The Airing of Grievances

Before my relatives panic, this post is not the airing of FAMILY grievances, but rather a small collection of annoyances that have been piling up on my desk over the last couple of months awaiting an opportunity to get them posted on the blog.  It occurred to me today that this would be a perfect time to get this done.  And why is this the perfect time… well, in tribute to the classic Seinfeld episode, it’s “Festivus for the Rest of Us”.  Taking the risk this post will make me out to be a heartless, puppy kicking grinch, I begin…

  • To Peoria news stations, stop reporting on the fictitious high unemployment rate the area is supposedly experiencing.  Why do I believe this is a waste of air time?  Well, this opinion is due mainly to one indicator that is almost always a positive side effect of high unemployment – the Service Meter.  High unemployment by definition implies there are multiple applicants for just about every job – especially in the service industry.  This in turn means the employer has a choice when hiring.  For example, an employer, could say, choose an individual that has higher math skills to fill a numbers related opening like a cashier.  Additionally, it could be a tipping point if one applicant is very positive and cheerful for a position that interacts directly with a customer.  But alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case around here.

    Example #1: A few of us went out to lunch at a local restaurant that begins with an A and ends with an S that serves cheap Italian food.  After completing our meals we headed to the lobby area to pay.  A friend ahead of me was joking about the condition of his penny looked (looks like it had been found by a weekend warrior with a metal detector) and was glad he could finally get rid of it.  It occurred to me that I didn’t have a penny meaning my change due would likely result his penny heading to me.  I gave the cashier my $6 for the $5.27 bill.  As soon as she rang it in, a friend behind me gave her two pennies to apply to my payment (jokingly to prevent me from getting the bad penny).  What proceeded stunned us both.  She literally stared at her register tray picking up random coins and looking dumbfounded.  After about 30 seconds my friend told her the change would be 75 cents which was met with “Thanks, I’m just not good at this thing”  I would have laughed if I wasn’t mortified.  Of course, this is the same restaurant that charges more for two half loafs of bread than one whole loaf (trust me, there is a picture of that menu coming in a future blog).

    Example #2: Linda and I went to a Burger King to get a quick bite to eat while shopping in the area.  After struggling to get my order taken (see the hamburger grievance below) we proceeded to wait for our order to be filled.  We waited and waited and waited while they worked on getting the chicken sandwich cooked – note, we were the ONLY people in there.  Meanwhile, they have my hamburger done sitting on the non-heated ready shelf.  Pretty soon the manager grabs up our fries from the heated fry shelf, slaps it on a tray and sticks it up on the non-heated shelf and proceeded to head for the bathroom.  For the next 10 minutes I stood there staring at my cooling fries and hamburger.  Eventually the chicken finishes cooking.  Sure enough the chicken and hamburger are put on the now cold fry tray and handed to us.  Needless to say, we demanded warm fries (note, manager never did come back).

    Example #3: We made a quick run to McDonalds to get something to drink before Linda’s doctor’s appointment.  The drive-thru was pretty busy (maybe 8 cars lined up) so we went inside to make our order (where there was only one party ahead of us).  Our total order was one small hot chocolate and one small Sprite.  I didn’t clock it, but I had to wait over 15 minutes for them to actually make my hot chocolate.  That 15 minutes actually felt more like 30 minutes having to endure their conversations:

    Hit the jump to see the rest of the grievances:
    Continue reading The Airing of Grievances

On the Road, Off the Road, Back on the Road AGAIN

I thought I would make a quick post.  Although I have a valid excuse, I am short two posts for this month (actually 1, but trying to not count my No Internet post since it really was not a true post).  Although chronicled in posts pasts, I have been battling a knee problem which has put me in the doctor’s office a couple of times and months of therapy.  From the diagnosis, it is technically an injury at the insertion point where one of the lower hamstring muscles attach slightly below and to the inside of the left knee.  This has been a nagging injury since the Bix7 run last July and has really hampered my ability to train for this year’s running events.  I had to bail out of the Cat Power Race 5K, but finished a controlled run at the Corporate Chase in Chicago (3.5mi) running with my friend Pakage who was participating in his first road race (congrats to him on finishing that race without stopping once!!).  That race was the first test of the rehab progress and it passed with flying colors although obviously not at full speed.  This lead up to the first real test of the season which was the Steamboat 4 miler in downtown Peoria.  Somewhat regrettably I had to forgo the medal this year for the 15K, but the voice of reason came through loud and clear.  My orthopedic doctor and my therapists were quite pleased at this decision, but it did leave a small hollow part in me.  I had completed 5 training runs >4mis  in the hills at Jubilee Park by Monday of race week so I was confident my cardio was in check (for at least this race) but did not push the speed beyond high 8s and low 9s in hopes of at least getting to the start line.  An appointment with the ortho doctor was set for the Friday before the race just to get some final reassurance, but keeping with my training regiment I took a slow run that Wednesday to cap off the race training.  The heat was coming in that day, which was a blessing since the Steamboat is appropriately named seeing as how the humidity is usually through the roof that day with temps usually in the high 80s at start time.  At the end of that Wednesday slow run, something twinged in the mid-hamstring on the injured leg.  The heart sank as frustration came flooding in.  Months of rehab, hours and hours of stretching every night and another injury rears its ugly head mere days before the race.  Knowing the main race was coming up in two months (Bix7) and this being the last race scheduled before that one, I decided to let mind rule the body, told myself it was going to be fine and made a conscious decision to nurse it Saturday and let the running gods decide the fate.  Each day it felt a little better and the doctor gave me sufficient confidence the primary injury area looked to be progressing well.  So, the clothes were laid out, the bib attached to the shirt and the alarms set for 3:45am (note, the training runs are grueling, the stretching is tedious, the strength training draining but all pale in comparison to the shock to system when the buzzers go off before the sun even bothers to get up).

The good news was the leg felt pretty good and most of the mid twinge had subsided.  The race was a go!  I was pretty much locked into an internal debate on how to approach this particular race and a number of scenarios were racing through the old noggin while the traditional pre-race picture was being shot by Linda.  I wanted to get a true test of how much work was still needed to make the Bix, but didn’t want to put myself back at ground zero if it wasn’t ready.  5 minutes from gun time, I decided to hold back the first two miles and check the mechanics as well as verify all of the other joint and muscle components were working in tandem.  As a plus for the day, a major storm had blown through in the early AM leaving a fairly cool day in its wake (~73F at gun time).  After all the ceremonies were completed, the elites were given the official start signal and the masses began their trek.  As planned, the first mile came it at an 8:35 which was slow for me, but the legs were holding together.  At mile 2, my pace was maintained until I saw the split time and decided to keep tradition and hit negative splits.  Speeding up a tad it clocked in at around 8:24.  It was decision time and looked out ahead looking for some rabbits to reel in.  It was good to feel the wind again and starting picking people off one after another clocking it at a favorable 8:00 for the third mile split with the legs feeling good.  The hill work definitely helped on the cardio side leaving plenty of gas in the tank for the final push.  Finally hitting a good stride since last July, the rabbits began to fall faster.  The hamstring started to whine a little about 3/4s in, but nothing sharp so kept the pace.  Turning the last corner the running driver locked into the final gear giving me a 7:35 close.

I turned to the guy to my right and congratulated him on a nice race while internally patting myself on the back for  holding off his strong charge to the finish.  To his credit he responded “Thanks, you won today, nice job”  No, I didn’t get to the podium (and not a goal for me), but I met the challenge and defeated the injury demons with a negative split race.   I think official race time due to timing chips was around 32:33 which is right there with my better times for that race in the past.  Knowing I had more to give in my first two miles is enough to know a PR was easily attainable and I was not fully back yet.  Clearly all the hard work and advice from my doctors and therapists is paying off.  Another month of hill work should get me to the Bix7 starting line ready to race.  It has been a tough year of ups and downs but it just makes completing the challenge a little bit sweeter.  By the way, I thought I would share this picture with you as well.

It seemed fitting … look behind me … there’s danger in every race, but this year I was victorious.  Best wishes for whoever required that ambulance.  Oh, and the Back on the Road part.  As soon as the race was over, we headed home, did some final packing and headed out to Acadia National Park in Maine.  Nothing like 23 hours in a car to validate whether the acid is out of the legs eh?

… posted on the go from  I90 tollway somewhere in the middle of New York

Would You Like Some “Screw You” On That?

Burger Money

First off, go check out the latest posts at the Dead Reckonings Forum for some fascinating discussion on the impact metal had on naval navigation.  When you are done you can come back here and read my stupid rant on McDonalds.

Back so soon? … or were you captivated by my less than stellar graphic?  Anyway, on to my rant.  My wife and I were on our way to a dog show in Caseyville, IL when we stopped off at a Mickey D’s in Bartonville.  As a note, there were other places we could have stopped to that point including Subway, Hardees and KFC, but I had a taste for some yellow arches.  As we walked up to the counter I noticed a sign had been added to the menu detailing their new policy involving an ADDITIONAL charge for any condiments added to an item that doesn’t normally come on it.  I then immediately recalled that my wife had come home griping about this policy when she went to one in Peoria.

I decided to read it slowly again in order to understand all the nuances, but it basically just resulted in more questions.  The clerk finished ringing up my wife’s order and then prompted me for my selection.  I decided to lead with “so if I get my sandwich plain, do I get it for less?”  This resulted in an answer explaining how the meal is a few cents cheaper than ordering everything together. Apparently, this request went sailing over her head.  I restated the question and emphasized the plain “sandwich” part.  This got a strange look so I tried again and referenced the fact the sign above her stated that adding a condiment increased the priced so removing the standard available condiment should be less.  “No, we don’t do that” was the response … as in not discounting the sandwich.  I decided continuing this discussion was going to get me nowhere, so I ordered by plain sandwich and made a personal decision to contact McDonalds and talk to a graduate of their fine McDonald’s University.  I am still awaiting a response (no, not holding my breadth), but the way I see it, I am obviously paying the cost of a fully condimented (is that a word?) sandwich.  This mean I have been increasing their profit margin every time I order there.  This makes me sick and from this point on I will choose one of the other establishments and get the sandwich the way I want it.

By the way, my wife ended up answering my second question as to whether removing something off the sandwich from the standard condiment list would allow me to get option added for free.  That answer is a big NOPE! – kudos for my wife for actually getting an answer to that scenario.

The good thing about a bad economy (thank you money lending criminals) is I have many many choices to spend my money and you would therefore think establishments would be a little more customer friendly and not jeopardize future sales for the price of a condiment.

Oh well, was that a Quiznos over there?

Happy Easter!!

Easter Bunny

Just a quick post today to wish everyone a happy holiday.  So what do you think of my image today?  I was on my way back from my parents’ house and all of a sudden some rogue synapse fired bringing into memory recall a doodle I had made some years back.  I was with my brother (also at my parents’ house) on Easter Eve.  I think all of his kids are beyond this age now so I will not ruin anything for them, but we were doing some prep for a standard Easter morning surprise.  My brother wanted to add a card to the things we were making to signify who they were left from.  I decided to whip up this little image which quite frankly was going pretty good until in my haste, a rogue whisker was made.  Working in the medium of ink, I was unable to repair it so I embellished a little bit.  I call it “Easter Bunny Smoking Plastic Grass”.  Obviously, my brother vetoed it, but since I can remember, I’ve actually saved and scanned all my various doodles… a bad habit formed from sitting in too many unproductive meetings with an active imagination.  My intent is someday to print them out and bound them into a coffee table book as an interesting conversation piece.

By the way, I was curious enough about the origin of rabbits and eggs I decided to Wiki It.  Interestingly, it is a tradition brought to America from the Germans and was really focused on the hare and not the rabbit.  The association might have originated from a similar nesting trait between the hare and a Lapwing (bird).  Each uses a ground nest and resulted in the myth that hare’s laid eggs in the Spring.

Oh well, hope you had a good holiday.  I’ve been working on some posts so there should be some additional output coming soon.  Until then, I hope Alice isn’t haunted by my grass smoking white rabbit.

The Ding Factor

Car Door DingsWelcome to March everyone!  I must admittedly say I had a poor blog showing last month.  Things have been a little hectic lately at work reacting to the bank snakes that put the world economy in a tailspin.  Looks like I need to step it up this month to make up for it.  For starters, the other day my wife and decided to do a little shopping.  After hitting a bunch of stores we decided to drop by a local Maid Rite for a nibble.  My wife was driving and picked a spot near the door.  This made me uncomfortable instantly because door dings are in my hate peeve list.  Yes, this is definitely one of the times where the hate word is not an overstatement.  What rational person believes it is socially acceptable to bang their car door against another person’s car?  Anyone?… Anyone?   I can force out a few scenarios, but in general there is no excuse.  I was about to accept the parking choice when I looked over to the car next to me and noticed it was a two door.  This bristled on me until I noticed a baby seat in the back on my side of the car upon which I ordered my wife to move immediately.  This resulted in a stern look, but this was not a choice situation, the DING FACTOR was through the roof.  This resulted in some impolite comments from my wife thanks to the extra distance having to walk in the cold, but trust me, it was worth being able to enjoy my lunch without a nervous tick watching my door panels.  Instead, I was able to sit comfortably in the window booth and watch for other ding victims.

So you might be asking yourself, what are the various DING FACTORs to look for (follow the link)

Continue reading The Ding Factor

Have A Ghoul Day Today

Happy Halloween everyone!  Today happens to be my favorite holiday.  I am not exactly sure how this came to be, but since I was a little demon I have always been fascinated by this day.  I still remember a number of my costumes ranging from the classic cheese Spiderman to the pretty cool Zorro.  The latter was especially awesome because my brother’s friend Kevin taught me how to greet the candy givers in Spanish which helped complete the look.  The most enjoyable part of the holiday has to be the barbaric massacre of the orange flesh.  That’s right, the butchering of the pumpkin.  There has to be a study out there that correlates the number of late year stabbings by the sheer viciousness a youth attacks a pumpkin.  I have visions of Orange Juice right now and I don’t know why.   As it turns out, it became kind of a quest with my brother to make a scarier and cooler pumpkin carving year over year.  Over those years, the process was refined to near perfection.  We had the perfect tool for gut scraping, the approach to the scariest eyes and the best cutting utensils to create a smooth and flowing cut.  Needless to say, I think after the first year, there were no more triangles in our pumpkins.  Now I have a urge to go back and find the old pictures.  Would be pretty neat to have a pumpkin through the years collage – note to self.

We were also able to get together along with his kids to carve some pumpkins a number of years ago.   Looked like the skilz’ had passed on to the next generation.  I am not sure if Ron has continued to carve, but I have carried on and have continued to refine and try new avenues.  The largest improvement came with the foam pumpkins.  These are fantastic in the sense you do not have to worry about the rot.  Nothing is more disappointing that throwing out a green fuzzy glob after spending so many hours making it just right.  It also allowed for more precise carving.  About 15 years ago, I had an idea of using the Dremel (I am not taking credit for the idea because I assume many others had done it, but I can honestly say I had not seen it done at the time).  The catalyst for using the Dremel is the desire to do the now common half cuts.  I laugh every single time I think of that night because I was using the engraving ball bit for about 2 hours straight.  I got off the floor and looked in the mirror to see my entire shirt and face covered in pumpkin flesh – the pumpkin rocked though – it had a Blues hockey theme with blues symbols for the eyes (one reversed), a puck for the nose and I thinking a missing tooth grin (everything was half cuts so it actually stayed fresh for over two months.  With the new foam pumpkins, I can work the half cuts to the precise depth I want and get very clean edges.

Here are my 2008 additions.  Note, the spider was stock, but I work a lot on making my own patterns from photos or drawings I find on the web.  A number of hours with a graphics program can turn out some pretty cool designs.  The werewolf and demon were results of that type of effort.  Note, I also embellish a lot with bats for the sole purpose of solidifying the cutouts and hopefully adding to the longevity.

New 2008 Pumpkins

Here is a darker version to give the full effect

2008 Pumpkins

Figured I would also show some of my other efforts

Previous Pumpkins

and with less lights – they definitely look better in person and generally get good comments about them from the Trick or Treaters that come throughout the night.

Previous Pumpkins

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!!

Mathematically Eliminated.. or Yeah for the Goat!

Let’s start this quick post by saying I am a St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball fan.  This was not so much selected as opposed to handed down from my father.  As a result of this affiliation, I am also an anti-Cub fan.  No surprise there since it also goes along with my distaste for the Beatles probably based entirely on being a fan of the Rolling Stones.  I wonder just how much of our likes and dislikes are really based on contrasting scenarios?  I like the Illini, I dislike Michigan – I like Physics, I dislike Chemistry…. sounds like a future post topic, but the point of this one is to pick at the wound we like to call “Cub’s Post Season Dysfunction”

So I had the opportunity to go up to Wrigley field for a game in the final series of the season between the Cards and the Cubs.  So I grabbed my Cards hat and headed up with my Cub friends (and another Cardinal fan that was apparently too worried to actually wear the RED).  It ended up being a fairly pleasant day, probably due to the fact we hit their star pitcher out of the park for an early exit and rode a nice 12 run outing to the win.  Only twice that day did I hear the taunt of Mathematically Eliminated tossed my way in light of the Redbirds inability to make the playoffs this year.   Then on the way back to the car and SUV drives by with a similar disparaging remark on my team.  Yes, they got us this year, but noted to myself to see just how far they make it in their Cinderella year.   Last night I got the answer to that question… EXACTLY 3 GAMES.  Nice going Cubbies – a stellar year full of highly paid players who choke when it matters.  So… we concede we didn’t make it to the playoffs, and we admit your season was longer than ours…  a whopping 1.9% more.

Here’s your broom… see ya next year!

One Computer + One Capture Card = 35+ Hours Found

Quick one today folks mainly because it actually hurts to type.  I mainly wanted to relay a revelation I had today.  First a confession, I am a Chicago Bears fan.  Before jumping to conclusions, I am NOT a fan of the Chicago Cubs and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in Wrigley Friday afternoon seeing my Cardinals put a spanking on.  Unfortunately, being a football fan means I am potentially subject to about 3 hours in front of the TV once a week.  Unfortunately, I had to split firewood today and really did not have the time to waste.  Remembering that I had acquired a TV capture card from a friend (who I am sure will comment on the Cubs clinching the playoff spot) so I ran up and set the recorder in hopes of catching the game later tonight.  For the next 6 hours I worked on the woodpile until my fingers were too sore to pick up another piece of wood.  When things settled down a bit I decided to go watch the game being careful not to see any highlights or score tickers as I was heading to the viewing area.

I fired up the components and sat back to enjoy the game. I think I’ll hold off on explaining the components involved in playing the game back due to some required modifications on one of the items I stream the feed through.  Although I was upset at the final score, I was pleasantly surprised when I stood up and noticed only 35 minutes had passed since starting the feed.  I had basically crunched a 3 hour game into a very satisfying 35 or so minutes by skipping all commercials, injury timeouts, team line changes, game timeouts (team and TV), the half time show and all reviewed plays – all with a simple click of a predefined duration skip button on the remote.  Not only did I not miss a play, I didn’t have to listen to ex-NFL players ramble as if I actually cared about their analysis or opinion of a given play (especially Dierdorff).  Clearly this is the best way to watch a game if you are already maxing the available hours in a week.  There are some disadvantages of course, one having to be cautious you don’t ruin the element of surprise by seeing the score ahead of time and you have to do a little bit of planning to get the capture setup…. but this seems a small price to pay for the convenience this affords.  Now with the assumptions there are 14 or so weeks in the football year, quick math gives me about 35 new hours in the year.

Note, I’ve always done this for my weekly shows since a 30 minute sitcom really only has about 16-20 minutes of real content.  And for those brainwashed commercial zealots out there complaining about loss of revenue and stealing the shows funded by commercials… spare me the drama, I’m paying a subscription fee and if that isn’t enough to cover it… then consider raising my fee (of course, I’ll just cancel it and then we all lose … actually not me since I will have even more time to spend doing more constructive things.

Now Mr. Smith … what are you going to do about those stupid penalties?

Relevance Lost II

I thought I would continue my list of things that are no longer relevant to me.  For the previous list, visit here. Basically, I’ve been running again which basically leaves me an hour or so for mind wandering.  Anyway, here goes:

  • CBs
  • 20 Packs of Chicken McNuggets (amazing what you can eat when you are kid expending a lot of energy during the day)
  • T-Tops (what a pain in rear – went full convertible)
  • Rotary Phones
  • Wisdom Teeth (first two were yanked out under liquid valium in order to play baseball that night)
  • Saturday Night Live (that show is total crap now)
  • Online – Internet – Gaming  (satellite internet access tends to put an end to online gaming)
  • Corn Palace (total waste of my time)
  • Contact Solution
  • Paying Cash for Gas
  • Greatest Hits Albums with one new Song (if it is good enough, I’ll just download that one song)
  • Hand Written Travel Directions (loving the GPS technology coupled with Google Streets)
  • Stephen King Novels (gone are the days of good output like the Shining)
  • Voodoo Graphic Cards (the best there was during my early gaming years)
  • AMD (spend too many years trying to keep their chips cooled enough not to overheat and torch themselves)
  • Leaded Gas
  • Full Service Gas Stations

That’s all for now.  Ended up I had a bunch on my list that were duplicated from the previous post.  Anybody else have any ideas?  Heading up to see Da’ Bears play a preseason game in Chicago now – I’ll let you know if I observe anything worth posting.

No Pain, No Checkmark

So I may have mentioned previously, I have a “Life List”… I use that name because it sounds a little more positive than “Bucket List” or “Death List” or any number of other names that people refer to their set of things they want to accomplish during their lifetime.  My list usually refers to physical challenges or achievements I use to challenge myself.  I generally do not give a timeframe for them, but often the activity requires a certain age level, preparation or sequence of events to complete the task.  Without a doubt, there are few moments I cherish as much as when I get to take that spreadsheet out and place a little checkmark and date next to an entry.  two weekends ago I had the opportunity to make such a check – so alongside the black belts in martial arts, completion of the Bix 7 mile race and learning to Snowboard (to name a few) I now get to add the following:

Steamboat IL Toughest 15K

I started running sometime back in order to complete the Bix 7 entry.  I’ve been pretty much running ever since with the sole purpose of being ready compete in every Bix since then.  In the meantime I would catch the various 5Ks and would catch the Peoria SteamBoat 4 Mile (IL’s Fastest 4 Mile) in preparation for the treacherous 7 Miles of hills at the Davenport IA Bix.  At the halfway point of the Steamboat 4M, I would make the turn and head back to the start while all of the 15Kers started their trek up into the hills.  For some reason, I convinced myself on the way back that I needed to complete the 15K so I could prove Continue reading No Pain, No Checkmark