Monthly Archives: April 2011

It’s time for another edition of our Recaptioned segment: a chance for me to not really have to put much effort into a blog entry.

Since it was seemingly on everyone’s mind, we’ll give the focus this time to the royal wedding:

Breaking with tradition, Prince William takes time out from his busy wedding preparation to stop to direct traffic in London on the way to Westminster Abbey. No accidents were reported, however a Mini did nearly take out an 80-year-old pensioner as she tried to cross the street.

Rejecting Pippa’s screams of “don’t, it’s the worst mistake you’ll ever make, and I’m not going to let you go through with it,” Kate drags a reluctant Pippa into the church anyway. Besides, who the hell names their kid Pippa?

Despite reassuring Her Majesty the Queen that he had no intention of one-upping her outfit, the Archbishop is slated to be beheaded later this week.

We’re told that at the after-party, guests used the ring as target practice. On a deeper level, who really looks at this hat and says “That’s what I want to wear to the royal wedding!” Conclusive proof that royal inbreeding has gone too far.

Obama: “Nope, I didn’t get an invitation to the wedding either. But I hear it’s going to be on the TV in the office over there.”

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone’s pointed this one out in the last 24 hours. But I just have to because it’s so priceless. I kind of hope there’s some way she can achieve the throne, just so that we can see what kind of horrific rule she brings upon the country. It’s the kiss that everyone’s waiting for…Millions of cameras are focused on this one moment, and in the shot everywhere is this look. Isn’t that look charmingly hate-filled?

So there you go, folks. Our take on the royal wedding. Enjoy your weekend!

See you tomorrow.

In the incredibly unbelievable event that you haven’t heard, there’s some sort of big wedding tomorrow morning that half of the world with a television is going to watch.

Jenni will be: in fact, she’s getting up early–and by early, I mean VERY early–to go to school and watch the wedding with friends there.

I’m hoping that by the time she leaves, I won’t even be thinking of getting up. But unfortunately, that’s around when the cat starts screaming to let me know she’s hungry and ready for breakfast. Yes, my cat wants to eat around 4 a.m.

In case you haven’t guessed, I won’t be watching the wedding of Prince What’s-his-name and lady/miss so-and-so. Considering that we aren’t subjects of the crown any more, I tend to not take much notice of these things…At least until they take us over again and I need to practice my curtsey.

I know. It’s one of those pop culture/historical events that people will be talking about for decades. But I just don’t have any interest. Especially since it’s at 4 in the morning here. I mean really? Don’t the royals have any sense for ratings? They really could have nailed interest by having the wedding start around 8 p.m. their time. Then, at least, it would have been afternoon here. OH, but what about the party afterward, you ask? Screw that! It isn’t going to be televised, so who cares? At least I think it isn’t going to be televised…Okay. Just forget it.

So, Jenni, as you’re watching, enjoy! Hope you’re having fun with the big wedding and you’re seeing the things you wanted to see. Everyone else, if you’re watching, you too should enjoy it. I’ll be sleeping and then getting my kids ready for school. The dress some princess-to-be is wearing won’t be as important to me as the clothes my daughter’s wearing.

See you tomorrow.

It was one of those days today…Things just seemed to want to be challenging today.

I had my pre-op physical this morning, and it ended up resulting in a tetanus and whooping cough booster, and hemoglobin test. I’m not sure what the shot had to do with it, but at least my left upper arm hurts now.

From the client at work who didn’t want to reboot her computer to fix a problem because she was afraid that it would lose some of her files. Never mind the fact that I’ve seen her exact problem hundreds of times before. And that I know exactly how to fix it. And that I’ve never lost files by rebooting in this situation. But she was insistent: somehow, in the course of putting her laptop on and off of the network without restarting, she had lost entire folders of files. I said we need to reboot so I can see if the sync worked, and if not, then I can get the files from the offline cache… Fifteen minutes later, I’d finally talked her down. And the reboot worked. Then she asked why our system wouldn’t let her do something she’s done forever with her laptops. Sigh.

I had a guy who I was trying to help who, for whatever reason, wouldn’t answer his phone unless I e-mailed him first telling him it was me calling. Which raised the question: I know people screen calls with caller ID, but who would really screen internal company calls?

I got scolded for a decryption taking so long. Never mind the fact that the time required is based solely on how much data there is on the computer to decrypt. In this case, “no large files” really meant “I’ve saved every single e-mail from the last five years in 20 files on my computer.”

And then tonight, I noticed that the memory I needed for Jenni’s computer is about to be shipped to my old office address…The office that is closed. Has anyone ever changed the delivery address for an Amazon shipment coming via UPS?

Time for bed. Maybe I won’t have that go bad.

See you tomorrow.

I’ll cut to the highlight now, for those wondering: I’m safe at work. The layoffs are done in our group, and I was not among them.

It’s really easy to be critical of the whole process and the fact that no one really needed to be laid off. The company is making a profit, and the only reason they decided to eliminate 4-5% of their workforce is to “position themselves” to be competitive in the future. This makes sense, as much as you want it not to.

But in the end, of the nearly 100 people under my manager, 8 positions were cut, which, by simple math, tells you that the support end of IT got it’s butt handed to it big time.

Honestly, I’ve gotten used to it after being in the business for so long: we don’t earn money for companies. We just cost money and offer no easily demonstrable return on their investment…Except for the hours of constant uptime and productivity that nearly everyone in the company enjoys as a result of what we do. Oh yeah…Wait…

But it was one hell of a day: begun with an announcement that the departmental layoffs had begun and that there would be a final announcement later. Then, mid-morning, in the midst of the wind and horizontal rain outside, the fire alarm went off.

Heads bobbed over the cube walls, looking to one another as if to say “why now,” except in not the same pleasant way. But we dutifully made our way to the exits, most of us without jackets or umbrellas. Much of the conversation to the door was the same: “who’d plan a fire drill during a rain storm?”

It became clearer when we met at the appointed (and suprisingly well-marked rallying points in the parking lot): this wasn’t a drill. Something–or someone–had tripped the fire alarm.

I was very wet, so I slipped into the car. It was conveniently parked just feet from the rallying point, so technically, I was still with the group. A couple of coworkers joined me. And then we heard the sirens approaching from the distance.

A couple of fire trucks arrived and the firemen investigated the scene and apparently found nothing meriting their response. The all-clear sounded and we returned to whatever the rest of the workday was about to offer. In the end, it turned out that the heavy rain had made its way down a pipe or shaft from the roof into a wiring closet, where it shorted out one of the phone systems in the building, causing a small smoky fire that was quickly extinguished.

There’s a group of 40 people in the building still on that older phone system. Or I should say there WERE 40 people on that older system. One gets the sense that they’ll be getting upgraded like the rest of us as a result of this.

By mid-afternoon, when the “all clear” e-mail went out, the rumor mill had been in full force, and most of us who cared knew pretty well the extent of the cuts across different IT groups. Some were shocks: some were the kind of pleasant surprise that you feel guilty for smiling sheepishly at in your cube. There are some people leaving at the end of this week who volunteered to either retire or leave the company, and in one case, I’m very sorry to see her go, not only because I’ve worked with her frequently over the last three years, but also because she really truly wasn’t treated right, and because she’s the kind of worker every company should have.

Suddenly, it’s into fiscal year-end at the end of the week, and a sudden reminder to do performance evaluations and a note that we’re still on track for profit-sharing payments…Ugh. I’m not up to that today.

The stress of surviving isn’t as bad as the rest of the stress, but it’s still hard.

Thanks to all of you for the thoughts and wishes for me during this time. I appreciate them.

See you tomorrow.

The Easter weekend festivities all went well.

Jenni’s intergenerational event at Sunrise is so well timed and organized by now that I think she feels it’s almost effortless. But everyone who comes really enjoys it. 35 people were there, coloring eggs, eating pizza, and learning about Easter.

And Sunday was great, even though I had to wake up at 5 in the morning. Church was the usual uplifting occasion it always is on Easter Sunday. And then we came home and prepped for the big family gathering.

We had ham, lamb, asparagus, roasted carrots and beets, a sweet potato gratin, potatoes, rolls and mom’s outstanding lemon meringue pie and Julie’s great fruit pizza. The kids played the afternoon away, and the grown ups didn’t really move from the dining room table, which, I think is a sign of just how much fun we had just talking. Which is funny to look at in comparison to the kids: as a kid, you wonder how anyone can just keep talking for hours and stay at the table that long…And then as a grown up, you learn what it’s really about.

The evening was spent in low-key mode: I watched the new “Tron: Legacy” movie (not nearly as good as the first, and the first was cheesy and pretty flimsy), and went to bed pretty early. I think I’ll need the rest to face the week at work: it’s layoff week, or so we are led to believe, according to the meetings we’ve been attending. I’ve seen a few names come rolling through who I know. And while I’m not anticipating anything affecting me, it’s still just a little uncomfortable waiting for the shoes to drop. I guess the good news is that our group isn’t being outsourced (all of the outsourcing moves have been made and announced). The bad news is that management is being quiet, which, while not unusual, still goes against the promise of complete and ongoing communication and transparency.

The bottom line for you is this: don’t panic or worry about me. I think I’m safe, but what happens will happen.

In the meantime, I learned last night that the softball season opens this week, though at this point neither the weather nor my body shape are really prepared for softball to start for the season If I don’t blog tomorrow, just assume I’m dead or just can’t move after the game.

So now you’re caught up. I hope you and yours had a great Easter. Enjoy the spring that seems to still be yet to come.

See you tomorrow.

Hey, kids! Today I begin a new feature on the site which I’m sure will be a big hit with all of you! Plus, I don’t actually have to write much of anything on days that I run this feature…

I’m calling it “Re-Captions!” If you’ve got a better idea, let me know. And part of the fun is that you could comment with your own wacky captions for the photo offered that day.

Got it? Great! Let’s begin with today’s two-fer:

“…And three, four, shuffle, change!”

(The original: Master Tailor Lance Sergeant Matthew Else, in suit, helps an unidentified soldier who fell during a ceremonial inspection in unusually hot weather, ahead of the Royal Wedding for members of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards at their barracks in Windsor, England, Thursday. Britain’s Prince William is due to marry Kate Middleton on April 29. AP Photo)

And what, exactly is “unusually hot weather” for England in April? 60 degrees? 70?

Next victim:

“Sure, that guy gets the cool suit, and I’m stuck wearing this red thing with the buttons.”

(The original: Regimental mascot Conmael the Irish Wolfhound from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards takes part in an inspection ahead of the royal wedding at their barracks in Windsor, England, Thursday. Britain’s Prince William is due to marry Kate Middleton on April 29. AP Photo)

Really? What kind of name is Conmael? It’s bad enough he’s wearing a red jacket, but then they had to name him Conmael? I should have left that one as-is.

Okay. These might not be my “A” material, but you take what you can get. It’ll get better, I promise.

See you tomorrow.

Woke up at 5 a.m., looked out of the window briefly and saw there was more than just a dusting of snow on the grass. When I headed out just about an hour later, I had to brush off the car. And the snow was still coming down.

It snowed all morning, finally tapering off sometime around lunchtime. The broad expanse of grass next to my window at work was white except for small patches of green under some of the trees.

But by 4 p.m., the snow was entirely gone.

It must be spring. Even if the weather pattern isn’t giving up on things yet.

Just Sunday, though, we were outside in shirtsleeves, enjoying the full glow and warmth of the spring sun. The girls, Jenni and I went to Costco, and it was nice to traverse the parking lot without jackets.

Ah yes, the great Costco experiment. I shake my little fist in its general direction. In three trips there, we’ve easily saved our membership fee…And that, actually was on one item (a years’ worth of allergy meds for Jenni that would have cost us well over $140 even with my coupon clipping and deal hunting, and cost only $17 at Costco). Add up other things, and just on this last trip, I figured up $40 in savings just on six items. The upside besides the savings is that I won’t need another trash bag until sometime this fall. The downside is finding room for some of this stuff. Just think about where you’d store a box of 200 kitchen trash bags. Or the remaining 375 sandwich bags from the box of 500 that are sitting under my clothing shelf in the bedroom closet.

Jenni likes to rub it in, pointing out my hesitation. And the girls seem to have some sort of addiction to the place which is simply indescribable. But the box of 36 packages of Cheez Its have been hits for the kids for lunches, as have the palettes of juice boxes. But the half-gallon jar of mayo in the fridge that I bought because (1) we were out of mayo, and (2) it was $3.50, just sits there and mocks me because it knows the strange and awesome power of the Costco.

I’m off to bed, hoping not to dream of the super-sized bag of Babybel cheeses that the girls covet in each trip. (Save $10 easily versus even sale prices at Cub or Rainbow!)

See you tomorrow.

First off, thanks to all of you who wished me well in getting over the creeping crud which infested my body. It was good to be back among the normal people today…Or at least as normal as things get at work.

It was one of those days, though: a mix of trying to dig out from the one day I missed (50+ e-mails yesterday…really?), plus today’s add-ons. But then there was the startling news that broke first on my Twitter feed, and then was confirmed through the normal media…

At home and at work, I’ve got part of one computer screen devoted to a stream of the Twitter feeds I subscribe to. It’s more handy at work, where I can just scan it as things go by to see what’s going on in the world. I can kind of grab the headlines that I want and ignore the rest to leave for later.

But this afternoon, a tweet came across saying that Elisabeth Sladen had died. The teenager in me died a little with her. She was probably the best known of the companions through all of the many years of the TV show “Doctor Who.” She made her first appearance with the third doctor, stayed on through a little of the fourth doctor, then left the show. But she was so well remembered that the new incarnation of the show, relaunched six years ago, brought her back a couple of seasons ago along with K-9, the robot dog the Doctor had built. Her reappearance in the role was so successful that the BBC gave her a kid-focused Doctor Who spin off show.

The tweets kept spreading after that first announcement. And then frustrated tweets trying asking for official word if it was true or not. Then finally the word came: the 63-year-old British actress had died as a result of cancer.

I never liked her character when she was originally on the show: I felt she was too innocent, too prone to crying and fear. Yet with this announcement, I felt sad about it. Several other actors from the show have died over the years, but this one is bigger, somehow. As I said, she is probably the first of the Doctor’s companions people will think of when you ask them to name one. And I guess they’d be right: next to Romana, she had the greatest impact and brought something to the role that others hadn’t. So I guess I was wrong in my long-time assessment of her character: maybe she was too emotional, but that might have just been the point.

So while I won’t cry for her passing, I will miss seeing her character in new episodes of the show. Since the relaunch, there has been a reassuring nod and embrace of the past, and seeing Sarah Jane back just made it all feel right…Much more right than seeing the Daleks again.

See you tomorrow.

It seems like once each year I have to have that cold that gives me that one night of a huge fever and then a day of just being wiped out.

Last night and today were it.

I hate the feeling: I was cold all night last night, but still I sweat up a storm. And then today, I was just wiped: after everyone left, I just slept until just after 11, and then pretty much lounged and watched a movie and some overdue TV.

Not exactly relaxing, but it was good for me in spite of it all.

I’ve always found it fascinating how I can morph a cold or something into pretty similar symptoms. And I’m sure my mother can vouch for the fact that I’ve always had to spike that one outrageous fever to break it all. But I’m a little surprised that it took me so long into the season to finally catch some bug.

It’s not a great week to be sick, but not that bad, either. Easter week is, as I’ve mentioned before, a busy one for those in the line of church work. Jenni’s got an event Saturday and then the Easter breakfast and worship on Sunday. And this year, we’ll be hosting the family gathering. I’m actually looking forward to all of it, in spite of the work involved to get ready. I love cooking for gatherings and I like hosting. I just don’t like having to clean…Oh well.

So, I can review three movies from the weekend and today…Here’s the quick and dirty reviews.

“The Other Guys” is a movie that I don’t remember hearing about, but that isn’t terribly surprising: my grip on pop culture is tenuous at best. It’s a pretty typical Will Ferrell movie: he’s a guy who acts “normal,” but that normal is 90 degrees out of normal from the rest of the world. He’s a cop who, with his partner, is stuck riding out a desk job until they stumble on a really big case. They then manage to solve it through some bungling, brilliant deduction, and, of course, huge chase scenes.

This is a hugely uneven movie: the beginning is funny and slapstick, and the last 20 minutes or so also run at that pace, but the middle part gets lost and too busy telling the story to remember to keep up the comedy, or the writers decided that was the right time to just get weird.

But it is what it is, and I guess it didn’t try too hard to be anything more than just a screwball comedy, so I’ve got to give it that much.

Three out of Five Stars.

Our next lucky victim is “Prince Cinders,” a 25 minute animated short based on a short story. The story is a twisted take on the Cinderella story: four princes all live together in a castle. Three of them are “handsome,” (read: hairy, strong and good dancers), and the fourth is weak, not hairy, and because of this, is made to do all of the housework for the other three. On the day of the big party (at a disco, no less), the fairy appears to grant wishes to Prince Cinders, but through her ineptitude, she turns him into a large ape in a swimsuit. Hilarity should ensue as the Prince finds out that he really is worthy just the way he is, but instead, this film gets bogged down in being strange for the sake of being strange.

I’ve got to say that I expected more from this movie than I got, but I’m not sure why I expected more. But the animation was poorly done, the sound was not good, and this, unfortunately, all was too distracting from the rest of the movie. Three out of five stars.

“Red” is a movie that I think suffers from being a great concept, having a really effective preview, and a great cast. But it didn’t use any of that very effectively at all.

Bruce Willis is a retired CIA black ops agent who is suddenly targeted for assassination. As he works to find out why someone’s out to kill him, he reunites with his old partners: Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren (who plays a wonderfully charming, mysterious, and overly protective sharpshooter who is running a bed and breakfast in her retirement).

It’s a great idea for a story: full of double- and triple-crosses leading pretty high up in the government to murder a list of people who were involved in a CIA mission from over 30 years ago. Coupled with the great actors, it’s really an entertaining idea and the first half of the movie had great promise.

But then they seemed to stop wanting to use the great skill of the actors very well at all. Willis is just a tough guy who wants revenge and to get his girlfriend back safely; Freeman is dying of cancer anyway, so they don’t bother giving him much of a role or a backstory; and Malkovich is, as usual, an unhinged paranoid living in the bayou. It’s well paced, but there was so much more they could have done with this movie: all of the characters have a history working with each other, but they don’t bring much of that up at all; and all of these actors have pretty good comedic chops, or at least are cast out of character…Why wasn’t this made funnier?

It’s probably all nitpicking, but I was disappointed by what in the previews and ads all looked very entertaining.

If you like action movies, though, this is probably a good movie for you. But I can only give it a three out of five stars.

Off to bed to recover from this cold.

See you tomorrow.

I had occasion today, as I was backdoored into someone’s computer to fix a problem, to peruse this person’s music collection. Or at least the music collection that had been placed there in order for it to sync to her Microsoft Zune mp3 player…Neither of which is approved to be on our company computers…

I think music collections have always been a great telling of the soul of a person. Music, after all, is one of the windows to the soul, and what you listen to and what resonates with you is a window to who you are. In the past, though, there would be great stacks or shelves of vinyl albums. Then cassettes. Then CDs. Now, it’s a listing of files and folders on a computer.

This person had about 10 GB of music on her work computer. And though she initially denied having personal data on the computer, later relented after she started to see the list of files go past on the screen.

But in that 10 GB of music were folder after folder of “best of” albums for just about every musician who ever had a hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And off of those “best of” albums would be selected only one or two songs. This person chose just the select highlights from the artists, eschewing the rest of their work and just concentrating on the core hits that by now are virtually all the artist is known for.

I chuckled at the list, not only because of it’s relative brevity–I mean, who gets just one song from a Sting “best of” album–but also because I have most of the music this person had. It was remarkable: one hit from the Backstreet Boys, two from Billy Joel, three from U2, and five from The Beatles, but a vast ignorance of the rest of the rest of the body of work.

Until I came to one folder.

It seemed complete. Googling confirmed: all of the albums, and all of the songs from those albums.

There, among the highlights of 25-to-30 year old music was a virtual temple to everything this musical act had ever done.

It was the Captain & Tennille.

And I burst out laughing.

See you tomorrow.

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