minor adventure myself.

We have kids all over the complex of course. Today the dogs and I ran into some of them. They're pretty cute actually. A few are brave enough to come pet the dogs and the dogs love the attention but there are others who aren't quite so sure. There are two newer kids, also quite younger, who aren't much taller than Katya. They'd walk up while she was looking at something else, sort of sneaking over trying to steal a quick pet, then she'd look at them and they'd RUN back. Some other kids came over and were petting them for a little bit, at which point the little kids finally got brave enough to pet them too. The dogs love the attention. Even Jack didn't mind it so much :-)

The rest of the night, watched some TV and, of course, blogged. Oh, and I worked up those cool baseball card versions of CC and I at the park. Relaxing for me :-)

Well, I've got some more resting and goofing off that I need to cram into the remains of the day. Hope everyone had a good weekend!


Monday, April 17, 2006

The Reading List

Currently Reading: Cell by Stephen King

In my second or third blog entry I started posting what books I was reading at the time I wrote the post. Every post afterwards included the "currently reading" tag. From time to time people mention that they've either read the same book I was currently reading or they wanted to know if it was good and should they read it.

For no apparent reason this morning, I got it in my head to make a list of all the books I read last year and the ones I've read so far this year and post them in the sidebar. If you'll look just to the right a little bit, below the music video and weather forecast, you'll see last year's reading list. Below that is this year's reading list to date. They aren't linked to anything so clicking on them won't take you to Amazon or one of the other online book sellers. I thought about doing that but once you look at the list and see how long it is, you'll understand why I decided NOT to :-)

One thing that is pretty clear is that going back to work has put a serious crimp in my reading. Just look at how long the 2005 list is. Here we are already half-way through April and I'm nowhere near where I should be to keep pace. Keep in mind that both lists leave out books that I started but never finished. I've had it happen on several occasions where I'll start reading a book, get 3 or 4 chapters into it and lose interest. Most of the time I just set it aside and come back to it later. It's a matter of moods.

Anyway, there's the list. All the books from last year and this year. I'll keep adding to it as I finish more.



Batting Practice; One More Normal Week

Currently Reading: Cell by Stephen King

In a rather surprising move this weekend, CC said she wanted to go visit a batting cage. She's not really known for being much of a sports fan. Usually she puts up with it for my sake :-) But Saturday she decided that it looked really nice out there, good for baseball, and that she wanted to go to a batting cage.

Unfortunately, I work on Saturdays so we couldn't go but Sunday I was off so we decided to do it then. We looked up a few places online, knew where we were going, and had our plans all set. But before leaving, I wanted to make sure she wasn't going to hide from the ball when it got shot out of the pitching machine. That would end our fun pretty quick. We went downstairs and out to one of the nearby fields to play catch. I figured that if she had a hard time dealing with something that was lobbed at her, we'd better start with something slower than your usual batting practice.

I am pleased to report that she held up like a trouper. No problem catching the ball, though she did occasionally catch it with the wrong part of the glove a few times and hurt her hand a little. That happens though. You catch that thing wrong, it hits the bones just below your fingers and that STINGS.

Anyway, she did great with the catching so off we went to the batting cage. That's when we ran into the reality of Easter. Easter is one of those odd holidays when you're not really sure what's open. Most places are closed and that's pretty obvious when you're driving around but there are still a LOT of things that are open. At work, for example, we were the only store in our little mini-mall that was open. The parking lot was TOTALLY empty except for the cars of the workers. Anyone driving by would probably think we were closed too. So naturally when we got to the batting cage place, it was closed.

Not to worry, I had a back-up plan. That plan was Walmart. Yes, we went over to Walmart and got a bat (a nice, light, aluminum bat cause CC isn't ready for my heavier, wood bat) and a bag of baseballs. We also got a tee to hit from. We drove over to one of the parks (Germantown has a LOT of parks) and were just setting things up on one of the empty baseball fiends when CC noticed there was an empty batting cage on the other side of the concessions stand. So, we went over there, set the tee up in the cage and let the balls fly.

CC now has a LOT more respect for pro baseball players. She knows how hard it is to hit a baseball. Hell there were even a few funny moments when she missed the baseball on the TEE. That's right, missed the ball that wasn't even moving :-)

After a few rounds using the tee, I asked her if she wanted to try some moving targets. She said yes so we took turns pitching. They had a pitching screen to stand behind so you didn't have to worry about getting hit, which is good because a few of those balls she hit would have smacked me right in the chest. :-)

We kept on taking turns hitting until we were both tired, the packed it all up and came home. After a shower it was time to nap on the balcony in the nice breeze that was blowing. A good, relaxing Sunday if you ask me :-)


One more normal week for me. Yes, that's right, this is my last 2 day weekend. I'll be happy to be rid of them :-) I got used to having the nice, 3 day weekends. That allowed me to get more done. Even if something came up on Sunday and I spent all day Monday doing housework, that still left me with one more day to rest up and do whatever I had planned for myself. But with the 2 day weekend, can't do it. Best bet is to pack as much into Sunday as possible so Monday is less hectic. So really, when you get right down to it, it's not working 5 days a week that bothers me. That wasn't so bad. What I don't like is only having 2 days off. Hmm, maybe if we went to an 8 day week, that might do it :-)


Monday, April 10, 2006

No, Really, I'm Straight!

Currently Reading: The Samurai Way of Baseball by Robert Whiting

Boy did I have a day yesterday. It was one of those days when my more creative and artistic side shows I guess you'd say.

CC and I didn't have much planned for this weekend. She wanted to see the new Antonio Bandaras movie Take The Lead but that was it. My mother called her Saturday to say that she was taking my nieces out dress shopping and that she was welcome to join them. She wasn't sure if she wanted to go shopping or not and was I going to go with them and, well it was pretty fuzzy there for a while. Important Rule: Never ask my wife to make a decision when she's on allergy medicine. :-)

Anyway, Sunday rolls around and we're just goofing off, watching TV and playing with the dogs when the phone rings. The girls want to know if we're going to go shopping with them. They're planning to go to a place called The Dress Barn and we can meet them there. Problem is, no one seems to know where this place really is. So before setting out, we had to look it up in the phone book and map it out on Yahoo. No big deal.

Now, if you've ever been clothes shopping with a woman you know it can really be an adventure; a long, slow-moving adventure that takes up the entire day and leaves you wondering what you did to deserve such punishment :-) Afterall, most stores do not go out of their way to make shopping easier and they certainly don't provide any sort of distractions to all the husbands and boyfriends who get dragged along. You never see, for example, women's clothing next to electronics or sporting goods or hardware which are sections that men wouldn't mind browsing while waiting for their spouse.

Knowing this, I like to speed things up by taking a much more aggressive position when I'm out shopping. I don't just stand around or wander, I actually dig into the racks, pull things out, make suggestions, and so forth. It moves things along and you finish faster plus you actually get to voice your opinion of something before it even gets tried on. Let's face it, sometimes you just KNOW that a blouse or dress is going to look hideous on someone before it leaves the rack. You just shake your head and wonder who on earth would wear something so awful.

Getting back to the story, there we were, in The Dress Barn, shopping for Easter dresses. No, make that dresses for Easter. They weren't looking for those frilly sort of dresses some folks wear that have been called Easter dresses.

So there we are, me, my wife, my mother and my sister's three girls, all in their teens, shopping for dresses. Not the way most guys prefer to spend a Sunday. But I wasn't going to just sit there and let them browse. Nope, not going to happen. We were shopping, that's sort of like being on a mission, sort of like combat. We weren't taking prisoners and we were getting the hell out of there as soon as possible with everyone (but me) dressed fabulous. :-)

You've just got to picture this in your mind. The setting is the women's clothing department of any store. Make that, any upscale store, Walmart just won't do for this one. Now, five women, three of them clearly in their teens and clearly related. And me. Short, white guy in jeans, a World Baseball Classic baseball hat and an Ichiro Suzuki baseball jersey (which looks like this).

Keep in mind, I'm not just waiting and watching. I'm grabbing things off the racks, holding them up, occasionally issuing orders like, "Take this, wear it with this, go!" Keep in mind, I'm also the only MALE in the store at this point and I am getting a LOT of looks from the other customers. From time to time a niece would show up with a potential dress and ask what I thought and I'd just say something like, "No! Absolutely not. That dress is too plain. The colors are too pastel and washed out. You need BOLD colors! Something that's THERE! These pastels just don't go with your hair and skin tones. It'll look too bland."

After a little bit of browsing, and letting them try things on their own, I got even MORE aggressive and one by one, started working with them. We started with simple questions like, "What color do you like?" and based on that, we went through the racks trying to find things that would work.

During all of this, I'm also helping my wife find a blouse to go with a skirt she has (she just had NOTHING in her closet that would go with it) and we also picked up a khaki blazer that just looks SUPER with every brown skirt she has in her wardrobe. She's really happy about that too.

Do you have that image now? That's how I spent a good chunk of Sunday. The girls look great though and so does CC. Everyone got new clothes and, I don't think they were the only ones listening to me as I went through the store. I noticed, from time to time, other women putting dresses back on the rack or picking up outfits I'd put together that had been rejected. At one point I was urging the use of a shrug with several of the dresses because there was some concern that the arm openings came down a little low. Well, wearing a shrug would cover that. Problem solved. Apparently that was a problem for some of the other shoppers too because I noticed more than one grabbing a shrug to wear with the dress. Funny thing is, I don't much care for shrugs usually. They just happened to work in this case.


Two hours later we finished shopping and were back at the apartment. We had just enough time to grab something to eat before heading over to the movie theater. We saw Take The Lead and there again, I swear I was the only guy there. That's actually NOT true. There were at least two other guys sitting towards the back with their wives but you could tell that this was a film more for women.

Was it the best movie ever made? No, but it should have gotten better reviews than it did. As is usually the case, stories where the people are generally nice and the ending is generally happy tend not to get good reviews. Critics seem to like their films with more edge. Me, I liked it. The characters were likeable, the dancing was great and let's face it, Antonio Bandaras is super charming. You can't help but like him and what his character is trying to do.

Ok, so maybe it didn't depict thug life in urban high schools quite harshly enough. So what? Maybe the girls were a little TOO pretty and the guys a little too noble at times. Again, so what? What's wrong with a movie populated with decent people for a change?


Just a little side note here. My sister was in the hospital Sunday. She had pnumonia a few weeks back and has been getting better but over the weekend she started sliding back. Last I heard they said she was actually getting over the pnumonia and thought maybe something else was causing problems; maybe a reaction to some medication or just a really bad allergy to something in the air. They wanted to keep her overnight to run tests, that sort of thing. Probably no big deal but these days, better to be safe than sorry.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bye Bye Long Weekends; Flutter Mode; Fantasy Baseball

Currently Reading: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Well, my 3-day weekends are coming to an end at work. Fortunately it's only temporary and for mostly good reasons but still, I'm going to miss having that extra day off. It was always nice to have at least one day a week to throw away; one day in which I didn't owe my time to anyone or anything.

One of our groomers was promoted and transferred to another store. That leaves us with just the grooming manager and a groomer-in-training. That, alone, isn't TOO bad. With a slight juggle of the schedules I'd still get my 3-day weekend. The problem is that the groomer-in-training is going BACK to training for two more weeks leaving us with JUST the grooming manager. Yeah, you can see the problem.

Of course, AFTER those two weeks are up we'll get our groomer-in-training back plus he'll be qualified to actually groom unsupervised. Even better, he'll be bringing along another freshly graduated groomer so we'll have a total of THREE groomers at the salon. That's going to make things much less stressful.

But until that happens we all have to put in a few more hours to cover the gaps. At least it's only temporary. Most folks have to live with the standard 2-day weekend so really, this just means I have to work a normal schedule for a few weeks. Yes, I'll be normal for a while, or as close to it as I get :-)


We've finally figured out a more positive way to describe CC's occasional wandering mind. Like most people, she gets a little fuzzy-headed when she takes allergy medicine. Same thing happens when she's just sleepy or over-worked. Her attention span just disappears and she jumps from topic to topic. It's not unusual for us to be out shopping and she'll be talking about one thing then stop mid-thought and turn and walk towards some item that caught her eye and start talking about THAT instead.

"So we were talking at work and Teresa said that -- look at that blouse? Won't it go great with the skirt I have?"

It's hard to describe something like that in a positive way. Usually you end up limited to saying someone is flaking out or worse. But not anymore. If this happens to you or to someone you know and you want to make it a more positive thing, you can call it "flutter mode." That's right, just like the butterfly, that person's thoughts are fluttering around, seemingly without pattern but actually concealing an intricate flight plan.

There. Doesn't that sound MUCH better? :-)


I've been playing fantasy baseball and doing rather well at it. I'm playing in on two sites. At the first, you key in serial numbers from baseball card packets and you're given a choice of 4 players. You have to pick one to add to your team or decline all four. So far I've been lucky there. I'm ranked 5656 of 20,000 or so and I'm currently tied for first in my league. I'm not high up enough to actually qualify for prizes (except for random drawings) but still, doing pretty good so far.

In the other game you have MUCH more freedom to choose your players. You start off with 30 million dollars and you have to build a team. As the season goes on, a player's value goes up or down depending on the stats so it's a bit like playing the stock market. Buy low, sell high, improve your team. I've got two teams over there. The first one just got bumped from its top spot. I've been in first place ever since the start of the season but my pitchers aren't spaced out that well. They all play pretty much the same time in the rotation so I get huge surges of points then I have to wait a few days. That's what's happening now. I'll be back on top in no time though :-)

The other team I set up with ONLY players from Japan (and one Korean because no Japanese players were available for the position). That team was doing ok at the start of the season. They were sitting in the middle of the pack but then our second baseman got hurt and is out for a month so no points from him. I decided I'd better trade him for someone active. Juggled things around a bit and picked up the catcher from Seattle. DAMN has that made a HUGE difference. This guy is hitting like crazy! In one day I went from 16th to 5th. I'll be on top in THAT league in no time too :-)

Overall, I'm ranked 16,905 of about 150,000. What's cool about this one is that I'm not paying any money for a bigger budget or more trades. I'm just going by which players I like and can afford and just having fun with it.

Of course, as the season goes on, chances are I'll slide in the rankings. The players I pick tend NOT to be the ones who juice up so while they may put up decent stats and good averages, they'll always fall short in home runs which is where you get most of your fantasy baseball points. I know, the system sucks. If home runs were REALLY that important in baseball the San Francisco Giants would have won last year's World Series instead of Chicago.

Since there's no money riding on any of this, I can pick who I want and see how they do. It's my team, I can run it how I want to :-)